They don't need to know how guilty I feel, and I don't need to risk lying in front of Alton. But... I do wonder...
Nathan stared, remaining quiet for a while more before he answered the angel's question with one of his own. "Why?" He looked at his wings again. "I mean, I know the Sins want something from you, but..." He shook his head, lifting his eyes to meet Alton's gaze. "Why?"
Alton sighed, his wings fading in another wisp of smoke as he turned to face them all. "An attempt at coercion, I assume," he explained, unhooking his glasses from his shirt and returning them to his face. "It is the one way to really hurt me. As both history and mythology have shown, I've been through quite a lot of torturous situations. Being immortal has its advantage in that I can survive most anything, including any tormentors I might have. When it comes to the seven sisters, I've been dealing with them for over fourteen hundred years. This isn't the first time they've tried to rise against me." He smirked deviously. "I know their games well."
"Apparently, not well enough," Micah remarked, to which the other angel frowned and sighed, but nodded in agreement.
"Yes, I'm afraid they've surprised me with their ingenuity this time. I didn't realize how far they would go, nor how much power they've gained over the centuries." He laughed bitterly. "I've taken for granted that they are the Sins."
"I still don't understand." Enya folded her hands in front of her mouth, as if thinking very carefully about what she wanted to say. "If you can endure so much, then why would they torture you to coerce you? Wouldn't they know that doesn't work?"
"It was more than torture." Gabriel stood in the doorway of the kitchen, holding their lunches on a tray, but eerily solemn. "If they had completely destroyed his wings, they could have killed him."
Complete silence. Enya stared wide-eyed at the angels, mouth falling open in horror. Nathan echoed her expression. "Killed him..." he eventually repeated, still trying to grasp this revelation. He looked to Alton. "What happened to the whole immortal thing? Is it conditional or something?"
"Or something," Alton said, moving towards Gabriel and taking one of the plates from the tray. "We aren't invulnerable, but we are fully immortal: fatal wounds heal, even the loss of limbs, and we are immune to both disease and time. But destroy our wings..." He swallowed loudly. "And we become mortal, with all the dangers that implies. We keep our divine nature and abilities, but otherwise..."
"We do not often show them for this reason," Micah cut him off, sliding a worried glare towards him. "How many of them know this? I thought you kept this knowledge from the Sins for this very reason, and had hoped when Avarice asked me to show mine, it was purely for aesthetic."
Alton shrugged and shook his head, grabbing another plate before moving to sit beside Enya on the couch, handing her the extra dish. "Superbia must know, if she's the mastermind. I imagine she told Ira and Gula as well, otherwise they wouldn't have focused their assault on my wings, nor would they have forced me to reveal them."
"Is that why Gula freaked out when you showed her your wings, Gabriel?" Nathan asked while the angel brought the tray over to him.
He smiled lightly and nodded. "It disturbed me some that she demanded it so viciously. Judging by the state Lumiel's were in, I could only assume she knew. I don't think she expected me to readily comply."
"You willingly showed your wings?" Micah asked him in astonishment. Again, Gabriel nodded.
"A risky show of bravado, I know, but it distracted her from Lumiel, who's wings she'd already damaged."
"Most of that was from Ira," Alton admitted, nibbling at his food. "She's the one who put the hooks in."
Micah's expression became even more mortified. "Hooks?" he choked out, his gaze snapping towards Alton. "When did you plan on telling me?"
The last time Nathan had seen this much anguish on the angel's face had been when he saw his charge in the freezer. Alton looked down at his sandwich, frowning.
"Frankly, I didn't," he admitted to him. "I knew how you would react..."
"You do realize you are making me sorely regret the promise I just swore to you."
"Which is why I made you swear it." Alton looked up and shot him a glare, his eyes flashing. "In case you've forgotten, I have been mortal before."
"You have?" Nathan had just taken a bite of his grilled cheese, but he was quickly losing his appetite, especially with Micah's remark. He hoped his question would lead to a different path in the conversation.
Alton smiled at him. "Remember my fall? That's what happened. It isn't worth hashing over the reasons for the incident, but I and my followers were, ah, de-winged, so to speak, and forced to live as mortals for an indeterminate amount of time. Most did not survive the experience. Some became saints before passing. I was one of the few whose wings grew back."
"How long did that take?" Enya asked. She'd already managed to make her sandwich vanish. Alton shrugged.
"A long time, but I don't recall. Time seems to be the only thing that will never kill us, and when you're as eternal as I am, as all angels are, what's a few centuries but a fleeting moment among thousands of years?"
"Time alone cannot kill us," Micah muttered under his breath.
Nathan could sense that the angel was still bitter, and the declining mood had shot his appetite completely. He took another bite of his sandwich, but wasn't hungry anymore. He wasn't even sure if he still wanted to be there.
I almost wish we hadn't talked Alton into showing his wings. This whole thing has me uncomfortable. Maybe I should just go back to the apartment. I really don't want to be here. What's the point...?
Should I leave?