They left the hospital car park together and emerged on the cold, dark streets of the city. The wind lifted the Angel’s coat and pulled loose a flurry of feathers from his wings, scattering them over the pavement. Jason picked one up and frowned at its colouring – white, mottled with black.
“Are you sick?” Jason eventually asked as they turned down a street. The Angel ignored him.
“It’s just that, well, your wings are…”
“I know what my wings are doing,” Aurelius barked, turning to glare, “and it’s your entire fault.”
“My fault?” Jason frowned, “what did I do?”
“Yes, it’s your fault. If only you and the rest of your miserable species could just look after yourselves!” Aurelius said, digging his delicate fingers into his short, blond curls, pulling at his hair as he continued to rant.
“But no, you need a chaperone for every little thing that you do. None of you can do anything for yourselves. Then, when you make mistakes, it’s your Guardian’s fault. And, more importantly, it’s your Guardians’ who are punished, your Guardians’ who are cast down – all for small errors, while you and yours commit atrocious sins, and remain unpunished.”
“You’ve got a lot of anger for a Guardian Angel,” Jason smiled.
“So I’ve been told, wait, what? What did you call me?” Aurelius turned to glare at him.
Jason backed away a couple of steps.
“A Guardian Angel,” Jason breathed, watching the anger in Aurelius grow.
“The Hell I am. I am no Mortal’s babysitter. I am of a higher ilk, and you will leave me,” Aurelius ordered.
“You have to be. Why else would you have come to me now?”
“I do not have to be anything, and you following me is a mere coincidence. I did not go out of my way to find you,” Aurelius huffed.
Halting in their exchange, a short, dumpy woman with a Labrador strode past the pair. The dog bounded up to Aurelius and barked a greeting.
“Not again!” Aurelius seethed, kicking threateningly at it.
“Don’t boot it!” snapped Jason, then, turning to the woman, said, “I’m sorry, miss, he’s having a bad day.”
The woman frowned, but kept walking, pulling the dog to heel, “the youth of today,” she moaned.
“Odd,” Jason muttered, turning back to Aurelius who continued in his stride. “Look, you have to be my Guardian. I’m stuck in this city. My Aunt lives out in the countryside, and my dad bailed on me. I need to get out.”
Aurelius paced himself faster, forcing Jason to jog to keep up. “I have no money, no tickets, no one with a car. Nothing. I need help.”
“Don’t you ever stop talking?” Aurelius snapped.
Jason sighed and kept up his jog.
They carried on in silence for a time, turning corners at odd intervals. Jason listened to the wet slaps of their feet on the wet pavement and avoided half-frozen piles of garbage on street corners. Every other street lamp was either dead or dying, leaving this part of the city covered in shadow.
Jason picked up his pace to draw even with Aurelius, whom breathed hard and rubbernecked around each corner. Jason tightened his grip on the feather in his hand. He risked a glance at it to see that it had become completely black. He frowned, and then looked at the hyperventilating Angel.
“Why are they black?” he said, holding up the feather.
Aurelius sighed, closed his eyes, and slowed his pace a little.
“I was judged, and have been found wanting,” his voice cracked as he spoke, “I have been lost, and soon, my place will be decided by the colour of my wings.”
“What are you talking about? Angels aren’t judged, they belong in Heaven,” Jason stated.
Aurelius said nothing. Instead, he wrapped his arms around himself and started to shiver.
“You’re shaking,” Jason calmly remarked, despite the clenching in his stomach.
“I’m cold,” Aurelius growled, muttering a sharp curse at the wind. “I’ve never been cold before.”
“You need to stop swearing,” Jason replied, “we need to find somewhere out of the wind.” He turned in a small circle, staring wildly. “Come on, I know where we can go.”
Reaching up, he grabbed the sleeve of Aurelius’s torn coat and pulled, finding it surprisingly easy to make him move.
“Come on, this way.”
Jason pulled Aurelius away from the corner and onto the road. Suddenly, a deafening, roaring screech filled his ears – Jason snap-turned. He barely had a second to register the bright, blinding lights of an oncoming arctic truck.
Wide-eyed, and before he could scream, a ghastly, echoing sound of air rushed and rang in his ears.
A shadow engulfed Jason’s vision.
Gripped hard by thin arms, he was lifted with incredible speed, up and away, from the road and onto the other side of the street. Everything was a blur for that mere second.
“No… I…” Jason stuttered, realising what could have happened if Aurelius had not saved him.
“Do you have any idea what it’s like to…?” Aurelius paused.
Jason twisted to look closer at him. Aurelius looked injured. Turning sharply, Aurelius peered under his coat and watched as a few of the black feathers shivered.
Then, slowly, the blackness faded away like dust. He reached out with trembling fingers and touched the now-pristine feathers. They were soft to his fingers.
“When I… helped you…,” he said, slowly. “When I helped you, they became white again.”
“What are you talking about? You’re hurting me,” Jason huffed, wriggling free of Aurelius’s grip.
The delicate features of his face knitted together in concentration, disgust, and desperation – then, a sudden calm washed over him. He had an idea of how he could return home.
A small, self-satisfied smile curled on his lips.
Aurelius turned to Jason. “I will help you,” he said, struggling with the words, unable to believe what he was saying.
“You will?” Jason gasped. “You’ll help me get home? To Aunt Jillian?”
“Yes… yes I will.”
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