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Redemption

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All come from dust, and all return to dust. It’s the ultimate fate of everything that exists in the world: a slow decay from what is whole to something that will one day get lost to the wind. But Reita doesn't share that same fate what with his undying flesh and soot-stained wings. Created to outlast eternity, he’s meant to endure. Even with the loss of his purpose and everything he has ever believed in, Reita has no choice. Angels don't die, so he won't. He can't. It's what was, what is, and what will always be, and Reita has stopped hoping for death a long time ago. So he keeps going. He's not living, merely something close to it, but it's all right because if there's anything Reita has learned since The Great Fall, it's to be content about the little things.

Much has happened since the day Angels began dropping from the skies like blazing comets. The aftermath had left a crumbling world behind: ghost towns and deserted cities, and the epidemic that is sin. Cruelty is now the norm and not the exception — with humanity godless and alone, a lot of people think there's no longer any point in being good. Truth be told, Reita agrees. Nothing and no one matters to the forsaken but the self, and he wonders if the others feel the same way, others like him who are as doomed with their dimming halos and irises that have dulled to a dark, flat bronze. They'd been gold once, but the brightness has faded away and Reita wonders about his eyes as he does many things. Will his vision turn dark once every person who has ever believed finally stops doing so? Will he go blind, wings intact but vision gone? He hopes not, especially since he has developed a fondness for riding motorcycles. It reminds him of flying, not that Reita flies anymore. Mostly and if not on his man-made metal beast, he walks. Pushing his motorcycle along for miles on end, he wanders aimlessly, unsure what it is he's looking for.

 

In his continuing search for something unknown, Reita finds himself stopping over at another decrepit town, one of many that litters the world. Like in the previous ones, they don't want him here but welcome him anyway since no one likes an angry Angel. They cause too much damage and despair, forces who are vicious in their glory and remain the same even in disgrace.

“I don't take money,” the owner of a barely-standing motel tells him when he reaches the only establishment in the area that accepts outsiders. The man behind the receptionist's desk is business-like and not wary at all, and Reita would've been impressed if not for the fact that he doesn't care. “Just services in exchange for your stay. No exceptions.”

Reita drops the duffel bag he has slung over one shoulder on the floor, stretching his arms over his head. Wings shuddering behind him, he only answers after his joints have stopped protesting with bone-deep exhaustion.

“Protection,” he replies with a voice akin to rumbling thunder. “I can watch over you and your guests during my stay. Keep troublemakers away.”

“Position’s taken.” The motel owner throws a careless hand sideways. “Anything else you can offer?”

Reita doesn't even have to pause and think, because what can he not do? He's sunk so low that there's nothing. Leaning forward and against the counter using his elbows, Reita's motorcycle keys jingle pleasantly where it's hanging by a belt loop.

“What needs doing?”

Despite his attempts at being  non-threatening, the motel owner loses composure at the sudden close proximity. His fear tastes like stale bread and bitter alcohol, and Reita wants to gag. But if he wants a place indoors for the evening, he has to pretend he's polite. So he stops breathing because he doesn't need it to live or die — one of very few moments where he can say that immortality has its perks.

“Well.” The motel owner has grabbed a handkerchief from his pocket and is dabbing it all over his face as he starts sweating in nervousness. “Nothing I would trust you with, to be honest.”

Reita tilts his head to the side, voice monotone when he speaks. He must look scary with his lack of emotion, because the motel owner's face pales, and all the more as he replies.

“You're indirectly asking me to go.”

“No, no! Of course not! There's a room no one wants, third floor, very end of the hall to the left. One and a half out of the four walls have been torn down and part of the roof has caved in, so it's open to the elements. You can have it, I'll accept whatever you have to offer as payment.”

Reita holds the motel owner's gaze for a long while in assessment, and then without a word, he looks down and grabs his bag from the floor. Rummaging around, it takes him a while but he eventually finds what he's looking for. He sets the items down on the counter surface one at a time with a heavy metallic clink, keeping his explanation short.

“It's all I have left.”

The motel owner's eyes widen at the sight of the canned goods, one tuna and the other three corned beef, and from ashen his face brightens with a happy smile. Food is as scarce as water, and Reita knows by the reaction he has received alone that he's reserved himself a place to stay in. That's a relief.  

“You can stay for four days, one day each can!”

Reita is already walking away, bag less heavy where it's over his shoulder again and nearly crushing a cluster of feathers. He lifts a free hand with a couple of fingers pointed toward the ceiling just right before he disappears up the creaky wooden stairs.

“I only need two.”

And maybe even less, Reita thinks as he opens the door to his assigned room. The state of the walls and roof hadn't been a joke, and he can see the stretch of desert he'd had to cross to get here like it's a wall-to-ceiling painting. Only, what he's looking at is actually the outside itself. From afar, the sea of endless sand is nearly crimson under the glare of a sun that's ready to depart, and the afternoon rays are blindingly loving in their soft death. And although the room isn't much, it'll have to do. At the very least, there is a bed, half a roof, and enough walls to keep Reita warm as he enjoys a lovely view.

He starts breathing again.

Crossing the space between door and bed, Reita dumps the contents of his duffel bag on the bedspread in search of cigarettes. After, he takes off his gloves, leather jacket, shirt, boots and socks, arranging them all by the foot of the bed before walking over and seating himself on the edge of the room's flooring. Watching the afternoon wane as he smokes, with legs dangling three storeys up in the air, this very moment describes much of Reita's life: the way he's always looking at the precipice of the world with no means down or back, stuck in the middle for all time.

Undying. Always here.

Like he often does, Reita thinks about how lonely it is, being trapped within the expanse of infinity alongside people who will eventually leave him behind and die. And he wonders where all their souls will go, what with no Heaven or god or a clear end, but he supposes it doesn't matter.

What will become of humanity is no longer Reita's concern.

 


 

There's very little light when night finally comes, but there's no shortage of sound. Even the smallest of noises are deafening, and lying face down on his temporary bed, Reita's body is tense as he listens. It had been far away at first, punctuated by the opening and closing of doors, but the squeak of the wooden floorboards as somebody walks on them is getting ever closer. It takes a bit, but eventually, the sound reaches his door. Someone knocks, and when Reita checks, somebody like him is standing out in the hallway.  

“Good evening, brother.”

Reita has the door only half-open with his body blocking most of the view into the room, wary at first but now confused about how another of his kind has found him. But then a realization comes to him just as quickly.

“Are you the one already protecting this place?”

The other Angel has hair the shade of honey, its color brighter than his dulling eyes. He must have been a warrior of some sort before The Great Fall, because there's something about him that is threatening even with the gentle smile — a violence that ripples underneath his eternal flesh, waiting for something to lash out on.

“Yes. The motel owner told me you offered him protection too, which can be permanently arranged. We could use another pair of wings around here if you're interested.”

He and this Angel might be of the same kind, but based on those words alone and Reita immediately knows that they're vastly different. The other has integrated himself with humanity, carved himself a role in their mortal lives, but he doesn't plan to do the same. He will never belong and will not try to.

Stepping back, Reita slowly shakes his head.  

“I'm only passing through and don't plan on staying long. Surely though, you'll find someone else.”

There's an amused quirk to the other Angel's lips as he nods in understanding. “Suit yourself. My name's Uruha, and my room is under yours, if you change your mind.”

“Thank you, Uruha. I won't change my mind.”

Reita considers the conversation to be over and is just closing the door when Uruha raises a hand, palm flat on the old and weathered wood, to stop the action halfway. He still has that amused smile but it's laced with something else that looks malicious now. It makes Reita's skin crawl, the way it's knowing in a manner an Angel's smile should never be.

“Wait, I'm not finished. I also want to tell you that someone will come up here to entertain you. As the one who watches over this territory, I wish to welcome you properly even if you don't intend to stay with us for good. Use him well, brother.”

Reita doesn't like how that sounds. “There’s no need—”

“But I insist,” Uruha cuts off, mouth curling in the same way sin does as it grips your gut with excitement and fear. “Besides, it's his job. He'll want something in return, and if you have it, give it to him as payment. All of us forsaken by Him must help one another, yes?”

With that said, Uruha winks and turns around without another word, and Reita watches him go until he's no longer visible down the hall. And he's tempted to lock the door, but it's no use because just as quickly, someone appears in the dimness and from the same direction the other Angel disappeared to. That's when Reita sees the man meant to entertain him for the first time: he has light blonde hair curling in odd directions as if from sleep, and he's dressed in a tattered robe with his feet as bare as the smile on his face. It almost looks like hope, that smile: untarnished and much like the first rays at the exact moment when the dawn breaks and becomes early morn.  

“I'm Takanori.”

Reita can't think of anything else but how there must be an invisible serpent with him at that instant. It's the only explanation why his heart is racing in his chest with his breaths like blue fire as he continues listening to the man speak.

“I can take you or you can take me, Angel sir.”

Reita steps aside and opens the door a little wider, but despite the goodness in his intentions, even though on the surface he knows that he'll do what is right, the temptation to do otherwise has already embedded itself somewhere deep inside him. He has already taken a bite of the forbidden fruit and just doesn't know it yet.

“Come in, Takanori.”
The apple.
“My name’s Reita.”
Eden's downfall.

The robe comes off as soon as the door closes, leaving Angel and Man alone in a slightly private room with three walls on one side, and the stars and desert on the other. It's cold, the temperature having dropped, but it's not the reason Reita's wings shudder.

“Put it back,” he says with a soft voice, gaze fixed on an expectant face. “All you have to do is sit with me.”

A flash of confusion overtakes Takanori's expression as he wraps his arms around himself, but he doesn't get dressed and continues to stand there naked and shivering.

“You don't like what you see?”

Reita's brows furrow, and it's only then that he allows his gaze to travel downwards to look. There's so much smooth skin, unblemished save for the ink on those arms, and when he's had his fill, his gaze traces the same path back, this time upwards and once more on Takanori's face. Walking over, Reita picks up the discarded robe from the floor and slowly hands it to its owner.  

“I do. You're very beautiful. Have a cigarette with me, if you smoke?”

Takanori takes the robe and wraps it around himself with a quiet little laugh. “All right then, Reita. Not the foreplay I'm used to, but whatever floats your boat and as long as I get something in return.”

“Again, all you have to do is sit with me. Come here, but only if you want to.” Reita settles by the foot of the bed and gestures his guest across him, and he receives a nod and more confusion in a lopsided smile as Takanori does as he's told, seating himself by the head of the bed with his back against the board. “Now what would you like, Takanori?”

“Clothes,” Takanori says quickly without even having to think about it. “Anything in good condition that you can spare.”

Reita lights a cigarette, taking a deep inhale, before passing the stick over with a nod.

“Done. Anything else for your time?”

Takanori does the same with the cigarette, breathes its poison in, with another one of his laughs. “A kiss. It's rare that someone doesn't want me for a fuck, and it makes me want to kiss you because you deserve it.”

The cigarette makes its way back to Reita.

“I deserve no such thing,” he says, thumbing at the filter and watching ashes fall on the bedspread like snow. “You should kiss only the ones you really like. Do for others only the things you want to do for them.”

There's a bout of silence before Takanori chuckles.

“You're probably the only selfless Angel left.”

Reita smiles at that, but it's bitter because those words aren't the truth. He's not selfless but uncaring. Jaded. He breathes out a thin trail of smoke and watches it disappear into the ceiling.

“Humanity and its blind faith,” he whispers, blinking up at peeling paint and a useless light fixture. “No wonder He loved you so.”

“Loved,” Takanori repeats with great emphasis on the tense used. “But not enough, obviously. Who am I to complain though? He left us all with you and your kind. Left you to coexist with us. If anyone has it bad, it's you Angels.”

Reita looks back down and across him to watch Takanori smoke.

“True,” he agrees with a touch of humor. “You've always been a handful, the lot of you. So much need, and want, and sin.”

“You're not supposed to agree,” Takanori shoots back with a laugh that is so much louder and carefree. He laughs so much. “You're supposed to say something like: it's fine, it's an honor to be alongside you. Something like that!”

Reita lights a new cigarette when he sees the first one running out, handing it over to Takanori with a half-hearted smirk.

“But Takanori,” he starts, their fingers brushing together during the nicotine hand off, and something in Reita's stomach ignites like the furnaces of Hell. “You know that's a lie.”

“You know what's another lie?”

There's something knowing in Takanori's eyes too, the same as the one that had been on Uruha's gaze earlier, when he asks the question. Leaning forward, with a palm on the bed, Takanori closes the space between them.

“That you only want me to sit with you.”

And Reita would've disagreed, if he hadn't been too distracted by getting lost in the strangely pleasurable sensation of being kissed.

 

Chapter Text

Reita visits the bedroom below the one he's staying in as soon as the sky is no longer so dark that it doesn't reflect any colors. He moves quietly, the entire establishment still asleep, and knocks on the door with knuckles that barely grace the wood. There's a rising, muffled conversation from within as soon as he takes his hand away: an unknown voice that's growing steadily frantic as it speaks, overshadowing the patient and comforting voice of another. It takes time for things to settle and quiet down, but when it finally does, Reita counts the number of steps along the carpeted wood.

One, two, three, four, five, six.

The door opens on the sixth step, revealing the Angel of last night without a shirt on. What skin Reita can see is riddled by a crisscross of faded scars, and if there had been any question of Uruha's status the evening before, there isn't one now.

“Brother,” the warrior Angel greets him in pleasant surprise, but even though he smiles, there is a tiredness to it that speaks of the millennia he has lived. “Good morning.”

Something moves inside the room just then where the bed has been pushed against the corner furthest away from the door, and Reita gets distracted from tainted skin by the presence of someone else: a dark haired stranger bundled up in creme-colored blankets from the chest down.

“Is that him? The traveler from yesterday that Takanori wanted to meet?”

Uruha glances behind him with a soft laugh at those words, staring at the same Angel that Reita has turned toward. He's peering at them from where he's seated at the head of the bed, and it takes just a blink to notice that something in his eyes aren't right. They're a cloudy pewter, unseeing…

Oh.

“You shouldn’t say that while he's here, my love; he'll know we've been talking about him. And they've met. I arranged for it last night.”

“But he'll know eventually. Why not now? Come closer, stranger. I'm Aoi. Let me see you.”

Reita turns to Uruha to ask for permission, and in return, the other Angel steps aside and opens the door wider to let him in. He nods and walks inside, heading straight toward the bed, and he tries not to look but it's difficult not to see: the broken, nearly featherless wings on Aoi's back.

“My name is Reita, Aoi.”

He takes the reaching hands halfway once he's at his destination, bringing them forward and up on his face himself as he sits on the edge of the bed and lets Aoi look at him. The gentle hands map his face, fingers tracing the sharp lines and soft planes of it, before those palms pause to cradle his cheeks.

“Harbinger,” Aoi whispers, smile forlorn. “Is it the end? Is it why you're in this town?”

Reita places a hand over the one on his cheek with a slow shake of his head. “No, brother. But even if it was, where will I bring them all? Don't worry. Your town is safe from me.”

“Thank you,” Aoi says, leaning forward and planting a lingering kiss on his forehead. “Shall I tell you something you don't know?”

“Aoi.”

Reita has nearly forgotten that Uruha is in the same room. Glancing behind him, he sees the other Angel leaning against the nearest wall sideways and watching them with a frown, his arms crossed over his chest. There's a warning in his voice, still softly-spoken but distinct. Sharp.

“You can't stop me, Uruha. It's what I am, what I was made for. I see things, and I share them. What would you do if I tell you to stop fighting and defending?”

Reita turns away, letting the lovers, for that's what they obviously are, argue as he pretends that he isn't where he is. But he ends up watching anyway, drawn to the intimacy between the two. It's as if they've bonded, fallen in love, in the same way Man does.

“Then I'd stop, because you asked me to.”

Aoi has moved away and pushed himself up and off the bed with jerky movements in his anger, and he's naked under the blankets as they fall off him. Reita can't take back what he's seen as soon as this happens: burn marks and fresh scars that are stark against pale skin, not as old as Uruha's, and deliberate.   

“I'm sure you would, but tell me: will you be happy?”

“Aoi—”

“Answer the question, Uruha.”

Uruha sighs, shaking his head as he walks over where Aoi stands, and wraps both arms and wings around the other Angel. The latter's span is so great that Aoi's lost within it, and Reita wonders if he should go as he hears them murmur at each other, lost in a private conversation of which he doesn't have any part.

“Brother,” Uruha says suddenly, looking up at him with a gentler expression, and he doesn't need to decide after all. “Do you want what Aoi is offering you?”

Reita considers it for a few seconds, but eventually, he nods. An Archangel's words are always of value, and besides, he's here to accept something else too. Might as well hit two birds with a single stone.

“Yes,” he answers with a nod. “And your offer too brother. But only temporarily, if you will still have me.”

Uruha smiles and shrugs, unwrapping his wings from but still embracing Aoi to himself, Aoi who's standing there still bare, grinning so widely that he might as well have the sun in his smile.

“Stay how long or short you wish. Either way, we will be thankful for your help.” He then glances down at Aoi, as does Reita, in expectation. “My love?”

And for a moment, it almost feels like Aoi can see as his gaze falls upon Reita's own and meets it, words hopeful and foreboding both.

“All of it with him will be worth it.”

He lets what has been said to him sink in to his very bones before he nods, equal parts unsure and exhilarated. Standing up, he places a hand to his chest, palm against where a beating heart would be, and bows his head.

“Thank you. I'll see you in…?”

Uruha has wrapped his wings around Aoi again, hiding him from view, and mouths his answer before they forget about him all together.

“A couple of hours.”

Reita leaves to the sound of Aoi's laughter and Uruha's teasing, and he smiles as he heads back up to his room where someone is waiting.

 


 

Takanori is awake when he returns.

They'd talked deep into the night after a simple kiss, and he hadn't expected the other to be awake so early. But Reita doesn't complain as he closes the door behind him with a small wave at the man who'd fallen asleep in his bed.

“Breakfast,” Takanori says, showing him a can of peaches with a sleepy smile. “Let's share it.”

Reita nods and seats himself at the foot of the bed, gesturing at Takanori and wondering when he'd left and come back to get the tin of food they're about to eat.

“You first.”

But Takanori shakes his head. “No, you. Here.”

They eat in silence, the morning seemingly too early for anything but quick and necessary conversation, but Reita is already restless and missing Takanori's voice. He tries to think, and think — and then it comes to him.

“You can choose whichever clothing you want to take from my bag.”

Takanori's expression lights up. “Really?”

Reita smiles and gestures at the foot of the bed where his duffel bag still sits, and Takanori hurries to put the can of fruit down on the nightstand.

“Yes. Go ahead.”

And so the other does, opens the bag and rummages through the clothes inside with a grin, the robe he’s wearing wrinkled with sleep. All the while, Reita watches him until he finally makes a selection: something that looks warm but is seasonal, a knitted sweater with an animal called a reindeer on it. Takanori drops his robe on the floor in order to try the sweater on, and that's when Reita breaks.

“Come with me,” he finally says, gaze following the other's palms as they run down a flat stomach to smooth down the soft woolen fabric, and he wonders if his words will make Takanori close the distance between them. Lips still warm and seeking ever since last night's kiss, and Reita feels this constant need to say something just to get Takanori close to him again. “You don't have to keep doing what you do if you come with me.”

Takanori looks up at him, expression curious, and Reita's heart does something peculiar when he doesn't offer his arms or smile. It stutters is the best word he can think of as soon as their eyes meet, and when he speaks, Reita makes sure the words in his answer are handpicked with care.

“And what do you think I do?”

“You… use yourself to fill the emptiness that others feel.”

Takanori laughs aloud, a sound that surprises Reita in its loudness. The other has been easy to laugh all this time, but right now is different. He even has his head thrown back as if he's heard the funniest thing, and when he looks back at a politely bemused Reita, there's something soft in his gaze that leaves a gentle warmth between them.

“Has anyone ever told you that you're too nice? That's the kindest description I've heard used to describe what I am.”

It's Reita's turn to ask a question of his own, ignoring the part of what has been said that's about him. Only things relevant to Takanori are important, and that's what he focuses on.

“And what do you think are you?”

Takanori leans down and gets on all fours as he climbs back on the bed, and Reita holds his breath as he watches him crawl forward and closer just like he's been wanting him to do from the beginning.

“Whore,” Takanori says unflinchingly as soon as they're face to face, their mouths only a few inches apart. Reita swallows loudly and with much difficulty, and for the first time, he has a strange urge to touch for no reason. Prior to meeting Takanori, everything had a reason but this, him, it all doesn't make sense. “Slut.”

“Perhaps prostitute is a more fitting term,” Reita finds himself responding back, lifting a shaking hand to press his palm against a flushed cheek. A surge of relief washes over him when his touch isn't rejected; Takanori even settles properly in front of him, within reach and close but not quite close enough. “Not those other two.”

“What's the difference?”

Takanori has closed his eyes and leaned against his hand, and Reita can't stop the unsure little smile that lifts the corners of his lips as he allows his fingers to stroke and caress.

“The difference is in here,” Reita responds, lifting his other hand and gently tapping two fingers against Takanori's temple, before he's doing the same over the flesh that protects Takanori's beating heart. “And here, too. The first two that you used are titles that degrade you. The one I suggested is a mere description of what you do. You have a semblance of control over what you make of yourself, Takanori.”

“Free will,” Takanori murmurs, slowly opening his eyes, and there's something wrong with his smile when he offers it. “A choice to be a whore, slut or a prostitute? I don't have much options, don't you think?”

Reita cradles Takanori's face with both hands now, and he's ashamed to admit that even though all he wants is to touch his lips against the other's, he doesn't do it because he's scared. And so he speaks, begs, hoping his eyes say it all: the want, the desperation.

“Then come with me.”

“And when I go with you?”

They stare at each other for a long time, Reita's whispered words a promise that's waiting to be broken.  

“You can be anything you want.”

It's Takanori who kisses him first, lips sticky with peach juice but so sweet in the exact same way sin always is as it teases.

“Let me think about it.”

Reita chases after Takanori's mouth when he tries to pull away, and his laughter is the most wonderful thing. 

"Then I'll wait."

 

Chapter Text

As soon as Reita is on his own two hours later, he starts questioning himself and second-guessing his actions from last night until today. Devoid of Takanori's presence and he feels silly for having said and done all the things he did. It's not his normal behavior, and, embarrassed about it, he can't help but wonder what Takanori thinks of him. An oddball? A freak of his kind? What?  

To top it all off, Reita's confused and beating himself over the words he'd said on a whim too, clearly without thinking things through. Whatever he'd done had been fueled not by logic but emotions instead, because what does he even hope to achieve by inviting Takanori along to a road that leads to nowhere?

 

“You're troubled brother,” Aoi says as they head for the ground floor, Uruha in front of them both and leading the way. The day has officially begun with everybody awake, and there's a lot to be done outdoors, chores mostly in order to keep the community running and in order. Despite his lack of eyesight, Aoi is walking freely and unaccompanied, more seeing than those who haven't lost what he has, and still willing to do his share of today's hard work despite a disability that would've held others back. “It would lighten your burden if you shared it with someone.”

Reita opens his mouth to respond, but the words refuse to take the form he wishes they would.

“I…”

“Is it about Takanori?” Uruha suggests to aid his struggle, and there's a smirk to his voice as Aoi calls him out with a yank to some of his graying feathers.

“Uruha! Let him speak for himself!”

“But he needs help!” Uruha is unrepetant, laughing as his left wing flaps in both amusement and an attempt to get away from pulling fingers. When he glances back at them though, he gives Reita a kind, understanding smile. “It's all right. He's special, isn't he? Most of them are, but sometimes, you meet one that for you is more so than everybody else, and it can get confusing.”

“... yes.”

Admitting such a thing is harder than Reita would've ever thought as he refuses to meet the gaze that fixates on him, finding himself agreeing to everything that Uruha has just said as he continues in a low, frustrated voice.

“I–I don't understand. I act differently when he's around, but now that he isn't... I find myself unsure. I can't quite put it into words.”

An arm links around his, Aoi leaning close and giving him a comforting pat on the arm paired with a conniving little whisper.

“Feelings. They're complicated enough without you overthinking them. Just let things be, brother. It's easier.”

Uruha hums, greeting the owner of the motel with a nod where the man stands behind the receptionist's desk, and Reita does the same while all Aoi does is wave. The owner regards them distractedly, immediately going back to whatever it is he's writing on a worn out ledger, and they leave him to it as their conversation continues.  

“I agree with Aoi. It may just be the best — or worst — thing that will happen to you. Letting things be. Based on personal experience, I'd say the best.”

“Speak for yourself,” Aoi mutters, and Uruha instantly reacts, pausing by the doorway that leads outside with an exaggeratedly affronted expression on his face. It's all in fun though, Aoi unable to hide his smile or the sparkle in his otherwise dead eyes.

“What do you mean speak for yourself? Is it not the best thing to ever happen to you my love, admitting your feelings for me?”

Aoi pushes past Uruha and makes sure to let a bony wing slap his face but in fondness, though the sound that the action makes indicate there'd been some pain involved.

“Some days I wonder,” he says mysteriously and walks on, leaving them behind to watch him go. But while Uruha is smiling as he gazes after the other Angel, Reita is distracted and frowning in his confusion. Eternity is difficult enough as it is without all these things called feelings getting in the way…

“I don't want them,” he declares with finality after several seconds of silence, turning to Uruha with a grim expression. “I don't want feelings.”

The warrior Angel has a look on his face that gives the impression he's heard the funniest thing, and he quirks a brow in curiosity. “Oh? Then what are you going to do about them?”

Reita shrugs, wings rippling in distress. He's not entirely sure how to handle the situation, but he supposes it's as easy as… well, this:

“I'll ignore them.”

Uruha is unable to hold a boisterous laugh, and his words aren't comforting in the least.  

“I have fought many wars brother, and I can tell if somebody is fighting a losing battle. Yours is one.” Reita glances at the hand that settles over his shoulder, meant to impart support. “But do as you see fit. Aoi and I will be here, come what may.”

Reita looks back up at Uruha's face, eyes meeting the other's knowing ones, and though there is jest in his gaze, there is solemnity in it too. He means what he says, most especially about him and Aoi being around should Reita need them.

“Thank you.” Reita places a hand over Uruha's shoulder as well, this time in a show of acceptance. “Perhaps this everlasting life isn't meant to be lonely, after all.”

Uruha's expression shifts: something whimsical and sad, but determined. He gives Reita a hard shake just then and where he's still touching him, voice soft but firm. Sure.    

“Lonely used to be our fate brother, but not anymore. It is now a choice, one that we have the option to refuse or take.”

Pulling back, the warrior Angel gives him one last meaningful look just before he turns around and walks away, following the faded marks of Aoi's footsteps on the sand. And as he does so, he leaves Reita with food for thought that will haunt him for days to come.  

“The question is, which one will you choose?”

 


 

Reita volunteers to do as much hard and manual labor that he can, shirtless and sweating under the scorching sun. Angels don't get tired easily, and besides, unlike humans, he needs very little sustenance. He can work himself to exhaustion without needing anything from the limited supplies of the community — not even water. Helping with the building of a wall to protect the vulnerable part of town from outsiders, he immerses himself in what needs to be done and forgets about Takanori.

That is, until he suddenly arrives.

“It's break time everyone! No exceptions, so that means you Angels too!”

Wings flaring in surprise, Reita nearly falls off the ladder he's standing on. He had been in the middle of smoothing out the cement he'd applied on his end of the concrete wall that they've completed for the day when Takanori's voice had called out loud and clear from a distance. Turning his head after barely regaining his balance, Reita finds the familiar gaze trained on him, Takanori with a hand in the air that he's waving at him.  

Even far away, Reita can clearly see that open smile. 

“Reita! It's break time!”

No feelings, Reita tells himself as he gives a brief wave back before climbing down the ladder to make his way where everyone else is headed. Despite this reminder though, he still feels a pulse he shouldn't even have beating frantically under his skin, and he doesn't know how to calm it down.

“Hi.”

Takanori's smile is even more radiant in daylight, and regardless of the dirt on his cheek and the sweat running down his face, Reita can't help but find him pleasing to the eyes.  He can't stop himself from nervously smiling back.

“Hi. Do you want to join me?”

Wait… no. Reita realizes the invite is counterproductive to what he's trying to achieve, but he can't take the offer back, not when Takanori's nodding his head eagerly and with an even brighter smile.

“Sure, okay! I brought my food with me too. Let's get under the shade.”

Reita follows Takanori without a word, something within him warring with ferociousness as it tries to decide what to do, and how to act, and which words to say. Passing by Uruha doesn't help either; the warrior Angel only gives him a pointed look and a smirk before going back to a conversation he's having with a group of old women.

“It's bread today, with a bit of chicken,” Takanori says as they stop by some baskets under an open tent some ways away from the ongoing construction, and he picks up two wrapped items inside one of them before turning to Reita to show them to him. “We'll pretend they're sandwiches, even though they're kind of dry. Still something to eat right?”

Reita nods and takes his “sandwich” with a quiet thank you, and he and Takanori retreat to a secluded corner away from everyone else, seating themselves on covered crates that hold various materials needed for the wall. They start on their food in silence, passing a small bottle of water back and forth as they watch everybody interact without doing the same themselves, and Reita wants to say something but doesn't quite know where to begin.

No feelings, Reita repeats to himself, but then his pulse thrums ever on, veering his attention toward something he's trying to pretend isn't there. No feelings, and yet…

“Taka—”
“Reita—”

They turn to each other with surprised blinks, but just for a split second. Soon, they break into laughter that spreads starting from Reita's chest then outwards to give warmth to his entire body until it reaches his mouth, his smile. Shifting on his seat with wings that flutter playfully behind him, Reita faces Takanori completely and gives him a nod.

“You first. What is it?”

Takanori lifts a hand to push a strand of hair behind his ear.

“I was wondering about the sandwich. How is it?”

Reita looks down at the remaining bite he has left, regarding his food with thoughtful eyes, before he's shoving it into his mouth. A few chews of the tasteless combination later, and he looks back at Takanori with a thumbs up.

“Best I've ever had. Ten over ten.”

Takanori leans forward just then, and Reita realizes he's expecting a kiss when he finds himself disappointed that he gets something else instead: a thumb on one corner of his lips, brushing away crumbs of bread with a gentle, fleeting touch.

“I'll let our resident baker know,” Takanori replies with a laugh, pulling his hand away with an amused shake of the head. “Can I ask you something, Reita?”

He nods. “Anything.”

“Have you ever been with anyone?”

Reita's brows furrow, confused about the wording of the question. It feels incomplete, where he's concerned. “What do you mean? In what capacity?”

Takanori makes a thoughtful humming noise. 

“I meant romantically. Based on your answer, it's a no.”

Oh.

It's as if he doesn't have control over his body as Reita leans closer, craving to be near Takanori because the space between them feels too wide. This desire for proximity… it doesn't have anything to do with feelings at all. Right?

“Why do you ask?”

Takanori hides his eyes by looking down and focusing on his food, and he's about to reply but gets interrupted just then by loud and commanding shouts from above.

“Incoming!”

“Watch out!”

“Clear the way!”

Most turn their attention upwards, shielding their eyes from the glare of the sun to watch a group of Angels as they come barreling down from the sky one after the other, carrying with them sacks of various sizes as they stumble to a halt on the sand. Their arrival has drawn the attention of the town's children; quite a number comes running to meet them with excited screams, and their precious laughter as it rings in the air makes it seem like it isn't the end of the world.

Reita though, he watches one particular Angel glide in a dizzying circle in the air, speed dangerously fast, before said Angel starts diving headfirst toward the ground. Last minute and a few feet from collision, and he lets his strong wings pull him upright, the appendages flaring back and sideways in a bid to slow his momentum down, but he still nearly loses his balance as his feet find the sand, the entire spectacle that is his landing causing dust to fly in the air like particled fog.

“Guess what we've got!” The Angel is smiling widely as he finally comes to a stop, straightening where he ends up pausing and addressing the children who turn to him with expectant smiles. “Sweets! Who wants some?”

The younger kids cluster around him like a mob, hands reaching and all trying to get his attention, and to Reita's surprise, Takanori is one of them.

“Kai! You're back!”

The Angel named Kai turns at the sound of Takanori's voice, the dimple on his right cheek deepening as he grins.

“Taka!”

Something in Reita's gut twists painfully as he watches Takanori get embraced by the other Angel, and if it hadn't been for Uruha's timely arrival…

“Calm down, brother.”

The warrior Angel runs a careful hand on his back just by a shoulder blade, and it's only then that Reita realizes his wings have flared out to their full size in… in what? Uruha blocks his view of Takanori smiling for somebody else then, and gives him a bitter smile.

“That there? That's what we call jealousy.”