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two slow dancers

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Blood pitter-pattering onto bathroom tile was the only sound crackling through the oppressive silence.
Jehoel sat on the lip of the bathtub, hunched over as if in pain, his too-long arms resting on top of thighs, spindly fingers clutched to his face.

Jonah tucked his finger underneath an edge of the terry cloth and gently swiped it through the blood sluicing down Jehoel's back. He still recoiled from the soft cloth, the jagged bone and muscle of the torn wing joints spasming painfully.

"This is my fault. It wasn't supposed to be like this." Jonah's words dripped with shame, his fingers moving to gently splay across Jehoel's upper arm as he wiped the rag as soft as he could underneath one of the top joints.

Jehoel violently wrenched his shoulder to throw the hand off and twisted his body away, causing his back to go into another round of painful spasms. A sound like a snarl bounced off the walls of the room.

"Don't." He muttered through clenched teeth.

"I just wanted to–"

"I said don't."

"Jehoel, we have to talk about this–"

"Jonah." The name rattled the windows and caused an unlabeled pill bottle to fall from the medicine cabinet and skitter across the floor. Jehoel's head snapped up and whipped around so hard Jonah feared for a split second he was going to break his neck. He was faced with bared teeth & eyes full of rage, nearly shining as if something celestial still lingered. The wrathful stare had him flinching back and nearly slipping off the edge of the tub. He clicked his jaw shut and pulled his hand away.

Jehoel's expression flitted from ire and bitterness to remorse in the blink of an eye. He buried his face back into his hands and hunched over again, shoulders slumped in defeat. “Please. Just, don’t.”

Jonah hesitated before carefully lifting his hand back up to continue cleaning off the rest of the sticky, dark blood. The skin around the three pairs of protruding bone and cartilage was raised and mottled a worrying deep red and near-black purple, and the muscles of his back tensed and contracted painfully with every touch. Several weighted minutes passed before Jonah chanced speaking again.

"I'd understand if you decided to leave."

A dry and humorless laugh escaped Jehoel in a sharp breath. "And where would I go? Back to heaven? A little too late for that don't you think."

Jonah's eyes flitted down guiltily, down to the smear of black ash that Jehoel left on the tile in the wake of his shifting feet. "Sorry."

"Why?"

A long pause. "I ruined everything." Jonah murmured. Jehoel shifted, but didn’t reply. The room descended back into silence that sloshed wet and suffocating.


After disinfecting and wrapping what was left of his wings as tenderly as possible, Jonah re-soaked the wash rag and moved to wipe at the sticky soot clinging to Jehoel's arms and legs before guiding him back to his bedroom, a hand ghosting the dip of his spine.

As soon as Jehoel's shins hit the edge of the mattress he immediately collapsed into the sheets. Jonah reluctantly turned away to pad to the kitchen, coming back to the bedroom with a glass of cool water in hand. Jehoel had shifted from his original position, curled into himself, his lanky body wracked with tremors. Jonah rounded the bed and silently sat the glass on the nightstand before pressing a feather-light touch to the top of Jehoel's head. "I'll be in the living room if you need me." He turned to leave.

Before he could take a single step, Jehoel's hand shot out from beneath him and tangled itself into the scratchy wool of Jonah's sweater.

"Please stay."

His voice was thick and wet with tears, muffled from the arm he had burrowed his face in. Jonah was taken aback from such an out-of-character action. He was used to the curt and reserved Jehoel, monotonous and rarely showing even a twinge of emotion.

So seeing this holy and near omniscient entity capable of wiping out half of civilization, shivering like a petrified child and begging him to stay, it terrified him.

Nevertheless, he slowly twisted back around, disentangling Jehoel's fingers from his sweater to lace them with his own. "Of course I will, J." he whispered carefully. Jehoel allowed Jonah to separate their hands so he could pull himself into the bed and shuffle over.

Almost instantly he uncurled himself and sat up to cling to Jonah tightly, face pressed into the crook of his neck, the heat of his uneven breath new and alien. Jonah cradled him, one hand pressed into Jehoel's hair, the other carefully settled on his lower back. They stayed in that position for a time before either spoke again. Jehoel's sobs picked up in intervals before calming back down and repeating, and Jonah cooed softly to console him.

"I've lost everything."

"I know."

"I can't hear my brothers anymore. I can't feel my grace, or the choir, and- and my wings—"

"Hey, shhh," guilt twinged cold and dense in Jonah's gut, "It's ok, you're gonna be ok. We'll figure this out."

Wetness began to seep into the collar of Jonah's sweater. He could feel Jehoel's shaky fingers tighten minutely into the fabric, so he pressed back. "Everything burns in a bad way, now," Jehoel whimpered almost inaudibly. "It hurts."

Jonah stroked the back of his head, unable to respond. He could still feel nearly undetectable waves of emotion radiating from Jehoel, a remnant of his divinity.

Minutes that felt like hours passed. Jehoel finally calmed down enough to pull himself back and look at Jonah. His eyes were puffy and red and his cheeks were streaked with tears. Jonah gave a sad smile, reaching to wipe them away with his thumbs. An unreadable expression flitted across Jehoel's face as he moved his hands from Jonah's back to rest against his chest.

“What are we going to do?” His distress disturbed the air between them. Jonah didn’t have an answer. He didn’t know how to figure this out, he couldn’t find the right words to comfort him, and it destroyed him to see Jehoel’s face tense into anxiety as the seconds passed with no reply. So Jonah did the only good thing he could think of, and leaned in to press a warm kiss to Jehoel's lips.

Jehoel stiffened a moment before his hands slipped upward to smooth his thumbs across Jonah’s cheeks. Jonah tightened his hold against the back of Jehoel’s head. When they pulled back to breathe, Jehoel’s gaze was intense with fear and grief and overwhelming reverence. To have an angel of the Lord stare at him like he was the one who hung the moon and stars was so overwhelming, Jonah's eyes began to well with tears. Jehoel wrapped his arms underneath Jonah’s, pressing fingertips into his back hard enough to bruise.

“Stay with me.”

“Of course I will.”