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Hedgehog's Dilemma

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Sex and death. They seemed to go together, or so Ace had noticed. Xe often found this strange, given xyr own lack of desire. And yet, in every bondage bar xe'd ever played in, death and rebirth was the game of choice. Xe still wasn't sure how it was even arousing, but xe always noticed it when someone was subbing for xem. They allowed the Archangel to take them deep into subspace, to the edge of death itself, and bring them back renewed. Outside the context of a bondage club, this could perhaps be understood in a way that wasn't threatening. In the context of a bondage club, sex and death walked with Ace everywhere xe went.

Sex was something other people did to xem anyway. They took it from xem as if it was something xe owed them, though xe was thankful xe didn't remember most of those instances. The terrible mess of memories in xyr head, both real, imaginary, Heavenly, and from the many past lives the body had led, made enough chaotic noise to drown the trauma and keep it subdued. It was the main reason xe never played sexually with anyone. Xe did not trust them at all.

But xe did trust Trevor.

Ace often wondered why it was that Trevor still lived with xem. It had been six weeks now, and apart from a few tense moments during the first week he had been living there permanently, things had been going well. Ace was used to his presence, and they had settled into a good routine. There had been some days when Ace had not been at xyr best, but xe did not feel so much like xe couldn't cope anymore. Trevor was there to catch xem if xe fell.

The dysphoria was still pretty bad, though. Xe had become a little more comfortable being naked with Trevor, but xe had not done much more than allow him to touch him and hug him, just a little bit. Xe still had not felt any sexual pleasure at all, not down there, but xe had hope that maybe Trevor might be able to do that, if xe gave xemself enough time to get used to it. Xe had no understanding about how to be intimate with someone xe loved, and slowly, Trevor was showing xem what to do.

That morning, xe had woken peacefully. The bad dreams had mostly left xem alone, and the Modei Ani slipped effortlessly from xyr lips, along with a grateful smile at the fact xe was still alive. Ha-Shem had taken xyr soul and allowed it to rest, and returned it to xem in peace. Xe loved that feeling, and xe hoped it would happen more frequently if xe didn't allow xemself to regress to how xe used to be when the madness had ruled xyr life completely.

The rituals of the morning were almost memorised by now, and there was something comforting in knowing that Trevor was doing them as well. Xe hadn't believed him when he'd told xem about it, but after seeing him reciting the prayers and performing the rituals of his own volition, xe stopped worrying about it so much. Trevor always asked xem if xe'd done them, as well, which helped reinforce the habits xe had been trying unsuccessfully to keep for years.

As xe stood naked in front of xyr wardrobe, wondering what to wear, xe turned to the full-length mirror by the wall. It had been covered with a sheet a few weeks back after xe kept seeing demons in it, but those hallucinations had mostly gone away now. Xe felt brave enough to take down the sheet covering the mirror, hoping it would not scare xyr.

Xe stood there, the sheet held in one hand, just in case xe needed to cover it up again. Seeing xyr reflection again made xem a little anxious, particularly because xyr wings weren't there. Xe could feel them against xyr back, but they remained invisible. It was heartbreaking. Xe did not like being in this broken body. Perhaps xe wasn't ready to uncover the mirror yet.

As xe turned away from it, xe heard a knock on xyr bedroom door. There was a small moment of fear, though it didn't last, and xe went over to let Trevor in. Xe found him kneeling in front of the door, his head bowed to xem.

Ace reached out and touched his head, appreciating the connection. "Still here, then?"

"I love you, Archangel. I am always at your service, Archangel. My submission is in your hands. My life is yours," Trevor replied.

Ace still felt a shiver of relief when xe heard Trevor say that, and he said it every morning. It had become part of their routine. Trevor would voice his submission to xem every morning as the first words he uttered to xem, and Ace found xe could not relax until xe'd heard it. It calmed xem like the Modei Ani calmed xem, giving xyr soul such peace that xe could face the day without fear.

"Thank you, Trev. Y'know I like hearing that," Ace said.

"I know, that's why I keep saying it." Trevor got to his feet, waiting to be invited in. "Good morning, syr. Sleep well?"

Ace noticed the collar around his neck. Xe had given it to him as a present a few weeks ago, and there was still a part of xem that worried Trevor would leave, or that xe might be keeping him here against his will. Xe wasn't sure xe hadn't frightened him into obedience when xe'd manifested xyr Archangel form to him early on in their relationship. Xe'd used that voice, the one that reverberated throughout the universe, and Trevor had been frightened, xe had seen it on his face. Any mortal would be frightened if they heard the voice of an Archangel. But Trevor hadn't run away. He'd accepted the reality of his master's identity, and continued to willingly offer his submission to xem. Ace decided that, whatever the reasons, xe thought it would be a bad idea to send away the one man who might help xem cope with the human world xe was living in.

"Yeah, I did. Thanks. Uh, you want to come in? So we can do prayers?" Ace said, stepping back to usher him inside.

"Yes, syr. I've got all the things I need. Do you need any help before we begin?" Trevor asked as he followed xem in.

Ace found xemself drawn to the mirror again, though xe didn't know why. Xe reached for Trevor's hand, needing him to be close.

"I need to conquer this. Tell me it's alright, please?" Ace said.

Trevor moved behind xem, holding him as close as he dared. He didn't want Ace to feel smothered. "What's bothering you about it?"

Ace shrugged. "Everything. Nothing. I still feel broken. I don't know how to stop feeling that way."

Trevor pressed a soft kiss to xyr neck. "You're not broken, not irreparably. We can fix this. It might not happen tomorrow, but we can fix it. You know we can fix it."

Ace tentatively ran a finger across one of the scars on xyr chest, marking where xyr breasts had been removed. They weren't angry and red anymore, but they stretched all the way across xyr chest, and xe felt they would probably never go away. Xe would be forever marked as a woman, particularly when xe let xyr gaze fall to what was between xyr legs. Archangels were androgynous. They didn't have sexed bodies. But xe was human now, and xe had a sexed body. It was discomforting and distressing in ways xe did not know how to address.

Trevor held xem, letting Ace get comfortable with that. Ace turned to face xem, and touched the collar around his neck. They were not so close Ace felt claustrophobic, but xe still felt there was a sense of intimacy in the way Trevor's hands loosely held xyr hips, not commanding or forcing their closeness, but asking.

They shared a gentle kiss. Ace allowed xemself to rest xyr hands on Trevor's shoulders, getting used to touching him back. Trevor had taught xem a lot about human intimacy, and Ace felt like it wasn't quite as terrifying as it had felt some months ago. Xe didn't freeze when Trevor gently moved a hand up the side of xyr body, just a little. The hesitancy and tenderness in his movements calmed xem, and xe didn't mind so much when he brought xem just a little closer.

"Can you - I mean, I feel weird with you -" Ace stopped and gathered xyr thoughts. "I want to feel you too. Would you do that for me?"

"Yes, syr, of course."

Trevor bowed, and backed off a little. Ace wanted him to be naked as well, to feel like they were both equals. Xe got uncomfortable when xe was naked around someone who wasn't naked. It brought back feelings of queasiness and fear, though they were slowly losing their grip on xem.

Trevor left the collar around his neck, but took off everything else. Returning to xem, Ace felt a little better. Xe didn't like to be too close, though. Xe could not stand having their genitals touch. The last time that had happened, Ace had become uncontrollably upset, and had run away to hide in the attic. It had triggered bad things, and once xe'd recovered enough to tell Trevor what had happened, Trevor had backed off, understanding why xe needed the space.

Ace liked having Trevor's hands gently touching xyr arms, though. It made xem relax, and xe could feel xyr wings losing some of thier tension. Tentatively, they moved around xyr body to touch Trevor's skin. Xe liked just looking at Trevor's body. It was strong and masculine in a way xyrs was not, and being naked, xe could always see Trevor's state of arousal. Xe wasn't at the stage where xe was alright being around him when he was aroused. It scared xem. It was an irrational reaction, xe knew, and it stemmed from all the trauma left in xyr mind, but xe had not defeated it yet. Xe rested xyr hands on Trevor's chest, trying to settle xemself.

"This is alright, isn't it?" Ace asked. "It's alright. It feels-" Xe stopped as Trevor gently caressed xyr arms and shoulders. "I like it when you touch me like that. Sometimes I worry what will happen if I let it go further than this, but I try to just think about the sensations and forget about that. I don't want more bad things happening to me."

"It's alright, Archangel. You know I'm not here for sex. We don't have to go any further than this at all, if that would just distress you. If I'd wanted that kind of relationship, there were plenty of other Doms I could've chosen. But I'm here with you. I don't care about that. There are other things that are more important than that," Trevor said.

"I still feel bad depriving you of that, though. I know y'say it's alright, but I know you get like that, that you want it, and I always feel guilty that I can't give that to you," Ace said.

Trevor took a step back away from xem. "I don't want it from you. You're in no state to give it to me anyway, and I wouldn't dare ask. That would be an insult to ask that of you, given how others have treated you. It's alright. I've learnt to live with it. I get enough pleasure out of taking care of you anyway. I don't need that."

"Are you sure? I - I wouldn't want to-"

Trevor pressed a finger against xyr lips, gently silencing xem. "I'm not here for the sex, I promise. I swear to Ha-Shem I am not here for sex. Even if we never get any more intimate than this, I don't care. I love you too much to even consider a sexual relationship with you when that's not something I think you'll ever really be comfortable with. I accepted that when I accepted the role of being your carer. It's not important, not in the slightest. I'm here as your servant, your submissive. I gladly serve the Archangel Azriel, and as long as you're doing alright, that's pleasure enough for me."

As Ace watched his expression as he spoke, xe saw no insincerity in his words or in his face. Xe hadn't expected to, but sometimes xe needed to be sure, just to remind xemself. Every day, when Trevor offered his submission, Ace always remembered the first time he'd done it, and how incredibly grateful xe had felt that someone was looking out for xem.

"I love you. I-I love you, Trevor. I know I don't say it often enough, the words are hard to say, but I love you. Every day you're with me is the greatest blessing I could ever have asked for. I thank Ha-Shem every day for your presence. Every day. I don't think I'd be doing this well without you, and the thought I could go back to how it used to be frightens me, Trev. It really does. I remember the psychosis, the madness, the absolute craziness, and I pray every day it never returns. I don't know how I survived, I really don't. I think I nearly killed myself several times over, but Lucifer wouldn't let me cross over. They always brought me back, and I always hated them for it. I still sometimes feel like this life is killing me, but it's easier to cope with, now that you're here with me. I don't feel like I have to face all these terrors alone,"Ace said.

Xe suddenly felt incredibly self-conscious, and xe pulled away from Trevor, hiding xyr body from him. Xe had caught sight of it in the mirror again, and it frightened xyr. Xe could see the scars and wounds and the sex between xyr legs, and it was all horrible and ugly and xe wanted it all gone. Xe quickly covered up the mirror again. It might be another few weeks before xe could look at xemself again without wanting to curl up and hide away. Turning xyr back on the mirror, xe walked away from it, not wanting to see it anymore.

"I don't know if y'can fix this, though. I mean, I'm just ugly, aren't I? Ugly and horrid and I don't like it anymore. Body's a broken wreck. Broken bones and Angel wings. I'm a bloody mess," Ace said.

As xe began to curl into xemself, Trevor was by xyr side, holding xem tightly, trying to remind xem that xe was safe and cared for. Ace shivered in his arms, and xe could tell the tremors were getting worse again. They were always there, but some days were worse than others. There was an ache and a growing weakness in xyr legs that xe recognised as a sign they were intensifying. Xe dreaded it, because it always left xem feeling drained, exhausted, and bedridden, if it got so bad xe could not walk at all. Xe hated those moments, and always prayed they would not last forever.

As xe stood there with Trevor's strong arms around xem, xe tried to calm xemself down. It wasn't easy, and all the bad thoughts in xyr head took a while to suppress. Only Trevor's steady, calm voice helped break through to xem, and xe held onto that voice, needing him to help. Xe clung to Trevor, wishing things hadn't gone so bad. The morning had not begun well, and xe knew xe would be unsettled for the rest of the day. A bad morning was not easy to overcome, not for Ace.

"Just breathe, Archangel. Just breathe. Just let it all go. You'll be alright. You're safe now. We still got prayers to do, remember? Ha-Shem would be disappointed if you missed it today," Trevor said, keeping his voice quiet.

Ace nodded, and the call to prayer was beginning to work as a weapon against xyr frightening, depressive thoughts. The peace of speaking with Ha-Shem always made xem feel good. "C'mon, then, help me get dressed so's we can do it properly. I want to try to get through the whole morning service today."

"Yes, syr."

Ace had to sit on the edge of xyr bed while Trevor helped xem dress. Xe still sometimes had trouble with things if xyr fingers went stiff, and Trevor knew what was normal anyway. Ace still wasn't good at knowing what normal people wore, and needed Trevor to help with that.

Once dressed, the rituals began. The warm embrace of the prayer shawl around xyr shoulders and head brought xem comfort as they turned to face Jerusalem to begin their prayers. Speaking the sacred words, allowing them to move through xem, was a temporary moment of peace, and xyr body did not bother xem as much when Ha-Shem was with xem. Xe always hoped xe could finish all the prayers, just so xe didn't disappoint Ha-Shem. Xe wanted to be a good observant Jew, keeping all the proper mitzvot, but their progress was slow, and sometimes Ace got frustrated by it. Xe just wanted the strength to finish all the required prayers, but it was not something xe possessed yet.

In spite of xyr optimism, Ace still hadn't quite managed to sustain the energy to get through the whole service. Three quarters of the way through, xyr mind had become too exhausted by the energy required to concentrate on the prayers that long, and xe had given up. It never seemed like a long ordeal, and it wasn't meant to be, but xe still felt bad that xe still couldn't do it. Resisting the urge to throw xyr siddur away out of sheer frustration, xe sat down on the bed, huddled into xemself, feeling like a disappointment. It had brought back the tremors again, exacerbating the exhausting weakness xe felt in xyr body.

"'m sorry, Ha-Shem, 'm so sorry, Ha-Shem. 'm so sorry, Ha-Shem..." xe whispered over and over to xyrself, asking for forgiveness for failing to keep the mitzvah.

Trevor sat down beside xem, resting an arm gently around xyr shoulder. He didn't say anything, allowing xem to deal with it in xyr own time. Xe was getting better at not feeling like a terrible failure when it happened, though. Xe wasn't quite strong enough yet, that was all. Xe would keep trying until xe could do all the proper rituals without burning xemself out every day. Xe was doing the best xe could, and Trevor's reassuring presence helped xem feel like xe wasn't a bad person for not being able to do it yet. Xe just needed more time before xe was ready, and that wasn't a bad thing, considering all that had happened to xem over the years.

Trevor often reminded xem that there were probably plenty of perfectly healthy Jews who didn't put in all the persistent effort xe did to observe the laws when xe was not well. Xe did take some strength from that, knowing xe was trying even though xe wasn't really well enough to do it yet. Xe gave Ha-Shem everything xe had until xe was too exhausted to stand. Xe might not be perfect, but xe was trying. Xe hoped Ha-Shem appreciated xyr efforts.

After a while, Ace had calmed down enough to feel like xe could get on with xyr day. After putting their prayer things away properly, Trevor took xyr arm as he accompanied xem downstairs for breakfast, reassuring xem that Ha-Shem still loved xem, even if xe couldn't do all the prayers yet. It did help, and Ace tried to talk xemself around the sense of failure that was still clinging to xyr chest.

"We did better than yesterday. The voice was stronger. I didn't miss any words. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow we'll do it. Can't stop now, not when we're so close to the end," Ace murmured as they headed down to the kitchen.

Trevor sat him on a stool beside the bench, and got xyr medication ready. Ace appreciated having Trevor do that for xem. Xe had never been very good at it when xe'd only had xemself to rely on. Even when the tremors got too bad, and Ace wanted to quit taking the pills because madness was better than fatigue and weak muscles, Trevor would remind xem that xe'd promised not to stop xyr medication as a condition of Trevor moving in with xem. Ace did not want to break xyr promise; to let Trevor down, and disappoint the one man who kept xem sane, was a worse feeling than the desire to quit taking xyr pills.

Xe did feel a little better once xe'd taken them, though xe did dread the brain fog that was threatening to move in. It usually got worse the closer xe was to having bad tremors, and all the coffee in the world could not wake xem from it. There didn't seem to be anything xe could do about it, though. It kept the voices and visions at bay, and that was a price worth paying for some peace in xyr mind.

Xe watched Trevor making breakfast for them. Xe still wished xe could do it, but xe was still tired from the prayers, and xe knew xe needed to sit still for a while as xe got xyr strength back. The food wouldn't be properly kosher either, because Trevor wasn't a Jew, and Ace always apologised to Ha-Shem for it, even though xe accepted that if Ha-Shem had cared about that, He would've sent xem a Jew instead of a Gentile.

As they recited the proper blessings over their meal, Ace sent a prayer up to the Heavens, praying that one day, xe might be able to love Trevor as much as Trevor loved xem. Xe wanted to feel that love imbued in every part of xyr body, to know xe loved xem without having to doubt it in xyr mind whenever Trevor wasn't with xem. Xe wanted to feel the kind of love xe remembered experiencing when xe was in the Heavens, singing praise to Ha-Shem and being so close to Him everything ached with love. Xe just wanted to experience that again, to know that xe wasn't an emotionless broken Archangel who could not love at all.