When the sun was well-risen and most people would be awake and going about their lives, Arael stirred, gently releasing Sariel and climbing out of bed. When she made as to follow him, he stopped her with a touch. “Stay here. I will be back in a few hours.” Sariel’s eyes widened in distress at being left alone, but she obediently remained in the bed, looking up at him as he stood. Arael’s heart melted and he almost decided to cancel his day’s appointments just to remain with her. It was the knowledge that he had to acquire things for Sariel that spurred him into activity. Primarily, clothing. He had been very carefully unnoticing of her state of undress since he had finished healing her injuries. She was blithely unconcerned with the amount of pale, golden skin she exposed, not aware of the response it provoked in him. Desire… it was of the Dark, and he felt it keenly.
He realized he had been staring down at her for a few minutes already and forced himself into movement. Bending down, he wrapped her up in a last hug, then drew her attention to the analog clock on the non-glass wall. Its hands indicated that it was nine o’clock. “It’s nine right now. I’ll be back before two.” With those two sentences, Sariel learned everything she needed to know about human time-keeping and reading analog clocks. She nodded. Arael strode out of the room and out of the house.
He was back by noon. Entering the bedroom, he saw that she had made a nest of the pillows and blankets, completely disrupting their former neat arrangement. He smiled. The sun was bright overhead through the glass. Sariel curled on her side, hugging a pillow, and absorbed the rays with her skin, as all upper beings did to power their bodies.
He sat next to the pile of blankets, and the shifting of the bed roused the sleepy angel so that she turned to see him. Her expression immediately brightened in happiness, her Light flaring in contentment, and she sat up to hug him around the neck.
He laughed softly at her exuberance and said, “I’m back.”
“Back before two,” she parroted his earlier words, looking at the clock. Magic enabled her to understand English and the phenomenal memory of their kind ensured she learned immediately, but Sariel’s knowledge of the language was still limited to the words Arael had thus far spoken to her.
“Yes,” he agreed. He counted to twelve so that she could learn the words. Then he held up the bag he had carried in. “I brought you some clothes.” From his words she understood that people normally wore clothing at all times, except during certain activities, and she nodded, peering curiously into the bag. He laughed. “You have to let go of me to put on the clothes.”
Reluctantly, she released him, and he quickly had her dressed in underclothes, shorts and a tank top, leaving most of her skin bare so that she could continue to absorb sunlight. As soon as he was done, she cuddled up against him again. “Stay here?” she asked hopefully. She wanted to ask whether he was going to leave again, but lacked the words to do so. Her imploring look would have made him cancel his plans, had he had any.
Her smile was so radiant that he had to smile back.
Arael decided that the best way to teach his angel language would be to simply read her a book. He scooped her up and carried her downstairs to the office, where a bookshelf was filled with a wide variety of books. “Pick a book,” he urged.
After staring for a while, she pointed at one with an illustration of a fire-breathing dragon on the cover. He plucked it from its spot and gave it to her to hold before going back upstairs. Rearranging the pillows and blankets so that they could sit comfortably against the headboard, he settled them in the bed and opened the book. For the rest of the day, they read about dragons and wizards, in strange lands full of magic.
Long after the sun had set, Arael read the last page of the book and set it aside. Sariel smiled at the happy ending. Arael had lived too long in this place to believe that a happy ending could exist for him. He sighed almost inaudibly, but Sariel could feel the deep exhalation from her position leaning against him.
“Why are you sad?” she asked, tilting her head to see his face. “Did you not like the story?” There were a few common words that had not been in the book, but Sariel’s grasp of English was now almost complete.
He did not know how to answer. “I’m not sad, exactly,” he evaded the question.
“Are you happy?” she pressed.
Looking down at her, so beautiful and earnest, he could smile and answer honestly, “Yes.” The Light within him spun and twirled more quickly.
A person with Light and Darkness balanced within them would have pressed him further, but Sariel was so full of the contentment and stasis of Light that she had very little curiosity or the ability to exert herself in any task, and she ceased her questions, content with his answer.
Downstairs, the phone rang. Only one person had his number, so Arael knew it was the call he had been waiting for. “It is just the phone,” he reassured Sariel, who had been startled by the sound. Swiftly, he made his way to his office and answered.
“I found them.”
“When and where?”
“Heaven and Hell, at midnight.”
“Could Teira watch … my guest?”
“I’ll bring her.”
The line disconnected. He looked up at Sariel, who had followed him downstairs at a slower pace. “We are going out tonight.”