Chapter 18:

Archangel in Trouble

The Legend of the Pervy Archangel

Clara looked askance at the young woman sitting in the seat opposite of her. “Why did I agree to meet with you again?” she asked. “And why did you even call me in the first place?”

Clara didn't know why she was here. It was Christmas Day; she should have been spending the day, or at least the first half of the day, with her father, and the other half should have been spent with Katie and Michelle. Unfortunately, her dad had been called into work last night. There'd been some kind of emergency apparently, though Clara didn't know what. Perhaps that was why she agreed to meet up when Alice called her.

“Are you complaining?” asked Alice.

“Yes,” Clara admitted without shame. “I made big plans for today, plans that I suddenly had to drop because of you.” Even though she apparently had no clue why she'd dropped those plans for this woman in the first place. Weren't they supposed be enemies? Or were they frenemies now? “I was going to ask Michael if he wanted to spend the day with me so I could get to know him more intimately. After all, two people as beautiful as ourselves could only be made for each other. Oh ho ho ho!”

Upon hearing Michael's name, the plastic cup in Alice's hand, which contained her iced coffee, was crushed in an iron fist. Ice and coffee splashed all over the hand, soaking it in sticky brown liquid and creating a puddle on the table that spilled over the side.

Clara eyed the raven-haired female warily. “Um, I'm guessing something happened between the two of you?”

“You could say that,” Alice muttered, her manner mild and almost uncaring. Clara wasn't fooled for a second, as she knew the woman sitting opposite of her very well, even if they weren't really friends anymore.

“You wanna talk about it?”

“Not really,” Alice grunted. Clara merely sat there, waiting. She knew the explosion would happen eventually. She just needed to be patient. And she was right, because several seconds later, Alice exploded with the force of a nuclear warhead. “Michael is such an idiot! A stupid twat that doesn't know his head from his ass! I practically threw myself at him last night and he said no!”

So Alice and Michael had gotten into a fight on Christmas Eve? Clara didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing yet. On the one hand, if Alice and Michael were fighting, then it meant she could swoop in and help Michael overcome whatever sadness he must have been feeling. On the other hand, only Alice knew where Michael lived, and Clara didn't believe for one second that the other young woman would just tell her where the pretty young man resided.

She studiously ignored the part about Alice confessing her feelings.

“Maybe he was saving himself for someone special.”

Alice gave her a flat look. “And who the heck would he save himself for?”

“Why, my glorious and beautiful self of course.” Clara flipped her hair over her shoulder in an exaggerated expression of haughtiness. “It would only make sense that two people as beautiful as us would end up getting together in the end. That's just the way this world works.” Clara raised a dainty hand with pink nail polish to her lips, threw her head back and laughed. “Oh ho ho ho!”

Alice deadpanned. “Do you want me to hit you?”

Clara stopped laughing. “S-such violence...”

“You say something?”

“N-no.” Clara coughed into her hand and decided that maybe, just maybe, antagonizing her rival might not be the best idea―at the very least, she should wait until after this issue with Michael was resolved and Alice was less likely to hit her. “So you tried to make Michael yours and he turned you down, then?”

“Yes.” Alice sounded sullen. Her shoulders slumped. “I tried to kiss him, but he stopped me, and then he made some lame excuse about why he couldn't kiss me. Are all boys this stupid?”

“You obviously have not dated very much,” Clara said. When all Alice did was glare, Clara shook her head, blond hair swaying, and sighed. “All boys are dense and stupid. It's just how they are.” She had dated quite a few boys in her high school life. Dustin certainly hadn't been the first, and he probably wouldn't be the last either. “If you want something from them, you often need to blatantly spell it out for them before they get it.”

“I don't think you can get more blatant than I was last night.”

“You probably just weren't forceful enough, then. Boys like to drag their heels when it comes to certain things. If you want a boy to act in a certain way or do something they are otherwise unwilling to do, you sometimes have to use force.”

“What? You mean I should force myself on him?” Alice looked disgusted by the idea. “I couldn't do something like that!”

“Don't take my words so literally.” Clara rolled her eyes. “I didn't say you should force yourself on anyone. I am just saying that you need to be forceful if you want your boyfriend or whatever to do as you want them to.”

Alice's face became introspective. She looked down at the crushed remains of her coffee cup, black hair swaying in the gentle breeze. “So I should be more forceful, then? Huh.”

Clara watched as Alice's eye glazed over in thought. She absently wondered why she was giving advice to this woman. They were rivals for Michael's affection, and Alice had a head start on her. Clara really couldn't afford to be handing out advice, especially because Michael didn't seem as taken in by her feminine charms as he should have been, even though she knew he appreciated her body.

That begged the question, then: why was she being so nice?

As they sat there, each lost in their own thoughts, someone familiar walked up to them.

“Well now, I never expected to see you two getting along. I guess Christmas really does bring enemies together.”

Clara looked up, eyes widening in shock at the person standing before her. “D-Dustin?”

For just one second, Clara almost thought she was looking at someone else. The only reason she could tell that this person was indeed Dustin, was because of the intimacy they had once shared.

But something about the young man seemed… off. There was no better way to describe it. Clara could see that something had changed, something was different, wrong in a way that was so fundamental she could feel the “wrongness” the moment she laid eyes on him, even if she couldn't tell what that “wrongness” might be. He looked the same as he always did. His sandy hair descended upon his head in a slight mess, a carefully designed tousled look that suited him well. Lightly tanned skin complimented his muscled physique, and he wore a pair of cargo pants and a blue shirt with black jacket thrown on top.

It wasn't until she looked at his eyes that she realized why Dustin seemed so wrong to her, at least physically. His eyes were normally a lighter shade of brown bordering on amber, but not anymore. Instead, they were red, a dark vermillion, a repulsive, bloody crimson.

“Clara.” Dustin smiled at her, and she instantly knew that this was not Dustin's smile. His smile was always full of confidence flirting with arrogance. This smile appeared twisted and deranged. It screamed wrong and gave Clara some seriously bad vibes. “What are you doing with this slut?” He gestured towards the affronted-looking Alice. “Could it be that she's seduced you to her side? Are spreading your pussy for her and that idiot Michael?”

Like electricity traveling through a copper wire, shock coursed through her system. In all the years she'd known him, Dustin had never said anything like that. He could be crass and rude, especially when he was with friends, but even he had limits on how much he would say.

And yet, this person, she could tell he was Dustin. He had Dustin's face, spoke with Dustin's voice. This couldn't be anyone else.

While Clara lost her voice, her shock leaving her incapable of speaking, Alice jumped to her feet, slammed her hands on the table, and glared at him.

“Who the hell do you think you are? Coming up and saying crap like that?” she demanded. “What? Was one beating not enough for you and now you've decided to come back for another?”

Dustin turned to her. Alice flinched when she got a good look at his eyes.

“Alice,” Dustin hissed, sibilant and disturbing, containing a sort of sadistic pleasure, like he was imagining all the horrors he planned to unleash on the woman now holding his attention. Alice shuddered. “I see you're not here with Michael. I'm a little disappointed, but kind of glad at the same time. I would like to play with you for a little while before dealing with him.”

Alice and Clara only had enough time for their eyes to shoot wide open before the table was flipped over. The contents sitting on the table, cups filled with liquid and a plate with a half-eaten pastry, spilled onto the sidewalk.

Alice stumbled back several steps while Clara fell to the ground, the table landing on top of her. She yelped in pain as the heavy object crushed her thighs. In that time, Dustin appeared before Alice and backhanded her across the face. With a loud cry of both shock and pain, the young woman went soaring through the air. She hit the ground after flying for several meters, a cry escaping her lips as her side smashed into cement. The young woman tumbled along the pavement, her bones getting battered and bruised, her joints jarring as they smacked painfully against the hard, unyielding ground.

She rolled to a stop, landing on her side, her hair splayed across her face, moaning. Dustin walked up to her, his footsteps slow, measured, precise, as if he wanted to savor the feeling of power he had over her.

“Dustin! Stop this!” Clara shouted, standing to her feet after she managed to push the table off her legs. They hurt, a lot, and she knew there would be some bruises tomorrow, but she pushed past the pain. Alice was in trouble. She had to help her.

When Dustin didn't answer, she limped forward, her movements sluggish. It felt like she had a pinched nerve or something. Every time she lifted her left leg, a jolt of pain would race through her, making her stumble. She pressed onward anyway, but before she could get very far, Dustin stopped and turned his head, pinning her with a glare.

“Don't interfere, Clara,” he said, his blood red eyes freezing her in place. She couldn't think, she couldn't breath, everything seemed to leave her, including her courage. Her legs weakened and turned soft, causing her to slump to the ground. Dustin smiled. “Do not worry. I have a use for you, but it'll have to wait until I'm done playing with Alice.”

Clara felt nauseated by his words. Bile rose up in her throat. She wanted to vomit, but she couldn't because her throat had closed on her, only allowing the foul taste to rise up as the fluids trickled into her mouth, making her choke.

Dustin turned back to Alice. The young woman had managed to sit up, though it was quite clear from the way her body swayed that she still felt groggy from the backhand. He strode up to her and, without showing any effort, grabbed her by the neck and lifted her into the air.

A strangled, retching cry escaped her mouth before her throat was forced closed by an ironclad grip. A pair of delicate hands grasped Dustin’s forearm. Alice tried to pry herself free, but it was no use. She might not be a weakling, but Dustin was much stronger than her.

He slammed her back against the nearest wall, pinning her in place. Alice's struggling increased. Her legs kicked out, a futile gesture that did nothing to the wall of muscle choking her. Loud rasps escaped her throat and saliva ran down her chin, dribbling onto Dustin's fingers.

Fingernails dug into the flesh of Dustin's skin, drawing blood, but even that didn't seem to do any good. If anything, Dustin's expression, his sickly, twisted grin became tinged with a touch of amusement, as if he found her struggling funny.

“You know something, you're really quite sexy.” Dustin's voice sounded almost casual, but it possessed a sort of depravity to it that made an intense sliver of fear travel up the spine. Several feet behind Dustin, Clara covered her mouth with her hands. “It really is too bad I can't enjoy you properly.” He sighed. “But I don't want Michael's sloppy seconds. That's just not my style, you understand. Anything touched by that man is obviously tainted with his stench.”

His words made Alice shudder in disgust. The shuddering soon turned into labored floundering as the girl tried everything she could to escape Dustin's grip when it inexplicably tightened around her throat. Yet even as she fought and pushed and struggled, her movements became more and more sporadic. Her legs, no longer kicking, began to twitch. Her hands started growing weak. Her head lolled from one side to the other, and her eyes began to flutter.

Clara watched it all. She watched as Alice's hands dropped to her sides, as her legs stopped moving and hung limply in the air, toes canted toward the ground. She watched as the young ravenette's head lolled one final time, then stilled, while her eyelids fluttered closed. She watched all this and felt a combination of self-loathing, anger, and shame. She wasn't able to help Alice one bit. Fear kept her pinned to the ground, unable to move. All she could do was sit there and watch while someone she secretly admired and liked was being killed.

Seeing the girl within his grip become insensate, Dustin threw Alice over his shoulder none too gently. The girl flopped, arms and hair dangling at his back, legs swinging in front of him. He turned, then, and walked over to Clara, who felt a thrill of terror as Dustin's shadow blocked out the sun.

Dustin smiled at her, and Clara, against her will, felt her bladder begin to weaken.

“I want you to deliver a message for me,” he said, his smile growing. He knelt down, ignoring her flinch and shoved a sheet of paper into her right hand. “Tell Michael that if he wants the girl back, he'll have to come face me.” When all Clara did was stare at him, quaking, he scowled. “Well! What are you doing, you stupid girl?! Go tell him!”

Clara scrambled to her feet and bolted. Tears stung her eyes as she ran down the road. She ignored the people gawking at the scene that had just happened, ignored the phones that had been pulled out as some pedestrians actually grew a brain and decided to call 911 instead of standing around like a bunch of idiots. She ignored everything. All that mattered to her was finding Michael. He would know what to do.

He had to.

~The Archangel Michael~

He didn't look too good. His eyes were red and dark bags hung underneath them. His face seemed gaunt and hollow. Even his normally lustrous hair appeared scraggly to his eyes. Staring at his reflection in the mirror, Michael found himself wondering how the image reflected back at him could truly be his visage. Angels were supposed to be the epitome of grace and beauty, but right now, he looked anything but.

Michael had not gotten much sleep last night. After crying himself to sleep several hours after Alice stormed out on him, when the first dawn of light had already risen, what little sleep he did get had been restless and filled with nightmares. A part of him hoped that's what the whole incident had been, just one big nightmare. It wasn't until he'd woken up and discovered Alice missing and her mother still passed out in bed that he realized the truth.
All of this was real. He and Alice had gotten into a fight. She had stormed out on him. She had even left that morning before he woke up just so she wouldn't have to interact with him.

He had hurt her.

What's more, Michael himself was hurt. He was hurt, and he didn't even know why. He didn't understand, couldn't even begin to comprehend his own feelings.

Michael was an Angel, and not just any Angel either, but The Archangel. Created for the purpose of combat, Michael was born and bred to fight the forces of evil, Satan and Lucifer and all the other Devils who tried to storm the gates of Heaven. He shouldn't be feeling conflicted like this. He shouldn't be feeling hurt like this. These emotions, these thoughts, they didn't belong inside of him.

So why did he feel this way?

Michael's recriminations were brought to a halt when loud and frantic banging echoed all the way to the bathroom and bounced around the walls.

Someone was at the door. But who? And why?

“Just a second!” Michael shouted. He walked into the living room, the banging growing louder, and quickly put on a pair of blue jeans and a simple shirt. “Hold on!” he yelled as the pounding became forceful enough that he feared the door would be knocked off its hinges. Frowning, he opened the door to tell whoever was outside to shove off. He wasn't in the mood for conversation.

And then he saw who was standing in front of the door.

“Clara?” He asked, confused. “What are you doing here?” He then noticed her appearance and became concerned. “Are you okay?”

Clara stood there, gasping. Her shoulders heaved and her body was hunched over, hands on her knees, her breathing ragged and harsh. She looked like she'd run all the way there.

“Y-you’re here? T-thank God.”

Clara sank to her knees. Concerned, Michael knelt down and placed a hand on Clara’s shoulder. She looked awful.

“Are you okay? What’s wrong, Clara?”

“Michael…” Clara rasped, “Alice… you need to help… Alice…”

“Alice?” Michael felt something heavy drop into his stomach. “What's wrong with Alice? Where is she?”

Clara shook her head. “Took her… he took her…”

“Took her? Someone took Alice?” The worry that settled into his gut like a heavy ball of lead grew. “Who?”

“Dustin,” she gasped.

Michael gaped, his mind registering the name but unable to comprehend anymore than that. Dustin? That kid he'd beaten up when he'd been chasing after Alice? The one who'd tried to teach her a lesson with a knife? That Dustin?

“What happened?” He demanded. “How did Dustin get Alice? Where has he taken her?”

Clara shook her head as she got her second wind. “No time to explain. H-here. He asked me to give this to you.”

Michael took a small sheet of paper from her hand and looked at it. On the paper was a message: 'I have Alice. If you want her back, come to the factory on Grissom. ~L.'

Michael crumpled up the sheet of paper.

Without even looking at Clara, he stormed past her.


He stopped but didn't turn around.

“P-please save her,” Clara pleaded with him. “I-I know we haven't gotten along much recently, but Alice is still important to me. So please, please rescue her.”

Michael still didn't turn back to look at her, but he at least had the decency to reply. “You don't need to worry. I have no intention of letting her come to anymore harm.” His idiocy had already harmed her enough. “Stay here and wait for me. I'll be back, and I'll bring Alice with me.”

“O-okay. I'll wait here for you to rescue her. Promise me you'll be careful?”

“I'll see what I can do.”

Without another word, Michael launched himself down the stairs, his body forcing itself to move faster than he ever had since coming to earth. He had to somewhere to be.

Alice needed him.

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