Abby had no idea what was going on anymore. She sat on the fold-out couch in the Ward family’s library, the same couch she and Gabe had slept on not so many weeks ago. She tried to focus her mind and stop the thousands of thoughts that ran rampant through it.
She didn’t know how long she’d been in the room. The hushed sounds of whispering and movement in the hallway were the only thing that proved that the world still carried on outside. Nothing felt real.
Her vision flashed bright gold for a second, and Abby started. She sighed. It kept happening without warning, the hot rush of power filling her being and sparking out just as suddenly, and it made her feel sick to her stomach. Her insides roiled again in protest as another jolt blazed through her, tiny veins of gold crackling like a hundred tiny lightning bolts under the surface of her skin.
She stared at her hands in detached horror as the miniscule lightshow abated, the slight golden glow around her ragged fingernails all that remained as proof of the power. Abby could feel it uncoiling itself and blazing restlessly from the back of her mind. It terrified her.
She tried to think of something else, glancing at the big doors she had come through moments ago, half-walking and half-carried by Aiden and another man she didn’t recognize. He might have been one of the limo drivers, she supposed, not that that had mattered much to her at the time. She had been-was still-sick with a heavy mixture of emotion and exhaustion that felt like it had seeped down to her very bones.
The only thing keeping her from collapsing into a heap had been Aiden’s promise to explain exactly what the hell had just happened. Why Gabe had collapsed into a coma at her kiss, why men with glowing black eyes and shifting marks on their skin had sprouted obsidian wings to hunt her down, why the Wards had done much the same to protect her. She had to know who they really were, what was happening.
Angels, Aiden had said. If they were angels, then what was she? What was she becoming, with the golden heat thrumming through her veins?
These questions and more kept her from shattering into pieces as they left Gabe alone in his sterile hospital bed. Well, not alone, she thought. Rivkah and Malakh had stayed behind, guarding the door to his room. She didn’t know how to feel about that, either; she didn’t trust the ancient couple. They weren’t good or evil, Raph had said. They were neutral in the most dangerous sense of the word, and even Gabriel Sr.’s reassurances to her that they would take good care of Gabe hadn’t really calmed her. In the end her need for answers had been greater, and she had allowed Aiden to assist her out of the hospital, past the concerned triage nurse and back to the limousine.
The car ride had been overwhelmingly silent, which Abby had almost appreciated; she needed the time to gather her scattered thoughts and memories, arrange them in a way that made any sense at all. They had arrived at the house all too quickly, the night still a shocking jumble in her head. The other limousine was already parked in front of the manor, which was lit up from the inside. Aiden and the chauffeur had rushed her past the loud voices and blurred flurry of activity that greeted them when the door opened, whisking her up the stairs to the library and shutting the doors behind them. They had led her over to the couch where she now sat.
Aiden sat next to her now, instructing the chauffeur to start a fire in the fireplace. Abby guessed she had mumbled something like a “why?”, because Aiden smiled at her kindly and wrapped a thick blanket around her. “Because even if you can’t feel it, you’re freezing. You’ve been shivering non-stop since we got out of the hospital.” He draped another blanket across her lap, and Abby absently wondered where he was getting them from.
She didn’t have a chance to ask as Aiden continued to fuss with her, adjusting blankets over her tattered skirts and torn feet, filthy with dried blood and mud. “We’ll have to get you cleaned up--“
“No.” Abby cut him off, surprised at how weak and shaky her voice sounded in her own ears. Did she really sound like that? She cleared her throat and tried again, meeting Aiden’s surprised gaze and holding it. “No. Not yet…You said…said we’d talk. Now. Start talking.”
“…Are you sure?” Aiden asked hesitantly. Abby nodded. “Alright.” He held his palm out flat in front of her, his eyes flashing hot white for a second. Abby’s mother’s mirror, the one memento she had of the woman who had died before she’d even known her, materialised in Aiden’s hand.
Abby shot him a warning look.
“Don’t worry. I just want to see it. I have a theory.” He turned the sliver compact over in his hands, the firelight casting it in a dull sheen. “You wanted to know who you are--what you are. If I’m not mistaken, this little mirror of yours holds the answer.” He ran his fingers over the twisting metal snakes embossed on the cover, trailing over their jeweled eyes.
He breathed in deeply, and Abby watched in fascinated horror as the silvery-white tattoos began to wind their way down his arm and over his face again, his eyes taking on the same bright glow. As soon as the markings reached his fingers, the compact burst open, the mirrored surface inside dark and blank.
Abby leaned in closer; something was wrong. The mirror wasn’t reflecting anything in the room. Thick, oily blackness swirled under the surface instead, the occasional burst of burnt orange light permeating the darkness. She reached out a cautious hand, pressing a fingertip to the mirror’s surface before anyone could think to stop her.
Black vines of symbols exploded out of the mirror, blasting in all directions before winding themselves tightly around her outstretched finger and climbing rapidly up her arm. Abby’s vision blazed gold as her skin instantly filled with golden tattoos, spiralling down to meet inky black. A rushing sound filled her ears as she struggled, trapped between the two powers. The tattoos twined together halfway up her forearm, twisting and pulsating and battling for supremacy as Abby stared helplessly, incapable of controlling either of them.
Her arm throbbed, a jolt racing through it as Aiden grabbed her and pulled her hand away roughly with his own rune-covered hand, breaking her contact with the mirror. The black vines vanished as soon as they lost contact, but Abby could still feel them crawling over her skin.
She trembled from head to toe. “What…what just happened?!” she managed to say, despite her chattering teeth. Aiden and the other man exchanged a look, staying silent.
“TELL ME!” Abby snarled, something burning and boiling up inside of her and lashing out towards them with an extraordinarily bright flash of light. The chauffeur was flung from his feet, sailing backwards through the air and crashing into an ornate bookcase with a loud thud.
Aiden stared at her with a look of wide-eyed amazement that quickly narrowed to something that made the gold flare hot and defensive inside of her. She tore her gaze away from the angel’s, focusing on the floor and taking a deep, shuddering breath as another wave of nausea rolled over her. “Is he...is he alright?” Abby managed to murmur, gulping as she fought not to vomit.
Aiden didn’t answer. Abby glanced over to where he crouched down over the collapsed chauffeur, his hands glowing as he passed them quickly over the man’s prone body, muttering under his breath in a foreign tongue she thought she almost understood. It didn’t sound like any other language she had ever heard, but it still seemed strangely familiar to her. She didn’t want to think about how that was possible.
Aiden straightened up and walked over to stand in front of her. Abby kept her eyes trained on his feet, dully noting the blood spattering his pant legs and the dirt and scratches that had utterly destroyed his dress shoes. She began counting the places on his hems where small burn marks had melted through the fabric, leaving his socks exposed through the holes.
She stared as if Aiden’s feet were the most fascinating thing she had ever seen, all in an attempt to ignore the man’s own stare, which might as well be burning holes in the back of her bowed head. The tension in the room rose to a nearly unbearable level, though it only took one movement to diffuse it.
Aiden didn’t say a word as he leaned down and pulled Abby close to him, enveloping her in a warm hug that crushed the blankets tightly around her. He held her like that, her head tucked up under his chin and her face pressed into his torn lapels, so close to him that she could feel his heartbeat against her cheek. He held her there until she stopped shaking, until her breaths came steady and deep.
“Abby.” Aiden said, gently putting his hands on her shoulders and holding her away from him so that he could look into her eyes. “Abby, sweetheart. You aren’t human. But you aren’t one of us, either.”
Abby swallowed, trying to quell the panic she could feel beginning to twist in her gut. “Then what--“ she haltingly began to ask, before a horrendous wailing scream filled the hallway and sent them both bolting for the door.