When Abby woke she was once again in the library. Her brain felt fuzzy and ached as she sat up, the blankets that covered her pooling around her legs as she shoved them away.
The first thing she noticed was that someone had taken the time to clean her up and change her out of her tattered gown. They had wiped away most of the blood and dirt, and she now wore one of her old t-shirts with a sweatshirt zipped up over it. Her legs had been pulled into the familiar fabric of her favourite pair of faded, paint-splattered jeans.
Her feet were still bare, but they didn’t ache and sting nearly as much as they had before. A quick wriggle of her toes confirmed her suspicions; the cuts and bruises were gone. That was a little disconcerting, and she wondered which of them had been brave enough to try and heal her--that was something they could do, right? They’d tried to heal Gabe…Gabe.
She pulled her legs up onto the couch, tucking them and holding them to her chest. Gabe was going to be alright, she told herself firmly. He was strong and smart and powerful, and... I’m sure Fern thought the same thing about Eli, a cruel little voice whispered in her mind. The knot in her stomach twisted and power bubbled to the surface again, erasing all other thoughts from her mind as the gold light filled her vision and the room.
She barely heard the angels in the room reacting, but she could make out enough to figure that more had moved in and surrounded her, lining the room. She wasn’t capable of caring about where they had come from; some part of her, deep down inside, was lashing out at them in anger.
Her vision blurred again, everything fading to inky black in a heartbeat. She gasped, thinking for a moment that she had gone blind, but then that faded too, to a burning, dazzling whiteness. Her eyesight abruptly cleared and returned to normal. “What’s happening?!” she cried, panicking.
She locked eyes with Aiden, who stood at the opposite end of the couch and was physically unable to get any closer to her. The cycle started again, her senses assaulted by forces she had no control over. Aiden’s voice rose over the unidentifiable sound thrumming through her ears. “Abby, try to calm down! You have to try to contain your powers, or you’re going to get hurt!”
Frantically she tried to turn it off, flip a mental switch and force it all to shut down. It wasn’t working. “I can’t!” she whimpered, pressure building up behind her temples and throbbing through her nerve-endings. She didn’t know what to do anymore, and neither did the angels.
She slumped backwards in her seat, letting her body go limp against the gently yielding couch. Her head had tilted up, and she watched, removed and dazed, as small objects orbited around her, far overhead. Huh. The books and pens and globe cycling lazily above her would have made her chuckle if it wasn’t for the tremendous amount of pain lancing through her skull.
She sighed, and her teeth hurt from the simple action. She didn’t know how much longer she could go on like this; the constant, mind-numbing pain was more than she could handle, and her thoughts flashed to Malakh. He was the personification of Death, right? That explained the instinctive fear she had felt when she first laid eyes on him.
Now, though--now she wouldn’t mind seeing him, might even welcome him with a smile, if she could manage it. What did she have to live for? With Gabe gone and everything she thought she knew being burned away with each beat of her corrupted, inhuman heart, she wouldn’t be Abby Shepard for much longer.
She closed her eyes tightly. She could feel it within her; somewhere beyond the powers surging through her body, she was changing. She was becoming something not human or angel or demon. She was becoming something…else. And that scared her more than anything else that had happened in this crazy, screwed up night.
The commotion in the hallway snapped her away from her dark thoughts, forced her attention to the doorway. Her eyes opened a crack as the doors burst open, and she inhaled sharply in surprise. The nausea that followed convinced her to keep her breathing shallow and even. It didn’t discourage her from opening her eyes wider and staring.
It took her a moment to grasp what, exactly, she was looking at. It couldn’t be Raph. It really couldn’t be two of him, either. Now that she was getting a better look, it wasn’t; one was too short, and the other too tall. Other than a few small differences, though, they looked just like him.
The taller one, with his dark hair pulled back into a short, curly ponytail at the nape of his neck and some sort of black military uniform on, surveyed the room. He quickly layed eyes on her and strode forward, his steps brisk and even. He ignored the angels bristling and glowing with Holy Power all around him, and casually sidestepped a swipe of one’s blade as he drew closer. “Don’t interfere.” He reprimanded without so much as slowing down.
The shorter boy stayed by the door, leaning against the doorjamb and looking almost deliberately bored. The black markings swirling over his skin and the inky pitch of his eyes told Abby that he was on guard, though. The angels were also on high alert, but not moving in on the intruders. Abby started to wonder why before pain jackknifed through her bones and banished all thought.
In a flash Aiden was in front of her, between her and the strange man, ignoring any harm that might come to him from Abby’s unchecked powers. He blazed with power of his own and held two elegant blades at the ready. “Don’t you dare come any closer.” He snarled, and Abby could see white runes dance up his tensed neck to flare around his glowing eyes.
The stranger gave him an unimpressed look. “I thought you wanted her to live, General…That is what you were fighting for earlier tonight?”
Aiden didn’t move a muscle. “So why would I let something like you near my girl?” he growled.
“I see; you’ve taken over as her Guardian, then. A fine choice. Now, step aside so I can save her life.” The man deadpanned, waving Aiden aside with one hand. Again, Aiden didn’t budge.
The man shrugged and looked over Aiden’s shoulder, catching Abby’s gaze and holding it. “Hello, Abby.” He said, tone a shade more pleasant than it had been when addressing Aiden.
She licked her dry lips and started to say something, and the man held up a hand to stop her. "Don’t speak; you must be in a lot of pain right now with all that power running through your veins.”
Abby managed a weak murmur of assent. Understatement.
“My name is Horace. I’m here to help you. You should have had your entire life to master your powers as they emerged, but they were sealed from you with a powerful binding; the work of one of your parents, no doubt.”
Her expression must have conveyed her confusion.
He arched an eyebrow. “They haven’t told you? Well.” One corner of his lips curled upwards in a smooth half-smile as he glanced at Aiden. “Just like a Guardian to keep secrets from his charge.”
His words cut through the beginnings of Aiden’s angry retort. “I’ll tell you, then. I’m sure you know by now that you aren’t human, nor angel. You certainly aren’t a demon. Simply put, you’re unique. A rare specimen; the first of your kind, in fact.”
“Don’t you dare--“
“You’re mixed, Abby Shepard. For lack of a better term, you’re a hybrid. One part angel, one part demon. A whole new creation.” He crossed his arms over his chest and gave Aiden a mocking smile. “There, was that so difficult?”
Abby felt the bile rising in her throat. She almost didn’t notice when Horace’s hand came down to rest on her shoulder, though she did notice when he began whispering in her ear in a language she had never heard before. Somehow, though, despite the impossibility of it, she understood every word of the guttural, ancient murmuring. “Don’t allow yourself to be consumed by the discord, Abby. The chaos raging inside you is not out of your control; it cries out for your control. You contain power unknown. Only you can master this.” The last part was said in English as he pulled away from her, taking a step back and yanking Aiden with him by the arm.
Taking a deep breath, she pushed the power down and away to the back of her mind, muzzling the twisting golden tendrils and forcing the markings to fade away from her skin. She could still feel it, the heavy burden of the power taking up residence inside of her, but it didn’t dance through her blood uncontrollably. Now it was held at bay, a man-eating tiger trapped in a golden cage; not fully tamed, but no longer wild, either.
Something had clicked within her brain, and the falling globe narrowly avoided Aiden’s head as it crashed to the floor and bounced across the room. Abby blinked, and her vision cleared to reveal a room full of frightened-looking angels and two demons wearing nearly-identical smirks.
Horace cleared his throat and met her gaze. “Trapping it was the simple part; learning to use your powers without destroying everything around you will be much more difficult.”
“And who are you to teach her, demon?” Aiden snarled, whirling around to face him.
Horace tapped his chest with two fingers, indicating his badges of rank. He pointed at one, an obsidian star in an orange brass setting. “I’m a specialist. I’m sure I don’t look like much to you, General, but I’ve been training soldiers to use their powers for a very long time. Everyone from new recruits to nobility have been under my tutelage, and while I’ve never handled anything like Abby’s power, I still think I’m more qualified than your flock to teach her.”
“I’m her Guardian!!”
“And she’s a ticking time-bomb.”
“AIDEN!” Every head in the room swivelled to look at Gabriel Sr. at his shout. He backed into the room and shut the door behind him quickly before turning to Aiden, eyes wide.
Abby had never seen the man look anything other than confident; right now, he looked terrified.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” Aiden asked sharply.
“Aiden, it’s Him. He’s here.”
A shiver of fear ran down Abby’s spine at the words, though she didn't understand why. But by how horrified and pale the people around her suddenly looked, she was sure she would soon find out.