Man has free will, and guardian angels have an eternal place in the holy host.
When unexpected feelings interfere with Malchedielís guidance of a mortal being, he must decide if his love for one man is true, or the work of the devil. Charged with the soul of handsome but suicidal Bran Weller, Malchediel faces a new challenge: Bran's steadfast belief that homosexuality is not wrong despite the Churchís view of his lifestyle.
In the course of his angelic duties, Mal is tempted to turn a blind eye to long-standing rules of guardianship as he falls in love with his charge. Torn between faith in God and belief that every man deserves love, Malchediel must find a way to balance heart and soul or risk a Fall to Hell.
Angels can, and do, fall from Heaven. Most of the time it is willingly, like today, but other times, they are cast down for their sins and that Fall is much, much harder. I would rather not discuss this. It breaks my heart to consider the rare brethren who fail so completely that they Fall into the innermost circles of Hell.
A fall is not gentle or graceful, but being as immortal as a sentient creature can get, I am not harmed when I land on Earth. I can be disoriented, which has yet to get any easier with experience, but I accept this and plan my landing accordingly.
I land in a crouch, taking the impact through my legs and up my body. A large object looms in my unfocused vision to the left. It hits me, and I sprawl across pavement.
This hurts much more than falling.
Yes, I am an angel, and yes, it is true I cannot die a mortal death. I can, however, feel pain when ensconced in a human body. I close my eyes and take a silent inventory of myself. I hurt, yes, but my injuries are not severe. I will bruise, but nothing is broken. Human body, but not a human mind; I am confident of my diagnosis.
"Oh, shit. Iím so sorry."
I open my eyes to see from where the voice emanates. A blur moves towards me from that direction.
The voice asks, "Are you okay?" The face is still fuzzy, but I am settling slowly into my human senses. "Can you move? Iíll call an ambulance."
His words help me snap through the fog of my fall. I grab his arm as he flips his portable phone open. "No," I say, "I do not need an ambulance."
I hurt, yes, but doctors would slow me down and do very little otherwise. I heal quicker than a true human and an angelís physical form can sometimes cause the little hairs on the back of a doctorís neck to quiver. They know, but they do not. Professional instinct is strong, though we often appear the same as our mortal charges.
I blink, my eyes focusing on the face hovering over me. I cannot go to the hospital because I have found him. I cannot explain how I know he is the one; I am a guardian angel, and he is my charge. I know.
He is beautiful in his concern, but I recognize sorrow veiled in his deep brown eyes. "So brown," I whisper. I blink. I had not intended to say a word.
"Youíre hurt," he says, blushing.
"I will be fine." I sit up, and he turns his hand to take mine and assist me. I am surprised to find I need his strength to steady me. Closing my eyes, I again seek out broken bones or internal injuries. I find nothing, but I am still shaken.
"Are you sure? Look, Iím really sorry."
When I attempt to stand, his hand is there, helping me. With his arm around my waist, I ease myself to my feet. I look up into his eyes. He did not look tall while I sat on the pavement, but now, both of us on our feet, he looks down at me. My heart pounds in my chest, and the adrenaline makes me sway on my feet.
"Shit. I really think we should get you to the hospital." He catches me, though I am not falling. Not any more anyway.
I pat his arm. "Really, I will be fine. I need a moment to orientate myself."
"Did you hit your head?" His eyes widen. "You might have a concussion."
"Please, I am certain."
I look around me, around us. We have not drawn any attention. Good. No witnesses to my holy powers. Now I may focus on my charge. We are in a parking lot. It would seem that I fell behind his vehicle as he backed out of a space. I do not usually make such mistakes, but even angels are fallible. Only God is not.
When I look at him again, he ceases his objection and says, "I want to do something." He looks me over. "Iíll have that coat cleaned. Itís my fault that itís so filthy." He reaches for his wallet, but I wave a hand, declining. I have no need for money, or the services of a dry cleaner.
"If you wish to do something for me, I have one request."
He nods, eager to make things right. "Sure. What?"
"I am new in town." I pause; a tickle of tissue repairing itself in one leg distracts me, but only momentarily. "I am craving a cheeseburger. Could you point me in the direction of a restaurant that makes a goodÖ burger?" I hesitate to use any slang at all because I have used it incorrectly in the past. Without it, I stand out just as much as if I used it improperly, so I try. He does not react as if I said anything wrong, but he does hesitate before answering.
"Thatís it? A burger? Well, the least I can do is drive you to the restaurant."
"I would enjoy the company," I say. My work would be easier over a meal.
"Company? Oh, umÖ"
"Did you already eat?" Perhaps I misunderstood his offer.
"Well, no, but I was about to go to the grocery store."
"I would not want to keep you from your responsibilities. A ride to a suitable place would be more than sufficient." I cannot push him even if he does need my help, which he most definitely does. Man has free will, and I cannot interfere; I can only guide.
He shifts from foot to foot and rubs the back of his neck. When he looks at me, he smiles, but the sadness never leaves his eyes. This hurts me in a way I do not fully understand. I know and recognize pain, not unlike an empathic person, but his burrows into me in a way with which I am unfamiliar. Angels do feel, but we must keep ourselves distanced from it. Mortals refer to this as professional detachment. A guardian without the ability to care for his charge would be just as dangerous as one who cares too much and loses sight of his goals.
"Are you sure you donít want to talk to a doctor?" he asks. "Iíll cover it if you donít have insurance."
I put my hand on his shoulder, intending to reassure him. Medical insurance has been a common concern for Man lately, so now I understand why he suspects I may be avoiding the hospital. "I am better already," I say, not needing to hedge the truth. We cannot lie, but we can come close. This is neither; I have already healed what little injury I suffered.
A vehicle óa caró rolls by. The driver shouts out his window about blocking traffic. I reply that he has room to drive by even as he does. He continues with the answer of a gesture I have learned is meant to be an insult. I am not insulted, but instead, curious that he should be offended by me.
My charge forgets his concern for my health and laughs, shaking his head. "Itís not the best parking job," he says. Then he adds, "Come on. Iíll buy you dinner."
He climbs into his car and unlocks the passenger door. "Thank you," I say politely as I lower myself into the soft and warm leather seat of his luxury vehicle, I mean, car. "Your groceryó"
"Forget it. So youíre new here?"
I recognize this conversational gambit now. Small talk fascinates me. I believe I have learned it well, but I am not yet a master. "Yes," I reply. "I am in town for perhaps a few days. I did not have time to learn anything of this city before I arrived."
"Oh, what kind of work do you do?"
I glance at him. He wishes to know about me. Fascinating. "I am a life coach," I say. Again, not quite a lie, and a convenient description since people know the term but most do not understand what one is, including some that claim to be in this line of work.
He makes a sound confirming that he too lacks the basic understanding of such a job title, which makes me happy. He will not ask tough questions to which I have no perfect answer. "You travel a lot for that?"
"Very much. I enjoy seeing new places and meeting new people."
When he looks at me again, I smile. He is curious about me, and I like to see this because it means getting to know him will be easier. He does not appear to be suicidal, but I know, as I know the Lord, my God, that Raguel does not make mistakes. When Raguel assigns a guardian angel to Man, the Archangel is never wrong about the need.
As he drives, we talk. Occasionally, I catch a look in his eyes that I do not recognize. When I do, he blushes and looks away, down, and then out the windshield at the traffic. He follows these reactions with a smile and a return to conversation, so I do not believe I am upsetting him, but I am perplexed by this behavior.
When he pulls to the curb and shuts off the car, I peer out the window at the block of shops around us. Nothing looks like a restaurant. A chocolatier dresses her display window; a cafť-style establishment advertises vegan wraps on a placard on the sidewalk; a shop offering mail services seems to be the one with the most activity, but no cheeseburgers. I see nothing that I would consider a proper place to indulge in my small weakness, nor do I catch the scent of grilled meat on the air.
"That place," he says. He leans close to me as he reaches across my body to point out the window to my right. I study his features for several moments. He is beautifully made by loving hands. My heart swells with the knowledge of what my Lord and Creator can do. He glances at me and does that thing again ó he blushes and looks away. This time he shrinks back into his seat and stares at his hands in his lap.
"I apologize," I say. "I do not mean to make you feel uncomfortable." He nods, a shallow, soft movement. "I love life and people so much that sometimes I am taken by the simple beauty of things."
He looks up at me, and a weak smile wavers on his lips. "Did you just call me beautiful?"
Certainly this man had heard such words before!
"I did. I hope that I did not offend you."
"No," he replies quickly and then looks away. He pulls his keys from the ignition before glancing at me again. "Thank you." That slight blush graces his cheeks. Oh yes, he is beautiful. Angelic, if I may be so bold.
Despite our easy chatter during the drive to this location, we had yet to broach any topic that I could use to help him. In that moment, I realize that I forgot one very important question. "I feel foolish. I did not think to ask your name."
His sudden pause tells me the same thought runs through his mind. It is interesting how easily we fell to conversation, but forgot such a basic thing.
"Bran. Bran Weller." He offers his hand, and I shake it. I love the warmth of Man. As an ethereal being, I generate little excess heat. I am, you could say, physically efficient.
"Nice to meet you, Bran." I like the name. It suits him: dashing and confident. Except that, according to Raguel, he is plagued with depression and doubt. I gaze into his eyes, tempted to listen to a whisper of his thoughts. I will not. I could not. Actually, I could, but it is forbidden. Angels, too, have a small amount of free will. We tend to be more obedient and rarely use it.
"And you are?"
I laugh at myself. "Of course," I say with a smile, "I am Maló" Oh! How could I be so careless? My name is not for human ears and my cover has been Dillon for the past several years.
I cock my head and give him a half-smile because he looks as if he intends to start laughing at me.
"About your name? Mal, like Firefly?"
"IÖ There is a bug named Mal?"
He does laugh this time; and me, I smile at the sound of it, not minding that my actions bring such amusement.
"I take it you havenít seen that show." I shake my head and he says, "Itís a sci-fi program about these space pirates. The captain of the spaceship is Malcolm Reynolds, and the ship is a firefly classification. His crew calls him Mal for short."
I smile and nod. I like the sound of this, as well as the way his eyes light up as he explains. "Yes," I say, "Mal, like that, but I am not a space pirate."
"Itís a pleasure to officially meet you, Mal. MalcolmÖ"
I almost say Reynolds because I want that light to stay in his eyes, but I cannot do that to him. "Wilson. Malcolm Wilson." Pray that I remember that last name.
He shakes my hand again, and his fingers linger. "Malcolm Wilson. A pleasure." He tenses, and I realize I am staring. I do not get absorbed in my charges like this. My lack of mental acuity does not concern me, but it will if I do not focus soon. I may miss something important if I become lost in his eyes.
"Come on." He opens the door and steps out. "Suddenly, Iím starving."
I admire the bounce in his step as he hurries around the vehicle to the curb. Could Raguel be wrong about this one? He has not been before, but Bran appears happy to me.