TAMING FIRE: WEEK 8
“I can’t be mad at him for being who he is. He never had a choice, and never knew any different being raised the way he was. If he was human, maybe things would’ve been different for him.” Emile stroked Xavier’s hair back, sitting cross-legged at the head of the bed. “But I’m glad he’s not.”
“Why?” Utterly perplexed, Botis looked up from examining the scars on Xavier’s back. “Why would you wish such a thing? Don’t you know what any of us would give to never know this life? We’ll never be like you or like the ones above. We’ll never know that kind of love or affection, that kind of safety in our father’s arms. Just because we’re demons doesn’t mean we don’t all have our own personal hell. How do you think we tempt so easily?” His tongue slithered out of his mouth. “It’s because we know your feelings of hate, and sorrow, and of heartbreak much deeper than you could possibly know. We’re experts.”
Botis sighed, tongue slipping back into his mouth. “We can’t die because technically we don’t exist here on earth. We can’t live among you for long because we never age or change. We’re unable to form strong bonds outside our race, and none of our own kind wishes to be attached in a companionable relationship. We can’t fall from grace because we’re already at rock bottom, and grace doesn’t exist to us. The Creator will never take us in. He will never look upon us with shining eyes like he does his darling beloveds. And the worst part of all is that our leader, Lucifer himself, gave up the Creator’s safety and beauty to damn us all. Lucifer could have stayed up there. He could have been loyal and spared us this misery, but forever selfish he killed our future by bringing hell to life.”
Emile stilled his hand. He looked up at the longing in Botis’s eyes. “But Botis, you aren’t one of them.”
“Look at me! Look at what I am and tell me I am not one of them!” He got to his knees, keening through his sharp fangs. His eyes burned red; the pupils shrinking into the knife-like slits of a snake. His black, forked tongue slipped through his fangs. Scales the color of coal and violet bled over his skin, covering him in seconds. His brows disappeared, the bone protruding above his eyes until his face was unearthly and reptilian. “Where does a beast like me belong, Emile? Tell me I am fit to rise above my place in hell and love with the best of them. Tell me, damn you!”
“If you were one of them you wouldn’t be here, helping him.” Emile didn’t flinch. Botis got in his face, scenting his fear with a flick of tongue. “You love him like a brother. It doesn’t matter how you look, Botis, it’s who you are here.” His hand met Botis’s scaly chest. “And you’re a good…person. You haven’t let Mosey come after me. I know you’re hiding her somewhere. I saw how gentle you were with Xavier. I saw the panic in your eyes, and not once have you hurt me since I’ve been here. You know why? You envy my mortality, and I’m willing to bet you didn’t touch those other humans that were in this house before. I bet you cringed inside every time one of them took their life. I bet…”
“Shut up.” Botis hissed. “I might envy you, but I don’t envy the way you end.”
Emile’s hand fell away. “What?”
Crawling to the edge of the bed, Botis shook his head. “The reason that witch summoned me into existence was because she wanted to know her future, something no mortal is ever supposed to know. Gifts of the evil variety come with consequences, Emile. Hers was imminent death because she sought to save herself from her end, but there was no stopping it. She left me on earth with this curse, to know every mortal’s death in my sleep, and among many deaths in my lifetime, I have seen yours as if I was there.”
“You’re lying because you’re angry. You’re just trying to scare me. We’re going to make it through this.” Emile looked down at Xavier’s head in his lap. “We’re going to be just fine. Xavier is going to learn how to deal with this and I’m going to help him. We’ll figure out the rest as it comes.”
Botis stood. His eyes blinked back to black. He offered Emile a wary smile. “I know what I’ve seen, Emile. You can do as you please, but in the end, you cease to exist. You don’t seem to grasp the magnitude of your situation. You’ve got hell after you, all of it. I suggest you make the best of whatever this short relationship is with Xavier. At least you’ll have someone to hold your hand when you both meet your maker.”
“Demons can’t die.” Emile gently put Xavier’s head on the bed and scooted over the mattress. “He won’t die.”
“But he can be brought back to hell for good. He’ll never see the sun again, Emile. And you…you’ll be as good as dirt to the Creator after Bee has his way.” Botis turned around, and walked to the door. He paused. “I’ll do what I can for you both, but I’m only one out of many. For now, our blood binds this house as a sanctuary for only those who live here. The minute you step out that door, you’re on your own. Trust me. You’ll crave to be free of this house before long.”
“I’ll take care of myself. You just take care of Mosey or Deumos or whatever her name is.” Emile stood.
“That is something I can do.” Botis nodded. “Don’t stay up all night. You’ll need the sleep. You look like shit.”
Emile scoffed, on the verge of defending himself when the door shut. He rolled his eyes, but let Botis’s words slide off his back. He had more important things to do. Over the next half hour he undressed Xavier and folded his clothes next to the bed. He’d never been in Xavier’s room before. Even as tempting as it was to do a little investigating, Xavier needed him more. Emile brushed grass and dirt out of Xavier’s hair. He wiped the hybrid’s face with a warm, wet cloth, and tucked him into bed. After Emile was sure everything had been looked after, he went to the attic and fetched his laptop.
Sitting at Xavier’s desk, he connected his laptop to the printer, and started to do a little research.
Sleep was overrated when he needed answers. He’d be damned if he let Bee win. Emile wasn’t ready to die, especially when he’d just started to live. Hours at the computer produced stacks of pages and tons of answers that didn’t make sense or maybe he just didn’t want them to. He looked at the last page, tears rolling down his cheeks, and tossed it to the floor.
“It’s not fair. I just wanted to be with him. Is that so wrong?” Emile stared at the ceiling. “It’s not fair,” he whispered.
A hand touched his back. “I have faith in you, Emile.”
Emile turned in his chair to see the face of the Creator. “I thought this house was protected…”
“It is, but who made this house? Who’s land is it built on?” The Creator bent and kissed his forehead.
“Touché.” Emile wiped his eyes and stood. “Is this true?” He gestured to the pages all over the floor.
Pulling away from the Creator, Emile turned his back and crossed his arms. “That’s it? That’s all I get in return for what’s going to happen to me?”
“No, you’ve earned the right to see.” The Creator stepped over pages to meet Emile. “I shall show you everything under one condition that is of the utmost importance.”
“Tell me,” Emile whispered.
The Creator put his hands on Emile’s head, bathing him in light. “I will and you shall tell no one.”
Emile closed his eyes. “Yes.” He gasped, eyes flashing open. He was blind to everything except for the visions in his head. He never felt his knees hit the ground. All he knew was his own end playing out before him.
When Xavier woke, the sun was high in the sky, pouring into his bedroom. Who the hell had opened his curtains, he thought. Why was it so warm? He groaned, shifting around to get the heat to go away.
“Don’t wake him.”
“Who’s there?” Xavier hissed.
“I’m only here in voice. I’m not allowed to be there in person while I’m on probation. However, I can see you just fine.”
“Angel,” Xavier groaned, flopping back onto the bed. He glanced at Emile, curled into his side, then saw the papers covering the floor. “Lim…”
“I didn’t make that mess, Emile did.”
Closing his eyes, Xavier rubbed his face. “Why are you here? Leave me alone.”
“Xavier, do you even care that Emile is next to you? Do you care that he spent hours trying to make you better or washed you with his own hands or sang to you while you slept? Do you care that he was up all night looking for answers to your problem even though there wasn’t anything in it for him? Do you gather the magnitude of his selflessness when really he’s the one who needs the most care? I don’t think you realize what a gift you’ve been given.
“Yes, you have your own afflictions and your own beliefs, but that man next to you has made you his world in such a short time and you don’t even care. You wake up. You think about you. You feel the need to blame someone for the sun coming through the windows and the mess on the floor. But not once did you check to see if Emile was okay, if he was breathing. Not once did you seek out his touch or simply give him the affection he craves from you. You’d never be content to just lie with him or hold him like he’d done with you.
The angel sighed. His grief filled the room, weighing heavy on Xavier’s shoulders. “No one has ever paid him attention. He’s slipped through the cracks his entire life. He’s hated himself. He’s been turned out by his flesh and blood when you have both parents who love you and would do anything for you, even though you claim to hate them both. You’ve been called beautiful for your entire existence. He’s never heard that once. You are opposites in every sense of the term, he is selfless and you are selfish.”
Xavier couldn’t bring himself to look at Emile. If he did, he’d give in to the twisting feeling in his gut. The same feeling he’d had when he’d woke up next to Emile the last time, the time he’d left before Emile could wake. “Then why does everyone want us to be together? Why am I being tortured? If we were supposed to be together, why would my mother have done this to me? I can’t be myself around him. I can’t—”
“Xavier, if you were to be who you were before around Emile, you would never know this feeling in your gut. That feeling has many names. It’s compassion. It’s honesty. It’s trust. More importantly, it’s called love.”
“Bullshit!” Xavier gasped. Emile began to stir. On instinct, Xavier reached out to comfort him.
“If it’s not love, why are you worried that he’ll wake before he’s had enough sleep? Why are you checking the clock in hopes that he hasn’t missed his class because you want him to follow his dreams? Why have you been trying your hardest not to be cruel with him, not because it causes you pain, but because you want to be a better person when he’s around. Answer me, Xavier.”
“He shouldn’t have been involved in this.” Xavier gave in, pulling Emile close. Without a shirt, Emile’s cross brushed over Xavier’s chest, emanating glorious heat between them. “This wasn’t his fault.”
“No, it’s his destiny, and he’s stronger than he looks. Emile’s endured so much pain in his life, but he kept walking, Xavier. He kept living and breathing, existing, because he knew somewhere out there, someone was waiting for him. He just didn’t know who until now. Haven’t you ever wondered, being part of both sides, why you only gravitated towards the dark?”
Xavier ground his teeth. “Every day.”
“It’s because you were missing your other half, your light.”
Looking up slowly, Xavier had an epiphany. “She knew he was coming to me, didn’t she?”
“We all knew, Xavier. It wasn’t about punishing you for torturing the dean. Your mother was trying to prepare you for Emile. She knew you didn’t have much time until Emile stepped into your path.”
“Shit.” Xavier stared at Emile. “Double shit.”
“Is it so bad, Xavier? Does loving him end the world for you? Do you regret meeting him, because you miss a life of cruelty and torture?”
Xavier shook his head. “It’s all I knew, Lim. It’s…it’s all I knew.”
“Now you know differently. Now you know what is to care for someone else other than yourself. Is it painful?”
“Yes. It hurts to know that I won’t be able to protect him from them. I can try, but I’m only one against many.”
“You’re wrong.” Lim laughed. “The Creator is more than many. Lucifer was his creation. How powerful do you think the man that made Lucifer must be? He created the universe. He breathed life into the world. He made me. He made you. He is the heart of everything around you. Do you think he’d let his child suffer hellfire without a fight? Surely not, Xavier.”
“That would be switching sides. I’m both, Lim. I can’t do that.” Xavier shook his head. “My dad…”
“He’s always going to be your dad. No matter his side, he’ll always love you. It’s programmed into his system.”
“Not true. Look at Emile’s parents. They don’t love him. They kicked him out for being who he is.” Xavier kissed Emile’s head.
“They loved him, Xavier. They still do, but they were victims of temptation. They wanted to be perfect. They wanted to have the perfect life with the perfect reputation and the perfect son. To the Christianity they know, they believe their son is living in sin and he’ll infect everything around him. What they don’t understand is the Creator loves everyone, no matter who they love or what they do. Loving isn’t a sin. They just don’t get it yet. Your parents get it. They always have. That’s where you two differ.”
“So what am I supposed to do now, Lim? I have my other half here. I’ve got wings trying to come out of my back. I’ve got the entire underworld after me and Emile. How the hell am I supposed to make this work?” Xavier rubbed his eyes. “I’m so tired. I’m out of options.”
“Those wings are the biggest decision you’ll ever make. Loving Emile comes naturally for you. But loving yourself is another thing entirely. The wings are what you make them. If you only think of them as a burden, they will be. But if you think of them as something greater, a transition in your life, then…you’ll understand.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. They fucking hurt!”
“Only because you haven’t made up your mind yet. Deep down you knew what they were. You knew.”
“No.” Xavier sucked in a breath. “No.”
“It’s all up to you now, Xavier. Can you be the man you’ve always desired to be, but thought you weren’t good enough? Can you be a man Emile is proud to stand by, a selfless man who craves the love of his maker because it’s beautiful? Can you allow yourself to love simply because you love with no expectations or prizes at the end of the road? That’s the light. That’s what Emile is made of. Let him in and it won’t hurt anymore. The Creator never gives you more than you can handle. He knows exactly what you need.”
“You cryptic, fucking asshole!”
Lim laughed. “I’m already in enough trouble, even though my actions were in the plan from the start. I can’t tell you in black and white what you’re supposed to do next, but I’ve been more than helpful. Just think on it, Xavier.”
The angel’s energy vanished from the room. Xavier put his face in his hands. “I can’t…”
“You can’t what?” Emile mumbled, half asleep. He opened one eye, stirring next to Xavier. When he realized where he was, he shot up in bed. “You’re awake! Oh god, are you okay?”
Xavier stared at Emile in his frantic state. He let his other half touch him, rub his arms, and come closer. “I’m fine,” he whispered. “Physically.”
Emile hugged Xavier and sighed. “You didn’t wake up, even when I healed you. I was so scared.”
“Why? Is this is a joke?” Emile leaned back. “I thought you were dying.”
“Wouldn’t that be for the best, if I died?” Xavier hung his head.
“No.” Emile forced Xavier to look at him. “Because that would be selfish. You’d leave me here all alone. Now that I have someone, I can’t be alone again, Xavier. I can’t go back there.”
“What makes you think you have me?”
“I know I have you. You’re a part of me. I can feel it.” Emile put Xavier’s hand over his chest. “Do you feel that?”
Heat radiated under Xavier’s hand, drawing him closer. “So, it’s warm.”
“No. It’s you.” Emile smiled. “You’re the one doing it.”
“It’s that cross, Emile. That’s where the heat’s coming from.”
“I know, but it’s calling to you.” Emile bit his lip, remembering all the Creator the had showed him. “Come look at this before you get all depressed. You’re so moody it makes my head spin,” he teased, even though his heart was breaking.
“What did you do while I was out, make your own encyclopedia?” Xavier followed Emile to the floor where papers covered the hardwood.
“It’s called research.” Emile shuffled through the mess. “If you’d kept up with your studies, you’d know what that is.”
“How did you know I went to school at all?” Xavier crossed his arms.
“Botis.” Emile shrugged. “But this isn’t about school. I made a list of all the things I didn’t understand. It got kind of big,” he paused, “so I narrowed it down to the important stuff.” Emile picked up a sheet of printer paper with his scribbles all over it. “This entire mess started with the disciple’s cross Lim gave me.”
“It started long before that.” Xavier stretched out onto his stomach.
Emile took a deep breath. “I can do without your commentary. I’m trying to tell you something important here.”
Xavier cocked his head, sensing something was off, more than usual. “Fine, take it away.”
“The cross, I researched it all night and came up with some crazy stuff. Normally I don’t look twice at those fanatic websites, you know, the ones with aliens and supernatural and what have you. But this caught my eye. How could it not?” He slid a page to Xavier.
Glancing at the paper, Xavier snorted. “The legend of the cross? Come on, Emile.”
Emile snatched the page up, hand shaking. “The hunt for the disciple’s cross has spanned thousands of years. The only believed holy object to channel God’s protection in a physical form, it marries a human’s faith to that of its love, protecting the wearer from evil. Only a true believer who seeks to spread God’s word can use the cross as a weapon. Without their faith or the love for something great, the cross is useless. The two halves make the cross whole.” Emile looked up. “Don’t you get it?”
“You’re crazy?” Xavier’s brows lifted.
Emile sniffed. “Look.” He threw another paper at Xavier. “A list of martyrs believed to have been in possession of the crosses throughout history. Each of them had a love for a cause, and a religious faith all stemming back to God. They were all persecuted in the beginning, shunned, killed, and later claimed a martyr by the church for their valiant efforts.”
“Emile…what the hell is this?”
“I get it now, Xavier, all of it.” Emile stilled like he was going into a deep meditation.
“These people died, Emile.” Xavier got to his knees, crawling over the papers. “They were executed for their beliefs. This has nothing to do with the cross. Lim gave it to you for protection and nothing more.”
“Botis said he saw my death in a dream. Has he ever been wrong before?” Emile didn’t look away from Xavier’s narrowed eyes.
“No,” Xavier whispered. “He must have been mistaken though…”
Unable to mask his despair with denial any longer, Emile looked away. “He wasn’t. It all makes sense. I’ve never felt right, even since I was little. I felt like I was missing something and I think you felt that way, too. I knew I was waiting…waiting for the thing that would make my heart beat. My grandmother always told me to let it happen. She always said I was meant to do something wonderful. I just didn’t know what that was until now.
“You’re my cause, Xavier. You are thing I love. He,” Emile pointed to the ceiling, “he is my faith. In him, I’ve gotten this far, to this place, to this very point of realization. Together you protect me from evil while I fight for you, until I don’t need to protect you anymore. Lim didn’t just give this to me. It was mine to have all along. It’s ours to have because you’re my other half.”
“Stop talking,” Xavier hissed. “I don’t want to hear the rest.”
“The reason I was able to burn those demons like I did wasn’t because the cross has super powers all on its own. It was because you loved me and wanted to protect me like I did with you. I’m not supposed to save the world or ever get my name on a plaque somewhere holy. I’m supposed to make you feel loved and show you he’s not the bad guy. I’m supposed to make you feel, not pain, but what it’s like to care for someone, to care for mankind. I’m yours and you’re mine, but forever wasn’t in the plan, I guess.”
Xavier reached out, bringing his fingers to Emile’s face. “He wants to teach me love by taking away the one thing I want?”
“Want or care about?” Emile slipped out of his reach.
“He’d sacrifice you to teach me a lesson. What kind of God is that?” Xavier followed Emile to the other side of the room. “Tell me!”
“The Creator gave up his only son’s life to show the world how much he loved them.” Emile stared out the window.
“And Christ got to get back up and roll away the stone, Emile. You won’t get back up if you die. Do you hear me?” Xavier whirled him around. “You’ll be gone forever.”
Emile let his tears fall. He caressed Xavier’s face, letting his fear take a backseat. “But I’ll have done something great, even if it’s only you that knows about it. Bee can take my life, but he can’t take my soul. My soul belongs to you because you love me.”
“And what if I don’t love you? What if I refuse to love you and that stupid cross doesn’t work anymore? What I want to just keep you and use you?” Xavier slid to the floor, resting his head on Emile’s stomach. “What if I can’t give you up?”
Emile watched Xavier fall apart. A proclaimed demon, even though he possessed all the right attributes to be an angel, Xavier had no idea how much he loved him. Hell, before last night, Emile didn’t know how much he loved Xavier either, but now that all the pieces had fallen into place he knew exactly what he had to do, and he couldn’t tell Xavier any of it. To get Xavier to change completely, for the better, Emile would make the ultimate sacrifice. He felt the surety of his decision in his bones. He’d never felt more right in all his life. This was what he’d been made to do.
Out of all the humans to ever walk the earth, he’d been chosen to do something that had never been done before. His weapon against Bee, against Lucifer, and all the other monsters that lived in the dark was his heart. No one would stand his way.
As he put hands in Xavier’s hair, listening to him sob, Emile looked up and nodded. The message had been received.
“You’re not going.” Xavier paced the living room, smoke rising from his shoulders. “I won’t allow it.”
“I can’t stay in this house forever. I’m going to talk to them, especially if it’s for the last time.” Emile caught Xavier’s hand and tugged him down to the couch.
“The last time was when they kicked you out. They don’t deserve a second chance.” Xavier winced. Pain pricked his spine. “Everyone deserves a second chance. That’s just your hope talking. You know they won’t be any different. People like that don’t change.”
“Says the man who up until a week ago, took souls for entertainment.” Emile kissed Xavier’s cheek. “You could come with me.”
“I’d tear their heads off. I’d—”
“Sit quietly next to me because I need you. You could do that for me. That’d be nice,” Emile said on autopilot.
“What happened to you?” Xavier shook his head. “You’re not the same. I miss you snapping at me. I miss you misunderstanding my jokes. It’s like you’re not in there.”
“I’m just seeing things differently now. I know what I need to do, and I need to start by forgiving my parents for what they did to me. Even if they don’t accept me, I’ll know I gave them another chance. If I do die, I don’t want be thinking of them. I want to be thinking of you.”
“You’re not making sense.”
“I’ve never made more sense in my entire life.” Emile stood and grabbed the envelope from the lawyer. “Now, are you coming with me or what?”
Xavier blocked Emile’s path to the door. “This is a trap, Emile. You and I both know it.”
“And if it is, we’ll be just fine. Have a little faith.” Emile slipped his hand into Xavier’s. He knew without a doubt this was meant to be a trap. However, he also knew this meeting wasn’t where he died. He’d seen stars. It had been dark and cool. “Come on. You can drive.”
“This is bullshit. Please, don’t do this.” Xavier tried to pull Emile into a hug. “Why are you doing this? Aren’t you scared of dying?”
Emile regarded him warmly. “Not anymore. I can’t explain it, but I’m not.”
“I am,” Xavier admitted. “For the first time in my life I’m terrified. I don’t want to see the look on your face when they reject you. I don’t want to see you in pain. I don’t know what to do anymore. I can burn the world down with my hand, but I can’t tame you. I can’t make up your mind. I couldn’t persuade you if I wanted to, and that scares me. I can’t stop you from walking into a warzone.”
“You don’t have to. I just want you to hold my hand when I do. Can you do that for me?” Emile put his arms around Xavier’s neck. “I just want you near me for however long I have and I need you to trust me.”
“Trust you…I don’t think I could trust anyone else, not anymore.” Xavier closed his eyes. “You’re all I got.”
“And when you realize you’re wrong about that, you’ll feel a lot better.” Emile kissed him; a slow, soft kiss that curled Xavier’s fingers into his human’s back. “Let’s go.”
The drive across town was silent. The streets were strangely vacant for a sunny afternoon. Xavier didn’t even notice. All he focused on was the sound of his heartbeat thudding in his ears. All he could smell was Emile’s scent filling the car. All he wanted to hear was Emile’s soft, rhythmic breathing. But Emile was in a different frame of mind.
Emile noticed the beautiful red leaves scattered across the sidewalk. He noticed the clouds drifting across the sky. And he noticed the Creator sitting at the bus stop, reading the paper. At the stoplight, Emile stared right at him. Their eyes met and the Creator smiled. Emile’s cross warmed, filling him with confidence. He didn’t know the exact time or how, but he knew it would all end soon. And when it did, the Creator would take his hand and praise him with a job well done.
Looking back to the windshield, Emile took Xavier’s hand and kissed it. “I love you.”
“Can you stop that?” Xavier tried to pull away. “I just don’t want to hear it right now.”
Emile held on. “I’ll keep telling you until you believe me.”
“The problem is I do and every time I hear it, it hurts worse than those damn wings.” Xavier took the last turn and pulled into the parking garage behind the office. “Even worse is the fact that one day I won’t ever hear it again.”
Still trying to spite him, Emile insisted on holding his hand. He held his hand while they waited in the lobby. He held his hand on the walk to the lawyer’s private office. And he gripped tight when they faced two angry, suburban conservatives dressed in their Sunday best. A woman stood from behind her desk, and smiled.
“You must be Emile. I see you’ve brought a guest.” Sandra made her way around the room to them. Emile’s cross burned against his chest, angry and ready to burn the shit out of Sandra whatever her face was. She held out her hand, ignoring his parent’s whispered intolerance.
Emile saw right through her act, and judging by how still he’d gone, so did Xavier. Emile felt how powerful she was; the power more intense than Bee’s. The only being he knew to be that strong was the devil himself. He looked down at the hand offered and smiled.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea, Lucy?” Emile stared into her eyes, knowing the being got his little joke.
“See, Harold, he’s crazy. He can’t even say her name correctly.” Emile’s mother stood.
Sandra scowled. Her back to Emile’s parents, her eyes flashed red. “It’s Sandra. I’m Rosalind’s lawyer.”
“No you’re not.” Emile guided Xavier to their seats. “But I’ll play along.”
TO BE CONTINUED...