Author's Note: This is loosely based on the book of Job. Sort of a religious AU. Nothing is meant to be taken seriously although the way Satan acts in the book of Job and several other stories makes the theory about him possible. Also, this was inspired by an idea Tekko bounced off me. She should eventually be writing a companion story. TEKKO! GET WRITING! NOW! Um, anyway. On with the show!
Heaven was a glorious place.
That was its nature, however. Not something that needed to be looked after and tended and therefore it always seemed somewhat less satisfying than the material plane. The souls that burned there seemed to think so. Inevitably they slowly drifted to the Forge of Souls, a particular layer of Heaven where the souls were recombined and found their way to the material plane again. Right now the Almighty was observing the Forge. Angels darted too and fro, carefully recombining the scattered soul pieces and creating new and joyful combinations.
A little angel was helping them. He wasn't doing it very well and the other angels were kindly correcting his mistakes and carefully not pointing out to him that they didn't really need his help. He was gradually getting better which was actually very unusual for an angel. They were meant to be what they were, no more and no less. Only the greatest of angels had the capacity to learn and this one was not a great and powerful angel. Yet he was different from most. Small and weak but built with a curious complexity he had been a roll of the dice by his creator. Very few people understood that the Eternal was the ultimate gambler. But usually he did not gamble with his angels.
The Almighty was proud of this particular angel. His nature was so kind and sweet and he was always ready to help. And when he set himself to a task he learned it with all his heart. But his great gift, created by freak chance, was the ability to create soothing harmonics. He was beginning to do that now as he worked and the other angels fell into a contented state. It was beautiful to watch.
The Eternal became aware of another angel by his side. This one was truly great and powerful and it wanted his/her/its attention. The Almighty shifted that attention to it and the angel began to communicate.
"Lord of all, you have a beautiful angel." Satan said diplomatically and the Eternal rumbled a laugh. Angels paused to look up from their work then returned to it. There was nothing unusual in The Adversary and the Eternal discussing matters. It was his function.
"I sense a 'but' coming." That was the function of The Adversary, to put forth buts and objections. He was the Prosecutor and he played a vital and interesting role. Of course, it was expecting too much of mortals to understand that. They simply thought of him as evil when the truth was far more complex.
"Yes. He is a beautiful angel and utterly faithful to you but that faith has never been tested. Would he be so faithful if he had to act against his nature?" The Almighty considered it. With a normal angel he would have scoffed but this angel was different. Most angels were tightly constrained to their roles and essentially had no free will. The powerful angels were less constrained but still had boundaries. Even this little angel had one boundary, but that was all. In most ways he only had his talents and inclinations to guide him.
"An intriguing question. What do you suggest we test him with?" The Adversary seemed to smile. He knew the Almighty would take his suggestion. He could never resist a gamble.
"Well, there's a mortal that could use testing as well…"
"Zip a dee doo da, zip a dee yay. My oh my what a wonderful day. Plenty o' sunshine headin' my way." Axel fumbled with his grocery bags as he struggled to pull out his keys. In an impressive display of strength and coordination, he was carrying about twelve of them. As well as two fabric ones slung over his shoulders. The bus driver had been less than impressed, but what could you do. "Balls!" The key had slipped away and clattered onto the floor. Resigning himself to the inevitable, Axel set down half the bags to fish it up. "Here we go." Finally letting himself into his apartment, Axel glanced around for a moment.
It wasn't a bad apartment. A bit on the boring side and decorated largely with old pizza boxes and empty cans of Dr. Pepper, it was what you might expect from a college kid. Which Axel wasn't, but he was in the right age range so it worked. If he was still living like this at fifty he supposed there might be some cause for concern.
Shrugging off the thought, Axel carried the bags to the kitchen and began putting the cold items away. The rest he left in their bags. He'd get around to them when he got around to them, or when he ate them. It didn't really matter which. Snagging a box of crackers he went to play on his computer. Axel was just turning it on when he became aware of a noise.
"…?" Curious but not alarmed, Axel went to check his balcony. Perhaps a bird had crashed against the window. He was on the fifteenth floor so thieves were almost out of the question. So he was very surprised indeed when he saw a boy on his balcony, curled up and sobbing as if his heart was broken. "Woah! How the hell? Who are you and what are you doing here?" Axel demanded and was taken aback as a golden head lifted and dark blue eyes, deep and drowning as the sea seemed to suck him in.
"I'm R-Roxas." The boy hiccupped and the spell was broken, but Axel could see he was terribly upset. "He sent me away and I don't know why!"
Poor kid. Someone must have kicked him out. But how did he get here? Axel glanced up at the upper balconies dubiously. Could someone have thrown him off? No way! Yet, it was almost more plausible than the kid somehow swinging over. The nearest balcony to his was way too far for that. Deciding to put that consideration on the back burner, Axel helped the child to his feet. The boy blinked at him and Axel couldn't help but notice how cute he was. And how young. Axel thought he was fifteen, maybe sixteen. Just a kid really.
"Who sent you away? I'm Axel." Roxas looked bewildered and for a moment Axel wondered if there was something really wrong with him. But then he answered.
"The one above us." Axel glanced up at the balconies again. "I mean… higher… I don't know what I mean! I'm so scared!" Roxas started to sob again and Axel gently patted him on the back. The golden haired boy gripped him tightly and sniffled into his shirt.
"…Feels soft." He murmured as Axel soothed him and considered what to do. He couldn't just throw the kid out.
"Come on in Roxas. I'll make us both some hot chocolate, how's that?" Axel gently coaxed the blonde inside. Roxas looked around like he'd never seen an apartment before and Axel went to make the drink. "Do you like marshmallows in your chocolate?"
"Yes please." Roxas had no idea what he was agreeing to but it seemed easier than asking. Looking around, natural curiosity took over and when Axel came out with two steaming mugs he was poking at the TV. Axel laughed as Roxas leapt back guiltily.
"It's just a TV Roxas, I don't mind. Here, and be careful, it's hot." That warning proved futile a moment later as Roxas tried to take a drink and yelped as he burnt his tongue. Then his eyes went wide as the taste hit him.
"This is wonderful!" Roxas had never needed sustenance before so he had never tasted anything. Although he was beginning to realize that he'd been given some knowledge of the place he was living in. "This is your home?"
"Yep. It's not much, but it's mine." Axel's smile was so cheerful and Roxas felt something inside him go gooey. The feeling was odd and new but it didn't worry him too much. He was often feeling new things. "So who is your family?" Axel intended to report someone to the police, if he figured out how Roxas had ended up on his balcony. The kid could easily have been killed. Roxas chewed his lip for a moment before he answered.
"I - I don't have one. Or I have a huge one." Roxas knew where he was. This was the material plane… but how could he explain his true nature to a human? Was he supposed to? But he'd been given no guidance and truth was usually the right thing… "I'm an angel." Roxas admitted as Axel looked at him blankly. "From heaven?"
"Um… okay." Axel privately decided Roxas had to be suffering a head injury. An angel? It was imaginative anyway. Axel didn't discuss it much but he was really pretty serious about his religion. "Why would an angel be drinking hot chocolate in my apartment?" Axel asked, deciding to roll with it a bit. Roxas wilted slightly.
"I don't know." Suddenly it occurred to him that his arriving here couldn't be a random thing. No, this was where he'd been sent. "I think I'm supposed to stay with you." Roxas glanced around the apartment doubtfully. It seemed like an odd place for an angel to live. Axel blinked at him then laughed.
"Roxy, cutie, even if I needed a live in boyfriend you're a bit on the young side. And it's good to get to know you first!" Roxas blinked uncomprehendingly. Axel regarded him thoughtfully for a moment, sipping his hot chocolate. What was he supposed to do with a teenager with delusions of being an angel? "You can stay here for now though, until I find your family. C'mon, bed is right this way." He couldn't just kick the blonde out, weird as it was. When Roxas was settled and comfortably dozing, Axel gently checked his head for injuries and found one rather large bruise on his right temple. Could he have lost his memories and somehow come up with the idea he was an angel?
Anything was possible he supposed. He'd have to call the police department tomorrow and see if anyone was missing a blonde.
"C'mon Roxas, we're going to the clinic." Roxas looked up with a blink as Axel pulled out a coat for him. "Wear this." It was nippy outside and while Axel's coat would be too big for the boy, it was much better than nothing. The pure white clothing Roxas was wearing didn't look like it would protect him much from the chill. Roxas hesitantly pulled on the coat and cuddled the soft, warm fabric.
He was finding that he loved the material plane. The spiritual plane was lovely as well, to be sure, but the sensations were so much more… muted there. There was no intense feeling of taste or touch. It was very alien and sometimes he missed the glory of Heaven but Roxas was enjoying his physical body. Was that why the Almighty had sent him here? But he couldn't even begin to guess at God's motivations.
"Hey? Earth to Roxas?" A hand waved in front of his face and Roxas blushed as he realized he'd been woolgathering. Axel was grinning at him and Roxas stared for a moment, captivated by how happy he looked. "C'mon, we need to go to catch the bus."
"O-Oh. Right." Roxas followed Axel hesitantly as he led him through the building. Finally he gripped the back of Axel's coat, needing the reassurance. "Axel? Why are we going to the clinic?" He wasn't clear on that. Axel glanced back at him, surprised.
"Well, Roxas, um." Axel struggled to find a nice way to put it. "It's not that I think you're lying or anything, but I've never heard of an angel coming to earth. So I want to get you checked out and see if you might have lost your memory." They were actually going to get dental imprints as well as pictures and send them to the local police department to see if Roxas matched any missing person's reports. Axel had been given the option of giving the blonde up to social services, but he'd declined and they'd been just as happy to leave Roxas with him. Social services was pretty stretched in his city. Roxas looked down, feeling rather depressed. Axel didn't believe him? But then, it was a very unbelievable story. Roxas couldn't remember any angel ever being sent to the material plane without guidance before.
"Okay." Roxas was sure they'd find nothing but he was willing to humor Axel. "Just don't make me leave?" Roxas was sure he was supposed to be with Axel. And something about the redhead was intriguing. Axel laughed and ruffled his hair, making the little angel blink.
"Hah! You can stay as long as you want." Roxas smiled and nestled up against Axel as they waited for the bus. The redhead was a little surprised but patted his shoulder, enjoying the contact.
Roxas looked around curiously. So this was the real world. The Almighty had clearly implanted some knowledge into him before sending him away, so Roxas understood what he was looking at. It was still wondrous and new. Axel's apartment building looked rather shabby from the outside but the area itself was pretty, with lots of trees that were full of colorful fall leaves. Roxas bent down and picked one up, marveling at the colors of it, the way the delicate veins traced beneath the surface of the leaf. Then he let it go, watching it flutter away. This was amazing. No wonder mortals were the greatest –
"Hey, earth to Roxas! The bus is here." Roxas blushed at that good natured reminder and wondered how he'd missed the mechanical behemoth pulling up beside them. He wrinkled his nose a bit at the smell but tentatively followed Axel, climbing inside. Axel dumped two pieces of paper into a little box and Roxas tilted his head curiously as they took a seat.
"Axel? What did you put in that thing?" Roxas asked and Axel looked a little startled.
"Oh, that was the fare. You need to pay to ride the bus." Roxas bit his lip. He understood the concept of tokens for goods, but…
"What if you can't pay?" Something about this bothered Roxas. It seemed cruel to leave someone in the cold because they lacked tokens. But Axel didn't seem to think so.
"Then you walk or you don't go. The bus driver needs to be paid and the gas is cruel expensive these days." Axel said easily and Roxas winced. But the redhead did have a point. It wasn't like taking a bus was a necessity, and humans did try to take care of those who couldn't afford necessities. It just seemed sad to Roxas that life was governed by tokens. He would have to think about that more fully. Actually, speaking of money…
"Axel? Don't you have work?" Roxas asked, suddenly concerned. He knew that humans did tasks to earn money/tokens and that was called work. Axel wasn't skipping it to be with him, was he? Axel flashed him a grin.
"I called in and told them I had a family emergency. I won't get paid but that's alright, the call centre will get on just fine without me." That still worried Roxas. Axel was losing money for him? Axel saw the concern on his face and patted his head, making him blink. "I don't need the money kiddo, and I like being lazy. This is cool."
"Oh. Okay." Roxas wasn't sure laziness was a good thing but mentioning that would be rude and he didn't want to offend Axel. The older man was being so nice to him. The clinic was full of people and the nice lady at the counter kindly told them there would be a two hour wait, approximately. Roxas was aware of what the time measurement meant but lacked the experience to know if it was a long time.
"That's a bit. We'll go over to the coffee shop for a while then." Axel said to her and she nodded with a smile. Roxas followed, a touch confused as Axel took him over to an odd little shop with a mermaid woman logo. "Starbucks, my favorite. So what would you like?" Roxas looked at the menu with a feeling of despair. His implanted knowledge hadn't included Starbonics. Axel caught the look on his face and grinned. "How about a nice, steamed milk?" Axel liked those on cool days almost as much as the hot coffee. Roxas smiled gratefully.
"Please." Axel placed the order and they waited patiently. Soon they were both sipping on their drinks and Roxas found he loved the milk, delicately flavored with a shot of almond extract. It warmed his hands too and Roxas closed his eyes for a moment, just reveling in the feeling.
There was a sudden crash and Roxas started violently, almost sopping his milk on the table. Axel looked up with a frown and muttered something unpleasant under his breath. An oily looking man had slammed open the door, letting cold air in without a care for any of the other customers.
"I hate that guy. Ignore it Roxas." Roxas blinked but obeyed, just concentrating on his milk. It got hard though as he heard the man berating the baristas for being too slow. Then when they delivered the drinks he claimed they had done something wrong and he wanted a refund. Axel sighed angrily but didn't say anything. Finally they got the man out the door with a coupon for a free drink. "I wish they wouldn't feed him like that. It's why he pulls this shit all the friggin' time." Axel knew why they tolerated it though. He spent an incredible amount of money here, usually ordering six drinks at a time. Still, it was annoying as hell to watch. Roxas chewed his lip.
"He was being mean to save money?" That seemed like a terrible thing to the blonde. "Your soul is more important than money." Roxas knew that was true but he could see how humans could forget. They couldn't see souls the way an angel did. Axel looked startled but nodded.
"I'd say so." He agreed. They kept drinking and the next people in were a very nice couple with a little girl. Roxas smiled as he watched the child holding her mother's hand. That was sweet. Axel was flipping through something and Roxas looked at it curiously. A real estate catalogue? "Mph, overpriced." Axel sighed as he looked at some of the pictures. "I wish this was mine."
"You want to buy a house?" Roxas asked, curious. He wanted to know more about Axel. The redhead flashed him a quick smile.
"Yep. Right now I'm renting, well, you saw that." Axel wasn't entirely sure Roxas understood though. He seemed a little odd. "I'm saving up for a home but I don't have enough for the down payment yet. I do like looking at the ads though." It was an enjoyable way to spend a bit of time. Roxas looked at the pictures and Axel obligingly moved the ad book so he could look at the properties. "See? This is what I want. A little bungalow. I thought about going to a condo but I want a yard."
"Um. What's a condo?" Roxas' implanted knowledge wasn't full of real estate terms. Axel grinned, amused.
"A condominium. It's like an apartment but you own it and the other areas are owned in common. So no yard." Axel looked longingly at the picture. "When I get my house I'm going to get a dog. A nice big dog that I can take on long walks and play with every day." That was a dream from childhood. He'd had a dog then, a huge husky with a sweet nature. Axel could still remember hugging old Albert's neck and getting thoroughly washed by a wet, soppy tongue.
"That sounds nice." Roxas said with a smile. He knew what a dog was and how humans kept them for companionship. The blonde could see Axel taking a dog for a walk, throwing a ball for it… and himself, laughing and going to grab the ball to throw it again. Roxas blinked at the mental image and shook his head. He wasn't going to be staying here that long. Was he? "Should we be going back?" They had been talking and drinking for a while. Axel checked the time.
"It's been about an hour and a half. Yeah, we should be going." Axel tossed out his cup and they both visited the bathroom before they left. Fortunately Roxas found that full knowledge of biology and hygiene had been included. He had no problems and soon they were back at the clinic. It took a while but eventually a doctor saw them. He gave Roxas a full checkup and examined his bruise.
"There might be a concussion. Do you have a headache? Dizziness, vomiting?" Roxas shook his head. The doctor asked him more questions but couldn't find anything wrong with him. Axel hesitated before speaking up.
"He says he's an angel." Axel said quietly and the doctor frowned. "He can't remember any family."
"Hm. Amnesia is possible but… I think you might be better off consulting a psychiatrist." Axel winced faintly. He'd have to pay for that. His job had health insurance but it wasn't going to recover an unrelated boy who'd fallen onto his balcony. "I can give you a recommendation. And you needed dental charts for the police?" The clinic included dental and the police had contacted them. Fortunately, they weren't too busy so they'd been able to fit it in. Axel nodded.
"Please." Soon Roxas was being scanned although he didn't like it much. Pictures were taken as well but soon it was all over and he was allowed to escape into the cold autumn air. Roxas was very glad of that. He hated the way the humans clearly thought he was crazy, although they were all being very nice about it. Especially Axel. Roxas wasn't sure about Axel. Maybe the redhead could believe him, he seemed more open then most. Roxas cuddled against his side again and looked up as he heard Axel chuckle. He met bright green, vibrant eyes and felt an odd tug in his gut. What did that mean?
"C'mon Roxy, there's a clothing store right over here. You're going to need some stuff." Roxas smiled as he took Axel's hand and they walked away together. They were quite oblivious to a long, thin snake, draped over a branch of a nearby maple tree. It lifted its head and watched them with flat, reptilian eyes until they turned into a store.
Then it vanished.