The dazzling grin that crept slowly across Iehovah's face, when comprehension claimed his mind, was the only inclination of his plans it seemed he felt like sharing. Briefly closing his eyes, he called upon his archangels with a whisper.
"Michael; Gabriel; Lucifer; Raphael; Uriel." The names drifted like dandelion seeds through the hushed space between them, and within moments the prevalent sound of beating wings broke the silence as each of the mighty archangels touched down around them.
"Raphael; Uriel:" Iehovah addressed his sons, his eyes fixed upon the little saviour before him. The archangels' gaze fell upon the circle of diamond-like berries beneath the Tree of Knowledge with no small amount of incredulity and anticipation. "Summon the seraphim and have them guard the vicinity. Michael; Lucifer: assemble the Host and station them for the Final Battle as you see fit." This stole the brothers' attention away from the fruit, one or two gasps imparting from their midst. "Gabriel," He held out his hand to Audrey, who took it, confused but without hesitance. "Come," he bid excitedly, "there isn't much time."
His hand was warm, but rougher than she'd expected, like that of a dedicated gardener. Towing her along as he hurried around the ancient, stone seat and through another veil of sweeping branches, he left all but one of his beloved archangels to their respective tasks. His sandy hair shone golden in the sporadic patches of almost-midday sun that permeated the thick, emerald canopy. Though his muted teal trousers were fitted around the ankles, they had developed dark hems where the morning dew on the long grass had soaked them.
He led them to an adjacent clearing, identical to the one they'd just left, except that in place of the Tree of Knowledge, there stood another: again, with very close resemblance to a willow, but this time bearing much larger fruit: the strangest and most wonderful she'd ever seen.
They were similar to the cape gooseberry in that they were encased within bulbous, skeleton-leaf husks, bright gold in colour, like filigree cages. The gleaming, cerulean fruit within were pumpkin-shaped, tapering to a point below, and Audrey's speculations on the inspiration for the colour of her angelic lover's eyes were suddenly disbanded. About the size of large pomegranates, they hung in long garlands among the supple, swaying branches, their husks glittering as they moved.
Releasing Audrey, Iehovah reached to pluck one from the nearest vine. It tugged free easily, and he turned to her, placing it in her cupped hands. Glancing between her utterly baffled expression, and Gabriel's awestruck stare, he raised one hand high above his head. Immediately, a tiny, peridot speck of pulsing light flew into his palm from between the branches above, and he closed his fingers around it, pulling it down near his heart.
"Eat it," Iehovah bid her, but she merely blinked in response, glancing down at the gift. "This, my child, is the Tree of Life."
Audrey returned her gaze to the gentle Father, wondering what to make of the situation. More fruit? Gaia's soul? Battle stations? Questions circled relentlessly in her mind, but one put forth a worry that jabbed dangerously at her sensibilities: Was there going to be an attack? By whom? Surely he didn't mean to pick up the extermination where he left off? Had the berry he'd eaten induced the same brutal desperation in him as before?
"I don't understand; what's going on?" She asked, her heart beginning to flutter with panic.
Iehovah stepped closer, measuring the young saint with a fond smile. He relinquished the little, green soul, which danced lazily around them as he set about peeling back the fruit's husk.
"You are an extraordinarily pure soul, Audrey." She looked sceptically up at this, but he paid no mind, continuing his ministrations as though it had escaped his notice. "A recovered soul. Once arrogant and selfish, wishing only for attention, cultivated by loneliness in the absence of your hardworking parents. In exactly seven days, you have achieved something that most never quite manage in their whole lives." He looked up at her now, pulling away the remnants of the husk, leaving only the bright, succulent fruit resting in her fingers. "You've grown up."
"Seven days..?" Audrey thought aloud. Surely it can't be... seven days since that fateful breakdown at Paradise Falls? Seven days since she lost the one person who ever remotely understood her?
"Yes," Iehovah allowed himself a smirk, misunderstanding her astonishment, "the irony wasn't lost on me either. Seven days to create; seven days to evolve." Bending slightly to look squarely into her aventurine eyes, he placed his hands upon her shoulders. "You have evolved, Audrey. You have become precisely what I'd intended humanity to be all along. You've shown initiative in delivering the child, bravery in defending him, patience in consoling he who was sent to destroy you, justice in your resolute endeavours to clear Lucifer's name, and compassion in your offer to help revive Gaia.
This day has been such a long time coming, child. Satan will have noticed the shift in the balance when you ripened the fruit. It will inevitably attack, and soon. My angels can hold it at bay for only a short time, and you saw the difficulty with which I expelled the evil residing within Lucifer. I need her. I cannot do this alone." Audrey nodded briskly in compliance, understanding now, the urgency of whatever this plan was he'd formulated. "So, if your offer still stands; if you're still willing to help bring her back –"
"It does," she affirmed without hesitation; "I am."
Iehovah gently raised her cupped hands with his palm beneath them, imploring her to eat.
"Fruit from the Tree of Life will grant you immortality," he explained, watching her turquoise eyes widen. "It will make the exchange of souls infallible, and afterwards, allow you to live out an infinite life here in Eden with the one you love."
Audrey glanced down at the fruit mere inches from her lips; the sweet, tantalising smell invaded her senses as forcefully as the berries had, but it was a different kind of allure. Instead of the berries' seductive, intoxicating pull, this fruit's scent was full of promise: life, love and an irrefutable sense of family.
"You're giving me immortality?" She asked in barely more than a whisper, hardly daring to believe she'd never have to worry about belonging to a different world to the man she loved.
"A small gift for kindness of such magnitude," he replied with an affectionate smile.
Transferring her gaze, then, to the joyously stunned archangel she called her lover, she sank her teeth into the fleshy, azure fruit. It was tangy but not offensive; sweet and satisfying as a slice of watermelon on a hot, summer day. Her eyes flickered shut and juice dribbled perpetually down her chin. Something warm alit in her chest, spreading through her veins, from her grass-stained toes to the sticky tips of her fingers, and a calm settled over her, the likes of which she'd never experienced.
She was vaguely aware of her knees slowly bending, lowering her steadily under the fruit's relaxing spell, but before she reached the lush, green grass, a pair of arms, much larger and more familiar than those which had rescued her at the Tree of Knowledge, lifted her with ease. She was cradled against a warm torso, her cheek nestling against soft cotton; a tender kiss was placed upon her hairline, and she was submersed in a serene slumber, her mind peaceful, breathing even, swathed in love.
Slowly – ever so slowly, her vision returned, but her eyes were not open. A bright, chartreuse haze passed over her, and she tried to raise her arm against the glare but found herself unable. She was drifting weightlessly, and as the light subsided, a lesser, pinkish glow replaced it. Tethered to some sort of wall textured with shallow grooves all over, she was drawn forward and released; the wall, she noticed as it retreated, was a hand. Dense forest came into view; huge rocks, crawling with insects; sunlit grass speckled with mauve-veined spring beauties; knots in wood; a squirrel hopping through branches; larks soaring overhead; the tear-laden, citrine eyes of the Father; the exquisitely-shaped lips of her angel, and her own slight form, stirring in his arms, opening her amazonite eyes.
It was done.