Angel of the Morning

By Laura Schiller

Based on: Unearthly/Hallowed

Copyright: Cynthia Hand

(Note: The song "Angel of the Morning" was performed and made famous by Juice Newton. The quoted lyrics are italicized.)

It's ironic that they used to like that song. He remembers everything – Clara in Bluebell's passenger seat, dyed-orange hair whipping in the breeze from the open window, crooning along with playful melodrama and a twinkle in her eye. Just call me 'angel of the morning' … just touch my cheek before you leave me, baby. She teased him mercilessly about being a '70's music fan ("What's next, rhinestone suits and platform shoes?") and he retorted by switching the channel to Top Forty, where the hip-hop made her roll her eyes, and they both laughed.

He never stopped to think of what the lyrics mean.

Standing with Clara now on the brink of a waterfall in Yellowstone Park, the water roaring in their ears, gray rocks looming behind them with all the sublime indifference of nature, he understands for the first time what the bizarrely named Juice Newton was trying to say. There'll be no strings to bind your hands, not if my love can't bind your heart – but God, how he wants to bind Clara to him and never let her go.

"You're just not safe in my world, Tuck," she says, his own sadness mirrored in her cornflower eyes. "Remember Samjeeza? You and Wendy could have been killed that day. I can't keep putting you in that kind of danger."

"Right. Because I'm just a lowly human and I can't handle myself."

She sighs, blowing a golden curl off her forehead. "That's not what I meant."

It is, and they both know it. Maybe it's just stupid caveman pride, but he hates – absolutely hates – the fact that when a fallen angel threatened his girlfriend, all he could do was stand there feeling sick. Not to mention getting his ass handed to him by Christian Prescott, a moment he really doesn't care to relive.

His empathic angel, knowing exactly what he's thinking, shoots him that look – loving, annoyed and regretful all at once – and he's immediately sorry. He can see how difficult this is for her, the set of her jaw, the way she stands with her arms around her middle, as if she's cold even in June.

"You deserve a normal life," she tells him, blinking back tears. "A happy life. I can never give you that."

He starts to protest – how the heck is he supposed to happy without her? – but the sad part is, he knows she's right. He's been trying hard to be a gentleman with her, like his parents taught him, but her angel blood has made that a lot more difficult than she realizes. He's still human, after all, and how are they supposed to have an equal relationship if part of her inspires him with worshipful terror?

She's trying to be that woman, the one from the song. His angel of the morning, smiling bravely as she says goodbye. She truly believes this is the right thing to do. She is leaving him out of love.

Glory aside, he has never admired her as deeply as he does now. Would he be even half as dignified, half as brave, in her shoes?

"Man, I want to kiss you," he blurts out – which is probably the wrong thing to say.

Clara, however, possibly reading his mind, just pulls him close.

Even a kiss that tastes of goodbye is better than none at all.