Rain of Heaven

Prologue

10 years later...

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust..."

As the minister spoke, Erin Graham's casket was lowered deep into the ground and Andrew lowered his head, staring down at his hands. Erin's friend, Katherine Larsen, sat on the angel's right side, while Heather Louise-Graham sat on his right. Shooting a glance over at the adopted daughter whom his human friend had adopted 5 years after her birth daughter, Andrea's death, Andrew sighed softly and reached an arm out to wrap it around her shoulders. Heather seemed to literally collapse against the blonde angel as her shoulders shook with heavy sobs. Tears making their way down his own face, Andrew sighed softly and closed his eyes as he listened to the minister finish up and people started to rise to their feet to lay flowers on Erin's lowered casket.

Feeling the now elderly Katherine fumbling around for his hand, Andrew caught it up in his own and held it tightly, yet gently, in his own as he helped Heather to her shaky feet. As the two humans and one angel finally neared their beloved friend and mother's soon to be gravesite, the handsome angel who had known Erin ever since she was 17 years old, stared down into the ground and spoke silently to her,
'Erin, my friend, they're all going to miss you. But you're with the Father now, and there's no other better place to be. I know that you must be worrying about Heather, but she's being well taken care of by all of us, and the Father is always watching out for her. Rest in peace, my friend.'

Ever since Andrew and his friends had first been told the news that Erin was now on her death bed, as she had now been nearly 80 years old, his supervisor and friend Tess had informed him that he was to go and be with the human for her final days on earth, as the blonde handsome angel had been one of Erin's best friends ever since he had talked her out of suicide in her teen years. The last time any of the angels had seen this human or Katherine, had been the time when they all were at odds and Monica had disappeared, blaming herself for Andrea's suicide 4 years earlier. But when all had seemed hopeless, and nothing would ever be the same again, things got resolved and Erin grew even closer to Andrew and became friends with Monica as well.

Although the young angel had not seen his human friend in over 40 years, he had on occasion been given the Word that Erin was doing just fine and a year after their goodbye's, Andrew had received word that she had adopted a 6-year old girl named Heather. Since then, not a day went by when the angel didn't think of his human friends...And when he had finally been told that Erin needed to see him, just 5 days ago, Andrew didn't hesitate to get there as quickly as possible so that she wouldn't think he had deserted her in her final moments. Katherine and Heather, now 35 years old, were there as well and although he was happy to see his longtime friends again, it also saddened him to know that it could be any day now for them to say their final goodbyes.

That day came the very next evening, when Andrew had spotted his friend and former fellow Angel of Death, Adam, standing across Erin's bed, dressed in a tan suit and a reassuring smile on his face. Memories had flashed through Andrew's mind of the time when Andrea had died, and his friend had come there for her human spirit as well. Tears of both happiness that she would no longer be in pain, but also sadness that she was leaving her loved ones behind, Andrew had watched his long-time human friend rise slowly without any pain on her face; her elderly features were now replaced with how she had looked many years ago when she was younger. Turning around, Erin had flashed Andrew one last final smile of thanks before taking Adam's offered hand and following the Angel of Death into the Light shining in from the bedroom door.

"Heather, she's at peace now, sweetheart," Katherine's elderly voice brought Andrew out of his thoughts and memories. He turned around to see the older human wrap the younger one up in a loving embrace, even as she held onto her cane with the other hand,
"You'll see her again; there was an angel there to take her Home, you know-"

"I told you, Katherine, that I don't believe in angels or God," Heather sobbed like a wounded child, tears streaming down her face,
"Mom always talked so much about angels...about how she had met some angels, and they were her friends. But I'm sorry, but I find that rather hard to believe..." Even as she spoke those words, the woman still held tightly to Erin's best friend.

Finally, as mourners continued to leave the cemetery and head back to their cars, Heather pulled gently away from the elderly woman and forced a small smile on her face,
"I think I better get going, Katherine. Andrew, thanks for being there for my mother; I know that you two were so close..."

Wrapping the woman up in a friendly hug, the blonde angel nodded his head,
"Yeah...We were, Heather." Debating whether or not to try and convince her that her mother really was at peace, and with God in Heaven, Andrew decided against it and pulled gently away to look deep into her blue eyes that looked so much like Erin's,
"Drive safely now, ya here? I'll meet you back at the house."

Smiling tearfully, she nodded in reply and, with a soft kiss to Katherine's cheek, the brown-haired woman walked slowly to her car and hopped in. The engine started and in the blink of an eye, she had drove out of the cemetery and back towards her house. Sighing softly, Katherine watched her best friend's adopted daughter depart before turning back to Andrew. Although she was now in her late 70's, her blue eyes hadn't changed; they still held the same love and innocence like before,
"Ditto to what she said, Andrew...Thanks for being with Erin in her final days; unlike Heather, I know where Erin is, even there I'll miss her more then words can describe..."

"We all will, Kath," Andrew's voice choked up and the tears started up again as he wrapped a friendly arm around his friend,
"C'mon, let's go home." And as the one angel and one human shot one final look at Erin's resting place, Andrew whispered softly,
"Goodbye, my friend."

Chapter 1

When Andrew arrived at the house that Erin had shared with Heather for the past 31 years, he smiled slightly at the number of people who had come to pay Heather condolences. It seemed that Erin, as well as her adopted daughter were well known in the small community and it seemed that everyone had come out after the funeral.

He helped Katherine out of the car and handed her the cane as she smiled her thanks,
"I guess we'd better get in there and help Heather get food set out for these people. She's wiped out as it is and I don't want her overdoing it today, because after today when everything dies down, that is when it is really going to hit her that her mom is gone."

"You take it easy, Katherine," Andrew instructed gently as they walked up onto the porch,
"I can take care of getting the food and everything out and I'm sure some of the neighbors will help as well."

As they walked in the front door, they were greeted by the smell of flowers and food and they exchanged a puzzled glance, knowing that Heather could have only gotten here a few minutes before they had. But looking around, the tables were neatly covered and various dishes were steaming, created the delicious aroma. Friends and neighbors were already filling their plates as they spoke softly to each other about Erin, Heather and even Andrea.

"I wonder who took care of all of this," Katherine wondered aloud,
"Whoever it was is certainly an angel."

Andrew smiled as he caught sight of Tess setting out another casserole dish filled with lasagna,
"I think you hit that one right on the head, Katherine," He remarked, nodding his head.

"Tess," Katherine said softly as she smiled. Seeing the older angel look up and approach them, the human hugged the angel tightly,
"It's been too long."

"Yes, it has, baby," Tess replied warmly,
"And I'm sorry about your best friend, but we both know she is very happy where she is," Seeing Katherine nod, she then turned to her Angel Boy, and gave him a hug,
"You doing okay, baby?"

Andrew nodded his head,
"Tess, thank you for taking care of all of this."

"Of course, Angel Boy. I didn't want to leave it all up to you three today as you've all had a rough few days. Besides, I had help from a certain Irish angel," Seeing the hopeful look in her friend's eyes, she continued with a smile,
"She's in the kitchen, baby. She finished her assignment early thankfully, as she so wanted to be here for you today."

"You'll excuse me?" He asked softly, looking at Katherine.

"Go, Andrew and don't be such a gentleman. You don't need my permission," She teased gently as a slight blush rose to his cheeks.

As Andrew departed, Tess turned her attention to Katherine,
"How is Heather holding up?" She asked with concern in her dark eyes.

"Well, Tess, so far so good for the most part, but as you know, today is it. For the last 4 days she has been busy making arrangements and hasn't really had time to grieve. It's the way of us humans, you know," The older woman winked at the angel before she sighed softly,
"But I have a feeling that after today this is going to hit her hard and that's what I'm worried about."

Andrew quietly opened the kitchen door and smiled, though somewhat sadly, at the sight of his best friend lining up desserts on the counter to take out in a while. The spring day was rather warm and the oven had the kitchen sweltering as he immediately felt the heat upon entering. Monica had apparently thrown her hair up into a haphazard bun while she had been working, but even looking warm and a little disheveled, she was a welcome sight to him after so much sadness over the last few days.

"Hey there, Angel Girl," He said softly, watching as she quickly looked up at him, her face a mixture of happiness at seeing him and concern over how he was doing.

"Andrew," Monica smiled as she approached him and wrapped her arms tightly around him,
"I'm so sorry about Erin, my friend. Are you all right?"

"Yeah," He replied, squeezing her tightly,
"Adam took her Home and she looked so happy to be going and I know the Father was overjoyed to see her. Erin lived a good life even though it was hard sometimes, and she was ready to go Home. I think she wanted to see Andrea."

Pulling away slightly, she looked up into his eyes,
"Something is bothering you though, Andrew, I can tell. What is it?"

He smiled, wondering if he would ever cease to be amazed at how she always knew,
"Can you slip away from here for a few minutes? Maybe take a walk with me down to the stables. You look like you're about to melt as it is."

She giggled,
"No worries, Andrew…a little heat isn't going to do any harm, especially beings I'm not sugar," She teased, as she took his hand and they slipped out the back door.

"True," He replied as they started down in the direction of the stables,
"But there are times when you are sweet enough to be," He winked at her and chuckled as she blushed profusely.

"So, what is going on, Andrew?" Monica asked, giving his hand an encouraging squeeze as they approached the stables and the sound of the horses neighing and pawing at the ground began to fill their ears.

"It's Heather," He said with a sigh as they stopped walking and he turned to face her,
"Erin was all she had, Monica, and was essentially, her entire life. I mean, Heather has lived here since she was 6 years old, taking care of Erin when she got older. In the last year when Erin's health began to decline, it was Heather who provided around the clock care for her. Erin was her whole world, and now she's gone."

Monica nodded her head in understanding,
"It will be hard for her. She almost has to find a new identity, I would think. Does she plan on staying here at the house or selling it?"

"I think she plans on staying," Andrew ventured,
"I mean Erin left her everything; the house, the horses, even though she hasn't ridden in well over a year. They had to hire someone to exercise the horses and to take care of them."

The Irish angel shook her head sadly,
"I think this will all hit her tomorrow. The last few days the house has been busy with neighbors stopping by and getting the final arrangements made and it is going to come to a dead half tonight, Andrew. What will she do then?"

"I think I'm going to offer to stay for awhile," He replied softly, his eyes never leaving her face,
"The Father has given me the okay as you and Kevin are doing just fine without me right now, not that I doubted that for a minute," He smiled at her, thinking back that despite their rocky start when she had first been demoted, things had been nothing but smooth sailing the last ten years as the three angels had worked together. He knew that his best friend was more than ready to return to her former status, but she seemed to have no desire to do so and was quite content with her current working arrangement. At first he had been concerned, but he now figured that she was a little apprehensive about supervising again after what had happened with Denise and Philip, and everything after that. What he did know was that in the last ten years, she had been the happiest he had seen her in a long time and for that he was thankful.

She nodded in understanding,
"That may be a good idea as she is going to find herself alone for the first time in her life," She smiled softly then,
"Of course, not that she is truly ever alone."

Andrew sighed and shook his head sadly,
"That's just it, Angel Girl. Heather doesn't believe in angels…or God."

Despite the fact that the house was full of people, Heather managed to slip quietly upstairs and into what had once been her mother's bedroom. Her sorrowful eyes looked around her, taking in every detail, every aroma, that made it feel like her mom was still here. It was almost as if Heather could still feel her presence in this room, a feeling of warmth, of love that seemed to hang in the air.

The hospital bed had been removed and her mom's oak four-poster bed had been reassembled in the room. Gone were the bottles of pills, the basin of water and the cloth that had bathed her face during the long nights. Her mom had wanted to die at home and her doctor had allowed that as Erin's body had just been failing due to age. A Home HealthCare nurse had come in every other day to help Heather and Katherine to take care of her, showing them what to do for different things. This room had been a flurry of some kind of activity for the last two months, and now it was just so…still.

Sitting down on the edge of the bed, Heather looked around the room with tear filled eyes, before she closed them, once again feeling that comfort that somehow her mother was still here,
"Mom," She whispered, just before she dissolved into sobs,
"If you are gone, why do I still feel you here?"

Chapter 2

"She doesn't believe in angels or God?" Monica repeated as she stared surprised, at her best friend. Seeing him nod his head in reply to her words, the Irish angel glanced around before turning back to meet his green eyes,
"I never would've expected to hear that...Erin had such a strong faith, and when you revealed yourself to her back when she was a teenager, she didn't think you were lying for a minute! She has always believed in God as well...I thought that strong faith of hers would have been passed along to her family, including Heather, Andrew..."

"I would've thought so too, Angel Girl," Andrew sighed deeply before taking his friend's hand again and continuing to walk around the stables. The two young angels stopped beside where the horses were eating their food and drinking, while the groomers cleaned the area,
"But Katherine told me when I arrived five days ago, that Heather doesn't believe anything Erin told her when she was a child about us. But then again, she doesn't know that the angels are you and me, as Erin didn't tell her that much..."

"Do you think she'll accept your invitation?" The Irish angel softly asked, giving Andrew's hand a gentle squeeze.

Shrugging his shoulders, the older angel looked out at the barn and replied quietly,
"I really don't know, Angel Girl. But I hope she will; I can't force her, though, but I can only try my best..."

Smiling through a few tears that had formed in her soft brown eyes, Monica leaned into her best friend and wrapped her arm around his waist as he wrapped his arm around her thin shoulders,
"That's all the Father is asking from you, my friend; I'll be praying that she lets you and that you can get through to her."

Closing his eyes as he kept his strong arms around his friend, the wind blowing through their hair, Andrew replied gently,
"Thank you, sweetheart. And thanks for being here..."

Several minutes later, Andrew and Monica walked back into the house and the blonde angel, upon giving his dearest friend's hand a final squeeze, headed up the stairs in search of Heather. Butterflies were fluttering around in his stomach about the invitation he was about to offer his friend's daughter, but he wasn't about to back down. He had been given the "okay" from the Father to do this, and he wasn't about to chicken out right now. So much had changed in the last 10 years, especially his relationship with his dearest friend...only, it had changed for the better. The two angels had only grown closer after the incident with Philip and Denise, and him losing his memory; after that, Andrew had sworn to himself and to Monica that he would change, and that was what he had tried to do. And he seemed to be succeeding well at that; he hadn't seen his best friend curled up in a corner, sobbing over all that had happened, in 10 long years and for that, the older angel was forever grateful.

And now, when it appeared that Heather needed his help the most, he was going to do that. Stopping outside of Erin's door, upon hearing soft sobs escape from behind it, Andrew suddenly heard the soft, gentle Voice from the Father, telling him what He wanted from the angel. Drawing in a deep breath, Andrew nodded his head slowly before reaching a hand out and knocking softly on the door. There was no response.

Softly knocking again, he waited for a response, but all he got was same as before. Silence.

Sighing softly, he finally gave up and reached for the knob, pushing it open,
"Heather?" He poked his head inside, seeing the woman sitting on her mother's bed, a kleenex clenched in her hand and her shoulders shook with sobs. Andrew's heart went out to her immediately, and he didn't stop his own tears from falling as he walked over to her and sat down beside of her,
"Heather, are you all right?"

Still not getting a reply, however, the angel tentatively reached an arm out and, like at the funeral an hour ago, Heather literally collapsed against Andrew, her face pressed against his upper shoulder. The kleenex was still held tightly in her clenched hand, even as she held tightly to the angel. Wrapping his arm gently around her shoulders, Andrew stroked her brown hair lovingly as he whispered into her ear,
"It's all right. It's all right...Let it out. Just let it out, Heather."

Minutes went by before the sobbing woman finally started to get a hold of her emotions, and realized what exactly she was doing. Sniffling, Heather gently pulled back from the angel and looked down at her lap, a deep blush rising to her cheeks with embarrassment,
"I'm sorry about that..."

"Hey, hey, it's not a problem," Andrew soothed gently, his hand still stroking her hair gently. Concern was etched on his handsome face as he watched her,
"Are you okay, Heather?"

"Oh yeah, just peachy," She sarcastically replied, before sighing and turning her head to meet Andrew's gentle green eyes,
"I'm sorry about that; that was rude of me..."

Smiling gently in her direction, Andrew lowered his hand and decided to get right to the point of why he had come in here to see her,
"Heather...I came up here for a reason, or actually two reasons; one to see if you were all right, and the other..." Sensing her looking at him with her big blue eyes, Andrew looked deep into them and continued,
"Your mother and I were really close friends, Heather; you know that already, as Katherine has already told you. I know how much it must hurt to have lost Erin now, as you have lived with her since you were 6 years old and you two were as close as any mother and daughter could be...Now, what I'm saying now, is that you can't take care of yourself, because I know that you CAN-"

"I can take care of myself, Andrew," Heather interrupted, the slight harshness noticeable in her voice, even through her tears,
"What are you suggesting?"

Sighing softly, and starting to wonder if this was really a good idea, Andrew finally decided to just take a deep breath and go for it,
"How would you feel if I stayed with you for a few weeks, until you can get back on your feet? Losing your mother was such a horrible loss, and Katherine and I are worried about you-"

"Well, don't worry about me, Andrew," The woman forced a fake laugh and rose to her feet, looking down at the handsome angel,
"Please, don't worry about me. As I said, I can take care of myself, and I'll be fine. I'm 35 years old-"

"That doesn't mean that you can't miss her, Heather," Andrew gently interrupted, also rising to his feet,
"You know how your mother told you stories about angels, and how they helped her out during difficult times, like when Andrea died-"

"Andrew, as I told Katherine, I don't believe any of that stuff, all right?" The human interrupted, staring up at the blonde angel,
"She must have been hallucinating in her old age-"

"She wasn't hallucinating, Heather," Andrew shook his head slowly and with a sigh, he suddenly felt a soft glow surround him and fill the room,
"I was one of those angels, sweetheart; Monica and Tess are also angels, and there was an angel to take your mother to her final resting place: Heaven. She's so happy, Heather, more happy then you can imagine, and she wants you to know that she's no longer in any pain-"

"All right, this is crazy!" The woman shouted, her voice shaking slightly with fear,
"This is CRAZY, ya hear? Wherever that light is coming from...wherever it's coming from, it's fake! I know it is..."

Her voice started to lower then, as she wanted to only continue screaming, but before she knew it, Heather felt herself falling to the ground as her shoulders shook with heavy sobs. She didn't even feel Andrew catch her and take her into his arms once again as she sobbed. Clenching the angel's jacket with her trembling hands, the sobbing woman didn't even have the energy to say anything more except to cry out her pain, sorrow and fear.

Tess glanced over Monica's shoulder as they sat on the living room couch, talking with Katherine, and nudged her "Angel Girl", spotting Andrew heading down the stairs. Looking over at her best friend, Monica felt concern fill her once again as she saw a sad look on the older angel's handsome face. Excusing herself, the Irish angel walked over to Andrew and led him into the kitchen,
"What happened, Andrew?"

Sighing deeply, the blonde angel shook his head,
"I thought that I had gotten through to her, Angel Girl...She told me that she didn't need for me to stay, but the Father told me to reveal myself to her. So I did that...And then she just broke down completely, despite how angry she seemed at me." Looking straight into his best friend's soft brown eyes, he continued,
"But she eventually pushed me away again, and refused to let me help her. Sweetheart, I really don't know what to do now...Heather may seem strong up there, but she isn't! She needs help, and support that she won't let me give to her and that Katherine can't right now." Sighing deeply, he felt his friend lean into him and he wrapped a strong arm around her shoulders,
"So now what, Angel Girl?"

Chapter 3

Monica sighed softly, wishing that she could offer him more help than she could,
"Remember Justin, Andrew? The young boy I was assigned to awhile back before we were given that week off to spend together at the cabin?" Seeing him nod his head as his expression softened, she continued,
"He knew I was an angel and he couldn't deny that, but he still just wasn't ready to accept the fact that God had a plan for his life and until he was ready there was nothing more that I could say or do. You haven't failed her, Andrew. She just isn't ready."

Andrew smiled as he hugged her tightly,
"Thank you for reminding me of Justin," He told her softly, kissing the top of her head,
"Heather is probably grieving too hard to even be able to think straight right now and I don't want to upset her anymore than she already is. Hopefully between Katherine and myself, we can keep an eye on her and see how she does over the next few weeks."

"Sometimes, I think the hardest thing we have to do is to back off sometimes when someone just isn't ready to accept what the Father has to offer," Monica said thoughtfully as they sat down at the table in the kitchen,
"I mean we know about His grace and when you know something like that, you just want to share it with everyone who doesn't, but not everyone is willing to accept it when we would like them to. It had to come in the Father's time."

"That's very true, Angel Girl," He replied, reaching for her hand and giving it a squeeze.

Her eyes searched his, seeing the tiredness in them,
"This week has been hard for you," She commented gently.

"Erin's last few days were rough for us. She was in and out of it quite a bit, sometimes aware of our presence and sometimes not," He smiled sadly, remembering,
"The day Adam came for her, she was carrying on a full conversation with who I think was Andrea," His green eyes flashed just for a split second at the name of Erin's birth daughter and all the pain that had followed her suicide. But Monica's expression never changed from one of concern and he was amazed once again by her ability to so completely forgive him for the things he had done all those years ago.

"She's at peace now and with Andrea and we have another assignment to get to soon," Her dark eyes sparkled with excitement.

"I haven't been told anything," He observed, looking at her curiously.

"You were busy with Heather," Monica explained, the small smile never leaving her face,
"We get to go and help with wedding plans."

Andrew smiled seeing the happiness on his friend's face at the prospect of getting to see the Hendricksons. Cindy had finally met someone, a young man by the name of Brady, who, much to Patrick's delight had moved to the states from Ireland a few years ago. Both had been finishing up medical school when they had met and had quickly fallen in love, so when Brady had proposed to her last winter on Valentine's Day, Cindy had happily accepted, and now Brady was already part of the family,
"Why don't you go on ahead tonight and I'll catch up to you in a day or two? I want to wrap things up here, at least with Katherine, and check on Kevin to make sure everything is okay with his assignment."

"Are you sure?" Monica asked worriedly. She wasn't asking because he was her supervisor, but because he was her friend, her best friend, and if he needed her nearby, that was where she intended to be.

"I'm sure," He smiled at her, seeing her concern for him in her doe eyes. Hesitating only for a moment, he continued gently,
"Sweetie, I just want to tell you how happy I am that you agreed to continue to work under me again. I know it's been awhile now and I hope the arrangement has suited you as well as it has me."

Tears filled her eyes at his words and she smiled at him as she reached for his other hand,
"Oh Andrew, of course it has. I love working with you and you never treat me as if I am beneath you, even when you offer suggestions if I'm not seeing an assignment as clearly as I could be. I love Kevin too and the three of us work so well together and I feel like I'm making up for lost time with you due to all those years we had to spend apart."

Releasing her hand, he reached across the table to touch her cheek, his eyes filled with seriousness,
"You seem happier, baby girl, and for a long time, I wasn't sure if I'd ever see you this way again. You were hurting for so long…"

"I am happier now, Andrew," She interrupted softly, thinking of the years he was referring to. But the year spent at Home, not seeing Philip in nearly ten years, the Father's love and her best friend keeping his promise to not run from her again had her wrapped in a tight blanket of security. Her assignments were going well, her relationship with Andrew had not only healed, but also blossomed once more, and her confidence in herself had returned,
"The Father makes me happy, working makes me happy and you, Andrew, you make me happy. So don't worry about me, okay? I'm just fine. Really."

Rising to his feet, he pulled her into a tight hug. The last few days had exhausted him, but everything felt so much better knowing she was all right,
"Go," He whispered softly to her,
"Go and see your earthly family and I'll see you in a day or so."

Monica nodded her head as she pulled away from him, offering him a smile that warmed his weary heart,
"If you need me, for anything, Andrew," She rested her hand on his heart, signifying the bond that they shared,
"You just say my name, okay?"

"I will, little one, I promise," He kissed her softly on the forehead before she vanished from the kitchen and he sighed once more. He was glad, though a little confused that they had been assigned to help Monica's earthly family. Wedding plans certainly didn't seem like much in the way of angelic work, but he also knew that the Father knew of their close relationship to the human family and maybe this was just to be a time of rest for them. There was a special bond between his best friend and the old Irishman, and the family had opened up their home and hearts to Andrew as well, years ago, and he always enjoyed the time he was able to spend with them.

Bringing himself out of his thoughts and back to the present, he headed out to talk to Katherine and Tess, deciding to ignore the feeling that something was about to go wrong.

"Monica!" Cindy cried out, much like she had ever since she was a small child whenever the angel would appear in her living room. Jumping up from the table, which was strewn with Bride catalogues and color swatches, the young woman hurled herself into the angel's arms and hugged her tightly,
"What are you doing here?" She exclaimed happily, her blue eyes dancing.

"Well, Dr. Hendrickson," Monica replied with a playful wink as Cindy laughed,
"We've been assigned to help with the wedding, if you'll have us."

The future bride shrieked out her joy at the words as she grabbed Monica's hand,
"God heard my prayer, Monica! I asked Him to send you and He did! I was missing Wendy so terribly in making all these wedding plans and I asked Him to send my other sister if He could!"

"Monica!" Carol smiled as she came out of the kitchen. Her brown hair was now grayer and she wore a pair of glasses on her nose, as her vision wasn't what it used to be, but she was smiling broadly.

"Hello, Carol," Monica said softly, as she embraced her gently and kissed her cheek,
"You're doing all right?"

"Oh, yes, yes, dear, now don't start, Monica," Carol waved her hand in the air, though her eyes twinkled with love for the angel who had once been her daughter,
"You come in here and start fussing over me and make me feel old."

The angel laughed as she looked up and saw Patrick watching her from where he had just come downstairs, a smile on his face. Tears instantly filled her dark eyes at the sight of the man who had been her human father so many years ago, having not seen him since he had celebrated his 76th birthday 9 months ago.

"So, are you going to stand there looking at me, little angel, or do I get a hug?" He asked in a mock grumble.

A moment later, she had flung herself carefully into his arms as he had wrapped her up into a tight hug. The young angel loved him dearly, much like she did the rest of the family, but she and Patrick had a special relationship. She had been there for him through what had happened to Wendy, and his heart attack, and he had been there for her eleven years ago during the worst days of her entire existence and it was not something either of them ever forgot.

"It's so good to see you, lass," He whispered softly to her as he pulled away to look into her face,
"And you don't look a day older than you did the last time I saw you."

Monica laughed as she linked her arm through his to help him to the couch so they could sit down with the rest of the family. As she sat down beside of Patrick, she noticed how he kept a firm grip on her hand and for a moment concern filled her heart, but it quickly diminished as he continued talking,
"So, where is your Andrew? I thought I heard you tell Cindy you had both been assigned to help with this wedding that has taken over our lives, even though it is still several weeks away," He threw a wink his daughter's way as Cindy rolled her eyes playfully.

"Andrew will be here in a day or so," Monica explained softly,
"A dear friend of his past away a few days ago."

"Is he okay?" Cindy asked worriedly, concerned for her other angelic friend.

"Yes," Monica nodded her head in reassurance,
"The last several days have been hard on him, but he knows that Erin is with the Father now and no longer in any pain. But, she has an adopted daughter, Heather, who is really having a hard time. She doesn't believe in God and even though Andrew revealed himself to her, she still pushed him away."

Carol shook her head sadly,
"The poor thing. But there was certainly no doubt in my mind about God's existence all those years ago when you and Andrew told us the truth."

"The whole room was lit up like a Christmas tree," Patrick scoffed, causing everyone to laugh, before he became serious once again,
"But this girl will come around eventually. We all need God in our lives, especially when things get hard."

Monica sensed an undercurrent in the room among the three humans and she shuddered. They immediately went back to talking though, Cindy chattering on about Brady, who would be here later, but the nagging feeling of concern would not leave the little Irish angel's heart.

Chapter 4

Several minutes later, a knock was heard on the door and Cindy immediately rose to her feet and raced to answer it. Monica chuckled as she heard a squeal come from her friend's lips and saw the human throw herself into her fiancé's waiting arms, Brady twirling her around in dizzy circles. The Irish angel kept a hold on Patrick's hand as she watched the happy couple walk into the living room and head towards them. The young man who would be marrying Cindy was a nice looking person, Monica thought, taking him in; he had short, brown hair and dark hazel eyes. He appeared over 6 feet tall, about the same height as Andrew, and he towered over Cindy. Love was shining in his eyes for the woman whom he would be marrying soon, but he kept quiet as he was led into the living room now facing the family and one angel.

"Mom, dad, you remember Brady, obviously...Monica?" Turning to face her angelic friend, she nodded in her direction as she held her soon to be husband's hand,
"Monica, this is my fiancé, Brady Sullivan. Brady, this is Monica, whom I told you about a few months ago..." She smiled in his direction and nodded, as if reminding him of something that they discussed months back. A light bulb flashed in the Irish angel's brain as she realized that Cindy's fiancé knew who and what she really was.

Rising to her feet, Monica walked over to Brady and held out her hand in greeting, all the while smiling in his direction,
"Hello, Brady."

"Monica, I've heard so much about you," The young Irishman smiled back, taking her hand and giving it a friendly shake,
"You and all of your friends. It's great to finally put a face to the name."

Chuckling, the angel released his hand and headed back over to Patrick, feeling him once again take her hand in his. Smiling in his direction, Monica gave it a gentle squeeze, all the while tuning out the excited chatter coming from Cindy, Carol and Brady in the living room. Instead, she kept her direction on her earthly father; somewhere deep down inside of her heart, she knew that she had to make each moment count for the next couple of weeks that she spent with Patrick. She couldn't put them to waste...

But why? That was the question that rang through the angel's head. Why was it so important?

Hours after all the guests have left, leaving Katherine, Heather and Andrew alone in the 2-story house, the angel had finally finished cleaning up the dishes and putting everything back into their place. Wiping his hands on a towel, he sighed softly and headed back into the living room where he had just left the two humans. Heather's voice immediately stopped him from entering, and he leaned his ear against the door. He squirmed as he heard the woman start yelling.

"Katherine, I know that you believe the crap that Andrew has told you about himself, but that doesn't mean that I have to!" She rose up from the couch and stood over her mother's best friend, anger churning inside of her body.

"Honey, I'm not saying this to try and hurt you, but Andrew was only trying to help; maybe you should have him stay for a few weeks until you get back on your feet-"

"I already told him no, Katherine, and that's it! After all, I'm not about to let some freak stay in my house...That whole glowing thing took the cake-"

"Now Heather, that's enough!" The elderly woman interrupted, her voice though firm, still held love in it like it always had in the past,
"Andrew's not a freak. I've known him since I was 16 years old and in high school. He really is an angel; you don't have to believe it now, I'm not going to force it on you. But you do need help, sweetheart-."

"I don't need help from some 'angel', Katherine!" Heather continued her rant before turning on her heel and racing up the stairs,
"Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going upstairs to mom's room to get her stuff ready for the garage sale..."

Sighing in exhaustion, Katherine lowered her face into her hands and shook her head. The sound of the kitchen door opening caused the human to turn around and her heart sank as she saw Andrew standing there. Grabbing her cane, she walked slowly over to her angelic friend, blue eyes filled with sadness,
"Oh Andrew, I'm sorry if you heard that..."

Spotting the tears on her cheeks, Andrew's heart tugged with sympathy and he wrapped his arm around her to bring her back over to the couch,
"Katherine, it's all right..." Sighing deeply, the angel sadly shook his head as he held her hand gently in his own,
"Yes, I did hear what she said; I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but...I just heard her voice and I didn't want to intrude. Are you okay?"

"I'll be fine eventually," The woman sighed deeply, feeling some anger towards Heather start to eat at her,
"I'm so sorry she said those things about you; I know they're not true, and although I'm not happy that she said them, please know that she only did it because she misses Erin..."

"Hey, hey, there's no need to explain anything, Katherine," Andrew soothed gently, reaching an arm out and wrapping it around her shoulders. He closed his eyes as he continued speaking to her,
"I understand. It's not your fault; just give her time, honey."

"Maybe you should stay for a few weeks after all; she may say that she doesn't want you around, but I know Heather almost as well as Erin did, and right now, she's going to need all of us..."

Sighing softly, Andrew kept his green eyes closed as he lifted up a silent prayer to the Father. A few moments passed before he answered softly, his cheek resting up against his friend's graying hair,
"I'll stay for the next few days until everything is situated around here. By then, I'll ask her again if she wants me to stay; it's her choice, Katherine, and hers alone. I'm just hoping and praying that she'll accept the invitation."

That evening, after Carol and Patrick had headed off to bed and Cindy had headed off to downtown for some last minute forgotten errands, Monica stayed with Brady at the house and the two were in the process of talking about this and that, the angel wanting to get to know her friend's future husband as best as she could.

"So you're from Ireland, hmm?" Monica winked at the young looking man and smiled as he chuckled.

"Yes," He replied, his accent thick as he spoke,
"You sound like you're from Ireland as well, Monica, but I know that you're not, as Cindy told me..."

Blushing a deep red, the Irish angel lowered her auburn head for a bit and looked back up at him, a tender smile on her pretty features,
"Yes, Brady, I am. And so are everyone else that she has told you about...Andrew and Tess, along with some other friends along the way."

"Andrew...You know, his name sounds so familiar, Monica; it has ever since Cindy told me about you," Brady frowned a bit and his face took on a serious expression. Monica watched him and her thin eyebrows drew together as she tried to figure out what the human was thinking off. Several minutes passed before she finally saw the young man nod his head and he looked back up at her. A few tears shown in his hazel eyes and the auburn-haired angel's mouth nearly fell open at his next words,
"I know why his name seems so familiar now..."

Tilting her head, Monica whispered,
"Why?"

Their eyes connecting, Brady replied back softly,
"Cindy described him to a 'T', Monica...blonde hair, green eyes, about my height." Seeing the angel's confused expression, he continued quietly,
"Andrew saved my life when I was 10 years old."

Chapter 5

Monica's eyes widened at Brady's words,
"How?" Was all she could manage to say at that moment.

"I was swimming in the river near my home and I used to climb up on these rocks and then jump into the water. I never should have been swimming alone that day, but I was and when I jumped in, my foot got caught on something along the river bottom. I tried to get free, but I couldn't seem to and I knew in that moment that I was going to die." He shook his head, the memory so clear to him it nearly took his breath away.

"What happened?" She asked softly, reaching for his hand and wrapping her fingers around it.

"All of a sudden there was this light beside me and I looked over and saw him, just as Cindy had described him. I knew he was an angel, because I felt this total peace and comfort with him being there. He smiled at me as if to reassure me and laid a hand on my shoulder. In my mind I heard him tell me that his name was Andrew and that I was going to be just fine. Even through the water, Monica, I could feel the warmth that was coming from him. The next thing I knew, my foot was free and I was gasping for air on the surface," Brady met his eyes with hers,
"I knew at that moment that God existed and that He had sent one of his angels to save my life that day, though for the life of me, I don't know why."

Monica smiled as she squeezed his hand,
"Because He had plans for you, Brady, plans for you to marry another one of his children."

He smiled back at her,
"Well, I don't need to tell you that this family thinks pretty highly of you and Andrew. Patrick thinks the sun rises and sets in your smile, Monica."

She blushed once more,
"Patrick is very special to me, Brady," She explained softly,
"The whole family is, to both Andrew and I, but Patrick…he was there for me during a dark time and even though our relationship didn't start out well at all, I'm proud and honored to call him 'friend' now." As she spoke that pang of concern filled her once more that she could not seem to shake and when she spoke again, her voice was serious and controlled,
"Brady, is there anything going on in this family that I should know about, or is it just my imagination?"

Monica didn't miss the brief "deer in the headlights" look that flashed in Brady's eyes, before he quickly smiled at her,
"It must be in your imagination, Monica. Listen, I'm going to go and check the score on the baseball game. Coming?" He rose to his feet as he extended the invitation.

She smiled faintly,
"I'll be in shortly. You go ahead," As Brady left the room, Monica sighed heavily.

What was going on in this family? And why was it being hidden from her?

The following morning, Andrew was up and cooking breakfast when Heather walked into the kitchen, her face a mask of dismay at seeing him there.

"You're still here?" She stated flatly, crossing her arms in front of her as she leaned up against the doorframe.

"I thought I'd stay and help you out for a few days," He offered, as he laid a plate of bacon and eggs on the table for her,
"You have a lot going on with the yard sale and everything. You can't do it alone, Heather-."

"I can, Andrew, and I will," She fired at him,
"I thought I made it clear yesterday that I don't want you here. So take yourself and your God and your weird glow and get out of here, okay? Just because you were friends with my mother doesn't mean you have to try to be friends with me too."

"But I want to be your friend, Heather, and you could use one or two of those right now," He replied patiently.

"You know nothing about me, Andrew, all right?" Heather's voice rose in her anger as she glared at him,
"Now, I'm not asking you, I'm telling you! I want you out of my home and out of my life!"

Andrew looked at her, a mixture of sadness and hurt on his handsome face. He so wanted to help her, but he remembered his best friend's words from yesterday about her not being ready and he knew she was right. Heather was completely unwilling to accept him or who he was at this moment in time and his being here was only aggravating her and he didn't want to do that while she was coping with the loss of her mother.

Nodding his head sadly, he looked into her angry eyes,
"I'll do as you ask, Heather, but I'll be back to check on you. I promised your mom that I would and I plan on keeping that promise to her. You can deny all you want that I am an angel, but deep inside, you know that your mother would never have lied to you, nor would I."

As he vanished from the room, she gasped, but then tears filled her eyes at his departing words. No, her mother had never once lied to her, but Heather had always seen God as cruel. What kind of God would allow her mother's only birth child to be taken from her at such a young age? What kind of God allowed people to suffer and die, while their loved ones had to go on without them?

Wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand, Heather decided one thing. If that was the way that God played, then she had no desire to allow Him or His angels into her life.

With a heavy heart, Andrew had checked on Kevin and after his charge had reassured him that he was doing just fine, the supervising angel decided to go ahead and go to the Hendricksons. He knew that there was nothing more he could do for Heather at this point in time and despite the fact that it grieved him, he had to accept it and wait until she was ready to hear him.

Deciding on another moment alone, he appeared in the Hendricksons backyard as opposed to inside the house, but he was surprised to see Monica there, sitting on the swing set that had been there since the twins had been children. She didn't see him as she swung slightly, her arms wrapped around the chains and what concerned him was the look of hurt that was present on her pretty face. It was a look he had not seen in some time and he knew he might have to contain himself at whoever had caused her to feel badly.

His face filled with concern, as he forgot about his own problems for the time being, he sat down in the vacant swing beside of his charge and best friend,
"Hey there, Angel Girl," He said softly, watching as she looked up at him and managed a smile, though he could plainly see the tears she was holding at bay,
"What is it, sweetie? What happened?"

Monica sighed and looked away for a moment,
"It's stupid, Andrew, really…"

"If it has my Angel Girl this worked up then it most certainly is not stupid," He replied softly.

"I don't even know for sure that anything is wrong," She rambled softly,
"And I know that I'm not really part of it anyway, that I'm an angel, but I always thought of them as family anyway, even though in reality they aren't-."

"Monica," Andrew said firmly, waiting until she looked at him to continue,
"Talk to me. What is going on?"

She was quiet for a moment as she looked down at the ground, trying to keep her lower lip from trembling,
"I feel like something is wrong, Andrew. No one has said anything, but there is just this feeling, this undercurrent and when I asked Brady straight out, he looked terrified for a moment and then assured me it was all in my head and I guess what I really want to know is why they keep telling me I'm like their daughter or their sister when in reality…" She looked up at him, tears glistening in her dark eyes,
"When in reality, I've apparently been voted out of this family."

Chapter 6

"Monica, I don't understand..." Andrew whispered, reaching for his friend's hand and giving it a gentle squeeze,
"The Hendrickson's love you, sweetheart; they would never purposely push you away like that..."

"Then why won't they tell me what's wrong, Andrew?" Monica looked up into her best friend's green eyes and sighed sadly,
"Something is going on behind closed doors that none of us know about, but Brady does. I know it, Andrew, and it's tearing me apart worrying about it...I keep thinking, is it Patrick or Carol? I love them both so much, Andrew, as much as any angel could love a human family, and I'm scared..."

Tears making their way down his own face now, Andrew stood up from the swing beside of his best friend and got down on his knees next to her, resting his palms on her knees lovingly as he looked into her teary brown eyes,
"Oh sweet Angel Girl...I'm sure that Patrick and Carol are all right; the Father hasn't told us anything yet-"

"But they have to be keeping a secret from us, Andrew; they're acting stranger by the minute, and-I just don't want anything to happen, but I can't get this sickening feeling out of my stomach..."

Reaching out, the older angel gently stroked his best friend's auburn hair before placing his hand on the back of her neck and whispered,
"C'mere, baby girl."

Immediately taking his invitation, Monica threw herself into her friend's strong, waiting arms and held onto him as tightly as her small arms would allow. The two angels just continued to sit in the backyard, the younger of the two practically sitting on her friend's knee as she held tightly to Andrew, her soft sobs heard against his shoulder. Andrew sighed softly as he stroked her hair, resting his cheek against the crown of her head. Although he tried to reassure his best friend that nothing could possibly be wrong with the Hendrickson's, and that they still loved all of them like family, Monica's words still wouldn't leave his own head.

What if something really was wrong, and one of them was in danger somehow? The angel closed his eyes at that very thought; he didn't know how either he or his dearest friend would be able to handle that news if it were true...

Brady and Cindy stopped talking in the living room, and looked up to the sound of the front door opening. Both humans gasped as they saw Andrew stepping through the door, with Monica right behind him. Cindy was immediately on her feet and racing towards her second angelic friend, soon throwing her arms around him in an ecstatic hug. Laughing softly at the force of her embrace, Andrew hugged her back tightly,
"Hey, sweetheart. It's great to see you again."

"I'm so glad you're finally here, Andrew!" Cindy finally released the angel and looked up at him, concern now etched on her face as she saw how tired he looked,
"Are you all right?"

Although his heart still ached over what had taken place with Heather, and upon hearing Monica's concerns a few minutes ago about the Hendrickson's, Andrew nodded his head reassuringly and put on a brave front for her sake,
"I'm all right, Cindy. So...who is this young man you're marrying, hmm?" He offered her a wink and was relieved to see her giggle in return.

"Brady," Cindy turned to her fiancé and ushered him over,
"Honey, I want you to meet Andrew, Monica's best friend. Andrew, this is Brady-"

"Brady Sullivan?" Andrew finished, staring at the human in front of him.

A small smile appearing on his mouth, the human nodded his head,
"Andrew. It's good to see you..."

Shocked beyond words, Cindy looked back and forth between the two and then to Monica, who didn't appear all that shocked by what was going on,
"You...You two know each other?"

Grasping his future bride's hand and giving it a tender squeeze, Brady nodded his head and whispered into her ear,
"I'll explain it to you later, baby, all right?" He gave her cheek a gentle kiss before meeting her eyes steadily.

Still confused, Cindy nodded her head before speaking up,
"Monica, why don't you and I head out into the kitchen and look through wedding catalogs?" Her eyes twinkled as she spoke,
"I have something I'd like to ask you about the wedding..." Reaching her hand out, she grasped the angel's and practically dragged her into the kitchen, leaving Brady and Andrew alone.

Patrick sat on his bed, his head resting in his hands as he contemplated over what he had just overheard from his bedroom to the backyard. The words that his "lass" had just spoke to Andrew tore at his elderly heart, and he felt guilty all over again for not telling his little angel the full truth.

"But I can't, Monica...I don't want to cause you anymore pain, after all you've been through the last few years," He mumbled to himself, running his hands shakily over his face and through his gray hair,
"I'm so sorry, lass...God forgive me, but I can't tell either of them yet."

But he also knew that time was indeed running out; and that he would have to tell her, and Andrew, sooner or later before Carol or Cindy did. And he knew that Monica most likely wouldn't forgive him if she were told the truth from somebody other then himself.

Chapter 7

"You remember me, Brady?" Andrew asked, his green eyes filled with disbelief as he looked at the young man in front of him.

Brady nodded his head adamantly,
"Andrew, when an angel saves your life, that is something you do not easily forget. I'm just so glad that I now have a chance to thank you. Were it not for you, I wouldn't be getting ready to marry the most incredible woman in the entire world."

"You're welcome," Andrew smiled, still unable to believe that Cindy's soon to be husband was the young boy he had rescued so many years ago in Ireland,
"But don't thank me, thank God. He was the who placed me there in the first place."

"I have thanked Him," He replied with a grin,
"Every single day of my life."

Andrew was quiet for a moment, before he spoke up again,
"You're marrying into quite a family, Brady, but I'm sure you know that."

"I do," Brady nodded his head as he met his eyes with the angel's steadily,
"I love Cindy's parents very much and of course, the fact that the extended family is angels, cannot be a bad thing." He winked as Andrew chuckled.

The angel turned serious then as he held Brady's gaze,
"Brady, Monica seems to think that there is something going on with the Hendricksons, something that is not being told to her. Now, I know that she is an angel, but she feels as much a part of this family as you do, and so do I, to be perfectly honest. She's feeling a little hurt right now and pretty scared with wondering what is going on. Do you have any idea why she might be feeling this way?"

It only took Andrew a split second to see where his best friend's fears were coming from as a look he could not describe passed over Brady's face, even as the young man struggled to cover it.

"Sorry, Andrew. Monica already asked me this and I told her the same thing I'm about to tell you-."

"Brady, I can tell that you know what I am talking about," Andrew interrupted, trying to keep his voice calm, but he was finding it difficult. The last few days had been more than hard for him, and then to turn up here today and to find his best friend on the verge of tears was almost more than he could take without a little rest,
"I know I'm a little overly protective about Monica and I don't like to see her afraid or hurting, Brady. We're also both very protective of this family as they have been in our existences for many years. I can see in your eyes that you know something, so can you please tell me what is going on here?"

Brady drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly,
"Andrew, it isn't that I don't want to tell you, but that I can't. It isn't in my place and they don't want Monica to know right now and they know that even if they tell you, you won't keep anything from her, as you are her best friend. I think they were going to wait until after the wedding. They wanted her to have a good time being here with them…something about her having been through a lot in recent years and I can't override their decision. I'm sorry."

The angel nodded his head sadly, wishing he had gotten answers for both Monica and himself, but still understanding what Brady was saying,
"If you can change their minds, Brady…," His voice trailed off for a moment before he continued,
"We're both going to be worrying until we know the truth."

"Are you okay?" Cindy asked softy as she and Monica sat out at the kitchen table and she noticed the angel was not nearly as happy as she had been yesterday.

Monica looked up and managed a smile,
"I'm fine, Cindy," She replied, deciding to try and put her concerns aside for the moment until she could validate them,
"What was it you wanted to ask me?"

Cindy smiled warmly as she began to speak, her voice trembling slightly,
"You know, if Wendy were here, I would have asked her to be my maid of honor and I would have very much liked it if you would be a bridesmaid, Monica. You've always been like an older sister to me and you, along with Andrew, have been there for all of us too many times to count in the past," Reaching over, she covered Monica's hand with her own as tears filled the human's eyes,
"I love you like a sister, Monica and I would be so honored if you would step in for Wendy and be my maid of honor."

Monica drew in a sharp breath as tears sprang to her own eyes,
"Cindy, I don't know what to say…I'd be honored to stand up for you on your wedding day."

Tears now racing down both their faces, Cindy got up and moved to hug the angel,
"Thank you, Monica," She whispered with a teary smile,
"I've been waiting for the right time to ask you…I just…I just want everything to be perfect the day that Brady and I get married…it has to be…"

Monica closed her eyes against the tears, wishing she knew what the double meaning behind those words was,
"Why Cindy? I know that every bride wants her day to be special, but why perfect?" She whispered, holding onto the young woman tightly.

"Because it just has to be…it's…it's my wedding day…" Cindy choked out, before she began crying in earnest against the angel's shoulder.

Monica's arms tightened around Cindy as she heard her break into sobs, even as tears of fear streaked her own face,
"Cindy, what is it? I know something is going on, but I don't know what. Please tell me!"

"Cindy?" Brady looked alarmed as he and Andrew walked into the kitchen and found the twosome in tears,
"Honey, are you okay?"

Cindy nodded her head as she pulled away from Monica, and forced a smile,
"I'm just so happy is all…Monica said yes…she'll be my maid of honor."

Andrew walked around the table and placed his hands on his best friend's shoulders, knowing by the way she was trembling and how she starred at the table top as she pulled herself together that it was something more, but he remained silent for the moment as he rubbed her shoulders gently.

"That's great news!" Brady smiled as he drew his fiancé to himself,
"You know, we need to get going for that appointment with the minister."

"I know," Cindy replied as she dried her eyes. Looking over at the two angels, she smiled, as if she had never been sobbing her eyes out just moments before,
"Dad should be up from his nap soon and mom should be home soon from the store. Will you two be okay until then?"

"We'll be fine, Cindy," Andrew replied softly. Once the couple had left, he pulled a chair over to his friend's side,
"Monica, what happened?"

"I don't know, Andrew," She replied sadly, looking up into his gentle green eyes,
"One minute she had asked me to be in her wedding and the next she was talking about how her wedding had to be perfect and she burst into tears. I tried to get her to tell me, but she wouldn't…"

"I know. I tried to get some answers from Brady too, but he isn't talking, though he did insinuate we might have our answers after the wedding."

"I just get the feeling, Andrew, that I'm …running out of time," She whispered as he nodded his head in understanding. Trying to push it all aside, she looked up at him,
"I'm sorry, I haven't even asked you about Heather and how she is doing, Andrew."

Taking her hand, he led her back out to the living room, so they could be more comfortable. Once they had sat down on the sofa, he wrapped an arm around her shoulders to draw her close as he began to speak,
"She told me this morning she wanted me to leave," He replied simply,
"You were right-she isn't ready and I have to accept that. It's just so hard because one of the last things Erin said to me was to please keep an eye on her daughter, but Heather is making that impossible right now."

Sensing his sadness, Monica rested her head against his chest as she wrapped her arms around him tightly,
"She'll come around, Andrew and if any angel can make that happen, you can," She replied encouragingly,
"You have a simple way about you of being able to show God's love to anyone you come in contact with and Heather can only resist for so long before she sees that too. Be patient, my friend, and the time will come. I know it will."

"Thank you, sweetheart," He replied, with a sigh,
"I know you are right, but I'm just worried about her is all. She has nothing left and she won't accept the Father's love."

"But He'll be there when she is ready, Andrew, and you will be too." Reaching for his hand, she ran her finger over it lightly as she felt his hand running over her auburn locks and before too long, she could hear his even breathing as he fell into an exhausted sleep.

Chapter 8

"Well, lass, if you say so…" Patrick remarked, giving her a sideward glance, before pouring them both another cup of coffee and then reaching for the ginger ale for Andrew.

"Oh come on, Patrick," Andrew laughed incredulously as he shook his head,
"You can't be serious! It was bad enough when you gave into her with 'heaventry' for a whopping 16 points, but I am drawing the line with 'angely'," He eyed his best friend suspiciously as he glanced down at the Scrabble board.

Monica remained the picture of innocence,
"But it is a word, Andrew," She objected, determined to hold onto her lead in the game.

"Use it in a sentence then, Angel Girl," He challenged, raising one eyebrow as he looked at her once more.

She thought for a moment, before grinning widely,
"The human was such a good person that he had an almost angely way about him," She declared triumphantly.

"She may have something there, Andrew," Patrick smiled, winking Monica's way.

"No, absolutely not," Andrew laughed, unable to help it at his best friend's pleading look,
"The correct word for that sentence would be 'angelic', sweetheart and you know it. So, count your losses and lose the 'y'."

"Okay, fine," She sulked, though her eyes twinkled with mischief as she took the letter Y away from her word to leave it as just "Angel".

A week had passed uneventfully as the two angels had managed to put their concern for the family aside in order to just enjoy their company. Now, with Brady at work, and Cindy and Carol running wedding errands, the two angels and Patrick had been playing the game for the last two hours, amidst much laughter, mostly over the youngest of the threesome trying to sneak in some make believe words.

As he took a sip of his ginger ale, an odd expression crossed his handsome face as he set his glass back down,
"I'm going to have to go for awhile," He stated softly,
"I've been asked to check on Heather."

All joking aside, Monica looked up with worry on her delicate features,
"Andrew?"

"I'm not sure what is going on, Angel Girl. I just know I need to check on her," He got up from the table and prepared to take his glass into the kitchen.

"Not to worry, Andrew," Patrick said, taking the glass from his hand,
"You get to where you need to be and Monica and I will take care of cleaning up here. It looks like she won again anyhow."

Andrew rolled his eyes playfully,
"Yeah, and I'm sure she didn't cheat at all," He replied, playful sarcasm evident in his voice and he was rewarded by his dearest friend sticking her tongue out at him as she suppressed a giggle.

As Patrick headed into the kitchen, Andrew turned to his friend and charge,
"I'll be back as soon as I can, Angel Girl."

Monica nodded her head, though there was a trace of worry in her dark eyes. She felt better about whatever was going on with her earthly family with Andrew here, but she knew he still had his other assignment to deal with,
"I know." She replied softly.

Not missing the expression in her doe-like eyes, he sighed softly as he pulled her into a hug,
"It'll be okay, baby girl. I'm only a whisper away if you need me, you know that and when I get back, we'll go over those Scrabble rules one more time as I'm not sure you got them the first time around."

She managed a smile as she pulled away,
"Just because you're a stickler for unimaginative words, Andrew…" She winked at him, before turning serious once more,
"Go to your assignment, my friend," She said softly,
"I'll be fine."

Stroking her cheek gently, he kissed her forehead,
"I'll see you soon," He promised before he vanished from the dining room.

Sighing, Monica turned and began to put away the Scrabble board as Patrick came out of the kitchen. Looking up at him, concern filled her once again as she saw how tired he looked and that he seemed a little pale,
"Are you all right, Patrick?" She asked, moving to his side and reaching for his hand.

"Just a little tired, lass, that's all," He assured her, smiling weakly at her,
"What do you say we clean this up later? I'd like to spend a little quality time with you, if that would be all right."

"There is nothing I'd like more," She replied, leading him into the living room, so that they could sit down on the couch. There was a comfortable silence between them for a few moments, before Monica broke it with her soft Irish brogue,
"You know, I've always thought of you and your family, Patrick, as my family here on earth and because of that, if something were wrong, no matter how big or how small, I'd want to know about it."

Patrick smiled as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders,
"Sounds to me like you are worrying over something, lassie," He observed quietly,
"And you should know by now that you are a part of this family. You have been since the moment you were first sent to us, even though things were not all that good back then."

"I just get the feeling that there is something that you're not telling me," She ventured carefully.

Patrick was quiet for a moment as he tried to figure out how to respond,
"I'm just getting up there in the years, Monica, and I worry a bit about Carol and Cindy if anything were to happen to me. I know that you'll be fine, especially since you're an angel and you have your Andrew to watch out for you. That comforts me, you know, when we don't see you for months on end. I know how much he loves you and that there is nothing he wouldn't do for you, if only you ask him. I suppose that soon Cindy will have Brady, but Carol…"

"Patrick," Monica whispered, fighting back tears at his words,
"Why are you even talking this way? You still have plenty of life left to live before you go Home to God. Why, all of a sudden…"

"I guess it's just the kind of things we humans think about as we get older," He chuckled, trying to put her mind at ease, while at the same time, knowing that there were things he wanted to tell her while it was just the two of them,
"Have I ever told you what a blessing you've been to us, lass?"

"No more than you've been to me," Monica replied shakily, the uneasy feeling once again causing her stomach to churn,
"A few years back when Andrew blamed himself for all that had happened to me and then left...you were there for me," Tears filling her eyes, she added softly,
"Sometimes I think that those that love me so much try too hard to protect me, Patrick."

Though he knew that she was referring to him as well, he hugged her close,
"No worrying, my little angel, all right? You've been telling me for years that God has a plan for each of us, so there is no sense in worrying."

Monica felt as if she was going to explode, but she somehow managed to hold her frustration in check as she nodded her head. But the fact was that she was now more convinced than ever before that there was something Patrick was not telling her.

When Andrew arrived at the house that now belonged to Heather, he was surprised to find Katherine and Tess on the front porch, speaking softly,
"Tess?" He looked bewildered as he took a seat in one of the porch chairs,
"What are you doing here?"

"Spending a little time with Katherine, baby. She's had her hands full the last few days with Heather," The older angel explained gently.

Looking over at Katherine, he saw how worn out she looked,
"Katherine, what is going on?"

"She's not doing well, Andrew," The elderly human replied tiredly,
"I can't get her to eat, she won't leave the house…she'll scarcely leave Erin's room. She'll barely even speak to me."

Andrew sighed wearily as he shook his head,
"I guess I'm here to try to talk to her, but the last conversation we had certainly did not go well at all. Do you have any idea why she is so opposed to believing in God?"

Katherine shook her head,
"Erin never much talked about it, though I do know that it was a source of contention between the two of them. Heather never had any interest in going to church, though Erin made her go when she was younger. But once she turned 18, she refused from that point."

"How are things with the Hendricksons', baby?" Tess asked, seeing the troubled look that crossed his face at the question.

"Well, something is being kept from us, Tess. Monica had a feeling about it when I got there and Brady pretty much confirmed it for me. They don't want to upset Monica with whatever it is, and they won't tell me because they know I won't keep it from her."

"I'm sorry you have to pull double duty like this, Andrew," Katherine said honestly.

"Well, I'm actually assigned to Heather and only to the Hendricksons' as back up. I just wish I knew why, as nothing is being told to either one of us at the moment," He replied, frustration in his voice as he remembered the troubled look in Monica's eyes as he had left.

"You'll have them in God's time, Angel Boy," Tess reminded him affectionately,
"Right now, though, you need to try to talk Erin's daughter into at least eating or things are going to get a lot worse from this end."

Nodding his head, the blond supervising angel stood up and started for the door,
"I just hope that I'm not about to make them worse by just being here," He stated softly as he opened the front door.

Chapter 9

"Heather?" Andrew knocked softly on the bedroom door, while with the other hand he carried a plate that held a peanut butter sandwich, even as his heart pounded nervously upon seeing Erin's daughter again after what had happened last week. Leaning his ear against the door, but not hearing anything coming from behind it, the angel frowned in concern and took a deep breath before opening the door quietly,
"Heather?" He repeated, poking his head inside.

The young woman was laying on her back on Erin's now disheveled bed, her eyes staring up at the ceiling. For a moment, Andrew wasn't sure if she was even awake; but seeing her blink her eyes a few times informed him that she was indeed awake, but was just ignoring him completely. Sighing softly, not too sure of what to do next, Andrew walked into the room even as she didn't say anything, and headed over to the bed. He set the plate on the nightstand and just as he was about to head to the door to close it, Heather's voice caused him to whirl around.

"You can get out of here now, you know?"

Closing the bedroom door behind him, Andrew ignored her tone of voice and instead, he headed over to the chair beside of the bed and sat down all the while looking at the human,
"You know I can't do that, Heather; I stayed away for only as long as I had to, but I'm back now and I think the two of us need to talk-"

Sitting up and finally glaring at the angel next to her, Heather clenched the bed sheets until her knuckles turned white and yelled in his face,
"We have NOTHING to talk about, Andrew, and that's final! Now I don't want to have to tell you again; when I told you last week to get out of my house, I meant out! STAY OUT OF MY HOUSE!"

Flabbergasted over the words this hurting woman was saying to him, Andrew knew that a part of him should do as she wished and leave to head back to the Hendrickson's; but another huge part of his heart told him otherwise. Heather needed him there, whether she wanted to admit it or not. And if anybody needed an angel, she did. Although his hand shook slightly, the angel reached out and tried to take her hand into his own, but his green eyes widened as Heather slapped it away. Nodding his head, Andrew returned it to his lap and looked straight into her angry dark eyes.

"Heather...Please, just give me a chance to try and be there for you; please, Katherine is so worried about you. You haven't been eating or sleeping. You never leave the house, or this room-"

"Whether I leave this room or eat is none of your business, Andrew," She snapped in reply, her eyes narrowed into slits as she continued to glare at him.

Lowering his blonde head, Andrew sighed sadly before speaking as softly as he could, although he was growing more frustrated by the minute,
"We're just worried, Heather...Can't you allow us into your heart for just a moment and talk to us?"

Silence passed between the two and just as Andrew was about to think that maybe he was starting to get through to Erin's daughter, Heather took him by surprise as she lurched from the bed and towards him. Her fists were clenched into tight balls as she looked as though she was about to beat the young-looking angel to a pulp. But instead, he sidestepped her and gently grabbed her by the shoulders so that she wouldn't topple over.

"Let go of me!" She yelled, although Andrew didn't miss the tears in her eyes and her voice,
"Get off of me, Andrew!"

Ignoring her demands, Andrew pulled her close to him and, with every compassionate fiber in his being, he stroked her long, thick locks even as Heather pounded his chest with her hands. He ignored the slight pain of her fists and only continued to hold her gently, yet firmly, not only to comfort her but to calm her down as well so that she wouldn't hurt herself.

"Heather, please..." Andrew whispered, his voice cracking as he felt a few tears fill his concerned green eyes and roll down his cheeks,
"We all love you so much, and you won't let us through to you, honey. Talk to me; I want to help you so badly..."

"Nobody can help me!" The human sobbed brokenly as she wanted to continue pounding the angel with her fists, but soon she found herself losing her strength and instead, she finally allowed her arms to drop to her sides. Feeling Andrew holding her up so that she wouldn't collapse to the floor, Heather buried her face deep into his chest and tightly clung to him like a life preserver,
"Nobody can help me, Andrew. Mom's gone...she's GONE, and nobody can help me..."

"God can help you, sweetheart," Andrew whispered into her ear, knowing he was treading on thin ice here right now, with just saying those words, but upon hearing the gentle, loving Voice speak to his heart to let him know that Heather needed to hear it, the angel nodded his head and continued,
"If you'll just open up your heart and let Him-"

"God ruined my life, Andrew; so why should I allow Him into my life now?" Although her words still contained anger, the pure hatred that had been in her voice earlier towards him was no longer there, and for that, Andrew was grateful. But still, he wasn't all too sure of what else to say to her now.

'Oh Father,' He prayed silently, resting his cheek on the sobbing woman's head,
'What can I do to help her?'

Upon Carol and Cindy's return from the errands they had run for the upcoming wedding, Monica and Patrick were in the process of starting a round of "Go Fish". Although the man whom she had come to love dearly over the course of the years still wouldn't tell her what was wrong, the Irish angel decided once again to put her concerns to the back of her mind and suggested on playing a game of cards. So far, Patrick was in the lead of winning, with Monica not too far behind.

"Do you have any 1's?" Monica asked now, in her thick Irish accent. She suppressed a giggle as she saw a frustrated look appear on Patrick's older features and he handed the card to her. Hearing a chuckle behind her, Monica turned around and saw Cindy and Carol standing in the doorway, bags in their hands and smiles on their faces, although the slight look of sadness on Cindy's face was unmistakable.

"So did you win, love?" Carol winked in the angel's direction as she headed towards the kitchen.

"I think it appears that way this time, Carol..." Monica winked back at the human before she disappeared into the kitchen. Turning back to Patrick, the Irish angel smiled innocently at him before leaning back in her chair,
"So how's that for winning?"

Chuckling in reply, Patrick shook his head and rose slowly to his feet. He walked around the table to head towards Monica, and laid a soft kiss on her auburn head,
"You did well, lassie. Very well indeed." Ruffling her hair, his eyes shone with deep love for her as he asked gently,
"Would you like some more coffee?"

"I can get it myself, Patrick, it's no biggie-"

"No, love, allow me. You need to rest after you beat me with that last round," Patrick winked at her jokingly before disappearing into the kitchen after Carol. Rising to her own feet, the Irish angel stretched and turned towards Cindy, who was still standing in the doorway, watching the entire exchange. Smiling at her, Monica headed into the living room with the young woman following right behind her; after taking a seat on the couch, Cindy was the first to speak and her voice was filled with seriousness.

"Monica, I need to ask you something..."

"What is it? You know you can ask me anything, Cindy," The angel offered a compassionate smile her way to let her know it was all right to ask.

"Remember last week when you told me about how Andrew's friend passed away, and how her daughter hasn't been taking it very well?" The human looked directly into her friend's brown eyes, and upon seeing her nod her head with a confused look on her pretty face, Cindy continued,
"I know that Andrew is very confused over how to help Heather and all, and you know I love you both like my real siblings..." Tears filled her eyes then as she reached for Monica's hand, holding it tightly in her own,
"...Although, in a way, you are my sister. But I've been thinking of how to possibly help Heather, or maybe try and help her. I know that the two of us have never met before, but it's a possibility..."

"What is it, Cindy?" Monica asked, staring straight into her friend's eyes, waiting for her reply.

Chapter 10

"Well, I can only imagine how hard it must be to lose a parent and to have no other family around to help you," Cindy ventured, her voice trembling slightly,
"I'd like to meet her and I thought maybe she would like to come to the wedding next week. I know it seems strange, but I feel a bond with her, even though I've never met her and if this might help her, I'd sure like to give it a try."

Feeling the gnawing feeling of frustration once again over knowing that there was some hidden meaning behind Cindy's words, Monica nodded her head,
"It certainly is worth a shot, Cindy, but why do you feel a bond with Heather when you've never met her?"

"It's just a feeling I have," The young woman said softly, avoiding the angel's eyes,
"I really can't explain it."

Though the words "can't or won't?" where on the tip of the angel's tongue, she forced them back as she picked up a pencil off the table and scribbled down a phone number,
"This is Heather's number if you want to call her. For the record, I think it is a wonderful idea and maybe just what she needs."

"I'm going to go and call her from my room," Cindy smiled as she jumped up and gave Monica a hug,
"Thank you."

"You're welcome," She replied softly as Cindy bolted up the stairs, the piece of paper clenched in her hand.

"Are you all right, sweetheart?" Carol asked as she came back into the dining room and she didn't miss the troubled look on the angel's face.

Monica forced a smile,
"I'm okay, Carol, I think I just need to go for a little walk," She rose to her feet as she grabbed her sweater in case the spring evening was a bit chilly.

Carol walked around to stand in front of her angelic "daughter" and she took her hands up in her own,
"Monica, I know that things seem confusing to you right now, but sometimes we have to do things that we don't necessarily agree with in order to make someone else happy. Though the decision to do that may be wrong, their heart is in the right place," Her eyes were full of sympathy as she saw the angel's eyes well up with tears,
"I hope you can understand that, sweetheart."

"I wish I could, Carol," Monica whispered tearfully,
"But I can't. I feel like I'm on the outside looking in and I hate it. I know that something is wrong and I want to help…"

"You are helping, my love," The human said softly, tears now in her own eyes,
"You are helping more than you know by just being here."

Monica nodded her head, though the words didn't make her feel much better,
"I'll be back later. I just need a little air." Managing a small smile, she gave Carol's hands a squeeze before pulling away and heading for the front door.

As the angel slipped outside, Patrick came out of the kitchen with a cup of coffee in his hand,
"Where did our lass go?" He asked curiously.

"For a walk," Carol responded softly, before she turned to her husband. The love in her eyes was evident, but she so wished she could change his mind,
"This is tearing her up inside. You know this, don't you? She knows something is wrong, Patrick-."

"It's for the best right now," Patrick responded a little gruffly,
"She doesn't need to be worrying herself just yet. She was having a grand time tonight with Andrew and I, laughing and enjoying herself. It's a wonderful thing to see after seeing so much sadness from her for so long."

"But you're seeing what she wants you to see, honey," She pleaded gently,
"She's worrying herself about this and says she feels like she is being shut out and I know that is not what you want."

The Irishman was quiet for a moment, his heart aching at her words,
"The wedding is next week and I'll tell her after the reception. I promise."

As Andrew struggled for words, the telephone beside of Erin's bed rang and he felt Heather sigh softly.

"I'd better get that," She stated as she pulled away from him and wiped at her tears before she picked up the phone,
"Hello?" She answered shakily, still very aware of the angel's presence in the room,
"Yes, speaking…"

Andrew watched as Heather sank down on the bed, her face a mixture of bewilderment and at one point she shot a glance at him, though there was no anger present. After she had listened to the caller for a long time, she finally spoke up,
"I appreciate the offer, but…" Once again she was cut off as the caller once again began to speak. Andrew then saw a wide range of emotions cross over Heather's face as she listened, tears glistening in her eyes as she nodded her head,
"I won't, I promise…yes, I'll see you then…Good bye."

Hanging up the phone, she looked up at Andrew once more,
"A friend of yours. Cindy?"

Andrew tried to cover the shock on his face unsuccessfully,
"Cindy? What did she-."?

"She invited me to her wedding next week. I wasn't going to go, but then she told me some things…" Her voice trailed off for a moment,
"Anyway, I get this feeling that I'm…supposed to go."

"Maybe you are," Andrew replied, sitting down tentatively beside of her on the bed,
"I can tell you that the Hendricksons' are good people. Monica and I have known them for over 40 years now."

Heather nodded her head, thinking about the things Cindy had told her, things she had promised not to repeat,
"Well, it looks like I'm going to a wedding." She said with a sigh.

"Well," Andrew began thoughtfully as he picked up the plate with the sandwich,
"If that is the case, then maybe you had better get something to eat." He smiled as she took the plate from him.

"Okay, you win, this time," Heather said with a slight smile. Though she still didn't completely trust him, she knew that he was out to do her no harm.

"Well, that is a first for today," He chuckled, remembering the Scrabble game of earlier, though he knew that this victory could be the beginning of something much happier,
"You'll like Cindy. She has a bit of an 'angely' quality about her," He added with a laugh.

Heather shot him a sideward glance as she took a bite of the sandwich,
"Don't you mean 'angelic'?"

Grinning now, he shrugged his shoulders,
"Yes, I suppose I do."

After walking for hours, Monica finally returned to the house late that night by walking around back, surprised to see Brady on the cordless phone on the patio. She stopped suddenly, knowing that he had not yet seen her, as she listened.

"I know that, I do," Brady sighed, running a hand through his dark hair, his frustration evident in his voice and on his face,
"But he won't do it, not until after the wedding. We've tried everything to get him to see you, but he refuses right now. You know how stubborn he is and he is insisting that he is fine. Nothing more than a little tired…I can't force him and neither can Cindy or Carol."

As her frustration grew, Monica stepped out of the shadows and watched as Brady's eyes widened at the sight of her.

"I have to go…yeah, I'll call you later and let you know…" As he hung up the phone, he turned to face her, his expression guarded,
"Hi Monica."

"What's going on, Brady?" The Irish angel demanded, tired of the circles she was being led around inside of,
"There is something going on with Patrick and I want to know what it is."

"I don't know what you're talking about," He murmured, preparing to turn around to go back into the house, but she grabbed his arm firmly to stop him.

"Yes, you do!" She snapped, her eyes beginning to grow wild with her anger and concern,
"Everyone in this house is keeping it from me and I don't understand why!"

"Well, if that is the case then there surely must be a reason for it!" He snapped back, not liking this feeling of being cornered by an angry angel, especially when he knew she was right.

"Just explain to me why you know and I don't! I've been a part of this family for 40 years and they won't tell me, but you come into the picture two years ago and you know the whole story! Tell me how that is fair!"

His own Irish temper now rising to meet hers, he grabbed hold of her arm,
"Maybe because you are an angel and not really a part of the family," He snapped, regret filling him instantly as he knew he didn't mean it, but the phone conversation had left him feeling helpless and now he felt just as helpless to help this angel who only wanted answers that she deserved. But it wasn't his call.

Hot tears of hurt filled her eyes that she struggled to hold back as she lashed out at him once more,
"Well, if that is the case then why keep it from me at all? My feelings obviously don't matter to you, so what does it matter if I know the truth, Brady?"

"Monica, I can't-." He began, but she cut him off quickly.

"You can't or you won't?" She countered, her gentle face flushed with anger and frustration,
"It's so easy for you to stand there and tell me what you cannot do when you know what is going on! Try it from my end of things once and see how it feels! I'm afraid, Brady, and you have the ability to clue me in but you won't do it!"

"Hey, hey," The sound of Andrew's voice behind her, caused them both to jump as the older angel approached them.

But Monica was wound up so tightly at the moment, she ignored the gentle warning from him,
"You're not married yet, Brady, so you aren't really a part of this either, but-."

Andrew laid firm hands on her shoulders, regretfully knowing that for the moment he needed to take on the role of her supervisor until she settled down,
"Monica, that's enough," He stated firmly, though there was no anger in his voice,
"You need to calm down right now, all right?"

There was silence for a moment as the youngest angel looked down at the concrete floor, tears filling her eyes at the reprimand that was so rare from him, even though she knew he was right. Swallowing hard, she didn't lift her eyes as she murmured,
"I'm sorry, Brady," Moving out of Andrew's grip, she headed towards the sliding door to go inside,
"I'm going up to bed."

Andrew let out a deep breath as his friend closed the door behind her, before he turned his attention to Brady.

"She's pretty upset," Brady offered softly,
"You might want to talk to her…"

"And I will," Andrew replied quietly, looking at the young man in front of him,
"But first I want to know what got her so upset to begin with."

Chapter 11

Brady sighed softly as he tried to force himself to meet the angel's eyes, his own eyes filled with concern over how Andrew was going to react once he told him what he had just said to Monica. Finally raising his head and looking into the angel's green eyes, he gulped as he saw a not too happy look on his face and this caused the human to only lower his head again. It was Andrew's voice that caused him to look back up.

"Brady? What happened there? I need to know before I talk to Monica..."

Shrugging his shoulders helplessly, the young human sighed once more before speaking quietly,
"I shouldn't have said what I did, I know that...But-"

"What DID you say, Brady?" Andrew demanded firmly, taking a step closer to the human and staring at him,
"And tell me the full truth, please."

His shoulders slumping, he fiddled with the cell phone he still held in his hand as he made his way over to one of the swings in the backyard and took a seat on one, like Monica had the other week when Andrew had found her there. Sensing the angel taking a seat next to him on the swing next to him, his gaze still on him, Brady was quiet for a few tense moments before finally looking bravely up at Monica's best friend,
"I said some things to her that now I wish I could take back...She wanted to know what was happening with Patrick, Andrew, as she had overheard me talking on the phone with...with somebody.."

"Brady, she has good reason to worry about this family, and you know it," Andrew firmly interrupted, although his voice was still gentle and caring for him,
"She's been a part of their lives for over 40 years-"

"I know that, Andrew; I know that," The human interrupted, sighing as he lowered his head, no longer meeting the angel's firm gaze,
"She told me that herself..."

Another moment of tense silence followed before Andrew continued speaking and he laid a hand on Brady's shoulder, causing him to turn and face him head on,
"What else happened? I know there was more then what you just told me..."

As the angel's hand was still placed on his shoulder, Brady forced himself to answer this question, as he knew that Andrew would find out from Someone else if he didn't tell the truth right now,
"I told her that she wasn't really part of the family, as she was an angel; and basically, that it wasn't her job to know about Patrick right now..."

His heart tearing at the human's words, Andrew removed his hand and shook his tousled blonde head,
"Oh Brady..."

"Look, she caught me off guard, all right?" Brady raised his voice an octave and rose to his feet, staring down at Andrew's frustrated face,
"And a part of me was right, I think-"

"Brady, there was no excuse to say those things that you did to her; no, she shouldn't have retaliated and snapped back at you, and I'm going to talk to her about that soon, but..." Andrew interrupted, still seated on the swing and his eyes flashing with frustration,
"Cindy told you about our first experience with this family, did she not?"

"Well yeah, but-"

"No, Brady, listen to me for a moment." Andrew held up his hand and rose to his feet also, now towering over the young human,
"Monica not only was a part of this family, that you will become a part of next week, but she was also their daughter many, many years ago. She may not have been their REAL daughter, as she was an angel, but she was as human as any angel could be. Carol was pregnant with her, for Pete's sake, Brady! And although it was a very painful, difficult time for all of us, things eventually worked out in the end...although that was 13 years later. After that assignment ended, all of us continued to keep in contact with the Hendrickson family, and Monica has grown to love all of them, especially Patrick, as much as any angel could. She was there through Cindy and Wendy's childhood, and even through Wendy's death..." His voice cracked slightly at the mention of his friend's twin sister, whom had died in a drunk driving accident a little over 10 years ago; but he gained control of his emotions and continued, his voice though still firm, loving as well,
"Patrick and Carol, along with your fiancé, don't just think of Monica as an angel...or myself, for that matter. They both think of her as their daughter, who has just never aged, if that really makes any sense...But she has that sort of relationship with Patrick that is very rare, and one that she treasures." Seeing the guilt flashing in Brady's eyes, Andrew sighed and reached his hand out, resting it on his shoulder gently,
"Brady, we're all worried about Patrick, and now that Monica has overheard that conversation between you and who I presume to be Patrick's doctor...I honestly don't know what's going to happen next. Now, I know that you humans have free will and all, but I'm hoping that you will use that free will and tell us what's going on. Soon, Brady, because I don't know how much longer Monica will be able to hold on now that she knows something is desperately wrong."

Finding himself speechless upon what he had just heard from the angel, Brady opened his mouth and no sound came out. He shrugged his shoulders helplessly and let them hang, as he lowered his head. Even the feel of Andrew's hand on his shoulder didn't seem to give him much comfort right now; Patrick had made him swear not to tell either of them the truth, but now he was faced with such a difficult decision, and he knew that Andrew was right.

No words were spoken between the human and the angel and after several moments passed, Andrew sighed sadly and closed his green eyes, trying to push aside the tears that threatened his eyes. A deep sadness crept into his heart as he finally broke the silence and finished quietly,
"You know where we are if you decide to change your mind, Brady."

And with that, the angel turned around and headed back inside of the house, closing the door behind him, leaving Brady standing outside, the tears that had threatened his own eyes now falling freely down his face.

Carol looked up from where she sat at the kitchen table as Andrew opened the back patio door and walked back into the house. Setting her cup of coffee down, she rose to her feet and headed over to him, concern on her now elderly features,
"Andrew, are you all right? I saw Monica head back in here a few minutes ago, claiming she was tired and needed to sleep...Is something wrong? She didn't look too happy..."

Closing the door behind him and shaking his head slightly, Andrew sighed and ushered the woman back over to the table where they both sat down again,
"I honestly don't know, Carol..."

Knowing full well what the angel was feeling at the moment, and also what Monica was feeling, Carol reached a hand out and grasped his hand gently in her own, rubbing his fingers in a motherly manner,
"Honey, I know that you and Monica are so worried about Patrick right now..."

"Can you tell me, Carol?" Andrew pleaded with her, gripping her hand tightly as he allowed a few tears to fall from his green eyes,
"I want to help any way I can-"

"Andrew, the only one who can do that is Patrick himself, and right now, he refuses to let either of you know the full truth," Carol gently interrupted, guilt starting to tear through her for being forced to keep this secret from these two special angels whom she loved so much,
"He did tell me that he promises to let you know right after Cindy's wedding reception, however; he promised me that."

"Why not now?" Andrew continued to press, releasing her hand and letting it fall back to the tabletop. He was now starting to feel hopeless that they would never know the truth, and Carol wasn't helping matters.

"Because I believe that he just wants to walk Cindy down the isle at her wedding, honey," Carol felt tears flood her eyes as she saw the tears in Andrew's own eyes,
"We lost one daughter to a horrible disaster, and he's determined to walk his other one down the isle at her wedding. He can't do that with Monica, and we know that this is his only chance, one that he's going to take."

Chapter 12

Andrew nodded his head, knowing he was once again coming to a dead end in trying to find out what was going on with Patrick. He hated the thought of having to wait another week until after the reception, and he had no idea how Monica was going to last that long. He had a feeling her temper had gotten the better of her this evening, driven by her frustration at not knowing what was going on, and he certainly didn't want any repeats of that in the next seven days,
"I need to go and talk to Monica," He said softly, rising to his feet.

Reaching out, Carol grabbed hold of his hand, her eyes pleading with him for understanding,
"I'm sorry, Andrew."

Sighing, he gave her hand a gentle squeeze,
"Me too, Carol," He replied, before he released her hand and headed up the stairs.

Knocking softly on Monica's door, but not receiving any answer, he opened it quietly. For a moment, he thought her to be asleep, until his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness and he saw her shoulders shaking with quiet weeping.

Sitting down on the edge of her bed, he reached over and gently stroked her hair in silence for several moments before she finally spoke in a trembling whisper.

"I'm sorry, Andrew," She managed to say, her voice taking him back to the days when she had been that small, wounded child who had resided in this room.

"I know," He replied simply, his hand continuing to stroke her auburn locks as she remained facing away from him,
"Let me get the supervisor stuff out of the way, Angel Girl, and just say that you know you can't go snapping at everyone who won't tell you what you want to hear. You're only going to raise the tension around here by doing that and that is the last thing that is needed right now." He watched tearfully as she choked on a sob as she nodded her head. He knew she was truly sorry for the argument with Brady, as well as over his having to reprimand her, which he hated doing, though she rarely gave him reason to, thankfully,
"Okay, lecture is over. Talk to me, sweetheart, please?"

Monica swallowed hard as she tried to gain control of her emotions enough to speak,
"They keep talking in circles around each other, Andrew," She whimpered softly, closing her eyes at the feel of his gentle hand in her hair,
"Patrick talks about growing older and how he knows that Cindy will be okay as she has Brady and that I'll be okay because I have the Father and you, but that he's worried about Carol. Then he tells me after that speech not to worry. Carol tells me that though there are things they aren't telling me, that there is a reason for it and that I'm helping by just being here, but I've never felt more helpless…" She stopped to give way to a painful sob, as he waited patiently for her to continue,
"Then Cindy wants to call Heather, because she feels a bond with her because she lost Erin. So when I heard Brady on the phone with who could only be another doctor, I just lost it, Andrew…then he tells me that maybe I was never really a part of this family as I'm an angel and…" Her voice trailed off, unable to speak of it any further as she just continued to cry as if her heart would break.

"You know better than that, Monica," He said softly, wishing she would look at him,
"You know how much they love you. Brady is truly sorry for the things he said and I think he feels very much in the middle between his future family and us and that isn't fair to him, anymore than keeping the truth from you is fair. I've tried to get the answers for us, honey, but they aren't telling right now and we have to accept that for the time being."

Finally rolling over onto her back, her tears shimmering in the moonlight that streamed in from the window, she met her eyes with his,
"Is he dying, Andrew? Is that what this is all about?" Her voice was scarcely a whisper as she asked the questions, not wanting to really know the answers.

"I don't know, baby girl. I wish I did, but I just don't," He replied sadly, lightly brushing her bangs from her swollen eyes.

Sitting up, she moved into the safe haven that awaited her in his arms, as they wrapped around her and held her tightly,
"I'm sorry that you had to come back here tonight to that. I shouldn't have…"

"Shhh," He soothed, rocking her gently,
"One apology is plenty, Angel Girl."

"I don't want to give you any reason not to trust me with this assignment is all," She whispered sadly.

"Not trust you?" Andrew pulled away and took her face into his hands so he could look into her tired brown eyes,
"Lets you and I get one thing straight right now, all right? I trust you completely with this assignment, with any assignment for that matter. No, you aren't perfect and you will make mistakes, just as we all do, but we are emotionally involved in this one and Monica, I could not be prouder of the way you are handling this particular assignment. You may have lost your temper with Brady tonight, but he gave you reason to get angry with everything else that happened today. You made a mistake and I don't want you beating yourself up for it, all right?"

A tear slipped down her face at his words as she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek,
"Thank you," She whispered fiercely into his ear,
"I needed to hear that, Andrew, I did."

"It's all the truth, little one," He replied gently.

"I know. I never doubt anything you ever tell me," Monica replied softly, managing a smile as she pulled away from him,
"Did I ever tell you about this great angel I know? He's my dearest friend in the entire angelic realm and the best supervisor a girl could have," She winked playfully at him, managing to put aside her fears for the moment to let him know how truly special he was to her in so many ways.

His lips twitched in a smile at her words,
"You'll have to tell me about him sometime, and I'll tell you about my best friend, who I love very much and would do anything within my power just to see her smile." Seeing the tearful smile on her face, he kissed her forehead,
"Now, I want you to get some sleep. You need to make things right with Brady tomorrow, which I know you will," He said gently, as he watched her lie down wearily as he tucked the comforter around her. Smiling a little sadly, he reached for the stuffed angel bear on the nightstand and handed it to her.

Monica smiled as she took it, looking up at her friend,
"You gave him to me in this very room, Andrew." She whispered.

"I know," He replied with a sad smile. Reaching down, he stroked her hair once more,
"Monica, listen…Neither of us know what is going on in this family right now, but just in case…make every moment with Patrick count, all right?"

She bit her lip as she reached for his hand,
"I will," She uttered, before correcting herself,
"We will, Andrew. Will you stay? Just until I fall asleep?"

"Of course," He replied tenderly, sensing her sadness that she was keeping just slightly at bay. He went back to stroking her hair, the comforting motion soon causing her to close her eyes and to drift off into a dreamless sleep.

Late the following morning, the little Irish angel came down the steps to find the Hendricksons' and Andrew all around the table, having just finished breakfast.

"Well, look who is up?" Patrick commented, winking her way.

She smiled as Andrew got up and met her in the living room,
"You okay?" He asked softly, his eyes meeting with hers.

"Yes, thank you," She replied quietly, as her eyes moved to Brady who was sitting out on the back porch by himself,
"I need to take care of something."

Andrew smiled knowingly as he touched her cheek gently,
"We saved you some breakfast when you're through."

Patrick smiled as Andrew sat back down at the table,
"You're good with her, son," He remarked, as if assuring himself,
"And she does love you so."

"Years of practice, Patrick, for both of us," Andrew laughed jokingly, before turning serious once more,
"In all honesty, Patrick, I don't know what I'd do without her. I'm just sorry it took me so long to realize that."

"But you know it now," Carol replied softly,
"There's been a change in both of you the last several years, Andrew."

"She knows she can trust me now," The angel replied honestly,
"In the fact that I'm not going to run off and leave her when things get tough," His eyes met with those of the Irishman,
"And I intend to keep that promise."

"Brady," Monica said softly as she closed the sliding door behind her and she saw him look up at her,
"I wanted to apologize for the things I said last night," She began as she sat down in the chair next to him,
"I was way out of line and I hope that you can forgive me."

Brady smiled faintly,
"Well, I'm sorry for my part in it too, Monica. Those things I said about you not being part of this family…I didn't mean them. You caught me off guard is all," He fell silent for a moment, before he continued, his eyes steadily meeting hers,
"Yes, Monica, there is something going on here. You know that by now, but Patrick made me promise not to tell you or Andrew. Do I think you deserve to know? Of course I do, but on the same token, I don't want to betray the trust of my future father-in-law. You can understand that, can't you?"

The angel nodded her head sadly,
"Yes, I can."

"He told me about how unhappy you were for so long due to things that had happened, and he just wants this time before the wedding to be a happy one. He wants to spend time with you and Andrew. He loves you so much, Monica and he just wants you to be happy right now. Can you do that for him for the next week?" His eyes pleaded with her,
"I know it's hard to put aside the fact that you know that something is wrong, but it is the way he wants it right now and I promise you, after the wedding, you'll know the truth."

"I'll do my best, Brady," Monica replied softly,
"I love him enough to at least try."

Brady smiled as he reached across the table and took her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze,
"Thank you."

Monica nodded her head, unable to help thinking about how Brady's request was so similar to the request Andrew had made of her last night; to make the most of this time with Patrick, but she forced back the tears that threatened her eyes over the implications of that statement.

Chapter 13

The next two days passed rather quickly, and as each one came to a close, Andrew found that Monica was starting to grow more and more concerned for Patrick and the entire family. Although she had tried to put on a brave front for his sake, and for that, the older angel was very proud of her, he didn't miss the deep sadness in her brown eyes whenever she said good-bye to him. When he had mentioned this to her the other night, he immediately regretted saying it as his best friend burst into a flood of tears while she clung to him for dear life. He knew that had happened when he said the words "good-bye", and she had instantly thought of saying those words for the last time to Patrick.

But although the days had been tough, there had also been some cheerful things happening around the Hendrickson home. The day that Monica had apologized to Brady for her behavior, Heather had arrived on their doorstep not long after with Andrew beside her. The blonde angel was happy to see Cindy answer the door that day, and his friend had immediately welcomed her into their home and before anyone knew it, the two were engaged in conversation about the upcoming wedding and for that time, Andrew was able to put his worries and fears aside.

Now, after a long hectic day of working and planning, but also trying to cheer Monica up, Andrew was worn out and he took a seat on the front porch steps, staring out at the setting sun. He had always enjoyed this time of day, when it was close to nighttime and the sun was starting to set; it always warmed his heart. A weak smile played on his face as he wrapped his arms around his legs and he was so deep in thought that he didn't even notice Brady had come outside with him and had taken a seat beside of him.

"Enjoy watching sunsets, Andrew?"

Jumping slightly, the angel smiled sheepishly in the human's direction and nodded his head,
"Yeah. Whenever Monica and I have had vacations alone, we sometimes watch the sunsets together, and I find them just lovely...even more beautiful then sunrises, in my opinion."

Smiling at the angel beside of him, Brady nodded his head in reply,
"So do I. It was this time of night when I asked Cindy to marry me last winter, you know? Ever since then, I can never watch a sunset without thinking of her...and yes, that's a good thing." The human and angel shared a laugh together before Andrew quipped.

"It better be a good thing, buddy!"

Silence fell between the two of them, before Brady looked back at the angel and drew in a deep breath. He had come out here to ask him something, and he was trying to bring up the courage to do so. Cindy had told him the other night that she had asked Monica to be her Maid of Honor, and Brady knew that the Irish angel had to have been very honored to take upon such an important task. As his fiancé had told him this, the human knew that he had to find his own Best Man, and after many hours of thinking, he had finally come to a decision and now, he just hoped and prayed that Andrew would accept.

"Andrew, there's something I wanted to talk with you about, and something I wanted to ask you," He started, toying with his hands as he faced the angel.

"Sure, what is it?" Andrew smiled gently at him upon seeing the slightly nervous look on the human's young features.

Sucking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly, Brady started talking,
"Andrew, I first want to thank you for making me see the truth the other day after my disagreement with Monica in the backyard...I really want to tell you guys what's going on, but you know that I can't betray Patrick's trust, especially now..." Feeling a slight embarrassed blush rise to his face, he lowered his eyes for a moment before looking back up at the angel who had saved his life so many years ago,
"You've got a way about you that speaks the truth, and although I could see it in you that you weren't happy, you remained calm and just for that I want to thank you. You've become a good friend these last few days, man."

A weak smile forming on his face, Andrew clamped a hand on the human's shoulder and squeezed gently,
"I'm trying very hard to try and understand from your point of view, Brady, and Carol's..." He sighed softly, trying to push aside the hurt that had crept it's way back into his heart and faced his friend once more,
"But I'm glad I was able to help in some way, my friend. Now...what is it you wanted to ask me?"

A real smile now appearing on his face, Brady, though he was still nervous that his friend would turn the offer down, drew in another breath before speaking in a rush,
"I was wondering if you'd be my Best Man at the wedding next week, Andrew. It would be a real honor to me if you would..."

Shocked beyond words at this sudden invitation, Andrew just stared at the future groom for a few moments, no words spoken, before a smile slowly appeared on his handsome face. A few happy tears shone in his green eyes and he responded gently, his voice choked up,
"It would be...an honor, Brady. I didn't expect this..."

"You and Monica are such an important part of this family; and I'm glad I've gotten to know both of you these last few days. You're a great angel, and I feel it to be only right to have you both stand by our sides as Patrick gives Cindy away." Holding his hand out, he waited for the angel to grasp it in his own. As he did and shook it warmly, Brady smiled happily,
"Thanks, Andrew. Thanks a lot."

One week later, as it neared 1:00 on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, Andrew stood in front of the mirror, trying to fix the bow tie of the tuxedo around his neck. He ran a hand through his shiny blond hair and took in his reflection; although he was very happy that Cindy was marrying Brady that day, a haunted look was in the angel's green eyes as he knew that today was the day that they would find out what was wrong with Patrick. He hadn't seen Monica at all that day, as she, Carol and Cindy had left early to get to the church hours before anything started, but he could sense that his dearest friend was more worried then himself.

Letting out a deep sigh, he said a quick silent prayer to the Father and as he finished up, he opened his eyes and glanced into the mirror. A knock came on the door, and putting on a brave front for all of their sake, the young angel headed to the door and opened it. A beautiful looking Monica stood on the other side; her long auburn hair was swept up on top of her head, fastened with a silver clip. Flowers streamed down from her hair, making her look lovelier then usual. She was dressed in an ankle-long light blue, sleeveless dress and although when he had first seen the dress on the hanger, it appeared plain, now as he saw his friend wearing it, he wanted to kick himself for even thinking the dress was plain at all. Light blush and mascara were on her cheeks and eyelashes, along with a dab of lipstick, and Andrew knew that it didn't take a lot of makeup to make Monica's natural beauty stand out.

His green eyes sparkled as he took her in from head to toe,
"Wow, Angel Girl, you look great!" Offering her his hand, he chuckled as she accepted it and he twirled her around in a circle, taking in every detail of the outfit.

"You don't look so shabby, either, Angel Boy," She winked at her friend and giggled as she saw him blush deeply. Turning serious, she kept a hold of his hand as he ushered her into the dressing room,
"Are you ready for this, Andrew?"

Sighing softly, he looked deep into her brown eyes and nodded his head slowly,
"The wedding, I'm ready for...but it's what's afterwards that I'm worried about. How are holding up, sweetheart?"

Not allowing the tears that were threatening her eyes to fall, Monica's lower lip slightly trembled as she held his gaze,
"I have no choice but to be strong, Andrew. That's all I can do, right? Whatever they're going to tell us, we have to accept it, and I keep praying that I will."

His eyes still holding sadness, Andrew reached his arms out and gently embraced his friend into them, rubbing her back with his hand with all the love in the world,
"You and me both, baby girl. You and me both."

Chapter 14

Cindy had wanted her wedding day to be perfect and God must have been listening to her prayers. The weather was lovely-a warm spring day with not a cloud in the sky. The ceremony had gone off beautifully and even the angels had managed to put their fear aside for the moment as Andrew had walked his best friend down the aisle right before Cindy had begun her walk that would end in her spending the rest of her days with Brady Sullivan.

Cindy's wedding dress was white, long and flowing, a more beautiful bride, the angels had never seen and Brady stood tall and ruggedly handsome at the alter as his bride had approached, a tearful smile on her face. Patrick had given his daughter away with shameless tears running down his wrinkled face and had kissed her lovingly before he had once again taken his place next to Carol as the ceremony had begun.

Now, two hours later, the reception was in full swing, the DJ that the couple had decided upon, spinning out songs for everyone to dance to. Monica had barely been able to keep herself together as Patrick had danced with his daughter to "Butterfly Kisses" as the lyrics tore at her troubled heart,

"There's two things I know for sure,
She was sent here from heaven
And she's daddy's little girl.
As I drop to my knees by her bed at night,
She talks to Jesus and I close my eyes,
As I thank God for all of the joy in my life.
But most of all, for..

Butterfly kisses, after bedtimes prayers,
Sticking little white flowers all up in her hair.
'Walk beside the pony, daddy, it's my first ride.
I know the cake looks funny, daddy,
But I sure tried.'
Oh, with all that I've done wrong
I must have done something right.
To deserve a hug every morning
And butterfly kisses at night."

Andrew approached his friend after checking on Heather, who was having a grand time at the party. He could see the tears clinging to her lashes that she refused to let fall as she watched Patrick and Cindy sway gently to the music. Wordlessly, he took a seat beside of her and reached for her hand as the music neared the final verse.

"All the precious time
Like the wind the years go by.
Precious butterfly spread your wings and fly.
She'll change her name today.
She'll make a promise and I'll give her away.
Standing in the bride room, just staring at her.
She asks me what I'm thinking and I said 'I'm not sure.
I just feel like I'm losing my baby girl.'
And she leaned over and gave me butterfly kisses
With her mama there, sticking little white flowers all up in her hair.
'Walk me down the aisle, daddy, it's just about time.
Does my wedding gown look pretty, daddy?
Daddy, don't cry.'
With all that I've done wrong,
I must have done something right
To deserve her love every morning
And butterfly kisses.
I couldn't ask God for more,
Man, this is what love is.
I know I've got to let her go,
But I'll always remember,
Every hug in the morning
And butterfly kisses at night."

Seeing that Cindy had continued to hold onto her father as she wept quietly once the song was over, Monica rose to her feet, trying with everything in her to bravely hold back her tears,
"Excuse me," She whispered to Andrew as she started to leave the reception hall, but the older angel caught her arm gently.

"May I have this dance, Angel Girl?" He asked tenderly, seeing her struggle and understanding. Sensing her indecision, he looked into her dark eyes, as she blinked back tears,
"C'mon, sweetie, I don't want you to be alone right now."

Monica nodded her head as Andrew led her onto the dance floor and took her into his arms as the song he had requested, "When you say nothing at all" began to play. He felt her rest her head under his chin as she breathed deeply to get her emotions under control, as he swayed them both slowly to the music. He felt the tension slowly leave her body and he smiled sadly. He wanted to be very careful when whatever news would be told to them later would come out. He knew his friend better than she knew herself sometimes, and Andrew knew she would put on a brave and strong front for Patrick, but what the angel didn't want, was her carrying that over to him. He knew that had happened once before when she had kept all her emotions inside of her and he wanted to make sure it didn't happen again.

As the song came to a close, he stroked the back of her neck gently,
"Better?" He whispered.

"Thank you," Monica replied as she managed a smile as she pulled away from him, wondering how he always knew what she needed.

"I'm going to go and check on Heather, if you are all right." Andrew replied and seeing her nod, he kissed her cheek gently, before going to look for Erin's daughter.

Monica turned around when she felt a hand on her shoulder and she smiled up into Patrick's eyes, even as her sensitive stomach churned uneasily,
"The wedding was beautiful, Patrick. You must be so proud."

"I'm proud of both my daughters, lass," He remarked, a sparkle of love in his eyes, but also of sadness,
"Care to take a walk outside with me, little angel?" He asked softly, his eyes filled with deep regret.

Monica felt panic beginning to well up inside of her as she glanced around quickly for Andrew, but didn't see him anywhere,
"Can't it wait?" She heard herself say, now that the moment was at hand, unsure if she really wanted to know what the truth was.

Patrick's eyes were filled with understanding as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders,
"It's waited long enough, lassie. It's time you knew."

"Andrew?" Carol called out softly, seeing the angel she had been searching for at last.

Andrew looked up and smiled,
"I was trying to find Heather, but she is nowhere to be found," He explained with a small laugh,
"She seems to have disappeared amongst all these people."

Carol smiled faintly as she laid a hand upon his arm,
"We need to talk, Andrew."

He felt his blood run cold at those words as he starred at her. Looking up after a moment, he saw Patrick leading his best friend outside and his heart jumped into his throat,
"Carol?"

"Patrick is telling Monica now, Andrew. He wanted to be alone to tell her, but he didn't want you to hear about things any later, so I agreed to speak with you," As she spoke, she led him out the door on the other side of the hall from where Patrick had taken his angelic daughter. Seeing a bench nearby, she motioned to it and together they sat down.

Instinctively, Andrew reached for Carol's hands, as he could feel how hard this was for her and though a part of him didn't even want to know now, the other part was relieved that this secret would finally be told.

Drawing in a deep breath, the elderly human began softly,
"A few years ago, Andrew, Patrick was diagnosed with cancer…"

"Oh Carol…" Andrew whispered, his heart breaking at already knowing where this was going, just by hearing those few simple words.

"They removed the spot on his lung and he underwent chemotherapy until he went into remission. Everything went well until about a month ago when he started having abdominal pain. He didn't even tell me about it at first, but I knew something was wrong when his appetite diminished. I finally forced him to tell me, and when he did, he refused to go back into the hospital. He's so stubborn sometimes," Carol stated, even as tears began to well up in her eyes as she clutched Andrew's hands tightly,
"He wanted to give Cindy away more than anything and he wanted to spend time with Monica and he knew she would be here for the wedding, so he put it off. Cindy and Brady both think that the cancer has spread to his liver, and if that be the case, Andrew…it's just a matter of time…" Her voice broke off as she began to cry brokenly.

Andrew drew her into his arms, as tears fell from his own eyes,
"I'm so sorry, Carol…just so sorry," He whispered as he held her tightly.

"He's the love of my life, Andrew," Carol wept as she clung to the angel,
"The love of my life and I'm going to have to watch him die. I've lost two daughters and now I'm going to lose him and I don't know how to do it again, Andrew…I don't!"

Andrew rocked her gently, knowing that this was one of the first times since Patrick had begun having pain again that Carol was able to let out her emotions and fear over the possibility of losing her husband,
"We're all here for you both, Carol," He whispered shakily,
"And God is here for all of us. You not only have Cindy, but Brady now as well, and even though Monica was taken from you as your daughter, she is still here for you and so am I."

"This is going to be so hard on her too," Carol whispered, tears still streaming down her face,
"She loves him so much and I've seen the fear in her eyes the last few weeks…"

Andrew nodded his head sadly,
"I think it's time we went to find them, Carol." He stated pulling away and wiping at her tears.

"I'm glad you're here, Andrew," She said softly, trying to pull herself together as she laid a soft hand on his cheek,
"You've always been such a good friend to me and I'll be forever thankful for that."

"You've all been an important part of our existence, Carol," He responded, rising and pulling her to her feet,
"Let's go and find them."

Chapter 15

Monica and Patrick continued walking in silence until they had exited the church and were now standing at the lake just off of the church property. The elderly human reached silently for the Irish angel's hand and held it gently in his own, rubbing his fingers over her delicate hand. Seeing her turn to face him, Patrick didn't miss the tears that had now formed in her brown eyes; the fear of what he was about to tell her was visible and the human sighed deeply as he reached over and gently brushed them away, making sure not to smear her makeup.

"No tears, lassie," He soothed, gently leading her over to a nearby bench overlooking the lake and set her down,
"I hate to see you crying, love; I brought you to this place because I thought it was beautiful, and Carol is in the process of telling your Andrew right now. But now, I need to tell you, little angel..."

"Patrick..." Monica choked out, her voice laced with tears as they suddenly came to her eyes once more and ran down her cheeks, already smearing her mascara. But she ignored it as she held tightly to Patrick's hand,
"I think I know what it is you need to tell me...but I'm hoping I'm not right..."

"Lass, I wish I didn't have to tell you this, but your intuitions are right on the mark," He sighed softly and his elderly features grew tired and pained at seeing the tears streaming down Monica's gentle face,
"I have lung cancer, Monica, and it's only a matter of weeks now before..."

Knowing full well what he was about to say, but all the while feeling like her heart was shattering at this news, as now she knew that it was indeed true, the young angel's face crumpled as she released the flood of tears she was trying to hold in. Immediately feeling Patrick gather her into his gentle embrace and Monica wrapped her arms as tightly as she dared to around her earthly "father", never wanting to release him. The sobs only came harder as she felt his hands working their way through her hair and she buried her face deep into his shoulder,
"Patrick...There has to be a cure! There has to be..."

The fatherly nature taking over, as he used to do with Cindy and Wendy, Patrick gently released his hold on her and cupped her face into his weak hands,
"My love, I wish there was. But there is no cure this time; the drinking I did back in the early days is what has caused this...I was in remission, but I no longer am. I'm admitting myself into the hospital tomorrow morning, but I had to walk my Cindy down the isle first, and I had to tell you and Andrew. There was no other way; you three are too special to me..."

"You're special to me, too, Patrick...I can't lose you," Monica sobbed, shaking her head weakly as she stared into his elderly yet gentle face,
"What am I going to do without you...?"

"Hey, hey, I'm not dead yet!" He winked at her to try and lighten the mood some, but it only caused the angel to break down all over again. The human immediately regretted those words and gathered her close for another embrace,
"I'm sorry, lassie. I was just trying to lighten the mood some...It'll be all right, and you'll see me again. After all, you are an angel, Monica."

"I'm still going to miss you so much, Patrick." She clung tightly, though gently to him, as she allowed the tears to run down her pretty face and onto his shoulder,
"I love you."

"And I love you, little lassie. So much."

"This is such a beautiful area, Andrew; I believe Monica and Patrick are somewhere off of this property..." Carol was saying quietly as she held tightly to the angel's hand, feeling him giving it a gentle squeeze,
"Are you all right, honey?"

Sighing softly as a few tears formed in his compassionate green eyes again, Andrew nodded his head slowly and turned to face Carol,
"Yeah." Turning around and spotting two figures on a bench overlooking the lake, Andrew's green eyes widened and pointed with his free hand in their direction,
"There they are."

Following his gaze, Carol sobbed inwardly as she saw her dear husband holding a sobbing Monica close to him and was speaking soothingly to her as she wept. Still holding onto the young angel's hand, the two walked slowly up to them and they caught Patrick's eyes as he looked over Monica's shoulder and nodded sadly. The tears now falling freely down his handsome face, Andrew took a seat next to his best friend and laid a hand on her back, rubbing gently,
"Angel Girl?"

Upon hearing his concerned voice, Monica gently released her hold on Patrick and turned to face her best friend. Seeing the tears in his own eyes, the little Irish angel only broke down again and fell into his waiting arms, clinging tightly to him,
"You know, too, Andrew?"

"Yes, sweetheart," He stared over Monica's shoulder at Carol and Patrick, who had took each other's hands into their own and were holding tightly to one another. Sighing deeply, he rubbed his friend's back and choked out through his tears,
"I know now..."

Silence passed between the two angels and two humans before they finally released each other and faced Carol and Patrick once again. The woman was the first to speak, breaking the silence in the air,
"Love, we wanted to tell you so much...But we love you two so much, and we didn't want to ruin anything before Cindy's wedding."

"I can understand that, Carol," Monica choked out as she felt her earthly "mother's" hand running through her hair, although it was still fastened high up on her head,
"You guys are such an important part of our existence...you and Cindy. You have been for so many years..."

"As have you two angels, and Tess," Patrick gently interrupted, giving his wife's hand a squeeze,
"Our lives have changed because of you, and for that reason alone, we'll be forever grateful even when..." He didn't continue the sentence, however, as he knew what these angels knew he meant. Instead, he sighed and looked over at Andrew, motioning with his hand to him,
"Come sit next to me, son. I want you both to know something."

Doing as he requested, the blonde angel walked around Monica and sat on Patrick's other side, watching as the human who had come to mean so much to him and his best friend looked back and forth between them,
"I don't know if you two realize what a joy it has been to have you two special angels in our existence since you came into our life as a wee baby, Monica. I know I didn't show it then, and I still berate myself for not even realizing what a blessing you were; but I do now, and you two are not just angels in our lives, but friends as well. Cindy loves you, and Wendy loved you as well..." At the mere mention of Cindy's twin sister, the tears once again came to Carol and Patrick's eyes, but they chose to ignore them as the elderly man continued to speak,
"And we love you. Even after I'm gone, I want you and Andrew to still visit the house every once in a while, all right?"

"We promise, Patrick," Andrew whispered, nodding his head as he felt Patrick pat him gently on the back.

Once again, silence filled the air and no more words were spoken, even as Patrick reached his arms out and gathered the two precious angels in their lives close to him, while they continued to sit on the bench. Carol still stood above them, running her hand gently over Monica's back as she watched the scene, and the tears came full force once again.

Oh, how was she going to handle everything after her beloved husband was out of her life forever?

After having told Cindy that she wanted to go and look for Andrew, as she wanted to talk to him, Heather left the reception room at the church and headed outside. She hadn't spotted the angel anywhere inside of the room, so she thought it would be best to look someplace else. Breathing in the cool night air, and smiling for the first time in a few weeks, the young woman headed out over to where the small lake was; but as she neared it, she stopped short as she saw four figures. Three of them were seated on a bench, the one in the middle had his arms around the two figures, and the fourth was standing above them, gently stroking the woman's hair who was seated on the bench.

Taking a step closer, not wanting anyone to see her, Heather frowned as she suddenly recognized these people...and angels. Monica and Andrew were the ones seated on either side of Cindy's father, and that was the bride's mother standing over them. What was going on? Neither angel had appeared sad before the wedding had started, but now they were all in tears.

What could have happened that was so horrible to cause this? Her curiosity reached its peak, but instead of interrupting what was going on by the lake, the human sighed softly and lowered her head before heading back to the church, determined to talk to Andrew when he came back.

Chapter 16

"We'd best be getting back inside," Patrick said with a soft sigh, as he rose to his feet and reached for Carol's hand.

"We'll be in shortly," Andrew replied quietly, glancing over at his best friend who was gazing down at her folded hands in her lap to try to keep them from trembling.

Patrick nodded as he rested a hand on Andrew's shoulder for a moment before bending down to kiss the top of Monica's head,
"We'll see you inside."

As Patrick and Carol departed hand in hand, Andrew turned to his friend and charge and sighed softly,
"Cindy and Brady believe that the cancer has gone to his liver. If that's the case, Monica, we aren't looking at much time."

"Weeks or months?" She whispered shakily.

"Weeks at best, sweetheart," He replied regretfully, noticing how she never raised her head to look at him,
"Carol is really going to need us…"

"I know," Monica replied, her voice sounding hollow, even to her.

Feeling frustration mixing with his grief, he tried once more to get her to open up to him,
"I know how hard this is, Monica-."

"Andrew," She whispered, cutting him off in mid-sentence,
"Please don't…not right now. Not if I'm expected to walk back in there, because I can't…"She drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly, before she finally looked up at him,
"I could really use that time alone right now, my friend."

His handsome face filled with distress at the tears welling up in her already swollen eyes,
"And I don't think that is a good idea at all," He began as gently as he could.

"Andrew, please," Monica begged softly,
"I need to stay strong for them and I can't do that right now. I just need a little time, an hour to just…"

"To just what, Angel Girl?" He continued sternly, though his emerald eyes shone with love and concern for her,
"To get accustomed to the idea? To accept it?" He regretted his words immediately as he saw a tear trickle down her cheek and she looked down once more.

"Andrew, if I go back in there now…I don't have it together enough to not feel completely selfish. I need a little time before I…to deal with some things I'm feeling. I know that this is not about me, I know that, but I love that man, Andrew…and I don't know how to watch him suffer with this disease."

Tears falling from his eyes, he reached out to pull her into his arms, but she stopped him gently, yet firmly, before rising to her feet.

"Please don't, Andrew," Seeing the hurt in his eyes, she looked away once more as her tears spilled over,
"No, it's not you, it's me. You're my dearest friend, Andrew and I love you, but right now, I just need to be by myself. Please understand."

Andrew nodded his head slowly as he stood up and shrugged out of his tuxedo jacket. Lovingly, he placed it around her shoulders, his hands holding onto the ends, which were just beneath her chin,
"We'll talk later, little one, okay?"

Seeing his hopeful expression, she nodded her head as she reached up and touched his cheek,
"Thank you."

Closing his eyes at the feel of her hand, he said softly,
"Angel Girl, I'm so sorry about Patrick…"

"Me too," She whispered, letting her hand fall back to her side,
"I need to walk."

Andrew watched as she walked down towards the lake and he sighed, knowing he needed to go and find Heather, but his eyes lingered on his best friend for another moment,
"You won't shut me out, Monica," He uttered softly,
"I won't let you."

Andrew didn't have to look very far to find Heather, as she found him first, her eyes filled with concern,
"Andrew, what was going on outside? I saw you and your friend with Cindy's parents and-."

He wrapped an arm around her shoulders; glad when she didn't shrug it off, as he didn't think he could take that right now. Seeing as they were out of earshot of anyone else at the reception, he explained quietly,
"Patrick is dying, Heather. He has cancer and he and Carol just told Monica and I. We suspected something was going on and this confirmed it."

"That's what Cindy meant." The young woman gasped, tears filling her eyes,
"She said she felt a bond with me, but that she couldn't explain it yet. The bond was my mom and her dad."

The angel nodded his head sadly,
"Apparently that was what she meant, Heather. Maybe she was hoping to talk to you about how you handled it when you lost Erin."

"Why? Because I handled it so well?" She replied, her voice tinged with sarcasm, before she sighed,
"I like Cindy a lot, but she believes that God is the answer to all of her problems and I just cannot feel that way," Her eyes came to rest on Carol and Patrick Hendrickson, who were sharing a dance together and she shook her head,
"See, Andrew, your God and I will never see eye to eye. You know why?" Not waiting for the angel to reply, she continued,
"Because he takes a nice old guy like Patrick and 'blesses' him with one of the worst diseases that we battle in our culture today, while other people run around doing terrible things, like killing other people. So while the murderer out on the street keeps doing his thing, in the meantime, Carol because a widow and Cindy losses her father. Patrick never gets to see his grandchildren, but I suppose you'll say that is okay, because he's going to heaven and that makes it all right." As she spoke, her voice became sharper and her cheeks were flushed with anger.

Andrew took in a deep breath, as he had not expected this from her. No, she was no longer denouncing God, but now she just plain didn't like Him,
"Heather, honey, God didn't give Patrick cancer…"

"But does He or does He not have the power to take it away, Andrew?" She countered hotly,
"He's more powerful than anyone, right?"

"But He gave humans free will, Heather, and Patrick used that free will years ago to drink heavily and now it has caught up to him. No, he is not that man any longer, but his body is only human and is suffering the ill effects of all that liquor so long ago," Andrew tried to explain gently, but feeling like he was going nowhere fast. His grief over Patrick's news, his concern over the Hendricksons' and Monica were making this conversation more than difficult for him.

"So your God is punishing him then, for what he did so long ago in abusing alcohol?" She tossed back at him.

"No! It isn't like that, Heather. God doesn't work that way. He loves all of His children, regardless of the mistakes they make."

"So what mistake did my mother make, Andrew? Answer me that?" Tears wet her eyes but she forced them back.

"Erin was up in the years, and human bodies are not made to last forever, Heather," The angel explained, wishing he had reinforcements about now.

"Because He made them that way! He doesn't care about the heartache of those who are left behind. So don't go talking to me about your wonderful God, because a God who would do these kinds of things to His 'children' as you call us, is not a friend of mine, Andrew!" Too angry to further the discussion, Heather turned on her heel and walked away, leaving the angel to stare after her in complete shock.

Monica had never felt so angry in her entire existence. As she walked around the lake, she struggled with her emotions, hating the way that she felt right now. She had been angry before, with Brady, with Andrew and even with Tess from time to time. But this anger at the Father was something new for her and something she was anything but comfortable with.

She knew that all human bodies had to die and though it broke her heart to think of Patrick not being here on earth when she stop to pay a visit, she had known deep inside that the day would one day come. Patrick, as much as she loved him, was not infallible and she knew that.

But her anger stemmed from the way he was to live his days on this earth-in pain and suffering. She had been around cancer victims before and had seen what the horrible disease could do to humans and this family had already suffered so much. Carol had suffered through years of Patrick's drinking, and then their "daughter" had been taken from them as Monica had revealed herself to be an angel. Then years later, they had suffered through Wendy's death immediately followed by Patrick's heart attack. While she knew of the pain that all humans faced just in living each day, a part of her felt that this was "her" family, her earthly family; a family that God had allowed her to spend time with over the last 40 years, so why couldn't He spare them this pain now?

Hot tears filled her eyes once more as she thought about all of this, the unfairness of it all and she knew she could not walk back into that reception hall again. Though happy for Cindy and Brady, she felt unable to face anyone right now, so great was the pain in her heart. She felt selfish in feeling this way, knowing how afraid Patrick must be of the days ahead, but her grief and anger were too great right now to be able to hide away.

With tears streaming down her face, she headed out towards the road, not caring about the cars that passed her as she sobbed openly during the two-mile walk back to the Hendrickson's home. As she let herself in, the darkness of the house surrounded her as she headed for the stairs and flipped on the light that lit the stairway.

Her eyes immediately were drawn to the numerous pictures on the wall and she looked at them through blurred vision. There were pictures of Carol and Patrick together and pictures of them with the twins when they were smaller and as they grew up. A trembling smile crossed her face as her eyes came to rest on a picture that had been taken the day Patrick, the twins, she and Andrew had played baseball in the back yard. Her best friend had Wendy up on his shoulders, while Cindy was wedged between herself and Patrick.

Then her dark eyes came to rest on a picture she didn't even remember having been taken of she and Patrick. They were both smiling widely as the Irishman's forehead touched hers. Reaching out, she touched his face in the picture, before she looked away, unable to gaze at it any longer.

Wrapping her arms around herself, she started upstairs and walked into her room. Kicking the shoes off of her aching feet, the angel didn't even bother to change clothes as she lay down on the bed, Andrew's jacket still around her shoulders, and cried herself into an exhausted sleep.

Chapter 17

"How are you doing, Angel Boy?"

The sudden sound of Rose's gentle voice caused Andrew's green eyes to widen in surprise, as he hadn't heard her voice, or seen her, in over 6 months. Fresh tears welling up in his saddened eyes, he turned around slowly and came face to face with his former supervisor. The two angels just stared at one another in silence for a few moments before the eldest angel held her arms out to him in a loving offering. Sighing, Andrew lowered his head and went over to her, wrapping his arms around her as tightly as he could. It had seemed like forever since he had last seen her; how had she known that they had needed her now?

"It's great to see you, Rose," He whispered into her shoulder, feeling her hands working their way through his silky blonde hair,
"How did you know what was going on...?"

"Honey, you know that the Father will tell His angels anything they need to know about, even when they're not on the case," She whispered into his ear, holding him even tighter. She had missed her friend desperately, and not only was she making up for 6 months of hugs, but she had overheard the conversation he had with Heather as well as with the Hendrickson's, and it broke her heart to know what was going to happen to Patrick,
"I'm so sorry to hear about Patrick, Andrew..."

Sighing once more, Andrew nodded his head before pulling away from his friend's arms, looking deep into her blue eyes,
"Rose, did you know about Patrick's health...?"

Shaking her head, the red-haired angel's eyes filled with sympathy as she answered,
"No, Angel Boy, I didn't. I just learned about it the same time you did. I take it things aren't going so well with Heather either..."

"She's so angry, Rose! Not only at me, but the Father as well...especially the Father!" He threw his hands up in the air and allowed his shoulders to droop,
"And Monica's trying to shut me out again...She wanted to be alone for a few hours, and I tried to tell her that wasn't a good idea, but she wouldn't listen; she was so determined, and I finally relented..." His voice caught in his throat and he fought back another round of tears,
"She loves Patrick so much, as do I; we care about this entire family, and they've gone through so much! But I know that it's not God's fault...but Heather will have none of it, and Monica is hurting so much after hearing that news..."

"And so are you, right, honey?" Rose sympathetically asked, laying a gentle hand on his arm and patting it.

Lowering his eyes to avoid hers, the blonde angel sighed deeply before nodding his head slightly,
"I hate to admit it, but yes...I know that Monica is closer to the family then I am, and she was their daughter for 13 years; but I've come to love them just as much, Rose, and I know that as an angel I will see Patrick again after he dies...But it does hurt to admit that he will die soon, as he's come to mean so much to us."

"I know he has, Andrew," The older angel sighed softly and shook her head,
"I'm going to be here for a few days, as I'm going to be Patrick's nurse when he admits himself into the hospital tomorrow morning. But I'm also here for you and Monica, along with Carol, whenever you need me, Angel Boy; so don't hesitate to come to me for help, all right?"

A weak smile played on the youngest angel's mouth as he slowly nodded his head. Before he turned to head back into the church to see if Monica had possibly come back yet, Andrew wrapped his supervisor in another tight hug. Feeling her embrace him just as tightly, the handsome angel whispered into her shoulder weakly,
"I love you, Rose."

"And I love you, Andrew, just as much."

After having danced with her new husband, Cindy looked deep into Brady's eyes and whispered into his ear,
"I'm going to go see if I can find Heather, honey. I haven't seen her in a while, as well as Andrew and Monica. I want to make sure they're okay..." A few tears formed in her eyes, as she knew that her parents had taken both angels outside to tell them the truth, and she hadn't seem them since. When Patrick and Carol had come back in, they were by themselves, explaining to their daughter that the two angels who had come to mean so much to the humans needed some time alone and would be back soon.

But except for a brief glance at seeing Andrew on the dance floor a half hour ago, he had soon disappeared into the crowd and that was the last time she saw him; he appeared to be searching for someone, and Cindy guessed that it could be none other then Monica.

Knowing that her friend was watching out for the angel who was so much like a real sister to her, the new bride decided to take upon the task of finding Heather and talking with her. Wherever she was, that is.

"I'll be back in a while, all right?" She smiled lovingly at Brady and gave him a gentle kiss as he nodded his head in reply.

"Go on. I think I saw her a few minutes ago, and she did not look happy. I think she needs you, honey..." Glancing over her shoulder and spotting the human, who was sitting alone at a table, Brady nodded his head in her direction,
"There she is."

Following his gaze, Cindy smiled gratefully at him,
"I'll be back."

Her eyes on the human, who was twiddling with her fork with a piece of untouched cake in front of her, Cindy's heart filled with sympathy as she quietly took a seat next to the young woman. But even if Heather noticed her there, she didn't acknowledge her presence; instead she just continued to rest her cheek in her hand and stare down at the tabletop.

Breaking the tense silence, Cindy pushed her veil out of her friendly eyes and laid a compassionate hand on her shoulder,
"Are you all right, Heather?"

Not meeting the new bride's gaze, as her heart was still filled with anger not only with Andrew, but with everything that had happened, the woman scowled,
"Oh just peachy dandy..."

"Heather, I can tell something is on your mind, and you want to talk, I'm here to listen. I want to be your friend if you'll allow me to-"

"I don't want any friends right now," Erin's daughter snapped in reply, finally raising her head and meeting her eyes. Cindy nearly gasped as she saw the deep pain and anger in them, but chose not to say anything, knowing Heather needed to speak,
"I don't want any angels, I don't want any friends, and I don't want God! So don't start preaching to me, Cindy, because that's the last thing I need."

"I wasn't going to 'preach to you', Heather," Cindy pointed out, feeling it was best to at least come to her own defense so that this angry woman wouldn't think that was why she was here,
"I'm here because I'm concerned about you-"

"Well don't be," Heather lowered her voice slightly, so as to not cause the newlywed's friends and family to stare at them,
"I don't want anyone to care about me or be concerned about me. Now, I mean no offense to you and all, but I really want to be alone." And without saying anything else, she rose to her feet and headed for the door, soon disappearing behind it.

Andrew didn't know why he went there, but he soon found himself standing in the living room of the Hendrickson's house a little over an hour later and he looked around, taking everything in. The last time he was here was just this morning, and everything had been different then. But now, things had changed for the worse, and he couldn't seem to look at even the living room without memories rushing to him.

Taking a step into the kitchen, a flood of memories suddenly rushed at him at full speed. He didn't know why he was remembering these things now, as he was just here not too long ago, but upon hearing Patrick's news to him and his best friend, he found his heart breaking as he found himself remembering a time when the twins were only 9 years old.

(Flashback)

"Cindy, that's not how you're supposed to decorate an angel cookie!" Wendy scolded as she folded her arms across her chest and stared at her sister, who was decorating her Christmas cookie with yellow and green,
"It's supposed to be red, not yellow!"

"I can decorate it any color I want!" Cindy retorted back, lifting her chin and grinning up at Andrew,
"Right, Andrew? See, I'm making you!" The little girl held up her cookie and the angel couldn't help but chuckle as he saw that she had decorated the angel cookie with yellow on the top of his head, which resembled his blonde hair, and she had added green sprinkles as well. Now, the little girl was trying her hardest to make wings out of the cookie dough and Andrew laughed out loud as he saw Wendy roll her eyes before going back to making her own Christmas cookie.

"I say it's very nice, honey," He winked at her before turning towards Wendy, gazing down at what she was making,
"So, Wendy...Your sister can't make me as an angel cookie, but you can make Monica as one?"

The sound of her name causing Monica's head to rise from where she was putting all of the condiments from that evening's cookie making fest back into the cupboard, she raised her eyebrow and stared at her best friend and the two girls,
"Did I hear my name called? Did someone say they're making me as an angel cookie? This I have to see..."

Wendy proudly put the finishing touches on her cookie and lifted it up in the air for the Irish angel to see,
"See? Mine are Christmas colors, but Cindy's aren't!" The twins stuck their tongues out at one another, and this caused Andrew to clutch his stomach in laughter. Seeing his friend look down at the angel cookie, he smirked as her brown eyes widened. Wendy had decorated it so that there were red sparkles on where her head was, and a green dress was on sprinkled on her as well. Monica giggled as she saw this and nodded her head,
"Oh yes indeed...That is me. But Wendy, I thought I had brown eyes, not red ones."

This comment causing Andrew to double over laughing, with Cindy soon following, Wendy smirked at the angels and before any of them knew it, she had grabbed a ball of dough and had thrown it at her sister's face. Instead of taking it as an insult, however, Cindy howled in laughter and grabbed the spoon from the wooden bowl next to her and tossed some her sister's way, the cookie dough now in her blonde hair.

"Food fight!" Wendy screamed in delight and before Andrew or Monica could stop her, she had jumped up from her chair and was heading towards the counter where Monica was recently in the process of trying to organize the stuff and put it away. She grabbed the bowl of left over dough and tossed it over Andrew's head. The blonde angel grabbed the little girl around the waist and lifted her high over his head, tickling her until tears of laughter came to their eyes. As the two angels and two girls continued throwing food and cookie dough at one another, the sound of the kitchen door opening caused them all to turn around; before too long, Patrick was covered with cookie dough and other gooey foods.

Raising an eyebrow and gazing over at the two angels, who were covered from head to toe with stickiness and even a little bit of red punch from the pitcher on the table, Patrick winked at his daughters before heading over to them,
"You know what happens, lass, when I come home and find a food fight in the making?" Before they could answer, he reached for the bowl that Wendy had put back down and smirked at the two young angels,
"I join in!"

And before long, a full-fledged food fight had begun; laughter and high-pitched squeals were heard all over the house, and Andrew couldn't remember a time when he had so much fun.

(End Flashback)

As the memory came to a close, and Andrew found himself looking at the kitchen again where this food fight had taken place, he sighed and wiped at the tears that had started up in his green eyes. He really missed those days, and he knew that his best friend had to missing them more then he did. Closing his eyes, he did his best to push his own sadness aside for the time being and climbed up the stairs to see if his best friend and charge was in one of the rooms.

As he neared the room where Monica had been sleeping, he opened up the door and poked his head inside. There she was, sound asleep, but the angel didn't miss the slight trembling of her shoulders even as she continued to wear his tuxedo jacket. The tears now falling freely down his face, he kept the light turned off and headed over to her, taking a seat on a chair beside the bed. He just continued to stare at his dearest angelic friend for a few minutes before he turned around and grabbed the angel bear that was sitting on the nearby dresser. As he held it in his hands, he knelt down beside of the bed and as if Monica knew that he was there, she reached her hands out and he laid it into her arms gently, watching her cuddle the white bear to her chest.

Leaning down, Andrew laid a soft kiss upon her forehead, even as she continued to sleep, and with a soft sigh, he rested his head upon the bed next to his friend, an arm draped over her, and before he knew it, he too had fallen into a deep sleep.

Chapter 18

"Why is it, lassie, that you always say good-bye to me last?" Patrick asked with a wink as she and Andrew prepared to leave the Hendrickson home to go back to work.

Monica blushed slightly as she gazed up at him on the front porch,
"I never really thought about it until now," She admitted with a smile,
"But if I think about it, it is because though I love your entire family with all my heart, it is you that I miss the most."

Tears filled Patrick's eyes as he rested his hands on her shoulders,
"Even after all I did to you so long ago, little angel?" He whispered softly.

"I've come to realize something about that time, Patrick," Monica replied, her dark eyes never leaving his,
"If you had not been the man you were back then, I never would have been sent to this family to begin with. I was sent as I had a lesson to learn and had you been a model parent back then, there would have been nothing for me to learn and I would have missed out on knowing you and your wonderful family altogether."

"I was a terrible father to you, lass," He sighed sadly, but Monica refused to let him dwell in that dark place.

"But you are a wonderful friend now," She smiled as she wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tightly,
"To me and to Andrew and I don't know what I'd do without you."

"Let's go, Angel Girl," Andrew called to her,
"We've got an assignment. Say good-bye to Patrick…say good-bye to Patrick…say good-bye…"

Andrew awoke just before the dawn the next morning to find his best friend murmuring in her sleep, her sleeping face filled with deep remorse. Sitting up, he gently moved to stroke her hair, most of which had fallen out of the hair clip during the night, watching as she began to quiet from the gentle touch.

He vaguely remembered Carol and Patrick coming in here last night, relief in both their eyes at finding the two angels. Andrew had been so exhausted; he had allowed Carol to help him into bed beside of his friend when he had wearily protested leaving Monica. The last thing he had remembered was the quilt being drawn over he and his friend as Monica had snuggled up against him, her head resting just underneath of his chin, before sleep had claimed him once more.

Now, with a soft whimper, the younger angel inched closer to him before she stilled once more and he sighed sadly. He had never felt so worried before about so many. He had no idea what to do about Heather at this point, other than to give her a bit of time to cool off. The Hendricksons', though they appeared strong had to be scared half to death about the days ahead as Patrick prepared to face the cancer that would eventually take his life. Then of course, there was Monica, who was assigned to them and seemingly trying so hard to keep her emotions to herself.

Though filled with grief himself over Heather, Patrick and his best friend, he had been frantic trying to find her at the reception last night, before he had realized that perhaps she had walked to the home she had once shared with her human family. He was so concerned about her internalizing everything about this and unsure of how to get her to not do that with him. She needed an outlet, especially if she was determined to be brave for her "family" and he wanted her to know that she could and should let her guard down with him. On top of that, things were such a mess right now, that he needed her as well. He needed her gentle comfort and her unwavering friendship and loyalty in this time of trouble for all of them. But ever since Philip, when her heart ached at it's worst, she tended to keep it all inside, but why?

His thoughts were interrupted as Monica opened her red-rimmed eyes slowly. His fingers had continued to absent mindedly run through her bangs as he had been thinking and now she looked up at him sleepily.

"Andrew," She whispered groggily, still not quite awake as she closed her eyes once more,
"What time is Patrick…"

"Not till later," He whispered softly in reply, wondering if this was the right time to ask her this, but there was almost a sleepy contentment about her at the moment as she was still caught in that place between sleep and wakefulness,
"Angel Girl, tell me something, please?" Taking the slight movement of her head as a nod, he continued in the same soft tone,
"You know how much I love you and how much I hate to see you hurting and I can always tell when you are, even if you aren't willing to share it with me. What I don't always understand is why you feel you need to hide it from me in the first place."

Monica was quiet for a moment as she tried to fight off her drowsiness enough to answer him. His hand in her hair made her feel like it would all somehow be all right again one day as just for the moment she felt warm and safe…loved,
"I think because you feel so much of what I feel," She whispered, still not opening her eyes,
"When I hurt you feel it right down to your soul, Andrew. I know you do as I've seen it in your eyes; the sadness that fills them when I cry…and so many times in the past, you somehow felt so badly that you thought that maybe you could've changed things for me if only you'd tried harder…and whenever you felt that way, you would leave…"

He blinked back tears at her simple honesty as his voice became choked,
"Baby girl, you know I promised you…"

"I know," She interrupted softly,
"And I believe you, but there is still this wee little part of my brain, I think, that is still afraid, and I need you too much right now to even remember how badly it hurt when you would go."

"Listen to me," Andrew whispered back to her, his hand moving to stroke her cheek,
"I will not leave you to handle this alone; to handle anything alone, ever again. I know you want to stay strong for Patrick and his family, but I want you to know that I am a place that you can go and not be strong. I know how afraid you are of seeing him suffer-I can feel the fear in you, but I'd rather hear you tell me, okay?"

Monica was quiet for a moment as a tear slid down her cheek to his hand,
"I'm afraid, Andrew. I'm afraid I won't be able to watch him suffer with this. He needs me to be an angel now as opposed to his daughter, and I have to be that. But last night, I was so angry…angry with the Father, Andrew, and I've never felt that before and that scared me too."

Completely understanding now, he kissed the top of her head,
"Talk to Him, sweetheart. You know He didn't cause this and that He loves Patrick."

"I know that in my heart," She whispered, her Irish voice filled with melancholy.

"Then that's the only place you truly need to know it," Andrew replied gently, before deciding on telling her what else was on his mind. It was a simple moment of pure honesty between them and he wanted to hold onto it as long as he could, before the sun broke through the sky and the day that would be filled with grief and worry would break the spell,
"Angel Girl, I love them too."

Her eyes opened at those simple words that said so much and regret filled her delicate features,
"Oh Andrew, I'm so sorry. I know you do, but at that moment, I just didn't realize how much Patrick's news had to be hurting you too," Moving she wrapped her arms tightly around him,
"I'm sorry," Her fingers brushed through his disheveled blond hair as she repeated the words that she meant with all her heart,
"I never meant to forget you."

"I know you didn't and I didn't say that to make you feel badly," He whispered into her ear,
"I think I just wanted you to know that I understand how you feel, because I feel it too. I've grown to love him as a friend, and I love him as well for loving you the way he does."

"What happened with Heather last night?" She asked, sensing that there was more and she listened as he told her,
"I'm sorry, my friend," Monica said as he finished,
"But I understand in part how she feels now. She just needs to see all the good things the Father does as well."

"I hope she will one day," Andrew replied sadly, before they fell into a comfortable silence for a moment.

Pulling away, she settled back down onto her pillow, her hands resting underneath her cheek as she closed her eyes once more,
"Do you know what I wish?" Monica asked, a sad smile on her lips.

"What, little one?" Andrew asked softly as they still spoke in the same whispered tones.

"I wish that if I just kept my eyes closed that I could keep today from coming," Came the soft reply.

"I know," He smiled sadly down at her, as he stroked her temple gently.

"Do you remember the time we had the food fight in the kitchen?" Her sleepy smile broadened, as she seemed to be reliving the memory in her mind.

"I was just thinking about that last night, remembering your demonic red cookie eyes," He teased softly, watching as she smiled for a brief moment. After a minute he thought perhaps she had drifted back off to sleep, but just as the sun broke through the spring sky, her whisper broke the silence once more.

"Andrew?"

"Yes, baby?" He replied, seeing the slight tremble go through her body.

"I'm really going to miss him."

Andrew sighed softly as he nodded and kissed the top of her head,
"I know, sweet girl. So will I."

Late that afternoon, Patrick was admitted to the hospital for tests and exploratory surgery was scheduled for the following morning, in an attempt to identify where his abdominal pain was coming from. The Irishman, though he looked tired and a bit peaked, continued to laugh and joke with his family and the angels. Carol sat on the side of his bed, holding his hand the entire time, while Cindy was constantly checking for what his doctors had written on his chart.

As if not having enough to worry about, Andrew felt himself growing concerned for the young woman as well, as she seemed for the moment at least to be trying to see her father's illness from purely a medical perspective. She fussed over his vital signs, what he ate for lunch and how tired he looked until the angel felt a bit of relief when she finally went to meet Brady on his dinner break. The newly married couple had elected to take a honeymoon later, due to Patrick's condition, but despite it all, Cindy was still a newlywed and very happy to finally be Mrs. Brady Sullivan.

After her daughter had departed, Carol excused herself to walk out of the room and with a gentle squeeze to his best friend's tense shoulders he followed her. Andrew found her in the waiting room, trying her best to ward off the tears.

"Carol?" He said softly, as he sat down in a chair across from her.

She managed a smile as he reached for her hand,
"I guess tomorrow when he comes out of surgery, we'll know all we need to know, Andrew," She said softly,
"But to tell you the truth, a part of me thinks that it's easier not to know."

He nodded his head in understanding,
"Carol, you do know that no matter what happens, that Patrick will be all right?" He asked her softly.

"Dear Andrew," She looked up him tearfully, a look of thankfulness on her face,
"We've had two wonderful angels in our lives for 40 years now. Patrick and I both know that this will turn out just fine for him in the end. I just have to figure out how to go on without him."

"Carol, we don't even know for sure if tomorrow's surgery will bring bad news," He implored her gently, but stopped as she shook her head.

"I know in my heart, Andrew, that this disease has progressed and so does he. The surgery tomorrow is just a formality to us. We've spent hours talking the last few weeks, getting things in order and all of that. There are just some things that you just know, and now that Cindy is married and you and Monica are here, he is ready, I think, to face this."

"We're here as long as you need us, Carol," He said softly,
"I may be in and out, but Monica will be here all the time and even if or when this is over, if you need her to stay on for awhile, I will do everything in my power to arrange that for both of you."

"Promise me something, Andrew and Patrick wants this too. She was my daughter once, so I know her and today, I can tell how brave she is trying to be. We know that you are both angels, but we also know how much you both love Patrick, especially Monica. Their relationship has always been so special to Patrick and he is so worried about her now. If it gets to be too much for her, don't hesitate to give her a break from it, along with yourself. You will both be an even greater blessing to us now, bridging that gap between here and where he is going. I just remember those years ago, when Patrick found her in the woods and if she is grieving that hard through this…" She shook her head, finding the words difficult.

"Carol, don't you worry about that okay? I am keeping a close eye on Monica. She's my friend and my charge and in both cases, it is my job, so to speak, and we're both keeping a close eye on all of you. But to answer your concerns, yes, I'll know if she needs a break and I will make sure she gets it," Seeing the relief in her eyes for her angelic "daughter", he continued gently,
"You just make sure that you ask for help if you need it. This could be a very hard time for all of us, Carol."

"I just want him to suffer as little as possible, Andrew," She whispered,
"That's my greatest fear-of him being in pain with this disease."

He smiled then, remembering something he had forgotten to tell even Monica,
"Rose is going to be his nurse, Carol, and I know she will keep him as comfortable as possible."

The tears in her eyes now spilling down her cheeks, Carol moved and wrapped her arms around the angel,
"Thank you, Andrew. Thank you so much."

Chapter 19

After Carol had released Andrew after several minutes, the human and angel both looked up to the sound of footsteps coming their way. Expecting it to be Patrick's doctor, but finding out that it wasn't as soon as they looked up, Andrew frowned in confusion as he saw Katherine heading their way,
"Katherine?" He rose to his feet slowly and made his way over to her, helping her to sit down in one of the empty chairs,
"Kath, what are you doing here?" The blonde angel took a seat next to her and stared worriedly at her. There was a fear in her green eyes that startled him, and he could only guess why she was here right now. The human had never met Carol, Patrick or Cindy, although he had mentioned the family to her; so he assumed she was here because of Heather, but then again, he didn't see how she would know about Patrick's health...So he was left guessing.

"Andrew, I tried, I really tried," She started, looking worriedly into her friend's green eyes.

His frowning deepening, Andrew took her wrinkled hand into his gently and asked, his gaze turning from Katherine to Carol and back again,
"What do you mean, Katherine? I'm confused..."

"Andrew...Heather left. She's gone."

As soon as those words came out of Katherine's mouth, Andrew's eyes widened in shock and he didn't know what to say for a few moments before he gasped out,
"W-what...? Kath, what do you mean she's gone? She's been with us this last week-"

"I know, Andrew," The elderly human squeezed his hand tightly, almost afraid to say the next words,
"And I appreciate what you tried to do for her, I really do, and Erin would as well...But, after the wedding last night, Heather came back to the house and explained what had happened-her conversation with you to be exact." Sighing deeply and lowering her eyes, she kept them lowered even as she continued to talk,
"Afterwards, she told me that she was leaving, as she didn't want to have anything else to do with you or any other angels, as she put it..."

"Did she say where she was going?" Andrew choked out, his eyes showing more and more concern by the minute and they started to fill up with tears. Heather was in no condition to be by herself at the time, and he had been hoping that she knew that. But obviously, she didn't.

Not knowing how she was going to say, Katherine turned to her right and looked at Carol, who nodded her head in reassurance,
"Go ahead, honey. Where did that sweet girl go?"

Finally turning back to her friend, and angel, she looked at him as she finally whispered,
"She told me that she was going to go and be with Erin."

Heather stopped her car at a rest stop, after having been driving for several hours now, and killed the ignition sharply. Sighing deeply, the woman tiredly leaned her head up against the steering wheel and shook it. She knew what she had told Katherine that morning when she had left, about her going to be with Erin; but although a huge part of her wanted to do just that, another small part was frightened about what the consequences would be. Would her mother be angry at her for taking her own life? Sighing again, she lifted her head and was about to open the car door to step out and get some air, a voice beside her caused her to jump.

"Heather Graham, I know you don't want to do this."

Whirling around, furry starting up inside of her upon seeing a strange woman she had never seen before sitting next to her in the passenger seat,
"Excuse me, but who are you?" She snapped angrily, although she was kind of frightened upon seeing her appear out of nowhere.

"My name is Tess, and I'm an angel to put it bluntly," Tess firmly explained, her brown eyes locked on the woman, who's hand was still on the car doorknob,
"Yes, an angel just like Andrew is. He's a good friend of mine, actually, and so is Monica. So I know who you are, baby, and I know what you're planning on doing-"

"Look, Tess, or whatever your name is, you don't know nothing about me!" Heather snapped back once again, a few tears starting to fill her eyes against her will. Angrily, she brushed them away only to be replaced by new ones. Frustrated, she turned back to Tess and continued,
"So you can just take your angel butt back to the hospital, where Patrick is laying there dying like my mother died, and stay away from me! And you can tell Andrew to stay away from me as well."

"I know that Angel Boy well enough to know that he will never stay away from you, until you know the truth, baby," Tess firmly told her, crossing her arms in front of her chest,
"And I think you know that. Baby, what has you so angry here-"

"That's none of your business, Tess," Heather turned her head abruptly away and stared out the window,
"And I have every reason to be angry, you know? My mother is dead-"

"Don't you think I know that, Heather?" Tess demanded, grabbing the woman's arm and turning her around to face her,
"I knew Erin as well; and so did Andrew and Monica! We were all there during Andrea's death and funeral, and afterwards as well. Andrew had known Erin ever since she was 17 years old, and made a promise to her to be there with her during her final hours; and he did just that. He misses her too, you know? Baby, the Father didn't let Erin die a horrific death; she had reached an age where it's time for her to leave this world and go to be with God-"

"I told you angels a million times, I don't want to have anything to do with your God!" She turned her head around to face the angel again, her eyes blazing,
"I didn't want my mother to die just yet! I needed her! And now, there's Patrick, a man who has done nothing to harm anyone for a long time, and he's dying from cancer! You say that God is so wonderful? Well then heal him and bring my mom back to me!"

"Heather Anne Graham, are you even LISTENING to me?" Tess snapped, her patience reaching its peak,
"I KNOW that you're angry. I KNOW that you miss Erin. I KNOW you're mad at God, and He understands that! But will you at least have the decency to come back with me to the hospital, and quit being so selfish? You need some help, and I know of someone who can give it to you." She saw the human open her mouth and start to reply back, but Tess stopped her suddenly with a held up hand,
"No, it's not Andrew. It's someone who knows pain, someone who lost a loved one just like you...when she was 13 years old, Heather. It's Cindy, baby. Cindy lost her twin sister Wendy, and she misses her like crazy every single day. Now, you can go ahead and be stubborn and refuse this offer; you can continue to think only of yourself and how you're feeling. But I'm telling you, I've known Cindy since she was a baby, Heather, and she could help you in a way you can't even imagine if you only go back."

Andrew walked down the hospital hallway, in search of his best friend after leaving Carol and Katherine together to talk. Not sure of what else to do, he just walked around until he came to the elevator. Pushing the button for Down, he rode it all the way to the first floor and headed to the cafeteria where he suspected Monica would be. If she were as miserable as he thought she was now, then she would most likely go there to get a cup of coffee.

Finding that she was the only one there, Andrew sighed as he saw the way her auburn hair fell into her brown eyes and the way she was twiddling with her coffee cup. Heading over to her chair and taking a seat next to his friend, the older angel laid a hand on her shoulder and watched as she finally lifted her head to meet his,
"Angel Girl."

"Andrew..." Right as she was about to talk, she saw a deep concern and sorrow in his green eyes. Her heart leaped into her throat as she suspected that something was wrong with Patrick,
"Andrew, it's Patrick isn't it...something's wrong-?"

Gently interrupting her, Andrew reached for her hand and offered a weak smile for her sake,
"No, Monica, Patrick's doing as well as can be expected. His condition hasn't changed since the last time you asked..." Here he stopped, and looked down at the tabletop, rubbing the Irish angel's hand with his fingers. It was only his friend's concerned voice that brought his head back up to meet her eyes.

"Then what is it, Andrew? Something's wrong, isn't?"

Sighing softly and blinking back a few tears, the blonde angel nodded slightly,
"I'm afraid so, Angel Girl." Seeing that she was silent so that he could talk, he closed his green eyes and drew in a deep breath,
"Heather's missing."

Chapter 20

The next two days were an exhausting whirlwind of torment for the Irish angel. Jamie had been right about one thing and that was her unit had needed the help as Monica was taken from one assignment and thrown into another. So far, she had held her own and despite the painful memories that kept flooding back to her, she held onto her belief that she was doing the right thing by being here.

She felt like she had at least been able to help a few of these women, but after each assignment, her heart ached terribly and she missed her friends, one in particular. After spending the last ten years with Andrew and Kevin, she missed not having that constant contact with them, but she tried to push these thoughts aside in order to do the job she was sent here to do.

Now, the angel appeared in a park in a small town, late at night, her eyes looking around her for who her assignment was to be. The darkness and the stillness left her feeling unsettled, as in angelic form, she began walking until she heard a noise that sounded like a struggle in the woods up ahead of her. Breaking into a run, her heart pounding like a thousand drums in her chest, Monica stopped suddenly as she came across the reason why she was here.

Tears filled her eyes as she watched the man assault the girl who could not be more than 14 years old, even the child struggled with everything in her. Her pretty face was bloodied from an earlier beating and Monica felt anger well up in herself so quickly, it took her breath away. Kneeling down at the girl's head, Monica spoke to her, even as her assailant continued doing the unthinkable.

The girl looked up at her, seeing the light that surrounded her, and though in too much pain to speak, her eyes asked the questions.

"I'm an angel, Rachel," Monica whispered, tears racing down her own face,
"I'm here to be with you through this horrible time," Reaching down, she stroked some of the blood-matted hair from the teenager's face.

"Make it stop…" Rachel wept, before giving out a cry of pain that shook the angel to the core of her being.

Looking up sharply, Monica realized in horror that after this man had been finished with her, he had plunged a knife into her heart, before standing up, righting his clothing and walking away as if nothing had ever happened.

"No!" She cried out, gathering the lifeless girl into her arms as her tears came hard,
"Rachel, hang on, sweetheart, please…" But already Monica knew it was too late as she felt the life ebbing away from the girl. After several minutes and knowing that Rachel had gone Home, Monica laid her gently back on the ground and covered her face with her hands as she wept brokenly. Images of Philip and Beth filled her mind, though she struggled to push them away as she wondered why she had been sent here at all. She had been of no help to Rachel, other than to let her know that an angel was with her. She hadn't even been given the opportunity to help her understand that she could not intervene. Now, it might be days before someone found the girl's body, while her killer walked free.

Shakily rising to her feet, Monica backed away and finally broke into a run, tears blinding her, until she reached a picnic table and sank down onto the bench, as the realization came to her that the last two days had felt like weeks and she felt so very alone. Had she made a terrible mistake or was she just failing and how on earth was she going to know the difference?

"I guess it's back to work tomorrow, huh, Andrew?" Kevin asked as he sat in the living room with his supervisor.

"Yeah," Andrew replied with a small smile, though the ever-present sadness and worry was etched all over his face. Looking up, he saw his charge sigh softly and how he had not eaten a bite of the sandwich that sat on the table,
"What are you thinking, Kev?"

"About how it isn't going to be the same tomorrow with Cupcake," The younger angel replied sadly,
"The three of us were a team, Andrew, you know?"

He nodded his head, thinking about Kevin's words and just how different things were going to be. He just wished it were a change that he didn't have to accept. Fear gripped his heart then as he sat up, trying to concentrate.

"Andrew?" Kevin's voice was filled with alarm, as he knew about the connection that his supervisor and his co-worker shared, though he didn't completely understand it,
"What is it? Is it Monica? Is she okay?"

Tears filled Andrew's eyes as he shook his head,
"She's not okay, but I don't know what exactly is wrong…only that she is hurting so deeply that I can feel it somehow…" Rising to his feet, he ran a hand through his blond locks,
"I hate this, Kevin! I hate this so much! Why did Jamie have to come back here? Monica has been through enough with this to last her the rest of her existence! She spent ten years putting the pieces back together and one visit from Jamie and it all goes bad all over again! Doesn't Jamie understand that she cannot handle this no matter how much she wants to be able to? That it all comes back to her at the mere thought of what happened to her and for me to know that she is hurting and not being able to help her is killing me!"

Feeling tears in his own eyes, Kevin searched for words that would somehow magically help, but he knew that there were none and he looked up with relief as Rose came out of the kitchen, hoping that maybe the older angel would have some words of wisdom for their friend.

"Honey?" Rose asked softly, seeing the torment in his eyes, as she laid a gentle hand on his arm.

"She's in pain, Rose," Andrew said hoarsely, his voice thick with emotion,
"And there isn't a thing I can do about it." Turning on his heel, the angel walked up the stairs to his room and closed the door behind him.

An hour later, Monica raised her head wearily from where it rested in her arms on the table and brought her hands up to wipe the tears from her eyes,
"Father," She whispered weakly, her eyes looking up at the night sky,
"I don't know what to do. I don't know what You want me to do. I know You said this is my decision, but what if I made the wrong one? I don't want to let everyone down; those women who need help, Jamie, my friends. Please, just tell me what to do…"

Though she felt the Father's love around her, there were no answers, as she knew as she had known all along that this was her choice to make. Feeling the knowledge fill her heart that she had another assignment, Monica rose exhaustedly to her feet, her eyes traveling one more time to the woods where Rachel's body lay,
"I'm sorry, Rachel," She whispered tearfully, before looking up at the sky once more and closing her aching eyes,
"Oh Andrew, how I wish you were here." She longed to pour out everything she was feeling, but knew that she couldn't do that to him, not when he was so worried already. No, it was better left unsaid then to torment him with the truth. Her heart ached for him and for the sense of protection she always felt when he was near, but she knew that was not to be this time. She had chosen this, knowing she had to face it without him.

Trying to find some strength in a memory, she kept her eyes closed, thinking back to what felt like weeks ago, when in reality it had only been a few days.

"Get off my back, Angel Baby," Andrew tossed back playfully over his shoulder,
"I have a lot of making up to do after that harassing you gave me yesterday over Space Mountain."

"Off your back, huh?" Monica asked as they walked ahead of her. She then broke into a run and jumped on her best friend's back, wrapping her arms around his neck to hold on to him,
"Now you have something to complain about, my friend!"

Hooking his arms under her knees, he hoisted her up onto his back as he chuckled softly,
"Naah, Angel Girl, not really."

What I'm saying is don't use me as any basis for this decision, sweetheart. You need to listen to your heart and follow what it tells you. I just want you to be happy, Monica, whatever your decision may be. That is what is important to me."

"I'm proud of you, baby girl," He uttered tearfully, taking her face into his hands and looking into her pain filled doe-eyes,
"Just so proud. This takes so much courage, Monica, more than I think I could ever have in a similar situation…"

Feeling tears start to fall once more, the little Irish angel shook her head, wondering how on earth she could still make him proud of her, yet not allow herself to be destroyed by staying here with Jamie.

Chapter 21

Rose stood on the other side of Andrew's bedroom door a few minutes after he had went upstairs and tentatively knocked on the door, half expecting her friend to yell at her to "go away". But to her relief, she received a half-hearted "come in" instead. Sucking in a breath and slowly letting it out, trying to figure out what exactly to say to Andrew, the elderly red-haired supervisor turned the knob on her friend's door and poked her head inside, looking around for him.

The young blonde angel was standing at the window, looking outside at the yard and the sky. Even from afar, Rose could tell he was deep in thought and sadness filled her gentle heart for him. Closing the door softly behind her, the angel walked slowly up behind him,
"Angel Boy..."

"I miss her, Rose..." Andrew whispered in return, his back still facing his former supervisor. Lowering his head, he sighed softly and tried to hold back a round of hot tears,
"I just miss her so much, and I can't be there when I know she's in pain; I also keep trying to figure out why I didn't tell her how I was feeling earlier when I had the chance..."

Still standing behind him, Rose gently wrapped her arms around his waist and gave him a loving squeeze,
"Do you want to talk?"

Grasping her hands from behind, Andrew held onto them tightly and allowed himself to lean slightly into her as he nodded his head weakly,
"A part of me doesn't want to, but a bigger part knows I have to."

"Then let's have a seat, honey," Still holding onto him, the Search and Rescue angel gently turned him around and ushered him over to his bed. Reaching for his hands, Rose situated herself on the bed until she was looking directly into his tortured green eyes.

"Rose, I made a terrible mistake while on our vacation," He started, lowering his tear-stained eyes for a brief moment before meeting his friend's loving eyes once again,
"Monica asked me what I thought about her moving back to Special Forces, and she wanted my opinions. And I didn't give them to her, Rose...Instead of being her best friend, I was being her supervisor, telling her to take me out of the picture and follow her heart. I wasn't honest with her...and Kevin knew it. He tried really hard to convince me to tell Monica the truth of my feelings, but being the stubborn angel that I am, I-I didn't do it, and waited the entire week before I finally decided to do it..." Noticing that his friend was nodding her head and not saying anything, Andrew knew that she was giving him a chance to speak and he opened his mouth to finish,
"But I was too late, Rose." His voice choked up then, and the tears came to the surface once again even as he continued to speak,
"When I finally told her how I felt, she had already made her decision, and had already told Jamie yes. I was devastated, Rose, and so was Kevin...but although I tried to get her to see where I was coming from, she was dead set on going back there. But I could tell a part of her was scared-a huge part of her-and she didn't fully want to go back with Jamie. But I had no choice then; so I just told her that night that...if she ever wanted to come back, then she didn't even have to ask. We would always welcome her back. But now...now, I know that she's frightened beyond words, and hurting. I know she had just done a very difficult assignment, and her heart is breaking all over again. And I can't stop it..."

His last words came out in a rush as his tears dripped down his cheeks, and before long Rose had gathered him into her arms gently and rocked him back and forth, letting him release his emotions there,
"Oh honey...the Father is with your Angel Girl-"

"I know He is, I'm not doubting that," He interrupted, clinging weakly to his older friend,
"What I'm most scared about is the unknown...What kind of pain will she be in when I see her again? And will we ever be able to reach her again...?"

The next couple of assignments went by too slowly for Monica, as the hours ticked by and the Irish angel felt like she would never see the end of this. By the time she glanced at her watch as she left her last assignment's house for the day, she sighed as she realized it was just after midnight. Glancing up at the dark starry sky, she continued to walk until she felt like she would collapse in exhaustion; what stopped her, though, was seeing Jamie just up ahead coming towards her. As she neared, Monica didn't miss the sympathy in her blue eyes and the caring look on her face.

"How are you doing, honey? The Father has had you incredibly busy today..." The supervisor started, tilting her head to the side and getting a good look at her charge, hoping that Monica would tell her the full truth and nothing but the truth.

"I'm exhausted, Jamie...exhausted and emotionally drained. I need some sleep..." Monica's angelic body and turned human almost immediately after her last assignment, and she felt the exhaustion all over her,
"And I just need some time to think about some things..."

Taking her young charge's hand in her own, Jamie offered her a gentle smile and in the blink of an eye, the two angels had appeared in a motel room. Two beds were set up next to each other, and a television was set up in a corner, while a bathroom and shower room were near the back. Glancing around, Monica's shoulders slumped and she let go of Jamie's hand to sit down heavily on one of the made beds, the older angel soon following.

"Do you want to tell me what you need to think about, Monica?" She asked, remembering Tess' words to her two days earlier. Since the Irish angel had returned to her unit, she had kept a close eye on her to see how she was doing, and the Father was testing her with some difficult assignments to see if she could handle it. Now, seeing the total exhaustion and even pain in her brown eyes, Jamie frowned worriedly as she could only imagine what Monica was thinking.

"I honestly would rather just sleep on it tonight, so to speak, Jamie..." The auburn-haired angel replied sadly, sighing softly to herself,
"I've also got a lot of talking I need to do with the Father..." Lowering her head to look down at her hands, Monica closed her eyes as she felt Jamie reach over and rest a hand on her arm.

"You miss Andrew something awful, don't you, sweetheart?"

Trying to ward back the tears, but finding it unsuccessful, the Irish angel nodded her head and finally met her supervisor's kind eyes,
"More and more each day. Kevin, too, as well as the others..."

Sighing herself, Jamie nodded her head before rising to her feet, stretching her arms above her head,
"Well, I suggest you catch some shut eye, Monica. I've got it on the Highest Authority that tomorrow is going to be another long day, and I want you to be well rested, honey, okay?"

Nodding her head, Monica watched as the older angel's back disappeared behind the bathroom door and as soon as she was gone, the Irish angel also rose to her feet and headed towards the window looking out over the city. Laying a palm against the glass, she rested her forehead against it and sighed sadly as the tears only continued to flow from her brown eyes. Suddenly feeling something brush up against her foot, she opened her eyes and looked down; there at her feet, was the angel bear that Andrew had given to her so many years ago back when she was the Hendrickson's "daughter". Letting out a small chuckle, she bent down and picked it up, hugging it to herself tightly,
"You seem to be going all over the place lately..." She whispered into it's soft fur.

Yawning widely, Monica then headed back towards the bed, the stuffed bear still in her arms, and pulled the covers back. Not even bothering to change into a pair of pajamas that the Father had provided, she curled up under the covers and turned off the light beside of the bed. As she lay there, her body wanting to sleep but her mind unable to, the young angel's mind kept thinking about that last glimpse she saw of her best friend before she left the cabin several days ago. His face wouldn't leave her mind; the tears in his green eyes would forever be etched in her memory...

Choking on a sob, the little angel blinked her eyes and stared up at the ceiling, whispering up words that only the Father would be able to hear in the stillness of the motel room,
"Oh Father, I really don't know what I want anymore..."

Chapter 22

"You two are headed out?" Tess asked the next morning as Kevin and Andrew came down the stairs, both of them knowing that they had to return to work, regardless of how strange it felt for just the two of them to be going on assignment.

Kevin nodded his head and gave a small sigh,
"Looks that way, Tess. Duty calls."

Looking at the bag that her Angel Boy was carrying in his hands, Tess eyed him curiously,
"What have you got there, baby?"

Andrew smiled a sad smile as he held out the bag to her,
"I just got around to unpacking last night, Tess and we picked these two things up for you in Florida. Well, Monica picked them out actually because in one-way or another they reminded us of you. I already gave Rose and Carla their gifts, so what's left is yours."

Opening the bag, Tess first removed the squishy eye, a look of distaste on her mahogany face,
"Well, this is certainly…interesting…"

"Squeeze it, Tess," Kevin grinned, unable to help himself. He watched in amusement as the older angel gave the eye a squeeze and it gave out a disgusting sound,
"Monica said you might enjoy it on a bad day." Kevin added, his smile fading somewhat as he remembered his friend's giggles when she had found the eye.

"Hmph," Tess chided, though both younger angels could see the look of amusement in her eyes. Putting the eye aside, she reached into the bag and pulled out the stuffed Eeyore and smiled,
"Now, this is more like it. He's a cute little thing," Noticing that the tail was Velcro, she pulled it off and listened as Eeyore sadly stated,
"Please don't pull my tail." Raising an eyebrow at the two angels, she then asked,
"And just what about this reminded her of me, may I ask?"

"I think it was something along the lines of you when you're sulking about something, Tess," Andrew said carefully,
"Kind of like that time when I 'killed' your car."

"You did kill my car, Mr. Halo and don't you ever forget it," Tess retorted, as she turned her attention back to the toy in her hands, fighting back tears at the thought of her Angel Girl,
"Thank you, I think."

Sensing Tess' sadness, Andrew knew he had to get out of there before he broke down again, so he laid a hand on Kevin's shoulder,
"I guess we'd best get a move on, Kev," Turning his attention to Tess, he managed a smile,
"We'll see you soon, Tess," He said softly, moving to give his former supervisor a tight hug.

"That you will, baby," She replied, ruffling his hair. Pulling away, she looked into his eyes,
"And Angel Boy…if you hear anything, anything at all…"

"You know I will tell you, Tess," He replied sadly as his eyes met with hers.

Nodding her head, she hugged the younger angel as well,
"Keep your chin up, baby."

"I'm trying to, Tess," Kevin sighed softly,
"I just wish I'd get my appetite back.."

Late that night, Monica burst out of the back door of the bar, her stomach churning and tears streaking her face. Not even caring if she was alone in the alley, she spotted a trashcan and promptly lost the little she had managed to eat that day, before she leaned heavily up against the brick wall and sank down to the ground, heart wrenching sobs escaping her. She could hear the thunder rumbling overhead, but the little angel didn't care anymore as she was sick with what she had just witnessed and even sicker over the fact that she had run off the assignment, unable to take anymore.

"Monica?"

Looking up through blurred vision, Monica met Jamie's eyes as her supervisor knelt down in front of her. Shaking her tangled auburn head, she only covered her face with her hands as she continued to sob.

"Monica, sweetheart, what happened back there?" Jamie asked patiently, love for her charge evident in her eyes,
"You walked off the assignment and I had to find an emergency replacement for you. That girl in there needed you…"

"I couldn't…I couldn't watch it anymore, Jamie!" She cried out as she looked up at Jamie, her mind filling with the visions of what she had just witnessed,
"Dear God, they have her held down and are taking their turn with her! What can I say…that is going to make THAT better? How can they be so hateful? I don't understand…." Covering her face once more, she only continued to cry as if her heart were breaking,
"I didn't have it…as badly as she does…how is she expected to live her life after this?"

"Honey, I know this is hard…"

Looking up once more, her emotions completely raw, she shot back at Jamie through tears,
"No, you don't! You don't have any idea how hard this is! What was I supposed to tell her in there? That God loves her? I know He does, but how is she supposed to believe that while they were…while they…" Unable to even say it, the Irish angel rocked back and forth on her heels, completely consumed in pain over what she had just witnessed and done. Before she could even think about what she was saying, her next words were out,
"I can't do this, Jamie…I wanted to be able to…but I can't…I can't! I'm not strong enough and I don't think I ever will be for this…it hurts too much…I want to be able to help…I do…but not like this….not like this…I'm sorry…I'm so sorry, but I can't…I can't…"

Tears in her own eyes as the angel before her broke down completely once more, Jamie reached over and laid her hands on her shoulders,
"I understand, sweetheart and I don't want you here if it hurts you this much. This job is hard, honey, and there is no shame in it being too much for you to handle," Knowing that her words were not helping all that much as Monica never even looked up at her as she continued to cry, Jamie continued gently,
"If you aren't resigning, little angel, then I am firing you. I can't bear what this is doing to you and despite how busy this unit is right now, it is not worth it for you to lose yourself in it. Now, go, Monica," Squeezing the angel's shoulders gently, Jamie then rose to her feet.

"Jamie…" Monica sobbed, her confusion overcoming her as well. What was she supposed to do now? Where was she to go and how could she face her friends?

"I have to go, sweetheart," Jamie forced herself to say, not wanting Monica's sense of obligation to take over her true feelings. The supervisor knew with everything in her that this angel did not belong here and though to walk away from her right now hurt terribly, Jamie knew it was the only way to get her to go.

Her tears came harder as Jamie walked back into the bar, now feeling more than lost and alone. Leaning her head back against the wall as she cried, she closed her eyes and whispered,
"Father, what do I do? Where do I go?"

As soon as she said the words, the little Irish angel found herself on the beach outside of the house that she and Andrew had shared when he had lost his memory. An ocean stormed raged all around her, competing with the storm that was raging inside of her, as she pulled her trench coat more tightly around her.

Tears blinding her, she stumbled to the house and up the deck steps, the rain pelting down on her, but she didn't care. Once inside, she leaned up against the glass door, the whipping wind outside mingling with the sounds of her sobs before she forced herself to move as if in a daze back the hall to her room. Dripping from the rain and not bothering to remove her coat, Monica flung herself on the bed in a torrent of tears and cried until exhaustion finally overtook her.

Andrew sighed softly as he and Kevin sat in the small café, having a few hours of free time while their assignment slept. He had constantly had the feeling that his best friend was in pain and it was now so familiar to him, it was just a dull ache in his heart. He watched Kevin, who was absent-mindedly picking the chocolate off his uneaten doughnut, both angels deep in thought.

"Andrew?"

Andrew's head jerked up at the sound of Jamie's voice, shocked to see her standing there before him, a look of utter sadness on her face,
"Jamie? What is it?" He uttered, feeling tears burning in his eyes as his heart pounded in his chest.

Drawing in a deep breath, the angel sat down with the other two and began softly,
"There are some things you should know…"

Chapter 23

After several minutes of listening to Jamie explain all that had occurred these last few days, and also what had just transpired a few minutes ago, Andrew found himself utterly speechless, but also not surprised one bit. Glancing over at Kevin and then back to Jamie, as she continued, the blonde angel wiped at the wetness in his green eyes blindly,

"I knew she was feeling a lot of pain, Jamie..."

Laying a hand on his and then reaching for Kevin's, Jamie nodded her head and gently interrupted him,
"Much more then you probably realize, Andrew. I had to let her go; I just wanted to keep an eye on her these last few days to see how she was doing on her assignments, but I soon realized a few minutes ago that this was the only answer." Sighing softly, she released both of the angel's hands and rose to her feet,
"I think you need to go to her, honey. She's at the beach house, as I was told."

And with a small, sad smile for Monica's friends, Jamie disappeared from the cafe, leaving Andrew and Kevin alone again, only this time, it was anything but quiet. The youngest angel was the first to speak, as his eyes were wide with shock,
"I can't believe she fired her..."

"But it appears to me that Mon wanted to go even before Jamie did that," Andrew whispered, furrowing his brow as he spoke,
"Kev, I need to go to her...Why don't you head back to the cabin for the night, and we'll continue this assignment tomorrow...After all, Amanda's resting right now, and I've got it on the Highest Authority that she'll be all right for tonight."

Nodding his head without a second thought, Kevin rose to his feet,
"Go to her, Andrew. I know that if anyone needs you right now, it's Cupcake..." He watched with a small smile as his supervisor chuckled lightly at the nickname, and he rested a hand on his friend's shoulder,
"I'll see you tomorrow, man. I'm gonna tell the others..."

Nodding in reply, Andrew offered his charge a quick hug before releasing him and heading for the door; his heart pounded loudly in his chest, as he was anxious to see his best friend and hold her again.

No more then a few minutes later, Andrew reappeared on the steps of the beach house back porch. Rain was pouring down around him and he wasted no time in ducking through the back door and going inside. Even when he closed the door, he could hear the pounding and crashing of the ocean waves, and the thunder rumbling in the distance. Rubbing his arms to warm himself up, as he wasn't wearing a jacket at the moment, the blonde angel glanced around the living room to see if his best friend was anywhere in sight.

But she wasn't.

Taking a shaky step forward, Andrew looked through the entire house and still didn't find the little Irish angel. Finally, he noticed that the door to her bedroom was closed and he took a step towards it. Gently pushing it open with a shaky hand, the supervisor glanced inside the room and tears burned his green eyes as he saw his dearest angelic friend sound asleep on her bed, her clothing drenched and her auburn locks in disarray. His heart breaking at the sight of her, as she was whimpering in her sleep, and she kept tossing and turning in her bed, Andrew kept the light off and closed the bedroom door behind him quietly so he wouldn't disturb her.

As he took a seat next to her on the bed, Andrew lowered his head down to hers and gently kissed her forehead. Never moving it, he gently pressed his forehead against her own head and a smile crossed his handsome face as she stopped tossing on the bed as if she almost knew he was there. Reaching out a hand, he sighed sadly as he gently brushed back her wet bangs; although he was so happy to see her again, his heart was still pounding like a thousand drums in his chest, as he hoped beyond hope that the last few days in Special Forces hadn't done too much damage.

"Oh sweet girl, I love you so much," He whispered gently, and as soon as he spoke, he watched as his friend's brown eyes slowly flickered open and looked up at him. Almost expecting it to be a dream as she saw her best friend's handsome face looking down at her, Monica pushed herself up from where she lay on the bed and rubbed her eyes. Although the last time she saw him was only a few days ago earlier that week, it felt like an eternity for the little Irish angel. As she lowered her hands, and seeing that Andrew was still seated next to her, his green eyes flooded with tears, Monica let out a deep breath and choked out,
"Andy..."

Choking back a sob, the older angel opened his arms wide to her and urged her forward,
"C'mere, Cupcake."

Not wasting another moment to be in her best friend's waiting arms, the younger angel hurled herself straight at him and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck,
"Hold me, Andrew...just hold me..."

"I've got you, sweet baby, I've got you," He whispered tearfully into her hair, rocking her gently on the bed as they sobbed together,
"Oh Angel Girl, I missed you dreadfully...I've been so worried."

"Andrew..." She whimpered softly, tightening her arms around his neck,
"I'm so glad you're here...I didn't think I'd see you again...for a long time..."

"But I'm here, and I'm not going anywhere." He only continued to rock her in his arms for several minutes, never once loosening his grip on her,
"It's going to be all right, Angel Girl; it's going to be all right..."

"Do you…know what happened…?" She managed to say, never releasing her hold on him.

"Yes, baby, I know," He whispered, closing his eyes against the tears over her grief. Knowing she needed to get this out so they could talk, he continued gently,
"You've had a terrible week, sweetheart and it's okay to cry, so just let it go, Monica," Relief filled him as he heard her sobs intensify as the last thing he wanted was for her to internalize any of what had happened this week,
"That's my girl," He whispered, kissing the top of her head as he continued to rock her, his hands running through her wet hair. The minutes ticked by before she began to calm somewhat and Andrew pulled away gently, touching her cheek with the back of his hand,
"How about you go and get out of these wet clothes and into a hot shower and then you and I will have a long talk, okay?" Seeing her nod her head sadly, he helped her to her feet, noticing that she was trembling slightly, and he helped her out of her coat,
"Come out to the living room when you're ready, sweetie."

Leaving her alone to shower and change, Andrew walked out to the living room and hung her coat on the rack near the door, before starting a pot of coffee in the kitchen for her. His mind was whirling going over all of the horribly violent cases that Jamie had told him Monica had this week and his worry for his gentle friend deepened.

Gazing out the window, he saw that the storm continued to rage and he turned and walked over to the sofa, setting a cup of hot coffee down for her on the table. Just as he sat down, he saw Monica come slowly down the hall, having changed into a dry pair of pajamas. Though her eyes were tired and swollen and her face pale, she appeared calmer, though still sad and he saw fresh tears gather in her eyes as they met with his,
"C'mere, baby girl," He said softly, waiting until she sat down next to him and curled into his arms,
"What are you thinking, Angel Girl?"

Her cheek resting against his chest, she somehow found her voice, though it was scarcely a whisper,
"Jamie fired me, Andrew…I tried so hard…I did! I thought I could do it…I wanted to be able to, but…it hurt so much! I walked off the assignment tonight…I just couldn't…" Clutching his shirt tightly as she found herself weeping all over again, she shook her head,
"Tonight was awful…and Rachel…she died in my arms a few nights ago, Andrew…she was only fourteen…but even so, I should have been able to handle this…I should have been able to and now I've left everyone down and have lost my job yet again…"

Feeling her tremble with tears, Andrew hugged her tightly to him,
"You know what? I think it's time you heard a few things, Monica, so I want you to listen to me, all right?" He pulled back from her to look into her face as she cried,
"Shhh, little one, it's all going to be fine. I promise you that, but I need for you to calm down," Taking her face into his hands, he swiped at her tears as she took several deep breathes, willing the tears to stop. As she began to quiet, Andrew handed her the cup of coffee he had brought out for her, not missing the flash of gratitude in her reddened eyes as she took a long sip and returned it to the table,
"Better, sweetie?" He asked softly, brushing the hair from her eyes as she nodded her head. Leaning back once more, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and looked down at her as he began to speak,
"First off, Angel Girl, you have not let anyone down. We all love you so much and have been so worried about you, with good reason, sweetheart. We all knew firsthand what this did to you before and we were probably more afraid for you then you were for yourself," Seeing doubt flicker in her tired eyes, he smiled gently,
"Monica, none of us, Tess, Rose, Carla, Kevin or me, expects you to be anything other than who you are. You are whom we love, honey, not what you do to serve the Father. I mean, do you think for one second that if you decided to work in Search and Rescue or you wanted to become an Angel of Death, that I would love you any less?" Seeing her shake her head, he kissed the top of her head as he continued,
"No, of course not. I could care less what it is you do, because it is you that I love, Monica; the angel that the Father created you to be. Now you have this feeling that because of what happened with Philip, that you were meant to work in Special Forces, but that just isn't true. You tried, and you gave it all you could, but it isn't meant to be, baby, no matter how much you wanted it to be so. You were ready to leave tonight before Jamie ever forced your hand with this, isn't that right?"

"Yes, Andrew, but-."

"No," He shook his head firmly and he moved to be able to take her smaller hands into his own,
"There are no 'buts' about this, sweetie. Had you stayed, it would have destroyed you in the end, I can tell that just by looking at you right now and sweetheart, I don't think it would have been that long before that happened and the thought of that scares the living daylights out of me," He felt himself getting choked up at the thought of it as he looked into her tear-filled eyes,
"I don't ever want to lose you, Mon', not ever. That is something that I've come to realize even more so over the last ten years and had you stayed with Jamie, there is no doubt in my mind that eventually, I would have lost you for good."

Monica lowered her eyes as tears escaped them, still feeling so confused,
"It sounds as if…as if you don't have much faith in me, Andrew…I…" Her voice trailed off as she squeezed his hands tightly.

"That isn't what I meant at all and you know it, Angel Girl," He countered sternly, cupping her chin in his hand and forcing her to look at him once more. His expression softened as he saw the confusion in her dark eyes as she tried to make sense out of this whole nightmare,
"Why do you expect so much of yourself in regards to this whole situation, Monica? This girl you were assigned to tonight…would you ever expect her to be doing the kind of work you've been doing this week and reliving what happened to her over and over again?" He watched as a small sob escaped her at the memory as she shook her head,
"Then why do you expect this from yourself, little one?"

"She wasn't an angel…" Monica whimpered miserably.

"And you are not perfect," Andrew countered gently,
"None of us are. Sweetheart, I left the AOD position because it had gotten to the point where it hurt too much when my assignments refused to accept the love that God had for them and I knew when it began to hurt more and more that it was time to get out and to find another way to serve the Father. Don't you see how true this is with you too? The Father wants all of His children to be happy, Monica, angels included. He hates to see our hearts broken and pain in our eyes, you know that and have told it to humans so many times, but yet you expect something different for yourself?"

"But it hurts so much, Andrew, that what happened to me was all for nothing," Monica whispered, her voice trembling,
"What was the purpose of it if I am useless to help in Jamie's unit? Why did it have to happen to me at all?"

Seeing her break down, Andrew drew her into his arms, tears escaping his own eyes at her pain and wishing with all his heart that he had a way to erase that horrible time from her memory forever. His heart cried out to the Father for this answer to her question as he rocked her gently.

"She has the answer, My angel. She just needs to find it out for herself."

Andrew nodded his head sadly as he rested his cheek against her hair and whispered words of comfort and love to her softly until she had cried herself into an exhausted sleep. Gently gathering her into his arms, he stood up and carried her back to her room. Laying her down on the bed, he drew the blankets up over her sleeping form,
"Sleep, baby girl," He whispered, smoothing the hair back from her face,
"Things will look brighter at the start of a new day tomorrow." Kissing her cheek, he stood to leave, only to hear her whimper his name. Returning to her side, he sat down on the edge of the bed and stroked her hair,
"I'm right here, sweetheart."

Watching as she groggily shifted over to make room for him, her indication that she didn't want to be alone, he laid on top of the blankets, propping himself up on his elbow to tenderly continue stroking her still damp auburn hair,
"It's okay, little one. I'm here…I'm right here."

Nestling her head beneath his arm, feeling the warmth of him and the feel of his hand in her hair, she finally fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Chapter 24

Kevin walked through the door of the cabin the next afternoon, totally exhausted after having finished his and Andrew's assignment by himself. Running a hand through his brown hair, the young angel closed the wooden door and headed to the living room where Rose and Tess were seated and engaged in deep conversation. The red-haired supervisor looked up at the sound of Kevin entering the room and smiled in his direction.

"Hello, honey. How'd it go?"

Sighing deeply, the youngest angel nodded his head and took a seat in the arm chair beside the fireplace,
"I'm tired, but the assignment is finished...It went easier then I thought it would; I thought it'd take longer then two days..."

Reaching over and patting his hand, Rose grinned lovingly at him,
"We all had total faith in you, Kevin, and I know Andrew did as well or else he wouldn't have had you finish it up by yourself."

"Is he back yet?" Kevin asked, looking at the two older angels.

Shaking her head, Rose exchanged a look with Tess, who answered the youngest angel's question,
"Not yet, baby. I got the Word that he and Monica are still at the beach house talking things out; but I have a good feeling about this, Kevin. Although our Angel Girl did get fired last night, I know Andrew will be able to help her come to grips with it, and you three will be back together working before too long..."

Sitting straight up in his chair, brown eyes wide, Kevin's mouth spread into a smile,
"Really?"

Nodding her read head, Rose returned the smile,
"Really, honey. We wouldn't lead you wrong, especially when we got the news from the Father Himself-"

"Can I go to the beach house and see them?" The angel rose to his feet, his eyes dancing merrily at the possibility of working with both of his friends again and some of his former cheerfulness was starting to return.

"I have no problem with that, baby," Tess replied, shrugging her shoulders and winking at him. Reaching down to pick up a bag that was sitting at her feet by the couch, the mahogany-skinned angel grasped it and handed it to Kevin,
"And while you're there, you can give these to those two babies." Seeing his confused expression as he glanced into the bag, Tess chuckled and continued,
"I developed the film of pictures that you three took on your trip. I know that our little Cupcake could use a smile on her face, as well as our Angel Boy, so while you're there, you can give these to them."

His brown eyes sparkling with excitement for the first time in about a week, Kevin leaned down and gave Tess' cheek a quick kiss,
"I will, Tess. Thanks."

Squeezing the youngest angel's shoulder, the supervisor nodded and smiled in Rose's direction,
"Now get going, baby. I know that Monica for one would like to see you..."

"Knock, knock! Anybody home?" Kevin opened the door to the beach house several minutes later and poked his head inside. A smile spread across the angel's face as he headed into the living room and saw his two friends sitting side by side on the living room couch, engaged in conversation. Andrew's arm was draped around his best friend's shoulders and Monica was giggling at some things that he was saying and just seeing the Irish angel smiled caused Kevin to do the same. Taking a step forward and making his presence known, he stepped in front of them,
"So when can I join in the fun?"

Taken by surprise at the sudden sound of her co-worker's voice, Monica felt a smile spread across her lovely face as she rose to her feet and headed towards Kevin,
"Kevin! What are you doing here-"

Not allowing his friend to finish speaking, the youngest angel had soon wrapped his arms around the older Irish angel in a huge hug. Monica felt a few tears fall from her eyes as she embraced Kevin back tightly, who whispered into her ear,
"I missed you so much, Cupcake."

Chuckling softly at the hated nickname, Monica pulled away and looked at him through her tears,
"I missed you too, Kev..."

Looking over at his supervisor, who had risen to his feet and walked over to join them, Kevin continued speaking,
"As I've told Andrew while you were gone, Monica, it's never the same without one of you guys around...I mean, if you left for another department, Andrew, I'd have felt the same way I did when Cupcake here left...if you know what I mean."

Smiling broadly in his friend and charge's direction, Andrew rested a gentle hand on his shoulder and patted it,
"I know what you mean, buddy."

"Are you doing any better, Monica?" Kevin turned his attention back to the Irish angel and stared at her worriedly,
"We have been so worried about you since..."

"It's okay, Kev," She gently interrupted, smiling over at her best friend and taking his hand in her own,
"I know I'll be okay soon. Right now, I'm just happy to have you both here again." She squeezed Andrew's hand tightly as he gazed compassionately down at her,
"So what's in your hand, Kevin?"

Almost forgetting about the pictures Tess had given to him before he left the cabin, the youngest of the trio glanced down at the bag he still held in his hand and raised his eyebrows at his friends,
"Oh yeah, I almost forgot about this! Tess told me to give this to you; she said she developed the pictures we took of our trip to Disney last week, and she wanted you to see them..."

"Oh my, now this I gotta see," Andrew groaned as he accepted the offered back and headed towards the couch again, still holding onto Monica's hand. Taking a seat beside both of his friends and charges, the blonde supervisor retrieved the packet of photos from the bag and lifted out the first stack. As the three friends flipped through the photos of their trip, laughter floated through the air in the small beach house for the first time in what seemed like ages.

"It's good to see that your appetite is coming back, Kevy Boy," Andrew winked over at his youngest charge and clapped him on the back as he took a rather large bite of the turkey sandwich he held in his hand. The three friends had decided to have a small picnic out on the beach later that night, as it was too warm to eat inside, and now Kevin was eating his third turkey sandwich that evening while also drinking down a liter bottle of Coke,
"I was starting to wonder when you would wolf down some more food..."

Sticking his tongue out at his older friend playfully, all the while winking at Monica who was clutching her stomach in laughter, Kevin then took another large bite of his meal,
"I know, I was starting to wonder if I would ever be me again..."

Feeling full, especially after watching Kevin eat most of the food in the picnic basket, Monica leaned back on the large blanket that was set up on the sand, and straight into her best friend's arms. Andrew wrapped his arms around her from behind and let her rest her head against his chest, her hand gently lying on his knee. Kissing the top of her head lovingly, the oldest angel smiled down at her before shaking his head at his second friend,
"You know, Kev, I've started to think of a new name for you...After you two named me Simba, and Angel Girl down here got dubbed Cupcake..." He chuckled as his best friend stuck her tongue out him before turning his attention back to the youngest caseworker, his green eyes twinkling with mischief,
"I've got the perfect one for you, buddy, considering your appetite...I like Wonder Boy."

Nearly choking on his fourth sandwich that he had just unwrapped and was starting to wolf down, Kevin turned to his supervisor and narrowed his eyes at him,
"Okay, Simba, you wanta play rough?"

Not wanting to be get involved in any part of this, Monica leaped to her feet and backed away from her friends, in case there would be any pieces of food flying before too long. Clutching her stomach in laughter, the Irish angel watched as the two male angels each shot sarcastic remarks at one another, before Kevin grabbed the remaining of his turkey sandwich and threw it at him. Shaking her auburn head, Monica couldn't resist and although she had originally planned on staying out of this "fight", she giggled instead and grabbed the remaining of her own sandwich and tossed it back at Kevin.

The three angels playfully continued to toss their food at one another for the next couple of minutes before it all winded down and Monica took a seat once again on the blanket, Andrew soon following her,
"Well, that was fun while it lasted...Now you don't have anymore food to gobble down, Kev."

Laughing out loud at that comment, Andrew shook his head at both of his friends. Sighing in exhaustion, the older angel urged his best friend close to him again and after she had settled into his strong arms again, her arms wrapped snuggly around his waist, Andrew stared up at the starry sky and whispered to nobody in particular,
"I just love nights like this...especially those star-filled skies that the Father created, you know?"

Grinning at both of his friends, Kevin crawled over to where Monica was seated in Andrew's embrace and stretched out, laying his tousled head on the Irish angel's lap, also staring up at the dark sky. Feeling Monica's soft hand in his hair, the youngest caseworker smiled sleepily and whispered,
"I know what you mean, Simba. I love it, too...Just as much as I love working with you guys."

Chapter 25

Monica awoke with a start and bolted up in bed. Her breaths came in short gasps and then slowly calmed as the dream began to fade. Glancing over at the clock on her nightstand, she sighed as she saw that it was just after 4:00 in the morning.

Lying back down, the Irish angel found herself now unable to sleep and after a few minutes, she threw off the covers and padded into the kitchen to fix a pot of coffee. Monica rubbed her eyes sleepily as she listened to the monotonous dripping of the coffee into the pot as her thoughts went back over the last few days.

Yesterday, she had forced herself to put aside her grief and to just focus on being with her friends, which is what she had needed as a welcome diversion from the confusion she was still feeling inside. But once Andrew and Kevin had bid her goodnight and she had gone to bed, she became deeply troubled once more and sleep had been a few hours coming.

Though she did feel better just being out of Special Forces, the things she had seen over those few days tore at her heart and once again, she found herself faced with the question of "Why did this happen to me?" The thought of it being in vain devastated her as she had always thought the reason had been so that she could work in Jamie's unit, but now she knew that was not the case.

Pouring herself a cup of coffee, Monica donned her jacket, putting it on over her pajamas and walked out onto the deck. The little angel breathed in deeply, as she listened to the sound of the waves crashing against the shore and looking up, she could see light just starting to break across the dark sky, the patches of black and orange nearly taking her breath away.

"A brand new day," She whispered aloud, fighting back tears as she longed for her own brand new day. After all, the Father's children had new chances with every sunrise to make their existence better.

As the sun surged across the ocean, Monica came to a sudden realization and once again, her breath was nearly taken away.

Yawning, Andrew walked into the kitchen later that morning, puzzled green eyes coming to rest on the nearly empty coffee pot and he knew that could only mean one thing.

Glancing around, he saw his dearest friend sitting crossed legged in a chair out on the deck, still clad in pajamas and a jacket, a notebook in her lap as she seemed to be writing furiously. Concern and curiosity getting the better of him, the supervising angel walked over and slid open the sliding glass door to step outside onto the deck.

"G'morning, Angel Girl," He stated softly, watching as she looked up at him. He noticed immediately that she looked extremely tired, but at the same time there was something else in her eyes that he wasn't sure he recognized. Not quite peace, but…

"Good morning, yourself," Monica smiled softly as she closed the notebook, her tired brown eyes meeting with his.

"Seems you've been up for awhile, sweetie," He observed as he rested his hands on her shoulders,
"At least long enough to drink almost a pot of coffee."

Leaning her head back, she looked up at him and smiled sheepishly as she held up two fingers.

"Two pots of coffee?" Andrew raised his eyebrows, unsure of whether to be amused or stern with her over her coffee and caffeine addiction,
"That's a little extreme, don't you think? Exactly how long have you been awake?"

"Long enough to drink two pots of coffee," She replied with a wink up at him, before adding,
"I had a wee bit of trouble sleeping."

Andrew nodded his head in understanding, knowing her well enough to know that she was still struggling,
"So you decided to start a journal?"

Monica ran her hand thoughtfully over the cover of the notebook,
"No, Andrew, not exactly," She replied softly.

The older angel moved to sit in the chair across from her, his eyes showing his concern for her,
"Sweetheart, what is going on?"

Smiling softly, Monica reached for his hands and gave them a tight squeeze,
"I need something from you and from Kevin today," She began carefully, not wanting to risk this coming out wrong and sounding hurtful,
"I need a little uninterrupted time to work on something. There is something I need to explore and I don't know yet if it is an answer or not, but I need the time to figure it out. I'm not asking you two to go anywhere, in fact, I want you both here, but I just don't want to be asked any questions about what I'm doing. Do you think that would be okay?"

Hearing the hopeful twinge in her voice, he sighed softly and reached up to stroke her cheek,
"Yeah, baby, that would be okay, as long as you are okay."

"I'm getting there, my friend and there might be moments today when I am a little sad, but I need to be right now. I need to remember some things I'd rather forget, but there is a reason for it. I'm asking you to please be patient and let me do what I need to do. Deal?" She gave his hands another squeeze, her dark filled with her love for him.

Knowing he had little choice and that he wouldn't deny her of this anyway, Andrew smiled at her,
"Deal."

"So you have no idea what she is up to?" Kevin asked that afternoon as he and Andrew sat out on the deck, soaking up some of the magnificent sunshine.

"Not a clue, Wonder Boy," Andrew replied with a sigh. It had been a long afternoon and true to her word, there had been moments when his dearest friend had been working diligently on whatever it was, when she would be swiping at tears and those moments had torn at his heart. Thus, he had suggested that he and Kevin come outside for a bit, so it wouldn't feel so impossible to honor her wishes.

"And where did the laptop come from?" Kevin asked, bewildered. Seeing the pointed look his supervisor gave him as he glanced upwards in answer, the younger angel nodded,
"Oh, right. Gotcha," He grinned sheepishly as he reached for another doughnut and offered one to Andrew who refused with a chuckle.

"Kevin, one of these days you are going to explode, and that is not going to be pretty," Andrew grinned as he shot his youngest charge a wink.

"Naah," Kevin laughed as he took a bite of his treat,
"Angels can't explode," He paused as if wondering,
"Can they?"

"If they can, you would be the one to prove the theory," Andrew quipped, glancing inside at his best friend once more. She was still typing, still clad in her pajamas, her auburn locks thrown back in a haphazard ponytail. He watched as she paused to rub her eyes with her palms tiredly, before her fingers hit the keyboard once again and he sighed.

"She's a secretive one, our Cupcake," Kevin remarked, following Andrew's gaze,
"And how many pots of coffee has she gone through today?"

"I think she is on pot number 5," Andrew remarked, his promise to her keeping him from scolding her, plus he knew the caffeine was helping to keep her going,
"Tess would have my head if she knew."

"I won't tell," Kevin replied solemnly, surprised when Andrew let out what sounded close to a snort,
"What was that for?"

"You'd have a lot of room to tattle with that sweet tooth of yours," Andrew chuckled,
"Once we go back to work, I am introducing you to something called fruit and her to something called decafe."

"She is coming back to work with us, right?" Kevin asked, deciding to ignore that last comment.

Letting out a worried sigh, Andrew's eyes traveled inside of the house once more,
"As far as I know, Kev. As far as I know."

It was nearly 2:00 in the morning when the last page printed and the exhausted angel starred at the binder in her hands. She wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed; her back ached, her fingers were cramping and all the coffee she had consumed today, combined with lack of sleep, had her feeling a little shaky. But she knew she would not be able to sleep without talking to Andrew now that she was finished.

She knew he was probably sound asleep as he and Kevin had gone to bed nearly three hours ago and she debated waiting until morning, but she was so nervous now that she knew she would never be able to sleep regardless of how tired she was until she knew what he thought. Groaning softly as she got up out of the chair, she shuffled into the kitchen, rubbing her eyes and put on a pot of water for tea. As she leaned up against the counter waiting for it to boil, she wondered once again if what she had worked so hard on would even go over well, despite the gentle nudge that the Father had given her this morning.

Ten minutes later, she softly opened the door to Andrew's room and sighed when she saw he was fast asleep. Slipping inside, she set the cup of tea she had made for him down on his nightstand, before walking over to the other side of the bed and crawling up to sit on her legs beside of him. Tentatively, she reached over and have him a gentle shake,
"Andrew?" Hearing him grumble something in his sleep, she tried again, a little more firmly this time with her shake,
"Andrew, I need to talk to you."

Still mostly asleep, Andrew groaned and rolled over to ignore her,
"Give me a break, Angel Girl," He mumbled, still caught up in the dream of being in Florida and her and Kevin keeping him up all night.

"Andrew, I know it's late and I'm sorry, but it's important," Monica pleaded.

Something in her voice, caused him to wake up then as he bolted up in bed, running a hand through his tousled blond hair,
"Angel Girl?" He said softly, seeing her there in the darkness next to him,
"Sweetie, is everything all right?"

"I think so. I just need to talk to you and you need to turn on the light. There is something I need for you to see." As tired as she was, she couldn't keep the tinge of excitement from her voice.

Rubbing his eyes, Andrew reached over and turned on the light, managing a sleepy smile as he saw the cup of hot tea sitting there,
"Well, you didn't plan this at all now, did you?" He teased gently, before seeing her pensive expression,
"Talk to me, Monica. What is it you have been working on all day?"

Biting her lip nervously, she held out her hands and handed the binder to him, watching as he took it and after exchanging a look with her, he opened it up.

As the supervising angel paged through what appeared to be a training manual, his eyes widened as he read the different topics, each followed with explicit instructions, all dealing with victims of rape,
"Monica, what is this?"

Her aching fingers worked nervously as she managed to find her voice,
"It's something I want to present to Jamie," She began softly,
"Her unit needs help and I know now that I am not the angel to provide that, and even if I were, they need more help than just one. But with that being said, I couldn't imagine any other angels having to go through what I did and what the others did in order to be able to understand what these humans are going through. So, I went through it all today; every emotion, every feeling, what helped me and what didn't and I put this together in hopes that Jamie and Special Forces will use it instead of making any others choose what I chose and what the others chose. I figure it is about a 4-week training period to teach the angels who volunteer for this what these women that they are going to help have gone through, so they don't have to experience it first hand to understand." She drew in a deep breath as she awaited his reaction.

Andrew kept his eyes lowered as he cleared his throat,
"And who will be teaching this course if Jamie agrees to it?"

"Well, I'm hoping that if there is still a place for me working with you and Kevin, that you could spare me for a few weeks to do this every few months, until Jamie can get someone else to learn the material and replace me as the trainer," She explained, growing concerned as his eyes remained focused on the file in his hands as he continued to page through it.

"How did you come to this, Monica?" He asked softly.

She was quiet for a moment, contemplating her answer,
"I think for the last 14 years, I have been waiting for something or someone to fix this for me…to make it all worth it for me. I realized this morning, with the Father's help that I chose to do this 14 years ago, to help a teenage girl, so what made me think that the solution as to how to deal with it or how to make it all worth it, would come from anyone other than me? I was the one who had to make what Philip did to me worth it, not Jamie and not Special Forces. I knew I didn't want to be there, but didn't see how I could live with myself if it all was in vain. Doing this, today, made it all worth it, if only she accepts it. No one else in the heavenly realm has to ever go through that again and that would make it all worth it to me." Still seeing him not looking up, she began to feel panicked,
"Andrew? What are you thinking? I need to know…"

As he looked up at last, Monica saw the tears that had flooded his eyes and tears filled her own eyes at his words,
"I'm thinking, little one, that I have never in my existence been prouder of you than I am right now." He choked out, pulling her into his arms and hugging her as tightly as he dared,
"I can't imagine Jamie turning this down, sweetheart. It's a near perfect solution. I'm just so proud of you, Angel Girl, just so proud. There are no other words, Mon'. And Kevin and I are counting on you coming back to us as that is where you belong, though it will not be an issue for you to teach this course you devised and I have that on the Highest Authority, Angel Girl."

Holding onto him tightly, the exhausted angel smiled through her tears as she whispered a silent "Thank you" to the Father,
"Andrew, for the first time in so long, I feel at peace about this, providing Jamie accepts it. The last 10 years have been wonderful, but in the back of my mind, it was always there, you know? But now…I can't even explain how it is I feel, Andy…it's just…it's like being free. And you, you've helped me so much and I know you will say you didn't really do anything, but Andrew, you did. You gave me my confidence back as we worked together and you made me see that what happened to me didn't change how much you loved me, and Andrew, those things were so important and they are in the training manual, written with you in mind and geared towards angels helping the victims families to help their loved ones get through the trauma of this, like you helped me. Without you and the Father and even Kevin…I'm just so grateful, Andrew."

Planting tiny kisses on the top of her head, Andrew whispered to her,
"Whatever I did to help you, sweetheart, was entirely my pleasure. There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you, Angel Girl and you know that." Pulling away, he looked into her eyes,
"You look ready to drop, Monica."

"I'm really, really tired," She uttered tearfully, yet managing a smile at the same time.

"I can't imagine why," He smiled gently at her as he reached over to turn off the light before lying back with her in his arms,
"Now, go to sleep and tomorrow you and I will have a little conversation about 7 pots of coffee in one day, even if it was for an incredible cause," He smiled again as she gave a weary chuckle, but it wasn't even a minute later that she was fast asleep in his arms. Before he closed his eyes, he offered up a prayer of thanks to the Father for helping to bring his best friend full circle at long last and for the first time in a long, long time, Andrew fell asleep knowing that she would be just fine.

Epilogue

By the end of that week, three well-rested angels walked, chattering nonstop, up the steps back to the cabin. Kevin stuck his tongue out at his supervisor over the use of his new nickname, and chuckling, Andrew shook his blonde head and put his hand on the doorknob. Keeping a hold of Monica's hand, the oldest angel pushed the door open and poked his head inside,
"Anybody home?"

"Is that my angel babies I hear?" Tess cried out, coming out of the kitchen as Rose and Carla looked up from where they sat in the living room. Seeing the three angels entering the cabin with Andrew in the lead, the older angel wasn't sure of whom to grab first, so she pulled her Angel Boy into her arms and embraced him tightly,
"We've been wondering when you three were going to show up!"

Laughing at the force of her embrace, Andrew hugged his older friend back before he released her and gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek,
"Well, we're here now, Tess. Wonder Boy and Cupcake couldn't wait to see you three again." The blonde angel winked at his two charges and friends before heading into Rose's waiting arms. As he felt his former supervisor wrap her arms tightly around him, Andrew looked over her shoulder and chuckled as Carla flung her arms around both Monica and Kevin at the same time.

"I wish that you three would just stay put with us in this cabin instead of disappearing!" Although she appeared to be scolding, Andrew heard the teasing in her voice.

"I know, Rose, but we had a little work to do over the last few days," He replied with a smile,
"But the good news is that everything is going to be just fine…better than fine even. How about the best it has been in a long time?"

Breathing a huge sigh of relief, Carla released the youngest angel and her former supervisor, and walked over to Andrew to embrace him tightly as well,
"Can I tell you how good it feels to hear those words coming out of your mouth, buddy?"

Laughing, Andrew wrapped his arms around his young friend in return and nodded his head,
"Lemme tell you, Car...I never thought I'd see the day."

Tess smiled as she came face to face with her Angel Girl, delighting in a sparkle in those doe-like eyes that she had not seen in a long time, not even during the last ten years when things had improved so much. Hugging the little Irish angel tightly, Tess spoke softly,
"We were worried about you, Angel Girl."

"I'm all right, Tess," Monica replied softly in return,
"And for the first time since everything happened, I can say that and honestly mean it."

"We are so very proud of you, Little Angel," Rose spoke up then as she walked over to where Tess was releasing the Irish angel from her arms,
"The Father told us about your idea, and about how Jamie agreed to it...Monica, I'M proud of you, I hope you know that, sweetheart."

Smiling a real smile for the first time at Andrew's former supervisor, Monica flung her arms around the elderly angel and hugged her tightly,
"Thank you, Rose."

Seeing Andrew grinning broadly at the exchange between his best friend and his former supervisor, Kevin piped up,
"Yeah, we're all pretty dog-on proud of Cupcake," He winked at Monica as she sighed over the use of the nickname before he headed towards the kitchen,
"I'll be right back. I'm starving."

At those words, Andrew and Monica burst into laughter and the older of the two shook his head in wonder,
"When is he never hungry? But I really think some fruit is calling your name, Wonder Boy...no more donuts or cakes-"

"Wonder Boy?" Carla raised a thin eyebrow at that name and smacked Kevin on the back,
"Hey, that suits him perfectly, Andrew!" He winked in the youngest angel's direction and giggled as he narrowed his brown eyes at her,
"Hey, it's the truth..."

"It sure is," Monica quipped, taking the opportunity to get back at her co-worker for that horrible nickname he had laid on her,
"As we all WONDER where he puts half the stuff he eats."

"Want me to put the coffee on for you, Cupcake?" Kevin asked, an evil glint in his eye as he prepared to go into the kitchen.

"Only if it is decafe," She purred back innocently, delighting in his disappointed expression at failing to get her into trouble.

But the disappointed look didn't stay on Kevin's face for long as Tess piped up,
"It's good to see you cutting back, Angel Girl," Tess began, but only raised an eyebrow as she saw how Andrew had raised a hand to his mouth and was stifling back some laughter. She then raised both eyebrows and faced her 'Miss Wings',
"All right, Cupcake, what's Angel Boy laughing about over there...? Lemme guess. You overdosed on coffee this past week..."

"More then you realize, Tess," Kevin chortled, winking over at his supervisor and seeing the slightly red look on Monica's face as he faced her,
"And Simba over there...I still need to get revenge on him for that time at Disney when he forced me to have my picture taken with the Beast from 'Beauty and the Beast'! Talk about cruel and unusual punishment on such a nice fellow like myself..."

"Oh and I'm sure you are completely innocent in all of this," Carla giggled, watching as Monica had taken this opportunity to slip out of Tess' line of fire to take a seat beside of Andrew on the sofa,
"Poor Andrew and Monica probably had to fight for food to stay alive in their human forms with you around! They are both looking a little peaked if you ask me!"

Shrugging his shoulders innocently, Kevin then disappeared inside of the kitchen to grab some food and not even a few minutes later, he returned with a huge piece of pie in his hand, while licking his fingers with the other. Putting on an innocent look for his supervisor, he held the plate out to him.

"I thought I told you FRUIT, man..." Andrew pretended to look peeved at his charge and shook his blonde head as Kevin instead stuck his tongue out at him and took a seat on the arm of the chair Carla had occupied. The little blonde angel who resembled Andrew's look to a T, also shook her head and dipped her finger into the piece of pumpkin pie and licked her finger.

"Can't keep me away from that stuff either," She winked over at the youngest angel and giggled as he gave her a mock glare,
"Although I don't think I'm half as bad as Mr. Wonder over here..."

"You know, Kevin," Monica mused aloud,
"Had you been smart, you would have gone for peach pie as that has fruit in it," She winked at her younger friend and ignored the exasperated sigh Andrew gave.

"Good point, Cupcake," Kevin replied, deciding to go for the brass ring in this conversation,
"And had you been smart, you wouldn't have drank 7 pots of coffee in one day knowing how Tess feels about that. What really amazes me is that Andrew let you do it."

"Hold it, hold it!" Tess held a hand up and broke in,
"Did you just say...SEVEN pots of coffee?" A stern look appeared on the older angel's mahogany features and her eyes bugged out,
"Since when did Mr. Halo ever allow you to have 7 pots of coffee-"

"This last week he did," Kevin interrupted and winked at his supervisor, who was shooting dirty look after dirty look his way. He chuckled as Tess rose to her feet and crossed her arms in front of her chest, staring down at Andrew and Monica. The little Irish angel's face had turned pink with embarrassment, but she also appeared to be holding back fits of laughter as she shrugged her shoulders innocently.

"I was on a roll?" Monica offered meekly, inching a little closer to her best friend and looking up at him for help.

"Yes, I did allow it under the circumstances," Andrew stammered, trying not to burst into laughter at the look on Tess' face, which was nearly a shade of purple,
"Part of being a supervisor is knowing when the rules need to be bent a little and she and I did have a nice long discussion the next day about the benefits of decafe. Just like Kevin and I will be having a little discussion on the benefits of keeping ones mouth shut."

"You mean, like when Monica told me about the bumblebee costume?" Kevin nearly choked on his piece of pie as Andrew's face turned a deep shade of red and Monica leaned forward and nearly fell into her best friend's lap with laughter. The blonde supervisor's face turned an even deeper shade of red as he watched Tess shake her head and start to chuckle under the circumstances. Rose and Carla, however, still appeared lost in the dark and before he could speak, Kevin piped up again,
"You mean to tell us, Tess, that you didn't tell those two about the bumblebee antenna?"

"Well, baby, I kinda forgot about it..." Tess started and she had to laugh at the look on her 'Angel Boy's' face.

"Oh Andrew, I'm really sorry," Monica managed to say between fits of giggles, knowing Kevin had her on that one and her poor best friend just had to suffer the consequences once more. Feeling the need to stick up for her friend, she glared at Kevin,
"By all means, eat! At least when your mouth is full of junk food, you aren't talking."

"Seven pots of coffee, seven pots of coffee…" Kevin chanted as if he were a subliminal message trying to remind Tess to apply the heat once more, but before he could get any further, he choked on a laugh as his eyes widened, as Monica flew out of her seat heading in his direction. Shoving his nearly empty pie plate at Carla, he leapt to his feet and struck a ninja type stance to defend himself, his eyes twinkling with mischief and laughter.

Raising an eyebrow in his youngest charge's direction, Andrew gave him a Look and grumbled,
"I don't see anything funny about this, Wonder Boy..."

"Oh but I do!" He then took his seat once again and was about to take the plate back from Carla, when the youngest angel noticed that it was now empty. His eyes widening again, he stuck his lower lip out in a pout and crossed his arms in front of his chest,
"You finished off my pie, woman!"

Nodding his head, Andrew applauded his blonde friend and chuckled as the attention was now taken off of him and the embarrassing Halloween costume, and was now back on Kevin,
"Thank you, Carla. You did good."

"You're welcome and it was good," Carla grinned with a giggle, noticing how Andrew's comment had caused Kevin to take his attention off Monica.

Kevin let out a yelp as the Irish angel descended upon him, trapping him in the chair as she tickled him mercilessly. His cries of laughter filled the room as tears came to his eyes from laughing so hard,
"Get her off me! This is what happens when good cupcakes go bad! Down, cupcake, down!" He screeched, his face bright red from laughing.

Ignoring his cries and pleas, Monica only continued to tickle him mercilessly,
"Well, this is what you get for the day we left on the cruise! Remember when you tickled me nonstop to wake up? You didn't have to join in with Andrew, you know..."

Rose and Tess watched from afar and the oldest of the duo shook her red head and wiped at the tears of laughter from her eyes as she watched Andrew rise from his seat and head over to where his two younger friends and charges were at. Rose gripped Tess' arm in laughter as she watched their 'Angel Boy' take off Kevin's shoes and grabbed his ankles so that he could tickle his padded feet.

"Remember what Cupcake said that day we left, Simba!" Kevin screamed in laughter as he shook his legs so that his supervisor would release his ankles,
"If you don't let go, I'm going to kick you! And you know I will!"

Finally in one abrupt motion, Kevin managed to tuck his feet up under him as he desperately gave Monica a shove that knocked her down onto the floor with a startled yelp, though Andrew managed to break the worst of her fall as he was directly under her.

"See?"Kevin chortled, trying to catch his breath,
"It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt!" But he had to grin, seeing his supervisor wrap his arms around his best friend as they both struggled to catch their breaths.

"You know, Rose," Tess remarked with a small smile,
"I'm not sure you could pay me enough to supervise the three of them, but they do seem well suited for each other."

"That they do, Tess," The older angel agreed, her eyes coming to rest on Andrew and Monica for a moment as the Irish angel leaned back into his embrace,
"But I do believe that from here on out, the sailing is going to be a lot smoother."