Water is like stress, he thinks, staring down into the roiling river. It gathers together like bundles of nerves, frays, coils around and around itself like so many missed deadlines and failed opportunities, spooling out into some unplanned future that's amounted to nothing and yet too much at the same time.
Adam sucks down a breath, harsh, and crooks himself forward, aiming for the water. The bridge he's standing on already seems far enough behind him, like he's already jumped and is drowning there in the cold. He can hear the splash spraying up-
No. Some bracken sense of realization washes over him, because he's alive and on the bridge, still, now, and that's someone else faltering in the waves below.
Without pausing to think or question his own actions, Adam sprints down the edge of the bridge back to the road and around to the rocky edge of the water, where all he can make out is the frothy fray of water and what looks like a sodden red hat. It's like a gut reaction, how he wades in all vigor and holding himself up to help, arms reaching out for the drowning man.
In a flurry of motion in the cold Minnesota water, he eventually drags the victim to shore feeling ridiculously like the Little Mermaid. To Adam's mild surprise, it's a kid, fifteen or so- maybe a year younger than him. "Hey," he says, teeth chattering as he lands a hand on the other guy's slack face. "Hey, come on, man, open your eyes. You okay? Come on." It all feels wrong, this insanity that's happened in under five minutes, and Adam can't help thinking that it was supposed to be him dying today, not some stranger he pulled from the water.
It's then that the kid's eyes snap open and he gasps in a lungful of air, his clothes- which Adam just now realizes are a wrinkled Wiener Hut uniform- miraculously dry. "Hello, Adam. I'm an angel of the Lord. My name is Samandriel. I came to save you."
So first Adam feels like the kids that found E.T. Shortly after he feels like an idiot.
"Yeah, okay, kid," he says, reaching for the back of the guy's- Samandriel's- shirt to lift him into a sitting position. It baffles him that it's dry, but he can put that off for later. "What happened, d'you hit your head on the way down?"
"No," he says. "But it wouldn't have mattered. Angels in general aren't really affected by falling." He chuckles a bit, bizarrely. "Well, except for the obvious."
"Okay, who are you really?" Adam asks, not noticing the name patch on the uniform and wondering if he should check for ID because maybe the guy really can't remember who he is.
"I told you," he answers. "I'm Samandriel."
"Who… came to save me?"
"Yes," he answers again with a nod, drawing his legs up as he sits taller there on the shoreline. As evening sets in the light's getting dimmer, but Adam doesn't seem to notice.
"By jumpin' into the river?"
"I saw it in a movie once," says Samandriel. "Last time I was here. It's A Wonderful Life. It was really good, except- I had hoped that Clarence would be able to fix George Bailey's ear permanently." With his mouth popped open he looks like he might babble on about the film for awhile longer, so Adam speaks hastily.
"Okay, listen, Sam…Samdri-"
"Listen, Sandy, you got someone I can call?"
"Well," he says, eyes going skyward like he's thinking (or more likely looking up at Heaven), "there's my garrison leader, Castiel, though he doesn't really get involved in our individual projects."
That gives Adam something of a start. "I'm a project?"
"Well, not just you," Samandriel corrects. "I'm on a special task force for preventing suicides."
If Adam means to say something, he drops it and just lilts back a little, looking Samandriel up and down. He's also thinking about himself, about how he must've just been a number on a list somewhere, that the goodbye note he'd left in his car had been filed and processed, that the prayers he'd hated himself for mustering out last night had been answered.
It's somewhere in the midst of all this thinking that Adam realizes he believes in angels.
"So, what, this is your job?" he asks, leaning away from Samandriel- Samandriel the angel of the Lord- because it seems like he's really alright and doesn't need an ambulance or CPR or whatever the hell Adam was going to do. "You pop in and stop people from offin' themselves?"
Adam nods slowly, mouth parted as he thinks. "How's it go? You save a lot of people?"
"Um," says Samandriel again, "not- not really. It's hard. A lot of them don't take me seriously." No wonder, he can't help but think. Even soaking wet the angel had to weigh ninety pounds, and his way of tripping over his words or rambling seemed unprofessional, if a bit endearing.
"Maybe it's the threads," he suggests, nodding to the red-and-white striped fast food uniform.
"What, my clothes?" The angel doesn't look offended, just confused. "This is just what my vessel was wearing."
"Alfie," says Samandriel, indicating the badge on the front of his shirt. "He was chosen by Heaven to be the body I would use on Earth."
Adam squints, not quite getting it. He might not've been the most attentive in Sunday School, but this he's sure he's never heard of. "So where is he now?"
"Alfie isn't home right now," Samandriel shrugs. "There's some higher level algorithm I could use to explain it better, if-"
"Yeah, no, it's fine," Adam shuts him down. "We should probably look at gettin' you some dry clothes."
"But my clothes are dry," he insists while Adam pulls him to his feet and half-pushes him up the incline to where his pick-up is parked.
"Yeah, you can explain how that works on the way," he says, popping open the side door so the angel can get shotgun.
Later, once Adam has outfitted Samandriel with one of his older, smaller t-shirts and a pair of jeans that are way too big on his thin frame, he's buzzing around the kitchen getting milk for the two of them. He keeps having to tell himself over and over again what's happening, there's an angel in my kitchen and there's an angel in my kitchen wearing my old clothes and there's an angel in my kitchen wearing my old clothes and I'm getting him milk.
"Who's that?" he asks, pointing at the picture on the refrigerator stuck fast by magnets.
"That's my mom," Adam replies, handing him his glass of milk. Samandriel's perched himself on the edge of the kitchen table, his legs not reaching the floor but rather swinging back and forth, the long sleeves of Adam's shirt rolled up to his elbows. "Sandy, I don't know how many human women you've met, but she's the best." He says it with a slight laugh that fades quickly, the conviction behind the words deeper than the humor, as he slides in beside Samandriel on the edge of the table with his own milk.
Samandriel takes a sip before saying, "Then why did you try to kill yourself?"
Adam exhales through his nose and leans forward, arms balanced on his knees and glass of milk cupped in both hands. "Gets to be too much, Sandy, you know?" he sighs. "Actin' like you're fine. Actin' like you've got everything under control. Gotta keep grades up, gotta watch out for Mom, and with Dad never here…" He pauses and glances sideways at Samandriel. "Why'm I tellin' you all this?"
"I've been told that my small stature and meek nature make me seem nonthreatening and a receptive listener," Samandriel rattles off, making Adam laugh in a sudden sharp burst.
"Who told you that?"
"My older brother, Castiel," he says into his milk glass, gulping some down.
"I thought he was your boss?"
"Sort of both," Samandriel answers. "There's a certain hierarchy of angels, but we're all related."
"All of you?" says Adam. "So, what, you're related to the bigwigs like, uh, Michael? And Gabriel?"
"Well, yes," he says, looking like he doesn't understand why it's a big deal. "I've never met either of them though. And from what I hear, Gabriel hasn't been around in a long time."
"Oh," Adam says, interest declining. He never was a theology nut, but still. Angel. In his kitchen. Wearing his clothes. Drinking his milk.
That angel follows him around like a lost puppy dog for the next week, trailing behind him at school (Adam has to introduce him as a foreign exchange student), sticking around at the convenience store where Adam works (Adam gets him to do inventory), hanging around his house (Adam tells his mother that his friend's parents were out of town and he needed a place to crash).
They don't talk about Adam's near-dive off the bridge, or his grades, or his father. Instead they speak at length about history, what Adam's learned in school and what Samandriel remembers from his own experience. Samandriel walks him through the Civil War from the point of view of a southern boy who'd been his vessel at the time. Adam pesters him about the Cold War but Samandriel brushes it off, calling that one "boring," though Adam secretly guesses the idea of nuclear weapons upsets him.
Adam covers the rest of Jimmy Stewart's cinematography- at least the Hitchcock films- after Samandriel won't shut up about It's A Wonderful Life, and during Rear Window the angel gets so spooked he hides his face behind Adam's shoulder.
On Friday night, as Adam's crawling into bed while Samandriel slumps into Adam's desk chair with a heavy book about the 1940s that he'd made Adam check out from the school library, Samandriel tells him without preamble, "It's okay to screw up."Adam flips the corners of the covers back to look him square in the eye. "I mean, I screw up almost everything, all the time. It works out in the end, though, and, uh, nobody who really loves you stops. Just so you know."
And he could've rebutted that or veered away from the emotional turn in the conversation, but that's not how Adam feels. He feels more relaxed than he's been in ages, comfortable and grateful. "I wanted you to know that," Samandriel says a moment later, somewhat awkwardly. He's not looking up from the book in his hands. "I might be gone in the morning. I might be gone for awhile, and I just- I wanted you to know that."
Before he rolls over to go to sleep, Adam mumbles, "Thanks, Sandy."