Edit: I keep forgetting to put the date stamp at the top of these. It's mildly important but means nothing until you know about the date system.
| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Autumn, Year 20
Blame continued working at the block with the Angels, noticing the same pattern each day; nothing much getting done until Nebris initiated it.
He still couldn’t tell whether Nebris was in charge or just taking the leaderly duties on himself. He wanted to ask about it, but wasn’t sure whether that was a stupid question. Things worked differently in Offstreet, and he thought he would just have to figure them out by himself, even with the Angels guiding him.
The pain in his shoulders hit a peak on that Friday. He’d decided to stay home because of it, despite taking painkillers and lying on the couch. By this point, he could feel muscular structures protruding from each shoulder blade, covered in down. Blame thought he must look the Angel equivalent of a baby bird; awkward and new to all this.
Blame wanted to be able to fly. If he had to go through all this pain, he was certainly going to put the end result to good use. He would have to take lessons from Vechs or Nebris, he supposed; the thought frightened and excited him. His one experience of Nebris’ flying had made an impression on him.
Blame sighed as he lay in the apartment, drinking from a glass of water. The pain was not currently at its worst but it was there, throbbing through his back and the newly growing limbs.
A knock on the door startled him. He sat up, groaning. He assumed Vechs and Nebris had finished early and come home, but when he got up and opened the door, a strange person was standing there.
They were taller than Blame by quite a bit, and had long, blonde hair. Blame would have assumed they were human for the lack of visible wings, but their face made him think otherwise.
They had six eyes, completely black and shining. Blame stepped back a little, unsettled.
“Hello?” he said.
“Hey,” they said. “Sorry, I don’t think we’ve met before.”
Blame was taken aback at how normal they sounded. Well, their voice was a tad too quiet, taking on a slightly gravelly edge that made Blame think of Nebris, but he’d expected something perhaps a little scarier to match their visage.
They smiled, revealing a gap between their front teeth. It grounded them in reality, somehow, and Blame thought that they would be pretty attractive without the extra eyes.
No,” he said. “I’m Blame, uh, who are you?”
“Sorry, I’m Cambriel,” they said, then stepped into the apartment like it was their own. “I’m an old friend of Vechs and Nebris. I guess they aren’t home.”
“No, they’re at work.” Blame stepped back too. “Um, did you want something?”
Cambriel pushed a strand of hair from their cheek. “I was going to ask Vechs and Nebris if I could crash at their place for a few nights.” They let out a breath that could almost have been a laugh. “I haven’t had a home in a while. Who are you, anyway?”
It struck Blame that this was the ‘Cam’ Vechs had been talking about the other day. He’d almost forgotten that talk, having not brought it up to either of his friends. Now he was wary, remembering how the Angels had spoken about them, like they were a bad person.
“Blame,” he said, sitting down on the couch. Cambriel towered above him like this, but soon sat down on the chair. Blame felt less intimidated. Painfully conscious of his budding wings, he leaned forward and looked at the other person. “Funnily enough, I’ve been crashing at Vechs and Nebris’ place. I am - well, was - a human.”
Cambriel seemed surprised. They blinked a couple of times, and when Blame realised that only their top two eyes seemed to move at all, he relaxed. The other four were likely fake or something. An odd fashion choice, but like many things, Blame decided it was better not to question.
“Huh,” Cambriel said. “Well, I might just wait here until they come home.”
Blame narrowed his eyes. He was sure they had some ulterior motive, but until the Angels came home, he had no choice other than to be polite.
“Would you like something to drink?” he asked, standing up.
“Yeah,” Cambriel said. “Whatever you have.”
Blame turned towards the kitchen, and heard a soft sound from the other.
“Nice wings,” Cambriel said, their voice still calm and unreadable. Blame really couldn’t detect any sarcasm, which somehow made him more uncomfortable.
“Thanks,” he said. “They hurt like a bitch, though.”
“Huh. Well, they do that,” Cambriel replied. “My own aren’t in great shape.”
Blame recalled that Vechs had said something about their winds being mutilated. He continued into the kitchen, turning to watch Cambriel as he began to make coffee.
“What happened to yours?” he asked as he took milk from the fridge. “And how do you take your coffee?”
“Black, no sugar. I… I don’t want to say why. But some… people cut them off.”
“I’m sorry,” Blame said, as Cambriel’s tone finally wavered, its unsettling calmness rippling like someone had thrown a stone in a pond. Blame couldn’t help but feel sympathy. Despite how bad Cambriel might be, Blame didn’t think anyone deserved that. He guessed it would be akin to having one of his arms cut off. He shivered a little.
“It’s okay,” Cambriel said; Blame knew it wasn’t. He wanted to mend the sudden coldness between the Angel and him, but he knew that wouldn’t be easy. He focused on making the coffee and bringing it to the coffee table, sitting down again and watching Cambriel as they cupped the mug in both hands, wondering what to say.
“I’m sorry I barged in here,” Cambriel said. “I’m just used to it, I guess.”
Used to barging into apartments, or into Vechs and Nebris’ apartment specifically? Blame wondered. He didn’t have to ask as Cambriel kept talking.
“You might have guessed, but I have… history with Vechs and Nebris. We were very close a long time ago, and I’m sorry that we aren’t anymore. You are very lucky.”
“Don’t be jealous of me,” Blame said.
“I know I shouldn’t be,” Cambriel said, taking a sip from the steaming cup, “But I am. Can you really blame me?”
Blame studied them, their two eyes blinking again, the stillness of the other four still taking him by surprise. He found himself very confused now. He wanted to believe that Cambriel was manipulating him, or lying for some reason, but he couldn’t detect anything but honesty in their words.
“Depends what you did, I guess,” Blame said, then bit his tongue. He took a sip of his coffee, but it was too hot to swallow.
Blame sighed. “I guess it depends on what you did, to like… to cut yourself off from Nebris and Vechs. If you aren’t friends anymore, I mean.” He was probably digging himself a deeper hole, but Blame didn’t care at this point.
“Oh,” Cambriel said. They set their mug down and intertwined their fingers, eyes downcast. “I did what I had to do, Blame.”
“And that alienated you from them?”
Cambriel sighed. “They didn’t like what I did, no.”
“And yet you came back here looking for their hospitality?” Blame’s voice rose, and he berated himself for allowing it to do that while Cambriel’s remained so level.
“I have nowhere else to go. I don’t expect them to forgive me. I expect them to do the right thing. And Blame…”
Blame looked up.
Cambriel continued. “You have to remember that everything Vechs says about me, and everything Nebris says about me… well, it might not be all honest.”
“I trust them,” Blame said, his throat tightening.
“Oh, they can be trustworthy. But when emotions like… like that are involved, it skews perceptions.”
“Emotions like what?” Blame muttered, although he didn’t think he wanted to hear it. There was enough going on with his own emotions that he was hardly addressing, and he had a feeling he knew what Cambriel was talking about.
Cambriel fixed him with a look, the corner of their mouth tugging into half a smile. “You know what I mean.”
Blame shrugged, averting his gaze to the coffee table in front of him. He wasn’t going to talk about ‘emotions like that’ with someone he’d just met, let alone someone he couldn’t decide whether or not to trust.
He didn’t understand how they expected Nebris and Vechs to extend their hospitality to them when it was so clear that they’d done something hurtful towards the two men. Even if it was the polite thing to do, Blame thought Cambriel should try other places before coming here. He didn’t say this, just sipped his coffee and looked at the table.
“Oh!” Cambriel said. “I should have asked. I'm curious. Did Nebris ever get a new job?”
Blame looked at the Angel, startled at the change in conversation. It didn't even feel as if Cambriel was trying to change the subject. Blame could believe that it had just come to their mind.
“How long have you been gone? He works as a cleanup crew for this destroyed building in the city. So does Vechs. And, as of recently, me.”
Blame felt a little bad for offering all this information to Cambriel, but he had no reason to not trust the Angel. Besides, it was all just harmless small talk.
“Huh,” Cambriel said slowly. “I guess he didn't tell you what his previous job was?”
“No,” Blame said, “just that he was fired.”
Cambriel chuckled, “I don't know how much you care to know, but Nebris used to dance in a strip club.”
Blame spluttered, nearly choking on his coffee. “They have those here?”
“Of course. What kind of a world would this be without strippers?”
Blame didn't question this line of logic. He stood up for something to do, taking his coffee mug. Pain throbbed in his shoulders, and the door opened.
Blame turned as Nebris and Vechs came through the door. Nebris swept his downturns gaze towards the lounge and his mouth dropped open slightly.
Blame had never seen him so caught off guard, seeing Cambriel sitting there.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Vechs spat.
Blame’s hands shook. “I'm sorry, they invited themself in, I thought--”
Vechs sighed. “I'm sorry, I don't blame you.”
He turned to Cambriel. “Who said you could just come in here uninvited?”
“You did.” Cambriel stood up. They were a little shorter than Vechs, but their confidence made them seem miles taller. “I’m not harming anyone by being here, Vechs. All I need is a place to sleep.”
“There’s no room.” Vechs’ voice was cold.
“I’ll take the couch. The floor. I don't mind.”
“Why here?” Nebris spoke up. “Was Heithrun not good enough for you?”
“It’s none of your business.”
Despite everything - how hurt Nebris look, how angry Vechs seemed - Blame felt sorry for Cambriel.
“Let them stay,” he said.
“Blame, you don't understand,” Nebris began. Blame clenched his trembling fists.
“No,” he said to Nebris. “I do not understand! Because you haven't explained anything. All I know is I'm supposed to hate them, but nobody has given me any reason to!”
Nebris stepped back, and Blame was surprised to see that he was acting embarrassed.
Nebris took a long look at Cambriel, who stayed silent and still.
“Fine. You can stay, but only until you find yourself another home. And that better be quick.”
Vechs turned to Nebris in surprise.
Blame lay face down on Vechs and Nebris’ large bed, shirtless, while Vechs massaged his aching shoulders with his hands.
Nebris blocked the view of the sky out the window beside him, also lying on the bed to chat to Vechs.
“So what happened with Cambriel?” Blame asked. It was a risky question, but the door was shut and Cambriel, in the lounge room, could not hear them. Blame thought he was owed an explanation.
“It’s a long story,” Vechs said. “Nebris can tell it. If you want,” he said to Nebris.
“Okay,” Nebris said. He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. “Well. The short story is that we dated, uh, about five years ago. More than that.”
“We,” Blame asked, “As in you and Cambriel? Or you and Vechs and Cambriel?”
“Right, us three,” Nebris replied. “Well, originally I was just dating Cam. They convinced me to bring Vechs into the relationship too, which might have been their best idea ever.” Nebris smiled. “But that’s a story for another time. Anyway, I always knew there was something weird about them. I told you about the humans that bombed the building, right? Well, when Cambriel saw the building collapse - they were there, they saw it - they just up and left. They went straight through one of the sky rings to Heithrun and I didn't see them until today. They never contacted me for five years.”
“That’s it?” Blame asked. Vechs paused his massage.
“There were people I knew in that building,” Nebris said. His voice was low, with an edge that made Blame’s skin prickle. “They didn't even stay to help the rescue operation. They are a coward.”
“I’m sorry,” Blame said, wishing he could comfort Nebris, or show he was sorry beyond just saying it. He looked out at the dimming sky, purple in the spaces between buildings. Yellow windows lit the city.
“Don't be,” Nebris said. “Look. I know I should get over it, it's been five years. But I can't.” He laughed once. “Whatever, I have Vechs. And you, now.”
Blame’s heart thumped so hard he thought Vechs might feel it through his back, where he had resumed kneading to ease the pain. He wanted to ask what he was to Nebris, what he meant by having him.
“Did you love them?” Blame asked. He knew he was toeing a dangerous line, but he had to ask.
“Oof, hitting him with the hard questions,” Vechs commented, pressing his fingers hard into Blame’s shoulder blades.
“Sorry. Ow, not so hard.”
“Is it helping?” Vechs asked.
Blame rolled his shoulders. “It is, actually.” The massage had melted some of the sharper pain away, leaving him with just a dull ache.
“Your wings are growing nicely,” Vechs said. “They're going to be pretty sexy, I can tell.”
Blame laughed, dimming into a faltering chuckle. Vechs didn't sound like he was joking.
Nebris laughed, sitting up to assess the downy buds protruding from Blame’s shoulder blades. “Yeah, they’re going to be really pretty. To match your face!”
Blame pressed his face into the pillow to hide his blush. He didn't mind all the attention, but he was not used to it.
Nebris and Vechs still confused him. Although he’d figured that casual flirting was normal for both of them, he couldn't ignore that it made his stomach flip when they said those things.
He sat up, pulling his shirt back over his wings.
“You’ll need to get new Angel clothes, soon,” Nebris commented. “How about Vechs and I take you shopping tomorrow?”
Blame shrugged, looking at Vechs. “Sure.”