This chapter has a lot of plot stuff. And gay. There's always gay.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8
Winter, year 20
“Can I talk to you for a minute?” Cambriel said to Blame after breakfast was finished and cleared away.
Nebris watched critically as the two left the room. Blame followed Cambriel into the bedroom and Cambriel shut the door, leaning against it.
“The person who sent back my violin,” they began, “sent it as a sign.”
Blame scrutinised Cambriel’s face. There was honesty, as much as it could show in their black eyes.
“A sign? How do you know?”
“Because she said she would.”
“What?” Blame said. And then, “Why are you telling me this?”
“I want you to help me.”
“Help you what?”
“Listen, Blame. I can’t go back there. I’m never going back there. But I have to now.”
Blame looked up at Cambriel. “I can’t help you unless you explain what is going on.”
“I fucked up. I don’t often admit it but I fucked up. And now she wants me to go back and I,” Cambriel took a breath to steady their rising voice. “I can’t.”
“Who wants you to go where?”
Cambriel began to pace across the carpet. “Someone. It’s a long story. But she’s in Heithrun. She said she’d send me a sign when I should go back and find her. That I’d know what it meant. Five years ago some humans attacked a tower in the middle of Offstreet. I thought that was the sign.”
“Oh right,” Blame said. “You left Nebris and Vechs.” He didn’t mean his words to turn sharp as a knife, but they sliced through the air and he regretted his tone immediately.
“I left Offstreet. I was under no obligation to tell them where I was going.” Cambriel pulled a band from their wrist and tied up their hair, frustration wrinkling their face.
Blame stared at them. “You can’t just fucking leave people like that! You broke Nebris’ heart!”
“What?” Cambriel stared right back. Blame’s skin prickled. “I broke up with them both months before I left the city. Did you - did they tell you we were still dating when I left?”
“I,” Blame began. He scoured his memory for the night Nebris told him what happened. He couldn’t remember whether he’d said anything about them already having broken up. “I don’t think he mentioned it,” he admitted.
Cambriel scowled. “Well now I’m setting the record straight. I knew I had to leave them. In late summer of that year, I did. My heart kept wandering back to the memory of someone else. Then I spent five fucking years looking for her.”
The surface of their voice began to crackle, melting away like ice close to a flame. This was revealing something new. Cambriel sat down on the bed.
“Ven?” Blame asked. Cambriel nodded.
Blame leaned against the wall. “Tell me about her.”
“Ven - Venace - she’s hard to talk about. Only a few Angels know of her existence. I’m not even supposed to tell you about her. She created Angels. Nobody knows that, though.”
“The Archangels. At the start, there weren’t Archangels. Just Angels, and Venace. Living in the human world. Ven had all the power and the Angels had none.
But a few Angels got together and decided that one being with all that power was too dangerous. She could destroy them, or the humans at any time. So they reasoned with Ven that she split her powers five ways. Four parts could go to four Angels, who then became the first Archangels, and she would be the fifth. She agreed, but they tricked her. During the power exchange… they took it all.Distributed it to the four Angels and left her powerless. Then they shackled her and locked her up in the void of an alternate dimension.They assumed she’d rot away there. Forgot she was immortal.”
“Oh,” Blame said. Then, feeling like he had no air in his lungs, he slipped to a sitting position on the floor. “So how did you meet her?”
“When the current reigning Archangels - Marque, Ila, Aureylian and Kurt - were scouring the universe for an alternate dimension, they settled on this one to create Offstreet in. Also happened to be the one Venace was locked in. They don’t put that in those history books, though.
They found her and she begged to be set free. She explained what had been done to her, and how it was wrong. The Archangels agreed to let her go, but only if she hid herself. They gave her a normal Angel form and a small house on the outskirts of the city. They were worried she would seek revenge, so they warned her that if she ever tried anything, she would be locked up again.”
“The Angel judicial system isn’t very competent,” Blame stated.
“That’s one thing they didn’t steal from humans,” Cambriel noted bitterly. “But if you saw Venace you’d understand why they were scared.”
“You still haven’t told me how you met her.”
Cambriel sighed and stood up. “Let me show you something.” They turned their back to Blame and pulled their shirt off. Blame was confused and a little alarmed until he saw what Cambriel was showing him.
Below the pair of mutilated wings stubbing out from their shoulder blades, there were two more pairs of wings. Tiny, featherless, and curled like a new leaf, they mirrored their eyes in number and placement.
“You have extra wings, too?”
Cambriel pulled their shirt back over their back. “Vestigial, but yes. Would you believe that this is also the cause of the Archangels?”
“Here’s some more things I shouldn’t be telling you--”
“Then why are you?” Blame interrupted. “What should I do with this information? How the fuck do you know I’m trustworthy?!”
“I want you to help me.”
“I know,” Blame said. “But why me?”
“Because you’re still partially human.”
Blame furrowed his brows. “And?”
“And that means y--” Cambriel stopped, interrupted by a knock on the door.
“Blame?” Nebris called.
“Archangels above. Tell me more later, okay?” Blame said, nodding at Cambriel. They nodded back, blinking slowly.
Blame turned towards the door, stopping before his hand touched the handle. “You’re welcome. And… I hope you find her.”
He opened the door and left before Cambriel could reply.
“What did they want?” Nebris asked as Blame walked back into the living room.
“I don’t know if I can say.”
“Blame, c’mon,” Nebris pleaded. “You know they’re up to no good. I don’t trust them.”
“I know!” Blame said. Something flared in his chest and he turned to Nebris, balling his fists. “I know you don’t trust them. It’s fair, but don’t drag me into your petty argument. They told me you had already broken up before they left the city. You never told me that. I’m not expecting you to get along with your ex, but that doesn’t mean I won’t.”
“They’re dangerous, Blame!” Nebris’ voice cracked and he grabbed Blame’s wrist. He dropped his voice to a hiss. “You know they’re a freak, right? You know they aren’t really an Angel?”
“What?” Blame pulled his hand away. “What do you mean? Of course they’re an Angel!”
“Uh-huh. What kind of Angel has six eyes and six wings? Ones that don’t even fucking work!”
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” Blame said. The rage in him was mixing with confusion, twisting in his stomach like a pit of venomous snakes. It burned at his gut like acid, stripping away the softness the morning had allowed him.
“I’d advise you don’t make such claims about me,” Cambriel said, walking stiffly past Nebris and toward the couch. They picked up the violin case from the coffee table. “Especially when you have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Their voice had returned to its smooth, impenetrable state.
“Blame,” they said.
Blame turned around, away from Nebris’ angry gaze. “Yeah?”
“Goodbye.” They held out a hand for Blame to shake and he took it, feeling a slip of paper pass from their fingers to his. Eyes widening slightly, he palmed it, sliding it into the pocket of his jeans.
“Bye?” It was a question.
“I’m going to find her.”
They turned, and strode out the apartment door.
“Well,” Vechs said.
“Well.” Nebris bit his lip. “Look, Blame, I’m sorry. I know you were friends with them. But I can’t be.”
“What did they give you?” Vechs asked.
“Sorry?” Blame felt the paper crushed in his hand and bit his lip.
“I saw them slip you something. What is it?” Vechs looked at Blame.
Blame sighed, opening his hand. He had a feeling the paper was private, so he held it close to his face.
On the paper was scrawled a phone number and a name. Ronan. Below it were a few words.
Call her and tell her to open the V.R. She’ll know what you mean. Don’t tell her I gave you this number.
“It’s a phone number for somebody called Ronan.”
Vechs glanced at Nebris. Nebris shrugged. “Wouldn’t hurt to call her.”
Blame went to pick up the phone, then paused, gripping the receiver. “Listen,” he said, turning to face Nebris. “Cambriel wants me to help them. If you’re going to eavesdrop on my conversation, the least you can do is help as well. You’re either with me, or not.”
Vechs paused, tapping his fingers together. After a long silence, he stretched out his wings and sank onto the couch. “I’ll help.”
Nebris watched Blame for a long time. “You trust them?”
Nebris sat beside Vechs. “I trust you. I’ll help.”
Blame smiled, a warm rush of gratitude painting his insides. “Thanks.”
Nervously, he dialed the number and put the phone to his ear. It rang several times before somebody picked up.
“Who is this?” asked a bored, smooth voice.
“Hi, my name is Blame. Uh. Someone gave me this number. Are you Ronan?” Blame could hear noise in the background, like the pumping of bassy music and the chatter of many people.
“That’s me. Who gave you my number?”
“They asked me not to tell you.”
“Uh-huhhh. And why are you calling me? While I’m at work?”
“Oh sorry. I didn’t know. Uh. They said they wanted you to, ‘open the V.R.’”
There was a long pause. Blame heard what sounded like cheering in the background.
“Are you sure?”
“Shit. Okay. I want to meet you in person. That’s not something I can just do. I need to explain some things to you.”
“Come see me at work, when I’m on break. It’s safer for me, y’know. Don’t want to be inviting some random weirdo to my house. You could be a murderer.” She laughed.
“Yeah, I’m not. But I get it. When should I come? And is it alright if I bring f-friends?”
“Uh-huh, sure. Come tomorrow at… 8pm. Oh. Don’t you want to know where it is?”
She giggled. “The address is 48 Anahera Street. Ask for me at the door and I’ll try to get you in for free.”
Blame pulled a pen from his pocket to scribble the address down.
“Ok. I’ll see you there. Thanks, Ronan.”
“Not a problem. I’ll see you!”
Blame hung up to see Vechs holding back laughter and Nebris gaping at him. “What?”
“That address you wrote down,” Nebris said, pointing at the paper.
“Yeah, it’s where she works. We’re going to see her tomorrow.”
“What is it?”
“48 Anahera street,” Vechs said, giggles spilling out as he gestured widely with his hands and wings, “is a strip club.”
“And not just any strip club,” Vechs continued, standing up. “The very strip club that that man used to work at!” He threw his arms at Nebris dramatically.
“Yeah, yeah,” Nebris said. “Wonder what their reaction to me turning up there again will be.”
“Probably like, ‘hey big fella, long time, no see.’”
“Actually,” Nebris said, “What would their reaction be to seeing you there?”
“I’m the man that stole away one of their best dancers. So probably not very happy.”
“Uh, what happened?” Blame asked.
“Nebris was fired for flirting with customers too much,” Vechs explained. “Or rather, one customer.” He sat heavily on Nebris’ lap, wiggling his eyebrows.
“Hey now, you flirted just as much as I did.”
“I’m sure you’re devastated,” Vechs said, stroking Nebris’ jaw, “that such a handsome devil as I cost you your job.”
“I’m cut up about it, honestly.” Nebris leaned up to give Vechs a kiss.
“So. When are we going to see this miss Ronan?” Vechs asked, turning.
“At 8pm. When she has her break.”
“I don’t remember anyone with her name,” Nebris said. “She must be new-ish. Although, there were no female dancers. I guess she works backstage or something.”
“There’s a job I’d like,” Vechs raised an eyebrow.
“What, fucking an ex-stripper isn’t enough for you?”
“Vechs, you have two boyfriends, that’s more than a lot of people, you should be grateful for what you have,” Nebris said mock-sternly.
Blame started, feeling something swell in his throat. That familiar warmth was becoming commonplace, like an eternal flame had been kindled. He looked up at Nebris.
“Oh, right. Blame, that’s alright with you, is it? Being our boyfriend?”
Blame nodded. “Yeah, sure, I mean, if you want--”
“Of course we want!” Vechs held out a hand and pulled Blame onto the couch beside him, then kissed him. “You’re cool, Blame, and we go well together, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Blame said. Without meaning to, his face broke into a wide smile.So, he thought, as Vechs wrapped an arm around him. I escaped whatever it is I was trying to escape in Carling. The dreariness. The suffocating, grey city, and I found sunshine in Offstreet.