Eve sighed internally and looked out the window of the SUV as they drove back to their new SVT headquarters. She got why Gabriel blamed them for Michael wanting to stay. If it had been her in his place trying to convince Coda to come home, she’d have probably blamed someone else too. At least the fragment would have.
Now though, now she was just worried. They might not have given Gabriel the warmest reception, but Eve had hoped it would be like it had with Michael at first. Teasing and catty back and forth until it wasn’t. She should have realized Gabriel was different though. It hadn’t been fair of her to assume all archangels were the same in their disdain.
Especially considering what exactly Gabriel had done to ‘free’ the angels from humanity. The five months after getting back from Setiri had been brutal for Eve. She lost herself in the memories of it because it hadn’t been an easy transition to take the fragment back and not let it take over again.
She’d had so much therapy and it hadn’t been helping as much as she knew it could. She’d gone to 6 different therapists at SVT and Michael had started to really worry when she’d mentioned going to a 7th over beignets in New Orleans. Michael had asked her permission to speak with Lilith about the possibility of a few sessions at an Angelic temple.
Eve had immediately recoiled from the idea. That was one thing the fragment always took charge of, even the idea of sexual contact and Eve was becoming more and more frustrated with it because she’d had lovers on Earth Prime. She’d learned to live with the emotional scars she had from the attack she’d survived. She’d even managed to move past her internal disgust over taking a human life. The fragment hadn’t and no matter how frequently Eve meditated and tried to sooth that part of herself nothing was helping.
Michael frowned at her when she’d been quiet too long and she’d looked up, her vision blurry as she’d just said brokenly in the Enochian that Michael had slowly started teaching her. ‘I need something because this isn’t any sort of life, I can keep living Michael. I just want some level of balance back. I need to be there when Coda comes back. Who knows what the fuck her and John are doing and we both know John isn’t coming back, so Coda is going to need me and as I am right now I can’t even offer her a fucking hug.’
Michael commented on it a few times after the first month, Eve’s inability to even give her fist bumps anymore. That had been the really upsetting part. The fragment had started to be okay with touch towards the end of their time in Setiri and now it was like a total regression.
At first Michael was quiet but Eve knew it was because her friend was thinking. Centuries of thoughts swirling inside her mind, reaching for the words to say that would help but were also true. Sometimes it meant that it took Michael longer to answer and it never bothered Eve because she’d seen that mind at work, the chaotic but peaceful knowing of too much and not enough.
Michael had set her beignets down and looked Eve in the eyes. ‘I will speak with Lilith. If she cannot help maybe she will know someone that can. Will you be able to separate the past from the present for the physical side of things? No one would dare hurt you in the temple and anyone that would does not work there. Besides that, Lilith and I would smite them. She enjoyed when we all went to New York for cheesecake and those strange drinks.’
Eve smiled. ‘We had the sidecars with the cheesecake and a few different drinks that were popular in the 1920s when we went to the piano bar. You liked French 75s and she liked the Pimm’s Cup but you both kept swapping all night.’
Michael just nodded and picked her beignets up to take another bite, Eve could tell she was thinking as she chewed. ‘You told me in Setiri that you were already a murderer when we talked about killing Arya. You still haven’t entirely explained what you meant. Is that part of why physical contact is so difficult for you?’
Eve scrubbed her hand over her face and her newly colored hair, the butterfly tattoo she’d gotten flapping it’s currently black and gray wings in a panic across her forearm. It took her a moment to respond because she still hated thinking about that, which meant she couldn’t actually speak, so she just nodded knowing that Michael was still watching her.
Michael just made a humming noise in the back of her throat and let her wings slip out to brush the tips over Eve’s side. For some reason the wings themselves never made her flinch, even when any other type of contact did. Part of it was probably that it was Michael, and the rest was likely because she didn’t associate wings with any sort of violence in her lifetimes.
They’d wandered around New Orleans just talking and Michael answering any questions she’d had about Angelic Healing after she’d explained what it entailed. Eve was a little afraid, if she was entirely honest but she was tired of being bombarded with fear just from a simple hug. She’d already moved passed this once and her fragment had started to at the end so the backslide was that much more frustrating.
The therapy hadn’t been helping, throwing herself into combat training hadn’t helped, even though Michael and Dante were working with her. Her relationship with Dante had been a surprise as well. He’d come to her once or twice to ask about video games so he could understand some of what Shooter had talked to him about. It had been nice to be able to listen to him and not flinch every time he breathed.
They’d reached an odd sort of equilibrium. There were trips to the shooting range together were he’d quietly correct how she held the gun, then she’d take him to get food. Sometimes they discussed other ways for her to improve so she wasn’t a hinderance in the field.
Now she’d just hand him a La Croix whenever she thought things might be stressing him out. They weren’t as close as she and Michael had become but she attributed that to his reconnecting with his son and that alone made her smile. Dante had needed it and from the outside Eve was sure that Shooter had too.
Carefully she rolled the window down and took out a cigarette. She wasn’t stressed in this moment, but she wasn’t entirely at peace right now either. It was strange feeling like her and Coda weren’t entirely on the same page for a change. She was confused as to why Coda hadn’t told her what she was doing at Mastodon headquarters.
After New Orleans Michael and Lilith had introduced Eve to Raphael. It had been awkward on her part at first. She’d been nervous and scared. He’d been careful to avoid discussing healing in any capacity with her at first and they hadn’t met without Michael or Lilith for at least a month. Eventually he’d started hanging out with them during training sessions and after one of the sessions where Eve was still clearly keyed up and ready to either fuck or fight, he’d brought up healing with her. At first, she’d balked but it was more of a reflex than anything to do with Raphael himself. He’d coaxed her into sparring with him and by the end of it she’d metaphorically dragged him back to her apartment. There had been a few stops and starts but by the end of it both of them had passed out in a heap on her bed, his wings covering them both.
When Michael left to handle the situation with Gabriel they’d continued to hang out. Sometimes they fucked for healing but most of the time it was just for fun. Neither of them wanted a further attachment but they’d both enjoyed the regular sex and Raphael had enjoyed being introduced to more human culture. Somehow Eve found herself in some weird ambassador role between a couple archangels and humanity.
Her favorite memory with him was also a painful memory with Michael. When Michael had come back from dealing with the shadow of Gabriel in Setiri she’d prayed to Raphael, or as she liked to think of it, phoned her friend with benefits. As soon as she saw him, she’d taken him aside and given her a rundown of her plan to get Michael drunk as hell, but also managed to slip in some guidelines for the evening.
‘So, if you’re on board with helping me get Michael drunk, I’d also like to state now for the record, should I get drunk later and decide we need to head to bed I am giving clear enthusiastic sober consent. That way when I give mildly drunk enthusiastic consent you know I mean it. Obviously, you can still keep your magic dick and wings to yourself if you want though.’
Raphael had rolled his eyes at her. ‘Well then if my magic dick is welcome later, while fully sober, I’m stating now that I’d be more than happy to hand it over. Because I’m drinking too woman. You paged the wrong Archangel if you wanted a designated flight.’
Eve smirked. ‘I paged exactly the Archangel I meant to. For now, you can keep your pretty cock to yourself. Hands and wings are dealer’s choice. We’ll renegotiate later. Let’s go take care of our friend for now.’
He smacked her in the ass with one of his wingtips as he passed her to give Michael a hug. They’d poured Michael into the guest bed several hours later and Eve woke up the next day to his wingtips brushing over her butterfly tattoo, which had been spread out to its largest size fluttering lazily across her back.
He hadn’t told her what colors it was, but she hadn’t really cared as she’d climbed into his lap and rode him. She’d cared even less when he’d pinned her to the shower wall and had to keep silencing her with his mouth, so they didn’t wake Michael.
Eve ordered them all way too much food through the SVT approved delivery service and they’d sat around just sharing sleepy smiles and muted conversation. Michael had, at one point, drunkenly cried and told them about having to end the shadow of Gabriel and how much it had hurt so neither she nor Raphael brought it up.
Instead, the Archangels had teased each other with embarrassing stories of training or missions that hadn’t gone entirely to plan. In exchange Eve told them stories of her and Coda living together and some of the places she’d visited on Earth Prime. Eve even managed to tell Raphael the embarrassing story of picking up Auren and immediately wanting to fight the entire plane of existence so having London of all people, knock her the fuck out so she didn’t try to do it. Michael had this soft, wistful smile on her face as she looked between Eve and Raphael. Eve didn’t know what it meant but Raphael seemed to and both angels looked happy, so she didn’t care to ask.
Michael had taken her aside later and hugged her. She’d pulled back smiling brilliantly at Eve. ‘So, the healing helped?’
Eve had blushed but nodded. ‘Yeah. Thank you for knowing what I needed but couldn’t put into words.’
The Archangel had laughed. ‘Raphael is incredibly gifted at healing.’
Eve snorted and put her hands on her hips as she felt herself hover without thought. ‘That’s not the only thing he’s gifted with. I mean seriously Michael. His dick is magic, sure but you could have warned me it was that big and that pretty.’
Michael rolled her eyes. ‘If I had warned you, would you have even considered agreeing to the healing?’
Eve returned the eye roll. ‘No. Fine, that’s fair. Though really his dick isn’t the only thing he’s gifted with either. He eats like it’s his job.’
She felt something hit her in the back of the head and turned to see Raphael standing behind her. ‘He is also right here.’
Eve snorted inelegantly. ‘Yeah, because you’re so upset that I’m stroking your ego.’
The conversation had descended from there and they’d all been smiling and laughing by the end. With a jerk the radio had kicked over to a new song and pulled Eve from her thoughts. With a sigh she prayed to Raphael again just to check in. ‘Sorry if asking you to watch out for that human put you in a weird spot. I asked Lilith too. Stay safe.’
She didn’t get a verbal response, but she felt at least a mild sense of acknowledgment, so she knew he’d heard her. Her eyes flicked to Michael and then she closed them and let herself relax into the back of the seat. Everything could wait even if it all felt very critical right now.