I drifted back into another memory, something random and entirely nonsensical that happened years and years ago with Raziel. Sometime after our goat-demon fight where I managed to save his sorry hide with the Colus, an unfairly new weapon to me at that time, we made regular exorcist calls. There wasn't any real reputation gathered and I hadn't been suckered into killing off the good demons, along with the bad, just yet. Gauzier was kind enough to let our ruse, as shallow and transparent as the air around me, continue on unhindered; it was a memory nestled into a quiet, happy pocket of life that I got to enjoy and I wouldn't trade the world for it.
So way back when, we pulled up to this one house; a single floored , ranch-like house with an extensive carpeted basement, furnished and decked out in knickknacks of every variety. The priest had informed the two of us that the woman was hearing the usual. Scratching, ghostly howling sounds, flashes of dark black entities darting about her rooms. She told him that her last dog Millosce used to keep the spirits at bay, before he died a few months back. Ironically, that's when the activity had started up. Raziel told me this is usually how his 'household pets' visits started, the ghosts that were usually just deceased animals wandering around. They weren't dangerous, and more often than not, they couldn't figure out how to leave. But even from the phone call, he acted strangely about this visit.
"C'mon Raziel, it's the last one for the day. Just get it done." the priest called over his back, leaving the van to head inside without his angel buddy. Raziel didn't seem to mind being left behind; standing outside the passenger door, I watched the full grown man pout in the front seat, bothered by something. His eyes were dead set on the windshield wipers, frowning, somewhat deep in thought, or something like that. Waiting for a couple seconds more, I punched him hard in the arm and shrugged my hands to clear the annoyingly pensive mood. The angel immediately groaned, flopping over the armrest to head into the back, gathering his armor.
"The hell's wrong with you? It's an easy call! Hypothetically, it should be easy." I spoke to him, even though he had no idea what I was saying. My tone said enough. He refused to talk to me, hunching over in the back of the Transit, wings flopping to and fro. Raziel looked up once as I pantomimed as much intent I could in a few seconds, using overly expressive actions, "WHY YOU CRAZY" i belted at him. The angel frowned more, shaking his head.
"I hate calls like this." He grumbled, dropping one of his armguards with a dramatic display of annoyance, swinging dramatically down to pick it back up in extreme drama. I rolled my eyes.
" It's not high-class stuff, but you shouldn't bitch about this. " Watching him stumble from the side of the van without opening the door, he put some of his armor on the top while he suited up. The angel only continued to frown , transparently bothered by something that wasn't just the nature of this call. It was times like this when I felt like tearing out my hair a little; the language barrier was increasingly vast. I only shrugged my arms up again, just as dramatic as he was being. That was the general sign for 'why' anyways. Raziel gave one look at me, looking away.
"You wouldn't understand. It's an angel thing."
"No, it's a stubborn jackass thing." I replied, folding my arms, "You're upset because you don't get to fight something bigger then a family pet, I get it. You could still cut the theatrics a little for god's sake. I bet if you stopped acting like such a baby about it, you'd probably move up faster in your ranks." He frowned at me; Raziel, if nothing else, was unnervingly good at pinpointing down when I was making fun of him. As soon as my tone swung into sarcasm, I was greeted with a disapproving frown. I made a game out of that, months later down the road if memory serves me correctly.
After moments of angry staring passed, I eventually went back to the overacting game of charades to convey my response.
"You" I pointed at him before using my fingers like angry eyebrows, "Mad you no fight big demon' I put the curved finger-horns by my head again as his scowl popped open in understanding.
"Oh. Well, that too, but that's not what I'm talking about" He snapped the last of his armor back into place, struggling and tossing side to side to get the snap at his back. I watched for a full minute, rhythmic swaying of the unsnapped snaps tossed to and fro with a hypnotic motion, before I smacked his hand away. I did it for him , like a reluctant mother. After he turned around and grabbed the pike, I rolled my hand, wishing for an elaboration of whatever the hell he was hinting about. Raziel frowned again, staring off distantly. " I don't have to tell you, you'll see soon enough." He said tiredly, walking in front of me as the two of us entered into the house in civil duty.
The priest spoke upstairs, feeding the usual line of reassurance as we immediately walked towards the basement. Heavy feet clunking on the stairs, he suddenly started walking like a zombie, both arms out in front of him, same annoyed scowl to his face. I tilted my head a little, baffled and unsure just what he was doing. Though I didn't bother to bring it up, hell knows he does enough oddball things without explanation, why should straight-legged stiff walking like a zombie be something unusual?
But as we got to the bottom of the stairs, my questions were answered soon enough. Snarling, growling screeched from just beyond the door at the bottom of the steps as the angel suddenly tensed up, leaning away. And as soon as we both got to the downstairs living room, there were two animals, two ghost dogs latched onto him. One on his arm, another on his leg; the dog on his leg was having a harder time finding skin to bite due to the flashy metal shinguards, pacing and biting tentatively.
"There!" He complained, being shaken around by the two spirits as I immediately tried to pry them off. But those two were dead set on trying to tear the limbs from the angel as he only stood there, supremely unhappy and seemingly dead on the inside. "That's why I don't like these calls" He called out to me as I managed to pull the one from his arm, still freaking out, writhing around. Out of anger it turned on me, leaning out to snap at my face. But as soon as that dog realized it was another demon, not an angel, it's demeanor changed into utter joy. Confused and delightfully surprised myself I fell back with the squirming animal, the dog licking my face happily and trying to smother me in excitement. I rolled over, shielding my head as the dog started to run around, trying to lick the sides of my face as I laughed, squealing out giddily and completely forgetting about Raziel standing there, stonefaced.
The second dog realized the same thing, letting go of the angel's pants to run over by me, now trying to fight off two incredibly happy animal spirits and having a ball doing so. Man, if I got calls like this all day, i wouldn't complain for even a second. I laughed and laughed, getting caught up in playing around, smacking my knees and making 'ooga booga booga' sounds that drove the dogs wild, both animals running around the living room while I grinned. Until Raziel's sunny disposition sucked all the life out of me just in passing.
"They only like you because you're a demon, you know." He said coldly, fists clenched like he intended to take down the animals bare-handed instead of using the pike. With just a single step towards me both animals froze, turning around to face him, baring thier teeth. I looked at each dogs before back to the angel, who had stopped advancing and stayed perfectly still, wary.
'They probably hate you because you walked in with the pike" I pointed to the weapon as he looked at it, shaking his head." I can't imagine any spirit that would welcome death like that. I sure as hell didn't."
"It's not the pike. They just hate me. All of them" Raziel let something slip for just a moment, a very loud, sour note of jealousy as my brain changed trains of thought. He sneered at the animals as they snarled back, licking their teeth and edging closer, fur raised up. The angel's facade started to back off, annoyed once again as i tried to put it together.
"Wait... do you ... are you mad that these dogs don't like you? Are you jealous?" I leaned forwards, petting both dogs, trying to get them to calm down as the animals looked back to me. With a nasty glare back to the angel they both retreated alongside me, one headbutting my shoulder as the other rolled over to have it's belly scratched. Smiling again, I looked back up to find Raziel leaving, just the tail end of the pike going through the bottom door.
"You've got this all taken care of here, I see." He pouted again as I only shook my head, leaning heavy on the dog alongside me. The animal looked up, happy to have company as Raziel's depressed clopping up the stairs was noticeably dramatic and slow.
"Silly people are silly" I said to the animal as it wagged it's tail, licking my hand. It was nice to find a spirit, that even as simple as it was, reciprocated an emotion something other then annoying angst or a desire to see me dead. I kinda wanted one of these for my own. Grinning, I buried my head in it's fur, petting both animals. "Especially silly angels."
I stayed down there for another ten minutes, playing with the two animals to tire them out. Thinking about what he said, what his actions and responses said, I eventually wandered back upstairs, checking the other rooms for the Priest and the client. I found them laughing, talking about something current and unimportant, but no Raziel. Grumbling, i walked back outside, finding the angel out by the van, mostly de-armored, rubbing holy water on his arms to heal them back up. Apparently the dog's bites had punctured in, following a trail of dust-like blood all the way up the stairs and through the garage. It wasn't enought to kill him, just small wounds. Spotting me, he went back on the defensive.
"What, tired of your new pets already? " I stormed straight for him, shaking my head the entire time. The fact that someone had to lead him to do this, to show him blatantly how wrong he was, spoke about the guy. I'm not entirely sure what it said, but it at least put him as a stubborn individual, which i was already aware of. "Neri?" He dropped his front, starting to lean away as I stopped just in front of him.
"You haven't been cursed, have you?" He said quietly as I squinted at him.
"idiot." I grumbled out loud. The angel suddenly pointed at me, frowning.
"I know that one means jerk!" he bluffed confidently as I only shook my head more, rolling my eyes. The angel changed his tone. "Is it 'idiot'?"
I only had to grin to give my acknowledgment. Raziel looked almost proud that he figured out my commonly used phrase, before realizing it's meaning.
"Hey!" He frowned as I took the holy water from his hand, snagged the pike away from the door to throw it back into the van. "Wait, Neri, what are you doing?" I grabbed onto his wrist, pulling him back towards the house. The angel put up an actual fight, feet skidding on the ground as he refused to go back inside; my pilgrimage stopped just a few steps from where it began.
"Listen, I've tried. They hate me. They all hate me, it doesn't matter what i do. I go back in there, they'll tear out my throat. That's happened a few times too. " He complained, trying to pull his hand away as I latched on like some kind of snake. "I know you complained that all angels hate you, but all demons hate me. Maybe that's just how it's supposed to work out." I turned around and glared at the man while he quickly edited his words.
"Present company excluded of course" the angel frowned, looking back at the house and curling a lip. "Listen, it's nice to have ideals that you can change this sort of thing, but that's just how life works, alright? It's only oddballs like you that think there's something else." I turned around to look at him, a little shocked and annoyed.
"I'm not the only one that works like this. I can promise you that" I pulled harder, gaining another foot "Maybe there's too many people like you who think everything has to stay the way it is, that there is nothing else. If you never try and push boundaries, you'll never know where they are." I rambled for my own ears, realizing that language barrier was the perfect example of something that was impossible to get around, that was stubbornly set in as a rule and true to his statement. I deflated a little even before he responded back.
"I don't understand a word you're saying" He said quietly as i lowered my head a little, looking around.
"Yeah, I know." Thinking on it, I looked back at him, face to face. I'd convey it somehow. It's not impossible. I refuse to believe that rules like that are set in stone, that he'd be completely oblivious to what I was asking, that I was begging for a smidge of trust to put some faith into me. Lowering my eyes a little, I looked back to the house, pulling on his hand gently. He only frowned more, eyes averted, scared.
"They'll kill me if I go in there like this. At least let me put the armor back on." He grumbled, glancing down at his shin guards as I shook his hand a little, trapped. Thinking on it, I looked back, trying to smile, furrowing my brows a little and hinting back towards the house. His face kept changing, trying to understand, trying to get the message without any words at all. When we stalemated at a misunderstanding, I repeated the only words I knew he could understand with a grin.
"Idiot. Raziel." I spoke plainly as he suddenly grew deeply offended.
"Hey!" He grinned a little as I smiled back, pulling on his hand one last time, motioning for the house. Finally the angel relented, moving more than just a few feet. "If I die here, it's your fault"
"Yeah, well, no shit on that one." Pointing to his shin guards, I pointed back towards the van. Best I could tell, the demons weren't responding to him as an angel, they were responding to his armor reeking like demon blood and death. It'd make anyone nervous. He winced as I repeated the action, stomping on the ground a little to show I meant business. After another solid minute of whining, he took off the shin guards and headed alongside me inside, back down those stairs.
With my entrance, they were happy to see me. But as soon as Raziel entered thought the door, the tones changed, both dogs snarling, eyes dead set on the angel.
"Neri!" He called out in a panic as I was quick to direct the dog's attention away, bent down low and scratching them behind the ears. The dogs didn't attack, but they remained poised for one, unnerved by the angel. Looking behind me he was pressed against the wall, standing up on his toes.
"Puppies. Puppies" I cooed for the animals while they wagged their tails, talking to them like they'd understand, " This angel here's not interested in causing any harm, he's a good guy, he's got good intentions. You gotta be nice to him, okay? He's not going to hurt you. If he does, I'll hurt him, got it?" I motioned for him to mimic what I was doing, to try and relax as he slowly slid down the wall, both animals taking notice. After a few minutes of calm, of the animals not really interested in attacking him and of the angel wedging himself into a ball in the corner, I heard someone snapping their fingers. Looking behind me, Raziel reached out gingerly for one of the dogs that seemed to stand there out of duty , just as afraid.
The angel looked back to me for advice, before back to the animal. You could see his hand shaking as the dog slowly got closer, just within reach and leaving his face there. The Angel kept snapping, kept making non-aggressive, slow moves at the animal while it waited, drawing out the moment. Then just before he pulled his hand back away, the demon dog it broke the tension, licking his finger. It surprised Raziel too, by the way he smacked his head into the wall by pushing away, startled. Busting out in a laugh, i sat back down as his action scared the dog away, watching both animals stand just next to me, slowly wagging their tails. Looking back at Raziel, he was leaning forwards again, making kissy faces at the dog and snapping his fingers while they both seemed to look at me for approval. I grinned, smacking him in the arm.
"Here, go like this." I suddenly slapped both hands on the ground, making obnoxiously happy sounds as it drove the demon dogs nuts, both of them suddenly running around. Raziel crept a little further from the door as he looked to me nervously, then back to the dogs. After a solid minute of waiting, holding up that unrelenting facade, he suddenly dropped the act.
"Booga booga booga!" He repeated the silly act, something that took me of guard, busting out in a laugh. I just didn't expect that kind of thing from him. This time, the dogs both bolted straight for him, bowling him over, one landing on his chest, the other on his head. The angel writhed beneath the two animals as they licked and ran around, happy to have two people to interact with. Raziel's hands grabbed the air in a panic.
After the dogs went to take laps around the room, he pulled himself back up, beyond shocked and obviously happy that rules like that did at least have a possibility to change. Grinning, I spoke to him plainly, in expressive movements.
"Your armor smells like death" I explained as he frowned, looking back to them and doing the happy slap on the ground as the dogs circled around him once, bolting back to the living room at full tilt. He nodded, looking back to me.
"I used to have a dog. In my last life, I mean." He said quickly, grinning as the dogs circled close again. I sat up taller. In what I knew later, gaining that past soul, I knew that people considered Christopher to be raised by the dogs on the street. For some reason, it never dawned on me that he probably just had a dog, and the rumor got exaggerated. But at the time, this was the first piece of personal information he had ever really spit out about his actual life. I remembered being surprised at the time that i forgot he had existed sometime on earth, that he had at some time lived and breathed as a living person. . Raziel continued on, " I had a dog, but my dad sent it away before i got attached. I'd be lying to say I didn't like them. Even if they are demons. " The angel coughed out quietly, kinda straightening up a little bit afterwards, looking away. Frowning, he looked back, suddenly grinning.
"Thanks." his attention immediately went back to the dogs as they leapt at him again, squirming and rolling around. I got to watch him fall out of character, gained the privilege to watch him act like a decent human being once again. I remembered being pretty proud of that for a while.