Authors: Brenda L. Harper
Brenda L. Harper
Copyright © 2015
All Rights Reserved
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Table of Contents
Dylan and Stiles first appeared in my series: Angels and Gargoyles. You don't have to read it first, but I highly recommend you do to fully enjoy Angels and Demons. Thank you.
There was a war.
Angels had lived among humans since the beginning of time. It was their mission to ensure the survival of the human race. They were aided by the gargoyles, a group of mythical creatures whose only desire was to protect the humans. But then something went wrong.
The angels, led by Lucifer, had become disillusioned. After countless millennia watching the humans turn on one another, the war between the Malaika Alliance and the English Pact had been the last straw. Lucifer decided it was time for God to fulfill his promise that the angels would one day be given the earth as their private paradise. For that reason, Lucifer’s legion turned on the humans and manipulated the war to destroy them all.
God then sent more angels to Earth to stop Lucifer and his legion. Some of those angels did as they were told and others joined Lucifer’s new army.
There was only one problem for Lucifer and those loyal to him: their lack of freewill. They could only act in ways that fell within the purview of their original mission. To get around this issue, a generation before the war, Lucifer’s wife, Lilith, began working with Biel—another angel—in searching for a way to give the angels freewill, and thus destroying God’s control over them. They attacked this problem two ways: they manipulated human DNA with angel DNA to create a new race of Nephilim—angel-human hybrids—that would have freewill; and by creating an elixir the angels could be given that would destroy the basic gene structure that inhibited their freewill. Their lab was located in a domed city called Genero.
As the war raged, God sent another angel to Earth—Stiles.
Stiles wasn’t to become involved in the human saga, nor was he to interact with the ‘good’ angels. Stiles’ sole purpose on Earth was to rescue his soul mate, Joanna, from Lucifer’s army. Unfortunately, Joanna and her friends among Lucifer’s army, including the archangel Jophiel, understood immediately that Stiles’ mission went against theirs. And so Joanna stabbed him with her angel’s sword and left him for dead.
Still determined to save Joanna, Stiles worked with a human to change the elixir that Lily was trying to create into a poison that would infect the angels with a horrifying illness. It was Stiles’ hope that this illness would cause the angels to voluntarily return home, where God could deal with their actions directly. Unfortunately, after Lily was infected, she modified her DNA work with the hybrid race to create new hybrids that could be used to treat her symptoms, hoping that they would one day find such a hybrid that would be able to heal her completely.
Undaunted, Lucifer’s army drank the elixir. Although the elixir allowed them the opportunity to choose for themselves, it also altered their powers, leaving many of the angels without the ability to fly, to heal, or to hear the thoughts of others. The other angels—all of those who had remained loyal to God—were called back to heaven. All, that is, except Stiles.
Lucifer’s army continued to terrorize the humans in a world now deprived of modern conveniences like electricity and indoor plumbing. Stiles joined ranks with the gargoyles and a group of humans—the Survivorville group—and fought the war on the frontlines. He even fell in love with a human, Rebecca James, and devoted his life to her in an informal marriage ceremony.
And then Stiles learned what his new mission was to be.
A child would soon be born, a girl who would be humanity’s savior. This child would be born in Genero, a product of Lilith and Biel’s manipulation of human and angel DNA. She would be born with unique powers, powers that had never been seen in either angel or human. It would be Stiles’ sole purpose to watch over this child and insure that she grew to adulthood so that she could make a choice that would end the war.
Stiles was in a unique position. He was the only angel left on Earth that had all of his powers intact. He was also the only angel on Earth that did not have freewill.
Stiles had no choice but to leave his wife—who was expecting their first child, a son to be named Harry—to commit to his role as guardian angel.
For seventeen years, Stiles disguised himself as a cook named Anita and watched over the child, a beautiful girl called Dylan. He suppressed her powers, hiding them from both the child and those who were aware of her existence and were searching for her. When it came time for her to take the test that would determine her future—to be used to further Lilith’s experiments or sent out into the desert to die—Stiles altered her test results to make it appear as though she had no special gifts, that she was simply human.
Dylan was sent out into the desert, afraid and alone, and unskilled in basic survival techniques. Stiles watched over her, guiding her through the desert under a cloak of invisibility. Dylan met another young man along the way, Wyatt, the son of a resistance leader. This prompted Stiles to take human form to protect Dylan from this unknown element.
Wyatt, Stiles, and Dylan met two more teens—Ellie and Sam—as they made their way back to the city where Wyatt’s father, Jimmy, lived. They were captured outside the city and Dylan met Lucifer and Lilith—known to her as Luc and Lily—and learned that there was something about her they wanted. Stiles helped her escape and she joined the resistance. But her importance to Lily—and her true purpose—were no longer a secret and she was sought by angels still loyal to Luc, and even betrayed by those she thought she could trust. It all came to a head during the Battle of Genero where Dylan used her special gifts, her loyal friends, and her quick wit to send the angels back to heaven to face retribution.
But it didn’t end there.
Dylan had to choose. She had to decide if humanity was worthy of continuing on Earth, or if it should be eliminated in favor of giving the angels the paradise they desired.
Dylan believed that by choosing both humans and hybrids, she had made her choice. But she misunderstood the purpose of her choice. It wasn’t a choice between two versions of humanity; it was humanity as a whole.
With the choice still unmade, chaos continued to reign. Led by Joanna—Stiles’ soul mate and Wyatt’s mother, an angel whose death by the angel disease caused her to become a demon—darkness brought discord to the newly freed world. Humans fought hybrids, council members fought each other, and Dylan was pushed out of the leadership role she had reluctantly embraced in the aftermath of the Battle of Genero. To add to the complications of the moment, Genero was leveled in an explosion and Dylan’s soul mate, Wyatt, was murdered by Luc. But then it was Luc who finally revealed the truth to Dylan. And with her choice made, Joanna was destroyed and her beloved Wyatt was returned to her.
Humanity was given a second chance.
What they chose to do with it was a whole new story…
“Today we lay to rest the body of Rebecca James.”
Dylan slid her hand into Stiles’, wrapping her small fingers around his. He didn’t look at her. He didn’t need to know that she was worried about him.
He didn’t want her to worry about him.
He pulled away and walked off. He didn’t need this human ceremony to say his goodbyes. He’d done that last night as Rebecca lay dying in the bed they shared. The only reason he came to this funeral was for their son, Harry. But Harry was a grown man with a family of his own. He didn’t need his father any more now than he had before.
Stiles moved behind a tree and burst into his ethereal form, feeling a little like Superman in a bad interpretation of the comic books. Superman…of all the things to survive the war, how was it that several collections of Superman comics had been among the classic novels and in-depth history tomes?
Superman was a favorite of his grandson, Edward.
Grandson. When he looked in the mirror, a seventeen-year-old boy still stared back at him. Yet, he had a son, a grandson, and two granddaughters. And he’d lived a life…time had never really meant much to him before. But Rebecca’s illness and death had brought it all too close to home. He was an angel. He was never going to age and die. He could return to heaven, if he chose to, but as long as he was here among the humanity he had come to love and respect, he would never be allowed to experience the mortality that was familiar to them.
He wasn’t sure he could accept that anymore.
Maybe it was the lies. Maybe it was the weight of all the lies that he had told both Rebecca and Dylan that was wearing on his soul. For an angel, he lied an awful lot. He’d never told Rebecca that he was the one who had sent her father to Genero. He’d never told her that he had known what they’d wanted from him—that he’d known it could lead to his death—but that he did it anyway because he had to ensure Dylan’s birth.
That was another lie of omission.
He’d never told either Rebecca or Dylan that they were half-sisters.
So many lies.
He’d tried to tell her. As she lay there curled in his arms, the heart attack that would end her life just beginning to make her uncomfortable, he told her there were secrets he wanted to share with her.
“You are the love of my life,” she said softly. “There is nothing you can say now that could change that, no secret that I haven’t already suspected or figured out. There is nothing you can truly hide from me.”
He ran his hand along the side of her head, smoothing her hair—once such a deep shade of black, but now a startling white—back away from her face.
“I never wanted to hurt you.”
“Have I ever told you how proud I’ve always been to be your wife?” She ran her hand slowly over his chest. “Even when you were away and I shared my bed with Mark, I knew we would be together again. I knew you’d gone to protect me, and to protect our son. I still believe that. I don’t need to know exactly what happened in that time to know you would have stayed with me if you could have.”
“I never forgot about you.”
“I didn’t want to leave. I don’t want you to leave now. Please let me heal you.”
She moved closer to him and sighed softly. “I’m seventy years old, Stiles. I’ve lived a long and mostly happy life. And we’ve had nearly thirty years together. That’s almost a lifetime.”
“Not in my reality.”
She smiled. “But you forget…I’m not an angel. I’m a humble human.”
“I love you, Rebecca,” he whispered against her temple. “I don’t know how to exist without you.”
“You’d existed long before me. You will exist for millennia after me.” She groaned, the pain becoming intense. “And I believe we will see each other again.”
Stiles kissed the top of her head, trying to hide the fear that ached in his chest. He’d known how it worked before, the shuffle of human souls that came and went from heaven. But things had changed since Dylan made her choice, since the last time he had visited heaven. He had no idea if she was right, and if he would see her soul again.
Or if she would recognize him when he did.
“I love you,” she whispered. “I’ve always loved you.”
Those words haunted him.
He’d left her to take care of Dylan because that was what God had wanted, and he didn’t have the luxury of freewill. He could have. He could have joined Luc’s army and taken Lily’s elixir. He could have chosen to stay with Rebecca forever. But then…
It had been thirty-seven years since the Battle of Genero sent Luc and his army back to heaven to face retribution. It had been thirty-five years since Dylan had made her choice, a choice that changed the realities of all left behind after the war. Fates were altered. Harry was supposed to be a great healer, what with Stiles’ angel DNA and Rebecca’s kind heart and the little piece of her that was a remnant of Raphael’s bloodline. And he was…he had become a doctor not long after arriving in the city with his mother. But he didn’t have the ability to heal as angels do—as Stiles could—as Luc had predicted.
Josephine, Dylan’s beautiful daughter, was supposed to be a great leader, a woman who would unite the people and protect them from what came next. Stiles had seen her in that role before the choice, before things changed. Dylan had, too, he suspected. And, again, she was in a leadership role. She was president of the United Alliance of the Americas, the government that had grown out of the small city council her mother had once led. But her job consisted of little more than guiding people who already knew what their roles were and didn’t need a lot of leadership. She made sure everyone had something to do—everyone had a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. She didn’t have to worry about protection, security, or heading up huge armies against some threat. There were no threats.
Things had changed. There were no longer divisions between those who were born in Genero who were designed rather than created, and those born naturally of a mother and a father. People understood now that there really were no true humans—humans defined as they once were as having no angel blood—and that all of humanity was equal in their ancestry. And, when Dylan made her choice, those who had gifts saw them slowly disappear over time. Donna could no longer heal. Wyatt could still heal Dylan and could still share her thoughts, but other things he’d been capable of—moving into an ethereal form, for one—were no longer possible.
Things were slowly returning to the way they had been before the war, with a few notable exceptions.
People were kinder to one another.
People were more willing to help one another.
People no longer felt the need to pick fights with one another.
There was almost no reason for Stiles to continue hanging around. But, as often happened, God had chosen to leave him there for reasons he wasn’t divulging.
Not that Stiles had wanted to leave Rebecca…or Dylan.
The two loves of his life. But now one was gone.
Thirty years…it had passed like a blink of the eye. They’d had a little more than two years together in Survivorville before Stiles had had to go to Genero. And then Rebecca had been with Mark when she’d arrived in the city. Stiles stood back and waited, biding his time. He didn’t want to hurt his friend. And Mark had been a good friend all those years ago. He had been one of the few who knew Stiles was an angel back then, and he continued to trust him, and to allow him to watch over a group that would have run Stiles out if they had known the truth. And Mark stepped up when Stiles had to leave. He became a loyal companion to Rebecca, a father to their son, and he gave Rebecca two more children who were sources of great joy for her. Stiles couldn’t take that from either of them.
But Stiles had been Rebecca’s first love, and when Mark died in an accident on the farms…it just seemed inevitable that they would be together once more. Dylan had her soul mate. Stiles needed more than a backseat view of everyone else’s happiness. And, in all honesty, it had been more difficult than he would have suspected to watch Rebecca live her life without him.
Of everything Stiles had experienced as a human, emotion was one thing he still struggled with. This pain in his chest…he couldn’t heal it. He couldn’t make it disappear with just a thought or a flick of a finger as he could a wound inflicted against his human form. It would linger, as had all the regrets he still carried with him.
So much had happened in the nearly seventy years since he first fell to Earth. So many dead and so many left behind. And he remembered each of them as if he had last seen them that morning.
There was Dr. Hatton and his beautiful wife, Virginia, and the young girl they’d taken in after the angels had killed her family there in New Jersey. Margaret…she was such a beautiful child.
And Rhonda…the nurse who’d helped Stiles escape Genero after Mammon had cut off his wings—she and her beautiful child, Anna. He’d heard Anna was doing well, living up in Canada with her husband and kids. Rhonda…her life had not been an easy one. He hoped her soul had found some peace.
Dillon—it tore at his soul to remember how he had failed to save the young scientist…and his lovely wife, Sara, who couldn’t bear the pain of his loss.
Of course there was Rebecca’s father, Jack James. Despite the fact that Stiles knew he’d had no choice, he would never forgive himself for delivering Jack to Lily and Biel’s medical experimentation team.
Ellie was an angel who’d been on the wrong side until it really counted. Ellie died a good death.
Sam—sweet, innocent Sam—who’d never really understood what he’d gotten himself into. He shouldn’t have died the way he did.
And Davida…she’d always gotten the raw end of the deal. He couldn’t blame her for choosing the wrong side for a while—she’d had her reasons—and she died for the right reason.
And then there was Joanna.
As much as Stiles wanted to bury Joanna and never think of her again, he couldn’t. It was like trying to bury a piece of himself. Joanna was his soul mate from the beginning of time…she was a piece of his soul. He would never be completely free of her, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to be. If he didn’t dwell on how dark she’d become, he might forget the true danger that had faced humanity during the war.
And that would be unforgiveable.
He rose up and stared down at the cemetery from thousands of feet above, but he was still able to see it so clearly. The ceremony had ended. Harry approached the box that held his mother’s remains and touched it lightly, a tear dropping from the tip of his nose. His hair was still red, like fire, despite the streaks of white that touched his temples. His wife, a nice girl named Abigail, stood beside him with her hand tucked tightly in his.
Stiles could feel the pain that his son was feeling. He wanted to heal it…wanted so desperately to heal it that he actually reached out in his ethereal form. But, if there was one thing he did know about human emotion, it was that it was better to feel it than to avoid it.
The rest of the family made their way to the box, one at a time. Rebecca’s daughter—Jacqueline—left a small locket on the top of the box, and her son—Burt—left a long stem rose. The grandkids, half a dozen ranging from teens to young adults, each left a flower or a small trinket. It should have been a heartening sight—proof that life goes on. Each of those people had a small piece of Rebecca inside of them that would live for as long as they did. But it didn’t take away the ache that only grew in Stiles’ soul.
He should have defied her. He should have stopped the heart attack, as he had the three that had come before it. He should have given her more time.
What did age matter? What did it matter that her body could no longer do the things she wanted to do with him? That she could no longer travel with him to the river where their son was born? That she couldn’t keep up with him when they went for walks in the late afternoon? So what if she couldn’t get out of bed in the mornings without him…without his healing touch? Why couldn’t he have kept healing her? Why couldn’t he have held off the ravages of age a little while longer?
Why had he listened to her when she’d insisted that he allow her to experience her life—her age—at a natural rate? Why couldn’t he have used his abilities to make her live forever?
Why…what was the point in being an angel if he couldn’t change the things that hurt the most?