“When are you going to talk to Cynder?”
“I guess when you get back to your apartment,” Cecil said with a shrug. He was in the passenger seat of Gail’s car as she drove down the road returning from her Christmas break. Cecil held the cat in his lap and stroked its ears idly as he gazed out the window.
“Alright, fair enough,” Gail said. “Do you not want me to be around when you talk, or…?”
“Well, you’re the one who’s going to call for him after all, right? I guess you’ll have to be there, though I’m not entirely fond of the idea.”
“Why, still think he’s no better than a demon?” she asked. “He doesn’t seem that bad to me, maybe just a little too caught up in himself.”
“You realize that’s how demons and fallen angels work, right?” Cecil glanced toward her with a little frown. “Through deception. They get all sweet and nice and make you trust them, which makes their betrayal all the worse.”
“Sweet and nice, huh? Well, that’s definitely not what I would describe Cynder as, so I think it’s safe to say he was telling the truth. Besides.” She glanced over at him and narrowed her eyes. “Saying all that, I could just as easily accuse you of being a fallen angel, couldn’t I? I wouldn’t know, you could easily be deceiving me, right?”
Cecil stared at her with wide eyes and swallowed. “You don’t think I’m-”
“Of course I don’t, Cecil, but that’s my point. We can’t ever know who to trust. Even the people you know and love the most could betray you, but does that mean you should never have trusted them from the start?”
He stared at her in silence for a moment then turned his face away to look out the window again, sighing heavily. “Have you ever had someone betray you? Like a close friend or a family member?”
“My parents got divorced,” Gail murmured. “That’s a little different though, I suppose. They’d always been fighting so it was sort of inevitable. It didn’t really feel quite like a betrayal, though that didn’t keep me from being angry about it.”
“Well… what would you have done if your brother one day turned on you, stabbed you in the back, and left you behind? The one person in the world that you thought you could trust, what do you think you would do at that point?”
Gail didn’t answer for a long moment. She let out a shaky breath and shook her head, murmuring, “I don’t know. I don’t know what I would do. Losing him has been hard, but I can’t imagine something like that.”
“Well, that’s what Cynder did to me,” he said. “And maybe you’re right, maybe he has changed, but excuse me if I have a hard time believing that. You can’t just get over something like that. You can’t put your trust in someone again after you’ve lost it.”
Gail sighed and nodded her head. “I understand. I’m sorry that this has been so hard for you, Cecil, but I think he genuinely wants to be your brother again. He wants to help you. Plus he said the only way to get rid of that demon that’s been following you is for you both to work together to destroy it, because neither of you can do it on your own.”
Cecil groaned and thunked his head against the window. “I don’t want to think about that right now. One problem at a time, okay? I’ll deal with Cynder and we’ll see how that goes before we think about dealing with that demon.”
“Would you mind telling me why a demon is chasing after you anyway?” Gail asked.
“I do mind, actually,” he murmured. “I’m sorry but it’s a personal issue, I’d rather not talk about it with a human. No offense to you, it’s not that I don’t trust you. You know how it goes.”
“No, it’s fine, I get it. It’s none of my business, and it’s not like I could do anything about it anyway. Angels and demons and all that? That’s too far beyond my understanding.”
“Hm. Well, perhaps not as far as you might have thought, but…” Cecil shrugged as he leaned against the window. “I’d just prefer not to talk about it right now, that’s all.” After a moment he let out a little groan. “I’m not used to traveling so slowly. I could be there in an instant if I flew.”
“You’re the one who wanted to come with me like this,” Gail said with a little snort. “Besides, I like having the company. It’s less lonely this way.”
“Well, I suppose I can’t complain too much.” He peered down at the cat sitting in his lap which was purring loudly. He smiled and continued to rub its ears. “It’s a nice change of pace.”
When they finally got back to the apartment, Gail glanced around to make sure Haley’s car wasn’t there. She sent a quick text to Haley asking how long it would be before she got back and received a quick reply that said she’d be about an hour. Since the coast was clear, Gail had Cecil come along and help her bring her things into the apartment.
Once they were all settled, Gail went to make herself a hot drink. “Hey, you want anything? Oh, wait, right, you probably don’t eat or drink, do you?”
“I don’t need to, no,” Cecil said with a shake of his head. “But if you happened to have any cinnamon sticks, I do quite enjoy the taste of those.”
“You mean an actual stick of cinnamon?” Gail raised an eyebrow at him then shook her head. “No, I can’t say we have anything like that, but guess I could buy some if you really want them.”
Cecil grinned at her. “That would be great. I haven’t had any for awhile but I really do love them.”
“Sounds disgusting if you ask me,” she murmured as she went to sit on the couch. She took a sip of her coffee and let out a deep breath, then looked at Cecil. “Are you ready to talk to your brother, now?”
Cecil shivered a little but nodded his head. “As ready as I’ll ever be, I guess. I won’t run away this time, I promise.”
“Good.” Gail inhaled and peered up toward the ceiling, murmuring, “Cynder, you can come back now. Cecil’s ready to talk.”
Nothing happened for a moment but then Gail felt another presence in the room and turned to see Cynder standing in the opposite corner, staring at the two of them. Cecil took a step back and looked visibly shaken, like he was ready to run away again. Gail jumped up and grabbed his wrist, yanking him forward.
“You said you weren’t going to run, so talk to him.”
“Brother,” Cynder said as he took a step toward them, “what she’s told you is true. Please, just listen to what I have to say.”
Cecil stared at Cynder for a moment and Gail could feel him shaking in her grasp. He took a deep breath and dropped his gaze to the floor, mumbling, “Alright, I’m listening.”
Gail watched the two of them for a moment and frowned a little when neither of them spoke. She was about to say something but then she got the sense they were in fact communicating to each other in some silent fashion, perhaps through telepathy. Cynder was gazing rather intensely at Cecil and, though his face was turned toward the floor for the most part, Cecil was gazing back at Cynder.
After a moment of this, Gail sighed a little and started to move away, but Cynder stopped her. “Please stay here,” he murmured. “Your presence is keeping him calm.”
Cecil made a face and huffed. “I’m fine. I’m not going to run, Cynder.”
Cynder walked over to him slowly and held a hand out to him. “So you believe me, then? You believe I am no longer fallen?”
Cecil stared at the hand offered to him but turned his face away. “I do, but that doesn’t make this any easier for me.”
“I know.” Cynder took Cecil’s hand in his, leaning closer to him, then he glanced at Gail. “Please, give us a moment alone. We’ll return shortly once we’ve worked things out.”
“Right, sure.” Gail nodded her head, and in the blink of an eye the two of them disappeared. She stared at the space they had been occupying seconds ago then sighed and settled back on the couch. “So glad Haley isn’t back yet. This is insane.”
She was given no time to relax as shortly after the two angels disappeared someone began pounding on her door. She went to answer it and found the landlord standing there. She swallowed hard and asked in a quiet voice, “Can I help you?”
“Ms. Wellers?” he said almost derisively. “I don’t mean to bother you, as I see you’ve just returned from your Christmas break, but I saw something rather… upsetting.”
“And what would that be?” she asked with a frown.
“A tall man came in with you,” he said with a huff. “And he was carrying a cat. You are aware of our no pets policy, are you not?”
“I am,” she said matter-of-factly. “He left, don’t worry about it. It was just for a minute.”
“Hrm. I should hope so.” He leaned a little closer to her and frowned. “I wouldn’t want there to be any problems, would you?”
“Of course not,” Gail said, glaring mildly at him.
He leaned away then handed over a piece of paper to her. “Just as a reminder,” he said. “I may be coming back to check up on you later.”
He turned and stode away and Gail shut the door, staring at the document he had handed her. It stated that if a pet were found on the premises that the occupant would have a limited time to either get rid of the pet or they would be asked to leave. She rubbed her hand over her face and hissed low under her breath.
“Shit. I knew something like this was bound to happen. How did we keep at it for so long, though?”
She let out a heavy sigh and slapped the paper down on the counter, deciding not to worry about it until Haley came back. In the mean time, she went to her room and collapsed on her bed. The cat joined her there and curled up next to her. She wrapped her arms around him tightly and hugged him close.
“We’ll figure this out,” she whispered. “We won’t let them take you away from us, promise.”
It wasn’t long after when Haley got back. Gail didn’t get up immediately to greet her but instead Haley came into her room holding the document and staring at it with wide eyes. “Gail, do you know where this came from?”
Gail sat up slowly and stared at her. “Landlord,” she said. “I guess I wasn’t careful enough when I brought Cecil back into the house. He came knocking at the door and gave that to me. He said he’d be back later to check on things. I don’t have any idea what to do.”
Haley went over and sat on the edge of the bed with her, petting the cat slowly. “I’ve thought about this before, actually,” she said. “Did you know you can get a letter that states you need a pet for mental stability and that can allow you to keep one even in a pet-free place like this?”
Gail stared at her for a moment. “Alright, and how would you acquire such a thing?”
“From a doctor, or therapist, or a counselor or something,” Haley said with a casual shrug. “I mean obviously they would have to deem it necessary for you before they would give you one, but.”
Gail raised an eyebrow at her. “I see. Well.” She looked down at the cat and sighed. “I guess we’ll figure something out. You know, you could have mentioned this sooner so we wouldn’t have to be worrying about it right when we’re about to get caught.”
“I know, I know. I’m sorry, that’s my fault. I got complacent since no one had caught us for months and I sort of forgot all about it. We’ll figure this out together, alright?”
“Yeah, okay,” Gail said with a nod. “And we won’t panic.”
Haley smirked and nodded her head, then she wrapped her arms around Gail. “Did you have a good Christmas?” she asked.
“Nope, it was straight up horrible. What about you?”
Haley’s face fell and she shrugged one shoulder. “It was good. I’m sorry yours wasn’t. What happened?”
“My family is horrible and they couldn’t keep their damn mouths shut, that’s what.” Gail sighed and fell back onto her bed. “My grandpa said something… really hurtful. He never apologized for it either, even when my mom told him how much it upset me.”
“I’m so sorry,” Haley said with a sigh. “I wish you could’ve come with me instead.”
“Me, too,” Gail murmured, then she shrugged her shoulders. The only good thing about the break was being with Cecil again.
They made plans to go out to eat that night along with Janae, but in the mean time they didn’t do much of anything except rest from their trip back. Gail stayed in her room, dozing off a few times as she tried to read a book she had gotten as a gift. At one point she was woken by the feeling of a strong presence in her room. She looked up to see both Cecil and Cynder standing there.
“You’re back,” she murmured. “Is everything alright?”
“Yeah,” Cecil said, stepping away from Cynder to sit on the edge of her bed. “We had a long talk. Things are fine now.”
“So… are you going to destroy that demon, now?” Gail asked a bit hesitantly.
“We can’t,” Cynder said. “Not until we find it, anyway. That may prove to be somewhat difficult.” He gave Cecil a rather significant look and Cecil turned away with a frown.
“We’ll find it,” Cecil murmured. “It may just take time, but I’m not going to run away anymore, Gail. I’m your guardian. My place is by your side, so I’m staying with you until then. If the demon comes back and tries to hurt you, my brother and I will keep you safe and destroy it.”
Gail smiled a little. “Good. I’m glad things are working out.” She turned her gaze to Cynder and asked, “Does this mean you’ll be sticking around too?”
“You may see me on occasion,” he said with a stiff nod, “but I will be busy elsewhere. I shall come when I am needed.”
“I’m glad that’s all settled, then.” Gail leaned back and let out a deep breath. “Maybe things can start getting back to normal around here.”