1965-08-09 - Quiet Up Here
Summary: The archangel Michael finds a mortal to visit with.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
arlo michael 

It's a dark, dark night. Even with the streetlights, everything just seems somehow dim and dismal. The heat of the day has finally worn off, and a cool breeze ripples over discarded newspaper and through the shaggy dark hair of a young man sitting on the stoop of a rundown tenement. He looks listlessly at the street, his dark-eyed gaze strung out and glassy. He's not all that high, though. Just enough to take the edge off the constant barrage of information flooding his too-sharp senses. He takes a drag off a cigarette, then sighs a plume of smoke and rubs his eyes with the heels of his hands.

His appearance isn't heralded by pigeons, for once. No, there's just the beating of wings, too big to be any of the city's usual avian denizens. What can that be?

Then he's coming in to the dim illumination of a faulty street lamp, gliding down as if he weighed no more than a feather himself. Dressed in plain clothes, clean. The wings he stretches lazily, as if working out kinks, before he looks around, focussing on the smoker.

Arlo plucks the cigarette from between his lips and stars at Michael. At first, there's a remarkable lack of response. He blinks a few times. Weed doesn't tend to make him hallucinate, not unless it's laced with something. He rubs his eyes again and looks again. Nope, the winged man is still there.

Maybe it's a Mutant. Another freak like he is. Sure, why not? He's not that far from Mutant Town. A New Yorker to the core, he deals with the unknowns of it all by asking bluntly, "So who the hell are you supposed to be?"

There's something about his presence, as he comes pacing gravely towards Arlo. The pale eyes are lambent. "I'm Michael," he says, and while it's soft in volume, there's something in the undertones that seems to almost reverberate. His wings are back, but not wholly folded. As if it was more comfortable to let them trail a little behind him. "Who are you?"

Arlo's brows lift. Attitude rolls off of the youth, but something about that presence makes him ease off a little. He sits up taller, lifting his chin. Flicking ash from his cigarette with a nervous flick, he says, "Arlo." After a moment's thought, he adds, "Just Arlo. I'm not anybody."

"Arlo is somebody. You're an entity, a person," The angel's bemused by this statement. But his manner is far too mild for it to be sarcasm. There's that weird innocence to him. "May I have a cigarette?"

Arlo shrugs his slender shoulders and says, "Yeah, who isn't?" He tucks his cigarette in the corner of his mouth, shakes another out of his pack, then switches places with it, lighting it off his own. Once it's smoldering, he offers it over to Michael. "Lots of entities in the city."

He accepts it with a little bow, and then inhales deeply. Too deeply, far more than a human should be able to on one breath. Half the cigarette's gone on that one drag. The exhalation is correspondingly absurd, a dragon's cloud on the night air, hovering still. He looks through it at Arlo. "Oh, indeed," he says, with that child's enthusiasm. "Trillions. Millions of the apex predators. I think this is the most concentrated colony on this planet's surface. Certainly in this hemisphere."

Arlo huffs a half-disbelieving laugh. "Ease up, pal," he says. "These ain't cheap." Okay, they're pretty cheap, but for him, everything is expensive. The enthusiasm gets a small tick at the corner of Arlo's lips, almost a smile. "Yeah, so I'm one among millions. Not exactly making headlines."

Michael fishes in his pockets, comes out with a five dollar bill, offers it over. Hopeful, uncertain, as if he weren't sure this'd be received well. "Is that desirable? Making headlines?" He flicks the ash away with his other hand.

Both brows lift. Pride tells him to refuse the handout, but the desperate need for a fiver talks with a louder voice, and he reaches out to snatch the bill from Michael's hand. It disappears into a pocket quickly. "Very desireable," he says. "I mean I'm no one important, except in the general sense of, you know, 'everyone matters.'"

"Why is it?" he asks, taking a pace or two closer. Still grave, curious. Arlo's apparently the one he's fixated on this evening. Lucky, lucky Arlo. He nods at the stoop, as if asking the mortal to make space for him to sit.

Arlo glances to the stoop, then shrugs and gives the angel a curt nod. "I don't know," he says. "Not everyone gets to be someone important. Sometimes you're just born, and you grow up, and no one gives a shit, and that's your life." He takes another drag off his cigarette and lifts his head to blow the smoke up into the night.

"What makes someone important?" Mike's voice is soft. He's taking more care with the rest of the cigarette, normal, human-sized drags, it seems. Hushed, almost, as he settles on the stoop. Finally folding his wings in tight.

Arlo licks his lips slowly, his glassy gaze looking out at the street. "People care about you. Or you do something that moves the world. Your life affects others in some significant way. Maybe it's like you've got something about you that no one else has got, and you use it for some big reason." He gives Michael a sidelong glance.

The angel is silent for some time, working on the cigarette. "I see," he says, finally, looking to Arlo again. Curious, it seems, about the mortal and his thoughts. "But are you happy?"

Arlo snorts and shakes his head. He looks down at his feet, takes one last drag off his cigarette, and flicks it onto the sidewalk. "Not everyone gets to be happy either, pal." He lets out a sigh, then rubs his eyes wearily. He's starting to come down, and all the noise of the city is slowly flooding in again. Somewhere in the apartment behind them, a couple is starting to bicker, and down the street someone's baby is crying. "So what's your deal?"

"I'm an archangel," the creature says, tone light. He doesn't deliver this as if he expects it to be particularly portentous. Just mildly. "But I am on vacation. This is the first part of creation I have really visited."

Arlo says, "Like one of the big four," Arlo says, nonplussed as only a New Yorker can be. "Yeah, okay. So you're learning about humanity? Is that your angle? Let me tell you, we're not worth the trouble. Maybe it's one of those 'it was a good idea at the time' things, but if there is a God, I'm pretty sure he's got buyer's remorse.""

Michael nods, with enthusiasm. Arlo gets it. "After Samael, yes, I was the second, and the first among the four who remained by the Throne," he agrees. Then he cocks his head, his pupils dilating and shrinking a little. "Why not? Humans seem infinitely fascinating to me."

"Michael," Arlo says. He looks the angel over, toe to tip, and he has to wonder. The wings are real, sure, but this could still be some Mutant whose powers did something to his mind. But he'll play along. "The newness wears off, and then you'll see we're duplicitous, selfish, conniving animals that attack when scared and we're afraid all the time."

"This is true," he concedes. "But you are also kind and brave and generous and capable of remarkable creativity. Angels are not, not the way humans are, though we can a bit when we're working as part of Creation," he explains. "I didn't get to make very much. I kept putting armor on things. After armadillos…." he looks sheepish.

"You did armadillos," Arlo says, blandly dubious. "I guess if someone had to do it, it'd be your gig." He signs quietly, hands clasped together, elbows resting on his knees, and he watches the skyline. Focus. He needs to focus. If he doesn't focus, it all comes in too quickly and overwhelms him. He can feel every seam in his clothing, lines of scratchy pressure all over his body. He squirms a little. "We're not all kind, brave, or generous," he murmurs. "Maybe once in a rare while, or you find someone being nice because it doesn't cost him anything."

Michael nods, looking faintly apologetic. "I did. I'd gotten a lot of turtles done by that point, and am still proud of rhinos. Armadillos were kind of the leftovers." He shrugs a little. "Humans are humans. Things that can die know fear."

"Really?" Arlo says. "I can't imagine anything more frightening than immortality. That's one of the few things I'm grateful for, that whatever this is," he gestures around vaguely, "it's not forever." He lets the words hang there in the air for a moment, then his shoulders slump, and he says, "Don't pay me any mind. It's one of those days."

Michael reaches over, lays a hand lightly on his shoulder. "It is so bad, then?" he asks. A dangerous question. This is a being that's destroyed entire galaxies at Divine order.

Arlo's skin shivers at the touch, a mindless response to the stimulus. He's thin, that much is clear under the touch. He keeps looking out at the street, though his head tilts every so slightly toward Michael. "It's not great," he says quietly. "The heat. It's making everyone crazy. Nerves are on edge. A lot of people fighting."

"Heat often does. Many species are like that," Mike agrees. He pats the human, gently, and then withdraws his hand. "I like it, but…it's not the same for me."

Arlo looks to Michael at the pat. Human(ish) touch is rare for him, and it's something humans tend to need. He waves his hands around his head and says, "I can hear it all around me. This city gets rough after dark, too. It's hard to block it out. What I wouldn't give for some place quiet."

"Is your hearing very sensitive, then?" he asks, perking up a little. "I could take you somewhere quiet, if you like." Ooh, he can help. That's always fun.

"All of me is sensitive," Arlo says with a grimace. Normally he wouldn't let on at all there was anything unusual, but this guy is clearly a something of some kind, so what harm will admitting it do? At the offer to take him somewhere quiet, Arlo looks around, this way and that, and he weighs his options. This guy is dangerous, that much he can see, but he's also not holding himself aggressively. Yet. The couple arguing upstairs are getting ugly, and that baby bawling down the block is screeching from teething. "Yeah, okay," he says. "Sure, fine, let's go."

The angel unfolds himself from the stoop, steps back. The wings also unfolding, spreading into those shadowy, shimmering expanses, with their ember-like glimmer of color. "I will have to hold you." He holds out his arms, like a mother welcoming her child for a hug.

Arlo hesitates. As necessary as human touch is, he tries to avoid it. Of course now he's sitting there looking like a jackass after already saying yes, so he gets to his feet and says, "Yeah, okay." He shrugs a shoulder, like it's no big deal. "Just no funny stuff, okay? I'm not that kind of boy." He steps closer, awkwardly putting his arms around Michael. "Don't crash us."

"I'm not good at being funny. I mostly don't understand jokes. But I do know that anything that could be construed at being sexual between beings who look male is very taboo. So I will not do anything like that," Mike promises.

His arms are enormously strong, as they come around Arlo, but there's that gentleness there, of course. A crouch, a leap up, a vertiginous rush for the first few stories, and then the great pinions beat the air, and they head up and up.

Arlo is an average height for a man, but he's slender. He's light. He's also not ready for flying even though he's trying to be. He cries out and holds on tightly to Michael, gripping his clothing in both hands. He can no longer hear the argument or the screeching baby. Just the rush of air and… does Michael even have a heartbeat?

He does not, when he's not bothering to pretend to it. There's no breath, either. Just the sound of the wind. Up and up they go. Rising straight at first, and then starting to flatten out. Until they over above the shining grid below. The noise has faded to nothing. No human sounds. Just silence.

Arlo shudders, and he grips more tightly. No heartbeat, no breath. He's never met even a Mutant who didn't need to breathe, who didn't have a heart. Arlo turns to glance down, swallows, and buries his face against Michael's chest. Michael is strong, though, and has a secure hold of him. "It's cold up here," he says, grasping for something to say.

He's warm, though. Not a statue of metal or stone. And he becomes more so, after a moment. Pushing warmth out, for his human passenger. "But it is quiet," he agrees. His wings wrap around - apparently he doesn't need them to fly, or at least hover.

Arlo smiles a little despite himself. For sheer comfort, what can beat being enfolded in an angel's wings? "Do you fly around like this all the time? It's so peaceful up here." He sighs, letting out some tension. He's still got a good grip on Michael's shirt, though. If the angel decides to drop him, he's losing his clothing on the way down, damn it.

"All the time," he agrees. "I'm unhappy when I don't fly regularly." He's still got that grip on Arlo. "And it is. You see all the beautiful patterns from this height."

"The lights aren't so bright up here," Arlo says. And, of course, the less incessant the stimuli, the easier it is to get that control he's been struggling with all day. Tension eases further still. He's not quite such a stiff bundle when he isn't a nervous wreck. His features soften, and it's a rather pretty face to be honest. "If I could fly, I don't think I'd ever stop."

"I like walking, sometimes. Seeing the things on the ground," he explains. Mike leans his head against Arlo's, gently. "But yes. I am glad of flight and would hate to lose it."

Arlo smiles a little despite himself. Something twisted up in him, something he doesn't even recognize most of the time, eases up at the simple luxury of touch. Touch that isn't a rough grab, or seams pressed to skin, or air prickling goosebumps. "I hope you never do. I'd trade mine in for a fiver."

"Trade what?" Mike's tone is puzzled, and he looks down at Arlo. Simply poised in the air, as if gravity could be set aside at whim. Apparently if you're an archangel, it can be.

"Power," Arlo says. "I'd trade my power. It's not cool like flying." He lifts his head tentatively to look up at Michael. "I'm just saying what you can do is great. I'd take wings if I could pick." He can't remember the last time he relaxed this much, despite just how high up in the air he is.

"What is your ability? You are a mutant, yes?" Mike's intrigued. Quite content to hold the human. In fact, he lies back, letting Arlo's weight rest on him. As if they were snuggling in bed.

"Yeah," Arlo says, wrinkling his nose, and his grip tightens again just in case that little nugget of info gets him dropped. When Michael doesn't shake him off like a bug, he eases up again. "I feel everything so much," he says, then presses his lips thin. "My senses are jacked up to ten, and sometimes I can't control it. Sometimes it all gets in, and I just…" He shakes his head. "I can't handle it."

"Sensory stimuli can be overwhelming," he agrees. "And if you are very sensitive, life in large city must be difficult. I'm sorry." Quite content to support Arlo, like a sea otter with a shell.

Arlo is quiet a moment. They're such simple words the angel speaks, but they're perfect. Words of understandig, caring. "Thank you," he says after a moment. He cuddles. It's unconscious, but just as he can feel all the irritating stuff, he can feel the good stuff, too. Michael's sturdiness, his warmth, and the fineness of his form. He nuzzles without thinking about it. "It's nice up here," he says. "I'd move away if I could afford to, but."

"There are opportunities here not to be found elsewhere. I understand," Mike agrees. Nothing above them bu the stars. Above the layers of smog and the light pollution of the city.

"I can't remember the last time I saw the stars," Arlo whispers. "I didn't realize there were so many?" He lifts his head with a look of wonder that softens his features further. He sighs, and his deathgrip becomes a hug instead. "I could believe you're an angel," he says. "Except I can't figure out why you'd visit me."

"More than we can see or count, here," Mike's voice is serene. "Because you're you. All of humans are fascinating. Not one is dull. Every one is a little cauldron of dreams and hopes and thoughts, no one alike."

Arlo says quietly, "We don't treat each other like that." Five years he's been on his own and he's still not in great shape. Old wounds haven't healed right. This is the first time he's cuddled since he was still arguably a child. "I used to have dreams. I was going to study business and create a foundation for Holocaust survivors and their kids."

"Why can't you?" he asks, softly. "You are still capable. I know physical existence is very tiring…."

"I dropped out of high school," Arlo says. "Can't afford college. It's hard to keep a job when you're calling in sick with headaches or nausea because all the input is overloading your senses. I whore myself out, in a way, but that's not steady or reliable."

"Do you need those to do what you want?" His tone is gentle. "Must you? Humans want to help. You want to help. Maybe that is not the way you were meant to."

"Yeah, well, my people don't exactly want me anymore," Arlo says quietly, "and we're nothing without family, without each other." He swallows. "Anyway, yeah, maybe I wasn't meant to do that. My brother, he's going to be a rabbi. That's great work."

"I don't mean you shouldn't. I mean maybe schooling isn't needed," he suggests, quietly.

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