General Disclaimer: Not mine

Violence: One little fight scene, c'est tout... I'm very proud of myself here, sticking with the placid Christmas spirit and all... Well, sorta anyway...

Subtext: Oh yeah <BG> Maintext, really.

Author's Note: Well, this has been a uhm... a new experience... /chuckle/ This is the first time I wrote from a 1st person perspective and that was weird to do, hard at times, but very interesting. It's not something I'm gonna be doing again anytime soon though, so enjoy this while it lasts, OK?

This story is kinda weird, I think... I don't know where it came from, it just sorta popped into my head for some reason and kept banging on my skull to be let out and this is what it turned into. Hope it's enjoyable.

Any non-flamey feedback an be sent to annemaart@yahoo.com.

Above and Beyond
by Annemaart

24-12-2001

Hi,

I've been sitting here, staring at this blank piece of paper for what seems like hours now and that's the best thing I could come up with to start. Hi. Pretty lousy huh? Especially for someone who claims to be a writer.

It's just... God, I'm so scared. As I put these first words to paper, my hands are shaking. I'm afraid that, when you finish reading this, if you even do, you'll think I've gone insane. Please believe me, I haven't. I simply want you to know the truth. About me. Us. I want you to understand why, this morning, when you wake up, I'll be gone.

I know they'll probably punished me for what I'm about to do, but I just can't disappear without a trace and leave you thinking... thinking I stopped loving you, or that I wasn't happy here. I was. I am. And if I had a choice.... If I had a choice I'd stay here with you forever.

God, I don't know where to start. Maybe... Do you remember how much I loved to leaf through your photo albums, all those pictures from when you were younger? How I always told you, you were such a beautiful baby and you'd laugh and say that when you were born you were just another horrible screaming, wrinkly monster?

You weren't. I should know. I was there.

I was there in that delivery room. I was there when you said your first word. I was there on your first day of school, when you cried the entire morning. And then when the teacher finally came walking over and tried to drag you from your hiding place and you punched her in the face. I was there, watching you. That was my job, see, watching you was.

Good god, that sounds really perverse, doesn't it? I realise this must be making no sense to you whatsoever, I... I guess I should just start at the beginning.


The year was 1812 and I was a man by the name of Jonathan Smith.

I can just picture the look on your face right now, trying to match the image of the woman you know to a two hundred year old guy. But, please, just keep reading, OK? It'll all become clearer. Well, sort of anyway.

I lived in the city of London and I was a clerk in some grand law firm. I didn't come from a particularly wealthy family, but I was very driven to get to where I wanted to go. I had spend all my time and effort into working my way up in the firm and at the age of forty-five I was in the highest position a man like myself could rise to. My wages were good, I had a decent home in the centre of the city and I was respected by my colleagues and friends. Not that I had many of those, mind you... friends, I mean. My job was my world, so I ‘wasted' little time on going out and socialising.

I was lonely. Very lonely. But at that stage of my life I felt there was not much I could do about that anymore. Back then... Well, common sentiment was you should just thank the Lord you were alive at my age, and not ask Him for any more favours if you wanted to stay that way.

Which is what I did every Sunday, like the good little Christian I was. Like everyone was back then. And every Sunday, when the sermon was over and everyone walked out, beggars would be lining the streets, to see if the preaching about loving thy neighbour and sharing thy wealth extended beyond the walls of the church. For most it didn't, but I usually gave away a few coins. Most of my colleagues looked down on me for doing that, for being friendly to the ‘filth' that got in their way. I didn't care much about what they thought though. Like I said, I didn't have many friends, so I didn't have to pretend to fit in either.

Every week the same people greeted me there and I soon became familiar with their faces and even some of their names. This all continued year through year until one day, I stepped outside and I spotted a new face. A young woman, huddled in a corner, holding up her hand. She was covered in mud and her dress was old and torn, but I didn't really notice that at first, since she was looking at me with these stunning blue eyes. The colour of the sky on a cold winter's day. I was irresistibly drawn closer.

I gave her a pound, which back then was a small fortune. She looked down at her hand, then back up in complete shock, before hastily scrambling closer and kissing my feet. Needless to say I felt pretty awkward, standing there in front of a church, the whole world watching as a woman was kissing my shoes. So I quickly helped her to her feet and guided her away, suggesting I could accompany her to her home. She didn't seem too sure at first, but I gently insisted and she finally agreed.

This house... It wasn't even larger than our bedroom and she lived there with three children. She herself was pregnant with a fourth and there was no husband. Elizabeth, that was her name, told me he died recently, but I doubted that was the truth. The area she lived in was known for its prostitution.

Anyway, to shorten a long story, I was intrigued by her, and even though it was highly inappropriate for a man of my esteem, I decided, after I'd regretfully left her and her children in that dump, that I would return some day soon and deliver some food, or some more money or whatever else I could think up as an excuse to see her again.

And so, two days later, I walked towards her home with a nice amount of money and some bread and cheeses I'd bought along the way. Soon, though, I realised all wasn't well. From far away I could see the smoke drifting up from the rooftops. I started running, faster and faster as I realised that the fire seemed to be centred around the area she lived in and as I turned the last corner my fears were confirmed. Flames were bursting from the building, angrily snapping around them, hungrily feeding on the wood. The fireman's bells were ringing somewhere in the distance, indicating help was still far away. People were standing around, watching the whole scene, but no one seemed eager to do anything for the house's inhabitants.

I don't know what came over me then. I never considered myself a very heroic person really. I just didn't think about the consequences and just kicked open the door, rushing in. It was hard to see anything through the thick smoke, but I did hear crying coming from somewhere on my right, so I just blindly waded over and reached out, until I felt small hands clasping onto mine.

I lifted up both the children and carried them outside as fast as I could. It was getting harder and harder to breathe, but I ignored the clenching at my chest and put the children down on the ground outside and asked them where their mother was. The youngest started crying even louder, and the second managed to point a shaky finger back at the house.

When I finally found her, I realised why she hadn't answered my calls. A beam had fallen on her head as she'd tried to protect the baby she had cradled in her arms and she'd lost consciousness. She was still alive though and I carried both her and her child outside on my last breath.

Several parts of my body were severely burned and I'd inhaled too much smoke. I grasped one of the oldest boys by the arm and placed my wallet in his hands, closing his fingers over the item.

The last thing I saw was her face.

And then I was dead.

It happened... Well, a lot faster than I thought it would. I'd heard all the tales of people seeing their lives flash before their eyes. How people have time for all those flashbacks is still a mystery to me, since I was far too busy dividing my attention between the voices in my head screaming ‘Please let her be OK' and ‘Crap, this hurts'.

That hurt was nothing though compared to what happened next. You feel this... How am I going to describe this in terms which you can understand? It's like... You know that sound you get when you rip a thick piece of paper in half, nice and slowly? That tearing sound, where you can hear the fibres snapping loose from each other? All right, now multiply that by a thousand and turn it into a feeling. That's what I felt then. Sort of.

It was later explained to me that that's your self pulling away from your body, leaving its physical form. I can honestly say that that's the scariest thing that's ever happened to me, in all my lives. It hurts in his really indescribable, non-physical way and then with a poof everything just gets dark. Really, really dark. Freightingly dark. I started thinking that everything I'd believed in before was fake after all. No heaven, no life after death.

I lost consciousness, or whatever it is you loose when you're dead, anyway. Later on I woke up and there was this foggy light. Slowly on it got clearer and clearer and I could make out the contours of a room, and the textured surface of a white ceiling. For a moment there I thought I'd survived after all, that I was still alive, but that thought was soon quelled when I looked to my right and saw a winged woman standing at my bedside.

Her name was Chris, she said. And she was, is still, I assume, the most stereotypical angel you can find. With the curly blonde hair and the sweet placid smile and all that.

I hate her. I absolutely hate her. She is one of those people that just gets on my nerves. She's the... Well, she's the Celine Dion of heaven. If she'd still be in the land of the living these days, she would be starring in one of those horrible, stuffy, religious TV series, you know what I mean?

So there she was at my bedside, being her angelic self. At this stage I was too shocked to be annoyed, so I just sat there gasping at her. "I am a archangel." She announced. The moment she did that I should have realised I was gonna hate her, because she has one of those obnoxious scratchy voices that I abhor and...

Well, anyway. She was an archangel. She welcomed me to heaven and told me my journey through the karmic cycle was done, but I was not ready to enter paradise just yet so I'd been selected to be a Protector.

Of course I didn't get a word of what she was saying. My mind had kind of stopped dead at the words ‘welcome to heaven' and I was still having trouble wrapping my brain around the fact I was talking to a woman with wings. I'd sort of caught the word karmic, but back then nobody from my part of the globe had even heard of reincarnation, so I decided to ask her what that word meant. In my stupefied state however, all I managed to blurt out was a slightly unintelligent ‘Huh?'.

She sighed in a ‘good-god-I-am-sooooooooooo-above-you' kind of way and she started to repeat all she'd said before, very slowly, word for word, like I was some kind of mindless, half-witted...

Did I mention I hate her yet?

Now, I could explain to you all about how heaven works, how paradise is actually a subjective matter and is different for every single person that arrives at these gates. But then this letter would become too long and I'd be unable to finish it before you come back from your shopping. Besides, if you knew how everything worked beforehand, it'd take all the fun out of dying.

What I will tell you, however, is that god, or the gods, whatever you feel like, like to control people's lives. The powers that be want certain events to happen. Certain events that set in motion a chain reaction that will change particular people and their karma in a way that is useful to them. Of course, to make sure these events do occur, the people that are involved need to be kept safe, so they can do what they have to in years to come. And that's where Protectors come in.

Protectors are... Well, basically they're dead people that still have certain powers on earth. Not a lot of powers really. They can't touch anything, they can't be seen and scare people off. But there's small things they can do, like toy with time a little and lend some strength when someone is sick, or injured, make someone feel safe when they're scared.

On first sight, this Protector thing seems like a pretty neat job. Helping people, guiding them to their destiny, as the Powers liked to call it. And it can be quite nice, on the jobs where you can lead your chosen to a happy marriage, to give life to someone the powers that be have a need for or to let them have a good career, to influence others with.

Most of the time, however, it's really sucky. Most of the time, my job was to deliver my chosen to death, or some horrid event that would scar them eternally. I think I've spilled more tears in my years as a Protector than I have in all my lives added together. Which is sort of hard to believe if you know everything I've been through and all.

Of course, I didn't realise this at first, that the Powers were only trying to influence people for their own benefit. I still believed in all I had learned, you see. That God was merciful, and kind. And... And maybe He is. Who am I to judge God, right? But you have to understand, the things I've seen, the things I know now, they're so...

I'm straying from the subject again, I'm sorry. Where was I? Oh right... So, Chris told me to just take on a first assignment and see how I felt about the job, then make my decision on whether I wanted to stay on or be reincarnated instead. I figured that couldn't hurt, and agreed.

Chris lead me to Michael, who is the head of the Protectorate and he handed me a scroll with my first assignment. I unrolled the scroll and looked at the contents, my eyes flicking over the words written down in golden letters.

Her name was Zhuo Ainai, a woman that would soon be born in a region a little north of what is now the city of Hong Kong. And the golden swirls described nothing but good for her. My job was to make sure she and her husband-to-be got together, so she could bare a son, who would serve as the vessel for some other important spirit.

As you probably understand, this assignment was handed to me to sucker me into the wicked world of Protecting. Which worked perfectly of course. Those first few years for the Protectorate were incredible. Ainai was a wonderful woman. So friendly, full of life... A little too mischievous for her own good, sometimes, but I actually loved that about her. I remember...

No, it doesn't matter what I remember, I need to speed this up. The only important thing that happened during that time was that I got to meet Cameal, whom most know as the Archangel of Love. Until then, the only Archangel I'd had dealings with, besides the obnoxious Chris, was Michael, who was a strict, businesslike, no nonsense kinda guy. Needless to say, meeting Cameal was a relief. He restored my faith in the fact that Archangels were actually nice people who cared. And, most importantly, he reminded me of something that I'd known once, ages ago...

We were standing upon a hilltop, looking down on Ainai and her future husband, whom we'd just saved from a gruesome death at the hands of some thugs. You have to realise, Ainai's hubbie was a complete and total loser. Why she loved the guy was a complete mystery to me. He meant well, he really did, but he was one of those people that could sting his feet on the one thistle that was hidden in a field of spring flowers. But when a bunch of raiders had charged them and demanded all money be handed over, the guy had valiantly jumped in front of Ainai and had told them he'd rather die.

Which he would have, if Cameal and I hadn't intervened. Well, Cam did most of the intervening actually, since he has way more powers in the world of the living then I did back then.

So, we saved the joker. He proposed, she excepted, they fell into each others arms, yada yada yada. I shook my head at the scene. Cameal apparently noticed, and he asked me what was the matter. "She deserves so much better than him," I informed the angel bluntly. "She could marry a wealthy man and live in luxury for all her life, but she goes of and marries this dimwit."
Cameal laughed, the first time I heard an arch angel laugh, and laid an arm around my shoulders amicably. "Love is a strange thing, my friend," he told me then, waving his hand at the scene before us. "It goes beyond reason. Beyond logic. Beyond death even. And no matter how hard you try, it cannot be controlled." He leaned closer, dropping his voice to a conspiritual whisper. "Not even by the Powers."

I wonder if he knew. I like to believe he did. That he knew that those few words would be the key. Would fix years and years of loneliness.

I'm getting ahead of myself again, aren't I? See, before I get to the most important part of my story, there's one more thing I need to tell you about.

It was my third chosen, one of the shortest and saddest cases I'd ever had to deal with. Time had passed, one world war had come and gone, and the second was now in its fourth year. The golden letters on my new scroll were few, describing the short life of a boy who'd not even live long enough to own a name. He was born in a concentration camp, in the early hours of the second of January, 1944. I remember arriving at the scene to watch his birth. The birth of a chosen is a special occasion for Protectors, since it gives us a glimpse into the nature of the person we are now responsible for... When a spirit is reborn, you can see, just for a moment, a glimpse of his or her karma. For a moment, we can feel what they felt before, who they were before... What they did... We can understand them better, and get an idea about how all that happened in previous lives might affect our chosen's decisions in the present.

The wind was howling, carrying bursts of chillingly cold rain. It even send a shiver down my spine, just from watching the people around me sitting huddled up together, the rags they used as clothes wrapped tightly around their bodies, trying to stay warm. For the first time since I'd died, I questioned God's plans then. I wondered what was the point of this suffering, what could be so important that this was necessary. I carefully stepped around another bundle of hopelessness, trying not to look down at the faces, not wanting to see their pain.

In a corner I spotted my destination. A woman, wrapped up in an old, worn down cloak, the hood pulled over her head, obscuring her face. She was moaning in agony, her hands wrapped around her swollen belly. I walked closer to her, then knelt at her side.

And as I did, her head shot up suddenly, as if she'd heard me. And I looked into her eyes.

The colour of the sky on a cold winter's day.

I gasped, stumbling back in complete shock.

Elizabeth. The name raced through my mind, echoing incessantly. Elizabeth. That a hundred years had passed since the day I'd looked upon her last seemed to not matter in the slightest. Nor did the fact that her hair was shortly trimmed, her build bony and slender, that she was only twenty years old at most.

Her teeth clenched together as she muted another cry of pain, tossing her head back, her breathing coming in heavy rasps.

My own breathing wasn't doing much better, to be honest, but I managed to get myself together and crawl towards her, my eyes still firmly transfixed upon her face. My hands shaking, I reached out to touch her cheek... only to pass through the skin. Never before had that been so frustrating and I angrily slammed my hand at the wall of the wooden wreckage she was sheltering in, wishing so badly it would hurt.

It didn't of course. I turned my eyes back to look at her, and now tears were forming, as I remembered why it was that I was here. To keep her child alive... for as long as it took for the German guards to get here and take him from her. So they could murder him in front of her very eyes.

My head shot up as she screamed out again, one last time, before falling back against the wooden wall in complete exhaustion. Another woman reached out and lifted up the child, holding it up right in front of me, as if to taunt me, to accuse me beforehand for what I was about to do.

The boy had the brightest glow drifting around him. And when I looked at him, and he blinked open his dark brown eyes and looked back all I could feel emanating from him was... Tenderness. Kindness. Love.

He was wrapped in a bit of cloth and handed to his mother. She smiled, laughed even, in spite of everything, reaching out and letting his fingers wind around hers.

The little boy closed his eyes tiredly, his chest heaving weakly as he struggled for another breath. I reached out towards him instinctively, intent on giving him the strength to hang on to life just a bit longer. But my hand stopped in mid motion, hovering inches above his head.

I couldn't do it. I just couldn't. I couldn't let them kill the child of the woman I'd loved. The woman I loved still, I realised as I gazed down at the duo. I couldn't let her suffer through the pain of watching him be killed.

I pulled my hand back.

I killed him.

Forgive me, love, I killed him.

When the soldiers came he was lying limply in his mother's arms. She screamed out in agony as they ripped his lifeless form away from her. That sound... Oh God, I can hear it now. Echoing through so many lifetimes.

It was heart wrenching. I felt nauseous, as I stood there and watched her dissolve into helpless sobs. I fell down on my knees beside her, instinctively reaching out again, even though I knew it'd do me no good. Even though I knew no matter how badly I wanted to touch her, it was impossible for me to do so.

I reached for her hand. And, as my fingers neared the skin, they passed right through, as only could be expected. I sniffled away another tear, the situation seeming so hopeless and...

And then her head shot up. And she looked at me. Not through me. At me.

I might have believed later on I'd been imagining things. That I just wanted her to see me so badly that I imagined she did... As I was suddenly yanked away from the mortal world, pulled back up to heaven by angry hands, already hearing Chris's furious voice yelling at me in the distance, I was already shaking my head, telling myself I was being ridiculous. And I would have surely convinced myself of this if it hadn't been for that last muffled sound, drifting up to me through the whirlpool of light I was being sucked into. That one name, said in thousands of voices all at once...

"Gabrielle?"

With a shock I arrived back in Heaven, falling onto the marble floor there, staring wide eyed up at the ceiling. Seconds later the sight of the soothing white was replaced with the furious faces of both Chris and Michael, who were yelling at me in complete outrage.

I didn't get a word of what they were saying. Words were spinning around in my brain, visions of places I didn't recognise, and yet did all at the same time, were flooding into my memory. They were blurry, chaotic. Filled with the clattering of swords, the smell of leather and a voice that I'd remember anywhere. "You have to take me with you." I heard a voice very much like mine say. "Gabrielle's soul and mine, they're destined to be together." I heard her plead. A flash, Michael, looking back with a dark smirk. "Desperate times call for desperate measures."

Chris grabbed onto my shoulder and shook me vehemently, and her words finally penetrated through my foggy mind.

"Do you realise what you've done!?" She screamed. "You were supposed to keep that child alive! A-l-i-v-e! Alive!"
"What happened?!" Michael's voice thundered over hers. "What the Hell happened?!"

I just stared up at Michael blankly, still unable to speak. My brain was busily processing my options, and the option to tell him what had just happened, what I'd just seen, was immediately scrapped from the list of possibilities.

Fortunately, Cameal chose this moment to make an appearance, fluttering down, neatly landing beside the two ranting Archangels. "Problems up in heaven?"
"This idiot neglected to do his duties!" Chris immediately ranted in her high squeaky voice, which stung my already zooming ears painfully.
"Just look!" Michael joined in, then shoved a scroll into Cameal's hands.

The Archangel's eyes flicked past the letters on the paper, eyebrows furrowing more and more the further down he got.
"How are we supposed to fix this?!" Chris went on in complete frustration. "The future is completely altered now. You know how much trouble it's gonna cost to put this right?!"
"Of course I know, dear. Been there, done that." Cameal drawled, sparing me a glance, before rolling the scroll back up and placing it under his wing. "I'll deal with this."

Michael didn't seemed too pleased with this however, and I saw him cross his arms, glaring at his colleague. "The Protectorate is under my authority."
"Hey, if you wanna fix this mess, fine," Cameal told him simply. "But I know you're a busy guy and you probably have a lot of things on your schedule. I, on the other hand, don't have a lot of work to do, considering the current circumstances down below, so..."

For a moment they gazed at each other, then Michael caved in and waved his approval, after which Cameal extended his hand down to me, pulling me to my feet and then tugging me along to find some privacy, away from the two glaring Archangels.

He pushed me into a seat, then stood before me, crossing his arms and towering over me. "That was a very stupid thing you did."
I took a breath to protest. "I just wanted to..."
But he cut me short with a wave of his hand. "I know why you did it."
I blinked up at him, slightly stunned. "You do?"
"All too well." He smiled gently, placing a hand on my shoulder. "I can see into your heart, my friend. That's my job, remember?"

I swallowed, unsure of what he meant exactly. Did he know about Elizabeth? Know I recognised her. That she had recognised me even?
"Trust me. I will fix things with Michael." His voice cut through my wonderings and I looked up into his dark eyes. He hesitated for a moment, then touched my cheek. "You're a good soul. You don't deserve this."
I frowned, and cocked my head at him, still not understanding. "Deserve what?"
He managed a wry smile. "You'll know what it was when it's ended." He told me, before turning his back to me and walking off. "Be ready."

I would only understand what it was I had to be ready for when it happened. Many years later, when I witnessed the birth of my seventh chosen.

You.

When I stood there in that delivery room and saw you for the first time. Eyes the colour of the sky on a cold winter's day.

It was like a hand reached out and grabbed onto my heart and pulled it straight from my chest. Lifetimes of pain cascaded upon me. So much hurting. I saw it all, years flashing by in moments. The murdering, the harsh endless search for redemption, the fire, the death of your children. The loneliness, that perfectly echoed my own.

They've tried to keep us apart and they succeeded for centuries. They don't like you much, sweetheart. They find you too powerful. You're a threat to them. Don't laugh, it's the truth. You have much more strength in you then you realise, love. I've told you that before and I wish you would believe that finally.

For years now, they've tried to make you small. Every horrid thing they could think of they placed upon you, solitude being only one of the many things they sentenced you to.

I am so sorry. So sorry it took me this long to find you. So sorry for everything you had to go through alone. So sorry I could only stand by and watch as your parents died in that car crash, leaving you an orphan. So sorry the aunt that took you in was such a bitch. So sorry that I couldn't stop the teasing you were submitted to at school. I tried. Please believe me when I tell you that I tried so very hard. But I just didn't have the power to stop any of these events.

I felt so useless. I gave you all the comfort I had to give, all the strength. But I never felt it was enough. I was there constantly, every moment of every day I could spend with you then, I was there, helping in the little ways I could.

Do you remember that time when you were playing in the living room. And you nearly send that Ming vase of your aunt's crashing to the ground?

She was chasing her puppy. Not a real one of course, Aunty would never allow a real puppy in the house. Her imaginary one. But imaginary puppies were much better than real puppies anyway, she'd convinced herself. You didn't have to take them for walks when it was raining, and you didn't have to feed them, and they could do any trick you wanted them to do, and they were always nice, and never bit you... Booster barked at her, jumping around friskily, his long ears flapping around playfully. She laughed, then ran after him again, in an attempt to catch him. Booster spurted off, running under the small table and she followed, but her foot got stuck on the table leg and she tumbled forward, thudding onto the carpet and rolling on two or three turns before coming to a stop. She looked up just in time to see the table swaying dangerously, the large, ugly vase on top of it losing its balance and tumbling down, further and further until...

It stopped, hovering a few inches from the floor.

That was me. And when those kids at school were tossing crumpled bits of paper at you, but their projectiles stopped suddenly then reversed and smacked the annoying brats in the face. That was me too.

She stared in shock as the bits of paper suddenly hung still in mid air, then one was blasted back with amazing force, hitting the oldest boy in the centre of his forehead. More balls of paper whooshed back at them, again and again. They shot her fearful looks then hastily darted off. Behind her she was sure she heard a low chuckle, but when she turned, there was no one there.

That's all I could do for you, back then.

But all that happened to you in your childhood years, it was all just teasing from the Powers. They had far worse in store for you, and those were the things I really feared for. I had been going over things time after time again, trying to think what I could do to keep what was next from happening.

That night we met, I'm sure you remember...

She was walking home from a friend's house, late at night. The apartment she lived in was not really situated in a pleasant neighbourhood, and she felt uncomfortable. She wrapped her coat around herself a little tighter, letting out a breath and watching it drift up into the night's sky as a small cloud.
"Hey, sugah!" A slurry voice sounded behind her and she spun around to see a group of seven boys standing there. "What ya doing out here all alone, baby?" The leader asked in a sweet voice. "Doncha know there's a lot of freaks walking around out here this late at night?" The rest of the group laughed. The smell of alcohol was lingering thickly around them.
"Just leave me alone." She tried weakly, taking a step backwards.
"Now that's not polite." Another spoke up, sounding quite insulted. "Bout time we teach her some manners, ain't that right Bobby?"
"Damn straight." Was the chuckled reply.

They advanced on her menacingly.
She swallowed, her eyes darting around, seeking help, but there was no one around here this late at night. Her mind raced over her options, then she turned and bolted, running as fast as her feet could carry her.
"Get ‘r!" She heard a voice call out. Footsteps thundered behind her, getting closer and closer, and she knew it wouldn't be long before they caught up to her. She closed her eyes, praying for a miracle. "Help me..." She whispered in a pained voice. "Please help me..."

They were going to rape you. I was supposed to watch that happen, but I couldn't.

I'm not sure how I did what I did. Not even today. But, as always, I have my theories.

A woman you knew long ago said that the world was driven by a will, and in order to transcend the limitations of this world you had to stop willing, stop hating. And I guess the reverse is also true. That to acquire power in the mortal world, I had to will them to happen. And I wanted to help you so badly. And I was so angry, so very angry. I just ran at them, my hands balling to fists and I slammed out as hard as I could.

And then there she was, suddenly. As if she'd come out of nowhere. A woman, with shortly trimmed, blond hair, who pounced on her attackers fearlessly.

Hurting had never felt so good, I can tell you. When my knuckles actually impacted with his skull, I was shocked at first, then completely delighted. I had no idea how long I would have this power to beat the crap out of people, so I decided to make the best of it right then and there and bruise every inch of those jerks I could get my hands on. And I do mean EVERY inch...

With a crack the first guy was knocked to the ground. The blonde hissed in pain, then stared at her hand for a long moment, before she laughed, cheerfully head butting her next opponent into unconsciousness. The boys stared at their fallen companions, completely in shock. Too shocked even to attack her saviour, apparently, who kicked the legs out of under a third, then grabbed onto the arms of a fourth and swung him away as if he was a mere fly.
"Let's get outta here!" She heard one of the guys cry out, before the remaining three bolted, two conscious victims of the blonde's rage managing to limp on behind them.

I was disappointed when they ran and actually considered going after them for a moment, but then I turned and saw you. Saw you looking at me.

The most amazing green eyes turned and met hers and the breath got stuck in her throat. "T... Thank you..." She managed to stutter, scrambling to her feet.
The green eyes widened for a short moment, then the woman carefully took a step closer and reached out. Fingertips softly touched her cheek and she swallowed at the intensity of that feather-light touch.
The breathing of her saviour was coming in heavy rasps, but since the woman had just fought off seven pretty tough looking men, she didn't really find that very surprising.
"Are... Are you all right?" The blonde finally asked, those eyes not leaving hers for a moment.
"Yeah..." She nodded in confirmation, feeling mostly just shocked and shaky. "I'm... I'm fine. Thank you." She repeated again, not knowing what else to say.
"Believe me, it was my pleasure." Her saviour muttered, giving her nearest victim a good kick in a particularly painful spot. "Jerk."

She chuckled ruefully at that, and then so did her companion. An awkward silence fell for a moment, then she carefully reached out and took the blonde's bruised hand, the surface scratched, blood seeping down her palm. "That looks pretty bad."
"Bad?" The blonde muttered in wonder. "Oh, the hand you mean?" She shrugged sheepishly. "It's nothing really."
"It's not nothing." She argued sternly, shooting her saviour a look. "It's purple and bleeding, that's what it is."
The woman scowled. "Hardly feel a thing, really."
"Whatever." She muttered, making sure her disbelief was showing in her voice. "My apartment is just around the corner. Painful or not, you're coming with me, so I can at least bandage that up."
The blonde looked at her, then smiled dazzlingly. "Well... If you insist."

I felt I'd died and gone to heaven. You could see me! I was actually talking to you! With you! I was thrilled.

At the same time though, I was so afraid whatever it was that allowed us these few moments would pass and I'd become invisible to you again. I could feel them pulling on me, could almost hear their angry voices in the back of my mind.

That's why I came on so strong then. I'm usually pretty shy at first, you know. I've told you that a thousand times already and you just laughed at me every time, giving me one of those smirky looks of yours. It's really true, though. But I just didn't know if I had the time for that with you.

She opened the tap, letting the cold water flow out and into a plastic bowl, while retrieving a few bits of cloth from a cabinet above the sink. A glance sideways showed her saviour, who'd told her after an odd pause that her name was Gabrielle, leaning in the doorway, just looking at her with this small, incredulous smile on her face. "What?" She asked, arching an eyebrow at the blonde sharply.

Gabrielle chuckled happily in response, dropping her head in an attempt to hide the big smile plastered on her face. "Nothing..."
"No, tell me... What?" She insisted, crossing her arms and glaring at the woman.
Gabrielle peeked up again, a grin tugging at her lips. "Did anyone ever tell you, you look beautiful when you're letting the kitchen flood over?"

She blinked. Beautiful? No one had ever told her she was beautiful, and now this woman she'd just met a few minutes ago was... A pause. Wait... Flood? "Oh, damn it!" She cursed, hastily turning off the tap. But the damage had already been done, water seeping onto the floor, her socks drowning in the puddle of liquid. "Shit, shit, shit."

Her saviour started laughing. She shot the woman a foul look over her shoulder, which just made the woman laugh louder. She lifted the bowl from the sink, pouring a bit of water out of it so she wouldn't spill any more, then padded over to the kitchen table with sloshy steps. "Sit." She ordered, slightly grumpy at being laughed at and angry with herself for being so foolish. She placed the bowl on the table, then turned and walked back, picking up a bit of cloth and kneeling down, wiping up the water while muttering something inaudible.

Footsteps came closer and stopped right beside her and she looked up in mild annoyance as the blonde knelt at her side. "I thought I'd told you to s..." The sentence came to an abrupt end when lips brushed hers. "s...sit..." She finished shakily, meeting emerald eyes so close to hers, so intense... Everything about this woman was so damn intense.

Her saviour released a shaky breath. "I've been wanting to do that ever since I first saw you," she confided in a whisper.
She swallowed, unsure of what to say to that. "You managed to wait a whole ten minutes. Quite an accomplishment." She then managed to joke faintly, before hesitantly reaching out and brushing the woman's cheek with the back of her hand, unable to suppress the urge to get closer to her.

Gabrielle smiled against the touch, closing her eyes and soaking in the moment. "Ten minutes can seem like a lifetime sometimes..."

I know this must be so weird for you.. To hear you've spend this last year living with a ghost. That you love a person who's been dead for nearly two centuries now. I know how ridiculous this all sounds, and... I wondered for a while, in those first weeks, whether this was fair to you. Whether I wasn't doing this just for my own gain. Just because I didn't want to go back, because I wanted to ignore the hands yanking at me to return to Heaven. Just because I wanted to keep dreaming my little dream with you for whatever time I had left.

But... Then I decided, Cameal was right. We didn't deserve what happened, you and me. After all those years, all those decades, centuries of being controlled by higher forces, I guess I felt it was time I did a little controlling of my own.

And I've kept that up for nearly a year now. But it's been draining me. They are very, very powerful, and every day I can feel their pull on me growing stronger and stronger. For the last few weeks I've known that it wouldn't be much longer now, before they would succeed in getting me back.

I've fought it, love, I really have, but I was living on borrowed time here, and I've just run out of my supplies. I have to go.

Besides, I have some major butt to kick up there. In the time we've spend together, I've remembered more of our previous lives, what it was exactly that Michael did... And he is so going to regret that. With some luck, I'll beat him up so badly he'll cast me from heaven and send me back to you, so our separation will be as short as possible. But I fear things won't be that easy.

But whatever they'll try to do to me, I can guarantee you, nothing is going to keep me away from you. Nothing. Because Cameal was right: love cannot be controlled, not even by the Powers.

I promise you, we're done suffering, you and me. From now on, things are going to get better. I'll make them better. I can't tell you how, but I will. Just like I can't tell you when I'll be back, just that I will be, as soon as I can.

I'll do my best to return within the next nine months. I'd like to be there when our daughter is born.

That's my gift to you. Merry Christmas, sweetheart. I know you really wanted a puppy, but I hope this'll do too.

Yours Forever,

Gabrielle

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