He woke and she was still beside him. It was nice to not be alone. He moved and she snuggled back against him, muttering softly under her breath. The shift had ridden up around her waist. He enjoyed the sensation of feeling her skin against his then realised there seemed to be more of him on waking than there had been when he’d fallen asleep. Though he’d seen it through the eyes of others he hadn’t fully realised what the change itself would feel like. Curious, he wondered what he looked like. All he had were second hand impressions filtered through individual circumstances. Would he cause fear? Desire? Was he unusual? Would he be able to satisfy?
When the time came, would he know what to do with this hot thing heavy and proud?
His helpful subconscious provided a confusing vocabulary and a startling array of images that he must have absorbed. He’d seen so much variation and over such a long time. Male and female, male and male, female and female. Couples, groups, singles. Singles? For some reason he was uncomfortable with that thought. Some had been excited, some afraid, some resigned to things that they believed had to be done. He realised he’d had no sense of morality. Some had been lied to, some had been coerced. Some had been children. Those who had been afraid he’d given them calm, those in pain he’d given relief. Those given over to the joy of their bodies … those he had entered and shared the flavour of their joy when he could.
Quietly he slipped out of the bed. He found moving was easier and easier. Soon he would be fully integrated with himself – whatever that meant. There was no mirror in the room. He remembered seeing some in the bathroom down the corridor. Embarrassed at the weakness and needs of his body he hadn’t bothered looking at them earlier. Now he wondered if he would be able to make it that far without disturbing Ekaterina.
“Don’t worry about what you look like. You are … perfectly made.” The voice came from the shadow in the corner. Literally. Gabriel, wearing the same dark clothes as the day before, was folded up on himself in the small chair. For a tall creature he took up remarkably little space. Surprised by the unexpected spectator the erection faded as quickly as it had come. “Allow me to assist you.” And he stretched out to his full height and was by Mykhail’s side, easing a robe around him, within a handful of heartbeats.
The journey down the grey corridor was not a long one but it still took some time as the new being struggled with the effort. He wanted to see what he could do on his own. Other doors opened into the narrow space. The shadow man explained that they were in part of an old military base some miles out from the largest city in the area. The place was largely derelict. People like Ekaterina lived here, people who wanted to be near their angel. The community had built up around the angel centuries earlier. Gabriel had been helping them – showing them how to make use of photovoltaic panels he’d uncovered, speaking to their artist about how to represent the miraculous waking. Apparently he wanted them to be able to continue on even after the loss of their original focus. That Mykhail would leave with him seemed to be a foregone conclusion.
The bathroom was large, designed for everyone living on the corridor when it had been full. Now there were signs that it was used by only a handful of people, each marking their own space with personal items. In the same side room that Ekaterina had taken him earlier in the day Mykhail finally stood and looked at the body he was in. Pale blue eyes looked out from a face that had never been young. They saw a blonde shock of hair and broad shoulders topping a solid torso that, in turn, led to muscular legs beginning to tremble with the effort of standing. His skin, like his hair, was variations of the same warm shade all over. Head to toe he was sunlight.
“Too many centuries ago I was forced to look into a mirror and was told how special I was and how people would want me. Believe me when I say the same to you. Have no worries about what people will think when they see you. Have no fears when the time comes for sex. You will do the right thing.” The words were quietly said. An intimate whisper as his companion stooped slightly to bring his mouth level with Mykhail’s ear.
Apart from a fragile look about his eyes the body seemed remarkably healthy. He guessed he would become as strong as his appearance suggested. He hoped it would not take long. He saw few signs of damage until Gabriel turned him around and, using a small hand mirror, helped him to see what Ekaterina had seen. Thin lines of dried blood matted in his hair and wounds criss-crossed his back from his neck down to his waist. The densest of them were in two scabbed patches starting on his shoulder blades. Where they’d taken his wings? He knew that could not be true.
“You were in the machine too long. Caught between asleep and awake your body was trying to heal while you were still plugged in.” Pale, long fingers delicately traced lines of minute puncture marks down his spine and radiating along acupuncture meridians. “I don’t think it will take much longer to finish healing. I’m afraid I had to cut you out of the life support rig. I always understood that being born from the pods could be a traumatic experience but to have been self-aware at the time. I’m sorry … I’m sorry if the release was not an easy one.”
“I have questions.” So many questions, but where to start? Mykhail closed his eyes. It was easier not to think but to follow the gentle stroke of fingers across his body. The questions seemed a long way distant from him as the taller man kissed his neck. It was so much easier just to feel. What was that sound? He realised he was moaning, small sounds of pleasure as tender lips touched the wounds on his back. It felt like energy was being transferred in the contact. The moans deepened as kissing became licking. He imagined his skin healing at each gentle touch. Finally, unable to stand by himself, he sagged back into arms that were far stronger than they should have been and was carried back to bed.
Night time again. He stretched as he woke, enjoying the feeling of being in his sunlight body and the sensations it gave. He was on his own in the bed, but not alone in the room. Like the previous night the strangely attuned woman and the first of his kind – oh, that had been one of the questions he’d forgotten earlier – were mating. This time, though, there seemed to be less restraint from both parties as if the strength of their coupling matched his physical progress.
They changed position a number of times, the woman’s voice absently expressing her desires. It seemed she had little conscious awareness of the demands she made and, though she seemed to look directly across the room at him, no idea that she was being watched. Gabriel, of course, had recognised when Mykhail was awake. He seemed to have been waiting for their spectator. The final phase appeared violent. While the woman cried out and trembled in her ecstasy Gabriel again made almost no sound, his whole body glowing as light seemed to try and escape him.
The shadow man’s eyes were on fire long after the other two were asleep.