Glimpses of Heaven

Part One

Aries

The year starts with Aries. With strength, never weakness, with a bang, not a whimper. At least, that's how Samuel likes to think of it. That's where his strengths lie, so to speak, with strength itself and the courage and conviction to start the year anew. After all, no other angel does.

He is the first. Not the first angel, no that title and that honor is held by another, by Michael. But he, Samuel, begins the year.

He's always been a leader, perhaps not the leader, but a leader. He had been created that way. He was created to lead, and so lead he does. He leads the others through the year, as the one who starts it, who begins it all.

And he is the first to arrive.

It has been several millennia since the last time they had gathered, he notes to himself, as he waits for the rest to arrive. It is the right time to gather again.

Taurus
The second to arrive is the first of the twins. Auriel comes next, and with her comes a feeling of happiness. She has taken her time over the earth below, as Taurus passes after Aries, as Auriel comes after Samuel.

Auriel is smiling, and she is laughing, as she greets her colleague. As they sit to wait for the rest to come, he asks her of her travels in the world below, and she smiles and shakes her head. The time will come to tell of those times, but it is not now. Not yet.

Gemini
When the third, Raphael, appears the other two do not greet him as they greeted each other. He is a higher ranking angel than they, and he gets their respect before their salutations. Instead they both bow their heads, and he nods to them. Only after this custom has been obeyed does he pull each into a hug.

Samuel asks him of is time in the mortal world, and he, like Auriel, smiles and shakes his head. Auriel nods, and Raphael repeats to Samuel what Auriel has said. The time is not now. But it is soon.

Cancer
When Gabriel comes, Auriel and Samuel pay their respects to him as they did to Raphael. Raphael places a hand over his heart before Gabriel pulls him into a hug, and Gabriel wraps his wings around Raphael.

Gabriel and Raphael release each other, and the other two each hug him in turn. He smiles at them, and they look at him questioningly, and he laughs. The time is not yet. Not yet, but soon. Soon.

Leo
No one sees Michael coming. They feel him, and they all turn simultaneously to see him standing behind them. They all smile, and the other two archangels place their hands over their hearts, while the other two bow their heads. Michael pulls both Raphael and Gabriel into an embrace, closing his white wings around each one.

Michael glows in a way that none of the others do. They had forgotten that in their millennia apart. But they remember now, as they see his golden light, a light that each of them have, only not that bright. Not as bright as Michael.

Michael laughs when Samuel asks him to tell his story, and he too shakes his head and tells Samuel to be patient, that the time has not yet come for that.

Virgo
No one comes for Virgo, and the four wait, until they notice that Raphael is no longer with them.

Michael is the first to remember when Raphael reappears, a broad smile on his face. Raphael reigns over two signs, both Gemini and Virgo, and so he has come again.

The others laugh at the old joke, remembering again, and they are five again waiting for the sixth.

Libra
Auriel is the first to know when the sixth comes. It is the second twin, her sister, Anael. Auriel ignores customs and hugs her sister, before Anael pays her respects for the three archangels in their company. After the hug, she bows her head to them, and they nod to her, and then she hugs Samuel.

Finally, she stands with her twin, looking at peace and at home. She feels complete, like a puzzle with all its pieces in place now that she's with her sister, and the others can see the change in the both of them.

She ignores Samuel's requests for a tale. She knows it's not time yet.

Scorpio
The six stiffen when they feel his presence. It's cold. They all turn, in unison, and he's there, smiling at them, arms folded over his chest. His bow to the archangels is mocking, but they do not rebuke him for it. There is no point. He has never listened, and he never will. They can accept that, if they must, for him.

Finally Michael smiles and moves towards Azrael, and pulls him into a hug. Azrael laughs. None of the others make a move towards him, but he understands. He smiles at them anyway.

No one asks him about his time in the world below, and even if they had, he wouldn't have told them anyway.

Sagittarius
Seven turn, six with smiles and the last because everyone else has turned their attention to another place. Sachiel smiles warmly, and bows her head to the archangels, who each smile in return, and she hugs the other three. The last she grants a smile, before she is surrounded by the others.

Sachiel is happy to again be with those she knows again, and they are happy to have her returned to them. Her laughter is like a bell, and the only one not caught in it's ringing sound is Azrael. But it takes a lot more to capture the Angel of Death.

He watches them, apart from them, but not minding. He smiles to himself.

Capricorn
Eight can feel nine coming. But she takes her time, and the others grow impatient, and when Cassiel finally appears among them they surround her instantly. She laughs at their impatience, and at her own patience with them.

She bows to her superiors, and hugs all but the Angel of Death, though she offers him the hug. Azrael declines with a laugh and a pat on the arm. His touch is cold. Cassiel smiles at him.

The three press her for her story, and she smiles, looking at the three archangels with an understanding. They have been with these three for a longer time. Cassiel tells the three that the time has not yet come, but it is fast approaching she tells them.

Aquarius
The three archangels know when the fourth arrives, and they turn to greet Uriel half a second before the others do. They each embrace him, each clasped within his wings, and then each of the others bow their heads.

All but Azrael. He waits until Uriel turns his gaze upon him fully, and then sweeps him a full bow, his wings spread behind him. When he straightens, his smile is mocking, and Uriel smiles in return, his own smile that of acknowledgement. Azrael laughs and turns away.

But Uriel laughs with his companions, and waits for the last to arrive.

Pisces
Asariel is the last to arrive, and the year on the world below ends, and begins again. He goes through the greetings, and the bows, and even has a smile for Azrael.

The rest smile, and greet him in turn, their impatience at an end, and their patience winning through. They know the time has come, that each has a story to tell and now is the time for them to be told.

Asariel smiles, and takes his place in the circle. And the stories begin.

Part Two

Aries

Alexander Black had been walking down the streets of Los Angeles when he had bumped into Samuel. Not only that, but they had bumped into each other quite literally.

There's an aphorism that little kids sometimes say: See a penny, pick it up, all the day you'll have good luck. Alexander could remember his little sister saying it as she picked up a penny. But he had never picked up a penny before.

He remembered that it was one of those times that you can never remember why you did something, it was just "in the moment" and impulsive. He had bent to pick up the penny.

Samuel had bent over as well, and their heads had connected. Alexander had gone reeling. It was as he was looking up, stars of light dancing in his vision, that he saw the white feather drift to the ground. When he had looked at the stranger, he had seen wings. White wings. White feather wings.

But he had blinked, and the wings had vanished.

"I'm so sorry. Are you alright?" The stranger's voice was... Alexander couldn't quite put a word to it. The word he had thought of was melodic, but that was a poor way of describing it. He nodded in response to the question.

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. Just a little bruise, I think. Thanks."

"I feel so bad. Let me buy you coffee or something." It wasn't really a question, Alexander decided, but he nodded anyway. Coffee might help the headache he could feel coming on.

Alexander picked up the newspaper he had been carrying, and brushed a nonexisistant piece of dust off his knee. He offered the blonde man a hand.

"Alexander Black." Samuel had taken his hand, and they had shaken briefly.

"I know," came the calm answer. Alexander must have looked somewhat surprised. "The reporter right?" he continued. "For the L.A. Times?" Well that explained more than it didn't.

"Yes."

"Samuel." Samuel didn't offer a last name. Didn't have one. "There's this great little café just around the corner."

Alexander nodded, and precisely seven minutes later they sat down at a table, each with a steaming cup in hand.

"Are you working on anything now?" Samuel asked Alexander.

"I'm doing my normal investigative reporting, and I'm working on this one long term piece. It's one that I've had the idea for for a while. Problem is, I'm not sure what to do with it, exactly." Alexander took a drink of his coffee.

Samuel looked interested all of a sudden. "What's this piece?"

"It's about Los Angeles. Like, what this city is all about. What this city is."

"That sounds interesting. What's the problem with it?" Samuel stirred his coffee again. He hadn't taken a single sip yet.

"I don't know what this city is. I don't know what I'm going to write," Alexander explained. He brushed a strand of black hair from his eyes. And then he looked down at his watch. "Oh, shoot. I'm going to have to run, I have a meeting in a half hour." He downed the rest of his coffee and stood.

Samuel stood with him, his own coffee still untouched, and straightened his own tie. "Yeah, I should be going too." He offered a hand again. "It was nice talking to you, though, and I hope that your head feels better."

They shook hands briefly. "Thanks, and thanks for the coffee," Alexander said, smiling slightly. And the two of them made their way out of the café.

It was only once they were out of the building that Samuel stopped and called to Alexander, who was walking away. Alexander turned.

"Los Angeles," Samuel called. "It's the City of Angels." And that was when Alexander remembered the wings. He blinked, in confusion, in thought, in recollection, and Samuel had vanished.

Taurus
Alexander hadn't forgotten Samuel's words. It was nearly a month later, and he hadn't forgotten how Samuel had called back to him, saying exactly what he needed to hear. "The City of Angels."

Alexander turned to the woman next to him. "Do you believe in angels?" he asked her. "Not like, guardian angels, but angels that can come down from heaven and walk on earth, talk to humans and things like that?"

Auriel's atention was caught. She smiled, lips deep red with lipstick. "Of course," she replied. Alexander was struck by how much her voice had that same unrecognizable quality that Alexander could remember Samuel's having.

Alexander smiled at her, and the subway jerked to a stop. His stop. He got up to leave, and got off the train, and then he looked over his shoulder at the woman.

She had wings. Just like Samuel.

He blinked and she was gone.

Gemini
The next month Alexander started to think he'd gone crazy. He's seen angels, he told himself, who wouldn't go crazy after that? That woman on the train, and Samuel... He couldn't stop thinking about "his angels."

His boss could tell that there was something on his mind. He told Alexander to go to a psychiatrist, if only for one session, just to talk, get things off his chest, so to speak. He gave him a number to call.

Alexander called. A woman, the secretary he assumed, answered the phone. He said where he was from, and who had reccommended him, and he set an appointment for the next day.

*

"Your boss says that your mind hasn't been on your work," Raphael said as soon as he opened the door.

Alexander pulled back, and looked at the man, shock registering in his eyes.

"Uh, yeah, I guess that's right. He called you, I guess?" Raphael nodded. "Ah. Alright." Raphael waved him towards a chair, and Alexander sat down with a sigh.

"What's on your mind?" is the first thing that Raphael asked him.

"I'm not crazy," Alexander felt the need to clarify. Raphael's mouth quirked up in an almost smile. "I'm not. But I've been seeing angels." Alexander looked up at Raphael to check his reaction. Raphael nodded. "Wait. You don't think I'm crazy?"

"No. Why would I?" Raphael asked. Alexander started.

"Because people don't normally see angels? Because I keep seeing things that even I'm not even sure are there?"

Raphael shrugged. "What are you working on in your work?"

Alexander raised an eyebrow in confusion at what seemed like an abrupt change of subject. "I'm working on a long term thing. Called 'Los Angeles: The City of Angels.'"

"Well there you go. It's just your work getting to you." Raphael sat back, satified with his explantion. The rest of the session went smoothly, nothing out of the ordinary, with ocasional mentions of angels from both parties.

At one point Raphael mentioned two other angels, and Alexander's attention was caught. Samuel and Auriel. But he didn't push the subject.

When Alexander got up to leave, Raphael and he shook hands. On his way out, Raphael's next client, a sobbing fourteen year-old girl pushed past him into the office, and Alexander heard Raphael's voice calling back to him.

"They do exist, you know. Angels. Maybe you'll be lucky enough to meet one." And the door shut.

Cancer
Alexander goes to the beach to release tension. He'd done this all the years that he'd lived in Los Angeles. He'd always liked the feeling of the waves washing over his skin.

But he goes at night. When there are no people on the beach, and the sun isn't out to burn your skin. He slipped his shirt off and rolled up his pants and wades into the cool water.

"Guess I'm not the only one who likes the water at night."
Alexander turned, nearly tripping over his own feet, to see a blonde man, so blonde that in the moonlight his hair looked like a moonbeam itself.

He smiled. "I guess. The water feels nicer than in the day. Sun warmed," he said. "Alexander Black."

Gabriel laughed, a ringing that Alexander almost noticed, but then forgot instantly. "Gabriel. I know what you mean. About the water. It feels more real."

Alexander stepped into the oncoming wave, letting the water swirl around his ankles.

"I like you," Gabriel said behind him "You've got an interesting presence. No wonder the rest have all visited you."

When Alexander turned to him, Gabriel was gone.

Leo
Michael sat at the bar, twirling a full shot glass of vodka in his fingers. He hadn't yet taken a single sip of the liquor yet, and the bartender had been giving him odd looks.

"Well, it's been a while, hasn't it, Michael?" Michael didn't have to turn to see who was talking.

"Indeed it has been," Michael said, and he set the vodka down on the counter firmly as he turned to the newcomer. "Satan."

"Good to see you remember me." Satan picked up the shot glass of vodka and downed in in a single swallow. Michael glared at him. Satan looked up, looking as innocent as he could manage. "What? You weren't going to drink it." Michael continued to glare at him, and Satan continued to ignore Michael's glare. They sat in silence for a minute.

"So, what are you doing down here anyway?"

"Making sure you aren't up to something," Michael responded. "He wanted to make sure."

"Oh? Did He? What makes Him think I'm up to something'?"

"You're you, aren't you?"

Satan grinned at that, and reached out and brushed a strand of red hair from Michael's forehead. "I'm hurt, dear friend."

Michael gave Satan a sad look. "Once. But times change, Satan. Why don't you just tell me what you're planning so I can get someone to stop it?" The look her gave Satan was sad, and his voice was almost pleading.

Satan laughed. He dropped a couple dollars on the counter, paying for the drink that he had stolen from Michael. Then he draped an arm around Michael's shoulders.

"Come on, I'll explain as we walk." He pulled an unresisting archangel from the bar.

"You know the world's going to end, don't you?" Satan asked. Michael nodded. "Well, I'm just going to hurry that along."

Virgo
Raphael laughed as Alexander entered his office. "Back so soon after our last meeting?" Alexander flopped down into the same chair he had sat in last time he had been in the office.

"Yeah, well. I wanted to talk to you again. Can you blame me?" He grinned. Raphael's grin matched his, as Alexander leaned back in his chair.

"So, what are we talking about this time?" Raphael asked.

Alexander smiled. "Angels. What else?"

"What, pray, did you want to know?"

"You said something, last time I was here. About angels being real. I wanted to know what you meant."

"Just what I said."

"Have you ever met one?" Alexander's attention suddenly seemed to be everywhere but Raphael's face.

"Well, yes, of course."

Alexander looked up. "And? What was it like?" he asked.

Raphael, frowned in thought. "Well, they glow you know. Well, not really glow. They have a light about them. And of course the wings." He smiled.

"Of course," Alexander said, and laughed.

Libra
"It's pointless you know?" Anael asked the demon. She had been able to track it down, thanks to information from Michael, but it had gotten to someone before she had gotten to it. Her chestnut hair lashed at her eyes, and she swiped at it viciously with her hand. "Please," she pleaded with the creature. "Please don't kill her."

The demon, the almost human thing, looked at her, and laughed.

It was a rumbling sound. Like rocks being ground together, or an avalanche. It looked at her, it's red eyes glowing in the darkness.

The girl in it's ams whimpered. It seemed to remember her then, and it sunk it's fangs into the girls neck. She was dead before she hit the ground. Anael stared at her, in shock, and then remembered why she was there.

"You're dead." Anael held out her palm, and it started glowing. A sword appeared, glowing slightly, and Anael vanished. The demon looked around curiously, and then shrieked as a glowing sword suddenly sprouted from it's neck.

Anael had reappeared behind the demon. It fell to the ground, and burst into flame, and then vanished altogether. Anael sighed, and then did the same.

Scorpio
Azrael liked leather. He felt black leather suited him. Suited the Angel of Death.

He leaned against the railing on the boardwalk, and dropped his cigarette to the water below.

"You covering the story for the L.A. Times?" he asked Alexander, as he came up behind him. The black haired man jumped slightly, and turned.

"Yeah, well, someone's got to," he said, turning back to the corpse. Azrael stuck another cigarette between his lips and lit it. He inhaled, and then let the smoke curl out from between his lips.

"What are you doing here, may I ask?" Alexander turned to the other black haired man.

"It's my job."

"What do you do?"

Azrael grinned and took another drag of the cigarette. "You might say I follow death. I'm just here for the girl." He nodded at the corpse. A black feather dropped to the ground. Alexander turned fully to Azrael. "And you are...?"

"Azreal," the angel supplied. He turned back to the body. Alexander blinked at the black wings. They didn't disappear this time. He nodded a little to himself.

"So, you're..."

"The Angel of Death? Yeah. Notice the black wings?" The wings vanished as soon as Alexander nodded. There was silence between them for a couple minutes, while Azrael blew smoke from his cigarette from his lips.

"I lied."

Alexander jumped. "What?"

Azrael turned back to Alexnder. "I'm not just here for the girl. I'm here for you too."

Alexander took a step back. "You're not- I'm not going to-"

"Die?" Azrael laughed, fully aware how his words had sounded. "No, you've got years to go. I just wanted to talk to you."

"Oh." Alexander relaxed somewhat. "You just wanted to talk?" He laughed, the sound was a little strained. "What does the Angel of Death want to talk to mortal about?"

Azrael dropped his cigarette and crushed it under his boot. He turned to Alexander again, and smirked. "Life." And he lit another cigarette.

Sagittarius
"What can I get you, dear?"

"Vodka," Alexander said wearily. A minute later the shot glass appeared in front of him, and he sipped at it. He looked up the woman.

"Do you believe in angels?" he asked her.

She laughed, a sound like bells, and nodded. "Oh, aye. But not guardian angels. These one can come down from heaven and talk to the mortals." She smiled.

Alexander laughed. "Yeah, that's right."

A man at the other end of the bar called for a drink, and when Sachiel turned away, Alexander saw her wings.

He smiled to himself.

Capricorn
Alexander returned to Raphael's office to find the angel "out of the country on important business." But he had still wanted to talk.

He sat down in the chair next to the new secretary's desk. The name plate on her desk said "Cassiel." She looked at him, and he was struck by her eyes. They were violet.

"You're new," he said after a moment.

"Yeah, and I'm only here for about a month."

"So, where did Raphael go, exactly?"

Cassiel turned to him, her eyes violet shining with what he knew was a lot more information than she was about to give him.

"He went to see his boss."

Alexander laughed, and finally Cassiel joined in.

Aquarius
Satan had found Uriel, and cornered him. That wasn't an easy thing to do, to corner an angel, but, well then Satan wasn't quite normal, wasn't quite an angel anymore, and had more than a few tricks up his sleeve.

"I figure it's a fair trade. You guys kill my demon, I kill an angel." He smiled mockingly at the archangel on the floor.

Satan prodded the flaming sword in Uriel's hand with the toe of his boot. It dropped from the other's hand, and he laughed. Satan kicked it out of Uriel's reach.

"Give Him a message for me? Tell Him there's nothing He can do."

Alexander stopped in front of Satan. He didn't, at the moment, realize who it was standing in front of him, or who it was laying on the ground in what appeared to be a bloody pulp, but he did know that he wasn't going to let one guy, beat up another when he was in a position to stop it.

Satan laughed. "Uriel, dear friend. This is the salvation they send you? Heaven these days must not be quite as I remember it." He turned and walked away, laughing still.

Alexander knelt and snoothed away the hair from the man's face. "Are... Are you going to be alright?" he asked him.
Uriel pointed to the flaming sword still just out of his reach. Alexander looked at for a minute, and then pushed it into Uriel's hand.

"Yes, I'll be fine. Thank you," he said, as he stood shakily.

The sword vanished, and Uriel rubbed his hands together, the blood vanishing as he did so.

Alexander just watched in something akin to shock and amazement, as Uriel shook out his wings, the feather straightening themselves.

Finally, the angel turned to him. "Thank you," he said, smiling.

"My pleasure..." Alexander started, but Uriel had already vanished.

Pisces
Asariel was always left to clean up the messes, to smooth things over with whoever it was needed. But he was glad this time that he didn't need to wipe this man's memory clean. It would have been a shame.

"So, the woman who was murdered, was actually killed by a demon?"

"That's what I was told."

"And, the guy beating up... Uriel?" Asariel nodded, and Alexander continued. "Beating up Uriel, was Satan, the first fallen?"

"Yes." Asariel half waited for the man to laugh and tell himself he was crazy, and then tell Asariel that he was crazy. But Alexander didn't. He just nodded.

"Alright. And thanks to the angels we have avoided the Apocalypse for another year, right?" Alexander smiled.

Asariel smiled. "Well, it all begins again tomorrow." He raised a glass of champagne. "Happy New Year."

Epilogue
It all started with a penny. I remember that. I even remember the year it was dated. 1984. I don't believe in good luck, and I didn't when I picked up that penny. But I picked up that penny, whatever the reason.

And then I saw stars.

My head hurt for days after that, and it was still spinning the month after that, and the one after that, and all the rest of the months of the year.

One never expects to see an angel, not even with all the odd stories that float around, on the internet, an in tabloids. No one thinks they will see the first.

The first of what? Weren't you listening? The first of the angels.

There were eleven that year, and I saw them all I found them, or perhaps they found me, one never knows these things, one never will.

Can you hear their wings? I can. The feathers whistle, you know. Like metal slicing through air. I hear them now. They let me. And I sit here still, a year later, and listen to the music their wings make.


THE END