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[Fiction] Angel and Baby


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Carver hesitated at the doors to the art school. Her instructor from her Marbles class had told her that she could come back and use the shop, so long as she bought the materials out of her own pocket. So Carver had purchased a block of striped marble and had set her mind to work.

But now that she was here, she was uncertain. Professor Richards had seemed excited to have her back; almost too excited. He had known about Ibiza, and had seemed really interested in whether she had noticed any improvement in her work. Before Ibiza, Richards had been interested in Carver’s work, but not to this degree. Carver had the bad feeling she was something akin to a research project now.

At least the shop was deserted, which Carver had hoped for; she thought she had recalled that the shop wasn’t used much at this time of day. She didn't want to talk to anyone, and she wanted to work on this alone.

Carver moved to a clear spot on a table and set down her block of marble. Holding her breath, she reverently unwrapped the cloth that she had used to enfold the block. Once it was uncovered, Carver ran her hands over the block, getting a feel for the stone. It was cool and so solid, in a way that even the densest wood couldn’t manage. She just felt it for a moment, letting the sense of the stone merge into her being.

It was purring. Carver’s eyes widened as she put her head closer to the block, trying to listen to be sure that it was really making the noise she was hearing. It was and Carver felt her heart sink. It was happening again.

“Uh, hello?” she tried.

The purring stopped long enough for a voice to say, “Yes?” It was a deep and powerful voice and Carver found herself relaxing. It was just one of those voices that was soothing, that promised you would be safe, even if you knew it wasn’t true.

“Uh, just checking,” she replied. She was silent for a moment before saying, “So I suppose that you want freed from the marble.”

“If you have the time, please,” the voice rumbled pleasantly. Carver suddenly had the clear vision of a tiger’s head somehow smiling benignly at her.

“Sure,” she said, reaching for the chisel and hammer.

“You have better tools than that,” the voice said.

Carver’s shoulders slumped. “I… I don’t want to think about those,” she admitted.

“They are the best tools you have,” the voice said. “It would be like using a broom to paint an oil. Besides, you will not be able to do justice to my wings, or to Baby’s tiny face, with that chisel and mallet.”


“The symbol of that which is lost and that which still needs to be loved and saved,” the voice answered.”

“And you are?” Carver asked.

“Angel, that which has lost, and that which saves.”

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Carver has been working in silence for a while when she says, “You say that there are two of you in there.” Carver believes it; in her mind, she had a sense of what the final statue would look like, in a weird, reverse sort of way. It wasn’t that she saw what should be there, but she could see what marble needed to be cut away, like a doctor who could see the cancer among the healthy tissue. As she removes what didn’t belong, she gets a more precise sense of what did belong. “So how come Baby never says anything?”

Angel’s laugh is thick and warm, like a verbal downy comforter. “Baby is a baby, Carver, she can’t talk yet.”

“And she never will,” Carver says. A violent image flashes through her mind: in a room filled with medical equipment, a makeshift hospital room, a man wearing surgical scrubs cradles a baby in his arms. He was gazing down at the little girl and she was so, so still.

A woman’s voice demands, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong with my baby?”

The doctor’s voice is a mixture of fear and sympathy as he states, “I’m sorry, Ma’am, but the child was stillborn.”

The vision fades as a woman begins to sob with a heartbreaking wail and Carver realizes that she has stopped sculpting, her fingers resting idly on the counter as tears roll down her face. It had been so real, so clear. “Did that really happen to Baby?” she chokes out, looking down at the delicate arch that will be Angel’s wings.

“Yes and no,” Angel replies gently. “Remember, she’s a symbol of more than one thing. But it is related to her.”

Carver wipes her eyes with the back of her hand, careful to not to use her clawed fingers. “So what are you a symbol of?”

Angel was silent for so long that Carver worries that she had upset him. Finally, he replies, “I am a symbol of destruction long past, of the hope of saving Baby from herself and from grief. I…” His voice is thick with pain and he has to pause for a moment. “This is difficult to talk about. The path of death and rage I have walked is not easily spoken of. I have lost much now, and it hurts to speak of it.”

“I’m sorry,” Carver murmurs, running the flats of her fingers over the marble block in an attempt to console the voice.

“Do not be so upset. I am finding happiness,” Angel replies. “Life and love are always available if you are willing to accept it.”

“That’s good,” Carver smiles as she begins to carefully cut away more pieces of the marble. “I’m glad you can move on so well. Some people can’t and they suffer for a long time.”

“You should move on, as well,” Angel states in a gentle voice. “You have lost your old life of pain and normalcy, yet you cling to it like a raft in a torrent. You have a beautiful and brilliant place among the stars that you refuse to accept. Why?”

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Carver freezes like a bird before a snake. She doesn’t want to talk about this, and she certainly doesn’t want to talk about it with a hunk of marble. “I have to go,” she says briskly, scooping up the statue and putting it in a box.


She ignores the voice as she thrusts the box in her locker and snaps the padlock shut. She hurries out, telling herself that she put in several hours of work today and that’s why she’s leaving. At the outside door, she pulls the oversized hat out of her bag and tucks her hair up into it. Sunglasses also come out of her purse and are added to her disguise. Thus secure, Carver begins her walk home.

In the heat of Arizona summer, she would have never dreamed of walking all the way home in the middle of the day, but she’s noticed that since Ibiza, heat doesn’t bother her so much. It would be nice if that’s a side-effect, she thinks to herself, turning a corner-

-Straight into the heart of a protest. An angry crowd faces city hall and waves signs. The heated chant is distorted by the rage of the crowd, but it sounds like, “No Novas in our home!” Carver gasps as she catches the Church of Michael the Archangel logo on the back of one of the demonstrator’s shirts.

Don’t panic! she tells herself as she turns and begins to parallel the crowd, just another commuter trying to find her way around this mess. She edges carefully, keeping an eye on the crowd and an eye on where she’s going-

-Someone slams into her from the other side, from the alley she’s passing, knocking her around. Without effort, her body compensates, keeping her on her feet as the three men that ran into her tumble to her feet. “Are you ok?” Carver asks, bending down and offering one a hand.

The man that she offers the hand to is wearing a CoMA shirt. Carver snatches her hand back instinctively, even as he was starting to take it. Carver’s eyes widen and their gazes meet – over the edge of her sunglasses. “Nova!” the man bellows, pushing himself away from her, crawling backwards. His companions scatter similarly and for a brief second, Carver is alone in an open area.

She glances at the crowd; only a few people heard his shout, but none of them look particularly friendly right now. She backs away, starts to leave when she sees one of the Michaelites step from the crowd.

He is tall and dark-haired, wearing black clothes. Carver thinks of a shark immediately; he’s cool, despite his sweat, and sleek; sexy and fatal. She immediately compares him to several movies actors before she realizes that she’s coming up with just villains and specifically hit men types. He’s holding something by his side, something long, black and deadly-looking; she can’t see it clearly because it’s lost in the folds of his black trench coat.

Which he’s wearing in an Arizona summer. “Well, that’s a bad sign,” the lumber heaped in the alley points out. “You know, you should probably run.”

Carver runs.

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It is a blind run; Carver dashes down the alley, not looking over her shoulder, because when you look is when they get you. She doesn’t slow down for the corner; she trusts her new talents and catches a light pole with one hand. Her momentum thrusts her into a spin around the pole, and when she’s facing the right way, she lets go and runs again. Then she realizes that she just did that incredibly cool maneuver, and a grin plays across her expression.

She can hear him running behind her. “Crap, crap, crap!” she mutters as she begins to push herself. The streets aren’t very full of pedestrians; she’s having no trouble maintaining this breakneck pace. She should be able to outrun him soon-

-A flower pot next to her shatters and Carver yelps and jumps away. Now she does glance over her shoulder to see him pointing that black thing at her. It’s a gun with a silencer, and he’s pulling the trigger even as she realizes what it is.

She ducks away; behind her, someone begins to scream. Carver glances over her shoulder to see a child sprawled on the pavement, bleeding out as his mother kneels next to him. Carver looks back at her chaser; he’s as pale as the child, his gun hanging at his side. Carver feels rage rising in her heart and it fuels her to do something stupid.

She’s back at her chaser’s side before he can move and she slaps him across the face, hard enough to dislodge her hat. “Is God proud of you now?” she snarls, even as the slap begins to redden his face and bring him out of shock.

His eyes are still unfocused as he brings the gun up; she grabs it and her claws are there, just as they always are when she needs them. They slice through the gun, puncturing the metal like paper. He pulls it away from her, and his eyes widen in surprise when he’s able to pull it back.

“I don’t have super-strength,” she tells him. “Do you want to know what I have? I have these-” she holds the claws up, “-because I’m a sculptor.”

“The devil,” he whispers, shaking as he meets her eyes. “You’re the devil.”

“I’m not the one running around the streets shooting children,” Carver hisses. She’s about to add more, but a weight drops on her, knocking her down. She sees a flash of white and gold and she realizes that a member of Team Tomorrow has tackled her.

But he didn’t give me time to put away my claws!, she thinks, but its too late, and the Utopian begans to scream, jerking away from her to collapse, hands pressed to his gut. Carver looks at her hands; the claws gleam under a coat of red. It’s almost pretty.

“I’m sorry,” Carver groans and her claws are gone; it’s her hands which have a coat of red, now. It’s not so pretty. “Please,” she cries as the tears pour down her face. “I didn’t mean… I wouldn’t hurt…”

She looks up; her pursuer is staring at her. They lock eyes for a moment, a moment in which Carver thinks, We’ve both spilled blood today, you and I, and then he’s running away. Carver turns back to the Utopian she’s hurt; he’s unconscious and she takes off her shirt, pressing it to wounds that won’t stop bleeding. “Please be ok,” she whispers to the Utopian. “Please, please, please. I’m sorry. Please be ok.”

It’s the mantra she’s still chanting when the rest of the Utopians arrive.

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Carver sits in the cold interrogation room, wishing that she had just stayed in the shop and talked to Angel. Or that she had not tried to skirt the demonstration. Or that she had watched where she was going. Or that she had just kept moving, instead of trying to be nice and help that guy up.

“Stop that. You can play ‘I wish’ forever,” she growls at herself, rubbing her arms. They haven’t given her a shirt to replace the one she had used on Marcus “Steelfist” Anderson. Her bra is more than decent, but Carver isn’t used to showing this much skin, ever.

The door cranks open and Ted “Call me Data Loop” No-Last-Name-Given comes into the room. Carver doesn’t allow herself to feel hopeful about this development. It was the third time he had come in to talk to her. He was playing good cop in the little interrogation that Utopia is staging.

He isn’t alone, and even though Carver knows the game, she still tenses when Diablo follows Data Loop. The red-skinned Nova towers over the smaller ‘Loop like a bear over a fawn; he didn’t have to play bad cop. He is the bad cop.

“Ms. Carver,” ‘Loop says, sitting down across from her. “I’ve been talking to the higher ups on your behalf, and I think that I’m getting somewhere with them. If you had more information for me, I might be able to spring you.”

“I’ve told you everything,” Carver sighs. “I don’t know his name. I really didn’t see any tattoos or distinguishing marks. I’ve given you a description-”

“Dark hair, about six-foot – yeah, you’ve really narrowed things down,” Diablo snorts. His voice has a strange double echo in the metal room. Carver shoots him a dirty look; he narrows his eyes at her.

“Diablo, why don’t you wait outside?” ‘Loop says. Diablo looks like he was going to argue, but ‘Loop’s eyebrow rose inquiringly, and the larger Nova leaves. “Look, Ms. Carver, I want to help-”

“Don’t finish that unless you mean it,” Carver sighs. ‘Loop’s pen is a cherry-red color with a fine grain pattern running down its length; Carver had suspected that it was wood, so when it speaks up, she isn’t surprised.

“Steelfist is DL’s friend,” the pen says. “He’s trying to get permission to hold you longer; his superior, Mindtalon scanned you about twenty minutes ago and verified your innocence.”

Carver looks straight at ‘Loop and adds to her previous statement. “If you want to help me, get me a shirt and get me out of here.”

‘Loop holds up an imploring hand. “Ms. Carver, this is a serious business. A member Team Tomorrow has been gravely injured and might die. You are the one who gravely injured him-”

“That was an accident!” Carver shrieks, her patience snapping. “Or do you need Mindtalon to scan me again to be sure?”

Ten minutes later, she was escorted out of the front door of the building. They even gave her a shirt to wear and called her a taxi.

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She has the taxi run her straight to the shop, where she convinces him to wait a moment while she dashes inside and opens her locker. She pulls the box out and peeks inside to make sure no one has messed with it. She is relieved to see that everything is as she left-

“Willa!” Carver jumps and nearly drops the box; she hears a very ungraceful yelp from inside. Baby starts to cry as Carver turns around and sees Professor Richards approaching her. “I was hoping to catch you. Do you have a piece of work there?”

“It’s not done,” Carver says, cradling the box against her chest.

“Can I see what you have done?” Richards asks, his hands reaching for the box.

Carver slides around him and edges toward the door. “I have a cab waiting. Sorry.” She leaves as quickly as she can, but she still sees the frustrated expression that settles over Richards’ face. She sinks back into the seat of the cab gratefully as she gives him her home address. As the cab pulls away, she reaches a hand into the box and begins to stoke the marble, pleased to hear Baby’s cries fade quickly.

The ride is quiet; about half-way home, the cabbie asks, “So why don’t you fly home?”

“What?” Carver replies.

“You’re one of the Novas. Why are ya takin’ a cab?” the driver answers.

Carver fights a deep sense of inadequacy as she admits, “I can’t fly. Not every Nova can.”

“Oh, you’re one of them human-like Novas,” the cabbie says.

“What do you mean?” Carver asks.

He grins as he says, “You know, one of them Novas that get one little power or something. You ain’t one of them flashy types.”

“No,” Carver says, feeling really inadequate now. “I’m not flashy.”

“Impotent fool.” A muffled retort floats out of the box. “The least-flashy creatures are the most dangerous.”

“Hey, more fare for me, right?” the cabbie laughs, and Carver has a sudden perfect image of what she could do with his flesh, how she could hang ribbons of it from-

Her mind jerks away from the image as Angel says, “You are one of the dangerous ones, Carver. Never forget that. You can walk the path that I had walked, or you can choose a better one.” In the silence that follows, Carver hears what could be deep, tortured sobs from the box.

She gently runs her finger over Angel’s back and wishes that she knew what to say.

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Carver continues work in the garage. She doesn’t need any of the tools or specialized chisels from school; with her claws, she has everything she needs right here at home. And she can talk freely with Angel.

“And then they let me go home,” she says, carving out one tiny piton. Normally detail work like this would have driven her batty, but she’s having no problems maintaining her focus.

“Are you ok?” Angel’s voice is deep, concerned – it has none of the pain or grief that she heard in it during the taxi ride. But Carver knows it’s still there, eating at him, because what she did to Steelfist is an accident but it is still eating at her.

“Maybe,” Carver says before admitting, “No. No, I’m not. He could die.”

It wasn’t your fault.”

Carver sighs. “I shouldn’t have been waving my claws around like that – nearly cutting off Dad’s finger should have taught me that.” She stops carving long enough to look at her claws. “These things are dangerous.”

“They are also the gateway to great beauty,” Angel points out. “They are tools, and like any tool, they can be used for beneficial or harmful purposes.”

“I know!” Carver grumps, starting work again. “Look,” she finally said, “regardless of whether it was my fault, I am still responsible.”

“Just keep it in perspective,” Angel warns.

They are silent for a while as she frees one wing and starts on the other. She thinks briefly about taking a break, but it is almost painful to stop working. Carver is driven to keep sculpting, to finish as soon as possible. She wonders if she would have this problem on a longer project and makes a mental note to be careful in that situation. She is so engrossed that she’s startled when the garage door opens and her mother drives her car into the garage; her mother was supposed to be at work until after eight. Then Carver glances at her watch and realizes that it is after eight.

“Hello dear!” her mother calls out with forced cheerfulness. “Is that your new project?”

“She wants you out of the garage so that she can smoke that weed her co-worker gave her,” the wooden frame of the corkboard holding her father’s tools remarks casually. “She’s started that, and drinking pretty heavily, too, since you went boom.”

“Yeah,” Carver answers her mother, trying to keep her voice level.

“Is that a winged cat of some sort?” her mother peers closely at it.


“Well, its going to be very pretty, Jael,” her mother smiles.

Pretty? Carver has to fight to hide irritation now. Pretty? It wasn’t going to be pretty! Pretty was a Precious Moments statue or one of those Old West statues of a cowboy on a bronco that you could pick up in filling stations. When Carver looked at the statue she thought she could see the wind shift Angel’s feathers, or she could stoke his back and feel fur instead of cold marble. And her mom said pretty!?! “Thanks.”

“Shouldn’t you be working on this at the school though?” her mother said, and Carver could hear the desperate hope in her mother’s voice.

“Mom, I’m not going to go there and be stared at like a freak while I work,” Carver says. Some part of her wants to shut up, but she can see the glitter of knife blades in her eyes being reflected in her mother’s eyes and Carver’s tired of coddling others. “And I’m certainly not going to do that so that you can smoke pot without Dad knowing.”

She’s broken it. She’s broken the unspoken truce that her parents had with her: she pretended to be normal, and they pretended to not be frightened of her. Sure, she broke it before, with the thing with the refrigerator, but that could be overlooked. This can’t.

Carver watches her mother run from her like a mouse from a cat. She considers chasing after her, repairing the truce, but she turns back to her work instead. She has so much to do still…

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Carver keeps working as the light fades outside the garage’s curtains. She’s aware that her mother goes to work at some point and she’s aware that her father has come out to watch her work for a while but they don’t bother her. She works and works, carving endlessly. Angel’s body is freed from the stone and then his legs and paws. Carver finally finds Baby sleeping in a cradle made of Angel’s front paws.

There is light edging in around the curtains when Carver starts to work on the base. Angel is completely freed, but Carver knows she’s not done yet. And it’s not just the statue; Carver has a question. “Angel, what should I have done with the Michaelite?”

“Are you asking what I think you should have done, or what I would have done?” Angel replies with that gentle, strong voice.

“Both, I think,” Carver replies. “I could use all the advice I can get.”

“Not that long ago, I would have killed him and eaten him,” Angel answers, and Carver shivers at the cold, brutal honesty she hears in that voice. “Even less time ago, I would have killed him. Have you ever read the Lord of the Rings?”

“Wha- Yeah, I have, a long time ago,” Carver says. “Why?”

“Do you remember why Gandalf rebuked Frodo for saying that Bilbo should have killed the Gollum?” Angel answers, and Carver can hear the gentle smile in his voice.

Carver thinks about it before she shrugs. “Not really,” she admits, “I was more interested in Aragorn and the elven lady.”

“Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo's hand. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death and judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet. For good or evil. Before this is over, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of all.” Angel pauses, clears his throat. “Do you remember how Bilbo’s pity was repaid?”

“Wasn’t it Gollum who ended up throwing the ring into the volcano?” Carver replies as she delicately carves a skull in the base. She hopes to be done soon with the back-half of the base; working on all the bones is making her slightly ill. She senses that the first part of the base will be much more fun to work on.

Angel chuckles. “Something like that. The point is, you didn’t kill him. Whether you will be repaid for that kindness is yet to seen. But things tend to come around.”

Carver thinks about what Angel has said as she moves around to the front of the base. Thankfully, these are all flowers, and Carver settles in to the carving. And then suddenly, as she flakes off one last chip of stone, she is done. The abruptness of the sensation jolts her. She’s never had such a clear sense of completion for a work before and she sits back and really looks at the statue.

The winged tiger cradles the baby in his paws, looking down at the child with tenderness and love. Behind the tiger stretches a field of bones; before him lies flowers. Carver knows it all means something. She’s not sure what, but it is all somehow important.


“Yes, Angel?” she asks, happy that she can still hear her friend.

“You know what to do with me now, yes?” Angel asks.

Carver feels a touch sad as she says, “Yes. That couple in the forum who are getting married in a couple of days. I’m giving you as a gift.”

“Yes,” Angel sighs. “I will miss you.”

Carver’s eyes water – she’s not crying! “I’ll miss you too.”

“Just remember – ‘To pity distress is but human; to relieve it is Godlike.’”

“Is that from the Bible?”

“No, Horace Mann, an educator in the 1700’s.” Angel’s voice grows serious. “Don’t forget me.”

“Never. Never ever.”

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