She’s been in love with him since they were children.
The way she feels around him is the same way she felt when he had pushed her on the swings. The weightlessness of soaring and the bottoming out of falling, the butterflies as she climbed higher and higher, the knowledge of his steady hands at her back to slow her down when she began going too fast.
For years, that’s been how she’s described her feelings for him to herself. She supposes flying could work, too, but she doesn’t like it as much.
There’s something so isolating about the flying metaphor. Her wings are her own. Her takeoffs and her landings and the in between are all her.
But on the swings, it had been her and him. It represented them at the beginning, not them somewhere along the way. It was them when times were simpler. It was them before they were Hesediel and Sariel.
And though she won’t admit it, part of the reason she dislikes the flying metaphor so much is because if you fall when you fly, there’s no one around to catch you.
It hits a little too close to home.
She admires his dedication to his job, to Michael. If anyone deserves the position of Hesediel, it’s Bat. She knows how hard he’s worked his whole life to get where he is, and she can see how seriously he takes his duties.
She can see how fond he is of Michael.
He goes above and beyond for him, and while that’s expected of every Hesediel, she can see how their relationship is special. And she’s happy for him. For them. The two of them work harder than anyone she’s ever met and truly, their entwined destinies had been written in the stars.
It was fate. Together, they were a force that was unstoppable.
She watches them at every meeting, how they move as one. Where Michael goes, Hesediel follows. They gravitate towards each other, orbit around each other in a way that’s incredible to witness with her own two eyes.
When they leave, Sariel wonders when she had been pushed out of Hesediel’s atmosphere.
He’s alone , she notices with surprise one afternoon. It’s rare to see him separated from Michael, and her heart skips a beat.
She decides the papers she’s delivering can wait, and she makes a beeline for him. His back is to her, and she can’t help her smile as she ducks around him.
“Hey,” she says, trying to hide how breathless she suddenly is. It’s been forever since she last got the chance to talk to him alone. It’s exhilarating. Briefly, she thinks it feels a little forbidden, but she brushes that silly thought away quickly.
They’ve been friends longer than either could remember. It shouldn’t feel so different.
He looks down at her, dark brows drawing together in surprise, like he hadn’t heard her approaching. Strange for Hesediel, who was always so alert. She straightens up in response, but so close to him she has to tip her head almost all the way back to meet his eyes.
“Sariel,” is all he says in greeting, and it’s so formal that she rocks back on her heels and peers around him to make sure they really are alone and she hadn’t missed someone on the way in.
“Come on,” she says lightly, once she’s sure it is truly just them. “There’s no need to be so proper. It’s just me.”
“My apologies.” He smiles at her, though it’s strained and doesn’t touch his eyes. She puts on her own to conceal how she mourns for the smile she hasn’t seen since they were instated, the smile he’d had just for her.
“What are you doing here, all alone?” she asks, glancing over her shoulder at the view he was overlooking.
“Just thinking.” His voice is a murmur, and he follows her gaze back out the window.
“You don’t get very much time for that anymore,” she teases gently, nudging him. His stiffens and his eyes flick up, to the clock over the mantle. Her smile slips, and her stomach twists uneasily at the thought that she’d ruined his one moment of freedom.
“I have to go.” She nods numbly, unable to find her voice quickly enough to bid him goodbye. He’s out the door before she can blink.
She’s standing still but it feels like the breath has been knocked out of her.
“Batsaikahn has been stripped of his title and removed from Heaven, effective immediately.”
Sariel’s ears are ringing. She’s watching Michael’s lips form the words in slow motion, and she blinks slowly, unable to believe what she’s hearing.
Stripped of his title.
Removed from Heaven.
She stumbles forward a step, and Michael turns towards her. His expression is unreadable, but there’s something there in his eyes that tells her he’s being serious.
That look fast forwards her back to the present, where everything is suddenly too loud and there’s bile inching up the back of her throat. She swallows hard, blinking away the tears.
“I’m sorry,” she thinks she hears Michael say, but there’s too much noise where there had been none and she thinks she’s going to be sick.
He would never do this. She knows him. She knows him.
She must have voiced her thoughts aloud, because Michael stares at her for a beat too long before turning away from her, something dark clouding his eyes, and she buries her face in her hands, unable to bear it.
Sariel’s knees hit the ground once she’s alone. The dirt is coarse and peppered with gravel that digs into her skin, but she hardly notices.
She crosses her arms over the seat of the swing he’d pushed her in so many years ago and buries her face in them to hide how she cries.
There’s always been the reassurance that he would be there to catch her if she ever slipped. Since they were little, he’s been a constant, even if Michael had become his priority.
She’s been falling for so long, she had forgotten how it would hurt if she hit the ground.