Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?

“Mr. Emry, you know you’re not allowed… oh.”

The nurse peered around the hospital room, doing her best to look past the handsome man in the invalid’s bed. He leaned back, unbandaged arm behind his head, seemingly without a care in the world. She didn’t like how his eyes roved over her, didn’t like the way her nurse’s gown seemed no impediment to his gaze. Or she did like it, and didn’t like that she liked it.

“Something wrong?” he asked, and she gave a little start. The nurse reached up to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear but stopped herself halfway.

“No, nothing. I just thought I heard someone in here.”

She frowned at the open window with its fluttering drapes and started towards it but he held up a hand: “Please, I like the fresh air.” A smile curved his full lips. “It can be our little secret.”

Despite herself, the nurse flushed. She had already spent longer here than she intended. She had her rounds to do. “Fine,” she said as curtly as she could manage. “But no more getting out of bed, Mr. Emry. By all rights, you shouldn’t even be alive.” She’d hoped the sentiment would wipe that devil-may-care expression off his face but it had done the opposite: he seemed cockier, almost. Like he was pleased to be reminded of how close he’d come to shuffling off this mortal coil. The nurse pushed herself along, forcing her legs to move. She realized belatedly that one of her hands was toying with a fold of her scrubs and tugged it away, furiously blushing.

In the bed the man turned slowly, nonchalantly, back to the window. “Did you hear that?” he whistled low and long. “Shouldn’t even be alive.”

He cast a grin at the woman sitting on the windowsill, her white wings haloed by the light. Her beautiful but austere face didn’t betray so much as a hint of a smile. “This is no laughing matter,” she said as harshly as the tinkling bells of her voice could allow. “She’s right: people don’t survive what you survived.” Her eyes flicked over the cast around his arm, itself merely a formality. It was an overreaction to a simple sprain, but the doctors would have felt remiss not doing something at least.

“I must be the luckiest man alive then, to have such a beautiful angel checking in on me.” But his flattery washed right off her.

“This is no laughing matter.” Her eyes flashed and her wings flapped, sending the drapes fluttering towards him. “You were meant to die.”

“Meant to die…” he considered the idea, but didn’t seem overly concerned by it. “I guess your people made a mistake.”

The light in the hospital room dimmed: perhaps a cloud passed in front of the sun. Perhaps a cold wind blew through the window. Perhaps the suddenly-flickering fluorescent hospital lights were what made her features seem so sharp. “We are the Kingdom of Heaven,” the angel bit out. “We don’t make mistakes.”

“And yet I’m not dead. So someone did,” he remarked mildly, and after a moment or two the room returned to normal: the cloud passed from in front of the sun, the wind quieted and the fluorescent lights resumed their uninterrupted hum. “Is it so hard to believe someone up there–in their infinite wisdom–made an error?” He waved his uninjured hand nonchalantly. “What’s the alternative? I made a deal with the Devil to cheat death?”

She stared at him with her piercing blue eyes, flax-golden hair almost glittering in the sunlight. He met her gaze for a moment or two, then burst out laughing. “Sorry. Bad joke.”

“Very bad,” she agreed, and meant it.

“Although, I’d have to say it would be a good trade.” The angel looked at him, at the man in the hospital bed, her expression severe. “My soul, for meeting you?” He whistled. “I’d do it again.”

Not so much as a quirk of her lips was betrayed on her angelic face, but it didn’t seem to bother him any. “All of your jokes are bad,” she snipped, and he grinned. “So you’re learning!”

But it hadn’t sounded like a joke. It hadn’t sounded like a joke at all.

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