Hearts Will Sacrifice
Six months had passed, but it could have been much less than that. It could have been three weeks. Two days. A single night. When Andy felt Grimm's hand on his arm he forgot. He groaned and pulled the bed covers further over his head.
"Come on now, Andy. Up and at 'em!" Grimm tugged gently on the few spikes of hair that remained visible. Slowly, Andy drew it down and sat up, rubbing his eyes. Grimm smiled cheerily. Andy scratched his head. Grimm had woken him up like this every day of his life (at least what parts he could remember of it). It could have been any of those mornings, save for a few definite clues that reminded him.
Casting a new shaped shadow on the covers were his reclaimed wings. They gleamed with a leathery sheen as their tips curled inwards towards him. Andy slept with them wrapped around his body beneath the covers. They surrounded him in loving warmth. Jake had been trying to teach him how to sleep upside down like a vampire bat, but he hadn't quite got the 'hang' of it yet.
The biggest difference of course was that the light that came in from the window was not from the sun, but from the big and brilliant full moon. Andy hadn't seen daylight for at least two months now, not that that mattered. Daylight had never treated them kindly. His eyes had changed; permanently adjusted to life in the moonlight. He could still see in the sun, but it hurt, just as straining to read by candlelight does for a daylighter. He could now appreciate what the others must have felt when they'd spent days out in the wilderness. But night time was definitely better. It had vigour and a great sense of celebration in the stars as though the Black Veil Bride, knowing she was free, was shining all her brilliance on them at once.
Of course, another clue was the dark feathery shape that was dosing at the end of his bed. Even though Grimm had tried to set up a bedroom for him, Jinxx had had other plans. He might begin the day in his own room, but during midday would crawl out and curl up at the bottom of Andy's bed.
Jinxx had just raised his head, unfurling his raven wings and giving a wide yawn. Grimm rolled his eyes but said nothing. Andy guessed that he had already been ignored too much to argue anymore.
"You know, Grimm," Andy said, stretching his arms, "you don't have to be awake. You don't have to do this still."
Grimm nodded slowly and smiled, but replied, "I don't mind. I'm starting to get used to it." Andy sighed. He could see straight through the polite lie. There were dark circles around his eyes, and he looked paler than usual. Andy didn't push him anymore on the subject, but it worried him a little. Not every human was built for the night after spending so much time under the oppressive sun they had come to rely on it. He worried that in missing it Grimm might be making himself sick, but for the moment he seemed happy enough. "I don't want to miss you."
"No, me neither."
"And what about YOU?" Grimm suddenly turned to his attention to Jinxx. Jinxx had been quietly amusing himself, licking a finger and scrubbing at a spot on his face. With his legs folded up and crossed he looked like a giant winged cat cleaning itself. He looked even more so when even as those thoughts entered Andy and Grimm's mind, a pair of pointed ears appeared out of his head. At Grimm's outburst he stopped, hand still near his cheek, and looked up.
"Me?" He mewed.
"Yes; go and wake the others up. And I can't find that Ashley anywhere."
Jinxx sighed. "Well," he replied, "that's because he didn't come back yesterday."
Grimm shook his head. "What could he possibly be doing so late?"
Jinxx smirked and a lovable, mischievous twinkle entered his eye. "I could tell you, but it would probably cut years off your life."
"And WHAT do you mean by that?"
"It's ok, Jinxx." Andy said diplomatically. "Go wake them."
Jinxx gave a shrug and leapt off the bed. "And it's Ashley's prerogative to keep people up late. He's the puuuurdy one!" His voice slipped into an exaggerated purr as he dodged out of the door. The door clicked behind his wings.
Andy's heart felt like it could just burst with laughter.
"Your hair's getting very long now." Grimm began again, lighting candles by the mirror side. "You look like a tangled hedgehog. You should let me cut it."
He turned back. Andy was glaring at him furiously, arms folded over his head. His wings had shot up in an instant, pointing aggressively at the ceiling as he growled, "Dare try it and I'll scream the house down."
Grimm held up his hands in surrender and began instead to fiddle around the chest of drawers. "So, what are your plans for tonight?"
"I'm going to the Morticians'. I'm helping the Doctor out with something."
"Send him my hello." Grimm replied, laying out a set of black clothes at the foot of the bed. Andy frowned and got onto his feet. It was funny how things had just happened; how both Grimm and Carolyn's father had come to be friends. Grimm said his goodbye, and then left him alone to dress.
When Andy stepped out of the bedroom door, the Temple was a thoroughly different world. It was their home now and they had truly made it theirs. The garish gold and white marble that he had hated so much was replaced by ornate silver trimmings and a type of onyx stone. It was an extension of the night sky on earth. All the religious icons and artefacts had been removed. There were no more effigies of the sun god or his scripture books on the shelves. They no longer had a proper library either Ashley had taken great enjoyment in dragging it all out into the garden and setting fire to it. He had let it burn like a giant funeral pyre and now they were lying in a pile of ash in the garden. The windows had all been reshaped into gothic points and domes. The outside had changed too. It was now a muddle of black spires and shrieking tall towers that gave the impression from the bottom of the hill of an overgrown briar patch.
Jinxx was sitting patiently outside the door. He leapt up when Andy stepped out onto the wine coloured hallway carpet. "You don't have to stay with me all the time, you know." Andy said as they walked together.
"I don't mind."
"There's no danger here anymore. I'll be ok without you for a few hours." Jinxx fidgeted. Andy smirked. "Go on; go see her."
Jinxx looked up again, the picture of innocence. "I don't know what you mean."
"Now that's a lie. You KNOW who I mean." He smiled. "And I'm sure she's missing you too."
Jinxx blushed. There weren't many nights passed that Jinxx didn't escape down into the city to find Sammi. Normally she could be found either in The Gunsling Inn with Rex and Ronnie, or alone painting beside the river. It was those moments Jinxx preferred to find her. He liked to look over her shoulder and see what she was seeing. Sammi liked sketching the gravestones that lined the banks. Sometimes she would draw him when he wasn't looking. Those ones though she hid; never to be seen by anyone except her.
Jinxx and Andy climbed up onto the battlements. The streets were clear now, reclaimed from the Invasion. They heard shouting from inside which momentarily halted them. There was a crash and laughter, and then a long rant. They exchanged glanced and giggled. C.C had a habit of breaking things.
"He won't get him to stop. Ever." Jinxx muttered as Grimm's torrent of fury echoed through the windows.
but he can try." Andy said as his wings raised him up into the air.
Jinxx flew with him until they got to the ruins of the borders, then he ducked away into a dark alley and disappeared. Andy was alone to look over the new city. He sprang along the rooftops and paused on the Mortician's roof. A few people looked up at his movements and waved. He waved back. The city had been rebuilt now. But this time there was a big improvement. The aristocrats that fled never came back. Maybe they heard what had happened from the monks that got out. Now there was no divide between Heaven and Hell, save for the river that cut through of its own accord.
Many of the Outcasts had rebuilt their homes exactly how they had always dreamed with black gothic windows and turrets. But Carolyn had rebuilt the Morticians' just as it had been forever. The roof still dipped in the middle as though the beams were breaking. The chimney still leaned inwards and the upstairs storey loomed over the street below, windows peering like giant glass eyes. Andy was glad it had been put right again. He wouldn't like it any other way.
He crawled down the wall, holding onto the cracks in the bricks. He wasn't scared of falling anymore. As he wriggled through the open window his wings gathered around him his movements mimicking that of a frill-neck lizard. The Doctor always left that window open for him. He climbed through and stood in the way of the moonlight.
The Doctor sat opposite with his back to him. He was furiously writing. He heard the rustle of Andy's wings and twisted in his chair. "Ah! Good evening
"Good evening." He answered politely. "Grimm sends his love."
The Doctor smiled gratefully. He paused and put his hands to his hips. "That's very
good. That's great! How's he getting on? I can't imagine it being too easy living up there alone with you angels to contend with."
"He's not alone. He's got me." Andy replied, a little too defensively. The Doctor tensed. "I mean
Yeah. It does get a bit
difficult sometimes. The others aren't used to being cared for like that, and he's not used to their tempers. It'll get better though, I'm sure." He scratched his arm and looked away. The Doctor was staring at him with his head to one side. "So
Where do you want me?"
"Just sit up on the couch and I'll be with you in a second. I'm just writing up last week's notes."
Andy obeyed. He pulled his shirt over his head and sat on the couch in the light of the front windows. It wasn't much of a couch in the sense of the word it was a rather hard padded table where patients sat to be examined. It was set on four tall metallic legs which most people had to jump to reach the top. Not Andy; his legs seemed to be getting longer by the day. He stretched his wings while the Doctor potted around the room. He lit several candles to help along the moonlight and pulled the necessary notebooks off his shelf.
"Alright." He said methodically, sitting down next to the couch. "Let's take a look then."
Andy sat facing the window while the Doctor examined his wings. He wasn't sick or in pain. This was not a particularly medical visit. Being a doctor to humanity made Carolyn's father very interested in his wings. He wanted to find out how they worked, their different components, how they fused to his back and how the muscles worked to make them move. Andy was the best subject because his wings were bare of the complicating feathers. He could clearly see and explore their bones and movements without the need for surgery. He made sketches with his notes.
"What are those?" Andy asked, pointing at a lined lump on one drawing.
"That's what your shoulder muscles look like." The Doctor replied. Andy felt his fingers run along the base of the wings. "The scars from before have healed up quite nicely. They are just two purple lines now right here." He traced them with a fingertip. "And what about the cut?"
"We stitched it up Carolyn and I after we got out of the Temple."
"I honestly don't know what that lunatic was thinking trying to cut through these with a tiny little blade like that! This leathery skin is too thick."
Andy strained a smile. "Well I don't think he was particularly worried about what would go through best. I think it was more about what would HURT most."
"Hmmm." The Doctor said, scribbling notes. "I can tell you now; to get that wing off he would have had to have been sawing away at it for at least an hour before even thinking about the other. Now, something bigger or heavier would have done it, like a sword
or maybe an axe." Andy closed his eyes. Sometimes the Doctor's gory medical thoughts were too much. He saw it in his mind's eye; the golden suns on the wall, the blade going back and fore and the blood
It twisted his stomach just thinking about it. "You wouldn't have lasted long. Too much blood loss, you see. That's if you didn't die from the shock first."
But can we talk about something else?"
The Doctor gave that calm and knowing smile again. "Of course
Andy." He replied, but they didn't speak much after that. The Doctor was doing his best to hide something. Andy read his fingers. He was trembling. He did that a lot. So Andy asked the most abrupt question he could think of.
"Do you believe now?" The Doctor hesitated. His hands went down to his sides. Andy stared at him blankly. The Doctor shrugged and stepped back. "It's alright; I'm no god. I'm not going to smite you or anything if you say no."
"I'm not sure." He answered slowly after a long moment of thought. "I guess I'm still deciding. They say 'seeing is believing', but I don't think that's always true. It's not as simple as that." He sighed sharply. "Anyway, I've kept you long enough."
"You don't have trouble staying up at night, do you?" Andy asked, pulling his shirt back on. Grimm had modified them so that his wings could easily slip through two opening in the back. They poked through and fluttered almost playfully.
The Doctor shook his head. "I've got used to it."
"Yes, she is. Go down see her if you want. She's down in the basement." The Doctor closed the book of notes and held it crossed to his chest. "We both stay awake so we can see you."
Andy blushed, gave a little blow, and left down the stairs. His wings scraped against the lower ceilings. The Doctor grinned to himself, and went back to his desk.
Andy went right down into the ground floor office. The coffins were stacked against the wall again. He pulled back the seat from the office counter and started down at the open trap door. It had survived the coup all by itself. The corners were a little singed, but it was still standing proud. Andy smirked and gave it a nod of approval. It seemed to grin back in thanks as he began to descend the steps. It was a tough job for his wings. The bottom was glowing with candlelight. He crept down in silence. The table was still laid out. His eyes saw the fabric hem, the skirt, the waist and the dead limp sleeves
and Carolyn sitting to the side with her needle and thread.
But as he came closer, he realised it wasn't a body, only a dress.
He opened his mouth to speak.
"Isn't it amazing?" Carolyn started first. "Now that business is quiet, I actually have time for hobbies! Can you believe that, Andy?"
"Yes. Since we cleared up after the fight and now that people aren't being killed or killing themselves each night it's been pretty slow." She looked up. Her eyes sparkled in her candles' flames. "Blissful, is it not?" He nodded. She motioned for him to sit. He pulled out the stool opposite. "How long have you been here? I didn't hear the door go."
"No; I came in through a window. I was helping your dad." Carolyn's eyes darted up sharply at his explanation.
"RIGHT." She got to her feet and dropped the needle on the sleeve. Andy watched in bemusement as she stomped to the base of the steps. She put her hand to her mouth and yelled into the dark, "OI! DAD!"
The reply was distant. "
"What did I tell you before? STOP USING ANDY IN YOUR EXPERIMENTS!"
What's the problem?"
"IT'S UNETHICAL, THAT'S WHAT!"
"It's ok, it's ok!" Andy hastily interrupted, waving his hands. "I said he could I'm cool with it!"
"That's beside the point, Andy. HE'S AN ADULT AND HE SHOULD KNOW NOT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MINORS!" She shrieked, and then returned to her seat. "Urgh! He's so irritating."
"He said it was for the advancement of science, and that I have a very interesting bone structure."
"And that's exactly how he talked my mother into saying 'yes'." She replied in a dark tone and peering through the eye of the needle.
"To getting married?"
Yeah, something like that." She continued with her stitching. Andy gave a loud sigh. She didn't stop, but said "Is there something on your mind?" Andy shook his head. "I've known you long enough to tell when something's up." She dropped the dress again. "Oh God, he didn't do something really inappropriate, did he?" Andy blushed and furiously shook his head. "Because if he has then he's out!"
"You can do that?"
She nodded. "It seems that he changed the deeds and put this place in my name before he left. I'm still not quite sure what to make of that
But that's not important right now. What's the matter?"
Andy bit his lip. "It's complicated."
"Try me. Details now, Mr Prophet."
Andy grimaced at the name. She'd started calling him it as a joke, but he'd much rather her not. They'd been friends for far too long and it seemed so wrong. "Well, there are three things." She nodded. She didn't look up from her work but like her father cocked her head to the side. It was a sign that she was listening. "Something happened in the Temple the other day. Jinxx was with Sammi, C.C was up a tree in the garden, Ashley and Jake were just Out. So I went to sit with Grimm in his room for company. Whenever I went in, when I was small, he never let me look in one cupboard. I didn't get why, but it didn't really bother me much. So I was with him the other day and he finally let me look." He took a deep breath. She frowned. "In it was a doll. He said he'd had it specially made; he snuck down here to get it because no toymaker in Heaven could have done it. It was a boy dressed in black, with a really pale face and sapphire blue eyes and these markings." He ran a finger down his face.
"It was a doll of you?" She asked, the frown creasing her forehead.
"Quite literally. Because on the doll's back were two little wings; black and with feathers." He lowered his head.
His meaning settled in and her eyes widened. She reached a hand across to him. "Oh Andy, they were yours, weren't they?"
Andy shrugged with closed eyes. "So then he told me this story. He said it was him that had to do it, and when he had done, he was told to get rid of them. But he couldn't bring himself to. So he saved them. Preserved them. Then had them built up into this weird doll."
"Were you angry?"
"For a little while. The others came back and wanted to know what was wrong, but I didn't know what to say, so I didn't tell. I was so furious I could have killed him. I didn't understand why he could take them from me without a second thought but couldn't throw them away. His pity was useless at that point, right?" She nodded slowly. "But I'm calm about it now. I guess I got lucky and had another chance. Ashley told me that couldn't happen." He fluttered his new wings. She gave a little smile. "They can't help me now. He said he wants me to have it. He was going to give it to me when I turned twenty-one anyway."
"That's pretty heavy stuff." She mused, needle ducking and diving in her fingers. "So what's the second thing?"
"You're going to think I'm weird."
"Says the boy with the large bat wings. I think 'weird' doesn't really come into it anymore, does it? Not after everything we've seen." She smirked. He did too, even giggled a bit. "So come on. Out with it."
I'm an angel now, right?" She nodded. "I know I'm one of them. I look like one of them. But I get the feeling that I'm
not quite the same as them."
"I don't get your meaning."
"Right. Jinxx is always really loyal and protective and he doesn't change. C.C is always being daft. Jake's always being
well, Jake, and Ashley
" he raised an eyebrow "
We won't go into what Ashley is
The thing I'm trying to get at is that they are themselves. They are whole and one being and they don't really change much. They are who they are. And I think I should be like that too, only
She stopped entirely and stared at him. She made no attempt at interrupting, so he carried on.
"Since coming back here and everything that's happened I've noticed something. It's like
there are two of me. There are two Andys. There's one which is me, as I am now. The way I've been taught to be. But then, when that lightening bolt came down it changed things, and suddenly there was this Other. The angel Andy who was so angry and
I did some really bad things as him."
"We were all caught up in the coup, Andy. It wasn't just your fault."
"But he killed people. And enjoyed it. It made me think is that what I was supposed to be? This vengeful angel that the Bride said I was? Like in the Outcasts' stories? I tried to talk to Grimm about it, and he said it was his fault. I was made the way I am now because of the monks' interfering and they have ultimately done me damage. So now, I don't know what I am."
"Perhaps, given the circumstances," she answered, "you can be both." He blinked. "This Other Andy might have seemed threatening or scary or crazy but you saved the day in the end. Surely that's a good thing?"
Andy chewed his lip again. "It's like he's a mystical sixth member of the gang." He pondered, mostly to himself. "He should have a name."
Carolyn smiled. "Really? Got anything in mind?"
Andy scanned his eyes over the ceiling in thought. Carolyn leaned forward.
"Six." He muttered. "That's it. That's his name. Andy Six."
Carolyn beamed. "I like it. It sounds very
"I've been talking to him."
She raised another eyebrow. "Okaaaay, but don't you mean the Bride?"
He shook his head. "She's been quite quiet recently. But anyway Andy Six has been talking to me." Carolyn was now very confused. He could see in her face that she was wondering whether her friend had really lost IT whatever IT was deemed to be. Sanity? Normality? Normality sounded boring, and what was it anyway? Just a setting on a washing machine, and NO ONE wanted to be that. Ever.
What actually was a washing machine?
"We don't know what to do now."
Carolyn blinked in surprise. "Now?"
Andy rested his head in his hands. "Jake and Ashley are always Out. C.C's always breaking stuff and it's pushing Grimm off his mortal coil, and it seems like we're all just
just waiting for something. We beat the monks, yes, but what happens next?" He scratched his head. "I'm
restless. I can't stop it. I want to
" He groaned at his own frustration and dropped his head down onto the table top.
Carolyn gulped. She took a great lungful of air. Her hands closest tight on the fabric of the dress. There were butterflies raging war on her insides.
She knew it. The moment had come. The moment she'd seen coming for a long time, since they'd first set out into the woods she, Andy and Jake. And it was time to tell him.
"Andy," she whispered, "do you want my honest advice?" He looked up hopefully and nodded. "You might not like it."
"I don't care."
"Get out of here, already."
He sat up, startled. She remained stiff and rigid in her seat. She was staring at him intensely. He blinked; every blink of the wide blue eyes pounding against her chest; and glanced at the door. He shrugged. "Ok
I don't know what for, but
" And he went to get up.
"No! I don't mean that kind of get out. Not the 'see you tomorrow' kind of get out. I mean get out of here. This city; this valley. Leave this place."
His mouth dropped open.
Nothing can keep you here anymore. Not the Outcasts, not the monks
" She grabbed for his hand. He let her take it. "Not even me. And I have been holding onto you for a very, very long time."
"No! No, you listen to me, Andrew. All I have ever wanted is that someday you'd be free to do what you want. Well now here's that time." She squeezed his hand on the emphasis. "You have the POWER. You can go WHEREVER YOU WANT TO GO. They've kept you tied down for so long, and now they can't ever again. You've got those beautiful wings and they're waiting to be used! So you HAVE to get out of here, before you never do."
He couldn't speak. He tried, but no words were coming out.
"Get out there. See the rest of the world. Fly away; fly as far and as fast as you possibly can and then I'll be happy."
"I don't want to go alone."
She smiled. It was bittersweet, for in her eyes were forming tear drops. "You won't be alone. Because you have your companions. They can fly with you. Jake and Ashley and Jinxx and C.C."
Come with us."
It was the hardest thing she'd ever had to do, but she pushed herself and gave a solemn shake of her head. "No. Not this time."
"I'm needed back here. And I think I've been away from home long enough. And when you want to come back here is where I'll always be." Andy got to his feet. The stool tipped over, but neither rushed to get it. Carolyn was still smiling. "Go on. I'm letting you go. I'm releasing you. Off you go, Romeo; go find your Juliet."
He backed away. She sighed. "
I'll miss you."
Will you please go? Before I start getting really bad
" Her voice cracked. The tears were taking over. "Goodbye, Andy."
Hesitantly, he stepped closer, bent over the table. "Thank you." He whispered. Then he turned away and went to the black doorway. He paused to take one last look at the room, and at her, before he ran up the steps.
Carolyn waited until she could no longer hear his footsteps above her. A choking sob escaped her throat and she clasped her fingers around it. She tried to get up, but her legs were weak and she fell backwards over her stool. She sat there listless on the floor in the candlelit gloom. Of all the dead bodies she'd seen, all the funerals and all the graveyards, she couldn't remember ever feeling grief as brutal as this. But at the same time a weight had been lifted, and she knew she'd done the right thing.
She was still holding onto something. She opened her fingers. Inside was a cotton reel. She held it up to the light. "We'll stitch these wounds
" She whispered.
He found himself back where it had all began; sitting at the windowsill and staring up at the sky. Dawn was approaching; it was nervously pacing around the horizon. He glared at it, and it stayed back.
He could hear a chattering. He looked over his shoulder.
"What'cha doing sitting here all by yourself, hmm?" Ashley asked as he sprinted up. He folded his arms and leaned over the edge. He grimaced at the drop.
"I like to think here." Andy replied. "It clears my head."
what are you thinking now?"
Andy leaned his head against the brickwork. "I'm thinking
how much I'm actually going to miss this place."
"You going somewhere?"
Ashley frowned. "But
"Awwww so you do care!" Andy smirked. "I think they'll be ok without us for a while." He suddenly stood up, right on the sill's edge and stretched. "Come on. This sill isn't big enough for the both of us." He sprang up and out, holding onto the bricks as he had done before. "You coming?"
"Of course!" Ashley replied, following him out onto the edge. "Where are we going?"
Andy smiled coyly. They climbed right up onto the roof and huddled together. The dawn was breaking through. The night clouds were turning purple, and bright strip of yellow morning rays were illuminating the vast mountain range before them. The cool morning wind blew back into their faces.
"This is really awesome." Ashley murmured beside him.
Andy looked down. "Hey! C.C! Jake! Come up here!"
The two of them had been play-fighting in the garden, but they suddenly stopped and shrugging shoulders, they flew up to join them. They balanced on the tip of the roof. Jinxx had been making his way back from the riverside when he spotted them clustered on the tip of the roof. He changed his path and landed just below. He scrambled up and poised like a gargoyle, "What's up?"
"We're going away." Andy answered. Jinxx tensed and gulped. "I know about Sammi, and it's ok. We're not going forever."
"So where exactly did you have in mind?" Jake asked, folding his arms.
Andy smiled. "I want to go
there." He pointed to the violent mountain peaks in the opposite direction to the way they had already been.
Jake sucked his teeth. "That's Invasion territory."
"It'll be tough."
"They won't like us."
"I know. And I don't care. That's where we're going. And if they don't like it, then they can stick it."
"I like it!" C.C laughed. "When do we go?"
"Now." Andy stood up. The others watched him in amazement. "Now the world is our playground," he grinned, "and it's time to play."