[ Master Post ]
Characters: Octavia ♀, Gabriel ♅
Rating: T (L1 N0 S0 V1 D1)
Warnings: Blasphemy, blatant manipulation, threats of impending violence
Notes: Rating’s a little higher than the numbers suggest, because the Holy Father is remarkably unpleasant, here, in completely canonical fashion. Gabi’s got some issues with how the Holy Father goes about things, and tries to smooth things over, wherever possible, with the illusion of choice.
The angel appeared in her office, on the sixteenth floor, behind closed doors, and it didn’t open the doors to come in. With this, she was not pleased, but the tower of swirling blue-gold light didn’t seem to give any mind to what she thought of anything.
"Octavia Darby." All the glass in the room sang out, as the angel spoke. It didn’t rattle, it sang. The LCD panel on the office phone cracked.
It hadn’t asked a question, but it seemed to be waiting for an answer, so she answered it, with the bravest face she could muster. "Yes. Do you have an appointment? I didn’t think I had anyone scheduled today."
It laughed, and the glass squealed. Her coffee cup rocked and spun as the glass plate that topped her desk rang a muffled chime. "No, I don’t have an appointment. My father didn’t think I’d need one."
That was not a sentence she ever expected to hear tolling through the room like the voice of God.
"Do I need an appointment, Ms. Darby? I can go back out and try again," it offered, a hint of amusement jingling through the windows.
"Whatever the hell you are, you’re here now, and you got my attention. Might as well start talking." She snatched up her coffee and glared imperiously in the direction of the glowing pillar in the middle of her office.
"I am Gabriel," it declared, the light shrinking inward, slowly revealing the shape of a man. The voice grew quieter, as the light contained itself. "I have come to bring you a message from the Holy Father."
"You’re Gabriel, and you come from God. To talk to me." The words dripped incredulity, and the glare across the top of the cup did not lessen, as she sipped her coffee.
The last of the light seemed to gain density, finally resolving into three pairs of golden wings that Octavia had no doubt would easily reach the walls, if they were spread. An angel, like something out of a painting, stood in the middle of her office, draped in gold and white, golden curls spilling past its shoulders. It leaned casually on her desk.
"Yes." It nodded at her. "I have come with news that you have found favour with the Holy Father, and he means to bless you with a son, His son, and you will name this son Joshua. He sha—"
She cut him off. "You know I’m not a virgin. You can’t possibly mean me."
"Yes, you are. That word doesn’t mean what you think it means." Gabriel shrugged. "You’re a young woman, favoured in the eyes of my father, and He has chosen you as the mother of His son."
She had always meant to have a child, but between work and never meeting a man who could stand the way she worked, it had never come together. This might not be too terrible. Still…
"I’m not naming my boy Joshua," she argued. "Your father wants me to have a baby for him, he’s going to put up with me naming my child as I wish, and raising him how I see fit. That’s the deal. If he doesn’t like it, he can pick someone else."
"How you see fit will change, once you meet the child," Gabriel warned. "This has happened before, and I have seen what becomes of my father’s sons."
"Are you telling me he’s going to get nailed to a cross, like Jesus? Because we don’t do that kind of thing, in this day and age."
"No, I’m telling you he’s going to be a holy terror, the likes of which you have never encountered. Be prepared. He will have the powers of a demigod, even in his youth." The look on the angel’s face conveyed exactly how much of this it had seen before. "Like Jesus before him, and Adam before him. The sons of my father have always been opinionated and willful.
"But, like Jesus, before him, he will rise up and do right. He will right the wrongs of the world, protect the downtrodden, raise up the oppressed, and build a world fit to be lived in."
"Mmm. Because Jesus did such a great job." Octavia’s eyebrows arched up.
"No, he did, really. It’s just … people …" Gabriel sighed and pulled over a chair with one wing, dropping into it, at the side of the desk. "Listen," it said, conversationally, and she found she had no choice. "Jesus changed the politics of an entire kingdom, which was a lot for one man who wasn’t born a king. But, he could only reach so far, being only one man, and the Roman occupation did him no favours. The fact that his name is still spoken across six continents, even if the word is distorted, speaks to the efficacy of his doings. One man with no telephone and no air travel, riding on a donkey he had to borrow. He did a great job. Your son will do better."
"Ms. Darby, my father does not approve of so many of the things done in His name, and others He wouldn’t approve of, if they were loud enough to get his attention. This is not what he wanted for humanity."
"Then why doesn’t he fix it? If your father is, in fact, all powerful, why can’t he just change things until they’re right?" It was, she thought, an excellent question.
"It would defeat the purpose of having given you free will. It’s also why He needs a son. His intentions are good, but so are the intentions of everyone who stands up to make a difference. Can you say that all of them understand the situation they mean to remedy in enough detail to make the right kind of difference? The kind of difference that would actually help people?"
Octavia shifted uncomfortably. "What are you saying? He’s not omniscient?"
"Oh, He sees all things. He just doesn’t see very clearly. He sees things in the very general, and while he knows the individual troubles of each creature in his domain, they don’t stand out to him. There is very little difference between a bacterium and a person, in his eyes. He needs to have His son, who will be part human, see and understand the human condition, for him. To understand what actually needs to change, and use his power to put those changes in motion." And still, Gabriel was leaving out the part about the Holy Father being the last thing you wanted directly interfering with anything, after those mass-extinction events Lucifer always complained about. The Holy Father was quick to destroy what displeased him, and while it wasn’t usually on quite such a large scale any more, Gabriel’s hands burned at the thought of the destruction it had been called to deliver in its father’s name.
"Assuming I agree to this, how does it benefit me? You’re talking about sticking me with a godpowered little terrorist for eighteen years. This does not sound like something I will benefit from."
‘You assume he’s giving you the option.’ But, Gabriel didn’t say it. "Perfect health, long life, a full pantry. The assistance of the angels, when you are in need."
"I’m not getting married, just so you’re aware. My son will have no stepfather."
Gabriel shrugged, wings shifting over the arms of the chair. "Joseph was a necessity of the time. They were already married, and as she was his wife, everyone would assume Maryam’s child was his, until the boy proved otherwise. You live differently. Sons without fathers are common, here. I do not believe harm will come to this child for lack of a human father."
"Now, answer me one more question: Why can’t I have a daughter, instead? You give me a daughter, I might be willing to negotiate the whole ‘Joshua’ thing." Octavia sipped her coffee, still maintaining the same regal bearing she’d maintained through the entire affair, as if she were truly in control of the entire situation, as the faintly-glowing angel with the six huge, golden wings lounged in the chair beside her desk. Frankly, she’d met more terrifying CEOs, although their entrances tended to be less grand. The way she figured it, she held all the cards. God had come to her for help, not the other way around.
The virgin Octavia, she who named her daughter Joshua. That had to be asking for trouble.
"It will be a son. It is always a son. Abraham and Sarah got a son, Manoah and Beulah got a son, Jochebed got a son, Elisheba got a son, Maryam got a son. He created only one woman." Technically true, since the Light of Love had been an angel, and that wasn’t a conversation Gabriel wanted to have with this woman. "It is said that when our mother parted from him, in his grief, He could no longer create in her image, but only in his own."
"You have a mother?" Octavia’s eyebrows arched up in disbelief.
"I don’t, but my brother does. The Holy Ghost? Shekinah? Sophia?" Gabriel watched her for a sign of recognition, blue eye and gold eye both wide and locked on her face. "She was fascinated with his creations, and left heaven to see to them. In honour of her memory, he only gives sons to bear his will. A daughter would encroach upon her perfection. Her daughters, but His sons."
Gabriel had no idea if the middle of that was true, but it sounded about right, from what Lucifer had said about some things. It would look up Lucifer and ask, later — direct questions always yielded better answers.
"So, I can’t have a daughter because the Holy Father is mourning his ex-wife." The flat look in Octavia’s eyes said everything she meant about that.
"His sister, not his wife," Gabriel corrected, waiting to be struck down for speaking of her. And I was cast to sit beside her empty place, while Michael sat to our father’s other hand.
She stared at the angel.
The angel stared back.
"Your family has issues," she concluded, firmly.
"It’s your family, too," it retorted, tartly.
Octavia rose to her feet, intent on dismissing the angel and getting back to her work. "Where can you be reached? I’ll call you, tomorrow, with my decision."
A card appeared in Gabriel’s hand, as it rose from the chair. "Hold the phone and recite this prayer. Answer, when it rings."
She took the card, caution creeping across her face. "You’re not joking, are you."
"No, I’m entirely serious. Call me, tomorrow, or you will see me again." Stepping back, Gabriel blew apart, in swirls of sand and light, wings wrapping around the luminous column, and then dissolving into bands of golden light. "Be well, Octavia. Be blessed of both His grace and Hers."
Her grace wasn’t something Gabriel had the right to offer, but if the stories were true, it was something Octavia already had. The Holy Father didn’t grant daughters, but the mothers of his sons were no less miraculous births. The angel seemed to implode, pulling swiftly, soundlessly inward, tugging at the edges of reality, but damaging nothing. As suddenly as it had arrived, it was gone.
Octavia picked up the phone and pressed the button for the outer office. "Margaret? Get maintenance up here. The display on my phone just burst."
Margaret started to say something about the singing windows and some exploding vases on the next floor down, but Octavia cut her off. "Have them check the wiring. I think something may be wrong in the walls. I knew we should have contracted with Josephus instead of City."
The next day came, and Octavia remained uncertain. A willful son with godlike power, and she with a company to run. But, Gabriel had promised her the assistance of the angels, so at least she could count on having a babysitter who could handle anything the boy could think up.
She could talk to Leslie about having some time off. Les had been her business partner since they were in school, and between the two of them, there was nothing they hadn’t managed, except that one city contract, but neither of them had been sure they really wanted that one. If she told Les she was finally going to have a child, he’d understand. His own children were seven and ten, now, and she’d covered for him, when he needed time with them. They could do this. They could do anything.
She’d call Les, first, and then she’d call Gabriel. Call… Gabriel. This whole thing was ridiculous. She was supposed to pray for an angel to telephone her. She pushed the thought aside and rang Leslie Wentworth.
The conversation was simpler than she expected. She said she’d finally decided to have a child before she got any older. He asked about the lucky man, and she said something vague about fertility clinics. He congratulated her and said he’d be there for her, just like he’d always been, just like she’d been for him and Belinda. Simple, like it should be, with good friends. Much simpler than she’d been expecting.
Calling Gabriel. It felt stupid. Not that she hadn’t gone to church, not that she didn’t pray, but… The expectation of an immediate response seemed foolish. God worked in mysterious ways, didn’t he? Not via angels on the telephone.
She took the card from the table, where she’d left it, the night before. Glossy white cardstock with black letters and a gold border. The back read simply ‘Gabriel, Messenger of the Holy Father’. Still holding the phone, she took a deep breath, looked at the card, and huffed the air out, feeling ridiculous.
It was some kind of test of faith, she decided. Like this whole series of events wasn’t a test of faith. Finally, she began to read the card, pronouncing each word carefully. When she reached the end, she stared at the phone in her other hand, expecting it to ring.
"Knew this was a bunch of crap," she muttered.
"I beg to differ," came a voice from behind her.
The phone flipped out of her hand as she shrieked and spun around to find the angel, all six wings glowing gold, leaning against the wall on the other side of the room.
"You called?" An amused jingle ran through the window and the dishes.
"You said you would ring the phone!" Octavia shouted, nearly glowing with righteous anger.
"I thought it might test your faith a little less if I came, in person, to hear your reply." Gabriel pushed itself away from the wall, with its wings, rolling its shoulders to stretch them within the confines of the room.
"If you knock anything over, I will beat your white ass black." She jabbed a finger in the angel’s direction.
Gabriel’s eyebrows arced up. "And still, you so doubt me, o ye of little faith. I come to you in peace. I bring tidings of joy. And this is how you greet me?"
The angel’s wings folded and canted, heart-like at the top, with long delicate feathers crossed, jutting to each side, from mid-thigh to almost its ankles. It took a few predatory steps forward, then stopped, smiling tightly at the ground between Octavia’s feet.
"My father awaits your answer," it lied. The Holy Father hadn’t intended for this to be a negotiation. It was an announcement of fact. Gabriel chose to let the woman believe she had a choice, in the certainty she would come to the inevitable conclusion that was her fate. Humans tended to be much more compliant, when they believed they had a choice. It wondered how many times its father had used that against his other children, but the angels had never believed they had a choice. They hadn’t been designed for free will.
"I’ll do it, but I expect an excellent babysitter. You can’t expect me to subject a teenage girl to a demigod toddler." She crossed her arms and gazed imperiously at Gabriel.
"We’ll work something out, before it’s necessary. You have the support of heaven." Gabriel ran through how much of its host it could spare, before having to inform the Holy Father of this promise. On the other hand, the Holy Father had commanded these events, and Gabriel was just doing as required to ensure things went smoothly. On the other other hand, ‘You said make it happen; I made it happen’ had never gone over well…
"I will hold you to that," Octavia declared, and Gabriel felt the promise tighten around it. "Now, what must I do to seal this deal?"
‘It’s already sealed, and has been since before I came to you,’ was probably not the right answer.
"Put your hand in mine." Gabriel reached out, and Octavia took its hand without hesitation.
"Your skin…" It was the first thing she noticed. It was almost impossible not to notice. Gabriel’s skin was perfectly dry and untextured, and the sensation of gripping it was uncanny.
"Isn’t skin. I know." A flicker of amusement dashed across the angel’s face, before it placed its other hand atop Octavia’s, and intoned several lines in Aramaic, as if invoking some magic. The glass in the room rang like a single enormous bell.
It would never admit to the translation of the words it spoke. "Forgive me, Octavia Darby, for the things I have said to you, for the things my father has done to us both. If I knew an easier way, I would have taken it. Your son will have the finest teachers, and our memories, to help him. Your son will do what Maryam’s son could not. And the son who comes after him will do even more. Your son is neither first nor last, but best in this time and place. In this, I trust."
Gabriel bowed over the woman’s hand, curling its wings forward around them. "It is done."
It released her hand and stepped back. "You will be well," the angel promised. "If you have needs, you have my card. Make yourself known to me."
Wrapping its wings impossibly tight, Gabriel vanished into itself, leaving only a brief flash of light to show where it had been. Octavia stared into that space, willing herself back to her senses. An angel. The son of god. These things didn’t happen to professional women in first-world countries. She would have a glass of wine, and then get on with her day. There was still time to see if any of this was real.