Miles glanced up at the nameplate on the door in the hall, eyes skimming over the capital FATE written in silver letters. His eyes narrowed as he pushed the door open, forgoing what he would usually consider a professionally necessary knock. His boss looked up at him, annoyance flashing in his electric blue eyes. “Which one?” Miles asked.
“You know I can’t tell you that,” Fate—who chose to go by Hector more often than not—said simply, eyes falling back to his laptop.
“Why not? You always give me a name so I can harvest the soul. Give me a name,” Miles said.
“If I do that, you’ll just hover around them to keep them safe, and I can’t have that happening, Miles. It interrupts the natural order of things, and I won’t let you ruin the very thing that holds this planet together.”
“Two of them are children, Hector. Karen’s only seven!”
“That’s unnecessary. I can hear you just fine without you raising your voice at me.”
“She’s seven,” Miles emphasized, forcing his voice to remain calm and level.
“I’m more than aware. You have a job to do, Miles, souls to harvest. Hop to it.”
“You assigned me to protect those kids, Hector. You did that, not me. I didn’t ask for any of this.”
“Yes, thank you for the recap, but I’m already more than aware of that,” Hector said, sounding bored. “You’ve been assigned to protect high-risk souls many times over the years. These three just needed your protection longer than most of the others. I didn’t tell you to form an attachment to them. You did that. You knew they would all die eventually, and you still grew attached to all three of them, like a human would. Regardless, this job isn’t supposed to be easy, Miles. That isn’t the point of all of this.” He waved a dismissive hand. “I’ve texted you your names for the day. Go on out there and do your job. Believe it or not, you were assigned to do that, as well.”
Miles stared at the dark-haired, blue-eyed being, briefly wishing that killing Hector would solve all of his problems. But between Hector being immortal and Hector being Fate, it would most likely do more damage than good. It wouldn’t even begin to fix the situation at hand. It wouldn’t turn back Fate’s plans for the universe, his grand design for it all.
Miles’s eyes narrowed at his boss before the being’s hard gaze finally drove him out of the room. Miles closed the door behind him, closing his eyes to force himself not to slam it shut like he so desperately wanted to. It wouldn’t have done him or his souls any good anyway. It only would have angered Fate. Miles figured that was one of the things he needed to avoid doing for now. Maybe keeping his mouth shut and playing nice would buy him an extra day or two with his souls.
Heartbeat or not, it felt like the muscle was pounding in his chest, thumping against his rib cage, trying everything it could to leap into his throat. But when he laid a hand over his heart, there was no movement, no sound. There was just… nothing, one more not so subtle reminder that Miles was far from human and had no right to be attached to any of those souls.
“Three days,” Miles whispered, leaning back against the door. He squeezed his eyes shut, a hand still resting over his non-beating heart. Three days. Seventy-two hours. At the end of it, Hector would make him harvest the soul of one of his most treasured humans. Miles knew it wasn’t a joke or some sick ploy so Hector could get his way in some pointless battle.
It was reality. It was sick and disgusting, and it made Miles’s stomach churn, but it was the reality.
Miles was Death, and inherently, he was a villain to many humans. He was the bad guy in so many of their personal stories and endeavors. It was supposed to be something permanent and constant about him. It was supposed to be the one thing he would always be able to do, the one thing he would always stick to until the day he retired and passed the not so literal scythe over to the next Reaper.
Miles was supposed to be the bad guy in this world. It was his job, and he was supposed to accept that. But he couldn’t. Not this time.
He opened his eyes, pushing himself away from the door. For the next seventy-two hours, regardless of what his boss said, Miles planned to do everything he could to continue to protect his treasured souls. He wouldn’t let Fate get in the way of their lives. They were far too young to die. Despite what Hector said, it wasn’t their time to go. Fate or not, he was wrong. They weren’t dying, not now.
Not if Miles had anything to say about it. And, oh boy, did he have a lot to say.
“Okay, hear me out,” Miles said, pacing the office.
Justice—a former Reaper who tended to go by the name Anna—leaned forward in her chair, crossing her arms over her desk. “I’m listening,” she said.
“Hector’s gonna kill one of my kids. He’s gonna do it, and he won’t tell me which one he’s gonna kill. He doesn’t want me to know, ‘cause if I do, he thinks I’ll stop it from happening.”
“Would you?” Anna asked.
“I would definitely try.”
“He said it’s gonna be in three days. Or… or within three days.”
“So for the next three days, I’m gonna do everything I can to protect them. Like, even more hardcore than I have been, right? So, like, I’ll follow Ethan to school to help protect him from the bullies. If the bullies don’t touch him all day, he won’t be quite as likely to think about harming himself by the time he gets home. And I’ll follow Laura to her concerts and help her bodyguards keep back the crazies. I’ll follow Karen around and make sure she doesn’t come in contact with anything too dangerous for her immune system. I’ll fluff up her health a couple times if I have to. But I won’t let any of them die. I won’t let him kill them.”
Anna watched him for a long moment before reaching up to tuck her white hair behind her ears. “Okay, so… you want to tip the Scales?” she asked.
“I don’t want to. I need to. I can’t let them die, Anna. I can’t.”
“Miles, honey, I love you, but this is… dangerous.”
“I know,” he whispered. “God, Lucifer, Fate, Justice, humanity, I know.”
“What do you want me to say?” Anna asked.
“I need to know if it’s possible.”
“Anything’s possible. It’s about whether or not it should be done. And this… should not. You know that.”
“God, of course I know.” Miles stopped pacing, whirling around to face her. “Can I do it, though?”
If she still had a beating heart, she knew it would melt at his appearance. Miles, short little five-foot-six Miles, with his brown hair, chocolate eyes, and glasses. Miles, with his dark jeans, denim button-up, and fedora. He was an innocent in the grand scheme of things, nothing but a dead college kid that had been forced to reap souls for several hundreds of years.
“Honey, you can do anything you want to,” Anna said slowly. “But you need to weigh the benefits against the risks and decide if it’s something you’re still willing to try.”
“Well… well, I haven’t thought that far ahead,” he admitted.
“That’s okay. We can talk through that if you’d like.”
“Of course.” A pause. “Would you like to take a seat?”
With an air of hesitance, Miles crossed the room and dropped into the chair in front of Anna’s desk. “Okay,” he said quietly, “now what?”
“Now we look at the pros and the cons.”
“Well, an obvious pro—”
“Don’t start with the pros. Everyone starts with the pros.”
Miles offered a slow nod. “Okay. So… a con is that I could end the world.”
“Yeah, I’d say that one should be at the top of the list,” she agreed. “Now go with a pro.”
“Pro, none of the undeserving children die.”
“Umm, con, I don’t think a Reaper has ever interfered before?”
“Correct. And why is that a con?”
“Because we don’t know what’ll happen if I interfere and keep their souls here past Fate’s set date.”
“Right. Another pro?” Anna questioned.
“I–I don’t have another one.” Miles’s brow furrowed. “Does that mean I can’t do it?”
“No, honey. It’s okay. Pros and cons aren’t measured by how many of each you have; they’re measured by how important each side is to you. So which side is more important to you?”
“I feel like you want me to say making sure I don’t implode the Earth.”
“No, I want you to say whichever feels true in your heart, beating or not,” Anna said.
Miles pulled his hat off his head, holding it in his lap as he stared down at the floor. “I can’t let them die, Anna. They’re all I have.” His head snapped up, eyes locking with hers. “Except you. I have you. I just… You know what I mean.”
“I know, honey.”
“I’m lonely. I’ve been lonely for a hundred years, Anna. These last seven years with Karen? The last three with Ethan? The two with Laura? Even though Karen’s the only one that can see me, I’ve never felt lonely around any of them. I need them,” Miles said.
“Well, then I do believe you have your answer,” Anna said, her voice soft.
He fell silent for a long while, toying with the hat in his hands. “I’m gonna end the world, Anna.”
“We don’t know that for sure.”
“I have a pretty good idea that we do.” He raked a hand through his hair, pushing it away from his forehead and catching it beneath his hat. He sniffled. “You don’t gotta tell Hector I was in here. He doesn’t need to know you know anything about any of this. I didn’t even wanna drag you into it, but, you know… I haven’t had many friends since mine killed me, and I just needed to talk it through with someone that wasn’t me.”
“Honey.” Anna sighed, pushing herself to her feet. She rounded her desk and squatted down in front of him, crossing her arms over her knees. “You didn’t drag me into anything. If I didn’t want to talk to you about this, I would’ve kicked you out of my office as soon as you started talking. Okay?” He nodded. “Everything’s gonna be okay, Miles. You’re a loveable little dork. Go mingle with the Fallen or with Mul. Heck, even Lucifer’s not that bad. Hector and I aren’t your only options for communication.”
“I know.” Miles closed his eyes, scrubbing both hands over his face. “I’m gonna go.”
“Okay.” Anna stood up, leaning back against her desk as Miles rose to his feet. “I’m sorry he sprung this on you, honey.”
“Me, too.” Miles stepped around the chair, lifting a tentative hand. “I’ll see you around, Anna.”
“Okay, Miles. I’ll be here,” she said. He nodded and walked out of her office, hands shoved into the pockets of his pants. Anna let out a sigh, shaking her head. She tapped her nails against the surface of her desk, head cocked to the side. “How long have you been back there?”
Hector cleared his throat, materializing behind her desk. He pushed himself away from the wall. “Oh, since about, ‘You don’t gotta tell Hector’.” He rounded the desk, wrapping a hand around Anna’s chin. “Souls have an expiration date, Anna.”
“Maybe while he’s out protecting his souls, I’ll end your pathetic existence. He wouldn’t try to end the world if you were gone,” he said, wrapping a hand around the back of her neck.
“Do it, then. If you knew anything about that poor boy, you’d know how stupid this is. You think killing his only friend stops him from ending the world? Killing his only friend reinforces the idea that ending the world is the right call,” Anna said. “But do whatever you feel is necessary, Hector. Let’s see how it pans out for you in the end.”
With a low growl, he pushed himself away from her. “Stop helping Miles.”
“I’m not helping him do anything. Talking to him isn’t helping him end the world.”
“Don’t test me, Anna.”
“Don’t be a dick, Hector.”
His palm collided with her cheek, and near regret quickly clouded his expression. “Anna, I’m so sorry.”
Her baby blue eyes flicked up to his face before she swung a fist into his jaw. “Get out of my fucking office, Hector. Next time you lay a hand on me? I’ll hire Lucifer to do my dirty work for me and end your ass. Clear?”
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“No, you’re not. Although I do suggest not bitch slapping Justice in the face,” Anna said. Her cheek stung just enough to be uncomfortable, Hector’s handprint already burning red on the pale, pale skin of her face. “Get out, Hector.” He kept his eyes on her for a moment longer, finally nodding before walking out of her office. He closed the door behind him. Anna sighed, laying a hand on her cheek.
Very few options between Heaven and Hell or not, she still couldn’t believe she used to date the bastard.
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