“That was the last of them,” said a conversational voice as I stepped out of school on Monday.
“Where were you?”
“As you said. We have limitations,” the angel said. “Limitations of energy.”
“So my guess was right. You were tired out from chasing them around the city.” I let out a breath. “Help him?”
“We are. Thanks for the rescue. I owe you.”
I shook my head. “Owing me could get you into trouble with your boss, so you don’t. Just I happen to like him…so…”
The angel laughed. “I would like you if I was allowed to.”
“At least we don’t have to be enemies.”
“And I promise there will be no more spirit bombs.”
“Did you lose anyone?” I found myself genuinely concerned.
“No permanent casualties.”
Which meant injuries, I supposed. “Good.” I felt genuinely relieved. “We’re all on the same side in the end, right?”
“We are,” he admitted. Then he looked at me. “As long as…”
“No poaching.” I grinned. “Not like I…”
“Give it a bit. You will learn.” He considered for a moment. “Never understood doing things that way, but…”
“But you…are a part and extension of him, aren’t you?”
“At some levels, yes. At other levels, no, or so many of us would not have rebelled.”
“Maybe he made the rules too strict.” I shook my head. “No. I don’t want to risk hurting you.”
“You haven’t.” And with a sense of wind and feathers, the angel was gone.
He wasn’t so bad, I thought. Or maybe he’d eased off now he knew I wasn’t any kind of a threat to his charge and his charge’s immortal soul. Idly, I wondered what heaven was like. It occurred to me that I would one day never see William again.
And then I understood why people might be tempted to poach. But I wouldn’t. I had enough to worry about, and William had his own decisions to make.
And I was determined to respect them. And anyone else’s.
Something clicked into place. As if I’d finally accepted something very important. My authority. What I was. Who I was.
That I had to accept this, and the only way I could was to put free will as paramount. Choices. Other people’s choices as more important than anything I might want.
That was how it was supposed to work. That was what mortals having more free will really meant. It meant that because we had the power, we had to let them make the choices.
It wasn’t really that hard.