Fandom: Eternal Law
Word Count: 3,500 words.
Notes: Zak/Hannah with some stalkery behaviour that is completely canonical. I have been unable to see episode 1.05 of Eternal Law, because of reasons, so this has probably been Mashed. But. I really wanted to write this. So I did. I misuse and modify the dragonfly analogy here, for my own purposes, because it made me cry when it was used in Rev. I also directly stole a line from Futurama. The title is from ‘If God Did Give Me a Choice’ by The Leisure Society.
Warning: Character death, of a sort.
Summary: He always says he knew Hannah ‘in a previous life’, but that isn’t entirely true. It isn’t entirely a lie, either.
He always says he knew Hannah ‘in a previous life’, but that isn’t entirely true. It isn’t entirely a lie, either.
He’s a boy, the first time they meet. Looks and sounds seven years old. Feels it in most ways, but knows he’s somehow More. He has memories of millennia that echo through his mind like stories he’s heard the set-up for and recreated with vague facts and emotional impressions. He’s been given to parents who can’t conceive naturally, and when he wasn’t restricted by the coherency of a seven year old, he did ask Mr Mountjoy how fair that was; wouldn’t he one day have to leave?
Mr Mountjoy doesn’t answer the truly tricky questions. He seriously doubts if Mr Mountjoy has the answers to the truly tricky questions.
He’s standing by himself in the schoolyard, looking despondently at the satchel that not twenty seconds before had been knocked out of his hands by a gaggle of snotty-nosed wankstains (which is not the language he uses at the time, but is how he refers to it when he’s placed in an adult body.) His shoulder is aching, because he’d tried to hold on, and he’s not sure he likes this place. He’s been here before, of course, but never like this, never this vulnerable.
She is petite yet ferocious, running towards him full tilt.
“Was on the … ground,” she huffs, “saw… you… right?”
He doesn’t understand much of what she’s saying. He tilts his head to the side as he stares at her. She takes a deep breath, her little mouth opening wide.
“I asked if you’re all right? I saw what those boys did when I was at the playground.”
“Oh? Oh!” he says, because he doesn’t know what else to say. He isn’t old enough to say that no, he isn’t all right, he’s been wrenched from his home yet again and put on this Godforsaken Earth in a feeble, fragile body, and all he really wants to do is punch the miscreants who assaulted him.
“Did they also hit you in the head?”
“No,” he answers. He looks down at his hand again and realises he’s started to bleed where his satchel cut into his skin. It hurts. It hurts so much. He doesn’t quite know how it happens, but suddenly he can feel his face crumpling and his chest constricting, and tears begin to stream down his face.
“It’s okay. No need to cry. Mrs Eldridge has plasters,” she says soothingly, picking up his satchel and grabbing hold of his arm in a too-tight grip. “I’m Hannah. What’s your name?”
“I… my parents call me Sam,” he says, sniffling and trying to ignore a bubble of snot popping from his right nostril.
“My dog was called Sam,” Hannah says, animatedly. She takes him to the classroom door and turns a gap-toothed smile on him, blonde hair swishing with the movement. “I’ve decided that we’re going to be friends.”
And she’s right.
He doesn’t have the articulation to describe the joy he feels when he’s near Hannah. She gives him an unbridled sense of wonder at the world, at humanity, at tiny things like ladybugs and farting to the tune of She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain. Some days he even manages to forget he has a Purpose. That he knows all of his times-tables and actually they’re utterly irrelevant to him (but not other seven year olds, he knows there’s a place for them, he simply can’t help it if he can’t always remember that 3 x 9 is 27, he has the truth of the cosmos stored away in his brain too.)
They’re rarely apart. They go cycling off down an abandoned railway line together, getting hit in the face by over-grown bushes, bike tyres caught in twigs and leaves. They romp about the undergrowth like the monsters in Where the Wild Things Are. Hannah has the greatest roar he’s ever heard, and he’s met Metatron. They make forts and have code words, and Hannah tells him all of her secrets, like how she wants to be an archaeologist when she grows up, because she likes digging and she thinks it would be cool to be the first to find something long buried. They’ve been learning about Ancient Egypt in class and watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom at the Odeon for her eighth birthday.
He doesn’t tell Hannah his secrets. It wouldn’t be fair.
He wonders what he would have wanted to be, had he been a real boy. He wonders what he’d have done with his life had he a choice. If he hadn’t been assigned to solve playground altercations, to restore his adoptive parents’ hope. He thinks it would still have been something that helped people. He can’t help it, he likes them. He likes their weaknesses, he likes their strengths. Not every single person, but enough that he thinks they’re worth saving.
Five months pass and he enjoys every day. Not every minute, but close enough. Each time he goes to bed at night he stares up at the glow in the dark stars on his ceiling and prays that Mr Mountjoy will allow him this a little longer. To an angel, time is largely meaningless, but he knows from his own experiences that tours of duty amongst the mortals can vary in length. From a day to a century, hell, he heard that one of his kind walked the Earth in the same body for three thousand years, before he fell from grace.
So, of course, after five months have passed, he’s given a message. Be at that street at this time. He contemplates ignoring the instruction. Lord knows, Mrs Eldridge is convinced he’s never done as he’s asked in his life.
But then they’re out riding together and a Rottweiler comes chasing after them. They’re on a hill, the wind whipping across their faces. In her haste to get away, Hannah jams the brakes by accident and goes sailing over the handlebars. He calms the dog with one angelic touch and begs it to go away. When it refuses, he kicks it, hard, putting more strength into it than a seven year old should possess. He’s not supposed to harm a living creature, but he doesn’t think anyone thought of vicious snapping incisors when they made that directive, nor innocent little girls who don’t deserve to get mauled.
Hannah lies on the ground looking up at the sky with a pained expression, chest heaving and rattling. It doesn’t look like she can get up. Her mouth is opening and closing rapidly, she’s blinking away tears. He crouches beside her and feels where she’s injured. His senses tell him that Hannah has a fractured rib that is puncturing a lung. She doesn’t have much time.
To an angel, time is largely meaningless. But to a mortal it’s everything. He places his right hand on her forehead, taking away her pain. He waves his left above her, mending soft tissue and bone.
He couldn’t do this anymore, he realises, in the same kind of way you realise you have a stitch after running. It hurts, and you wish you could cut that part out of you, because you don’t know when the pain is going to go away. He couldn’t help people as he longs to help them if he waited for Pinocchio’s wish to come true.
Hannah doesn’t know what’s happened when she awakes. She stares at him with wide eyes when he says she hit her head and that they need to go home because her brain might go flying out her nose the next time she sneezes.
She doesn’t cry when her mother explains that he was involved in a car accident. He knows this because he watches from above. Hannah doesn’t cry, but his adoptive parents do, and this is not the first time he’s felt confused and slightly sickened by Mr Mountjoy’s increasingly convoluted grand plan.
He disobeys a direct order as soon as he’s given his next body (which happens suspiciously quickly, honestly, he sometimes thinks he's the only one willing to go down here.) He gets himself hired as a bereavement counsellor to visit Hannah’s school. It’s been two weeks since he last ‘died’ and he has to know how those he cared for are getting along.
He’s visited his parents, but there was nothing he could do about their pain, their loss. It was threaded too deep, woven into them. They had wanted a child so much and now…
Maybe one day he could understand this decision. He secretly hopes he never will.
He’s placed in a cold, lifeless office. The atmosphere is stifling. Now that he’s an adult, he has the requisite vocabulary to describe the muddle-headed pissants who’d arrange such a venue and no shame at using it.
That afternoon he’s expected to give a speech to the whole school, but at first he’s to speak to those directly affected. Mrs Eldridge is first, and he’s surprised by how much she appears to have cared for him. She’d always seemed so emotionless and poe-faced before. She had found him a distraction, she says, but she misses his self-important interjections and incessant chattering more than she could ever have anticipated. He was charming, she says, and full of potential. She can’t stop thinking about the injustice, the waste.
“It’s a pissy old world,” he replies, because what else could he say? She’s right, it is a waste in so many ways, thousands that he couldn’t even count. He will never know what it’s like to grow up, grow older, see his body change in increments as opposed to all at once. He’ll never make his parents proud. He’ll never have a family of his own.
He can’t explain that it was best in the long-run. He isn’t even sure that’s true.
So, “it’s a pissy old world,” he says, and she glares at him, before her lip-sticked mouth turns down and she nods.
Hannah looks smaller than he expected her to. He thought he’d allowed for his change in dimension, but, no, she’s even tinier than he anticipated. Curled in on herself and pale. She still hasn’t cried, he knows this. He doubts she ever will. For some reason, this makes him inexplicably even more sad at the whole affair.
“Hello, Hannah, you can call me Jacob. How are you feeling?” he asks, using his softest voice.
He wonders if it’s as disgustingly egomaniacal to hear another’s pain over your own demise as he suspects it is.
“Confused,” Hannah states, wrapping her ankles against the chair legs.
“Oh? Oh!” he says, before shaking his head minutely as if to cast off an unwanted fly. “What are you confused about?”
He blinks. He can’t help it. Hannah has always been straightforward and blunt, but the way she says this still sends a shiver down his spine.
“I mean, what happened to Sam? When he died?” Hannah asks in a small voice, and he wants to say, ‘I’m here, Hannah, I’ll always be here for you,’ but he’s not allowed, so instead he says, “you read The Very Hungry Caterpillar with Mrs Eldridge last term, didn’t you?”
Hannah nods, obviously confused by the segue, brow furrowing.
“In that story,” he continues, “the caterpillar goes through his life eating, experiencing, more and more every day. He crawls around, trying all the different fruits, until one day he has his fill.”
“He’s full because he eats cake and ice cream,” says Hannah. “And other unhealthy foods.”
“Oh, yes, he lives his life to the fullest,” he agrees, giving her a soft, sad smile. “Do you remember what he does next?”
“He makes a cocoon.”
“That’s right, a little home that he can grow in, safe and secure. Until one day --- one day he’s grown in such a way he has to break out. He nibbles his way through the cocoon and flies away, changed from a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.”
“But he can’t go back again,” Hannah says, eyes shining with the sort of understanding most eight year olds have when they know something. “Because he’s too big, now, and there’s a hole in his house.”
“Don’t you think that would make him sad?”
“Maybe a little bit,” he says. Yes. All the time, he thinks. “But he’s got an amazing kind of freedom now he didn’t get as a caterpillar. He can fly around and see everything he couldn’t before.”
“It must be more fun than crawling with the other little caterpillars,” Hannah muses.
“A different kind of fun, I think. And anyway, this way he can keep an eye on them and check that they’re okay.”
Hannah nods, slowly. She slides off the chair and stands.
“I’ve got dance next,” she explains, smiling at him brightly. “Thank you.”
“Thank you, Hannah,” he says. He turns his head away when the door closes behind her, and refuses to cry.
He’s in this body the longest. It’s tall and muscular and gives him perks he wouldn’t ordinarily get; free coffees and beguiling smiles. He travels from country to country, working as a counsellor, a teacher and then a lecturer. He learnt a lot from Mrs Eldridge after all. It’s another ten years before he can successfully make his way to his previous home again and when he does, it’s a bittersweet reunion. His parents have adopted a new child, a girl, and they seem very happy together, but not content. His picture is still up on the wall.
In the ten years that have passed, he has grown more and more disillusioned with Mr Mountjoy. Some days he wonders if He took over and no one noticed because Mr Mountjoy’s ethos has always seemed to be “when you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.”
Hannah is eighteen and about to go to University. He’s saddened she isn’t off to study archaeology, but he thinks it was probably a wise choice to broaden her studies. They cross paths at an information session. He knows it was a mistake for him to offer to represent his university, but he was curious. He has seen much, done much, in the time they’ve been apart, yet years often feel like minutes to him, so it could have been just yesterday that they were tramping about in mud and wearing paper hats.
He expects to feel a rush of warm affection for his childhood friend when they meet again, and he does, but he also feels something else, something that he thinks others would probably brand him as a grade-A creepster for feeling. He feels a compulsion.
“Don’t I know you?” Hannah says, and her youthful yet adult voice is melodious, but no longer sing-song. Her pale skin is now radiant and not covered in childhood scrapes.
“You may,” he hazards, taking a step back. “I’ve worked with many over the years, as a counsellor and then an educator.”
“A counsellor?” she asks, eyes lighting up.
She asks if he ever worked at their old primary school and when he admits he did, she beams at him as if he were the old friend he is. It makes his stomach twist into knots inside him, raises the fine hairs at the back of his neck.
He can’t explain it. He’s felt attraction before, but never this visceral, never this immediate. Looks are superficial, and whilst he can admire Hannah’s symmetry, it’s always taken more than pretty lips and almond shaped eyes to lure him. He has to get to know a person before he finds them tempting. Worse still is the consideration that he does know Hannah.
Human emotions walk the fine line between being pure and demonic, and he doesn’t want to wager which this one would fall into.
“I have to go,” he says suddenly. He thinks he’s going to be sick. “Best of luck in your life, Hannah.”
“You remember me?” she calls at his retreating back. He can’t say, ’of course, of course I remember the girl who taught me how to blow chocolate milk bubbles’, so instead he yells back, “nametag!”
And he’s off.
It’s another eight years after that before he thinks it’s safe to set foot in Britain again. Eight years full of anecdotes and a long-standing, mile-spanning feud with one of the fallen – an impertinent whelp who calls himself Ethan the last they meet. He has a new body and he’s chosen to be a lawyer because Ethan’s a lawyer and someone has to beat that bastard at something. The fact that he’d bribed Terry to give him updates on Hannah and heard she was studying law has nothing to do with anything.
He’s always loved London; its bustle, its noise. It is exciting and iconic and has some of the greatest churches and cathedrals an angel will ever see. But it can be unbearably lonely. The last partner he was sent to school was only down for a three month stint, and he does wonder about that, about the fact that whenever there’s a vacancy he’s shoved down to the ground like he’s in some weird celestial whack-a-mole. Given a new identity, a shiny body, but the same aches and pains of decades gone by.
He doesn’t seek her out. It’s an accident when they bump into one another at the firm. The last he’d heard from Terry, Hannah had been all set to work in Cardiff. He’d felt so sorry for her. He didn’t know why Mr Mountjoy seemed to think Hannah deserved to be punished.
It’s an accident and an unwelcome one, because when he sees Hannah once more he is spellbound.
He has sung in heavenly choirs, soared above the earth like Icarus before his fall. He has held the gaze of Mr Mountjoy in all his glory. He has witnessed countless births, aided countless souls to cross to the other side, and there is nothing, nothing that compares with how his heart thumps within when he sees her smile.
“Sorry,” she says, apologetic, bending to help him pick up his case-files. “I’m not usually so clumsy.”
“I know,” he says automatically, then bites his tongue. “I mean, I would guess. You look so graceful.”
Hannah raises an eyebrow at him, but the curve of her lips is impish. “Thanks, I think. I’m Hannah English, nice to meet you.”
“The firm has given me this wonderful badge to tell the world I’m Daniel Law.”
“And judging by those case-files, you’re a lawyer. What a funny coincidence. Did you think it was some kind of rule growing up? If you’d been Daniel Baker, would I meet you buying bread?”
He ducks his head and looks down at the vomit green carpet. She really isn’t wrong and her mockery amuses him. His hand feels like it’s itching to reach out and sweep her fringe to the side. It always looked better that way. He’s determined to keep his hands to himself.
“I suppose you must be cold, emotionless, and with a stiff upper lip, if we are what our surnames tell us to be? Well, that, and the bastardised conglomeration of countless other cultures.”
“I think I would find that racist, if it hadn’t been coming from another poor beleaguered Englishman,” Hannah retorts. She grins, suddenly brilliant. “I was just off to get a drink. I don’t suppose you’d like to join me?”
He should say no. He should insult her further. He hesitates on the edge of the precipice. But she takes hold of his arm in a too-tight grip and says, “actually, that wasn’t an invitation, it was an order. I need all of the friends I can get, and I’ve decided you’re going to be one.”
And she’s right.
He doesn’t have the articulation to describe the joy he feels when he’s near Hannah. They’re nearly inseparable throughout the year. They drag one another around London, from plays to the opera, to wine-filled nights at his flat or hers, sitting across the sofa and chatting about everything from hidden talents (such as farting to the tune of She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain, it’s good to know that while some things change, others will irrevocably stay the same) to aspirations and dreams.
And he can forget that he is meant to be More, that he has a Purpose. She lets him just be. She teaches him about the wonders of the world and her own enthusiasm is wholly infectious.
So when it happens, when he allows temptation to take him, when he pledges himself to her above his God, there is nothing accidental about it. And though he has the whole cosmos in his mind, the only thing that really matters to him is her.
He always says he knew Hannah ‘in a previous life’, but that isn’t entirely true. He’s never had a previous life, he’s only ever had the one. And though to humans he’s appeared over a dozen times throughout the centuries, and to Hannah he’s had three perfectly formed entirely different bodies, it’s always only ever been him. One life which has been drawn to another like a moth to a flame, or a butterfly to a flower, a caterpillar to a piece of fruit.
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