Part 2: Human
It took Lian longer than she wanted to recover from the battle, which meant that she couldn’t visit Detta, and she had no way of telling her why. Since they were both injured, Healm had decided to stay with her in her residence instead of going back to his barracks. He said it was to watch out for each other as they recovered, but Lian was fairly confident his true motive was making sure she didn’t sneak off to the human world before she was fully healed.
With Healm watching her every move, Lian recovered slowly. The same hour he left her alone for the first time, she’d snuck back to see Detta. It had been almost six months in the human world, and Lian was expecting an overjoyed celebration of their reunion.
What she found, however, was Detta ill in bed. She was complaining of a severe stomach ache when Lian arrived, so although she was relieved that Lian had returned, she couldn’t give quite the joyous welcome that Lian had pictured.
Still, Lian had been around many injured angels before, and she knew how to comfort them, even if she was bad at her own recoveries. So, for their visit that day, Detta stayed in bed with the angel perched next to her, telling her stories to keep her mind off the pain.
Detta buried herself so far underneath the quilt that only her eyes, nose, and a tuft of hair poked out, and Lian traced her forehead soothingly as she spoke about whatever she could think of. Eventually, she ran out of things to talk about, and she began to talk about the battle- not the fighting itself, but the aftermath.
“- and then Ruksha -- he’s a Seraphim, the one we report to -- came to see us both after we were discharged from the healers. Apparently, he thought so highly of Healm’s ‘valor’ during the battle that he wanted to offer him a promotion to Cherubim! Cherubim are a highly respected rank: they get more wings than lower ranks. But Healm turned him down! He fed him some line about how he didn’t feel like it was his best effort, and that the credit should be split between the two of us, so he wanted the promotion to be deferred until he had another chance to prove himself!” Lian shook her head in disbelief. “I think that secretly, it’s a lie though. Healm may act like his rank is the only thing that matters to him, but secretly he’s very fond of me. I bet he just didn’t want to leave me behind again.”
Detta smiled weakly at the story. “It sounds like he cares about you a lot.”
“He does,” Lian said with a happy smile. “We’re friends. I just got him to finally admit it.”
“Are you sure he doesn’t like you more than that?”
Lian tilted her head to the side. “What more is there?”
A flush crept over the tiny part of Detta’s cheeks that was visible above the quilt. “You know. Like how a man cares for a woman.”
“How is that different from being friends?”
Detta got that incredulous look she wore every time Lian failed her expectations of knowledge. It usually preceded a lecture of some sort, but before the explanation was forthcoming her expression twisted in a different kind of pain.
“I think… I need to go to the bathroom.”
“Do you need my help?” Lian instantly asked, slipping off the bed.
“No, I can do it myself.” She slowly pushed the quilt down the bed and stood laboriously, revealing the large red bloodstain on the back of her skirt and the matching bloodstain on the sheet she had been laying on.
Lian had lost count of how many battles she’d taken part in, as first a lowly angel, then through her progression to Archangel. With all that death, she’d thought that she was used to blood. But now, seeing it on Detta drove her into a frenzy like she’d never felt before.
Lian screamed and pushed her back onto the bed. “Detta, you’re bleeding! Why didn’t you tell me you were hurt? Who did this to you?! Where’s the wound? Show it to me! I- I have some field medic training, maybe I could stop the bleeding!”
Detta tensed under the onslaught, but as soon as she saw the bloodstain on her sheet, she signed. “Stop it, Lian. It’s not… I’m not hurt. This is natural.”
“Natural? How is this natural?! You're bleeding- and the blood- and it's everywhere- and I don't know what to do!"
In her panic, Lian pushed herself up into the air with heavy wingbeats, buzzing from one end of the room to the other. Gusts filled the room, drowning out her babble as she paced in the air.
"Humans aren't supposed to bleed! When they bleed, it means that something's wrong! What if-"
"Lian!" Detta caught her foot and yanked her down to the ground, smacking her wide wingspan against the shelves that lined the room. The impact sent books and knick knacks scattering to the floor. "It's alright! I'm alright! This just- means that I'm becoming a woman!"
"Becoming a woman?!" Lian seized Detta's shoulders and shook her friend. "What do you mean, becoming a woman? I thought you were already a woman? Are you ascending to a higher form of consciousness? Are you dying so your body can be reborn as a woman?"
"No! What are you saying? Stop being crazy!" Detta snapped, then winced, clutching at her belly. "I'm not dying. Don't be stupid. I'm just... are you sure you don't know what this means? I don't want to have to say it."
"No, I don't know what's happening!" Tears burst from Lian's eyes as she pulled Detta into a tight embrace. "Please, just tell me this doesn't mean I'm going to lose you!"
"You're not going to lose me," Detta said calmly, then took a deep breath. "I'm just... you know... ah, I don't want to say it. I'm... I'm... I'm menstruating."
Shivering, Lian's grasp on Detta loosened. "Wait, you're... what? What's that? So you're not dying?"
"No, I'm not dying, silly," Detta said with a roll of her eyes. "It happens to every girl when she's my age. Didn't it ever happen to you?"
A frown drawing her eyebrows together, Lian considered the size of the bloodstain on Detta's skirt. Sure, she'd been in a lot of fights where she'd been injured, but she never remembered spontaneously bleeding. "I don't... think so?"
"Of course angels wouldn't have to go through it," she muttered, refusing to meet Lian's eyes. "It's to let a little girl know... that her body is ready to be a woman. To get married and be a mother."
"I still don't understand," Lian begged. "Are you cut somewhere? Where does the blood come from?"
"It comes from... it comes from..." Detta curled in on herself, then she glared at Lian. "It comes from between my legs, okay? It's my body's way of saying that it's ready to grow a baby inside of me. It's dirty so we don't like to talk about it, okay?"
Blinking in surprise, Lian released Detta. "So... you're going to have a baby now? Like, another human?"
"No! Weren't you listening? You can't have a baby unless you're married!" Detta suddenly winced and clutched at her stomach; Lian's eyes went wide as she saw a trickle of blood run down the inside of her ankle. "I- don't feel good. I need to see my father-"
"Let me help you, let me carry you-" Lian tried to offer, but Detta pushed her away, doubling over.
"No! He can't- he can't know you're here. Please, leave, you have to go. This is just a normal human thing. I can take care of it myself."
"But-" Lian tried to protest again, but Detta cut her off with a surprisingly strong shove for her delicate frame.
After one last torn, tormented look at her friend running out of the room, leaving a trail of bloody footprints after her, Lian ripped open a gate and fled back to the angelic world and her own worried thoughts.