The boy seemed to have incredible luck as a child, both good and bad.  He would get into all kinds of dangerous situations, yet emerge with only minor damage.  Sometimes it was thought that the child was just clumsy, but he would contradict that thinking by doing something skilful.  His parents never really knew what to make of it, as their son would seem bumbling one day and dextrous the next.

            Once when he was five, the child narrowly averted cracking his head open in the kitchen.  He had been in the basement playroom, merrily playing with his toys, when he developed a runny nose.  The tissues were upstairs, on top of the refrigerator in the kitchen, far above him.  The child walked upstairs to ask his mother or father to get the tissue down for him, but his parents were busy in the dining room talking. 

            He thought to himself:  It wouldn’t be polite to interrupt, I’ll just wait until they’re not so busy.  On the tails of that thought came another; Maybe I can get it myself, and then I won’t have to bother them at all, and with that he decided to get the tissues himself.  The boy was always fairly independent and headstrong.  He was a dutiful son, and usually obeyed his parents, but when he was stubborn no one could shake his convictions.    

            He got a chair from its place at the kitchen table and dragged it over to place it against the fridge door.  Once he lifted himself up onto the seat and stood on it to become taller, he reached up for the tissues, but found himself still too short to get to the top of the fridge.  Maybe I should just wait for Mom or Dad, he thought, finding himself discouraged.  But then it occurred to him that they were really busy, and they’d be proud of him if he proved that he was big enough to do things himself.  He resolved to think of something else, to find a way to solve the problem.

            That’s when the idea popped into his head to climb up onto the back of the chair, the tiny lip that supported a person’s shoulders when they were seated.  He was little, and not very heavy, so it should be able to hold him.  He could hold onto the fridge for balance, he wouldn’t fall.  He got a hold of the edges of the fridge and his feet onto the back of the chair.  That’s when it gave out from under him, sending him sprawling.

            His mother looked to the sound from the kitchen, seeing her little boy fall.  Somehow he fell straight down on top of the chair itself, banging himself just under the lip so that he cut himself and started bleeding.  It had seemed to her for one tense, terrifying moment that he could have spilled backwards and perhaps hit his head on the table or even the floor, but by some lucky chance had not. 

            That mental image played over and over in her head as they drove in the car to the emergency room, that he had almost fallen backwards, that he could have received a concussion or, worse, even cracked his head.  He was taking it well, at least.  The boy had only cried at first, and for a little while in the car about all the blood on the cloth she made him hold on his lip, but now he was calm, taking it all in stride.  He even waited patiently and calmly when they got to the hospital, sitting for what seemed like forever on a gurney in the hallway of the busy emergency room.  A doctor finally came, and all in all, the boy only needed two small stitches beneath his lip.

He showed his whole kindergarten class the stitches during Show and Tell.  When they healed, he happily showed the class what the stitches looked like out of his lip, in a piece of tissue paper.  The scars they left after healing were barely noticeable: to show anyone, even himself in the mirror, he had to purse or bite his lip to get it out of the way, as it hid the two tiny white Xs that the stitches had left.  His mother was always grateful that the boy hadn’t fallen at a different angle, that these scars were the only consequence of his fall.  He was grateful that he had such an interesting story for Show and Tell.

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Mara breathed a sigh of relief as she sat next to the boy in the hospital, on one of those moving beds.  She searched her memory for the word for them: stretcher wasn’t right, was it a gurney?  She caressed his sweat tangled hair absent-mindedly.  He couldn’t feel her touch as a solid hand, of course, since she was upon the celestial plane, but it soothed and calmed his soul.  The sweat in his hair was there because he had been quite afraid at first.  She blamed herself for that, she hadn’t been with him through the whole thing.

            She and the boy had been in the basement, with him playing with toys and her laughing at his game.  She had followed him to the kitchen when he got up, and it was from there that she saw the demons.  There were thirteen of them in the dining room, throwing taunts at the boys parents and flying around the room while the parents argued about something quietly.  They had both had long, stressful days at work, and the argument was born more out of fatigue and exasperation than out of anything that needed arguing.  The parents never argued much, and it was never very heated.  The demons, however, were trying to agitate the parents, and aggravate the situation.  The demons were all small, so Mara drew her celestial blade.

            “Be gone, foul creatures!”  Mara shouted, bounding into the room with her wings unfurled and her sword drawn, glimmering brightly.  Those not flying were suddenly in the air, startled from their perches.  “This family is under the protection of Heaven, and you have no place here!”

            They whirled around her in a frenzied circle, screaming obscenities and hurling taunts at her.  They cackled and clawed at her as they spun around.  It made her dizzy, but she still found the will to swing out with her blade and strike one from the air.  Her white blade sheared through the creature, and its body dissolved into sulphurous smoke.

            That was when she looked back at the boy, climbing up on the back of a chair in the kitchen.  A puny little demon was perched on the child’s shoulder, and another on the top of the refrigerator.  They were whispering to the boy, apparently encouraging him to climb and get the tissues, telling him he need not wait for his parents, they were busy, they didn’t need to be bothered, he could get the tissue himself, how proud they’d be of their big boy if he could do it all by himself.  He was just about to fall as Mara spurred herself to action, cursing herself for having been distracted by the demons in the dining room when the boy was clearly what they were really here for.  And to just stand there gaping while the boy was about to fall!

            She caught him just as he started to fall through the air, but barely.  The demons were instantly upon her, clawing and scratching, pulling her hair.  She had to let him go to defend herself, and so he fell onto the chair and split the skin beneath his lip.  She could hear him crying as she struggled to get out from under the foul creatures, so that she could use the sword and despatch them back to their fiery home.  She pushed upwards with arms and legs and wings, sending the demons sprawling away from her.  Mara swung the celestial sword in a wide arc, destroying the forms of half their number before they even knew what hit them.  The other demons flew through the ceiling, off into the night sky cackling and laughing at her.

            Mara sheathed her sword and sat with the boy, caressing his hair and whispering soothing words in his ear, telling him that he would be alright now.  He couldn’t really hear her, not as words exactly, but the spirit of her words, the feeling, reached his soul and calmed him some. 

            On the way to the hospital the car was attacked, and she had to chase the laughing flock of monsters away.  For a moment the boy had been crying again, but she returned to his side and helped him to regain his composure.

            She was glad for this moment of calm in the hallway.  Mara knew that it was only a matter of time before the next attack, so she appreciated the simple, peaceful moments when they came.  It might be days or even months, but the demons always came back to plague the boy and challenge her.  Azazel was living up to his word, he hadn’t forgotten them.

            Well, I haven’t forgotten you, either, Uncle.  You and I will meet one day, and I shall make you wish you had never dared to touch my charge, I swear it!

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