chapter LXMature

She’d been right, of course.  Once she’d called them out on their ridiculous behavior, they’d both snapped into action like the men she knew they could be.  Sometimes, she’d learned, humans needed to be pulled out of their own heads.  Whether it was a flaw in the design or perhaps just a quirk, she didn’t know, or care.  What was important was that she’d found an asset that was invaluable.  An experienced hunter could take down a Greater Demon on his own; but he would not be alone.  Now, they were ready.  Now, they had a real chance.  An angel, a hunter, and a Touched all working together – what could stand in their way?

Nothing, she thought to herself with a smirk.  Finally, they could overcome the situation they were thrust into.

The two of them poured over a selection of demonology books that Sebastian had spread out on the desk.  They spoke in hushed tones but she didn’t mind.  She could hear them with ease no matter where she was in the room.  As it was, she had stretched out on the bed.  The coffee had kept her awake through the first three hours of their strategizing, but as it progressed her attention was beginning to wane.  Her eyelids had grown heavy and every time she blinked they struggled to let her open them again.  Eventually, she couldn’t fight it anymore.

She dreamt of rivers of blood, flowing all around her.  Instead of streets and cars, there was only blood.  It stained the brick of the buildings and frothed around streetsigns.  She was on the roof of their hotel building, but it was out of place.  Across from her was a gothic manor, it’s towers decorated with wrought iron spires and chipped gargoyles.  Shadows draped it in mystery despite the blazing sun.  The air smelled of boiling ichor and rust.  The longer she looked at the blood rivers, the more she began to notice something.  Shapes bobbed around here and there, breaking the surface once in a while before being pulled back down into the depths.  With a coil of queasiness in her stomach, she realized they were body parts.  Chunks of people floating like tree branches and leaves.  Debris.

Her hands burned but when she looked at them, all she could see was a clean white light that seemed to grow stronger and stronger.  It dwarfed everything and blinded her.  She blinked and she was standing in a church.  In front of her was the altar, and behind it was a beautifully detailed cross.  Every line and crack and swirl had been etched into it to show the detail of real wood, but it was painted gold.  The nails were there, yet there was no body of Christ.  Blood stains tarnished the azure paint where the Lord’s hands would have been.  All at once, the cross caught fire.

A voice said, You cannot be weak, Gabriel.  You know what you must do to restore your strength.

Her mouth moved before her mind had caught up.  She was saying, “But it will stain me, Lord.”

There was no answer. 

She woke up all at once, panting and sweat-soaked.  Her hands glowed as if she clasped small suns inside of her fists.  Without looking up, she knew Graeme and Sebastian were watching her.  She could feel the stillness in the room as they held their breath.  Lifting her hands up, stretching her fingers wide, she watched the light illuminate the room.  It had grown dark and the curtains were drawn.  They hadn’t turned on the lights – or perhaps they’d turned them off – but it didn’t matter.  Every corner of the room was illuminated.

She looked through her open fingers and met Graeme’s eyes.  The light dimmed, slowly, until it ebbed and went out. 

There were no words.  The room was silent.  Sebastian stepped back, moving out of Graeme’s way as if choreographed.  Graeme was beside her, pulling her into his arms and lifting her from the bed.  He carried her into the bathroom and set her on the edge of the sink.  Somehow, the door had closed.  His mouth was on hers and everything became a blur.  All hunger and hands and nails, all scratched skin and teeth marks and a need for a closeness that couldn’t be met no matter how deeply he was inside of her, no matter how tightly they clutched each other.  His exhale was her inhale, his mouth was her sustenance, his skin was her rest.  The longer they went the better she felt, the clearer the world became. 

The End

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