Gabriel had only just begun to worry when the hotel room door finally clicked as a keycard unlocked the bolt. She let out a relieved sigh. The door swung open and Graeme walked in. At first, she thought it was just her eyes, but slowly, Gabriel realized that outside it was pitch black and that the near-blinding light that burned at her pupils was not the sunlight behind Graeme – but rather, Graeme himself. He was on fire with a holy white light that reminded Gabriel of her brethren and the Gates and the peace of a world without weak human bodies as barriers between souls. Unable to look away even though she wanted to see if the others were seeing the same thing she was, Gabriel couldn’t take her eyes off of him. Behind her, Hazel’s ragged voicebegan chanting a prayer in (Roman?).
Graeme met her eyes, glanced to the others briefly before returning his attention back to her, and said, “What?”
“It’s time,” she said, and extended her hand out for him to take. The world fell away beyond them as he stepped toward her. She tried not to let the tendril of terror that had begun to twist around her sternum spread any farther, but it was twining between her ribs and tightening.
They had decided to perform the ritual in the bathtub, as he had when he’d tried to evict Appoloin alone. None of them could argue that it assisted with clean-up. Blood was much easier to wash down the drain than get out of carpet fibers. He stripped down to his boxers without being told and knelt down, the hard porcelain unforgiving against his kneecaps. Watching her long, slender fingers lay out the blessed knives along the rim of the tub, Graeme felt his stomach knot up for the first time. He supposed it was natural for him to feel uncertain about the outcome of their plan, but he didn’t want to. He wanted to trust Gabriel as much as his heart told him to, as much as his entire being demanded of him. Wondering if real trust was the unquestioning belief that nothing would go wrong or if it was letting her do what she needed to do even if he didn’t know for certain that it would all be okay did not make him feel any better. It only made him feel guilty.
She wanted to crawl into the tub with him, to wrap her body around him and protect him from the things that they had to do. The least she could do was talk to him, ask him what was going through his head, ask him if she could help him ease any of his concerns, but with Hazel and Sebastian flanking her, she didn’t think Graeme would want to crack open his heart and show her what was going on inside of it. She made do with a tender touch on his face, her palm lingering against his cheek, and took comfort in the way his eyes did not hide the turmoil from her. In a way, she thought, perhaps that was enough.
A few feet behind her, Sebastian said, “Are we ready?”
Graeme nodded and she took her hand back. They began.