Zaphiel pointed one long finger at Joe, his eyes fixed on the Fallen angel's face. "On your knees, boy."
"No!" Manfred heard himself call out, not sure why he was inserting himself into this situation. "He deserves to face his fate on his feet."
"You may believe so, Son of Adam, but his crimes are against his own kind and so he will kneel as others who have Fallen have done to receive their sentence." The older Throne glanced over at the hulking Guardian, who slid noiselessly in behind the lanky angel and put one large hand on his shoulder.
"Let me go" Olivia hissed, squirming to escape around Manfred and help their friend. "They are going to kill him!"
"I don't think so" Lem's voice whispered from the door. "They aren't drawing swords - at least not yet. I think they have something else in mind for Joe."
"That's what worries me" Manfred muttered.
"His absence from his post allowed dark forces to enter the world, causing the death of numerous of his line" Seraphiel said quietly, taking a parade rest stance in front of his chair. "His brothers and sisters fell trying to cover where he should have stood. Should their deaths be forgotten?"
Manfred gripped the blond even tighter, knowing she was going to make him pay for his manhandling later. "Bowie was his teacher. Can you blame him for wanting to get away from the nightmare scenario she was creating?"
Andre shrugged. "I'd have tried to put the bitch into the ether without a life line – but that's just me."
"Yes, little dragon, and if you had been there for that battlefield I seriously doubt we would be having this conversation" Zaphiel said with a sigh. "We'd be having a conversation with Gabriel about letting you off your leash around lesser beings - i.e. the demons." He stared up at the ceiling in amusement. "Not a talk I'd like to have with anyone - much less our older brother Gabriel. He can be a tad unreasonable where you are concerned."
"Hey - not my fault he's a helicopter parent. And as for getting let loose on lesser beings - well, that's a story for another day" Andre said with a shrug, tightening his grip on Joe's shoulder. He looked up at the older Seraphim's face, looking for a clue for his next actions.
Seraphiel straightened his already ram-rod straight posture and motioned to the Guardian to wait for his signal. "Have human's not also dealt harshly with their own soldiers who have walked away from their posts, leaving their fellows to fight and possibly die alone?" Seraphiel's bright eyes swept the human faces in front him impassively. "Why should we do less to our own – especially when the consequences for his actions were so great?" He raised a hand, motioning for Andre act.
Joe could feel the Guardian's strength (and a measure of angelic grace) as the other man pushed, forcing him to the ground. He bowed his head, unwilling to look up at the greatest of warrior angels, fearing the disappointment he would see in both the elder angel's eyes. Behind him he could feel Seraphiel moving into place beside the younger man, his hand on Joe's other shoulder, keeping him pinned in place. "Let it be as our Father commands" he whispered.
"Joe – you can't just give up!" Creek's voice was high pitched with fear.
"I did not think through what falling would mean" Joe continued, his eyes fixed firmly on the ground. "The battle was over. I didn't think what would come next – whether more demons would try to break through past our lines after they had been so soundly defeated. I never meant for others of my line to be injured because of my doubts." He looked up at the gaunt figure still seated before the altar. "I deserve whatever fate you have for me. But my husband - Chuy - he has nothing to do with my crime. I accept my fate but please, don't take this out on him."
Zaphiel stared up at the ceiling, watching the shadows dance across the wooden beams. "I have no instructions on this other being you have taken to your bed. So long as he stays out of our way, then we will stay out of his."
Emilio stepped forward, stopping beside Zaphiel's chair. "Is there no room in God's heart for mercy? Not even for one of his children who has hidden his face from his Father in shame?"
Zaphiel glanced over at the quiet figure with a cool smile. "I tend not to question our Father's desires. In this case, it's not HIS heart that has decided Joseph's fate but my own. And I tend to abide by the rules of law." He rose, his tall figure dwarfing the Rev as Emilio sank to his knees in front of his altar. "Joseph, it is by the word of our Father that you are judged a deserter from your line. Your punishment is banishment from the Silver City until such time as the All Father has determined you have learned better. Here you will remain – in the eye of the upcoming storm – and here you will make up for your mistakes by acting as soldier and guardian to the unique denizens of this small town. You will take up arms again and protect the children of Man from the creatures of Darkness that will come pouring out of their little antechamber of Hell when that Veil finally frays. If you fall against them – then into the Void you go until such time as Father chooses to return you to angelic form."
"So essentially" Andre snorted. "You get to get the crap beat out of you again but if you die you're going to get put into cold storage until your Dad decides to take you out again. So don't die. Not a good scene." He gave the kneeling angel a playful slap at the back of his head and pivoted to return to the altar and sit back down beside the chairs. "Dude, I hope you've kept up sword practice. Otherwise you're royally screwed."
"Sounds so much more official when my brother says it" Seraphiel said dryly, helping Joe to his feet. He turned the stunned angel towards him and slapped him gently on the cheek. "Next time, boyo, find me and TELL ME when something is wrong. Can't fix what I don't know." He gently shoved Joe towards his friends and re-took his seat. "Off with you now. Go and be comforted by your friends. You lot are going to need to lean on each other very, very soon."
"So – that's it?" Manfred asked, stunned, letting go of Olivia's arm. "You put us through all that just to tell Joe he can stay?" He
The older angels shrugged. "Would you prefer we strike him dead and leave his ashes in a pile on the church floor?" Zaphiel asked calmly. "Because we can do that too. I just thought this might be a more effective teaching moment for our younger brother."
"No! This is good! This is fine!" Creek called out, glaring at both Manfred and Olivia.
Joe turned back to his elder brothers for a moment, seeing them in their true, light filled forms. "Thank you" he whispered. "I won't disappoint you again."
"See to it you don't" Seraphiel growled. He looked over at his fellow angel with a slight smile. "So – I think you still owe me a drink after I rescued your feathery ass from the Library of Alexandria. What say you brother? Shall we see what trouble we can get into in Los Angeles in our elder brother's club?"
Andre jumped to his feet, a wide smile on his handsome face. "Works for me! I could use a good beer or two."
"It's never just one or two with you, little dragon" Seraphiel sighed, still smiling.