disclaimer Gabriel, constantine and angela not mine.
A/N- I'm doing this in chunks, rather than chapters, as the chapters themselves are rather small. Hope y'all enjoy.
Angela stepped off the plane,slinging her carry on bag over her shoulder with a small grunt. She took a moment to adjust to the heat. She thought,being a Los Angeles native,she'd have no problems with any kind of hot weather,but she'd forgotten the heat in Louisiana was something else again. It pressed on her like a damp,heavy hand,making it hard to breathe. Why was she here again? Oh yes, she reminded herself wryly,she was on a mission to hide the spear of destiny,save the world. She found the cop part of her brain was still skeptical about all this magic mumbo jumbo. She had lived in denial of her gift for so for long, it was difficult to let go of the restraints she'd put on herself.
She'd gone to her lieutenant to ask for compassionate leave,and he had given it her before she'd even finished asking. After the death of her sister,everyone could see how pale and wan she'd become, but she held no sorrow for Isabel. She had gone to a better place,she was at peace,the kind of peace she'd ached for in life and never found. Should we all be so lucky, Angela thought with no bitterness. She still had the rest of her life before she found out whether or not she was damned for the things she'd done,for the men she'd killed. The lieutenant had told her to take as long as she needed,so she'd called john to tell him where she was going. She remembered the conversation with a sense of frustration and embarrassment. He was a difficult son of a bitch.
"Hi. John,just thought I should call and tell you-" She'd started,feeling awkward. They'd shared so much in such a short space of time, he'd saved her life,and quite literally,died for her. But they knew so little about each other. They were practically strangers,united by experience and a shared gift,but with little to nothing else in common. And since he'd given up smoking,he was even more spiky and difficult to reach.
"don't tell me Angela, I don't want to know." His voice was gruff,as if she'd woken him,but held none of the telltale wheeze she'd gotten so used to." Hide it,drop it in the ocean,bury it,burn it-Wait-" he'd said, his voice becoming panicked "don't burn it."
"Why not?" Angela asked, hearing the suspicion in her own voice. He laughed,but not like he was amused. Now that WAS familiar. Some things didn't change.
"Ever wonder why it got 'lost' after world war two?" He asked her, dryly. Angela felt incredulity rise in her throat
"You can't seriously be telling me the second world war was caused by someone trying to burn the spear?"
"why the hell not? It nearly caused the end of the world last weekend." he'd said. she still didn't believe him.
"Yes,but-" John sighed,sounding exasperated. She could almost see him rubbing his hand over his face, a gesture he had picked up since he'd stopped smoking.
"Angela. It's six in the damn morning, I got about two hours of sleep last night, I am not in the mood to give you a history lesson." She could hear the tiredness in his voice,but it wasn't a physical thing. It was spiritual, his soul was tired. His voice was that of a man who had seen too much and lived too long. She'd heard cops with voices like his, it was a sign you needed a vacation,or retirement. She would bet any money john was not planning on either.
"John,when was the last time you went to confession?" She asked. He was silent for a long time, until she thought maybe he'd hung up,but eventually he spoke
"not since I was a boy" Angela found herself nodding, that was what she was expecting. Then she remembered he couldn't see her,and cursed herself
"Maybe you should,you know. Get rid of some of the burden." He snorted, and again she could almost see the derision on his face. She wondered at the knowledge,she did not know him nearly well enough to be able to hear his expressions in his voice,and yet she could. why was that?
"Angela, my sins are between me and god. I'll confess on the day I die,and not before." she heard a low rasp and knew he was rubbing his face again,his early morning beard sounding like sandpaper down the phone."and besides" he continued "who confesses in this day and age? I mean, when was the last time you went to confession?" he asked,sounding irritated. She smiled to herself as she answered.
There was silence down the line for a second,then he asked
"What the hell for?"
Angela felt a wash of embarrassment,and a touch of unease. She'd gone to confession to exorcise the events of the week before, which circled in her head,keeping her awake at night,sapping her hunger and her strength,until she couldn't hold it in any longer. She couldn't get rid of the feeling of the demon trying to push it's way out of her, trying to use her body as a doorway. She felt tainted,dirty. Confession had helped, she felt cleansed,clean again,but she was still not sleeping well. She couldn't stop seeing John's face staring down at her, concern and fear shining in his black eyes,the feel of his hands on her face,stroking her hair,soothing her,asking her if she was okay,and really wanting an answer. She decided not to answer,but her silence was no defense. He let the question hang for a bit, then exclaimed
"Me? You went to confession because of me?" Angela jerked in surprise and embarrassment
"How the hell did you know-" she started,but He interrupted her,again. This was getting irritating.
"I'm psychic,Angela,so are you."
She was confused.
"Does this mean you can read minds? Can you read my mind?" She'd asked him.
"no, not exactly. My gift doesn't usually extend to telepathy,though I suspect yours eventually will. With two psychics,it's sometimes possible to for them to reach into each others minds. You can't see everything, just what's in the front of their mind,their active thoughts,and most people's thoughts don't come in sentences,just images,fragments of words and phrases. It's a lot like watching a film on fast forward. I searched for an answer,but all I caught was my name. Why did you go to confession,Angela?"
"I- uh..." She'd hesitated,not wanting to tell him what she'd been thinking. She felt a tickle, like someone breathing on the side of her neck. she shivered.
"oh,jesus, I should have known what I'd done would leave you vulnerable to the half breeds. Has someone been sending you thoughts,images? Is it a stranger? Both the angels and demons communicate mind to mind with people they want to become their hosts,it's so subtle you hardly notice the thoughts you're having aren't your own." She began to get irritated
"John,stay out of my head,okay? I'm pretty sure it wasn't an angel." She laughed,wryly. Well,that wasn't a lie. John was no innocent.
"But a demon? How would you know? Is it sending you lust? I'm sure I heard the phrase 'impure thoughts' a moment ago. Lots of times the demons send lust,and anger. They have to ask permission,because of our free will. They can't just take over."
"John,can we we just drop this?" She didn't want to talk about this any more. She was going to have to find a way to block him out of her head.
"No,Angela, this is serious. You could be in real trouble-" Angela let out an exasperated growl
"I'm not, okay!"
"But how can you tell? You're still pretty new to your powers,you're vulnerable to demonic attack-how can you be sure it isn't ?" He demanded, his voice concerned and angry at the same time. Angela screamed in pure frustration.
"Are you a demon,John?" The words fell out of her mouth before she had time to assess the implications. Then she realised. John was smart,he'd figure it out...Shit. Shit shit shit. She clapped her hand over her mouth.
"of course I'm not a demon" He rambled on, not yet catching her drift "what makes you-oh!" She felt comprehension dawn like a clanging bell in his head. Oh Crap. She couldn't say a word,she just let the silence hang. Without knowing how she did it, she reached out to the feeling she had of him in her mind and pushed. Just gently,and suddenly,like a television screen,she could see his face. He was frowning. His hair was rumpled from sleep and he looked like shit,but his dark eyes burned,intense,alive. She saw him run his fingers over his mouth and half smile. She pushed a tiny bit harder and tried to see what he was thinking. She heard him take a deep breath,and felt him shudder. Suddenly she was back in her apartment,sat on her bed next to her half packed suitcase, feeling stunned. The cat jumped into her lap,purring. She stroked it's head absently, and tried to re-arrange her mind into some semblance of order. When John's voice came again, it was soft,and shaken. He sounded genuinely rattled.
"Christ,okay, that's a weird feeling. Don't do that again." She opened her mouth to protest,but he stopped her,his voice still soft.
"Just go,Angela. You've got a plane to catch,remember?" She felt a flash of disappointment, but smothered
it. She sensed instinctively that he wasn't angry with her,just scared. Without saying another word,she hung up the phone. Thoroughly disturbed,she concentrated on packing her bag and busying herself,to try and shake the feeling that they'd been inches away from something very,very powerful. Shit. Why had she ever gone looking for this crazy man?
Returning to the present, Angela shook herself and headed for the terminal. Anything to be out of this heat. She waited impatiently for her case to appear on the carousel. She hadn't packed the spear in her suitcase,she'd put it in the carry on bag with her back up gun,and flashed her badge at the airport. She'd gone through smoothly, The LA customs were used to dealing with the police. She got through the new Orleans airport just as smoothly,and walked out into the sultry heat with a grimace. Here we go. Hailing a cab, she headed for the hotel,and a piece of her past she'd rather forget.
After the phone call, John had lain back on the bed,his body humming like a tuning fork,the taste of cinnamon lingering in his mouth. What the fuck had she just done to him? He'd felt her power since the conversation began,and knew that she instinctively used it to measure reactions,when the telephone robbed her of sight. He hadn't worried about it,she'd probably done it without knowing her whole life. Psychic ability was like that,sometimes. Even when it was hidden,stamped on,it didn't go away. It leaked out,in the form of hunches, intuitions that always proved right,and a certain amount of empathic ability. He'd turned it on her, used it to push into her mind, but had never dreamed she'd be able to do it back. He'd been building his defenses since he was fifteen years old. They had never ever been breeched, not by divine,or even demonic ability. He'd felt her anxiety, saw his mental image of her get stronger when she'd confessed to having thoughts about him.,Then he could taste cinnamon, he felt something as soft as silk brush his neck,and begin to push into his mind. He'd reacted instinctively, throwing up his defenses,and casting her out. But he was scared. Very very scared. Not because she'd invaded his mind, he'd been expecting it, and fair was fair, he did do it to her first,but because it had felt so good. She felt warm,sweet,in his head. Like a soft wind,spreading through his body. Jesus, Jesus.
He wished violently for a cigarette,and fought off the urge. What the hell was he getting himself into with this woman? He'd sworn to himself that enough people had died to save him, that he had poisoned too many futures. He could not let his touch of death infect Angela.
But there was something about her,something different. She was soft, sweet,but that wasn't by any means the whole of her. There was a hard-worn toughness in her soul,that came from looking down the barrel of a gun and knowing you couldn't hesitate,you had to kill,or be killed. She was strong. But she needed training,desperately. Her gift was so large,that like him,she radiated power visible to anyone who knew how to look. She was like a giant walking target,and he'd let her go wandering off into the world. He cursed himself for a fool,and got up to pace.He dragged on a pair of pants but didn't bother with a shirt. Without know he was doing it,he fished in his dresser drawer for his spare packet of cigarettes. Lighting it up automatically,he sucked the smoke deep into his newly clean lungs and coughed,his head swimming. He called himself crazy, but he couldn't make himself stub the cigarette out. Fuck it. It had taken forty years to fuck up the last pair. One cigarette wasn't going to kill him now. He took another drag and resumed pacing, smoke streaming behind him like a bluish white banner in the early morning sunlight. He couldn't just leave her cold out there. It'd be tantamount to a death sentence. He couldn't let her die now, not now he'd killed himself to save her.
But he had no idea where she'd gone. The taste of cinnamon lingered despite the harsh tang of smoke, and he felt a protective urge surge up in his stomach,making him feel vaguely nauseated. Christ. What now?
He strode into the kitchen,stuffing the coffee and filter into the machine,filling the tank thing up with water and shoving the jar under the drip before the machine could even begin gurgling. He turned and leaned against the counter,staring through the heavy duty blinds into the morning light,chain smoking while the coffee brewed. His mind turned restlessly, searching for a solution. She'd been with him nearly every day during the last week,coming here straight after work and mostly just sitting in silence,watching him watch the busy city night. He understood the need, she was alone, and vibrating with a new sense she didn't even know she'd had. His presence seemed to comfort her. The only night she hadn't ended up asleep on his sofa was last night,and he had missed her. Now he knew where she'd been,although most of him wished he'd never asked. A small part of him was glad he'd pushed it, had delighted in the spark of heat her confession had ignited in him. Maybe that was why she'd been able to touch him,because,at that moment he'd wanted her to.
Ah,shit. He pushed the thought away and concentrated on the issue at hand. How could he protect her?
He had almost gone mad, and it had been the tattoo on his arms that had saved him,provided a shield for his mind to keep the voices out until he could filter them himself. She would need a tattoo,the same as his,or similar. Something protective,like a pentagram,or a cross. The pentagram was the symbol of the eternal feminine. That would work. But he had to have her there to give her a tattoo,and that was the big flaw in his idea. He made a mental note of it before he cast it into the recesses of his subconscious. He would need to do that when she got back. He had the tools in a cupboard,somewhere,and he was quite handy with the old ink. He'd done several for himself and his friends,back in the day. He'd need new ink. He resolved to go into the city and get some,later. It was not urgent.
She was most vulnerable when she slept, the automatic guards that partially protected her during the day not in evidence. She could be contacted through dreams,even possessed. But he couldn't think of a way around it. He swiveled to grab a large mug out of a cupboard and dumped a lot of sugar in it,before pouring the fresh coffee in,and taking a long gulp. He burned his tongue, but he didn't notice. He looked at the calendar. Monday. Barring exorcisms,which were fairly sporadic, and had been infrequent this past week,he had nothing to do. He Refilled the mug, grabbed his cigarettes and headed downstairs intent on doing some research. He'd had an idea.
The cab pulled up outside a large plantation house, painted gleaming white and resplendent with colonial grandeur. Angela felt her stomach clench as the cab driver got out to fetch her suitcase from the trunk. She had been dreading this. The whole ride, she had been trying to figure out what she would say, how she would explain her presence. She didn't want to get out of the car. She wanted to apologise to the cab driver and go to a motel, anything to not have to confront this fear. As children she and Isabel had lived here, her fathers commitment to the army taking him and their mother overseas for years at a time. Every time she'd seen their car pull up to take them home to los angeles, her heart would lighten. A reprieve. But sooner or later,they'd be sent back,back into a nightmare her parents had never even suspected. She looked up at the big white house, looming over her as it had when she was a child, throwing it's massive shadow over the driveway in the afternoon light. Oh,god. The cab driver got back into the car, and slammed the door shut to get her attention.
"You getting out or not,chere? " She nodded to him, digging in her purse for the fare. She shoved the bills in his hand, not waiting for her change as she threw open the car door and stumbled out onto the driveway. The Taxi driver revved his engine and beeped his thanks, driving off. She stood alone,on the driveway,and wished that Isabel was here with her. She remembered standing in this exact spot so many times, Isabel's hand tightly locked in hers, drawing strength from her, knowing they always had each other. Sighing, she forced herself to grab the handle on her suitcase and drag it behind her up the porch steps. The old fashioned bell pull was still there,which almost made her smile. She remembered sitting out on the porch with Jeanie, listening to her rolling voice sing soft jazz and blues as they sat on either side of her on the swing,watching the sunset and trying not to think about what would happen when her uncle got home.
Steeling herself, she reached for the bell and rang it, hearing it echo through the empty old house. She stood for a long time waiting, acid churning in her stomach. She had faced down pcp addicts that felt no pain, she had hunted serial murderers, she had even been to hell, but she had never felt so afraid as she did now. She felt herself get colder and colder, waiting for the door to open,and to see him standing there. She looked at her hands,which were shaking,and said a quick prayer for strength. Eventually she heard footsteps, then Jeanie's round dark face was peering down at her through the screen door. She felt herself relax,a smile spreading across her face. Jeanie wiped her hands on a dishcloth and opened the screen door
"That you ma petite ange? What you doin' back here?" She asked, her voice gruff,but her face shining. She enveloped Angela in a bear hug,squeezing her tight and lifting her feet off the ground like she was ten years old again. Angela laughed and screamed as the old black housekeeper swung her around.
"Jeanie! Jeanie, put me down,I'm going to throw up! " she giggled, her mood lightening. At last she felt her feet touch solid ground again,and looked up at Jeanie's smiling face.
"Eh, you as skinny as a supermodel, don't y'all eat in California?" Angela laughed and shook her head. Jeanie rambled on "That's the reason they all be killin' each other and wearin' them funny clothes and takin' drugs. They all starvin'. Don't you worry,honey-lamb, I'll feed you up. When I'm through with you, they gonna have to roll you back on that plane!" Angela felt the smile slip off her face,her mood darkening
"Jeanie, it's Izzy-" The old woman shook her head, her expression suddenly serious.
"I know, ange. I felt her go." The old woman crossed herself. "At first, I worried. She was in a dark place, cher. But,something changed,and she alright now. She with Bondye" She pronounced it bond-yuh. "That was you,weren't it? You always said you'd move heaven and earth to keep her safe." Angela bowed her head, feeling the first sadness creep into her soul.
"I didn't do anything. I couldn't help her,Jeanie, I couldn't save her." She heard her voice crack and fought for control. Jeanie pushed a strand of Angela's coppery hair behind an ear and stroked her stricken face.
"wasn't anythin' you could have done,ange. You fixed the wrong that was done her. That girl, she didn't like it down here much anyway. She happy now. She watching over you. Ain't no more to be said." Angela nodded and wiped her nose with her hand, ignoring the disapproving cluck she earned from Jeanie for it. Jeanie took hold of Angela's suitcase and heaved it up, turning to walk into the house.
"Look at us, standing gabbing on the porch like old men. Where'd I leave my manners? Come in,girl." Angela hesitated at the threshold,feeling the cool air conditioning waft out to her. Jeanie turned at the end of the hallway and gave her a shrewd look.
"He ain't here. Him and the missus,they in Lafayette on a business trip."
"I didn't-" Angela started. Jeanie cut her off with a waved hand.
"You didn't have to. I know that look on your face. Seen it in my own mirror too many times over the years." Angela felt her heart ache for the old woman.
"Why'd you stay? You could move to Los Angeles with me, Jeanie, you could live with me and never have to work again" Jeanie's eyes wouldn't meet hers, they just stared into the middle distance, with regret on her face.
"Time was, I stayed for you girls. Weren't no one going to stand up for you in this house. Then time passed, and all my little ones, they grew up and moved to the city. But I never could. This," Her hand rubbed the worn wooden banister rail "This is my home, ange. My family has lived and worked here for over two hundred years,after we came from Haiti. First as slaves, later through choice. I was born in this house,and so was my mama, and her mama. If it has to end with me, so be it. But whatever happens, I'll end my days in this house." Angela felt tears threaten again and clamped her mouth shut. She'd had this conversation a hundred times. She'd never convince her to leave this place. She sighed and straightened her shoulders.
"So this is how you treat a guest is it? First you make me stand in the godforsaken heat,now you don't even offer me a drink? " She shook her head and wagged a finger in mock reproof. Jeanie chuckled and pretended to slap her.
"You always was full of sass,ange. Come on,you know where the kitchen is. Make your own damn drink. Bon Dieu!" Her warm laughter echoed down to Angela as the old woman went upstairs with her suitcase, and Angela wandered towards the back of the house in the direction of the kitchen. Inside it was hot, a pot half the size of Angela herself bubbling merrily on a massive burner. Gingerly she threaded her way around the pots and various implements scattered over the counter tops. She reached the refrigerator and grabbed two bottles of lemonade, snagging a bag of ice from the freezer,she grabbed two glasses and took the fruits of her labour back out onto the porch, setting them down on the small white painted iron table that stood off to one side. Jumping off the porch she went around the side of the house to look for the deck chairs that always used to be stored there. After a bit of cautious rummaging she found them and hefted them back up the steps, and was just done unfolding the second one when Jeanie reappeared. The housekeeper lowered herself into the chair with a tired sigh, unscrewing the lid on the lemonade and pouring Angela's before she poured her own. Then she settled back, held her drink between her work-worn hands and stared out at the cane fields. By the time she spoke, dusk was settling over the sky like a purple blanket. Angela felt weary,travel worn. She just wanted to go to bed and sleep it off.
"So,ange, you 'bout ready to say why you really here?" Angela looked at Jeanie sharply, And the housekeeper shook her head,chuckling.
"I know you some fancy police lady back west,but I remember when you'd come pickin' in the fields with me and mine,when you and your sister used to mirror every action,every expression. I remember cleanin' your hands when the cane made 'em bleed,you only five years old and crying your poor hearts out. I know you,girl. I know you didn't come back to see your family. You got out when you could,and right you were too. This wasn't no place for two little girls to be left alone. Dangerous. So,out with it." The old woman flapped her hand impatiently.
Angela sat forward and leaned her head on her hands,wondering where the hell she should begin.
"Well, it started with Isabel-" Looking up, she could suddenly see a glint of silver in the distance. Fear stabbed into her like a knife. She stood up, knocking her deck chair over. Jeanie followed her gaze and Angela saw her mouth open slightly, and her eyes round until white showed all the way round.
"You said they were on a business trip!" Angela whispered, her throat closing up so her voice only came out as a whisper. The old woman answered just as quietly:
"They said they wouldn't be back 'til tomorrow." Angela snapped out of her panic suddenly, and gathered up the lemonade and glasses, handing them to Jeanie and righting the chair.
"Quick, take these inside. Stay in the kitchen. I'll deal with this." Instinctively she reached for the gun at her waist, then remembered it would be little to no help here. She couldn't shoot her uncle and his wife, no matter how much he deserved it. She would have to make nice, and hope they wouldn't take offense at her intrusion. She gave herself a shake to clear some of the tension in her arms and shoulders and squared her chin. She knew she'd have to deal with this,sooner or later. It seemed God wanted it to be the former. Well, she would show God she was up to the challenge.
The silver Lexus pulled into the drive on a handbrake turn and sprayed gravel. The doors, opened hurriedly,as the Lexus' occupants got out to inspect their visitor. Angela's aunt Antoinette was a slim petite woman, dressed in a long flowing skirt and feminine blouse, Her long black hair was swept back into a severe bun,but it looked wrong on her, as if her hair should be as flowy and soft as the rest of her. Her face was round and gamine. She looked like a child,but her eyes were tired,and old. Her uncle Samuel was tall and stocky but had the dark auburn hair that was a legacy of the Dodson line. His face was broad and unforgiving, and he walked like a man who knew everything he touched belonged to him. Angela fought to keep her face blank. Antoinette frowned when she saw her, and called out
"Angela? Where's Isabel?" sharply. There was worry in her eyes. She had never seen one without the other, not since the day they were born. Angela swallowed past the lump in her throat and kept her eyes on Antoinette, ignoring her uncle. Antoinette frowned. Angela opened her mouth to speak and Antoinette's eyes widened.
"What happened to-" She was cut off by her husband.
"'Toinette. Show Angela inside. She looks tired." Antoinette bowed her head and nodded silently, holding the screen door open for her husband, then Angela. Angela tried to gesture her in first,but she wouldn't go. Courtesy dictated the guest would go first. Angela gnawed on her bottom lip, as gesture she hadn't used since childhood.
She followed her uncle into the parlour, extremely aware of her pristine surroundings,being extra careful not to touch any of the antique furniture. Her uncle sat in a big easy chair, but he didn't invite her to take a seat,so she didn't sit down. Courtesy,discipline and respect were paramount in Uncle Samuel's household. He would not abide any defiance of his authority. He was a strictly religious man,he imposed the same harsh moral code on himself as he did the members of his family. Antoinette was a mouse, obeying every edict,every order. Angela used to pity the woman, but Antoinette had chosen her own path. The door was right there,she could walk out any time she wanted. She didn't want to. Angela had given up on the woman. Antoinette hurried in the room like a mouse, moving to the bureau to pour him a cold drink and then taking a seat on a hard backed chaise. She did not relax. Samuel took his time, sipping his drink and contemplating the fireplace. Finally he said,
" Well. Angela, to what do we owe the honour of this visit?" Angela looked down at her feet out of old habit, not wanting to meet his eyes. He would see that as defiance. She did not want to antagonise him. She forced herself to remember the reason for her visit, and it gave her the strength to speak calmly.
" It's about Isabel,uncle. She's dead." His only reaction to the news was to narrow his eyes. Angela darted a quick glance at her aunt and saw confusion on her face. Her uncle spoke,and she focused her attention on him
"Well, I cannot say I'm surprised. She was broken inside,weak. Did she kill herself?" Angela felt her mouth open to protest,then stopped herself. Now was not the time.
"Yes,uncle. I would have called and told you sooner, but I have been busy making arrangements for her burial. And besides, I thought this kind of news was best told in person." He nodded at this,but frowned.
"I appreciate your courtesy,But surely, she has not be given a religious burial?She took her own life, she cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Her immortal soul is damned to hell." Angela declined to answer,not knowing how she could get around the question. They had buried her in the churchyard,but in unconsecrated ground. The bishop had compromised after the incident at the hospital. She had told him alone, deciding the police would not believe her story of what had happened, and would either send her to jail or commit her. She didn't fancy trying to explain to her lieutenant about fallen angels and impending apocalypse. She had felt isolated from her peers, flinching every time she saw the cat-like eye-shine that denoted a supernatural presence. She said nothing and she did nothing, but every night she found herself at John's apartment, the only place she could find silence for her mind. The first night she had tossed and turned,finding herself unable to sleep. Finally, she had given up trying and drove across the city to wind up at his door. Answering her knock,he had stood silent in the doorway, the soft light shadowing his features, cradling a glass of scotch and staring her right in the eye. After a long time he had nodded, standing back and letting her walk in. Without speaking he had gotten her a drink, and she perched on the back of his sofa, staring out at the city street,feeling quiet,inside and out. He'd gone about his business,not ignoring her,but not bothering her either. She liked that about him. She'd woken up with the bright sun slatted across her face at dawn, and left before he woke. It was developing into a ritual,but she knew eventually they'd have to talk seriously. She couldn't hide in his apartment forever. She shook herself mentally and came back to the present, mumbling
"No uncle." Her aunt regarded her with narrow eyes,but didn't say anything. Her uncle nodded, pleased with the resolution. He smiled at her benevolently.
"I'm sure Jean-Marie has already made up your room. You are welcome to stay with us." She nodded and mumbled her thanks,then waited for him to excuse her. The old habits came back too smoothly, and she had to steel herself against them. She kept her mouth shut as he dismissed her, and then started to trudge up the old familiar staircase to her old familiar room. At the top of the stairs she saw Jeanie who caught hold of her arm as she passed.
" Ange, I know you did not come to break this news to them. We will talk,in the morning,when the darkness does not listen in." The old woman shivered and crossed herself,then went down the stairs. Angela paused for a moment, thoughtfully, then resumed her journey down the hallway to the other side of the house where the room she had shared with Isabel was located. When her hand reached for the doorknob she heard feet behind her,and turned,expecting to see Jeanie. Instead, she saw her aunt,leaning on a door,holding a glass of brandy and looking at Angela searchingly. There was a short silence, then Antoinette spoke, softly,so as not to be overheard.
"I was surprised to hear about Isabel." She said, her voice innocuous. Angela shrugged.
"It came as a surprise to us all." she answered. Antoinette looked at her more closely.
"You and her were like one person in two bodies, once upon a time." She said. Angela sighed and rubbed her face, feeling like she was going to fall asleep standing up if she didn't go to bed soon.
"Yeah. Once upon a time. She changed,though. She went to a place none of us could follow her." She tried to explain. Antoinette shook her head and pointed with the hand holding her glass.
"Not her. You. You changed." Angela frowned,paying closer attention to her aunt. Antoinette carried on: " You were both like her,once, listening to voices no one else could hear. Then one day you shut off, closed down,like a part of you had died. But it wasn't true,or not entirely true. You were still linked,nothing could have broken that. Everyone said the only thing that would have separated the two of you was death." She smiled bitterly. "but you are not alone,Angela. Half of your soul is dead,but you are still not alone in your skin." Angela's mind whirled. What was her aunt talking about? Isabel's soul was in heaven, she was alone,truly alone for the first time in her life. Angela nodded at the brandy glass in Antoinette's hand.
"He isn't going to like that." she said, her voice quiet. Antoinette flinched as if Angela had slapped her. Then she laughed again,bitter like broken glass.
"He will not be in my bed tonight to find out." Angela shivered and turned away from her, Her aunts laugh following her into the room and making her feel vaguely sick. Her room was just as she remembered it,the twin beds underneath a large bay window that looked out on a cane field,and beyond that, the flat silver of the river delta, glimmering dully in the moonlight,tributaries spreading across the land like like veins. The window was open,and the warm wet stink of the delta swam into the room,bringing with it the noise of the swamp. Insects,animals and birds,all living in the depths of an ecosystem feared and respected by it's human occupants. Angela shut the window and eased off her shoes, turning down the bed that Jeanie had just made for her. She moved back to the door, turning the key in the lock,and leaving it in there. She knew the door couldn't be opened from the other side if the key was still in it. For good measure, she took one of the two chairs that occupied the far corner and jammed it under the door handle. Only then could she relax enough to get undressed. She pulled a thin,loose nightshirt over her head and slid under the sheet,and even though the heat swarmed around her,she fell asleep almost instantly.
Angela opened her eyes in a noisy club. A pounding bass thrummed in her ears,and all around her were thrashing sweating bodies. A flickering blue white strobe swept over the crowd,adding to her disorientation. People seemed to move like stop-motion cartoon characters,heaving and jumping,united in the fierce joy and release the music gave them. She reached up to push a strand of hair behind her ear, and watched her hand seem to stutter and jerk the evidence of her eyes and the sensory input of her nerve endings making her feel vaguely queasy. She felt a hand on her shoulder and spun around,her hand going to her belt where her gun usually was,but didn't appear to be. She found herself face to face with John, his pale face shining in the not-darkness. He gave her a small stop motion smile.
The chaotic punk music shifted into a slower number,with a driving drum beat like a pulse. Like a pounding heart. John took her hand and pulled her closer to him,swaying her from side to side. Feeling unsettled and nervous she moved with him stiff and tense.
"Is this a-" she shouted up at him
"Dream? no." He shouted back. She could barely hear him over the music, or herself. The music seemed to seep into her bloodstream, and she felt herself being picked up by it,carried along.
"Then why are we here?" She shouted into his ear.
"I wanted to talk to you without being overheard" He whisper/shouted back. He slung an arm around her waist and pulled her closer,leaning forward from the waist so she was forced to move back or bump noses with him. He looked unwaveringly into her eyes and she found herself unable to look away from him. His hand shifted to the middle of her back,fingers splayed out,supporting her as he leaned her even further back. Her hands grabbed at his shoulders for balance as he moved with the beat,leaning back,suddenly and bringing her with him. His hands slid up her arms and moved them from his shoulder to around his neck,so she collapsed against him,and they were pressed together,all the way from breast to thigh.
"Don't worry" He said, his hands sliding back down over the bare skin of her arms,making her shiver and finally settling over her ribcage,once again supporting her. "Trust me, Angela. I've got you." Angela closed her eyes and buried her face in his neck,moving like a tree does in the wind-because it must. She could feel every inch of him, could smell the fresh sweat on his neck,and the scent of his cologne. She could feel the heat his body radiated.
For awhile, they danced like that, lost in the music and given up to the primitive need in it-a need that went beyond words and thought, that could only be expressed in the pounding of the drums, the wail of the guitar and the movement of their bodies. Angela felt Johns breath,cool on her heated skin. His hands slid down to her waist, then over her hips, pressing her closer to his body,making the her awareness of him spike up a notch,and her breath come short,suddenly.
"John-" She said, desperate to break this hypnotic mood that swirled around them
!Not now,Angela. Look." He said, turning her around suddenly. The music started to get faster,building toward a climax she could almost taste. She looked over his shoulder and saw a man leaning on the bar, a cigarette in his mouth,watching them through hooded eyes. His eyes shifted away from them momentarily and she saw the tell-tale reflection in his eyes,and felt a thrill of fear.
"Who is that man?Where are we?" She shouted in his ear. He bent down so his mouth was almost brushing her ear when he spoke again.
"I don't know who he is,or what he is,but he's been watching us for awhile. We're in papa midnight's-his club is neutral territory for all beings-it exists as a physical meeting ground,but also as a place of limbo,where those suspended in the ether may communicate with those restricted to the physical plane. I used it to draw you here, I have something for you, to protect you." She nodded. In her dreaming state,it made perfect sense that limbo would be a nightclub in LA. The man at the bar returned his attention to them. Angela felt his eyes meet hers with a sudden stab of fear. His eyes shone,briefly,and he stood up,and began to walk towards him. Angela knew somehow that she didn't want to be near this man,not now,not ever. He radiated power, anger and rage. It rose off his body like waves of heat,and the people (were they people? Angela wasn't sure) around him moved back from him,without even looking up. They too seemed to instinctively sense this man was dangerous,volatile. John turned them both again,and she felt his body tense a moment before he began to draw her deeper into the crowd.
"He can't touch you here, Midnight would never allow it" He shouted in her ear. All around Angela was being shoved,pushed and pulled. She drew back to look into his face,confused.
"Me? What would he want from me?" She yelled back. The noise was almost deafening now and Angela could hardly hear him
"I don't know,but whatever it is,he wants it pretty fucking bad." He replied. His eyes looked over her shoulder again,and they continued moving,except this time, Angela could feel something tugging her back, like gravity, but in the wrong direction. She felt the coppery taste of fear in her mouth.
"What the hell is going on,John?" She yelled, locking her arms around his neck and holding on. His arms tightened around her .
"I don't know!" He shouted back. The force pulling her back got stronger,and with one hand john fished in his pocket for the amulet he had taken from Hennessey's body. He draped it over her neck and the pressure ceased, but Angela sensed it would only be a temporary respite. She could feel the man's rage building outside the protective sphere the amulet provided her. She knew it was only a matter of time before he broke through. She held on tighter to John and shouted in his ear:
"John, why did you bring me here?" She looked up into his dark eyes,blazing with something she couldn't quite describe. She felt herself fall into them,darkness invading her peripheral vision,and creeping in like black flames.
"I found something. A spell. To..." He shouted inches away from her face,but she couldn't hear the last part of what he said. It might have been "to keep you safe" but she couldn't tell.
"How?" she asked. He shook his head
"No time to explain" He said, this time his voice whispered through her mind. He shook his head. "Christ. Well, here goes nothing." She felt,rather than heard him mumble. She felt a slight tugging at her back. Whatever he was going to do, he would have to do it quickly. His hand cupped the back of her neck,and almost without warning, he kissed her. Angela froze. What the...? His mouth pressed against hers,forcing her lips apart and plundering her mouth. Angela couldn't move as confusion and desire warred in her head.
Suddenly his body convulsed and Angela felt something pass from his mouth to hers, slamming into her with the force of a psychic truck. One of his hands fisted in her hair,and the other pressed her against him. The power was sweet,thick,like molasses, as he fed it into her. Angela felt her body react to it,pressing her against him and opening her mouth to him,tasting whiskey and cigarettes. His body convulsed again and she felt another wave, this one so intense her mind went white and her ears rang with the force of it. He lifted his head,reluctantly,and she shuddered as whatever he had passed to her ran through her body,burning hot,making her skin itch. He stroked his hands over her face,reminding her forcefully of the last time they were this close. He kissed her again,softly,and whispered "Angela..." And she fell into his eyes and there was nothing but blackness. The burning sensation inside her intensified,and she rubbed her arms and stomach,trying to get rid of it. The white heat exploded in her mind,and she felt her head fall back and her body tense,as she was carried on a wave of burning sweetness for what felt like eternity.
And then,finally, there was peace. Silence. And for awhile, she floated in the black.
John woke with Angela's name on his lips. He bolted upright in bed and rubbed the goosebumps from his arms. He unclenched his fist from the shirt of hers he'd used to focus on her,and tossed it away. He was no closer to finding out where she was,but at least she had that spell, an old pagan charm for protection he'd discovered in Beeman's basement.
He swung his legs out of bed,yanked on the pants he'd discarded earlier and wandered over towards the window.
He fished his cigarettes out of his pocket and lit one up. Taking a deep drag he stared out of the window, not seeing the city street. He stood like that for a long time, his face distant and closed off. She'd smelled vaguely of a wind that was warm,and wet. Briefly he'd seen fields of something. Corn,maybe,or sugar cane. Maybe that was a clue. He wracked his brain. Where the fuck could she be?
A small noise made him look up but before he had time to react, he felt the cold kiss of steel against his throat. He felt the warmth of the person standing behind him and smelt something a bit like burnt corpses,a moment before a cool female voice said:
!Gabriel." he hissed,angry that he'd let her get the drop on him. "I wondered what hole you'd crawled into." He swallowed and felt the blade press into his adam's apple. Outwardly cool, he took another drag of his cigarette.
And smiled into the darkness.
"Where is she John?" Gabriel demanded. She grabbed his arm and turned him around to face her. Without taking the blade from his throat she gestured toward the lamp with a flicking motion,filling the room with soft yellow light. John raised his eyebrows. She saw the look and said
"I may no longer have divine grace,but I am not entirely without skills." John chuckled, taking a moment to appraise her appearance. She wore the same white outfit she'd worn at the hospital, dirty and charred. Her pale face was smudged with grime, but somehow softer,rounder,more feminine, Her lips were fuller,her eyelashes longer and darker,her eyes wider and tilted up slightly at the corners. Her body was rounder,curvier. That nebulous androgyny she'd held as a divine being was gone,erased subtly with the touch of humanity. He let his eyes roam over her insultingly.
"As far as I was aware,Gabe, all the angels, insofar as they have sex,are male. What happened to you?" He asked, his voice derisive,his eyes glowing with a hard,merciless humour . She slapped his face,and he laughed as his head rocked back and pain flared briefly in his cheek. When he looked back at her, her face was angry
"who are you to question God's actions?" She demanded harshly, which drew another humourless laugh from him.
"Who am I?" He chuckled, taking another drag and blowing the smoke into her face "only human Gabe, just like you." He took another long look at her, his gaze lingering on her breasts,and felt a small stab of triumph when she blushed, at the small flash of anger that flew across her face.
He wondered if he should feel bad for baiting her.
"do you know how lucky you are?" he said, deceptively casual. " Everyone knows what happened to the last angel who fucked up as badly as you did. Compared to him you got off damn lightly Gabe. You got a second chance at heaven,I don't know about you,but I'd say that was pretty forgiving of The Big Guy. I don't know if I'd be so merciful." He smirked at her, and she pressed the knife harder against his throat,her eyes blazing.
"Merciful? You think I'm lucky? I've existed for millenia John, a tool of the Lord,a weapon. I didn't feel, I didn't live. I just was. Angels and demons don't feel pain,hunger, desire.
"I'm cursed John, cursed with feelings. I can't think, all day,every day I am assaulted by these needs, these base instincts." Her breath shuddered in "I'd give anything to get rid of it,John. Anything." John realised something and was suddenly blinded with anger. Quicker than thought he grabbed the hand holding the blade to his throat and used it to shove her into a wall, he slammed her wrist against the wall,ignoring her cries of pain, over and over until the knife clattered to the floor
"What did he offer you?" He roared. "Whatever it was Gabriel, it wasn't worth your soul. You think you've felt pain? You've felt nothing, nothing compared to what he's got in store for you!" He shouted right into her face, enjoying her fear, despising her. He slammed her shoulders into the wall again,hard,she grunted,tears streaming down her face. He would not allow himself to feel pity for her. She didn't deserve it.
"what did he offer you,Gabriel?" he yelled,feeling like his heart was about to explode,his blood pounding at his temples, making everything swimmy.
"He..he said...he said,he would take my soul, and I would never have to feel again...if I just...just..." She stammered, unable to look him in the eye. He shook her by the shoulders,the wild part of him enjoying the way her head snapped backwards and forward.
"What? What does he want from you?" He demanded. Finally, hesitantly, she raised her head, staring him in the eye. Her eyes were filled with uncertainty,her strawberry blonde curls were stuck to her face, the tears bright clean tracks in the grime.
"He...he wants the spear..." she whispered. John shoved her into the wall and away from him, turning away, cursing.
"You fucking idiot." He muttered, not looking at her."Should have deported your ass when I had the chance." Angrily, he stalked over to the bedside table and stubbed out his cigarette in an ashtray,then over to the closet, pulling a shirt off a hanger and wrapping it around himself, buttoning it up askew,not caring. When he finally looked back at her, she'd recovered her composure and was staring at him defiantly.
"I know you know where she is John, and I know she's got the spear. I'm not leaving until you tell me." He smirked again, that humourless smile that left his eyes cold, his trademark.He had no intention of telling her he had no idea where Angela was. As long as Gabriel was with him,he could keep an eye on her.He made his decision and sat down on the bed lighting up another cigarette.
"You'll be here awhile" He said,expelling a stuttering plume of smoke. With the hand holding the cigarette he pointed toward a door with green glass panes.
"Shower's in there." He said, black eyes glinting like obsidian. "I suggest you avail yourself of it. You smell like Hell." His mouth twisted, and he enjoyed the flash of humiliation and anger in her eyes. Mutely,she turned and stormed into the bathroom. With her back to him,John could see the stumps of her wings were no longer there. He wondered how she'd gotten rid of them. He wondered what she'd think of his broken bath. Ahh, fuck her.
He hoped her feet got cut to ribbons.
He heard the sound of running water and called out mockingly:
"Want me to scrub your back,Gabe?"Her crisp voice floated back to him angrily,
"Fuck off John." He laughed, harsh and derisive.
"For shame, How the mighty are fallen!" He called back. No response this time. Point to him.
Standing up, he grabbed his cellphone off the bedside table and strode into the kitchen. He had something to do while she was occupied.
In the kitchen there was some rancid coffee on the burner left over from earlier. He poured himself a cup and dumped as much sugar in it as he could stand, taking a sip he winced as the acidic liquid hit his stomach,but enjoyed the focus it gave him.
From memory he dialed a number on his phone. As it rang,his mind wandered.
He had very few people he could call on for help these days, with Beeman,Chaz and Hennessey now departed for the higher plane. This guy was a Varmint Hunter turned P.I. He used to be a bounty hunter that specialised in preternatural critters, demons,werewolves,now he chased down cheating spouses and fraudulent pencil pushers. John didn't blame him, the job he did didn't exactly promote a healthy lifestyle. People burned out,went crazy,got killed. He could see why the hazards might outweigh the potential benefits. If John could have quit, he would have. But he couldn't. He couldn't stop seeing the demons,no matter how hard he tried, it was his curse,or gift, his cross to bear. He sighed,and his thoughts returned to the present as the phone was answered
"M. Felton, Private Investigator." a bored voice said. John checked his watch, it was nearly four in the morning. Why didn't it surprise him that Mike was awake?
"Hey, Felton, it's Constantine. I need to call in that favour you owe me." The P.I. groaned
"Oh god,John, it's been ten years. I was hoping you were dead." His voice was warm,joking.
"No such luck,bud. I need you to find someone for me." John chuckled,glad to hear the familiarly grizzled voice.
"You do?" Felton's voice was suspicious. "Is that it?"
"um,yeah. Why?" He heard a raucous laugh come down the line.
"Why? Because the last time I owed you a favour we ended up down an abandoned mineshaft in Kentucky, surrounded by Soldier Demons and only one bullet and a vial of holy water between us. Can you blame a guy for being cautious?" John returned the laugh
"Ah, the good old days. Stop whining you pussy, you're alive aren't you?"
"Yeah, just about" He coughed, the heavy dry hack of a life long smoker. "so, you gonna tell me who I'm looking for,or do I have to guess?"
"Hold your goddamn horses, I was getting to it. It's a woman.Goes by the name of Angela Dodson.She's with the LAPD, a detective I think. Friends and family call her Angie. Medium height, slim build, brown eyes, red hair."
Felton's voice carried suprise.
"A woman? Jesus."
"What?" John asked,bewildered.
"Oh, no, nothing. Just never thought you'd surrender." He replied.
"Hardly, she's a friend, and she's in trouble, I just need to know where she is."
"Yeah,sure,buddy,whatever you say. Y'know, I feel kinda relieved. I was getting worried about you John."
John was indignant.
"What?" he exclaimed "You thought I was gay?"
"No,no" Felton havered. "Well, you know...you never showed much interest in the, uh, fairer sex."
John grunted, feeling absurdly offended. He wasn't gay, he was just...just...busy. Even in his head, it sounded lame. Truth was, he hadn't had the time or the patience to deal with the clutter a woman would bring, both emotionally and physically. He needed his isolation,he couldn't afford weakness. The people he loved had a nasty habit of turning up dead, so he'd stopped loving. He thought that meant the people around him would stop dying. He was wrong.
"Look, you're not my goddamn mother, I don't have to explain my love life,or lack of, to you." He said. The sound of running water in the bathroom stopped.
"Look, I've got to go. Call me as soon as you have something."
"Sure thing, John. Listen. I'm glad you're alive. I never thought you'd make it this far." John laughed bitterly at this.
!Ha, me either buddy. Me either. " He said, and hung up.