Louder Than Thunder
This isn't how the world ends; this is how everything changes. For better or worse, mankind is different now.
It didn't take Audrey all that long to realize that after she woke up. Apparently Charlie and Jeep had come back for her with the survivors in Red Ridge and gotten her out of the wreck of a car. But their care hadn't extended to waiting for her to heal and be well enough to follow them where they went. They left her with strangers who, even though they bandaged her physical wounds, fed and clothed her, they weren't her family. Her beautifully dysfunctional family that had died by the hands of angels.
And what was to become of her now? For at least three more weeks she was restricted to her crutches and cast, leaving her fairly useless in helping with almost everything. She couldn't take care of kids, or move things, or take messages. Instead, they relegated her to the endless organization and re-organization of food and clothes, the mindless shuffle and re-shuffle of items and writing down where they had gone and to whom. At times she wanted to scream and throw the stuff she moved, or just lay down and cry and give up. But there was no time for that. People had to be taken care of, defense organized and supplies carefully rationed. Everyone had to stick together and stand firm against the chaos that had erupted around them.
Yet still Audrey couldn't quite feel selfish for wanting to grieve for her mother and father, for wanting to be angry that the only people that she knew around here had left her in the hands of strangers. She thought that after all the shit that she had gone through, especially that hellish over 24 hour period in the diner, she deserved the time to breakdown.
"Audrey, have you finished with the canned goods yet?"
Sighing, Audrey bent backwards and twisted, cracking her sore back into alignment. "No, not yet. I still have three boxes left." Really, she should have at least two helpers. Every able person though were kept busy with physical labor or medical help, not counting cans and shirts.
"Can you try to finish up today? The General has been pretty cranky for the past couple of days and he's decided to jump all over us little people."
"I'm doing my best, so the General can shove it up his ass." Audrey snapped. Almost all the military or pseudo-military personnel were kept busy with exploring the surroundings, coordinating with other surviving bases, or just general defense. The General was a stickler for military precision and expected all of the civilians to be just as well-oiled and ready to jump at his every command.
Grady, the 40 something man that had self-designated to keep an eye out for Audrey, sighed. He knew that she had a really hard time of it but didn't know what to do. He was a perpetual bachelor with little skills with younger people, especially younger hormonal females. So he made it his mission to keep her out of serious trouble, make sure she took care of herself, and hoped that Audrey could take care of her own emotions.
"Just make sure he doesn't hear you say that." he smiled and ducked back out of the warehouse that had been appropriated for supply storage.
Staring at the cans meticulously lined up on the work bench in front of her, Audrey felt the rage swell. She wanted to throw those shiny cans with their dirty and worn labels and make a mess. She wanted to hit the General in the head with one and give him a wound just like the one that had only recently scarred over on her forehead. Instead she wrapped her arms around her body and squeezed, trying to hold in the helplessness that consumed her almost daily, trying to squish out the pain that sucked all her energy. It wasn't like all the mind-numbing tallying, staring at cans and boxes and practically banished from other living people was good for her.
Isolation only left her more desolate and hurt.
I know this isn't much
But I know I could, I could be better
I don't think I deserve it, selflessness...
Audrey hummed as she thumped along the mostly empty streets of the Red Ridge camp. As tiring and depressing as her work was, she had pushed herself to finish up so that tomorrow all she would have to do (at least until the next day) would be to collect her paperwork and turn it in.
She had finally gotten used to the crutches after figuring out that life was too boring being stuck in a bed. They still left her armpits sore, but there was a price for everything wasn't there? At least she didn't stagger around like a drunkard anymore.
On a whim she turned from the direct of the tent that she and twenty other females shared. Some of those women had little children. She wanted to be free for just a little while longer. The night was liberty, it gave her strength to do anything, even if in the past those things had been sneaking out, trying drugs, and...
What would it take
For things to be quiet, quiet like the snow
Audrey shook away the memories of boys and men and everything in between. This wasn't the time for past mistakes. There were too many of them, too much sadness, for her to waste a perfect night full of stars for.
She paused at the hastily erected wall. Mostly it was plywood and scrap. Audrey looked up at the skeleton towers that were large enough to hold maybe two people; that's where the army boys kept watch. She looked to her left, right, and behind her. No one saw her so as stealthily as a girl with a cast and crutches could she slid a panel of sheet metal to one side and squeezed her thin body through. She knew that it was a structural and defensive weakness she should have told somebody about, but figured that if there were enough people (taken over by angels or not) attacking this place then a small hole was the least of everyone's worries.
Edging along the wall and keeping an eye on the nearest tower, she waited until the barely visible faces of the soldiers looked away and then hobbled across the distance to the tumble of boulders that easily kept her from their sight. Every time Audrey accomplished this feat she laughed, calling the army boys stupid and unobservant for not seeing her clumsy self staggering across the sand. Though on the way back in she always gave them more credit, for there were many times that she had almost been caught.
On the other side of the boulders lay a low hill made of more rock and sand. The dusky red color turned to shades of grey under the moon and stars.
All stars could be brighter
All hearts could be warmer
Carefully balanced on the leg that wasn't broken but also healing from injuries, Audrey lowered herself down on the crest of the hill. She put her crutches to one side and crossed her arms behind her head, settling her body into the cool sand to stare up at the stars.
Having never payed all that much attention to any of her high school classes Audrey couldn't really tell you about constellations or the speed of light or supernovas. The only way she knew any constellation names were via pop culture references and cheesy horoscopes. But when she connected the stars in her head to make her own constellations, she didn't feel quite so bad for how rotten she had been to her mom and dad, for the heartache and hardship she caused them in her self-induced 'rebellion'. She felt like she was better than her past self, a little wiser and a little less useless.
"What would it take..." she hummed to herself and stupidly fell asleep outside of the protection of guns and walls and sheer numbers.
Audrey slowly woke with the rising sun. She wiped at the grit in her eyes, confused as to why she was so cold in the tent. With all the bodies in the enclosed space it was never cold in the tent. Abruptly she felt the sand under her body and the wind on her face and realized that she had stayed out all through the night.
"Oh fuck." she swore, casting a hand out to her side for the crutches.
"You should watch your language."
Pausing in her search, Audrey felt a chill slowly fill her spine like liquid and freeze her insides. Angels had always been portrayed as beings of light and goodness and there to protect mankind. The Bible of course told of the evil that man did and so man was justly punished for his transgressions; of course the story went that all of those killed were evil and deserved death. But what about now, when God decided he'd had enough and wanted to wipe out everyone, good or bad or somewhere in between?
"Oh God." she whispered, horrified. She thought it was over, that Michael and Gabriel were done with the lone survivors of the Paradise Falls Diner. It's not like Michael had come to see her as she convalesced, or Gabriel to finish what he had started in the weeks since the car wreck.
She saw the shadow, lengthened by the position of the early sunlight, and it crept up her body to swallow her whole in the shade. There were the wings, the instruments of flight and destruction. And then the outline of the body she knew to be heavily muscled and five times as deadly. Audrey didn't know what to say or do; no amount of pleading had stopped him before and it wasn't like she could get away this time. So she decided to face her fate and turned her body to look at the archangel that had terrorized her in life and occasionally in her nightmares.
The sun created a faint halo around the dark bulk of Gabriel. The shadow colored feathers gently fluttered in the breeze as well as the short black hair on his head. The stiff leather of his armor stayed stubbornly motionless, as did the rest of the inhuman body.
"Hello." Audrey said. She felt like an idiot, but what else was there for her to do? She was helpless and the angel surely knew it.
Gabriel inclined his head slightly in return and folded his wings back, diffusing the halo as he sat down a couple of feet away. Either one could have reached out and touched the other, even if it was a slight stretch.
"You know it is dangerous out here." He cocked his head as if to study her in a better light. "While the Host has retreated, men are still at war with each other." His dark brows barely twitched together, the closest she'd ever seen him to emotion.
"A couple of nights out here are worth more than the weeks in there." Audrey replied, spying her crutches out of the corner of her eye and grabbing them. "Besides, I survived you. I figure I can deal with a couple of assholes." Shivering and wanting to escape the agony of unknowing, she posted one of the crutches upright and began the delicate act of getting up. It involved balancing the crutch so it wouldn't tip with her weight as she applied pressure to haul her body upwards and get her stronger leg under her body; usually it took at least two or three tries.
After her first fall Gabriel gracefully rose to his feet and stepped forward. Audrey shrunk from him as he reached down, scrunching her eyes closed and praying the end would be quick.
Instead, he reached under her arms and gently raised her up as if she were naught but a newborn kitten. He held her waist steady as she wobbled uncertainly and scrambled to get the crutches under her arms. But sand is a tricky creature, and it swirled and swallowed the crutch that bore most of her weight since it supported the side with the cast. Her weight dramatically shifted as the crutch fell into the sand with a small cloud of red and Gabriel pulled her small body into his as she dropped her other crutch in a panic.
Audrey felt the cold metal of the angel's breastplate through her thin secondhand shirt. The arms wrapped around her waist, steadying her body against the taller and stronger one of the holy being, were just as immovable. Her heart beat against her ribs, screaming for escape from the fear and adrenaline. Her throat constricted, contradicting the increased speed of her breath. Her body became a bundle of warring signals to her brain; none more so than the warmth radiating from where the tip of Gabriel's pinky rested against a small patch of skin bared during the quick exchange. It differed greatly from all other touches she had every received in her life: mom brushing her hair, dad helping her stir soup, that boy in sixth grade she let grope her as yet undeveloped breast for $12, the friends that playfully grabbed her arm, and the list went on from pleasant to unpleasant. None compared. Of course that could just be because he was an angel.
"Why Gabriel?" she asked, her voice cracking. Tenderness from a holy being that last time attacked her and the other survivors was a very confusing feeling. The question encompassed so many different things she wanted to know.
"I can answer many whys, but to answer yours you must be more specific." Gabriel replied. The tightness of his grip relaxed, allowing space between their two bodies.
"Why are you here? Why aren't you trying to kill me?" The 'again' was implied, an ominous word that hung around in the sentence no matter that it wasn't spoken.
The angel slowly released his arms around her waist and stepped around her. He released her torso only to ever so gently trail a palm along her nearly scar-less arm and delicately grasp her hand out in front of her. Bending over he grasped the nearest of her fallen crutches and placed it under the arm he held and guided the hand in his grip down to the cushioned handle.
Stepping back, Gabriel answered, "My orders to wipe out mankind have been rescinded for the moment. Michael and his rebellious actions have convinced the Lord to reconsider his decision. For now, angels are no longer taking part in the killing of Adams sons and daughters." Gabriel walked a few steps and picked up the other crutch. "I am here to observe how man saves himself from his fellow man." He handed her the sandy crutch; she didn't bother to wipe it off, simply jam it under her other arm.
"What does God need you to watch for? He sees everything doesn't He?" Audrey grumbled, eyeing him distrustfully.
"Of course. I am here since He asked me to form my own opinion."
Respectfully Gabriel kept his distance, eyeing the mistrusting mortal as she eyed him. He had been skeptical of the hope that Michael carried with him to Heaven and instilled a piece of in their Father. Most of what he saw during his visit was death and blood and betrayal. What angels had begun man continued just as brutally. And one day while he observed a group of youths scrounging amongst their violent elders for food he thought back to the teen that tried to stop him from following orders. He knew what stained her soul; an angel of any rank could read the sins of a mortal as easily as any book. Yet her behavior did not reek of the sheer defiance that she had thrust upon her parents; it was love, desperation, a thread of hope that urged her to fight against his strength and power. It was the feeling of someone weak fighting an oppressive power. As he thought back, he decided that Audrey might be able to make sense of mans senselessness to him.
Audrey struggled with her own mixed feelings. As considerate as the angel may be acting to her now that could easily change. Men were about only a few things to her mind: sex and food. If one appetite was sated they fed the other. To her, angels couldn't be all that different. Instead of food they probably craved the Divine Presence or some such. It wasn't like the Bible talked about the sex lives of angels...
"Good luck with that then." Audrey said, filling in the awkward silence that had grown about them. "I'm just going back to camp."
She went forward with her crutches and tried to follow up only to list to one side and fall. Only an angel stood between her and the red sand, again cradling her against his divine armor.
"You are still not fit to walk properly." Gabriel observed. "You should not have left in the first place. It is dangerous, even for those who have survived a Judgement." he intoned, the deep husk of his voice filling the emptiness of the desert.
Audrey glared at him over her shoulder. She was positive that the only change that had ever occurred to his face had been at the very beginning. Otherwise it stayed calmly blank, except the eyes. Even angels had souls, so the old adage that the eyes were the window to it still applied. It was like water; ripples, eddies, undertows and riptides all in constant motion.
The eyes could never lie. They could run and hide, but never lie. So the shaded depths kept their secrets as the fluid blue shifted this way and that.
"You will not make it back at this rate." he stated, looking down at the still healing young woman. "This is not acceptable." and without further ado he leaned over and put an arm under her knees. Audrey squeaked, grabbing the breast plate and a bicep as the large angel cradled her in his muscular arms. The crutches fell to the wayside and were not spared a thought as two large wings stretched and defied gravity as the dark feathers pumped the two bodies into the air.
For the second time that morning Audrey's young heart started up a terrible beat as the ground got smaller and the landscape changed. In reality she had only gone maybe a mile and a half away from the Red Ridge campsite. In reality it took her much longer to hobble the distance than it did for Gabriel to fly it. Her eyes were clenched shut so she didn't see the army boys sounding the alarm and scrambling around, unsure whether to shoot or not, and the civilians ran for cover, only peeking out to see what was the matter.
Gabriel landed in the center of camp where everyone gathered for meetings or to hear notices. Almost immediately he was surrounding by M-16's, Glock's, and two tactical shotguns. At the absence of motion Audrey cracked open an eye and gasped at all the weaponry pointed in their direction. Last time she had felt this threatened she was locked up in a diner defending herself from angelic body-snatchers.
"Who are you and what the fuck are you?"
The question growled out around two soldiers in riot gear. The gray hair and hard face of the General peeked out from the broad shoulders of his protectors. He looked very not happy.
Shoving at his broad chest, Audrey slipped her legs out of Gabriel's grip, wobbling uncertainly until she managed to balance herself against the stolid body of the holy being. Her fingers dug into the warm skin of his forearm, finding herself more scared of the General and his lackeys than the angel that induced terror and murdered. Maybe it was the lingering human devotion to the goodness and inherent protection found in God's caretakers of man, or maybe more stupidity coming into play. Either way, Audrey knew that the General couldn't harm her while she stayed at Gabriel's side.
Standing tall, wings outspread and eyes full of holy fire, the angel proclaimed, "I am Gabriel that stand in the presence of God. I am an Instrument of the Lord and do what He bids me. I serve Judgement to all that bring it upon themselves."
With that introduction he promptly ignored all the guns full of bullets pointed at him and escorted Audrey to the edge of the circle. Quite simply, the soldiers were scared shitless by the being before him that glowed with an inner light and that flew right into their midst. Even if the General had ordered all of them to rain bullets on the frightening newcomer they would have sooner turned tail than pull a trigger.
The going was slow, as Audrey hopped along on one leg with her cast cocked to one side so as to not kick the ground and simultaneously keep her precarious balance. Gabriel handed Audrey off to a woman that he read to be a good soul, if somewhat misguided on a few matters, and leaned down from his height to whisper in her ear:
"I will return."
He straightened, letting his impassive face and bright gaze fall upon every other face in that open space at the center of Red Ridge Camp. Everyone he looked at changed in some small way, though not all for the better. He backed away and with a strong flap of his wings became airborne and quickly diminished into the sky.
It took about five minutes of staring into the morning sky before the people were able to shake off the stupor of their first sight of an archangel. Almost unanimously the crowd turned to Audrey, stuck clinging to a woman she only vaguely knew as someone who looked after the kids in the camp.
"Oh shit." she muttered into the deadly calm.
"Fucking angels. Screwing around in our lives like they have a God given right or something." Audrey paused in her counting, cocking her head to one side as she thought over what she said. Wearily chuckling, she shook her head at herself and shuffled a bunch of counted cans to one side. "Ha. They do. Sonuva..." Audrey sighed, feeling drained from everything that had happened in her life.
She turned in her chair; a soldier in his camouflage uniform stood at the ready with Grady standing hesitantly behind him. Like most of the soldiers around camp, he was stony and unapproachable, full to the brim with the importance of his duty.
Taking her new crutches up she slid off her high stool and balanced on the crutches. These were a lot less comfortable than the ones she'd had before since they were made by stuff that the medics found lying around. It seemed that crutches were in high demand.
"You are to come with me."
Audrey raised a questioning brow at Grady. The man looked downright nervous, his face looking as guilty as sin.
"Dare I ask why?"
"That's not my problem."
She stared at Grady, who shuffled around on his feet while his eyes bounced around. Eventually the silence pressured him into speaking.
"I'm sorry Audrey." He flapped his hands around uselessly, stepping away from the soldier as if to distance himself from what was happening. "They kept asking me about you, and I had to tell."
She took a few steps forward as the foreboding settled into the pit of her stomach.
"Tell who what."
"I had to. You know how the General is." he sighed and finally stood still for longer than half a second. "He kept asking around about you, and he heard that I'd help take care of you when you first came here. I had to tell him about what you said in your sleep. And what you told me. I had to."
Audrey didn't remember much about when she first arrived. She remembered being feverish and calling out for her Mom and Dad and Michael and asking Gabriel to leave Jeep and Charlie and the baby alone. It all ran together into a haze of memories and delusions, culminating in a dark sleep left her groggy but healthier. The medics had only mentioned she spoke in her sleep; nothing more.
"What did you tell the General?" Audrey asked, dread joining the foreboding to swirl about in her guts and multiply.
"Come with me, Ms. Anderson." the soldier interrupted. He grabbed an arm and tugged, leaving her helpless to do anything but follow along as best she could.
"What did you tell him Grady!" Audrey yelled as the soldier pulled her out into the dying sunlight. Other members of the camp turned to look at who was causing all the ruckus.
Grady slunk out of the warehouse after them, watching Audrey get pulled along, and she glared over her shoulder at him. He didn't bother calling the answer after her; she would find out what it was he had told the General soon enough.
He was perfectly correct on that point. The soldier escorted Audrey into one of the few buildings used for housing. The largest room in the back belonged to the General, who used it as a bedroom and command center. The cot in the corner and small chest of personal effects testified to the fact that it was more command center than bedroom, as the rest of the space got taken up by maps, desks covered in plans and tallies (at least a third of them being Audrey's work), and people constantly moving in and out and discussing possible plans of action.
When Audrey entered the room, most of the activity stopped and took a backseat. The General stood to one side, by a map of the state, drinking coffee and frowning at the paper in his hand.
The abrupt lack of the soldier's hand gripping her bicep temporarily put her off-balance; she quickly regained it in the face of all the unfriendly looking strangers. Only a couple of the people standing around lacked the camouflage uniform, but even they had some sort of camo article. Audrey knew that there were no civilians here but her.
"I started asking around about you," the General said, walking over to the largest desk in the middle of the room and setting the papers he had been reading down. He took a sip of his coffee, eyeing Audrey over the rim. "Seems that you're an orphan. No mommy or daddy to look after you in this whole world anymore." Bodies shifted almost imperceptibly as the General slid into a tone that lent itself to long talks. "That part isn't so strange; the strange part is I was told you said angels killed them. At first, I was inclined to think we had a cuckoo bird in our nest. Then I heard the rest of the tale, 'bout a young knocked up waitress that was supposed to give birth to the next savior of mankind. The Second Coming as it were." Here, the General narrowed his eyes at her and set his mug down on the corner of the desk. "The whole tale sounded like a bunch of bullshit to me. Of course, when I heard the descriptions of these angels that you shared, well, it matched that gentlemen we met last week."
The General picked up a worn wooden chair and came around the desk, dropping it to the side of Audrey. He pointed at it and turned away from her to slowly pace the room. She looked back at the door, saw that two armed soldiers stood to either side guarding it, and decided that sitting wouldn't be too bad of a decision. So she sat, cradling the two crutches in one hand and letting her cast covered leg stretch out in front of her.
"Considering a lot of things together, this strangely enough all makes sense. The hard-to-kill people, the strange things they can do, and now your friend with wings."
"Gabriel." Audrey interrupted. "His name is Gabriel."
Glaring at her, the General shrugged and continued his slow walk around the perimeter. "Whoever he is, he confirms this crazy tale. And if he's an angel, that would make the the girl and kid that brought you in the waitress and the Savior. Not sure what to make of the strange fella with them though. The father I suppose." he mused aloud.
In a flash of what could only be a holy epiphany, Audrey understood where all this was going.
"You want Charlie's kid." she uttered in horror, the possibilities spreading out before her in perfect clarity. "You want him for yourself."
"You seriously can't think some slut with a half-wit can raise a kid, do you? They'd be more likely to get it killed than raise it, 'specially with all that hardware they left with. I knew I shouldn't have let him take all that." The General frowned to himself, scratching absently at his beard. "But that doesn't matter. We need to know where they went." He came at her from the side, striding over and putting a hand on her shoulder and squeezing to physically pressure her. "I know you know, so tell us where they went before that kid gets hurt."
Audrey looked up at the General's cold eyes and knew that she couldn't let him get to Charlie's baby. Even if they had left her in this stupid place, she couldn't let them be harmed by the likes of some power hungry military man that wanted God-only-knew-what with her little boy.
"Even if I knew where they were, I wouldn't tell you." she whispered, eyes wide.
"That doesn't cut it sister." he replied, straightening up. Before she could guess at what he would do, the General slapped her, bringing Audrey's head whipping around with the smack ringing in the room. A few of the more merciful souls flinched in sympathy, but no one raised their voice or weapons in protest. "I need the information that you have. You may not implicitly know where they're going, but you have an idea. A direction, an area, you have something in that air head of yours that can point me in the right direction." He stood in front of her and leaned over, putting their faces inches apart. "I want what you know and you're going to give it to me."
The rotting smell of coffee wafted out of his mouth and made Audrey wrinkle her nose in disgust and sit back as far as she could. She hated this person who had the power to do this to her, would make her tell whatever she knew with whatever means it took him to get the information that he wanted. She hated the General for what he could do to any one of the people at Red Ridge with no one to stop him.
Frantically, she tried to think of something that would get her out of this mess. She could lie to him, but she didn't know how well or for how long that would work. Any lie she told had the possibility to actually land on Charlie and Jeep, as they could have gone anywhere. She looked over the General's shoulder, her eyes landing on one of the two windows in the room and noticed that the sun had finally gone past the horizon and the only light left was that of the sunset.
"I-" she stuttered, glancing back at the uncaring face of the General, feeling the sting of his slap still. "I don't know."
The General's lips pressed together in a fine line. He stepped back, and this time she saw his hand coming for her.
Audrey fell to the floor; he hadn't slapped her this time, but used his fist. Unwilling tears filled her eyes and a couple slid out to mix with the blood already dripping from her split lip. He roughly nudged her cast with his boot as she tried to sit up, trying to appear not as weak as she was in the face of his determination. But all she could think was that this time, there was no angel to come save her, Michael was gone and Gabriel (despite his strange actions a week before) did not care enough to help men in general or her in particular.
"Give me a direction!" her tormentor barked out, the first time she had ever heard him raise his voice in anger.
She wiped at the blood that tried to flow down her chin and looked up at him. "I don't know." she repeated.
The General's boot came back and she knew with the cold clarity in his eyes that he was going to mess with her mending leg, maybe even re-break it if she continued to defy him. So she did what everyone did in the face of pain and oppression; she prayed.
Three things happened near simultaneously: the last of the suns rays finally disintegrated, soldiers cried the alarm and rang the warning bell, and a large crash made the walls of the house shake. The General aborted his kick and grabbed the gun at his hip, mouth open to shout orders as he headed for the closed and guarded door. Before the guards could open it to let their leader through, it crashed in and everyone ducked out of the way of the flying debris.
From her position on the floor Audrey had to twist around to see what happened as the wood settled around them, luckily harming no one. She gaped in utter shock, not knowing whether to laugh or be afraid.
Gabriel, mace in hand, had stepped through the shattered doorway, ignoring the guards on the floor who gaped at him with their M-16's half raised to shoot him. Everyone else in the room had the same dilemma running through their mind.
"You! What in the Sam hell do you think you're doing?" the General yelled, pulling his sidearm and pointing it at the angel.
Gabriel ignored him and continued into the room, stopping at Audrey's prone form. He knelt at her side as she turned her body to face him.
"I don't get you." she stated baldly.
"I do not understand you either." he replied, studying the split lip and growing bruises on her face. "It would be such a small thing to tell him what he wants to know."
Audrey's face hardened and she glared at the archangel that had nearly killed her once. "Just because you want the baby dead doesn't mean I do. If you want them to get him so bad, you can tell them what you know." she snarled.
And for the first time in quite a few centuries Gabriel smiled; it was only a small upward lift of the corner of his lips, but it existed. She couldn't tell what would happen to her, but Audrey knew to the core of her sin tattered soul that Gabriel did not seek hers or the little Savior's death any more.
"I said I would return for you."
Gabriel looked up at the General who could only gape at the one being that had ever totally disregarded him. The holy fire that raged in the blue eyes, temporarily usurping the usual water-like qualities, put the fear of God (to be very cliche) in the General. His fingers went numb and the Glock dropped out of his hands. Gabriel returned his attention to the teen on the floor and dismissed the General yet again.
Gabriel attached his mace to his leather belt. Once again ignoring the crutches that Audrey couldn't use all that well Gabriel slid one arm under he shoulder blades and the other under her knees. He lifted her and stood as if she were just another feather on his wing and strode out of the room. No one dared attempt to stop him.
"There is nothing here you wish to keep?"
Even though it was uncomfortable, she stuck close to his chest and avoided the looks of the terrified civilians and uncertain soldiers.
"I have some clothes..." she murmured into the steel breastplate.
"They can be replaced. If you have nothing of value here, then we shall leave."
She didn't argue. Any pictures or other mementos of her parents had been in the moving van. Her purse had gone up in flames in the diner along with a couple of pictures and her ID. The only things that had actually belonged to her when she came to Red Ridge were the clothes on her back. Even those were gone now, too destroyed to be mended, and all of the clothes that "belonged" to her were secondhand donations.
Peeking out from the curtain of her violence mussed hair, Audrey gained one last look at Red Ridge Camp before Gabriel spread his great wings to their fullest and took off. The way the ground quickly drew away made her kind of sick so she closed her eyes and turned her face so that her forehead rested on cool steel. Eventually she flattened her face against the metal, the cold feeling delicious against her increasingly bruised face. The wind whipped through her hair and fluttered her clothes; Gabriel held her tightly so while she had many fears, the fear of falling was not one of them. And so, exhausted from her day of work and the interrogation she fell asleep in the arms of the archangel.
Gabriel knew the moment that she fell asleep against him. He tucked her a little more securely against his body, just in case, and arranged her head so that the delicate bruising on her face wasn't smashed against his hard armor. It's new resting place was high up on his shoulder where the thick cotton of his under garment showed out from under his pauldrons and the high collar covered his choker.
Audrey woke on an unfamiliar bed that was certainly much more comfortable than the cot that had been designated as hers in the overcrowded tent at Red Ridge. When she inhaled, the pillow and covers smelled musty, like they hadn't been used in a while and so dust had settled in. As she sat up, the blood rushing through her face made her bruises throb and she grimaced as the pain shot through her head and then subsided to a dull rumble. She touched her lip, exploring the cut that had bled freely earlier. Now all she felt was a scab, but no dried blood on her chin or neck. She could have sworn that it had still been bleeding when they took off, and she couldn't recall having wiped all of it off. Someone must have washed it for her.
Audrey swung her legs over the side of the bed, looking around as she did so. The room was on the small side, only housing the bed she lay on with a dresser on the opposite wall and the window and door opposite of each other. The dust that lined the top of the dresser and windowsill was a testament to the mustiness that she had smelled upon waking. She looked down at her cast and sighed; yet again she was left without crutches and to fend for herself.
Putting all her weight on her cast-free leg, Audrey stood and hopped across the dusty floor to the half-open door. When she pushed it further open the hinges groaned in protest. She peered into the shadowy hallway, seeing only a small hall with three other doors, all closed, and what appeared to be a living room on the opposite end. There was a wide spot on the floor where the dust had been disturbed. With one hand on the wall for balance she shuffled into the hall and made slow progress towards the living room. The closer she got, the more she could make out objects: a couch, coffee and end table, an armoire and a desk with the drawers hanging open. The grimy windows let in some pale light and made the white linoleum in the nearby kitchen glow. The cupboards in the kitchen hung open as well, baring empty shelves but for a couple of cans and plates. Whoever had lived here had left with most of their stuff.
Turning around, Audrey opened the closest door. It was another small bedroom, only it had signs of having actually housed a person. There were clothes on the unmade bed, decorative lamps, a knocked over picture on the dresser, and other odds and ends of life. The room next to it was the one she had just come out of, so she hopped across the hallway to the other two doors. The first directly across from her held a bathroom with a shower/tub combo, toilet, sink, and linen closet. A towel was wadded up in the floor and the toilet bowl was empty of water; Audrey figured that meant the water didn't work. She went to the next room, which turned out to be the master bedroom. A queen size bed, neatly made, dominated the room. The only signs of someone having quickly left was the open closet door with empty hangers, some on the floor, and a couple of mismatched shoes left behind.
The front door opened and closed. Audrey froze up, unsure if she should be afraid; it would probably be Gabriel, and if so, was that necessarily a bad thing?
Exiting the master, she stared down the hall to the living room. Gabriel stepped into view, and halted when he saw Audrey awake and up.
"I assume you are hungry. You have been asleep for nine hours."
Audrey was in over her head. Her life had changed so radically, she just didn't know whether she was coming or going these days.
"Yeah, I guess I am a little."
Gabriel nodded gestured with his right hand towards the kitchen. "Then come." He turned to precede her and then stopped. He looked down at her leg and one side of his mouth downturned in a minute frown. "Mortals heal so slowly."
She watched as he approached and stood beside her. His broad shoulders and chest, not to mention wings, easily filled the hallway and made him seem all the larger and more menacing. Yet still, her fear of him had seemingly diminished into nothing. He bent at the knees and guided her slim arm across his shoulders and around his neck, put an arm about her waist, and straightened. The arm he had placed over his shoulders appeared to be for show only as she didn't have to actually grasp him or rest any of her weight on him.
He carried her like this into the kitchen, where he placed her next to the small dining table and crossed to reach into a canvas sack that she hadn't noticed before on the counter. He pulled out a couple of items and placed them on the table as Audrey took a seat in one of the chairs. He had obtained a loaf of bread, peanut butter, and a red apple.
"Uhmm, did you get anything to drink?" she asked, attempting to not sound ungrateful for what he had done for her.
Without even looking, Gabriel reached behind and back into the canvas bag and pulled out a dented water bottle. He set it on the table to her right, completing the meal. She looked at the food and couldn't help but simply feel utterly lost and confused.
"Why? Why are you doing this?" Audrey asked, looking up at the angel. "Why all of this?" she waved her arms out, encompassing the table, the kitchen, and everything he had ever done to and for her.
In a move that frightened her in a very different way than his violence had, Gabriel kneeled in front of her, hands placidly resting on his thighs. In the gloom of the dusty house his face glowed, and the calm blue of his eyes stared up at her. The grand wings that took him from Heaven to Earth and back were folded back and at rest. The might and power of this archangel, kneeling at her fragile and mending body, made Audrey feel strangely worthwhile and important in a self-conscious sort of way.
"Because you can teach me something that not even Father or Michael have been able to." His right hand lifted and traveled the short distance to her knee where it delicately rested on the joint. His hand molded to it, palm flattening on the ball and his fingers splaying over the thigh above it, almost caressingly on the material of the jeans she wore. He had surprisingly long fingers, looking just as strong as the rest of his body.
Audrey licked her lips; they'd gone dry from nerves. Her eyes darted to the hand on her, another gentle touch that came unexpectedly from him. She went from fingers to broad palm, veins lightly tracing the back of it, and to the wrist covered with leather wrapping halfway up his forearm. Then pale skin pulled taut by the muscle underneath up to his elbow, where a sort of metallic armor elbow pad was attached by more leather wrappings. In between that and his pauldron the bicep bulged, even at rest. Her eyes continued upwards, across his shoulder and up the high shirt collar to his face. She once thought that his face was the most horrid thing she had ever seen; the way it had been so hard and emotionless when he came after them, the eyes a frozen lake that couldn't be penetrated. The unyielding lines of his face, empty of all compassion, were uglier to her than any kind of disfigurement.
"I can't teach anything." Audrey murmured, a minute tremor running through her under his direct gaze and she hugged her arms around her stomach. "I'm probably one of the last people you'd want to learn from."
"You are wrong on that point." Gabriel replied. "You can teach me more than you can imagine right now."
All at once it was just too much. Too much death, too much life, too much change, too much everything. Audrey bowed her head and shuddered with the sobs that she tried to hide. It was of no use, and she cried aloud for all that occurred. People coming and going and coming and going, going, leaving her life and never returning.
She felt Gabriel's large hand leave and heard him stand as armor creaked against leather and his boots scuffed against the cheap linoleum. Just as she thought he was leaving her to cry in peace, his big arms came around her and pulled her into his chest. For the third time he used his greater strength to pick her up, only this time he did not fly anywhere, just sat back down on the floor and held her as close as comfortably possible. Most of her tears dripped into his rough spun cotton shirt, some slipped down his neck and past the iron collar ringing his neck. As he predicted, Audrey taught him something new in those minutes that he held her close and softly whispered in the language that was writ across every archangels body.
Audrey wiped at her face with her hand-me-down shirt and sat back in the angels lap. She felt so ashamed, crying like a baby in this holy beings arms.
"I have seen much worse than a few tears." he said as if reading her thoughts, though surely he read the embarrassment on her face. His calloused finger tips brushed a couple of rogue drops that slid down her cheeks. "I will not let you be alone anymore, Audrey."
That was the first time her name passed his lips and she knew this. The words that preceded it also held great weight. She couldn't express anything else in words, so instead she reached up and looped her arms around his neck and hugged, her soft and damp cheek pressing against his perfect and dry one.
Are we meant to be empty handed?
I know I could, I could be better
I don't think I deserve it, selflessness
Find your way into my heart
EDIT 3/13/11: Art inspired by this done by lily-fox on DeviantArt! Many thanks, kudos, and brownies to her for this lovely gift. h t tp : / / l i l y - f o x . d e v i a n t a r t . c o m / # / d 3 b k q s 5
Uggghhhhh...This took for-frickin-ever for me to write. I kept getting interrupted by papers and other school shit. So not cool! I can't even believe I am writing this...but I did. I liked the movie, even though I kept getting interrupted by a friend who texted through the whole thing right next to me. I wanted to see it again to make sure I got some things straight, but it's already out of every theater near me so... if there's stuff wrong, sorry, I'll fix it when Legion comes out on DVD. The song lyrics belong to The Devil Wears Prada.
Anywho, the movie this fic is based off of I most definitely am not in any way affiliated with, nor making money off the writing of. As a matter of fact, I'm behind on homework because of the silly thing.