Audrey walked down the halls of the orphanage, favoring her left leg. The bone, which had been broken in three places, had long since mended but it threatened to give out on her if she put too much pressure on it and the longer she used it, the more noticeable her limp was. It was nearly the end of the day, she just had to check each of the rooms to make sure everyone was asleep and then she could slip on her pajamas and hope that she had a dreamless sleep. Audrey never prayed anymore, only hoped, because she knew the big guy upstairs had no interests in hearing her or any other human. He had made that quite clear when he had sent the fallen and an archangel to kill a defenseless baby.
"Just one story," A younger girl, probably around 6, pleaded with Audrey and she felt her patience break. She was tired, her leg and arm hurt, and she was sick of dealing with children all day. Granted she was nearly 18, would be of legal age in only a month but she was still a kid herself. An orphaned kid who had to take care of other children with no parents.
"No, now go to sleep, it's lights out." Audrey snapped, barely managing to stop herself from swearing. She closed the door and continued walking down the hall, checking the rooms along the way.
Everyone told Audrey how lucky she was. She had been thrown through a windshield of a car doing over 70 and had survived. She had recovered from her injuries, and she got into a good orphanage where she got paid for helping out the adults. Audrey didn't see it that way, and every time someone mentioned how lucky she was she felt a burning angry bitterness building inside of her. How lucky she had been to watch her father and then mother die. How lucky was she that it had taken countless months for her to put any weight on her crushed leg without wanting to sob at the pain. How lucky she was to get stuck in some shit hole factory turned home for a bunch of children no one wanted. Yeah, she was just so fucking lucky that she wanted to die but she couldn't just give up.
Audrey had accepted her fate when she had attempted to choke the archangel in the back of the cop car, and she had told Jeep to "Do it." She had known what Jeep had planned, to slam on the brakes and send the archangel flying through the windshield. She had accepted her death then and there but what had happened? Blinding, heart-stopping, gut-wrenching pain. Audrey remembered that clearly enough. Her arm being twisted awkwardly before shattering, her leg breaking quickly after that. Somewhere in there five of her ribs had snapped. The next clear memory is waking up in the hospital, nearly every inch of her body covered in gauze or a cast.
There were other, less unclear, memories that Audrey couldn't tell if she made up or not. Not even being able to let out a whimper as she laid immobile on the desert ground, every inch of her body in fiery pain. She supposed that was probably real. Waking, just for a moment, to see a dark figure pressing a hand right over her heart. She could have sworn that man, because the figure was so large and wide there was no way it could have been female, had wings too.
The memory, real or fake, that tortured Audrey the most was something she knew she had to imagine. A split second before Jeep had slammed on the brakes she could have sworn the archangel had turned his body, managing to engulf her with his wings before they were slammed through the windshield. It was crazy, her mind playing tricks with her to somehow make sense of everything that happened. She wasn't religious, but she knew that angels were suppose to be the good guys. Her mind couldn't handle the pressure of what she had been through and had made the angel to be something that he wasn't. He had been there to kill a baby after all. He had backhanded her so hard she thought he had broken her jaw. There was no way he would take most of the impact of the crash for her.
Audrey closed the door to her room quietly, glancing over at the empty bed that once had been occupied by her roommate. The other girl was quiet and had never gotten angry or told the adults when Audrey had nightmares and whimpered and screamed in her sleep. The girl had turned 18 two days ago and had left without saying goodbye. Not that Audrey cared, she had watched everyone she cared about die so she had promised herself never to put herself into that kind of situation again.
Audrey stripped out of her hand me down clothes in the dark, because she hadn't bothered to turn on the light, before pulling on a large t-shirt and shorts. She crawled under the covers of her bed and laid on her back, pulling out the necklace she had made herself to remind herself that she wasn't crazy, everything that happened at Paradise Falls hadn't been a horrible nightmare. It was a single dark gray feather, attacked to a long piece of thin black leather that she had wrapped around her neck several times. The piece of leather the feather was attached to she had purposely left a little long, so the tip of feather rested just between her breasts.
It was Michael's. Audrey was sure of it. He had someone survived the attack by the other angel and had come back for her. It was the only way she could have lived through being thrown through a windshield doing over 70. A nurse at the hospital told her she had been holding it when the ambulance found her.
Audrey tucked the feather back under her shirt, thinking of the angel Michael. No one had ever had faith in her until he came along. When she had to help deliver Charlie's baby he had been confident that she could do it, and she had. It had been the most disgusting thing she ever did, but it felt like it was also the only truly good thing she ever did. Until she jumped on the archangels back to distract him from hurting Jeep, Charlie, or the baby but she didn't know if choking an angel counted as "good", even if that jackass had been trying to hurt the only people left in the world she cared about.
Yet Jeep and Charlie had abandoned her. At first Audrey felt angry, then bitter, then sadness and finally she accepted what they had done. If she had seen someone go through the windshield of a car she would have expected them to be dead also. But Michael had come back for her, he had faith in her. Too bad Audrey had no faith in herself. She felt lost, afraid, and completely alone. The archangel didn't die on the road, he had gone after the baby again so Audrey didn't even know if any of them were even alive.
Though her mind was swimming with thoughts as it usually was during the nights, when she was left alone and it was quiet enough to actually think, she found herself slowly sinking into sleep.
Audrey followed Jeep and Charlie out of the restaurant, staring wide eyed at all the Fallen who had surrounded the building but all their heads were bowed and there was a path to the cruiser. Jeep was out in front, strong and tense with a single gun but still ready and willing to fight every single one of these people with his bare hands if it meant saving Charlie and the baby, and perhaps even Audrey. Charlie was next, hunched slightly over a baby she never wanted but protecting it all the same. Audrey's hand was curled in Charlie's shirt, her whole body trembling from fear but suddenly her hand was only gripping air.
Jeep and Charlie were gone, and the Fallen all simitanously turned their heads to stare at Audrey. There black eyes greedy and promising a horrific death. Audrey turned and ran back into the dinner, slamming the door behind her.
"Michael!" The name was ripped out of her throat as she stared at the angels limp body that was sprawled across the dirty dinner floor. Blood soaked his shirt, his head was turned to her, those vibrant blue eyes unseeing.
"Just take it and leave my daughter alone," Audrey looked up in confusion.
"Mommy?" Audrey felt like she was 6 again, hearing strange noises and rushing into her parents room for them to comfort her. But she was 17 and the fear was brought on by very real monsters. The biggest one was standing in the dinner, towering over her beautiful mother who was holding a squirming white blanket. "Mom? What are you doing?" Audrey's heart beat painfully against her chest, like it was trying to break out.
"It's just one baby," Her mother, who had always been so strong and self confident looked broken and defeated. A sound like a car backfiring rang through the dinner and a small hole appeared in her mothers forehead before she toppled over.
Audrey let out an anguished scream before launching herself at the angel. He was bigger than her in every way and there was no way she could hope to defeat him but her pain wouldn't let her listen to reason. She punched, kicked, and bit him but he easily grabbed her wrists in an iron grip and wrapped his wings around her. He was saying something into her ear but she was screaming every swear word at him too loudly for her to understand his words. He tried again, she felt his lips move against her ear, but she screamed even louder, not wanting to hear what he had to say.
Audrey woke up biting her pillow and trying to choke down a scream. She didn't move a millimeter, waiting to see if she had actually screamed but she didn't hear any pounding footsteps so she relaxed and tried to calm her rapidly beating heart.
The nightmare was always different, but it didn't change her reaction to it. Sometimes she had to watch her dad die, sometimes she watched both her parents die. Sometimes the Fallen got to her, and she screamed as they tore her skin from her bones. Sometimes she'd be in the desert, several yards away from the destroyed cruiser but perfectly alright, just to turn and see the lifeless bodies of Charlie and Jeep.
Audrey pressed her hand to the feather while trying to push the nightmares out of her mind. She was careful not to push too hard, since she knew just how sharp those feathers were, but just as she was beginning to get her racing heart under control she heard noises. She sat up but didn't have to strain her hearing too much to realize what the sounds were. Water, from the communal bathroom. Someone was showering this late at night? That was against the rules.
Audrey wanted to lay back down and go back to sleep but her conscious, something she thought she had killed a long time ago, chattered at her until she was forced to slip on her boots and walk out of her room. Two weeks ago Audrey had heard noises coming from the bathroom and ignored them. The next morning she had found out that one of the younger kids was being bullied by a couple others, and they took it a step too far the night before hand. The kid had died, of blood loss, on the bathroom floor. Audrey still felt guilty about that. The kid had only been around 7, the other kids only a few years older than that. Audrey was small, but she could have handled a few 10 year olds.
Audrey walked into the pitch black bathroom. Even though it was dark she could still hear that all the showers had been turned on, and most likely the sinks too. Water sloshed under her boots and she felt instantly annoyed, cursing whoever had thought this prank would be funny. They didn't have to mop up this mess.
"Fucking kids," Audrey muttered before standing up straighter and feeling along the wall for the light switch. "Is someone in here? You little bastard, you better fucking come out right now." Usually she tried to watch her language, the lady who paid her and ran the orphanage made her pay a dollar out of her wages for every cuss word but Audrey felt this situation deserved a little swearing. Okay, a lot of swearing as Audrey again threatened the lifes of whoever was in the bathroom as she finally found the switch.
She flipped it on, blinking rapidly to try and get her eyes adjusted to the bright lights. There was a hissing sound before she was suddenly thrown back into the wall. Her head cracked painfully against the tile as she slid down, her head spinning while she tried to gain her bearings. Her shirt and shorts were now soaked, and she was angrier than ever.
"Fucking little monster," Audrey could finally see and she got down into a crouch because the open space was empty. She stared under the bathroom stalls and saw nothing. There was another hissing sound as Audrey sloshed her way over to the stalls, kicking the doors in angrily as she continued to swear.
The last stall door swung open, revealing the back of a kid who couldn't have been older than 10. Audrey had no idea how this little shit had pushed her so hard she had nearly cracked her skull open but he was going to pay. He was in the corner of the stall, facing it instead of her. The hairs on Audrey's neck stood up at the creepy child but she stood up to her full height and clenched her hands into fists.
She was just about to start cussing him out when she heard clicking noises from behind her. Audrey turned just in time to see a bat swinging for her. It slammed into her arm with enough force to topple her over. Audrey caught movement out of the corner of her eye and rolled just in time. Right where her head had been the bat slammed down, cracking the tile with the force. Audrey ignored the throbbing in her arm and rolled to her feet, wondering just what the hell was going on.
That's when she caught sight of the bat wielders face. It was Ms. Gardner, one of the helpers here, but Audrey instantly that she was no longer Ms. Gardner. She moved like a marionette doll, and her eyes were black and hallow. She was also making strange clicking noises as her head swung in Audrey's direct.
A hiss caught Audrey's attention and she looked up to see the child crouching atop the stall. His eyes were the same as Ms. Gardner, looking even eerier placed on a round, child's face. He had one too many joints, his arms and legs longer than there were when Audrey first saw him standing in the corner of the bathroom stall.
Audrey wanted his to be another one of her nightmares, one of the many where the Fallen came after her again but she knew they it wasn't a dream. Audrey launched herself at the Fallen who had taken over Ms. Gardner, right as the child jumped at her. They all went down and Audrey screamed as she felt teeth sink into the tender flesh of her shoulder.
Audrey tried to ignore the child and concentrate on Ms. Gardner, pushing down on the bat the old lady still held as she snapped elongated teeth at Audrey's exposed throat. Audrey couldn't stop the scream as the child started to scratch her back while letting go of her shoulder just to relatch himself into the same wound.
Faintly Audrey heard heavy footed steps and couldn't help herself when she started to pray. Not another Fallen, but she knew how quickly they gathered and knew that most of the orphanage was probably crawling with them. It was only a matter of seconds before she would be completely overtaken, but she refused to give up.
Audrey buckled, managing to knock the child off her back before bringing her fist down into Ms. Gardner's demonic face. Her sharp teeth ripped apart Audrey's knuckles but she continued to punch her, waiting for the moment when the child, or other Fallen, joined into the fight.
Audrey was grabbed by the neck and thrown backwards. She slammed into the sink and gasped in pain as her lungs seemed to stop working properly. Audrey knew she had to get up, and she tried, but her bad leg gave out on her and she nearly slammed her face into the floor. Audrey rolled and tried to use the wall to help her up but that's when she noticed something.
Silence. Absolute silence. The water had even stopped running and the only noise that was heard in the bathroom came from Audrey herself, wheezing gasps as she tried to force air into her uncooperative lungs.
Wide, blood shot green eyes looked around at the bathroom but stopped on a large figure that seemed to take up all the empty space. Audrey nearly screamed as she realized who was standing there. It wasn't bad enough to deal with the Fallen, but now the other monster from her nightmares had appeared.
Audrey forced herself to stand though her body protested vehemently. Her bad leg wobbled threateningly beneath her, her back and head throbbed, while the wound on her neck felt like it had been doused in liquor than lit on fire. But still she stood and let her hands twist into fists because she wouldn't give up. Even with a building full of would-be Fallen and an archangel who wanted her dead, and could kill her without much effort, she couldn't give up.
Gabriel stood in the middle of the bathroom, and it took a moment for Audrey to realize he wasn't wearing his armor and he didn't have that huge spiked mace either. It said something about the man when it took someone a moment to realize they didn't have a rather large weapon.
"You are still unsafe," Those words shocked Audrey, but the also shook her out of her quiet stupor. She sneered at him.
"No shit Sherlock, you are here after all." It looked as if he were about to speak but Audrey continued speaking, gaining steam as she went. "Did you come to finish me off? What? You didn't fill you're quota of killing innocents? Well bad news for you, you dumb son of a bitch, I'm not so innocent and I won't go down as easily as a defenseless baby! What are you waiting for you fucking bastard, come and kill me!" She grabbed the nearest thing, a square of soap, and launched it at him but it bounced off his wide chest harmlessly.
"I am not here to kill you," Gabriel said, his voice a low, rumbling timbre. Even his voice was intimidating, and Audrey hated that it made her knees shake in fear. Like she wasn't afraid enough as it was. "But unless you wish to see more of your companions die, I suggest we leave." Audrey lost some of her anger to confusion. See more of her companions die? She dared look away from the large angel to glance around the room. That's when she saw Ms. Gardner's body, but not her head. Her head was several feet away, cleanly cut at the neck. The boy laid limply in the corner of the room, his back twisted at an odd angle.
"We must go," Gabriel commanded before Audrey could think of anything to say. That's when she could hear the thudding of running feet. More Fallen? Or just the rest of the orphanage coming to check out what all the noise was about? Either way she didn't want to stick around to find out.
Gabriel strode forward, his long legs covering the distance to a stunned Audrey in no time. Audrey feared for her life, despite what he had said and what he had done. What had he done exactly? Did the archangel who had once tried to kill her, save her?
Gabriel and Michael, at first glance, had a lot in common. There both towered over most people, they had startling blue eyes that seemed to see right into a persons soul, and they were both intimidating as all hell. But Michael seemed softer than Gabriel, his eyes not so emotionless and cruel, and he had lines around his mouth and eyes, like he had smiled and laughed a lot through his many years. Gabriel's face was completely unreadable, and there was no indication that there was anything going on underneath the calm, cruel surface.
Light blue eyes scanned over Audrey, taking in all her injuries. Her arm was hurt, though not broken. She could hardly stand on her left leg and blood was pouring out of the wound on her neck and a cut on her forehead she was unaware of. After his assessment he swiftly picked her up, one arm under her knees and the other behind her poor, bruised back and before Audrey could start yelling he took off.
Gabriel crashed through people, his wings expanding before wrapping protectively around Audrey. Before his wings closed though Audrey saw their faces, and their cold, dead black eyes.
Gabriel made short work of getting to the front of the building and crashing through the closed door before he spread his wings and took off. Audrey gripped his cotton shirt despite herself and swallowed down a scream as the angel leveled out and started to fly away from the orphanage.
Audrey wasn't sad about leaving. None of the clothes she left behind were actually hers, and all her possessions had been blown up at Paradise Falls. She always kept the money she made at the orphanage tucked into her boot, so she had that, and the only thing she actually cared about was secured around her neck, Michael's feather. She had been planning to walk away from the orphanage as soon as she turned 18 anyways, and she certainly wouldn't miss working there.
Audrey studied the angel who had first tried to kill her then saved her. She was as confused as ever by him. God had ordered the babies death, Gabriel had come to complete that order, and Audrey had gotten in the way so she was to be dealt with. She understood that, but why come back and save her from the Fallen? Had God told him to save her? Was he really that fickle?
"Why are you doing this?" Audrey had to shout, something she liked doing anyways, to be heard over the wind. Gabriel didn't pretend to misunderstand her and looked down at her. Calm blue eyes met wide, frightened and slightly wild green ones.
"You must be protected," Gabriel didn't have to shout to be heard over the wind, and his voice still sent a shiver of fear down Audrey's spine. It should be against the rules for someone to look that intimidating and have a voice that would make a grown man cry in fear.
"Why?" Audrey asked, her knuckles turning white due to the tight grip she had on the neck of his shirt. Her knuckles brushed against the cold metal collar and his warm skin every once and a while, the contrast was unsettling.
"I do not question my orders, just carry them out." Gabriel looked away from her, signaling the end of their conversation but Audrey was far from done. Perhaps she shouldn't have pushed the angel who could drop her from a very high height, but she had a feeling Gabriel didn't waste time with lies, and that he was telling the truth about protecting her.
"So you never asked why exactly you had to murder a baby?" Audrey wanted to grab his collar and choke him with it as he shook his head without hesitatation.
"Sleep now, your fragile human body needs the rest." Gabriel commanded and Audrey's body felt heavier immediately, like it was just waiting for Gabriel to point out how much it'd been through. She was hurt and sore all over, still losing blood, and now that the adrenaline caused by a life-threatening situation was gone Audrey wanted nothing more than to crawl up in a ball and sleep for a week but she was stubborn and she hated being ordered around, especially by the archangel.
"Fuck you," Gabriel lost a little altitude at the harsh words and Audrey nearly yelled in triumph from shaking the detached angel. "You're going to explain to me what the hell is going on. Starting with-"
"You have three questions and then you will sleep." Gabriel said, his voice low and serious. Audrey felt her eye lids drooping and knew she had to agree with this.
"Why did you save me?" Audrey asked.
"Because I was ordered to." Gabriel answered and Audrey let out a huff.
"Yes, you have one more question left." Audrey's mouth fell open then she snapped it shut as she tried to think of the most important question she needed answered, but there were so many. Her fingers flexed, lightly touching his chest and she pulled back her hand quickly, not wanting anymore contact than was necessary.
"Are Charlie, Jeep and the baby alive?" Audrey hadn't meant to ask that but it slipped out. Her heart rate picked up as she waited anxiously to hear his answer. What would she do if he said no? She had been willing to die with him once, she had no qualms about doing it again. She was positive she was already heading to hell so killing an angel wouldn't tip the scale. Could she snap his wing? That was her only plan. His feathers had deflected bullets, but perhaps there was a weakness somewhere.
"Yes." Gabriel answered and Audrey's whole body relaxed, she hadn't even realized how tense she had been until that moment. Her muscles screamed out in protest as her head lulled to the side.
"Thank god," Audrey muttered, though she didn't think He had anything to do with them surviving since He had wanted them dead. Maybe she should start thanking Buddha or some other deity, but she could hardly think straight as her mind was pulled under a blanket of black.
Gabriel held Audrey a little closer now that it was safe to because she was fast asleep. She was shivering and he knew he had to find a place to settle down and see to her wounds before infection settled in or she lost too much blood, but he was reluctant to pick a spot just yet. That feeling confused him, but he was now used to that feeling.
After so many years of being self-assured that what he was doing was right he felt broken and seemed to be drowning. Gabriel glanced down first at the sleeping girl in his arms, who's soul was bared to him even though she tried so hard to hide it. It was ripped, torn, burned, and some spots it looked like someone had tried to hastily sew it back together but the seams were coming undone, and it was shrouded in darkness. The human girl had not yet seen 18 years but she had sinned so much, tarnishing herself all the way to her soul.
He couldn't stand staring at the pitiful human souls, he had long ago stopped looking at them because they were all dark, and he focused his attention on the order written on his forearm. The elegant, ancient language wrapped around his left wrist than spiraled up his arm, stopping right before his bicep.
Gabriel didn't want these orders, and didn't want to fulfill them but as always, he pushed aside his own feelings to do what He ordered even though that seemed to bring him nothing but pain now.