At dawn Gabriel walked into the small room that Audrey was using to wake her only to stop when he noticed her curled up in the corner opposite of where the mattress was resting. She instantly averted her face and tried to scrub away any evidence of tears but even without the wet trails down her cheeks her eyes were still bloodshot and puffy.
With the girls kind actions the night before still fresh in his mind Gabriel kneeled gracefully in front of the brunette girl but he was at lost for words. Luckily for him, Audrey had enough for the both of them.
"I hurt everywhere, I can hardly sleep because of it and even when I do manage to nod off I have…" Audrey stopped and glanced at the archangel before looking away. She didn't want to hurt his feelings by telling him he starred in her nightmares, and that those nightmares made her afraid of closing her eyes.
"Tell me how I can help you," The fragile state of humans had always been a nuance to Gabriel, who healed quickly and nothing short of a celestial blade through his heart or a be-heading could kill him. He had suffered countless wounds and had worked through the pain, but it was different for Audrey. His worst wound had healed within a couple hours, he did not know how he'd react if he had to wait days, let alone months, for the pain to ease. Gabriel even considered attempting to heal her but knew it was too big of a risk. He wasn't practiced or skilled enough to do it, and a mistake like the last one could put them both in danger.
"You can't," Audrey rubbed at her eyes in irritation, not at Gabriel but at herself. She could bitch and complain with the best of them but she wasn't weak, and she definitely did not want to appear that way in front of the archangel. "Only pain pills will help and you're a bit conspicuous to go into a store." Audrey eyed the large angels wings with a bit of contempt.
Gabriel was disappointed in himself for not thinking of it earlier.
"There is an abandoned store where I got the food and clothes that we can stop at, can you wait until then?" Gabriel asked, not unkindly. Audrey's chin raised a notch.
"Of course I can." Audrey stood up to prove that she wasn't weak. Her leg was sore and stiff, and her whole body seemed to throb in pain but she had pitied herself all night and that had to stop.
"You should eat first, and then we will be on our way." Gabriel had stood up too and he pulled out a backpack from amongst the pile of clothes. "Take what you deem necessary, I will make you some food." Audrey's stomach twisted at the thought of Gabriel's cooking but once again she was hesitant to hurt the archangels feelings so she held her tongue and set off to find some acceptable clothes to take with her as she thought over her situation.
How quickly things had changed. When Audrey first saw Gabriel she had wanted nothing to do but hurt him, physically or verbally. Audrey knew that there was no way she could hurt Gabriel physically. He had, after all, survived going through a windshield of a car going over 90 and an explosion. She had also believed that besides his bursts of anger, the giant had no feelings, that God had wanted an emotionless zombie who just did His bidding. Last night had shattered the idea of him having no emotions though.
On some level it seemed like Gabriel was just as lost and confused as Audrey was. She didn't understand why he had been crying and she had the feeling that if she asked, he would answer her because he had been nothing if honest with her this whole time. But Audrey knew she wouldn't dredge up whatever had made him so sad last night, at least not now after only a day of knowing him.
Audrey stood up and limped to the kitchen, carrying the backpack. She dropped it by the door and sat down at the table. She almost sighed in relief when she saw the bottled water and a sandwich. No one could mess up a sandwich.
"Thanks Gabriel," The archangel nodded before picking up the backpack and putting the first aid kit, some canned food, and a couple water bottles in it. Audrey took a big bite of the sandwich and immediately regretted it.
It felt like the one time she had been dared to eat a huge spoonful of peanut butter. All the moisture in her mouth disappeared and she found it extremely difficult to chew, let alone swallow the big glob of peanut butter.
"Gabe, we have to talk." Audrey managed to mumble out as she forced herself to swallow. Gabriel turned around from packing the backpack when he heard the nickname. No one had called him that before, not even his brothers. Then again Audrey called him a lot of things that no one else called him, like jackass or bastard. He decided he preferred Gabe to the others.
"What about?" Gabriel asked hesitantly as he watched Audrey peel apart the sandwich and use napkin it had been resting on to wipe away the peanut butter inside.
"Your cooking skills, or lack thereof." Audrey, satisfied that there was now a pound less of peanut butter between the bread, squished the two pieces back together before taking a big gulp of her water. "And I thought I couldn't cook, but it's like you're purposely trying to kill me, and I've lived through too damn much to be offed by choking on peanut butter." Audrey could have hit herself for her run away tongue, so much for not hurting his feelings. "Don't get me wrong, I appreciate this but- wait, do angels even eat? I've never seen you eat before."
"We're made up of light and energy, there's no need for food." Gabriel answered, leaning his hip against the counter as he watched Audrey take a bit of the sandwich and look him up and down.
"Besides you being freakishly large, you look human." Audrey tried not to let her gaze linger, but she was still in pain and a bit sleep deprived so she couldn't help how her eyes snagged on his wide shoulders, large arms that were crossed over a very nice chest and long, lean legs. Michael was exceptionally good looking also, she wondered if all angels were like that.
"You look angel, we came first." Gabriel corrected, sounded a bit insulted which made Audrey laugh.
"Don't like being compared to us lowly beings, huh?" Audrey asked as she finished off her sandwich and took another sip of her water.
"Not when they talk with their mouths full, that was perhaps the most disgusting thing I've witness." Gabriel muttered in disdain.
"Oh my god Gabriel, are all angels such drama queens or is it just you?" Audrey tried to hide her grin by taking another sip of her water but Gabriel could see the amusement in her emerald eyes. He found that he much preferred them glistening with mirth instead of tears and pain.
"Perhaps, what is a drama queen?" Gabriel decided to not scold her on using the Lords name in vain, though he would talk to her about that later. She was in a good mood and he wished for her to stay that way.
"Someone who overreacts at every little thing," Gabriel pointedly quirked an eye brow at Audrey. She would have been insulted if he wasn't right in his look, she was known to overreact at most things but since Paradise Falls she thought she had that right. Audrey, however, was distracted at how the little movement of his eye brow had broken that outward façade that kept her frightened of him even when he was protecting her. He didn't look apathetic and stony, his whole face had come alive and there was a light in his eyes that made her understand why people wrote stories and filled churches with his face.
"Is something wrong?" Gabriel asked worriedly, noticing her sudden shift in emotions.
"When are we leaving?" Audrey looked away from him because, damnit, she did not want to feel anything more than content with Gabriel. She could comfort him, even be civil towards him and joke around but she was not going to like the archangel because sooner or later he would leave and then where would she be? Completely alone again, trying to pick up the pieces from being abandoned again. She wouldn't, couldn't, do that.
"Now if you are ready." Gabriel was confused at Audrey's stiffness as she nodded and stood up, limping to the door. He ran through the conversation in his mind but he didn't think he did anything wrong. The archangel followed the small girl out, withholding a sigh. "You'll have to hold the pack." He handed Audrey the backpack before carefully picking her up.
Audrey remained stiff in his arms, which was uncomfortable since she seemed to be leaning away from him, for 20 or so minutes until finally her body, too exhausted to hold that position, gave up on her. She rested her forehead against the metal collar around his neck and tried not to think of how disturbing she found that collar.
"Why don't you wear your armor? And where's that big ass hammer?" Audrey couldn't help the smirk as Gabriel's chest expanded with a sigh at her language.
"I did not think it appropriate for me to wear, and my weapon only seemed to frighten you." Gabriel answered, unconsciously tucking her in closer when she shivered due to the cold wind.
"What do you mean it's not appropriate? And what if there's a big battle or something?" Audrey asked, unable to stop her curiosity. She barely managed to hold her tongue as the silence stretched on between them. Just when she had given up on him answering he spoke.
"The armor represents that of a warrior for God, but I have disappointed Him." Audrey frowned in confusion, Gabriel had done what He asked. Could God be so cruel as to discipline the archangel just because he failed to kill Charlie's baby? The answer came instantly to Audrey, yes He could be. He had started the apocalypse and sent Gabriel to destroy humanities last hope. "I have my two daggers in my boots if there is a battle. If my mace is needed, it will come to me."
"Your weapon can move on it's own?" Audrey asked incredulously.
"It is very old and very powerful, and very old and very powerful things sometimes develop a life of their own." Gabriel answered, barely managing to contain his amusement at the disbelieving look on the small girls face.
"That is really disturbing." Audrey commented after a moment of thinking it over. "Will your armor appear if you need it?" She couldn't help the cartoonish image in her mind of the mace and his armor clanking over the land to come to Gabriel.
"No, I tossed it into a volcano." Audrey's sputtered laughter at his deadpanned voice made him look down at her. Her emerald eyes still held a slightly defeated look in them, there was still too much pain and sorrow swirling around in them for Gabriel to look at her too long but there was also a toughness to her. No one could tell how truly strong she was, not by just looking at her. She was far too pretty to be thought of as tough.
"Why would you do that?" Audrey asked, still laughing at the mental image of Gabriel tossing his armor into a volcano.
"Because I had no need of it, and Michael had ruined it." Audrey's laughter was renewed and Gabriel frowned in confusion, not knowing that Gabriel sounded like a pouting child to Audrey. "I could not leave it around for someone else to find, it is not made of earthly materials."
"You threw it in a volcano because Michael ruined it?" Audrey asked, half mocking him. She had once babysat her neighbors two sons. One time one of the boys had refused to touch his action figure because his brother had played with it. That's how Gabriel sounded to Audrey.
"Yes, he struck me across the chest with his sword." That stopped Audrey's amusement and she frowned. "What good is armor if there is a large gash in it? Also, my blood had stained it." The color drained from Audrey's face and she tightened her hold on the backpack, squeezing it to her chest.
"Do angels often fight like that?" Gabriel looked down at the girl again, noticing how pale she had gotten, all the humor now gone.
"No, of course not, angels hardly ever fight." Gabriel was at a loss, he had no idea how to make Audrey happy again. The last time Gabriel had fought another angel was a very long time ago, when Lucifer and his army had risen up against the Heavens.
"Is that why you were so upset last night, after Michael had visited?" Audrey asked softly, and it suddenly clicked for Gabriel. Someone so young, who had seen so much violence in such a short period of time would not understand the relationship between Gabriel and Michael. Audrey was still hurting over wounds she had gotten nearly a year ago, from the car crash but Gabriel had healed from the sword wound Michael had given him within a couple hours. She had only seen them fighting, she had no idea the love between them.
"No Audrey, that is not why I was upset." Gabriel brushed a kiss across the top of her head, praying that she would know peace. Her body relaxed even more against him as he searched for the words to make her understand what had happened. "Michael and I have been brothers for a very long time, since the earth came into creation. There is nothing he could do to me that would make me stop loving him, it is the same with my other brothers."
"Cutting each other up doesn't sound like a very healthy relationship," With the closeness they were sharing, Gabriel could easily pick up on her thoughts. She was thinking about the boyfriend who hit her, and the occasions where her mother would slap her. Gabriel took a deep breath to let out his anger at those thoughts and vowed he would never touch her. Audrey had a foul temper, and a fouler mouth but she did not deserve to be physically beaten because of it.
"That is why I was so upset," Gabriel hadn't told anyone this, he never shared his thoughts or feelings because he was constantly pushing those aside to do God's work. "I was willing to kill my own brother, had actually thought I had killed Michael, because I believed that's what God wanted. Michael had been willing to give up his own life to protect the human race, and I was willing to slay my own brother to destroy it. God brought back Michael, and he protected your two friends and the baby from me but even to save the human race, the same race he was willing to give up his life for, he would not kill me."
Audrey took several minutes to work through all this information, and was thankful that Gabriel remained quiet. Audrey had been called stupid by many people, but she was a lot more intelligent than people gave her credit for. Maybe she couldn't do long division or write a Research paper to save her life, but she did notice things people thought they were hiding. She could hear the self loathing in Gabriel's voice, and she now knew why he had gotten so angry at her in the kitchen when she had called him a would-be baby killer. Gabriel hated himself for his actions, but he had been ordered by God to do these things and the archangel followed through with them no matter his own personal feelings.
Gabriel was also glad for the silence, so he could wonder why exactly he had told all that to Audrey when he couldn't even tell his own brothers that. He came to the simple conclusion that Audrey, with all that she had done and been through, did not judge him or his actions. Yes, she cursed at him, called him names but that was done out of anger and fear. He knew that now, and he also knew that no matter what she said she still didn't think any less, or more, of him. The knowledge that she would not judge him put him at ease the way nothing had in a very long time.
Gabriel flew around the store he had gotten supplies at a couple days ago, making sure there were no Fallen before dropping down to the ground. He set Audrey down gently and she put the backpack on while glancing from the brooding archangel to the store.
"Now what's the problem?" Audrey asked, wondering how Gabriel's brain didn't turn to mush from over thinking everything.
"I do not want to take you inside, incase there are Fallen waiting but I cannot leave you out here either." He glanced around at the wide, open and empty parking lot. Audrey looked around also and felt dread slowly consume her. There were buildings surrounding the store but they all looked as abandoned as the store. A trashcan across the street had been knocked over, the contents spilling across the ground and blowing in the wind. There were no noises except the occasional ruffling of Gabriel's wings as he thought over their situation.
"This town isn't that big but is it all- is everyone gone?" Audrey asked, taking another look around. The store looked moderately modern, like it had only been abandoned in the past month or so. "At the orphanage we weren't allowed to go outside, the building we were in use to be an old church. Did the town look like this?"
"Similar, this one is completely abandoned, your town had a few survivors left." Gabriel's wings fluttered again in irritation, not at anything in particular but just this situation. "Please Audrey, save your questions for later, we cannot stay for long." Gabriel did not want to tell her that the people in this town had been overtaken by rogue angels and demons alike, he was not ready to explain that just now.
"Alright," Audrey sucked in a breath full of air and expelled it slowly before standing up straight. "What do you need me to do?" Audrey was staring at the store like she was about to enter a battle, if she had glanced at the archangel she would have seen the ghost of a smile at her bravery and courage.
"Take this," Gabriel pulled out one of his daggers, which seemed to fit the large angel but it was as long as Audrey's forearm.
"Holy shit, you carry around small swords in your boots?" Audrey wielded the dagger carefully, since it looked wickedly sharp. "If I lose it will it return to me like your hammer does?" Audrey asked with a grin.
"Mace," Gabriel corrected automatically, knowing that the girl would continue to call it a hammer no matter what he said. He bent down and pulled the sheath for the dagger out of his boot before fitting it in Audrey's right boot. "Now it will."
"Awesome!" Audrey twisted her leg and ankle around, but the sheath was comfortable and she barely felt it.
"This is serious Audrey," Gabriel scanned the area again, knowing they had already been there too long, and he had a very bad feeling.
"Serious Audrey." Audrey furrowed her brow and frowned deeply at Gabriel, mimicking the archangels face. Gabriel stared down at the girl and sighed loudly, while closing his eyes and looking heavenward. "Hey! Are you praying because of me?" Gabriel hid his amusement as he continued look upwards.
"Yes," Audrey hit his arm with her empty hand before striding off towards the store. Gabriel pulled out his other dagger before catching up easily with her and walking cautiously into the store first. Despite her mock anger and joking attitude, Audrey followed closely behind the archangel, wary of his wings and making sure she didn't accidently stab him. "What is that smell?"
"Some of the food has gone bad," Gabriel said, choosing not to mention the two dead bodies behind the deli counter. Audrey did not need to know about that.
"The pharmacy is over there," Audrey pointed unnecessarily to the corner of the store, where there was a big sign hanging from the ceiling with Pharmacy on it. "They should have some kind of pain killers." She explained for no other reason than to break the eerie silence. Gabriel noticed her unease and decided to get the pills quickly and leave, they could pick up other supplies at a later date when he was less exhausted and she was not so hurt.
Audrey concentrated on Gabriel because it was better than thinking about the dead silence or the fact that monsters could be hiding in the dark aisles. He moved stealthily, the curved dagger looking even more lethal in his hand. His large wings appeared nearly black in the dim lighting, and they were tucked tightly to his back but Audrey knew they could act as a shield and a weapon when needed. He was big, thickly muscled, and should have moved like the big men she had seen but his booted feet barely made a noise and there was something utterly graceful about his movements.
Gabriel leaned over the counter at the pharmacy, glancing around at the small aisles behind it but there was nothing there. He lifted Audrey over it carefully and set her on the other side before turning around and facing the dark store.
Audrey's hands were shaking slightly from anxiety and fear, that plus her bandaged hand made it difficult to handle the bottles so she put the dagger in her boot before using her good hand to look through the bottles. Seeing the names on them made her stomach twist painfully so she had to force herself to look only at what pills were in them.
"Gabriel?" Audrey found some antibiotics, they weren't what she had been looking for but she had been bitten by a possessed human so they might be useful. She shoved them in the backpack before resuming her looking as Gabriel made a grunt in acknowledgement. "There are some heating pads on the side of that wall there, can you grab a couple?" Gabriel snatched a few before handing them over for Audrey to put in her backpack.
Audrey finally found some pain medication and shoved them in the pack before pulling herself over the counter. Gabriel walked quickly through the store, making sure Audrey was right behind him.
"Oh my god," Audrey gasped out, barely managing to hold down her breakfast as she stared at the bodies piled outside in the previously empty parking lot. They were piled against the door, one body propped up against the door, his face pressed against the glass like he was peering inside. Audrey nearly screamed when it's head snapped to the side and stared right at her, grinning while black liquid oozed out of it's mouth.
"Shh, it's okay, it will not fight us." Gabriel pushed Audrey to his back anyways.
"Why does it look like that?" Audrey whispered in horror. The body could be either male or female, it was far too decayed to be recognizable. It had only tufts of hair on it's otherwise bald head, and it was a sickly yellow and gray color.
"That is what happens when demons possess humans," Gabriel growled out, wanting to storm over and end it's miserable life and send it back to hell but Gabriel knew that's what the demon wanted. The black liquid oozing from it's mouth, and now it's eyes and ears, was poisonous. Deadly to humans and very harmful against angels.
"Demons?" Audrey's voice rose an octave as she stared in growing horror at the demon possessed human. It banged a bloody stump of an arm against the glass, leaving behind chunks of decayed and peeling flesh. Audrey pressed her hand against her mouth, to keep from throwing up or from screaming she wasn't quite sure.
"Angels, when they possess a human can leave it behind without injury, but demons eat the soul. The body still rejects demons, even without the soul, and it rots and decays at a rapid pace. This one will not last much longer." Gabriel was use to death and what came after it, but it had been a long time since demons had been allowed to possess humans. Demon possession was a rarity, despite what humans thought, and it hadn't happened for centuries. "Look away Audrey, you do not need to see this." Audrey, for once, did what she was told and buried her face in the space between Gabriel's wings.
"What is it doing?" Audrey could hear it pounding against the door with the bloody stump and she wanted to scream just to cover up that sound.
"Baiting me, teasing you." Gabriel answered, his hand tightening around the hilt of his mace. It had appeared, just as Gabriel had said, when he had spotted the bodies but he would not move from this spot.
"Oh god, what was that?" Audrey wheezed out after there was another thud and then a sickening ripping sound.
"Nothing, cover your ears." Audrey once again did what she was told and buried her face even more into the archangels back. Gabriel did not want Audrey to know that the body was literally falling apart, and that the rest of the arm had fallen off. He watched as the jaw of the grinning demon possessed body disconnected then slowly started to droop down, the skin cracking and breaking until it fell to the ground.
Not even the fingers in her ears could stop Audrey from hearing the loud screech from the demon before it began to beat the body against the door. Gabriel pulled Audrey out from behind him, pulling her to his chest before shooting off the ground and hitting the sky light with full force. It shattered and Gabriel nearly tumbled from the pain but regained his balance and flew away as quickly as he could, only slowing down when the town was a spec on the horizon.
There was a sharp pain in his shoulder from a large piece of glass, and another in his neck but nothing could distract him from the deep, gasping sobbing coming from his arms. She still had her hands over her ears and her eyes tightly closed, but the image and the sound were permanently burned into her brain.
Gabriel shifted Audrey in his arms, until he was carrying her bridal style, and letting her sob into his chest. Her small body was shaking from the sobs and he had never remembered a time where he felt so useless because nothing he could do would make what she saw any better. So he just continued to fly towards their next safe house.
Special thanks to savyleec, Mikitsu Silverquick, RR, Lexicon, seababe77, winwithwords, and Yes-Man for reviewing Chapter 3!
Hope you enjoyed Chapter 4.