I don't know whether he actually meant to shoot me or not. But he did. I hesitated just a moment too long before my jump – and I paid dearly. Pepper's bullet found purchase in my shoulder.

I had crouched, preparing myself to jump, thinking myself safe from harm now. Pepper was a bumbling idiot, there was no way he could hit a moving target, but halfway through my leap, just as I was beginning the descent, I felt an unbearable pain rip through my left shoulder. I screamed once, a loud and piercing noise, even to my own ears, and glanced down. A bright red spot was blossoming on my shirt, pouring down over my chest and stomach.

I hit the water again, not managing to draw breath beforehand, and so choked on the murky water. I broke the surface, coughing and sputtering and grabbing at my shoulder in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding. However, as I touched the wound, I realized two things.

First: The bullet was still embedded in my skin. It was just below my heart, dangerously close to having penetrated it.

Second: The hole the bullet had ravaged through my skin would not heal until the shrapnel had been cleared out.

In that moment, as I floundered to the opposite shore, desperately trying to avoid Pepper, I realized something else. I could not do it myself.

Friberg was wading out into the water. Apparently he hadn't seen me fall back, but he was searching for me now. With a sudden burst of energy, I sprinted up the shore and through the woods back to the Volkswagen. I wrenched the door open and dove through it, jamming the key into the ignition while ignoring Pepper's indignant cries behind me. Jerking the car into gear, I pealed out of there, only one thing screaming through my mind.

Pain. Pain. Pain.

I couldn't very well call Patch, now that his cell phone was in Pepper's possession. I prayed to whatever gods were listening that he would be at his townhouse.

Gasping, I looked down at my shoulder. Blood was still pouring from the wound, pooling on the seats and staining my jeans. I had nothing to stop it with; I could not move my left arm, and my right arm was occupied, yanking the steering wheel in response to the twisting, turning roads. I was beginning to get lightheaded. Patch's townhouse was only a few more miles. Gritting my teeth determinedly, I pressed on and pressed the gas pedal, forcing myself to focus on the road. Silly Nora, speed limits are for kids.

After what seemed like eternity, I squealed to a stop in Patch's driveway. I barely managed to pull the key from the ignition before I started screaming for him. I stumbled through the door that adjoined the kitchen and fetched hard up against wall. I left a blood stain that Patch would have to forgive me for later.

"Patch!" I cried, a sob leaking into my voice now. Where was he?"

"Angel?" I heard a sleepy sounding voice coming from the back bedroom. "Shouldn't you be in school?" Stirring noises. I was losing consciousness.

"Patch," I said weakly, "help me." With that said, I fell roughly to the floor, jarring my shoulder, eliciting another sharp cry of pain from me.

Patch emerged, rubbing his eyes tiredly. With one horror-stricken glance, he took in my fallen form, bloody and soaked to the bone, suddenly alert and wide awake.

"How I must look right now." I mused from my near lifeless position on the floor. "Help me, please. I can't-"

Patch was at my side in an instant, tenderly holding the back of my head with one hand as he held a bottle of whiskey to my lips. "Drink this, Angel," he instructed with blazing black eyes, "It will help with the pain."

I took a small sip, eye closing slightly before jerking wide open again. "What is that, gasoline?" I coughed and sputtered, choking on the liquid fire that Patch had forced down my throat. I wasn't sure which was worse, the bullet or the alcohol. Well… it was probably the bullet.

But the whiskey had done the trick. The sip I had taken was bracing, and the pain, whether through distraction or the effects of the alcohol, had been a tiny bit alleviated. It was quickly coming back with a vengeance though.

Patch smiled thinly. "Not quite."

"I need… another sip." I grunted and reached for the bottle, expecting it this time, but not quite prepared. It still caused me to cough a little after I swallowed.

"What happened?" Patch asked, not bothering to hide his bared teeth or the furious growl in his voice.

"Pepper." I shook my head, trying to concentrate on not passing out on Patch's bloody kitchen floor. "He stole your phone and texted me to meet you." Patch's eyes flashed, dangerous and foreboding. "I thought he was you, and I – AAH!" I cried out. The effects of the whiskey were gone, burned off by my Nephilim blood, and the pain in my shoulder was more visceral and far worse. Patch's face was alarmed, and he grabbed at me, clutching my body close to his. "He shot me. Patch, you have to get it out. The bullet," I paused to breath and watched his face contort in pure rage, "It's still in there. I can feel it against my heart every time it beats."

"I'll take you to the hospital." Patch was determined, lifting me easily in bridal style, but I clutched at his chest.

"You can't take me there," I gasped, "What will you say when I heal up right away?"

Patch shook his head, whether to clear it or in defiance, I did not know. I knew him well enough to know that he was close to panicking.

"Patch, look at me." He couldn't meet my eyes; he was glancing all around the room in a dazed state.

"What can I do?" He asked, his voice agonized and pained.

"PATCH." I commanded his attention, though my voice was weak and fading at every moment. I was near unconsciousness again. "You have to take it out yourself. Please, do it now." I closed my eyes involuntarily and leaned my cheek against his shoulder.

"Angel? Nora. Nora. Angel, you have to open your eyes and look at me." Patch's hand came to my cheek, frantically trying to shake me awake. My eyes fluttered open. "I can't do that to you. I don't have anesthetic or medical supplies. The pain will be worse than this."

"Please, Patch." It was all I could manage before collapsing against his chest again. If he did not remove the bullet soon, I didn't see how the pain could get any worse. His grip on me tightened with resolve. I could feel Patch moving. He gently laid me on the bathroom floor and brushed my hair away from my face.

"I'll be right back," he promised.

I was becoming conscious again, the pain swelling every time my heart beat against the bullet buried between my ribs. I reached up to clutch at the wound, trying anything, anything to take away the pain. "Hurry," I begged between a sob.

Patch's black eyes flashed once more and he disappeared. I could feel tears slipping down my face, but I was powerless to stop them. It hurt so bad.

Patch was at my side in a moment. He gently reached out his finger to trace my lips, up over my cheek bone and across my forehead. "This will hurt. A lot." He informed me gravely.

"Well, when you put it that way…" I tried to joke, but the effect was killed when I winced halfway through the joke. "Do it." I answered with a curt nod. He face showed the anguish he felt at having to hurt me.

He carefully extended my arm, wincing as I bit my lip to prevent a cry. Pulling a knife from his pocket, he pressed the switch to flip the knife out of its sheath. He lowered the blade to my shoulder and first cut away the fabric. Next, with repeated apologies and reassurances of his love, he sliced into the skin of my collarbone.

I screamed. I screamed in absolute anguish as the knife separated skin and bone. It was a piercing, heart breaking sound that I could not stop or prevent despite my deepest wishes. Patch pulled back to remove his t-shirt, yanking it up and over his head. He balled it up and pressed it to my mouth. "Here, Angel. Try to muffle the noise." He continued his gruesome work. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I love you. Please, please forgive me."

I just kept screaming.

It had taken about thirty minutes, but Patch had eventually found the bullet and removed it. He poured the whiskey over the still bleeding incision before cauterizing the wound with a red hot fire poker.

"Cauterization to stop the bleeding. Angel," he had breathed, "I am so sorry." He'd pressed the sizzling metal to my skin and I had passed out from the throbbing pain. I woke a few minutes later to feel tears falling on my cheeks from above. Patch had me in his arms, rocking us back and forth, as the tears fell from his eyes to land softly on my body.

"I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry."

After I came to again, Patch sealed the wound with glue and carried me to the couch. Laying me down carefully so as to avoid further injuring my shoulder, he placed a soft kiss on my forehead. "I'm going to get you some clean clothes. I'll be right back."

I nodded, the pain still burning through my body. I folded in on myself while he was gone.

Several minutes later, Patch returned, clothes in hand. One of his black t-shirts that was so large it was likely to be a dress on my slight frame, and a pair of clean black boxers.

"Sit up, Angel, let me help you." I complied tiredly, my body exhausted, drained from the events of the morning.

Patch gingerly lifted my arms above my head and changed my stiffened, blood-soaked t-shirt for his much softer, much cleaner one. Next he unbuttoned my jeans and gently released one leg from the fabric, then the next, and finally slipped the boxers over my smooth shins and thin knees. Next, Patch handed me a glass of water and two white pills.

"Just Tylenol," he said with a sad smirk. "If you want something stronger, I can go next door and steal the neighbor's Vicodin."

I smiled tiredly, shaking my head. I tugged on Patch's arm, urging him to sit down so that I could lay my head on lap. We stayed like that for a while; he stroked my face and played with my hair while I slept fitfully. Though the wound was rapidly healing, the pain was still there, lurking behind my eyes and playing tricks on my mind.

"I'm going to kill him." Patch's voice was bold, yet quiet. He spoke with an authority that sent shivers down my spine. I knew his voice enough to sense the venom and danger behind the calm façade that he put up.

"How are you going to kill an archangel?" I asked tiredly. All I wanted to do was sleep.

"I don't know, but I swear to you, I will find a way and I will kill him – a slow, painful, torturous death," He was no longer masking the emotions he felt. "No one will ever hurt my girl like that again, Angel. You will be safe." His voice carried a deadly promise.

I struggled to a sitting position and laid a hand against his jaw line. "It's not worth risking your safety. Please." I pleaded with him, begging for him to see reason. The archangels would kill him if he went against them. What was a gunshot wound compared to that?

"But unlike you, Angel, I can't feel pain." I looked at him questioningly until I realized that I had said that in mind-speak.

"But I can, and that would be much, much worse than any physical pain you can throw my way." I answered before falling back into his lap. Patch reached over me to click the television on before leaning down to press his lips to mine.

"Well, I can feel that much at least." He answered, his lips still against mine.

"I know," I answered.

"Sleep, Angel. No one will touch my girl as long as I'm here." Patch whispered, stroking my hair back away from my face again.

"Good." I answered reaching up for his hand and tucking it against my chest before falling into another round of light sleep.

I don't own.