|Grave Measures III: Side Games
Author: Guede Mazaka
As soon as the bathroom door closed behind John, Gabriel stopped drawing sigils in favor of bending over and resting his head on the cool glass of the window. He gave into the impulse to bang it once, then pushed himself back up and took a deep breath. That wasn’t going to hurt enough. Nor was it going to do him any good. Best to concentrate on one problem at a time, and since magic tended to backfire quicker than personalities, he’d better focus on finishing his warding spells.
He went at the windows with renewed energy, but as he scrolled magic along one sill after another, the tug in his blood only grew stronger. By the time he had done the last, he was gritting his teeth so hard that he felt one crack. The pain was brief but sharp enough to cut through and let him temporarily rise into a rational mindset.
Problem one: he needed to find out who his opponent was. Problem two: he needed to find the other Gabriel and the Spear of Destiny. Doing that would probably go a long ways towards solving problem one, but in the process he’d butt right up against problem three: he had essentially squared off against Lucifer over a half-demon and an annoyingly untraditional magus. And that inevitably brought up problem four: he wanted to burn out his nose and ears with a hot poker.
But he wasn’t going to do that, and moreover, he couldn’t undo taking Balthazar as a familiar, so all he could do was find a way to deal with that and with his urge to do something similar to John. Oh, and he had to both save Lucifer and keep him from sending up Hell’s armies after all three of them. Just like the old days.
Gabriel scored the last symbol so deeply that a splinter of wood flew out from beneath his nail. He flicked it away and stalked into John’s…bedroom, where Balthazar had appropriated the bed without deriving any enjoyment from it. The demon was tossing and turning, wide awake and frustrated by it.
When he saw Gabriel, he rose up and started to push himself backwards. What Gabriel had to do left a sour taste in his mouth, but he ignored that. There were certain obligations concerning familiars, and now that he’d gained one, he wasn’t going to neglect those. It’d affect Balthazar’s health if he did.
“Up,” he muttered, seizing Balthazar by the arm. He pulled him out of bed, then had to give Balthazar a moment to free himself from the sheets. As soon as the demon was, Gabriel pulled him out into the main area and down to the floor.
Balthazar awkwardly went to his hands and knees besides Gabriel, who had knelt on the edge of the biggest open area. “What do you want?” he shakily said.
He started to bend towards Gabriel’s lap, but Gabriel pushed him back. Confused, Balthazar let Gabriel tuck him alongside Gabriel, head resting on Gabriel’s thigh. He relaxed a little when Gabriel smoothed a hand up and down his back, patting down his shirt, but tensed again when Gabriel let his hand rest on Balthazar’s nape.
“Go to sleep,” Gabriel told him, rubbing gently at the swollen bruise on Balthazar’s neck. The flesh there was nearly black now, and it felt warmer than the rest of Balthazar.
Eventually Balthazar settled down, his arms and legs sprawling out from the tight knot he’d had himself in at first, but he never quite drifted off to sleep. Gabriel first guessed that Balthazar wanted to see what kind of summoning he was setting up on the floor, but then he noticed that Balthazar wasn’t even looking there. Instead he watched Gabriel, still waiting.
He was expecting some task to be asked of him. After all, that was what a familiar was for…and that had been why Gabriel hadn’t needed one. Or wanted one.
Enough with the complaining, Gabriel thought. He just…needed to come up with something. “Tell me about Mammon, and about Constantine and the other Gabriel.”
Balthazar blinked, then finally looked away from Gabriel. His bare feet flexed against the floor, pushing him further up against Gabriel’s hand in tacit encouragement of the caressing. “She had some nonsensical plan for scourging humanity into greater nobility. Mammon, on the other hand, only wanted to better his dad. I figured he’d turn on Gabriel as soon as she’d brought him over.” His fingers curled briefly into fists. “She was a bit more twisted than I’d anticipated.”
“How was she planning to do that?” Gabriel asked. He bit his fingertip, then drew a small sigil on the floor. It flashed red before dulling till it looked as if it’d grown into the wood. He got up and drew three more at the corners of a square, then one in the middle. When he came back to Balthazar, the demon automatically moved to nestle against him. Gabriel started to seal his cut finger, then thought the better of it and let Balthazar do it.
For a moment Balthazar merely stared at the offered finger. Then he leaned forward and opened his mouth so his tongue flowed out, twining around Gabriel’s finger. It constricted and almost immediately relaxed, slipping teasingly off as it lapped up the last few drops it’d squeezed from the cut. “The Spear of Destiny. Plus two women—twins, very strong psychics. Stronger than Constantine, but more unstable. The first one killed herself before I could prepare her. Mammon was supposed to possess one and then be cut out by the Spear of Destiny, but Constantine stopped him and Gabriel. I…heard he got Lucifer to do it. Made a bargain. It’s what he usually does.”
Gabriel rubbed the spit off his finger, then ran his hand through Balthazar’s hair. It was silky and thick, staying slightly ruffled even after he’d moved his hand to Balthazar’s neck. “Why did you come after me?”
Balthazar’s mouth moved against Gabriel’s thigh, but no words came out. His shoulders hunched and he tucked his head down, arching his neck into Gabriel’s fingers without providing an answer.
There were ways of forcing him to answer, but Gabriel felt too tired and nauseated to even consider them. In the end, he pushed Balthazar’s head off of him and got up to draw the large circle and pentacle. “Go to sleep.”
Though Balthazar didn’t get up, he also didn’t obey that, either. He rolled over to rest his chin on his arms and watch Gabriel. “Who are you summoning?”
“I don’t summon. I ask my former colleagues if they’d like to stop and chat. This is mostly to keep them from you or John.” Gabriel drew an extra sigil to protect the join of end and beginning of the line, then began to shrug off his coat.
“You know what’d work better than that? If you didn’t do it in the middle of my living room.” John had finally come out of the bathroom and was now lounging against the wall, hands half-sheathed in his pockets. The fingers of his right hand curled every so often.
Which reminded Gabriel. “I’m sorry about earlier. I forgot you didn’t smoke anymore.”
“I didn’t tell you till then,” John said, eyebrows raised. “Or is this another one of those things you can smell?”
“You wouldn’t need to smell it. Johnny, you’re a classic addict, and it shows.” Balthazar licked at the end of his words, smiling when John abruptly looked away in disgust. Then he startled when Gabriel dropped the trenchcoat on top of him, hands automatically going out to draw it down and head going up to stare at Gabriel.
Shoes clicked over John’s amused chuckle as he pushed away from the wall. He walked around the circle to stand triangulated from Gabriel and Balthazar, upper lip occasionally drawing into a faint sneer. “Cute. I take it our guest’s going to be heavenly, then.”
Gabriel turned to pick up the manuscript from the table, and so he almost missed seeing Balthazar’s slight freeze. The demon neatly covered for it by sitting up nearly at the same time, but his movements were just jerky enough to give him away. He didn’t quite move towards Gabriel, but he also suddenly didn’t seem comfortable where he was. The trenchcoat hung loosely from his shoulders, over-large folds making Balthazar look much younger and more innocent.
It was funny what the eyes did, Gabriel thought. Smell was a little less tricky—for example, it told him that John had calmed down too much. He’d thought the man had needed time to recover from…in the car…so he hadn’t been listening to whatever John had been doing in the bathroom, which Gabriel was starting to regret. “It would be a bad idea to do this outside. You already had some warding spells set up in here.”
“Yeah, and you’ve been playing with them.” John wiggled his fingers at the windows. Then he sighed and pulled up a chair, flipping it around before he took a seat. “Well, not like I’ve gotten to have much input with you so far. God forbid I accidentally invite in a demon and get eaten while you’re dialing heaven.”
“If they showed up in a skirt and batted their lashes at you, you probably would do that,” Balthazar muttered. He pushed himself onto one knee and hesitated there, eyes flicking between John and Gabriel.
Gabriel slowly walked back over, as if he preferred that side, and Balthazar sank back down. It didn’t fool John, but for some reason he chose not to comment. That was also worrying, but the first weak rays of the approaching dawn were stealing through the windows and Gabriel needed to hurry. Calling on another archangel wasn’t the hard part: catching them near enough to the earthly plane for speech to be possible was. Dawn was when they all drew nearest—dawn was the most beautiful time, the time when angels could best understand why God would bother.
The scars on Gabriel’s back suddenly itched like they hadn’t in years. The manuscript was a poisonous weight in his hand, coating it in a phantom oily slick that sank into his skin and rotted his bones.
He grimaced and shook off the feeling, ignoring how the others glanced at him. Raphael…
* * *
The room suddenly filled with light. Searing white light, stinking of myrrh and juniper, that scalded Balthazar’s skin. He yanked Gabriel’s coat higher over his shoulders and scooted backwards, squinting at the being that had appeared in the middle of the circle.
Stop that, Gabriel irritably said. Or rather, impressed on the air, because he wasn’t using his voice, or for that matter, a mortal language.
Balthazar sat up straighter and grinned to himself. At least there was one benefit to letting himself be bought again—he hadn’t been able to understand the private tongue of angels before. Aside from the reek of holy good, they sounded about as cranky and uptight as the higher-ranking demons.
Why call? Aren’t you capable of—oh, Gabriel. The light dimmed in an expressive if dramatic gesture of disappointment, revealing a white-clothed, androgynously beautiful creature hovering over the circle. Angels were supposedly asexual, but the longer they walked on earth, the more they tended towards one or the other: Raphael must have been peeking at humanity an awful lot, for he had a decidedly masculine cast to his face and the arms he folded over his chest were fairly well-developed. Have you fallen down the last steps at last?
That certainly didn’t improve Gabriel’s temper. His hand curled slightly towards Balthazar and his nails briefly elongated into claws. I didn’t ask you here to discuss my personal life. There are larger matters at stake.
And what is more important than the salvation of a soul? Raphael’s wings suddenly snapped out. They were the first pair of full-angel wings that Balthazar had ever seen, and after a moment, he decided they were remarkably unimpressive. The solid white laced with golden beams of light ended up looking amorphous and utterly non-threatening; the wings of angelic half-breeds might have looked “dirtier,” but they exuded an air of coiled power that was lacking here.
John didn’t seem terribly impressed either. Actually, he was barely even looking at Raphael, choosing instead to wander around the circle and study the sigils Gabriel had used. And he…Balthazar frowned and eased himself around Gabriel’s legs, peering at the man.
The salvation of Hell, Gabriel archly suggested. He held up the manuscript so Raphael could stare at it. After a moment, Raphael’s wings flared wide and he shot up a foot, feather-tips wildly fluttering. Hell keeps things contained. Ordered, in a way. If Lucifer goes, the whole place will fall into chaos. You won’t have a war—you’ll have a cataclysm that’ll echo all the way into heaven.
Yes, Constantine was definitely snickering at the conversation. He shouldn’t have been able to understand it, but unsurprisingly, he’d found a way around that. Perhaps that kiss in the car, if such a weak word could apply…but no, that would’ve only given Gabriel blood. For it to work on John’s end, he would have had to have gotten a bit of Gabriel into his bloodstream.
Balthazar suppressed another smile. So much for Johnny’s attempts to stay a maverick. Even Balthazar had to admit that John had done quite well at keeping his independence, but he couldn’t keep it up forever. He was too strong and more importantly, too clear-sighted to not get picked up by someone—unless he wanted to drop back to the foot-soldier ranks, and John had always wanted what he thought was due to him. He wouldn’t do that. Though his luck had, infuriatingly, pulled through again, because Gabriel was definitely a cut above the usual.
Something grated. After a moment, Balthazar realized that it was his teeth locking together. He was simmering with rage, and when he figured out why, he nearly laughed out loud. Damn it all, he hadn’t even wanted this—not like he’d gotten it, and now he was already developing possessive instincts about it. But Gabriel dripped power, tangled black and white and red, and he could bite and touch Balthazar like he wanted him, and not merely like he wanted a tool. It wasn’t the kind of attitude either side had in much abundance, and John was too damn thick-headed to even understand how rare it was. Not to mention he was simply too lucky to deserve it. It annoyed.
Raphael finally descended till he was of a height with Gabriel. His wings snapped into his back and his chin tilted up so he could glower at Balthazar. And this is why you make alliances with the enemy? You shame us.
I’m not one of you now, so that would be an accomplishment. Gabriel’s voice sharpened till it was thin and pointed as a needle. He rolled his shoulders, then casually moved his feet a few inches farther apart, as if bracing himself. This is my plane.
Not naturally. You made yourself fit it. You’re not human, Raphael dismissively said. Then he shrugged and pivoted so he could look condescendingly over his shoulder. As you wish. You still may be able to do a little good as you are—Uriel is missing.
That was significant enough to distract Gabriel’s ire, which was a shame. He had been smelling deliciously of black anger, and the heat of it had nicely warmed Balthazar on the chilly floor. Uriel?
He who fathered the missing half-breed. He also developed attachments, it seems. The angle of Raphael’s long, beautifully-formed nose was begging to be broken. When he flipped out something at Gabriel, like tossing a tip to the doorman, he came close enough to having that done to send him flapping up to the ceiling. He warily eyed the flames that had sprung up along the circle’s outline. You lack respect, Gabriel. You always did.
Raphael whooshed away in an explosion of light just as Gabriel took a step forward, fist coming up. Gabriel snarled and slapped at the rays, shredding them into curling sparks that winked out of existence the moment they touched something solid. One fell on the back of Balthazar’s hand, burning so hotly that he swore and scraped his hand along the floor. Then he brought it to his mouth and sucked at the spot.
“All you need now is to get him a flea-collar and a scratching post,” John dryly said, nodding towards Balthazar. He mockingly danced back a step from Balthazar’s hiss before turning to snag his coat from a chair. The shotgun Gabriel had given him was leaning by the wall nearby, and John took that plus a duffel bag as well.
Then he headed for the door but stopped on the threshold when Gabriel called to him. “Where are you going?”
“It’s morning, so I think I’m okay. No one’s going to risk an attack in broad daylight yet, and I’ve got an appointment.” John started to step through the door, then paused. He turned back, his shoulders and the lines of his face sloping into weary impatience. “With my doctor. Who still won’t let go of the fact that my lung cancer’s magically vanished. I’ll bring back lunch, as long as you don’t have sex in my goddamned bed. All right, honey?”
Gabriel considered that without showing any emotion, then curtly nodded. With an irritated slap on the door-frame, John whisked himself out of the apartment.
Balthazar stood up and took off the trenchcoat, absently folding it up while he watched Gabriel erase the lines on the floor. His ass still ached a little and he bit back a groan, moving his hips to try and ease the pain. “You know he’s lying. He’s the only one who would know where the Spear of Destiny is now…actually, that’s probably what he’s going to get.”
“I smelled it on him. But if that’s true, I might as well let him get it himself. I’m much easier to track than he is, and I think he’s finally trying to hide.” Head cocked, Gabriel squatted on the floor for a few seconds longer. Then he got up and rolled his shoulders again so the muscles stood out through his shirt. He reached over his head and rubbed at one of his shoulderblades, where Balthazar thought he glimpsed the line of a long, ugly scar.
“He knew what you two were saying,” Balthazar added, a little absently. He sidled up a few paces, trying to make out that scar. It was in a very intriguing place for a former angel, and he started to wonder exactly how Gabriel had “walked out” on the war. It had to have been before he killed Vlad Tepes, since full angels fought demons without ever taking on their traits.
When Gabriel spun around, he caught Balthazar off-guard. He also got Balthazar by the arm, yanking him in to stare intensely at his face. “Are you sure about that?”
“I wouldn’t say so if not,” Balthazar protested. Not convincingly enough, for suddenly a tight grip had hold of his jaw, pressing hard against his windpipe so he began to wheeze. “Yes! Yes, I’m sure!”
Gabriel let go of Balthazar’s throat, but kept hold of his arm while Balthazar coughed air back into his lungs. “You don’t exactly have a reason to be honest about Constantine. In fact, you’d rather see me rip into him, wouldn’t you?”
“I’d like to see your successor sent to Hell more. Johnny’s more fun alive and suffering. Anyway, you don’t want him dead.” Balthazar untwisted his hand from Gabriel’s coat and pushed it back at him, trying not to look as bitter as he’d ended up sounding. It was just too pathetic, getting jealous because of John fucking Constantine, and over something that still might end up seeing Balthazar deported.
A hand took him by the jaw again, but this time, Gabriel wasn’t trying to break his neck. Instead he was stroking along Balthazar’s throat, warm rough fingers rubbing gently at the bruises and faint cuts. Occasionally a hint of claw would trace lightly along Balthazar’s hairline, or nick at his earlobe, loosening his muscles so he slowly sank against Gabriel. When a thumbpad ran across his mouth, he found himself willingly sucking it in, nibbling as nail turned to claw and back.
“You hated Hell,” Gabriel suddenly said.
And Balthazar was just relaxed enough to blurt out a true answer. “I always liked it here better. Even before Mammon and Gabriel offered to make it permanent.”
The fingers on Balthazar’s throat slowed even more, half-closing his eyes with their languorous caressing. He was dimly aware of breath floating over his skin, prickling at the bite that was taking longest of all his injuries to heal, and of how it skated higher till it was nearly licking at his mouth. It was as close to heaven as one could get without asking for absolution.
Then Gabriel abruptly moved away, letting go of Balthazar and snapping on his trenchcoat. He only stopped to grab the car keys and was almost out the door before Balthazar caught up. Even then, Balthazar had to run after him without shoes, which wasn’t painful for him, but was going to make it a bit harder to disguise what he was once the sidewalk had ripped off the skin of his soles. “Where are you going?”
“Where are we going,” Gabriel corrected. He opened the car door for Balthazar in a belated gesture of caring—which was mere reflex with him, Balthazar was tempted to think—before tossing something into Balthazar’s lap.
A feather. Half-crumpled, spotted with dark crusts along one edge. It scorched at Balthazar’s hands so he had to wrap it in a bit of sleeve before he could look closely at it.
“You said you could find things others couldn’t—well, how about Uriel? He should stand out nearly as much as I do.” Gabriel started the engine, then glanced over at Balthazar. He paused to take a second, longer, more assessing look. “And we should get you new clothes. And shoes.”
“If you say so,” Balthazar purred. Reckless and stupid and entirely not following the plan, but then again, he wasn’t certain that he still had one. As much as he’d been dreading the price of staying on the earthly plane, he was…beginning to like paying it.
Black gleamed over Gabriel’s eyes; his warning growl shuddered through Balthazar’s body so he dropped his eyes. He slid as the car started to pull from the curb, started to push himself up and was stopped by a hand gliding pointedly over his shoulder and across his back. Balthazar obligingly laid down and arched into the fingers tickling inside his collar, twirling the feather between his fingers. After a while, he thought he had enough of an impression to try and held out his hand. “I need a coin.”
The hand left his neck long enough to drop one into his palm, then returned to tease at the bumps of his spine. He rubbed up against it as he flipped the coin over the backs of his fingers, moving his hand from side-to-side. The coin slipped when he pointed left; he looked up at Gabriel. “Right for clothes, left for the angel.”
“Is Uriel moving?” Gabriel asked. When Balthazar shook his head, Gabriel turned the car…right. Pity he hadn’t loosened up a bit more, but then, Balthazar was thinking there would be time for that. It might even be something to look forward to.
* * *
Angel’s blood, Christ’s blood…both were necessary, John was betting, so if he had one then he was in a position to negotiate. He squinted down the street, wincing when a passing car’s chrome bounced sunlight into his face, and sped up a little once he’d spotted the diner. He sped up some more when he recognized the brown head in the window-seat.
Angela looked good, aside from the butterfly-bandage accents on her heavily bruised temple. John nodded at it as he sat down. “What happened there?”
She shot him a wary look over her eggs, fork stabbing down to pop the yolks. “Why I didn’t really want to meet you. About two minutes after you walked out of my office, I heard some fighting beneath my window and I looked out, only to have someone whack me. I tried to call you afterwards, but you haven’t been home.”
Gabriel. Jesus. John flashed back to claws and stinking breath, and shots cracking down from overhead to scare the shit out of him. The bastard must have been tracking him from the library, at the very least. “Sorry about that. I’ve been…having some problems.”
“Yeah, I can see that. What happened to your lip? And your throat…you look like someone kicked you out the back of a bus.” She cast a hasty look around, but at this hour, the diner was nearly empty. Then she grabbed John’s wrist nearly as hard as Gabriel had and leaned forward, eyes edgy and angry. “What the hell is going on? Is someone trying to bring Mammon through again?”
“Not exactly. Why—” John paused to take his plate from the cook, then turned back to frown at her. “Why would you ask that? Specifically that?”
Her lips thinned out as she leaned back, and for a moment he thought she was about to walk out on him. Then Angela picked up her knife and slashed a great gout in her eggs, letting the runny yolks bleed into the middle of her plate. The half-burned whites crumpled up around the sides, framing it like Arioch’s shattered ribs had his heart. John jerked his head away, but Angela didn’t notice. “Because it’s been—I’ve been—I hope you’re here to take it, because I can’t stand this any more. I can’t. It’s bad enough seeing--seeing--but now I’m—it’s making me dream, and I can’t—I can’t—”
“Not to make excuses, but I did warn you. And you wanted to do it anyway,” John muttered. He tried a forkful of his own eggs, only to discreetly spit it back out. And that was something, considering the kind of stuff he’d deliberately or inadvertently swallowed before. He looked more closely at the cook, who was no longer the grunting old coot he remembered, but some skinny teenager that had crack-withdrawal jitters. Great. He was even going to have to change his snack stops.
“I know, and I don’t blame you. It’s not your fault. But I can’t do this. I can’t help you with anything from your world, John…not and stay sane.” Angela drew a deep, long breath. She put her head between her hands and pressed at her ears, then sat up to look John in the eye. Her gaze was clear, lucid, and utterly determined. “I’ve been practicing. When I…try hard enough, they go away again.”
And John couldn’t really blame her, either, though he wanted to. He wanted to, so much that he could taste the bile burning the back of his mouth. She’d wanted to see and know so he’d shown her, and now she was backing out? Now she could back out? It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fucking fair, that she got to choose and he never had. “Thanks a bunch, Detective.”
“I’m sorry, John. I…” She ducked her head again. Something heavy and wrapped in cloth dropped onto his lap, then almost slid off. While he was catching it, she slipped off her stool and quietly ran out of the diner.
Smart. But then, she’d always been a smart one—smarter than her sister, by the measure of John’s experiences, and there whoever lived longest got to brag most.
He was still alive, but that was always up for grabs. He was getting really tired of that—he hadn’t been lying to Midnite when he’d said he was too old to ignore it, but lately he’d been wishing he could get a rest. Get a pair of eyes to watch his back. His bed had usually been empty, but now he was starting to feel it. Even just someone he could meet up for coffee…too bad he’d pissed off Midnite over that Haitian pot de tęte. And that other little…he’d done something like that to just about everyone else that would understand, so no wonder he was sitting by himself now, chewing on bad scrambled eggs.
John absentmindedly patted at his coat. Then he caught himself and swore, snapping down his hand so fast that he clipped the edge of the counter.
Damn him, Balthazar had had a good point. This wasn’t the old way. And anyway John was sick and tired of playing by the old rules. He was tired--to hell with all of it. Angela had a point, too. Maybe…he could get out. Maybe he could get out of everything, instead of just convincing Lucifer to stop slavering over his soul.
He looked down at the bundle in his lap, then glanced at his eggs. They were looking more unappealing by the moment, so John didn’t feel bad in the least when he shoved them away. He tucked the Spear into a coat-pocket, threw a couple bills on the counter and slid off his stool. One second more to grab his duffel bag and wince at how the disassembled shotgun clattered inside it.
The cook shouted farewell in Spanish after him, to which John waved a hand over his shoulder. He swung out the door and then paused, thinking. As annoying as Gabriel had been, he had saved John’s life, and this was betraying him, in a way.
But it could also be seen as solving the problem for him, and it was certainly going to solve John’s problem, so he shoved down that niggling voice. He needed to see a succubus about a Spear.
* * *
The backroom of St. Germain’s shop was cramped with bolts of cloth jamming the walls, measuring tapes dangling like a small host of nooses and shears poking out where they were least expected. Its doors were more like large shutters with fairly wide slats, allowing him a good view of the fitting room. Balthazar clearly knew his clothing, but he’d never been to St. Germain’s, and his lapses from polished indifference into incredulous glee were…amusing. Arousing as well, which Gabriel did his best to hide from the other occupant of the room.
St. Germain looked about forty, but once one got near enough—and knew to search for it—it was patent that he was in fact much older. His skin had a translucent, brittle quality to it that vaguely reminded Gabriel of mummified skin, and his movements all had a preternatural grace to them that said he was acting to make his guests more comfortable.
“You don’t need to put on the front for me,” Gabriel snorted, drawing back from the door. He leaned against the wall and watched as St. Germain obliged, needle and thread and pins suddenly flying so fast that even Gabriel’s eyes had a hard time making out what the man was doing. Because St. Germain still was human, even if he’d achieved immortality. “So how’s your top client?”
“Oh, as finicky as always. But that’s as it should be. The Morningstar could conjure up the finest suit in the world—absolute perfection, stitches so fine that even a microscope couldn’t find them—but he appreciates flaws. He knows that they can add a special gloss that perfection could never match.” The needle and thread were set down, and then St. Germain spun about to show Gabriel the finished product. He dramatically draped it over his arm to show off the fine shimmer in the cloth. “As you do. You two have a good deal in common, you know.”
Gabriel ran his hand over the surface of the coat, palm a hair away from the fabric. When he was satisfied that St. Germain hadn’t sneaked any traps into it, he nodded. “I’m not here for a fitting. Spare me the patter.”
“You never are, and more’s the pity. I know a cut of suit that would look exquisite on you. But yes, yes, I know. You only come here when you’d like a message passed along. Well, my ears are open and hopeful as always.” St. Germain carefully folded the coat and set it aside before stepping over to a mass of brightly-colored silks. Somehow he teased out the wooden rack that lay at its center and began to flip through it, stroking this tie and that before he moved on.
“I just want him to know I’m taking care of things, so there’s no need for him to…interfere. His position is secure; I have no interest in tipping the balance one way or the other.” The warning hidden within the words wasn’t terribly subtle, but considering that Lucifer was short a Duke, subtlety would have come off as derisive. And while Gabriel hadn’t gained any love for Lucifer over the centuries, he also didn’t see any point in antagonizing him more than he had to.
Tsking like a mother hen, St. Germain slipped one tie from the rack and held it out for Gabriel to check. Once it was approved, the tailor folded the coat over his arm and laid the tie on top of it. Then he nodded at the door, but before Gabriel could push it open for him, he spoke. “But you already have, Gabriel. Or else what are you doing with him?”
St. Germain pushed himself out, leaving an irked Gabriel to follow. Sometimes he had an urge to remind St. Germain that immunity given by two sides didn’t necessarily matter to the third. And then he remembered that technically, he wasn’t supposed to have a side. Once he did, he’d have to go to battle again. “Fine. I have no interest in tipping it further.”
“A commendable goal,” St. Germain murmured. He handed Balthazar the tie as if he were passing over the Holy Grail, then held up the coat for the demon, professionally flicking the sleeves so they hung straight as he did. “Certainly my business will appreciate it.”
Gabriel decided he’d go take care of the bill. Just as he was wrapping that up, Balthazar glided out of the fitting room with an air of smugness that was palpable. He’d gotten gel from somewhere to slick back his hair, which made him resemble a particularly noxious stockbroker Gabriel had had to kill two years back for rediscovering Dr. Jekyll’s formula.
“Who was that?” Balthazar asked as soon as they were in the elevator. He caught sight of his reflection in the doors and unconsciously sighed in appreciation. Then he frowned, looked closer, and made a slight adjustment to his tie. “You know, you could’ve done with a new suit as well. Or at least a new coat—yours is starting to smell a bit odd.”
Actually, it’d smelled like that for the past five years, ever since Gabriel had gotten Nicki to anoint it with the musk oil of a manticore, thus rendering it flame-proof. He glanced at his preening…Gabriel bit down and made himself acknowledge it…familiar, wondering if shopping always turned Balthazar into an idiot. A low growling in his gut made a suggestion.
“Oh, come on. You’ve been around too long to interrupt a hunt to buy clothes, though the gesture was very much appreciated. He has to be somebody important.” The elevator dinged just as Balthazar finished speaking. He waited one beat for an answer. Then he looked over Gabriel, shrugged as if to say what else could be expected, and started to saunter out the doors.
Gabriel stopped gritting his teeth and let the growl pass his lips. He saw Balthazar’s back stiffen, but only for a moment because after that, he’d wrenched Balthazar up against him. Balthazar actually struggled, which Gabriel dealt with by letting it swing him around to the button panel. He slammed his elbow into the button for the basement floor and the doors closed again, just before they would’ve been visible to anyone waiting for that elevator.
Then he braced his feet on the floor and twisted Balthazar’s wrists up in front of him till the demon was whimpering and gasping, tossing his head about in an effort to keep Gabriel away. It was a pitiful attempt and Gabriel would’ve laughed if he wasn’t so busy listening to Balthazar’s pulse suddenly pound like the blood was trying to beat its way out of the arteries. He waited till Balthazar had swung his head one way, then darted down. Only a mouthful, only enough blood to scald the nerves in his tongue raw, because this wasn’t the time or the place. But it was so delicious that it took all of Gabriel’s will to pull away.
The elevator doors were standing open, but neither of them was in any condition to walk out. The doors started to close and Gabriel belatedly elbowed the ‘stall’ button. Then he slowly loosened his grip on Balthazar’s wrists. He completely let go a second later, yawning wide and then letting his teeth audibly click back to human dimensions. Balthazar didn’t respond, staying frozen with his head bent and slightly tilted to the side, his hands pressed up against his breast.
“I may not get along with my old colleagues, but that doesn’t mean I sympathize with the other side. Or that I’m willing to surrender everything in my attempt to stay neutral.” Gabriel took a deep breath and filled his nose with the spicy, pungent smell of Balthazar’s blood. It was richer than human blood, a little more thick so the smooth burn of the aftertaste still warmed Gabriel’s throat. He tucked his head against Balthazar’s head and took a deep whiff, nuzzling downwards to lick shut the wounds just as a drop was about to mar Balthazar’s collar.
His black streak was so near the surface that he almost didn’t notice the press of Balthazar back into him, the slight rubbing of Balthazar’s head against his own. It was…strangely right and wrong at the same time. It—mixed matters.
Gabriel snapped his head up and shook it hard, trying to substitute worry about the manuscript and everything else for…whatever knife he’d almost allowed to cut him. He looked up and hazily saw the doors shutting again, so he lunged sideways to slam the ‘door open’ button. Doing that jostled Balthazar away and turned him so Gabriel could see the daze still lingering on his face. He seemed about to say something, but Gabriel pushed them out of the elevator first.
“That was St. Germain,” he told Balthazar. His breath was still damnably short and his eyes wouldn’t stop straying to Balthazar’s rumpled hair. Nor would the little laughing shadows that frolicked and bit playfully at his heels stop saying how much better the demon looked with a confused expression and some strands dangling in his eyes. “Lucifer’s tailor.”
Balthazar ran that through his mind as he walked around the car. Then, oddly enough, he yanked open the door as if he were tearing off someone’s head. When Gabriel got inside, he saw that Balthazar was drumming angrily on the window. He didn’t turn to look at Gabriel, but instead just started to flip his coin over his fingers. “Take a left, a left…and then a right at the second street. How do you say that sort of thing with a straight face?”
Gabriel’s trenchcoat had bunched up while he was distracted, so he took a moment to straighten it out before he started the car. It also gave him time to figure out what was going on here; he could have sworn that Balthazar hated how easily he gave in to Gabriel. Yet he also reacted badly to being…being treated like something like how the Vatican had treated Gabriel, patting him on the head and then feeding him to the mobs. And Gabriel thought he’d learned from that, hypocritical fool that he was. “I practice in front of a mirror.”
The coin stopped between the third and fourth knuckles. Then it disappeared into Balthazar’s palm as he twisted to look incredulously at Gabriel. His eyes flicked up, down, and finally settled on a spot slightly below Gabriel’s eyes. “So you’ve got a sense of humor. That’s small consolation.”
“I didn’t realize demons needed consolation,” Gabriel grated out. Guilty as he felt, he couldn’t stand up to his temper. And when that rose, his control thinned till it was the most delicate of films holding back his baser compulsions.
“I need to know what you want, otherwise this’ll never work. I—” Balthazar choked, though this time Gabriel had merely grabbed him by the arm instead of by the throat.
He didn’t physically struggle when Gabriel pulled him across the car. Not even when Gabriel bent his arm up behind his back till the bones creaked. But his eyes were slices into some kind of internal war that crested a moment before he dropped his head.
“So you can decide whether or not this works?” Gabriel softly said, tipping Balthazar’s chin up again. He was dimly aware that he shouldn’t be talking like this, shouldn’t have his hands wrenching flesh like this, but he couldn’t manage to care. He watched Balthazar’s lips circle around a soundless gasp, watched lashes flutter and head loll forward.
And finally he had to succumb to the craving for that taste, for a mouth rent raw by his own mouth, for a squirming tongue pinned to his teeth. For the kind of heat that was neither given or taken, but somehow, simply was.
Somewhere along the line, he let go of Balthazar’s wrist and buried his hands in Balthazar’s hair, twisting its silk around his fingers. A couple strands ripped out, but Balthazar didn’t seem to notice, sliding his hands up beneath Gabriel’s coat to run over Gabriel’s back. He periodically dug his nails in so the points went through Gabriel’s shirt, leaving a trail of prickles as he worked his way up—
--Gabriel’s hand clamped down on the back of Balthazar’s neck and he yanked the demon off, sight going red in a way that had nothing to do with how much Balthazar’s mouth tasted like damnation, and how much Gabriel liked it. He barely remembered not to break Balthazar’s neck before he flung him back into the passenger seat. Then Gabriel jerked himself around and clutched at the wheel, trying to breathe again. After a moment, he had gotten enough of himself in hand to start the car and back it out of the space.
Balthazar stayed slumped where Gabriel had tossed him, blinking at nothing. Gabriel was on the verge of asking if he’d been concussed when Balthazar finally moved, lifting a hand to rub along his mangled lip. He looked at the trace of blood left on his fingers, then licked it off. Then he raised his hands to his hair, paused to look at Gabriel, and lowered his hands to leave it disheveled. “What were those from?”
The scars in question throbbed, and for once the sensation even beat out the black cravings for Gabriel’s attention. “My wings,” he curtly said.
The answer didn’t surprise Balthazar, who wisely shut up except to give directions whenever they approached an intersection. Once he rubbed his fingers over his neck, tugging at his tie so his collar wouldn’t rub so much against the bite-mark.
“What are you doing?” Gabriel finally asked. He parked the car and put his hand on the door-handle, but didn’t get out quite out.
“We’re a block away. I don’t know which building.” Something white and fluffy twirled between Balthazar’s thumb and forefinger: Uriel’s feather. Then it flared up, crisped to black with a tiny stream of smoke spiraling towards the ceiling. It smelled like incense to Gabriel, nothing unpleasant, but he noticed that Balthazar tried to covertly wave the smoke away from himself.
Balthazar scraped the ash off with a nail and flicked it onto the floor. Then he flipped up his coin, caught it, and leaned over to tuck it into Gabriel’s pocket. He stayed bent over Gabriel’s legs, tilting the curve of his neck so it just grazed against Gabriel’s mouth. “Placing a final bet, I suppose.”
Gabriel raised his hand and let it hover over Balthazar’s shoulder. Then he brought it down, slid it slowly up to Balthazar’s neck and moved Balthazar slightly so he could trace over the scabs and the bruised vein with his tongue. He felt Balthazar shudder, breathe shakily out. Then, so gradually that Gabriel couldn’t tell when it had begun, the muscles beneath his neck relaxed. Acquiesced to the pressure he put on them.
A second later, they both flew apart, snarling at the outside. Gabriel whipped himself out of the car and slid his rifle from his coat, clicking off the safety as he did. On the other side, Balthazar was cursing so violently that the plants near him began to brown. “Constantine. You stupid shit--”
Now they knew which house. It was still broad daylight, but Gabriel let the shadows flow around him till his pack rose around his legs. Above them, clouds were rapidly gathering as Uriel prepared to meet them, turning this little patch of the earth abnormally dark. Almost as dark as night…
Gabriel’s mouth stretched into a feral smile. He had a hunger, and he could finally loose it.
* * *
John stopped on the doorstep to quickly check over himself. He hadn’t had any sleep in over twenty-four hours and he couldn’t do anything about his bloodshot eyes, but he did his best to smooth the wrinkles from his shirt and pants. For good measure he straightened his tie. Then he pressed the buzzer to Ellie’s little nondescript bungalow.
Usually she answered before his finger even hit the bell, but today she was late. He frowned and pressed again, not worrying yet because occasionally he did walk in when Ellie was ‘entertaining,’ or ‘freshening up.’
But when John managed to count to twenty before he heard footsteps, he knew something was wrong. He backed off the steps and yanked open the zipper to his bag, but before he could get the shotgun reassembled, the door disappeared.
Actually, it was sucked inward, and he went with it. He desperately grabbed for something and barely caught the door-frame, but his grip on that lasted mere seconds before the wood ripped free. John went flying into the dark house, then slammed hard against a wall. He was numb for the first moment, but by the time he’d fallen to the floor, his body was exploding with pain. He tried to push himself up only to have his limbs riot against him, the agony twisting him into a fetal curl around his bag that had tangled about him. Up ahead he was aware of two figures standing in a square of light—he thought he recognized them. Then the door rebuilt itself to block out the light and in the darkness he knew he recognized them. Her, anyway.
“Hey, Gabriel. How are things?” John wheezed. His chest felt like someone had whacked it a hundred times with a two-by-four, and when he tried to hump himself around, his back turned into a string of mini explosions along his spine. He wanted to black out, but not—not with—John gritted his teeth and made himself stay awake.
Pain. Just pain. He’d had worse. And in front of the sweetly smiling bitch, too, so he didn’t have to worry about his dignity.
The other one was male, or male-looking, and the resemblance was unmistakable. “And hello, Daddy. Having a little family reunion, are we?”
“Always with the ready quip,” Gabriel cooed. Then her face hardened and she stalked towards John, hands hanging by her hips but turned outward so he could see how her fingers were frozen in a clawing rictus.
“And the usefulness of showing up at the wrong time with the wrong things,” Uriel chimed in. He stayed by the staircase and leafed through a…sheaf of papers that looked a hell of a lot like what a thesis paper would look like minus its cover. His wings were still whole, but even in the dark they looked much blacker than they should have been, as if they’d been dipped in charcoal.
John curled tighter around himself, paying more attention to Gabriel. His right hand had landed over his bag and was mostly hidden from her view; he used it to rummage as quietly and frantically as he could for the shotgun. He felt the edge of one half and pulled it slightly out, but it wasn’t the butt-end, damn it. Then he had a burst of inspiration and heaved himself up so he was on hands and knees, with the former neatly in the bag. His panting for air wasn’t acting—his lungs hurt almost as badly as when he’d had cancer. “Where’s Ellie?”
“You know, John, I find it commendable that you care even about your pathetic, hopelessly degenerate friends on the other side. Commendable, but ultimately pointless. Though helpfully predictable.” As she neared him, Gabriel began to circle like a cat would with a mouse. She looked like she’d had a rough three weeks and only recently had gotten scrubbed up nice again, and of course the insanity was still there.
Behind her, Uriel casually held up a piece of fabric so ripped and bloody that John almost didn’t recognize it. But he did, and even as the rage surged in his throat, his gut twisted into a cold knot. God, Angela had been smart. He couldn’t blame her now. Not now.
“You’re mourning,” Gabriel said in wonder. She knelt swiftly, gracefully in front of John and lifted her hand to his cheek as if she was going to cup it. Then she suddenly punched him, her face twisting with brutal hatred. “You should, you—”
Except John had gotten his hands on both pieces of the shotgun, and he came up swinging them. The muzzle half caught Gabriel on the cheekbone and he heard it breaking as she reeled backward, crying out. He kept rolling into the corner and there he feverishly snapped off the safety, then spun to aim at Uriel, who’d leaped into the air as soon as Gabriel had cried out. John let off both barrels just as Uriel’s nails touched his cheek.
Uriel was blown backward by the blasts, while the recoil sent a splattered John back into the wall. His jaw rattled shut with the impact and once again he had to fight off black-out as he scrambled for the front door. But just as soon as he got up, he went down again. John twisted around while swinging with the muzzle-half, but his wrist was caught in an iron grip. He had a glimpse of Gabriel’s enraged face just before her fist hit his temple. His last thought was, inanely enough, of how angels really didn’t bleed before they fell—they only oozed a kind of perfumed oil.
He came to in a groaning body that seemed to be nothing but vicious bruising; a slight flex told him that maybe he should add a couple cracked ribs to that count as well. His hands were tied together behind his back, and he’d been shoved to the side so Gabriel and Uriel could draw symbols on the floor. John tried not to make it too obvious that he was awake, but Gabriel noticed anyway and smiled at him. “Hello, John.”
She padded over to slip her hand into his coat, then slapped him when he tried to twist away. While his head reeled back into place, she took the Spear from him.
“My greatest thanks to you, Mr. Constantine,” Uriel said without a trace of irony. His eyes were bright and his smile as hollow and wrong as his damn daughter’s was. “With your help and my daughter’s sacrifice, but the Traitor shall also at last receive his scourging.”
John snorted in disbelief. “By replacing him with you? How the fuck is that supposed to work? You still have Hell.”
“But Hell is necessary. Mortals never stop to think unless they have a punishment to fear,” Uriel gently answered. He bent down to check on something, his wings folding to let Gabriel pass behind him. “Lucifer has abused the idea, used it to further his own selfish struggle against God. We shall set Hell to the use God intended it for.”
“Forgive me if my religion’s a little rusty, but I thought Hell sprang into being around Lucifer after he fell, as a perversion of God’s creation. Not the other way around.” The knots were not only tight, but also cabbalistic, which meant John couldn’t untie them without menorah oil from the Temple Mount, some hyssop and a blessed knife. He wrestled with them anyway, biting back moans at how that jarred his ribs.
Gabriel chuckled. She was insane, but something exceptionally amiss in that sound made John look up. The bitch was standing directly behind Uriel, one hand lightly resting on one of his wings. “He’s right, Father.”
And then she yanked Uriel’s wing out straight. Off-guard, he teetered wildly, then twisted, but not soon enough for the Spear to miss its aim. The whole house seemed to shake as Uriel beat out in agonized surprise with his wings—Gabriel was flung against the stairs, but Uriel’s wing went with her. Uriel spun around so John got a good view of the gaping wound that was left. He saw how the sweet, light oil suddenly darkened to pale pink, scent rotting from the best of all flowers to slaughtered meat. A little bit even splashed over his cheek.
“Daughter…” Uriel gasped, sounding utterly shocked. If he didn’t do something about the blood sluicing down his back, he was going to be in shock.
“And thank you, Father. Thank you for giving your blood so that I can rule Hell, and make my own creation.” The lines of Gabriel’s face hardened and twisted as her voice dropped, roughened. She flicked the blood off the Spear, then stalked around the hall; Uriel belatedly stumbled away from her, but he was visibly failing. “One where I will not be betrayed, one where I will not be thrown aside after the first failure…one where I will not have to depend on the grace of others,” she continued, nearly snarling. “Where I won’t be a sacrifice to someone else’s ambitions.”
John scrunched himself as far back as he could, watching it all in horrified fascination. This was, by far, the worst surprise he’d ever had. He’d thought he could just pacify Lucifer with the Spear, trade away his sight, and had that ever backfired.
He should have known better. It wasn’t an addiction—it was a faith, of sorts. It was something he knew and believed, and he did best when he acknowledged that. Worst when he tried to pretend it wasn’t there like every other schmuck in the world. Stepping out wasn’t an option, so what he should have done was step further in and just plunge his hands down till he reached bottom, if there even was a bottom.
What he should have done, frankly, was take up Gabriel on that ‘put you back together around me’ offer. He wanted in on a higher level, and he wanted company that would understand, and he wanted something to keep him interested. Instead he was watching bitch-Gabriel tear apart her father just before she kicked Lucifer out of Hell. John had no illusions, and so he could see clearly enough that a smarmy, self-absorbed, prideful Devil was better than a blindly righteous one.
Gabriel danced on the balls of her feet, eyes locked on her father’s as he weaved across the other side of the room. He suddenly made a desperate lurch to the side, but she had picked up something of mortal instinct for the kill and she was there first, wrenching his wing up so she could saw through it. She got it halfway cut off before he struggled loose, screaming incoherently as his wing spasmed. White bone stuck grotesquely out of reddening flesh. Gobbets and gouts of blood sprayed all over the place, with an extra spout when Uriel’s wingtip caught on something and he tried to yank it free with his hands, only to end up snapping a bone. He collapsed with a thin yell, body crumpling into a defenseless heap.
“And now—” Gabriel started to say, only she’d ended up standing before the front door. And once again, the front door exploded.
In the middle of the splinters streamed something black and growling and furious. The wolves leaped at Gabriel and in a moment her arms were slashed all over. She screamed and cut at them with the Spear, bringing down a few, but more were coming through and one bit at her hand. In her panic to get away she nearly, nearly dropped the Spear. But no, the bitch still had it when she came running towards John.
He didn’t think about it, but just kicked out; the pair of idiots hadn’t bothered to tie his ankles. Gabriel went down in a pile of flailing limbs, too hysterical to get back up. John ripped his wrists down along the backs of his legs, frantically contorting till he’d gotten them around to the front. Almost pulled out his shoulders doing it, but he had his hands out by the time Gabriel finally started to rise again.
He grabbed for her ankle and yanked her back down, then scrambled up to grab for the Spear. But she recovered too fast and stabbed at him with it, nicking his sleeve but missing his arm. He dodged sideways and fisted his hands in her clothing instead, using the grip to slam her body against the floor. No divine strength or endurance now, so she damned well felt that. He slammed her down a last time just because of the shit she’d put him through, then got his hands on the Spear. John had just wrenched it free when she snarled and rolled up again to seize his arms. She twisted them around so the Spear pointed at his throat.
He kicked and fought and writhed so twice the point buried itself in the floor instead, but he was still weak from hitting the wall earlier. And mortal though she was, Gabriel was still stronger than a normal person.
“Get down!” someone yelled—Balthazar? Balthazar. Balthazar with a rifle.
Maybe John was concussed or something, but he didn’t question it. He just slammed his head back so the shot—
--well, it would have hit Gabriel, but for Uriel suddenly throwing himself into it. John could hear Balthazar cursing, and then there was an earth-shaking thump as something smashed into Uriel. At the same time, Gabriel screamed and forced the Spear down.
John’s arms failed. He twisted aside as far as he could, but all that did was make it go into his shoulder instead of his throat. There was ice, and then there was fire, flaring more and more intensely as it traveled up his arm and down his chest. He snarled and with the last of his strength, flung off Gabriel. Held onto the Spear.
She hit the ground, and then he heard her running away. He didn’t see her. Actually, he didn’t see a lot—his shoulder was starting to go numb and his vision was blurring in a—no. Goddamn it, no. No.
“John?” Someone levered him up, blocked his weak swing with the Spear. Other Gabriel. He smelled like angel blood, but beneath that, he smelled sweet. And where he touched John, the pain eased. “John?”
“She hit the artery,” Balthazar said. He sounded like he was commenting on the weather; John swore at him and he laughed, which came out much more pained and nervy. “He’ll bleed out in another minute.”
“Fucking won’t. Gab—Gabriel, listen—your spit, my arm earlier—I want to—” John tried to pull himself up Gabriel, but his arms weren’t working. He heard Gabriel start to talk about if John knew, and he had to snicker. “Fucking do, all right? I’m John Constantine--I know. I want—not die—you—”
The Spear was pried from his hand. He was turned over and pushed into a puddle of something that burned in his nose. What, Gabriel wanted to drown him first? “What—”
“Just drink it. Now.” Gabriel pressed his hand against the middle of John’s back, forcing him into it so his mouth and nose was covered and he had no choice.
He lapped, sucked, sneezed some out and sucked up more. It got easier after a little while. Things hurt less. And then it started to feel better, and it started to taste better—taste good so he struggled when Gabriel lifted him from it, but then Gabriel shoved more into his mouth and that tasted spectacular. He grabbed onto Gabriel’s hand and drank till his head was swimming, drank till it turned red and then till it turned black and he was dizzy and warm and God. He loved it.
* * *
Gabriel flopped back against the wall and waited for his strength to come back, cradling an unconscious John. He looked blindly once around the room, then blinked and scanned it with comprehension. Uriel was dead, with such an extreme look of sorrow on his face that Gabriel almost didn’t curse him for what he’d done. His daughter was long gone with her copy of the manuscript, and from the state of things, neither Gabriel nor Balthazar had the strength to go chasing her now.
Balthazar had taken care of most of the spells that had been keeping them out of the house, and it showed. His skin was a drained white and his hands were charred; he kept them bundled up in his ripped sleeves, but occasionally his grip would loosen so Gabriel could glimpse char-streaked bone, shriveled flesh. It’d grow back, but it would take a while.
“She has enough of Uriel’s blood soaked in her clothes to do it, doesn’t she?” Balthazar said, dragging himself over. He collapsed besides Gabriel, too tired to even take a swipe at John.
“I think so. But she still needs the Spear. It’s—” Gabriel’s old reticence made him hesitate, but he finally decided that there was no point in holding back now. And besides, Balthazar had helped save a man he seemed to detest--because Gabriel had told him to. “It’s the only thing that can wound Lucifer. He can’t even touch it without receiving hurt.”
He shifted John to free one arm, then bit his sleeve open. Something bumped his leg before he could also bite into his wrist: Balthazar staring at him with a look that was as near to concern as a demon could get. It probably was because if Gabriel passed out, then Balthazar automatically did as well, but nevertheless it gave Gabriel pause. “Didn’t you pour all you could down Johnny’s throat?”
“Not quite. He had some of Uriel’s blood to even out the demon in mine. And…and I had a good feed,” Gabriel finished, grimacing. He slashed a shallow cut in his wrist, then held it to Balthazar’s mouth.
Balthazar lapped sluggishly at it for about thirty seconds before crumpling up into half-consciousness. Gabriel sealed his wound himself and stared down at the demon and the man lying across him. Despite all his care, he’d ended up here anyway. He wondered how long before it inevitably turned on him.
Snorting to himself, Gabriel grimly got to his feet. He bent over to take hold of the other two, then set about getting them out of there.