In the confused aftermath of the Fall one thing seemed very clear to the Host of Heaven: the Serpent was guilty of something.
No less a personage than the archangel Gabriel himself went after her. The power and fury of his presence scorched the air on her trail. Her splinter worlds crumbled with the echo of his footsteps. The obstacles she threw in his path had a distressing tendency to turn and run rather than detain him.
But the Serpent was nothing if not adaptable, and the Serpent learned.
She learned to make simpler, sturdier worlds. Worlds that were more like great mirrors for Gabriel’s own perception. Mirrors that would not burn. Reflections that could not flee. She learned. And she ran from him for centuries with great success.
Gabriel learned as well. He learned to walk softly between the traps the Serpent laid for him. How to tell the difference between the illusions his presence could sweep away and the reflections he must avoid.
He learned to spot the Serpent by the tricks she continued to play on the humans whose lives passed in an eyeblink, generation to generation, as he hunted her.
And he learned to make worlds of his own.
Worlds like a lacquerware box with a hidden key. A thousand ways inside and no way out. Worlds of temptation the way the Serpent understood it. The temptation of fools and power.
Centuries of hunting the Serpent taught him what the Fallen already knew. Gabriel, alone of all the Host of Heaven, came to understand desire.
The Serpent rushed gleefully into his box-world and he closed it around her like a cage. The surprise and sudden fear in her eyes redeemed all the long lost kingdoms that had risen, decayed, and fallen as he searched for her.
Gabriel took her back to Heaven where he found his Father gone, and his brothers at war. Michael clapped a hand on his shoulder in congratulations and looked at the Serpent with a glowing ecstasy of hatred in his eyes.
“Good, brother. Her knowledge is a weapon we shall wield against Lucifer. Surely the first of all Tricksters will know the workings of the Gates of Hell.”
Gabriel made himself smile back. But having learned to discern true emotion from illusion he knew his satisfaction to be false. And he knew the Serpent was watching.
Two of the Host came forward at Michael’s gesture to drag her away in chains. As she passed by him she pressed close. Her lips against his cheek.
“I can give you what you want.”
She whispered it so soft he knew no other had heard. He was not even certain she had actually spoken aloud. But he watched her as they dragged her from Michael’s hall, meeting her yellow eyes over her shoulder as she looked back at him, and he trembled.
He had not understood Lucifer’s rebellion before, but he understood now.
She had taught him to want.
“Gabriel got you out of Heaven.”
The Serpent did a slight thing with her eyebrows which suggested a nod.
“Why would he trust you?”
“It’s amazing,” said the Serpent, “what you can talk yourself into when your other options are unbearable.”
“You know this part.” She was definitely bored with them. “I got Hephaestus to make a key that would run Gabriel once he was cut off from Heaven. Gabriel gave me his wings to hold so that none would be able to find him. I can’t use the wings very often, you understand. The power would burn me out from the inside.”
“Why would Hephaestus do that for you? Make a key like that? I got the impression it took a lot of work and a very long time.”
The Serpent aimed her self-satisfied smirk at the arched ceiling. “I don’t think that’s important,” she said.
Ruby frowned suddenly, suspicious. “Why are you telling us all this? Surely you wouldn’t give up a secret like that so easily.”
The Serpent switched her gaze to the far wall and re-crossed her legs. “I think it’s time for the Key to be known,” she said. She continued to smile in a vaguely unsettling way. Amusement blended with power and remorseless cruelty.
Jo waved it off. “Whatever. Fine. The demons want it now.”
“Yes, I expect they would.” The Serpent stretched, lazily.
There was a long silence. Jo and Ruby stared at the Serpent. The Serpent appeared to be considering the ceiling again. Or maybe the Heavens.
Jo gritted her teeth. “Why do the demons want it?”
The Serpent raised her eyebrows, the picture of oblivious surprise.
“How else would Lucifer rise?”
Jo watched Ruby drip laudanum onto a cube of sugar. She scraped the tips of her claws together until she managed a spark. They both stared at the flame as the sugar burned and melted and slipped through the slots in the spoon into the violently green liquor.
“Lucifer,” said Jo.
Ruby nodded. She tipped the remaining sugar in the glass and swished it around with the slotted spoon.
“Lucifer as in… Lucifer.”
“Yes,” said Ruby, in a voice completely devoid of inflection. She pushed the glass across the table.
The wormwood was bitter and poisonous. The opium was weirdly smoky. It tasted like nothing. Like water. Like sand.
It was Jo’s fourth.
Ruby watched Jo stare blankly at the glass somewhat impatiently until she looked up, registering the silence.
“We have to go after it,” she said.
Jo put on a doubtful expression, probably. She couldn’t quite feel her face. “Isn’t that more Sam and Dean’s deal? The apocalypse is their… thing. Raison d’être.”
Ruby leaned across the table with just a shade too much eagerness. The slotted absinthe spoon tumbled clattering to the floor. “Sam and Dean are on the other side of the world somewhere. Unless you want to try summoning Castiel and explaining this whole thing to him, because I don’t think a telegram is going to quite suffice.”
“How do you summon an angel, anyway?”Jo mused out loud.
“You don’t. They come and go as they bloody well please,” said Ruby, impatiently. “Look, this is it. The big one. We have a chance to prevent Lucifer from rising. Prevent the whole show.”
Jo sighed. “Are we even certain the Key would run Lucifer? It was made for Gabriel.”
“People make a big deal about Lucifer, but fundamentally an archangel is an archangel. Not much difference between Gabriel and Lucifer at that level. It’ll work. We have to keep it out of Lilith’s hands,” said Ruby.
She leaned back in her seat and studied Jo. “Not to mention, if we find the Key, we find Lilith.”
Jo felt the corners of her mouth twist involuntarily and she touched the cool metal of the photo locket under her shirt.
“You want to kill Lilith? This is how we trap her.”
“How do we find the Key?”
Ruby dug the compass back out of her reticule and Jo groaned. “Not the damn compass again. Look where it got us!”
“It got us to some answers, didn’t it?” said Ruby stubbornly. “I convinced the Serpent to… alter it a little. It should find Gabriel now.”
“How did you convince her to help?”
Ruby poked at the last dregs of the absinthe. “Never you mind.”
“I can’t believe we met the Serpent of Eden.”
Jo and Ruby made comical shocked faces at each other.
“It’s the Old Testament greatest hits around here lately.”
Ruby smiled faintly before sobering. “Jo, this is it. This is our shot.”
“I know.” Jo scratched irritably at the peeling lacquer of the restaurant table. She sighed.
“Let’s go find a fugitive archangel.”
Jo quickly grew tired of following the compass. Especially since this… quest, this job seemed determined to fly them in circles, retracing their steps.
They flew back over the Alps into Northern Italy. Sheer cliff faces swept past, majestic, remote. Untouched by the play of clouds over their heights. If there were people living here, Jo didn’t see any, leaning against the windscreen, shaking the feeling back into her hands after clearing ice from the sails.
But once she saw a dragon. A great, skeletal shape with membranous wings floating like a kite, riding the thermals. Jo held her breath as it circled the Dashforth, curious, and then watched it hunt bighorn sheep on the cliffs, grasping with steel edged talons, until they moved too far ahead and the dragon was blocked from sight by a snowy mountain peak.
Jo glanced over her shoulder and Ruby smiled indulgently at her wonder, but said nothing to disparage it.
When they finally cleared the mountains the countryside was green and flushed with snow-melt. The first tiny, shepherd villages began to appear.
“The compass is being odd,” Ruby said. “I think we should go down.”
The compass led them past a sagging fence and down a dirt path toward what had clearly once been a hay barn, now refurbished into a smelting plant. Ruby swept the hem of her dress heedlessly through the mud, keeping one eye on the compass needle. Jo stepped quickly after her, her boots water stained enough already that she didn’t bother avoiding puddles.
She put her foot down on a half-buried cobblestone that shifted suddenly and sent her staggering against a stack of lumber. Jo caught herself with one hand in a pile of rusted tools and came out clutching a steam boiler bolt.
“Come on!” Ruby hissed at her, impatiently. Jo made a face at her, shoved the bolt into her pocket with half a thought of using to weight her fist if this came to a fight, and followed as quickly and quietly as she could.
Ruby circled the structure to the nearest set of double doors and both women pressed themselves against the warm, cracked wood. The whole building had faded to grey with age, bleached by the sun and splotched with lichen. Jo could hear, and feel, machinery running. Pumps, probably, she thought.
“Do you think there are people inside?”
Ruby looked down at the compass. “There had better be,” she said. “Because if this is a trick…” she broke off suddenly at the sound of someone starting a slow clap.
“What?” she mouthed to Jo.
Jo shrugged in response, raised her eyebrows in a silent question. Ruby nodded. Jo pulled her flintlock from her belt.
She counted down from three on her fingers and they came fast around the door to find –
Samuel Winchester opened his mouth like a stunned fish. “Jo?”
“Dean?” Ruby’s voice was full of affronted incredulity.
Dean looked at her, and then at Jo. “You still travel with this harpy?”
Ruby ignored him, looked back down at the compass the Serpent had altered for her. “That twisted little snake!”
Jo frowned past the Winchesters at an unassuming man in casual country tweeds… standing in the middle of a ring of fire.
“Boys? Who is that?”
Dean glanced back over his shoulder. “The Trickster. Or, apparently, an angel. I love it when I’m right.”
“All such rare experiences are enjoyable,” Ruby agreed sweetly.
“Don’t worry,” said Sam. “The holy fire contains him. We just figured it out. No idea who he is, yet.”
Jo stared at the man. He smirked at her.
Ruby dug her claws into the compass hard enough to score the metal with an ear splitting screech. “I’m going to find that double dealing snake and make boots of her,” she promised no one in particular.
The angel trapped in the ring of fire looked amused.
“Sam, Dean,” said Jo slowly, “that’s the archangel Gabriel. And this is feeling more and more like a trap.”
Dean looked rather taken aback. “That’s the who now?”
Ruby frowned. “I… really?”
Jo looked around. There were two sets of wide double doors in the converted barn. The hayloft had been repurposed and now a series of pipes carried water from the river to cool the currently dormant furnace. The pumps she’d heard from outside were working to move the water through the pipes that ran up from the river into the hayloft, and then along the ceiling to the furnace.
“The Serpent has his wings, remember?” she said of the still smirking Gabriel, “I’m amazed the compass found him at all. But listen, something is not right.”
“Of course not,” said the archangel Gabriel. “There should be a marching band.” He made as if to snap his fingers.
“No!” Sam, Dean, and Jo shouted together.
There was a brilliant, electric flare like a lightning flash and suddenly Castiel was among them. He didn’t bother to fold his wings, a sure sign of trouble.
Dean frowned in confusion. “Cas?”
Gabriel raised his eyebrows. “Hello, brother,” he said in a tone of faint surprise.
Castiel, with an air of deep distraction, said, “Gabriel.” He looked at Jo. “This is a trap.”
“Yes,” said Jo. She looked at Gabriel, pinned in a circle of fire. “A trap for who?”
“I don’t know. But they’ve followed you here.” Castiel looked back at Gabriel, and then at Dean.
“Get them out of here,” said Jo.
Sam frowned. “What?”
Castiel did not waste time on explanations. Normally, this irritated Jo to absolutely no end. Now she watched, relieved, as he crossed the factory floor, touched two fingers to Sam and Dean, and all three disappeared.
Ruby seemed rather surprised at the vanishing act.
“I don’t want them in the line of fire when we don’t even know what’s going on,” Jo explained.
“Good plan,” said the archangel Gabriel. “Things never go well when those chowderheads are around.”
“You, be quiet,” Jo snapped irritably. The number of possible entrances concerned her. “No, wait,” she said to Gabriel, “explain this Key prophecy.”
He frowned in seemingly genuine confusion. “What Key prophecy?”
“The Key Hephaestus made,” Ruby said impatiently, to Jo’s faint surprise. Ruby rarely spoke to angels. “The Key that runs you. That Key”
“You watch your tone with me, demon,” Gabriel warned.
Ruby’s eyes were solid black, but she was probably rolling them. “Or you’ll do what to me, exactly? Joke me to death?”
“Why were we sent to find the Key?” Jo cut in. “What are we supposed to do, or prevent, here?”
Gabriel shrugged. “Search me. The only thing this Key does is run me.”
“Or Lucifer,” said Jo.
Gabriel looked uncomfortable at his brother’s name. “Or Lucifer,” he agreed. “But he’s trapped in Hell. No need for a Key, there. Demons would have to spring him from jail first and that’s kind of a complicated prospect.”
Jo frowned. “Then why the prophecy? Why send us to find the Key?”
“Are you serious?” Gabriel squinted at her, and then threw his hands up in disgust. “Humans, I swear. I love you guys, but…” he shook his head sadly.
“What?” Jo snapped. She checked the cartridges in her flintlock pistol.
“The question you should be asking here, is who would send you to find the Key. And then follow you,” Gabriel said as though talking to a severely challenged nine year old. “Who wants the Key, sweetheart?”
Jo stared at him. “This is definitely and absolutely a trap,” she said, starting back across the floor. “We should have secured these doors.”
“Yes,” said Ruby sadly. “It is, unfortunately, too late for that.”
Jo looked back at her. “What?”
The double doors she was standing in front of slammed open. She whirled, fired, and took down the first demon that came at her, less on account of having a very rapid reaction time, than being very, very well drilled. But no amount of training would overcome brute force, and the demons behind that one caught her arms and her boot when she kicked out at them and even her hair when she refused to hold still.
They dragged her upright and held her caged with steel strength. Her limbs locked into immobility. The one with a hand in her hair combed his claws through the strands, using the grip to wrench her head around and force her line of sight. Jo hissed a word she hoped her mother had never heard her use, and tried fruitlessly to jerk free.
“Now, now,” said a horrifyingly familiar voice. “A lady never uses such language.”
The demon Lilith sashayed through the doors as though the dust and mud and machinery were merely stage props and scenery and the world was her stage. She paused beside the assembly line tables to shake her finger in mock admonition at Jo.
The top of her head did not quite reach the work surface.
“Josephine,” she said with a coy little smile. “How nice to see you.”
Lilith had not changed at all, of course. Jo had nonsensically expected her to grow up, to someday be something other than the little, immutable porcelain doll. Her ringlet curls were very blonde, her teeth were perfect, tiny pearls, her miniature lady’s walking dress was high-necked, blood red satin, and her painted blue eyes were midnight black in Gabriel’s presence.
She was only three feet tall.
“Did you miss me? I missed you, Jo.” She ran a gloved fingertip along the dusty underside of the machine beside her and added, “I missed your dear, sweet mother, too. Even though she was very rude to me.” The demon pouted in mock offense.
Jo clenched her teeth hard around the useless, furious words that crawled up her throat and said nothing, still struggling because she couldn’t not, as Lilith tiptoed closer. “Surprised to see me?” the demon asked. “I’ve been following your exploits most carefully, thanks to darling, dearest Ruby.”
Lilith turned and held her hands out to Ruby, who came forward and swept her veils aside to kiss Lilith’s fingers. “My best girl,” said Lilith fondly. Ruby rose, towering over her diminutive mistress and wouldn’t look at Jo.
“You lying bitch,” said Jo in a tone of strangled disbelief as the demon with a fistful of her hair forced her neck to an unlikely angle. “You called the Serpent a lying snake? You deserve everything you’re going to get.”
“I’ve only ever been loyal, Jo,” Ruby pleaded. “The most loyal. You talk of demons like we’re nothing but evil machines. How could you expect me to betray my race like that? We’re people, Jo. We have laws, and loyalties, and we can love.”
She brushed the back of her hand very gently across Jo’s cheek. Jo pulled her face away as best she could and the line of Ruby’s mouth pinched in sorrow and anger. “And we have a creator,” she said. Her voice was oddly thick. Had it been anyone else, Jo would have said she was on the verge of tears. She had never seen Ruby cry; she wasn’t sure demons were capable.
“Yes,” said Lilith, with another smile for Ruby as she waved her back. “We have a creator. One who will be, I’m sure. Most pleased with our work here today.” And she turned her attention from Jo to the captive hurricane in the center of the room.
“So,” said Lilith to the archangel Gabriel, “fancy meeting you here.” She giggled. A horrible sound.
Gabriel rolled his eyes with what Jo thought was an unwarranted amount of drama, even for this situation. “As though you didn’t go to considerable trouble for this little soiree. Did you send Sam and Dean after me? And, if so, how did you know where I was?”
“Oh, no, I had nothing to do with Sam and Dean finding you. Sheer, happy chance, that. And I did not, in point of fact, know where you were.” She cut a glance over at Jo. “No, I’m afraid it all hinged on dear little Josephine, here. I knew she’d find you, once she had a reason to look, and then Ruby would tell me.” She beamed at Ruby, who was staring fixedly at the toes of her muddy boots. “Went off without a hitch, actually. Quite a beautiful job, if I do say so myself.”
“You are so very, very far out of your depth here, sugar,” Gabriel told her. “You think Lucifer’s going to rise from his cage, lay his hand on you in benediction and give Earth to the demons and life will be all blood and peaches?”
Lilith smiled faintly. “I think you’re the only one in a cage at the moment.”
“I think you’re an idiot,” said Gabriel without missing a beat. “I know my brother. And I know he’ll throw you away the instant he no longer needs you around to do his dirty work.”
“You’re wrong,” said Lilith in the tone of a teacher correcting a math problem. “Lucifer is the father of my race. Your God may be nothing more than an armed warship, but mine will give us the earth.”
“Well,” Gabriel shrugged,” you cling to your illusions as long as you like. But Lucifer is still trapped. And you still need my Key.”
“And here you are. Demons are perfectly capable of crossing that fire.”
Gabriel laughed. “Bring it on, petunia. I’m an archangel. Which of your little minions will be first in line to jump into the ring with me?”
Lilith’s smile grew both brighter and sharper in a way Jo didn’t like. “Oh, I don’t think that will be necessary.” She looked at Jo. “I’ve studied you, my lord Gabriel,” she said. “I know how you think. And I know that Key isn’t anywhere on your person.”
Jo frowned in confusion, but behind Lilith she saw Gabriel go frighteningly still.
“Josephine,” the demon sing-songed, “give me the Key.”
“I haven’t got the Key. Why do you think we-… I came here? Why would I come if I already had it?”
“I think you lie, dearest,” said Lilith, the petulant childishness of her tone at odds with her suddenly serious expression. “The signs were very clear. At this point, you must have the Key.”
The demon behind Jo tightened his hand in her hair to the point of pain and kept her from shaking her head. “No,” she said to Lilith. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
A look of murderous frustration thinned Lilith’s round cheeks. It was less a warning of an impending temper tantrum than it was something to be run from at all costs. It was not an expression that belonged on a child’s face.
“Ruby,” Lilith said in a voice like molten steel, “where is it?”
Ruby looked at Jo. “I don’t know, my lady. I didn’t know she was supposed to have it.” She seemed worried and confused.
Lilith quite literally had smoke coming out of her ears. Jo had never seen a demon get angry enough to heat their internal machinery to the boiling point. She never wanted to see it again.
“Fine,” Lilith gritted out. “Marteus, Jasper, carve the bitch into pieces and find it.”
Jo cursed and tried again to wrench herself away as the demons holding her started to laugh. And then someone shouted, “No!”
Lilith pursed her mouth and looked over at Ruby. Ruby?
“What is it, dearest?” She asked snidely. “Having second thoughts about where your loyalties lie?”
Ruby hesitated. “Of course not,” she said. “This is pointless. She doesn’t have it. I would know if she had it.”
Lilith shrugged. “Then what’s the harm in taking her apart? Don’t we deserve some fun after all our hard work?”
“There’s no point, this is a waste of time!”
“This is why you weren’t told certain things,” said Lilith, a little sadly. “You’ve become too close. Too involved to see the big picture.” She turned back to Jo. “Is that your final answer?”
“Go to Hell,” Jo told her.
“No need dear,” said Lilith. “Hell is coming to us.” She nodded at the two demons holding Jo.
The one with a hand in her hair – Jasper or Marteus, presumably – chuckled and reached for her throat, his claws rusted and saw-edged, and… paused. Jo couldn’t tell at first what had distracted him, and then she felt it, too.
Lilith turned. The pipe supplying water to the boilers was broken, and standing next to it was Ruby, with a wrench.
“What was the point of that, dearest?” she sighed. “The water isn’t holy.”
“No,” said Ruby. “It’s just water.”
For a long moment Jo, Lilith, and the hench-demons simply stared at her. And then they heard it. The sharp edged sizzle of water hitting fire.
Lilith realized what Ruby had done in the same moment Jo did, and whirled around just in time to catch the most fearsome wrath of Heaven straight in the face as Gabriel stepped free of the circle.
Jo leaned against the warm, faded wood of the factory where an hour ago she’d first heard Gabriel applauding the Winchesters’ cleverness.
Gabriel who, from the sound of it, was still amusing himself with Jasper and Marteus.
The last time Jo had seen Lilith, she’d been a scattered collection of cogs and wheels and shattered porcelain. Gabriel’s power had peeled her apart down to the inner mechanisms. To the innocent spirit pinned to a coil cranked tight with the winding of her Key. What he’d done with the spirit she wasn’t sure. Something suitably angelic, she hoped.
She was still there, staring mindlessly at the trampled grass when Gabriel strolled out through the double doors.
“Well, hello there,” he said to Jo with a smile. Evidently smiting demons agreed with him.
Jo simply looked at him, hoping her flat expression conveyed the underlying sentiment. She was too tired to banter.
“Oh, cheer up,” said Gabriel with a smile. “Bad guys vanquished! Evil plot averted! Day saved! Thanks to yours truly. By the way,” he added as Ruby walked forward, unveiled and forlorn, to stand wavering on the threshold, “I wasn’t sure what you wanted me to do with this one, but in my book, she did me a favor.”
Jo rolled her head along the wood to switch her gaze to the woman – the machine – who been her lover, her companion, her only friend. Her betrayer.
Ruby’s eyes were closed, her arms wrapped around herself. She looked… broken.
“Go away,” said Jo to Gabriel. He blinked at her, then shrugged and started to turn before she said, “No, wait. Why did Lilith think I had your Key?”
Gabriel rocked back on his heels and smiled. “She must have had some very accurate prophecy, or a very good seer, tipping her off.”
“But I don’t have it.”
“Oh, actually, you do.” Gabriel strolled back to her. “And I’d like it back, if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t have it!”
Gabriel sighed. “It doesn’t look like a Key, you idiot. How stupid do you think I am?”
Jo considered Heaven’s most powerful weapon, standing before her in his casually rumpled suit, his handsome, pointed face open and mocking. “Well,” she said, “you did get trapped by the Winchesters.”
“True. Good point.” Gabriel contrived to look suitably humbled for a moment, and then shook it off and held out his hand. “Key.”
“Still don’t have it.”
“It’s in your pocket, little girl. I haven’t got all day.”
Jo frowned and stuck her hand into her pocket. Compass, hex bag, pencil, piece of wax paper… boiler bolt. She wrapped her hand around that last and pulled it out. When Gabriel gestured for it she dropped it into his outstretched hand, and watched as it shifted and changed, becoming a more recognizable Key like… like Ruby’s.
It was larger. The circle, maybe three inches across, supported three prongs rather than two. The outer two prongs had horizontal bars in groupings of twos and threes, many, many more than a demon’s Key needed. The center prong was longer, and had no bars at all.
“See,” said Gabriel. “You had it the whole time.”
He winked at her, and started off again.
“Castiel,” she shouted after him. He turned back, frowning.
“What about him?”
“He’s cut off from Heaven. He needs a Key.”
Gabriel rolled his eyes. “Even if I were inclined to be self-sacrificing, which I’m not, this Key wouldn’t work for him. It’s archangelic, and made to exact specifications.”
“The technology could still help,” Jo insisted. Gabriel threw his hands up, exasperated.
“Fine,” he said, “I’ll have a word with the Serpent.” He smiled faintly at the thought. “It’s been a while since I… saw her, anyway.” He started walking again, waving jauntily over his shoulder, and this time Jo let him go.
Ruby did not react as Jo walked over to her and stood in the wide doorway. They waited, motionless, the silence between them growing to a level approaching mutually assured destruction. The setting sun gilded Ruby’s cheekbones and set Jo’s hair to a flame-like brightness. Neither moved or spoke.
Jo looked back into the factory, at the scorched earthen floor where they’d trapped an archangel and nearly handed over the planet to Lilith and Lucifer, at the coils and springs and the crushed porcelain hand that was all that was left of the demon who had killed her mother.
She took a deep, slow breath, and let it go.
“You betrayed me,” she said quietly.
“And you betrayed Lilith. Your race.”
Ruby’s mouth pinched into a thin line and tears welled into her eyes. Jo had never seen her cry. Wondering, she closed the distance and lifted one bloodied, soot smudged hand to touch the single perfect tear on Ruby’s face.
“Why?” Jo murmured, soft and close.
Ruby closed her eyes, and when she reopened them they were filled with something almost like resignation and almost like hope. “You know why,” she said.
Jo thought of everything her mother would say. The admonitions about blindness and recklessness and the dangers involved in leaping without looking.
She fisted her bloody, broken nailed hands in Ruby’s unpinned hair, and kissed her mouth.
When she finally pulled back, Ruby eyes were wide, her mouth open and red and very tempting.
Jo smiled at the shocked relief on her face. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s go home.”
Ruby gave her a tentative smile back and twisted her claws in the back of Jo’s jacket. “Where’s home?” she asked.
A playful gust of wind snuck around the corner of the building to tug at Jo’s sleeves and toss Ruby’s hair into wispy disarray. Jo grinned, and snuck another kiss.
“Wherever we want.”