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Flying with Crooked Wings

Chapter Text

“Listen, kid,” Gavin started, cutting off the desolate child. Sure it was sad his dog had died from a tragic theobromine accident, but it wasn’t Gavin’s fault no one taught the little twerp chocolate was a dog’s kryptonite, “he’s in a better place, alright, so if you’d just stop asking for him to come back—it’d be much appreciated,” he said, patting the kid on the head.

“You promise?” the eight-year-old asked, his big brown eyes looking like glass—fragile and sparkly.

“Yeah,” Gavin lied, looking away as he did it—his halo going a bit crooked. To be honest, he wasn’t sure where dogs went after they died, only that he was tasked with calming the little boys and girls who despaired after them—at least until his punishment was up. “So just, you know, go to sleep and all that,” Gavin suggested, tucking the boy into his bed. For the hell of it, he materialized a plush dog, roughly the size of the dead Yorkie, and pressed it against his side.

“Thank you,” the boy snivelled, hugging it tightly.

“Whatev—I mean, goodnight,” Gavin said, phasing out of existence.

One down, 2 billion more to go.

It’d been cute the first few times, these children looking at him in awe as he tried to comfort them, asking him a million questions before they tired themselves out. Now, it was a chore, just like anything else he’d been tasked to do from the man upstairs. No, not God, his second in command: Captain Fowler.

Gavin fixed his halo, flicking it a few times until it hovered gently over his head. He’d been told the children could see it clear as day, some adults too, but he seldom interacted with people outside of his jurisdiction. Like now, he walked between the heavenly realm and the earthly one, lighting a cigarette as his body phased through the humans, feeling slightly disgusted as their sins slid against his skin.

He visited another home, calming down a little girl this time, her cat Lucy had been missing for quite some time (probably dead, if he was being honest).

“It’s okay, Matilda, I’m sure she’s fine, wherever she is,” he reassured, ruffling the child’s hair.

“You pwomise?” she asked her baby-blues drilling through his psyche like bullets.

“Mm-hmm,” he hummed, the halo flopping over his eyes. Matilda giggled, the sound lighting up the empathic receptors in his brain. Gavin had asked, on several occasions, if there was a way to turn those off. “Well, go to sleep, and goodnight,” he said, readjusting his misbehaving head-gear.


And off he went, lying to the children until he had to carry his halo around his neck. He sat by a homeless man, trying to drown the cognitive dissonance as it chastised him for disobeying one of the essential rules.

“Those are for humans,” he protested, looking at the man as if he could see him, “besides, I was tasked with consoling them, not to be honest,” Gavin continued, justifying his actions to whoever would listen.

“Whatever helps you sleep at night,” another voice said, entering the private conversation.

Gavin looked up, unamused, at his co-worker (calling him his brother literally made Gavin gag). “You spying on me, Anderson?” he asked, lighting a cigarette.

“Why do you even smoke those?” Lieutenant Anderson asked, ignoring the angel’s irritation and raising a brow, “you know they do nothing to you.”

Gavin shrugged, taking a deep inhale, “Habit, I guess,” he answered, flicking the spent butt into nothingness, “why are you bothering me this time?”

“Oh, no reason,” the angel replied, leaning against the wall. He pulled out a clear tablet, red citations populating the screen, all of them recent, all of them attached to Gavin’s name. “Just investigating these errors.”

Gavin snorted, standing and stretching as he looked through the citations, “Wow, 326—a new record,” he said, congratulating himself.

“You ever wanna’ be a detective again?” the lieutenant asked, suddenly very serious.

“I don’t know,” Gavin said, blasé, “kid-duty doesn’t seem all that bad,” he admitted, only because he knew it ruffled Hank’s feathers.

The lieutenant sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose as his shoulders tensed. “I’m sure this is all a big joke to you, and that it doesn’t seem to be a big deal,” Hank began, his tone clipped, “but if Fowler gets even a whiff of your behaviour, kid-duty will seem like a luxury.”

“You’ll take care of it, right?” Gavin said, his long eye-lashes an unfair weapon against Hank’s emotions. If there was one thing Gavin had learned from the children, was how to get away with murder simply by blinking. It also helped that the older angel had a soft spot for the wicked.

“I swear, one of these days they’ll replace your halo with horns,” Hank groused, deleting the citations from existence.

“Thanks a million, Hank, I promise to do better next time,” Gavin said, saluting the lieutenant.

“No, you won’t,” the man said, disappearing the next second.

“Damn right, prick,” Gavin mumbled, taking another cigarette from his infinite supply and lighting it as he skipped past the homeless man.

He’d been an angel since, well, since the beginning of time, but if you’d asked him how long that had been, Gavin would scratch his head and say, “Too damn long.”

He wasn’t always this way, crooked and bent like a politician. He’d followed the rules when he was younger, crossed his I’s and dotted his T’s—all that shit.

But doing the same thing for an eternity had taken its toll on his spirit, and even angels got bored of repetition. So, he rebelled, not enough to get kicked out, but enough to stir some trouble for the higher-ups. Not that it mattered, no one has seen the Big G in over a millennium. Many presumed he’d fucked off to another universe, but no one said it out loud.

Captain Fowler had taken the mantle as his ‘second-in-command’ quite seriously and expected nothing else but perfection from the angels.

Gavin had been around the block enough times to know exactly how to avoid being spotted by the Captain, but even angels slipped, and he’d been caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar, doing some unsightly things (granting wishes, how disastrous).

Hence, the demotion to kid-duty.

It wasn’t all that bad…okay, it was. Not having access to his room, being stuck with endless assignments, and the tediousness of the whole thing (which he was starting to believe was the whole point) created for a very unhappy angel—so smite him if he did something wrong for lying to the children. Gavin flinched as he half expected a lighting bolt to set his wings on fire.

Ah yes, at least he had his wings—imagine if he had to walk!

The worst punishment for an angel would be the loss of their wings, it’d be temporary, but very few ever dared tempt fate. That’s probably why he hadn’t crossed any barriers out of which he couldn’t sweet-talk the man in charge (see an example: Hank).

Thankfully, Captain Fowler was busier than Death, so Gavin got away with a lot. Probably too much, in Hank’s opinion.

“You’re lying, aren’t you?” the kid said, his deadpan expression taking Gavin by surprise. He’d only half been paying attention to the brat.

“What, of course not,” Gavin said, his halo falling to the floor, “what makes you say that?” he asked as he bent low to retrieve the misbehaving disk. 

“You looked away when you said it,” the brat pointed out, too observant for his own good.

“That doesn’t mean I’m lying,” Gavin murmured, readjusting his halo—it’d probably never sit straight. “Listen, kid, Patricia or whatever her name is, is fine, I’m sure she’ll be back in no time,” Gavin reassured, not used to getting called on his bull-shit.

“Can you prove it?” the boy asked, a challenge in his eyes.

It’d be so easy to knock him out, just a slight tap on his forehead and he’d be gone like a light—but unwarranted sedation was a bigger citation than a little lie, so he refrained his hand from lifting. “Of course, I can,” Gavin said through gritted teeth.

“Great,” the kid said, getting out of bed and putting on his shoes and jacket, “take me to her,” he looked adamant, his green eyes cold like steel.

“That’s not how this works, kid,” Gavin said, putting his foot down, “you stay in bed and let me console you, and I go about my day,” he reminded, crossing his arms.

“Well, I don’t wanna’ go back to bed,” the kid said, pouting, “I wanna’ find Patricia.”

Gavin looked to the ceiling, the glow-in-the-dark stars a poor mockery of the night sky. He still prayed to it to give him strength, as he gave into the child’s demands. “Fine,” Gavin griped, “but if we can’t find her, you’re gonna’ have to get a new snake.”

“Then you were lying,” the twerp said, narrowing his eyes, “you said you could find her.”

“Just shut up and come with me,” Gavin said, grabbing the child’s arm. Fucking stupid snake and smart-ass kid, making him do work.

It didn’t take long to find the ball python, her long body curled beneath the nearest rock. She didn’t seem too perturbed at being found, just flicked her tongue as the kid held her against his chest.

“See, I didn’t lie,” Gavin said, taking a cigarette and lighting it, “now fuck off and go to bed,” he continued, teleporting the kid to his room before he came up with another snarky reply.

Gavin leaned against the brick wall of an alleyway, enjoying the task of sucking on the cigarette and exhaling the noxious fumes. Normally, the cancerous chemicals would do damage to his cells, but the heavenly protection, given to him by no other than daddy dearest, converted the smoke to harmless air. Joy.

Sometimes he wondered what it’d be like, just to be human for a day and experience all those sins he heard about through the angelic grape-vine. Some seemed ridiculous, others were enticing enough to pique his interest. Just for a little bit, just enough to get a taste. He was sure he’d be satisfied with that.

Gavin shook his head as a high-pitched noise distracted his more blasphemous thoughts. They’d been stupid ideas anyway.

He looked around, feeling naked without his weaponry—being demoted to kid-duty had more than one set back. Sure, in times likes these he was meant to call for reinforcement, but there was no need to alert the cavalry on a hunch.

Gavin put a simple enchantment over his being, cloaking him from the more sinister of forces the world had to offer and went exploring. It wasn’t often he encountered a demon during his rounds. When he’d been a detective, it’d been his job, now it was just a consequence of circumstance.

He crept along the alleyway, fallowing the high-pitched wail until it plateaued, his ears picking up the demonic tongue in which the creatures spoke. Gavin should have paid more attention in class, as deciphering what they were saying proved to be difficult, and he would have asked them to slow down if he hadn’t been in stealth-mode.

The demons looked like brothers (no, duh, but more so than usual), both brunets, both dressed in a pressed black suit, their white ties the only splash of colour. They’d lost their wings many moons ago, replaced by a shadow of what once had been. It was moments like these that kept the angel in line, at least for the most part.

They were handsome, all sharp edges and angles, but their pale complexion made them look malnourished, casting a dark shadow beneath their eyes as if they hadn’t slept well for ages.

The taller of the two had eyes like metal, Gavin could only get glimpses of them here and there as the man furrowed his brow, the severe nature of his expression reminding the angel of his fellow uptight brethren.

Technically, the demon had been his brother once. Gavin tried not to think about the implications of that statement as he shook his head.

“Connor, with all due respect,” the taller demon began, his frown deepening, “I admire your ingenuity, but that’s a ridiculous plan.”

Wait, what plan? Had Gavin really forgotten that much from school?

The one presumed to be Connor rubbed a hand through his hair, the shift revealing the tip of his horns, he sighed—the longsuffering look in his brown eyes one with which Gavin was familiar. “Ace, we’ve been through this,” Connor whispered, rubbing his temples, “you just have to trust me.”

“I’ve always trusted your judgement,” Ace said, straightening his shoulders, “but this is extreme, kidnapping an angel—”

“Shh!” Connor hushed, “you're not supposed to say it aloud, they have ears everywhere,” he said, looking around. Without his knowledge, he locked eyes with Gavin, the accuracy of his statement emphasized at that point.

“If this works, and that is a very slim if,” Ace whispered through his teeth, “what makes you think they won’t erase us from existence?”

“Trust me on this?” Connor asked again, sounding less confident the more Ace challenged his proposal.

After a pause, Ace sighed, looking at the night sky as he said, “I trust you,” he crossed his arms, “I just hope you know what you’re doing.”

“I do, so just remember what I told you and call me when you’re ready,” Connor said, opening a portal to the underworld.

Ace exhaled, rubbing his temples, “I guess I’m ready now,” he murmured, “are you done eavesdropping?” he asked, his back still turned to Gavin.

The angel jumped, his eyes growing wide at having been caught. The demon turned around, scanning the area since he couldn’t see Gavin.

“Connor’s too trusting of his surroundings, or too naïve,” Ace said, pointing to the ‘trespassing’ sigil on each wall. How Gavin had overlooked them, he had no idea. “But it never hurts to be on the safe side,” Ace continued, narrowing the space between them. The angel stayed still, hoping that if he remained invisible to the naked eye, he’d never be spotted.

“You’re only prolonging the inevitable,” Ace grumbled, “I’ll find you eventually,” he said it like a promise, stretching his hand just past Gavin’s ear. The angel held his breath, feeling the darkness within the demon as it singed his skin. It hurt, but not enough for him to let down his guard.

Ace narrowed his eyes, unsure if he’d imagined the trespasser. “I guess it’s plan B, then,” he said, snapping his fingers, the angel trap encircling Gavin in a ring of flames, “there you are,” Ace said, looking unamused.

Gavin’s enchantment had vanished, taking any ounce of freedom with it as the demon stepped over the boundary and shackled his wrists. The angelic bond tethered him to the earth, cutting off all communication to home-base.

“I’ll be honest,” Ace started, dampening the flames until they were snuffed, “I thought it’d be harder.”

“You caught me on my off day, so,” Gavin said, trying to kill any fear in his heart. He wouldn’t give the demon the satisfaction.

“Oh, sorry about that,” Ace said, sounding sincere. As he walked, Gavin was compelled to follow, the shackles forcing him to remain at a certain distance.

“Aren’t you gonna’ call Connor?” Gavin asked, looking confused.

“I probably should,” Ace said, nodding once then turned to look at the angel, noting how he wore his civilian clothing over his angelic garb. He narrowed his eyes at the crooked halo, plucking it from the sky and trying it on for size. It immediately fizzled out, nearly breaking under the strain of such sin. “Sorry,” he apologized, returning it to the angel.

“Didn’t do me much good, anyway,” Gavin grumbled, readjusting the damned ring.

Ace grinned, an imperceptible thing, at the disgruntled angel, watching as he fumbled and failed to turn the light back on.

“Here,” Ace said, taking the halo and tapping it against the angel’s head, watching it spring to life, “there, a little trick for you.”

“Okay, what the fuck is going on?” Gavin asked, finally at his breaking point, this was insane, why was the demon just strolling through the middle of the city, why hadn’t he called Connor, what the fuck were they waiting on?

Ace's brows went past his hairline, unsure if he’d heard the angel correctly. “Nothing really,” he said, rubbing his chin, “I presume you heard most of our plan, you know what’s going on. It won’t be so easy for Connor, but we’ll be ready when he is,” Ace finished.

Gavin wasn’t about to admit he couldn’t speak their demon language and just bared his teeth at the demon, his grey eyes looking thunderous in the shade, “Just wait until they notice I’m missing,” Gavin spat, his wings flapping as they tried to lift him from the ground. He struggled against his restraints, but they seemed to adjust to him, going slack when he pulled them apart, infinitely infuriating since there was no resistance. “Agh! Just you fucking wait!”

“I’ll be frank,” Ace said, slightly disturbed, “I’ve never heard an angel curse before.”

“Well, there’s plenty more where that came from, you wing-less rat!” Gavin said, not caring if the words he strung together made sense. 

“I hope you like investigating,” Ace said, ignoring the angel's rude retort, “because I must go to work,” the demon continued.


“I know, but it gets boring in hell,” Ace said, rounding the corner and stopping in front of the police station. “Since we’ll be with each other for a while, I must get your name,” he continued, too polite for Gavin’s liking.

“Fuck you.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Fuck You,” the demon said, taking it in stride, “I’m Ace, but you may call me Detective.”

Chapter Text

Gavin never paid his freedom much mind. Being an angel, though boring and repetitive, had its perks. He had some semblance of free will, and with the All-Father nearly confirmed dead, the repercussions of his actions weren’t that severe.

But now, sitting opposite of Ace as he answered calls and disgruntled emails, spoke with his co-workers and worried mothers, Gavin realized he’d taken it all for granted.

“How does a demon even get a job?” the angel asked after a few hours of watching the detective type a report.

“They apply,” Ace answered, his eyes never shifting from the screen.

It might have looked odd if he did since Gavin was obscured from the humans’ vision. “Aren’t you fucking smart?” Gavin mumbled, trying for the millionth time to undo his shackles.

“I’ll never get tired of your odd behaviour,” Ace said, a quirk to his lips.

“Oh, trust me, you will,” Gavin swore, tearing at the cuff with his teeth. They weren’t uncomfortable—just binding. If he ignored them long enough, he'd forget they were there. 

A human sat through Gavin, surprising him with their sin, “Excuse you,” the angel groused, shifting to the other chair. Ace hid his smile behind a hand, listening to the individual’s complaint. Missing kid, what a pity.

“He’s probably at his friend’s house,” Gavin guessed, leaning on his hand as he watched the woman snivel into her napkin, “might be trying to leave your crazy ass.”

Ace raised an eyebrow, asking a few key questions. The woman nodded, “It was the first thing I did—his friend doesn’t know where he is either,” she said, pulling out a paper with all the contacts she’d tried.

“How long has it been since he’s gone missing?” Ace asked, ready to file another report.

“About two days.”

“She’s lying,” Gavin interjected, looking bored.

Ace had to mind his eyes as they’d drifted to the angel in surprise. “Have you tried visiting any of the usual spots he visits, a park, the mall, anything?” he asked, continuing his investigation like he didn’t have a champion for God making fart noises at the lady.

“Of course, I have, I’ve tried everywhere and still can’t find him,” she said, sobbing into her napkin.

“She’s lying again,” Gavin said, putting his feet on the detective’s desk, “can you not tell?”

“If you’ll excuse me for a bit,” Ace said, sounding apologetic. He stood, compelling the angel to follow (s’not like he had an option). “What are you doing?” Ace asked as they got out of the eyes and ears of any curious humans.

“Your job, apparently,” Gavin replied, shrugging.

“I can handle it,” the demon said, the words coming like a warning.

“Doesn’t seem that way to me,” Gavin sing-songed, flashing an impish grin.

“Alright,” Ace sighed, rubbing his temples. He’d been with the angel-man less than 24-hours and already he wanted to strangle him. “What’s your deduction, oh great and powerful Fuck You?”

“That’s not my name,” Gavin grumbled, sounding offended.

“It’s the only name you’ve given me,” Ace retorted, furrowing his brow, “maybe God has a sense of humour or something.”

“As if,” the angel said with a snort, “it’s Gavin,” he continued, relenting.

“There, now that we’re on a proper first name basis, can you tell me what you’re trying to accomplish by ‘doing my job’?” Ace asked, the frustration in his voice giving the angel a sliver of satisfaction.

“I’m honestly not sure, guess I couldn’t stand to watch you fail at something so simple,” Gavin replied, smugness peppering his tone.

“I’ve been doing this for five years,” Ace revealed, his eyes narrowing, “I’m sure I know what I’m doing.”

“I’ve been doing it since the universe began,” Gavin said, one-upping the demon, “I’m sure you don’t.”

“Fine,” Ace snapped, his ire growing to a palpable thing, “what do you suggest we do, Gavin?” The demon wasn’t so petty as to remind the angel how he’d been trapped by one of his sigils.

“I know where the kid is,” the angel replied like a throwaway remark, “as I said, he’s probably trying to run away from the crazy bitch.”

“And how, pray-tell, do you know where he is?” Ace questioned, hoping this revelation didn’t mean his bonds weren’t strong enough.

“I’m on kid-duty,” Gavin said, looking away with reluctance, “I kind of have a GPS on every kid in the world.”

“We normally arrest people like you,” Ace said, a wry smile forming on his face.

“Well, good thing I’m not a person,” the angel retorted like his halo and wings weren’t indicators enough.

Ace said nothing as they returned to his desk. Gavin had to admit the man could play the sympathetic card with incredible ease, his marble-like face softening enough to seem emotionally involved. It was the same act Gavin employed on the gullible children.

With a reassurance that they’d find her child, the woman was dismissed, and Ace could give Gavin his undivided attention. “Where is he?”

“What makes you think I’m gonna’ tell you?” Gavin said, perplexed. Of course, he wasn’t gonna’ make the demon’s day-job any easier, what did he look like, a genie?

The detective grumbled something in his native tongue, the roughness of it making Gavin shiver uncomfortably. “You’re a pain in the ass.”

“I’ve won several awards with that title,” Gavin said, seemingly proud of himself.

Ace looked like he was about to retort, but something in the distance caught his eye. He sighed, squaring his shoulders as Gavin turned to see who interrupted their conversation.

Connor, apparently, a spitting image of his brother if it weren’t for the brown eyes. The demon looked between the two, raising an eyebrow, “That’s him?” Connor asked, sitting in the empty seat.

“Indeed,” Ace said, then grumbled something in their demonic language. Connor’s eyes creased as he grinned at his brother’s misfortune.

“Well, no one told you to be hasty,” Connor replied, taking the angel’s halo and twirling it like a coin on his index finger. “Name’s Connor,” the demon introduced himself, holding out a hand.

“Bite me,” Gavin said through his teeth.

“Oh, I see what you mean,” Connor said, returning the hollow disk.

Ace put his head in his hands, looking defeated as he returned to his work. Connor lingered for a few minutes, sweeping his eyes over the angel. He had a roughness to him, almost as if he didn’t fit the angelic aura emanating from his pores. The scar over his nose was interesting—angels don’t get hurt as demons do. A force stronger than him must have overpowered Gavin at one point. Connor was almost curious enough to ask what.

“Go easy on him, alright?” Connor said, ruffling the angel’s hair. Gavin looked livid, flipping off the demon as he skipped away.

“How are you even an angel?” Ace asked, astonished and perturbed in equal measure. He looked at Gavin like an insect under a microscope, trying to understand his intricacies and drawing a blank.

“Been trying to figure that out for a while myself,” Gavin replied, crossing his arms and plopping his feet on the detective’s desk.

“We got kicked out for merely uttering a simple dissent,” Ace admitted, “how bad is it up there?”

It looked like the demon had struck a nerve, since the angel’s wings twitched, his shoulders going tense as he said, “Why don’t you mind your own fucking business?”

Ace let it go, realizing that talking with Gavin was like going through a maze—confusing and frustrating.

By the end of the day, Gavin and Ace hadn’t shared another word—which was fine by the demon. He’d rather pretend the angel wasn’t there than hear another antagonizing quip from his lips.

Ace shut down his terminal, taking his bag, badge, and gun with him. To the angel’s surprise, the man drove a sensible car, probably left there for camouflage’s sake. In retrospect, it was amusing to see a demon work like a civilian, pretending to be human and doing a decent job at it. Gavin wondered how many demons he’d overlooked because he wasn’t paying attention.

Gavin sighed, pulling out a cigarette to try and calm the shakes. It wouldn’t do anything physically, but the repetitive nature of the task felt familiar enough to bring him comfort.

“You smoke?” Ace accused, double-checking there weren’t horns under the man’s halo.

“Yep,” Gavin said between the cylinder, snapping his fingers and grumbling when it didn’t light. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Before he could complain to the demon for the millionth time about his shackles, a flame appeared between his eyes. It began from Ace’s fingertips, almost like a magic trick. Gavin was slow to light the cigarette, taking a deep inhale of the demonic flame.

It tasted the same, which is to say, it hadn’t changed at all.

Gavin grumbled thanks, focusing on the road and how slow the car moved compared to his wings. “Any chance in hell on you loosening these shackles?” Gavin asked, testing his luck.

“Play nice and we’ll see about it,” Ace replied, surprising the angel.

Gavin leaned on the window, watching the streetlights illuminate the road, the soft hum of the electric car reminding him of the angelic chatter he used to hear in the back of his mind. It was almost nostalgic, filling him with a longing he’d never admit he had. He wondered if anyone had noticed yet, many children had gone without being lied to, maybe Hank was suspicious.

Maybe Hank didn’t care.

Gavin shook his head, destroying that thought. Of course, he cared, for better or for worse they were brothers, and the angels cared for their own…he hoped. The car stopped before Gavin dove too deep into his feelings. Ace stepped out of the vehicle, walking towards an apartment building that looked far too nice for a detective’s salary.

“You know greed is a sin,” Gavin remarked when they entered the demon’s house, the extravagancies slapping him in the face.

“Perks of being alive forever,” Ace responded, removing his suit jacket and shoes. “Make yourself comfortable, I’m going to take a shower.”

“What the fuck am I supposed to do, crack open a bottle of wine and comment on the weather?” Gavin asked, pulling from his limited knowledge of human interaction.

“If you’d like,” Ace said, retreating to the right.

“Oh Jesus,” Gavin groaned, half-hoping the myth itself would appear and save him from this mockery of humanity.

When Ace didn’t show for another ten minutes, Gavin began poking around the place. He looked through the cupboards, empty except for plates, glasses, and cutlery. The fridge was in the same state, unused and untouched. He half expected there to be a hollowed-out skull and virgin blood to fit his stereotype of a demon.

To say he was disappointed would be an understatement.

The only recreational item in which Gavin took an interest was the harp overlooking the balcony. He plucked the first string, the vibrations making his wings flutter. Sitting in the chair, he took the massive instrument and played a few tunes he knew from memory. All hymns, all boring.

“Looking like a right ol’ cherub,” Ace commented as he walked into the room, using a towel to dry his hair. Even his pyjamas were black.

“Call me that one more time and we’ll see how you like falling from ten stories, you flightless prick,” Gavin murmured, pushing away the instrument.

“Says the man using his wings like a backpack,” Ace countered, sitting by his expansive library and plucking a book at random.

Gavin couldn’t even retort, the reality of the situation driving home how trapped he truly was. “Does Connor live with you?” Gavin asked, changing the subject altogether.

“Connor has better things to do than room with his little brother,” Ace said, never lifting his eyes from the book.

“Is this what you do when you’re off from work, read?” Gavin asked, unsure why the sight bothered him. Maybe it was so different from what he’d overheard from the angelic radio, from the many battles he in which he had participated eons ago.

“For the most part,” Ace said, holding his place with a finger and looked at the angel, noticing that despite his coarse and oftentimes crude exterior, his core was untouched, “unless I’m bored.” Convincing Gavin might be harder than they imagined.

“How does a demon get bored?” Gavin asked.

“How does an angel?”

 Gavin shrugged, knowing it’d been a rhetorical question. He walked over to the bookshelf, browsing the selection of literature. Most of it was in a language he couldn’t read, others were surprisingly juvenile in nature, “The Cat in the Hat, really?” Gavin asked, holding out the book.

“A literary classic,” Ace defended, his lips twitching upward.

“Are you kidding me?” Gavin gasped, pulling out the worst piece of them all, “you have his fucking fan-fiction?” he accused, flipping through the Bible with mild horror.

“You don’t?” Ace asked with a raised brow, “number one best-seller in the world, with millions of fans around the globe.”

“It’s a piece of shit and he had to re-write it three different times,” Gavin said, putting it back, “say what you will about his creative skills, but writing wasn’t his forte.”

“I’m surprised God lets you speak about him with such liberty,” Ace said, the honesty in his expression not overlooked by the angel.

“If he has a problem with it, he can come down and tell me himself,” Gavin said, always half-expecting the Man in Charge would do just that. But after a few seconds of waiting, Gavin let down his guard, unsurprised by the disappointment in his being.

“The more I learn about you, the more confused I get,” Ace said, sounding fascinated, “and irritated,” he amended after further inspection.

“Get used to it,” Gavin grumbled, “unless you want to let me go—that’s always an option.”

“Trust me, I’ve thought about it several times in the past hour,” Ace said, returning to his book.

“When I do manage to break these shackles, you’ll be severely disappointed you chose me to fuck with,” Gavin said, his grey eyes like icicles splintering through the demon’s mind.

“I’ll take that into consideration if you ever manage to break them,” Ace said, only slightly intimidated by the uptick of turbulent air in his immediate space.

Gavin sighed, finding a spot on the opposite couch to groom his wings. Without proper use, they were starting to get stiff and the oil building between the feathers made him feel dirty. When compact against his back, they looked just as the demon had said, a cherub’s wings, but stretched to their full potential, they were half the size of the room. When not in flight, Gavin liked to keep them at a midway point, always ready to teleport if he had to.

He was halfway through one wing when the hairs on the back at his neck stood at attention. He whirled his head to the side, noting how the demon looked at him, Ace’s frown deepening when he was caught. “Do you mind?” Gavin asked, his wings tensing.

Ace returned to his book, a slight tint crawling up his face. Gavin ignored it, working faster to sift through the downy feathers and pluck the over-grown ones. Something he wouldn’t have to do if he could fucking fly.

“That kid is at his friend’s house in their attic, he’s been there for several days now,” Gavin said, finally breaking his vow to be as obstinate as possible, if it even got him a step closer to using his wings again, he’d be happy, “I’d send a cop to the mother’s house to keep an eye on her, and a few to the friend’s house.”

“What?” Ace asked, shutting the book, “Why?” he looked puzzled with a dash of angry as he stood.

“You’ll find out,” Gavin said, infuriatingly vague.

Within an hour the demon and angel duo watched as the mother was handcuffed and read her rights, her tear-stricken face disappearing into the cop-car as her son’s cold body was zipped into a body bag and taken to the morgue.

Ace was deathly silent as he heard the report, the fire behind his eyes intensifying as he turned to Gavin. “Why didn’t you tell me everything?” Ace whispered, the heaviness in his voice making Gavin reconsider if demons had feelings.

“Wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise,” Gavin said, feeling awful as the words left him.

Ace’s eyes widened to an almost manic size, the depth and force of them dizzying the angel. “Gavin, that was a kid, she butchered her own child and you were just going to let her go?” Ace asked as if he didn’t comprehend how the severity of the situation didn’t cross Gavin’s skull. The angel’s dark sense of humour unsettled the demon, and Ace wondered—not for the first time—if his halo was real.

“I would have told you eventually,” Gavin mumbled, kicking his feet and avoiding eye-contact. He didn’t like getting reprimanded, especially from a denizen of hell.

“Next time,” Ace began, his tone serious, “don’t keep that type of shit from me,” he advised, walking away just as the rain began to fall.

Gavin was only allowed a moment of solitude before the shackles dragged him forward on an invisible tether. He wondered if it’d be uncouth to ask for flight privileges.


Chapter Text

They weren’t on speaking terms for a week, 5 hours, 13 minutes, and a few seconds. Not that the angel was counting.

Incredibly, it was Gavin who broke the silence first. He hated feeling like a tag-a-long creature, being yanked every-which-way by consequence as opposed to choice. He hadn’t dared breach the question of getting his wings back, much less a bit more freedom.

As much as he hated his empathetic receptors, they let him know when he’d messed up, and apart from a handful of times where he ignored their warning, he took responsibility for once.

Being a silent observer let the angel learn a few things about the demon. Ace cared about his job. It wasn’t a joke or a dare—he took it seriously. You’d think being a literal demon would incentivize him to do cruel things to the humans he was tasked to protect, but it was the opposite. Gavin almost envied his work ethic.

What should he say, though, to break the silence so thick it felt like a wall between them? It’s not like Ace didn’t know he was there, every time Gavin groomed his wings, he could sense the man looking at him, at least from the corner of his eyes. Was he jealous? Impressed?

It was hard to gauge from his stony expression, or the immovable object that was his frown when it’d settled on his face. “You never said what you did when you were bored,” Gavin reminded, compressing his wings against his shoulder blades. He swept the loose feathers under the couch, disregarding the growing pile that needed recycling.

Ace ignored him, flipping to another page. “What, you’re gonna’ pretend I’m not here?” Gavin said, not enjoying the cold shoulder, “can’t be that bad, you don’t seem like the wild type,” he continued, trying to get a rise out of the demon.

Why? He wasn’t sure, probably ‘cause he was bored.

“Are you sure your angelic sensibilities could withstand what I do for fun?” Ace asked, his tone monotone as he held his fingertip to the paragraph.

“Please,” Gavin scoffed, shrugging, “I know every sin in the book.”

“Knowing and seeing are woefully different,” the demon murmured, returning to the chapter.

“You probably won’t tell me ‘cause you’re just so boring,” Gavin teased, sticking out his tongue, “watching paint dry is probably more exciting than whatever you do for fun.”

The only reaction he got was a deep inhale. The demon was exercising his patience with great precision, impressive even if it was irksome.

“Bet Connor knows how to raise some hell,” Gavin murmured, crossing his arms.

Ace snorted, closing his book and shaking his head. “Whatever you say, Gavin,” he hummed, picking out another work of fiction.

“You’re really gonna’ sit there and read the same five books for the next eight hours?” the angel said, ready to rip his hair out. This was torture.

“Repetition is the mother of knowledge.”

“You’re just full of idioms, aren’t you?”

“I try.”

“Out all the demons in the universe, I had to get stuck with the boring one,” Gavin whined, kicking his legs like a child. “I bet an android would have more personality than you.”

Gavin flinched as the thick hardcover closed with a snap. Ace’s dark aura expanded as his patience with Gavin grew thin. “Stand,” he ordered. Gavin’s body propelled him forward against his will. “Come here,” the demon continued, Gavin’s heart skipped as his legs carried him. “On your knees.”

Here is where the angel tried to resist, but the binds were like planets around his wrists. Eventually, his knees were planted firmly in the rug, stuck there until the next order.

Ace stood, his height menacing from this position. With his hand, he grabbed Gavin’s face, squeezing until his nails dug into the angel’s cheeks, leaving semilunar imprints. “Why do you antagonize me?” Ace asked, the question demanding a no-nonsense answer, “do you want me to become the villain you envision? What exactly would you gain from that?”

Gavin had swallowed his tongue, his inability to answer seemed to suffice, however, and the demon let go of his face, regaining some of his cool with a deep breath.

Ace walked to the coat hanger by the entrance, put on a dark-grey trench coat and slid his feet into his shoes. Almost as an afterthought, he looked at Gavin, raising a brow, “You coming?”

The spell over the angel’s shackles dispelled and Gavin could move his limbs again. “I guess I have no other choice,” the angel whispered, following the man.

It was too late to call it morning or night, the roads nearly empty. But neither of them had to sleep, so his observations were only that, observations.

They stopped by a trail and Ace cut the engine, submerging the area in darkness before their eyes adjusted. The silence they shared as they walked through the underbrush was becoming a friend, or a nuisance—Gavin couldn’t decide.

The angel heard the scurrying feet before he saw the owners of the noise, his brows raising when they broke through a clearing, hundreds of cats rushing to greet the demon. Gavin noted how Ace bent low to pet them, creating portals to infinite food for the felines. After he was satisfied with their feast, he sat and reclined against a tree trunk, pulling out his book from another portal, resuming where he’d left off.

Gavin sat by him, unsure what to make of the cat forest, or the demon that seemed to take care of it, or the black cat rubbing its long body against his thigh. It was all too much, too unusual and out of order. If he was the religious kind, he’d say this was some form of punishment for his actions, but since he had no access to Man in Charge, he couldn’t very-well verify.

“I need a smoke,” Gavin grumbled, looking at the empty box. Without his powers, he had no way of refilling his supply, and he wasn’t about to buy them—what sort of example would that set?

There was a short tap on his shoulder, a brand-new carton of cigarettes greeting him. He took it without question, opening it and shoving a stick in his mouth. Unprompted, Ace snapped his fingers and let the angel decide when to light it. “Thanks,” Gavin said, minding his manners.

“You’re welcome.”

“But you know, I could do it myself if you loosened these chains,” Gavin said, pushing his luck.

“Nice try,” Ace monotoned.

“Worth a shot,” Gavin said, exhaling the harmless smoke into the atmosphere.

Slowly, Gavin adjusted to having his every move dictated by the demon. It wasn’t that different from his normal life if he had to be honest. Whether he was on kid-duty or demon duty, he’d always worked off someone else’s schedule—regardless of what he liked to portray.

They weren’t the best of friends yet, and that wasn’t the angel’s intention, but after that night in the forest, Ace had trusted him with a few cases, asking offhandedly if the reporters were being honest. It didn’t take any extra energy to look at their most recent sins, so he amused him, playing a watered-down version of the detective he used to be.

“How can you tell?” Ace asked once on the car ride to the station.

“I just see it, like a tally above their head, or bugs on my skin when I touch their souls,” Gavin said, shuddering.

Ace nodded like he understood, and Gavin thought the conversation had ended at that, but the demon’s brows furrowed into a familiar expression and asked, “What do you feel when you touch me?”

“Disgust, mainly,” Gavin said, only half-joking.

“Apart from that,” Ace pressed, unamused by the angel’s answer.

“I wasn’t lying, it is unpleasant,” Gavin said, taking a cigarette and waiting until the demon snapped his fingers before he grabbed his hand, “'m not sure how it is for you, but for me I feel these trails of darkness and electricity, almost like a thunderstorm in my blood.”

Ace thought about what he felt where Gavin held his hand. It was like a breath of fresh air, the purity of Gavin’s angelic core driving the shadows away. It was ethereal and based in metaphors, but he nearly regretted letting go as he concentrated on driving.

“You’re just too clean for your own good,” Ace said instead, dismissing the ridiculous notion that he liked to hold the angel’s hand, “like soap or bleach.”

“Damn, and I’d worked so hard to disappoint my parents,” Gavin said, feigning defeat.

Ace chuckled, a low and monotonous thing, but a chuckle, nonetheless. Now Gavin was left wondering what Ace looked like when he smiled.

“Ah, you’re still here,” Connor said, appearing from thin air. He seemed to use his powers without much regard to the humans around them, but in all honesty, what could they do about it?

“Where else would I be?” Ace asked, his frown deepening again. Another thing Gavin noticed was the demon disliked being interrupted from his work, especially for non-emergencies.

“I’m this close—Connor demonstrated by pinching his fingers—to catching an angel,” he said, lowering his voice so only they could hear, “I just need some help with the sigils.”

“If you would read the books I gave you, you wouldn’t be bothering me about this right now,” Ace reprimanded, crossing his arms.

“I know,” Connor said, cowering under his brother’s glare, “but they’re so dense, and I’d rather go to someone who has the experience,” he flashed a smile, “namely you.”

Ace sighed, rubbing his temples, “When do you need me?”

“After work is fine,” Connor said, his enthusiasm back in full swing, “I’ll let you know where,” and with that, he phased out of existence, his shadow stalling for a moment. 

“Brothers,” Ace said, resuming his task, “never have them.”

“Read ya’ loud and clear,” Gavin said, saluting the demon in solidarity.

There wasn’t much of the shift left, and Gavin could tell the closer they got to clocking out, the tenser the detective became. By the time they were driving to Connor’s location (some human establishment called Jimmy’s Bar), Ace’s aura was as tempestuous as a storm.

Before they walked inside, Ace gave the angel a look-over, unsure about his decision until he made it. “You stay silent, I do not want to hear a peep from you,” he said. Gavin pouted, flipping off the demon, his ability to speak snuffed.

They walked into the bar, Ace’s dark clothing allowing him to blend into the shadows and place the sigils and traps before he sat in a booth and observed from afar.

Gavin snapped his fingers in front of the demon’s eyes, mouthing, “I wouldn’t have said anything anyway.”

“Can’t take that chance, can we?” Ace whispered back, almost apologetic.

Connor sat on the bar stool, looking like a pretty picture with his brown, tousled curls, the rosiness of his cheeks emphasized by the twinkling lights, and the slim fit of his red button-down shirt didn’t hurt either. It seemed the demon had dressed to impress, or at least seduce whatever unsuspecting angel would walk into the bar.

How long had Connor been tracking the angel? How had he anticipated their appearance at the bar? As the angel approached, Gavin’s jaw fell to the table, thankful for the mute spell.

Hank ‘exemplary angel’ Anderson was the unsuspecting angel.

Gavin wanted to rub it in just as much as he wanted to warn his grey-haired brother of his upcoming doom. Of course, he could do neither now, so he watched as the train wreck unfolded.

Connor was purposefully ignoring Hank as he cheered for one specific team, his fabricated devotion catching the angel’s eye. “Big fan?” Hank asked, ordering the usual.

“Of course,” Connor said, sipping his red drink, “basketball is such a wonderful sport, don’t you agree?” he turned the full wattage of his smile on the angel, and Hank was none-the-wiser. The demon must have cloaked his true nature.

Or Hank didn’t care.

Gavin shook his head, of course he cared, the man was a Lieutenant, for crying out loud. One didn’t get that high up by letting pretty demons off the hook.

“Amen to that,” Hank said, ordering a drink for two.

Gavin had to cover his mouth as a giggle fit shook him. Oh Hank, just you wait. He wasn’t sure why he was looking forward to this, either way, they were both screwed once whatever plan the brothers had was executed.

“What’s your name?” Connor asked, his body language open and inviting.

“Hank," the angel asked, his wings twitching  "yours?” This was illegal, conversing with humans like this, but it didn’t hurt to share a common interest (he’d just have to erase the citation from the logs). 

“Connor,” the demon said, holding out his hand, “pleasure to meet you.”

If Hank didn’t notice anything amiss when they shook hands, then Connor was far more powerful than Gavin had ever given him credit.

They shook, and for a second Gavin thought the jig was up when Hank jumped. But the angel was either daft or blasphemous because he kept smiling and sipping his drink. Gavin never wanted to hear another quip about his cigarette ‘addiction’ ever again.

“You come here often?” Connor asked, mixing the ice in his cup.

“Haven’t recently,” Hank said, his mood dampening, “been looking for a missing friend.”

“Nothing serious, I hope,” Connor said, his brows tilting up with concern.

“No, I’m sure he’ll turn up,” Hank reassured himself, “it’s just been a bit longer than usual is all. Maybe he’s trying to prove a point.”

Gavin’s mirth died with the conversation, feeling guilty that he hadn’t tried harder to reach out to Hank. There’s nothing he could say or do until Ace deemed it appropriate, and he didn’t know the first thing about breaking the sigils binding his wrists. So, he sat and waited. At least if Hank was on his side, they might come up with something together.

“I’m sorry to hear about your misfortune,” Connor said, his brown eyes like melted chocolate, “but we should probably drink once more to a safe return from whatever passage he’s on,” he continued, holding up his glass in a toast.

Hank followed the demon’s lead, throwing back the shot with practiced ease. Not that it did anything to him, but there was something to be said about those habits.

“So, what do you do for work?” Connor asked, giving Ace a signal to disguise all four of them.

“I’m a Lieutenant,” Hank said, not specifying of what or where.

“Oh, interesting,” Connor said, nodding, “I’m a private investigator myself, so I deal with your kind on a weekly basis,” he continued, getting off the stool and taking a step back. “Now, I’m sorry about this Lieutenant, but we gotta’ speed it along before the others get suspicious. I enjoyed talking to you, though,” Connor said, the sincerity never sounding fabricated.

Hank was visibly confused, but by the time he understood, the bright ring of fire had stripped him of all escape routes, and the shackles around his wrists now tied him to the Earth, or more appropriately, the demon.

“Son of a bitch,” Hank cursed when he finally saw the whole picture, “of course that’s where you are,” he sighed, not even surprised when he met with Gavin.

The smaller angel motioned to his mouth and how he couldn’t speak. “An improvement then,” Hank teased, earning a ‘fuck you’ and the middle finger.

“You may speak now,” Ace said, stepping into the scene after he’d snuffed the fires.

“Fucking finally, tried to warn ya’ Hank, but there was no way in hell you should have fallen for that as hard as you did,” Gavin said, almost gleeful to have someone be just as oblivious as himself.

“I liked you better when you weren’t talking,” Hank sighed, rubbing a hand down his face, “Fowler’s gonna’ have a field day.”

“It’s your fault more than mine,” Gavin said, rubbing it in, “what exactly were you doing here? I mean, I was doing my job, this doesn’t look like a demon lair,” he continued, dismissing the fact two demons stood beside them.

“What I do in my free time is none of your business,” the lieutenant said gruffly, his wings twitching at getting caught by Gavin—out of all angels.

“You’re a hypocrite, Hank Anderson,” Gavin said, sticking out his tongue, “when we get back to Heaven, I’ll make sure you’re stuck doing kid-duty with me.”

“Great, so we’re all on the same page,” Connor said, breaking up their petty fight.

“What?” Hank and Gavin asked in unison.

“As you said,” Connor said slowly, almost as if the angels were stupid, “when we get to Heaven.”

Chapter Text

“Good fucking luck,” Gavin said with a snort. The older demon cocked his head, the inquisitive nature of his eyes compelling the angel to elaborate. “If Heaven doesn’t want you in, it’s not letting you in.” Take it from him, Gavin hadn’t seen his apartment in years.

“No bother,” Connor said, shrugging his shoulders, “we’ll figure it out.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Hank rushed, shaking his head, “why do you want to get into Heaven?”

Connor’s lips thinned as he thought about a proper response, sharing a look with his brother and the two angels, “You’ll know when it’s time.”

“That’s not an answer,” the lieutenant pointed out, his wings twitching again, a sign he was getting angrier.

“Well, I’m sorry to disappoint, Lieutenant, but that information is classified,” Connor said, earnest in his reply. He began to walk, expecting the binds to work as intended, but when Hank stood still with his brow quirked, the demon did a double-take. “Would you kindly follow me?” Connor asked, unsure how to handle this malfunction.

“I think I rather like it here,” Hank said, sitting in the booth with his arms crossed. Connor looked panicked, exchanging a quick word with his brother. Hank huffed, shaking his head. “These are nothing more than glorified bracelets, you’re lucky I haven’t broken them yet,” the lieutenant said, refilling the empty glass on the table.

“Guess it pays to be Fowler’s lap dog,” Gavin teased, his smirk grating to all parties involved.

“Shut up,” Hank mumbled, putting the glass to his lips and taking a swig.

This was a situation Connor had not anticipated, and the stalemate was driving anxiety like swords into his stomach. Those shackles were supposed to be one size fits all. “If you’ll excuse us,” the demon said, dragging his brother through a portal.

“Stay,” Ace was quick to say before the pathway to Hell closed.

“I’m not a fucking pet,” Gavin snapped at the shadow that lingered when the demons disappeared.

“He’s sure got you tied up like one,” Hank commented, taking another sip.

“Sit on it and spin, Hank,” Gavin growled, pulling out a cigarette and sucking on its unlit body.

“You know, I wondered why your record looked so clean,” the lieutenant began, taking mercy on Gavin and lighting the stick, “thought my words had finally found their way to that thing you call a brain. But no, you just got yourself captured.”

“Says the man who also got himself captured,” Gavin bit back, looking like a child as he crossed his arms.

“Searching for you, out of all things,” Hank griped.

“Didn’t seem like you were trying too hard,” Gavin retorted, his smirk back and wider than before.

“I’m a busy man,” Hank said, not cowering under the angel’s stare.

“You’re more crooked than a round-about, Anderson,” Gavin said, leaning his chin on his hands, “is that why you take it easy on me?” he continued, blinking innocently at the lieutenant.

Hank refrained from answering and instead took an infinite sip of his drink; avoiding the angel’s questioning gaze.

“I won’t tell if you don’t,” Gavin whispered, holding out a pinky, “promise.”

The lieutenant’s tablet rumbled with a notification, a bright red citation with Gavin’s name attached to it populated the screen, and Hank laughed—a deep and hearty thing—at the angel’s shocked expression. “Never change, Gavin, it’ll make my job easier,” Hank said, turning off the angelic device.

“So, how are we getting out of this?” Gavin asked, a few moments later, gesturing to the golden shackles at his wrists.

“We can’t,” the lieutenant said, sobering up, “as simple as the sigil is, it’s unbreakable. I can resist some parts of it because of the connections I have up top, but other than that, we’re under the mercy of those two. Don’t let them know that, though,” he said as if sharing a secret.

Gavin wouldn’t mention the time he’d been made to kneel like a slave by the feet of the demon. Knowing Hank, he’d probably say he deserved it. Gavin sighed, leaning on the table in a defeated position. His ears rang before the demons made their entrance, they looked untroubled, composed—if they were faking it, it didn’t show.

“I’m sorry about this, Lieutenant,” Connor said, holding what was essentially a leash in his hands, “but I need you with me.” His apologetic nature didn’t decrease the sting of humiliation and Hank shot Gavin a look, as the angel started snickering, shutting him up with an unspoken promise of pain.

“I’ll see you later, brother,” Connor said, dragging Hank by the chain, “I’ll let you know when.”

“Be careful,” Ace cautioned, looking at Hank as he said it, “he’s strong.”

“I can handle it,” Connor reassured, his shoulders going tense with an effort to pull the angel out of his chair. Eventually, the levee broke, and Hank had no option but to comply.

“I’m not sure your little plan is worth all this trouble,” Gavin commented as he looked at his nails, “you’ve got two very unwilling participants by your side.”

Ace kept quiet, his MO when Gavin said something that struck a nerve. He stood by the angel’s side, unsure what to do. There were still four hours before his shift began and even reading didn’t seem pleasant enough to calm the turmoil in his chest.

“Come,” Ace said, gesturing to the exit.

“Like I have a choice,” Gavin said, rubbing his wrist where the restraints loosened. He took another cigarette and put it to his lips, snapping his fingers and focusing on the digits, willing them to light. He sighed at the failure and accepted the demon’s flame.

They locked eyes for a second, the bright orange of the fire bouncing between them. Gavin wondered what Ace saw, if he was simply a puppet on a string or a powerful being fashioned by God. All Gavin could see was darkness, no soul, nor spark of life--just dark. An endless abyss, peaceful and frightening in equal measure.

Ace killed the flame, shoving both his hands inside his trench coat. Could he feel cold, Gavin wondered, or was he just imitating human behaviour?

The angel didn’t have enough motivation to ask.

A week passed before they saw Connor and Hank again. Gavin heard the tell-tale ring of a demon approaching before he saw them. Connor looked worse for wear, though he tried to hide it behind a pleasant smile.

The pair of brothers were the oddest demons Gavin had ever encountered. He still couldn’t decide if their polite countenance was for show or if it stemmed from a genuine place. “You’re not making it easy for him, are you?” Gavin asked Hank as he rested on the couch, looking above the rim of the children’s book.

“Nope,” Hank said, barely tugging at the chain, making the demon stagger backwards.

Connor still managed to smile through the effort, adjusting his tie as he begged his brother for help solely through his eyes. “I did tell you he was strong,” Ace said, not pausing from his nightly read.

“There has to be something else,” Connor said in his native tongue, “a vest or something.”

“Do you think these binds are easy to make?” Ace replied, his frown deepening, “you might as well incarcerate him if you want to keep him still.”

Gavin looked lost, but Hank’s expression darkened, the electricity in the room shuddering at whatever the brothers were suggesting.

“I can’t do that,” Connor said, returning to English, “at least not safely.”

“Then I can’t help you anymore,” Ace said, looking unphased by his brother’s disappointment.

“Would you like to switch?” Gavin asked, feeling like Connor was slightly more exciting than his book-bound sibling.

“No,” Ace interjected quickly, his eyes shifting between Connor (who’d honestly considered it) and Gavin, “you’re mine.” There was a touch of possessiveness in his tone, the first true emotion (apart from frustration) Gavin had ever sensed from the demon.

Hank chuckled, rummaging through the cupboards for something to drink. “Not even wine,” he groused, “what sort of demon are you?”

Gavin was still trying to process what had been said, so he didn’t notice how the detective stood and poured the lieutenant a glass of Hell’s Finest Whiskey.

Connor sat beside him, and took his hand, tugging lightly at the shackles. “If you want to switch, Gavin, it’s your decision,” he said, almost pleading with the angel, “I’m sure my brother isn’t the most stimulating creature out there—I’ll at least take you places,” he promised.

“He takes me places,” Gavin said, perplexed as to why he was defending the demon.

Connor smiled, the fatigue behind his eyes clearing a fraction, “I’ll give you your wings back,” he said, tempting the angel.

“To go where?” Gavin challenged, “I’m still bound to you regardless,” he reminded.

Connor’s smile fell into a glare, his jaw clenching with a fit of anger threatening to bubble over. He stood without another word, swiping the whiskey bottle for himself. “We’re leaving,” the demon said before he phased through the portal.

It took a few moments for the angel and demon to return to their books, but Gavin couldn’t help the nagging sensation in the back of his head. “I don’t belong to anyone,” he said, just so they were on the same page.

Ace met his eyes, a spark of something mischievous dancing behind his irises. “I know,” he replied.

“Good,” Gavin nodded feeling as if he’d only been placated verbally and nothing changed.

“He did it,” Gavin said, not even looking at the lineup of people for more than a few seconds before he pointed out the guilty individual.

Ace nodded once, relaying the information to the police officer. “Are you sure?” the tubby man asked, ready to perform the arrest.

“Have I been wrong?” Ace retorted, disliking the man’s skepticism but understanding it, nonetheless.

“No, but you said it so quickly,” the officer said, awestruck, “like you’ve got a sixth-sense or something.”

“Or something,” Ace admitted, unbeknownst to the man. He left it at that, returning to his desk.

“Am I making your job too easy?” Gavin asked, overlooking the next report and picking out the inaccuracies and falsehoods.

“On the contrary,” Ace said, swatting the angel away, “you’re making me look suspicious.”

“You should thank me, fewer people are getting hurt because of me,” Gavin reminded.

“Thank you, Gavin,” the demon said, unamused.

“And you should also reward me,” the angel continued, pushing his luck, “you know, for playing nice.”

Ace paused his search and looked at the angel, unsure what constituted as a ‘reward’. “What do you want?” he asked, just to be on the safe side.

“You’re kidding me,” Gavin groaned, shaking out his wings for emphasis.

“I can’t do that,” Ace said, his tone final.

“Please,” Gavin pleaded, “at least let me fly.”

“I said no,” Ace snapped, getting a few odd glances from his co-workers.

“Connor said he would have let me,” Gavin murmured, tucking his wings away.

“Did he now?” the demon asked, the curious lilt in his tone hiding something, “what else did he say?”

“That he’d take me places because you’re boring,” Gavin admitted, having no loyalty to the older brother to keep his promises a secret.

Ace locked eyes with the angel, the intensity of his stare making Gavin squirm. “Why didn’t you go with him?” it was both a question and an accusation.

“The devil you know and all that shit,” Gavin said, hoping the answer would suffice so Ace would look away.

The demon took him by the wrist, revealing the shackles and the sigils that bound him. Ace put one wrist to his mouth, whispering something into the gold, the heat of it spreading up the angel’s arm and down his spine. Gavin shivered as he felt the band loosen, a pleasant hum running from the base to the tip of his wings.

“There,” Ace said, returning to his work, “just don’t do anything to make me regret it.”

Gavin spread his wings, wondering if he’d fall flat on his face and this was just a cruel trick to get his hopes up. When he teleported to the next room (a bit rusty, he was aiming for the parking lot) he nearly cried from joy. He’d forgotten what it was like to fly, to exercise the powerful muscles attached to him.

There was obviously a line he couldn’t pass, the binds getting stronger the farther away he was from Ace. But it didn’t matter, he exploited as much as he could from his newfound freedom, letting the rush of the wind clean each feather, thankful he didn’t have to do it tonight. When he met with Ace again, Gavin had a dopey smile on his face, gliding by the detective, forgetting he had feet.

“You look happy,” Ace pointed out, never the master of subtlety.

“Ecstatic,” Gavin admitted, floating into the car. Counterintuitive, but he didn’t have a choice, he was bound after all. Yet he couldn’t think about that, not when he felt this light.

As they entered the apartment, Gavin realized he may have overdone it as pain radiated from his wings, aching when he stretched them. He sat in his usual spot, looking at them with disdain. “Ow,” Gavin pouted, massaging the hinge.

“Did you pull something?” the demon asked, surprised.

“I’m fine,” Gavin said, rolling his shoulders, pretending his spine wasn’t on fire.

Ace stood and walked closer, slow enough, so Gavin wasn’t intimidated. “Mind if I take a look?”

“You’re not gonna’ rip them out, are you?” Gavin asked, half-joking.

“Of course not,” Ace scoffed, “I’m a demon, not soulless.”

Gavin made a sound between a laugh and a bark, shaking his head. “Pot calling the kettle black, but okay, go ahead,” the angel said, giving a thumbs up.

Ace repositioned Gavin so he had full access to his back, spreading the wings outward to get a better look at the sensitive spot where it transitioned from feathers to nerves then skin. This was a very vulnerable area for an angel, the fact Gavin was letting him see it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Maybe he was appreciative of the little kindness Ace had shown him, maybe the demon was looking too much into it.

The first touch took Gavin by surprise, sending a sharp shock through his body, making him jump. The demon apologized, lightening the pressure of his fingertips. Gavin was twitching, his wings quivering as he tried to hold them still.

“See, here’s the problem,” Ace said his voice deep, rumbling somewhere in his chest, “you weren’t able to reach these old feathers,” he continued, untwisting the stuck ones and massaging the nerve.

Gavin bit his lip, hiding his head under the massive wings. Ace worked slower than was necessary, his eyes devouring the sight of such a vulnerable angel. If for nothing, he could explain his reaction away by reminding them they were mortal enemies, and the itch to destroy the angel was strong, but nothing in his body wanted to bring harm to Gavin. The opposite, in fact.

“Grooming is not a one angel job,” Ace reminded, plucking the last strays.

“I know,” Gavin said, his voice shaky and shallow.

“I’m almost done,” the demon whispered, double-checking his work. Before he left, Ace spread his fingers where the feathers were the softest, squeezing until oil spilled into his palm, coating it with an aroma that was strictly Gavin’s. The angel jerked, pressing a fist into his mouth to stave off the half-choked sound that threatened to escape.

“There,” Ace said, standing and turning so he faced away from Gavin, marching into his room so he could wash the scent from his hands. He hadn’t meant for that to happen, if he had a proper grooming comb it would have been avoided. Angels seldom groomed each others’ wings, it was normally reserved for child angels, who’s undeveloped wings didn’t allow them the ability to teleport.

The oil didn’t come into play until the angel had matured, a right-of-passage so to speak. It was meant to protect the wings, to make them hydrophobic and efficient. But of course, it had an unintended consequence. Before God banned human and angelic interactions, the humans would trap angels and milk their sebaceous glands, selling the oil as a potent aphrodisiac. It was inhumane and ultimately damaging to the angels' wings, but it hadn’t stopped until the first flood.

Now, Ace’s hands were covered with it, the scent making its way to his nostrils, getting trapped in his mind. He tried to exercise great will-power and bury his hands under the stream of water, but they still disobeyed him, going to his face, touching his lips, his cheeks. Ace’s tongue darted outwards, the taste hitting him like lightning. The angel shouldn’t affect him like this, their partnership was inconvenient enough as it were.

Ace shook his head, reminding himself of the plan.

The plan…the plan…

He smacked his face, lingering on the scent before he shook himself out of it. He’d have to use soap before it became obvious he’d tried to drown himself in it.

Gavin was still recovering from the overstimulation when Ace reappeared. The angel had tucked his wings away, keeping them out of sight. Ace tried not to take it personally. “I hope I wasn’t too rough,” he said, the sincerity present but not entirely genuine.

“Not at all,” Gavin said, sitting straighter, resuming his book. Or at least trying to, the bright colours swam behind his eyes but never connected. And the language in which it was written?

Forget about it.

Chapter Text

Ace kept his eyes glued to his computer screen, occasionally lifting them to the angel. Gavin tended to drift off into space (both literally and figuratively now that he had his wings). He never complained of boredom, even though Ace knew his job couldn’t compare to the heavenly battles Gavin was used to.

The angel blew O-rings from the smoke of his cigarette, poking his fingers through them and watching them dissipate. Ace couldn’t help but smile, finding the simple action endearing.

The demon was pulled from his thoughts by a co-worker passing through the angel. Gavin hated it, the ‘shock of their sin’ (as he called it) going through him like a dagger. “May I help you?” Ace asked, professional and polite.

“I…” the co-worker hesitated, tucking their short hair behind their ear, a nervous tick. “I just thought…”

“Spit it out already,” Gavin whined, drifting to the opposite chair as the police officer made up their mind on how to speak.

Ace kept his eyes fixated on the human, even as he agreed with the angel that this exchange was taking too long. “Is everything alright?”

“Mm, y-yes,” he said, tripping over his words. The blush on his cheeks was obvious now, their fair skin doing nothing but emphasizing his embarrassment. “I just couldn’t help but notice you were, uh, you’ve been looking,” the officer gestured to his desk, directly across from the detective’s line of sight.

“Have I?” Ace said, looking around the angel. Now it was his turn to blush, to any human it’d seem like he was making eye-contact—intense eye-contact. “Sorry about that,” Ace said, rubbing his neck.

“Oh no, it’s fine,” the officer was quick to reassure, “I’m not bothered or anything, the opposite in fact.” Oh boy.

Ace’s smile faltered, panic rising in his chest as the human (such simple creatures) misinterpreted everything.

Gavin poked the officer, his brows meeting his hairline. “Mm-hmm, that’s what I thought,” he said to himself, shaking his head, “oldest sin in the book.”

Ace wanted to tell the angel to shut up, Gavin wasn’t helping. “I’m sorry, I think you may have misunderstood,” the demon said, trying to let the human down easily, “my eyes tend to wander when I’m thinking about something.”

“Oh,” the officer said, the disappointment in that single word crashing over the angel like a wave, “I understand, sorry to have bothered you,” he mumbled, his eyes downcast and shoulders slumped.

“No bother,” Ace said, his smile strained as he tried to ignore the mounting need to hide under his desk.

“I should get back to work,” the man said, pointing to his chair, “have a great day, Detective.”

“You too, Officer,” Ace said, feeling his smile break as the man turned around. He rubbed his forehead, taking deep breaths to calm the rushing in his ears.

Gavin’s giggle made him jump, forcing him to look up (albeit, more conspicuously). The angel looked giddy, almost as if he gained energy from awkward and unfortunate situations. “You’re a contradiction, you know that?” Ace asked in a huff, re-positioning his monitor so it faced the wall and he could avoid ‘staring off into space’.

“What does this say?” Gavin asked, finally giving up on trying to decipher the demonic language.

The demon raised a brow, looking up to see what Gavin was pointing to. He got up from his arm-chair and stood by the angel, pulling out the book from its place on the shelf. He read the spine out loud, his native tongue rough and dark against the angel’s ears.

“I mean, what does it say,” Gavin tried again, saying without saying that he didn’t understand, “in English.”

Ace’s brow rose higher yet he kept his comments to himself, translating the title,  “The Passion That Binds,” he said, flipping the pages, “it’s erotica,” he continued, showing the sigil for eternal fornication.

Gavin’s ears burned hot as he looked away, choosing another tome and pretending to read it. “Oh, I knew that,” he said, refusing to make eye contact with the demon.

“You have no idea what any of that says, do you?” Ace asked, the skepticism in his voice thick like honey.

“Of course, I do,” the angel retorted, his halo going askew, “I’m a little rusty, that’s all.”

“Uh-huh,” Ace said, taking the book from the angel’s hands, “I wouldn’t be flipping so casually through this book if I were you.”

“What, is it more sex stuff?” Gavin snapped, the glow of his cheeks almost cute if he wasn’t so irritating.

“No, actually,” Ace replied, scanning the text, “it’s the hundred and one ways to torture an angel—volume one.”

Gavin crossed his arms, pouting as he returned to his Cat in the Hat. At least the hidden symbolism was in English.

Ace warred with himself before he asked the question. It wouldn’t be appropriate, the less the angel knew—the better. But seeing the winged man in such distress was causing him stress. He’d never admit it, of course, Ace had a feeling Gavin would exploit it if he knew. “I could teach you if you’d like.”

“Perfect, now when you’re getting ready to filet me alive, I’ll at least have a warning,” Gavin said, his tone dry and unamused.

“It was just a suggestion,” Ace said, returning the tome, “no need to get your feathers in a twist.”

“At least I have feathers.”

Ace looked heavenward, unsure to whom or what he was praying but asking them for strength. Until Connor got a handle on the lieutenant’s power, all Ace could do was wait. The plan seemed less and less likely to come to fruition at this rate. He hadn’t even breached the details of it to Gavin because he thought the angel had understood. And needless repetition made the demon irate.

“I’ll be right back,” Ace said, opening a portal, “stay.”

“I’m not a fucking dog,” Gavin barked, feeling the shackles tighten on his wrist.

Ace ignored him as he stepped through the threshold, feeling the intense heat of the fireplace in Hell’s finest library. It’s where he borrowed most of his collection, there was an endless supply of literature, ranging from tutorials to mementos. Unsurprisingly, many of the writers from above had been ungodly sinners and continued their fame (or infamy) down below. It wasn’t all that bad; they weren’t paid anything—but they could continue writing feverishly until the end of time.

Ace walked to the back, pausing as he passed a mirror. In Hell, his more appropriate form revealed itself. He had large horns that curled backwards, his nails elongated to claws, and the shadow of his wings flickered in the candle-light. His eyes shimmered from pale blue to amber or red, depending on his mood, and his teeth had a decisive point to them.

It wasn’t a pretty sight, but it was the honest consequence of his past actions, and if Connor’s plan worked—it’d only be permanent for a little bit longer.

Ace shook his head as he continued his search. He climbed the ladder to the topmost ledge, pulling the few books written in the angels’ language. Some brave souls had managed to steal them from the heavenly library and bring them beneath, one of the books being a demon to angel translator.

Before he left, Ace stopped by the kids’ section, pulling a few more books. He wasn’t sure why he did it, maybe because he felt bad, maybe because Gavin was infantile.

“Here,” the demon said, dropping the tome on the angel’s lap and returning to his book, hopefully for the last time.

Gavin frowned, turning it around until the words he understood coalesced with the ones he didn’t. He held the tome closer, feeling nostalgic for home as he realized this was an original work from above.

The angel read the words aloud, the melodic nature of his native tongue floating through the air until it landed on the demon’s ears. The sound brought back a deep-seated anger Ace had forgotten existed, he almost asked Gavin to stop, but looking at the angel made him bite back his words.

The concentration in Gavin’s furrow was captivating, the little flicker in his wings a tell-tale sign he was engaged in the book. Ace had to tear his eyes away and return to his own literature, the sigils looking bland by comparison.

“What even is this language?” Gavin asked a few hours later, having skimmed through the entire book and feeling just as lost as before.

“It’s not,” Ace answered the rhetorical question, “there’s no structure to it on purpose. The fact anyone could translate it is impressive.”

“Only an idiot would waste their time trying to make sense of this shit,” Gavin said, scratching his head, “I guess I’m an idiot then,” he mumbled, going back to the start.

“Unless you hear it in action, that book’s not gonna’ do you any good,” Ace pointed out. He’d given up trying to concentrate on reading and simply played with a puzzle, trying to distract himself from asking if Gavin needed help.

It nearly worked.

“No thanks,” the angel was quick to retort, “I’d rather swallow a dozen raw eggs than hear you speak this non-language.”

Ace decided to have some fun with that statement instead of getting offended and brought a carton of eggs floating in front of the angel’s face. Gavin frowned, looking at the demon like he wanted to strangle him. “What,” Ace shrugged, “you said it.”

“Fuck off,” Gavin grumbled, flipping him the bird.

Ace chuckled, letting the eggs disappear. His mirth died, however, when he sensed his brother appear before he stepped through the portal.

Connor didn’t bother with a polite smile, instead, the hard line of stress had etched its permanent place on his face as he looked between Ace and Gavin. He began speaking, hopefully, fast enough so Hank couldn’t keep up. Ace narrowed his eyes and stood to tower over his brother. “I’m not switching,” he replied, plain as day.

“Ha!” Gavin exclaimed, “Hank’s still being a trouble-maker.”

“Shut up, Gavin,” Hank said, the shackles around his wrist and neck having doubled since the last time they’d seen him.

“He’s worst than an untamed Hellhound,” Connor wanted to shout, but kept his voice low, feigning control.

“They both are,” Ace had to admit.

“Then switch with me,” Connor implored, his eyes going round and wide. A dirty move. “At least for a little bit.”


And Ace thought that would be the end of that. He didn’t shut down his brother often, so he wasn’t expecting the reaction he got when he did.

As quick as lightning, Connor turned to Gavin, pulling out a knife. It burned bright as it swung through the air. Gavin didn’t have a chance to react except for the reflexive flinch. He expected the burn of the weapon to impale his heart, or at least damage his face, but when he felt nothing but the dizzying rush of energy flooding his system, he was sure he’d died a quick death.

Ace’s eyes went wide with shock, looking between the broken shackles and his brother. Connor’s face had gone cold, pocketing the knife as he yanked the many chains he had in his hand. “Guess you’re gonna’ have to find another pet,” he said, disappearing into a portal the next moment.

The demon didn’t have a chance to draw a quick trapping sigil or even generate more binding shackles. He could only stand there and wait for the inevitable to happen. Well, it’d been an interesting journey while he’d been through it.

Gavin opened his eyes like he’d been blind before, looking at his hands and flexing his wings as the thick coating that were his powers recharged his core. “Fucking finally,” he sighed, sounding like he was in bliss. He pulled out a cigarette and lit it, taking a deep drag. Sinking back into the chair, he forgot where he was for a moment and simply enjoyed the pleasure of being whole again.

Ace had thought he’d been done getting surprised by the paradoxical angel, but the fact that Heaven’s SWAT team hadn’t burst through his ceiling was a good sign (probably).

Gavin finished his second cigarette before he addressed the elephant in the room. “I hope you weren’t thinking of kicking me out,” he said, “’cause I’m not going back on kid-duty.”

Ace’s jaw dropped, unable to help it as a surprised sound escaped him. The angel returned to his book, a satisfied smirk on his face. Gavin definitely got off on confusing people.

“You’re not leaving?” Ace asked, just to double check.

“I mean, I guess I could,” Gavin said, flipping to the next page, “but where would I go. I’ve got no access to Heaven, and my only friend is shackled to that prick you call a brother—so, you tell me what I should do,” Gavin said, shrugging his shoulders, “or don’t since you can’t anymore.”

Ace looked like a fish, his mouth forming words that had no sound. His brain was malfunctioning, he was sure, or the angel was playing a game, a trick. Yes, that was it, this was all a big trick, he had to reinforce his house soon before the cavalry came knocking—

“I’m not calling anyone,” Gavin said, like he’d read the demon’s mind, “I can tell you’re freaking out about that.”

“Why?” Ace accused, his eyes narrowing to slits, “what is wrong with you?”

“Ask the Almighty,” Gavin replied, lighting another cigarette.

Ace rubbed his temples, wishing he could go to sleep so this nightmare of a situation would go away. “You’re not normal, you know that,” he said, pointing a finger at the angel.

“I know,” Gavin said, the fact bringing a smile to his face.

Chapter Text

Ace was sure he looked like a mad-man, constantly looking at the angel as he investigated the crime scene, making faces at things that weren’t there. One of the officers nearly caught him in the middle of a breakdown, luckily, Ace had enough sense to play it off as a misunderstanding.

This uncertainty was absolute torture. When would Gavin leave him, when would he call reinforcements? How much of this not-knowing could the demon take?

“When Hell freezes over, I guess,” Gavin said after Ace voiced his concerns, “honestly, I’m starting to think you don’t want me here,” the angel continued, only half-offended. 

The demon took a mental step back, the words registering slow as molasses in his mind. It shouldn’t be this hard to understand the angel wanted to stay out of his own volition, but alas…

Ace didn’t use his balcony often, the need for fresh air was obsolete to a demon. But he needed it right now, craved the crispness of a cool night breeze. He swirled a concoction of tea and wine in his tumbler, taking minute sips as he stared at the moonless night.

“Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” Gavin asked, his wings appearing before he did. They looked so bright against the dark background of the night, shimmering with each flap.

“Aren’t I supposed to say that?” Ace retorted. He was the one on the balcony, after all.

Gavin shrugged, leaning against the railing to look up at the demon, their eyes locking for a second before Ace looked away. “Watcha’ thinking about?” the angel poked, feeling the demon’s turmoil from mere proximity.

“I may need to learn how to ice-skate soon,” the detective replied, a pinched smile stretching across his face, “I’m just counting how much time I have left, but the clock keeps resetting each day,” he admitted, taking another sip.

Gavin cocked his head, unsure if he understood the riddle. Ace sighed, taking pity on the man and reiterating what he meant to say. Gavin frowned, his wings beating faster, “If it’s causing you that much anxiety, I’ll just leave,” he said, turning to do just that, but hesitated when he felt Ace’s hand holding one of his feathers.

“I don’t want you to leave,” he admitted, his aura darkening, “I’m just anticipating the inevitable.

“That can’t be healthy,” Gavin pointed out. He glided towards the edge of the railing and sat on it, looking at the constellations. “You wanna’ know how to get into Heaven?”

“Not really, but tell me anyway,” Ace said, refilling his glass.

“There,” the angel pointed at the faintest star directly beneath the outline of the new moon, “you need access of course, which I don’t have.”

“So, we’re back where we started,” Ace sighed, “I know where Heaven is—I was born there.”

“Right,” Gavin said, his cheeks brightening, “I knew that.”

“You’re conspiring with the enemy, Gavin, that’s treasonous,” Ace said, his smile bordering on flirtatious, “how have you not Fallen yet?”

“The queue keeps getting longer, so I just move to the back,” Gavin joked, his heart skipping wildly.

“You’re a little devil, you know that?” Ace said, an emotion brewing beneath his eyes. Gavin couldn’t place it, but if he had to name it, he’d call it pride.

“I try,” the angel said, as he chewed his lip. His wings were twitching again, the demon’s fervid stare burning holes into his skin.

How was the angel’s core still intact? After all Ace had seen him do, Gavin should be among the ranks of the worst inhabitants of the underworld. Yet here he was, flapping his wings and flaunting his halo like an innocent.

It wasn’t fair.

Ace turned his eyes skyward again, looking at what was once home, wondering if he even wanted to see it again. He’d been a demon longer than an angel at this point, what did Heaven have to offer him that he couldn’t take for himself?

His eyes flicked to Gavin for a second, a very telling tick. “Is it really that bad up there?” Ace asked, finishing his drink in one swallow.

“I try not to pay attention to the angelic chatter,” Gavin said, tuning in for a second. Nothing but the same old shit: where’s Daddy dearest? “From what Hank tells me, the army is only staying together by a thread. I’m not surprised if it all falls apart within the next few years.”

“Don’t let Connor hear you say that,” Ace warned, keeping his voice low, “he’s hellbent, pardon the pun, on getting in there.”

“May I ask why?” Gavin asked. Since they were confiding in each other, he thought he might as well push his luck.

“Family secret,” Ace whispered, putting a finger to his lips. Gavin narrowed his eyes, shaking out his feathers, vexed with the demon.

Ace raised a brow, putting down his glass so he could focus on the angel. “I mean, I could tell you, but it’d have to be in my native tongue,” he began, his smirk annoying the angel further, “English isn’t my first language, after all.”

“Fuck off,” Gavin said, crossing his arms.

“Oh, how could I have forgotten,” Ace continued, dramatically smacking his forehead, “you don’t speak it, how unfortunate.”

“Fuck. Off,” Gavin said as he ground his teeth.

“Angel’s cursing,” Ace said in disbelief, “I’ll never get tired of that.”

Hours or minutes may have passed before they spoke again. The sky was turning pink in some places, a sign the sun was getting ready to rise.

“How do you say ‘hello?’” Gavin asked. He’d had his head turned away, so Ace nearly missed the question. He answered, understanding without clarification what the angel wanted from him. Gavin shuddered—the words slimy against his skin. How did he ever learn this in school?

“It’ll get easier to stomach with more exposure,” Ace reassured, patting the angel on the shoulder. His fingers lingered, letting the stark contrast of their beings transpire to the tips of each digit before he let his hand fall.

“So, are you some kind of closet pervert or what?” Gavin asked late one night. It’d been a week since the night on the porch. But all days tended to blend together when nothing noteworthy happened.

“I beg your pardon?” Ace asked the indignant tone in which he said it both comical and exasperating.

“Your books,” Gavin gestured. After having a go at translating a few of them, he couldn’t help but notice a pattern, “they’re all full of smut.”

“What were you expecting?” the demon asked rhetorically, “android manuals?”

“No,” Gavin scoffed, but flipped through another book, pausing at the obscene image, “but this is gratuitous, don’t you think?” An image folded out, the orgy of demons going at it had the angel squirming with discomfort.

“Again, I ask, what were you expecting,” Ace said, “I’m a demon, not a saint.”

“You’re a pervert,” Gavin corrected.

“I’m a man,” the demon defended.

“Same difference!”

Blatant misandry aside, the demon didn’t see any use arguing with the angel. If he remembered anything it was that they were hard-headed bastards. He plucked the book from Gavin’s hands, flipping through the pages with disinterest.

“Why read it? It’d be just as easy to find a partner,” Gavin groused, crossing his arms.

“You offering?” the demon asked. He’d been going for sarcastic, but the tinge of interest had coloured his tone and now he hoped the angel wasn’t so astute as to catch it.

“Obviously not,” Gavin replied, his deadpan expression leaving no room for doubt, “besides, angels don’t have a sex drive, it’d make our jobs a lot harder if we did,” he reminded, flicking the halo for emphasis.

“Alright, I get it,” Ace relented, “I don’t need a lecture.”

The conversation should have died at that, but Gavin was as curious as he was annoying, so he picked up another book and began making retching noises at the imagery.

“If it disgusts you so much, why don’t you put it away?” Ace asked, the vein in his forehead popping from stress.

“I’m trying to learn,” Gavin mumbled. He put the book down, sick and tired of subjecting himself to demonic phalli, “not my fault all you read is filth.”

“I don’t read filth,” Ace began to say, but looking back at his collection, it was hard to argue with the angel’s conclusion. “I don’t read it for those reasons,” he looked embarrassed, shifting his eyes to the floor as he said it.

“Next you’re gonna’ tell me you do it for the plot,” Gavin said, his derision thick like leather, “please, I can sense a lie before you even think of one.”

The more he tried to defend himself, the guiltier he looked, so Ace stayed silent. Browsing his massive selection of books (just to prove a point) he pulled a tame tale about a man and his seventeen cats. “Here,” Ace said, tossing it to the angel, “so you’ll shut up.”

“You’re just mad because I’m telling the truth,” Gavin said, sticking out his tongue.

Ace didn’t often resort to petty comebacks, but he couldn’t help lifting his middle finger at the irksome angel. Gavin giggled, and Ace realized (with much reservation) that Gavin had won.

The question of sex seldom transpired between them. It was something demons did, sure, but they didn’t fixate on it like humans. At least they shouldn’t.

Ace had managed to ignore that part of himself that asked for relief, believing (quite naively) if he kept himself pure, Heaven would accept his return.

Of course, that never happened, and by the time Ace realized he’d never go home, his sex drive (as Gavin called it) dissipated.

It wasn’t like he didn’t get urges, there were moments when a handsome human would catch his eye, just for a moment. But what was left of his conscience reminded him it’d be eternal damnation for the mortal. And despite the contrary, he didn’t want to add another body down below.

So, now he sat in his bathtub, the bubbles overflowing as he thought keenly about what Gavin had said. Maybe he was repressed, maybe literature was the only thing he understood in its entirety and that’s why his collection grew to mainly house erotica.

Ace sighed, scrubbing his scalp with shampoo. His fingers grazed his miniature horns, only visible if he shaved his hair. They were sensitive, sure, but they did nothing to incite sexual desire.

Before he explored further, an unexpected guest flew into his bathroom, disrupting whatever quest he’d been about to embark. “I know you’re not human, but knocking is customary in all corners of the universe,” Ace said as he looked at the angel, his tense expression not translating as Gavin ignored him.

“There’s a visitor,” Gavin said, looking uncomfortable, “he didn’t see me, but I’m sure he senses I’m here.”

“A visitor?” How cryptic. Ace stood, letting the water evaporate naturally as he found a towel. He had no reason to hide beneath the earthly garments, but how unusual would it be to meet another being in nothing but his birthday suit?

Gavin didn’t turn his head, angels felt no shame after all, but his wings did flicker a bit when he saw the demon’s spine. There—placed between Ace’s shoulder blades—where two large scars, jagged and ugly. They were a burnt black, the skin raised just enough to create the outline of a joint. If he looked closer, Gavin could have sworn he saw the beginnings of a few feathers at the base, but they were pitch black, just like the scar. Gavin tore his eyes away when the demon pulled a shirt over them, towel drying his hair as he ambled towards the living room.

Ace froze when he encountered said ‘visitor’, Gavin crashing into him, making them stumble forward. “That’s a sight you don’t see often,” the uninvited guest said, his eyes shifting between Gavin and Ace. “Hello, brother,” the archangel greeted, his long fingers wiping against the golden harp. The strings sounded ominous as they rang through the air, thickening with turbulence at the archangel’s presence.

The demon whirled around to meet Gavin’s eyes, the accusation plain as day on his face. He knew he should have never let his guard down around the angel.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” Gavin asked, shaking his head to reassure the demon this wasn’t his doing. Ace still looked unconvinced.

“I thought you’d be happy to see me,” the archangel said, his holier-than-thou nature cracking as surprise filtered through, “I honestly was expecting a corpse,” the brunet continued. 

“As you can see,” Gavin began, doing an awkward twirl, “I’m alive and well.”

“Yes,” Elijah murmured, “I can see that,” he continued, the atmosphere changing as he shifted his gaze to the demon. Elijah’s blue eyes were like ice-picks, hitting each part of Ace’s core like a probe. “Question is, why are you here with this thing?” The way he said it had the hair on Ace’s neck standing straight and his mind drawing a blank.

“That’s nobody’s fucking business but mine,” Gavin snapped, knowing full well he didn’t have an answer for why he stayed. Maybe he enjoyed the strange company. Even though the demon was as mundane as any human, he had a certain charm that could only really come from the dark side. So, until Hank broke out, Gavin needed someone else to put up with his bullshit for a while. 

“Oh dear, and here I thought you were being tortured,” Elijah said, feigning concern. To reach the rank of an archangel, one had to sacrifice all emotion—Gavin would rather die than subject himself to such strict standards.

“I’m not sure where you gathered that from, but I’m perfectly fine,” Gavin tried to stress. The longer Elijah stood in the living room, the more of a mark he was leaving, making it easier for other angels to track them. “So just, shoo,” he said, shoving at his brother like a pest.

“But I can’t just ignore these distress signals,” Elijah said, producing a tablet with bright red markers, “they’ve become more popular in the past few weeks, with a spike just yesterday.”

“Then turn that off,” Gavin said, irritation pouring out of his aura in droves, “take me off the grid, I don’t care, but just leave,” he continued, feeling his chest constrict as his anxiety rose from being exposed. Thankfully, the tablets weren’t specific, or he’d be planet-hopping as soon as his wings were ready.

Elijah’s cold eyes held a spark of something sinister, almost as if he knew the reason for Gavin’s embarrassment, and was abusing every second for his own amusement. “I don’t have the authority to take you ‘off the grid’ as you say, but I will ignore these moving forward,” he said, sounding gracious.

“Thank you, brother,” Gavin mumbled, dipping his head as a sign of respect.

“Of course,” Elijah replied, his smile like plastic, “and Gavin, you do know speaking with the enemy is treason?” he asked before he blinked out of existence.

“I know, you fucking prick!” Gavin exclaimed, flipping off the ceiling and all the other archangels. He could feel his wings vibrating as he shuddered, his heart thudding hard against his ribs, “I think I liked it better when they couldn’t find me,” Gavin said, his chuckle sounding unsure.

“So, you didn’t call him?” Ace asked, the accusatory tone still in his voice, he had to make sure, he had to know.

“Of course not!” Gavin cried, his halo staying fixed above his head, “I’d rather burn in Hell than ever call one of those assholes.”

“Careful what you say,” Ace whispered, knowing damn well that wouldn’t deter an angel from eavesdropping, “they’ve got ears everywhere.”

“Unfortunately, I know.”

“I’ve never seen an archangel before,” Ace admitted, his eyes still fixed on Gavin’s grey irises, so wide and frightened as if he’d encountered a ghost.

“They’re not that special,” the angel mumbled, looking away.

Ace’s hand left his side before he could stop it, going to the angel’s chin and lifting it so they’d lock eyes again. “No, they’re not,” he said, in a whisper, “thank you for not alerting them.” Ace’s statement was sincere, and his touch tender, entrapping the angel’s heart in a vice-grip.

Was it treasonous to feel empathetic towards a demon?

(If he had to ask it, the probable answer was yes.)

Ace let his thumb wander over the angel’s cheekbone, past his brow-bone, where he smoothed out the confused line that’d formed since this (whatever it was) began. The thumb went to Gavin’s lips, where it massaged each mound until they parted, the warm breath ghosting over the detective’s finger like a current.

“You done?” Gavin asked, his wings twitching with impatience. He could feel the demon’s aura, knew what he was thinking because of it, not that anything could be done—they weren’t compatible after all.

“Nothing?” Ace asked, his tone doubtful, “do you feel nothing?”

“Only mild to severe annoyance,” Gavin answered, his halo staying put. He was telling the truth.

Ace yanked back his hand, snapping out of whatever haze had fallen over his mind. He wasn’t sure what he was trying to gather from their strange partnership, without Connor there to be his guide for their ‘master plan’, Ace was happy spending the rest of his days as a detective. He didn’t even mind the tag-a-long angel. But this was starting to get messy, especially in his thoughts, where they roamed unrestrained through the chaos.

And Gavin could see all of it.

“I’m going to bed,” Ace said, retiring to his room.

“You don’t sleep,” Gavin pointed out. When he got no response, he tried again, “do you want to talk about it, it’s obvious something’s bothering you,” Gavin offered, following the demon’s long strides.

“We have nothing to talk about,” Ace said, ready to slam the door, “goodnight.”

“I’m sorry your feelings aren’t reciprocated,” Gavin tried, giving an encouraging smile.

“There is nothing between us, so I’m not sure where you’re getting—”

Gavin cut him off with a brief kiss, borrowing a few techniques from those books he’d criticized. “You lie almost as much as I do,” he mumbled, letting his tongue dance between Ace’s lips.

The demon was speechless, his body tensed to sprint or fly. He was sure this was another trick the angel created to personally fuck with him—it was working.

“Night,” Gavin whispered, patting Ace’s face, “don’t think too hard about any of this, it means nothing to me.”

Ace almost believed him; he went to bed with his heart crushed—the fact it was there at all showed he was getting soft. But he looked at the ceiling, a crooked ring the focus of his thoughts until the sun rose.

Chapter Text

Ace squinted at the cashier—the incessant smacking sound of their gum-chewing grated his sensitive ears. He was investigating a botched robbery: three dead, with the shooter still at large. The cashier couldn’t look less troubled though, as if this was a common occurrence. “You’re not really giving me much to work with,” Ace tried again, looking at his blank page.

“What else do you want me to say,” the young adult droned, his overgrown beard speckled with crumbs, “he came in, asked for money, shot three people, then left.”

“And you can’t remember what he looked like, eye-colour, height, anything?” Ace pressed, his fingers tightening around the police tablet.

“He was wearing a mask,” the man replied, shrugging his shoulders.

The detective sighed, turning to the angel with an unspoken question. “He’s telling the truth,” Gavin said, his eyes scanning a million flavours of electronic cigarettes. “You think peppermint would taste good?” he asked, unbothered by their lack of information.

Ace sighed, thanking the cashier as he walked towards the covered bodies, leaving the angel to his own devices. Each bullet had pierced the flesh once, each meeting a vital organ. Whoever had done it knew their way around a gun. There was no pattern he could discern, the individuals were not related, and they were all different ages, sexes, and races. It may have been a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The demon’s ears perked at the sound of footsteps to his direct left, he looked up to see a woman with a young child in tow. “Excuse me,” Ace said, catching the woman’s attention, “this is a crime scene—you can’t be here,” he informed.

The lady turned around her blacked-out eyes taking the detective aback. “Sorry, Officer, it’ll only take a minute,” she said, pulling the child along.

“You’re a reaper, aren’t you?” Ace asked, stopping the being.

The woman took a deep breath, her eyes clearing to a bright blue as she ran a hand through her black hair, “Yes,” she replied, “the name is Kara,” she continued, extending a hand.

“Shame what happened here,” Ace mumbled, giving the reaper a shake, “no place for a child,” he pointed out, his eyes narrowing.

“Alice is older than she looks,” Kara reassured, moving to the next body. Ace watched as the child pulled out a scythe, creating a clean cut from the corpse’s forehead to their abdomen. Kara pulled out a pale hand, aiding the soul from its body, giving the detective an idea.

“Wait,” Ace hurried, “would it be possible to ask her some questions?”

Kara’s shoulders tensed, her round face growing stern at the request. “I don’t like my work interrupted,” she said, keeping a hand on the soul.

“It’ll only be a second, I promise,” Ace reassured, flashing his detective badge. Kara’s face looked unconvinced, but she relented, granting the soul access to a voice.

The first thing she did was wail a piercing cry, strong enough to make the lights flicker. Ace covered his ears, feeling dizzy from such a deathly howl. “I’m sorry!” he apologized, trying to calm the woman, “do you remember anything about your killer?”

“Y-y-y-ouuuuu…aaaaaagh!” she screamed, unable to see as she stumbled forward to attack the demon.

Kara looked unamused, silencing the woman and calming her with a touch of her hand. “Got everything, Detective?” she asked, the rhetorical question laced with sarcasm.

Ace looked embarrassed, rubbing a hand on his neck as he took a step back. “Sorry to interrupt,” he said, letting Kara finish her business.

“No bother,” Kara said through a sigh, “good luck with your investigation,” she continued, sounding sincere.

Ace nodded once, leaving the store in a rush, pulling the angel with him. Gavin looked surprised, but followed without protest, finishing his purchase of the flavoured e-cig. The angel technically wasn’t supposed to interact with humans outside of his jurisdiction, but technicalities didn’t count if no one was there to punish him. “Find anything?” Gavin asked, only half paying attention when he heard the death-scream.

The demon looked frustrated as they sat in the car, the hard line on his forehead seemingly permanent. “No,” Ace said, his jaw clenching whilst he gripped the steering wheel.

“Bummer,” Gavin commented, taking an experimental drag of his new toy, “interesting,” he murmured, the peppermint travelling down his throat like static.

“Could you just leave?” Ace snapped, keeping his eyes on the road, “if you’re not gonna’ help, that is,” he amended.

Gavin looked unimpressed as he snapped out of existence, only to reappear in the back seat. He was cloaked this time, hoping to catch the demon saying something snarky at his hasty retreat.

But all he got was a deep exhale.

The angel followed Ace for a few more hours, nearly revealing himself as he waited for the demon to say something, anything, to make his eavesdropping worthwhile. When nothing came, Gavin was both endeared and irate at having wasted a day with the detective. He could have used the time to spy on someone else.

Gavin just had to admit Ace was as boring alone as he was with company. He justified staying hidden for a few more hours by stating that if Ace wanted him, he’d call for him. Gavin figured the demon was waiting until his shift ended to say anything, maybe once he was home, he wouldn’t be so high-strung. But Ace seemed to have a different idea, turning into the highway and exiting into a remote area, the houses thinning as the trees thickened. Gavin recognized the place—it was the cat forest.

Ace got out of the car and stepped through the underbrush, hesitating when he felt the tell-tale warning of someone activating the trespassing barrier. He looked around, narrowing his eyes in the general direction of the sigil. “Show yourself,” he ordered, his eyes piercing Gavin’s even though there was no way Ace should’ve been able to see him.

Before Gavin removed his camouflage, another angel appeared, his hands raised in surrender. Gavin doubled down on his invisibility, making sure he was shielded from both beings as he watched in awe as a demon followed behind the angel.

“We mean you no harm,” the darker skinned angel said, his dual-coloured irises set in a brooding stare. The demon by his side had flaxen hair, nearly bioluminescent in the half-moon, his blue eyes wide with worry.

If Gavin didn’t know better, he’d say the demon was far too fair to have Fallen.

“What are you doing here?” Ace accused, knowing his warding sigils should have deterred anyone but the cats from intruding.

“We were just leaving,” the angel said, his wings twitching, ready to teleport.

“That didn’t answer my question,” Ace said, his mood darkening, “how did you find this place?”

“We followed the trail,” the blond answered, his voice soft as he hid behind the angel.

Ace exhaled, rubbing his temples. Those damn cats were the demons’ kryptonite, he swore they did it on purpose. It still didn’t explain the angel, “What about him?” the detective asked, addressing his fellow Fallen.

They kept quiet, each looking guilty of something. Ace narrowed his eyes, the gears in his head turning at an uncomfortable speed. “You’ll have to find another place,” Ace said, ignoring his ridiculous conclusion, “this one’s taken.”

“You don’t own the land—”

“Markus, let’s go,” the blond advised, pulling on the angel’s arm. Reluctantly, Markus let himself be steered out of the forest, a permanent scowl on his face.

Gavin glided forward, following the path of the wind. Ace sighed as he retrieved a book from a portal, leaning against the tree for support. “You done spying on me, Gavin?”

The angel jumped, still surprised the demon could see him without truly knowing he was there. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Gavin said, playing innocent as he let the invisibility fall from his body.

“You must think I’m stupid,” the demon murmured, turning a page without looking up, “I could smell the peppermint all day.”

Gavin cursed himself for overlooking such a small detail. Of course, what one obtained from the human world could never be removed from said world. It was one of the few rules he’d neglected to remember over the past millennia. “Maybe you’re finally cracking under the pressure,” Gavin joked, floating towards the demon.

“All I wanted was some peace and quiet,” Ace admitted, closing his eyes, “despite the fact you never left, you were kind enough to give me that, so I said nothing.”

Gavin looked at his hands, guilt flowing through his veins like a river. When he wanted his peace and quiet, he’d fuck off to some remote corner of the globe. Ace at least stuck to his job, putting as much dedication into it as he did anything else, despite the fact he’d have to move in ten years because he never aged. “I’m sorry,” Gavin said, meaning it, “I’ll leave you be.”

“No, stay,” Ace said, shaking his head, “you’re already here.”

The angel wasn’t sure why that made him happy, why his wings fluttered with excitement as he drew nearer, sharing the tree trunk with the demon as he read one of his books. Gavin was starting to recognize the words, the odd scribblings of something purulent. But, regardless of the shiver that still passed whenever he saw them, he was getting used to it, admiring the dedication of people creating works of fiction in a language meant to be misunderstood.

Ace sensed the angel getting closer each time he turned the page, heard him try to mouth the characters, felt him tremor and harrumph when he got it close—but not quite. Ace slowed down his page turning, eventually speaking up to correct Gavin.

“That’s what I said,” the angel protested, crossing his arms.

“Far from it,” Ace retorted, saying the word again then comparing it to whatever Gavin attempted to pronounce.

“Same difference,” the winged man grumbled, turning away from the demon. Ace smirked, resuming his reading. It wasn’t porn for once (he’d save that for when he was truly alone).

Gavin twisted around, albeit slowly, and watched the words he knew pop out of the page. “Why do you think those two were here?” he asked, the question pecking at his mind.

The demon tensed, his fingers digging into the leather of the hardcover. He was disinclined to answer, still doubtful about his own conclusion. It’d be better to lie, but Gavin would know. “I’m not sure.” A half-truth then.

“You think they were copying us?” Gavin teased, poking the demon’s bicep.

“Far from it,” Ace said again, the redness of his cheeks coming as a surprise. Gavin’s brows furrowed, unsure what to make of that.

“You know more than you’re letting on,” the angel pointed out with a pout.

“Sometimes being ignorant of the situation is desirable,” Ace said, his tone serene, “this is one of those times.”

“It’s not like I couldn’t sense it,” Gavin mumbled, when the demon looked at him, a question in his eyes, Gavin relented, “their sin.”

“I thought angels couldn’t sin,” Ace said.

“Then how are you here?” Gavin retorted, rolling his eyes, “we’re not immediately dammed for the few trespasses we commit, but some…” he trailed off, revisiting that little topic he’d placed on the backburner.

Yesterday had been strange in many ways. He’d never meant to kiss the detective, but Gavin had been on a roll, his mind not noting the consequences of his actions until he felt the shame of them cascade against his skull.

Thankfully, the demon wasn’t any fonder about unearthing that Pandora’s box, so they ignored it. But here they were again, faced with the same dilemma.

“Oh Father, why hast thou forsaken us?” Ace asked, looking at the stars as if they’d grant him a response.

“What are you doing?” Gavin asked, the possibility of God appearing always making him jumpy. He didn’t want to answer to his sins that early in his life.

“Supplicating,” Ace said simply, holding his arms to the sky, “since the world’s going to shit, and Heaven and Hell are indiscernible from each other.”

Gavin’s giggle came as a surprise to them both. He tried to clamp it down, but it devolved to a full-bellied laugh, Ace joining halfway through. “You think they were having sex here? Making love?” Gavin gasped, tears falling from his eyes.

“I wouldn’t call it making love,” Ace said, more composed over his demeanour. The angel was on his back, his wings melding with the grass, enough that some of the colour transferred to the soft white. Gavin turned to look at Ace, his grey eyes bright and giddy. Mischief truly brought him the greatest joy.

“What would you call it?” the angel asked, and Ace nearly missed it, so engrossed he’d been with observing the light bounce from Gavin’s irises.

“An abomination,” Ace said sounding dead-serious until he chuckled, shaking his head when the angel burst into another fit of giggles.

“You think God’s just sitting there letting us do all this shit ‘cause he’s tired and old?” Gavin hypothesized, drawing patterns in the stars. He knew them all by heart, but it didn’t hurt to try something new. “Like, He’s gone senile or something.”

“Wouldn’t that be nice, no rules?” Ace said, giving in to the temptation to lay beside Gavin. He tried to mind his wings, but they’d been outstretched, looking more inviting than a bed made of clouds. The angel didn’t seem to mind when he rested against them, so Ace inched closer, watching Gavin rearrange the stars in the sky.

“The angels would never allow it, at least not the archangels,” Gavin said, his tone saddening, “ever since Dad left, they’ve been upholding this veneer of purity and morality. Half of us are unaccounted for, and the other half, well, you were there,” Gavin said, referring to Markus and his demonic companion.

“Sounds frustrating,” Ace said, soft and heartfelt. He watched Gavin’s face shift from pleasant to downcast in a matter of seconds.

“I still can’t go back,” the angel said, dropping his hand, “not until I’ve completed the mandatory minimum. But Hank isn’t here to monitor my progress, and I don’t want to ask anyone else,” he admitted, closing his eyes at the realization that he may never return home.

“Hey,” Ace began, sweeping a few strands away from Gavin’s face, “you can stay with me as long as you need.”

“Or until Connor tames Hank,” the angel sneered, his mood darkening. The wind picked up and clouds obscured the stars. Gavin stood, tucking his wings away as he looked at the demon, truly looked at him. “I feel like we’re on a countdown, and I’m not sure for what,” he confessed.

“I know,” Ace said, “I feel the same.”

They were in a stalemate, each second ticking without a sound, even the cats had disappeared. “What’s the plan, Ace, why do you want to return so badly?” Gavin implored, “you’re already starting to realize there’s nothing there,” he said, the smile on his face more of a grimace.

“It’s not me,” Ace said, stepping forward as the emotion of his statement consumed him, “it’s my brother, Connor, he wants—” the demon restrained himself from continuing. He couldn’t betray Connor’s trust like this, they’d only had each other for the longest time, he shouldn’t disregard that so easily.

“You’re not getting in without a key,” Gavin said, revealing his empty keyring, “you might as well tell me since there’s nothing I can do to help you.” He made a convincing case.

Ace exhaled, feeling like he’d been placed between a rock and a hard place. He stepped closer to the angel, leaning forward until his lips were to his ear. He told him everything, leaving no stone unturned.

The only problem: Gavin couldn’t understand most of it.

Ace walked away without another word, feeling as if a part of him had been stripped away, taken and crushed. He felt like apologizing to his brother, but he also needed to keep this to himself. At least until the plan was set into motion.

Who knew what would happen then?

Chapter Text

Connor felt the remnants of his heart beat hard in his chest as the portal closed. It’d been a rash decision to break the bonds that tied Gavin to his brother, but Connor couldn’t help feeling Ace deserved it. They were supposed to be in this together, what did it matter which demon had what angel? And though he hated to admit it, Ace’s sigils were stronger, partly due to him burying his face in spell-books when he wasn’t working.

The demon wasn’t sure why his brother liked to play pretend so much. He’d asked him on several occasions, but the younger demon never had a clear response.

“That was a bold move,” Hank said, honestly shocked by Connor’s behaviour. Was he under that much stress he’d jeopardize his entire operation?

The demon jumped, having forgotten the source of his displeasure in the quiet turmoil of his thoughts. “I did what I had to.”

“Did you now?” Hank retorted, sarcasm weighing heavy on his tongue, “you’ve left your brother defenseless, what’s he gonna’ do when the cavalry shows up?”

“He can manage,” Connor said, trying not to let the guilt eat at his flesh.

“What will you do?”

Connor didn’t answer, instead, he pulled out the well-worn tome his brother had insisted he read. He flipped to the page on traps, pulling out an invisible marker to draw the markings. “Cute,” Hank grumbled, his blue eyes reflecting the flicker of the angelic sigil. There was no getting out of that one, not even an archangel could break such a powerful design.

Connor’s smile didn’t reach his eyes as he retired to his room. He fell into his chair, exhaling before taking a deep breath. He nearly leapt out of his skin when he felt something lick the side of his face. “Sumo!” Connor chastised the Hellhound, “don’t scare me like that,” he said rubbing the canine behind his large horns. Sumo looked reprimanded, his ears laying flat against his skull, his brown eyes melting the old demon’s heart. “Oh, I can’t stay mad at you,” Connor said, peppering his dog with kisses.

The dog resembled a St. Bernard, and despite his unholy horns and wicked claws, he was just as compassionate. Connor had found him as a Hell-Pup and adopted him even with his brother’s many protests. It didn’t take long to convince Ace, though he had remarked a Hellcat would’ve been more fitting.

That’s why Connor didn’t understand his brother’s adamant stance on keeping Gavin. Both angels were a handful, it just so happened that Hank was stronger. Connor had to stop thinking and start acting as Hank said, the troops could be here any minute. “Stay,” Connor ordered, not wanting Sumo to interact with the angel, lest he scar his poor dog, “good boy,” the demon praised when Sumo sat on his hind-legs. He tossed him a bone for good measure.

Connor’s face hardened as he watched the angel float above the sigil. Even with a million reinforcements, Hank had enough strength to defy parts of his bindings. Connor would be impressed if he wasn’t so irritated.

“Come to try another spell?” Hank mocked, flapping his wings. They were powerful enough to kick up a gust that bent the flames, but not enough to snuff them out.

Connor held his tongue, planning a route inside his home. He started with the walls, drawing warding and cloaking sigils, traps and trespassing markings, everything to protect himself or at least buy him enough time to escape. He finished in the kitchen, where he washed his hands and watched the invisible ink disappear down the drain. He’d turned on some classical music halfway through, letting each string fill him with a momentary peace.

When Connor returned to the living room he was greeted with an upside-down angel. “What are you doing, Lieutenant?” he asked, too damn tired of the angel’s shenanigans.

“Trying to drown myself in my own blood,” Hank said, the redness of his face alarming if he’d been human, “if I have to hear another string quartet I swear I’ll end your misery for you,” he admitted, covering his ears as if they hurt.

“What would you rather listen to?” Connor asked stopping the record, the abrupt scratch of the vinyl preceding the silence.

“Anything,” Hank began, returning to a standing position, “and I mean anything but classical,” he said. It almost sounded like a plea.

Connor raised his brow as he picked up the disk. He spun it on his finger, watching it cycle through genres. He stopped and blew on the finished product revealing the band’s name: The Sons of Satan—Hell’s most popular heavy metal band.

The pulsing bass and screeching guitar accompanied by the heavy pounding of the drums blared through the speakers. Connor furrowed his brow, unsure how he felt about the chaos. He turned to Hank, amazed when the angel gave him an approving nod and two thumbs-up.

Connor sighed, sitting on the nearby armchair and picked up the tome, re-reading it to see if he’d missed anything. There were more spells he could use, unfortunately, they required blood sacrifices or cruel and unusual forms of torture. Despite his horns, Connor wasn’t fond of physical punishments. He’d do it if he had to but only as a last resort.

The steady flicker of something white caught Connor’s attention and he looked up just in time to see the angel’s wings moving to the beat. If he had to be honest, it was amusing seeing a Champion for God bob to demonic music. Ironic, if he did say so himself.

Had he been paying attention, he’d notice how the heaviness in his palm lifted, the chains not tugging so tightly against his fist. But it only occurred to him after he’d retired to his bedroom and felt them pull against him once more.

It gave Connor an idea as he resumed his calculations on how to get into Heaven. Everything he knew was written on a large chalkboard, every good idea placed to the right, and every bad one erased. Today’s idea sat in the centre.

The demon mulled it over before he left the comfort of his chambers, taking a steadying breath before he faced the angel. “Lieutenant,” Connor began, always polite with the angel despite their many differences, “I know we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot, and I do apologize for being such an awful host,” he said, the practiced sincerity sounding robotic. “However, I was wondering if there was anything I could get for you—within the realm of possibility of course.”

The accompanying tug of the chains was expected, so Connor didn’t flinch when it happened. “Getting out of these would be nice,” Hank said, curious when Gavin would come to rescue him, (a thought he’d never imagine would cross his mind).

“I understand,” Connor said, sounding like he did, “anything else?” he asked, flashing a cordial smile.

Hank sighed, closing his eyes as he rubbed his temples, trying to stave off a headache. “A beer,” he said, throwing anything at the wall and seeing what stuck. To his amazement, an unopened bottle of Hell’s Finest floated into his enclosure. He grabbed it and cracked it open, the hiss familiar enough to bring him comfort. He took a deep glug of the cold drink, swishing it against his tongue as it collided with his palette. It had a bit of kick to it, nothing like Earth’s strongest liquor, which was a step above water at best.

Connor counted that as a victory, trying not to seem too triumphant as the lieutenant finished his drink. He handed him another without prompting, playing the gracious host with ease.

In the following days, the requests became more elaborate but still doable. The demon only had a minor hiccup when the angel asked him to extend the angelic trap. Connor conceded with one condition—his room was off limits.

The demon wasn’t sure when—or even if—he’d introduce Sumo to the lieutenant. He feared for his dog’s safety but also wondered if Hank could get hurt by the Hellhound. “Would you hurt him?” Connor asked as he rubbed the dog’s belly. Sumo looked confused, his large head cocking to the side, “what am I saying, you wouldn’t hurt a fly, would you puppy?” he said, squishing the dog’s cheeks.

Sumo’s resounding woof was a small relief.

It became apparent after a week that the angels weren’t coming, yet Connor wasn’t comfortable leaving the secured space of his home. By this point, he’d given Hank everything he’d requested, from a television with an infinite number of channels, to the best alcohol Hell could offer. But even demon’s had things to do and Connor was starting to feel as trapped as Hank.

Connor looked at the front door, his hand on the handle trembling with trepidation. He opened it after a deep inhale, watching as the dark sky clouded the sun, and the wind blew across his face.

There was nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that he could see in the daylight. He took a small step forward, and then another, finally at his front porch. “Hey,” Hank said, leaning against the threshold, he’d made the demon jump but it hadn’t been on purpose, “where are you going?” he asked.

The chains that bound him rattled against Connor’s hand, but they weren’t forceful, just a friendly reminder that Hank was there. He hoped it was a sign of compliance, but one could never be sure of an angels' intentions. “Believe it or not, I still have a job to do,” Connor said, flashing his PI license, “I didn’t lie to you about that.”

“Have you ever lied to me?” Hank asked out of curiosity.

Connor thought about it, scratching his chin. “No, I don’t think I have,” he replied, unsure what to do with that information.

“Let’s keep it that way,” Hank said, his wings twitching, “good luck at work or whatever, bring back some beer when you return.”

“There’s beer in the fridge,” Connor reminded, opening a portal.

“I meant more beer,” Hank retorted with a roll of his eyes.

“The fridge replenishes infinitely,” Connor said, getting annoyed, “how much beer do you drink?”

“Not enough.”

Connor sighed, restocking the fridge and leaving a few crates in the kitchen. He didn’t understand Hank’s vice, it’s not like human alcohol got him drunk or even penetrated his angelic barrier. It was a perplexing evolution, who would’ve imaged those glorified doves would start cursing, smoking, and drinking. If God were still around to see, he’d probably wipe the slate clean for a second time.

The demon spent the rest of the day following his targets and gathering information for his clients. It was something he did to keep him occupied. He appreciated the freedom of working alone, unlike his brother who preferred the structure and laws of an actual profession.

They didn’t need the money, so it didn’t matter what they did in the human realm. The alternative was far too messy. Corrupting souls wasn’t his cup of tea, nor his forte—he’d leave that job for the demons who enjoyed it.

Speaking of which…

He felt her presence before she appeared. It was hard to miss—the demoness was stronger than a thousand of them combined. She filled Connor with anxiety and hope, a dangerous mix to say the least. Of the Fallen, she was one of two who’d kept their wings. They were charred, sure, but in better condition than Connor’s nubs.

“Amanda,” he said, her name demanding respect among the ranks of all the demons—it was an honour to be her second in command. “I hope you didn’t go out of your way to find me,” Connor said, knowing his protection sigils would have blocked any summons.

“Of course not, Connor,” Amanda said, her voice warm and motherly, “it’s never a bother when I’m dealing with you,” she continued, placing a firm hand on his shoulder. She hummed pensively, finding something within Connor she did not approve. “You’ve yet to tame the beast,” she sounded disappointed.

“He’s nearly there,” Connor reassured, feeling his composure fracture under the stress, “I just have to placate a few more of his needs and he’ll be ready to serve,” he promised, confident that his plan would work.

“We’re not here to placate the enemy, Connor,” she said, her tone cold and calculated, “you’re entrusted with getting me the most important object for our mission. I don’t care if you must torture him to get it, but I need it soon,” she reminded, her countenance hardening.

“I understand, Amanda,” he said looking away. She was still touching his shoulder, her brown skin peeking through the white of her long-sleeve suit. She looked faultless, as pristine as the day she’d Fallen. Connor knew his sins, but he’d never gotten the courage to ask about hers. “I am trying,” he said after a moment.

“Connor,” she started, her tone soft again, “look at me,” he did. “I know you have an aversion to physical punishment, but if we have no other choice, I need you to promise me you’ll follow through,” she said, doing an excellent job at being professionally empathetic. She’d been an archangel in her past life, Connor knew enough about their rigorous training to not be fooled by her mask. Yet she’d been the one to save him from becoming lost in the Hell Pit.

“I will, Amanda,” he said, hoping that would be enough.

“I need you to promise me, Connor,” she said again, a bit more forceful. The hand on his shoulder was starting to burn, but he stood his ground and didn’t flinch, even as his fight-or-flight response kicked in. He knew her request would burrow itself into his skin and leave a mark. He had the scars of previous encounters to prove it.

“I promise to try my best,” he said, not caving to her demands. He was severely against torture, and the situation didn’t call for it yet.

Amanda clicked her tongue, displeased, but let the subject drop. “Hurry Connor, we don’t have much time,” she reminded, winking out of existence after a beat.

The demon exhaled, rubbing his shoulder to calm the ache. Amanda could be difficult, he’d learned to navigate her peculiar personality, but it’d taken time and much discipline. He remained optimistic, however, knowing all this pain and work would pay off eventually. If anyone could see their plan to fruition, it’d be her.

Connor passed a small liquor store on his way home, out of sheer amusement he entered it, beelining to the back where they kept the spirits. He knew it’d never compare with Hell’s Finest, but Hank had requested it and Connor was still trying to play the gracious host.

After the transaction, the demon teleported to his front door, doing a quick check of the perimeter for would-be intruders. Amanda’s little visit had him jumpy, he knew she had no idea where he lived (he’d taken precautions to ward it against everyone except his brother), but the possibility of her finding him was still there.

As he investigated the kitchen window, he saw the lieutenant on the floor, his head turned to the side and wings splayed against the tile. Without thinking, Connor dove into the opening, crashing against the glass and tumbling to the ground. “Lieutenant!” he called, hurrying to Hank’s side. The angel garbled something, spittle exiting the corner of his mouth. “Hank,” Connor tried again, gently patting the man’s face.

“Wha’?” the angel asked, his blue eyes unfocused as his halo shifted colours like a slide-show.

“How are you like this?” the demon asked, sitting the angel against his fridge and taking the bottle of booze from his hands.

“‘Ell’s Fi—hicc—‘est,” Hank slurred, pointing to the empty crates.

“Shit,” Connor cursed, rubbing a hand through his brown locks, “fuck,” he said, restraining a punch to the fridge.

“S’fine,” Hank reassured, trying to stand, “be better in a minute.” He toppled into Connor’s arms, his wings flapping out of control as they attempted to steady him.

“Doesn’t look like it,” Connor murmured, his skin burning against the angel’s core. Being this close didn’t bode well for either of them, so he tried to set the angel down, failing miserably as Hank held firm to his shoulders. 

“Would recover faster if ya’ loosened these chains,” Hank said, extending his neck to show a dozen collars.

Many would say overkill, but Connor hadn’t had a choice. The demon kicked himself as he undid one, letting the golden chains rattle and disappear into the nether. “There,” he said, unhappy with the arrangement. Amanda’s voice floated through his psyche, he ignored it, doubling-down on his own plan to get the key.

“Hmm,” Hank hummed, his eyes clearing, “another one would be nice,” he purred against the demon’s ear. When had they gotten so close?

Connor pushed the Lieutenant away, watching as the angel nearly toppled over, his wings the only reason he remained upright. “We both know I’m not strong enough to control you,” Connor said, shame threatening to colour his cheeks red, “but it doesn’t mean I won’t try.”

Hank looked lucid enough to understand, even as he swayed when he stepped forward. “I promise to play nice,” he said, holding up his arms in surrender, “no one’s coming anyway.”

Connor narrowed his eyes, his heart hammering wildly. Had he broken the angel? Did his patience finally pay off? “We’ll see about that,” he whispered, returning to his kitchen to retrieve the bag of human alcohol. “This was for you, but I think you need to sober up first,” he said over his shoulder, chucking the bag into an interdimensional portal for later use.

“I’m as dry as a cucumber,” Hank said, sounding it, but his wobbly halo dictated otherwise.

“Goodnight Lieutenant, please get some rest,” Connor said, his brown eyes pleading with the angel. Hank was no good to him inebriated.

The angel rolled his eyes, slumping his large body on the couch—his wings spread over the entire living room. Connor would have asked him to pack them up, but he retired to his room instead, trying to wash the residual angelic taint from his fingertips.

He’d learned to despise that part of his past, turning his sorrow into hatred for what had happened to him. With some demons, he could recognize why God had been cruel, but with him… Connor had always tried to be good, to be perfect. But he’d Fallen anyway.

Sumo rubbed his head against his shins, looking for attention. “You’re a good boy,” Connor sighed, his mood lifting a fraction.

Connor had to stop fixating on what had been and concentrate on the future. If they executed their plan effectively, and if what Amanda promised was true, he’d never have to worry about wiping the stench of angel off his hands.

There’d be no more—

When Connor walked into the living room the next morning, Hank was still face down on the couch. Had Connor not know any better, he’d say the angel had passed on during the night. “I’m going to work,” Connor said as he put on his suit jacket, “please try not to intoxicate yourself again, or I’ll be forced to replace your alcohol with water.”

“That’s a threat worse than torture,” Hank mumbled, his voice muffled against the cushion.

The demon tensed, hoping the angel wouldn’t notice. “Consider it a promise,” Connor said, leaving the comfort of his home.

Connor seldom thought about anyone besides his brother in his long moments alone. Sumo could be hailed with a simple beckon, so he was never a source of worry. But now, after seeing what the angel could do to himself, Connor found himself distracted, often missing parts of what his targets were saying.

It was obvious the demon needed to de-stress, but he was still on a self-exposed exile from his brother’s apartment, and anyone he called a friend had long-since disappeared. So, Connor took comfort in returning home and cuddling with his dog and maybe playing some chess against his shadow.

When he stepped through the door, a large body knocked into him. It took a second for Connor to notice it was his Hellhound wagging his tail and woofing contently at the demon. “Hey, what are you doing out?” Connor asked, panicked. He dropped to his knees to inspect the animal, relieved to find him unscathed.

“How could you keep such a wonderful creature to yourself?” Hank accused, patting his thighs so Sumo ran to him, “isn’t that right, boy?” the dog barked, acquiescing.


Connor didn’t have an answer for Hank’s question, didn’t want to give it, in fact. But his hardened heart melted when he saw the Lieutenant play with the giant dog, letting a small smile overtake his lips when Sumo bounced into the angel’s arms, bowling them over, licking Hank’s face in the process.

The angel laughed, the sound warm and heavy against the demon’s ears. Connor had never heard an angel laugh before—it was nice. The demon shook his head, removing his jacket and hanging it on the hook. “Sumo,” he called, catching the dog’s attention, “time to go.”

“No,” Hank protested as the dog whined. Connor was hit with two puppy-dog stares that night. The demon cracked under the pressure, letting them carry on.

It wasn’t like any of them had to sleep.

“Do you always put collars on things you want to save?” Hank asked many hours later. They were sitting on the couch, the canine between them, with the television playing another basketball game.

“That’s a hard question to answer,” Connor replied, feeling as if he’d been put on the spot, “I don’t have many examples.”

The angel’s chuckle was unexpected but welcome, nonetheless. It was a nice change of pace from their constant tug-of-war. “Be honest with me, Lieutenant,” Connor began, feeling the atmosphere shift into more serious territory, “will you ever let us into Heaven?”

Hank was quiet for so long, Connor thought he’d been ignored. His skin prickled when the angel touched his hand, something cold and hard pressed against it. “This is what you want, the literal key to Heaven,” Hank said, it disappeared just as quickly as Connor had met it. “Even if I gave it to you, you’d have no access with it,” he informed, looking tired. Hank had had a similar conversation with Gavin many times. If Heaven didn’t want you, it wasn’t letting you in.

“I don’t need to physically step into Heaven,” Connor reassured, motivated to get that key from Hank, “just a way to get inside.”

Hank frowned, returning his gaze to the television. Connor sighed—a sound so forlorn it forced the angel to look at him again. “Please, Lieutenant,” Connor pled, his brown eyes going wide, “I just want to fly again.” It wasn’t an outright lie.

The angel knew what the demon was doing, and it wasn’t fair. Playing on his empathic receptors was how Gavin got away with so much crap. This was different, though, Connor was a Fallen, his emotions were stronger. “You can start by loosening these chains,” Hank said pulling at his restraints, “and stop calling me Lieutenant, the name is Hank—use it.”

It sounded more like an order than a request, but Connor complied, trying the name on for size, “Yes, Hank.”

“Fucking demons,” Hank grumbled, his body tensing when he felt Connor’s hand against his wrists undoing the shackles. Skin contact intensified their connection, consequently making it clearer. Connor was on a one-track route for the key, his politeness wasn’t an act, but it did have an ulterior motive. Hank wasn’t sure why that stung how it did.

“Anything else?” the demon asked, expectant.

“Give me that liquor you bought yesterday,” Hank said, his eyes narrowing. He was interested to see how far he could push it, what would give the demon pause?

“Right away,” Connor was quick to comply, pulling out the contents from the portal.

Hank took a sip, making a face, “Stronger.”

“As you wish.”

How far was the demon willing to go?

“Take off another chain.”

If Connor hesitated, it didn’t show.

Hank could feel his power flow stronger through his veins, yet he was unwilling to do anything with it. His amusement outweighed his need to find an escape. “You ever been with an angel?” the Lieutenant inquired, swirling his whiskey as he said it. It’d been one of many of the random questions he’d had queued for the demon.

Connor was taken aback, his yes-man attitude splintering as he tried to make sense of the query. “I’m with you right now,” Connor said slowly, his heart relocating to his throat.

“Don’t be naïve,” Hank growled, the sound alerting Sumo. The dog looked between the two and decided now was as good a time as any to find another spot to perch. “You know what I mean,” Hank grumbled, tossing the glass behind him as he pushed himself into Connor’s space. The angel would be lying if he said he didn’t enjoy the shocked look on the demon’s face.

Without Sumo as a border, Connor had no protection against Hank’s advancements. “W-wait,” Connor’s voice trembled, his arms held up to push away the angel, “stop.”

So, this was as far as he was willing to go—interesting. “Yes?” Hank asked, the innocent expression juxtaposing the heavy hand he had at Connor’s hip.

“I can bring anyone you’d like,” Connor offered, trying to snake his way out of the lieutenant’s grip, “if you’re having urges or whatever. No one is off-limits.”

“I want you,” the angel said, his hand climbing under the demon’s shirt, feeling his abdomen tense against his palm. This was taking it too far, he was sure, but Hank was nothing if not thorough and Connor was cute—in that Hell-spawn sort of way.

“I-I can’t do that,” Connor said, grasping Hank’s wrist to get him to stop. Maybe taking off those shackles had been a bad idea.

“You said no one was off-limits,” Hank challenged, carving a path between Connor’s legs with his knee. He could feel the demon’s panic as his own and knew when he’d crossed a line. This was straddling a said line, and the more Hank inched forward, the closer he came to tipping that balance.

I’m off-limits,” Connor iterated, his words definitive.

Hank tried to dampen his disappointment, unsure why it struck him as hard as it did. He made a slow retreat to his side of the couch, trying hard not to think about it.

Connor had his eyes glued to the angel for a few minutes before he relaxed and smoothed down his shirt. “Why would you even want to do such a thing with a demon?” Connor asked, miffed about the sudden attack, “aren’t we dirty to you?”

“Don’t knock it ‘til you try it, right?” Hank said, shrugging his shoulders. Obviously, he’d never tried it, but his statement still stood.

The words shouldn’t have haunted Connor as much as they did. But as he excused himself to his bedroom, with his heart inexplicably caged around his chest, he figured he understood some of what Hank was trying to say.

The angel didn’t try to have his way with him in the following days. He seemed placated playing with Sumo and drinking an unholy amount of alcohol. Connor didn’t bring it up for fear of sounding interested. Which couldn’t be further from the truth, he’d find a way to get the key without resorting to whoring himself.

Or so he told himself.

“Why me?” Connor asked his frustration forefront on his tongue, that and the unquenchable curiosity doing him more harm than good.

Hank was down to two binds, one around his neck and the other around his wrists, yet he hadn’t tried to fight Connor. He may be biding his time, waiting for Connor to slip and let him go altogether. There’d be no corner in Hell in which Connor could hide if he let that happen.

“No reason,” Hank said, looking bored. He hadn’t taken this long of a vacation before. He was starting to itch for something to do, and if Connor was considering it, he wasn’t about to dissuade him.

“Then I’ll find another demon, there’s plenty of them that look like me down there if you have a type,” Connor said, his hand twitching to open a portal and do just that.

“Wouldn’t be the same, now would it?” Hank pointed out, his posture relaxed but his eyes held an intense fire, hotter than anything Hell could ever create. Hank could feel the demon’s reluctance from a mile away, could taste the bitterness of his fear as he looked at the angel, but the most curious emotion of all was his interest. It was a small sliver, probably no wider than a dog-hair, but it existed. Hank knew the consequences of pursuing such actions, but sin was tempting for a reason. Besides, the binds that held him dampened his reason, and the alcohol wasn’t helping.

Connor swallowed, his white tie like a constrictor around his neck. “I can’t,” he said, his heart quivering. He needed a moment away to think about where this was going. He couldn’t return to Amanda empty-handed, and Ace was unwilling to help. The only thing he could do was tough it out or cave—and he wasn’t caving.

“I’m not asking you to do anything,” Hank reminded, resuming his television and beer.

“But you won’t give me the key otherwise,” Connor groaned, feeling disgusted even entertaining the idea.

“What makes you think I’m gonna’ give you the key if you let me fuck you?” Hank asked, seemingly offended.

Connor sighed, looking Heavenward for some inspiration. “What would you give me in return then?” Connor questioned, his body-language screaming exasperation.

“A good time,” Hank replied with a wink.

The demon groaned, ready to fall into a void and never return. The promise of a ‘good time’ didn’t sound so promising, especially when he’d never done anything like it before. Amanda had warned him about entertaining temptations of the flesh with other demons, she said it’d ruin his chances of ever being whole again.

But what if it was with an angel? They were meant to be Heaven’s best, the purest beings barring God. If anything, having a literal angel inside him might boost his chances of reacceptance. The fact that he even rationalizing it showed Connor was running out of options.

“Don’t think about it so hard,” Hank cautioned, worry sprinkled in his tone for effect, “it’s a yes or no question, I’m not gonna’ force you into anything if that’s what you’re afraid of,” the angel reassured, ruffling the demon’s hair.

“I’m not afraid of you, Hank Anderson,” Connor said, gritting his teeth. Which was a lie, but the angel didn’t need to know that.

Hank snorted, taking a big swig of his bottle. “Whatever helps you sleep at night, kid.”

Connor mulled over his decision to visit Amanda many hours before seeing her—he’d worried a hole into his bedroom floor from pacing. He knew the demoness hated unexpected visits, even from him. Being her second-in-command only granted him certain privileges, visitation rights was not one of them. If she wanted you, she’d summon you. Emergencies were the only exception, and though to an outsider this was a no-brainer, Connor’s anxiety had gotten out of control, and he needed help.

Prepping himself for a well-deserved scolding, he knocked on her door, waiting for the go-ahead to enter. When he heard nothing, he tried the door again, feeling nauseous with nervousness. Again, the silence greeted him like an old friend. He tried the door one last time, vowing to vanish if she didn’t answer.

It opened for him, so he proceeded with caution. Her office was massive with ceiling-to-floor shelves packed to the brim with scrolls, heavenly maps, and books. Amanda was an avid collector of anything having to do with Heaven. She obsessed over it, going so far as to track down every piece of architecture or non-fiction scriptures. Connor had adopted part of her obsession, inevitable considering how long he’d been under her wing.

He approached her desk as quietly as he could, the roaring fire behind her chair crackling with enough intensity to mask his steps. It wasn’t necessary, however—she wasn’t there. Connor, though relieved, was back to square one. Unsure what to do, he skimmed through her papers, wondering if she’d written anything on her whereabouts. Unlikely, since she didn’t like being tracked.

The blood in Connor’s veins froze when he read his name. The phrasing seemed personal, like a journal entry. He began at the start, his brows knitting as it detailed how he’d ‘failed to produce results, yet again’ and that ‘Project Arc 800 might need to be redesigned’. He noted Ace’s name once, ‘Arc 900’ attached to it.

What was Amanda planning?

Connor’s need to investigate drove him to shuffle her papers until he found more information. Her notes were scattered asynchronously, each leaflet revealing more on Project Arc 800. He hadn’t been the first one, and from the looks of it, he might not be the last either. Connor dug deeper, looking in her drawers for any information on the other ‘Arcs’. There seemed to be nothing good to say, all final notes had ‘failed’ stamped on them.

She’d killed them, hadn’t she?

With that realization, Connor’s world shook and the only thing keeping him upright was the thought of seeing tomorrow. If she found him in her office, he’d be dead before he could blink. With the precision of a perfectionist, he organized her desk to how it had been and cleared all traces of his essence from the room. If there was one thing of which he was grateful Ace taught him, it was how to cover his scent.

He teleported into his room, holding his heart as it threatened to explode out of his chest. What did this mean? What would happen to him if he didn’t deliver the key?

For as long as Connor had known Amanda, he’d acknowledged her as being cold but fair, now it seems that was a façade too. He was Arc 800, there had been seven others, and if he failed, she already had Ace lined up to be the ninth. Amanda was going to get into Heaven, one way or another, and she was weeding out the weaklings. Suddenly her urgency made more sense, her promises of purification now feeling like fickle lies. He wouldn’t have been purified, he’d be sterilized, him and all the other demons who failed to comply.

But she knew she couldn’t do it alone, she knew going into Heaven would have destroyed her. So, she’d made sure to secure the throne first, put herself on top so the denizens of Hell would follow her into death. Connor felt like crying as he buried his face into his pillow. Amanda had lied.

And there was nothing he could do about it.

Connor pretended nothing was amiss when he sat in the living room. Hank was in his usual spot, looking like a living statue as he drank his beer and watched the game. He noted Connor’s shift in mood, but said nothing, figuring he was still under the stress of obtaining that key. Which wasn’t too far off.

The demon looked straight ahead, still determined not to disappoint Amanda. His literal life depended on it, even if the focus had shifted. Maybe he’d misunderstood, maybe Project Arc 800 was how he got his wings back. Connor closed his eyes against the cognitive dissonance, knowing what he’d read and what he was trying to convince himself were two different realities.

“Is there anything I can get you, Hank?” Connor asked, pasting a smile on his face, feeling his lips tug against his skin but knowing his eyes were hollow.

“Not really,” Hank mumbled, barely moving his lips.

Connor nodded, ready to move onto something else when Hank stopped him, “Actually, there is something you can do for me since you’re so unwilling to try anything else,” Hank said, stretching his wings.

“I’m not undoing another shackle,” Connor warned his body on full-alert.

“Relax, that’s not what I’m gonna’ ask,” Hank said as he turned, his back now facing the demon, “I need some help cleaning out my feathers.”

“Do it yourself,” Connor said, looking appalled. The last thing he needed was to get closer to the lieutenant. The demon’s mind was a total hurricane, he didn’t want to share that with anyone else.

“I have been,” the lieutenant said, his jaw clenching, “I can’t reach the ones in the middle,” he continued, showcasing the bad case of stuck-feathers. They were overgrown and poking out of random places, with oil building between his shoulder-blades and the joint.

Connor felt bad, which shouldn’t have been possible—he abhorred Hank’s wings. “I’m only doing the bare minimum,” Connor mumbled, quickly picking the unruly fluffs, unworried if he was being rough.

“Whatever makes you happy,” Hank said, yet despite Connor’s attitude, it felt good to have his wings groomed—he could admit that much. Hank figured the demon wanted to minimize their physical contact as much as he could. Ever since that night Hank had propositioned him, Connor had been on edge, always wary of the lieutenant’s next move. But Hank was true to his word, he wouldn’t do anything Connor didn’t want—he wasn’t that type of angel.

Connor tried and failed, to quell his need to finish a job well. The more he plucked the feathers, the more he uncovered another imperfection. Wings that big needed constant attention if they weren’t in use, and since Hank couldn’t fly, daily maintenance was necessary.

So, the demon resigned himself to the job, even though he’d said he’d be quick. Connor brought his face closer, his nose tickling as the downy feathers brushed his face. His hands were getting clammy with oil and wiping them on the larger feathers only seemed to produce more.

Connor didn’t notice how the smell began affecting him, how his skin started to warm, and his pulse quicken, how his breathing got deeper until he was prolonging each inhale. He didn’t realize the cloudiness in his head was caused by his ministrations. He only felt their effects when his tumultuous thoughts were replaced by simple ones, like want, and desire. In retrospect, he knew what had happened yet was helpless to keep himself from burying his head into the wing.

Hank jumped, pushing back the demon as a reflex, “What the fuck are you doing?” he asked, whirling around to reprimand the demon.

Connor looked possessed as he tugged at his clothing and writhed against the cushions. He brought his fingers to his lips and licked from the top of one digit to the bottom of his wrist.

“What are you doing?” Hank asked again, flicking his wings to get the sensation of the demon’s fingers out of them.

Connor groaned, tearing through his black dress shirt to relieve the heat from his skin. If he could just cool down, this ailment would pass much quicker.

“Connor?” Hank tried again, unsure if he should intervene or let the demon be. Very seldom had his wings been groomed by another, and when he did, they never reacted like this. Hank watched as the demon clutched his chest, his blush spreading down his torso. Upon closer inspection he noted black markings on his skin, he recognized them to be words, some in the demon’s native tongue and others in English. They made no sense on their own and didn’t seem self-inflicted.

Hank’s frown deepened as an uncomfortable feeling passed through his spirit. He’d known of archangels shaming both humans and lesser angels with their Words. He’d seen it firsthand as Elijah, one of the better-known arch-pricks, had slashed a Word so deeply into an angel’s face that it’d left a permanent mark. Hank had never been a recipient to such punishment, but he knew the Words burnt, like pouring lava, Gavin had described.

Whoever had done this to Connor had been relentless about it.

The demon managed to roll off the couch and fall on the floor with a thud, groaning from the acute feeling of having tasted something so heavenly (pardon the pun). He slowly came to his senses though, and the embarrassment that washed over him didn’t take long to register in his muddy mind. He groaned again, this time from frustration. Connor punched the floor, throwing a tantrum.

Why was this happening to him?

“If I knew you’d respond like that, I wouldn’t have asked,” Hank said, generating an ounce of sympathy for the smaller demon.

“Hank,” Connor nearly begged, “what can I do to get you to give me that key?” Now that his life depended on it, offering himself to the angel didn’t seem that awful.

“Why do you want it so bad?” Hank answered with his own question, “there’s nothing up there for you!” There was nothing up there for anyone if he had to be honest.

“I just want to go home, I want…I want to see the light again,” Connor cried into the carpet, the tears falling quickly and unexpectedly, “I hate Earth, I hate Hell, I hate demons. Amanda promised, she said, she said she’d get rid of them all, she’ll make me whole again, I’ll fly again, I just… please, Hank.” Connor was on his knees now, his words tumbling from his lips faster than he could stop them. He looked broken, like Hank’s simple request had pushed him too far. “I’ll do whatever you want, I-I’ll do it I swear, just promise me you’ll give me the key,” he supplicated, his fingers daft against the lieutenant’s belt.

Maybe Hank had a soft spot for broken things, sue him. “Hey, kid, hey, shh,” he said, stilling Connor’s hands, “calm down, you’re freaking out Sumo.” That seemed to at least knock some sense into him. “Who is Amanda and what are you talking about?” Hank asked, pulling Connor into a standing position.

“She’s the Ruler of Hell,” Connor answered, wiping away his tears with a shaky arm.

“Lucifer is the ruler of Hell,” Hank corrected, a shiver running down his spine when he uttered the name.

“Not since he left,” Connor revealed, confounding the lieutenant, “it hasn’t been easy for us down there either,” the demon said through a pained smile.

Hank never imaged they would share this in common. “What makes you think she’ll be able to do what she says?” Hank questioned.

“If anyone can, it’s her,” Connor said, still sure in her abilities to get what she wanted. His heart broke again, knowing his fate and the sacrifices he’d have to make to fly again. Amanda didn’t care for their emotions, just like God had never cared for hers. Her plan made more sense now, sterilization was the only way to secure an everlasting place in Heaven—emotions had been their sin, she was going to make sure they never felt again.

“Hate to break it to you, kid, but you’d have to be God himself to ‘make you whole again’, there’s no going around that,” Hank said, the sobering news sounding like a wake-up call to the demon.

Connor didn’t want to believe it, even now he hated being told Amanda was wrong. Yet her promise to him had been a lie or a grossly underserved truth. Hank said what he meant without pretenses, he was honest, even if brutally so. And now, in the aftermath of his emotions, Connor had to admit that Amanda may not be his saving grace.

“You’re starting to get it, aren’t you?” Hank asked, rubbing soothing circles into Connor’s shoulders, “Dad’s gone, and he took the keys with him, I’m sorry Connor.” And he meant the apology. His eyes still lingered on the black markings on the demon’s chest, this close he could read some of them. Unworthy, they called him, a mistake, said another. Hank felt his teeth grit against each other, knowing he shouldn’t let his emotions carry him away but letting his anger flow through him anyway.

Connor looked up, following the angel’s line of sight to his open shirt. He was quick to cover himself and pull away from Hank’s comforting grasp. “Stop,” the demon whispered, “I get it.”

“Good,” Hank said, clearing his throat, “you know if you really wanna’ fly that bad, all you gotta’ do is ask,” Hank reminded, flapping his wings.

Connor smiled a genuine and wounded thing. “That was the least of my desires, Hank,” he admitted. In a show of solidarity, he undid the angel’s final chains, going back on his words from before. In this moment of clarity, he didn’t need to sequester the angel any further.  

Hank looked stunned, his cells vibrating at the sudden onslaught of his powers. He shook it off, flashing a wide grin to the desolate demon. “Offer still stands,” the angel shrugged, sitting back down as he rubbed his wrists. “Thanks, it seems trivial, but it means a lot,” he continued, looking uncomfortable with expressing gratitude.

“You’re welcome,” Connor said, “but it was strictly business.”

Chapter Text

Connor sat on the roof of a hotel overlooking the Michigan Bay. It was early in the morning, the stars twinkling in their infinite brightness. He envied them, wishing he could be as untouchable as them.

Knowing what he knew now, about Amanda, about everything—he wanted to hide. She would find out; it was only a matter of when. He was afraid, Connor wasn’t proud enough to admit he wasn’t. Yet, he held strong to his optimism, giving in to panic wouldn’t solve anything.

He didn’t turn when he sensed his brother approaching, didn’t acknowledge his presence until they were sitting side-by-side. “Thank you for coming,” Connor said, watching as dawn began, “I feared you wouldn’t.”

“I nearly didn’t,” Ace said, recognizing there was something off with his brother but not asking what, “where’s the angel?”

“Dog-sitting Sumo,” the older demon replied, missing how his brother’s face twisted with bewilderment.

Ace took a moment to look at their surroundings, feeling exposed to the elements and everything they entailed. His brother seemed unbothered, his serene expression troubling. Connor was seldom calm; he switched between emotions like a child does toys. He was always on the go, always ready to get things done. To see him sit there as if it were the simplest thing in the world, was an unexpected character shift.

“Is everything alright, Connor?” the demon asked, wishing he had Gavin’s acute senses.

“No, Ace,” the other answered, his tone wavering, “if I must be perfectly honest, it is not.” He almost didn’t want to elaborate, didn’t wish to make his brother privy of the consequences of their failures or inactions. Amanda, for all her promises, was not merciful—that much they both knew. But keeping his brother in the dark was a guaranteed death sentence. How did the adage go? They were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. 

“Are you hurt?” the demon asked, employing his detective skill and looking over his brother for any signs of abuse. He knew the angels could be cruel when upset, yet he didn’t find any markings of angelic doing. All he saw were old scars, wounds caused by one of their own.

“I’ve got something to tell you, Ace, but I’m not sure where to start,” Connor said, his face grew cold.

“Then start from the beginning,” the younger brother suggested, giving his brother as much time as he needed to get the words out of his chest.

Gavin sat in the back of the church pews—his arms crossed tightly over his chest. He chewed his lip, worrying the flesh until it replaced itself, continuing the cycle the entire sermon. He thought being in a place of worship would ease some of his fears, but the amount of unchecked sin made him retch with each inhale. He didn’t move because he was committed to seeing this through. Having not been to church in many years, he’d thought it might do him some good.

The angel looked around the humble space, keeping out of sight. He caught a few children staring, their confused eyes lingering on his wings. Gavin brought a finger to his lips, shaking his head. The last thing he needed was to involuntarily commit a child.

Few things in the building brought him comfort, but the one that brought him the most pain was the giant cross in the centre. He regarded it with scorn, it hurt to look at it, too know how many sins the symbol had wrought.

Yet, Gavin waited until the sermon was over to walk towards the gilded idol. He knelt by it, crossing his fingers as he prayed. “Where are you, Dad?” he began, feeling the world around him blur as he focused on channelling his energy to find a link, “I’m not about to lie and say that I miss you, but it’d be nice if you dropped by a few times a year,” he continued, unable to restrain the bite in his tone.

Gavin lowered his head, not from humility, but from shame, knowing he wasn’t in any position to demand anything. “We’re lost,” the angel whispered, his throat swelling with unshed tears, “we’re lost, and we need you, so please, just give us a sign you’re still out there.”

The angel waited, and continued to wait, growing impatient as the seconds or years ticked by without a response. Maybe God was testing him, but Gavin assumed He just didn’t care.

“Didn’t pin you for the praying type,” a familiar voice said, sneaking up on the angel.

Gavin flew out of his skin, his wings twitching from fright as he whirled around to face the source of the voice. “Son of a bitch,” Gavin gasped, looking at Hank as if he didn’t exist, “when did you get out?” he asked, taking a closer look at the angel. He didn’t note any bruises or signs of a struggle. The likelihood that he’d escaped unscathed was slim, but if anyone could do it, it’d be Hank.

“A few days ago,” Hank said, feeling uncomfortable under the scrutiny.

“A few days ago?!” Gavin repeated, suddenly indignant, “why didn’t you say anything sooner?”

“I don’t see why I should have,” Hank retorted with a roll of his eyes, “it’s not like you were busting your balls trying to look for me.”

“What was I supposed to do? March into Connor’s den and demand he let you free?” Gavin asked, incredulous.

“You could’ve called the big guns upstairs,” Hank reminded, pointing to the ceiling, “I waited for you for an entire week and you did nothing,” the angel fumed, his glower making the smaller angel cower.

“I figured you could take care of yourself,” Gavin mumbled, looking away as he rubbed his neck, “obviously you’re fine.”

“No thanks to you, Gavin,” Hank sighed, massaging his forehead, “what are you doing here, anyway?” he asked, switching gears.

“What does it look like?” Gavin snapped, unsure why he was embarrassed at being caught praying, it should have made Hank happy, regardless of how hollow it’d been. “I’m asking Daddy to come home—he’s got child-support to pay.”

“Praying to Him is not gonna’ work,” Hank said, sounding like a man who’s tried and failed many times before, “I’m convinced nothing will at this point.”

“That’s very pessimistic of you,” Gavin said, flashing a wry smile, “I hope that month with Connor didn’t damage your spirit.”

“Oh, fuck off,” Hank growled. Being reminded of the demon did the opposite, the only good thing to come out of his incarceration was that damn dog and unlimited booze. “Where were you?” Hank asked. The question had been nagging him ever since Connor broke Gavin’s chains.

“You know,” Gavin said, shifting his eyes, “around.” The clink of his halo bouncing on the linoleum had no right to be as loud as it’d been.

Hank chuckled, picking up the disk and dusting it off before readjusting it above the angel’s head. “Wanna’ try that again?” he teased, confident that his guess was correct.

“I don’t feel like answering,” Gavin said, crossing his arms like a petulant kid.

“Is his pull on you really that strong?” Hank asked with a raised brow, “or are you just being rebellious?” he continued, his blue eyes skeptical.

Instead of retorting with another smartass comment, Gavin chose silence as his weapon, using it to his advantage even as shame burned a hot path through his cheeks. Hank’s smirk didn’t make him feel any better.

“I won’t tell if you don’t,” the lieutenant joked, the exaggerated wink icing on the shit-cake.

“Well, let me ask you something, Mr. Twenty-questions,” Gavin said, his wings flaring up, “how did you escape? Last time I checked those bonds were unbreakable.”

Hank shrugged, weaponizing his own silence. Gavin’s frustration was well worth it.

The tense atmosphere was cut by the unprecedented entrance of two demons. Gavin sensed their company before he saw them, only slightly impressed they didn’t burst into flames when they stepped foot in the church.

There was an awkwardness as they stared at each other, all four unsure who should break the silence or if it needed to be broken. Their dynamic had shifted, whether they wanted to admit it or not. They were no longer captor vs. captive, but rather, demon and angel, brother and brother.

“So, you didn’t escape,” Gavin said, his astonishment transforming into smugness, “don’t you know talking with the enemy is treasonous?” 

Hank wanted to scrub the angel’s smirk with a scouring pad. “Shut it, Gavin, or there’ll be a worse punishment than Hell when I return to Heaven,” Hank murmured, his irritation overflowing.

“I suppose it’s an open secret we failed to control you,” Connor said, not nearly as perturbed as he should have been, “I’m sorry for the stress we may have caused.” His ability to sound genuine still surprised the angels.

“No hard feelings,” Hank said, holding out a hand to the demon. Connor shook it, his smile plagued with a shadow of doubt and dread.

“So that’s it,” Gavin spoke, narrowing his eyes, “you’re just gonna’ give up?”

“I have no other choice,” Connor sighed, sitting in the nearest pew.  

“Amanda’s not gonna’ be happy,” Ace said over his shoulder. He was busying himself drawing sigils of protection and invisibility. If she was actively looking for them, she’d find them, but not before putting in the work.

“I know,” the older brother said through a shudder.

Gavin could taste his fear from where he stood, it sat heavy on his tongue and tasted bitter. He shook it out of his consciousness, directing his energy to investigate. “Who the hell’s Amanda?” Gavin asked, recognizing the name, but unsure why.

“Ruler of Hell,” Hank responded before Connor could.

“Lucifer’s the Rule of—”

“Lucifer’s gone,” the larger angel interrupted, having had the same misunderstanding, “just like Daddy dearest.”

“Fucking figures,” Gavin said with a huff. He glided to the pew in front of Connor, squinting at the demon before he sat down, “wouldn’t it be hilarious if God and Lucy were in the Bahamas on a little vacation?” he asked, pulling out his e-cig and taking a deep drag.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Hank chided, sitting next to the angel, “those two hate each other.”

“Hate and love are both four-letter words,” Gavin pointed out, “wouldn’t be surprised if they mixed it up once in a while.”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Hank asked, his face pinching in grave contempt for his fellow angel.

“He’s been reading too many books,” Ace answered from the other side of the church. The sigils now covered nearly all visible space of the church. He returned with a cautious step, taking a seat next to his brother.

“What does Amanda want?” Hank asked, hoping Connor wouldn’t be stingy with the details, “besides the obvious.”

“She promised to turn us back into angels,” the older demon began, looking straight at Hank as he said it, “she said she’d wipe the slate clean and reclaim what was ours. We were never meant to Fall—she promised to right that wrong.” He still clung to that promise, knowing it was far-fetched, even by supernatural standards. He’d wanted to believe in her, and her betrayal will always burn deep—it was now a wound that would never heal.

“Those are some serious promises,” Gavin said after a whistle, “how is she gonna’ do these miracles?”

“She said all the tools she needs are in Heaven, that’s why we must have access,” Connor answered, the more knowledgeable of the two. Amanda had been his mentor, entrusting him with this singular task. It’d taken many years of preparation and convincing. Ace had been harder to persuade, he’d already settled into his faux-human life, content with living out the rest of his days playing pretend. Connor wanted more, he wanted to see home again—he’d never lost sight of that, even now.

“The only tools in Heaven are weapons,” Hank informed, rubbing his bearded chin, “those are meant to kill, not restore,” he said, matter-of-fact.

“Amanda was an archangel before she Fell,” Ace spoke, adding another troubling piece to the puzzle, “she knows the ins and outs of Heaven better than any other angel. If there are secrets, she’d know about them too.”

“Say she does get up there, what next? Is she gonna’ fight a battalion of angels by herself?” Gavin asked, scratching his head.

“She’s building an army,” Connor said as if it’d been obvious, “and she’s not empty-handed. Amanda’s been planning this for a while—she’s thought of everything.”

“Except your betrayal,” Gavin pointed out, “which I’m still confused about,” he said, leaning into the demon’s personal space. “Why the one-eighty?” he asked, looking deep into the demon’s non-soul for any sign of a lie.

“Her promise came at a price,” Connor said, meeting the angel’s challenging stare, “one I wasn’t comfortable with.”

“And that’s enough to undo your trust in her?” Gavin pushed, “how do I know this isn’t also part of your plan?”

“I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you,” the demon replied, his sharp teeth emphasized by his snarl, “you’d be dead.”

“Uh-huh,” Gavin droned, disregarding Connor’s attempt at intimidation. He could sense the demon didn’t mean it, could see how reluctant he was to even say the words. The more time he spent with the brothers, the clearer of a picture he was getting, Gavin wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

“You two done?” Hank asked, unimpressed by their machismo.

“Almost,” Gavin answered, touching the older demon’s face. This close he could see the faint tracings of a scar on his left cheek, the Words old and humiliating. “You too, huh?” he whispered, feeling Connor’s realization as if it were his own. “She did this to you?”


“And you still stood by her?”

“She saved me.”

Gavin dropped his hand, the sorrow boiling his core. He didn’t want to know what it felt like to Fall, didn’t want to imagine it. He’d been without his wings for a few weeks and it’d driven him mad with anxiety. He hated feeling sympathy for the literal devil, but God wasn’t above cruelty, so why should he be above empathy? 

The angel looked between the brothers, crossing his arms at his evolving perspective. “What if we give her what she wants?” he suggested.

“What?” Hank spat, regarding the angel as if he’d gone mad.

“Ignorance is bliss,” Gavin elaborated, shrugging his shoulders, “I’m sure she’ll be worse than angry if she finds out,” he said, “so let’s give her what she wants.”

“You must be out of your fucking—”

“If Heaven knows she’ll be there, they’ll be prepared,” Gavin interrupted, explaining his plan, “if we can make sure she’s alone, that is.”

“Even without an army, she’s still immensely powerful,” Connor said, knowing just how much, “besides, convincing demons to disobey her won’t prove easy,” he cautioned, wringing his hands.

“Then we just have to show them her true colours,” Gavin said, touching his scar. “Look, we’re all missing a core part of our kingdoms,” he began, “Heaven and Hell need each other, if the balance is tipped, we cease to exist—you and I are proof of that,” Gavin continued, sharing a moment with Connor.

“Your point?” Hank interjected, uncomfortable with the tension in the air. Connor and Gavin were on a separate wavelength, their shared pain like a catalyst to their newfound purpose.  

“We know Heaven is in shambles,” Gavin said, turning his intense gaze to Hank, “I know Dad’s not home, but what if we force him to come back?” he proposed.

Hank chuckled, a dry and dead thing, as he shook his head. “How do you, pray tell, plan on doing that?” the angel asked, his wings fluttering with frustration.

“We invade Heaven,” Gavin said, rushing to finish his thought before the angel shut him down, “wouldn’t you run home if there were demons at your door-step?”

“At this point, I don’t think even that would convince Him,” Hank said, wallowing in his cynicism.

“Amanda could be our beacon,” Gavin said, “she’s the strongest demon after all,” he continued.

“So, you’re saying we should make a scene?” Connor asked, unsure on his stance. He wanted to return, sure, but not on the fickle promise that God would reappear. The demon looked at his brother, tried to gauge his reaction by his face, but Ace was looking elsewhere. He seemed to be concentrating on his breaths, taking each with a deliberate effort.

“You’ll die,” Hank said, feeling his age, “it’s a suicide mission, kid.”

His words distracted Connor from asking Ace if he was okay, and he was forced to focus on his new mission, to think of it objectively. “Not if we plan accordingly,” Connor said, doing the calculations in his head. Sure, there were demons that had an unconditional devotion to Amanda, but there were sure to be others like him, others that didn’t revel in torturing.

“Connor, this just sounds like Amanda’s plan,” Hank said, narrowing his eyes.

“We wouldn’t fight, Hank,” Connor promised, too reformed for conflict, “but we’d make a scene.”

“How can you make a scene without a fight?” Hank asked, unable to see where the demon was going with all of this.

“Hank, even you know the angels are tired of this shit,” Gavin said, gesturing around himself, “I’m not the only one you’ve had to reprimand, I’m just your favourite.”

Hank wanted to argue, to disagree with the sacrilegious nature of it all, but it was useless. He’d seen his fellow angels do some unsavoury things, had watched as the archangels massacred millions of demons in the name of ‘purification’. Malice had become the only emotion from which they didn’t disassociate. If there was a chance this could work, if they could get God’s attention, then maybe He would rectify it all. Maybe.

“I don’t know,” Hank grumbled, his wings trembling.

“It’d be a peaceful protest,” Connor said, as if it were the simplest thing in the world, “we’d march.”

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Hank sighed, rubbing his temples, “how are you so naïve?” he asked, shifting his eyes to the demon’s brother, he wasn’t paying attention, so the responsibility fell on Hank to remind them how it truly was. “You can’t just march into Heaven, Connor, they’ll tear you to pieces,” Hank reiterated for what felt like the millionth time that evening.

“If there’s a chance that’ll get God’s attention,” Connor began, holding his chin high, “then it’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

Before Hank could say anything else, Gavin spoke, looking at Connor with a secret kinship. “I agree.”

“Amanda has the necessary resources to survive an initial assault,” Connor replied, his hands animated, “if we could get even a fraction of what she has, we might stand a chance.”

“You’re asking for blood, Connor,” Hank warned, looking more serious than death, “and I’ll be the first to tell your corpse.” With that, he blinked out of existence, leaving a sour taste in his absence.

“Don’t listen to him,” Gavin said, trying to sound empathetic, “he’s a hard egg to crack.”

“He’s not wrong,” the dejected demon said, sitting back in the pew, his head lowered, “but I can’t not try something.”

Gavin wasn’t one to think before he spoke if anything he’d say that was his greatest weapon, but here he took his time to respond. It was one thing to talk to the enemy, it was a completely different game to conspire with them. “If it’s any consolation, I’m willing to help in whichever way I can,” Gavin said, extending a hand, “I also need access to Heaven—it’s not like they can do anything without God.”

Connor beamed, his pearly whites, sharp and shiny, blinding the angel as he shook his hand. “Thank you, Gavin,” the demon said, wanting to hug the angel but held back, “and I’m sorry about everything.”

“Just try and get an army together,” Gavin said, clearing his throat. Connor’s emotions were overwhelming, even for a demon. It felt abnormal being the recipient of such joy.

Ace hadn’t said much if anything he’d checked out of the conversation minutes ago. But he looked up just in time to see Gavin’s soft blush, how his wings quivered, and his lips couldn’t decide whether to pout or grimace. He looked bashful and swooned. “Leave him alone,” Ace said to his brother, his harsh demon tongue coming out like a growl.

Connor jumped, dropping the angel’s hand like it’d burned him. “What?” he asked, having missed something major.

“I said leave him alone,” Ace repeated, feeling himself bristle with embarrassment, “don’t you see you’re making him uncomfortable,” he continued with a clipped tone.

Connor’s brows rose to his hairline as he looked between his brother and the angel. “He looks fine to me,” he mumbled in English, disregarding his brother’s concern. “You will be seeing me again, Gavin,” Connor said, turning to face the angel with gratitude.

“You know where to find me,” Gavin said, jutting his chin at the annoyed younger brother, “and I’ll try to get Hank on board, though I can’t offer any promises.”

“Your word is enough,” Connor reassured, opening a portal to his home, surprised to find Sumo and Hank cuddling on the couch. “Hi,” he said, soft like a kitten.

“Hi,” Hank sighed, rubbing the dog between the horns, “we need to talk,” he continued, his blue eyes marred with heartache.

“I agree.”

“What’s your deal?” Gavin asked after Connor’s portal shut, “you look like you’ve sucked off a lemon.”

It seemed like his words cracked something in the demon when he stood, towering over the angel as they locked eyes. “You’re never this rude with Connor,” Ace said, watching the angel’s eyes widen with confusion, “you’re all smiles with him.”

Gavin took a second to respond, partly due to the extreme jealousy crashing into him from the demon’s aura. “What the fuck are you talking about?” he accused, making the mistake of pushing the demon, “I barely talk to Connor.” The small touch on Ace’s chest was overwhelming, intoxicating even, with his potent feelings. The demon had been ruminating on these for a while, but they’d just reached their boiling point.

“Yet every time you’ve spoken to him you’ve got nothing but good things to say,” Ace said, covering Gavin’s hand with his own so the angel could feel how much this bothered him. “Is it ‘cause he freed you from me, is that it, do you like him better because of it?”

“I don’t like any of you!” Gavin exclaimed, hating how his halo fell over his eyes, obscuring the demon from view.

“You’re lying,” the demon rumbled deep in his chest. He knew Gavin could sense how his anger built, how it mixed with his jealousy and resentment to birth a child of pure sin. “What is it about him that you like?” Ace asked, the stillness of his voice juxtaposing the turmoil within. He used his free hand to hold Gavin’s face in place, he needed to investigate his core, needed to see it was still untouched. “Is it his scars? His weakness?” the demon demanded an answer.

Gavin was backed against the wood of the bench, it dug into his spine as Ace pushed himself closer. More contact with the demon only made his emotions louder, the angel nearly fainted from them but persevered by sheer irritation. “I don’t know what bug crawled up your fucking ass,” Gavin said through gritted teeth, “but I couldn’t care less about your brother,” he said, feeling Ace’s conflict as he looked at his crooked halo then back into his eyes, trying to discern if what he’d said was true.

Ace gave up with a groan, letting go of the angel, feeling guilt wash out all his other sentiments, leaving him hollow. “I’m sorry,” he said, turning his head, “I don’t know why I did that.”

“It’s ‘cause you’re jealous,” Gavin said, still reeling from the emotional assault, “and repressed, so you’re taking advantage of my empathy, but it’s not gonna’ work,” he continued, wiping himself down as if it’d help him get rid of the stickiness inside his veins.

“What do you mean?” Ace asked, not liking the look Gavin gave him.

“We’re not compatible, Ace,” Gavin said, the words sounding like a death sentence to the demon, “what you want, I can’t give you—it would never work.”

“I don’t want anything from you,” the demon lied to shield the pain.

“Tell that to your subconscious,” Gavin smirked as he said it, “it’s riddled with things better left in the pages of your erotic novels.”

Ace’s undead heart bled in his chest, he tried to mask it as best as he could, but his emotions were an open book to the angel. Even without them touching, he knew Gavin could read him. Was he doing this on purpose? Did he like causing the demon psychological agony?

Knowing Gavin, it wouldn’t be too far off.

Chapter Text

Not compatible.

That’s what Gavin said.

Ace looked at the angel, his brows furrowing, his scowl deep. He’d seen it often, the blinding shimmering of his angelic core, the intensity of his purity (or whatever you’d like to call it). Ace contrasted it to his own soul, the darkness within a perfect opposite.

Of course, he knew they weren’t compatible.

The demon huffed, straightening his back as he stepped away from the angel. He had cases to solve, people to protect—he shouldn’t waste his time on senseless riddles.

But he didn’t move, rooted to the spot by his desire to be near Gavin. At least for a few more seconds.

The angel rolled his eyes heavenward, an endearing quirk neither demon nor angel could shake. “Are we done here?” Gavin’s frustration was mounting, his feathers overreacting to each passing second. 

Ace took a second to respond, restraining the worst of his bite. “What if it doesn’t work?” he asked, serious and condescending, “what if God is truly gone?”

“If you’re gonna’ be pessimistic about it, I’ll just leave,” Gavin said, stretching his wings like a warning.

Ace grabbed the nearest feather, pinching it between his fingers. He wouldn’t admit to liking how it felt, to pressing harder until oil spilled into his palm, the warmth of it sending a jolt through his system. “Don’t go.” He wouldn’t call it pleading.

“Or what?” Gavin challenged, trying to shake his wing out of the grip, “you’ll miss me?”

Ace didn’t say a word, didn’t even gape at Gavin’s mock. He simply pulled the feather until it dislodged. It’d been brutish, but he’d done worse.

The angel flinched, rubbing at the sore spot. He turned his indignation on the demon, ready to pull his horns through his teeth. “You’re worse than a child,” Gavin spat, tucking his wings against his spine, “throwing tantrums when they don’t get their way.”

Ace felt the slap of wind against his face seconds before the angel left. The sting of it surprised him, but it hadn’t been unwarranted. He fingered the stolen feather, waving it under his nostrils like a rose. Despite himself, he threaded the plume between his teeth, oil catching between his canines. His tongue swept over the points, engulfing him with the full force of angelic liquor.

He stored the feather in his jacket pocket, keeping it close enough to burn his skin.

“Care to tell me where you’ve been these past few weeks?” Captain Fowler’s voice was stern and strong—the only angel able to incite fear in the lieutenant with only a stare. Hank didn’t know what to say, he’d figured he’d be summoned for his absenteeism, yet he hadn’t prepared a speech. A lie wouldn’t work, so he ignored the little devil on his shoulder telling him to try it.

“I was under the weather.”

The captain looked at him, his eyes minimizing to slits with skepticism. The lieutenant’s statement had been far too vague, lending itself to neither a successful capture of a fib nor the truth.

“I’m sure you understand that asking for leave is not illegal,” the captain said, looking for cracks in the angel’s composure.

Hank nodded once, ashamed for his omission but feeling it was the right thing to do, given his circumstances. “I apologize for the inconvenience, Captain,” he began, tucking his chin into his chest, “I promise it won’t happen again.”

“Hank,” Fowler sighed, rubbing his temples, “I expect this behaviour from my trainees—not from you.” The captain leaned against his chair, watching as the lieutenant avoided his eyes. He didn’t look injured, which had been his major concern when he’d popped off the grid. He trusted Hank to take care of himself, but Fowler wasn’t God, he wasn’t omnipresent, couldn’t protect his angels from the forces of evil that plagued Earth. Hank was his best fighter, if anything happened to him, Fowler would never forgive himself.

Nonetheless, Hank seemed adamant to keep whatever happened to him locked in a box. The captain wanted to believe that Hank would’ve called for help had it been something greater than a misunderstanding, but Fowler was fighting a losing battle against the wills of all his angels. The fissure in their alliance growing larger with each passing second, God’s absence sorely noted.

“I’m sorry.”

It was all the lieutenant could bring himself to say. He hoped his noncombative attitude would satisfy the captain and spare him from further scrutiny. The last thing he needed was to get demoted.

“Just don’t let it happen again,” Jeffrey said, his sigh heavy and long-suffering.

“Of course.”

Hank was dismissed with a wave of the hand—he tried not to take the coldness of it personally. He and Fowler had been friends for eons, they were equals, regardless of rank—Hank knew he’d betrayed his trust by keeping what he’d learned a secret.

It’d feel like a bigger betrayal if he’d exposed Connor—Hank didn’t want to consider why.

He teleported a few blocks from the demon’s home, keeping in mind that he might have been followed. He took out his tablet, pretending to read over his assignments, noting—despite himself—the overdue and pending ones.

Guilt threatened to coil like a snake in the pit of his core, he stomped it down, convincing himself that his deception was for the greater good. Even if for a second, they could convince God to return, to rectify the wrongs of the world, then Hank couldn’t see the evil in lying for a little while longer.

His wings twitched, unable to keep doubt from crowding the edges of his consciousness like the waves against the bluff, eroding with each day.

Hank walked the short distance, using the key he’d been given to enter Connor’s home. His frown softened as Sumo jumped him, his large tongue lapping at his cheek, far too soft to be connected to such a monster.

“You stink of Heaven,” Gavin said, grimacing, “Fowler call you up there?”

Hank nodded, stopping by the fridge to grab a beer. He stood beside Connor, perusing the sketches for their plans. “He wanted to know where I was,” he murmured, cracking open the bottle with his teeth.

Connor tensed, looking at the lieutenant with a tentative question in his eyes. He seemed so worried, his emotions slipping into Hank’s space due to their proximity. The angel shook his head, ruffling the demon’s hair to reassure him. He lingered on his scalp, feeling for the miniature horns. He wasn’t sure if he was looking for a reminder or confidence.

Hank cleared his throat, removing his hand and taking a seat. “How’s that going?” he asked, motioning towards the blueprint.

“Slowly.” Connor’s shoulders sagged, his fingers going white as he held his pencil, tapping it against the paper. “I’m not the best at this,” he confided, his smile apologetic.

“Neither are we,” Gavin shrugged, looking over his own minimal progress.

“Where’s Ace?” the lieutenant asked.

“At work.” Connor’s jaw clenched as he said it, his breathing going uneven as he thought about his brother. They were meant to be doing this together, but Ace’s nonchalance was an unexpected and unwelcomed evolution. He seemed unbothered whether they lived or died, whether they succeeded in getting into Heaven or were discovered by Amanda. He’d rather play pretend until judgement day.

“Uh-huh.” The lieutenant narrowed his eyes, looking pointedly at the angel. Gavin tugged at the hem of his shirt before he noticed Hank’s glare.


“What did you do?” The accusation rang like a chime through the question, rustling the smaller angel’s feathers.

“I didn’t do anything!” Gavin snapped, touching his chin where the demon’s fingers had grabbed him, remembering the starkness of his emotions like they’d never left. His wings tensed, unfortunately aware of the plucked feather. It’d bled for a few minutes, the red of it marring the white as he’d ignored the pain.

“Then why isn’t he here,” Hank groused, pointing out their missing partner.

Connor interrupted, shifting his eyes between the angels as he spoke, “My brother can be stubborn at times.”

“Thank you,” Gavin said, feeling acquitted. His wings still twitched from stress, the accusation burning bright against his cheeks.

“How do we make him less stubborn?” Hank grumbled, backing off the younger angel. It was a fight for another day.

“He’ll help,” Connor began, erasing a stray line from his sigil, “but only if it benefits his interests.”

“And freedom from eternal damnation is not a benefit?” Hank asked in disbelief. He’d give up more than his wings to master such indifference.

“He’s content where he is,” Connor said, looking just as chagrined, “he was only helping me because of Amanda’s promise.”

“I bet he thinks we can’t pull it off,” Gavin grumbled, snapping his pencil in half.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if that was his assumption, yes.”

Connor’s hands trembled, he hid them under the table, balling them into fists as he focused on calming down. Everything was tethered to their plan. If this failed, and Amanda grew privy to their ruse, death would be a blessing.

“Have you tried calling him?” Hank asked, going through an imaginary checklist. Demon or not, this was a team effort.

Connor nodded but tried again, pulling out his cellphone and dialling the number. It went straight to voicemail, the demon’s dry tone bouncing around the table.

“He’s probably ignoring us,” Gavin murmured, chewing his backup pencil.

“Care to pay him a visit?” Connor asked, hand poised to open a portal.

Gavin looked away, the embodiment of discomfort settling itself in his scowl. Of course, he didn’t want to go. Ace’s feelings were getting out of hand, his pining disturbing and worrisome. Gavin didn’t appreciate being the recipient of such emotions. He’d felt their friendship was dangerous enough, developing it further would be a poorly timed joke.

The angel couldn’t read his mind, so it was impossible to say why or when these feelings began in earnest. But proximity made them worse, and the last thing he needed was another plucked feather.

“I guess I have no other choice.”

Connor cocked his head but didn’t press, opening a gateway between his home and his brother’s location. He let the angel pass first, looking at Hank for a moment, “Would you like to come?”

“Nah,” the lieutenant dismissed, opening another bottle of beer, “I’ll hold down the fort.”

The demon nodded, closing the portal behind them, only taking notice of the rain when lightning struck. “Well, this might be more of a scavenger hunt than I thought.” Connor waved a hand over a trail, a decisive cut where his brother’s shadow lingered.

“What the fuck is he playing at?” Gavin cursed, his fingernails digging into his palm, nearly hard enough to draw blood.

“I’m not sure.” Connor scratched his chin, opening another portal. They stepped into the precinct, catching the sliver of his departure.

By the third missed encounter, Connor had a permanent frown between his brows, the fire behind his eyes burning brighter. “Is he avoiding me or you, I wonder,” the demon said, the curiosity of his tone transferring to his stare as he looked at Gavin.

The angel scoffed in place of an answer, toeing the grass under his boot. They were in the cat forest—Ace’s safe-haven. But there were neither cats nor demon, only the evidence of their existence. “No clue.”

“Let’s test the theory then,” Connor said, opening another portal. He was getting tired of the chase, his hand heavy and aching with the overuse of his powers. “You go to his apartment and I’ll visit him in Hell. If he runs from either of us, then we’ll know.”

The angel rolled his eyes, teleporting into the demon’s apartment. It was dark and uninhabited, the furniture looking untouched.  


Gavin shook his head, disregarding the twisting of his heart. It was neither his concern nor his place to worry about Ace. If the demon wanted to keep to himself, he was free to do so. The silence that had succeeded their tumultuous argument was of the demon’s doing, Gavin would not let anxiety knot in his stomach for feelings he didn’t reciprocate.

The angel jumped at the sudden ringing in his ears. He turned to look at the approximate location of the demonic portal as Ace stepped through it. He was holding a long dagger, primed for attack. “It’s just you,” the demon said, his shoulders rolling as he stashed the weapon. “What are you doing here?”

“Trying to find you, I guess.” Gavin looked away as he answered, his wings packing themselves against his spine to avoid any further abuse.

Ace noticed; he couldn’t help it. The sight brought a mixture of emotions he wished to bury. Part sick satisfaction, part guilt. He’d spent the past few days alone at the precinct, not anticipating the heavy pang in the cavity where his heart used to be. He hadn’t known he had the capacity for such emotion. Gavin, for all his annoying faults, was a better companion than silence.

“What for?” Ace aced, his stance cautious, “aren’t you staying at Connor’s now?” He tasted the bite of bitterness on his tongue, knew the angel had felt it too by his flinch.

Gavin swallowed his pride, a large and hefty thing against his throat. He worked civility into his features, tried stubbornly to let Ace’s emotions pass over his head. “We need your advice on our sigil,” he managed to say, his teeth clenching after he closed his mouth.

Of course. Why should Ace have expected any different? “I’m sure you can figure it out on your own,” Ace said, trying to disguise his disappointment in the monotony of his tone. This visitation wasn’t the angel’s reconciliation gift—it was a request from Connor.

“We’d like a second opinion,” Gavin rushed. When Ace looked unconvinced, the angel despaired, his wings flickering with stress. He hated to grovel, to humble himself (to a demon, no less). But he missed his home, missed how the atmosphere calmed his nerves, how a dip in the Holy Pool washed away the sins he’d absorbed because of his demotion. He missed his bed. “Please.”

Ace’s ears perked up at the word, his expression shifting, the curve of his brow rising, his lips parting as a wordless gasp left him. He clamped his lips shut, shaking his head to clear his thoughts.   

The angel misunderstood his response, vexation seeping into his veins for having wasted his time on this stubborn mountain. “I’m sorry you feel the way you do,” Gavin snapped, gesturing at nothing. He expected the glare, but not the wave of rebellious denial, how it poked at his armour to be let in.

“I’m not—I don’t—”

“Please save us the trouble and don’t lie,” Gavin said, holding up a finger. “Now listen, all we need is a second opinion, a fresh pair of eyes on our work. Hank and I know nothing about sigils, you’ve devoted your life to them. If you don’t want to do this for yourself, at least do it for Connor—he doesn’t see the joys in dying as much as you do.”

“Since when did you become so intimate with what Connor thinks and doesn’t?”

“There’s that jealousy again, clouding your judgement.”

Gavin sighed, rubbing his temples against the headache. “Fine, if you don’t wanna’ help, then I’ll let the others know.” He prepped to teleport, hesitating as he stared at the demon. “If he dies, it’ll be your fault.”

The angel left before he could see the impact of his words. How it punched a hole through the demon’s stomach and left him bleeding where he stood.

“Take it he’s running from us both,” Connor said in lieu of a greeting as Gavin blinked into his living room. He’d given up brainstorming for the day, busying himself with threading a hand through Sumo’s fur, watching the basketballer’s shoot their shots.


Gavin didn’t want to reveal the extent of his relationship with the demon. He feared Hank and Connor might start connecting the dots, might conceive in their minds a version of the truth that contrasted wildly with Gavin’s. The last thing he needed was for them to believe he was interested in Ace.

“Take a seat, Gavin,” Hank said, tossing him a beer, “we’ll try again later.” The lieutenant took the spot beside Connor, dipping his own hand in the Hellhound’s fur.

Gavin looked at the bottle, shrugging his shoulders as he opened it and took a swig of the fiery liquid. It settled deep and warm in his stomach, chasing away the worse of his worries.

The knock on the door caught his attention, distracting him from the comfy chair calling his name. Connor’s eyebrows rose with interest, but he made no move to answer. Gavin tiptoed towards the entrance, looking through the peephole. So much for the beer, his anxiety returned with a vengeance, clinging to his organs like vines.

Ace’s clothes were soaked, his dark hair clumping on his head like a wet rag. His eyes reflected an apology he wasn’t willing to say. They met Gavin’s as he opened the door, the air mingling with skepticism and hopeful forgiveness. Their silent exchange lasted a matter of seconds, but it was enough to convince the angel to let him inside.

“Got your missed calls,” Ace said, holding up his phone for everyone to see, “sorry for ignoring them.” He undid his jacket, running a hand through his hair to dry it.

After their ugly departure, Ace couldn’t settle in his own home, his limbs electrified with unfinished business. He’d walked to Connor’s house, Gavin’s words like sharks snapping at his ankles. He’d used the time to think about everything and nothing at once. Ace wasn’t any closer to an answer, but he figured helping his brother would be a proper start.

“No bother,” the older brother beamed, tossing Ace a beer. “We’re done for tonight, but you’re more than welcome to join us for basketball.”

“Sure.” It’d been said with feigned enthusiasm, the corners of the detective’s lips lifting a fraction.

They sat around the television, ignoring the feeling of impending doom above their heads. Focusing, at least for tonight, on a simple human sport, trying hard not to drown in the raging storm outside.

Chapter Text

“This,” Ace began, tapping the blueprint with his fingertip, “isn’t bad.” He stood at the end of the table, the appointed architect.

“Thank you,” Connor said, bowing his head.

“But it’s not enough.”

The older demon shot him a look, keeping his mouth shut lest he embarrasses himself further. They’d taken a necessary breather from the task, letting the night and the storm bleed into a sunny morning. Ace, to Connor’s surprise, had taken a leave from work, demonstrating his support in that small act.

“How do we fix it?” Hank asked, cocking his head at the drawing. Everything about it confounded him, the demonic scrawls swimming behind his eyes, dizzying him with their nonsense.

Ace hummed, picking up a pencil and adjusting the picture. Making a portal to Heaven required precision, even a misplaced tick could propel them into the neighbouring galaxy with no promise of a safe landing. “It’s missing a key,” the detective said, pointing to the centre of a perfect circle, “your key, to be exact.” He looked at the lieutenant, watched as his lips thinned and his shoulders tightened. Overcoming an eternity of distrust wasn’t easy for any of them, no amount of beer could rectify that.

“I’m gonna’ need it back,” Hank said through his teeth, handing him the key. Its gilded body twinkled as it caught the stray sunlight, the heaviness of the metal apparent as it dropped on the table. It’d burnt the demon, making him hiss and recoil at the sensation.

Ace bared his teeth, grumbling at the damned thing. “It’s enchanted.”

“Probably shoulda’ warned ya’,” Hank chuckled, positioning the key where it was needed.

The demon bit back his words, using his pencil to maneuver the object, revealing the runes on its slender body. It looked more like a fork than a key, the three prongs representing the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. It had Hank’s signature on the bottom, intimately tying it to the angel.

No two were alike, but they all served the same purpose: unlocking Heaven.

Ace transcribed the runes to their blueprint, careful to copy everything exactly how it appeared. When they’d Fallen, more than their wings had been taken. Every ounce of Enochian was wiped from their memories. God doubled down on his punishment by making it impossible for them to relearn it.

Nevertheless, it hadn’t stopped demons from trying. Ace was one of those stubborn demons, associating certain phrases to a proxy language—cheating the system so to speak.

With a final stroke of his pencil, he’d completed the rune set, an abomination of both demonic and angelic characters, almost comical on the graph paper. “There.”

The trio crowded around the demon, squinting at the design and making little sense of it. “You sure about this?” Connor asked, tracing it, his finger smudging the edges.

“I’m not sure of anything, this could implode the Earth for all I know.” The demon spoke dryly, his tone bordering on sarcastic. “But it’s the closest thing we’ve got to a back door.”

“Should we test it?” Gavin asked, his mind racing at the thought of seeing home again.

“You’ll need a disguise,” Ace cautioned, pulling out a book from his endless supply, “Heaven’s not gonna’ take kindly to strangers.”

“I’m not a stranger!” The angel looked offended, his arms crossing over his chest as he huffed.

Ace ignored him, flipping through the pages of the tome until he found a cloaking spell. He squinted at the text, looking between the angels. “I’m gonna’ need some blood,” he said, “and a few feathers.”

“For what?” Hank bristled, balling his hands into fists.

“For my amusement.”

Connor intervened before a fight broke out, pressing his hand against the lieutenant’s shoulder. “Please Hank, just a few more sacrifices and we won’t bother you again,” he said, making sure it sounded like a promise.

Heaving a deep sigh, Hank relaxed his stance, offering his arm. “How much blood do you need?”

“Just a cupful,” the younger demon said, obtaining a chalice from his seemingly endless supply of portals. He pulled out a dagger from his sheath, grabbing Hank’s offered hand. Ace hesitated; the blade placed just above the flesh of the angel’s palm. 

“Go ahead,” Hank said, tickled by the demon’s reluctance to cut him. He’d known angels with itchier trigger fingers than this supposed spawn of Satan.

Ace nodded, slashing the flesh with a quick flick of his wrist. The blood flowed bright red, dripping into the cup like a melting popsicle. Hank squeezed his hand into a fist, compelling more of his essence to spill before the wound closed. 

“Now the feathers,” Connor said, looking at Gavin. The angel flinched, packing his wings into his spine until they disappeared. His eyes darted to the floor to avoid the expectant stares, worrying the bottom of his lip with his teeth.

“I’ll do it,” Hank offered, plucking a few of his older feathers and dropping them into the chalice. He didn’t question his brother’s behaviour, knowing how defensive angels could be about their wings. Especially those with reasons to protect them.

Ace dismissed his own guilt, focusing on the spell instead of the stolen feather in his jacket pocket. He waved a flame over the chalice, burning the contents until they congealed. By the end of his incantation, he had an inky paste, the final product of his blood magic.

“This won’t last forever,” Ace said, scraping the substance into two golden lockets, “so use it wisely.” He gave them away, discarding the chalice.

“Aren’t you coming?” Gavin asked, fingering the smooth metal.

“Someone’s gotta’ watch the portal,” Ace replied, avoiding his eyes. “We probably shouldn’t do this here,” he said, switching gears, “too compromising.” Folding the blueprint, he opened a portal, granting passage to the trio.

The midday sun filtered through the trees of the cat meadow, landing on the blades of grass to warm the Earth. Gavin stretched, enjoying the warmth of the light as it hit his skin. If he could sleep, he’d do so without reservation.

The cats appeared slowly—their footfalls cautious as they approached the group. Hank bent low to pet one, rubbing his thumb against their soft cheek.

“Nice place you’ve got here,” the lieutenant said, turning to Ace. The demon nodded from his place on the floor, his fingers caked with mud as he drew the sigil. Hank flicked his attention to Connor, noting how he hovered over his brother. His arms were crossed, fingers digging into his biceps as he hesitated to speak.

“Nervous?” Hank asked, floating towards the demon.


“I don’t blame you.”

Connor met the angel’s eyes, his smile sharing a space with his grimace. “Thank you, Hank.”

Gavin watched them, the cogs in his head rotating at a snail-like pace. He’d become so attuned to Ace’s feelings that foreign ones took him by surprise. It was a breath of fresh air, really. Connor’s relief felt like his own, the wash of warm appreciation settling over his body like a blanket. He took a step forward, drawn in like the moon to the Earth.

“Watch where you’re going,” Ace said, the bite in his tone like acid on a wound. Gavin jerked backwards, shaking himself from the daydream.

The irritation in Ace’s voice caught the others’ attention, compelling them to look at the demon. They said nothing as he finished the sigil, the final mark like a nail in destiny’s coffin.

Ace stepped out of the circle, admiring his handiwork. Even deactivated, he could feel the sigil’s power. It thrummed deep below the Earth, pulling energy from its core. The wind stood still, and the birds stopped chirping, everything seemed to be holding its breath until someone spoke.

“Try not to draw any attention to yourselves,” Ace cautioned, sweeping his gaze over the interlopers. “Use the charm sparingly—it won’t work twice.”

“You sure this will hold?” Gavin asked, nudging a line with his boot.

“Only one way to find out,” Ace said, lifting his shoulders in a poor imitation of a shrug. “Use the key when you’re ready,” he continued, motioning to the lieutenant, “I’ll be here.”

“No time like the present, I guess,” Hank said, pulling out his key ring. There was a hair’s width worth of a pause, the portal operating between the seconds of time. Their hearts were in sync as they waited, hoping—despite themselves—for anything to occur.

Within a blink, they were transported into Heaven’s metropolitan courtyard, blurs of white phasing through them as they stood in shock. They had only a moment to think before they materialized. Connor and Gavin fumbled with their charms, clasping the chain around their necks, letting the enchanted item rest over their breastbone. There was no affirmation that they worked, but Heaven’s defense system didn’t shit itself when they stepped out of the portal. So that was a win.

“Oh my God,” Connor breathed as he took in the sights of his childhood home. There’d been some major cosmetic changes since he’d last been upstairs. For one, they weren’t travelling on cobblestones made of gold. The buildings extended into the sky, unlimited in their height—a far cry from the huts of old. There were automated tram systems, their tracks occupying the space above them. The decorations had a decisive sharpness to them, no imperfections, no cut out of place. Trees were staggered along the sidewalk, their leaves a vibrant green, shining off reflective surfaces. “Oh my God.”

No one seemed to pay them any mind, their indifference both welcome and unnerving.

“Alright, don’t have an aneurism,” Hank said, his voice on edge, “we’re just downtown.”

Connor, in his infinite wisdom, bolted, hysterical giggles following his shadow. Hank shouted after him, giving no thought to Gavin as he broke into a sprint, cursing Heaven’s ‘no teleportation’ law.

The younger angel thought twice about chasing after them. Hank looked to be hot on Connor’s heels, probably catching up to him in a few minutes. Gavin sighed, deciding against his better judgement and took the nearest tram to his apartment complex.

Returning home wasn’t as much of a surprise to him as it’d been for Connor. He’d grown up on the cobblestone streets, watched as they were upgraded, saw as the buildings grew taller in size, even helped with the construction of a few homes. Heaven wasn’t in short supply of space and if humans populated the Earth, half of them would need a place to stay after death.

Gavin found himself breathing deeply, despite their time constraint, he was glad to see home again.

The tram made a pleasant beep as it stopped, reminding Gavin of his original quest. He walked through the station, looking at the faces of his fellow angels but not recognizing them. They were so young, their wings barely mature enough to support their weight. Even with an absentee father, Heaven’s angelic population was thriving. The archangels made sure of that.

Gavin looked at his apartment building, one of the older models tucked in the suburban side of the city. He was careful as he opened the front gates, keeping his head low as he ducked into the stairwell. In a rush, he climbed to his floor, stopping only to look over his shoulder.

His apartment had been placed on hold indefinitely. It still had his full name engraved in a silver plaque denoting his status: Gavin Reed—Pending. He tried the handle, grumbling when it stuck. Pushing a little harder, he was able to coerce the lock to recognize him, giving it just a touch of his fingerprint. Anymore, and he’d be tempting fate.

Gavin gave a small cheer when the door opened, sneaking into his house like a ghost. He glided through the space to minimize noise, scanning the area like a hawk. Nothing had changed if he remembered correctly, and if those bastards at the precinct hadn’t pilfered through his things everything should be right where he left it.


Gavin pulled out his dagger and pistol from a hole in his wall. Before his demotion, he’d hidden his weapons, falsifying his return records. It felt good to hold them again, to have the weight of them against his hip.

He did a final sweep of the apartment, trying to deduce if there was anything he missed. Angels didn’t keep mementos, they seldom took photos or participated in anything unrelated to Heaven. Gavin was an exception to the rule, yet his apartment was bare, devoid of personality or warmth.

The coldness of his home was seeping into his bones, and he wondered (not for the first time) why he’d been so excited to return. Now that he had nothing tying him to Heaven, he didn’t feel remorse saying goodbye.

“Oh my, look what the cat dragged in.”

Gavin’s blood froze in his veins, the voice rattling against his eardrums. The fact that he hadn’t heard the tell-tale whoosh of flapping wings meant the intruder had teleported. Apart from emergencies, it was illegal to do so, especially into people’s homes.

The angel turned slowly, meeting the archangel’s eyes. He’d never forget that voice, it still made his scar sting just thinking about it.

“Hello, Elijah.”

“Goddamn fucking demons!” Hank cursed, losing track of Connor for the third time. His brown hair dipped in and out of existence, the bob of his head coming into view when he rounded a corner. The demon was fast, unfairly so, and he used it to his advantage.

Not that Hank thought Connor was running away, no, his route was too uncoordinated, there was a spring in his step reminiscent of a man being able to walk again. This was a homecoming long overdue, and Connor was sucking up every second.

It’d be endearing if they weren’t in danger of getting caught.

“Connor!” Hank yelled, trying in vain to get the demon’s attention, “slow down!”

He’d spotted him again, his black suit giving him the appearance of a smudge against paper.

Connor seemed to obey, but not because of Hank. He’d found what he’d been searching for, after eons of longing he was here: The Garden. It’d seen better days, Connor lamented, as The Garden now stood in the middle of a busy city centre. It looked more like an attraction than the paradise he’d remembered it being.

The demon turned his troubled gaze to the lieutenant, stepping into the meadow without a word. Hank kept a close eye on Connor, watching for any signs of an intended escape

They ventured deeper into the thicker parts of The Garden, watching for vines and pitfalls. Out of sentimentality, or maybe some unspoken rule, the centre of Eden was never uprooted. Her outskirts had given way to skyscrapers and highways, but Her history remained. Hank used to visit The Garden when he was a child, take a drink of its waters before they were polluted.

He observed as Connor approached The Tree, saw how he gawked at its fruits, how he plucked the ripest and reddest apple and took a bite. His face transformed, the knowledge of everything that ever is and was sliding down his throat in a blissful swallow. The demon had enough decency not to groan, despite the euphoria cascading down his body like rain.

“Really Connor? You ran all the way here for some fruit?” Hank admonished even as his throat felt tight. He’d never paid the demon’s emotions much mind, more for his sake than Connor’s. But now, separated by nothing but a few leaves, he felt them attack him like mad wasps. He didn’t fight them, didn’t even build walls to keep them at bay. He let them consume him.

Maybe it was empathy, but Connor looked much different in the light of Eden. His dark aura had disappeared, his face had a notable brilliance to it that it lacked on Earth. When he smiled it was bright and warm, his teeth weren’t shark-like. It was easy to imagine what he’d looked like as an angel.

“I’m sorry, Hank,” Connor said again, a playfulness in his eyes, “I do hope you don’t mind if I take some home.”

Hank cleared his throat, taking a step back, “Be my guest.”

Connor beamed, as if he weren’t doing that already, and plucked a few fruits from The Tree. Unable to help himself, he took a bite of another apple, his tongue dancing against his lips as juice flowed down his chin.

It couldn’t possibly taste that good, could it?

Connor gasped as Hank’s lips met his, dropping his loot, the cavalcade of rolling apples reaching his ears. It was a chaste kiss, lasting only a few blinks. When they parted, the angel licked his lips, analyzing the apple remnants.

Yep, tasted just like apples. “Wanted to see what all the fuss was about.” The angel’s voice held the barest trace of amusement, offsetting his serious stare.

Connor flushed a deep purple, ignoring the irregularities of his heart as he chased after the fruit. His hands trembled as he finished his half-bitten apple—core and everything.

“Need some help?” Hank asked, hoping his boldness hadn’t muted the demon.

“No,” Connor replied, his voice small. Nothing in his feelings conveyed anger or disgust. Maybe he was masking those with shock or even curiosity. It wasn’t often angels and demons traversed together, nor was their coupling an anticipated thing.

Hank looked back at The Tree—and eventually The Garden—with a pang of nostalgia. He could visit Eden at any time, but it’d never be the same Garden of his youth, nor will he have Connor to share it with. He sighed, burying the feeling alongside the other unwanted ones.

Now that the demon wasn’t speeding like a bullet, their trek to their original spot was relaxed. The charm seemed to be holding well past Ace’s prediction, as Connor walked like a beacon with his arms full of apples and no angel turned to look.

“You gonna’ bake a pie or something?” Hank teased, trying to make light conversation.

Connor chuckled a nervous thing. “Maybe, or jam.”

“I bet Sumo would like one.”

“To be honest, it might kill him,” Connor said, a bit morbid, “I’m not sure how Hellhounds react to heavenly apples.”

“Well, you didn’t melt,” Hank pointed out.

“Not yet.”

They both shared a laugh.

“If all you wanted was some apples, all you had to do was ask,” Hank said after a moment of thought.

“It’s not just the apples, Hank,” Connor said, his eyes wide and shiny, “it’s seeing home again, it’s breathing the air, walking on the streets—it’s everything.”

Hank believed he understood, figuring this was more closure to the demon than anything else. This wasn’t his home anymore, barring the fact that he’d been created and raised here.

“Thank you, Hank,” Connor whispered, his chin tucked into his chest, “for everything.”

“Oh stop, I just gave you the key,” Hank dismissed, feeling his cheeks grow warm, “you and your brother figured out all the other stuff.”

“You trusted me when you had no reason to.” Connor stopped, the heaviness in his heart weighing down his legs. “I’m not sure how I’ll ever repay this mercy.”

“Just keep your fridge stocked with beer and we’ll call it even,” Hank joked, discomfort crawling under his shirt and wrapping around his ribs.

“That still doesn’t feel like enough,” Connor complained, shaking his head. “I promise you, when we kill Amanda, I’ll bring you her heart.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Hank said, hoping the demon understood that as a request not to follow through on his promise. The last thing he needed was a bloody trophy.

Connor looked up—his brown eyes clouded with confusion. “All you want is beer?”

Hank shrugged, resuming their walk. “For the most part.”

“If anything else comes to mind, please let me know. I’d hate to feel like I owe you something.”

Well, at least the demon was better than Gavin in that regard. Speaking of the little twerp. “Where the fuck did he go?”

“Gavin, though it is not pleasant, it is a surprise,” Elijah said, his face flitting between annoyed and perplexed, “what are you doing here?”

“I could ask you the same. This is my apartment.” Gavin tried to go for the nonchalant. Judging by Elijah’s unamused expression, it hadn’t worked.

“I’m here because of a disturbance, you shouldn’t be here. Period.”

“They’ve got you doing guard duty now? You get demoted or something.” Pissing off the archangel was probably the last thing Gavin should do, but his mouth and his brain were barely on speaking terms, so it wasn’t any wonder he jumped at the chance to embarrass Elijah.

The archangel stretched his lips to a crude approximation of a grin, the cold glass he called eyes sweeping over the angel. “Oh Gavin, that would never happen,” he said, “I’m not as useless as you.”

Gavin felt the Words burn across his abdomen, nearly cried as they burrowed into his flesh, settling there for God-knows how long.

“Now,” Elijah clapped, suddenly in a good mood, “if I weren’t so merciful, I’d report you to Captain Fowler for trespassing, but seeing as you tried so hard to get here, and this is your apartment, I’ll turn a blind eye—just this once.”

Gavin grit his teeth, hatred swelling in him like a tide, crashing over the shore, just within reach. “Thank you, Elijah.”

“Always, little brother.”

Disregarding the rules of the land as if they didn’t apply to him, the archangel teleported out of the apartment. Maybe it’d been both a blessing and a curse that Elijah had been the one to answer the call and not some duty-bound angel trying to show off.

Gavin was still undecided.

With a sigh, he left his home, taking the same route back. He rubbed his abdomen on the tram, feeling his eyes well up but refusing to let the tears fall. In his experience, most scars fade.

“Where the hell were you?” Hank yelled as Gavin approached, “we’ve been looking for you for the past half-hour. What made you think running off was a good idea?”

“I’m here now, aren’t I?”

The fire in Hank’s belly died in an instant. He could tell, just by the droop in Gavin’s wings, that something unpleasant had happened. He wouldn’t push—he seldom did.

“Alright, no more games you two,” the lieutenant warned, waiting for an affirmation from both his troublemakers, “I’m gonna’ bring us back.”

The sigil in the meadow shone brightly again, the wind whistling through the trees as the trio returned. Ace stood from his spot by the tree trunk, stashing his book for a later read. He didn’t have to wait long, his partners in crime materializing the next instant. “I take it worked?” he asked, quirking an eyebrow. Connor’s crushing hug was unexpected but not unwarranted, so the demon didn’t question its existence.

“You should see it,” Connor said, still in awe, “it’s changed so much!”

“I’m good.”

“Take an apple!”

“I’d rather not.”

Connor shook his head, “More for me then.”

“It worked, a bit too well,” Hank said, stashing away his key, “same with your charms.”

“Thank you,” the younger demon said, bowing his head, “I’m glad I was of service.” His gaze shifted to the quiet angel, focused on how Gavin drifted off into space, his arm placed strategically over his stomach. “Feeling nauseous?”

Gavin startled at the sound—his eyes wide as they met Ace’s. What was happening to his hearing? How had he not heard the demon approach? “Something like that,” he lied. He wasn’t sure why he’d bothered—his halo gave him away each time.

“I’m sorry about that,” Ace said, playing along, “teleportation can be tricky.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Gavin mumbled, biting his quivering lip. Everything about him was tense, Ace feared one stiff wind would knock him over and he’d shatter like glass.

“Shall we go back?” the detective said, erasing the sigil as best as he could. Remnants of its power would remain for months, akin to a half-life.

“Absolutely!” Connor was a bubble of excitement, seemingly impenetrable. He opened a portal into his living room, the first to step through.

For the second time that day he dropped his apples, one of them rolling towards their uninvited guest.


It’d been said like a plea for pity, for forgiveness. Not of a friend.

“Connor, I was wondering where you were,” she said, ignoring the fruit by her foot. Sumo’s ears perked at the sound of his owner’s voice, but he remained dutifully by Amanda’s side. “I see you’ve got company. Ace, what a pleasant surprise.”

“Amanda,” the younger demon replied, lowering his head as a sign of respect.

“I-I hope I didn’t inconvenience you,” Connor said, positioning himself in front of Hank, praying she didn’t notice the lack of shackles.

“Not at all,” she said, her smile flat, “my summons may have been blocked by all this protection you’ve got around you.” She gestured vaguely, her eyes landing on the locket for a brief moment.

“I greatly apologize, Amanda, it won’t happen again,” Connor said, doing everything but going on his knees.

“I take it you’ve been busy, what with these wonderful sketches you’ve got on the table,” she said, holding one at arm’s length.

“Yes,” Connor rushed, catching her attention, “w-we’ve nearly got it, just a bit more time.”

“And all without harming a hair on your angel’s head,” Amanda said, the sugar in her voice laced with cyanide, “what a good boy you are.” She stood and walked closer to Connor, her black wings casting a shadow. “I’m sure I’ll be the first to know of your success,” she laid a hand on his shoulder, her eyes hard and unfeeling, “I won’t have you being a disappointment to me.”

Connor swallowed the burning pain of her Words, unfortunately used to the sting of it. “Of course not, Amanda—I’ll make you proud.”

She must’ve seen something different in his eyes because she grinned, almost proud of the fire in the depths of them. “I know you will, Connor.” It was never a relief when she left, only the building anticipation of when she’d return.

To say the mood had been ruined, would be an understatement, and Connor ignored the apples as he retired to his room, slamming his door to angel, demon, and beast.

“That Amanda seems like a bitch,” Gavin spoke, taking a bite from one of the fruits, “cool wings though.”

Chapter Text

Markus watched his targets through his binoculars, documenting their movements as they ran through the underbrush. He kept a safe distance above them, his wings sifting through the air like a sieve. Silent and efficient.

His brothers were a few yards behind him, building a forcefield, and waiting for his signal. Due to his position, his mission was to observe and lead. It was often understood that scouts should never get involved with the fight.

Markus had watched his brothers slaughter millions, desecrate unholy grounds, and restore peace to Earth. Never once was he compelled to help, nor was he reprimanded for his non-involvement. All angels knew their place, even the ones that misbehaved. To expect any different would be crossing boundaries, disobeying orders.

Markus paused, holding up a fist to halt the others. Their targets had reached the end of their line. The cliff overlooked nothing but sharp rocks and tumultuous waves. Their only option was to either surrender or jump.

They had a chance to do neither as the soldiers swooped below the trees, their spears skewering the demons.

Markus looked away—his job finished.

This was his duty, everything he’d learned led to these moments of small victories. He never felt victorious, though, he felt sick, his stomach twisting in knots. His team returned, slapping his shoulder at another job well done. Their spears glinted black, the moonlight darkening the blood.

Markus flinched as he retched, the mead he’d consumed returning half-digested. The bitterness on his tongue twisted his face into a grimace. Wiping his mouth, he leaned against the wall as his heart calmed down.

Every night when they returned from a successful hunt, they celebrated. Markus accepted the drinks and downed them two at a time, he sang the songs with his brothers, he cleaned his gear and drank some more. It became a vicious cycle, one where the only relief was throwing up. He was only thankful he lived alone—he’d hate to lose his position over some misguided empathy.

Markus often wondered if any of his brothers felt like he did if they pretended to enjoy the fight. If they’d gladly butcher demons for the rest of existence. He was too afraid to ask, fearing they’d put him in another gruelling history course.

He picked himself off the floor, dipping his head under the faucet to clear his mouth and mind.

The angel often felt like crying out, lashing out against his non-existent creator. He prayed to God for answers to questions he didn’t know how to ask. It didn’t matter, He never replied.

Feeling his bones drag against the floor, he resigned to laying down, putting himself in a winged cocoon. He needed his strength to do it all over again tomorrow.

Markus sped through the trees like a projectile, leading the hunt. They’d been tracking a group of three, keeping their distance until they were ready to strike. They must’ve alerted them somehow, because an angel trapper catapulted into the air, entangling one of the soldiers, rendering their wings useless.

With the skies no longer being a safe option, they dove deep into the trees, chasing after the demons when they scattered. Markus’ vision blurred as he propelled himself forward, his target a luminescent blob of blond hair. His lungs ached as he pushed himself, yet he didn’t give up, ignoring the ringing in his ears as he zeroed in on the demon.

Their bodies collided in a hard thud, rolling through the mud as momentum carried them. Markus’ wings spasmed as they fought with gravity, catching stray bits of debris whilst they slowed. A tree stopped their roll, the wood cracking under the pressure. They groaned when the pain hit them, disorientation gripping them like a fist.

Markus was the first on his feet, drawing his sword against the demon. He’d never been this close to one, he’d only ever heard stories of how they looked. He’d been told they felt like sin incarnate, their dark aura tar on your hands. Teachers used to scare them with the horrors of their large horns and razor-sharp teeth.

Now, face-to-face with one, Markus could only sense fear. It tasted bitter—just like half-digested mead.

“Kill it, Markus!” One of his brothers shouted as they passed overhead, battling their own demon.

“Please don’t,” the demon pled, his blue eyes going wide. He fell to his knees, lowering his blond crown in supplication. “Please.”

Markus raised his sword, the moonlight bouncing off the metal with a wicked glint. He saw his eyes in it, recognized his own distress. He brought down the weapon with a shout, driving it deep within the tree trunk behind the demon.

“Run,” Markus urged, leaving before any of his brothers came looking.

He was the last to join his team, body shaking, and countenance shattered. He pasted a smile on his face, trying to feign pride as he looked at his brothers. “He’s finished.”

The team cheered, congratulating him with pats on his back and promises of festivities. He accepted them, letting their words slide off his armour like rain.

The discomfort that normally came with celebrating their Fallen brothers’ death didn’t come that night. He waited by the toilet, expecting the bout of nausea to hit him at any second, sure if he gave it enough time it’d appear.

Realizing it wasn’t coming, Markus stood. He walked towards the mirror, looking at his reflection. The Scout Master always mentioned he’d been born for the job. His dual-coloured eyes a blessing God only bestowed on a few of his children. The Scout Master often said his eyes would see more for him than his binoculars ever could.

Markus frowned, wondering if something so far-fetched could be true.

The Scout Master’s words echoed in his head, “Blue is for clarity, green for intuition.”

Markus looked away. He wanted to feel guilty for distorting the truth, for keeping a demon safe. But the emotion in his stomach was far from a sad one. He’d felt justified. Righteous. What he’d done made him feel good, better than he’d felt for the centuries he’d been leading his team to the slaughter.

The angel looked at himself again, washed the Mark of a Scout off his dark skin, and snuck out of his apartment. Determination boiled deep within his core, reaching its peak as he flew back into Earth’s atmosphere and dove into the woods. He retraced his steps, looking for his weapon or any sign of the demon.

His ears rang before he felt the cold tip of a sword press against his spine. He didn’t dare turn around, nor did he recoil at the sensation. He simply waited and watched.

“Here to finish the job?” The demon’s voice, though hardened by hatred and fear, was still soft. It contrasted the blood rushing in Markus’ ears.

“I wanted to make sure you’d made it out okay,” the angel said, swallowing the lump in his throat. This was a first for him too, he’d never spoken to a demon.

“Are you alone?”

“To my knowledge, yes.”

There was a pause, presumably to check Markus’ halo hadn’t shifted. With a click of his tongue, the demon lowered the sword, pacing around the angel as he looked him over.

“Why did you let me go?” He looked troubled as he asked it, his blue eyes painted with worry and suspicion. Warranted, given the circumstances.

“I’m not sure,” Markus admitted, meeting the demon’s gaze with his own unsettled stare. It’d been the truth. He wasn’t even sure why he was here.

“Your brothers killed my family,” the blond reminded, his teeth clenching, “they’re always killing my family.”

“I’m sorry.”

“What do you want, Markus?” the demon asked, taking the liberty to address the angel by name.

Markus’ throat tightened at the mention of his name. It felt foreign on the demon’s tongue like he’d never heard it properly before then.

“I’m not sure.”

“Is that all you can say?” the blond snapped, “you’re not sure?”

“I didn’t want to kill you, I’m sure about that,” Markus said, feeling the frustration mount in the demon. It was odd, being receptive to emotions that weren’t his own. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant, a definite far-cry from the warnings of his teachers.

The demon’s face fell into a frown, his worried eyes dropping to the borrowed sword. “You could get in some serious trouble for that,” he said, dropping the weapon by the angel’s feet. He opened a portal, the angels’ anti-escape forcefield wearing off.

“Wait,” Markus rushed, giving the demon some pause. The blond turned to look at him, one eyebrow raised in a question. “What’s your name?”

“Do you expect us to meet again?” the demon asked, his smile ironic.

“I’d like to say a proper goodbye if you don’t mind.”

The blond narrowed his eyes, thinking it over. What harm could it really do? “I’m Simon.” Then he was gone, his shadow swept away by the silent wind.

Markus was admittedly distracted on his next scouting mission. His eyes unfocused as he looked through his binoculars, oftentimes missing the demons that were in plain sight. He blamed it on nerves or bad weather, going as far as to dismiss the criticism by pointing out his flawless record.

His brothers seldom—if ever—questioned his judgement. But after a few too many less-than-stellar hunts, they had no other option but to report him.

Markus understood why they did it, but it didn’t make him any less bitter—the last thing he’d wanted to do was bring attention to himself. As he waited outside the Scout Master’s office, he felt like a kid at detention. He could already hear the disappointment in his voice, could see the amount of retraining he’d have to do under close supervision. If he thought hard, it almost seemed like a double-edged sword. Retraining meant he didn’t have to scout, and that meant less of a chance of running into demons.

Optimism was never his forte, but it did calm him to look at the bright side.

The Scout Master’s door opened, a clear signal to enter. Markus stepped into the room, restraining his sigh. The angel had been his mentor ever since he’d shown promise, he’d never had a reprimand. His stomach twisted just thinking about it.

However, the person sitting in the Scout Master’s chair was not the angel he’d expected to see. In fact, he wasn’t an angel at all.

Markus fell to one knee in an instant, bowing his head out of respect. He heard a soft exhale, the scraping of wheels on the floor as the being stood, the heels of their boots as they walked towards Markus.

“Please get up, this showmanship is unnecessary.”

Markus obeyed, keeping his head bowed. “I’m sorry if I interrupted something,” he said, “I was meant to meet with the Scout Master.”

“I know,” the archangel said, “he’s been relocated—I’m filling his position until there’s a suitable replacement.”

Markus looked up, his eyes confused, “Archangel Elijah I—”

“It’s just Elijah,” the other interrupted, “the ‘Archangel’ is implied.”

“Pardon me,” Markus apologized again, ducking his head, “I’m sure you’ve been informed of my situation.”

“Yes, I have. Quite curious, your case,” he said, pulling out his tablet to locate Markus’ file, “you’ve earned top marks in all your courses, awards and accolades that fill entire libraries, and an unbeatable record. What changed, I wonder?” The way he said it made it seemed like Markus was an anomaly, something to study.

The angel shifted his legs, uncomfortable under such scrutiny. “I’ve not been feeling well,” he admitted, deciding to start with the truth.

“For how long?” Elijah queried once he noted the angel’s reluctance to continue.

“For a while.”

The archangel looked unamused. Returning his tablet to his pocket, he circled the angel, touching his wings, assessing their size and strength, finding nothing out of the ordinary. “You might have to be a bit more specific, Markus.”

“It’s not physical, it’s mental.” It was his unwillingness to explain that caught Elijah’s attention. In retrospect, it might have been easier to spit everything out at once.

“And what, pray tell, is so bothersome it’s distracting you from your singular purpose?” The archangel bore his stare into the angel’s eyes, far too intense for regular conversation.

“It’s the demons, sir.”

“What about them?”

Markus could tell his clipped responses were getting on the archangel’s nerves. Of course, Elijah was far too professional to show how much it affected him. At least not intentionally. Nevertheless, Markus was a scout—his entire career revolved around observing.

“I feel bad for them.”

“Certainly, you should feel bad for them,” Elijah said as if it were obvious, “they are your Fallen brothers, their sins will resonate with you so that you may learn from their mistakes.”

“I feel bad for killing them.”


Markus regretted the moment he said those words. He knew immediately when Elijah’s brows quirked that he’d crossed an unspeakable line. He waited for his punishment, hoping it wouldn’t be too severe.

“Of course, you would feel bad,” the archangel said with a measured tone, his eyes reflecting fabricated understanding, “you’re a being made purely of empathy. A necessary folly in your design.”

“I don’t want to feel that way,” Markus said, his expression falling, “I want to perform my duties, I do not want to hesitate when I draw my sword.”

Elijah took in his words, his emotions. Markus wasn’t the first of his kind, and he wouldn’t be the last. To cure such idiotic morals required patience and mental reprogramming. Some were more susceptible than others, some lied, and very few became husks—the strain of going against their heart too much to handle.

“I take it you’ve never killed a demon.”

“No, sir.”

“Have you ever had the chance?”

Markus looked away, his omission answer enough.

“Would you like to try again?”

The small shake of his head wasn’t surprising.

“Markus, we have a duty to uphold,” Elijah reminded, sounding like he was reading off a manual, “a world to protect. You’re damning millions of souls when you spare even one demon.”

“I understand, Elijah.”

“I don’t believe you do,” the archangel countered, placing a cold hand on the scout’s bicep, “I’m sorry Markus, but until you can prove you’re stable enough for reinstatement, I’m going to have to demote you.”

“I fully accept any and all punishment.” Markus held his head high as he said it, his voice unwavering.

“Don’t think of it as a punishment. Think of it as a chance to grow and learn.” Elijah pulled out his tablet, reassigning the angel. “Everything we’ve ever done has always been for the greater good. It’s what God wants.”

“Yes, sir.”

Elijah brought himself closer, lowering his voice as if he were sharing a secret. “I won’t tell any of your teammates the reason for your demotion, though I would suggest finding your escaped demon and doing the right thing.”

Markus’ blood ran cold, his spine tensing as he swallowed against the blockage in his throat. He nodded, only to seem polite, and left. The walk to his room was a long one, yet he didn’t stop when he got there, he kept going, breaking into a sprint until he was at the outskirts of the city overlooking the precipice.

Do the right thing.

Markus jumped, spreading his wings to teleport. He landed like a mouse in the forest, the imprint of his sword still in the wood.

This was his starting point, his clarity. Now he had to find his intuition. 

“So, we did meet again.”

Markus jumped as the demon’s voice pressed against his ear. The ringing came afterward, delayed.

“I guess we did.” Markus tried to shake the fright from his stance, crossing his arms as he put some distance between him and the demon. They stood on the roof of a mall, overlooking the busy city centre. It was late morning, the sun high above them.

“On another scouting mission?” Simon queried, dangling his legs over the edge as he sat by the angel.

“No,” Markus said, packing his binoculars, “I got downgraded.” He wasn’t sure why divulged that information to the demon. Maybe he’d just wanted to get it out.

“Hope it wasn’t because of me,” Simon said, sounding sincere.

Markus hadn’t thought it possible for demons to express such emotion. But then, he’d never truly known a demon. “It was a combination of things—not just you.” Simon’s smile was bright, it held no spite, which was a small relief to the angel.

“What are you doing here?” the angel asked, wanting to continue the conversation despite himself.

“I’m not sure,” Simon said, his face darkening, “now that my brothers are dead, I’m simply wondering these lands, trying to find something to do.”

“Then we’re not so different,” Markus noted, his voice a murmur.

The demon looked at the angel, sweeping his eyes over his face, his body, pausing on his wings, then returning his gaze to the humans below.

“No, I guess we’re not.”

They stayed on the roof for a few more moments, sharing the space like it’d been meant for them. Never mind that simply speaking to each other broke every rule in their respective books. Never mind that they were mortal enemies.

“Do you make deals for the devil?” Markus asked, splintering the silence. He’d been staring at nothing through his binoculars, unsure why he even had them—they didn’t do him any good in his state of unemployment.

Simon snorted, shaking his head. “No. Whatever gave you that idea?” he said, raising a blond brow. He had such a fair face, unaffected by the UV rays of the sun. He’d look sickly if his cheeks weren’t so ruddy if the blues of his eyes didn’t look like the sky above, like the ocean.

Markus nearly missed what he’d said, trying not to drown in their depths. “You’re a demon,” he replied after clearing his throat. “It’s kind of expected.”

“The humans do a great job damning themselves, they’re in no need of my help,” Simon said, rolling his eyes. “Besides, I work for no one but myself.” He sounded insulted that Markus even considered his subservience to Lucifer a possibility.

“But there are demons that do work for him, right?”

“Sure,” Simon shrugged. “But angels also make deals with humans—are they any different?”

“Demons are bad.”

The children nodded as the teacher pointed at a caricature of a demon.

“Angels are good.”

They nodded again, vigorously this time.

“That’s all you’ve known your entire lives,” she continued, flipping to the next picture, “but it’s not as simple as that.” The winged children looked on, quiet as they waited for their teacher to elaborate.

Markus sat in the back, the obvious elephant in the room. He had a desk to himself and even his own complimentary notebook. His legs were cramped under the table, his wings tucked into his spine as tight as possible, but even with these adjustments, everything was far too small. He’d told Elijah he’d accept any punishment, but this was humiliating.

“Demons were once like us,” Miss Flora admitted, showing the transition from angel to a demon, “we call them our Fallen brothers and sisters.” The slideshow continued, depicting a picture of Lucifer and the first crowd of Fallen. “Because of their disobedience to God they had to be punished.”

A little arm rose to the sky, tentative but brave. Miss Flora paused and looked at the child, giving them permission to speak. “What did they do?” they asked, their voice tiny.

Miss Flora smiled, warm and kind. The flowers that adorned her white hair seemed to wilt a bit, as they did with the seasons or her mood. “Excellent question, Adora,” she said, encouraging the child. Even though she’d given this lecture her entire professional career, it never ceased to amaze her how often she got that question. She’d been a child herself during the First Fall, seen it with her own eyes, and even then, it’d taken her many years to comprehend what happened. “We are God’s children, right? And as such, we must serve him, and love him.” Adora looked to be following along, but Miss Flora paused. She wrung her hands, tucking a flyaway strand of hair behind her ear. “Lucifer, our brother, loved God very much—so much so that he wanted to become him.”

Miss Flora took a deep breath, addressing all the children as she continued to speak. “He was prideful, and that was his doom.”

The children nodded. Markus simply stared, knowing it wasn’t as simple as that.

“Alright everyone, it’s time for recess,” Miss Flora said, clapping her hands, “don’t forget to clean your wings when you’re done,” she reminded, opening the back door. The children rushed to the playground, their underdeveloped wings fluttering with joy.

“No recess for you, Markus?”

The former scout raised his brow, taking the words for the tease they’d been. “I’m a bit old for that, don’t you think?”

“You’re never too old to be a kid,” Flora said, her smile falling as she crossed her arms. “What are you doing here?” Her words had been stern but patient—the motherly voice none of them had.

Markus looked at the last picture of the slideshow. Lucifer was reaching for the Heavens, his eyes conveying a look of betrayal while those around him panicked, their wings burning as they crashed through Earth’s atmosphere. The image was meant to convey the horrors of disobedience—all Markus saw was a Father giving up.

“Demons bad. Angels good.” The angel retold, speaking like a toddler. “Me no thinks demons that bad.”

Flora’s eyes narrowed, the twist of her lips was slow and deliberate. She considered her words before she voiced them, following Markus’ line of sight. “And this was your punishment.”

“Among other things.”

“Remedial teachings are becoming more common,” Flora commented, turning off the projector, “you’re my fifth adult student in the span of two years.” She didn’t sound surprised, but disappointment garnished the end of her sentence.

“Do you ever think we’ve been taught wrong?” Markus asked, his face falling into a scowl, “that there’s more than black and white, evil and good, angel and demon?”

“Doubt, my dear Markus, is a sin of the mind,” Flora warned, placing a consoling hand on the angel’s shoulder. “It’d be wise to clear your head of it before it gets any worse.”

“Why did God not forgive us when we faltered, why cast us away like an unwanted pet?” Markus questioned, his voice like gravel.

“To question our Creator is—”

“Treasonous, I know!” Markus snapped, his halo rocking. “Please, if it makes it any easier, answer as if I were a child.” He was already sitting in the too-small desk, it wasn’t that hard to suspend your disbelief. His eyes searched for answers Miss Flora didn’t dare have.

“Even God makes mistakes,” she said in a whisper, “you can’t fault Him for that.” The flowers closest to her crown closed, almost like they were hiding. Ashamed.

“Who punishes God when He makes a mistake?” Markus asked, irony flooding his tone, “is that why He left? Self-imposed exile for all his wrongdoings?”

“If you keep blaspheming, I will have to ask you to leave,” Miss Flora stated, the look in her eyes a force to be reckoned with. “Now, I want to help you Markus, but this heaviness you carry on your consciousness is making it hard for you to see clearly. I implore that you rest and truly think about ways you can get better.” She took a deep breath, caressing his hair, trying to imbue confidence into his being. “When He returns, He will want to see all of us and know that we’ve been good. I want you to be there too.”

Markus closed his eyes and dropped his head, biting his lip as he restrained the tears. He shook Miss Flora’s hand from his scalp, standing with a slump in his shoulders. “If He returns.”

The older angel gasped, her heart breaking. “Markus.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”

“But you did, didn’t you?”

Markus shoved his hands deep into his pockets, shielding them from the chill of the night wind. It didn’t affect him, but he felt that it should. He was walking the empty streets, devoid of any real purpose. He’d spent the past few days in his room, looking at nothing but the ceiling, then the wall, then the opposite wall, back to the ceiling, until it was time for another remedial lesson.

It seemed a better use of his time to visit the Earth he’d sworn to protect, even if the best he could do was save a stray cat from a speeding car.


The angel turned to the sound of his name, looking above him to see the demon he’d spared waving from a balcony. Markus couldn’t help the smile that captured his face, it was such an odd progression, from feeling aimless to having a task again. Even if it was as simple as waving back.

“Are you following me or something?” the angel asked, flapping his wings to reach the third floor.

“It’s more like you’re following me,” Simon countered, “I live here.” He jutted a finger over his shoulder, revealing his apartment. Even from the snippets he saw, the angel could tell it looked homey. Lived in.

There was a sudden urge in the angel to ask for an invitation, to sit on the couch and take in the surroundings. He crushed the question in his throat, knowing that a few chance encounters didn’t make him an outright traitor, but seeking the demon’s companionship did.

“Do your eyes always look so troubled?” Simon asked, his voice delicate, “or is it only when you’re thinking out loud?” He smoothed the frown on the angel’s forehead with the pad of his thumb, letting his palm rest on his cheek to cup his sharp jawline. He traced the edge of Markus’ lips with his index finger, forcing it upwards into a smile.

The angel shuddered—hard. His wings faltered, dropping him a few inches before he corrected himself. Simon’s chuckle only made him blush, the desire to teleport overpowered by the sweet sound of the demon’s mirth.

“Come inside,” Simon said, motioning towards his living room, “you look cold.”

Markus didn’t correct him, accepting the offer without reservation.

“Markus,” Miss Flora said after she’d dismissed the class. She wanted to talk to him without the little ones eavesdropping. “Please stay a moment.”

The angel held in his sigh, turning to meet Miss Flora’s bright green eyes. “How may I help you?”

The teacher shook her head, her visage sad. The lines of wisdom that peppered her face deepened as she gazed at Markus. He felt like he was slipping out of her grasp, her teachings going into one ear and leaving corrupted through the other. She’d hesitated in saying anything, hoping, praying, that he’d change. But the longer he was under her care and away from his post, the more he seemed to stray away from the light.

“You smell like them, Markus.”

Her words felt like a punch to the gut. Markus had enough decency to look ashamed.

“I want to help you, but the more you let them influence you, the harder that’s going to make my job.” She lifted his chin so they could meet eyes, she searched, searched, and kept searching. An iota of relief flowing through her when he found his core intact. “I know their sin is tempting, but remember who you ware, what your purpose is—why we’re here.”

“I know why we’re here,” Markus whispered—his throat tight.

“I know you do Markus,” Miss Flora said, her eyes brimming with tears, unable to contain them as they fell, “I’m just afraid you don’t care.”

“We can’t be friends,” Markus said as Simon laid his head on his lap. He was watching the demon play another human game. This one was about robots, decisions, and the consequences of your actions—or inactions.

Simon snorted, saying nothing.

“I’m serious—they’re starting to get suspicious,” the angel said, looking down at the demon, tracing the contours of his face, fearing he’d forget them. “My teacher says she can smell you on me.”

“Do you care?” the blond countered. You could see how sharp his teeth were from this angle, their points like knives in a perfect row. Markus wondered if he ran his tongue over them would they cut him, would he even mind if they did.

“No,” the angel answered, trying to drive his more lustful thoughts into a vault and drop them in the middle of the ocean.

The demon laughed as Markus’ halo fell over his eyes. Caught in a lie, the angel blushed, readjusting the disk. “I may care a little,” he corrected.

“I know you do, Markus. That much was expected.” Simon didn’t seem disappointed, barely shifted his eyes upwards as he’d answered. “I know we’re an odd couple, you don’t have to remind me.” He paused, his face growing serious. “But I rather like your company—it’d be a shame if we had to part.”

The angel looked abashed, twisting his head to the game since it saved him further embarrassment. “At least take a shower more often,” he murmured.

“I’m sure there are worse things than the fragrance of a demon,” Simon snickered, his chest vibrating against the angel’s knees. “Maybe try using cologne when you go to class.”

Markus slapped his head, letting his hand linger on Simon’s hair. He could tell the demon enjoyed the attention, and in turn, it compelled the angel to keep giving it to him. Despite protests from higher powers and his own consciousness.


The angel paused as he exited his apartment, it’d been the voice of his former teammate. He hadn’t heard from them in so long, he nearly forgot how they sounded. He turned to meet the angel, taping a smile on his face. He knew it looked forced, could feel himself straining to keep it in place. It came so easy with Simon, he didn’t have to pretend to be happy around him, or sad.

They simply were.

“Hi, Leo.”

“How ya’ been?” the angel asked, looking uncomfortable. He rubbed his neck, avoiding the other’s gaze.

“Bored, if I must be honest.” Markus kept his voice curt. Betraying no emotion except cool indifference.

“I bet,” Leo said with a half-hearted laugh. “I didn’t mean to keep you or anything, it’s just that the boys and I…we’ve been a bit worried about you, wanted to make sure you were alright and all that.”

“I’m perfectly fine,” the angel replied, his fingers curling inward. This faux politeness was taxing. Everything about being upstairs was becoming a chore. “Thank you for asking.”

“No problem,” the soldier said, squaring his shoulders as he aimed in the opposite direction. “Uh, see you around, yeah?”

“Of course. Goodbye Leo.”

“I can’t be that stinky if you keep coming back,” Simon teased, opening the door to the angel, his smile impish.

“Let it go,” Markus grumbled, stepping into the apartment, his progression blocked by the demon.

“You told me to take a shower.”

“I said that once, ages ago,” Markus reminded, "let it go."

Simon stuck out his tongue, but dropped the subject, letting the angel enter. “What shall we do today? I’ve got a few new games I’d like to play, maybe a movie, or—”

Markus was absorbed by the urge to taste that tongue, to nudge it with his own, swallow it. He didn’t control his actions as they pulled him forward, chasing after the need that’d coiled deep within his heart. It was a dangerous precedent, letting his emotions drive him like this. He only let their lips brush, knowing somewhere in his muddled mind that consent was still necessary.

Simon gasped, his eyes rolling out his head with disbelief. It was far too brief to call it a kiss, to even consider labelling it anything near it was an exaggeration. Yet Simon melted against it, his lids fluttering closed like some schoolgirl.

“Sorry,” Markus said, breaking the contact and stepping as far away as he could. “I shouldn’t, we shouldn’t—”

“Give me one good reason why we shouldn’t,” Simon interrupted, trapping Markus’ wrists in his hands, and pushing them against his hammering heart. “I’m only asking for one.”

“It’s wrong,” the angel said, his voice strained.

“I said a good reason, Markus,” Simon said, his eyes lingering on the angel’s lips. Now that he’d had a taste, he wished to feast on them. Even if only for a moment more. “What are you even doing?”

“I don’t know,” the angel replied inaudibly. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m not,” the blond promised, taking the other into an embrace. “I’m actually quite happy, I hope you can tell.”

Markus could tell. He was drowning, his lungs burning with it. The longer they remained connected, the stronger the demon’s emotions were in his mind, melding with his own, setting up shop and living there. Markus felt a protest well in his chest, claw its way into his throat, and exit his mouth.

“I have to go,” he rushed, breaking their coupling for the second time.

“You just got here,” the demon reminded, his face threatening to fall.

“I…I know.”

Markus didn’t return the following night, nor the night after that, or the one after that. He could still taste the demon on his tongue, courtesy of never having to brush his teeth. Not that he hadn’t tried to get rid it, he’d scrubbed his mouth until it was raw, gargled soap and water until the suds bubbled over his mouth to no avail. It was maddening.

And most definitely all in his head.

There was an ache in his chest—a hole rather—it looked suspiciously like Simon. Yet he couldn’t go back, not until his thoughts settled themselves and he knew where he stood in relation to the Earth.

When he wasn’t in class, trying his damnedest to blend into the wall, he spent time in Eden. Few people visited her Garden, her sentimental value going down after they’d built an amusement park on the other side of Heaven. It was better for him that he was alone though, too many demons swimming in his head.

Well, it was only one demon, but he felt like many.

Markus plucked an apple from The Tree, looking at the fruit like it was its fault for all his problems. Maybe if his name had been Eve, his annoyance might’ve been more appropriate. But as it stood, his damnation was of his own doing, and no amount of blame-shifting was going to erase that fact.

He took a bite, hoping its educational properties applied to angels as well. He felt no different, except for the fullness in his belly and the sweetness on his tongue.

“What am I meant to do?” Markus whined, bracing his head against the tree trunk, “I’m so lost.”

The fire in his soul told him to find Simon, to pursue whatever he’d paused that night. The rational processing unit he called his mind told him the complete opposite, urged him to repent and ask for forgiveness to whoever would listen. His core was still intact, anything he’d done could still be reversed. That much couldn’t be said if he committed to anything further.

Markus growled, punching the tree.

It dropped an apple on his head, fighting back.

“I thought you’d forgotten about me,” Simon said, his face unamused as he looked at the angel. He stood like an apologetic Adonis as he held a bouquet of video games. It was almost enough to make up for lost time. “Thanks,” he said, accepting the gift.

“I wanted to make sure of what I was feeling before I saw you again,” Markus said, keeping eye contact.

“Did you figure it out?” Simon asked, skeptical. Knowing the angel, he’d probably give a vague answer and disappear for another month.

“I did.” Markus nodded, trying to reinforce his decision.

“And?” Simon nearly burst with anticipation, his hands trembling as he looked at the angel.

“Mind if I kiss you again?”

“Like you have to ask.”

Miss Flora paused her scribing, the atmosphere around her shifting as Markus walked into the room. He was normally the last student, still embarrassed to be placed in a room full of children. Today, however, he seemed content being the first to class, his shoulders more relaxed than they’d been in the eons she’d known him. He looked happy, and for a moment, Miss Flora was happy for him.

It wasn’t often that she cursed her gift. A gardener at heart, she could detect a rotten fruit just by its scent. As a child, no one believed her when she’d predicted the Fall of Lucifer, even her own Father had dismissed her qualms. Maybe it’d been her ambiguity—saying she could smell it wasn’t a valid reason in anyone’s book.

She could see it unravelling again, the smell…like flint after it’d been ignited. Like the smoke of burning coal, stuffy, choking. There was no escaping it, just like there was no denying its existence.

Miss Flora was a good enough actress to keep her tears to herself. She did it for the children’s sakes more than her own, no need to scare them with needless blubbering.

“You wanted to see me?” Markus asked, forbidding his shoulders to tense as he walked into the Scout Master’s office, still occupied by the archangel.

Elijah stood with his back to the angel, looking deeply into the roaring fire. He held a glass of an indiscriminate liquid, his fingers wrapping delicately around the body. Crushing it, he discarded the remains in the fire, watching the beauty of its destruction.

“A distraught letter is not an uncommon item,” Elijah began, his eyes reflecting the flames as he turned to the angel, “just the opposite. I receive mountains of them, most are trifle concerns, a few are addressed to the wrong archangel, but a very small percentage are of grave importance.” His voice shook the windows in their enclosures. “Do you want to know in which pile this letter belongs?” The archangel held a scroll, the ribbon made of daisies.

Markus stood, rooted to the spot. He wasn’t sure the etiquette of a rhetorical question when spoken by an archangel. Answering seemed disrespectful, not answering was inherently disrespectful. Now you see his dilemma.

“I’m not sure, sir,” Markus said, speaking through the rock in his throat.

Think, Markus, think really hard where this letter should go,” Elijah whispered, his tone deafening.

“In the ‘grave importance’ pile, sir.”

Elijah’s smile was tight like a rope was pulling his lips upwards. “I knew you’d get it, my smart, smart angel.” The condescension was like acid against Markus’ tan skin, corrosive. Damaging. The archangel tossed the letter into the fire, doubling its size.

“I’m sorry—”

“Stop.” Elijah’s command was bitingly cold, hitting Markus like a blizzard. “I know the extent of your betrayal, Markus, I’ve seen it. You do not have to apologize to me.” The archangel’s face was sharp enough to slice the world in half. “Save your supplications for the one that matters.”

Markus nodded, his chest quivering with each shaky breath.

“He will be so severely disappointed when He returns, Markus,” Elijah continued, his face simulating concern, “to see His child, the one He’s plucked from Heaven’s soft womb, and crafted in His image, His perfection, turn on Him. I will not be there to see you when you Fall, I would hate to suffer further grief.”

The former scout knew the archangel meant only a small fraction of what he said. Even through the lie, his halo remained fixed on his scalp, as if fearful to disobey its owner. But Markus knew the truth without the tell-tale sign, felt it against his skin as the Words burned another path down his arm. Elijah would be there, enjoying every moment of Markus’ agony as his wings were ripped from his back and his body transformed into something unrecognizable. As the children watched with horror and secret curiosity, Elijah would be there, his eyes drowning in malicious glee, much like they did now as he inflicted pain on the angel.

“But it’s not my decision,” Elijah said, clearing the darkness in his gaze, “my power, as infinite as it may seem, is limited.” He looked bothered by the fact. “What I can and will do, seems cruel, but it is necessary, Markus. I need you to learn from your mistakes.”

Markus found it wise to keep quiet.

“You are hereby prohibited from entering Heaven until you’ve brought me the head of your escaped demon,” Elijah said scratching his chin, his smirk as malevolent as his words, “add another million demons to your list. I need to make sure you understand how you should feel when killing them.”

Markus was given a few hours to pack whatever he needed—mainly his sword and binoculars—and say any last goodbyes. His teammates had long forsaken him, not wanting to associate with a sympathizer. It’d been hard to contain that fact now that he was being exiled.

He was escorted to the edge of Heaven and stripped of his key. He looked at home for what felt like the last time, then jumped, closing his eyes as he crashed into Earth’s atmosphere.

Tracking down demons that didn’t want to be found was harder than it sounded. Markus had to be persistent, had to spend many days and nights hovering just above their line of sight. It was tiring, but he could not rest. He had a mission to accomplish.

During his quest, he saw flashes of his brothers. He hid from them, ashamed, knowing they’d never approach him even if they saw him. He wanted to make them proud again, to spill the blood of any demon that made him hesitate.

However, when faced with the option to draw his sword, he cowered, deciding to spare them instead. Markus forced himself to feel anger towards his decisions, turned his pity into self-admonishment. He stewed in silent rage until each day he felt it become a part of himself, felt it chip away at his core until he was consumed by it.

He had to do what was right.

A million and one demons were on his hit-list, after all.

In a flash of frustration, he fell to his knees and shouted at the sky, begging for a sign, a guide. Anything.

Lighting struck overhead, twice to be exact, landing near an abandoned shipyard. Markus followed it, his heart racing, his wings beating in time with his breaths. His ears rang as he approached, an encouraging development in his mission to right a wrong. The ringing crescendoed over a freight ship, JERICHO written in white bold lettering on its side.

Markus drew his sword, rain falling like an omen. He entered the vessel, keeping his senses on high alert as he meandered through the darkness. He stepped into a clearing, expecting a trap but receiving none. Instead, Simon stood in the centre, his brows coming together to form a concerned frown.

“Finally come to finish the job?” the demon asked, forcing his tone to be light, something in him telling him this wasn’t a joke. Simon had been searching for another hideaway, a place were his fellow deserters could be safe. Hell and Heaven were having some problems with authority, and Earth seemed like the only common ground any of them had. A ship, though ironic, seemed like a good place to start.

“What’s going on, Markus?”

The angel’s hands shook, and he fought hard to still them, trying to keep a clear head about his intentions. “I know what I must do,” he whispered, heavy and pained.

“But is it what you want to do,” Simon argued gently. He didn’t look surprised, in fact, he seemed expectant.

“I—” Markus shook his head, steeling his determination, “yes.” The clank of his halo echoed through the iron like an alarm.

Simon’s expression softened, his lips lifting into a sad smile. “Then you must do the right thing.”

Markus double-fisted his sword and lifted it high above them. There was no light to reflect his eyes on the metal and no fear in Simon to make him waver. The demon resigned himself to his fate, had known it’d been too good to believe an angel would ever spare him. Their brief coupling, as intense as it’d been, was doomed from the start.

They weren’t compatible, this could only end one way.

“I forgive you,” Simon whispered before the sword impaled him.

Or at least, it should have. But, as if by divine intervention, the sword missed him entirely, penetrating the metal beam in his stead.

They stood close, their bodies touching, sharing heat. Markus was quivering, everything about him looking as if it’d break with one wrong touch.

Maybe that’s why Simon was so careful when he placed a hand on his shoulder then to his face, wiping away the tears with his thumb. “If you keep missing like that, I’m gonna’ start thinking you’re doing it on purpose,” Simon murmured, his eyes bouncing with amusement, “or you’re just blind.”

Markus chuckled, hating how thick and watery it sounded. “I didn’t mean to miss.”

“Well, thank God you did.”

Simon brought their lips together, letting tears of relief fall as Markus returned the kiss. They pushed into each others’ space, crowding their individual beings with the other. It was inescapable, unavoidable. Damning and beautiful in one volatile mix.

Markus’ armour melted away as he relaxed into Simon’s embrace, walking them against the metal beam that housed his sword. The blending of worlds, the marring of lines. It was all here, at this moment, as their kiss deepened, and their hands wandered.

“You can’t go back if you do this,” Simon warned stilling Markus’ hand with the last ounce of rational self-control he had left. “You’ll be tainted.”

“I know,” the angel said, all reservation having jumped ship ages ago. The demon looked delighted, letting the angel carry on.

Markus walked outside and watched the sunset for the first time in his life. The rain had stopped, and the world had deemed it worthy to continue rotating around the sun. It was difficult to imagine the Earth cared about his decision to spare Simon for a second time, then join with him in an unholy communion. He figured the globe had better things to do with its time. Yet he couldn’t help feeling the sunset was meant for him. For them.

Simon stood by his side, the gold of his hair catching the stray rays. His baby blues shining like gems, clearer now that they didn’t have to fear for his life. Markus couldn’t tell you how long they stood there, didn’t feel it was necessary. Nevertheless, they had to move on. Everything did.

“So, what now?” Simon asked, waiting for the angel to speak before he asked anything else.

“All my life I’ve only ever known one thing, only ever done one thing.” Markus looked at his hands, noted how they shook. He balled them, trying to instil within himself the confidence to admit that what he’d learned might have been wrong. Behind his eyes, he saw dark tendrils wrap around his core, knew that to any other angel it’d be a disgrace, an abomination. To him, it was a comfort—an accomplishment. “I can’t go back to that. Not if I let you live.”

“I’m sure you won’t miss a third a time,” Simon joked, his smile crooked.

“How did you Fall?” It was an intimate question—one he was sure was taboo to ask. Markus had often wondered if God were still around, would He read his thoughts and find them blasphemous. Elijah made it seem that way, wishing him nothing but the most biblical of punishments.

“I was like you, Markus,” Simon said, “I was a soldier, I slaughtered more demons than I could count.” He stopped, closing his eyes. “I didn’t want to do that anymore.”

Is that why there was no one who thought like him? Had they all Fallen? The angel rubbed his temples, far too troubled by the realization. If his intuition was correct, he’d have to reconsider his idea of mercy.

“I take it autonomy is new to you,” Simon guessed, placing a consoling hand on his shoulder. How did his touch feel more genuine than an archangel’s?

“Something like that.”

“Conspiring with the enemy is treasonous,” Simon teased, poking the angel’s arm.

“I’ve already been exiled, so I don’t see how much worse it can get.”

“Don’t say that,” the blond warned, wagging his finger, “it can always get worse.”

“Have you encountered any others like me?” Markus asked, turning his eyes to the general direction of Heaven.

“Those who question Dad’s orders tend to keep it to themselves.” Simon looked away, taking a deep breath before he continued. “And those that didn’t, are probably dead or in hiding.”

“It seems so unfair.”

“The world seldom is fair.”

They both agreed with the sentiment.

“What will you do now that you’re a free-thinking man?” Simon was happy for Markus, that much was clear from the emotions filtering through the angel.

“I’m not sure…” Markus panned his gaze over the horizon. “I’d like to find more of my kind.”

“That could prove difficult,” Simon said, watching the waves, “you may need some help.”

“Are you offering?” Markus asked, his brows lifting with mild surprise.

“Only if you accept.”

Chapter Text

“None of these were complete, right?” Hank asked, shuffling through the prototypes on the table. He grew frustrated with his inability to distinguish the sigils from the other, turning a panicked gaze to the demon in charge of their conception.

“No, I took the finished one with me,” Ace reassured, pulling out the blueprint. He burnt in his palm, watching the ashes disappear into the atmosphere.

“I hope you’ve got it memorized,” Gavin grumbled, tracing a pattern in the suede couch.

“I do.” Ace twisted in the angel’s direction, raising a brow. “Maybe you should too.”

Gavin met his gaze, skepticism making his eyes narrow. “For what?”

“In the chance, I become inconvenienced,” the demon elaborated, “it would be beneficial to have a backup.”

“Then don’t get inconvenienced.”

“Gavin,” Hank snapped, pinching the bridge of his nose, “stop being difficult.” The lieutenant pulled up a chair, waiting for the other two to join him.

The demon wanted nothing more but to voice similar displeasure. However, stoking Gavin’s fire wouldn’t lead to progress, and during these uncertain times, preserving the peace took precedence. Ace walked towards the table, picked up a sketchpad and ripped out a few sheets. He passed one to each angel, choosing a pencil to start his sketch.

“The circle is first,” Ace began, his hand steady as he made a mark, “it doesn’t have to be perfect, just complete.” The others mimicked his actions. “Then the pentagram. Each space will represent a different character, so make sure the lines are clean.”

“Ironic, isn’t it?” Gavin joked, his hand tingling as he finished the sketch. “Angels drawing demonic symbols.”

“What an innovative thought,” Hank said, sardonic, “wonder why I didn’t come up with it.”

Gavin pouted, his expression falling as his eyes shifted to his page. He’d only meant to lighten the mood.

“It’s a bit ironic,” Ace agreed, his lips quirking a fraction. The angel looked up, his expression softening with gratitude. It was subtle, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. Ace cleared his throat, returning to the sigil, convincing himself that the thumping of his heart was a natural occurrence.

The rest of the tutorial was completed in relative silence. Ace compared their sketches, superimposing the angels’ work on his own. They were close, but not quite functional. He said as much, burning the evidence and starting over.

Connor returned from his self-imposed exile a few hours later, picking up his fallen apples with a modicum of joy. Amanda may have ruined whatever excitement he’d felt, but he was still gonna’ bake a pie, Goddammit.

“Missed one,” Hank said, tossing the fruit in Connor’s direction. He’d given up on perfecting the sigil after his tenth failed attempt. With a beer in one hand and a handful of Sumo in the other, he’d sat on the couch, waiting for Connor.

Impatience made him ache, a deep and cutting feeling. Today had been a rollercoaster, both emotional and physical. Amanda’s surprise (and subsequent cruelty) had been the icing on their unfortunate cake. Not to mention Gavin, who was still quieter than normal, scribbling his thirtieth sketch.

“Thanks.” Connor caught the fruit, biting deep into its flesh. It tasted more like an apple on Earth, its purity spoiled by the sins of the world. It was still the best damn thing he’d put in his mouth in a long while… well, second best.

The demon blushed at his own thoughts, looking away from the lieutenant. He prayed the angel hadn’t developed mind-reading abilities in his absence, just to save them both the trouble of an awkward situation.

“Would you like some help?” Hank asked, leaning against the counter. Everything about this felt domestic. The soft music playing somewhere in the distance, the oven preheating at 375 °F, Sumo looking for scraps. It nearly sent a small shiver of normalcy down the angel’s spine.

“I would, actually,” Connor answered, his smile tentative, “I’m gonna’ need these apples peeled, cored, and sliced. I’ll tell you what to do next when you’re done.”

“Yes, sir.”

Hank couldn’t help but notice how well they worked together. Never once were they in each others’ way, they anticipated each movement like a dance, choreographed without ever needing to speak. Even Sumo knew the steps, catching a stray apple slice before it hit the floor.

Thankfully, Eden’s fruits were safe for Hellhounds.

Hank had never felt this much harmony before, and mind you, he sang in a choir. The lieutenant wanted to place the sudden evolution on empathy, to separate himself from the developing feelings in his mind. They’d do him no good, in fact, they’d only bring trouble. But as the shadows cleared from Connor’s eyes, and his smile blossomed into a toothy grin, Hank couldn’t help the abnormal beating of his heart.

In a short while, the pie was done, and the smell that it brought could make a desert water.

Gavin and Ace took a break from sketching to accept their offered slices, humming appreciatively at the first bite. Unfortunately, the pie didn’t last the night, even its crumbs were consumed—not a morsel left for even the humblest of beggars.

“I might need to visit The Garden more often, commission you to do more pies,” Hank said, beyond satisfied. He’d melted into the couch cushions, far more relaxed than he had any right being. He hadn’t felt this full in centuries, his last true meal paled in comparison.

Connor laughed, resting his head on angel’s shoulder. “Thank you, Hank, but don’t sell yourself short—you helped with a lot of it.”

Hank said nothing—couldn’t—his voice sequestered by the sudden lump in his throat. He watched, in mild horror, as his hand placed itself on the demon’s head. He carded his fingers through the locks, saw how they bounced when he let them go. They had a curl to them, only noticeable when they were displaced.

Connor shivered against him, drawing closer to the warmth.

They were in their own little bubble, their attention only focused on their immediate surroundings. That’s why Gavin’s throat clearing was so jarring. It pulled them into the real world like a splash of ice-water, stark. Unpleasant.

“I’d say to get a room, but then that’d mean acknowledging what I’m seeing,” Gavin said, his arms crossed over his chest. He looked disappointed, like a parent fed up with their child’s behaviour. “Remember what we are, Hank.”

“Like you’re so high-and-mighty,” Hank snapped, feeling the absence on his shoulder like a missing limb.

“At least I know what lines to cross,” Gavin said, searching the lieutenant’s core, narrowing his eyes, “do you?”

“Stop analyzing me,” Hank warned, his voice rumbling in his chest, “or you’ll regret it.” He brought himself to his full height, his wings unfolding like a curtain.

“You’ll be the one to regret it,” Gavin said, keeping his gaze steady, “when Dad returns, do you really want him to see a tainted core?”

That’s my business,” the lieutenant said, speaking in his native tongue.

Think of what you’re saying before you say it so convincingly,” Gavin returned in the ancient language. In all the years he’d known Hank, he’d never once seen him break the rules. Maybe this was the real him, maybe he’d been crooked from the start. God only knows how he’d gotten away with it.

“Maybe it's best if you leave,” Hank said with no room for argument.

“No worries—I was just on my way.” Gavin turned on his heel, exiting through the front door. Technically, he had nowhere to go, no place to call his home anymore. Looking around brought no otherworldly insight, nor inspiration. Maybe he’d just fly aimlessly until he landed somewhere.

“Tainted core, huh?” Ace said, standing next to the angel. “What an awful way to put it.”

“The truth is seldom pretty,” Gavin reminded, avoiding the demon’s inquisitive gaze. He wasn’t even sure what compelled him to reprimand Hank. It was like the pot calling the kettle black—if the pot was also a kettle.

The angel held his skull, far too full for ridiculous idioms. Elijah’s mark still a dull ache on his abdomen, requesting his attention as it twinged. Gavin swallowed against the bile in his throat, willing his stomach to settle. It’d be a disgrace to the pie if he threw up.

“I know you’re not interested in anything I do or say,” Ace began, his voice devoid of emotion, “I do fear our friendship may have died with the birth of my feelings for you.”

“So, you do admit you have a crush on me.”

“Hush Gavin, it’s rude to interrupt.”

The angel made a zipping motion with his forefinger and thumb, throwing away the key for show.

“If you’d allow it, I’d like to start over,” Ace said, extending a hand. “I don’t expect you to forget your imprisonment, so I won’t ask you to, but a proper introduction could make our partnership smoother.”

Gavin looked tired and unamused, feeling his age as he heard the words but absorbed conflicting emotions. It wasn’t that Ace wasn’t trying to dampen what he felt, it was that he was doing a poor job at it.

“You’re a glutton for punishment if you still want me around after everything,” Gavin grumbled, taking the hand in his own. “I hope something else catches your fancy soon. For your sake more than mine.”

Ace’s smile didn’t reach his eyes, it barely touched his lips. He’d never known the meaning of unrequited as intimately as he knew it then. He wished to be rid of its acquaintance, but it seemed improbable it’d ever want to leave.

Establishing a routine had to become a priority if any of them wanted to survive. Connor, on multiple occasions, urged his brother to quit his job. They only had twenty-four hours in a day and wasting twelve of them at the precinct wasn’t doing them any favours.

Ace was adamant about keeping it, though. “Quitting now would only raise suspicion,” he’d said, after another unsuccessful supplication from his brother.

Connor couldn’t argue with his logic, even if it seemed extreme. “At least let me keep Gavin.”

The angel looked affronted—he wasn’t a piece of furniture, Goddammit. He’d said as much, his protests falling on deaf ears.

“It’s his decision,” Ace replied, knowing his say on what Gavin did ended the moment his bondage had.

The angel, just to spite two birds with one stone, stuck with Connor.

This had occurred a few nights after the incidence with Amanda. They’d cleared their heads and returned to the drawing board with a plan: recruitment. So, here they were, three lone wolves by day, and four by night, searching for angels and demons that went against the grain.

It proved more difficult in execution than theory.

“There has to be a way to streamline this,” Connor groaned, leaning his head against the bar counter. Nothing—in the two weeks of searching they’d found nothing. Trying to maintain his anonymity often led to suspicion, and he’d found himself at the sharp end of a sword a few too many times.

“I’m sure you’re winning them over with your killer personality,” Gavin teased, his tone a bit unkind. He was swirling the ice in his glass until it became water, feeling like a Jesus knock-off.

“I’d like to see you do better,” the demon bit back, the pop in his jaw audible as he clenched his teeth.

“Alright you two,” Hank said, breaking up the fight before it began, “stop acting like children and try to work together.” It was a wishful statement, Connor and Gavin were like hot oil and water.

“I’m trying to work together,” Connor reminded, pointing a finger at the angel, “but he only behaves when Ace is here.” The demon in question was busy warding the building from prying eyes but managed to catch the conversation. He raised his brow—quite sure Connor had misspoken.

Hank sighed, feeling the demon’s frustration fuse with his own. “I know he’s annoying—Gavin scoffed—but he’s the only other ally you’ve got.” The lieutenant hoped his words were therapeutic, seeing as any physical affection was now under scrutiny. “Just ignore the worst of it.”

Connor, as much as it pained him, had to swallow his reservations and listen to Hank. For stability’s sake.

“I’ll try.”

“That’s all I ask.” Hank gave the dejected demon an encouraging smile, pushing a shot of whiskey his way. “Now drink up—it’s good for the soul.”

Connor didn’t hesitate as he knocked back the glass, refilled it to the brim, and drank that too. The liquid settled in his stomach, warming his insides.

Ace returned to the group—his hands sticky with invisible ink. He saw it as a necessary evil, a burden he didn’t mind undertaking for their guaranteed safety. “Maybe you’ve been looking in the wrong places,” he said, ordering a glass of red wine, “when it floods, we build boats—not bunkers.” 

“What da’ fuck are you talking about?” Connor slurred, his vision swimming. He was probably overdoing it with the liquor.

“I stumbled upon a couple, quite similar to us, about a month ago.” Ace pulled out his cell phone, showing them a picture of an abandoned freight ship. “They were peculiar, so I investigated.”

Connor picked up the phone, zooming into the photo. “Jericho?”

“Their Noah’s Ark,” Hank said, amusement colouring his tone.


“Seems your detective skills are good for something,” Connor murmured, returning the device. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

Ace ignored the jab at his profession, pocketing his phone. “I wanted to be certain.”

“And what did you find?” Connor asked, cocking his head.

“Tainted cores.” Ace turned his gaze to Gavin, wanting to gauge his reaction. The angel’s eyes widened a fraction, but he gave no other indication that it’d bothered him.

Connor chuckled a dry and sarcastic thing. “I do wonder what God has to say about that.”

“He’d probably be impressed we held out that long,” Hank said through a huff, “disappointed, but impressed.”

“Where is this fucking boat, anyway?” Gavin asked his shoulders a rigid line, doing everything in his power not to flap his wings in frustration.

“It’s in the abandoned shipyard a few miles from downtown,” Ace replied, ready to teleport them to the location.

“Wait,” Connor spoke up, holding out a hand to stop his brother. “We need to rehearse what we’re gonna’ say, we can’t just barge in.”

“I think it’s pretty obvious why we’re going there,” the younger demon countered, looking at the angels then back at this brother, “don’t you think?”

“Still,” Connor hesitated, rubbing his neck, “they’re in hiding. We’d be asking them to forfeit their safety on a promise.”

“It’s a start,” Ace said, “if we can’t convince them, then we’ll move on.”

Connor looked troubled, his brows furrowing into a deep scowl. What other choice did he have? His adventures had proven unsuccessful, and here was Ace, handing him a buffet of opportunity.

“Alright,” Connor caved, letting his brother continue.

Ace resumed opening the portal, dropping them off a few paces from the freight ship. The demon noticed they’d upped their warding since the last time he’d been there. Maybe he wasn’t the only one paranoid about the rumblings from below.

They walked towards the nearest opening, stopped in their tracks by a winged duo. “Halt!”

No one ran, they had no reason to.

“Why are you here?” the angels asked in unison.

“We’re here to see your leader,” Connor said, looking past the spears and into the angels’ eyes. Ace hadn’t been exaggerating, their cores were nearly unrecognizable.

“On what grounds,” the angels continued their unanimous questioning.

“We’ve got a request to make,” Connor answered, assuming the position of ambassador, “we mean them no harm.”

The angelic twins, still pointing their spears at the group, led them into the boat. The inside of the ship was made of nothing but cold metal, the iron stripped and oxidized from years of weather and neglect. It had sigils on all its walls, the strength of them reinforced by the blood in which they were written.

“Halt!” the twins ordered again, crossing their spears so the group wouldn’t be compelled to walk ahead.

Hank had to roll his eyes—even after corruption, the angels kept their training. His ears rang as demons appeared, one by one, from the shadows. Angels often accompanied them, either holding hands, or standing in solidarity. The lieutenant tried to see if there was anyone he recognized, wondered if anyone recognized him.

His search was interrupted by the beating of wings over their heads. The powerful muscles started a gust of wind in the stale air, stopping only when the angel landed. The lieutenant knew a leader when he saw one, mostly because of the dramatic entrance—he just didn’t expect a scout in that position.

“State your name and business,” the darker skinned angel said, his dual-toned eyes sweeping over the group. They paused briefly on Ace and Gavin, recognizing them but not acknowledging their connection.

“I’m Connor,” the demon began, keeping his voice steady, “this is my brother, Ace, and our two angel companions, Hank and Gavin,” he said respectively. He took a second to collect his thoughts, trying not to let the innumerable set of eyes intimate him. “We’re here to ask for help.”

The leader’s face relaxed as he spoke, “If it’s refuge you seek, we’ve got plenty of room. We only ask that you contribute your talents to the group.”

“It’s not that type of help,” Connor said, feeling anxiety climb up his throat and perch on his tongue.

“Then what is it?” The angel’s expression fell into a frown, severe enough to stifle a roaring fire.

“I’m sure most of you, if not all of you, are aware that God is gone.” The deafening silence was answer enough. “Hell is in no better position, with its new leader being a dictator on the path of eternal purification.” Connor’s hands shook as he said the words, feeling like a traitor. He had to follow what was left of his heart, but it didn’t make this any easier.

“I know it’s a lot to ask, you don’t know me or my intentions, and I don’t expect you to trust me.” Connor looked around, his eyes zeroing in on the angels and demons holding hands, embracing. Maybe if he worked in a little sympathy, he might win them over. He snuck his hand into Hank’s palm, lacing their fingers and hoping the lieutenant wouldn’t question it. “The Ruler of Hell aims to destroy everything we know, if she succeeds, there’ll be no more you or me. If we can stop her, we'd be a step closer to bringing order to our decaying worlds.”

As honest as the speech may have been, it did nothing to instil confidence in any of the recipients. Only a few knew who Amanda was, and even less could care of what happened above or below. Connor may have been far too eager to get his point across, overlooking the fact that most of them were trying to survive, not join his rallying cry.

"We could force God to listen to us."

The leader said nothing, didn’t even flinch as Connor held his breath. He looked deep in thought, his eyes unfocused as they investigated the distance. “Why would you want Him back?”

“Without Him, the archangels win,” Gavin said, speaking up with a fire in his belly. “They are the worst of both our kinds, the most extreme, if they go unpunished for much longer, they’ll—”

“But what if that’s God’s will?” the leader asked, “what if that’s why He left?”

“Even if we can’t make him return, even if all of this is in vain, we still can’t let them win,” Connor urged, his voice growing desperate. “Please, I only ask that you consider it.”

“I’ve considered it and it’s a no—I’m not putting my people in jeopardy.”

Hank could pinpoint the exact moment Connor’s heart fell. It was amplified by their connection, made even more acute by the consequences of their failure. This, as far-fetched as it’d seemed, had been promising. An entire group of radical angels paired with demons, congregated in one spot, how unlikely was that?

“Markus,” a soft voice rang from behind the leader, “you can’t speak for everyone.” They approached from the dark, their flaxen hair shining light like a mirror.

“Simon, if it’s the safety of our people over some pipe-dream, I’m going to choose the obvious,” Markus said, keeping his eyes on Connor, “and that’s my decision.”

“We don’t want a war, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Ace pointed out, “but it’d be nice not to march into Heaven alone.”

“What did you say?” Markus asked, his eyes narrowing.

“When was the last time you saw Heaven, walked its streets, took a bite of Eden’s apple?” Ace asked, taking the fruit he’d saved from the pile. “I know home isn’t what it used to be, but it’s still our home—our Fall didn’t change that.”

Markus shook his head, trying to clear the ridiculous hope in his heart. “You’re going to have to do better than a piece of fruit.”

“What about being able to fly again?” Connor bargained, using the same words Amanda had used to convince him. “Wouldn’t that be ideal?”

“I still have my wings,” Markus said, flapping them for emphasis.

“I wasn’t talking about you.” Connor looked at Simon, saw the secret longing in his eyes, in all their eyes. Not a day went by that Connor didn’t feel the phantom pain at his joints, didn’t dream of soaring the skies at speeds unknown to any other creature. It populated his thoughts like a heartbeat—ever present.


“No, Simon,” the leader interrupted, even as it broke his heart, “flying is not worth your life, any of yours,” he continued, looking over his followers.

“I think it does,” the blond countered, meeting Markus’ gaze, unwavering. “I’ll listen to you, Connor.”

There were a few scattered hums of agreement, each varying in volume. The demon tried not to let it get to his head, he still needed a unanimous yes before he even considered going through with his plan.

Markus looked crossed, the hurt in his eyes speaking volumes. “Think of what you’re saying, Simon, you barely know them.”

“I know them enough,” the demon retorted, “they’re my brothers, after all.”

Markus flew away in a rush, his absence felt most acutely by the blond demon. Simon closed his eyes, trying to dampen the building migraine. Even after everything, the angel craved rules, order and structure. He couldn’t see the benefit of breaking the mold, not when it could cost them so much.

Simon took a deep breath, turning to meet the new group. He forced a smile, hoping it didn’t look as pained as it felt.

“Welcome to Jericho.”

Chapter Text

Markus punched the nearest inanimate object, wincing when it toppled over and crashed into a wall. If it weren’t obvious, he was frustrated. Betrayed. Simon was meant to be his companion—his ally. They’d created this safe haven together; their decisions should reflect that partnership. But standing in the bridge, with nothing but his irritation to keep him company, drove a nasty feeling into his core. 

The angel’s ears rang, a familiar buzzing noise signalling his beloved’s presence. He’d grown accustomed to the sound, could pick it out from a throng of demons. It brought with it comfort, even through his current annoyance.

“Markus,” Simon said, his voice firm yet understanding. He hadn’t meant to draw a line between them, that much was clear from his emotions. “At least listen to them before you say no.”

“What are you doing?” the leader asked, twisting his body in the demon’s direction. “We agreed on keeping this place safe. Secret.”

“I know,” Simon said, his eyes shifting, “but how long can we hide before we’re discovered?” It was a cloudy night, the waves gently crashing against the ship, their rhythmic pattern uninterrupted by the turmoil. It all could end so suddenly, in a bloody and unfortunate mess. Yet the waves would carry on—they always did.

Markus scoffed, leaning against the captain’s chair, hoping to calm his thoughts. They eluded him, more so now that he had hundreds of souls under his care.

“I can’t sacrifice everything on unproven promises. Their words are seductive, yes, but what makes you think any of it would work?” Markus’ throat grew tight, the grip around it closing with each uncertain second.

“I know it’s a difficult decision,” Simon said, his laugh bereft of humour, “I know.” He placed a hand on the angel’s shoulder, the irony of being his devilish consciousness not escaping him. “But they’re right, you know. Without intervention, the archangels, above and below, will take over everything. There’ll be no place to run or hide. It’s either surrender or die.”

Markus hung his head—the brutality of Simon’s words bruising. “And if we fail? I don’t want to lead my people to slaughter.”

“All great causes require a sacrifice,” Simon whispered, “this would be no exception.”

“I hope you’re not doing this out of vanity,” Markus said, his teasing weighed down by the doubt in his eyes.

“Please, if I wanted to fly, I’d take a plane.” Simon’s smile was marred by pain—a sting—that would never fade. “Or I’d ask you.”

The former scout considered his response with the gravity it deserved. He sighed, leaning his head against the demon’s hair—taking him in.

“Okay—Markus pressed a kiss on Simon’s temple—I’ll hear them out.”

“Thank you, Markus, truly,” Connor began, shaking the angel’s hand with the enthusiasm of an electric wire. “I’ll try not to take up too much of your time.”

Markus dismissed the gratitude, leading them to a conference table. “I’d rather you explain yourself—I’m not under a time constraint.”

Connor nodded, taking his seat across the leader. Hank sat on his right and Ace on his left, making up the bulk of his confidence. Gavin kept to himself, toying with the hem of his shirt as if it held the universe.

Considering what they were, it wasn’t a far-fetched idea.

“Right.” Connor cleared his throat, looking earnestly at the angel. “I do need your help, Markus, but I may have asked too much, too soon.” The leader raised his brows, amusement shining behind his stare. Connor continued, relaxing into his chair. “We need an army, but not to fight. My intentions aren’t to barge into Heaven and demand re-entry, I simply want to make a statement—force them to listen.”

“Force God, you mean,” Markus corrected.

“Him too.” Connor let go of a breath, looking at his hands, tracing the faint line of a scar that extended far beyond the edge of his blazer. “We’ll need numbers for that.”

“We don’t have enough for an army, Connor, or even a crowd,” Markus relayed, trying to be kind about it. He hated disappointing people.

“I know,” Connor rushed, leaning on the table with outstretched hands, “but we can get more, recruit if we have to.”

“And what’s wrong with the four of you?” Markus asked, sweeping his eyes over the group. He paused on Gavin and Ace, a spark of irritation bubbling forth. He hadn’t forgotten the woods.

“Well, for starters, Hell isn’t very accommodating to angels,” Hank murmured, leaning on his palm, “flammable wings and all that.”

“I’m compromised,” Connor admitted, “we both are,” he continued, motioning towards his brother. “After Lucifer left, Amanda established herself as supreme ruler. Those who opposed her died an untimely death, those that joined her didn’t understand her plan.”

“And how do you two play into all of this?” Markus urged, noting how the demon hesitated to divulge that information.

Connor rubbed his neck, his smile crooked, “Until recently, I was also on her side.” To his credit, Markus didn’t look surprised. “She trusts me, and we’re using that to our advantage. If we can get enough of her supporters to turn on her, she’ll have no army when she invades Heaven.”

The leader massaged his strained eyes, digesting Connor’s words. “How could we possibly secure the trust of her supporters? If she’s got such an iron grip on them, what makes you think they’ll turn?”

“We’re not certain, nothing is,” Connor said, sounding apologetic, “but we must try, or be doomed for our apathy.”

Markus was torn, his moral compass spinning without a promise of stopping. “Connor, you’re asking for a revolution. The last time someone tried that, Hell gained a million occupants.”

“But Dad’s not home,” Hank reminded, pointing upwards, “and the arch-asshole in charge doesn’t have the final say on who Falls and who doesn’t.”

“Exactly,” Connor agreed, thankful for the lieutenant’s support.

“If your plan works, and that’s a very slim if, Elijah will make sure none of us see the light of day again,” Markus warned, his tone hushed as if evoking the archangel’s name alone would alert him to their location.

“God sees all our sins.” Hank’s smirk was wry, not quite reaching his eyes. “I’m sure Elijah won’t be an exception.”

Gavin stood, the abrupt sound of his scraping chair catching the attention of everyone. He left without a word—his vexation palpable as he slammed the door.

The angel took the stairs two at a time, his mind aimless as he pushed forward, walked without a destination. He couldn’t—wouldn’t—sit in a room as they talked about his tormentor. Elijah: the bane of his existence. All his encounters with the archangel had been negative ones, starting with his scar.

Gavin wiped the tears from his cheeks, hating their bite, how quickly they fell.

In his haste to escape the ship, he bumped into a body, nearly tumbling over. He steadied them, recoiling when a hand touched his forehead, thumb prominently placed over the centre.

“You’re in pain,” a voice said, sounding far too intimate, too close, for the words to have been spoken aloud. “You’re hurting.”

“Get off me!” Gavin jerked out of the grip, his wings flailing as he tried to teleport. He failed, falling on his ass instead. From this angle, he could see the being, his mind unsure of what to make of the image. 

She was unlike anything else, her eyes blacked out, reflecting like mirrors. She had her wings, though they drooped, sliding across the floor like a cape. Her hair was twisted into thick black ropes, electricity sparking rhythmically through them. What little she exposed of her dark skin had large blotches of white discolouration, reminding Gavin of burn scars.

“You’re afraid of what you see, yet you don’t shy away from it.” Her voice was polyphonic, giving the illusion that there was more of her. “That’s your strength.”

“I’ve seen worse,” Gavin mumbled, pulling himself up.

“I wasn’t talking about me,” she whispered, touching his bicep. The angel grimaced, her fingers like static against his shirt. “I wonder why you stay.”

“Because I’m stubborn,” Gavin grumbled, crossing his arms. It was uncomfortable being on the receiving end of an analyzation. He’d been conditioned to ignore others’ emotions; he didn’t think of what would happen if someone saw his own.

“But not out of malice,” she said, her face softening. “This fortress you’ve built will crumble, and I fear you may be unprepared when it does.”

“I’ll just build another one,” Gavin snapped, pulling out of her touch.

“You won’t have enough time.” The demoness said it with such conviction that Gavin couldn’t help but believe her. Looking into her eyes forced him to look at himself, see himself in ways he’d avoided for much of his life. So, he stopped staring, switching his gaze to something more comfortable—like Ace.

Aw shit.

“What do you want?” Gavin accused, waiting until he was within earshot to do so.

The detective’s step faltered, his face twitching as it tried to settle into a scowl. “Not you, apparently.” He adjusted his stride, so he stood in front of the demoness, regarding her with less contempt than he had the angel. “Are you Lucy, by any chance?”

“You’re lost,” she answered in that same ethereal tone. “You seek shelter, home.”

“I guess it is you,” Ace said, mostly to himself. “Markus requests your counsel—he’s in the bridge.”

Lucy grew silent, her eyes busy encompassing the angel and demon. Neither was sure what she saw, neither was brave enough to ask. She disappeared before they got the courage.

Gavin took out his electronic cigarette, inhaling its minty contents. It helped him calm the tremors in his hands, even if it was purely psychological. He hated introspection, especially when he had no control over what was observed or said.

“Aren’t you going back?” Gavin asked, missing the ability to stomp out his cigarette. It’d be the only reason he’d return to disposable ones.

“You really wanna’ get rid of me quick, don’t ya’.” Ace tried not to sound offended, but it was hard to hide the irritation in his jaw, the quirk of his eyebrows.

“Not everything is about you,” Gavin said, “maybe I just wanna’ be alone.”

“I could tell by that remarkable exit.”

“So, what are you still doing here?” the angel spat, his body flooding with adrenaline, readying his wings for flight. He figured he couldn’t teleport because of the sigils—it didn’t mean he wouldn’t try.

“Did seeing your corrupted kin scare you, Gavin?” Ace asked, approaching like a predator, “or did it intrigue you, pique your interest.” They were separated by a sliver of space, intangible yet present. Ace was keeping his distance, just barely.

“It’s none of my business what they do with their souls,” the angel said, refusing to step back. He’d stand there, even if Ace had to walk through him to reach the other end.

“I asked how you felt, Gavin, not your opinion.”

The demon tried to keep the curiosity from his voice, but it was coursing in his veins like a river, meandering through every expanse of his core. He couldn’t disguise it any more than a leopard could change its spots.

“Would ‘disgusted’ be too strong of a word, or did you want me to give you a paragraph?” The angel turned on his heel, following the nearest staircase to anywhere far from here.

Ace looked at the golden disk at his feet, shaking his head as he picked it up, figuring he’d keep it safe for Gavin.

“So, now you know everything.” Connor had given Markus his unadulterated trust, going as far as providing him with a blueprint to Heaven. He didn’t want any secrets between them, and if he had to admit it, he was getting desperate. It would only be a matter of time before Amanda caught wind of his deception. He’d like to be on the opposite end of a shield when it happened.

Markus was pensive, his eyes scanning the sketches, his mind in tune with Connor’s determination.

“I’m gonna’ need some time, Connor,” the leader said, at last, trying not to let the demon’s crestfallen expression influence him further, “it’s not a no, but you said it yourself—it was a lot to ask.”

Connor nodded; his lips tight. “I understand.”

“You are welcome to stay, however, if you don’t feel safe at home,” Markus amended, “that was never out of the question.”

“Thank you, Markus, but I’ve got a dog at home,” Connor said, standing. His back was a pressed line parallel to the floor. He hadn’t realized how much confidence he’d placed on the angel until then, his indecision as good as a denial.

“Pets are also welcome.”

The lieutenant snorted, shaking his head. Markus, despite everything, was trying to placate the demon. An entity of empathy, through and through.

“If you change your mind,” Connor said, sliding his business card, “please let me know.” Markus agreed, pocketing the number.

Hank watched as the demon left, hesitating by the table. His eyes tore from the door when it closed, sifting across the former scout and his partner.

“I can’t see you on my radar,” Hank revealed, taking out his tablet, “you got a cloaking device or somethin’?” It was that case with every angel. He could see them with his eyes, but Heaven’s tracker did nothing to elucidate their location. Hank chalked it up to the sigils or the reception, but he could see Gavin, he could see himself. Maybe it was their cores, it was a dangerous line of thought, but it was the only logical thread he had.

“He can no longer be seen,” a third voice answered, her words appearing before she did.

“Lucy,” Markus sighed, pulling out a chair for the demoness, “sorry to take you from your work.”

“It’s never a bother when you call, Markus,” Lucy reassured, patting the angel’s cheek. “You’re troubled.”

Markus chuckled, shaking his head in disbelief. “I know.”

“You both are,” she continued, turning her surreal eyes on the lieutenant.

“Pointing out the obvious isn’t gonna’ get us closer to an answer,” Hank grumbled, standing from the conference table. “Assuming your angel chat still works, you can call me that way. Otherwise, I’m with Connor.” He left, taking one last look at the angel, shaking his head before he closed the door.

The salty wind danced through his hair as he breathed it in, finding momentary peace in the simplicity of the act. He looked for Connor, not having to search long as he spotted his silhouette leaning over the railing.

“Don’t look so disappointed,” Hank said, giving him a slight shove, “we’ll figure it out.”

Connor didn’t appear to have heard him, his gaze a million miles away. The demon felt empty, his emotional well running dry as every turn led him to a dead-end. Even as a Fallen he’d had structure, Amanda’s orders strict and descriptive. Following his own deviant design reminded him that he’d been a soldier, not a commander.

“I’m starting to wonder what would have happened if I never met you, Hank, if your stubbornness hadn’t lasted as long as it did,” Connor spoke in a murmur, his voice carried away with the wind. The thoughts had plagued him from the beginning, they only made themselves more apparent in the subsequent weeks, when Hank’s personality started to blend with his own instead of crashing into it.

“Dwelling in the past hurts your future, Connor,” Hank said, balling his fists so he wouldn’t place a hand on the demon.

“The past has already been written; it can’t be undone.” Connor’s eyes closed—the enormity of his statement undercut by its redundancy. “I’m no architect, Hank, I can’t build my future from nothing.”

“No one’s asking you to.”

“I’m aware,” Connor bit back, inhaling through a lump in his throat, “unfortunately.”

“Then just take it one day at a time, right, that’s all you can do.” The cliché stuck to Hank’s skin like oil, slick and uncomfortable. He often wished he’d paid more attention in learning how to comfort others, rather than ignoring them.

Connor turned like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. He rested his head on Hank’s solid chest, listening to the beat of his heart. He breathed him in, ignoring the tingling sensation of their incompatibility. He only needed a few seconds, just enough to calm the ghosts in his head.

“Thank you, Hank.” His words had been too familiar, too close. They left an awkwardness in the air when he disappeared.

The angel could only trace Connor’s shadow, his hands going through the wispy darkness before it cleared.

Hank held his breath, letting it go in increments as he walked towards the centre of the ship. Now that the fanfare was over, the inhabitants crowded the space, an assortment of angel and demons, all in several stages of acclimation.

He’d thought he’d find their disobedience troubling, feared that some part of himself still yearned for Heaven’s acceptance. It’d taken him many years for the faith he had in his Father to erode, he was not a stranger to doubt. But this… this was beyond him. It should have affected him more than it had, to see so many of his kind eagerly discard the mantle of an angel and live their corrupted lives on an even more corrupted world.

He envied them their nonchalance, their youth. If his position didn’t garner so much scrutiny, he might be right there with them.

“If you were any more lost in thought, I’d need a map to find you,” Ace said, his eyes radiating different energy from his brother’s. Hank chuckled, clearing the fog from his stare. The demon was twirling a golden nimbus around his finger, looking like a kid with a toy.

“Is that Gavin’s halo?”

The demon paused, letting the disk settle on his palm. “How can you tell?”

“It’s not hard to guess,” Hank said, his tone amused, “he’s the only one that lies for sport.” Ace laughed, an odd sound coming from him.

“I guess you’re right.”

Their conversation shifted to a silent companionship, neither willing to break it. They had much to do, Markus’ ship wasn’t the saving grace they’d hoped to procure. It should be obvious what to do next but moving forward required a motivation Hank didn’t have within him.

Not yet, anyway.

Connor felt the inklings of Amanda’s call moments after he’d stepped through his portal home. A radical side of him thought of ignoring it, of flipping her the finger and moving to another planet. But it’d be futile, there’d be no corner of the universe in which he could hide that she wouldn’t find him.

With a defeated breath and a plastic smile, he answered her beckon, appearing in her office a moment later.

“Hello, Amanda.”

“Connor, punctual as always.” The sarcasm was well-concealed, a mere hint of it lost to those who weren’t paying attention. “What a pleasure to see you.”

Connor didn’t share the same fervour, thought it prudent to keep his thoughts hidden lest he perjures himself.

“Don’t look so serious,” she advised, standing from her large chair. A throne really, if Connor was being generous. “I’m simply asking for an update.”

“We’re nearly there Amanda, just a few more days,” he said, feeling the lie slide through his teeth like floss.

“I hoped you would say that,” the archdemoness said, the curl of her lip inciting a riot in Connor’s stomach. “It is often said, when one is telling the truth their story never changes, never wavers.” She walked towards a cabinet; her tonics labelled alphabetically. She plucked a necessary vial, its bloody contents emphasized by the glint of the glass.

Connor swallowed the remainder of his tongue, his heart working overtime as she drew to her full height, gliding towards him with a warm smile.

“Don’t look so spooked,” Amanda hushed, placing the vial in Connor’s hands, “you’ve nothing to worry about. This is just a precaution, is all.”

Too late Connor realized the demon trap painted above his head. It explained why the demoness’ feet didn’t touch the ground, why her office felt more constrained than usual.

“Amanda I—”

“Shh,” she held up a finger, shaking her head, “drink first, speak later.”

Connor did as he was told, feeling the acrid liquid burn its way down his throat, settling in his stomach like a bomb.

“Where were you tonight?” she asked, a light tone to her loaded question.

Connor’s urge to lie was corralled by the potion. He fell to his knees, dry heaving.

“Don’t fight it, Connor, the truth will present itself—one way or the other.” Amanda stood close enough to smell, her face all the demon’s blurry eyes could see. She looked like a stone; her features pressed hard on her face. Immovable. “I did hope you wouldn’t disappoint me like this, Connor.”

His vision was fading to black, the longer he tried to push out a lie, the harder it was for his body to contain it.

Amanda locked the door to her office, the sigil she’d placed on it promising an uninterrupted session. She repositioned herself in front of the demon, dropping an apple by his face.

Connor would’ve laughed at the irony had the pain not weighed down his tongue.

“What a pity,” Amanda murmured, “you were always my favourite.”

Chapter Text

“Give it back.”

Ace’s hand stilled on the coffee machine, the rhythmic drip of the spout hitting the ceramic mug like a reminder. “Good morning to you too, Gavin.” The detective continued his task, pouring himself a cup. It was mostly for show, though he didn’t mind the beverage on occasion. “Whatever do you mean,” the demon said, replying to the demand.

“My halo, Goddammit, what else?” Gavin chewed the words through his teeth, looking over his shoulder before he grabbed the demon’s shirt collar, pushing him against the counter. “I know you have it.”

Ace took an obnoxious sip, unperturbed by the angel’s machismo. “You should take better care of it if it means so much to you.”

“I’m not fucking playing,” the angel growled, “give it back.”

Ace shook his head, the halo sitting innocently on his scalp—a heavenly crown. “I was just getting used to it too,” he relayed with some pity. Gavin went to snatch it, but it was taken out of his reach, the demon’s eyes playfully wicked. “Say pretty please.”

“Fuck off,” Gavin spat, stretching towards the golden disk.

Ace chuckled, spinning the halo on his pinky, just within grasp. “Say it and it’s yours.”

“It is mine,” Gavin frowned, stepping back and crossing his arms, “this is theft of property.” Ace looked unbothered by his statement, shrugging his shoulders as he relocated the halo inside his jacket.

“You can have it back once you’re nice about it—”

Gavin blocked Ace’s departure with one of his wings, its feathers tickling the demon’s nose. The detective raised an eyebrow, the coffee cup still in his hand as he turned to face Gavin. The angel looked up from beneath his lashes, batting them whilst interlacing his fingers—the epitome of innocence in one bite-sized package.

“Please, Detective, can I have my halo back?”

Ace gulped, his hand trembling as it tightened around the cup. He hadn’t expected Gavin to budge so quickly.

“I said pretty please,” the demon reminded, his neck itchy.

The only mark of Gavin’s irritation was the slight narrowing of his eyelids. “Pretty please,” he amended, using a tone the bees would envy for its sweetness.

Ace cleared the boulder in his throat, fishing the halo from his pocket and affixing it above the angel’s head. He flinched when Gavin gripped his wrist, his nails digging semilunar indents into his flesh.

“Don’t fuck with my shit again,” the angel whispered, his threat ringing loud and clear. He teleported in a rush, letting the demon deal with the confusing parade of emotions marching through his head.

Ace exhaled, turning his gaze to his wrist, watching as a few beads of blood pooled to the surface before the wound healed. He licked the faint tracings, his stomach in chaos with each pounding heartbeat.

It couldn’t be just him that felt this. It wasn’t fair if it was.

“What crawled up your ass and died?”

Gavin startled at the voice, twisting to greet the man to whom it belonged. “Whatever do you mean?” he asked, playing ignorant.

“You’re plucking your feathers like a rabid bird,” Hank said, taking a seat next to Gavin, “you’re either anxious or pregnant.”

“Oh boy, I’ve been caught,” the other mocked, holding up his hands, “how could you tell?”

“Don’t be a prick,” Hank warned.

“Isn’t there a demon that needs cuddling?” Gavin snapped, packing away his over-preened wings. He wiped his hands against his pants, spreading the oil into the denim, darkening the fabric. He could feel them prick with sweat, tried to still the tremors by sitting on them.

“I won’t push you to tell me what’s wrong, Gavin,” Hank said, far too old to get riled up by the angel’s tease. He faced heavenward—the day overcast. They sat on a roof overlooking a church—the younger angel’s actions more foreseeable than his words. The lieutenant could only guess the source of Gavin’s stress, but he figured pointing it out wouldn’t get him any closer to an admission. Silence was his only safe option.

“Aren’t you afraid of Him?” Gavin said, incredulity twisting his face into a grimace. “This entire time I’ve waited for you to show a sign, something, anything, to let me know I’m not alone in this. But you don’t seem to care, you could Fall tomorrow, and it’d be nothing more than another day for you.”

“You sound frustrated.”

“Of course, I’m fucking frustrated!” Gavin gestured towards the horizon, shaking his head. “I’m warring with my existence and the one person who shares my sentiment is part of the problem.”

“You and Connor do seem preoccupied with the ‘what if’s’ of the future,” Hank said, his smile strained. “It seems exhausting.”

Gavin huffed, agreeing.

“It’s not that I don’t care, trust me, I do.” Hank placed a hand over the angel’s shoulder, letting a piece of his armour fall. “I worry that our Father knows about our plan and will do nothing about it. I fear His apathy has grown so great that He expects us to destroy ourselves, so He won’t have to. The wait is daunting.”

Gavin looked at the lieutenant, crestfallen. Hank’s words mirrored his thoughts—the ambiguity, the doubt, they were identical.

“So, I choose to ignore it,” Hank revealed, shrugging, “it’s easier to deal with it when it’s here rather than obsess over it. If we Fall, which is most likely what will happen, then we Fall. If, by some miracle, He’s merciful enough to forgive us, then so be it.”

“And Connor? Do worry about him?” Gavin asked, disregarding the jealous twang in his tone.

“I worry about all of you,” Hank corrected, ruffling the angel’s hair, “don’t worry, you’re still my number one troublemaker.” Gavin slapped his hands away, eliciting a chuckle from the old angel. 

Connor was shocked from his frail sleep by a searing pain on his back. The sensation was like fire lapping at the skin until it reached bone. He would’ve screamed, but his mouth was sealed, a cruel sigil carved over his lips. There was no dampening the sensation, no running away from it, Amanda had his extremities tied to unbreakable chains. They’d been forged in Heaven and modified in Hell.

The whip hit his flesh again, the sound it made akin to the crushing of grapes, yet far less delicate. He cried, feeling the tears drip onto his blistering skin.

“When children misbehave, they must be punished,” she reiterated with each slash, “I’m sure you won’t lie to me again.”

Connor’s world went black again.

Ace’s ears perked at the knock on his door. He paused his reading for a moment, wondering if it’d been his imagination. When it happened again, he placed a marker on his page, standing from his chair in one fluid motion.

To say he was surprised to see Gavin on the other side of his door would cheapen the meaning of the word. Schooling his features into a neutral stare took discipline, and even then, he wasn’t sure he did so convincingly.

The angel seemed just as perplexed to be there, his composure closed off to the demon, unwilling to let him in.

“Connor kick you out?” Ace asked, his hand tightening on the doorknob. It’d been a few days since he’d last seen the angel, their last encounter hadn’t warranted a visit. He figured the angel would stay with Hank and his brother until they needed to meet again. Connor needed a few days to rethink their strategy, and Ace wasn’t in any rush to get started.

“Connor’s not home.” Gavin couldn’t look more disappointed if he tried.

The demon cocked his head, doing a slow sweep of the angel with his eyes. He took in the state of his wings, the thinning patches worrisome but not outright alarming. Gavin’s halo, crooked as ever, hovered above his head, a point of contention for them. His clothing never soiled, never tore, or required changing, but it looked old—outdated. If angels could be homeless, Gavin was the poster child, bouncing from shelter to shelter, unsure if his next stay was guaranteed.

There were so many remarks—most of them unkind—that the demon had to swallow. He’d mentioned once, in what felt like a separate lifetime, that Gavin could stay with him.

Retracting the offer seemed harsh.

“Would you like to come inside?” If the angel hesitated, he didn’t show, pushing forward and settling on the couch like it belonged to him. 

Ace shut the door, unable to restrain the tick of his lips, the movement upwards that solidified, yes—he had feelings for this glorified dove.

“You ever try any of these Kama Sutra moves, or are you gearing up for something?” Gavin asked, flipping through the demonic erotica Ace had on his chair. He’d picked it up on his way in, curious as to what he’d interrupted. It’d taken many hours, but through systematic desensitization, he could look at the images without gagging.

Just as quickly as they’d come, Ace’s feelings of peace left him, forcing his face into a frown. He sighed, opening a portal to Hell and pulling out the strongest bottle of liquor he could find.

“There’s nothing wrong with being informed,” the demon said, cracking the seal and taking a swig.

“I take it you’ve never put them to the test?” Gavin teased. He leaned backwards, sticking out his tongue at the demon. A little imp in sheep’s clothing. 

“You don’t deserve this,” Ace mumbled, flicking the angel’s halo across the room. It made a clanging sound against the floor, spinning like a top until it stopped.

Instead of getting angry, the angel laughed, showing his pearly whites in the process. Ace—not for the first time—wondered why God created them after His image. It’d have been easier if they were amorphous beings, incapable of succumbing to temptation, incapable of sin.

“I love fucking with you, Ace,” Gavin said, his cheeks rosy at the revelation, “you’re so easy to read. Predictable.”

“You’re being quite frank, Gavin, have you been feeling well?” The demon deafened himself to the pounding of his heart, to the way his hands grew clammy with perspiration and anticipation. The more logical side of his brain proposed Gavin was hiding something, shielding it with rudimentary mischief so he wouldn’t have to think about it.

“Of course,” the angel said, looking away, “why wouldn’t I be?” His mirth died like a snuffed candle. “We’re all going to Hell, might as well have some fun before then.”

“I’m sure Heaven is just a riot right now,” Ace said, tossing in the sarcasm for free.

Gavin’s composure crumpled inward, shielding himself from the demon’s derision. Guilt hopped on Ace’s back, weighing him down like an unruly toddler.

“It’s not all that bad,” Ace said, pouring a shot for the angel, handing it to him. “There’s an adjustment period, of course, and the sting of losing your wings never goes away but…”

“It’s not that bad,” Gavin finished, taking the glass. He made a face at the bitterness, powering through it until it disappeared.


“Show me?” Gavin’s vagueness was a mere consequence of his inner tumult, it forced the demon to ask for clarification. “Your wings or what’s left of them.” He’d seen them once, recoiled at the memory. But morbid curiosity had always been his weakness, and now was no different.

It was a terribly intimate thing to ask someone—Ace wasn’t in the business of obliging such serious requests. Nevertheless, he undid the buttons of his shirt, turned his back to the angel—a vulnerable position—as he let the fabric slide down his shoulders. This close, Gavin could see the feathers struggling to grow, pushing themselves beyond the boundary of skin and nerve. He pinched one of them, watching the powder-like ink dust his fingers.

The disfigured nubs looked painful to the touch, their red centres still healing. Gavin brushed the tip of his index around one, noting how it twitched. It was an exposed nerve, after all, he wasn’t surprised by the reaction.

Ace shuddered beneath the attention, his back tense as he willed his body to stay, to keep still as the angel explored. The discomfort was only temporary, he’d suffered greater afflictions in his past life.

“Do you miss them?” Gavin asked, his breath ghosting over the demon’s spine. It wrung another shiver from him, this one not as unpleasant.

“They were convenient,” Ace answered through clenched teeth. He was like a tensed bow, ready to snap if pulled any further. “But the portals are serviceable, so it’s only on occasion that I think about their absence.”

“What do you miss?” Gavin asked, deciding to be blunt about it.

Ace thought hard on his answer, searching his brain for the words that would satisfy Gavin’s nosiness. “Being a demon is a solitary experience, I suppose I miss the companionship, the angelic chatter in the background.”

“You mean the noise?” Gavin retorted, incredulous. “Angel-FM?”

“It was calmer when I was upstairs.”

“I didn’t peg you as a social butterfly,” Gavin said, his snicker bouncing around the demon’s eardrums.

“Who knows, Gavin,” Ace said, dressing, “we may have met, and you wouldn’t even remember.”

“And what a blessing that is,” the angel teased, his grey eyes frisky.

The detective shook his head, exercising his patience. “Any more questions?” He nearly leapt out of his skin when Gavin cupped his cheek, drawing nearer as if pulled by a string.

“Hypothetically speaking, what would you do if I let you have your way with me?” The angel was obviously on a path of self-destruction, and he was taking the demon with him.

Unconsciousness was Connor’s only relief from the abuse. He welcomed its nothingness and dreaded its departure. He was yanked into existence by the acidic splash of Holy Water—a hand-delivered present from one of Amanda’s devout worshipers.

“There you are,” her voice rang like broken glass in his head. Just as sharp. “I must admit, Connor, you’re much stronger than your predecessors.” She sounded proud, but that was impossible.

He couldn’t open his eyes, wouldn’t dare against the singeing of his flesh. He could taste the blood in his mouth, felt where he’d bitten his tongue to rob her of the satisfaction of hearing him scream. The muting sigil had worn off ages ago, and Amanda neglected to replace it, far too busy carving sigils on other parts of his body.

“Now, from the beginning, what was your plan?” She’d asked this already, Connor supposed she used his response as fuel for her unending fire.

“Fuck you,” he slurred, saliva dripping from his mouth at his inability to close it properly.

Amanda tsk’d, driving her enchanted dagger deeper into his skin, solidifying the marking. “Such insolence shall not be tolerated,” she said, prying Connor’s mouth open, “but what can you expect from a Fallen?” She poured the remainder of the Holy Water down his throat, watching as his eyes rolled backwards, nearly detaching from their sockets.

Unfortunately, the pain wasn’t insurmountable. His body had adapted to the worst of her punishment, meaning he had to kneel there and feel the liquid erode his flesh from within. What surprised him wasn’t the sadistic nature of her punishments, nor the bored expression in her gaze—it was her Words. Despite the nearly unmatchable pain of being beaten, his bones being broken, healed, then broken again, his skin being burnt by an unholy flame, and his face splashed with Holy Water, he still felt her Words cut him worse than any of her knives ever could.

It made tears prick at his eyes, hated the effect her disappointed had on him. He’d accumulated many scars as her servant, but these—he feared—would never fade.

“Connor?” Lieutenant Anderson called into the empty home, “you here?” He dipped his head into the demon’s bedroom, his brows furrowing when it came up empty. “Where the Hell?”

Sumo ran into the angel’s arms, visibly shaken. His large horns were on fire, burning the lieutenant as he tried to calm him. He whined and pawed against the angel, his low bark sounding like a cry for help.

“What’s wrong boy?” The Hellhound motioned towards Connor’s bedroom, tugging at Hank’s shirt with his teeth. “Woah, Sumo, stay.” The dog barked, more demanding as he insisted the angel follow him.

“Hey—” Hank’s shirt ripped from the abuse, the fabric hanging off the dog’s mouth. “Goddammit.”

Sumo whined again—his ears flat against his skull. Hank’s eyes narrowed, stepping into Connor’s room despite previous warnings. They weren’t the grandiose quarters he’d expected from a stereotypical demon. It was a humble room, warm and inviting, most of the space inhabited by Sumo’s things. There was a chalkboard overflowing with notes, most of them incoherent since Hank couldn’t place their beginning or end.

He noted his name on a few of them, grinned at the progression of Connor’s analysis on him. ‘Be nice to the Lieutenant’, ‘Hank seems to enjoy beer—keep the fridge stocked’, and ‘Sumo didn’t explode when they met, it may be a good thing’ were some of his favourites.

Sumo’s whimper caught his attention, diverting it to the area rug in the centre of the room. “What is it, boy?” the angel asked, leaning to pet the dog. The gesture calmed some of Sumo’s shakes, but it didn’t distract him from his purpose. He motioned once more to the rug, taking one corner with his mouth and tugging.

Hank raised an eyebrow, pulling the fabric the rest of the way. Beneath, there were sharp engravings in the wood, the language familiar but ultimately gibberish to the lieutenant. The demonic scrawling must have meant something, because the flames on Sumo’s horns turned blue, his deafening howl echoing throughout the space.

Hank covered his ears, his bones rattling inside his skin. “Alright, boy, I get it!” The lieutenant had had a sinking feeling in his stomach ever since Connor’s abrupt departure from Jericho. He’d given the demon a few days to recuperate, to clear his head, to call him when he needed him. But even angels grew impatient, and so he stopped by for a quick update, hoping the demon wouldn’t be too put off by the setback.

It wasn’t until now until Sumo’s pained urgency presented itself that Hank understood the feeling in his stomach for the dread it had become.

He needed help, however, the message on the floor wasn’t getting any easier to read by just staring at it.

Ace slapped away Gavin’s hands, baring his teeth, their points amplified by his anger. “They should call you Loki,” he grumbled, feeling suffocated by their proximity. He stood, facing away from Gavin, wishing his heart would infarct so it wouldn’t beat so fast. “Not even Lucifer toyed with us as much as you do.” The resentment in his voice covered them like a blanket, his emotions just as expressive. It was always a cycle of regret, letting Gavin back into his life—masochistic, as the angel had once implied.

“You’re getting better at calling my bluff.” Though, if Gavin had to be honest, it’d been a genuine question.

Ace made a frustrated sound, rubbing his forehead, trying to recuperate whatever fragments of sanity he had left. Gavin should consider himself lucky, if the demon were any more deviant, he’d have no qualms taking—

The demon interrupted his train of thought, disapproving of the automatic dark turn it’d taken. “You’ve got a bad habit of poking the bear, Gavin, without even knowing if its cage is locked.”

“Maybe I’m the one who unlocked it.”

Ace’s gasp was inaudible, his lips parting to accommodate it. Gavin stood, stepping in front of the demon to block his view of anything but him.

“If I’m truly damned, what’s wrong with a little mischief?” Gavin asked, returning his hand to the demon’s cheek.

“You said you were ‘disgusted’,” Ace reminded, moving his face from the touch even as his body craved it. “I find it hard to believe you’ve changed your mind so suddenly.”

“I haven’t,” Gavin insisted, his smirk unsympathetic, “your voice still grates my nerves, everything about what you are and who you represent repulses me, touching you is like dipping my hand in garbage—”

“I get it,” the demon snapped, his eyes flashing with irritation.

“I’d like to know what my brothers see in this before I can’t,” Gavin continued, delicate as he placed his palms on the demon’s chest. This much contact should’ve overwhelmed him, but his mind was working hard to absorb all of it, file the emotions away for later dissection.

“Like a science experiment,” the demon retorted in disbelief, “a fucking science experiment.”

“In every sense of the word, yes.” Gavin’s stare was unyielding, he didn’t even balk when Ace tore away, stomping into his bedroom like a bull, slamming his door with the ferocity of a storm.

Righteous indignation tasted different from the other emotions, there was something familiar about it. It was pure.

“A ‘no’ would also suffice,” Gavin yelled, dusting off his halo, “no need to get so pissy about it.” At this point, he should secure the nimbus around his neck, reduce its propensity for dislodgement.

“Pissy about what?” Hank asked, his quest momentarily disrupted, “what the fuck did you do now?”

“Why is it always my fault?” Gavin asked, rolling his eyes.

“It’s very rare that something isn’t your fault,” Hank sighed, rubbing a hand down his face. “Where’s Ace?”

“Brooding in his bedroom,” Gavin replied, sitting on the couch and returning to the book that sparked the whole conversation.

“I’m here, Hank, what is it?” the demon said, his stoicism a front for the emotional assault he’d endured.

“I’m pretty sure Connor’s been kidnapped,” the lieutenant said, cutting to the chase, “there’s a cryptic message on his floor I need help deciphering. You’re the only one I know who gives a damn about him, so, that’s why I’m here.”

There was a pause, Ace’s mind moving against the current that was his panic as he tried to remain calm and rational.

“Fuck.” The curse was low and unexpected, nearly overshadowed by the demon’s quick jump into his portal.

“Come on,” Hank urged, pulling the angel by his wing.

Before Gavin could protest they were in Connor’s bedroom, the writing on the floor glowing as Ace finished the large sigil. He was muttering many things to himself, some enchantments, others dark curses reserved for a particularly bad time.

“You’re a good dog, Sumo,” Ace praised, rubbing the hound behind the ears. He dipped his hand into one of the flaming horns, quickly transferring the fire into the centre of the marking, watching as it seeped into each crevasse. “He actually does read them,” Ace whispered, dampening the rage that threatened to overflow. Losing control would only hurt their chances of locating Connor.

“Knowing Amanda, she’s probably locked down every entrance to Hell,” Ace began, pushing Connor’s furniture out of the way, bracing the room for the impact of the portal. “This is a backdoor.”

“You guys think of everything,” Gavin mumbled, playing with the lint under his fingernails.

“This was actually meant for you two,” Ace said, amusement an undercurrent in his tone, “if you would’ve complied, we’d have used this portal. Traditional means of transport tend to be detrimental to an angel’s health.”

“Thanks for being so considerate,” Hank mocked, his fingers flexing on his crossed arms. “How does this help us now?”

“Amanda will be expecting us,” Ace looked around the room, his eyes stopping on the Hellhound. “She’ll kill him if we fight.”

“Then what do we do?” Hank asked, not liking the sound of any of this. His heart ached at the mere mention of death. Having only suffered a few close losses in his life, he wasn’t prepared enough for another.

“We’ve got something she wants,” the demon reminded, pointing at the lieutenant, “your key.”

“I’m not fucking handing it to her like a goddamned present!” Hank said, the veins in his face popping.

“It’s either that or his life,” Ace said, matter of fact, “she’ll get what she wants eventually—she always does.”

“Fuck,” Hank ground through his teeth, looking at the burning sigil and his shaking hands. “Alright, so we give it to her, then what? She’s not gonna’ release Connor because we’re nice about it.”

“No, but she won’t get a chance to cause him more harm,” Ace said, pulling out a textbook from his infinite well. “An instant teleportation rune would render her incapable of reacting once the key is in her hands.” He flipped to the page dictating how to draw it. “It’ll give us enough time to escape.”

“And hide,” Gavin chimed up, feeling like the third wheel of the rescue mission.

“That too.”

“Alright,” Hank said, revealing his key, “do what you have to, Ace, just make it happen.” The lieutenant couldn’t help the guilt that overtook his consciousness. If only he’d convinced Connor to remain with them on the ship for a few more minutes, they would’ve left together, they would’ve known something was wrong sooner.

But drowning in what if’s wouldn’t do them any favours. So, Hank swam to the surface and forced himself to focus, never once stopping to think that he was sacrificing his life for an enemy.

Chapter Text

“If you tell what I need to know, the pain will stop,” Amanda said whilst driving a fire poker through the demon’s sternum. The smell of burning flesh had become commonplace, another memory Connor would find hard to forget. It was the fifth and final metal rod, it penetrated his demonic core. The other four were pushed through his limbs, his body a perverse pin cushion. “I’ll make it all go away.”

With his energy reserves depleted and blood leaking from his mouth, it would’ve been prudent for Connor to conserve his strength for his bradycardic heart. Never one to listen to reason, not even his own, he reared his head upwards, his eyes bright red. “Fuck you.”

“Hm.” Amanda left him impaled, returning to her assortment of torture weapons. “What shall we do about that tongue, I wonder.” She fingered the blade of a scalpel, watching as it drew a drop of blood from her flesh. “This will do.”

Amanda yanked Connor’s horns until they ached, forcing a yelp out of him. He ground his teeth against the feeling. She held the metal against his lips, nicking the skin with the precision of a surgeon.

The demoness took pride in her work, making sure every move she orchestrated was perfect. Her mistakes were far and few in between, it’d been something Connor always admired. It made him wonder, not for the last time, what she’d done to Fall.

“I will mourn your loss, Connor,” she said, stilling the blade, “I’m unsure if your replacement will ever compare to you.”

“You lied to me, Amanda,” the demon said through a pained wheeze, “you were never…you were never going to fix me.”

“I was going to make you better,” she insisted, “I’ve never lied about my intentions.”

“You won’t win—” Connor was interrupted by a hacking cough, the iron in his chest exacerbating his breathing. “Your plan was failed from the start.”

Amanda’s sneer was inhuman, the quick movement of her wrist a close second. Connor felt himself float above the pain, watched it from afar like a spectator.

“Now, for that tongue—”

The sky overhead roared and cracked, the walls of the office shaking with the impact of whatever had penetrated Hell’s borders. Amanda recoiled from Connor, his horns engulfed in a blue flame, burning the skin of her palm. She held it in a closed fist, drawing from her power to heal it.

The heavens roared again; the sound reminiscent of a howl. “I knew I should’ve killed that mutt.” Amanda composed herself, straightening her pressed white suit. “I suppose the cavalry has come to the rescue,” the demoness drawled, “I’ll be right back.”

In an instant she was gone, leaving the demon to decompose in his own agony. Connor’s chest quivered as he let go of his breath. He couldn’t contain the whimper tearing through him as he removed the fire poker from his sternum. His heart pounded against his ears, dizzying him with its intensity. Blood oozed out of the wound—the anti-healing sigil working as intended.

With a bit more clarity, Connor unsheathed the other four rods, crying out from the self-inflicted pain.

He fell to his hands and knees, his vision swimming from over-stimulation. He forced himself to remain cognizant, to take inventory of his basic functions. So far, all the damage done to him was superficial. Once the sigils wore off, he’d heal, he just had to survive until then.

He tried not to wince as his cheek pulsed and blood pooled into his mouth, the taste of copper travelling down his throat. He had to find a way out of the demon trap if it remained active his powers were useless.

But his lids felt so heavy, a quiet slumber beckoning him like a siren’s song. It was getting harder to fight the silken embrace of nothingness. The wooden floor seemed so inviting, he couldn’t help as he slid backwards, resting his head. Only for a moment.  

The ceiling cracked under the pressure of another deathly howl, creating a fine line through the sigil. Connor felt the inklings of freedom tickle his fingertips, and with weighty limbs, he forced himself to sit. Looking up, he noticed the splinter, salvation here at last. Taking the metal poker, still soaked in his blood, he threw it upwards, driving a larger divide into the wood. He did it with the other four, panting

The impact of his liberation catapulted him against the wall, a feather-light touch compared to the abuse his bones had endured. Nevertheless, he groaned, shaking himself out of the pained stupor.

Amanda’s shackles grew tighter against his wrists and ankles, reminding him he’d yet another barrier to overcome. Trying to pry them open seemed useless, so he tried the door, giving a defeated punch when it remained put.

There must be another exit, a secret passageway he’d never noticed—something accessible in a pinch. He pulled down each cabinet and bookshelf, overturned every table and chair, yet he found nothing.

He stared into the fire, Amanda’s portrait hanging above it, her eyes lifelike in their disappointment. It’d be easier, they said, to just give up. The siren’s song was getting louder.  

“Rah!” He tore it from the wall, tossing it into the fire. A sickening satisfaction coursed through him as he watched her image burn. Her eyes were the last to go, surprise and glint of pride shining through them one final time.

Connor retched, unsurprised when only blood and viscera made its way out of his mouth and onto the floor.

He rested his head on the mantlepiece, jerking when the centre stone recessed into the wall. He gaped as the fireplace broke in half and separated, revealing a staircase. It spiralled downwards into darkness, the fire doing nothing to illuminate a path.

Connor didn’t hesitate as he descended the steps, only faltering when the fireplace closed above him. The light he had was that of his horns, flickering blue in the drafty shaft, his naked flesh bursting with goosebumps.

The stairwell seemed endless, sound from above growing fainter the lower went. What if this is a trap? his frazzled mind supplied.

He shook his head, disregarding the thought until there was no debate.

It may have taken a few minutes or hours to see a change in scenery, and Connor calmed when he did, letting his heart settle. The steps led into a dungeon—an antiquated ideal considering Amanda would rather kill her opposers than imprison them.

It felt underused, the rusted metal bars looking like they wouldn’t require much incentive to break. Connor shivered, the hair on the nape of his neck standing at a point as if someone were watching him. He swept his gaze over each cell, ignoring the human-sized skeletons. His blood was turbulent as it passed his ears, his intuition guiding him towards the farthest cell in the dungeon.

A hand wrapped around his ankle, the suddenness of it gave the demon no time to react—to scream, even—as it pulled him closer. “Help me!” a voice croaked, doubtless belonging to the hand.

Connor yanked himself out of the grip, falling on the cold stone. The prisoner’s skin was taught over their bones, grey and sickly. A jagged scar crossed his left eyelid and cheek, ending at his chin. The demon’s eyes bulged as he noted the wings, still so vibrant despite the angel’s withered state.

“Please,” the voice begged, sounding like sandpaper.

“I don’t know what to do,” Connor apologized, in no condition to carry anyone out of anything. Enough he had to force himself to stand up.


The demon’s face fell, realizing then how debilitating Hell was to angels. He’d heard the stories when he was younger, of his brothers getting trapped beneath and being found drained of their life-force. Never had he seen it with his eyes, but he’d dreamt of what they’d looked like, let it guide his path to obedience. God, with his omnipotence, always resuscitated them, fetched them from Death’s grip—but with God gone, who would save them now?

“I’m sorry,” Connor said, stepping away from the cell, tears stinging his eyes, “I can’t.” The angel seemed to collapse on himself, disappearing into the floor at the denial. Connor hobbled onward, vowing that if he ever escaped, he’d come back. He would.

The last cell was unlike the others, it was wide open, housing a large, cylindrical object in the centre. Metallic tubes exited from beneath a white tarp, running across the floor and walls, drawing power into something.

Connor clenched the sheet, his hand trembling at the warmth emanating through the cloth. With a singular motion, he removed the covering, disbelief flooding his system at what his eyes beheld. The image was too absurd, reality must be lying, he must still be upstairs convulsing from the torture because this was not possible.

He dry-heaved as panic mounted in his body, his vision blurring with heavy tears. The more he looked, the clearer it became. Whether he wanted to believe it was irrelevant.

The body within was nude but still retained its purity. Their wings were a magnificent gold, cramped within the tube but enviable, nonetheless. Connor figured the mask over their mouth provided oxygen and sedation. It explained why their eyes were closed to the world, ignorant of anyone’s plight. Despite the distortion of the gel suspending the being, or the tunnel-esque quality Connor’s vision had taken, there was no mistaking who was housed inside that pod.   

It was him: Connor.

“I expected you to be armed,” Amanda said, her eyes alert to any sudden movements. The retched mutt towered over them like a mountain, his body tensed to strike, its damned horns glowing a familiar blue. To kill it now would evoke the wrath of all other Hellhounds, a nuisance Amanda wasn’t adequately prepared to deal with. Yet.

The angels flanked the mutt, wearing nothing but their armour. Then there was Ace, the impenetrable prodigy. He’d been her primary choice after the Fall, everything about him had been perfect. Yet he had an unbreakable will, something she could never carve out. He wasn’t motivated by anything else but knowledge, which Hell—unfortunately for her—had in abundance.

Manipulating Connor had been the only way to reach Ace, even if only minutely.

They all stood in a hastily abandoned city centre, Hell’s denizens taking note of the ensuing confrontation and vacating appropriately.

“Fighting you is pointless,” the demon said, “you’d kill my brother before I could ever draw my sword.”

“Wise choice,” Amanda congratulated, her smile too practiced to be authentic.

“We’ve come to give you what you want in exchange for Connor’s life,” Ace continued, ignoring her condescension.

Amanda narrowed her eyes, knowing there was a trap written in there somewhere. “No deal, I’ll find my own way into Heaven, besides,” she began, spreading her black wings, eclipsing the entire street, “if you want something done well, you might as well do it yourself.”

Within an instant she’d hurled multiple daggers in their direction, her triumphant expression faltering when they bounced off a barrier. She tried again, focusing her efforts into one area. It didn’t seem to matter where she hit, her attacks were useless.

“All I ask is for Connor’s life,” Ace repeated, lifting a hand. Without so much as a flick, the daggers circled Amanda, forming a makeshift cage as they collected themselves into a trapping sigil.

Stuck and humiliated, Amanda stood still, straightening her suit—the only sign she’d been taken by surprise.

“Connor is of no use to you,” the demoness said, “cleansing him from this world would be a favour.”

Amanda may not have noticed the slight twitch in Ace’s hand, but Gavin did. He’d been fixated on the demon, particularly on how his body changed from above. The nubs he on his head were now incredible horns that curled backwards into a wicked point. His irises rotated between colours, their current red evoking a silent wrath. When he spoke, his pointed teeth overcrowded his mouth, making each word sound like a snarl. His wings were what deserved the most attention, they were just a shadow, a spectre that lingered a second too long. They were dysfunctional, of course, but it gave Gavin a good sense of their scale. He would’ve like to see them before the Fall, they would’ve been breathtaking in the morning sun.

“I did not ask, nor do I care, about your opinion,” Ace said, his stare growing impatient, “we both want something from each other, comply and we’ll never have to cross paths again.”

“I’m insulted you think I’d be so crass as to believe you have nothing but altruistic motives for saving your brother.” Amanda tucked away her wings, crossing her arms. “My death would be your saving grace, I’m sure you want nothing more.”

Hank, tired of running in circles, revealed his key, tossing it close enough so the demoness could gaze upon it and know it was real.

“Take it or leave it.”

Amanda gawked at the lieutenant, the temporary sigil keeping her from lunging for the key.

“My brother first,” Ace reminded, feeling how she pulled against him.

“You might not like what you see,” Amanda warned, a hint of sadism in her voice. She tugged at the invisible chains that bound Connor to her, giving them a moment to obey.

Had it not been for the truly delicate position in which Hank was placed, he would have shredded Amanda into indiscernible atoms. Connor was unrecognizable, his face a mangled mess of lacerations and bruises, his naked body battered as her black Words amalgamated with the sigils she’d carved into his flesh. He had many wounds struggling to clot and others that had crusted over in the crudest form imaginable.

Despite this, despite everything done to him, Connor still managed to smile when he looked at them, his eyes grateful as they locked with Hank’s.

“Let him go,” Ace said, his throat tight. His hand cramped as he forced himself not to point the daggers downwards and let them fall on the bitch’s head.

Amanda chuckled, shaking her head. “You first.”

“Let him go.” They repeated in unison, Sumo joining in with a deep growl that shuddered the ground beneath them.

Amanda weighed her limited options, her eyes ultimately ending on the key, letting it coerce her into being rash. She undid Connor’s chains, pushing him towards his saviours.

Another day then.

The demon ran into the lieutenant’s arms, hiding behind the forcefield, nearly collapsing from relief. He felt a wing wrap around him, shield him from the horrors of the demoness. This fight was far from over, but for now, he felt safe.

“You will approach the key and pick it up,” Ace said, moving the sigil inch by inch, forcing Amanda to conform, “I wouldn’t attempt anything else if I were you.”

“Don’t worry, Ace, I’ll take care of you later,” Amanda said, her smile jubilant, she’d done it—finally.

“Don’t take too long,” the demon retorted, unable to help the tick of his lips, “I hear the Fall’s longer the second time around.” He’d waited until Amanda had taken the key before he said it, dismantling the temporary sigil so the teleporter could take effect. He’d never seen her scared before, but there was a first for everything.

She disappeared in an instant, thunder cracking overhead without the promise of rain. “Let’s go,” Ace urged, mounting the giant hound. Everyone followed suit, letting Sumo transport them home, his horns glowing a faint orange and then snuffing out when they were safe.

Ace wasted no time preparing a suturing kit, directing Hank to place his brother in the hot bath. Connor’s wounds were worse than he’d anticipated, normally sigils were written on paper—not on the epidermis. There was no telling when they would heal, so Ace had to close them manually then pray it’d be enough to rectify some of the damage.

Starting with the anti-healing marking, he apologized once as he pricked his brother’s skin, his hands working automatically as his brain thought of what else to do.

Hank held Connor’s head in his hands, mindful of the horrendous gash on his left cheek. The bathwater was already an alarming shade of red, the bubbles doing nothing to conceal its gruesome nature.

“I’m sorry I didn’t get to you sooner,” Hank lamented, tears flowing without his consent. He didn’t want to seem weak in front of Connor, he wanted to be a pillar and strength and security for the demon but seeing him like this broke down whatever barrier he’d erected. And so, the cried.

“Shh, Hank,” Connor hushed, breathed in the angel, his reassuring heartbeat music the demon didn’t mind dying to, “it’s okay. Thank you.”

“Fucking hell, Con,” Hank cursed, choking against his own strained chuckle, “how can you even say that?” The demon didn’t answer, simply buried his head deeper into Hank’s chest.

Gavin watched from afar, feeling like he’d just get in the way if he said or did anything. He’d seen many things in his long life, the cruelty of humans and God. For creatures of mercy, grace, and benevolence, angels also faltered on occasion, and their unkindness was felt against the skin rather than observed. But archangels held no empathy, emotion, or remorse. What Amanda did was beyond cruel, because cruelty would require feelings she couldn’t have.

The Heavens parted with a loud crash, a high-pitched wail echoing through the Earth. Gavin held his ears a moment later, hearing the Fall for the first time.

Ace’s hands shook as he finished his final suture, reliving the pain of his own Fall. Amanda’s screams felt personal as if she were directing them at him.

He wouldn’t be surprised if she was.

The archdemoness was pleased to admit she only feared one thing. She’d lived a lengthy and varied life, had suffered injustices beyond measure and had inflicted them in return. Her actions had only been bested by Lucifer himself, had he not—as they say—beaten her to the punch, she might have been the one they wrote about in the history books.

Regardless, what she feared was neither of Heaven nor Hell. Nor demon, angel, or human. Not even God.

It was the loss of control, a Fall, the feeling of gravity having all bearing in where her body went. Even if she tried to fight the force it was something intangible, one of the few unbreakable rules of the universe—as certain as death itself.

She held the key in her hand, looking at her home with a stranger’s eyes. The city’s sirens were blaring—on lock-down—her unexpected entrance putting it on high alert. Heaven’s defense angles encircled her, covered in full-body armour, their eyes the only thing she could see. Some held fear, others seemed excited. She, however, stood her ground, preparing her weapons as they drew closer.

They paused as one unit, pointing their guns in her direction whilst they parted like the proverbial Red Sea. Walking amongst them was a face that transported her back many centuries. It’d been much smaller when she’d seen it, both in power and stature. Now, it carried itself like a dignified monarch. It seemed apropos that he’d taken the title of God’s understudy—if the circumstances were different, Amanda would’ve rejoiced.



“I see I’ve taught you well,” she said, searching the archangel’s eyes for any shred of emotion, anything that would make him hesitate to kill her. She found nothing—excellent.

“Too well, some would say,” Elijah responded, standing just a few inches above her. They were a perfect contrast, her black wings just as large and overpowering as his white ones, her white suit the opposite of his black. Even their skin was reversed.

“I do hope you didn’t have to kill whatever angel you took that from,” the archangel said, motioning towards the key, “it’d be such a waste.”

“Then you shouldn’t worry,” Amanda said, her fist clenching around the object, “no angel was harmed.”

“Well, I suppose they gave it to you freely then,” he retorted, the guards around him chuckling as if it’d been a joke. “Regardless of how it got into your possession, this is your home no longer—you’re not welcome here.”

Amanda flinched as the Words burnt themselves across her forehead, plain as day, for everyone to read. Elijah’s power had been frightening, he used it without thought, almost as if by consequence.

Regret wasn’t a feeling with which Amanda associated herself, but this glimpse at what Elijah had become made her wish for a second chance. He had been her protégé—her shining light. They would’ve ruled the world had it not been for their Father.

“You’ve grown,” Amanda said using Ancient Enochian, “I’m proud.”

She noted how Elijah’s eyes flickered, how he trained his face to remain stoic for his men. “You may have taught me what I know,” he replied, his tongue rough as he used her demonic language, “but don’t fool yourself into thinking you should be proud of it.” They were no longer equals, Elijah had taken what Amanda had shown him and multiplied it to an insuperable level. Never would she behold power as great as what he possessed.

Amanda’s face quivered an unnatural feeling of betrayal breaking through her chest. This…was not how she expected their reunion to go.

“Normally, I wouldn’t show such mercy to the likes of you,” Elijah began, speaking so that everyone understood, “but seeing as we share such a long history, I’d hate to demolish it unprovoked.”

Without touching her, Elijah manipulated Amanda’s body, so it walked to his will, marching itself to the edge of Heaven. He knew her fear, and he was exploiting it. Setting an example.

The anger that drove through her could’ve melted wood, shame trailing just beneath. She was dangled off the precipice, her feet kicking from reflex. Elijah lifted himself to her level, his eyes cold.

“I hope this is as painful for you as it will be joyous for me to watch.” He whispered it in the ancient angelic tongue, levelling their playing field one final time before he cast her down, his eyes bright as malignant delight danced behind them.

The demoness had been wrong; she’d been looking for an absence of feeling and satisfying herself when she found nothing. Elijah was anything but empty, his emotions blinding as the sunlight, the antithesis of an archangel yet made more powerful by the paradox.

Amanda’s world moved in slow-motion at the realization that’d she’d not only failed but was Falling again.

“I will kill you!” she shrieked, “I will kill all of you!”

They were her final words before the pain grew so great that it clogged her vocal cords and all she could focus on was the rip of her wings against the Earth’s atmosphere, watch as her feathers flew away from her and disappeared.

Never to be seen again.

Chapter Text

Ace wrapped bandages around his brother’s limbs, delicate as he fastened them with a clip. Connor slept in his bed, beneath the sheets, his skin translucent and disfigured by inflammation. Hank sat by him, holding his hand and humming sweet nothings whilst a harp played in the distance. Sumo rested by their feet, exhausted but prepared to fight if he had to. Gavin was the only one that kept his distance, feeling like an interloper in this odd family portrait.

“He’ll recuperate faster when the sigils fade,” Ace said, washing his hands in the sterile basin, “though it may take a few weeks for him to return to his full power. He shouldn’t try to open any portals or do any strenuous activities in the meantime.” Ace relayed this information to the lieutenant, knowing the angel wouldn’t move for as long as Connor was bedridden. “You shouldn’t worry about an infection, we’re demons after all.” He said it with some forced amusement, his smile strained and eyes weary.

Hank nodded, absentmindedly stroking Connor’s damp hair. He looked much better now that the bleeding had ceased, he breathed deeper, the hole in his sternum a terrible memory.

The detective said nothing else as he left, disregarding the nagging voice that’d hitched itself to his thoughts the moment he’d met Gavin. He stepped into the front yard, pinpointing the exact location Amanda had Fallen. The sky held a deep lighting-streak, reminiscent of a crack in a mirror. The thunder that had accompanied her shriek had promised a hailstorm, yet the sun defied such a request. Amanda was strong, but he doubted she would convalesce fast enough to track them down. For now, they were safe.

Regardless, one couldn’t be too paranoid.

He turned his gaze to the humble home, looked at the innocent hole in the roof, the one Connor said he’d fix but never got around to it, the shattered window leading into the kitchen, hastily patched with duct tape. His brother wasn’t keen on extravagancies, on riches, on the sin of materialistic gluttony. He was fine with his dog, electricity, and running water.

Ace sometimes envied his simplicity—it seemed a much happier existence.

Rolling up his sleeve, he drew out a dagger, running it across his palm. His blood pulsed cherry red as he dipped his fingers in it, beginning the arduous task of securing his brother’s home.

Drawing his penultimate sigil, he felt, rather than heard, Gavin approach him. The angel seemed more reserved than usual, Connor’s mortality may have done a number on his psyche, but that was merely speculation. Knowing Gavin, it might have been the bright weather that sobered him.

“Need any help?”

Ace took a moment to appraise his work, the blood turning black as it seeped into the brick, each marking thrumming with the power of its meaning. He crossed his arms, fearing it still wouldn’t be enough.

“I don’t suppose you’d mind lending some blood,” the demon said, his brows raised and eyes guarded for disappointment.

“Depends on how much you need,” the other replied, looking slightly nauseated by demon’s red hands.

“Only enough to cover these four walls,” Ace reassured, cleansing the blade with his tongue.

“Was that necessary?” Gavin winced, his face pinching into a scowl. The demon chuckled, flicking excess saliva off the knife.

“Our blood shouldn’t mix.”

“Oh, but spit is fine?”

“You’re the one who offered to help.”

“And I’m regretting every moment of it,” Gavin murmured, pulling out his own dagger and handing it to the demon. Under any other circumstance, this would be highly unprecedented. Those daggers were created to kill everything but God and Death itself. The demons had spent millennia trying to replicate their design, stealing them when they couldn’t, and dying by impalement when they were discovered. Yet here was Gavin, relinquishing it—hilt first—into this demon’s hands.

“I’m gonna’ need that back,” the angel said, exposing the underside of his arm.

“Understood.” Ace lifted the blade to his lips and, much to the horror of the observing angel, licked a long stripe from base to tip. Sure, it stung when it cut his tongue, but Gavin’s expression was worth the pain. “Now, where were we?”

Shocked into submission, the angel could only stand there and let his limb be manipulated—bleeding the paint for the demon’s canvas.

“Your voice is nice,” Connor murmured. His eyes remained shut as he turned his head to the sound, wishing to get closer, dive into it.

Hank chuckled, embarrassed by the compliment. “Guess choir paid off.”

Connor’s lips fought to smile, the stitches on his cheek pulling as he forced them upwards. “That was always my favourite part of Worship.” The demon looked so pained, everything from his words to his body seemed like it’d disappear with a strong gust of wind.

“I’m sure you sang beautifully,” Hank said, wiping Connor’s hair from his forehead. His eyes hardened at the Words, noting Amanda’s Mark on every visible inch of the demon’s body. She’d wasted no time humiliating him, making sure he’d remember her long after she’d finished torturing him.

Hank pressed a kiss on Connor’s scalp, breathing hard against the blockage in his throat. Revenge was forbidden, condemned, but the lieutenant couldn’t help the surge of hatred that welled inside his core, how it blinded everything. His only tether to reality was Connor’s disapproving harrumph, eyes opened to the unfortunate sight of Hank’s scowl.

The angel softened his features, hoping the demon didn’t think any of this was directed towards him. “Are you feeling any better?” He rubbed soothing circles into Connor’s knuckles, minding the bandage that covered his wound. They’d looked like stigmata—Hank couldn’t decide whether they’d been an ironic oversight or an intentional reminder.

Connor’s chuckle morphed into a distressing wheeze, Hank’s shushes and apologies guiding him through the worst of it. “I’m not sure, actually.”

“I shouldn’t have asked.” Hank berated himself for his callousness, letting go of Connor’s hand in disgust of himself. He should let the demon rest—do as Ace had instructed and not force him to waste his energy.

“Don’t go,” Connor implored, lunging out of bed to reach towards the angel. Every atom in his soul ached at the movement, but he cast the agony aside, wanting nothing more but for their connection to return.

Hank nearly tripped over his wings as he rushed to reassure the injured demon. “I’m not going anywhere,” he swore, caressing him in an instant. 

The demon shuddered against the touch, thankful for the sharp contrast it had to Amanda’s. He sunk deeper into it, falling out of bed in his haste to get nearer. “I know this is illegal,” Connor said, fearing to speak above a whisper, “you must leave me eventually, I know.” His weak fingers clung to Hank’s arms, desperation like a waterfall through their link.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Hank reiterated. The demon still doubted him, the tremble of his body the precursor to his silent tears.

With a gruff, the angel stood, shucking his jacket, jeans, and boots, much to the puzzled curiosity of the demon. “Scoot,” Hank ordered. He waited until Connor complied to pull back the sheets and occupy the new space.

“Is this enough, or do I need to shackle myself to you?”

“It’s enough.”


There was a visible line between them, an unmentionable boundary. Hank wouldn’t pull Connor out of his comfort zone, he’d wait for him to set the pace, to give and take whatever he wanted out of whatever this was.

To call it friendship seemed inappropriate, to call it anything more seemed hopeful.

Maybe it was best to leave it unnamed.

But Hank didn’t deny the choir that sang in his chest when Connor brought himself to rest his head on it.

Gavin rubbed his sore arm, sheathing his returned dagger, grateful when the demon wiped it off with his shirt. They stood and watched as the blood dried, an amalgam of demonic and angelic essence.


Gavin startled at his own conclusion, detesting how quickly he’d come to it. He hurled it deep into an abyss, where not even the prying eyes of God could see.

“You should consider wearing a mask when you think,” the detective said, motioning to his own face, “or at least turn around.”

“Bite me.”

“Don’t tempt me.” Ace flashed his incisors, winking as he chomped them. To his merit, Gavin looked only slightly perturbed, frightened from instinct as opposed to actual fear.

“Well, if we’re done here,” Ace wiped his hands on his pants, prepping them to open a portal, “I’ll be on my way.”

“Were you a medic?” There was a delicate interest to his question, a hint of authenticity in his tone. Ace hesitated before he spoke, not always one to partake in recalling his past.

“How could you tell?”

Gavin gestured to the house, presumably pointing towards Connor. “The way you patched him up—it was reflex to you, second-nature.” A hand hovered over his stomach, Elijah’s Mark a slow-healing welt. “Figured you were either a medic or you’ve done this before.”

“You weren’t lying about being a detective,” the demon teased, his smile bright enough to illuminate a dark room.

“I was a detective,” Gavin corrected, restraining the spite on his tongue, “past-tense.”

“You say that like Heaven is the only place that’s hiring.” Ace pulled out his badge and tossed it to the angel. An option.  “It won’t be the same, it never is, but it’s better than stagnation.”

“You sure you’d want me working with you?” Gavin asked, fingering the golden metal, “imagine if they made us partners, ugh, I just shiver at the thought.” The angel did just that, shaking out his wings for dramatic effect.

“It wouldn’t be so bad,” Ace said, a glutton for punishment, “we could play good cop, bad cop—you would obviously be the bad cop.” Gavin’s surprised laugh jumped between them, a pleasant sound despite its abruptness. “It’s just a suggestion, something to occupy time while we regroup.” Ace took back his badge, his fingers lingering in Gavin’s palm.

“We’re not really meant to interact with humans outside our assignments,” the angel reminded.

“When has that ever stopped you?” Ace’s lips twitched, amusement making them misbehave.

“You just can’t have enough of me, can you?” Gavin joked, rubbing his neck, inherently self-conscious.

“When I’m not being pricked by your thorns, you’re quite a beautiful rose to behold.” It sounded like something out of a novel, desperate and hackneyed. Yet it managed to make the angel blush, a charming display of flustered noises and ruffled feathers.

Like an amnesiac, Ace extended an invitation to his home, complicit in his own torture. He was sure it qualified as a kink at this point. Gavin refused, claiming he had a few errands to run. The demon wouldn’t acknowledge the lie, sparing the angel further embarrassment.

As Ace phased through the portal, Gavin adjusted his floating disk, teleporting into Connor’s isolated living room. He crept towards the bedroom, noting how his brother and the demon had found comfort in each other’s arms. No, he didn’t envy them, whatever made you think that?

“You here to scold me again?” Hank asked, his annoyed lilt nearly waking the demon.

“Only if you believe you’ve done something wrong.” Gavin looked unsure of everything. He’d spent many years skirting the line of rebelliousness, never quite committing to a side. When he despaired, he sought solace from a cross, yet he reproached it, ashamed of it. He wanted answers no one seemed to have and asked questions people feared the answers to. He craved the disgust that came from being around these unholy creatures, yet he denied the feeling. It would be simpler if someone grabbed his shoulders and hurled him into the sun, at least then he’d have a target.

“It’d do you some good to stop thinking so hard,” Hank advised, pointing to his temple.

The angel’s answering smile was pulled thin, a mediocre attempt at shielding his face. “It’s like telling the Earth not to spin,” Gavin grumbled, picking up a stray book. Unlike his brother, Connor seemed to enjoy more analytical works, most of his inventory consisting of arithmetic and the observable sciences.

They made an odd but complete pair.

“With enough force, you can compel anything.”

“Are you just speaking to make me feel better or do you actually believe that?” Gavin retorted, a familiar skepticism encasing his tone.

“Do or don’t do whatever it is that you want to do, God will judge you either way,” Hank said, the shrug of his shoulders both infuriating and reassuring. If the lieutenant didn’t care—and he was the most powerful angel in his field—then why should Gavin? He made a noncommittal sound, his eyes tracking the way Hank traced the scars on Connor’s arms, how his frown lifted when he stared at his face. It looked peaceful, despite the horrors that preceded their coupling.

“I thought finding out you were crooked would be the biggest shock of my existence,” Gavin began, returning the textbook, “I’m humble enough to admit I was wrong.”

Hank’s laugh tinkled like rain on the windowsill, warm enough to convince the other angel to join him, albeit with less mirth.

“Do you think I’d make a good human detective?” Gavin asked, subconsciously searching for approval.

Hank’s expression flittered from confusion to understanding, his smirk the opposite of what Gavin wanted to see. He’d known it’d been a transparent question and asked it regardless.  “Bored of kid duty already?”

“Please, those kids haven’t missed me,” the angel retorted, not remembering the last time he completed the task. He assumed Hank was covering for him, for them both.

“I think you’d have an unfair advantage, but as far as being ‘good’, there’s no doubt about it—you’d be excellent.” Gavin’s chest tightened, flattered by the praise.

“Ace trying to recruit you?” Connor croaked with his eyes closed, resting in the makeshift nook of the lieutenant’s arms, Hank’s voice rumbling in his ears. He’d been drifting in and out of the conversation, letting sleep take him whenever it seemed appropriate. “It’s a trap,” he warned, cryptic.

The lieutenant chuckled, ruffling the other’s sleepy head. “It’s only a trap if Gavin’s unaware of it.”

“If you’re itching to do something, go volunteer,” Connor mumbled, his voice thick with fatigue, “less contractual obligations.”

Though it seemed like a solid alternative, Gavin wanted to spite the demon, go against his advice because no one told him what to do. He was being ridiculous, he knew, but there was no helping his nature.

“I’m still thinking about it,” Gavin finally said, swearing to God he would sell his halo if it kept exposing his fibs.

Hank hiccupped with giggles, comforted by the knowledge that the world could end at any minute and Gavin would still choose to lie. “Try not to draw too much attention to yourself if you decide to go.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Gavin dismissed, flapping his wings, “I know.”

“And don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

“You’ll have to give me a new list, the old one’s been nullified.”

Hank supposed the criticism was only fair.

“Take care of yourself, Gavin, and be prepared to regroup,” Connor said, pulling far enough from Hank to give the angel a proper farewell stare.

“You too, Connor.”

His departure left a palpable breeze, soft and cool against the demon’s heated skin. “I don’t suppose you’ll also seek employment?”

Hank shook his head, “I’m already busy with you.” He said it teasingly, the tip of one of his wings tickling the demon’s chin. Connor reddened expectantly, his eyes melting like chocolate.

“Please let me know if I’m keeping you from anything,” the demon urged after a moment of consideration. It was nice to have Hank’s undivided attention, but not at the expense of his career, of his position—they still needed to keep up pretenses.

“Well, now that you mention it, I could really use a beer.” The angel was only half-serious, frowning when Connor attempted to open a portal. “Don’t you remember what Ace said, no strenuous activity.”


“Hush, the fridge is literally in the other room.” Hank stood, much to the demon’s chagrin. “Don’t look so glum, I’ll be right back.” With a chaste kiss to the forehead, Hank teleported, his absence—though minimal—missed dearly.

“So, this is where Lieutenant Anderson’s been hiding.” Connor’s heart jumped through his throat from fright. Panicked, he whirled his head around trying to place the voice. “You must be Connor—Amanda’s pet.” At the mention of her name, Connor’s stitches stung an unwelcome reminder.

“Where are you?” the demon asked it through his teeth, his body tensing as he prepared to either fight or flee.

“No need for the hostility,” the male voice reassured, revealing himself and his upturned hands—a universal symbol of peace, “I mean you no harm.”

The demon looked unsure, his history with archangels an unpleasant one, he had the scars to prove it. Nevertheless, he was under the being’s mercy, if he wanted him dead, he’d have killed him already. He didn’t know this archangel, but he could deduce who it was by their mutual acquaintance. Amanda seldom spoke of her angelic past, but in the singular moments that she did, she only ever mentioned one name: Elijah.

“She sure didn’t hold back on you,” he circled Connor’s bed as he said it, his eyes predatory in nature, studying the black ink of her Words, “this is excessive, even for a demoness.”

“What do you want?” Connor asked, drawing the sheets to his chin.

“Again, I mean you no harm,” the archangel repeated, looking upset with himself as he smacked his forehead with the heel of his hand. “Where are my manners, I’m Elijah,” he extended a hand, dropping it when Connor didn’t budge from his defensive pose. “Not a fan of strangers, I see.”

The brunet kept silent.

Elijah turned on his heel, his wings stitched into the fabric of his suit jacket. He watched the fire flicker in slow-motion, impressed it was able to defy his orders. He’d taken them out of time, wanting to speak to Amanda’s project (uninterrupted), to get a sense of what she’d seen in Connor. But nature obeyed its own laws, not even Elijah could change that.

“You haven’t tainted my brother, but you’re well on your way.” He had a detached curiosity to the unfolding situation, his superiors would call it a weakness, he tended to disagree. “You’ll be the one responsible for damning him, how quaint.”

Connor winced at the Words, feeling violated. This was his home, the one place where he should be safe, yet the archangel was here, mocking him, hurting him. Lying.

Elijah noted the sudden hatred directed his way, looked in the direction of the demon with furrowed brows. “Did I—” He was interrupted by reality trying to phase into their time bubble. Connor sensed it as well—Hank had found them, and he wasn’t happy.

“I didn’t mean to,” Elijah said, in lieu of an apology. He’d been sincere in his promise of not harming the demon, but his powers often had a mind of their own. His nature obeying its own law.

“Well,” the archangel clapped, “it seems we’ll have to talk another time.” He held up a finger, narrowing his eyes, “I almost forgot something.” He pulled out a golden ring from his jacket, walking towards the demon to place it on his nightstand. It was Hank’s key, the one he’d forfeited to save Connor’s life. 

“Wouldn’t want him getting locked out, would we?” With a wink, Elijah teleported, restoring time.

Hank swung his sword at nothing, shouting out his frustration. The next moment he was by Connor’s side, afraid to touch him, unsure if he was an illusion, if he was alive. He’d said he’d never leave him, yet he’d lulled them into a false sense of security, his vice and greed driving him to disregard his own instincts.

“I hope you got me one,” Connor teased, trying to lighten the mood. His eyes were shiny, his fluttering heart aching to settle.

The lieutenant let go of his breath, sinking to his knees, defeated. Alright, even if he had to strap the demon to his back, he wouldn’t leave Connor—not until he could defend himself. He shivered at the soft hand running through his scalp, he didn’t deserve it, but it felt nice, nonetheless.

“Elijah left you a gift if you can even call it that,” Connor relayed moments after the lieutenant climbed into bed.

“Of course, it was him,” Hank grumbled, taking sips of his beer. It was more reflex than desire that brought him to drink it. “What did he leave?”

“Your house keys.”

Hank sputtered, reclaiming his property. Well, colour him confused. Was the archangel toying with them? Was this his idea of a joke? He wouldn’t be surprised if the moment he tried to use the damned thing it transported him to the next universe. Who knows, maybe he’d find Dad.

“Goddamned archangels.”

Chapter Text

Gavin fiddled with his tie as he watched the Chief of Police scrutinize his papers. Her manicured nails filtered through each file, tapping on anything she found mildly interesting. Her greying hair had a bad habit of getting in her eyes, every few seconds she readjusted the strands, oftentimes blowing it when her hands were busy. She cleared her throat, putting down his file, pinning him with a stare.

“I’m not going to lie, Mr. Reed, your resume is outstanding.” He didn’t appreciate how she eyed him as if she could see the façade of his human mask. He’d spent many hours perfecting the mirage, modelling it after his own visage. Nevertheless, there was always the possibility of getting caught.

“Thank you,” he replied, not wanting to seem impolite.

“I’m curious, however, why a man with such an extensive history would want to work here?” He may have overdone it with the credentials, had he been too specific, should he have come in as a recruit? None of what he had on file was an outright lie, just the humanification of his angelic achievements. His internal halo wavered, unsure how to perceive the half-truth.

“I’ve had my fill at the FBI,” Gavin answered, despite the rhetorical nature of the question, “too many cooks in the kitchen.”

“Well, the Detroit Police Department is hardly in a small town.” She seemed amused by his response, relaxing her shoulders as she leaned into her chair. Scratching her tan chin, she looked through his papers again, trying to find anything out of place (he presumed).

“It’s not often I see individuals regress in this line of work. Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Gavin pretended to think about it, knowing damn well that for him five years could pass in an instant. “Possibly married,” he responded after his eyes lingered on her wedding photo, a beautiful arrangement of rainbow colours, her and her wife cutting the five-tired cake. “With children,” he added, looking at another photo where they each held an infant.

“That’s a very respectable response.” She sounded sincere. He nodded—a silent thanks.

“Mr. Reed, I cannot find a reason not to hire you,” the Chief admitted, looking miffed by the fact. He’d passed the written and physical exams with a near perfect score, his background was squeaky clean, drug test results impeccable, his body seemed to be carved out of stone—at least that’s what the medical examiner had said—and her officers had raved about his oral responses. The only hiccup she noted was on his polygraph test, there were a few moments where he seemed to be manipulating the truth. Not enough to constitute a lie, but enough to make her suspicious. His psychological evaluation didn’t raise any red flags, however, so she was forced to dismiss her worry. “Which compels me to ask, again, why here?”

“If I told you, you might find it ridiculous,” Gavin said, wringing his hands.

“Try me,” she challenged with a raised brow, steepling her fingers.

“A friend asked me to, said it might help occupy my mind, drive away a few demons if you will.” The angel couldn’t help the quirk of his mouth—he hoped the Chief didn’t notice.

“Given your past, I’m not surprised one bit,” she commented, her eyes hovering on his last position: Homicide. “Well, Mr. Reed, you’ve made an excellent first impression. We’ll let you know no later than two weeks what our answer will be.” She stood, waiting for him to follow before she extended a hand, “Do watch the roads when you leave, they tend to be hectic around lunch hour.”

“Thank you, Chief Gonzalez, I’ll keep that in mind.” Not that it mattered.

“Just a moment,” Ace said in response to the tapping on his shoulder. He finished preparing his coffee, screwing the lid into a water-tight seal. Appropriate, since he dropped the thermos, its metal clang echoing throughout the breakroom. “Gavin?” His voice wasn’t working properly, the words came out breathy and squeaky, like a dying balloon.

“In the flesh, literally,” the angel joked, doing a little twirl, “I look good, don’t I?” he asked in reference to his police uniform, or maybe his face—Ace couldn’t decide.

The demon gaped like a fish, thunderstruck. Clearing his throat, he returned bent to pick up his thermos, his hand twitching as he unscrewed it. Taking a sip did nothing to calm his nerves, and by the time he was half-way through, he’d yet to say anything. Gavin’s celestial glow was masked by his human façade, it gave the demon a chance to look at him. The angel was attractive, unfairly so, it stirred the unfortunate crush in his heart, making it leap and bound through his bloodstream.

“What are you doing here?” Ace found the courage to ask the question after a steady inhale.

“I—” Gavin was taken aback, his expression faltering and flattening. “I just thought, since you’d said—”

“I didn’t actually think you’d listen to me,” Ace sighed, disbelief colouring his tone like a painting. He willed his heart to still, to pause its frantic excitement, but it was no use, it reached towards Gavin without shame, forcing him to plant his feet through the floor.

“So, I did all this for nothing?” Gavin accused, feeling stupid. He’d known it’d been stupid, kicked himself multiple times during the process and still went through with it. He’d kept his plans a secret, wanting it to be a surprise. For what, he wasn’t sure, but this wasn’t the warm homecoming he’d been expecting.

“No!” The demon clamped his mouth shut, embarrassed by the outburst. Of course, it hadn’t been for nothing, Heaven knew he always looked forward to having Gavin around, even if only in spirit. But this…he wasn’t ready for this, for them to be partners. “I mean, I’m happy for you.”

“Then why do you look so shocked?”

“Because I wasn’t expecting you.”

“I can leave, it’ll be a bit messy and a few memories would have to be erased, but if it’s making you uncomfortable I can—”

“I’m fine,” Ace rushed, rubbing the bridge of his nose, “I’m fine.”

Always the skeptic, Gavin narrowed his eyes to slits, trapping the detective with a hard stare. “If this is your idea of fine, I’d hate to see you unwell.”

Ace chuckled, hiding his anxiety inside his thermos. “A little warning would’ve been nice,” he commented moments after their awkward silence.

“It was a last-minute decision,” Gavin mumbled, angling his head sideways, covering his blush, “didn’t even plan on doing it.”

Even without his tell-tale halo, Ace could pick out the lie. He mentioned nothing, however, as he refilled his cup, busying himself from having to face the angel. “Do you have your assignment yet?”

“I’m starting orientation today, then I’ll know.”

“Good luck.” Ace ducked out of the stuffy corner, or at least tried to, a warm hand on his shoulder stopped him just before he was home free. Gavin’s eyes were a troubled grey, far more expressive in their human chassis. They held him for a moment, searching for something in his.

“I thought you’d be happier.” It was said with a transparent coat of disappointment—present but meant to be overlooked. Ace was rendered speechless, watching the angel leave, his shoulders tense, the shimmer of his concealed wings the last thing to exit the room.

I thought you’d be happier.

Fuck. What was he meant to do with that?

Of course, he was happy! He was ecstatic, over the moon, but equally as nervous, petrified. Gavin, barring a few instances, was woefully unpredictable. Whether it’d be his personality or his actions, Ace was never certain of his next move. If the angel was strategic about his chaos, he’d be a force to be reckoned with.

Thankfully for the demon, the angel wasn’t aware of his own destructive nature.

Ace groaned and buried his head in his arms, letting the car drive itself to the crime scene. He needed a moment to think, to catch his breath. Gavin’s presence should not have affected him as much as it did, he’d seen him before, shared many conversations and arguments, yet here he was having a mental breakdown over his visage. Heaven must make them a few inches taller because he never realized how small Gavin was, he could fit the angel in his jacket pocket if he was compelled to.


Ace punched his steering wheel, drawing in a sharp breath to dislodge the awful lump in his throat. Damn him a million times over, how was he meant to face the angel now?

(Apparently, head on.)

As he arrived at the crime scene, he had to laugh—a loud and pained thing—of course, he was here. The uniform did nothing to help Ace’s growing problem, if anything, it fueled his imagination. He’d never been one to pay attention to the colour navy, but it was quickly climbing to the top of his favourite’s list, along with gold accents, and strained buttons.

“Detective,” the orienting police officer greeted, holding out his tablet for Ace to take. “I’d suggest wearing a mask before you go in there.” Police Officer Chesterfield cautioned, handing him one from a box.

If Ace hadn’t been so distracted by Gavin’s buttons, he’d have noted the light-blue surgical mask obscuring his face. He ignored the pang in his chest and continued forward, walking beneath the police tape and into the gruesome scene.

Five dead: two shot through the chest, one decapitated, and the other two strangled. All varying ages and stages of decay, no immediate connections or relationships. All they had in common was their sex. Male.

“Any leads on the suspect?” Ace asked, gloving up as he inspected the freshest body.

“No, the place is squeaky clean,” Officer Chesterfield replied, looking disappointed. “Shame.”

The detective hummed, flashing a light into the mouth of the corpse, searching for any evidence of trauma. He found none, moving onto the next part.

“Forensics come by yet?” Ace asked as he lifted a limb, nearly jumping out of his skin by an interrupting clang. He didn’t pay attention to the reply, trying to remain inconspicuous as he stepped out of the Reaper’s way. It was the same woman from before, Kara and her little companion, collecting another unfortunate soul. Maybe they shared the same jurisdiction.

“You’re not gonna’ ask me to let you talk to this one, are you?” she teased, letting Alice take care of extracting the soul.

“No, ma’am.”

Gavin rounded the corner, his brows shooting into his hairline as he watched—nothing short of awed—the gruesome display of Reaping. He’d seen souls, had helped erect buildings for the humans’ final resting place, yet he’d never witnessed how they were taken from their Earthly harness, how they clawed out of their flesh to seek freedom (or damnation) for the rest of eternity. He almost felt bad for them, it looked painful, cramped.

“Now there’s a sight you don’t see every day,” Kara commented, her blacked-out eyes drifting from Ace to Gavin, “demon and angel, working together. I’m surprised you haven’t torn each other to shreds.”

“Trust me, we’ve tried,” Gavin jested, smirking beneath the mask.

“I’m sure you have,” Kara said, holding out a hand for the soul. It was blind, clinging to the first thing that reached for it. In her long career as a Reaper, Kara had never lost a soul, she took pride in her work, and wanted to transfer that same pride into Alice. It was tedious creating a Reaper, but necessary nonetheless, and the last thing they needed was a careless one.

“Well,” the Reaper began, motioning for Alice take her free hand, “try not to create too much of a mess when you destroy each other, Death isn’t too fond of manual labour.”

“Duly noted,” Ace said, kneeling to look at the emptied corpse, resuming his investigation. Gavin joined him, probably closer than he needed to be, and pointed out evidence Ace couldn’t see with his naked eye.

“How much of your power are you masking?” the demon asked, curious as to why the angel would try to cover any of it at all. Maybe he was afraid of tempting fate, there were humans—though far and few in between—that could sense an angelic presence, even see them. He couldn’t blame the angel for being cautious.

“Enough.” It was an incomplete answer, but Ace wasn’t about to push it.

“There you two are,” Officer Chesterfield said, looking put-off from being left alone. “Find anything interesting?” It’d been a slightly sarcastic remark, one of a spiteful being.

“There’s semen in his stomach,” Gavin said, hoping to see the human’s eyes bulge.

“What?” Chesterfield sputtered, “h-how do you know that?”

“All of them do, actually,” Gavin continued as if uninterrupted, “you might be able to retrieve a sample from this one since it’s mostly undisturbed.”

“But there’s no sign of oral abuse or even sexual assault apart from the strangulation marks—”

“Stop,” Gavin ordered, forcing the human into a state of unconscious limbo. “Are all of them like this?” he asked, swinging his head towards the detective.

“You should’ve kept such knowledge confidential—they would’ve found out eventually, simply stating it without proof or means of access puts them on edge,” Ace said, looking at the brainless police officer. “Next time, try to be a bit more subtle in how you reveal evidence, maybe suggest that they check this or that, as opposed to outright telling them.”

“Thanks,” Gavin replied, drier than the desert and just as enriching. He undid the binds on the human’s mind, scrubbing the last few memories and starting over, reluctantly using Ace’s advice, and finding that he rather liked the outcome when he did.

“Is that why you joined the police force, to fulfill some freaky sex-death fantasy or something?” Gavin asked as he shared a car ride with Ace to the precinct. He may, or may not, have compelled the human Chesterfield to grant him permission.

“Yes.” The demon decided to humour him.


A sigh was all that transpired from Ace’s lips, knowing it was a losing battle to argue with Gavin. He still couldn’t find a reason to be without his company, though, despite the harm it caused his psyche or how it drained his patience.

“I bet you get off on it.”

Ace raised a thick brow, willing his tongue to remain in his mouth lest he let it lead him to slaughter.

“Come on,” Gavin grumbled, crossing his arms, “it’s no fun teasing you if you don’t play along.”

“What am I meant to say?” Ace asked, an unwilling accomplice to his mind’s desire to gratify the angel, “‘no, Gavin, I’m not a pervert Hell-bent on finding jerk-off material’?”


They staved off their raucous laughter for only a moment, most of it coming from the angel in blue. When the end of the world wasn’t on their immediate shoulders, it felt nice to be in Gavin’s company.

The rest of the day passed in a blur, phone-calls and paperwork took up most of it, leaving little to no interaction between the orienting angel and detective. It was both a blessing and a curse, Gavin’s energy like bursts of colour in a black and white movie. Add too much and it’d ruin the aesthetic. Ace still hadn’t forgotten about the angel’s uncouth proposal—it drove a nasty dagger through his intestines when he thought about it. It felt like a different time, a different them, but realistically, it’d only been a few weeks ago. Connor’s kidnapping had thrown a wrench in their tentative and tumultuous coupling, and Ace had yet to see if he was grateful for it or not.

At least Gavin had returned to his usual armoury of vulgar jokes, sparing/censoring/excluding any physical aspects of their relationship from his ramblings.

Ace didn’t focus on the road as he drove home, couldn’t even see that he’d reached his garage until the car was parked. It’d been a long day and he feared he’d start to feel them more often now that Gavin’s presence was a guarantee.

It’d be easier if he knew how to turn off his emotions, how to bury them without letting them eat at the flesh of their vault. He needed the peace of a clear head to placate his mental health, but his thoughts wouldn’t oblige, not when it was so simple to slip into an everlasting void of unrequited feelings.

Not when the object of his affection was resting, face-down on his couch with his wings outstretched. The feathered muscles took up most of the living room, impressive and imposing in their size. Ace would find better luck avoiding the air than trying not to touch one of the feathers as he walked to his bedroom.

Gavin stirred a fraction, his wings quivering at the action. Was…was he sleeping?

Ace disregarded the unnecessary need for a change of clothes, overtaken by the curiosity to investigate. He crept closer to the angel, cocking his head at his even breaths, how his face was free of expressive lines, the slight opening of his mouth and the light pool of saliva collecting on Ace’s pillow.

The demon’s heart was seized by a giant’s fist, squeezed without mercy, and thrown into a chasm—never to be recovered. Yes, Gavin was sleeping, and no, it wasn’t normal, but Ace wasn’t about to interrupt such tranquillity.

“Should I add somnophilia to the list of things wrong with you?” Gavin asked, his eyes remaining closed. It’d made the demon startle, and he backed himself to the bookcase, finding it difficult to catch his breath.

Gavin was still in his uniform, Ace became aware of this when the angel turned around—a feat considering his wingspan—and stretched, heaving a silent yawn.

“Are you sick, Gavin?” the detective asked, straightening his jacket, “I’ve never seen an angel sleep before.”

“Not sick, just tired,” the other answered, rubbing his eyes, “that human suit takes a lot of energy to keep in place.”

“You’re out of practice,” Ace teased, holding back a finger he’d had poised to poke at the angel’s cheek. They weren’t friendly like that—he shouldn’t take liberties.

“Never had to do it before,” Gavin grumbled, “at least not for that long.”

“I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it,” the demon encouraged, urging his feet to take him to his room, where he could wash the day away. It wasn’t necessary, none of the human commodities were, but he enjoyed them, had grown accustomed to the routine and was hard-pressed to break it. Besides, the scalding water was soothing to his muscles, the pummeling waterfall a Godsend.

The soft sigh of contentment filtering through the air wasn’t his own, and he was inclined to ignore it, as he often did with things that didn’t concern him. But when it happened again—louder this time—he figured whatever was doing it was trying to get his attention.

Ace poked his head out from the shower, clearing the water to look towards the sound. His knees threatened to give way when he caught sight of Gavin in the bath, dipping his wings into the water and massaging the joint. Ace supposed they’d be sore, cramped as they’d been in that ‘human suit’. The demon shook his head, trying his best to ignore the foreign heat pooling in his stomach. He cleared his throat, grabbing the angel’s attention.

“What, the tub was free,” Gavin answered without turning around, “you gonna’ tell me I can’t use it?”

“That’s not the issue here,” Ace said, trying to sound sensible, Gavin often had the opposite effect.

“Take your shower, and stop peeping, or I’ll be disinclined to believe you are anything else than a pervert.”

“Didn’t know you weren’t already,” Ace grumbled, returning to his waterfall. It felt more like hellfire, far too hot and not hot enough in tandem. He scrubbed hard at his skin, trying to scratch an itch below the surface, frustrated when it eluded him. Gavin’s sighs only increased in frequency as he worked out more knots from his wings, his hands were probably drenched in unused oil, thick and potent from its buildup. It’d be mixing with the water, coating his entire body with the irresistible aphrodisiac.

Ace ground his teeth, holding his breath as his pulse jumped in his veins, reaching further into his core than any weapon ever could. He ignored the more obvious interloper, forced it out of his mind by pretending its existence was someone else’s. It made it easier to keep his hand from reaching for it, from touching it, squeezing and tugging at it, stroking—

“You okay in there?” Gavin asked sounding far too pleased with something—Ace was inclined to say himself. “You seem to be in pain.”

“I’m fine.” Ace was decidedly not fine.

“I’m pretty sure lying is a sin,” Gavin tsk’d, the sound of rhythmic sloshing and indicator that he was shaking his head, “naughty demon.”

Ace’s stomach clenched at the remark, his hips twitched, everything was tense and aching, wanting, yearning. He was sure he was past the breaking point, a few more well-placed droplets and he’d be coming undone. If you catch my meaning.

“You still there, you’ve gone awfully quiet.” There was that dammed smirk again, Ace could hear it, wide and slightly cruel.

“You’ve been so preoccupied trying to figure out what turns me on, Gavin, that you’ve revealed your own weakness,” Ace said, pushing back his wet locks, “so telling.”

 It was a bluff, for all he knew Gavin was doing this simply out of malicious intrigue. The angel snorted, but it was an unsure thing, done out of habit as opposed to on purpose. It was all the evidence Ace needed to press on, to follow his quivering gut into a conclusion.

“I just wonder, Gavin—the demon made a point to emphasize the angel’s name—if you get off on inflicting the awkwardness or the reaction.”

Now it was the angel’s turn to be quiet, to hold his tongue and bite it hard enough blood seeped between his teeth. It gave Ace enough time to calm his body, to regain what little composure he had left to exit the shower and get ready for the rest of the night. He was proud of himself for not looking at the angel as he exited the bathroom, prouder still when he did it naked.

To say the tension between them was thick would be overstating the obvious. Anyone with a pair of working eyes could see there was something there, even if they couldn’t define it.

It always took Gavin a little longer to recuperate from Ace’s well-structured comebacks. They often left him stunned, not from wit or any genius, but simply because a rebuttal would fall flat, would expose more of his own weak points. He felt he’d become a stronger shit-talker despite this, but his only opponent was on an unbeatable winning streak.

Gavin sighed into his morning coffee, rubbing his eyelids before he opened them to a human staring at him. They were tall, their muscles thick beneath their too-tight shirt. For all intents and purposes, they were handsome, with hazel eyes and lengthy lashes, hair a dusty brown peppered with greys at the temples. There was a roughness to his soul like it’d been weathered by time and experience. Ultimately, it wasn’t unpleasant, and Gavin stared for a moment longer than was deemed socially appropriate. It wasn’t his fault though—the man was also looking at him.

“Is everything alright?” Oh, he has an accent, English? What would he be doing all the way over here?

“Of course, why wouldn’t it be?”

“You just have that look,” the man gestured vaguely, pulling out his chair to join Gavin in his impromptu pity-party. “You’re new, aren’t you, Officer G. Reed?”

Gavin looked at his nametag, saw its unfortunate phonetic pronunciation and sighed again, more self-deprecating. “It’s just Gavin.”

“Well, Gavin,” the man said, his crooked smile bright and too warm, “I’m Cillian,” he introduced, holding out his hand.

“Is that with a C or a K?” Gavin replied, shaking the extended limb.

“C, pronounced with a K,” the man looked pleased, his eyes sparkling, “you’re one of the very few people to ask me that.”

“Nothing worse than an inconsiderate speller,” Gavin joked, adjusting his badge. Humans were a little harder to read than demons, the angel blamed it on their protective meat suits and over-powered souls. Their intents and sins were always present, but their emotions, the nuances and minutia of their personalities had always cofounded Gavin. That’s why he never bothered with them. But this one—this Cillian—held something more beneath his initial burst of appreciation. Whether it was good or bad was yet to be decided.

Cillian grinned, the crinkle of his eyes disarming whatever automatic alarm bells humans set off in Gavin. Maybe he needed a new toy, his old one had gotten bored of him, go figure.

Speaking of the devil—or demon in this case—Ace walked into the breakroom, doing a double-take at the scene. Gavin could see the consternation in his face before he willed his features into a neutral position, watched as his eyes roamed between them, his thoughts racing.

“Morning,” the detective said, bringing himself and his mug to the coffee machine.

“Morning, Detective,” Cillian replied, his smile a civil one. He returned his gaze to Gavin, coy as he looked at his crown, searching.

“Something on my head?” Gavin joshed to cover his panic, touching around the air above him and around his hair, letting out a silent breath when he felt nothing.

Ace snorted, catching their attention. He side-eyed them, giving a shrug, “Not with the way you speak, Officer Reed.”

“You two know each other?” Cillian asked, terribly astute.

“Only in theory,” Ace replied, holding his cup with an iron grip. Cillian chuckled, an unsure sound as he read between the lines. “He’s my partner,” the detective clarified.

“Ah,” the other detective said, understanding.

“Since when?” Gavin protested—his eyes sharp like needles as they pierced Ace’s.

“Since this morning, I had you switched,” the detective said, taking a sip of his coffee, “if you don’t like it, you can switch back.”

“I—” Was this a power-move? Was that damned demon trying to assert his superiority or something?

Cillian pressed his lips together to keep from chuckling, feeling in his soul that interrupting them would lead to nothing pleasant.

“You didn’t even ask,” Gavin grumbled, crossing his arms.

“You might’ve said no,” Ace pointed out, rinsing his cup, “I didn’t want to risk that, dear,” he finished, walking out.


“He seems quite smitten with you,” Cillian teased, leaning on his fist, a slight hum of disappointment swimming through his thoughts. How unfortunate, he would’ve rather like to bed the creature before he had to hunt it.

“He’s an asshole,” Gavin bit back, grinding his teeth.


The angel shook his head, turning a strained smile on the human. “Ignore me, I’m just a bit nervous is all.”

Cillian nodded, his half-smile soft and pliant—like putty. “Completely understandable.”

“You wanna’ tell me why the fuck you changed my assignment?” Gavin asked as soon as he saw Ace. His desk and the meagre belongings he’d collected in the last 24-hours had been deposited in their permanent home across the demon, even his name was floating over the holographic tag.

“You’re too experienced for grunge work,” Ace said without so much as a flinch, “it’ll also be easier for you to get away with knowing things you shouldn’t,” he continued when the angel didn’t look convinced.

“And what? You think because we’re so buddy-buddy I’d want to partner up with you?”

“Well, do you?” the demon challenged.

Gavin quelled the frustrated sound into a small grunt, stomping his booted foot before he took a reluctant seat. He couldn’t disregard Ace’s eyes as they watched him, cocky and completely punchable. If they were anywhere else, Gavin would’ve been quite inclined to follow his instinct. It wouldn’t have hurt the demon, but it would’ve wiped that look off his face.

For now, he had to satisfy himself with the fantasy as he looked over their plethora of unsolved cases and answered the new ones.

Gavin could feel his human skin stretch over his muscles as the day trudged forward. He caught himself yawning, his arms erupting with gooseflesh as a shiver ran down his spine. Had he known being human was so exhausting, he would’ve reconsidered his decision.

Just as another yawn overtook him, a cup of coffee flashed before his eyes, the fingers attached to it leading to the human, Cillian.

“You look like you could use a pick-me-up,” he stated with a warm smile. Gavin looked at the offering for a moment, taking it and trying a tentative sip before he downed the whole thing.

“Not bad,” the angel said, stifling another yawn, “thank you.”

“My pleasure,” Cillian replied with a surprised twitch of his eyebrow. He’d spent many nights perfecting the prayer for his Holy Water recipe, the creature calling itself Gavin should’ve thrown itself into a coughing fit.

Cillian returned to his desk, running a troubled hand through his hair. He removed his hunting compass from his pocket, opening it discreetly, seeing the needled whir then point directly at the officer. Cillian narrowed his eyes at the tool, wondering if something so ancient could malfunction. Maybe he was dealing with something stronger than a demon, a change of strategy might be required.

Ace watched with the countenance of a man who was witnessing the murder of his dog. He wanted to slap the cup out of Gavin’s hand and shove the human through a portal that led into the vacuum of space, but neither of those two things could be explained away with stoic, one-worded phrases. So, he remained poised to strike yet outwardly amicable to the situation. He let a sigh of relief pass his lips as the human retreated, shrugging his shoulders to release some of the tension. Gavin twirled his chair to face him, a self-satisfied grin spreading over his face like a stain.

“What?” Ace couldn’t think of anything more eloquent to say. It was either that or ‘fuck off’. He wasn’t sure which one was more telling.

“There’s Holy Water in this,” Gavin relayed, running his index finger along the rim of the mug. “An odd choice, don’t you think? He didn’t even ask.” It was exactly the extra pep he needed for the last few hours of his shift, nonetheless, its addition raised more questions than it provided answers.

Ace tried not to shudder, keeping a wary eye on Gavin and that Holy finger. “Maybe he knows you’re an angel,” the detective grumbled, ignoring the officer’s widening smirk.

“Or he’s trying to exorcise a demon.”

“That too.”

“I’m curious enough to let this play out,” Gavin said, leaning against his chair, “maybe he’ll keep bringing me gifts meant to kill me.”

“Weren’t you ever taught not to take things from strangers?” Ace snapped, punching the keys of his keyboard with more force than necessary.

There it is, Gavin thought, sitting up straighter. “What, are you jealous?” He bit his lip after he said it, his eyes playful, rendering the demon flustered.

“That’d make you really happy, wouldn’t it?”


Ace forced his mouth to remain shut, physically willed his tongue to stay in place and not let Gavin win. He simply had to wait until the angel put his foot in his mouth again to regain the upper hand, and knowing Gavin, it wouldn’t take more than a few misplaced sentences. But seeing that their predictable quarrel wouldn’t continue, the angel took another page from the demon’s book and kept his own mouth closed, save for the smirk.

Another week passed without so much as a peep from Heaven or a rumble from Hell. It was a reassuring sign, of course, but not enough to let their guard down. Ace said as much as he looked over his brother’s scars. Connor was doing much better, his brown eyes had life in them again, his smile—though tarnished with stitches—was bright. He was well enough to stand on his own, strong enough to create small portals, despite Ace’s insistence that he take it easy.

Hank—devoted as ever—had done his best to nurse him to health. Realistically, there was nothing either of them could do for Connor but give him space and time. Ace didn’t want to incur the wrath of the lieutenant by telling him as much.

“These are healing nicely,” Ace commented, removing the last of the bandages. They were no longer necessary, Connor’s natural protective barrier had finally kicked in, and it wouldn’t take long now for the sigils to disappear. The Words, however, would be a life-long struggle to wipe off.

“I guess I owe you another one,” the older brother said, rubbing his dry hands.

“You don’t owe me anything, Connor.” They were alone—at least to the demon’s knowledge—in Connor’s room. Ace had urged Hank to take a simple break, needing one himself from the insufferable angel. Ace couldn’t complain—however, he had fully thrown himself into this mess and wasn’t doing much to get himself out. 

Connor cocked his head, smoothing out his little brother’s furrowed brow. “Are you trying to repent for your past sins?” the demon asked, his smile ironic.

“Maybe I’m trying to make new ones,” Ace joked, shaking his head, “it’s fine Connor.”

“I didn’t even say anything,” the brunet retorted, crossing his arms.

“You didn’t have to, it was implied.” Ace stood—his shoulders a perfect line “How did—” he cut himself off, burying the question with the desperation of a damned man.

“I don’t know,” Connor replied, a better detective than he let others believe, “it was mostly him.” Though if he had to be honest, he’d done a poor job at fighting Hank’s steady advances. Where it led to, he wasn’t sure, but he supposed he’d find out when he got there.

Ace’s crestfallen expression made him an infant in Connor’s eyes, and he couldn’t help the sad lurch in his heart as he brought him into a reassuring hug.

“You’re a cat on its last life, Ace, don’t squander it on curiosity.”

The younger demon laughed a dry and irritated sound. He let Connor caress his hair, destroy its perfect shape without protest. It took him back to their childhood—how close they’d been before their assignments took them away from each other. It’d been Connor who’d found him after the Fall, but by then it’d been too late, Amanda had woven promises into his brother’s head, ensnared him with words and gifts too good to be true. Ace tried not to think about it, to ignore their useless past.

“I have to tell you something,” Connor began, a slight shift to his tone. He sounded anxious, a tremble in his fingers compelling Ace to pay attention. “I saw something in Amanda’s prison.”

Ace heard his brother swallow, felt as his body shook at the nightmarish reminder. They’d suffered great plights, no one could deny, and there were very few things that could top the Fall, but Ace had a sinking suspicion that Amanda’s torture was a close second. He let Connor collect his thoughts, remained still as he found the courage to push past the worst of it.

“I’m not sure what I saw, exactly, I didn’t want to believe it.” The demon cleared his throat, feeling it clamp around his voice-box. “It could’ve been a clone, or a-another angel, I—Connor took a breath—it looked like me, exactly like me. But it had wings, these golden wings, I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Ace thought of his response whilst disregarding the doubt in his mind. If Connor says he saw it, he wasn’t sure why he’d lie about it. “Was it the only one?”

“The only one that I saw,” Connor replied, nodding.

“I wouldn’t worry about it just yet,” Ace said, sitting up to look his brother in the eyes. “If this was part of her plan then at least we bought ourselves some time before she executed it.”

“But why did it have my face?”

“I don’t know, Connor,” Ace sighed, his turn to console his brother, “I really don’t.”

They held each other for a few moments, drawing strength from each other’s struggles. Ace was the first to let go, straightening his jacket as he stood.

“I think it’s time to let Hank back in, I can sense his impatience from here,” the detective teased, opening the door. In an instant, the angel in question appeared by the entryway, waiting for the go-ahead.

“He checks out, but I still recommend he take it easy. No strenuous activities,” Ace said, winking at his blushing brother.

“Har-har,” Hank mocked, his hands delicate as they took Connor’s exposed limbs and turned them over, studying the healing scars. “They do look better,” he murmured, placing a soft kiss to the hole on his wrist. If you thought Connor was red before…

Ace sighed, leaving the duo to their own devices, and returned to the living room, where he found his partner playing with Sumo. He hovered far enough away to keep the peace, watching with a soft heart how sweet the dog was to Gavin, how he panted happily at the pets and whined when they stopped.

“No more, or I’ll never leave,” Gavin said, sounding mildly upset.

“That’s not such a bad thing,” Ace interjected, half-joking.

“And let you have some peace and quiet?” Gavin retorted, his grin impish, “in your dreams, dear.”

Ace wasn’t ready for how that word would affect him, and in turn, he hadn’t prepared a mask to shield his reaction. So, like a love-sick idiot, he fawned over the term of endearment—despite its sarcastic undertone—and Gavin was privy to every moment. Instead of teasing him, like he rightfully should, Gavin kept his victory to himself, motioning towards the door.

“Shall we go?”

“Of course.”

“That’s our guy?” Ace double-verified, his tone skeptical. The perpetrator didn’t seem to fit the description nor capable of committing the crime. But Gavin nodded, sure of his deduction. The detective wondered idly if the angel ever chose to lie about these things, without his halo, how was Ace supposed to know the difference?

“Alright,” the demon sighed, ignoring the odd quirk of his thoughts. He put his car in drive and followed their suspect.

“You seem pretty confident in his conclusion,” Cillian commented, the overseer of this case, “shouldn’t you investigate further?”

“He’s never been wrong before,” Ace said, his face tight, knuckles white as they gripped the steering wheel.

“How many years did you say you worked at the FBI?” the detective asked, directing his question to Gavin. The angel was focusing most of his energy on tracking the perpetrator—he missed the query entirely. “Officer Reed?” Cillian urged, his brow knitting.

“Yes?” Gavin snapped, turning his annoyance towards the human. Cillian repeated the question. “Ten-thousand,” the angel replied without thinking, returning his gaze to the road.

Cillian chuckled, a pitying sound, “I suppose it must feel that way,” he empathized.

Gavin made a non-committal noise, willing his hand to lay still and not snap the man into unconsciousness. He figured the remainder of the ride would quiet down when they caught up to their suspect, but no such mercy was in store for the angel. Cillian used every opportunity to ask him non-essential questions like, where are you from, why did you come to Detroit, how long have you known Ace, etc.

It got to the point where Gavin was actively biting back frustration, keeping his tongue from getting him fired. Humans, especially nosy ones, never knew when to stop.

Why did we bring him anyway?” Gavin grumbled in the sickly demonic tongue. To Cillian, it sounded like someone gargling gravel. They lurched forward as Ace nearly crashed the car, skidding out of the road from shock.

The demon met Gavin’s eyes through the rear-view mirror, trying to deduce when he’d learned to speak like that. He was nearly fluent, putting younger demons to shame with his rapid acquisition. “Sorry, there was an animal,” he murmured, resuming their drive.

Cillian cleared his throat, beads of sweat collecting at his forehead as he looked between the two. If he had any doubts about Gavin before, they’d all been quelled. He’d have to act fast and discreetly, but not while Ace was here, he’d hate to be the one to tell him his partner was a Mega-Demon.  

They parked a few blocks from the suspect, readying their weapons and communication devices. Ace pulled Gavin to the side, feigning a teaching moment as he opened the trunk of the car to give them some privacy.

Stop being so reckless,” the detective whispered in the ancient language, sifting aimlessly through the boxes. “He already thinks you’re a demon.

Let him keep thinking,” Gavin replied, leaning against the bumper. “He might not be too far off.” A sharp shiver ran through the detective’s spine at implications of such words. Ace shook his head, willing his heart to slow—now was neither the time nor place to deduce Gavin’s cryptic messages.

Pretending to finish a thorough lesson on proper firearm safety, they returned to the human, who was already rambling about a plan. Gavin could feel his patience wearing thin with each word from the man’s mouth, so thin in fact that he didn’t wait for him to finish speaking. It’d been a long day and they’d given them a late assignment—Gavin just wanted to go home.

“Is that gas station on fire?” the angel interrupted, pointing out the roaring blaze behind them.

Ace turned his gaze to Gavin, disappointment dense on his features. Whatever, if it meant getting the human to shut up, Gavin would accept the silent reprimand.

“Bloody hell,” Cillian swore, disregarding his own plan and bursting into a sprint.

“Where the fuck does he think he’s going?” Gavin snapped, throwing his hands in the air. The fire was meant to drive the rats out, not bring more in!

“Your mess, Gavin,” Ace reminded, crossing his arms, “go deal with it.”


By some miracle, Cillian hadn’t gotten himself killed or cooked as he sped towards the building. Pushing past his fear of impending death, he found the nearest fire alarm, pulled it and cursed when it didn’t work. He punched the wall, leaning his forehead on it as he tried to think.

In the next moment, something wet hit his scalp, increasing in intensity until it felt like rain. He looked up—a sigh of relief caught in his throat when he saw Officer Reed running past him.

“Try to keep up,” he shouted, looking unbothered by the crumbling heaps of building.

Cillian washed his face in the bathroom sink, trying to clear his head and organize his thoughts. This ‘Gavin Reed’ was far more unpredictable than he’d imagined. Careless. Cillian had to tread carefully, lest he finds himself on the pointy end of a spear.

He fished for his compass, stilling his trembling hands as the needle whirled, then stopped, pointing behind him. Cillian shook his head, closing the top and pocketing the device.

“And this one?” Ace asked, gesturing to the obscure sigil on page 35 vol. 2 of Trappings and Enchantments for the Average Demon.

“Mark of Heme. Makes blood come out of every orifice,” Gavin answered, looking bored with the exercise.

“Excellent, but do you know how to draw it?” Ace asked, giving Gavin another blank sheet of paper.



The angel sighed, replicating the sigil. Ever since he’d revealed how fluent he’d become in the demon’s tongue, Ace had been pestering him to learn more, to fill his head with defensive markings that may or may not prove useful when Amanda resurrects from the dead. If you asked him, it was all pointless.

“You’ve gotten much better at this,” Ace complimented, comparing the two markings, “but your penmanship could use some work.”

“It’s still correct, isn’t it?” Gavin quarrelled, crossing his arms. They were sat on the dining table, tomes and papers strewn haphazardly across it. It was their day off, but there ain’t no rest for the wicked.

“The importance of perfection will become apparent to you when a missed tick gets you killed,” Ace returned, correcting the drawing.

“But what does it matter then, if I’m dead?”

Ace looked unamused, flipping to another page. “This one.”

“I’m not doing another,” Gavin grumbled, hating the petulance in his tone. This reminded him of school, of the long hours studying the ‘Good Word’, and for what, so he could recite it in his sleep? Bullshit. He’d rather read Dr. Seuss or even porn.

“It’s good to be informed—”

“I know, but I’m not gonna’ learn them all in one day, so let’s just quit while we’re ahead.”

The demon sighed, obliging Gavin by closing the book. Maybe he’d been overeager to teach the angel everything he knew, he wouldn’t deny the pride it would bring him to have a protégé, someone who could be his equal in the field.

“You’re right.”

Gavin looked up in shock, narrowing his eyes. Was this a trick? He wouldn’t be surprised if it was. “What was that?”

“I said, you’re right,” Ace repeated, collecting his papers and letting Gavin stew in his smugness for a few more seconds. “I mean, I couldn’t possibly expect you to learn all these. A delicate angel such as yourself needs time to adjust to something so grotesque. So please, whenever you’re ready to resume, I’ll be waiting.”

Gavin’s eye twitched, but it was the only sign he’d been affected by the demon’s ridicule. He removed the halo from his head, letting it hover over the table. It shone with its own light and had a mind of its own, cringing from the demonic texts as it settled on a remote corner.

Ace wasn’t sure what Gavin was trying to prove, but then his confusion was nothing new.

“There,” Gavin began, cracking his knuckles, “now I’m not a ‘delicate angel’, just a man with wings.”

Ace grinned, agreeing whole-heartedly.

Chapter Text

“Hank, we shouldn’t,” Connor protested, despite getting himself in this predicament. How could he have known complimenting the angel’s feathers would elicit this reaction?

“C’mon, it’ll be fun,” the lieutenant said, pulling the demon out of bed. He watched Connor’s inner conflict like a spectator, how his lips formed an indecisive pout. “I promise I won’t let you fall.”

Connor gave an ironic grunt, crossing his arms at the angel’s apologetic smile. Still, he caved with minimal instance, dressing in something suitable for the weather. He used Hank for support, unsteady on his feet from weeks of being bedridden. Hank worried his bottom lip between his teeth, rethinking his insistence. Connor may have been the one to begin it, but this could always be postponed.

“How do you feel?” Hank asked, just to be on the safe side.

“Like I’m on a scavenger hunt for myself.” If nothing else, the lieutenant could relate. He apologized, feeling responsible for some of the confusion.

The brunet shook his head, patting the angel’s chest, letting his fingers linger on the flexing muscles. “You’re not to blame, Hank. If anything, I should thank you, who knows where I’d be without your wisdom.” The demon poked Hank’s cheek, earning a harrumph.

Connor’s laugh was like a chime twinkling against the lieutenant’s eardrums. Hank enveloped the other’s hands in his, pressing his fingers to his mouth, blessing each knuckle as it passed his lips. Connor’s blush reminded Hank of candy apples, sweet and addictive.

“If we’re gonna’ go, we better do it now,” Connor said, pulling away, “burning daylight and whatnot.”

Hank let him go, reminding himself not to become another prison for his injured kin. He watched him struggle with his shoes, his limbs weak from the aftermath of his wounds. Hank bent low to help—his fingers quick as they tied the laces. He shifted his gaze upwards, meeting the demon’s remorseful stare. There was nothing to be sorry for, he wanted to say, nothing at all. But there was no denying their positions, how physiologically different they were.

An angel should not be kneeling to a demon, if anyone with any sense were to catch them, they’d kill Connor and report Hank for misbehaving. Hank held his anger at bay, leashing it to a mountain of reason. In this room they were equals, they didn’t have to hide, but out there, where eyes stared and mouths moved, he couldn’t help what they saw or spoke. And that frightened him.

“Here,” Hank murmured, securing a scarf around Connor’s neck, “I know you don’t get cold, but it’ll make me feel better.” Connor leaned into his palm, closing his eyes for a moment. Hank brushed away a stray eyelash, blowing on it to make a wish.

“Shall we go?”

“Soon,” the angel whispered with a heaviness in his eyes and a lump in his throat.

“Hank?” It was both a question and a warning, snapping the angel back into their cruel reality.

“Let’s go.”

“Agh!” Amanda screamed as her servant yanked another infected feather from her spine. She snapped at the air as the unholy burn sank deeper into her core. It’d been weeks since her second Fall, and the pain had gotten worse, leaving her crippled. She knew the disease had to run its course, had seen it as it’d occurred to other demons. She figured it was worse for her, knew with uncanny certainty that Elijah had made sure of it.


“I’m sorry!” her servant—a scoundrel named Millicent—rushed, her hands quivering as she tossed away the feather.

“Just. Finish. It.”

“Yes, your highness, right away.” Millie feared for her safety if she didn’t comply, so she quickened her pace, ignoring each devastated shriek.  

It took many nights of careful attention and cold compresses, but Amanda regained enough strength to sit in a wheelchair. She commanded Millicent to roll her to the mirror, feeling every bit the husk she saw in the reflection. She dismissed the demon, holding back her rage until the door clicked closed.

Amanda regarded the prick of tears in her eyes as another travesty, she shattered the mirror before they fell, seeing her splintered image despite her best efforts.

She fingered a shard of glass, letting it cut her, letting her black blood flow. What had she become? Not angel, not demon. Something unspeakable, so filthy that flies shied away. She brought the glass to her scalp, running the edge along her hairline. Her dreads fell, one by one, hitting the ground like dead snakes. The surface beneath was smooth and unmarked. The same could not be said about her forehead, Elijah’s Words stamped in bold—a humiliating reminder.

Amanda ran her palm across it, scrubbing hard as she willed her powers to get rid of the damned thing. But it was no use, it’d be easier to learn how to fly without wings.

She screamed, and kicked, and punched, flailing about as anger and frustration fueled her.

It took her a while to calm down, to corral her emotions into a box and toss them overboard. Using the mirror’s frame, she stood, huffing as the effort made itself apparent in her lungs. Amanda cringed as she took a step, then another, forcing her stiff limbs to cooperate.

She had a misstep and fell hard onto the wooden floor, knocking her chin, causing her to see stars. Growling, she crawled towards her wheelchair, dragging her body into it.

…It would have to wait… He would have to wait.

“HAAank!” Connor yelled, clutching the lieutenant’s lapels, “slow dooown!”

“I’m not even going that fast,” Hank countered, holding the demon nearer. They were approaching Mach 1, quite tame considering angels travelled at the speed of light.


Through grumbles and mumbles, the angel slowed his wings, coasting high above the Atlantic. The view was gorgeous, an endless palette of blues and whites, interrupted by a random boat or ship. When Connor had given him no direction on where to go, Hank simply flew, letting the current guide them.

“Better?” Hank asked, feeling Connor relax against his chest.

“Definitely.” He looked less green around the edges, his motion sickness disappearing with the adjustment. If he forgot about Hank’s warm arms around him, he could pretend it was him beating his wings through the jet stream. It was wonderful, he felt so free and small compared to the world. He’d taken Her for granted, ignored Her beauty, thought himself above it. Here and now, with the scent of seawater filtering through his mind, he couldn’t help being reminded of the tragedy of his situation. But he said nothing, kept his forlorn feelings to himself and tried to enjoy the gift Hank had given him. This might be the only time he would fly again.

The angel sensed Connor’s agitation, wanted nothing more but to aid him out of it. He spun them around, letting his instincts carry them as he placed the demon on his lap. Connor’s eyes widened with a start, he laid his hands flat on the lieutenant’s chest, steadying himself.

Hank chuckled, holding Connor by the hips. He let his fingers play with the edge of his pants, sandwiching his index where his shirt met his beltline and worming it around until he felt skin. Connor was too distracted to notice, trying to find a position that wouldn’t put him in jeopardy. Just as he’d adjusted, Hank swerved left, missing a flock of birds and resetting Connor’s progress.

“Not funny,” the demon replied to the angel’s laugh.

“If you could see your face, you’d think otherwise,” Hank said, using a thumb to smooth out Connor’s scowl, “just relax, I’ve got you. I’m not gonna’ let you fall.”

“Where were you all those years ago,” the demon complained. Not having the answer to that, Hank remained silent, his smile bordering on repentant.

“We’re quite close to the sky,” Connor began, looking at Earth’s ceiling, “aren’t you afraid they’ll see us?”

“Let them look.” By now, Hank’s entire hand had made its way to Connor’s flank, his fingers playing harmonies on the demon’s skin. Connor either didn’t mind or was ignoring it, because it was impossible to miss.

“You sure that’s a smart idea?” Connor asked, his gaze roaming around Hank’s face, looking for an ounce of apprehension. His brows knitted as he found none. A part of him was flattered the angel thought so little of what others said about them, the other was petrified of the consequences.

Hank shrugged, the embodiment of nonchalance. He lowered them towards the ocean, the sea breeze sticking to their skin and hair like a salty kiss. Dolphins rose to the surface, curiosity tickling their advanced senses. Connor leaned over to pet one, careful not to fall off. He was captivated by their soft skin and high-pitched call. He mimicked them, sharing a message.

“You speak dolphin now?” the angel asked, shifting his eyes between the demon and aquatic mammals.

“Not as often as I’d like to,” Connor joked, scooping some ocean water. He rubbed it against his healing cheek, hissing at the sting but letting it settle. After a moment, the dead cells were wiped away, leaving space for new ones to grow, to expand and heal. It reminded him that everything got better, even a sinner like him.

“Does it still hurt?” Hank asked, his eyes kinder than they had any right being. It made Connor feel bad for wanting more from the gaze, to keep the lieutenant to himself. Elijah had been right, he’d be the one to damn Hank, drag him into this pitiful hell he’d found himself in. He’d asked for too much.


Hank’s warm and roughened hand on his spine sent a jolt of electricity as it caressed him. Connor lost his balance, crashing into the lieutenant and veering them off-course. Through a curse and a quick correction, they landed on the green hills of Iceland, stumbling into a complete stop.

“Sorry,” Connor apologized, “for everything.” He pulled away, ignoring the confused sounds escaping the angel. He walked in the opposite direction, using the path of least resistance since his portal powers weren’t ready. The strong mountain winds whipped him backwards—as if on purpose—forcing tears from his already-wet eyes.

“Connor, wait,” Hank pled, chasing after the demon, “why are you apologizing?” This beautiful creature had a bad habit of confusing him. Connor could never catch a break from himself, and though their mutual self-deprecation was a comfort, it also bothered Hank, to the point where he wanted to snap the demon out of it. Instead of enjoying the small peace they’d found in each other, Connor had a look on his face like the world was falling apart beneath them, and they were on opposite sides of the ravine.

“Because, Hank—” Connor choked on his words, his eyes turning a mournful shade of red, “I’m not worthy of you, I shouldn’t poison you with my presence. If you were to Fall because of me, I could never forgive myself.” He didn’t have enough strength to hold himself upright, he swayed as a dizzying feeling overtook his body and all he could see were swirls resembling the lieutenant’s face.

“Oh, you idiot,” Hank grumbled, catching Connor before he hit the ground, “I’ve already sealed my fate—long before we met,” he admitted, brushing back the demon’s curls. Connor’s eyes had disappeared into his head, a sure sign he’d heard none of what’d been said. Hank pressed his ear to the other’s chest, letting go of his breath when he heard a heartbeat.

Slowly, but with much determination, Connor’s emotions returned, a melting-pot of self-doubt and excitement, forbidden lust and anger that mirrored Hank’s own feelings with supernatural accuracy. His eyes blinked a few times before his irises returned, muddy brown and unfocused. Hank made sure he was in his line of sight, the first (and hopefully last) thing to catch his attention.

Connor woke with a smile, and touching Hank’s cheek with a pure hand he said, “Am I dead?”

“I hope not.” Hank moved his face, so his lips met the inside of the demon’s palm and kissed it, feeling happiness spike between them. “Why do you ask?”

“Only in death could I imagine such tranquillity and beauty,” Connor revealed, looking more like himself as the world solidified around them.

“How macabre.”

Connor chuckled at the angel’s unimpressed expression, letting his fingers fall to his lips, levelling the frown. He felt Hank’s breath ghost over his thumb, shivered against it. He was sure his eyes had exposed his desires eons before his emotions did, and by Hank’s growl, he hadn’t been subtle about it.

“We shouldn’t.”

It hurt to say, it hurt even more to hear.

“And give me one good reason why not?”

Connor shook his head and shrugged, unsure where to start. He was still cradled in the lieutenant’s arms, his wings like cushions beneath them. It was nice, better than nice, but the words escaped him, and he didn’t have his brother’s gift for pontification. “I don’t have one,” he answered, before pushing away once more. Tearing a well-healed scab.

“If you faint again, I’m not gonna’ catch you,” Hank warned, disobeying his own words as he stood to follow the demon.

“I thought you said you wouldn’t let me fall,” Connor rebutted, needed the confirmation just as his lungs needed air. Hank grumbled but agreed, a pattern Connor was starting to notice.

“Con, come on, what are we doing?” the angel asked, his words tense even as he tried to be patient. He shouldn’t push, wouldn’t push, but he needed an idea on where they stood with each other. Hank wasn’t his brother—he won’t deny the obvious.

Connor overlooked the hills and valleys, breathing in what he could only describe as green. His skin pricked with desire as his thoughts held him back. This was a one-way ticket to Hell. If by some miracle they caught God’s attention, Connor didn’t believe Him to be so merciful as to forgive such a cardinal sin. He’d be Hank’s Jezebel, leading him into an unwilling (despite what he said) slaughter. And though that should be his entire prerogative, Connor wanted nothing more than to do the opposite.

Expressing as much would only prompt Hank to protest, to reassure him that he knew what he wanted. But he didn’t, he was blinded by something stronger than him, and in the aftermath, he’d resent Connor. And Connor would rather burn in longing than suffer in guilt. So, he kept them at a safe distance, allowing a caress and no more, drowning his emotions so they’d dilute enough to be publicly acceptable. At least now he had something to compare this torture to, and though it came close, it didn’t quite surpass it. Meaning, he’d survive this too.

“I appreciate your friendship, Hank, I really do, but we shouldn’t mess with pre-set boundaries,” Connor said, finally turning to look at the angel.

“What are you most worried about?” the lieutenant asked, his tone serious, “and don’t lie to me.”

“I’ve never lied to you, Hank.”

“That may be so, but you’re lying to yourself, and how I see it, that’s just as bad.”

Connor’s smile was ironic, screwed whichever way he spun it. “I’m worried you’ll hate me, that you’ll realize your damnation is sealed and I’m the sole cause. I’ve never dammed a soul, maybe that’s why I’m so apprehensive.”

“You’re so frustrating when you overthink,” Hank grumbled, “yet I can’t fault you for it.” The angel stepped closer, regarding Connor with a profound yearning, one more tangible than any object in the universe. “Tell me you wouldn’t hesitate if there was nothing between us, give me at least that much.”

“Oh Hank,” Connor growled, his eyes flashing red, his sharp incisors biting into his lip until they drew blood, a bead falling obscenely from his chin, “I’d consume every ounce of you,” he fell into a whisper, lost in a forbidden fantasy, “and I’d let you do the same to me.”

Hank was overwhelmed by the demon’s words; they were like lighter fluid to the sweltering craving inside his gut. Connor’s emotions weren’t helping, vivid and expressive as they were. He didn’t dare touch him, afraid he’d collapse from the unfulfilled tension.

“Good to know,” Hank said, his throat tight and dry, “I admire your self-restraint.”

“I don’t,” Connor huffed, shaking his head, “I can’t help thinking how it’d be if I were just a normal demon, taking without remorse, damning without care, building an army like we’d been tasked to do.”

“You wouldn’t be the same,” Hank said, stiff as he ruffled the demon’s hair, “you wouldn’t be our Connor.”

“I’m sorry, Lieutenant,” the other began, the line far too common, “even in doing nothing I’ve managed to disappoint you.”

“That’s nonsense, Con, couldn’t be further from the truth.” Hank ached to do so much more than console the demon with his words, but he needed a drink before he even began thinking of proceeding with something so bold.

“I hope—Connor cleared his throat—that it wouldn’t be too much to ask for a kiss,” he shuffled his feet, gazing downward to avoid outright embarrassment.

“We shouldn’t, really,” Hank teased, using Connor’s weapon against him, “I mean, what would others think?” As he spoke, he brought himself into Connor’s space, lowering his lips until they’d touched his forehead. “Would you look at that?” Hank said, looking around as if he were expecting the heavens to burst open, “nobody gives a shit.”

Connor followed his line of sight, far more nervous than his winged companion. The chaste kiss (if one could even call it that) burned bright on his skin, like a sigil, inflicting an agony that wasn’t physical nor was it painful. He wanted more, but asking was against his self-imposed rules, but he wanted more, but, but, but—

The demon had one of two options: self-combust or jump off the cliff. He could see it now, the waves crashing into the bluff and him crashing into them. He wouldn’t die (probably) and it’d extend his recovery period. But ultimately, he couldn’t go through with it, couldn’t get his feet to comply with his hysterical demands. Hank touched his arm as if he understood as if he read every fleeting thought that passed through Connor’s head and found a sameness to his.

“Come on, I’m sure Sumo misses us dearly,” the angel said, hunching over so the demon could climb onto his back. Connor looked skeptic, his brows coming together, forming a continuous line. What else was he meant to do, though, his portals couldn’t move him more than a few feet, and a plane ticket seemed redundant.

They wouldn’t speak about the spark that crossed between them when they touched again when Connor settled into the lieutenant’s spine like he belonged there, nestled in downy wings and a scent so sweet it made honey taste like water by comparison. No, indulging in such thoughts would only cause them more trouble than good in the long run.

“What are you?” Amanda regarded the specimen in the cylinder with immense curiosity. Many moons ago she’d encountered God’s prototype for a new being. Amanda could tell He’d been trying to reinvent Himself, to create something to combat the sins of the world. She’d call it going through a ‘mid-life’ crisis, but Father never asked for her opinion.

Before her Fall and His subsequent disappearance, Amanda stole the specimen, wanting to study it, to understand what her Father had sculped. To her knowledge, there was only one of its kind, why it had Connor’s face was one of her many unanswered questions. God may have taken a liking to that model, or may he’d had other plans for Connor, ones He couldn’t realize because His project had Fallen.

No matter the case, this ‘Connor-clone’ was different, vibrant, in a way no other angel had been. Their wings were metallic gold, encased as they were in the gel, Amanda couldn’t fathom how they felt. She touched the glass housing the creature, sensing power thrum between it and her. She’d harness it for herself if she knew how.

Though she’d had centuries to ponder upon its design, Amanda wasn’t any closer to understanding what its purpose was. And to be frank, she was cautious about opening the tank. If it was dangerous—and Hell forbid—more powerful than her, she’d be embarrassed to be killed by her haste.

Unfortunately, her bindings weren’t detailed in their limitations. Demons and angels, she could understand, dissect, manipulate…but God’s unique creation—a secret he’d kept to Himself?

Everything had a failsafe, a kill-switch, in the case of an emergency. Until she found it on this being, she wasn’t risking her life.

Connor focused his energy on opening a portal, it should be as simple as breathing, but there was an elephant on his chest. His hands shook with pain, an electric current flowing from his core to his fingertips. He dropped the limb, catching his breath for the fifth time that evening. Sumo whined by his side, pawing at him, possibly begging him to stop, but Connor didn’t want to pay attention, determined as he was to regain his abilities.

He was alone for the first time in many days, and with this renewed freedom he broke his promise to Hank about ‘taking it easy’. He’d been taking it easy, and his muscles were atrophying for it. Besides, his wounds had sealed, they were merely scars on his body, ugly reminders with an expiration date.

After a few more unsuccessful tries he had to admit defeat, slumping into his bedroom lounger with the countenance of a depressed sunflower.

In the quiet of his room, with nothing to hear but Sumo’s sonorous breathing and the crackling of the fire, Connor had to be honest with himself, come to grips with the thoughts jackhammering their way into his consciousness. He figured they were part of the reason he couldn’t concentrate.

His skin still burned from where Hank had embraced him, whether it’d been in the sky or cradling him as he slept, it was unending. Connor dug his fingers into his palm, trying to distract himself from pushing further into an unfruitful fantasy. But his thoughts, much like his powers, weren’t listening to him. He curled into the fetal position as an emotion so sweetly bitter wracked his body, rendering him hollow yet bursting at the seams. He needed release, yet he wasn’t full enough, a contradiction to say the least.

He blamed it on the wings, yes, exactly right! It was those damned wings, with their oily aphrodisiac that made a mockery of his senses.

It’d be easier if he couldn’t smell—or taste—them.

Connor looked up, staring at the spell books in his small library. There must be something, right?

He rushed to them, spending the better part of the evening flipping through each page, detailing each instance where ‘senses’ were involved. Soon enough he’d amalgamated enough information to create a workable spell, one that wouldn’t drain his already low power supply.

It’d been a simple enchantment, but it worked immediately, dulling his world by a fraction. Now he had to wait, to note the difference when he was around Hank.

(He’d ignore the way his heart skipped just thinking his name.)

Connor didn’t have to wait long, to test it. Hank appeared a few moments after he’d sat down to watch the game, their nightly ritual as of late. The angel looked grey around the edges and stank of Heaven. Metaphorically, of course—Connor couldn’t smell anything. The lieutenant dropped into his spot on the couch, groaning as he let his wings fan out and relax, feeling as they ached from overuse.

“You’ve looked better,” Connor teased, eyeing one of the feathers as it brushed his arm. So far so good.

“Har, har,” Hank grumbled, retrieving a beer simply by thinking about it. He was too tired to do anything else. “I’d say the same to you, but I don’t wanna’ hurt your feelings,” he said, speaking around the rim of his bottle.

Connor was unsure how to react, both self-conscious and tickled enough to chuckle. He settled for a half-hearted smile, falling in the middle as he’d grown accustomed to doing.

“They haven’t gotten suspicious yet, have they?” the demon asked, always on edge when it came to matters from above.

Hank raised a brow, growing impatient of the question. Connor seemed to find new ways of asking the same damned thing each time he returned from his duties. And each time it was the same shit. “The ones who know don’t care, and the ones that matter don’t know,” Hank grumbled, sucking harder at his bottle, “so stop worrying.”

Connor looked stricken, his face falling into a pitiful expression, forcing an apology into the lieutenant’s throat. He nearly said it too, had it not been for the stubbornness of his tongue.

“One of us has to,” Connor said, crossing his arms and returning to the television, warring with his lips and they willed themselves into a pout.

“What for?” Hank huffed, “s’not like we’re doing anything illegal, we’re just sitting here, talking and watching television. What’s so fucking wrong about that?” Frustration may not cover the extent of Hank’s emotions, but it was a start. He packed away his wings, standing up to leave. Sumo disagreed with the decision, whining his dissent. Hank cursed at himself, looking like he’d explode if he said anything else.

“You can go if you want,” Connor said, his heart tearing from his chest, “you don’t have to stay.”

“Are you saying that because you want me to leave, or because you can’t stand me to stay?”

“Aren’t they the same thing?” Connor asked, realizing that no matter what he did he wouldn’t get Hank out of his mind. He could erase every part of himself that made him who he was, and his body would find a way to remind him.

“Connor, I can’t—” Hank cut himself off, shaking his head and blinking out of existence in the next moment.

He knew this day would come, the one where Hank would grow tired of their little game and leave, no warning, no preamble, just gone. Connor wasn’t shocked by that, no, he was, however, woefully unprepared to handle it.

Without his powers, he was hopeless to even begin looking for the angel. But why should he? He’d been the one to impose these rules, these mixed signals. If he didn’t like it, that was his fault, not Hank’s.

He’d said he’d never lied to the angel, and he hadn’t, but misrepresenting the truth wasn’t helping his case either. He couldn’t have it both ways—wanting Hank and shunning him—it was a recipe for disaster whichever way he spun it.

How did others do it? How did they disregard the rules and follow their wayward hearts?

How had he done it?

Connor didn’t ponder his Fall often, in fact, he tried to remove himself from his mistake many times. In the early days of his servitude, Amanda would remind him how it wasn’t fair, how what happened to him was a disgrace, make him hate his Creator but also long for home.

He’d been trying to save a deviating angel, despite all orders instructing him to do otherwise. He believed he could do it, rescue both the fledgling he’d held hostage and him. Daniel had been his name, a blond with sky-blue eyes. Connor recalled how they’d looked at him as he lied to his face, promised him things that would never come to pass.

It’d been the first time he’d seen archangels kill one of their kind, they’d said he was past redemption, past a Fall. Connor had only seen such cruelty with Amanda—he wondered if it was part of their design. 

‘For disobeying orders,’ God had said, as he wrote his name in the Fallen list, sealing his fate for eternity. He’d never been offered a chance to defend himself nor an ounce of grace. But it was better than death, he’d rationalized.  

Yet here was Connor, showing Hank the mercy he was never given, suffocating him with it. Ironic wasn’t even the beginning of it.

Maybe he was compensating.

It took many hours of research and trial and error, but Amanda had fashioned a chain strong enough to control a raging Hellhound. She’d tested it, just to be sure. If nothing else, it would give her enough time to kill the creature. A shame, for sure, but she’d done worse for less.

With the aid of her blind servants, she removed the Connor-clone from the enclosure, clasping the collar around his neck and waiting. It was a brutal few seconds of holding her breath and praying—yes, she was aware of the irony—before anything happened.

It wasn’t the floodgates of Armageddon, but she startled when the creature opened its eyes, a blinding beam of light escaping from them.

There was a high-pitched wail, strong enough to shake the foundation of the room. Amanda closed her eyes as the demons covered their ears, listening for anything specific within the sound. There was only pain and the stark realization that one was in Hell. She couldn’t help the curl of her lip, pleased to know the creature wasn’t immune.

“Quite an unfortunate fate,” Amanda empathized, petting his wet hair. He had no halo, a decision she was sure wasn’t an oversight. Pesky little things those disks had been.

“Let it out,” she encouraged, drinking in his pain, his suffering, every distraught noise like music to her ears.

He coughed and sobbed, removing the fluid from his lungs. Oddly enough, this reminded her of birth, the screaming, the blood, the tears, mysterious fluids. Did that make her his mother, did she want that association?

“Do you have a name?” Amanda asked after the worst of his outbursts had calmed. He looked up, naked and frightened, his bright eyes calming to a brown. He looked like a polished stone, pure and devoid of imperfections. Amanda wanted to drop him from a high place.

He tried to mouth an answer, but his throat was sore. He focused on her face as he massaged his throat, looking through her, past her blackened eyes and into her non-existent soul. He seemed to be searching for searching, probably her name, her title, the things angels did when they met something new. “Batya.”

“I beg your pardon?” Amanda recoiled at the name, not having heard it for many, many, years.

“That is your name.”

“I asked for your name, you foul creature,” she hissed, tightening the bond around his throat, rendering him speechless, “and my name is Amanda, Ruler of Hell—you will address me as such.” He clutched at his neck, his panicked eyes flew around her, begging her to let go.

She released him, but only after his skin turned blue.

“Do you have a name or not?” she asked, watching with disgust as he coughed out a lung. Maybe she’d overestimated his strength, he could be the same angel with a new coat of paint.

“Kieran,” he croaked, his eyes burning with tears, “my name is Kieran.”

“I’m surprised you have a name, being the prototype that you are,” she said, watching as her Words bounced off the creature’s skin. It took her aback, a startling feeling flowing through her veins at the realization. Had she lost her powers, or was this thing protected from her venom?

“You, come here,” she ordered, pointing to one of her blind guards. Instinctively, they knew who’d she’d been referring to, approaching her with the haste of someone with a fire under their ass. “You’re worthless,” she whispered, watching the Words print themselves across the demon’s cheek.

“Yes ma’am,” it replied, nodding.

Amanda gave a small sigh, relieved to know that her powers were intact, but disturbed to find they didn’t work on her new plaything. No bother, if he followed commands, her insults would have to be of the mentally scarring type.

Connor lasted five days in the loneliness of his home. He’d promised himself to let Hank go, to accept that he’d pushed the angel to his limits and live with the consequences. But everything in his home had been coated with a touch that was undeniably his. Even Sumo noticed, waiting by the door, or the foot of the couch, keening and whining when the day turned to night and Hank hadn’t returned.

The demon promised himself he was only looking to make sure Hank was safe, to know that he hadn’t gotten himself killed in his anger and haste to leave. These were troubling times they were living in, there was nothing wrong with looking out for one’s fellow man.

At least that’s what Connor kept repeating to himself as he donned an oversized coat and shoved his feet in his shoes, taking the long road since his powers have yet to return to him.

Hank buried his sorrow in a bottle of glorified water, watching as the human named ‘Jimmy’ eyed him with concern. The angel ignored it, asking for another when he finished the first.

It wasn’t Hell’s Finest, but it was a pacifier, something to soothe him in his time of stress. He had no place to run anymore, no one with whom to confide. If he told Gavin even a crumb of what he’d been going through, he’d find himself on the receiving end of a bitchy stare and a million hypocritical remarks. No one from above could even know what he’d been up to, and his only other friend was the source of his problems.

So, it was easier to water his sorrows.

“What’s a handsome little devil like you doing here all alone?” Oh no, he wasn’t falling for that again. Last time he got carried away with a pretty face he was enslaved.

“Not interested, buddy, keep walking,” Hank grumbled, not paying the other any mind.

“So mean,” he replied, doing the complete opposite of what he’d been told, “I wonder who put that sour look on your face.”

“Why does it have to be a person?” Hank said, annoyed by the person’s assumptions, regardless of their accuracy.

“It couldn’t possibly be the game, we’re winning,” the man pointed out, referring to Detroit’s home team, “unless, you’re rooting for the other side.”

“Sometimes I think I am,” Hank mumbled, accepting the third bottle from Jimmy.

“Blasphemous,” the human joked, earning a self-deprecating chuckle from the lieutenant. “Now that we’ve broken the ice, could I get your name?”

The man was bold, he’d give him that. “Hank,” he answered, tossing him a bone.

“Pleasure to meet you, Hank, I’m Adam,” the human said, holding out his hand for a shake.

“I knew an Adam once,” Hank said, unable to contain himself. He shook the man’s hand, taking a moment to look at him. He had soft auburn curls, framing his face like a halo. His skin was a light brown, blending nicely with the warm bar lights. His hazel eyes held a bit of green to them, an interesting imperfection. 

“Oh yeah? In what context?” Adam asked, intrigued.

“Nothing personal,” Hank said, unsure why he was reassuring the man, “one of my Father’s many sons, naïve, disobedient, stupid at times.”

“Sounds like a riot,” Adam said, his pride taking a hit, “hopefully you’ll have a better impression of me.”

“We’ll see.”

“So, who’s the lucky guy, gal, or non-binary pal to break your heart this evening?” Moving swiftly on, I see.

“You just threw everything out there, didn’t you?” Hank said, stuck between amusement and annoyance. There was a charm to humans that angels lacked, and demons had misused. It may be why they’d been God’s favourite creatures—to an extent.

“Everything but the kitchen sink, gotta’ cast a wide net, you know,” Adam said, laughing at himself, as he waited for an answer.

“Never really had a preference before him,” Hank said, the most honest he’d been to anyone in quite some time, “didn’t even know I had a type.”

“Late bloomer,” Adam said, nodding, “I feel that.”

“I guess,” Hank mumbled, paying for his drinks. “So, what do you want?”

“What?” Adam visibly short-circuited, not prepared for the question.

“You came up to me, stayed when I told you to go. Obviously, you want something, so what is it?”

“That’s quite forward, I wasn’t expecting, I mean after everything,” Adam was losing his cool, his confidence vanishing into thin air. “W-what do you want?”

“You wouldn’t be able to give it to me even if you wanted to, so let’s settle for number two, I’d like you to leave me alone, but if you’re gonna’ stick around, I gotta’ know what’s going on.”

“Sure, yeah, understandable,” Adam agreed, his voice pitched higher. He cleared his throat, paying for his tab. “My car’s just out there, we could—”

“Let’s go.”

Hank pulled the stranger by the hand, ignoring the many looks on the patrons’ faces. It was his business what he did, the only one who could judge him was AWOL, so might as well throw caution to the wind and deal with the consequences later.

At least, he would have tried to deal with the consequences had caution not come back and slap him in the face.



They’d bumped into each other as the lieutenant exited the bar. It’d been a hard thud, dislodging Hank from his soon-to-be-forgotten companion and forcing him to correct them from falling.

“What are you doing here?” the lieutenant accused, feeling a foreign heat creep up his face.

“I was searching for you,” Connor revealed, dropping his eyes to Adam, a disgusting coil of jealousy running through his system. “I was lucky to find you at the fifth bar.”

“Why didn’t you just come here first?” Hank asked, “it’s where we met, isn’t it?” If it sounded like a hurtful accusation, then good.

“I can’t just go places, Hank, I’m not ready yet,” Connor reminded, miming a portal-opening motion with his hands.

“You must be reason number one,” Adam said, piping up from behind Hank. Honestly, he couldn’t blame the man, this Connor fella’ was beauty in a bottle. Almost too perfect, as if God had looked at him and said ‘yeah, just deck him out.’

“What?” the demon asked, unsure what he’d missed.

“Ignore him,” Hank rushed, his blush spreading to his entire face, “just go, Connor, you don’t wanna’ do anything, I’m not gonna’ force you to do anything. So, let’s just leave it as it is. Less messy that way.”

“Can’t we at least talk?” Connor said, feeling as desperate as he sounded.

“We did talk,” Hank reminded, “we flew all the way to Iceland just to talk.”

Adam looked surprised, unsure if that meant Hank was swimming in dollar signs or he’d been impulsive.

“Look, that came out wrong,” Hank sighed, rubbing a hand down his face, “I didn’t do it expecting anything in return, but Connor, you’re killing me.”

“I know.” And Connor did know, he’d spent the better part of the last few weeks doing the same to himself. “I just don’t want to damn you, Hank.”

“I’ve already damned myself, and if it isn’t you then it’s something else,” Hank promised, “the only thing holding us back is your enviable yet infuriating obedience to the law. One, by the way, that everyone else is breaking.”

“So, if your friends fell off a bridge, would you follow suit?”

“Connor.” That growl was a warning.

“Sorry, I really am,” the demon said, looking so forlorn, his emotions splintering and seeping through the cracks of his defence.

“Then don’t be sorry,” Hank said, taking the liberty to hold Connor’s shoulders and bring him closer, “I won’t hate you for what happens, I promise.”

The demon looked to the angel’s halo, concealed from the human’s gaze. If not for nothing, at least Hank believed what he said.

“I want more than a promise, Hank,” Connor said, his tone demanding, juxtaposing the way he melted into the angel’s chest.

“What do you want?” Hank asked, feeling Connor’s compliance beneath his fingertips, inside his heart, where it clenched and trembled.

“I want everything,” the demon answered. From anyone else, that would’ve sounded greedy, entitled even. But from Connor…

“That’s all I have to give,” Hank said, restraining himself only because they were under the scrutiny of a stranger.

“And some apples, enough to bake another pie,” Connor amended, making the lieutenant chuckle.

“I’ll get those as soon as possible,” Hank swore, wrapping his arms around the demon’s waist and heaving him into his arms, “anything else?”

“Take me home?”

“Right away.” He almost teleported away, but a bright red warning sign crossed his line of sight as he remembered the human. He turned to look at Adam, who’d gone through many stages of rejection and finally settled on acceptance. Hank debated whether he should erase the human’s memory or not. Highly unethical as it were, it was better to never have the ‘what might have been’ bouncing around his skull every night. Humans had it hard enough with their own kind.

“Alright, where were we?”

“Oh, I pray unto thee, Archangel Elijah, for I am but a humble servant, and I supplicate for your mercy and guidance.” Kieran danced an intricate pattern with his limbs and wings, his body half-submerged into the river, the moon above bouncing off his golden feathers. He was under Amanda’s control, none of this was voluntary—he didn’t even know who Elijah was!

But she needed him to summon the archangel and he couldn’t refuse, not without punishment.

So, he danced, raking the water with his fingers as his mouth formed words foreign to his ears. Amanda had said the archangel was vain, so he played into that as best as he could, signing praises and things that wouldn’t be missed by an attentive angel, not to mention an archangel.

There was no guarantee Elijah would fall for the trap if he were smart, he wouldn’t.

Amanda stood by the edge of the forest, masking her scent as she waited, preparing to light the secret sigil she’d carved into the floor.

Kieran did a delicate spin, his wings covering him like a cocoon, slowly unwrapping as he closed his eyes. It was the end of his summoning dance, and soon he’d have to start another. Humbling and humiliating himself for the revenge of another.

The angel felt his presence before he saw him, it was hard to miss the power in his beating wings, or the ridiculous amount of pride pouring out of his core. Just by his nature alone, the angel was repulsed. He had to bury that emotion quick, though, turning to face the archangel and opening his eyes, bowing his head as a sign of respect and subordination.

“Please, none of that,” Elijah said, though he let it linger for a bit more, his eyes roaming over this beautiful creature with the familiar face. His pale skin luminescent in the bright moon. There wasn’t an ounce of sin in this being, and frankly, that was a breath of fresh air.

“I couldn’t help but noticed your call—quite insistent.” Elijah stepped around Kieran, using a finger to touch a feather, curious to note if it’d feel cold like metal or warm like the sun. The archangel was pleased to find it was the latter. “I feared you may have been in danger, but you seem to be alone. Is everything okay?”

The invisible chain around Kieran’s throat tightened, preventing him from telling the truth even if he wanted to. “Everything is fine, I may have been praying too loud,” Kieran said, feigning embarrassment, “I apologize.”

“That was more than a prayer,” Elijah purred, looking like he’d undress the angel if he wasn’t already nude. “You summoned me—the archangel stepped closer, his blue eyes bubbling with doubt—I’ve never heard a voice like yours before.”

Kieran noted how Elijah held his hand from touching him, kept them hovering over his skin as his fingers flexed from indecision. For the few moments he’d been awake he’d only felt the sins of the archdemoness and her servants. It’d be nice to have something to compare them to.

Angelic sins must be different from demonic ones, at least Kieran figured as much.

Elijah’s eyes widened as this unknown angel took his hand and led it to his face, burying his cheek in his palm. Their eyes met, and something hot flashed between them, it took Elijah a moment to realize it wasn’t simply a feeling, but rather the ring of fire surrounding them.

The archangel looked to the howling laughter coming from the woods, a hysterical thing belonging to his former mentor. He returned his betrayed gaze to the angel, surprise turning into anger, as he yanked his hair, exposing his neck. Kieran looked frightened, feeling his breath catch in his throat.

“Jezebel,” Elijah snarled, letting the angel go.

“I’m sorry,” Kieran managed to say before his speech was taken from him and he was pulled to demoness’ side.

“Amanda, why am I not surprised?” Elijah said, his icy eyes reflecting the holy fire burning around them.

“I’ve told you before that your pride would be your downfall,” she reminded, rubbing it in, “and I worked so hard to train it out of you.”

“Your training was ineffective, seeing as you can’t even control yourself,” Elijah spat, smirking, “revenge is such a human thing to do, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Shut up,” Amanda ordered, making a zipping motion, “until your death, you will do as I say. And if you don’t now, you will when I’ve destroyed everything but your gross motor functions.”

“Was that meant to frighten me?” Elijah asked, looking bored, “if so, then you’ve severely underestimated me. Like you always have.”

“Now who’s acting human,” Amanda tsk’d, shaking her head. “Even an idiot could’ve seen this was a trap. Everything comes with a price, Elijah, especially pretty and shiny things.”

Amanda walked over the circle of flames, unperturbed by them. She secured a collar around the archangel, specifically designed for him. It even had his name engraved on the inside.

Elijah caught her wrist before she pulled away, crushing it hard enough to break bone, looking deeply into her blacked-out eyes, burning his gaze into her.

“When I’m done with you, there will be nothing left, not even God could revive your atoms.” He’d whispered it, said it an almost friendly manner. He had the confidence of a man who knew he’d end up winning in the end.

Kieran looked between these two powerful beings, finding he was only afraid of one, and it wasn’t the one with the unsightly tattoo across their forehead.

“I will rejoice the day you shed for final skin, Elijah,” Amanda said, her smile manic, “the day you kill me, you will be complete.”

The archangel let her go, turning his hatred to Kieran. It dulled a fraction when he saw the chains, saw they were in the same boat. It didn’t make the archangel any happier, but at least he could empathize.

Chapter Text

“Hello, darling.”

Gavin furrowed his brow, unsure to whom the human thought he was speaking. He finished preparing his coffee, barely ready to tackle the day as it were. He’d traded his electronic cigarettes for a new vice: caffeine. He wasn’t sure if it was the human visage or the psychological dependence for a stimulant, but Gavin couldn’t function without at least one cup a day.

“Hello?” He would entertain the human, but only for a moment.

“Dare I say, you look lovely today,” Cillian said, turning up the charm to eleven.

“Thank you,” Gavin replied, looking down at his navy-blue uniform and snorting. Hey, whatever gets you going.

“You sound unsure,” Cillian noted.

“Not used to compliments,” Gavin admitted, taking a sip from his mug, “not common where I’m from.” His body was reanimating, the warmth of his drink travelling fast through his system. He was more in tune with himself, which as it turns out, might not be a good thing.

“Which is where, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Hell.” Cillian’s eyes widened a fraction, watching as Gavin smirked into his mug, obviously taking the piss. “Sorry, not actual Hell,” the creature chuckled, his eyes playful, “just the one in Michigan.”

Cillian laughed, a strained sound that bordered more on a grimace. He got out of the officer’s way, his heart irregular as it beat in his chest. There were only two possibilities for these coincidences. Either Gavin knew that he knew he was a demon, or he was fucking with him. Cillian was more inclined to believe the former.

Ace walked into the breakroom, nearly turning on his heel to avoid interacting with the bothersome human. Unfortunately, luck never seemed to be on his side, and Cillian spotted him, waving him over with a troubled smile.  

“Morning, Detective.”

“Morning,” Ace returned, forcing himself not to rush as he made his coffee.

“I wish to talk to you about your partner, eh, Gavin,” Cillian said, cutting to the chase, “in private if you don’t mind.”

Ace stiffened, his jaw clenching. “Has he done something wrong?”

“See, that’s the thing,” Cillian began, scanning the room for any prying ears, “he might.”

Ace couldn’t deny the possibility, but he wasn’t about to admit that. He feigned a concerned look, turning his full attention to the human.


Cillian ran a hand through his greying hair, torn between revealing what he knew and protecting himself and his profession. Say he’s wrong—that he’d woefully misread the situation and he killed an innocent man—then telling Ace would incriminate him, and he’d spend the rest of his life in jail for premeditated murder.

He looked at his compass again, watched it spin and land on Ace, then move to the right as it followed the creature. He was sure he was dealing with something powerful, stronger than anything he’d faced before. Telling the detective might keep him from danger.

The demon raised a brow at the Compass of Marcel, a useful (but not very sensitive) device that pointed to supernatural entities. Ace—due to his paranoia—had tattooed a cloaking sigil into his ribcage. It’d been painful and a ridiculous extreme, but it secured him from would-be do-gooders like Cillian.

He restrained a sigh, looking over his shoulder as he the object of their conversation returned to the breakroom. “We have an assignment,” Gavin informed, “I’ll be in the car.”

Ace watched him go, returning a comforting look to the human. “If you’re having any difficulties with the new recruit, take it up with HR, otherwise, it might just be a misunderstanding.” Hopefully, his words would suffice.

“Detective, wait,” Cillian said, digging through his pockets to remove a crucifix necklace, placing it in Ace’s unwilling hands. “Please keep this near you, at least until I’ve had a chance to explain.”

The demon nearly hissed, enduring the sting of the sanctified object. He didn’t deny the gift, but he discarded it as soon as he was out of sight, shaking his arm to dissipate the jolts. He entered his car, a scowl settling on his face as he started the engine.

“Where are we going?” Ace asked, focusing first on the mission. Any misgivings he had about Gavin’s behaviour could be discussed on the way. He punched the address into the computer, letting the vehicle take over the drive.

Ace gave Gavin a hard stare, upset that he couldn’t flick his halo for inadvertently putting him through the crossfire.

“What?” the angel asked, lifting his eyes from his nails.

“He gave me a crucifix.”

Gavin snorted.

“Said he needed to tell me something important.”

The officer’s chuckle was met with disappointment, Ace’s brows forming one long and vexed line. “It’s not funny. You need to do something about it.”

“You have to admit it’s a little funny,” Gavin returned, pinching his fingers, “if only he would look a smidge to the right.” He chortled again, holding his stomach.

“It’s one thing if you compromise yourself, it’s another thing entirely when you get me involved.” Ace ran a hand down his face, sucking air through his teeth. “Can’t you erase his memory or something?”

“Can’t just do that willy-nilly, Ace, that’d be playing God,” Gavin reminded, pointing his fingers to the sky, “besides, if I erased his memory of me, then I’d have to reconstruct his whole identity, then, I’d have to do the same for all who know him, and that tends to get messy.”

“Then do something to get him off your trail. I didn’t invite you to join the precinct to cause mischief.” Ace’s frustration soured Gavin’s mood, leading his smile to wilt and die. They shared nothing else during the car ride, even the angel’s customary quips were left on pause.

He wouldn’t admit it, but Gavin gave much thought to Ace’s concerns. He found himself creating catastrophic consequences for his actions. If he had to be honest, he felt bad. (He’ll blame his human body for this newfound remorse.)

With gritted teeth, he forced himself to comply, to blend into the background, to make himself realistically invisible in this Earthly realm. But his behaviour hadn’t stopped the nuisance from interfering with his daily activities. Cillian often cornered him in the break room, offering all manners of pastries and drinks. Gavin was sure this violated some form of harassment laws, but he took them in the essence of keeping up pretenses, all the while feigning pleasure from such attentions.

It was his mess, he had to fix it.

Besides, the human’s ineptitude often worked in his favour. Holy Water Coffee? An energy boost. Cupcakes with covert icing crosses? Cleansed him from immediate sins. Blessings before each mission? Okay, that one was just annoying.

There was also an unspoken bonus: Ace’s growing jealousy. Of course, the demon would never admit how he was feeling, not after being the victim of Gavin’s cutting ridicule. But the angel could feel it, under his skin, when their eyes met, whenever he accepted the gifts. It almost made it all worth it.

Nevertheless, Gavin was starting to grow tired of this game. The human would have to give up eventually, how tenacious could he be?

“Officer Reed?” Gavin looked up at the sound of his name, forcing his face to remain impassive, pleasant even. No good would it do him to roll his eyes and sigh. He waited for the human to continue, watching as he cleared his throat and wrung his hands, doing a good job at pretending to stall. “I… never mind.”

Alright. He’ll bite.

“Can’t just leave a guy hanging,” Gavin said, injecting his tone with enough flirtatious intrigue that it’d catch anyone’s attention. And catch it did, as he sensed Ace look up from his monitor. “What’s on your mind?” Gavin asked, tossing in a small smile. The response was immediate, he could see Cillian swallow, hear his heart skip a few beats. No façade now. He cranked up his angelic allure to 11, giving the irritating human a run for his money.

“I—Cillian cleared his throat, trying to remember why exactly he was blushing over the spawn of Satan. He’d chalk it up to demonic seduction, the books always warned him about that—I simply wondered if you’d humour me by accepting my invitation to dinner. Before you decline, I know I should’ve waited until after work, but you always seem to disappear when I need you.”

Gavin pretended to think it over, twirling his chair, sly as he winked at Ace, stringing both men along. “Is that why you gave me all those sweet things, to butter me up?” the angel teased, batting his lashes.

“You caught me,” Cillian replied with a worried chuckle, holding up his hands in mock surrender. “So, what do you say?”

Gavin hit him with a 1000-Watt smile, blinding every microorganism in the immediate area. “I’d be more than happy to.”

Ace made a sound of disbelief whilst Cillian gaped, resetting his features to broadcast a relieved expression. Gavin vibrated with giddy energy, feeling like a fisherman in an aquarium.

“Er, great,” Cillian said, rubbing his neck. He hadn’t expected such compliance, not so soon, anyway. “We’re both off tomorrow, so, how does dinner at 8 sound?”


Ace could’ve died right then.

“Great,” the human repeated, presenting Gavin with his phone number, and retreating to his desk, trying in vain to dampen his hammering heart.

The angel giggled when he caught Ace’s exasperation, sticking out his tongue to rub acid in the wound. “What,” he cooed, fake sympathy in his tone, “jealous?”

Nope. Nope! Gavin was not gonna’ get the better of him. No siree.

Ace couldn’t deny, however, when the sprinkler system activated after a well-placed fire began on Cillian’s desk, that some of it (a small fraction, honestly) wasn’t his doing.

“If it’s any consolation, I’d rather go out with you,” Gavin shouted over the shrill alarm, his lips curled into a wide grin.

Well, what was the demon supposed to do with that information?

“I don’t have anything to wear,” Gavin bemoaned, flipping through an invisible wardrove in his mind. He rested on the couch with his wings sprawled, waiting for the seconds to tick by. His date was still many minutes away, but it was never too early to prepare (or bother the Hell out of one incensed demon).

“You’re an angel,” Ace retorted, his voice flat like a dead fish, “make yourself something.” He tried to keep his fingers from digging into the leather of his tome, to preserve what little dignity he had left, but the flex of his knuckles gave him away.

In this unseen battle of wills, Gavin was now leading by a mile. And he made sure Ace knew it.

“But where’s the fun in that?” the angel asked, sighing as he retrieved a catalogue from the bowels of the universe. “This seems nice,” he hummed, flipping through the pages, “and this one.”

“Can’t you do that elsewhere?” Ace snapped, feeling his blood pump into his skull at an uncomfortable rate.

“I could,” Gavin began, blinking out of existence and reappearing to whisper in the demon’s ear, “but where’s the fun in that?” He gave him a small peck on the temple, smoothing out the popped vein.

“Stop,” Ace commanded, hating how it sounded like a beg.

“I was already done,” Gavin reassured, patting the demon’s hair, letting his fingers run through the loose curls, feel the bumps of his miniature horns. “Promise.”

Ace stood, determined to escape the onslaught of delightful shivers running down his spine. But it was fruitless. Gavin was everywhere, omnipresent, in a way God hadn’t been for a while. There was only one way to fight this, and it was to run. He didn’t wait to hear Gavin’s discontented sigh—something might’ve broken in him if he had.

The angel looked at the empty room with guilt fermenting in his stomach. How many times would he drive the demon out of his own home?

But it was just a game, right? Gavin pushed, then Ace pushed back, over and over, until they lost track of who’d pushed the hardest. It was never meant to mean anything, in fact, it should’ve solidified how incompatible they were, but no matter how often they transgressed against each other, they came back. Gavin could’ve fucked off to the corner of some remote village in the opposite end of the world. Yet here was, angering himself in the demon’s living room. And would you look at that, no demon in sight.

Goddammit, but also, Goddammit.

His internal clock beeped sometime later, he thought about disregarding it, calling off the entire charade. It wasn’t fun anymore, now that his partner wasn’t here to suffer for it.

(God, when you put it like that, it really does sound bad.)

Gavin dressed for the occasion, going as far as styling his hair and wearing cologne. If for nothing else, he was going to try and abate the human’s itchy trigger-finger.

He waited by the door of their agreed-upon restaurant, watching the patrons enter and leave, some with sorrow in their souls, others with lust. Humans had always been simple creatures to him, driven by things like emotions and sins. It wasn’t until he was in their uncomfortable shoes that he understood. He hated being introspective, it unearthed things about himself he’d kept buried on purpose. But it didn’t hurt.

“Gavin?” Oh, sweet peace, your absence is surely noticed. “I almost didn’t recognize you without your uniform.” Gavin turned to smile, though his heart wasn’t in it.

“Same to you, Cillian.”

If the human noticed a difference, he didn’t say.

They walked into the restaurant, a high-class Japanese establishment, where the waiters juxtaposed the expected image, but what they lacked in genes they made up in charisma.

Gavin picked up his menu without much thought, choosing an entre at random, looking over the rim as the human struggled to pronounce the English translations. They had a moment of solitude as the waitress grabbed their drinks, in which Cillian complimented the décor and Gavin agreed.

The angel would rather rip out his own wings than subject himself to meaningless chit-chat, but as it were, he couldn’t approach the subject of his demon-hood directly, at least not with such a high probability of being interrupted.

So, he waited, sipped his water, and let the human fill the air with his own voice. Gavin figured he’d like that.

“Do you have any hobbies outside of work?” Cillian asked, curiosity garnishing his character.

“I read, sometimes I draw,” the angel replied, “and you?” he returned, even though he couldn’t care less.

“I hunt, mainly.”

“Hunt what, deer and squirrels? Long pig?” Gavin asked, half-joking.

“Not quite.”

“A man of mystery,” Gavin said, simulating praise, “interesting.”

Cillian bowed his head, taking it as a compliment. They exchanged a few looks as they waited for their food, studying each other and discovering than apart from work, and Cillian’s misguided investigation, they had nothing in common.

It was a relief when their waitress arrived, looking green around the edges but playing it off well. “This looks exquisite,” Cillian said, his eyes roaming around his plate, appreciating the gorgeous sushi-art. Gavin hummed, poking his own with the tip of a chopstick. “Before we begin, I hope you don’t mind that I say grace.”

“No, not at all,” the angel reassured, a burst of annoyance flitting through his thoughts. He looked unamused as the human cleared his throat, clasping his hands in supplication to a God who wouldn't listen and began his prayer. Latin, an odd choice, but not an unheard one. With a wry smile, Gavin noted the bits about ridding them of nearby evils and protecting their souls.



Gavin got a tingle of satisfaction watching Cillian’s eye twitch with frustration. It didn’t last long, as a distant shriek tugged at their attention. Well, if the angel had any doubts about the usefulness of the prayer, they’d been effectively snuffed. 

They continued their dinner, the air tense between them. It wasn’t the familiar feeling he’d grown accustomed having with Ace. It was new and irritating, much like the human. “Catholic?” Gavin asked between a bite.

Cillian took a moment to respond, unsure where the creature was going with this. “I don’t subscribe to a particular denomination, but my family is traditionally Catholic.”

“I just figured with the Latin,” Gavin waived a hand in the air, motioning to the birds he supposed.

“Ah, yes, you noticed,” Cillian’s cheeks coloured a fraction, his collar a bit too tight. “Do you speak it, by any chance?”

“It’s not really spoken much, is it?” Gavin teased, “but I do understand it if that’s what you meant to ask.”

Cillian chuckled, forcing himself to chew his food. Gavin retained a level of eye contact too intense to uphold. So, the human found himself breaking it, kicking himself for cowering like an idiot.

“I know what you’ve been doing,” Gavin began, “it’s pretty obvious with the Holy Water, the sanctified cupcakes, hell, even the demon-banishing spell. Which, by the way, I think you might have exorcised our waitress.” Cillian looked spooked, but Gavin had to give him credit for not bolting. Or maybe it was just their human nature, to observe the morbidity of their own demise.

The angel sighed, shaking his head in disbelief. “I’m not a demon, far from it, and I’d appreciate it if you’d stop trying to assassinate me.”

The human swallowed his entire tongue, regurgitating just enough to ask, “If you’re not a demon, what are you?”

“Can’t you tell?” Gavin mocked, raising a brow, “I’m a genie. I come out of nowhere, wreak a bit of havoc, then leave. Or in my case, stay an indefinite amount of time.”

“Wait, genie? Aren’t you supposed to grant wishes or something?” Cillian asked, looking like he’d self-destruct if he thought any harder.

“What makes you think I’m not?”

“Then whose genie are you?” the human asked, skeptical about the whole ordeal. In his entire career, he’d only ever battled one supernatural entity. Not for the lack of trying, mind you. He’d been to these so-called ‘haunted hotspots’ and found not a single trace of ghosts, poltergeists, or clowns hiding in the sewers.

Being told he was wrong was a hard pill to swallow.

“That’s confidential,” Gavin admitted, shrugging his shoulders.

“Then why are you even telling me all of this?”

“Because I want you to leave me alone, it was funny at first but now it’s interfering with my work. I’m sure you can appreciate how frustrating that is,” Gavin said, pinning the human with a heavy stare.

Cillian pinched the bridge of his nose, fishing through his pockets for his compass. It never wavered as it pointed at Gavin.

“I can see you don’t believe me,” the entity murmured, “I guess I’ll have to prove it. I’ll grant you one wish, what do you want?”

Cillian startled, regarding the genie with a troubled stare. “Just like that? Aren’t there rules you have to follow?”

“I can’t make you God or anything, but most of us don’t care what you do with your wishes, they’re mostly vain anyway,” Gavin mumbled, leaning on his palm as the human made up his mind. He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t a bit curious about what he’d choose.

“I—” Cillian was overwhelmed, the task of wishing for his deepest desires too much, and he collapsed, face first in his last piece of sushi.

Gavin’s laughter came as a surprise, he had to clamp both hands over his mouth to keep quiet. Well, it’d been unexpected, but it was a better outcome than giving him the ability to fly or making him wealthy. Maybe the solution to his problem was better camouflage.

A few minutes—and a few reality-altering changes—later, Cillian was awake and far more energetic than before. He had a softness to his eyes, a relaxed demeanour, and he carried a conversation naturally. It was pleasant.

“Gavin, I must admit, I worried when you accepted my invitation,” Cillian said as they walked towards the detective’s car.

“How come?” the officer asked, cocking his head.

“I feared you’d pull the rug from beneath my feet, shatter the small happiness I’d found in your acceptance.” Okay, had he gone a bit overboard with the memory shifting?

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Gavin reassured, hoping it resonated as the plea it’d been. When it rained, it poured, as evidenced by the lust circulating the human’s soul. How was he meant to know Cillian had feelings for him?

“I pray this night has been as magical for you as it’s been for me,” the detective said, a bit forward when he touched Gavin’s cheek.

Was he leaning closer? Aw shit, he was.

“Is this fine? I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable,” Cillian said, catching himself. He’d figured they’d had a mutual connection, sharing as they had over the past few weeks. Gavin was such an interesting character, with his many stories about the FBI and his brothers. It was almost like he knew everything about him.

“Yes, sorry, I’m new to this,” Gavin said, the truest thing he’d said all night.

“Oh? Well, allow me to introduce you.” Cillian closed their distance, pressing his dry lips to Gavin’s. The angel could feel the sins jumping onto his skin, wondered how his brethren had ever allowed themselves to be touched by these creatures. He wasn’t saying he was right, but maybe some of Lucifer’s crazed ramblings had a point.


“There,” Gavin echoed, his smile strained.

“I’ll see you at work,” Cillian promised, either blind or purposefully ignorant of Gavin’s disgust. The angel waited until his car was well outside of view before he shucked his human visage, wiping his mouth as the taste of sin lingered on his tongue.

He leapt into the sky, letting his wings take him wherever they desired. At this point, he’d only have to plant his feet for them to stop. His heart beat irregularly as he recognized the tops of the trees, the enduring power of the sigil they’d created, the warmth and love sewed into each fibre of the forest, the cats—Ace.

Gavin wobbled when he landed, unsteady from the light-headed nature of his flight. Sensing curious eyes on him, he turned, greeted now by a hardened shell, an intelligently crafted fort.

“How was your date?” it asked, the bridge-door shaking as it threatened to open.

“Wonderful.” The halo looked like a living creature heaving a sigh as it tipped sideways. Ace narrowed his eyes but didn’t comment, returning to his book. Gavin didn’t bother fixing it, knowing it’d stay crooked the remainder of his life—or as long as he kept lying to himself.

“We had sushi,” the angel continued, tip-toeing closer, “I even told him I was a genie before he passed out and I had to start all over.”

Ace’s lips quirked—a good sign. “I supposed he won’t be hunting demons anymore.”

“No, he’ll keep hunting them, just not me,” Gavin said, a shudder passing through his core. He brought himself closer, trying to catch the demon’s eyes and failing.

Look at me, please.

“Well, as long as he’s not in our way,” Ace said, flipping a page, “anything else?” He said it to be polite, but even Gavin could see he’d stopped caring minutes into the conversation, how he’d yet to look up.

He’d make him look up.

“We kissed,” Gavin said, letting spite curdle in his mouth and exit with his words, “it was great.” His halo gave up, shutting off as it fell to the ground.

“I’m happy for you.” Look up, dammit!

“I’m not.”


Ace shouldn’t, dammit, he shouldn’t open Pandora’s box. But it was so shiny, gift-wrapped and tied with a bow. “How come?”

Now that Gavin had the demon’s undivided attention, he didn’t know what to do with it. Wringing his hands like he could squeeze an answer out of them, he stood, faced with every doubt he’d had and the solution a few feet away.

“I don’t know,” the angel managed to say, not a lie, but not the truth either.

Ace scoffed, “Of course.”

“I just—” Gavin paused, balling his hands into fists, his wings tense against his spine. “I know the difference now, okay? If you’re garbage, then he’s a landfill, alright, is that what you want me to say?”

“If that was meant to make me feel better, I assure you, it did not.” Ace must’ve learned a new poker face while Gavin was gone because the angel couldn’t read him.

“I’m not good at this!” Gavin cried, his limbs shaking. “I don’t know how to be honest with you without damning myself.”

The demon held his breath, stomping down his immediate need to comfort the angel, just in case it was another of his cruel jokes. Gavin’s tears looked real, but one could never be sure.

“Well, say something,” Gavin implored with a trembling voice.

“You already know how I feel, Gavin, telling you again would be redundant.” Not to mention: painful, embarrassing, the worst thing that’s ever happened to him since the Fall, a nuisance, rarely fulfilling. The list was endless.

“How did you even fall in love with me?” In any other context, it would sound like a ridicule, but Gavin’s squeaky voice and self-deprecating smile was enough to stave off Ace’s defensiveness.

“You were different, a pain in my ass, but different. I’m not sure if it’s love or misplaced emotion, but I can’t deny it’s there.” Ace had no qualms being honest, he’d learned the hard way the consequences of a lie.

“There’s plenty of angels that are different, I just talk the loudest,” Gavin said. His laugh lacked mirth, it was hollow, much like he felt.

“You stayed when Connor set you free, didn’t try to kill him for having Hank, you forced yourself to learn a language you loathed, even helped me fight for my brother’s freedom,” Ace said, counting Gavin’s accomplishments on his fingers, “and here you are, a police officer simply because I suggested it. I can’t name another angel that would do that.”

Gavin’s blush was breathtaking, a beautiful shade of red contrasted gently with his wings. He probably hated its existence, but it brought Ace’s heart to a stand-still.

“What are friends for.” The term seemed out of place, an interloper.

The demon nodded, his heart pumping with a brand-new hole. They were friends, but it was harder to pretend that was all they were.

“I’m sorry your date didn’t go as planned.” At least Ace was being sincere.

“It could’ve been worse.”

“How so?”

“I could’ve gone with you,” Gavin teased, none of the usual fire behind it.

Ace shook his head, returning his eyes to his book. There was no winning with the angel, was there?

Though, in retrospect, he shouldn’t have turned his head so soon.

Gavin was on him in an instant, shucking the hardcover from his hands and tossing it backwards. Before so much as a syllable left Ace’s mouth, he’d covered it with his own, eager and frightened as he pushed forward. 

The demon was forced to compare this kiss with their previous, nearly weeping from the difference. There were no smart quips, no hidden feelings, hell, there was even tongue. What struck him the most, however, was how quickly Gavin adjusted to him, to holding his neck and tugging at his hair, whilst straddling him, his wings draped over them.

Ace was afraid to touch, still fearful this was all a mirage, a trick, and he’d find himself—none the wiser—being the butt of the joke.

“I’m not lying this time,” Gavin whined, barely parting their lips to say it. Ace’s fort had crumbled, revealing how paper-thin it’d been. It granted Gavin access to his deepest emotions, the ones even he didn’t know about. Gavin should have been disgusted—probably still was—but he didn’t care. Found it too easy to let go of the worry as he coiled himself around the demon. Who was leading whom into temptation?

Ace lifted Gavin’s chin, staring deep into his mercurial eyes, how tears lingered in them. He couldn’t help flicking down to his lips, noting how red and glossy they’d turned. Any further inspection would render the demon speechless, so he paused, returning to the angel’s eyes.

“You’re not lying.”

“I’m not lying.”

“And you’re fine with this?”

“I’ve come to terms with it, yes.”

“No more ridiculing?”

“I’ll be kinder about it.”

Of course, Gavin wasn’t gonna’ change for anyone, he was a universal constant. Ace grinned, wide and all-encompassing. Gavin responded in twine, letting himself be kissed, opening his heart to feel.

It was on the right side of overwhelming, he almost asked for more, found the words on the tip of his tongue, and grumbled when they wouldn’t leave. He wasn’t ready.

“Theoretically, we have the rest of our lives to do this,” Ace said, noting the angel’s ire, hearing his complaints and finding them endearing, “no need to rush it in one night.” He chuckled at the angel’s pout, poking it with his finger. Who knew Gavin was a little greedy?

“You’re just saying that to be nice,” the angel retorted with a cross of his arms.

“And if I am?” Ace asked, letting his palms rest on Gavin’s hips, inching towards his dress-shirt, dipping into the curve of his spine until he met the swell of Gavin’s ass, cupping a handful before moving elsewhere. “What if I don’t mean any of it?” Ace’s voice had stumbled into gravel, rough and scratchy as his throat closed.

Gavin shoved past the automatic disgust of his instincts, and instead fixated on the emotion settling in his abdomen, how it barreled its insistence into Ace’s arms. He nearly forgot he’d been asked a question. Couldn’t fathom if it’d been rhetorical or not. He answered anyway, pulling away enough to do so.

“Then show me how you actually feel.” It’d been a breathy response, said with the demeanour of a man who’s focus was elsewhere.

Ace’s eyes flashed red; a worrying omen any other day of the week. He said nothing as he pushed them into the dewy ground, staining the angel’s feathers a light green. He felt Gavin squeeze around him, felt his limbs pull him closer—a human-shaped boa-constrictor. Ace managed to maneuver his fingers beneath Gavin’s shirt, touch his tense abdomen, trace each hardened line. He drank his fill, unable to shake the fear that this may never happen again.

He nearly thanked God for the opportunity.

In retrospect, he was glad he hadn’t, for a shadow had settled over the bleeding moon and the part of him that was attuned to danger began bothering him, starting seconds before Gavin’s pained wail had.

Chapter Text

Not a breath passed between the moment it took Hank to teleport them from the bar to the living room. He tried to minimize the drag it would have on the demon’s body, shielding him with his wings.

Connor was on him in an instant, lapping at his mouth like a dehydrated man, searching and taking as much as Hank was willing to give. As stated earlier, that had been everything.

They clung to each other, ignoring the world around them. For once, neither protested, nor fought, they were unapologetic in their embrace, and that boldness was intoxicating. They fell into the couch, though if it’d been concrete, they wouldn’t have noticed. Their kisses roughened, and afterwards, Hank would note the lacerations on his tongue from Connor’s sharp teeth, but in the meantime, they revelled in their lung capacity, pushing it to its limit. They were tangled into one being, making it difficult to discern who’s hitched breath had made the other’s heart jump, or which groan had elicited a similar response.

It was liberating if they had to be honest.

Unfortunately, the sharp stab into the angel’s skull was not.


Hank pushed himself away, falling face-first into the carpet as he convulsed, twitching as the pain doubled. He heard Connor yell for him, reach towards him and try his best to console him, but Hank was out of reach, mentally climbing the walls of whatever abyss he’d fallen into. The pain tore through him again, this time centred on his forehead, almost like an icepick scrambling his insides.

He would’ve retched if he could.

“Hank?” Connor asked, unsure whether this was his doing or swift punishment for what they’d been doing.

“D-destroy—” Hank shuddered again, his fingers halfway to his pocket. Through his fit, he managed to pull out the tablet, hoping Connor understood him enough to follow through.

“How?” the demon queried, his hands shaking as he took the device, a polished piece of glass. It was glitching with errors, worrying symbols of ‘danger’ populating the screen.

Through considerable effort, Hank unsheathed his angelic blade, letting it roll out of his grip and into the demon’s. Connor nodded, impaling the tablet with a swift thwack, doing it again for good measure.

Hank’s relief was instantaneous, his body slumping as his breathing calmed and the pain in his skull subsided. They remained still for a moment, letting the world return to a normal orientation before they spoke.

“What happened?” Connor asked the first to break the silence. He was stuck between deciding if this had been his fault or a cruel coincidence.

The lieutenant took a deep breath, shaken from the painful assault on his senses. He dragged himself into the couch, motioning for Connor to do the same. Taking the tablet and blade from his hands, he answered, his face falling into a frown. “Someone’s kidnapped an archangel.”

The demon let it sink in, realization coming like a volcanic eruption, shining in his eyes with an unwanted truth. “Amanda?”

“Most likely,” Hank grumbled, rubbing his temples, “all of Heaven must’ve felt that.”

“All of it?” Connor repeated.

“Archangels are powerful beings, we’d know if they’ve stubbed their toes, let alone getting dragged into Hell,” Hank grumbled, looking at his broken tablet. “I have a feeling I know who it is, too.”


Hank’s answering smile was anything but mirthful, an ironic grimace that left a sour taste on both their tongues. He crushed the tablet into nothingness, disconnecting himself from the network. He didn’t want to be hailed, not yet.

“Gavin!” Ace crowed over the seizing angel, trying his best to hold him still as he thrashed on the floor. There was nothing he could do, none of his training—whether angelic or demonic—had prepared him for this. He tried to ignore the sneering voice blaming him for what was happening, mocking his attempts at consolation and care.

Ace was staring into the whites of Gavin’s eyes, noting how the veins of his face pulsed and darkened, climbing until they’d reached his hairline.

“Oh, goddammit,” Ace cursed, shushing the angel as blood trickled from his mouth where he’d bit his tongue. “Please, God, if you’re out there, just make this stop.” Gavin’s limbs locked him in place, his body a plank in the demon’s arms. “Please,” the demon begged, watching as his partner withered away under the stress of his affliction.

Gavin gulped for air, his reddened face turning purple as he searched for a way to breathe. He was drowning in mid-air.

“Fine,” Ace said, clutching his teeth, “I’ll save him myself.”

Almost as if to mock him, the sky above began beating them with rain. It stung, and it took Ace a moment to realize why. Holy Water, it was pouring Holy Water.

Gavin wheezed, coming to himself in a shock. He passed out in the same breath, the ground around him turning to mud the harder it rained.

Ace sighed, ignoring the smoke coming from his clothing, the mounting pain as some of the water settled into his scalp and melted its way to his skull. His focus was on Gavin, on monitoring his breathing and making sure that, yes, he still had a heartbeat.

It could’ve taken an hour or an eternity, but the angel finally came through, breathless as his body tingled from an external force. He looked at the sky, noting the dark cloud over the moon, how it shielded the eclipse.

“Fuck,” he slurred, hauling himself into a kneeling position, and forcing himself to stand, using a nearby tree for support. “Fucking Hell.”

“Gavin?” The angel jumped at his name, whirling to see who’d called him. They were nearly unrecognizable, with their skull exposed, bright red eyes burning themselves into his core.

Gavin would’ve run if common sense didn’t grab him. “Ace, what the fuck are you doing in this?” he chastised, raising a wing high above the demon’s head.

“I wasn’t about to leave you,” Ace said, acknowledging the damage to his body. He’d heal, but it wouldn’t be a pretty sight.

“You idiot,” Gavin grumbled, nonetheless touched. Emotions made fools of them both. “You should’ve gone, I would’ve been fine.”

Ace stretched his jaw, using his internal body heat to dry himself. He wouldn’t humour the angel with a response. Gavin hadn’t seen what he’d seen, didn’t know the sickening panic that’d coursed through his system the moment the angel had given that choked cry. He wanted to apologize, but he didn’t know for what.

“This is an alarm,” Gavin whispered, his eyes glowing, “there’s been a kidnapping.”

“That’s a bit extreme for a kidnapping, don’t you think?” Ace commented, the muscles of his face attaching themselves in real-time. Gavin’s frown was too serious for his own liking. Anything that managed to sober the angel was worthy of worry.

“I’d normally agree,” Gavin began, pulling out his tablet, a warning scrolling through the screen. He let the demon read it, let the knowledge sink in. Staring deeply into the sky, he wondered if his Father was aware that His favourite son was missing. “But not today.”

“She’s being reckless!” Connor yelled, smacking his fist into the wall. It wasn’t even a proper month since he’d been freed from her, hadn’t even settled into his powers before she proceeded to fuck with everything again.

His brother, who’d seen better days, agreed, letting Connor vent his frustrations before he spoke.

“They know, they all know,” Connor cried, rubbing his stinging eyes, “they’ll place Earth on high alert, it won’t be safe for us out there.”

“More of a reason to stay put,” Hank reminded, using Gavin’s tablet to navigate the angelic network. Echoing Connor’s worried conclusion, Heaven was on high alert. So much so, that it’d summoned all angels—including the ones banned for naughty behaviour. And just like he’d guessed, the reason why was plastered over every forum, bulletin board, and recreational website.

“You’re not thinking of going up there, are you?” Gavin hissed, eyeing the ceiling as if it’d break open and drag him upwards, kicking and screaming.

“I’m just thinking,” Hank murmured, pinching the bridge of his nose. They’d notice his absence, he may not be the highest-ranking member of God’s armada, but they’d notice. The sky was still pelting the roof with Holy Water, and if he focused, he could hear the sirens.

Elijah’s kidnapping was a declaration of war, they’d be prepping for a battle soon.

“Hank, if you go, they’re not gonna’ let you leave until you find him,” Gavin said, snatching his tablet and piercing it with his blade.

“What?” Connor asked, betrayal marring his eyes, “you’re leaving?”

“No, goddammit, I said I was thinking,” Hank snapped, willing everyone to be quiet. After a beat of silence, he spoke, ignoring the itch in his wings as Captain Fowler’s calls went unanswered. “We need a plan, we need shelter. This house won’t hold up against their bullets.”

“Are you saying they’re coming?” Ace asked, his face tender as it finally closed.

“I’m saying it’s a matter of time,” Hank said, sombre with his response. “We’re not off the grid, if they need us, they’ll find us. We have to keep moving.” Poignantly he said this, meeting their stares with the same dejection that met his.

“There aren’t many places to run,” Ace pointed out, assuming the entire world was being drenched in Heaven’s cleanser.

“I can think of one,” Connor said, concentrating his strength on opening a portal. It was a struggle, his mind and body operating on separate wavelengths. It was when Ace placed a hand on his shoulder that he dropped his arm, winded from the effort.

“There’s a reason it’s raining Holy Water,” the younger brother reminded, “they’re blocking our escape.”

“Fucking hell,” Connor cursed, retiring to the floor. Sumo came close, licking his proverbial wounds.

“Where were you planning to go, Jericho?” Hank asked, disbelief colouring every aspect of his soul, “if they wanted to help, they’d have called by now,” he continued, scowling at the reminder.

“Got any better ideas?” Connor mumbled, holding his pup closer, “as you said, I was just thinking.

“Alright, lovebirds, fighting about it isn’t gonna’ get us anywhere,” Gavin said, the surprising voice of reason. “Jericho was as good a plan as any. There might be strength in numbers if we go there, or we’ll be making ourselves a bigger target, I don’t know,” he continued, walking to the large window and peering into the bleak sky, “all I know is that the warding around this house won’t last forever, and bickering about where to go is wasting precious time.”

“So, what do you suggest we do, Detective?” Hank asked, crossing his arms, challenging the younger angel.

Gavin ignored the sneer, focusing instead on the most obvious course of action. “We should at least give it a shot,” the angel said, siding with Connor, “compromised or not, Jericho might be able to help.”

Hank let out a breath, irritation clinging to his veins as he whirled towards the brothers. He held out a hand for Connor, shielding him from the storm as he teleported. Gavin followed suit, popping into existence beside the lieutenant.

The lack of guards by the entrance was concerning but Gavin didn’t let the inkling of worry slow him down. They navigated the maze of doors and corridors, exiting into the centre. Angels and demons crowded around, many protesting as Markus continued to speak, trying his best to calm them.

There was a large groan as the ship rocked against the ocean waves, unequipped to handle such tempest.

“If you would all take a moment to listen,” Markus began to say, his voice swept away by the unruly dissent of his kin. He was losing the battle, Hank could see it in the angel’s eyes, the way they fell despite feigning control.

Not one to stand insubordination, Hank whistled, interrupting the multitude of voices. “He’s trying to tell you something,” the lieutenant shouted, receiving a gaggle of guilty faces, “the least you can do is listen.”

Markus hid his surprise and gratitude behind a stern stare, meeting the eyes in the sea of faces. He was never born a leader, he was a scout, his mission was always to observe from afar and report back. He hadn’t expected the day where he’d be the one they’d look to for guidance, for a way out.

“I know many of you have shed your former titles and removed yourselves from Heaven and Hell’s conflicts. I understand that you fear returning to those destructive forces.” Markus spoke from personal experience. He’d meant for Jericho to be a haven, a location where angels and demons could be free to express themselves as they chose, unrestrained by the rules of their respective dominions. “However, if Jericho becomes compromised, do not let yourselves sink with it. Do not be a hero.”

The crowd roared its objection, even as the ship croaked under them, the storm above working hard to penetrate the hull. Markus retreated, unable to handle a hundred voices asking him why. Connor was the first to follow the dejected angel, moving so quickly that the rest hadn’t noticed his departure. He reached Markus just as he exited into the storm. Simon appeared next to him, having had the same idea.

“He needs to cool off,” the blond sighed, shaking his head, “we all do.”

“If we run, they’ll pick us off one by one,” Connor said, an invisible hand holding him back from rushing into the holy rain.

“I’m sure he knows that,” Simon said, his voice soft and calming, enough to get Connor to look at him, “but we can’t fight either, we’d be outnumbered.”

Connor’s eyes stung, frustrated tears brimming at the edges. He hit the iron frame, his hand retaliating with a dull ache. “The least we could do is stick together,” he said, feeling a sliver of betrayal cross his mind, “asking us to not fight makes everything we’ve done pointless.”

Simon said nothing as he brought his hand to Connor’s shoulder, squeezing it tight.

“Didn’t you ever have a backup plan?” Connor asked as lightning painted the sky white, “a place you could go if Jericho fell?”

The demon took a moment to think, looking at his beloved and his hard expression. He’d seen it many times, but not quite as intense as this. Simon could almost hear him praying, hear him supplicating for the things out of his control.

“Markus is not fond of conflict,” Simon began, stating the obvious, “but he’s not stupid, he understands the consequences of inaction.”

Connor thought it best to hold his tongue, trying to defend his haste would conflict with Simon’s defence of his lover.

“In the basement of the ship there are two banishing sigils, one for each kind,” Simon whispered, as if sharing a secret, “only we know of their existence. Markus feared that telling them would incite a riot, or at the very least, distrust in this tentative peace we’d formed.”

Connor nodded, knowing how jumpy demons could get. They’ve dealt with deception before, some more acute than others, he didn’t blame any of them for the decisions they’d made.

“It requires the blood of an angel and demon to work,” Simon continued, crossing his arms, worry etching lines on his fair face, “it’s the last resort.” 

“It’s a death sentence.” The demons jumped, Markus’ damning tone resonating through the metal. They hadn’t noticed his return or the angry look on his face, how it mixed with self-pity.

“You don’t know that,” Simon countered, feeling like they’ve had this argument a million-and-one times before.    

“And neither do you,” the angel muttered, holy water dripping off him like a warning, “we should’ve never made them.”

“Are you regretting Jericho too?” Simon snapped, “or me?”

Before Markus could answer with a resounding ‘no’, Heaven’s squadron broke through the sky, a bright beacon amongst the darkened clouds. Bugle horns rang, the threat of an ambush quite clear as angelic troops soared closer, their bullets puncturing the ship. Markus, Simon, and Connor rushed into Jericho, navigating the metal maze.

As they rounded a corner, Heaven’s troops crashed into the side, fully armed and covered in protective metal. They shot on sight, trained to dispatch. The trio plastered themselves to the wall, holding their breaths as the robotic soldiers marched forward. Markus was ready to bolt again, Connor’s arm stopping him as another group of soldiers brushed past them. Wait, he mouthed, listening for any other tell-tale signs.

“I was a soldier before I Fell,” Connor said as he led them through the hallway, “they move in patterns, groups of two, with a thirty-second delay.”

They avoided the worst of the initial horde, stopping only when their lives were in immediate danger. Markus tried not to think about the screams echoing through the iron, or the guilt gnawing a black hole in his stomach. He pushed forward, focusing on what he could see and feel rather than the souls he’d inadvertently forsaken.

They were moving into the underbelly of the ship, a fact that didn’t become apparent to Markus until he saw the sealed doors. The warding was strong around them—he’d made sure of it.

“Simon, wait,” the leader begged, holding back his beloved, “please.”

“Markus, we don’t have time, the longer we wait, the more overrun Jericho becomes,” Simon said, caressing Markus’ cheek, “we must protect them.”

The leader groaned, closing his eyes with both defeat and determination. Of course, he knew how to do the right thing, but it didn’t make it any easier.



“Yes,” Markus said, taking Simon’s hands into his own and squeezing them, “I love you,” he whispered, pressing his forehead into the demon’s.

“And I you,” Simon promised.

Connor watched as two unlikely worlds came together as one. He felt the heartache as well as heard it, his own bleeding muscle wrenching for the two damned souls. “Hold on,” he said, feeling like he’d intruded on a special moment, “both of you don’t have to die, Jericho can still survive after this.”

“What are you saying?” Simon asked, not liking how Connor seemed at ease with proposing his own suicide.

“They know you, Simon, they trust you,” Connor said, sincerity in every word, “you could lead them out of here, bring them somewhere safe.”

“No,” Simon said, shaking his head with immediate dissent, “this isn’t your cross to bear.”

“And why should it be yours?” the demon retorted, shifting his gaze between the couple. “I know you don’t want to fight, I don’t either, but we can’t let them divide us.”


“Please, let me help.”

Simon looked torn, his blue eyes wet with unshed tears, his shoulders low, like the weight of the world was sitting on them. Markus had said nothing through the exchange, unwilling to admit he’d rather sacrifice anyone else but his lover.

The distant gunshots hastened their decisions, Simon’s heart breaking as Connor took his place. “I’ll need five minutes,” he said, “and I’ll expect the both of you to meet me in ten.”


“No, Markus, I’ll see you in ten.”

Whether Simon’s confidence was authentic or fabricated to ease their minds wasn’t important, the clock was ticking, and they could all feel the heft of more angels landing on the ship.

“You didn’t have to do this,” Markus said, breaking the warding sigils and unlocking the door, running into the dark room. “But thank you.”

Connor nodded, his heart beating quickly as they descended another flight of stairs. They reached the bottom level, the heat of the furnace burning brightly in their faces. Connor saw the lines of the banishing marks, his skin crawling with trepidation. He tried and failed, not to think about Hank and his brother, how much he’d miss them if this went awry. He focused instead on the small moments of happiness he’d found in Hank’s embrace, the many secrets he’d shared with his brother, even the bickering with Gavin.

“I know when we die, we won’t go to Heaven or Hell,” Markus began, removing a long dagger from its sheath, “I just hope to be placed somewhere in the night sky, to not be forgotten.”

“I’d rather be the breeze,” Connor said, feeling the phantom wind on his cheek, “so I could embrace the world.”

Markus thought about their respective wishes, wondered if God—in all His apathy—would listen to them.

“It’s been five minutes,” the angel noted, standing outside the sigil, “are you ready?”

“I am now,” Connor said, extending his palm.

Markus cut his hand first, hissing at the sting, holding a fist to collect the pooling blood. He was quick to do the same with Connor’s.

“I will always be grateful for your sacrifice, Connor,” Markus said, a single tear escaping his eye, “not many would do what you have done.”

“Thank me later,” Connor said, hovering over the sigil and waiting for the leader’s signal.

Markus nodded, opening his palm, watching the blood drip into the grooves, meld with the demon’s to form an impenetrable bond.

The light that erupted from the ship was brighter than any sun, blinding any mortal that chanced to look at it.

And in the next moment, it was gone.

“Where’s Connor?” Hank’s booming voice echoed through the abandoned cathedral, shaking the windows and shattering a few. The last half-hour had been the longest in existence, stretching out to prolong his anxiety and fear.

Simon cringed at the demand, knowing he’d have to acknowledge reality sooner or later. He’d lied to the lieutenant, promised him that everyone was fine. That if they wanted to survive, they’d have to trust him. He’d destroyed the sigils preventing them from teleporting, narrowly avoided getting shot, and evacuated Jericho in the five minutes he’d asked for. Finding shelter had been a painful effort. Most demons collapsed from the Holy Water—others were crippled by it. The angels that could still fly served as cover and temporary medics, sheltering demons two or three at a time.

He’d avoided Hank for those first few moments, thankful for the excuse. But now, as the sirens continued and the of the church shook from heavy winds—no doubt from the beating of wings—he couldn’t hide. Hank had singled him out, knowing that he’d been the last to be in contact with his partner. How could Simon explain the demon had sacrificed himself, had taken his place in a battle that had never belonged to him?

To make it worse, all eyes fell on them, some judgemental, others confused. But the one that caught his attention was that of Connor’s brother, how understanding filtered through them, how he’d forgiven Simon without speaking a word.

“I—” Simon’s voice broke, unable to complete the sentence. He couldn’t explain, could never make it make sense to the lieutenant or anyone else for that matter. “I’m sorry.”

He’d expected shouting, physical and verbal responses bordering on violence, but Simon could never anticipate the angel falling to his knees and crumpling inwards, his wings cocooning him. It made the pain in his own heart triple, reminding him that he’d also lost his beloved, that he was in the same depressing boat.

A soft wind caressed them both, soothing their fractured spirits.

There was a hush that fell over the room, the loss of their leader hitting everyone differently. They each looked around, unable to shake the irony of this place, how no matter where they ran, they’d always end up home. For some it was a comforting idea, for others it was damning, to be sheep, forever searching for their shepherd.

The loud crash of the cathedral doors opening shattered the stillness, two soaked bodies walked through them, covered in ocean gunk and detritus but recognizable to anyone who cared. Markus and Connor were leaning on each other for support, working as a unit to reach the nearest pew. The demon had burn wounds reaching halfway down his body and the angel had lost half a wing, but they were alive.

The room was quiet for a second longer, then it erupted into cheers and cries, some so overwhelmed with relief that they fainted. No one, however, could combat the emotions displayed by the counterparts of the self-sacrificing idiots.

“I said ten minutes,” Simon chided, slapping Markus over the head before he kissed him, ignoring the sting of Holy Water and the taste of burnt flesh. “Never again,” Simon ordered, looking deeply into the angel’s mismatched eyes, “never again,” he mouthed, finally letting his tears fall.

Hank was admittedly less gentle, heaving Connor to his feet, just so he could crush him with his arms. Connor, seemingly a glutton for punishment, let himself be mishandled, breathing in his angel’s scent, never wanting to be parted from it.

“What the hell were you thinking?” Hank grumbled, brushing back the demon’s hair, “what the hell weren’t you thinking?” he asked again, careful as he traced Connor’s sensitive face.

“I was trying to protect you.” That’s all he ever wanted to do.

“Oh, you idiot,” Hank breathed, bringing Connor in for another bone-shattering embrace, “I’ll get angry about this later, for now just stay put while we figure this out.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Connor agreed, sitting where the lieutenant was guiding him, falling into a deep sleep moments later, the soft breeze the only thing on his mind.

Chapter Text

You must be careful, Elijah, they are still growing.

The little angel nodded, looking over his Father’s shoulders and into the ground below, where He was planting the seeds of humanity. They were so small and delicate, Elijah feared he might accidentally step on them.

But he had to listen to his Father and disregard the doubt in his heart. God knew best, he had to believe that.

“Where are you, Elijah?” Amanda asked as she yanked back the archangel’s hair, exposing his neck, tracing a scalpel against his jugular. “I feel like I’m talking to myself, which simply won’t do.” She had him strung up by his wrists, his body dangling over a roaring Hellfire.

“I dozed off,” Elijah mumbled, giving a comical yawn, “your monologue was boring me.”

Amanda smirked, her eyes shining with something manic. “I’m sorry about that,” she said, stepping away from the archangel, “I’ll try to make it more interesting.”

“No, please, don’t bother,” Elijah reassured, flexing his fingers, “if I’m to be your guest I’d like to receive equal treatment. No playing favourites, Amanda.”

“I’ll find what makes you tick,” she threatened, tossing her tools into the fire, “you won’t be smiling then.”

“Looking forward to it!” he said to her retreating shadow. It wasn’t until she was miles away that he coughed up the blood curdling in his stomach, that he let the pain of the sigils affect him, that he humbled himself to his circumstance.

The Hellfire had done an excellent job at burning away his shield. It then proceeded to eat at the flesh of his toes, stopping at the bone because of his proximity. Everyday Amanda lowered the rope a few centimetres—a marinade to her torture meal.

He escaped into his head before she started, robbing her of any satisfaction his pain would bring her. But his imagination was finite, and for those few times he was aware, his will to remain unbothered was the only thing keeping him from shattering.

Elijah was still connected to Earth, could feel his angels searching for him, then retreating as the hours turned to days, then weeks, and they couldn’t find him. Elijah didn’t blame them; he might not have expended half the energy on someone else.

He tried reaching out to them, scraping his fingers against Hell’s roof and contacting them. But nothing worked. It was then that he realized how truly alone he was, how impenetrable his Father had made this fortress, that not even His son could escape. If Elijah ever thought he was special, all he had to do was look around and behold the skeletons of his fellow angels, how they swayed like macabre decorations, their faces frozen in an everlasting scream.

The door to the torture chamber opened, forcing the archangel to save face and feign indifference. His smugness faltered when his gaze came upon his visitor—Jezebel, with her golden wings.

“Oh, sent the whore,” Elijah spat, the effort to keep himself upright grew too great, and he slumped, his hair falling into his face. “What, are you gonna’ try to seduce me again?” He looked into Kieran’s eyes, waiting for his flinch, for the discomfort that came with the insult of his Words. But there wasn’t any. 

If anything, Kieran looked disappointed. “I take it you learned that from her?” he asked, his question rhetorical in nature. Kieran stepped closer, enough to feel the fury of the fire below, to touch Elijah’s wounded cheek. “You both have caused so much pain.”

The archangel shrunk from the soft fingertips against his face, so used to Amanda’s heavy hand. Kieran kept him in place, cradling him in his palm. His eyes were overtaken by light, illuminating the dark dungeon.

“You loved Him the most,” Kieran said, pushing deeper into Elijah’s memories, “you’re still in pain.”

“Get out of my head!” the archangel hissed, thrashing his skull out of Kieran’s grip. The angel held fast, cracking through Elijah’s last mental defence. “You’re afraid,” Kieran whispered, his eyes clearing, “you’re afraid to die without seeing Him again.”

The archangel turned and bit into the fleshy part of Kieran’s hand, hard enough to draw blood. The angel recoiled, shocked by the violence. He hadn’t meant any harm; he was just searching for the truth. Wounded, the golden angel left, nursing his pulsing hand.

Elijah felt a flicker of guilt, the smallest iota conceivable. Hell was making him jumpy, suspicious of anything and anyone. He couldn’t feel his arms anymore, they’d grown purple from the lack of blood flow. Flexing his fingers had been a last-ditch effort, now useless as everything else.

His only company was the Hellfire, a reminder that every moment he was a few feet from death. He hated how Kieran’s words stuck with him, how he said exactly what Elijah had been thinking. They’d been united at that moment, shared his headspace as the angel probed. Elijah had no say in it, couldn’t even object as his walls were torn down and rebuilt, with Kieran inside them.

For a fraction of a second, he hadn’t felt alone.

In retrospect, he should’ve pushed him away sooner, the angel was armed with damning knowledge. Elijah figured Amanda had set him up to this task, forced him to invade his privacy. Again, Elijah was torn between hating the sin-less angel and feeling sorry for his predicament.

You mustn’t hurt them, Elijah, they are still learning.

The archangel closed his eyes against the swell of tears in them. He couldn’t stop them from falling any more than he could get out of his binds, and that infuriated him, bringing more to the surface.

He knew another day had passed when Amanda returned, lowering the chains so fire reached his ankles, swiftly burning away his protesting flesh. Elijah ran into the safety of his mind-palace—a room with sky-high bookshelves of every written work in existence—and sat down to read.

“Seems cozy,” a foreign voice said, startling the archangel into the present. He had no time to adjust as Amanda drove a sword across the joint of his wing and scapula.

It was through the grace of God that Elijah didn’t scream, didn’t give any indication that this bothered him one bit. On the inside, he was rioting, the nerves in his body turning inside out from the insurmountable agony.

God wasn’t as merciful with his other wing, as he grimaced, crunching his teeth to keep from wailing. There was a split second when he looked up and saw the golden angel, saw how his face was empathetically apologetic. He’d been the voice in his head, Elijah realized, he’d pulled him out.

Amanda moved into his field of view, her smile triumphant, the corners of her lips reaching her blacked-out eyes. “There,” she said, washing her hands of the archangel, “a little motivation for you.”

The demoness paraded one of the wings, plucking the feathers individually as she tossed them in the fire. Elijah was still connected to them, could feel them twitch in her hand, recoil from her wickedness. He wasn’t sure if it was better to be in the moment or realize it in the aftermath. His eyes travelled back to Kieran, asked without saying why.

Amanda grew bored of taunting the archangel and threw both his wings into the pit. There was an audible shriek, like a kettle boiling, as they burned. Amanda looked surprised, never imagining the appendages had a mind of their own.

As a final valiant effort, the wings expanded to cover the flames, sacrificing themselves to protect their owner. Elijah felt their absence then, wept for them. His back was an ocean of red, blood pooling by his feet and into the scorched earth below.

“Well,” Amanda chuckled, “it seems you’re finally paying attention.” She closed the trap door to the burnt-out furnace, ordering Kieran to lower the chain.

Elijah couldn’t support his own weight, disfigured as he was. He was forced to look at the demoness’ boots, wheeze in the dirt below them. She wasn’t the one to haul him from the ground, to whisper apologies into his ear. She wasn’t gentle with him as they walked towards his permanent cell, didn’t lower him into the cot with care, mindful of the tender joints as he was placed on his stomach.

He had Kieran to thank for that.

“I didn’t…I didn’t mean for that to happen, Elijah.” The archangel was prepared this time for Kieran’s intrusion. He’d learned to anticipate the preamble, the gentle knocking on his mind’s door.

“What was your intent, then?” the archangel asked, depriving the angel of eye-contact as he kept his attention on the book. “I’m sure Amanda was thrilled with you after that. I hope she paid you well.” Elijah couldn’t kick him out, didn’t know if it was possible, so he ignored him, rereading the paragraph as he willed the angel away.

“She made me watch, you know,” Kieran began, cocooning himself with his wings. Even in this imaginary place, they caught the light of the fire, bouncing against Elijah’s peripherals. Like a magpie, he looked up, unable to resist shiny things. “She’d bind me to a chair and sit me right in front of you. You couldn’t see me, and I couldn’t speak.”

Elijah watched as Kieran choked on his words, swallowed the sludge of them until they cleared his throat. Something caught in his cold heart, an odd feeling of compassion, the need to comfort making his fingers twinge.

“I just wanted to know what it was like to escape,” Kieran admitted, giving a half-hearted chuckle.

Elijah let a beat pass, felt the time ticking in the air before he closed his book and stood. In here, he still had his wings, they were like shadows strapped to his back, weightless—uncanny. They swept the ground as he crept towards Kieran, hesitant as he lifted the angel’s chin, unsure if his finger would encounter something corporeal or phase through him like smoke.

Kieran looked up, finding it easier to maintain Elijah’s gaze when they were on equal footing. Besides, the archangel might consider it rude if he looked away.

“It’s not much,” Elijah began, removing his finger and clasping his hands on his lower back. He let his eyes flicker towards the endless ceiling, to the books he’d never finish regardless of how infinite his life was. “But it’s mine.” He turned an irritated smirk to the angel, his eyes hardening like diamonds. “At least it was.”

Kieran dropped his chin to his chest, a light dusting of pink on his cheeks accompanied his unspoken apology. “You weren’t answering my call,” he began, wringing his hands, “I feared she may have gone too far.”

“I’m almost touched,” Elijah remarked, his tone dry. He returned to his reading chair, motioning for the angel to take the empty one beside him. “My wings will grow back, so your concern, though amusing, is unnecessary.”

“You’ll be vulnerable until those sigils disappear,” Kieran reminded, taking a seat, “and your shield won’t return until you leave Hell.”

“You’re very knowledgeable for a prototype,” Elijah mumbled, his attempts at petty harm futile as his Words slid off Kieran like rain. It annoyed him, but he tried not to let it show.

“God used to rant while He worked on me,” Kieran said, a frustrated smile growing on his face, “He’d complain about the fallacies of all His designs, say how He’d improve them the next time around. He was a better artist than inventor.”

“His words, I bet,” Elijah said, fond resentment blooming in his chest. He hated to admit the craving in his core to hear more about his Father. He figured it was the same for all angels, archangel or not, to yearn for their Father’s voice. He’d left so suddenly, and no one knew why.

“He used to question Himself,” Kieran said, his voice far away, “lamented the swiftness in which He’d damned His children.”

“God can make mistakes,” Elijah scoffed, shaking his head, “who knew.”

“He knew it,” Kieran’s eyes lit from within, searching his memories, “that’s why He built me.”

“Aren’t you special,” Elijah mocked, a modicum of jealousy flirting with his tone.

Kieran blinked the light from his eyes, cocking his head at the archangel. “He loves us equally if I remember anything it’s that.” The golden angel stood, tiptoeing towards the fireplace, it felt warm but didn’t burn him when he dipped his hand in it. “He left before He finished me—I’m not sure He knew how.”

“Better artist,” Elijah echoed. And there was no denying it, Kieran (and his eerily similar brothers) were beautiful, far too perfect to be a mistake. Maybe God had a type.

“Doesn’t matter now,” Kieran shrugged, dusting his hands on the bottom half of his white tunic, “He’s gone, ‘forever’ He’d said.”

“How fortunate for him, to be able to leave while his children suffer.”

“I’m sure He can still hear us,” Kieran said, his smile ironic, “knows our most intimate thoughts, desires, fears, and ignores them all—for His sanity more than anything.”

Elijah hadn’t been alive as long as his Father, hadn’t seen the creation of the universe and all the minutiae that came with it. He couldn’t possibly know what his Father had gone through to bring to fruition His vision. But something within the archangel told him he wouldn’t just leave, abandon ship like a sanctified rat. 

“You’re angry again,” Kieran said, able to detect the microscopic shifts in the archangel’s psyche. It wasn’t hard when he was literally in his brain.

“I would appreciate it if you didn’t point out the obvious,” Elijah said, crushing his teeth against each other. “And if you’d get out of my head,” he amended, pointing to the non-existent door.

“I brought Holy Water and a sponge,” Kieran said, preparing his departure, “I’ll be here when you need me.”

Elijah narrowed his eyes at the empty spot Kieran had occupied, couldn’t help but think this was all part of Amanda’s plan to weaken his defences, to make him trust someone in this depressing cell. She, more than anyone, could manipulate his errant emotions, castigate him for still having them.

But he couldn’t help how his body pulled him to the surface, returning him to the real and unfortunate world. He blinked away the grime in his eyes, focused on the golden beacon in the corner of the room. Kieran held a pail of water in one hand and a sponge in the other—just as he’d said.

“How—” Elijah croaked, his throat dry and itchy. He coughed out a lung, wheezing past his protesting chest. “How did you make Holy Water in Hell?”

Kieran’s shoulders relaxed a fraction, Elijah’s curiosity giving him the confidence he needed to step forward. Amanda, despite furiously denying it, had given the archangel better treatment. Most others would be dead or stuffed in Hell’s basement. But Elijah—her undisputable favourite—got a room with a view. And what a view it was, nothing but Hellfire for miles, the edge of the city barely visible from his tower. 

How quaint. 

“Benefits of being a prototype,” Kieran answered, wiggling his fingers. He pulled up a chair, surveying the damage. It was extensive, Amanda hadn’t been kind when ripping off his wings. The jagged wound stretched to his lower back, ending in a bloody point.

Before Elijah commented, his chest expanded to accommodate another hacking cough, this time blood trickled from his lips, a reminder of his predicament. Kieran dipped the sponge into the bucket, saturating it before he brought it to the archangel’s mouth, squeezing it gently so it’d flow into it, mixing with the blood to turn it pink.

Elijah couldn’t move, could barely blink, he was reliant on Kieran and that powerlessness had him growing bitter. He suckled the sponge like a desolate babe, working the flesh between his teeth. There was no denying how much it helped, how it cascaded down his throat like a waterfall, quenching his thirst. He let go once it was spent, licking his cracked lips to spread the water’s healing properties.

The angel repeated the process of dipping the sponge, wiping it around the archangel’s bruised face, careful as he scrubbed the dried blood. The sheets of the bed would have to be changed, and the sponge bath given many more times, but for now, it would have to do.

“Why are you doing this?” Elijah asked, his throat no longer feeling like there was broken glass scraping against his flesh.

Kieran paused, the sponge laying flat on Elijah’s scalp. He didn’t have an answer, at least not one that would satisfy the question. He shrugged, non-comital, and resumed his ministrations, careful when he washed over a sigil. The marking hissed as the Holy Water cleared it, approximating the edges so it could close. Elijah flinched, the only indication it was affecting him.

“Amanda know you’re doing this?” Elijah ground out, his fingers flexing in the soiled sheets.

“Amanda’s not my boss,” Kieran said, looking warily at the chain around his neck, “and she’s not omnipresent, despite what she’d like you to believe.” Kieran twisted the sponge beside the bucket, the water ruddy, it settled around his feet for a moment then seeped through the floor, evaporating as it left. “She won’t kill you; I’ve seen as much.”

“What a relief,” Elijah mumbled, not at all meaning it.

“But you will kill her,” Kieran said with some finality in his low voice. The archangel managed to smile, a strained and pained thing, but there, nonetheless. Kieran hesitated, the wet sponge hovering over the first of the two lacerations. “You can go now, Elijah, I’ll let you know when I’m done.” It was a nice sentiment, but useless.

“I’m not afraid of a little scratch,” Elijah said, his face impassive. But his knuckles whitened as they tightened in the sheets, his teeth clenched in anticipation for the burn. So sweet in its relief yet unbearable.

“Liar,” Kieran teased, bopping the archangel on his sweaty skull. He was delicate as lowered the sponge, watching with mild horror as the skin bubbled and melted away, restarting the bleed. For a moment he thought he’d fucked up, destroyed Elijah’s chances of regaining his wings. But no sooner was an apology surfacing from his tongue that the wound hardened and filled, leaving a tender split. He repeated the process for the other gash, careful not to press into it.

“There,” the angel said, his hands caked in old blood and dirt, “the rest are just scars.” He tried to sound reassuring, but there was still the matter of the archangel’s feet, how they were just bones with strings of burnt-out flesh attached to them, or the millions of other marks Amanda had carved into his chest, an area inaccessible from this position.

“I don’t say thank you often,” Elijah began. His eyes had closed despite himself, he opened them again, pinning them on the angel. Kieran had surprise etching its way through his face, waiting with bated breath for Elijah to continue. “Thank you.”

Kieran flashed a half-smile, dipping his dirty hands in the water, scrubbing between his fingers and beneath his nails, washing away a metaphorical sin. “Just think of this as another apology,” he said, bringing himself to stand. Elijah’s hand darted outwards, landing on his bare thigh to stop him.

“Don’t…” It was obvious it pained him to continue, to lower himself enough to beg for Kieran’s companionship, as circumstantial as it had become. “Don’t go.”

The angel sat back down, scared to place his hand over Elijah’s, to curl his fingers around them and give them a tiny squeeze. “If she calls me, I have no choice,” Kieran whispered, his heart skipping wildly. He’s never had conflicting commands before, and—though weakened, battered, and bruised—Elijah was stronger. If push came to shove, how hard would he have to fight to stay?

Elijah said nothing, just let his limb slide from its position, that panicked act leaving him spent. He didn’t need to sleep, but he wished he could, just so he could block out the world and all its cruelty. Kieran felt similarly, his life since hibernation hadn’t exactly been stellar. But it was nice, they both thought silently, to have someone with which to share this misery. 

Chapter Text

“I can still hear them calling me,” Hank grumbled, the dull ache that’d subsided with his worry for Connor returned with a vengeance, insisting that he pay attention to it. He held his head between his thighs, massaging his temples as the urge to puke grew stronger. Going against orders seemed like a simple enough idea—pay the upper-ups no mind and stay put.

If only.

Gavin was in similar straits, clutching his knees to his chest as he let Ace run a wet rag through his forehead. It only seemed to affect them, no other angel was bowled over with discomfort, at least not visibly. Hank noted this in passing, his eyes blurring whenever he looked up.

It was day three of this mini-Armageddon, and the church, for all intents and purposes, was doing its job at protecting them. It may have something to do with the sigils Ace had insisted on carving into the ancient concrete, or maybe God was looking out for them. One could guess at random and would be just as close as Hank was to forming a conclusion. The troops were narrowing down their search, concentrating the Holy Rain to half the world, then inching closer towards the Americas, then North America, until finally, they were in the ballpark.

The angel’s belly churned, forcing him to dip his head into the borrowed bucket and dry heave like a dehydrated dog. Connor’s hand rested on the nape of his neck like it often did when the bouts got particularly bad, providing a wash of comforting cool that pulled Hank from the edge of sickness.

Gavin wasn’t so lucky, only having enough strength to turn his head before he upchucked the angelic bile from his stomach. Ace, the trooper, took it in stride, fetching another rag from the renewing pile.

“Fuck ‘em,” the lieutenant murmured, spitting into the bucket. He wiped the sweat from his face, leaning against the pew and closing his eyes. Hank’s heart was out of control, anxiety clawing at his muscles like a caged animal, demanding he let it free. He’d committed to the crime, however, and leaving now would put a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. Gavin seemed to share his sentiment, far more acquainted with the metaphorical concept.

Soft footfalls brought Hank back to the surface, he opened his eyes, finding it hard to focus on the blond beacon that was Simon’s hair. Markus was by his side, his expression stuck in a worried pout.

“How are you feeling?” Simon asked, careful as he placed a hand on Hank’s shoulder, avoiding the delirious angel in Ace’s lap.

“Never better,” Hank retorted, the lie sticking to his throat like peanut butter. “Yourself?”

The demon smiled, his flaxen locks swaying with the shake of his head. “We’re worried about you two, Lieutenant,” Simon admitted, looking at his other half for confirmation.

Markus nodded, his brows coming closer as his scowl deepened. “Until this storm passes, you’ll be out of commission,” the angel began, motioning to his brethren, “we’re not sure when it will end or what will happen when it does.”

“We’ll get demoted, that’s for sure,” Hank grumbled, unable to bring himself to care enough. He buried his head in the crook of Connor’s neck, pulling from his energy to power through whatever bullshit Heaven was throwing at him. 

“Welcome to the club,” Gavin slurred, his vision swimming as he tried to sit up. Ace had to wrestle him back down, cradle him like a babe until he calmed enough to go back to sleep.

“I’ve had a moment to think,” Markus continued, meeting the eyes of his fellow deserters, coming to an agreement with himself and the demon’s that haunted him, “you must understand that the last thing I want is to forsake everything I’ve built. I’d be my father’s son if I did so.”

Hank looked amused, recognizing the truth when he saw it. “We know, Markus, we’ll leave once this blows over.” He felt Connor hum and nod, trying to participate but still recovering from his wounds.

The angel, though grateful, shook his head, extending a hand to the lieutenant and demon alike, hoping they’d see it as the olive branch it was. There was a soft tremor in his fingers, noticeable only if you looked. “I don’t want to fight, but I hate hiding,” Markus began, a fire rumbling in his tone, “whatever you decide to do, you have my full support.”

“And mine,” Simon chimed in, looking like a lighthouse with how bright his smile had gotten.

Hank rolled his head on Connor’s shoulder, meeting Markus’ determination with a dose of his own. He let a moment pass before he joined his hand to the angel’s, using what little strength he possessed to shake it. It was a step in the right direction, and a weight off all their shoulders, and though Hank wasn’t one to openly express his gratitude, he did let a smile cross his face.

The roof of the church groaned with the force of another trumpet call, high-pitched and piercing as it passed through their souls, disregarding whatever barriers they’d erected.

The sound of Gavin gagging into his bucket was enough to push Hank over the edge. He tasted blood and bile on his tongue by the time he was through, shuddering hard inside his skin as every nerve in his body begged him to go, but his will forced him to stay.

“Why are we the only ones going through this shit?” the lieutenant complained, accepting a fresh washcloth from Ace.

“You’re unbound,” a third voice answered, wispy and polyphonic. Lucy sat a few pews ahead, her electric hair tumultuous, as if to mirror the tempest above. She held a hymnal, flipping lazily through each page. “Tethered to Heaven instead of Earth.”

“You couldn’t tell us this earlier,” Gavin snapped, fighting with his body to remain awake.

“You never asked,” Lucy replied, a hint of amusement in her harmonious tone, “and I try not to assume whenever possible.” The unusual demoness stood, joining the group and surveying the pair of down-and-out angels.

“Until you’ve decided which line to cross, you’ll be pulled in both directions,” she lectured, making it sound obvious, “living in ambiguity, always in limbo.” She retrieved a small dagger from her sheath, gently asking for Ace’s hand. Without hesitation, he handed it over, knowing instinctively what she’d do. “No one can force you to decide,” Lucy continued, quick as she nicked the fleshy pad of the demon’s palm, “but we can soothe the process.” She led the dripping blood into Gavin’s slack mouth, waiting for a reaction before she moved to the next pair.

Gavin grimaced, the acrid liquid touching his tongue with uncanny precision. As one drop became two and doubled over time, it slid down his throat with a soft hiss, his body doing it’s best to evaporate the problem before it reached his core. It was no use, as Gavin sat up to aid the blood, sucking at Ace’s palm to draw more from him. Despite the bitterness, he could feel relief flooding his groggy mind, how Heaven’s grip loosened from his soul. He was under their command no more, at least temporarily.

Hank, who understood the repercussions of his actions and knew that if he crossed this line—regardless of how quickly he returned—he’d be damned for good, still took the offer, kinder with his sucking.

Lucy returned to her pew, and her hymnal, humming each tune by heart.

“Feel better?” Ace asked, rubbing the knots out of Gavin’s spine, where his wings met his skin. It was nice, and a bit messy, to touch his angel like this, to know he didn’t have to tip-toe around his desires, and the only reason he was restrained was because of their predicament. He scanned the building, landing on a darkened corridor, that—if he were to guess—led to the bedroom chambers.

“No,” Gavin grumbled, curling himself into a tight ball against Ace’s chest, “'m tired.” Having the demon’s life-essence inside him was like a tug-of-war, a dash of something wrong in a sea of monotony. It was the disorder Gavin craved but was too much of a coward to commit to.

“Maybe we can find somewhere to rest,” Ace suggested, supporting Gavin as he stood, excusing himself from the group. He didn’t dare look back at what was certainly four pairs of eyes, each filled with the knowledge of what Ace was leaving unsaid. He might shrivel up and die from embarrassment if he did.

“You’ll always be an open book, Ace, no matter how good your poker face gets,” Gavin said, almost able to read his demon’s mind. He wasn’t sure if it was the proximity or the blood but picking out Ace’s thoughts was second nature to him now, a gift that might benefit him if they survived through the night.

“I’m not—”

“No,” Gavin interrupted, predicting the denial to the second, “but you were thinking it, and that’s enough.”

Ace held his tongue for a moment, letting his urge to drop Gavin get overridden by his overprotectiveness. A volatile dance, to say the least. “I want nothing more than to see you get better.” Gavin huffed, sounding as incredulous as he felt. “I mean it,” Ace said, defending his stance.

“Be that as it may, you’re going through an awful lot of trouble to get me alone,” Gavin pointed out, looking up to meet Ace’s stubborn gaze, “you could’ve achieved your goal with company.”

Ace slowed his steps, feeling an argument brewing on his tongue. He took a deep breath, regarding Gavin with a thorough look. The angel was tired, it didn’t take a genius to deduce that. His wings drooped, even as he was being carried, too fatigued to be folded into Gavin’s back. His halo was running on minimum voltage, a dim disk that did a poor job illuminating their path. There was a paleness to Gavin’s skin that would’ve worried anyone else and sent a small pang of sympathy through Ace’s heart. The only uplifting part of this assessment was the thin coating of “sin” (he’d think of a better term later) surrounding the angel’s core. Though nothing compared to the other angels’, it was enough—an umbrella for a waterfall.

“I suppose I should’ve asked what you wanted to do,” the demon sighed, stopping completely. They were halfway through the hallway, from here he could read a sign for the bedrooms, specifically the priest’s chambers. The irony, as always, never failed to amuse him.

“I’m still trying to understand what the fuck is going on outside,” Gavin said, sounding more like himself, “I don’t want to think about what I want; I just want to let it happen. But I’m exhausted, which you knew already, my mouth tastes like shit, and my wings are sticky.” He crossed his arms, irritation like an exclamation mark on his pout. “So yes, asking me beforehand would’ve been nice.”

“I’m sorry.” It was said without preamble, a reflex born from guilt.

“I know,” Gavin said, softening his gaze, “who knows what we might have done if we weren’t so rudely interrupted.” He touched the tips of his fingers to Ace’s jaw, tracing over the newly formed skin.

Ace’s heart clenched, the feeling of Gavin’s regret echoing his own in perfect sync. The adrenaline of the past few days was leaving him restless, and that energy hadn’t gone anywhere productive. He needed an out, but only if Gavin wanted it too. “What would you like to do?” Ace asked, adjusting the angel in his arms. It gave him a better grip on his beloved, and if he had to be honest, he liked having him there.

“Whatever you want.”

The demon just about dropped him.

“You wanna’ follow them?” Hank asked, in a better mood now that his head wasn’t Heaven’s personal punching bag.

“Hmm?” Connor wasn’t paying attention, his thoughts settling on an island in the far corners of his mind.

“Gavin and your brother,” Hank clarified, pulling Connor closer. He could feel him drifting away, in every sense of the word, “s’not fair they get to have all the fun.” He was joking, but also completely serious if Connor was on board. It was obvious, though, that the demon couldn’t focus on the now. He was lost in that head of his, most likely overthinking everything that’s happened, will happen, and has yet to occur.

“Yeah,” Connor said, feeling a shiver dig a hole in his back. He huddled towards Hank’s warmth, letting go of a breath when a wing covered him, protecting him from the worst of Heaven’s ire.

“You pushed yourself too hard,” Hank murmured, carding his fingers through the demon’s damp hair, “I still haven’t reprimanded you for that.” And he wasn’t about to, not when Connor looked two steps away from death. Neither he nor Markus got out of that explosion unscathed, and it was only by some miracle that they pulled each other from the ocean. Hank wondered—not for the first time—if God had a hand in any of this if that was His idea of a parting gift.

“I’m sorry, Hank,” it was said with a small voice, a barely-there whisper that shattered whatever lecture Hank had in store.

“I don’t want your apologies, Connor, you did what you had to do,” the lieutenant reassured, pressing a deep kiss into his beloved’s scalp, “I just wish you would think before doing something so reckless.” I couldn’t bear to lose you. He left his selfishness unspoken. Connor had gone through enough; needless guilt shouldn’t be added to his plate.

“I love you too,” Connor breathed, sounding delirious as he said it.

“Alright,” Hank began, his throat tight with emotion, “go back to sleep.”  

Ace lit the last candle in the room, minding the leaking roof as he stepped around it, meeting Gavin on the humble bed. Which was said in jest of course, for the previous owner knew how to live lavishly, adorning the edges of the hardwood frame with golden trimmings, and though now faded, precious stones on the headboard. The furniture had decades-old water damage, and dust that coated every corner like a film. It took Ace a moment to clean it, using a minimal amount of magic, enough to not alert the angels above of their position. The candles, which still stood in their holders, wicks charred but present, lit with some encouragement, transforming the darkness into warmth.

“How romantic,” Gavin teased, shifting to accommodate Ace. He could sense the demon’s fond irritation, counted it as a win in his mind. Fatigue was conquering his body, however, and no amount of persuasion could get his eyes to remain open. The last thing he recalled was Ace petting down his hair, his fingers tender as they combed down to his wings, picking the stragglers one by one.

It was with a gasp that Gavin woke again, his heart beating out of control, breath hard to catch as his eyes adapted to his surroundings. Even after a minute of steady breathing, his senses hadn’t returned, his body was prepped to bolt, far too tense to be comfortable. He gagged, holding a hand to his mouth and forcing himself not to throw up. He remembered enough to know it would be impolite.

“Gavin?” Ace’s voice was gentle, but it felt like needles against glass, his touch like icepicks, all unpleasant things wrapped up in one, “do you need more blood?”

“What am I? A fucking vampire?” Gavin spat, leaping out of the bed to reach a clear area where he could attempt to empty his stomach. “How long was I out?” he asked after a minute of prolonged silence, still kneeling by the corner. From here he could see the clouds in the sky, how they blocked all light, how the rain looked black as it pummelled the city.

“A few hours,” Ace answered, keeping his distance, lest he do more damage. Gavin’s core had purged itself from him, leaving nothing behind and doubling down on its resistance. It made him upset to no longer feel close to his partner, to not have a piece of him inside the angel. “It must’ve worn off.”

“God,” Gavin grumbled, clutching his abdomen as nausea started again, leaving him crippled where he kneeled, “please make it stop.” He was back to stage one, no longer protesting when the demon carried him back to bed, laying him on his side so he wouldn’t choke on his vomit.

“There’s always a price to pay for disobedience,” Ace said, pressing a cool hand on Gavin’s heated forehead, “I’m sorry.”

“If you were really sorry, you wouldn’t have gotten me into this mess,” the angel reproached. Ace looked affronted knowing that, yes, some of this was his fault, but Gavin had no right pinning it all on him. But before he could even begin to protest, Gavin continued, flashing the demon a pained smile. “You had no right making me fall for you like you did.”

Ace let out a small gasp, his vision blurring as a foreign feeling passed through him, compelling him to lean in and kiss his sick angel.

“Stop,” Gavin objected but it was weak, his fingers already finding their way to Ace’s shirt and gripping the fabric, “I taste like puke.”

The demon shrugged, pecking Gavin’s cheek. “I’ve had worse,” he reassured, covering Gavin’s hand with his own, eager to continue.

“I highly doubt that,” the angel retorted, but it was a baseless claim, one that shouldn’t deter them. It didn’t take much convincing to bring Ace back into his personal space, to kiss again.

For a demon, the detective was gentle, his tongue like silk against Gavin’s lips, coaxing a similar response from the angel. The deeper their kiss got the more Gavin could forget about the troubles from above. His headache was replaced by a heady fog, the nausea was now a vine, coiling tighter as his apprehension and yearning climbed to a visible surface, spilling into his actions.

“Fuck, Ace, get up here,” Gavin urged, pulling him into an embrace, shocking the demon with his strength. There was an awkward tumble as they bumped into each other, arms and legs akimbo. The angel huffed a laugh, transforming it into a giggle when he met Ace’s startled eyes. They might have been a bit over their heads with this one. “So much for your books.”

The demon returned his mirth, shaking his head as he readjusted their tangled limbs, “You sure you want to do this now?” he asked, leaning his chin on his hands as they rested on Gavin’s chest, awaiting the angel’s input.

“Weren’t you the one with ulterior motives?” Gavin teased, tapping Ace’s nose, “getting cold feet now that you’ve got me all alone?”

“I take comfort in knowing that your confidence is a façade,” Ace responded, dry as a heat stroke, “you’re more than welcome to take the lead if you’re so inclined.”

“Right,” Gavin said, his cheeks tinting red, “I can do that.” But he couldn’t move, partly because Ace was weighing him down, and partly because…well, Ace did just call him on his bluff.

“I’m waiting,” the demon said, just as mischievous as his partner, “tik-tok, tik-tok—”

“Alright, I get it, we’re both new to this,” Gavin admitted, looking away. At least whatever they were starting to do staved off the worse of his affliction, giving him a moment of relief. A moment to think. “Thought it’d be easier, honestly,” Gavin said as he chewed his lip.

“We’re overthinking it.”

The angel nodded, shy as he returned Ace’s gaze. He couldn’t hide behind his sarcasm anymore, he had to rely on his feelings, the ones currently frazzled by their situation. Tentative, and with much determination, Gavin reached out to cup Ace’s cheek, letting his thumb brush against his brow, his jaw, smoothing down his hard-set lines. He paused at his lips, still damp from their previous foray, continuing as he slid towards the demon’s teeth, running the pad of his thumb against the incisors. With the greatest of care, Gavin pushed against the tooth, testing how much pressure he had to apply before it split him open. Apparently, not much, as blood trickled down before Gavin felt the first sting of pain.

“Now a piece of me is in you,” the angel whispered, having caught the tendrils of Ace’s earlier lament.

The demon turned his head enough to kiss Gavin’s hand, peppering pecks upwards until he reached his shoulder, kissing it through his shirt. Despite everything, it still smelled foreign, as if it belonged to someone else. He couldn’t contain the growl in his chest, all he could do was dampen it as it exited, latching his lips against Gavin’s neck and sucking, catching the angel by surprise.

Gavin gasped, unknowingly sensitive to this ministration. He let out a nervous groan when Ace introduced his teeth, reaching blindly to cling to him, pushing Ace’s head deeper into the crook of his neck. There was a spike in his pulse with each lap of Ace’s tongue, Gavin’s fingers went numb as they tightened in the demon’s hair.

“Ouch,” Ace rumbled into Gavin’s ear. He pulled away enough to look at Gavin, annoyed affection written within his eyes, “That hurt.” The angel was bashful, shrinking from the ruby stare. He loosened his grip, letting his hands fall to his sides, where he forced them to stay. Ace shook his head, disappointment in his aura, “I didn’t tell you to stop.”

There was a tightness in the angel’s throat he couldn’t quite shake. It constricted further when the demon reached for a kiss, navigating the tentative playing field in which they’d found themselves. Gavin wasn’t sure where the surge of adrenaline came from, or what he’d do with it, he just knew it was building.

They pressed close, feeling every shift in clothing as it accommodated the muscles beneath. The lines between them were starting to blur as they approached their first summit. Ace and Gavin were no longer just demon and angel, good and evil, right and wrong. In retrospect, it was easier to see they were becoming a new breed, something unintended but organic. An evolution brought on by a need.

Ace could feel the slightest inkling of resistance coming from within Gavin, it was a defence mechanism, he was sure, but it made the demon hesitate. He broke their kiss, his eyes searching Gavin’s hazy ones. “Once we do this, there’s no undo button,” Ace reminded, giving the angel a final warning, “you’ll be damned forever.”

“Is that supposed to scare me?” Gavin teased, playing off the lingering fear with his usual bullshit. “I want you, Ace, no matter the consequences. Besides, if God cared, He’d be here to stop it.” They paused, looking over their shoulder to double-check, that yes, God didn’t care anymore.

“I hope you mean it,” Ace grumbled, fighting a pout, “I’d hate to be the bane of your existence for the rest of eternity.”

Gavin would’ve joked about how he already was, and he had nothing to worry about, but Ace was being sincere, and so Gavin offered him the same courtesy, clearing his mind of all doubt and indecision. “I mean it.” There it was, the last of Gavin’s internal resistance had crumbled to ash and it was liberating. Fucking scary but liberating.

Ace’s eyes blurred again, and it took him a while to understand those were tears forming in his eyes and not sudden onset myopia. He took Gavin’s hands and clasped them in his own, rubbing his cheeks against them like a needy cat.

“Let me know if anything hurts,” the demon said, undoing the first button of his shirt, “and we’ll stop.” Ace removed his shirt, letting it fall to the floor. There were no blemishes on his skin, an enviable canvas that could have easily been an illusion. Gavin wasn’t sure, but he let his fingers trace the quivering lines on the demon’s abdomen, following them to his navel—a reminder that Ace had been born.  

“I’m not a coward,” Gavin countered, shaking himself from his baser thoughts. He crossed his arms, his hands itching to touch, to explore.  

“I mean it,” Ace said, deathly serious. There was a defiant edge to Gavin’s answering stare, but he conceded, giving a reluctant nod. They jumped at the sudden crash of thunder, unsure if it was the storm or an armada coming to cease their actions. They waited a few beats before they resumed, remaining alert for any more intrusions.

The demon took the lead, noting from experience that Gavin was more comfortable in the passenger seat. It didn’t mean Gavin was a passive participant in his pleasure, he simply chose to express it differently. So different that he felt disposed to hide it, shield it from the world and any wondering ears. They got harder to contain, however, when Ace started unbuttoning his shirt, pressing soft kisses into the exposed skin.

Ah,” it was a soft sigh, one that escaped in the angel’s moment of weakness as the demon’s lips latched around his nipple and sucked. It was all brand new to Gavin, hence his sensitivity. He couldn’t be blamed for the bucking of his hips, or how his wings seemed to tense and curl around the demon, covering them both with oil.

It was embarrassing, the scent obscene to the angel. Anyone with an iota of a brain cell would know what’d transpired.

Ace, for all his neatness, didn’t seem to mind a bit of a mess, rubbing the slick over his face with the desperation of a drowning man. He buried his nose in the depths of Gavin’s wing, inhaling and tasting the nectar at the source. He never wanted to part from it, he needed it. Finding a gland, Ace was careful as he licked it, his mouth bursting with flavour, thick like honey and just as sweet.

Gavin saw white, sure he’d been transported against his will into another plane of existence. But no, it was the stimulation of his most private parts that drove him to near extinction. He may have said or done something in his moments between consciousness and nothingness, because when he came to, Ace was apologizing, his mouth overflowing with the aphrodisiac.

“That’s filthy,” Gavin slurred, drunk as he pulled the demon into a deep kiss, pushing his tongue as far back as he could. Tasting himself mixed with Ace’s sin was an experience he wanted to memorize until his inevitable demise. There was nothing in the world that could separate him from this moment. He wouldn’t voice it, however, just in case the universe felt like tempting fate.

The bed was wet with sweat and oil, it’d have to be burnt to erase any evidence of their coupling. But this was an afterthought, a non-existent reminder in the bubble they’d created. Ace, though unwilling, had to separate them so they could continue, his fingers daft as they slid off Gavin’s buttons, far too slippery to get a grip. He cursed and ripped the fabric in half, his head losing rational thought an alarming rate.

It was only them—they were the only two that mattered.

Ace’s eyes were a bright red as they took in his beloved, read his scars, traced them with his tongue. He paused at the freshest one, snarling at the Words. He knew who’d put them there, swore to rectify the damage. The sudden bout of protectiveness he now possessed for Gavin should have worried him, but it only solidified the simple fact that they were meant for each other. That in this vast and erratic world, everything happened for a reason.

There was another roll of thunder overhead, louder than the last. The angels were getting closer, swarming over the city. This time they were ignored, disregarded as Ace undid the buckle of Gavin’s belt, wanting nothing more than to see more of him, to taste him. He’d spent many hours bent over his books, knew what to do (in theory)—all he needed was a partner.

Though it killed him to do it, Ace moved slowly as he removed the last of Gavin’s clothing, leaving him as nude as the day he was born. Someone up above must have lied when they said angels had no shame, for Gavin used his wings to cover himself, his cheeks bright against the white of his feathers.

“Let me look at you,” Ace pleaded—begged—his words garbled as they spoke through his dry throat, “please.” He wouldn’t force the angel to reveal himself, all he could do was express his desire, the acute burn in his heart from being denied this simple pleasure. It was a quaint juxtaposition, Gavin’s loud-mouthed, bombastic attitude didn’t translate as Ace thought it would. He’d tease him about it later when it didn’t feel as if his skin would fall off if he didn’t touch his angel.

Gavin’s wings lifted one by one, uncovering him like a gift. He was shuddering against the sheets, his body like an autumn leaf in the wind. Ace drank him in, first with his eyes, then his hands, tender and kind as he covered more of the angel with himself. He licked the residual oil, marking his territory as he crept closer to his angel’s cock, forcing himself to focus before he lost himself fully.

The angel, for all his valiant efforts, lost the battle with his voice as it erupted from him, cascaded across the walls like an auditory waterfall. He had God’s name wrapped around a million curses and Ace’s between blessings. He feared such blasphemy might arouse suspicion, but by the time he could bring himself to care, Ace was doing something with his tongue that had him seeing galaxies.

“I know now why humans sin,” Gavin groaned into his palm, clammy and tight from having it fisted into a ball. There was a fire in his core, and he wondered if that was Ace, if that was the permanent stain affixing itself around his soul.

“Not yet, you don’t,” Ace warned, running his fingers through the angel’s feathers to collect more lubricant, using it to coat his digits. He waited until Gavin caught his breath to proceed. He spread the angel’s legs, always curious why God equipped them with the same basic anatomy as their human counterparts. If he was honest, it seemed the Creator had gotten lazy after His first draft.

Ace had to steady himself, too many emotions were rushing his system at once and he was threatening to self-combust if he didn’t take a moment to calm down. Gavin was like putty in his hands, his lids hooded and his mouth ajar, his breaths coming in little puffs as he waited for his lover. It felt like a privilege to see him like this, debauched and committing himself to this crime. Ace wanted nothing more than to take a picture and preserve it for eternity, but the fear that anyone else might lay eyes on it had him instantly shutting the idea down. He’d have to satisfy himself with this memory and hope that they survive the night, so they’d have a chance to do this again.

“Remember, any pain and we’ll stop,” Ace said, sounding unsure of his own ability to stop, but forcing himself to follow through if push came to shove. Gavin was non-verbal at this point, nodding eagerly, and opening himself more for the demon, his previous shyness thrust to the backburner. Ace bit his lip, drawing a considerable amount of blood, as a shudder ran through him, hard and all-encompassing.

God, he wasn’t gonna’ last long at this rate.

Slowly, and with a confidence he’d fought to regain, Ace entered Gavin, using the natural curve of the angel’s anatomy to guide his finger. He pushed until there was nothing left to give, gauging Gavin’s reaction every step of the way. If the angel was feigning nonchalance, it was unnoticeable, since he hadn’t flinched nor protested.

Ace waited, probably longer than necessary, before he began to move, going by feel alone, wondering if he was doing anything worthwhile. Gavin’s breath hitched and caught in his throat as Ace brushed against something hard. The demon thought of stopping—almost did—if it hadn’t been for Gavin grinding against him, meeting him halfway.

Not for the last time, Ace wondered why God made it so easy to sin.

Mph,” Gavin whimpered, shutting his eyes as a ripple of carnal desire swept through him. He was twitching against Ace’s fingers, ready without even knowing it.

The demon removed his fingers with great care, not meaning to tease as he removed his pants, holding his tongue before he asked the angel once more if he was sure. They’d gotten this far—it would be cruel and unusual for either of them to stop now.

Ace coated himself with the remainder of the natural lubricant, holding Gavin’s thighs to his hips, keeping them both steady as he moved forward. He aligned himself, feeling like a thread navigating through the eye of a needle. If either of them expected anything mystical to occur once they joined, they were sorely disappointed, as the only thing that happened was another cry of the bugle horns and the accompanying thunder.

They moved in tandem, hesitant, nervous. Afraid to admit they were afraid. The last thing they wanted was to commit a mistake, do something so mortifying that death might seem like a kinder option. It helped that they were both inexperienced, equal in their ignorance.

Gavin motioned for a hug, subverting expectations by going for a kiss instead. It seemed to spur them onward, remind them they were supernatural and could withstand each other’s strength. Ace let instinct drive his decisions, loosened his control over his willpower. Though terrifying, his angel didn’t seem to mind, responding in twine as his legs wrapped around the demon’s hips, and his nails turned to claws as they cut through the sensitive skin on Ace’s back. He hissed at the sting, retaliating with a sharp thrust, earning a well-deserved yelp.

More,” Gavin groaned, insistent. And with kisses like those, how could Ace ever refuse?

The leash around the monster most people painted Ace to be was unravelling, digging and tearing at its cage to be let free. He held it at bay, wanting to keep something of himself in this. But then Gavin moaned his name, said it with such sweet agony that Ace thought he’d hurt him, that the rush overwhelmed him and there was nothing he could do but let it ride out.

“Yes, fuck, yes!” the angel breathed, clinging to Ace as he fucked him, truly and wholly, filling him with each thrust until he felt like he would burst. But it wasn’t enough, he wanted more, needed more, was incomplete without it. The world around him was starting to stabilize, not so hyperaware of the demons above and the angels below, or however they were ordered.

It was with this newfound clarity that Gavin came, taking him by surprise when he was least expecting it. It was so sudden that it pulled Ace into one too, dragging a growl from the depths of his blackened soul and into Gavin’s mouth, kissing him as they slowed to a crawl. Their bodies exhausted despite feeling electrified.

Ace reined his beast back in its cage, secretly thanking it for its existence. He cradled Gavin’s face with much fondness, seeing him anew for the first time. They’d called it being tainted before as if such purity could be dirty. Their souls were joined, tied in an unbreakable knot, Heaven and Hell, in a perfect balance. He hoped Gavin could see it too, could rejoice in the joy and peace he’d found within.

“I do see it,” Gavin reassured, looking deeply into the demon’s eyes, “I do, it’s beautiful.”

Ace did cry then, unable to confine the tears as he kissed his beloved, his soulmate, the one who now understood him as he did himself. He flipped them over, still buried inside the angel. Gavin jumped, sensitive and overstimulated but gagging for round two. Besides, he had a sinking suspicion they were about to spend the rest of their stay exploring everything.

They might have to burn down the church, afterward.