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Prepare for Trouble

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“So what do you think?” Gabriel asked.

The demon beside him had her fingers stuck in her jeans, a serpentine swagger to her hips and walk as they made their way through the park.

Tossing her head, Meg’s dark eyes slid around, taking in their new surroundings, the people feeding ducks, kids chasing each other around in a game of tag. “It’s Earth,” she commented dryly. “Just not the one we remember.”

He scoffed and waved a hand. “Yeah, but it’s not that different. It’s Earth, but, like… Earth Adjacent. An alternate universe where everything’s the same except they don’t have the color purple--”

“I like the color purple.”

His head dropped back. “It’s an example. Obviously, they have the color purple, what reality doesn’t have the color purple, but they might not have… I don’t know, blueberry Pop-Tarts. Or Pop-Tarts, at all.” He gestured with his hands, holding them in one spot, then moving them to another. “So, it’s the same, but different.”

She bumped into a man, offering a hasty apology, before turning her attention back to Gabriel while holding up the man’s wallet and then sliding it into the pocket of her leather jacket. “I don’t suppose you have any insight into the locals of this ‘verse? Heaven and Hell, I mean.”

Gabriel snapped his fingers, a fat slice of pizza on a napkin appearing in each hand. He offered her one, and she accepted it with a quirk of her brow.

“You are worried about the wrong things,” he insisted, around a mouthful of toppings. “We escaped death, Meg. Meggie? Megster? Megara? Gonna have to figure out a name for you--”

“Please don’t.”

“But we escaped death!” he exclaimed, turning to face her, walking backward and gesturing wildly with his pizza slice. “Not just death! The Empty! No one escapes the Empty!”

The corner of her mouth curled as they fell into step again. “Unless you’re Clarence.”

“Yeah, only my little bro could be stubborn enough to annoy a fathomless entity to the point it loses control of the dead in its charge.”

“Angels are dicks, but the rebellious little nerd is pretty alright,” she agreed, biting into her pizza and knocking her shoulder into Gabriels with a grin.”You seem pretty alright, too.”

Gabriel scoffed. “Uh, who do you think he got it from, Meggy Bear? No, that doesn’t work either.”

She cast her gaze around. “Think the locals noticed when we punched through?”

“Cautious type, huh? I can respect that.”

“Prefer-not-to-be-dead type. I’ve been a spy, soldier, assassin, and hellraiser since I graced the Earth with my presence. I lived as long as I did for a reason. I’m mostly worried about your side taking notice. Hell probably won’t take issue, depending on who's in charge in this universe.” Her cheek bulged as she ate and looked around. “Where even are we? I don’t recognize this place.”

“This, dear Nutmeg, would be St. James park.”

“I meant… more… geographically? Do I look like someone who spends a lot of time in parks?” She hooked her thumb at a pair on a park bench. “Though maybe I should. That was a briefcase handoff. Also, the accents tell me we’re in England.”

He narrowed his eyes at the briefcases, and the men got up and walked in opposite directions with their heads down, talking into earpieces and sleeve cuffs. A smirk curled his mouth.

Don’t,” she ordered.

He gave her a wide-eyed expression, hands raised. “What? I wasn’t!”

“You were thinking about it.” She crumpled up her napkin and lobbed it in a trashcan as they passed. “The last thing we need is to draw attention by setting off a crime syndicate bloodbath. Aren’t you supposed to be an angel?”

“Yes, but so was-- is-- Lucifer. Also, I’ve been a pagan god for longer than I was ever a dutiful angel. I am a big encourager of gluttony and vice, thank you very much.”

She cut him a look, one brow arching finely. “Can you do it while keeping a low profile, or do I need to teach you how to go underground?”

He snapped her a look so fast it was a wonder he didn’t snap his vessel’s neck. “I am the freaking archangel Gabriel, Meg. I have been hiding out on Earth as long as it’s existed, and none of my siblings ever found me.”

She opened her mouth, her expression softening to something tentative as she asked, “...did they look?”

He flinched and tore his eyes from hers, down to the path beneath their feet. “Ouch,” he said, then held up a finger when Meg opened her mouth. “Valid point,” he insisted before dropping his gaze again. “But ouch.”

They walked in awkward silence for a long moment before Meg heaved a sigh, knocking him gently with her elbow. “Well, we made it this far, and two reeds are strong than one.” The corner of her red lips was curled in a smirk when he looked at her. “Brave new world and all that. And probably with enemies old and new-- not to mention other versions of us.”

“Why, Meg,” he cooed, hand to his chest, “are you suggesting a team up for the foreseeable future?” She rolled her eyes, but her smirk grew. “Oh, honey, all you had to do was ask!”

“Down, boy. Working together keeps both of us alive, remember?”

“Yes, I know, but now I’m picturing us--”

“Please don’t say ‘naked’.”

“--partying like the world’s gonna end.”

“Or like we came back from the dead.”

“That, too. Totally calls for a celebration with a whole lot of alcohol, don’t you think?”

Her eyes glinted with mischief. “Why, Gabriel, are you suggesting we party it up in London? All you had to do was ask.”

“So much for staying off the radar?” he questioned.

“Oh no,” she assured, teeth flashing on a wicked smile, “we’re just gonna do it in style, choir boy.”

He threw his head back on a bark of laughter and wagged his finger at her. “Oh, I like the way you think.” His smile grew mischevious, eyes glinting. “Let’s go paint the town red.”