The triumph of persuasion over force is the sign of a civilized society. – Mark Skousen
“I don’t know why you insist on coming out here all the time,” Rodney griped. “I’m not sitting on the rocky ground.”
He conjured up a padded blue camp chair with an attached foot rest, settling in with a sigh.
The view was nice enough, he supposed, but after a hundred and fifty-odd years anything would lose its luster. John could be incredibly sentimental sometimes.
“You’d never know how many people died here,” John said, wind ruffling through his overly-cowlicked hair. He was wearing the black turtleneck again in direct defiance of his side’s dress code.
“There are literally twenty monuments just for this stupid rock,” Rodney countered. He pushed his sunglasses down his nose and peered at John over the top of them. “What’s wrong with you? You get a bad evaluation or something?”
John leaned back on his hands and looked up at Rodney. “Just thinking.”
“That must hurt.”
“Yeah. That never gets old.” The eyeroll was mental, but Rodney knew it was there. “It’s just…despite all the monuments, they really have a way of putting the past behind them. Look how much they romanticize World War Two. A brutal war, but all anyone thinks about is USO dances and victory gardens. Their ability to forget is amazing.”
Rodney frowned. “You’re being maudlin. What brought this on?”
John shrugged. “Nothing. I don’t know. Just a feeling.”
That gave Rodney pause. He’d known John for millennia now, and in that time – despite their many, many differences – he’d come to trust John’s instincts. But there was one thing he trusted even more than that.
“What does the sword say?”
John flicked his wrist and was suddenly holding the so-called Flaming Sword. In actuality, the sword hadn’t been on fire since Adam and Eve had left the Garden. At the moment there were wispy curls of smoke drifting from the blade.
“Oh, no,” Rodney said. “It can’t be that time already!”
Another wrist flick and the sword disappeared. “They’ll want me to fight,” John said, like it was inevitable. Which, of course, it was.
“My side will expect the same.” Rodney crossed his arms and settled deeper into the chair, which had turned into a plush La-Z-Boy recliner to match his mood.
He wanted to fight in the prophesied war as much as John did, which was not at all. Maybe he’d been on Earth too long. In the beginning it had been more fun, manipulating things from behind the scenes. Humans were capable of great innovation when properly motivated by fear or war or deprivation, but they’d mostly outsourced that sort of thing to themselves in recent decades.
Humans could be terrifying.
John had changed, too. He’d spent thousands of years trying to counteract Rodney’s demonic interventions with angelic ones of his own. Rodney had been the one to point out that all they were doing was canceling out each other’s actions and insuring neither side got a solid win. After that it just made sense to take more time for themselves, individually, and opened the door to increased down time that could be spent on more pleasant activities, such as enjoying fine human cuisine. Rodney loved to eat.
Going to war against Heaven would ruin everything: Earth, humanity, and Rodney’s enjoyment of both. It would also pit Rodney against John and that was something he wasn’t prepared to do. Ever.
“What if we didn’t do it?” Rodney asked. It was something that had been in the back of his mind for a while now, but he hadn’t been sure how John would receive it. He could be a fairly stalwart angel a lot of the time, petty apparel rebellions aside.
“Didn’t do what?”
“Fight in the war, stupid. What if we kept there from ever being a war?”
In the blink of an eye, John was perched on the arm of Rodney’s chair. “Can we even do that?”
“Look at the facts, Angel.” Rodney ticked them off on his fingers. “The humans don’t deserve an apocalypse. At least not one they haven’t brought on themselves. And what will a war between Heaven and Hell prove that wasn’t already decided when Lucifer threw his temper tantrum? Lastly, if we let them destroy the world, there won’t be any more football, fast cars, or Ferris wheels.”
John gave Rodney a narrow-eyed look. “Are you trying to tempt me?”
“I’m trying to persuade you. There’s a difference.”
John leaned back, and he was practically sitting on top of Rodney. It wasn’t unpleasant. Over the years they’d developed something that Rodney could only admit to himself was a friendship, though at times it felt like something much more important than that. They bickered, and their fundamental belief systems were diametrically opposed, but John had saved Rodney’s life a time or two during their acquaintance, and he’d done the same. That sort of thing tended to form bonds.
“It’ll be dangerous,” John said. “If your side or mine finds out what we’re doing, we’ll be unmade.”
“And if we do nothing that could still be the outcome. But I think we should try.”
John used one fingertip to trace the delicate snake tattoo that coiled around Rodney’s wrist. Rodney thought it was a sad shame that angels and demons had completely vestigial sex organs; he bet he’d have been great at fucking. He did have feelings, non-sexual though they may be, and it took all his restraint not to pull John fully into the chair and hug him until they both felt better.
Demons were not supposed to be touchy-feely.
“We’d have to find the Antichrist,” John mused. “And either reason with him –”
“Or destroy him before he comes into his power and summons the Four Horsemen,” Rodney said. “We can do this, John. Think of the crêpes.”
“Vive la résistance?” John asked, eyebrow raised. “You know those crêpes almost cost you your head.”
Rodney waved away his almost-guillotining – one of the times John had intervened on his behalf – which had been a good two hundred or so years ago. Ancient history by American standards. “Worth it. And so is this.”
So are you, he wanted to say. No demon in the history of time would have expressed that, or any, feeling to an angel, and Rodney certainly wasn’t about to be the first. The feeling was there, though, and it was real. There were no demons he was even remotely close to, no other that understood what it was like to live among the humans since the beginning of the world.
John was his best friend, as crazy as that was.
“Okay. Let’s do it.” John hopped off the chair and pulled Rodney up with him. “Let’s fight for our own side.”
“That was easier than I thought it would be,” Rodney admitted. “You’re not usually so easily persuaded.”
“Let’s just say I’m in it for the crêpes,” was the smirky reply.
Rodney had the strangest feeling John wasn’t talking about actual crêpes.
“Speaking of food, maybe we can have a council of war over some lunch?” Rodney gestured at the view from Little Round Top. “Somewhere with less depressing ambience, if you don’t mind.”
“I know a great barbecue place,” John said. “The food is heavenly.”
Rodney rolled his eyes. “I don’t know why I put up with you.”
“Yeah you do. Come on. I have my car.”
Rodney resigned himself to reckless driving and an endless parade of Johnny Cash songs. He’d tried introducing more cultured music, but whatever forces were at work in John’s car just turned everything into twangy Country songs about dogs and lost love. The things he put up with in the name of friendship. And stopping the apocalypse.
He’d be damned if he’d hike down, though. “Don’t take too long,” he demanded, before teleporting directly to the Impala.
Rodney would worry about the challenges to come after he’d eaten a proper meal, and with the full knowledge he wouldn’t be facing them alone.