Word Count: 18,753
Summary: Jared and Jensen are angels in God's army who live to make each other miserable. During some supposedly restful downtime, it comes to the attention of someone very important.
Notes: This is for ignited, I'd pretend it's for her birthday, but that was so long ago, I might as well just be like HAPPY RANDOM PRESENT! It's inspired by Good Omens, but it's also the culmination of two years worth of research for an original work.
The gala was in full swing when they got there, couples whirling about on the dance floor. All weapons were left at the door as courtesy to the equinox, when day and night were equal—a symbol of their eternal struggle with the demons. Their kind did not partake at such events, but servers carried trays of juice around. Padalecki dragged him down to sit at a bench, partially obscured by a potted plant. He’d stumbled three times on the walk over, grip tight around Jensen’s elbow. He was ridiculous, a giant among women trying to tiptoe daintily across the floor. Jensen sat next to him quietly and hoped nobody would notice them.
“Sweet infinity, there’s Tulia,” Padalecki said, staring across the ballroom. Jensen looked up to follow his gaze. Tulia was barely clothed in a little sheath of fabric. Padalecki was somewhat slack jawed. A scrubby blond brought her a glass of punch and Padalecki laughed. “Tarquin, that asshole, macking on her while I’m gone,” he turned to Jensen to grin.
“Doesn’t that bother you?” Jensen asked.
Padalecki shrugged. “Eh, she’s hot, but it wasn’t like it was pulse-poundingly awesome.”
Jensen raised a brow.
“Oh man, you heard everything.” Padalecki’s face was sheepish, but it quickly melted away into his amused default. Jensen shook his head and peered studiously at the orchestra as they played an up-tempo waltz. He couldn’t help thinking about how close their hands were on the bench.
“So you’re the lucky lady,” Hiver said, startling them both.
Padalecki stared at him for a moment and then shot a tentative glance at Jensen. He tottered to his feet as Jensen stood and said, “I’m er…Jared.” He leaned against Jensen’s side, ostensibly because they were so very much on love, but Jensen found himself accepting a good portion of Padalecki’s weight.
Hiver shook his proffered hand and said, “Jared—that’s funny. That’s the name of Jensen’s Arch-nemesis.” Jensen halted, eyes opening wide.
Padalecki hid an amused half-smile behind his hand. “Oh yeah?”
“Yeah, Jensen hates him so much he’s practically loving him.” He looked around the room, missing Padalecki’s awkward smile. “Come to think of it, funny he’s not here.”
Jensen felt his face fill with blood, cheeks heating up uncomfortably. “All right, that’s enough out of you.”
“Aww,” Padalecki choked out. He trembled in the loop of Jensen’s arm, head bowed to hide his face. Hiver didn’t seem to notice Padalecki’s silent shaking. A good thing, since he probably looked like he had palsy. Jensen hated his life. He really did. They should’ve thrown him off the Tarpeian Rock and been done with it. Padalecki’s eyelashes brushed lightning-quick over his jaw as he noiselessly laughed and Jensen felt his face flaming even darker.
“Hi, guys,” Julia said, arm entwined with Derry’s. They had to push through the crowd to join them. She sent a small wave to Padalecki.
Jensen’s eyes would be rolling out of his head if etiquette didn’t demand good cheer.
“Don’t mind me,” Padalecki chuckled. “Hiver was just amusing me.”
“I was?” Hiver said, a bit floored.
Jensen elbowed Padalecki hard enough that he swayed away, like the mast of a ship, before swaying back.
“I did a good job, didn’t I, Jensen?” Julia said.
“Er, what?” he stared at her blankly.
“Getting her dressed up,” she said, furrowing her brows. “She looks great, doesn’t she?”
“I uh…” he shot a quick look at Hiver and then said, “Yes, very lovely.”
“You do,” Hiver said, “look lovely, that is.”
Jensen and Padalecki exchanged glances. “Thank you?” Padalecki said, tentatively like he was accepting an unsought and unwanted gift. A small woman, made dark by whorling tattoos that started at her elbow and swirled up around her neck interrupted and asked Hiver to dance. Hiver shot a furtive glance at their little group before accepting.
“I’d like to dance,” Julia said pointedly.
Derry’s face was pained. “I’m not good at dancing.”
“I don’t care,” Julia replied firmly. Derry sighed and nodded at the dance floor, and they left, leaving the two behind to the solitude of the potted planet. Padalecki sank back down to the bench with an exhale of relief.
“My best friend cannot fall in love with you,” Jensen said, watching Hiver wheel around the room, the tattooed woman in his arms.
“Not to worry, I’ll be really mean and say his haircut makes his head look like a pencil the next time I see him. I’ve always wanted to tell him that.”
Jensen rolled his eyes upward and shook his head. Padalecki spotted the buffet and demanded that they grab food. He filled Jensen’s plate up with strawberries and grapes and little slices of cheese.
“Is there a reason you can't have a plate of your own?”
Padalecki waved him away. “Girls don’t do that.”
Jensen very much doubted that, but before he could say as much the archangel Barbiel climbed onto the dais and the chatter and noise stopped.
“Sabha, sabha, I bid you welcome on the vernal equinox,” he said, addressing them with raised arms. He started into a long rambling speech that sounded like the summation of the fourth quarter earnings of a corporation.
Jensen quickly tuned it out. Padalecki sucked at his teeth with his tongue, trying to get a piece of strawberry out.
“…and though it might appear that our ranks are dwindling, let us ever be mindful that they are swelling, people turning to our cause. That we are bringing the other to heel.” Jensen couldn’t help but pay attention to that. Padalecki sensed him stiffening beside him and grabbed his elbow.
“…that one day we might take back the earth and impose order upon it again.”
“Because everything that’s different is at fault,” Jensen whispered bitterly sardonic. Padalecki made a strange face at him.
Barbiel smiled down on all of them, completely oblivious to the disquiet of several of his soldiers. “‘For perverse thoughts separate people from God, and when his power is tested, it exposes the foolish.’ ”
“Amen,” the assembly said as one.
“What a lot of nonsense,” Jensen said, voice carrying a little. People were craning over their shoulders to get a good look at him. He saw General Suetonius, the base commander, straighten up out of the corner of his eye and couldn’t bring himself to care.
“What are you doing, idiot?” Padalecki huffed and started pushing him toward the door. “He’s not feeling well,” he explained as several of their acquaintances stared at their hasty exit. Hiver and Derry and Julia were walking towards them around the outskirts of crowd and Jensen started walking faster. He didn’t want to talk to them. Jensen glowered at the plebe manning the coat check until he scrambled off to get Jensen’s trench.
“Calm down,” Padalecki said softly, the hall they’d left behind thundered with applause and Jensen grabbed the coat out of the youngster’s grasp and walked out the front doors.
The night had grown cold, and Padalecki shivered in his flimsy dress. His small hand was still at Jensen’s elbow, fingers tightening reflexively as Jensen started to walk faster than Padalecki could easily keep up with in his heels. Jensen felt the shivers through Padalecki’s grip.
He stopped and Padalecki tripped to a halt. “Are we going back?” he asked, wrapping his arms around himself. Not enough body fat, Jensen thought critically and handed the coat over.
“What?” Padalecki stared at it a moment before realizing he was supposed to put it on. “Uh, thank you.”
Jensen had already started walking back to the living complex. Padalecki tripped over his heels trying to keep up. It didn’t make him slow down. They marched passed stoic sentries and the skeleton crew left manning the base with barely a proper salute.
“Ackles, slow down!” Padalecki stumbled a second time when they got to the stairs to the living quarters. Jensen knew he should feel mildly guilty, but like a child having a tantrum he couldn’t stop running away.
“What’s with you?” he said when they reached Jensen’s room and Jensen practically slammed the door open, trying to get inside. “You were making us sound like we’re selling orthodoxy in there!”
Jensen flexed his fingers and didn’t answer, but Padalecki was stubborn enough to wait him out.
“Other! Aren’t the fey designated as other, and fire breathers, and shapechangers?” Jensen said, staring out the window. “Shaddai created all things so that they might exist.”
Padalecki fiddled at the straps of his heels, stumbling as he tried to undo the buckles. “Don’t say that word,” he sat down on Jensen’s easy chair and hurled one shoe across the room.
Jensen drew in a breath. “What?”
“Shaddai, the destroyer—you’re in the wrong place if that’s what you think of him.”
“What do you know?” Jensen said, feeling the bitterness spill out of the words. “You hardly care.”
Padalecki sprang up out of the chair, skirt rucked up awkwardly about his waist. He didn’t bother to pull it down. “There you go, bitching like you’ve got the market cornered on hardship. You’re only 23, what could possibly have gone so wrong in your life?” Padalecki was too close. He seemed fragile, perhaps as all half-seraph women deceptively appeared.
Jensen ducked his head. “What do you know?” he repeated.
Padalecki grabbed his lapel and heaved him back against the wall. Jensen reacted on instinct, catching the arm that held him pinned and twisting out of its hold. He reversed their positions, Padalecki glaring fiercely at him, pressed so hard back into the stone Jensen thought his bones would crack.
Padalecki punched him in the kidney, but Jensen expected it and turned sideways so the blow glanced off.
“What do you know?” he shouted, catching both of Padalecki’s arms and thrusting them flat, pinned up by Padalecki’s head. He shoved in hard with his body so that Padalecki couldn’t get a knee up into his groin. “Everything has always been a fantastic joke to you!”
Padalecki’s pupils expanded. He was close enough to watch the darkness swallow up the hazel. He felt the fine bones in Padalecki’s small hands shift in his grip and Padalecki made a small captured sound in his throat. Jensen realized he was hard, digging into Padalecki’s abdomen.
He let go abruptly, nearly tripping over his feet.
“It’s not a joke to me, I didn't--I didn't mean it that way,” Padalecki said softly, hand over his mouth. He dropped wide eyes away from Jensen.
Jensen opened his mouth to tell him to get out, but when he spoke, he said, “That’s what humans say when they ask to be absolved of their sins.”
Padalecki said, “I’m not asking you to absolve me, idiot.”
“Get out,” Jensen said, resisting the steady creep of emotion in his voice.
Padalecki didn’t leave. “Why didn’t you muster out?” he snapped.
Jensen rubbed at his face. “I don’t—”
Padalecki interrupted, “The other can be dangerous! They’re too close in kind to demons, especially fire-breathers.”
Jensen picked up a tin a muscle balm and hurled at the mirror.
Padalecki continued, even as the cracked glass smoothed out and reformed, voice going high-pitched, “Frankly, I’m surprised at you! You’re so conservative!”
He waited for Jensen to say something, but Jensen only shook his head, letting anger inflate him like too much air in a tire. Padalecki shook his head in disgust. “Well it doesn’t matter. You might struggle against the notion as much as you like, call your superiors close-minded, but it’s not going to change and you will be separated if you continue like this.”
“Don’t you think I know that?” Jensen shouted finally. “Why won’t you fucking leave?”
“You’re acting like you’re the one who’s turned into a girl!” Padalecki shouted back, flopping on Jensen’s bed.
“Why won’t you leave?” Jensen reiterated.
Padalecki unselfconsciously adjusted the straps of his dress and said, “It’s not in my nature.”
Jensen’s heart was bouncing around in his ribcage. It was distracting now that his temper wasn’t consuming him. He slumped back against the wall and repressed the urge to press his palm to it. “What are we if not ‘spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?’”
“Hebrews 1:14,” Padalecki said softly. He made a face when Jensen arched a brow at him. “Oh, don’t look at me like that. I paid attention in catechism!”
“You slept through it every day!”
Padalecki cleared his throat and stood up. “Look, I’m going back to my rooms. You think on what I said. We all live for this.”
He finally left, abandoning one three-inch designer heel haphazardly on Jensen’s floor.
He’d just got through his fifth game of solitaire on his desk before there was a knock at his door. Hiver was probably drunk in a ditch somewhere so that ruled him out, but he had no idea who else it would be. The knock came a second time while he tossed his cards down. He answered it and found Padalecki on the other side.
“Let’s get out of here,” he said, makeup still smudged under his eyes. A band t-shirt he must have borrowed from Julia stretched tight over his chest. “Go Cyprian side.”
Jensen didn’t want to go anywhere. But he thought about Padalecki wearing heels and smiling next to him before he’d run off. He'd had the opportunity to ruin everything. He could’ve made Jensen look like a fool. He wasn’t altogether sure he wouldn’t have done the same. And he wasn’t wrong about the…other thing. As much as Jensen wanted him to be blindingly astronomically incorrect, it didn’t make it so.
“All right,” he said and went to look for his wallet and fake ID. Padalecki smiled and pulled on the trench Jensen’d lent him. It was too big in the shoulders for him, but Jensen thought it probably would be too small when he was back to normal.
“My car, or yours?” Padalecki asked as they walked down the long halls to the garage.
Jensen shrugged. “Mine, I guess.”
He was parked on the third level, just by the elevator. He clicked the electric key and smiled in satisfaction as his Tesla Roadster’s tail lights lit up and blinked.
“Indictum sit!” Padalecki said, lips parting. “That’s your car?”
Jensen shrugged and opened the driver’s side door. Padalecki stood staring at it in wonder. He got in when Jensen started the engine.
“I feel like I’m sitting in the Mach 6!” he ran a hand down the side of the seat. “Is this microfiber?”
Jensen grinned at him, turning to look over his shoulder to pull out. “I don’t believe in leather interiors.”
Padalecki snorted. He had to tell him where to go, because he hadn’t been Cyprian side for anything but the mission since he was little. “Park over there,” he said, jittering excitedly in his seat like a little kid. “I could kill for a milk shake.” They’d spent the entire ride over pushing the little Tesla’s limits in the fast lane. Padalecki’s hand had been clenched on the door handle, but he laughed the whole time.
They walked silently to the ice cream shop. They didn’t have a whole lot to say to each other. And Jensen knew that Padalecki could chat up a storm. Padalecki played a game on his cell-phone when they waited in line, cursing every time his character lost a life. Jensen shoved his hands in his pockets and wondered what they’d do here. They’d passed a movie theater on the way over, but Jensen could never sit through those, so he hoped that wasn’t what Padalecki had in mind.
Padalecki ordered a chocolate milkshake with a generous portion of whip cream and sprinkles and waited while Jensen debated between pralines and mint chip. He startled when Padalecki paid for them both. They left the shop, and Padalecki swallowed down a big helping of his milkshake and nearly moaned. “I’ve been dying for chocolate ever since it happened.”
Jensen spooned some Mint chip out of his cup and took a bite. “Maybe you’re menstruating.”
Padalecki turned to him, horrified. “What? Ah man, total dick softener! Never say that again.”
Jensen couldn’t help laughing. He watched Padalecki suck hard on his straw and eye the tall buildings that rose up around them. “You ever been roof hopping?” Padalecki asked, directing his eyes back to Jensen.
Jensen furrowed his brows. “Yes, nearly every time we're on patrol? You've been there?” Padalecki whacked him. Jensen’s right shoulder would be one massive bruise before this was over.
“I don’t mean on patrol,” he said, blowing his hair out of his face. “I mean for the hell of it.”
“Doing that on base is a bit like buzzing the tower.”
Padalecki’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “Ahah! You’ve seen Top Gun! One pop culture reference! One! Well, good that it's that one.” Jensen shook his spoon at him, but Padalecki merely smiled. He didn’t say anything after that, just sucked contentedly on his milk shake and walked down the street with Jensen. It was a foggy night, and the sky was stained red from reflected light.
They walked away from the shops into a more residential area where dark apartments loomed above them. Padalecki caught his eyes and then chucked his empty cup into a trash can. He took off running. Jensen blinked after him, lips parted in shock and had to make a choice—stand here waiting for him to get back from whatever lunacy he was about to take part in or go after him.
He looked down at his half-finished ice cream and then tossed it into the trash and ran after him. He caught up easily. Padalecki wasn’t attempting to lose him. He leaped up onto a dumpster and from there a fire escape. Jensen followed a few steps behind.
“You’re derranged!” he said, vaulting up the steps and following the path that Padalecki had laid out. They reached the roof of the building and Padalecki ran headlong at the ledge. “What if they see us?” Jensen cried, legs pumping.
Padalecki glanced over his shoulder and said, “Let them, it’s good for them to know there are things out there in the night.” He pushed off the ledge and landed on the opposite edge, the corrugated roof of an old high rise. Jensen calculated the trajectory of the landing and sailed over the busy street below, cars and people passing by, barely noticing the dark shape that arced by overhead.
Padalecki turned and ran sideways, hurdling over electric cables and lightning rods. They dashed roof to roof, barely breaking stride. Padalecki stopped looking back over his shoulder and accepted that Jensen would be following behind. Their feet ate up ground, springing up from the bricks and plaster like they were rushing across a trampoline. Jensen realized he was laughing, breath getting stuck in his throat like he might choke, but still he ran on.
There was just the barest hint of a breeze, but his face still burned from the touch of cold. He wondered how long they’d keep this up, if they could run a disjointed marathon from skyscraper to skyscraper. Padalecki stopped up short at one building’s door to the stairwell and threw it open. Jensen had to skid inside before it closed. The door banged shut behind them, echoing against the concrete walls. It was at least fifteen flights down.
Padalecki jumped up on one banister and leaped down to a lower one on the flight below. Jensen shook his head and then slung his legs up over the barrier, dropping down after him. They continued in that manner—Padalecki leaping off walls and railings like a gymnast making his own playground and Jensen just a few feet higher—until they reached the bottom.
Padalecki fell back against the wall, gasping in air. His cheeks blazed with color and the newly acquired breasts heaved. The ascetic lighting made his long hair look blue. Jensen braced himself on the banister and simply let himself breathe.
“Your eyes,” Padalecki said panting and broken.
He swore, hands flying up to his face. His eyes were shining like a cat’s when they caught the light. Padalecki dug in Jensen’s jacket pockets and pulled out the mirrored-shades he’d stolen from the commissary.
“Here,” he said and placed them on his face. Padalecki’s fingers skimmed over the shell of his ear before he drew back. “The more you come here, the better you’ll get at controlling it in front of the humans.”
Jensen shook out his shoulders. Two guys walked through the door at that moment. “Fucking elevator’s stuck again,” they said drunkenly. One fellow gave Padalecki a very pointed onceover.
Padalecki’s lips twisted into a frown. “Sure you didn’t just forget how to push the button?” He pushed past one of them hard, shoulder knocking into the guy’s collarbone solidly. Jensen winced as the guy stumbled into the wall and fell flat on his face. He stepped over him to get outside.
“Men are pigs,” he said when they reached the street.
Padalecki stared at him for a long moment. “That wasn’t a hint, was it?”
There was a little DVD rental store down the street, posters of new releases in the windows. Padalecki smiled when the door jingled as they went through it.
“Are you going to rent one?” Jensen whispered.
Padalecki shrugged. “Why not?” he said flippantly.
Jensen stared at him and then shrugged back. Jensen had gone Cyprian side on educational visits once a year after he was fostered off. They’d all worn identical t-shirts and stiff line-dried jeans. They’d walked down an endless mire of streets, and been told very carefully not to stare because none of them could control the glowing of their eyes.
One young boy had spotted a little store overflowing with VHS tapes, attracted by the by the bright packages of candy sitting just inside the door. Their minder was a bitter fourthie who’d barely any trace of the shekhinah in his features, but whose empathic ability had made it too difficult to live among the humans. He’d gone inside a dusty shop with a peeling sign that said Morris & Sons, and when he found them in the video store, looking at the anathematized movies in the horror section they’d had to go without dinner and scrub floors with lye for a week.
Padalecki held up a case and whooped. “I’ve been meaning to see this for weeks.” Padalecki stared at him. “Hey, where’d you go there?”
Jensen shook his head and grabbed the box from Padalecki, turning it over to read the back. “This sounds unbelievably stupid.”
Padalecki tugged it back. “It’s not supposed to be an insightful work.”
Jensen rolled his eyes and walked off among the racks, cataloguing the different genres. He got to the very back of the store and found himself staring at a shelf that wasn’t nearly so religiously alphabetized as the other shelves. Voluptuous women splayed themselves in awkward positions, skin bare. He felt Padalecki join him.
“Pornography,” Jensen said, staring at the boxes, face twisted in distaste. “Humans are so strange. This looks utterly repellent.”
Padalecki snorted with laughter. “Come on, we should get out of here.”
Jensen looked up and found the clerk staring at them, eyes narrowed. “Does he suspect?” he whispered.
Padalecki shook his head. “He thinks we’re in a bicycle gang or something.” He grabbed Jensen’s elbow and dragged him out of the store. “Have a nice day,” he said brightly to the clerk before the door swung shut.
“But why would he think that?” Jensen asked as they started down the street.
Padalecki held in a laugh. “You’re pretty, but you also look like you could cut a bitch.” Jensen made a face and Padalecki smiled. “Yes, that one, and your clothes are too utilitarian. Makes ‘em nervous. You should just be glad they can’t see the tattoos.”
Jensen sighed and let Padalecki pull him into an arcade. Padalecki found an old-fashioned old west themed pinball machine and stuck quarters into the slot. He lost the first ball right away, but smiled like he was just so happy to be alive that nothing could shake him. Jensen leaned up against the wall next to the machine, and watched the other people in the arcade. The air was filled with pinging and clanging, tinny music from each of the machines. He wrinkled his nose at the shooting games. People stared at him as they walked by, eying his mirrored shades and shaking their heads. He did his best to look politely neutral, but he realized his face was much more used to a grimace.
He turned to Padalecki who was toggling the flippers and cursing. He placed his palm flat on the glass. “It’s kind of amazing that someone could’ve invented this.”
Padalecki lost the pinball again and stood straight, catching his gaze. “Strange really, I mean, who had the idea for a game where you hit a ball around a slanted table?”
Jensen smiled. “Humans don’t make sense,” he said, and Padalecki nodded his head at the door. They knocked shoulders as they walked out, comfortable.
“I heard the pontiff’s selling indulgences again,” Jensen said. “God must laugh at such folly.” He darted a look at Padalecki and continued when he didn’t say anything, “Humans can be such fools, even the ones that believe.”
“Easy to call them fools when we have unshakeable proof in every moment of our lives that he is real. God is god. He does not need their love or their faith. He is without pride or vanity. It’s his place to judge.”
“Deep,” Jensen said, mouth catching at a smile.
Padalecki rolled his eyes and elbowed him. “I can see now I’m a bad influence! Do you know Lucian Ben Michael?”
“Luke?” Jensen replied, “Yes, he made my swords.”
“My mother used to say when I still lived Cyprian side and saw her barely once a month, that we don’t just protect the humans because they can’t protect themselves, but because they have something we don’t—they can create symphonies and buildings and chocolate cake you’d kill to eat, and yes pinball machines too—and that’s why Luke, a thingmaker, is so precious. How many purebreds can do what he does?”
Jensen dropped his eyes.
Padalecki caught his sleeve. Jensen looked and saw the nails were ragged like Padalecki had been biting them. “You’re too hard on people, Jensen. You’re too hard on yourself.”
They walked in silence. Jensen thought about shrugging Padalecki’s grip off. He wanted to explain himself, explain why things were the way they were, but he couldn’t fit together the words.
He looked at the sky. It never looked like this firmament side, it was too clear, rendered as God had intended. He’d watched sunsets here, stained tropical pink by pollution, and thought there was something beautiful in that too.
His cell phone buzzed at the same time that Padalecki’s did. Padalecki stared at him in horror. Jensen picked up and listened to the clipped electronic voice telling him there was a situation on Pulaski near West Garfield Park, all soldiers in the area to make their way immediately. They must have used their GPS to assess that they were within a helpful distance.
“I’m not armed,” Padalecki said desperately.
Jensen tipped his sunglasses down. “I have stuff in the car.”
“How many are out there?” Padalecki asked as they sprinted back to the parking garage. Jensen wished they hadn’t blown their energy haring up over the city skyline.
“Two squads, armed with automatics.”
“Two? How many people in that area?” They ran through a family of five returning to the parking garage, purchases spilling out of their arms.
Jensen said, “That’s the problem. There’s nothing strategic there.”
“What do they know that we don’t know?” Padalecki mumbled under his breath.
Jensen unlocked the car and they dove inside. He put the car in gear and back out of the space in a single breath, avoiding a car trying to find parking and accelerating out of the lot several miles upwards of the speed limit.
“I don’t suppose you thought to get it cloaked?” Padalecki asked.
Jensen punched a button on the dash. Nothing changed inside the car, but people who had formerly stared at the flashy car practically driving past the sound barrier now looked right through it.
He parked again fifteen minutes later. It was two blocks away, the closest they could get with the concussions that rocked the ground. Jensen popped the trunk.
Padalecki came around the side. “Jesus! You have an entire arsenal in here!”
Jensen ignored his blaspheming and pulled out several knives. “Stay away from the Ruger, the trigger needs work.” Padalecki went for the matching Springfields as Jensen loaded a magazine into a 9mm. “Do you think your wrists can handle that now?”
Padalecki pulled a face. “Boy, I could outshoot you any day.” He folded Jensen’s coat and placed it on top of the gleaming pile of artillery. Another blast rocked the ground. “I think that’s our cue.”
As they got closer, the area around them started to show signs of combat. Several cars were overturned and the windowpanes were empty. Aside from the continuous pop of gunfire there was no sound. They found two seraphs from the light-skirmishers taking cover behind a pockmarked Toyota. One, a girl with V shaped tattoos on both cheeks, rolled to her knees to fire over the hood. “What’s the situation?” Jensen said, ducking down behind the car.
“Ah shit, wasn’t sure if anybody was coming,” the guy shouted over the noise. “They’ve managed to trap our communications within so we can’t reach Firmament side.”
“They’re getting smarter and smarter,” Jensen said, “Must have a human supplier.”
The guy shrugged.
“They got us pinned down with a sniper,” the girl said, ducking back down again to reload. “We’ve already lost one and I don’t know where the rest are.” She took in their street clothes. “Were you on leave?”
They didn’t get a chance to answer. The glass in both windows of the Toyota exploded over their heads. When they rose back up, Padalecki had a deep cut arching over his cheekbone. He blinked and the cut started to knit together, bloody flesh disappearing.
“Does it hurt?” Jensen whispered.
Padalecki had a calculating expression on his face. “Not for long.” He scanned the area and drew in a breath. Jensen didn’t know what he could possibly be thinking. He was just about to say, ‘don’t do anything stupid’ when Padalecki grinned and said, “I wish I was wearing a sports bra” before leaping up over the hood, firing rapidly, and tearing off across the street.
“What’s she doing?” the girl screamed. “Elohim protect us! Sulla,” she shouted at the guy “provide her with cover.”
Jensen ducked back down against the car, staring at the destruction all around him. The house in front of him had a Big Wheel lying on the lawn next to a little plastic kiddy pool. There weren’t any bodies anywhere, but that was almost worse. A poor residential neighborhood. Hispanic, mostly. They were all gone—women, children, errant fathers and watchful grandmothers—like they’d gone on vacation at the same time. He looked down at the semi-automatic in his hand and thought maybe he could make it. Before he could convince himself out of it, he darted around the rear bumper, running under the burst of bullets.
“They’re both crazy!” he heard the woman with the v-shaped tattoos cry. He saw Padalecki drop someone with a single shot and kick in a doorway, before he had to roll behind a fence. There was shouting coming from inside the house now, barely discernible over the continuous volley of gunfire. The sniper fired at the Toyota again, one more and he’d have to reload. Jensen waited patiently, keen ears tuning in until he heard it. A good marksman could shoot and reload in three seconds. He’d have to get to the door in that time. He pushed himself into a crouch, braced against the cheap wood fence, getting ready to run. At the first attenuated bang, he sprang up over the fence, crossed the yard and leaped up the six steps the porch. Just as he crossed through the door, the frame splintered and he dove down.
He was just rolling to his feet when he heard a creak of the floorboards. A figure moved fluidly from the backdoor into the foyer, red flashing eyes the only warning he got. He ducked under the first knife strike, whirling so that his own knife strike caught her across the stomach, gutting her. She screamed and fell against the stair banister trying to hold her insides in. Jensen cleaned the knife off on the lapel of her uniform and then he crept up the stairs, semi-auto held before him. It was quiet upstairs. He hoped, fear and despair flooding his mouth, that it wasn’t too late. He couldn’t believe himself. He was acting like it was his first patrol.
The stairs curved around and around in the house, covered in damp poly-fiber carpet that smelled of mold. The danger of stairs was that any loose board might sound his arrival. He reached the top landing and found Padalecki backed up against a flimsy IKEA entertainment center. Padalecki signaled quiet with one gun-wielding hand. His left sleeve was torn and there was blood at the corner of his mouth, but other than that he seemed perfectly hail. Jensen glared at him. This unnecessary risk-taking, it was exactly why he hated Padalecki so much. If they got through this without a hospital trip, Jensen would drown him. Just watch Padalecki try to regenerate from that.
Padalecki pushed him back against the wall with his arm and craned carefully around the entertainment center. He looked back at Jensen and held up four fingers. Jensen couldn’t hear anything, but demons could be just as silent as angels. They waited for the four soldiers to come in range and it felt like forever. There was a sudden thud on the stairs. Jensen watched in horror as two more demons came rushing down the stairs, shouting in surprise when they saw Jensen and Padalecki and fumbling to raise their weapons and compromising the hiding place in one fell swoop.
“Take the stairs,” Padalecki shouted and spun out around the cabinet, firing at the four demon Berserkers coming toward them. Jensen didn’t take the time to breathe. He hurled the knife at the one on the right and fired at the one on the left. The first flipped over the stair railing and fell to the stair well below, but the second had dodged the shot and came at Jensen hard, rapiers lashing out like whips. He shot at her again, but the trigger had jammed and he tossed it aside with a curse.
Jensen only had one knife left and he caught the first strike on the small blade and barely avoided the second. She pressed him back, her reach significantly longer than his, and hooked the blade out of his hand with one crescent slice of steel. He tripped trying to elude the next slash. Padalecki shouted his name, but he was caught across the hall by two demons. Jensen’s demon grinned, her eyes red with the kill, and he thought, God, this is the saddest way to go as he found himself backed up against the opposite wall. She tumbled forward suddenly, brain and bone exploding outwards above his head. He had to roll to avoid being skewered by her swords as her legs stopped holding her up.
The house went suddenly quiet. There were only the weak moans of the demon bleeding to death in the hallway. Padalecki breathed heavily, holding himself up on the entertainment center surrounded by three broken corpses. “You rely too heavily on your ability to regenerate,” Jensen said, still lying on the floor.
Padalecki glanced over at him and carded a hand through his hair. “I wish I had a hair tie.”
A figure at the end of the hall moved into the light, stepping over fallen demons. Jensen hiked himself back up to his feet, hand scrabbling at the sword. The knot of the Princeps caught the light at her shoulder and he calmed, reaching up to touch his own before realizing it wasn’t there.
His eyes caught the glowing end of the Heckler & Koch in her hand. “I think you saved my life.” Padalecki snorted. She shook her head affectionately and her hair moved, revealing the tattoo that curved from just under her jaw to her ear—the word Michael in tight calligraphy. Marked as all children of God’s favored angels were. “You’re Lavinia Bat Michael,” he said, voice almost reverent.
She was silent a moment before presenting her hand. “Lavinia Turner,” she said, sounding a little funny. “Nice to meet you.”
They both shook her hand and she shot Padalecki an odd look before looking at Jensen and then back to Padalecki again. “You’re not a girl, are you?”
Padalecki almost dropped his guns. “How—how could you tell?”
“You don’t feel right in my head.” There was another large bang and the entire house groaned, floor shifting under their feet. She flattened herself against the wall to peer out the window. “We’ll have to save this ‘til later, they’ve got a grenadier out there.”
Padalecki smiled and bent down to unhook something from a demon’s belt. He held up the small timed explosive and said, “So do we.” He hefted it and said to Lavinia, “How’s your aim?”
She held her palm up, brows raised, and he tossed it neatly to her. Jensen turned away to recover his knives. One from the floor and the other wedged in a demons throat, sunk all the way down to the vertebra. He saw the blast from the window on the lower landing, the house next door going first bright with light, and then completely dark, debris raining down all over the place.
“There was a certain poetry in that,” Lavinia said, smiling. She skipped down the stairs to join him. “Let’s go see the damage, shall we?”
“After you,” he gestured ahead of him, waiting for her to pass. Padalecki was staring at him oddly from the top of the stairs.
“Are you flirting?” he said, unloading the empty magazines of the guns.
Jensen stared at him, mouth open in wordless fury. He flipped Padalecki the finger and then stomped down the stairs after Lavinia.