Summary: Our favourite tortured boys are back in this third and final instalment in which they try to outrun Hell.
Notes: See chapter 1 for disclaimer warnings and related info.
I glance wildly around the cavernous space. The air is charged with electric rage as angels and demons fight all around. Rock showers from the cavern walls with explosive force as flaming streaks of celestial lightning tear through the space. Demons go down, oozing black ichors. Angels rain from the sky, their wings ripped open by Hellfire.
My heart dies a little when I see Carys take a direct hit. She drops to the ground just a few feet away with a resounding thud, and a dark-haired angel with a singed left wing swoops past and scoops her up. But she’s limp in his arms.
I have to stop this.
How do I make this happen?
I wrack my brain frantically for the key. There’s got to be a way.
What do I make Lucifer believe?
Desperate for the answer, I gaze at Him, proud and powerful—so sure of Himself—and suddenly I understand.
That’s not who I need to Sway.
I look at Suzie as she drags Maggie toward the precipice, and focus. “Don’t do this,” I say softly, pushing the thought.
She shoots a mournful glance at Lucifer but doesn’t respond.
“You can make your own choices.” I fill my heart with my love for Maggie, for my family, and push harder—so hard I feel like my head is gonna implode, making me suddenly nauseous. “You don’t have to follow His orders.”
Grandpa cries out and my gaze snaps to him as he convulses. A cold smile slips across Lucifer’s face, contrasting with the intense heat He exudes. “Tread lightly,” He hisses.
I push toward Grandpa again and am thrown back by Lucifer’s field. “Stop!” I scream, wheeling on Lucifer.
“How far this goes is entirely up to you, my love.”
Maggie screams and I spin in her direction. Suzie stands at the edge of the gorge, looking as though she’s about to toss her in.
“Suzie! No! You don’t have to do this!”
A sad smile flickers at the corners of her mouth. “I wish that were true,” she mutters so low I barely hear her.
In the back of my mind, I replay what I did to Aaron, trying to remember how I made that work. But even if I knew how it worked and could do it again, I need Suzie. She’s the key to this whole uprising—the one who can bring it together and make it happen.
If I can figure out how to get her past Lucifer’s hardwiring.
I’ve never been good under pressure. My brain is a whir of thoughts, not a single one coherent.
God’s gift to humanity.
Ianto’s voice echoes in my mind.
They don’t need to be human, they just need free will.
Is my Sway enough to give free will to Suzie? To all of them?
For a second, I hesitate at the thought that demons with free will might be a dangerous thing. But then Grandpa cries out again. His breath is coming in wet rasps, as if he’s drowning. The sound sends icy terror pumping through my veins. I have to do something—now—and I don’t have a better idea.
I think of Grandma—of God—and focus every ounce of strength I can find on Suzie. My body becomes electric, my synapses firing on overload, and when I look down, I’m actually glowing—like John.
It scares me a little and I feel my resolve waver, but then Maggie screams.
I pull myself from my thoughts in time to see Suzie launch Maggie over the edge of the gorge. My own scream rips through the space as one of Suzie’s security detail, a short, squatty demon with furry legs, a tail, and black horns unleashes a blast of Hellfire at the angel that dives over the precipice after her. The angel re-emerges with Maggie in his arms a moment later and lowers her to her feet then retaliates with a crackling bolt of white lightning.
And that’s when I see he’s different from the others—much taller and with three shimmering pairs of white wings.
His bolt sends the demon plummeting over the edge of the gorge. He turns to me then and lowers to a knee, his head bowed and his long platinum waves falling in a face that reminds me so much of John that tears sting my eyes. Then he’s gone, back into battle.
Maggie runs to Grandpa and reaches out. There’s a shower of sparks as her hand contacts the field around him.
“Maggie,” I cry, and try to pull her away, but I can’t budge her. It’s as though she’s bound to the field and it’s pulling her in too. She closes her eyes in concentration, and, as I watch, her hand starts to shake and the skin of her palm takes on a red hue. The hue becomes a full-on glow as she sucks the energy from Lucifer’s field into her hand. Her whole arm glows red for a second, and when she shakes her hand, a shower of sparks spray from her fingertips and wink out before they hit the ground.
I kneel next to Grandpa and touch his face. He’s so cold. His eyes open just a sliver and a hint of a smile curls his pallid lips.
“Grandpa!” I lean down and hug him gently, afraid of hurting him. “Hold on, Grandpa. I’m going to get you some help.”
His hand opens and squeezes my arm almost imperceptibly. “I’m sorry for…” he pauses to take a wet, rasping breath, “… not knowin’ what I was.”
“No, Grandpa. This isn’t your fault.” I sob the words, and I hate that he’s hearing that, but I can’t help it.
I look up to see the immense platinum-haired angel standing over us. His lips never move, but I feel him more than hear him in my head, a soft whisper telling me Grandpa will be loved in Heaven. Instantly I know it’s the archangel Gabriel. He nods, and the next instant a golden-haired angel descends and sweeps Grandpa into his arms.
Grandpa looks into the face of the angel, and then into the sky beyond. “I’m comin’ My Love,” he says in a cracking voice so weak it’s barely audible. His eyes flutter shut.
“No, Grandpa! You can’t die,” I cry, clutching at him with all my might.
His heavy lids open again and he looks at me with such peace and serenity as he says, “It’s been a good life, Jack, and this is a good death. I’m ready.”
The golden-haired angel leaps into the air and Grandpa is gone.
I stand there, staring into the sky after them for a long moment, my heart bleeding and tears streaking my face. But then Hellfire streaks past me and I smell the pungent scent of singed hair. I beat out the flame at the ends of my hair and look up.
A dark mass forms behind Lucifer, swirling to life—hundreds of shadowy black forms with blood-red eyes.
I recognise the eyes from my dreams. I watch them sweep into the mêlée, slashing at the air with their clawed hands, and I hear the celestial screams that follow.
I spin, panic taking over my thoughts, as shrieks and explosions erupt from every direction.
What do I do?
Suzie. Free will. That was my plan.
I spin and find her advancing on me. “You are free to make your own choices,” I say. I feel celestial energy erupt out of me like lava from a volcano. “You decide.”
In a heartbeat, her fist is pointed squarely at me and I brace myself for her blast. But when she doesn’t strike, I step forward. “Did it work?”
She looks at me wide-eyed for a second, then turns her fist on Lucifer, whose attention is focused on His Mages, directing them like a maestro would conduct an orchestra. Suzie’s unexpected blast strikes Lucifer in the chest, sending Him wheeling.
“Looks that way,” she answers, gaping at her fist as if she doesn’t believe what she just did.
Closing my eyes, I focus on the infernal and shout at the top of my lungs, “You can choose!”
A bolus of energy leaves my body all at once, erupting out of me into the sudden silence and echoing off the canyon walls with a boom. I’m momentarily blinded by the intense flash of white light, but when my vision returns a moment later, Lucifer stands tall, looking to the white sky with arms raised overhead, as if calling on celestial forces.
But what He’s calling is much darker, and there’s nothing celestial about it.
Hellfire swirls all around Him in a cluster of red, yellow, gold, and blue, stronger every second.
His eyes focus on me. “You will belong to me, or you will belong to no one!” He bellows.
The whirl of Hellfire consumes Him, obscuring Him from my vision for a heartbeat. When He throws His arms forward, it shoots from His being with all His infernal command and streaks toward me. But instead of consuming me, it feeds me. I feel it swirl through me, becoming even stronger. Before I realise I’ve done anything, enormous blasts of lightning shoot from my hands, red from my right and white from my left.
As I watch, my green-eyed angel vanishes. He’s replaced by an immense black demon with leathery wings that lift Him into the air. He struggles against my red and white electric cocoon, flapping His wings, but He can’t break free. Then Suzie’s power joins mine, a Hellfire blast from her ranseur, streaking toward Lucifer. Others from all around the cavern add theirs—hundreds of streaks of red Hellfire all converging on one spot.
The cavern grows eerily quiet, the screams and explosions ceasing, until the only sound is the crackle of Hellfire.
Lucifer hovers in midair a moment longer, still as stone, before I pull my power back. But, along with my own energy, I pull back His. It enters me like a flaming missile. Lightning courses through my veins, searing through me, burning me alive. There’s a thunderous crash, and as my eyes adjust to the sudden dimness after the intense blaze of the convergent Hellfire, I see Lucifer hit the ground in a cloud of brimstone dust, splintering into a million shards. I fall to the ground, my body seizing. The earth rumbles under me and a deafening sucking sound almost ruptures my eardrums.
My fingers curl into the coarse grass of my backyard, and when I open my eyes, fresh leaves flutter overhead. Beyond, puffy white clouds float lazily through an azure sky.
This is it.
This is the image after the lightning that night at the airstrip—the reason I was so sure I was gonna die. This is what I felt—lightning not only in my head but consuming me, radiating out of me. The lightning is me. I’m burning alive.
My heart implodes as I close my eyes and see Ianto’s face.
Then everything fades and I’m gone.