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. Thanks for reading and commenting and as always enjoy. Apologies for the delay between chapters. Life sorta got in the way but I hope to post another chapter before the end of the weekend. Cheers!
We’re out of the airport in a heartbeat, and the taxi drops us at my apartment for the Shelby. I climb in, not sure where I mean to go.
“Where would he be?” Hope asks from the passenger seat.
I shake my head. “Home. He was worried about Maggie, so I’d expect he’d head that direction.” As much as I want him dead, I’m more than a little concerned that I’ve heard nothing from John. He should be there already.
I drive like a bat out of Hell to Jack’s and find John pacing the sidewalk in the pale light of early dawn. I pull up to the curb and Hope springs out of the car before I can even roll down my window.
“Is he here?” I ask.
John leans in, looking more than slightly shaken. “He’s not even on the Board.”
Hope skids up next to John on the sidewalk. “How is that possible?”
But before the question is out of his mouth, I know the answer. If Jack’s soul is no longer on the mortal coil, he won’t show up on the Board.
He must see it in my eyes. “He’s not dead, Ianto.” At first I think the edge to his voice is directed at me, but then I realise it’s sheer determination, as if he can make it so just by wanting it. “He wants him alive. If he’s with Gray, they’re probably headed here.”
It should be a relief he’s with his brother, but my chest tightens as I recall my last image of Gray, his wings being ripped from his body by the avengers.
“Are you sure there’s no way they could be Shielding him?” he asks with a hint of desperation.
I think on that for a moment, just as desperate for it to be true. “It’s not a skill He gives us at the time of our creation. Not even Mages…” But then I trail off, a horrible thought hitting me like a lightning bolt. “Unless he was wearing an Udjat.”
John pulls a slow breath and looks me in the eye. “I took it from him and then it disappeared. He doesn’t have it.”
I press back into my seat and try to think. “If he’s wearing His mark…” Then he’s under His control, and it may be in His power to Shield his. My heart goes dead in my chest. “Is Naburus here?” I say, glancing past him at the house.
“Aaron says he’s been lurking and has spoken to Maggie a few times, but he’s been able to run interference to keep it from going any further.”
“So Maggie’s okay?”
“As far as anyone knows.”
“Do you want me to stay with her?” Hope asks.
John nods distantly, his mind obviously still on Jack. “I’ll tell Daniel you’re here.”
I crank the ignition. “I’m going to check around and see if anyone’s heard from Jack.”
I can see John struggling with whether to stay here or come with me. Finally, he steps back from the car and absently loops an arm over Hope’s shoulders, sinking into her side. “If he makes it this far, I have to believe he’ll come here,” he says.
I nod and pull away from the curb, struggling to keep it together. Because if Jack’s wearing His mark, if he’s under His influence, it might be too late. Jack’s and Lucifer’s powers are not all that different, and in a battle of wills, Jack would be at a disadvantage. Lucifer’s power may not work on the celestial, but He’s had eons to perfect it on mortals, which, despite his potential, Jack still is.
I’m across town in a matter of minutes. The neighbourhood is quiet as I pull up to the curb in front of the small, blue, single-story house and cut the engine. My eyes scan the low, trimmed hedges and the trees for any sign of trouble. I walk up to the door but hesitate before raising my hand to knock.
The house is dark, but it’s early. I’m sure Jack’s grandfather is still in bed. If I had my demon’s sixth sense, I wouldn’t need to wake him. I’d know if Jack was here.
But I don’t.
We needed more time in Ness—both Jack and me. He needed time to master his Sway, and I needed time to change. Neither of us got what we needed. My gut twists as I realise the only one of us who changed was John. I never dreamed he was turning him too. It never crossed my stupid mind. I foolishly thought he had things under control. I can’t believe I was so blind.
I drop my hand and almost walk away, but then I raise it again and rap on the door.
At first, there’s no response, and I hope maybe Ed has taken Jack away to someplace safe.
But there is no such place.
I knock again, harder this time. A few minutes pass and I’m ready to turn for the Shelby, when a light flicks on deep within the house. A moment later, the porch light illuminates and I’m washed in a pale white glow as the fluorescent bulb gradually brightens. I hear a rustle against the inside of the door and know I’m being inspected through the peephole.
The door cracks open and Ed’s face is staring out at me, his eyelids heavy with sleep and his gray fringe sticking up on one side. He pulls at the belt of his plaid bathrobe with one hand, tightening it against the early-morning chill. His other hand rests in his pocket. He makes no move toward extending a hand.
I nod and hold mine out. “Ed.”
He still doesn’t take my hand, but he opens the door a little wider. “What’s wrong?” His voice isn’t steady as he peers at me through narrowed eyes, trying to find answers.
I hold his gaze with mine. “I need to know if you’ve seen or heard from Jack in the last twelve hours.”
His focus blurs for a moment while he tries to decipher the meaning behind my words or, hopefully, decides how much to tell me. “He’s at college,” he says warily, staring hard into my eyes. “In London.”
My heart sinks, and I breathe deep against the panic rising in my chest, not realizing until this moment how much stock I was putting in his being here, safe with his grandfather. He must read it in my face.
“What the hell is goin’ on?”
I brace my hand on the doorframe, feeling suddenly weak. “He was never in London.”
Before I realise he’s done it, he has hold of my arm and, with surprising strength, flings me into the small family room. The door slams behind me and I’m just catching my balance when he produces a gun from the pocket of his robe and aims it at my face.
“I don’t got no silver bullets or nothin’, so I’m probably at a disadvantage, but I’m thinkin’ a hole through your head might slow ya down at least.”
“In my current state, it’d do more than slow me down,” I say, slumping back into the wall, almost wishing he’d just do it.
He looks at me for a long minute, then lowers the gun. “So if he’s not at school, where is he?”
I blow out a sigh and then gesture to the couch. His eyes narrow, but then he backs toward the sofa. I follow and drop into the couch, remembering when I sat in this exact spot not too many months ago, when Jack told his grandfather I was a demon—or at least, had been.
“Jack’s been in danger from the minute I set foot here,” I start. I hesitate, trying to decide how much to tell him, before finally concluding that he deserves to know all of it. “He’s been with John and me in hiding for the last week.”
“John? That angel?”
I nod. “Yes, but now he’s missing.”
“Missing?” he says, rising from his seat.
“He snuck out last night—took some things and went out through the window of his room. We think…” I trail off, unable to say the next part.
He lowers himself back down, his expression still wary, his eyes narrow. “You think what?”
I rake a hand through my hair, trying to figure out how to say this. “Gray was Jack’s guardian angel.” I pause and wait for it to sink in before continuing.
His brow creases. “I thought you said this John was his…” But then he trails off as his eyes widen with surprised understanding. “Holy…” He trails off again. “You mean our Gray?”
I nod. “But he couldn’t … he wasn’t able to handle the responsibility.”
Ed is on his feet again. “What the hell does that mean?”
“He let himself become distracted. Tempted.” Involuntarily, I grimace, knowing that temptation firsthand.
“Just tell me what the hell is going on,” he barks, standing ramrod straight, gun hand twitching.
“Gray fell. He’s no longer an angel. We think he found Jack somehow and convinced him to leave with him.”
“That’s okay, isn’t it? If he was his guardian angel he wouldn’t hurt—”
I stand, meeting his eyes. “He’s a demon now. He’s no longer an angel. He serves Lucifer.”
He looks at me a moment longer, stunned. Then, as quick as lightning, the gun is in my face again. “You did this!” His hand shakes just the smallest bit, and I can see in his eyes that it’s not from fear. He shakes with rage. “I never shoulda let you near him after I knew what you were. I was a stupid old fool, thinkin’ I saw myself in you. Thinkin’ ya were like me and Jack’s grandma.” He growls, mostly at himself, and looks as though he’s about to pull the trigger.
I just stare at him, no longer caring either way. I still believe Jack would be better off with me gone. But I feel a weary sigh leave my chest at the realisation that this would send his grandfather to Hell, and I owe it to both of them to see that that doesn’t happen.
His hand shakes harder as rage and hatred twist across his features. And even though I no longer have my demonic sense of smell, I’d swear I catch the black pepper of his fury. He steps closer and thrusts the gun at me.
I hold his eyes. “Help me find him. Please,” I say, my voice measured.
His jaw clenches and his eyes burn. The bed of the fingernail on his trigger finger blanches with the increasing pressure as it slowly pulls tighter on the trigger. I wait for the blast as the gun discharges, but I don’t flinch. I continue to stare into his eyes. Finally, after what feels like an eternity, he drops his hand back to his side and starts to pace.
“So he left…” His eyes shoot back to mine and narrow. “Snuck out.”
“If he left, there was probably a reason.”
I drop my eyes. “Maggie,” I say, not wanting to see the look on his face. “Jack thinks she’s in trouble.”
“Maggie,” he repeats.
John insisted that Maggie was fine, and I know he can’t lie, but I’ve started questioning his powers of perception. “There’s a demon, Naburus. Jack thinks Maggie’s been … spending time with him.”
I lift my eyes warily and he’s glaring at me, catching the full meaning to my words. “Ellen and Daniel didn’t say anything’ about Maggie seein’ somebody.”
“Her parents might not know.”
“She’s a goddamn kid!” he shouts. “Holy God almighty.” He drops the gun on the end table next to the sofa and rubs his forehead. His whole body softens as he leans on both arms on the back of the sofa, his head hanging between his shoulders. “So Jack thinks he can help Maggie,” he says, his voice uneven but lower.
“John has been watching Maggie, hoping Jack will show up at the house, but I’m afraid something’s wrong.” I don’t add that I’m sure that “something” has to do with Gray.
“Jesus H. Christ,” he mutters. “What’re we gonna do?”
I step to the fireplace at the back of the small room and lean an elbow on the mantel, my head in my hand. I’m not sure if he’s talking about Jack or Maggie, but either way the answer is the same. “I don’t know.”
Between my fingers I glimpse a copy of the same picture of Jack and Gray that he has in his room. They’re seven and covered in grease after working with Ed in the garage. I lift my head and run a finger over the glass, wishing with everything I am that I could have kept his safe.
Absently, I scan the multitude of photos lining the mantel, crowding each other out, two and three deep in places. There are others of Jack, mostly with his family, but then one tucked in the back catches my eye and I go instantly cold.
“Unholy Hell,” I hear myself say.
Ed lifts his head and looks at me with anxious eyes. “What?”
I pull the framed picture from the mantel and hold it closer for a better look. The picture is old, the colours dull and faded. In it, a young woman crouches on the front porch of a brick house, and in her arms is a squirming little boy dressed in a white jumper and dark jeans. He’s kicking at her full skirt in his effort to free himself from her grasp. But even so, she’s smiling at him, contentment all over his face. And crouching next to him, the little boy’s tiny fingers wrapped tightly around one of his, is someone I haven’t seen in over half a century.
Every muscle in my body tenses and I spin on Ed. “Who is this?” I demand.
“Me,” he answers simply, his eyes questioning me.
“You…” I stare back at the man in the picture. “Who else?”
“These—” I say pointing to the photograph, “—are your parents?”
“So I’ve been told.”
“What do you mean, ‘so I’ve been told’?” My voice comes out as a harsh bark, and I see his eyes flit to the gun on the end table, easily within his reach.
“Pop died not long after that picture was taken, I don’t remember him.”
I look at the picture again. That face is unmistakable because it looks so much like mine. So much like all of our kind. I’m suddenly sure my legs won’t hold me. The room spins. I bring the picture with me as I stumble to the couch. “Davidos,” I whisper to myself as I sink into it.
“What the hell is going on?”
“You’re sure that’s your father,” I say, holding up the photo for him to see.
“As sure as I can be. That’s what my ma told me and I got no reason to think he was lyin’.”
“What was his name?”
All the air leaves my lungs. “How is this possible? How did I not know?” I mutter, dropping my forehead into my hand.
“Are ya gonna tell me what’s goin’ on?”
I lift my head slowly and look hard at him. Imps have a tell—sulphur. I smell the air, heavy with pipe smoke. No sulphur. But despite that, I know it’s all true. It explains so many things.
“I knew your father,” I say, holding his eyes with mine.
At first, a cynical smile pulls at one side of his mouth, but then his face goes slack and his body goes rigid as he remembers what I am. “You mean…” he trails off, shaking his head. “Nope,” he finally says. “Can’t be.”
“How can you be so sure?” I ask.
“’Cause he was killed in an explosion in his factory. You said demons don’t die.”
“But when they’re posing as humans, there’s lots of ways Hell can make it appear as though they have. Most of them involve fire.” I meet his eyes as he slides into the sofa across from me, studying them. Studying him. Then I glance back at the picture … the man, his eyes trained on the boy, pride and pure joy plain on his face. Paternal pride. There’s no mistaking that look—or the resemblance. I would have seen it earlier if I’d ever thought to look for it.
My memory flashes to the last time I saw Davidos. Naburus had gotten word to me that he had been summoned and sentenced to the Pit. I got there just before his sentence was executed. He stood tall at the Pit, unapologetic. When I asked what happened, his eyes went cloudy—distant. “You wouldn’t understand. Not now, anyway,” he’d said. But then his eyes cleared. “But always remember, Lucifer. This—” he gestured around us, toward the Lake of Fire and the castle Pandemonium, “—isn’t all there is.” He brought his fist to his heart and tapped it there. “Sometimes you need to follow your own path.” He dropped his hand from his chest and placed it on my shoulder, staring hard into my eyes. “And some things are worth dying for.”
His execution was especially gruesome. Lucifer took his failure quite personally because Davidos wasn’t just any demon. He’d been created as Lucifer’s Left Hand. His Gabriel. I couldn’t watch as Lucifer tried to break him, but I heard he never gave in. Finally, after weeks of torture, he was carved into pieces and thrown into the Pit.
Lucifer never replaced Davidos. Rumour was that He was afraid to give any one demon that much power after what happened. I doubted Lucifer was afraid of much, but I also knew He was paranoid. Once burned …
“How can you be so sure?” Ed counters, pulling me back to the room.
I rub my aching forehead, then look up at him. “Because I knew him well. He was my mentor.”
I close my eyes and loll my head on the back of the couch.
I pull a deep breath then exhale slowly, trying to absorb all of this. Jack is Nephilim—half angel. But if all this is true, which I’m quite convinced it is, he’s also one-eighth demon.
Nephilim and Imps aren’t unheard of. They are more common than one would think. But I would wager my left horn that this has never happened before. There may be others with both angel and demon blood. But Jack and his siblings, I’m quite sure, are unique.
They’re less than half human.