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.
A Bat Out of Hell
The blue flashing lights behind us shouldn’t be a surprise. Gray is doing at least 100, weaving through the sparse midnight New Jersey traffic. It’s really more of a surprise that this is the first time we’ve been pulled over.
He turns to me with a roguish grin. “Yet another chance for you to practice that talent of yours.”
I glare at him and my gut jumps a little when I see how easily we’ve slipped back into the banter. “You want me to Sway a cop?” I say.
Gray’s intense gaze settles on me. “Considering I died before I got a driver’s license, that might be a smart idea.”
Guilt cuts through me again, shredding my insides. “I’ll probably go to jail for this,” I mutter.
“We’ll both go to jail if you don’t,” he answers, his expression suddenly intense.
The pain in my gut stops as he turns and rolls down his window. The cop approaches warily, wielding his flashlight like a club.
“Hello, officer,” Gray says.
“I clocked you at ninety-six back there, son. What’s the rush?”
Gray eyes me, waiting.
“Oh, um, no rush, sir,” I stumble. “We were just … um…” I don’t even know what to say, and even trying feels skanky, like I’m trying to flirt my way out of the ticket. Only this is worse than flirting.
“License please,” he says before I can think.
“My brother was just about to explain to you that your equipment needs to be recalibrated because you dropped it,” Gray says, his eyes trained on me.
My gut clenches tighter. “Oh, yeah.… Remember how it fell on the ground when you got out of the car?” I say, lamely.
The officer, a good-looking guy somewhere in his thirties, stoops lower to see past Gray to where I’m sitting. Gray tips his head toward me in a “go on” gesture.
I clear my throat. “So, you know how the manual says dropping it can cause it to malfunction.”
The officer looks at me and, for a second, seems as though he might argue.
But then I think of Maggie and my heart speeds up, realising every second we lose here may be the second it takes Russell to tag her. I feel a rush of desperation. I need to get to my family. Now.
The officer’s face takes on a puzzled squint.
I take a breath to calm myself down so I can focus on his mind. “Especially ’cause you heard something rattling inside after it fell.”
“Rattling…” he repeats.
“So it’s probably broken,” I say, gaining confidence.
He straightens up and rubs the stubble on his chin. “I should get it recalibrated.”
“Yes,” I agree.
“Thanks for bringing this to my attention,” he says, ducking down again and flashing me a dimpled smile. “You two have a nice day. And drive carefully,” he adds, standing up and banging his palm on the roof.
“Thank you, officer,” I say, my heart pounding.
We pull off the shoulder, leaving the cop standing there, staring after us.
“That was wrong in too many ways to count,” I say, knowing that there was no other way. We have to get home.
“Listen, Jack. Your Sway is part of who you are. The sooner you get that, the easier things are going to be for you.”
I flash back on Ianto saying the same thing not that long ago, and I feel my stomach lurch. Why me? Why did this have to happen to me? “I don’t want this.”
He glances sideways at me. “Well, you’ve got it.”
I slump into Gray’s shoulder and feel his heat. He’s as hot as Ianto ever was. My stomach rolls, remembering what he is. I pull away and look more closely at him, looking for any change.
He grunts without looking at me.
“How did you…” My stomach knots and I can’t say it.
He shoots me a glance. “What, Jack?” The irritation in his voice is actually comforting. He sounds like the old Gray. My brother.
“How did you get wings?” I blurt.
His jaw clenches and he stares out the windshield. At first, I don’t think he’s going to answer. Finally, he says, “He gave them back to me.”
“He…?” I ask, afraid of the answer.
He turns his head and stares at me, and that’s all the answer I get.
I can’t hold his gaze, so I lean into his shoulder again. “Was it awful?”
“When you lost your angel wings.”
For a long time, there’s silence, and my muscles ache with tension.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he finally says, his voice tight.
I’m glad he’s not looking at me when my face twists into a cringe. I shouldn’t have asked. Of course it was awful. I swallow. “How much longer?”
“Forever,” he replies, still staring out the windshield.
“I’d tell you to drive faster, but I don’t think that’s possible.”
His eyes flash as he turns to me, but then they become sympathetic. “I’m trying to hurry. It’d be really rough if anything happens to Maggie before we get there,” he says as he changes lanes. “I’d think after Owen, that’d be pretty hard to live with.”
My stomach has been churning as the same thought has been burrowing deeper and deeper into my brain, taking root there. This is all on me. Owen is dead ’cause of me. If the same thing happens to Maggie, I don’t know what I’ll do.
As I think it, I feel a stab of shooting pain in my gut and my hands reflexively go to my stomach. I look over at Gray in time to see his face pull into a satisfied smirk as he turns back to the road ahead.
“Why are you helping me?” I say when the pain subsides.
He glances at me from under raised eyebrows, clearly offended. “She’s my little sister too, Jack.”
I don’t miss the derision in his voice and I decide not to push it. Why he’s helping me doesn’t matter. What does matter is that he was the only one who was willing to help me when I needed it.
Naburus lurks in the shadows behind the garage at the side of the house. He’s propped on the fence with a clear view of Maggie and Grace’s window. A shadow lingers behind him, a form in the dark that I can’t make out. It’s not a demon—that much I know—so it’s probably Lilith.
Hope is on my heels as I pace between Russell and the house while he leers, his eyes glowing out of the darkness.
“Just zap him,” she whispers. “It would be justified.”
“It wouldn’t,” I answer. “He isn’t hurting anyone.”
She throws a glance over her shoulder as we round the corner of the house into the backyard. “But he wants to.”
“They all want to. It’s what they do.”
“Which is why the Almighty should just blow them all into oblivion. He could, you know. If He wanted to,” she says conspiratorially, once we’re out of Russell’s line of sight.
I peer through the kitchen window at Ellen as she frantically mops the kitchen floor, the worry etched into her pale face. She keeps glancing at the phone, then the door. Finally, she leans the mop on the table and drops into a chair, face in hands, weeping.
This is so supremely unfair, and for an instant I think Hope is right. If there were no Hell, how much better things would be. But then the cold truth intrudes on my thoughts. Even if there were no Hell, there would still be evil. Man is perfectly capable of manifesting that on his own, without any infernal help. Without the threat of Hell, there’d be no checks and balances. No consequences.
I turn to Hope, my jaw tight. “And then what? There needs to be balance.”
She settles into the wicker sofa under the overhang near the back door and pats the seat next to him.
I look back in the direction of Naburus one more time and drop into it, feeling exhausted. I weave my fingers into my hair, elbows on knees, and try to think. After a minute, I feel Hope’s hand on my back, stroking softly, raising goose bumps on my increasingly human skin.
“You know, the fate of the universe isn’t all on you. Let us help you.” Her voice is soft, soothing.
I lift my head and she gazes at me, her expression softening. She reaches up and strokes my cheek. “Let me help you.”
She stares into my eyes for a long minute, her hand on my face, her expression hopeful.
I reach for her hand and gently lower it, backing away. “You are helping. You’ve been invaluable.”
“John,” she says, her fingers weaving into mine. “I want to be more than invaluable.” She brings my hand to her mouth and glides my fingertips over her lips. “I love you,” she says, hooking her other hand around my neck and pulling me into a kiss.
I feel myself start to shake as I turn my head to the side. Her lips slide off mine, but she doesn’t let go of me.
“Please, John. He’ll never love you like I do,” she whispers into my cheek. “I gave up everything for you.”
My heart spasms as I turn back to her. “You did what?”
She captures my eyes with hers. “It was you, John. It’s always been you. You’re the one I fell in love with.”
I close my eyes and breathe, trying to process that, but it’s impossible to think with her hands moving over my shoulders, caressing. “I’m sorry. I … I didn’t know.”
She pulls closer and I feel her breath, hot in my ear. “I love you. I’ve always loved you.”
Her lips glide across my cheek, toward my mouth, and I fight to ward off the desire I feel stir deep inside me. “I can’t, Hope.”
Her lips brush mine. “You can,” she breathes.
I force myself to pull away and look her in the eye, my jaw clenched and my breathing uneven. “You know that’s not true.”
“I know it is.” Her eyes blaze as she stares into mine. “I saw you,” she says, pressing closer. Her hand finds my chest and fireworks explode inside me. “I saw you in his bed. You were kissing him.”
My heart sinks. But still, every nerve ending hums. Damn these hormones. “You shouldn’t have seen that.”
Hope stiffens next to me and her voice takes on a hard edge as her hand drops to my thigh. “It was my job to see that.”
Despair opens a sinkhole in my chest, and I feel the weight of the world pressing down on it, threatening to cave it in. “It shouldn’t have happened.” But I wanted it to. I wanted more than kissing. I wanted all of him.
Frustration roils inside me like a building storm at the memory of Jack in my arms. My muscles tense and heat prickles my skin. I ache all over with need, unbearable and unrelenting.
“Please, John.” Hope presses into me, a tear trickling over her lashes. “Kiss me like that.” Her lips move along the line of my jaw, working toward my mouth. “Pretend I’m him.”
Her tears on my face are warm and wet. Her skin, silk. Her breath, hot. I close my eyes and draw a deep breath, fighting the feelings that I can’t control.
And then her lips are on mine.
Insatiable desire erupts from the depths of my core, and I pull her closer, crushing her to me, devouring her with my kiss—needing his like I’ve never needed anything before.
She shifts onto my lap and the feel of his body pressing into mine is more than I can take. Her lips move with mine and her hands glide over my back, pulling me deeper. There’s no escape. I’m drowning in her.
Her lips leave mine for an instant and I struggle for air. “Jack,” I whisper.
She stiffens and time stops as I realise what I said.
“Well, isn’t this special.”
Hope leaps from my lap at the sound of Aaron’s voice.
“Aaron,” I say, standing from the sofa and turning to him, trying to quiet my pounding heart and stay focused. “Where are the girls?”
His smirk is a mile wide. “Upstairs.”
“Hope.” I turn toward her. “Would you go up and keep them company?”
Her eyes darken and her tone is sharp and cold as a steel blade as she says, “Whatever you want.”
She stares at me a moment longer, pain and anger grappling for control of her expression. Finally, she turns and disappears around the corner, and a moment later I hear her and Daniel talking at the front door.
“Whatever you want,” Aaron repeats in a trill, watching after Hope. He looks me over.
“It’s not your concern, Aaron,” I say, my self-disgust eating me alive, making me feel sick. I can’t understand how the avengers haven’t come for me. I don’t belong in His fold.
“Favours from the fallen?” He taps a finger on his temple. “That sounds like an abuse of power to me. Can you say sexual harassment?” He chuckles again. “That demon really is rubbing off on you. I’ll have to send him a thank-you gift.”
“Are you done?” I say, folding my arms across my chest, trying to hold myself together.
“Just keep giving in to temptation, John, and you’ll be done. It’s a good thing you’re so comfortable with the fallen, because you’ll be joining them soon and I’ll have your job.”
My self-loathing erupts and I turn it on him. “Not if you can’t manage to do yours. Do not leave Maggie’s side while Naburus, or any other demon for that matter, is in his proximity.”
“Yes, oh lusty one.” The smirk doesn’t leave his face as he fades out.
I lean into the house and rub my aching temples, weak with defeat. “Jack. Where are you?” I whisper, my heart collapsing.