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.
The door clicks closed and I just stand here in the bedroom for a second trying to remember what Grandpa said. My mind feels full of cotton. He said something about being safe, I think.
I give my head a last shake, then crack the door open. Grandpa is gone and the lights in the hall and family room are out. It’s totally dark except for the yellow light slanting into the hall from the dim overhead fixture in my room. I make my way the few steps to the bathroom. It takes a second for the fluorescent bulb to flicker to life, and I realise I’m breathing too fast. As the fluorescent glow fills the room, I look in the mirror and almost gasp. My eyes are sunken and purple, and my skin is so pale I look dead.
But then my eyes are drawn to the metal pendant that I couldn’t bear to remove. I trace my finger along its curved surface and feel it call to me.
I yank my eyes away from my reflection and pull open the medicine cabinet. Inside, I find a hotel toothbrush wrapped in plastic and a travel-size tube of toothpaste. I run the toothbrush over my teeth, then crank the shower on full blast. I pull off my clothes and step in, letting the warm water trickle over my head and down my body. At first I just stand here, intending to take my time, but then I decide too much time alone with myself is dangerous, because I have a sudden, overwhelming need to call for John. I think of him and Ianto. I’m sure they’re looking for me, and it tugs at my heart that, for the first time in months, I don’t have either of them at my side. I’m on my own, for better or worse.
Was this a mistake? What if I royally screwed up by coming here? Have I put Ianto and John in danger? The last time I ditched them, Owen ended up dead. I feel suddenly cold and turn up the hot water, then hurry through my routine and wrap myself in a towel, tucking it tightly around my waist. I chance one last glance at the dead guy in the mirror before flicking out the light and heading back to my room.
I lock the door behind me and cross to the window, where I look outside for Gray. When he’s not there, I turn and lean against the window frame, trying to settle my nerves, and let my eyes wander over the familiar treasures on the heavy antique dresser. These things have been here all my life. I walk over and pick up a picture of all five of us kids with Santa when Maggie was only a baby.
I miss them so much.
Panic kicks in my chest. I have to get to them—to Maggie—before it’s too late.
I feel all my muscles tense as the image of Maggie and Russell surfaces in my mind. What if it’s true? What will I do if he’s already hurt his?
I close my eyes, breathing back the threat of tears. He’s going to be okay. I have to believe that.
I don’t understand my Sway, what it is or how it works, but I’m starting to trust it, just like I trust my visions. I’ve seen it work. I can’t deny it. And I also have the feeling John is right. If I’m gonna have a chance, I need to learn to use it. It seems to come easiest when it comes from my heart, and when I try to force it, it doesn’t seem to work at all.
I need it to work now.
I feel love for my family swell in my heart and send a message out to Maggie.
Be safe. Be safe. Be safe.
I focus on moving air in and out of my lungs as I put the picture down. I run my fingers over a lump of clay that Gray painted a smiley face on in kindergarten and gave to Grandma and Grandpa for Christmas. Next to it is a round tin with powder and a fluffy white puff that used to smell like jasmine, but now smells like dust. Grandma’s silver brush with horsehair bristles and matching hand mirror is here too. I pick it up and bring it to my nose, but his smell is long gone from it. The assortment of bobby pins and hair clips in an old polished box sits next to the brush. I smile at the memory of my oldest sister, Mary. She thought she wanted to be a beautician when she was nine. She’d spend hours in here, Mary doing everyone’s hair and makeup. Even mine and Gray’s.
My eyes slide to the small wooden jewellery box where all Grandma’s costume jewellery was stored—Mary’s stash for accessorising her younger siblings. I lift the box, remembering that, after we were all dolled up, we’d sit in here for hours playing games and listening to the tune from the jewellery box, stopping what we were doing every so often to wind it. I remember Gray telling me to stop playing it and grabbing it away.
“That’s very old and delicate,” Mum had scolded as she lifted it from his hand and placed it back in its place. “It can’t take rough handling.”
I stroke a finger over the carved lid, inlayed with some pure black stone. The stone has absolutely no shine, but it’s not dull either. It seems almost alive, devouring the light around it. And, as I trace my finger around the spiral of the design, I feel the tip of it go numb.
I wind the tiny key at the back of the box and curl my fingers under the lid, lifting it ever so gently, heeding my mother’s words from so long ago.
As the first notes waft up to meet me, I start. It’s the tune from my dreams. This is why I recognised it. I close my eyes and start humming along, swaying gently to the old familiar tune. I only realise I’m gripping the pendant in my other hand when I feel the sharp edge cut into my finger.
I lift my palm to my face and watch thick crimson blood seep slowly from the wound on my finger and trickle down my hand. I’m mesmerised by the tune and the blood and barely hear the low rumble followed by a wet ripping sound.
Then a musical voice is humming with me to the comforting melody.
When I look up, the green-eyed angel is standing near my door. He moves cautiously to stand next to me and looks at me in the mirror over the dresser. “I was waiting. I knew you would call.”
I turn and raise my eyes to his, and he smiles down at me.
“You’re wearing it,” he says. He lifts a hand and traces a finger down the leather strap around my neck to the pendant lying on my chest, and I hear the tuning-fork hum come from it again. He smooths a finger gently over the metal and the skin under it tingles. “I made this for you.”
I look down and the pattern—an eye-shaped spiral that flares at the edges—is exactly the same design as the black stone on the box.
His touch is soft, but it burns as his finger follows the leather strap up to my neck. He pulls away and locks me in his astonishing green gaze, holding me mesmerised. Innumerable emotions pass over his face, finally settling on a mix of relieved anguish.
Tentatively, I lift my shaking hand, expecting my fingers to brush through air, as they did before when I tried to touch the green-eyed boy in my dreams. But instead, they contact warm flesh. The air charges with static electricity as I trace my finger over the back of his hand, leaving a thin trail of blood from my cut that vanishes into his skin. And that’s when I see it. Red electricity skittering over my hand.
“You see,” he says hooking his finger under my hand and inspecting the dance of red lightning across my knuckles. “You belong with us.”
I’m struggling for air when I finally ask. “Who are you?”
He smiles. “I think you know.”
The rush of frustrated anticipation makes thinking straight difficult. I remember him slipping the pendant around my neck. I feel him cradling me, safe on the beach. But those were dreams.
His eyes glow with the light of a star, just as they did in my dream. I stare into them, mesmerised, and the pendant burns into my chest, pulsing with its own living energy.
His smile spreads, warm and genuine. “You recognise me from your dream—your morning star?”
Somewhere inside me terror takes hold as a deep corner of my brain registers what’s happening—who He is. But the pendant pulses on my chest and I’m paralysed, unable to even pull my hand away from Him.
He gazes down at me, disappointment clear in His expression. “I hoped I wouldn’t frighten you in this form.”
I shudder as the image of His other form, huge, with black bat’s wings and glowing green eyes in a jet-black face, surfaces in my mind, but I still can’t move. But then I remember what John said. Can He read my thoughts?
I focus and build the wall up around my mind.
He looks at me a moment, then a smile breaks over His face. “Very good.” It’s not until He squeezes my hand and releases it that I realise I hadn’t let His hand go. “John has taught you to guard your mind. Wise, that.”
Finally, I find the strength to close my eyes and back away. I’m shaking so hard I’m half surprised my legs don’t collapse. I know I should run, but I’m not sure I could.
As I stand here, totally panicked, trying to figure out how to get not only me but also Grandpa out of here, it hits me.
This is it.
This is what I’m supposed to do—the thing I’m meant for.
He has come to me, and I feel a deep certainty that this is how it was supposed to be. John wanted me to lure Him to me and find out His weakness. I can do this. Even if He doesn’t have a weakness, maybe I can influence His thoughts. If He trusts me, maybe I can make the difference. This is what I’m supposed to do with my Sway.
It has to be.
“But … what is your real form?” I ask, setting my resolve and trying to find the courage inside me to follow through with this. I can’t hide the shake in my voice, but I hold His gaze.
His smile fades and His face transforms into a mask of sadness. “My true form…” He says, pensively with a slow shake of His head. But then His eyes lift to mine, hopeful. “This is my true essence—my Heavenly form. This is what I was meant to be.” There’s a deep longing in His voice as He adds, “What I could be again if I were allowed to return to Heaven.”
“You were an angel,” I say, trying to sort this out. He was an angel before He fell. He wants to be an angel again. If He returned to Heaven … what would happen to Hell?
His wings ruffle behind Him. Without realising I’ve done it, I find myself stepping closer. I lift a hand to brush my fingers over the edge of the feathers, feeling myself drawn to Him. But before I reach them, I catch His gaze, and what I see there makes me pull my hand back. Even though His gaze is soft, there’s something hungry in it. I drop my hand and my wide eyes find His again. “Why did you change?”
He lowers His gaze and the anguish in His eyes is unmistakable. “Rage will change a being.” He sounds suddenly old and very tired.
“Rage…” I repeat. “At what?”
He still doesn’t look at me. “I’d never known loss like that…” The despair in His words wraps like a blanket around my heart and squeezes. But then His eyes lift back to mine. “I need you to understand me, Jack. I’m not the monster that religion and warped histories have made me out to be.”
“I … I want to understand…” I say, but it’s a lie. I want to run. But I can’t. I need to find the strength to do this.
“Do you?” He shakes His head but then lifts His tortured gaze back to mine. “Do you know why He cast me out?”
“Pride…?” It comes out as more of a question than I mean it to.
He regards me with deep green eyes and a sad smile lifts the corners of His mouth. “That’s what they’ve led you to believe, isn’t it?”
“All the stories … the Bible … they all say that.”
He sighs. “Mortals are more comfortable when they have someone to blame. It makes them feel safer to compartmentalise everyone into good and evil. If they know where evil lives, they can avoid it. They want everything clear-cut. Black and white.” His eyes meet mine and His voice hardens. “Nothing is black and white. It’s all shades of grey.”
“I don’t…” I trail off as He backs away from me and threads His fingers into His hair, frustration etching His face.
“Good and evil are not separate. They’re two sides of the same coin. No single being is all good, just as no single being,” He says, pounding His fist into His chest over His heart, “is all evil. I was cast out because I loved God above all others.” His green eyes plead with me. “Does that make me evil?”
I force myself to stand still as He moves closer, not sure what I’m feeling. This angel is Lucifer. I know that. But He is an angel. What if what He’s saying is true? I can’t help thinking that maybe He’s not pure evil. As if to confirm everything I’m feeling, His next words tear my heart wide open.
“Take Gray for example. He’s not evil, Jack. He’s the same brother you’ve always known. He has your best interest at heart. He’s trying to do the right thing by you.”
I feel tears well in my eyes and I swallow back the throbbing lump in my throat.
“He’s going to be fine. I won’t let anything happen to him. And if I come back…” He says, His eyes locking on mine, “so does he.”
I only realise I’m crying when I hear my breath hitch on a sob.
There’s sympathy in His gaze, and for an instant I almost forget who He is. He lifts a hand toward me, but drops it again. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you, but I need your help. Things can be as they were meant to be. Just one word, Jack. That’s all it will take.” His voice is like cool silk, so enticing, and I feel myself becoming lost in it.
I’m mesmerised by His closeness—by the feel of the power coursing through Him into me. Filling me. I shudder, and that word, yes, is perched on my lips. “How were things meant to be? What are you asking me to do?”
He lays His hand softly on my shoulder and the pendant flares. “Bring me back.”