Four days out of seven - which is pretty much the amount of times a week Gabe actually sleeps - Gabe wakes up to find William curled around him like a cat, and Michael perched on his dresser, watching; creepily, calmly focused on the pair of them. Gabe doesn’t get it. Michael’s always gone by the time William opens sleep-swollen eyes to grin lazily up at Gabe, and Gabe sometimes nuzzles into his warm throat before he can stop himself - he licks at his pulse, and William usually just hums and lets him.
William will stare at the corner of the room, like he knows Michael’s been there, but he doesn’t say anything about it. He makes disgruntled faces, though, before getting up to go into the bathroom.
Gabe feels like he’s losing control of something here. He shouldn’t feel so comfortable with William, but then, he’s been comfortable with Victoria for almost four years - he’s been complacent; maybe he really should consider getting the fuck out of this town. Starting over. Fighting Lacey for some turf again, or searching out Maja; the last he’d heard she was somewhere in the Middle East, wreaking her own awesome form of havoc. They usually either fucked or ripped each other apart - Gabe could use some of that right about now.
Gabe happily abandons William and Victoria daily for the safety of his job. He works because he gets bored, and he gets bored with working just as easily, but he’s managed to last at Greta’s bakery for just over two months.
Gabe has issues with Greta, of course - Greta actually fires him at least once a week, but she never remembers to make it stick. He’s pretty horrible with the customers, and eats more than he sells, and goofs off enough with the other employees that he’s basically gotten Brendon and Jon fired a lot, too. Memories are fun to fuck with; that’s always been a favorite of Gabe’s.
At the start of his shift, he half-heartedly clears off some tables before leaning back on the counter, rag thrown over one shoulder. He grins at Jon, trying to think of something to do that’ll get them in trouble with Tom, the shift manager. Jon looks distracted, though; uncharacteristically flustered.
And then Gabe smells angel. And not the familiar Michael righteousness-will-prevail smell, but the demon hunter kind; acrid, like the air after a lighting strike. These angels make it an art form, are kind of just as fucked up as the demons themselves, they just get by on being divinely sanctioned.
He doesn’t recognize him at first; the relaxed stance, the lack of dramatics and ‘emo, woe is me and my smiteful life’ attitude. He’s always been the worst of them, because he takes little pride and delight in his work, trying to garner fucking sympathy. They’d fought in Vegas nearly three decades ago; Gabe had skipped town before any actual destruction could happen, he’s not stupid. Now, though, he’s sporting a brown checkered suit and a brown derby, rim threaded with a pink daisy. He’s reading a paper and sipping at coffee, an untouched muffin by his right elbow. Gabe wonders what the hell his game is.
Gabe makes his way over, sitting down across from him at the little circular table - he’s always been more likely to confront than hide, at least at first; he’s blown more bodies that way - and leans forward on his elbows. “What’s up, Riz?”
The newspaper rustles, and then Gabe spies an eyebrow arch. “I prefer Ryan,” he says. “I’m sure you can relate.”
“Huh.” Gabe hooks his fingers in the top of the newspaper and tugs it down. Rizoel—Ryan actually smiles at him. “Are you high?”
Ryan takes his time folding up his newspaper, neatly placing it underneath his coffee mug before picking absently at his muffin. “Why would you say that?” he asks.
Gabe stares at him.
Ryan remains unruffled. He bends a leg to rest an ankle on his knee, tips his head to the side, eyes unblinking – he’s like a flamingo, balanced and graceful, for all his ridiculous plumage.
Jon stumbles over, twisting a rag between his hands. “Uh, Gabe?” He darts bewildered looks between Gabe and Ryan, and it barely takes a second for Gabe to realize that Jon’s flustered because he thinks Ryan’s hot, and that—that’s just hilarious.
Gabe chuckles, but says, “In a minute, Jonny Walker.”
Ryan brings a hand up to slowly rub at his jaw. He gives Jon a heavy-lidded once over that makes Jon blush – hysterical – then says to Gabe, “Rest easy, friend,” and grins loosely at him as Gabe chokes on spit and nothing – friend? Angels don’t normally use that term lightly.
“I’m tracking Lacey,” Ryan goes on. He frowns. “He’s really starting to piss me off.”
Gabe says, “What?” He’s sitting there, right across from a sociopathic demon-killing machine, and Ryan isn’t going to even try to, fuck, bless his plastic butter knife and stab Gabe in the eye with the Holy power of God behind him? What the fuck?
Ryan flicks an amused glance toward Jon, then shrugs and says, “You have your humans to look after.” He sounds like a patronizing douchebag. Gabe wants to kick the shit out of him. The thing is, though, Gabe knows he’d probably lose.
“You’re freaking me out,” Gabe says.
Ryan licks crumbs off his thumb and says, “God’s will be done.”
Gabe gets the sudden irrational urge to make little Brendon Urie go on a killing spree. He’s got all this pent up Mormon rage, but normally Brendon’s really good at channeling it into his music and fucking random girls and pining after Jon Walker. Gabe argues himself out of it, because it is irrational, and also because he’d have to find a new place to work, and he’s kind of attached to Jon. And then he talks himself into it again, because Brendon having a psychotic break and gunning down his closest friends with the sawed-off shotgun Frank keeps at the convenience store around the corner – for defensive purposes only – would be motherfucking awesome.
In the end, though, he just eats frozen pizza on his couch with William. He picks off all the pepperoni and wonders absently when he stopped liking meat. Weird.
William shifts so his feet are tucked under Gabe’s thigh, and when Gabe turns to look at him he’s got his eyes closed, and a vague smile on his face.
Gabe pinches his calf.
William twitches, slits his eyes open and says, “Hey.”
“Don’t get comfortable,” Gabe says.
“Too late,” William says; there’s a lofty lilt to his voice that’s disconcerting. “Already am.”
Victoria chucks a balled up napkin at Gabe from the armchair, laughing when it bounces off his forehead.
“I get no respect,” Gabe says. He’s only half joking.
William wriggles his toes. “How was work?”
“Fine,” Gabe says. He’s still not entirely sure how to take these conversations, these how was your day things that William insists on, and that Victoria had never really bothered with before. It’s a given that Gabe’s day is going to be as fantastic as he makes it. “I got Jon fired again.” Really, that doesn’t get old, especially when he makes Tom do it. He doesn’t mention that Ryan’s still hanging around; he doesn’t know how William would react to that. He still gets weird about Michael – sort of wistful and angry at the same time. It almost makes Gabe feel guilty, and he’s not exactly sure why. It isn’t Gabe’s fault that William is human; more and more, Gabe suspects that William actually chose this.
William frowns and shifts again, rubbing his back on the couch arm like a bear, and Gabe sighs and shackles his arms, tugging him upright. Gabe leans in, moving his hands to his back and drags his nails over William’s shoulder blades. William rests his arms on Gabe’s thighs and sighs.
His eyes fall closed, and Gabe stares at the dark fan of his eyelashes.
“Better?” Gabe asks, surprised by the hoarseness of his voice.
William hums. He arches into Gabe’s hands, and Gabe flattens the pads of his fingers, walks them in place until William’s t-shirt is rucked up to the top of his spine, and Gabe’s hands find warm, bare skin.
“Don’t mind me,” Victoria says dryly.
William says, “S’weird.”
After a long moment, Gabe says, “How much you miss them?” He’s massaging more than scratching now; he thinks he’s imagining the slight ridge of scar tissue, the bump of his bones where the joints of his wings used to be – this body is wholly new and blemish free.
William smiles without opening his eyes. “How much I don’t.”
When William walks beside Gabe, he hooks their arms together. He leans into him, makes sure their hips brush, but when Gabe looks over at him, William isn’t even paying attention – he’s staring in fascinated awe at a bunch of kids on sleds.
“That looks dangerous,” William says.
Gabe says, “It isn’t,” and automatically cushions the pile of hard, plowed snow along the sidewalk, making it higher so they can’t shoot off into the street.
They walk to Greta’s, and Brendon’s behind the counter, leaning on his forearms, biting his lip and sighing wistfully in Jon’s direction. It’s funny, how Jon hasn’t noticed yet; Gabe’s pretty sure this has been going on for years. One of these days, Gabe’s going to get sick of all the palpable yearning and trick Brendon into declaring his love – in the most ridiculous way possible, it’s going to be a masterpiece of humiliation – but for now Gabe’s content to soak in all the obliviousness and hidden man-pain, particularly when Jon gets all moon-eyed over Ryan.
When he catches sight of them, Brendon says, “Bill, hey,” and gives him a wide smile. He holds out a fist for Gabe to bump. “What can I get you guys?”
“Hot chocolate,” William says with little kid eagerness, because William loves hot chocolate; Gabe is currently choosing to find that endearing.
“With whipped cream. And two butterscotch squares,” Gabe adds. “And a Coke.” He drops a twenty on the counter, not bothering with the change – Brendon needs the tip, anyway - and then grabs William’s hand, pulling him over to the table in the back that’s pushed up against a comfy loveseat. Half because he wants to claim it before the noontime rush, and half because he doesn’t want William to notice Father Way, tucked into a table for two by the front bow window, bent over a sketchpad.
William looks amused. He slumps back into the couch and gives Gabe a lopsided smile. “He’ll just come over here, you know,” he says.
“He won’t if he doesn’t see us,” Gabe says.
“He’ll see us.” William digs a knuckle into Gabe’s side. “Maybe you should glower at him, get him to leave us alone.”
“Yes, exactly, like that,” William says, and Gabe knows he’s laughing at him – only William would think it’s hysterical to poke at a demon.
“I can blow this entire place up,” Gabe says, “and everyone in it.”
“Oh, but then you couldn’t get Jon fired today. I know how you love that.”
“Bill,” Gabe growls, a warning. This cheeky attitude of William’s is starting to work his last nerve.
William widens his eyes. It’s a fake widening, Gabe can tell. But then William’s mouth softens and he squeezes Gabe’s knee, and says, “Okay, I’ll stop.”
Jon brings over their drinks and brownies, and William hums as he sips his cocoa, tapping fingers along Gabe’s thigh. When Father Way spots them, Gabe doesn’t even put up a fuss.
Father Way says, “Can I join you?” and William grins wide and says, “Yes,” and Gabe just sighs to himself as Way pulls up a chair, dropping his pile of books and papers out on the table, just missing Gabe’s Coke.
While William and Father Way talk about fuck knows what, Gabe tugs Way’s sketchpad toward him and surreptitiously flips through it. There are some pictures of vampires and zombies – weird, for a priest, but whatever, they’re pretty cool – a couple of Jon and Brendon, even one of Gabe, leaning against the front counter, and then there’s one of Ryan, sitting at a table. It’s a good likeness. Like, weirdly good, because it isn’t really his human likeness. His bones are too long, neck too thin, and there are dark gray wings tucked up tight along his back. Huh.
“Oh, uh.” Father Way looks embarrassed. He spreads a hand over the picture of Ryan. “I don’t know why I drew that.”
“It’s good,” Gabe says. “I think he’d like it.”
The tops of Way’s cheeks redden. “Thanks,” he says.
And then William cocks his head at the drawing and says, “Is that—?”
“Unfortunately,” Gabe says.
William’s mouth is frowning and his eyes are narrowed, but then he just shrugs and smiles up at Way again. “He would like it,” he says. “You have a good eye.”
Gabe thinks that’s kind of an understatement. He’s got a freaky unearthly eye; Gabe just hopes it’s not some sort of omen. The last thing they need are more angels hanging the fuck around; Gabe’s gonna get a fucking ulcer or something one of these days.
The air is dry and biting cold; if he’d actually needed his lungs, he’d probably have a pretty big problem. It almost hurts to inhale, and Gabe relishes in the pain, the way it feels like his insides are frozen.
It’s nice up there, too. The view is pretty fucking spectacular; it’s the middle of the night, but the lights from down below in the city, reflecting off the snow, make the sky almost purple, and Gabe can hardly even see the stars. He’s sitting with his legs stretched out, leaning back onto his palms spread behind him, head tipped up toward the moon, hanging low and huge and tinted blue.
There’s a slight shift in the otherwise still air, and Gabe sighs and says, “Shit, man. Can’t a guy just be alone for once?”
There’s no answer - not like Gabe had actually been expecting one - and he turns to see Michael standing at the edge of the building, peering down into the street. He’s wearing a dark sweatshirt, hood pulled up over his head. His hands are tucked into the front pockets of his jeans.
“Well?” Gabe says.
“They look like ants,” Michael says.
Gabe snorts. “Tell me you don’t want to be them.”
“I don’t.” Michael sounds bewildered, like he’s never even thought of that before.
Everything about humans is different, physically and emotionally. Different from each other, nearly alien from them – all that Gabe feels on earth is muted; it’s got to be twenty below freezing up there, and there’s barely a shiver forming along Gabe’s bones.
“And Bill?” Gabe says, because the happier William becomes, the more Gabe knows this isn’t any sort of punishment for him. “He acts like he’s never been on earth before.”
“In a human body, no,” Michael says.
“Right.” Gabe nods. “Right, so he was just hanging around God’s Heavenly realm and thought, hey, why don’t I try being human for a while?”
One of Michael’s shoulders hitches up. “Something like that.”
“Fuck that,” Gabe says, and maybe he’s jealous of William, that’s entirely possible. Gabe’s been living like a human for thousands of years, and he still can’t feel the same things they feel, take the same joy, and William gets to experience all of that, every single day, and he’s happy, and it was all on a whim? Fuck that shit.
Gabe clenches his hands into fists, knuckles scraping the rough tar of the roof.
Only God and the archangels have the power to go all ‘Blue Fairy’ on angels. He stares hard at Michael, wondering if he’s the one that did that to William, waved his magic wand and made him a real boy. “What would it take?” Gabe says; he doesn’t even know why, it’s not like Michael would ever do him, or any demon, any favors.
Michael’s quiet. Gabe thinks he probably won’t even answer, but then finally Michael says, “I can’t do that for you.” He turns to face Gabe, back to the sky. The shadows of his wings are visible, stretched now to their full span, like he could fall backward and catch an up-draft and just glide away, blocking the faint city lights. “You don’t want that anyway.”
Gabe narrows his eyes.
Michael quirks his lips up at the corners, and his eyes glow yellow-green. “I turn you human and you eventually die as a human,” he says slowly. “And then you’ll go down to Hell, and they probably won’t let you back out.”
Gabe hates to acknowledge it, but Michael does have a point. “So what about Bill?” he asks.
Michael shrugs. “He’ll be born again into Heaven, a favored brother.”
Yeah. Yeah, Gabe is really fucking jealous of William, but he can’t claim it’s not fair. His forever had been determined a long time ago, and he only has himself to blame.
Gabe runs a frustrated hand through his hair, then flops backward, staring straight up. Clouds have rolled in, and flurries are dizzily winding their way down to earth; Gabe’s body is so cold they stay crystallized when they touch his face, layer in his eyelashes. There is nothing like this below or above. No elements, no air, no sunrises or sunsets, no endless night sky, no - he hears raucous shouts from down on the street and smiles a little to himself - drunken three AM carousing. Everything is achingly beautiful in Heaven, he knows, but nothing is real.
If he can’t be human, at least he still has this.
Gabe stops by the music shop to walk William home from work for no reason whatsoever, except he doesn’t fell like letting William get shanked or whatever yet; he’s still got that spindly colt, fresh out of the barn look, like it’s a miracle all his limbs work as gracefully as they do. A puppy could probably take him down with a well-placed bite to his flank. Gabe figures Michael is hovering, because apparently he’s got absolutely shit-all to do with his time, and Ryan’s most likely got Lacey close to being put down – Gabe hasn’t seen him lately at the bakery – but Gabe’s always felt that if he really wants something actually done, he has to do it himself.
The sigils in the apartment have faded to nearly nothing, just flakes of rust-brown; it’s not the kind of protection that lasts forever, and Gabe is sure that most of William’s troubles are going to stem just from hanging around Gabe, anyway. He should really find William somewhere else to stay, now that he’s got a steady job. Or Gabe should blow town. That’s the safest option, but Gabe finds it the most unappealing as well.
It’s strange. Gabe is feeling more restless than he has in a while, but it’s kind of undefined. He doesn’t think leaving will help, but he’s not sure staying will, either.
Gabe pauses outside, watching through the front window as William talks excitedly with his hands, Spencer lounging against the counter, one arm stretched over the top of the register. He’s smiling at William, fond, and Gabe feels this inexplicable flare of jealously – not for human life, but for William. It startles Gabe into taking a step backward. Son of a bitch. That crawled out of nowhere.
He frowns, digging his pack of cigarettes out of his back pocket and absently lighting up.
Well, he thinks, maybe not nowhere. It’s like having a pet, and then realizing that pet actually prefers the company of that unattractive neighbor down the hall with all the bacon. Except William isn’t a pet, and Spencer isn’t unattractive. So, uh—Gabe has no idea where he’s going with that anology. He frowns harder.
He doesn’t even notice William until he’s waving a hand in front of his face, half hanging out the front door. “Earth to Gabe,” he says.
Gabe blinks, looks over at him. “Yeah.”
William cocks his head curiously. “Coming in?” he asks.
Gabe drops his cigarette and kills it with his toe. He glances behind William, sees Spencer still leaning against the counter, still smiling, now with his arms crossed. Gabe wants to—for the first time, he’s not exactly sure what he wants. “Nah,” he says. “I’ll meet you back at home later.”
“Okay,” William says. He purses his lips, and his eyes look confused and a little worried, which makes Gabe laugh.
William in no way should be worried about him.
With a wave, Gabe shakes off William’s quizzical look and sets off down the sidewalk. He lights another cigarette, thinking about the beginning of time, and he wonders if he’d known what he knows now, if he’d known how much he’d actually like mankind, and admire them in certain ways – if he’d known all that before the earth was even a twinkle in God’s eye, if he still would’ve fallen. Of course, if he hadn’t, he’d just be a fucking drone in the void.
He probably wouldn’t have any of this, right now.
He ignores the way his nape prickles as William watches him walk away.
Victoria says, “Are you being an asshole?”
Gabe arches an eyebrow. “I am an asshole.”
“You know what I mean.” She folds up her pizza slice and takes a huge bite.
“I don’t know how I could possibly understand what you mean,” Gabe says.
Victoria glares over at him and chews at the same time.
Gabe’s holding a large pizza box in his hands, bottom warm and greasy on his palms. They’re strolling toward the apartment – it’s late, Victoria has on sharp heels and a short dress, huddled in one of Gabe’s hoodies. Her makeup’s smudged around her eyes, and her bangs are a mess – stuck to her forehead from sweat, then stiffened from the cold night air. She’s just drunk enough to be starving. And nosy.
“Why isn’t William out with us?” she asks, taking the box away from him, opening the lid, then apparently deciding to wait until they get home to eat another piece. She arches an eyebrow at him.
“Because William’s an innocent baby lamb.”
“Bullshit,” Victoria says.
Gabe shrugs, because he doesn’t want to talk about it. Instead, he says, “I’m gonna take off soon.”
Victoria punches his shoulder and says, “No, you’re not.”
“Swear to fucking God, Vic, I am this close to eating your liver.”
“No,” Victoria says. “You’re not.”
Okay, he’s not. But only because he’s apparently given up meat, what the fuck. He has lost all perspective. “I’m leaving,” he says. “You’re going to have to look after William for me.” Victoria gives him an arch look. He replays his words in the back of his head and says, “Fuck.”
“You like him,” Victoria says.
The problem is Gabe kind of does. William’s funny, even when he’s pissing Gabe off. He’s learning how to curse, is currently addicted to raspberry jam, and the only thing he seems to be legitimately afraid of is heights, which is ironic, considering where he came from. Of course, the not being afraid thing is starting to give Gabe headaches – William’s only just mastered the art of looking before crossing the street.
Victoria grins at him. “You’re getting soft, Gabe.”
Gabe growls under his breath. He’s not getting fucking soft. There is nothing remotely soft about Gabe, he’s all claws and teeth and rage under this meat suit. He just prefers to save his worst for those who deserve it. Like other demons that are too stupid to stay off his turf. He’s really in the mood to hit something, actually. Blood is such a pretty color when first exposed to air, before it gets sticky and dry and dull.
Victoria hums as she walks, heels click-grinding on the rough concrete. There’s something about the rhythm that reminds Gabe of a scared-rabbit heartbeat, the uneven hitches as she speeds up, the cold finally cutting through her haze of alcohol. Gabe clenches his fingers into fists, nails digging jagged cuts into his palms. She tosses a look over her shoulder, a half-smile, the breeze catching strands of her hair out of its ponytail to slither over her cheeks.
“Coming?” she says, and Gabe realizes he’s stopped, and she’s a quarter of a block away from him – her feet tangle a little as she walks sideways, waiting for him.
Gabe swallows. “Yeah.” He tucks his bloodied hands into his front pockets and picks up his pace.
William’s asleep on the couch when they get in, wrapped mummy-like in an afghan with only tufts of his hair sticking out. Victoria sits down on his feet and opens up the pizza box on the coffee table.
William groans, and Victoria pushes at his shins and says, “Go to bed, Billy boy.” She flicks on the TV and turns the volume up to obnoxiously loud, and Gabe glares at her.
He knows what she’s doing.
“What?” she says around a mouthful of pizza.
William claws his way out of his blanket cocoon, red-faced and sleepy-eyed. He yawns, scrubs a hand up over his jaw and through his messy hair. “Hi,” he says, blinking at them blearily.
“Hey,” Victoria says. She shifts sideways when he pulls his legs out from under her, folding them up. “Go to bed.”
“You’re on my bed,” he says after a short, bemused pause.
Victoria rolls her eyes and kicks off her shoes.
Gabe sighs, hooks his ankles together and leans against the back of the couch, but William just rests his chin on his knees and tilts sideways, eyes at half-mast, facing the television. Gabe gives up and leans over to knuckle William’s shoulder. He says, “C’mon, Bills, let’s go.”
William snuffles into the side of his hand, struggles out of the afghan and gets to his feet. He follows Gabe to his bedroom, leans into his back just inside the door, and mumbles, “Where’d you go?” against the nape of Gabe’s neck.
“Out,” Gabe says. He doesn’t bother with a light, just nudges William toward the bed and strips off his clothes.
“Oh,” William says, not really sounding upset, but still a little confused. He climbs under the covers in his pajama pants and t-shirt.
Gabe pushes at his hip when he gets in, fighting for more space, but gives up when William just flops an arm over his stomach – it’s his own damn fault, really, he started this shit. He gets comfortable pretty easily, though; William’s bony but loose and warm.
Gabe dozes, slipping in and out of consciousness all night.
It’s early - not quite morning, but almost, he can always taste the dark hours before dawn - and Gabe can feel William’s eyes on him. He says, “You know, the only reason I roll with Mike’s voyeur fetish is because he can kick my ass.” He opens his eyes to find William’s face close to his on the pillow. “You, on the other hand, can’t.”
The sheets shift, and William’s fingers ghost over Gabe’s cheek before settling on the side of his neck. He smiles a little. “I know. You can eat me.”
“Yeah,” Gabe says, hoarse. He clears his throat pointedly.
William traces his Adam’s apple, down his bare chest. Long, cool fingers curl over Gabe’s hip and William’s eyelashes dip.
“I don’t think we’ve gone over this part of humanity,” Gabe says, staying perfectly still. William drapes himself all over Gabe all the time, but this feels different; this has intent.
William’s mouth curves up even more. “Pete’s said some things.”
“You should never listen to Pete,” Gabe says. He catches William’s hand, squeezes lightly before dragging it back up into the space between their chests. “I let you sleep here, but you don’t get to molest me.” Other way around, fine, but Gabe’s in charge here.
William pouts. Gabe wants to bite his lower lip, but he doesn’t exactly trust himself not to burn William from the inside out. He reaches over, though, tugs William’s t-shirt up and grins when William’s breath hitches. Gabe drags his fingers over his stomach, feels the muscles jumping, and slips them under the waistband of his pajama bottoms, wrapping a hand around William’s already hard cock.
William startles, all sound caught in his throat, and Gabe laughs.
“This what you want?” he asks.
William thrusts into the circle of his fist, and Gabe watches his face, his eyes wide and dark with pupil. He says, “Oh,” faint, and shudders, dick pulsing, wetness splattering over Gabe’s hand.
“Fuck,” Gabe says, because that was seriously fucking sexy. Huh.
“Yes,” William says, like he’s hissing it, and Gabe feels want coil more firmly in his belly.
He says, “You need to work on your stamina,” and refuses to acknowledge the slight shake in his voice.
William wriggles, panting, and says, “Um, what?” and Gabe realizes William’s still hard, shit.
“Okay, maybe not,” Gabe says. He pumps his hand, once, and William’s body goes long, head thrown back. Gabe might have to call the noise coming out of him a keen - it’s pretty fucking amazing. “Off, off, get this off.” Gabe scrabbles at William’s shirt with his free hand, pushing it farther up his chest, and he lets William’s cock go to smooth up around his rib cage, and William makes a disappointed sound until Gabe latches onto his collarbone with his mouth, sucking bruises, and rolls William onto his back, pressing their hips up together so Gabe’s dick slides hard and fast against William’s damp pajama pants.
“Off,” William says, and pushes at them, squirming because Gabe’s so tight up against him, until they’ve suddenly got bare skin against bare skin, William’s cock hot and wet alongside Gabe’s - William arches up into him, and Gabe thinks, fuck, fuck, fuck, and maneuvers a hand down to wrap around both of them at once, jerking them off with quick flicks of his wrist.
Gabe comes first, teeth biting into William’s shoulder, and then William’s a writhing mess of, “Oh, oh,” and Gabe would find that funny if he weren’t so fucking sucked dry. He curls into William and says, “Jesus fucking Christ, what the hell was that?”
“Um.” William clenches and unclenches his hands rhythmically on Gabe’s upper arms.
Gabe twists to look at him, sees the high color on his cheeks and the spark of wonder in his eyes, and Gabe says, “Fuck, you’ve never even jerked off before, have you?” Which is, Gabe thinks, fucking amazing and almost impossible and just, like, totally fucked up.
Also fucked up – Gabe. That should not have been as mind-blowingly awesome as it was, considering Gabe had lasted about five whole minutes, what the fuck.
There’s a crease in William’s brow. He says, “Are you—”
“Shut the fuck up,” Gabe says, and then he kisses him. William is liquid against him, for very obvious reasons, and he opens up easily to the force of Gabe’s teeth and tongue, and William’s grip goes full clench, nails biting into Gabe’s skin, and he makes a sound in his throat that Gabe recognizes as good, but also running out of air. He pulls back, says, “Breathe, Bill,” and bites along his jaw while William gasps, sucking in great gulps of air. “Use your nose.”
Next time, he’s maybe got to slow William down.
Rolling, Gabe falls on his back, tugging William up against his side - familiar, but a whole lot more naked. The ceiling is turning gray-pink, heralding a cloudy day. It’s just about the time Michael flaps into being, watching them wake up. Either he’s not coming, or he’s already been.
“I fucking hope your brother got an eyeful,” Gabe says.
William laughs into his throat.
There’s something tentative in William now, like he’s no longer sure of where he stands with Gabe. Which is understandable. Gabe has no idea where he stands, either. The wary stillness is starting to piss Gabe off, though.
It’s almost like before, when William had been scared of him – only then it’d been an abstract fear of the unknown, and now it’s—Gabe’s not sure, actually. It’s almost like he’s waiting for Gabe to disappear. Like he’s suddenly realized Gabe won’t always be around. Which is true – Gabe’s bound to take off sooner or later. At some point, he might even ditch this body. There’s nothing permanent about Gabe, except for maybe his immortality.
It still really fucking pisses Gabe off.
When he calls William to let him know he’ll pick him up after work, William tells him not to bother, and while Gabe normally doesn’t care what anyone tells him to do, he’s got this really annoying, nagging pain in his chest; fuck William. He can go brood by his fucking self all he wants.
He’s working on a ‘we had sex, stop being so fucking weird about it’ speech in his head when he turns the corner and spots William in front of their apartment building. He’s not alone.
Demons are territorial. They fucking hate being in the company of other demons; they can play at being civil, but only because that makes it slightly easier to stab each other in the back.
Most other demons leave Gabe completely alone, because Gabe tends to get—creative; it’s hard to come back from vital organ removal, severed spines, getting all the skin flayed off the bone. Demons can heal their bodies all right, but there’s some stuff you just can’t shake off. And on top of territorial, demons can be proprietary, too; they like to cling to their chosen human bodies for as long as possible. It’s just a bitch to find a really good fit.
So Gabe can go decades without coming across another demon, and that’s only half satisfying. He likes being left alone, but he does miss the myriad ways they try to destroy each other. He fucking hates Lacey, though.
“Why, hello there,” Lacey says. He’s got his arms looped, deceptively loose, around William’s chest.
Gabe freezes at the end of his block, watching Lacey. It doesn’t look like William had put up much of a fight; Gabe doesn’t smell any blood yet.
“Lacey,” Gabe says.
Lacey sniffs William’s neck. “Hardly anything,” he says with a pout. “You waited too long, Gabe, he barely even smells at all angelic now. Significantly less tasty.” He cocks his head mock-thoughtfully. “Still. I could eat.”
William’s eyes are calm, staring at Gabe, but his body’s trembling.
Gabe slowly moves toward them; he should not be this fucking attached to William, really, a mortal angel who won’t even tell him his real name, but William is his, and something both more and less than rage swells up inside him, edging his vision with black. At first he’s sure it’s half-directed at William, at all that he was and is and is making Gabe be, but then Lacey’s eyes fly wide, stunned, and then round with a manic glow.
“Gadreel,” he says, breathless with malicious glee. William slips out of his suddenly limp fingers, legs giving out; he folds like a marionette, slumped over his knees on the sidewalk.
Gabe growls under his breath.
Lacey laughs. He says, “You—you fucked up,” and he keeps laughing, long and hard, and he says between gasps of breath, “Holy shit. You fucked up so bad.”
Gabe steps into a right hook to his stomach, full force, and Lacey snaps from amused to pissed-off in seconds, rearing up to curl claws into the front of Gabe’s shirt, skin red with fury, teeth elongating into sharp and jagged points as his demon tries to tear apart his human form. He hisses, spits in Gabe’s face, “You don’t even know. You don’t even know, and now I’m going to rip you to fucking shreds.”
Gabe stumbles, momentarily stunned by Lacey’s gall – he’s always been a groveling worm of a demon. He nearly buckles under Lacey’s weight, then scowls and starts feeding his own anger, letting it build up in his belly, crackling under his skin. He can taste it, acrid, in the back of his throat. And then it—fizzles.
Lacey grins at him, blood from tearing his own mouth staining his teeth. “See?”
“What—” Gabe grabs hold of Lacey’s wrists, narrows his eyes, but the fury, the pure desire to reach out and snap Lacey’s neck, doesn’t come. He sucks in a shaky breath, feels the first stirrings of panic since—he’s not sure when. It’s foreign, and he has no idea what’s happening, but then Lacey twists out of his grip and says, “I think I owe you a new body, right?”
Gabe very much likes the body he has, and he doesn’t give up easily. He punches Lacey again, this time in the side of the head, and there’s an explosion of light – Lacey howls, it’s a motherfucking beautiful sound.
And then Ryan shows up, pin-neat in his brown suit, hat tucked under his arm, holding a silver-tipped wooden cane. He gives Lacey - huddling on the ground, cradling his bleeding head in his hands - a bare glance, lips curled in a sneer. He presses the palm of his hand to Lacey’s forehead and the demon screams, high-pitched and sharp with agony, before burning into smoke, black marks scorching the sidewalk in a starburst.
“Well,” Ryan says, swiping his palm on his thigh. “That was unsatisfying, for all the time I’ve spent here.” He eyes William - breathing hard, mouth covered by pale hands - and then Gabe. His gaze grows almost as gleeful as Lacey’s had before, only slightly less sadistic. He laughs, taps his hat back onto his head, and says, “But totally worth it to see this.”
Gabe feels oddly heavy.
He hasn’t felt the weight of wings on his back since before mankind. Before he turned away from God for not loving him enough to be content.
“Oh,” Gabe says. “Oh, fuck.”
Gabe stops breathing. He stops breathing and he stares at William and the crinkles of William’s eyes that say he’s most-likely smiling inside, that he’s happy, that—oh, fuck, this was his mission. He fights off the urge to bend and flex his—his fucking wings, and swallows down manic laughter of his own.
“Why?” he says faintly. “Why would you—what have you done?”
“He didn’t do anything,” Ryan says, freaking elated - Gabe wants to punch him in his smug fucking face. “That was all you, friend.” He leans on his cane, crosses one ankle over the other, and Gabe ignores him in favor of watching William slowly get to his feet.
He brushes his hands on the back of his jeans. He has his head ducked, like he doesn’t know what to say.
Gabe chokes on a pained laugh. What the fuck. “Then why are you here?” he asks William, because there’s no fucking way; William being there isn’t random.
“You needed watching after,” William says simply.
Ryan snorts derisively, but his eyes are sparkling.
Gabe stares at William, incredulous, darts his gaze to Ryan – still smirking - and then back to William again, and suddenly it clicks. He breathes, “Lahabiel.” Protect me from evil.
William’s lips curl up at the corners. “Brother.”
Brother; that’s not really accurate at all. “You’re human.”
William laughs, and there’s nothing bitter in it. “Nothing gets by you. Demons aren’t generally afforded divine guardianship, you know.” He moves almost cautiously toward Gabe. “I admit you weren’t what I was expecting.”
“Why?” Gabe asks again, bewildered; mad as fuck but almost too stunned to show it.
“Our Father forgives you,” William says, shrugging. Like it’s just that fucking simple.
Something uncomfortable flutters in Gabe’s chest. “What, I’ve repented my sins now?”
“You’ve been repenting for hundreds of years. He had to rebuild your grace from the inside out.” He presses his palm against Gabe’s heart. “You fought Him for every fraction of an inch.”
Except that’s not how it works. The Fallen are either sucked down into the pits or they fight their way back – Gabe has never seen or heard of one leading to the other. Corruption is too heavy a burden, and those who aren’t driven insane become unflinchingly bitter, and those who aren’t unflinchingly bitter are vicious in their revenge.
William had voluntarily come to earth – he’d essentially left his grace to trick Gabe into accepting his own. It’s motherfucking stupid, that’s what it is.
“Are you out of your fucking mind? I don’t want this,” Gabe says, practically yells it. He doesn’t want any of this. There is nothing, he thinks, nothing that he’s ever wanted less than this. He’s not meant for the heavens; he pretty much has always wanted to spend all of forever on earth.
There are whispers growing louder in the back of his mind, voices piled on top of voices, saying, come home, and Gabe thinks numbly, I already am.
“Sometimes,” William says, with a touch of weariness in his eyes, “that doesn’t matter.”
Gabe takes a deep, shuddery breath, and tries to bring back at least a semblance of cool. He looks up at the sky, the bright, unbreaking blue – it’s a gorgeous day, cold, with a hint of spring on the air brought by the high sun - then back down at William. William has on one of Gabe’s hoodies, parted over a thin t-shirt, skinny jeans making his legs look even longer. He looks so fucking normal now, but there’s still that touch of foreignness, like he doesn’t really know what to do with his hands, with his hair that keeps sweeping forward over his face in the breeze – his spine is straight, posture too stiff.
“So what’s to keep me from falling again?” Gabe asks.
William stuffs his hands in his front pockets and says, “That would be me.”
Gabe feels his wings twitch, the thin, hollow bones aching from being kept tight to his back. “Oh yeah? What if I take you down with me?”
William just shakes his head. “I want to make music,” he says, like that’s reason enough to never denounce God. Maybe it is.
Gabe laughs lightly. His throat feels tight. “A worthy prospect.”
William’s smile is crooked. “Yeah.”
“Time to go,” Ryan says. He nudges Gabe in the ribs with his cane. “Stretch those Heavenly wings.”
Come home, come home, the voices say, and Gabe knows it’s not a request. He hasn’t been out of this body in hundreds of years, and he clings to it, grips it with tight, invisible fingers, so it hurts that much more when it’s finally ripped away.
The last thing he sees of earth is William’s face, soft-smiled, sad, but not unhappy.
Heaven is a glorious void. Heaven is the presence of God. It’s nothing and everything, and it takes Gabe a while to adjust to the way their voices echo in his head.
This is bullshit, Gabe says.
Michael smiles at him with his whole ethereal body. Oh, I don’t know. I think it’s kind of funny.
You did this on purpose. Gabe has never been so impotently mad. Being angry does nothing here. It’s like moth wings battering at glass.
Relax, Michael says. It’s only a means to an end, Gadreel.
Don’t call me that. Love swells all over him. Love and amusement. It’s horrifying, especially how it actually makes Gabe feel warm and fuzzy and, like, almost fucking content. Ugh. It’s like being wrapped in puppies.
Michael just watches him.
Gabe’s wings arch and retract and he says, So you let him go. You let him go for this, for me.
He can feel the force of Michael’s sudden frown. I didn’t let him do anything.
Whatever, Gabe says, crossing his arms over his chest. It’s just really self-sacrificing and stupid and exactly something an angel like William would do.
Lahabiel volunteered, Michael says. He said only that he recognized you.
Gabe scoffs, because they’d hardly even been acquaintances before. Lahabiel had been painfully young when Gabe had fallen. Young and openly worshipful and full of hugs; he’d worn his heart high up in his eyes, Gabe remembers that.
Brother, Michael says, placing a hand on Gabe’s shoulder. It’s a gift you’ve already accepted.
I can still give it back, Gabe says, petulant, but he thinks of William, and all the dumb shit William’s done, done for him, and he finds he doesn’t really want to. Fuck.
In the distance, he can hear Ryan laughing.
He’s disoriented. Dizzy, at first, before he gets his bearings. The thumping bass under his feet feels honest, though, the press of bodies all around him, the thick smell of sweat. He cuts his way to the bar, leans on it heavily with this elbows. He feels like he’s done this a thousand times before and also that this is his first time for everything. It takes him long minutes to recognize the place – the club where he first met William. And William—something tightens around Gabe’s heart.
Time makes no actual sense in Heaven. He has no idea how long he’s been gone, how much he’s missed. He looks down at his hands, the newly knit skin over achingly familiar bones. He closes his eyes and thinks inward, feels only the beating of his human heart.
“Been a while.”
Gabe’s eyes pop open. He wants to say something; he swallows all his words and stares.
William’s hair is shorter, brushing the top of his nape, curling oddly over his ears. He looks fit together better, skin stretched more comfortably over the shape of his body; he’s looser in the hips, standing next to Gabe, and Gabe is instantly jealous that he didn’t get to do that himself, that he really hasn’t had any hand in making William who he is now - fully human, content, grown into his soul.
“Buy you a drink?” William asks, and there’s more grin in his eyes than on his mouth - Gabe thinks he probably still can’t lie for shit.
Gabe laughs. “Yeah,” he says, and then gives in to the urge to touch, palms the side of William’s face, thumb at the edge of his mouth, and tilts his head up. William’s eyes are still freaking sparkling, and Gabe suddenly doesn’t care how long it’s been.
William’s fingers mirror his, reach up to brush his cheek before fluttering down to the bar again. He ducks his head, like he’s nervous, and says, “Hey,” and, “I thought maybe you forgot about me,” and Gabe thinks never ever, and laughs again.
When Gabe leans into William, it’s because the club’s too loud to talk normally, and he revels in the heat of William’s flushed skin. He says, “How did you find me?”
William shrugs, bend of his arm brushing Gabe’s stomach. “How did you find me?”
Gabe shakes his head. “A fucking beacon, man,” he says. “Don’t tell me you’ve gone all demon-eyed.”
“I can see it,” William says. His gaze darts around Gabe’s face, touching eyes, nose mouth. “You shine.”
“I’m brand-fucking-new,” Gabe says, and he’s maybe a little proud of that. Even breathing is an adventure; there’s more pleasure in the rush of air into his lungs than Gabe had ever imagined.
William’s so close his breath dries out Gabe’s lips. He asks, “You get kicked out?” and Gabe follows the shape of his mouth with his eyes.
“Yeah, well, you knew that wasn’t going to last.” He crosses that last little distance, tips his forehead against William’s, their noses brushing, and says, rough and low, “I kind of made them.” He was a motherfucking nuisance, he knows it, but he thinks maybe Michael always had this in mind for him. Not so much because of Gabe, but because of William.
“Good,” William says. He moves into Gabe, curls an arm around his waist.
“Somebody up there must like you,” Gabe says, “because they don’t give a shit about me.”
“Lies,” William says, pressing a grin against Gabe’s jaw. “Lies and untruths, you’re Michael’s favorite.”
Gabe doesn’t feel like arguing. “Can we get out of here?” He feels like—he needs to just go home.
“I don’t usually take in strays,” William says, but he’s still grinning, and he tightens his hold on Gabe.
Gabe lets him pull him closer, feels the drag of William’s fingernails through his thin shirt. He says, “So make an exception.”