Summary: Dover and Embry talk things over before the Guardian is Called to a Charge in danger.
No one would ever accurately describe the feeling of wind from over one thousand feet in the air.
Even as a girl, she liked the high places, her fingers tightly gripping whatever tether she could find to reality. Tonight, Dover watched the sunset from her perch, hands loose at her sides. There was nothing for her to fear from this height, even if there was not enough light to properly enter the Slide.
Her hair danced wildly about her face, whipping at her eyes and ears as she stared over the brilliant spots of light appearing in the darkening sky. Though she’d never been to the city she now called home in life, she’d fallen in love with its Southern charm the moment she’d stepped onto Atlanta’s streets as a Guardian. She loved the sight, the sound of this old city, its culture mired in Southern values and talk of a war long lost. It was her home, in every sense of the word.
Home happened to be what she needed right now.
The iron supports of the rooftop were normally off-limits. Dover didn’t much care for that. She could be practically invisible when she wanted to be. No one had seen her climb to the top of Bank of America Plaza. Similarly, no one was likely to see her leaving. She’d had enough light for the day to do just about anything she needed to.
Maybe she would even jump. Sure, the lack of sufficient light around her might mean she wouldn’t ease into the Slide fully. She might slam into the pavement, knocking her out for a moment or causing enough injury to land her on Embry’s couch again. Still, the exhilaration of falling might be worth the temporary injury. She wasn’t needed at the moment, so she might have time to recover fully before battle. Of course, that didn’t mean she wouldn’t be Called at any moment.
Dover made herself content to merely stand on the edge of the building, staring into the horizon, to think without thinking.
Keeping her mind blissfully blank, Dover peered into the faraway skyline. Dusk had fallen some time ago, though the late summer kept the sky light even as the night crept in. The formerly brilliantly sapphire sky now filled with hues of rich violet and burnt orange. In the distance, she could see a hint of fading blue, where night had not yet taken hold. Dover liked to watch that spot as it drifted into the west. It was hope. Darkness never took over all at once.
She heard the clang of the metallic door, heralding the arrival of her friend. Dover did not turn to greet him, her eyes still trained on that tiny spot of blue in the west. Her mind remained blank, no matter how the edge of her awareness wanted to begin racing with the information she’d gleaned over the last few days.
No matter how she wanted to share her heart’s aching with Embry, she held back for another moment. The longer she held on to the things bothering her, the longer she could pretend things were not changing around her. Once she told Embry, it would all be too real. Was she ready to handle this as reality?
Embry would hold her hand through it. Since the moment they met all those years ago, Em was her friend, her rock, her confidante, her one-time lover. She needed him to help her sort through this information, to be the strong, steadfast friend she’d come to depend on in this second life.
So why did she continue to ignore him, staring into the darkening sky, as he approached?
Her heart hammered in her chest as she remembered the way she felt in Hanael’s arms. In her wildest daydreams, she had never expected the buttoned-up angel to get so hands-on with her without even a greeting. His kiss had been ardent, almost desperate. She found it all too easy to presume Hanael’s reaction to her linked to the idea she’d been cornered and injured by those pesky demons.
It was visible in his eyes, in the frantic way he pulled her into his arms. Dover thought, for the hundredth time in the last hour, about how much she wanted to continue right on. How many times had she fantasized about letting him have her on that clean desk top? Still, with everything going on now, she shouldn’t be dwelling on her feelings for the angel.
How could she resist? He occupied her thoughts more often than she would ever admit aloud. He had that way about him, something that drew her in. Dover shook her head, looking down at her hands. The runes inscribed on her wrists were put there by Hanael, an initiation into the ranks of Guardians.
You have chosen your Marks, Guardian?
Yes, Hanael. Strength. Speed.
So I may protect my Charges and to save them.
That is very noble, Guardian. And selfless.
No, Hanael. It is merely prudent. I do not need grace or courage. I need only the strength to protect and the speed to reach them in time. Nothing more.
He had smiled that secret smile she wanted so much to understand. She was still the only Guardian she had ever met with the Marks on her wrists. One for strength. One for swiftness. They were her talismans, when the nights grew long and the reality that her second life had a finite expiration date sank in.
Dover sighed heavily, looking back over the skyline of Atlanta. Her parting shot to Hanael had not been an empty threat. To protect those trusted in her charge, Dover would blast through the Host itself, garrisons be damned. The threat to her was negligent. Guardians lived in a constant state of mortal danger. It came with the undead package. Those she looked after, however, ought to never feel the trepidation of danger, nor the singe of Hellfire. The fear she could no longer trust Hanael after all these years, that might be a fatal blow to their friendship.
He waved her off, told her to stay out of it. Even with demons calling her name, angels hiding in her home, Hanael found his secrets more important than her calling. It would forever be the one betrayal she could not abide.
In this moment, staring across the city she loved, Dover mourned for what might have been. Hanael kept his secrets and in doing so, Dover stepped back. Any feelings she might have had would need to be buried for good.
Realizing she was absolutely in love with the man was pointless. The thought only brought more pain.
The warmth of her friend’s presence heralded his arrival, even before he touched her. A familiar hand cupped her shoulder, then stroked down her bicep. Dover took a step away from the ledge, her back colliding with Embry’s heavy body. Both of her friend’s arms came around her, right hand clasping left wrist at her waist. Dover closed her eyes, listening to the scream of the wind in her ears, feeling the steady rise and fall of her friend’s chest. Here, she could find her center, reboot the buzzing parts of her mind and heart. With Embry, there would always be peace, and trust, and understanding.
Even with the wind whistling around them, Dover heard his voice as he whispered into her ear.
“Doesn’t matter if you’re dead, alive, or in between, does it? The heart will always try to love.”
Not in the least bit surprised that Embry found the heart of her problem without her saying a word, Dover relaxed further against him.
“It does,” the Guardian replied, tilting her head back to look into those stark blue eyes. “And it always ends badly.”
Embry’s face clouded into a frown. He set his hands on the familiar swells of her hips, turning her on the edge of the beam they occupied until she faced him.
“Now, that’s not entirely true, is it, darlin’?” His hand moved to tip up her chin, his freckled nose brushing hers. “Didn’t end all that badly with me, huh?”
Reminded, quite suddenly given the resurgence of her libido in the last hours, of the time when she and Embry shared more than magic and Jameson, when they were two halves of a solid whole, inseparable, Dover sighed. Her eyes remained locked onto his, thrust back into those moments when admitted she would not want to remain on Earth at the end of her Guardianship, tears stung the backs of her eyes.
“No.” Dover whispered, the syllable lost amongst the wind. Pain had leeched into the eyes of her old friend, as though he were also reminded of those months, that year, they spent as lovers. “Perhaps we shouldn’t have let it end.”
The pain swam more vividly in his eyes, Embry’s thumb sweeping over the swell of her cheek. “Did we have a choice, sweetheart? You deserve paradise, not a third life on this tightrope between Heaven and Hell.”
Dover, her mind still playing back memories banished long ago, exhaled sharply. “But I wanted to stay.”
Embry shook his head slowly. “I couldn’t be the reason you did, Dove. I couldn’t do that to you.”
They continued to stare into one another’s eyes, alone in this high place, so close to Heaven Dover wondered if God were listening. All those years ago, when they fell so deeply in love, they had these conversations. For months, they went round and round until they knew they must put a pin in their affair or risk losing a treasured friendship.
Still, Dover grieved for months, taking comfort only in the fact that she could still call Embry the closest of her friends.
“You’re reliving it.” Embry said, his voice steady. “Only because something happened that tears your heart up. We’ve been over a long time.”
“Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.”
“Yes.” Embry released a light, somewhat watery chuckle. “But it’s not really about us at the moment, my dear. Tell me what’s happened with the angel.”
They sat on the edge of the Plaza well after darkness fell. Embry brought along his good stock of vodka, a pair of lemons, and a few tablespoons of sugar, since the Jameson was too sedate for a night like this one. It probably wasn’t wise, drinking a half-dozen Lemon Drops on the edge of a 55-story building, but Dover was beyond caring. Even angels needed a break.
Embry had opened the ancient Celestian book some time ago, ever so gently turning the pages. Though her resident Druid was well-versed in Celestian spells, he had never seen anything like it. Hell, neither of them even heard of a way to hide from angelic beings. Usually, one didn’t want to hide from God’s children.
So, why had the book even been written?
“These don’t look hard to twist,” Embry was saying as he munched on a lemon rind. He did have some peculiar eating habits. “And this one, this one can burn angelic wings. Even if they’re sheathed.”
“Ouch.” Dover contributed, thinking of the hollow space between the shoulders were true angels housed their extra appendages. “Now, that’s just weird. Protection is one thing, but some of these are offensive.”
“I know.” Embry turned another page. “Well, I’ve seen these before. Turn Undead, Raise the Holy, healing.”
“Wait,” Dover interrupted. “Raise the Holy? What is that?”
Embry pinched the lemon rind between his teeth so he could clean his fingers. Once that was done, he handed Dover the small tome, indicating to the page. He spoke only when the rind had been spat over the side of the BoA Plaza.
“Gross.” Dover observed clinically of his habit before she looked into the pages of disjointed symbols that represented Celestian. “This spell may be cast to animate the corpses of repentant souls. It will only work on sanctified ground.”
“Zombies!” Embry cheered, raising his arms in a ridiculous dance of delight. “Real zombies.”
“I doubt they shuffle about searching for brains.” The Guardian replied with a roll of her eyes. “This has to be the weirdest Celestian spell book. Ever. Which is a neat trick after the Dark Ages.”
Nodding his agreement, Embry reached into his bag. He produced a packet of cigarettes and his trusty blue Zippo lighter. After a flicker of orange broke into the darkness, Embry exhaled smoke. The scent brought her familiar comfort, settling the agony twisting in her heart. Dover set the book on her lap, leafing carefully through the pages. Celestian spells were complicated to begin with. These required rare ingredients she doubted even Embry could easily procure.
Her eyes landed on an advanced Tracking spell the exact moment a frantic pull from her chest startled her so badly she cried out. Her perch on the edge of the iron beam was precarious enough that Embry was forced to reach for her in pure instinct. Dover grasped his hand to keep from tumbling over the edge of the building, her free hand tightly grasping the book.
She said his name on a gasp, the feel of her Charge so frantic and afraid that his emotions leeched into hers. Dover thrust the book into Embry’s arms, scrambling to stand. Never, not in all her years as a Guardian, had she been called so desperately. She could almost hear Jon’s voice in her head, crying her name. Dover turned in a tight circle, staring into the suddenly oppressive darkness surrounding her perilous perch.
His panic and pain were hers in these moments. Linked irrevocably with her Charge, Dover could feel what he felt. Usually, that was a good thing, easily controlled. The level of sudden fear was so high, though, that Dover struggled to separate Jon’s experiences for hers. She could almost see his beautiful face in a mask of fear. She had to get to him. What was hurting him?
“Jon. Hang on. Hang on. I’m coming. Oh, God. Jon. Jon.”
“Dover!” Embry was standing, now, staring at her in a sort of muted shock, cigarette long-forgotten in his hand. Obviously, her panic was registering perfectly on her face.
“Slide. Use the street light.”
She peered down into the darkness, at the tiny sliver of light illuminating the street so far below. It would take all of the light she had stored that day to make it without crashing into the pavement. She would need to pull into the Slide at exactly the right moment… If she injured herself, Jon would be left alone.
“You can do it. Don’t think.” Embry barked. “Jump!”
The command in his voice had the desired effect. Dover turned and in one graceful bound, jumped from the top of the BoA Plaza.