Summary: After the encounter at Liam's place, Hanael crosses a line and Dover draws one in the sand between them.
Dover arrived at the Arbor in the middle of evening worship. Angels kept odd hours, usually abed by the time the sun made way for its silver counterpart. Once the moon rose, the Guardians took their watch, standing beside humans to face Lucifer’s hordes.
She closed the door quietly behind her, stepping silently past the Great Room where angels stood singing hymns. In the adjoining parlor, another group of angelic beings knelt on ornate carpets, pressing their foreheads to the floor as they faced East. Choral voices reverberated through the Arbor, the sound comforting and beautiful in a way she’d never known a thing could be in her human life.
Normally, Dover would linger in the corridor, listening to a dozen faiths praying to their Almighty in a hundred ways. She found comfort in the mix of peoples, of faiths, that resided in the Arbor.
Tonight, however, she found no security in the prayers, in the hymns. She had no urge to sit in communion with her fellow angels. Tonight, she had a mission.
Typically, she found her breath short at the mere thought of seeing Hanael, her palms slick with anticipation. This evening, however, Dover felt none of that delicious anticipation when she took the stairs two at a time. Was it possible anything like this had happened to a Guardian in the past? How had it known her name? Were her Charges under particular threat? Liam hadn’t been attacked in years. And the message on the wall, still sticky with fresh ichor. Who wanted to talk to her? Why?
As she reached the first landing, Dover continued her swift ascension of the stairs, gripping the banister for balance. Heart hammering in her chest, the Guardian reached the second level of the house, looking around for signs of her superior. At this hour, the upper levels of the Arbor were likely to be practically empty, with the angels worshipping in their various ways in a half dozen places.
She headed for Hanael’s office, pulling her emotions in tightly around her. Over the last few years, she’d become something of an expert at keeping her less-than-professional feelings for the angel under wraps. Today, even given her stress level, would be no different.
The door to his office stood ajar, allowing her to peer inside without pushing it open too much. At a glance, she knew the room to be empty. Dover gripped the doorknob with annoyance before turning on her heel, intending to call out for a Cherubim to help her locate Hanael.
Before she took another step, Dover collided with a very tall, very heavy body.
Her eyes flew up to meet the penetrating emerald-gold gaze of the angel she’d been searching for. His hands lashed out to steady her, grasping at Dover’s biceps so she wouldn’t tumble to the floor. She couldn’t articulate a question, rendered mute by the intensity of Hanael’s stare. He stepped toward his office, crowding Dover back out of the hallway.
When they managed to get through the doorway, Dover kept her gaze on those familiar eyes, her brow wrinkling in confusion at the emotion she could see so clearly reflecting back at her, emotions she couldn’t begin to name.
Hanael paused, as though contemplating his next action a beat before he wrapped his arms around her and captured Dover’s mouth with his.
His kiss lit the smoldering fire in her belly that death had long doused. Of course, she’d known for some time that the things she felt for Hanael were very real, but in her quest to ignore them, she’d somehow muted the pull. She’d done her level best to ignore the desire in her belly, to shove it aside so she could focus on her mission.
Now, though, Dover found whatever resistance she had melting. Hanael’s kiss was inexperienced, though smooth, and neither made any difference to the passion she found now clutching at her gut. There was no reason to why this was happening. No matter that it was the answer to every secret desire Dover ever had about Hanael. It reminded her of every dream that included sweat-damp flesh and heady groans.
His hands smoothed over her back, shifting the material of her t-shirt from under the gun belt still strapped to her waist. As the material lifted, cool air whispered against heated flesh, the contrast of sensations finally breaking the spell between her and Hanael.
She pulled away from him roughly, shaking her head as her body screamed in protest. Dover’s head still spun as she took a step back from the angel, dodging as his hands reached out as though to capture her once more.
“Wait.” Dover gasped, swiping the back of her hand over her kiss-bruised mouth. “What the hell was that? You have to say something before you grab someone.”
“I do.” Hanael’s apology was swift, though breathless. “I’m not sure what came over me.”
They stared at one another across the meager distance between their bodies, both chests rising and falling with rapid, shallow breath. It wasn’t as though Dover hadn’t imagined, dreamed of having Hanael touch her that way, but she hadn’t made the decision to touch or be touched. The fire in Han’s eyes remained, an eager hunger zeroed in on her. Dover wanted to dive into that passion with both eyes open, no matter what was going on in her life.
She continued to stare at him, those flushed cheeks and bright eyes, his swollen lips and mussed hair, wanting with everything in her body. She took a step toward him again, eager to bring him back within her grasp now that she could think. How far would he take them, if she asked him to touch her?
As though he could read it in her thoughts, Hanael took another step toward her, his hands clenching and releasing with anticipation. Dover offered a smirk for his trouble, an indication to keep coming, but the moment was broken less than a heartbeat later.
The shout of her name resonated down the hall. Dover and Hanael turned toward the sound, the former mentally bracing for battle long before the dark-skinned angel swooped into the room.
Raziel stormed into the office as though someone had smeared boot polish onto her brand new Manolos, those dark eyes flashing with ire that bordered on murderous.
Dover and Raziel had a checkered, colorful history.
They had never seen eye to eye. Raziel always came off as assuming full angelic creatures were somehow better than Guardians, whom were only resurrected humans, little more than ghouls. Long ago, when Dover had first been made Guardian, Raziel did everything she could to irritate her. It was easier with Hanael now her direct supervisor, but every time Raz and Dover crossed paths, sparks flew.
The Guardian had long-since assumed the hatred on the Power’s side was down to the few dozen times Dover had made her look bad. Over the two years Dover spent in Raz’s ‘service’, she’d managed it more often than not, which was why Hanael pulled her into his own ranks. Usually, Dover got a decent kick out of tweaking the stuffy angel’s nose, but Raziel had crummy timing if she wanted a fight. Dover was in the mood to pull absolutely zero punches.
With her blood still boiling after her moment with Hanael, Dover didn’t bother resisting \the urge to roll her eyes.
“What, Raz? I don’t have time to get into a pissing match right now.”
She knew she was toeing the line, that angelic beings were hard-wired to obey, but she couldn’t seem to stop herself. Judging from the small smirk tugging at Hanael’s lips, the feeling was mutual, even under his attempt at a stern glare in her direction. At the moment, all Dover wanted to do was shove Raziel out, slam the office door and figure out what the holy hell was going on between her and Hanael.
With Raziel and her bunched-up panties in the mix, that was unlikely to happen any time soon.
If the angel noticed anything amiss between Guardian and Power, she said nothing. Long-fingered hands slammed onto her hips in fists, displaying a killer figure tucked into a tailored suit. Raziel’s dark hair was gathered at her nape, pinned carefully into intricate curls. Her flawless skin practically glowed in the last slivers of sun sliding through the windows.
Next to Raziel, Dover felt frumpy and unkempt. It wasn’t a feeling she enjoyed.
“You were consorting with demons!” Raziel raged. “You reek of their filth. You have proven unworthy of your wings. Again!”
Confused and more than a little annoyed, Dover ran a hand through her short hair.
“Raziel, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have wings.”
Hanael stepped smoothly between them at that, holding each hand out as an encouragement to stay in their corners. That hint of amusement still played on his lips as he attempted to stop the pair from all out brawling.
“Enough, Dover.” Hanael cautioned before turning to Raziel. His words were whisper-soft, but with a keen edge. “She was not consorting with demons. She was protecting a Charge.”
“I think not.” Raziel shot back, seeming to not care that the Guardian they spoke of stood two feet away. “The demons are all singing her name, in every part of Atlanta.”
Dover frowned, swallowing hard. Of course they knew where she had been. When Called, Guardians were often immediately monitored in case they needed aid. Hanael would have been alerted the moment she felt the Call. But how did they know the demons were whispering her name? Had other Guardians heard them tonight? Had they reported it to Raziel as something strange?
Hanael had known about Liam’s attack, had he known her to be injured? Was he watching her that closely?
With that now in mind, she felt another kernel of doubt settle in her belly. Hanael’s flame now smoldered, doused by the uncertainty. If he was surveilling her, did he know about the angelic attack? More to the point, if he did know, why had he not mentioned it?
“I killed two Chaos demons.” Dover said when she found her voice. “But yes, they knew my name and they left me a message.”
Hanael turned to her so quickly, even Raziel seemed surprised by the swiftness.
“What message?” The angel’s voice was tight, almost angry.
Wordlessly, Dover dug into her pocket to find her phone, yanking it out as Hanael watched her intently. She knew that look, the gaze of a protector now concerned for his own Charge. Dover swiped the phone open, pulling up the photograph she’d taken of Liam’s wall before she used Celestian spells to reverse the demonic damage.
Hanael took the phone gingerly, Raziel leaning around his body to peer into the screen with him. Dover would grudgingly admit that, should she be in actual danger, Raziel was likely to have her back. Damn her.
His gold-green eyes widened as he stared at the photograph, Raziel shaking her head as though Dover had merely confirmed her suspicions.
“Anyone know why demons want to talk to me?”
In the silence that followed her question, Dover almost reached for Hanael’s hand. He wouldn’t lift his eyes to hers, leaving her with the uncomfortable feeling of being left out, locked away. She had often reached for his hand over the last decade, but now things were different. Dover wasn’t sure things would ever be the same.
It was Raziel who caught Hanael’s stare first, the two sharing what could only be called a silent conversation. Dover stepped back, her instinct to leave decisions to her superior kicking into gear. It was a natural feeling and shook away some of the discomfort she felt in the minutes that followed Hanael’s surprising kiss.
After what felt like an age, Raziel silently turned on her heel and slipped out of the office. Her dark hand caught on the door as she left, tugging it quietly closed behind her as she made her exit. Dover hadn’t seen Raziel ever close a door with such care in her years as a Guardian and it unnerved her more than her usual slamming would have.
Alone once more, Dover turned to Hanael expectantly. He handed back her phone, smoothing his hand through his hair when she’d taken it. The silence stretched between them, heavy and tight. To her surprise, Dover could physically see Hanael pull up his emotional armor, closing himself off once more. She almost took a step forward, to take his hand, to bring him back to the moment before Raziel interrupted. It was his armor, she thought as Hanael moved further into his office, to keep out the feelings he wasn’t prepared to deal with.
Dover tilted her head as he moved away, wondering why he felt the need to pretend he had no emotions when alone with her.
Hanael made no effort to speak. Instead, he stepped toward the glass-inlaid doors of his bookcase, where he kept his most treasured volumes. Dover followed him because he hadn’t told her to remain still, because the curiosity was almost too much to bear. Though she moved closer to the angelic creature, Dover wove her arms tightly across her chest so she would not be tempted to reach for him. Whatever Hanael had unearthed with his kiss wanted nothing more than to be unleashed. Dover would have to mind herself carefully.
He reached into his precious bookshelf, removing a volume with infinite care. Wordlessly, the handsome angel handed her the ancient tome, his eyes meeting hers with that same reserved stare.
“There are wards we do not teach in this tome.” Hanael said quietly. “They proved too dangerous for the common Guardian to use. We could not prevent them from using these in battle, being lost to us when they needed help, so we removed them from the training. The Druid should be able to help you with them, if he is as talented as you say.”
“He is.” Dover nodded, the book heavy in her hands. She flipped open the front cover, deciphering the elegant swirls of script that were the language of angels.
“The Tome of Gabriel.” Swallowing hard, Dover’s eyes sought the first Ward on the second page, astonished by what she found. “This is to ward against angelic tracking.”
When she lifted her gaze, Hanael nodded once. “Yes.”
Silence stretched between them once more.
“When you have activated them,” Hanael continued. “Even I will be unable to hear or track you. I urge you to use these spells sparingly and wisely, Dover Ellis.”
Reality sank into her gut, squashing the unease and replacing it with understanding. She closed the book carefully, mindful of the ancient spine and binding. When she looked up into that emerald-gold gaze, Dover knew.
She’d always depended on the knowledge that other angels could find her if she were in danger, that backup would be en-route if she shouted into the Host. Guardians and Seraphim and Powers themselves were known to Slide to the aid of another without hesitation. If she used this book, these Wards, she might be on her own.
But on the tail of that realization came one that clenched at her heart and made her stomach swoop with nausea.
Two words hung on the air, suspended between them in the quiet.
Dover held Hanael’s gaze, so she could see the guilt and resolve leak into those familiar eyes before he covered it back again.
“You know an angel attacked me.” Dover pressed, tucking the book into the crook of her arm.
He did not look away, nor attempt a retreat. Pain flashed over his face, gone within a heartbeat. What caused him such distress? What drove him from the obedience and honesty of the Host into lying to one of his own? Did she even want to know?
Hanael’s face became a mask of indifference once more, his emotions buttoned away. Dover stiffened her spine, pulling her own emotions in and tucking them tightly back into her heart. She wouldn’t be the only one with her feelings on her sleeve. If Hanael wanted to go back to being aloof, well, she could follow his lead.
“I cannot explain what is happening,” Hanael said flatly. “Too many lives are at risk. I only want to give you the means to protect yourself, and your Charges.”
Dover pressed her lips into a firm line, nodding once. “Oh. Ok. But you can grab me and kiss me without so much as a hello. Sure.”
“Dover.” She ignored the hint of warning in Hanael’s voice. “These circumstances are trying. We cannot mix business with pleasure.”
She tilted her head, looking up into the unfamiliar, blank stare of her superior.
“Can we separate them now, Han? Really?”
Hanael did not move, though his throat bobbed as he swallowed, the only outward sign of his discomfort.
Dover nodded once, taking a step back. Now that she’d left his personal space, whatever had passed in those stolen moments now lay lifeless between them. She hadn’t given up, not yet. Dover would not mince words or keep things too close to the vest. Given the day she’d had and what just happened between them, she wasn’t leaving without saying her piece.
“You started this,” the Guardian said quietly. “And bypassing the can of worms our make-out session just opened, I’m a fucking Guardian, Hanael. My Charges are in danger, I’m in danger. I’ve got legions sniffing after me, messages written in blood, and now you’re arming me against angels. And I’m supposed to, what? Just keep my head down?”
“I am ordering you to stay out of it, Dover Ellis.”
The edge to Hanael’s words was sharper than anything she’d ever heard. Instead of waving her off, it only fueled her need for answers.
“And I’m telling you that I’m a Guardian and I will do anything to protect my Charges.” Dover backed toward the door, her eyes still locked onto Hanael’s. “If that means I have to go through the Host, through you, trust me, I will.”
He called her name as she wrenched the door open, but Dover did not turn. She headed down the hall, stepping around Raziel wordlessly as she headed for the stairs.
Her mind a jumble, the book in her hands heavy, Dover grasped her phone.
Embry answered on the first ring.
“Hey, babes.” Her friend said without waiting for her to speak. “I’ve got Jameson and two arms. Meet me at the Tower.”
A smile tugged at Dover’s mouth as she half-jogged down the stairs.
“Em, you’re my true love.”
She stepped out of the Arbor and onto the gravel drive, aware that Hanael’s eyes followed her from the window.
Dover did not look back.