Summary: Dover and the Guardians mourn their losses, but its Elise who requires the most comfort.
In all her years as a Guardian, Dover had never seen the Arbor like this. There was no soft murmuring of voices, no angelic beings basking in the light. The door closed behind her with a quiet snap and even that seemed to make more noise than a canon blast.
The second she stepped into the foyer, Elise found her.
Her friend’s arms wove around Dover’s body, gripping her tightly. Dover sagged with relief, her hands clutching at the fabric of Elise’s light jacket. She felt warm wetness on her neck, where Elise had buried her honey-blonde head. A shiver of the older Guardian’s shoulders revealed the shocking fact that her friend was crying.
After the evening Dover had in her apartment, she didn’t think there were any tears left in her body.
They stood in the foyer for what could have been mere minutes or several sorrowful hours. Time did not matter. One of their own had fallen in battle, defending a Charge that was doomed to die anyway. Dover could not fathom how that might feel, to lose a Charge. It was the failure every Guardian dreaded.
Dover leaned heavily on Elise. In the years she had been Guarding, there had been no loss of either Charge or angelic being. She knew, though, that several had been slain in a demonic battle during the early 1970’s. Even Elise would not recall that.
Hanael and Raziel would.
Once Elise had some semblance of control, Dover led her friend into the front room. They found a small space on the loveseat that happened to be empty, so Dover deposited her friend there.
“It was Jimmy.”
When Elise spoke, Dover frowned. She crouched in front of her mentor, taking her hands for comfort. Elise always had a joke, a laugh, some pearl of wisdom from her long lives. It seemed so odd to think that the Guardian might actually go to heaven one day, as she was such a staple of the Atlanta Corps.
With gentle shushing noises, Dover took a glance around. The other Guardians were watching the pair. Some looked on with compassion and sorrow. Others had accusation in their eyes. The truth began to dawn on the younger of the pair when Dover recalled that two Charges had been killed.
“Oh, no.” Dover whispered softly, leaning up to catch Elise about the shoulders. She stood, just enough that she could hold her dear friend to her chest, rubbing her back gently. “Oh, Elise. I’m so sorry, honey.”
“He was right there.” Elise’s words were muffled and hollow with loss. “There were two Summoners, I could not…I tried.”
“Of course you tried, El.” Dover replied delicately. “It wasn’t your fault.”
Elise pulled back almost violently. “It was. He was my responsibility and he died! I could see the light fade from his eyes, Dover. All I could do was watch as the Summoners destroyed him.”
The low buzz of conversation rose markedly behind her. Wordlessly, Dover scooped Elise up by the arms, all but dragging her out of the parlor. A short, brisk walk brought to two down the antique-laden hall and up two flights of stairs. There were various bedrooms, places for Guardians to sleep or rest in the comfort of the Arbor. Dover had never prevailed on the hospitality. That was mostly down to the fact that she and Raziel got on, as Embry would say, about as well as gasoline and flame.
They found an empty room, filled with frilly pink curtains, ivory-hued furnishings and a canopied bed. Dover winced at the décor, but managed to get Elise into the room without incident. Once the door was closed behind them, Dover laid her friend on the bed.
Elise reached for her almost immediately. Dover shrugged out of her jacket, tossing it over the footboard of the lace-covered bed. She laid beside the blonde Guardian, clutching her hand tightly.
“Tell me,” Dover prodded when Elise’s cries softened into light sniffles.
“I went to check on the others, after I secured Alice. I have nine now, Dover. I’ve been so tired.” Elise rubbed at her nose with her free hand, removing the moisture from her skin. “I don’t think I’ve slept right for a week or more. I’m alive on light and expresso.”
Dover shifted a little closer, squeezing her friend’s hand tightly in a show of solidarity. It always seemed as though nothing could phase Elise. She had a handle on everything, took anything that came at her with that effortless class. Seeing her so undone now was a blow Dover couldn’t accept.
She likened it to finding out that Santa Claus wasn’t real.
“Jimmy was only 20, I’ve got grandkids his age.” The elder Guardian went on. “By the time I got there, the Summoners were already surrounding the house. I’ve never seen anything like it. They shook the earth around the house until the wardings were broken. They just attacked, like a swarm.”
Dover could see it, in her mind’s eye. A sedate little house, the stench of evil all over. Summoners were from the highest legions in Hell, they had powers that even Guardians could not bring to heel. The last real battle with a Summoner required both Han and Raz to take it out, leaving the Guardians to hover nervously on the edges of battle.
The night she found Jon, of course, the hint had been that two were joining forces. Now, that seemed to be fact.
“I burst into the house in time to…” Elise gasped on a sob. Dover reached with her free hand to pat the other woman’s back gently.
“Shh, it’s alright, El. I’m here.”
“They killed him.” Elise cried out. “I watched them take the heart from his chest, Dover. I could feel the connection break. I felt his fear, his pain, the betrayal that I let him die. I let him die, Dover.”
As Elise collapsed back into inarticulate cries, Dover snuggled even closer. She held on as Elise sobbed her broken heart all over her old t-shirt, resting her cheek against her friend’s honey-hued hair. Dover rocked her mentor gently, deciding now was a good a time as ever to be the shoulder she could lean on.
With her voice a mere whisper, Dover began to sing a soft lullaby. Elise needed sleep more than anything, especially if she meant to keep her other eight Charges alive. Dover continued to sing and pat, resting her own head on the clean pillow beside Elise’s.
Long after Elise cried herself to sleep, Dover laid beside her. For a while, she could be the sentinel to keep monsters from her door.
His voice broke through the deep, dreamless sleep she hadn’t known she drifted into. Dover turned sharply to the side, at the last minute checking to ensure she had not woken Elise.
Hanael stood over the frilly-pink bed, his warm hand resting on the curve of her hip. At his small, sad smile, Dover sat up.
“Is everything alright?” She whispered, mindful to not wake her friend.
“Yes.” Hanael nodded. “I wanted a moment alone.”
Dover nodded once, sitting up to rub the sleep from her eyes. She stretched sore muscles quickly, before pulling the blanket more firmly over Elise’s body.
Han moved to the door of the bedroom, where he spoke in a quiet tone to what Dover pegged as a Cherub. The waiflike little angels tended to serve Principalities, providing humans with nourishment or clothing, anything they required.
Not all angels could be battle-readied soldiers, after all.
Dover moved to walk beside Hanael as they left Elise in the room alone. The Cherub was ordered to keep the grieving Guardian safe and to alert Dover when she woke. She was touched by the senior angel’s thoughtfulness, wondering if he really understood what a sweet gesture that was.
As they eased silently up the next staircase, Dover felt her hand brush Han’s. Her heart leaped into her throat as his fingers shifted against hers, curling for the briefest of moments. Dover squeezed back, the moment broken a beat later when a turn forced them apart.
He opened the door to the left of his office, what Dover always assumed was his bedroom. She stepped in without hesitation or comment, knowing that the scattered Guardians nearby were watching them like hawks after prey. Dover was already shrugging her weapons out of the holsters when Hanael shut the door. By the time her final knife when onto the nearby dressing table, Han was stepping behind her.
She turned in one fluid motion, pressing her body against the tall, handsome man stood before her. Hanael moved as though he knew where she would go next, his hands settling on her hips to keep her balanced against him. When Dover lifted herself onto her toes to offer him her mouth, it was with blatant enthusiasm. Hanael captured her lips with his, hands sliding up the thin material of her t-shirt.
Her fingers curled in the lapels of Hanael’s suit jacket, hauling him close so she could feel the heat of his body against hers. Hell was coming to Earth in a way she hadn’t known it could. A Guardian was dead, Charges had fallen, and all Dover wanted in this moment was to remember that there were some good things on God’s beloved Earth.
Han became more insistent, his lips parting in open invitation. Dover complied almost mindlessly, exposing herself to the angel that occupied more of her thoughts than was probably healthy. One of Hanael’s hands progressed to the nape of her neck, tilting her head back to give him unfettered access to her body.
Dover sighed when they parted for air. Hanael gulped in a lungful of oxygen before he set right back to plundering her mouth. Her own hands would not remain idle, sliding to the shoulders of his coat until she could slip it from his arms. The material pooled on the carpeting behind him, even as the freedom brought with torn away restriction renewed his fervor for her.
The material of her t-shirt flitted up when Hanael’s fingers ducked deftly into the waist of her jeans. Fire skittered across her flesh, a trail of heat in every place her lover touched. Dover gasped against the onslaught of sensation, pulling her mouth away from Hanael’s so he could chase the line of her throat with kiss-swollen lips.
She would fall into his bed right now. Dover could see it playing out behind her closed lids, even as Hanael brought a low groan from her throat with every nip of his teeth against her heated flesh. She wanted him the way she had never wanted another creature, in either of her lives. Hanael wanted her back in a manner that made her feel at the same time powerful and so very humbled.
As she opened her mouth to beg him for more, Hanael gasped mightily. He pulled his mouth from the hollow of her throat, where lips and tongue left a trail of flame. His breath was ragged, his green eyes so dilated with lust that Dover was almost unable to distinguish their color.
“What is it?” Dover panted. “What’s wrong?”
Hanael appeared to be in physical pain as he forced his hands to release her. There was such an endearing expression of apology, unbridled lust, and regret on his face that Dover had a very difficult time holding back a smile.
“I can’t.” Hanael practically whimpered. “I’m sorry.”
Confusion furrowed Dover’s brow together as she stepped closer. She did not want to let this moment end. The second she did, reality would stream into the serenity of his bedroom.
“It’s not that I don’t want to.” Hanael replied almost breathlessly. “I think about you, about this moment, all the time.”
“I don’t understand.” Dover responded, running a hand through her hair to flatten it. “I gave you permission.”
The senior angel shook his head, his dark hair bouncing almost comically with the strength of the motion. “It’s not that. Given another ten seconds, we would have been in my bed, Dover, and I wouldn’t regret it. Not for a moment.”
Still confused, Dover straightened her shirt. Hanael bent at the waist to collect his coat, throwing it over the back of a nearby chair in lieu of pulling it on. For some reason, that made Dover feel marginally better.
“I don’t want it this way.” Hanael explained in a soft tone. He reached for her hand, threading their fingers together intimately. “If this is going to be, if we are going to be, I don’t want it to be a reaction to demons and death. I don’t want us to hold one another like a pair of frightened children in the dark.”
Touched, Dover moved even closer, bringing their linked hands to lie between her breasts. “Oh.”
His forehead came to rest against hers, the intimacy of such a gesture not lost on the Guardian. Hanael might have not had much experience with women or emotions, but he was doing a fine job of making her swoon anyway.
“I want us to come together, to be intimate in this way, only when it is because we want to.” Her would-be lover’s whisper was so heartbreakingly honest that Dover felt emotion sting behind her eyes. “I can’t use you to hide from the bad.”
“Stop talking.” Dover ordered with a watery laugh. “I understand.”
His relief brought a rare, sweet smile to his handsome face.
Dover touched his nose with hers. “Yes. And I think that is very sweet, very respectful, and it only makes me want you more.”
His free hand fell to her denim-covered hip once more, a dark brow rising in question.
“Mmhmm.” Dover hummed a response against his lips. “But you had such a good argument for waiting.”
“Did I?” Hanael gave her a look of faux-shock that was even more of a rarity than his smile. “That was ill-advised.”
Dover laughed against his lips, feeling the weight she had pressing on her lift, just a little. Better than a round of mattress dancing with this ridiculously attractive angel, Hanael’s humor relaxed her.
“Thank you.” She replied, giving him another kiss.
“Thank you.” Hanael responded with a nuzzle to her nose.
“For an angel, you’ve got this intimacy thing down pat, Han.”
He shrugged one shoulder, allowing his free hand to squeeze her backside so that Dover squealed. “Well, I’ve been paying attention.”
Before they dove into laugher once more, Dover pressed her lips to Han’s, content to forget the world a moment longer.