Sacrifice Par Amarth: Chapter 15
See Chapter 1 for disclaimers and ratings.O o O o O o O
Freezing with his foot on the bottom step of the staircase, Xander rubbed at his bleary eyes and frowned at Faith's overly perky smirk from her perch on the kitchen counter. "Is it really?" he muttered as he continued into the kitchen, going for the coffee pot as he took in the darkness that was hidden behind the windows.
"4am," the dark-haired slayer confirmed with a nod towards the microwave. "In most states, the 'am' stands for morning - or so Red keeps telling me," she added as she sipped at the mug that she cradled in her hands.
Rolling his eyes at her words, Xander smothered another yawn as he leaned against the counter opposite her, his arms crossed over his chest as he finally took in the slaying Scooby. "And judging by the clothes, I take it you're just getting in," he commented as he grinned at the overly tight jeans and the long-sleeve shirt that still somehow managed to show plenty of curves, despite the fact that no skin was showing. "And why is it that I'm the only one who doesn't get a nickname?" he asked before the slayer had a chance to respond. "Buffy gets to be B, Willow is Red, Tara is Glenda, Celeste is.... was, Kid," he murmured, his scowl faltering as he fully realized what he had just allowed to slip past. Grimacing, he quickly turned his eyes from the pain that flashed in Faith's dark gaze as he scrutinized his short fingernails. "Uh... what does a Xander get?"
"Would you prefer Zeppo to Xander?" Faith quipped, forcing the joke to continue as though the slip hadn't been made, arching a fine brow at the dark-haired teen before shaking her head - and all the while ignoring the thoughts that were crashing in her head. The thoughts of Celeste - of the Kid that they had lost only a few short weeks ago. The Slayer that had been cruelly taken from them before she had even reached her yearly anniversary. Perhaps Celeste had taken Buffy's slayer initiation bit a little too close to heart and had tried to outdo the blonde slayer. While they had laughed and prodded at the idea of getting as close to death as possible - of trying to call the next slayer while living to tell about it... they hadn't meant for it to come true. They hadn't meant for it to take one of their own away when she had only just begun to live. And live she had.
Ever since Christmas Celeste had branched out and was slowly coming into her own. Gone was the meek girl that had first come to them, yet in her place they didn't find the expected copy of Buffy nor Faith. Instead, Celeste had somehow managed to find her own slayer self - one that was an impressive fighter, yet a slayer that was far more passionate about the knowledge and research that went along with the gig. The Kid had been good with the books and amazing with the knowledge. She had been smart and now... and now she was gone, taken away to be given the special care and attention that she would now forevermore need. And all because Faith had arrived too late.
Faith forced the dark thoughts from her mind with a weary sigh as she turned back to her friend, Xander's dark eyes narrowed in concern. "And now I see what happens to a mind on too little sleep," she stated, forcing a dry chuckle as she slid from the counter and moved to put her mug in the sink. "Why are you up this early, anyway?" she asked, taking the time to rinse her mug so that she could avoid Tara's scolding later in the day.
"Work," Xander sighed, allowing the conversation to change as he picked at his rumpled tee-shirt and flannel pants, idly doing the math to see how much longer he could afford to lounge with his necessary morning coffee before running late. "My boss is supposed to be coming by the site later today and I want to make sure that everything is in order."
Faith slowly shook her head as she eyed the tall young man with evident confusion. "That sounds almost... responsible," she admitted before placing her palm against his forehead, only to dance away as he scowled and made a half-hearted swipe at her. "Whatever happened to the Xander Harris of ill-timed jokes and no ambition?"
"He got a job," Xander quipped with a wry grin as he turned away from the slayer and shuffled towards the coffee pot. "Couldn't live in my parents' basement forever."
"If only we could be so lucky," Faith returned, snorting softly as she turned and made her way towards the wide stairs.
"Hey, I re-" Xander began, his words drowned out by the crash of splintering wood that shook the frame of the house itself.
Turning on her heel, Faith started back into the kitchen, only to freeze as her eyes locked with the violet-tinged eyes of a Hell God. "Haven't you ever heard of knocking?" she snarled, white-hot rage flooding through her veins as she stalked back into the kitchen, noting with satisfaction that Xander was already pulling open a bottom cupboard and slowly reaching for the crossbow that she knew was stashed inside. "Ooh, you've so got something coming for that. That was an expensive door!"
"Faith," Dahmascus greeted, a slow smile lifting his lips as he stepped through the splintered backdoor, completely ignoring her angry tirade as the two came to a stop, toes lining up against each other as she narrowed her eyes up at him. "I've come looking for my Key," he stated, his lips lifting into a slow, sensuous smile.
"Try a locksmith," the slayer retorted as she took a slow, measured step back just as Xander lifted his crossbow and released the bolt that had been prepped, the wood whistling through the air and lodging itself in the god's chest.
Grunting, Dahmascus allowed the momentum of the bolt to carry him back a few paces before he quickly stilled his feet. Frowning, he glared down at the offending object before pulling it free, a soft, wet sucking noise following the projectile, a small trickle of blood dripping free before the wound sealed itself, the damage repaired. Snarling, he lifted the bolt and watched as his dark blood dripped down the smooth wood - and then turned so fast that the slayer had no chance to move or shout warning as he released the bolt in the direction it had come, the wood whistling through the air and piercing through flesh and bone as it carried the tall, dark-haired young man back across the kitchen and pinned him to the wall beyond.
As Xander cried out in agony, Faith felt the smile fall from her face as she took in the blood that was soaking the shoulder of Xander's tee-shirt, his face deadly pale as his good hand vainly tried to pull at the piece of wood. "You sick son of a-" she began, her words drowned out by the frantic pounding of feet down the stairs behind her. Turning, she had time to see Willow and Tara's pale faces, their wide, panicked eyes locked on Dahmascus before Xander cried out again.
"Xander!" Willow screeched, her feet already moving towards her best friend as Tara began to pull her back towards the stairs.
"Get out of here!" Faith screamed, watching as the taller witch pulled her struggling girlfriend back the way they had come. But her moment of inattention cost her as Dahmascus crossed the distance between them and bodily lifted her in the air. Grunting, Faith had a moment to take in a panicked breath of air before she was launched over the counter, crashing into the cupboards beyond and barely missing the scalding contents of the coffee pot as it came crashing beside her. Wincing, Faith slowly stumbled to her feet, one hand seizing the handle of the shattered pot as she launched herself forward, sliding across the bar as her foot kicked out, catching the God across the face as her hand swept forward, the sharp fragments of the broken glass digging into his abdomen. Yet even as she felt his hot blood spray her face, she knew that the fight wasn't over. It wouldn't be over until she was dead.
Faith quickly rolled on her back and then flipped forward until she was standing on the breakfast bar, her form towering over Dahm's as she leapt and twisted mid-air over his dark head before landing behind him. She reached forward and wrapped her hands around his neck, tightening her hold and attempting to twist his head to the side - only to find his hands reaching behind him, seizing her shoulders and bodily lifting her above his head and tossing her across the room as though she weighed no more than a small child, her body crashing against the uneven steps and causing darkness to creep at her vision. Yet with Xander's agonized whimpers and the sound of the god's slow approach, Faith couldn't help but note that this darkness was tinged with red.
Wincing, Faith forced herself to her feet as she half-crawled, half-staggered up the long flight of stairs, trying her best not to slip on her own trail of blood as the stairs opened up into a wide landing that curved around the stair's banister and ended in a large, picture window that looked down on the cement back step below. Grimacing, the dark-haired slayer spit out a mouthful of blood as she pulled herself up and along the bannister, her slow, jerky movements carrying her towards her bedroom and the weapons that lay within. Not that she had ever stood a chance of making it that far.
Within seconds of clearing the stairs behind her, Dahmascus curled his long fingers in the girl's dark hair, pulling her back against him as she gasped painfully, her hands turning into claws that scratched at his face as she twisted in his grip. "You know," he murmured, his voice thoughtful as he twisted the girl's head to the side. "I don't really think that you are hiding my Key, after all. I'd imagine that you're much smarter than to hide her on the Hellmouth," he added as the girl silenced her pain and instead wrapped her hands around his own and used her own strength to pull her body up and forward, rolling until her knees were resting on each shoulder with her head bent forward before her, his hands still locked in the thick masses of her hair.
"No, we aren't," a woman's voice called out before a wave of magic slapped against him, causing him to stumble back and against the wall as the slayer tumbled free of his hold and crashed to the floor.
Eyes narrowing, Dahmascus finally took notice of the two witches that stood before the large bay window, their hands linked and their eyes locked on his form. "Decided to join the fun, have you?" he asked, moving forward as the girl's began to murmur their soft spells, the winds of their magic buffeting against his form but hindering him little. Panicked, the girls began backing away until the redhead was pressed against the glass, her taller companion against the wall beside her - which was of course when the Slayer picked her bleeding body from the floor and tried to step between them. Grinning as inspiration struck, Dahm lifted the curvy slayer above his head and threw her across the landing, laughing as the girl's body crashed into the witches with enough force to send the redhead and the slayer back and into the dark night while the other witch fell to the floor, her lips moving faster than ever as her eyes slid shut, her fair features tightened.
"I'm going to miss your world," the God smiled, slowly cracking the knuckles of one hand as he began to move towards the remaining witch, pausing only when he took notice of the silver lighter that was lying forgotten on the plush carpet at his feet. Curious, he slowly bent down and flicked the lid back on the lighter, the bright fire dancing before his violet eyes as a new smile spread his lips. He straightened as his eyes fell once more upon the muttering witch, oblivious to the world around her. "I really will miss this," he repeated as he released his hold on the burning lighter, watching it fall to the ground and sputter for a moment before taking hold of the carpeting beneath.
Humming, he absently made his way down the stairs as the fire spread through the upstairs hall. In the kitchen below, he flashed a bright grin at the pale-faced, unmoving young man that was pinioned so effectively to the wall, the acrid stench of burning material following his lean form as he crunched through the shattered debris. And outside, with the sound of wailing sirens on the wind and the scent of the ocean swelling around him, he smiled thinly as he stepped down the cement walk and over the prone and broken form of the dark-haired slayer, a halo of red spread beneath her head. Pausing to look back at the burning house, he idly wondered about the fate of the red-haired witch that had followed her companion into the dark night - but after a moment's contemplation, he decided that he didn't really care.
While Bertrone hadn't been able to tell them the location of their Key, he had given them the means to locate it: through the ones that Buffy Summers and her companion, a young wizard by the name of Harry Potter, loved most. And while he was quite sure that Bertrone hadn't been referring to these particular methods, Dahmascus was finding that they served his purpose just fine.O o O o O o O
With a gentle push, the double doors opened wide before her on well-oiled hinges, revealing the impressive lobby of the old hotel. Nodding appreciatively at the well-maintained beauty, she stepped into the polished entrance, the thin heels of her shoes tapping on the floor and causing the dark-haired young woman who sat behind the large desk to look up in surprise. Smiling, Serantine began towards her, pausing when the phone rang and the young woman lifted a slender finger before her as she quickly snatched up the handset.
"Angel Investigations, we help the hopeless," Cordelia chirped, her eyes straying from the beautiful red-haired woman before her as she shoved aside a couple of ancient texts to reveal the notepad beneath. "Yes ma'am, you heard correct. We do indeed deal with all kinds of demons... no, ma'am, that most likely doesn't include your neighbor's cat," she sighed, rolling her eyes and turning to see the woman waiting, a patient smile on her full lips. Forcing her own smile, Cordelia nodded at the woman before suddenly straightening. "Your neighbor's cat has horns?" she asked, her smile becoming more genuine as she began to jot down the information the woman was throwing at her.
Patience running thin, Serantine stepped forward on light feet and absently tapped the young woman on the shoulder. "Miss?"
"Hold on a sec," Cordelia sighed into the phone before flashing the woman her most sincere-fake smile before turning and bellowing over her shoulder. "Wesley! Could you please get your-"
"Good Lord, Cordelia," Wesley muttered as he hurried through the office door, his glasses perched on the brim of his nose. "What on Earth are you bellowing about this-"
"Help her. I'm busy," Cordelia returned as she jerked a thumb at the woman before turning back to her conversation.
Wesley threw his hands in the air as he turned in the indicated direction - and then froze as his eyes fell upon the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. For a moment, he could only stare in awed wonder as his eyes drank in her tall, slender frame, the simple, thin summer dress that seemed so out of place even in the chilly California winter and that hugged her curves, parting just above her neck to reveal creamy white skin, and the fiery red hair that cascaded over narrow shoulders and framed a face that featured large, gray eyes, a perfectly sculpted nose, and the most full and luscious lips he had ever seen.
"Uh... hello," he murmured, finding his voice as he quickly moved around the desk until he was standing before her. "Please - please excuse Cordelia. She doesn't like... well, anyone," he said, shrugging his shoulders lightly as he reached out his hand and clasped her delicate digits within his own. Blushing fiercely as he realized that he was holding her hand for far longer than was appropriate, he hastily dropped her hand and quickly stumbled on. "May-may I help you?"
"I'm hoping so," Serantine replied, a small smile lifting her lips. "You see, I'm looking for my Key."
"I beg your pardon?" Wesley returned, the stupid grin never quite leaving his face.
"My Key," Serantine returned, her smile growing as the color slowly drained from the man's face. "I'm sure you know her," she continued as the smile flickered and fear widened his brown eyes. "She's about this high, blonde hair, green eyes, sassy mouth," she added as she held her hand at about chest level, her smile growing as the man slowly began to back away.
"C-C-C-Cordelia," Wesley stammered, his hands unconsciously reaching for a weapon that he didn't have. "Cordelia," he whispered again, this time with more force as the former cheerleader continued to babble into the phone. "Cordelia!
" he hissed again, finally gaining the girl's attention as she turned to him with exasperation.
"What, what, what already?" Cordelia snapped, her eyes narrowing on Wesley - and frowning as she noticed the way the ex-watcher seemed to be trembling, his eyes locked on the customer in horror. "Wesley?" she asked as she slowly stood, her hand unconsciously reaching for the sword that was propped against the chair beside her.
"Get Angel," he murmured, his voice cracking as Serantine took a slow step towards him.
"Tell him that Serantine is here," he cut in as he turned to stumble away, only to have the hell goddess on him before he had a chance to take more than four steps towards safety.
" Cordelia screamed as the goddess seized Wesley by the neck and hoisted him from the floor. Seizing the sword, the tall girl quickly scurried around the desk and charged at the goddess, the steel tip sliding through the woman's side and arching out her back - and freezing as the goddess merely flinched before turning narrowed gray eyes towards her. "An-" she began, her terrified scream cut short by the hand that suddenly rocked against the base of her sternum, snapping bone and sending her flying across the width of the large lobby where the small of her back collided with the corner of a table, the sickening sound of cracking bone echoing in the large lobby as she collapsed in a boneless heap on the floor.
"Cordy!" Angel roared, having gained the top of the stairs just in time to see the younger woman go flying. Growling, he felt his game face shift forward as he dove down the stairs, his feet pounding on the carpeted steps as he watched the innocent-looking woman pull a long sword from her side and drive the tip towards Wesley's exposed abdomen - only to have her intended blow waylaid as Gunn tackled them both, the sword slicing through Wesley's side and glancing off of his ribs instead of rendering his heart in two. Instantly the smell of Wesley's spilt blood caused Angel's demon to war within him, his eyes irrevocably drawn towards the thick red puddle that was forming beneath his friend's prone form.
Growling softly, Angel felt torn as his eyes drifted between Cordy's still form, her lashes slowly fluttering as a pained moan left her pale lips, and Wesley, the ex-watcher lying in a growing pool of his own blood, his face pale as his hand clutched convulsively at the open wound that spilled his life's essence on the polished floor. But then, even that decision was stolen from him as Gunn cried out, the young man having reclaimed his feet only to be rocked back against the desk. Eying his groaning body with evident disdain, the goddess stood, seemingly oblivious to the blood that stained her dress as she toyed with the large tear that showed her unmarked skin beneath.
Unmarked skin. As in this woman had just brutalized his staff - no, his friends -
and she didn't even have a scratch to show for the pain that she had inflicted. The thought went beyond injustice and it caused Angel to mentally take a step back as he allowed his demon out to play. Growling furiously, Angel launched himself at the woman, catching her unaware as his fingers hooked like claws into the unbelievable softness of her skin before turning and hurling her across the room. Bending low, he quickly claimed the sword that was stained with Wesley's blood as he turned back towards the goddess - and froze as he found her standing immediately before him, a small smile pulling at her lips before she backhanded him so viciously that he was propelled backwards, landing in a heap beside Gunn.
"Man, this don't look good," the young man muttered as he weakly tried to stagger to his feet, his hands wrapped around his waist where he was sure there were more broken ribs than not.
"Stay down," Angel returned, his hand pushing on Gunn's shoulder and forcing him back to the floor as his eyes drifted to the goddess who was bending to claim the sword he had dropped.
"But Cordy and Wes-"
"Are better off where they're at for now," Angel countered grimly, his eyes skipping over to his two friends and wincing when he saw that both seemed to be awake, and while Wesley's body trembled in pain, Cordelia didn't seem capable of moving at all. "Just stay out of this," he repeated before forcing himself to his feet, all the while consoling himself that the aches and pains that his undead body suffered from would be gone by morning. His body could handle going against a Hell Goddess, but his friends? They were far too mortal for his liking. Far, far, far too mortal.
Striding forward, Angel moved to meet the goddess, slowly circling her and then backing away as she seemed to draw closer to Wesley's prone form. "Why are you here?" he demanded, his voice low and even as he tried to distract the goddess from his friend, her gray eyes lifting to dispassionately take in his glowing eyes and extended brow ridge.
"I'm looking for my Key," she returned, her melodious voice dismissing him as she turned to survey her work. "However your staff has been less than helpful."
"There was no need
for this," Angel ground out, feeling as though his heart was about to be torn in two as he followed her gaze to the broken and bleeding bodies of his friends. "They don't know anything. I
don't know anything. Buffy isn't here," he whispered, praying that she would believe him - but it was her casual dismissal of his words that struck him more than anything else.
"I figured as much," she sighed as she casually knelt beside Wesley's prone form, her long nails lovingly trailing over his pale cheeks as the ex-watcher tried to shy away from her touch.
"Get away from him," Angel growled as he slowly stepped forward, his eyes burning with an unholy light.
Shrugging lightly, Serantine did as asked as she slowly straightened, one hand clutching the sword as she moved towards the ensouled vampire. "It matters not," she murmured as she waved towards Wesley's form. "I have spent too many centuries in this world, as have you, and I know that we can both recognize the fact that your friend is losing blood far too quickly. I would only be offering him a more merciful end while you would prefer that he bleed to death."
"He's not going to die," Angel returned, his voice hard as he slowly backed away and angled towards the weapons that were stashed in a cabinet along the wall.
"Well someone will die this night," the goddess continued, her eyes narrowing upon the immortal vampire. "And we all know that it isn't going to be me," she added as Angel seized a sword and then launched forward, the metal singing as it cut through air and sliced towards her - only to pass through the place where she had been standing but moments before. Confused, Angel had the briefest of moments to ponder how his sight, so much better than that of his friends, could have missed her movements when the steel of another blade ripped through his back mere inches from his unbeating heart and exited through the front of his chest. Gasping, Angel looked down at the bloody metal in confusion as a wave of agony sent him crashing to his knees. And then, just as quickly, the sword was twisted to the side, ripping cold flesh and tearing muscles before being pulled back through its bloody hole. Swaying, Angel felt his strength leave him as Serantine suddenly appeared before him, kneeling opposite of him with her eyes burning into him, her face an unreadable mask.
"Angel," she whispered, his name rolling from her full lips as she gently lifted a hand to caress his cool face, seemingly unconcerned with the blood that began to pool beneath him. "The vampire with a soul.... I wonder, will your soul weep for your failure tonight?" she asked, tilting her head slowly to the side. "Will it weep for your friends who lay broken around you? Will it weep for the Slayer who has become the Key that I desire? For tonight... tonight you failed your friends and you failed her. Tonight you failed," she whispered, her eyes never straying from Angel's brown, pain-hazed gaze. "A vampire with a soul - such a paradox. But I wonder... perhaps I can save you from your misery. Perhaps I can set you free," she murmured as her other hand reached up so that she was cupping each side of Angel's face. Slowly, her hands tensed, her eyes narrowing - before she slowly shook her head.
"No, not here," she whispered thoughtfully to herself as she slowly slipped her hands down his cool skin until they were resting above the bloody mess that had become his chest. "Here," she murmured, her eyes flashing as a bright light encompassed her pale hands as they slowly sunk into Angel's chest, his mouth falling open in a silent scream of agony as his eyes flashed a horrible yellow light - before he fell back to the floor, his chest heaving and his eyes locked upon hers.
Smiling sweetly, Serantine reclaimed her feet and turned silently, making her way to the large doors to the Hyperion Hotel. "I'll tell the Slayer you send her love," she called out, smiling softly before disappearing once more into the dark night and allowing a thick silence to fall in her wake.
Grimacing, Gunn slowly stumbled to his feet, his staggered steps tentatively taking him to Wesley's side as he looked to where Angel seemed to be kneeling in a daze of some sort. "Hey Angel, man, you alright?" he asked as he pressed his hands tightly over the long, blood-soaked gash, Wesley crying out in pain at the movement. "Oh man, this is bad," he whispered, as he quickly turned his attention back to the vampire that was only slowly regaining his feet. "Angel, you alright? Go check on Cordelia!"
For a moment more, the vampire didn't answer as he gently fingered the sword wound that continued to bleed down the front of his shirt, his expression confused - until he lifted one blood stained finger and slowly licked the red liquid from its tip. Sighing, a look of blissful contentment slid over his twisted features as his game face slid back into place.
"Angel?" Gunn repeated, something cold trickling down his spine as his employer turned glowing yellow eyes towards his friend.
"Angel's gone," the vampire returned, a cold, chilling smile lifting his lips. "Daddy's home."O o O o O o O
Janet flicked the steel file over her pointed nails as she shaped the glittering edge to an even curve. The hour was early, only 7:30 in the morning, but already the morning rush was over as the faithful Centre employees drifted through the massive front doors, their gazes already distracted by whatever projects awaited their attention. Not even ten minutes had passed since Miss Parker and Jarod himself passed through, the Pretender happily munching on a large, sticky donut while waving a cheerful hello as Miss Parker sipped at a tall, steaming mug of whatever coffee tickled her tastes that morning. Thus, with the heads of the Centre safely past and the vicinity cleared, Janet finally had time to do the really important stuff - such as fixing the nail that she had snagged on her plain, black suit earlier that morning.
Suddenly a shrill beep interrupted her work, causing her hand to move a little too forcefully with the file, easily shaving off the delicate tip she had been slaving over. Growling at the ruined nail, she turned in her swivel seat and fixed a fierce glare at the black and white monitor that was perched on the edge of her immense desk. Frowning, she watched as the tall, slender woman and her equally tall and slender companion shifted impatiently before the massive doors to the Centre, their faces tilted quizzically towards the camera and revealing fine angles and lines that spoke of magazine covers and Blockbuster hits. Not that she particularly cared. After all, she was far too old to give more than a passing glare to the young people that seemed to dominate today's media, dressed in all sorts of revealing clothing and most likely concealing all sorts of nasty weapons. Even her own employer, a respected head of the entire organization, seemed to share in this almost obscene obsession with prostitution and violence. Not that she'd ever mention that to Miss Parker or
"May I help you?" she asked as she flicked on the intercom, her voice its usual frosty pitch as she rolled her eyes away from the screen and began to try and fix the damage their inconsiderate interruption had inflicted.
"Perhaps," the woman's soft, clear voice replied, filtering through the small speakers that accompanied the sharp monitor. "We're looking for our key."
Pausing in her work long enough to scoff at the monitor, Janet curtly shook her head. "Listen lady, this is a private organization, not a Lost and Found," she stated dryly as she went back to work on her now much shorter fingernail.
"We were told you might be in possession of it. Now open the door."
Shaking her head incredulously, Janet flung down her nail file as she pulled her chair closer to the monitor, two bright spots appearing in each pale cheek as she glared at the woman's image. "Listen honey, you may be used to people kissing your ass because you think you're so pretty, but that isn't how it works here. I-"
"Not my ass," the woman countered, interrupting Janet's tirade as she beamed up at the camera, her smile dazzling despite the relatively poor quality of the connection. "They kiss my feet. I am a goddess, after all."
"Not here you're not," Janet countered, smiling snidely at the woman. "This is the Centre, and for all you're ever going to see of it, you might as well call me your Goddess and kiss my-" she broke off as the massive front doors that stood adjacent to her desk were knocked from their hinges, across the room, and crashed against the far wall of the cavernous foyer. Instantly, a large siren began to sound as Janet stumbled to her feet, her face draining of color as the two strangers slowly walked into the building. "How did you-" she began, only to have her words choked off as the woman crossed before her faster than Janet's eyes could follow, the woman's gray eyes locked impassively on hers as her hand slid around her throat.
"Never disrespect a Hell Goddess," Serantine murmured as the woman's face began to turn an alarming shade of red. "It's not healthy," she added before dragging the woman bodily across her desk until she was dangling before her. And then, with a small smile she tightened her hold, the woman's neck snapping like a small twig as her head rolled bonelessly to the side.
"The Key?" Dahm asked as Ser dropped the body carelessly to the hard floor before her, her hands absently wiping at the blood-stained dress she still wore.
"Most likely not here, either," she muttered, her words cross as she stepped over the woman to stand beside her fellow God.
"Then why even bother?" Dahm sighed as he absently wiped at the fresh blood that still marred his hand - a slayer's blood.
"This is why we bother," Ser countered, a large smile lifting her lips as the room suddenly filled with men and women of varying ages, all clothed in dark suits and skirts and carrying firearms that were pointed at the gods with unwavering aims.
"Hold your fire," one of the more burly men called out, his hand tightening on his own trigger as his eyes darted down to the secretary's body that lay behind the intruders, the woman's neck tilted at an odd angle. "We wait for Miss Parker," he ordered, his old eyes blinking back his sorrow as he straightened, even as the clatter of high heels announced her arrival.
"Sam, what the hell is-" Parker broke off as she pushed her way through her security force - and froze at the sight of Janet's unmoving body and the shattered doorway beyond. "Who in the hell are you?" she snapped, brown eyes narrowed into tiny slits as she accepted a spare gun from the old cleaner and aimed it with quiet precision at the strangers.
"Why must your kind always hide behind these creations?" Serantine sighed, eyeing the pistols with disdain. "No matter," she sighed as she waved away their weapons as though they were toys. "We come for our Key."
"Your..." Parker trailed off, her eyes growing wide as their meanings became clear - as the meaning of the Hell Gods became abundantly clear. Hell Gods. At the Centre. "Oh shit," she breathed, her hand wavering ever so slightly as she took an unconscious step back.
"Miss Parker?" Sam asked, his voice carrying a note of worry as he took in the woman's pale features.
"Fire," she gasped in return, her voice a choked whisper into the deadly silence that had fallen upon the room. And when nothing happened, she felt her fiery Parker temper swell back as she clamped down on her fear and emotions and glared at her security force. "I said fire, damnit!" she roared, her brown eyes blazing as she turned back and proceeded to do just that, the hollow bang of her shots deafening in the large room as slug after slug sang through the air and tore through the bodies of the two gods, the momentum propelling them back as their blood splattered the immaculate marble floor. And once Miss Parker and her security force exhausted their clips, a heavy silence fell upon the room, all eyes locked on the two gods that remained standing - and smiled before slowly starting forward.
Features paling, Miss Parker quickly reached for another round, her fingers fumbling on cold metal as the screams of her people began to fill the vast chamber, echoing madly and causing her hands to shake. Cursing, Miss Parker struggled with the metal, only to freeze, her job unfinished as the last scream melted away. Tears coming unbidden to her brown eyes, Parker slowly lifted her head, her chin tilted proudly as her watery gaze fell upon the two gods that stood before her.
"You're not hiding our Key, are you?" Serantine murmured, her voice soft and pitying as she gently reached forward and caressed the proud woman's smooth cheek.
"No," Miss Parker whispered, a single tear breaking free and trickling down, moistening the goddess's hand as Parker refused to look away. Refused to look at the carnage that she knew surrounded her tall form. Sam and so many others, their blood splattering the floor and the walls, the thick, cloying smell burning her nostrils. She didn't need to look because she had heard everything. She had heard it all.
Stifling the sob that was building in her chest, Miss Parker slowly lowered the gun to her side, knowing it would be useless as she thanked whoever was listening for keeping Jarod from this moment. She couldn't have faced her fate with such calm if she had known that her love's body was amongst the carnage. Not Jarod. And the thought of Jarod's beautiful brown eyes, crinkled in child-like wonder and delight, or hazed with love, brought a smile to Parker's full lips - a smile that twisted into a soundless scream as something pushed into her mind and pulled at her like a never-ending sucking vacuum.
Sighing softly, Dahmascus reveled in the light that flowed between his outstretched fingers before slowly, reluctantly pulling away. Immediately, the woman's knees buckled and she tumbled to the floor, her eyes slowly blinking and yet seeing nothing. Nodding, he turned and started for the door. "I begin to tire of this game," he murmured as Serantine fell into step beside him.
"Really?" Ser asked, her lips quirked in a contented smile. "I feel as if I could go forever," she murmured as they disappeared into the daylight, the echoing steps matching those of the feet that pounded down an adjacent hallway before finally spilling its occupant into the massive foyer beyond.
"Oh God," Jarod murmured, his knees growing weak and his body sagging against a nearby wall as his brown eyes stared unbelievably at the carnage that littered the massive foyer. It looked as though a child had painted the marble floors and walls with blood, the stench causing his stomach to turn painfully, his last donut threatening to make a return trip. Slipping his hand against his mouth, the Pretender willed for his stomach to settle as he began to recognize the face of a colleague, of a friend, of a... lover.
"No," Jarod murmured, shaking his head slowly as he haltingly took a step forward. "No," he repeated, this time the word more a strangled plea as his brown eyes settled on Miss Parker's unmistakable form, a clean, unmarked haven in the red storm that surrounded her. "No," he moaned as he quickly staggered forward, his shoes slipping through the thick liquid and causing him to slide on wet knees to her side. "Parker?" he murmured as his hands clutched at the material of her dark jacket. "Parker!" he called, his voice becoming frantic as he hefted her towards him, cradling her body in his arms. "Angela," he whispered, his voice cracking as slowly, her long lashes began to flutter.
For a moment, it almost looked as though she didn't recognize him. And then he realized that she really didn't recognize him. Without a word, she slowly pulled away from his embrace and then looked down at her spotless jacket, her eyes narrowing in confusion. "It's dirty," she whispered, her voice small and childlike. "It's all dirty. And all over me!" she exclaimed as her pale, shaking hands began wiping at invisible flecks of dirt on her suit coat.
At first confused, Jarod stared at his love for a moment before the truth of what had befallen her slowly sunk in. And with that realization came the blinding pain of his heart.
"Dirty," she continued, whimpering softly as she continued to brush harder, and even harder at the spots that only she could see. "Bad. I'm bad," she whispered, tears filling her eyes as Jarod tenderly drew her into his arms, his muffled sobs echoing throughout the tomb he had fallen into, oblivious to everything but the shattering of his own heart.