+++++ “This is Ophriel,” Michael tells the rest of the Host, the ones currently back at home, the ones not at war, the ones not patrolling the perimeters of His creations, “she shall be the Guardian of Heaven’s Gates.”
Ophriel steps forward, curious, so curious about her family, the rest of her brothers and sisters and she steps forward without hesitation- and almost stumbles back from the weight of everyone’s collective stares.
There are thousands of the figures, bright flashes of light overlapping all one another and Ophriel closes her eyes, feels small and insignificant and it’s instinctive how her wings unfurl and curl around her, protecting her, closing in on her, shielding her from prying eyes and curious glances.
Michael laughs at her instinctive gesture and just tugs her closer, making her wings curl away in an instinctive urge, cuddling up to her oldest brother, sliding under his wings, keeping her eyes down, away from the others still watching her.
“Don’t be shy little one,” Michael whispers into her ear and Ophriel flushes from the warmth of his Grace, the all encompassing love emanating from him, “we’re your family,” Michael says and his smile is blinding, overwhelming.
Ophriel takes a moment to let her wings fall away, lets them curl back at her sides and finally lifts her eyes up. Yes, there are so many of them, but they’re all there for her. To see her, to see the Guardian that Father had created specifically for keeping their home under her watchful gaze. She takes a step forward, another and feels the ripple of approval move through the crowds.
They’re proud of her, her family and Ophriel feels it down to her very core, that faint link between them all- like a ribbon of power ebbing and flowing and connecting each and every angel and she knows, Ophriel knows for the first moment since her creation- she knows how unconditionally she is loved by them.
“Welcome home little sister,” an angel steps forward, the brilliance of his Grace making her want to cover her eyes, shield herself again but she doesn’t. Ophriel wants to be strong so desperately, yearns to be stronger for her family. Yearns for that feeling of approval again, of thatsupport flowing towards her on the waves of her family’s love.
And she lifts up her eyes and sees the kindest smile she’s ever known, warmth and humor and laughter radiating through her brother’s every breath- Gabriel her mind supplies and when he takes her into his arms, Ophriel feels whole at last.
The stone knocker is shaped like a monster, teeth bared in a snarl as Balthazar knocks three times on the door and the sound echoes throughout the building inside.
“Well,” Buffy remarks lightly and shields her gaze against the sun, “this isn’t ominous at all
.” Damn Faith and her sunglasses stealing mania, Buffy thinks darkly and vows revenge the next time she sees her.
“Don’t worry,” Balthazar shoots her a smirk, already back to familiar ground since his earlier sulk, “I’ll protect you if you’re scared.”
Buffy shoulders her bag and thinks about his words. She lets it go and instead chooses the path of the lesser man, the path of sarcasm.
“Ooh yes,” she simpers sickeningly and runs her hand across Balthazar’s shoulder, “because a skinny British guy like you is just so threatening
,” she blinks innocently up at him.
Balthazar gets an even more evil smirk on his face and arches an eyebrow, “I seem to recall you having a thing for skinny Brits,” he drawls and Buffy grimaces, pulling her hand away.
“Well played my friend,” she sighs and straightens her cotton jacket, “well played.”
“Thank you,” Balthazar bows his head mockingly, “I learned from the best.”
“I-“ Buffy begins and the door opens at that moment, effectively cutting off her long spiel on how he can’t keep bringing up the fact that she’s like a thousand years older than him- especially since he looks around his mid thirties and she still looks twenty four.
A wrinkled old gnome stands in the doorway of the monastery, staring at the two of them.
Buffy tenses but then she relaxes when the sun hits the gnome and she realizes that it’s not actually, you know, a gnome
but a little old guy wearing a long black thing that Angel would probably have loved
back in the day.
Damn Balthazar! she curses, for making her remember her choices in men during her slaying days.
The old guy shuffles forward and like squints at them from beneath some heavy brows in serious need of a Tweezerman hour of power. “Why are you here?” he asks Buffy but she notices that he keeps his eyes firmly trained on Balthazar.
Smart gnome, Buffy inwardly approves.
“I believe,” she says to him and smiles when she sees him flinch and dart his eyes away from Balthazar over to her, face slack in disbelief and shock, “that you have something of mine.”
It seems like the very air around them stills as the gnome-man looks at her, until Buffy sighs and he croaks in assent- “It has been a while.”
“Sorry,” Buffy shrugs and smiles at him sunnily, unrepentantly, “I got caught up in other stuff.”
The gnome-man shoots her one last glare but keeps his head down as he shuffles back inside and Buffy follows him in, stepping over the threshold of the monastery carefully as Balthazar snickers behind her back.
The buzz of the wards around them is pleasantly reassuring, like passing through a rain curtain, momentarily heavy and then gone once Buffy walks further in. She turns back to Balthazar and whispers, frowning- “Aren’t the wards supposed to be heavier?”
From what Dawn’s told her about the monastery, the wards that she had put up before leaving are some of the heaviest on the planet. Keyed in only to allow her and those that she approves of, they’re layered upon each other, thousands and thousands of Enochian spells that she had left behind to guard her most precious possession.
“They recognize you, love,” Balthazar answers her with a sideways look, “would you rather they didn’t?”
“So what do they do to intruders?” Buffy asks curiously, trailing into the dark hall filled with hanging tapestries on instinct.
“Burn them up from the inside,” answers the gnome man who apparently has some hidden ninja skills judging by the way he pops up right behind her shoulder, making her jump in the air.
“Jesus!” Buffy blurts out and tries to calm her thundering heart. “Warn
a girl before you do that!”
“You shouldn’t blaspheme,” the gnome man, who’s paled drastically at her words tells her seriously and then chances a look at Balthazar, the bastard, who looks dead serious and not at all like he’s biting his cheek from the inside like Buffy knows
he is. “Has she always been like this?”
“Come on old chap,” Balthazar ratchets up the charm and slings an arm around the old monk, “you’ve got to take it easy on her, eh? She’s been away from the homestead for a very
The monk, like all living creatures, succumbs to Bal’s charm- Buffy sighs, of course
he does and turns back to his earlier actions of apparently opening a hidden door in the wall. Once he has it open and Balthazar helps him, swinging the door with ease, despite the thousands of years of rest that it’s had- the monk grabs a burning torch off the wall and moves in first, the flame flickering in front of him like a beacon.
,” Buffy hisses at Balthazar, making sure that the monk can’t hear her.
“Now now, my dear,” Balthazar mimes a zipping motion with his fingers over his lips, “you should watch your language…” He steps closer to her and Buffy, whose breath has been stolen by the sight in front of them, can’t help but reach for his hand, that quiet gesture of reassurance that he thankfully gets and wraps his own fingers around hers.
“After all,” Balthazar adds quietly, seriously and gives her hand a gentle squeeze “we’re on your sacred ground.”
Dawn stares terrified into the mad eyes of her older brother and tries to think of a way to get help, to salvage the situation but all she can really think of right now is how insane Raphael looks. How mad, how terribly far gone and it’s bad- she’s powerless against him, she’s just a girl- granted a girl with some magic power and a really awesome back story but he’s a freaking archangel
How can she hope to defend herself against him?
She chances a glance at Azrael, who’s so still against the wall, so still and she can’t see his face- can’t see whether he’s awake, all she can see is his slumped form facing the wall where Raphael stabbed him.
“Hello,” Raphael smiles sunnily and reaches over, tucking a strand behind her ear. “It’s been too long, little tree…”
Dawn jerks back at his touch automatically, bashing her head even more and flinching as the waves of pain spread through her skull- pounding against her eyes and bringing nausea up her throat. “Not nearly long enough,” she tells him and waits for Raph to lose it.
God, what is it about that stupid nickname that makes her so crazy?
Instead of losing his shit like she expects him to, Raphael instead cups her chin, too tight, too fast and tilts her head back, examining her face with the same intensity that lines through her entire family. Oh Father, Dawn wants to laugh, wants to cry- how did He make them so flawed? So human?
“Do you know,” Raphael says slowly and cups her chin even tighter. At this rate, her entire face is going to be black and blue, thanks to Az’s misguided attempts to save her and Raphael’s creepy little manhandling. “How joyous we all felt when Father created you?” He doesn’t blink as he stares at her and she feels cold from the fear, from the terror that this was once her friend among her brothers, a fellow scholar back in Heaven- “how rapturously we awaited your beginning?”
Raphael stares at her and the only thing she can think of is Buffy, Buffy making her pancakes back in Revello Drive, Buffy being her overprotective self at Sunnydale High, embarrassing Dawn with her slayer-y shenanigans before everything was brought to light.
“Don’t you dare!” Raphael exclaims and backhands her hard enough for her head to crack against the wall with a sickening crunch. If she survives, Dawn thinks dimly, through the rushing in her ears and the feeling of hot liquid running down her neck, a concussion is going to be guaranteed from this little adventure.
talking now, me
,” Raphael drawls with a lazy smirk and his fingers tighten against her throat, tighten almost imperceptibly and Dawn chokes, starts gasping for air, tries clawing at his hand, tries summoning any magic she might still have in her- but it’s futile, and she’s all alone and her brother’s going to kill her and Michael’s still going to burn the world down.
“Don’t worry, little tree,” Raphael leans closer and whispers against her ear as she gasps for air, gasps against the encroaching darkness and tries to fight for her life, fails, fails and Father- where’s Buffy?
Buffy? Please come, please come, please come… I need you, she chokes and his fingers tighten.
Mommy, Dawn thinks distantly feeling the blackness steal across her field of vision, mommy it hurts- make it stop please
“It’s just me and you now, Buffy’s not here to save you anymore…” Raphael sounds so distant, so far away and Dawn feels a tear slipping through her swollen eyelid, stinging the scrapes across her cheek as it falls onto her chest.
But then a sound catches her attention and Dawn uses the last vestiges of her strength to follow it and sees Azrael, wonderful, genius Azrael using his own blood on the sewer wall to paint a summoning sigil.
“No, you dickwad,” Az grunts in pain, eyes narrowed in concentration as he finishes the last swirl and Dawn feels a swelling of love in her heart for him, “but I am.” And he clamps his bloody hand over the symbol making everything flare bright and painful and so familiar that Dawn doesn’t close her eyes, can’t
close them just in case this is a hallucination, the sound of wings fluttering and Raphael’s still killing her.
But he’s not though. He’s not.
He’s scrambled up, horror etched plain and clear on his features as he backs away from a blonde man wearing a flannel shirt over a pair of blue jeans who's advancing on him, step by careful step with a neutral look on his face.
“Hello Raphael,” Lucifer cocks his head and smiles at his trembling brother before him, “why don’t you pick on somebody your own age?”
A/N: You guys, the reviews are amazing- they're inspiring and fabulous and after the crappy day I've had, I just have to beg for more.