Room in Hell chapter 32.

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I ducked and a searing wave of heat washed over me,

"Why do you hide your wings, fallen?"

I pulled up short just in time to avoid getting split in half by a stroke that cut through the floor and likely went on. Landing flat on my ass, I rolled.

"Where are your attendants, fallen? Your soulless?"

He was right behind me! I dive-rolled again and scrambled, finally getting enough distance. "Grex, veni huc!"

Grex must have had some idea of what was going on, because he appeared with his own sword, just in time to shower me with sparks as the two pieces of metal met and clashed.

"I see you found our friend, my Mistress."

I only dodge the sword strike because I was already slowing time around me. "Less talk and more defense, Grex."

Grex smiled into the cold face of the angel as they clashed again and spit out: "Women - you can never please them, you know? They always criticize."

The angel's reply was a series of slashes formed at a blistering speed I couldn't really follow. Grex matched it but gave ground.

The angel turned to me. "Your champion is insufficient, fallen. Will you not draw your own sword, and enter combat yourself?"

That sounded like all kinds of bad idea, especially since I had no sword. "I'm good here, thanks."

As attenuated and time dilated as my speech was, the angel showed he understood the gist. With a snarl, he battered at Grex, trying not to kill him, but get to me. I wasn't sure Grex could take him if the angel's attention switched, and I really didn't want to kill an angel despite the angel's own bloodthirst. But I'd have to uncork the magic soon or we'd just lose.

So of course Grex had to draw his attention. "And what of yourself, angel? Who is it that brought you here, I wonder? Whose prayers did you answer?"

The angel turned to Grex with a growl. "I come on a mission in search of much greater game than you, servile one. I seek a lord of your kind, befouling this place," the angel pointed at me."I came in search of such, and I found - her."

Well, maybe I did smell or something. The angel seemed to think so. I leaped up and threw my banishment stones to add gravity to my own enhanced speed, and all of them hit my target. They smoked as they peppered him, but that was all.

So banishment wasn't an option; I guess it made sense. Still, he had several holes through him now, and he looked more than a little pissed. Well, more pissed.Not that looking more pissed was really possible.

Yeah, it was time to stop playing fair. Or to play less fair. "Abnex, Sarex, veni huc!"

The twins appeared and were less up to speed than Grex had been. "Hello, boss, what's up?" Sarex asked, popping her gum. She got weirder every time.

Abnex took the situation in at a glance, and his scythe appeared in hand. "Angel, sis."

Sarex looked, and her gum fell from her mouth, so wide was her grin. "Oh, yeah...party time!"

I couldn't believe I was saying this. "Don't kill him. Just... drive him off.

Sarex didn't stop, her scythe now in hand, but she did pout. "Awww, but I wanted to have some fun!"

With three demons in the mix, all working in concert, the odds evened. But they didn't seem to tip in my favor. I knew the names of some imps, but I sincerely doubted that any number of imps would tip the balance. I drew my athame.

"Enough!" The angel shouted, and exploded in light, driving us all back.

I blinked my eyes clear to find I was being covered, and the angel was glaring at me past my meat shields. "I have been given special dispensation to end this pit of evil, and I shall. Behold the glory of God!"

He began to glow. Sarex took my shoulder and tried to move me, but I was faster than she was and dragged her along as what could only be a laser started from the angel, and we all broke in different directions.

None of us were hit for all the speed of the light, and our return fire consisted of actual fire (from me) and three weapons stuck into the offender.

The angel grimaced and blood like liquid silver flowed from his mouth. He ripped himself free of the scythes and sword, and more blood flowed.

"You cannot best me, fallen," the angel claimed while turning tail. "I shall return."

Grex, Abnex, and Sarex all prepared to strike again.

"No!"

I put all power which I could into my voice. The angel took flight and crashed through the ceiling, and my three allies turned to me and shrieked as one:

"What are you doing?!?" At least Sarex added "We had him!" afterward.

"I told you, no killing him." I was not going to be responsible for killing an angel, even if he wanted me dead. That was a stain I didn't want on my soul - when Grex finally claimed it. Some people went the other way when the realization of their doom hit, but I wouldn't be one of them.

A mote of light wafted down, a small flashing thing that looked fragile and appeared to ignore gravity. I was the only one that could see it from my vantage point.

"Grex, what's that?"

Grex turned and paled; actually paled. The twins turned and paled. Grex held his hands out the twins followed at their best speed without a word and what could only be a shield sprang to life between all of them, merging into one.

The mote continued to fall; did the demons forget we were all sped up?

"Should we even be staying here for this?" We still had a second or more before the mote hit the floor.

"No, if you can do it, do it." Grex answered through gritted teeth.

I was better than I used to be. A quick moment of focus and we were all up in the air over the warehouse. Looking at the structure from this angle, the damage was obvious; Karen was going to kill me.

"Okay, so what did we just run from?"

The three demons reoriented themselves and without missing a beat brought up their shield again. I started to fall and snagged Grex around the waist; there was no way I could pop my own wings here.

The explosion was magnificent, in a way. It blew the warehouse apart; the shockwave knocked us back and I hit something head first. Or did something hit me head first?

There were two Grex's. Something told me that was a bad thing, but I couldn't think of why. The twins came into view - all four of them. I was on the ground for some reason; why was I on the ground?

"Are you alright, Maeve." The Grexes asked.

"I think so?" The words didn't want to come out right, but I managed to spit them out before they could choke me.

A hand to the back of my head came away slick with blood.

"Maybe I'm not."

I remembered. The bomb!

Sitting up was a mistake. One of the Grex's caught me, which was a good idea since I was beginning to suspect I had a head injury. Oh well, the brick was nice and soft, powdered as it was.

"Just lie back my Mistress." All of Grex's four hands began to glow.

A moment later all four eyes of Grex blinked, and both mouths began to frown. My vision grayed out for a moment, and then I was moving. I wasn't sure I wanted to be moving; it was wrong to move someone who was injured. I think; it was kind of hard to focus on thought.

"She's not healing."

"Yes, thank you Sarex, I had not noticed."

"At least she's not getting worse. Some aspect of her power?" Abnex commented.

I wasn't sure I liked how clinical his tone was. He looked almost like he was staring at a bug he'd like to step on. Unless I was seeing things - and with multiple versions of my favorite demons, that was pretty much a certainty.

"It's likely." Grex answered.

Grex leaned in, and I felt panic. Soft hands lifted me up and explored the back of my head.

"I apologize Maeve; You were improperly braced for the explosion, and I should have taken that into account."

"Explosion? There was an explosion?" Oh, my voice. My tongue worked, which meant I hadn't bitten it off. That was a good thing. Wait, that glowy mote thing had been an actual bomb?

Who knew Heaven packed nukes?

"Are we okay?" I asked.

"You took the worst of all of us from the blast." Grex answered.

It was true the demons didn't look hurt at all; barely a single hair was out of place.

The cops! "Are the cops okay?"

Grex shifted a bit. "Mostly."

Mostly wasn't good enough. "Go help them. Abnex and Sarex can protect me."

Oh, Grex did not like that at all. "No, they shall help the police wounded. You are in danger, and I exercise my right per our contract clause."

I could feel it, a sort of faint snap or hum in the air as he invoked the contract between us verbally for the first time in my (admittedly spotty at the moment) memory.

The twins grumbled but walked out of view, toward where the police cordon had been... possibly. Up was up, and down was down, but left and right and East and West were a little lost at the moment.

Sarex had something wadded up and placed it under my head. It was probably going to get bloody and stain. "Why didn't it work?"

Abnex blocked the sun, looking down. "I don't know; the gift should have worked. But this isn't something we should talk about now. Mistress Maeve, can you help yourself? Do you know of anyway?"

I didn't, and answered as much - or tried to. I don't think I managed too well.

Abnex seemed to understand anyway, but of course, Sarex was the one who answered. "A pity. You could always dilate time around yourself and speed up your own healing."

Perhaps that was a good idea... but I couldn't focus. I garbled out as much, and again the twins seemed to get it.

Abnex responded by repeating Sarex: "A pity."

The twins shared a look... a look that I didn't like. I sat up, ignoring how my head swam. "'M fine."

"Of course you are, my Mistress," they answered in perfect stereo.

I was saved from having to respond by the return of Grex, with an EMT following warily behind him.

Wait, I was on a roof. The brick I had crushed with my skull was still there, red brick from the crenelation of the old warehouse across the street, and the warehouse we were at....

Well, there were two walls still standing anyway; that was a plus. I hoped.

The EMT pulled away the cloth, now soaked with my blood, and went to work scraping the back of my head with sandpaper, all while casting nervous glances at Grex who was looming behind him. The cloth was a... spare dress? I snagged it and looked. Something nagged me about it.

"Sorry about your dress."

Sarex waved it off and answered. "It was something handy. We couldn't have you bleeding out on the roof."

Abnex took the clothing back. "I'll just burn it; can't have something with your blood around. I'll get the roof too, while I'm at it."

That made sense, blood was a powerful catalyst. "Alright, but do it now, in front of me, and my witness here."

The EMT was less than thrilled with being called a witness.

Right, time to face the music. "Casualties Grex?"

"Minor injuries, my Mistress. The police were not the target of the attack and were far enough from the explosion to prevent deaths. No civilians were present. Indeed, no pet life was harmed, though rats and cockroaches died by the score."

Oddly precise, but comforting. At least I hadn't completely failed on that front yet.

"Good."

I grabbed my phone, which through some miracle had survived this time. Speed dialing the Captain was the proper thing to do, so I did that first - even though he was probably on his way already. Well scratch that, he was, I could hear the sirens now. How long had it been since the start of the fight?

He answered before the first ring finished. "Go ahead, Snow."

"Um, you're going to be mad," I winced. That had slipped out. "Sorry. The warehouse crime scene got hit. Major activity - The scene is a total loss, but casualties are light, limited to some injuries, including mine."

"Alright sit tight, we're on our way." He hung up.

I dialed Karen. She also picked up before the ring finished, and I could also hear sirens in the background. She didn't wait for me to talk though. "I'm on my way back Snow - I assume since you have time to call me the fight's over?"

I managed to stick to the script this time. "Yes, and I'm not sure who won. I drove off the attacker, but he used some sort of magical bomb to make good his escape. The crime scene is a total loss."

"Must have been looking to cover his tracks, and you got in the way."

I didn't think so, but I wasn't about to argue. "He was on me before I saw him. I think he snuck right past the summoner on duty."

A sudden sense of panic jackhammered my heart. The other Summoner! I hadn't ordered Grex to check on him!

Grex met my gaze and shrugged before giving me a thumbs up and mouthing 'fine'.

"How bad were we hit?" Karen asked.

"Just injuries, nothing permanent," I answered back.

Karen voiced what would have been my own opinion, had I not known what I knew. "Hm, very odd. Demons usually go for casualties when they attack."

Except the humans had been innocent, and angels were only into punishing the guilty, apparently. No, there was more to it than that, because even among humans all were guilty if I remembered my bible.

"I think he just wanted to have a nice quiet explosion, without any evidence of tampering. That or he was ordered to." I hated lying, even by omission. Implying what attacked me was another demon (even if no one would believe me about angels) and also implying he was after the crime scene when I was pretty sure (but not one hundred percent positive) that he had been after me.

"Probably. I'm not too sure what any summoner would get from destroyed the scene after we got pretty much everything we needed, but most summoners don't play with a full deck anyway. If the damage is too bad, we can just fall back to photos and video evidence."

Looks like she didn't understand just what I meant by 'destroy evidence' and 'bomb'. I wasn't about to tell her while she was driving; she sucked as it was. "Look, I got to go. An EMT is waving a penlight in my face."

And he was, right in my eyes. I hung up and tried to keep my gaze steady.

His verdict wasn't long in coming. "A clear concussion. Your eyes are taking some time to dilate; is the light painful?"

"Yes."

My eyes weren't as bad as my head... or my back for that matter. I was sure something had to be broken there, but my toes and fingers wiggled when I asked the to, so I wasn't too worried. The EMT caught me checking. Then he started probing my ribs.

Grex tensed, but I warned him back with a signal the EMT was too busy to catch.

"Problems breathing?"

"No."

"Numbness or tingling in your extremities?"

"No."

He started poking at my legs next. "Any pain?"

"Just my head. Well and my back."

The EMT... his nametag said Carl... Carl shook his head. "Yeah, you've probably got a full body bruise on your backside, but nothing seems broken. You might not even have any cracks; you're either very lucky... or very tough. Maybe it's both."

It was probably both. Though how I was so tough there was a good question to ask; maybe the shield had protected me before it failed. I shot Grex a look, and he shrugged. He didn't know? Something was up. I refused to believe he didn't know - he must not want to say in front of the normie.

Oh. I just called someone a normie, even in my head; I was officially as bad as the rest of my fellow summoners now.

I started to get up, and this time Carl pushed me back down. "You should stay as still as possible and wait for the stretcher. My partner is on the way, and we will get you off this roof no problem, there could be an injury we don't know about and if you start moving around you'll aggravate it."

Well, that was... probably true and ominous for it. I sat back again and waited. But honestly, I was already sitting! I had been sitting, so if my spine were going to fold in on itself, wouldn't it have already happened?

"I'm afraid I can no longer sit idly by." Grex stated. "I will not allow any injuries my mistress has suffered to be exacerbated by two fumble fingered oafs jostling her downstairs. Bring your stretcher and we demons shall carry it."

The twins faced soured. Wait, when had there stopped being two of everyone?

Thinking back, I couldn't remember the time, just that when I first woke my vision was screwed, and now it wasn't.

Was I insane (well, more insane) or was I actually recovering quickly? It was possible that I could simply by manipulating my own flow of time. But I wasn't doing any of that, nor was any of the demons around me.

Carl's partner (his nametag proclaimed him Jerry) came up with the stretcher, a mass of plastic steel and canvas that folded to the size of a breadbox. He stopped short at the sight of Grex and the twins, and Carl had to reach over and grab the stretcher to get it unfolded.

Jerry was hyperventilating; he knew what was looking back at him. "Jerry, hello."

My greeting got him to focus on me. "Hello, Miss."

Carl tapped me on the shoulder; the stretcher took no time at all to unfold apparently. "You can at least move this far, I'd guess. Carefully, please."

I shifted over and laid down. Grex stepped up and the stretcher began to float absolutely level at his side. The twins took up position on my other side and we all went off the side of the roof together. The demons slowed down with a quick flare of their wings while I floated.

"Just going to leave the EMT's up there, huh?"

"I would advise against them walking off the building; they have working legs, and can use the stairs without issue," was Grex's rather imperious response.

We started down the street towards the police cordon - or what was left of it. A little too far as it turned out. "No Grex, the ambulance. The EMT's are going to want to take me to the hospital to make sure everything is fine."

X-rays and MRI's and blood work, oh my. They would probably check for drugs while they were at it. I know I would, because you had to be high for this. Why wasn't I high for this?

I was at least going to drink tonight. A nice glass of wine or champagne or something. "Grex, a note. Remind me to get a nice bottle of wine for tonight."

Oh, crap. I was supposed to be on shift - right now! Who were they going to get to cover for me? There wasn't anyone else around to do it.

I was gently slid into the back of the ambulance. There was no need to delay it anymore, there wasn't anyone close. "Grex, what happened back there?"

"What do you mean, my Mistress?"

Oh, he knew. "I mean why am I not dead. I powdered brick with the back of my head, and I'm still alive. My skull even seems intact; so what happened?"

Grex had to answer, but he did not look happy about it. "I am not certain, but it is likely as you suspect; the shield failed. I did my best to intercept you, but my efforts were... insufficient."

Ah, that's it. He didn't want to admit failure.

"Don't worry about it Grex." But even if he'd grabbed me and slowed me down, I was still going fast enough to powder brick. Maybe it was just old brick? After all, it was an old building....

No, something was up.

The EMT's arrived back at ground level at the same time the screech of brakes announced Karen's arrival. At least she stopped before the police line.

The EMT's managed to get to their ambulance in time enough to look busy as Karen got out of her car. "SNOOOW! You better be half dead!"

I was right; she was a little angry.

She looked to the cops, and the traitors pointed out my ambulance. Now informed, Karen stomped over, and the EMT's shrank back from her angry presence. Or maybe it was Thor, behind her. I know the twins were puffing up for all they were worth.

Which was kind of funny, really. But it hurt to laugh.

Karen took one look at me and said. "Alright, you're forgiven,"

"You should see the other guy. But seriously, that bad?"

"Well, you have your everything intact, but you look about as bad off as someone who has their everything intact can be."

I loved Karen's bedside manner. "Thanks a bunch. I think the robes stopped most of it."

A minor lie there. I had no doubt the robes helped, but if I hadn't dodged or been quite so lucky, I would be dead. That sword the angel had been swinging was no joke. I'd have suspected the robe of saving my skull, but I'd had the hood down. I'd have to check the enchantments later to make sure they hadn't been compromised; normally they could only take so much.

Karen turned to Carl. "How bad is it really?"

"She got very lucky," Carl responded. "A concussion, but not a really bad one, not a light one either. We are taking her in to make sure nothing else is wrong, but she should be released later today and free to dance in exploding buildings again in a few days."

"So she should need a few days?"

"Yes," Carl answered with a nod. "At least until tomorrow. And bright lights should be avoided. Bed rest should be fine, but you'll have to wait for the doctor's all clear."

"Alright, take her out then. I'll handle things here Snow, don't worry."

"But, who is going to take my shift?" I blurted out like an idiot.

Karen rolled her eyes. "Someone else. Seriously, it's not like we haven't handled things without you before."

Yeah, but that was different. I was the center of the universe, a legend in my own mind, or something.

Carl tried to shut the door - only to be blocked by demons. Three of them, polishing their claws on their clothes. It was ridiculous.

"Abnex, Sarex, go home. Grex, you can ride with me if you behave."

I didn't know how other summoners stood it, but I just didn't feel safe alone. Especially with all the nutjobs running around. It really said a lot about a city, when the summoners weren't the craziest people to be found in it.

Grex got in one side, and Carl took the other and shut the doors.

I had no idea how I was going to get my car back; I wasn't too fond of the idea of leaving it out here for the night, even assuming it had survived being so close; It had been parked on the other side of the ambulance seeing to the uniforms was located. It was probably fine; none of the police cars had looked too bad (except for the one with a piece of metal through the windshield) and they had been parked closer; my car was built tougher than my robes were.

The ride proved very annoying. Every time I would so much as drift a little, Carl would say something to his partner, Jerry. Loudly. I wasn't even trying to sleep! Replaying the fight in my head was probably not the best type of therapy, but it was hard for me to follow now. A blur filled with mortal terror and reaction, with the steps half remembered.

Sirens started, but the ambulance siren wasn't used, out of deference to my massive headache. At least, that was the reason Jerry gave. I could appreciate it, but I got the feeling Jerry wasn't in too big a hurry to make sure I wasn't dying. I wasn't of course, but he didn't know that for sure. At least there was an escort.

"Are we going to memorial?" Hismel memorial was where most of us ended up; we still had ADTF members there.

Carl shot that hope down. "Nah, County is closer, and you are technically a serious case."

Darn, I wouldn't be able to make the rounds or see that nurse again. What was her name...?

Hell, I couldn't remember. I hope that was just normal forgetfulness, and not a bad sign of things to come - like my brain leaking out of my ears.

We pulled in and stopped, and Carl got the doors; I guess we really had been close to County. Jerry grabbed the bottom of the stretcher and pulled it out, and I got to relive the fantasies I never had about living out a medical drama, complete with a worried person staring down at me and keeping pace.

Of course, they didn't dare try to keep Grex out of the examination room; any attempt wouldn't have ended well for them.

Then the similarity ended, and Grex and I waited. For almost five minutes we waited before the doctor came in. He was young, tall, and darkly handsome, with a well-built body peeking out from his coat. His nametag read Dimitri, so I was guessing he was foreign. He was also more than a little nervous; I swear I could smell his fear.

His accent proved Russian. "I'm doctor Dimitri, I'm here to examine you to see if you need to be admitted."

"By all means," I told him, lying back.

I expected him to go over the same ground Carl had, but instead, he waited until a nurse rolled in a machine on wheels that looked a lot like a large business copier on stilts. It had a screen on the side at least, but the nurse moved it out of my way, and with a wary look at Grex, adjusted the stilts so the box would go over me.

"Are you wearing any metal?"

What a loaded question. "Earrings and bracelets."

She said the phrase I dreaded. "You're going to need to take them off."

So, an MRI, not an x-ray. "They are moderately important. Is there another way?"

"No." She stated flatly. How unreasonable.

I decided to have a little fun. "Alright, but we better make it quick then; Once I divest myself completely we only have moments before the hordes of Hell lock on to this location and kill us all."

The best lies or jokes always had a grain of truth in them. The nurse stopped, actually shocked out of her cynical zombie state, and I noticed she did not have a nametag.

Then she decided I was joking. "Don't worry, we'll be quick."

I had actually seen the moment the nurse had decided I was putting her on; it had been a novel experience. So was the irony. I started taking my earrings out and the woman's eyebrows rose at the sheer number of them.

Each piece of jewelry removed had me feeling - wild, but at peace. I could feel strength flow like a white river through my soul, flowing around ceaselessly. My wings twitched, but I stomped that instinct down; now was exactly the wrong time for those to come out. I was likely enough of a beacon already. I handed them all to Grex with my athame and laid back.

The doctor moved the machine across as quickly as he dared apparently; so quickly the nurse objected:

"Doctor, we won't get any usable imagery if you don't keep the machine still!"

The doctor was no fool. "Nurse, she wasn't kidding."

The nurse said something very unprofessional, but nonetheless pitched in to keep one side of the machine stable as the doctor traversed it over me.

The doctor reached my head and the hum was about to get annoying when doctor Dimitri moved the machine out of the way and turned it off. "Alright, it looks like we have what we need. You can put your jewelry back on now."

I was getting to be an old pro at the jewelry thing. Getting far too much experience placing them in their proper holes blind; Grex didn't even help this time... much. I gave him a look and he nodded; he thought we were safe.

"So what's the verdict, doctor?"

The doctor was studying the screen I still couldn't see. "Well, you've got a nasty bump... and a crack. A small hairline fracture. The odd thing is you've only a little swelling, and your brain seems to be fine."

Well, that didn't sound like bad news. "What do you mean, my brain seems to be fine? Shouldn't it be, if my brain isn't leaking out of my ears?"

"Well, I'd have expected more impact trauma to be honest. Your cerebral spinal fluid being compressed from the impact and leaking from your ears perhaps, or some other effect. You show none of those signs of severity."

Again, that sounded like a good thing. "So I'm good? What about my other bones?"

"You have one small hairline fracture of your third rib on your right side and a slightly larger hairline fracture of your left ulna; both should be fine, and all three bones should heal with bed rest."

I did not like the sound of that. "How much bed rest?"

"Two weeks minimum; a month would be preferable."

Yeah, that wasn't going to work. But I wasn't going to do anything about it just yet; I needed to lay low at home for a day or two, and plan.

Because angel or demon, that guy blew up a warehouse to try and kill me; he was much stronger and much more crazy than I'd given him credit for.

"So I can go then? You'll sign off on it?"

Doctor Dimitri's face said he would gladly sign me out of his hospital inside the hour if I was half dead. A shame too; I had the feeling he'd be kind of fun outside of the hospital setting. Maybe it was the implied threat to his patients and staff friends?

"Not quite yet. The nurse will run a few more tests and I'll write you a prescription for the pain you're feeling, and then we'll send you on your way."

The nurse shot the doctor a look that screamed 'I have been thrown under the bus' as doctor Dimitri walked out. He didn't even glance back. Even if I looked like - well, hell - at the moment, usually I got a second glance. Maybe he was gay?

Oh well, I could afford to burn bridges; I didn't need friends outside of work, no matter how healthy for me that would be.

The nurse stabbed my arm at the joint with a needle. Unlike all my other pains, that one I felt clearly.

"Ow, damn. Digging for gold or something?"

The unnamed nurse had at least enough humanity to soften a little. "Sorry."

Just not much.

She took the full vial and stashed it, threw the needle away, and stuck a cotton ball to me with a band-aid.

"So, what's the blood work for?"

"To make sure you don't have any allergies to the painkillers... and to make sure you aren't on drugs. You know, the standard employment stuff."

It may be standard to test, but unlike a truck driver or stock person or even delivery driver, no summoner was going to get benched over drugs. Sent to the front maybe, but not benched.

The nurse did the standard EMT thing next, checking my reflexes (amazing, if I do say so myself), my eyes and ears with a flashlight, and my range of movement for pain. At least she was gentle to my suspect arm.

"I half expected an X-ray," I told her as she worked.

"I did too. The doctor decided the MRI would be more effective, and sufficient on it's own."

Oh, he did, did he? Was County poor now? And if they were, didn't MRI's cost more?

The nurse smiled, and her face lit up. "I think he just wanted to use the new and portable machine first." She seemed a bit more pleasant without doctor Dimitri in the room.

"Right," that made sense; who didn't like new toys? "So how screwed am I really?"

"Not at all, really. A concussion and some cracked bones is getting off lightly for your line of work."

Don't I know it.

"And now we're done. You can take off anytime; the front desk will have the paperwork you need to sign and the prescription for you, which will likely be good old fashioned Tylenol with a little extra. Do you have any more questions for me?"

Yeah, this was my last time coming here if I could help it; they seemed far too interested in kicking me out the door.

"No, but if I have any, can I call you?"

"Sure." The number she rattled off had to be from the hospital.

"No, not the hospital - I don't want to be shuffled around to people who don't know why I'm calling. I mean you, specifically."

The smile slid off her face and she took a glance at Grex, who was still standing quietly in the corner, as he had this entire time. "Sure," she said again. The number rattled off this time was different.

We walked through the door together with Grex behind me, and I saw it. The standard red sea parting among the hospital crowd, doctors, nurses, and patients alike. I'd seen it before of course, but this time it really bothered me; this was what we were getting hurt and killed for?

No, don't question it. They are just ignorant, and that slope is very slippery.

I input both numbers the nurse had given me into my phone, then made a call. By the time it connected the nurse had led me back to the ER waiting room. I signed my way out, waved at her, and strode through, trying to pick a route that didn't cause injured people to scramble out of the way. The silence was uncanny; I thought briefly of dismissing Grex, but it wouldn't likely wouldn't help.

Cords came through the door as I reached it.

"What are you doing here?" He was in the wrong hospital for visiting friends.

A hand reached to scratch his neck, his tell for embarrassment. "Early lunch. Are you alright?"

I hung up on the cab service; they probably would have refused me anyway. "I'll tell you about it on the ride home - if you'll take me home."

"Oh, sure thing! They released you? It couldn't have been that bad then."

Cords had parked close, one over from a handicapped spot. Lucky for him to get that. He pinged the electronic lock and I got in with a sigh. Grex got in behind me, actually using the door. I thought again of dismissing him, but I wasn't out of danger yet.

Cords got in and the doors locked. The sound seemed louder than normal, somehow. More immediate in a way.

"Grex, keep an eye out."

"Of course, my Mistress."

Cords gave Grex a nervous glance... Grex was sitting behind him after all. "Should I be worried?"

"Probably not," I replied. "but I believe in being prepared." The vehicle we were riding in was a standard ADTF transport, with all the standard protections.

"So... want to tell me what happened?" Cords asked.

"Sure." It would make the rounds anyway. I couldn't fault the curiosity either.

I gave him the brief run down on the way over, with Grex adding details I hadn't noticed. Cords let me talk but his hands creaked as they tightened on the wheel.

He didn't wreck us at least; we pulled into the parking lot; Cords rushed over and almost managed to beat Grex to my door. Grex insisted on helping me out. He also made a point to stand between us as we walked. Cords was pretending not to notice.

"So, a cracked rib, cracked arm, and cracked head, huh?" Cords finally said as we walked up the stairs. "That demon has a lot to answer for."

"Right, because all the deaths at his hands aren't enough," I stated as blandly as possible, trying to drive the silliness home. Demon or Angel, that being had a body count. There was no way he didn't.

Cords followed me through the lobby.

"Oh, you're coming up?"

"If you don't mind. I know you have Grex, but it's best to have someone there with you to make sure you don't get worse, with a concussion."

I had simply been planning to rely on Grex, it was true. After all, one type of danger was bleeding on the brain, and he was bound to do his best to protect me from it like any other danger by our contract.

On the other hand, it was Cords, finally agreeing to come up and see me rather than just hang out at work or go to the museum and listen to me talk about art.

"Sure. The more the merrier."

I had to fumble my keys unlocked the door of course, but soon enough I managed and headed straight for the couch. I was beginning to get a little stiff, and the pain was really starting to show up as a bone deep (heh) ache all over.

I needed those meds and should have stopped to get them.

Cords was spending his time looking around; he whistled. "Nice place, and larger than I imagined. Kind of reminds me of home."

"Oh, you own a house?" I did not know that; most ADTF members seemed to gravitate to apartments.

"Yep. It's a bit larger than this place, but I like it," Cords answered, pointedly not looking at my bookcase in favor of the prints I'd gotten to add a certain lived-in look to the place. "It's cozy. A nice place."

I settled on the couch with a sigh. "Grex, can you get me a bottle of water, please? Do you want anything, Cords?"

"No, I'm fine, thanks."

Hm. Maybe it was time to call in at the front desk. No, screw it; I was fine here. "Cords can you do me a favor?"

"For you, anything."

Somehow he made the line sound less corny; it was a trick I'd have to learn. "Can you please go down to the front desk and get them to fill this?" I asked, handing the prescription over. "I'd go myself but I really don't want to get up right now."

Cords took the paper. "I'll take care of it. You just sit tight, and don't fall sleep, at least until I get back, alright?"

I burrowed further into the couch, getting comfortable. Grex came back with a pillow and my comforter; he magicked the pillow under my head but just threw the comforter on me.

I hadn't realized I was cold until I was covered. "I won't."

"Are you sure? Because you look like you could at any moment."

"Pretty sure," I told him with my best smile while flicking on the television. True crime would keep me awake."

"Alright, I'll be back in five minutes."

As soon as the door shut, I turned to Grex. "You will let him back in. I won't tell you not to watch him or intervene if he tries anything, but you will not bar him entry."

I waited until he bowed his acquiescence before taking the water in his hand. "Good; I hope you can make sure my brain doesn't bleed or whatever it can do."

"I can. You need not fear."

Good to know that he didn't think I needed to fear... but I would anyway. I hoped the news didn't break in showing a gutted hospital and dead people.



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