Tainted

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Chapter 13

Water pounded against her back and head as she sat under the shower, crying. When she’d first gotten under the steaming hot shower the water had run red, eventually turning pink as Isobel washed the blood off her skin. Her bloodied clothes had just gone straight in the washing machine. Frankly, she’d wanted to burn them.

Isobel washed vigorously, scrubbing her skin almost raw in places to get the dried, caked on blood off. The gruesome stuff had matted her hair into thick clumps, disentangled only with lots of shampoo and a hairbrush. She winced as she pulled her brush through the tangled mess, feeling like she had earned the pain. Although she hadn’t spilled the blood herself, Isobel was under no illusion; without her holding it still the demon wouldn’t have died. She deserved to get the blood on her, she thought, after all she may not have swung the sword but she’d killed the man as much as Ramona had.

Go team.

The bleak humour had made her laugh… and then she started to cry. Sobbing, she collapsed to the floor of the shower, back pressed against the slick, warm tiles and howled into her cupped hands, not wanting the sound to escape. The last thing she wanted right now was Ramona, who was knocking about her flat somewhere, interrupting her. With hot water pouring over her Isobel screamed into her hands, inhaling her own hot breath until her damaged voice turned ragged and began to crack.

It took a long time, but she finally cried herself out and was now just staring numbly into space. It was too much. Three days ago she had only been concerned about the terrible nightmares she’d suffered all her life, but she had taken solace and comfort in Jake. Comfort that had become keen affection and, she thought, was quickly blossoming into love. Now he was missing, neither she nor Ramona could get hold of him. In addition she’d barely slept in the last forty-eight hours and had seen more horror and bloodshed than she’d ever expected to see; after all she was a barmaid not a soldier. She’d never been exposed to this level of violence and it had shaken her. The body parts yesterday were bad enough, but the slaughter in Jake’s bedroom followed by seeing a man beheaded and his heart cut out was too much. It was overkill on her senses and knowing she’d participated only made it worse.

And Ramona was supposed to be the good guy.

That was perhaps the scariest thing of all. She might have a tender side, as demonstrated earlier in the day, but Ramona was still the most violent person Isobel had ever met. Hell, Ramona enjoyed the violence she inflicted. Isobel remembered the gleam in her eye as Ramona thrust her sword into the dead man’s chest and shivered despite the heat of the water. Ramona had scared her badly today, shown her a world Isobel had no desire to be a part of… but was intrinsically connected to because of her blood. Her accursed blood. The blood that had damned her. Her and Jake.

Isobel stared bleakly ahead, letting the water cascade over her. What was the point, really? She was damned if she did and damned if she didn’t. Literally if Ramona was to be believed. She picked up her razor, broke off the plastic head... the blade guard had fallen off days ago. With shaking, damp fingers she prised one of the thin blades out of the head, nicking herself in the process.

Oh well, she reflected watching the first blood drop well up, what’s one more injury?

Water stuck on the blade, light glinted from the metal surface as she held it up, inspecting it. It’d probably do the job.

Maybe I should just get it over with, she thought. I mean really what’s the point? I just can’t be bothered with this anymore... any of it. Who’d miss me? The mother who hates me? The father who abandoned me? Jake?

That made her pause. Jake. If she could only find Jake, he might just make everything okay again. She hadn’t felt happy in forever and Jake brought such a ray of light into her life. A ray of light that was now gone, leaving her in the blackest place she’d ever been.

If he’s gone she vowed looking at the razor blade, then so am I. What have I got to live for? Another shift at Dave’s? Another glass of wine? She sighed heavily. She wasn’t killing herself today and she knew it. She threw the blade down angrily and ran her hands savagely through her freshly washed hair. She stopped, examining the dark curls entwined in her fingers, a thought growing in her mind. Suddenly she stood, nearly braining herself on the showerhead. Her roots were starting to show, maybe she could go back to her natural colour today.

I’ve spent enough time running from myself, she thought and with the barest hint of a smile grabbed the dusty, out of date hair dye remover from the shelf. It was past its date but Isobel wasn’t about to let that stop her; she was in the grip of mania.

Hope this is still safe to use, she giggled to herself as she began rubbing the goo into her hair.

* * *

Ramona’s eyes widened as Isobel stepped into the living room with her new hair. She’d washed out the black dye and was back to her natural deep red colour.

“New look?” Ramona asked. She hadn’t washed yet and was still covered in gore.

“Old look.” Isobel said, forcing a smile she didn’t feel. “I washed the dye out.”

“Why?”

“Why the hell not?” She indicated the glass of red wine on the table, “This for me?”

“Yes. I thought I’d pour you one.”

“Thanks.” She picked it up and took a sip. Checking what Ramona was up to in her flat seemed to have paid off. “You really are an angel.”

Ramona eyed her, “Why now? The hair I mean. Why do it now?”

Isobel gave a nonchalant shrug. “It just felt like time,” she said. “I’ve been dying it for years. It got boring.”

“Looks good.”

“Thanks,” Isobel sipped her wine, the dark liquid soothing her aching throat and spirit. Her towel was threatening to slip and she pulled it tighter against her with her free hand.

“I know it’s been a rough few days for you...” Ramona began.

Isobel laughed, “You know fuck all about it Ramona, how I feel about the things I’ve seen. The things you’ve made me participate in,” she snapped. “The fuck you know about it!?”

“I was where you are once upon a time,” she said softly. “About three hundred and thirty years ago. But time doesn’t diminish the memory.”

Isobel was intrigued. “What happened?”

“My first kill,” Ramona said drily. “I impaled this demon, messy son of a bitch landed on top of me, ruined my clothes.”

Isobel smiled, monsters ruining her clothes seemed to piss Ramona off.

The angel’s face darkened. “My instructor ripped the things heart out and tore it into pieces. I’d never seen anything so... brutal,” she smiled softly, amused by the memory of her response. “I threw up too.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“I want you to know that I understand,” Ramona explained. “I’m hard because I have to be, but I also have to be sensitive. I just want you to know that I get it.”

“Not all of it you don’t.”

“More than you think.” Ramona smiled and sipped her wine.

“Whatever, Ramona; I’m going to get dressed.” Isobel took her wine and went back to her bedroom to find clean, unbloodied clothes[p1] .

* * *

She set the wine glass down on the bedside table and examined her freshly restored red hair in the full length mirror mounted inside her wardrobe doors. Seeing the thick red curls tumbling over her shoulders and framing her face was weird. Having her natural colour back was going to take some getting used to. Isobel had been dark for so long she’d forgotten what her natural hair looked like. The flames of her hair made her pale skin glow with warmth and she smiled at her reflection. It was a good look. A thousand insults from her youth came flooding back, but rising above them was Isobel’s defiant retort, her usual reply:

“Fuck you,” she whispered to her reflection and smiled; a sad, tired smile, like a traveller arrived home after a long, wearing journey. “Fuck you all,” she said defiance spiking her tone, a cold smile spreading across her face.

Somehow Isobel felt liberated by her new hair, as if she had cast off some invisible shackles. She turned her attention to her clothes. She wanted something functional, but was also operating on the look good, feel good principal. Especially since she had Ramona to compete with. She took her time deliberating over her choices; let Ramona wait. Eventually she decided on a snug fitting pair of faded black jeans, black vest and slung an old army style shirt over the top, with the sleeves rolled back.

She examined her reflection in the mirror and decided she loved the way the jeans fitted, but lost the army shirt, replacing it with a simple black zip hoodie. The all black look made her fiery hair and bright green eyes stand out all the more. For the first time in ages she picked up her dark eye shadow and crimson lipstick and set about completing her old gothic image. Re-invention complete she headed out to the living room.

Ramona was standing looking out to sea, covered in other people’s blood. Even her fingers were bloodstained where she held the wine glass to her lips. Her right hand was coated in dried dark red blood, so much so that Isobel had to shake her head to clear the image of Ramona pulling out the demon’s heart with her bare hand.

She swallowed back bile against the image of the organ collapsing in Ramona’s squeezing fist; she was not going to throw up again. She shook her long curly red hair back over her shoulder. No matter how scary she was, Ramona wasn’t getting the better of her anymore. Something in Isobel had snapped and she was glad. It wasn’t just her image that had changed, Isobel felt different. With Jake gone there was nothing left to lose. She thought of her solemn vow of suicide and laughed at herself. She knew she wouldn’t do it.

If I was going to kill myself, I would have done it long ago.

“So that was a demon,” she spoke from across the room.

“Yes.” Ramona looked round, her eyes widened in surprise at the sight of Isobel’s immaculate black eyeliner and dark red lipstick. “You believe me now?”

“Let’s say I do,” Isobel gave a wry smile and sauntered further into the room, pleased with the reaction, her wine glass held in both hands, like a talisman. She perched on the arm of the sofa nearest her. “Why should I help you?”

“What do you mean, why should you help me?” Ramona sounded shocked, “Because the world will end if you don’t.”

“So?” Isobel shrugged.

“What?” Ramona’s voice held a thread of anger, “What do you mean ‘so?’”

“I mean, so?” Isobel smiled, “So what if the world ends?” Ramona just gaped at her, as Isobel sipped her wine, “I mean, seriously, who cares?”

“What?” Ramona was shocked, “Isobel, if the world ends and Lucifer wins, we all go to Hell. Forever.”

“So what?” Isobel shrugged, “I’m already going there right?” Her anger was a match for Ramona’s, “I mean if I believe what you say I’m going to Hell, with no chance of salvation, not because I did anything bad, but because I’m tainted by demon blood,” she was amazed at how calm she sounded compared with how she felt inside. Inside she was fuming, had been fuming about this injustice for quite some time. But her voice was cold, detached. Like she was trying to hold on. Maybe she was. “That’s grotesquely unfair Ramona,” she met the angel’s eyes. “It’s unjust, like executing an innocent as a witch.” She watched Ramona’s face tighten and felt a twinge of remorse. Ramona had been through the mill herself, certainly she had suffered more than Isobel and here she was making light of the fact.

“I didn’t make the rule,” Ramona glowered.

Isobel shrugged and laughed, “I really don’t give a fuck.” She smiled, eyes twinkling with mirth before turning cold again. “Ramona whatever I do, weather I help you or not, I’m damned.” She spread her arms, “I’ve got nothing to lose. Nothing. And I’d love to see this sick fucking world burn.” She said the last with such venom, such hate that Ramona blinked, stunned.

“You don’t mean that,” she whispered.

“No?” Isobel’s anger was leaking out now, barely held in check. “The whole place is sick! My mother abused me my whole life, look!” she stood and showed Ramona her back scar again. “She didthatto me! After my father left, she showed me nothing but hate and violence. She showed her love by whipping me with the buckle end of her belt! My father, I don’t even know! He didn’t care enough to stick around or even come looking! On top of that I have these horrific dreams where I burn alive every night.” She paused for breath. When she spoke again it was quieter but no less vitriolic. “The only solace, the only thing that made it all worthwhile was Jake,” she smiled at the thought of him. “He understood. He got it because it was happening to him too. Now he’s gone, probably killed by one of those... things. And I have no one and nothing. Again.” She stopped before she burst into tears and sipped her wine. When she had calmed a little she looked Ramona in the eye, “Why the hell wouldn’t I want to see the world burn?”

“Everyone will suffer. For eternity.”

“Let them,” Isobel’s voice was hard. When she spoke again her tone was softer. “It’s what awaits me isn’t it? Why should they escape because they don’t have demon blood in them?”

“I know it’s unfair...” Ramona began.

“What the hell do you know about it?” Isobel leapt to her feet and stalked over to her, “Little miss fucking saved! You were tortured once! You think that tells you everything about damnation? You’ve never felt yourself burn in those dreams, I have! I fucking have!” She was yelling now, “Don’t fucking tell me stories of how you suffered because honestly it isn’t anything compared to what’s coming for me!” She was nose to nose with Ramona, snarling into her face.

“You believe now then,” Ramona said icily.

“I’m not an idiot Ramona,” Isobel growled, “No one can do what that guy did. I couldn’t stop him with my blood like that if what you say wasn’t true. Normal people can’t do that. Normal people also can’t survive, or be relatively unhurt after being thrown into a building. I saw you get up from blows that should have killed you today. I saw you pull a sword out of nowhere.” She laughed a little, looking Ramona up and down, “I mean look at how you’re dressed. There’s nowhere you could hide a sword on that outfit.”

“You are sharp.”

“And you dress like a whore.”

“Once upon a time,” Ramona smiled.

“What?”

Her smile widened. “A girl’s got to eat somehow and there weren’t a lot of options for a poor, destitute woman in seventeenth century London.”

“Jesus.” Isobel looked disgusted, “So we can add soliciting to your list of sins. Right beside murder and fornication.” She let Ramona see all the disgust and hatred on her face, “How are you not going to Hell?”

“A lot of that stuff I’ve done since I became an angel,” Ramona said. “Now back off.”

“Or what?” Isobel hissed. She gave Ramona a shove “Or fucking what!” She shoved again.

Ramona shoved back.

Isobel went flying across the small room, crashing into the wall, dropping her wine glass in the process. Ramona strode over to the prone Isobel and held her down easily with a foot to her stomach.

Isobel grunted in pain and glared up at her. She knew she was in the wrong here, but was too angry to care. Briefly she wondered if this was how her mother felt when she struck her, knowing she was wrong but dominated by rage.

“You might want to see the world burn,” Ramona said darkly, making sure Isobel felt the foot digging into her ribs, “But I don’t.”

Isobel tried to spit up at Ramona but it only landed on her own cheek.

Ramona smiled, “You want to know why you should help me?”

“Why?” Isobel growled at her.

“Because once we save the world, the dreams will stop.”

That gave Isobel pause.

“The dreams are linked to the impending apocalypse,” Ramona continued. “You help me beat it back, help me prevent it from happening and they’ll stop. You can have a normal life.”

“I’ll never have a normal life.” Isobel told her.

Ramona shrugged, “Then have your own life. Point is you’ll be free of the nightmares”

“But not free of the Taint,” Isobel came back. “I’ll still be part demon. I’ll still be damned.”

“At least you’ll have a few decades of peace.”

“Until eternity catches up with me. What’s the point of that?” She gritted her teeth and pushed against Ramona’s foot. It didn’t move. “Let the world burn,” she seethed, “I’m just glad I’m here to see it.”

“You want to know why you’re going to Hell and I’m not?”

“Go on.”

“Because despite all the ‘sins’ I’ve committed, I’m not consumed by hate. You’ve said you wanted to kill God? You call him a cunt and expect to go to Heaven? Stop being so self-absorbed, quit whining and man the fuck up.” She removed her boot and took a step back. This time she didn’t offer to help Isobel up.

The two women glared furiously at each other.

“I’m going to get cleaned up,” Ramona finally announced, “I’ll be back in an hour.” She headed for the door draining her wine in the process, slapping the glass firmly on top of a CD rack.

“I won’t be here,” Isobel hissed.

“Then I’ll find you,” Ramona said and slammed the door behind her.

* * *

Isobel sighed wearily as she swept up the remnants of the broken glass and scrubbed at the red wine stain on the pale carpet. Why on Earth would anyone install pale fucking carpet? It was asking for stains. She sighed, wiped sweat off her forehead, her hoodie long since discarded and bent to the task again. At least the physical labour was acting as an outlet for her rage. Some of it. She stared at the white froth of stain remover on her carpet and thought about Ramona, their fight... about Jake. After all she’d seen she’d come to believe Ramona’s story, absurd as it was. How else could she explain the things she’d seen? The things she’d done? She recalled the decapitation of the guy in the alley, the demon, she corrected herself. The demon. God, they looked so human! But no human being could throw people about like that. Of course no normal people could ever get up again from those injuries. Hell, one of them hadn’t. She thought of the dead redhead and felt a twinge of guilt. She’d been so busy with her own trauma she’d forgotten that Ramona had lost a friend today. She hoped they hadn’t been close, but there had been a clear camaraderie between them. Just the camaraderie of fellow warriors or was there more?

Maybe they were drinking buddies.

The image of Ramona laughing wildly on a weekend bender flashed into her mind, making her smile. It wasn’t likely. Another twinge of regret tugged at Isobel’s heart as she remembered how she’d spoken to Ramona. The angel had been being nothing but nice to her and Isobel had returned her kindness with malice, with burning rage. She’d been so consumed with anger about her situation that she’d lashed out at the nearest convenient target. And after their talk about her past Isobel knew just how to hurt Ramona. She was no better than her mother. She’d deserved to be thrown across the room. Ramona was right; Isobel was self-absorbed. She shook her head, sighed again and went back to cleaning. She nearly had the bastard too, just a little more scrubbing and it’d be good as new. She wasn’t losing her deposit to her fascistic landlord, not today.

A knock at the door startled her out of her thoughts. Was Ramona back already? She glanced at the cheap plastic clock on the wall. It had barely been half an hour.

“Damn it,” she swore under her breath. She’d been enjoying the first bit of space she’d had for what felt like days. Isobel always liked being alone. She considered simply not answering the door, when the knock sounded again, more insistent this time. Maybe it was Jake, alive and okay. She got up and went to her front door. There was no spyhole so she just opened it. In front of her stood a conservatively dressed man, around her age, a pale shirt tucked into neatly ironed trousers. Isobel didn’t even own an iron.

“Hi,” the man said, “Glad to catch you at home. I’m just in the neighbourhood delivering these,” he thrust a copy of The Watchtower into her free hand, the one not holding onto the door frame ready to close it. “Have you ever considered the truth about God?”

Isobel smiled archly, “Dude, you don’t want to hear what I think about God.”

“You’re right,” he said, the pretence folding away, “I really don’t.” He shoved her violently. Isobel flew back smashing into the back wall between the windows. The force of the impact sent books and trinkets tumbling to the floor with her. She blinked as she got up, her eyes taking their time to refocus.

The demon slammed the door shut behind him as he entered her flat. Her heart was racing, terror sending adrenaline rushing through her veins, but she was already thinking weapons. What weapons did she have?

Knives.

The demon was standing between her and the kitchen. There was no room for her to sneak past him in her tiny flat. She’d have to make a dash for it.

Oh fuck!

She rose unsteadily to her feet, still seeing stars. Ramona hadn’t been groggy when she got up in the alley.

The demon laughed and came for her.

She dashed round the sofa, heading for the kitchen. She thought she’d just make it, when the demon grabbed her by the hair. Isobel gasped in pain, feeling her hair pull taut at the roots as he yanked her back and slammed her down into her coffee table. Cheap wood splintered under their combined weight as he rode her down. She felt a splinter dig into her back and screamed. Her left arm was pinned under the demon but her right was free. She looked that way and saw the wine bottle rolling across the floor, spilling its contents over the pale carpet. She’d left it unstoppered so she could have another glass.

Shit.

She reached for the neck of the bottle, stretching her arm and hand until her fingers wrapped around it. The demons teeth found her neck. She had a flash and knew he was going for her carotid artery. He was going to kill her! She felt the man’s teeth graze her neck and, with a yell, smashed the green bottle over his back. The impact made him raise up to look.

Stupid.

Isobel let out a roar and stabbed the jagged end of the bottle into the demons face. She looked away as he roared, eyes closed against the horror, but not before she saw one of his eyes collapse in a thick runnel of viscous fluids and blood. The demon howled in pain, rearing above her. She shoved him off her, keeping the bottle end in her hand and raced for the kitchen. She slipped on the foam on the carpet, nearly went sprawling but regained her footing. She slid into the kitchen alcove using her hands for balance. She grabbed the biggest knife from the stand, then rethought it and grabbed a serrated steak knife instead and one of the smaller chopping knives from the washing up bowl. She whirled round and the demon was there, ready for her. She’d not only destroyed one eye, she’d lacerated the whole left side of his face with the shattered bottle. Blood poured steadily down his shirt, but Isobel was betting she’d be dead long before he bled out.

What if he can’t bleed out? Isobel’s terrified mind worried, her pulse quickening. What if that doesn’t kill him? She gritted her teeth, fighting to make them not chatter with fear. Then I’ll find something that does.

“Girl,” the demon growled, stepping towards her, “I’m gonna rape you until you split in two, then I’m going to send your soul back to Hell where it belongs.”

“You men are all talk,” Isobel taunted him.

Roaring, the demon charged her, swiping at her head. Isobel ducked the blow and plunged the chopping knife into his chest up to the hilt. Blood cascaded over her hand. Without thinking she twisted the knife to the right. She was close enough to hear tissue and muscle tear. She ripped the knife out and rolled out of the way as the demon staggered, blood pouring from his wound. She jumped up as he turned and pushed the knife through his throat, the point coming out the front. The demon began to choke. She hoped it could drown on its own blood but wasn’t taking the chance. She grabbed the demons short hair, trying to yank his head back so she could bring the steak knife round the front, but the demon elbowed her backward, sending her flying across the room into the sofa.

The sofa tilted backwards and fell taking Isobel with it. She got up straight away, knowing she didn’t have much time and advanced towards the stricken demon. He had yanked the knife out of his throat, and held it in his bloody hand. Isobel could see the wound healing and knew she had to act. She cut her palm, fresh blood flowed from the wound, dripping onto the floor. Shaking, she held out her palm.

The demon stopped in its tracks, snarling at her.

Heart pounding, her eyes wide with terror, Isobel crossed to it. Looking in his murderous eyes, she smeared her blood down, over the man’s face. Her head was already beginning to ache from the concentration it took to hold him in place. His pounding murderous rage, roaring in her head made it even harder. It was weird having this mental connection with the beast, as if a door had opened between his mind and hers. Isobel could feel her will inside the thing’s mind, controlling him with a flex of her thoughts. It was a terrifying sensation, but Isobel couldn’t help admiring it with wonder as she held him with her dripping palm. With her blood coating his features, immobilising him, she slid round behind him and reached round putting her knife to his throat. She began to cut, aiming to decapitate him. She’d barely started cutting when he snapped out of his trance, pain overriding her control. He bellowed, thrashing under her knife almost dislodging her.

Isobel knew if he escaped her grasp, she was dead. She leapt on the demon’s back, wrapping her legs round his waist and her arm round his neck. He swiped at her, hard heavy blows raining on her back as she buried her face against his shoulder. She was about to start cutting again when the demon fell to the floor, crushing her between its weight and the hardwood and concrete flooring. It roared in exertion as it ground into her. The splinter in her back dug in further. It felt like it was going to puncture something. Isobel screamed in pain and rage. She could feel things in her body start to give way but she held on to the knife at his throat. She couldn’t believe she was about to do this. She said a quick prayer, for and to what she wasn’t sure and began to cut.

The demon shrieked and thrashed as stroke by stroke she sawed off his head. Skin and flesh gave beneath her blade, minutes later she felt tendons and nerve endings snap. Blood gushed over her hand, across her face, soaking through her vest and underwear beneath as it ran down the demon’s shoulders and onto her. She had to turn her face so she didn’t swallow any.

By the time she reached bone, the creature was still thrashing and screaming, though not crushing her so enthusiastically. She kept going, through the screaming ache in her arm, through the vertebrae and the muscle and flesh on the other side.

The demon eventually went still, but Isobel kept sawing. She wouldn’t be convinced it was dead until she saw its head severed completely from the rest of its body.

* * *

Twenty minutes later, Ramona walked into a scene of utter carnage. Her mouth dropped open when she saw the demon lying in the pool of blood. Lake of blood may have been more accurate. “Isobel?” she called anxiously, looking round the blood drenched flat.

“I’m here.” Isobel’s voice came from beneath the demon. “He’s a heavy son of a bitch.”

Ramona crossed the room, noting the broken table, the spilled wine and the shattered green glass.

“What happened?” she asked, lifting the demon’s body with one hand and casting it aside.

“What do you think?” Isobel said from the floor. Ramona looked down at her and saw she was completely covered in blood. In one hand she held the steak knife she had used on the demon. In the other she held, by its hair, the demon’s severed head.

“This is a great Facebook photo opportunity” Ramona commented, extending her hand.

“Yeah,” Isobel said. She threw aside the steak knife and the severed head, making sure she threw the head the opposite way to the body. “What a profile picture this would make.”

“You can imagine it on a timeline banner now.” Ramona pulled Isobel to her feet. The two women stood there looking down at the headless body.

“I’m sorry, I can’t look,” Isobel turned away.

“But you did it.”

“I had to defend myself,” she said. “With what I had.”

“You took down a demon, solo,” Ramona said, awe in her voice. “And you decapitated it with a steak knife.” She laughed and shook her head, “How long did that take?”

“A while.” Isobel winced and sat down on the sofa that was still upright.

“How bad are you hurt?” Ramona asked, righting the other sofa.

“My ribs hurt a lot,” Isobel winced again.

“Here,” Ramona sat down next to her and held her hand over the other woman’s abdomen.

“What are you doing?” Isobel asked her, alarmed.

“I can sense internal injuries,” Ramona explained. “If I concentrate I can even heal them. Sometimes.”

“You can what?”

“You heard.” She indicated with her chin, “Lie back.”

Isobel did so.

Ramona closed her eyes and ran her hands over Isobel’s body, just above her skin. She frowned at one point and tilted her head. She lowered her hands so they gently touched Isobel’s skin. Isobel winced at the painful contact. “Cracked rib, third one up” Ramona said. She ran her hands over the rest of her, a look of concentration and serenity on her face. When she’d gone over her body twice, Ramona replaced her hands over Isobel’s injured rib and exhaled.

“What are you doing?” Isobel asked, concerned.

“Shh,” Ramona stayed in her position for a moment, her hand on Isobel’s ribs. Then Isobel began to feel something, a vague tingling sensation under her skin. A minute later Ramona retracted her hands, blinked a couple of times and smiled leisurely at Isobel. “I’ve done the best I can with it. It’s not cracked anymore but it’ll be sore. Expect a nice bruise. Otherwise you’re fine.”

“Thanks,” Isobel said confused, she touched her damaged rib.

“Feel better?” Ramona asked.

Isobel nodded and winced, Ramona wasn’t lying about the bruising, “You want a beer?”

“You drink too much.”

“A demon just attacked me in my own house,” Isobel said. “I’m having a fucking beer.”

“Then at least let me get it.” Ramona went over to the fridge.

“Just don’t bend over,” Isobel said. “I’ve had all the gory details I can handle today.”

Ramona just smiled.

“Seriously Ramona, how short do you need to wear things?” Ramona was wearing the same short skirt and tights combo as when Isobel first met her. A low top with what looked like some form of corsetry in it went with it along with her trademark boots.

“As short as they’ll get,” she said, opening two bottles and wandering back over. She glanced at the body on the way. “You got the heart too,” she nodded approvingly.

“Wasn’t a killing blow.” Isobel took the beer off Ramona and drank half the bottle in one swallow. She sighed contented at the beer, weary at the situation. “Why would they come after me?”

“They know you’re the only one who can stop them.” Ramona explained, “Your blood is the key. If they kill you we can’t prevent the apocalypse. Or at least it’s a whole lot harder.”

“How much harder?”

“I’ve never heard of it being done.”

Isobel nodded and drank her beer. She knew she had an apology to make, she just wasn’t sure how to word it. After a minute she decided to just be frank. “I’m sorry I was a bitch before,” she said turning to Ramona. “That crack about your ordeal. I can’t even imagine what that was like. I had no right to be so… flippant about it. I’m sorry.”

The angel’s cheeks tightened for a moment, a memory of that awful time flitting across her mind. Then she smiled down at Isobel, “Thank you.”

“I deserved to be thrown across the room,” she added.

“You really did.”

Isobel found herself laughing at the comment. Ramona too smiled with her. Together they sipped their beers, enjoying the moment of camaraderie forming between them. Maybe being friends with Ramona wouldn’t be so bad, Isobel thought. She instinctively chided herself for the thought. She was still her rival for Jake’s heart. Even if she wasn’t interested, Jake sure had been. An awful thought occurred to her then, setting her heart racing again.

“They went after Jake too didn’t they?”

“Yes.”

“Did you know they’d come after me?”

“Yes,” Ramona sighed and looked at her grimly. “The demons were asking Jake’s housemate about you. I didn’t think they’d figured out who you were yet.” She paused. “The one that escaped yesterday.”

“The one I let go?”

“Yes,” Ramona looked at her. “She must have told them who you are. Both of you. Possibly she tracked you, demons are good at that. Or they asked Jake.”

“Oh God.” Isobel let out a shaky breath and took another sip of her drink, the alcohol doing nothing to soothe her frayed nerves. “You think he’s still alive?”

“I hope so.”

“Make your job easier?”

“Yes,” she paused, then added, “And I like him.”

Isobel nodded, slowly. Again she wondered just how much of a threat Ramona was to her and Jake. What exactly did she mean by liking him? They drank in silence for a while, Isobel ruminating on the question that had defined her relationship with Ramona since the day they’d met. Sometimes Isobel hated her insecurity; she knew she and Ramona could be friends if she could just get over seeing her as a threat. If she could get past Jake’s clear infatuation with the angel. She frowned and stared worriedly at her bottle, her eyes tracking the beads of condensation running down the glass.


[p1]Can we make Isobel a litte nicer here? Should we? She does seem very mean in this scene and Ramona’s being nothing but nice to her. She even gave her wine. Isobel has rejected suicide and is stronger and defiant but not nasty.


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