This was not his first demon hunt. Far from it. He had been on the run for two years now, trying to get enough distance on the Dark Order and the Heavenly Host to try and give Stay something approaching a normal life. She'd been with him nearly a year now and while nothing had happened to her yet, it was only a matter of time.
A stray bullet. A demon attacking the little blond one instead of the black haired one sitting in front of her on the bike. A driving accident… Anything could happen.
And if it did? That was the end of the limited protection on his life. Of course, if anything happened to Stay, Matt wasn't entire sure he would want to survive it anyway. She was as much a part of his life now as Zephyr beneath him or the guns under his coat.
She kept him going, just like they did. Losing them… or her… meant his end with or without Uziel's threat.
At least today Stay was safe, nearby and under watchful wards. That meant he could hunt in peace, tracking down a demon that made the critical mistake of threatening children and the lack of good sense to run back to Hell afterwards.
Or maybe he had. This was not his first demon hunt but it was the first one to be boring. He'd been at this for hours now, looping through the streets of the city, out here so long that he was surprised no one had arrested him for vagrancy. That would have been just the sort of irony his life channeled – arrested as a derelict when the demon he was stalking appeared to be one.
That was, assuming he would appear at all. Hours of nothing except panicked alley cats and a cluster of homeless throwing bottles at him. He was used to that. He scared people, especially people with nothing but each other. Bottles did not bother him.
Besides, without his bike and his guns, was there really any difference between him and them?
"Fuck this," he grumbled on the umpteenth pass through Bailey Avenue's back alley. "I threw the party. He didn't show." Dropping gear, he stopped his bike. "I'll come back tomorrow."
Rummaging through the inside pocket of his coat, Matt found his cell and flipped it open. The least he could do is call and let them know he was coming back in. Maybe the demon had been spotted there while he was out.
He was halfway through the numbers when the shotgun a foot from his back went off.
Both barrels. Point blank.
Flash and thunder. The roar of pressure and pain. Matt was insensate for the flying through the air and the impact with the brick wall beyond. Sadly, his nerves started firing again just in time to feel in perfect detail the landing on his head part at the garbage-strewn asphalt.
"Hah! Thought you would get the jump on me?! " Reloading. "I am older than the sands in the mortar beneath my feet. I can feel every choice you make. Every decision in your tiny mind, human. There is nothing you can do that I cannot counter. All I have to do is reach out and everything you are, I can anticipate. You are nothing. You are weakness to my strength. Failure to my victory!"
"How about pain to your silence?" Matt groaned and struggled to his feet, popping his back into alignment again. "Do you ever shut up?"
That took the raggedly dress bum off-guard. "You… you are standing?"
"Better than that," matt said as he cracked his neck to clear his head. "I am packing."
With a blur, his guns were out and firing. Round after round lit the alley's darkness, tearing through the night and through a tattered plain shirt and a fifty year old Army jacket. In through the front, out through the back. Twelve shots, center mass all.
The demon's clothing was shredded but he wasn't. Every scrap of cloth sank to the ground, rent asunder and completely empty. "Damn it!" Matt said, running forward to get away from the dead end. "He fucking Obi-Wan'ed on me!"
The demon was not gone long. No sooner was Matt away from the bricks when a grey, androgynous figure with bat wings and a jagged blade in both six-fingered hands screamed down from above and left a gaping slash straight through the wall. "Clever fast you are, nor human be… hellspawn!" Gone was the muttered infirm speech of a bum, replaced by the rasp of a beast from the Pit.
"That's me. Still planning on that victory?" Two more shots, both blocked by the suddenly angled edge of the demon's sword. Ka-tang! Ka-ting!
Matt sighed and dropped his hand cannons. Why did he waste time shooting at them once their weapons were drawn? It never worked. It NEVER worked. His guns could punch holes through a Bradley but they might as well be Super Soakers now.
So be it, he thought grimly. No more bullet time.
Empty handed, he rushed the demon. "Time to end you, stalker! You've been loose way too damned long!" Matt's fingers curled in the air, the gesture of fists.
"Longer than you can imagine, hellborne. And I'll be free long after you rot…" The demon raised its sword in an impaling stance. "Come, fool. You don't know my name. You couldn't hurt me even if you were armed!"
Moments before running himself through on the serrated sword, glowing blades appeared in each of Matt's hands. Aria, his personal favorite in his right, and Rhapsody in the left. Rhapsody was a blade of speed, a weapon that enhanced his already blinding speed. It let him sweep to the side at the last instant, bringing its edge up to parry the vile steel and allowed him a cross slash that cut deep into gut and ribs!
The demon took to the air, trailing blood and shrieking in pain. "How…!?!"
Matt arched his back, letting his own wings emerge, one black folds of night leather, the other a wave of fluttering white light. "Vereketh, right?" He brought his swords high and launched into the air, riding high on the sudden rush of vitality stolen by Aria's blessed edge. His angelic swords hated him so dearly… but they still served.
"The children you've been tormenting send their regards."
The demon hissed and turned to fight. There was no room or time to run. Blades clashed and sparked, skill born from a thousand battles pitted against heavenly steel and the raw power of a hellspawn fighting as if he had nothing to lose.
Every time High and Low forged weapons came together, the sky above thundered, the air growing wet. As fallen angel battled flesh-caged demon, cutting at each other with beautiful blades turned to raw brutality, the clouds opened in a crashing downpour.
God's tears, they used to call rain back in Matt's childhood Sunday School. Now he understood why the Almighty would cry.
Matt finally scored a withering strike to one of the demon's wings, forcing him to come to a heavy landing on the nearest rooftop. Gravel sprayed under Vereketh's barren feet, a flash of his good wing sending a hail of stones up into Matt's face, keeping him from capitalizing on the moment.
Matt went fully defensive in his unseeing seconds, a good choice as Vereketh hurled pinions at him with another wing sweep, feathered blades that Aria paired almost to the last. One snuck through his guard, plunging through enchanted coat and armored shirt into his shoulder. "AhhhHhh!" Matt's vision cleared through the haze of pain into a sharp, violent stare.
Vereketh could see the change in him. Blood was raging now. As deadly as Matt had been before, now he was angry. Now he would be even faster, even stronger. Lifting his sword to point at the slowly advancing hellborne, Vereketh played his Ace in desperation.
"I am the Fallen of Choices, doomed fool." His voice was broken now, weighed down by several wounds. "Long ago I laid a bitter geas upon my life. None may choose to kill me. The one that stills my heart will have his own stop as well! His seed will rot, barren and dry. Blood of his blood will wither and die."
Matt snarled, teeth going sharp and skin going shadowy. One powerful stroke of Rhapsody and the dark sword flew from Vereketh's nerveless fingers. Aria rose next, stabbing deep into the demon's gut.
"Blood's no big. I got no kids." Twist.
As Vereketh staggered back, running blindly into the Wall behind him, Matt slashed both swords across the fallen angel's bare back, flesh and blood freely and painfully shed. A cry of anguish split the night, no reaction at all on the hellborne's face.
"Seed's no problem either. It's not like Heaven or Hell is ever going to let me have kids of my own."
Four quick thrusts, each one a crippling blow that paralyzed limbs and dropped Vereketh to his knees. Looking up, the demon's ragged voice issued up past bloody lips. "You… do not… fear death? What… what are you?"
"You said it yourself," Matt said coldly, his Aria raised high. "I'm doomed."
The blade descended. Flesh and bone parted. A demon ended.
Matt dropped to his knees in sheer agony a moment after Vereketh's head hit the ground. Raw pain exploded in his chest, both swords clattering as he clutched at his shirt and fell over. Twitching. Reeling. Vision fading.
True to Vereketh's hateful word, when the demon's heart stopped, so did the hellspawn's.
Lucky for Matt, then, that he had _two_...