Authors: Angel Martinez
Tags: #Gay, #Romance, #SciFi, #Fantasy, #Angels, #Demons
No Enemy But Time
A Brandywine Investigations Universe Story
About the e-Book You Have Purchased
This copy is intended for the original purchaser of this e-book ONLY. No part of this e-book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without prior written permission from the authors. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
Cover Artist: Freddy MacKay
NO ENEMY BUT TIME (A BRANDYWINE INVESTIGATIONS UNIVERSE STORY) © 2014 Angel Martinez
All Rights Reserved.
Published in the United States of America.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
No Enemy But Time
is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are fictionalized. Any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. The story contains explicit sexual content and is intended for adult readers.
Any person depicted in the Licensed Art Material is a model and is being used solely for illustrative purposes.
Mischief Corner Books, LLC
For Lila Leigh Hunter, who wrote the beautiful, haunting prompt that inspired this story, and for my Classics professors, who taught me that myth is as fluid and changeable as the human heart.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Miller Coors Brewing Co.
The Walt Disney Co.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
"What reinforcement we may gain from hope,
If not what resolution from despair."
― John Milton, Paradise Lost
If I tilt my head, I can still see the shadows of wings in this light.
An approaching late spring squall shoved the wind into gusts, causing the trees to sway and flail their branches in dismay. Shadows played across the moon, Rembrandt lighting Michael's body, making the illusory wings rustle in dark, restless twitches, so unlike Michael's own bright wings in his former life.
Zack shivered, a wave of unease rippling through him. The unsettling moments had increased since winter, fast-moving storms of dark spots across his heart that he could neither explain nor predict. At first, he had blamed them on reestablished contact with his father. An honorable god, yes, but he had lived too long in darkness and Zack still found his company disquieting. But they persisted, even when he hadn't seen Hades for weeks. His hunter's instincts screamed, though so far gave him nothing to go on besides a vague, burrowing dread.
Something's coming… something dangerous.
He ran a gentle hand down Michael's back, a crooked smile curving up when the sensitive wing dimples twitched under his fingers.
I'll watch. I'll keep you safe. Whatever it is.
"Hey." Zack leaned in to nuzzle into Michael's hair, blond turned to silver in the moonlight.
With a contented sigh, Michael stirred and turned his head on the pillow. "Are you going?"
"Few minutes. You want breakfast or should I let you sleep?"
Michael blinked sleep-blurred eyes and started to push himself him up. Zack kept a hand on his back to keep him on his stomach. "If I'm going with you, I need to have breakfast with you."
"You're not even awake yet. Stay. Sleep. The birds won't mind if you miss the first day."
"All right." Michael rose up far enough to plant a soft kiss on Zack's lips before he snuggled back down with a smile. "Bossy."
Zack patted his muscular ass. "Damn right. I'll be back before lunch. Don't forget to bring in your columbines if the wind picks up much more."
A twinge of anxiety nearly stopped Zack as he eased the bedroom door closed, but he didn't have anything solid on which to pin his fears.
A leftover wisp of nightmare. Wind and shadows.
He guzzled down coffee, wolfed down a bagel, and slipped into his water shoes, still shaking his head at his groundless fears. Michael would be fine on his own. While he wasn't the powerful being he had once been, their lives were quiet and peaceful. He had no need for wings and miracles to putter successfully around his beloved garden. Zack rolled his bike from the shed and set out for the park. Every year since they had moved to Lewes, he had taken three days off from his animal control business—catch and release only—to assist with the migratory bird census.
The empty early-morning road stared blindly at him. The only sounds accompanying his tires on the asphalt were night insects and the capricious wind. He could almost believe it was a century ago, when the world was larger and less crowded and his Michael was the one to keep him safe.
* * * * *
Though still early for most butterflies, Michael kept the butterfly garden for the few migratory wanderers who might pass through. He knelt next to the flowerbed, carefully teasing invasive plants out of the rows and replanting them in the wild bed. The varied reds of the bleeding hearts and wild columbine, the bright pink of the early blooming fuchsia, and the proud white crowns of Queen Anne's lace all bloomed against the backdrop of yellow and white fragrant stars of his honeysuckle vines on their wooden trellis. Zack called it his happy place, and Michael couldn't argue with that. The busy hum of bees, the riot of annual creation—it settled him, warmed him. He needed those things desperately, now, where once a garden would simply have brought him joy.
He had no regrets. From the moment he had been assigned to Zack, mostly god with a human birth mother for his third life, he had felt the universe shift. An Abrahamic angel watching over an infant Greek god was unexpected, but Zack's human mother, a devout Catholic, hadn't survived long after the birth. Her prayers for an angel to guard her baby had been fervent and powerful.
Some part of him had known, from that moment to their first kiss nearly eighty years later, that he was doomed. Michael's fall, white-hot agony and despair, followed swiftly after that kiss. Without Zack, he would have descended into madness and vengeful hate as so many of the fallen did. Gently, carefully, Zack had coaxed him back from the darkness, had reversed their roles, and made himself the protector.
Zack never said it, but Michael knew he had bought this house with Michael's happiness in mind. Oh, yes, he made noises about wanting to be closer to his father and wanting to live at the beach, but the little house surrounded by trees, with a creek singing in the backyard and a sunny garden, had been what Michael needed.
He loved Zack for that, loved him more for it, if that could be possible. He squinted up at the sun trying to shove through the clouds. Rain wouldn't stop the bird count but it might make it a miserable process with wet sneakers and soaked clothes.
He should be home soon, though, and it's just started to drizzle.
The honeysuckle leaves rustled in the wake of a body moving through them. Michael leaned forward, trying for a glimpse of the creature. Bird, he thought at first, but it pushed forward in a straight line instead of flitting about. Small snake, perhaps? He parted the leaves and found himself eye to eye with a little green frog, its back peppered with black spots.
," said the frog.
Michael laughed, fascinated as its throat distended to the point of translucence for another
. Slowly, he stretched out a hand, fingers extended, and held his breath as tiny feet took tentative steps onto his skin. Settled on his palm, the frog continued to sing its strange song of miniature terrier yaps.
"Hey, who's your friend?" Zack spoke softly near his ear.
His sudden appearance made Michael twitch, and the frog leaped away. "I wish you wouldn't do that. Mr. Silent Feet."
"Sorry. I forget sometimes." Zack peered into the honeysuckle vines. "Barking tree frog. We don't get many around here. Pretty rare find."
"He's so cute." Michael settled back on his haunches. "How did it go?"
"Noisy, as usual." Zack flopped down on the grass next to him and rested his head on Michael's thigh. "Good weight gain in the Red Knots overall. Sanderling count is up a little from last year."
"Every little bit, right?" Michael stroked his fingers through the windblown thatch of Zack's midnight hair. A hint of saltwater clung to it. He must have gone in after the cannon nets, but then, he always did. The birds calmed in his presence, and the bird project folks were glad to have him there.
"Every bit." Zack kissed his fingers and sat up abruptly. "You're so cold. No shoes. No jacket. It's not summer yet."
"I was only doing a little weeding. Haven't been out that long."
"You're shivering." Zack tugged on his hand. "Come on. Inside. I could use some warming up myself."
Michael stared at the fine tremors running along his arm. "I… yes. Of course."
Before heading in, Zack stepped around the wood screen to the outside shower. Every beach house seemed to have one, and after a week, they'd both seen the sense in it. Water shoes sailed over as the shower pattered on concrete, while damp T-shirt and shorts landed on top of the shower wall. Michael retrieved everything with a little smile before heading inside, knowing Zack would follow once he'd rinsed off the sand and the worst of the salt. His Greek god had no shame and would clomp into the house in nothing but a pair of garden clogs.
Once the warmth of the house enveloped him, tremors wracked Michael's body, ripples of chill just under the skin. He leaned against the wall, arms wrapped tight around his ribs as he fought hard shivers.
I must've been colder than I thought.
After a few deep breaths, the tremors subsided, so he shrugged and spread Zack's damp things out on the drying rack and headed down the hall to the bedroom. If Zack was tired, he'd appreciate the chance to snuggle in and nap, and if he wasn't, Michael had a new toy he was dying to test drive.
The back door slammed. Cheerful whistling drifted down the hall. Zack turned the corner, stark naked, still toweling his hair dry, the hard muscles in his arms bunching and flexing. Not too tall, not too bulky, he would never be a stand-in for his cousin Heracles, but his proportions were perfection, his movements fluid art. Michael stared at the long line of thigh leading up to gorgeous, muscular glutes and a suffocating heat raced up from his knees. Stomach trembling, he took a step forward.
"Hmm?" Zack raised his head, a hesitant smile tugging at his mouth. "What? What's that look for?"
"I… I don't…" Michael's body moved before he could form a complete thought. Three swift steps and he slammed Zack against the wall, seizing his wrists and pinning them over his head.
"Someone's feeling aggressive today." Zack's eyes narrowed, but his expression was otherwise unreadable.
"I want you. Now." Michael pressed hard against him, nipping at his chin. "I want to make you scream."
"Mmm." Zack lifted his chin to give Michael better access to his throat, gasping and squirming when Michael latched on and sucked hard. "Does that mean you have something in mind?"
"Yes. Something new. Please, Zack."
"Hey, hey…" Zack wrestled an arm free and seized Michael around the waist. "Easy there. Since when do I say no to you? Ever? Let me get some water and I'm all yours, okay?"
Panting, Michael pulled back with a little laugh, shaking his head. "Okay. Sorry. I don't… I don't know what's wrong with me."
"This something new must be really wicked if it's got you this worked up." Zack gave him a wink and ducked under his arm to hustle to the kitchen.
I have to calm down. Am I getting sick? Can I get sick now?
Michael counted out his breaths, slower and slower, forcing himself to focus on an image of clear, still water. When his heart had stopped its frenzied racing, he finally trusted himself to get out the items he wanted and turn down the sheets.
* * * * *
Colored light danced over the sandstone kitchen tiles. The sun had moved around the house far enough to illuminate the menagerie of suncatchers in the kitchen window.
"Don't look at me like that, Leonard," Zack muttered to the stained glass polar bear. "It's just… not usual."
He guzzled a second glass of water to give himself a moment, staring out the window through the glass animals. Michael grumbled that they obstructed the view of the garden, but he never made any move to take them down and he helped pick a name for each new addition. Leonard sat between Hortense, the otter and Priscilla, the cardinal. Farther down were Norbert, the squirrel and Brunhilde, the seahorse and so on. It had become a game, trying to outdo each other with wildly inappropriate names.