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The Two Sides of a Coin (IC)


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Some time after midnight, August 16


"Last call." The words echoed throughout the bar, the last few patrons

"One last Jim Beam, please. Straight, no ice." Bram said, hunched over the counter.

As his glass was filled, Marlow looked at his friend with some concern through his own drunken haze. He put a hand on his friend's shoulder.

"Come on, Bram, I know things are tough but they'll turn up soon."

Bram downed the whiskey in a quick gulp, then sighed loudly, his tattoed arm slamming the glass down on the counter. He looked at Marlow.

"That may be, but I feel like s*** at the moment."

Marlow frowned. Bram very rarely swore. "Listen, man, come on home with me. I have the pullout couch. You can't keep spending your nights on the streets, not with this rain. You gotta be easier on yourself, for your own health."

"Listen, I appreciate it, but I can't spend time at your place anymore."

"Why not? You never had a problem before the Gill incident."

"Because before the Gill incident... Well, I had never almost gotten you killed by something from my past."

Marlow frowned as Bram got up, and rose with him as Bram paid, all the while Marlow swayed.

"Listen, Marlow, I'll be fine... But you gotta call a cab. You can't drive like this."

Marlow sighed, looking at the ground. "Fine, Bram... But take care of yourself, alright?"

Bram sighed, and gave a weary smile. "Always do." He watched his friend leave the bar, pulling out his cell phone, while Bram got his jacket, and waiting for Marlow to be off, headed out into the street.

He walked down the dark streets, his only company the sound of light rain and the cigarette he pulled out and light with a lighter in one hand as he thought more about the situation he was in.

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Gabriel didn't really mind the rain. The fact that he was wearing a heavy water-proof coat with a hood likely contributed, but he'd always enjoyed these gentle rains. They gave him a deep sense of peace. Assuming he wasn't busting up a budding gang fight or a half-dozen drug deals; then it was just one more thing to tune out. Right this moment, he was slowly flying along rooftops in his recently-widened patrols. He still concentrated on Southside a fair bit, but he figured that his membership in the League gave him increased responsibility to the city as a whole. And since he knew the bars around here were closing down, he was keeping an eye on things in case trouble stirred.

So far it hadn't. But just as he was about to gain altitude, he notice something...off...about the man on the sidewalk below. After a few moments of focusing, Gabriel realized he looked, well, demonic. Something which immediately put him on edge and made him suspicious. That said, so far the demon-man was simply walking down the sidewalk, perhaps a bit inebriated, and about to smoke. Not necessarily healthy, but not immediately dangerous. His instinct to fight the Enemy warred with his dislike of unprovoked attacks. In the end, the latter feeling won out.

So he settled for following the being on the sidewalk from the air, staying close to rooftops to perhaps stay out of sight...

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Feeling the eerie sensation of being watched, but unable to find anyone who might be doing so, Bram flipped the collar of his jacket up, rain starting to beat down harder on him, creating a mild pounding noise on the ground and making it hard to see farther than a few feet. He continued to plod down the street, running his fingers through his soaking wet hair, sighing as his cigarette went out.

Suddenly, a man turned out from an ally, and he saw Bram, his eyes going wide. He dropped his briefcase, and began to book it. Bram caught the briefcase skillfully, and blinked as the man sped off.

"Hey, you drop--" He grunted as the man continued to rush, and took off into the air, chasing the man with surprising speed. He caught up with the man easily.

"Don't hurt me!" the man cried as he tumbled to the ground in a ball, fishing in his jacket.

"Man, I am just trying to help you, you dropped your briefcase!"

The man pulled out a crucifix and held it up against Bram, who recoiled in pain and covered his eyes as he dropped the briefcase

"Oh for Jesus sake why would you do that?!"

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Gabriel had lost train of sight on the demon-man for a moment, as he'd shifted a bit so he wasn't spotted (not like his outfit was naturally stealthy, most people just didn't look up), so he only heard the shout of surprise and the beginning of the chase. He flew out and quickly matched the running pace of the two, his face slowly shifting from curiosity to determination. He began lowering his altitude, and ended up touching to the ground just as the civilian brandished a cross as the being, who was repulsed by it. Seemed a sealed deal.

"I don't care who summoned you or sent you. Back away from the man now, and this might resolve peacefully, Fallen One."

His voice carried an air of authority, and he stood there, coat flapping in the breeze and shining armor catching what little light there was. His spear was out, held at one side but clearly ready to snap out at a moment's notice. All over his outfit were crosses and symbols, most in language not seen on mortal Earth, not typically anyways.

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Bram blinked, and grunted.

"Come on now! I'm just trying to give the guy his briefcase fer cryin' out loud!" He gestured towards it, and the cowering man looked at it.

Sheepishly, he grabbed the briefcase, and got up. "Th-th-thank you. Sorry for the cross thing." After that, he walked hurriedly off, hoping not to get caught in the conflict.

Bram looked at the guy, eyeing him up and down. "Listen, I know how I look but I seriously am not a demon. Trust me."

He thought of a way to try and prove it.

"Um... Uh. Ah! Ah! Blessed is the one who does not walk in the step of the wicked, or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight in the law of the Lord." He grinned. "Huh? See?"

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"Um... Uh. Ah! Ah! Blessed is the one who does not walk in the step of the wicked, or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight in the law of the Lord." He grinned. "Huh? See?"

"And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season. And its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers."

Gabriel finished the quote solemnly. He considered Bram for several long moments before silently willing his spear to contract into its ring form. He didn't move from the spot for the moment.

"Would you mind terribly explaining what you are, then? If you're not a demon, that is."

He crossed his arms over his chest, his expression neutral, as he waited for an answer.

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Bram shrugged gently.

"Well, I'd say I'm still a man. But more than that, I'm the Penitent. What that means is, uh, I got a thousand souls taking a piggie back on me so I can help them earn their redemption and get them on up to Paradise. In return, I get powers from their combined force, meaning I'm able to help more people. Frankly, I don't know why I look like a demon and if that was always a thing for the Penitents before me, but I learn to deal with it."

The rain pounded down around them, and Bram looked around.

"Unfortunately, comes with a lot of bad territory. People don't trust you when you look like this, and worse yet... This girl I used to babysit, this girl who was my friend... Hell took her. She's working for them now, as a sort of anti-me. She's not half-arsing it, either," He sighed, and looked at the ground. "Worse yet, can't enter churches or I'll die. This is bad when all I'm trained for is being a priest."

He brushed his soaked bangs out of his eyes.

"But I deal, I guess."

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"Hm. That's certainly one way to go about getting super-powers. I just talked to an archangel for a bit, then got my latent meta-genes activated. Your story makes mine sound a little...bland."

A slight smile worked its way onto Gabriel's face, though it faded when Bram explained his rather poor living situation.

"Yes. I truly apologize for the misunderstanding. It's just...I have the scars to prove I need to be exceedingly careful when Fallen Ones are involved. As for the girl, for that, I am even sorrier. Is...do you think there's a hope we could rescue her one day? Did she do this willingly, or was the matter...forced?"

He takes a step closer, not closing the distance too much, all too aware of the veritable smorgasbord of holy symbols and angelic words scrawled across his current outfit.

"The ones who helped you, helped these souls...did they give you any contacts? Support network, that sort of thing? What about buildings purchased by a church, but not set up as one? Would those kill you?"

He glances upward.

"I'm sure you don't care about the rain too much, but...do you need a place to stay tonight?"

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"Gill? I... I don't know. She's not the girl I knew anymore. We didn't really talk much about it... She was mostly just shrieking at me."

He sighed, and looked around.

"But no, it's just ground sanctified as a church, specifically. So hallowed ground. Includes mosques and synagogues, too. As fer connections... Nope. The role of the Penitent is meant to go it alone. Without help from the Big Guy or the people who bound me, at least."

The Penitent looked at the rain pounding down, and then back at Gabriel.

"But uh, I guess I'd appreciate a place to rest my noggin'. I normally just walk around the city when it's rainy like this and make up by drinkin' lotsa cheap coffee."

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"Hm. If you ever need help with that, let me know. I'll give you a couple ways to contact me, though if nothing else, you can talk to the Freedom League. I'll vouch for you being a valid contact."

He glanced around the street for a moment.

"Can you fly, or teleport, or jump really high, or anything along those lines? I'd rather not just walk up to my apartment building like this. Too many questions.

As for help, well, maybe I can see about pulling in some favors. Getting you...something. Not an army, but a roof to sleep under at least, you know?

I can offer you my couch for the night or two, but I don't have a spare bedroom, and the landlord would probably not like me renting out the couch long-term."

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"Well, I can fly."

Bram grinned softly. "And I appreciate all the offers. This town's not been too kind to me sometimes, but there's always a few people like yourself who are willing to be nice."

He levitated in the air to demonstrate his flight ability. "Not as fast as some folks, but I can go much faster than most cars. Fast as some jets, even."

"Oh, by the way, call me Bram. I'm technically the Penitent but I'm not much for using the title, really. Not like I don't stick out like a sore thumb. I don't mind if you're interested in keeping a secret identity, though. I know most people are in our line of work."

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"I'm pretty trusting, and willing to help, but I think for tonight we'll stick with my code name. I have people I'd prefer stay out of harm's way."

Gabriel rose, easily visible even in the wet gloom that was hanging over the city. He started to accelerate, but made sure to never go faster than Bram could keep up with. He stayed close enough to make conversation possible, though they had to nearly yell to be heard. They went high enough Bram wouldn't immediately be able to tell their street location, but it was clear they moved into Southside, not too far from Freedom College by the end.

They landed on a small balcony, Gabriel quickly opening the door and hurrying in. He gestured for Bram to follow.

"Hang there a moment, I'll get you a couple towels so you don't soak everything."

He ducked into another room, and was out in less than a minute, strangely dry. He tossed a couple of towels to Bram, dropping a pillow and blanket at the couch.

"So. Um. You can crash here tonight, and I'm okay if you swing by once in a while in the future. But like I said, can't afford to get the landlord mad at me."

He gave a helpless shrug.

"But I'll see if I can't maybe shake some trees, enough that we can get you a place to sleep that's your own."

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