One Apocalypse – Kristy Cunning

My body feels pulled in five different directions as I fight to keep myself in one piece, screaming with the effort it takes. A harsh grunt comes out, belittling the powerful, blindingly painful phantom hit that strikes me across my middle. Forced to flip head over heels, I curse over the small, pathetic cry that is forced through my lips the second I crash through the mound of boulders. Debris flies up and little pebbles rain down on me, as I painfully clap the ground. Dizzied and bleeding, I push up to my knees. I crack my neck to the side…and then I reach over to pop my shoulder back into place for the fifth time today. The blood sizzles against the ground when I spit out a generous mouthful, and I step over the slick, acidic stain, as I feel my body healing. Jude is stalking toward me, but his eyes are leveling Rafael, as the angel paces back and forth, slapping his head and talking to himself. Jude’s eyes snap to mine, just as Azrael appears in front of Rafael. “When the hell are you going to start fighting back?” Jude barks, just as Ezekiel appears in front of me, looking every bit as murderous as the other two, who also pop in next to me. “It’s been three weeks and you haven’t thrown a single punch,” Ezekiel adds on a growl. I reach back and slap Ezekiel’s ass, earning an annoyed look. “I’ll know when I’ve had enough, Cupcake,” I chirp, spitting out more blood. “Just why?” Kai shouts. My eyes cut to his.

“I’m a badass,” I say with a sly grin. No one is in a joking mood. It’s not like it’s them getting their asses kicked. “I can kick anyone’s ass in hell. Apparently my powers topside also include the ocean and the storms it provides, but I won’t have those at my disposal in Purgatory,” I go on. “This thing has been growing impossibly strong in Purgatory. It took me a month to heal from an echo of a death or whatever. It took me five-hundred years to come back from a true death that I allowed. It took me seeing one of you die to pull out the true fire inside me and level some shit when under pressure from an archangel.” They continue to stare blankly at me.

“You saw what we’re up against. I need to be able to take a beating. And I need to be as strong as possible in any way. I’m The Apocalypse. I’m not used to getting my ass kicked, but an archangel handed mine to me. An archangel who personally had a hand in training a Champion far stronger than him. And we watched most of the very brutal death of said Champion.” Gage exhales harshly. “You’re facing your nightmares daily by being in Hell’s Black Heart to grow stronger. Let me do my part,” I add.

They don’t stop me this time when I move in front of Rafael, standing less than fifty yards away. “Again!” I shout. He’s still slapping his head and pacing back and forth, when the next invisible hit slaps me across my chest. I bite out a curse as I strain against it, feeling the pressure trying to crush my bones. My foot slips, and I flip head-over-heels into Azrael, tackling the Angel of Death to the ground by mistake. My knee also accidentally slams into his groin when I fumble my way off him. He makes a startled yelp that does happy things to my evil heart. “Total accident,” I assure him, blinking innocently. He grunts and squeezes his eyes shut, a pained expression still on his face, as he resists the urge to cup his balls like a weaker male. “You truly are terrible at deception,” he says through strain.

The Twins give me a slow clap, as I brush myself off. “I can’t believe she’s allowing us to watch her get her ass handed to her day-after-day. Is it just me, or is it getting predictably boring?” Hera drawls, pursing her lips. “Never thought that could even happen. But it’s like it’s just not special anymore.” Little prickles of annoyance slither up my spine. “Why are you doing this?” Azrael finally says on a groan, shoving up to his feet with a noticeable, somewhat satisfying limp. “I told you…total accident.” He gives me a dry look when I mime crossing my heart. The Twins start playing their phantom drums like they’re dueling to see who is better.

They even twirl their imaginary drumsticks. The sinful manifestation of lust hisses at Lilith—literally—when she moves too close to Hera’s crown. “Little mood music?” I shout to the twins. “This is nothing but a waste of time,” Peter-the-Angel says from the sidelines, giving a horrified look over to the Twins, as This Means War blares through the air. “No, that’s motivation,” one of them corrects. “It’s absurd. All of this is absurd. And Rafael is becoming unhinged every time he attacks her without her retaliating!” Peter argues. “Don’t be such a…Peter,” one of the twins says, grinning like he’s the funniest person in the world. The other twin fist bumps him.

“That’s punny,” I chirp, getting groans from them. Do they not get the joke? Clearly my humor is just too smart for them, despite the fact they’re supposed to be brilliant. I really do need to learn their individual names… “You lied when you said this would restore Rafael’s balance, and you can’t be deceptive,” Azrael drones on. “Again!” I shout at Rafael. He’s back to slapping his own head, so he doesn’t immediately react. “No! Enough! He can’t take anymore!” Peter shouts over the music that grows increasingly loud, likely to drown out his protests. “What? Can’t hear you!” Hera shouts, cupping her ear like she’s trying to hear, but grinning like she’s as evil as the majority vote out here. “Just give me one good reason why you’re torturing him like this if you’re really trying to restore his balance!” Azrael continues, getting real damn close to my ear. “The deal was that he’d train you if you restored his balance!” I whirl around, facing him, catching sight of my four guys just staring and observing, taking everything in. My eyes move back to Azrael’s, and I point a finger at him.

“In case you’ve forgotten, he killed me,” I point out dryly. “You confess you must have allowed it, or is that just your vanity talking?” he asks, seeming genuinely confused. “Doesn’t matter. He didn’t know I allowed it. And he killed me.” “That’s not a good enough reason.” “Really? You need a better reason for me to torture him?” I ask, mocking a frown. He gives me a serious nod. “I have an unapologetic, evil vagina,” I say with an obnoxious volume. “Is that reason enough for you?” I turn away before he can argue, and shout at Rafael.

“I said again! Everyone stop questioning me now, damn it—” My words end on a pained grunt when Rafael hits me much harder than last time, and I barely stop my foot from slipping this time. Azrael stumbles away from me when a wild-eyed Rafael stares at me like a man lost in an endless stream of madness. “Now you know what it feels like to have no control,” I snap, crying out a little when a trickle of power rolls through my stomach, trying to pry me open and split me in two. “And now it’s my turn,” I bite out. There’s a crackle in the sky that resembles metallic thunder, as it rattles like a drum through the air. In the next instant, the dirt sprays up with a line of fire that shoots across the land, pummeling Rafael in the chest so hard he’s launched backwards until… One twin stands and shields his eyes from the nonexistent sun, as he says, “He’s going…going—” “Gone!” the other twin shouts in closing. Rafael is indeed gone. I’m not sure how far I just knocked him. “If my instincts are right, I just helped him get some of his balance right,” I chirp over my shoulder to Azrael, holding back the wince of pain I feel from all the exertion it took to pack a punch that size. Still, I’m getting stronger.

There’s been progress. The angels just stare at me with zero expressions on their quiet mouths. In the next instant, they’re all gone. “I guess that means we’re done for the day,” I say with a roll of my eyes. “No work ethic.” Kai’s arm drops around my shoulders, and he starts steering me away, as I feel the tug of him siphoning us out. We land in my purple room, and I glance around at some of the new things hanging up on the walls. He shoves me to a chair, as Gage shoves a drink in my hand. I quirk an eyebrow at them, as Jude and Ezekiel join us in the room. “Is this as close as I get to having you guys take care of me?” I ask as I take a long sip out of the jar.

Kai gives me a narrowed glare like I’ve done something wrong, and I roll my eyes as I lift one of my journals and turn it to a dirty past-life story. “I don’t like this,” Gage says as he sits down next to me. “It’s stupid for you to take those punches and deliver only one in return. It’s not just torture for you and him.” I look up at him with wide, hopeful eyes as I blink a few times, staring into his semi-creepy-butvery-appealing new cosmic blues. “Are you saying it hurts you to watch me take it like a man?” I ask so sincerely. He mutters a curse and shakes his head. “I can’t take things too seriously, remember? It’s a known hell-spawn weakness,” I say in my defense. “Someone shove something in her mouth so she’ll stop talking,” Jude grumbles, as he does something with some fancy gadget that looks like it belongs on the Matrix. Kai stands and starts walking toward me with a smug grin on his face, as he starts undoing his pants.

“I’ll shove something in her mouth,” he says like he’s proud of himself for coming up with that line. I hold my hands out and make a ‘gimme’ motion, excited about this new first I’ll be giving. This causes Kai to snort and lose his smugness. “For fuck’s sake, this is serious,” Jude snaps over his shoulder. “You’ve all been around her for too long. We have to go back to the Black Heart soon.” Kai rolls his eyes and starts doing his pants back together again. Damn. I thought he was being serious. I resume reading my journal, because Jude is cranky and spoiling all my fun with the guys.

They’re a lot nicer to me on the days they view me getting my ass kicked. Oooooh! I really like this journal entry. Chapter 2 EZEKIEL My eyes flick over Paca as she smiles down at the journal pages. Obviously she’s reading some dark and dirty exploit our past selves enjoyed. I idly wonder if she plans on sending us topside after this is all over so we can live new dark and dirty mortal lives. I have no idea why that sounds like fun. Months ago, it seemed ridiculous. “I want to try this. Anyone in?” she asks. Gage leans over, but before he can answer, Kai says, “I’m in.

” His hand is on her shoulder, and he siphons out in the next second, taking her with him. The doors shut to the little parlor room off to the side in this ever-expanding bedroom of hers. “Are you fucking kidding me?” Jude asks on an exasperated sigh as he pinches the bridge of his nose. “We have to leave in less than fifteen minutes.” “Don’t worry. He’ll be back shortly,” Gage says, as his lips twitch and he starts playing a game of solitaire, after dropping the journal she was reading. “How did you tell her you fucking love her? Lamar said we weren’t capable of telling her that. It’s some sort of weird balance and shit,” I say to the jackass who has been her favorite for too fucking long. Gage’s eyebrows bounce up, and a slow grin crawls across his face like the son of a bitch is about to mock me. “I’m sorry.

Are you really discussing his motherfucking feelings while we’re preparing to go into the Black Heart?” Jude asks me like I’ve lost my damn mind. I have lost my damn mind. I even bristle when I hear her giggling in there with Kai. It should have been I who siphoned her out. My skin’s been crawling for weeks now, and I can’t figure out how to— “Fuck no!” Kai suddenly barks as the doors swing open from the parlor, and he stalks out with a full-body shudder underway. “What? Why not? You did it in the past life!” Paca argues as she chases after him. “I’m curious what’s a no-go for Kai, considering he’s good with most anything,” I state as Kai shakes his head. Paca lifts the journal and waves at him. “See?! It’s right here. We did it before, so we can do it again.

” “I’m not that fucking guy anymore. Maybe it took me two millennia to get to that point,” he snaps, shuddering again. I shoot a questioning look to Gage. “You really don’t want to know,” he assures me with his lips still twitching. “It’ll be a first for both of us then! You really have been sluts in the past. I wonder if that means you’ve been technically cheating on me all these years. You know, since you were always mine and all,” she carries on, actually scratching her chin and staring off like she’s giving it genuine thought. Out of nowhere, Jude grabs her by the back of the neck, catching her off guard, and his lips slam against hers almost violently as he kisses her. Kai rolls his eyes when she throws her arms around Jude’s neck, and I arch an eyebrow when his arm winds around her waist. “Thought we didn’t have time for that,” Gage states dryly.

“And I’m supposed to be the fucking favorite.” He twirls his sword, staring at Jude like he’s considering where he should stab him or something. Jude releases her abruptly, and Paca staggers forward, as Death turns and stalks out like he’s his usual angry self. I’m not sure what just happened, and usually I understand him fairly well. Paca’s lips turn up in a lazy, self-satisfied grin as her eyes slowly lift open again, and she blinks at the empty doorway that Jude’s disappeared through. “Well then. That’ll do for a see you later,” she chirps before she turns and puckers up for Kai. Kai hasn’t an ounce of dignity as he grins like he’s winning a prize and drags her to him to kiss her his way. Which is annoyingly intense. Is she fucking moaning? Gage drags his index finger over his lips, watching as the two of them start to get carried away.

“I think that’s enough for now,” I cut in. Gage slants his gaze to me, as my muscles visibly tense, and he lifts his brow in question. I’m not jealous. Not at all. Not even a fucking little bit. Why is this messing with my head? Kai breaks the kiss, still smiling like he wants her to think he’s charming, and he struts out like he’s accomplished something. Paca sways on her feet with a dopey grin on her face, so apparently he has accomplished something. Gage takes his turn, pulling her down to his lap, and I watch how very differently she kisses him. She’s the one to initiate it, and the two of them seem…a lot more intimate than the others. That is really driving me insane.

I feel left behind. “I’ll share you with Ezekiel when we get back,” Gage murmurs against her lips. My jealousy deflates like it was never there, and I relax in my seat as Paca smiles over at me. I lean over and take my turn kissing her, even as she remains on his lap. She drifts toward me, deepening the kiss, as her arms wind around my neck. Any lingering issues dissolve with the hunger in her touch, taste, and intensity. “Are you two fucking coming or not?” Jude barks from outside the room. I’m forced to break the kiss, though I admit it’s a hell of a lot harder than it should be. All I want to do is drag her to the bed and keep her to myself for a few hours. Or days.

Maybe a week or more. What the hell is fucking wrong with me? It’s only getting worse again now. Gage shoots me a curious look as I stand and walk out, and I hear Paca giggling again like he’s doing something she likes. I spot Jude and Kai leaned against the wall, eyes trained on the end of the hallway. Following their gaze, my eyes narrow on a smirking Lilith as she affectionately strokes her dark hair. Gage steps up beside me, face as stoic as the rest of ours, as Lilith finally turns and slowly saunters away. The envy leaves my chest in a harsh rush once more, and I inhale deeply. Still, I want to steal Paca and keep her to myself for a few hours. It wasn’t just Lilith’s influence directing that path of thought. “Cunt,” Kai states flippantly, as though we’re speaking of a meddlesome low-level hell guard instead of one of the Royals.

“Careful. We don’t fully know what she’s capable of,” Jude warns him. “In a war between Envy and Wrath, I’ll tell you who my bets get placed on. She’s scared of Paca,” Gage says with a shrug, as he shoulders by Kai and starts guiding us to the Black Heart. “Gee. I feel so masculine knowing the four of us may need our girlfriend’s protection,” Kai drawls as we all follow behind Gage. “I hate leaving her unprotected so much. We should just take her to the Black Heart with us,” I tell them as I look back over my shoulder, seeing the door to the room is now shut. It’s probably also locked. A small breath of relief is all I get, because I seriously hate leaving her for any capacity of time.

Kai looks back several times as well, and Jude actually hesitates his steps, before shaking his head and walking forward even faster than Gage is. “Let’s get this the fuck over with,” Jude snaps before he disappears through the false wall. I hate this part.

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