Author's Notes: So the finale... yeah.
So the finale...
Yeah. These days I'm as into Destiel as I am M/F, and...
Possibly doing a sequel to my other fic.
Might be in progress.
I don't end Supernatural, because if I did there would've been a LOT more Castiel in the finale.
Ember could remember three times in her adult life that could compare to this. The first was back when she first met Dean, after her first run-in with Alistair. (She'd been forced to kill one of her clients after Alistair had taken possession of him.) The second was after her Demon Blood Bond with Dean. The third was after her Demon Blood Bond with Cas, which had led to her being held captive by Lucifer, and her pregnancy with Jack.
This time was worse. Ember barely ate, cried constantly, and slept only with Castiel's assistance.
These people, all of them, had been her friends. She and her friends had brought them to this world from the Apocalypse World in search of a better life, and weapons, and perhaps even a way to kill Michael. Instead they had met death at Michael's hands.
"They died facing him," Castiel told her the day after Michael's death, "in the battle where he met his demise. That's how they'd have wanted to go."
"You don't know that," Ember told him.
Two days after Michael's death, Castiel brought proof. He had messages from Heaven from all six of the fallen Apocalypse World survivors, which he relayed to Ember, Jack, and Krissy. Sam, Dean, and Eileen were also listening on speaker phone, as Dean and Sam had both joined Eileen on her hunt the day after Michael's death.
Of the fallen Apocalypse World survivors, Shuana and Nathan reported that they were together in Heaven, and had found happiness. Trevor, Xu, Jackson, and Maggie all requested that their souls be brought over to the Heaven in Apocalypse World.
"We can do that now," Castiel reminded the group. "The survivors who want to can go back." He looked at Jack. "You can provide enough archangel grace to get them back to the other side."
"We can open a portal one more time," said Sam, "and send back the survivors that want to go, and the souls of those that died on this side."
"We should give them a few days to make plans," said Eileen. "We can do it this weekend, or next weekend, whenever everyone is free."
None of the six fallen Apocalypse World survivors blamed Ember, and yet it barely lessened the blame she placed on herself. "Dean only remembers certain portions of being possessed," Ember said to Castiel one night. "But I remember everything. He couldn't silence me the way he could've if I were human. I watched everything in vivid color, I just couldn't stop it."
It wasn't just the death of the Apocalypse World survivors that was making Ember miserable, however. She worried constantly about the state of Jack's soul. Krissy had reported that he didn't seem any different than usual, but she knew that Castiel suspected differently.
Between the deaths of the survivors and her worry about her son, Ember was having a very difficult time. In fact, the only strength she'd regained by the second day after Michael's death had been what little it took to hide the dark recesses of her mind when she allowed Castiel to sift through it.
Castiel had always been gracious in his understanding that humans have private thoughts and doubts. From the first time he had entered her mind during their relationship, he had taught her how to wall off the thoughts she didn't want him to hear. She knew he could break through some (but not all) of her barriers if he wanted to, but he had always respected her privacy. By the first day after Michael's death, Ember once again gathered the strength to put her deepest, darkest thoughts back behind the wall where they belonged, as they would only burden Castiel anyway. She often thought, for example, that she should simply let the Empty take her… but Castiel didn't need to know that.
For now, this was the only strength she had.
TWO WEEKS LATER
Castiel hadn't been there for Ember during any of the previous occasions when she had felt this miserable, but he was fairly certain none of these previous occasions had ever lasted this long. It had been two weeks, and Ember was visibly thinner. She looked drawn and nearly anorexic, and she rarely smiled. She was never in the mood for sex, and he had stopped approaching the subject. She still needed his help to sleep each night, and when she slept he often had to help control her dreams.
Ember went back to work less than a week after Michael's death, and she at least seemed happy while she was working. During the evenings, however, she was still withdrawn and morose.
Sam wasn't fairing much better. The survivors had been his friends, his charges, and Castiel could tell from his demeanor that he felt responsible for them as much as Ember did. The night after Michael's death, Castiel had heard screaming, and rushed down to the dungeons to find Noah the gorgon in no less than eight pieces. Sam had been standing over him with a blade, crying.
Castiel had flown Eileen back from her hunt in Missouri to help Sam, because he'd had his hands full with Ember. He hadn't seen Sam since then, as he and Dean had been on three back-to-back hunts. Castiel knew that this was Sam's way of coping. Krissy, Ember, Jack, and Castiel had been taking turns answering the phone calls, doing emergency research, and helping out the hunter network by doing whatever Sam couldn't do remotely.
On Wednesday, two weeks after Michael's death, Dean, Sam, and Eileen finally returned to the bunker.
"How's Ember, and the kid?" Dean asked when Castiel ran into him in the bunker kitchen.
Castiel shook his head. "Ember's miserable, but she's trying to put on a good show. And Jack… he says he's good, but..." Castiel shook his head and sighed. "What about Sam?"
Dean shook his head. "He says he's fine," Dean said. "But I think he's full of crap."
Sam poked his head into the room. "Found us a case," he said. "Arkansas. Eileen's gonna sit this one out, though. She says she'll take over the phones."
Dean looked shocked and annoyed. "We've just done three back-to-back Hunts. I need some rest. At least a night. We both do."
"Yeah, well I'm leaving in ten," Sam shot back, leaving the room.
"Like I said, not good," Dean grumbled.
"Maybe I should go with him," Castiel said. "Ember can come too. She mentioned a couple of days ago that a hunt might do her good. She can take clients remotely. Would you mind keeping an eye on Jack for a couple of days?"
Dean gave a noncommittal noise and a raised eyebrow.
"He's struggling," Castiel admitted. "We don't know how much of his soul he burned off in that fight. And he looks up to you. And you've seen this before, remember?"
Dean sighed. "How could I forget? But I was - I was not great with Sam when he was…" Dean trailed off.
"But Jack's soul isn't completely gone," Castiel said. "At least I don't think so. We just don't know how much is left. Just keep an eye on him for a couple of days, and then we'll all meet back up and send everyone back to Apocalypse World."
This hunt was definitely not like any hunt Ember had ever been on before. The town was very picturesque. It was called Charming Acres, and reminded Ember of Pleasantville. Everyone greeted each other brightly, and everyone was in a very good mood. And the milkshakes were wonderful.
And the people were happy… they were all happy…
A man from Charming Acres called Conrad Martin had stepped into a gas station two days before, and his head had reportedly "went all Scanners." They had had to remove the ceiling tiles at the gas station because they had been covered in bloody bits.
By the end of the first day, however, the only thing Sam, Ember, and Castiel were able to discover was that Conrad had been receiving love letters from Sunny, a waitress at Harrington's. Harrington's was a popular local restaurant which made amazing milkshakes. While they were there, they had met the mayor, Chip Harrington. He acknowledged that the town was "a bit old-fashioned… people who live here – well, we take care of each other." Still, by the end of the first day, there was nothing overly suspicious outside of the creepy "Pleasantville" feel of the town at large.
Oddly, for the first time since she had arrived, Ember was in a decent mood. She really shouldn't have waited two weeks to go on a hunt – this had obviously done her a world of good. She, Sam, and Castiel even joined the owner of the Inn, Ms. Dowling, for a pot roast dinner. And, for the first time in two weeks, she didn't ask for Castiel's help to put her to sleep…
Something was calling to her in her mind, a happy song. Maybe it was the pot roast, or the milkshakes, or how happy everyone was in this town… clearly everyone here understood something she didn't. Just as she did every night, Ember kissed Castiel goodnight and closed her eyes.
Just as she went to sleep, she had a brief notion that perhaps there was something odd about how happy she felt. Ember immediately silenced her doubts. For the first time since Michael's death, she didn't feel as though she was drowning in waves of depression. She could have this night of happiness in this odd town, perhaps, and tomorrow she would investigate it further. Then, for the first time since Michael's death, Ember gave herself over to the song, and finally let herself be… happy…
All was peaceful with Ember and Sam, so once they were asleep, Castiel popped in to check on Jack and Dean. He ended up having an unusually long conversation with Dean, then returned back to Charming Acres and hung out at the police station, invisible. That was how he found out about Mr. Smith. This death was the same as the one before – the man's head had exploded, but Castiel could gather no clue as to how or why.
By the time the policemen's conversations ran cold, it was past time for him to return to Ember and Sam.
When Castiel arrived in the room they'd rented the night before, he was shocked to see that Ember was gone. Sam was gone from his room as well, and neither of them were answering their phones. The owner of the inn, Mrs. Dowling, said that Sam and Ember had gone to get a milkshake, so Castiel decided to go back to the milkshake place, Harrington's. However, nobody at Harrington's knew where they were.
Castiel sighed and extended his angel powers until he could sense Ember. Sam was with her; he could sense both of them, though Ember's demon (and angel) attraction powers drew him like a beacon. When he flew to her location, he was surprised to find that the address matched up with the one he'd been given for Mr. Smith, the man who had died the previous night. Perhaps Sam and Ember had awakened early and gotten a head start on the investigation then.
Castiel knocked on the door, only half-interested.
Ember answered the door.
Castiel's mouth dropped open. Ember was wearing a yellow floral dress that looked like something straight out of a 50's catalog. Her hair was curled and put up into a bun, and she was wearing a sunny smile. An apron was tied around her waist.
"Oh! Agent!" said Ember. "I'm Cindy Smith. Please come in!"
"Ember," Castiel said insistently. He almost tripped over his own feet as he came into the house. "What are you doing?"
"Well I was about to make martini's!" Ember said, still smiling. "Would you like one?"
"Honey? Is something wrong?" said Sam's voice.
Sam was wearing glasses, and his hair was pinned back to the back of his head. He wore slacks and sweater-vest, and also had a kind smile. "Oh, hi, there," he said kindly. "Justin. Justin Smith. And you are?"
"Your partner!" Castiel hissed. "Ember! What's going on? You don't even like martinis!"
Ember and Sam gave each other a confused look. "Well, everyone likes a good martini, Agent…"
"Castiel!" Castiel exclaimed. "Your fiancé?"
Ember looked at Sam with slight fear in her eyes, and Castiel's heart slid to his stomach.
Sam leaned over to Ember. "Cindy, why don't you go grab the bread you baked last night? I think Agent Castiel might need something to help him sober up a bit."
"I'm not drunk!" Castiel exclaimed desperately. "And you don't bake!"
Ember turned back toward the kitchen, and Sam turned back to Castiel. "I think you may be confused," he said firmly, "But I cannot allow you to talk to my wife like that."
Panic fought its way to the surface, and Castiel stomped it back down. He changed tact. "Your name is Sam Winchester, and that's Ember Nelson!" he said firmly. "Sam, I don't know what's happened. I don't know if this is a spell or a curse or - or what's happened, but you will snap the hell out of it!"
"Sir, you watch your mouth," Sam hissed, towering over him. "If we cannot remain civil, then you can skedaddle."
"Sam –…" Castiel protested.
"That's not my name!" Sam said determinedly, putting his arm around Castiel and marching him toward the door. "Cindy, grab his hat!"
"I don't wear a hat!" Castiel yelled, frustrated.
"Honey, I don't think he wore a hat!" said Ember's voice from the kitchen.
"Fine!" yelled Sam, depositing Castiel on his doorstep. "Sir, using language like, uh, 'H-E-double hockey sticks'…" Sam waggled a finger at him. "You should have your mouth washed out with soap."
"Sam -…" Castiel tried again.
"It's Justin!" said Sam, and he slammed the door in Castiel's face.
Castiel immediately flew into Justin and Cindy Smith's home, invisible.
"What was wrong with him?" asked Ember, who was grabbing ingredients out of the cabinet.
"Just a little drunk," said Sam, putting his hand on her shoulder comfortably. "I'm sure it's nothing. Are you still planning on making the lasagna for dinner?"
"Sure!" said Ember happily. "I know it's your favorite, sweetie."
Castiel wanted to vomit. Screw this. He laid his hand on Ember's shoulder and transported her back to the bunker.
"Agent!" Ember screamed. "What in tarnation-…"
Castiel kissed her. He thought briefly of when he was being mind controlled by Naomi, and Ember kissed him to snap him out of it.
Ember relaxed against him, her body going limp, and he released her, afraid of what he might find.
Ember blinked. "Cas… Castiel?"
He hugged her. "Ember."
"What happened?" she asked. Then her face fell. Castiel could tell she had remembered Michael's death. It looked like she was holding back tears.
"We have to go back," Castiel told her firmly in an effort to distract her. "We have to get Sam out of there."
"Won't I be effected again?" she said softly. Castiel could tell that she half-hoped she would fall under the spell of Charming Acres once again.
Castiel put his hand on her forehead, sending his angel powers into her mind. It was, as usual, the most wonderful feeling, but he had to stay focused. He found her experiences in Charming Acres, and knew immediately what had happened. The control felt very similar to a psychic he used to know named Fred…
"You were under the control of a very strong psychic," he explained. "Avoid the oddly happy feelings this time…" He looked at her sadly. "I know you've been having a bad time of it lately but… Ember, that's not real happiness. It's false, and your mind will fight it if you don't encourage it."
Ember looked down guiltily.
"We'll discuss it later," Castiel said. "But just as your demon blood will resist the mind control on its own if you don't invite it in, your mind also won't allow this psychic to explode your brain."
Ember nodded. "I can't lose you again," she whispered, "And I can't lose Jack and Krissy." She seemed to steel herself. "Okay."
The psychic turned out to be Chip, the town mayor. His daughter, Sunny, was also a psychic, and she sided with Castiel and overpowered her father's psychic control.
Ember and Castiel flew home from Charming Acres as soon as the danger had abated, leaving Sam to tidy up. Ember began to cry the moment they reached their bedroom. "I'm sorry Cas," she said. "I just… I wanted to… forget… for awhile."
"I know," said Castiel. "I know how upset you've been. But Ember, those deaths were not your fault!"
"I know that Cas," Ember said. "That's… that's not the problem. I mean, it's part of the problem, but… I just keep seeing them die, over and over and over again…" She steeled herself. "Can you erase the memories? Please? You're well enough now. I want… I want them gone."
Castiel sighed. "I can try. I'll leave the knowledge of what happened and remove the memories. That's… that's what you want, correct?"
Ember sighed. "Yes."
Inside Ember's mind
The scene was frozen. Ember, possessed by Michael, stood over the dead bodies. Jackson and Trevor, hunched over the table, bleeding from the head. Nathan, Shauna, and Xu, lying near the stairs. Maggie, with her eyes burned out, lying dead on the floor, a scream frozen on her lips.
Ember – the Ember looking over the scene with Castiel – hid her face in his lapels.
"I will erase this memory," Castiel told her. "But only this one. And you will still have the knowledge of what happened."
Ember nodded into his shirt.
A few seconds went by. "Is it working? It's not working, is it?"
A few more seconds went by. A horrible, sickening fear arose in Ember's stomach.
Suddenly, Ember felt, than saw, the scene change. Ember peaked out from Castiel's coat, and saw her normal "forest background." It was the usual layout that Ember chose when exploring her mind with Castiel; an odd mix of the Amazon rainforest and Hobbiton, the hobbit town from "Lord of the Rings."
Castiel sighed, pulling her onto a nearby bench. "Ember, you're resisting my powers. But it's not the demonic nature of your mind, not anymore. It's your soul."
Ember looked at him, surprised. "But – that's impossible! I don't want to feel - …"
Castiel raised his eyebrows. "Do you think you deserve these memories?"
Ember squirmed uncomfortably. "I know it wasn't my-…"
"Your soul will call upon your natural resistance to shield your mind from my powers unless you truly want them erased," Castiel said gently. "And each time I try, all I feel is your guilt."
Ember sighed, looking at Castiel carefully. "I said 'yes', Cas," she whispered. "I knew he would kill everyone, and I-…"
The scenery changed again, this time to Ember's memory of Michael's proposition: "Then I'll possess the red-headed witch. I can use her 300 years of magic, and burn your world even faster."
"You prayed to me," said Castiel. "I couldn't have come any faster. No one could have done more. Michael did what he did. And no choice that you made could have stopped those deaths. I truly believe this. But for me to erase these memories, you must forgive yourself."
The scene changed once again to the dead bodies, frozen. Ember shivered. She had done everything she could…
And then, the scene faded away into blackness.
Castiel smiled to himself. Ember was asleep, and would probably sleep at least another day. Erasing those memories had been taxing on her mind, though he was sure it would leave no permanent damage. Her mind was now more peaceful than it had been since Michael's death.
Castiel stopped outside Jack's door, hearing talking. He peered inside.
Jack was talking to his pet snake, the snake that used to belong to Noah the Gorgon. "Cas says you miss your friend," Jack whispered to it. "You need help. Sam and Dean would help you, so - so I'll help you. I'll help you see your friend again. In Heaven."
As Castiel watched, horror-struck, Jack turned the snake to ash.
Ember felt weak. The memory removal had truly sapped her strength. Her head felt like lead, and she couldn't wait to go back to sleep. It felt as though she hadn't slept in weeks, not properly.
Ember knew what Castiel had done, and she was glad she had asked him to do it. She remembered everything surrounding the memories of Michael's death, all the way until she said "yes", but the actual memories of her possession by Michael were gone. Without faces of the dead constantly on repeat in her mind, it was easier for Ember to understand that she couldn't have done anything differently.
Now, she simply wanted to sleep. Unfortunately, she had made Castiel promise to awaken her to watch the individuals from Apocalypse World return.
Charlie had been chosen to lead the expedition back into Apocalypse World. "There's only room here for one of us," she told Sam and Dean sadly. "And your world already has a Charlie." She smiled. "I need to get back to my side. If I die here, on this side, I'll never see the love of my life, Kara, again."
Of the twenty survivors that had come through the rift from Apocalypse World (in addition to Charlie and Bobby), only thirteen were still living. Of those, eight wanted to return to Apocalypse World. Like Charlie, these eight had family that they wanted to see again, either still living or possibly in Heaven. Ember knew that Castiel also planned to send four of the souls that had died at Michael's hand back to Apocalypse World as well, to be with their loved ones in their Heaven back home.
There was a party (which Ember slept through half of) and laughter, and tears. Bobby sought her out shortly after she woke up. "Shame you can't come with me," he said casually, raising his eyebrows.
"Shame you can't go back," she said teasingly, but they both understood why it had to be this way.
"Probably only room for one of me in Heaven on this side," Bobby said, smiling.
Ember laughed. "For what it's worth, I'll miss you," she said.
"For what it's worth," he responded, "I'd've been proud to call you my daughter, demon or no."
"Thanks, Bobby," Ember said, touched.
Jack created a beautiful rift, stronger and brighter even than the one Lucifer and Rowena had created the previous year.
Charlie disappeared through the rift with a wave, and the other survivors after her. Ember was just getting drowsy when Jack said sternly, "Something's wrong."
"What?" Ember said groggily.
"Something's fighting to get back through."
"Is it one of the survivors?" asked Sam fearfully.
"I'm not sure," said Jack. "Here, I'll let-…"
Jack raised his hand, and the rift exploded.
One lone figure appeared in the bunker, and then the rift stuttered and disappeared.
Ember felt her mouth drop open. It was Ember… but it wasn't.
This version of Ember was covered from head to toe in dirt. She was skinny, almost emaciated. She wore a tanktop that might have once been a dress, and might have once been pink, but was now neither of those things. Her jeans were torn so that only one leg was covered, and the leg that was showing was covered in burns and ugly gashes. She was missing two fingers from her left hand. Her hair was pulled back close to her head and matted, and there were large bruises on her neck.
Her eyes were yellow.