Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue.
Author's Note: At long last, the much asked for continuation of the events that began with 'Forever Meets the Dying Girl', in which you'll get to know our girl Azrael and some of her agenda. Some of this won't make much sense if you haven't also read FMtDG's prequel, 'The Boy on the Shore'. Now, have at it.
The Brave Don't Run
When the cavalry comes,
You'll find us looking for a reason,
To show you the brave don't run,
'Cavalry', Midnight Youth
Exactly fifteen minutes before she stopped being Jo Harvelle, Dean Winchester put a doorbell detonator in her hand and kissed her goodbye.
Fourteen minutes before she stopped being Jo Harvelle, he put his forehead against hers and pushed the silver ring from his right ring finger and into the hand that wasn't clasping that damned detonator.
Thirteen minutes before she stopped being Jo Harvelle, he closed her trembling fingers over that ring and silently stepped away.
No one saw it. No one knew.
But when she stopped being Jo Harvelle and started being the vessel of Azrael, she still hand that silver ring.
Paris, France; September, 2009
In the V created by two steel girders a pair of figures winked into existence.
If anyone had been listening, they might have caught the whisper of wings, the rush and shush of shifting feathers.
Anna let herself relax back against one of the girders, Jesse bundled up in his new winter coat in her arms, round baby cheeks faintly bitten in the crisp cold. It was autumn here and the wind cut like a knife, catching Anna's hair and flying it in a banner of red, whipping Jesse's back and forth over his forehead. It had grown a great deal over the past few months and lightened from almost black to warm brown. Anna smiled, brushing it back from his face as he grinned and took in the city laid out before them.
"It looks so big," he said. "There's so much of it…but from up here everything's so small…hey, what's that big stone thing?"
"The Arc de Triomphe? It's a monument, for all the soldiers who died in all the big wars. You remember we went to the museum last time we were here? And you saw the painting of Napoleon?"
"Well, that arc was originally built to honor all the soldiers who fought in his war, but underneath it there's also a grave from the First World War. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier."
He leant back, resting his head on her shoulder. "And they really don't know who he was?"
"No." She pressed a small kiss to his temple and spoke into his hair. "But they still honored him. Because he fought for his country, for his people. Because he fought to protect them. Because he died for love of them. He's not the only one either; there are monuments to unknown soldiers all over the world. We've got three at home in the States."
"When it's all over, will there be a monument for everyone who fights in this war?"
Anna was silent for a moment. Jesse tilted his head back to look at her. His eyes were the same deep blue they'd always been, earnest and inevitably sad somehow.
"I don't know, Jes," she told him softly. "But you know what?"
"If there isn't one, we'll put one up. How's that sound?"
He smiled, the light coming back into his face. She loved it when he smiled. When Jesse Turner smiled, he was just a little boy. Just a happy eight-year-old without deadly danger and the weight of existence resting on his small, still-growing shoulders.
"Awesome," he said, and Anna smiled back.
"What're you thinking of for breakfast?" she asked.
"Umm…" He frowned a bit, always willing to put serious thought into food. "Pancakes?"
She smiled. "My favorite."
Half a second later, a tourist blinked as two figures disappeared from their perch amidst the beams of the Eiffel Tower.
The café lay on the outskirts of the city. Small, exclusive, it sat across the road from a small park of which there was a particularly nice view from the upper outdoor terrace.
Jesse and Anna were checking their coats and about to be lead away to a table when the maître d' approached them.
Anna started, and she was aware of Jesse freezing beside her, small hand clutching hers.
"Oui," she murmured, caution and fear filling her up in a contrary rush, the two instincts – one level-headed, the other blind and hectic – at immediate war with each other. Her angel's grace and human soul battling in reaction.
"Ah, bien." The maître d' smiled, clasping her slender hands together. "Vous êtes attendus. Par ici, s'il vous plaît."
They were expected…? Human fear began to win.
The moment the woman turned her back, Anna looked down at Jesse, opening her mouth to tell him to –
A frisson of recognition made its way up her spine.
Anna froze, breath rasping in her throat.
"Anna?" Jesse said, tugging on her hand. "What is it?"
She frowned, looking over to where the maître d' was standing by the stairs, waiting for them with a look for professional patience on her perfectly made-up face.
That feeling again; like a peel of bells or piano notes.
Of the Archangels Lucifer had always been the singer, but the musician of the family, that could only be…
"It's okay," she told Jesse. She smiled down at him. "It's okay."
He frowned a bit, looking up at the terrace where the maître d' was trying to lead them.
"Who is that?" he asked.
"A friend," she murmured, following his gaze.
Leaning over the railing off the terrace, looking down at them, was a short man in expensive shirtsleeves and a waistcoat of blue shot silk. His shoes were patent leather and very shiny. Standing at his ankle was a dog. Instead of the well-groomed, elegant creature one might expect for someone with such shiny, shiny shoes, there was a somewhat scruffy black and white terrier with half a tail.
The terrier yipped happily at them, and the man smiled.
"Hello, Anna," he said softly, though both Anna and Jesse heard him perfectly.
"Hello, Gabriel," she said just as softly. "Long time no see."
The ring swung on its silver chain and tapped gently against her upper sternum every time she took a step down the neatly paved side street. Hanging baskets swung on their lamppost brackets in the breeze, their motion a counterpoint to the leaves blowing in whirling dervishes down the footpath.
Paris, as it had always been, was picturesque this time of year.
Azrael felt Jo's warm, tickling joy as she took in the sights and smells with angelic clarity. She'd never been overseas, her vessel silently explained, and so everywhere they went over an ocean was somewhere new to her. Azrael, having seen just about everything at just about every stage of its existence, found this newness intriguing. It was almost renewing to be party to such a feeling.
She smiled with Jo's mouth, letting that joy filter through her. She quietly enjoyed the sensations of her heart beating, blood rushing quietly through her system and flushing her cheeks in the expected blush when a handsome man met her gaze. He stood in a doorway, slowly smoking a cigarette and smiled at her, she knew, for no other reason than that she was pretty and slender.
And that my legs look epic in these heels, Jo put in. I mean, really. Have you seen our reflection? Wow.
Azrael's smile widened, though she directed it at the sky as she passed the man, and heard him chuckle low in his throat. The sound seemed to touch Jo, because she shivered in her warm corner of their shared mind-space.
It's just…he sounds kind of like…
There was a mental scramble, and a flurry of confused images. Azrael caught them effortlessly. Dean Winchester looked back at her from the memories, a myriad of expressions to go with Jo's myriad of emotions. And there, the sound of that low laugh that often went with the smile. The small thoughtful one that made her think he saw her, really saw her, and understood.
I don't like him thinking I'm dead and in a thousand and one little charcoal-y pieces when I'm clearly not, Jo said softly. I don't like that he and Sam and Bobby are probably grieving for me, for Mom, and we're both…really not dead.
I know, Jo. But it's not safe for him to know now. We have things to do…
I get that. But at the same time…this is very uncomfortable for me.
For the first time in millennia, Azrael felt a stab of guilt. There was a very good reason Jo was uncomfortable, and it wasn't just her own version of survivor's guilt. But now was not the time for her to know that, just as it wasn't the time for the Winchesters and Co to know that their friends had survived Carthage.
I understand. I promise, I will make this up to you. Just hold tight, Jo, and enjoy the ride for now.
They sighed in unison, and reached up to touch the silver ring as it tapped gently against her upper sternum with every step she took.
He sat alone at the table, a half full glass of orange juice and an unfinished hot chocolate rubbing shoulders with his black coffee.
Azrael smiled and helped herself to a seat.
"Brother," she murmured by way of greeting.
"Fuck a duck," said Gabriel, for once looking genuinely surprised.
Azrael's smile widened and she chuckled. "Fancy meeting you here," she said, feeling pleased.
Gabriel smiled back a little uncertainly, as though unsure of his reception. "Fancy," he murmured. "It's been a while, little sister."
"Mmm, I know."
She helped herself to the unoccupied chair and crossed her legs, taking in the view from the upper terrace. There was a lovely view of the little park across the street from here. She could see a familiar redheaded figure playing tag with a small boy, both being chased by a yapping terrier. It made her smile.
"I trust you've been keeping well." She cut a glance at her big brother briefly. "Although I hear paganism isn't as fun as it used to be."
Gabe cringed. "Yeah, about that…"
She rolled her eyes a little. "You don't need to apologize to me, you know. I get why you did it."
He looked encouraged. "Really?"
She sighed and sat back. "Really. I don't approve mind you. But I get it."
He nodded and sipped what was left of his coffee. A waiter approached and after ordering a mocha latté she turned back to Gabriel.
"So, what exactly are you doing here? Not that I mind, but you kind of crashed my brunch date."
His gaze shifted out to the park, eyes narrowed a little suspiciously. "Your little redheaded friend didn't tell you?"
Azrael smiled. "No. She doesn't know, Gabe, she's not that powerful, and she wouldn't ask Jesse to do something like that."
The archangel raised his eyebrows skeptically. "The squirt can read my mind but his celestial babysitter can't? You sure know how to pick 'em, Az."
She kept smiling, though it was rueful now. "Boy, do I ever. Anyway, the point is that Jesse won't try. Anna's taught him enough that he knows about respecting others. He'll disregard most of it to protect his loved ones, of course, but then most people would."
Gabriel was tense. Her tone was maybe a little to blithe for his liking. "The difference is he has the unlimited power to back it up, Azrael. He's dangerous."
"And so are we." She regarded him contemplatively. "Where have all these morals sprung from all of a sudden. You used to glory in human sin. What happened?"
Her brother looked nettled now. Caught in a way he couldn't get out of, despite his own prodigious powers.
"The Winchesters happened," he muttered through nearly clenched teeth.
There was a pause, in which Azrael tried to contain herself, and failed.
The laughter bubbled up out of her and she clamped one hand over her mouth to keep it back…but to no avail. Gabe glared at her across the table.
"You could at least pretend to be sympathetic," he snapped.
"Hell no," she gasped. "Oh, wow. Oh, that is just…" She caught the look on his face, his features twisting. "Oh. They really got to you, didn't they?"
He griped under his breath for a bit, but eventually admitted a soft, "Yeah. Bastards."
"Is it really that bad?" she asked gently, still smiling.
Gabe looked truculent. "Every time I meet them, the two of them manage to fuck stuff up. This time they managed to fuck me up –" He cut himself off and clenched one hand where it lay on the spotless white tablecloth.
"How?" Azrael asked, her voice low and soft.
He cut a glance at her. "I've never told anyone about what happened…you know, at home…but I told those two. Had a real vent. I wanted them to do it, Az, I wanted both of them to give it up and say yes to those two great assholes we call brothers and just get it over with…"
"But they wouldn't."
He shook his head. "No. They wouldn't. They just…man, you should've heard what came out of Dean Winchester's mouth."
Azrael felt Jo stir faintly from her half-sleep at mention of the elder Winchester.
"'This isn't about some prize fight between your brothers or some destiny that can't be stopped. This is about you being too afraid to stand up to your family.'" Gabe quoted. "I swear, I coulda ripped his head off about then if I hadn't been feeling so shitty."
Sounds like Dean, Jo said quietly from her corner of the headspace. He never told us about that…
"I mean, how do they do it, Azri?" the Arc continued. "How do they muck it all up? We had it all figured. This was going to happen, had been planned out a prophesied for freaking forever…and then BAM! Hellooo, Winchesters! Its like every angel they come in contact with gets their screws wound."
She raised an eyebrow at him, inviting him to elaborate. "How so?"
"Oh, please, like you don't know," he scoffed, by this point in full swing. "Castiel's been questioning the order of the world since just about the moment he met Dean; Anna went rogue for the pair of them; Uriel's dead; Castiel died, came back, and still wants to hang out with them…and have you seen Raphael lately?"
"Exactly! No one has! Not for weeks! Whatever they did to him, no one can find him, not even other Arcs!" He threw up his hands. "And despite all this, I still want to help the little bastards save their miserable species! What the fuck, Azri!?"
Azrael rested her chin in one palm and said guilelessly, "Well, they're very personable."
Gabriel's face dropped flat and his lips pursed in one of those, 'oh, come on' looks that he had always done so well. "Personable? Really?"
She felt her mouth – Jo's mouth – twitch with the desire to grin and laugh again. "Well, they are. It's why Jo likes them," she added. "And I have to agree."
Gabe smirked. "Ah, yes. While we're on the subject of vessels…this bit of blonde fluff you're riding around – Jo – I know her from somewhere, don't I?"
Azrael shrugged. She could guess where he'd caught a whiff of Jo's presence from. And sure enough…
"She knows the Winchesters, doesn't she?" Gabriel guessed. He narrowed his eyes. "I can see it now; she's got 'Dean' written all over her –"
Azrael looked up at him sharply, sending him a soft and silent, Watch it, that Jo completely missed.
Gabe pulled up and stared at her, perplexed and a little wary.
"She's his friend," Azrael said, by way of explanation.
"His 'friend'," her big brother repeated carefully. "Well, then, I'll bet he's real impressed about you whisking her away and out from under his…nose."
Her mocha arrived at that moment, and Azrael took a slow sip before she answered.
"You know the conditions of my taking a vessel," she murmured levelly, not looking up.
Gabriel was silent for a moment while that sunk in.
"Fuck," he said finally. "He doesn't know, does he? Dean Winchester doesn't know you've taken her, he probably thinks she's dead…oh fuck!"
She looked back up at him. He was sitting back in his chair, just looking at her, faintly disbelieving. She raised her eyebrows at him in a silent question.
"That was you," he said, more of a statement than a question. "That was you that came down in Carthage. I felt that."
She sighed and shook her head a little. "My involvement in this disaster is a little less noble than yours, brother," she told him. "What you felt wasn't just me finding my vessel…it was the Horseman rising –"
"And in doing so knocking you clean off your perch. Well, shit." He smirked again. "You're right; revenge isn't very noble a motive at all. Although," he added, "I do know the conditions of you taking a vessel…and I know you of all our brethren can't do it selfishly."
He reached across the table and took her hand, giving it a squeeze. She offered him a small, thankful smile.
"I knew there was a reason you've always been my favorite."
Gabe chuckled. "Yeah, 'cause I'm a real softy deep down."
She watched him contemplatively, tucking her hand around his. "What will you do, Gabe?" she asked quietly. "The world's waiting for you…"
He looked up at her. She looked steadily back.
"It's our world, too, you know. That's what the others never understood. It's our world too."
Gabe shook his head. "What am I supposed to do, Az? Go against our brothers and sisters? They're our family…"
"Then why aren't they acting like a family?" Azrael countered sharply. "Giving up, taking their rage out on humanity; it's childish, Gabe. Petty and childish, and in doing so they've unleashed an apocalypse."
"One that was always going to happen, Azrael, you know that."
"Yes, but not now!" she insisted. "Not like this! This is cruel, Gabe, far too cruel. The vessels of Lucifer and Michael were meant to be raised to it, not sabotaged and coerced." She shook her head. "I won't stand for it, and you shouldn't either."
He scowled. "And what would you have me do? Fly my banner? Raise an army?" The sarcasm was thick enough to walk on, but she just laughed it off.
"No, dipstick, not at all." She smirked. "You're out of practice for one thing…"
She reached over and touched her fingertips to his temple. Music hummed through the air between them. Café patrons turned their heads, wondering at the golden notes hovering on the cusp of mortal hearing.
"…but there's still magic in the music," Azrael finished, dropping her hand.
Gabriel looked a little shaken. "I haven't composed…played…in centuries."
"And the world is weaker for it." She smiled at him. "Its time to get back on the horse, big brother. Its time to be brave."
She leant forward, eyes glinting copper in the sunlight.
"The brave don't run."
He sighed, as though feeling something settle within him. As though feeling something come right. He nodded, then met her eyes.
"But what'll you do, little sister?" he asked, that faintly sardonic light coming back as he recovered himself.
She smirked and sipped her coffee.
"Well, I happen to still have the Scythe…"
Gabriel's jaw nearly hit the table it dropped so fast. "You what?" he sputtered.
Azrael giggled, unable to help herself. "Oh, calm down, Gabe, honestly."
And he did, but stared at her almost warily, much like he had earlier and said quietly, "How?"
She shrugged. "I'm very clever. And I was the first to get to a vessel when it came down to the wire. That skinny asshole never stood a chance," she finished on a growl.
"I see." He cast an assessing look over her. "I see. So, Baby Sis has the biggest stick in the valley, a blonde filly for a pale horse and a bone to pick with the Grim Reaper." Her brother raised his eyebrows at her. "What's Baby Sis going to do with it all?"
She smiled the kind of smile that man brave men and heroes quake in their well-heeled boots. Gabriel was delighted.
"I'm going to do what I do best," she told him. "I'm going to wake the dead."
Jesse watched as the blonde woman left the terrace where Gabriel still sat. The archangel kissed her hand before she went, and she kissed his cheek in return. Moments later she emerged from the café's front door and stepped down onto the street.
Then she turned her eyes on him, and Jesse was fixed in place.
He crowded shyly into Anna's side. Even from across the street, he saw the coppery light in the blonde woman's eyes, and knew she was other, like he was. Something familiar, like Julia was. An angel, like Gabriel and Anna.
When he looked up at his friend's face, she was watching the blonde angel calmly, an almost smile curling her mouth. This one was an old friend too.
He felt her in is his mind, like he had felt Anna when she rescued him.
I know you, he told her.
Yes, Jesse and I know you. He saw her smile a little. Say thank you to Anna for me…
Then she was gone, leaving behind the sound of beating wings and a dusting of snow across the pavement.
Windom, Minnesota, USA; September 2009
It was night here, the wind cool through the trees where the ashes lay, though Jo didn't mind it.
The remains of a pyre could be seen by the bare starlight; charred wood and brittle bone fragments burnt beyond hope of recognition.
But it was all that was needed. There could have been only dust enough to cover a postage stamp, and even that would have worked.
Azrael took in the small clearing littered with fallen leaves at a glance and drew William Anthony Harvelle's knife from the inner pocket of her black pea coat. The merger light caught on the polished iron blade, showing up those familiar initials.
In the warm dark of the mind-space, Jo felt memories flicker over her; her father's eyes lit with a smile, the smell of his jacket and his laugh. She saw his hands upon the keys of the piano and heard the notes as they filled the bar room at the Roadhouse. She felt the grip of the knife as she lifted it from the box in the attic, the tears as they crawled thick and angry down her face.
Azrael held it in her left hand, and with her right drew the Scythe.
It emerged easily from nowhere, her hand empty one moment, then filled with a length of ancient yew taller than she was the next. Arcing over her head was the curving scythe-blade itself, easily the length of her outstretched arm and as wide at its base. It was iron, like Bill's knife, but the Enochian etched into its chine was filled with bright, untarnished copper, and the sharp edge – the beard – was plated with it. Copper plugged the hollow knots in the Scythe's gnarled shaft and sat in shining lines about its bound leather grip.
Azrael turned it sideways in a slow, fluid movement, and set Bill's knife into the hollowed slot in its foot, so that only the little iron blade protruded. It fitted perfectly.
She took one final glance around the clearing. Jo felt the angel's satisfaction mingle with her own rising anticipation.
Azrael held the Scythe at arms-length, gripping with both hands.
She raised it to shoulder height, eyes burning copper before they fell shut. The power built up and up.
The foot of the Scythe came down hard, Bill's knife plunging into the cold, unresisting earth. The power whistled loose in a blast that sent the leaf litter flying and blew Jo's hair loose from its pins so that hung briefly like pale wings over her shoulders.
The funeral pyre flamed to life, engulfed in white and copper holy fire that burned without smoke and whispered instead of roaring as it danced. The bone fragments seized and rattled as the flames caught them and spun them, coalescing themselves into the shape of a body, curling and bucking until…
Until there was no more fire and no more ragged bits of bone.
Until there was a boy lying on the remains of the pyre, clad in jeans and a bloodied t-shirt.
Until the last sparks disappeared down between his parted lips, and his chest rose with one great breath.
Azrael grinned, and made her way over to him. He coughed and gasped, sitting unsteadily upright and blinking cloudy green eyes when he saw her outstretched hand in front of his face.
She watched his gaze move up her hand and wrist, past her elbow and shoulder to her face.
When his eyes met hers, she gave him a choice and then helped him to his feet.
"Well, what'll it be?"
Adam Milligan grinned, and moments later the Enochian sigils blazed the colour of new pennies in a scythe-blade arc from his left jaw to right temple.
Azrael smiled. "Good answer."
AN2: So. That happened. Questions? Comments? Hurled abuse?