"Demon-possessed?" Lucy Mitchell Williams echoed incredulously.
"Yes, ma'am," Cam Mitchell replied, glad that they were out of earshot of the rest of the people at Brady's wake. "That's what Sam said. There was... there was some really bad stuff in his office, Aunt Lucy. Blood magic. Looked like he'd killed a man just before he disappeared, and it probably wasn't the first time."
"I don't know." Cam sighed. "All I know for sure is that the person responsible is dead, and whoever killed Brady made sure that demon couldn't hurt anybody else. That's why the body was burned."
Burned beyond even the SGC's ability to recover and identify, in fact, and the casket they'd just buried was empty—but he wouldn't tell her that.
"How on earth did Sam find out about all this?"
"He and Brady ran into each other the other day. Sam's... well, he's kind of a specialist in these things. He recognized the signs."
"Well, why didn't he exorcise him?"
"Couldn't. It was trapped; the only way to get it out was to kill Brady. And Sam..." Cam paused, wavering between a partial truth and an outright lie before opting for the former. "Sam said Brady didn't deserve that."
Aunt Lucy sniffled and dabbed at her eyes before taking a deep breath and squaring her shoulders. "Well. I'm glad he told you, and I thank you for telling me. Now we won't be lying when we say it wasn't our son that was behind that awful scheme his company had."
Cam gave her a hug and watched as she walked back toward the crowd to greet other mourners. And he wondered, not for the first time, whether he could have done something to save Brady from whatever had happened to him that Christmas. He'd been so busy with the F-302 program, he hadn't even made it home for the holidays; he hadn't even known Brady was struggling until Aunt Lucy came to see him in the hospital after he was shot down in Antarctica. Would things have been different if he'd taken that time off?
And what kind of hero was he if he saved the galaxy several times over but couldn't even save his own cousin?
"It doesn't work like that in this reality," said a voice behind him, making him jump and reach for a gun that wasn't there. He turned to see Gabriel regarding him soberly.
"Don't do that," said Cam, glad he hadn't shot the so-called angel by mistake.
"I'm serious, Cameron. Sam told you the truth; Brady's only mistake, if you could call it that, was being Sam's friend. Azazel wanted Sam forced back into hunting, so if his henchman hadn't been able to snare Brady, he would have possessed somebody else with the same result. The only thing that would have kept Brady safe was an anti-possession charm or a tattoo like the Winchesters have—and considering how long it took them to work out the tattoo idea, I don't think anyone in your family would have been on the lookout for anything of the kind."
Cam sighed. "No, we wouldn't. But I loved that kid, Gabriel. He was one of my favorite cousins. And now, it feels like... like..."
"The end of the world. Because it is, if Sam fouls things up in Detroit."
Cam frowned. "Detroit?"
"Next Wednesday, the boys try to throw my brother back in his box."
"Sorry. Not even the President has that kind of clearance."
"Does Gen. O'Neill know?"
"Only that much. No more. Col. Carter's planning to give them some technical help."
"What else can we do?"
Gabriel looked him in the eye, said "Pray" flatly, and vanished, leaving Cameron Mitchell, a man who'd faced down what he'd thought were the worst monsters in four galaxies and lived, thoroughly unnerved.
To Be Continued in
Tok'ra Apocalypse Part 3:
For Love Is Strong as Death