Courage of Fools

A/N: Hello! I'm so happy you're choosing to read this. This story is the third in my Angel of Truth Cycle, and it would probably help you to read the first two: Little Girl Lost and Where Angels Fear To Tread. This story will probably make a whole lot more sense if you do. This story takes place shortly after the season five episode "Changing Channels." There are spoilers for the entire series up to that point.

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For a moment Sam could almost pretend he was flying. Then reality came crashing back with a vengeance when his forward momentum was violently impeded by a wall. He landed on the ground with a thud and contemplated just staying there, but duty called, so he ignored the bruises he was rapidly amassing and climbed to his feet.

The demons had come out of nowhere. They'd been working on a case another hunter passed on to Bobby, which turned out to be a revenant, but as soon as they decided on a victory beer, they'd been jumped by a whole pack of black-eyed hell spawn.

"Sam, little help here!" Dean rasped. He was pinned to the wall, his own shotgun held across his neck by a female demon. He struggled to push the gun away, to give himself breathing space, but it was doing no good.

Sam swooped down to snatch up the discarded flask of holy water and flung it at the demon attacking Dean. It let him go with a shriek of pain, steam rising from its exposed flesh. Dean retrieved his shotgun, spun it around, and shot the demon in the face with a salt round. Two more demons charged, ready to rip the boys to shreds, but Dean managed to blast one in the chest and Sam emptied the rest of the holy water over the other's head.

"Where the hell is the knife?" Dean demanded as he fumbled to load two more rounds. Sam scanned the floor.

"I dropped it somewhere," he replied shortly, backing away from the group of angry demons. All of them bore salt- or holy water-induced injuries, and they were all as pissed as Hell. "This is gonna suck," he said with a resigned sigh.

"You're telling me," Dean griped, lifting his shotgun to his shoulder. The demons tensed for another onslaught when the air stirred faintly. A girl slid between two of the demons on her knees, a silver sword flashing in her hand as she slashed it across the back of one of the demon's legs. The demon crumpled to the ground with a cry as the girl spun to her feet, slamming her blade through the demon's throat.

The remaining demons descended on the girl with screams of rage but she moved through them like a dancer, spinning, dodging, and striking when it was least expected. She slashed her sword across the throat of one demon, kicking the corpse into a second to send them both sprawling on the floor. A third demon swung a metal bar at her head, but she caught his wrist with her left hand, plunging her sword through his heart.

Before she could pull her blade free, another demon attacked from behind. She kicked out without looking, planting her booted foot in the demon's chest and sending him flying towards the Winchesters. They dodged out of the way, letting the demon land on a table, crushing the wood beneath him.

Sam finally caught sight of the demon-filling knife and snatched it up, pouncing on the demon still lying amid the splintered table. It light up red-purple from the inside when he stabbed it, throwing the shadows of its bones against its skin. When he turned around, the girl was drawing her sword out of the throat of the last demon, letting the corpse fall to her feet. She stood there for a moment, her chest heaving slightly, and looked around the bar.

She wasn't particularly impressive in appearance, being a two inches over five feet and almost painfully thin. Her white-blonde hair fell in wind-blown waves below her shoulders and her skin was incredibly pale, almost sickly, making her dark gray eyes look like empty holes in her otherwise youthful face. She flicked blood from the edge of her sword and slid it up the sleeve of her jacket.

"Hello, Sam. Dean," she greeted in a voice deeper than one would expect from someone so petite.

"Ami," Dean replied, lowering his shotgun. "Long time, no see. Nice timing."

Amitiel, angel of the Lord and recently fallen from Heaven, stepped over the bodies of the demons and walked over to Sam, reaching up to take hold of his chin and turning his head so she could examine the gash on his forehead. "You should be more careful," she told him reprovingly. "You have little concern for your own safety."

"Sorry," Sam replied a little sheepishly. She gave him a little smile and released him, stepping back. "It's, uh, good to see you," Sam went on. Amitiel and Castiel had left shortly after they'd rescued Sam from Zachariah's hit squad and, while Cas had shown up to help them out against the Trickster (Gabriel, actually), this was the first time they'd seen Amitiel since.

Amitiel nodded. "You as well. Though I'm afraid I have some bad news. We need to talk." She looked around. "Preferably somewhere else."

Dean sighed and stowed his shotgun out of sight in his duffel bag. "We can go back to the motel. Come on, the Impala's parked out front."

She nodded again and gestured for them to lead the way. The three of them left the bar. The police hadn't shown up yet, but Sam had no doubt they would, and it would be best if they were gone by then. Amitiel slid into the back seat of the car without being told, settling down in the middle and ignoring the seat belt. Sam glanced at her in the rear view mirror; she was looking back at him. He looked away.

The motel was only a ten-minute drive and Amitiel didn't volunteer any more information on the way, merely gazing solemnly out the windshield. Sam and Dean exchanged uncertain looks but neither of them said anything. Dean because he wasn't that type of person and Sam because things between him and Amitiel had gotten a little...awkward...recently.

The last time they'd spoken, she'd told him she had given him part of her Grace, Marking him so that she could keep track of him: his location, his physical health, even his emotional state. Sam knew it was so she could protect him, but it was a hell of a thing to do without permission.

Once they were in the motel room with the door locked behind them, Amitiel began to pace. Sam took the opportunity to study her. She was wearing different clothes than he'd last seen: a dark red blouse, a khaki jacket, and black jeans. She also looked as if she'd gained a couple of pounds. Both of which meant that Amitiel had been letting Mallory out every once in a while. The first things Mallory always did when she regained control of the body she shared with the angel were to shower, change clothes, and eat something.

"So, you gonna lay it on us?" Dean finally asked. Amitiel stopped pacing and turned to face him, sliding her hands into her back pockets—another gesture she'd learned from the girl whose body she occupied.

"People are dying," she said. "I need your help to stop it."

"We're in the middle of the Apocalypse, Ami," Dean said. "People are dying every day. You need to be more specific."

"David Lloyd, Amanda Carter, Matthew Reid, and Joshua Bishop," Amitiel rattled the names off rapid-fire and gestured to the laptop sitting on the table. "There should be reports on all of them."

Sam and Dean exchanged another look but Sam obediently started up the computer and typed in the names. Dean turned the other chair around, sitting backwards so he could look over his brother's shoulder.

"Holy crap," Sam said a few minutes later, his eyes widening.

"What?" Dean demanded.

"They're all dead," Sam said, and Dean cut him off.

"Yeah, I got that. What's so special about them?"

"Says here they were burned alive in their homes." Sam clicked through another police report. "There was no damage to the houses themselves. No fire." He looked up at the angel. "What's going on, Ami?"

"They're being targeted," she replied shortly. "Killed for a purpose. We need to find out by whom."

"You're sure?" Dean asked, looking from Sam to Amitiel. "How are you sure?"

Amitiel sighed, her shoulders slumping wearily. "Because all of them are vessels, Dean. This cannot be coincidence."

"Vessels," Sam repeated. "Someone's knocking off angel vessels. Okay. Gotta be some demon, right?"

"That is probable," Amitiel replied.

"So you want us to go after some demon with you?" Dean asked, just to be clear. Amitiel nodded, her bangs falling across her eyes. She didn't push them away. "Not to be a smartass or anything, but shouldn't Cas be helping you out with this?" Dean went on.

"Castiel and I decided that one of us should continue the search for our Father at all times," she replied. "Which was why I did not accompany him to investigate your disappearance after Gabriel took you. Though from what Castiel has told me, I'm almost glad I wasn't there." She looked away. "Gabriel and I...never saw eye to eye."

"Yeah," Dean said with a humorless chuckle. "Not to speak badly about your family, but Gabriel's kind of a dick."

"Dean!" Sam muttered sharply, glaring at his older brother. Amitiel looked over at Dean, her expression unreadable.

"All of the archangels are," she deadpanned. "But that is not our present concern. We need to get to Dallas as soon as we can, before the trail gets cold."

"It's gonna be at least a day's drive," Dean said, beginning to pack up their equipment.

Amitiel shook her head. "We don't have that much time."

"If it's all the same to you," Dean replied, "I'd rather not leave my car here for however long this hunt is going to take us."

"That won't be an issue," Amitiel assured him. She shifted her gaze over Dean's shoulder to the window behind Sam. Dean spun around and jumped backwards with a curse. Sam, startled, turned to see what was going on and scrambled to his feet, automatically reaching for the nearby shotgun.

Amitiel gestured to the woman standing by the window. "Sam, you remember Kadmiel. Dean, this is my sister."

Dean looked from the newcomer to Sam. "Wait, you've met?"

Sam nodded. "She was on the hit squad," he replied tersely.

Dean cursed again and spun on Amitiel. "The hell is going on, Ami?" Dean demanded.

Amitiel sighed. "Kadmiel has been assigned to investigate the deaths of the vessels," she explained. "She came to me for help."

"Two weeks ago she was trying to kill you," Dean pointed out. "Why would she want your help?"

"I am not here to harm anyone," Kadmiel finally spoke, her voice soft. "Recent events have...changed my perspective."

Dean eyed the angel warily, jumping slightly when Amitiel placed her hand on his arm. "Please, Dean," she said quietly. "Trust me."

He didn't relax, but still nodded. "Fine. What else you got on this job?"

Kadmiel took a step forward, prompting Sam and Dean to both step backwards. She stopped, her expression unreadable. Reaching into her jacket she pulled something out that glittered in the light. She extended it towards Sam, who took it cautiously.

It was a feather, as long as Sam's forearm. It was a tawny-gold color, throwing off bronze sparks as Sam turned it this way and that. It was far heavier than he had expected, but the barbs were incredibly soft to the touch.

"What is it?" he asked, handing it to Dean with strange reluctance.

"One of those were found beside every body," Kadmiel reported, her voice emotionless.

Dean held the feather up, reflecting a pattern of tiny lights against the far wall. "Still not seeing the significance," he said.

"It's an angel feather," Amitiel told him.

Dean almost dropped it in surprise. "But I thought you said a demon was doing it," he protested.

"It is probable," Amitiel said again. "But whoever is doing it, they are attempting to make it look as if an angel is behind the killings."

Sam took the feather back, running it gently over his fingers. "Are you sure that it isn't an angel?" he asked carefully, glancing between the two women. They exchanged a long look.

"We are almost certain it isn't," Amitiel said slowly.

"Yeah? How?" Dean challenged.

"Because, Dean," Amitiel said coolly. "That feather is from my wings."