Hotchner and Morgan were talking to the authorities. Sam overheard the words "terrorist attack" and "bomb" and decided he didn't want to hear anything else. He jogged over to where Dean and Cas were standing in front of the hospital.
"Hey, can I talk to you guys for a sec?" Sam asked, lowering his voice.
Castiel turned to the younger Winchester. "There was no sign of Abaddon or Meg?" he asked.
Sam shook his head. "No. They must have slipped away in the confusion."
Dean shoved a newspaper into Sam's hands. "Check it out."
Sam looked down. The newspaper was in Russian, which he couldn't read, but the pictures were clear enough. He whistled. "Dude," he said, impressed. There were aerial shots of a dozen or so craters blasted into the Siberian wasteland. "So, you won?"
"Yes," Castiel replied, and there was a weary pride in his voice. "What did you wish to discuss?"
Sam folded the newspaper and tucked it under his arm. "It's about Mal." Castiel's gaze sharpened, but he said nothing, allowing Sam to continue. "Meg told me something. She said that Abaddon needs a specific soul to unlock Purgatory." Sam looked from his brother to the archangel. "A chimera soul."
"Chimera?" Dean echoed, at the same time that Cas murmured, "Mallory." Dean gave his friend a startled look. "Mallory?" he repeated. "What the hell?"
"Mallory's soul is a chimera," Castiel explained tightly. "The combination of two very different entities. Human and angel."
Sam nodded. "Meg said that Abaddon needed to sacrifice it under the dark sun."
"A solar eclipse," Castiel guessed immediately. His gaze shifted behind Sam. "Sophia. Were you aware of this?"
Sam turned to see Castiel's sister standing a few feet away, staring up at them with dark, unfathomable eyes. She nodded slowly. Then she reached under her jacket and pulled out a scroll. She handed it to Sam. It felt old and brittle so he unrolled it carefully.
"What is it?" Dean demanded, leaning forward.
"Gimme a minute," Sam snapped irritably. His Latin was very good, but he still needed to translate. "It's talking about a spell, opening—right, opening Purgatory. An eclipse, and a jointed soul." Sam paused and read the last phrase over again. "It has to be given willingly," he said in surprise.
"What has to?" Cas asked sharply.
"The soul," Sam explained. "The soul has to be given willingly." He let the scroll roll itself back up. "Mal would never do that," he said harshly.
"No, of course not," Castiel agreed instantly. "Have you told her any of this?"
Sam shook his head. "I haven't had the chance to talk to her. Her mom keeps chasing everyone away."
"I don't think we should," Cas said.
Dean and Sam both stared at the angel. "Why the hell not?" Dean demanded. Cas turned his gaze on his Marked.
"How did you feel when I told you that you broke the first seal?" the archangel demanded. He looked at Sam. "Or when you found out you were Lucifer's vessel? It would only burden Mallory unnecessarily to tell her she is the key to opening Purgatory."
For a moment the three men were silent. "So," Sam finally said. "What do we do now?"
"We kill Abaddon," Dean said firmly. "Only way to stop him, right?"
"Yes," Castiel agreed, nodding. "But we also must think of Mallory. She must be kept safe, somewhere Abaddon cannot reach."
Sam didn't reply for a long time, his thoughts turning dark. Jess had died because he'd come into her life, because of his enemies. He didn't want the same thing happening to Mal. He didn't think he could handle it a second time. "She's not going to like it," he said softly.
Castiel shuffled his shoulders in a way that indicated that more intangible limbs were moving. "She will have to accept it," he said firmly.
"Where can she go?" Dean asked. "I mean, realistically, where else could be safe?"
Castiel glanced at Sam and then away. "She should go with her mother," he said without looking back at Sam.
"Wouldn't that be too obvious?" Dean asked with a frown.
"Abaddon would assume we'd place her deep in hiding," Castiel replied. "Or keep her in Sioux Falls. I can place heavy wards around her." He shot Sam another glance. "I know you don't like this. I'm sorry, but I don't see another way."
"No, you're right," Sam said, struggling hard to stop the swell of emotions in his chest. "She'll be safer if she's not on the front lines with us. But like I said, you're going to have a hard time convincing her."
Castiel did the funny shoulder thing again, and then started walking across the parking lot toward where Mallory sat with her mother. Dean and Sam exchanged a look and hurried to catch up. As Castiel approached the two women, Irene looked up defensively.
"God, can you people just leave us alone?" she demanded irritably.
Mallory nudged her mother. "Mom, it's okay." She turned back to the angel and raised her arms for a hug. Castiel had to go down on one knee to oblige. "I'm glad you came," she murmured.
"So am I," he replied. He set Mallory back and ran his fingertips along her forehead. "You pushed yourself too far. You shouldn't have drained yourself."
She smiled back at him wearily. "I had to show Mom. I had to make her believe."
Castiel looked at Irene. "And do you?"
The older woman shook her head. "I—I don't know. I'm not sure what to believe right now."
Castiel placed his hand on Mallory's knee. "We need to talk."
She frowned at him. "About what?"
"Abaddon found you today," Castiel told her. "We cannot allow that to happen again."
"What are you saying?" Mal asked, still frowning.
"You need to go stay with your mom for a while," Dean blurted when Castiel didn't immediately reply. Sam and Cas both glared at him. "What?" he asked defensively.
Mal shook her head. "No. I'm not going." She twisted to look at her mother. "Mom, I love you, and I'm happy I could tell you everything, but I'm not going back home with you. I belong here, with them."
"Dean is right, Mallory," Castiel said softly, taking her hand. "It would be safer if you went with your mother."
Mal stared at him in confusion. "No," she said again. "No, Sam, tell him. Tell him I'm not going."
Sam almost couldn't meet her pleading gaze. "I think you should, Mal," he said with a sigh. He wouldn't let his true feelings betray him. He had to think what was best for her. He chanted that silently to himself, but it wasn't very convincing.
Mal snatched her hand from Castiel's. "No," she insisted. "I'm not—you can't do this to me. You can't make me leave. I don't want to!" She jumped up, staggered, and lurched toward Sam. He caught her easily, dropping his head to press his lips against her short hair. "Don't ask me to go, Sam," she begged, her voice muffled against his shirt.
The pleading in her tone wrenched at Sam's heart but he shoved it aside, forcing himself to feel nothing so Mal wouldn't sense his true emotions through the Mark. "It's for the best," he murmured quietly. "For you and Ami."
Mal jerked away from him, eyes searching his face. "You want me to go?" she demanded breathlessly.
No, he wanted to assure her. Never. "I think it's the best option," Sam repeated instead. Mal wrenched herself from his grip.
"I won't," she insisted, her voice rising. "I'm not going. I can't—you won't—" Her English ran out and she began ranting in Enochian. Castiel's expression tightened and he rose to his feet. Mallory turned on him, furious, and she began to glow, power leaking through her skin.
Castiel reached up and touched her forehead. Mal went instantly limp and the archangel was forced to catch her. He slowly lowered her to the ground next to Irene. "She will sleep for several hours," he told the woman gravely. "I suggest you be well on your way by the time she wakes up." Then he turned and walked away.
Dean hesitated, his expression clearly torn. Then he clapped Sam on the shoulder and left in search of their mother and the Harvelles. Sam stared down at Mal for a very long time, considering what his next move should be; what the best thing for her would be. Finally he knelt and kissed her lightly on the forehead. Then he stood and walked away.
Hotchner found him before he caught up with Dean. "What did you tell them?" Sam asked, gesturing toward the police cars.
The profiler shrugged. "You mention terrorists, and they make up the rest of the story for you."
Sam nodded distantly. "So what happens now?"
Hotchner gave him a close look. "Meg won't take another girl, will she?"
"Probably not," Sam told him.
"Then the case is closed," Hotchner said. "She got away, but we saved Mallory."
"She's going back to DC with her mother," Sam told him.
"Then we'll be able to keep an eye on her," Hotchner replied. "She's been through a lot."
Sam didn't comment on that. "What about me and Dean?" he questioned.
Hotchner gave him a crooked smile. "Not even going to be in the report." He offered Sam his hand. "I trust I will be able to call on you should the need arise?"
Sam shook his hand firmly. "Absolutely." He handed the agent a scrap of paper. "When you need to contact us."
Hotch took the paper and nodded. "Good luck, Sam." He turned and rejoined his team members.
Everyone was watching him when Sam reached his family. Mary put her hand on his arm and gave him an inquiring look. He ignored them all and turned to Dani. "You ready to go home?"
She was standing barefoot on the sidewalk, arms wrapped around herself, still dressed in the ill-fitting scrubs they'd managed to scrounge. "Yeah," she said tightly. "I think so." Her gaze moved past him. "What about Mallory?" she asked the question no one else was willing to.
Sam kept his expression bland. "She's going with her mother," he said flatly. He glanced over at the police cars again. "We should get going before they start asking more questions."
"Yeah, let's get out of here," Dean said. He slung his arm around Jo's shoulder. "Beers are on me."
Ellen slapped him upside the head. "Hands off, boy," she warned. Dean stepped away from Jo with a hurt expression and rubbed the back of his head. Jo rolled her eyes. Mary touched Sam's arm again.
"You okay?" she asked, low enough so the others couldn't hear.
Sam sighed faintly through his teeth, and then shook his head to clear it. "Yeah," he finally said. "I'm good."
The others were still in the bar. Sam couldn't begrudge them their celebration. They'd managed to fend off Abaddon's attack without any casualties. How often could they say that? He'd slipped out quietly when no one was looking. Or perhaps they sensed his mood and left him alone. He sat on a bench outside, nursing a lukewarm bottle of beer and staring off into the distance.
Movement to his right startled him and he jerked his head up in time to see Anna sit down next to him. She took a long drink from her own bottle of beer. "Thought you'd want to know," she said softly. "Mal made it to DC."
Sam exhaled slowly through his nose. "Thanks," he replied flatly. Anna nodded and tilted her head back to look up at the sky with a frown. He followed her gaze up, but the city's lights turned the sky into a blank void. "What is it?" he asked.
"Scouts from Raphael," Anna said tightly. "They've been nosing around since Cas released all that power. Stephen and I've been keeping them off your backs."
Sam blinked. "Oh. Uh, thanks, I guess."
Anna finally looked at him, her eyes unreadable. "It's going to get worse."
"The war?" Sam guessed uneasily.
"Raphael gains ground every day," Anna continued. "Many of our side have begun to doubt Castiel. They want to know why the Apocalypse is such a bad idea. They can't see things the way we do."
Sam snorted. "No offense, but I don't think you do see things the way we do."
Anna's gaze turned disdainful. "I do remember what it was like to be human, Sam," she said stiffly.
Sam pressed his lips together and said nothing. Anna had once wanted to kill him. While that was not really all that unusual, he couldn't help but hold that against her, just a little bit. "So what do we do?" he asked, waving one hand to encompass the war, Heaven, earth, and Hell in one inclusive gesture.
Anna's mouth quirked up in one corner. "We have something that Raphael cannot and will never understand."
"What's that?" Sam queried.
She looked over at him again. "You. The Winchesters. Our little secret weapons. Pervasive, persistent, and, against all odds, remarkably hard to kill."
Sam had to chuckle despite himself. He toasted her with his beer bottle. "Amen to that." Anna clinked her bottle against his and they both drank.
"Cas tells me he's asked you and Dean to take care of Abaddon," Anna said after a moment's silence.
"Yeah, keep him from opening Purgatory," Sam replied.
"Especially now that you know Mallory is the key to opening it," Anna observed. Sam said nothing. "You know, the funny thing about a key," Anna continued. "Is that it can open things, but it can also lock them."
Sam frowned at her. "What do you mean?" he demanded.
"You may have sent her away for now, but you can't keep Mal out of the war forever," Anna said. "Abaddon's whole plan hinges on her. He won't leave her in peace for long."
"Just has to be long enough to kill him," Sam said roughly.
"You won't," Anna replied. Sam narrowed his eyes.
"The hell I won't," he countered.
Anna shrugged. "You won't," she repeated. "Joshua received Revelation from our Father."
Sam felt his spine stiffen. Joshua wasn't a prominent angel, nor a very powerful one. He was merely the keeper of the Garden in Heaven. But sometimes, he talked to God. Or rather, God talked to him. "What did he say?" Sam demanded.
Anna contemplated her beer for a moment. "She's one of us, now, you know," she said softly. "Mallory. Part angel. Almost like a half-sister."
"What did Joshua say?" Sam growled, impatient.
Anna sighed and met his gaze. "That Heaven's youngest child will strike down the King of Hell."
Sam stared at her for a moment. "No. It's not talking about Mal. It's some other angel."
Anna rolled her eyes. "Filia Caelo. Daughter of Heaven. That's what Mallory is called in the Archives."
He shook his head. "I won't let her do it. I won't put her in danger." That was the whole reason he'd sent her away. He didn't want to think that he'd broken her trust in him for nothing.
"Sam, you can't just dismiss it," Anna told him. "It's destiny. No matter how hard you fight it, it will come down to Mallory and Abaddon, face to face."
"Screw destiny," Sam snapped. "We've always done things our way."
Anna gave him a flat look. "Destiny said you and Dean would accept the archangels. You did."
"And look how that turned out," Sam shot back. "Destiny said we would end the world."
"You still might," Anna said.
Sam scowled at her for a moment. "When you actually decide to be helpful, then come find me." He got to his feet and and headed back towards the bar.
"Sam," Anna called after him. Sam stopped but didn't turn around. "Don't let your fear of losing her get in the way of saving the world. I think she'll surprise you."
Sam took a deep breath and started walking again. Behind him, the whisper of disturbed feathers could barely be heard over the city noises.
Crowley was not happy. He was quite tired of being hunted by his own kind and all the inconveniences of being forced to hide and skulk about. And while the damnable Winchesters and their pet archangel were just as determined as he was to ensure Abaddon's demise, all three of them had refused any sort of assistance from him. Not that he enjoyed working with those self-righteous twats, but they were, on occasion, useful. He just had to come about it a different way.
Which was why he was currently in Tel Aviv, waiting on a street corner for possibly one of the most dangerous persons in existence. He felt her coming before she arrived, as his powers slipped away, fading to nothing and leaving him as helpless as a human. He hated it, but he would put up with it as a necessity.
"What do you want?" she asked brusquely when she finally reached him, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Just a chat," Crowley said easily despite his apprehension. He offered her a cigarette. "Fancy a fag?"
She glared at him wordlessly, so Crowley lit the cigarette and took a couple breaths. He blew out a stream of smoke, staring up into the bleached, blue sky.
"Your kind don't cross oceans just for a chat," she finally said impatiently. "Talk, Crowley, or I'll slit your throat and be done with it."
"You're just a joy, aren't you," the demon replied snappishly. "I've got a proposition for you."
"I don't make deals," she reminded him, more impatient than insulted.
"I know," Crowley sniffed. "And I wouldn't want your soul if I could get it. You heard about the Apocalypse?"
Her body language instantly went from aggressive to wary. "Yes," she said slowly. "But I try not to get involved with angel business."
"Not asking you to," Crowley assured her. "It was stopped. The Apocalypse, that is. Lucifer popped back in the Cage. Problem is, Abaddon decided it was time to step into the open position."
Her brown eyes narrowed. "Abaddon," she echoed slowly, as if tasting the name. "And what do you want me to do about it?"
"There are these two humans. Brothers, by the name of Winchester. Most annoying pieces of meat on the planet. But I find them useful. They're trying to go after Abaddon, but I know they'll fail miserably."
She tilted her head silently, inviting him to continue. Crowley puffed on his cigarette idly a few times, watching her expression out of the corner of his eye. Only when she began to look annoyed did he start speaking again.
"I'd like you to help them out. Keep them alive, and make sure they kill Abaddon. And put in a good word or two for me. They don't exactly trust me at the moment."
She rolled her eyes. "I wonder why that would be."
"Oh, shut it," Crowley snapped. "I'm perfectly trustworthy."
She cocked an eyebrow at him. "And what would I receive in return?" she demanded.
"Immunity," Crowley replied promptly. "Once Abaddon's dead, I take over as King of Hell, and you'll have my personal guarantee that no demon will ever bother you again, on pain of eternal torment."
She stared at him, her expression uncertain. "You would do that?" she asked, her voice cautious. "Why?"
"Because I don't like to waste possible assets," Crowley told her. "And if we work out a truce, then I don't have to worry about you ever coming after me."
She continued to stare unblinkingly at him, head tilted slightly in a very angel-like gesture. After several moments of silence, she finally said, "Very well. I will do this. I have no desire to see Abaddon rule Hell. But if you renege on your word, I will kill you myself."
Crowley flicked his cigarette to the ground and stamped it out. "Sounds fair." He held out his hand. She gave it a pointed look. "Would you rather we seal it with a kiss?" Crowley snarked. She wrinkled her nose and took his hand, shaking it as briefly as possible before dropping it.
The crossroads demon smirked. "Always a pleasure doing business with you, Miriam."
She glared at him, turned on her heel, and marched away. Crowley shivered in relief and pleasure when his powers returned as soon as she was out of range. "Always a pleasure," he murmured to himself again, and then vanished.
A/N: And this is the end of Time of Angels. The story will continue in Road to Zion, which should be up shortly.
A few words of thanks:
Firstly to CFEditor, who has bravely taken up the position as my beta, who has been a fan of this series from the beginning, and has inspired, prodded, and prompted whenever and wherever necessary. My deepest thanks!
And also to Starpossum, Ziggymia123, SPN Mum, GraceW, Igniting Fireworks, Kansas Angel, Mallie, MJ, and jolinar-rosha for all of your reviews and encouragement. Thanks for putting up with me, guys!