They're stunned by the revelation that I was the freaking meteor. Hell, it shocks me to realize it. But it just reinforces what we don't already know, and now it's even more obvious that, whatever I used to be, I was extremely powerful.

It scares me because yeah, I was powerful, but I'm not anymore—or if I am, I don't know how to tap into it anymore. I would do almost anything to figure it out, because every new discovery makes it even clearer that I would be an asset to "Team Free Will."

Over the past few weeks, the actual research part of discovering who or what I used to be dwindled a bit; they sort of expected me to recall it on my own. Instead, Bobby taught me to drive and gave me a car after Dean got it running again, Sam taught me how to play pool (at which I quickly became proficient, to the point of being able to hustle pool for a few hundred dollars a night), and Dean taught me how to pack salt rounds for a sawed-off he gave me.

But now, with two sudden trances, both of which triggered more repressed memories, I throw myself back into the task of sifting through supernatural lore to try to deduce what I am. Bobby helps me out with that, but he doesn't have the stamina I do: not only do I not require sleep or food, I can read incredibly fast and my memory (not counting what happened before the hospital) is eidetic.

Still, after another week of flipping through every book on the supernatural that Bobby owns—and not just the English ones; I'm somehow able to read every language I run across—I'm not making any headway, and neither is he. So far, the favored theory is still "fallen Trickster," but as time goes by, I'm becoming less and less convinced, although my constant sugar intake is evidence to support it.

Sam, Dean, and Castiel take off the day after we summon Crowley to see if they can find anything about this Lucifer sighting, but I have to admit to myself that I hope they don't find him. My fear is that Sam will give in and say yes to Lucifer and even though he says he won't, I can't help worrying. Neither can Dean or Bobby or Castiel, although none of them say it, either.

When they return, I'm relieved to learn they didn't run into Lucifer, but I'm less happy to discover that, suddenly, Dean is out of the equation: Michael has found a different vessel in the form of Adam Milligan, Sam and Dean's formerly-dead half-brother.

Suddenly, Dean is expendable.

Suddenly, Dean can be used even more effectively as leverage against Sam.

Suddenly, Sam is even more vulnerable now. With Dean rendered unnecessary, anyone on Lucifer's side can just kill him—although I suppose they could do it before, but now, Michael's side can kill him, too.

They didn't know about Adam's existence until a few years before this. Their father hid it from all three of them. By the time they found out, the real Adam had been dead for weeks to be replaced by a ghoul. They found out soon enough and managed to kill it, but apparently someone on Michael's side got fed up with Dean's persistent refusal and resurrected Adam, who said yes under the condition that his mother—who had also died with Adam at the hands of the ghoul—be resurrected, too.

Apparently, Michael agreed.

The night they return, the Winchesters stay up for hours, Sam helping me with research, Dean idly leafing through books but really studying the inside of a bottle. Bobby's drinking, too, but not quite as much as Dean, and Castiel is nowhere to be found—they tell me he's been summoned back to Heaven but should return soon.

Bobby's the first one to turn in for the night. Dean is technically the second, but he doesn't actually go to bed—he just falls asleep in his chair. Sam holds out the longest, occasionally running his fingers over the back of my hand in a way that's strangely comforting, but by one in the morning, he's gone up to bed, too, and I'm the only one awake.

And then I hear it.

"GABRIEL."

I freeze. The voice is loud and clear, as if whoever said my name was in the room with me, but I'm alone except for Dean, who's sleeping deeply. What the—

"GABRIEL. I KNOW WHERE YOU ARE. I'M COMING FOR YOU."

I realize with a panicked jolt that it's Lucifer. I don't know how I know, but I just know.

"I'M COMING FOR YOU, AND THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO STOP ME. I KNOW WHERE YOUR HEART IS, AND I'M COMING FOR IT. YOU WILL DIE AND UNLESS SAM SAYS YES, DEAN AND CASTIEL AND BOBBY WILL DIE, TOO. I KNOW HOW TO FIND YOU. I AM COMING FOR YOU, GABRIEL."

"No," I breathe. Castiel mentioned he put sigils on Sam and Dean's ribs to hide them from angels, but I don't have them on mine. If Lucifer knows who I used to be, he can easily find me now.

Without hesitating another second, I jump out of my chair and start throwing my clothes into a duffle bag along with all of my IDs, although I purposely leave my phone, and I grab my keys and head out the door. I can't put Sam and Dean in danger anymore. My very presence is a hazard.

I can't let Lucifer find them. I don't care if he kills me, but Sam cannot say yes to him, and I won't help him find them.

I'm careful not to slam the door behind me as I flee the house.


Not for the first time, my lack of necessity for sleep has lent itself to usefulness. I can drive straight through the night, through the morning, for two days until I've left South Dakota long behind me and I finally stop in southern Alaska. The only times I ever stop driving during the trip are when I'm refilling the gas tank and stocking up on candy.

At first, I'm careful to use the cash I have on me because I know the Winchesters will probably put a trace on my credit cards. I only brought them for emergencies anyway, but by the time I hit the North Dakota/Canada border, I've completely refilled my tank and spent another seventy dollars on sugary snacks and soda (and a cooler and ice for the soda), all of which go on the Visa. Then I purposely drop the cards in the parking lot. In an effort to keep the Winchesters off my tail, I decide to let a few locals use the cards in case they do decide to trace me.

Driving through Canada sucks. I've just gotten used to monitoring my speed in miles per hour, so suddenly having to pace myself in kilometers per hour throws me off a bit, but I manage to avoid speeding too much and no cops pull me over. I consider myself pretty fortunate for that.

Crossing the border back into the US sets me on edge. I have a passport (faked, of course, just like nearly every other piece of legal documentation I have, but they're all excellent forgeries) but enough time has passed where it's entirely possible that Bobby or the Winchesters put traces on my IDs, too. I'm not sure if they would, or if they even could, considering that they're forgeries, but it's the not knowing that makes me nervous. I just can't let them know where I'm going, because I know them. They'll come and get me the moment they catch wind of where I am, and they'll just be putting themselves in danger.

I don't even call them to warn them, because they can probably trace the payphone I use. I realize too late I should have left a note, but I was in such a rush—and so paranoid about waking them up or Castiel coming back while I was leaving—that I didn't allow myself that time.

Maybe they'll think I was kidnapped and my car was stolen. But no, this is worse. If they think I left against my will, their efforts to get me back will be even stronger. No matter what, they'll try to bring me back and every scenario I entertain just makes it more obvious.

I don't allow myself to feel guilty, though, until I finally arrive in Alaska. Then I truly contemplate what I've done and how it must look to them.

I was a total stranger to them, and not even human, and they still brought me into their home, taught me to drive and shoot and gave me everything. They tried to help me discover who I was, indoctrinated me into the hunting business and "Team Free Will."

And the day after they discovered their previously-dead brother is Michael's new vessel, they woke up and realized I'd vanished, taking nearly everything I owned, all of it given to me by them, with me.

Please forgive me. I know I don't deserve it, but I only did it to keep you safe. I can't let him find you.

As sick with grief and guilt as I am, I pull myself together and drive into a forest on the outskirts of some tiny town. I don't need food and I don't need sleep, so I don't really need money, so I don't really need a job. All I have to do is lie low until I catch wind of the ending of the Apocalypse or until I realize what I am. Then I'll return to South Dakota, find the Winchesters, and beg for forgiveness, hoping they'll understand.

Hoping that none of them are dead because I wasn't there.

Because what if one of them gets killed and I could have prevented it?

No, I tell myself. That's why I left. To keep them safe. To prevent their deaths.

For three days, I stay in those woods, lying on the hood of the car, staring up at the sky. The night lasts longer up here and the days are colder, but I don't feel it even though I'm dressed only in my leather jacket, a T-shirt, and jeans. I feel that it is cold, but I don't feel cold. It's something I didn't realize about myself either until the temperature dropped to about forty one night a few weeks ago and Sam, Dean, and Bobby were all wracked with shivers and I just stood there, wondering what was going on. And then I saw that Castiel was just standing there, looking unimpressed with the weather, and I realized, again, that I'm not human and I have another ability.

It's peaceful out there, though. Less pollution in the air means I can see more stars at night. Sometimes I find myself slipping into a trance and I think I hear voices, but that thought frightens me and I quickly tune them out. My back is in a near-constant state of pain, but I'm able to block that out, too.

I could probably stay like this forever, trying not to think of Sam and instead focusing on piecing all these clues together. It's there, right there—I can feel it, I just know it's buried right beneath the surface, but there's one more thing I'm not seeing. It's so freaking close, it's frustrating.

Like I said, I could stay here forever, but after three days, I hear that voice again. Except it's not in my head anymore—it's in the air around me.

"Hello, Gabriel."

I jerk upright and twist to face Lucifer, and there he is—still in Nick's body, I note with no small amount of relief—striding toward me. "Lucifer," I say, and my voice is colder than I expected.

"It's been awhile." He smirks. "You're a tough one to find, you know that? Only a week ago, I knew exactly where you were, and then—poof. You were just gone."

I shrug, feigning nonchalance. "Not like I was just gonna lead you straight to Sam Winchester."

"No, you wouldn't make it easy on me, would you? But it doesn't matter. I'll get to him." The corner of his mouth quirks up into a confident smirk and he crosses his arms over his chest. "By the way, that was a really impressive trick you pulled back there. I actually believed it. I applaud you." He claps his hands twice before crossing his arms again. "You simply have to tell me how you pulled that off." Sarcasm is practically dripping from his voice.

I have no idea what he's talking about, but I figure I should know, so I smoothly say, "A true Trickster never reveals his secrets."

He chuckles. "Well, I suppose it doesn't matter. You're just going to end up dead again anyway. There's not a damn thing you can do to stop me, either." He starts to uncross his arms and I see a silver blade slide out of nowhere. Before I even think, I slash my right hand through the air diagonally, from a spot near my left shoulder down to my right side. Almost immediately, Lucifer is knocked backward about ten feet and then he vanishes, looking stunned.

Hell, I bet I look stunned, too. He's not dead—I can feel that much—but he's not here anymore, and for that, I consider myself lucky.

But then I hear the flutter of wings and I know I've been found again.

"Gabriel!"

It's Castiel's voice this time, a welcome change from Lucifer, but still not what I want to hear.

"Castiel—" I start, but he presses his hand to my chest and I feel a sharp burning on my ribs. I can't contain a hiss. "Jeez, that hurts!"

"It's supposed to," he growls. "I should have done that weeks ago, when we found out Lucifer knew you. I should have realized he could follow you." He looks irritated as his blue eyes look me over. "You are an idiot," he mutters, and moves his hand from my chest to my arm.

We reappear at Bobby's and I swear that all four of them—well, maybe not Castiel, but Sam, Dean, and Bobby—look ready to punch me.

"What the Hell, Gabe?" Sam demands. "What were you thinking, going off on your own like that? Where were you?"

"I was trying to protect you!" My temper is flaring again and I think Castiel's is, too because few light bulbs shatter, but I'm angry for good reason. Here I am, trying to keep them safe, and they just drag me back like they don't care about their safety.

"From what? Lucifer? We can keep ourselves safe from him without you running off without telling us. We thought you were dead!"

It would be better if I was. "You don't get it, Sam! He knew where I was! Somehow, he knew where I was and he was going to use me to get to you and Dean!"

Castiel has the strangest look on his face. "How do you know that?"

"I freaking heard him, okay? Loud and clear in my head. He said he knew where I was and he… he was going to kill Dean unless Sam said yes to him. I couldn't let that happen. You're in danger just by being around me."

"Kill Dean?"

"And you and Bobby," I mutter. "What was I supposed to do, sit around and let him use me as a Winchester homing beacon? He said he was going to kill me, so I wanted it to happen where none of you would get caught in the crossfire."

"You heard him in your head?"

"Yeah."

Castiel throws out his hand and pushes it against my forehead again. He quickly runs through everything that happened while I was gone, backtracking through to when I heard Lucifer's voice in my head, and then he stops. "What did he mean by 'you're just going to end up dead again'?"

"Like I freaking know? I obviously knew him back when I was still important. Apparently, I was dead. I can't figure it out. But I was able to send him away from me."

"You actually saw him?" Sam demands.

"He found me. If I had been here, he would have had a house full of leverage to use against you! I didn't want to put any of you in danger."

Dean and Bobby exchange glances before the elder Winchester says, "You should have at least told us you were going and why. Left a note, called us, something. As far as we knew…"

I can fill in the blanks he leaves when his voice trails off. As far as they knew, I'd defected or just been killed or was kidnapped. All sorts of terrible things.

Please don't let him leave again. Sam's thought, desperate and pleading, pops into my head without warning. I try not to react, but I can't keep my eyes from flickering toward him for a moment.

"I haven't seen many beings that could pull that off," Castiel murmurs.

"Pull what off?" I ask.

"What you did to Lucifer. To get him away from you. Although I suppose asking you how you did it is useless."

"It just came to me."

Castiel looks frustrated as he vanishes with another flutter of wings.

"Look, boy," Bobby says to me now in a lecturing tone, "the next time you hear Lucy talking to you, you let us know. And let us know the moment you want to go tearing off somewhere for our protection."

"He probably won't be able to find me so easily now. Castiel carved those sigils onto my ribs while we were still back in Alaska."

"You went to Alaska?" Sam demands.

"I had to get as far from you as I could, and I figured Maine was too obvious."

He groans in frustration and I drop onto the couch. I have a lot to ponder now.


I'm back at Bobby's desk again that night, flipping through more books. I don't want to waste a single second now—Lucifer knows what I am, and I don't. I need to figure it out, because the sooner I do, the sooner I can help keep them safe instead of making myself a liability.

I guess I'm so intent in my study that I don't hear Sam come down the stairs or into the living room or even notice him crossing the room—I don't notice him at all—until I feel his arms sliding around my chest from behind, pulling me firmly against him.

"I thought he killed you," he whispers, almost whimpers, into my ear.

"I'm sorry, Sammy," I sigh, closing the book I'm reading. "I just reacted. I didn't realize—" I freeze when he presses a kiss to the side of my neck.

"I missed you," he murmurs.

"I was only gone five days," I point out.

"Felt like five years. We were worried sick. Even Cas."

His proximity triggers something both strange and familiar. It bubbles just beneath the surface of my consciousness, teasing me with things I should remember. Things I could remember.

His arms are so long that he's able to wrap them all the way around me and hold my sides in his hands. He runs his fingers over my ribs and I'm forcefully reminded of the sigils carved onto them, but I lean back into his body. I can't resist, and I don't want to.

"A few hours won't make a difference. Come on," he says softly, gently tugging me to my feet, and a flash of his thoughts hits me. He wants me with him. Somehow, he feels protected from Lucifer when I'm around, and he wants me there while he sleeps. A wave of pleasure runs through me and I follow him up the stairs, his fingers twined through mine.

He missed me. He trusts me. I make him feel safe. I feel suddenly blessed, and I wonder how I was able to leave in the first place. Even though he hasn't admitted it, even to himself, I know he loves me, and I feel special. Sam doesn't truly love many people, but those that he does… they're lucky to be on the receiving end. He loves people fiercely—he would go to Hell for his brother, just like Dean did for him, he would face Lucifer for Bobby… he would do anything for me, even knowing as little as he does about me. For whatever either of us can sense that I've done, he's forgiven me.

I must have been good, because he wouldn't love me otherwise.

Sam crawls into his bed and looks at me expectantly, confirming my suspicions: he means for me to watch over him, to cuddle with him while he sleeps, and I slide under the covers next to him. He throws an arm around me and I sink into him, half-wishing I could sleep because it would be peaceful tonight. But I have to keep him safe from Lucifer, and that's exactly what I'll do.

Maybe twenty minutes pass, and the telltale even breathing of sleep hasn't filled the room. Sam is still awake even though his eyes are closed, and for once, I can't tell what he's thinking—if he's thinking anything at all.

But then he puts his other arm around me and I melt into him. His mouth is moving against my neck and he's pushing up my shirt and I wish I could just will away our clothes, but I can't. I offer up a silent prayer of thanks that at least Sam is only wearing jeans—no shirt and no socks, both of which would be an annoyance—and I quickly unbutton them. A moment later, he's sweeping my shirt over my head and running his fingers over my skin possessively, and I suddenly have the crazy thought that I was made for him.

"Gabriel," he says softly, almost like he's praying, and he starts kissing a line down my chest, making me shiver but I don't want him to stop. He skims his fingers down my sides, tugs at my jeans, pulls them down, and I fist my hands in his long, silky hair.

He's so warm. I can't keep my hands off him—not that I want to or anything. And his fingers are magic when he presses them inside me. I'm being worked over and every time he hits that spot, I feel another spark and I know I'm close—close to remembering, close to coming—but I don't care.

"Sammy, please," I gasp, surprising me, and I rock against his fingers, aching for release.

"Please what?" he breathes and he grazes that spot again.

I hiss in pleasure, momentarily blind, and the words tumble from my mouth before I can stop them. "Please, Sammy. Need you. Need you. Inside me, please. Now!"

He groans. "God, Gabe," he breathes. He presses his face to my neck and then, just as I begged him, he pushes into me.

Oh, yes, he feels amazing.

Next to the bed, light bulbs burst but I don't care. Sam doesn't, either, apparently.

I wish I could say I last longer, but he feels so damn good inside me that it only takes a few more thrusts to send me, crying out his name and not giving a damn if Dean and Bobby can hear me, over the edge, into that chasm of utter pleasure, and I fall.

Impact. Falling. Being pushed. Father's laughter, Father's voice. Flying. Pain, betrayal. Lucifer plunging my blade into my chest. I had to save them.

Gabriel. They call me Gabriel. I am an archangel. I am the Norse god Loki. I am every Trickster that ever walked this planet. I died at the hands of my brother Lucifer to try to save Sam and Dean Winchester and the Indian goddess Kali. My Father brought me back.

I am alive.

"Gabe?" Sam's eyes are wide, concerned. "Gabe, did I hurt you?"

I have no idea how I must look—hair tousled, eyes wide, finally seeing, really seeing what I've been through, what's happened—but I imagine it's a bit wild, maybe even panicked. But I feel calm suddenly, filled with finally knowing, remembering everything. "You couldn't possibly hurt me, Sam."

"But you—it looked like you blacked out. Are you okay?"

How do I tell him? "I'm fine." I feel that throbbing at my shoulder blades again and I finally realize it's my wings. My wings. I've accidentally been crushing them for the past few months. I had them this whole time and never knew it. "Sam, I… I remember everything."

"Y-you do? You know what you are?"

I nod, and then, knowing no other way to tell him quickly, to keep him from interrupting, I press my palm to his forehead. His eyes close and he's drifting. I'm correcting all the memories he had of the archangel Gabriel being this Italian SOB and putting myself back in his place.

"Jesus Christ!" His eyes snap open as I lift my hand. "Oh, my God, Gabriel!" He throws his arms around me and I could swear he's sobbing. "You were dead. Oh, God, he killed you."

I hold him and I finally figure out why my Father sent me back in this same vessel. I was made for Sam. My size sparks something inside him, something he needs, and at the end of the day, I was intended for him. It's ironic, too, and I've always been a fan of irony. Ironic that a vessel this small holds so much power—I'm the most powerful archangel after my brother Michael, and no one would expect me to be sixty-eight inches tall.

"It's okay, Sammy," I whisper, running my fingers over his skin. "It's okay. My Father sent me back. He brought me back for you."

He leans back and yes, he is crying. "Lucifer killed you. I thought…" I wipe a few tears away from his face as he takes a breath and gathers his thoughts. "I thought you were gone for good. Gone forever. If he'd still been there when we realized you were dead, I would have tried to kill him. That's why I've been so obsessed with finding him, too—before you came back, I mean. I wanted to kill him for killing you. I'd never say yes to him after that.

"And then we found you," he goes on. "And I didn't know who you were at the time but it felt like I knew you. Like you were familiar. And it hurt so much because I thought you were causing it and trying to make me forget and I didn't want to forget. I couldn't let you go. I couldn't…" His voice trails off and he pulls me to him again.

"I recognized you, too. I don't know how, but I did. I felt it. But I'm back, so stop crying, okay? I can't stand to see you upset." I kiss the side of his neck before I can stop myself. "Just get some sleep. I'm not leaving. I'll be here when you wake up."

"Don't wanna sleep," he murmurs even as he sinks back down under the blankets and I pull them up over us.

"You have to. You're human. Humans need sleep."

Fortunately, he stops fighting, but I'm not surprised. A combination of sex and the late hour takes hold, and within minutes, he's asleep.


When he wakes up after hours of sleep, he looks confused and surprised for the briefest of moments until he remembers. "Gabriel? Was I dreaming?"

"I don't know," I answer with a smile. "If you're referring to us christening your sheets and then me remembering everything, then no, that wasn't a dream."

He grins with relief. "Oh, good." He hugs me tightly and I kiss the top of his head.

"We should go downstairs."

"Why?"

"There are other people who might be interested in this development. My being an archangel, I mean," I clarify at the disapproval on his face, and I know he thought I meant the sex thing.

"Oh." He nods. "Yeah, I guess so."

"Come on." I grab his wrist and a moment later, we're standing in the kitchen, fully clothed and with the flutter of my wings—my wings! That thought still sends a wave of delight through me—signifying our arrival.

Dean and Bobby, strangely, don't seem to notice the sound or our sudden appearance, but Castiel stares at me and I know he can tell who I really am now. His eyes go wider every second until I think they'll pop out of his head. I toy with making that happen, but decide now probably isn't the time. "Hey, little bro," I say cheerfully. "Miss me?"

Startled, Dean snaps his head from the look on Castiel's face to me. "'Little bro'?" he repeats. "What the Hell—?"

"Come here," I say, waving him over from where I've moved to stand next to Bobby.

Suspiciously, hesitantly, he obeys, and I cross my arms and press my hands to their foreheads at the same time.

When Dean's eyes finally open, he yells, "You son of a bitch! What the Hell, man? I mean, Lucifer ices you and you freaking—"

"Dean," Castiel says in a way that makes him take notice. Castiel is still staring at me, though. "He didn't plan this. Our Father raised him from the dead."

"Daddy wanted me back, probably to bail you chuckleheads out of trouble. His exact words were, 'The Winchesters still need you.'" I neglect the other half of Father's statement, that I need them.

Bobby, meanwhile, has remained silent this whole time. Finally, he says, "Well, I guess that answers a lot of questions. Like how you survived a freefall from Heaven, for one."

"And how Lucifer knew who I was. Father told me that he and Michael wouldn't recognize me until I was ready, so I must have been ready about a week ago."

They're quiet, and I can suddenly feel the common thought running through the room. Where's Michael?

Now I'm wondering the same thing. "Good question. Perhaps he doesn't feel the need to check in on me—although if I still have those sigils, he probably just can't find me." I snap my fingers and a box of Runts appears, just floating next to me. I'm feeling better now, just like my old self, knowing that I can bend the laws of physics at will.

What I really want, though, is to be able to fully stretch out my wings. The kitchen is pretty big and I could shrink them before I spread them, but even if there wasn't a single wall in the house, I wouldn't be able to stretch them to their full extent in here. I need to be outside for it.

It feels good, though—finally knowing. Even after all the crap I pulled, how I abandoned my family, I was still given a second chance.

"So, now what?" Dean asks.

"What do you mean?"

"Like, with the Apocalypse. Bringing down Lucifer. Are you still on board to help us, or…?"

"What a stupid question. I already died for you mutton-heads once. You should know by now that I'd do it again."

Sam chokes out a laugh. "Team Free Will for life."


It's a bright day, shiny and warm, not the kind of day you'd expect for a cataclysmic showdown between Michael and Lucifer. Although Michael's nowhere to be found. I'm in his place now, glaring at Lucifer who is still, fortunately, not in his appropriate vessel.

"I don't know how you pulled off that trick, Gabriel, but it doesn't matter. I'll just kill you again. And again and again. And every time you come back, I'll just be there to kill you again. Just give up."

"I'd like to see you try to kill me one last time."

I feel the rush of fear that runs through Sam as he thinks, Don't take him again. He can't die again. Please, not again.

I want to reach out and tell him it'll be okay, but I'm too preoccupied with my brother returning my glare.

"If you back off, I won't have to try. Hand over Sam, and I'll leave you to Michael. At least he tends to show a bit of mercy."

"Sam wouldn't say yes to you, even if I wanted to hand him over. You pretty much guaranteed that he'd never say yes after you killed me the first time. Now quit being a bag of dicks and go back into your cage."

Lucifer lets out a bark of laughter. "Only Michael will be able to do that. There's no way you can. Killing you the first time was almost too easy. Killing you again will be easy, too. But I would love to see you try. Or, you can run and I'll spare your life."

"Not a chance, Lucy."

Lucifer's eyes narrow. "Well, I would say I'm sorry for this, but…" His blade, his archangel's blade, flashes suddenly and he moves faster than I expect, catching me off-guard. Before I can truly prepare myself, he's closed the few feet between us and shoved it into my chest.

I hear Sam's mental scream of "NO!" but he doesn't actually cry out—Dean or Castiel must have silenced him. But it doesn't matter.

Lucifer is staring at me now, something akin to fear creeping across his face. I realize that I haven't dissolved into nothing again.

"Ow," I say. "That freaking hurts, bastard." I grip the handle and pull the blade out of my chest. What the Hell?

I look from him to the blade and back—yes, it's really his blade. A real archangel's blade, the only thing that can kill another angel—except for holy oil—and yet, I'm still alive.

Without letting myself contemplate it further, I thrust it into his chest. To everyone's surprise, including mine, the blade works as intended, and Lucifer's vessel is sinking to his knees, blasts of blue and white light flashing from his eyes and mouth, and then he's dead, Lucifer's really dead, and Nicholas is lying there, arms spread and his blue eyes wide open, Lucifer's wings scorched into the dirt beneath him, and I suddenly feel pity for Nick. He didn't know this was going to happen. He couldn't have.

There's a wedding band on Nick's left hand and I wonder about his wife, wonder if she ever imagined this for him before she and their child died.

He was desperate. Desperate people do desperate things. I hope my Father will forgive him. He doesn't deserve Hell, not after all this.

I sink to one knee and close his eyes.

"Gabriel?"

I turn and Sam is walking toward me, looking puzzled and relieved.

"What happened?" he asks.

"I think… I think when my Father brought me back, he made me stronger. I can't know for sure, because no other archangel has died and, therefore, needed to be brought back to life, but I think He changed his mind about the battle."

"What do you mean?"

"Michael has been in Heaven for millennia. He hasn't been here, walking the Earth like I have. This battle was supposed to be a fight for the fates of the human race, but Michael and Lucifer's fight was going to be a battle royale between two pissed-off brothers and that's it, with the humans just as side notes. That's not how it was supposed to go down. So Father changed it, replaced Michael with me because I've been down here. It was back to how it was supposed to be, making a stand, saving humans. Only an archangel who loved humans could have done it." Or loved a certain human, but I decide to keep that to myself.

Castiel chuckles softly, a surprisingly human action that I don't expect. "He would change it, wouldn't He?"

Sam and Dean grin, and the elder Winchester looks skyward. He sounds amused, even happy, as he laughs, "Michael is going to be pissed."