I literally wrote this whole chapter through a film of tears. No joke, I cried like five times. (To Keefer - I know what I promised. I didn't lie, either. And I'm pretty sure you know what that means and I'm pretty sure you're screaming at your computer now. I'm sorry.)
Many thanks to Keefer, GoForTehGig, Kathrin J Pearl, Sexy. Lil. Emo, Happyfish, Black Lightning Bolt, Chris Bran Norling, Nerdette92, KitCat 1995, Mems, tmmdeathwishraven, and one guest for your reviews to last chapter.
Celestial City, one week later.
Gabriel and Sam were late, not that Chuck noticed. He was in such a deep state of grieving that he barely noticed anything. He was vaguely aware of Meg on his left and Rachel on his right, the former wracked with sobs and the latter sitting quietly as the occasional tear rolled down her cheek. Castiel wasn't an idiot—he knew that Rachel was more deeply mourning her husband's arrest and inevitable conviction than her late brother-in-law, but they had all been family, however strained relationships had gotten, and the news of Gabriel's return to life and Lucifer's subsequent death had rocked the city.
Raphael sat on Rachel's other side, staring at the closed casket with a photograph of a grinning, twenty-three-year-old Lucifer on a motorcycle with twenty-year-old Meg behind him, laughing with her arms around his waist. Raphael's demeanor was much like his father's—a numb denial of what had happened, even though he'd seen it happen, he'd seen Gabriel dashing toward the door, he'd tried to tell Michael that he was coming. But Michael had ignored him, and Lucifer had died still thinking he'd killed Gabriel. That was the part that ate up Raphael inside. He tried not to blame himself, but he couldn't help thinking that if he had just tried a little harder to reassure Michael that their father would return—he didn't think he'd ever forget the agonized look on Michael's face when he looked up and saw their father, and the look he'd given Michael, the one that said I don't know who you are anymore—maybe Lucifer wouldn't have died.
Ruby was next to Raphael, one arm wrapped comfortingly around his shoulders, although he didn't appear to notice, either. She wasn't crying, but she had an appropriately sad look on her face. She didn't like seeing Raphael in as much pain as he obviously was. He'd told her bits and pieces of the situation as it transpired over the last few months, and she imagined she knew better than Meg and possibly Rachel what had happened. She understood how torn Raphael had been. On one hand, he had his oldest brother, the one who'd always protected him as a child, the one who'd always tried so hard to be perfect for their father, the one who'd been bound and determined to keep the family together in their father's absence. On the other hand, his other older brother, the rebellious one, the one who thought he killed their brother. No, Lucifer hadn't deserved to die. Even if Gabriel really had been killed, Lucifer didn't deserve to die.
But Lucifer had obviously thought he had. The initial investigation had inventoried the personal items Lucifer had on him when he died, including the gun, halfway out of the holster. It turned out, the clip didn't have a single round in it. It was completely harmless.
This was common knowledge within the family by now. Even Michael knew; the moment it sank in that he'd shot his unarmed brother, he'd collapsed onto the floor of his holding cell and sobbed. He hadn't meant for everything to get so utterly fucked-up. He had only done what he thought was best under the circumstances, not realizing just how far out-of-touch he was with reality. He wished he'd listened to Raphael, had taken his brother's hesitation to heart. Raphael had been right, of course: their father came back, a revenge killing, especially on one of their own, wasn't right, and everything would have been, should have been okay if he had only stopped to think for five minutes.
Michael had arrived shortly before the rest of the mourners arrived, mercifully dressed in a black suit and tie, although he had a tracking band around his ankle and two armed guards on either side of him. He wasn't going to try to make a break for it, though. Just as Lucifer had obviously accepted his fate when he learned Michael intended to kill him as punishment for striking down Gabriel, so Michael accepted his own punishment for killing Lucifer. He headed up the aisle toward Lucifer's casket, rested his hand against the solid pine, and finally dropped to his knees, crying again for what seemed like the hundredth time in the past week. He stayed there, poised and praying, for nearly ten minutes before he stood back up and turned around to see his father and his wife both looking at him.
Chuck had regained his awareness long enough to slide out of the pew with Rachel right behind him. Michael didn't what to expect from either of them, so he braced himself for the worst as his father stood in front of him, oblivious to the guards standing five feet away.
"I'm sorry, Dad," Michael murmured, his face still streaked with dried tears. He'd managed to stop crying, but his eyes were still red and he felt like he could fall over at any moment.
"I know," Chuck whispered. He reached up and pressed his hand against Michael's face until his oldest son met his eyes. "I forgive you."
That was all it took to send Michael over the edge again. He broke down, but in a moment, Rachel was there, holding him up and crying into his shoulder. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Michael repeated, whether to his father or his wife or his family or everyone, he wasn't quite sure. And even though those words would never be enough to adequately convey his grief over what he'd done, he said them anyway and hoped they'd understand.
Before he left, he hugged Raphael and Castiel, wondered briefly where Gabriel was but didn't ask, and noted both the way Dean Winchester gave him a stony glare from next to Castiel and the way Meg purposely avoided looking at him as he passed. He didn't blame her in the slightest, though—he had killed her husband, and no matter what problems they may have had, there had been a time when they were in love, and Meg still loved him. But Michael did leave, less than fifteen minutes after arriving, and for a time, everything was quiet except for the footsteps of mourners passing the casket to pay their respects.
Gabriel and Sam slid into the pew behind Chuck, next to Castiel and Dean, about ten minutes after Michael left. "Where have you been?" Dean whispered, trying and failing not to look annoyed. It didn't look like their suits were particularly rumpled, so they probably hadn't been doing anything inappropriate (especially considering it was Gabriel's brother's funeral), but Dean knew Gabriel well enough to not put anything past him.
"This wasn't the only funeral I had to go to today," Gabriel hissed.
Castiel shot his brother an alarmed look. "Who else died?"
The irritation melted off Gabriel's face, replaced by an aching sadness. Sam slung his arm around Gabriel's shoulders as the older man murmured, "One of my people. Balthazar Roché. He was found dead Tuesday morning in the Presidential Suite of Perdition." Gabriel swallowed. "Self-inflicted gunshot wound." He didn't mention the other piece of the puzzle, the last one that finally fell into place. With Meg two feet away, he didn't feel comfortable saying it, but he'd been found with a note next to him that simply said, I'll follow you into the dark. He was ashamed of how long it had taken for him to realize—Roché had been in love with Lucifer. Based on the number of calls and texts they'd exchanged, the way Roché seemed to almost always be at Lucifer's side, the watch around his wrist with the initials LMM engraved into the underside, the feeling had almost certainly been mutual. But Gabriel didn't want to bring it up, especially with Meg sitting right there. If it wasn't a slap in the face that her late husband had been having an affair and that his lover had just killed himself as a result of his death, nothing would be.
But Gabriel and Sam had actually been here for a few minutes already. They had just waited to come in because Sam had gotten a phone call from Jess, letting him know that Jo and Pamela had brought her and Anna back to the city and that they were all safe. Jo and Anna had decided to just move to the other side of the country and Jess was thinking of doing the same, but she wanted to return Sam's things to him before she made any definite decisions. He promised to call her back after the funeral, hung up, and followed his presumably-boyfriend into the cathedral.
Dean laced his fingers tightly through Castiel's and lifted the younger man's hand to his lips. He wasn't sure how he was supposed to feel in this case—he was genuinely sorry for Castiel's loss, no matter how big of douchebags his two oldest brothers were or had been (he was reserving judgment on Raphael for the moment), but at the same, he was glad it was over.
And the look on Gabriel's face said the same. He'd wanted it to be over, too. He wasn't happy with the ending, but the fighting was over. He wished it hadn't taken his brother, sent another to jail, and broken his father's heart, but there was peace, at least.
He wouldn't lie to himself, though. It wasn't worth it.
"I'm sorry you two got mixed up in this. It was never my intention," Chuck said quietly. It was six hours later, and Sam and Dean Winchester were standing with the Milligan patriarch in his foyer, while his three youngest sons skirted around the living room, not saying much of anything.
"It wasn't your fault," Dean said.
"Maybe not, but it might as well have been. I didn't realize my sons still remembered your father. I had hoped that Gabriel would be the only one you would have to deal with—and maybe Castiel—but I never anticipated that Lucifer and Michael would try to…" Chuck sighed and shook his head. "They remembered that I never asked your father for any type of repayment. That was intentional, boys. I never wanted it. I… When I heard about the fire that took your mother, I immediately thought back to my family, how devastated we had been when my wife died. I sympathized. I knew how badly John must have been hurting. He was so glad you two were alright, but to lose Mary… I could see his pain. And I wanted to help him. Not to exploit him, like Lucifer and Michael must have thought. It was intended to be a gift. I wanted to help the three of you, to give you the support that you needed, and that was all. Seeing how your family would be helped, to bring you back to life—that was what I wanted as compensation. And my sons twisted that." Chuck glanced into the living room for a moment before looking back at Sam and Dean. "I know your father probably wouldn't have believed that, either, but it's true. He told me once or twice that nothing comes for free. Well, sometimes, it's supposed to. If I had realized Lucifer and Michael didn't understand that, I would have explained it to them. All I wanted was to help. That's all."
"Thank you," Sam murmured.
A small smile flickered across Chuck's face momentarily. "I'm grateful that at least you two managed to stay together. I don't quite feel like I've failed at everything. And it's quite clear to me that Castiel and Gabriel care for you a great deal. I would like to see them happy, and I would like to see you happy as well." As Sam and Dean exchanged a quick glance, Chuck added, "I know that what's happened is tragic, and Michael may not ever be able to forgive himself, but maybe something good could still come from this mess. And if it does happen, don't regret it."
With a mysterious smile, Chuck left the Winchesters standing in the foyer as he went to the living room.
"Did he just—" Dean started, but Sam knew immediately what he was asking.
"I think so."
Gabriel and Castiel appeared out of nowhere. "What did my dad want?" Gabriel asked.
"I think to tell us that he's cool with us dating you," Sam said.
Castiel nodded thoughtfully, automatically wrapping an arm around Dean. "That doesn't surprise me. With all this chaos, I know he'd be relieved if someone were happy at the end of the day."
"Makes sense," Dean said. "We are not double-dating with them, though."
Gabriel couldn't contain his giggle.
SEE, KEEFER?! I TOLD YOU! EVERYONE ENDED UP WITH THE PERSON THEY WERE IN LOVE WITH! I NEVER SAID THEY ENDED UP ALIVE!
Yes, Lucifer is *actually* dead, and so is Balthazar, and they share their own personal Heaven. Michael gets 25 years for killing his brother. Sam goes back to college and gets his degree and passes the bar and becomes a brilliant lawyer, and the day he graduates is the day Gabriel proposes to him. Dean gets a job at the same auto place his dad worked at and he and Castiel get engaged the next year. Raphael marries Ruby, Rachel decides not to divorce Michael, Meg never discovers that Lucifer was having an affair.
And some of them live happily ever after.
I swear to Chuck, if I get one more email telling me someone subscribed to this story's updates, I will choke a bitch. IT'S DONE, MOTHERFUCKERS. NO MORE.
I need to go write some fluffy Balcifer. It'll be the follow-up series to "The Reckoning," which means Balcifer fussing over their baby. Just what my devastated soul needs.