"I just want you to understand," Castiel insists, "The only thing that you're gonna see out there is Michael killing your brother."
Ariel's stomach twists at the thought of not just Lucifer, but Sam being killed. Dean's expression doesn't change. "Then I ain't gonna let him die alone." He climbs into the Impala and starts the engine. Within seconds, he's pulled out of the alley and disappeared.
Bobby sighs and heads for his truck. When he sees Ariel and Castiel raising their eyebrows at him, he says grudgingly, "What? It ain't like I'm gonna let the idjit run headfirst into that battle without backup." Grinning, Ariel goes ahead and climbs into the truck as well, Castiel joining them without hesitation only moments later.
Within minutes, they're on the highway to Lawrence, Kansas, the Impala's tail lights shining brightly on the road just ahead of them.
"You've got to be friggin' kidding me," Bobby says loudly, banging the steering wheel in frustration.
"What is it?" Castiel asks, frowning in confusion as he peers at the road ahead, which is congested with cars as far as the eye can see.
"Traffic jam," Bobby grumbles. The Impala is nowhere to be found, Dean having taken the shoulder of the highway and disappeared long ago. Bobby's truck is too wide to fit in the shoulder, though, so they're stuck where they are. "Must be some kind of accident or road work up ahead."
"Well, you know what we do now, right?" Ariel asks wryly.
"What?" Bobby glances up at her in the rearview mirror.
"Get the bread." Both Bobby and Castiel turn around to stare at her blankly. "You know, 'cause...traffic jam. Jam. Toast." She flushes. "Never mind."
"Your brothers are about to tear each other apart, and you're sitting here making bad puns?" Bobby says incredulously.
Ariel huffs. "Excuse you, that was comedy gold." Honestly, it's frustrating her to no end that she isn't at the battlefield, and for all she knows, Michael and Lucifer are already there. So she takes out her frustration in the only way she knows how: by cracking jokes to ease the others' tension.
"Figures, she is Gabriel's twin," Bobby mutters to Castiel, who nods in agreement. Along with mild irritation, the comment brings a pang of grief, and Ariel bites her lip to keep from letting it show on her face.
It's then that the prayer comes in.
Air, it's started and neither of them will listen to me. I need you, Bobby, and Cas to get here now.
Ariel sits upright abruptly, and Castiel's attention turns on her immediately.
"Dean's calling for us. I can get us there, but it's gonna take a lot of power to make sure no one notices a truck disappearing," she answers, grimacing in concentration before snapping her fingers. Within seconds, they're no longer sandwiched between cars, but just a few yards away from the Impala in an abandoned cemetery.
Before Bobby even turns off the engine, Ariel's already yanking the truck door open and running across the field to where she sees Sam - no, Lucifer - and Michael in Adam's body standing across each other, Dean standing a few feet away from them.
"Michael! Lucifer!" She stumbles to a halt between them, the dead grass beneath her feet crunching, and Michael quirks an eyebrow calmly.
"What are you doing here, Ariel?"
"Trying to get you two idiots to see common sense!" She glances between them, noticing that Lucifer looks just about as unimpressed as Michael. "You both can't seriously want this."
"This fight's been coming for over a thousand years now, Ariel," Lucifer answers, his hands shoved in his pockets. "It's too late to stop it."
"No, it's not, you stubborn dicks!" Michael looks mildly taken aback by her language. "You guys can, I don't know, hug it out or something!" Dean actually snorts and Ariel turns a mild glare on him. "Really, Dean? I'm trying to argue our point here."
"Sorry," he mumbles, holding his hands up in surrender, "Go ahead."
"I've been very patient with you, little sister," Michael says coldly as he starts forward, automatically causing Ariel to flinch back. "I have ignored your continuing disobedience since you returned to this dimension, I spared Adam's soul to Heaven's keeping for your sake, and I have allowed you to live, and you respond by interfering with our Father's plan."
"What if it wasn't Dad's plan, though?" Ariel knows he can't possibly understand that. He's always lived by God's plan, and now to find out that he'd been wrong is probably too much for him to handle. But she can't let her brothers tear each other apart, especially not when they're wearing Sam and Adam.
"You've interfered enough, Ariel." Michael scowls as he raises a hand to snap his fingers, and she shuts her eyes tightly, expecting blackness anytime now.
"Hey! Assbutt!" The bizarre insult causes her eyes to snap open just as a glass bottle containing a tiny spark of fire smashes against Michael's chest and he goes up in flames with a scream of rage and pain.
"Assbutt?" Dean echoes incredulously and Ariel spins around to see Castiel and Bobby behind her. Castiel's arm is lowering back to his side; he'd been the one to throw the Molotov cocktail.
"He'll be back, and angry. But you got your five minutes," Castiel responds, his eyes turning from Dean to Ariel. She knows he hadn't done it for Dean, but to save her life.
"Castiel." Lucifer's furious tone causes everyone to turn their attention back to him. "Did you just Molotov my brother with holy fire?"
"Uhh." Castiel blinks. "No." Ariel has to bite back a sigh; great, he's picked up on Winchester logic.
"No one dicks with Michael but me." Before Ariel can scream for Lucifer to stop, he clicks his fingers, and then dark red blood spatters across the yellowed grass at Ariel's feet. Castiel is gone when she looks up from the grass, destroyed completely in a shower of blood and guts, and all Ariel can think over and over is, You stupid idiot, I told you not to piss them off, I told you. She's not sure if she's shaking from fear, anger, or grief as she stares at Lucifer, who raises an eyebrow back at her. "Don't tell me you didn't see that coming."
"What, Gabriel wasn't enough?" she spits back at him, her voice trembling. "Haven't we lost enough family?" It's all she can do to keep from screaming, and Dean's visibly torn between staying where he is in front of Lucifer and going to her side.
"You brought that on yourself, little sister. You just had to keep standing in my way."
"What, because I don't want you or Michael dead?" Ariel can't help a bitter laugh. "Yeah. Shame on me for giving a damn about my big brothers."
"We're done here." Lucifer snaps his fingers again, and she expects to burst into a million pieces in agonizing pain, but she's just cold and numb. When she opens her eyes, she's in a very familiar place that she most definitely does not want to be.
"No!" she screams, slamming into the doors of Heaven's infirmary even as several angels swarm forward to restrain her, cuffing her in metal restraints marked in Enochian binding runes. "Let me go! Let me go, I have to stop them, please, you don't understand!"
"Hello, Ariel." The angels release her and she collapses to the floor beneath the weight of the chains binding her. She lifts her head weakly to see polished black shoes, and glances up further to see Raphael coldly glowering down at her.
"Where's Michael?" she demands desperately.
"Not here. He's returned to the battlefield."
"Let me go, Raphael, I have to stop them!" She struggles, but the chains are too strong and she collapses again.
"You can't stop the Apocalypse."
"I can stop our brothers from tearing each other to pieces!" she snaps back. "Let me go, Raph!"
"Don't call me that." His expression closes off even more, and she's sure he's not going to be of any help to her. "I have other plans for you, anyway."
Ariel's hazel eyes flicker up to his dark, emotionless ones, and she can't stop a shiver from running down her spine as she shuts her eyes.
When she opens her eyes again, she's on her feet, no chains holding her down and dead grass beneath her feet. She's back in Stull Cemetery. She'd just been with Raphael a second ago, though. What had brought her back to the cemetery?
She glances around rapidly for any clues to the confusion swirling in her mind, but Lucifer is nowhere to be found, nor is Michael. Bobby is on the ground, his neck contorted, and Ariel's stomach drops out from beneath her. "Dean," she croaks, stumbling forward and looking desperately for Dean. She rounds the Impala and sees him slumped to the ground there, his face bloody and swollen as he stares blankly at the space in front of him. He lifts his gaze to Ariel when he hears her footsteps, his one good eye shining with tears.
"He's gone," he whispers bleakly, his words garbled. Ariel doesn't hesitate to place her hand gently against his cheek, healing him with one quick burst of energy. "Sammy's gone," Dean repeats again, his voice clearer now even as it quivers. Both of his eyes are open and tear-filled. "Took control of Lucifer and threw himself and Michael into the Cage."
"Oh, Dean." She drops to her knees beside him and pulls him into a hug, and he practically collapses against her, his face pressed against her shoulder as he shakes with silent sobs. She doesn't protest to the feeling of dampness growing on her shoulder, choosing instead to hush him quietly and rub his back even as she holds back her own tears. Her brothers are gone, lost to the Cage, and her best friend with them. Bobby and Castiel are dead, and Dean is a broken mess.
A hand, firm and warm, rests on her back, and she pulls away from Dean to look up, her eyes widening as she breathes in relief, "Cas."
Castiel doesn't smile, but there's a softness to his expression as he murmurs, "Hello, Ariel." She stumbles to her feet and clutches him as hard as she can.
"You're okay," she mumbles against his chest, her voice trembling, "You're okay."
"Yes, I'm fine." He holds her in return, stroking her back gently, as Dean gets to his feet as well, his expression a mix of grief and exhaustion.
"Cas, you're alive?"
"I'm better than that." Ariel can hear a smile in Castiel's voice now as he pulls away from their embrace. She can't help but be confused.
"Are you God?" Dean asks blankly.
Ariel can't help a mild snort of amusement. "Dean, I think I'd have called that plot twist a mile away. No, he's not."
"It's a nice compliment," Castiel admits, "But no. Although, I do believe He brought me back. New and improved."
"Guess you must be one of Dad's favorites," Ariel says with a soft smile back up at him. Despite everyone they've lost, all the pain, Castiel is here again, and that makes her grief a little more bearable.
Castiel walks to Bobby and kneels down, touching his forehead. Within seconds, Bobby's neck snaps into place and he sits up, rubbing at it with a bemused expression. Ariel doesn't hesitate to cross the distance between herself and the older hunter and hug him tightly.
"Didn't you disappear?" Bobby asks, bewildered, and Ariel nods as she pulled back.
"Lucifer banished me back to Heaven." She glances between the three of them, but Dean's too far gone to even register her words, and Castiel only raises his eyebrows. "Raphael found me, bound me with some Enochian chains and...then I just ended up back here."
"How?" Castiel demands, frowning now.
"I don't know." She glances back up at him. "I just blinked and ended up here. I didn't do it, someone else must've sent me back. God, maybe?"
"Maybe." Castiel's lips are pursed in thought now. "I'm sure it's total anarchy in Heaven now, though. One of us needs to lead the ones who are willing to listen to us."
"'One of us' being me," she supplies for him and gets to her feet. "Yeah, I'll go now." She glances between Dean and Bobby. "You guys head home. I'll try to check in on you both soon. Cas, you go with Dean." Castiel nods; at least he can keep Dean's head clear long enough for Dean to get to Bobby's house in the Impala.
With everything sorted on Earth, Ariel disappears to Heaven.
She finds their home, as Castiel had said, in chaos, angels flocking either to Raphael or lingering around in confusion. When she arrives, though, several of her siblings come to her immediately, not attacking her like before, but clamoring for answers. Without leaders, they had come to the closest source of authority: her. She had no doubt that the other half of Heaven had gone to Raphael similarly.
"Hey! Quiet!" They all fall silent instantly and Ariel blinks. It's a little weird having power after all the time she'd spent away from home. The perks of being an archangel, she supposes. "Look, I get that you're all confused. Believe me, I'm a little lost myself. But I promise you, we're going to try to fix our home. You all know the system's been broken for a very long time. You were raised as soldiers, but that wasn't what we were meant to be. You've been fighting what we were meant to protect: humankind. Our Father created humanity beneath our protection, and we let that go to ruin over our own pride and ignorance."
"What do we do?" one angel - a read of his Grace informs her that his name is Ion - asks tentatively. "The Apocalypse never happened. We don't know what to do next."
"We rebuild Heaven to what it was before Lucifer fell. I know most of you don't remember what it was like, but that's why I'm here. This is a new beginning, everyone. Let's make the most of it and do our best to make Dad proud." Raphael would pose a problem, true, but she thinks she can reason with him.
"Are you saying all of this because you were human?" a brave angel named Hester pipes up.
Ariel rolls her eyes. "I fell, yes. Michael cast me down because I wanted to see Lucifer. Think of one sibling you love most, more than any other angel. It could be your garrison leader, your closest comrade, your best friend, your twin." Her voice cracks a little at the mention of twins. "If they were lost to you, wouldn't you want to know if they're okay?" A few of the angels murmur in agreement. "That's why I went to see Lucifer, not because I was being rebellious or because I wanted to join him or anything. I loved my big brother. I still do, even though he and Michael are in the Cage right now duking it out. But I am an archangel again, even if I think like a human sometimes. You know, that's not such a bad thing. We could learn from humanity a little. If any of you has a problem with that or anything else I've said or will say, feel free to leave anytime."
None of the angels disappear, but there's a lot of rustling as one angel steps out of the crowd, his pale blue eyes shining brightly.
"Hello, Samandriel." Ariel cracks a smile at last at the sight of one of her fledglings.
Samandriel flushes pink at the acknowledgment - he had always been very shy - before drawing his angel blade and lifting it in the air. "I pledge to follow you, sister." Another familiar face, Inias, follows his lead, lifting his own blade. Soon, the air is glinting with several polished angel blades as every angel in the crowd wordlessly pledges their loyalty.
Ariel can't stop a wide smile from spreading across her face as she looks at the solemn faces of her siblings. "I accept your loyalty. Thank you. Now you know our brother Castiel and how he's alive again, I assume."
A few angels roll their eyes goodnaturedly and Ariel bites back a snort of amusement as she hears one mutter, "What is this, like the fifth time?" She's half-tempted to find out which angel had said that to give him a high-five or something. He deserved a few points for a sense of humor most of the others seemed to lack.
"I'm appointing Castiel as my second-in-command," she says instead. No angel protests, so she goes in for the big finish. "Whatever happens, we're all in this together. Things will get better, guys. I promise." She blinks at the crowd when they stare at her blankly, waiting for some command. "Um...dismissed?"
As one, the crowd disappears and her shoulders slump as she sighs in relief. Public speaking, especially with angels, is much harder than she remembers it being. Castiel appears at her side, then, and she gives him a small smile.
"You missed the big speech, Cas."
"Did I?" He frowns. "Who showed up?"
"A good part of the Host. Samandriel, Inias, Ion, Hester, Rachel...the old crowd." By which she means all the angels who had often been around her and Castiel all those centuries ago. "Plus a few extras, but they seem devoted to our cause."
Castiel nods in approval. "Good. They will be useful to us, seeing as Raphael's furious."
"I'll bet." Ariel grimaces; she doesn't want to think about Raphael at the moment. She changes the topic. "How are Dean and Bobby?"
"Bobby is well and safe in his home," Castiel reports, "Dean is on his way to Lisa Braeden's. He's...grieving."
"He's right to." Ariel had almost forgotten about the comfortable weight in her pocket, having carried it for so long, but now she feels it as if it was a rock weighing her down.
"What should we do about Sam?"
She's surprised Castiel brings it up first, but answers, anyway. "We can't risk pulling Sam out and freeing Lucifer or Michael, too. Give me some time, I'll do some research and see how to pull him out." Castiel looks uneasy, but nods. "Call our group together, give them their positions."
"Shouldn't you do that?" he asks with a frown.
"I would, but I've named you my second-in-command." Castiel's eyes widen before his expression softens in gratitude.
"Thank you, sister."
"You're welcome, bro." She grins and reaches up to ruffle his hair. "I'm gonna go check on Dean. You'll be okay up here?"
"Of course." He dips his head in acknowledgment and she smiles before finding Dean with her Grace and disappearing.
Dean's just gotten out of the Impala, his head bowed and his expression lined with grief, when Ariel appears on top of the hood.
"Hi, Dean." He starts in surprise, but then rolls his eyes.
"Off the car, kid."
"I'm hardly a kid, I'm, like, older than dirt," she points out as she slips off the hood. He cracks a smile, but she knows his heart isn't in it. "How're you doing?"
"I'm..." He sighs wearily. "I'm as good as I can be."
"You don't have to do this if you don't want to." She nods to the house behind Dean.
"I promised Sam I'd try to live a normal life." Despite the weariness in his expression, his stance is firm. "How did things in Heaven go?"
"Well, it's a mess, like Cas said." Ariel wrinkles her nose. "I think things are gonna be okay, though. Given a little time. Both in Heaven and down here." She reaches up, placing a hand on Dean's shoulder. "Don't beat yourself up trying to save Sam. You know I'm not gonna give up on him."
Dean's expression crumples just at the mention of his brother's name - Ariel can understand, she feels like she's being destroyed whenever she hears Gabriel's name, too - but he nods. "I know. Thanks."
"Hey, um...if it makes things easier, I've got something for you. It's about time I gave it back to you, anyway." Ariel fishes into her pocket, pulling out the item that's been heavy in her pocket during their conversation, and presses it into Dean's palm, closing his fingers around it. "If you need me, I'm just a prayer away. Take care, Dean." She leans up to kiss his cheek before disappearing again.
When Dean opens his palm, a familiar little golden amulet strung through a black cord lies in the center. He clutches it tightly as his knees buckle until he's leaning on the hood for support, gasping in an attempt to keep himself from breaking down. Finally, when he controls his breathing, he silently slips the necklace on, appreciating how the cold metal rests against his heart, before wiping at his face - not that it does much good - and crossing the distance between the Impala and Lisa Braeden's door.
Ariel arrives in a small corner of Heaven, one that a particular soul inhabits, and sits patiently on the park bench to wait. It's not long before the soul she's waiting for arrives, a surprised smile spreading across his handsome face.
"Ariel!" She smiles faintly and gets to her feet again, crossing the distance between them and cupping his face in her hands gently.
"Hello, Adam. I've missed you."
And that's it! That's the conclusion of Catch Me Now! It took way too long to get this chapter done, but I did it! I'm going to put up the first chapter to the sequel simultaneously, so no need to worry about a wait or checking my profile constantly for it to come up.
I feel like I could've done a lot more with this finale, but really, my brain just fizzled to a halt as soon as I made the "jam" pun and I had to trudge my way through the actual meat of this chapter. At least I got the Samulet back! Remember when Ariel picked it up after Dean dropped it in the trash? Yeah, you thought I forgot, didn't you? Ehehehe.
Thanks for sticking with me through all the ups and downs, and reviewing consistently, and I hope to see you all again in the sequel!