This is the end of Rogue! Thank you to everyone who has read this story, everyone who has favorited it, and especially everyone who has left a review!
This is how the story ends, but it's not the end of the story. I have three more short stories set in this 'verse, and I'll be happy to answer any questions anyone may have about anything in it.
Special thanks go to Syndicate327, Vi-Violence, ShoeNinja, and VGiselleH, for your reviews of the last chapter!
Gabriel tossed his flashlight into the air, spinning it three times end over end before catching it again. He whistled to himself as he made his rounds around the motel buildings, swinging one leg in front of the other in the methodical, centuries-tested walk of night guards everywhere. Nine o'clock, and all's well! he thought to himself.
For the past month, Gabriel had been the sole graveyard shift security officer for the Oatmeal Motel, just outside Ravenna, Ohio. The name harkened back to the days when Ravenna was the seat of the Quaker Mill Company, or so Gabriel had been informed when he joined the team.
The Oatmeal Motel didn't need a security guard. Ravenna was hardly a hotbed of criminal activity. Gabriel didn't care. Motels, especially cheap little backwaters ones like this one, just off the interstate, were great places to find people lacking guilt for their crimes. He had crisscrossed the country hundreds of times over now, handing out just desserts to people who really needed to atone for their crimes against their brothers. Loki praised him for his efforts, but Gabriel couldn't take all the credit. So many punishments were actually dreamed up by the humans themselves. Metatron had been right. Humans were the best writers. Their imagination left even Gabriel's far in the dust.
"Come on, Sammy!"
Gabriel smiled as he heard the voice of a child calling out with the exasperation known to all older siblings. Ah, yes, there he was. Just around the corner was a preteen boy tugging insistently on the arm of younger brother who was much more interested in trying to read his book by the spotty light of the parking lot lamps.
"If Dad beat us home, we're gonna be in so much trouble!"
"Dad's never home early, Dean," the younger boy argued back, dragging his feet along the faded asphalt. "He won't know."
"Oh, he'll know, cause I'll tell him! I'll tell him how you wouldn't leave the library even though it was closing!"
"You wouldn't dare!"
Gabriel leaned against a corner of the motel, watching the brothers with a fond smile on his face. He had always liked kids. Kids had all the best parts of humanity wrapped up inside them: trust, innocence, a willingness to believe, and potential. A kid could become anything, and until they were taught otherwise by adults, they believed it.
The angel blinked, peering past the physical layers of the two boys to take a peek at their souls. Quite often, a human's soul could give a hint at their future life without needing a trip through time.
Michael, ancient and powerful, looked back at Gabriel, the familiar patterns of his spirit reaching for his little brother. Beside him, Lucifer laughed, his bright smile harkening back to the days of Sammael, the days before the Fall, before the War…
Gabriel gasped, twisting around the corner away from the brothers and slamming his back against the brick wall. Michael? Lucifer? But those boys were brothers! Michael and Lucifer's bloodlines had been kept apart, far apart, intentionally. It had been foretold that when brothers were born to a shared bloodline, the last days of the Earth were at hand.
That was the term the Host used for the end of the world. The last war of the angels. Michael and Lucifer, possessing their true vessels, brothers once again, tearing the world open for their own selfish vengeance.
"It's not them." Gabriel took a deep breath, straightening his security officer's jacket. He set his shoulders back, lifted his chin, and gave himself a firm nod. "It's not them. I'm just seeing things. Too long alone." He hadn't been to visit Jane in five months, though he had talked to her just last week. Tomorrow, he'd resign his position here and go to find her. She'd forgive him for interrupting her life not on her birthday. He very rarely did that. It had been ten years since the last time he dropped in unexpectedly on his daughter.
Last Gabriel had heard, Jane was in Montana, starting to work her way south through a string of restaurant jobs. Jane never was as big on punishing the wicked as Gabriel, but she had found a quiet love for working in service positions and listening to the stories of others. Without the constant temptation of Gabriel's unlimited powers always close at hand, Jane's dreams of grandeur had settled into something far more realistic. She still liked pretty things, but she no longer put so much value on being rich or famous or powerful.
Yes. Gabriel would visit his daughter, to remind himself that she was his family, not these two boys who bore the marks of his brothers on their souls.
"But it's not them," Gabriel repeated to himself.
But what if it was them?
Gabriel peered around the corner. The boys had gone up to room 208. Gabriel hated 208. A hunter had moved in there and warded the place: nothing Gabriel couldn't get through, but enough salt and crude magic to make his wings itch. These boys must be the hunter's children; surely they were too young to be the hunter himself.
The oldest, Dean, was fumbling with his keys. Sammy, the younger brother, still had his nose buried in his book. Once they went inside, Gabriel would be hard pressed to get a closer look without alerting them to his presence. He didn't have time!
Quick and kludgy would have to be his method, then. He was dressed as a security guard. Time to guard.
With a snap of his fingers, Gabriel summoned up a tweaked-out thug to run up the stairs at the boys. "Gimme your money!" the thug snarled at the boys. Classic thug line. Gabriel came out from around the corner, heading toward the three at a fast clip.
"Whoa there," Dean said, impressively calmly for a child being threatened by a man three times his size. He slowly reached for Sammy, trying to get in front of his brother. "We don't have any money, Mister. We don't want any trouble."
"You gotta have something!" Oh, the thug had a knife! Where did he get that from? Gabriel didn't remember intentionally giving the brute any weapons. Oh well. The angel wasn't going to let the boys actually get hurt.
"Hey!" Gabriel approached the trio, his brow furrowed, one hand on the gun at his waist. He could probably fire it, if he had to, but even after all these centuries, Gabriel preferred hand-to-hand combat if he had to fight at all. "What's going on here?"
Dean's eyes swept over Gabriel's uniform and narrowed into thin slits, more mistrustful of the uniformed "official" than the man threatening him. "We're fine," he informed Gabriel, using the thug's distraction to grab Sammy and yank the younger boy behind him.
"Doesn't look fine to me," Gabriel answered, clapping his hand on the man's shoulder. "You know these boys?"
The thug scrubbed his arm under his nose, staring blearily at Gabriel through red-rimmed eyes. You poor thing, Gabriel thought. I really made a mess with you.
"We're fine," Dean stressed, but he was backing away from both adults, shoving Sammy along behind him. "We're just… Dad!"
A third man loomed over Gabriel, dwarfing both him and his puppet thug. Ah. The hunter.
"Something going on here?" the father demanded, heavy hands falling on Gabriel and the puppet's shoulders. Michael shone faintly in this man's soul, giving him strength and resolve. Lucifer must have come from the mother's side.
"These your boys?" Gabriel asked, gesturing at the kids with his flashlight, He turned his attention back to the two, his eyes roving over their souls. Michael stared back from Dean's green eyes. The boy was every inch a physical manifestation of Michael's grace. If Gabriel had been forced to draw a picture of his brother's true form, this child would have been the result. At Dean's side, Sammy's sharp eyes held all of Lucifer's intelligence and ability to love, his young face the very image of Gabriel's own beloved brother. Though the two boys held the bloodlines of both Archangels, neither one of them showed the faintest glimmer of being at all suitable for the other. Dean was Michael's and Sammy was Lucifer's.
The world will end with these two.
"They are," the hunter grumbled, squeezing Gabriel's shoulder. Gabriel just sparkled his very best smile up at the man, twisting out of his grip and yanking back on his puppet. "They causing problems, officer?"
"Nope, just making sure they weren't being hassled by our friend here." Gabriel slapped the puppet's back and turned his smile on the boys. "You two stay inside now. I do my best, but parking lots aren't safe after dark."
"Yes sir," Sammy chirped, all faux-innocence and big eyes. Dean just glowered at Gabriel, too old, too wise to the ways of the dark to be cowed by a short security guard and his flashlight.
The hunter was eyeing Gabriel suspiciously, but Gabriel kept his own innocent smile on his face as he led the puppet away, scolding him lightly as he left earshot, just for the look of things.
Once around the corner, Gabriel dispelled the puppet with a snap of his fingers and unfurled his wings. The next moment, he was in his own home, and Thorn came waddling over to greet him.
"Hey boy," Gabriel said, rubbing the dog's ears distractedly. "You hungry? I could use something sweet."
Forty minutes and three desserts later, Gabriel was sprawled across his leather couch, Thorn nestled against the curve of his belly and whuffing soft, contented sighs across Gabriel's sticky fingers every so often. For being over three hundred years old, the dog was holding up remarkably well.
Gabriel picked up the handset of his telephone and set it back down again, debating whether or not to actually disturb Jane. It wasn't that important. Only the Apocalypse.
The Apocalypse would come hand-in-hand with angels. Hundreds of angels, thousands of angels. Archangels. All of Gabriel's brothers would be descending to Earth for the first time since… since Jesus, really, searching out the six hundred seals and trying to protect them all.
Jane answered on the third ring, her voice bright and cheerful despite being nearly two thousand miles away. "Hello, this is Jane! May I ask who's calling?"
"Miss me, Angel?" Gabriel asked, settling back against his couch. "Have some time to chat?"
"Papa!" Jane laughed down the line. Gabriel could hear her moving around in her apartment. "Yes, I have an hour or so before I have to leave for my shift. What's up?"
"Am I not allowed to call up my favorite daughter just for a chat?" Gabriel asked, pressing his hand to his chest in mock offense.
"You are, but that was the excuse you used last week. Try something new this time?"
"I actually did have a reason," Gabriel sighed. "You know me too well."
"I knew it." Jane's smile filled her words. If Gabriel closed his eyes, he could picture her face. "You're lonely again, right?"
"I'll have you know, I had an absolutely rad party here last night. Place was full to bursting. Didn't get any sleep at all."
"All puppets?" Jane teased.
"Yeah," Gabriel admitted with a little chuckle. "All puppets. But that's not actually what I wanted to talk about."
"Oh? Something actually serious?" Jane was messing with dishes now, running water. Washing them? "Spill."
"Jane…" Gabriel bit his lip, hesitating. Once he told her, he would make it official. He didn't want to.
"Something actually serious?" Jane shut off the water and set the dishes down. "Okay, Papa. I'm sitting down. What is it?"
"You remember the stories I'd tell you about the Apocalypse?" Gabriel sat up himself, pulling Thorn into his lap. "How my brothers would walk the Earth again?"
"Don't tell me that this is how the Apocalypse starts, with a beautiful sunny day."
"It starts with two brothers," Gabriel said. "Two brothers, born to the bloodlines of Michael and Lucifer. Each a true vessel for only one of the Archangels."
"But the Cherubim keep the bloodlines separate," Jane said. "That's what you told me. The Cherubim made sure Michael's bloodline and Lucifer's bloodline never met, so that these brothers would never be born."
"That's what I thought. That's how things were. But my information is a thousand years out of date, Jane… and I saw the brothers today."
Jane was silent, and Gabriel pressed his thumb and fingers against his closed eyes. "Their names are Dean and Sammy. Their father is a hunter, and they are already… they are my brothers, Jane. Michael's protectiveness in Dean, Sammael's curiosity in Sammy… I felt like a fledgling again myself. These two are the real deal."
"Has the Apocalypse started, then? Is this the end of the world?"
"Not yet," Gabriel said. "Not officially. Neither Dean nor Sammy have any angelic residue on their souls. They haven't been contacted yet, but I'm sure they're being watched. The Apocalypse is going to happen in their lifetime. We have… I'd say less than sixty years."
"What does this mean for us?" Jane asked quietly. "How bad is the Apocalypse going to be for us?"
"Depends on who wins." Gabriel tipped his head back against the sofa. "Whatever happens, though, I'm going to keep you alive. No matter the cost."
"No, Jane. You survive this Apocalypse. Period. That means we have to keep the angels from noticing you. When the Apocalypse starts, really starts, they're going to come down by the thousands. You'll be able to recognize their halos. Stay away from anyone housing an angel. Keep your distance; keep your guard up. Don't ever antagonize them, don't ever give any indication that you know what they are. None of the seals involve Nephilim, so hopefully, they'll be too distracted to notice anything amiss."
"What about you?" Jane asked. "What will you be doing?"
"I'll try to keep my head low," Gabriel explained. "Metatron didn't recognize me as an angel, so maybe they won't either. I won't use my grace at all, and I won't…" Gabriel broke off, taking a deep breath. "I won't contact you. Ever."
"Radio silence from here on out?" Jane asked quietly.
"They cannot connect us. Until the Apocalypse is over, I don't have a daughter."
Jane was silent again, and Gabriel focused on her breathing, trying to memorize the sound over the telephone wires. "I love you, Jane," he whispered. "I will make sure you survive this Apocalypse."
"You survive too, Papa," Jane whispered back. "I love you too. Don't make me lose you."
Saying good-bye to Jane was the hardest thing Gabriel had ever had to do, harder even than what he did to Cariel all those years ago. With Cariel, at least, Gabriel knew exactly what would happen next, and he knew that his actions were the most merciful thing the fallen angel could hope for. With Jane, with this Apocalypse, everything was uncertain and unknown. The angels were coming back to Earth. Michael and Lucifer would rekindle their ancient battle. The world would suffer. And through it all, Gabriel would have to give everything to make sure one lone Nephilim survived.
"Easy-peasy," he whispered to Thorn. The dog wagged his tail in agreement. "Piece of cake. We can do this."
We are so screwed.