Disclaimer: I'm pretty sure I'd noticed if I was Kripke, so yeah, the characters are not mine.
Pointless Author's Note & Warnings: Oh my god. First thing in Supernatural. I'm kind of excited. So, I don't think there is that much to warn about. Swearing, mostly. Regarding to spoilers, I guess you're fine when you're up to date (5.10).
Dedication: This is an idea I've wanted to write for quite some time, and today is the perfect opportunity to post it, seeing as today is the birthday of the very person who introduced me to this wonderfully insane fandom. So, this one is written for and dedicated to Aziraphale. Happy birthday, and I hope you enjoy.
Et In Terra Pax
Somewhere outside, a dog barks. The sound still makes Dean flinch, but right now it's more out of habit than actual fear. It's not like the damn thing hasn't refused to shut up for what feels like hours, so at this point Dean is mostly annoyed. All he really wants is to get some fucking sleep – how the hell could that be too much to ask?
It's nights like this when Dean really misses the good old days of killing whatever evil thing they happened to stumble across, back then before hell and angels and the fucking Apocalypse, when he just had to fall onto a mattress and was asleep immediately. Now, he can hardly get any sleep at all. When he falls onto his mattress, he notices the smell. He's distracted by dogs outside the motel, cars driving by, noises from other rooms, his wrist still hurting from punching that demon bitch earlier, and especially the sound of Sam's snoring.
With a groan, Dean turns around. There's a digital clock on his nightstand, the red numbers blinking as if to taunt him. 2:44… Perfect… It's one of these nights again…
It's also raining, apparently louder with every minute that passes. Dean isn't sure if he can even remember the last day without rain… it figures, though, with the whole End-of-Days-crap, and the whole idea of a flood washing away everything… he's pretty sure pastor Jim told him that story once, but when he mentioned it to Castiel, the angel only tilted his head as usual and gravely told him that God never sent rain to destroy humanity and though the constant rain now might be a sign of the Apocalypse, it is certainly not coming from God.
That was a week ago, and he hasn't seen Castiel since then. That's another thing that distracts him from sleeping – knowing that Castiel is somewhere out there, trying to find a way for Dean to end all of this, while Dean is basically doing nothing and actually hasn't even decided yet if he's actually going to take that chance.
Although at this point, it isn't exactly a choice anymore. They're running out of time, the six month Lucifer talked about are over, and according to the devil Sam will consent any day now. Not that Dean is actually brain dead enough to believe what Lucifer says – because, hey, he's the fucking devil! – but he knows that Sam is driving himself crazy about this schedule, he stares at any calendar they pass, frowns nearly constantly, and basically every night he wakes up, gasping for breath, from nightmares he refuses to talk about.
So, it doesn't really matter if that six month prognosis was an actual prophecy or just a trick to screw with Sam's head, but it works and Dean isn't sure how long his brother will hold up. Also, the End of the World. They'll probably start spreading that goddamn virus soon, there are more deaths with every day, and in that point he nearly starts to agree with his future self – half a planet is still better than none at all, which is what they're facing if they don't manage to stop this soon.
So, yeah, his brother and the world are both nearing their breaking point, and Dean will not just stand by and watch it happen. So, if Cas' insane theory turns out to be true, he'll do it. If not… well, then maybe it's time to face his responsibility and say yes. Because someone has to defeat the devil, and so far it seems clear that Dean just can't do it. Michael, probably. Maybe. But Dean?
God, he hopes Cas is right. It would be a whole new level of weird, but at least that way he'll have a fucking chance to remain who he is, and hopefully keep things like enough empathy to give a damn about the collateral damage that is bound to occur in a fight against Lucifer.
He should probably tell Sam…
But the idea still sounds completely ridiculous even to him, and he isn't sure if he can actually explain it, and really, Sammy has enough trouble as it is. For a moment Dean distracts himself from the real issue by wondering which responsibility was harder – him having to save the world, or Sam being expected to destroy it. He guesses it's both pretty hard, but hey, whoever said being a Winchester was fun?
That train of thought is actually surprisingly calming, and Dean nearly sees the possibility of finally getting some fucking sleep, so of course, that's when his cell phone rings. He doesn't even hesitate to grab it, although he swears if this is Bobby with another mission or just some idiot who dialed the wrong number, they'll see the rage of Dean Winchester. Before he answers, he takes a look at the caller ID – Cas. Dean exhales in a relived sigh, and only now realizes that he's been holding his breath.
Not really silence, he nearly thinks he can hear noises… animal noises… some birds… but no angel talking. He waits for a few seconds, not sure what's going on, but after what seems like minutes, he can't take it.
"Cas? You there?" he asks unsure.
The noise he hears now sounds like a sharp inhale, so Castiel is definitely there. Or at least someone's there… Dean really doesn't like this train of thought.
"Cas? Come on, what's going on? Say something!" If something has happened to him…
Then, only one word. "Dean."
Again, he releases breath he hasn't noticed he's holding. "Where the hell are you?" he asks. Usually it's the angel who asks that question, and Dean would smile at the irony if he wasn't so damn worried.
Silence again, and it's really annoying that finally, after Dean has gotten used to Castiel never giving a straight answer, the angel starts to give no answer at all.
"Dean." Castiel repeats and Dean is seriously tempted to explain that he actually has no problems remembering his own name, thanks, when the angel continues.
"I found it."
"Are you sure?" Dean asks, mostly for stalling, because he's pretty sure Castiel wouldn't tell him if there was any doubt.
"I'm positive." the angel answers, as expected. "This energy is stronger than anything I ever encountered in an angel. It's definitely Michael."
"Fuck." Dean mutters. "So, that's basically our proof that Zach is a complete moron, huh?"
Apparently, Castiel's been hanging around him long enough to not answer that.
"Dean." he says instead, hesitating as if he's afraid of what he's going to say next. "You don't have to do this."
"Right, cause we have that many other options to choose from." Dean replies, rolling his eyes.
"This… this might not work, Dean." the angel says, and Dean is surprised to actually hear the worry in his voice. He's pretty sure he's become some kind of expert in reading Castiel's expression, his eyes, small gestures… but his voice is usually way harder to get. "If you do this… I can't promise that you will come back as yourself. You have to understand this."
And Dean nods, which is ridiculous, since obviously the angel can't see him, but right now he doesn't give a damn.
"I know, damn it! This is like a fucking million to one shot! It'll probably kill me, I got it, okay? Just…" He stops, not sure how he even wants to continue. Because yeah, he kind of made his decision… or rather decided that it was probably the right decision, but that doesn't mean he likes it, or is even sure about it, and…
Castiel's voice snaps him out of it. He inhales sharply, then nods again. This really, really isn't a matter of choice anymore and the longer he spends bitching and angsting about it, the more people will die.
"It's okay, Cas. I'll do it."
He's pretty sure that if he'd have this conversation with any other person, this is where the questioning would start, probably mixed with a good dose of "Have you completely lost your mind?" It's one of the reasons he prefers discussing strategy with Castiel. The angel just points out his concerns and any weakness he can find in a plan, but otherwise trusts Dean to make his decision, and afterwards accepts it. So, instead of listing every reason why this plan is probably a bad idea – and really, Dean has spent the last weeks thinking about nothing else than that, and has thought of probably every possible argument for and against it – Castiel just asks about his location.
Dean has already said the motel's name before hesitation catches up with him. This is the easy way, just disappear – first from this room, then maybe completely. It's easy, and uncomplicated, and he's pretty sure his dad and probably even Sam would do it. But his eyes fall onto his brother's sleeping form, and he knows that he can't, not like this. He should at least try to explain things to Sam, even though he is afraid, even though he still has problems grasping it… But at the very least, Sam deserves a goodbye.
"It's room 211." he finishes his last sentence. "Can you give me a few minutes? I have to talk to Sam."
"Of course." Castiel replies. He doesn't say "take your time", but Dean understands.
With a sigh, he turns to his brother and shakes him awake. It doesn't take long, most hunters have a light sleep or wake up dead sooner or later. Dean really wants to explain things, but Sam looks so tired, and young, and confused, and like his kid brother…
So, when Sam slurs "What's happening?", Dean realizes he probably can't say it. The least, then.
"Sammy, we gotta talk…"
Sam heard those words before. Probably over a million times, from many different people. Scarily enough, the only specific occasion he remembers is the one time when he heard them in exactly this voice, this calm, casual, soft voice that nearly makes him believe in them.
"I'm sorry, Sam, I really am…"
And it takes all of Sam's strength to remember that this is the fucking devil talking, to remember that if there is one person in all of creation whose words he shouldn't believe under any circumstances it's Lucifer, who is still standing in front of him, talking in that goddamn voice of his – or his vessels, who fucking cares at this point? – that has no right to sound so fucking soothing. At this point, Sam doesn't even process the things he hears, but still, the calm of the bastard's voice manages to sneak into his mind, numb as it is.
"I'm sorry, Sam, I really am…"
He clings to those words – the last ones he actually heard – and to the conviction that they're a lie. And holding on to them is all he can do to keep himself from crumbling. Because these words, he can doubt. He can accept them as a lie. If he tries hard enough, he'll be able to ignore them and not fall for this ridiculous sympathetic attitude he's been shown by the fucking devil! The words from before… the ones that really numbed his mind…
Not nearly as easy.
And then the son of a bitch suddenly stops talking. He sighs clearly audible and the numbness breaks. Suddenly, everything seems so much more real, the cold wind blowing through his hair, the smell of smoke and death, the corpses on the streets of Detroit…
"You're not even listening to me anymore, Sam, are you?" Lucifer asks, patiently, calm… but that's not what Sam hears. In his mind, the words transform and once more, the weight of the devil's words hit him.
"Your brother consented."
"That's not true!"
Sam feels a hint of shame for taking so long to say these words. What makes him feel sick is the fact, that he can't bring himself to believe it. For as much as he tries to be reasonable, and as much as he tells himself that this is Lucifer, who's even called Prince of Lies, he just can't shake off this feeling of dread that tells him this is exactly what happened…
…because Sam remembers the way his brother has acted the past few weeks, he remembers Dean closing himself off, even from Sam. Thinking back on Dean's reactions to every new report about apocalyptic disasters, Sam can't deny that this isn't as unrealistic as he'd hope it to be.
It doesn't matter, though. He can't let that son of a bitch get into his head. There's no way he can just accept his words! So again, Sam fakes bravado and shouts at the devil.
"You're lying! Dean would rather die than say yes!"
Again, Lucifer sighs, and it nearly sounds like a chuckle. "Sam, Sam, Sam…" he says and takes a few steps towards him, carelessly stepping over a corpse as if it was nothing. "Are you ever listening to me? I told you, I would never lie to you. So far, I've always been honest about everything. Why should I start lying now?"
A small part of Sam's brain that is still capable of things like logic tries to find a fault in his words, anything to prove the devil wrong, a lie he was told… but mostly, he is fucking scared, and all he manages is to stumble a few steps backwards, while his mind screams at him that this can't be happening, because Dean would never…
Except it makes sense. It fits in with the odd quiet he has seen in his brother lately. Everything makes sense now, the hurried phone conversations at night, when Dean thought he was sleeping, the guilt he had seen again and again in his brother's face… and the way he said goodbye before he and Castiel left to God knows where…
It makes too much sense, and Sam can't afford it to make sense, not with the fucking devil closing in on him like a fucking predator. So he tries to find something to rely on, something that can keep him out of this web of lies – truth – whatever!
"How would you know?" he barks out, and he knows this is a weak try, but he is kind of grasping for straws right now.
And of course the fucking devil answers as if he just asked about the weather.
"Michael is my brother, Sam. Of course I know. He arrived in this world a few hours ago. I assume he needed some time to settle in his vessel, but he is on his way here, that is without a question. And your brother…"
Lucifer sighs. Sam hasn't even realized how much closer he has come.
"Your brother is gone, Sam. And there's no way for him to come back."
Sam feels his mouth opening, desperately trying to think of words, of anything he can say to that, but his brain just seems to freeze.
"You came here looking for him, didn't you?" Lucifer asks, still so damn casual. "Well, though I'm sure it won't reassure you, he will come. Michael will come. Wearing your brother. I admit, it's not what I've been expecting, but…"
A hand is put on Sam's shoulder and he flinches back as if the touch is burning him. When the hell did Lucifer get so close?
"You, Sam – you have lost."
And Sam is nearly grateful, because this is actually absurd enough to distract him from the dread washing over him.
"What the hell does that mean?" he asks, his voice hoarse in his ears. "Michael… he can kill you, right? That's the whole point!"
Lucifer sighs, in an annoyed way this time. "Sam, Sam, Sam. Your problem is that you just don't listen. Yes, Michael might kill me. But maybe he won't. I might as well kill him. But no matter how this fight ends – you, Sam, have lost. No matter what happens to me, or Michael, or even your precious human race, you personally have lost."
"How?" Sam asks.
"Because no matter what happens…" Lucifer explains, now even gripping his shoulder as if to reassure him. "Your brother is gone, Sam. There's no-one left. Your personal world has already ended. The people you care about die, and you know it's your fault. This whole apocalypse wouldn't have happened if only you hadn't been born. Now, don't get me wrong – I am very grateful for your existence as well as your actions, but I assume your point of view is slightly different."
"Fuck you." Sam hisses, because he can't hear this, he can't bear this, he can't deny it and he feels as if he's already falling into insanity…
"Whatever happens now, it's over for you. Either I win, and you will watch my victory – everything, including killing Michael in your brother's body, and getting rid of humans. Or Michael wins, and you will watch him take off in your brother's body, or maybe he just leaves and your brother stays behind as an empty shell – breathing, but basically dead. And you will be left behind to suffer and to live with what you have caused."
Lucifer now has both hands on Sam's shoulders, and looks up to him with a sad, compassionate expression that looks so real that Sam isn't sure if he can bring himself to believe it's a lie.
"You lose, Sam. I'm sorry for you, I really wish there could have been another way. But all roads led to this point. You were always going to say yes, in the end."
"Why would I say yes?" Sam asks, his voice shaking, and damn it, those are tears!
And the devil just smiles at him sadly. "Because, Sam… there's nothing left for you to say no for."
Sam wants to push him away, he wants to wake up, he wants to rip Lucifer's fucking head off! …but he can't. He can shake, and cry, and nothing will change because…
Because he lost.
In the end, it's this simple. It doesn't matter to the world just what he does. He's tired, and he has lost, and the only things still anchoring him in reality are the tears on his face, and Lucifer's hands on his shoulders.
Shuddering, Sam inhales, then he opens his eyes again Lucifer is still looking up to him, as if he's locking him down with his gaze. And at this point, Sam doesn't even care anymore. He takes another breath, before he speaks.
"I…" he starts, his voice barely louder than a whisper. "I…"
Before he can continue, he hears the fluttering sound of wings. He looks up, and his heart nearly stops when he sees Dean – not Dean, Michael in Dean's body, Castiel by his side, a flaming sword in his hand. Sam can feel the power radiating from his brother's body, righteous fury burning out of his eyes, and for a second, he feels completely alone.
He opens his mouth again, because this he can't take and if taking in Lucifer is the only way to escape, then so be it.
"The hell you will, Sammy!" his brother's voice cuts him off and Sam stares at him. He recognizes the tone, the words, everything, it's so…
"Dean?" he whispers, unbelieving, because this is just not possible…
The grin on his brother's face, the unspoken question in his eyes – are you okay? -, the tension – because yes, they're still facing the devil… Sam can't believe it, but this is definitely and without a doubt Dean, weird aura and the devil be damned.
"Thank God…" Sam whispers.
Dean snorts. "Thank Cas." he corrects him, before he turns to Lucifer and his grin is replaced by a dead serious expression. "Now step aside, Sammy, I've got a devil to kill."
For a second, all Dean can perceive is the fluttering of wings around him. His eyes are closed, and he isn't even sure if he wants to see how they move through space, even if he could…
Then, only a second later, he feels solid ground beneath his feet again, and the faint pressure of Castiel's fingers leaves his forehead. He opens his eyes and also his mouth, ready to complain about this unpleasant way of travel, but then their new surrounding starts to sink in.
They're standing in a forest that by all means should be completely dark, but is lit by a supernatural glow that seems to come from one especially large tree. It isn't exactly the sight that silences Dean, it's more the… aura or whatever this place is giving off. It's just so…peaceful.
"This is it?" Dean asks, his voice hoarse in his own ears. "You're sure?"
Castiel nods and steps to the glowing tree. "This is the one." he says, his voice filled with a confidence Dean hasn't heard from him in a while, and as disturbing as this whole thing is, it feels good to hear Castiel being sure of himself again, it might even be worth the whole trouble.
…and he's pretty sure that's a borderline-chick-flick-moment-thought, so he clears his throat and takes a step forward. "So… a whole forest, huh? Anna's was smaller."
Castiel gives him one of those looks that tell him that he really should know better than to attempt small talk with an angel, and also that everything he says will be taken a hundred percent serious.
"Anna is my rank. Michael… this… is Heaven's most powerful archangel. Of course this grace is stronger." he says, just maybe a bit less patient and more annoyed than usual, probably a sign that he is as close to freaking out as Dean is – or, well, as close to freaking out as an angel can be.
In silent agreement, they step even closer, until they could just reach out and touch the tree. The feeling of peace increases, and although Dean has the remote feeling that this should worry him, he can't help but relax. Without thinking about it, he lifts his arm and puts a hand to the tree's bark. Before he can even consider how ridiculous this has to look, he feels warmth spreading through his whole body. Warmth, and quiet, and peace. Home. His mother embracing him. Angels watching over you. The memory of a familiar weight at his shoulders…
"Whoa." Dean pulls his hand back as if the tree had burned him.
"What did you see?" Castiel asks.
"Nothing." Dean answers truthfully. "More like…"
"You felt." Castiel ends his sentence.
Dean nods. His hand still tingles, and suddenly he feels something missing. His body is too light… for a second he's tempted to ask Castiel, what do wings feel like?
"I think I see what you were talking about." is what he says instead. Because if just a little touch makes him miss wings he doesn't remember having, what chances does Dean Winchester have if he taps into the pure grace of an archangel?
"Absorbing the grace might obliterate your identity." Castiel confirms, staring straight into his eyes as if it would help transmit the gravity of the situation they're in. "I've only seen this once before, with Anna, but she already remembered everything before she regained her grace. I don't know how or if it will change you. But…" He hesitates, then he puts his right hand on Dean's shoulder, right over his own burn mark. "This is our best chance, Dean."
Dean averts his eyes. It's easier just to look at the hand resting on his shoulder. Sure, this place feels familiar, and it makes sense, and Castiel is so damn sure of it – but, seriously, Dean Winchester? It was hard enough to believe that he had to stop the apocalypse, but this is just too much. It has to be wrong. They must be looking for someone else.
"Will you ever have faith?" Castiel asks. He nearly sounds sad, and tired, and Dean actually feels slightly bad about it, but not enough to start believing – he doubts that he could even feel bad enough to try.
"You know me, Cas." he says instead, shrugging as if it was nothing. Of course, that would be a hell of a lot more convincing if he'd actually managed to look up. "Not sure I ever had faith, so don't bet on me starting now."
"You did." Castiel says, his voice full of determination. He gets even closer and Dean notes that usually at this point he'd remind Castiel of the concept of personal space, but right now he seems so… angelic, and Dean nearly feels intimidated. "You had faith. And you are worthy, Dean, not one is more worthy than you." He pauses, probably reading his fucking mind. "You think I'm wrong."
Castiel is the only person he knows that could say this without sounding insulted, another reason why talking to the angel is easier. And creepy as the whole mind-reading thing is, at least it means he doesn't have to sit around and explain his feelings or whatever girly rubbish Sam calls it this time…
Also, Castiel has a habit of being right, which usually is more creepy than positive, but right now Dean doesn't mind. It just means he doesn't actually have to say what's going through his head. How he's just Dean Winchester, just a human, and not even a particularly good one, for that matter. He didn't deserve to go to Hell, but he didn't exactly deserve being saved either. Even the angels and their whole "righteous man" crap was just their way of saying "You broke the world, now become an archangel meat suit to fix it." He tried to kill the devil, and he failed, and he doesn't even want to think about the future Zachariah showed him… He's nothing special, and he's accepted that fact ages ago. After all, not everyone can be. Sam was special, probably. But Dean has always known his weaknesses, without every other demon listing them, thanks again. He can grasp being a vessel, after all it's connected to his actions, to breaking… failing. It's fitting, and he gets it. That's who he is.
And then there was Castiel, standing in his personal space again, staring at him with a mixture of hope and fear in his eyes, one hand raised as if he wasn't sure if he was allowed to touch Dean, and sounding so careful when he spoke…
"I believe that you are Michael."
Of course. He just got used to the idea of being a vessel – or rather a potential vessel, if he has any say in it – and now he's supposed to be a fucking archangel? A fucking fallen archangel?
And the sad thing is, he's actually started to get used to the idea. Sure, it sounded insane, but Castiel kind of made sense of it, and in theory it was a good chance for him to kill the devil without Michael destroying half the planet. But now, standing so close to an archangel's grace, Dean isn't so sure anymore. This is grace, and although his view of angels isn't exactly idealistic, he still thinks of grace as something pure, holy – it just doesn't fit into the world of Dean Winchester to have something like this. To think that this thing – force of creation or whatever – is supposed to be a part of him? It's ridiculous. And he doesn't really like the idea of an angry archangel chasing him for stealing grace that doesn't belong to him…
Castiel's hand grips his arm tighter, his fingers curling into Dean's leather jacket. "You're scared." he mutters. "Of what will happen. And of what it means."
"It means that if it's true I fucked up more than I ever thought possible." Dean replies. "Think about it, all you're angel buddies running amok right now? Do you really think they'd do that if they're big boss general was around to keep them in line? So what, one day he just says screw you guys, I'm going human, and leaves them to start their little apocalypse? Sounds like an awesome leader, really." He hesitates. "Well, when you put it like that, could be me after all."
Castiel sighs. "I had expected you of all people to understand what it means to choose humanity. But it seems I underestimated your lack of self-esteem again. I can't tell you what Michael's… what your motives were, but I know they were neither self-centered nor shortsighted."
"Yeah, how do you know that?" Dean asks.
"Because I know you."
And apparently, it's that simple. When Dean looks up, Castiel meets his eyes, and they're nearly burning with faith and confidence, and…
Dean wants to protest, because nobody who knows him could actually believe in him like this – but the fact is that Castiel does know him. It's not like there is a way to hide anything from someone pulling your soul from hell and put your body back together. And yes, he is scared. Hell, even Castiel seems at least worried. But he also believes that Dean can do this. So it's not protest that Dean utters, but a question.
"Are you sure?"
For a moment, Dean thinks time stops. He's pretty sure he isn't breathing, and he wouldn't bet on his pulse existing, while he waits for an answer, even though isn't sure what exactly he's asking about – sure about Michael, about Dean, about this working, if he should do it, if he really can believe in Dean… and it ends the instant Castiel nods.
"Yes, Dean, I am."
Well… maybe it is that simple.
"So… what do I do?" Dean asks. "Just put my hands on the tree and wait?"
"I think you need to open to the grace." Castiel answers. Thankfully, he sees Dean's raised eyebrow and elaborates. "You will need blood to interact with the grace."
"Doesn't sound that holy to me…" Dean mutters while searching for his knife.
"It's for safety, to make sure that only an angel can extract the grace." Castiel explains.
"Is that what you did with Anna's grace?" Dean asks. Right now, it isn't really an important issue, but it's easier to be distracted when he's cutting into his own hand.
"We were under orders…" Castiel says with hesitation, and yeah, Dean gets it, it's not exactly something Castiel is proud of, and there's really no need to dwell on it, not with the cut done and blood spilling from his palm.
"I blame Uriel. Bad influence." he says. "So, now I put my hand on the tree and wait, right?"
Castiel nods. "That is how it works." he confirms, obviously uncomfortable, hesitating, and still not letting go of Dean's shoulder.
So, yeah, he's probably scared, too. Dean tries to smile encouragingly, but he stops when he realizes he only manages a grimace. Instead, he puts his bleeding hand onto Castiel's. "Let's do this." he says. Again, the angel nods, and now he takes his hand off Dean's shoulder. It's still calming to have him by his side. Without further hesitation, Dean puts his hand back against the tree.
The warmth he felt before is nothing compared to the raw energy that seems to surge through his body. Every inch of his skin seems to be on fire, burning, hot, but not painful. Everything seems to disappear in white light, like an explosion, and he can't hear a thing. He feels as if his blood is heating up, maybe burning right out of his body, and he feels his mouth opening in a scream. At some point, he's lost the feeling of his legs, maybe he's falling to the ground, he's not sure, all he can focus on is the burning and the light. He feels his eyes rolling to the back of his head, and he sees…
He's on a mountain, watching the Father's new children, humans. They're curious, and interesting, but they're disobedient, and it worries him. He was told to love them, because the Father made them, and the Father loves them. He isn't sure if he can. He wants to try, but he doesn't understand them. Even when he reads their minds, he still doesn't understand. But the Father is just, and the Father loves, and he has trust in the Father. His brothers are beside him, watching. He feels Gabriel and Raphael to his left, both wondering the same things he does, and it reassures him. He turns to his right, to Lucifer. He doesn't like what he sees – contempt, anger, pride. The Morning Star's wings flutter in irritation as he watches the new creation.
"Bow to those things?" Lucifer asks. "What is He thinking?"
And he remembers his answer, telling his brother that their father knew what he was doing, that doing what he told them was the right thing to do, and he also remembers the anger – nearly hatred – in his brother's eyes, mocking him as Dad's good little soldier, bragging about that wonderful mind of his own that Dean lacks, and he remembers the pain when the rock salt hit him, and when Sam pulled the trigger. Not physical pain, not for the last one, of course.
It isn't physical pain that hits him when he sees the hatred in Gabriel's eyes the day he returns to Heaven, holding his own and Lucifer's sword, but no sign of his younger brother.
"You should have saved him."
"Save him or kill him." He won't forget this order his Dad had given him. How could he? Not with Sam reminding him every damn day that he should please kill him, rather than let him turn dark, and he wonders if Sam even understands what he asks of him, killing his own brother…
Because he couldn't kill Lucifer. Ban him, yes, but not kill him. Angels aren't supposed to die, and the Morning Star was once the most beloved. He remembers his fear upon facing the Father, because leaving Lucifer alive – a constant adversary, trying to tempt humans, trying to break free – was certainly against the Heavenly plan. He wasn't used to fearing his Father, but that day, he was scared.
He remembers John Winchester embracing him when they finally met him after searching for him for ages, and he remembers his Dad's happiness to see his two boys.
And his Father is just, and loves, and forgives. And he is grateful.
One day, John Winchester is gone. He doesn't leave a message, and his son is on his own.
They're standing on the same mountain, but this time, they're only three. Lucifer Morning Star is no longer among them. Also, this time they're not watching humans, they're watching the younger angels, one of the garrisons watching over humanity. Raphael is fond of their leader, compliments her. But Michael looks through the outer calmness and sees anger, doubt, disobedience and passion. He doesn't worry. This one is not like Lucifer, her feelings are too righteous. She feels lonely, and she envies the humans. Still, he has no doubt. "This one will fall." he says to his brothers. "Anael. She will fall." Gabriel shrugs in a concerning human gesture, which he does often these days – both, actually, not caring and imitating humans… probably, he feels sympathy for anyone choosing the humans over the angels, and probably he blames Michael for all of it. None of his brothers seems to like the way he handled Lucifer's rebellion, but it doesn't matter. The Father knows, and understands, and even though he hasn't talked to his Father in ages, Michael will not lose faith. "Even if this one falls…" Raphael says. "There's always Uriel. He'd make a strong leader." Michael only takes a look at that angel and steps back immediately. That one is too much like Lucifer. His eyes fall onto another angel. "No." Michael says simply. "That one." His brothers eye him skeptically. "He's young." Raphael remarks. "He's weak." Gabriel snorts. "He's pure." Michael says, and smiles.
Sam Winchester asks him to follow him, to work together to kill the demon Lilith. But he can't, not on these terms, not with the help of demons, and not like this. And Sam feels betrayed, his dark wings fluttering dangerously and his true form distorted by dark flashes of anger and…
No… it was Lucifer. That day, when he shouted and argued and begged for Michael to join him, to see that the Father was wrong, to side with him and follow him. But Michael believes in the Father, and he thinks he can believe in humanity, but he knows Lucifer is wrong, and nothing good came ever from working with a demon, why can't Sam see? He doesn't see, he just walks away.
Gabriel has left. That's not what surprises Michael, he nearly saw it coming. The hurt is something unexpected. He failed his brother – another one of his brothers, in a time where they rely on him to be a strong leader. But the more he looks around, the more it seems as if Heaven doesn't need the Father to lead them, and apparently not Michael, either. Groups form, holding the power and doing the Father's work. It worries Michael. Something is not right with them, and Gabriel was the last one he could talk to about this. Raphael is only tired, a sentiment shared by many others. The lower ranks seem to have less problems with the Father's absence, but Michael isn't even sure if they're informed. He isn't sure if this is what the Father wanted. All the exhaustion… the doubts… where is He? And the other angels have started to develop contempt, or at least disregard to the humans, and Michael can't really blame his brethren. Humans are tiring. Even now, Michael doesn't understand them, and he starts doubting he ever will. They do horrible things to each other, and sometimes they are incredibly good, but mostly, they are just tiring. He really wishes he could understand them. Maybe only they could, maybe it was something that couldn't be seen from outside. But the Father had told the angels to watch over them, and to love them, and Michael tries. The problem is, most angels have stopped trying. They can't see anything redeeming. Some talk about Lucifer in hushed voices, as if that would stop him from hearing. Others just want it to be over. The End of Days, the Apocalypse. Michael tells them no.
Not that it matters. He must have told Sam no a thousand times, because there is no way in hell he will kill his brother. Not even when he sees him threatening Jo. He rather believes this is a demon or a spell or something, than to accept that his little brother would do something like this. He will save him, not kill him.
"We would save them all." Raphael says. "Put an end to this. Look how they're suffering." And Michael knows, his brothers are tired. He's also tired – tired of figuring them out. Humans, that is. They're fascinating, and if only he could understand… "Saving them by killing them?" he asks. "I don't think that is considered saving." But Raphael doesn't share his opinion. "We would save them from their suffering. Heaven is behind this plan, Michael. You can't stop it, and you can't ignore it. The Apocalypse will come, and they'll all be saved." Michael considers this. "They'll all be killed." he corrects his brother, because if there is one thing he understands, it's that humans value their life. Not above everything, but highly. "I don't understand you, brother." Raphael says. "What on that Earth is worth saving?" Michael closes his eyes. He doesn't know. But he's sure there is something. If only he could understand…
And then he sees love. He sees a beautiful woman, or maybe only a young girl, crying over the dead body of the man she loves, and he can hear her talk to a demon, making a deal for her beloved's life. And it should be wrong and Michael should be disgusted, but when he sees that beautiful, young woman, Mary Campbell, seal a deal with a demon, he feels pain, and grief, and he thinks he sees a part of how human minds work. It's fascinating, and it's heartbreaking, just as Dean Winchester's heart breaks as he watches the scene. And both Dean and Michael remember the angel appearing, but only Michael smiles knowingly – he knew it – and then Dean is gone, but Michael remains and watches Mary Campbell and John Winchester. He doesn't quite understand, but he realizes that this – love – is worth to be saved.
The Apocalypse will come. There is nothing Michael can do to stop it, too many angels in the higher ranks want it. It disgusts him, but he understands. It's hard to hold onto faith when all they see is misery and pain, and no angel can actually explain why they should save humanity. Michael thinks about this for a long time, and then he decides to act. He is the one who shall lead Heaven. If he can't explain why humanity deserves to be saved, how can he stop the Apocalypse? He's scared of what will come, but he made his choice. He takes his sword and starts to cut out his grace…
…it hurts like the wounds from Lucifer's sword…
…it hurts like Sammy strangling him, fueled by rage and demon blood…
…it hurts like that yellow eyed bastard in his father's body liquefying his organs…
…it hurts like Alistair
…it hurts like the pure, sacred hand of an angel, pulling him from Hell…
It hurts like losing his grace.
While Michael falls, he remembers Mary Campbell. He smiles in spite of the pain, even as the voices of his siblings grow fainter and finally stop.
…the creation of Lucifer, filled with fierce power, a wonderful but terrifying thing to behold, and he remembers his decision to take care of him, from the moment his brother was put into his arms, take your brother outside…
…the fight, in all its details. The words said, the hits exchanged, and how he couldn't possibly kill Lucifer, the Morning Star, whom he had loved, not even to save him, and he remembers piercing Lucifer's grace, pinning him down and locking him away. He remembers other angels putting up seals and turning his back at them. He didn't need to see this.
It's the burning on his shoulder that pulls him out of these memories. The light fades, and he can open his eyes again. He's lying on the ground in front of a tree. It's majestic, but there is no grace in it, only a sword – his sword – sticking in the ground in front of it. He remembers, it fell together with his grace…
There's a hand on his shoulder, upon a burning mark. It's an angel's hand, definitely. Probably the hand of the angel who left the mark. He can see the angel's grace like an aura emitted by the skin… he looks up, wondering if he remembers that angel.
The name hits him as soon as he sees his eyes, overflowing with worry, fear, hope, and angels shouldn't feel – not that strongly – but he is somehow proud to see this particular angel showing so much emotion. It's the pure one, he remembers…
…as if it was a movie, as if it was from another lifetime. He feels Castiel's hand grip his shoulder, and he remembers – actually remembers.
"I'm the one who gripped you tight and raised you from perdition."
This is Cas, the one angel actually worth his grace, the one who pulled him from Hell, his friend. Maybe the only one to still fight for the Father's wishes.
"Dean?" Castiel asks, uncertain – probably wondering if this is really Dean Winchester, or Michael, or where one ends and where the other begins. He remembers being an angel, but he also remembers being human. That was the whole point. To understand humans… to become a human. And he understands. Maybe he is both, human and angel, but specifics don't matter at the moment.
It feels as if this is the first time he really sees Castiel – not only the vessel, but his grace shining through. It scares him. He can see Castiel's grace, weak and strained. He can see his wings, they're ragged, dirty, losing feathers… Castiel chose him over Heaven, and now he is slowly losing his grace as a punishment. It's wrong, especially when he feels his own grace, his own wings, completely untainted.
He raises his right hand and gently touches Castiel's cheek. He ignores the angel's confusion, as he puts his left hand behind his neck, slowly, carefully pulling him closer. He knows what to do, for once he's the one who can help Cas, this is a chance to show his gratitude and to make right what his friend suffered because of him.
He still ignores him, just puts his lips against the angel's forehead. It's a small connection, but it's enough, so he allows his grace to leave his body, flow through his lips and into Castiel. He can feel it join Castiel's grace, repair the damage, strengthen what was weakened by Zachariah and the other angels, and he feels his grace flowing into the wings, smoothing the feathers, making them shine, healing them. He doesn't have enough energy for a complete restoration, but for now it'll do.
When the flow of his grace stops, neither of them moves. He's not sure when holding the angel's face had turned into a loose embrace, but he doesn't care. For a few, precious seconds, all he knows is that he just healed an angel, one of his brothers, his friend. At the edge of his mind, he remembers that he will have to face Lucifer, his brother Morning Star, and end this fight once and for all, but right now, he's calm, and safe, and if this moment lasts for eternity, he won't mind.
"Dean." Castiel says again, this time relieved, certain.
Dean nods. "Yeah… yeah, Cas, it's me."
And it feels fucking good to say that.
Dean stands tall, his head held high, his eyes not leaving Lucifer, who also refuses to back down. They circle each other, slowly, but not threatening – not yet – just watching, estimating their enemy.
Lucifer is all rage and pride, dark energy coursing through his vessel, his wings cackling with energy like a thunderstorm waiting to hit. His vessel's face shows confusion. Of course, he recognizes the human Dean Winchester, his brother's intended vessel. He remembers that pathetic human he saw in Carthage, and he knows that his vessel is right in recognizing his own brother. This is definitely the same human who foolishly tried to kill him six months ago. But he can also see beyond the physical, and he sees his brother, the archangel Michael, filling the human body with his grace, with his wings spreading from the human's back, just outside of a mortal's perception. There is no difference between the angel and the human, and the taint of humanity… the taint of Hell, clings to Michael as well as to the human body. And suddenly, Lucifer understands, and his confusion is replaced by fury and disgust.
"You… You've become human!" The last word is spat out as if it's dirt, and for Lucifer it probably is.
Dean nods. He can see it now – remembers now – and can see that Lucifer hasn't changed. He got angrier, maybe, but one thing hasn't changed and he knows, falling, becoming a dirty, worthless human and to do it willingly, must be the ultimate betrayal in his brother's eyes.
"You have fallen. You've been to Hell… You broke!"
"I'd fall again." Dean answers.
Lucifer strikes, his anger lashes out and a part of his true form breaks through the vessel's body. Dean steps forward, quickly blocks the energy with his sword to keep it from Sam and Castiel who stay behind, watching the oldest fight in the world, unable to interfere. The energy blasts off, making the ground shake and destroying every bit of glass in its way. Still the shaking of the ground nearly throws Sam off his feet. Dean swears. "Cas, protect Sam!" he calls, while trying to avoid another attack of Lucifer.
"Even now you worry this much about a human?" his fallen brother asks, unbelieving.
"What did you expect?" Dean replies "That's why we have to fight, remember?"
Lucifer spreads his wings, his rage blasting off him like a shockwave, and Dean has to struggle and lean on his sword to keep his balance. The power of Lucifer's anger hits his own grace and burns up without harming him, but he can feel he energy breaking open the ground beneath him. Cracks appear on the street, and a thought later Dean appears behind Lucifer, while the ground he stood on a second ago, breaks apart.
"Even now you won't fight me. You're still trying to protect humans." Lucifer says, only turning his head. "Why? You're better than them. Better than every single one of them! And still, you defile yourself by becoming one of them, by siding with them, by choosing them over your own kind?"
Another blast charges towards him, but Dean is ready. He lifts his sword, holds it up for protection and the energy reflects from it, flying past Lucifer who sidesteps it, until it hits one of the still standing buildings, that starts to crumble and falls.
"You died for a human." Lucifer hisses. "Went to Hell for this one. Why?"
He lunges forward, his eyes now burning with hatred, and with envy. He grips Dean's sword until blood and grace drip out of his vessel's hands, blocking Dean from using it.
"He's my brother." Dean says.
"I am your brother!" Lucifer shouts.
And for the first time, Dean realizes just how mad Lucifer has become, just how far the Morning Star has fallen. Finally, he understands.
"No, Lucifer. Not anymore."
The vessel's face is distorted in disbelief and surprise. There is no way that Michael – his brother – could actually say this, much less mean it. This is Michael, who wasn't able to kill Lucifer when he turned against the Father.
But it's not only Michael he fights. It's also Dean Winchester, the human, the son of John and Mary Winchester, brother of Sam Winchester, who went to Hell and back, who swore to kill the devil.
For a few seconds, while the realization hits him, Lucifer is shocked. Only for a few seconds, but it's enough for Dean to wrestle his sword free, and just as Lucifer's shock fades, his heart is impaled by the sword of Michael.
Once more, Dean lets his grace leave his body, through the sword this time, not to heal but to burn, to correct the mistake he made an eternity ago. While Lucifer's grace is slowly burnt out, the vessel's face shows surprise, disbelief, fear… Dean sees hints of the Morning Star, faint, and still twisted with anger and spite.
"I will not apologize."
Dean nods at this. It sounds reasonable enough. "Neither will I." he answers softly, using his free arm to hold the falling body.
Lucifer laughs, the vessel's voice barely audible, while the wings disappear from Lucifer's real form. "But you are sorry."
There's no point in denying it, not with Dean's grace burning through Lucifer, betraying anything he feels. With his last strength, Lucifer leans forward, close enough to whisper into Dean's ear. "You know… I am right, Michael…"
Dean shakes his head. "It's Dean." he replies. "And you were wrong."
With a last flare of grace, Lucifer dies in his arms.
Silence fills Detroit. Without really thinking about it, Dean pulls his sword from the vessel's body and lets it fall to the floor, uncaring. He kneels down, still holding Lucifer's vessel as if this was an actual body. He's done the right thing. He knows he's done the right thing. But he is still sorry, and he still feels empty.
A hand comes to rest on his shoulder, and Dean looks up in surprise. He actually forgot that he wasn't alone. But Castiel is still here, and stares at him as if he can see right through him into his soul, which is probably the case, especially now that Dean is filled with grace. Dean shivers.
"Cas…" he whispers, his voice close to breaking. My brother is dead. It's what he doesn't have to say. Castiel understands, keeps staring straight into his eyes and holds his shoulder, anchoring him to reality. It doesn't take away the pain, but it helps.
Sammy is also still here, keeping a careful distance and staring at his brother, still holding onto the devil. He doesn't understand what's happened, and at some point Dean will probably have to explain this, but right now he can't. The End of Days is averted, Lucifer is dead, and he is fucking tired. So right now, the world can just leave him alone.
"Looks like you weren't all wrong about me, after all." Dean says, a sorry attempt of a smile distorting his face.
Castiel still appreciates it. He bows forward and mirroring his gesture from earlier this day – and doesn't it feel like a whole fucking eternity? – Castiel puts his lips onto Dean's forehead in a gentle kiss.
"Rest." the angel whispers. "The world is saved, Dean. Rest."