"Well, it would hardly be to her advantage to be reprehensible, would it?"
- War for the Oaks
The first time Lucifer finds him, Castiel is distracted by a sensation of warmth that blitzs through Dean's talisman. It's a fleeting heat, a sudden pulse against Jimmy's skin that makes him bow reality backwards so he can drop into the middle of downtown Manhattan. It's late morning. The streets are deafening. Physically so, the cacophonous noise of a thousand voices raised against the artless symphony of the city sounds, radios, cars, bells, cell phones. Castiel stands puzzled and distantly disappointed in the middle of the sidewalk as people swarm and push, bumping shoulders. He stands fixed while the river of humanity flows around him. Gazing at the cold metal amulet in his hand, he can't help the small part of him that curls his vessel's strong slender fingers around it and prays it will regain that fleeting heat.
He looks up.
And Lucifer is standing, smiling slightly at him from the street corner across from him. He is half out of step with time, temporality rippling around him as he gazes across the streaking traffic of the main street between them. He nods his head once –as though he and Castiel are in confidence – and Castiel blinks out of existence. He wraps the universe around himself and darts to the bright places of the world, sun burning gold across his vessel's skin in the yellow grasses of Africa, Egypt, the Sahara. He stands there in the sun of the Judean Hills, the dry heat penetrative and superficial – heat is no protection – but somehow calming.
Jimmy's fingers are still clenched tight around the amulet. Its sharp edges draw blood.
The second time Lucifer finds him, he's crouched in an ancient temple hidden and lost in the heart of the Tibetan mountains. His vessel's pale hands are spread on the floor, pressed to the centre of the complex sigil drawn in blood, a low shiver like a note through tuning fork singing through Jimmy's body. It's an ancient ritual. Older than the eons. Castiel is focused on the task at hand, doesn't feel Lucifer until a hand (hot with fever and leaking power) touches Jimmy's shoulder. Castiel leaps through reality, tears open a slit in the universe to escape through but Lucifer twists the continuum around his fingers and seals Castiel's way out. The air shivers. Everything stills again. Jimmy Novak's breathing stops entirely.
"Castiel." He says his name with a certain softness no one else uses.
("Hey, Cas!" "Cas, where are you?" "Castiel.")
It is, though he would never bring it up, a closer approximation of his real name.
Quietly he says, "Lucifer."
His vessel continues to rot, like the other angel is a cancer eating him from the inside out, microwaving, softening, and putrefying the soft tissues from Nick's bones. Nick's soul was crushed and buried in the blood and rotten saccharine of Lucifer's warped divinity. (How long had he screamed before oblivion?) Castiel's disgust stiffens him. Reflexively he curls his consciousness more tightly around the sleeping soul of Jimmy Novak, pulls him more closely into the centre of himself. He is a bright almond of light and humanity in the darkness of Castiel's wings and it's in the angel's nature to abhor what's been done to Nick Marshall.
Lucifer must sense the shift because he chuckles. "You are so strange," he says. "You divide your love between God and humans. It's blasphemous."
"It's not," Castiel says simply.
Lucifer tilts his head at this. Then he lifts a hand to Jimmy's face, specifically to Jimmy's face, a purely corporeal gesture. His fingers trace the emotionless arch of his vessel's brow, fingertips ghosting across the lashes of his left eye, his cheekbone, before settling at his jaw line and running a thumb against the rough penumbra of stubble there – a deceptively intimate gesture. Castiel can sense the cold appraisal in it. The qualitative stare of a mind inspecting product; reading Jimmy's bloodline back through the years, tracing his genetic history back to the ancient times, all the interventions of heaven to keep the genealogical legacy intact, like breeding cattle, fucking animals in heat, blue-eyed chattel for the taking – Castiel jerks Jimmy's body away from Lucifer's hands. He seethes with something (it could be hate.)
The dark angel only smiles at this, amusement a black and pervasive weight in the stones of the temple.
"He's meat, Castiel." Those eyes hold his. "All of them are."
But the angel flits away, an echo of wings in the mountain winds and he leaves nothing but a hot, angry gaze behind. And no sympathy.
The third time Lucifer finds Castiel, he's just finished throwing Dean and Samuel through dimensions back to Sioux Falls because this time he feels the shift, the world bending at the middle with a terrible hissing tension. Dean is halfway through saying something to the effect of 'Cas, you should blink out and get us some pie' when he feels reality fissure and slams his palms to the brothers' foreheads and shoves. He imagines that the Winchesters will think he teleported them because he dislikes pie. (This is not true: he neither likes nor dislikes pie.) He feels them tumble onto Bobby's porch two states away, their shock like crackles of static before he breaks his hold on them…
Then Lucifer is in the room.
"Close one," he says mildly. "Do they know how closely you guard them?"
Castiel tilts his head, uncomprehending. He is already poised to rip away streaking through the complex eddies of the incorporeal world, but Lucifer is… puzzling. The smoldering miasma of his corrupted grace is at ease, not poised for the attack but gathered as a loose nimbus, like a distant thundercloud around him. In fact, in angelic terms he is more or less twiddling his thumbs. He doesn't get the devil's game. He pauses fractionally, then adds, as through he is not sure this is his line: "I will not tell you where they are."
"No. I know you won't. I don't really need you to." His gaze sweeps the room, takes in the strewn weaponry, discarded laptop, empty pizza boxes, boots and socks everywhere, the mess of human brothers and Castiel's only allies in this fight to not end the world. Lucifer looks at Castiel again and his eyes are dark and focused, terribly intent on finding something in the other angel. Castiel doesn't like the feeling. "Can I ask you something, Castiel?"
The angel wavers, half-gone, listens and is not sure why.
"I want to know how an angel of Thursday decides to stand up against the Host of Heaven on the say so of a knuckle-head from Kansas."
Castiel stares. A moment passes.
"It is the right thing to do," he says as Lucifer adds, "He's not Dorothy."
Castiel freezes. Lucifer looks at him with a sort of anticipatory grin that Dean uses when he is 'messing with him'. The wild non sequitur throws him off and he stands there, wide-eyed and silent because he had no idea how to respond. After having drawn a sufficient amount of amusement from Castiel's stricken expression, Lucifer elaborates, "Dorothy. From the movie the Wizard of Oz .She's the heroine of the story, lives in Kansas and puts together a motley crew of stupid, sociopathic, and cowardly heroes with whom she ultimately slays the wicked witch of the West. Then she clicks her boots together "Says there's no fuckin' place like home, dude" and goes home to live happily ever after."
The angel stares.
Lucifer chuckles. "I can see why he likes you."
Castiel steps out of existence.
The fourth time Lucifer finds him, Castiel is holding their sister's empty vessel in the hot heavy rains of a country the humans call South Vietnam. The girl is Mozambican, perhaps, twenty-three and her native tongue was Swahili before she said 'yes'. The rain is in the wiry thickness of the girl's hair. Her dark eyes stare into the gray skies above them, slack mouth filling now with water because Castiel has been crouched here with her for a very long time. The mud around them is scorched and smeared with the black emblazoned spread of incinerated wings.
A whisper of beating wings – the air huffs to accommodate a new mass and the river of mud that is this ugly back road darkened suddenly by the wings of another whom, like him, understands this loss. Eons cauterized and burned out like a star flaring and bursting in the howling black cold of the universe. The humans watch a pinprick go out on their peripheral. Castiel sees the roiling million miles of devastation as her grace detonates, the great, screaming void in the cosmos, the dark where there had been a fixed point of song and now there is a silence in the universe. And there is a strange, urgent, tightness in his vessel's chest and throat. He doesn't know what it means.
Nick Marshall's shoes sink in the mud. Jimmy's clothing is already soaked through. The rain makes his hair stick to his forehead. Castiel knows he should run, but a treacherous, secret, aching part of him… wants his brother to acknowledge this.
"She rebelled," observed Lucifer.
Castiel says nothing.
"She was coming to join you wasn't she?"
The low roar of the rain is the only sound.
Lucifer sinks to crouch in the mud with Castiel who won't look away from the empty face of the vessel, eyes blown wide and staring, staring, staring into the heaven that killed her. (He hadn't been fast enough to reach her. Not nearly fast enough…) Fingers yellowed by fever stretch across the gap between them and settle on the back of Castiel's neck. His brother radiates warmth and familiarity that Castiel has been cut off from for what seems like an eternity. It's a testament to how raw that wound is when he allows Lucifer to lean forward and say her name in the secret tones their language. (Not the clumsy dialect of humans.) It has been so long since he's heard his native tongue Castiel shivers from the want of it. Lucifer says Castiel's name too, the syllables singing sweetly and beautifully through the world around them, murmuring through Creation. They are tempered with sympathy (seduction) and comfort (damnation), slide through his grace like fingers and they feel like home.
"Castiel. This war will destroy them all. The longer it goes on, more of them will die for your cause whether they rebel or not. You hide the Winchesters. Protect them. Delay the inevitable and your brothers and sisters burn." The former archangel tipped his forehead against Castiel's and whispered, "Or did you think none of this was your fault?"
The rain eventually washes away all evidence that anyone had ever been there at all.
The fifth time Lucifer finds Castiel, he's waiting in a New York coffee shop in Queens. Sam and Dean have asked him to 'stay put' while they follow a lead just up the block. Because the establishment does not allow 'loitering' he's bought a mug of dark coffee to stare at for the past twenty minutes. He knows the man next to him has been laundering money to pay for his daughter's expensive medication. The woman to his left is nervously slicking on lipstick, anticipating the arrival of her lover who is not her husband. (The man in the corner booth is a private detective and he's been hired to find out if the woman is cheating. He's a father of four and tired of infidelity.) The waitress at the end of the bar has just ended a relationship with a man who raped her regularly during the course of their time together – though she will never admit this to herself – and she likes Jimmy Novak's hair.
This, Castiel thinks, is a curious feature to like. The waitress comes to refill his full mug so he drinks half the cold beverage in a single go (so she has something to do) and observes the glass bubble of fresh coffee pot dip over his shoulder and tilt. A dark arc of steaming liquid sloshes into the cup and Castiel looks at her. There is a small breath of grace, a breath of it so infinitesimal it could be nothing. But her mind clears and she is comforted for the first time in months.
She pauses, looking startled. There is a touch of hope in her eyes – she mistakes the console of angels for infatuation – before she moves away smiling.
"That was sweet," says a familiar voice.
Castiel doesn't jump but he does swing his head around a little faster than he typically would. Lucifer is in the middle of biting down on a chocolate éclair. Nick looks like a cancer patient, varicose veins thread his face, his skin is mottled. Lucifer – however – is cold, lucent, and ingloriously beautiful. Castiel feels the heat of the coffee mug he's holding against Jimmy's palms; ignores it in favor of staring at the not-man beside him. No one else in the diner takes notice of him, of course, they go on while the devil eats breakfast among them. This seems poignant somehow, but Castiel is more concerned that Sam and Dean might come back at any moment (or that Lucifer has already sent his demons out to find them.)
Lucifer seems unconcerned. "You were a guardian once," he remarks conversationally. "Before this war I mean. A long time ago. Am I right?"
"We have all been guardians," Castiel points out blankly.
A reproachful smile. "I never was." Castiel doesn't deny that. Lucifer eyes him. "But you… I imagine you were one of those who tried to reach them all. Stretched your wings beyond their means trying to get to every single screaming pinprick before it snuffed itself, tried to keep them from guttering out." He sips a warm sweet smelling drink that hadn't been there two seconds ago and Castiel is reminded powerfully, randomly, of Gabriel. Lucifer's bright gaze is on him, amused and penetrative, "Weren't you?"
Castiel looks away. The coffee in his hands is too hot. If Jimmy were in control he would drop the mug and wave his hands frantically, the way Sam does when he picks up a bubbling microwave pizza with his bare fingers. Lucifer finishes his éclair, licks a smear of chocolate from his thumb.
"Be still, Castiel. I'm not here to fight."
"I don't want to talk to you," says Castiel because it's never been Lucifer's lethality in battle that's the danger. (Though it is a danger.) It's his smile and the honeyed heroin of his words that have divided heaven and raised hell behind him in a black wave, poisoned the world's wounds and made them fester. Lucifer laughs softly and claps Castiel on the shoulder in a rough companionable fashion that he's come to associate with Dean Winchester. It makes something hot and sudden purge itself through his grace, smoldering and suffusing. The coffee mug is an eggshell in Castiel's grip.
"Like I said," Lucifer smiles, "You're a peculiar thing."
"You are trying to recruit me?"
"I don't recruit." He takes another drink from his mug, swallows. "I accept volunteers."
"I am not volunteering."
Castiel moves to stand. Lucifer sighs. "Sit down." A terrible weight shoves Castiel back down so hard he has the grab the counter to keep balance. Lucifer's attention is on the little colored packets in the porcelain dish by the ketchup, He tears a few open and upends white streams of sugar into his cup, stirs. He glances at Castiel – who is breathing slowly and cautiously, grace effervescent and crackling – over his mug. "I'm not done talking to you, little brother."
A beat. Castiel feels cold.
"Now calm down and sit still. I'm not here about Sam and Dean. I told you. That will happen in due course. So you needn't sit there like that. You'll bust one of Jimmy's seams and that's uncharitable I think. Sort of like getting him ripped apart at the molecular level by Raphael." Castiel only tenses further, coiling furiously inside the resilient shell of Jimmy Novak's body, and in Lucifer's eyes the man was nothing so much as a densely packed, human shaped burn of raw star shine. "Hmm, he fits you well doesn't he? Like a boot."
"What. Do. You. Want."
He does not appreciate his presumption that Sam will say yes, or how he calls Jimmy a boot, or how he just laughs at the possibility of Dean Winchester doing anything remotely like threaten the coming burn of this planet. The monster in Nick Marshall has such strange, hideous conviction. He feels a prickle of urgency, immediacy, the need to run into the ether and vanish from this confrontation.
"Castiel, you must realize there is no place for you in all this. That one angel half-fallen and cast out isn't going to change anything." He nods to the amulet around Jimmy Novak's throat. "You think you're really going to find God? Succeed where eons of those who've come before you have failed, Castiel? You?" Suddenly his wings are filling the entire café, weighty shadows that Jimmy's eyes do not conceive of but they blot out the shine of human souls, isolating them in a sarcophagus dark. "Did you think others have not sought our father before? Scoured the heavens and the earth? Sifted the oceans and the dark trenches of the planet? It's been tried, Castiel, by those far older and wiser and stronger than you. Did you think your desperation made you more worthy?" Nick's hand grabs Jimmy's shoulder. (Lucifer's wings encircle Castiel.) "Our father will not answer you. You've betrayed heaven for Him, slain your brothers for Him, died for Him and the world is going to burn anyway because God does not love you, Castiel."
His brother is a ghost breathing heat like a kiln against his grace, like a hellgate cracked open and his wings catch eddies of red fire.
"You have lost everything for nothing." He whispers his own words back to him. "Oh Castiel." His voice – pure and exquisite, infinitely understanding. "I have stood where you are."
Castiel's grace flares hotly. The café windows clatter and buzz; the whole building shakes, glasses and plates buzz and skitter across the tabletop. Lucifer is sitting alone, smiling quietly, at the counter by an over turned coffee mug.
Author's Note: Oh God, I really need to stop...