Hi all, this particular story has faced a whole blockade of writer's block, but thanks to my wonderful new job (wonderful because it gives me time to write at work) I've come back to this fic and am trying to (ironically) insert some life back into it. Not much to say apart from two notes:

1) the usual disclaimer, about how I make no profit from this, etc. – If I did I'd probably not be wearing clothes with holes in them... well, actually I probably still would. Priorities.

And 2) You'll probably notice that Death is pretty AU. You can blame my spotty memory, Terry Pratchett, and my own hubris for that – Or you can just enjoy my take on it.

Without too much further ado: 'Offertory" the chapter in which Bobby makes soccer analogies, Crowley accidentally becomes an anti-smoking PSA and Death gets a monologue.

OFFERTORY

Well, this has all gone to hell in a hand basket real quick. If Bobby were the praying sort, this is pretty much the time he would have thought about taking a knee. Hell, he`d go down like one of those candy-ass European soccer players in the middle of a match and bitch to the ref. Team Free Will could do with a friggin` penalty kick right about now. But after fifty odd years and especially the evidence of the last year itself, he`s well aware that the game`s rigged and The Great Big Referee in the sky... He don`t give a crap.

John`s boys are sitting in the next room arguing up a storm over what the hell to do now that they`re not only facing a ticking Apocalyptic clock, but are down one former-angel and are generally up shit creek with nary a paddle in sight. Prayer may be off the table, but whiskey sure as hell ain`t. Bobby pours himself a fresh glass and puts off going back to the boys a little longer. He`s got a truly stupid notion brewing in his head and needs a second more and a little more marinade of the Jack Daniel`s variety before he decides what to do with it.

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Things are... less than ideal. But luckily, Crowley is the gambling type; cool under pressure. He sighs and takes another drag on his cigarette, a filthy habit, even by demon standards, but he comforts himself with the fact that a mother with four children just walked into the cafe. He smiles charmingly as he makes sure to send a good cloud of second hand smoke at the little tykes.

His hour is almost up; shame, because his favourite Parisian cafe almost let him forget that he has to go back to playing a bloody ridiculous game of cat and mouse with not only Lucifer, but the Heavenly Choirboys too, and his "allies" have proven they need a considerable kick in the arse to get anything done. Crowley finishes his espresso and snubs out his cigarette. At least the day hasn't been a total waste yet; the look in dear sweet Castiel's eyes when he realized he was being handed over to the Horseman of the Month Club was even sweeter than surprise. Highly enjoyable.

He gets ready to step leisurely back into South Dakota and see if the humans are finally feeling the appropriate sense of urgency now that their angelic counterpart has been abducted when he feels something odd: the tug of a summoning.

Well isn't that interesting...

A neat little slice opens up in space and reality, and Crowley strolls through it.

"I have to admit, I wasn't expecting this..."

Bobby Singer turns suddenly at the sound of Crowley's voice just over his left shoulder. The human casts a wary glance back towards his shack and sweeps the summoning ritual quickly into a nearby pile of junk.

"Yeah, yeah, let's get this show on the road. You can gloat later."

"Me? Gloat?" Crowley approximates a look of hurt indignity.

"Here's how this is going to work," Singer informs him, "I sign over the goods, temporarily and you give me the exact location of the Horseman. Then, you give me my soul back without so much as a scratch."

Crowley puts his hands in his coat pockets and sizes up Bobby Singer. Oh yes. He's really going to enjoy this. "I take it you didn't get permission from the Hardy Boys for this exchange? Or..." and he can't resist can he? Hello: demon. "Or your guardian angel..."

Singer fixes him with a look that he suspects has previously made countless lower echelon demons soil themselves, "Cas got taken."

Crowley just remembers to feign surprise, "Always was a bit bird-brained that one."

There's a long minute where Bobby glares at him, unreasonably bloody perceptive for a human, and Crowley feels a sudden rare sense of doubt in his centuries old, finely honed ability to lie. But he needn't have worried apparently, because the man breaks eye contact and looks back towards the house again, making sure they're going unobserved. Bobby Singer is a man with things other than treachery on his mind; namely self-sacrifice. And that has a brilliant ability to make an idiot of anyone.

"Well, then, perhaps we should go ahead while we have some privacy; more intimate this way," Crowley suggests pleasantly.

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If he had been conscious, perhaps he would have recognized the danger in which he currently resided, but since the insensate former angel isn't anything of the sort, he remains blissfully unaware. The cosmic speck in the trench coat gives a soft groan as his human body struggles to return him to awareness and fails. Well, perhaps not so blissfully then.

Old eyes, old in every essence of the possibility contained within that word, watch the drama before them, which is small enough to dance on the head of a pin. There are far, far bigger things at stake than this one being, even than this one or two species, this planet, this universe... But that kind of thinking has been causing what would be equated to a headache lately, and Death leans back wearily in his chair and continues to watch the human-looking celestial's plight.

Into the stately ballroom wander two more specks, infernal by nature and usually not of much consequence, but time and power have a regrettably fascinating habit of flowing and shifting. The leather of the easy chair creaks companionably, and almost as audibly, as the embodied neck of The Supreme Reaper as he turns to watch them.

"'Been enjoying your quality time?" the First Fallen Angel asks.

"Hm."

This crumb of twisted divinity, this Lucifer, has confined him to the age and frailty that Death usually shows only outwardly. It is normally only a mask, but some great upset in the rightful balance of the universe has placed The Devil in an unusual position of power and now Death's own illusion of infirmity is being used against him. He is confined to sit here like an old man in his twilight years, nodding by the fire, just barely able to keep his reapers running their all-important errands. But they all know they are doing so strictly under the thumb of the tiny-speck tyrant Lucifer.

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The pain burns white hot and is the first thing Castiel is aware of as consciousness slams back into him. The second thing he's bound to notice, once the pain stops boiling his brain like an egg, is that he's back in his familiar suit and trench coat. But in the meantime, he's being crucified again, and it feels like he's impaled by those seraphic blades straight through his shoulders. His mouth opens, but he doesn't hear his own scream, and he can't be sure he's even uttered one. When something other than fireworks manages to inhabit his vision, he's met with the sight of the demon Meg nursing a steaming hand and glaring at him. His shoulders though not actually sporting any protruding blades, are also steaming. He wonders foggily if it hurt her as much as it hurts him...

"Cas."From his position strapped to what is apparently a gurney, The Devil appears in his field of vision. "I see you got a little present courtesy of The Host."

When Lucifer lightly places a hand on the now very material wounds, they sizzle, but The Devil doesn't appear to be burned. If only the same could be said for Castiel.

"Well isn't that interesting?" Lucifer muses, withdrawing his touch, leaving his younger brother panting for breath.

The Devil watches him writhe in his bonds for a few more minutes before turning indulgently back to Meg, "Alright, alright, you've been very patient. Castiel:" he places a filial hand on the former angel's forehead, a touch that causes no physical pain, but nonetheless leaves Castiel cold inside. "It probably isn't much consolation, but I couldn't do this without you. You're my last vital ingredient for the final ritual. We may not see eye to eye little brother, but for this, for your sacrifice, you have my gratitude."

"Lucifer, whatever you're planning-"

The Devil puts a finger to his lips and Castiel feels the words freeze in his throat. Slowly, and with surprising gentleness, Lucifer tilts the former angel's chin, turning his head so that he can finally see the room's other occupant: Death.

"When this is all over, I'll have Old Man Reaper here in my arsenal and then we'll all be one step closer to the big finale; thanks to you."

Futile as it may be, Castiel immediately starts to struggle against his bonds again.

Lucifer smiles beatifically, "That's good. Keep that up."

And with that Satan turns on his heel and vanishes.

"Clarence, Clarence, Clarence," Meg singsongs crossing to the other side of the spacious, empty ballroom, "Boy, are you in for a treat tonight."

Castiel continues to strain against his bonds, observed by Death, who despite what is about to happen, looks like an old man about to drowse off.

"Uh...look," he begins a bit awkwardly, addressing the ancient power "I know I'm a lower rank- or uh..." The squeak and rattle of a metal cart being rolled towards him becomes louder. "or the lowest actually right now, considering..." he grimaces at his human body perforated with supernatural wounds, "but... listen to me! You can't let this happen!"

Meg laughs.

"Listen to me!"

And that's a considerably impertinent way to be addressing any power this old and this – well – powerful. But Castiel can feel desperation clawing his way up inside of him.

But when Death meets his eyes at last, the utter lack of movement, of energy, of will power to stop what is about to happen fills the former angel with despair.

"Feisty little tree-topper aren't you?" Meg chuckles and Castiel makes the phenomenal mistake of turning to look at the knife she has in her hands. It's long and faintly curved, covered from handle to tip in Enochian sigils.

"Don't let her do this!" he tries one last time out of sheer desperation, "It'll bind you! It'll bind you permanently to Lucifer!"

"Cas. Dear sweet little Castiel," Meg coos, wrenching his chin back so he has no choice but to look at her. "If you don't stop chit chatting with that old scythe swinger I'm going to have to gag you. Of course, that would muffle your screams of pain, and then, well what's a good ritual without a screaming victim? Uh-uh, nope. See then, as an alternative, I'd just have to cut your pretty little tongue out. And you don't want that do you?"

Castiel abruptly stops his useless entreaties to a universal power apparently past the point of caring and saves his tongue for entreaties to one who he can only hope isn't.

Meg sets about arranging the materials on her cart with all the open glee of a little girl setting up her favourite tea set.

"Domine, Rex Gloriae-" he whispers.

"Saying your prayers Clarence?" She asks lightly, "Go ahead. Of course if I hear any hint of a demon-be-gone in there, I'm pressing the mute button," she warns him, reaching over to lightly tap the tip of the blade against his chin.

The demon carefully begins to sharpen the knife. And Castiel swallows hard.

"Toa-...Toa tar en ev at ta..." he fumbles into Enochian.

Meg scrapes her nails down his chest, over his shirt and slides them to his belt.

Then Latin as his stomach clenches:"...Fidelium defunctorum-..."

Time. He can buy time... think of something... think of a way out of this... give The Winchesters a chance to find him to... No, but there's no hope of that. But maybe, just maybe, there's still someone in The Host worth reaching. If they could only hear his prayers, his pleas then-

He feels his pants slide down to reveal vulnerable flesh just above his right hip. His voice speeds up as fingers trace the exposed skin and Castiel squeezes his eyes shut.

"-from...from infernal punishment and the Deep pit!" he stutters. "Free them from... the mouth of the lion; do not let Tartarus swallow them...Nor let them fall into darkness...

"Daddy's not coming for you," Meg informs him cheerfully, "And I wouldn't count on any of those big scary big brothers of yours either..."

The blade sinks in, making the first deep, angled cut.

He hardly registers himself switching back to Enochian, "Piam zia ta Tirrin-poalah-!"

"That's it," the demon coos, "Sing for me..."

As the sigil burns its way into his flesh, he feels himself losing his grip on the words,"...Lead- ... lead them into... the holy light-..."

Darkness. Darkness crowds into him, filling him from the inside out, leeching like a damp penetrating cold through him. It's hopeless... no one is coming for him... His heart aches.

"Isn't this fun?" Meg giggles as she makes another deep cut.

Father...please...

A strange chittering, buzzing noise begins to fill Castiel's ears, and radiating out from the area Meg is carving he feels a stinging sensation like being peppered with small, sharp needles over every inch of his skin.

No... but God isn't listening...

"Quam olim Abrahae Promisisti! " he gasps trying to focus on the words, on the comfort of the words he knows by heart... but the wrongness of what's starting to happen is far more than just physical."...et...et seimini eius..." he persists desperately.

No one is coming. He is going to die here alone...

"Come on Cas..." Meg pouts now, "just one little scream..."

She reaches over beside her and produces a fine powder from the tray beside her and dumps it liberally in the wound.

Sulfur.

He screams.

Everything goes blindingly white for what feels like an eternity but is probably only a few seconds. Then he is plunged again into heavy darkness.

"H- hostias... et preces tibi... " he hears his own voice shaking from seemingly a long way away... "Domine... laudis offerimus..."

He doesn't even know why he's still reciting the prayer.

"Stubborn," the demon chuckles and ruffles his hair in a mockery of affection.

He can barely breathe and it feels like a metal band has wrapped itself around his heart and is slowly squeezing.

"..alan... taq el palin... ev-...ev taama-..." the Enochian words taste coppery on his tongue. Or possibly that's blood... "re faaq. Ba hadalmah saasia."

He's so dizzy... and his chest is on fire... What comes next?... oh... yes... "Fac eas Domine.." he whimpers. "Pass over... from death to life..."

A terrible explosion of pain tears through his chest and the wounds from Morael's swords sear him and everything crescendos in agony, before it abruptly stops...

The ballroom is enormous, yet every single panel and fixture is handcrafted with intricate detail. It's a beautiful room. The floor shines, polished like a mirror and the chandelier overhead casts a warm, multi-faceted light. In a worn leather chair, Death sits, drowsy and subdued, while a demon bends over the waxen pale figure of a former angel gasping his last breath. Unseen, Castiel drifts closer to the dying man, taking in his trench coat, twisted under him from his struggles... the rumpled suit... the dark hair, plastered to his temples with cold sweat... It's all very familiar... Castiel looks at Death again, who very slowly returns his gaze. The demon is unaware of his presence and keeps looking at the fading figure on the gurney; still very familiar...

Cracked lips struggle to form words with very little breath. "… io ebha taadomad…" the former angel rasps in Enochian.

Castiel leans in closer, curious. Enochian...

If he hadn't been incorporeal, his eyes would have widened as understanding dawned.

Oh no.

"Aliliq as mon raed..." the dying figure gasps.

No. It's him. That's him. That's his very human body dying!...Castiel prepares to be cast back onto the border of life and death, for Morael and the others, for battle, for pain and flight and capture and interrogation...

But it never happens; instead he is flung a much shorter distance back into the entombment of his own lifeless corpse.

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Hope you enjoyed that. Cas' prayer is something I lifted from the Catholic funeral mass. Although obviously I played around with it and spliced it like a madwoman with Latin/English/Enochian. Feel free to leave a review if this is something you're following. I tend to work on a few stories at a time, but I try to pay more attention to ones that seem to have the bigger folowing. Thanks for spending some time with my little story today -Amazon