Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Supernatural. Written for fun, not profit.
Warning (if any): SPOILERS for the SPN season 7 finale. Also for the Angel series finale.
Author's notes: Apparently, I was listening to Mumford and Sons too much. Anyhow, as stated, this has major spoilers for the end of SPN S7 and Angel S5; but, for Angel, I'm not taking the comics into consideration, so this is AU if you follow the comics. Picks up where "Survival of the Fittest" left off.
"But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—'Thou mayest'— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if 'Thou mayest'—it is also true that 'Thou mayest not." ― John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Here, there is only hunger. It is part of the fabric of this reality. I can tell, because an angel would not feel such pangs without outside interference, and I, despite my faults, am still an angel.
Dean speaks, and I half listen; half reply. I am aware. I am more myself than I have been in a very long time. My mind is present now, and this, sanity, it pains me more than the hunger of Purgatory. I wish to be broken again, but there is work to be done.
I had hoped, upon arrival, upon waking Dean from his sleep, that he would know where he was and what I was to do. But it seems that, as I am a poor choice for a guardian angel, he is also a poor choice for a human guide.
He does not know, so I must tell him. He is lost and might as well be alone; I see this conclusion in his eyes.
"Every soul here is a monster," I say, listening to the beasts gather around us, hidden by the darkness of the desolate woods. "This is where they come to prey upon each other for all eternity."
"We're in Purgatory? How do we get out?"
I realize I planted this seed in him, awakening him, telling him we needed to get out—I overstepped. I should not have given Dean hope, not when I still might fail so spectacularly, as I have failed him before.
"I am afraid we're much more likely to be ripped to shreds."
Dean is watching for them now, his hunter's instinct making him study the treeline, count the number of red eyes watching from beyond. I pay them no mind, watching the man instead. His face, as it is now, will forever be burned into my eyes. I fly before he notices; I am no good to him here, and will not watch him be devoured by the beasts. I will not hear him call my name in his final moments.
They are not shadows, but brazen figures walking straight through the forest. The gore of fallen monsters stains their clothing, making it heavy. They are wet with rainwater and smell of the dead. How they have arrived, I do not know, but they are new to this place.
"Well, peaches, we always said we'd see each other in Hell. This anything like that dimension you made time in?" It's the blonde speaking, his voice light, filled with false laughter. It reminds me of Dean, when he smiles in the face of Death and tries to conquer his fears with bravado. The blonde's voice shakes a bit when he adds, "Because, frankly, I was thinking a bit more fire and brimstone."
"Spike—" This other vampire, for they're both monsters, is darker, heavier. He does not try for levity. "Shut up."
"All the times we've exchanged a nice, 'See you in Hell,' bet you never expected you'd be stuck this close to me on the trip Downstairs."
"Spike, we are not spending eternity together."
"Aww—but, we already did the 'til death bit." The blonde chucked, and I have been around humans long enough to detect the terror in the sound. "Fine, don't play nice—was plannin' on trading your somber ass for smokes anyhow."
They are beacons, attracting a horde of creatures who follow, close behind, waiting for a chance to attack. All that has kept the beasts at bay is the scent of the blood of those who have already tried, soaking the vampires' jackets. I saw these men, their souls, from afar. They are bright things—on Earth, souls are not so visible. It is how the monsters hide so well. But, here, in Purgatory, I can see them without being near. I can almost feel their warmth without ever reaching inside to touch their essence. I can almost know them.
These two monsters carry human souls within them. Souls which remain separate from the spirits of the beasts within their forms. They should not be here. Just as Dean should not be here. This place was not meant for them.
"You are not in Hell."
Both of them jump at the sound of my voice, and both try to cover it by looking ready for battle. I tilt my head, curious to know if I look any different from the monsters they've fought so far. If they can tell the difference. Their hesitation is an answer.
"What are you?"
"Hello, Liam," I say, and then shift my gaze to the other, "and William." Their souls, their blinding souls, are accusing, just as Dean's—they show me the wrongs I have done. Remind me that I am unworthy of my father's gift to the humans: choice. But, I push down that creeping madness, which tells me to go hide from it all. Those souls, if I look past what I do not want to see, tell me even more—these are God's champions, beings who fight for his favorite children.
"Uh—actually, it's Spike these days." The blonde shoves a thumb at his chest before gesturing to his partner. "And that bloke calls himself Angel when he's grumpy."
I blink, taking in the nicknames. Dean gave me one as well, so I tell them. "I am Cas."
Spike snorts, raising a brow at Angel. The two shuffle their feet, but don't advance, waiting to see if I will make the first move. I don't have time for the necessary introductions.
"My friend requires your aid," I say. They don't understand yet. Because, they, as I did, believe only monsters must be in this place. I sigh; explanations are tedious. "You are in Purgatory. Your choices in both life and death are what have led you here. And, they are what will lead you out as well." My own words are painful; hunger for their truth is greater than the hunger my vessel suffers. "My friend is a human. Will you help him?"
Their eyes are different now. Perhaps, their lives have been filled with such strangeness that they are not confused by its sudden appearance in their deaths.
"What's he doing here?" Angel asks, his gaze narrowed. I understand the suspicion.
There is no proper answer, other than the one I have already given: choice. Choice, his own. My own. The demon's own. The monster's own. Choice brought us here, to this moment. "He wished to save the world," I reply, not meaning to speak at all—perhaps that glimpse of sanity is indeed fleeting.
Spike nods at the words. "Happens," he says, as if I'd made sense. "Where's the poor bastard now?
I reach out and grab the vampires before they can pull away. My powers are greatly weakened from the fall into this prison, and they may never be as they once were. But, this, flight, I can manage.
What we were is no more. The bond severed. But, I will not watch Dean Winchester be devoured without trying to save him. He has done the same for me.
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand
Hold your hand
And I will tell the night
Whisper, "Lose your sight"
But I can't move the mountains for you
–"Timshel," Mumford and Sons