Chapter 47 Oblation
Kevin looked at the fire, leaning back in the comfortable arm-chair, his stomach full of hot food and drowsiness stealing through his thoughts. It was a much more comfortable place than Garth's boat, he thought vaguely, the depth of silence here soothing.
Everyone was dead. Everyone he'd known and cared about. He had only Crowley's word for his mother's death. Nothing he'd tried to do had been able to verify that one way or the other. But the continuing silence was its own verification, wasn't it? She would've moved Heaven or Earth to find him if she'd been alive.
And starting again.
He was so tired. He'd looked around the building when he'd gotten in, after stumbling and cursing through the illusory woods for nearly an hour, not sure that the utility hut was actually what he was supposed to be looking for. The bedrooms had been inviting. He'd been surprised to see Dean's – it looked like the hunter actually had put some thought into it, had levelled some care in the place that had obviously become a home to them. It wasn't what he knew or thought of the taciturn man.
Neither of them were really the way he thought of them, he realised, opening his eyes a little to watch the flames. Sam – at first he'd thought that Sam was kind. He was, of course, more attuned perhaps to people than his older brother, but at the same time, much more deeply driven than Dean. He didn't know how he knew that, something to do with the conduit in his mind, perhaps. But he was sure of it.
And Dean … he'd burst into the long, empty warehouse storeroom in time to see Dean with a knife pointed at his mother's chest as she'd struggled to hold him off her. When Crowley had smoked out and disappeared, Dean had let Linda Tran drop to the floor, turning to deal with the demon as he'd returned for the tablet in his own meatsuit.
He still remembered how much he'd hated Dean in that moment. It wasn't a rational feeling, that hatred. Just instinctive. His mother had pointed out in no uncertain terms that she would've made the same choice as the hunter in the same position and that had tempered his reaction a little. And he'd seen, more than once now, Dean's subtle withdrawal from him. Knew why that was. Without thinking about it, or trying for it, he'd found a vulnerability in the man he'd never suspected and he knew, pretty much for sure now, that Dean would never let him closer than arm's length, would always be gruff or joking or outright hostile rather than ever admit to having that vulnerability.
They weren't friends. And he thought, they never would be. Comrades in arms, perhaps. Something happened when you shared the same foxhole. Something that couldn't ever happen in real life – in ordinary, normal life.
If they hadn't shown up that night, where would he be? Dead, or missing a lot more body parts. Locked down in Hell, tortured by Crowley? Giving up the secrets of the tablets as the demon found them? Giving the King of Hell the power that had been locked into those tablets, not through their meaning but through the connection with the divine?
He had the feeling that no matter what Dean'd said, it wasn't over. The hunter was a great liar to those he didn't know. But lying to the people he knew – or was close to – he was useless. And Kevin had seen the way his gaze had shifted as he'd offered the small comment, back in Missouri. Dean wasn't sure.
The flutter of wings stirred the flames, sending them leaping up the chimney and rustling the pages of the books strewn across the table. He looked around in surprise, seeing Castiel and Dean standing there.
"Kev, glad you found the place," Dean said, turning to the table and pulling out the heavily wrapped tablet. He unwrapped it and set it on the tablet. "C'mon, we got six hours and we need to know what's on this."
"What is that?" Kevin got up and looked at it suspiciously.
He saw Dean's glance flicker away and he walked around the table, looking down at the stone. Not the demon tablet. This was the tablet for the realm of Heaven and the seraphim it contained.
"Is this a joke?" he said disbelievingly.
"No. It's the Word of God," Castiel said repressively.
Kevin tilted his head to look up at the angel and Dean saw the boy's eyes narrow.
"It's a tablet. Translate," he cut in. "That's what you do."
"Okay," Kevin snorted softly, looking back at the stone. "Let's start with … it's the angel tablet which I've never laid eyes on in my life. You want a translation in six hours?" He straightened up, pushing away from the table and walking to the sideboard. He picked up the crystal decanter of whiskey. "When it took me six months and a dead mom to translate a piece of the demon tablet?"
Dean watched in surprised bemusement as Kevin poured himself a glass of whiskey.
"According to your own words – yesterday morning – this is not what I do, it's what I did," Kevin continued, picking up the glass and returning to the armchair. "You told me I was out, Dean."
"Yeah," Dean said, exhaling. "Well –"
"And if this is going to be the 'guys like us are never out' speech – save it!"
Castiel's hands bunched in Kevin's sweater, and his fingers involuntarily released the glass as he was lifted out of the chair, barely hearing it smash on the floor as he was held close to the angel's face, surrounded by the oddly potent scent of flowers and feathers and beneath that the sharp bite of the spilled whiskey at their feet.
"Dean's right –"
"– there is no 'out'. Only duty," Castiel ground out, ignoring Dean, ignoring the Kevin's attempts to get free.
"Get the hell OFF me –"
"You are a prophet of the Lord," Cas cut him off angrily. "Always. And forever."
He threw Kevin across the floor to the table, the boy's hands slamming onto the surface on either side of the tablet. Dean saw the fear in Kevin's eyes. The angel was right, he thought. And he never should've told the kid that there was any chance of getting out. There never had been.
"Now, are you clear as to the task before you?" Castiel finished, staring down at him.
Kevin glanced up at Dean, meeting his eyes for a moment before Dean looked away. Feeling the angel's furious gaze on him, he nodded slowly.
"Then do it," Cas said sharply, walking behind him to Dean. "Let's go."
The room was filled with the sound of beating wings and the flames flickered again and then he was alone.
Not friends. Not when it came down to saving the world, Kevin thought bleakly. Not even close.
He looked down at the tablet and moved his hands, letting his fingers slide up and over the oily surface of the stone. At once, the conduit opened, and he began to read.
Sam filled the third syringe, staring down at Father Thompson's notes as he drew the blood. The priest had had a question for each attempt, he thought vaguely. A means of judging the progression of the cure. How did it feel when you ate his children? He looked absently at the holes ascending the vein in his arm as he thought about it. He couldn't think of something that would show Crowley's true state of mind. The demon had helped them in the past – purely to his own benefit – and he had the feeling that dealing with Crowley would be akin to dealing with Hannibal Lecter – the demon's skill in manipulation would only be fed by extrapolating what he thought was expected of him and it would make it that much harder to discern what was really happening.
Turning toward the chair and trap, he looked at the demon. Sweat was beading Crowley's brow although his expression remained pleasant, if a little condescending. Actions, not words, Sam told himself, finding the thought steadying. He pushed Crowley's head to one side and injected the third dose.
Crowley's face screwed up as the blood went in. He felt the needle withdraw and his hands snapped up to grab Sam's arm, fingers curling tightly around wrist and forearm and dragging it to his mouth. Sam yanked his arm backwards as he felt the demon's teeth sink into his skin above the inside of the wrist, unable to drop the syringe to use both hands and caught off-guard at the sudden attack.
He managed to pull free and looked in disbelief at the deep, even bite mark, the indentations filling with blood. He transferred the syringe to his right hand and slapped his left over it, staring down at the King of Hell in disgust.
"What the hell, Crowley!?" he demanded. Crowley looked up at him balefully and Sam swung his fist at the demon, hitting the cheekbone and knocking Crowley's head back against the high, timber back of the chair.
"Biting!?" Sam fumed. "Seriously?"
Walking past the demon, he headed for the car and the first aid kit in the trunk, holding his wrist, his head churning with a mixture of anger, confusion, disgust and annoyance. He couldn't think of a single reason the demon would resort to playground tactics.
Crowley listened to the stomping of Sam's boots leaving the church, hearing the slam of the front door behind him. He lifted his hand and let the blood in his mouth spill out onto his palm.
"Inferni set no tor as," he said softly to the blood. "Nunc audite regum."
The blood bubbled a little, thickening, and Crowley smelled the brimstone rising from it.
"For the love of everything," he muttered desperately to it. "Whoever is hearing this – if anyone is hearing this – this is your King. Send help. Immediately!"
He glanced back at the door nervously. The goddamned giant was going to do it, he knew. The blood was working its way slowly through him but he could feel the changes, small, almost imperceptible right now, but growing, accumulating along with the blood and sinking through the cells that his blackened soul had permeated. He couldn't get away from it, couldn't hide behind the vessel's mind or find a crack or crevice to disappear into. Couldn't escape. Couldn't even kill the damned meatsuit without any power of any kind. He was well and truly stuffed and his only hope was that somewhere in the depths of the accursed plane, someone had heard.
The bar was empty. Almost empty, Dean corrected himself as he looked down the length of the counter at the single other customer, a bearded guy who was watching the other screen. Beer was good. And Dwight was a good barkeep, friendly but not overly so.
They were still messing around with Heaven and Hell, he thought sourly, lifting his beer and swallowing a mouthful. Still fighting a rearguard action, no matter how it seemed to be an offensive. Or were they? He thought about the knowledge held in the order's safehold, about the weapons he had now, about what they'd learned and what they knew. And about having a place to think - finally - without that low-grade tension constantly humming through their nerves that they would be found, attacked, killed. He'd been able to sleep in the room - his room - without nightmares for a while now. They had stronger traps, stronger guards, more information and more ways of getting it easily ... and very slowly, so slowly that he hadn't really seen it until now, they had people they could, in the last resort, turn to. Not that Garth or Charlie were Jim or Bobby or Rufus, he thought, with a soft snort. But ... he realised that he didn't feel so utterly alone now. Those people knew their life.
He looked up at the television above him. Some kind of weapons show, the guy on screen drawing back a compound bow.
Try that with a fucking goddess' bow, Dean thought sourly, hearing the front door open and close behind him. He looked around as the angel took the seat next to him.
"Anything? You were gone long enough."
"No," Cas said tiredly. "There was one female, but …"
"I don't think she was a female," Cas said, folding his arms on the bar and looking around. "Anything here?"
"Free drinks," Dean said, shooting a glance down at Dwight. "Your buddy over there thinks you saved his life."
Cas looked down the counter as Dwight turned and saw him, lifting a hand with two fingers extended in a recognisable symbol for victory – or peace. Dwight nodded in acknowledgement and turned away, the sticking plaster over the cut on his forehead bright in the dim light behind the bar.
"You sure about this?"
Cas looked at him and shook his head slightly. Sure about what, he thought with a slightly hysterical edge. Sure about using a fail-safe provided by an entity that Metatron said wasn't even an entity to lock himself into a realm so that whatever was going on up there couldn't crawl out and come down here – for the third time?
"I mean, Sammy slamming the gates of Hell is one thing, but you're talking about boarding up Heaven, and locking the door behind you," Dean continued, seeing Cas' doubts in his expression.
"Yeah," Cas said, picking up the beer. "I know."
"You did a lot of damage up there, man," Dean reminded him. "You think they're just going to let that slide?"
Cas put the bottle down. "You mean, do I think they'll kill me?" He nodded thoughtfully, turning to look at the man sitting beside him. "Yes, they might."
He drew in a deep breath, the corner of his mouth lifting a little. "But there is a right and a wrong here, and you know it," he said softly.
Dean turned his head to look at him, the memory of shouting those words at the angel rushing back to him. "You gonna quote me to me now?"
"You were right," Cas said, with a one-shouldered shrug. "I have learned some things from you."
He watched the man look away, and sighed inwardly. He'd learned a lot, in truth. About humanity. About loyalty. About trust and the way it was so easy sometimes to choose a path that seemed to be the right one but was not. Angels did not do penance for their sins. Angels did not have regrets. Angels did not choose their own destiny. He sometimes wondered if Naomi wasn't right about him.
The parking lot door opened and they turned to look at the woman who entered, pushing a hand-cart loaded with boxes.
"Hey there," Dwight said as she stopped by the end of the bar. "Where's Ed?"
"Flu. I'm Gail," she told him, parking the cart.
"Well, okay then."
Dean's attention sharpened on them. "Show time."
"Lemme give you a hand." Dwight lifted the counter top and stepped through to pick up the carton of bottles.
"Oh, thanks," Gail said, putting her order book on the counter as Dwight lifted the box from the cart to the bar top. "You're like a real gentleman," she added, watching him shift the cartons and smiling at the man sitting next to her.
"Thanks," she said, pushing the invoice pad toward him as he straightened up.
"Gail, Rod," Dwight said, looking over the order and signing the bottom.
"Ma'am." Rod tweaked the bill of his cap.
"Rod rides a stool here most days," Dwight threw in, his attention on the list. He signed the book and looked down at her.
"I'll be seeing you both," Gail said, smiling at him as she slapped both men's shoulders lightly. She took the book and manoeuvred the cart around to the door as Dwight closed the counter.
"Thanks for the help!"
"No problem," Dwight said, watching her leave.
Down the bar, Dean's brows shot up as he watched her go, and Cas' drew together suspiciously.
Rod and Dwight turned back to the television, watching the details of the compound bow on the screen.
"Damn, that's sweet," they said in unison, and turned to look at each other with a dawning recognition.
Castiel got up, and Dean looked around as the angel walked past him, his own recognition of the match the Cupid had made coming a little more slowly. He got up, suddenly realising that Cas had left and he had no idea where or why.
The rain had stopped. That was something, Sam thought tiredly. The walls jumped and bowed and flickered with every vagabond draught that slipped in through the holes – in the floor, in the cracks in the walls, through the roof – as the candle flames threatened to go out then flared into brightness again. Dose five lay on the tray and he willed himself not to feel the uncertainty that pressed up against him. Uncertainty of the power of his blood. Uncertainty of the strength of the demon behind him. Uncertainty of everything really, bulging in and out against the walls in his mind with each beat of his heart.
"Ha! How we doin', Moose?" Crowley called out derisively. "Ain't it about time for the next lurve injection?"
Sam turned and looked at him. He didn't seem any different. Didn't seem to be feeling anything any differently. It was hard to tell in the constantly moving light, but he couldn't even see if the King was still flop-sweating as he broke into song, an a capella rendition of an old chart-topper.
He turned back to the altar as he felt the ripple passing through him, watching his hands close into fists, and the muscle and tendon and nerve and blood and bone light up from within as the power gathered in his arms and crackled ferociously there. He was sweating; he could feel it running down his face, dripping from his eyelashes and the ends of his hair. He hoped that Crowley's vision in the uneven light in the church was worse than his.
The rumbling started in his teeth, so far down in the lowest registers that he was subliminally aware of the pressure in his skull before he heard it with his ears. He swung around to look at Crowley, who was looking at the timber floor with interest as the walls shook and the rafters creaked and from the front of the church, the hardwood planks began to shiver and crack apart, a long fissure twisting and breaking through the timber to split apart the paint of the devil's trap.
"Did you really think you could kidnap the King of Hell and no one was going to notice? Moron!" Crowley rasped at him. Sam's gaze shifted as the front doors slammed open and the slender silhouette entered the church. He knew who it was without needing to see any further detail. Abaddon enjoyed an entrance.
"That's my line," Crowley muttered, twisting futilely around in the chair to see her. "Abaddon. They told me you were dead."
"Tsk-tsk," she said softly. "So not."
"And the rest of the cavalry?"
"Oh, no," she said lightly. "It's just little old unkillable me."
Sam snatched the gun from the altar, wondering if he could possibly aim and fire and have any hope of hitting her, as he raised it to shoulder level. He managed to pull the trigger, the bullet zipping by Crowley's ear before it richoted from a steel hinge and buried itself in the wall.
Abaddon's dark red brows twitched as she gestured and Sam flew across the room, smacking into the wall and falling to his hands and knees on the floor, the gun skittering away from him.
"Brilliant," Crowley wheedled. "Why sent in a few grunts when you can send in a Knight?" He stretched a bit further around in the chair and shouted at Sam. "Say your prayers, Moose!"
Sam looked up as the archdemon lifted her hand abruptly. He was plucked from the floor and flung through the tall, stained-glass window behind him, landing flat on his back in the mud outside.
"That'll do," Crowley said, swallowing the last word quickly as he tried to hear where she was. "Undo these. I'll kill him myself."
Abaddon walked slowly down the church, the soft clock-clock of her bootsoles filling the church as she came past him and turned to stop in front of him.
"That was order?" she asked, her expression cool and faintly challenging. "Was it?"
Crowley looked into her eyes, cat-slanted and unreadable in the dim light. "I am your King," he reminded her sharply.
"About that," she said. The blow was fast and hard, and his head snapped to the side, blood gushing into his mouth from the sharp edges of his molars through the inside of his cheek.
Crowley looked back at her. The bitch was like Meg, he thought incredulously as a second blow mashed his lips into his teeth and loosened at least one of the front ones. What'd he ever do to her?
"Do you know what I find most shocking about time-travelling through a closet – and landing in the year 2013?" Abaddon asked him irritably, a right cross slamming into his jaw, followed by a sledge-hammer jab and an uppercut that lifted both the demon and the chair from the floor and toppled Crowley to the floor.
"Somebody thought it was a good idea to make you the King of Hell," she sneered, her nose wrinkling with a feminine distaste at the thought of it.
Crowley looked up, seeing the Taurus a foot or so away from him. He lifted his hand, reaching a little closer to it as he heard her boots coming around the base of the chair. She would kill him if he didn't kill her first, he thought desperately, freezing when he heard the clocking stop beside him.
"You know what that boy's trying to do, right?" he said, glancing up at her and back at the gun. "He's trying to shut the gates of Hell."
The archdemon lifted a brow as she walked past his feet, the pearl grips of the gun becoming visible beyond Crowley's head as she took another step. Crowley looked around and saw her expression flatten out as she saw how close the gun was. Abaddon flicked her wrist and the gun skated along the floor to the wall.
She crouched beside him. "Right now? You and I are going to talk about a little regime change."
"You whore," Crowley snarled. "I am your King!"
Her fist hit his chest and the Manhattan publisher's heart stuttered and faltered with the impact, ribs bent inwards but not yet broken. Consciousness fled as the blood in the demon withdrew from the extremities to protect the core and Abaddon straightened up slowly, her face thoughtful as she looked down at him.
A crossroad demon. How had the throne gone to him? She walked around him, her gaze taking in the devil's trap and the chair and the bindings. Serious mojo, those bindings, she thought as she recognised the sigils. They had bound the Morning Star so tightly he'd only been able to whisper through the bars. What was the boy doing, she wondered, turning to the alter.
The splash of the oil, pungent and sweet and clinging to her, was a shock. She hadn't heard him come in, hadn't smelled him or sensed him or caught the flicker of movement in her periphery. Oil dripped from her lashes as she opened her eyes to stare at the man standing before her. They widened when they saw the burning matchbook held up in one hand before he threw it to the floor at her feet.
The oil ignited instantly, swallowing her in flames that burned more deeply, more intensely than any fire – in or out of Hell. Twisted and tortured and charred and stripped utterly of the light that had once shone inside of her, the oil nevertheless reached out for the angel origins and she burst free of the meatsuit, leaving it to perish as she swung through the church, looking for a way out before the oil could reach out for her essence as well.
Sam ducked as the twisting ribbon of black smoke zigged and zagged across the church, gagging slightly at the stench of burning meat. He'd included the holy oil purely as a precaution, hadn't even thought of Abaddon coming for Crowley. He was relieved that the preparation had paid off.
He'd heard enough from the archdemon to realise that Crowley's takeover had not been a thing of destiny. Abaddon had been disbelieving when she'd looked at Crowley and he had the idea that a lot of Crowley's new-found powers were not a result of the demon becoming stronger, but that he'd found something that had given him strength … something borrowed, perhaps.
He pushed the thoughts, intriguing as they were, aside. If he cured Crowley and finished the job, he could satisfy his curiosity and shut down the danger at the same time. Get your head clear, Sammy, he heard Dean's voice in his head. You need all your marbles for this damned deal.
Gail came down the steps at the back of the bar, slowing as she looked up and saw them standing there.
"My brother," she said politely, glancing briefly at Dean and back to Castiel.
"Give us your bow," Cas growled, the angel sword dropping from his sleeve into his hand as he took a step toward her, the cherubim taking a nervous step back.
"Whoa, whoa, hey," Dean said, taking a long stride to get in front of the angel and put a restraining hand on Cas' chest as the angel lifted the point of the sword. When had Cas become so ready to kill at any excuse, he wondered vaguely as he looked into his face.
"Talk first," he suggested mildly. "Stab later."
Cas looked at him, nodding reluctantly as he turned back to the cherubim.
"I need your bow," the angel tried again.
"You know what's happening at home?" Cas asked. "The fighting?"
She nodded. "To tell you the truth, I've been afraid to go home for some time now," she said uncomfortably. "Our orders used to come once a day, at dawn. Now, this is the first order I've received for a week and it came at midday. I - it's chaos."
"There are too many factions attempting to take the power for themselves," Cas agreed. "I have been working with the Scribe, to close the gates and force our people into uniting or surrendering."
"You think that will work?" she asked him curiously.
"Do you remember the First War?"
She nodded and Dean saw a tear slip down her cheek. He'd heard a little about it, from the angel he stood beside, the war of Lucifer's falling and angel killing angel, the rebels led by Lucifer and the Host of Heaven led by Michael.
"In that war, as bad as it got and as painful as it was, we had leaders," Castiel reminded her patiently. "We fought against the rebels for order and obedience and it was simple. No guerrilla battles. No traitors within the ranks. No plots and schemes to kill each other, just two armies, and their leaders." He looked up at the clear night sky. "Now, there are no leaders. Traitors infiltrate every group and murder is as common up there as it is down here. And it is only a matter of time before that fighting comes here, and destroys this plane as well."
He looked at her, drawing in a deep breath. "So, yes, I believe that it is the only way to protect what we were made for, even if it does not solve the problems immediately."
She nodded and stepped toward him, holding out her hand. On the palm, a brand became slowly visible, a double-curved bow with an arrow drawn through the centre. Dean looked at it, his gaze flicking to the angel as Cas lifted his sword, understanding too late what had to be done and what she was offering. Cas' blow was swift and he stepped immediately to her, his hand gripping the bloody wrist tightly.
In the reflected glow of the light of both seraphim and cherubim, Dean watched their faces, lifted to Heaven, eyes closed, joined in a way that was only possible to them, healing with the power of souls that only humans had.
Cas would never be human, he realised slowly. Would never understand the way humans worked. Angels had their giving and taking, their own hearts and minds, but no souls. No filter of conscience that learned and changed and grew. That forgave or not, hardened or softened with the experiences acquired over a lifetime. Cas had experience in plenty. But no – what? he didn't know, exactly – to fit that experience into. The angel could feel but there was no connection between feeling and action. What had Crowley said to him? Humanity put emotion before good, old common-sense. He might've been onto something there. Sam had said he didn't really feel, when he'd had no soul. Was it the same thing? Or something fundamentally different?
Dean, I thought I was doing the right thing. He remembered the pain in Cas' voice when he'd said it. Yeah, he'd replied. You always do.
It'd been true, he realised now. Uncomfortably true. Cas didn't have the particular mechanism that allowed him to differentiate between what seemed to be the right thing and what actually was the right thing. It might be a differentiation that only a soul could make.
The difference between the good of the one and the good of the many came down to one thing – a willingness to sacrifice oneself and oneself alone. Doing the job because you were the only who could do it. Doing it because it had to be done, no matter what the cost. But only if the choice was freely made. Someone forced into it was not good enough. Kevin flicked briefly through his mind and he closed his eyes. He would deal with Kevin when he got back home.
Home. Another piece of a puzzle he'd been doing his whole life. His eyes opened and he felt a familiar tug inside. Home is a place to rest. A place to be safe. And by that definition, he hadn't had a home since he'd been four. But he had one now.
When Cas talked of home, it was Heaven he meant. And that was as it should be, he thought. His brothers and sisters. His family were all there. Some of them were dicks. Some of his family had been dicks as well. You can't pick family, as the saying went. And blood wasn't enough.
He'd wanted something that the angel hadn't been really capable of giving, he thought. Wanted family because Sam had been slipping through his fingers and he couldn't hold on, couldn't protect him or keep watch over him. Couldn't trust him. Benny had been the same. Looking for someone to trust because blood hadn't been enough. He'd overlooked the fact that Sam had struggled and tried to live up to his expectations. Tried to be stronger. To do what he thought his older brother would want him to do. Save the world. Sacrifice himself. Protect people.
Castiel released the cherubim and Dean pulled his attention back to them, seeing her hand restored, minus the small brand now. Cas nodded to her and she turned and walked away across the parking lot, disappearing into the darkness as the angel bent and picked up the hand.
"Just one more," Cas said, turning on his heel to look at Dean. "And then I can close them."
"Sure as hell a lot faster than what we've been doing," Dean commented, only a trace of envy along his voice. "I'll give Kevin a call, see what he's come up with."
The room was peaceful, the light reflecting from a thousand different shining surfaces, bright and yet diffused. Naomi looked down at the angel in the restraints, one eye open and filled with blood, the trail of it spilling down his cheek, feeling none of the peace, her mind churning around an endless and disbelieving track as she thought through what she'd seen in that angel's mind.
When their Father had disappeared, it'd taken the archangels some time to realise the knowledge that the scribe had and longer to work out what to do about it. By the time they'd organised themselves, Metatron had gone as well, disappearing to the material plane and hiding himself so well that they'd never had even a hint of a lead in the years they'd searched for him.
And although never forgotten, the search for him, for the key to unlock the power of the Word, had been sidelined and deprioritised as new schemes were wrought and new alliances were made.
She had managed to keep out of the political manoeuvring that had categorised the relationships between those of the Eighth Choir as much as possible. She'd reported only to Michael for a millennia. And then Michael had disappeared, had fallen into the Cage with Lucifer and had been locked down there, no rescue attempt deemed possible without the risk of releasing his brother as well. For a time, it'd been Raphael who'd taken over the reins of Heaven. She never even knew what had happened to Uriel or Gabriel, although whispers of betrayals and murder had emerged gradually in the last few years. But with Raphael's disappearance and presumed death, and the return of Castiel, filled with the power of the subsumed souls of Purgatory, it'd been pretty much every angel for themselves.
And now, she thought, he'd returned. The other eye opened and looked at her.
"And – did – you find – what you were looking for, Naomi?" the scribe asked, his throat dry and the words coming out in disjointed chunks.
"What purpose do you have with Heaven, Metatron?" She leaned toward him, focussing on the clear eye. "Why have you returned?"
"Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb."
Her brows drew together as she stared. "You seek revenge, scribe? For what?"
"Did you know that down there I met an angel who seeks penance? For the sins he's committed?" Metatron rolled the clear eye. "No soul yet still contrition. That is amazing. It is something He never considered, that I am sure of."
He looked at her. "All I wanted, Aunty Em, was to come home!"
His hands batted restlessly against the ends of the chair's arms and he twisted away from her. "No one fights dirtier or more brutally than blood; only family knows its own weaknesses, the exact placement of the heart."
"Metatron, why are you here?"
"To take back what is mine," he said suddenly, the clear eye narrowed in cold, reptilian fury. "To repay the hospitality of my brothers."
She stepped back, staring at him. The room filled with the sound of beating wings and he looked at the emptiness and smiled.
The memory of the body, of nerve and muscle and blood and bone, was not necessary. It was a trick of the mind, a seeking of reassurance that creatures of energy could not simply dissipate without some kind of material binding. He'd learned how to trick the trick and he looked down at the bindings holding him to the chair, and closed his eye and vanished.
Sam braced himself and heaved, the heavy chair and the demon swinging back to an upright position in the broken devil's trap on the floor, Crowley's chains clinking as he tried to remain conscious, swaying in the seat.
"You did good back there, Moose," he mumbled to Sam. "I'll deny it if you ever quote me – but, but I'm proud of you."
Sam glanced at him dryly as he picked up the can of paint his brother had left. "Thanks."
"Wait-uh-no." The demon stared at the can as Sam shook it up and walked behind him to repair the trap. "What's that?"
"Just what it looks like," Sam said, wondering if the paint was bridging the crack. The bindings were more powerful than the trap, but even Abaddon had taken the time to break it.
"Are you joking?" Crowley said incredulously, twisting wide-eyed in the chair to see the man. "I just saved your life!"
Sam laughed humourlessly. "Seriously?"
"Seriously? Me seriously?" Crowley stuttered. "We just shared a foxhole, you and I! And still you're going to do me like this?"
Sam picked up the syringe from the altar as he dropped the paint and wheeled around, taking the couple of strides to the chair and pushing Crowley's head to the side as he punched the needle in and pushed the plunger.
"Ah!" Crowley's face screwed up. It was cumulative, he knew. Things were building up inside. Things he didn't recognise. Didn't trust. "Ah. What are you doing to me, Moose?"
Sam drew out the needle and walked back to the altar, ignoring the demon. Behind him, Crowley started muttering.
"What?" He turned around, looking at the demon. Crowley was slumped forward in the chair, his voice rising and falling indecipherably and Sam walked warily toward him.
The demon's head snapped up, dark eyes staring at him. "D'you ever love a woman so much you'd've done anything, Moose?"
"I did. I did," Crowley snapped at him irritably. "I did so. I was going barmy."
"Don't talk to me about this, Crowley," Sam said warningly. "Don't you dare talk to me about that."
"But I did!" Crowley whined, his eyes unfocussed. "And she laughed."
Sam's eyes narrowed as he watched the expressions flit across the demon's face.
"May. It was May. The flowers. Church," Crowley's head tipped back a little as the words poured out in a stream without emphasis or inflection. "She said yes and I was–I was–I was – SO happy and it was May and it seemed like everything would really be okay. May. She said. YES! But –" His head dropped forward and he started to shake. In the murky light Sam could see the perspiration running down his face, dripping from his chin onto the metal chain that connected the two cuffs.
"She laughed. Laughed and told me," Crowley said fragmentedly, his chest heaving. "The old days. Laughed and laughed. I didn't know what to do. I thought it all changed. Thought it would be. That night. Laughed at me." He lifted his head and his eyes focussed abruptly on Sam, narrowing as he stared. "She didn't, Sam. Didn't at all. Just wanted the business. Just laughed at me and told me there were others."
His eyes dropped shut and Sam watched as a tear squeezed out of the corner, rolling slowly down the stubbled cheek.
It was happening. The relief that swamped him took the strength from his legs as he saw the demon shaking soundlessly in front of him. It was happening. It was going to work.
Crowley shook his head abruptly, lifting his hands and rubbing his face. "What?"
Looking at him, Sam couldn't think of a single thing to say. He turned away and walked back to the pew in the corner, leaning back and shutting his eyes.
Sam woke suddenly, heart hammering at the base of his throat as he lifted his arm and looked at his watch. Almost time. He looked at Crowley. The demon sat completely still, eyes half-closed, skin gleaming with moisture in the flickering light.
Getting up, he walked to the altar and picked up the clean syringe. Dose six. He slid the needle into the vein and drew back the plunger.
"Would it be … possible," Crowley said quietly behind him. "Moose. I'd like … to – to ask you … a favour."
Sam looked up at the doubt in the demon's voice. He didn't think he'd ever heard that particular tone in Crowley's voice. He got up, walking to the chair, looking down at Crowley as the demon lifted his head and looked up at him.
"When you were … confessing," Crowley said hesitantly. "What did you say?"
The demon saw the wariness in the man's face and shook his head. "I only ask because … given my … history –" He dropped his gaze to the floor, blinking rapidly. "Where – where can I even start – to look – to ask – to … beg … for forgiveness?"
Sam looked at him. "How 'bout we start with this?"
Crowley turned his head and closed his eyes and Sam slid the needle into the artery, sending the contents rushing through into the demon's bloodstream.
When he pulled the needle out, he stood there for a moment, until Crowley looked back at him.
"I don't know how it works with demons," he said slowly. "For people … there are three things that you need for redemption. Acceptance. Contrition. Forgiveness."
The demon looked up at him. "Am I dying, Sam?"
"I don't know."
Sam's face screwed up a little as he turned away. "I don't know."
"Kevin? Tell me something!" Dean said shortly as he heard the prophet pick up the phone.
"Dean, are you sure that Castiel has those trials right?" Kevin said without preamble as he looked at the tablet in his hands. "I think I've found the section about the trials – but there's nothing in here about nephilim – or a Cupid's bow – or anything even close to those."
"Oh, come on, Kev," Dean said tiredly, walking beside Cas as they crossed the parking lot. "We're on the one-yard line here –"
"Okay, and I should have mentioned this six months ago, but the sports metaphors … I don't get them, Dean!" Kevin said. "You wanna motivate me? Magic cards! Skyrimmers. Aziz Ansari –"
"What?" Dean blurted out. "Yeah, I don't know what those words mean!"
Castiel stopped as he felt the angel materialise behind them, turning to see Naomi standing there.
"I'm not here to fight you, Castiel," she said quickly, holding her hands out pacifically. "Not any more."
Dean stumbled as he glanced back, noticing that Cas wasn't there any more and hearing Naomi's voice.
"Dean? Dean?" Kevin's voice sounded tinnily from the forgotten phone in his hand.
"Where is Metatron?" Cas walked toward her and Dean followed him.
"He told you he was going 'fix' Heaven, didn't he?" Naomi said, her gaze flickering briefly to the man behind the angel and back. "Murdering a nephilim? Cutting off a Cupid's bow? It's a lie. All of it."
Cas glanced back at Dean as he walked up beside him.
"Castiel, I've been in his head –"
"You've been in all our heads," Cas snapped at her. "That's the problem!"
"No," Naomi said, focussing on him. "Not this time – I –"
"This is what you do," Cas cut her off. "You distort the truth until there's nothing left of it, only what you say, what you want us to think! I'm trying to contain Heaven! Metatron is trying to contain the madness up there!"
"Metatron is looking for revenge, Castiel," Naomi said cuttingly. "Metatron wants to break every angel and take back what he thinks he's lost."
"What do you mean?" Dean asked.
Cas scowled. "Dean –"
Naomi looked past the angel. "He wants to expel all angels from Heaven. Just as Lucifer was cast out," she added, looking back at Castiel. "Tear their Grace from them and throw them down."
"Cast you out?" Dean frowned. "To where? Hell?"
She turned to look at him and the streetlight caught the glitter in her eyes. "Here."
"Lies!" Cas stepped forward and Dean found himself grabbing the angel for the second time that night, fingers curling around Cas' arm and holding him back.
Naomi bowed her head. "You were right, Castiel. We all sinned when He left. We lost sight of what we were made for and we believed that we were greater than than we were." She looked up at him. "Our task was to shepherd. To guide. To teach. You were right and I was wrong. I was filled with hubris and the belief that I knew the mind of our Father."
She looked at Dean. "Release him … please. Disobedience was once our greatest crime. I am guilty of that crime, Castiel. More so than you ever were."
Castiel blinked at her, turning away. He'd never heard contrition in an angel's voice. Other than his own, that was. If she was lying, and he couldn't think of a reason it would benefit her to do so now – he lowered the point of the sword as he looked back at her.
She looked at Dean. "I want nothing more than for you and your brother to close and lock the gates of Hell," she said. "But I told you that you could trust me – and if he completes the third trial, he is going to die."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Dean asked, his neck prickling. A lie – or a truth?
"I saw it," she said. "In Metatron's mind, saw it clearly. It was God's intention, a measure of the strength of the faith of the contender. Self-sacrifice, freely chosen and entered with courage and for the good of others – the soul is cleansed of everything and returns to Heaven in glory. It is – was – His highest virtue."
Dean stared at her. Sam wouldn't, he thought. He had his light. He had his faith in them, he wouldn't choose it – if he knew about it.
"Castiel, I beg of you, stop this path you're walking. Metatron has been neutralised," she said. "Kill me, if you feel that it is your duty, but if you want to return – we need someone who still sees what we were charged to do."
She vanished with the sound of the flutter of wings and Dean remembered the phone in his hand, lifting it sharply.
"Hey! Talk to me, is she lying?"
"I don't know –" Kevin said doubtfully, staring down at the tablet.
"Well find out!"
"She's lying," Cas said, but he didn't sound certain, Dean thought, turning to look at him.
"Take me to him," Dean said. It'd been seven hours, maybe a little more. There was no fucking time for a debate.
"Take me to him – NOW!"
Crowley sat in the chair, shivering and shaking as every deed, every thought and plan and idea flooded through him. Evil. Stained. Darkness and torment and pain. It had burned new pathways through his mind. It had bent and mangled and twisted him. He had become something else.
Because, on their wedding night, she had looked at him and had laughed. Fresh tears poured down his face. It had hurt. Of course it had. But it hadn't been much of a reason to go to the crossroads and bury the box and call out to the powers he'd only half-believed in, had it?
Three hundred and eighty-three years of life had given him a certain perspective on the variety of suffering of a mortal lifespan. Pain and pleasure and the way the two could be reversed. New directions. Old directions. Pretending that it hadn't been his fault. Not my choice. Not my responsibility. Not my FAULT! But those choices had not come from anyone else. There were his. He owned them. And he had paid for them.
They are my choices, he thought groggily, emotion and thought and pain spinning turgidly. They were my actions and I did them knowingly and with aforethought. The shivering became more pronounced as the admission slid through the cells of the vessel's body, the cells filled with his soul, more quickly than the blood had.
Sam picked up Father Thompson's notebook, clearing his throat and starting to read.
"Ego præcipio tibi ut dimittam vos, et cogere ténuit innocentis. Abluti estis in animo mundabo sanguinem Agni, et facta est super magnitudine mali dolori tibi!"
He picked up the knife, drawing the edge across his palm. The light that spilled along the edges was not the red-gold of a demon's wound, but a silver-rose as the power fluxed through him, filling his hands, his arms, throbbing unseen at the base of his throat.
Dean felt his knees rock as his feet felt the ground under them again and dragged in a breath. He headed for the doors of the church.
"Dean!" Cas called out behind him. "I'm not wrong. I have to get to Heaven!"
"Cas, wait –"
The sound of wings carried over the marsh and he stared around in frustration. "Cas! Goddammit! Just another five minutes!"
He swung around to the steps and raced up them, hitting the double doors with both hands as he burst into the church.
Sam flinched back as he turned to see Dean standing there.
Dean could see the light now, rippling through his brother's arms. God, what the hell had happened to his brother? What had been done to him?
"Easy there, okay?" he said quietly, holding his hands out appeasingly. "Just take it easy, we got a slight change of plan."
"What!?" Sam stared at him. "What's going on? Where's Cas?"
"Metatron lied," Dean said, wondering how much control Sam had over whatever it was that was lighting him from the inside. He needed Sam to listen. "You finish this trial? You're dead, Sam."
Sam shook his head. "So?"
Dean blinked. It wasn't the reaction he'd been expecting.
"Look at him!" Sam shouted, his right hand curled around the cut. "Look at him! Look how close we are!" He staggered slightly to one side as his voice shook. "Other people will die if I don't finish this!"
"Sam, think about it," Dean said slowly, walking toward him, his thoughts coalescing as he spoke. "All the things we've done, everything we've learned – and all the knowledge we have now – we can do more with that than you giving up your life for this one thing." His face crumpled a little as he realised that he'd been wrong about their life, about what they could do and what they'd done. There was a way, he just hadn't seen it before. Everything that they needed, they had - except each other. He tried to find the words for what he meant to say, what he needed to say. "You told me that you saw a light at the end of this tunnel, man. You told me that you could help me find it and you did – I can see what you did – I can see a way through – but not without you, Sammy. I can't do this without you."
"You can barely do it with me," Sam said hopelessly, staring at him as his breathing constricted. "I mean, you think I screw up everything I try – you think I need a chaperone, remember?"
Dean felt his stomach drop. "Come on, man, that's not what I meant –"
"No, that's exactly what you meant," Sam cut him off. "You wanna know what I confessed in there?" He gestured to the confessional behind his brother. "What my greatest sin – my greatest regret – was?"
He looked away for a moment, sucking in a breath. "It was how many times I let you down."
No. Not that. Dean felt the recognition hit him like a sledgehammer, freezing him from the inside out. He knew that feeling. He'd lived with it every single day from the age of four until his father had died when he was twenty-seven. He didn't want to know that Sammy felt that as well – felt it about him. Not strong enough. Brave enough. Smart enough. Not man enough. Not the man he'd wanted to be. Years of doubt and uncertainty. Years of knowing that when it had counted, he'd let him down. No. Not that. Not for Sam.
"I can't – I can't do – that – again," Sam's voice broke and Dean looked up at him, the gleam of moisture on his brother's face caught in the candlelight.
"What happens when you've decided that I can't be trusted - again?" Sam asked him, shoulders shaking. "I mean who are you going to turn to next time – instead of me? Another angel?" His face twisted as his throat closed up. "Another – vampire? Do you have any idea of what it feels like to watch your b-brother –?"
"Just wait – hold on, hold ON!" Dean interrupted fiercely, holding up his hand. He couldn't hear this. Not now. Couldn't hear the torment or the doubt. "You seriously think that?" he asked Sam. "Because none of it – none of it – is true!"
He watched Sam's face screw up in pain, unsure if it was the light that was throbbing now in his brother's arms – or if it was the years of pain Sam had been holding onto in his heart.
"Listen, man, I know we've had our disagreements – fuck, fights, whatever you want to call 'em, I know I've said some crap that's set you back on your heels," he admitted readily, struggling to find the words that he needed, the ones that would get through this time. "But Sammy, come on … I was there in that convent. I left what I thought I wanted – to watch your back; I killed Benny to save you and I'm willing to let this bastard and every fucking hellspawn created – walk, because of you!"
He stared at Sam as his brother's gaze cut away, not knowing if what he was saying was reaching him or not, his chest getting harder to force air in and out of, and everything he'd given to keep his brother safe pulsing behind the walls that kept him sane.
"Don't you dare think that there is anything – past or present – that I would put in front of you! That meant more to me than you! It has never been like that – ever!" Dean saw Sam flinch at the last word and tried to drag back his own pain, pack it away. "I need you to see that … Sam … I'm begging you to see it."
For a long moment, he wasn't sure Sam believed him, or if his brother was so riddled with pain that he would finish the trial just for it to finally be over. Sam shifted from foot to foot, his face and hands spasming as the light oscillated beneath his skin, blood dripping from his hand when his fists balled up. When he looked back at Dean, there was a plea in his eyes.
"How do I stop?" he asked.
Castiel looked around the room, his attention sharpening on the desk. Naomi lay there, head twisted to one side, her eyes open and filled with blood. From the back of her skull, the frequency tool protruded.
Metatron walked up behind him. "She told you I lied, didn't she?"
Cas turned and felt the prick of the angel sword under his jaw.
"Have a seat," Metatron said, his gaze flicking to the chair behind them. "And all will be explained."
"No," Cas said.
The prick became a puncture as the tip penetrated the vessel's remembered skin and blood ran down the blade.
"I insist." Metatron looked at him, and the angel saw a flat emptiness in the scribe's eyes. "You're wondering if I can ram this up into your mind and kill you, Castiel? I can and I will and it will not bother me in the slightest."
Cas backed to the chair, half-falling into it as the sword slid a little deeper.
"This is for revenge?" he asked as the bindings clicked softly around his wrists.
"Revenge," Metatron mused. "A dish best eaten cold." He put his hand on the angel's forehead and shoved it back against the chair. "No, not entirely, but happily, it's nothing you have to worry about any longer, Castiel."
Cas froze as he felt the cold tip of the sword against his throat, the scribe slicing across the skin, opening a deeper cut.
"These weren't trials, Castiel," Metatron told him absently, pulling a small crystal vial from his pocket and holding it a few inches from the cut that glowed silver-blue with the angel's Grace. "They were a spell, and what I'm taking from you now – your Grace – your … potentis angeli, actually, is the last piece."
He screwed the cap on and smoothed his hand over the cut in Castiel's throat. "And now, something … wonderful … is going to happen. For me and for you."
"I doubt that."
"An angel with doubt," Metatron said, smiling widely. "You continue to surprise me, Castiel. I am giving you a chance to find a new life. A life of feeling and doubt, conflict and resolution, hopefully – and yes, let us not forget hope – a life that will give you the experience of our Father's Creations … from the ground up, let us say."
"I am an angel!" Cas struggled against the bindings.
"Not any longer," Metatron said dismissively. "Now, you are Fallen. And provided you are reasonably careful not to get yourself killed, your lifespan should be considerable. And you will not be alone, down there."
He lifted his hand and touched Castiel's forehead and the angel felt himself … falling.
"Just let it go," Dean said, stepping toward Sam, his voice gentle again as the tangled emotions rushed through him, relief and frustration and hope and love.
"I can't," Sam said unsteadily, shaking his head and holding up the cut hand. Dean looked down at it and pulled a clean bandana from his jacket. "It's in me, Dean, you don't know what this feel like –"
"Hey, listen to me," he said, catching Sam's hand and hiding his shock at the heat in it as he wrapped the cloth around the palm. "We will figure this out, okay?"
"Come on," he said, looking up at the doubt in Sam's face. He pulled his brother into a hug, feeling the tremors that rattled Sam's frame and tightening his hold. "Let it go, okay? Let it go, Sammy."
Sam closed his eyes, Dean's scent filling his nostrils, the lifelong familiar comfort of that smell dragging out memories that flashed by too quickly to recognise. He needed his brother, he thought, maybe more than Dean needed him. Dean could walk away, even if it broke his heart to do it, but the only way Sam could go was if his brother was dead. He'd thought it was the other way round, for a long time. When he'd lost himself after failing to find any way into Purgatory, he'd realised that it wasn't. And that had called into question what else he'd been telling himself over the years. All the lies he'd believed because he couldn't face the truth. The demon anger, that mindless, black, insistent anger, had lashed out at anything and everything to avoid having to look at that. Now he could see it. And now … now he could feel it too.
The power rose abruptly, pinprick acid pain in his nerves, a wildfire in his blood and he looked at the light that flared under his skin, his eyes widening as he watched it dim and disappear completely, taking the pain with it.
"Hey," Sam said, pulling away and holding his arms out. Dean looked down, seeing Sam's skin, knotted over the muscles tensed in his arms as he rotated both inward and outward.
"See?" Dean looked up at him, mouth lifting to one side as he saw relief filling Sam's face.
Sam's guttural scream filled the church as agony filled his chest, dropping to his knees as both hands were snatched back and pressed hard over his heart, shocking Dean to statue-stillness for a second.
"Sam, what the hell –" Dean dropped in front of him, trying to see anything that would explain the sudden pain. "What's happening?"
"Gah –" Sam lifted his head, his eyes wide and staring as he tried to pull in a breath and his lungs refused to work.
Dean swore and grabbed his brother's arm, dragging it over one shoulder as he straightened up, half-lifting, half-dragging Sam along with him to the doors.
"I gotcha, little brother," he grunted, easing Sam down the shallow steps. "You're gonna be just fine!"
Even to him it sounded more bravado than truth, Sam's wheezing breath loud in his ears as he tried to let him down gently beside the car. Sam's mouth opened wide as his chest constricted further, and Dean saw his ribcage struggling to lift as his brother tried to get air. "Sam? Sam!"
"Cas!" He looked around the small area of flattened ground. "CASTIEL!"
He looked back at Sam, pressing his palm against Sam's heart, feeling the juddery, uneven beating against it.
"Where the hell are you?" he muttered furiously, yanking at the front of Sam's shirt and dropping his head to press his ear against the chest. He could hear a little air movement in there, but it was as if Sam's lungs had been constricted to barely hold a thimbleful of air, no matter how much his brother was fighting to drag in more.
Kevin looked at the angel tablet. After overhearing the conversation between the angels, he couldn't imagine what use it would be to anyone to know the trials or anything on the tablet. He left it there and grabbed his stuff, crossing the war room and climbing the stairs. The one thing he wasn't sure about was the key. He couldn't exactly mail it back to the brothers and he wasn't sure it was a good idea to try and hand it back face to face.
He'd reached the gallery level when the alarms starting going off, a red light flashing on above the door and clicks, trilling, buzzing, whistling and whirring come from the room below him. Leaning over the railing, he looked around the room.
The war room was lighting up. He watched the radios, tape decks, and control station go through their start up procedures, lights coming on one after the after on the machines along the walls. Almost directly below him, the map table lit up and he saw the red marker lights coming on, not one at a time but dozens, hundreds, in locations all over the world.
Something was happening, he thought, staring down. Something that had triggered every alarm the order had devised or could think of, alarms telling of a disaster that didn't have anything to do with this plane of existence, but of the others.
Maplewood State Park, Minnesota
Castiel woke, the rich, strong scents of woodland filling his nose and his vessel chilled by the cold night air. He rolled over, getting to his feet unsteadily as he felt a peculiar singing sensation in his mind. The tree cover above blocked out too much and he started to walk through the woods, moving faster as the singing became louder. He reached the lakeshore and he looked up.
Across the black night sky he saw them, pinpoints of light with fiery long tails, falling as he had, not a few but hundreds, filling the sky with the incandescence of their descent.
Metatron had cast them all out, he thought disbelievingly. All of them.
In the church, Crowley heard the cries, his eyes snapping open.
"Sammy," Dean said, pulling at his brother's shoulder as Sam began to tip toward the ground.
Sam couldn't speak. Nothing was getting through, no matter how hard he tried to make the muscles work. He could hear the desperation and fear in Dean's voice, but he couldn't say or do anything to help him understand. He didn't understand himself.
Light caught his peripheral vision and his eyes turned toward it, just catching the end of the flaming tail of the meteorite before it hit the ground. And his chest eased, the next breath deeper. Quieter. Not so hard.
"Dean –" he gasped, and felt Dean's arm circle his shoulders.
"I think it's –"
They both turned to look at the sky when they heard it – a rushing, crackling sound, like a satin sheet shaken out, or a monstrous wildfire, distantly heard.
Beside him, Dean stared at the sky, seeing the clouds lit up as the bodies passed through them. "No, Cas," he murmured, knowing what those lights were, knowing what he was seeing.
The sky was filled with meteorites, Sam thought disconnectedly, the long tails blurred and distorted in his vision.
"What's happening?" he asked Dean.
Dean glanced down at him, seeing his chest rise and fall more fully. "Can you breathe?"
Sam nodded, staring past him at the sky. He saw a shape, in flames, his eyes widening as the great wings were burned up and fell away and the humanoid figure hit the river, sending huge clouds of steam from the surface.
Dean turned his head to look back at them, his gaze tracking the plummeting figures across the sky. Was Cas one of them?
"Angels," he told his brother, his voice hushed in awe. "They're falling."
THE END OF SEASON 8 - REIMAGINED