Apologies for lateness! I was partaking in GISHWHES last week, which ate up all of my time.
This chapter is unbetad, so its pretty rough around the edges. Apologies if the flow its a bit jarring here and there - I can pretend I did it on purpose to reflect the inner turmoil of the characters if you like? :P
These Broken Wings
Around the brothers the pressure disappears.
They collapse with its release, Dean gasps air into his unrestricted lungs. With suddenly nothing to fight against, his body is unresponsive, slumping thick and heavy. But feeling is beginning to flood itself through his limbs again. He clocks a glance at Sam, who's face is sweat stained amongst the grime.
Then all focus shifts back to the angel and the demon.
Castiel manages another twist of the knife before Solas wrenches himself away with angry shrieks. Solas bellows out pain, curled furiously over his leg. Strange tendrils burst from the edges of the blade still embedded there, thick greasy smoke that is so pearlescent it almost seems to glow. It hisses, more like steam from holy water, not the acrid smoke from sulphured flames.
The room rumbles.
'Fuck me! I did not know you could still summon that!'
With a sickening wet slop, he pulls the blade from his leg. More smoke and bloody mucus pour out from the puncture wounds, oozing down his leg, staining the mismatched trousers. Solas swears again through gritted teeth. The blade makes a tinny sound as it bounces on the floor.
Dean gapes because this is… this is not anything they've seen before. He looks to Cas, who is frantically swallowing down all the fear on his face, forcing any and all strength and resolve he has outwards. Something has clicked into place, his eyes burn and he's Cas and... Dean tries to force words out because oh shit, he's Cas and that means he's going to fight.
No, no. Dean tries to force more air into his feeble body as the angel pulls himself slowly to his feet, half crouching, half doubled over. His fingers are splayed over the wall behind him like its the only solid in a liquid world.
Solas is half laughing through his pain now. 'Ah… ahaha. Ah, fuck. You're full of surprises.'
Castiel doesn't respond, he just pushes himself off the wall and takes a wobbly stance. The rough stone behind him is slick with blood because Solas horrific ministrations didn't fix everything of the angel. Dean can see Cas' jaw work as he forces movement into the muscles of his ruined back.
And then they're squaring off, and all amusement evaporates from the demons eyes.
'Cas!' Sam gasps.
Without taking his eyes off the demon, Cas flings an open hand towards them and snaps, 'stay!'
'Yes,' Solas agrees with a snarl, 'stay down little boy.'
Dean wishes he had the breath to shout something in return. Sam gives a curious half-movement, unwilling to let Cas stand alone, but temporarily to weak to do anything himself.
Gritting his teeth, Castiel lowers his arm. Like he's a tasty game, the demons eyes track him up and down as he runs a quick tongue over his lips. Deans whole body is shaking. No, Cas, no, because no way is the angel going to face this twisted creature alone. He hates himself for being so weak.
'You will fight me?' Solas purrs.
The answer is clear without even words spoken. I will fight you. Castiel forces everything he has left into power, arching out, filling the room. But he's still slightly swaying, riding on the strange high of Solas' healing touch.
'But I don't want to fight you,' Solas pouts, 'I like you.'
Solas lets out a huff of a laugh, eyes flicking left and right. 'Okay,' he agrees good-naturedly, then his face snaps to malicious intent.
'So, I'm facing the cripple!' he claps his hands. 'Angel versus Demon, just how its supposed to be! Except its not, because…' and here he pauses, takes great delight in glancing at Dean. For the smallest instant, Cas follows his lead, wary eyes flicking at the brothers and suddenly its like the both of them are carrying some great secret. Dean grits his teeth.
'Honestly,' Solas' attention snaps back to Cas. 'What do you think you're going to achieve by fighting me?'
'I just think I should fight,' he says, 'I think I shouldn't stop.'
'Ha! You think you're unbreakable?'
Something tired and grim releases itself. 'I think I'm unfixable.'
A predatory smile wraps itself around the demons face. 'So, you are what they say. And you'll still fight even with what little remains?' He begins to laugh. It carries high and far, discordant upon itself, cascading into a madness shrill and unending. His smouldering eyes bulge outwards, a spurt of liquid lava amongst the turgid ooze. He laughs low and continuous, manic and hysteric. Then all of a sudden he stops, doubles over and retches.
Sam and Dean stare, mortified.
When Solas finally straightens up, he's grinning, flecks of spittle over his chin. 'Alright lil' blackbird, you're a brave one. But why not put on a bit of a show, huh?' And again, his eyes flick over Dean.
He takes two neat steps backwards so that he and Cas are mirrored, opposite sides of the little church lending themselves as a backdrop. Castiel hasn't reacted more than clenching his jaw together, but even from his half collapsed position Dean can see the worry in his eyes. Fear?… shame?
Solas drops his hands to his sides. They're ever so slightly outstretched as if he's showing himself off or about to take flight. From his mouth stretches a greedy smile, from his eyes flash prideful absolution. 'You're showing me yours? Then I'll show you mine.'
The church alights.
A thunderstorm of light and shadows etch themselves onto every surface. Bright, blinding, maddening. Dean can taste the rumbles in the air. Unholy white smoke pours off Solas, cascading over his mismatched suit and pooling sluggishly onto the floor. The wall behind him explodes into light.
And there, unfurling beautifully from his back, is the shadow of two ginormous wings.
Deans mind goes blank.
They're thick and feathered and glorious, sanctimonious things worthy or worship and fear. They are angel wings, born for elation. They're something no demon should ever bare. And suddenly Dean understands the haunted look thats been etched on to Castiels face from the moment the demon walked into the church.
Dean tears his eyes away from Solas to look across at Cas. And this is one of those strange moments where time slows its own passing and things that are only meant to last a heartbeat stretch on into the infinite. Because Cas is… Cas is… And Deans heart gasps in his chest, and beside him Sam makes a strangled little noise. Because under Solas' ungodly light, Castiel is also bared for all to see.
Castiel and his mangled wings.
On his right side one wing cracks its way up the brickwork, trembling minutely with the strain of being held outstretched. Scored mercilessly along it are rips and rivulets. Long pinions still splay outwards, unkempt and twisted. But in-between… The shadow folds painfully in on itself. But its too late, they've already seen… In-between there is nothing but horrific gaps where the rest of the wing should be. Giant gouges along its surface, tattered flesh hanging down. Here and there the long spines of ruined feathers pierce outwards, nothing but the skeleton of them left to the open air.
On his left there is no wing at all. Just a splintered stump that stretches no longer than an arm.
Sam and Dean gape in horror.
Light burns. Time bends. Castiel aches.
The flesh of his back stretches and splits, shock waves plunge down his wings to the torn and severed skin beneath. Its unbearable. Agony so complete it transcends itself through two plaines of existence, metaphysical and physical, silken shadows and solid stone. Pain lances itself through him, blinding and maddening. He doesn't know how he still stands.
Solas' face is rapturous, eyes half rolled back into his skull as he basks his the sheer power of what he's done. Bile rises in Castiels throat. He sways. The wings are so beautiful it makes him shudder in the wrongness of it all. They're not yours to bare. The sheer enormity of the demons size and power hits him like a tilde wave. Every instinct he has screams to run and to flee. It physically hurts to not cower. It burns.
What must it look like? These two unimaginable forces poised to fight, lit up by the fury of raw power alone. Shadows and silhouettes stretched across either end of the church, swallowing it up in their wake. Angel and demon, holy might and darkest fury. Except that one of them is mangled. Mutilated. He can't show anyone down with these. He can't flare and defend and have others cower in his wake. How can he hope to protect them like this?
For a brief second, Castiel closes his eyes in shame. And he knows when he opens them he's going to look straight at Sam and Dean, because he has to know… because he has to believe that they will be his strength.
Solas lets out a little chuckle.
The light snaps away. The church plunges into gloom. Castiel looks at the Winchesters and is not let down.
Their faces are complete fury.
'Its such a pity really,' Solas is saying smoothly, 'that it happened. I di-didn't want it. Ahaha. It shouldn't have happened at all. But you must realise now, blackbird, that it really is pointless-'
Castiel punches him in the face.
He doesn't have time to think, he doesn't even know how he managed to cross the space of the church in time, but Solas is reeling and he needs to kill him now. He lands another punch and uses the momentum to spin and deliver and sharp backfist to the demons nose. Blood spurts out on impact. The demon shrieks.
Theres an agonising grinding pain as Castiel scrapes his outstretched wing away. He can see Solas' beautiful ones twitching, one half tucked, the other lifting as he pulls his body round to face the angel. But his face is a twisted mess of malevolent rage and his eyes have already slid to black. Castiel is glad Sam and Dean can't see the demons true form. He's fearful enough of it on his own.
A fist strikes out, only just grazing Castiel's check as he moves out of its way. His own arm snaps forward, trying to get a lock on the demon but he's just not fast enough. Solas strikes, he dodges, tries to find another opening, all the while keeping his abandoned sword in the corner of his eye. He needs to get it back, its the only thing that might work. But then a blow to the side of his head sends him crumpling to the floor.
Amongst a fateful of blood, Solas laughs.
Then without warning Sam is behind him, and Dean's to his left, and the demon knife pierces its way through his neck with brutal force. For a moment, Solas' eyes bulge wide and his mouth opens into a blood-filled hole. But then is creeps into a wide smile. He turns in gleeful pride and lashes out, driving each of his fists into each of the boys ribs. The Winchesters sprawl away even before Castiel has time to make a noise.
Solas seems to take pause, considering. He hooks his fingers around the hilt of the knife buried in his throat and slowly pulls. Accompanied by the wet slurp and gurgle of blood, Castiel hisses and pulls himself to hands and knees.
A quick glance at the brothers tells him they're both still alive, and he doesn't have time to think further than that. The demon knife clangs to the floor and Solas massages his throat as it knits itself together.
He grins, blood oozing between his teeth.
'Where were we?'
Castiel flings himself forward. He's diving for his sword, using its bright surface to guide him towards it, fighting against the blackness in the corners of his vision. From somewhere unaccounted for, Solas' foot comes swooping in, connecting sharply with his stomach. The impact sends him sprawling, a strange gasp caught in the back of his throat. Then hands are around his neck.
Panic grips him, distorted memories of a demon in an alley flare across his vision and he struggles wildly, all fighting forgotten. But then the hands are moving and Solas is curling them around Castiels torso. Fresh pain strikes like lightning. Gasping against the lack of air in his body Castiel feels the demon pull him upright and squeeze him close.
An agonised cry rips from him. Solas' hugs him tight, desperate, possessive, and his hands are forcing pressure all over his ruined back. The wounds press together, blistered skin is torn away, he still can't breathe.
Castiel blacks out.
Except a moment later he's back, shock forcing its way into his system and unleashing adrenaline like a flood. He thinks maybe Sam is shouting for him, though every sound his distorted under the pounding in his ears. His feet are trailing across the floor, not enough strength in his legs to make them work properly and he needs the demon to release him of he'll go under again.
'Blackbird, little blackbird...'
His voice barely a whisper, he wheezes out, 'Naomi.'
And the demon drops him as if he has been burned. Castiel crumples to the floor with a wet thud.
'No,' Solas hisses as Castiel gasps for breath. The angels eyes seem to have stopped working but he manages to flop over onto his stomach to quell the fire in his back. 'No…' the demon makes a strange whining noise as Cas claws the floor feebly.
'I'm not- Its me,' his voice a dangerous hiss. 'I am-' he stutters forwards, shuffling footsteps as he approaches, 'it was me, all me.'
A hand tangles tight into his hair, Castiel takes an almighty breath and finally closes his fingers around his blade. Just as he's lifted once more, the blade finds its mark and sinks into the demons shoulder.
He doesn't remember what happens after that, but when his senses spark back into life he is slumped against something warm. Instantly he feels hands on him, gripping shoulders and arms. He blinks away the spinning world and wildly tries to focus on Deans face, inches away from him.
'You okay?' he's breathless, face dangerously pale.
Sam is saying something but his voice isn't working or maybe Cas just can't pick it out. Solas' curses echo around the church. Hissing fills the air again as the wound in his shoulder belches bloody smoke. Castiel takes a breath and revels in the sweet oxygen flooding his system. Dean grips him all the harder and he sees now that Sam is clutching his blade. Ah good, Castiel thinks blearily, because there's no way he can do this alone.
'Angel blade,' he explains, 'kill him,' he tries to stagger up. 'He's unfocused,' he pants, fresh eyes locking onto the demon incase he attacks again, 'he's distractible.'
Something big and heavy forces him back down to the floor and it takes Castiel a moment before he realises its himself. This isn't right, legs aren't supposed to collapse. But even has he blinks in surprise, hands are hooking under his arms and hauling him up again.
Solas spins around, 'you little assholes!' veins are standing out on his forehead. He flings out a hand out and Dean and Sam flinch. Except nothing happens, no force or power plows into them. The demons furious face contorts and Castiel moves before either of them have time to think. Somehow he's back up and fighting. Somehow he's behind him, slamming his elbow into his spine.
And the brothers are staggering up as well, Sam lads a blow to the demons face and Dean catches his ribs before the Solas manages to retaliate with a well aimed kick.
'Not Naomi,' he spits.
He spins and easily dodges Sams attempt to stab him, managing to grab the mans arm and fling him into Castiel, who's just not strong enough to catch him properly. They both go down.
'IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME!' Solas roars, flailing wildly.
Castiel gasps, but pain and fatigue are to severe now for him to notice whats new and old. The demons powers are still missing and Sam and Dean are a force to be reckoned with. They've understood Castiel's tactics even from his uncoordinated explanation. Solas is a loose cog, something has snapped in his brain and he's just not working properly. Theres madness there, buried under all that power, and as long as they can avoid his strength, keep him unhinged, they might just stand a chance.
Dean's up again, blinking blood from his eyes, rage contorted in his movements. He drives a fist into the demons throat, making it squeal and gag, and then he's behind it, wrapping iron arms around its waist, pinning it.
'Sam!' he orders.
And Sam is up while Castiel is still crumpled. The sword is clasped tightly in his hand, its sharpness flashing as it descends. Castiel looks up, sees whats about to happen all to late…
Solas' powerful wings snap open, cannoning into Dean with such force he is flung through the air and dumped bonelessly onto the floor. Sam's body half contorts, cowering at the shadow of the wings over his head. Solas calmly flicks his hand and the sword flies from his grip.
The demon lets himself slowly smile. Theres an echoing rattle and long interlocking chains spill out of his sleeves. Like some demented magician he lifts his arm and the torrent of snaking metal clamps itself around Sams neck. He's flung into a pillar and the chains tighten to a death grip.
Castiel struggles to stand but collapses to the floor again. His heart is hammering loudly, the world is spinning sickeningly. He needs to be able to fight. He needs to be able to breathe.
After a moments pause, the demon slowly and deliberately neatens his blood-soaked clothes, smoothing over wrinkled mess and tucking it away with his insanity. When he finally straightens, it is with a look of uttermost calm. 'Actually,' his silken voice overlaps Sams quiet choking sounds, 'I've changed my mind. There is something I want.'
Castiel swallows thickly, manages to croak, 'you've already taken everything.'
'Oh no,' his voice is so soft, 'not everything.'
And every ounce of strength Cas has left drains away. 'No…' he whispers.
Solas grins. 'You wont be saying that in a minute.'
He begins to slowly walk, poised and beautiful once more. Each of his footfalls are perfectly measured, perfectly balanced, carrying him neatly over the blood and debris on the floor. The room slowly tilts through Castiels traitorous vision, he thinks maybe it would be a lot simpler if he just gave up now. Their one window has gone, the madness has been swept away, Sam is dying. Sam is dying. No! Must save Sam.
Cas cries, 'Dean!'
And as though his prayers are answered, Dean is up. Clutched in his hand is a chunk of brick that he slams it into Solas' skull with all the strength he can muster. The demon tilts his head slightly under the impact, then slowly turns to face him.
Deans eyes go wide. 'Well, crap,' he says, then slams the stone into the demons face again.
They fight. Castiel knows they're fighting, he knows he needs to help. Help Sam. But its simply to hard to focus, his eyes are swimming again and pain is making him cruelly selfish. For a while he has to just breathe. He thinks maybe Solas is still calm, any twisted spurt of madness now cooled back into sluggish magma. But Dean's not one to give up, even if the demon is simply toying with him. Sam! Save Sam!
He forces his eyes open and scans the room. Sam is still alive and choking, the chains tight around his neck make the skin of his throat sickly pale and his face a blotchy red. His eyes are wide and bulging, and only open wider when he sees Castiel painfully uncurl. Somewhere in the distance Dean is shouting above Solas' smooth laughter, but its a faint backdrop to Castiels narrow world.
He unsteadily pulls himself upwards, lifts his arm to begin to crawl, and instantly collapses onto his stomach with a soft wheeze. The noise turns into a moan of despair. He tries again, collapses again. Please no, he can't fail now. Panic filled eyes travel to Sam. But the Winchester isn't looking at him, he's looking desperately at the floor. His hazel eyes flick to Cas and then away again. He's looking at the blade.
Instantly Cas drags out his hand. It trembles and wobbles in front of him as he wills his energy into the blade. Move. It doesn't. It stays still and lifeless on the floor. He tries again, screwing his face in pure demand. Move. If he can just get it to Sam or Dean. Move. Move. And it shouldn't send sparks of pain shooting through his skull, but they shiver over his skin nonetheless, pooling behind his eye and screaming into his brain. He can feel himself crumple. It simply hurts too much. Cas slumps in wretched misery, blackness latching onto him.
Dean screams out 'SAM!'
Its three days later when Castiel finally remembers what transpired in this moment. Because what happens next, at least for a few seconds, make no sense to him at the time. Theres unbearable pressure on his back as his wing pulls itself open. Some strange primordial instinct that not even god himself could command jumps to life. Something he's not even conscious of swells. The angel blade sings in harmony, splits through the air, and buries itself deep into Solas' back.
For the second time in as many minutes, the demon howls.
Then he falls deathly silent.
Castiel blinks in incomprehension, forcing his muddy head to stay upright. For a moment theres stillness, a perfect tableau of Solas' statued body, hands still half-gripped into Deans shirt. But then the demon staggers. Dean flings himself away and towards Sam, pulling at the chains around his brothers neck until his tendons crack. They do not break, but through his desperation Sam is given just enough leeway to choke in desperate lungfuls of air.
The demon doesn't seem to care. He spins around, trying to look at the blade buried deep into his spine.
'Fuck!' he cries, his eyes wide. 'Do you know what you've just gone and done? You've fucking killed me!'
Oily white smoke pours out, sickly light cracks around the edges of the blade. Solas' breaths grow more and more frantic as he claws at his back to try and pull out the sword. Strange colours blossom over his skin, bruised reds and yellows shimmering like shockwaves.
'I'm dying,' he cries. 'I'll have to start over! I'll have to find a new- fuck!' his black eyes snap to Cas. 'Look what you DID!'
He's in front of the angel in seconds. Above Sams weak coughs, and Dean laboured breathing, Castiels swirling ears pick out the thrum of the demons power. Except now is creaking, cracking, shattering.
'Why did you do this?' Solas scrambles to his knees and lifts Cas up so they're eye to eye. His skin in splintering over his hands and face, Castiel twitches against the angry sparks. 'Why did you kill me? Do you know how long it took me to find the right vessel?! Do you?!' his hands clench into Castiel, one around his jaw, the other curling into his ruined shirt.
The colours fracture over him again, little spots and lumps begin festering, popping and bubbling like the skin is being boiled from inside. Castiel watches blearily, helpless against the splitting pain in his skull and the overwhelming exhaustion of his body. Solas bares his teeth and shakes him back into dim consciousness.
'You did this,' he hisses, so close their faces touch, 'you did this to me. You. Li-li-lil' blackbirdy bird… ah, haha, imma get you next time.'
Dean grunts outs Cas' name, twisting to look over his shoulder, but he makes no move to leave Sam. Castiel is glad, Sam could die… But Dean will save him. Perhaps he should sleep now. A little whimper is squeezed out of him when Solas shakes him again.
'No more mister nicey nice. Call me… Call me mister serious now. Mister, mister I'mgunnafuckingflayyouapart.' He reaches behind him and with a sickening slop finally manages to pull the blade free. He screams. Light and fumes bellow outwards from his back, pouring out like smoke from a volcano, filling the church with thick oily smells.
Castiel stares faintly at the beautiful wings spayed above him, watches as they're engulfed with smokey fumes and begin to rapidly rot apart. They were such beautiful things. Solas' scream morphs into a shrill laugh. It rings loud and clear, piercing through Castiels head with sickening force. He laughs and curses as the flesh of his face begins to melt. Clumps of it drip down, fizzling against his mismatched suit.
'I've got your numbers boys!' he calls, eyes fizzing between black and brown. 'I'mgunnarip. you. all. apart! I'M GOING TO BURN YOU. I'm-I'm-I'm, ahahaha, I'M GOING TO MAKE YOU SUFFER!'
Castiel looks down at the angel blade in the demons hand. He wraps his hand around Solas' own and, quite simply and quite definitively, drives it upwards into his skull.
'I've suffered enough,' Castiel says.
Smoke erupts from him. Its a potent mixture of fire and ice, light that is too bright mixed with greasy, chocking smoke. Something fills the air, the entire room the entire world - its in their lungs and crawls through their closed eyes, forces its way into their ears and noses and mouths. Ear splitting noise. The boiling white of a supernova engulfs the room.
Oh man, I'm a terrible cliff-hangerer. Sorry! But I did that thing where you work in the title of the story into the story. Thats gotta be worth a few cool points, right? Apologies for Solas and his behaviour, he's not a happy chappy.
Fun fact, the image of Cas vs Solas and their wings spread over the church was the whole reason I started this story in the first place! Oh how far its come. And, man, theres still a lot more to go if you still want to share it with me.