Chapter 1 - The Downfall of Us All
"Angels... they're falling."
And so they were. Thin beams of shining light, descending like meteors from the stormy black clouds that hung in the overcast sky. It was both beautiful and frightening, and Sam didn't know what the hell it meant.
Sam felt a shudder rip through his chest, and he sagged against Dean. Even though he hadn't gone through with the final trial of rendering Crowley mortal, he still felt as though he was about to die. His blood burned, like his very essence was being incinerated from the inside out. His head throbbed in a continuous beat with his heart, and it seemed like his limbs were made of Jell-o. His eyes blurred with tears of agony.
His older brother supported him, guiding him around the back of the Impala. Dean carefully laid him down in the backseat.
"Sammy?" Dean's hand patted his cheek. Sam tried to focus in on his brother as best as he could. "Sam, just stay with me, okay? We're gonna get you help, I promise. Everything's going to be fine."
"You d-don't know that," Sam managed, punctuating his statement with a haggard cough. A trickle of blood leaked down his chin. "You can't." He grabbed Dean's sleeve, his grip white-knuckled. He didn't know why he was doing it, but knowing that Dean was there made everything in his slowly fading world just a little more clear.
"I can," Dean insisted, removing Sam's hand from his arm and squeezing it tightly in his own. "I won't let anything happen to you." Dean squeezed his hand once more before releasing it and making for the driver's seat. Before he could slide in, however, Sam remembered that they had a prisoner inside of the dilapidated church.
"You, me - we deserve to be loved. I deserve to be loved! I just want to be loved..."
"Crowley," Sam choked, half-sitting up before collapsing back against the seat. "Go get Crowley. We can't leave him there."
"Like hell we can't!" Dean responded, turning to give Sam an incredulous look. "We're not dragging that douche bag along for the ride, Sam. You didn't complete the trial - not that I'm complaining, but he's still the King of Hell. He's not our buddy."
"He's g-got my blood inside of him," Sam protested, voice trembling. "You didn't see him in there, Dean... part of him is human, part of him is... it's me. He's my responsibility." He knew he wasn't making much sense, but he had to convince Dean to bring Crowley with them. His foggy mind couldn't fully grasp why, but it had to be done.
"You're not responsible for his demon ass!"
"Dean, please," he pleaded weakly. He didn't know why it suddenly mattered, but it did. As long as he had a say, Crowley was coming with them. "Please, just... just go back and get him."
Dean watched Sam for a long moment. Sam was half-sure that his brother would deny his request, but finally, Dean relented with a stiff nod, slamming the driver's side door shut before heading back towards the church. Sam let out a pent up breath that he hadn't known he'd been holding, and then let himself fade into blissful darkness.
If ever there was a time to hate the Winchesters, it was now.
Unfortunately, Crowley only had so much malice within him, and all of it was currently directed at himself, rendering him unable to fantasize about force-feeding the denim-clad nightmares their own innards, more's the pity.
Guilt. Remorse. Sorrow. Self-loathing. Pain - pain on a level he'd never experienced in the entirety of his long life, even after having been tortured by Hell's former best. He felt like someone had poured hot lava into his chest. His eyes were stinging with heat, and he felt tears trailing down his cheeks, irritating his bruised and lacerated skin from where Abaddon had beaten him.
Hundreds of faces flashed through his mind.
All dead by his hand. Most of them tortured by his hand as well.
My God, what have I become?
He'd listened to their screams and reveled in it. He'd bathed in the blood of his enemies when he took Hell for himself, walked on their corpses with a smile on his face. He'd laughed as bodies writhed under flames and blades alike. He'd stolen, murdered, tortured - he felt bile rise in his throat at the vivid recollections playing out in his mind - he'd done whatever benefited him, no matter the cost, no matter how much blood he had to get on his hands.
At the time, he'd felt nothing other than cold, sadistic satisfaction. He was winning, after all. He was the apex predator. He cared for nothing but power and possession and the rush they provided. The ends justified the means, didn't they? As long as he got what he desired, all those trampled on the way were just casualties of a greater good - his own greater good.
He was a demon. Icy. Unfeeling. Ruthless. Perfect. And now...
The spectacular remorse that gripped him was some of the worst torture he had ever experienced, and he'd suffered in Hell for the equivalent of centuries after the hounds had dragged him down. The storm inside of him that made him clench his hands so tightly that his fingernails were creating deep divots that drew blood, that made him feel like he was suffocating, dying from the inside out, like he was going to throw up everything inside of him - that was torture. Far more potent than any tool he'd every used.
The things he'd done...
"Time to go."
Crowley jumped in the confines of the chair, the almost-throne he'd been trapped in for the past eight hours. He jerked his head up to meet the troubled green eyes of Dean Winchester. He had been so utterly lost in the dark stretches of his own mind that he hadn't even registered the hunter's presence in the room. He immediately felt his cheeks flush in embarrassment, fully aware of how pathetic he must look. He had to hold it together.
This isn't behavior becoming of a king.
"Go?" he repeated hoarsely. He had dimly overheard the boys' conversation as to whether to complete the third trial and make him completely mortal, but had been too absorbed in himself to participate. But why would they free him? Why not just leave him here to rot for eternity?
Dean leaned down, and much to Crowley's surprise, the hunter slipped a small key out of his pocket and freed him of his restraints. Dean stepped back and scuffed his shoe along one of the spray paint lines just enough so that Crowley would be able to get out of the devil's trap.
"We're leaving. You're coming with us," Dean elaborated gruffly, crossing his arms and waiting for Crowley to rise. Crowley looked down at his hands, flexing them experimentally. He focused his energies to his right palm, with the intent to start a roaring flame as a test of his powers. A dull ember flickered for a moment, then faded.
"Centuries," he whispered, completely to himself. Humanity. It was the worst curse that the Winchesters could have laid upon him, and yet he couldn't even find it in himself to try to kill them for it. He didn't want to kill anyone, anymore.
For the first time, he was sick of killing.
"What?" Dean asked, brows furrowing in annoyed confusion.
"It took centuries in Hell for my humanity to be erased, to become a demon. In eight hours, your Moose put it back," he explained in a monotone, still staring down at his hands, completely sodden in his misery.
"Yeah, well, what can I say. We defy expectations. Now get it in gear, we need to find Cas, and Sam's hell-bent on you coming with us."
He tugged hard on the sleeve of Crowley's suit jacket, dragging him up and out of the chair. Crowley stood on weak legs, wobbling slightly. He suddenly hurt much more. Being a demon, his pain threshold was incredibly high. Now, however, his back ached from the hours of imprisonment in the chair. His neck smarted from the continuous injections he'd received from the younger Winchester, and his body throbbed due to his beating from Abaddon, Dean, and Sam, respectively, not that he hadn't deserved it with the last two.
Wait a minute. Had he just thought that he deserved pain? Masochism was most certainly not one of his many vices. Dean snapped his fingers in front of Crowley's face.
"Come on!" he said loudly. "Sammy's in a bad way, and the friggin' sky's falling and, and..." his voice faltered for a moment. "I don't have time for this crap right now, Crowley!" The older Winchester seemed incredibly distressed.
He walked carefully past Dean and out of the devil's trap, making his way slowly to the door with the hunter watching him like a hawk. He looked over at Dean, and for the very first time, he saw Dean as an actual person. Not just an obstacle in his way, or a means to an end.
Unfortunately, with that thought came memories of all that he had done to the Winchesters.
"What's the line? Saving people, hunting things - the family business. Well, I think the people you save, they're how you justify your pathetic little lives. The alcoholism, the collateral damage, the pain you've caused... the one thing that lets you sleep at night, the one thing is knowing that these folks are still out there, happy and healthy, all because of you, you great, big, bloody heroes! They're your life's work, and I'm going to rip it apart, piece by piece. Because I can... because you can't stop me... and because when I'm done, what will you have left?"
Sam had been begging for him to stop, chanting a steady stream of 'no's under his breath as Crowley's hex-bag killed Sarah. Crowley had just smirked to himself, knowing that he'd found his trump card, listening to the desperate pleas over the phone with satisfaction.
Castiel came to the forefront of his thoughts as well, as the angel was so tied to the Winchesters. He looked down at his hands, almost positive he would see blood there. Castiel's screams echoed through his mind, along with the squelching sound he'd heard while rummaging around inside the angel's internal organs in a hunt for the tablet. Castiel's whimpers as he'd withdrawn his hand, letting out a victorious laugh as he looked over his blood soaked prize... and all of that was on top of trying to turn Castiel against the only people in the world who gave a damn about him several years beforehand.
He suddenly realized that Castiel was two up on him. Being alone had never bothered him, not once. Occasionally it had brought on a degree of boredom, especially after Castiel had dissolved their partnership and he no longer had the source of banter and death threats, but he had never once felt lonely. But now, even with the older Winchester beside him, he felt more alone than he thought possible. He had called for his legions when he'd been captured by Sam and Dean, and what did he get? Beaten to a bloody pulp by Abaddon, that's what. Where was the loyalty? Where was the power? Where was his power?
He had all of the souls of the damned behind him, and he'd never felt weaker.
Together, Crowley and Dean stepped out of the confines of the little church and out into the blustering wind. Crowley looked up, and was startled to see what appeared to be meteors cascading from the sky.
"Angels," Dean answered bluntly.
"The angels are falling?" Crowley asked, eyes widening. "How?"
"The scribe, Metatron... I think he tricked Cas into helping him with a spell that kicked all of the angels out of Heaven. Now they're coming down to Earth."
Crowley shook his head in slight awe. There were thousands of them, all raining from the sky. The Gates of Heaven had been slammed shut...
"Wonders never cease," he whispered, almost entirely to himself.
Dean made his way towards the car. Crowley looked away from the sky above and sighed heavily, wiping at his face. Blood smeared on his sleeve. He was going to need a new suit.
Crowley took a deep breath, attempting to regain his composure. He would be damned (ha ha) before he'd let himself cry like a bloody infant in front of Dean Winchester, of all people. He tried to center himself as best as he could before tailing after the hunter.
Soon enough, he found himself in the passenger seat of the Impala as Dean roared down the dirt road that led away from the church and along Lake Erie. The small church had been in Pennsylvania, apparently, near the peninsula.
As they began their trip to God only knew where, Crowley turned around in his seat to look at Sam. The hunter was curled up on his side, completely unconscious and looking rather the worse for wear. Crowley was blindsided by a strange emotion hitting him. After struggling for a few moments to identify it, he realized he was worried about Sam. Concerned, even.
"Is he alright?" he found himself asking in a quiet tone, much softer than he was accustomed to. Dean looked at him like he was completely and utterly insane.
"Why the hell do you care?"
"Humor me," Crowley growled, glaring at the Winchester. "Is. He. Alright."
"No, no he's not," Dean snapped. "This last trial nearly killed him, and I..." Dean's jaw tightened. He looked like he was about to crumble in the face of his little brother dying. Again. You'd think the Winchesters would've gotten used to losing each other, by now.
"You're not sure if he'll recover," Crowley surmised. "Where's your angel?"
"That's what we're trying to figure out," Dean said. "And it doesn't matter, Cas can't help him. He told us right before you killed Meg-" The emphasis on the words was not lost on Crowley. "-that Sam's hurting in ways that even Cas can't mojo away."
Crowley's stomach twisted in a painful knot at the thought of Meg. Demon she might have been, but she was curiously different - she was bad, there was no questioning it, there was no such thing as a good demon, but Meg had the potential for good. She was capable of it, which was far more than he could say for himself.
He remembered the endless torture sessions with Meg. The unspeakable acts that hadn't seemed unspeakable at all at the time. He remembered beating on her mercilessly, relentlessly, a constant source of entertainment. His little demon whore.
He remembered the look in her eyes when he'd stabbed her, ending her life.
He promptly rolled down the Impala's window and leaned out of it. He vomited pure stomach acid onto the road, having not eaten anything in... well, quite a number of years. He couldn't recall how long. After he finished retching, he rolled the window back up and sagged back against his seat, fighting the heat in his eyes back with all he had.
"You're not doing so hot," Dean observed casually, eyes fixed firmly on the road, seeming nonplussed by his state of disrepair. Crowley ran a hand through his hair, gulping as he closed his eyes and tried to take deep, steady breaths. "How far did Sam's blood go, anyway? You all feelings and rainbows now?"
"I'm fine," Crowley answered tightly. "Moose blood just doesn't agree with my stomach."
Dean's expression told Crowley that the hunter hadn't bought his lie. "Welcome to humanity, Crowley," Dean said, seeming terribly satisfied with his predicament. Crowley glared at him before shifting to lean his head against the cool glass of the passenger side window. His eyelids seemed unusually heavy - was he tired? He hadn't been tired in hundreds of years. How strange.
Before he knew it, he had drifted off to sleep, the purr of the Impala's engine and the sound of the brothers' breathing in the almost silent car proving to be somewhat soothing.
Castiel realized that for the first time in his existence, he heard nothing. Silence. Even when he'd shut off the angel radio, there had still been a murmur in the back of his mind. Now, there were no whispers. He could no longer hear the song of the Heavenly Host. He was no longer connected to the other angels in any way.
The silence frightened him.
Castiel walked through the woods for an indeterminable amount of time, the crunch of his footsteps on the leafy forest floor his only company. He walked slowly, head bent up to the sky to watch the falling stars that were his brothers and sisters. He wondered if they would lose their Grace when the Gates of Heaven closed. Lose their Grace, just like him.
Of course, he didn't lose his, so much as it had been forcibly taken from him.
Even though Metatron had healed his throat, it still throbbed, and he could still feel the phantom sensation of the angel blade biting into his skin. Even worse was the fresh memory of his Grace leaking out of him, losing his powers, losing what made him an angel of the Lord.. it was burned into his mind. He had lost everything that he was, everything that he had ever been.
He was human. Not just powerless like he had been rendered shortly before Sam had thrown himself into the Cage. No, he was completely and utterly human. He was a human who couldn't spread out his awareness to find out where he was, to find out where Sam and Dean were. He couldn't heal with the touch of his fingers, as he found out when he tried to heal a scratch he had received while walking through the forest. He couldn't fly, because he had been horrified to find that his wings were simply gone, gone as if they had never been there at all. The spots where they had once been ached horribly.
He was human. He was nothing.
After a span of time, the angels stopped falling, and the steadily darkening sky was still and calm. He stopped craning his neck and let his eyes fix in front of him. In the distance, he saw lights, and he heard the rush of cars racing by. Hopefully, he would be able to find a payphone and contact Dean. He made his way there, shivering slightly and pulling his trench coat tighter around him. For spring, it was a chilly evening.
The source of the lights came into view. A large rest stop splayed out in front of him. Weaving through the trees and down a slope, he made his way onto the pavement of the parking lot and then into the rest stop itself.
An interactive map on the wall informed him that he was about fifteen miles south of a city called Sandusky. He was in Ohio. He had no clue why he had been dropped there, of all places, but so be it. He managed to locate a line of several payphones nearby, and he asked a portly older woman if he could borrow some change. She smiled at him, said that he reminded her of her grandson, then promptly gave him a dollar.
He punched in Dean's number and waited for the hunter to pick up his phone.
This fic is what I like to call canon irreverent, meaning that almost any canon established after 8x23 is completely disregarded. You'll find that Fergus's backstory isn't quite what it was on the show, and things have gone a little bit differently for Jimmy's surviving family. Just wanted to make it clear that I'm perfectly aware of what's happened in canon. I'm merely choosing to ignore it because I'm not going to stray from what this story is meant to be just because the writers have decided to be nice and give us answers on things I'd thought they'd forgotten about.