Supernatural: The End, part 2
2 – Game of Thorns
Crowley could not recall a time when he was so furious. You’d think, in all his years, from mortal to King of Hell, he’d have gotten this enraged. But oh no. What a mother did to her children.
While that witch bitch somehow froze him, powerless, to the spot, he wasn’t really as powerless as she thought. As Castiel was growling like a pit bull and bleeding from the eyes, bearing down on him with an angel blade, Crowley summoned minions to put space between him and the rabid angel.
A couple died, sure, but one of the smart ones brought some holy oil, and now they had Castiel confined to a circle, which he kept trying to get out of, as mindlessly as a rat in a cage. He was still snarling, still crying tears of blood, and still swinging that knife around like it could cut through the barrier. “For Hell’s sake, man, angel up,” Crowley spat. The time his minion’s bought had allowed him to crack the binding spell his mother had thrown, but Castiel was still under her sorcery. Some angel. Crowley knew he’d just gotten his grace back, but he should have broken through it by now. They weren’t humans, and this was penny ante bullshit. Maybe Crowley should appear before him as Dean; maybe the shock of seeing his boyfriend – or the human he was supposed to be the guardian of; in angel terms it was the same thing – would shake him up enough to bust through.
She talked a good game, and she had the benefit of surprise, but it was just a super-powered spell. It would overwhelm humans, probably kill and mesmerize them by the score, but Crowley couldn’t remember the last time he was fully human. He was the King of Hell, goddamn it, and she was never getting one up on him again. “Track her down. I want her head on a plate before the night is over,” he told one of his smarter minions, who went by the name Michelle. “The uglier the kill, the better.” She nodded and left the run down church, headed out to alert the demons of Earth. There were so, so many. The Winchesters and the rest of the lame ass Hunters were fighting a war they could never win, but it was amusing to see them try.
One of the other minions, Alberto, currently inhabiting the body of six foot six linebacker with a neck as thick as a canned ham, looked at the snarling Castiel with disdain. “We have numbers here. Why don’t we just off the winged freak?”
He eyed Alberto like a toenail he just found in his salad. His slight esteem for him went down several notches. “What a brilliant idea. Yes, let’s kill the only angel who’s on our side. That’s bloody genius, Alberto.”
Alberto at least had the good sense to look down and seem contrite, but before Crowley send him down to clean the fifth circle of Hell with a toothbrush, he felt …
He had no word for this feeling. It prickled along his scalp like a thousand angry centipedes, and sent a hot flush down his spine. And it wasn’t only him who felt it. Castiel stopped mid-lunge at the exact same time, something like fear and coherence breaking through his bloody eyes. Crowley met his gaze, and in that moment, they had the clarity of shared awareness. They felt something heave on the celestial scale, something mere mortals and even his minions couldn’t feel.
Alberto was suddenly aware he was no longer the focus of Crowley’s rage. He looked up, and at the other demons, who seemed puzzled as well. “Sir? Is something wrong?”
“Castiel, what was that?” Crowley asked. It was stirring something in his lizard brain, something … bad. Very bad. But he couldn’t put a name to it. Castiel was technically an older being than he was, he hoped he had the word for it.
Castiel blinked rapidly, his arm falling to his side. His eyes were still bleeding, but he was no longer lost in mindless rage. It didn’t suit him anyway. Castiel was better at being holier than thou than angrier than thou. “I –“ his mouth opened and closed soundlessly for a moment, and then he looked down and saw the ring of holy fire around him, confining him to the spot. “What happened?”
“Never mind that now,” Crowley snapped. “What was that thing? What fresh hell has happened now?” If his mother had somehow thrown open the gates of his Hell, he was going to crucify her, and then skin her alive. Maybe he’d take her hair as a wig.
The angel still seemed stunned, but he was finally rolling with it. You’d think, after all this time babysitting Dean, he’d be used to this whiplash of circumstances. “I think it was the Darkness. But … that’s not possible. I was told it was banished …”
“The Darkness? I assume you don’t mean the band.” Castiel stared at him blankly. Still no sense of humor. “Are you talking about primordial darkness? The big bad stuff before your dad brought the hammer down?”
Castiel wiped the blood from his eyes with the back of his hand, and stared at the smeared crimson like he couldn’t understand how it had come from him. That spell would have shriveled a human like a raisin. He could almost applaud his mother’s cruelty, if she wasn’t such a tremendously foul piece of shit. “Yes. I … Rowena couldn’t have done that. No one’s that powerful …”
Crowley could still feel the echoes of the power crawling over his skin, a million spiders with needle sharp legs. Normally he’d get a little erotic charge out of it, but now it was just annoying. “Who could’ve done that?”
“I don’t know. I was told it was contained –“
“And this is the first time Heaven has lied to you?” Crowley snapped. He didn’t have time for Castiel’s wounded puppet act. He may have been his enemy under most circumstances, but he did genuinely feel sorry for Castiel. He so wanted to be good, and he was such a born victim, and he would always be. Part of it was his fault for being so naïve and so trusting, but ultimately he was made that way. His father was almost as cruel as Crowley’s mother. They were both echoes of their parents, trapped forever in these confining little boxes.
Castiel gazed at him steadily, eyes blue as the sky and nearly as empty. “This is bad, Crowley. Let me out of the circle.”
Alberto shifted nervously on his feet. “Sir? Maybe we shouldn’t –“
“We can’t fight this alone,” Castiel demanded. “We may not even be able to fight it at all.” There was a brittle edge to Castiel’s voice. It was probably as close as any angel ever came to panic. It was not comforting to hear at the moment.
“Put it out,” Crowley said, waving his hand towards the circle. His minions exchanged uncertain glances, and this displeased him immensely. “Did I stutter? Put. It. Out.”
They just about fell over themselves dousing the flames, splashing water from flasks and glasses alike. As soon as the last flame was extinguished, Castiel teleported away, with the slightest sound of ruffled feathers.
Crowley glared at Alberto. “I’m your King. You think I don’t see those thoughts rattling around your empty skull? If there’s trouble I’d rather the angels deal with it. We have better things to do. Why the hell am I explaining myself to you?” He reached out with his mind and pulled, and the demon violently expelled itself out of the host body’s mouth in a gush of spectral black smoke. It seemed to disappear through the floor as the host body fell like a hunk of dead meat.
To be honest, Crowley had never felt something like that, something that frayed nerves he didn’t have and rattled bones that he no longer had. It was like something kicking the legs out from under the universe. This was something older than him, harder, uglier, and he wasn’t sure that existed since Lucifer got caged.
Were they fucked? He got the impression that they were all very fucked right now. He didn’t like the feeling.
The dead host body suddenly sat up, eyes as wide as saucers. “Wh-where am I?” the human asked.
The remaining five of his minions looked at it, confused, and then looked at Crowley, clearly figuring it was his doing. But Crowley hadn’t done a thing. How was that meat bag still alive? Alberto had been wearing him for months.
Crowley snapped his fingers, switching off whatever life was left in that thing, and it collapsed back to the floor. He looked around at his demons, and said, “Well? Are you finding that witch or not?”
Once again, they just about fell all over themselves doing what he asked, his latest display of violence only spurring them on to more comical heights. There was almost a traffic jam getting out the door. If there was any justice in the world, Yakety Sax should have started playing.
The meat bag sat up again. “Where am I?”
Crowley stared at him, only now grasping what was going on. He got no sense of death.
Death was a universal constant, an immutable law of the universe, and he could often feel it, like a background thrum. He could no longer feel it. Which didn’t make sense at all. “Oh, sleep, for fuck’s safe,” he said, giving the human a mental push. Finally he collapsed comatose to the floor.
Was it his mother, or the fucking Winchesters? Who was messing with the fabric of the universe?
Morons. This planet was full to bursting with morons.
Castiel wanted to be in several different places at once, but inevitably the screaming souls won.
All angels could see and feel souls. This was a difficult concept to explain to Humans, and in fact Cas didn’t really bother to try. Demons who fed on souls could sniff them out like blood, while angels saw them much like a candle flame in the dark. They actually had a kind of sound, like a faint, ethereal hum. The closest he had ever heard to a soul sound was a singing bowl in a Buddhist temple, but even that had been too loud, and too deep. But for a time while he was mortal, he used to stop at a temple just to hear it, to be reminded of the comfort and beauty of that sound.
Now, they were screaming.
It started as a small shift and noise, and grew and grew, like a tidal wave gaining strength. It was the Darkness. It was rolling over the sea of humanity, killing some and infecting others. There was no rhyme or reason to who lived and who died. But not only could he hear them being snuffed out, he could feel it, a death by a thousand pinpricks.
It was horrible, a massacre, and he could do nothing but watch and feel as it spread out over the globe, decimating the entire planet in the blink of an eye. And yet, it wasn’t exactly proper death.
Death was gone. He could sense that too, just like the souls. Life and death were a two faced coin, but now there was just the one. How had that happened? There was no way that should have happened. It shouldn’t have been a remote possibility. So, on the one hand, the people the Darkness killed weren’t dead. They were still here. The Earth remained intact.
But not for long. No death was a catastrophe, slightly worse than Death simply wiping everything out. Which was why such a state of affairs should have been completely impossible.
He had no time to contemplate what Rowena had done to him, even though no witch should have been powerful enough to afflict an angel. He had to find out what had happened to Death.
No, strike that. He had to find Sam and Dean.
He knew something was wrong with them. He could feel Dean’s pain even from here. He willed himself to him, to where Dean was, and he was not surprised to find himself in the back seat of the Impala, Dean driving and Sam in the passenger seat. “What’s happened?”
Both Dean and Sam jumped, as if they hadn’t expected him, but they should have by now. Humans could be so silly at times.
“Today isn’t the day to sneak up on us, Cas,” Sam said.
“Bring him back,” Dean snapped immediately, stepping on Sam’s sentence. “Cas, fix him.”
He almost asked who, but he didn’t have to. He heard one soul in this car, one unstifled by the Darkness. He met Sam’s eyes, and while he seemed shocked, Castiel also saw forgiveness there. He knew he couldn’t do anything for him, and he was giving him absolution. “Dean –“
Dean heard it in the tone of his voice. He turned to look at him, anger making his features stark. “No! Don’t you dare say there’s nothing you can do!”
“The Darkness has him,” Cas explained. With Dean there was a fine line between being gentle, which was kind, and too gentle, which made him bristle. “I can’t do anything against the Darkness. I’m not sure anyone can.”
Dean was shaking his head, increasing the speed of the car. The angrier he was, the more reckless he drove. “Don’t give me that crap, Cas. There has to be somethin’ we can do.”
It was then Castiel noticed the Mark was gone from Dean’s arm. So the spell had worked. Maybe that was the one good thing to happen today. “How did this happen? Do you know how the Darkness got loose? And where’s death?”
He watched as Dean and Sam shared a troubled, knowing look, and Castiel wished, for a single moment, he could be Human again, just to feel the satisfying, hot rush of righteous rage. “What have you done?” How could Dean and Sam have banished death? That didn’t even make sense.
Until, of course, it did. They told him what happened, and Castiel was of two minds, both disbelieving the story and believing it easily. The strength of the Winchesters was also their most devastating weakness: the bonds of brotherhood. Strong enough to destroy the universe.
Castiel sat back and let the information wash over him. Was he here to witness the destruction of Earth? It seemed likely, and it also seemed like that may have been why his father wanted Dean pulled out of Hell in the first place. He wanted to scream in his true angel voice, shatter the glass and the eardrums of the Winchesters and the tires on the car, but he didn’t. Angels weren’t supposed to have feelings such as that. But the Earth he loved was now irrevocably doomed. How could he not feel this way?
“How did you not know the Mark was the only thing holding the Darkness back?” Dean demanded. He was shifting rage around, trying to find something to blame. It was a Human comforting mechanism to have something to blame. Its help was purely emotional.
But it was a good question, and a very fair one. Crowley’s words came back to him. And this is the first time Heaven’s lied to you? “I was never told. I don’t know why.”
“I bet Metatron knew, that asshat,” Dean grumbled.
“What about death?” Sam asked. “How do we fix that?”
“There is no fix for that. There is one Angel of Death, and you’ve destroyed him.”
“What about Reapers?” Dean asked. “They still gotta be around.”
“They are. But the source of their power is gone.”
“There’s gotta be something, Cas,” Dean insisted, as they finally drove into the city, and Dean had to immediately stomp on the brakes. Castiel felt the insistent pull of inertia, but managed to stay where he was.
The street was a parking lot. Cars had collided, while others had simply stopped. Some still had their engines running, pushing out plumes of exhaust that soared into the sky. People had abandoned their cars. Some were dead, but much like Sam, still walking around. There was a man on the corner waving a hastily drawn up sign, screaming, “Repent! The Rapture is here! Repent!”
There was a man on the sidewalk. Clearly he had jumped from one of the building, but he wasn’t dead, just hideously mangled. Half his head was flat, and he was swimming in a pool of blood. But only his arms moved, as his legs were broken and useless.
There were fights occurring on the same sidewalk, so large you could almost call it a mosh pit. It was hard to say who was fighting who or why, or who if anyone was winning. They weren’t paying any attention to the injured man, or the man screaming about the Rapture. (Which was a strangely judgmental piece of Human fiction, but if it made some people feel better, they could believe it.) There were two buildings at the head of the street on fire, and another shop being looted, and car and store alarms made an irritating background sound.
For a second, Castiel thought about stopping it, just wading into the crowd and rendering them all unconscious. But then he saw the battles on the other side of the street, and up the road, and inside buildings. People did think it was the end, or they were filled with Darkness, but either way he couldn’t handle it all. It was all pain and fear and noise, and no one on Earth could do anything about it.
“What do we do?” Sam asked.
“Return to the Bunker,” Castiel said. “There’s no help we can offer. Not yet.”
Dean’s eyes met Castiel’s in the rearview mirror. “So there is a play we can make?”
“Not to my knowledge. But we have to try something.” And with that, he willed himself to the only place he could think might help in this time of crisis.
Castiel found himself facing the monkey bars at the hidden entrance of Heaven, but while it seemed empty, he knew he was not alone. He turned, and Hannah was right there, holding an archangel blade to his throat. Her face was a perfect mask of unholy anger. “Give me one reason not to kill you, Castiel.”
Telling her that he still wouldn’t go anywhere even if she did probably wouldn’t go down well at the moment, so he kept that thought to himself. “You may need all the angels you have.”
She scowled, but finally lowered the blade. “For what? You’re not going to suggest fighting the Darkness, are you?”
“We don’t have a choice.”
“You know as well as I do the angels were almost wiped out in the first battle with the Darkness, and there were a million of us. We have a fourth that number now, and no back up. Heaven has barely recovered from the last shock. Besides which, dare I mention the lack of death?”
“That might work in our favor.”
She gave him a glare that had a very Human portion of anger in it. “I know this is the Winchester’s doing.”
“It wasn’t on purpose.”
“I don’t care. They’ve destroyed the universe, Castiel! I think you’re absolved of protecting them anymore.”
Angels were quite literal, unlike Humans, who liked to obfuscate with the smallest, most inconsequential things. Still, angels could be very surgical with their language, and say things without actually saying them. Such as now. Hannah was telling him, without using the exact words, that he was free to execute them for the greater good. The problem was, they wouldn’t die, and it wouldn’t solve anything. (And Sam was already dead anyway.) “There has to be a way to restore Death to the universe. I can’t believe there isn’t a failsafe for this. It’s an intrinsic law.”
“And it should be indestructible. Who would even think of killing Death?”
Castiel almost said ‘Dean’, but swallowed it. It was a rhetorical question. “There has to be something in the archives. What about Ascension?”
Hannah’s eyes were a clear, cold blue that reminded him of a mountain lake he once saw in the Alps. The Earth was so beautiful. The Humans had no idea how good they had it. “A true Ascension hasn’t been done in a millennium. I’m not sure there’s an angel alive from when it was done. And who’s going to volunteer for such a horrible thing?”
Castiel couldn’t help it. He held up his hands, a Human gesture, one that he hadn’t quite shaken from his repertoire. Her brow wrinkled in confusion, so clearly she’d been back in heaven long enough to forget the Human gestures. Perhaps she was lucky. “Me, Hannah. Make me the new Angel of Death.”