Supernatural: The End, Part 4

 

4 – Diamond Dogs

There was little doubt that things were as bad as they had ever been. But Crowley wasn’t sure what to do about any of it.

 

Hell was a little chaotic, because panic was slowly but surely leaking out into the demon population. It was hard to say if the lack of death or the reemergence of the Darkness was the more bothersome thing, because they both had some solid negatives. None of this was a win for demon kind. It wasn’t a win for anyone, except maybe some Humans who really wanted to live forever, no matter how shitty the world was.

He was pouring himself a drink in his throne room when he sensed the angelic incursion, and he turned to find Castiel standing there. Somehow he was not surprised.

Two of his largest demon guards barged into the room, and Castiel held up his hands. “I’m just here to talk.”

Crowley made a point of studying him, even though he knew the angel was telling the truth. He just liked to make him wait. “It’s okay,” he told his guards. They exchanged troubled looks, but retreated, closing the doors behind them. Everyone knew better than to piss him off today.

Crowley finished pouring his drink, and then asked, “Want anything?”

“No, thank you.”

“I didn’t mean a drink.”

It took Castiel a second, but he finally understood. “In that case, yes. I’m here to ask your help.”

Crowley sat on his throne, cradling his crystal glass. “An angel asking a demon for help? Interesting.”

“Heaven is planning to fight off the Darkness, but we don’t have enough people. If you joined us, we would,”

Crowley knew he shouldn’t laugh, but he did anyway. “Pull the other one.”

“I’m serious.”

“I’m sure you are, but why would demons fight beside angels? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re enemies in the wild.” He took a sip of his scotch, and wondered why Castiel loved such doomed projects. He was such a glutton for punishment, he should just come out and admit his sadomasochism. It was 2015, people were much more open minded now.

Castiel frowned, wrinkling his brow like a Shar-Pei. “Having the Darkness gone will benefit you as much as us. When Death returns, we need the Darkness removed, or so many Humans will die your population will be untenable. You’ll fight for the last remaining Humans, and then what? Does Hell have a back up plan?”

Crowley scowled at him, disliking his tone. He also really disliked the fact that he was one hundred percent correct. “What’s the guarantee Death is coming back?”

“We’re working on that now.”

Crowley assumed he meant Heaven. At least they were trying to fix things. “Give me a ring when it’s on the way.”

Castiel took a step towards the throne, but stopped. He was here by Crowley’s indulgence alone, and his patience was wearing thin. “I can guarantee you a temporary détente, in writing. If you don’t attack us, we won’t attack you, not until the Darkness is contained once more.”

“And Heaven’s on board with this, are they?”

“They will be.”

Ooh. Now Crowley was really interested. Was Castiel rebelling once again? Angels with genuine free will were so rare, and risking expulsion every step of the way. It was fascinating to watch, like a squirrel running across a busy highway. They were going to get run over at some point, but you couldn’t help but root for them, if only to show the bastards it could be done. He slugged down his drink, and sat forward. “What do I get out of it?”

“An inhabitable Earth.”

“I need more.”

Castiel actually rolled his eyes, like a bratty teenager. He’d been around the Winchesters too long. “What do you want?”

“To rule it.”

Castiel frowned. “No.”

“Then I guess we’re done here.”

To his surprise, Castiel nodded. “You were only plan A.”

Was he actually leaving? He turned away, and Crowley could feel the energy build up of an angel about to teleport. “Wait a second. Haven’t you ever heard of the fine art of negotiating?”

Castiel paused, and turned back towards him. “I have. But there’s nothing to negotiate.”

“Of course there is! I highball, you lowball, and eventually we’ll come to an agreement that is satisfying to neither of us, but will allow us to save face amongst our people.”

“There’s nothing I can give you. I can convince Heaven of the benefit of a détente, but that’s it. Anything more would be too far.”

That was a pity, but he could totally see that. Heaven wasn’t known for its generosity. “What about a personal favor?”

“It depends on the favor.”

“I want my mother dead. I mean real dead, not corpse walking around dead. I’m sure Heaven could make that happen.”

Castiel’s lips thinned, as if put off by the idea of assassination. But who he was kidding? Castiel had killed for Heaven, killed for the Winchesters, and would undoubtedly kill again. Angels were soldiers, weapons of the empire. Humans wanted to believe they were harp playing fairies with nothing but good intentions, but that was all PR. They were demons with more inhibitions, bent towards obedience.

Crowley waited, and was willing to wait for a full day, but it didn’t take that long. “Rowena really is your mother?”

“You couldn’t tell?”

“No, I think I could.” A muscle jumped in Castiel’s jaw, and he finally met his eyes. “Fine. If we take out Rowena, you’ll agree to the détente with Heaven?”

“Of course.”

Castiel nodded. “I agree to your terms. But we keep it off the paperwork.”

He grinned, still getting a thrill out of an illicit deal. Castiel was going to do it himself, off the books, maybe with the Winchesters help. “Absolutely.”

And if it all blew up in their faces? Well, there were a couple of problems he’d no longer need to deal with. As far as Crowley could tell, it was a win-win.

He was aware of the power building as the angel prepared to go, but Castiel suddenly smiled at him, which was weird. He’d never seen him do it before. “There was no plan B.” He then disappeared.

That little minx. Crowley knew he liked him for a reason, despite him being a featherhead.

**

Castiel knew what he was in for. As soon as he told Hannah of his plan, she looked at him like he was the craziest thing she’d ever seen. And that was a fair response. “Castiel,” she finally said. She seemed to be struggling for words. “Team up with demons?”

“Our combined powers should defeat the Darkness.” Castiel was in Hannah’s office, for lack of a better term. It appeared to be made of a blue semi-translucent crystal, everything from the walls to the floor to the furniture, but it wasn’t precisely real. In Heaven, the line between reality and desire was very thin. The landscape of Heaven seemed to change every twenty meters. You could be walking through a field of wildflowers on a sunny day, and then suddenly find yourself inside a cavernous cave where the rocks sparkled like diamonds, and then, in another few moments, you were in an arctic wasteland with snow up to your knees, and the Northern Lights glowing in the sky. It was beautiful, and hadn’t quite prepared him for life on Earth, where landscapes changed over much greater distances. Also, the buildings were built, and didn’t just spring up on an impulse. “Once I’m Death, it should be enough to turn the tide.”

She sighed and looked down at the glossy blue surface of her desk. It appeared to be ice. “This is crazy, Castiel. How can we even trust Crowley?”

“Because the demons lose if the Earth falls to the Darkness. The Darkness isn’t known to share.” He did not tell her about the Rowena side of the deal, because she’d rightfully object. Unless he told her that she’d somehow cast a spell on him, and then she’d probably be all for it. No witch should have power over an angel. No one, no matter how pious, would stand for that. “Crowley isn’t stupid. A week without enough Humans, and the demons would tear each other apart.”

“Which could cause a revolution in Hell. Okay, I can see how that might convince him.” She traced her fingers unconsciously over the top of her desk, leaving trails that existed for a moment before disappearing. “They’ll probably think I’m demented.”

“Great leaders don’t worry about such things.”

She gave him the faintest hint of a smile. “Is that flattery, Castiel?”

“No, only truth.” She was a much better leader than he ever was. He was distorted and led astray by so many different emotions, Castiel knew he should have been exiled permanently from Heaven for all he had done. He should have been executed. The fact that he wasn’t was either Heaven’s strength or its weakness. He could see it either way. But sometimes, looking around Heaven, all he could see were his own sins.

“Do you honestly think this will be enough to work?”

“I’m betting all our lives on it. Well, if I’m Death I won’t have one to wager. But you know what I mean.”

She leaned back in her chair, lines of tension gathering at the corners of her eyes. “About that. There’s a problem with the Ascendancy.”

Castiel felt his stomach knot, even though he knew there was no way it could. So much of his plan to right this wrong depended on the return of Death. What would they do if they couldn’t restore balance to the universe?

**

It actually took them twenty minutes to access the forbidden vault.

Dean honestly wanted to grab a sledgehammer and just go to town on the walls until they found the damn thing, but Sam insisted on doing it the “proper” way, answers the logic puzzles and avoiding the traps that kept the vault so well hidden. It was ridiculous and they didn’t have time for it, but Sam loved this kind of shit, so Dean sucked it up and went along with it. Seeing Sam happy let him forget, for a couple of minutes anyway, that he was dead.

He was achingly aware of his failure. He destroyed Death to save Sam, and he didn’t even do that right. And he didn’t know how to fix any of it. He just hoped Cas’s plan worked, because he didn’t have a better one. Although every time he tried to imagine Cas as Death, he failed miserably. To be brutally honest, he wasn’t sure Cas had the right temperament for it. Death was kind of a dick, but he radiated a sort of contemptuous menace that Cas just wasn’t capable of. Even when he was crazy, he was menacing, but he didn’t have that true disdain for life. And if Cas didn’t have it after all this time, he was never going to. He’d be the universe’s first Death filled with marshmallow fluff.

Finally the main door to the vault was revealed, and he and Sam had to put all their muscles opening the damn thing, because the door was impossibly heavy, and the Men of Letters wanted to make it as hard to open as they could.

The room smelled old. All the rooms smelled old when they first found this place, but not like this. This was a smell of time and age and bad intentions. There was an all pervasive scent of decay, even though nothing in here was actually decomposing. Dark magic had sunk into the walls, and it reeked of corruption you could never quite shake.  

There were lights built into the walls, but they were almost completely swallowed by shadows that shouldn’t have existed. The air was always thick and warm, almost humid, like they were over Hell’s boiler room. Dean could stand about twenty minutes in here before it felt like he had a million bugs crawling on and under his skin, and he couldn’t take it anymore. Of course, there were no real bugs, as even they couldn’t live in here.

There was a file by the door, laminated and typed up as neat as a menu, marking names and locations of all the dangerous artifacts in here, catalogued to within an inch of their lives. Sam appreciated this, and had researched every single one of these things. Dean couldn’t name one; Sam could give you the entire history of the thing. But, if anyone ever asked, Dean liked to describe himself as the muscle of this arrangement, as he wasn’t the brightest guy in the world, but holy crap, could he beat the shit out of things. Sam was the brains. Although, if pressed, Dean would admit he had a pretty mean left hook too.

“What should we get?” Dean asked, snapping on his pocket flashlight. The weird shadows seemed to swallow the light; the beam barely made it six inches in front of them. Sometimes he’d swear he could push the shadows, and they could push back. Sam claimed that wasn’t true, but couldn’t explain any of this.

Sam studied the list, holding up his own flashlight to see. After a moment, he said, “Row three, shelf five, artifact number four. I’m going to grab the one on row five.”

The artifacts were kept on meticulously numbered shelves that looked like repurposed bookshelves, with little white pinlights above the displays. It would have been hilariously chintzy and cheap if you didn’t notice the abundance of hex bags, the bone and feather fetishes tucked into corners, the lines of salt glued at the edges of shelves, the pervasive smell of rosemary and sage mixed in with all the rot. This was a haunted place, full of haunted things. A library of the damned. Occasionally you could hear whispers in dead languages, but once Dean swore he heard a single word in Russian that he actually understood for some reason: help. He couldn’t help but shudder, and was glad Sam couldn’t see him do it.

Dean went down the rows, trying to ignore how the shadows flickered in his vision like firelight, and finally came to the artifact Sam wanted. It looked like a fragment of an archeological find, a shard of a shattered statue or pot. He couldn’t even imagine what it had once been. “Sam, did you send me after a shard of pottery?”

“Yep.”

Before they went in, both Dean and Sam had donned special gloves, which were leather with a silver mesh on the outside. It made them heavy and hot, and Dean’s hands were already marinating in sweat.  He picked up the shard carefully, ignoring the feeling of something crawling down his neck. He always felt that in this room, yet there never was anything. He figured it was the ghostly equivalent of tapping you on the opposite shoulder and quickly stepping away. “How the hell does this help us? You hoping the Darkness steps on this and cuts their foot?”

Sam appeared at the end of the aisle, as if pulling free of the sludgy dark. He was carrying what looked like a rusty old lantern. “Cute. It’s imbued with the toxic blood of the demon lord Belial. Shatter it, and it kills everything within a one mile radius. And I mean everything. Insects, plants, soil bacteria, the person who breaks it.”

Dean looked down at thing in his hand. This was a supernatural tactical nuke? You really could have fooled him. Good thing he didn’t drop it. “How the hell are we gonna use it?”

“We aren’t. I am.” At Dean’s look, Sam shrugged. “I can’t be any more dead than I am now.”

Dean followed Sam out, and then began the laborious process of closing the damn door. It was much easier than opening it, but it still seemed like the Men of Letters went out of their way to make things difficult. At least you didn’t have to solve any puzzles to get the hell out of here. Maybe they figured no one would be inclined to stay. “So is the lantern for me?”

“No. It’s called Diogenes’ Lamp, although that’s an in joke. Once activated, the light is so intense, it vaporizes everything that ever had a bad intention within the range of its light.”

Dean had never heard of such a thing before. “You’re kidding.”

“Nope. They’re not sure who created it, but they think it might have been a sorcerer with a grudge. Anyway, I’m giving it to Cas when he returns. Only angels can use this thing, as I’m pretty sure it’d kill every human who ever lived.”

“No shit.” Bad intentions was a super wide net. Even a toddler could get hit with that one. “So what’s my weapon?”

“A spell. The problem is it’s pretty intense.”

“How much blood I gotta lose?” Blood magic was the most powerful, so that was an easy guess.

“About a half pint, but that’s not the hard part.” Sam paused in the hallway, and looked back at him nervously. “It drains life force from the spellcaster. If you’re not careful and precise, it can drain you entirely.”

It was Dean’s turn to shrug. “It doesn’t matter. It’s all or nothing. If we don’t win this one, we’re all dead one way or another.”

Sam briefly looked like he was going to object, but then decided against it. They’d lived through so many apocalypses now it seemed redundant even to worry about them.

Once they returned to the main room, they found Cas had returned, and was sitting at the table like a guy sweating a job interview. “Thanks for not startling us in the spooky room,” Dean said, putting the shard down on the table. He couldn’t wait to take the gloves off.

Cas was about to respond, but then he turned his gaze sharply on the pottery fragment. “Is that Belial’s blood?”

Sam nodded. “We’re breaking out the big weapons.”

“I had no idea any of it still existed.”

Sam put the lantern on the table in front of him. “And this is for the angels. I thought maybe you could use this in battle.”

“Diogenes’ Lamp,” Cas said, surprised. Okay, so everybody knew about these things but him. Fine. Although he wasn’t wearing heavy gloves, Cas touched the artifacts with no apparent harm.  The rules didn’t apply to angels. “I assumed this was destroyed.”

“The Men of Letters tried, on multiple occasions,” Sam replied, taking off his own gloves. “It always put itself back together by the next day.”

“Fascinating.” And that wasn’t sarcastic. Cas was staring in the rusted old thing like maybe he could figure it out.

“After the battle – if there’s an after – I want it back,” Sam said.

Cas pondered that a second, then nodded. “I’ll see to it it’s returned.” If an angel went nutty again, and wanted to wipe Humans off the planet, the lamp would be perfect for the job. It was best not to let them keep it, especially with their track record.

Dean sat down, and took a swig from his warm beer. Today he didn’t care if it was warm or cold. “You ran out on us before you could tell us what the big plan was.”

“Sorry,” Cas said, pushing the lantern aside. “Hannah and Crowley have reached an agreement. The angels and the demons are going to fight the Darkness together.”

“What?” Dean asked. Since when did angels and demons agree on anything?

“Cas, that’s brilliant,” Sam said, and his expression seemed to light up. He was genuinely enthused at the prospect. “Do you think it’ll be enough?”

“It’ll have to be.” He paused briefly. “I also promised Crowley I’d kill Rowena.”

“I’ll help,” Dean said. “She’s on my to do list anyway.”

 Cas then sat forward, frowning, and turned puppy dog eyes on Dean. Dean knew from experience that Cas was tacitly apologizing to him before doing or saying something really terrible. He braced for impact. “There is a problem with Ascension.”

Dean groaned inwardly. Son of a bitch. Two steps forward, two steps back. “What kinda problem?”

“There is, in our lore, a contingency plan for the replacement of Death. The English translation of it is ‘whoever shall dethrone Death wears the mantel’.”

Dean puzzled over that for a second, while Sam said, with a lot of anger, “No! That is not happening.”

Dean finally got it. “Oh. Holy shit.” He killed Death. The mantel was his now.

“Go back to Hannah and tell her that’s not happening,” Sam insisted.

“It’s even more complicated than that,” Cas said. “A Human would never survive Ascension. They’d be torn to pieces.”

“It’s not happening, Cas,” Sam said once more.

But Cas was ignoring him, because this was a conversation between the two of them. He’d probably guessed Sam’s response long before it occurred. Cas kept giving Dean that look. It had never wavered. “There’s another way.”

“What?” Sam asked, still angry.

But somehow, Dean knew, even before Cas said it. “Allow me to take you as a host. I’ll help you survive Ascension.”

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