Here is part ten
Sam and Dean capture Rowena and it all seems just a little too easy.
In the Dark
You never listen to the voices inside
They fill your ears as you run to a place to hide
You’re never sure if the illusion is real
You pinch yourself but the memories are all you feel…
Cas looked out over the gathered host of angels from the stage, an amphitheatre located in the heaven of Jimi Hendrix. It was one of the rare instances of a shared heaven, between musicians this time, since many of them had played the real Red Rocks on earth. Aptly named, the cliff face glowed in the setting sun as though on fire. It was a beautiful place, though a pale facsimile to the original that not so long ago had been called the Garden of Angels.
Getting the venue had been one of those moments where, as the saying went, ‘if you want something done right, do it yourself’. The angel that Cas had delegated the task to secure the venue resented the idea that they needed permission, requiring Cas to step in and smooth all the ruffled feathers. He found Jimi to be a reasonable soul. When the seriousness of the situation was explained, he was very amiable and willing to allow the use of his facility without so much trouble.
“All you had to do was ask, brother,” he said and ambled off, making Cas wonder why there’d been a problem in the first place. “Angels,” he muttered under his breath.
He also arranged to have the meeting broadcast, which made him feel quite a lot like Metatron, but it was necessary. Not all the angels on earth could return, not quickly enough, for above all, they needed to act fast. It was before thousands that he explained what he’d done to save Dean Winchester. And that was followed by setting out the plan to combat the Darkness.
It didn’t go over well.
He judged as he listened to the cacophony that ensued, that an equal number were incensed that he’d broken one of the more unbreakable, don’t screw around with souls rules ever in creation as there were those that were just incensed he’d saved Dean. They didn’t understand his loyalty to just a human. Maybe that was part of angel programming, to have such disdain for what they viewed as the lesser of God’s children. Can didn’t know and guessed he probably wouldn’t ever.
About the same number were against the idea of bringing Michael back to heaven as were for it, but slightly more than half were stunned into silence when Cas told them about the part Lucifer would have to play. All of that was nothing though, compared to the icy silence that greeted him over the Winchesters being involved with any of it – even though every single angel there knew they were the only vessels who could manage it.
“This is our plan. This is what we mean to do to stop the Darkness. I tell you all of this now so that you’ll understand. I know you have questions. I know you have doubts. I’ll do my best to answer them, but know this, even if the whole host of heaven is against me, I will not abandon my friends. I will not let them fight this battle alone.”
“Why are you still following the Winchesters? After everything they’ve done to us.”
Cas held up his hand to stop the shouting, afraid the next moments would determine whether or not he succeeded or failed to make them understand.
“Because I owe them my life. I’m here now because of them. Have you forgotten so easily the sacrifice they’ve made for us? How many would have died in the greatest battle of all time, the apocalypse, that they stopped from happening? The price they paid for it is still being extracted to this day. They saved us from catastrophe. Over and over.”
“Have you forgotten what they did to protect you from me? They told me opening the door to Purgatory was a terrible idea. They knew I was doing the wrong thing, and they, mere men, were the only ones who tried to stop me from making that dreadful mistake. And it was Sam and Dean Winchester who did stop me, finally, and even after I betrayed them, horribly, they stood by me and helped me return those stolen souls back to where they belonged.”
“They’ve done a better job of protecting humanity than us, whose job it is, than we have ever done. Dean knew that something wasn’t right about Metatron suddenly coming in from the shadows. Even Naomi came to trust them and understand what they mean to the angels, but she listened too late. I didn’t listen at all and we fell because of it. They helped us stand against Metatron. Did any of you go to Dean’s side when he fell at Metatron’s hand? Where were you when you had the chance to repay him for the blood he shed? We were all fooled by Metatron and the road he wanted us to travel, which I know for certain would have ended in our complete destruction.”
“Sam and Dean have paid a terrible price for our hiding here in heaven. Even now, they are paying it again, because at this very moment they are fighting this new enemy, this latest and maybe greatest threat to us all, and with or without your help, they will not stop fighting until they’ve saved us all again or died trying.”
“What they intend to do for us, for the world, can’t be undertaken by anyone else. They’ll be risking the one thing that they’ve fought for the whole of their lives and they’re willing, if it comes down to it, to give up their own freedom to save us. There will be a battle, but it won’t be between our two brothers. It’ll be a battle for our survival. I need you to be with me. I need you to be with them.”
Another silence filled the hollow between the rocks, but this was less certain. The chill had passed. They were listening. Cas decided to go on, knowing that a few doubters remained. He didn’t want to give those angels the chance to change anyone’s mind. They didn’t have time for dissention. As little as he liked telling them what they had to do, giving them orders like the old Cas would have, he didn’t have a choice.
“Next, you should know that I’m forming a garrison for the express purpose of looking for God.”
As he spoke a breeze stirred, by chance perhaps, and the flags that stood atop every light post surrounding the gorge lifted in a gathering wind.
“I know most of you firmly believe He’s truly gone, that he abandoned us. But I know for a fact that He isn’t. There’s no other reason for my existence, except that God willed it to be so. Raphael killed me, but I returned. Than again, after Lucifer killed me, and I returned after the Leviathans destroyed me. How else but by the hand of God? We have to find him. I don’t think we can win this war without his help. More importantly, we, his children, his first creation, have to believe in him again. A good friend once told me to listen to my own instincts, and again, he is right. I believe God is out there.”
“How can we even begin to look when we have no wings?”
He knew the question would come and he had finally found an answer. Metatron wasn’t the only angel scribe. There were whole histories of heaven, stored in scroll after scroll and guarded by the Pravuili, angels of the word. It was from their ranks that God had called forth Metatron to be his chief scribe. They had vast knowledge at their hands, but unlike Metatron, disdained the notion that only certain angels should have it. Oddly enough, Cas had only to ask and they delivered.
“By giving you the grace of the only other angel who didn’t fall. The Pravuili have discovered a spell that will impart a small part to each, and I believe it will begin the process of healing what was taken from you. The grace of Metatron.”
A mutter of surprise moved through the host along with an undercurrent of suspicion. “Is that how you healed your wings?”
It came out almost as an accusation. “No,” Cas said quickly. “It’s true that I fell to earth, as you did, but as a human. My grace was already taken. It was placed on Earth, rather than cast down, as you were. When my grace was finally returned to me, there existed a brief period where the stolen grace I still had within me interfered with the return of my full powers. With the spell, this un-fallen grace, will restore you. I know. Nurael has already tested it.”
The angel Nurael stood, her head bowed in brief concentration. Almost instantly, a white light emanated from within her, followed by the blazing appearance of her wings, white, massive, golden-tipped that stretched the entire length of the stage.
Angels weren’t usually prone to overt displays of emotion, but a gasp of wonderment and awe swept through them. Cas held up a hand, feeling a growing need to get on with it. “For some of you, this cure will be immediate. For others, it will take time, but not too much. For those of you on Earth, Nurael is on her way to you now. The choice to accept this grace, because of where it comes from, I leave to each of you.”
There wasn’t a single angel in the whole host who refused. Cas nodded to Nurael to go ahead, removing the second vial of Metatron’s grace that he’d split in half and gave it to her. She waved jubilantly to the suddenly cheering and applauding angels. The wave of joy that flowed so freely from them filled Cas with a kind of happiness he hadn’t felt in a long time, but right behind that was a sense of foreboding he couldn’t shake. He set about preparing to cast the spell.
In a small cauldron, he set the collected feathers of every angel present. Carefully, he poured in all but a drop of the grace of Metatron, chanting a containment spell as he did. The last ingredient, a healthy drizzle of angelic blood, he squeezed from his own hand. Giving the mixture a swirl, he stepped back and released the spell.
Light blared, filling the cauldron first, then the stage and finally spreading at the speed of thought to the waiting angels. They were struck and held frozen in place, outlined by a white glow that dimmed in slow increments until, with the spell fully absorbed, finally went out.
Five angels immediately took flight. They were followed by ten more and then 20 and then a hundred. Fully half of them regained the use of their wings. He allowed them the moment of what could only be described as silly abandon, zipping around like children with a new toy. He turned to the ones who remained.
“Don’t despair,” he said. There were still thousands of them yet. “Your strength will return. Until it does, your duty is to remain here and protect our home. For the rest of us, it is time to go to war.”
Even as he spoke, the light surrounding the gorge dimmed. At first, for a nanosecond, he thought it was just the sun setting. He blinked as the darkness spread, moving from east to west across the blue sky above. The terrible realization came the next instant.
“Angels! To arms! To arms!”
Cas shed his earthly form, rising to meet the coming horde. A thousand other angels followed him, clothed not just in white light but in every color in existence save the thing they now faced. A thousand more came at his call and another thousand until the gorge no longer shone ruddy red but a brilliant rainbow that filled the entire sky.
As Cas looked at the blanket of night that raced toward them, he knew, despite the thousands that stood with him, he knew it wasn’t enough.
With that thought, they all knew. They were angels, multidimensional beings that in this form didn’t require the use of words. Thought to thought to thought, the collective mind saw the coming battle and recognized futility.
“A thousand should stay so that others may live.”
And it went on until a thousand angels agreed to sacrifice themselves so that others might survive.
“Castiel, you must go.”
“I’m not leaving.”
“You must survive. You must run. You must live. You must. You must. You must.” And it went on and on until it was all he could hear, the only thought, the last hope they clung to. “You must survive.”
The Darkness barreled at rank upon rank of the Sacrificials, as they would forever be remembered; a blanket of light against the stain of night. The remaining angels, those chosen to survive, swooped down into the gorge to gather up as many of their brothers and sisters still helpless without wings against the onslaught and they ran.
Cas returned to the stage, waiting until the last possible moment, hating the thought that he should run from this. He would rather die than let heaven be taken. The enormity of it, this failure to see it before disaster struck them down, the realization that heaven was lost, crushed any thought of hope … until he remember the real battle to come and where hope still lived and breathed.
Jimi Hendrix stood beside him then, staring up at the billowing nightmare. Cas turned to him, searing the ward into his soul without knowing if it would work or not. “You need to run and hide.” He tapped his forehead, giving him knowledge of how to fight and survive what was coming. “Help as many as you can.”
“But what is all this?”
“Heaven is lost,” Cas said rather than try to explain since that was explanation enough. “For now. Run and hide.”
“All … all right. Good luck.”
“Hurry,” Cas said and then followed his own advice, still hating it.
He flew into the gorge, the last light before the Dark came in. There were so many left behind. He took as many as he could until he risked not being able to escape, the Darkness arrowing toward him. Four angels let go to give them all more time. The Darkness pursued him, biting at him, clawing after him. It chewed through the last of the angels left behind. The last thing he heard before escaping the bonds of heaven was screaming.
John Winchester glanced up from the Impala at the darkening sky, a confused frown crossing his weathered face, the wrinkles at the corner of his eyes deepening. He peered out through the open end of the shop before he set the wrench he held down on the radiator and went outside to look at the fading light.
He’d been tuning in periodically to angel radio, so he knew what had been happening. Confusion turned to alarmed realization.
“Dammit.” He turned. “Mary!”
She was sitting in the car, wiping the dash down. She often came out with him and helped him tinker. Of course they both knew that this wasn’t the real car, just like they knew nothing else in heaven was real, except for each other. Or maybe she was as near a proximity to the real soul as he would ever get. There had been a number of iterations over the course of his time here, all proved to be false. He took one last look at the encroaching black before yanking the garage door closed, pulling it from either side, metal clanging together. He pulled the locks and grabbed the nearest spray paint. He could lose all that he had because of this. Lose her.
Mary saw and understood. Enough at least. After all, she was a hunter too.
“We gotta move,” he said, warding the door first and then each of the four walls that enclosed the car. He’d been preparing for this, but hadn’t told her. “There’s a thing.”
“What is it?” She had that look; that he hadn’t told her something he should have.
He finished the warding and went to a place just behind the Impala, looking for the chip in the cement of the floor. Over time, it’d been covered and filled with grease and dirt. The sides of the garage started to heave.
“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to worry,” he said quickly.
“Is it the boys?”
He grabbed up a pen and pulled Mary over to him, drawing the ward just beneath her left collarbone. He’d already put one on himself, but he’d only just found out about it and thought he had more time. He didn’t know if it would work either, since neither of them were of flesh and blood.
“When isn’t it the boys?” he countered, digging a screwdriver out of his back pocket. He found the hole and started scraping at it, clearing enough grime away to get a finger in. He felt the latch and pushed.
A seam appeared as the floor cracked, lifting up to reveal an opening that led to a steep set of stairs. This wasn’t a doorway into a whitewashed, lit hallway. This led to the underground, the byways that not even the angels patrolled. Not anymore. There weren’t enough of them left. There was an entrance over in the house too. He’d made that one after discovering this one.
Flashlight in hand, he reached back for Mary’s hand. Leaving this heaven, his heaven, carried with it the possibility that she would no longer exist. He didn’t want to lose her again, rooted in place for longer than they had. The garage was about to come apart all around them. He pulled in a breath, knowing they were out of time. Still holding her hand, he led the way down.
The moment he was in, the crack sealed closed above him, leaving him only the dim beam of the flashlight to see by.
“What is this place?”
She was still there, looking all around at the long narrow corridor they stood in. John grabbed her, laughing despite the sounds of destruction happening right over their heads. He kissed her, more than once, and pulled her into an all but crushing embrace. For a moment, she laughed and held him back.
“You thought I wasn’t real,” she said, taking his face in her hands when he nodded and then set her forehead against his. For a moment they stood there, the end of all time be damned. “You know when I found you, it felt real. You felt real, but in the back of my mind, because of the angels and all that they’ve done, I thought … well I was afraid too. But not anymore.”
“No,” he said and kissed her again. “You’re stuck with me forever.”
She laughed at that and nodded down the corridor. “Where to now?”
Above them, by the sound of it, the garage and everything in it, including the car was left a mangled pile of metal. John shrugged at that, guessing if heaven survived this cataclysm, he’d dream up a new place with everything in it the same as before. If heaven survived…
“It’s a place called the Road House.”