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Paradise Ruin

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They drag Castiel from the cheap motel in the early hours of the morning, amused at finding him asleep - poor angel, they say, voices mocking; poor not-angel anymore, are you? He can smell the copper-stench of blood as they hurry him through the lobby; they've killed the night clerk, and he has to wonder why they haven't killed him, too. His refusal to join Lucifer, even at the very end, should surely put him on Hell's most wanted list. But they're careful, for all they're rough. Their hands grip and pinch and are too familiar for comfort, but they're not deliberately hurting him.

Outside, a van waits, and Castiel almost lets out a laugh of disbelief. A van, like this is some sort of cheap thriller. A sharp, sardonic remark bubbles up and he bites it back; it's the sort of thing Dean would have said, before everything went wrong and Dean went… missing. Castiel had looked for him, but after three months of no contact, from Dean or Bobby both, he's had to accept that he's probably not going to find Dean. And he knows where Sam is.

Well. He knows where Sam's body is. He doesn't want to think about where Sam is.

The demons bind his hands behind his back, and there's a brief moment of strange concern as one slips a finger between Castiel's skin and the ropes, as though making sure there's enough slack for circulation without letting Castiel slip free. Another ties a thick, disconcertingly soft blindfold over his eyes, and they help him into the van, instead of throwing him in the way he half-expects. Their hands are still too hard, taking too many liberties, but this – this is so far beyond Castiel's realm of experience with demons that he lets them sit him down in the back of the van, too bewildered – and, if he's honest, too human - to fight them effectively.

The length of the drive is impossible to judge. He used to have an impeccable sense of time, but that fled along with his resistance to the elements and his lack of a need for sleep, when he somehow banished that which was angelic from this body. He feels foolish, sitting there in silence and letting the demons take him wherever it is they're taking him, and after a little while, he begins to work at the ropes around his wrists, trying not to move too much. He's not sure how many of them are still in the back of the van with him. He can feel the heat of other bodies, but they might not be watching him, and his pride refuses to let him docilely let them take him to what might well be his execution.

One of them cuffs him, but the blow isn't as forceful as he'd expected. One demon snaps, "cut that out, angel. We're not blind," and there's a snicker from another. Castiel ignores the instruction, until the demon says, "listen, if we have to drug you, we will. Up to you."

He subsides then. He'd much rather face whatever's coming in full possession of his faculties, rather than groggy or unconscious from whatever cocktail of drugs they've cooked up to keep him down.

As they keep driving, Castiel comes to the realisation that, for all he's apprehensive about what might be coming, this is, for the most part, boring. He feels somewhat cheated at this realisation; surely being abducted by demons, not three months after the foretold battle between Michael and Lucifer, should feel something more than boring. He's not had that thought for more than a second before he feels foolish again. Being put out because one's abduction isn't exciting seems unwise. Dean must have rubbed off on him more than he thought.

Eventually, the van pulls to a stop. Castiel hears the front doors slam, the back door slide open, and he tenses. The demons manhandle him out of the van, again being an odd mix of rough and careful, and their hands drift a little too far now and then. He barks a sharp protest, and one of them laughs. They keep their touches a little more decent, though, as they start leading him… well, somewhere.

Walking blind is uncomfortable, and difficult, and Castiel finds himself leaning into the hands on his arms and shoulders more than he would like to admit. He tries to judge where they are from what he can tell without his sight. There's concrete beneath his bare feet at first, and then what feels like a wide expanse of soft, exquisitely-tended grass. The air is filled with a sweet, heady bouquet of floral perfume, the smell of fresh-cut grass, of new leaves.

All that passes in a matter of moments, and then there's smooth, cool marble beneath his feet, and the air cools as the demons lead him inside. More doors are opened; he's hurried through at least four, and then the demons jerk him to a halt.

It's definitely still inside; there's a quality to the air and atmosphere that tells him that. It feels closed-in. There's soft, plush carpet beneath his feet, and the faint smell of sandalwood.

The demons untie his wrists. As soon as he's free, he lashes out, trying blind to hit one of them; there's no time to take the blindfold off. He does land a few blows, pulling snarled curses from the demons he strikes, but there are too many of them and he's fighting blind, even moreso than he would be if he still had his Grace. They grab his wrists and wrench his arms up, buckling soft-lined leather cuffs around his wrists and pulling chains taut until his arms are stretched above his head in a partial St. Andrew's pose. They don’t bother with his ankles, and for a moment he entertains the thought of kicking them, but the action would be useless. Even if he managed, somehow, to do enough damage to them, he'd still be tied by his wrists, and the cuffs are tight enough that he knows he won't be able to wriggle out of them.

One of the demons is still swearing, and for a minute he expects it to lash out at him, and then…

…they just leave. There's a soft click as the door closes behind them, and then silence.

Not quite. He can hear someone breathing.

"Who's there?" he demands, doing his utmost to keep his voice firm. He refuses to sound afraid for them. Regardless of the firmness of his voice, the mystery person remains silent. And is apparently barefoot, because there's a cool hand on Castiel's chin without any footsteps to herald its owner's approach.

The hand turns Castiel's head and trails gently over the red mark from the demon cuffing him; there's a soft, strangely familiar sound of displeasure, and the hand is gone again. Castiel almost unconsciously turns his head in the direction it had come from, as though he could somehow see through the blindfold and see who is here with him.

The prick of the knife at his throat makes him jerk and gasp, trying to pull back. The blade doesn't menace his throat, however; it drags down, cutting easily through the worn fabric of his shirt.

"That did have buttons," Castiel mutters, perversely put out that whoever-it-is is ruining a perfectly good, unbuttonable shirt for no good reason.

There's a soft chuckle, again somehow familiar, and the knife continues its work, slicing along the sleeves of Castiel's shirt until the fabric flutters to the ground. He steels himself for its touch at his hip, expecting it to glide through his trousers with the same ease as it did his shirt, but the touch doesn't come. Instead, there's the (very) soft padding of bare feet on carpet, and then the sound of gently sloshing water.

He doesn't know what he's expecting next, but it's not the warm, damp softness of a cloth against his neck. There's a hint of cold even through the warmth of the cloth, and that is what tips the identity of the person in the room with him.

"Lucifer."

The name hisses through clenched teeth, because Castiel does not want to let Lucifer know how good a simple thing like a warm cloth against muscles that have been too tense for too long feels. There's another chuckle, and he knows why it sounds so familiar now – Sam sounded like that, the few times Castiel heard him laugh. There hadn't been many. Lucifer's laugh in Sam's voice sounds so much lighter, happier, than Castiel remembers ever hearing the younger Winchester. It sounds wrong, and for a moment Castiel thinks that the world is very, very twisted that Sam's laugh only sounds right when it's sad.

He only thinks it for a moment, because then the cloth moves, gently rubbing over Castiel's throat and down to his collarbones. It's pulled away briefly; there's another gentle sloshing of water, and then it's back, rubbing up over his arms, soothing the muscles pulled taut by the restraints, cleaning off the grime of three months in hiding.

Castiel should know enough to keep his mouth shut. But he can't help the incredulous question: "Are you bathing me?"

"Shh, little brother," Lucifer murmurs, dampening the cloth again and running it over Castiel's chest. Despite himself, the warm water and gentle motions are starting to help Castiel relax, physically if not mentally, and Lucifer lets out a pleased-sounding hum as though he can tell.

Castiel grits his teeth and remains silent, enduring the washing by going over a dozen different escape plans in his head. The trouble is, all of them start somewhere beyond "get out of these restraints", and he's not sure how he's going to get past that step. He's so engrossed in his thoughts, working through possible options, that he barely notices when Lucifer stops running the cloth over his torso.

He notices when Lucifer's cool hands are on his back, though, pressing into tight, knotted muscle. He yelps involuntarily when Lucifer's fingers hit a particularly sore spot, and the Devil pays more attention to that place, accordingly.

The massage in and of itself would be enough to get Castiel off-balance, but then Lucifer finds the spot on his back, close to his shoulders, where Castiel's wings unfurl when he wants them – at least, where they should. Castiel hasn't tried since waking in the hospital with the very unsettling realisation that he was now, essentially, human. He hadn't wanted to know for sure.

Lucifer has no such reservations, and his hands rub and press until he's coaxed Castiel's wings out, the feathers brushing lightly against the Devil's clever hands. He makes another soft, pleased humming sound, and before Castiel can protest, those hands are in his wings.

"You've been neglecting yourself," Lucifer murmurs, gliding his fingers through Castiel's feathers to get at the muscle and bone beneath. He works his hands through Castiel's wings almost tenderly, smoothing out knotted muscles and plucking out bent and damaged feathers, leaving room for healthy ones to grow in. He pays particular attention to the wing joint, and Castiel gasps sharply as pain that he didn't even realise was there is massaged away. Lucifer works him over expertly, taking his time about it, and by the time he lifts his hands from Castiel's wings, Castiel is trembling.

Busy catching his breath, Castiel barely notices Lucifer removing his trousers; he couldn't say whether the Devil used the knife or just his hands. He snaps back to reality when the cloth is pressed against his leg, warm and soothing, and he manages to snap, "stop it, Lucifer."

"Shush, little brother," Lucifer says, his tone more disapproving than angry. He rubs the cloth over Castiel's legs and hips and stomach, periodically re-dampening it, and Castiel remains quiet for now, gritting his teeth again to keep back more sharp retorts. He's very aware that this is wrong, for many, many reasons, the least of which being Lucifer is his brother, but his body aches, protesting the rough treatment he's been giving it for the past several months, and Lucifer's ministrations, while unsettling, are effective. Castiel can feel the tension melting away from him with each gentle pass of the cloth.

Another slosh of water as Lucifer dampens the cloth again, and then all the tension floods back into Castiel's body as Lucifer, with the same gentle tenderness, nudges Castiel's legs apart and begins to wash his genitals.

"Lucifer!" The protest is half-bark, half-yelp, because Lucifer is not being clinical about this. "Stop."

"Don't make me gag you," Lucifer says, almost absently. "It’s for your own good, Castiel."

For all Lucifer's voice is calm and even, the threat is real; Castiel can tell that much. He bites his tongue, determined to keep quiet, and manages it for at least two minutes.

"Can I ask a question?" he asks then, keeping the discomfort and anger out of his voice, if barely.

"Mmm. If you like."

Lucifer is maddeningly calm, and maddeningly thorough. Castiel tries to ignore what his brother's hands are doing, and asks, "where's Dean?"

Lucifer pauses for a moment, and Castiel feels a brief pang of victory: he's managed to throw the Devil for a loop. And then Lucifer resumes his washing, and says calmly, "he's happy. I did promise Sam, after all."

Happy? What the Hell was that supposed to mean? Dean wouldn't be happy with Sam trapped inside his own mind, Castiel knows that for sure. Which means Lucifer is manipulating things.

What a surprise.

"And Bobby Singer?" he asks, forcing his voice to remain even, although Lucifer is making it difficult. He can't tell whether Lucifer intends for his touches to be quite as erotic as they are, but he wouldn't put it past him.

"Also happy," Lucifer replies. "They're both alive and well, and quite content. I'll show you later, if you like." Castiel can practically feel Lucifer's smile, beatific and benevolent and very, very wrong. "Sam cares about them both, so they were spared."

"And me? Why spare me?"

The question is out before Castiel can censor himself. Lucifer chuckles again, and strokes the washcloth down the length of Castiel's cock in a move that is definitely intended to be arousing.

"I care about you, little brother."

"I'm not going to join you," Castiel says through gritted teeth, trying not to respond. But the body is human, and reactive, and he can feel himself getting hard in Lucifer's hand. He tries to ignore it, saying, "especially not now. You're a monster. Michael should have killed you."

Lucifer's hand tightens painfully around Castiel's cock, and Castiel bites back a yelp of startled pain. And then Lucifer's hand gentles, stroking again as though the moment of pain had never happened. Castiel can hear the restrained hurt and anger in Lucifer's voice when he speaks, though, and knows that he's dodged a bullet.

"Michael didn't. And I could use someone like you. A lieutenant. A second-in-command. I'd much rather you than one of those creatures."

The disgust in Lucifer's voice when he speaks about his own creations sickens Castiel. Their Father's betrayal – His apathy – was bad enough, but at least He never hated what He'd created. Lucifer makes the creation of life a perversion with his demons, and he can't even love them the way he should? Oh, there would be those who said demons, and the Devil especially, don't feel love, but Castiel knows better. Lucifer is capable of great love, but it's twisted, broken. Perverted from its true purity, like Lucifer himself.

"I don't think so," he says tightly, treading the line between angering Lucifer enough to get more pain and agreeing with him. "We've had this discussion before."

Lucifer sighs, and Castiel can envision the look on his face, the kicked-puppy look that he remembers on Sam's face. Lucifer says quietly, "well, we'll see."

He stops touching Castiel then; for a moment, Castiel thinks that he's somehow bought himself a reprieve. And then Lucifer's hand is back on his cock, but the cloth is gone this time; there's nothing between skin and skin, and this feels somehow more shocking and wrong than Lucifer's prior touches. Castiel jerks his hips back, tries to move away from Lucifer's touch, and Lucifer's other hand is suddenly at his hip, holding tightly enough that Castiel is fairly sure he'll have bruises there.

"It's for your own good," Lucifer says, and his voice is so very gentle and kind. He honestly believes what he's saying, Castiel realises, and that's perhaps more frightening than any other realisation Castiel has had in a long time. Lucifer believes, and that makes him all the more dangerous.

Still blindfolded, Castiel is taken by surprise when Lucifer's lips meet his own. A spark of rebellion drives him to bite down on Lucifer's lip, and the Devil pulls back with a muffled curse. He stops touching Castiel, and Castiel can hear footsteps, getting further away from him, although not leaving. He stays tense in his bonds, spitting Lucifer's blood onto the floor, and takes advantage of Lucifer's distraction to try to work the blindfold off. He's getting tired of not being able to see what's coming.

He gets far enough to be able to see a line of light beneath the blindfold's lower edge before Lucifer gets back and, swearing, pushes the blindfold back into position. The anger is clear in Lucifer's voice as he snaps, "I didn't want to have to do this, Castiel."

Before Castiel can retort, something cold and metallic is shoved into his mouth, pressed back between his teeth, preventing him from closing his mouth all the way. Soft leather straps are secured behind his head, and Castiel is left feeling uncomfortably as though he's been gagged with a horse's bit.

Lucifer kisses him again. This kiss is significantly rougher, and tastes of blood, and is less a kiss than a ravishment of his mouth. Lucifer's tongue invades Castiel's mouth, cool from Lucifer's cold inner fire, and he bites Castiel's lower lip hard enough to make Castiel yelp. The gag doesn't block any sound; it seems its sole purpose is to keep Castiel's tongue pinned and mouth open to Lucifer's kiss.

As he kisses Castiel, Lucifer's hands are tracing over Castiel's chest, lines of cold fire following the raised scars. The cold makes the scars ache, enough to make Castiel moan softly, shuddering.

Lucifer pulls away again. Castiel takes advantage of the lack of touch to try to focus, to centre himself. It's difficult, though; unable to see, he's likewise unable to keep himself from tensing, waiting for the next assault.

He isn't expecting Lucifer's hands on his wings again, and he lets out an involuntary moan. For all Lucifer sounded angry before, for all the kiss was rough and possessive, Lucifer's hands on his wings are still gentle and careful. He rubs them down again, fingers twining through the feathers to smooth over the muscle, and with each calculated movement, Castiel's knees weaken. His wings aren't erogenous by themselves, but in the same way a good massage can arouse, Lucifer's ministrations are arousing him.

Lucifer takes his time about it, almost cruelly. Castiel is dimly aware that this is as much a punishment as it is a kindness. His wings need the attention, but there are ways to do it that don't involve this level of eroticism; this is Lucifer's way of telling Castiel that recalcitrance is not tolerated.

The hands in his wings would be bad enough, but then there's the soft rush of displaced air and Lucifer's wings wrap around them. Castiel's wings are forced down and together in a not-entirely-unpleasant way as Lucifer's wings enclose him, feathers brushing against his bare arms and trailing over his chest. Lucifer's hands are still busy in Castiel's wings as his own wings stroke over Castiel's chest, and Castiel gasps through the gag as feathers brush over his nipples. The air in the room is curiously warm, given Lucifer's tendency to burn cold, and the coolness of Lucifer's feathers is a stark contrast; Castiel's nipples begin to stiffen almost immediately. Lucifer chuckles softly behind him, moving close enough to press against Castiel's back, fabric against bare skin, and his wings move enough to stroke the feathers along Castiel's cock. It's a teasing, frustrating sensation, light and delicate enough to arouse and not firm enough to provide any real stimulation or release, and Castiel is panting through the gag by the time Lucifer starts pressing cool kisses to the back of his neck.

Somewhere along the way, the kisses begin to drift lower. Lucifer's wings are still playing over Castiel's cock and nipples, but he lifts his hands from Castiel's wings and the kisses disappear from Castiel's neck and reappear at his hip; Lucifer must be kneeling behind him, wings cast up and forward.

One of the kisses turns sharp, almost a bite, and Castiel yelps through the gag again, squirming in an unconscious attempt to move away from the source of his torment. Lucifer grabs Castiel's hips, digging his fingers into already-bruised flesh, and bites at the curve of Castiel's ass, hard enough that Castiel can feel his teeth break the skin. It hurts, and for a moment the pain makes his erection flag, but Lucifer snakes his hand around to wrap around the base of Castiel's cock, like a living cockring. His other hand trails down the cleft of Castiel's ass, spreading the cheeks, and Castiel lets out a startled cry as Lucifer's tongue follows suit, delving into him. Lucifer's tongue is shockingly cold, what he's doing with it is equally as shocking, and his wings are still teasing Castiel enough that, before too long, he's trembling, his weight more on his arms than his legs because his knees feel too rubbery to hold him up.

He doesn't have time to feel relief when Lucifer pulls away; the Devil's fingers replace his tongue and delve deeper inside Castiel. They're coated with something slick and warm, relieving the chill of Lucifer's touch enough that it's tolerably cool and doesn't hurt his erection any. As with everything he's done to Castiel, Lucifer takes his time with this, working his fingers into Castiel one at a time and keeping his other hand firm around Castiel's cock. Castiel is shuddering by the time Lucifer works three fingers in knuckle-deep and crooks them, finding a spot inside Castiel that makes fireworks explode behind his eyelids. Lucifer starts stroking his cock again, finding that spot over and over, until Castiel isn't so much breathing as letting out a steady stream of whimpers through the gag.

And then, in one swift movement, Lucifer is not touching him anymore. No hands, no fingers, no wings; he's stepped back, leaving Castiel tense and shaking and barely able to hold his own weight, achingly hard and hating the desperate little voice in his head that wants Lucifer to finish this.

There's the rustle of cloth, and Castiel turns his head, desperately seeking out the sound. Not being able to see is maddening. He has no warning when the chains holding his arms up slacken suddenly, and he nearly falls; Lucifer's arm goes around his waist, holding him up. He tries to get his legs under him properly, but Lucifer wraps a hand around his cock again and strokes it twice; in the moments of distraction, he pulls Castiel forward, turning him and forcing him onto his back on what feels like a table. There's the rattle of chains again, and Castiel's hands are pulled up over his head; the chains go taut, binding his arms there. His wings are splayed out beneath him, the edge of the table digs into his hips, and he can feel his cock lying hard against his belly, an uncomfortable reminder that somewhere along the way, Lucifer gained more than the upper hand.

Lucifer nudges Castiel's legs apart, moving between them and slipping his fingers back where they'd been, now slick again with the warm lubricant. Castiel's knee is touching Lucifer's hip; the Morningstar's skin is bare now, smooth against Castiel's. There's a scar on Sam's hip, Castiel knows, but he can't feel it, can't feel anything except Lucifer's fingers scissoring inside him and the heavy ache of an organ he'd never had much use for before getting embroiled with the Winchesters.

When Lucifer's cock replaces his fingers, it's in a rough movement that makes Castiel cry out through the gag, clenching his hands into fists and digging his fingernails into his palms. It doesn't hurt, exactly, it's just rough and raw and primal, and that seems to set the pace for Lucifer. It can't be called anything but fucking, hard and fast enough that Castiel is pretty sure that if he lives til tomorrow he'll be aching in more ways than one. His breath is coming in short, ragged gasps, and his hips keep rocking up of their own accord, rolling back to meet Lucifer's thrusts. He's not sure when he went from resisting to wanting, and he desperately tells himself that it's nothing more than physical stimulation provoking a physical response, but it's hard to remember that when Lucifer seems intent on fucking the sense out of him.

Lucifer grabs Castiel's leg and hoists it up onto his shoulder; the motion changes the angle at which he's driving into Castiel, making it possible for him to go deeper. Castiel moans through the gag, and the blindfold makes no difference now; his eyes would be closed even without it, from the sheer force of sensation. Lucifer's other hand is tight on Castiel's hip, fingertips putting bruises on top of bruises, and he's letting out low, animal grunts as each thrust drives him home inside Castiel.

Through the building ache, Castiel can feel himself starting to get a little light-headed. He's breathing too fast, in shallow, ragged gasps that don't let him take in much air, and he's not used to this much pure sensation, nor this much rough brutality. Lucifer isn't injuring him, but he's definitely fucking him senseless – at least, that seems to be the intention. Castiel is still hard, pre-come smearing over his stomach, and finally Lucifer seems to take a sort of mercy on him, moving the hand from his hip to wrap around his cock, stroking it in firm, rough counterpoint to his thrusts.

It takes only a few minutes for him to bring Castiel to the edge, to the point where Castiel can feel the sensation building up in him, almost ready to release. And then Lucifer stops stroking his cock, tightening his fingers around the base again, keeping Castiel on that plateau without quite letting him come. Castiel whines through the gag, rocking his hips up against Lucifer's hand, and the Morningstar laughs softly, almost cruelly.

"You'd say yes to anything I asked right now, wouldn't you?" he asks softly, stilling the movement of his hips, keeping himself fully seated inside Castiel. Sweeping his thumb over the head of Castiel's cock, he makes a soft, thoughtful humming noise at the whimper of protest that slips past the gag. "You're so caught up in what I'm doing to you that you'd say yes to anything, as long as I promised to let you stop feeling like this for a while."

It's an odd distinction to make – the desire for cessation of pleasure, rather than for the orgasm itself – but it's an accurate one. Castiel is no stranger to sex, but he hasn't experienced this level of over-stimulation, especially not from Lucifer. While he wants Lucifer to let him come, it's not because he wants the orgasm – he just wants this to stop.

"I'm not going to ask you to join me now," Lucifer croons, Sam's gentle, concerned tones made perverse. "It wouldn't be fair. That's not what this is about. I don't coerce. I don't buy allegiance with threats or manipulation. You'll say yes to me eventually," he says confidently, fingering the slit at the head of Castiel's cock again and rolling his hips a little, chuckling softly as Castiel whimpers again. "But not because of this. This is because I love you, and I'm going to take care of you."

As he finishes speaking, he thrusts into Castiel again, stroking his cock firmly, and Castiel finally comes, shuddering beneath Lucifer and gasping as ejaculate makes a mess on his stomach. It feels like every muscle in his body is spasming, and that seems to spur Lucifer on; his movements now don't even have a semblance of gentleness, and Castiel can feel a dull, raw ache building inside him. Lucifer lasts a few minutes more before he stills inside Castiel, letting out a sound that is equal parts moan and bestial grunt.

Given the events of the last twenty-four hours, the fact that he's had little sleep, and the rather intense physical wringer he has just been put through, Castiel is a little dazed by the time Lucifer pulls out of him. He's aware of Lucifer cleaning him off, of gentleness which feels strange after such primal copulation, of the chains holding his arms above his head being loosened and someone – Lucifer, he realises vaguely as he's held against a cold chest – lifting and carrying him.

He's set down gently on what certainly feels like a bed; a slight whimper escapes him as the movement makes it very clear that he's going to be quite sore in the near future. The mattress dips as Lucifer sits down beside him, smoothing a hand over his shoulder in a motion that seems to be intended to soothe him. It doesn't work, though, as Lucifer binds Castiel's wrists together in front of him and strokes his hair in a perversely gentle caress.

Castiel lets out a tiny sound of relief as Lucifer removes the gag, cool fingers gently probing the corners of Castiel's mouth and lingering on the raw marks there. A soft kiss is pressed to each corner of Castiel's mouth, gentle this time, unlike the ravaging kisses of before, and the coolness of Lucifer's lips is oddly soothing.

"Rest," Lucifer murmurs softly. "We can continue our talk when you're feeling stronger."

Perhaps there's some hypnotic quality in Lucifer's voice, perhaps Castiel is just very, very tired; either way, he doesn't have the strength, right now, to fight back, or even to argue. All he wants to do is sleep. But he promises himself, as he starts to succumb to sleep, that when he wakes, he'll work out how to get himself out of this, to find Dean and Bobby – and to free Sam either to his own body, or to death.

Chapter Text

When Castiel wakes up, it's to the unsettling sensation of a cool body settling beside him, making the mattress dip enough that Castiel's body cants to the side, pressing along Lucifer's from shoulder to knee. It is Lucifer, he has to assume. The blindfold hasn't been removed, so all he has to go by is touch, and nobody's body has any right to be as cool as Lucifer's is.

"You've slept for a long time," Lucifer said softly, the air from his words puffing lightly over Castiel's throat. He sounds almost puzzled, as though this is some sort of riddle he has to solve. "Do you dream, little brother?"

"What do you know about dreams?" Castiel shoots back, his voice rusty from sleep. It's a valid question; neither angels nor demons have a physical need for sleep. It's wearing on their vessels, though. Humans' need for sleep is more than a physical one; their brains need the time to process, and being denied that time is one of the reasons sleep deprivation is such a cruel means of torture. Demons revel in it, denying their hosts any reprieve until the hosts begin to lose time, blacking out as a means of self-defence; angels are kinder, but the possession is still traumatic, and leaves most of the vessels damaged.

Castiel's experience of sleep, in the last few months, is different to what he'd done to let Jimmy rest. There's a world of difference between going somewhere quiet and safe to let the vessel process and rest mentally, and the strange sensation of losing time that he gets every time he sleeps. But he's certain Lucifer doesn't afford Sam the same courtesy that he tried to give Jimmy.

"Dreams are a useful method of communication," Lucifer muses, absently nuzzling at Castiel's throat. Castiel grunts and attempts to pull away; Lucifer brings a hand up to curl around Castiel's neck, fingertips resting lightly but pointedly over the place near the curve of his jaw where the pulse beats strongly. Castiel stills, under no illusions that Lucifer isn't strong enough to tear through skin and flesh to find that artery, and Lucifer makes a small, pleased sound, nuzzling at his throat again. He asks, again, "Do you dream, little brother?"

Lucifer still sounds puzzled. Castiel swallows, uncomfortably aware of the Morningstar's proximity as he recalls the things he does dream, when he dreams. It's not often, but then, he doesn't sleep as often as he should, these days. Without Jimmy to consider, it's much easier to rationalise being harder on his body, and he hasn't felt Jimmy's presence since he became somehow less than angelic but more than human.

The hand around his throat tightens, and Lucifer's voice gains an edge as he says sharply, "I asked you a question, Castiel. Do you dream?"

"No."

He should know better than to lie to the Prince of Lies. Lucifer sighs, sounding disappointed, and the hand vanishes from around his throat. Castiel doesn't let himself relax, though. With Lucifer sounding like that, there's no reason to think that he's not about to get hurt.

The bed creaks as Lucifer stands and says softly, "You'll appreciate this one day."

That said, there are the sounds of footsteps, but no other contact, no other words. Castiel frowns, sitting up carefully – and he was right, he's aching right now, and movement is uncomfortable at best – and raises his bound hands to paw at the blindfold. Being unable to see is driving him mad, and he can't think what Lucifer's reason for keeping him blindfolded is. He can understand the bindings – he's a reasonable fighter even without his angelic power to back it up – but the blindfold just makes no sense to him.

He's taken by surprise when Lucifer grabs the ropes around Castiel's wrists, dragging him up onto his knees. He fights back against the pull, but Lucifer is much stronger; he forces Castiel onto his stomach, pulling his hands up above his head and tying them to the foot of the bed.

"I'm sorry," Lucifer says, and there's honest regret in his voice. "You really will appreciate it one day, Castiel."

That's all the warning he gets before there's a cracking sound and a line of fire is drawn across his back, sharp and sudden enough that he doesn't even have time or breath to scream. Another follows, with the same sharp crack and hot pain that doesn't, for the first few strikes, seem to correlate with any impact. It's only after the first few blows, after Castiel manages to catch his breath, that it really registers that Lucifer is whipping him. And despite the events of the previous evening – if it was the previous evening – there's nothing sensual about this, no just-this-side-of-painful licks of the whip; Lucifer is putting his full strength behind the blows, and Castiel can practically feel the leather cutting into his back.

Perversely, he keeps count of the strokes, burying his face in his arms and biting his lip hard to try to keep from screaming. At five, he can taste blood in his mouth from the force of his teeth in his flesh, but at least he's keeping back the worst of the cries. At ten, the blood is mixed with tears, and he can taste salt behind the copper in his mouth. At fifteen, he's shuddering with each blow and trembling between them, his entire back on fire. Lucifer has been spacing each strike to cover a new, unmarked piece of flesh, and Castiel's skin burns from his hips to his shoulders.

The sixteenth stroke lands directly across where his wings join his back, when he has them out; the spot is sensitive, and it feels as though the whip is digging right through his skin and into the muscles of his back. He can't keep back a scream, and it's barely muffled by his arm, pressed hard against his mouth to try to catch the sound. He thinks he hears Lucifer make a small, pained whimpering sound, but he must have imagined it, because the whip strikes that place again, four more times, each one drawing another tortured scream from Castiel's lips.

By the time Lucifer stops, after twenty strokes of the whip, Castiel is limp on the bed, shaking with pain and shock and unconsciously letting out tiny whimpers every time a particularly strong shudder makes his back scream. He barely hears Lucifer padding away again, and he can't say how much time passes, while he's left alone. The world has shrunk down to the hot lines of pain on his back, the comparatively insignificant burn around his wrists where his struggling has abraded the skin, the dull throbbing of his bitten lip. He can feel trickles of dampness on his sides, but is unable to tell whether they're sweat or blood. He can hear his heartbeat, thundering in his ears, but it's going too fast for him to be able to gauge the passage of time by it.

When the mattress dips again, Castiel can't keep back another whimper. He hates himself for it, but he hurts, and his body desperately wants to avoid more pain. Lucifer murmurs something that Castiel can't make out, and strokes his hair, the gentleness shocking after the flogging. His words are unintelligible over the rushing sound of blood in Castiel's ears. He sits there for a few minutes, just stroking Castiel's hair, and then he starts to carefully apply something blessedly cold and soothing to Castiel's back.

Whatever it is Lucifer has smeared over his fingers, it must have some sort of analgesic in it; as he gently applies it to the whip marks, the coldness of his fingers bleeding through and soothing the skin, the pain begins to lessen. It doesn't go away completely – that would be counter to the exercise's point, Castiel supposes – but it becomes tolerable, an ache rather than a torment, and gradually, Castiel becomes able to breathe without whimpering.

Even after Lucifer is finished tending to Castiel's back, he remains at Castiel's side, resuming the gentle caresses of Castiel's hair. His other hand, this time bearing a cool, damp cloth, cleans the blood and tears off Castiel's face and arms, carefully dabbing at Castiel's torn lip. He lets Castiel stay limp on the bed, though, just tends to him and then sits there, petting him.

Eventually, Castiel speaks. He says softly, in a voice that is damnably weak, "I want to see Dean."

Lucifer is silent for a moment, but his hand stays gentle in Castiel's hair, and he says eventually, "All right. I'll take you to him."

He doesn't remove the blindfold, as Castiel had hoped. He does untie Castiel's wrists, though, making a soft, displeased sound when he sees the state of the skin there. He spends several moments tending to Castiel's wrists, anointing them with the same cool, soothing lotion that he'd used on Castiel's back and wrapping them with soft bandages, but he doesn't let Castiel's arms stay unbound. He seems to realise that binding Castiel's hands behind his back would cause intolerable contact with the whip welts, and the leather cuffs are buckled a little looser than before so as not to aggravate Castiel's abraded wrists, but they're still tight enough that Castiel can't squirm out of them.

He even provides clothing – of a sort. The pants aren't Castiel's, and they're too loose on him, but they're better than being paraded around naked. He doesn't provide a shirt, and Castiel doesn't ask for one; fabric against the whip weals would be unbearable. He doesn't provide shoes, either, but the carpet is plush and not unpleasant to walk on.

Lucifer doesn't lead Castiel the same way the demons did, with rough hands on his shoulders and arms. He walks beside Castiel, one arm slung low around his waist to avoid the weals whilst still providing support at his back. They pass some demons on their way to wherever Dean and Bobby are, and Lucifer's hand tightens possessively at Castiel's hip. It's both worrying and reassuring, and Castiel tucks it into the back of his mind to think about once he's seen Dean and can work out a plan.

Lucifer leads him through yet another door, into a room that feels subtly different. It smells different; cleaner, almost anaesthetic. The floor is cool tile beneath Castiel's feet, and – there's an even, measured beeping sound that Castiel has trouble placing at first.

The blindfold is removed; he blinks in the semi-darkness, having expected more light. He also expected to see Lucifer, but the Devil is standing behind him, and as Castiel starts to turn, he puts a hand on Castiel's shoulder, directing him to look in front of him.

There's a little more light that way; enough that Castiel can see Dean. Can see Dean lying in what looks for all the world like a hospital bed, with IVs in both arms and a monitor recording his vital signs. He's breathing on his own, but everything else is hooked up to machines. Beyond him, Castiel can see Bobby in the same set-up, looking somehow wrong without his baseball cap.

"What's wrong with them?" Castiel asks softly, unable to take his eyes off Dean. He looks somehow fragile and frail, lying there surrounded by machinery and wires. There are too many IV bags feeding into his veins, too many little electrodes on his chest and temples.

"Nothing's wrong with them," Lucifer says, and there's a sort of hurt in his voice, like he's hurt that Castiel doesn't get it. "They're happy. Sam wanted them to be happy, but that would never happen, not in this world. So I've given them a new one."

"In their dreams?" Castiel spits, dragging his eyes away from Dean and turning to look, for the first time since he was brought here, at Lucifer. Sam's kicked-puppy expression looks back at him, but Castiel refuses to let it soften his words. Lucifer is looking at him through Sam's eyes, not Sam, and the difference is palpable. He continues, "That isn't a better world, Lucifer, that's a farce!"

"It's the only choice," Lucifer says, his tone hardening. "If you think that they, and Sam, would be happier if they were dead, it wouldn't take much for me to arrange it. I'm not keeping them alive because I like them."

The threat is obvious, and Castiel subsides. As long as Dean and Bobby are alive, even if kept in an unnatural sleep by whatever methods Lucifer is using, there's a chance that he can get them out of here.

Lucifer seems to take his silence as agreement. His expression gentles, and he reaches out to stroke Castiel's hair again, cupping his face as he murmurs, "I know this is hard for you, little brother. But you'll get used to it eventually. You can stand at my side, my lieutenant, without those creatures in the way. We're the last angels left, you and me," he says quietly, apparently not understanding how those words send something cold and heavy sinking to the pit of Castiel's stomach. The last ones? How can he be the only survivor? Oblivious, Lucifer continues, "We're meant to stand together. I can be patient."

Castiel stares at him, unable to form words as the magnitude of what has been done sinks in. Lucifer fighting Michael was ordained, but he'd never thought about what would happen afterwards. They'd all assumed that Michael would win, that Lucifer would be killed and Heaven would raze Hell. What if the opposite has happened, now that Lucifer stands victorious? Have the ranks of the angels really been so ravaged?

"They're happy now," Lucifer remarks. "I've given them everything they could want. Home, security, love. Bobby has his wife back, the children that he always wanted, that he had to substitute Sam and Dean for. Dean has his parents, his brother, but not a normal life." A smile, sharp and sardonic. "He isn't cut out for a normal life. Even Sam understands that. They're all hunters, all four of them. The Great Winchesters, ridding America of monsters, one state at a time."

"This is wrong," Castiel says, sick to his stomach. This is exactly the sort of thing that had horrified Dean about Heaven, but twisted and perverted by Lucifer's involvement. Since his own disagreement with Heaven, he's come to value free will and freedom more than he used to; this isn't either of those things. This is the proverbial gilded cage, and it makes something inside Castiel ache to think of Dean trapped in it.

Lucifer leaves his side, walking over to look down at Dean, head tilted. He reaches out to lay a hand along Dean's cheek, and his expression is strange, almost sad. He says softly, "Humans are so weak. I don't understand why you love them, brother."

"They're not weak," Castiel says, watching Lucifer warily. This mood concerns him. "They're not perfect, but they were never meant to be. They've got more strength than you could ever imagine."

Lucifer looks up at him, smiles sadly, and says, "You really believe that, don’t you?"

He doesn't wait for an answer. He takes the three steps required to bring him to Castiel, and, reaching up to cup Castiel's jaw with his hand, pulls him into a kiss.

It's painful, because of Castiel's torn lip. It's insistent, and just shy of brutal. Lucifer forces Castiel's mouth open, deepening the kiss, bringing his other hand up to grip Castiel's shoulder.

Castiel's back still hurts from the whipping, and he is painfully aware that Lucifer's mood is currently walking a knife-edge, so he attempts to kiss him back. He gets the feeling that he doesn't exactly feel enthusiastic, though. He opens his eyes, looking beyond Lucifer's head to where Dean lies in the hospital bed.

He has to make this feel real. If he can make Lucifer believe that his will is crumbling, the Morningstar will be less vigilant, and Castiel might be able to snatch an opportunity to escape.

Keeping his eyes on Dean – he is doing this for Dean, for Bobby, for Sam, for himself – he leans into the kiss a little, trying to seem more into it than he is. For a few minutes, it seems to work. And then Lucifer pulls back suddenly, too suddenly for Castiel to hide where he was looking.

Lucifer's lips thin as he looks from Castiel to Dean. He says, in a voice that is quiet and terribly cold, "I see."

The hand on Castiel's shoulder moves, lightning-fast, and the burst of pain that comes when Lucifer deliberately rakes his nails over a welt sends Castiel to his knees, crying out in shock and pain. Lucifer takes advantage of his disorientation to tie the blindfold back over his eyes, twisting a hand in Castiel's hair and using it to hold him still.

"I love you," Lucifer hisses. His hands are burning cold, almost as cold as the anger in his voice, and Castiel cries out again when Lucifer presses his fingers against a welt, although at least this time he doesn't rake it with his fingernails.

He's not given time to reorient himself before Lucifer drags him back to his feet and out of the room by his hair, moving at a pace that is somewhere between a fast walk and a jog. It's not a pace Castiel is able to keep up for long, and when he stumbles for a third time, Lucifer makes an impatient sound and lets go of Castiel's hair. There is a hand on his back and another around his arm, a disorienting sensation of movement, and Lucifer's shoulder against his chest, as the Morningstar hauls him over his shoulder and continues walking.

The pain from Lucifer's hand on his still-sore back, and the breathlessness from the suddenness of the action, prevents Castiel from protesting until he's dumped off Lucifer's shoulder and onto what feels like the bed again. He cries out softly as the impact makes his back throb, moving to try to keep his weight off his back and shoulders. Lucifer isn't touching him, and that's a little unsettling, because he can hear Lucifer breathing and can practically feel his presence in the room, but he has no idea where he is.

The cuffs around his wrists are grabbed and pulled up; there's the rattle of a chain and an odd sort of jerking sensation as the chain gets tauter. Castiel eventually figures that the chain is looped through a hook in the ceiling, and goes up onto his knees as it keeps getting tauter, pulling his arms above his head. It eventually stops pulling, holding him on his knees like a supplicant at prayer.

The mattress dips as Lucifer settles behind Castiel. He presses a kiss to Castiel's shoulder, burning cold, as the blade of a knife kisses Castiel's hip. It digs deeply enough to draw blood, before sliding down to cut through the fabric of his pants, neatly slicing them down one side before being switched to give the other side the same treatment. Once the pants have been thoroughly removed, the knife is discarded; Castiel hears the thump of it landing on the carpet and marks its probable location in his head, just in case the opportunity arises.

Lucifer presses himself along Castiel's back, and the contact is oddly soothing, instead of painful. The fabric of Lucifer's shirt and pants sting against the welts, but the coolness of his body is soothing.

Less-than-soothing is the hand that trails over Castiel's hip to wrap around his cock, as Lucifer starts to kiss the back of his neck. Castiel tenses, and says hoarsely, "Lucifer, don't."

Lucifer ignores him, wrapping his other arm around Castiel's chest to pull him back against him, stroking steadily. Castiel bites the inside of his cheek, determined not to give Lucifer the satisfaction of hearing him moan, and waits until he's managed to settle his voice before saying, more insistently, "stop."

"Shh," Lucifer murmurs, caressing Castiel's face, his throat. The hand on Castiel's face and throat is as innocent and directionless as the one on his cock is deliberate; the contrast is unsettling.

The hand around Castiel's throat suddenly tightens, pressing painfully hard into his windpipe. It's not quite at the point of cutting off his airway completely, but the threat is there, and as Castiel tries to inhale, he manages to get a fraction of the air he normally breathes in.

He's still not used to needing to breathe, even after so long in this body, and the tightness in his chest increased with each failed attempt to draw in more air. He struggles in Lucifer's grasp, throwing his head back sharply in a desperate attempt to strike at the Morningstar and loosen the hold he has on his throat, but all that particular manoeuvre does is give Lucifer the opportunity to slide his hand further up Castiel's throat, forcing him to keep his head tilted back.

Lucifer's other hand is still working at Castiel's cock, stroking in long, firm movements. Castiel would never have considered being throttled an erotic experience, but despite the lack of air, the adrenaline pumping through him and making each second seem like an hour, he's starting to get hard.

The hand at his throat tightens, and bright spots begin to form behind his eyelids, as the sound of his heartbeat begins thundering in his ears. The world shrinks down to a few very small, very pertinent details. The chill of Lucifer's hand around his throat, the ache in his lungs, desperate to inhale properly; the now-insignificant throb in his back, where Lucifer is pressed against him; the incongruous sensation of Lucifer's hand around his cock, inexorably drawing him closer to orgasm. It feels insane, that he should be hard while he's being strangled, but his body doesn't seem to care about little things like logic and reason.

His lungs burning, he manages to gasp, "Lucifer - Lucifer, please-"

Lucifer isn't known for mercy; he shows none now. The chain holding Castiel's hands above his head is removed, but the hand around his throat is still bruisingly tight. Castiel is aware of Lucifer moving him, pulling him back against the Morningstar's chest, legs before him in an inelegant sprawl. He's aware of Lucifer's hand still stroking him, but the pleasure that might otherwise have been there is subsumed by the pain in his throat and lungs, the panic, the desperate need to breathe. He struggles anew, coherent words banished in favour of panicked, animal sounds, but Lucifer's grip is like iron, and, finally, Castiel blacks out.

When he comes to, he's still in Lucifer's lap, still held against Lucifer's chest, but he can breathe. He stays limp and unmoving for a few moments, thankful for the pain each inhalation causes because it means there is inhalation. His throat hurts, and he's dimly aware that he's probably going to bruise there, but that all seems insignificant. He can breathe, and that is enough for now.

"You'll learn, little brother," Lucifer says softly. Castiel realises with a start that Lucifer has stopped stroking his cock, that there's the unpleasant stickiness of his ejaculate on his stomach, just below where Lucifer is idly resting his hand. He doesn't remember coming, and he doesn't quite understand how he could have; there was nothing arousing about having the breath strangled out of him, was there? He doesn't understand what it was supposed to have proved, either, except what he already knows, that Lucifer holds his life in his hands.

He must have given some indication of his confusion, because Lucifer makes a soft, concerned sound, and the hand on his stomach moves, lifting for a moment before returning with a warm, damp washcloth to clean Castiel off.

"I don't want to be hard on you, Castiel," Lucifer murmurs, pressing a gentle kiss to the side of Castiel's throat, where Castiel can already feel bruising. He finishes cleaning Castiel off and rests his hand on Castiel's stomach again, making the simple gesture seem incredibly possessive. "I don't want to hurt you."

"Then don’t," Castiel rasps, through a throat that feels like it's on fire. He hates saying it, because it feels like an admission of weakness, but right now, he is weak. He's more than human but less than angel, and he's in the hands of one of the most powerful archangels in existence - possibly the only archangel still in existence, if what Lucifer said earlier is true. He can't trust Lucifer's words - he's not the Prince of Lies for nothing - but something about the statement rings horribly true.

"I love you," Lucifer says, lifting his hand from Castiel's stomach to stroke through his hair. The caress is at once gentle and possessive, and moves slowly from Castiel's hair to his face, down his shoulder and along one bound arm. Lucifer's arm stays around Castiel's waist, holding him close, but his other hand is almost exploring, wandering over Castiel's skin as though mapping it with his fingertips.

A part of Castiel isn't even surprised when Lucifer's hand wraps around his cock again, although he lets out something distressingly close to a whimper. Lucifer makes a soft shushing sound, starting to stroke him slowly, the movement of his hand almost gentle. He ignores Castiel's protests, silencing them with a kiss that's disturbing in its softness. The rough, demanding kisses that Castiel remembers from - yesterday? Has it really only been one day? He'd always imagined he'd last longer than this, if the Devil ever got his hands on him, but then he'd always imagined torture, not this - are gone, replaced by kisses that aren't hesitant but are careful, gentle, as though Lucifer thinks Castiel will break if he's too rough. Lucifer keeps kissing him as he works him over, bringing him far too quickly to orgasm.

"I love you," Lucifer repeats, this time in a soft, almost sad tone. He whispers, almost inaudible over the sound of Castiel's rapid breathing, "And you'll love me, too, in the end. I just need to show you how."

Chapter Text

Lucifer has made breakfast.

Castiel can smell the food as he wakes up, and his stomach growls in complaint; he's been remiss about making sure he eats enough, and the past two days haven't helped. He shifts onto his side, hissing a little as the movement makes his back ache. He'd almost forgotten about the whip welts, and oddly, they don't hurt as much as he thinks they probably should, but his back is still sore.

Lucifer makes a small tutting noise, and there's the sound of a tray being set down, and then the coolness of Lucifer's fingers working at the blindfold, carefully pulling it away from Castiel's eyes. Castiel blinks in the dim light as the blindfold is peeled away. The light isn't as bright as he'd assumed it would be – Lucifer must have realised that Castiel's eyes would be sensitive, after so long blindfolded.

He blinks down at his hands, only now realising that his wrists aren't bound together. The leather cuffs are still wrapped around them, but he has free use of his hands. It's unexpected, a little confusing, and he looks at Lucifer, as though something in the Morningstar's expression will explain why he's taking this risk.

Lucifer just smiles and nudges a small wheeled table closer to the bed. The tray on it contains coffee, toast, scrambled eggs and bacon, and Castiel is uncomfortably aware of how hungry he is. It feels as though this should be some sort of trick, though. Why would Lucifer offer him this concession, if not to achieve his own ends?

"I didn't think about this," Lucifer says, gesturing to the tray. "I'm not used to the idea of needing to eat. But if you need to sleep, you need to eat, I thought. So I brought you food."

Castiel begins to eat, still watching Lucifer warily. Lucifer is watching him, seemingly fascinated by the act of eating. At one point, Lucifer takes a sniff of the coffee and makes what would, in other circumstances, be a highly amusing face, setting it back onto the tray. Castiel almost snickers, but he catches himself, lowering his gaze as he finishes eating.

Lucifer sets the tray aside once Castiel has finished, and sits on the bed. He's not touching Castiel, not yet; he's sitting cross-legged a few inches away, watching Castiel intently.

"You're so fragile now," he says softly, regretfully. "I hadn't realised before. It's so different to the others – the ones who lose their Grace. Yours is still there, but so quiet. So subdued. What have you done to yourself?"

Castiel considers explaining what had happened – Adam's abduction, Zachariah's coercion, Dean and Sam's plan to rescue their brother – but Lucifer doesn't really seem that interested in an explanation. He reaches out, resting his hand on Castiel's chest, fingers splayed over the breastbone, the touch feather-light and oddly gentle. Castiel shivers, partly from the chill of Lucifer's touch and partly because he can feel something, somehow, like a stirring in his chest.

"So fragile," Lucifer whispers, a shadow of something crossing his face, an almost impenetrable sadness. It's replaced by fierce determination, an expression Castiel has seen Sam wearing more times than he can count. "I'll protect you, little brother."

Castiel doesn't want to ask, but he has to. A part of him has to know.

"What happened to our brothers?"

Lucifer's expression saddens again, and he draws his hand back. Castiel steels himself for Lucifer's rage, but it doesn't come. Instead, Lucifer begins speaking, in a quiet, subdued voice.

"Michael and I met on the field of battle. Not with Dean as the vessel, it was the half-brother, the little one who was eaten by ghouls. We fought. I tried to talk him out of it, but you know how Michael is, all about pleasing Father," he spits, his tone bitter rather than angry. "'You're a monster, Lucifer, and I have to kill you', like what I did was so wrong! I loved him. I loved all my brothers, and they turned on me."

The temperature in the room drops at least a few degrees as Lucifer's voice gets more uncontrolled, more filled with rage and bitterness and, strangely, hurt. Castiel had never considered that Lucifer might be hurt by everything that had happened.

"What happened?" he asks again, softly.

The repeated question seems to calm Lucifer; he closes his eyes, takes a breath, and the temperature is no longer quite so frigid as he replies, "We fought. I won. I broke him and killed him with his own sword." He lets out a long, slightly shaky exhalation, and continues, "After that, it was… well, it was easy, I suppose. With Michael gone, the others were disorganised, unprepared. None of them had thought about what would happen if I won." He smiles, bitterly. "None of them. Where Michael went, Raphael followed quickly enough. Oh, he tried to fight me, but he was never as good as Michael.

"Uriel, of course, was already gone. Raguel and Phanuel came at me together, but they didn't last long. Got me good in the shoulder before they died," he admits, rotating his left shoulder as though it's still stiff and sore. "Zadkiel claimed he'd tried to convince Michael to show clemency, but I doubt that. He was going to stand by and watch Abraham kill his son if Father decided it was necessary; why should watching Michael strike down his own brother be any different? He's dead, too."

Each name, said in that low, sad, somehow matter-of-fact tone, sends a frozen spear through Castiel, almost like physical pain. He hadn't worked closely with the higher order of angels, of course, but they were still his brothers. Each one that is confirmed as dead makes his heart heavier.

But there are six names missing. He knows one of them – Gabriel – is quite adept at hiding; he won't let Lucifer flush Gabriel out by mentioning him. But the other five…

"What about Barachiel?" he asks. He'd never told the Winchesters what the Cupid's name was, but calling him "the Cupid" feels wrong, now. The world has changed too much.

"He's missing," Lucifer says, almost dismissively. "You know what he's like, he's not a threat. I can let him stay wherever he's tucked himself, probably crying over how mean we're all being."

That, Castiel has to admit, is probably true.

"Ramiel?" he asks. The angel responsible for divine visions; the one who sends (sent? He can't be sure of who's survived) the visions of the Winchesters to Chuck Shurley. Ramiel was never a particularly militant type, and Castiel can't imagine him being a threat to Lucifer, but Ramiel might have got cocky and decided to try.

"Missing," Lucifer says again. "So is Haniel, and, of course, Gabriel. I haven't been able to get a fix on any of those four. Jophiel is still in the Garden; I've got no need to call him from his duty." The word is said sardonically, and Lucifer's smile is equally sardonic. "In fact, I insisted he remain there. He wasn't happy about it, but someone has to guard the Tree."

The implication behind the words is ugly, and Castiel swallows, suddenly wishing he hadn't eaten. There are a lot of ways someone like Lucifer could have made Jophiel stay in the Garden, guarding the Tree of Knowledge, and none of them are particularly pleasant.

There's still one name missing, though, and Castiel has to ask.

"What about Suriel?"

Lucifer smiles, and Castiel shivers; there's something sinister in the open happiness Lucifer is displaying. There's more, in the two words the Devil utters:

"Suriel understands."

For several long moments, Castiel is unable to speak. He just stares at Lucifer, horrified at the implication – the confirmation - that Suriel has Fallen. Of all his brothers, he wouldn't have expected Suriel to follow Lucifer.

Lucifer can clearly see his horror, and he smiles gently, saying, "Little brother, Suriel was always going to follow me. He understands. Just like you will."

"You said we were the only ones." It's a poor response, but it's the only one Castiel can come up with, right now. His mind is still reeling from the realisation that most of his brothers are either dead or missing in action, which is just about as good as dead. "You said, before, that we were the only ones left."

"On Earth," Lucifer agrees, nodding. "Suriel is… busy. I have him doing my work elsewhere."

Lucifer reaches out again, tracing his fingertips lightly over the scars adorning Castiel's chest, in the shape of the banishing glyphs. His touch is still freezing, remnants of the anger from before still chilling his fingertips, and Castiel shivers again, half from the cold, half from apprehension. He's beginning to understand that he never did understand Lucifer, not properly.

"You're afraid of me, aren't you?" Lucifer asks softly. He doesn't wait for an answer, continuing, "I suppose I can't blame you, can I? I haven't exactly been gentle with you. I don't want to have to hurt you, Castiel. You're my brother, and I love you, and you're so fragile now. I want to protect you. Help you to understand your place in my new world."

Lucifer is on his knees now, leaning forward to cup Castiel's face with his hands, one thumb stroking softly over Castiel's cheekbone before it moves down to brush lightly over his lips.

"I won't turn you away like they did," he whispers. "I won't tell you that you were wrong for wanting to help Sam and Dean, for rebelling. How could I? You protected them. You protected him, and kept him alive for me."

Somehow, Lucifer has ended up straddling Castiel's thighs, and he leans in to kiss Castiel. This time it's softer, almost gentle, unlike the previous rough, possessive kisses. It's almost as though Lucifer is trying to make up for the pain.

"Stop," Castiel protests, pulling back. It's difficult to do so, with Lucifer straddling his legs the way he is – Castiel's not exactly small, but Sam is the tallest person he's ever met, and has the frame to back up his height – but he manages to squirm out of the way, getting to his feet. He shifts into a defensive stance as Lucifer stands, preparing to fight – and Lucifer just looks at him.

"Where would you go, Castiel?" Lucifer asks quietly. "Even if you overpowered me, where would you go? This room is the safest place in the complex, and trust me, you don't want to know what the demons want to do to you. Even if you managed to fight your way out, what then? You don't know where we are, you don't know who else is alive out there. Your closest allies are all in this place, all unavailable to you."

"You expect me to just accept that?" Castiel snaps. "I'm not Suriel, Lucifer. I'm not Gabriel, either. I don't run away, and I don't give up. I thought you'd have learned that by now."

"Still loyal," Lucifer murmurs. "What has Father ever done to deserve it, Castiel? Do you think he cares that you've given up so much to fight our brothers who've forsaken him? Do you think any of them care? That any of them would hesitate to kill you if you stood in their way? Especially now," he adds, closing the distance between them with two long steps. Castiel backs up, but Lucifer follows, until Castiel's shoulders hit the wall. Lucifer reaches out to rest one hand on Castiel's chest, over the scars, and it's somehow restraining in its gentleness. He continues, "you're hurt, Castiel, whether you know it or not. There's a piece of you that's torn apart, and you'll never be whole again until it's healed. You know what I'm talking about, even if you haven't admitted it to yourself."

Castiel can't help the words that form, as he looks down at Lucifer's hand on his chest.

"My Grace."

"It's still there," Lucifer tells him. He does something with his hand, and Castiel gasps as he feels a corresponding something in his chest, like a dying butterfly weakly flapping its wings in the hopes of attracting attention and help with the ensuing storm. Lucifer continues gently, "It's not gone, Castiel. It's just damaged. I can help you heal."

"You." Castiel won't let himself hope. He won't. He came to terms with the idea of being this – something more than human but less than angel – weeks ago. "What do you know of healing, Lucifer?"

"I know what it's like to hurt." Lucifer's hand is still on Castiel's chest, gently holding him against the wall, and his tone is soft and sad. "I know what it's like to be cut off from everything you love because you've done something that you know is right. We're more alike than you think."

"We are nothing alike," Castiel spits. There's doubt, more than he'd like to admit, but he will not let himself think that he and the Morningstar are at all similar. He can't afford that sort of self-doubt if he's going to get out of here.

Lucifer smiles sadly, and murmurs, "You'll see one day, Castiel."

Before Castiel can demand to know what Lucifer means, the Morningstar is kissing him again. Castiel tries to push him away, but Lucifer just grabs Castiel's wrist and pins it above his head, lifting his hand off Castiel's chest to capture his other wrist. Holding them both firmly with one hand, he resumes kissing Castiel, slipping his free hand up to curl around the back of Castiel's neck, his thumb brushing over the curve of Castiel's jaw.

It's going to happen anyway. Use it.

Fighting hasn't made a difference so far, except that it earns him more pain. Lucifer seems inclined to be gentle, when he feels he can; he also seems inclined to think that Castiel might change his mind and agree with him, one day. And, Castiel realises, he seems very, very lonely.

These are all facts that Castiel can use.

He almost automatically parts his lips at Lucifer's urging, caught up in his own thoughts and letting his body go through the motions. If he can make Lucifer believe that he's coming around to Lucifer's way of thinking, if he can make Lucifer believe that he's not a flight risk, then he might be able to make this situation work in his favour. Being the trusted – pet, he admits, because that's all he is right now – has its advantages, he's sure; having the run of the place would be a minor but crucial one.

Lucifer's hand tightens around Castiel's wrists, and he nips Castiel's lip reprovingly, saying, "You're thinking too much, Castiel. You always were too intellectual."

The hand at Castiel's jaw moves then, sliding down to rest at Castiel's hip as Lucifer deepens the kiss. Castiel instinctively rebels, turning his head away, even as his mind tells him not to be so stupid.

He's showing you a weakness. Use it.

Lucifer wouldn't believe a sudden capitulation, though, and Castiel has been fighting too fiercely for a surrender to be believable. His back throbs as though to remind him of how hard he's been fighting. It should be slow, believable, and that means fighting, at least a little. The rebellion, for all it might earn him more pain, fits.

Lucifer sighs, reaches up, hooks the cuffs around Castiel's wrists together. He leans in to kiss Castiel once, lightly, saying, "I wish you'd be sensible. You'll learn," before pulling Castiel away from the wall, towards the centre of the room.

Castiel hadn't taken the time to fully appreciate the size of the room before now. It's practically palatial, the sort of room that you could fit an entire apartment into with some space to spare. The bed is similarly oversized, set in the centre of one dark-panelled wall, with a door in one corner that stands slightly ajar, giving a glimpse of pristine tile that indicates it leads to a bathroom. There's a small fortune in bookshelves and armchairs in another corner, a dining table and chairs in a third. The door in the centre of the wall opposite the bed is closed and, Castiel assumes, leads outside. The entire room is panelled in dark wood and lushly carpeted in crimson – except for the dining area, whose floor is wood polished so much it's practically reflective – and the general impression is of a place whose sole purpose is comfort.

The chains hanging from the ceiling in various places, bolted there, and the St. Andrew's cross standing innocuously by one wall belie that purpose. Castiel makes himself look away from them as Lucifer takes his bound wrists and raises them up to hook the cuffs to one of the chains, adjusting it until Castiel's arms are taut above his head and he's barely supporting himself on his bare feet.

"You think too much," Lucifer tells him, tracing the scars again. "I'm going to help you with that."

He doesn't use the blindfold this time; Castiel is grateful for that much. It's harder to concentrate, to ride out whatever Lucifer has planned, if he can't see what's coming. Lucifer does pick up the gag, though, weighing it in one hand while he looks at Castiel speculatively.

"You don't have to-"

Castiel's protest is cut off as Lucifer carefully but firmly forces the gag into his mouth, buckling it tight. He's had modifications made, Castiel realises, so that the gag won't damage the corners of his mouth so badly. It's another point towards the theory that Lucifer won’t hurt him if he doesn't feel he has to, and it should be reassuring, but it's not, really.

Lucifer moves behind Castiel, trailing his fingers over the whip welts. The cool touch is at once painful and relieving, and Castiel forces himself to try to relax. He can't help jerking, though, when Lucifer begins to carefully rub some sort of soothing lotion into the welts, the touch unexpected and a little painful, despite the soothing nature of the lotion.

When he's finished, Castiel's back has that odd sensation that's not quite pain, the sort that means there's healing going on. Lucifer presses a soft kiss to his shoulder and then steps away, leaving Castiel for a few minutes. Castiel twists to look over his shoulder; Lucifer is moving something, something large and unwieldy that he lifts as though it weighs as much as a feather. He brings it over and sets it in front of Castiel – a mirror, a full-length, wide mirror. Castiel frowns, uncertain, and Lucifer laughs softly.

"You'll see," he promises, moving behind Castiel again, setting those clever hands to his back and coaxing his wings out again. Castiel shudders as his wings unfurl – the movement does odd things to the muscles in his back, making the whip welts throb unpleasantly.

Lucifer begins to work his fingers through the feathers, just like the first night. And just like the first night, each movement is calculated to feel good, to smooth out knotted muscles and tendons, to straighten the feathers, to soothe old aches. Castiel automatically extends his wings further, giving Lucifer more room to work, and is rewarded with a soft, pleased sound from the Morningstar, who leans in to press a kiss to the back of Castiel's neck.

Eventually, Lucifer lifts his hands from Castiel's wings and slides them down Castiel's sides, resting them at his hips. He presses himself against Castiel's back, slipping one hand down to wrap around his cock, and murmurs, "Look at the mirror, Castiel."

The instruction, and the threat of punishment if it's disobeyed, is clear enough. Castiel lifts his eyes to look at the mirror, at himself. He'd never paid much attention to Jimmy's body, certainly not to the way it looked, but that's obviously what Lucifer wants him to do now.

He can see the muscles tense in his arms, stretched taut above his head, and the way they twitch under his skin with each movement of Lucifer's hand that makes him shift to keep his balance. His throat is ringed with purple-black bruises, ugly against Jimmy's – against his skin. Jimmy's not here anymore, and Castiel is quietly grateful for that. It's one thing to endure this himself, but he couldn't allow his vessel to suffer it. He's not sure when, exactly, Jimmy stopped being here, but he thinks it was somewhere between fighting Famine and trying to rescue Adam. Jimmy's presence had been weakening since he was nearly killed, when Castiel had been called back to Heaven, but Castiel is fairly certain that it was the banishing – the sigils that had damaged his Grace – that had done it for good.

"You're still thinking too much," Lucifer says, sounding amused and frustrated, all at once. He kneels behind Castiel, still stroking his cock, and smears something cool and slick over his fingers, trailing them teasingly over Castiel's ass before inserting one, making Castiel gasp from the sensation and the intrusion both. Crooking his finger and firming his grip around Castiel's cock, he adds, "Look in the mirror, Castiel."

Castiel doesn't know what he's supposed to be seeing. The obvious is there – with his arms pulled above his head and his feet barely on the ground, he's certainly not able to hide anything – but what is he supposed to get from it? Because he's certain Lucifer has a point to this, and understanding it means lessening the chance of Lucifer getting angry and hurting him.

"Look at yourself," Lucifer murmurs, adding a second finger and making Castiel let out a soft grunt through the gag.

His ministrations have Castiel hard by now, but he doesn't let up, speeding up the movement of his hand on Castiel's cock until Castiel is whimpering through the gag, unable to catch his breath. Lucifer crooks his fingers, drawing a low, muffled cry from Castiel, and Castiel can feel his knees start to go rubbery, more of his weight depending on his bound arms. Before he can come, though, Lucifer tightens his hand around the base of his cock and stops moving both hands abruptly.

Brought up short, Castiel pants through the gag, trying to regain his focus. It's difficult, though, especially when Lucifer turns his head to press a hard, possessive kiss to Castiel's hip, the movement shifting Lucifer's fingers inside Castiel. His erection doesn't flag, but he's just about managed to get his breathing back to normal when Lucifer starts stroking again, adding a third finger to the two already inside Castiel and crooking all three to rub against the spot inside him that makes fireworks explode behind his eyes.

"Tell me what you see, Castiel."

Castiel forces his eyes open, looking at the mirror. Lucifer is kneeling beside him, an odd juxtaposition of position and power – Castiel is standing over him, but is so far from in control of this situation that he almost laughs, the notion far more funny than it should be. Not amusing, but funny, and a tiny part of his mind knows that that's a sign that he's starting to crack. He bits the inside of his cheek hard, smothering the giggle that threatens to break loose, and tries to work out what it is Lucifer wants him to see.

He sees the Devil, clothed in Sam's form, wearing an expression that Castiel knows too well. He's seen Sam's determination before, and it's even stronger now, bolstered by Lucifer's titanic self-confidence and patience. Lucifer is naked to the waist, Sam's uncut hair just brushing his shoulders, but there's nothing of vulnerability in his semi-unclothed state. There's arrogance, assurance, a sense that even if he was totally naked he'd be completely comfortable and self-assured.

(He realises, vaguely, that he's still drawing lines between what he sees of Lucifer and what he sees that is Sam. It's still Sam's body, so it's Sam's hair that brushes the shoulders; Lucifer is confident and self-assured in a way that Sam never was, so it's Lucifer who is naked to the waist. Castiel's not sure if this is a good thing or not.)

Lucifer crooks his fingers again, drawing another moaned gasp from Castiel, and murmurs, "Don't look at me. Look at you."

Castiel drags his gaze away from Lucifer to look at his own reflection in the mirror. He notes the fact that his muscles are tight and tense, that he's quivering a little from sensation, that he's unconsciously canting his hips back towards Lucifer's hand. The latter fact brings a dull flush to his face; he doesn't want to admit that Lucifer is having this effect on him, and the fact that his body is betraying that desire for a baser one is humiliating. He's supposed to have better control than this.

"Almost," Lucifer whispers, his breath cool against Castiel's thigh. He moves his fingers again, smiling at the low whimper the action gets, and whispers, "Tell me what you see."

Castiel doesn't know what Lucifer wants. He pants, trying to regain his focus, looking at the reflection for some hint, some clue as to what the right answer is. He can't see the whip welts on his back, the mirror's at the wrong angle, but he knows they're there, and they're all-too-present proof that disappointing Lucifer ends badly.

He rakes his eyes over his reflection, trying to take in more detail, something that will help him answer. His wings are quivering as much as his muscles, the tips brushing Lucifer's back now and then; Lucifer seems to enjoy the sensation. Each light touch brings another smile to his face.

What does he see?

He sees an angel – the wings give that away, even if Castiel can't see the Grace that Lucifer insists is still there – strung up by the wrists, barely keeping his balance on the plush carpet as a deceptively floppy-haired, puppy-eyed man rings his cock with an iron-hard grip, twisting fingers inside him. He sees trembling arms and legs, tight stomach muscles, a chest heaving with the gasps and panted breaths that have taken the place of proper breathing. He sees the flushed cheeks, flushed from desire and humiliation both, and the eyes dark with need.

Need.

"I need you," he gasps hoarsely, barely intelligible through the gag, hating himself for admitting it. But the answer makes Lucifer smile and press a kiss to Castiel's thigh, and finally starts stroking his cock again, bringing him to orgasm in a few short moments. He leaves Castiel hanging in the chains long enough to fetch another bowl of warm water and a washcloth, and starts cleaning him off gently, sitting placidly at Castiel's feet.

"You need me," he agrees, sounding almost happy. "I'll protect you, little brother. I'll look after you, and I'll make you happy. You'll see."

He could ignore those promises, Castiel tells himself. He tries to believe it, and he almost does, until Lucifer speaks again.

"I'll help you get your Grace back."

Chapter Text

Castiel is acutely aware that he's dreaming. There's no other explanation for the quiet lakeside where he's found himself, standing in bare feet on lush grass, with the scent of new leaves and the sharp ozone smell of a recently–departed storm hanging in the air. He gazes out over the still water, frowning a little; is this his dream, or is somebody manipulating it?

"Castiel."

He turns, eyeing the man standing a few feet away. Tall, slender, messy–haired; it's the look in his eyes and the track–marks that give it away.

"Ramiel," he says softly. Ramiel has always preferred to make bargains with his vessels, to take the humans who have nothing to live for anymore and to give them a purpose. He favours artistic people with addictions; Castiel suspects that had Chuck Shurley not been more important in his own right, Ramiel would have chosen him.

Ramiel smiles gently, watching Castiel, and is silent.

"Why are you here?" Castiel asks. "This is my dream, isn’t it?"

"After a fashion," Ramiel agrees. "I'm sorry I didn't find you earlier, Castiel; you've been tricky to track down. Your Grace doesn't feel quite like it used to."

Castiel sighs, sticking his hands into his pockets and gazing out over the water again. The clothes are a comforting familiarity, especially in so odd a situation as a dream conversation with a brother he'd been told was missing. He'd assumed missing meant dead but unconfirmed.

"It's damaged," he says eventually, as Ramiel's patient silence begins to wear on him. "When I–"

"When you banished the angels guarding the Room," Ramiel finishes for him, when Castiel tapers off uncertainly. He doesn't sound angry or upset at an act that most angels would see as treason, and Castiel turns to look at him, frowning in confusion. Ramiel shrugs a little, and says, "It was a brave thing to do. Especially when you didn't expect to survive it."

"Why are you here?" Castiel asks again, uncomfortable with this line of conversation. He hadn't expected to survive the banishing, and hadn't wanted to; he hadn't had the strength of belief in Dean that Sam had. He'd thought Dean would say yes to Michael, and that everything they'd all worked for would be forsaken. He'd been wrong.

"I've been trying to find you," Ramiel says simply. "The last four months . . . they've been . . . unpleasant, to say the least. Heaven was in a shambles with Michael's death, and when our brother's forces came . . . it was hardly even a fight." His voice lowers, full of sorrow and loss, and for a moment Castiel regrets not being there to fight with his brothers. After a moment, Ramiel continues. "Some of us got out, though. More than Lucifer thinks. Chuck was sure you weren't dead, so–"

"Chuck?" Castiel interrupts. "The prophet? He's still alive?"

"Of course." Ramiel sounds almost hurt. "You don't think I'd let any harm come to him? He's special, gifted, even if he doesn't believe it. He's one of mine."

"And you're talking with him now?" Castiel asks, not quite sure he believes that. Ramiel has never been the sort to directly intercede, and even when Chuck was in danger – danger that Castiel had indirectly sent him into, telling Dean about the archangel guarding him – it had been Raphael descending to deal with Lilith, not Ramiel. He'd never picked Ramiel for a take–charge sort of person.

Ramiel smiles, looking over the lake, and says, "He's an interesting fellow. Lucifer isn't going to take this world unchallenged, Castiel. Our brothers may not have been able to defeat him, but these humans . . . they're crafty little things. You learned that tricky bit of doublespeak from somewhere," he adds, slanting a sideways look at Castiel, who coughs uncomfortably and keeps his gaze fixed on a point above the lake. Ramiel laughs good–naturedly, and says, "I'm not angry. It was clever of you. Pissed Raphael to, well, high Heaven."

"Where are you?" Castiel asks, and now it's Ramiel's turn to cough uncomfortably and look away. Castiel waits. Two can play Ramiel's annoyingly–loud–silence game.

"I think it might be best if I kept that to myself," Ramiel says eventually, sounding reluctant. "The others aren't all that happy that I'm coming here in the first place, Castiel. I believe that you're strong enough to keep it to yourself, and Lucifer has no real reason to suspect that I'm talking to you, but Gabriel and Crowley–"

"Crowley?" Castiel interrupts, incredulous. "You're working with Crowley?"

Ramiel shrugs, looking even more uncomfortable. "Desperate times, Castiel; we're taking all the allies we can get. He's no friend of Lucifer's, and he likes the world the way it is."

"He's willingly working with Heaven?" Castiel scoffs. He can't believe that. Crowley might have been willing to help the Winchesters, but that's a far leap from helping Heaven.

"We're not Heaven anymore," Ramiel says sharply. "Haven't you been listening, Castiel? Lucifer's forces went through ours like a hot knife through butter. Heaven isn't in the game anymore. If we win, if we somehow defeat Lucifer, then it's not Heaven winning, it's not paradise; it's the world, in the charge of the humans, with demons still making trouble and hunters hunting them. No paradise, no Hell on Earth, just Earth. That's the best we can do."

Castiel is silent, stunned by the force of Ramiel's words. He's never heard Ramiel be this forceful, or this angry. Ramiel begins pacing, agitated, and his voice reflects that agitation in a tone that Castiel is painfully aware is similar to the way Sam used to sound when he was coming down off demon blood. Ragged and tormented and hurt, and just this side of too fast to be entirely rational.

"I saw our brothers get cut down by hordes of demons," Ramiel says. His pacing would seem like nothing more than a way to let out his agitation, if not for the way his bare feet are cutting through the grass, exposing dark dirt like a wound. "I saw them kill entire choirs, butcher seraphim and cherubim like they were animals. They cut or burned or shredded their wings away and tore them open and ripped out their Grace. The field of battle was afire with the Grace of hundreds of dying angels."

His words are coming out almost like a litany now, something he has to say. This is their eulogy.

"There were too many demons, too many rallying behind Lucifer. Suriel betrayed us," he spits. "And Heaven fell. So yes, I'm working with Crowley now. He wants Lucifer gone as much as I do. I'm not the only one, either. Haniel and Barachiel and Gabriel are with us."

"Oh, fantastic," Castiel says, unable to keep the bite from his tone. "Four angels and a demon, that'll really turn the tide of the war."

"We've got Chuck, Becky and Risa too," Ramiel protests, and Castiel nearly laughs. The protest is such a change in tone from the angry, tormented way Ramiel had sounded talking about the fighting, and that's almost a relief. He doesn't like hearing his brother sounding so broken.

"Oh, well, then. Four angels, a demon, and three humans. The world is saved."

Ramiel blinks at him for a moment, and then laughs, and the tension in the air is suddenly gone. He turns to face Castiel properly, stops pacing, and in the space of a blink, the grass beneath his feet is healed; his calming state of mind is healing the dream-world.

"I don't think I know Risa," Castiel says, the minor change in subject an olive branch. Ramiel accepts it, sitting on a fallen tree that wasn't there a moment ago, stretching his legs out in front of him.

"She's a friend of Becky's," Ramiel says, smiling a little. "Likes those books we had Chuck write. She calls Sam a Sasquatch. When Haniel and I took vessels and looked for Chuck, she and Becky were there; they insisted on helping. All three of them, they said that if the world goes to Hell it's their problem as much as ours." His smile turns fond. "I could get to like humans, you know. They're tougher than a lot of us give them credit for."

Castiel sits down beside Ramiel, looking at him sideways. Ramiel is almost relaxed, looking out over the lake, but there's still tension there, still pain, and Castiel can't tell how much of it is Ramiel's and how much of it is residual from the vessel's drug habit.

"Why are you really here, Ramiel?" he asks quietly. "Because you didn't go to all this effort just to tell me that you're still alive and fighting."

"I know what he's doing to you," Ramiel says, very softly. Castiel feels a chill settle in his gut; he doesn't want anyone to know what Lucifer is doing to him, much less one of his brothers. Ramiel continues, "I know he's trying to convince you that there's no hope, that joining him makes sense. I wanted you to know that you're not alone in fighting him. We will come for you, Castiel. We're working on triangulating his position and making a plan of attack that will work, and we'll come for you."

"It's too risky." Castiel forces the words out through lips that don't want to speak them. He wants to clutch at the promise and believe that Ramiel and the other rebels can save him, but he knows better than to hope. The odds are too high. "He's got too many demons, he's too strong. You can't risk it."

"Nobody gets left behind," Ramiel says fiercely. "Nobody. Not a Cupid who still can't be persuaded to wear pants all the time, not an angel who's had his wings ripped off, not a blasted stubborn prick who rebelled before the rest of us knew what our best hope was. Nobody, do you hear me?"

Castiel can recognise determination when he hears it. He sighs, clapping a hand on Ramiel's shoulder, and says, "Just . . . be careful, all right?"

Ramiel smiles, a strange, savage smile. "We'll put the bastard down yet."

"So." Castiel searches for a topic that will get rid of that savage smile. He's not used to Ramiel looking like that; he remembers Ramiel as gentle, the giver of inspiration and divine visions, not this, bloody and savage. He finally asks, "How have you all managed to keep below Lucifer's radar?"

"We've been careful." Ramiel shrugs. "He knows that there're people fighting his forces, but he doesn't know exactly who we are. We stay on the move, keep underground. We're safe enough for now; even with Heaven fallen, we've got enough juice to take down any demons who come at us, between the four of us. It's getting a little complicated, with Becky's condition–"

"Her condition?" Castiel seizes the information, suddenly concerned. He'd liked Becky and Chuck well enough, but more to the point, an injured human is a liability, and not one that he thinks Crowley will tolerate for long.

Ramiel sighs, raking his fingers through his already-messy hair, and says, "She's pregnant. Chuck says they never . . . copulated . . . and Barachiel is being damnably secretive about Heaven's plan for her, so Haniel is hovering. You know what she's like about women with child."

Castiel nods, chuckling a little. "I almost feel sorry for any demons who cross her. She's in a female vessel this time, too?"

"We weren't exactly spoiled for choice, but she found a nun who suited," Ramiel says, nodding. "I've never seen a nun fight like that. It's rather inspiring to watch, really. I think Crowley enjoys needling her. We're taking bets on how long it's going to be until they end up brawling."

"Do you have a long-term plan?" Castiel asks. "Other than 'kill the Devil', which . . . I'm sorry, brother, it's not a particularly good plan, as plans go."

"We're working on that," Ramiel tells him. "But it's not going to be 'kill the Devil'. I don't think anything can, except maybe Father, or Death." Castiel nods; Death takes everything, in the end. Ramiel continues, "We're looking into some other options. There's not a lot of lore about how to deal with Lucifer; his demons have probably been systematically removing as much knowledge as they can, over the aeons. But Crowley and Gabriel have a few ideas." He makes a face. "Those two work disturbingly well together sometimes."

"You said that the others weren't happy about you talking to me," Castiel says, frowning a little. He can see their point, really, but that doesn't mean he likes to think about the possibility of Lucifer breaking him.

Ramiel sighs. "Yeah. Crowley and Gabriel in particular, but Risa isn't happy about it, either. Barachiel was on my side on this, and so were Chuck and Becky. Haniel was the tiebreaking vote, and she said that we didn't have enough allies to just throw one away. Barachiel said he knows you're strong enough to stand up to Lucifer." Ramiel gives Castiel a shadow of a smile. "I know you are. We'll come for you."

"Not just me. Dean Winchester and Bobby Singer are here too," Castiel says.

Ramiel whistles, raising his eyebrows. "Lucifer has them? Chuck was sure Dean wasn't dead. It irritates Crowley, I think. Chuck says that this would be easier if we had Sam or Dean on our side – never mind that if we had Sam, we wouldn't be in this situation – and Crowley gets very ranty about the fact that we've got four angels and the Crossroads King and Chuck is complaining about not having the Winchesters. Not that he's really complaining. I think he's just worried. He'll be glad to know that Dean's still alive and that we know where he is. Broadly speaking." He hesitates, then asks, "I don't suppose you have any idea where you are? We haven't been able to get an accurate fix on Lucifer's location yet."

Castiel shakes his head. "I was blindfolded when they brought me in. I was staying at a roadside motel in . . . Connecticut, I think? And the drive can't have been that long. But I don't know for sure."

"It's more than we had before," Ramiel says, giving him a warmer smile. "It gives us somewhere to focus on."

Castiel can feel the conversation winding to a close, and a part of him – a larger part than he wants to admit – is desperate to keep it going. The conversation ending means Ramiel will leave, and that means Castiel will wake up. Right now, he's still feeling too bruised and raw emotionally to be able to cope with Lucifer trying to convert him. He needs this, this little unreal world of peace and tranquillity, but he doesn't know how to ask for it.

Ramiel must be able to see the conflict in his eyes. His expression softens, and he reaches out to cover one of Castiel's hands with his, saying quietly, "We can stay here a while longer. My people are safe enough for tonight, and I'm not going to leave a brother in pain."

Castiel doesn't understand why he's shaking. The fact that he's not the only one fighting should be a relief; he shouldn't be trembling like this, too weak to stand, the sensation of something heavy and cold in his gut and an ache in his throat like he's trying to swallow around a lump.

Ramiel's expression gentles even further, and he shifts on the log, moving closer to Castiel and gently wrapping his arms around Castiel's shoulders, whispering, "It's all right. It's all right. We're going to come for you. We'll find out where Lucifer is, and we’ll come for you and Dean and Bobby, I promise."

The contact, gentle and undemanding and lacking in ulterior motives, is at once comforting and disconcerting. Has Lucifer already conditioned him to expect something from every touch, in so short a time? Castiel can't make himself stop shaking, even as Ramiel begins to lightly comb his fingers through Castiel's hair, trying to comfort him.

He's dimly aware that Ramiel isn't speaking in English anymore; he's shifted back to Enochian, the tongue angels cut their teeth on, and is murmuring soft nonsense in a calm, soothing tone. Ramiel pulls Castiel closer, both arms around him now, and with a soft rush of displaced air, his wings emerge to wrap around Castiel, enclosing him in a cocoon of warm arms and soft feathers, blocking out the rest of the world. It's more comforting than it should be, considering this is just a dream, but Castiel can't make himself pull away or acknowledge what's going on. He just curls into Ramiel's arms and shudders, his face pressed against Ramiel's shoulder, inhaling the dusty smell of Ramiel's shirt and the undefinable scent of angel.

"Let me in," Ramiel whispers, pressing a soft, chaste kiss to Castiel's temple. "Show me a scene you remember, one that holds good memories for you. Let me see how to shape the dreamscape and I can at least give you that solace."

It's a generous offer; Castiel relaxes his mental defences, allowing Ramiel to slip through the first barrier to the surface thoughts. He doesn't consciously think of a comforting memory, letting Ramiel sift through the ones that crop up of their own accord, and he hears the other angel make a soft sound in the back of his throat, something almost sad. Ramiel kisses his temple again, and there's a brief feeling of displacement as everything shifts.

"There," Ramiel whispers. Castiel frowns; Ramiel sounds so sad. He lifts his head, peering around Ramiel's wing to see what the dreamscape has changed to.

The lake has gone, replaced by a small, dingy motel room. The wallpaper is peeling, the carpet has definitely seen better days, and while the bathroom, glimpsed through an open door, is clean, it's neither spacious nor up-to-date. The light isn't flickering, and there's a reasonably nice desk-and-chair set under the window, but it's hardly on America's Top Ten Comforting Places.

It still smells like fresh leaves and ozone. Castiel looks at Ramiel, who says, "I duplicated the place for you, Castiel; I'm not duplicating the smell. Why here?"

It takes a moment for Castiel to be able to answer. When he does, his voice still sounds odd, shaky and strained.

"This is the hotel room Sam and Dean got after we went to their past to save their parents from Anna."

Ramiel tilts his head and says gently, "Castiel, you haemorrhaged blood from your nose because of that trip."

"Yes." He looks around the hotel room, mentally placing Dean by that bed cleaning his guns, Sam at the desk doing research. He and Ramiel are sitting on the other bed, conveniently where the log had been, when this was a lake. He says softly, "We spent a few days here, resting." He laughs softly. "Letting me rest. Dean called us 'Team Free Will'."

Ramiel is silent, for several long minutes. Castiel doesn't try to make conversation; he just sits on the facsimile of a bed, letting Ramiel keep holding him, and slowly, he manages to relax. He's still afraid, and he knows that this can only be a temporary reprieve, but it's better than nothing. Far better.

Eventually, Ramiel says softly, "You wouldn't leave them there, would you? Even if it meant staying with Lucifer longer?"

"No." Castiel winces; there was more force in that single word than he'd intended. "They're good people, Ramiel. They're my . . . friends." How strange the word 'friends' feels in his mouth. "I don't know why Sam said yes, but I believe he believed there was no other choice. And I won't leave Dean there. He deserves more than the dream of a perfect life."

"Chuck thought you'd say that," Ramiel says, sounding thoughtful. "We'll take it into account. I promise, Castiel, we'll think of something."

Castiel sighs, closing his eyes. He doesn't want to think about plans, or about how long he's going to have to be in Lucifer's hands before he can break free. He just wants to stay here, in this fucked-up semblance of comfort, and forget how much he hurts.

"I'll fix this in your mind," Ramiel says softly. "When you sleep, it'll be here. No nightmares."

"Can we just stay here a while longer?" Castiel asks, hating the desperate tone in his voice. But he's not ready to wake up yet. He's not ready to face Lucifer and his manipulations again.

Ramiel kisses his temple again, and Castiel is briefly caught by how different the action is, coming from Ramiel. Lucifer's kisses, even the ones that would normally be intended to be comforting, are possessive. Ramiel's are gentle and chaste and soothing, a balm for his battered spirit.

"We can stay as long as you need to."

Soon, he'll wake up. Soon, when he's gathered more strength, he'll go back to the waking world and fight with Lucifer again over the bruised and battered thing that is his free will. But for now, he can curl in his brother's arms and hide from the world.

It occurs to him, as Ramiel begins humming softly, that this must be what it's like for Sam and Dean.

Chapter Text

Castiel wakes feeling less ravaged, on an emotional level if not a physical one. His back still hurts, and each inhalation reminds him that his throat is bruised black, but he feels . . . not calm, but more able to focus, to think of ways to get through this. Ramiel's gift of time has already proven invaluable.

He lies in the bed, eyes closed, thinking through his options. Ramiel and the others are making plans, but he knows he shouldn't just wait for them to come rescue him. He has to come up with ideas himself, otherwise there might not be anything left for them to rescue. And he's in a much better position to work at the defences of this place from the inside, if he can manage to gain Lucifer's trust enough to convince the Morningstar to give him more freedom.

It'll be a balancing act, though. If he capitulates too quickly, someone will suspect something. But Lucifer has already unwittingly shown Castiel his biggest weakness: he's lonely. He wants Castiel to love him.

Castiel can use that.

He's been awake for some time, formulating plans, by the time he hears a door open and close, and smells food. He sits up carefully, mindful of the aches in his body, and eyes Lucifer. He's carrying another tray, this one containing something that looks more like dinner than breakfast – carrots, potatoes, something that Castiel hopes is just steak – and he brings it to the dining area set up in the palatial room, setting it down and giving Castiel a strangely hopeful smile.

"I was hoping you'd wake up soon," he says mildly. "You've been sleeping a long time. Come and eat."

Castiel's hands are unbound, although the leather cuffs are still buckled around his wrists. The bandages on his wrists have been changed, though; he supposes Lucifer must have tended to his injuries while he was asleep. That would explain why his back doesn't hurt so much as feel stiff by now; Lucifer must be working some sort of healing on him. He's so insistent that he doesn't want to hurt Castiel, so it's not an unreasonable assumption to make.

Castiel looks down at himself a little uncomfortably; he's still naked, aside from the cuffs. Looking back up at Lucifer, he asks, "Can I get something to wear?"

"After you've eaten," Lucifer says firmly. "You eat, I'll find you something. Deal?"

It's a better answer than Castiel had expected; he nods, getting to his feet and resisting the urge to cover himself with his hands. Lucifer has more than seen Castiel's body; modesty is a needless afterthought.

Lucifer doesn't stay to watch him eat. He looks a little fascinated as Castiel sits down and prods experimentally at the food, but he leaves soon after, the door closing with a final-sounding click behind him. Castiel discards the idea of trying to pick the lock right now – for one thing, he doesn't have anything to pick it with except for the silverware, and the fork tines are a little too thick to do the job properly – and concentrates on eating. Whatever he is now, hovering somewhere between human and angel, he still needs to feed his body. Lucifer has a cook somewhere in the compound, because the food is actually decent, and the meat turns out to be beef rather than something more sordid.

There are two bottles of wine on the table. Castiel eyes them thoughtfully as he eats, coming up with another facet of a plan. If he wants to make Lucifer believe that he's starting to crack, alcohol could be helpful both as a symptom and a cause. Opening one of the bottles, he pours his glass full, and then takes the rest of the bottle into the bathroom, pouring the remaining wine down the toilet. He doesn't want to get drunk, after all – he wants to have enough wine on his breath for the façade to be believable.

It's not bad wine, at that. He's had half a glass by the time Lucifer gets back; enough to make the idea of him having polished off the rest of the bottle out of nerves a realistic one. Lucifer is carrying a pair of sweatpants, and sets them down on one of the armchairs in the reading nook before joining Castiel at the table, raising his eyebrows when he sees the empty wine bottle.

"I didn't pick you for a lush," he remarks.

Castiel looks down, letting out a soft, sheepish little half-laugh, and admits, "I was nervous."

"I've told you I don't want to hurt you," Lucifer reminds him, moving behind him and gently setting his hands on Castiel's shoulders. He doesn't start rubbing them yet, just resting them there. He adds, "I'm not what they all say I am, Castiel. I'm not cruel when I don't need to be. I won't be hard on you if you don't deliberately provoke me."

"I don't mean to," Castiel says, trying to make it sound as though it's an admission that slipped out without his thinking about it, rather than a calculated phrase. He seems to have been successful; Lucifer makes a soft, indecipherable sound and leans down to press a soft kiss to the curve of Castiel's neck, where it meets his shoulder.

He can't acquiesce too quickly, or Lucifer will suspect he's lying. But he can tilt his head just a little, giving Lucifer more access to his throat, hoping it looks like an unconscious gesture.

"You're afraid," Lucifer murmurs, his lips brushing over Castiel's skin. "I know you're afraid, Castiel. But I don't understand why. Heaven can't get at you anymore. The other angels won't find you here. Nobody can hurt you."

"You hurt me," Castiel points out, and he's only half-acting now. Lucifer has always been a hypocrite, but surely he can't be deluding himself into thinking that he's not hurting Castiel?

"You'll learn to like it when I do it."

Lucifer's answer makes Castiel's blood run cold, and makes him think that perhaps he's getting himself even more in over his head, trying to pull a fast one on the Morningstar. Castiel shivers, unconsciously pulling away from Lucifer, and he sighs.

"I'll show you," Lucifer says, moving swiftly to wrap his hands around Castiel's arms, pulling him to his feet. Playing up his level of intoxication, Castiel stumbles, and Lucifer's arms go around him more firmly, pulling him hard against Lucifer's chest. Castiel can feel the laugh vibrating through Lucifer's chest, and the Morningstar bends his head to kiss Castiel's throat again, murmuring, "Relax, little brother. I'll take care of you."

Castiel lets himself be manhandled over to the bed. He hadn't come up with this plan without acknowledging to himself that he's going to have to let Lucifer do a lot more to him than he already has, and again, he's thankful that Jimmy's soul has moved on. He can make his choice for himself, for his sake and for Dean's, but he couldn't have made it on Jimmy's behalf.

Lucifer presses him down onto the bed, on his stomach. Almost before Castiel has time to settle himself, Lucifer is straddling his hips, leaning down to run cool, gentle hands over his back. The welts sting with the cold touches, and Castiel can't quite keep back a low hiss of pain.

He's left unbound, for the first time. Lucifer's hands lift off his back for a moment, and there's a small unscrewing sound, followed by a flood of scent; light, delicate sandalwood and spicier, smoky vetiver undertones. When Lucifer's hands touch Castiel's back again, they're coated with warm oil, and Lucifer leans down to press a soft kiss to Castiel's shoulder before he begins to massage Castiel's back and shoulders.

The Morningstar's touches undo Castiel more than the wine would have. Lucifer smooths out every kink in muscles that have been held tense for too long, rubbing the oil into Castiel's skin as though he's polishing a precious idol. The welts hurt briefly as Lucifer's hands move over them, but the oil and the massage are both soothing, and it's not terribly long before Castiel has half-forgotten his plans, caught up in the rush of sheer sensation. The massage is bordering on sensual rather than therapeutic, but that's not what is making him quiver beneath Lucifer. He hasn't let his guard down for a long time – it's been far, far too long since someone touched him like this. And all of those times, few though they were, lacked even a hint of the sexuality that is pouring off Lucifer like musk. Barachiel, Amatiel – Anna, once – their encounters had been chaste, caring for each other's wings or tending to injuries after a battle. This – this is something entirely new.

He lets out an involuntary whine of protest when Lucifer stops the massage and climbs off his hips. Lucifer laughs softly, pushing his hand against Castiel's shoulder until Castiel rolls over, turning onto his back. Between the massage and whatever healing Lucifer has been doing while Castiel has been asleep, the welts on his back are healed enough now that it doesn't hurt to be lying on them – at least, not yet. It'll probably hurt in a while, if he stays in this position. And Lucifer seems to want him to. He pulls Castiel's arms above his head, tying his wrists to the bedposts, in movements too quick for Castiel to fight back or protest, even if he didn't feel loose-limbed and soft-boned from the massage.

"You don't need to tie me up," Castiel says quickly, his breathing speeding up. He'd bargained for having sex with Lucifer; he hadn't bargained for more bondage. Lucifer ignores him, though, and moves to the foot of the bed, grabbing Castiel's ankle and stretching his leg out and down, tying a soft, slender rope around Castiel's ankle and the post at the foot of the bed. He repeats the process with Castiel's other ankle, and then looks up, giving Castiel a long looking-over as though viewing a piece of artwork.

This is beyond what Castiel had expected, although he's not sure why. He's already been whipped, fucked over a table, and strangled; why should more bondage surprise him? But he's uncomfortable more than physically, bound so completely open and vulnerable.

"Relax," Lucifer murmurs, moving to press a soft kiss to Castiel's forehead before he steps away, kneeling at the foot of the bed and rummaging through a drawer set into the solid base. He stands, brandishing a long-bladed, intricately decorated knife, and Castiel's guts turn to ice.

"Don't," he whispers, unable to keep his eyes off the knife. He's mostly acting, but the sight of the knife is a chilling one. Everything Lucifer has done so far has been the sort of damage that is painful but not too dangerous, with the exception of the strangulation; a knife is much less ambivalent. It's a tool made to cut and slice, and it performs those actions admirably well on human flesh. Castiel can't help but be nervous at the sight of it.

"Shh," Lucifer says, setting the knife on the end of the bed, next to Castiel's foot. He picks up a small bottle and pours more oil onto his hands, releasing the scent of sandalwood and vetiver again, and sets his hands to Castiel's legs, beginning to carefully rub the knots from the muscles, working the oil into Castiel's skin. For a few moments, Castiel tries to centre himself by recalling what he knows about those two particular oils – vetiver is good for muscle aches, sandalwood for healing skin – but Lucifer keeps massaging his legs, sliding his hands up to work over Castiel's thighs, and those touches are not kept innocent, and it's becoming rather hard to concentrate properly.

He lets out a startled yelp when Lucifer's hand wraps around his cock, slick and warm with oil. Lucifer strokes his cock twice before returning to the massage, hands moving up over Castiel's hips and stomach now. Everywhere his hands have touched feels somehow better, as though all the tension has fled his body – except for one place, which is harder than Castiel would have expected just from a massage.

By the time Lucifer's hands are working over Castiel's arms, every muscle in Castiel's body feels warm and lax, and he's having difficulty keeping back the low moans of pleasure that want to escape his throat. Despite himself, he feels good. He has no illusions that this is going to stay harmless – there's the knife to worry about – but right now, even with all his plans, it's difficult to care.

The knife comes back into play alarmingly quickly. Once Lucifer has finished with the massage, he leans down to kiss Castiel deeply, one hand reaching up to cup Castiel's face, leaving a warm smear of oil along his jaw and cheek. And then he sits up, cleaning off his hands, and picks up the knife.

Ice settles in Castiel's gut, but he can't make himself flinch away; he feels too loose-limbed and somehow too dazed to move. Lucifer strokes a hand through his hair, saying softly, "You'll see, Castiel. It'll feel good."

He brings the knife down, running the flat of the blade over Castiel's chest, the metal starkly cold after the warmth of the oil. He presses the point against Castiel's nipple, hard enough to sting, and Castiel tries to stop breathing. The knife follows the movement of his chest as he exhales, though, and eventually he has to inhale again; the movement drives the tip of the knife into his flesh, a needlepoint of pain that feels absurdly strong for its size. Blood wells up, a few drops at most, and Lucifer lifts the knife before it can do more harm, reaching down with his other hand to smear the drops of blood over Castiel's skin. He brings his fingers to his lips, tasting, and smiles.

"That wasn't so bad, was it?"

He doesn't wait for an answer, tracing the point of the knife over Castiel's ribs, drawing thin crimson lines on pale skin. It doesn't hurt compared to some of the things Castiel has put his body through, certainly not compared to the whipping, but it's a bright spark of pain all the same, making him gasp and bite the inside of his cheek to keep back louder cries.

This is more than proving a point, Castiel realises as Lucifer carefully carves a symbol into his chest, just above his collarbone. It's not idle bloodletting; this is a ritual. He wants to move, to disrupt Lucifer's careful handiwork, but he's still heavy-limbed and weak, and he's now beginning to realise that the wine – or the food – was drugged. Lucifer wanted him like this, weak and helpless, and Castiel is uncomfortably aware that Lucifer is three steps ahead of him still.

His realisation must show in his eyes; Lucifer smiles, almost gently, and says, "I promised I'd help you get your Grace back, Castiel. Just relax. It won't hurt as much if you relax."

For close to two hours, Lucifer paints him in blood and oil. None of the cuts are deep or likely to scar; for all he's making artwork of Castiel's body, he doesn't seem to want it to be permanent. He avoids the sigil-scars on Castiel's chest, but nowhere else goes untouched. Shallow cuts are etched along Castiel's arms, his legs; delicate gashes are engraved in his stomach and hips, blood pooling warmly in his navel. Despite the pain – and it does hurt, if not intolerably so – Castiel's erection hasn't flagged, though it hasn't got any harder either. He can't tell whether it's a side-effect of the drugs, or because the pain is somehow arousing.

Lucifer stills the knife for a moment, watching him, and then bends his head to lap the pooled blood, fucking Castiel's navel with his tongue as he slides his free hand down to wrap around Castiel's cock again, beginning to stroke slowly. By now, the drugs have taken hold of Castiel enough that he can't keep back a soft moan, eyes flickering closed for a moment before he forces them open. He might not be able to fight Lucifer off, but he wants to be able to see what's coming. He knows from experience, now, that it's much worse to be blind to what's about to be done to him.

When Lucifer lifts his head and leans up to kiss him, lips smeared with Castiel's blood and the oil that adorns his entire body by now, Castiel can taste blood and wood and smoke on the Devil's tongue. He rebels against the kiss for a moment, trying to turn his head, but Lucifer moves his free hand up to grip Castiel's jaw, holding his head in place for a kiss that is as rough and demanding as the hand still around his cock is gentle and sensual.

Lucifer pulls back finally, leaving Castiel a little breathless and wishing he could do something to get the taste of his own blood out of his mouth. The Morningstar lifts the knife again, but this time he presses the tip to his own fingertips, drawing a few drops from his index and middle finger. He brushes his other hand over Castiel's eyes, wordlessly telling him to close them, and then touches his bloodied fingertips to Castiel's eyelids. Lucifer's blood is not quite cold, and Castiel shudders. Lucifer kisses him again, softly this time, and murmurs, "We're almost done for now. Just a few more details."

There's a brief tug at each of Castiel's ankles as Lucifer unties the ropes, pressing a light kiss to the inside of each ankle as he frees it. The ropes were soft enough that the skin isn't abraded – not that Castiel had the strength to fight the ropes. On his way back up Castiel's body, Lucifer presses his hand to Castiel's hip, holding them down against the mattress, and wraps his other hand around the base of Castiel's cock, taking the rest of it into his mouth. Like the rest of him, his mouth is cool rather than warm, and it's startling enough that Castiel gasps and jerks, automatically trying to draw back; Lucifer's hand presses down on his hip harder, holding him still.

Castiel tries to focus on breathing, but it's increasingly difficult. Lucifer works his lips and throat around Castiel's cock for several minutes, his hand firm around the base, and Castiel can't be sure whether it's Lucifer's hand that's keeping him from coming or whether Lucifer doctored his food with more than sedatives. Eventually, he stops trying to keep silent, and Lucifer seems to take pity on him when he starts whimpering. He moves his hand away from Castiel's hip, slipping it down to press one oil-slick finger inside Castiel. The oil isn't quite enough lubrication to keep it from being a little rough, but the way Lucifer's lips feel around his cock keeps Castiel distracted enough to not care whether the intrusion hurts.

Lucifer takes him deeper, adding a second finger, stretching him as he swallows around Castiel's cock. The sensation draws a strangled whimper from Castiel's lips, and his hips rock up almost of their own accord, seeking more sensation. Lucifer finally crooks his fingers, pressing them against that spot inside Castiel, and Castiel's vision blacks for a moment as he finally comes.

When he comes back to himself – it can't have been more than a few minutes, and he wasn't properly out, just disoriented – Lucifer is still working his fingers inside Castiel, adding proper lubricant as well as the blood-smeared oil. His lips are swollen and reddened and wet, and Castiel is uncomfortably aware that even if he somehow finds a way to restore Sam's body to him, he's never going to be able to look at Sam without remembering this. He doesn't have long to reflect on that, though; Lucifer begins stroking his cock again, and Castiel lets out a ragged whimper, his eyes slipping closed. Between the ordeals of the last few days, the drugs, and the last couple of hours, he's exhausted all over again, but Lucifer is managing to make his body react anew. All Castiel's plans are forgotten; he just wants to rest again, to slip back into the dream that Ramiel left for him.

Lucifer's ministrations have him hard again by the time he withdraws his hand, moving to kneel between Castiel's legs. Castiel has lost track of time, but Lucifer has spent enough time preparing him that it doesn't even really hurt when the Morningstar presses inside; it's an intrusion, but it feels odd rather than painful, and it's almost welcome, because the sooner Lucifer fucks him, the sooner this will be over. Castiel is still refusing to see sex with Lucifer as anything but a trial that has to be endured.

The sharp smell of fresh blood startles him out of his daze; he looks up to see Lucifer setting down the knife, blood welling up from a cut in his wrist. Lucifer leans down and presses his wrist to Castiel's lips, murmuring darkly, "Drink it, Castiel. It'll help."

No. Whatever else he might have done in his existence, Castiel has never tasted the blood of another angel, much less an archangel – and for all he's Fallen, Lucifer is still an archangel. Castiel turns his head away; when Lucifer follows the movement and holds his wrist against Castiel's lips again, Castiel presses them tightly together, gritting his teeth, preventing so much as a drop of blood from getting into his mouth.

Lucifer sighs, saying, "I didn't want to do this the hard way, Castiel," and before Castiel can think about what that might mean, Lucifer's hips are moving, almost violently driving his cock deep inside Castiel. As rough as the first night had been, it was gentle lovemaking compared to this. Lucifer's free hand wraps firmly around Castiel's cock, jerking more than stroking this time, but the added roughness isn't hurting his arousal any.

Castiel bites the inside of his cheek hard enough to taste his own blood, trying desperately not to open his mouth, trying to draw in enough breath through his nose. It's difficult with Lucifer fucking him with a violence that could be called animal. It does hurt this time, a low ache that builds steadily with each brutal thrust, until eventually Castiel just can't get enough oxygen through his nose, can't keep back the cries that escape the moment he opens his mouth to try to breathe deeper.

He almost inhales the blood that flows over his tongue as Lucifer presses his wrist to Castiel's open mouth. Lucifer's blood mixes with his own, heavy and thick and cooler than blood should be, and Castiel chokes as it fills his mouth. Lucifer holds his hand over Castiel's mouth, holding it closed now, and he's forced to swallow if he wants to be able to breathe. Swallowing makes his already-ravaged throat ache, the blood drawing a line of cold fire down from his mouth to his gut, and when Lucifer finally removes his hand, Castiel starts coughing, his body rebelling against the Morningstar's blood.

And yet, for all the wrongness, he can feel Lucifer's blood beginning to heal him from within. The ache in his back and shoulders, from the length of time Castiel's weight had been on the still-tender welts and from the force of Lucifer's thrusts – thrusts which haven't stopped, making Castiel cry out between coughs – begins to recede. The pain from the dozens of cuts on his skin fades almost immediately, as the blood repairs lesser wounds.

And then he feels something moving in his chest, something that's at once physical and spiritual, and the shock of feeling his Grace again, even in as subdued a form as this, makes him cry out. Lucifer makes a savagely pleased sound, slamming back into him, and the movement seems to trigger something, because suddenly Castiel feels a bright, sharp burning within him that steadily grows, sending cold fire through his veins. His muscles tense and contract, arching his back and throwing his head back, muscles cording in his neck and shoulders. White brightness begins to spill from his eyes and mouth as Lucifer's hand tightens at his hip, the Morningstar letting out a wild, bestial roar as he comes, and as the light takes him, Castiel thinks, this must be what it feels like to die.

He's not given the mercy of unconsciousness for long. When he comes to, Lucifer is lying beside him, almost absently tracing his fingers over the drying blood smeared on Castiel's body. Lucifer's other hand is wrapped loosely around Castiel's cock, stroking it slowly. The violence is gone from his movements now; whatever was driving that raw, animal force, whether anger or frustration or something else, seems to have subsided.

Castiel still feels appallingly weak, and his wrists are still bound, but his mind is starting to clear. He can still salvage something from this ordeal. Steeling himself, he shifts a little, as much as his bonds will let him, canting his hips towards Lucifer and letting out a soft, exhausted whimper when the movement pushes his cock against Lucifer's hand.

Lucifer seems simultaneously surprised and gratified by Castiel turning to him. It's a small thing, but if it weren't so calculated it would be a sign that Castiel's resistance is crumbling. He shifts closer to Castiel, and Castiel responds by whispering, "Lucifer, please."

He doesn't let anger or defiance or despair touch his tone, instead saturating it with simple weariness. Easier for Lucifer to believe that he's coming closer to being broken if he sounds exhausted – and, really, it's not that much of an act. Lucifer takes pity on him, though, stroking his cock with more purpose until Castiel comes, too tired to cry out, the orgasm marked by panted whimpers instead.

Castiel lets Lucifer clean him up without protesting – indeed, he leans into the warm, damp cloth more than he would have a few days ago, trying to keep the movements subtle. Lucifer will notice them anyway, but he'll be less likely to think they're calculated if they're subtle. Finally, the oil and blood and come is cleaned off him, and Lucifer settles by his side again, pulling a sheet up over him with ludicrous concern. Castiel knows, objectively, that it's only been a few hours since he woke – five, perhaps six – but he's still exhausted, for all a part of him feels somehow renewed. He's made progress tonight, though: Lucifer carefully frees his wrists, murmuring, "Rest. I'll be back later," before getting up and gathering the things he'd brought – oils, knife, the empty tray and wine bottle – and leaving the room. Leaving Castiel, for the first time, completely unbound, for all the door still closes with that final-sounding click.

The lock is another step. Castiel got past the restraints tonight; he can get past the lock next time. The more freedom Lucifer gives him, the better his chances at finding a way through this.

Ramiel said that they'd come for him. He has to hold onto that thought, and keep working at gaining Lucifer's trust.

Chapter Text

He's dreaming again. Or he's in someone else's dream; that seems more likely, Castiel decides, looking about himself curiously. It's not the hotel room that Ramiel had set in Castiel's mind, nor is it the calm, tranquil lakeside, but there's a calmness about it all the same. A small but sumptuous room, elegantly furnished and decorated, with a fire blazing in the hearth – it speaks of taste and refinement, or at least of someone who wants to appear tasteful and refined.

A creaking sound startles him and he turns, blinking at the man in the chair by the fire.

"Hello, darling."

"Crowley."

Castiel manages to make it a statement rather than a question; for all Ramiel's assurances that Crowley is working with them, Castiel doesn't trust the demon. Now, looking at him, he suspects that he's right not to; Crowley's form in the dream is still the slight, unassuming, well-dressed man that Castiel knows him as, but there's an undefinable feeling about him, his demonic nature bleeding through the fabric of the dream-state. Through the flickering of the fire, Castiel can see shadows dancing behind Crowley, shadows whose movements don't synch with the light. He can see the dark bleeding through Crowley's eyes, staining his skin, and when the Crossroads King smiles, there's a hint of sharpness to his teeth that, despite everything else he's gone through, Castiel can't help but find disturbing.

"Is this your dream or mine?" Castiel asks, watching Crowley warily. "Where's Ramiel?"

"Tch. You'll have me think you don't trust me." Crowley grins again. "We're in my head. Needed to get news to you, and Ramiel didn't want to wait until he could get a clear line into your dreams. You're flickering all over the place."

Castiel ignores that, for now; he'll worry about what it means later. For now, he repeats, "Where is Ramiel? He's the dream-manipulator, why isn't he here?"

"Because if he was, you'd be in his head, and he doesn't want that," Crowley says bluntly, leaning back in the armchair, looking as relaxed as if he were back in his mansion. For all Castiel knows, this might well be a copy of the mansion; he doesn't feel particularly inclined to explore. Crowley continues, "You aren't the only one walking wounded anymore. When he was fancying up your dream, Ramiel could keep it to himself, but if you were in his head, in his dreamspace . . . well, things bleed through." He waves a hand, encompassing the little things Castiel has been noticing – the dancing shadows that aren't moved by the light, the odd not-visible-but-there darkness staining Crowley's eyes and skin, the disturbing glint in Crowley's smile.

"What doesn't he want me to see?" Castiel asks, frowning. As far as he knows, Ramiel trusts him; why would he hide a weakness from him?

"The last battle, before what's left of Heaven ended up playing soldiers on Earth, things got ugly." Crowley's voice is as calm and sardonic as always, but Castiel gets the sense, somehow, that Crowley doesn't like talking about this. Empathy, from a demon? It's an uncomfortable thought, one he tucks away to deal with later as Crowley continues. "The way Ramiel tells it, he ended up fighting Vetis. Nasty piece of work, and that's something, coming from me. Vetis got lucky, managed to get a good enough hit in to stun him, and figured he'd take a little trophy."

"He cut off Ramiel's wings," Castiel realises, feeling sick to his stomach at the idea. Cutting off an angel's wings doesn't remove his Grace, but it's a mutilation, a violation in its own way. He can understand why Ramiel didn't want him seeing that, and it makes something Ramiel said the last time make more sense. Nobody gets left behind. Nobody. Not a Cupid who still can't be persuaded to wear pants all the time, not an angel who's had his wings ripped off, not a blasted stubborn prick who rebelled before the rest of us knew what our best hope was.

"So you can see why he doesn't want you wandering about in his head," Crowley says, nodding. "Which is why he's using me. Gabriel's being a right pain in the arse about the whole thing, and Ramiel didn't think you'd want to have this discussion in Barachiel's dreamspace."

Castiel makes a face; Ramiel is right about that. He loves his brother dearly, but Barachiel's habitual mode of dress – or, rather, lack thereof – makes him a little uncomfortable when they're in vessels. And he's spent much more time naked recently than he ever cared to.

"What did you come here to tell me?" he asks, getting to the point. Crowley's being rather civil, all things considered, but knowing that he's in a demon's dreamspace makes Castiel edgy.

"We're working on a little scheme," Crowley tells him. "Gabriel's idea. Course, it gets a little tricky when it comes right down to specifics."

"Explain," Castiel snaps, losing patience with Crowley's prevarication. The demon raises his eyebrows, making a little you-said-what? face, but complies.

"Lucifer's cage is still down there, all empty and alone, just waiting for Old Scratch to bed down in it again. Gabriel knows how to open it, and he kindly shared with the rest of the class," Crowley says. His smile turns sharp. "Let's see if you can guess what the keys are. 'And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.'"

Castiel knows those words as surely as he knows his own name. He whispers, "Revelations. The Horsemen?"

"Their rings," Crowley says, nodding. "And that's where it gets tricky. See, the boys already fought War and Famine and took their pretty little rings. Of course, with Lucifer calling the shots now, it's anyone's guess where the rings have ended up."

"I can find out," Castiel says, although it takes him longer than he likes to make himself say it. "What about Pestilence and Death?"

"Pestilence is planning something." Crowley makes a face. "Something disgusting, probably. Seems his style. Now, I figure we've got about another year, maybe two, before all this gets too public and we can't use that sort of information anymore, but it's a start. As for Death . . . who can tell with that bastard?" Another grin, sharp-edged and dangerous. "Oh, that's right. Me. Won't go into the specifics – you know I hate to brag – but we know where he's going to be."

"And you're planning to attack him?" Castiel's doubtful about the wisdom of that idea. Death is Death, after all.

"I'm not," Crowley protests. "Barachiel's going to talk to him."

"What?"

The Crossroads King shrugs. "As ideas go, I've heard worse. He volunteered. Got all pouty when we asked if he'd lost it. He has a plan, apparently." He snorts. "Maybe he'll hug Death until he gives up his ring just to get Barachiel to stop touching him."

"Barachiel's heart is in the right place," Castiel says, feeling as though he should defend his brother. "Is there more to this plan beyond 'get the rings'?"

"Then we come find you." Crowley grins again. "Have a nice, happy family reunion. If you can get Lucifer in a Devil's Trap, so much the better, but that one's going to be hard. We open the cage, Gabriel gives Baby Brother a big shove, Lucifer goes tumbling back where he belongs."

"What happens to Sam?"

Crowley raises his eyebrows. "What do you think?"

Castiel is suddenly very, very glad that he doesn't have to get Dean's cooperation for this plan to work. He doesn't want Sam to end up in Hell with Lucifer, but he knows that Sam would be willing to make the sacrifice, if it meant humankind wasn't destroyed.

"So that's where we stand." Crowley's voice is very matter-of-fact, and for a moment, Castiel has the urge to hit him. "Now, I'm supposed to tell you where we are, and the rest of the plan, but I'm not going to do that. Ramiel and Barachiel and the prophet, they're being very positive about our chances. They're all dewy-eyed and 'clap your hands if you believe in fairies', it's frankly disturbing. Me, I'm not that optimistic." His grin is sharp-edged, glittering, hungry. "See, I know Lucifer. I know what he can do. So I'm not going to be putting all my eggs in the Castiel basket, if it's all the same to you. No offence, mate; I just don't have that sort of faith."

The words are painfully close to what Castiel had said to Dean, when the angels brought Adam into play. He can't help wincing at the memory.

"We'll be in touch," Crowley says, getting to his feet. Before Castiel can protest, the demon places two fingers on Castiel's temples, and the dreamspace dissolves.

 

He's not alone when he wakes. This time, though, it's not Sam's puppy-dog eyes watching him from the end of the bed. This time, there's a gawkish stick-figure of a man, all arms and legs and long hands and feet, watching him with an odd, off-kilter smile. He's as tall as Sam but has none of Sam's grace; he moves awkwardly, as though he's still learning how to manipulate his stork-legs and marionette arms.

Suriel never did take to new vessels easily.

Castiel sits up slowly, never taking his eyes off Suriel. He'd trusted his brother, once upon a time, but that was before Suriel had gone over to the other side. Before he'd allied himself with Lucifer. Castiel doesn't know what Suriel's presence here means, but perhaps he can use it. He might not be able to trick Lucifer so easily – the lack of bonds is an improvement, but the door is still locked, and Castiel isn't foolish enough to think that he's going to be allowed much more freedom than he already has – but Suriel's failing has always been his temper. Castiel can definitely work with that.

"What are you doing here, Suriel?"

"Someone has to look after you," Suriel says, drawing up one knee and resting his chin on it, watching Castiel curiously. His lips curl in an ugly smile. "You shouldn't leave pets alone, after all. They pine. And Lucifer wouldn't be very happy if something happened to his newest toy."

There's a hint of jealousy in Suriel's tone; perfect. Castiel knows that Suriel has always needed to be the best at something. He's a perfectionist, but more than that, he's an overachiever, and jealous about anyone who gets more attention than he does at what he's decided is his thing. Castiel is willing to bet that Suriel has decided that Lucifer is his thing, and equally sure that Lucifer is nobody's but his own.

"How did he get you?" Castiel asks. He needs to know how Suriel was taken, before he can make more detailed plans.

"He explained why he was doing this," Suriel says simply. The matter-of-factness in his tone is chilling, and Castiel can't help shivering. He'd thought that seeing a hint of Crowley's true nature in the dreamscape was frightening; this is almost worse. This is the perversion of an angel who had been a good person, once upon a time. Castiel can understand demons, for all he doesn't like them, but he can't understand how Suriel came to this.

Blissfully ignorant of Castiel's inner turmoil, Suriel continues. "He explained why he hates the humans. And he's right, Castiel. They're flawed, weak little things, not worthy of our Father's notice, and Father expected us to love them the way we love Him? I can't understand why I didn't see it before. Lucifer makes everything so clear."

"Was that before or after you let him fuck you?" Castiel deliberately infuses his tone with disgust, this time. When Suriel's eyes narrow and his lips thin, Castiel feels a small flare of triumph.

"Lucifer loves me," Suriel hisses. "He was happy when I found him here, when I told him I was tired of the fighting. He could have killed me, but he didn't, and you know why? Because he loves me."

"So you came to him." Castiel smirks, closing his eyes and relaxing against the pillows. It's all calculated. A part of him is crying for Suriel, for what his brother used to be. He'd never been close with Suriel, but he'd never wanted to see him like this, sick and twisted and perverted from his true nature. A part of him is weeping, but he has to focus on more than what he feels. This is bigger than him, and it's bigger than Suriel, and he has to push back his own sorrow and pain and fear and get the job done.

He's half-expecting the blow, but it still hurts when Suriel hits him hard across the face. When Castiel opens his eyes, Suriel is crouching over him, eyes blazing with fury.

"You don't know anything," Suriel spits. "Look at you! You're nothing, you're a toy to him! You're already broken, you have been since you rebelled, and he's just going to finish the job."

Castiel smiles, just a little. "If that's so, then why is he going to such an effort to heal my Grace?"

Suriel is silent for a moment, just staring at him. After a few false starts, he manages to stammer, "He – what?"

Castiel stretches, deliberately displaying more of his body than he needs to. He can feel Suriel's eyes raking over him, noting the bruises and the thin, faint scars from the cuts that Lucifer made – last night? Only last night? Castiel lifts his hand to trace over one of the scars on his arm, raising his eyebrows as he looks at Suriel and says dryly, "You thought these were just for decoration?"

He sees the flash of rage in Suriel's eyes, and knows that he's about to suffer for this part of his plan. But he has to have Suriel doubting, has to have that weak link, and he knows better than to think that Suriel would be sympathetic enough to work at it from a less painful angle. He needs Suriel to be his enemy and Lucifer's enemy, and the way to do that is to work on Suriel's jealousy and insecurity.

Suriel lifts his hand and plunges it into Castiel's chest. And if this were anyone but another angel, Fallen or not, Castiel would be in a hell of a lot more trouble right now. As it is, he screams as Suriel works his fingers into Castiel's flesh, twisting and hooking them around something that moves inside him in an entirely non-physical way.

As Suriel withdraws his hand, coated in blood and tugging a shining white strand of ethereality along with it, Castiel is acutely aware that Suriel could have done this without the physical injury. The act of drawing out an angel's Grace doesn't require the vessel to be breached.

"Why?" Suriel demands, ignoring the blood dripping from his fingers as he studies Castiel's Grace. Castiel isn't able to answer, still reeling from the pain, but Suriel doesn't seem to want him to. He tugs, drawing out more bright whiteness, and trails his other hand along it, examining it for flaws. He frowns, muttering, "It doesn't make sense."

Castiel wants to beg him to stop, but he can't. He can't show that sort of weakness to Suriel, for more reasons than pride. It's a fine line between pity and hate, and he needs Suriel to hate him. He needs to remain a rival for Lucifer's affections, not a broken creature to be pitied rather than despised. So he lets Suriel play his Grace like a harpstring, twisting and turning the bright thread like a cat's cradle, and he bites the inside of his cheek until he tastes blood and tries to fight through the pain.

After minutes that feel like hours, Suriel releases Castiel's Grace. He sits back on his heels, straddling Castiel's legs, and demands, "Why is he healing you?"

Breathing too deeply hurts. Castiel is careful to keep his breaths shallow as he replies, "Because he likes me better."

Suriel laughs, but there's a hint of uncertainty behind the mirth. He leans forward, resting his fingertips on Castiel's chest, far too close to the ragged wounds left by his fingers, and laughs again when Castiel flinches. Keeping his eyes fixed on Castiel's, he forces his fingers into Castiel's chest again, smiling when Castiel screams.

"He's not doing you any favours, healing you," Suriel says, leaning close enough that Castiel can feel the warm puff of Suriel's breath with each word. He twitches his fingertips, and the pain is shocking, taking Castiel's breath away. Suriel whispers, his voice a parody of intimacy, "Healing you just means I can hurt you."

"So hurt me," Castiel says through clenched teeth. "It won't change the facts."

Suriel takes advantage of the invitation, as Castiel knew he would. He has to suffer through this in order for Suriel to see him as a threat, he knows. That doesn't make it any easier, though, and he nearly blacks out several times, only to be dragged back to consciousness by enough healing to repair the damage but not return Castiel's strength.

Suriel doesn't even need to restrain Castiel. The pain is enough to keep Castiel weak, walking the knife edge between awareness and stupor. Suriel doesn't even use tools, simply taking advantage of angelic strength.

He loses track of time. He loses sensation, except for the pain and the warm stickiness of his own blood, on his chest and running down his sides to stain the sheets, in the back of his mouth when Suriel's hands go too far into his lungs. Each time the pain starts to be replaced by the by-now-familiar feeling of encroaching death, Suriel stops, heals him, starts again. Castiel's throat goes raw from screaming, blood from the lacerated tissue staining his teeth and lips.

And through it all, Suriel demands to know why Castiel thinks Lucifer likes him better.

Eventually, the pain stops. Castiel blinks up at Suriel, shuddering, and is quietly, painfully pleased at the look in Suriel's eyes. There's anger, but there's hurt and betrayal and doubt. It's working.

"What could he like more about you?" Suriel demands. "He may be healing your Grace, but you're still broken."

Castiel grins up at Suriel, ignoring the taste of blood in his mouth, and replies, "I interest him more than you do."

Suriel stares at him for a moment, and then abruptly pushes himself off the bed and leaves the room. Castiel stays where he is for a long time, remembering how to breathe properly, before he drags himself to his feet and stumbles into the bathroom.

He doesn't have the strength for a shower. He starts the bath running and slumps against the wall, watching the water until the tub is full enough. He intends to clean the blood off himself, let the warm water soothe muscles that have gone tight from pain, and go back to the main room to clean up the bed. The sheets must be ruined with the amount of blood Suriel spilled tonight.

He has every intention of getting out of the bath eventually. But his head is spinning, and it's just too easy to close his eyes and let sleep take him, for now.

Chapter Text

The next few days – as far as Castiel can tell – fall into a pattern. Suriel is always there when he wakes up, whether on the bed or, increasingly often, in cold, pinkish water in the bathtub. They don't talk. Castiel does his best to ignore Suriel's presence. He eats when the demons bring food, he sleeps when he gets tired, and he fills the time between meals and sleep with the books that are in the library section of the cavernous room.

He doesn't see Lucifer all this time.

Suriel watches him hungrily, long fingers twitching as though he wants to sink them into Castiel's flesh again, but he doesn't fall back onto the violence of their first reunion, not for a few days. Oh, there's some violence, enough to make Castiel bleed and ruin the sheets every day, but the savage rending of their first reunion is absent.

The reprieve doesn't last, though. He drags Castiel out of the bath one – morning, surely? Castiel can't tell, with the lack of windows – and over to the bed, ignoring the water adding to the bloodstains on the sheets. He all but throws Castiel onto the bed, too strong for someone of his vessel's delicate frame.

Castiel doesn't manage to turn onto his side before Suriel's weight settles on his back, pinning him down. Suriel's breath is warm against Castiel's ear as he hisses, "Why does he love you? I've given everything for him! Show me what he likes about you."

"It won't make a difference," Castiel says, getting his hands beneath him and pressing up, displacing Suriel from his back. He squirms out from beneath the fallen angel, turning to face him, and adds, "You could pretend all you like, but it wouldn't be enough. You'd just be a pale imitation."

Suriel stares at him for a moment, that dangerous wide-eyed stare that Castiel has come to recognise as Suriel's instincts kicking in, rather than his rational mind. Not that he thinks Suriel has a rational mind left.

When the fallen angel reaches for him, Castiel kicks out, striking Suriel on the chin and knocking him back. Suriel lets out a sharp string of curses in Enochian as Castiel scrambles back off the bed, casting around for something, anything to use as a weapon. He doesn't intend to let Suriel hurt him so easily this time.

There's nothing of much use. The razors in the bathroom are all safety razors, good for scraping the stubble from his cheeks and chin, and little else. The demons who bring him food only bring forks or spoons or blunt knives that can barely cut butter, and the silverware is removed with the plates. He supposes he could throw books at Suriel – the Chronicles of Narnia omnibus would pack quite a wallop – but they're unlikely to do much good.

He can't beat Suriel hand-to-hand, but he doesn't let that stop him from trying. Suriel comes at him, and he fights as best he can. He's still weak, though, and Suriel has all of his power, whether it's sacred or profane now. He lands enough blows to soothe his dignity, but that's small comfort when Suriel has him pinned face-first against the wall, arms twisted up behind his back in Suriel's iron grip.

"You'll show me," Suriel breathes, pressing himself along Castiel's back, insinuating a knee between Castiel's thighs and pulling him off-balance. "You'll show me what to do."

There's a rustling sound, and Castiel lets out a grunt of pain as Suriel forces his elbows together behind his back and starts wrapping what feels like a belt around them. He binds Castiel's arms from elbow to wrist, the position pulling at his shoulders and making the muscles across his chest burn.

"It's not going to help," Castiel says, turning his head enough to see Suriel from the corner of his eye. "He's not going to change his mind. Where is he?"

Suriel laughs, high and unsteady. "He's dealing with some trouble. Rebels," he says, and there's an odd sadness in his voice, like he remembers that the people he's talking about used to be his brothers-in-arms. "Why do you think he's been gone so long?"

"Don't be stupid." He has to believe that Lucifer hasn't found Ramiel and the others. He has to believe that they're still coming; it's one of the only things giving him the strength to withstand this. "There's nobody left."

"Shows what you know." Suriel jerks the belt tight, and Castiel bites back a gasp of pain. "Some of them are still alive. Some humans are fighting. So he's not going to be back any time soon. We've got plenty of time to get personal, you and me."

Castiel isn't given the chance to answer. Suriel forces him to turn, presses him back against the wall with his bound arms trapped behind him, and kisses him, hard and rough. Castiel doesn't play the meek, submissive captive this time: he bites down hard, tasting copper-tang in his mouth along with the heady sensation of another divine being's blood. He turns his head to spit Suriel's blood out; he might have been forced to drink Lucifer's blood, but he's not going to let Suriel's taint him.

Suriel hits him hard enough to crack a cheekbone. Castiel grunts in pain, returning the favour with a headbutt to Suriel's solar plexus. Suriel falls back, gasping for breath, and Castiel takes advantage of his temporary incapacitation to tear at the belt, straining to see if he can break it.

The fallen angel recovers quicker than Castiel had hoped, and has a hand around Castiel's upper arm before Castiel can fight him off. His strength is obscene; he yanks Castiel off-balance and shoves him – throws him, really – at the table, too hard for Castiel to regain his balance in time to prevent a collision. He hits the corner of the table with his side, crying out as a sharp crack accompanies a spear of pain as a rib breaks. Suriel is beside him in an instant, twisting a hand in his hair and dragging Castiel upright, bending him backwards and holding him there as he plunges his other hand into Castiel's chest again.

Castiel screams as Suriel's fingers penetrate his flesh. He can feel them perforate his lung, can feel the blood seeping in and making it difficult to breathe. Suriel withdraws his hand and heals the wound, but the blood is still there, will be there until Castiel can cough it out. He can breathe, though, if painfully.

Suriel forces him to his knees, still holding him with a hand twisted painfully tight in his hair. Castiel struggles, aiming another headbutt at a rather more delicate part of Suriel's anatomy, but Suriel's hand is too strong, holding him too firmly. Suriel looks down at him, face twisted in an expression that walks the line between hatred and madness, and kneels beside him.

Suriel's hand on his back is obscenely intimate. He works at Castiel's back and shoulders, ruthlessly manipulating muscles and involuntary reactions, until he's coaxed Castiel's wings out. They're as confined by Castiel's bound arms as his arms are by the belt, forced in and down against his back, the tips trailing against his calves where they're pinned under his arms. Suriel stands, moving in front of Castiel, and unzips the fly of his jeans.

Castiel stares at him for a moment, unable to believe the implications behind the action. For all Lucifer has been fucking him since he was brought here, Lucifer has never made him do this. Suriel seems to know it; his lip curls in a sneer, and there's a frightening light in his eyes, too bright and sharp.

"Do it," Suriel says, drawing his cock out of his jeans and stroking it a few times, his eyes fixed on Castiel's face. "And don't fuck around with me, Castiel. You bite and I'll tear the muscles out of your wings," he adds, shifting his grip from Castiel's hair to the wing joint, forcing his fingers into the feathers and flesh, making Castiel cry out in mingled fear and pain.

He can handle Suriel hurting him; he's not sure he can handle his wings being mutilated. Swallowing, he looks at Suriel for a moment, shuddering at the madness in his brother's eyes, and then he leans forward and opens his mouth.

Suriel isn’t gentle, doesn't seem to know how to be gentle anymore. He keeps one hand in Castiel's wing, matting the feathers with blood from where his fingers are buried to the first knuckle in the flesh, but he doesn’t make good on his threat to tear the muscle out; Castiel doesn't do anything to give him a reason to. Suriel's other hand returns to Castiel's hair, directing his head.

Blowjobs can't all be like this, Castiel is certain. This is barely a sex act; this is proving a point, and they both know it. Suriel fucks Castiel's mouth with little consideration for whether Castiel can breathe properly. The head of his cock hits the back of Castiel's throat, and every time Castiel gags, Suriel's hand tightens in his hair and he makes a disturbing little pleased sound. He seems to barely require Castiel's participation, except to keep his teeth out of the way; the sounds Castiel makes, whether in pain or because of the physical limitations of his body, seem to be all he really needs from Castiel.

Dimly, over the sound of his blood rushing in his ears and the thundering of his heartbeat, Castiel hears something that sounds like an inarticulate roar of rage. He cries out as Suriel's hands are torn away from him, leaving blood in his wing and his head aching from whiplash, and without Suriel keeping him upright, he falls against the side of the table, coughing.

He lies on his side, trembling and breathing in short, stuttered gasps, watching as Lucifer stands over Suriel, rage radiating off him in a subzero wave. Suriel's wings are out, spread defensively, but they do him little good. Lucifer twists his hands into them, tearing feathers and flesh, and Suriel screams. The sound is like razor wire on Castiel's nerves, and he shudders, drawing his own wings closer to his back.

Lucifer lifts Suriel by his throat, hauling him up and pinning him to the wall, his feet inches off the ground. Castiel can see bruises forming on Suriel's neck already, the skin turning blue around the bruises from the absolute chill of Lucifer's fingers. The Morningstar, his voice deathly quiet, hisses, "What do you think you're doing, Suriel?"

Suriel isn't given the chance to answer. Castiel's breathing is coming in difficult gasps now, choked by the blood still in his lungs, and he can't keep back an ugly wet hacking as he tries to clear his lungs. Lucifer takes one look at him and throws Suriel aside, moving to kneel at Castiel's side.

The belt comes off first, and Lucifer spends a few moments massaging blood back into Castiel's hands. His hands pass gently over Castiel's wing, healing the damage, and Lucifer carefully coaxes Castiel's wings back into their furled, hidden position, rubbing Castiel's back as the feathers vanish.

The broken rib is found next; Lucifer's hands on Castiel's side are firm and clinical, but despite himself Castiel can't keep back a whimper as they touch the broken rib. Lucifer pours more healing into him, but it takes longer than usual, and Castiel blinks up at him, suddenly realising that Lucifer is exhausted.

The rib and wing healed, Lucifer gets to his feet, helping Castiel to stand and holding him protectively against his chest. This close, Castiel can feel the minute tremors running through Lucifer every now and then. Something has happened to burn out almost all of the Morningstar's power, and that frightens hem both.

"The medical wing," Lucifer snaps, handing Castiel off to a pair of hovering demons, who both look terrified. Castiel's head is spinning enough that the demons move to brace him, one on either side, but their hands are nothing short of professional, staying on his back and chest to keep him upright, not wandering the way they would have when he was first brought here. Castiel's not sure whether that's because of Lucifer's presence or Lucifer's rage. The latter is quite literally palpable, making him shiver convulsively in the awful cold.

Lucifer's hand on his face is soft and bitingly cold, as he strokes Castiel's cheek once. The pain of the broken cheekbone is replaced with a deep ache as the bone knits, doing the work of six weeks' healing in a moment, and then there is no pain. Lucifer leans in and places a gentle, chaste kiss on Castiel's lips, careful to avoid the lingering bruises on Castiel's cheek, and murmurs, "They'll take care of you. They won't dare hurt you. I'll come and get you when I'm finished with him."

Castiel can see Suriel beyond Lucifer, huddled against the wall with bloody feathers sticking to his shoulders from the rents in his wings. His expression is one of unmitigated terror, the madness chased away by horrifying clarity, and Castiel feels a painful twist of pity. He doesn't want Suriel to be destroyed, despite everything. He can't just let the demons take him away and leave Suriel to his fate.

"Lucifer," he whispers. The Morningstar looks at him, gentling his gaze a little, but the hard anger still makes Castiel flinch. Even exhausted, Lucifer is frightening. Castiel continues hoarsely, "Please. Don't – you don't have to hurt him. Have – have mercy."

Lucifer's expression turns deeply sad, and he touches Castiel's face again, cradling it like it's something precious.

"So gentle," he says softly. "So forgiving. He doesn't deserve it."

"Forgiveness isn't deserved." Castiel coughs painfully; he can still feel fluid in his lungs. "That's the point of it. "

"Look after him," Lucifer says to the demons, his tone brooking no argument. "Take him to the medical wing, let him rest. Leave him alone."

"Lucifer." Castiel has to insist. There's the vessel to think about – he doesn't know if Suriel has suppressed the young man he's possessing, and he doesn't want an innocent to go through the torment that Lucifer's expression is promising. "Lucifer, please."

Lucifer kisses him once more, still carefully gentle, and says, "I'll try."

It's all the promise he's going to get. The demons carry him more than they lead him; his legs are shaking, and he's too dizzy to place his feet properly. Things go black more than once, for seconds at a time, and he's been lying down for several minutes before he realises that they've stopped.

The demons are standing by the door, looking at him nervously. He realises that they're terrified that he's going to get worse, that something will happen to make Lucifer angry with them, and he can't help feeling a tiny stab of pity.

"Go," he tells them, his voice sounding tired even to him. He coughs again, tasting blood, but it feels like the last of the fluid is out of his lungs, at least. "I'll be all right. I'm just going to sleep."

They nod, silent and scared, and all but scamper out of the room. The door locks behind them, the click somehow less loud than the one that accompanies the locking of the door to his palatial room. Why?

Only now does he look around, a little curious. There's a soft hum of machines, and a low, slow, steady beeping.

He's been here before.

He claws his way upright, looking around the room – the medical wing – wildly. He lets out a sigh of relief when he sees the two hospital beds surrounded by machinery, an unmoving form in each one. Dean and Bobby are still alive.

He gets to his feet, still shaking a little, and drags a chair over to sit beside Dean's bed. He practically collapses into it, keeping his eyes on Dean. The hunter is thinner – well, it has been months – and pale from lack of sun, sleeping quietly. Castiel isn't sure whether the sleep is something Lucifer has induced with power or with drugs, but it doesn’t matter either way, right now. He can't wake Dean, not yet.

"People are looking for us," he says quietly, not even aware that he'd decided to speak. "I know you don't think much of the other angels, but these ones aren't so bad. They weren't front-line agents during the Apocalypse, not like Uriel and Raphael and Anna. They're working with the prophet and Becky, and another girl that Ramiel says can fight, and Crowley."

He can almost hear Dean's voice. Are you kidding me? Crowley, Cas? Why the hell are a bunch of angels working with a slimeball like that?

Castiel makes a face. "I know," he says, continuing a conversation that's going on only in his mind. "I didn't like the idea of it when they told me, either. But they've got a good plan, Dean. One that I think might actually work."

One that requires Dean's brother to go to Hell. How can he be blasé about that? How can he reconcile sending Sam to that sort of torment? And yet, even as he asks himself those questions, he knows what Sam would tell him.

Me or the world, Cas. It's an easy choice. Do what has to be done.

"I'll think of something," he promises Dean. "I don't know what, but I'll think of something."

The machine's measured beeping is the only sound in the room, above Dean and Bobby's slow, even breathing. Dean is motionless in a way that Castiel has never seen him. Always before, Dean had been in motion, even when he was asleep. He never really let his guard down, not for a moment, not while they were fighting for their lives and the lives of every ignorant human on the Earth. Seeing him this still . . . it's unsettling.

Castiel slumps in his chair, unconsciously reaching out to wrap his hands around one of Dean's, careful of the IV in the back of it. Dean's skin is cool under Castiel's, the roughness of his fingers and palm reassuring proof that this is Dean. It's a tiny detail, one that not everyone would think to use, and Castiel doesn't think Lucifer cares enough about Dean to think of it. Castiel touches the rough pads of Dean's fingers with his own, remembering the rough grace that typified Dean's combat style, and smiles a little despite himself.

He's so tired. Bone-weary and bruised inside and out.

"They just need me to hold on," he continues softly. "They're working on a plan, they just need time. I just have to buy them time. So I'm trying." His voice catches; he swallows, trying to believe that it's only because of a dry throat. "I'm doing what I have to in order to survive. I'm keeping Lucifer's attention occupied, so they can find the Horsemen. I'm setting Suriel against him. I'm trying."

Dean doesn't answer. Castiel doesn't expect him to. He understands that Dean's sleep is deeper than a human should be capable of, that there's nothing short of a real angel's power that could wake him. Castiel's Grace is healing, but he doesn't have nearly the level of power needed to break a sleep like this. He doesn't expect Dean to answer, and he's not really sure why he's even talking to him. It doesn't serve a purpose. It doesn't even really make him feel better.

"I'm trying," he repeats, looking at Dean's face, memorising it in case he doesn't get the chance to see Dean again for a long time. It seems vitally important, somehow, that he remember Dean properly. Sam is being overwritten by Lucifer in Castiel's memory; it is essential that nothing mars his recollection of Dean. He licks his lips, swallows, continues, "It's – it's not easy. It's painful, and terrifying, and I don't even know if it's going to work. But I have to have faith. Not in my Father, but in my brothers, in Chuck and Becky and Risa. In Crowley. In you. I have to have faith that when we're out, you'll wake up and you'll be you. I have to believe that this is worth it."

The sleeve of Dean's shirt doesn't quite cover the edge of the hand-shaped burn on his shoulder. Seeing the darker pink skin, Castiel can't look away. He reaches out with one hand, fitting it over the mark that he can practically see through Dean's shirt. The curve of Dean's shoulder feels right beneath his hand, and it grounds him.

"I'll get you out," he whispers. He's tired, but he doesn't want to relinquish his grip on Dean's hand just yet. He compromises, leaning over to rest his head on the bed beside their linked hands. His voice cracks. "I won’t give up. I'll get you out."

He falls asleep next to Dean's bed, still holding onto him as though he could raise him from Perdition once again.

Chapter Text

Cas.

He doesn't want to wake up. He's been curled up here, arms tight around himself, legs drawn up to protect his belly, wings out and spread to defend his back and sides, for a long time. It's the dreamscape, he knows; the scratchy sheets beneath him, the flickering light that filters into his vision between his knees and his forehead resting on them, the dim, faint sound of traffic in the background – they're all things that he remembers from the days spent in this hotel room, all things that Ramiel put here for him. And he desperately doesn't want to wake up, doesn't want to leave this bastion of peace for the torment that is his waking life.

Cas. Move your ass.

"I can’t."

He's shivering, even in the dreamscape. He doesn't want to wake up; waking up will mean dealing with Lucifer, dealing with the product of Lucifer's wrath, most likely dealing with the fact that another brother is dead. Lucifer seemed too angry to spare Suriel, despite Castiel's request.

Come on, Cas! You can break down later. We're kind of on the clock here.

The smell of the medical bay is starting to intrude, overtaking the smell of ozone and fresh grass that Ramiel had put in the dreamscape. The sounds of traffic are being replaced by steady, even beeps, counting out Bobby and Dean's heartbeats.

"I don't want to wake up," he whispers, curling tighter around himself. He can feel Dean, somehow, and he doesn't want to lose that. Doesn't want to lose this lifeline.

I'll be right there. I'm counting on you. You'll—

"—get you out," Castiel finishes hoarsely, as he wakes up. He's still holding onto Dean's hand, still touching his shoulder. He sits up, looking around cautiously; he's still alone. He's lucky – if Lucifer had come and seen this, Castiel is fairly sure that a good part of the wrath that was directed at Suriel would be turned on him.

Somehow, he knows that Lucifer is close.

He climbs back onto the bed that the demons had left him on, lying down and concentrating on keeping his breathing slow and even, using the sound of the heart monitors to keep count. It's comforting, almost, to think that he's breathing at the same pace as Dean's heart.

It's not any longer than two minutes before the door opens and Lucifer enters the medical bay. He comes over to Castiel's side immediately, reaching out to run his hands over the remaining bruises; they vanish instantly. Castiel doesn't pull back, looking up at the Morningstar, frowning.

Lucifer looks exhausted. He's pale, except for the dark smudges beneath his eyes like bruises. The body that had been well-muscled only a week ago is thinner, like Lucifer is burning up all of his energy and then some, feeding on Sam's body when he runs low.

"What happened to you?" Castiel asks, concerned despite himself. Any weakness on Lucifer's part is an advantage for him and for Ramiel's group of rebels, but more than that, he's honestly worried. Lucifer never looked this fragile before.

"I'll be fine." Lucifer gives Castiel a tired smile. "I wanted to bring you back to your room. It's much more comfortable than this place."

It's tempting to just agree, but Castiel has to ask.

"What did you do to Suriel?"

Lucifer's smile turns cruel, and he fishes a small glass bottle from his pocket. It's filled with something blindingly bright that's not quite gaseous and not quite liquid, with a black, inky core like smoke.

Castiel can't stop staring at it, horrified. He knows what it is, without Lucifer telling him. He can feel it in his bones.

"What—" His voice cracks; he swallows and tries again. "What did you do with his vessel?"

Lucifer makes a dismissive gesture, pocketing the bottle again. Castiel flinches; he can almost hear Suriel screaming from his glass prison. Lucifer says, "I assumed you wouldn't want me to kill it."

"I didn't." Castiel can't help it; his eyes are inexorably drawn to the pocket that contains the bottle. "Is – is he all right?"

"As well as expected." Lucifer shrugs. "What do you want me to do with him?"

"Let the vessel go," Castiel says, sitting up carefully. He's sure that this will have a heavy price, but he's grown fond of humanity; he doesn't want an innocent brutalised if he can help it. He's already selling his dignity and self-respect, so adding another life to the bill won't make that much of a difference.

The silence is oppressive, broken only by the beeping of the heart monitors. Castiel stays quiet, watching Lucifer nervously. The Morningstar eventually smiles, leaning down to press a kiss to Castiel's lips.

"You're too good for them," he murmurs, sliding his fingers into Castiel's hair, shockingly gentle. His tongue swipes over Castiel's bottom lip, and Castiel obediently parts his lips, letting Lucifer deepen the kiss without fighting it. This close, he can feel the tiny tremors running through Lucifer's body.

Ramiel and the others are close, he knows that. He has to seize every advantage he can.

He shifts on the bed, reaching out to rest his hands on Lucifer's cool skin, one gripping the Morningstar's shoulder lightly, the other resting at his hip. He lets Lucifer direct the kiss, but he doesn't fight it, and he leans into Lucifer's touch voluntarily, instead of making Lucifer fight him.

Eventually, Lucifer breaks the kiss, pulling back just enough to rest his forehead against Castiel's, looking at him intently.

"This is new," he murmurs. "What brought about the change of heart?"

This is where Castiel has to be careful. He has to walk the knife-edge between truth and lies, and it's going to be difficult to judge every word whilst still speaking normally. But he's prepared for the question, and the answer comes easily enough.

"I'm tired," he says, very softly. His hands, still touching Lucifer, can feel the tiny shudders of the archangel's body. "I'm tired, and I . . . I don't want to hurt anymore."

Every word is truth. He's exhausted, bone-weary in more ways than the purely physical, and the very thought of more pain is enough to make him shudder. He closes his eyes, lets his head drop forward until he's practically leaning against Lucifer's shoulder, just sits there and breathes and hopes that there's enough exhaustion and emptiness in his voice to make Lucifer believe him.

"Shh," Lucifer whispers, stroking Castiel's hair softly. "No more pain. I never wanted to hurt you, Castiel. I love you."

They stay that way for a few more minutes, Lucifer standing with his arms around Castiel, who's still sitting on the bed, before Lucifer reluctantly pulls away. Castiel looks up at him, and Lucifer gives him another soft smile, holding out a pair of jeans and a dark blue button-up shirt.

Castiel blinks at the clothing for a moment before recognising what it is. Lucifer doesn't look away as he dresses, but his gaze is faraway; he's seeing something completely different to what's right in front of him.

The shirt is loose – one of Sam's, Castiel assumes – and the jeans threaten to slip over his hips with every move he makes, but they're clothes, at least. Still no shoes, but the floors here are comfortable enough to walk on, if cold sometimes.

Once Castiel is dressed, Lucifer slides an arm around his waist, pulling him close as he leads the way back to the room that has been Castiel's world for the past few weeks. Castiel is relieved to see that the entire place has been cleaned up, as pristine now as it was when he was first brought here. There's no blood on the bed or the carpet, no dark silk sheets ruined by water and sweat and tears. Lucifer guides Castiel over to the bed, sitting him down gently, and the sheets beneath him are cotton this time – good, expensive cotton, but a far cry from the ostentatious sensuality of silk. Castiel prefers these ones.

Lucifer sits down beside him. Castiel frowns at him, uncertain for a moment, and then realises that Lucifer has no idea what to do next.

The Morningstar is afraid, Castiel realises with a start. He's afraid that whatever Suriel did to Castiel has broken him, and he doesn't want to make it worse.

Castiel will use every bit of his brother's fragility against him, if he can.

He reaches out to gently touch Lucifer's hand, curling his fingers around it. Lucifer looks down at their hands in something that's almost confusion, brow knitting as he looks at Castiel's hand covering his own.

"What happened to you?" Castiel asks.

"There are others." Lucifer's voice is subdued, but more than that, it's tired. "The chief legion is gone, the archangels, but the others? There were thousands of angels, hundreds of platoons. Hell couldn't defeat them all. There are pockets of resistance, and every day they fight for a foothold." He lets out a sad little huff of laughter. "And I'm one person. They can hit me with everything, and they lose most of their numbers, but they wear me down."

"You're safe here," Castiel murmurs. A part of him wants to comfort Lucifer, no matter how appalled the rest of him is. "Nobody can find this place. Even I don't know where it is."

"They don't understand." Some of Sam's desperation is in Lucifer's tone now, the way Sam always sounded when he was trying to explain his cravings for demon blood. "They don't understand that I want to return this planet, this beautiful, glorious creation, back to the way it was when our Father made it. Back to the way it was intended. They just see the death, the necessary sacrifices, and they don't understand. They—"

Castiel silences Lucifer by kissing him.

"Stop," he whispers eventually, pulling back a bare millimetre, his lips brushing over Lucifer's as he speaks. "Stop thinking about it. You don't have to rationalise to me."

He goes to kiss Lucifer again, but the Morningstar pulls back, one hand reaching out to wrap firmly around Castiel's wrist, the other coming up to cup Castiel's face, fingertips pressing firmly but not painfully on Castiel's jaw, forcing him to look at Lucifer.

"Why?" Lucifer asks. There's something in his voice that Castiel is startled to realise is fear. "Why are you doing this? You're not broken. Suriel couldn't break you. He couldn't."

It's a litany, almost a prayer, and a part of Castiel weeps to hear it.

"No, he didn't break me." He doesn't pull away from Lucifer's hands, but he lifts his free hand to brush back some hair that flops over Lucifer's forehead. "Suriel – he's mad, Lucifer. Twisted up inside. I didn't want to turn into that. And . . . at the end of the day, you're my brother. You never lied, not like the others did. You're healing my Grace." He sighs. "And Sam said yes. He must have had a reason."

Lucifer is silent for several long moments, looking at Castiel. Finally, he leans in to kiss Castiel lightly. There's something so much more fragile about him right now.

"What did Suriel do to you?" Lucifer asks after a few minutes. He still hasn't let go of Castiel's wrist or jaw, but his grip isn't tight or painful. It's almost as though he's afraid to let go.

Castiel shakes his head. "You don't need to know details," he insists. "I don't want to go over it again. Please."

Lucifer nods, accepting that, at least for now. He kisses Castiel again, shifting them both so that Castiel is lying on his back, Lucifer straddling his hips and pinning his wrist to the mattress above his head. It's somehow a less vulnerable position than it would have been a week ago. Castiel knows, somehow, that Lucifer desperately doesn't want to hurt him now.

Lucifer releases his grip on Castiel's jaw, moving that hand to wrap around Castiel's free hand. He keeps kissing Castiel as he brings that hand up above his head as well, pinning both of Castiel's wrists with one large, long-fingered hand. Castiel lets him, returning the kiss without fighting the restraint. Lucifer is in a delicate emotional state right now, and that's the perfect opportunity for Castiel to get through his defences.

He ignores the part of him that feels guilty for doing this.

"I want you," Lucifer murmurs into the kiss, sliding his free hand under Castiel's shirt to play lightly over his chest, fingertips flicking at his nipples and making Castiel gasp softly into Lucifer's mouth. "I love you. I'll never hurt you."

"It's all right," Castiel whispers. He feels oddly limp and pliant beneath Lucifer, and it's only partially an act. Without the pain to temper it, without having to steel himself and try to keep from screaming, it's so much easier to succumb to the pleasure.

Lucifer stops kissing him suddenly, pulling away completely. Dazed, Castiel sits up, watching as Lucifer strips off his tie. Rejoining Castiel on the bed, Lucifer gently but firmly pulls Castiel's hands behind his back, binding them together. It's not an uncomfortable position, not for now, at least. Lucifer settles himself into a seated position, back against the headboard, carefully arranging Castiel between his legs, pulling Castiel firmly against him, back-to-chest.

"I'll never hurt you," he murmurs again, starting to press hard, rough kisses to Castiel's neck. One hand slips up beneath Castiel's shirt again, cool and distracting as his fingers pluck at Castiel's nipples, and the other stays firm against Castiel's stomach, holding him still.

Castiel is getting used to being tied up, and at least this time Lucifer doesn't seem at all inclined to be violent. He doesn't seem inclined to be all that physical, either; for all his attentions to Castiel are intent, he's not paying any attention to himself, and his body isn’t reacting – Castiel is in the perfect position to tell, and Lucifer's lack of arousal is obvious. Whatever this turns into, it's not going to be sex proper.

"Stop thinking," Lucifer murmurs, an odd edge to his voice that's nearly a plea. The hand on Castiel's stomach drifts down, slipping under the waistband of his jeans to wrap around his cock, not stroking yet, just holding. Lucifer keeps pinching and tugging Castiel's nipples, kissing him every time he lets out a breathy gasp or low moan, seemingly intent on working him into arousal over as long a period of time as possible.

Castiel is distinctly aware of the time passing, achingly slow. Lucifer keeps kissing the side of his neck, keeps tormenting him in such a careful, almost gentle manner, that's such a contrast to the treatment Castiel is used to that it's disconcerting. Every now and then Lucifer's hand moves on his cock, stroking once or twice, enough to make Castiel gasp and cry out but nothing more, not at first. It's only when Castiel is tense and quivering in Lucifer's arms, still barely on the edge of arousal, that Lucifer starts to touch him in earnest.

Every erogenous zone in Castiel's body is aching by the time Lucifer starts to stroke him properly. The slightest touch of Lucifer's fingers on his nipples draws whimpered moans from him, the already sensitive flesh overstimulated nearly to the point of pain. Lucifer murmurs something soft and unintelligible, silencing a whimper with a kiss as he works his hand over Castiel's cock, rubbing his thumb over the head to collect the drops of pre-ejaculate to help lubricate his hand. He keeps stroking, slowly enough that Castiel is kept on the edge, hips trying to rock up into Lucifer's hand of their own accord.

Something breaks through the sensations. Held firmly against Lucifer's chest the way he is, Castiel can't help noticing the odd, hard bumps against his shoulder blade – something in Lucifer's shirt pocket. That in itself wouldn't be remarkable, except that along with the shapes is the undeniable sense of power. Reined violence, the feel of blood, shrieks of fury; bone-deep craving, desolate emptiness, a wailing cavern waiting to be filled. Even as he rocks up into Lucifer's hand and whimpers into a kiss, Castiel struggles to identify that power, and eventually, as Lucifer rubs his thumb over the head of Castiel's cock again, drawing another gasped cry, Castiel works out exactly what it is he's sensing.

The rings. War and Famine.

"Stop thinking," Lucifer whispers, his voice ragged, and Castiel realises that, beyond the power and the planning and the certainty that he's right, Lucifer is lonely and afraid and uncertain. They're not emotions he ever ascribed to his rebellious brother, but there's no denying them now, and for a moment, Castiel deeply regrets what he's going to have to do.

How many times was Lucifer betrayed? How many of his brothers turned against him, when he told their Father that he couldn't obey His decree to love humanity? Castiel remembers the War – everyone remembers the War – but he'd never thought about it like this. And suddenly, it all makes sense. Lucifer's desperation to have Castiel love him. His anger at the idea of Castiel loving Dean. His combined rage and hurt at the other angels fighting him, and the toll that those combats take on him. It all makes so much sense now. Lucifer's as mad as Suriel was, but his madness was begun long ago, the moment God had Michael cast him from Heaven.

I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

Lucifer can't hear his thoughts, though, will never know how much Castiel hates that they have to be on opposite sides. Because while Castiel loved his brother once, and pities him now, he still loves humanity, and he loves this planet. They deserve the right to live.

"Stop thinking," Lucifer begs, and Castiel lets himself go limp against the Morningstar, closing his eyes and letting the sensations overtake him. He has what he needs now; he can let go, let Lucifer believe that he's given in.

The sensations come to a head, overwhelming an already depleted body. He cries out raggedly as he comes, shuddering in Lucifer's arms. He vaguely feels Lucifer kiss him, and movement as Lucifer cleans him up. He's exhausted, though, as exhausted as Lucifer is, and he barely registers Lucifer untying him and lying down beside him before sleep takes him.

He slips into the dreamscape almost instantly. Ramiel's dream, he realises, looking around. The lake is the same as the first time he and Ramiel spoke, the scent of ozone and fresh grass still in the air, but there's something . . . else. A note of pain in the silence, a terrible sense of loss.

Ramiel is standing by the lake, his back to Castiel. His shirt is plastered to his back with blood and gore and broken feathers, and Castiel can see shards of bone sticking through the thin cotton. Ramiel's feet are bare and bruised, and he is standing in a small circle of blasted earth, the soil turned dry and cracked, as though a searing heat had struck there.

Crowley had said Ramiel had lost his wings. Castiel hadn't been prepared for the reality of it.

"We're close," Ramiel says, without turning. His voice is muted, and Castiel can see him trembling. Ramiel continues, "We know how to get to you; we'll be there within the day. If you can distract Lucifer for long enough, we can get through the demons. He doesn't keep many of them around."

"How am I supposed to do that?" Castiel demands. It's not an easy thing Ramiel is asking of him, after all.

Ramiel looks over his shoulder at Castiel, giving him a mirthless smile, and turns to face him; Castiel is guiltily relieved when the ruin of Ramiel's back is turned away from him. Ramiel is holding a notepad; on it is a symbol in Enochian.

Castiel has seen that symbol before, or something like it. Sam has something similar on his arm, with a burn through it.

"It's like a binding sigil," Ramiel explains. "Barachiel came up with it. It's similar to the marks he puts on the hearts of his targets, but with some added dimensions. If it works, it should lock Lucifer into Sam's body so he can't jump out, but it should also give Sam more of a chance to take over, at least for a while."

"So there's no way for us to save Sam," Castiel says bluntly. He'd expected that, but it still rankles. He'd grown to like Sam. If he locks Lucifer into Sam's body, then there's no getting around it: Sam will end up in Hell.

"I wish there was another way," Ramiel tells him. He's sincere, Castiel knows; Ramiel has always liked humanity more than he should. "I wish we could win this unequivocally, but we can't. We have to make necessary sacrifices," he spits. "We can’t put Lucifer back in the cage unless he's in Sam."

"I know." Castiel sighs, reaching out to put his hand on Ramiel's shoulder, carefully avoiding the bloody patches. "It's all right. I think he'd understand."

"Do you know where the rings are?" Ramiel asks. "This is all conjecture right now. We have Death and Pestilence's rings, but not the other two."

"Lucifer has them." Castiel thinks back to earlier that evening, to feeling the telltale lumps and odd power of the shapes in Sam's pocket. "I don't know why he's keeping them. Maybe he's punishing the Horsemen for failing him."

"Then we can do it," Ramiel says, and there's no celebration in his voice. This isn't something they want to do, it's something they have to do. "We'll be at the compound within the day, Castiel. Be ready for us. Get that sigil onto Lucifer, and be prepared for a fight."

Castiel takes the notepad, committing the sigil to memory. An odd combination of three different sigils; binding, suppressing, and strengthening, interwoven to fit their purpose. He can feel Barachiel in this, like Ramiel said; the Cupid was always good at mixing sigils to fit Heaven's purpose. And he supposed this is Heaven's purpose, now.

Castiel commits the sigil to memory, in preparation for the worst act of betrayal he has committed.

Chapter Text

Castiel wakes slowly, unwilling to face the reality of what he has to do. Lucifer is still sleeping, sprawled over more than half of the oversized bed, looking more like Sam than he has since Castiel was brought here. Castiel can see Sam in that exhausted sprawl, and his heart aches for what he's about to do, to both of them.

He can feel the other angels now; they're close. Ramiel, Gabriel, Barachiel, Haniel; he can feel the difference in their Graces, the subtle flavours that angels identify each other by. They're open to him, to give him warning that they're coming, and he almost wishes they weren't. He can feel Ramiel's pain, Barachiel's regret at all the death they've seen and caused, the sharp edges that have crept into Haniel's former gentleness. And there's a deep, wrenching sorrow in Gabriel that Castiel can't account for.

They're close enough that they can communicate, after a fashion; words don't make it across, but ideas do. This close to battle, Ramiel is doing all the communication; Barachiel is too wrapped up in his sadness that battle is necessary, and Haniel is . . . distracted. Ramiel sends him the image of a brown-haired young woman, walking beside the tall, dark woman who must be Haniel; Becky is pregnant, which explains Haniel's distraction. Beside them is the Prophet Chuck and a dark-haired woman with a hard expression and a shotgun; that must be Risa, the girl Becky brought into the fight.

Behind them are Gabriel and Barachiel; behind them all is Crowley.

They're not far, Ramiel informs him. Castiel relays his acknowledgment, and then turns his attention to the task at hand.

He needs something sharp. The room has been cleaned up; he won't find anything useful here. He pauses, and then sighs, accepting the only way. Moving as little as possible – Lucifer is sleeping with one arm thrown haphazardly across Castiel's chest and Castiel doesn't want to risk waking him – he unfurls his wings and reaches up to grasp a flight feather, one of the thick, sturdy ones as long as his forearm. Grimacing, he yanks until it comes free, leaving a tiny patch of blood, and then snaps the end. What's left is sharp and jagged, and will be serviceable as a carving tool.

He tries not to think about how great an act of betrayal he is about to commit. Traitors are the province of Hell, he knows, and he can't help but wonder if this means he's going to end up there eventually. Angels don't have souls the same way that humans do, but then, Castiel isn't purely an angel anymore, is he? Lucifer has been healing his Grace, and he's feeling stronger than he has since the Apocalypse, but there's still the feel of mortal about him, even if he doesn't actually think he's aging.

He shoves his doubts aside. This is what's best for the world, for humanity. So it's horrible for him; so what? He has to think about more than just himself. He's used to thinking that way – angels don't get far if they're selfish, and selfishness is a minor sin – but he's never had to do anything like this.

Steeling himself, he shifts carefully, keeping Lucifer's arm draped across his chest, wrapping his off-hand around Lucifer's wrist. He calls the sigil to mind and stabs the jagged end of the feather into Lucifer's arm, beginning to carve the sigil into the pale flesh of his wrist.

Lucifer wakes with a start and a surprised shout of pain. Castiel ignores him, using all of his strength to pin Lucifer's arm down and continue carving. The blood welling up is getting all over his hand, obscuring his vision, but he's working from memory now, not sight.

The smell of blood is thick and cloying, and he can hear Lucifer snarling, swearing, promising to rip Castiel's eyes out and burn his wings and break every bone in his body. Castiel ignores him, pressing his shoulder against Lucifer's chest to hold him down as he keeps working, keeps concentrating on both the sigil and the effort it's taking to keep his grip iron-hard around Lucifer's wrist.

Lucifer claws at Castiel's face with his free hand, nails catching and dragging red furrows down Castiel's cheek. Castiel ducks his head and ignores the sting, gritting his teeth. The blood drying on his fingers, smearing over the flesh of Lucifer's arm, begins to smoke, as the sigil begins to burn a dark, angry red-black, like a coal that's just burning out – or has been dormant and brought back to life by a single breath. Castiel can feel the heat coming off it, can smell burnt blood and flesh, and the ragged quality that's seeping into Lucifer's hoarsening threats is enough to tell him that the sigil is already doing its work, even before it's fully finished.

Trying not to gag from the stench of burning flesh, Castiel drags the jagged end of the feather through Lucifer's flesh, finishing the sigil. He turns the feather on himself, jabbing it into his palm to draw his own blood. The end of the feather, coated in Lucifer's blood, is almost red-hot, but somehow doesn't cauterise the wound. Castiel works his hand twice, getting the blood flowing, and then seals the sigil with his blood, activating it the same way a banishing sigil is activated by blood.

Lucifer throws him off, the blow strengthened by desperation and pain and betrayal. Castiel lets out a pained grunt as his back collides with the wall, knocking the breath out of him for a few moments. He can hear Lucifer gasping through the rushing of blood in his ears, can hear the pain, and he knows that the sigil is accurate. It scares him a little, that something this violent could be conceived of by Barachiel, always – until now – the most gentle of his brothers.

By the time he can focus again, Lucifer is on his knees on the bed, hand locked tight around the elbow of the arm Castiel carved the sigil in, as though he can keep the sigil from affecting him with a tourniquet. He's breathing in short, ragged gasps that, despite their quietness, betray the level of pain he's in. The sigil is still burning that same red-black, and lines of the same colour are winding up and down Lucifer's arm, like lines of infection from a wound gone bad.

He has to act now, if this is going to work.

"Sam," he says, straightening up and starting to breathe a little easier. "Can you hear me? If he's keeping you awake, Sam, you have to listen to me."

"Sam's not coming back," Lucifer spits, the hatred in his eyes making Castiel shudder. Lucifer is looking at him the way he looked at Suriel, and that bodes well for nobody. Still holding his arm away from himself, almost like it's not part of his body, Lucifer adds, "Dean's stint in Hell is going to look like a fucking walk in the park compared to what I'm going to do to you, Castiel."

"Shut up," Castiel says harshly, striding over to the bed and shoving Lucifer onto his back, reaching down to tear the rings from his pocket. It feels wrong, being able to physically dominate someone as big as Sam, but the sigil and Lucifer's depleted state make it easier than it should be. Castiel doesn't take advantage of it. He takes the rings, and then retreats a few steps from the bed.

He takes no pleasure in the brief jolt of fear that crosses Lucifer's face when he realises that Castiel knows about the rings.

"Sam. I need you to fight," he says firmly, looking right at Lucifer's – Sam's – eyes, willing them to turn from cold and hard to filled with concerned guilt. As long as Castiel has known Sam, there's always been underlying guilt in his eyes; this is the first time Castiel has wanted to see it.

"He's got nothing left to fight for," Lucifer gasps, laughing. "You're an idiot, Castiel. You're depending on a broken marionette."

"Ramiel made a dreamscape for me," Castiel says, still looking at Sam's eyes. "He's the angel who gives prophetic dreams to the prophets, dream is his domain. He wanted me to have somewhere I could feel safe, so he drew on one of my strongest positive memories and made a dreamscape for me."

"Heaven?" Lucifer asks sarcastically, writhing as the sigil burns brighter. Castiel shakes his head, smiling a little, sadly.

"An old motel room, with two beds, peeling wallpaper, the Righteous Man who spilled blood in Hell cleaning guns on one of the beds, and Lucifer's Vessel looking up the hunting habits of phantom cats," he says quietly. "Team Free Will."

"Is that what you think this is?" Lucifer lets out another harsh, tormented bark of laughter, one that turns into a groan as the sigil burns brighter. "Free will? It's a lie, Castiel, the sweetest lie our Father ever told. You betrayed me—" Castiel winces as Lucifer's voice cracks; he can tell himself it's because of the physical pain, rather than the emotional pain of Castiel's betrayal, but he can't make himself believe it – "You betrayed me for that? I loved you. I loved you. I was going to make you the best of all of them!"

"No." Castiel can't keep the sadness out of his voice; even now, he can't lie to Lucifer, and it seems pointless to try. Pointless, and insulting. "You were going to make me into a mockery of what I should be. I'm betraying you because it's the right thing to do."

"But you don't want to," Lucifer argues, pouring persuasion into his voice as he writhes on the bed, every muscle tense, like Sam during demon blood detox but magnified a hundredfold. "You don't want to do this, Castiel. I know you don't."

"I do a lot of things I don't want to do," Castiel says quietly. "Sam, you need to hold on. Just a little while longer."

"He's mine," Lucifer snarls, his voice gone rough and savage with pain and betrayal. "He said yes, Castiel, he's mine."

Castiel ignores Lucifer. He has to believe that there's something left of Sam, enough to fight through Lucifer's hold on him just long enough for them to open the cage and throw Lucifer back to Hell. He's trying to ignore the nagging voice in the back of his head that points out that plan sends Sam to Hell, too; he can't see a way around it. Lucifer's in Sam's body, and Castiel doesn't know of any way to extricate the soul while Sam's still alive.

He approaches the bed again, trying to stay dispassionate as he looks down at Lucifer. The red-black lines have wound their way up his arm, under his sleeve, and Castiel can see them edging past the collar, burning beneath Lucifer's skin like fire. Lucifer is flat on his back on the bed, sweat standing on his forehead, muscles and tendons tight as he tries to fight the sigil's power. He's panting, letting out ragged, animal grunts of pain, and it tears at Castiel's heart.

Castiel sits down beside him, reaching up to take Lucifer's face in his hands, and forces his head around so Castiel can look Sam in the eyes.

"You can fight this," he says firmly, looking through Lucifer to Sam. "We're going to fix things, but I need you to fight it."

Lucifer's hold is wavering. Castiel can see the struggle in Sam's eyes. He tightens his fingers against Sam's jaw; not enough to hurt, but enough to be felt.

The hand with the sigil in its wrist lifts, shaking like a leaf in a tornado, and wraps around Castiel's arm. The grip is weak, but it's growing stronger. Castiel smiles, and says, "Keep fighting. I'll make sure Dean's all right, when all this is done. I promise."

"Cas." His name comes out in little more than a whisper, but the nickname is like water to a man dying of thirst. Nobody but humans – and Anna, the treacherous part of his mind points out – calls him Cas. Sam licks his lips, flinching as the sigil pulses again, and manages, "Cas. Talk to me."

Castiel slips one hand down to cover Sam's hand on his arm, giving Sam as much support as he can. He can only think of one thing that will give Sam enough strength to fight.

"Can you stand?"

Sam struggles to his feet, leaning heavily on Castiel. He has lost an alarming amount of weight, and it's far too easy for Castiel to support him. Castiel leans down to pick up Sam's jacket and helps Sam into it, covering the sigil, just in case they run into someone in the corridor, and sends a brief message to Ramiel to let him know they're going to be in the medical bay.

The short walk is agonizingly long this time. Sam's steps are awkward and uncoordinated as he fights with Lucifer, and Castiel has to steer them into side rooms several times to avoid crossing paths with demons. He can hear the little gasps that Sam lets out as the sigil pulses, and he wishes he could at least alleviate the pain, but all he can do is support Sam as they make their slow, painful way to the medical bay.

Halfway there, a demon comes out of a side room unexpectedly, and looks at them both with an expression that starts out terrified but all too quickly turns calculating. Making a note to apologise to Sam later, Castiel leaves Sam leaning against the wall and surges forward, striking the demon hard and fast, before it gets the chance to sound the alarm. One hand goes lightning-fast into the demon's throat, crushing its trachea, and he focuses, forcing the demon out.

It's been a long time since he could exorcise demons. It's a welcome return of a useful skill.

As the demon's vessel crumples, Castiel turns back to Sam, who has managed to stay on his feet, albeit at a rather alarming angle against the wall. He can see the sigil burning through the fabric of Sam's jacket. They don't have much time left.

He manages to get Sam to the medical bay before Sam collapses, gritting his teeth as the sigil burns brighter. Castiel gets him into a chair by Dean's bed, unwraps Sam's hand from his arm and transfers it to Dean's. Sam and Dean have always been each other's anchors as much as they're each other's weak points, and Castiel is certain that being this close to Dean will help Sam find the strength to keep Lucifer at bay.

The waiting is awkward. Castiel tries not to hear the sounds of pain that Sam makes, occupying himself with searching the medical bay for anything that might be used as a weapon. He comes up short and sighs; he'll have to rely on exorcism, and he's not sure how many of those he can pull off before he uses up what's left of his strength.

Three demons appear before the other angels; Castiel takes each one out with brutal efficiency. He doesn't have time to be concerned about their vessels, not with the entire world on the line.

The sounds of fighting reach the medical bay long before the others get there physically. Castiel stays standing over Sam, whose eyes are closed as he holds onto Dean's hand, muscles twitching beneath his skin, the red-black lines winding their way up his throat. But Lucifer hasn't been able to take control again, and that's all Castiel needs from Sam.

Their arrival is heralded by gunshots, swearing, and the thud of falling bodies. Castiel looks up as they enter the medical bay, feeling sick to his stomach when he realises that most of them can't keep back their reaction to the sight of him.

It hits the angels the worst; they see more than just the physical, of course. Haniel recoils, moving closer to Becky in a gesture that's at once protective and aggressive – there's danger here, and she will protect Becky at all costs. Ramiel's expression doesn't change, but it's still filled with pain and loss, and Castiel knows that, like him, Ramiel is operating sheerly on nerves right now. Barachiel's face falls and Castiel is fairly sure that, were Barachiel not carrying what looks like ammo cases, he'd be rushing across the room to hug Castiel.

Of all the angels, Gabriel is the only one whose reaction isn't visible. Crowley just raises an eyebrow in a very you look like shit sort of way, shooting a pursuing demon neatly in the head.

Chuck is visibly shaken, but Risa pays Castiel very little mind; that makes sense, he tells himself, she's never met him before. She doesn't know the difference between the way he normally looks and the stretched-thin, used-up way he looks now.

They've all come, because if this fails, there'll be nothing left to fight for. Keeping troops back only matters if there's going to be an afterward.

"You get the rings?" Gabriel asks. Castiel nods, taking War and Famine's rings from his pocket, trying not to flinch at the malignant power coursing through them.

Becky, Risa, Ramiel and Haniel take up positions near the door, taking down the demons that make it into the room, funnelled into small, manageable groups. Chuck and Barachiel are on reloading duty, it seems; that makes sense for Barachiel, who has never been comfortable with violence.

"Up you get, Sammy-boy," Gabriel says, the lightness of his tone not quite hiding the tension in it. He and Crowley help Sam to his feet; Sam's swaying, still fighting to keep control long enough for them to do what needs to be done. Crowley tosses the two rings to Castiel, who nearly drops them when he feels the power coming from them. The power leaking from Pestilence's ring is disgusting and makes him feel tainted just by handling it; the power leaking from Death's ring is old, unfathomably old. Castiel knows that he could study the ring for an aeon and still not get close to understanding it.

The rings draw themselves into the right configuration with a click, and Castiel swallows. This is it.

Sam looks at him, held up by Crowley and Gabriel, and manages a nod. "Do it," he says, his voice hoarse but resolute. "Open the cage."

Castiel holds the rings up, closes his eyes to collect himself, and puts the sounds of fighting out of his mind. Puts the enormity of what he's about to do out of his mind. He can't think about what this really means, not if he's going to go through with it.

He begins the chant.

Chapter Text

Time seems to slow down, for all Castiel knows it's moving at the same speed as it always does. The words of the chant seem to fall from his lips with funereal slowness, and he almost feels as though each syllable burns his lips as he speaks it. There's nothing in the chant that would actually cause that sort of pain, but the very act of speaking the words is tearing at him.

He's aware, as he looks at Sam, that Sam is looking past him. Castiel turns his head a little as he chants; Crowley is there, holding a shotgun but not firing it. Instead, he's looking at Sam, his expression intent.

As Castiel finishes the chant and the whirling vortex appears, a dizzying drop into oblivion, Crowley's expression sharpens and Sam nods.

"Tell Dean I love him," he says simply, and steps into the cage.

The vortex snaps closed, and the rings abruptly separate, as though they know that their use is over. Castiel pockets the rings, grimacing as Pestilence's brushes against his skin momentarily. Famine and War's are nasty, but they don't feel nearly so filthy as Pestilence's. Death's is comparatively benign; it's breathtakingly old and powerful, but not malevolent.

As soon as the rings are away, Gabriel shoves his shotgun at Castiel and strides across the medical bay, stopping by the beds and beginning to methodically disconnect the tubes and wiring attached to Dean. His work is serenaded by shotguns' songs, courtesy of Crowley, Risa, Haniel, Ramiel, and Becky. Castiel shoves the shotgun through his belt and joins Gabriel at the beds; there's only so much room at the door for gunmen, and he's not sure he's steady enough to be an effective shot. He can better help them all by disconnecting Bobby from the machinery.

"Can you wake them?" he asks Gabriel as they work. Gabriel barely glances at him, and that's concerning. Usually he'd expect some sort of smartass remark, even in the midst of a situation like this; that Gabriel is being quiet is unusual and not a little unsettling. Castiel repeats the question, and Gabriel nods tersely.

"Not until we're out," the other archangel clarifies, after a moment. "They'll be too weak to move fast. Barachiel and I can carry them out."

Castiel is about to ask why Barachiel and Gabriel in particular, and then thinks better of it. Castiel is still weak, and can't be sure he'd be able to carry Risa, much less Dean or Bobby. Chuck, Risa and Becky aren't physically strong enough to carry men of Bobby and Dean's stature, even if Becky wasn't obviously pregnant. Haniel will always choose to protect a pregnant woman over a man. Ramiel's vessel is tall but willowy, patently unsuited for carrying people. And none of them trust Crowley enough to let him take Dean or Bobby.

They fall into formation almost unconsciously, once Bobby and Dean are disconnected from the machinery. Chuck, Risa, Ramiel, and Crowley take point; Barachiel and Gabriel come after them with their burdens; Castiel, Becky, and Haniel bring up the rear. The four at the front get rid of most of the opposition with a mix of shotgun fire and Ramiel and Crowley exorcising demons that manage to get in too close; Castiel, Becky and Haniel concentrate on protecting Barachiel and Gabriel from interference, and taking out any demons who try to wait until they've passed before attacking. Slowly, eventually, they make their way out of the building and –

Castiel stops short, staring at the minibus parked haphazardly, halfway onto the sidewalk. It's painted blue and green, with orange flowers, and the words "The Mystery Machine" are emblazoned on the side. Becky grabs his sleeve to tug him forward, muttering, "Gabriel's fault. Don't ask."

They strap Dean and Bobby into seats, the general consensus being that getting away from here before they get mobbed by demons is rather more important than waking them just yet, and the rest of them pile into the remaining seats. Castiel ends up sitting in the back row beside Dean, unconsciously reaching out to wrap his fingers around the hem of Dean's shirt, where nobody else can see. Barachiel is on his other side, with Bobby beside him, and Castiel is comforted, a little, by Barachiel's solid, quiet presence. His gentle brother has been changed by the war, they all have, but Barachiel has always been – will always be, God willing – the most comforting of Castiel's brothers.

The drive is uncomfortably quiet. Eventually, Castiel clears his throat – still feeling raw from the chant – and asks, "Can you wake them, Gabriel?"

Gabriel is the only one of them that he thinks could break whatever it is Lucifer did, at least easily. Barachiel probably could if he really tried, but Haniel has always been better at protection than breaking the work of other angels, Castiel is still weak, and Ramiel is walking too close to the knife-edge.

Gabriel twists around in his seat, in the row in front of Castiel. For a brief instant his expression is unguarded, and Castiel can see deep, heart-wrenching sorrow in Gabriel's eyes, the sort of emotion he'd never have expected from his wayward older brother. And then Gabriel schools his expression into its usual sardonic neutrality and says, "Lucy didn't teach me everything I know."

He reaches out to touch two fingers to Dean's forehead, lightly, and Castiel wrestles down the urge to smack Gabriel's hand away, knowing what Gabriel has done to Sam and Dean in the past. There's a tense moment, and then, when nothing happens, Crowley says in a dry tone, "Well. That was exciting."

"Fuck you," Gabriel snaps, keeping his fingers on Dean's forehead. "You haven't lost anyone today, so keep your goddamn mouth shut."

Barachiel and Haniel wince at the blasphemy; Ramiel and Castiel don't. Castiel is too busy worrying about the tight, strained note in Gabriel's voice, wondering whether he should suggest that Barachiel try to wake Dean and Bobby.

"I'll wake Mr. Singer," Barachiel volunteers, seemingly reading Castiel's mind. His steady, comforting presence doesn't go anywhere, but Castiel can feel his Grace turning aside, as Barachiel brings his power to bear on Bobby. Gabriel closes his eyes, concentrating again, and then there's a gasp and Dean lurches forward, brought up short by the seatbelt.

"Dean!" Castiel moves to press Dean back against the seat, being as gentle as he can whilst still being firm. He ends up kneeling on the floor, his own seatbelt ignored, holding Dean's shoulders while the hunter gasps for breath and tries to reconcile dream and reality.

He's dimly aware of Barachiel doing the same for Bobby, not two feet away, but his entire world has shrunk down to the back of the minivan and the sound of Dean breathing and the feel of Dean's flesh under his hands. Dean's breath is coming far too fast, but even that is so much better than the even, measured, empty way he was breathing in the compound. Panic is better than somnolence.

"Dean," he repeats, trying to get Dean's attention. "It's all right. You're all right. Just calm down."

"Cas?" Dean's eyes are wild, but he fixes them on Castiel, as though Castiel is the one anchor he has. "I'm awake. I'm awake now."

There's a certainty in Dean's voice that Castiel wasn't expecting. Lucifer missed something when he created the dream, that much is obvious, but what? What could he leave out that makes Dean so certain that he's not dreaming anymore?

He doesn't ask. He stays on the floor of the minivan, ignoring the sometimes-wild turns that Chuck is making to get them far away from Lucifer's compound and the now-directionless demons, and keeps holding onto Dean. He unconsciously covers the mark on Dean's shoulder with his hand, can practically feel it burning through Dean's shirt, and a little piece of his shattered spirit slots back into place. There are still shimmering lines of fracture, but it's repairing.

"You're safe," he says, a mantra that is for himself as much as it's for Dean. "Lucifer is back in the cage. Sam" – his voice catches, and he knows he'll never be able to talk about Sam without that happening, because Sam made the biggest sacrifice of all – "jumped into the cage. He saved us all."

"Get him out." Dean's voice is rusty, but his expression is nothing if not firm. "He doesn't deserve that, Cas. Get him out."

"I don't know how," Castiel admits. "I—"

"The cage is in the middle of Hell," Haniel interrupts. Her voice is terribly gentle, implacable, trying to be kind, but she doesn't know Dean. Castiel wishes she'd let him handle this. She continues, "It's surrounded by the worst demons you can imagine, and many that you can't. We have no way of getting there, Dean. I'm sorry."

"He doesn't deserve that," Dean repeats, and his words are coming out choked. Castiel tightens his hand on Dean's shoulder, trying to give him wordless support, but it's not enough. Whatever Dean was dreaming, the difference between it and reality is harsh enough that facing the loss of his brother is breaking him into pieces inside.

Beside Barachiel, Bobby clears his throat uncomfortably, starting to say, "Dean—"

"I don't want to hear it!" Dean snaps, refusing to look at any of them. "I don't want to hear about how it was the only way, or how Sam wanted it this way, I just – don't want to hear that crap," he finishes, the fight going out of his voice, like he's deflating. Castiel hates seeing him so helpless, but what can he do?

When Gabriel speaks, nobody expects what he says.

"Enough, Crowley. Stop gloating and give it back."

They all go silent for a moment, turning to look at Gabriel, who is slumped in his seat with his head resting against the window, not returning any of their gazes. And then, as one, they turn to look at Crowley, who at least has the good grace to look sheepish.

"How did you figure it out?"

"You're you," Gabriel points out, although the remark lacks his usual bite. "And I saw the eyes you and Sam were making at each other, and they weren't tearful-farewell-to-lovers eyes. You made a deal with him."

"How could they make a deal?" Becky asks from the front seat, glancing at them in the rearview mirror. "And doesn't Crowley seal deals with a kiss? There was definitely no kiss."

"I chose to forgo the usual formalities," Crowley says, shrugging. "All for a good cause."

"What cause?" Dean demands. "So help me, if you've fucked my brother right when he's saving your ass–"

"There was no fucking going on – at least, not on my part," Crowley says smoothly, and Castiel feels an uncomfortable twist of guilt and shame in his gut as the Crossroads King looks at him. Crowley holds his gaze for a moment, his smile sharpening, and then shrugs again. "Suffice it to say I didn't fancy the idea of waltzing back to Hell even with Lucifer back in the box – too many jumped-up excuses for demons might think that taking me out might win them brownie points – just to have what's left of Heaven interfering. So I made a little deal with Sam."

"What deal."

The words have barely left Castiel's mouth before he's aware that he, Dean, Bobby, and Gabriel all asked exactly the same thing at once.

Crowley pauses, eyeing them, and then replies, "I offered to take his soul before he died – very unusual, not something I tend to do on a day-to-day basis – so that it wouldn't end up in the Pit with Lucifer. That would do damage that would be irreparable, even if someone did manage to pull Sam's body out. In return, well." He smiles, sharply, and Castiel is reminded of the way Crowley looked in the dreamscape. "I'd get a bargaining chip."

"A bargaining chip." Dean's voice is flinty. "So bargain. But if you even try to weasel, Crowley, your ass is toast faster than you can say Lohan's in rehab again."

Crowley looks far too comfortable for a demon who has five angels and two hunters paying him entirely too much attention. He settles back in his seat, looking for all the world as though he's back in his mansion instead of in the back of a minivan doing eighty.

"With Lucifer back in the cage and Lilith dead, there's a power vacuum," Crowley explains. "Azazel and his crew might have tried to fill it, once upon a time, but they're gone now, and there are no hitters quite as heavy as them."

"Except you," Castiel growls, realising what Crowley has been planning, perhaps since before he joined up with Gabriel's crew.

"Give the man a cigar," Crowley says sardonically. "No hitters as heavy as Azazel and Lilith were, except for me and my Crossroads kin. Of course, I couldn't just walk back into Hell and take over while Lucifer was out and about on Earth – demons know he's bad news, but hardly any of them have the stones to fight. But if I waited until after he was back in the cage, well." He looks at them all, but mostly at Castiel, Gabriel, Ramiel, Haniel, and Barachiel – the ones who could, in theory, gather enough forces to assault the very Gates of Hell – and shrugs elegantly. "No point in taking over a place just to have a bunch of overeager angels come knocking, is there?"

"So you're using Sam's soul as blackmail." Gabriel's voice is barely recognisable through the rage, and Castiel turns to gaze at his older brother, confused and concerned. None of them like Crowley, with the possible exception of Barachiel who likes everyone, but the sheer amount of rage in Gabriel's voice worries Castiel.

"Not blackmail," Crowley protests. "I could've blackmailed you lot with so much worse than a soul. All I want is an . . . arrangement. Nice and civilised. There aren't enough of you to try to take on Hell, you know that. You lot are going to be rebuilding Heaven for a long time, and it'd take that much longer if you had demons battering on the walls every other week. I have Hell to attend to; it's leaderless right now, and that's the perfect time for someone enterprising like me to come along and incite a nice little regime change. Seems to me that the sensible thing to do would be to come to an accord."

"Get to the point," Dean snaps. Crowley raises an eyebrow, and clears his throat.

"I want to make a deal. Not involving anyone else's soul," he says hastily, forestalling any protests. "I want Hell. You lot need time and peace to rebuild Heaven. So I suggest that we make a –" he grimaces "– peace treaty. A ceasefire. No acts of aggression against each other for, say, a hundred years." His smile is sharp, and Castiel is once again reminded, uncomfortably, of Crowley's appearance in his dreamscape. "Should be enough time for all of us to make the requisite changes and gather forces. And then back to the same old eternal struggle, but without the old boys in charge."

"Why don't we just gank him?" Risa demands. Castiel is almost glad of it; the humans – aside from Bobby and Dean – have been too quiet. He glances towards the front of the van, where Chuck is driving, but the Prophet seems to be ignoring their conversation. No, not ignoring – letting them have it without him. There's a subtle difference. Risa, riding shotgun both figuratively and literally, has twisted around to watch them, her eyes hard and suspicious as she looks at Crowley. Becky is sandwiched between them, and she sighs and touches Risa's arm, trying to settle the other woman.

"He's got Sam's soul, Risa," she says quietly. "They have to hear him out."

The distinction makes Castiel wince. It's clear that Becky, at least, considers this a conversation that she has no input in, and that feels wrong. She, Chuck, and Risa have been just as instrumental in this rescue as the angels.

"If we agree to this ceasefire, you'll return Sam's soul?" Castiel asks Crowley, turning his attention back to the demon. It feels even more wrong to be bargaining with Crowley, it goes against everything he was taught, but there's no choice, is there? It's going to be hard enough keeping Dean together as it is; if Sam's soul is relegated to Hell, Castiel isn't sure he can stop Dean from breaking apart altogether.

"Without so much as a scratch," Crowley promises. "You can take it back up to Heaven with you, nice and safe."

"Heaven barely exists anymore," Gabriel snarls. "What makes you think there's even anywhere to put him that'll be safe?"

Barachiel clears his throat, looking a little sheepish, and says, "Um. I . . . saved the souls. When the first attack happened. It didn't feel right, letting their special places be destroyed just because we had a war."

There's silence in the minivan for a moment, and then Gabriel lets out a choked sound that might be a laugh and might be a sob. It's hard to tell; he's still not looking at any of them.

"Of course you did."

So they have somewhere safe for Sam's soul to go. It would be so easy to say yes. But it's not up to Castiel, or Gabriel, or any of the angels. He turns to look at Sam's brother, because nobody else has the right to make this decision.

"Dean?"

"Do it," Dean says, his voice barely audible. "Let him rest."

There's another moment of silence, and then Castiel realises that none of them are sure who should be making the deal. Whoever does it is going to have to lead them, they all know that with hideous clarity. Are any of them even whole enough to take on that monumental task?

"I'll do it," Gabriel says eventually. "No acts of aggression against each other for one hundred years. Except on Earth," he adds, viciously. "You fuck with them, you fuck with us, Crowley. Don't make the mistake of thinking that we're all Uriel."

"It'll do," Crowley says, shrugging. "Anyone's stupid enough to get caught in a meatsuit, they deserve some holy smiting. Done."

He reaches into his pocket and withdraws a handful of white light. Human souls aren't easily contained, and Sam's is no exception; Castiel can practically feel it writhing to escape the demon's hand. Crowley looks expectantly at Gabriel, who shakes his head.

"Give him to Barachiel," he directs. "He knows where the safe places are, he can guide Sam there safely. Won't you, brother?"

It's as much a plea as it is a request, and Barachiel nods, solemn in a way Castiel has never seen him.

"I swear it," Barachiel says quietly, locking eyes with Gabriel. "He'll be safe in my care, until he's at peace."

"Well, then." Crowley smirks wickedly. "Kiss kiss."

To Castiel's surprise, Gabriel doesn't protest. He moves across the back of the minivan and kisses Crowley, and even from his spot on the floor in front of Dean, Castiel can tell that Gabriel is directing the kiss more than Crowley is, that Gabriel is making it vicious and violent on his own terms.

Pulling back just a little, Gabriel says in a deathly serious tone, "You fuck with us, Crowley, and there won't be anywhere you can hide from me. The humans in this van are under our protection. Don't even think of trying to use them against us."

"Touchy," Crowley murmurs, but Castiel can see that Gabriel has shaken him. He extends his hand out to Barachiel, who takes the softly glowing light with a reverence that Castiel isn't used to seeing in his brothers. Barachiel's large hands fold gently around Sam's soul, and he looks at Gabriel, and then to Dean.

"I'll make sure he gets there safely," he says earnestly, and then with a sudden inrush of air, he's gone.

"I think that settles us, then," Crowley says. Castiel is fairly certain that a part of his haste is a desire to be well away from the minivan full of angels and hunters, but a good part of it is probably the desire to go and establish his new domain, too. He gives them all another sharp-edged smile and says, "It's been an experience, boys. Be seeing you."

And then he, too, is gone.

They drive on in silence for close to half an hour. Castiel returns to his seat, but he doesn't move away from Dean; he can't seem to make himself move away. Dean is leaning against his shoulder a little, and Castiel can feel the tremors running through him, and he seems anchored to Dean, somehow.

Eventually, Bobby asks what Castiel – and Dean, no doubt – has been wondering: "Where are we going?"

"There's another rebel group in Indiana," Chuck replies, glancing at them in the rearview mirror. "We're going to hook up with them and take stock of the situation." He pauses for a moment, and then says, "Lisa and Ben are there."

Castiel goes cold. He forces himself to shake it off, telling himself that of course Dean would want to be with Lisa and Ben. He'd been surprised that Lisa hadn't been a part of the rescue, but if she's heading a rebel group in another part of the country, that's explainable. And Dean deserves to be somewhere he can heal.

He's almost too caught up in his own misery to notice Dean moving beside him, until Dean's fingers wrap around his wrist. He looks at Dean, confused. Dean's expression contains a combination of exhaustion, exasperation, and deep-rooted sorrow that's not going to go away any time soon. Sam's loss is still too raw, and is going to be for a long time.

Castiel's not sure what he expects, but it's not what Dean whispers: "Damn it, I'll find a way to have you both. Stop worrying."

He's aware of Gabriel, Ramiel, and Haniel talking not three feet away, discussing their plans for rebuilding Heaven. He'll have to help with that, of course, but he already knows that he's going to split his time between Heaven and Earth. He doesn't think he'll feel at home in Heaven anymore, not all the time. His Grace has been too-often sullied for the sanctity of Heaven to feel completely right anymore – and, if he's honest with himself, he's too used to being on Earth. He'd miss it, if he returned to Heaven for good.

He can feel himself slumping in the seat, adrenaline fading and exhaustion replacing it, but Dean doesn't let their hands break contact. They both need the solidity of that support. Ramiel looks at the three of them – Bobby, Dean, and Castiel – with a concerned expression, and says gently, "You need rest. You've been through too much for your bodies and souls to cope with easily. Will you let me give you restful sleep? Not like before," he adds hurriedly. "True sleep, and only for a few hours. You'll dream nothing that you don't make yourself, and you will wake."

Dean and Bobby glance at Castiel for affirmation that they can trust Ramiel; he nods, too tired to bother speaking. He can't bring himself to turn down the offer. Ramiel smiles gently and reaches out to touch Castiel's forehead, and Castiel lets himself succumb to sleep.

For the first time in far, far too long, his dreams are peaceful.

End.