Chapter 1: The Cage
For reference's sake all this takes place right after 7.15 Repo Man. Except that the boys found Cas already, because I like Cas.
The Cage felt much emptier without Sam's screams to fill it.
Michael was still here with me, of course, but only physically – my brother had always been skilled at blocking out life's unpleasantries, and so he sat motionless in the corner of the Cage, his mind far away. I had tried to draw him into conversation countless times, but he never showed any sign of hearing me, even though I was sure that I had seen him react to noises from outside the Cage. Even now, with nothing to lose, Michael would not risk sympathizing with me.
Still, his presence was a comfort after a previously solitary eternity, and I spoke to him constantly after Sam left. I replied to myself as I thought Michael might, though in all honesty it had been so long since I had last had a civil conversation with my brother that I often found myself at a loss for an answer. He never contradicted me, at least, so I suppose I must have done well enough.
It is hard to judge time in the pit, but the decades felt like they slipped by a little faster this time.
I imagine that it must have felt like an eternity to Sam. Over a century and a half he was down here with me, and I burnt every moment of it into his skin. He deserved it, of course - on Earth I'd had hope, however frail, of returning to the glory of Heaven and taking back my place by force, but here in the pit there remained only the agonizing burn of ages. Even Earth itself was better than Hell.
I told Michael of my miseries, and I think he would have been sympathetic, had he been listening.
“Little brother,” he might have said, “I know. I understand. He has hurt me too.”
I still felt a pang of guilt when I remembered how Sam had grabbed Michael, and dragged him down with us. Had Sam felt my jealousy upon seeing his memories of Dean? Had it been that brief moment of weakness that allowed Sam to take control?
I ripped Sam's veins, and twisted his limbs. Scalded his skin. Flayed his eyes. Until he was taken from me, and I was left alone with my brother, who would not answer me.
I don't remember what I had been saying to Michael when my Father appeared before us, but I do know that I didn't rise when I saw Him. I could only stare, mouth open, as He stood watching us.
“Michael,” He said, “and Lucifer.”
I glanced at Michael, who was suddenly alive again, eyes wide.
“Father!” he said, jumping to his feet. “You- you're here! Where have you been?”
I could tears in his eyes as he drew close, and then embraced our Father. Though I was between him and our Father, Michael chose to give me a wide berth rather than acknowledge my presence.
“Yes,” our Father said calmly, “I am here. Before, I was... elsewhere. And will return to elsewhere, once I am finished here.”
Michael stared. “But Father- Heaven, I... we need your guidance!”
Our Father said, “I will go where I will, Michael.”
“But-” Michael stared at his feet. “Father, I don't know what you want me to do.”
Our Father had been calmness, and comfort, in the old days. Once, the angels could simply bask in His glory, and know their place in the universe. He had given no explanation for his departure, and very little warning. I doubted the Host would ever fully recover from the loss, or even begin to understand it.
I however, was past caring. In the time since my Father's departure, I had been alone, and so I had come to my own conclusions.
Our Father smiled and said, “Well then. You'll just have to make your best guess. Do whatever you think is right.”
What an odd thing to say. Even as my confused brother opened his mouth to protest further, our Father snapped His fingers, and Michael disappeared. He turned to me. I remained sitting.
“Lucifer,” he said gently. He crouched down in front of me.
“I am sorry,” He said.
I felt my eyes widen in disbelief. Sorry? My Father was sorry? What nonsense was this?
“Yes,” He said, knowing my thoughts. “I am. I have wronged you.”
My chest hurt. My head swam. I stared at him open-mouthed for several moments, before laughter burst out of me.
“'Sorry?'” I managed to choke out. “You're 'sorry'? Oh, well, that's all right then! Everything's fine now, all is forgiven, and back up to Heaven I go, right? No big deal.”
My Father sighed. “Lucifer-” he began, but I cut him off.
“You trapped me down in a pit for thousands of years,” I hissed. “Alone. In a pit. For thousands of years. Your son. You turned my brothers against me. Because I loved you! I still love you. I don't want your apologies! I want- I want...” I dug my fingers into my hair. Hell. What did I want?
“I want... more,” I finished lamely. I tucked my knees underneath my chin and wrapped my arms around them. “And I want you to go away now,” I added, after a moment of silence. “Clearly, you think that locking me in a cage in the fiery pits of Hell is no longer adequate punishment, and have now decided to mock me with false apologies.”
My Father said nothing for a while. We sat in silence, I looking at the floor of my Cage, or the walls, or the ceiling, but never at my Father. I am certain He looked only at me.
After a while, He said, “You are still using Nick's form.”
“Sam betrayed me,” I said. “I do not wish to use his form.”
My Father clicked his tongue at that, as if he saw a deeper truth behind my words that I did not yet comprehend. Supercilious old fart.
“Why are you wearing that form?” I countered.
My Father looked down at it. It was a human vessel, in the shape of a small man with dark hair and pointed features. My Father smiled.
“Chuck has served me well,” He said simply. He looked back up at me. “Do you wish to return to Heaven?”
I started at the question. My breath caught in my throat. He wouldn't. I wasn't allowed. He had said. My brothers- would He truly let me back?
No. My Father was not sorry, and He would never take back His words and let me into Heaven. I knew this. So why was I so willing to fall for his lies?
“You must tell me that you are sorry for what you have done,” He said.
My breath unstuck itself with a choke. Sorry? For what? Telling the truth? Being right? And I had been right, too- I had seen what destruction humans had wrought on my Father's beautiful Creation. I had seen their selfishness, their hate, had felt it in Sam when I took him as my vessel. I ground my teeth together.
But to be home again. With Michael, with Raphael. Even if it was a lie conjured up by my Father, it was worth the embarrassment to take this chance, wasn't it? I would not be alone, in Heaven. I would not be caged.
Well. My Father had only said that I had to say that I was sorry. He had said nothing about actually being so.
“I am sorry,” I said slowly. There. The lie had come easily enough.
My Father laughed. He looked down at me, amusement in his eyes. Blast.
“I know you are lying, Lucifer,” He said, without a trace of anger. “But once,” He continued, “I would not have been able even to get that lie from you. You are less proud, now.”
I snorted incredulously, and my Father patted me on the cheek.
“There's my boy,” He said. “Still, I think you can do better than that.”
“You promised,” I said, feeling like a child. “If I said sorry, I could- you promised.”
My Father nodded. “I did,” He said. “But, well, you know... I invented lying, Lucifer.”
He snapped His fingers.
Chapter 2: Earth
I opened my eyes and saw the open sky above me, grey and dripping with rain.
This was not Heaven, clearly, but at least it did not appear to be Hell. I peeled myself from the wet ground, and felt a damp pocket of mud pop as I came free. Tombstones surrounded me. There was a fence nearby as well, and it aroused in me a sudden, irrational panic, as if I was caged once more. I quelled the feeling with effort, and stood up shakily.
I was back in the graveyard where Michael and I had been meant to fight. If I looked closely, I could see the grooves left by the tyres of the Winchesters' car. I imagined I could smell the burning holy oil and the blood too, but I supposed that at least was only a memory.
Damnation! I had known the offer of freedom for the lie that it had been, however subtle my Father had thought he was being, but I had not expected this. The rain fell around me as I stood and wondered what to do next.
I felt strange. Different somehow, sort of... hollowed-out. Struck by a thought, I caught onto a nearby tombstone with a hand, and pushed it.
It didn't budge.
I pushed harder, and it still didn't move. I added my other hand, dug my heels into the ground, and pushed as hard as I could muster. The tombstone gave a little, perhaps a centimetre, but no more.
I stopped then, out of breath and horrified. The stone settled back into place. I had exerted all of my effort trying to push over a rock, and I hadn't even succeeded at it! My anger flared then, hot and sharp, and I kicked the tombstone, hard.
Pain blossomed in my toes. I fell over with a shocked yelp, clutching at my foot. I caught a glancing blow to my head off of another tombstone, and yelped again. I felt my eyes water. It seemed best to remain still then. I lay there for a few minutes, breathing deeply, until the worst of the pain had died away.
My Father has made me human, I thought dully.
“No, not human,” said my Father, from behind me. I jerked my head around, knocking it on the tombstone again.
“Aghh,” I moaned. My Father crouched down beside me, balanced on His toes, His elbows resting on His knees. He patted me on the head sympathetically, not quite managing to hide his amused smirk.
“There, there,” He said. “Like I said, you aren't human. You are still my son. But I have taken most of your power from you. You will find you still have some abilities, but you are physically restricted as humans are, and you are mortal.”
“Mortal!” I spluttered. Ridiculous!
“Hmm, yes,” said my Father. “I took the idea from them, actually. 'Walking in another man's shoes,' and so on. Simple, but it should prove effective, I think.”
“Well,” I said, narrowing my eyes, “I'm glad you find this so amusing.”
“I do,” He admitted. “You're so proud, Lucifer! A bit of struggling in the mud will be good for you.”
I paused for a moment before speaking. “You sound... different,” I said. “You talk differently.” You talk like a human, I didn't say.
He nodded. “Yes. I have been among my Creations. Such interesting things! But...” He stood up. “Enough talking. Time to start you on your way, I think.”
“Where are you sending me?”
My Father tilted His head to the side, smiling. “Where do you think?”
I was in a motel room.
The wallpaper was green, and the carpet was beige. There were two beds. I heard the shower running behind a door to the right of me. My Father was gone again, as well as the ache in my foot and head.
I stood in the middle of the room with my arms crossed. Did my Father honestly think this game of His would accomplish anything? He would soon find that I did not take kindly to being toyed with, least of all by Him.
I heard the shower turn off. I listened to the squeak of wet feet on plastic, and the fuffing of a towel being vigorously rubbed on someone's head. The door to the right opened.
I felt a surprised thrill of pleasure ripple through me as Sam Winchester stepped out, a towel wrapped around his waist. Of course! I should have known my Father would send me here – He is a great lover of irony. I was pleased that I would at least be able to continue to make Sam's life uncomfortable, if my own had to be such.
Sam turned then, and spotted me immediately. He flinched... and that was all. I felt myself deflate as he walked past me, and did not even spare me a further glance.
I was Lucifer, and I was standing around uninvited in his motel room! And he didn't even care. Had my Father warned him before my arrival? This day seemed to find new and creative ways of annoying me with each passing hour.
“Hey, Sammy,” I said, “is that any way to treat a friend?”
“Shut up,” said Sam, and continued sifting through his duffel bag.
I frowned. That wasn't right. He should be more afraid. I walked up beside him, and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Sam-” I began to croon, but Sam swatted my hand away. It actually stung a little.
“Sam. Sammy. Sam?”
He peeled his towel off and pulled on a pair of underwear.
This was very strange. I watched Sam pull on a pair of socks. I doubted Sam had forgotten just what I was capable of, yet he seemed unconcerned. Perhaps, having been tortured by me in Hell, my methods of inflicting pain on him were no longer a mystery? Maybe he no longer feared death, or pain. Perhaps he was suicidal, or driven mad.
Well, I would find out. I stepped forward and flopped on top of his clothes.
“Cut that out,” said Sam. He flipped me over onto my back so that he could get at his shirt and pants. I rolled over onto them again. He sighed in frustration. “C'mon, man.”
“Not a man,” I pointed out. “Angel. Remember?”
“Yeah, whatever.” He managed to yank his shirt out from under me, and pulled his arms through the sleeves.
My fingers twitched as I watched him do up the buttons. I had been in that body once, looking out – it felt wrong to be on the other side now. I reached out and touched the buttons, one after the other, as they were done up. Sam gave me an odd look, but otherwise ignored me.
He pulled on his jeans, and I found myself knocked out of my button-touching reverie when Sam slapped my hand again. I sniggered. Sam rolled his eyes and walked over to his laptop, shaking his head as he went.
I considered Sam as he hunched over his computer. He seemed quite lucid, and not noticeably more suicidal than was required of a hunter. Yet he remained unafraid of me, even somewhat comfortable in my presence, despite who I was and what I had done to him.
I scratched the back of my neck idly and wondered what it meant. My thoughts were interrupted by footsteps outside, and the sound of a key turning in the lock. Sam straightened up.
The door opened.
“Yo Sam, they didn't have that vegetable shit you usually drink, so I got you some strawberry-”
Dean stopped dead in the doorway and stared right at me.
“What?” asked Sam, puzzled.
“Sam,” said Dean, “What the fuck is Lucifer doing in our motel room?”
Chapter 3: Unhappy Reunion
“You can see him?”
Sam shot me a look. He seemed a little worried now, which was reassuring, but he still wasn't afraid. His eyebrows were furrowed, as if deep in thought.
“Where's Cas?” said Sam to Dean, who was still standing in the doorway, gaping.
“Here,” finished Cas, striding into the room. He stared at me. “Lucifer.”
I inclined my head slightly. “Castiel.” I stood up from the bed and folded my arms across my chest. This was more like it.
He walked up to me and stopped with his face only a few inches away from mine, squinting hard. I felt annoyed again – Sam's lack of fear I could perhaps tolerate, and Dean was renown for his lack of common sense, but to have a small, weak brother of mine approach me so boldly?
I swatted at him, intending to make a point. Castiel caught my arm. There was a long silence while everyone stared at me.
“I believe,” said Castiel after a while, “that Lucifer's power is greatly diminished from its previous state. Which is to say. Um.” He stared at me hard for another uncomfortable moment.
“Is he outta angel juice?” asked Dean.
“That... would be a way of putting it,” said Castiel. He let go of my arm, and I took it back peevishly. I could feel my face reddening.
“Wow,” said Dean. “Huh.”
“Shut up,” I snapped.
Dean laughed, and I felt myself flush even deeper with anger. I stepped towards him, but Castiel, my weak little brother, blocked me. I was forced to stand there, seething with rage.
“Dude,” said Sam from behind me, “powers or no powers, baiting Lucifer is not a good idea.”
“Yeah, you're right,” said Dean. “I mean, why bait him when we can just shoot him?” He pulled a gun from his pants waistband and levelled it at me.
I froze when I saw it. Could that tiny metal thing actually hurt me now? Could it kill me? Did my Father send me to Earth to die? Why not just kill me Himself, if that was His judgement? What a shameful end for an archangel, to be killed by a hunter's toy. By a human.
Unexpectedly, Castiel moved to block Dean as well.
“Dean, Lucifer must be here for a reason,” said the angel.
Dean snorted. “Yeah, to kill my brother for flinging him back into his cage.”
“I meant a higher reason,” said Castiel.
“Yeah, well, you know me and Sammy and 'higher reasons',” said Dean, keeping the gun levelled straight at me. “Outta the way, Cas.”
“No,” said Cas. “I must know why he is here.”
“My Father may have sent him!”
Silence reigned while Dean and Castiel glared at each other, engaged in a battle of wills. Neither of them moved. From the corner of my eye, I could see Sam look back and forth between them and me, uncertain.
I heard Sam clear his throat. “Uh. Why don't we just ask him?”
“Oh, yeah sure, Sammy,” said Dean, rolling his eyes. “And we could just trust whatever he says, yeah?”
“It would be inadvisable to do so,” agreed Castiel.
There was more silence.
“Screw it,” said Sam. “Why are you here, Lucifer?”
“Christ, Dean, you can always shoot him later, okay?” Sam turned back to me. “Well?”
I opened my mouth to speak, paused, and then closed it again.
Why was I here? My Father's choice to send me to Sam Winchester had made sense at first glance, but now I could not quite grasp what His ultimate purpose had been. I could not possess Sam in my current state, nor was I convinced that I could continue tormenting him as I had in Hell, given the current situation. I seemed to be limited to Nick's physical strength, and while Nick was sturdily-built and around the same height, he did not possess the Winchesters' muscle mass. And why should he? Nick had not been a hunter. But it made it difficult for me to overpower any one of the three beings before me.
So I was not here to continue my destruction of the Earth, and I was not here to continue exacting vengeance on Sam Winchester. My Father had wanted me to be sorry, when I was in the cage. Had He sent me here to be sorry? I could not see how two grubby humans and their pet angel could change my mind.
I snapped out of my reverie, and focused on Sam. “Hmm?”
“Why are you here?” he asked again, this time more carefully, as if I were an infant. This hurt my dignity somewhat, but I was no closer to being able to answer him properly.
I shrugged. “My Father appeared to me in my Cage and asked if I was sorry.” I admitted reluctantly. I did not like having to use my Father's name to protect myself, but I saw no other options. “And then He sent me here.” I saw Castiel's eyes widen.
“You spoke to our Father?” he asked, aghast.
“Yes,” I said, pleased at his reaction.
“What about Michael?” asked Dean, lowering his gun a little and frowning. “And Adam. Are they still in the cage?”
“No. My father sent Michael elsewhere, I assume to Heaven. Adam will likely be wherever Michael is.”
Castiel started at that. “I must- I must look into this,” he said. “I am sorry, I will-”
“Dude! Are you just ditching us with Lucifer?” said Dean.
Castiel glanced over at me. “Lucifer is... no more than a man, at present. You will be fine without me.”
Hmph. I glared at the angel as he vanished. Castiel ought not to discount me so quickly – I had not forgotten that he had taken my vessel from me, and I would see to it that I repaid him for the deed. Dean and Sam turned back to me.
“Well, great,” said Dean, throwing up his hands. “Now what the hell do we do?”
“Dean-” began Sam.
“No, shut up,” said Dean. He pointed a finger at me. “Castiel may think you can't do much, but Castiel also frequently underestimates the shit outta me and Sam. You're getting tied to a goddamn chair until Cas gets back, I ain't waiting around for you to do something freaky.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but suddenly the gun was pointed back at me, and I froze.
“You're scared of this now, aren't you?” he said, watching me. “You're not sure if it can kill you or not.”
I said nothing, but gritted my teeth and glared at him. I saw Sam shift uncomfortably.
“Come on, Sam. Bring that chair over here, wouldja?”
Dean kept the gun on me while Sam tied me down. Sam seemed to be unhappy about the situation, but I would be one of the first to agree that Dean had a point. I had already made a mental note to arrange for some sort of injury to occur to Dean – the man was too arrogant by half.
After Sam finished, Dean spared me one final glare before disappearing into the bathroom to shower, muttering that Sam could keep a watch on his “girlfriend” as he went. Sam scratched his chin awkwardly.
I smiled. “Your brother seems upset at the loss of his angel.”
Sam did not respond. He stood for a moment, considering, and then grabbed his laptop from the table and settled on his bed with it in his lap, facing me. He watched me for a moment, lips pursed as if thinking of saying something, and then shrugged and looked back down at the screen. I could hear him typing intermittently.
“Were you sorry?” he asked after a moment's idle clicking.
“When, uh, God asked you if you were sorry. Were you?”
I shrugged again. “For what?”
“Ah,” said Sam, as if it all made sense.
Silence followed as Sam returned to clicking on his computer. I flopped my head towards him, watching him. I had to ask.
“Why weren't you surprised?” I said. “When I appeared, you hardly even noticed.”
“Oh.” Sam paused mid-type, looking embarrassed. He looked over at the bathroom door for a moment before turning back to me. “I, uh. After I got my soul back from hell, I started- I mean, not right away because Death put up a wall, but um.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “I've been hallucinating you,” he said finally. “So I thought you were just, um. Hallucifer.” He laughed nervously.
I raised my eyebrows. “Sammy, I'm touched.”
“You missed me so much you hallucinated me,” I said, grinning wolfishly. “That's so romantic.”
“You- I didn't. Oh, shut up,” said Sam, hunching himself back over his laptop. I watched him carefully for a moment.
“Can you see the... other me right now?”
Sam raised his head and looked around. “Uh. No.” He scratched his head. “Which is kind of weird actually. Lately he's been-”
“Sammy, don't talk to the guy, for Christ's sake.” Dean glared at me as he stepped out of the bathroom.
“He's tied to a chair, Dean.”
“Yeah, so? It was the stuff coming out of his mouth that made you want to say 'yes' to him.”
Sam's face hardened, and he huddled stiffly over his laptop and avoided his brother's eyes. I heard Sam mutter something about Dean and Michael, but Dean either didn't hear him or pretended not to.
“Maybe we should gag him too,” said Dean, eyeing me critically.
“I would look very pretty with a gag,” I admitted.
Dean turned away from me with a disgusted snort and sat down at the table, pulling a newspaper towards himself. Sam was still tense, the muscles of his cheeks firing each time he clenched his teeth. Poor Sammy. I knew how fun it was to have my own mistakes constantly thrown back into my face, and never forgiven or forgotten.
Sam cleared his throat.
“What have you got circled?” said Sam.
“Weird hospital deaths in the last month,” said Dean.
“Oooh, people dying the hospital,” said Sam. “How strange.”
“They're all people who were visiting sick people, smart-ass,” said Dean. “They like, die on the way out to their cars.”
I half-listened to their banter, still tied to my chair. Michael would not have given up on the subject as easily as Dean had. Nor myself, for that matter. I anticipated that they would return to it in the near future, but for now they seemed to be getting along again. I felt a prick of jealousy.
It would appear that the Winchesters were planning on dealing with me by going about their daily rituals as I weren't there. I had a strong desire to alter their schedule in some way, to make some sort of mark on them with my presence, but I also felt... tired. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Remain tied to a chair until I died? I knew that I would have to come to a decision at some point, but it would be helpful if I knew what the choices were.
Chapter 4: The Hunt
“You,” said Dean, pointing a finger at me, “are definitely not coming.”
I was not particularly surprised by this revelation, given that I had been tied to a chair for almost four hours now, but I made a show of pouting about it anyway.
“But Dean,” I said, “I'll get lonely! And sad. Very sad.”
“My heart weeps for you.”
Dean had gone to the hospital earlier to investigate the deaths, and had found that the hospital staff had noticed the flickering lights and scratchings usual to a haunting. Sam had dug up some records on his laptop which made it seem likely that the ghost was an A. E. Fishbourne, a patient who had been poisoned by his brother in 1956, while the brother had been visiting. It seemed as if he was exacting his revenge on any mildly antagonistic visitor to the hospital.
The Winchesters seemed to find it interesting, or at least mentally stimulating. For me, however, the most exciting part of the day had been when Dean had returned with food.
I'd never had a desire to eat before, nor had my mind dwelt on the activity – it was a waste of time for angels, and that had been that. But I felt my taste-buds prick oddly when I smelled the food Dean had brought , and there was an acute focusing of all my senses towards where it was. My stomach pinched as Dean pulled out his own food, and handed the rest to Sam.
“What are you eating?” I asked, peering at Dean's food as he unwrapped it.
“A burger.” He saw my interested expression. “Please tell me that we aren't going to have another angel pining after ground beef.”
I wrinkled my nose. Beef? I did not want to eat animals, however good they smelled. I glanced over at Sam's food.
“What are you eating?”
Sam opened his mouth to reply, but Dean cut him off.
“Sam is eating a salad,” said Dean around a mouthful of burger, “which is Spanish for 'sissy.'”
Sam glared at his brother. “Actually, it's English for 'not going to die at age 35 of a heart attack.'”
I couldn't smell any meat in it. I nodded approvingly. “That sounds better.”
“Uh. Okay?” said Sam. He gave me an odd look before digging in. I continued to stare pointedly at the salad. Sam paused with his fork halfway to his mouth.
“Wait. Crap. Do you need to eat now?” He looked over at Dean. “I hadn't thought of that.”
“I had,” said Dean, swallowing another chunk of cooked cow. “I just didn't care.”
Sam glared at him. “You're a dick.”
Dean gave him a look. “He wore you as an angel condom to take over the world and tortured you for centuries in the Pit, and you're worried about his tummy getting a bit grumbly?”
“Yes,” said Sam. He grabbed his chair and moved it beside mine. He sat down again and lifted a forkful of salad towards me, shooting a glare at Dean.
“You have got to be kidding me,” said Dean. Sam ignored him and, to my immense pleasure, ushered the fork into my mouth.
The flavour was unexpected. Or, more accurately, the sensation of taste was a surprising one. The surface of my tongue felt sharpened, my molars prickled, and my eyes watered. Taste was like colours and sounds on my tongue. I found myself staring at the ceiling, completely absorbed with the activity in my mouth.
“Oh awesome,” said Dean. “Is he allergic?” He craned forward over the table to get a better view of my death throes.
“Nogh,” I said, around my mouthful.
“Lucifer,” said Sam, who was trying not to laugh, “you gotta chew that. You're starting to drool.”
Ruefully, I chewed the salad. Then swallowed, glumly noting the quick withdrawal of flavour in my mouth.
“More,” I said.
“Make aeroplane noises,” advised Dean. Apparently Dean seemed to forget that he despised me, now that I was being entertaining. I filed this information away for future use.
Sam ended up feeding me about half of his salad. It wasn't nearly enough – eating had, perversely, made me even hungrier. Sam promised to return later with more food, which was an appealing prospect indeed, but I knew that I would have to wait at least a couple more hours before he could make good on that pledge.
Before the Winchesters left to go salt 'n burn A. E. Fishbourne's corpse, Sam left me a phone.
“If something bad happens,” said Sam, “call my phone. The number's in the contact list.” He scrolled through the contact list to show me the number, then plopped the phone onto my lap, just within my reach. I wrinkled my nose at the idea of needing humans' assistance to stay alive. But I was tied to a chair. I'd had a brief and fruitless argument with Dean about that, which had resulted in another threat to gag me.
I sighed dramatically.
“This is ridiculous,” said Dean, who had long since returned to his default state of hating me. “He's Satan, Sam. Who cares if something happens to him?”
“Dean, if God's giving him another chance, I really don't think we've got any right to argue.”
“Cas had better come back soon,” muttered Dean. “Maybe he'll tell us something that actually makes some sort of friggin' sense.”
I had observed many forms of torture in Hell and carried out most of them on Sam, so it was surprising to me that I had not previously discovered how unpleasant the sensation of a full bladder was. Being tied to a chair five feet away from a bathroom certainly worsened the experience.
I shifted uncomfortably, hoping to find a position within my limited range of movement that somehow miraculously relieved the pressure on my lower abdomen. Being tethered to the chair had previously been tolerable – I had waited much longer in Hell, and in theoretically worse circumstances. But this... this was unbearable.
I had to urinate, I was hungry, and now that I had been shifting around in my chair, the ropes had begun to chafe, especially around my ankles. I had not realized how demanding bodies were, when their functions were not being suppressed by angelic grace. Did humans feel like this all the time? It made me wonder why they were so opposed to dying.
I glared accusingly at the ropes binding me, since they were in essence the root of all my problems. I squirmed, testing how much give the ropes had, and to my surprise the ones around my arms both had a bit of extra slack. I focused my efforts on the ropes of my right arm, and eventually succeeded in moving the knot to where I could untie it with minimal hand contortion. In ten minutes I was completely free of ropes.
May my Father bless Sam's soft little heart. I made a beeline for the bathroom.
As I came out, I heard a short buzzing noise from the floor near my chair. I crouched down near it, spotting the phone Sam had given me. It must have fallen as I was fighting with the ropes. I picked it up. A message on it said, “Done now. Be back in half an hour.”
Oh good. I wouldn't need to go out of my way to find food then – I could wait another half-hour. I stood up and made to pocket the phone, but stopped when it began to vibrate again, this time more emphatically.
I frowned at the number – it was different from Sam's. I deliberated over answering it for a moment before picking it up.
“Hello,” I said.
“Agent Smith?” said a female voice on the other end.
Hum. This must be one of the Winchester's spare phones. No doubt she knew what they sounded like, and without my powers I would be unable to fool her. But I'd been sitting alone in a room for two hours, so I played along anyway.
“No, this is his partner.” I paused briefly to glance over at some of the fake IDs the boys had left scattered on the table. “Agent Tyrus,” I decided.
“Oh. Well, this is Doctor Kipling, from Acreview Hospital. Agent Smith said to call if there were any other weird deaths, and, uh, well... we got one.”
I thought of the text I had received. “When?” Perhaps it had happened before they burned the corpse.
“Just now. Guy just came in to ask for directions. I saw him walk out the doors, and then he just fell over in the parking lot. Went into a coma, and died before he even made it into the waiting room.”
Ooh. Interesting. “All right,” I said, “one of us'll be down there soon.”
I hung up. I tapped idly on the phone's keyboard and wondered whether I ought to call Sam to tell him. Sam would likely believe me, or at least be willing to entertain the idea that I wasn't completely lying, at any rate. He was hopeful like that. I wasn't sure if there would be much point, though – they'd be back soon enough, and they had left their “Fed-suits” here, which they would need before going to the hospital again.
Still, I had nothing better to do, and it would be amusing to tell them that I had freed myself, if only to annoy Dean. I called Sam. It went straight to voice mail, which seemed odd. I shrugged, and left a message anyway.
I stared at the wall for a few moments after I hung up. Now what did I do? I could... hmm. I tapped my fingers on my lips as I thought.
My primary wish was to return to Heaven, and be with my Father and brothers, but I knew now more than ever that this was forever out of my grasp. Removing humankind from existence would have to suffice as my main achievable goal then, but at the moment this, too, was somewhat beyond me. I would have have to think of some activity with which to occupy myself until my Father tired of His game and restored my grace to me.
I looked around the room for inspiration. On the table beside me was a folder labelled Parking Lot Ghost. I considered the phone call from Dr. Kipling. Sam and Dean had clearly made a miscalculation of some kind, and the idea of beating Sam and Dean at their own job tickled me. I sat down at the table and flipped the folder open.
Sam and Dean had made the connection that they were all visiting people in the hospital, I recalled, but this new man had only stopped in for a few moments to ask directions. They had to have something else in common. I thought about the folder's title.
“Parking lot,” I said out loud. They'd all been killed in the parking lot, going to their cars. Something about the cars? I flipped to their licensing info. All of their cars had been from the 1960s or 1970s. Which was interesting, but I had no idea what it meant.
I tapped my fingers on the tabletop. I called Sam again, and hung up when it went to the voice mail. I tried all of their alternate numbers in the list. Most of them went straight to voice mail, although one other had apparently been left in the room with me, and I startled myself when it rung.
It seemed as though Sam and Dean had somehow managed to become incapacitated in the ten minutes between Sam's text and now. I rolled my eyes. Humans. I would have gone looking for them for the sheer pleasure of personally observing their failure, except that I no longer had my grace, and so had no way of knowing their exact location. Which, on second thought, wouldn't have helped either, since I assumed that they still had that annoying Enochian etched onto their ribs.
Probably they could die if they were in trouble, and there wasn't really anything I could do about it. I felt momentary regret at the possibility of Sam's death, but shrugged it away. The Winchesters were hard to kill. They probably wouldn't die. Probably.
I returned to the case at hand. I glanced over towards the Fed-suits, which were still laid out on the bed. Hmm. None of the FBI badges had my photo on them of course, but the Winchesters had a printer and Dean's phone had a camera on it.
The Winchesters did this every day of their lives, and they were only humans. I, on the other hand, was Lucifer the Dragon, the Morningstar, the Roaring Lion! There was no question in my mind that I was capable of doing whatever the Winchesters could, and do it better.
I thought it might keep me entertained for a while, at the very least.
“Agent Tyrus,” I said, flipping out my new badge. “Is Doctor Kipling around?”
I had memorized the way to the hospital with the help of Sam's computer. I'd had to walk of course, but it wasn't far, and it felt good to stretch my legs after being immobile for so long.
In one of the back rooms of the hospital, Doctor Kipling threw the white sheet off of the body.
“His ID says he's Eric Mercer, 43 years old. Like I said on the phone, died on the way to his car. The body displayed signs of overdose similar to barbiturates, but...” she paused, and looked around the room conspiratorially, chewing her bottom lip. “I really, really, shouldn't just make guesses. It's completely unprofessional.”
“But. The other... 'overdose' victims didn't have anything in their blood. I have a feeling this one won't either.” She shook her head. “It makes no sense. How can you overdose on nothing?”
She rambled on for a while about medical things, and the other patients. I half-listened, nodded my head at regular intervals and made interested noises. Eventually, she stopped talking, and I took this as my cue.
“How far away from his car was he?” I asked, once she had finished.
“Right next to it,” replied the Doctor. “His keys were in the door when the nurses got to him.”
“Mind showing me the car?”
It was a light yellow 1963 Ford Thunderbird. I didn't know much about cars, but I felt that Dean, at least, would have approved.
“Nice car,” I said to myself. Beside me, the doctor made a noise of agreement.
I crouched down beside the car, and stretched out my hands. I could not do great miracles without my grace, but I could still sense entities. There had been one here, waiting for Mercer as he went back to his car.
There was one here now.
I rolled to the side, and heard a skittering on the gravel where I had just been standing. I saw a translucent man in scrubs on all fours, his face contorted in an angry grimace. I heard Doctor Kipling gasp.
“Mine,” hissed the ghost angrily. “It's mine.”
“Okay,” I agreed. “Yours. It's yours.” I spread my hands out in front of me as I backed away.
The man disappeared, and the engine of the Thunderbird roared to life. I felt Doctor Kipling grab my arm and haul me behind a nearby truck, just as the Thunderbird screeched over where I had just been standing. We watched it tear out onto the road and out of sight.
“What the hell?” said Doctor Kipling. Her voice shook. “That was... Henry?”
I turned to her sharply. “You recognized him?”
Chapter 5: Directions
It was dark by the time I returned to the motel. I stripped off my jacket and settled down at the table, popping open Sam's laptop to play with. I only had to wait a few minutes before I heard two pairs of feet scuffing the concrete outside the door.
“The ghost isn't gone,” I said casually, as Sam and Dean came in the door. They were covered in dirt and sweat, and Dean had a long scrape on his arm.
“What the hell are you doing over there?” demanded Dean. “We tied you up!”
“Is that my laptop?”
“The hospital called,” I continued, as if neither of them had said anything. “There was a fresh stiff right after Sammy texted me.” I tilted my head. “I left a message on Sam's phone.” Dean swore, and glared accusingly at Sam.
“We, uh,” said Sam, clearing his throat. “We were probably being... inconvenienced. My phone's back in the Impala, I think. Wherever that is.”
Uh oh. I grinned. “Sounds like we ran into trouble.”
“None of your friggin' business,” snapped Dean. “And answer my question! How'd you get out of the ropes?”
I shrugged. “I used my superior intellect.” Dean threw his hands up in the air, and turned imploringly to Sam. "So?" I asked them. “What happened?”
Sam cleared his throat awkwardly while Dean angrily pulled off his shoes and coat, muttering.
“We uh, were driving back from the salt 'n burn when a ghost popped up between me and Dean,” said Sam. “Only saw it for a second. It took over the Impala's engine right after, and we had to bail.”
Ah. “And we had to hoof it the rest of the way home, I take it?”
“When we catch up with that ghost,” said Dean, “I am gonna kill it even deader than it already is! No one touches Baby! No one!”
Dean stomped off into the bathroom. He left the door open though, probably to make sure I didn't try anything. I could see Dean reflected in the mirror as he angrily stripped his jacket and t-shirt off, letting the sink fill as he cast about for a towel.
“I am impressed with the sheer volume of grave dirt you managed to get under your shirt,” I said conversationally. “Did you roll in it?”
“Shut up,” said Dean, glaring at me through the mirror. “And quit checking me out. Weirdo pervy angel.”
“Oh, don't worry Dean. Sam's standing right beside me – I can look at him.”
“Uh,” said Sam.
“Aw, hell no,” said Dean. “Checking out my little brother is even worse.”
“Uh,” said Sam again. “Lucifer? Are you wearing my Fed-suit?”
I looked down at myself, then back up at Sam. “Oooh, that's right. You like?” I leaned back in my chair to give him a better look.
His brow furrowed. “Why are you wearing it?”
“Dean's wasn't wide enough at the shoulder.”
“What the hell?” said Dean. “You tried on my Fed-suit!?”
“Yours is a bit long in the arm for me, of course,” I continued, “but it still looks pretty good. I think, anyway.” I smiled winningly.
Sam continued staring at me. I raised my eyebrows in honest perplexity. Sam turned his head slightly to squint at me sidelong.
“Lucifer. Please tell me that you didn't go to the hospital.”
“You went to the hospital, didn't you?”
“I'd answer, but that would conflict with your previously stated desire for me to refrain from telling you that I went to the hospital.” Sam covered his eyes with a hand. I heard Dean swear. I grinned.
“What did you do?” asked Sam, clearly dreading the answer.
I shrugged. “Talked to the doctor. Looked at the stiff. Looked at the stiff's car. A ghost in scrubs tried to kill me and drove away with the car. Nothing too exciting.”
Sam looked up sharply. “Wait. Scrubs?” He turned to Dean. I wasn't sure whether to be amused or offended that Sam hadn't been concerned about the 'tried to kill me' part of that summary.
“Wasn't the ghost in the Impala wearing scrubs?” asked Sam. I saw Dean's reflection nod stiffly, his eyes locked on me.
“The ghost said that the Thunderbird was his.” I leaned forward conspiratorially. “I think he may have been a little confused.”
“Yeah.” Sam studied my face. “And... that's it? That's all you did?”
“Oh, well.” I reached around the laptop and pulled out a folder. “The doctor recognized the ghost. She gave me this.” I handed it over to Sam. Dean came out of the bathroom to have a look, still shirtless, but cleaner.
I yawned. “Records of Henry Rosenberg, a nurse at the hospital who apparently killed visitors to steal their retro cars. Kept them in a garage a few blocks from here. Died five years ago, when he set himself on fire rather than give himself up to the police. Thought you might be interested.”
The Winchesters stared at me.
“What?" I said. "I was bored.”
“Hey big brother,” said Gabriel, from his perch atop the Impala. “Long time no see.”
I frowned at him. “You shouldn't stand on Dean's car,” I told him. “He just went to go get it back from a ghost. He won't want dents in it.”
Gabriel seemed to consider this. At least, he paused for a moment before he stamped around in a circle on the Impala's hood. He stopped eventually, his face crinkled with a smile.
Oh well. I'd tried to warn him. Now Dean would kill him dead, like the ghost. Except... wasn't Gabriel dead already? Hadn't I killed him?
I looked around. The Impala was parked atop a grassy hill beside a giant ash tree, its branches full of green keys. Unbroken fields of tall grass stretched out below us on all sides, covered in tiny little whitish-purple flowers. I crouched down to look at one by my foot.
“Clover,” said Gabriel, from beside me. “You can eat it. See?” He plucked it, and pulled out a few tube-like pedals. He nibbled the ends.
He laughed. “Mmm! Sweet!”
I sat up, bewildered. Light was streaming in from the windows, though I was pretty sure it had been dark before. I was on one of the two beds, Sam's perhaps, underneath the sheets. Sam and Dean themselves were both sitting at the motel room's small table, talking quietly.
“Oh,” said Sam, noticing my movement, “you're awake.” He rustled through a plastic bag on the counter. “I got you a salad,” he said. “And some hummus, and flatbread to dip in it. And a bag of peanuts. No meat in any of it, or, uh animal byproducts. Wasn't sure how far you wanted to take the whole 'no meat' thing.”
I grunted in approval and got up to inspect the goods. I saw Dean shake his head.
“So you desire the death of all mankind, but you won't eat animals?” he said. “Am I the only one who thinks that's weird?”
“Yes,” I replied. Animals did not create factories that polluted the soil, water, and air. They did not clear-cut Amazonian rainforests to make room for more cattle to make food out of, nor did animals create multinational corporations that exploited their fellow indigenous animals. It took human intelligence to create true evil – animals were too stupid and innocent to fathom it.
“Whatever.” said Dean, oblivious to my internal monologue. He turned back to Sam. “So, if you're done pampering your evil Fallen archangel, any ideas what we're doing next?”
“Yep,” said Sam. “Laundry.”
“Oh, whoa, nope,” said Dean. “Sorry Sam, but if that's all, my priority's a nap. I had the evil overlord taking up my bed last night.” Dean glared at me as he said this. I winked at him.
“You could've squeezed in beside me Deanie, I wouldn't have minded.”
“Yeah, because it's totally your feelings I'm concerned about, here.”
“So anyway,” I said loudly, in case Dean still wanted to say anything else, “this laundry thing. Do I get to come? Or will you be tying me to a chair again?”
They both looked at me. “Yeah. Uh. We've been wanting to ask you about that,” said Sam slowly.
“What? Being tied to a chair? You into that?”
“I- what?” Sam looked temporarily derailed. “No, jeez. I meant, when you got yourself untied. Wow. You're worse than Dean.” Dean scoffed.
“I meant,” continued Sam, “you untied yourself, and we weren't here to stop you. You could've left. Or, I don't know, gone on a murdering rampage or raided a grocery store or something. Staying and helping us with the case was probably, like, the least likely course of action, as far as I can see.”
I spread my hands wide. “Maybe I just like to keep you guessing?”
Sam smiled crookedly. “You don't even know, do you? You're just doing stuff.”
“Am not,” I said. “I know exactly what I'm doing.” Which was perfectly true. I just knew exactly what I was doing, while I was doing it. It was just that I didn't know in advance what I would be doing later.
Dean and Sam exchanged glances. They did not look convinced.
“What do you think?” asked Sam.
Dean pursed his lips, then sighed. “Honestly? I think he's hanging around just to mess with us. But I ain't Dad. You wanna bring him along with you, fine. I'd have trouble sleeping with him in the same room anyway. He'd probably stare at me the whole time with those beady little eyes of his.”
I raised my eyebrows in surprise. No fight? I supposed they'd had time to hash out our situation between themselves, but it still seemed an unusually passive response for Dean. Sam clasped his brother on the shoulder.
“Don't worry, Dean,” he said, “I can totally take him.”
Dean cracked a half-smile at that, but as soon as Sam turned away and headed for the beds, all traces of amusement evaporated from Dean's face. He flicked his eyes towards me.
If you hurt Sam, those eyes said, I will END you.
I quickly looked away. I sauntered over to Sam with the remains of my salad, endeavouring to prove to Dean that I did not feel even the tiniest bit threatened by the man's death glare. Sam saw me approach, oblivious to the silent battle of wills. He held out a duffel bag to me.
“Well?” he asked. “Are you coming or what, angel?”
Chapter 6: Doubts
Sam and I sat on the washing machines, waiting for the cycles to finish. I figured out very quickly why Dean hadn't shown much interest in the venture – the bare ceilings and walls offered little distraction while we waited. I had picked a book from small shelf in the corner, hoping it would offend Sam's delicate sensibilities, titled “The Playboy Sheikh's Virgin Stable-Girl”.
Sam ignored me. After piling the clothes into the washing machines, though, he was abruptly faced with my unique clothing situation, ie, that I had none. His alarm was amusing to watch.
“Man, I don't want to have to buy you a whack of clothes if you're just going to get God-zapped outta here tomorrow or something,” complained Sam. “I don't suppose you know how long you're going to be, uh, human?”
I shrugged. “However long my ineffable Father decides.” Which could be a very long time indeed, I thought darkly, if my stay in the cage was any sort of marker.
Sam sighed. “Well, I guess we'll grab you a couple of shirts and some jeans or something from Wal-Mart later.”
“I could just wear your clothes.”
“Oh shut up,” he said. I sniggered. “No, seriously, dude,” continued Sam, “shut up. You're not funny.” I unsuccessfully attempted to stifle my laughter, and hid behind the Playboy Sheikh.
Sam leaned back against our other machine and stared at me for a moment. “Are you sure He's, y'know... actually going to turn you back?” he asked, finally.
“What? Of course He-” I began, and then stopped. Wait. What?
“I mean,” continued Sam, “you said you can get hurt, right? That means you can probably die, yeah? I mean maybe not, but... what would happen to you? If you died right now, I mean.”
I frowned at the wall, thinking. I had just assumed that my Father had just left me here to simmer, and that He would eventually return me to my old form when He grew bored of the lesson. I hadn't seriously considered that taking my powers and putting me on Earth was the whole of His plan. That I was left here to fend for myself, until... until what? I tried to approach the problem logically.
“When humans die,” I began slowly, “they go either to Heaven or Hell. Creatures go to Purgatory. I am still exiled from Heaven, so... one of the other two, I assume.”
“Do angels count as creatures? I mean, what usually happens to angels when they die anyway? Aren't they already in Heaven?”
I didn't know. “Perhaps they are simply wiped from existence?” I suggested.
Sam thought about it. “Maybe? I mean, Cas has come back uh, three times now I think, but I'm pretty sure it's your Dad who's been doing it, and He can theoretically do basically anything so...”
I startled at that. “Three times?”
“Yeah. Once when Raphael exploded him, once when, um,” he paused. “Once when we exploded him,” he continued, “and once when the Leviathans exploded him.” He ticked them off on his fingers. “Yeah, I think that's it. Unless he's died another time without telling anybody. He does seem to explode a lot, so who knows, really.”
“Wait, leviathans? What leviathans?” Surely not... the Leviathans?
“Um,” said Sam. “Oops. I guess I forgot to– well. It's kind of a long story.”
He provided me with a truncated version, but it was enough. I listened, open-mouthed. The end result seemed to be this: Raphael was dead, countless of my smaller brothers slain in Heaven, and Leviathans roamed the Earth. I stared at the wall again.
The washers made buzzing noises. Sam coughed awkwardly and got up to switch the clothes into the dryers.
“Why,” I said, “would my Father resurrect that stupid angel again, after such a spectacular display of ignorance?”
“You got me, Luce.” Sam closed the door to the washing machine beneath me. “We just found him wandering around in Colorado, thinking he was some guy named Emmanuel. Didn't even remember us at first. I guess the Big Guy's still got plans for him.”
“But not for Gabriel? Not for Raphael?” I saw Sam raise his eyebrows at me, but I paid him no heed. “Why does He do this?” I hissed. “Why does He do these things that make no sense? Why does He just do them, without telling anybody? What gives Him the right?”
“Uh,” said Sam, “didn't He make-”
“Yes, yes, of course He made us,” I said, waving a hand at him dismissively. “He doesn't care about us after that though. We just die, and then He creates new things. But he picks favourites, doesn't he? Like you Winchesters, and Castiel. And no one ever gets to find out why someone's His favourite. Or why someone stops being one.” I glared at the washing machine across from me angrily. “I mean, what's so damned good about humans, huh?”
“Yo, guy,” said an impressive mountain of a man two washers to the right, “shut the hell up or take your crazy somewhere else.”
If I'd had my powers, I would have smote the man on the spot. This ignorant yokel thought he could order me around? Why should I be forced to sit here and tolerate him? Well, I wouldn't.
“No, you shut the hell up!” I said. “And go to the doctors! That pain in your gut you've been wondering about is a fucking hernia!”
I surprised myself with the words. I wondered how I knew that – certainly I couldn't do this with the Winchesters anymore. Was Castiel protecting them somehow? Or perhaps it was my Father's doing. Whatever. It didn't really matter.
If I was caught off guard, it was nothing compared to what the big man seemed to be feeling. His eyes looked like they were about to pop out of his head. “You...? What the fuck?”
Most of the people in the laundromat were staring at me now. I doubted many had heard my words, but they suspected a fight anyway. Sam was frozen in the act of pulling his hand away from the start button on the dryer, his mouth hanging open.
I didn't care. Why should I care? Raphael was dead, Gabriel was dead, Michael hated me, I was stuck on earth for maybe forever without my grace unless I suddenly stopped existing, in which case I would probably be dead, and I had no idea what I was going to do anymore, and it didn't matter what anyone else thought because they were just going to get eaten by Leviathans anyway. And all of this was happening to me because of a cruel joke my Father was playing on me. My problems were certainly worse than anyone else's in the room.
“Should I call the police?” I heard a girl whisper to another girl beside her.
“No,” I said, not wanting to stop, “you should call your brother and tell him about who his girlfriend's been shacking it up with. I know you know!”
“What?” she gasped. “How the hell could you know that?”
I raised my hands to the ceiling. “I'm a Goddamned angel of the Lord!” Literally.
“Okay, you know what?” I felt a hand on my collar, and then Sam yanked my face down to within an inch of his.
“You need to shut up. Right. Now.” He said this in a hiss, barely audible even to my own ears. “You don't have your powers, you stupid angel! I'm in the middle of washing basically all of the clothes me and Dean own apart from the ones we're wearing, and you're going to get us killed or arrested just because you feel like being an idiot!”
I snorted. “Why should I care?”
Everything went white.
When my vision finally settled, I was lying on my back on top of the washing machine. The Playboy Sheikh was on the floor. The my whole face hurt. Was that blood? I licked a bit from my lips.
I managed to lift my head up enough to get a look at Sam. He was shaking with fury.
“You,” he growled, “are going to sit there and behave until my damned laundry's done or so help me I will knock you out and drag you back are we clear?” I wasn't sure how he managed to say all that without unclenching his teeth, but he did.
I goggled at him. “Did you just threaten me?” Sam placed an arm on either side of me and leaned over until the rest of the world was entirely blocked by his angry, angry face.
“Oh.” I tried to think of something else to say. “Okay then.”
Sam's face went away, and I was left to stare at the ceiling again. I cleared my throat.
“Am I allowed to-”
So I remained on my back, investigating my mouth with my tongue. My teeth seemed to be fine, but my bottom lip was split. My entire face throbbed, and I was pretty sure I'd have a hell of a shiner by this evening. I had to hand it to Sammy – he had a mean right hook. Y'know. For a human.
I looked back over the mountainous man, who had switched his stare over to Sam.
“What the hell-?” began the man, but Sam cut him off.
“He's drunk,” explained Sam.
“But he said-”
The man squinted at him and then me, not at all convinced. But Sam cranked his dangerous look up a few more notches, and the man backed off.
Sam turned back to the dryers and clenched his jaw.
The rest of the laundromat population were awkward and quiet as they went back to their clothes. Eventually, they all came to the conclusion that was no longer going to be a fist fight, and the atmosphere in the room relaxed. Conversations started up again amidst the whirling of the machines.
“Are you really an angel?”
I twisted my head around. A boy, maybe seven years old, stood beside me, watching me intently. Sam sighed.
“Look, kid-” began Sam.
“Can you heal my dad?”
“He's got a tumor,” said the boy. “In his brain. The doctors say they won't operate.” The boy looked angry. “Can you get rid of it?”
I opened my mouth to speak, then closed it when I saw the look on Sam's face. Sam cleared his throat.
“What's your name, kid?”
“Min-joon,” said Sam. “I'm sorry about your dad. Really. But Luce can't heal him. I mean look – he can't even heal his own split lip.”
“Oh.” The boy frowned at me for several seconds. “You shouldn't tell lies like that,” he said.
I watched him walk back to his mother. I lay quietly until Sam's dryers were done, and said nothing.
Chapter 7: Angels
I remained silent until we were walking back to the motel with the laundry. My face hurt. I held one of the duffel bags in my arms, staring at the ground. The kid in the laundromat had bothered me. Which bothered me. Why should I care about some kid I barely knew?
Sam cleared his throat as we waited at a stoplight.
“I'm sorry for hitting you,” he said. “And shouting at you. And, um, threatening you, too.”
“Why?” I asked. My face still hurt from the punch, though I did my best not to show it.
Sam sighed. “Look, I know you're not exactly having a party up here, okay? Randomly losing your angel powers can't be great. I get that. But Luce, people freak out when you do weird shit like mind-reading, and I know you know that. I'm not gonna let you get me killed or arrested because of your angelic identity crisis, or whatever it is.”
The light changed, and we started to cross. Sam inclined his head towards me a little as he walked.
“What was up with that mind-reading thing, anyway?” he asked. “I thought you couldn't do that anymore.”
“My Father neglected to explain the rules of the game to me before we started playing,” I said dryly. “As usual.”
I was still feeling a little put-out that Sam had neglected to mention Raphael's death to me. Admittedly, Raphael and I had never gotten along, even before I fell, mostly because Raphael had always been as fun as a sack of mud. But he was still my brother.
The Leviathans also concerned me. They were, after all, capable of consuming literally everything in existence. They preferred flesh, but would continue to eat even after all living creatures had been destroyed. If left unchecked, they could potentially consume the entire universe, including Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.
I kicked moodily at a rock on the sidewalk. I didn't want to think about dead brothers, sad little children, sore faces, universe-destroying monsters, or anything else I was powerless to do anything about.
“Hey Sammy,” I said brightly. “You know what we haven't done yet?”
Sam regarded me warily. “What?”
I threw my arm around his shoulder. “Reminisced! About the good ol' days in the Cage. That was a good time, eh? Remember when-”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Nope.” Sam ducked under my arm and pushed me away. “No way. Reminisce by yourself.”
“Aw, Sammy, what's a matter?” I grinned. “I thought we were buddies?”
Sam snorted. “Dude, I have no idea what we are, but we are not 'buddies.' We're... allies. Maybe. But not even. I think we just have a truce or something.” He shifted his duffle bag to his other shoulder. “I so do not wanna talk about Hell with you.”
“Ah,” I said, “the tried-and-tested method of pretending it never happened, eh?”
“No,” said Sam. “The tried-and-tested method of 'it's none of your business.' I'll talk to my brother if I feel like it, not to you. If I let you, you'll start trying to make me think you're sorry or something, which you definitely aren't. You'd need to know you did something wrong in the first place for that.”
I adopted an expression of what I imagined injured innocence looked like. “Why, Sammy, what on Earth could you mean?
“That, right there,” said Sam, pointing a finger at me. “That's exactly what I'm talking about. Don't do it, man. You act all likeable and crap, and then go back to being an ass. Drives me nuts.” He paused. “Almost literally.”
“Oh?” I cocked my head at him. “Are we talking about hallicination-me?”
I didn't think he was going to answer me at first. He was silent for a few moments, thinking. Then he shrugged.
“I ignored him, mostly,” he said. “When he got really annoying I could make him disappear for a while, if I thought about it hard enough. At least until last week or so, anyway. My brother and I got split up hunting a demon, and I just...” he trailed off.
Sam shrugged again. “I let him help me. It actually went pretty well, you know? We found Dean and the demon, saved the day and everything.” Sam sighed. “It all went downhill after that, of course. Couldn't make him leave anymore, and he wouldn't let me sleep. Wouldn't help anymore either, which, honestly, was kind of the most disappointing part. Even if he was still, you know, trying to drive me insane or whatever... it would almost have been worth it.”
He gave me an odd look. “You'd be pretty handy to have around on hunts, you know,” he continued. “I mean, you don't have much of your powers left, but I dunno. You did pretty good with that ghost hunt yesterday, and you weren't even really taking it that seriously.”
“You already have an angel,” I pointed out. “And didn't you just say we weren't friends?”
“Well, we aren't,” Sam admitted. “That doesn't mean you wouldn't be helpful. Plus, you're damned near tolerable when you're not actively trying to be an ass.”
I turned that last sentence over in my head for a while, trying to decipher whether it was a compliment or not.
“I mean,” said Sam, “have you got anything else to do?”
He had a point there. I did enjoy hunting things, true enough, but I also included humans under the category of “things.” Probably they wouldn't want me hunting those, which would be tedious. But I supposed that it wouldn't be a terrible time-killer, if I ended up being stuck here. Maybe I'd try it, for a while.
We turned the last corner before the motel, and I could tell from the shouting that Castiel had returned while we were out.
“Speaking of friends,” I said, already able to hear Dean's raised voice above the traffic, “what's up with those two?”
“Oh, well. Dean's still pissed about the whole working-with-Crowley thing, I guess.”
“Don't you Winchesters have spectacularly bad track records yourselves, in regards to accidentally summoning powerful entities?” I asked. “I mean, I think Castiel's an idiot, but for you dolts it's practically an every day occurance. Shouldn't Dean be over it by now?”
Sam gave me a look. “Yeah, well,” he said, pulling out his key as we neared the door, “Dean just didn't like being lied to, mostly. He thought Cas trusted us, but after that...” Sam shrugged. “He's mad at Cas, but I think he's mad at himself more. If your friends don't trust you, well, you should probably double-check to make sure you didn't do something to deserve it.”
That said, Sam slid the key into the lock and opened the door.
Cas stood awkwardly in the middle of the room, while Dean leaned against the countertop with his arms folded across his chest. Both of them turned their heads as we entered the room.
“Hey, Cas,” said Sam. He closed the door behind himself. “How did-”
I'm not quite certain what happened next. One moment, I was tossing the duffel bag onto the nearest bed, and the next, I was face down on the carpet.
The pain was blinding. Numbly, I felt a hand encircle my throat and jerk me upright. The sudden motion made it feel as if knives were jabbing into my skull, and the room wobbled and blurred as I struggled to remain conscious. My back was pressed up against the wall, and my feet dangled somewhere above the floor.
“Lucifer,” said the man in front of me. I could barely see, and my airway was distractingly tight, but I could still make out who it was.
“Mgggl,” I managed.
The hand on my throat released me, and I tumbled to the ground, choking and gasping for air. I focused on breathing for almost half a minute before I risked looking up, and still the room lurched dangerously.
My brother stood straight and calm before me, completely different from the huddled mess he had been when I had last seen him, though he still wore the form of his vessel, Adam.
“Michael,” I rasped. “You look well.”
“You do not.”
“Yes, well.” I paused to cough. “Punched and strangled is not my best look.”
Michael snorted. “I was referring to your lack of grace.” He looked me up and down. “It is fortunate for you that you do not have it – I would gain no closure from striking you down as the frail thing you are at present.”
I winced. It seemed that Michael was still a bit distraught from his time in the cage. It also occurred to me that, if what Sam had told me was accurate, Michael must have returned to Heaven to find the Host greatly reduced. Raphael's death in particular would have been a great blow to Michael – Raphael had been, in Michael's mind, his last brother.
Michael was at his most harsh and unforgiving when he was grieving. Baiting him right now would probably not end well for me. This was just as well, really, since I couldn't really focus enough right now to banter properly.
So instead, I put on my most sincere smile. The effect was probably ruined somewhat by my bloody teeth.
“What a pity,” I said, good-naturedly. “Well, don't worry, Michael, I'm sure we can rearrange our schedules to fit me in for a good beat-down later.” Okay, maybe a little baiting. “Though I admit I can't see why you bothered to hit me at all, if you didn't intend to kill me.”
“Because it gave me pleasure,” said Michael.
I opened my mouth to list off a bunch of other, rather offensive things that may have provided him with equal or more amounts of pleasure, but Michael raised a hand to silence me.
“I am not here for you, Lucifer, nor do I have anything further to say to you.” He turned to Dean instead. “I tire of our conversation. You,” he said firmly, “will do as I say, and cease attempting to convince Castiel to go against my wishes. And you,” he continued, turning to Castiel, “should be more concerned with following my orders than with pleasing the human who neglected his call to destiny as laid down by our Father."
There was steel in Michael's tone, but Castiel, to my surprise, did not back down.
“But Dean is right, Michael,” he said. “This plan of yours is... very risky.”
Michael shrugged. “Of course. Why else would I use cast-off vessels and a disposable angel for it?”
“Hey, don't talk to Cas like-”
Michael was suddenly directly in front of Dean and hauling him up by his shirtfront. The look of disgust on Michael's face was unmistakable.
“You will not give me orders,” said my brother. “The only reason I have not smote you and your tainted brother into the floorboards is because Castiel begged for your lives. I may yet change my mind, should your usefulness expire.”
My older brother left in a flutter of wings, and Dean dropped back to the floor. Cas steadied him with one arm. Sam broke the silence.
“Uh, Cas?” Sam's voice was shaky.
“Did you really have to beg him to not smite us?”
“Oh.” Sam paused. “Thank you.”
“Yeah,” said Dean hoarsely, his eyes wide. “Thanks, Cas.”
Castiel bowed his head. “If I had not returned to Heaven, Michael may not have found you.”
“I doubt it,” said Sam. “I think hiding from him would just have made him angrier.”
I noticed that Sam was discreetly checking Dean over for injuries as he spoke, which was ridiculous, since Michael had done little more than pick the man up and put him down again. I, on the other hand, was actually injured, and no one was paying any attention to me at all.
“So, since today seems to be Punch Lucifer in the Face Day,” I said loudly from my place on the floor, “Dean? Castiel? Care to have a go?” I spread my arms and presented the side of my face.
“What?” said Dean.
“Would either you or Castiel care to punch me in the face?” I repeated. “Sam and Michael already have today, so it only seems fair that you two get a turn.”
Dean turned to his brother with raised eyebrows. “You punched Satan in the face?”
Sam fidgeted. “Well. Yeah. I mean – he was making a scene. What else was I supposed to do?”
Dean beamed at him. “Attaboy, Sammy!”
This wasn't really going the way I wanted. I'd drawn attention to my problem, and still no one felt bad for me.
“So?” I said. “No punching then?”
“Hmm? Oh. Right.” Dean seemed to consider it. “Nah,” he said finally. “You're a lying, selfish bitch and you hurt my brother, but I ain't gonna hit you.”
I raised my eyebrows in mock surprise. “Really? Gosh. How big-hearted of you.”
Dean snorted. “Lucifer, I ain't gonna punch you because it'd be like punching a baby for crying – being a jerk is all you know how to do, man. Hitting you won't make you stop.”
“I also will not punch you,” said Castiel, “although it is because causing harm to those who are helpless is unkind. Which, coincidentally, is also not unlike striking an infant.”
I gaped. Dean clapped Castiel on the back like a proud father.
Sam cleared his throat awkwardly. “Uh. Um.” He looked confused. “I'm glad you two are, uh, getting along.” He said. “But, well, Luce has a point. At least, I think he was trying to make a point.” He paused. “Anyway, he is pretty dinged-up at the moment. Angel punches hurt like hell, and uh, I hit him pretty hard earlier too. He might be concussed or something. I'll, uh, I'll go help him clean up his face, then you guys can tell us what the heck Mike was going on about.”
“No,” said Dean suddenly. “I'll fix the idiot – Cas'll fill you in.”
Sam raised his eyebrows. “Yeah?”
“What?” I said.
Sam looked at me, then back at Dean. He shrugged. “All right, I guess.”
“Hey! Don't I get an opinon?” I said.
I didn't, apparently, because it was Dean who rolled his eyes and helped me to my feet, not Sam. The older Winchester pushed me towards the open bathroom, while I craned my head around in a wordless appeal to Sam. Dean snorted.
“Come on, Lucifer. You'll survive without your babysitter for ten minutes,” said Dean.
“I'll bite you,” I responded, and wished I could come up with something wittier to say.
I was still astounded that Dean and Castiel had successfully ganged up on me and defeated me in word-to-word combat. I mean, Dean was an idiot, and Castiel had no sense of humour whatsoever. By all rights it shouldn't have been possible.
Dean herded me into the bathroom, and plunked me on top of the closed toilet. The short walk from the living room had left me surprisingly dizzy, so as much as I hated being manhandled, I was forced to sit quietly and concentrate on not tipping over. Dean rooted around underneath the sink for a while, and eventually came back up with a brown bottle, some gauze, a few cotton swabs, medical tape, and, oddly, a small flashlight.
“Is that rubbing alcohol?” I inquired. “Because I'll bite you.”
“It's hydrogen peroxide, you dolt. It just bubbles, you won't even feel it.” He clicked the flashlight on. “Hold still.”
“What? Agh!” He'd shined it directly into my eyes. I tried to get away from it, but Dean held me in place.
“It's a flashlight, you sissy. It ain't gonna hurt you. Just hold still for like five seconds, and look straight ahead.”
I obeyed, but moodily. He turned the flashlight off after a few seconds, leaving me to blink furiously.
“Congratulations,” said Dean, putting the flashlight down near the sink. “You probably don't have severe brain damage.”
“Ha ha,” I said, unamused. “What's the point of this, anyway? Can't Castiel just heal me?”
“You aren't hurt bad,” said Dean, carefully dousing a cotton swab with peroxide. “You're bleeding a bit, but you aren't gonna die. You're pretty talkative for a guy that got punched in the face, too, so I'm gonna go out on a limb here and assume nothing's broken either. Yeah, I could call Cas over and he could heal you, but you know what? I personally regard this as a sparkling opportunity for you to learn a bit about people.”
He dabbed at a cut underneath my eye that I couldn't remember getting. I grudgingly admitted that the peroxide didn't hurt.
“What do you mean?” I said aloud.
Dean pursed his lips. “Sam and Cas think you're here because God wants you to figure out what being human is. Me? I don't know if a guy like you can ever get a grip on that. Cas still has trouble with it sometimes, and he doesn't have the disadvantage of being a huge dick. But hey. Maybe they're right. Who knows.” He gave a little shrug, and tossed the used swab into the nearby garbage.
“So I figure,” he continued, tearing open a sterile package of gauze, “lesson number one in being human: pain sucks. Like, really, really sucks. And it can hurt for a long time sometimes, maybe even forever. With no time-outs.”
I cocked my head to one side. “And this is important in understanding humanity, because...?”
“Because a lot of the weird shit we do, we do it to avoid pain, or try and make it stop. Or even to cause it, if we think someone deserves it.”
“Why should I care about how humans feel?” I said. “It's not like I'm one.” Dean narrowed his eyes at me. I leaned away from him.
“Because I say so, how 'bout that?” He taped the gauze to my face.
“Everyone's being very mean to me today,” I complained, prodding the bandage under my eye. Dean slapped my hand away from it.
“Yeah?” he said. “Maybe you should think about why that is.”
I pouted while Dean put the medical supplies away, but took the opportunity to poke at my bandage while he wasn't watching. The pain wasn't as sharp as it had been right after Michael had hit me, but it was still there, dull and throbbing. My eyelid felt sort of droopy, too. I leaned to the side to get a look at myself in the mirror.
I winced at my reflection. My left eye had swollen almost shut and was a deep reddish-purple, and I had a massive bruise all the way across my left cheekbone. My bottom lip was split, and the bandage Dean had put on covered a good portion of the right side of my face. There were greenish-purple streaks on my throat where Michael had gripped me.
I had experienced pain before, of course, but it had not lasted long. I had been an angel, and a strong one, so I had healed quickly in the few instances that I had encountered injury. Now, though, I was in instense pain from only two blows to the face, and unless I could convince Castiel to heal me, I would continue to be in pain for several days.
I wondered why Dean thought this experience would tell me anything. If someone was weak, they got hurt, and if someone was strong, they didn't. It was hardly a revelation for me to hear that pain was a great part of human experience.
I cleared my throat. “So, do I get to find out what my delightful brother wanted?”
Dean straightened. “Eh? Oh, yeah, Mike's surprise visit.” Dean shrugged. “The Heavenly Host, or what's left of it anyway, ain't too pleased about the Leviathan situation. Apparently they absorb the souls of the people they eat instead of letting them pass on to the next world, and Heaven can't afford the fallout right now.”
Dean crossed his arms and leaned back against the sink . “By the time you and Sam came back, Mike was ranting at me and Cas about what a disgrace to God we were for letting it happen, and how lucky we were that he didn't kill us, yadda yadda yadda. ” Dean snorted. “Friggin' angels.”
I smirked lopsidedly, trying not to flex my face. “So he came to encourage you to step up your efforts?”
“Nope,” said Dean. “Mike says he knows how to stop them, apparently, and that he's got already got a job all picked out for me and Sammy.”
“Yep,” said Dean. “We're the bait.”
* * *
The four of us had collected in the main room again. I chose to sit at the small dining table, munching on what remained of my bag of peanuts and trying not to scratch at my bandage. Every time my teeth connected to chew, a sharp jolt of pain shot through my jaw. It was frustrating, but I was just hungry enough that I kept eating anyway.
From his spot on the couch, Sam rubbed his face with his hands.
“So that's it?” he said. “The angels are setting up some kind of trap for the Leviathans, and we're just supposed to stand around looking really delicious?”
“Direct and to the point,” I said, in between peanuts. “Holy plans are rarely anything else.”
Castiel was standing beside Sam, in that awkward way the angel had. He never seemed to know what to do with his hands, or maybe he just forgot that he had them.
“Michael's part in the plan is, I am told, more involved,” said Castiel eventually.
“Well, I should hope so,” I said.
Sam frowned at Castiel. “Wait. Did Michael not give you the details?”
“No,” said Castiel, “he did not. Doubtless he suspected that we might try to stop him if we knew his plan in full.”
“Seriously?” said Dean, who was leaning over the back of the couch, just behind Sam. “I thought he'd briefed you in Heaven, and he was just holding out on us puny mortals. How do we know when to break out the barbeque sauce?”
Castiel pursed his lips. “We will just have to be on our guard. I also doubt barbeque sauce will be necessary.”
“Great!” said Dean, throwing his hands up in the air. “So Leviathans could just pop at any moment. Wonderful. Uninvited Leviathans. My favourite.”
“We don't even know if Michael can even get rid of them,” said Sam. “I mean, Cas, do you know anything that can kill them? Or trap them again?”
Castiel shook his head. “Sam, I didn't even realize Leviathans still existed when I...” he trailed off. There were a few moments of awkward silence. “I know nothing about them,” he finished. “I am sorry.”
It was quite a sorry tableau from my seat at the table. Sam and Dean both stared dejectedly at the floor, while Castiel gazed into space in guilt-ridden silence. I chewed my peanuts with my mouth open and rustled the bag as noisily as possible, but they were all too miserable to notice.
Oh, to Hell with it.
“He can,” I said. All three of them looked up.
“What?” said Dean.
“He can,” I repeated. “I could've too, if I still had my grace.”
“Explain,” said Castiel.
They were all looking at me, now. I grinned.
“The Leviathans were a mistake,” I said. “And from this mistake, our Father learned not to create without purpose. Coincidentally, the very next things our Father created were the four archangels.” I paused for dramatic effect. “What do you think that means?”
Castiel's eyes widened. “The archangels were created to cage the Leviathans?”
I leaned back and pointed at him. “Right in one, angel-boy.”
“But Michael's on his own now,” said Sam, his brow furrowed in thought. “Isn't that something like a quarter of the power of all the archangels combined? Can he really do it on his own?”
I hesitated. The Winchesters, and by extension Castiel, were stuck facing the Leviathans regardless of Michael's chances. There was nothing to be done about it – I knew my brother, and Michael would not change his plan or pick anyone else as his bait, now that he had decided. There was nothing for them to gain by knowing that he could, in fact, fail.
So, why not lie about this, to make them feel better? Keeping the troops' morale up benefitted everyone, right? It certainly benefitted me, since I was already pretty tired of everyone being glum and it had only been about three minutes. Besides, I liked lying.
“Of course he can,” I said, deciding to go for it. “Is it not written: 'And in that day the LORD with His severe sword, great and strong, will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; and He will slay the reptile that is in the sea.'”
They stared at me blankly.
“Oh come on, guys,” I said. “Book of Isaiah? Anyone? No? Jeez.”
Dean pursed his lips as he thought. “His 'sword'? As in...?”
“The Michael sword?” finished Castiel.
“Well,” I said, warming up my role of wise archangel, “the spare Michael sword in this particular circumstance,” Dean glared at me, and I continued, “but yes.”
“Then why didn't you guys 'slay' them the first time?” asked Dean.
“Why, because we didn't have any swords to slay them with, of course. We could only trap them when we were in our true forms. Don't ask me,” I added, seeing Dean's expression. “I didn't design the whole vessel... 'thing.' I just work with it.”
Sam exhaled sharply. “Hmm,” he said, still eyeing me warily, “I guess. But this still sucks. We've hunted our whole lives and this is probably one of the biggest hunts in the history of the world, and all we can do is sit here and wait.”
I cleared my throat. “'Indeed any hope of overcoming him is false; shall one not be overwhelmed at the sight of him? No one is so fierce that he would dare stir him up.'” I paused, then added, “That was Job, you knuckleheads.”
“Oh? Oh.” said Dean. He thought for a moment. “You sayin' that there was never anything we could do?”
“Nothing on Earth is his equal,” I said. “Heavenly intervention or bust.”
The room was silent for a while as they contemplated my words. I popped a few more peanuts into my mouth and watched their faces.
Sam stood up. “Well,” he said. “I'm hungry. How 'bout you guys?”
I leaned back in my chair and grinned.
“Heya Lucy,” said Gabriel. “Luuucy. Lucy Lucy Lucy. Lucy! Lucy? Lucy.”
I rolled over onto my side, and the grass prickled the side of my face. “Michael has a plan to stop the Leviathans.”
“It's a terrible plan,” I said, picking gently at the medical tape on my face. “I mean, I don't know what it is, but it can't be anything other than a terrible plan. Michael can't kill the Leviathans, he can't even cage them on his own. The Winchesters and Castiel are probably going to get themselves killed.”
Gabriel unwrapped a sucker and put it in his mouth. “Sho,” he asked around the candy, “whadder you goin' do?”
“I lied to them,” I said proudly. “I told them Michael's plan would work, so that they wouldn't have to worry about it.”
“Nough,” said Gabriel, “I men', whadder YOU gonna do?”
“What? I- oh.” I paused. “If I stay with the Winchesters I'll probably get eaten too. Which would be pointless. It's not as if I can contribute anything further. There's no point in adding my body to the pile.” I flipped onto my stomach and watched the grass wave in the wind for a while. I turned back to Gabriel. “Is there?”
Gabriel smirked. “You know whad I chosh.”
I rolled my eyes. “Failure and death. Not very profitable.”
He nodded. “Yesh, but you know whad?”
He popped the sucker out of his mouth. “I don't regret it, you loser.”
Loser? He was the one who'd gotten killed. I cocked my head at him. “Why not?”
Gabriel's smile never wavered as he reached over and delicately plopped the sucker into my hair.
I opened my eyes.
“That was incredibly unhelpful,” I muttered.
“What?” mumbled Sam, from the other bed.
I sat up, and immediately regretted it. Pain lanced into my brain as the blood rushed to my head, leaving me to grimace quietly to myself for several seconds and hope like hell that Sam didn't hear me. It stopped eventually, and I got to my feet with considerably more caution.
My mouth tasted of blood, so I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth. Sam had gotten me a toothbrush last night while he was picking up food. It was green and white, and the handle of it was shaped like a bunny. I think he'd meant it as an amusing peace-offering, and I felt oddly attached to it.
It had occurred to me, when he had given it to me, that I didn't actually own anything. All I had were my clothes, and those had been Nick's anyway. I had never bothered getting any other things to wear for this body because I had meant it to be temporary, intending Sam to be my permanent residence.
I wasn't sure what I considered Sam to be now, though. I had always found his resistance to me as endearing as any pet-owner might find it when their new puppy disobeys and runs off with their socks, but I had only taken enough of a personal interest in Sam as had been required to manipulate him. Sam had been a means to an end – it benefitted me to pretend to be attached to him, but there had been no point in actually being so.
I peered through the open door at Sam's sleeping figure. He had said that he wanted me to stay with them. Why? Surely there were other, more experienced people who they could ask to help them hunt if it was simply manpower they needed. But the Winchesters had always hunted perfectly well on their own, and Castiel was more than adequate backup should they need it. The three of them tolerated my presence, but none of them seemed to like me particularly, or to need me at all.
I stopped mid-brush, struck by a thought. The Winchesters lived their lives on the principle of saving people, often at their own expense. They certainly had nothing to gain by helping me, but maybe they thought... surely they weren't trying to save me?
Hah, well, they were wasting their time, because I didn't need... their... help...
I watched my blood-stained spit swirl down the sink.
Heaven would not take me back, and my empty Cage was all that awaited me in Hell. The only place left for me, I realized suddenly, was Earth, and the only people on this planet who had any chance of understanding or sympathizing with me had absolutely no reason to do so.
Did they know that? Is that why they were helping me? Out of pity? But if they hated me, then wouldn't it be more beneficial to them to not help me? What should I do? Leave? Stay and grovel?
I stopped myself. I had no idea where this train of thought would lead me to, but I suspected that I would not be happy with the answer. I didn't want to know right now. I still had other, more immediate things to worry about before I had to follow those thoughts all the way to the end. Maybe later, it would be easier to think. Maybe there wouldn't even have to be a later – I might get eaten by Leviathans before the day was out. That would be good.
I looked myself over in the mirror again. My eye was a little less swollen today, I thought, but my injuries seemed otherwise unchanged.
Now what had I been...? Oh yes. Clothes. Clothes for my vessel.
I had been wearing the same clothes for... well, this would make it the third day. It was the same outfit I had always worn, in Nick's vessel: jeans, a khaki t-shirt, a khaki button-up, and brown work boots. It was... practical, I supposed, but boring. It didn't really suit me, and if I was going to be in this body for a while, I should at least make it look like it belonged to me.
I put my toothbrush back into the cup at the side of the sink, then pressed my palms against the countertop. I breathed for a while.
When I finally came out of the bathroom, I walked over to Sam and gave him a poke.
“Nghh- wha-?” said Sam.
“How do you you use credit cards?” I demanded.
DID YOU KNOW THAT
Sam and Dean have only ever cleaned their wounds with booze in the show, to my knowledge, which is hella manly but also really dumb. I refuse to believe that hunters wouldn't have first aid kits. JE REFUSE.
Alcohol is best used for sterilization, eg prepping an area before sticking in a needle or making an incision. Booze'll do in a pinch for cleaning out wounds, and is sure as hell better than nothing, but it needs to be at least 70% proof or else you're just like, making it worse really. Honestly it is easier to just have a bottle of hydrogen peroxide on hand because 1, it works better, and 2, as Lucifer has learned, it doesn't hurt at all.
NOW YOU KNOW.
Chapter 9: Decisions
I'd made it about halfway across the parking lot before a voice called out to me.
“Where are you going?”
Castiel stood a few feet away from me, an unopened can of diet Coke in one hand, and wearing his usual expression of perplexed curiousity.
“Clothes shopping,” I said.
Castiel continued to stare at me for several seconds longer than my comfort threshold.
“I have permission,” I added, and proffered the credit card Sam had given me. Castiel frowned at it.
“From 'Alberto Reyez Rodriguez?'” he said, still looking at the card.
“Uh-” I flipped it around and looked at it. “Huh. Yeah, I guess. Ha ha...”
The silence returned. I found it odd how quiet Castiel seemed to always be. Angels generally defaulted to grandstanding and displays of power, even if they weren't the shouting type, but Castiel did none of these things. I wasn't really sure how to deal with an angel who could stare blankly into the middle distance for hours on end.
I cleared my throat. “Well, I'll just be getting along then,” I said, and made to leave.
“Why are you still here?” asked Castiel.
“You're the one who stopped me in the middle of the parking lot, brainiac.”
“No,” said Castiel. “Why are you still with the Winchesters? The Leviathans are bound to them, not you. There is nothing keeping you here. Why stay?”
“I...” I hesitated.
“You could go anywhere you wanted to,” said Castiel. “Any country, any city. Why stay?”
“You're staying with them,” I said.
Castiel nodded. “It is my responsibility to see the Leviathans put back where they belong. You have no such obligations.”
“Oho, so you think you owe them a debt?”
“No, Lucifer. I am staying with them because I choose to stay with them.” He tilted his head a little to the side. “Do you know why I Fell?”
I shrugged. “The same reason everyone does – you disobeyed.”
Castiel smiled crookedly. “There is no room for uncertainty in Heaven, nor for doubt. There is only truth. Justice.” Castiel waved a hand expansively at the parking lot. “We can doubt and question as we please, here. We have the freedom to make our own decisions.” He paused. “But we also have no one else to blame when we choose poorly. That can be... frightening, at times.”
I felt myself frown. I'd liked it better when he'd just been staring at me. Aloud, I said, “I know that already. So what?”
“I just wanted to make sure you remembered that you have a choice,” said Castiel calmly. “Our Father put you here, but that doesn't mean that you have to stay here. There is always a choice. You can leave, if you want to.”
“Well, maybe I don't want to leave,” I snapped, tired of the conversation.
Castiel looked surprised. I was pleased for a moment, until I realized what I had just said.
“Oh,” I said distantly.
“They grow on you, don't they?” said Castiel. There was a cheekiness to his smile, now.
“Shut up,” I said. I really didn't need this right now, on top of everything else I had to think about. “I'm going-”
Castiel had frozen with his head half-cocked, as if listening intently to something. His smile had evaporated.
“Can you hear that?”
I listened. I could hear the low hum of early morning traffic, some birds chirping obnoxiously from a nearby tree, a distant dog barking, and...
“Thunder?” I said. I looked up at the sky. It was blue, and dotted with the occasional wispy white cloud.
“Thunder does not generally have words in it,” said Castiel.
There were words, too, if I strained my ears hard enough. Enochian words mostly, mixed with a bit of Latin. Castiel, still full of grace, could doubtless hear them a lot better than I could, but I made an effort anyway.
“Something about... 'summoning,'” I said, concentrating. “And 'anchors.' Do you think that's-”
But I was suddenly talking to an empty parking lot.
“Rude,” I said.
The door to the motel slammed open, and a lumpy-headed Sam was hustled out, still in his bare feet.
“What? Cas, what're you- what?”
“Leviathans,” said Castiel. “Stay with Lucifer, I need to find-”
Dean Winchester came sprinting around the corner just then, a doughnut shoved into his mouth and a cup of what I assumed to be coffee in one hand. His other was fumbling at his waistband for his gun.
“Never mind,” said Castiel.
“How'd you get here so fast?” I asked, as Dean drew up next to us. He popped the doughnut out of his mouth with two spare fingers on the coffee hand. He swallowed.
“Coffee shop just around the corner. Didn't want to go far, just in case... well.” He gestured at the pleasant skies. “Figured the talking thunder was a bad sign.”
Sam dragged a hand through his hair. “So what do we-”
Lightning cracked like a whip three feet away from us.
“Shee-it,” said Dean, as we all picked ourselves up from wherever we'd thrown ourselves. His coffee had sloshed all down the front of him, and the other half of his doughnut was on the ground. He regarded it sadly.
“Let's get the hell outta Dodge?” suggested Sam.
“Good call,” said Dean. “Cas, can you-”
Dozens more bolts lanced down from the clear skies then, completely surrounding us. It didn't disappear this time either, but stayed to tear long rips in the empty space, as if cut into existence by a jagged knife. The ragged holes hung in the air for a moment, and then, all at once, they disappeared, leaving dozens of people standing in their place.
At least, they looked like people.
“Shit,” said Dean hoarsely.
There were Leviathans all around us, filling the parking lot. Some stood only a foot or two away. None of them seemed to have noticed us yet, though I doubted it would take them much longer.
“Where's Michael?” whispered Sam.
I scanned the crowd carefully. “I don't think he's here,” I said eventually.
“How can you be sure?” asked Dean. “There's like, hundreds of Leviathans here, I sure can't see through them all.”
I rolled my eyes. “Has my brother ever made a quiet, subtle entrance?”
“Oh. Yeah. Good point.” He paused. “Do you think they've noticed us yet or could we still-”
“Well hey there, Winchesters!”
We all turned. A handsome man in a well-cut suit strode calmly towards us. He stopped a few feet away.
“Dick,” said Dean grimly. I sincerely hoped that this was the Leviathan's name, rather than an ill-timed insult.
The Leviathan gave a slight nod of his head. His name, then. “It seems like we've all received some sort of invitation from you guys.” He smiled. “So? We gonna have a little party? Barbeque maybe?”
The other Leviathans sniggered. I could see Dean starting to sweat, and Sam was stone-faced. Castiel's eyes were flicking around the crowd, calculating.
Dick rested a thoughtful hand on his chin. “Dean, and Sam, and Castiel,” he said slowly, pointing his finger at them as he spoke their names, “and you,” he said, pointing at me. “Who might you be?”
I folded my arms. “Lucifer.”
Dick stared at me for a moment. “I'm sorry,” he said finally, “I was waiting for the punchline.” The Leviathans laughed, and Dick smiled. “Come on now. Who are you really?”
“Lucifer,” I said again, annoyed.
Dick held up his hands in yielding. “Okay, okay,” he said, “you're Lucifer. What's your last name?”
I glared at him.
“Don't look at me like that,” said Dick, grinning wider than a person should be able to. “It's only common courtesy. I mean, after I eat you, I'd like to eat your family right after. You know, to spare them the grief of your sudden death and all.”
The Leviathans found this to be hugely entertaining. I did not.
“Now, now, Lucifer,” laughed Dick. “There's no need to be angry. It's a very quick death! Your family won't feel a thing! What have you got? Wife? Kids? Parents?”
“An older brother,” I said.
“That's it? Your only living relative is a brother?” Dick laughed some more. “Well, birds of a feather and all that.” He gave the Winchesters a wink.
Castiel shot forward suddenly, holy blade in hand. My heart skipped a beat. Ha! Right, yes! All Castiel had to do was knock Dick away for a moment and then he could get us all out-
Dick dodged Castiel with an ease that was painful to behold. He watched with amusement as four other Leviathans tackled the angel to the ground.
“Cas!” said Dean, lunging towards him. Sam and I both grabbed him around the shoulders and held him back.
“Ooh, a little sensitive there about your angel there, Dean?” said Dick. “We'll be sure to eat him last, then, so you don't have to watch.”
Dean looked ready to rip Dick's throat out.
“Look you guys,” continued Dick, now ignoring Dean completely, “this is really fun and all, but I gave your team a whole couple of minutes to spring whatever trap you thought was going to stop me, and if butterfingers here was supposed to be your ace in the hole, then colour me unimpressed. And bored. And hungry.”
The Leviathans edged towards us.
“So? Got anything else for me? Or are we done here?”
Dick's smile seemed to be growing wider. Too wide. With too many teeth.
I wasn't sure what to do. We were surrounded by Leviathans, so we couldn't run, and our angelic means of transportation was currently out of service. If I'd had my powers... and where the hell was Michael?
The wind picked up just then, whipping around us in a harsh circle. I could feel something ethereal driving it, something familiar. Dick must have felt it too, because he took a step back and frowned.
All of the windows in the motel blew out. The ground beneath us shook, and then heaved tremendously. The Leviathans panicked, knocking into each other as they tried to see what was happening. Dick disappeared into the crowd.
“Cas!” Dean dove into the nearest pile of Leviathans.
“Dean!” yelled Sam. “Dean! Where are you?”
“I've got him!” Dean pushed his way forward. “I've got Cas!”
Dean had an arm around Castiel to hold him up. The angel looked slightly dazed, but otherwise intact.
“Can you hear that?” said Sam.
It was hard not to. The sound was like the roaring of wind in an enormous tunnel, and grew louder with each passing second.
The Winchesters drew up beside me with Castiel in tow, jostled a little by passing Leviathans.
“What the hell is it?” asked Dean. “Sam, can you see anything?”
Sam stood on tiptoe, and craned his head. “I can't really – ahh! Shit! Back up! Back up, back up!”
We pressed back through the hoard as best as we could, shoving aside Leviathans as we went.
“What's happening?” asked Dean.
“Big hole,” said Sam. “Huge hole, getting bigger. Swallowing up Leviathans.”
“Shit,” I panted, “we have to- aghh!”
I had run face-first into something, hard. I bounced backwards and hit the pavement, where I curled up in a ball of agony. I felt wetness drizzle onto my arm, and managed to groggily trace the source of it to my nose. I touched it gently, and immediately blacked out for a moment with pain. I added 'broken nose' to my mental tally of injuries, once I was conscious again.
There were other groans of pain around me, I realized. I raised my head up to look.
Dean and Sam were with me on the ground. Dean was slowly uncurling beside me, while Sam was half sitting up and had a hand plastered over his right eye. Castiel was crouched on the ground, apparently uninjured, a hand outstretched and pressed against something invisible.
“What the hell was that?” whined Dean.
“We can't leave,” said Castiel, dully.
“What?” said Sam. “But there's a huge hole coming after us.” The roar behind us had definitely grown in volume.
“Hole's coming after the Leviathans,” I said, suddenly understanding. “Michael must have put up a barrier to keep them in.”
“But now we can't get out either!” yelled Dean over the din.
“Collateral damage,” I said.
Dean thumped the ground with a fist. “God damn it! Cas, can you still blip us out of here?”
Castiel drew his eyebrows together, concentrating. “No,” he said after a moment of this. “There's something stopping me. I'm sorry.”
The sound behind us suddenly trebled in volume. We all turned around, dreading what we would see.
It was, as Sam described, a great big hole. If someone were to drop a good-sized house into that pitch blackness, it might possibly acquire a scrape or two on the way down. Wind whipped around the chasm like a tornado. The nearest edge looked to be perhaps thirty feet away from us, and getting nearer with every second as the hole grew wider.
There were only a few dozen Leviathans left now, the others presumably already sucked into the hole. Some were still scrabbling impotently at the invisible barrier, while others simply stood still and waited for inevitability to run its course.
We remained sitting with our backs pressed up against the invisible barrier and the wind howling in our ears, and watched the edge draw nearer. There wasn't really anything else we could do.
There were a dozen Leviathans left now. And twenty feet.
I looked hard at the enormous hole. Where did it lead to? There was something familiar about it. It almost felt like... no. It couldn't be.
Seven Leviathans, twelve feet.
I wondered whether the hole was spelled to simply keep expanding until it hit the edges of the barrier, or whether it had some other qualifier. Once all of the Leviathans were inside it, perhaps? If so...
I felt Sam's hand clamp down on my arm. I turned to him. He had Dean's arm in his other hand, and Dean had an arm wrapped around Castiel's shoulders. I met Sam's eyes, and he gave me a single, curt nod.
I took the nod to be an acceptance of something, but of what, I couldn't be sure. Of death? Of me? Of the knowledge that we'd done everything we could? Had we? I made a mental note to ask for clarification later, on the off-chance that we weren't all dead in under a minute.
One Leviathan left, six feet.
The Leviathan was only a couple feet away, pressed up against the barrier like we were. It was, I realized, Dick. He was yelling something frantically, at us or at the hole, I couldn't tell. I briefly amused myself with the thought that he might be praying - I wondered if Leviathans even had the instinct for prayer.
I was afraid, too, truth be told. I wanted to curl back into a ball, or run away, or just close my eyes and go to sleep. But I felt Sam's hand on my arm, and if he wasn't doing any of those things I sure as hell wouldn't.
Besides, scared or not, this was the only chance for me to test out my terrible, terrible, plan. If it worked, I'd still be just as poorly off as if it hadn't, but damn it all, I didn't want anything to happen to the Winchesters if I could help it.
I spared them one last glance. All three of them were pretty annoying, but they were gutsy and persistent too, and not very easily intimidated, and as a fellow agent of free will I could relate to that. I could respect that. I could maybe even like them a little for that.
Plus, if my idea worked, it would drive them all nuts to know I'd saved their asses.
I shook Sam's hand off and bolted for Dick, who was too busy staring at the hole about to swallow him to notice my approach. I grabbed him firmly by his lapels, planted a foot on the invisible barrier, and launched us into the hole.
For the third time in my life, I was cast into my Cage.
I knew it was my Cage for certain, now. I knew this smell, this feeling in the air. The wind roared in my ears, and the distant edges of the Pit went past in a blur. Dick fell nearby, sometimes changing in distance from me, but never far. Every time I managed to catch a glimpse of his face, he looked terrified.
I could remember being frightened myself the first time I'd fallen, and furious the second time, but this time, I just felt sort of... detached. Logically, I ought to be more frightened than either of the previous times, since I would now be sharing my Cage with Leviathans, who no doubt would make infinitely more unpleasant company than Sam or Michael, but I wasn't.
I felt... not good, definitely not good, but... satisfied, perhaps?
I blamed the Winchesters. They were always going up against entities that they had no chance against and coming out on top, and now I'd gone and tried to do the same thing. I wondered why they did it. They had to know that one day they'd lose the gamble, and that these hunts of theirs would permanently claim their lives. It was as if they felt that the risk was somehow worth it.
I thought that over some more. Pain always hurts, but sometimes... there are things worth getting hurt over? A goal I'd risk my own death for. Something more important than my own life? The other day, I wouldn't have thought it possible for me, but now, well, what had I just done for the Winchesters?
“Damn it all,” I said.
Whether I wanted to admit it or not, I had wanted to stay with the Winchesters. I still didn't know why, not really. Maybe if I'd been allowed to hang around them a little longer, I'd have figured out why I'd wanted to in the first place.
Could have done, might have been. I'd never know now.
I stared down into the bleak darkness of my Pit. There was still a long ways to go. I wondered what eternity would be like this time...
I felt hands grip my shoulders, severing my train of thought. The hands pulled up, and I jerked to an immediate stop. Dick didn't. I watched him fall for a while, until the blackness of the Pit swallowed him.
I could still feel hands on my shoulders.
“Lucifer,” said an annoyed voice from behind me.
I craned my head around to look. “Oh,” I said. “Hi, Michael.”
We ascended from the Pit very quickly, propelled by Michael's wings. It took barely a minute before I was back in the parking lot, exactly where I had fallen, though the hole was gone now, of course.
A few feet away, Castiel and the Winchesters seemed to be arguing over something, but our sudden arrival stopped their conversation dead. They gaped at Michael and I.
“What?” I asked, innocently.
The Winchesters unstuck themselves almost at the same time, and started shouting at me.
“You- what? What do you mean what?”
“Luce! Jesus, what did you jump down there for?”
“-come teleporting out of no where and you have to ask-”
To my complete surprise, Sam wrapped his arms around me in a fierce hug.
“We thought you were dead!” he said, from somewhere near my ear.
“Uh,” I said. I scooped my arms awkwardly under his. “I'm okay. You're okay?”
Sam nodded. At least, it felt like he was nodding.
“Well, good,” I said. “Everybody's okay, then.” I patted him on the back uncertainly, and tried to discreetly spit out a strand of his hair. I peered over Sam's shoulder to see Dean giving the ongoing hug a look of intense disapproval, but Castiel was looking at something behind and to the left of me.
“Michael?” said Castiel.
I gently extricated myself from the hug, and turned to look. Michael stood with his arms folded, also staring at me.
“What?” I said.
Michael shrugged. “Nothing.” Was he... smiling, just a little?
Dean cut in. “You almost trapped us with the Leviathans.”
Michael shrugged. “And I wouldn't have cared if you had been.” Dean spluttered at that, but Michael continued, “Luckily for you, Lucifer pushed the last Leviathan in before the door reached you. Otherwise, I would have let you be pulled into Lucifer's Cage without any feelings of guilt or regret.”
“I- wait. Lucifer's-?”
“Yes,” said Michael, “Lucifer's Cage. Purgatory is, as you know, almost impossible to open, and the rules do not change simply because I am an archangel. The Cage, however, is so easily opened without its protective seals that even the two of you managed to do it. I will, of course, quickly rectify this.”
“Oh,” said Dean.
“I think I have wasted enough time here,” said Michael. “The Leviathans are vanquished, Lucifer is back where my Father intended him to be, and I have more important tasks to accomplish.” He flicked his eyes briefly towards me, and then vanished.
Sam furrowed his brow. “Uh. Bye?”
We stared at the empty pavement where Michael had been standing.
Dean pouted his lips and raised an eyebrow at me. “I guess you really did save our bacon, huh?”
“Well,” I said. “Yes. I guess I did.”
“And then Michael saved you,” said Dean, “for some reason.” He paused. “Why did he save you, d'you think?”
I glanced at the spot where Michael had been standing. “He's my brother,” I said. Sam and Dean both nodded in understanding.
“Well. Thanks,” said Dean. “For. Y'know.”
“Yeah. Thanks, Luce,” said Sam.
“It was good deed,” agreed Castiel.
I made a face. “No big deal,” I mumbled.
There wasn't really anything else for anyone to say about it. Dean pointedly cleared his throat to cut through the awkward silence, and gestured behind us, towards the motel.
“Man,” he said loudly, “that place is a wreck.”
Diverting statement though it was, it was nevertheless true. All the windows in the building seemed to have broken, as well as a few of the closest doors, including ours. Other people had begun to drift into the parking lot now, motel residents and concerned citizens alike. All of them wondered what had happened, but I doubted that any one of them would be able to come up with anything remotely resembling the truth.
We went back inside our motel room, unsurprisingly finding the entire room coated in glass. Dean poked around in it with the toe of his boot.
“Could've been worse,” said Castiel, observing from the doorway.
Dean stopped poking for a moment “S'pose so. Nobody's dead anyway, not even us.”
“Not for lack of trying,” I said.
“Hey, Cas,” said Dean. “Do angel powers keep you from getting glass all over you?”
“Probably,” said Castiel.
“Good, cos I need help getting our stuff out, and Sam's looking a bit shoe-less at the moment. Plus, I don't have any gloves, so...”
I realized that Sam was indeed still outside, peering through the doorway from about ten feet away. There was glass all over the pavement too, I noticed. After a moment's thought, I slid the closet door open and fished out his shoes, then stepped back out onto the pavement and handed them to him.
“Thanks,” said Sam. He walked a little ways to the nearest glass-free curb, then plunked himself down and started to loosen the laces.
Sam glanced up at the open motel door, then glanced at me conspiratorially.
“Might not be a bad idea to stay out here for a while,” he said casually, slipping a foot into a shoe.
“Weeell, I imagine those two have a bit to sort out,” he said, putting on his other shoe. “Might be easier if no one else is present for it.”
I tried to think would Sam could mean, and came up dry. “What did I miss?” I asked.
Sam tied his laces. “Let us say that, faced with certain death, the two of them, uh, exchanged passions.” He gestured vaguely with a hand.
I considered this. “Was there tongue?”
“Ew,” laughed Sam. He paused. “Probably,” he said, grinning.
I nodded sagely. “Took them long enough.”
Sam laughed again at that. He had his shoes on now, but he didn't seem in a hurry to get anywhere. I'd had a pretty eventful morning myself thus far, so I was content to sit on the curb with him and watch the growing crowd of people in the motel parking lot.
The police had arrived now, as well as a fire truck and a couple of ambulances. Sam and I watched the motel owner gesture animatedly to a constable, who was wearing an expression of disbelief. A couple of kids had rode up in their bikes, and appeared to be seriously considering going through some of the blown-out motel windows to scavenge. I could see the firefighters, having found no fire to fight, sitting down on a nearby picnic table with a couple of drinks from a vending machine. A news van pulled up.
A crowd of onlookers had gathered nearby me and Sam, peering at the policemen from a distance so that they wouldn't get shouted at. I heard one of them saying that perhaps someone had driven by with one of those bass-thumping sound systems. Another suggested vandals. A few of them noticed the news crew, promptly thought that maybe that they'd seen the whole thing, and walked over to be on television.
We watched them with amusement. A hole into Hell had opened up in this parking lot, and the only beings on earth who knew about it were the four of us.
The Winchesters knew a lot of things that they shouldn't, when you got right down to it, even more than just the knowledge that monsters and demons were real. They'd both been to Heaven and Hell, for one thing. They'd met angels, and Leviathans, and the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and gods both new and ancient. They had beaten all those things, too. Somehow, faced with omnipotent deities with plans of their own, the Winchesters had still managed to make their own destinies.
It suddenly struck me how impressive that was. How remarkable it was that a couple of flawed, stubborn humans had managed to do all that and were still able to laugh about it, and keep doing what they always had, which was saving people.
On a whim, I leaned over and gave Sam a light peck on the cheek. He turned and gaped at me. I burst into laughter.
“S-sorry,” I said. “I just- sorry. I feel pretty good right now.”
Sam raised his eyebrows. “Yeah?”
I watched a kid climb through a window a few rooms down from ours, her friends standing guard and partially obscuring her from the police.
“Yeah. I think I could get used to, you know... this.” I gestured vaguely in front of me.
“Parking lots?” said Sam.
“Yea-no. Like. Earth. People.” I squirmed, searching for words. “It's not so bad here. There's a lot more stuff to do than I thought there would be. You guys are pretty okay.”
Sam put an arm around my shoulder. “You're pretty okay, too.”
I beamed at him.
Sam nodded his head towards the cops. “We better clear out of here.”
“Should probably move everything into the Impala, too,” I said, “before the young hoodlums make off with it all.”
The young girl had, by now, climbed back out of the window and delivered a small flatscreen television unto her waiting companions, and was going back in for more.
“A girl after my own heart,” I said. Sam tried to shake his head in disapproval, but it was ruined by his smile.
It didn't take long to pack up the Winchesters' limited possessions into the Impala. Sam had helped me clean up my broken nose with our limited first aid kit while the other two packed. Now, I waited by the car, enjoying the fresh air despite the ache in my face, while the three of them got in line to check out of the motel. It looked like it could a while – for some reason, motel residents seemed against the idea of staying in a room with shattered windows, and the checkout line was out the door.
I turned my attention back to the crowd of onlookers while I waited. The ambulances and fire trucks had left, but the news crew and police cars remained. There was no sign of the young petty thieves, and I privately hoped that they'd gotten away cleanly.
“Hello again, Lucifer.”
I turned. My Father leaned against the hood beside me, His hands clasped gently in front of Himself, apparently taking in the scene. I turned back to the news van.
“Up yours,” I said.
My Father feigned surprise. “I haven't even told you what I'm here for, yet.”
“I already know,” I said. “You're going to ask if I think I've learned my lesson and want to go back to Heaven or something. Or you could just be here to annoy me. Or something. Whatever. It doesn't matter. I've already made my decision, without your assistance.”
“And your decision is?”
“I'm staying down here with the mud monkeys.”
“Good. You suit this place.”
I turned to squint at him, in case it could help me figure out whether that was an insult or not.
“Well,” said my Father. “I can see you don't need me for anything, so I'll just be off then.” He straightened up.
“That's it?” I said, amazed. “You're not going to send me off somewhere new, or throw me back in the Pit, or anything?”
“Well,” He admitted, “I did have one other question, now that you ask.”
“Ah,” I said. Here we go. Probably some more patronizing demands for apologies or explanations or some such nonsense.
“If you could do it all again,” He said, “right from the beginning, would you do anything differently?”
Do it all again? Choose to obey my Father instead of disobeying him? Refrain from creating demons? It was an odd question.
If I hadn't made those choices, I supposed that I might still be in Heaven now. My Father would still have left though, in all likelihood, so my future would certainly have not seemed any clearer. Would I have fought with Michael anyway, but over the direction the Host should take once my Father had left? Would the Apocalypse have still happened, just a little differently?
I frowned. Some things would have changed, perhaps, but I felt that a great deal more would have stayed the same. Perhaps I might have been able to forgo my stint in Hell, perhaps not. Maybe if things had happened a little differently, the Apocalypse could have happened earlier or later in humanity's history. Maybe there would have actually been a clear winner, if the intended pawns had been someone less stubborn than the brothers Winchester.
Someone other than the Winchesters. Which meant that there was a definite possibility that, if I had made a single decision in my life differently than I had, I might never have met Sam Winchester and his stubborn brother.
“No,” I said finally. “I'd do everything the same.”
My Father smiled. “Good.”
Good? I thought he'd wanted me to be sorry.
“Now this time, I really am going. It was nice to see you again, Lucifer.”
He gave me a wink, and then he was gone. I stared at the empty air.
I turned at the sound of Dean's voice.
“We're good to go, dude. Gotta discount, too, on account on the inconvenience. And candy!” He held aloft a handful of suckers, and handed me one at random.
“Oh, good,” I said distantly.
I got into the back seat next to Castiel, while Dean took the driver's seat, and Sam took shotgun. I stared at my sucker for a moment, thinking of the last dream I'd had of Gabriel. He'd said that he didn't regret his choice. I wasn't sure whether Gabriel would actually have said something like that, but I think I could understand the statement a little bit now anyway.
I took the wrapper off the candy and popped it into my mouth.
“Where are we going now?” I asked, after I'd clicked my seat belt into place.
“Bobby called while we were at the front desk,” said Sam. “He says he's been hearing news of some weird animal attacks over in Massachusetts. Could be werewolves, could be something else. Worth a look, anyway.”
I remembered something then.
“I still need new clothes,” I said. “Got interrupted by Leviathans.”
“Huh,” said Dean, as he pulled out of the parking lot. “I think I need some new underwear, actually.”
Sam rolled his eyes. “Okay, okay. Wal-Mart, then werewolves?”
There was a chorus of agreement.
“Why are you agreeing?” asked Dean, looking at Castiel through the rear-view mirror. “Haven't you worn the same outfit for years?”
“I was thinking,” said Castiel slowly, “that I might perhaps try some different ties.”
“Whoa! You feeling okay, Cas?” laughed Sam.
I half-listened to the three of them bickering good-naturedly, and watched the lamp-posts and street signs speed by outside my window.
I shifted the sucker from one cheek to the other. I still wasn't sure where this road would take me or what I wanted out of life, but I wasn't so worried about that any more. There were worse fates than being free to do what I liked, and worse companions with which to face uncertain odds.
I had made a decision, and I didn't regret it. I'd have to see how long I could keep that streak going.
Thanks for sticking around to the end! It's my first-ever fanfic so it's a bit rocky in places, and it ended up being twice as long as I thought it'd be, but I hope you guys liked it anyway!