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Falls The Shadow - Part I: Death's Other Kingdom - SPN Season Seven AU

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Mar. 23rd, 2012 | 02:19 am

Title: Deaths Other Kingdom
Pairing: eventual Destiel
Rating: PG? For dark themes and your typical levels of violence.
Word count: 4427
Warnings: Angst. And a fair amount of it.
Summary: Castiel dies, but death is not the end.
Author's NoteThis is some sort of revamp of my previously published Death's Other Kingdom fics. I believe it is much improved. Thanks to iblamebroadway for listening to me and looking over my writing. All remaining mistakes are my own.



“Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.”

- The Hollow Men, T.S. Eliot

~

The Angel Castiel prepares himself for death.

He has strayed so far from what the Winchesters called “the reservation”, has done such great wrong, and what he can sense coming to him is only what he deserves. He cannot even feel sorrow or fear at the prospect, though death should provoke such a response in an Angel--should be too alien to be considered. Cas does not care anymore. The only thing that matters, this close to his end, is Dean’s forgiveness.

He reaches out for it as best he can, and even that small mercy is denied him.

At least, he thinks, Dean’s voice is no longer so far away, clouded by the constant babble of so many souls. At least the turbulence and fury of the monsters he drunk from Purgatory is quieted now, though he knows they have grown weak only in the growing acidic burn of the Leviathan, working it’s way out of him. At least, in his last moments, he can listen to Dean without that muddle, even if it is only to hear his hate.

He is so sorry he did not pause to listen sooner.

They begin the ritual. Dean scrawls the sigils in virgin’s blood, which Castiel is so disgusted to have gathered by his own hand, across the dank walls. Castiel is bodily dragged to his feet, which, embarassingly, he is to weak to keep. Then Bobby chants the incantation, his accent grating on Castiel’s sensitive ears, but it is close enough. He turns and offers one last, desperate apology.

The portal opens and the souls are ripped from his vessel so violently, so painfully, that he cannot even scream. His voice is lost, both his vessel’s, and his own True Voice. It goes on and on until finally, blessedly, he falls.

And somehow, he is still alive.

Dean is shouting at him, the hate gone from his voice, and he feels his face scrunch into a frown, bewildered. He mutters something slightly inane, and then they pull him upright, once again. Dean’s and Bobby’s rough hands on him, too real even through the trenchcoat, are the most welcome thing he has ever felt. Somehow, miraculously, he begins to gets his bearings, and he meets Dean’s eyes.

“I’m alive,” he mutters, peering around, and he doesn’t care how it sounds.

“Looks like,” Bobby agrees.

For a brief moment, with Dean’s perfect face swimming  in and out of his clouded vision,  he thinks it will be alright. He admits, sheepishly, his own surprise, and watches as Dean’s eyes try to figure out where the want to look, first. He wonders at that, briefly, and then he feels it.

He feels them, still inside, talons and tentacles and other unspeakable appendages latched into every part of him, and he knows he has not escaped his fate.

So, he forces a semblance of normalcy into his voice as he says, “I am ashamed. I really overreached.”

“Ya think?” Dean asks, and Cas could almost smile, if bitterly.

“I will find some way to redeem myself to you.”

Dean is mumbling something, mostly meaningless, but Cas is not listening. All he can do is rake his eyes over every inch of that face and try to fight back the monsters swelling inside him.

“I mean it, Dean,” he manages, though he can see Dean still failing to grasp it.

And then it is too much, all too much, and he throws the two men away from him with the little strength he can find.

“You need to run, now!” He implores. “I- I can’t hold them back.”

“Hold who back?” Dean asks, and Cas could sob at his blindness, if he only had the effort to spare.

“They held on inside me. Dean. They’re so strong!”

Bobby questions, too, and he can only just grit out, “Leviathan!”, and then they are tearing through him, clawing their way to the surface, and he can’t even reach his own voice to cry out with as he is pulled under and tossed into the black.

-

Dean isn’t a hundred percent on what’s got Cas this panicked, but he does know it’s bad, maybe worse than anything they’re seen before. And when you consider the fact they’ve gone up against the Devil himself, that’s pretty fucking bad. Cas shoves him away, but Dean’s never been one to take a hint.

“Cas?”

And then when Cas lifts his head, Dean can tell it’s something else in there looking at him, even before the thing stretches Cas’ face into a manic grin and throws him and Bobby across the room like they’re rag dolls.

“Cas is, uh, he’s dead,” the thing laughs, “We run the show now. This is gonna be so. Much. Fun.”

The thing wearing Cas’ meatsuit stalks across the room, peering at them like a caged animal. Only, now, the animal’s loose.

Dean goes with bravado. It’s always worked for him before; he won’t give it up now.

“How many of you ass-clowns are in there? A hundred? More?” It gives him a look that tells him he doesn’t want to know the answer, but he blunders on, “Your vessel’s gonna explode, ain’t it? Wouldn’t do anything to strenuous. In fact, I’d call it a day, head on home, huh?”

It smiles at him in the most sickening way he’s ever seen, but it does turn to leave. It- Leviathan- promises to come back and have at them, and it walks Cas’ body out into the lake.

At least Sam’s too out of it to notice him folding the Angel’s dirty trenchcoat up like a veteran’s flag.

-

Crowley gets with the program pretty quickly once he’s caught on. He is the King of Hell: he has eyes everywhere. The problem is just sorting the fact out from the fiction.

Lately, with the little Angel that could and his brand new God complex running the show, Pandemonium’s  rumor mill has been working overtime. The lesser demons see Castiel in every shadow, and their paranoia leaks all the way to the top.

Apparently, omens have been popping up that foretell a second Flood. An army of Nephilim in trenchcoats are waging guerrilla warfare on everything that goes bump in the night. Castiel and Crowley himself are - wait for it- lovers in league against Satan. And the very next day, Crowley hears he and the rest of Hell’s High Command have, in fact, been replaced with angelic dopplegangers.

It’s amazing what an active deity can do to the atmosphere of the Pit given only a few short months.

The last few days, Crowley has heard whispers of some ancient and unspeakable evil, something bigger and badder than Hell itself, stretching it’s legs somewhere Topside. Some are hoping for an new ally against the new God. Others are belong more to the “better the devil you know” camp, as it were. On either side, though, one name has come up more and more: Leviathan.

Frankly, it’s the most farfetched theory Crowley’s heard yet.

When something rearranges the movement of celestial bodies to suit it’s whim, though, Crowley knows something is going down. There’s only one player left on the board with that kind of pull, and it doesn’t take much to guess what an extra eclipse might be needed for.

-

Leviathan swims free, for the first time in unnumbered aeons, fearless and giddy. They swarm through every hose, every faucet, flood through every drain. They take new, beautiful bodies, and take them out to play.

Once, they walked in their own flesh, schooled in the earliest oceans. Earth now is different from Earth then. The Leviathan’s true forms are no longer compatible with this reality, and barely compatible with the hosts they take. They are so many. They are still pouring from their vessels. Still, Leviathan learns fast.

-

Castiel hits the endless empty of Purgatory hard enough to break bone. His nonexistent knees shatter on impact and he is left staring blankly at the blankness of Purgatory’s floor, gasping the pain of his insubstantial wounds. Beneath his seeming human hands, beneath Jimmy Novak’s hands, he can see nothing but a depthless expanse of dusty grey.

Still, it is so much more than he had expected to see, after his death.

And then he sees Raphael, quite suddenly, standing over him.

He feels the crackle of furious energy Raphael summons to smite him, completely unlike the power he held on Earth or in Heaven, but vastly more than Castiel has to his name, nonetheless. Still, Cas does not look up. He waits to suffer at his brother’s hand, and he welcomes it.

There is a deafeningly silent crash, completely unlike the sound he expected, and nothing whatsoever strikes him down. Weakly, he turns his face upwards, or what passes for upwards in this directionless place. He finds now it is Eve looming over him. He sees her in the body of the young virgin sacrificed to free her, sees her wearing the face of Mary Winchester, sees her as she was when first she walked the Earth, each laid over the other. He quivers, and bows his head.

“Oh, come on, now,’ she says, with all her voices, “don’t give me that. You’ve gone much too far to get all meek, now. What would even be the point?”

Still, Castiel does not meet her eyes. Any of them.

“Perhaps to salvage what remains of my grace, in death, if not life,” he rasps, “Whatever punishment you have in store for me, I will not fight it.”

She laughs at that, a bright sound that echoes discordantly across the vacuum of Purgatory. “Oh, yes, punishment! You do deserve punishment, Castiel. But I just don’t care to spend the effort.”

At that, he does look up, confused.

“I know you are the one who ordered my release,” she circles him now, slow, like the ancient predator she is, “I also know you helped your precious Winchesters to kill me. And that you delivered the corpse of my vessel to Crowley. And that you ate the souls of my children to power your little war machine.”

She stops on her heel, ever so precisely, spins and kneels, bowing her head near to Castiel’s, almost cheek to cheek.

Her evanescent lips brushing his ear, she whispers, “And I know you released the Leviathan upon the Earth.”

Castiel trembles, and presses his head to the ground that isn’t there.

She lays a hand over the nape of his neck, not unkindly.

“But, I also know you have some purpose left to serve.”

He tries to look up, to meet her eyes and see if there is any explanation to be found there, if there is any reason not to quash the sudden hope he feels beginning to rise. She holds him down, her hand tight and strong at his neck, and brushes a taunting kiss to his ear. He trembles and still struggles futilely against her grip.

Then she is gone, leaving Castiel alone in the vast nothingness of Purgatory, surrounded by all the souls he had captured or killed, all the souls he had swallowed. When they were inside of him, they had whispered sweet, taunting words, had taught him to thirst for power and to hate Dean Winchester, the hunter, the betrayer, with all he had. Now he hears them just as clearly, and now they are whispering death threats against him.

-

The morning after the eclipse, Crowley is up poking around the lab where the ritual was performed. Sure enough, there’s plenty of blood on the wall. And the floor. And trails of it down the hallway. The Almighty isn’t about, though, nor are the Winchesters, and whoever it was knocking on Purgatory’s door this time hasn’t had the good grace to leave him any other clues.

Crowley is strolling the grounds of the reservoir in desperation when he finally spots something. A body lies face down, washed up on the shore, just some man in a cheap suit. Crowley approaches with due caution; he hasn’t lived this long by lacking in that respect. The man makes no move, though, and Crowley carefully nudges him over with the toe of one expensive shoe.

It’s Castiel.

Or, at least, his vessel. His face is streaked with grime and thick, black ooze. Crowley thinks he recognizes that ooze; something old, something deadly. He also thinks, against all odds, the man is still breathing.

He makes an anonymous call to the Sioux Falls emergency medical hotline, and he disappears.

-

Sam had hoped, halfheartedly, at least, that Lucifer wouldn’t be sticking around.

Sam is getting tired of being wrong.

“You know he’s not real, right?” Dean asks.

“He says the same thing about you.”

-

A school of Leviathan catch hold of a new vessel. They like this one; she’s pretty. All plush lips and soft, mocha skin, wild hair and a hard jawline. They fit into her veins, just barely, but she’s warm and wonderful inside.

They take her out on the town.

-

For an unknowable, interminable length of time, Castiel waits in Purgatory, staring at his imagined knees and watching them slowly  knit back together. He can feel the restless souls of Purgatory, those he had consumed, shifting and seething, just beyond his perception. He can taste their intent, but they do not approach him. He almost wants them to break this stillness, to emerge and break him to pieces, but they never do.

He supposes the Mother may be keeping them at bay, protecting him for his supposed later purpose. He supposes, eventually, she may make that purpose known to him.

At some point, Gabriel turns up.

He is wearing the same vessel he built himself for life as the Trickster, a little older and more tired, and his wings are out. They waft in and out of  translucency, but they are still the six powerful wings of an Archangel, and the decorum of Heaven is still deeply enough ingrained in Castiel that he averts his eyes.
His own wings are weak in comparison, blackened and ragged, and he folds them as tightly as he can.

“You’ve got a lot of people mad at you down here, baby brother,” Gabriel says, by way of announcing his presence. He pats Cas on the shoulder companionably and plops down next to him.

Castiel blinks up at him, tilts his head to the side curiously at the implication he hears there.. “Are you not among them?”

“Eh,” Gabriel shrugs, smirks a little, “What’s a few more dead hypocrites and a shaken up Heavenly Host?”

“I will assume,” Castiel intones solemnly, “that was a rhetorical question.”

Gabriel snorts, a most unangelic sound. “What do you know, those two knuckleheads did teach you a sense of humor.”

“That is hardly all I have done,” Castiel sighs. “I’ve loosed Leviathan on the Earth.”

“Well, it was fun while it lasted. Guess there’s no point trying to keep your spirits up, eh, kiddo?” Gabriel shakes his head, “Alright, so there’s no denying you really dropped the ball on this one, but what’s done is done. Dad knows we’ve all had our fair share of screwups. This one’s definitely up there, but how are you gonna fix it if you’re too busy moping?”

“I am not moping,” Castiel mutters weakly, then frowns suspiciously, “I don’t know of any way to ‘fix it’, unless you have a suggestion.”

“I might, actually,” Gabriel begins to disappear again, seeming to fade into the distance without any motion, “But I gotta see a guy about a thing, first. I’ll get back to you.”

Abruptly, he is gone again, leaving Castiel alone with his now healed legs and his impotent need to repair the world. With no other options, he listens to the distance noise of Purgatory and wanders.

He cannot tell for how long he trudges through the vacuum, as there is no sense of time or of distance in this place.

However long he walks, he does not come across another soul or Grace. He suspects this is through concerted effort on the part of the Mother, especially as, occasionally, the growling seems, briefly, to grow closer.

Once, he can almost feel hot breath on the back of his neck, and as he whirls around to face it, there is a sound like a yelp cut off too soon. When he turns, there is nothing but empty space, the same as he has seen for his entire stay.

Dimly, he wonders how long it will take for the emptiness to drive him mad.

And then, abruptly, Gabriel is standing before him..

“Alright, so I think I’ve got the old gang back together, or something along those lines. I mean, Balthazar is still refusing to speak to you, and I had to tell Zach and Uriel all kinds of lies, but what’re ya gonna do? Anyway, we’ve got a plan and it’s getting set it motion, even as we speak,” Gabriel grins expectantly, as pleased with himself as ever.

Castiel only stares, hesitant even to reach for his voice after so long spent alone.

“Oookay, now you’re supposed to ask me what the plan is,” Gabe beckons.

Castiel capitulates.

“Why, I’m so glad you asked, Castiel,” and Gabriel does seem genuinely pleased, “Now, you see, there was one good thing meant to come out of the End Times, and that was the complete and total abolishment of Purgatory. This place, actually, was never meant as a permanent fix, just a sort of place holder. Apocalypse comes, Purgatory gets blown wide open.”

That catches Castiel’s attention. “What do you mean? How do you know this?”

Gabriel chuckles at that. “You guys all seem to forget I was in the upper echelon, way back when. I mean once the world ends, all the souls in Purgatory get shipped on to Heaven or Hell, whichever they’re ultimately meant to be.”

Castiel absorbs this for a time. He feels that traitorously persistent hope stir again, and he tries to hold it at bay.

“So how does this help us?” he asks, carefully maintaining his skepticism.

“Oh, don’t play dumb, Cas,” Gabriel cuffs him lightly, amiably,  across the head, “We can kick-start the whole thing, no Apocalypse necessary. We’ve got enough juice down here, between all the Angels and Demons and pagan Gods, now. We just might pull it off.”

Castiel lifts his head. He flexes his wings experimentally, weighing what strength he has left, and meets his brother’s eyes.

“What do you need me to do?”

-

Honestly, they’d all expected these Leviathan things to be a bit showy, start another apocalypse straight away, or something. They weren’t expecting this.

There’s no sign of them, not really. Crime rates are up, but by a fraction; no more than spells everyday, ordinary human badness. No leads. Bobby can’t find much lore. The missing person’s cases Sam and Dean investigate are mostly dead ends. There is nothing definitive, nothing consistent enough to track.
The Leviathans are out there. It’s just no one knows how to find them.

“It makes sense,” Sam points out, ignoring Dean and Lucifer’s glares, “No, listen, if they haven’t been on Earth since before humans-”

“Then nobody’s seen enough to know how to track ‘em,” Bobby finishes, “Well, that’s just fan-fuckin’-tastic.”

-

As it happens, very little is needed of Castiel. So many of his brothers and sister have died, and too many to count at his own hands. Almost all of them are more powerful than he, and the brunt of the work falls to them. He has little to offer in assistance, even if a single denizen of Purgatory were willing to speak to him.

A single denizen aside from Gabriel, of course, who spontaneously materializes from time to time, seemingly only to bother him.

Once, he is certain he glimpses Balthazar, from the corner of his eye, but when he turns, there is only nothingness again.

He does not expect a chance to make amends. But he does long for it.

At the time, he was so blinded by purpose, by the empty desperation of his mission, he could not understand. Balthazar’s betrayal had cut him so deeply and he had lashed out with little thought, certain of his own goals, his own righteousness. It is much easier, now, to see that he was the betrayer, not Balthazar. That his old friend was only trying to save him, before it was to late.

He might, even, have succeeded, if Castiel had not been so rash, so ruthless.

Sometimes he reaches out, searches for Balthazar in the endlessness, aching with longing to say these simple words. Though he can feel, sometimes, his friend there in the distance, it is like battering himself again a wall. Balthazar is unreceptive to his tentative offerings.

-

Leviathan takes and kills and eats, and leaves no evidence anyone alive can comprehend. It’s easy.

The Leviathan in the dark, soft, young body meets up with more. The others call them Crumpet, one of the many pet names they’ve long had among themselves. These are in an obscenely tall, golden-pale man, with sad eyes and a wicked smile. Crumpet compliments them on their new host, greets them as Liar.

They break into a liquor store, together. They eat the owner and drink the whole place down. Liar insists on saving a bottle for a molotov cocktail. They light it off of Crumpet’s cigar.

-

Finally, the spell is ready. They are working with makeshift blood magic, twisted to compensate for the insubstantial reality of Purgatory. Angels and demons exist in more than one plane to begin with, so properties found in their blood are still present without the physical form, available to draw power from.

It is, however, significantly more draining to squeeze the necessary fuel directly from their essence than it is to simply bloodlet.

Castiel has so little to offer, but he pours it out, anyway.

They wrap a massive network of sigils around the border of Purgatory, symbols as ancient and powerful as any creature in this place can recall, stretching back to the Garden, or further. Castiel drains all that he can spare into the frothing currents, the trenches they have dug into the fabric of this reality and filled with the power offered by Angels, Demons, pagan Gods, and every monster ever to walk the night.

The mixture sizzles and steams where Angelic and Demonic essences brush against each other but do not mix, like oil and water.

Briefly, the Mother returns to examine Castiel with an unreadable gaze. She circles him, lifts his chin with a finger and peers into his eyes, and then throws him backward, to the ground.

“I cannot fathom what you see in these humans,” she hisses.

“You were their mother, once,” he murmurs, head bowed respectfully, “Don’t you care at all for their fate?”

She laughs, loud and bright and without humor, head thrown back. “Yes, I was, and I know better than most what humans do to that which loves them. They are not my children any more. There is a reason I turned from them and made these,” she gestures broadly, grandly, incompassing all of Purgatory, “my true children.”

And then she leans in close, lifts his face to brush a kiss against his forehead. “And they have never betrayed me.”

When he risks a glance up, she is gone.

He hears the first round of incantations begin to rise in the distance, and he lends his voice. Once the first few voices have begun, it quickly erupts into a cacophony of Latin, Aratuscan, Enochian, and under it, snatches of Altlantean, the Black Speech, and all the tongues of the Earth. Even with Angelic hearing, Castiel can only make out a fraction of the words.

He knows his part, though, and he affixes all his energy to it.

“Odo lap unal Toltorgi ts Merifri ts Coronzoni, vorgs-allar g pugo ds trian. Zacar unal Merifri ts Toltorgi ts Coronzoni cro-od-zi. Tol abramig, cocasb i niis. Zacar unal Coronzoni ts Merifri ts Tortorgi tol.” 1

The first stage of the spell is designed to twist the edges of Purgatory off into two corners; narrow funnels aimed at the only two available destinations. It is taxing to perform, requiring the cooperation of every soul and grace available.

Either someone is an excellent negotiator, or Heaven and Hell have finally found something to agree on.

Eve’s voice suddenly sounds out over all the others, shrill and deafening, chanting intonations in Adamic, and the very reality of Purgatory begins to tremble. The immaterial ground begins to violently rearrange itself under them. This is the most powerful magic Castiel has ever worked, on earth, or anywhere else. The repercussions are suitably climactic.

Gabriel visits him before they begin the second wave, and when he appears, Castiel catches the briefest glimpse of Balthazar, again, hovering in Gabriel’s wake.

“Hey,” Gabriel says, uncharacteristically somber, “You did good, there, kiddo.”

Castiel sighs, “I did all I could. Others did far more.”

“Cas, I’m trying to be supportive and shit, here. Try and play along.”

“Apologies,” Castiel mutters, almost smiling.

“What I’m trying to say is,” Gabriel pauses, swallows, looks away, “I’m rooting for you. This next part is gonna be rough, on all of us. Just hang in there. You’ll be fine.”

“I will not.” Castiel mutters, with absolute certainty, with a clarity his has not known in so long.

“Oh, come on, Boy Wonder. Keep it together, now.”

“No,” Castiel meets his older brother’s eyes, “I have killed so many, I have dealt with devils, and I have loosed the Leviathan. I know where I will be going when we complete this spell.”

For once, Gabriel seems at a loss for words. He leans in toward Castiel, brushes his shoulder hesitantly, forces a weak laugh. "If it's any consolation, Cas, I'm sure you're not the only one."

Castiel cannot share in this show of good humor.

"Balthazar," he murmurs, a hint of desperation coloring his voice, wetting his eyes, "Tell me Balthazar will not share in my punishment."

Gabriel does laugh at that, genuine, if bitter. "Yeah, not really who I was worried about, bro."

Castiel's face softens and he leans against the archangel. He has nothing to offer to that.

The two lost and dead angels separate, and then every lost and dead thing in Purgatory bands together once more to finish the spell.

~
       1: Open for these creatures-with-Her and Angels and Demons, release (lit. ends bind) us unto that which shall be. Send these Angels and creatures-with-Her  and Demons onward (lit. second beginning). All are prepared, the time is come. Send these Demons and Angels and creatures with Her on.

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