log: team free will WHO: Castiel/Lucifer, Dean Winchester, and Sam Winchester WHEN: Backdated to April 22, as part of this thread WHERE: Out in the woods, away from Mount Weather, and in the Fade WHAT: It's the final showdown between Lucifer, Castiel, Dean, and Sam! WARNINGS: Some pretty gross violence.
Lucifer was bleeding.
No, Castiel was bleeding, his vessel was battered and bleeding, an archangel blade wound going straight through his shoulder. He'd been thrown around the forest by his brother and his alternate universe copy, and now grace was seeping white-hot and brilliant from his wounds.
He'd been weak enough that Dean and Sam had been able to throw him as well as themselves into the rift — and then the rift snapped shut behind them.
The green haze of the Fade obscured everything. It looked like the woods, but it wasn't the woods. Trees twisted around themselves and roots grew up out of the ground. Boulders floated effortlessly in the sky. The Cage itself was several yards away, hovering in the air.
With Lucifer in this state, it would have been easy to throw him in and lock him away.
He pushed himself up to his feet, staggering back with a soft, low chuckle. He looked back at the Winchesters, then to the Cage. The Fade was like nothing else he'd seen before. Where the fuck were they?
"Well, would you look at that," he said, holding his shoulder. "So close, but so far, am I right?"
Lucifer was weakened, but Cas probably was, too. And as long as the two of them were still in the same vessel, they weren’t going to put anyone in the cage. Sam was absolutely determined to avoid that, to get Lucifer out and let Cas free. He would be in bad shape after that, but they could deal with that later. So long as he was alive.
“Cas,” he said loudly, knowing full well his friend might not be able to hear him. “You gotta get him in the rest of the way. And just him, you understand?”
Dean actually reached for him. Stupidly, maybe, but he took a firm grip on Lucifer’s shoulders, knowing that the response might be the Devil trying to swat him like a fly. “I know you can hear me in there, Cas. You know we’re here, and we’re not leaving this place without you.”
This place gave Dean a headache, he hated thinking about all this magical crap he didn’t understand. Adaar had tried to explain it back when the work started, something about how it wasn’t the woods but it looked like the woods, or would, for now, because she had willed it to at the time, that a stronger will might change it. In an ideal world that wouldn’t even be something Dean and Sam had to worry about, but here they were.
Lucifer swayed a little, his focus blurring. He furrowed his brow, and slowly looked up, casting an exhausted, forlorn look at Sam.
"Sam? — Dean?" It was Castiel's gruff voice, not Lucifer's, Castiel's earnest blue eyes. "Dean, I can't."
“Hey—hey, Cas.” Dean moved his hands up, cradling Castiel’s face. “It’s gonna be fine, but you have to just shove this bastard out. I know it’s hard, all right? We know you’re hurt and it seems impossible, but Sam booted the son of a bitch once, remember that. You don’t have to go with him, you just have to kick him into the cage—”
"I know. I know, Dean, but it's so hard..."
There was a little too much whining in Castiel's tone, a little too much of a pout. His eyes glinted and his gaze hardened, and a split second later he was grabbing Dean's hand, tugging it off of his face and twisting until there was a distinct, sickening crack in his arm.
"Really?" Lucifer snorted, his smile bitterly amused. "Are you serious right now? You really think you're just going to cry for him and he'll just come out to play?"
It seemed too easy that they’d gotten through to him, just like that. Sam almost bought it for a moment, all the same. Alarm bells went off when he saw the pout, but it was already too late; he’d only taken one step forward when he saw (and heard) Dean’s arm twist and break. He moved forward, tried to shove Lucifer back and away from his brother before he did something worse.
Ignoring the taunt, he repeated, “Cas. I know you can hear me.”
“Son of a bitch!” Dean recoiled and held his broken arm against his torso. That had been stupid. He should have known that was stupid. “Go ahead, asshole. Cas won’t let you kill us, this is a great fucking way to get his attention.”
Please don’t make him a liar, Cas, for the love of shit do not make him a liar.
Lucifer staggered back two steps with the shove. He wasn't nearly as strong as he should have been, but his grace wasn't gone. He had plenty in him to thrust out his arm and shove Sam back with a burst of invisible energy.
At least, it should have been invisible. In the Fade, it crackled and popped with a burst of white light.
"You guys are adorable!"
In the Fade, Lucifer's wings were visible, brilliant and white and ominously beautiful. All of that metaphysical energy that humans were incapable of seeing was suddenly clear as day.
"Come on, come on. Try it again. Give it another go, I swear he'll try really hard."
Dean had really hoped that this would work the first time, and that Cas would have one moment of triumph before they got to go home, no beating necessary.
But, fuck it, this seemed to be how his life worked anytime someone needed to be snapped out of crazy, so here went nothing.
“Why not kill us?” Dean gestured with his good hand, moving back in and planting himself between Lucifer and Sam. “Big bad archangel, right? We’re just ants to you, so why bother batting us around? Afraid that if you do, it’s just you and yourself and no one else in here, and you don’t know how the fuck to get out? Don’t want to be alone?”
Sam got up slowly, laboriously from where he’d been thrown back against a tree. He felt disoriented, but he couldn’t tell if that was from the impact or the energy that had hit him, or something about the Fade itself. He stood just behind Dean, staring stubbornly at Lucifer - and Cas - with his jaw set.
“Three of us are walking out of here,” he said, firmly. “Or none of us are.”
Lucifer didn't know how to get out. Even without the Cage, Lucifer had never encountered anything like the Fade. It wasn't of Heaven or Hell and it wasn't of Earth, and it wasn't of any other world that he understood. Without a way out, he was sealed in here.
"Walking out of where, Sammy? Whatever door brought us here is closed now. It's still a cage; it's just a much bigger cage." He smiled slowly, winking at Sam. "Just like old times, buddy."
He snapped his fingers, and for a moment he blinked Dean out of reality — only to have him reappear close enough to Lucifer that he could tug Dean back against his chest, arm at his throat.
"You know what was on my to-do list today?" he asked, his arm tightening against Dean's neck. He sifted his fingers through Dean's hair, ruffling it, before his hand drifted down Dean's chest. "I was going to snuff Crowley. And then, I was going to burn Cas, and make sure you watched. And then Dean, I was going to kill you. Nice and slow, just like this, making sure Sam got a good view. And then… well, Sam, you know where it goes from here."
He flashed another smile, then plunged his hand into Dean's abdomen. "Three outta four ain't bad."
The pain was blinding.
Dean was clinging to Lucifer’s arm with his good hand, trying to wrench it away from his throat to catch his breath when Lucifer’s hand did… that. He nearly screamed, the sound half-choked thanks to the archangel’s grip on him, and he wasn’t so in shock yet that he couldn’t block it out.
And in that white hot pain, the only thing he could shout was, “CAS!”
Sam swallowed hard but held Lucifer’s gaze - until Dean disappeared, startling him into breaking eye contact. When his brother reappeared, Sam couldn’t help watching him instead, looking for an opportunity, a moment when Lucifer’s grip faltered and Dean got the upper hand. He didn’t dare move before then, in case Lucifer decided to snap Dean’s neck.
But Lucifer was too strong, and Dean’s arm was broken, and maybe this really was futile. Maybe he’d just trapped himself in a cage with Lucifer - with Dean and Cas with him this time instead of Adam and Michael. It took Sam all of a few heartbeats to decide that it was worth it. He should have planned for it better, said his goodbyes - especially to Kate - and maybe tried to get Dean out somehow, but he knew even as he thought it that Dean never would have let him do that. So it was the three of them, stuck in here, until Cas found the strength to take over or until someone else, outside, managed to come in to help.
Even as he resigned himself to that, and even knowing that there was nothing he could really do to help his brother, he still stepped forward, calling out - a knee-jerk response. “Dean!”
There was no gloating from Lucifer, no smile cast in Sam's direction. Lucifer's arm loosened from Dean's neck but his hand clenched around Dean's jaw and mouth. He didn't pull his other hand from Dean — instead he seemed to freeze, trembling and tense, his wings outstretched and his face buried against Dean's shoulder.
Then slowly — almost carefully — Lucifer began to pull his hand out of Dean's torso, the muscles in his arm shaking and strained.
The air around them crackled with bursts of light and the green sky swirled above.
By then Dean was openly crying, held up mostly by Lucifer’s hand on his jaw, his legs barely supporting his weight. There was no trick to pain like this, no way to logic yourself out of how much it hurt, and no point in toughing it out. Not so long ago he’d been in Hell, having his guts torn apart every day for decades. That wasn’t comforting now, but he knew to just cry about it instead of trying to grit his way through it.
They might not survive. They might only have a second back with Cas before one or both of them died. Even now Dean couldn’t entertain the idea that Sam would die with them (obviously, someone would come for him, because this was not how Sam Winchester was going to go), but it was hard not to see his own death in the immediate future with a fist in his liver. (Or his… no, he wasn’t going to think about it.)
He forced himself to keep his eyes open, looking directly at Sam and trying to maintain eye contact. “It’s okay,” he sobbed. “It’s okay, don’t…” Don’t come closer, don’t give Lucifer a reason to grab you, too. “Cas. Come on, I’m dyin’ out here, don’t make me go with the Devil.”
Sam barely processed what was going on with Lucifer - or Cas? - and he certainly didn’t get the message that Dean was trying to give him. He rushed forward, his hands outstretched to catch his brother before he fell, keep him on his feet.
If nearly killing Dean wasn’t enough, if Dean’s death wish wasn’t enough, there wasn’t much of anything else he could do for Cas - except, perhaps, put himself in enough danger to become a target, too, so he would have ignored Dean’s warning even if he’d had the chance to process it. But he really wasn’t thinking about that, because he was trying to put pressure on Dean’s stomach, trying to keep him from bleeding out. Prolonging the inevitable, maybe, but he had to believe that there was still a chance that all three of them could live through this.
The ground around them was freezing over, ice crystals crackling to life around their feet. Lucifer's wings stretched out and then snapped shut, curling in on themselves. The wounds that Lucifer had sustained were glowing white, and while it seemed distant, echoing in the edges of the forest around them, there were definitely the high-pitched, near-deafening sounds that Sam and Dean both knew were angelic voices. Even in the Fade, they didn't translate, discordant wails that couldn't be processed by human ears.
"Dean? Dean —"
Blue eyes flashed white, and it was very clearly Castiel who was staring down at his bloodied hand in horror. "No — Dean, I'm sorry —" He looked helplessly toward Sam, trembling as he struggled to maintain control.
Dean fell against Sam, clinging to him as much as he could manage with his one good hand. He was losing blood so fast that his head was spinning, and the inhuman shriek of the angels’ voices wasn’t helping. In his haze, he wasn’t sure if everything was dull because he was starting to slip or because their voices had damaged his ears.
Relatively safe in his brother’s arms (and, of course, bleeding all over both of them), he heard Cas as if they were on the opposite ends of a large room, vague and muffled. “Is that Cas?”
“I got you,” Sam tried to say, but the sound of angel voices and cracking ice drowned him out. His hands were clumsy and felt numb, whether from the cold or the emotional shock, but he finally got a good enough grip on his brother to be able to look up at Cas.
It was him, not Lucifer. Sam stared at him for a moment, conscious of the precious seconds ticking by, each of them counted in more of Dean’s blood leaving his body.
“Cas,” he said, and then again, more insistently, “Cas, you gotta get rid of him. Put him in the Cage. Do it now.”
Castiel snapped his attention away from his hands. He could barely focus — there was a battle raging inside his vessel, the kind of fight that would shake the heavens and was altering the shape of the Fade around them. "I have to help Dean —"
Healing was an act of serenity, one of the few acts of heavenly grace that wasn't violent. There was no way he could expel that kind of energy now, but Cas was so in shock by what Lucifer had done that he was torn between struggling to fix the problem while Lucifer tore him to shreds, and the whole reason they were in the Fade in the first place.
He looked to Dean, and then back at the Cage — and then something in his vessel cracked as he was thrown to the ground. There wasn't much time. Castiel wasn't strong enough to hold Lucifer for long.
While Dean quietly passed out on Sam’s shoulder, the air near them shuddered before it split, opening up into a rift. The chaotic green energy that circled the opening between dimensions kicked up the wind, leaving the gateway itself as the eye of a magical storm. Adaar stepped through, out of breath and clearly struggling to keep the magic of her anchor connected to the rift itself, her arm and shoulders shaking.
She looked over Sam and Dean, at Cas, then at the Cage, the door still ajar and waiting for someone to jump into it and ignite the wards that would snap it shut.
“I don’t know how long I can keep this open! The anchor was damaged; you have to go now!” She grabbed Sam’s jacket, ready to drag him and Dean out if she had to. “It can’t wait, come on!”
“Give me a second!”
Sam was shouting to be heard over the wind; he couldn’t tell if it was working or not. He tried to pull away from the grip, not that he could move much while supporting Dean’s weight, but he managed to grab hold of Cas’s trenchcoat.
“Put him in the Cage,” he said, his voice urgent and strung out with emotion, mostly in the form of worry for Dean’s life, and Cas’s. “Then you can come back with us and heal Dean.”
Cas pushed himself up to look at Sam, then to take in the scene around him. Adaar was there, and the rift that would lead back home.
"Take Dean and go!" Lucifer's wings thrashed into a nearby tree, cracking the trunk and making it crash to the ground. "Forget about me, just go!"
Even if Cas couldn't get Lucifer into the Cage, even if he couldn't fight it, Lucifer was going to be trapped in the Fade as long as Adaar closed the rift.
“No!” Even if there hadn’t been chaos around them, Sam probably would have shouted anyway. His grip tightened in Cas’s coat, to make sure he stayed to listen, to make sure he didn’t just throw himself into the Cage before Sam could get through to him. “Cas, listen to me. You’ve got to get rid of Lucifer, now. And then you’ve got to come back, to heal Dean. You don’t, he might die, and if he doesn’t, he’ll wake up and you’ll be gone.”
And then he would tear the Earth apart trying to find a way back in here, and if he couldn’t, he’d probably wish he was dead. That was too much to say in the short time they had, and didn’t really need to be said. Cas knew Dean well enough.
“Don’t do that to him. Promise me.”
"I don't have a choice!" Cas snapped. Everything came out as a pained growl, and so much was visible in the Fade that it was easy to see why. His wounds were glowing bright, tearing open further as grace seemed to pour out of them, Lucifer's beautiful white wings were entangled with the broken skeletal mess that amounted to Castiel's.
"This is the only way —" It wasn't the way he wanted it. He wanted to come back. He wanted to fight. He needed to save Dean. But he couldn't. "I have to fix what I did!"
And that was as long as Adaar could let them argue. The anchor crackled and burst with light as it sent pain shooting up her arm. “I'm sorry!” she shouted, to anyone who could hear, before forcefully dragging Sam and Dean through the rift.
There was a backlash of energy when it closed behind them, violently breaking the connection between itself and Adaar’s hand. She stumbled a step or two, but forced her feet to plant in the ground and fall somewhat gracefully so that Dean, injured as he was, could be eased down onto the grass instead of just dropped.
“Cas!” was all Sam managed to get out, before he was dragged, stumbling, out of the rift. Without Adaar’s help, he wouldn’t have kept his balance at all, but he managed to get down to his knees without jolting his brother, and lie him down on the grass.
And then he was back up on his feet again, covered in blood, and shouting at her. “Open it back up!”
“I can't! Not yet, not until this stops trying to kill me.” She gestured with her left hand. The anchor was still glowing fiercely, sending shocks of light up her arm that felt like static. “If try it before then, it either won't work or we'll die!”
She took another look at Dean, and it was clearer now in the light that he wouldn't survive to see help. There was a large hole in his abdomen the size of Castiel's fist, and something had clearly ruptured. He had minutes on the outside, and the small healing spells Adaar knew either wouldn't truly help or would only prolong his suffering.
Still, she reached out with her right hand and cast it, ignoring the twinge from the anchor and barely slowing Dean's injury.
“We can’t leave him in there.” Every second, Sam knew, was costing both Dean and Cas. Cas might have already gotten trapped in the Cage, and opening the rift back up again might be a fool’s errand. But they had to try. “He has to heal him.”
Adaar was trying, he knew, and logically, he knew she was probably right. But he couldn’t let it go. Couldn’t let Dean die, couldn’t let Cas disappear.
He wasn’t shouting anymore. His voice cracked when he repeated, “Open it up again. Please.”
“I have to wait,” she insisted, the guilty cracking her voice. “I'll open it the second I'm able, and if I can't…” Adaar looked back down at Dean, who had long since passed anything coherent and was staring into a sky he may not have been able to even focus on. “I've seen smaller wounds kill faster.”
That was the best he was going to get out of her, and he knew it. It didn’t mean Sam liked it. But he turned away and knelt back down next to Dean, and took off his blood-soaked jacket to press it against his brother’s stomach, trying to staunch the bleeding even just a little bit.
With his other hand, he grabbed hold of Dean’s. “Stay with me, okay?” he said, without any idea whether Dean could hear him or not. “Just hang in there. Cas is coming. He’s going to fix you up.”
Dean was still conscious, but just barely. His hand flexed without really gripping, and he swallowed hard, struggling to stay awake. The sky was so blue he couldn't even be sure it wasn't some last second hallucination.
“S’alright, Sammy,” was the only thing he could mumble out.
“Stay with me,” Sam repeated, torn between relief that Dean could still talk and absolute terror that those might be his last words. His voice came out thick, his eyes were stinging, and all he could do was repeat the same sentiment, over in over. “Just hold on a minute longer. We’re going to get him back.”
No one was paying attention to Adaar when the rift finally opened again, when there was a bright green flash and the Veil tore apart.
There was such a roar of energy from the rift that it was almost impossible to hear the slow, staggering footsteps approaching until Castiel collapsed onto his knees at Dean's side.
Dean was almost gone by then, the bleeding slowed -- though it wasn't obvious, because everything from torso to knee was soaked in it. He vaguely turned his head in Cas’s direction, and what sounded like it may have been an attempt at speaking was just an.involuntary sigh.
Castiel's hands hovered briefly over Dean as his eyes took him in. Even through his exhaustion, there was quiet panic, and he looked toward Sam — who seemed broken, of course he did — and then past him. Gabriel was nowhere in sight.
Gabriel had the strength to fix this. Gabriel could have …
No. This wasn't Gabriel's job.
Cas reached out, gently touching his fingertips to Dean's forehead, then trailing his touch over his cheek.
Angelic healing was rarely flashy. It was a moment of calm, of peace, as pain melted away and wounds healed, energy and stamina were restored. For an angel, who saw things differently, it took time and patience and effort. For a human, it seemed like a brief second.
The healing didn't finish. Instead of smooth skin and no hint that Dean had ever been hurt, there was still a tear in the flesh and bruising around it.
Dean would probably scar, but it was still more than enough to save him, turning the wound into something shallow. He was dragged back to consciousness with a gasp, bringing his healed arm and hand to his belly. He was sore as hell, and that was just fine.
“Cas?” He pushed himself to sit up with a groan, staring at Cas’s face for a few long seconds. The last clear memory he had was of Lucifer, but he would know Castiel anywhere. Then he grabbed him, dragging him into a tight, desperate hug.
Cas let out a soft breath, slumping against Dean's body and letting Dean hold his weight. He didn't have any strength left — not enough to hold up his head, not enough to try and keep himself upright. He was a bloody, battered mess, wounded from Gabriel's blade and covered in dirt after being thrown across both the forest and the Fade.
It would be impossible to tell whose blood was whose after this, but Dean didn’t care. He pulled back just far enough to look Cas in the face, cradling it in both hands and making him look up. They should have been up and trying to get back to Mount Weather and to the hospital, but at best, Dean was vaguely aware that Adaar was just out of sight, speaking into a radio.
“We’re good,” Dean grunted, resting his forehead against Cas’s. “We’re all right, we’re all right…”
Sam sat back in the grass, coming down off of the adrenaline and catching his breath. Cas was back. Dean was alive. Lucifer was trapped in the Fade. The plan had worked.
And they really were all right.
He smiled tiredly and reached over, giving Cas’s shoulder a friendly pat that turned into a gentle squeeze before he let go. “Really damn glad to have you back, Cas.”
Cas glanced at Sam, meeting his eyes. He didn't have enough strength to touch him, or even to say anything, but he did manage a brief, faint smile.
For once — for once — they were all going to be okay.