maychorian: (Castiel's charge)
[personal profile] maychorian
Fandom: Supernatural
Title: Chapter 5: If You Get Lost, You Can Always Be Found (Coming Down Book 4)
Author: Maychorian
Characters: Winchester Ensemble
Category: Gen, AU, Family
Rating: T/PG13
Warning: (skip) Language. Allusions to child abuse
Spoilers: S4, previous stories in 'verse.
Summary: John Winchester has four sons, but to an outside observer, he appears to have only three. Their mission is to stop the Apocalypse before it starts.
Word Count: ~5000 (this part)
 Author’s Note: Coming Down on a Sunny Day master list, and YouTube Playlist, from whence came the titles. Suggested mood music: "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark" (most of the chapter) and "Home" by Phillip Phillips (end).

Coming Down on a Sunny Day
Book 4: The Name of the Demon

Chapter 5: If You Get Lost, You Can Always Be Found

"This is it." Dad pulled the Impala up to the end of the dirt road, the disreputable old shack lurking under the trees. They had driven a fair distance into the wooded hills to reach this secluded place outside the city limits. Far enough away that no one would notice any strange lights behind the broken windows or hear any screams of rage and pain. Or, worst of all, run into any clouds of strange, shining smoke.

Dad looked over his shoulder into the backseat. "You regretting coming along, yet?"

Dean glanced back too, eyebrows raised, listening for an answer from his brothers. Sammy shook his head, mouth firm and grim. Jimmy was too exhausted to give any response at all, just staring back at them with large, dark-rimmed eyes, like a blue-eyed raccoon.

Dad looked forward, huffing out a breath that was half amusement, half resignation. "Yeah, okay. Everybody out."

They piled out of the car. Dean hauled a canvas bag full of herbs and spices and other spell ingredients, and Dad carried the Colt in his hand, pointed at the ground but ever ready, as if they might run into a beast on the ten steps to the shack. Sammy offered a hand to Jimmy to help him out of the car, and to all of their surprise, he took it, letting Sammy pull him up to his feet. Poor guy had to be totally worn out.

Dad led the way to the shack. Inside the door, he paused to light the Coleman lantern hung on a nail at head height, then moved around the small, creaky room, lighting the others. Dean moved to the other side of the room, knowing where he was going even the dimness, and started dumping out spell materials on the tilted wooden table against the wall. Jimmy and Sam stood still inside the door for a moment, taking it in.

Dean gave them a smirk. Yeah, it was sort of a work of art. Big Devil's Traps were painted on the ceiling and the floor in bright red. Both were reinforced over the cracked and pitted wooden planking with strips of duct tape and other sturdy materials, just in case whatever prisoner they'd pulled from Hell or points elsewhere had any tricks up its sleeves and thought it could break out by cracking the floor. That wasn't all, though.

Smaller Devil's Traps were marked on every wall, and even the leaning doors had been worked into large, spreading patterns. Warding symbols of every religion they'd ever run across filled every conceivable gap, with special consideration and prominence given to Castiel's favorite glyphs and runes. Salt and goofer dust and anti-possession marks protected every imaginable boundary, even a mousehole down in a corner of the room. Every available surface was saturated with protection.

The tables, the gutted cabinet against one wall, the small set of shelves Dad had tacked up in the corner—all were covered with spell materials, bowls and cups, a book or two. As well as, of course, candles already half-melted, wax running over the wood beneath and cementing them where they stood, to show that John and Dean Winchester had used this room more than once.

Then, of course, there was the chair. In the center of the largest Devil's Trap on the floor, it dominated the room and immediately drew the eye. It was sturdy and heavy, by far the best-built furnishing in the place. Each foot was bolted to the floor with steel plates and rivets. Leather straps waited on the arms, the back, and the front legs.

Dean and his dad had gotten good at this.

"I..." Jimmy blinked, slow and owl-like. "I don't know whether to be disturbed or impressed."

"Both," Sammy said, his voice a little too high-pitched. "I'm going with both."

"You wanted to come," Dad said, looking back at the two with a small frown. "I woulda been just as happy to leave you at the apartment, let Jimmy rest up."

They both shook their heads, shoulders straightening, spines growing steel.

"We need to see this through," Sam said, a hard light of battle lighting in his eye.

"I want Castiel freed as soon as possible," Jimmy said.

Dad nodded, accepting their commitment to the task. "We all do. Dean, hand me the sage."

They set up the ritual with the ease of long practice, straight lines of chalk marking the points, then the placement of the candles, the bowls of herbs. Into the central metal bowl went a piece of paper with the name of the demon written upon it and a few drops of blood from a bottle they usually kept in the back of the fridge. It was Dad's blood, drawn monthly and preserved for this purpose. He wouldn't let Dean donate yet, though Dean had offered more than once.

When it was all set, Dad raised his head and looked at his sons. Sam and Jimmy now stood against the wall beside the door, as far from the main Devil's Trap as they could get. Their arms were around each other's shoulders in preemptive support, and Dean would never tell anyone just how sweet he thought that was.

Dad didn't seem to notice, just giving them another grim stare. "You ready?"

He didn't have to ask Dean. Dean was always ready.

Sam and Jimmy glanced at each other, then both nodded. They weren't the firmest, most confident nods Dean had ever seen, but they would do. Dad nodded back.

Dad lit a match and held it high above the bowl. The words of the incantation rolled from his mouth in a practiced burst. And he dropped the match.

Dean watched his brothers brace themselves, clutching each other and and squeezing their eyes shut as if expecting an explosion, a flash of light. There was nothing of the kind, of course—just a small movement of air, an almost inaudible whooshing noise. And the demon was there in the center of the Devil's Trap, wide-eyed and momentarily off-balance.

Dean reached over for the Colt, which Dad had set down on a side table while they worked. He cocked the hammer, making sure to do it as ostentatiously as possible. Sam and Jimmy opened their eyes, and the demon turned to face him, in the same movement stepping back toward the chair. Dean raised the gun and pointed it, his arm true and steady. He stepped toward the circle, though he came nowhere near breaking the boundary.

"Nur-Ayya, I presume?"

The demon's lip curled.

Jimmy's breath came sharp and fast. "It's him. Her. It. I recognize it. He's still wearing the body of that little girl, Tilly."

Indeed, the demon stood there in the form a small child, her shirt bright white and fresh as if taken off her mother's clothesline just minutes before, her blue skirt delicate and dainty, swishing around her legs as she backed up. She—Nur-Ayya, the demon who sought Castiel's death with all the wiles of ancient evil—bared its pearly little teeth at Dean like an animal at bay.

Sammy swallowed hard, then nodded. "It's him."

Dean tilted his head, smiling down the length of the Colt's barrel. "Yeah, I knew it. You could say I recognized your foul stench when you were brought on board. Isn't that right, Nur-Ayya."

"Children." The word was made into a sarcastic greeting. The demon chose to use the voice of the little girl, high and sweet, horribly and wrenchingly twisted into something wrong, something awful.

Even so, Dean heard the reverberations behind the dulcet tones. He heard the voice from the meadow, the one that had so roundly cursed and berated him and Sammy and tried to blast them to the dirt. He wasn't feeling much sympathy for this devil. "Yeah, that's us. Go ahead." He motioned with the gun in a "c'mon" gesture. "Call us by our names. I know you know them. You know you want to. We know who you are, and you know who we are. There's no hiding now."

The demon huffed, eyes glinting hatred, the pure black of the dead space between the stars. "Winchesters."

Dean smirked. "Yeah. I knew you knew us. Not such stupid little nothings now, are we?"

Dad snorted a laugh and patted Dean's shoulder. Up till now he'd stood back, letting Dean have his touchdown dance. He stepped forward, catching the demon's attention—the little girl's head snapped to follow him far harder than any true child could have done it.

"Nur-Ayya." That was satisfaction in John Winchester's voice, deep and fruity and dark. He'd made a promise to Castiel years ago that he would track this beast down, and now he'd finally kept it. "Give back what you took from my son."

A slow tilt of the child's head, back the other way, like an animal tracking movement. Then the creature's posture changed, straightening up, leaning forward. No longer at bay. It realized that this was not a swift death coming. It thought it had leverage.

"Why should I?" The voice of the child was even less pronounced now, the ancient evil of the demon leaching further into the purring intonation.

At least it didn't ask what he meant. At least it had sense enough not to enrage them more by failing to acknowledge that Castiel was, indeed, John's son, Dean's brother, a Winchester. It knew what they wanted.

"Because if you don't, we'll make you suffer." Dad waved an arm around, encompassing the entire room in a slow gesture of ownership. "I think you know that we can do that."

"You won't, though." Nur-Ayya lifted its chin, stepping back until it touched the chair. It laid its tiny, delicate hand on the heavy arm and trailed one fingertip along it.

Dean really didn't care for the confidence in the bastard's voice. It sounded almost nothing like a little girl, now, all throaty reverberation and power. "What makes you think that?" he growled.

The demon sneered. "Because you're Winchesters. You save people. You don't hurt little girls."

Suddenly Tilly was back, cowering against the chair, hunching over and hugging herself in terror. Tears sprang from her eyes, her face screwed up in fear, and her voice was clear and high and innocent. "Don't hurt me, please don't hurt me! I'm just a little girl! That monster inside me, he says if you hurt me he'll make me feel it all and it won't hurt him even a little bit! Please, please don't!"

When it began, Jimmy gasped and stiffened against the wall, clenching his hands around Sam's shoulders. Sam steeled himself, forcing his body to show no reaction. Dean and Dad, though, stood firm. Grim and silent. They weren't a bit surprised.

Dad crouched down to look the creature in the eyes, the fingertips of one hand landing lightly on the floor to keep his balance. "You don't have a very high opinion of us, do you, Nur-Ayya? That's because you're stupid."

"This isn't our first rodeo." Dean remained standing, holding the Colt steady. He bobbed his head in a moment of realization, his voice lightening. "That time you met us back in Pontiac, Illinois, that was our first rodeo."

"We've dealt with dozens of your kind since then," Dad said. "You think we don't know all your tricks? You think we haven't figured out how to deal with anything you can pull on us?"

Dean shook his head, tsking. "Still underestimating us. You haven't learned a thing."

Dad stood and crossed the room, fetching an implement they kept in a basket there. He brought it back over to Nur-Ayya, holding it across both hands to display it. A length of metal with a wooden handle on one end and a certain metal symbol on the other.

"See this?" Dad tilted the symbol toward the demon so she could see it more clearly. The dark metal gleamed wickedly in the phosphorescent light of the Coleman lanterns. "Custom-made branding iron. Got it down Texas way from a blacksmith we helped out a few years ago, sending on some ghosts that were troubling his property. You know that symbol on the end, don't you?"

Nur-Ayya was silent. The tears were gone, as well as the little-girl terror. But she remained crouching against the chair.

Dad nodded, slow and satisfied. "Yeah, you know. You know it'll trap you in that body, make you feel everything we do to you. You can probably tell that we've used it before, can't you?"

Nur-Ayya straightened to its full height, facing them frankly. Dean smirked. Maybe now it knew a little better what it was dealing with.

"You're monsters," the demon said lightly. It was not an accusation. It was the honest assessment of a very old, very experienced beast of the supernatural sizing up its adversary for the first time. "You don't care at all about the little girl whose body I stole. You just want what you came for."

"Oh, we care." Dean's finger tightened involuntarily on the trigger, and Dad shot him a glance. Dean took a breath and forced himself to relax, aware that the vehemence in his voice was betraying him. They were in control here.

"We care," Dad said, more calmly and coolly than Dean could currently manage. "But we also recognize that this girl is already a victim, and you're the one who made her into one, not us. Anything we can do for her will be a mercy, whether that's sending her on to heaven or getting her back to her former life. Either way, when we're done, she'll be free of you."

Dean took one more breath, then allowed himself to speak. "Anyway, we don't have to make you suffer, if you don't want to play it that way. You still have a choice here."

Nur-Ayya tilted its head, studying him with reptilian eyes, black and void. "Do I? You've already stated that there's no scenario here in which I leave on my terms."

"No. Frankly, I'd prefer to shoot you right now. But we can avoid the binding link and everything that goes with it, if you want. Just give us back Castiel."

Nur-Ayya threw its head back and released a burst of sordid, roiling laughter. It seemed to coat the room in filth, slicking everything it touched. "Castiel? That pathetic little creature? I cannot believe that even you care for such an insignificant bundle of torn grace and broken feathers."

"Stop trying to manipulate us." Dean spat the words out like buckshot. "You know what he means to us. And you know what he means to the world, or you wouldn't have bothered attacking him. You even had to get help from that ally of yours to do it. Cas is a little cracked around the edges, sure, but he's important. And he's ours. So give him back."

The demon sobered, meeting Dean's gaze frankly. It seemed, at last, that all barriers were stripped away. There was no hiding or obsfucating to be done, not anymore. Dean and John had pulled back every layer of deception until nothing remained but Nur-Ayya, the demon, its every intention and every modicum of power laid bare.

"Yes." Even its voice was more plain and forthright now. The tone of the little girl was almost entirely buried, the words of the demon having taken over . "Yes, I know how important this tiny spark of light is. He threw himself backward in time in order to change the world, dragging me along. Which was against my will, by the way. You think me evil for having torn and mutilated him in the journey, but in truth it was more than half a reaction of shock and terror at so rudely being ripped from my rightful place in time. Not that I regret hurting him, of course. It did help greatly in minimizing the damage he could do to our plans."

"But he still did a lot of damage, didn't he," Sammy said. His voice was flat and hard and certain. "He's changed the course of history."

Nur-Ayya turned to look at the two Winchesters standing by the door, looking them up and down in assessment. "Yes," it said. "He's done a great deal to frustrate our plans, which have been slowly coming to fruition for lo, these many thousands of years. You can imagine how very annoying that is."

The demon turned back to Dean and his dad, facing them with chin held high. "So you will understand when I refuse. I cannot give you back your broken, useless little angel. His grace is mine now. I've hidden it far away from here. Even if you kill me, you will have no way to retrieve it. And I will not break under torture, no matter what you do to me. The spark must remain snuffed. My allies will raise me and restore me to my rightful place when the world is ours once more."

Dean snarled, holding the Colt up a bit higher, finger tight on the trigger. "You tell us what you did with the grace. You tell us right now. You have no idea what I will do to you!"

Dad grabbed Dean's shoulder, holding tight and hard, and Dean caught his breath. He'd lost control again. A sideways glance at his father, though, showed that Dad was just as close to the edge as he was. To have come all this way, and gone through so much, only to fall down right at the finish line…

"He's lying."

Jimmy's voice, high and clear. The other Winchesters turned to look at him, hope illuminating their faces. Jimmy's eyes were wide, his face pale, his breath coming hard and fast. He looked like a man struck with sudden revelation, unsure what to do with it but knowing it was there.

"How do you know?" Sam asked.

Jimmy shook his head, but it was not a negation. It was the instinctive shiver of someone coming in from the cold, blasted by the difference in temperature and pressure. "I don't know... No. I do know. I feel it. I feel Castiel's grace. The creature has it on his person. I can feel it."

"How?" Sam asked, but Dad and Dean were already turning back to Nur-Ayya, firmly in control once more.

"Quantum entanglement, remember?"

Dean ignored the background noise, focused solely on the demon in the Devil's Trap. A smile was beginning to curve the corner of his mouth. This was end-game. This was checkmate. The Winchesters had all the power here.

His gun arm had started to waver. Now he drew it straight again, holding the Colt steady, lining up his vision along the muzzle so that the gun sight rested squarely in the center of Nur-Ayya’s forehead.

“This is how it’s going to go,” he said. “You have two choices. You can leave that little girl’s body in a skanky-ass smoke cloud, leaving the grace behind. You live, the girl lives—assuming you haven’t killed her already—we get Cas back. Or you can stay where you are and I’ll shoot you right now. You die, the girl dies, we still get Cas back. I happen to like the first way better. I imagine you might, too. Either way, though, we get Cas back. And that’s all I care about right now.”

His lifted his chin, daring the demon to cross him. “Decide.”

Nur-Ayya’s lip curled. “You won’t kill this girl. Not with your brothers watching. Your rookie and your support staff, yes?” It looked over at Jimmy and Sammy, dismissing them with a casual glance before turning back to Dean. “You value their image of you too much. You won’t force them to witness such barbarity.”

One last bluff, and this was the one that had some actual teeth. Dean hesitated, for a second only, but the demon saw it. Nur-Ayya smirked, wholly convinced of its victory.

Then Sam stepped forward. “Shoot it, Dean. Shoot it now.”

Dean looked over at him, his heart jumping in his chest. “Sammy…”

“Do it.” Now Jimmy stepped up, too, his hands on Sam’s shoulders. His face was pale and wan, bright spots of color standing on his cheeks as if he was running a fever. But his eyes were steady and his jaw was firm. “Kill that monster where it stands.”

Dean remembered, suddenly, and couldn’t believe he’d forgotten, that this was the demon who had murdered Jimmy’s parents and unborn sibling.

Dad squeezed Dean’s shoulder in wordless support, and Dean looked back to the demon.

“Guess you made your choice, bitch.”

He started to pull the trigger.

Black smoke roared out of the girl's mouth, rocketing toward the ceiling in a geyser of billowing evil. Dean gasped and pulled his aim, swinging the muzzle of the Colt up on the pivot of his wrist. Fortunately the action on the old revolver was heavy, so he didn't waste a bullet. Cas had shown them how to make more, but the process was long and tedious.

The little girl's body thudded to the floor. Dad knelt down by her immediately, throwing an anti-possession amulet around her neck in case the demon changed its mind. Dean kept his eye on the cloud of smoke, watching it writhe and convulse around the ceiling of the shack. The creepy thing whistled and shrieked from one corner to the other, thrusting its ugly head into everything that even resembled a crack. Jimmy and Sam stared in sharp-edged anxiety, ducking instinctively when the boiling smoke passed too close.

It was no good. Every last egress in the entire building had been plugged with wards and runes and every protection in the book. It was leak-proof. The demon was trapped like a bug in a corked bottle.

Dean watched it thrash around for a few moments, taking satisfaction in its frantic captivity, then looked to his dad. Dad knelt by Tilly, checking her pulse. He felt Dean’s eyes on him and looked up, giving a short, relieved nod.

Dean blew out a breath and closed his eyes, swaying where he stood. He was wholeheartedly glad that she was alive. But he hadn't been bluffing about killing her. Later, maybe, he would try to figure out what that said about him as a person.

Right now, he had other concerns. Dean opened his eyes and looked at his father again. "The grace?"

Dad was already searching through Tilly’s clothes. It took longer than it might have because he was being as gentle and respectful as possible. Then he paused, his hand on the tiny foot in its pink lace-up sneaker. He pushed two fingers between her sock and the side of the shoe. And he pulled out the vial.

The light wasn't the bright, brilliant white Dean remembered from the gym in Pontiac. It was glowing, yes, but it was not pure; it was not healthy. It was yellow, with hints of gold and streaks of darker tarnish, pulsing and bubbling in the half-full vial like mud in a swamp. It looked corrupt and sick. It was grace-pus. Dean felt ill just looking at it.

Dad held the vial between his thumb and forefinger, grimacing spectacularly. "Dammit. We forgot Nur-Ayya did something to Cas's grace. We forgot to make him reverse the spell."

Dean growled, horrified at his oversight and enraged at the demon's escape from the body where they could question it. He pointed his Colt at the demon roiling about the ceiling, and Nur-Ayya reacted, splitting in half where the gun pointed and rushing to the opposite side of the room.

"Son of a...bastard!" Dean spat, so blind with fury that he couldn't get his profanities right. “Fix it. Fix it right now!"

If a cloud of smoke could laugh, that was what Nur-Ayya did. Dean was sorely tempted to shoot it, just to see what would happen.

“Dean.” Jimmy’s voice.

No, not Jimmy’s voice. Dean turned toward him, the Colt falling down to point at the floor. Jimmy had stepped forward, separating himself from Sam. And he wasn’t quite Jimmy.

His voice was echoing again. Worse than that, his eyes and his mouth were...shining. White light was pressing out from his eye sockets and behind his lips, and this light was very much like the brilliance Dean remembered from Pontiac. Dean’s heart jumped into his throat.

Cas. Castiel was...leaking. The thin layer of flesh that separated the angel from the world...Jimmy, Cas’s vessel...was no longer enough to hold him in. What the hell. Just...what the hell.

Castiel turned to face Dean, blank white eyes seeming to pierce through to his soul. “It is all right,” his deep, echoing voice proclaimed, as if answering Dean’s terrified thoughts. “All is well. We are unharmed.” Dean heard the gentleness of Jimmy, the strength of Castiel, somehow paired and harmonized, neither stronger than the other. They were speaking together as one.

The other Winchesters remained frozen where they were in a tableau, John on the floor, Dean and Sam standing and staring in silent shock. Even the demon on the ceiling drew itself into as small an area as it could, folded into a ball of cloud that shimmered and shook.

"All is well," Jimmy-Castiel said again. They took one step toward the Devil's Trap, slow and careful, as if learning all over again how to balance, how to move and breathe and work in this shared body. Truly shared now, in every conceivable way.

They extended a hand toward John, and the light of grace behind their eyes and mouth shone brighter. "Give it to us. All will be well. The center is still pure. All that has been broken can be mended."

Dad stood slowly, pushing himself off the floor with one hand. The corrupted grace in the vial churned furiously, as if sensing the nearness of the true grace, where it belonged, the purity of Castiel and of Jimmy. Dad held the vial out toward his oldest sons, his hand trembling only a little at the awe of this moment.

"Cas," Sammy whispered, and Jimmy-Castiel turned toward him, gentle and listening.

"What troubles you, little brother?"

"How, Cas? How can you mend this?"

A smile, beatific and glowing and strange. It spread across Jimmy-Castiel's face, transforming him from a figure of terror to a creature of pure joy, pure loveliness. "Quantum entanglement," they said, a note of pleased amusement lightening the heavy words. "The center is pure."

They turned back to Dad, beckoning with their extended fingers. John Winchester reached forward to cross the space between them and placed the vial in Jimmy's hand, Castiel's hand.

"Close your eyes," they said. And their fist closed on the vial with the swiftness of thought, shattering the glass.

Dean slammed his eyes shut, then had to cover them with his arm when that was not enough. The light on the other side of his eyes was terrible, overwhelming, and completely unbearable. Dean felt that he now knew what it meant to be at the center of a nuclear blast. In the first moment only, less than a second, the light was yellow and sick and wrong. Then the brilliance of an uncorrupted angel tore through it, transforming it to pure, pulsing white. Like the center of a star.

The light built and built, and Dean felt the heat of it on his hands, his face. It pressed through his clothes, then through his flesh, piercing deep with its radiant sheen. But it didn't burn. It didn't hurt. It was Castiel. It was Cas and it was Jimmy, and both of them had already touched him to his soul, so there was no harm here, no hurt. Only love and familiarity and brotherly harmony.

At last the physical brilliance began to fade, until Dean felt comfortable lowering his arm and opening his eyes. Dad and Sam were blinking, struggling to adjust, just as Dean was. Light filled the sordid little shack, far more brilliant than that of the now-puny and redundant Coleman lanterns. It shone from Castiel, from his face and hands and body. And behind him on the wall were the black shadows of two huge, beautiful wings, spreading far longer and taller than the shack could hold.

They were whole and complete, no sign of ragged feathers, no hint of brokenness or stiffness from past injuries. Castiel opened them wide, glorying in the freedom to do so, the ability to show them, at last, to his brothers and his father, his adopted human family. They were gorgeous, and he knew it, and the flapping of them was all but smug.

And Castiel laughed. Dean had never heard him laugh before, not like this, full and free and joyful. It held the easy ring of Jimmy's high giggle, the one that came out whenever Sam told one of his silly Laffy-Taffy jokes. It held the sonorous quality of Castiel's deep chuckle, the rare sound that came only when he was so unutterably comfortable and at peace that he could only express himself without words. It held every note of laughter in between those two extremes, ringing and melodious, in such an undiluted expression of happiness that Dean's chest felt full of light and he half-believed that he, too, could open his wings and fly away.

"All is restored," Castiel said. "Finally and at last, after this long sojourn and wandering, this fear and pain and struggle, what had been shattered and torn is made whole once more.”

Castiel stepped forward into the Devil's Trap and knelt down by the girl, the shadow of his wings flowing behind him with the movement, trailing on the wall, the ceiling, the floor. He touched Tilly's forehead with two fingers, and her chest moved in a deep breath, her mouth opening with the gasp, though she did not wake. Cas closed his eyes for a moment, the veil of his eyelids dimming the light coming from his face only slightly, and the girl vanished.

Dean stepped back to lean against the wall, his knees suddenly too weak to hold him up. Castiel rose, turning to face him. Affection and serenity beamed from his face, brighter than the light of purified grace.

"Don't be afraid. The time for fear has passed." He looked to Dad and Sam, too. "She will wake in her own room, whole and unharmed. She will have no memory of the past few days, of her time as the mute and paralyzed victim of ancient evil. Her parents will be shocked, but also overjoyed."

Castiel then turned to the demon. Nur-Ayya had retreated to the corner of the shack furthest from where Jimmy and Castiel had made their transformation. The cloud of smoke was as small and still as it could possibly be, still glowing with erratic pulses of sickly light. In all ways, it managed to express terror and dismay even as a featureless ball of atmospheric disturbance.

Castiel crossed the room to it, each step slow and deliberate. Now that the desperation of the fight had passed, he was in no hurry. His family watched silently, letting him deal with Nur-Ayya in whatever way he chose.

Though the healing of his grace was obvious in everything about Castiel and would have been so even if he weren't shining from every inch of exposed skin, it had not changed the height of his vessel. He reached the corner and looked up at the demon, beyond his reach in the rafters of the shack. Then he lifted a hand toward it, a gesture of simple command, neither furious nor urgent. And Nur-Ayya flowed down to meet him, trickling down the wall bit by agonizing bit, as if the demon could not resist the silent order but dared to show its dread and reluctance in moving as slowly as possible.

In Castiel's hand, the smoke reduced further until it resembled nothing more than a tennis ball-shaped bundle of wispy darkness, trembling and quiescent and helpless. The angel turned back toward the center of the room, holding the demon before him, and looked up to smile at Sam. As if showing his little brother how insignificant and powerless the terrible enemy they had faced a few hours ago truly was. Tears ran down Sammy’s cheeks, contrasting with the huge grin that split his face. He nodded at his oldest brother, once, to show that he understood.

Castiel looked down at the creature in his hand. "Ah, Nur-Ayya." His voice was gentle and soft, almost loving, certainly pitying, with no trace of rage or grief. "What a pathetic thing you are, in the end. How long and how hard you fought and struggled and schemed, all to gain power for yourself, all to degrade those you considered your enemies and raise your own stature. And for what? All your long centuries of life, utterly wasted in every conceivable way. Were it only I you had hurt, I might have forgiven you. But you caused irreparable harm to Jimmy Novak, as well as to many other humans, and that I cannot excuse."

The ball of smoke writhed and twisted in his hand. Castiel didn't tighten his fingers, but simply let his hand rest open and loose, slightly cupped to contain the creature he held as if it were a physical object. The demon was held trapped and immobile by nothing but Castiel's will that it stay where it was. That was enough.

"Still." Castiel's voice lightened. "You did return my grace, in the end. You came here intending to put an end to me forever, but instead you have allowed me to fulfill my destiny in ways I could never have anticipated. Perhaps my Father did. The injuries and privations I have suffered were also necessary for that destiny, I see that now. What you intended for evil, my Father used for good. So I do owe you thanks, in a way. Thank you for trying to kill me, Nur-Ayya, now and thirteen years ago. In trying to ensure that the Apocalypse is begun, you have ensured that it will not be.”

"Cas..." Dean choked out, unable to keep silent any longer.

Castiel looked up at him. He nodded, for Dean alone. "It’s true, Dean. There will be no Apocalypse.”

“How… And don’t you dare say ‘quantum entanglement’ again, you dick. You know I don’t get it.”

Castiel laughed again, that pure expression of joy and love. “I told you, once, about the power of a human soul. Jimmy and I are joined as one now, as no angel in history has ever been. We belong to each other more wholly and completely than any of my brothers could have dreamed. All this time, using human vessels merely as tools, and they could have known this deep communion instead. Such a waste. Such utter foolishness. I pity them, in truth.”

“You are more powerful than all of them now,” Dad said, soft and understanding, and Dean threw him a glare. It wasn’t fair that even the old man had grasped this while Dean was still struggling to catch up.

Castiel bowed his head, acquiescing. “I am. Jimmy’s soul and my grace are blended in perfect trust and love. His is the power. Mine is the glory. Both are shared equally. My grace has been made perfect in weakness. Now, nothing can stand against us.”

He looked at Dean again. “There will be no Apocalypse, Dean, dear Dean, my precious brother and friend. There will be no Apocalypse because I will not allow it to begin. Not until the time my Father has truly appointed for it.”

He turned his eyes to the demon in his hand, and the light from them was terrible.

"Which, I do believe, is many millennia from now, when the human race has truly run to the end of its time. Not now, not ten years from now, when my foolish brothers had chosen to end this world simply because they could not wait any longer for our Father's plans to wend their way through time. Their impatience and hubris has led us here as much as your own violence and lust for power. So you can thank them, too, for this end you have come to."

Castiel nodded, slow and solemn, as he pronounced his final judgment. "You have served your purpose, Nur-Ayya. You have earned oblivion."

He closed his fist. The smoke vanished, and even the faint stink of sulfur was washed away.

It was replaced with the fresh and living scent of rain.

Previous: Book 4 Chapter 4
Next: Epilogue

Keep cool, my babies. An epilogue is coming.

In the meantime, a little extra. I had laryngitis over Thanksgiving, because of course I did. Part of my editing process is to read whatever I'm working on aloud to catch mistakes. It really helps. But with the laryngitis, my voice was all rough and deep and sounded like I've been smoking two packs a day for twenty years. Like Dean's or Cas's voice, actually. So I recorded myself. It's 35 minutes of raspy, breathless audio. I've done nothing to clean it up, just uploaded it to Enjoy if you can.
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