Angel of Death

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Famine

“And when he opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.”

-Revelation 6:6

Lucifer’s laughter echoed in my head, drowning out all other sound as I choked on more blood; Castiel had moved to crouch beside me and when he touched my shoulder, I nearly jumped out of my skin. I knew he was speaking to me, but I hadn’t the faintest idea what he was saying as I looked slowly up at him. For the briefest moment he paused in his words, then he spoke again but all I saw was his soul, twisting and alive inside him. I could feel the hunger rise inside me, making me deaf to his words as I licked my lips in anticipation. I’d never taken an angel’s soul, and now, it’d be so easy. All I had to do was reach out and...

“Arron,” Finally his voice broke through Lucifer’s laughter and I jerked my hand back in sudden horror of what I’d been about to do. “Arron, are you alright?” Castiel’s voice betrayed the worry in his eyes and I swallowed.

“Get away from me,” my voice was hoarse and quiet but when he started to protest I bared my teeth in a silent snarl, “get away!” I lashed out at him with fire in my hand and barely missed his head.

“Arron,” he tried again but I had buried my face in my knees and was raking my shaking hands through my hair.

I’m not sure how long I sat there coughing up blood and shaking, like an addict going through a bad withdrawal. I’m not sure how long Castiel sat there with me either, but every time I opened my black eyes, he was still sitting there, staring back. I closed my eyes for longer and longer periods of time until finally; I found that I had drifted off into a rather uncomfortable sleep.I opened my eyes again to find myself on the sofa in my sitting room. I looked over at the chair beside me to find Daniel studying me with his usual navy gaze filled with a rather unusual curiosity. He blinked once and rested his chin on his interlaced fingers before he finally spoke.

“You can’t see your own soul, can you?” I looked back at the ceiling, avoiding his gaze.

“I can see every unique detail on every soul in the world no matter what the creature,” I began but I didn’t finish; so he did it for me.

“But not your own,” it wasn’t a question this time and the look I gave him confirmed it.

“What are you doing here, anyways?” Daniel wore a brief and rather grim smile.

“Your angel friend followed Ena’s trail from her last visit back to the house; he’s quite the tracker, that one,” I gave a harsh laugh at that. “He came banging on the door and out of breath; didn’t even say ‘Hello’, just ‘Help her’.” I covered my eyes with one hand and groaned.

“I was going to tear out his soul,” my voice was quiet as I lifted my hand to watch it shake. “I’m so hungry,” I spoke slowly, tears in my eyes, and Danny nodded.

“I won’t say I understand, souls are just food to me, but to you they’re a drug, they’re addictive. What I can tell you though, is why it’s suddenly enough to make you want to steal every soul you see.” I sat up and gave him a questioning look, so he continued, clarifying the sudden spike in my hunger with a single name, “Fitz.” I stared at him a moment before swearing in Hell’s Latin.

“All he’d need to do is tie Fitz and I together so that I can’t leave his range of influence, then it wouldn’t matter if he has Alter, Warin, or even you; everyone would die.” Daniel wore a grim smile as I studied him.

“On that note, I have some more bad news,” I stared at him while my body tensed, “You’re dying.” When I finally found my voice again I started to speak, but he shook his head, “trust me, Arron, I can see it in your soul. Lucifer is trying to drag you back, so he’s threatening you with death,” he shrugged and gave me a grim smile. “If you weren’t so stubborn, it just might work,” I glared at him but kept my mouth shut as Castiel appeared in the doorway.

“You’re alright then?” he broke the silence and I nodded slightly, sitting up on the edge of the sofa.

“Thank you, both of you,” I faked a smile, “I’ll be alright, just give me a few days.” Daniel gave me a sharp look but I ignored him and he knew me too well to argue, so he sighed and stood up.

“I know it’s probably pointless to tell you this, but try to take it easy, even if it’s just to ease Ena’s worries,” I gave him a slight nod and watched him leave.

“Even he says to take it easy,” I glared when Castiel spoke again with an unusually easy smirk on his face.

“He also called me stubborn,” he laughed at that and I raised a distrustful eyebrow. “What suddenly got you in such a good mood?” He smiled.

“Este stopped by,” he began and I groaned.

“She didn’t bring any pastries did she?” He wore a confused expression and shook his head.

“No, she just came to talk,” I studied him as he continued, “then she started on in some form of ancient Greek and I sort of,” he ran a hand through his white and black hair, “I fell asleep.” I stared at him.

“Greek?” He nodded slightly and I frowned, my brow furrowed and I spoke more to myself than anyone else, “that’s strange, I thought she was French.” I shook away the wild theories that had begun to circulate in my head, “and then what? You woke up like this?”

“Like what?” I shrugged and made a noncommittal gesture in his direction.

“No cold, uncaring personality, wanted me dead,” he continued to study me, head tipped slightly to one side in confusion, “This ringing any bells?"

“Ouch,” he finally spoke, shaking his head and sounding slightly hurt.

“Sorry, it’s just… strange. I got used to the typical angel personality and then suddenly it changes again, it’s just strange,” I repeated the words as if they’d make it change back. But they didn’t, so I shook my head and changed the subject, “So how long was I out?”

“A few hours?” I raised an eyebrow.

“And you suddenly ran off to get Danny because?” I trailed off as he shrugged, giving me a sheepish smile.

“I was worried,” I stared at him, forgetting to hide the surprise that was written plainly across my face.

“I’m sorry, could you repeat that?”

“I was worried about you.”

“So let me get this straight, the angel who earlier wanted me dead without knowing who I was, suddenly became worried about me when I fell asleep on my kitchen floor.” He grimaced at the distrust in my words but nodded anyways. “Was this before or after the visit from Este?”

“After, why?” He wore a confused look but I just sighed and shook my head.

“I need to go make something abundantly clear to someone,” I was quiet as I stood and he perked up immediately.

“I should come, in case you pass out again,” I glared at him as I headed for the door.

“I need to go alone,” he frowned so I breathed a heavy sigh, “I’ll bring Keep, he’ll keep an eye on me.” At my words Keep joined me on my way out the door. “I’ll be back in a bit,” I called back and was gone before he could reply.

“Change him back,” I snarled the words when Este answered her door, “whatever spell you put on him, take it off,” She frowned at me, gaze narrowed for a moment before she spoke.

“It’s a perfectly harmless spell, he’s just lost the ability to hide emotions,” she looked me up and down, “a spell that wouldn’t be wasted on you, either.” I ignored the jab as Keep bared sharp teeth.

“Change him back,” I matched his silent snarl.

“No, he’s nicer this way.”

“He’s like a puppy, it’s disturbing,” she looked slightly surprised but I wasn’t sure which part it was at. “Change him back or I will tear out your soul, no matter your redeeming qualities and no matter who you really are, and I will go find some other witch to do it,” I snarled the words, “because Famine is loose and I am this close to stealing every soul within the next ten blocks.” Este was quiet a moment, studying me with cold violet and green eyes.

“Are you sure it’s not just that you don’t like him this way? All I did was make him-”

“Human. You gave an angel a human’s personality. You can’t just take away what he is and expect him to be the same person.” I growled the words and she gave me an indignant look.

“How would you know?”

“I know him better than you’d think.” She glared at me, sending a chill down my spine.

“I’m not changing him back,” I lifted a shaking hand.

“So be it,” the air above my palm sparked and caught black fire, “You leave me no choice, because frankly your soul isn’t worth the hole it’ll put me in.” The temperature in the room dropped and Este’s face paled considerably more than I’d thought possible.

“No,” her voice shook. “Cut off my head or shoot me, but for Heaven’s sake don’t burn me, not with that fire.” Keep backed out of the room with a quiet whine, but I was too focused on Este’s fear to see him go. Something moved inside me, something with a power I hadn’t felt in a long time. I licked my lips, tasting the power there, sealed only in ink. ‘You could break them, it’d be so easy.’ A slow smile tugged at the corner of my lips as Lucifer’s whispered words echoed from the dark, ‘just give in.’ My eyes turned black as my hand was engulfed in the black fire. I took a step forward and Este stumbled back onto the floor of her home, cat eyes wide. ‘It’d be so easy,’ the voice echoed again and my empty black gaze locked onto Este’s. ‘Just look at her, terrified of you.’ My eyes widened slightly and my hand dropped to my side again, the fire going out. I stared at her as the silver came back to my eyes and I clutched unconsciously at Castiel’s cross where it hung around my neck as I gasped desprately for air.

“Change him back,” my voice was low and I left without a reply, leaving her to stare after me in shock.

I can’t say where I ended up after the hour or two of running; not because it’s a secret but because I hadn’t the faintest idea where I was. Perhaps it’s because they’re almost as old as I am, but there was something about the forests around my home that made me feel… safe. When I finally stopped running, I found myself lying comfortably somewhere in the middle of a particularly large oak. If I were asked, and of course felt inclined to tell the truth, I suppose I was hiding from temptation; I was hiding from myself. But I wasn’t asked and I’ve never really felt inclined to tell the truth. I closed my eyes in the silence, however brief. I thought back to what had happened and groaned, pressing my palms against my closed eyes; I’d even scared Keep, causing him to disappear from Este’s house.

“I shouldn’t be having this problem,” I muttered the words and ran a shaking hand through my hair.

“Oh, but you should be,” I voiced my frustration with a snarl at Lucifer’s appearance, “that was the plan, after all.” I sat up on my branch and glared at him across the gap for a moment before replying.

“What do you want?” I growled the words and he smiled.

“I’d have thought that I’d made that clear by now,” my gaze narrowed.

“I’m not going back.”

“Oh yes,” he wore a thoughtful look, “you found a new angel to stay with. Would you prefer I look like him, then?” His image flickered and changed to Castiel’s and all I could do was stare.

“Damn you,” I finally spoke and he laughed.

“I already am,” he smiled as he changed back. I shook my head and turned away, trying to ignore him until he finally disappeared.

I’m not sure how much longer I sat there, even after it had begun to rain. I still didn’t move, even though I’d left my coat and vest at home and my shirt and I were soaked through. I was freezing but I didn’t care, I simply sat there in the rain and I wished that I could die of pneumonia.

“I’d say that you’ll catch your death out here but as that seems to be your endgame, it seems kind of pointless,” my dull gaze found Castiel and Keep standing below the tree.

“What are you doing here?” My voice carried an exhaustion that had ssettled over me hours before.

“I came to get you,” he paused a moment, glancing down at Keep, “Keep got worried about you when it started raining,” my gaze narrowed, but I said nothing at his words. He breathed a heavy sigh, “Alright, yes, I was a little worried too, but I figured you’d come back eventually,” I smirked and shook my head.

“I take it Este put you back to normal?” He nodded, a brief smile tugging his lips.

“Yes, but not without a rather long rant during which she claimed that you nearly burned her alive.” I cringed but he continued anyway, “Thanks for that, though, I quite like being an Angel.” Now I couldn’t help but laugh and Castiel smiled up at me. “Feeling better, then?” I nodded slightly, “Good. Will you be coming down from that tree anytime soon?” He pulled my coat from over his arm, “We brought your coat.” I climbed down the tree slowly, careful not to miss a step.

“Thanks,” I was quiet as I took my coat from him and shrugged it on in hopes of warming up. “Just out of curiosity, did you learn anything from that experience? The being human, I mean,” I finally broke the silence as we began the surprisingly long walk home and he grimaced.

“Yes, plug your ears when Este starts speaking in Greek,” I chuckled at that and he studied me out of the corner of his eye, “why do you ask?” I shrugged as best I could with my shoulders hunched against the now driving rain.

“I was just wondering what it was like, I suppose,” I paused in thought, “I suppose the human version of you would have grown on me, given time,” I gave a harsh laugh, “you did, after all.” I paused again as another thought occurred to me, “What do you think I would’ve been like, had it been me?” Castiel laughed aloud at that, stopping me in my tracks when he finally spoke.

“I think one of two things would have happened had it been you: worst case scenario, the world would have burned; or it would be as simple as all of your lies tumbling down to bury me and you becoming quite the damaged person,” I shivered at the idea of that before I found my voice and continued on down the road again.

“Este claimed that that spell wouldn’t be wasted on me,” again he studied me in silence a moment before speaking.

“I think that you’re fine the way you are, as far as Demons go,” I scoffed at that.

“Lovely,” I gave him a weak smile, “that’s not saying much though.” He nodded slightly.

“I suppose it isn’t.” I gave a quiet laugh before we fell back into the silence.

I was getting used to the warmth that had seemed to cling to my home since Castiel had come to stay with me; it was the same that night when we came inside, Keep trailing behind, or at least, it had seemed to be the same warmth when we first stepped inside. I bid Castiel goodnight and climbed the stairs in order to play my old piano, but what I found in my study was an unwelcome surprise. I stopped in the archway, watching warily as my visitor looked up from the view of my library downstairs.

“Hello Keyo,” I raised an eyebrow in mild surprise at the being that stood at the railing a few feet away, “or do you prefer Delante?” I blinked and shook my head, shaking free of the dread that clawed its way into my mind and forcing myself to let go of the knife in its sheath at my back.

“I prefer Arron,” I slipped back into Delante’s calm, not because I needed the calm, but because I genuinely worried for my own well being; I had finally decided that I wanted to live, for a little bit longer at least. “And which brother are you; Messenger, Healer, Guardian, or Guide?” I paused, “or are you one of the others?” The Angel studied me a moment with something akin to disdain in his eyes. Then the smallest of smiles crept across his face.

“I suppose I can’t expect you to recognize us as individuals, my name is Gabriel,” I nodded slightly.

“The Messenger,” he nodded, “I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you’re here for Cas,” he looked slightly confused so I corrected myself, “Castiel.”

“Hey, Arron, who’re you talking to?” I looked back to find Castiel standing at the top of the steps rubbing sleep from his eyes.

“How do you fall asleep that quickly?” He shrugged as he came to join me, “Oh,” he stared at Gabriel for a second, “Gabriel.” I’m not sure what caused him to do it, but at the sight of another Angel, Castiel took a protective stance in front of me, tense and ready, though ready for what I wasn’t sure.

“Cas,” he looked back at me in surprise while Gabriel laughed lightly, “He’s here for you.” I started to turn away with a nonchalant wave, but Gabriel spoke up.

“I’m here for both of you, actually. I came to warn you, if she doesn’t go up, Michael is coming down.” My blood ran cold as I swallowed the lump in my throat. “Do you mind if I have a quick word with my little brother in private?” When I looked back at Gabriel, his gaze had softened slightly. I turned my gaze from him to Castiel, studying him a moment as he ran a hand through his disheveled black and white hair before finally I nodded.

“Thank you for the warning,” my voice was quiet as I turned away, but I didn’t go to my room and close the door; I went to the one place I knew I could find solace, if only for a little while.

I know it seems like an odd place for someone like me to go for solace, but within the old church’s doors I had momentary pause in my concern with the dark of the world outside. Of course I knew the peace would always be short lived, because there would always be a part of that darkness within my own soul. I sighed and bowed my head in one of the back pews, running shaking hands through my raven hair as I silently prayed that I would simply wake up from this eternal nightmare I’d been born into, but He remained deaf to my pleas, at least as far as I had ever been able to tell. Still, I continued to sit in the silence and emptiness of the church, hoping for a miracle.

“Excuse me, miss?” I started, looking up in surprise at the priest that stood at the end of the row, “I’ve never seen you in mass before, have you come for His guidance?” I studied him a moment before replying with carefully measured words.

“I only came for the peace,” it wasn’t a complete lie, just more half truths. The man sat down in the pew a short ways away, studying me with questioning eyes.

“If you wish for peace, you should confess,” I laughed at that and made the mistake of running my left hand through my hair, revealing the only true ink I possessed. The man stared in shock, snatching my hand towards him so that he could see the inside of my wrist. “You bear the Devil’s mark.” I bared my teeth in a silent snarl and tore my hand awayin favor of a grip on his throat.

“Why must you Christians turn the beliefs of old into signs of the Devil? This mark,” I raised my hand so that the pentagram was upright, “is a ward against evil, not the mark of evil.” His eyes were wide when I let go of him.

“It’s the pentagram,” I shook my head when he began again.

“No, it was the only thing keeping me from burning the world I had decided to protect.” I stepped back from him, taking a deep breath as I struggled against Delante’s hunger.

“Miss, you’re going to have to leave,” I was deaf to the priest’s words as I stumbled, falling back onto the pew and beginning to pull at my hair. My hands were shaking as my eyes turned black and I caught a glimpse of the priest’s soul where it writhed inside of him. I began to laugh; a breathless and half-mad laugh that made me choke in my restraint. “Miss?” The priest leaned over me, true concern in his eyes; that is until they met mine. He sat down heavily, his gaze filled with fear as I gave another harsh laugh.

“You are a damn fool!” I laughed the words as I rocked, “You see my eyes; do you not realize what they mean?” I laughed again, “Well,” I grinned as the madness consumed my mind, “You’ll soon find out, no?” I reached out for him, just as he began to murmur the words of an exorcism. I laughed again, taking hold of his soul; but before I could tear it out I felt a stranger’s strong grip around my waist.

“This is the last place I would’ve thought to find you,” I heard his quiet voice in the noise of the madness, then another word, something in Heaven’s Latin I presume, and my world went dark.

When I opened my eyes, it took me a while to get away from the hunger and madness long enough to figure out where I was. Castiel had brought me home, judging by the fact that I had once again found myself staring at the ceiling in my sitting room.

“You’re awake,” my dull gaze turned to Castiel where he stood in the doorway, “I’d started to think I’d used something too powerful.”

“You used Heaven’s Latin,” my voice was hoarse as I spoke and he nodded. I sat up and pressed my palms against my closed eyes as I took a shaky breath. “What happened?”

“I found you at the church and, well, had it not been for the look in your eyes I would’ve thought you had lost yourself completely,” I looked up briefly in my surprise, all anyone ever saw in her eyes was emptiness, but I shook the thought away as I ran still shaking hands through my hair.

“Fitz,” I was quiet, “he has Fitz.” Castiel sat beside me on the sofa, his voice quiet when he finally spoke, but I had become deaf to all but the crackle of the fire in the hearth. I was mesmerized by the flames, and as they flickered, the madness returned, bringing with it the ever present hunger.

“Arron,” Castiel spoke my name again and I looked up with black eyes and a half-crazed grin. “Arron?”

“You know, I’ve never tasted an Angel’s soul,” I spoke with Delante’s words, reaching out for his soul as I spoke, “do you think they’re sweeter than the rest?” Then the hunger faltered, if only for a moment, and I caught hold of his shirt instead of the heavenly soul keeping him alive: my irresistible temptation. The grin slipped and in my moment of clarity I pushed him away. “Get away,” my voice shook.

“Arron,” he started to protest but I shook my head.

“Get away from me,” I snarled the words, “before I…” I stopped, running shaky hands through my hair.

“I’m not afraid of-”

“Well I am!” I snapped at him before I pulled my knees to my chest and held my head. “Just go. That’s what Gabriel wanted to tell you, isn’t it? Don’t be here when Michael comes for me?” I didn’t look up while I spoke, I was afraid of what I’d see; of what I might say, “Just get out.” I growled the words as much at myself as I did him. I had started laughing again by the time he reached the door, my moment of clarity gone while I rocked myself back and forth.

I’m not sure how long it took for me to come back; I couldn’t tell in the madness the difference between day and night. Enough time had passed though, that when the black finally faded from my eyes my house had returned to being cold and empty aside from the hounds. I took a deep breath and pressed my palms to my eyes as I groaned. I stretched out slowly, running my fingers through my hair as I took another deep breath.

“I’m sorry Cas,” I got no reply, though I hadn’t really expected one. I found myself standing outside his door a moment later, hoping that when I knocked he’d still be there. I got no answer, heard no signs of life when I pressed my ear to the door to listen, so I turned away. Despite the fact the unnatural warmth had already left most of my house, I had still hoped for an answer. I shook my head and climbed the stairs slowly before opening the doors to my balcony. I leaned heavily on the railing as I took a deep breath of the pre-dawn air and stood watching the sunlight creep up past the horizon and through the branches of my oak as I waited for the Archangel visitor. The near silent flutter of wings came when the light finally reached my house and I gave a brief smile; at least some things could be considered consistent.

“Keyo,” I breathed an exasperated sigh.

“I really do despise that name,” I turned to face Michael in a leisurely manner as I continued to lean on the railing, “it implies it was consensual.” I wore a bored expression as I studied him. His hair had no signs of impurity, no streaks of black despite the war, which briefly made me wonder what else Castiel had been hiding. “Normally if I were having this kind of a day I’d go with you in a heartbeat to be locked away or executed; but not today. I’ve got things to do.” I think I surprised him with my words because for the briefest moment, I could see it in his golden eyes.

“Where is my little brother, Castiel?” I was quiet for a moment as I swallowed the lump in my throat and gave him a bored shrug.

“I haven’t the faintest idea,” it wasn’t a lie; he had vanished without a trace.

“Good,” he lifted the Claymore from his side and again I sighed.

“You know I could quite easily tear out your soul or burn you away, but I really don’t need more attention from Heaven and I’ve grown quite fond of this house.” I straightened up, stepping forward before I continued, “so long story short, I’m asking politely for you to leave. I’d say that’s pretty nice of me, all things considered.” He started to protest but I tipped my head to one side and flashed a wicked smile, “Did you not understand me? I said get. out.” It wasn’t very polite of me, I know, but I had tried polite and now, a few words in Hell’s Latin and Michael was gone. I studied the space a moment before breaking the silence. “As destructive as it tends to be, Hell’s Latin can be almost as useful as Heaven’s.” I muttered the observation and turned to find myself staring at another hallucinated Lucifer.

“You’re becoming the monster you’re trying to avoid,” my expression twisted into an inhuman snarl and I turned away from his image, “You still don’t get it, do you? This monster you’ve been hiding from is what you lost when you left me,” he smiled, “it’s just catching up.” I slouched into one of the chairs as the voice of temptation spoke again from the dark. It’d be so simple to just give in, the smallest of smiles tugged at the corner of my mouth as I listened, to just break the seals and go back to being her. I sat there in the silence, smiling as I remembered the power I had had then.

The sun had set by the time I pulled away from the whispering voice of temptation and I found myself sitting alone in the dark. I shook my head and climbed shakily to my feet after sitting there a moment longer to re-collect myself. I had meant to go to the study to find as much as I could about Lucifer’s cage, but I didn’t even make it down the hall. I found myself doubled over in pain as my body was wracked by another coughing fit. I was on my hands and knees still choking a moment later, staring at the blood that seemed the only colour in a world turned black and white. The fits were getting worse and for the first time since Daniel had spoken them to me, his words were driven home: you’re dying. The voice came back, whispering in my ear while I struggled to catch my breath. If you break one, you’ll be able to fight it harder, you’ll last longer. It’s just one…The voice trailed off as Lucifer crouched beside me and I rolled onto my back.

“I’ll take it off, all you need to do is come with me,” I bared my teeth in an inhuman snarl.

“Bugger off,” I growled the words at him and his image finally vanished, but it was too late for me, I could already feel the first seal shattering. Just like before, the marks burned white hot and I squeezed my eyes shut against it.

When the pain faded I opened my eyes slowly before I scrambled to my feet and ran back into my room. I stared at my reflection, the black just fading from my eyes as I looked. I pulled my blouse over my head in a hurry and turned to study what was left of the marks along my spine. The black was flaking off like ash from a fire, and I watched as it slowly fell away, leaving behind a pale silvery mark like a beautifully intricate scar. I turned my attention towards my fingertips in a state of panic as my hand caught black fire. You wanted my power, the voice of temptation whispered again and it sent a chill down my spine when I recognized it for what it was, I told you it’d be easy. Delante’s voice brought an involuntary smile to my face as I watched the fire burn, but I closed my eyes and drove the mad, hungry thoughts away. It was the banging on the front door that drew my eyes away from my hand as the fire flickered out. I dropped my hand and pulled the shirt back on before taking my time to go down and answer the door.

“What?” I growled the word when I saw the hunters on my front step and Nate glared in response. My snarl slipped away when I realized that he was half carrying and half dragging his sister as she leaned heavily on him, blood seeping from between her fingers as she gripped her side. For a moment I stood in shock but then Nate’s voice got my attention.

“She needs help,” My gaze snapped to him when he spoke, but there was no emotion in his eyes, only death. For the briefest moment I realized that his gaze held the same emptiness that was always in Delante’s, but I tore my gaze away before I could get stuck on that tiny detail.

“I can see that,” I shook myself and stepped back out of the way as they came in. “Take her to the kitchen, I’ll see what I can do,” I shut the front door behind them and started towards the kitchen, but Jenny caught my arm.

“Not you,” her voice was raspy, “Ask the Angel.” At her words I went from ‘mildly inclined to help’ to ‘tempted to kill her myself’ in about six seconds flat and with a wide array of emotions and homicidal thoughts in between, but I shook my head and pulled easily out from her grasp.

“I’m sorry, would you prefer I leave you out there in the cold? It looked like it was about to start raining again,” the bitter sarcasm was thick in my voice and I turned back to the kitchen without waiting for a reply. Nate followed, despite Jenny’s continued protests when he lifted her onto the island counter. I started to reach for the torn and bloody portion of her dress, but she struggled enough that I instead took hold of the knife I kept sheathed at my back. It stuck in the wooden countertop with a solid thud just at her eye level and only inches from her face. I leaned over it slowly, silver eyes reflecting the glint of the steel blade, “Keep quiet and hold still lest I cut you on accident.” My voice was low and carried the bitter calm that came with my bad mood. At my words, Jenny lost all signs of consciousness, causing a satisfied smile to tug at my lips. I pulled the knife back from the countertop and used it to cut away the fabric. “Would you mind boiling some water for me?” Nate started to ask about matches but the wood stove ignited before he could speak.

“Alright then,” he began muttering under his breath so I tuned him out as I examined the wound. It wasn’t a common kind of wound, I could tell that much as my brow furrowed in thought. No knife or gun I had ever come across made a wound like the one in Jenny’s side. “Here,” Nate’s voice called my attention away from her as he offered me the pot, the metal burned against my fingertips, but only for a moment as it settled into my hands. I found myself staring at the water as if it were the most precious thing in my life; and I suppose it was in a way, considering everything else lately seemed to crumble at my touch.

“I told you what you already knew,” I tore my gaze from the pot to stare at Lucifer, “You were and always will be a monster.” I bared my teeth at him in a progressively less human snarl, my eyes flooding with black in an instant, “You do see it, don’t you? The monster, it’s in your eyes.” I started to reply, but Nate called my attention away.

“Miss Masey,” I blinked and looked back at him as the black faded, “did I really need to get water for you if you intended to let Jenny bleed out on your counter?” He spoke with an honest indifference and met my dying gaze with a dead one of his own. I swallowed as I found my voice again.

“Keep it up and you’ll start sounding as much a monster as I,” I spoke with a bitter tone as I set the pot beside my knife on the counter.

“My dear, dear monster,” I set my jaw against Lucifer’s unwanted commentary and busied myself with cleaning the blood away from Jenny’s strange wound while doing my best to ignore his continued presence. I reached in the wound with two fingers, gripping whatever had made it between my fingertips before pulling it carefully out to reveal an intricately carved arrowhead that seemed somehow familiar. I shook the sense of dread away and began to stitch Jenny’s would closed, but her blood seemed to eat through the thread like acid. I stared as it happened, the thought occurring to me that the edges of the hole in her dress had been similarly eaten away. “Only one monster can kill like that,” when he voiced my frantic thoughts, I looked up at Lucifer in silent shock for a moment before turning again to Nate, the final pieces clicking into place.

“You found Alter,” my voice was low as I leaned heavily on the counter before me and Nate gave a slight nod, “and you thought it would be a good idea to go after him by yourselves when most humans drop dead simply by walking within 10 miles of him.” It wasn’t a question, but he still nodded. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath in an attempt to keep my voice even. “She was shot while you tried to kill a close friend of mine and yet still you come to my home for help?” My voice was a disbelieving growl as the fire flared up in the stove behind me. Nate seemed entirely confused by the idea that their actions were a terrible idea, so I shook my head and took another deep breath, the fire dying down again. “The better question is how you managed to survive at all,” I muttered the words before pushing the thoughts from my mind.

“Let her go, put her out of her misery if you must, but let her die,” Lucifer whispered in my ear and I opened blackened eyes to find Jenny’s soul squirming inside her. I watched, mesmerized by the white and gold light that seemed to writhe in pain. “You could take it, you know; feed the monster you’ve starved for so long,” Lucifer trailed off and I lifted my knife from the counter. A single slice and my palm bore a thin line of scarlet before I turned it to cover Jenny’s wound. I was hesitant at first, but the more I whispered the words in Hell’s Latin, the stronger my voice became. Nate reached for my arm, trying to pull me away but I caught his wrist in my grip, my thumb wedged between the tendons as I finished the words.

“If you ever try to interrupt me again, I will crush every bone from here to the tips of your fingers,” he swallowed as he nodded slightly and I let the black fade from my eyes. I let go of his wrist and dropped my other hand from Jenny’s wound. The cut sealed itself closed and my blood turned black as it traced a seal around the scar as if it were ink. “I can’t save her, but that should slow it down,” I swallowed, “At least for a little while,” my voice was quiet, the gold that clung to her soul had unnerved me, but now I understood why the two hunters hadn’t died of disease. “I’m sorry, she’s still going to die; you’re both going to die,” I spoke softly as I put together the final pieces. Nate scoffed at that but I shook my head at him, “’When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.’ Revelation, 11:7.” The words felt strange and foreign in when I said them aloud, something I wasn’t used to when speaking.

“It is a strange thing to hear a demon recite Bible verses,” I looked towards the door to find that Michael had found his way back into my house.

“Ah, see? Now you’re misrepresenting me, it’s the demon, as in the first Demon to tell Lucifer to bugger off,” I leaned back against the counter in feigned nonchalance while Nate stood staring at Michael in complete confusion.

“Who’s he?” He finally asked me but I turned to Michael with a smirk.

“They’re your Father’s witnesses, you can tell him.” He glared daggers at me for a moment but I simply grinned wider.

“I am the Archangel Michael, the Sword of God,” I breathed an exasperated sigh and rubbed my temple with one hand.

“What he’s trying to say is that he’s awfully pretentious,” I muttered the words and earned myself another sharp glare.

“You quote the Book but do not practice it. ‘For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is destruction; their throat is an open tomb; they flatter with their tongue. Pronounce them guilty, let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions, for they have rebelled against you.’ Psalm 5, Verses 9 and 10.” I smirked and gave him a bored look.

“Yeah well,” my smirk became the wicked grin Delante was so well known for, “with what I am, you can’t honestly be surprised by the state of my soul.” Michael ignored my retort and returned his icy gaze to Nate.

“I was sent to collect Keyo and complete the job Castiel started,” I winced at the mention of Castiel and turned my gaze to the floor.

“Castiel was helping her try to prevent the world from ending,” my gaze snapped to Nate, the surprise written across my face as I studied him. “Jenny and I were as well, along with a witch and a Hell Hound,” he continued and I smirked, my gaze returning to the space a few feet in front of me.

“Quite the menagerie,” I was quiet when I spoke and the words were met by continued silence. After a few more minutes of the uncomfortable silence, Michael began to laugh and Jenny groaned as she began to wake. I stared at him with a mixture of shock and worry in my eyes; the Archangel’s laughter was mildly disconcerting while he still carried his claymore.

“Trying to prevent Revelation?” He laughed, “do you know why we call her Keyo in Heaven? It means ‘Devil’s Whore’,” he wore a cold smile as Nate made the connection and Jenny finally sat up on the counter, “She is the Whore of Babylon,” I felt my stomach turn as he voiced the very thing I’d tried to deny since I’d first heard the name. “Castiel knew this, if he still chose to help you, his punishment is death.” My blood ran cold at Michael’s words.

“He wasn’t helping me,” my voice was low, “he was following me around while he planned a way to take me to the Eternity Box without getting himself killed,” the lie was easier than I would have liked, but it was necessary, and a part of me couldn’t help but be proud of how easy it was for me to spin the truth in my favor on such short notice.

“But I thought he-” Jenny began, but I shook my head.

“It was a trick, there’s only one seal,” Nate seemed to realize what I was doing because when Jenny tried again to protest, he dug an elbow into her ribs.

“She’s telling the truth, Castiel told me as much before he left,” he spoke using the same cold and unemotional tone he used normally, “but what I said is true, Arron-” Jenny elbowed him and he corrected himself, “my apologies, Miss Masey is trying to stop the end.” I couldn’t help the brief smirk I wore as I studied Michael’s face.

“So Castiel never helped you in any way, only watched,” my nod confirmed his words.

“We’re at war; it is in Heaven as it is on earth? I’ll go with you, just give me seventy-two hours,” I bargained with Michael as if I were working the cross-roads and eventually, he gave a slight nod.

“Seventy-two hours, no more,” and with those words, Michael sealed the deal and was gone. I let out the breath I’d been holding and Jenny stared at me for a moment before breaking the silence.

“You lied to an Angel,” I shrugged it off with an air of false nonchalance.

“I lie to everyone,” I said it as I turned to pour the rest of the water back into its barrel.

“You made us help you,” I turned back to find that Jenny had taken up my knife in shaky hands and my expression darkened.

“I didn’t make you do anything,” I snapped at her, my voice a growl as I gripped the edge of the counter I leaned on. “Cas is gone,” I spoke slowly now, my voice low as I struggled to keep myself under control with only one seal and no silver, “there’s no point in him dying for what he did.” She didn’t lower the knife so I breathed a heavy sigh and turned back to them. I snatched the blade from her hand, spinning it around so that the blade was pressed to her throat. “Trust me when I say that if I wanted you dead, I’d have done it by now and honestly, at this point it’s a miracle I haven’t yet torn out your soul.” I growled the words before I stepped back and returned the knife to its sheath at my back. “You’ll be alright, at least for a while,” I turned away but she caught my arm.

“Where is Castiel?” I shrugged her off.

“I told him to leave,” with those words I disappeared from the room.

I found myself standing again on Este’s step in need of help. I didn’t knock, instead I paced the step considering how much had happened since the day I’d met Nate and Jenny on the road with Este in the cage. I should have left her there; I should have gotten out of the way and let them go by unhindered. I shoved my hands deeper into my coat pockets and my fingers brushed something soft. I pulled it out, pinched between two fingers as I held it up to the gaslight.

“Strange,” I turned the feather between my fingers and watched as it turned slowly from white to black, “It must be one of Cas’s” I studied it a moment longer before pinning it between the pages of my most recent journal. I should’ve let the hunters’ cart go by unhindered, but I knew it would have changed nothing in the end. I dropped the journal back into its pocket inside my coat just as the door opened.

“Oh,” I turned to find Este standing in the doorway wearing one of her more extravagant gowns, “What are you doing here?” I struggled to find my voice again.

“Where are you going?” I couldn’t help the curiosity and she grinned in reply.

“This nice young man from the states asked me to accompany him to The Diaboli Ball,” I’m fairly certain it was my daily choice in clothes that made her elaborate further, “It’s a dance that this Lord who just moved to England has been hosting for the last five years,” I raised an eyebrow.

“And he called it ‘The Devil’s Ball’,” there was no avoiding the skepticism in my voice and she scowled at me.

“You know, if you weren’t so paranoid, this sort of thing could be fun for you.” For a moment I just stood staring at her while I decided whether or not I should remind her of the coming end and the threat from Lucifer, but then another thought occurred to me.

“You’re right,” she looked as surprised as I was by my words, “I’ve been so focused on hiding that I never even considered the things that make life supposedly more enjoyable.” For a moment I got no response, but then she had my wrist in her grip and she was pulling me back into her house.

I sat at one of the tables with Este’s date, a familiar young sailor who refused to leave his tigerskin vest behind. While Este danced, we drank; we’d even made a game of it about an hour and a half ago, taking another drink every time she switched partners. Needless to say we were both quite drunk by now. Adam sat now with his head down on the table while I watched Este switch to yet another new partner.

“One more,” Adam groaned while I took another drink, “I’ve no idea why I thought this would be a good idea. I don’t relate to people well and this dress is so tight I can barely breath,” I studied my glass a moment when I paused, pouring myself another and taking another sip, “and the alcohol isn’t even that good,” Adam gave a breathless laugh, as did a man who had appeared behind me.

“You must be the young woman Miss Demetriou mentioned,” I studied the man with the same distrust with which a mouse might study a cat, “The one who dresses like a man and resides in that old house in the woods.” I nodded slightly as he took a seat in one of the chairs across from me. “I’m Lord Lucius Abel.” Again I nodded, but something about this man gave me chills, so I finished my drink and started to stand; to walk away, only to have him pull me back down by the arm; even if I hadn’t been a bit tipsy, his grip was far too strong, “I don’t know your name yet.” I swallowed the lump in my throat. Chances were that Este had told him my name, and he simply ‘asked’ to keep up his appearances.

“It’s Arron Masey,” my voice was quiet enough that the tremor in it couldn’t quite be heard.

“Well then Arron, would you do me the honor of joining me for this dance?”

“No,” again I stood, “I should really be getting home.” He stood, red-gold eyes alight as he stepped closer.

“Then allow me to walk you home.” I couldn’t help the harsh laugh as my gaze narrowed.

“I am quite capable of taking care of myself, thank you,” I struggled to keep the snarl from my voice, “even with the dress.”

“At least let me walk you to the door,” in the amount of time it took him to take my arm in his, I couldn’t think of a valid reason to say no. I looked to Adam, in hopes of some form of help, but he had passed out in his chair. So I followed Lord Abel to the French doors at the front of his manor. “One more thing before you go.” I frowned when he didn’t let go of my arm, “if you keep going as you are, Death will collect your soul while you still have unfinished business.” I pulled out of his grip, my back pressed to the door before I replied, my eyes turning black.

“So be it, at least then I can’t be bothered by you anymore,” I smirked, my head tipped slightly to one side, “Goodbye Lucy.” His eyes flashed red-gold as I practically sang the insult, but I was out the door before he could turn violent.

I was met by Keep and Rhades at my front door; Atelus had returned to the watch at Ena’s house. I was beginning to feel the sheer helplessness of my situation as I slid down the closed door to sit with my back against it. Keep gave a worried whine and I turned my gaze to him.

“You’ll stay with me, won’t you?” He pressed his head to my chest and I wrapped my arms around it, pressing my forehead to his. I closed my eyes and whispered the words to undo the seal I’d placed on his soul when I’d first run from Hell. I sat back again,breathless as I watched the spines stand on end along his back. Frost spread out from the spines to cover his back as his formerly dead eyes seemed to catch with black fire. The horns that sprouted from his head curled around themselves as they grew long again and I smiled as Keep gave another one of his silent snarls and Rhades backed further into the library. I started to speak again, but my body was wracked by another coughing fit before I could get a word out, only made more painful by the ridiculously tight corset I still wore. I was doubled over on myself in pain while I rocked in place choking on blood. I managed to choke out a single swear before I swallowed the blood and struggled to stop coughing. Keep curled around me and I clung to his thick coat as I leaned heavily into him. Then I grinned as Delante’s darkness bled into my eyes, blood dripping from the corners of my mouth as I began to laugh. It wasn’t the same blinding pain, like the white hot burning that it was before; I didn’t even think of breaking it. I grinned as I felt my wings shatter the ink that had sealed them away for so many years, and as my eyes were consumed by black I felt the old familiar sense of icy calm flood my subconscious.

I’m not sure what happened after that, I only remember Delante’s eerie laughter echoing through my house, and then the darkness that had swallowed me whole. When I opened my eyes again, the sun’s rays were just reaching the edge of my bed. I sat up quickly and groaned as my world spun and pain shot through my temples, though whether from a hangover or from the second broken seal, I couldn’t quite be sure. Keep breathed a heavy sigh from where he lay curled much of the way around the side of my bed and I looked down at him in mild surprise.

“What did I do last night?” He lifted his head to study me, a certain intelligence to his burning eyes. “Nothing problematic, right?” He gave me a wolfish grin and I breathed a sigh of relief. “And nobody came by with an emergency?” I took his silence as a good sign before I climbed off the bed and struggled out of the now quite rumpled dress.

“It was good to see you.” I looked back at the image of Lucifer that stood behind me and flashed a sad smile, “You looked incredible in that dress.”

“You know, there were times , when you treated me like more than just a tool and when you weren’t consumed with revenge, I could’ve grown to love you,” I whispered the truth before shaking my head slightly. “I can’t get a break from you, can I?” My voice sounded miles away when I spoke again as I reached for the tie in the back of the corset I still wore. “If you weren’t simply a very annoying hallucination I might ask you to make yourself useful,” I looked away in hopes that he would disappear. My blood ran cold when I felt someone tug the tie free and the corset loosen. I looked back in shock, half ready to burn the stranger away; but it wasn’t a stranger and I stared in shock as Castiel stepped back and turned his back respectfully to me. “Thanks,” I finally found my voice as I hurriedly moved behind the screen that stood in the corner of my room.

“I take it you went to that dance that Este was talking about?” I peered over the top of the screen at him, eyebrow raised.

“You talked to Este?” He shrugged as he examined the dress.

“She talked, I left about halfway through her conversation,” he looked up at me with a blank gaze, “I noticed a distinct lack of ink on your back,” he trailed off and I blinked in surprise with a slight tinge of embarrassment at his comment.

“That’s kind of a complicated story,” he nodded slightly, looking over at Keep as the hound sat up beside him.

“And Keep seems to have grown quite a bit,” I looked up from the countless skirts again as Keep bared his teeth at him. A near imperceptible smile tugged at the corner of Castiel’s lips and he ruffled the fur on Keep’s head before dropping the dress back onto my bed.

“Were you there?” He looked slightly confused by the question. “At the dance.” He nodded in understanding as I shrugged on a fresh shirt and pants.

“Where were you?” I smirked.

“I was sitting at the table with the kid that was passed out in his chair,” his gaze narrowed at me in a confused look so I gave him a pained smile without explaining as I stepped out from behind the screen again.

“You looked nice in a skirt, I couldn’t quite put my finger on how I recognized you,” I stared at him a moment before finding my words.

“You are terrible at not saying things that sound strange,” he blinked in surprise.

“It was a compliment,” he protested but I shook my head.

“Don’t,” I paused, “It makes it sound like you’re human.” He stared at my lie a moment before shaking his head. For a while we just stood in silence, as if we could think of nothing to say, but then I broke it, “Why’d you come back?” He was quiet a moment before finally replying.

“I had nothing to do.” I blinked and he chuckled, “I was just like my brothers before, perfectly content with simply doing my job, which mostly consisted of sitting around watching the humans, but after I met you,” he shrugged, “I’m restless,” his voice was soft, almost as if he couldn’t quite believe it himself. I studied him a moment in the silence again.

“I have sixty-five hours left to stop Lucifer,” he looked slightly confused so I continued, “Michael paid me a visit, that was the deal we made.” Another smirk flashed across his expression as he studied me.

“You talked an Archangel into a deal with the first Demon? You’re really quite something, you know that?” I swallowed, my eyes on Keep. “He said you knew who I was.” I trailed off and Castiel gave me a strange look, “Keyo.” He nodded, completely silent for a moment before he finally spoke.

“I knew.” I shook my head slightly as I tried to put together a reason he might still agree to help.

“If you help me, in any way, he will kill you.” He gave me a nonchalant shrug.

“I’m okay with that,” he wore a sad smile, “maybe I’ll see Hagar again.” I shook my head and started to tell him no, but Keep’s ears pricked and he disappeared out the door. Curiosity won out and I followed him down to my front door. At first I couldn’t figure out why he stared at the door expectantly, but then there was a sound like something scratching and I felt a chill run down my spine.

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