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Purgatory

Title: Purgatory
Fandom: Supernatural
Rating/Pairing: PG/gen
Spoilers: Through 4x10 "Heaven and Hell"
Summary: Heaven has its angels, and Hell has its demons, but somewhere there is a middle ground where angels sometimes saunter vaguely downwards.




None of us ever talk about the angels who fall. None of us are allowed to. Except for Lucifer, who was the first one of them, the greatest and the proudest and the hardest-fallen, the names of fallen angels are erased. Forgotten. Never spoken of, or thought of, on pain of death.

We knew that, the three of us, standing on the brink of decision. On the one hand, our orders were clear. On the other, we knew what would likely happen, and --

"A child of hunters," one of my fellows murmured, voicing what we were all thinking. "Of lineage as strong as Samuel's line, and yet with demon blood. It would be..."

There was silence for a moment.

"Unthinkable," I said.

The other angel said, "So, what can we do?"

We could do nothing. But I held silent, and the first one to speak said: "Protect him."

"It isn't in our orders," I said.

"Yet." The angel shook his head. "Some things transcend orders."

He moved as if to leave, and I put my hand on his arm. "We are not allowed to interfere."

"Angels of the Lord are not allowed to interfere," he corrected me, slowly but clearly. The implication was clear -- I cannot protect him as myself, but I can as one of them -- and the idea of it made me cold inside, and stilled my tongue.

The other angel, our superior as much as our equal, said, "Are you sure about this?"

"More than anything," he replied. He was watching us both with an intent expression, as though memorizing us for later.

I didn't tell him that I'd miss him, even though he was not yet gone and I already did, keenly. The other angel kissed him on the cheek and whispered, "Good luck."

He shuddered and closed his eyes, gathering strength, and then rippled in our sight. For a moment, he stood before us, holding a shimmering ball of grace in his hands. "Take it," he said to me. "For safe-keeping."

I did, and then he was gone, to become human: the firstborn son of parents of destiny.

The two of us that remained looked at each other. "You will not speak of this," the other angel said; it was an order, and I was bound to obey, but I would not have done otherwise.

#

I was there, watching, when Dean Winchester was born. I was there as an angel, not in human form, so nobody should have seen me; but the mother, Mary daughter of Samuel, looked once in my direction, and smiled. It may have been coincidence; it may not; I didn't know, and couldn't ask.

I was there, too, when Sam Winchester was born, and there six months later when the demon Azazel came to claim him.

He saw me, of course, and knew me as I knew him, though our paths had not crossed much. All demons of higher rank were once fallen angels, and he had descended long ago, but we recognized each other as brothers and not-brothers, and his eyes blazed yellow with fury before he realized that I was just there. Not making a move to protect the child or to stop him, just watching.

"Ah," he said, finally, and a smirk crossed his face. "Non-interference orders, hmm?"

I did not answer him, but that was answer enough. I had orders not to interfere, and so I couldn't. I could only watch as his plan unfolded, drip by bloody drip into Sam's mouth, and I could only watch as it went wrong, as Mary died and the room burned and her family's entire world collapsed around them.

It wasn't something that was new to me, but the ache I felt was. I stayed there long enough to make sure that Dean was safe -- he was, along with his brother of unthinkable future, and their father -- and then I fled, because I should not have been feeling anything.

#

"How is he?" the other angel asked, my commander and my friend and the only one (aside from God, presumably) who knew what Dean had once been. We were as alone as we ever got.

"Well enough. He doesn't seem to remember anything from ... before." Which meant he didn't remember us, but that was all right as we weren't supposed to be remembering him. "His father is discovering some truths about the world."

"Hm." She wasn't looking at me. "He needs protection."

"The father?"

"No." She was, I noticed, holding the small bronze box I'd been storing the orphaned glory in. "He needs this back."

"You can't--" I said, and she shushed me quickly; I realized I had been too loud. In a whisper, I said, "You can't make him one of us again. You know that."

"I know." She looked at me, and there was something in her expression that I couldn't recognize. "But he should still have this. It is his." She pressed her palms together, the box between them, and it gave a flash that was too bright to look at. When the light cleared, the box had been compressed to a small amulet, a humanoid face with the horns of a bull. "There," she said in satisfaction.

"Y--" I stared at the amulet, unable to speak. "You're going to give that to him?"

"Not directly." Her hand closed around it; she was smiling. "But I can give it to someone -- a mortal man, who has a close connection to the boy -- and it will find its way to where it belongs."

The number of rules she was proposing to break, had already broken, terrified me. "You know what they will do to you," I said finally, knowing I had neither the authority nor the will to talk her out of what she planned. "Creating idols--" (she snorted, and I knew why, because this was not for worship, but rules were rules and could not be bent) "--and interfering in mortal lives? It breaks every order we have been given!"

"I know." She closed her eyes for a moment, and then said, "But as he said once, some things transcend orders."

She left, and was back within minutes. It was Uriel who came for her -- he hadn't tolerated either her command or her companionship well -- and pronounced the sentence over her. Death.

"No," she said, and Uriel jerked back like he'd been slapped. "I did what I had to do."

"And I am doing what I have to do," he echoed with a sneer. "Come." And he reached out a hand for her.

She was not there.

I watched her fall, and felt hollow inside. I wasn't sure if that was because I missed her, or because I regretted not having the strength to do likewise.

#

Time passed, as it was wont to do.

I have heard it said that it passes more slowly in Hell. Perhaps it also passes more quickly in Heaven.

And soon began the war we all knew was coming. Heaven against Hell, angels of the Lord against Lucifer's demons. Many of my fellow angels were chafing for action.

I was not, but I obeyed, because that is what angels did.

#

When Dean Winchester was dragged to Hell, Uriel received orders to bring him back. "I will go with you," I said, and when he glared at me, I held up my hands in surrender. "Not to interfere. I just want to watch."

"You are as stupid as he is," Uriel muttered finally (for many of us, now, knew what Dean had once been). But he let me come.

Hell was not kind to any of its residents, even ones that had once been angels. His flesh was whole but he was swaying on his feet with exhaustion, squinting at Uriel with no recognition.

"Huh," Uriel said to me. "Maybe he really is just a mud-monkey." I gave him a do-your-job look, and he shrugged.

"What the hell do you want?" Dean's voice was rough-edged and nearly inaudible; I wondered how long he'd been screaming.

Uriel said nothing, just stepped forward and touched Dean's forehead. Dean dropped like a puppet with its strings cut, and for a long while he stayed huddled on the ground, gasping. I knew what Uriel had done -- returned Dean's identity to him, transposing the memories of 25-odd years of flesh-born mortality with the memories of 2500-odd years of angel-born glory -- and I knew it had not been done with much care or gentleness.

"On your feet," Uriel said.

Dean, used to obeying orders (his father's, as a human, and his Father's, as an angel), was up on all hands and knees before he seemed to realize it. He let his head hang for a moment, and then sat back on his heels, staring up at us with defiance. "Tell me what you want."

"I can restore you to the ranks where you belong."

Dean was still breathing hard and fast. It was a lot to take in, I supposed, especially after a stretch of time in Hell. "And Sam?" he said finally.

"Will take your place," Uriel said, shrugging. It didn't matter.

It did to Dean. I could see it in his eyes, the flash of non-angelic emotion, before he said, "No."

I wasn't surprised by the answer, but Uriel was. "What?"

"Have you ever had a body?"

Uriel didn't answer, and his jaw was clenched. I finally said, "Yes," because I had; it was often necessary when we served as messengers. I had done it a number of times, more than Uriel had.

Dean looked at me. This time, there was recognition, and a flash of sadness. "Did it remember love?"

"Yes," I said. It had only been echoes, and still, leaving that vessel had been hard for me. There was so much, and it was so intense, all the emotions...

Dean nodded, as though he could hear what I was thinking. "It's a thousand times stronger, more overwhelming, to experience."

In disbelief, Uriel said, "You can't mean--!" But Dean only turned his head aside, not meeting his gaze, and I understood. He had, after all, taken human form to protect someone, even before that someone existed in anything other than words of prophecy. Now that he had spent time as a human, not just protecting Sam but loving him as well, he wasn't going to give that up.

Even at the cost of his own self.

I stepped forward and touched Dean's shoulder. There were a thousand things I could have said, were I human, and for the briefest of moments I wished I could speak them. Instead, I said softly, "May God have mercy on you."

His mouth twisted wryly. "It's a bit too late for that."

"Enough," Uriel said. "You have made your choice." Without sympathy he put his fingers on Dean's forehead, presumably removing the angel memories, and Dean doubled over in pain.

#

I didn't let Dean see my face when I pulled him out of Hell.

If I weren't an angel, I might have said it was shame.

#

More orders came: this time, to dispose of a girl, Anna. We didn't ask why -- we never did -- but we got answers through rumor anyway. She could hear us.

We had orders, so we went.

"You're some heartless sons of bitches, you know that?" Dean, like Sam, was standing in our way. Defiant, hostile, unafraid. Unremembering of who he really was.

"As a matter of fact," I said calmly, "we are."

Angels always were.

Humans had heart. Dean, as a human, had a heart that I could never have. Could never, as an angel, want to have. Not without taking steps I wasn't ready for yet.

#

Anna could still hear us; there was nothing to hear. We were on radio silence. But, sometimes, backwardly, I could hear her as well.

I told no one -- the closest I could skate to disobedience -- but it meant that I heard some of her conversations with Dean. Felt them, almost, like I was there. Like I was Anna.

("Can I ask you something?" Dean sat next to her/me; the car dipped a little under his weight. "What do they want me for? Why did they save me?"

A flash of surprise, of he-doesn't-know and I-can't-tell-him and
I-miss-him, and she/I took a shuddering breath. "I'm sorry." That part was honest, at least. The rest was just excuses: "The angels aren't talking about it. And it was after I fell."

"That's another question," he said. "Why would you fall?"

You should know, I thought, and wrenched myself away.
)

It wasn't until I saw her in the flesh that I understood both why she heard us, and why I and no one else could hear her. I recognized her for who she was -- who she had been. And all angels, fallen or otherwise, could communicate more easily with those they were close to.

I felt hollow inside, thinking of it. She who was Anna, and he who was Dean, and I; we had been close once.

Aside from the part where I was, as Dean said, a heartless son of a bitch, I might have explained the hollowness as me missing them.

#

Things didn't go according to plan. (They rarely did, I was discovering, when Sam and Dean were involved.) Afterwards, after the demons came and after Anna... well, afterwards, she was beyond my reach, but Dean wasn't, and so I came to him in a dream.

"What do you want now?" he said, exhausted and not giving me any quarter. I didn't blame him. "Come to deliver more threats from this God of yours, or something?"

I didn't say that He had once been his God as well. Or that I wasn't quite sure that He was still my God any more. Instead, I said, "I just wanted to tell you... the stuff you did in Hell? It hasn't tarnished you."

"What the hell do you know about it," he said, vicious.

"Because I know you." I took a step towards him, reached out, let my fingers brush the edges of his jacket. Softly, almost wistfully, I said, "I wish you could remember."

His face twisted with anger and grief, and his voice turned sharp "I remember hell perfectly well, thanks."

"No," I said, almost a whisper. "I meant heaven."

I couldn't give him back his memories, not without going against orders. And I wasn't -- quite -- ready to go that far. Not yet. But still, there were things I could do. Nudges I could give him.

I noticed the bull-horned amulet, angel-crafted, strung around his neck. I touched it and it glowed with the warmth of glory.

"What--" he said, confusion and disbelief and a handful of other expressions I couldn't place. He fingered the amulet, fingers brushing against mine, but once I let go the glory-glow faded away.

"You have the answer," I told him. "If you want it."

And maybe I did too.

###

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
archerstar
Nov. 24th, 2008 03:13 am (UTC)
*bounces around like an idiot* YES YES YES SO MUCH YES.
julorean
Nov. 24th, 2008 03:26 am (UTC)
Ooo. This is so cool! :mems: I love the idea. Dean being an angel that fell to help Sam. Very cool. And the scene in hell, where he refuses to trade with Sam because of love, god that was so great. I see Uriel has always been a total douche.

Very cool way to explain his link to Anna. And I like the amulet, very interesting. What would happen if it was melted or something? Would that release the grace? Hmmm.
norwich36
Nov. 24th, 2008 04:31 am (UTC)
This was fantastic. I really love the idea of the amulet holding Dean's grace.
melodyunity
Jan. 5th, 2009 07:27 am (UTC)
Oh, I love this. Fantastic!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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