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To human ears the death rattle of an angel was a whoosh of power as light poured out from its vessel, but to heavenly ears it was a bitter, piercing scream of pure sorrow. Castiel had heard the cry far more than he’d ever want to in the last decade.
That was the fifth time he’d heard it today.
“Pull back, spread to the Despair Plains,” he ordered those angels who could hear him. They spread the word and like a tide his siblings washed out to the plains.
Alone, Castiel raised his sword and faced the knight.
“You should have kept them here with you,” said Abaddon, brandishing her own, stolen angel sword. “Then you might have stood a chance.”
“No more will die by your hand.”
The Knight of Hell lunged. Castiel struck with the full force of his might, but the demon didn’t slow. He lifted his own blade just in time to parry hers.
“Angels. Never used to a real fight are you?” Abaddon said as she slashed and stabbed at her enemy.
“You won’t win this day,” said Castiel. He parried one blow, then dodged another, each time taking another step back.
“I’ve already killed three of you!” said Abaddon with a laugh. “I call that a win any day!”
Castiel took another step back and his heel hit the wall. He’d been backed into a corner! Abaddon smiled as she flipped her sword over and stabbed downward. Castiel entangled the blades with one hand and caught her wrist with his other hand, stopping the point an inch shy of his face.
“Really I’m disappointed I didn’t get one of the archangels,” Abaddon said, grabbing his arm and pushing down with all her power.
Castiel trembled as he tried to hold the knight back, but the killing blow drew nearer.
“You angels never learn.”
Castiel smiled. “Actually, the Winchesters taught me plenty.”
Abaddon screamed as she arched back. When she turned around with murderous fury, Castiel saw a wicked obsidian blade tied to a long bone sticking out of her back. Behind her, Benny stood there with a gleeful grin on his face and a stone club in his hand.
“Sorry I’m late, twinkle-toes,” said Benny. “Wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get around this place.”
“You always bring welcome greetings, Benny,” said the angel.
“A vampire? Really?” said Abaddon.
“And I brought friends,” Benny said, gesturing to the denizens of Purgatory running among the halls of Hell. “Shame the entrance into Hell wasn’t large enough to let in any Leviathans or some of the other, nastier beasties. They would have loved this place.”
Abaddon moved to strike Benny, but Castiel grabbed the weapon in her back and wrenched it free, causing her to stumble and her blow to fall short. She swung back wide but Castiel was able to press back into the corner enough that the tip of her blade only caught the edge of his coat and suit.
She stood there, glaring at the two of them as both comrades readied themselves.
“Well now that it’s a fight...” said Abaddon. She moved the angel blade to her left hand and held out her right. From all around, the red light and flames of Hell streamed towards the knight, gathering around her palm. As they watched, more flames and lights came together, swirling into a gleaming axe of hellfire.
Castiel ducked just as her axe cut through the ancient walls of Hell where his head had been. Benny tried to attack her from behind, but Abaddon was too fast. The vampire just barely leaned away in time, so that he only received a shallow gash from shoulder to stomach. Castiel stabbed again but the knight parried. Her move did leave her open enough for Cas to sink Benny’s weapon into her thigh. Screaming, Abaddon threw the angel sword straight at Cas’ head. The angel dodged, but not quite fast enough. The blade took his left ear and embedded it in the wall. Seeing an opening, Benny brought his club to the back of Abaddon’s head, the stone shattering as she stumbled from the blow.
“Thanks for the help,” said Castiel. As he checked on how much blood was pouring from his ear, Cas tossed Benny’s weapon back to the vampire and the two of them quickly backed away from the knight.
“What can I say? It’s always fun when it comes to you and Dean.”
On their left they saw a doorway leading out to the pale gray fields on which the other angels were busy fighting.
“Might we take this tussle outside?” asked Benny.
“No. No more angels will die today,” said Castiel.
“What makes you think that after I’m through with you, I won’t go out there and kill the rest?” Abaddon asked as she pulled her angel sword from the wall.
“Is that my cue?”
Benny and Castiel turned around to see a smaller figure standing behind them.
“Who are you?” asked Abaddon.
“Mr X,” said the newcomer. “Well... you probably once knew me as Metatron.”
“The nerd?” Abaddon said with a mix of growling and laughter. “What can you possibly do?”
“Did you know that, by design, the swords of angels can only affect angels and demons?”
Metatron raised his hand, his fingers poised to snap. “My army consists of old fashioned souls.” He snapped. Hundreds, then thousands of partially translucent people poured forth from behind him.
“You two must be truly insane,” said Metatron. Dean shrugged. “We flew over the cuckoo's nest long ago.”
The angel took a step forward, his expression simmering with danger despite his form’s diminutive size compared to the brothers. “No sigils. No holy oil. Yet you summon me anyway. Are you both that weary of life?”
“We’re here to make a deal,” Sam said, stepping forward.
“What could you possibly have to offer me?”
“A truce,” said Dean.
“A peace treaty. A non-aggression deal,” said Sam.
“You help us with this, we swear we won’t interfere with anything you’ve got cooking,” Dean answered. “Destroy the world – take it over – doesn’t matter. No matter what you do, we won’t bother you at all.”
“Interesting. What do you want from me?”
“A few friends.”
Metatron raised his eyebrows and looked at Sam. “That’s all?”
The angel laughed. “Alright boys. I’ll help just to see this. Although... humans are renowned for breaking their deals. It would be nice to have some way to cement this arrangement.”
“I took the liberty of drawing up a contract,” Sam said, stepping forward and handing over a packet of legal paper.
“All that pre-law schooling wasn’t wasted on you after all,” Metatron said, glancing through the pages. “But I prefer something more... binding.”
Both of the Winchesters shifted uncomfortably.
“Do we... have to kiss you or something?” asked Dean.
“Me? The originator of writing?” Metatron laughed as he raised his hands, one pointed at Dean, the other pointed at Sam.
Both of them stumbled back as they felt a momentary, intense burning sensation in their chests.
“Our deal is seared on your hearts. Should you do anything to break it, your heart will stop working. Immediately. Now what do I do?”
Sam stumbled forward, pulling out a post-it note and picture. “There’s a friend of ours, named Ash. Tell him we’re going into Hell and could use his help, and anybody else he can find.”
Metatron looked at the note and photo. “How are they supposed to get into Hell to help you?”
“That’s your part in this,” said Dean.
“You expect me to drag a soul or two into Hell?”
“Will it be that much trouble for the lord of Heaven?” Sam asked with a bit of mocking.
Metatron straightened. “No. A dozen souls, a thousand, it won’t matter how many ‘friends’ you have, I’ll get them there. And when this is over…”
“You won’t have to worry about us,” said Dean, smiling.
Abaddon’s weapons were yanked from her hands by the spirits as they grabbed her arms and legs. She tried to free herself, but there were too many of them. She felt herself being lifted off the ground, then being pulled in four different directions.
“This won’t stop me!” she screamed. “I am a knight of Hell!”
“And we,” said Castiel, standing over her, “are a team.” He placed his hand on her forehead as his eyes began to glow. The light increased and increased until it was pouring out of every pore. Under his palm, Abaddon writhed as the intense light burned her. It grew so bright Benny had to look away and cover his eyes. The light began streaming from every opening in Abaddon’s body until a flash brighter than the sun burned out the rest of her. The knight of Hell was pulled to shattering, charcoal pieces by the surrounding ghosts.
“Hell of a light show, twinkle-toes,” said Benny.
“Yes very good,” Metatron said, moving as if to place a hand on Cas’ shoulder.
Before anyone realized it, Metatron drove his sword into the center of Castiel’s back.
The Winchesters’ friend fell face first onto the floor and was still.
“Too good,” said Metatron, wiping Castiel’s blood off his weapon. “You played the role of leader better than I hoped. In fact, this excursion should do quite well in weeding the unworthy from my cause.”
“Metatron, do you really think I’d trust you a second time?”
Metatron jumped. Before him stood Castiel, as translucent as the ghosts. “Wha...”
“I thought you knew how the swords worked,” said Cas. “Joshua told me. They ‘break’ our grace, unleashing its full power to burn us from the inside out. But what if an angel has no grace? Then, if we die in a vessel, we die as any human would.”
Metatron grew visible angry. “You—”
“Expended all my grace to defeat a knight of Hell so I would be rid of it when you made your move.”
While Castiel talked, Metatron didn’t notice Benny picking up the sword the former scribe had dropped, nor that the vampire was positioning himself behind the treacherous angel. Had Metatron been a soldier, had he fought in more battles as Castiel had, he would have sensed the movement behind him. Instead he just stood there as Benny stabbed him in the back of the neck.
Metatron might have cried out had he been able to. Instead, light erupted from his eyes and mouth, then he fell to the ground a lifeless heap, the ash remains of wings stretching from his body.
“Well ain’t this handy,” Benny said, checking out the angel sword he held in his hand.
“Use it well, friend,” Castiel said, “I have other things to attend to.” The angel then faded from sight.
“Well ain’t you a sight for sore eyes. How’d you get back in Purgatory? Gank a few more Leviathans?” Dean shrugged and tossed a beer bottle at Benny. “Waltzed through the front door.”
“Why ever in hell would you?” the vampire said as he twisted off the cap and took a drink.
“My brother and I have a party planned. Thought you and a few friends might want to come.”
“Why kind of party are ya’ll planning?” asked Benny.
Dean explained to him their assault on Hell.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said once Dean was finished. “Who would ever go into Hell willingly?”
“It’s going to be a hell of a fight,” said Dean with a sly grin. “Surely you’ve got a few pals up for a brawl.”
Both of them turned and looked to see who was approaching them. Dean’s jaw dropped when he recognized her.
“Madison?” he exclaimed.
The woman who had once stolen his brother’s heart smiled as she said, “Dean. Good to see you again.”
“How... how did you and Benny...” Dean trailed off, trying to figure out what was the proper thing to say.
“Turns out quite a few here know the name ‘Winchester,’” said Benny.
“For good or bad?”
“Mostly bad,” the vampire answered. “Just the other day I offed a... what was it, Maddy?”
“A rugaru,” said Madison.
“Right. It called himself ‘Travis.’ Had a right nasty hatred of you two. Though if they haven’t heard of you or Sam, they’re usually former ‘friends’ of your father.”
“So you don’t have any buddies to bring along?” Dean asked with a defeated sigh.
“Just me, Maddy, and my girl.”
Dean looked at Benny in confusion.
“Come on out, darling.”
Another vampire emerged from behind a tree and approached to stand beside Benny.
Dean rolled his eyes. “Hello, Andrea.”
“You here to kill me, again?” she asked.
Dean’s hand slid near the First Blade strapped to the back of his belt. “You going to give me a reason to?”
Andrea bared her fangs and said, “You’re just lucky I’m not hungry, no matter how nice a juicy human smells right now.”
“Now play nice, kids,” said Benny. “It’s the law of the land of the dead, Andrea. One can’t be hungry if you’re not alive.”
“Lucky for me,” Dean said, glancing around the woods. “Now Sammy and I will be leaving soon, so you got to tell me: in or out?”
“I’ll come along,” Benny answered. “Sorry I can’t bring more.”
“He could ask the pack-leader,” said Madison.
Dean’s eyes narrowed. “Who?”
The three monsters glanced around to make sure nobody else was near before Madison continued, “There’s some guy out there... Has a following.”
She stepped closer and lowered her voice, “He’s psychotic, kills everything. It got so bad, that hundreds of others have banded around him and become his followers just in the hope he’d spare them.”
“They travel Purgatory, fighting anyone and everyone they come across that doesn’t join them,” said Benny. “I’ve heard even Eve curses his name because the younglings flock to him.”
“‘Younglings?’” asked Dean.
“The hodge-podge monstrosities the Mother made the last time she visited Earth,” answered Benny. “Ain’t many of them, and to the rest of us they’re almost jokes.”
“But he don’t mind them following him,” said Madison. “There are even rumors he’s taken down a leviathan.”
“That I don’t believe,” said Benny.
“Who cares? If he’s got the army, let’s go give him an invite,” said Dean.
“If his wendigo guards let us get close enough,” Benny muttered as he led the way.
It didn’t take long for the quartet to reach the location. Together they climbed a ridge which overlooked a clearing with a hill in the middle. The clearing was filled with people, so many that a few stood a step or two up the hill, but none got any closer to the solitary figure standing on its crest. Dean surveyed the crowd, recognizing more faces than he was comfortable admitting. The central figure had its back to them, but from the stature and shape, Dean deduced it was a man – one he felt like he should recognize but couldn’t recall at the moment.
“What are they doing?” he whispered.
“Picking a direction,” said Madison.
The central figure turned around, and Dean sighed as he recognized him. Before anyone could stop him, Dean stood up and shouted at the top of his lungs, “Hey, Gordon! Want a beer?”
The crowd started towards their position until Gordon held up his hand, and they all stopped. “Don’t,” he said. “This is very personal.”
The sentiment of “Same here!” was shouted by several voices in the crowd.
“Then I’ll leave you plenty to enjoy,” Gordon said as he walked down the hill and towards the ridge.
“This ain’t good,” said Benny.
“Stay low,” Dean told them as he walked down the slope, fishing a beer bottle out of his army duffel bag. He was halfway down when he met Gordon.
“You’re only going to live long enough to make sure Sam gets here,” said the ex-hunter.
Dean held out the beer bottle. “I thought you’d be thanking us. An afterlife of brawling with every beasty that walked the Earth? You would have hated Heaven.”
“You been?” Gordon asked as he popped the cap from the bottle with his fangs and took a swig.
Dean nodded. “Real boring. Purgatory’s a lot more exciting.”
Gordon looked down at the bottle and grimaced. “No beer there either, huh?”
The human laughed. “No. It’s for the best anyway. You die and can eat and drink all you want, but it just goes right through you. Nothing to do but enjoy the taste. Besides, you already missed Sam.”
Gordon’s eyes narrowed. “What?”
“Yeah he stopped by Purgatory to sneak into Hell and back.”
Dean shrugged. “You’d think so, but this megalomaniacal demon Crowley and crazy angel Castiel were trying to break in here awhile back. Seems a side-effect cracked a small opening between here and Hell.”
“When will Sam come to save you?”
Dean shook his head. “He said he wouldn’t. Heck I’m still here aren’t I?”
“I’d heard rumors of a Winchester about...”
“Well here I am. Now you want to do this or you want a real fight?”
Gordon finished the beer and crushed the bottle with a squeeze of his hand. “You’re stalling.”
“Nope, I’m going to Hell. Um... literally. Figured I’d see what sort of Cain I could raise there. You in?”
Gordon hesitated and Dean saw his chance.
“You always saw yourself as the hero, Gordon; a man standing bravely against the forces of darkness. Well I’m going to the lair of Darkness Itself. You want to keep brawling with the second stringers, or you want to fight evil where it lives?”
After a long pause he turned back to his crowd and said, “I’ll think on it.”
“If you decide, look for the tree with the orange ‘X!’” Dean shouted at him.
As Dean walked away from the gathering, Benny, Andrea, and Madison caught up to him. Benny fell into step with Dean and said, “Might fine speechifying. You think he’ll accept?”
“He might beat us there,” Dean answered.
“You lied to him about a lot of things.”
“Gordon’s never been much for details. Best to keep it simple.”
“You keeping it simple for me too, Dean?”
The human stopped and looked Benny in the eye. “Do I need to? Can I count on you, Benny?”
The vampire nodded.
Reaching into his bag, Dean withdrew a simple, short sword and handed it to his friend.
“The sword of an angel,” said Dean. “You stab something that has the power of an angel with that, and it is lights out. Forever.”
“We fighting a lot of Castiel’s family?”
“Only one. Listen there’s an angel named Metatron. You’ll know him when you see him – he looks like a nerd. He’ll be joining this fight, and during it will probably look for an excuse to stab Cas in the back – literally. Find Cas, watch his back.”
Benny looked at the sword. “All this just for him?”
“Well demons are an unholy blend of human souls and angel powers. That will work wonders on them too. Oh, and there’s a vampire we killed awhile back named Lenore. You should look her up sometime.”
The two of them shook hands and wished each other luck.