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Ethereal

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Story

Summary: When the angels made contingency plans

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Supernatural > Multiple PairingsShulikFR152146,8491915337,5112 Oct 1017 Sep 11No

21

A/n: Apparently, I'm back to present tensing this one. Two trips to the ER do not make me an energizer bunny, so I'm going to clean this up later when I repost it to my lj.

Transitional chapter before we get into Abandon All Hope.

That one should be up within the week.

Also, I have no idea about chess. None. I used to lose in checkers to my little brother all the damn time.





+++++




The guns come out as soon as they step through the threshold, Azrael cocking his head with interest as he studies the runes etched into the walls, into the ceiling, into the windows.

“Hmm,” he drawls out, quiet and deadly and reaches through the air, like he’s pushing against it, testing for strength.

“Dawn!” Dean barks out, storming forward first with his shotgun trained square on Azrael’s chest. “What the hell is this?”

“Hey Dean,” Dawn raises a tired hand and smirks, despite the seriousness of the situation, “don’t you mean who the hell is this?”

Azrael shoots her a familiar grin at that, fingertips still ghosting the air in front of him, searching, searching for the weak spot in Bobby’s defenses.

“Dawn,” Dean growls, “this is not the time or the place for your little jokes.”

He aims the gun higher, at Azrael’s forehead, gesturing with it- “I’m not going to repeat myself, what the hell are you, jackass?”

“Dean,” Dawn sighs and steps into the line of his gun, raising both her arms in the air as a gesture of supplication, “lower the gun and let me explain myself.”

“Like hell,” Dean snarls and cocks the gun.

The atmosphere in the room drops a chilly few degrees, most of the coldness emanating from the previously cheery Azrael.

“Drop the gun human,” he says conversationally, “before I drop you.”

“Oh shut up you idjits,” Bobby rolls his eyes, wheeling in between them, next to Dawn, “both of you need to calm the hell down.”

Dawn shoots him a look of gratitude, before crossing her arms across her chest- “What he said.”

Dean looks pained, scowling before he drops the gun with a loud sigh, “Just don’t come to me when it all blows up in your face.” He tucks the gun back, somewhere in the vicinity of his jeans.

Dawn can’t help letting a small grin at that. She had always wondered how people managed to keep their butts intact, carrying guns so precariously close to their asscheeks and it seems that Dean’s one of those terrible, incomprehensible folks that don’t much care about the state of their behind.

Azrael lets out a snort beside her and Dawn elbows him unconsciously- hissing under her breath “shut up.”

“No respect these days,” Azrael shakes his head minutely, “I swear, it’s like the younger kids keep getting more and more belligerent.”

The looks he throws her is almost soft, or about as soft as Azrael ever gets- a quirking of the lips and a softening of the lines around his eyes. For the Angel of Death- this is akin to him suddenly growing a pair of cherub wings and donning a bow and arrow.

This time, it’s Bobby who looks worried as he glances between her and Azrael- “Dawn,” he says slowly, glancing up at the fact that Az is still poised on the threshold of his home, “you better start ‘splaining things fast, cause from where I’m sitting-“ he swallows and edges his hand, one holding a gun that Dawn knows to be filled with iron, “it looks like you’re bringing an angel into this.”

“I think we’ll need to take this into the living room,” Dawn says tiredly and punches Azrael’s arm when she feels him getting ready to say something. Something that will probably make the already tense situation even worse.

“And you,” she squints up at him, “you gotta stop with the drama,” she waves a hand at his body, still and perched between an imagined boundary, “stop fucking with them and come on.”

Fine,” Azazel rolls his eyes and steps forward, sounding and looking remarkably like a sulky teenager. He even pouts a little bit.

If Dawn hadn’t seen him coming home after battle, covered in ichor and blood and victorious- countless times, again and again- she would have been fooled too.

As it is, she just feels tired- it’s been a long day and some part of her still needs to be alone for a second, alone to process the fact that Raph’s dead now- he tried to kill her and he failed.

She hadn't lost.

Funny that she doesn’t feel like she’s won anything either.

“Come on Az,” Dawn chides him gently and watches as he straightens at her tone, shoulders rolling back as his gesture becomes fascinatingly straighter- like an invisible thread’s been pulled up his spine. He cracks his neck and this time, when he looks at them-Dawn can see Dean and Bobby stiffening, tension crackling through their bones as they see the angel beneath the skin of the man.

He walks across the threshold with no problem, tilting his head up at the runes as he goes. “Nice work,” Azrael says thoughtfully, “but it’s lacking something extra…”

“What the-?” Bobby will later deny this, but at that moment- watching what he knows to be one of those goddamned angels walk past his strongest wards- he squeaks in outrage.

“Did you really think that this would hold me?” Azrael scoffs impetuously, sauntering down the hallway of Bobby’s house like he owns it.

“Hold who?” Dean yells in exasperation, still waving his gun around like he’s at amateur hour and someone told him hat he wasn’t going on stage. “I still don’t know who that fucker is!” he snaps.

“Dean,” Sam, for all his ginormous body has the ability to step as quietly as a cat sometimes. He pushes Dean’s gun waving hand down, “I think Dawn is going to tell us that one.”

Dawn nods slowly and takes a deep breath, “that was my brother- Azrael. He’s going to help me with something and he’s promised not to make trouble for you guys.”

She can see Bobby’s eyes growing comically wider as he wheels himself backwards, looking down the hall where she can hear Az banging in Bobby’s kitchen- he always did have a habit of taking what he wanted when he wanted.

“Azrael,” it’s Sam, instead, who says it- “as in Azrael- the angel of Death?”

Dawn nods, resigned, because she knew that this was coming- this is a step on the way to getting where they need to be, but she’s still tired, still exhausted and every time she blinks- she still sees Raph’s face burned behind her eyelids, defiant and terrified and lost before Lucifer’s terrible fury.

“Yeah,” she shakes her head, flinging the mordant thoughts out of her head, like droplets of water, “that’s Az.” She’ll deal with it later, she always has- Dawn, except for those brief and very embarrassing two years during her early teenage rebellion phase when she was more likely to start shouting at the least provocations.

There’s a mission now, and no time to waste and besides all that- Dawn’d like that to think that she’s grown up now, matured- especially with the memories of being a really old angel coming back to her.

“Dawn,” Bobby says quietly, angrily, like he can’t believe what she has brought into his house. “Dawn, scripture says that Azrael was the first of the angels to choose the Morningstar above their Father.”

Dawn looks at him then, the quietly determined look in his eyes- the one that says ‘you better know what you’re doing girly, bringing in a murderer into my house.’ She likes him, his quiet, his determination and his strength- but Dawn knows that if push comes to shove, Bobby’s not one of the major players in what’s coming. And she also knows that her brother’s very well aware of this. That’s probably the only reason why he still hasn’t leveled the house.

Also, Azrael could just be bored.

The last time he grew complacent, he decided to level a mountain in what is now Lebanon. Dawn still remembers the forty nights of thunder and lightning as Az played with their Father’s new toy. She thinks that she may have always known that he would be the first to follow once Lucifer left.

The angel of death had always been too restless, like a desert wind without a direction- he picked the hottest sun to follow and had never stepped back since.

In some ways, Dawn knows that it’s probably better now that they have the horseman doing Azrael’s duties. Less of a waste of human lives.

She’s just about to try for something pithy when she feels it, a spark in that deep down hidden part of her- like a miniature fire igniting on the edges of her consciousness and Dawn can’t help but grin, loud and silly as she hears Azrael say from next to her, a breath of wings in the air and he's shifted his position.

“Big sister’s in the game, huh?” Azrael sounds amused but Dawn can hear the fondness too, beneath the joviality and she nods, feeling lighter than she’s had in a while.

“Yeah,” she breathes out, ignoring the hunters waiting for answers, even Dean who has his hand on what she knows is the shotgun that he had been cleaning on the kitchen table, Dawn doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter.

It’s been so long that she’s felt it, that light of Buffy’s Grace that she turns and walks to it, uncaring that Bobby’s calling her name- with only the knowledge that her big sister’s out there and she’s finally whole again.

She walks out of the house, fast and easy, going towards where she knows Buffy is and that familiar presence beside her.

“All the usual suspects are here then,” Azrael comments lightly, stepping just as brisk as her.

He had always been one of the fastest within the echelon, Dawn remembers.

“I know,” Dawn nods, swallowing tightly.

“All we need now to complete the set would be the black sheep of the family, the general sister and our own little pagan god,” Azrael’s smirk is still tinged with darkness, tastes of ozone and lightning- of a summer storm coming on the horizon.

Don’t,” Dawn snaps shortly, “don’t go there.”

“Why not?” Azrael remarks lightly. “You are, as clearly evidenced by this absolutely insane plan of yours.”

His eyes, when Dawn stops walking and turns to face him, face up and belligerent, fists heavy and bunched at her sides- is sharp, angles hidden in shadows like a cubist painting. The only thing that’s truly and awfully his are his eyes. Blue green and swirling with power.

“You don’t have to be here,” Dawn tells him, simply and lightly. Because she’s tired of his posturing and bullshit and somewhere out there, Buffy’s walking with Balthazar and Father knows how much Dawn’s missed him.

“Your little human friends,” Azrael changes tack, suddenly like the art of the segue has been lost to him during his time in hell, “the Winchesters- you know who they’re going to go see, don’t you?”

“Crowley,” Dawn says, because she knows he knows that she knows.

It’s all very complicated and it sounds much better in her head.

“And you’re alright with that?” Az raises an eyebrow, turning so that he’s walking backwards while still talking to her.

Supernatural reflexes probably help with not tripping over his own feet, Dawn reflects darkly on some of her own mishaps in the past. Tripping over graves in Sunnydale, falling while running away from vampires, running into vampires- damn you Kenny.

“He’s part of the plan,” Dawn shrugs, “you know we need him.”

“I had forgotten,” Azrael says slowly, “how terrifyingly complicated Remiel’s plans could be.”

“Who says that Buffy planned this?” Dawn raises an eyebrow and smiles at the quick look of disquiet in Azrael’s eyes.

He doesn’t need to know the full extent of their crazy.

They pause in their walking, watching as a car drives up to Bobby’s house. A grey wagon with two women sitting in the front seats.

“They know we’re here?” Dawn raises an eyebrow, watching as the Harvelles park in the salvage yard, effectively shielding their own car behind a couple of wrecks Bobby’s got up on some bricks.

“They don’t know we’re here,” Azrael shrugs, “I’m shielding us.” He smiles wickedly, “but they know about you and let me tell you- the little blonde one isn’t too pleased about a bunch of girl hunters spending time with her beloved.”

“Bobby told them we’re hunters?” Dawn gapes up at him.

“Well,” Azrael, the angel of death and second in command of Hell’s armies says reasonably, “he couldn’t have told them the truth over the phone, could he?” He makes a face. “That would have been insensitive.”


+++++



Lucifer looks happy, sitting there on the leather chair in the middle of a dilapidated factory.

Faith takes that moment to glance at his rapidly deteriorating state, noting the lesions on his face from where his grace is burning through his vessel too quickly. The circles under his eyes as he leans forward are darker, more protruding- like vicious swipes of ink beneath his brows, like he had gotten into multiple fights and just never healed.

Their time is running out Faith thinks in panic, they only have a set window when it can all work and with Lucifer breaking down so rapidly- they need to be stepping up their game.

Despite the fact that he looks like a dying man, or maybe even thanks to it, Lucifer’s happy. She can see it, see it in the curl of his lips as he stares at the board between them, the way he scratches absentmindedly at the stubble on his cheeks. A human gesture that he never would have allowed himself to make before, Faith’s breath hitches, thinks that maybe things aren’t as bad as they seem.

“You know they’ll be here,” Lucifer says, moving his rook forward, “the Winchesters, our sisters- Castiel. Tomorrow morning, they’ll all be here.”

“I know,” Faith shrugs, because long ago she’s learned that there’s no point in hiding things from Lucifer. He’ll know and then he’ll know you were hiding things from him in the first place and then bad things will happen.

Lucifer had never liked secrets. At least those that he wasn’t responsible for.

“You know they’re determined to be rid of me, once and for all?” Lucifer raises an eyebrow as she takes his bishop with a practiced move.

Long hours of sleeplessness between patrols, stuck in a house full of watchers and minis in training and she can now hold her own against the devil- Faith smirks evilly, no pun intended and thinks ‘if Giles could see her now.’

“They’re going to try,” she says evenly, “there’s a very big difference between trying something and actually doing it.” Faith smiles with the weight of thousands of years behind her, “I should know.”

“You seem very,” Lucifer makes a move, “sure about that.”

“I have to be, don’t I?” Faith surveys the board grimly. There’s only one move available to her, but it’ll probably cost her the king. It’s the only choice she has though, the only way to move forward and to hopefully win the game.

She makes the move.

“Huh,” Lucifer tilts his head, “interesting.” His smile is soft and his words are vague and yet everything about him screams of angles. He makes his move and Faith exhales, a long drawn out breath of shock.

“Check,” Lucifer says and slides another figure forward.

“Are you going to help them?” Lucifer looks at her through his lashes, a falsely coy gesture that belies the truth of the creature beneath. “Or me?”

And that, that makes Faith laugh- genuinely, intensely. She remembers this coyness of his, this false modesty that had never really suited his full power.

Where Michael would barge in threatening, Lucifer would get his way with gentle words and sly encouragement. Where Michael was the lightning bolt, striking down the earth hard and fast- Lucifer would have been the merciless sun, unyielding and unrelenting, supposedly subtle but inevitably drawn out.

“I’m going to help myself,” she finally says when she calms down, laughter tapering off into a smile as she sees where Lucifer’s left himself open. “And then we’ll see about you.”

“And him?” Lucifer asks curiously, idly touching the board with a long, borrowed finger.

“We need him,” Faith shrugs, “you know that.”

She makes her move, taking out his queen with one fell swoop. “It’s going to happen,” she says to his surprised exhalation, “and you’re going to help us.” Faith meets his eyes, “you’re going to help me.”

“Maybe,” Lucifer grins, bright and terrible and beloved. “Maybe not.”

The End?

You have reached the end of "Ethereal" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 17 Sep 11.

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