CASTIEL--

Along with the burgers and pie from Kelley's he'd fetched while Meg had been resting, Cas had also gotten little cards with colours on them that the woman at the hardware store in town had called 'paint chip samples' to see what colours Meg might like various rooms in the cottage to be repainted. Especially, he thought, the smaller second room upstairs that she'd already decided was to be the baby's nursery. Not, really, that he had a clue about these things, but he had seen many things on television that had lead him to believe women liked these sorts of things. Granted, Meg wasn't exactly the average woman, or even human, but...he was trying. He just wanted to make her feel as safe, comfortable, and welcome as he could.


Cas sat in the main room of the cottage now, his tie loosened, his shirt rumpled, with Meg curled next to him on the little couch. They were flipping through the little cards of colours, considering the good and bad points of each one. Occasionally, his lips would quirk into a smile, the sheer amusement of the situation getting the better of him. Here they sat, a demon – carrying a cambion child, no less – and a newly created archangel, playing at being domestic like some human couple. No, he couldn't help but be amused by the situation, even as he felt a pleasant warmth over it settle in his chest.


He pointed, suddenly, to a card with shades of blue, his finger landing on the darkest shade on the card, a rich, deep blue that, though he didn't realize it, was a match for his eyes at that moment. “I like this. We should use this colour somewhere.” He turned his attention from the selection of colours to Meg, shifting his arm to slide around her shoulders and pull her gently closer. “If, ah, you like it, of course. You can do whatever you like with the house. I just...want you to be comfortable...and safe,” he said to her, a sudden fierce protectiveness rising up in him, almost as thought he sensed something was coming.


MEG--

To say that we've settled into quite the adorable domestic situation here is an understatement. I don't know if I'm comfortable with it, but I won't complain. There is not much to know about each other, an Angel and a Demon, it's not like we can talk about our vessels past lives. He is an Angel and did Angel things and I am a Demon and did Demon things. What else is there to talk about. "I like the blue." I hold up the card and the first thing that does pop into my mind is that it would match his eyes. "This is silly, isn't it, with everything going on, who cares about wall colors?" I lower my hand and look over at him.

"I don't know what I'm doing, I can't stay here forever Castiel, I need a plan, I need something to assure myself a way out." I frown deeply and lean into him. "He'll find me, he'll always find me." I'm not afraid so much as sick to my stomach that he'll erase me again. I hold the paint cards to my chest and sigh. "I don't know how you don't resent me for bringing this to your doorstep."


DEATH--

It came from nowhere; the strums of the gentle guitar.

It brought to mind thoughts of an old cowboy limping into the sunset. At the very least that's what I imagined when I first heard the music. It was gentle and sorrowful; the spirit of the instrument broken by its own sad sound. Castiel would hear it first with his newly-heightened ability. But Meg was no fool herself--and she would perceive the music almost just as quickly. They would know it was coming from somewhere within the cabin. At first there was no real tension in the notes. The riff was so calm that it almost suggested there was no reason to be concerned. But then came the electric.

The old cowboy's sunset turned into a nightmare. The heavy chords that now accompanied the haunting melody was the cowboy's eulogy--the Dead Man's Theme. My fingers caressed the platinum strings of the SG Diablo Silver--only so many made in the world by Gibson--that I had so aptly named 'Dust.' The word was carved into the silver body of the guitar in my own hand...and I'd grown oh so fond of it. It wasn't the instrument itself you see. But the very concept of playing it that appealed to me so. For to a mortal a guitar is a delicate thing.

To be one who doesn't actually play means that you can never fully grasp the intricacy and beauty of its works. To know such sweet song is craft brought forth by your own hand was an invigorating feeling unlike any other. Many deities would learn well to abandon their preconceptions of superiority and infallibility. We may be absolute--but we are not all-knowing. There is yet to be a being in existence that truly knows all things...and I pray there never is. For I cannot imagine any greater torment than existing in a place where there is no hope of stimulation whatsoever. Curiosity was one of the few things that kept me focused. Ah...

...speaking of which.

Castiel would be the first to enter of course. He was always the first to rush into battle in defense of his loved ones. But I daresay he would know me better by now than to think me an enemy. Besides I'd been good enough to make arrangements...or, at least, offer some sort of warning. As I brought my haunting melody to a close he would find me resting in a black recliner that had not been in the cabin before. I moved my hands away from the instrument as the last notes hung in the air. No cords or equipment were hooked up to Dust--but they had certainly heard the tones of an electric guitar.

"What do you think?" I asked with a twinkle in my eye as I raised the instrument for him to see. "I saw it and I knew I must have one. Is it not beautiful, Castiel? Mortals may lack in certain regards--many of them actually--but they do create exquisite art. I find myself often jealous of their talents believe it or not. I couldn't paint grass on a dirt canvas, as it stands," I said with a low chuckle. I rose up from my chair and held the guitar by its neck. The instrument began to shift and change form--extending to the ground and up beyond my head to reveal its true nature. The Great Scythe that I held in my hand was a dazzling silver now--my powers fully restored to me and my threat all the greater because of it.

"Now...where's this Demon I've heard so much about?"


CASTIEL--

“You can stay here as long as you need. As long as you want.” Cas searched her face, his eyes slow and lingering, his forehead creasing into a concerned frown. “I can keep you safe. I'm...more than I was, now. No one can find this place unless I allow it, so...no one can find you here.”


He'd no more than said those words, when music drifted into his awareness. The few cards he'd left resting against his chest tumbled silently to the floor as he sat up straight, fierce anger in every line of his body. Whatever it was, it was coming from upstairs. Castiel turned to look at Meg, almost ready to tell her to stay put. But, he reasoned, if something had gotten past his wards so easily, it would be best to have her with him rather than separated from him.


Stay close, Meg,” he bit out, his only warning before jerking up and reaching to grasp her hand firmly. Unconcerned, now, for the expenditure of unfamiliar power, he moved them from the main room to the tiny upstairs hall with only a thought and the barest flex of his wings. Castiel was angry, and in full-on warrior mode...but he wasn't stupid enough to move directly to the source of the sound.


Only when he arrived in the hall did he understand exactly what...who...was in his home. One of perhaps three beings that could ever have gotten past his wards so easily. Death. Still, he held onto Meg's hand, squeezing it gently even as he relaxed and opened the door to the small, empty room that was to be the nursery.


Standing in the doorway, he moved slightly to the side to allow Meg to see into the room as well. His head tilted to the side, considering the being in the black recliner – which most certainly hadn't been there before – before the slightest twitch of his lips settled into a faint smile. “Humans do produce...beautiful things,” he murmured, acknowledging Death's amusing little monologue.


Keeping his eyes on Death, he offered introductions. “Ah, Meg...this is, well, Death.” He hesitated, then glanced down to her, not even trying to hide the fondness he felt for her as he continued, “and this is my Meg.” He looked back to Death again, growing thoughtful. “I...didn't expect your visit to come quite so soon. I hadn't gotten around to warning her yet. Or....explaining,” he added, with a pointed look.


MEG--

I had been scared at first, which until recently is pretty new to me. I'm a survivor, I fought hard, schemed even harder and now I'm here facing death himself. Doesn't look anything like I imagined. After the introductions, I can pretty much tell that Castiel and Death have something going on. Well, I'm no mouse and if I can't stand up to Death himself I can stand up to Crowley and his lackey's.

I extricate my hand from Castiel's, he was holding it rather tightly. I step around him and hold out my hand to Death and smile. Hell, he makes my insides quiver like jello. I think I fear him more than Lucifer Himself. This is the being that can kill God, or so I've heard. Why does Castiel know him and is he responsible for the changes in the Angel.

"Pleasure to meet you uhh..Death." I sort of smile, it's not easy in the face of something so huge. "You play very nicely, is there a reason you are in the nursery instead of in our living room?" The Nursery isn't finished, but there are definite signs that a child will be living here soon and the thought of death in my child's room..a hand involuntarily goes to my abdomen. I think I actually prayed he wasn't here to take my baby.


DEATH--

Ach...I miss it already.

In those short few seconds since I'd risen from the recliner I began to feel withdrawn from the music. How I adored sitting and losing myself in its chords. It was quite simple to figure out the way these creatures master the instruments in their short lives. Some of them can accomplish things that even I may find difficult to perform. A splendid notion, I think, for a creature to live such a short time and yet devote the majority of their existence towards perfecting a skill or craft. To be a master of something was not necessarily a concept born of humanity but they certainly gave it form. Alas that is neither here nor there. Where were we....

Ah, yes...the Demon.

"Pleasure to meet you uhh..Death." I looked down to her hand with a smile and then glanced back up at her. For a moment we held our gaze. I could feel the tension rising in the room as I drew my hand from my pocket. I wonder what thoughts raced through their minds. Will his touch kill me? Did he come all this way simply to play some twisted joke? They would find their fears disappointed when my hand grasped her own with no consequence. I took a deep breath at the sensation of the two powers--one unfathomably more than her own--and responded when I released her hand. "The pleasure is mine...Meg. You've quite the reputation yourself for one of your ilk. Most Demon's don't last long enough for me to remember their name."

As I spoke I began casually strolling around the nursery. Behind me, gracefully, my Scythe hovered an inch above the ground and followed my every move. I hadn't so much as a finger on it. "You play very nicely," I turned my head and smiled, nodding my thanks to her. Now there's a compliment I'll take on any day. I returned back to the many items made for tots around the room. "is there a reason you are in the nursery instead of in our living room?" I chuckled at the thought. My smile only widened when I stood straight and found that she'd instinctively placed a hand on her midsection. I tilted my head and stepped forward.

"I could, couldn't I?" The light began to almost creep away. The corners of the room began to blacken with shadow as I slowly approached the two of them--the weight of my power nearly physical and overwhelming. "There are few things that may stand before what blossoms in your womb...yet even in all its splendor; it, too, is subject to my Scythe." I came to a stop in front of Meg. My towering form accentuated by the absolute authority in my words. "It, too, will lie at my feet when I ferry it across that blackened River." The transition was imperceptible.

From that carefree young man that Meg found to be nothing like she imagined...into the Grim Reaper older than their creators. Older than time. Looking upon the two of them with eyes concealing a power and knowledge, that would shatter the very boundaries of what they perceived as 'reality.' There are many names for who I am. The Pale Horseman. The Gray Rider. Executioner. Kinslayer....Death.

"But!"

I clapped my hands and cracked a smile, even going so far as to wiggle my shoulders a bit. The darkness was gone and the room was back to normal--with no consequential evidence to support it had ever been otherwise. "I'm afraid my visit is strictly social. So you may rest easy, frail Meg, for I have no intention of harming you or your wittle bundle of joy." I said the last words with a mockingly childish tone before walking past both her and Castiel. My Scythe dissipated into the Ashes from which I'd named it, and I made my way into the livingroom as requested. The recliner in the nursery was now gone--when and how it had disappeared was anyone's guess. I took a look around and admired the protection Castiel had managed to put up. "I suppose ordering pizza is out of the question, then, my righteous angel?" I said with a soft chuckle. I turned to face the two of them and took a sigh of content.

"Please--this is your home--make yourselves comfortable, both of you...Sit." Though I kept my friendly face on the way I said that last word made it clear I had a higher intent than simply being polite.

"There are a few things I'd like to discuss...in detail, if you don't mind."


CASTIEL--

He could do little but watch the interaction between Meg and Death silently, warily, eyes flitting between the two of them as though expecting...well, he wasn't quite sure what to expect. That was the problem. He might owe Death more than he would ever be able to repay for restoring to him what he once had – and so very much more – but he still couldn't bring himself to fully trust the powerful being. Not here, not with Meg, not with the situation as it was. And especially not when he didn't really have a firm grasp on the newly granted power housed within his grace, or its limits.


As silly as it might be – he just knew Meg would scoff at him, had he voiced the opinion aloud, if not be outright furious with him – he felt a flare of pride in Meg for facing up to Death so bravely. Certainly far more so than he had done, originally. Then again...she probably felt she always had been braver than him, he felt, in so many of the ways that counted most.


His eyes followed Death as he began to move around the small room Meg had taken for the nursery. Castiel, feeling the slightest bit of guilt at the uncharitable thought, made a mental note to check the room over carefully once Death was gone. Just...to be certain he hadn't done anything to alter anything in the room in a less-than-beneficial way. It never hurt to be overly cautious, especially where Meg and her child were concerned. They had become, very quickly he realized, a primary concern in his life, nearly overriding everything else.


Even though the prayer wasn't directed specifically at him – as far as he could tell – Castiel still felt it quite strongly. The strength of it, in fact, nearly took his breath away. Unable to help himself, he moved to rest a hand gently on her shoulder, silently offering his support. He felt just so lost in this moment. He's sworn to protect her and her baby, and the very first potential threat to arrive was one that he had no hope against, not even with his newly-acquired power.


The light began to bleed away in the room at the edges, and the power that rose up along with it made him shudder. What he'd felt from Death in that clearing so recently was nothing compared to this, the pressure and sheer <i>weight</i> of power feeling as though it was compressing his very essence as Death stalked closer to the pair. By some instinct, he forced his grace, curled against that power, to spread out, sheltering Meg and her baby with his own power, his own being, as much as he could against the greater power Death commanded. Though it might kill him, he would <i>not</i> allow Meg to come to harm while he lived.


The sudden feeling of vacuum when Death withdrew his power was, if anything, worse than the pressure of it had been. Still, there was relief in it, as well. He might even be able to really believe that Death intended to harm to Meg, or the cambion she carried, after all.


Death brushed past him, and he turned a long, almost apologetic, look on Meg. With a helpless shrug, he jerked his head toward the hall – and the stairs – and turned to follow Death down those stairs and into the main room of the little cottage, feeling a little too much like an obedient puppy for his liking, but...unsure what else to do. “Ah, no...I don't think we'll be ordering pizza anytime soon. Demon...angel... It's not as though we need to eat.” He allowed a chuckle at that, not mentioning either that he'd developed what he found to be a surprising fondness for eating since being remade into an archangel, or that Meg seemed to require at least some food now, as well as sleep. Both, he felt, could be seen as weaknesses, and he was reluctant to advertise their weaknesses more than he had to.


Again came that feeling of being some obedient lapdog as he took a seat back on the little couch where he'd been sitting with Meg when Death had arrived, the command making him shiver even as Castiel obeyed readily. “And just what is it we can do for Death today,” he asked, letting a touch of wry sarcasm creep into his gravelly voice, one eyebrow quirked as he stared steadily at Death. He might be reluctantly following along with what Death wanted, but he didn't have to be particularly happy about it. It turned out invading his new home made him feel territorial...and that was a surprising new feeling for the angel.


MEG--

Having assurances that no harm will come to me or my child outside what fate has in store, his demonstration of power almost brought me to my knees. I am weak, I have felt the growing weakness in my over the past weeks, as though t he stronger my baby get's the weaker I become. I have to cling to Castiel a moment when it passes to catch my breath before we are following Death back to where we began.

I am feeling excessively mutinous, if only because I loath being told what to do when everything could have been accomplished with a little more tact. Things like knocking at the door. I sit with Castiel, my hand in his now, not hiding behind but borrowing that strength he so willingly shrouds me with. I am feeling closer to him every day, it's such a strange feeling for a Demon to have. Stranger even than having feelings at all.

The thought of food right now leaves me nauseous, still reeling from what happened earlier. "Besides, there is no way we would have anything delivered here, so out of town as we are and for a while still, I don't want to advertise our location to anyone."


DEATH--

I chuckled as Castiel made his sarcastic remark about what they could do for Death. He was such a valiant soul. Even in the face of utter futility I found not a trace or shred of panic. Fear yes...but never panic in Castiel. When most gaze upon me they know that this is the end. That I am the bringer of the final breath. But not Castiel. He looked upon me and knew that I was an enemy he could not defeat; and so he sought to outmaneuver me however his mind could conjure. But there was no escape. Not to say I meant anything ill by that. "As you say, Meg. I won't be so foolish as to provoke a mother's ire any further. I won't be telling anyone where your honeymoon hideaway is. But in exchange you will listen to my every word--both of you--and you will not forget a single one." On the contrary...theirs was a union I sought to nurture. For there is a great power coming to reclaim the void from which it was born. To have a great power that might counter that effect would certainly help tip the scales into balance...if only a little more.

"Pray, children of Jehovah," I asked with a tone that almost indicated I was daydreaming. "and listen well. For there are none alive who know what I shall teach you." I was standing behind the two of them with my back in their direction. My hands clasped firmly behind me. This was no longer a time for games. This was a warning I had come to give. One for them; and one for another. "Before this world--before Lucifer, the Morning Star--before time or God--before even I came to be...there was nothing. Void. Imagine a room with no light--no sound--and then imagine that beyond those four walls that there was nothing beyond. No hope...no fear...no light. Nothing." I paused for a moment and reflected on those fading memories. Such effort it required to summon them now to the forefront of my conscious.

"That void--that nothingness--was a living thing. It calls itself...The Darkness." I recalled the Mark of Cain. The power that God had summoned--with the aid of every archangel in his command--just to seal her away so that existence itself may have a chance to continue. "She was content. She was All. When her brother--the one you know as God--came to be...he brought with him The Light. It bloomed from his power and became The Heavens. From it he bore the Angels--who bore Devils, Demons--and created your mortal universe among countless others." It was taking less effort now. It was like finding the tumblers in a lock...clicking ever closer to my treasure.

"The Darkness found this light, this...existence to be offensive. Putrid and insulting. She unleashed her fury on Heaven. She slaughtered countless Angels, Archangels...so many that I lost count long before I began reaping mortal men. God amassed his finest and combined his power with their own in order to seal the creature away. For although it was her only brother he knew what I know--and what I need you to understand. The Darkness may have a trivial distraction. For a time it may even be docile or civil. But in the end...it is the opposite of us all. She is the beginning--she is the end. She does not even know my face or name...for I have no reason to present myself to her. I fear my Scythe may be a toothpick in her wake. Fear--perhaps--that she may even destroy Death forever with a wave of her hand."

I turned away from the wall I was facing and began to walk around the room--slowly. "Now that you know from where it came--what it is--you know that it is free. It is the ruler of this reality and Earth, Heaven, Hell...we are all trespassers. There is no bargain. No reason. No ulterior motive. The absence of light and the end of life; these are its only intentions. Do I believe your Cambion could be a threat to the balance of things? Perhaps even a threat to this world itself? You're a fool if you think I haven't considered both." I stopped walking when I came to stand in front of them. I slipped my hands into my pockets and kept my back in their direction. Faces always distract me. I'd feel guilty for bullying Castiel anyway...but this is something they need to understand.

"But if we do not count our every resource among our defenses there will be no balance to uphold. No Order to maintain. I have created in you an ArchAngel Castiel. I have given word to protect and even defend your Cambion Meg. But how long can the two of you hide alone in this...would-be Eden, I wonder. Once the child is born it will exhibit a great power. A natural power born of two spirits both descended ultimately from God. A betting man would wager that many of the more powerful beings in existence would sense a trace of that power no matter how well concealed." I turned to face the two of them now. Taking a moment to gather my thoughts before coming to my conclusion.

"This is a warning...not as the Grim Reaper, but as a being of power who knows far more than either of you. Once that child leaves her womb and draws its first breath...it will be like firing the biggest flare you've ever seen. Your location is well chosen and of course I will come to your aid. But should you be caught off-guard and without my presence who would protect you? Who would save you? I need the two of you alive. I need Lucifer alive. If we are to continue existing we can't just come together as sword and shield. So whatever allies you have to call upon that you trust...I would do so. Soon. It's your choice in the end." I turned my gaze only to Castiel this time.

"Lastly...this is more for you than anyone else, dear friend. The Winchester boys...while a pair of my most favorite souls...have breached the limit of balance. Even in these most desperate times when I count their aid among the most necessary; I cannot abide another pass. Should they die...When, they die...there will be no reaching for them. You will not raise them from perdition Castiel...I will see to it that they are well beyond your reach or anyone else's. It is not a matter of personal stake--but merely the way it must be. I will allow you both a moment to think on any friends or companions you may wish to bring here. If you so choose it...I can do just that.

Otherwise I will leave you to dwell on my words. As very well you should."


CASTIEL--

He curled his fingers firmly, though more mindful now of how tightly he gripped, when Meg slipped her hand into his after settling beside him. He shifted to slip his other hand along her shoulders, wrapping his arm about her protectively, silently offering her whatever comfort and sense of safety he could, should she wish to take it from him. Though she hadn't really spoken of it, he hadn't missed the growing weakness, and it troubled him even now, despite most of his attention being on Death. Even now, he couldn't stop his thoughts from straying to the frail, stubborn, beautiful <i>honey-sweet</i> demon beside him.


A bit of relief touched Castiel, hearing that Death wouldn't reveal them. His wards and spells protected them from detection by nearly everything so long as they remained in the cottage. But, Death could easily change that, should he wish. It was, indeed, a relief to know that he had to plans to destroy the angel's efforts to conceal Meg's whereabouts.


<i>”...you will listen to my every word--both of you--and you will not forget a single one." </i> Something in Castiel's gaze sharpened at those words, his eyes almost glowing with the force of the command, and the power that lay just under it. It cost nothing but time to listen to whatever Death had to say, and time was something he had in abundance, for the most part. So, shifting to make himself more comfortable, he put all but the tiniest sliver – still on Meg, of course, that last bit was – of his attention toward Death and his words, listening with both the human senses of his vessel and the angelic senses hidden within that vessel.


Castiel's eyes grew distant as the words washed over him, strangely soothing in the mix of the things familiar to him already, and the things he'd never known before. The Darkness had been locked away long before he was brought into being to serve Heaven as a mere soldier, or, so he supposed. Sometimes, he couldn't even be sure of the truth of his memories of his own past, or when he'd truly been created, thanks to Naomi's meddling with his 'programming' for untold centuries, perhaps even millennia. But he'd heard the distant stories, like the myths of Heaven, and he'd always wondered how much truth to them there was.


Then, when he'd unwittingly participated in the destruction of the curse that had also been the lock to her prison, he'd learned more during countless hours of research looking for a way to lock her away again, or destroy her utterly. All of that had, in the end, proved to be a pointless, wasteful endeavor. Because, of course, in the end, he'd said a fateful <i>'yes'</i> to Lucifer, and it had been Lucifer – along with Gabriel and the Winchesters, and the use of Castiel's waning grace – that had eventually found a way to lock away the Darkness. To this day, Castiel believed his part in that event had been minimal, even...non-existent as anything but a tool in Lucifer's hands.


His eyes, still distant, still almost in a trance of sorts, followed Death's form as he moved around the room, then remained fixed on his back as he stood with it toward them. Something within Castiel stirred faintly, wanting to protest, to point out that they'd locked the Darkness away again, that, aside from residual bits of chaos as things righted themselves, she was powerless and no longer a real threat. But he found himself unable to speak out about it. All he could do was listen in silence, every word seemingly searing itself into his very being.


Death's warning about Meg's child, about the cambion...well, that was no surprise to the angel at all. He's already considered that the child's entrance to the world would bring with it everything seeking to make a grab for power, every creature that delighted in destruction, every bit of evil capable of sensing his or her existence. He wasn't sure quite yet how he was going to prepare against those forces, but he had been thinking on it. His elevation in status, in power...well, those things, while he knew wouldn't be enough in and of themselves, had been a welcome new tool for him to consider in his planning.


<i>”I need Lucifer alive.”</i> Those were words that seemed to finally pull him from the half-trance he'd been in. His eyes rose to meet with Death's, a fear and rage he couldn't quite contain or hide shining within the deep blue. He, of course, had suspected that Lucifer still lived, even after he'd been finally forced from Castiel's vessel. Suspected, yes, but...some part of him had hoped Lucifer was finally gone. The time his brother had possessed him, ridden him, <i>used</i> him – even if Castiel had allowed it initially as a last hope against the Darkness – still brought a thrill of something he had to believe was very like panic into his chest when he thought of it.


He understood immediately that Death meant Lucifer was still out there, and that he might have to even ally himself with his brother again in the future. The thought was...well, unthinkable. Except... His eyes slid over to Meg, lingered for a moment on the lovely eyes of her vessel, and on the swirling oily-smokey darkness that lurked within, and then drifted slowly back to Death. The fear and rage were still there to be seen in his eyes, in traces. But, now, there was also a firm resolve, and the beginnings of an acceptance for what he might have to do. He would ally with even Lucifer if it meant saving what he cared so deeply for.


Dean...Sam. No, he understood exactly what Death was saying to him. His eyes slipped closed and his hand tightened almost imperceptibly on Meg's as he allowed himself the briefest moment of grief for the real meaning of Death's warning. But he understood, he <i>did</i>. Somehow, since being remade as an archangel, he harboured a much deeper, almost instinctive understanding of the need for balance within Creation. And he understood that further resurrections of the brothers, by whatever means, would only throw the balance needed further off course. He opened his eyes to meet Death's gaze once more, his own look steady and resigned as he nodded his acceptance slowly. “I will allow them to pass, when the time comes. I...have to. I understand this,” he finally said, voice trembling slightly, though resolved.


Castiel's eyes turned once more to Meg, studying her. He could think of no one he would want brought into this mess sooner than must happen – though his thoughts did linger briefly on Gabriel, before turning away from even him. He'd vanished without a trace after the seeming defeat of the Darkness, and Castiel was loathe to force him to reveal himself. Something within him sensed that Gabriel would find him, when he was ready. But Meg...he was unsure what she might want after hearing all of this, or even what she would think of it.


MEG--

I gain much comfort knowing that Castiel is here with me and as Death weaves his story and I listen to his dire warnings I understand the gravity of the situation. Darkness can unmake all of God's creation. I don't fear that as much as I thought I would, strangely enough because when you think about it, the end of everything is the end and therefore there is no pain or fear, no lasting impressions. Just emptiness. There is nothing to fear in emptiness, but I understand that is it not a good thing.

In the end there is no one I could call upon to help us, I know no one and I will not point at finger at Crowley and bring him into my life until I have no other alternatives, I have seen enough of him to last me a few millennia. No, I have no one but Castiel it seems..and my child.

"Where is God in all this?" I dare to ask, because, in my mind a being that could potentially end God Himself should be able to find Him, right? Does Death know where God is? Wouldn't God be the best person to head this battle against his own sister? I look to Castiel. "Do we even stand a chance without God on our side?" I'm always willing to fight, well, I was, right now I have a debilitating condition which means I'm useless.


CASTIEL--

Meg,” he said, his voice grown quiet yet some sense of command to it. Without turning his gaze from her, he made a vague gesture toward Death, indicating in the simple motion that he had been heard and understood, and that Castiel preferred to deal with Meg's unrest on his own. His lips twisted slightly when he saw the arched brow at what was, essentially, a lowly angel – even if he was an archangel now – dismissing Death himself so casually. Still, there must have been some understanding of Castiel's need to comfort Meg more privately, for Death nodded and, as he'd said he would, left them to consider everything he'd said, and to deal with the aftermath.


He took a deep breath, letting it back out in a long sigh as he turned himself to face Meg more fully. This was a sensitive subject for him, and, even though Death had hinted previously that his Father loved him, Castiel still had his doubts about his Father's interest in his own Creation or what happened to those being within it.


Buying time to gather his thoughts a little more, he let his gaze rove over her face, seeing the surface and what lay beneath all at the same time, effortlessly. He found both pleasing, despite that he knew he should be repelled by the sight of her true form. It should be in his very nature to be repelled by her, by any demon. Once again, he proved to be...broken, not quite what he should be as an angel, even after the change.


Only now...he simply didn't care that he was broken. In Death's words, during both encounters, and in the change that reworked his grace and his very being, something had shifted within him. Now...he merely <i>accepted</i> that he was different from most other angels on a fundamental level, and always had been. After all, that difference let him have...<i>this</i>, he thought, expression softening as he continued to stare at Meg.


Father...God...he's gone. I don't know where he is. I...don't even know if he cares anymore.” He hesitated, surprised by the rush of pure emotion that hit him suddenly. Anger at his absent Father, grief for the loss of His presence so long ago, and other emotions he couldn't even put a name to, all flitted across his expression briefly. But, as fast as the flood had come, it drained away, leaving him calmly determined. His lips twisted into a rueful smile and he reached out to rest his hand gently against her belly. “I don't know if we stand a chance or not. But...I <i>damn</i> sure intend to try. And I think...part of our best chance rests....right here.”


MEG--

I swallow my words mutinously and frown, Death leaves us without answering my questions and Castiel does his best to explain how things are. But it's not enough. "I know it's what you believe, Castiel." I sit back, slipping my hands over his as he lays a hand on the slight babybump. "One does not grow a garden only to leave it to weeds, I don't believe God is gone, where would he go? He's not dead, Death would know." He's hiding, tired of the responsibility, tired of the battles and the politics of Angels and Devils, but he's not just gone.

"Besides, what can a child do, the issue is now, the imminent threat is now and my child has at least 5 months before he takes his first breath and then what? Power he may have but what use is an infant?" I move his hand and stand up, starting to pace as I twist my hands into the hem of my tshirt. "What Death wants is for us to work together, all of us, Heaven and Hell and that will never happen you will never get the Angels to agree..and Lucifer.." I don't know what I'd do if I saw my Master again. I existed for him. But I'm..different now.


CASTIEL--

Castiel shrugged, not quite agreeing with her, but not wanting to argue the issue, either. He'd spent far too many years trying to understand why his Father would abandon his Creation, and leave his children to flounder, even to the point of nearly destroying that Creation on more than one occasion. He'd never come up with a satisfactory answer. And, of late, he just didn't care to wrestle with it any longer. What was before him was far more important that what had happened long ago.


Canting his head to the side, he studied her as she paced restlessly, eyes following after her as though unable to do anything else. He let the silence after she'd finished speaking stretch out for several minutes, then he sighed, understanding what some of her agitation was about. Lucifer. Always, it seemed, Lucifer lurked in the shadows, constantly a threat to him and to those he cared for. And now, he might be required to cooperate with his elder brother once more. He'd agreed to it, and he <i>would</i> do it if there appeared to be no other choice.


But Meg...that was a different story. Once, she'd served him, called him Father, even. He wondered, briefly, if she would give herself to that service once more, if the opportunity presented itself. No, he thought, as he rose and moved to her, coming up behind her to wrap his arms about her. She was changed, no more the creature she'd been then than he was. She was no longer abomination to him, but beloved. And he...well, he wasn't entirely sure what he was to her, only that he was determined to see her protected and cared for.


Death,” he finally said, voice gentle, “seems to think some hope rests with your child. I think we have some time yet. You have to remember, to a being as eternal as he is...an imminent threat to him could be yet years away for us.” He didn't truly believe the threat was likely to be that distant, but he did believe there was at least some time to plan and prepare before the newest version of the apocalypse might be upon them.


And cambion are...peculiar creatures. Unpredictable. They respond to perceived threats in amazing ways.” His lips twitched, remembering his single encounter with the cambion child Jesse when he'd attempted to kill him out of a misguided sense of leftover duty to Heaven. The child could have eliminated him from existence with the merest thought; instead, he'd been effectively neutralized by being turned into a child's toy. At the time, it had been horrifying. But now, with an entirely different perspective on it, it actually amused him.


He sighed, pulling himself from his thoughts and nuzzling into her hair gently. “When the time is right, I'll talk to my...brothers. Gabriel, at the very least, would be willing to hear me out.” He hesitated, letting his eyes slip closed, taking in the honey-sweet scent that was, to him, the smell of <i>her</i>, her essence, her very being. “Besides,” he continued, reluctance in his voice, “he's likely to come looking for me soon enough, anyway. He's going to want an explanation for what's happened to me.”


MEG--

It's a complicated and confusing time for me and rightly so. I am a Demon and I am on the run from my own kind, miraculously pregnant, though the jury is still out on whether or not this is a good thing and to top it all off here I am shacked up with an Angel..oh, sorry, a freaking ARCHangel. This is the end of the world and probably closer to the actual end than we have ever been and it's not even an Apocalyptic end, there will be no warning, to plagues or risings of the dead, no rapture, not now. Just end. Amara will pull the plug on the whole universe. And now Death itself wants us to sleep with the enemy to defeat her oh and my not yet born baby could be a great weapon.

Death isn't a fool. I don't expect him to be, anyway. I am months off from having this child so we have months at least to figure out what this all means. I will not believe that God just walked away and doesn't care. He's hiding somewhere, probably scared or angry or annoyed and it's damned childish. I roll my eyes while pacing and they flick to the ceiling as if offering a silent prayer to an absent deity.
Yes, you heard me, you are a fucking child! Or better yet, a fucking dead beat dad. At least MY father came back.

I don't want to think about Lucifer. Deep inside I yearn for him, to make it all go away so we can go back to the way things were so very long ago. But that would be impossible and unlike some people, I am not running away from the path presented before me. But it's harder than anything I have ever done. I look at Castiel who watches me like a hawk. In his eyes I feel precious, nothing's ever looked at me like that before and it warms me in ways I have never known, I don't feel so cold inside anymore.

"I'm not afraid." No I'm terrified and with good reason. "I'm..walking a wire without a net, uncharted territories. I don't like being in this situation not knowing anything except that I have to wait and see." But then all humans live this way. Then again their lives are so short that they never have to wait for long. "I have no one to turn to and the fact that I need someone makes me angry because I need no one." And I know he wants to tell me that I have him, for anything I wish. I raise a hand to prevent him from starting on the reassurances.

"I know I have you, this thing we have is strange enough without exploring it too deeply right now while I'm in so much chaos." I cross my arms and avoid looking into his very blue eyes. "I'm a Demon, I don't care for things or people or Angels or..babies." I open my mouth then close it, then open it again and close it again. I sigh harshly and run my hands through my hair and turn away in exasperation, walking to the window and leaning on the sil, staring out. "I'm a Demon and I have..these feelings that are so alien to me." I pick at a speck of paint on the glass absently. "I like the way you make me feel and I have grown..aware of you in ways..I..think..maybe.." I shake my head and turn to look at him. "Do I have to say it?" I huff petulantly.

"I don't need anyone..but I need you and I.." I mumble something but I figure he'll understand what I'm trying to say, even after so short a time together, how can the feels not surface from deep inside where everything else he knew is buried. I certainly can't explain it. "I don't know what's in store for us, but this baby will be here in a few months and it'll see you and think that you're it's father." I mumble something about how maybe that's what I'd like. It's not like it's real father will want anything more than it's power.


CASTIEL--

He let her rant and rail at him, at the world, at her situation. He sensed that it might help her, even if only a little, to let her do that without interference. Of course, he wanted to argue with her, wanted to try to make her see that he understood. While he knew he seemed far more accepting of what was between them, he, too, sometimes had doubts, became confused.


Oh, he had no doubts at all of his feelings for her. In the silences of his own mind, he could even put a name to it without shame or regret. But he would never speak that word to her, not until he was absolutely sure she was ready to hear it, without spooking. He could bide his time, and wait, if it meant her own comfort and whatever happiness he could give her in the meantime.


Once she'd rambled to a halt, he studied her silently for a few more moments, then sighed. “Meg, you don't need me. You don't <i>need</i> anyone. You're strong, and you can manage on your own. I never doubted that, and I still don't. I don't want to protect you because I think you're weak. I want to protect you because you're strong, and because I admire that strength. And...because I care.”


He paused, trying to force everything he wanted to say to her, everything he wanted to help her see, to make her understand, into something so mundane as words in a language that, while it had become as natural to him as his native tongue by now, was far more limited than the language inborn in him at his creation. Eventually, he huffed a laugh, smiling at her. “You don't have to say it if you don't want to. And I won't say it until you're ready to hear it. We both know, anyway. The knowing is, I think, more important than the words.”


He studied her again for a few moments, then stepped forward to capture her in his arms again, pulling her against him. He bent his head to place a gentle kiss on her forehead, barely more than a light brush of his lips, only to then let them rest there as he murmured to her. “We'll figure it out. An angel and a demon, falling in...well, <i>this</i>,” he said, amusement lacing his voice, “I think we can manage anything between us.” He paused, his lips curving into a soft smile. “As for your baby...I will be whatever to it you wish. It's a part of you, how could I do any less?”


MEG--