Title: War's End
Words: 1,500-ish (this part)
Genre: future!fic, angst, hurt!Castiel
Warnings: descriptions of broken wings
Author's Note: Behold! My attempt to write from a female character's perspective. I hope I've done her justice. :D
Summary: In 2021, during a year that should not exist, Claire Novak encounters a broken angel with a familiar face.
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The world is not right. Everyone can feel it, even the people who refuse to talk about it. In everyone's guts is the sick, twisting feeling that they're being lied to, but by who and about what, no one knows. All they know is that things have gone wrong, but few can say with any clarity that this is because what has happened wasn't meant to.
Over the years, black eyes had began to fill up entire cities, an entire world falling beneath demonic reign, the angels suddenly vanquished and so unable to help as the years of destruction blew by. This was Crowley's end game, and they were knee-deep in it. In Claire Novak's head for so many years, silence had occupied the spaces where she could once hear angels, and until her dreams began, that space had been empty for years. The dreams were terrible and violent, and, perhaps strangest of all, gave her hope that the world could somehow still be saved.
Which brings her to here, a graveyard in east Missouri, sitting beside her mother in a mountain of blankets. The night is cold, their bodies half-frozen in the metal cave of their truck bed, their shoulders knocking together for warmth. Moonlight drifts through the truck's dusty windows and across the graveyard Claire has been dreaming about with increasing intensity for over a month. A silent hour passes, her mom blinking tiredly at her side, and then the event Claire has been having nightmares about finally happens.
With a sky-filling scream that shatters tombstones and knocks down trees, the angel Castiel falls from nowhere. His entrance turns the night sky red, too far away for Claire to make out the details of the angel wearing her father's skin or to be harmed by the devastation of his true voice, but she still knows it's him. Meteoritic fire whirls around Castiel's body as he collides against a far-off hill, the resulting boom near deafening. With a rumbling that clatters every weapon in Claire's truck, the ground hurtles back and forth.
Torn between excitement and terror, Claire stares with wide eyes at the land starting to burn in the distance, but shakes herself out of it quickly. Her mom, meanwhile, jumps to full alertness within seconds, scrambling already for her favorite shotgun, pre-loaded with salt rounds.
"Hold on to something!" Claire jumps through the open window separating the truck's front seat from its bed. The worn leather of the seat catches her like a trusted friend, and, gears grinding, she sets the the truck rocketing forward, plowing through gravestones to get to the other side of the cemetery, where fire from Castiel's descent whips into the sky. In the rearview mirror, Claire watches her mother grab the side of the truckbed, her knuckles as white as her hair.
"My god!" her mother cries, blue shadows mingling with red firelight against her face. "Claire, you were right!"
Gravestones shatter against the truck's metal-fortified bumper, too many of the dead blocking Claire's way to one, dying angel who could change everything if she can only get to him in time. She swings wide to avoid the worst of the gravestones, tires bumping hard over upturned earth and blasted rubble. One hill left, and the truck flies into the raw screams of the angel, now sounding oh, so human. This is how Claire's father, Jimmy Novak, would have sounded, were he still alive and in as much pain as Castiel is in. She tries not to think about that.
The truck slams back down with a jolt that skids it sideways down the hill, Claire wrenching the wheel back and forth to keep it from tipping over. Weapons rattle around in the seat to her right: stolen angel blades and replicas of Sam Winchester's demon-killing blade, shotguns filled with salt rounds, a flamethrower and a red tub of gasoline. She doesn't know what she's about to fight if she doesn't get out of the graveyard in time, just that it's going to be big.
Castiel's body is a jagged, dark curl when she slams on the brakes beside him, his screams turning to gasping chokes as he fights to stand. Lit by the flames surrounding them, his wings jut up from his shoulders, cracked like the broken mast of a ship. Little, gory tears in the wings let firelight through the black and silver feathers, making the blood pouring out of him glisten like ink.
Breathtaking heat swarms Claire as she jumps out of the truck, its engine clanking as flames lick the air around them. Her mother jumps out the back door of the truckbed, pulling with her a stretcher and breathing through her sleeve. Amelia looks in all directions as she runs forward, looking for threats in the nearby forest and the surrounding areas. Having spent almost ten years in this ruined world that should never have been allowed to happen, both Novak woman know well the value of taking precautions.
"It's okay, Castiel!" Claire stumbles over the ruts of scorched earth Castiel's descent carved into the ground. In this world, this angel is the last one left, and she is not about to let him die. "I'm going to help you!"
He writhes against the ground, wings flapping uselessly. "M-Michael," he gasps, then seems to come to his senses. His bloodshot eyes turn to Claire and her mother, and Amelia staggers a half step to the side with a gasp of pain. The face Castiel is wearing still looks like Claire's father, just a little more damaged. Claire reaches Castiel first, falling beside his hand and taking it in hers. He squeezes back, blood bubbling on his lips. His broken wings fall to his back with a rush of great wind, all nine to ten feet of their length covering him like a bloody shield.
"Claire Novak," He shudders beneath his wings, his teeth chattering wildly. The flames are causing them all to sweat, air pockets crackling in fallen trees, but Castiel shakes as though cold. "I don't know what's happened, but you must go. There are creatures, coming up the hill. They will--"
"Can it!" Claire and her mother rip open the stretcher and get it ready to receive the angel, who props himself up on shaking elbows, his hair a tangled mess.
"Listen to me. I'm too gravely injured, and I'm going to die. Your efforts aren't needed. Please go, I--"
"You're not going to resurrect again, Castiel!" Claire reaches under him, gripping both shoulders as her mother takes hold of his legs. His wings brush against their arms, soft feathers painting blood on their skin. "God said this is it!" The angel blinks, somewhat sluggishly, the heat of fire around them all growing ever closer. "He says you have to live, or we're all going to die!"
Apparently convinced, or maybe just too tired to argue the matter, Castiel wraps callused hands around her forearms to help her lift him. It's awkward to lift someone on their stomach without spinning them over, but with the size of his wings, turning him over is not an option. All of them grunting from the exertion of it, they get Castiel onto the stretcher, his arms crossing quickly beneath his chest with a hiss of pain. His wings fold awkwardly around his body, bent at unhealthy angles.
Lifting him into the air on unsteady, gravestone-littered ground, Claire and her mother run for the truck. On the hill above them appear at least a hundred withered bodies, black shadows with red eyes glistening in the darkness of night. As Claire and her mother run for their truck, so do the creatures of shadow, who let out blood-curdling shrieks and descend with a speed unattainable by any human. Nearly a decade has passed since any of them have tasted the dying flesh of an angel, and they are hungry. The dust from their running feet fills the air, blocking out the moonlight, and Claire screams at her mother to get in the truck and drive.
Castiel gets thrown into the truckbed none-too-softly and chokes on a yell of pain, the cushions and blankets only gentling the impact somewhat. His wings flutter outwards, pressing against each side of the truckbed, barely able to fit. Claire jumps on his back and reaches behind herself to slam the door shut. His broken wings surround her legs as she crouches over him and braces a hand on his shoulder, the human part of his body against her shins feeling like it's boiling. The truck jerks forward and Claire falls forward, wrapping her arms around Castiel's face to keep him from slamming against the floor as her mom guns the engine and they rocket off.
Castiel breathes hotly against the shell of Claire's ear, specks of his blood trickling down her neck as they swerve about, Amelia shouting out curses from the driver's seat. Her heart thudding wildly, Claire inhales the angel's sweat, blood, and the electric taint she is used to smelling at the death sites of angels. Buried somewhere deep beneath all that, there is a scent that reminds her of her father. It's a scent she associates with the crown of her hair being kissed just because, and a set of arms wrapped warmly around her after she'd had a bad day at school. A lump the size of a fist lodging in her throat, she buries her head against Castiel's cheek to let frustrated, hot tears fall from her eyes.
She startles when Castiel reaches back to gently touch her hair, stroking it away from her face. He must know where her mind is, and why shouldn't he? The angel had been in her mind, once. He must know how she ticks, and why she is upset. With a gasp of pain as they hit a bump in the ground, his hand becomes a fist in her hair, the both of them clutching wildly to the only safe spaces in their lives as the truck hurtles through a land of death, the wail of shadows its only music for the bumpy ride.
"It's okay," she whispers, because it has to be. One arm still propping Castiel's face off the floor, she uses her other hand to stoke the edge of his wing, not quite sure which of them is being comforted. Their breaths of fear mingle in the air, trapped together as they hurtle in a direction neither can see. The screams outside are getting ever-louder, but the truck hasn't been stopped yet, which means there's still the chance they can get away.
They have to make it, she tells herself over the increasing screams outside, her jaw firm though her body shakes. Beneath her, Castiel's eyes slowly slip shut, his breaths shallowing. Her words of comfort become a mantra, her hand a song in his feathers, repeating endlessly as the truck rattles everywhere, it's okay, it's okay. It's going...