What happens in Detroit stays in Detroit, Balthazar found himself promising. It’s a strange phrase, he always thought, almost as though in a run-down studio attic there is still a Castiel sobbing his faith into Balthazar’s chest. In numerous bars across the city there is still the ghost of Dean Winchester, washing the definition of family away with any kind of alcohol that hurt the throat.
Sam stays in Detroit too. Any impression the boy left on Balthazar wanders the alleys, looking for his skin.
Sam’s body left Detroit as soon as the word left its lips.
Signed, sealed, delivered.
They had to go on an unscheduled supply run. Balthazar had snapped as Chuck counted supplies - again - and noted they were running low on toilet paper - again. Balthazar had decided to cover the inside of Chuck’s room with his precious toilet paper roll. After he finished and admired his work, he stomped on what had fallen on the ground. He was so tired of human needs.
It was just a small raid to a village they had not been to before. Balthazar remarked that it looked untouched by the end of the world. Castiel nodded. Balthazar threw a stone through a nearby window, knocking over a shelf. A canister of spray paint rolled onto the sidewalk and stopped at his feet. He picked it up and sprayed ‘Croatoan’ on the wall in giant red letters.
“Better,” Balthazar smirked. Castiel laughed.
Even with gunfire still echoing in his ears, Balthazar heard the crack and groan of pain when Cas broke his foot. “Cas? Are you all right?” His companion was grimacing, leaning heavily on his semi-automatic like a crutch, but he nodded anyway.
“Keep going; I’m right behind you.” The former angel took a step forward and nearly tumbled over; he would have, if Balthazar had not caught him.
“Give me your arm. It’ll be faster this way.” Balthazar didn’t wait for a response and continued forward, one arm around his brother’s waist.
“Don’t, there’s no reason for us both to be slowed down.”
Ignoring the protest, Balthazar half-dragged his brother through the narrow street, hobbling steadily away from the cacophony of the infected feasting on the living.
None of the infected bothered to find them while there was still fresh meat, but that did not last very long. Soon enough, there was a whole sea of them, rushing forward like a deadly tide of flesh and bone and blood, pouring into the street behind them.
Before the infected got too close, Balthazar noticed a fenced-off alley and pulled Cas through the open gate, slamming it shut behind them.
“That won’t keep them out for long. I’m useless like this, Balthazar. You could still escape; someone needs to warn the others that the city has been taken.” Even while talking about sacrificing his own life, Cas didn’t hesitate; he’d always been the better soldier.
The water running into the storm drain a mere five feet away caught his eye, and Balthazar nearly dropped Cas in his hurry to reach it. “Here, Cas. Do you think you would fit down there?” He’d hardly even heard what Cas had said, already trying to pull it open.
“Barely. What are you doing? There’s only room for one-!” The heavy grate pulled free and a second later Balthazar was manoeuvring his brother into the opening of the drain, growing increasingly frantic as more and more Croats reached the fence at the mouth of the alley.
“I don’t have time to argue. They can’t reach you here.” Although Cas fought him, Balthazar was stronger, and adamant. He paused briefly and gently cupped Cas’ cheek. “I’ll come back for you, Cassie.”
Before he could replace the grate and seal his brother in the drain, Cas reached up weakly, fear in his eyes. “Balthazar, don’t.” His fingers found Balthazar’s wrist and clamped down.
“I need you to trust me. Please.” Balthazar took a moment to hastily kiss Cas’ forehead before carefully pushing the grate back in place before his brother could argue again.
For nearly five solid minutes, the sounds of gunfire and death bounced off the walls of the alley. Crimson-swirled water dripped from the gutter and Cas was certain he was being baptized in his brother’s blood.
Before he could even begin to mourn, the grate moved away slowly, and Cas closed his eyes to welcome death. But the hands that reached for him were gentle and warm and when he opened his eyes again, it was Balthazar’s grin he saw, disheveled but alive.
Three weeks later, Castiel’s pain medication ran out. Chuck had nothing else to offer, so the former angel was forced to suffer through the pain as only a soldier could.
Hobbling back into his cabin, he was greeted by his brother before he’d even stepped fully inside. “Dean is still being a tight arse, I take it.”
Cas shut the door behind him and sighed. “If it’s going to last, it has to be rationed. What he’s doing makes sense.” The cane supported most of his weight as he shuffled across the room, settling heavily down on to the bed beside Balthazar.
“Well. You’re lucky I’m more resourceful than they are.”
Cas stared at the floor while his brother spoke. Though Balthazar looked far better than he had, his wounds were still healing. The bite and claw marks were just angry red scars now, and Cas knew he should be grateful that his brother had not been infected; but somehow, all he could see was what his brother had sacrificed for him. The last of his grace, wasted on a useless mortal angel.
“Whatever you’ve found, I’m there’s someone else who needs it more.” Still not meeting Balthazar’s eyes, Cas rested the cane against the wall and began the arduous process of pulling off his boots.
The bed shifted behind him, and Balthazar slipped an arm over Cas’ shoulder, dangling a small glass in front of his face. “No one wants this.” With a flick of his wrist, the emerald liquid swirled. “It’s called absinthe.”
“…and how can this absinthe help me?” Cas glanced at his brother over his shoulder wearily. He was almost desperate enough to accept anything that might numb his pain.
“It has the properties of a painkiller. More importantly, if you know what to mix it with, it’s powerful enough to make you forget almost anything. For a little while, anyway.” Balthazar pressed his chest against Cas’ back while he spoke, holding the glass against his brother’s lips. “All you have to do is drink.”
The promise of numbness and escape was enticing enough; Cas had fallen this far already, what else did he have to lose? Closing his hand over Balthazar’s, he tipped his head back, parted his lips, and drank.
It took that one drink to remind him of what it felt like to fly, and that was all the addiction he needed. It turned out that one drink was enough for Balthazar too, but his addiction was far more physical.
Cas didn’t fight his brother’s lips on his. He succumbed to lust for the first time, though he found it left him wanting. Balthazar panted praises into his neck, but he found himself longing for breasts and supple curves, everything the man he loved lacked.
It wasn’t until after, tangled in the sheets and each other, that Cas asked if they could drink with women, too.
After Castiel’s foot had finally healed after a long two months, he regularly went wandering around, often to go visit Balthazar. As he approached his brother's room he could hear noises he wasn’t familiar with; although he had an inkling of what was going on inside, he walked in anyway. He saw Balthazar’s vessel - body, now - under one woman, with another riding his face. He watched in fascination until one of the girls noticed him and shrieked.
“Come join us Cassie, what have you got to lose?” Balthazar asked. After a moment’s hesitation, Cas shed his clothes. Balthazar’s eyes never stopped watching him.
Balthazar kept asking for him to join in again. "The girls love you," he would say. ‘So do I,’ he would think to himself.
“Damn it Cas, why are you doing this?” Dean asked, having noticed the group of women leaving his cabin. Again.
“Why not?” Cas replied lazily, “I was not aware my sexual exploits would offend our fearless leader so much.” He smirked and walked away.
“Dean lectured me again today,” Cas complained.
“I’m glad I remind you of him,” Balthazar muttered bitterly, pulling his mouth away from Cas’ hip bone.
“Where are the girls?”
“I thought we could have some alone time, for once.”
“Well what’s the point in that?”
Balthazar stood up and left.
They didn’t speak to each other again until Balthazar cracked a few days later and decided to go see him. He walked in on Cas with two girls, in the exact same position he had been caught in what only felt like a short while ago. “What is this?” he asked.
“You said life now is too short to not appreciate. And how can I not appreciate something as exquisite as this?” Cas moved his hands to one of the woman’s hips and squeezed, eliciting a yelp, then chuckled in a way that made Balthazar’s heart heavy.
Balthazar pulled the little orange bottle from his pocket and knocked back a few pills and watched as Castiel approached him with a big goofy smile on his face; before, Balthazar would have literally killed to see his Cas smile, but not like this.
“Some of the girls last night were asking after you. Do you fancy joining us, Balthazar?”
“How kind of you to let me be an afterthought.”
It had been on his mind for a while now, like most things. His head was buzzing with thoughts, ideas, and doubts fueled by spite and hopelessness. He was bitter about it, that his love for Castiel, his Cassie, was unrequited; that something as ridiculous as his brother’s vessel could decide whether or not they could be together.
He knew it was selfish of him to want this; it was the end of the fucking world and they were having drug induced orgies rather than fighting for the cause. He had lost his way... so had Cas, with his false belief that he had to look after the Winchesters; the half that remained after Detroit, anyway.
Balthazar planned it. He’d been thinking about it for too long and people were starting to notice his tension. He was fidgety and he snapped at people he spoke to, even Castiel at times, when he was high and said things without thinking. Cas did too, and it was a battle of words; each syllable a stab at Balthazar’s fragile feelings and a scrape against Castiel’s uncaring shell.
It was late in July when Balthazar mentioned it in a post-sex haze. When the girls had lazily sashayed away to their business, Cas had pulled the sheet over himself and sprawled across the bed, next to his tense but proudly naked brother.
“Cassie I know I’ve been irritable as of late... I just have had a lot on my mind and I feel it’s time to talk to you about it.” He broached the topic carefully, his fingers curling and uncurling nervously against his bare stomach. Castiel hummed in the back of his throat, unfocused from the afterglow and the drugs still in his system.
“And what’s this big thing you want to tell me, brother?” Cas' smirk was almost smug, though he still didn’t turn to look at the other man.
“Listen Cas… I know you think - you think it’s right to stay here but… I have - I don’t think we’re helping anything!” He saw Cas tense and furrow his brow in annoyance, his lips pinched together.
“Lucifer isn’t hiding. If we go to him, we can try and change his mind. Nothing else is being done and it’s our best hope.” Balthazar reached out to touch Cas’ wrist, who swiftly pulled away and sat up, pushing the bed sheet away and tugging on some nearby boxers.
“Please Cas… I don’t want to do this without you and because you know I love you as more than a brother - it’s silly to even say it, but don’t make me leave you here.” Balthazar’s voice shook as he watched Cas’ back. He was on his knees on the bed now, his hair mussed where his fingers had pulled at it.
Castiel was buttoning his jeans when he turned, fury clear on his face, warring with concern and denial. He dropped one hand to his side and lifted the other to rub over his eyes in agitation. “I’m not making you do anything, Balthazar. I love you too, you know that. I wish things were different but I’m stuck in this vessel and - that’s not the point. This is no time to be selfish brother! I… I just can’t do that. Not to Dean and not to the world. Joining Lucifer or even going to see him would only make things worse. I’m sorry brother. I’m staying.” His tone booked no argument and Castiel walked out, shirt in hand and eyes wet.
For the first time, Balthazar let himself cry for everything he had lost.
And when the tears stopped, he left.
The walk was a long one. His heavy boots brushed up dirt that filled his lungs but Balthazar only cared about dodging the Croats long enough to get there. The part of town he sought was crawling with death, more than most, yet brimming with life. Potential was there. Lucifer held it, in a grip too tight to let it flourish.
He didn’t bother with stealth; the town was made of shadows, and he was expected. The darkness in the air seemed to part for him, and it seemed almost sentient. It caressed his exposed skin making him shiver in disgust and anticipation.
Castiel didn’t notice him missing right away. He figured they were good at avoiding each other by now.
The girls would slither up to him, but he was numb to their touches and brushed them off before long to have time to think. When Chuck mentioned it two days later, he went straight to Dean.
“Dean, uh… I think Balthazar - he’s gone.”
“Well where is he?” Cas’ eyes were glued to the floor. “Cas… where the fuck is he?!”
“He… he was talking about going to see Lucifer-” Dean didn’t wait to hear him finish.
They had an idea, fuelled by anger, betrayal. They set out the next day.
Lucifer greeted him with open arms and his hands clutched harshly at his shoulders. Sam’s face twisted in cruelty that did not belong and his eyes gleamed with power, the white suit he wore a pristine beacon within the ravaged city walls.
“So nice to see you… what an unexpected surprise.” Lucifer’s tone was sardonic and he held his hands clasped together, a look of false innocence overtaking his features. Sam’s features. When Balthazar only stared, Lucifer laughed dryly.
“I always knew you’d come to your senses…” his voice faded into Balthazar’s rushing thoughts.
After everything… Balthazar had nothing to say.
“…A matter of time.”
They were crouched just outside the building behind a mass of grey bushes that hid them from view. Dean was arguing with his past self. Castiel wondered how he’d cope with a delayed mirror of himself walking around. If the angel he’d been saw the human he’d become, he didn’t know who would feel more shame.
Neither Dean had time for shame; they were too busy shouting. While his Dean was hardened to the world and lacked pity and compassion, the Dean he remembered still had hope lighting his eyes, even in this dark place. But to the Fearless Leader, deaths were inconsequential. They were just a growing number of people willing to die for the cause. The cause that, as of late, was pointless. No solution was in sight. That’s why they were here; now or never, to try their luck. Death would be a small mercy.
Their argument was cut short by an echoing laugh, completely devoid of joy. A last, frustrated whisper passed between them and the Dean from the past crouched next to Castiel. Their Fearless Leader approached them calmly and brief instructions passed between them, followed by a vague wave to the rear of the building. Four people in total went past them; three bulky men and Risa. Out of them all, she was the only one not to look back. Castiel stared up at the building, his usual mask failing as he wondered which dark window Balthazar was behind. He made to follow the others but Past Dean pulled him back by the wrist.
“You’re coming this way. With us.” It was a quick instruction, with no room for questions, so Castiel just nodded and crept around the corner with them, hands tightening around his rifle. He looked back at Dean to signal it was clear, but when he turned back, he come face to face with a demon. If there was one aspect of his angel self he’d have willingly parted with, it was the ability to see a demon’s true face. It seemed like the universe’s cruel joke that this was the one power that still clung to him. He didn’t have to endure it long though, as the world suddenly went black.
Cas woke in time to throw out his hands as he was dropped to the ground, only to find that his wrists had been tied together. Both Deans, with their identical instincts, were up in a second, scrambling to their knees and looking around hastily. Cas was slower; he knew what he’d find.
“So much for a decoy…” Past Dean sniped, the bitterness in his voice cut off by a groan as he rubbed his cut jaw along his jacket.
“Quiet!” Lucifer himself stood there, in all his Winchester glory. “Nice of you to join us boys, and here we have… two Dean Winchesters, my, my, what a treat!”
Castiel wasn’t listening. He was looking at Balthazar, standing to the side, his shoulders slumped and eyes on Lucifer’s back, transfixed. He looked exhausted but strangely... content.
“Balthazar…” The name alone held so much weight on Castiel’s lips.
Balthazar seemed to waver for a moment, eyes shining, and he almost took a step forwards. Lucifer was next to him then, an arm curled around his brother, gripping his shoulder. Balthazar tensed and a cold mask overtook him, his eyes still wet but his expression blank. Lucifer smiled and tilted his head, leaning in to speak to Balthazar.
“They never cared for you,” he crooned, as if talking to a child. “You know me, brother... I always have your best interests at heart.” Balthazar nodded, curling himself away from the men before him, further into Lucifer who crowded around him. Putting a single finger to his chin, Lucifer kissed Balthazar tenderly; a slide of lips, smooth and practiced and desperate, their eyebrows furrowed and all attention focused on just feeling.
“Well, that happened quickly,” Dean’s voice was snide as he glared at the entangled couple as they pulled away from each other, though they were still touching.
“A brothers bond is like no other…” Lucifer spoke quietly, though the implication rang in all their ears.
“Balthazar… please,” Castiel pleaded, his eyes watery with exhaustion and betrayal. Balthazar didn’t move besides a slight twitch of his head, his gaze on the ground.
“He’s not yours to hurt anymore Castiel… but you’re all mine to do with as I wish.”
In a dead old house at the end of the world, three sets of brothers cross the line.
Line one; the twins die first, with the hand of their baby brother around identical throats.
Line two; the oldest of all leaves the last for the brother whose lips still sting from his kiss.
Line three; he rejects the gift.
The refusal spirals back aeons, and the eldest misses the irony as the fury of the Almighty consumes him.
At the sight of his eyes, his brother pulls away and begins to run.
Hands bound with rope reach out.
Five years ago, they might have been fast enough.
Breath of Life - Florence and the Machine
I was looking for a breath of life
A little touch of heavenly light
But all the choirs in my head sang no
Part Time Believer - Boy & Bear
See I was waiting for my dad to come home from work
So I could show him all the chords that I'd learned
See I was under the impression I was gonna lead
Some kind of simple, understated life
King and Lionheart – Of Monsters And Men
And as the world comes to an end
I’ll be here to hold your hand
Heartbreak Song – Kate’s Party
And I know you're scared
Because you're praying to a god that you know isn't there
Vienna - Billy Joel
Slow down, you crazy child
You're so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you're so smart, tell me
Why are you still so afraid?
Skinny Love - Bon Iver
And now all your love is wasted
And then who the hell was I?
Rusty Halo - The Script
Now I'm looking up the bible trying find a loophole,
Yeah I'm living for revival, dying for a new soul
Somewhere A Clock Is Ticking - Snow Patrol
Another soldier, says he's not afraid to die
Well I am scared, I’m so scared
Dance On Our Graves - Paper Route
I know the man I am is not who I should be
The Devil take my hand says, "Child come with me."
My body shivers and aches, I can't break free
Why do the things I hate come so naturally?
Is This The End - Zee Avi
And if you need me
Close your eyes and dream
I'll give you back your key
But will you be happy?
Hallelujah - Canadian Tenors
And even though it all went wrong
I stand before the lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah
Beat In Time - Red Kites
But one thing I now know
You’ll still be here to break my fall
And I will do you proud
The one way that I know how