archangel in exile
it’s hardly sanctuary, but for now it will do.

the-archangel-michael:

Michael shook his head. He knew Raphael was capable, and he knew his younger brother could lead his siblings into the new war well. “Preparations can wait, brother,” he said. Even he did not particularly wish to think about the specifics about war right at that moment. Was it necessary? Yes. Would he do it in time? Of course. But… not now. 

He hadn’t been in Heaven in a long time… or so it felt. Maybe it really hadn’t been that long, down in the Cage, but he’d never left Heaven before… well, not often. A moment here, a moment there. Being absent for so long… It had been trying, even if the result was a beneficial one. 

“Our brothers and sisters know their duties; they won’t abandon the cause,” said Michael, sitting back. He was reasonably sure of such a fact; if the ones who had stuck by Raphael were still doing so, still doing what was right and following their chain of command, they would not fail at the simple absence of their leader for a little longer. “They knew of your destination, did they not? They should have nothing to be concerned about, knowing you were coming to see me.” 

“Perhaps.” It had not been so long since he’d left. Yet hiding had made him restless, and though Heaven was peaceful, he was anxious to return to war. He feared what might occur in his absence. Particularly as he had no way of knowing what his absence was doing to his forces. He should have told them, should have told Balthazar at least, but after their confrontation, his only thought had been getting as far away from his brother as possible.

“They—they did not,” Raphael admitted. “I left so quickly, after… Balthazar is with them, but I don’t know for how long he’ll be able to control the situation. I have abandoned my post, Michael; I have abandoned my soldiers.” His fist clenched by his side. “I must return.”

it’s hardly sanctuary, but for now it will do.

the-archangel-michael:

Michael nodded. “I know it is… difficult,” he said. “To think of killing yet another of them.” He continued looking out at the rest of Heaven, his expression heavy. “And I thought after Lucifer…” Michael sighed, showing a side that he rarely let loose, but occasionally—just occasionally—the hard commander took a break and it was evident how much he had been worn down by everything that had happened through so many millennia. “I believed that was the worst it could be up here, among them. That that event—as much as it tore everything apart—had its place. Its purpose. That it provided enough of a lesson to the rest of them that would… keep such a severe rebellion from happening again.” 

Because Michael knew what would happen to Castiel, if he didn’t die through the release of the souls, would be far worse. “There will be no Cage for Castiel,” Michael said quietly. “Even his death… He will be wiped from existence, Raphael. Not a piece of him will remain in all of creation. His essence—it will have to be destroyed completely. That is the only way to solve this problem that he has created among us.” 

Even as he said it, Michael hated the fact. The decision. “It would be better—easier—for him should it happen through the purging itself,” the archangel said quietly, turning briefly to look at Raphael. 

Castiel still has friends. Somehow, he still inspires loyalty. Michael nodded. Of course their little brother was popular. He would not have had the support required to make it as far as he did otherwise. And, apparently, he still retained the love and trust of so many around him. “They hope for redemption,” said Michael. “It’s only to be expected, Raphael.” Michael thought of Lucifer, of remembering how much he’d hoped things could’ve been different. How he’d wished his younger brother could’ve just listened, not rebelled in the first place. How he’d wanted everything to remain as calm and peaceful as it had been. But it had happened—things had changed—and only now were certain pieces being righted. “We would all hope for the same, for any of our brothers. Sisters.” He sighed. “But yes, they will have to realize the truth. Castiel himself has gone too far. He has taken in too much to survive, and there is simply no other option for our brother than his death.” 

Michael nodded. “Heaven needs to be prepared for yet another war,” he said, looking firmly at Raphael. “Castiel has gone beyond simple reason; force will be the only option.” 

“There will be no redemption for him.” Raphael frowns. They rarely speak like this, like brothers—since Lucifer Fell, Michael played the Commander. “Even if he felt remorse—even if he could see what he has become—there’s no hope. Not for him. For the rest of us…” he trails off. His own exile has not been easy. He knows it is far worse for his loyal brothers and sisters. “We will do what we must,” he finishes.

He doesn’t want to lead them into another war, so soon after their last and with such a great risk. Raphael may be a bastard, but he’s not as cold as… certain rebellious angels may believe. But perhaps this will give his soldiers purpose again. They’ve become reckless in hiding, restless, and perhaps another war is what they need.

“We should—I should prepare,” Raphael says. He glances around. “I’ve stayed too long. I should return. If my soldiers—if our brothers believe I have abandoned them, I don’t want to see what catastrophe might result. They’re growing restless, desperate for a fight I believe. They are capable, but without leadership…” he shakes his head. “No. I must return.”

He doesn’t leave, though. He knows he should. He knows what is coming and he knows he cannot stay in Heaven much longer. Castiel may find him, may find his soldiers, and with the new war looming, he can’t afford to be away for long. Already he fears the worst has happened in his absence. But he’s not quite ready to take up the mantle of Commander. He will, of course he will, he always does—but for now, it’s a relief to simply be Michael’s younger brother. No matter how much Raphael has disappointed him.

it’s hardly sanctuary, but for now it will do.

the-archangel-michael:

Michael looks at Raphael. He wouldn’t have thought Raphael would make any sort of promise, even if the archangel had been a Healer at one point, after so long in the midst of fighting, Michael had thought his second-in-command understood the fact that sometimes people just went beyond saving. And as far as Michael was concerned, little Castiel approached such a point when he dared assume the position of God. 

He shook his head. “I don’t care who you might have made this promise to, brother, but you will, in all probability, have to break it,” he said. “An angel like Castiel was never meant—was never created—to hold anywhere near the amount of power he’s consumed. And we all know it. If the actual extraction of so many souls does not destroy him, he’ll be destroyed for what he’s dared to do in the first place.” 

The eldest of the archangels, the leader of Heaven’s armies, stared hard at his brother. “His blasphemy has gone too far. Not even Lucifer—for every offense he committed, for every crime for which he received punishment—proclaimed himself as God.” Michael shook his head. “Whether or not Father is here, that position is still His and His alone.” 

Michael sighed. One of the last things he wanted was to destroy a brother, even if he didn’t know Castiel all that well, but the point still stood. “So no, Raphael,” he said. “There is no saving Castiel.” 

“Good,” Raphael says. He’s had far too much conflict lately regarding his loyalties, and it’s good to know that in this instance, he’s in the right. Castiel is beyond saving, and no matter what he’s promised his brothers, Raphael will destroy him. He supposes it’s a plus that he swore to Gabriel, rather than… anyone else.

Not too long ago, Raphael told Castiel that God was dead. At the time, he’d just been trying to crush his rebellious little brother’s hopes. But lately he’s begun to believe it as truth. It’s easier to think of his Father as dead than apathetic, and after certain indiscretions, he prefers the idea that God will never have the chance to know. About anything. Michael’s bad enough.

There are those who will not be happy, Raphael knows. Particularly Balthazar. Now that they share this bond, he’ll have to be particularly cautious moving forward. Balthazar wants Castiel saved—naïve, soft-hearted fool that he is. And he will be much less than happy when Raphael stops their brother. The idea chills him, and he doesn’t quite know why. Perhaps it is trepidation at what new levels of torment the bond will allow if Balthazar ever learns of Raphael’s plan.

“Castiel still has friends,” Raphael says. “Somehow, he still inspires loyalty. I cannot fathom why, only that he does, and I would hate if any of those friends knew we plan to destroy him.” He sighs. “But in time, they will understand that it’s for the best. That we had no choice.” He’s not afraid of Balthazar or Gabriel or any of the angels who seem so insanely desperate to save that which is beyond saving. He just wishes it wouldn’t come to that.

He should know better, truly. Not for the first time, he looks back on the days he did nothing but Heal, wielding the Power and the Glory and mending that which was broken. He doesn’t do that anymore. These days, he breaks what was once whole, and destroys what is cracked. The Power he wields is a blade and the Glory is gone from him. All he has now is rage and resignation and a chain locking him with Balthazar and the key out of his grasp.

“There is little chance he will survive the purging of the souls, then,” Raphael continues. The terror at facing his brother has abated, and he is able to speak to Michael as they once did. It’s a relief. “In all honesty, I believe it would be easier on us all. The punishment owed him for his blasphemy and his atrocities—I have seen terrible things, Michael. We all have. I remember Lucifer’s rebellion well. I cannot imagine a suitable sentence for what Castiel has done, nor do I ever wish to witness it carried out.”

it’s hardly sanctuary, but for now it will do.

the-archangel-michael:

“Twice?” Michael glances at Raphael. “You failed to mention you connected with him more than once, brother.” Michael rose from his seat next to the other angel and walked a short distance away before heading back. Just a moment to clear his head from what he’d heard. That was all.

“You’ve surprised me,” he says when he returns, not taking the seat back but instead just looking down at the other angel. “Whatever your intentions with Balthazar, it doesn’t matter. If you manage to find a way to sever the bond, so be it. Otherwise…” Michael trails off, leaving the the rest of the statement unsaid for a time. They both know it. A bond between angels has never been broken before.

“And as far as what Heaven has become… as far as what Castiel has done… as far as everything that has happened in the time I’ve been away…” Michael looks firmly at Raphael. “All of us will work together to repair it. And only when things have been returned to their rightful state…” He nods. “Only then will we discuss how to keep it from happening again, Raphael,” says Michael, his gaze heavy and unblinking on the younger angel.

You’ve surprised me. Raphael looks away again, knowing what that means. He’s disappointed Michael by giving himself over to Balthazar’s damnation. And then Michael’s pacing, and Raphael’s waiting, and it’s all so very, very surreal. He knows what Michael’s not saying, knows he can’t sever the bond he’s created with their brother, but he doesn’t know what else to do but try.

“Yes,” he says, quiet. “We will fix it. But I fear—I promised—someone—that Castiel would not be harmed. But all that’s occurred, I don’t believe it’s an oath I can keep. Castiel can’t be saved.”

He doesn’t care, though, and tells Michael as much. He and Castiel were never close, and their recent interactions have been somewhat vitriolic, what with trying to kill each other and Castiel actually almost succeeding in killing Raphael. And Castiel almost killed Balthazar, as well—again, not that Raphael cares—but he doesn’t know of any way to purge the souls from their former brother. He’ll help, of course he’ll help, but in the end, he figures Castiel for a lost cause.

it’s hardly sanctuary, but for now it will do.

the-archangel-michael:

Michael looks hard at Raphael when he hears the other angel speak. “You bonded to Balthazar?” he asks, not able to hide the slight surprise in his voice. Out of everything Michael might have expected from his brother, hearing that his second-in-command bonded to such a… unique individual like Balthazar wasn’t it. He would not have expected to hear of Raphael bonding to anyone, especially doing so… unintentionally? He stares. “And you expect to fix this… how?” Michael says, his gaze intense.

“You know how strong a bond between us can be, Raphael,” says Michael. “These sorts of things,” Michael shakes his head, “They don’t tend to happen purely without intention, Raphael.” His eyes narrow at his younger brother. “So are you sure there is nothing…?”

Michael pauses, waiting to see if Raphael is hiding anything else. He doesn’t sense anything, but he can’t be absolutely sure. “Although, if you feel confident enough in your ability to repair your mistakes…”

“No. Of course not. The first time was a moment of pure rage. And the second…” Raphael trails off. The second time echoes in his mind and he can’t explain that. “The second should not have happened,” he finishes at last. “A moment of insanity.” It’s as much of the truth as Raphael is comfortable with.

He looks up at Michael, risking a glance at his brother’s hardened expression, and with resolve he manages to meet it. Why is he cowering? He never did before. Of course, he’s never failed so spectacularly before, never shamed himself so completely, but he’s always been sure at Michael’s side.

“I have to break it,” he says. “There’s no alternative. I won’t be bonded to him, and he won’t have me. It must be severed, and it will be.” Michael is right, though—it wasn’t purely by accident, and Raphael has no idea how to break the bond. He wants to, desperately, but it’s such a rare occurrence. Still, it must be done, and Raphael will find a way.

it’s hardly sanctuary, but for now it will do.

the-archangel-michael:

Michael shakes his head. “No, Raphael. You won’t.” He turns to look at his brother. “You will not make things right. You will not correct everything. That is not your duty, brother.” He turns his focus back out to the Garden. “What happened… it’s for everyone to correct,” said Michael quietly. 

There was still a hint of something, and Michael knew his younger brother was still not being completely honest with him. Raphael may have called whatever had happened—what the eldest archangel now felt—an accident—but it seemed like far more than that to Michael. It weighed heavy around Raphael, weighed on the other’s Grace, and Michael could sense it. There was also… something. An odd presence that Michael couldn’t quite place, and the fact that he didn’t know it displaced the archangel. 

“Don’t be dishonest with me, Raphael,” said Michael, turning his gaze back to the other angel. He didn’t want to play the hard and firm commander, but he would if he had to. Secrets is not something any of them needed in a time like this, after all. “Personal matter or not, accident or not, whatever it is, you will tell me the truth. Now.” 

Raphael nods. Not your duty. Not anymore. Of course, Michael wouldn’t trust him to fix the mess he created. He wouldn’t be surprised if Michael decided to demote him, either—only a short couple of years in charge, and he’s succeeded in nearly destroying Heaven and creating an abomination out of one of their brothers. He understands it, and he accepts it unquestioningly.

Then Michael’s tone changes and Raphael flinches away. No longer is he speaking with his disappointed elder brother—now he sits with his commander, and his commander orders him to speak of what he can barely think of without wanting to flee. He considers it, briefly; he’s no stranger to running, after all. But Michael would find him, as Michael always does, and Michael has ways of extracting the information he wants.

“I unintentionally bonded to Balthazar,” he says, staring in horror at his hands. He’s spoken. He can’t take it back now. “But I will fix it. I will find a way to break it and free him. I didn’t mean—” Raphael falters, then stops, and waits for Michael’s rebuke.

it’s hardly sanctuary, but for now it will do.

the-archangel-michael:

Michael sighs. He doesn’t want to put all the blame on Raphael; he can’t put all of it on Raphael. Had he not fallen in to the Cage in the first place— Had you not fallen, you would have killed him, he thinks, the idea of having actually gone through with the Apocalypse’s final order and killing Lucifer running through his mind. Not for the first time, Michael is… thankful, the Apocalypse had been diverted. But if this is what happened to Heaven because of it… 

“I don’t blame you for it all, Raphael,” he says quietly, looking out across the Garden. “What happened after I met with Lucifer was… unexpected. Neither of us could have seen it coming and, apparently, certain individuals,” Michael growls, the thought of Castiel positioning himself in such a way—making such a claim as to be God himself, still annoying the archangel, “chose to use that chaotic event to their benefit.” 

He looks to his brother. “But the point remains, you should have known better, brother,” says Michael. “Even if you were waiting for him to carry out his own undoing—something that obviously backfired—you should have done better, Raphael. Castiel should have been stopped long before he got to such a point as he is now.” Michael sighs. “But I suppose little can be done about past mistakes now. They have happened. We will do what can be done to repair them. Bring Heaven back to what it should have always been.” The Prince of Heaven turns to look at his younger brother directly, once again sensing that odd feeling from the other angel. 

Michael raises an eyebrow. “Is there something you’re still not telling me, Raphael?” he asks quietly. 

For a brief moment, Raphael thinks Michael is referring to him. Had he benefited from the failure of the Apocalypse? Yes, it had allowed him to take control of Heaven, but it was a position he’d never wanted, and he did use that position to try and put things back the way they were supposed to be. And then he realizes Michael is talking about Castiel, and he frowns at his own stupidity.

Michael may not blame Raphael for everything—or at least, he may claim not to—but Raphael isn’t fooled. It’s still his doing, and since Michael was gone, everything was his responsibility. He still feels like everything rests with him, even though Michael’s back.

“I know,” he says softly. “I will—I will make things right. For all of us. I’ll fix it.” He’s not talking about the war anymore. He’s not talking about Castiel or any of the mistakes that led up to the creation of their new God. Because Michael can sense it, and right now, that’s Raphael’s largest concern. A smaller mistake than losing a war, certainly, but its insignificance to the greater picture only emphasizes how shattering a mistake it is to him.

“There may have been an accident,” Raphael says, slow and careful. “It’s nothing you need to concern yourself with. It was a—personal error. But it is being dealt with.” Now please, please don’t ask anything else of me.

it’s hardly sanctuary, but for now it will do.

the-archangel-michael:

Michael shook his head. “It is not so much the orders that concerned me, Raphael,” he said, still watching the other angel as Michael stepped aside, moving to sit next to Raphael. Something was… different, about his brother. Michael could sense something just below the surface on the younger angel, but he couldn’t quite tell what it was that caused Raphael to feel odd to him. For a brief moment, Michael even considered the thought that it was him, not Raphael, that held a difference—that the Cage had done something to him and as such, what he was sensing was a taint, an effect from his time there—something that had nothing to do with his younger brother in the slightest. 

But Michael put the thought, the worry, out of his mind as quickly as it arose. Such could not be the case; he felt no different upon entering Heaven earlier, so whatever he was feeling now, it had to be coming from Raphael. Michael studied him, attempting to figure out the cause, as he continued speaking. 

“Home is not the same, Raphael,” said Michael. “It has been ripped and torn apart, something that has only happened once before.” Michael glanced knowingly at his brother. “In only one year’s time, as far as the earth is concerned, a fate befell Heaven that hasn’t happened since the War.” Michael paused, then stared at Raphael. He didn’t want to chastise the one who had been his second-in-command for so long, but the Prince of Heaven needed to understand.

“Do you want to tell me why all of this came to pass like it did, Raphael?” said Michael. “Do you want to tell me how you allowed Castiel to do what he has done?” His eyes narrowed. “To proclaim himself as God?”  

Raphael takes a shuddering breath as he is reminded, once again, of his failure. He searches for an explanation, but finds none. There is no excuse for what he has done—there is no way to tell Michael all of what transpired and expect his commander to understand. The last thing he wants to do is sit here and tell Michael exactly how he has destroyed their Home, exactly how he is unworthy to even be here. He still can’t look at Michael. He can’t see the anger and disappointment in his older brother’s eyes. If he does, he might reveal too much. And as it is, Raphael will be lucky if Michael doesn’t tear out his Grace and send him plummeting into the Pit.

“We were powerful,” Raphael begins, hesitant. “After the Apocalypse failed, however, we were weakened. All of us were. And then Castiel came back—I don’t know how, he said our Father raised him, though why He would do that I still can’t understand. But Castiel had such beautiful lies. He positioned himself as the righteous leader and soon our brothers fell under his thrall. I knew he wasn’t as pure as he claimed. I knew he was working with the King of Hell. But I allowed it, certain I would be able to command Purgatory once he and that demon found it.”

He stops. He has never felt so small, so scared, not even running from Castiel. Not even when his soldiers were falling all around him and he couldn’t do a thing to stop it. And not even when Castiel snapped his fingers and nothing but sheer luck saved Raphael from being blown into oblivion. “He deceived me and took the power for himself. And I should have died, but instead I live to witness my failure.”

it’s hardly sanctuary, but for now it will do.

the-archangel-michael:

Michael had been alone in the Garden’s quiet for so long, he was almost startled when he felt the presence of one of his most familiar brothers. Raphael. The other was nearby, he knew, and Michael was a bit… surprised to find that Raphael had taken some time to return to Heaven. Surely it had not been little Castiel that was keeping the archangel from his rightful Home… Michael shook his head, giving it little other thought as he stood, leaving the lakeside and headed to where he felt the strong Grace of Raphael. 

“Raphael,” said the eldest of the archangels, looking down at the other angel sitting on the bench. Sunlight beamed behind Michael, casting his form in thick, tall shadows over Raphael. He let the silence sit for several minutes, a part of him almost slipping back into the persona that was familiar, that was comfortable.

He was an angel of few words; he gave orders, they were obeyed; he received orders, and he obeyed them. There was nothing else to it. Ever since Heaven had changed the first time—so very, very long ago—it had just been easier to be the soldier. Be the commander. He’d lost one of the only things that mattered in casting Lucifer away, so he’d held to the main thing he’d had left. Now, though, Michael knew there was little place for just that part of him. Not anymore. 

“You took quite a while to return here,” said Michael, his eyes on Raphael. “Regardless of whatever threat little Castiel seems to pose, I expected you would have come Home as soon as possible, brother.” 

Michael is radiant here, beautiful in the blinding light, and Raphael struggles to keep his gaze on his brother. He knows it’s not just the sun that burns him—he knows it’s because he’s unworthy to be in Michael’s presence. Quickly, the light becomes too much, and Raphael is forced to lower his gaze. He stares at the soft grass and winces with shame.

“I apologize, brother,” he says. “There were several urgent matters that required my attention, but regardless, you are right. I should have returned for orders.”

He wonders if Michael already knows. If he doesn’t, he will soon. He may force Raphael to tell him all of what occurred while Raphael was neglecting to return Home. If that happens, Raphael will be unable to keep anything from his older brother.

it’s hardly sanctuary, but for now it will do.

Raphael lands in the Garden. It’s not his favorite place to wander—he prefers quieter corners, corners that radiate with power and authority rather than the endless peace (and terrible wrath, just under the surface) of the Garden. It is the closest place to their Father, and Raphael can still sense Him, even if He is dead and usurped.

Michael is here as well, somewhere. He’s not looking forward to facing his older brother, as he knows Michael will undoubtedly sense the bond he’s formed with their younger brother, but he doesn’t know what else to do. Michael’s orders have always placed him on the proper path. Trying to lead an army without Michael’s direction has been difficult. He’d hoped when his brother returned, he’d be at peace once more.

He isn’t. So much has happened in the interim. Michael has certainly changed from his time in the Cage—the way he and Lucifer no longer desire to destroy each other proves that—and Raphael has changed as well. Heaven is drastically different.

Raphael finds a quiet bench beneath a shady willow tree and waits. Michael will find him soon. Perhaps Michael will fix everything, though if he’s honest, Raphael has no delusions that Michael can break the bond, or that he can fix Castiel, or that he can put their universe to rights. But Michael is his brother, and just speaking with him will give Raphael some comfort.

He just wishes he weren’t facing his brother in disgrace.