Characters: the reaper inside April Kelly, Bartholomew
Rating: R; [click for warnings]rape flashbacks
Word Count: ~1500
The kind of woman April Kelly might have been. The kind of reaper it would take to have possessed a body, agreed to hunt for bounty, and then be killed by angelsword. SPOILERS 9x03.
She's never done this before.
Taken a sex.
The few dead she's carried, none of them had ever been alert enough to really need a guide. She's been told the wrong god made her--not God Himself, but something lesser. An insurgent. He'd stolen his power from a dark place and in a breath he fashioned wrong reapers out of angelstuff and Purgatory's emptinesses, he made them out of scrap metal, and it was scrap metal, she'd been told, that could kill her. Would, if she rebelled. (She's never even met Death; she is not his. This god was arrogant with past disappointments, and took his omnipotence very seriously.)
That god is gone now.
Castiel is just the whisper of a name, tin cans crusted with beans under a bridge. Castiel, he is gone now.
So they say, when she tells them her story, her duties. She can see the silver at their hips catch Detroit streetlight, shine like the warnings knit into her very substance. (A childhood bogey, those swords--that is, if a reaper were ever a child. But a child she were, from the spark of her inception to the fullness of her being, and ain't that the truth. The infinitesimal childhood of an immortal invisibility.)
She stands before them, a woman. Or only the idea of one, perhaps; the notion of womanhood, in an empowered, individuated sense, is a nascent thing here, there isn't much for her to work with. No universal articulation of woman she can latch on to.
The angels tell her that humans like it that way. The messiness of that. They were, after all, crafted in God's image, and He is nothing if not many contradictions.
The angels, she thinks, are overly patronizing.
She wonders if humanity intends the humiliation she feels as she stands before them, a watery construction of breasts and glands and a ghostly reenactment of skin. She flickers. She has been a woman for only the span of a glance, and already she feels judged. Dismissed.
"You might take a body," says the angel Bartholomew, her least favorite of all of them. He looks at her as though she is only a scrap. But he is the angel and she is the mistake and his is the world they've entered. So she is a scrap and Castiel, Castiel must end.
If she takes a body, he explains, she won't need to maintain a metaphysical one. She won't need to think about it at all. The body is a site of natural reification, and inasmuch as humanity has spent a good deal of its time railing against it, abusing it, and attempting to transcend it, it is very convenient.
A crutch, in the end--and Bartholomew shrugs his own body, not just his shoulders but the idea of his shoulders, too--but humanity has never quite learned to live without them. Homeostasis. Body image. Sex. Color. It's all very important.
In the fabric of herself, she knows her kind does not stoop to embodiment; it's not death's way.
"They are not your kind," snaps Bartholomew. "You are a disgrace."
There's spittle at the edge of his mouth, and his vitriol reminds her of Lucifer, just before he fell. (Yes, she knows the stories. She was not born yesterday. She was born in 2011.)
You are no reaper. You are a scrap, a smudge, you are a rib.
This is how she finds April Kelly. April Kelly is full of faith and sour with weakness, perfect for an angel or a demon both, and perfect for exactly her kind of disgrace. So she moves in. Slides through tissues, transposes her core over April Kelly's heart. She becomes a woman in truth.
Inside, April Kelly is the weight of a mother's loving embrace, a sister's kiss, the k k k k of a run in her pantyhose, a boot as it scrapes down her shin, the temperature of the stucco through her coat, then through her dress, then through nothing at all but her skin
her head doesn't bruise he has his hand in her hair, pulling so hard she's afraid for a moment he'll tear her roots and he'll know he'll know
this isn't her natural color
(it seemed important to her at the time, that he not know this
he must tear his knuckles then, against the wall, because she'll feel their jagged rawness later
His kiss is nothing like her sister's.
She feels as naked inside April Kelly's body as she did standing before the angels, incorporeal. There is no safety here, no homecoming. But if she and April Kelly are certain of one thing, it is that they are united in their helplessness. Their worthlessness. Their flimsy, but cherished, aching, barely-stirring sense of righteous fury.
"Beautiful," says Bartholomew.
And in spite of herself, April Kelly's body shudders. (It's a moment April Kelly replays often, the moment He said 'beautiful' and she blushed and it was all very sophomoric, as her sister would have said. He's only a five, her sister would have said. He's got the pecs but he hardly has the mouth. If April Kelly's sister had been there and she'd said he was only a five and he didn't have the lips and she'd been warned about his pecs then maybe none of this would have happened. But people hook up all the time, and so will she, he's not her first he won't be her last (wasn't going to be her last), and he thought she was beautiful. And for a blind, drunk instant, April Kelly thought, this is the closest she will ever be to God. This man, he's staring at her with the hungriest of intents, he thinks she's beautiful, and God is beautiful, and she could almost be his god, or that's what he says. For a blind, drunk instant, April Kelly believes that she is only beautiful because he says she is.
It's this same blind instant April Kelly takes him home with her.)
She's come to know this memory of April Kelly's so well, she thinks, she could rebuild it all herself.
"And when it's done?" asks she, to the angels. In her mind, April Kelly presses a towel between her thighs. She moans. The towel blossoms with a red she knows the angels burn to see on Castiel, the fallen god. "When it's done, what then?"
"Then you will answer to no god," says Bartholomew, and he grins. It's a grin that promises promise, but nothing more. "You'll be free."
She knows that he is lying, this angel. But she's found kinship in April Kelly's righteous fury, and a part of her is deathly sure that if she could only find a sword in her hand, if only she could poison someone's hope with lies, if only she could make her crackpot god understand how powerless he really is, how powerless her made her, how powerless she will never be again--
Then maybe it won't matter. April Kelly believes in violent retribution, and so does she.
But April Kelly also believes in random acts of kindness. This kind of messiness, the angels knew but did not understand, nor did they anticipate it. April Kelly's is a swirling, kaleidoscopic form of personhood, womanhood, and as often as terror rules her, and fantastic sadism warms her fear away, so too does love. Mother sister father nephew niece. Stranger at the grocery. Pastor. Man at stoplight. Small dog next door.
April Kelly believes the world can still be beautiful.
The next morning, April Kelly rises up out of dreams of dominance and fury, then eats half a grapefruit, a yogurt parfait. She calls her mother. They talk about nothing important, and it is wonderful, and she'll have to get the recipe from you tomorrow, mom, because she'll need it for the potluck next week. On her way out the door April Kelly thinks about the rope she'd use to tie up the Beautiful man, because never, ever again will she be the one having fibers tweezed out of her wrists. Then she puts a PBJ in her purse and strawberry gloss on her lips and she smiles at no one and walks with a bounce in her step. She is a person of incredible faith and awesome fury, and much else besides. She is a woman of God in a way that the reaper inside her will never, never be.
If she could, if she could have really, truly managed being April Kelly, maybe Castiel would have lived. And she as well. But ultimately, he is only a sham and she is only a scrap. She could never have been the woman April Kelly is, even after
When she dies, it's as though she'd never been. She'd never done. But just before April Kelly's heart stops cold and she's stripped from this body like so much metal siding, she remembers: April Kelly is supposed to call her mother back.
She'll be missed.