Title: When Canary Leaves the Coalmine
Genre: gen, 12x23 "All Along the Watchtower" tag, mentions of 12x11 "Regarding Dean" and 12x13 "Family Feud"
Characters: Rowena, Lucifer
Rating: R (violence, brief sexual content)
Warnings: slightly gratuitous flashfic
Word Count: ~1700
Summary: She is nothing if not a reason to set fire to her. This is how and why a born witch dies.
She can feel it slipping away. She starts a fire in a young man's throat, but he suffocates before there's any time for pain.
Little things like that.
She's in Firenze and the train attendant almost declines her, because she doesn't have the stamps. Because she held up a blank piece of paper and he didn't see a passport like he should have.
Fine lines appear at her mouth. She's never felt age compromised beauty--when she'd stalled her aging, she was as old as people ever got in her day; she'd never dreamed there was any age beyond forty but death--but you know what they say about canaries.
She's in bed with a Chechan diplomat, making his fingers dance like a marionette. A flourish of her hand generates a twitch in his. She guides--his hand on her clit, teasing the edges. But he develops a tremor; his fingers are clumsy. She feels no pleasure.
She lets her hand drop, and his falls too. She slits his throat because she's not sure anymore that she can erase his memory.
She wanders the streets, and doesn't feel the Russian winter at her cheeks. She doesn't feel anything.
A witch's power comes from her connection to the world around her, and somewhere along the line, Rowena's world dropped out.
Rowena has never been unhappy before. Vindictive, shattered, eviscerated, perhaps. But never unhappy. She's always turned the wrongs against her into rage. Where anger wouldn't do, she turned to petty games (hamster wheels, rabid dogs).
Today, she sees nothing in the world, and she does not know how to get it back.
It's Dean Winchester's fault, probably--piecing his memories back together as she had. She'd learned too much about him. Too much cynicism. For all her love of the dark--her perspective, glass half-full of blood--she'd never seen any head quite like Dean's. She'd even let Sam Winchester put her in a cab without the grimoire she'd surely earned because she'd wanted so badly to depart.
As her cab weaves through town, she can't quite put together the memories she'd coaxed from wind, together with that moment--when they'd played a silly joke on Sam. Like it was all fun and games. Like he felt no darkness.
Sociopath, Rowena sniffs.
She may not feel love, nor empathy, but magic depends on feeling. On immediate being. She could never sever that; she'd never survive it. She'd never--
It's all Dean Winchester's fault. Him and his silly memory spell, his enticingly helpless dementia. It's all his fault. Letting her believe that if she banished her fears through confession, she'd forget them as readily as he did.
How can there be any hope for me?
If God, if the Darkness--if they can't be happy, how can there be any
It's Dean Winchester's fault.
When Rowena sends dear Gavin back through time, she isn't sure the spell will work. Not the way her magic's going. But this is all Dean Winchester's fault--truly, given his trouble with the Mark and the Darkness and God, without which Rowena never would have fallen on this trouble. This clarity gives her power.
She watches as Gavin zaps out of existence, hurtling toward certain death.
Neither Winchester seems particularly sad to see him go. But why would they, really. There's nothing here for him but life, life is nothing without want, and Gavin wants his girl. As silly as Rowena finds this, there's nothing here for her, either; there's nothing she wants from this world.
She tries to remember what it had felt like to chase dreams--all the knowledge of the Book of the Damned! the gaze of Lucifer! the richest men seeking tawdry tiny women!--but it's all a part of a language that's gone now.
You traveled so far to learn so much, dear girl, she thinks to herself. She remembers, at one-hundred ninety, stepping off a boat and onto Indonesian soil for the first time. Bright-eyed and youthful. Full of ambition.
Thanks to the Winchesters, she's seen beyond the emerald curtain, and even at the top of this universe, its rulers are sad and dusty and fragile. They are kings of sad, dirt hills.
Mega coven, she thinks to herself. Tries to recall how grand an idea that had seemed, until it became clear she'd never achieve it. She can't even claim a dirt hill.
For the first time in over two hundred years, Rowena returns to Scotland. There's almost nothing of it she remembers, though thirty-seven old men point her toward as many old castles. She thanks them in what she believes to be an American accent, and tips in cursed coins.
Thirty-seven men in thirty-seven towns drop dead some-odd days later, with rotted hearts.
What had it felt like? Out on the moor.
She is naked, to feel the wind. The grass, razoring fine cuts into her legs. Is there moisture?
Is there salt?
When she was a girl, feeling the power in the world was effortless. She was a born witch, after all, and her gift was strong.
She should dance like water, nothing but earth on her feet and wind in her hair. Nothing but reason to set fire to her, because they wouldn't burn her if she weren't strong.
But today, she only wants to go to sleep.
her world is gone
her world is gone
She scrys Castiel. She's not sure why--just wants to see an angel again. They're supposed to inspire awe, of course. Channel sublimity. But he's just a dusty man in a coat, caring for a woman. Rowena lets the spell wander, for this disgusts her. Care. A woman, belly swollen, receiving care.
Lucifer's child, Rowena thinks, narrowing her eyes. And all this drama to go with it. She'd had to breed the King of Hell--stayed to raise him, turn him. Meanwhile, this woman--all she'd done was lay back, and stay back. Yet she'll be the one sung as a queen.
As Rowena's attentions mutate the image muddies, becoming the spell of a poorer witch than she. But before she loses her hold, she sees something. She sees--
Its prospect quickens in her belly.
It will be too heavy if she waits. She lifts the magic off her shoulders and lets her wards down.
If Lucifer suspects this a trap, she knows that will not stop him from coming. She waits.
'Til there's nothing left, grins Lucifer. His body ripples with blue flame.
This time, that little spell of yours won't have any corpse to run back to. I will burn you until there is nothing left.
You're fucking terrified, says Lucifer. It is a demand he phrases as an observation.
So Rowena weeps.
(A trick she'd learned, in Italy--commedia dell'arte. A mask for any occasion.)
She needs something from him, she blubbers. Something only he can give.
Please, she says.
Oh please, Lucifer mimics. Don't flatter yourself. Any denim-wearing, flannel-wielding earthworm could have killed you. His fire burns hotter.
But why give them the pleasure?
She doesn't die as quickly as humans do. She doesn't die with her heart, or her skin, or her bones as her marrow burns to coal. (Remember the canaries?) Her spirit, tethered as it is to the air, to mist, to gravity and, indeed, to her own pyre, crows with pain and ecstasy and ecstatic pain.
This is how a witch must die--even one as severed as she. It's the most Rowena's felt in a long time.
Lucifer watches over her. He knows--he kicks at her spine and it collapses to ash and yet he knows that she is not done dying.
Of course I know, he says. After all, how long to you think it takes an angel to die? I'll show Dean, if you like. How long it takes his angel to die.
Oh--Castiel. Rowena likes Castiel.
I know you do, croons Lucifer. Or, you did. Soon, you won't be doing anything anymore. He dangles a lock of her hair, bounces it in front of what was once her face, and waits to draw out her saving spell with it.
When the spell--the last of her life--seeps out of her like blood, grasping for it, trying to revive her through it, Lucifer burns that, too. The spell flounders like a bird in darkness, and it falls to the ground.
It falls to the other side of this small and withered world;
it falls to North Cove, Washington;
it falls into a crack.
And on the other side, it falls into a woman.
Put the knife down, sweetie, Rowena croons, straight into gray matter.
Her spirit stretches through this body--so familiar, hers but not hers, from the breasts to the full red curls to her wee hooked nose--until all her toes and fingers tingle.
But the voice, says the woman, perfectly calm, perfectly unperturbed by Rowena's visitation deep inside her. This is not a demonic possession. This is two like souls, meeting across galaxies, universes--finding each other from far, far away.
No--it's three, Rowena corrects herself. The woman, the voice, and the witch.
She closes her eyes--the woman's eyes--and makes her lips a smile. The knife at her throat--it's never known magic, doesn't know what to do with Rowena's touch. The air is all a-chatter--it's never known a woman that could speak to it. Its atoms frenzy, and the earth beneath her feet rolls in welcome. This world has never known a witch--she's special. She turns gazes. She is welcomed.
And it had to be Lucifer, she thinks. He alone could have granted her body total death--really killed her. Her spell never would have traveled so far, or found this place, were it not for him.
She'd seen that golden crack, clear across the world, and she'd felt real desire. Like she'd been a girl again, perched in the belly of a ship atop a bundle of plaids set for Portugal. Fergus, freshly abandoned. Her world, bright with powerful possibilities.
It had to be him. His flames had felt like pain, then ecstasy, then ecstatic pain. Then freedom.
Dear girl, repeats Rowena.
Put down the knife.
I'm here now, and I'll show you what to do with that voice. She's nothing to be afraid of.
A coven, after all, takes three.
This is the world she's sojourned for.