Glenn was already in bed when she entered their cell, but she knew he wasn't sleeping. Glenn could never fall asleep unless he knew Maggie was safe. He rolled over and smiled, lifting the covers to invite her in, and Maggie gave a small smile back. “We need to talk,” she said, sitting on the edge of the bed.
She knew that there was no hiding the truth from him. For all that she'd successfully worked with the Winchesters before, she had shot Sam and, later, tried to kill him. The boys, especially Dean, would never just get over that. Maggie didn't really think they'd try to kill her, at least not if she played nice, but Sam seemed off. He was a much different person after the walker virus. Of course, she knew that he'd been Lucifer's true vessel, and she could only imagine what that had done to him. Maggie liked to think that she had changed for the better, but she didn't think she could say the same about Sam. She wouldn't put it past him to shoot her in retaliation, or at the very least, maybe leave her alone in England as penance for her crimes.
But, more than that, she never wanted to lie to Glenn. For all that she would most certainly never have glanced at a skinny little pizza boy in her previous life, she had fallen wholly and completely in love with Glenn in this one. The kind of love that poets used to write about and which she used to mock. The kind that shook you to the core and forever changed the way you looked at the world. Even, it seemed, more than any apocalypse could.
“Maggie? What's wrong?” Glenn sat up and took her hands in his.
She took a deep, shaky breath. “I want you to know that I've never lied to you.”
Glenn frowned. “Okay...”
Maggie swallowed, searching for the right words. She'd practiced what she'd wanted to say before coming to their cell, but now, looking into his earnest brown eyes, her carefully constructed confession flew right out of her head. “It's just...well, I never quite told you the whole truth, either.”
Glenn sighed, then gave a small smile. “I guess this is a conversation for pants, huh?”
Despite herself, Maggie laughed. He held his smile as he slid out from the covers and reached for his underwear. Maggie gazed at the line of his thigh, the smooth curve of his bottom, and gave another shaky breath for wholly different reasons. “Don't go out of your way on my account.” But, no, there would be no more putting it off. It was time.
Once he had his pants back on, Glenn ran a hand through his hair. “What is it?”
Maggie cleared her throat, then spoke quietly, praying like hell that no one else would be able to overhear, and began to tell him about her childhood in England.
“When I was little, Daddy's drinking got real bad. He and my mom divorced, and she took me to live with her parents in England. I was named after my grandmother. Did you know that? Daddy's mama was named Margaret, and my mother didn't care for the connection, so she started calling me by my middle name, Abigail. We started completely over. She eventually married a very wealthy man and we took his name even though he never formally adopted me. Daddy wouldn't have agreed to it anyway. But we pretended like this new husband was my dad, and like we were one big happy family. For a while, we were...”
She avoided his gaze, not wanting to say it out loud. “Then, after a while, everything changed. He—he started doing things to me. I told mum,” she continued, not realizing how she slipped into her old self, “but he was so charming, and she was so in love. First she said I was imagining things. That it was just fatherly hugs. Then she explained that he sleepwalked. Finally, she just got mad and yelled that I was...” She struggled not to choke on the words.
“Maggie, you don't have to do this.”
She looked at him, pushing all of the hurt back into its tiny little corner in her heart. “Yes, I do.” Maggie sighed, then continued. “It went on for a couple years. I became numb to it all. I'd tell him to just do what he was gonna do, but that only made him meaner. I prayed for it to just stop. I prayed for the strength to get away. I prayed for someone to save me. And then one day my prayers were answered.
“A little girl came up to me and told me she could put an end to it. She'd set me free, and I wouldn't have to pay her back for ten whole years. Glenn, she wore the face of a little girl I'd gone to school with - a girl who'd died two years earlier thanks to her daddy's beatings. I didn't want that to be me. So I said yes. Of course. Happily!” Maggie took another deep breath and clasped her hands together, willing them not to shake. “She was a demon, Glenn. Not the little girl, but a demon wearing her face. A crossroads demon. They're known for making fabulous deals in exchange for a person's soul. What was hell? I thought. I'd spent years in Hell already. At least this way, he'd be sure to get what he deserved. So I said yes.”
She met Glenn's eyes, surprised and moved by all of the love and hurt she saw there. Not disgust or disbelief. So much love. “And the next day,” she continued, her voice now steady, “they died in a car crash. I inherited all of his money. But my gran wasn't well. When she learned that Daddy was four years sober, I came back to live with him.”
There was a long silence. Glenn started to speak several times, but it was obvious that he didn't know what to say. Finally, he croaked out, “What happened? Is the demon coming for you?”
Maggie shook her head. “No. Before all this, I had a different life. I was, I guess you could say, a supernatural broker. I would get people powerful objects, sometimes through dubious means, and I got even richer. I kept some of the best items for myself. I managed to keep the demons – and their hellhounds – off long enough that the demon who owned my contract renegotiated with me. I'm free of that. Sort of. I had to do some bad things, things that I fear may eventually send me to Hell anyway. But I've been baptized. I hope I have a clean slate. Since then, I've tried to help people, to somehow make up for the evil things I had to do, in hopes that maybe I can avoid Hell when the time comes.”
Glenn scooped her up in his arms. She closed her eyes and squeezed him back as he spoke. “I'm so sorry that happened to you. That's too much for anyone to go through, let alone a kid. Your soul is yours now though, for good?” Maggie nodded, and Glenn sighed with relief. “Who else knows? Does Beth? Hershel?”
“No. I've never told anyone the whole truth until now.”
“Well, I'm glad you told me.” After a moment, Glenn started to say something, then hesitated. He ran a hand through his hair and looked down, avoiding her gaze. “I hate to ask, but they didn't ask for your firstborn or anything, did they? That's not why you're telling me now...is it?”
Maggie's heart jumped. “No! Not that. And I'm not!” She sat up and waved her hands nervously. She wished more than anything that they could have a baby, but she knew Glenn still wasn't ready. “Of course not. I wouldn't have! Or if I had, when I was too young and stupid to know better, I would have said as much when we talked about starting a family.”
“I'm sorry! I didn't mean anything by it, but I had to be sure.” He smiled weakly. “But, if that's not it, then why are you telling me now?”
Maggie sighed. “The Winchester brothers and that Bobby fellow? They know me from before, when I ran far away from everyone and took up thieving and conning. I did some rather unsavory things to them. They've agreed to keep my secret and spare Daddy that pain – as long as I help them on their current case.”
“They're blackmailing you?”
“You could say that, or really, it's more like I owe them one. I need to go out with them tonight. But I wanted you to know the truth, anyway. I just didn't quite know how to bring it up before now.”
He pulled out his go-bag. “Well, I'm coming with you.”
“I'm not sure they'll let you.”
“You're my wife. There's no 'let' about it.”
Maggie smiled, feeling grateful. She didn't need Glenn to protect her, but it warmed her heart to know that he was still so eager to do so despite learning the truth about her. “I love you.”
He gave her a kiss. “I love you too.”
“Now, honestly, these guys are good guys. They really are. But...I kind of tried to kill them once. I'm not absolutely certain that they won't hold that grudge once the case is over.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Unfortunately.”
“I know you don't want to tell Hershel anything, but at least let Beth know that we're going on a run with these guys. Somebody should know, in case anything happens.”
“What's this?” Dean asked when he saw Glenn accompanying her down to the boiler room, where they'd agreed to meet and hash out a plan.
“What does it look like?” Glenn said.
“No offense, kid, but we've got enough on our hands without worrying about protecting you.”
“Then don't worry about it. I've made it okay so far with only Maggie as my big, strong hero,” he shot back.
Maggie couldn't help but grin, and she gave Glenn's hand a squeeze. They were both in their riot gear, though neither wore the helmet.
“You don't feel a bit overdressed?” Sam asked her.
“We don't know what it's like over there.”
Glenn tossed a few empty bags at Dean. “Look, if you insist on taking Maggie with you and risking her life for these guys' souls, then our people get something out of it too. We told Beth that we're joining you on a run. We need to come back with supplies.”
“This isn't your mission, boy.”
“It is now. You claim you need my wife on this one. That makes it mine.”
“Besides,” Maggie said, using a bit of her former charm, “when will we ever be able to take another UK run? It'll be like a holiday! I would kill to have some Marmite again.”
“I bet you would,” Dean snorted.
“Must it always be like this, Dean?”
Dean looked at her, then looked at Glenn, who was scowling with arms crossed. Dean raised his empty bag in a mock toast. “To Marmite.” He looked over at Cas. “All right, what do you need to know?”
Castiel peered into Maggie's eyes, and she managed to hold his gaze despite her discomfort. “Tell me everything about the demon who made your deal.”
“She was possessing Lydia Coburn, who is buried at Mount Cemetery. At least, I thought she was.”
“We don't need the girl's bones,” Castiel said, as if speaking to a child. “We need the actual demon's bones.”
“Oh.” Maggie bit her lip. “I don't know her name, then.”
“Tell me everything about the demon who made your deal,” Castiel repeated.
“Well, she was possessing Lydia, a girl I vaguely knew from school. She'd been dead two years, probably around 1995. Maybe '94. She died in winter, I remember, sometime after Christmas. Then one day two years later, she shows up at school, after hours. I was delaying going home, even though I knew it would get me in trouble.” Maggie closed her eyes, remembering when the demon had come to her. “She sounded more like a Londoner, the way she talked. She told me she could take care of them for me, and I wouldn't have to pay her back for ten whole years. And then her eyes flashed red. I asked her how, and she asked if it really mattered. I'd be taken care of, she promised. I agreed, and then,” she opened her eyes and glanced at Glenn, “I had to kiss her. To seal the deal.”
Castiel rubbed his chin as he considered what she said. “She didn't give a name?”
“But it was definitely a female demon?”
“And did you ever see her again?”
“No. A different demon came to me later with Lilith's offers to renegotiate. A male, that one, with a very intimidating hellhound.”
“Crowley,” Dean sneered.
“Few demons favor children's forms,” Castiel continued, staring off as he considered the information. “I'm betting it's one of Lilith's daughters. If it's an older demon, that could possibly make her bones harder to find.”
“But you can, right?” Sam asked. “Find her?”
“We should check the Catholic churches around the London area. Crossroads demons tend to work a specific area, and the Catholic church often keeps exacting records about demonic activity.”
“Awesome,” Dean said. “So we have a plan! Zap us on over to London then.”
“No!” Maggie said. “We need to leave in one of the vehicles.”
“What? We're heading to England. You can't exactly drive there.”
“We're supposed to be going on a run with you. It will look suspicious if we don't take a car and actually leave.”
Dean sighed. “We have a magical angel friend who can save gas. Why be wasteful?”
“Nobody knows we are going to England. Nobody knows I'm from England. Can't we just act a bit normal about this, please?”
Dean glared at her. “Fine. But we're not taking my car! We wouldn't all fit, anyway. We'll have to take one of yours.”
“We'll take the Dodge,” Glenn said, pulling out keys. “And we're all coming back.”
“I don't know what she told you, but we're not the ones who screw others over and try to kill them.”
“She told me everything. And you keep showing yourself to be petty and immature, so I'm just making things clear at the outset.”
“Enough!” Bobby roared. “Gentlemen, behave, or Bela and I will do this ourselves.”
“Bobby...” Maggie warned, trying not to show her frustration.
Castiel rolled his eyes as he followed Sam and Dean back through the prison. “Humans,” he said, sounding almost miserable. “I really don't see the need for me to ride in the back of the truck again. I'll check the area for a croat-free landing spot and meet you guys up the road.”
“Sounds good,” Dean told him.
Glenn glared at Dean's back the whole way out, until Maggie put a hand on his arm and gave a small shake of her head. Glenn scowled but tried to school his features as he climbed behind the wheel of the truck. Maggie followed, with Bobby climbing in the backseat. The brothers, it seemed, preferred to ride in the bed.
“Try to be nice, please?” Maggie asked as Glenn started the truck.
“I'll try. But they're being dicks.”
“I gave them reason. Just remember that.”
Bobby snorted from the backseat, and Glenn glared at him through the rearview mirror. “Hard to imagine,” he said as he pulled down the drive toward the gate.
Maggie threw her shoulders back and looked down her nose at him, allowing her old hauteur to bubble up. “Try, darling.” She smirked when her accent made him do a double-take. “I cared about no one and cared less if they knew it. Caring is weakness. Pathetic.”
Glenn stared, and Maggie looked pointedly at the road. He turned his attention back to driving and nodded tersely to Tyreese and Karen, who opened the gates for them.
“That was the old me,” she assured him. “But you can see, I gave them reason.”
“Reason in the form of bullets, not just a bad attitude,” Bobby reminded her.
Maggie whirled around. “Yes. I told him everything. And I've already apologized to your friends, not that either of them seem inclined to accept it.”
They rode in silence for several minutes until Castiel appeared, hand outstretched, in the middle of the road. Glenn cursed as he slammed the brakes, but rather than be hit by the truck, Castiel instead reappeared in the backseat beside Bobby. “Jesus!” Glenn screamed, hands white from clutching the wheel.
“No, Castiel. Find a safe place to hide your truck. We have a problem.”
Things remained tense as Glenn found a place to pull off the road. Bobby opened up the back glass so the brothers could hear.
“Daryl or somebody is liable to find the truck and get worried,” Maggie said nervously. They were barely three minutes up the road from the prison.
“There is no safe place to land on the streets of London.”
“Nowhere at all?”
“It's overrun. Almost entirely.”
After weighing the options, Maggie finally admitted, “I have a warehouse there. It's warded against angels, but if you can get me to the roof, I should be able to break it so you can get all of us in.”
Castiel looked at her, his face showing no emotion. “Where is it located?”
She gave an address in East London, and the angel disappeared. Moments later, they found themselves, truck and all, parked on the roof of the building. It was only six storeys, but it was a crisp night with a bright moon, and they could see enough of the Docklands to tell that it was completely overrun with walkers.
Maggie, back when she had been full into her Bela alter ego, had rented a modest storage warehouse near one of London's most impressive financial centres. She could see remnants of that illustrious history in the poor souls who were doomed to shuffle the streets below. What had once been fine suits hung now in tatters, carefully coiffed hair now hung greasy (or bloody), and the stench from the mass of bodies was overwhelming. The whole city was rotting at once. “Dear God!” Maggie cried, her hands flying to cover her mouth and nose. She saw Glenn trying to swallow down bile.
“How many are there?” Bobby whispered.
“Millions,” Castiel replied. “All of them.”
“All of them? All of London?” Maggie asked, her voice high and tight.
“We knew the cities were bad,” Glenn said quietly.
“Did no one make it to safety?”
“A few, but most didn't. There is a survivor group with a stronghold in Westminster. That's the problem.”
“How is that a problem?”
“How safe is this warehouse? After you break the angel warding, I mean.”
“It's safe. Or certainly should be. I put a lot of money and effort into making it so.” Maggie crossed to the access door and used her knife and the butt of her gun to chisel through the welds she'd had put on the door.
“Allow me to check...” Cas started, though Maggie waved him back.
“There are more inside. I'll have to scratch away more wardings, but the stairwell should be fine. You can explain what the hell is going on.”
Glenn grabbed his bag from the truck, and they all took flashlights. Her keys were long since gone, but she had a key to the roof access hidden in a false brick. What good was a safe house if you couldn't get in? Maggie led the way inside. She listened carefully, but all sounded still within. After a moment, she started down the stairs. “Let's be swift. I have some powerful things stored in here. I'd just as soon get the protections back up as soon as possible.”
“I think she had a good idea, Cas,” Dean said from the rear. “Why don't you explain what this big problem is?”
“I thought we could try Westminster Cathedral for information on the demon. It seemed the most promising starting point.”
“And I take it there's a dubious nest of survivors holed up in there?”
“Well, not exactly.”
Maggie held up a warning finger as she opened the door that led from the stairwell into the top floor, which she had turned into an emergency penthouse suite in case she ever need a safe place that couldn't easily be tracked to her. She was glad now that she had. It wasn't a permanent home, not by any means, but it was a nice place to hide out or bring a date for the evening. She opened the door just a crack and listened, hearing nothing within. She closed it and once again scratched through her sigil, being careful to break only the angel warding and nothing else. She cringed as the sound of metal against metal echoed through the stairwell, and they all listened carefully. After a few moments of nothing, Maggie flung open the doors and led the way inside.
They fell into formation without thought, sweeping the room as if they'd worked together for years. Dean made a few snide comments about her décor as his light fell on certain famed (stolen) works of art, but the floor plan was open and they quickly cleared the entire floor. Maggie made sure the curtains were drawn before lighting candles and a few oil lamps she had scattered through the loft.
“This is yours?” Glenn whispered, awestruck.
“I suppose so. I stayed here very rarely.” The electricity had long since failed, and her refrigerator smelled awful when she opened it, but there were unopened bottles of water that she passed around. “Now, Castiel, can you please explain what's going on?”
The angel stood in the center of her sitting room while the rest of them plopped themselves down. Dean propped his feet atop her glass coffee table, smearing years worth of dust. She winced but turned her attention to Cas as he began his explanation. “There is a roughly two kilometer radius of Westminster that has been cordoned off by a group of survivors. They appear to be primarily housed in Buckingham palace, but their warding makes getting to Westminster Cathedral somewhat difficult, at least with all of you. I could go myself,” he said, gesturing that direction, “but their warding is extremely powerful. So powerful that makes me wonder where they got it from. I'm honestly not certain how safe it is for me once I get past it.”
Maggie began to sip her warm water, but the sour fridge smell clung to the Evian bottle. She quickly put the lid back on and sunk into her settee. “What kind of warding is it? Maybe I have something here that could break it.”
“It's Jophiel's Flaming Sword.”
“A flaming sword?” Maggie asked. At the same time, Sam said, “Wait, the flaming sword? The one that's supposed to be guarding the Tree of Life?”
“Yes, it is. I don't know what it's doing in Westminster,” Castiel said. “Well, I mean, I do. It's guarding survivors from croats, demons, and villains. I just don't know why it would be there.”
“Well, let's go find out,” Dean said, turning toward the door.
“As an agent of Heaven, I could pass through its swirling vortex of protection without difficulties, but as humans, you would find it to be the most excruciating torment imaginable. Much like Hell, but far more concentrated.”
“Well, who of us here hasn't experienced plenty of hellacious torment? Or is long overdue for it,” Dean added with a pointed look at Maggie. His eyes flicked over to Glenn. “Well, maybe not Kato here.”
“Actually, I have,” Glenn said between gritted teeth.
“Have you now? Well, I suppose she has that effect on people.”
Castiel interrupted. “We could try it, but if there are any enemies lying in wait, we would be at considerable disadvantage if none of you could fight. Better that I steal the sword and bring it here. I assume you have some way to safely lock it up?” he asked Maggie.
Maggie was only vaguely familiar with the story of the sword. It was used to guard the Tree of Life after Adam and Eve had been banished from Eden. It was a very powerful angelic weapon, and up until now, she'd thought it (and the Tree of Life) was merely a myth. “I have an iron storage chest that might do. Would you be able to place it in if I left it open? Sadly, I don't weld myself, so I hesitate to break all of my wardings.”
“That should be fine. It should power down, so to speak, if not given a particular target to guard once I take control of it. Let us hope that there are no angelic guardians with it. I sensed none, but they could be warded against me as I am against them.” With that, Castiel disappeared.
Maggie sighed. “He's rather instantaneous, isn't he? Well, let's go clear the rest of the warehouse. It should be fine, but better check before getting stuck on the second floor. That's where the vault room is hidden.”
Castiel was able to retrieve the sword with surprising ease, and they soon found themselves transported to Westminster Cathedral. It was a relief to see no signs of walkers anywhere, though there were so many in the city that Maggie knew it was only a matter of time before they took over Westminster, at least without the sword for protection. Castiel thought it was more likely that the humans would find them first.
He was right.
They were searching through books in an elaborate study when they heard the party arrive. “Gather up all of the records on exorcism and demonic lore,” Cas murmured quietly. “I'll transport us all quickly if I must, but if they had Jophiel's sword, there's no telling what else they have.”
Bobby and Sam grabbed up books while the others pulled their weapons and slunk out toward the noise in the cathedral. It was a larger group than Maggie had expected, and she knew it was probably not the only one that had been deployed to search the area. She wondered how many survivors there were holed up in this little section of the city. They came in armed and ready, though much more haphazardly than her own little group had come in. It was obvious that they were not used to fighting as a team. It was a ragtag, but relatively formidable, group of about fifteen men and women who had burst in far too loudly and far too scattered about.
Dean, bastard that he was, stepped out of his hiding spot and laughed at them. “No wonder they need a weapon of Heaven to protect themselves! Get a load of these guys.”
For the most part, they seemed to be armed with ceremonial swords and cooking knives. One woman had an axe, and one of the burlier men carried an actual pitchfork. One of the men whirled and came towards Dean with sword raised. He was tall and lanky, with wavy chestnut hair that fell just short of landing in his eyes. Dean trained his gun on him and promised, “One little shot will bring them running, you know.”
“Do you have any idea what you've done?” the man hissed.
“Yeah, actually, we do.”
The man frowned. “You a yank?”
“What are you even doing here? How did you get past the sword?”
“That would be me,” Castiel said, coming forward. “How did you get it in the first place?”
The group, seeming to find their wits, came slowly circling up around Castiel, but his implacable stare kept them at a hesitant distance. “What do you know about it?” the axe woman said, glaring defiantly.
“More than you.” His eyes flicked back over to the leader. “I'll answer your questions if you answer mine.” After a moment's hesitation, the man nodded. “Very well,” Cas continued. “We are here on the trail of demons who have plagued us. We got past the sword because I took it to a safe location. I was able to do so because I am an angel of the lord.”
Maggie rolled her eyes. He really seemed to like that line. But, as always, it was met with skepticism.
“Oh yeah? You?”
“Yeah. Me.” Castiel stood tall, and she saw the shadow of his wings appear on the wall behind him. She flushed, suddenly feeling very guilty for rolling her eyes. Castiel, his wings outstretched, seemed even more intimidating inside the church, where a holy sanctity still filled the air. The people gasped, and several took a step back. The axe-wielding woman dropped her weapon, fell to her knees, and crossed herself.
The leader, however, seemed unimpressed. “I'd appreciate it if you'd bring it back.”
“No. My friends and I need to find this demon, and that sword belongs elsewhere. Now, how did you get it?”
The man's eyes flashed. “It's mine! Bought and paid for.”
Cas frowned, and Sam gave a barking laugh. “With what?” Sam asked. “The crown jewels? We heard you've taken over the palace.”
The man's eyes shifted to Sam. “The crown jewels aren't even kept at the palace. Idiot.”
Sam stepped forward, his brow furrowed and fists clenched, but Castiel cut him off. “We had a deal. I answered your questions. Where did you get it?”
The man swallowed, then glanced back at his friends. “I told you, I bought it.”
“From an angel, just like you.”
He sighed. “What, you don't think an angel just wants to protect the people?”
“Absolutely not,” Cas said, and the kneeling woman keened.
The man mumbled something under his breath. “You did what?” Cas yelled.
“I traded him my soul.”
“Whoa,” Dean said, shooting a wide-eyed look at Bobby, Sam, and then Maggie. “Can angels even do that?”
“It's never been done before.” Cas peered at the man. “What's your name?”
“Simon. Simon Leath.”
“Well, Simon Leath, why would you sell your soul to an angel?”
“Better than the alternative, right? I mean, he's an angel. Angels protect us, right? He offered me a flaming sword of protection. Have you looked around? Seemed like a pretty good deal. We could live in peace! Not just my family and me, but the whole lot of us. My friends and neighbors who managed to survive. Stragglers who couldn't get out of the city and lost everything. I could save good people. I did what was right.”
Castiel looked at each of them, and Maggie noticed that several avoided his gaze. “Jophiel's Flaming Sword is worth much more than one soul...”
Simon said nothing. Another man, one who also held a sword, stepped up with his chest poked out. “Okay, yeah. Might have been a few of us. We did the right thing. Now bring it back.”
“How many?” Cas asked. When they didn't answer, he yelled it. “HOW MANY?”
“Ten. Ten of us,” Simon admitted. “But we've saved a hundred and twenty people!”
“What was the angel's name?”
Simon swallowed. “He never actually said.”
“I'm going to have to check. This is wholly unheard of for an angel, and that is an extremely powerful weapon of Heaven,” Cas said, rolling up his sleeve and walking towards Simon. “When someone takes a soul, it leaves a mark behind. I should be able to learn who is doing this. May I? It's important.”
“If you bring the sword back.”
“That sword was not meant for you.”
Simon scowled. “Yeah? Well, it's mine now, and if you want to...to,” he glanced down at Cas's rolled sleeve and frowned, “whatever you want to do, then we get the sword back.”
Cas glared at the man, but finally gave a short nod. “Once my friends are back to safety, I will return the sword.”
Simon peered at him a moment before nodding. “All right, then.”
“This will hurt,” Cas told him, grabbing his shoulder. “If you have a happy place, you should probably go there now.” Before the man could argue, Cas sunk his arm into his solar plexus. It began to glow.
Simon's mouth gaped open in a silent scream. The glow changed as it began creeping up his neck, darkening, and it looked like fire was coursing through his veins. Simon's silent scream became a real one, high and panicked. “Happy place,” Cas murmured, his arm sinking to the elbow. “You don't want to call the croats in just yet.”
Somehow, Simon managed to bite down on his scream. After a moment, Cas released him, keeping a steadying hand on him as his friends rushed to his side. The man with the pitchfork kept it trained on Cas, but the angel simply paced the floor, lost in thought.
“Well? Did you get anything?” Dean asked.
“Yes. It's Balthazar.” He frowned and gazed off into the distance. “But I thought he was killed in the war. He must still be living, if his mark remains on this soul. We have to find him. He was a friend, once. I think it would be safe.”
“One mission at a time, Cas,” Maggie said, relieved when the angel didn't balk at her familiarity.
“We're trying to get people's souls back, are we not? I think we should talk to Balthazar. We need to find out why he's buying human souls - and how he managed to get Jophiel's sword.”
“You're going to give that back, right?” Simon gasped, finally able to find his voice.
“I will bring it here, as promised, but it is supposed to be guarding the Tree of Life. I will talk to Balthazar and try to free your souls. If he agrees, we will return the sword to Eden, where it belongs.”
“Cas,” Dean said, walking over to speak quietly in the angel's ear. “If you really take it back, that's pretty much a death sentence. Not just for this little town, either. For you, too.”
“Yes, you. Aren't you being hunted by Heaven usurpers? I mean, do you think you can just waltz right into Eden with a flaming sword and no one will notice?”
“I see.” Cas nodded thoughtfully. “You may have a point.”
“I do. Look, just take us back, and let them have their sword back. A hundred and twenty people, Cas! You saw what London is like. They'll die without it. It's not our call.”
Cas looked around, but no one spoke against it. The people of Westminster looked at him with pleading eyes. “I don't like it, but all right. I really don't think it's a good idea for an angel to be in possession of so many souls, though. That's...dangerous business.”
“How so?” Dean asked.
Dean stared at him a moment. “We need to hurry and get these guys' souls back,” he said, and Maggie knew he spoke of Sam and Bobby. He couldn't care less about the other survivors.
Cas met his eyes. “Yes. We do.”
Back at the warehouse, Maggie took her time opening the vault room and chest. She cocked her head and smiled sweetly at Cas. “I'll trade you this sword for the Vladimir Tiara.”
“Dammit, Bela!” Bobby yelled, and she didn't even bother to correct him, knowing it was a deserved slight.
“Oh, come on! It's the Vladimir Tiara!”
“We promised them the sword,” Cas said.
“You promised them the sword. I just want a small rental fee for storage. It's not like it's anyone's soul or anything. And it's not like they don't have plenty of jewels at the palace.”
“Maggie, are you serious?” Glenn asked her in a quiet voice.
“Well, I mean, come on. It's a once in a lifetime chance! You'd try.” She looked at Cas with hopeful eyes.
“Give me the sword.”
Maggie frowned and lifted it from the chest, feeling a surge of energy course through her arms. No torment, though. She was in control of it. She was in control of it, and it felt righteous. Maggie laughed nervously and quickly handed it off to Cas. Her hands suddenly felt very empty without it. “With both pearl and emerald settings,” she joked, her voice sounding weak in her ears.
Once he left, she ran around the vault room throwing talismans, charms, hexbags, and any supernatural weaponry she could find into a duffel bag. “Falling off the wagon, are we?” Dean asked her.
“You brought vampires and demon hunting to my doorstep, Dean. I'll do whatever it takes to protect my family.”
“Yeah, well.” She saw him palm a box of silver bullets and slide it into his coat pocket. Maggie crossed the room, gave him a second box, and bagged up the rest.
Cas reappeared next to Dean. “It is done. I need a bowl, silver knife, and myrrh. I brought the holy water. And this.” He reached into his coat and threw a velvet sack at her.
Maggie caught it by reflex. “No way! Did you really?” Inside was the Vladimir Tiara, glittering brilliantly, all silver and gemstones. Absolutely spectacular, and it even had the emerald settings already attached. Maggie 's fingers trailed across the scrolling. She squealed and grinned at Glenn. “We have to redo our wedding!”
“A bowl, please!” Cas said, and she reluctantly put the jewels away and hurried to find him supplies.
Maggie couldn't stop grinning as she handed a wooden bowl to Cas. She heard Dean grumbling, “Cas, man,” Dean said, “you shouldn't enable her like that.”
“It wasn't like she asked for anyone's soul,” Cas echoed as he began mixing his ingredients. Maggie quickly silenced Dean's complaints with a pair of charmed silver mini-revolvers. The irony of his own fawning was completely lost on him.
“Got him,” Cas said, and then they were suddenly in a small copse of trees, looking at a stone manor set atop a small hill. Walkers lurched up all sides of the hill, drawn by the music and what appeared to be disco lights emanating from the northwest tower. The walkers never made it to the home itself, however; they burnt to ashes as they crested the hill, like bugs flying into a zapper.
“What the hell are we looking at?” Bobby asked, shaking his head.
“Abraham's Shield. It keeps one's enemies from getting close. We can only approach Balthazar if we mean him no harm.”
“You think croats could kill an angel?” Sam asked.
“No, but they might infect his vessel. I don't know, honestly. Vessels are hard to come by these days though.” Cas looked at each of them in turn. “Does anyone here mean him harm?” They all shook their heads. “Good. Let's hope he means none to us.”
They found themselves inside what appeared to be a small dance hall. Balthazar, dressed in a casual suit, was dancing on a small raised dais with a snifter in one hand and a circle of tightly clad women around him. Dean grinned and nodded his approval.
“Brother!” Balthazar called as he noticed Castiel. He left the women dancing together and hurried down to join them. “It's so good to see you alive!”
“Likewise,” Cas said in a controlled voice. “I mourned your death, brother.”
Balthazar gave an apologetic shrug. “Yes, unfortunate business. I would have told you the truth, but with me dead and you a fugitive, it seemed prudent to lay low.” His eyes slid over to Cas's companions, and he seemed to notice the humans for the first time. “Bela, is that you, darling? It's been so long!”
She smiled. “It's Maggie now, actually. You look good, Balthazar.”
“You two know each other?” Bobby asked, looking between the two.
“Oh, a Southern belle persona now, is it?” Balthazar asked, ignoring Bobby. “Then allow me to respond in kind.” He raised a fist to his mouth and cleared his throat, throwing a faux-Southern accent that was horribly mangled by his natural London inflection. “Well, hey there, Maggie! I ain't seen you in a coon's age.” Balthazar turned his head toward Sam and Dean, dropping the hillbilly act. “And these must be the Winchester brothers, yes? Cas,” he tsked, “that doesn't seem wise. It's the horse everyone's bet on. If Kali succeeds in locating them, she's got you.”
“She'd come whether I'm with them or not. I'd rather be waiting here when she does.”
“Be careful, brother. I hear that Naomi and her faction are hunting you as well. She wants an exchange for peace. How did you find me, anyway? They might try the same thing against you.”
Cas pulled up his shirt to show the warding tattoo he'd gotten from Daryl. Balthazar nodded. “Smart. I didn't even feel you coming.” He waited a moment, then gestured at Cas. “Well, how did you find me? That wasn't rhetorical.”
“I did a locating spell after finding your mark on a man's soul in Westminster,” Cas explained.
“Balthazar, why are you buying souls?”
“They're one of the few things worth investing in right now, aren't they? Haven't you heard? Everyone's doing it.”
“Well, most of them are rather slow on the uptake, aren't they? Still, better that it's me.” Balthazar grinned. “I'm downright benevolent. Now, Naomi seems overly interested in souls as well, if my gossip is right – and it usually is. Everybody's scrabbling over souls these days.” He looked at Sam. “After all, that's what you're after, isn't it?”
Sam frowned, raising his head high. “What have you heard?”
“It's just the vibe you give off, man.”
“How did you get Jophiel's sword?” Cas asked him.
“Oh, I got a lot of things.”
“It was you, wasn't it? You stole the weapons of Heaven!”
Balthazar gave a mocking bow.
“How could you do that?”
“I'm just following in your footsteps, brother. Rebellion. Survival! The world's gone to hell,” he said, throwing his arms out and spinning in a circle. “What use is living in it if you're not enjoying it while you still can? We all have to watch it burn. Might as well grab a fiddle and play.”
“Brother, we can get it back!” Cas said, his voice somehow strong and pleading at the same time. “Join with me. Give me the weapons. We can save Heaven. Maybe Earth, too.”
Balthazar scoffed and pounded back the rest of his drink. “It can't be saved, Castiel. Dad is gone, and he's never coming back. A new deity is in town. These aren't just demons, you know, nor fallen angels. These are multiple deities we're talking about.”
“Crowley had a plan...with enough souls. It's a good plan. How many souls do you have?”
“Cas!” Dean yelled, coming between the angels. “No. We decided that was a bad plan, remember?”
“With Crowley, yes, but Balthazar is family. And he holds the weapons, as well.”
“No,” Dean reiterated.
“Doesn't matter,” Balthazar broke in. “I don't have nearly enough. And anyway, I'm dead.” He snapped his fingers, and small bar appeared in one corner. Balthazar refilled his glass and held the bottle out towards his visitors.
“Aw, what the hell?” Dean said, hurrying forward to accept a glass. He looked back at Cas. “Can you do that? Say, with cheeseburgers? 'Cause if so, we really need to work on you pulling your weight a bit more.”
“I'll help you get the soul you're looking for, for old time's sake,” Balthazar told Castiel. “You're right, it shouldn't just be left lying around somewhere. But what is it you were after in Westminster?”
“We were looking for the demon who cut Be—Maggie's deal,” Dean explained.
“A female,” Cas said, “who likes to wear children. I suspect it's one of Lilith's daughters. She works around London. I know you're fond of the place. Can you help us?”
“Well, you came to the right place. It's probably Jade. That's her demon name, anyway. I can't be one hundred percent certain, but she's rumored to have been one of Jack the Ripper's victims. Kate something-or-other. Lilith recruited her after her death, and she specializes in bringing Hell's special brand of justice to very bad men.”
“That fits well enough,” Maggie murmured.
“You're sure?” Cas asked him.
“Not definitively. I'd say 80-20. Good luck, though.” He raised his glass.
Cas stared at him, then blinked in resignation. “I do hope to see you again, Balthazar. I hope you'll reconsider and join me.”
“I tell you what – if things die down, I'll give it some thought. Now, I've a tattoo to get,” Balthazar said, and then he was gone.
Cas took them all back to Maggie's warehouse apartment and jumped back into the church's books, hoping to learn where Catherine Eddows (Bobby remembered her full name from the Ripper case) was buried. Maggie showed Glenn and Dean where all the food and toiletries were that she had, and then she paced about nervously as they bagged it up. She watched the sun rise up over the Docklands, giving a clearer view of the sad sight of her once beloved city. Various-sized herds moved aimlessly, forever wandering through the maze of streets with no living quarry left to chase. They thinned out and came through again in regular clusters. She leaned her head against the window, and it reminded her of watching the buses come and go as she sipped her café au lait in the morning.
“Found her,” Sam said, snapping a book shut.
“I don't want to see her,” Maggie said.
“I haven't seen her since that day. I don't want to do it again.” Maggie turned from the window, and she felt a heated flash of indignation when she saw the disdain in Dean's eyes. “Look, that was a long time ago. I made peace with what I did, and I managed to win my soul back and move on from the whole thing. I got a second chance. We don't always get second chances. When we do, they're precious.” She smiled at Glenn, then squared her shoulders and shook her head at Bobby, Cas, and the Winchesters. “I don't want to make the same mistakes. I want nothing to do with demons. You're the ones who wanted to know if this bone burning thing works. If it does, good, nothing to worry about for the next person at her crossroads. But I gave up vengeance. I don't need to see it. If it doesn't work, well, I have too much to lose now if I get back on her radar.”
Sam smirked, but, to her surprise, Dean seemed to look at her with a smidgen of respect. When he opened his mouth, though, she wondered if she had imagined it. “So, what?” he asked her, crossing his arms, “you two just want to hang out here and bang while we go dig up your old bestie?”
“Oh, I see. We're fine for fetching you diamonds and Marmite, but you can't put your neck on the line for us when we need you?”
“How would you feel about visiting old Yellow Eyes, hm? Yeah, I know about him and all his freaky little 'Special Children'.” She glared at Sam, who seemed to have developed a permanent case of doucheface. “You're telling me that you two, of all people, don't understand what an awkward reunion this might make for?”
“Yeah, I get it. But you know what? When the time came, we sacked up and did it!”
Maggie shook her head sadly. “I never wanted to be a hunter, Dean.”
“We could explore the neighboring warehouses and see if we find any food or supplies while you're gone,” Glenn offered.
“Fine. Don't get yourselves killed before I get the chance to do it,” Dean spat.
“Don't forget to come back for us,” Maggie retorted.
“Do you think they will?” Glenn asked after they'd left.
“No, not really. It's doubtful, anyway. He's got Ben at the prison. He has to take us back.” Maggie stashed the full bags, after making sure they were both fully armed and their guns had silencers, and grabbed what empty bags they had left. “Come on. I was watching the front. I've got the traffic pattern down. We should be able to clear a couple of buildings, if we work smart. The neighboring ones here shouldn't be staffed or lived in, so hopefully we won't meet any walkers inside. Might have had squatters, though.”