It’s the only thought that doesn’t leave Amelia’s head as she busies herself making a sandwich and glancing once in a while at the man sitting at her kitchen table.
Even if his head is bent down and his face is hidden, and even if it’s Jimmy’s body, it’s plain obvious that it isn’t her husband. His shoulders are tense in a way Jimmy’s never were, and his hands shake on the table, slightly but they do. Amelia can’t remember Jimmy’s hands shaking once. Not even when he had dinner with them that last time.
Her own hands are trembling a bit, too. She’s glad that she doesn’t have to cut anything – she doesn’t trust herself with handling a knife right now.
“You can look at me,” she says after ten minutes of excruciating silence and after putting a plate in front of him.
He raises his head slowly, eyes wide, and Amelia doesn’t even know how to react. They are Jimmy’s eyes, but… they belong to someone else. It’s obvious that they do. It’s in the way they widen and in the way they seem somehow larger.
Also, her husband never had a vine-shaped scar across his cheek and neck.
Amelia thinks, what if I had said no? as he grabs the sandwich and gingerly brings it to his mouth, taking a bite.
She doesn’t even bother with coming up with an answer.
“I’m sorry,” Castiel says, and the worst thing is that he sounds so sincere that she can’t even try not to believe him.
She’s glad that Claire is at a summer camp with a group of friends until next month. She isn’t sure that she could have done this otherwise.
“It’s a bit too late for that,” Amelia answers, forcing herself to look at him. He’s wearing a pair of Jimmy’s old flannel pajamas, and they look slightly large on him.
Even if they should fit.
“I know. I don’t presume that it’s worth much. But it’s the least I can give you. I never – I never intended for things to end the way they did.”
Amelia can get that – she knows what being a casualty in a war means. It only hurts that it had to be Jimmy and that Castiel hadn’t even known everything that was at stake. She tries to rationalize it. It probably wasn’t nice to find out that the people you thought were working to save the world were using you to destroy it. Then again, it always stops at but Jimmy is dead.
Or well, mostly dead. She isn’t going to share that information with Castiel anytime soon. It’s not as if her husband will ever share her bed again.
That’s one of the two things that keeps her going.
The other is that she’s perfectly aware that if Castiel had possessed someone else she might have thought very different things.
“I let you in, didn’t I?” she asks, trying to keep her voice businesslike.
He flinches slightly, but he doesn’t move his eyes. At least he can look at her – it’s better than the contrary. “And you don’t know how grateful I am,” he answers, his voice almost breaking.
“Why are you human now?” Amelia asks, figuring that beating around the bush won’t help either of them. She should probably ask him why he hasn’t tried to contact Dean or Sam yet, but one thing at a time. Also, if he went to her and not to them, there must be a reason.
“It’s a long story.”
“I have time.”
Castiel has been out for two days on the guest room’s bed. Amelia has no idea of what is going on with him – especially since he’s human now. Maybe he has to catch up on sleep. It’s very troubled sleep, but Amelia has signed for giving him a roof, not for caring about what’s going on with him.
She finds herself staring at her phone more often than not whenever ten PM rolls by.
It never rings.
Claire isn’t home tonight – she’s spending it at a friend’s.
Amelia is only too glad that Claire is making friends again after two years of… well, not doing it. She never tells Claire that she hates it whenever the sleepovers happen. Not because she’s worried about Claire not coming back anymore, she trusts her daughter (who is fifteen by now, she can’t keep on thinking of her as a little girl anymore), but because the house feels so empty that it makes her stomach knot. Claire not being there means being reminded of the other person that isn’t there and won’t ever be again. Whenever Claire isn’t home Amelia doesn’t even bother to make herself dinner – she goes straight to bed (sometimes she thinks she should sell it and buy a smaller one, because she can’t help feeling awful whenever she wakes up alone, and it’s every morning), reads a book, maybe watches a bit of bad late night TV. She’s never much up for anything else.
She glances at the calendar – it’s been three years and then some.
It would have been Jimmy’s birthday two months from now.
She’s about to turn out the light when the phone on her nightstand rings; she glances at the alarm clock before picking up the call.
It’s 10 PM.
The first thing he does after he wakes up is cutting up his arm and draw three sigils on the floor under the doorstep.
Amelia almost throws up when she sees a red, thin flow run along his arm, but she doesn’t stop him. She doesn’t want to risk her life because of him, regardless of what she has promised.
On the third day, while he’s sitting on the couch, his arm freshly bandaged, she can’t help asking the question.
“What about the other two?”
“You mean the Winchesters.”
“Yes. Shouldn’t you call them?” She did hear the entire story, but if he has promised to redeem himself or whatever he did, then why not search for them?
He closes his eyes, his lips drawn in a thin line. “If – I could. I’m not… so sure that it would be a good idea. And I need to acquire proper protection first, but from what I gathered, human tattoos are expensive.”
“Do you even have money?”
“Dean once gave me a wallet with some money in it. When I fell for the first time. I have thirty dollars, in very poor conditions. I don’t think it’s enough for what I need.”
Amelia glances at her shoulder. It’s covered now, she’s wearing long sleeves, but she suddenly remembers how painful it had been when her and Claire went to get the anti-possession tattoo. Claire’s friends think that it’s very cool and that her mom is awesome for letting her get one this young.
If only they knew.
“Won’t they find you?”
“Not likely. By all means, I should be dead and on the bottom of a lake. By the time they… vacated me, they probably thought that I was useless.”
Amelia doesn’t miss how his voice hitches on that last word.
She doesn’t comment on it.
“Okay. Whatever. Don’t feel like I want to throw you out when you only have thirty dollars and a suit in rags.”
Jimmy’s best suit, once.
“I don’t deserve any of your kindness, but thank you nonetheless.”
It’s on the tip of Amelia’s tongue. I’m not doing this for you.
She keeps her mouth shut.
The day after the phone call, she stops going to her usual grocery shop and switches to another. It probably makes her half-insane, but even if she imagined what was said on the other end of the line… it still feels like something she can do for Jimmy.
Four weeks later, Claire arrives at home telling her that someone robbed that shop and killed a customer around ten that morning, and she was worried that Amelia might have been there because that’s when she usually buys groceries. (She took over Jimmy’s job, after all it’s nothing hard and he worked on his own; with him being gone, she could have sold the business, but she knows enough about selling ads. Why selling something that is well-started? And it means that she can choose her own hours.)
Amelia pretends to be rightfully shocked, but that evening she curls up in bed, Jimmy’s pillow pressed against her, and looks at the phone. She stares at it for minutes, maybe an hour, hoping against hope that it might ring again.
She falls asleep and it doesn’t. In the morning there are tear tracks on her face.
Castiel is quiet. So very quiet.
Jimmy was never a talkative person, but in comparison to the angel wearing his body, he was a chatterbox. Amelia doesn’t know if it’s Castiel being like that or if it’s the situation he’s stuck in, but she can’t help feeling sorry for him.
He washes his own clothes (the suit and the pajamas), never asking for others even if there’s a wardrobe full of things that would fit him and that Amelia could never throw away. He never asks for anything and whenever he takes something from the fridge, is either water or small snacks. When Amelia leaves a plate with a sandwich on the kitchen table one morning before going to work, when she comes back home that evening, Castiel shoots her a look that is pure gratefulness. He tells her that he’s sorry about it – if he wasn’t human he would gladly avoid eating.
This is not the angel who possessed both her daughter and her husband, Amelia thinks, and she can’t help it – he looks so miserable that she can’t even stay angry at him.
At least not after he told her the entire story.
He says he’ll go before Claire comes back.
“And where would you go?” Amelia asks him. She’s merely curious and she isn’t really planning on offering him to stay for longer, but a part of her is screaming that letting him go just like that would be the least Christian thing she could do.
He looks at her for one second, shakes his head and goes upstairs to the guest room.
“Hello?” she asks into the receiver, wondering who might call at this time.
“Amelia? Is that you?” comes from the other side of the line, slightly disturbed but most definitely hearable.
“… Jimmy?” she breathes, unable to believe her own ears. But she can’t mistake the voice – it’s him. Or a very good actor, but why would anyone want to do it?
“It worked,” he answers, sounding almost surprised himself. “Fuck, it worked. I wasn’t sure it would.”
Hearing him swear makes her feel strange – he never used to do it – but right now she doesn’t care.
“Jimmy? Where – where are you? How are you even – how is this even happening?”
“Ames, I’m not anywhere you can find me.” His voice turns sad, almost regretful. “But it’s not a bad place. Heaven could be a lot worse. It used to be a lot worse.”
Amelia doesn’t know that she’s crying until she feels salt on her lips.
Amelia comes home from work and finds that someone has cleaned the kitchen, the bathroom and the living room, though not her own room or Claire’s. As soon as she checks the latter, someone rings the doorbell. When she finds herself in front of a kid delivering pizza, she’s about to tell him that he must have the wrong address, but then she sees a crumpled ten dollar bill laying on the windowsill next to the door. She uses it to pay for the pizza and brings the box to the kitchen.
It’s her favorite – potatoes and sausages.
It’s obvious that Castiel is behind it somewhat, but how would he know –
Right. If he possessed Jimmy, then it wouldn’t be a stretch to presume that he knows her favorite pizza. She should feel angry, but for some reason she can’t. It was a nice gesture, and it means that she won’t have to cook tonight. The kitchen is too empty, though, and for some reason the idea of sitting down and eating that pizza on her own makes her feel more sad than anything else.
She picks up the pizza box along with a handful of paper tissues, goes upstairs and knocks on the guest room’s door. She gets in without waiting for an answer.
Castiel is sitting on the bed, the first two buttons of the pajama’s top open; she bites her tongue when she sees those vine-like scars running over what’s visible of his chest.
“Thanks,” she says. “It was nice of you.”
“The money wasn’t yours.”
“That’s fine. It wasn’t about… that. Listen, uh, you think you might want a piece?”
He turns towards her, his eyes widening slightly again. His left hand is trembling against the blanket covering the bed.
“It’s supposed to be for you.”
“Yeah, well, I ate something mid-afternoon and this one’s pretty big. I can spare some.”
It’s also about how thin he is – he only eats whatever she leaves around, and she can’t stomach the sight of someone looking exactly like Jimmy wasting away like that.
“I – all right. Leave it on the table. I’ll come downstairs in fifteen minutes.”
His tone is so dejected, Amelia almost winces; fine, she thinks. She can do this. It’s not so hard. It can’t be, not when he looks like despair made flesh.
She sits on the opposite side of the bed, pushing the box in the middle.
“It’ll get cold by then. Let’s just do this here.”
She cuts a quarter of it and pushes it towards his side of the box.
His face is carefully blank as he takes it and folds it in two, but his eyes tell an entirely different story. He might be the reason why Amelia feels as if half of her has been torn away every time she looks at the empty side of her bed, but she can’t bring herself to hate him.
“Mom, is there something you aren’t telling me?”
Claire sounds worried, and Amelia doesn’t know what to say. Should she tell the truth, should she lie? Of course Claire would understand that something out of the ordinary is happening, Amelia hasn’t been able to keep anything from her voice since Jimmy left. She also started paying a lot more attention to the way people talk to her.
But she isn’t sure whether telling her daughter that a fallen angel has been around the house for the last week and a half is a good idea. Or maybe it would be – after all, she was the one out of the entire family who was possessed by a demon. Still, she isn’t sure that she wants the two of them near each other.
“It’s… complicated. But don’t worry, I’m fine. Everything is.”
Claire doesn’t sound too convinced, but she plays along and Amelia swears to herself that next time she will come clean.
Castiel obviously heard the conversation – he’s on the sofa, drawing sigils on an old sketchpad Amelia gave him when he asked if she had a piece of paper.
When their eyes meet, he doesn’t look upset or sad or anything. He looks resigned.
“You shouldn’t tell her,” he whispers, his voice barely audible. “I understand why you don’t want to.”
“Once I was about to take her and leave your husband for dead. Why would you want her to know that I’m here?”
There’s something frightening in how blank, how resigned he sounds.
Amelia doesn’t correct him, though.
He’s perfectly right.
“Jimmy? What – what do you mean?”
“Well, it used to be pretty bad when I ended up here first. Then it got better.”
“How – how it is?” Her voice is shaking, but it doesn’t matter. He sounds as if he’s crying, too.
“Before… well, you just relieved a good memory over and over. And it was horrible – I swear it was driving me crazy. Then… someone in charge apparently decided to change it. It’s… nice now. You can actually meet other people. If I told you that right now Heaven looks like a bar, you wouldn’t believe me. But they have good beer. And – I can see you. But – I really wanted to talk to you. I wasn’t sure that it would even go through. About that… I’m not even sure I know how to answer you. There’s a guy here who knew the Winchesters and he’s some kind of computer genius. He’s been working on ways to contact Earth for a while and he asked me to be the guinea pig for the latest thing he came up with. And I really wanted to talk to you, so… I figured we could give it a try.”
She breathes in, trying to keep herself from fainting. This is too much, but that’s really Jimmy, and she won’t lose what’s probably her only chance to talk to him that she has left.
“Jimmy, are you – will you ever?”
“Hey, hey, don’t. Please don’t cry or I won’t manage to keep myself straight. I need you to listen to me, all right?”
“Okay. Okay, sure. Tell me everything.”
Two weeks after Castiel shows up on her doorstep, Amelia checks her phone to see if –
She still has Sam’s number.
For a second she almost presses the call button, but then she doesn’t. It’s ridiculous – she should do it, and she’s sure that the Winchesters would come. It’s not as if she has any reason not to. But when Castiel had said that he didn’t think it’d be a good idea he looked devastated; she thinks about his face and she realizes that she can’t do it.
She wonders when did she start caring about Castiel’s opinion. Maybe it’s that he still has Jimmy’s face, and she misses Jimmy so much that she might even be all right with having Castiel around even if they’re not the same person. Amelia doesn’t want to know what this says about her.
Still, if Castiel has no place to go before Claire comes back, she’ll have to call them. She isn’t sure that she can deal with both Castiel and Claire in the same place, but she’s sure that she can’t throw him out without knowing where he’s going first.
“If I had known, I’d have chosen someone else.”
Amelia is chopping vegetables for a salad when Castiel says it, and she almost cuts off her own finger.
“What do you mean?”
“I meant… if I had known what my superiors had been planning, and that I would have ended like this… I would have asked someone else.”
“You mean, you’d have ruined someone else’s life?” she says, unable to keep the venom from her tone. But she regrets it when he visibly flinches.
“I… I asked Jimmy because he was… the best fit for me.” The only reason why Amelia doesn’t slap him is that his tone betrays that he doesn’t like his own choice of wording. “But he wasn’t the only one. I could have found someone without a family. Or about to die. Or someone who didn’t have anything to lose. I had no idea that… it would end so badly.”
“Do you realize that this doesn’t change anything?” She keeps on chopping zucchini, without looking at him in the face. It’s nice to know that he didn’t mean it, but it doesn’t make Jimmy any less dead.
“I do. But – if I have to – I did a lot of things that I regret. To Dean, to Sam, to your husband and to you. I should be dead by now. But I’m not. If it means that it’s my last chance to redeem myself… then I would do a very poor job of it if I ignored this. Whether it means anything or not. I can’t apologize to Jimmy by now, but I can apologize to you.”
She forces herself to look at him and well, that’s obvious – he isn’t lying. And it’s obvious that he’s making an effort. If anything, he’s willing to own up to his actions. It might be too little, too late, but it’s still something. She thinks about that phone call.
“Why couldn’t you apologize to him?”
“I’m human now. And before, I thought I could be God. I am quite sure that it’s the kind of sin that lands you in Hell, and Jimmy is in Heaven. I could have done it before, but angels aren’t supposed to disturb human souls after they die and I already had enough problems keeping the followers I had without further breaches of protocol. Especially when I decided to… change how things were run radically. I’m quite sure that… how do you say? That ship has sailed.”
Amelia puts down the knife and takes a seat in front of him. The kitchen table suddenly seems too small and too big at the same time.
She had thought that she had wanted to keep that conversation for herself, but something tells her that this is the moment Jimmy had spoken of. And to be entirely honest, the idea of a former angel having a ticket to go downstairs after he dies makes her stomach turn. She lost a lot of the faith she once had, and she doesn’t particularly like anything related to angels, but somehow it’s… too much. Also, from what she has just gathered, the person in charge who made possible for Jimmy to call her is in front of her. Amelia has to admit that if anything, he never had bad intentions. If only good intentions were enough for good outcomes.
“He forgave you a long time ago.”
Castiel’s face goes from composed to something between touched and so very sad, and his right hand starts trembling just slightly. “How – why –”
“Some six months ago, I got a phone call.”
“Listen, first thing… do you still buy groceries at that store around the corner?”
“Yes, why –”
“Go somewhere else. Something’s going to happen there – I don’t know when exactly, time here is kind of tricky, but –change shop, okay?”
“All right,” she answers. She doesn’t have an idea of why he’d want her to switch, but it’s easy enough to do.
“Good. Then – shit, I know it’s asking a lot of you, but… some six months from now, maybe eight, you’ll be home alone and someone will knock on our door. And they’ll ask you to let them in. The first thought you will have is refusing.”
“Jimmy, what do you mean? If it’s someone who needs help I wouldn’t –”
“This particular someone, you would. And it’s okay – it’d be strange if you thought the contrary. And that’s where I ask you a favor. When it happens… please let them in. I know that right now you think that it’s nothing, but it will be a big deal and you’ll see why. If you think you can’t do it… please do it for me?”
“What – Jimmy, you’re scaring me.”
“I know. I wish I could tell you more, but I can’t. But – even if it’s only for two days, do it. And if you ever feel like it… tell them that they’re forgiven and that I understand. I’m still more or less angry, but I get it.”
“Jimmy, of course I’ll do it, but couldn’t you at least tell me if it’ll be dangerous? The way you’re talking –”
“No. No, it won’t. I know it’s going to be hard and I know that you’ll curse yourself for having promised, but… thank you.”
His voice is strained, as if he’s crying as much as Amelia is, and she can’t help smiling a bit.
“I miss you,” she blurts out. “I miss you so much.”
“I know. Believe me, I know. I said it isn’t so bad anymore here, but I miss you both every damned second. Though at least this went through. The last time I talked to you… it wasn’t exactly what I would have hoped.”
Doesn’t she know. She was possessed and he had no idea, and then she wasn’t anymore but he was gone.
“Yeah. That was… I don’t even want to think about it.”
“Can’t blame you for that,” he says, and then the reception becomes even more disturbed.
“Shit,” he mutters. “Listen, I don’t know how long this can hold up. I already pushed my luck too much. I’m not even sure that I’ll ever manage to call again, but in case… I love you. You know that, right?”
“Jimmy, I – I love you too, please don’t – not now that –”
“I know. I’m sorry. And… I guess you can’t tell Claire that I love her, too, without dropping this bomb of me calling from the afterlife, but pretend that I just said it, okay?”
Amelia is about to answer and say that sure, she gets it, she’ll do it, and then the line is dead and the only thing she can hear is a steady, monotone beeping.
Sharing that story makes her feel as if a load has been put off her shoulders; Castiel doesn’t say anything after she shares the information, except something about having taken only one right decision when he was in charge.
That night, she goes to the kitchen to get herself a glass of water, and she finds him in the living room, sitting cross-legged on the sofa. He’s wearing the pajama trousers and a threadbare t-shirt, and for a second Amelia is reminded of the last time she spoke with Jimmy before he said yes. She swallows and moves behind him.
“If you’re human, sleeping isn’t an option.”
“I don’t deserve it.”
“His forgiveness. Or your kindness. Or second chances. It’s not how it goes.” His voice is thin, barely audible. Amelia is starting to suspect that not getting it must be some angel thing. Maybe angels don’t do forgiveness as a general rule. And God-that-isn’t-there help her, she might be feeling sorry for him.
“Maybe for your lot. I was willing to give Jimmy a second chance when he had bailed out on me for one year. When he said yes to you. Your two friends that you don’t want to call gave each other plenty of second chances, if I understood right. The world isn’t a scale. You don’t weigh bad actions and if it’s too much you shun people out forever. You know, Jimmy was right. If he hadn’t called me, I’d have probably shut the door in your face. And you know what? In a week or two I’d have regretted it.”
“You would have?” he whispers, sounding completely not convinced.
“Maybe I’d have thought that it’d have been a good occasion to rip you a new one. Maybe I’d have felt bad because the way I was raised, you don’t shut the door in the face of someone who obviously needs it. Maybe I’d have regretted losing the one chance I had to ask you why exactly did you have to ask my husband to lend you his body. Who knows? And then sometimes I think that maybe if you hadn’t asked that of him, we’d all be dead anyway. And if we want to be strict, then I never believed Jimmy for a second when he said he was talking to angels. What if I had?” She takes a breath, not sure of where this whole speech came from. But maybe she has to put her own issues to rest if she wants to move on with her life, and maybe they both need this talk. “You can never know. It’s not even worth it to break your head over the things you could have done better.”
“So what do you do?”
It’s asked earnestly; almost as if he has no idea of where he should go from here.
“If Jimmy was still here, I’d probably never question his sanity again. I’d try to get right the things I got wrong the first time. I can’t, obviously, but you probably could. And if he forgives you, then I don’t have much of a say. I mean, he was the one suffering the direct consequences. I’m not sure I can go there yet, but if he thinks that you earned it, than I can’t question it.”
When he doesn’t answer, she goes towards the stairs, but when she gets there, a hand touches her shoulder tentatively. She turns and Castiel is behind her. He takes a couple of steps back, and Amelia tries not to stare at the right side of his face. The vine shaped scars look especially eerie in the moonlight.
“You know,” he says quietly, not looking at her. “Sometimes I think I understand why our Father always liked humans best.”
Then he turns his back at her and walks towards the sofa.
For one moment, Amelia is tempted to reach out and touch his arm to stop him, but it passes before she can do it.
Five days before Claire comes back home, Amelia calls Sam Winchester.
“Amelia Novak?” he asks. Obviously he kept her number, too.
“Sam. Listen, uh, there’s… something going on here. I hope you and your brother can swing by?”
“Why?” he asks, his voice carefully blank. She hopes that it doesn’t mean that the answer is no.
“Your – Castiel is here.”
“Cas is there?” Sam asks, obviously surprised.
“He – uh, three weeks ago someone knocked on my door. I opened it and – he was there and he said that he was very sorry but he didn’t know where he was supposed to go. Until now it was fine, but my daughter will be home in five days and I’m not sure that I can –”
“Sure. I get it. Listen, uh, me and Dean, we’re currently… sort of not talking to each other. He did a pretty crappy thing and I need to be out of his way. And I don’t have a car. But – let me give you his number. Call him and tell him. He’s going to come.”
“How do you know?”
“I just do.”
Amelia writes down the number. “Thanks. Listen, whatever it is – I hope it gets solved soon. For what it’s worth.”
Sam thanks her and then the call is over. It went better than she thought, at least, but she can’t help feeling dread as she dials Dean’s number.
It rings six times before someone picks it up.
Dean sounds… drunker than someone should sound at eleven AM.
“Dean? This is – Amelia Novak. Jimmy’s wife. You remember me?”
“Sure,” he answers, his voice slightly shaking. “Is there a problem?”
“No, but… I need to talk to you in person. Could you be here in four days?”
“I can be there tomorrow.”
Amelia is about to add something, and then he closes the call.
She hopes that she made the right choice, but she has a feeling that if she had told him straight that Castiel was there, he might have either lashed at her or started driving too fast.
The following morning, she goes downstairs and finds a cup of hot coffee on the kitchen table. The oven is turned on, but only to keep warm whatever is in there; when she opens it, there are ten freshly baked cupcakes.
Amelia remembers leaving out a recipes book the previous evening – she had wanted to bake something before Claire came home.
There’s a small post-it on the oven.
Thanks, it reads. Nothing else.
Amelia runs up the stairs, guessing at once what it means; and if she guessed right… well, she got this far, she won’t let Castiel run off before Dean gets here.
She doesn’t knock on the door before getting inside the guest room; Castiel is wearing the mended suit and he’s staring at the shoes he had worn until now as if they’d be good again if he looked at them long enough.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“Claire will be back shortly, and it’s time I go. I already abused –”
“So you want to leave without shoes, without clothes and possibly without money? You wouldn’t last long.”
“But I can’t –”
“Get rid of that suit and just pick something from the closet. Jimmy won’t miss his clothes and we both know it. Then come downstairs and have a cupcake. We can discuss the rest later.”
She has to get out of the room after that. He looked too grateful for her to handle it.
He picks a pair of jeans and a blue t-shirt, and he does come downstairs to get that cupcake. They’re good, nothing to say; he has a future if he wants to open a bakery. Amelia doesn’t tell him that, but she doesn’t try to hide that she does like the cupcakes. Hiding it would have felt like unnecessary meanness.
When they’re done, she picks one of Jimmy’s old duffel bags and stuffs it with whatever fits from her husband’s old clothes. She understood ages ago that she couldn’t give them away, but keeping them there doesn’t benefit anyone and when Castiel says that he can’t accept, she tells him to shut up. She gives him a pair of boots that Jimmy wore to go hiking and while he changes into a flannel shirt she checks her phone. Dean sent her a text – he’s twenty minutes from here. It takes Castiel ten to get downstairs with his bag.
“I can’t even begin to say how much I’m grateful,” he says, and this time he is looking at her in the eyes. “I know that –”
“Don’t. I told you, I’d have regretted not doing it. And wait – I forgot one thing.”
She goes back upstairs to her room and spends five minutes sitting on the bed turning a card in between her fingers after picking it from the counter. She had it ready for a couple of days, but she needs to buy herself some time.
Then she goes back downstairs, hoping that Dean hurries up.
“Listen, this is where me and Claire got our tattoos,” she says, handing him the card with the tattoo parlor’s address. “If you say that I sent you, they’ll probably give you some credit. You can pay them back later.”
“You don’t have to –”
“I don’t have to do anything, but I haven’t done this so that you get possessed again the second you get out of here.”
His lips curl up for barely a second, and Amelia can’t help thinking that… he doesn’t look like Jimmy at all. Jimmy smiled differently, not as if it was something secret and that could last only a moment or two.
“I guess it’s a good point. Then I will –”
He’s interrupted by the door ringing.
Amelia goes to get it. When she opens it, her first thought is that Dean looks horrible. His eyes are bloodshot and there are bags under them, and she wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he hasn’t slept in a week or so.
“What’s the problem then?” he asks, sounding tired and not up for anything she might throw at him.
“Well, it’s not technically a problem. But I hoped that you wouldn’t let him go off on his own.”
She moves so that she isn’t in between them.
When Castiel sees Dean on the other side of the door he goes pale, his eyes widening all over again, as if he doesn’t know what to expect. From his expression, though, Amelia thinks that he expects a punch across his mouth.
Dean stares at him for a handful of seconds, his entire body still, not even blinking. For a moment Amelia thinks that she had a very, very bad idea.
Then Dean moves inside the house, grabs Castiel’s arm hard enough that Amelia winces.
“What the fuck? You’re alive? How?”
“I – I swam out of the lake. I walked to the bus station. Someone had lost their wallet. Before returning it I stole enough money for a bus ticket.” Castiel’s voice sounds strained. As if he’s still expecting Dean to lash out.
“Didn’t you think you could come to us?” Dean sounds really angry, and Amelia can’t fault him for that.
“I thought you were better off without me. The more I stayed in Sioux Falls the easier it’d have been for them to locate me. I wasn’t even sure that you would want to –”
“I kept your coat, you stupid –”
Dean doesn’t even finish the sentence, his voice breaking in the middle of it, and then his arms are around Castiel’s shoulders and Amelia should be worried about bones possibly breaking, but then Castiel’s arms tentatively close around Dean’s shoulders, and she figures that it’s as good as it gets.
She turns her back on them and goes to pack a couple of extra cupcakes.
“Thanks for calling me,” Dean tells her as he grabs the bundle from her hands. “Really.”
“Don’t sweat it.” She’s tempted to tell him to quit drinking in the mornings, but she lets it go. Dean grabs Castiel’s bag and heads for his car; Castiel lingers for a second on her doorstep.
“If you’re about to tell me that you’re sorry again, just don’t.”
He closes his mouth.
“Then I don’t know what –”
“You have a life. Live it. I’m sure that Jimmy doesn’t want me to spend mine feeling bitter about things no one could control. If you also manage to stop those things that possessed you, I won’t be the one telling you not to.”
Castiel nods at her once, looking as if he wants to do something but doesn’t know what. All of a sudden he moves his arm and holds out his hand, as if he wants her to shake it.
One month ago, she’d have recoiled.
She holds out her own and shakes his. His palm is dry.
It doesn’t feel like Jimmy’s hand at all.
Claire has left in the morning and Amelia is about to get ready for bed when someone knocks on the door.
She runs downstairs, realizing that nine months passed from Jimmy’s call; she opens the door and –
For a second she thinks, he’s back. Someone is standing on the doorstep, and that someone has her husband’s body and wears her husband’s suit, even if it’s torn to pieces and the shoes he’s wearing are falling apart. The dress shirt is smeared in blood, and then he raises his head.
It’s not Jimmy. She can see it from the eyes. It’s Castiel. His face is… different, too. There’s a huge, red scar on the side of his face, made of what looks like tendrils or vines, ruining his cheek and neck completely. His hands are shaking the way the hands of someone in withdrawal or undergoing a panic attack would shake.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers. He sounds as if speaking is an effort. “I didn’t know where else to go.”
She doesn’t ask how he’s here, or why, or what happened.
Her first instinct is telling him to fuck off and slam the door in his face.
Then she remembers that she has promised something different.
Amelia takes a breath, her own hand trembling.
“Come in,” she says. He takes a couple of steps and falls on his knees as soon as he’s inside the house.
Amelia watches the car leaving from the living room’s windows.
Suddenly, the house seems empty again, but she’s glad that it went like this. It was the best thing for everyone. She decides to call Dean once in a while, if only because now that she knows that there are ancient dangerous monsters on the loose she’d like to be updated on how to deal with one.
She takes the day off. She cleans the guest bedroom, eats another cupcake, puts the others in the freezer, and reads for a bit. She doesn’t clean the floor under the carpets where Castiel had drawn those sigils.
When she calls Claire that evening, Claire doesn’t even try to hide that she knows that something is wrong with her. Amelia swears that she’ll tell everything when Claire is back home – she will, but for now she doesn’t think that she can talk about it on the phone.
She goes straight to bed that evening, and she’s about to turn off the light when the phone rings.
Amelia looks at the alarm clock. It’s ten PM.
As she takes the call, her heart beats loudly enough that it could be heard from the other side of the room.