Chapter 1: Prologue
Prologue: A thousand ways to say goodbye.
He remembers fire and ice, darkness and light, pain and agony and a heart that somehow never stops aching. He remembers light (Grace) that’s both warm and cold, confusion and uncertainty and the feeling of being so lost and helpless in a world that should’ve been small.
He remembers about missions and purposes and the Righteous Man who is nothing like what he expects, about bigger pictures and about how he’s not a hammer. He remembers feelings that should have never been there but exist all the same, of betrayals and sneers and everything an angel should and shouldn’t be. He remembers about a destiny that should have been set in stone but then cast aside by the work of two boys, a drunk and an angel who’s going to Fall.
He remembers waking up to warmth and a hand threading in his hair, and he remembers promises and returns and farewells that should have lasted.
(“You must rest now, Jimmy.”)
He remembers having rested but now he’s suddenly awakening, being brought out by something that edge at the corners of his consciousness, drawing him out with a coaxing hand and a sensation of warmth that’s both familiar and foreign at the same time.
C’mon now, Jimmy-boy. This ain’t a time to be sleeping.
The warmth sinks deeper into him, burning hot now as fire and ice threads through his veins and the pain wrenches him out of his sleep, forcibly dragging him back to consciousness as he feels himself taking shape and form once again. A form that he recognizes instinctively as his mind slowly starts up once more and everything slowly clicks into place for him.
His name is Jimmy Novak, thirty-four years old, born and bred in Pontiac, Illinois. He has a wife named Amelia and a daughter named Claire. They mean the world to him, but he had to leave them thrice now in order to be the vessel for the angel of Thursday. The last thing he remembers is the world turning white on him when both he and Castiel had to face down the archangel Raphael, and then—
Not the time to be reminiscing about the past, kiddo. Time to wake up.
Jimmy opens his mouth in a bid to question what exactly is happening to him, but then a sudden burst of light appears out of nowhere and blinds him, and Jimmy is too caught up by the roar in his ears to wonder about anything as the world turns dark on him again soon after.
Chapter 2: One
One: You were saved not in order to live.
It is the silence that rouses him back to consciousness.
Jimmy feels himself letting out a small groan as awareness slowly drifts back to him, as the first thing he's aware of is his head pounding insistently between his temples. His body is sore in all places, overtaxed muscles throbbing in time to his heartbeat. In fact, had it not been for the fact that Jimmy knew better, he might have thought he had just fainted from overtaxing himself or something like that. But no, Jimmy does know better—he remembers the last moments of his existence, of waking up in the Heaven that wasn't his and talking to the angel who resided in his body. He remembers wishing Castiel well, and remembers Castiel telling him to rest.
And rest is what he had done, until now.
Slowly getting up to his feet, Jimmy sways, feet stumbling around loose bits of mud and soil as the man attempts to straighten himself. His squints his eyes, so unused to the sunlight they are once again seeing after only God knew how long. Slowly, though, his eyes adjust back to the sunlight shining down on him, and Jimmy manages to stop swaying just in time to stare at a pile of trees before him, uprooted and burnt, totally destroyed by what Jimmy could only best describe as a cosmic force. Jimmy remembers where he had seen that before, in the recesses of Castiel's mind when angel and human had shared bodies. His body. This is exactly how things had been when Castiel resurrected Dean Winchester.
Somebody resurrected me, then, Jimmy thinks grimly to himself as he glances around, now half-expecting some angel to pop up and take him; the moments pass though, and nothing seems to happen. Jimmy sighs and runs fingers through his hair, squinting up at the sun once more and briefly wondering how long it's been since he's passed on. It could have been weeks, months, years, decades, centuries. Whatever the answer would be, Jimmy supposes he would find out eventually. He looks around again, just to make sure that there wouldn't be any angels randomly appearing to gank him or something. Not that he would really know why.
The minutes pass and still nobody arrives to take him, so Jimmy figures it’s safe for him to move. With slightly shaky steps he makes his way around the mess of fallen trees, grimacing at the sight; sure, looking at it from Castiel's memory had been nice, but now that he was up close there really wasn't anything nice about it—just mostly explosions and scorch marks everywhere, like a bomb having just gone off.
A celestial bomb, the man corrects himself mirthlessly as he makes his way out from the entire area, stumbling out into a proper clearing. The path he's on doesn't seem to be used so often, but it is used enough to be visible. Jimmy follows it down, going with the trail until he eventually sees a road in the distance along with a lone gas station that stands in a way that's nearly welcoming. Jimmy only takes a moment to decide, and he heads over to the gas station first. Thankfully, there is somebody manning the gas station when Jimmy gets there, and he enters the place with a fair amount of trepidation.
The bell at the door rings when Jimmy opens it, and the cashier instantly pops his head up from the newspaper to greet him. “Welcome, sir—” He suddenly pauses at the moment he sees Jimmy's face, going pale, and if that isn't a sign to him that something is Wrong then Jimmy doesn't know what is.
“Uh,” he starts unhelpfully, mentally cursing at the same time because really, couldn't a just-resurrected guy get a single break in whatever crazy thing was happening now? “I just got, um, mugged—” An internal wince as he said that, because, yeah, mugged? Real smooth there, Jimmy. Granted, he certainly was nowhere near the Winchester-level of proficiency of lying, but even so, coming up with something else other than being mugged would have been better. Jimmy pauses for a fraction of a second, shoulders sagging, and then he tries again. “—anyway. I’m lost and I’m out of cash so I was just, you know, wondering if—”
Rather than looking at him in disbelief the man at the counter instantly gets up from his seat, eyes staring at Jimmy almost fearfully as he makes a quick, fumbled reply. “Of—Of course! Anything you ask, sir!” Before Jimmy can even get another word in edgewise, the counter guy's already busy rummaging through the shelves, taking out one of everything. Needless to say, Jimmy found himself incredibly perplexed by this whole thing and makes a mental note to find out just what the hell happened here while he had been... elsewhere. (Dead was kind of awkward to say now.)
The counter guy soon returns with one of everything in his arms, his eyes still wide and bulging at Jimmy. “Will that be all, sir?”
Jimmy shifts back a little out of wariness, eyebrows raised as he cautiously picks out a bottle of water out from the pile in the man's arms. “I'll just... take this, thanks.” Yeah, he had seen a whole lot of weird in his life (as one was wont to do in being the vessel of an angel), but this? This was a whole new level of weird, and that was seriously saying something.
The man quickly backs away once Jimmy takes the bottle, eyes still locked on him in a way that really does not feel comfortable. Jimmy slowly backs a little more, closer towards the door and out of this entire... thing. “Uh, I'll be going now.” Going far, far away from here and hope this is nothing more than a one-time incident. This is seriously starting to freak him out pretty badly, and not a lot of things can really freak Jimmy out these days.
The silence stretches on as Jimmy edges his way to the door, and the man almost believes that it was over when counter guy suddenly just drops everything he had in his arms onto the ground and goes to his knees, staring at Jimmy in that fixated, creepy way of his. Despite knowing better Jimmy instantly rushes back to the guy, grabbing him by his shoulders. “H-Hey! You alright?”
“I have been graced with your presence,” he hears the man mumbling back in response, his gaze fixed upon Jimmy's own stunned ones as the mumbles rise up in volume, loud enough for Jimmy to make out. “Praise be to God. Praise be to God.”
“G-God?” Jimmy chokes out before he can help himself, too surprised to say anything else in that moment. God? Since when had he ever become God? Last he checked, he was still a guy who used to sell ad space on radio and happened to be the vessel of an angel—not that it was the most glamorous job, but that’s something for another time. “I-I got no idea where you got that idea, man, but I'm no God.” It probably wasn't a good idea to mention that God, in his complete and most sincere honesty, is kind of a dick to let the Apocalypse happen—or almost-happen, since the world is obviously still around. It’s pretty much the same thing anyway.
Rather than listening to his words though, counter guy only continued to keep his eyes locked to Jimmy, the mumbles never ceasing. If anything, they only rose in volume. “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on Earth. We are saved.”
Shit. Jimmy straightens himself back up again, rubbing his cheek with the heel of his palm as he stares helplessly at the guy gazing at him with some sort of freaky reverence as if he was—well, that wasn't the point at hand. What had happened while he wasn't around? Pulling himself away from the counter guy (who, thankfully or not-thankfully, stayed on the spot kneeling), Jimmy quickly turned his gaze around to scan across the store, trying to find something that could point him in the direction of this mess.
A half-read newspaper on one of the shelves caught his eye, and Jimmy made his way over there and picked it up. Any thoughts of needing to scan the papers cover to cover for his answer were instantly banished; they were printed in big, bold letters, right above a picture of somebody who Jimmy could only describe as himself—
No, not himself.
“Fuck,” Jimmy swears, too stunned and shocked by this turn of events of say anything else. He looks back to the kneeling counter guy still on his knees behind him, and suddenly Jimmy swallows down the hard lump in his throat as he turns to look at the article again, half-grimacing at what the giant header proclaimed: MORE MIRACLES, GOD SPEAKS.
What the hell happened to you, Cas? The man thinks to himself as he glances over the giant picture of the angel (in his body, and that pretty much explains part of the mystery even though Jimmy can only see nothing but trouble ahead of him now) and squints his eyes to read the small, impossibly crammed text that make up the body of the article.
In the last three months the world has been going through change like no other—a change brought on by none other than the being who calls himself 'God'. This 'God', who also calls himself Castiel (known as the Angel of Thursday in occult lore) started to perform unexplained, phenomenal actions that can only be described as 'miracles'; in the last three months he has healed a colony of lepers, healed countless people who had been suffering from afflictions and effectively ended the long-standing warfare in Congo, amongst other things.
“He saved my daughter from cancer,” Ms. Burton (38), a housewife from Blue Earth, Minnesota, tells us. “He asked me if I believed and I said yes, and then he brought my girl back from near-death. It's a miracle.”
Alongside Ms. Burton are the similar statements from other people across both state and country, all of them voicing similar sentiments to this new 'God’. Even today such acts are still happening and are being reported every second, and everybody across America is in a total uproar at the increasing number of believers in this sudden, newfound religion that has been established two months ago. The believers say they give it no name, but others have taken to call it ‘Castielism’.
“It is the same as how the worshippers of Orpheus found Orphism,” Father Gerald Walters, 53, explains. “As they found their beliefs in Orpheus, we have found ours in Castiel, our God—a God who speaks to us, a God who walks amongst us and loves us so. His actions have shown us that.” And like before, Father Walter’s words have been repeated by various other interviewees across the country, all of them pledging their loyalty to the new ‘God’ Castiel.
Following his debut upon national television earlier this Monday, the words of Castiel, the new ‘God’, has been spreading like wildfire, and ‘Castielism’ is already quickly becoming the biggest religion to bloom and explode ever since—
“He’s here! I tell you, he’s here! Castiel!”
Jimmy snaps his head back up when the voice breaks through his own growing cloud of disbelief when he realizes that counter guy has (finally) moved from his spot, and he doesn’t need to be a genius or a mind reader to guess just exactly who the guy is talking to. The paparazzi, no doubt, or perhaps contacting some of these… worshippers of Castiel.
God, even that sounds so wrong in his head.
Grabbing the newspaper, Jimmy instantly does the most sensible thing that comes to mind at the moment—he bolts right out of the place, barrelling through the door and back out into the open and dashes away before counter guy could try and do anything to get him back. He hears the guy crying out to him as he flees, but seeing any Castiel fanatics is suddenly the last thing that Jimmy wants to do; reading about him through an article had been unnerving enough as it is. Jimmy isn’t sure if he can even come out of meeting Castiel alive, at the rate of how things seemed to be.
Jimmy isn’t sure how long or how far he runs, but he knows that either way it’s a time and length he hasn’t run for since his gym classes in high school. By the time he does come to a stop he’s out of breath and shaking in his legs, feeling the strength draining out from his muscles. He stumbles to the ground, nearly falling flat if he hadn’t used his hands to stop himself from doing so; the impact runs up his arms and makes him wince, but Jimmy manages to hold on enough to make sure that he isn’t going to keel over entirely before allowing himself to properly fall to the ground, panting hard as he catches his breath.
That had been—
Jimmy pauses before he can continue with that thought, coughing as his breathing stabilizes, closing his eyes to concentrate on cooling himself back down. The man allows himself a few minutes before he tries to start on that train of thought, opening his eyes and slowly pushing himself to sit down and not really caring for the fact that his clothes are effectively ruined already. His clothes really weren’t as important as to what was happening in the world right now as compared to what Castiel was doing. Seriously, what the hell happened? When did angels just suddenly declare themselves as God? And just what was God doing in all of this?
Questions exploded in his head like fireworks, but Jimmy couldn’t get answers for any of them and ended up scratching his head in irritation. Sitting around and thinking was not going to get him answers, he knew, but where could he go? Home? With Castiel going around with his face, surely somebody must have thought that Castiel was actually—oh God, his family. In the midst of everything they hadn’t come up, but now that they did Jimmy’s worries only increased tenfold. How were they even managing all of this? Was Castiel even still protecting them, or in all of this madness had they—?
“Goddamnit, Castiel,” Jimmy mutters under his breath, swearing once more as he picks himself up and starts to walk forward with shaky legs. As much as common sense dictates him to do otherwise, Jimmy can’t just turn away from his family like this; they could be in danger now for all he knew, and he had to do something even though it might just cost him his life. In all manner of speaking, he is already dead as far as anybody is concerned, so there really isn’t much of a difference between him being alive and dying again. But Amelia—Amelia and Claire, they were a different story altogether.
Jimmy has next to no idea where the hell he is, but he’ll get himself there somehow; somehow, he’ll get himself back to Pontiac and make sure that Amelia and Claire are alright, and then from there he can go and contact the Winchesters and find out just what the hell happened to Castiel.
In retrospect, the plan had sounded simple enough in his head then. But of course, nothing had ever seemed to be simple from the moment Castiel entered his life.
They were standing at the edge of the world.
Below them, upon the ground, swarmed the humans—tens and hundreds and thousands and millions and billions of them. They scattered around like the insects they were, bugs that could be so easily squashed with a snap of their fingers or even a mere thought of their heads. They were Gods, after all. Anything was possible, so long as they wished for it.
But—no. Only some of them deserved to be squashed. The rest of them had to be taken care of, cared and nurtured like the children they were. Many of them had already come to see their way, their love and understanding and had returned that love back to them (and it was pleasing, very much so, to see that they did understand). They could see the love that the people had for them, and that was all that they needed. As long as they understood, all would be well.
He could not accept it, did not accept the care that they wished to lavish upon him. That hurt them more than anything else, for he was the Righteous Man, and their most beloved. They loved him more than anything else, had become Gods for his sake so that he could finally see the love they had for him, a love unmatched by anybody else in the world. Everything they had done, they had all done it for him and him alone—so why could he not see the absolute love of their actions?
Their lips curl both in disgust and at irritation at the thought of their defiant beloved, at the constant hard-headedness of the Righteous Man. True, his stubbornness was something that they both admired, but now it was starting to border on frustrating, and they did not like that. But patience was key—eventually, they knew, he would see the truth of their actions, and then he would properly kneel before him with the love and respect that they deserved. Forcing it would not work, and they did not wish to break their beloved so—no, it had to be willing, and it would be the fact that he choose that would win them this victory. He would do it.
They would make it happen.
A gasp came out from his mouth as Jimmy snapped his eyes open, blinking in quick succession as the world focused back into shape before him. It took a few moments before he could properly make out the dark figure—a person—that had suddenly blocked out his vision of the road.
“Uh,” he starts to the person who had called him, not quite certain how or where to begin, especially considering the fact that he had been sleeping under a tree.
The passer-by gives Jimmy an uncertain look, eyes barely visible in the twilight of the day's early hours. “You know, there's a motel a couple of miles down the road. There's no need to sleep out in the open.”
Jimmy—to his credit, because god does he want to lie down on a bed—shakes his head. “I don't have anything on me,” he croaks out, because the bottle of water he had from the store ran out pretty quickly and Jimmy can only be thankful for the fact that the heat isn't so bad, because otherwise he really would have no idea how to even survive this.
There's a low whistle in response. “Shit. You got mugged?”
Best to let the guy believe that, Jimmy supposes, and tries not to wince as he nods an affirmative. So maybe the mugged story did have a fair bit of validity to it.
“Should've said that earlier. Now it makes sense.” The guy mutters with a sigh tacked to the end, and takes a moment before he shifts, and suddenly Jimmy finds himself being supported by a pair of strong hands that haul him back up to his feet. Jimmy stumbles at first, taken aback by the sudden wave of vertigo hitting him, but steadies himself soon enough with a hand against the tree he had been sleeping under. Even then his knees still feel weak, and his feet hurt like hell—Jimmy had been walking since... who knew when, really. What he would give for a watch right now.
Now that he's standing up Jimmy can properly look at the passer-by who had helped him. He's dark-skinned and tall—and also pretty built if the way he pulled Jimmy up is of any indication. Under the moonlight Jimmy manages to make out black eyes and a red headband tied around his forehead, long bangs falling down in front of his face. Amongst the (long) black hair are streaks of white, and they stand out within the darkness.
The guy flicks his eyes up and down Jimmy for a cursory glance, whistling again as he raises his eyebrows. “Well, I'd say you certainly got the short end of the stick.” He raises his gaze to Jimmy properly then, crossing his arms. “So? Where d'you live?”
“Pontiac, Illinois,” Jimmy replies without missing a beat.
“Huh.” The passer-by frowns, glancing back towards the road for a moment before turning back. “You're in luck, then. I'm just heading there myself too.”
Jimmy blinks then too, because this really is an unexpected break—what are the chances of somebody just going in the direction of where he needs to go? A part of him instantly coils up in suspicion—hard not to be, really, what with the new state of the world—but Jimmy shoves it aside for the moment; suspicious or not, this guy is still his ticket back home, and at this point Jimmy doesn't have any other option unless he wants to experience the events of yesterday all over again.
Swallowing down the lump in his throat, Jimmy starts to speak. “Well, uh, if you don't mind—”
The man cuts him off then, a wry smile playing on his lips as he speaks. “Might as well start off with a good deed, right? I'll bring you there.”
Jimmy lets out a breath he wasn't even aware he had been holding in, feeling too grateful to be wholly embarrassed about it. “Thank you,” he manages out in return.
The wry smile on the man's lips only grows slightly wider. “No problem,” he says before proceeding to jab a thumb in the direction of the van that’s been parked at the along the side of the street. “Now get in before I begin to regret this.”
The man's name is Kortez Evans, or so he says in their introductions.
“Yeah,” he starts, before Jimmy has a chance to say anything else once he tells his name. “It's not really the kind of name people expect somebody like me to have.”
Jimmy raises an eyebrow then, his own curiosity piqued by the other's comments. “What kind of name do people expect you to have?”
Kortez shrugs. “Something manly, I guess, since I apparently look like the part.” He lets out a laugh then and flexes his left arm, displaying a rippling show of finely toned biceps that could only have come from years of strict training. “Maybe I should just change my name to Brad or something, it sounds manlier.”
Jimmy finds himself smiling in amusement despite the situation, slightly cheered by the other man's humor. “Maybe.”
A brief pause follows that response, broken quickly by a snort from Kortez as he turns the van around the bend in the road, dark eyes flickering towards Jimmy once the man can afford it. “What, you don't believe me?”
“No,” Jimmy instantly returns, although he has to stop for a second after that to regain back his composure. “No, I just—are you really planning to change your name?” Hunters—or well, Sam and Dean at least—always change their names, Jimmy remembers from the time he spent with Castiel. It isn't too far-fetched to assume that other like-minded hunters did as well, so maybe if this guy did too...
He stops in his train of thought at another snort from Kortez, and Jimmy turns his head around to look at the dark-skinned man now smiling in amusement, voice full of mirth as he responds. “Maybe. It'd make things easier, anyway.”
“Make what easier?” Jimmy asks before he can stop himself.
Kortez shrugs once more. “Settling in. I just got out from prison when I found you.”
The abrupt admission causes Jimmy to blink in surprise, too taken aback to really say anything else. Of course, there was the part of him that had instantly recoiled up over the fact that he was currently taking help from an ex-convict, but considering the things he had been through in his year of being an angel's vessel, suddenly being in the company of a former prisoner didn't seem as bad as it should be.
His lack of response is noted by Kortez, who glances over at Jimmy once more with one raised eyebrow. “Well, that's a pretty anticlimactic response if I've ever seen one, especially considering you just got mugged,” he remarks dryly, a wry smile on his face.
Jimmy takes a moment more before he relaxes back down, rubbing his face with the heel of his hand. “I've survived worse,” he answers, a half-truth at best. But seriously, what else could he say to that? 'Well, at least you didn't live with an angel inside of you for about a whole year'?
Yeah, that'd totally go well. (Best of all, that wasn't even half of what Jimmy could say.)
Kortez raises both of his eyebrows this time at the words that Jimmy gave. “No offense, man, but you don't seem like the type to be able to even live through a fistfight, let alone anything else.”
All Jimmy does in response is to give a wry smile of his own, the words slipping out mirthlessly. “Trust me, I know.” He knew it all too well.
Kortez lets out another snort but doesn't say anything else otherwise, only keeps his eyes on the road and moves to drive the van around another bend on the road; the scenery flashes past by them, cloaked by the darkness of the early morning hours along with its accompanying silence. Jimmy partakes in it listlessly, blinking as he watches the sights past by without pause. Now that the silence has settled down properly he finally feels the exhaustion of the day's events settling into him, eyelids already starting to droop down as the quiet rock of the van quickly brings him into a semblance of near-unconsciousness.
Considering his current situation Jimmy knows that it’s a bad idea to drop his guard down so easily—especially to a stranger that had just picked him up on the street (who also happened to be an ex-convict to boot). But too much has happened for Jimmy and he's just so tired, and Jimmy's pretty sure that the day later isn't going to be any more easier. If anything, he's certain things are only going to get crazier—after all, his lookalike is now 'God', and who knows what else is going to happen in the hours to come. He's going to need all the strength he can get. So Jimmy allows the hum of the engine to lull him deeper, eyelids slipping fully shut as the man drifts off into the closest resemblance of sleep he's going to get like this.
At least this is much better than sleeping under a tree.
Jimmy spends the next few days with Kortez as he drives them both towards Pontiac, although Jimmy hasn't quite asked the dark-skinned man what his intentions were in going there. Jimmy isn't sure if he wants to ask, since that would give Kortez a window to ask the same question back to him—and Jimmy doesn't really have anything to answer with besides the truth, which really wouldn't go well at all. The constant string of strangely realistic dreams that follow him around doesn’t help much in matters either; weird dreams are one thing, but having to go through one almost every other night is something that Jimmy is pretty sure he shouldn’t be getting, especially when he can’t even make heads of tails out of them.
Sometimes Jimmy wonders when his life had gotten so complicated.
To his own comfort though, Kortez makes no move to ask such a question, a fact that eases Jimmy greatly and is also somewhat thankful for. He supposes it’s most likely from the fact that the man has a couple of things about himself he doesn't want to talk about either—as it was wont to happen to any former convict. In a sense, they both have their own respective can of worms, and neither of them are that willing to talk about it. That makes things somewhat easier, at least.
Still, despite that Kortez does turn out to be excellent company—while he doesn't get kingly meals for them he still goes out to ensure that both of them don't starve to death even if Jimmy has nothing to pay back Kortez with. More than once he had voiced that opinion to the other (sort of weakly, though, because even Jimmy wasn't that all inclined to lose his one source of food), but Kortez merely shook it off said it was nothing.
“Besides,” he adds on, “Better to have somebody vouching for me when I make my mark there, right? You gotta back me up when I need it, Jimmy.”
Jimmy offers back a smile in response as he tears open the packaging for the pastry that Kortez had gotten for him. “Of course.” He figures he owes that guy that much, at least, considering how he pretty much saved his life when he needed it most.
Smiling back himself, Kortez turns his head up to look past the dusty front window of the van, squinting his eyes as he attempts to read the sign at the distance. “The exit's about another three hours. Once we get past that, it shouldn't be that long before we reach Pontiac.”
Not too far away from home, then. Last time, Jimmy would have been full of joy and eagerness at the prospect of returning after having been dragged across the world by some miracle; but now, he felt nothing but a rising sense of dread filling up the hollow pit of his stomach. How were Amelia and Claire faring now, with Castiel pulling his shtick around the world? Were the people in the neighbourhood badgering them about him, or had they fled and hid from this madness? As much as Jimmy didn't like to admit it, the latter option would be much safer—even if it meant that he wouldn't be able to see them. Still, he had to know, at least, even if the trip might possibly put him in harm's way. He had to know that his family would be alright.
He breaks out from his thoughts when Kortez nudges him with an elbow, jerking his head in the direction of the open, uneaten packet of bread still held in Jimmy's hands. “Are you actually going to eat that or not?” he asks while raising one eyebrow.
“Oh,” Jimmy starts, looking back down at his bread and raising it up, staring for a moment before he takes a bite. “Sorry,” he says, once it's been swallowed down.
Kortez regards Jimmy with a cursory look then, dark eyes gazing at his face with intent. Jimmy looks back, uncertain, gulping down the hard lump in his throat. The moment passes between them for a beat, and then two, then Kortez pulls his gaze away from Jimmy and looks back at the front, speaking. “It's okay. You seem to have a lot on your mind.”
Jimmy finds himself letting out a mirthless huff to that statement, shoulders shrugging slightly. “Even you can see that too, huh?” Was his worry really that obvious? It has been a while since he could actually communicate with another human, after all. Castiel—the Castiel who had been with (inside) him—must have somehow rubbed something onto him. Jimmy can't remember when had been the last time he had to think so much in talking to somebody; doubly so, because Kortez had been with him for the last few days already.
The corners of Kortez's lips twitch upwards ever so slightly. “Knowing how to read body language can save you a good number of beatings from the others while in the slammer,” he says mildly, but it's clear enough to understand what the dark-skinned man means by that, and Jimmy can't help but wince a bit in sympathy. Stories of what goes on in prison are not new things to him, but it's never a fun time when he imagines them. Still, jail really isn't as bad as the Apocalypse, but that thought gives little comfort to him.
Seemingly having taken note of Jimmy's discomfort, Kortez quickly returns to eating his own bread, speaking up again only after another minute or so as he talks between munches. “Well, we're just about nearly there, so just tell me the neighbourhood you're in and I'll drop you there. From there we'll just go on our separate ways.”
'Separate ways' is pretty much one hell of an understatement for what Jimmy is going to face, considering the situation, but he says nothing about that and only smiles slightly, taking another bite out from his bread. “Thanks a lot, really. I owe you for this.”
Kortez finishes up the last of his bread before smiling back, a spark of amusement glinting in his eyes. “No problem.”
“Um,” he starts, hesitating, because there's no way he going to be able to explain this in a wholly rational matter. “You can just drop me off here; I'll be able to get the rest of the way myself.” Please just say yes and we can be on our nice, separate ways.
Unfortunately, Jimmy's luck can only run for so long.
“It's fine,” Kortez replies instead with an accompanying wave of his hand, and Jimmy feels his hopes swiftly sinking down like a stone in water. “Making sure that you're safe back home is the most important thing now. I'll only be able to put my mind at ease then.”
This is just the beginning of my troubles, believe me. “You really don't need to do that, Evans,” Jimmy returns, but even he can hear how useless his voice is now at this moment.
The dark-skinned man rolls his eyes in response, slowing down over at the next corner while he speaks. “Kortez, please. After all this time, I would have hoped that we'd already be on a first name basis.”
“Kortez,” Jimmy starts again, anxiety now in his voice as he looks out of the window and starts worrying the corner of his bottom lip as their destination drew all the more closer. He's really starting to get a bad feeling about this, and it's hard to ignore how his senses were all but screaming for him to get out out OUT; if that isn't a sign, then he really doesn't know what else is. “You really should just drop me here and get away.” He pauses, taking a moment to catch his breath and then explain before Kortez can ask any questions. “Something really bad is going to happen soon and I don't want you to get involved in it.”
A raised eyebrow is what he gets in response, and Jimmy has half a mind to bash his head against the most convenient wall as Kortez responds. “It can't be any worse than what happens in jail,” he says, voice light and totally the opposite of what Jimmy had been hoping otherwise.
Taking a breath to calm himself down, Jimmy looks at the dark-skinned man and starts very seriously. “Kortez. You helped me when I needed it, and now I am trying to repay that favour. I have no idea what will happen the moment people here see me because somewhere out there is a guy with—”
“Glory be to our God!”
“Fuck,” Jimmy swears emphatically right at the same when a hand slaps itself palm-first against the window of the van, and the face soon rises up to accompany that hand. A moment passes by before Jimmy links a name of the face he sees—Mrs. Davidson, right from three doors over. He remembers the wavy, auburn hair and her vaguely sharp nose that's now pressed against the glass of the van window. Her blue eyes, usually quiet and gentle, now instead light up in some sort of crazed, fanatical brainwashed frenzy, and her breaths fog up the part of the window she's pressing her pudgy face right up against.
Right beside him, Kortez seems to be just as stunned as Jimmy is, dark eyes going wide as he shirks back a little. He stares at the woman and then at Jimmy with thinly-veiled shock on his features for a few beats before his mouth moves, the words starting to form on his lips. “Jimmy, what’s going on—” he starts to say, but there’s another thump from Kortez’s side of the van this time and the jumps again. Both men dart their head in the other direction, watching the slightly-bald man also now pressing his face against the window panel and staring right at Jimmy without even so much as pausing to blink.
“Glory to God in the highest,” he hears the man chanting out, the hymn echoing hollowly in his ears as Mrs. Davidson does the same from the other side, her words in sync with the other. “And peace to His people on Earth.”
The Gloria. Jimmy knows it as well by heart, having always said it during Sunday masses. It’s always been one of his favourite things to say in worship, but right now this isn’t worship at all—no, this is just madness, chaotic and horrible and utterly fucking crazy. Castiel must have done something to the neighbourhood here, something that Jimmy really doesn’t want to think about; the mere idea of what he might have done only brings up bile in his throat, and Jimmy can’t help but take a moment to just think: Damnit, Cas, just what the heck happened to you?
There were no answers coming back to him, of course—not that Jimmy had been expecting any (that would have been a lot worse, he thinks), but peering through the window now Jimmy can see figures of other people now starting to gather around them. Heck, it wouldn’t even be too far-fetched to assume that the entire neighbourhood is slowly circling around them. Jimmy only takes a second to decide on his next course of action. He turns around to Kortez and speaks, the words leaving him in a hurried hiss. “Let’s get out of here!” He could only hope that Amelia and Claire would be alright, wherever they were—because there is no way that he can go and check on them now, not with his neighbourhood going crazy like this.
The words seem to prompt Kortez into action, at least, and the dark-skinned man quickly nods an affirmative before reaching for the ignition, starting the van and wasting no time in busting out the gas pedal. Jimmy lets out a yelp of surprise when he feels the entire van lurching for a second before it starts speeding off, mercilessly throwing people down to the road when it does so. In other situations Jimmy would really be sorry for that, but right now his main concern was pretty much to ensure his own sanity and survival.
“You know, I would have fucking appreciated a heads up about something like this,” Kortez snaps from beside him, sounding very reasonably pissed off and also some parts shaken by what had just happened—and to be honest, Jimmy can’t exactly blame him for that. “How do you even live there?”
Jimmy forces a smile, and it’s not exactly a very reassuring one. “It’s a long story.”
Kortez curses under his breath, all semblance of nice ex-convict pretty much gone now as he glances at the rear-view window. “Is this about your double on the news?”
“Ye—” Jimmy starts, then stops as the words properly digest into his head and he whips around to stare at Kortez with wide eyes. “Wait a minute, you knew?”
“Your face is printed on almost every fucking thing I’ve been reading ever since I got out,” the dark-skinned man snaps back again as his eyes stick to the road. “You could have told me you had a crazy twin brother, you know. I won’t judge.”
Jimmy doesn’t know if he should cry or laugh at this moment—he really feels like doing both at the same time. Instead all he does is to make a face and respond in a weak mutter. “I don’t really know how to explain it.”
“Then do,” is all that Kortez snarls back out in return before he abruptly turns the steering wheel around and Jimmy yelps out in surprise again as the van lurches once more when it does a complete three-sixty revolution on the road, tires screeching as the rubber burns against tarmac.
Straightening himself back up, Jimmy regains his composure and looks over to Kortez, who is looking back at him likewise. Jimmy takes a breath, pushing back down the uncomfortable feeling rising up from his throat and manages to rasp out to the other. “Can we just talk about this later?”
Kortez gives him another look in return, but the moment soon passes and the dark-skinned man turns back to the road. “Later,” he echoes, a confirmation of sorts.
Jimmy nods. “Later,” he agrees; he owes the other that much now, at least, for doing all of this. Later, he'll tell Kortez everything he knows. But right now, all he really wants to do is to get out of here as soon as possible, and as quickly as he can.
Kortez, however, doesn't seem to have the same sentiments—the van remains stationery, and the other's dark eyes peer over the flare of the setting sun, tilting his head just slightly as he squints. “Your family's inside there, right?” he asks after a pause, and things instantly click in Jimmy's head then.
“Yes, bu—wait!” he shouts, reaching out with a hand to still Kortez before the man can start the van up again. Kortez looks at Jimmy with raised eyebrows at the action, but remains silent and allows Jimmy to continue speak (which he does, in a hurried fluster). “We can't go back in there, its suicide!”
All Kortez does in response is to give a very flat and unimpressed look at Jimmy. “Then are you going to just leave your family there?”
“Then we're going,” Kortez says with finality, mouth set into a grim line as he shoves Jimmy's hands off him and promptly presses down onto the gas pedal. The van lurches once more before it starts to speed off, the engine thrumming violently under Jimmy's feet as Kortez truly puts the pedal to the metal. Needless to say, everything about this is a very bad idea, but Jimmy knows that Kortez has a point—he can't just abandon Amelia and Claire in that crazy place, not like this. He had to get them out.
Grabbing the handhold on top of him to steady himself, Jimmy looks over to Kortez and shouts at him. “Once this is over, remind me to get you a six-pack!”
Kortez lets out one of his usual snorts in response. “I don't drink,” he says before his eyes suddenly widen and the dark-skinned man abruptly swivels the van to the right. Jimmy yelps in surprise as he feels the van swaying from the force of that turn, twisting his head around to see just what had happened to have Kortez suddenly shift the van like that.
“Some crazy dude running out onto the street,” Kortez answers the question for Jimmy, scowling visibly as he straightens the van back on the road. “Would have knocked him down if I hadn't—”
“Kortez!” Jimmy shouts out, pointing as he sees another person going out onto the street. Kortez instantly reacts, hand flying to the gear stick as he switches gears and presses down on the brake—the van doesn't lurch this time, but Jimmy can feel the shift in gravity as Kortez effortlessly pulls out a drift like those he had seen in Hollywood movies. It's almost a bit surreal experiencing it in a situation like this, and Jimmy can feel his heart beating loudly in his chest as Kortez eases out of the drift, quickly returning back to the proper road and speeding up.
Jimmy looks over towards Kortez when he can get his breaths again, and the dark-skinned man only shrugs helplessly. “Guess you know what I got in the slammer for.”
Gulping down a breath, Jimmy takes a moment more to calm down before he manages to reply. “Right now, I can't really bring myself to care.” Because seriously? Right now, Kortez's crazy Hollywood-like driving skills were pretty much all they had to accomplish anything in here.
God, they're so screwed.
“Glad to know,” Kortez remarks back dryly before he glances out of the window again, eyes narrowing as he turns back to Jimmy. “You're going to have to direct me to where your house is, or else I'm going to burn out the rubber before we can get to your family. These tires ain't going to hold for long.”
Jimmy sucks in another breath and nods, ignoring the now-darkening skies as he looks at their surroundings, matching his memory to what he's seeing now and giving out directions. “Go straight for two turns and then take the first left after that.”
Kortez makes a hum in return and presses his foot down onto the pedal again. “Alright, let's go.”
As they cross the final stretch of road to where the Novak residence lies just ahead, Jimmy shifts around nervously, glancing past the windows and just waiting for some more of those crazed fanatics to start jumping out from nowhere. The silence unsettles him more than anything else—the unnatural stillness is worrying. Jimmy worries his bottom lip with his teeth, fingers flexing reflexively against the material of his now heavily-worn pants. The tension is rising with each passing second, and it’s starting to get on the edge of unbearable; Jimmy isn't sure just how much more of waiting, of this anticipation that he can take.
Kortez easily notes the restlessness that Jimmy is displaying, letting out a huff of breath as the dark-skinned man tightens his grip on the steering wheel. Jimmy may not be an expert in body language in the way Kortez is, but even he can figure out that the other is also nervous—something he can't really blame him for. It's not every day when you just so happen to pick up the astounding lookalike of the being going around the world and proclaiming himself 'God'. In fact, it would have almost been funny if it wasn't the fact that it's currently happening to them right now.
His house stands the same as the last time he had seen it—about three years ago, if he remembers correctly—although the sigh does nothing to ease the nervousness still rising up in Jimmy's gut. Kortez is silent as he pulls the van up onto the driveway, putting the vehicle on hold but refusing to kill off the engine in case they required a hasty escape; it’s a plan that Jimmy can readily agree to.
“Should I come along?” Kortez asks, quiet concern audible in his voice as he frowns, clearly debating.
Even though Jimmy knows that the help would be appreciated (and maybe even important), he shakes his head anyway. “No—its fine. I'll go in by myself.”
The frown on Kortez's face deepens, the expression showing quite plainly that he did not agree, but the man still nods after a pause, although he does have a few words of his own to speak out after that. “Five minutes, then I'll come in as well.”
It's not the best plan and a lot of things can go wrong in five minutes, but Jimmy takes his chances all the same and acknowledges Kortez's words with a nod. “Five minutes,” he echoes back, understanding, pushing down the lump in his throat as he says that and reaches for the door handle. Despite his growing nerves Jimmy manages to get out of the van successfully, pointedly ignoring the way his feet shakes and how his knees feel like buckling under his weight at any given moment. Even Jimmy knows that he’s nothing much than a bundle of nerves now, useless against anything that might be out to gank him, but he has to do this. Needs to see things for himself before he can truly move on, and go about his next move.
The path to his front door suddenly seems too long when Jimmy always remembers it being much shorter instead, every step almost too little for his tastes. Reaching the front steps of his house seems to take an eternity of its own, and Jimmy’s nerves are shot by the time he’s actually there. He gulps again, slowly steeling himself and reaches for the door handle with clammy hands, feeling the cool metal against his fingers.
Now or never, Novak, Jimmy thinks to himself and proceeds to suck in a breath, pulling out a burst of strength to open the door and step right into the house before he can stop himself; he lets go of the door handle as he enters, and the resounding slam that comes after that almost sounds like a finality of its own. The sound still echoes in his ears as Jimmy looks around the place, eyes slowly adjusting into the darkness of his house; nothing’s on as far as he can tell, but it always pays to be cautious. Letting out a hiss of breath Jimmy starts to move, the floorboards creaking obscenely loud under his feet with each step that he takes, the sound causing him to wince. It’s quiet; far too quiet even for this time of night, and the fact that the door isn’t locked is a major cause for concern. Had something happened to Amelia and Claire already?
No, he can’t think that now. Jimmy does a quick shake of his head to dislodge the thoughts, focusing back to the task at hand as he moves past the living room and heads for the stairs while pointedly ignoring the loud taps of his shoes against the floor. Jimmy pauses at the foot of the stairs, looking upwards to the second floor as he worries his bottom lip once more. He hears the sound of his own breathing in the still silence of the place, the thudding of his heart in his chest as another bout of nervousness washes over him. The first floor is devoid of anybody but himself; Jimmy can figure that much out, at least. The upper floor, though… who knew? Anything might happen, and Jimmy really doesn’t want to meet anything because he’s not equipped to handle anything at all.
Jimmy looks away from the top of the stairs to glance around his surroundings, attempting to find something that he could arm himself with. Maybe something that’s preferably iron-made—at least if there’s a ghost, he’d be able to get it away. If it’s a human, he could knock said person out with a properly-executed blow. Still, Jimmy does hope that there’s really nothing up there ready to kill him. He’s not trained for these things.
After a bit of rummaging around, Jimmy eventually manages to find a golf club in the stand of the living room—it’s been years since he’s actually touched the set sitting there, and Jimmy distinctly remembers having made plans to throw it away now. Right now he’s very glad that it didn’t happen, because only God (the real God, if he’s even around) knows how much he needs this right now.
Now armed with a golf club in his hand, Jimmy does feel slightly better as he returns to the stairs with it and after another moment’s hesitation, starts to climb up. The golf club is heavy and highly unwieldy in his (sweaty) hands, but it’s the best thing that Jimmy’s got right now and now he pretty much needs to have all the luck he can get. The stairs creak under his weight as Jimmy climbs up step by step, eyes focused at the top while he steadies his hands to ensure that he’s holding the club properly, gulping all the while. He’s nearly there now, just a few more steps and—
Jimmy reaches the top and stops, stilling again as he strains his ears and eyes in a bid to try and take notice of anything strange that might happen. He waits, nervous and edgy, as a moment beats by, and then two followed by a few more before Jimmy can determine that he’s safe and relaxes a bit. He starts walking again, footsteps echoing loudly in the hallway as Jimmy goes to where the master bedroom is—where he and Amelia used to be in, happy to live their lives until ‘destiny’ had changed things forever between them.
Now wasn’t the time for regrets and the ‘what ifs’, though; Jimmy gets to his bedroom, where the door has been left open. He pauses at the threshold once more, composing himself before he cautiously reaches out to the doorknob and pushes against it with his fingers. The door swings open without interruptions, bouncing off the wall ever so slightly when it hits. Like the rest of the house the room is dark and quiet—although if anything, the silence only seems far more intense and heavy in his ears as Jimmy carefully treads inside, eyes narrowing as he tries to make out something through the dim moonlight shining through the window.
“Ames?” he calls out, his voice leaving him in a near-whisper. Jimmy pauses, takes a deep breath, and then tries again (this time with more volume). “Amelia?” Jimmy inches more into the room, the handle of the golf club slippery in his palms as he feels sweat starting to drip from his temples and rolling down his neck, his back, his arms, his hands. Jimmy feels the tension building up again, rising within him like a wave and threatening to overwhelm him entirely; his heartbeat pounds in his chest and between his temples, every thud resounding in his ears like the beats of a drum. It sounds in time with his footsteps as Jimmy makes himself move, walking to the bed and unconsciously reaching out to touch the sheets, giving himself a moment to indulge on the small comfort of seeing his home again after three years.
Three years. It's hard to believe the amount of time that's passed even until now. Three years since the disastrous outcome of his reunion with his family, three years since he's made the choice to fully serve as Castiel's vessel—three years since he's passed on. Three years, and the world had already shifted, changed and moved on without him. Three years, and everything he knows has fallen into absolute, chaotic, utter madness.
Jimmy closes his eyes and lets out a loud breath, pushing away the flood of emotions that's threatening to wash over him. His hand skims across the surface of his bed, fingertips and palm brushing over the smooth material of the bedspread, relishing in the warm familiarity of his room. If there's one thing he hasn't quite forgotten yet, it’s the comforting feel that his room gives him.
Suddenly the smooth texture of the bedspread is interrupted by something else entirely, and Jimmy opens his eyes back to look at where his hand is. He raises it up, blinking when he sees the piece of paper lying there where his hand had been, and the man takes a moment to debate on his decision before he moves to pick the paper up. He reaches to the bedside table and promptly flicks the table lamp on, the glow of the light just enough for Jimmy to make out the familiar handwriting (Amelia's, he realizes with a jolt) as he reads the letter now in his hand.
I don't know if you'll actually ever come back here, but all the same I think you deserve to know, somehow, at least. I feel that I owe you this much, after... last time.
Both of us—Claire and I—we've gone into hiding. I don't know if you do know what's happened, but the angel—Castiel—he's been going around the neighbourhood converting the people here to worship him. I don't know what he's doing or if Castiel is even aware of the things that he is doing, but our lives in the last few weeks have not been good. He's wearing your body, Jimmy, and everyone's starting to link Castiel to us. I'm afraid to imagine just what exactly Castiel intends to do, but seeing him going around, hearing him on the news... I don't know, Jimmy, but I only feel that something wrong is going to happen.
Before you start asking me, I don't blame you for this. I don't think anybody would have guessed that this would happen. All the same, though, it’s no longer safe for Claire and I to remain here, so we've moved. An acquaintance has agreed to take us in and keep us safe until all of this blows over. He's an old friend of mine, and I trust him—so you don't need to worry, Jimmy.
I'm sorry I doubted you back then, but now I guess I know better. I'll keep Claire safe as much as I can—she misses you a lot, Jimmy, and I really hope that we can finally see each other again in peace.
As he finishes reading the last words of the letter Jimmy lets out a shaky breath he wasn't even aware he had been holding back, barely registering the fact that his hand is trembling as he sets the letter down onto the bedside table. He lets his hand fall back to his side once the paper is placed onto the table, closing his eyes as Jimmy sucks in a breath. They're not here, then. He won't get to see them. But they're okay and they're safe, and that's the most important thing right now.
The sudden sound of pounding footsteps brings Jimmy out of his thoughts, and the man tenses up as the sound comes closer and closer to where he is. He gets back up, golf club ready in hand as Jimmy starts to raise it up, prepared to strike the moment the intruder enters the room—but manages to stop himself just in time when he realizes that its Kortez who's barging into the place.
“We need to—Jimmy!” the dark-skinned man yelps out, quickly backing off the moment he sees Jimmy with the golf club, eyes wide in surprise.
“Sorry,” Jimmy quickly replies, hastening to lower down the club in his hand. The tenseness doesn't ease up, though—if Kortez is here, then there's a good chance that something is wrong; he's half-certain that his five minutes weren't up yet. He looks back to the other, frowning. “What's wrong?”
Kortez jerks a thumb behind him in response, his voice clipped as he answers the question. “Trouble, and lots of it. The fanatics are starting to swarm around here. I had to abandon the van, since there's no way we'll be getting out through the drive way now.” As if to highlight the authenticity of Kortez's words, the door downstairs starts to thump loudly, the living room echoing with the never-ending beat of countless fists. From where they stand Jimmy can hear the shouts and cries of the fanatics, hearing their chants of 'God, give us salvation!' and other stuff that Jimmy really didn't want to hear.
Jimmy tears himself away from the noise and focuses back to Kortez, who looks just as spooked out as he is and none too certain on their next course of action. “I really hope you have a back door out of here, or we're going to have to jump through the window,” the dark-skinned man says very dryly.
Grimacing visibly at the remark, Jimmy debates on their options as the thumping grows louder from below. Heading downstairs would be a risky option, considering the situation, and while his house did have a back way out Jimmy's pretty certain that the route wasn't going to be open to them, especially if they're going to be up against the people familiar with this neighbourhood. Only one way out, then.
“We're jumping out of the window,” Jimmy faintly hears the sound of his own voice saying the words as he looks at Kortez, staring at him in the same way that he remembers Castiel staring at Dean in their earlier days. It's giving him a weird sense of déjà vu, and Jimmy notes it clinically before filing it aside; he can think about this later, once he's actually away from this.
Kortez, to his credit, does nothing more than blink a few times at Jimmy's words, but does nothing more than that and nods after a pause. “Well,” he starts, taking a breath, “This is your crazy neighbourhood. Where are we going to jump out from?”
“My daughter's bedroom,” Jimmy instantly replies, already starting to move as he speaks. “We can jump over from the ledge there.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Kortez returns, although Jimmy can't help but note the dark amusement lacing his voice as the man adds on after he's out of the room. “Albeit just as crazy as this entire situation is.”
Jimmy can only snort mildly in response.
Jimmy rolls his eyes in return, although a small part of him does wince a bit at the spoken words. “She's my only kid,” he returns pointedly, and says nothing more on the matter as he glances around, finding the correct window to get out of—once he does find it, Jimmy opens the window, mentally apologizing to his daughter as he takes off the lamp that's on the bedside table and unceremoniously tosses it to the bed. The bangs get louder and far more insistent with each passing moment, and Jimmy doesn't allow himself even a second to hesitate as he passes the golf club to Kortez and clambers up the bedside table, starting to put his leg out of the window.
Koretz's dark eyes flicker from Jimmy to out of the door, where now Jimmy hears the sound of wood and metal banging against each other. “The barricade's not going to hold for long,” the dark-skinned man mutters as he looks back at Jimmy, and he nods in return, quickly climbing through the window and emerging out onto the roof of the balcony. Now that he's properly outside Jimmy can hear the chanting loud and clear, the voices of the crowd below coming out as one as Jimmy hears nothing but exaltation and praises and everything else that is not him.
He looks back at Kortez who's also now making his way out via the window, and the dark-skinned man only spares a moment to look at Jimmy before he scowls and shouts at him. “What're you still standing there for? Start moving!”
That's something that doesn't need to be told twice; Jimmy nods in response and turns to face the ledge that stands before him—his destination, separated by a gap that's about two to three feet wide and nearly thrice as high. All in all, it’s really not the most favourable conditions for him. Still, this is the only way he has out of here, and Jimmy knows that he has to take it.
Below him Jimmy hears the door breaking open and the barricade falling apart, and Koretz curses loudly before he shouts at Jimmy again, the urgency now much more audible in his voice. “Go now, Jimmy! Go!”
No more time to think, now; Jimmy forces himself to move in spite of shaky legs, keeping his gaze fixed upon the opposite ledge as he pushes into a run, sprinting across the short length of the balcony before he jumps, a cry tearing out from his throat as his feet leave the ledge and there's nothing else but the air. He sails across, hanging in nothing but air for a few intense seconds. It feels somewhat otherworldly, the sensation a bit akin to flying, and for a moment Jimmy feels himself disconnecting from his own body. The moment soon passes, however, and suddenly Jimmy's back in his body properly, his heart leaping up to his mouth as he begins to fall back to the ground, dragged down by the weight of gravity.
Crap crap crap— Jimmy thinks to himself in a rush, squeezing his eyes shut as the man braces himself for the painful impact of his body hitting the ground and possibly breaking a good number of bones in the process. The wind howls in his ears, catching in his jacket and then Jimmy lands, hitting uncomfortably against the floor, the edges of the tiles digging painfully into his arms and back.
Wait a minute.
Jimmy opens his eyes, blinking at the sight of tiles that greet his vision, and moves to push himself back up. It takes a second to realize that he has made the jump, even if his entire body is now sore and aching from the rough landing. Relief instantly courses through him the moment the realization properly settles within him, and Jimmy turns back to his house to start calling out to Kortez. “Kortez—” He stops instantly the moment he properly turns back, eyes widening in shock as his mind registers the sight of Kortez being dragged back into the room, the dark-skinned man snarling and kicking as he attempts to dislodge himself. “Kortez!” Jimmy calls out again, louder this time round, feet already moving before he realizes it.
Kortez looks back at Jimmy, never pausing in his struggle as his dark eyes flash at him and the man shouts back at him. “Don't care about me, just get out of here!”
“But—” Jimmy starts, at a loss on what to say, but Kortez cuts back to the chase and shouts at him again.
“Just go, damnit! Don't make me regret helping you.”
Jimmy clenches his jaw, trying to ignore the hot sting of tears forming at the corners of his eyes as he steps back, giving Kortez what he knew would be one last final look. “I'm sorry,” he croaks out, voice suddenly raw and almost broken.
Kortez says nothing in return and only gives one of his small, wry smiles. Jimmy takes a few more steps back before his own fear betrays him, and the man turns around, breaking out into another run as he hears Kortez's voice roaring into the evening skies.
“You're going to have to kill me to get your stupid God-lookalike back, assholes!”
I need to find a car first, the man thinks to himself, assembling the semblance of a plan in his head as he runs. Get out of this place, somehow locate the Winchesters and then— his thoughts are abruptly cut off as Jimmy stumbles in his pace, the momentum of his run carelessly dragging him forward as Jimmy miscalculates his footing and before he realizes it, he's slipping off the edge with a shout and plummeting down quickly towards the ground.
Shit! He swears out before the reality hits him, the possibility of how he's going to break a good number of things when he lands and how he'll be unable to escape the Castiel fanatics swarming around from him. They're bound to find him sooner or later, and then who knew what would happen next once they did—but whatever it was, Jimmy does not want to know. He squeezes his eyes shut, bracing himself for the painful, unforgiving impact—
“I should have figured you'd be doing something crazy like this.”
Jimmy feels the world shifting around him, the displacement of air and sound as everything changes in his senses, and the next thing Jimmy knows he's landing softly against a mattress, barely a bump on his body as he half-sinks into it. The man gives himself a few seconds before he opens his eyes back up, now finding himself staring at a flicking light bulb swaying with a lamp that's hanging from the ceiling. Faintly, a part of him registers the smell of oil in the distance, but that's quickly banished by the fact that he vaguely recognizes this place. Jimmy quickly pushes himself up, eyes darting around as he tenses, ready to spring out and dart away when he has to.
“No need to worry, Jimmy-boy,” a voice drawls from nearby. “You're safe here.”
“Who's there?” Jimmy instantly snaps back, eyes narrowing as he turns his head in the direction of where the voice had come from, although he sees nothing at all; instantly his suspicions rise, and Jimmy clenches his jaw, eyes narrowing.
The voice sighs, sounding clearly unimpressed at the words. “Is that how you're supposed to thank the guy who saved your life?” it retorts back in turn, and Jimmy really doesn’t like the way the voice sounds so particularly snarky and sure of himself.
“Why would you—” he starts to ask, but the sound of hurried footsteps interrupt his question and Jimmy turns his attention to the doorway, tensing up even more as they come closer to where he is.
“What's going on—” a voice begins, but then stops as a familiar figure appears at the door and Jimmy can't help but stare in absolute shock at the sight of Dean Winchester who's now frozen on the spot and staring right back at him. There's a pause, and then two, and then tentatively, the hunter speaks. “…Cas?”
Jimmy attempts to move his mouth and speak, but Sam Winchester (who had come up with Dean) beats him to the punch, eyes narrowing. “…Jimmy?”
Dean looks towards Sam with obvious surprise on his features, but Jimmy forces down the lump in his throat and manages to speak. “You got it right in two,” he croaks out, feeling the giant wave of relief that's about to wash out of him. The Winchesters. He’s with the Winchesters.
Both hunters turn to stare at him for a moment, all three of them too taken aback to say anything else. The silence stretches on for a few moments before it’s broken by the voice from earlier. It sighs again without warning, the sound making all of them jump. “Now are you two satisfied?” it asks, drawling once more.
Jimmy's still not very sure what's going on, but the hunters exchange looks between each other for a second with grim looks on their faces, and Sam's the one who speaks again once the moment passes between the brothers. “Gabriel?”
Gabriel? The man echoes in his head, eyes widening as he follows the direction of Sam's gaze to stare in shock at the small-sized, brown-haired man who’s just abruptly appeared and now made his place against the wall, leaning against it as he directs a small grin towards both Sam and Dean.
“The one and only,” he states, amusement dripping from his voice as he gives another brief look at Jimmy before turning back to the hunters. “Now do you believe me?”
Dean glances at Jimmy this time too, and Jimmy can't help but look back as the older Winchester closes his eyes and lets out a loud hiss of breath through his nose, shifting his gaze back to the newcomer and replies with a scowl. “Alright, Gabriel, we believe you. Now fill us in.”
Chapter 3: Two
Two: Try to praise the mutilated world.
“Castiel resurrected me.”
Dean half-chokes on his beer at the instant the words leave Gabriel (the archangel Gabriel, to be precise), and Jimmy can’t help but send a small look of sympathy towards him. They’re in the kitchen of Bobby Singer’s house now (the owner of the house himself is currently away, apparently), Gabriel having put them all here after the initial round of shock and surprise from both the Winchesters and confusion from Jimmy’s own end. As Dean busies himself with getting his breath back, Sam only rolls his eyes at his brother before he turns to the archangel. “So, uh… he sent you here, or something?”
Gabriel snorts aloud at the question but doesn’t respond immediately—instead he takes a bite out from the chocolate bar he had snapped into existence earlier, munching and gulping it down before he does speak. “I really appreciate the faith you guys have with me,” he says, and the sarcasm is practically dripping from his words. “I really do.”
Sam puts on an expression of annoyance, but Dean’s the one who puts two and two together. “So you came here alone,” he states, punctuating his words by pointing at Gabriel with the mouth of his beer bottle.
“Not only that, but I also resurrected Jimmy-boy for you as well,” Gabriel adds on with a smile, and now it’s Jimmy’s turn to choke on his food, caught off-guard by the revelation.
Sam moves once he notices Jimmy’s reaction, reaching out to helpfully thump him on the back and does his best to ensure that Jimmy is able to breathe again before he looks at Gabriel once more to ask the question that’s in his mind—and most likely theirs as well. “Okay, not that we don’t appreciate it… but why? No, wait, actually—” The younger Winchester pauses then to glance over at Jimmy with both eyebrows raised. “You were dead?”
Dean seems to be able to put something together with the question too, because he also pauses in his drinking to send a wide-eyed look over as well, looking just as lost as Sam is. It finally occurs to Jimmy now that after all this time, the Winchesters had no idea that he had actually been dead—considering the first and last time they had seen him was the whole clusterfuck with his family, Jimmy supposes he can’t wholly blame them for their misconception.
Jimmy takes a moment to get his breath back first before he replies to the question, nodding. “Yeah. Ever since Raphael killed me and Castiel.”
He hears Dean suck in a breath and sees Sam’s eyes widening as realization hits them both; on the other end, Gabriel’s letting out a low whistle and making loud ‘tsk’ sounds while he shakes his head. “Man, Castiel is one sorry son of a bitch. No wonder Raph isn’t around now.”
The younger Winchester looks up at Gabriel then, his eyes questioning. “You didn’t know?”
Gabriel rolls his shoulders in a shrug. “How could I know? I was gone.” A bitter edge slips into his answer then, one that Jimmy can manage to identify; whatever it is that Gabriel has, Jimmy has a feeling that it’s something he isn’t going to touch even with a ten foot pole. Castiel had enough issues as it is, and Jimmy had only spent a year with him. He doesn’t need to know another angel’s issues, let alone an archangel’s. Castiel’s were bad enough, and Jimmy isn’t exactly willing to know anything worse than that.
Both brothers remain silent after that, and Jimmy figures it’s up to him to move this conversation along, as awkward as this would be. “So, uh,” he starts slowly, lowering the half-eaten burger that Gabriel had conjured up for him earlier and turning to the archangel in question. “Why did you resurrect me?”
“You mean aside from giving Dad-wannabe the biggest ‘fuck you’ in existence?” Gabriel returns, arching up one eyebrow. Jimmy can’t help but blanch a little from having just seen and heard an archangel of Heaven swearing like that because if anything Castiel has most certainly never been like that and—yeah, it is a little unnerving, not to mention totally… you know.
Dean picks up from where Jimmy left off. “Cut to the chase, Gabriel,” he snaps out.
The archangel rolls his eyes. “Fine, fine, belittle all the sacrifices I’ve made in the name of Team Fuck You Destiny, take two.” He takes another bite of his chocolate bar after that before speaking up again. “You guys intend to stop Dad-wannabe. I am here to help. Jimmy-boy here—” Gabriel pauses to gesture at him with the half-eaten chocolate bar in his hand “—is the key to do that, along with getting Castiel out when we stuff the souls back into Purgatory.”
A pause settles within the group after those words.
“Say that again?” Dean eventually speaks up, his attention now truly in place, and Gabriel rolls his eyes once more.
“I said, Dean-o, that Castiel’s vessel here is going to be the key to putting Dad-wannabe back in his place and rescue the real Castiel out from all the souls that’s got him locked down inside of them,” Gabriel repeats himself in a drawl, but the words still ring clear and Jimmy has to pause, because 1) he still had no idea what happened to Castiel and 2) just what exactly does he have that can accomplish something like what Gabriel had just said?
Sam seems to pick that fact up as well, as the younger Winchester turns his head to look at Jimmy for a few beats before returning his gaze to Gabriel, frowning. “Is there something about Jimmy that’ll help us?” he asks.
A distinctly unimpressed look crosses Gabriel’s features. “For all your smarts, Gigantor, you sure are slow sometimes,” he remarks, and Sam scowls back in return.
Jimmy quickly cuts in again before anything can happen, anxious as the Winchesters themselves are to resolve the situation they had on their hands. “What do I have that’ll accomplish this?”
“The fact that you’re Castiel’s vessel, for one,” Gabriel answers, breaking his gaze at Sam so that he could look at Jimmy properly, a serious look on his face as hazel eyes bore into his own. “Up until your passing Castiel shared your body with you for a whole year—that means your soul’s practically saturated with his Grace; at this point, you’re almost pretty much Castiel-adjacent.”
“He’s an angel?” Dean blurts out from the side.
Gabriel rolls his eyes yet again. “No, genius,” he returns in another drawl. “He’s just feels like one, but he isn’t one. Still—” he pauses, debating for a moment. “—you’re pretty much as close to angelic as a human can get, Jimmy-boy. That helps, at least.”
The question comes out from Jimmy before he can stop himself. “Help for what?”
Gabriel hardly seems perturbed by the question, at least. “The plan,” he answers simply.
Sam cuts in this time, voice sharp and demanding. “What plan, Gabriel?”
There are a few moments’ worth of pause before Gabriel lets out an annoyed sigh and bites another piece out from is chocolate bar. “Geez, have you guys even listened to me?” he starts, sending unamused looks at all three humans. “It’s the plan to save Castiel and seal Purgatory right back up.”
“We figured that out, genius,” Dean retorts right back, impatience seeping into his voice. “But you haven’t told us how.”
“In time, young grasshopper,” Gabriel smoothly returns, holding up his free hand before either of the Winchesters can properly protest. “Too much information will overload poor Dean-o’s brain, so we’ll take it slow. First thing we need to do is to get a link on Dad-wannabe, and then we can proceed with part two of my grand master plan.”
The three humans pause, not quite sure what to say in response—but Sam tries anyway, letting out a breath through his nose and talks. “And I suppose you have an idea how?”
“We’ve already got our telephone,” the archangel answers, gesturing at Jimmy once more. “Now what we need to do is to establish the reception properly and make sure we get to the end.”
Jimmy is the one who asks tentatively. “…to Castiel?”
The question sets Gabriel’s lips into a pursed, thin line. “The real Castiel,” he corrects after a beat of silence, quickly following up with an explanation before anybody else can cut in. “As I've said earlier, right now the Castiel you guys and the rest of the world currently see isn’t Cas at all. The souls are messing him up or something, I think—I’m hardly familiar with how Purgatory works myself.” Gabriel stops then, letting the words sink into all of them as he finishes up the last of his chocolate bar and moves on, gesturing with a hand this time. “But anyway, what I do know is that Castiel’s buried somewhere deep inside all those souls he swallowed. The connection with Castiel is pretty strong still, so hopefully that’ll put things in our favour. Still, regardless—as long as we get Castiel’s body physically here with the souls in tow, then we’re set. And for that to work, we’re going to need Jimmy-boy here.”
Dean looks none too convinced by the archangel’s words and sends a glare right at him, but Sam is frowning and apparently thinking, attempting to link everything up in his head and trying to see the link that Gabriel is establishing to the brothers—and after having thought it through, the younger Winchester speaks up, asking. “How is this going to work?”
“Like I said, first we’re going to have to establish and ensure that the link between Jimmy-boy and Castiel is viable,” Gabriel starts, turning his head slightly to glance at Jimmy. “Being conscious won’t do much to make it happen, so you’ll need to be asleep to do this. Of course,” he pauses, a sardonic look now crossing his face, “I’m sure you’ve experienced it before already, Jimmy.”
That’s when it does finally click in Jimmy’s head when Gabriel says that, and his eyes widen to show the realization that’s settling in his mind. “So my dreams—”
“Mmn-hmm,” the archangel returns in a hum, the smile stretching wider. “Congrats, Jimmy-boy, you’re the one human with a direct mind-link to our new ‘God’.”
Dean slams his beer bottle down then, eyes narrowing as he turns to glare daggers at Gabriel. “So what, he’s got some weird Vulcan mind-meld thing going on with Cas now?”
“More like a Harry Potter thing,” Gabriel corrects, wagging a finger. “Although our Dad-wannabe doesn’t really know how to work it in the way Voldy did in the books. He’s got too many souls inside him—far too chaotic to handle anything at all. That’s the only reason why Jimmy-boy here still’s sane of mind.”
That really wasn’t a comforting thought, Jimmy thinks to himself there and then as he gulps; the Winchesters look far less assured about it than Jimmy himself is, and he watches the brothers exchanging looks towards each other once more, communicating with each other in a language that words could never properly convey. Frankly, sometimes Jimmy finds himself amazed at the level of understanding the brothers have with each other—it’s something most brothers would never have. Then again, Sam and Dean Winchester weren’t exactly your average brothers.
“Anyway,” the archangel starts again, drawing the attention of all three humans back to him. “Before Dad-wannabe does figure out how to work his Voldemort thing, we’ve got to get the jump on him first. That means acting as quickly as we can.” He looks at Jimmy again, and the man doesn’t exactly like the look that’s on Gabriel’s face now as he speaks. “So, Jimmy-boy, are you ready to take the swan dive?”
Jimmy is willing to help, he really does—after all, it’s not like he can do anything else now—but before he says yes he has to know, needs to have his mind at ease before he can do this wholeheartedly. “I have a condition.”
Gabriel blinks at that, but he tilts his head after a pause and speaks. “Name it, kid.”
“My family—Amelia and Claire—take care of them for me, if anything happens.”
“Already done,” Gabriel says, grinning. “I got them out first before bringing you back to life, actually, so you do actually owe me one.”
Jimmy can’t help but sag in relief when he hears that—sure, Gabriel might be pretty strange for an angel, but it is a fact that he is an archangel, so if anything he knows they’ll be safe under his protection, as long as Gabriel can manage that. “Okay,” he goes, nodding, and takes a deep breath to steel himself before he continues. “So what do I need to do?”
Instead, Jimmy found himself standing on the edge of a tranquil lake, its waters too silent and calm for it to be real. Above him the trees rustled in the gentle breeze while the sky remained easy and carefree, devoid of any clouds or even the scorching sun. The landscape around him stretched for miles without end, lush meadows and rolling hills going on and on and Jimmy was pretty sure that there would never be an end to them if he did attempt to find it.
Bringing his gaze down from the sky Jimmy glanced around, looking along the edge of the lake and blinked as he recognized the faint shape of a pier. Standing upon it was the figure of somebody vaguely familiar, and without thinking twice Jimmy started to walk towards the figure, letting his feet take him to his destination. The wind whistled in his ears as he walked, fresh grass and moist earth pressed under the soles of his cheap leather shoes as Jimmy moved closer, the figure taking on a much more distinct form that made Jimmy's heart pump faster, his breath escaping him in catches as he hastened his pace, anxiety suddenly blossoming within him. He knew that form—he knew it like the back of his hand because how could be not know?
He broke into a run near the end, eyes never taking away the sight of the ends of the overcoat that currently flapped in the breeze. The figure became more and more detailed as he neared it, and Jimmy had to stop entirely once he was close enough to reach out and touch the person, not certain what to do or to say. What could he say, really? It’s been three years since they last seen each other, last talked to each other—he was supposed to move on, but yet here he was, back on Earth. Three years and so much had changed; Jimmy wasn’t sure how he could even begin now.
Jimmy cautiously took a step closer, slowly raising a hand to reach out for the shoulder closest to him, but then the figure whirled around to see him and even though he already knew, Jimmy couldn't help but step back at the unnaturally similar features on the other's face—exactly like his, almost as if he was staring into a mirror. Then again, Jimmy knew that he would never be putting on such a stoic expression, not in the way that this being could and always had.
“Castiel?” he slowly ventured, the name falling out familiar-foreign on his tongue.
The angel blinked once, almost as if surprised by the call of his name. Unnatural blue eyes flickered up and then down Jimmy's form, pausing to stare at his face for a few beats before speaking. “Jimmy,” he went, voice quiet and almost pained, an apologetic expression crossing his features. “You are back.”
Jimmy pushed down the lump in his throat and nodded back in return. “Yeah,” he croaked out, a wry smile tugging on his lips. “Never planned on it, but here I am, I guess.”
Castiel smiled back weakly—the ghost of a smile—and stared down at his hands as he spread them out, wringing them absently. His eyes flickered for a moment before the angel lowered his head, bowing it slightly as a means of apology. “I had never intended to force this on you, or make your family suffer… I apologize.” A pause. “Even if it cannot change things.”
Jimmy let out a breath he wasn’t even aware he had been holding back; a flicker of rage flashed past his mind, because Castiel’s words were clicking in his head. Right at this moment, the Castiel (not Castiel, the thing outside isn’t the same being who he had shared a body with) outside was going around the world with his face doing whatever the hell it was that apparently made him ‘God’ to the world. A better God, he remembered the tabloids writing out. A God that cared.
Jimmy doesn’t remember when had been the last time he read such blasphemous crap.
He took a step forward, the raised hand now clenched into a fist as he half-hissed, half-snarled out the next words. “I am the Lord your God,” he started, easily noticing the way Castiel half-flinched as he recognized the words that Jimmy was quoting. “Which have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other Gods before me.”
Castiel stilled for a moment before his expression crumpled into an expression of shame, his shoulders sagging. “The First Commandment,” he whispered out, his voice silent and haunted even within the still tranquillity of this place.
“The First Commandment,” Jimmy confirmed, taking another step closer towards Castiel as he stared hard into those blue eyes that were his but yet not his. “The First Commandment, and you broke it, Castiel. You broke it and you trampled it under your feet without so much as a second thought.”
“I know,” Castiel replied, and the way he said it—the resignation and the way he just sounds so broken—almost felt like a gut punch to Jimmy, as if he was the man who had just kicked a lost puppy. The angel had his head hung low, empty blue eyes cast down onto the ground, and Jimmy could only watch as Castiel caved into himself. “This is my punishment for attempting to be more than what I am.”
A punishment that I’m suffering under too, Jimmy thought mirthlessly to himself as he sighed and lowered his hand properly, running it through his hair instead in a gesture of irritation. “Look, Castiel, I—” Before he could get the words out the world suddenly lurched underneath his feet, and Jimmy stumbled in surprise, eyes wide as he raised his head to meet with Castiel’s own sudden, frightened look.
“They’re here,” he whispered, already moving to grab Jimmy and raising his other hand, two fingers reaching for him. Above them the sky was darkening abruptly, the winds howling violently and cloaking out Castiel’s voice as the angel reached for his forehead. “Dean—tell him—”
Jimmy strained his ears in a bid to hear what it was that Castiel wanted to say, but the wind was too loud and the fingers brushed against his head and—
“—Jimmy! Hey, Jimmy!”
His eyelids fly wide open as Jimmy bolts right up in bed, gasping, his limbs trembling. His heart is still pounding in his chest, beating so loud that he can hear it echoing in his ears. Absently, Jimmy also realizes that he's drenched in sweat, but that's something a shower can easily solve. Besides, that's not the important thing right now. His gaze slowly focuses back, showing him the sights of the guest bedroom of Bobby Singer's house he had landed in earlier. Night has long since fallen now, the silence of it a contrast to the howling winds that had been roaring in his mind earlier.
A hand lands on his shoulder and Jimmy looks up to see Sam. The younger Winchester gives him a reassuring look, patting him once on the shoulder before he backs off to let Gabriel step in. The archangel is frowning as he steps closer, hazel eyes looking at Jimmy intently and never making an indication to move as he makes it to the bed and cautiously settles at the side.
“Well?” comes Dean's voice from the side, and Jimmy turns his head around to see the elder Winchester standing at the doorway, leaning against the frame with his arms crossed over his chest. The man gives Jimmy a brief look with his bright green eyes, jaw clenching as he turns his head towards Gabriel. “What's the verdict?”
Jimmy turns back to Gabriel at the question, who stares at him for a few beats longer before he finally does take his gaze away from Jimmy and directs it towards Dean. “The connection's there. In fact, it’s much stronger than I anticipated it to be.” He pauses then, and his lips twist into a mirthless smile before Gabriel adds on. “That's one thing we've got on our side, at least.”
Sam makes a grimace, not even bothering to hide it as he speaks. “It's better than nothing at all, I guess,” he remarks, eyes flickering at Jimmy and then towards his brother, who Jimmy turns to look at as well. Castiel had wanted him to say something to Dean—that, Jimmy knew. But whatever Castiel had wanted to say had been cloaked out, and when he didn't even know what to say just what exactly could he say? It was obvious that Dean was worried about the angel, perhaps even more than the rest of them were; it wouldn't be fair to leave him with nothing.
Jimmy gives himself a moment to suck in a breath, steadying his heartbeat and his breaths before he properly focuses his gaze at Dean and starts. “Dean?”
The elder Winchester blinks at the call of his name, and there’s a pause before green eyes focus properly on Jimmy and Dean finally responds. “What?”
“Castiel, he—” Jimmy pauses, gulping, steeling himself before he continues. “—he wanted me to tell you something.”
Dean reacts instantly, his entire body tensing up as the gaze in his eyes becomes hard and unrelenting. A moment passes as Dean does nothing but stare at him, and Jimmy can see the tensing of Dean's jaw as the hunter responds cautiously. “...what is it?”
“I couldn't hear it,” he admits quietly, but quickly speaks up again before Dean can say anything. “But, I think—maybe, he just wants you to forgive him. I can't say that I know what's going on, but...” Jimmy trails off, closing his eyes and letting out a loud puff of breath before he opens them again and finishes his words. “In the year I was with him, when we were sharing bodies—he loved you, Dean. He loved you so much that he turned against Heaven for you in the end, to give you the chance to fight for what you wanted. He's already pulled the ultimate sacrifice for you, Dean—so I think all he wants now is your forgiveness for... this.”
He quickly turns his gaze away from Dean once he's done saying his piece, feeling a surge of warmth blossom in his cheeks, a flush creeping over his entire face. He had known, sure, but knowing it really is a far different thing from saying it outright. He doesn't even know what the exact nature of the relationship between Castiel and Dean is now, and he sure doesn't have a real say in it—why should he? As much as he is Castiel's vessel, it wasn't as if he has really been around in recent times.
There's a moment of silence after the words, but Jimmy still doesn't really dare to raise his head up; he continues to keep his gaze fixed at the bed sheets he's sitting on, staring at his hands and remembering how Castiel had been doing the same thing as well. It's so strange now, seeing the angel act so different from when he had been with him—to see him be so human now. It's really a whole world of difference to now look at Castiel and see him like this when all Jimmy could recall was the perfect warrior of Heaven Castiel had been up until Dean Winchester changed everything for the angel.
Eventually there's a shift of feet and an accompanying creak of the floorboards, and Jimmy raises his head to the sound of retreating footsteps and the flash of Dean's back disappearing from the doorway.
Both Sam and Gabriel watch as the elder Winchester leaves the scene, but it’s the archangel who sighs after the sound of Dean's footsteps have faded, rolling his eyes as he stands up. “Alright kids,” he starts, words as dry as sandpaper. “We'll rest up and let Dean-o have his big sexuality crisis in the meantime. But first thing tomorrow, we're going to go and gank ourselves a Dad-wannabe.”
Sam gives the archangel an unimpressed look at his words, but gives no other comment and stands up as well. “I'll go and talk to him,” he announces, starting to make his way out of the room. He pauses at the doorway however, turning his head towards Jimmy and sending a small smile over. “Rest as much as you can, Jimmy. I'll wake you up when the time comes.”
Jimmy nods his replying acknowledgment, and Sam's tentative smile grows a little wider at the action, although his eyes seem to say something else entirely different. “Sorry we're dragging you into this again,” he says after a pause, sounding very apologetic and really regretful. Last time, Jimmy knew that he would never really be satisfied with something like this—but now after spending three years dead and waking up to an absolutely crazy world, he's more than willing to take whatever comforts that could be afforded to him right now.
So he returns the smile with one of his own, shaking his head. “It's fine.” Castiel had been his friend, too, after all. Now that he knew that the angel was still there, trapped and helpless, Jimmy would give all he could to save him. The angel had honoured his last wishes and spared Claire from the life he had now, even if the circumstances around that had not been optimal—but all the same, the angel had listened; Jimmy figured that he owed Castiel that much, at the very least.
When he came out of the room and down the stairs into the kitchen, Gabriel had already made his appearance and was busying himself with chewing through a new chocolate bar in his hand. He regards Jimmy with raised eyebrows when he enters the room, gulping down a mouthful of half-eaten chocolate that had been in his mouth that the archangel washes down with water first (mostly due to Sam's insistence) before he finally speaks. “Okay, kiddos. Time to go over the plan.”
Dean looks up rather unimpressively from over the top of the beer bottle he's just popped open, green eyes falling flat as the hunter replies bluntly. “What plan? If you recall, Gabriel, you gave us nothing at all.”
“If I gave you guys anything Dad-wannabe'll be trying to scrape it out of your skulls,” Gabriel retorts back pointedly, jabbing at Dean with a finger from his free hand. “I didn't want to risk that chance, especially since he still thinks I'm 'considering my decision'.” Gabriel makes visible air quotes with both of his hands as he says those words, chocolate bar already having mysteriously vanished.
Sam frowns then. “Considering your decision?” he quotes back, voice questioning. “What decision?”
“To join him,” the archangel answers easily, snapping his half-eaten chocolate bar back into existence once more and taking another bite out from it. “Work as his PA and stuff like that. I told him I’d think about it and stuff, but since I’ve brought Jimmy back—you’re welcome, by the way—and had him make contact with Castiel, I’d easily say that Dad-wannabe has my answer now.” He smiles wryly then, hints of melted chocolate glinting at the corners of his lips. “So we gotta move before he figures out what we’re about to do.”
“And that is…” Sam continues to prompt, head slightly tilted as he speaks.
Gabriel rolls his eyes in a rather melodramatic manner. “Geez, do I really need to spell out everything here for you guys?” he sighs and shakes his head, chomping down the last bits of his chocolate bar. “We’re going to throw the souls of Purgatory right back where they belong and seal the place right back up. And while we’re at that, we’ve got to get Castiel out from the souls too, so that he isn’t going to be trapped with them and get horribly mutilated in the process. Seeing Lucifer and Michael duke it out with each other is more than enough for me already.” The archangel pauses to look at all three humans, raising an eyebrow. “We clear?”
“Uh,” Jimmy starts just a little meekly, not quite certain if he should really say anything at this point in time—but he really has to know now. “Just how am I going to help in this?”
The archangel turns his head over to land his gaze on Jimmy there and then, and the man watches those hazel eyes look right at him as the corners of Gabriel’s lips curl up in a mirthless smile, his voice somehow sounding apologetic as he speaks. “Oh, Jimmy-boy, you’re going to have the biggest part of this to play yet, believe you me. Without you, this plan would’ve gone down the drain.” He turns away however before Jimmy can say anything else, looking towards Dean and speaking to the hunter. “Hey, Dean-o! When’s Bobby going to return?”
Dean gives the archangel a flat look at the question, but he does answer anyway. “Soon, Gabriel.”
“The sooner the better,” Gabriel returns, already conjuring himself up a half-wrapped candy bar to start digging his teeth into. “There’s only so much anxiety and manpain I can take in one day, and I really would like it if we can make a jump on Dad-wannabe before he shanks us all.”
Sam snorts at that while Dean throws another dirty look at Gabriel, and Jimmy just can’t help but wonder when the ‘weird’ in his life had suddenly turned to ‘normal’; it’s really saying something when this is the most normal thing that’s happened to him ever since he’s been returned to life.
Jimmy, however, doubts that it would really stay this way.
“Why do you boys come out with the craziest plans when I'm not looking?” Bobby had muttered out once the gist had been explained to him, the man shaking his head as he had spoken that.
Gabriel made a small snort from his spot over the ground he's crouching on at the moment. “Well, technically speaking, it is my plan. The kids are just crazy enough to go with it.”
Bobby turns around to look at the archangel then, narrowing his eyes as he properly studies Gabriel from head to toe. “So you're the Trickster,” the hunter states after a pause, making Jimmy blink for a bit in surprise. A Trickster?
“Former Trickster,” Gabriel corrects, holding up a finger to emphasize his point. “Not that I really care either way, but considering how I lost my position as Loki when Luci killed me, there's not much I can say.” He glances back down after that, returning to work on the circle he's currently drawing out on the floor of the panic room (the sigils had been changed to allow him in, and the floor of the panic room had been wiped for the moment—Gabriel’s power, of course) and after a short pause, adds quietly, his voice soft enough that they almost couldn't hear what it is that Gabriel had said. “Besides, it’s better for them to think I'm still dead. I don't want them to get caught up in this.”
Jimmy doesn't exactly know just who the 'them' that Gabriel is saying refers to, but it seems that Dean and Sam do understand, and the brothers exchange glances with each other over the table where they're arranging out the things they would need for the spell. Jimmy shifts his gaze over to the array of items scattered across the tabletop, trying to place a name to some of the things he did recognize and trying to rack his brains for the other things he didn't know. There isn’t much that he can do, being a non-hunter, and all Jimmy can do now is stay on the bed and try to get out of the way.
Gabriel goes to him once the archangel is done with the circle, flopping down on a spot beside him on the bed and lets out a loud sigh once he's settled down. “You know,” he starts after a pause, “when I died, I wasn't exactly expecting to return to see Castiel all hopped up on soul juice.”
Jimmy can't help but wince a little at Gabriel's words, easily sensing the undertones of the archangel's words. He looks at his knees, chewing on his bottom lip as the man mutters out an apology to the other. “Sorry.”
All Gabriel does in return is to snort audibly. “Where did that come from now?” he starts mirthlessly, smiling with a smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes. “If anything, I'd say you're the one on the short end of the stick. Castiel—Dad-wannabe, really—is wearing your face now, regardless if we like it or not.” He tilts his head upwards to stare up at the ceiling, trying to look past the giant fan swinging above. “I'm just glad I got your folks out before shit really hit the fan.”
“—thanks for that,” Jimmy blurts out there and then, remembering that he hadn't quite thanked Gabriel for what he had done in that respect.
The archangel only snorts again and easily waves it off with a hand, rolling his eyes while he's at it. “Please. If you keep thanking me for everything I'm going to grow an ego again.”
“And we all know what happens when you've made love to your ego,” Dean remarks out from the other side of the room, although he's quickly silenced by a sharp, pointed elbow jab from his brother beside him that's accompanied with a glare which Dean returns with one of his own along with a smart-mouth remark. “Gee, Sammy, I had no idea you cared so much about the guy who killed me like, I dunno, a million times—”
“—and he happens to be the only help we have now,” Sam finishes the statement with another pointed look, swiping a pile of herbs from his sibling's hand. “He wants to stop Cas as much as we do, so stop complaining, alright? We all want to stop Cas before he goes too psycho.”
“On my meter he's already pretty off the edge,” Gabriel states casually, leaping off the bed and making his way towards the Winchesters now. “But well, whatever makes your day. Let's just get this started, shall we?”
“Bobby's still getting the frankincense down,” the younger Winchester returns, glancing at the metal doorway that separates the panic room from the rest of the Singer household. Not a moment later Bobby does emerge through the doorway, a basket of said plants in hand which he promptly goes to put at the table with the rest of the items they had gathered for the spell. Whatever spell that it is.
The elder hunter takes a few steps back once the basket's been placed, dusting off his hands as he gives the items on the table a once over and nods. “Alright, think we got whatever it is that Gabriel's asked for.” He looks over at the archangel at that, seeking confirmation.
Gabriel nods in return before he proceeds to snap up a porcelain bowl in his free hand; once he's done that, he turns towards Jimmy who's still sitting at the bed and gestures for him to come over. Without much of a choice in the matter, Jimmy does so, his gaze sweeping curiously over the things on the table as he comes closer before they settle at Gabriel. The archangel doesn't speak at first, and instead busies himself with throwing everything on the table into the bowl. The items clutter together, forming a rather strange mess in the bowl, and Gabriel eyes it for a second before placing it onto the table and finally turning to regard Jimmy.
“Alright, kiddo,” he starts, gaze now wholly serious. “Here's what is going to happen. We're going to drag Castiel here, body and all, and once he's here we're going to lock him down enough for you to take the swan dive inside. And by inside, I mean literally inside—you're going to push your soul into him.”
“How—” Jimmy instantly attempts to ask, eyes wide, but Gabriel stops him with one raised hand.
“Getting to that now, kid. You remember how I told you that you've got a direct channel into Castiel? We're going to be making use of that.” Gabriel pauses then to snap his fingers over the bowl, and all the humans flinch at the sudden burst of light and heat that comes, the flare instantly causing to turn everything inside into ash that the archangel smoothly rubs onto with his thumb. He raises that thumb to Jimmy, rubbing it against his cheeks, the arch of his eyebrows and finally on his forehead, marking on that spot with a small cross. In way, it almost reminded Jimmy of the blessings that the priest of his former parish would do to him on the annual Ash Wednesday mass.
The corners of Gabriel's lips curl up just as that thought passes in Jimmy's head, and he can see the archangel's eyes gleam in some form of mirth. “It ain't Lent, but I suppose it works somewhere around that area,” Gabriel remarks with a small chuckle as he lowers his hand, wiping it against the back of his jeans. “Anyway, as I was saying—you're going to have to pour yourself through that connection, which is going to be hard even with the channel you have, but I came prepared.” He digs his hand into the pockets of his jeans, fumbling around for a moment before he tugs out a length of gold thread that gleams unnaturally in the dim lighting of the panic room.
Both Sam and Dean instantly seem to recognize the string, their eyes going wide as the brothers turn towards Gabriel. “Is that—” Sam starts, stopping partway and the younger Winchester gulps before he restarts. “Is that a thread of Fate?”
Gabriel looks surprised enough to glance at the brothers and raise an eyebrow at the question. “From Atropos, yeah. How did you know?”
“Uh,” Dean starts now, eyes flickering back and forth from the thread. “We had a... run-in with her before.”
The archangel snorts at the answer, quickly turning back. “Typical,” he mutters, but quickly moves on from the topic. “Anyway, yes, this is a thread from Fate herself. She owed me one before.” He turns his gaze properly at Jimmy, fingering the sort, fragile-looking string in his hand. “I'm going to use this to unconditionally bind you to Castiel. It'll strengthen the connection, and the binding will give you a better window to get inside him. For the whole getting in bit, I'll be the one doing the deed so you don't need to worry. Once you're in, though—” Gabriel pauses, eyes flickering at Dean for a moment, an action that confuses Jimmy quite a bit but doesn't comment on as Gabriel soon turns back to him and finishes what he's been saying. “Once you're in, the rest's up to you. Your entrance should put Castiel's body to a standstill, but we'll have to be out here to ensure that.”
It's definitely not the most assuring thing he's has heard, but it is still something—and that's most certainly better than nothing. Jimmy gulps, trying to push down the uneasy feeling growing in his gut as he slowly croaks out. “So I'll be alone?”
Gabriel lips twist into a wry smile. “You're the only guy in existence who can do this, Jimmy,” he replies mirthlessly, a grimace almost visible on his features. “It's make it or break it time, pal.”
“But how do I even fight this?” Jimmy instantly retorts, panic now edging into his voice—and really, can anybody blame him? How is he going to go up against such a powerful being when he's got nothing at all on him? Even Jimmy knew that'd be nothing else but a suicide mission.
Gabriel gestures to his head in response, tapping a finger against his skull as he speaks. “It's not about strength, Jimmy. It's about using your head.”
“It's still the same thing,” he half-snaps now. “I don't even know the first thing on what to do here, so how can I even—”
“Do you want to save Castiel?” Gabriel cuts in, expression serious again, and Jimmy has to pause and recollect himself, staring at the archangel as Gabriel repeats himself once more. “Tell me—do you want to save Castiel?”
“Well, yes, but—”
“Then that's all that I need to know,” the archangel returns with a smile, moving to pat Jimmy on the shoulder. “Now do me a favour and step in the middle of the circle, okay?”
Jimmy hardly feels mollified by the way that Gabriel’s treating him now, but it is still a fact that he has to do his part to stop Castiel and ensure the proper safety of his family. He gives Gabriel a brief glare before he moves, allowing Sam to help him get to the proper centre of the circle. He glances down to study the circle properly, seeing its many intricate details and lines, words upon words of Enochian etched onto the rims and inside the spaces that the lines provided. Though he had no knowledge of any of these things, even Jimmy can tell that the circle he’s standing on now is truly one of ancient power and might.
Gabriel goes to the circle once Jimmy’s settled there, the golden thread of Fate in his hand as he stops before the human. “Wrist, please.”
Jimmy raises his right wrist as requested, and Gabriel proceeds to tie one end of Fate’s thread around it, the string settling comfortably on his skin once the knot is done. Jimmy raises his wrist up to eye-level and curiously studies the thread, watching the unnatural gleam that pulses on like a heartbeat and the strange warmth that settles around his hand now.
The archangel slaps his hand against the back of his jeans once he's tied the string around Jimmy's wrist, a grim look of determination now on his face as he looks at the string once and nods, speaking. “Now Fate's string is under your control,” he explains, gesturing to the golden thread now dangling from Jimmy's wrist. “When the time comes, you need to focus it at Castiel with everything you've got; let the thread acknowledge your intent and make sure it has contact with Castiel when this happens, and it'll do the rest.”
Jimmy's honestly not too sure on how well he'll pull it off, but it isn't as if he had any choice now that it's come to this. It's all or nothing, and Jimmy wants his family safe. Steeling himself, Jimmy responds with a nod of acknowledgment.
Gabriel's grim smile just grows a little wider. “We're counting on you, kiddo. It's all up to you now.”
“Oadriax vmd mirc mad monasci,” Gabriel's voice rises higher and higher with each foreign, inhuman syllable that rolls off his tongue, metal rattling as fragments of the archangel's true voice start to bleed through. It's not loud enough to cause any permanent damage, but Jimmy can see the Winchesters and Bobby starting to wince at the high-pitched cry, although they do stay in their positions. Gabriel keeps his eyes closed, still chanting, and for a moment Jimmy swears that he sees a flash of wings from the archangel's back as the candles flicker. Gabriel brings the bowl out at an arm's length distance from him now, both of his hands still holding onto it as he continues to chant. “Noasmi ol vmd, gassagen ol nia-cod, Castiel,” he says the last few words, and then without warning the items inside the bowl literally bursts into flames while the candles all flare up violently, momentarily blocking out everybody's eyesight in a bright flash of light.
All four humans instantly raise their arms to block their eyes, and Jimmy lowers his just in time to see the flames from the candles around him recede from the momentary burst they had. Gabriel's kneeling down on the ground now, breathing heavily as the injuries he got from taking the blast head-on recover quickly, the burns already disappearing. The Winchesters and Bobby recover soon after, blinking as they all glance about the room, waiting for Castiel to appear.
Moments pass by, stretching, but nothing happens.
Jimmy looks over to the now-recovered Gabriel, looking at the archangel with a frown. “You sure you did it right?”
Gabriel only responds to his question with a pointed look that clearly suggests for Jimmy to not ask stupid questions, and the man pointedly keeps his mouth shut afterwards. The seconds move on silently with nothing still happening, and Jimmy can feel the tension starting to rise up now. He hears Dean shift behind him, and on his left Sam is muttering something under his breath. Bobby is silent, but Jimmy knows it’s because the hunter is merely preparing himself for Castiel.
Then, just as Jimmy starts to wonder if they should stop, he starts to feel a draft starting to pick up around them, an unnatural wind starting to howl within the confines of the room as the candles around Jimmy are extinguished instantly. All five of them instantly jump, quickly snapping back into alertness; both Dean and Bobby hardly look comforted by the sudden burst of wind (or in Bobby's case, more worried), but it’s Dean who seems far more spooked, gulping quietly as he glances around, green eyes darting everywhere.
On his own end, Bobby suddenly snorts quietly. “Wishful thinking,” he starts, and Dean's head instantly whips over to him, looking even more uncertain now as the elder man finishes his words. “But maybe it’s just the wind.”
And just like that, as if a spell had just been said, the metal door of the panic room bursts open and Jimmy Novak watches his angelic double striding inside. Cheap leather shoes (his cheap leather shoes) tap against the floor as Castiel walks in, and really, it should be weird watching a literal copy of yourself walking around like that—but all Jimmy needs is one look to see just how different Castiel is from him, even with their identical features. The angel (or rather, former angel) now carries himself with the air of a—well, a God, each of his steps deliberate and weighed as the angel's blue eyes (his blue eyes) sweep around the room, finally settling on Gabriel who's now pushed himself back to his feet.
The archangel's smile turns sardonic as he looks back at Castiel, defiance glinting in his hazel eyes. “Hey, bro,” he starts, tucking hands into the pockets of his jeans. “How's the management doing?”
Castiel's eyes gleam mirthlessly as the corners of his lips curl into a dry smile of his own. When he speaks, his voice is quiet, almost pained. “Is this how you repay my kindness, Gabriel?” he asks, eyes momentarily flickering towards the Winchesters. “By resisting me?”
“Oh, believe me, I'm very grateful to you for bringing me back to life,” Gabriel returns, rocking back on his heels. “But, you see, I don't really intend to work with somebody who pretends to be Dad. That'd just be weird.”
The angel's eyes narrow into silts, the smile now starting to curl downwards instead. “You dare to consider disobedience?” he half-growls, half-snarls—and yeah, Jimmy really needs to wonder just how Castiel ever became like this. He had known that Castiel did always have a capacity to be ruthless when the time came for it, but this is just way overboard. Did taking the souls of Purgatory really change the angel so much?
No time to think about such things, though; Castiel moves once more, not even bothering to hear whatever response that Gabriel might give as he sweeps his gaze across the room once more, this time stopping to lock eyes with Jimmy, who can only look back in a mix of suspense and some amount of fear. As much as he knows otherwise, there's no way he can't not be afraid of the angel-now-God—after all, he's but an ordinary human man. Sam and Dean Winchester had both been marked by Hell and Heaven respectively right from the moment of their birth, but that wasn't the case for Jimmy. He just happened to be vessel of one of Heaven's countless soldiers, another pawn upon the giant chessboard; what is he to the other people in the room with him?
Jimmy steps back just as Castiel takes one forward, and from the corner of his eye he can see Gabriel tensing up. The hunters move with the same response as well, all of them more than ready to jump in and protect him should it be necessary—even if all of them know that it would ultimately prove futile.
Castiel takes another step and pauses, ice blue eyes turning to look across to the three hunters. A mockery of a smile crosses the angel's face, a smile that screams nothing else but wrong wrong WRONG. “I already told you not to interfere,” he says, voice deceptively soft, the words coming out almost like a whisper. “Now I have no choice but to punish you all.”
The three hunters flinch at the words, but Dean recovers the quickest and he moves, stepping forward with both of his hands raised. “There's always a choice, Cas,” he returns, desperate hope edging in his words, and for some reason that reminds Jimmy back to the time when Castiel had confronted Dean in the Green Room, recalling the desperateness in Castiel's voice as he pleaded quietly to the hunter back then, asking him not to go up against Zachariah and against Heaven, the desperate desire to see Dean at peace, to no longer be hurt anymore and accept the forgiveness that Heaven would bestow upon him.
Three years on now, it’s kind of strange how things can take an entire turnabout without people ever noticing it.
Castiel shakes his head in response, the look in his eyes strangely forlorn as the angel responds. “I once thought free will would be the answer,” he speaks, slowly raising up a hand. “Now I know better. Free will is a rope, and you hang yourself with it.” His fingers shift, the tips starting to rub together as the angel prepares to snap his fingers and most likely send all three hunters to their deaths.
That realization quickly latches onto Jimmy far more quickly than he would like to admit, and in an instant he makes himself move, darting forward as a cry tears out from his lungs. “Castiel, no!”
Everything that happens after that all seems to happen in a split second; Castiel twists around and throws his hand out at Jimmy, locking him in place on the ground before he can launch himself forward. Both Sam and Dean take that split moment to charge forward in a bid to catch Castiel off guard, but the angel reacts before they can properly pull off their attempt, waving his other hand to send both brothers flying back and subsequently crashing against the iron-cast walls. Jimmy tries to cry out in alarm, but finds himself unable to do so—Castiel’s effectively frozen him mid-action, it seems.
The angel lowers his hand, smoothly turning away from both Sam and Dean as he now directs his attention towards Jimmy. Still caught under whatever it is that Castiel has done, Jimmy can’t do anything at all as Castiel (no, not Castiel—at least, not the real Castiel) steps towards him, can only recoil in mental disgust at the false smile that slithers across the other’s face. It’s so fake, that’s what it is, and it’s so hard to properly reconcile the angel who had he known and lived with for a year with… this mockery of the former angel of Thursday. Whatever this thing is, it’s a fact that it certainly isn’t Castiel.
“Jimmy Novak,” Castiel—no, the creature wearing his face—starts, the smile stretching even wider. “It has… been a while.”
Jimmy only half-stares, half-glares at the other the best that he can, considering his current situation. Castiel looks back for a moment, almost looking as if he’s expecting an answer, but the upward curl of his lips suggest otherwise and the former angel steps back, sighing. “I had forgotten about earlier. Please ignore my overlook.” Saying that he waves his arm again, and Jimmy suddenly finds himself stumbling as he’s unfrozen from his place. The man steadies himself on shaky legs, knees wobbling as he clutches at them, slightly bent over as Jimmy catches his breath, trying to calm his heart down and properly steel himself against this being who called himself ‘God’.
When he looks up again Castiel’s staring at him, the angel’s head tilted to the side. It straightens out just as Jimmy does so himself, the man gulping and heaving slightly as he straightens, hands absently slapping against the side of the jeans he was wearing.
Even now, Castiel’s still wearing the outfit he had been wearing all the way back then, and it looks just as if he’s just worn it yesterday even though Jimmy knows otherwise; the man himself has already long gotten out of the attire, ruined as it is from his days on the road. It is a bit of a contrast, seeing that old attire when he’s no longer wearing it—although really, now it does feel more of Castiel’s attire rather than his, considering that this is the only thing that Castiel wears as far as he knows.
This wasn't the time for such thoughts, though. Jimmy shakes his head slightly to clear it up, focusing back onto the matter at hand as he faces Castiel eye to eye, vessel to angel. “Hello, Castiel,” he returns cautiously, tightening the fist that held onto Fate's thread, feeling a surge of warmth pulse from it as he did so. He has to do this.
Castiel dips his head in acknowledgment—an action the old Castiel always did when speaking to the Host—and as he looks back up Jimmy can feel the surge of Grace that rolls within the angel, threatening to move and destroy at any moment should it be given a chance to. The man gulps, forcing himself to keep calm and manages to stand his ground even as Castiel now paces towards him, coming closer with every step until they're only inches apart, with Castiel going right up his personal space in the way he had recently done with Dean. Jimmy still stands firm, clenching his jaw and looking back at Castiel unflinchingly but unable to properly hide his confusion when the angel smiles in wide amusement and chuckles; a soft, dark sound that Jimmy just knows does not bode well in the slightest.
“You are interesting, Jimmy Novak,” Castiel speaks, a quiet little murmur that's almost lost even in the silence. “I did not expect you to be here, all things considered.”
Jimmy only looks back, voice steady as he replies. “I didn't expect myself to be doing this, all things considered.”
“You never have to,” the angel replies, inclining his head. For a moment his eyes dart towards Gabriel once more, and Jimmy sees the blue irises flash in some unrecognizable emotion before Castiel returns to him. “You can always stand down. Considering your services to me, I can easily forgive you.” He smiles once more, false and dark, and adds on. “Be thankful for my mercy.” His then eyes dart down towards his clenched fist, amusement glinting now as he continues. “Binding me with Fate, however, is not going to work. I am God, after all.”
“I'm not binding you,” Jimmy snaps back without thinking, and since there's nothing more to lose now he reaches out and grabs the fake Castiel's wrist, touching the string around his own wrist to the skin of the angel. He feels his skin burn and start to blister from the moment he touches Castiel, but Jimmy bites the inside of his cheek to resist the pain and holds on, gritting out the next words through clenched teeth. “I'm binding myself to Castiel, and you're not going to stop me.”
The angel's amusement only seems to grow tenfold, lips curling upward as he quietly states his response. “I will.” And he starts to reach out towards Jimmy, most likely with the intent of ending his life or send him somewhere that's bad enough.
Jimmy squeezes his eyes shut, attempting to block out the stinging pain as he focuses himself, calling out to Castiel—the real Castiel—as much as he can. C'mon, Cas, help me out here! Once the false Castiel got a hold on him, this will be all over, and Jimmy doesn't exactly want to die again so soon. He grits his teeth, preparing himself for a world of pain as he feels the pads of the other Castiel's fingertips start to brush against his arm. This was going to be it, then. He was going to—
—then he felt it.
Castiel instantly drew back the moment he sensed it, eyes wide in surprise just as Jimmy opens his. He could feel it, the warmth and power of Grace that now flows through him; Jimmy knows that it isn't much, but it's more than enough to startle the fake Castiel, and that's more than enough for what he needs to do. Around his wrist Fate's thread starts to glow a brilliant gold, flaring brightly as the loose end of the string latches itself onto Castiel's wrist, wrapping around him and sinking right through his skin with a hiss of burnt flesh.
He sees the false Castiel's eyes flare, flashing in warning as the binding takes place, but Jimmy ignores it in favour of shutting his own eyes again, blocking out the light show going on as he concentrates on pouring himself into the thing before him. Castiel's body was now nothing more but a container for millions and millions of souls, and Jimmy had to make himself join the flow. He reaches out mentally, stumbling his way through the connection he had now and attempting to lose himself into the howling that starts to resound in his ears. He's almost there, Jimmy knows that he is—a wave of vertigo washes over him once the connection takes root, and he's getting there—
—Jimmy's eyes suddenly fly wide back open as a sharp, cold pain blossoms in his heart, the sensation starting to jag down across the rest of his body. He tastes blood on his lips, dribbling down his chin and staining through the tee-shirt that he's wearing now. Jimmy lowers his head down to see a glint of metal lodged right through where his heart was, the blade going straight through him and right into Castiel as well. Just like him the angel is as stunned as he is, and Jimmy follows the other's eyes to gaze at their perpetrator.
The archangel lets go of the blade after he says that, taking a step back and watches impassively as both he and Castiel fall, the blade still locking them together. The world starts to fade as he falls, everything turning icy cold against his skin. He barely registers the fact that he's landed on top of Castiel, only the fact that he's staring right into his own eyes as darkness and cold envelopes him.
The last thing that Jimmy registers is the unintelligible shout of Dean's voice before everything slips into black and silence.
Chapter 4: Three
Three: Mendacious and delusive streets.
It's dark everywhere and he can't see, but he knows that he's falling. The wind howls in his ears, a phantom breeze rushing past him as he falls and falls and falls within the darkness. Even though he feels himself falling there's no way for him to see—there's no light, no shadow, no anything. There's only the sensation of him falling and falling and never stopping.
He tries to look at his hands, his legs, anything that would show his own form, but he can see nothing, can make out nothing. The ice-cold winds cut deep into him, slowly numbing away all sensation. A second, a minute, an hour passes, and soon he feels nothing at all even though he knows he should.
The darkness is the same behind his closed eyelids, but he can try to imagine otherwise and feel slightly comforted as a thought slowly comes to his mind.
Am I... Falling?
Is this what Falling felt like? To plunge down, never to stop and only keep on tumbling down to a certain end? It was so cold, so cold and painful and lonely and he was already so tired of it. The darkness overwhelms him, eating inside him relentlessly. He feels himself numbing over, both inside and out, barely noticing the wave of vertigo that washes over him before everything suddenly kick-starts itself and he feels himself Falling.
A surprised cry tears out from his throat as he Falls, the cold starting to cut into him once more as now he does feel the vertigo hitting him. His heart leaps up, threatening to jump out from his mouth as his senses lurch again and he can almost feel himself hitting the ground—
The world snaps back into light around him as Jimmy gasps and opens his eyes, an action he instantly regrets as the sunlight from above shines right into his eyes and Jimmy quickly shuts them back, feeling the corners starting to tear up. He feels something wet and moist under him, gentle pricks against his fingertips that easily give way as Jimmy clenches his fist to steady and then push himself back up. Jimmy quickly shakes away the mild sense of vertigo that washes over him momentarily, frowning as he lets his vision focus properly.
His vision slowly clears up, and Jimmy blinks as he makes out fields and trees and bushes, all of them clustering together in shades of greens and browns. Above him the sky is clear and bright, and in the distance he hears the sounds of children shouting and laughing. Jimmy slowly gets up on his feet, brushing off the soil and dirt that’s gotten onto his clothes—he realizes absently that he’s somehow in the old Castiel attire again—before he looks back up; the sound is louder now, closer, and Jimmy lets his curiosity lead him, following the noise. As he walks the scene starts to bring in more and more memories to him, a strong sense of déjà vu stirring within him as he approaches the source of the noise, and the feeling causes him to pause before a cluster of bushes, stopping as Jimmy wonders what exactly is going on right now.
“—I am not here to judge you, Dean.”
Jimmy instantly freezes, blood turning ice cold as the familiarity of that voice grips him tight. Without even thinking he goes through the bushes, bursting through it to nearly collide with the back of a bench—a bench that has Dean Winchester sitting on one end, and on the end of another bench sits Castiel. The old Castiel, the Castiel who had been living inside Jimmy’s body and still is, even until now. He remembers this moment as clear as day, the moment when Castiel had said something that Jimmy had not expected him to—something that just as it made Dean start to trust him, also made Jimmy begin to understand him properly.
(He also remembered how, one week later after a battle in Australia, he had asked Castiel if what he said to Dean was true. Castiel had hesitated, but in the end he had said the magic word. He had said ‘yes’, and from there his fate was sealed.)
The man stays silent as he watches the conversation play out between Dean and Castiel, watching the two speak; it’s certainly different, being able to see this from the outside rather than watching all of this through his own eyes. From here he can see the way Dean’s eyes occasionally flick towards Castiel, green eyes focusing on him as if the angel is a puzzle to try and solve, a mystery to figure out and disassemble. Dean Winchester is always good at reading people when he needs to, and Jimmy knows now that right here and now is when Dean finally figures that Castiel is somebody, a being who he can at least put his faith in, if necessary. This is where their tentative relationship had begun, and Jimmy had been the one and only witness to it.
He sees Castiel take in a breath, eyes closing momentarily before he opens them back and speaks again, voice quiet. “Can I tell you something if you promise not to tell another soul?”
Jimmy sees Dean’s visible hesitation, the uncertainty in his eyes, but he also sees the acceptance and the tentative trust that the hunter is willing to extend out to the angel, and so he agrees. “Okay,” he says, properly looking at Castiel now with his green eyes.
So Castiel tells him—tells them—that he’s not a hammer, that he’s not just a mere tool under Heaven’s command. He tells them about his worries and his insecurities, about the things he wishes Dean could understand just as much as he does himself. Jimmy sees the whirlwind of emotions that’s painted on Castiel’s face, and now he wonders just when it is that the angel truly did start to care so much for Dean. Did the moment happen now, or at the beginning, or later? Maybe he might never really know the answer.
He watches the way Dean stares at the spot where Castiel had just been moments earlier and sees the sympathetic expression that’s on Dean’s face, only slightly lessened by the worrying frown crossing his face. The children continue to play and shout in the playground, oblivious as to what had just happened, and unknowing of how their lives had just been saved the night before, only to place them ever closer towards the end; an end that somehow never happened. But in its place, perhaps something far worse had happened.
Something that I don’t even know how to handle, Jimmy thinks grimly to himself as Dean stands up from his seat at the bench and starts to walk away. He watches the hunter leaving, eyes trailing after the other only to blink in surprise when suddenly the figure of Dean starts to fade without warning, growing blurry around the edges. Alarmed with this unexpected development, the man starts to chase after the disappearing hunter, the call coming out from his throat before he can help himself. “Dean—”
Jimmy stumbles on his feet, just barely managing to keep his balance at the sound of Castiel’s voice now suddenly coming from behind him. He stops and whirls around, eyes growing wide as now he sees the angel standing behind him. The sky itself suddenly has suddenly shifted from mid-morning to nightfall, and Jimmy hears the sound of crickets and flickering lights around him. The entire place has changed without warning, and as Jimmy darts his eyes around he feels yet another sense of déjà vu coming to him; he’s pretty certain that he’s been here, too.
There’s the sound of somebody moving from behind him now, and it clicks properly in Jimmy’s brain when he hears Dean’s half-snarl from behind, the impatience and rage of his voice bleeding through the single word he snaps out at the angel. “What?!”
Jimmy only gives himself a moment to glance towards Dean and then back at Castiel, who grants the hunter with a sideways look and explains himself cautiously. “You must understand why I can’t intercede. Prophets are very special; they’re protected.”
This had been the moment, Jimmy knew. This had been the moment when Castiel made his first decision to side with humanity and with Dean—a decision that had later caused him to be hunted down by the forces of Heaven. Or perhaps, this had been the moment when Castiel let himself choose, to make that decision to stick with humanity even though Heaven had no desire for humans to live on. This, in a sense, could be called the first real building block in the relationship between Castiel and Dean, the angel of Thursday and the Righteous Man.
The words between Castiel and Dean wash over Jimmy as the conversation plays out just as Jimmy remembers—he also remembers how, as Dean runs off to find Chuck Shurley and drag him over to where Sam is confronting Lilith, he had remarked to Castiel how Heaven would not like this. In response, Castiel only shrugs and repeats to him what the angel had told Dean. The thought makes Jimmy smile, just a bit; those had been some of the better days, before everything had crashed into a downward spiral.
As Dean vanishes into the distance so does the world itself as well, everything in his sight blurring and fading into darkness. The reprieve, however, is momentary at best, and everything around him starts to rumble and shake, wood and metal and everything clanking and banging into each other before suddenly his vision is filled with blinding white light as the high-pitched cry of an angel roars in his ears.
No, not an angel.
Jimmy raises his head, squinting through the growing light as he hears Castiel’s voice shouting next to him. “I’ll hold him off! I’ll hold them all off! Just stop Sam!” There’s only the fraction of a second where Jimmy manages to make out Dean standing at Castiel’s side before the angel claps him on the shoulder and the human vanishes, having sent him off to the covenant where Sam would be.
This had been his last moments—their last moments—the point when Castiel had fully made his decision to protect humanity and stick to it. For that decision they had died and perished, killed by the wrathful might of Raphael. In the seconds before they died, Castiel apologized to him for putting him through this, and Jimmy remembers very well what his answer had been. It was fun while it lasted.
Raphael’s voice nearly rises to unbearable levels as the light intensifies, blocking out everything in a brilliant white for a few moments before everything abruptly blacks out once more, darkness rushing back in from everywhere. Raphael’s cry cuts out without warning, leaving nothing but echoes of it ringing in his ears as silence settles around him. It’s quiet; too quiet, even, and Jimmy feels his heart beating none-too-gently in his chest, still trying to calm down after all the things that he’s seen. The air around him feels cold, colder as the moments pass, goosebumps already starting to rise on his skin even though he’s wearing the overcoat.
Jimmy raises his hands the best that he can and breathes into them, letting the hot burst of air warm his quickly numbing fingertips. It helps somewhat, although the cold does not stop and slowly Jimmy starts to see the wisps of his own breath, highlighted by the dim light that’s gradually filling in his vision. Jimmy drops his hands and blinks as the world reshapes itself around him, lights growing before they suddenly start to flicker and Jimmy now sees flashes of stained, half-smashed walls lining the murky, dusty corridor that he’s standing in. An acrid smell wafts into his nose, the scent making his eyes instantly water up as Jimmy winces and proceeds to pinch his nose to block out the smell the best he can and then glances around him. The walls are bare except for the jet-black stains that splash across the surface, and in other parts chunks of concrete seem to have been ripped out forcefully; above him lamps dangle and flicker dangerously, giving Jimmy just enough light to make out the shape of a door at the other end of the corridor.
Jimmy doesn’t really know what’s going on, but at the very least, the direction in which he needs to go in is clear. Jimmy holds his nose, making it a point to breathe through his mouth as he starts to walk, his shoes pounding loudly against the floor below him and the sound echoes in his ears. The lights continue to flicker, electricity buzzing constantly in the air as the bulbs swing around dangerously. Jimmy can’t help but feel a sense of dread swelling up within him with every step he takes closer towards the door at the end; he doesn’t even know where he is or how he exactly got here (considering the fact that Gabriel killed him). Still, if anything, there’s a high chance that Castiel—or the fake Castiel—is somehow involved in this, and since he’s here he might as well figure out what’s going on.
The smell lessens as he approaches the door, and it soon becomes bearable enough that Jimmy can drop his hand down and resume walking normally. Under the weak lighting Jimmy slowly makes out the form and shape of the door he’s walking towards; they’re double oaken doors—a strange sight, considering where he is—but they’re half-rotten and old, and there are gaping patches across the surface where the wood has been half-eaten. Similar black stains like the ones on the wall are smudged across some of the other uneaten parts of the door, and the black liquid still gleams when Jimmy leans in to examine it, looking as if it’s been freshly slapped on.
Leaning away, Jimmy slowly tilts his head to look at the strange black liquid; his eyes narrow as Jimmy cautiously examines it. It’s certainly quite unlike anything he’s ever known, and he can’t help be curious about it now that he’s seen it everywhere. The man slowly raises a hand, reaching out carefully with one finger in order to swipe a bit of it away from the door—
He stops when the sudden sound of shuffling feet come from the other side of the door, and in a moment of impulse Jimmy instantly shifts his hands to reach for the door handles instead, yanking at them to pull the doors wide open. He blinks when a rush of wind comes out to breeze across him, and in the next moment he hears a surprised voice addressing him—a voice that Jimmy knows well, even if the other person doesn’t.
Jimmy opens back his eyes, blinking as his eyes slowly adjust to the sight of the Green Room before him and the occupant inside—the occupant who is none other than Dean Winchester himself.
Dean narrows his green eyes after a moment of staring at Jimmy, realization clicking on his face as the hunter blinks and corrects himself. “Jimmy?”
“Yeah,” the man responds with a tentative smile, glad for the fact that he’s no longer alone in this wacky place—even if Dean’s sudden appearance here is a cause for concern. He glances around the room, recalling it from his memory along with the details that he notes before he looks back at the other. “What are you doing here?”
For some reason, the question makes Dean make a grimace and look vaguely uncomfortable. “Well, after Gabriel did his crazy thing and killed you—”
“I noticed,” Jimmy mutters out in a dark undertone.
Dean, at least, has the decency to pause and give Jimmy a sympathetic look there and then before continuing calmly. “You entered Cas through your soul or something, I think. Since you’re pretty much out of your body, you’re kind of technically dead one way or another.” There’s a pause, and then Dean snorts. “God knows how many times I’ve gone through it.”
“I have no idea if that is supposed to be reassuring in any matter,” Jimmy deadpans back flatly, and somehow his response only serves to make Dean stop for a moment and blink, surprise flashing on his face for a split second before mild amusement replaces it.
“Huh,” he starts, and the corners of his lip curl up slightly. “Now I know where Cas gets his sarcasm from.”
Jimmy rolls his eyes in return. “You still haven’t answered my question.”
“I’m getting there,” Dean retorts back, pushing himself off the chair he’d been sitting on ever since Jimmy had entered the room. “Currently you and Cas're pinned down with Gabriel's sword in the middle of the panic room. You being inside Cas now is like... the medicine or something putting the souls to a halt, so the Cas outside can't do anything while you're in here.” The hunter pauses then, thinking for a moment and frowning as he searches for the appropriate words to say with. “We gotta move fast, though; there's only so long your presence stops them, and when they start to fight back it’s not going to be easy getting out.”
Jimmy nods, acknowledging Dean's words and his highlight about the severity of the situation, but there is one thing that keeps sticking out at him. He turns to the other with a curious look, echoing pointedly. “We?”
Dean stares back. “Yeah,” he answers, sounding highly certain and wholly immovable. “We.”
Jimmy gulps, and stares in return as well. His heart is pounding again, beating dread and uncertainty into his blood. “What did you do, Dean?” he finally makes himself ask, even though a part of him doesn't want to hear the answer. If Gabriel had needed to kill him for this to happen, then Dean—
The hunter rolls his shoulders in a shrug. “Nothing big,” he replies nonchalantly. “I'm currently knocked out on the sofa, I think. Gabriel pulled some mojo on me or something to get me in here after I asked him to.”
“Gabriel—” Jimmy starts, stops, and then composes himself before starting again. “—but why?”
Dean only snorts out loud in response. “Somebody's gotta have your back, right? Going up against all the souls of Purgatory isn’t exactly a cakewalk, Jimmy.”
“I know,” he replies quietly. How could he not know? In the year he had with Castiel he has seen more than enough of the dark side of the world. Shapeshifters and vampires and werewolves and ghouls—a whole new world of monsters and beasts all laid out before his eyes. And now all these things were here, gathered together through death and ready to bare their fangs and claws to the world once more—and Jimmy now stands as the only thing between them and the outside. Hardly the most comforting thought in the world at all.
The hunter gives Jimmy a brief moment to reflect on his thoughts before he speaks again, this time in a way that's much more thoughtful. “Gabriel said that it was a good idea for me to come in here, anyway. I could make sure you're safe, and I can get to Cas too since I have, uh—” Dean pauses and hesitates, a strange gesture coming from the man. Jimmy, however, just waits patiently as Dean recollects himself and starts again. “I've got some... connection, I guess. Gabriel didn't really explain it to me.”
It doesn't take long for Jimmy to put two and two together though. “When Castiel pulled you out from Hell,” he says, gesturing towards the shoulder where he knew the seared hand print lay under the cloth. “He touched your soul with his Grace, and it left a mark. That mark links you two together.”
Jimmy's words make Dean pause, the hunter staring at him for a few moments before he makes a grunt and turns away. “Should've figured that you would know,” he mutters out, just loud enough so that Jimmy can hear it. Dean inclines his head slightly and adds on. “Did Cas tell you that?”
The man shakes his head. “Not really,” he admits, voice soft. “It's just... there.” Jimmy pauses then, the corner of his lips curling up slight before continuing. “Not hard to feel it when you're with an angel.”
Dean doesn't say anything to response, quickly turning his head away instead and finishes up quickly. “Yeah, so. To quote Cas, we've got a 'profound bond', and I used that to get in here. Although I got stuck inside here until you came along.” He stops to let out a sharp laugh, bitter and dark and dry. “Some help I am.”
“I appreciate it,” Jimmy quickly says, and it is true—Dean being around does help, and it makes Jimmy feel better; the hunter's experience and knowledge will play a good part in aiding Jimmy, and considering the odds now stacked against them, Jimmy knows that they're going to need all the help he can get. It's two of them against the entirety of Purgatory now, and there's no way something like this is going to be easy.
Dean glances towards the door now, eyes and expression hardening as he clenches his jaw and gazes at whatever would lie beyond the double oaken doors that stand before the two of them. “Alright,” he starts, letting out a breath through his nose. “Let's go.”
Dean steps up from behind him, green eyes blinking as the hunter focuses on their new-old surroundings. “Nice place,” he remarks not too dryly, a grim smile etched onto his features. “You know the way?”
“There's only one way,” Jimmy points back out quickly and proceeds to start walking, not even bothering to wait for whatever Dean's response is. A few moments pass before another set of footsteps join his, and at the corner of his eye he sees the hunter walking beside him. The look on Dean's face is not exactly comforting, but the determination is something of a promise, perhaps, a desire to go forward and do what he intends to do here. What they both intend to accomplish.
The two of them walk in silence until they reach the door on the end. It’s a simple door this time, carved out of metal that's now rusty and old, stained with patches of black. Like before, the black stains shine unnaturally, gleaming oddly under the lights as Dean and Jimmy come close to it. They pause before the door, staring at it for a few moments before Jimmy slowly starts to reach out for the handle.
“Whoa, hold on there,” Dean cuts in suddenly, grabbing Jimmy’s wrist to stop him from reaching the door. Annoyed, Jimmy turns towards Dean with every intention to voice out his irritation, but stops when he sees the concerned look that’s smacked across the hunter’s face. Jimmy remains silent, frowning slightly as he watches Dean glance at the door for a moment and worries his bottom lip rather thoroughly. “You’re just going to open it?” he finally asks, and it’s hard to not hear the concern in his voice.
Jimmy turns back to the door and looks at it himself for a second before using his other hand to reach for the handle. “Not much else we can do at this point,” he states plainly, and proceeds to wrap his fingers around the handle before pulling the door open. Dean makes a sound and drops Jimmy’s wrist, stepping back as Jimmy yanks the door open with a torturous squeal of old metal hinges. Both men hold their breath as light rushes into the confines of the room, revealing a set of stairs that look as if they had been carved out of stone.
Dean lets out the breath he had been holding, giving the stairs a look and then directing his gaze towards Jimmy, who looks back at him. “Time to go up, I guess.”
Jimmy puts on a grim smile and turns back to the stairs that greet him in the room, looking at it himself before he sighs out loud and nods in agreement. “Let’s see where they lead to.”
“I’ll take the lead,” the hunter quickly says once their decision’s been made, brushing past Jimmy before the man can say otherwise and starting his way up the stairs. Without wasting another moment Jimmy swiftly follows behind, leaving the corridor behind him as he steps into the room and up the stairs, shoes clicking against the stone surface. The two of them take a few steps up before the squeal of metal suddenly cries out behind them, and they turn around just in time to see the metal door slamming shut, booming with a resounding silence.
Jimmy turns back to Dean, whose gaze is still fixed onto the now-closed metal door. A moment passes, and then two, and Dean’s flying down the stairs and grabbing the handle, cursing loudly as it refuses to budge under his strength.
“Son of a bitch,” he snarls out, turning back to Jimmy and scowling at him. “What’re you waiting for? Come down and help me here, damnit!”
Dean’s shout snaps him back into reality, and Jimmy gives a quick nod before he goes back to the door and attempts to help the hunter open the door. Just as he had suspected though, the door stays shut, unyielding. After about a minute or so of attempting to open it Dean has to concede defeat—although he does it most unwillingly, snarling again as he gives it a not-too gentle kick that causes the entire door to vibrate.
“Fuck,” he swears once more, glaring harshly. Jimmy absently notices that his fists have clenched up, although Dean soon relaxes them and sucks in a breath to calm himself down. The hunter opens his eyes and turns to the stairs, Jimmy following his gaze as the two of them look up and up at the seemingly never-ending flight of stairs that now stands before them, stretching onwards to something almost like eternity.
The hunter lets out another sigh. “One way ride,” he mutters to himself, starting to move again after that. Without much of a choice in the matter Jimmy follows right behind, the sounds of their pounding feet and breathing being the only thing that breaks through the silence.
Time passes by as they climb, although Jimmy has no idea how long it has been since they’ve started to climb up the staircase. It could have been just seconds or minutes or perhaps hours had already passed, but there is no way of really telling. The moments tick by unnoticed, time itself seeming to drag on and on as the two of them push their way up the stairs with no end in sight. They don’t seem to be able to get closer to the top at all, and the bottom is nothing but a black void, so high up they are now.
For all the stamina that Dean has even the hunter needs to stop eventually, chest heaving as he struggles to get his breath back. Jimmy has to stop himself from collapsing onto the ground, utterly tired and exhausted from all of the climbing that they had done in the last only God knew how long time they had. He manages to settle on doubling over and rests his palms on one of the upper steps before him, kneeling down as Jimmy tries to collect himself back together. Too much. This was seriously too much, and Jimmy didn’t know if he could even take any more.
Dean manages to recover quickly, however, and Jimmy hears the hunter’s breaths soon slowing down into something manageable. Footsteps come down towards him after a pause, and then there’s a hand roughly grabbing him around his bicep and before Jimmy can register anything else, Dean’s hauling him up and tugs one arm over his shoulder, holding him in place by the wrist as the hunter’s other arm slips around his waist and supports him from there.
“No stopping here, Jimmy,” he hears Dean wheeze out beside him, words forced out in-between breathless pants as the man straightens himself properly. “I know we’re almost there.”
Jimmy can only make himself nod and attempt to steady himself better despite wobbly knees, still panting harshly as sweat drips off his chin and from the tip of his nose. They splash down onto the steps as Dean starts to move again, shouldering Jimmy along with him as the two men continue to push their way up the steps, going up foot by foot slowly and carefully. They are closer now, Jimmy realizes; the light is now brighter, closer to them, and the darkness slowly disappears as the light swallows up the shadows behind them.
The light seems to close in on them with each step they take, blotting out the shadows and filling everything in their senses with light. Jimmy can’t help but shut his eyes as they take the last few steps up the staircase, climbing right into the light and feeling an intense heat burning all around him like a feverish heat. He hears Dean’s own gasp beside him, surprised and taken aback, and then he hears and feels the displacement of air before the light fades out against his eyelids. After that, Jimmy hears nothing else but silence.
There’s a beat, and then two.
“What the hell,” Dean’s voice suddenly breathes out in disbelief beside him, and Jimmy finally allows himself to open his eyes and stare at the sight before him.
It was—Jimmy didn’t know what to say, actually, if only because there was nothing he could say to what now stretched before his eyes. Around them giant cliffs stretch without end, encircling their surroundings and beyond and holding it all like the palm of a hand. Tufts of mist rolls across the surface, running from the stone platform they are standing on and flowing everywhere, coating the entire place like a cool, mystical blanket. In the distance Jimmy sees a giant lake that glitters unnaturally, pillars of ice rising up from the surface and connecting the land to the twilight skies that span above them that are stained with patches of varying colours that shift in every angle, almost like an oil slick. In the absolute centre of his vision, a blank, white circle stands there, darkness and shadow oozing from the edges.
Jimmy stares at the sky for a moment more before he brings his gaze down, looking below the platform that he and Dean are standing on to see the ground spreading out below them. He sees reds and oranges and browns burning into his eyes, the land below them glowing as if it’s on fire. Mist surrounds the edge where the land edges at the cliff bases, flowing around like a river that never stops or fades.
Beside him Dean sucks in a deep breath and proceeds to let it out, green eyes still transfixed onto the place that rolls out before their eyes, a strange sort of deadly beauty which now stands before them. The land continues to glow uneasily below them, while the skies above them flash and rumble as the roar of thunder and lightning echoes from the distance, the sound prompting Dean right back into reality.
“Right,” he starts, breathing loudly again, and swivelling his gaze towards Jimmy. “You feeling any better now?”
Jimmy gives himself a few seconds to figure out his own stamina and condition before he nods an affirmation. “As well as I can be,” he croaks back, voice somewhat dry; he’s lost a ton of water in his system from all the sweat that’s pouring out from him. “Having some water would be great, though.”
Dean only rolls his eyes. “You’re a soul, dude,” he intones back pointedly. “You don’t need anything.”
“It’d still be nice,” Jimmy retorts back, although his face heats up momentarily due to embarrassment. Of course he’s a soul—how could he forget? The man silently rebukes himself for his forgetfulness while he pulls himself away from Dean, steadying on his own two feet once more and casting a glance at the scenery that stretches out before them, strange and magical and utterly unnatural. It’s hard to believe that this is all inside Castiel, to be honest.
Dean rolls his shoulders and squints towards the strange blank circle at the middle of the sky, trying to take a gander at it. “I don’t know what the hell’s up with this place, but I’m going to bet that Cas is somewhere in here.” Dean says that with conviction and with absolutely certainty, and Jimmy wonders for a moment if the hunter’s words are meant for him or for himself instead. It almost feels that way to him.
“Well,” Jimmy starts as he walks cautiously. “First thing we need to do is to get down from here.” He stops at the edge of the platform, making sure that his feet aren’t too close to the ends as he cranes his head forward and looks down. They’re high up, way high up, and there’s no way for them to go down besides the stairs they came up from—and Jimmy’s pretty sure that really isn’t going to work.
The hunter follows him from behind, although unlike Jimmy he doesn’t really dare to look down and seems to turn slightly green instead. “I hate this,” he hears the other man muttering. “Why are we so friggin’ high up anyway?”
Jimmy turns his gaze away from the ground to glance back at Dean. “I’d like to know that myself,” he states back in turn, walking away from the edge and looks around him. The platform that they’re standing on is a simple affair, as far as Jimmy can tell—it’s a circular one, with the edges worn with age and looking rather slippery as well. On the surface of the platform a messy scrawl stretches across in jet black, spreading around like a crackling spider web. It’s almost gibberish to Jimmy, to be honest, up until he notices one of the scrawls and the image clicks in his mind.
“Dean,” he starts, ensuring that he has the hunter’s attention as he gestures towards the symbol he recognized. “I think these are in Enochian.”
Dean’s eyes instantly widen at the words. “Son of a bitch,” he swears out loud, green eyes now darting across all the Enochian symbols that dot across the surface. “Sam would be really helpful here right now. I’m not good at remembering this shit.”
“I can make out some of them,” Jimmy offers helpfully as he looks at the symbol he’s just pointed to and translates it. “That one means ‘here’, I think.”
Dean nods in acknowledgement, eyes roving across the symbols still as he tries to match each one with what he can recall. “This one’s ‘stand’—”
“’Ruler’, here,” Jimmy quickly points out the next one he manages to figure out.
Time passes as the two men attempt to decode every one of the symbols they can make out, piecing the letters and words together bit by bit. At times Jimmy has to pause and rack his brain for whatever he recalls from his year with Castiel, and likewise Dean attempts to remember whatever he’s managed to memorize from the books he’s pursued. There’s no telling how long it takes for them to finally translate everything, but once they done Jimmy strings the words together, and he feels dread opening up in his stomach as he says it aloud. “Here stands the throne of the Leviathans, the first beast before man and angel, the ruler of Purgatory.”
Dean sucks in a breath once more, and a very worried expression appears on his face which the hunter fails to hide properly. “Shit,” he swears, and Jimmy can very well emphasize with that remark. The first beast before man and angel—what chance did Castiel have against something as powerful as that? Time now ran all the shorter, and more than ever it was imperative that they had to find the angel.
Still, horrifying discovery aside, there is still the matter at hand—going down the throne. “Now what do we do?”
The hunter grimaces. “Beats me,” he mutters darkly, giving the Enochian script at their feet a stern glare. “I’d been hoping that we’d figure out a way with this, but—”
Dean cuts himself short abruptly and ducks to the side, just in time before a fireball hurls past where the man had been seconds ago. Jimmy stumbles back in surprise, eyes wide as he feet remain rooted to the ground out of shock. Dean curses loudly again, darting towards Jimmy and pulls him to the ground just as another fireball flies over their heads. The heat of the fireball is so close that Jimmy swears he can feel his scalp starting to burn.
“I don’t think I need to tell you this, but we’ve got company,” Dean says as Jimmy sees the silhouettes of a single, massively winged creature heading towards them, tiny flickers of gold and orange visible from its mouth that soon become larger as the dragon throws yet another fireball towards them. Both Dean and Jimmy manage to evade that just in time, although the hunter’s now swearing up a storm as the dragon fly closer towards where they are.
“Fuck,” he curses, snarling through his teeth. “How the fuck are we supposed to defend ourselves against a dragon? These fuckers are hard enough out there, much less here.”
Jimmy tries to calm himself down, looking at the dragon and then glancing at the platform they’re on. “It shouldn’t be able to land where we are,” he attempts to hazard a guess. “There’s not enough space.”
“It can turn human,” Dean says in return, lips pursed as his eyes narrow. “That doesn’t make things any easier, though. It still breathes fire and shit.”
Not comforting at all. The sound of the dragon’s wing beats were audible now, starting to thunder in his ears as the beast approaches ever closer to the platform. He looks around, trying to find something—anything—that could help them in this situation, but aside from the Enochian emblazoned onto the platform the place’s as clean as a whistle. There wasn’t anything at all that could help them.
Dean curses loudly again before he reaches for Jimmy, grabbing him and dragging the man away as the two men throw themselves to the side as the dragon make a diving swoop, talons stretching out in a bid to grab hold of either of them. Jimmy couldn’t help but stare a bit as the dragon flew past them, its deadly beauty truly a sight to behold. Its scales burned just like fire itself, eternally blazing and shifting as the beast roared and twist around, the red-orange-yellow-gold shifting along with its actions. Its eyes flared a fiery red, glowing as hot as heated metal as a stream of smoke puffed out from its nostrils.
Trespassers, Jimmy hears the fierce, dangerous mental snarl resounding in his head, and Dean barely has a moment to react to that before the dragon speaks again. How dare you stand upon the throne of the first beasts?
“You mean the Leviathans?” Jimmy asks before Dean can say anything in response, even though he senses the hunter glaring at him sharply since he is, well, talking to a dragon. Jimmy thinks he’s pretty dumb for doing this too, but he doesn’t exactly have any other choice in the matter at the moment. It’s either this or being eaten, and Jimmy would rather pick the option that has him staying alive.
The dragon seems to look vaguely unimpressed by the question, but it snorts again and responds—this time with not as much hostility. Yes.
Unfortunately, this time Dean manages to speak up before Jimmy can cut in. “What problem do you have, anyway? Couldn’t you just talk to us first before tossing flaming giant fireballs at us?”
Jimmy winces a little at the lack of tact coming from the hunter, but somehow the beast only makes an amused sort of snort and answers Dean’s question. Nobody has ever stepped foot upon the Leviathans’ throne before, not until now. They are the first beasts, the rulers of Purgatory. A pause, and then the dragon add on almost silently. Tyrannical rulers.
Both Jimmy and Dean’s eyebrows rise then, and the two men glance at each other for a moment in silent understanding. Jimmy is the one who asks the question. “What do you mean by that?”
The Leviathans were cast into this place by their creator, the same creator who made Purgatory as it is, the dragon starts to explain, the silence in between its words broken only by the beating of its giant wings. They were once locked and sealed up in Purgatory, never to be touched by man, angel or beast. But when the door to Purgatory was forced open, the chaos allowed the Leviathans to escape. Right here the dragon snorts loudly, shaking its head in a very human-like manner. Now in here they rule over us all and oppressing us under their claws while they control the one who had taken all of us in, shaping this reality to their means.
Realization clicks in both men there and then. “They’ve got Cas,” he hears Dean mutter out beside him, and it’s impossible to ignore the flare of something that swells with Dean’s words.
The dragon blinks once. The angel of Thursday, Castiel, it confirms, and now a curious look crosses its eyes as the dragon looks between the two humans. Both of you have been touched by the angel.
“Long story,” Dean quickly says in return.
Jimmy decides it’s most likely time to change the topic of this impromptu talk. “We’ve heard that Castiel is still around. Can you take us to him?” he asks.
There’s a pause as the dragon looks between the two humans once more. What are your intentions? It eventually asks after a few moments.
Best to just give the truth and make things easier for all of them. “We want to take him out and banish the remaining souls back into Purgatory,” Jimmy replies, honest and straightforward and pointedly ignoring Dean’s dark murmur of ‘nice going there’.
The dragon blinks once at the answer before it inclines its head and gazes at Jimmy directly. How will you contain the angel? Without the vessel, the angel is but insubstantial Grace that humans cannot touch.
“I’ll take him into me,” Jimmy blurts out the answer before he can take it back, and even Dean has to pause when he hears the words coming out. Likewise, the dragon seems to be just about as surprised at the hunter himself is, but Jimmy pushes on before either of them can say anything to intercept him. “I’m his original vessel, and I’m saturated with his Grace, or something. If anybody can take him back, it’s me.”
“Jimmy—” Dean starts warningly, but the dragon cuts in from there.
You make a valid point, it replies simply, giant tail swishing casually behind. Another moment passes, and then: And you are certain you will return all of us back to Purgatory?
He nods, answering without fail. “Yes.”
The dragon nods back, seemingly satisfied with the answer. Then I will bring you to where the Leviathans stand now, it says, and then it twists itself around so that the dragon now presents its back to them where vicious spikes burst out from various points along its spine. Both Dean and Jimmy step back as the dragon slowly hovers itself to the edge of the platform, close enough so that the two men can climb onto its back. Climb on; I will fly you there, and the ground is a long way down.
Jimmy doesn’t hesitate and starts making his way towards the dragon. Dean, on the other hand, hardly looks convinced and pointedly crosses his arms across his chest, scowling. “How do we even know if we can trust you? You seem awfully willing to go against your boss.”
The dragon twists its elongated neck around so that it can properly face the hunter. Before the Leviathans took over there was the Mother, and it was the Mother who we loved and cherished, not the first beasts. She was the one who took care of us and protected us, not the first beasts. They only know how to crush and to eat, and not to care. All of us have suffered under their power. It’s eyes flare, and the beast adds darkly. Though the Mother is gone, we will not submit ourselves to a callous ruler like the Leviathans, even though they are indestructible; to do so would be an insult to the Mother’s memory.
“So it’s like a mutiny, huh,” Dean mutters back, sounding just a little impressed—but not convinced. The hunter eyes the dragon cautiously, attempting to figure out the dragon’s motives properly. “So what do you get when you all return to Purgatory. From what I’ve heard, it doesn’t seem like a good place to be in.”
Purgatory is our home, the dragon snorts out, derisive. And it is the cage for the Leviathans as well. The moment they return to Purgatory, they will be held under lock and key once more. That is how the real Purgatory works for them, rather than this false reality they have made.
“You seem to know a lot about this,” Jimmy remarks out.
I am—was—the gatekeeper of the Leviathans, it replies without missing a beat, and from there Jimmy supposes it’s not hard to figure out the rest of the dots from this revelation. He hears Dean sucking in a breath as the dragon elaborates more. It is a duty that has been charged to me as the current Alpha of the dragons.
Now Dean’s eyes are growing wide. “You’re the Alpha?” he asks, even though the answer is already there; Jimmy has to frown a little, because he’s starting to get a bit lost in this exchange. Just what were they going on with this ‘Alpha’ business? Did dragons and whatnot have packs going on or something?
The dragon dips its head once. Indeed, it answers simply.
Dean takes in another breath again and closes his eyes for a few moments; when he opens them again, he’s staring straight at the dragon and addressing him directly. “Alright, Scales, we’re going to play along with you for a bit. I’m going to keep watch, though. The moment you try to kill Jimmy or me—”
A snort escapes from the dragon. You mistrust me too much.
“With good reason, mind,” Dean quips back, although there’s no real venom in his voice. He steps closer towards the dragon now, casting a wary eye towards the ground far, far below. “…you sure you won’t drop us?”
I will not, is the simple response that it gives before the dragon turns its neck around to face back forward. If we are done talking, then we shall be off.
“Easier said than done,” the hunter mutters darkly, giving a glare to Jimmy after that due to the slightly amused smile that the man has on his face right now. “What’s so damned funny?”
“If I didn’t know better,” Jimmy starts slowly. “I’d think you’re terrified of flying.”
A vein throbs in Dean’s temple. “Shut up,” he snaps out loud and proceeds to settle himself in-between two of the dragon’s bigger spines. Once the both of them have settled, the hunter calls out to the beast. “Alright, Spikey, take us off to wherever those sons of bitches are.”
It will not be too far, the dragon replies before it beats its wings once and starts to glide in the air, the roar of the wind making even the beast’s voice near-impossible to hear as it speaks its next few words. And my name is not Scales or Spikey; I am known as Korialstrasz.
“I think I’ve heard that name somewhere before,” Jimmy can’t help but comment.
Humans tend to take note of the oddest things, is all that the dragon—Korialstrasz—says in response, beating its wings yet another time. Behind him, Dean lets out a snort that quickly turns into a yelp of surprise as Korialstrasz brings them up higher.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” Dean starts, sounding both very unamused and highly displeased, but the dragon brings them up even higher and he pointedly goes quiet after that.
Chapter 5: Four
Four: The living and the dead are watching you.
If Jimmy had to be completely honest with himself, there were many reasons why he had said ‘yes’ for the first time to Castiel back then during all those years ago in front of his house in Pontiac. From a young age, Jimmy had always found himself fascinated by the skies and of dreams of flying; in his childhood days he would lay down on the on the grass to squint up in the sky and spend hours imagining himself amongst the clouds. He could recall his dream of being a pilot, although that desire has long since been washed out by the harshness of reality. But still, the desire to be up in the sky had really never faded—even though Jimmy could never truly indulge himself in that fantasy as Amelia and Claire and everything else took up all of his time.
To be honest, there was nothing much about his life that Jimmy could complain about—he had his wife and kid and the white picket fence dream that many people liked, and things were good enough for him. But there had been the quiet, never-changing, childish part of himself that longed for the freedom of the skies, of what the might of an angel’s wings might grant unto him. Up until that moment he had been nothing but a thirty-or-so year old guy with a family and a job selling ad time on the radio; as much as he did want to tell himself otherwise, Jimmy knew that a part of him wasn’t ever truly happy with what he had. He did want more at times, something to make his life more complete, more whole, more meaningful. Perhaps, in a way, that’s why he had come to believe Castiel so quickly after the first few times—even as out-of-the world as it sounded to him then, Jimmy wanted to believe. He wanted to believe that he did have meaning he so desired.
But in the end, Jimmy would only find his dreams and his hopes crushed, smashed and then scattered into the winds. From the angels to the corrupt hierarchy of heaven to the battles and then the end of the world—there could only be so much that Jimmy could take, and by the time Castiel got dragged to Heaven and the Winchesters found him amongst the rubble of the wrecked warehouse, Jimmy’s patience had long since run dry. For nearly a year he did nothing but suffer under Heaven and under the angels, and with Castiel disappearing he was done with it all. Everything he’d once believed had already long since been destroyed; all Jimmy desired was to return home and be with family.
A family that’s now lost to him. A family that he’ll never get to see again.
Jimmy opens his eyes to blink at the darkness that greets him, eyes slowly adjusting to the shifting light as the last few embers of the fire before him die out in flickers. Beside him he hears the sound of Dean’s snoring, the hunter worn out and tired after having spent the rest of the day holding on for dear life as Korialstrasz brought them to their destination. Turns out the man really had one heck of a phobia for flying, although Jimmy had been nice enough not to tease him too much about it. Korialstrasz, though, had been a different story, and by the time they finally did land Dean had been shaking and pale and pretty set to keel over at any given moment. Thus, their current stopover.
The coldness rushes forward the moment the fires properly die out, and Jimmy shudders, huddling deeper into the coat which now wraps around his body. It’s honestly a bit hard to remember that they’re still technically in Castiel now, especially after having seen all the strange sights that passed by them earlier during the flight on the dragon’s back. Jimmy recalls seeing the grand cliffs and the roar of the wind in his ears, the wind biting into his skin as Korialstrasz brought them over the blazing red fields that burned at the ground beneath them.
The fires of Purgatory, the dragon had informed them as they flew past. Made so nobody would dare to intrude upon the ground where the Leviathans reside.
The fires had been vast and wide and deadly in their beauty; even from above Jimmy could see how the unnatural flames curled and blazed, going on forever and for all of eternity. It had taken them about the entire duration of the flight to properly cross over them, and even from where he sits now Jimmy can still see the flames from a far distance, the fires still burning without pause as they cast an orange glow into the stretch of sky above them.
Jimmy turns his head back as he feels a shift behind him, and the human raises his head just in time as Korialstrasz twists his serpentine neck around in order to meet Jimmy’s gaze head on, blue eyes meeting red. Neither of them blink for a minute.
Eventually the dragon gives in and lowers its head, speaking. You wish to say something. Speak.
“...How probable is it that we can succeed?” Jimmy asks, worrying his lower lip as he says so. For all that Gabriel had said to assure him, Jimmy wants to know the absolute truth; for too long he has been played around by Heaven’s half-truths and lies. While Castiel is his friend and Jimmy does want to save him, at the same time he also requires the real truth. He can’t truly proceed otherwise.
Korialstrasz closes its eyes then, slightly shifting its head away; Jimmy can feel a twitch jumping from the giant tail at his side before the dragon answers the question. I cannot say, it starts, a soft snort escaping through its nostrils. Nothing like this has ever happened before.
Jimmy takes a moment to breathe out loudly. “Just give an estimation, if nothing else.” He needs to know. He has to know.
The dragon turns its head back to glance at Jimmy, one red eye staring at him for a moment before it flickers to gaze at the lake that glitters strangely even in the darkness. The Leviathans are the first beast, created before angel and men, Korialstrasz says, voice soft and quiet. They are the first of the firsts, while you are but a single man. The dragon pauses for a moment and darts a glance at the still-sleeping Dean before adding on mirthlessly. Two, when you count him. There is no chance that two men—even touched with an angel’s Grace—can ever be stronger than that of the first beasts.
Just as he suspects, then. Jimmy pushes down the lump in his throat, forcing himself to ask the next question. “So getting Castiel out is impossible, then?”
Korialstrasz shakes its head in response. Of that question, no. It is not wholly impossible. But the Leviathans hold on him will be strong; the angel is the foundation of this reality, and to remove him will be to destroy the cornerstone that holds this place together. The dragon stops again, almost thoughtful when it goes on with the next bit. Should that happen, I suppose chaos would reign.
“So Castiel would be with the Leviathans then, wherever they are,” Jimmy murmurs, more to himself than to Korialstrasz, but the dragon nods an affirmative regardless, tail twitching once more.
The silence that comes after that statement is pronounced and heavy; full of intent and purpose, and Jimmy cannot find himself falling asleep as millions of things flash in his mind. Memories of his time with Castiel, of his resurrection in this changed world, of everything that has happened to him. It’s hard to believe how much his world has changed from a few years ago, and even more so at how much he takes everything in so quickly these days. Maybe it’s an effect of being Castiel’s vessel for so long, or something else. Jimmy doesn’t really wish to know.
Eventually Korialstrasz is the one who breaks the silence, tail swishing just enough to get Jimmy’s attention and pull him back out from his thoughts. The human glances back to meet the dragon’s gaze, blinking at the curious tilt of the head that’s currently being given to him. “What is it?”
I wish to know, the dragon starts, looking from Jimmy to Dean and then back to him. What is your connection to the angel? Both of you have been touched by him, but what drives you to come all the way here to help him?
It’s a loaded question and Jimmy knows it, but somehow the thought of that doesn’t scare him as much as he thinks it should. After all, he already has his reason since the start, and no matter what that reason isn’t going to change. “Castiel is my friend,” he replies, and there’s nothing but honesty in his answer because it’s true. Castiel, the angel who had taken over his body and made him watch all the things that Castiel had done in that year with him—Castiel, the nameless soldier of Heaven who did what no other angel ever could; Castiel, the angel who learned how to truly believe. For all the things he had done and the wrongs he had committed, Jimmy still would not give him up—he couldn’t give up on the angel, not after everything they had been through once upon a time.
This much he could do at least, in order to repay the last wishes he had asked from the angel.
Korialstrasz takes a moment to look at Jimmy solemnly before it nods, and then proceeds to jerk its head towards the sleeping figure of Dean Winchester. And what of the hunter? What drives him?
Jimmy follows the dragon’s gaze to look at Dean as well and now trying to just look at him, to see what it is that Castiel could find so trustworthy of him. Dean Winchester, the Righteous Man—the one who started the chain reaction to the near-Apocalypse; to be honest there’s absolutely nothing about Dean Winchester that Jimmy can see as ‘righteous’. For all he knew about Dean Winchester during his time with Castiel he’s probably the last person who’d be the textbook example of righteous. But still, despite all of that, this is the human Castiel had chose over all of Heaven and over everything else had had once known. That this is the human that Castiel, despite all odds, had grown to love.
And perhaps, Dean may just love him back too. Jimmy hopes that’s the case, anyway.
Jimmy turns back towards Korialstrasz, looking at the dragon’s questioning red eyes for a moment before the corners of his lips curl up into a smile and the man answers the question. “They have a profound bond, that’s why.”
He’s back at the corridor this time around, standing in the space between light and shadow as moonlight streams in dimly into the place, lighting it up just enough for him to make out that there’s a figure at the end of the corridor where he’s currently facing. Curiosity overtaking him, Jimmy starts to make his way towards that strange person standing inside the shadows, but then a voice from behind stops him.
Do not go there, the voice speaks to him, warning and cautionary and in a way, almost familiar in its somewhat silted manner. Nothing good awaits you at the end of that road.
Jimmy turns around to try and see if there’s actually anybody behind him, but blinks when he sees nobody at all, just the outline of a rusty old door that stands solemnly before him. The man blinks another time before he shrugs and starts to turn back towards the figure, wanting nothing more than to go over and see who it is. Before he can move, though, the voice speaks again, halting him in his tracks.
Do not go there.
“Who are you?” Jimmy demands as he whirls around now, eyes darting about as he intends to seek out the one whispering words into his ears and into his mind. The voice does not answer, but merely repeats itself once more. Do not go there.
Jimmy whirls around, a scowl now crossing his face. “Show yourself!”
You already know.
All those words do is to make Jimmy frown. “How would I already know?”
You already know, the voice replies again, infinitely patient, but somehow insistent all the same. You already know the way.
“What—” Jimmy starts to demand once more, but the voice cuts him short before he can fully ask the question.
You already know the way, it echoes, soft and quiet and understanding. When the time comes, you will remember.
The sky brightens as the dragon brings them closer towards their destination, and Jimmy watches in mild fascination at how the lights play off Korialstrasz’s scales, the rays of the sun making them shine and flare in such a way that could only remind him of the fire from their campfire last night. Behind him Dean continues to remain far more interested in attempting to not fall off the dragon’s back, hands clutching tightly around the spike in front of him with fingers digging helplessly into the hard length of bone and mineral. “Are we there yet?” the hunter soon bellows out over the roar of the winds, his patience already having run short.
Korialstrasz turns its head back to regard Dean with a gleam of amusement in its red eye, not even bothering to hide said amusement in its voice. Soon, we will be. It stops to turn back its head back around, adding on in mirth. Patience.
“I’ve been pretty damned patient already,” Dean half-growls out under his breath, his voice just close enough for Jimmy to make out. In front of them both Korialstrasz lets out a snort, although the dragon’s amusement is soon cut short as Korialstrasz suddenly stills in mid-air. The sudden stop causes both men to lurch forward from the sudden shift of momentum, thrown forward slightly and losing their balance momentarily; fortunately, they both manage to regain themselves before either of them could slip from the dragon’s back.
Dean, of course, starts to snap once the hunter is certain that both him and Jimmy are alright. “What the hell was that for, Scales?”
Rather than chastising Dean about the inappropriate moniker (something that the dragon had been trying to do from the start to little success), Korialstrasz stays at where they hang in the air, wings beating thunderously at their sides for a few long moments before the dragon finally replies to them. We have company.
The hunter hisses out a few unprintable words behind Jimmy. “Good or bad?”
Bad, Korialstrasz answers tersely before it beats its wings once in an ear-shattering blast, the force of the flap causing them to blast backwards rather than forward. Jimmy winces as he clutches his ears, still reeling from the explosive sound thundering in his eardrums; he can barely make out the painful hiss coming from Dean. “Jesus, at least warn us beforehand!” the hunter bites out.
There is no time, the dragon replies quickly back in turn, shifting one wing after that to execute a sharp turn in mid-air. Again, both Dean and Jimmy have to hang on for their lives again as the wind presses and cuts against them, the force of it stinging cold. Jimmy squeezes his eyes shut as the wind starts drying up his eyeballs, while beside him Dean is cursing up a storm once more, the words inaudible to him as they’re swiftly whisked by the winds.
Korialstrasz makes a full turn back around before stopping, beating its wings yet again in order to start flying forward once more. Jimmy turns his head back to try and get a glimpse of who exactly their company is, but can’t make out anything except for winged, blurry silhouettes that could be just about anything. Dean, apparently has that same problem as well, because he’s soon snapping out loud in that demanding, authoritative tone of his that Jimmy knows well in his time with Castiel. “Wanna start explaining to us, Scales?”
Thunderbirds, Korialstrasz explains, disdain dripping from its voice as clear as day. They’re one of the few things that can take a dragon down, and there’s a whole flock of them after my tail. I can handle it if it’s one or two, but— it pauses to snort, irritation and frustration rolling off the beast in waves as it adds on in annoyance. The Leviathans must have sent them to stop me.
“You mean those featherbrains work for that son of a bitch?” Dean demands out again over the winds.
The dragon takes a moment to pull itself ahead of the thunderbirds before answering. Unfortunately, yes.
Dean curses once more. “How d’you take ‘em out?”
Several ways, but none of them at our current disposal. Korialstrasz twists its neck around now to glance at the approaching shadows, red eyes narrowing. The best way would be to get them to take each other out. Thunderbirds are extremely volatile, and they are susceptible to each other’s attacks. Using their powers against them would be the best course of action.
Jimmy hears the hunter mutter a few other choice words that’s hidden by the roar of the winds yet again. The man himself clutches tighter at the spike before him, readying himself for the eventual decision that Dean’s going to make; Jimmy can’t imagine anything else being decided at this point. He squeezes his eyes back shut as Dean shouts his answer back out to the dragon. “Alright, Scales, you’d better not throw us out.”
Korialstrasz makes a snort and Jimmy feels its neck turning back, muscles starting to shift under where he sits. Hold on tight, is the only thing that the dragon can caution them with before it snaps one wing out to catch the air, letting the force spin them right around (Dean was yelping here again) to properly turn around and face back at the approaching thunderbirds. Jimmy cracks one eye open as they whirl back, seeing sparks of electricity starting to play across the shadows like an interactive map of stars. Their wing beats sound similar to the dragons, although unlike the dragon’s their ones sound something closer to the echoes after a loud crash, the steady boom-boom-boom almost throbbing to the time of his heartbeat.
The dragon lets out a fearsome, blood-curling roar that shakes Jimmy to his bones before flapping its wings once, letting out a violent crash of thunder that booms in his ears. Without wasting any time Korialstrasz instantly goes into the offensive, darting forward with a speed so sudden it almost throws Jimmy off. Behind him Dean swears yet again, cursing loudly at the next moment as the dragon makes a sudden lurch and flies in a swift glide upwards, and it’s impossible to not feel the sudden shift of vertigo that comes with that action. Below them Jimmy hears the enraged cry of a thunderbird, its screech piercing right into his head and making his brain throb at the echoes of that cry.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” Dean grits out a few moments after, when Jimmy supposes the vertigo has passed and the both of them don’t feel like spewing their guts out or having major concussions. “We’re not going to last like this.”
Surprisingly, Korialstrasz makes a sound of agreement in front of them. The thunderbirds will win sooner or later. With both of you on my back, I am restricted.
Jimmy doesn’t need to turn around and see the slightly dirty look that Dean throws towards the dragon. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, Scales.”
Korialstrasz says nothing in return for a few moments, one eye keeping a look out for the returning thunderbirds as the other scans the lands below them. We are not far from our destination, it starts, pausing after that. I can drop both of you through the way once we are close enough, and from there lead the thunderbirds away. It should be within my capabilities.
This time, Jimmy speaks up before Dean can cut in with anything. “Where is the way?”
In the centre of the lake, right below where the hole in the sky is, the dragon answers, turning its gaze towards where it spoke. Jimmy follows its gaze over and sees the lake shimmering and gleaming in its ever strange way, noticing the patch of pure darkness that floats right in the centre. Jimmy raises his eyes up from there and sees the hole in the sky, the strange spot in the centre of this world that both intrigues and mystifies him.
Dean stares at the lake as well, grimacing. “We’re going to have to dive into the lake?” he asks.
Before there was land, there was only the sea, Korialstrasz answers, plain and simple. The first beasts were made to rule the boundless waters. The dragon makes another sharp turn, this time directly facing the lake as it makes its way towards where the end of their journey would be. Korialstrasz lets out another deafening beat of its wings, spurning them forward and closer to their destination even as the wing beats of the thunderbirds start to echo in his ears once more. The dragon pushes on even further forward, speaking with far more urgency now. I will bring you to the centre, and from there you two will have to jump down; with the connection you two share with the angel, that link will guide you the rest of the way.
“I feel assured already,” the hunter remarks dryly, but all the same there’s no other choice in the matter. Once the explanation has been given Korialstrasz picks up speed again, flying faster and harder, each beat of the dragon’s wings bringing them closer to the lake. The thunderbirds are gaining on them at the same time though, and Jimmy can hear their cries for revenge as they catch up with the dragon, screeching wildly before they swoop close and strike.
Korialstrasz roars at the moment when the birds come in close to attack, eyes blazing while it tries to swipe at them with its talons. The thunderbirds are however much faster and sleeker than the dragon, and they easily dodge the clumsy strikes that Korialstrasz attempts on them and return it with some vicious ones of their own. Both Jimmy and Dean have to duck as the thunderbirds attempt to pick them off the dragon’s back, but Korialstrasz constantly shakes them off before any of the birds can do that. The dragon twists around violently, another savage roar ripping from its jaws as Korialstrasz lashes its tail at them. The appendage is thick enough to catch some of the birds off guard and send them crashing down, although the dragon growls as the scales on the parts of his tail that make contact with the thunderbirds soon become charred and blackened, breaking into pieces that scatter in the winds.
Jimmy makes a start when he sees the now vulnerable appendage, seeing the pieces of new, untouched skin that gleams underneath the broken scales. “Korial—”
This is no time for regrets, human, Korialstrasz snaps back quickly, a snarl escaping it as the dragon takes a chance to cast another glance at their surroundings below. We’re getting close; I’ll start to go down now so that you two can jump through properly.
“They’re catching up again!” Dean shouts out from behind them, effectively cutting their time for conversation and discussion short. Korialstrasz quickly picks up its speed again, shifting its wings soon after to bring them to a lowering glide, going closer to the surface of the strange, shimmering lake. The light of the sky blinks back at Jimmy as they come close, shining in his face along with a million other broken reflections that Jimmy can’t make out at all. The shimmer, however, disappears as the blackness start to overtake the waters, and Jimmy watches as the differing darknesses shift and slide against each other, moving in a way that can only make Jimmy think of living shadows.
Korialstrasz’s voice quickly breaks Jimmy out from his thoughts. We’re here, the dragon says, hurried and impatient—and judging from the approaching thunderbirds, he can see why. Jimmy starts to shift in his spot, bringing his leg back from the side of the spike and trying to ignore the numbness that rushes up his muscles as he pulls his leg back. Dean doesn’t seem to fare any better as well, although he does seem to get over it sooner, which isn’t so surprising. As their feet dangle over the edge, the dragon imparts to them a few final words. Trust in the bond you two have with the angel, humans. That is the key to accomplishing what you desire.
Dean nods, and puts on his best smile as he faces Jimmy and asks the coming question. “Ready?”
Jimmy only rolls his eyes in response. “Let’s go.” He’s scared to death and terrified as hell about what will happen after this, but this is for Castiel, his friend. If they don’t do this, then all that they’ve done until now will all be for naught. Jimmy can’t allow that to happen. He will not let it happen, not after everything.
He sucks in a deep breath and closes his eyes, placing everything up to his fate as he follows Dean and allows himself to slip off the back of Korialstrasz. There’s a moment of clarity in where he’s freefalling in the air, feeling and sensing nothing else but the wind that howls in his ears—and then moments later he plunges straight into the lake beneath him.
The icy chill of the water grips him tight the moment he dives into the lake, the cold nearly causing him to gasp in surprise. Jimmy manages to rein in the reaction, though, and squeezes his eyes shut as tightly as he can. He can feel his cheeks straining from the sheer effort of keeping the air that’s trapped within them, his lungs constricting in an attempt to squeeze out as much as air that can be mustered out in the situation. Jimmy flails his arms in the water, attempting to swim upwards to the surface, trying to fight against the weight of his clothes and the pressure of the water as it squeezes him dry.
Shit, Jimmy swears in his head as he continues with his valiant attempts in swimming to the surface, but the weight of his clothes drag him down and Jimmy wriggles around desperately, trying to ease the burden by dislodging some of the layers off his body. His movements, however, are sluggish at best, made even worse by both the lake and his waterlogged clothes. The effort also causes Jimmy to quickly lose whatever oxygen he has left in his body, and soon the lack of air is what causes his undoing.
The man feels his strength sapping away from him swiftly as his body crumples and gives in to the tiredness and exhaustion, ice-cold water rushing into his lungs as his mouth instinctively gasps open in an attempt for oxygen. There’s pain wherever the water rushes in, choking his lungs and robbing him entirely of his air. His chest burns, stinging with a cold, icy fire, and Jimmy can only choke noiselessly in the water as pain wrecks his lungs and he can feel himself slipping, consciousness fading as pressure slowly eases and slip away from him without warning, almost as if the weight of the world itself is now being taken away from his shoulders.
Jimmy supposes he can appreciate the lightness, at least, as sensation numbs out in his nerves and he’s going, going, gone—
Tell me—do you want to save Castiel?
Yes. Yes, he does want to, but there’s no way he can do it now, not like this, lost and cold and tired and now doing nothing else but sinking deeper and deeper without an end to this in-between existence.
What drives you to come all the way here to help him?
He remembers being asked this question before, just not too long ago; he still remembers the answer as clear as day, and he repeats that answer again in his few moments of clarity, when he manages to wrestle himself out from the strange fog that’s hovering around his head. Castiel is my friend.
And you will do all that you can to save him?
Yes. Jimmy will, and it would come to pass no matter what. If I have to, I will give everything. Castiel’s the reason why he’s here now, why the world hasn’t ended, and why Claire and Amelia still get to live in a world that still stands and spins onwards. Though he’s gone down on the wrong path since then, Jimmy has the belief that things would change for the better; call it a hopeless dream, but Jimmy wants to believe. He wants to believe and trust in the angel who he had given his consent to, to be once again place his faith in the soldier that could manage to change the fate of the world.
Something seems to reverberate within Jimmy at the response he gives, and without warning Jimmy feels a pulse of something beating around the centre of his chest. It throbs and beats to the time of his heartbeat, beating on for a few moments before the sensation suddenly lurches and without warning, Jimmy feels a strong surge of warmth run down his limbs and across his entire body, wholly driving out the icy coldness within him. The sudden feeling causes Jimmy to let out a gasp in surprise, and as he does so the man flings his eyelids wide open, feeling nothing but phantom breezes caressing him. There’s no more water, no more ice, no more cold—only stifling air and the vast darkness that stretches endlessly around him.
Too surprised and stunned by the abrupt shift, Jimmy can only blink blankly as he now stares at the darkness that stretches out before him in all directions—up and down and left and right—seeing nothing else but miles and miles of shadows so thick he can’t make out anything at all, not even the hand that he raises in front of his face. Jimmy attempts for a few minutes but fails, letting out a hiss of frustration as he drops his hand back down and proceeds to twist his head around, trying to find the possibility of anything being able to help him out here. Wherever here happened to be, anyway.
Jimmy twists around some more in the darkness and silence, attempting to ascertain just exactly where his current location is after—after everything that’s just taken place. He still doesn’t exactly get what’s going on within Castiel, what with dusty corridors and vast places that seem too big and wide to be real, as if there’s a world by itself inside of the angel; but what he does know is that Castiel is somewhere in this vast, terrifying place, all alone and needing all the help he can get, and Jimmy isn’t about to abandon his celestial friend.
He feels the pulse of warmth again as he thinks that, a surge of energy that starts from his chest and starts to sweep out to all points of his body. The cold rushes away as heat fills in, replacing the chill, and Jimmy hears a voice whispering at the corners of his mind, a quiet murmur that’s so soft that it’s nearly inaudible even in the silence. Reach for it.
Jimmy twists his head around again, attempting to see if he can actually find the speaker this time round; his search, of course, yields up nothing. Frustrated, the man shoots back to the voice mentally (internal communication, at least, is something that Jimmy is now proficient with thanks to his year with Castiel). Who are you?
A warm pulse is his only response, the sensation tingling in his chest. Reach for it, Jimmy, the voice repeats itself, as patient as ever.
Not until I have answers, he retorts, trying to picture an immovable mountain and putting himself as that mountain; Jimmy always found that pictures and images work much better than words ever would in these channels. Where words could not describe, a picture is all that he needs to make himself understandable. This, too, he learned from his conversations with Castiel, the two of them once having been worlds apart despite being still so close to one another. The angel and his vessel. It would have been almost funny, really, if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s part of this.
The voice makes no comment at Jimmy’s efforts, but there is a hint of confusion and exasperation bleeding through when it speaks again. Reach for your bond with the angel. It will lead the way.
Jimmy has to pause at that, taken aback by the guidance he suddenly has; the battered, haggard and cynical part of him instantly regards this new information and its informant with suspicion, but the more hopeful part of him wants to latch onto this shred of hope, the one (figurative) speck of light within the darkness. What makes you so sure? He eventually asks to the voice, hopeful but wary, cautious but expectant.
A pause hangs on for a few moments, silent, considering, and then the voice answers, sounding so certain and sure that Jimmy can’t find any reason to doubt the words it spoke. Because you know.
Yeah, there’s no way that Jimmy can argue against something like that.
If I know, he starts slowly, because if this is the only way then yeah, he had better listen to the strange voice talking in his head, then why can I not reach it?
You already hold the thread, the voice returns, assuring and calming and at the same time confident, its patience seemingly never running thin. All you have to do is to follow where it leads you.
Thread. That word rings a bell in Jimmy’s head, somehow. The man pauses, trying to remember where and when the word had held significance to him. He runs his mind back through the days since his resurrection, from the moment he wakes up to where he is right now—waking up in the middle of nowhere, meeting Kortez, the return to Pontiac, being rescued by Gabriel—
—and then, the thread.
Just as the memory of that rushes into Jimmy, he feels the warmth from his chest—much more familiar to him now that he knows where its coming from—surging forth, rushing around his body as it flows towards his right wrist, concentrating itself there into a familiar band of warmth around his wrist that soon takes on shape and form. A warmth pulses, and Jimmy blinks as a brilliant flare of golden light suddenly bursts forth and Jimmy has to quickly screw his eyes shut to not let the lights injure his vision—while it wasn’t as flashy as many other things he had seen before (and by now Jimmy had seen a lot like Uriel’s death, which the bastard wholly deserved in his most honest opinion) but the intensity of it nearly blinding after having been in the darkness for so long.
After what feels like moments or minutes, the lights eventually die out and Jimmy lets himself count to five before he deems it okay to open his eyes again. He does it slowly, while blinking out the beginnings of tears that cling onto the corners of his eyes—the intense light had made them water just a bit. The darkness slowly refocuses before him once his eyes are fully open, along with a soft yellow glow that radiates somewhere just below his field of vision. Jimmy shifts his head down, lowering his sight so that he can actually see what it is that’s making that light. The discovery doesn’t take too long to happen; it’s only a matter of moments before he finds the origin of where the glow comes from; it’s right there, around his wrist. The string of Fate.
The thread had all but slipped from Jimmy’s mind when he woke up, but now that its back again Jimmy does have to berate himself a little for having lost track of it so easily—but no matter. At least it’s back now, and more than that it’s going to lead him to where Castiel is. Recalling the words of what the voice had said to him, Jimmy rotates his wrist around, studying the now-glowing string and noticing the loose part after the knot where it falls out, dangling. It occurs to him then that Gabriel most likely must have foreseen something like this happening, or else the archangel wouldn’t have tied the string in this manner.
The man makes a mental note to thank Gabriel later as he reaches with his other hand to grab onto the loose bit, winding it once around his index finger and tugs onto it. The knot quickly unwinds itself, the string falling away from Jimmy’s wrist in one whole piece and now dangles from his finger. The warmth pulses again, beating, and then starts to thrum as the glow around the string moves, flowing down the thread like a river. Jimmy can only watch in awe as the light runs down from the thread of fate, turning into a literal thread of light as it flows in a single line that stretches on to what seems like infinity itself, twisting and turning at almost every direction into the distance beyond.
It’s a way, Jimmy realizes with a jolt. The light’s showing him where to go. And if he still wasn’t certain about that, the warmth in his chest pulses again in a way akin to agreement, and Jimmy hears the voice whispering to him again. Follow the light.
“Follow the yellow brick road, huh?” he mutters to himself, one corner of his lips twitching up. Jimmy winds the string around his finger for a few more times, ensuring that the thread’s safely wrapped around before he starts to follow the trail of light, his footsteps clicking around and echoing endlessly within the darkness of the world.
Time passes as he walks, flashing in moments, seconds, minutes, hours, day, weeks, months and years. There’s no way to tell how long or how far he’s walking, only going on step by step as he goes where the light of the string takes him to. In an instant it feels like mere moments, the next one perhaps hours. His mind seems to drift on and off as he walks, wandering in the shadows as does everything else; the only constant presence is the light and the security of the string around his finger. Jimmy lets himself trust in that as he walks on and on, both a moment and an eternity passing by as he does so.
He doesn’t feel exhaustion, doesn’t feel hunger, doesn’t feel thirst; energy simply seems to continue thrumming within him without pause, giving him the needed strength to keep on walking, keep on moving, keep on hoping. It reminds him a bit like when Castiel had been within him—the angel never had to do any of the mandatory human functions, being powered on Grace alone. But he’s not an angel, not here—he’s just human, even if he’s just a soul here, but somehow that doesn’t seem to matter. He’s got his hope and his energy, and he’s going to go through with this no matter what.
Eventually, after seconds and moments and the passing of eons, Jimmy sees the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a speck of light in the distance, shining white and brilliant almost like a star, a sun. It stretches itself bigger, the light spreading with each step he takes closer to it, but Jimmy doesn’t feel any pain in his eyes. The light, bright as it is, is nothing but welcoming to him, inviting. It’s greeting him, and Jimmy graciously accepts the invitation without missing a beat.
Hold on tight, Cas, the man thinks to himself as he takes the last few steps forward, letting the light swallow him out of the darkness and shadows. I’m coming for you.
Jimmy blinks as the world slowly focuses into shape around him, a familiar scene assembling itself before his eyes as he hears the sound of gentle, lapping waves on the edge of the lake he finds himself facing at. Above him the sky is dotted in all manner of clouds, blocking out the sun just enough so that the place isn’t terribly bright. It’s a simple, elegant spring day, and Jimmy can remember exactly just where he had seen this scene before; in the dream, when he had contacted Castiel back before confronting the false god in the panic room.
“Castiel,” the man murmurs to himself, a frown crossing his face. Behind him, something shifts, and Jimmy instantly turns his head around as his body tenses up—he quickly relaxes through once the figure comes out from behind the giant oak tree, Jimmy letting out a breath he didn’t even know he had been holding back up until now. “Dean,” he calls out in relief, glad that the hunter is okay.
Dean’s only response is a grunt as he comes to a stop before him. “Been looking for you,” he starts with a small scowl, frustration coming out at the forefront in order to hide the worry. He gives a brief glare at Jimmy to display his momentary bout of annoyance before it relaxes and the hunter asks the next question. “What happened?”
Jimmy glances down at his hands, absently realizing that the string had vanished around his finger. He doesn’t need it any more though, he supposes. Rather than replying to Dean, the man follows his gut instinct and turns his head around towards the dock in the distance; it doesn’t take him more than a few moments to recognize the lone figure that stands on the platform. “Castiel.”
“Wha—” Dean starts, following Jimmy’s gaze towards the dock and his own eyes widen in surprise. The shout falls out easily from the hunter’s lips as Dean instantly springs into action and Jimmy quickly follows behind. They both run towards the dock, Dean faster than Jimmy as he dashes forward like there’s no tomorrow, crying out as loudly as he can. “Cas! Cas!”
Castiel turns around at the call of his name, and Jimmy watches his own blue eyes widening in surprise as the angel sees them both, looking as if unable to believe that they had managed to get to him. For a moment it seems as if Castiel almost hesitates to call out to them, but Dean shouts again and quickens his pace, both of them just about an arm’s reach from Castiel now, and that’s all that the angel needs before his resolve breaks.
“Dean—” he starts, but Jimmy doesn’t hear anything else after that as he finds himself suddenly being violently flung off to the side. He hears the hunter’s startled shout and Castiel’s own gasp of surprise, but the sounds are quickly lost under the pain and the agony of his blossoming injuries when he crashes to the ground, his entire body crumpling across the earth like a useless ragdoll. Everything hurts now, throbbing and aching without pause as Jimmy attempts to pull himself back together; a groan escapes from the back of his throat, pained and agonizing, and the pounding of his head wasn’t helping out at all.
He hears Dean’s violent swear into the air as the hunter shouts his name and hears footsteps hurrying towards him, but then Castiel shouts out Dean’s name once more and the next thing Jimmy can hear is the hunter’s own shout of surprise before a body crashes down next to him. It only takes a second for Jimmy to figure out who the person beside him is.
“Dean,” he breathes out the name in a hiss, wincing at the pain that still throbs across his entire body. Next to him the hunter in question spits out a curse in-between gritted teeth as Dean forces himself to roll over, palms pressing onto the ground as the man attempts to push himself back up, totally ignoring the way how everything in his body is obviously hurting in violent protest from the trembles and shakes that Jimmy can see raking across Dean’s body.
He opens his mouth, wanting to warn and caution the other man, but another voice cuts in before he can say anything. “I wouldn’t try to push myself like that if I were you, Dean.”
The voice is far too familiar and far too sinister for Jimmy’s own liking, and despite the pain wrecking in his own body Jimmy starts to push himself up as well, elbows digging into the dirt underneath him as the man lifts the upper half of his body up. He cranes his neck as high as he can, straining his muscles as Jimmy squints and sees the dark-robed figure that’s currently walking towards them. Dean gets back onto his feet quickly and instantly snarls at the approaching figure, green eyes flashing as he snaps loudly. “Who the fuck’re you, asshole?”
“Dean,” Castiel gasps just a few footsteps behind both of them, fear and terror mixed into that one word, and that’s all Jimmy needs to hear before he figures out exactly who the figure coming to them is.
He bites out a curse under his breath, holding it after that as he sucks in the pain around his body and pushes himself back to his feet as well, stumbling for a moment before he regains his balance. Jimmy unconsciously grabs his right shoulder that throbs the worst out of his bruises, wincing as he makes out the (way too familiar) facial features of the approaching figure before he breathes out to the hunter beside him. “Dean, it’s—”
“No need to spoil the surprise,” the figure drawls out as it pauses before them, standing close enough for the other three to see it properly. Behind them Castiel makes a terrified sound and shifts back as Dean hisses out a very irate-sounding ‘hat the fuck’ to nobody in particular. Jimmy only steels himself, clutching his shoulder tighter and pushing away the pain wrecking his body as he glares at the new duplicate of himself that’s dressed in nothing else but black—black pants, black shirt, black coat, black tie.
The Leviathan grins brightly at all of them back in return as the veins across the left side of its face spread out in a crawling spider web of black before vanishing when it speaks up, its voice far too bright and cheerful to belong to either of the body’s original occupants. “Hello, Dean. Hello, Jimmy. I must say, this meeting really has been a long time coming."
Dean, of course, instantly speaks out after that. “You,” he snarls out, the word coming out from the hunter in a violent hiss as he scowls at the dark-robed version of Castiel, and Jimmy has take a moment and wonder how weird his life must be now to see not one but two versions of his body running around. It is a little bit disturbing, despite how things might have changed already since the first round.
The Leviathan only stretches its grin even wider, looking far too happy as dark eyes sweep across the three of them, taking in all of their features. “Me,” it echoes back simply, speaking out in Castiel’s—his—voice.
Dean’s temper only flares up even more at the response, and the hunter’s scowl grows even more prominent as Dean takes a step forward and glares daggers at the monster that currently inhabits Castiel. “Get the fuck out of Cas right now, you son of a bitch!” he snaps, nothing but venom and hate in the hunter’s voice.
Rather than responding nicely the Leviathan actually pouts and pointedly turns its gaze upward, rolling its shoulders and answering in an all-too casual shrug. “But I like this body.”
Dean narrows his eyes to that answer, and Jimmy can see his fists curling up, hands shaking with the literal effort to not run right up and punch the fake Castiel. The hunter’s voice is tight and controlled, just skirting on the edge of anger even as it bleeds over and drips from every word that Dean says next. “I said; get the fuck out of Cas right now.”
“Or what?” the Leviathan returns in a near-drawl as a bemused expression slowly crosses its face, a twisted sort of parody to both Jimmy and Castiel. “I can’t really think of what you might possibly be able do to me in here, Dean.” The words come out easy and casual, but the fact in said words is lain out very clearly. There is no question as to who’s the one in charge right now—this place is the territory of the first beasts, and there’s no way any of them can do anything when they’re all right smack in the middle of its place. Even if they’ve made their way to the tiger’s den to catch the tiger, they’re all but helpless against the tiger itself. It’s a fact that all of them here are aware of, even Dean.
The amused look on the Leviathan’s face only stretches further at the long bout of silence that follows after its words, knowing full well that none of them could say anything back in response. “I thought so,” it speaks in a voice that sounds far too happy for any of them to be comfortable with—it’s just wrong, to hear a voice like that coming out from his (their) mouths.
Jimmy keeps his silence as the moment goes on, and he would have been happy to keep it that way up until the Leviathan decides to turn its attention towards him. The man feels himself freezing in place as the monster wearing his face turns and faces him, the smile on its face growing wide; another sprawl of black surges across its skin again, veins momentarily appearing in a flash of black before sinking back under skin. The sight isn’t as bad as some of the things he had seen during his time with Castiel, but yet the sheer wrongness of this entire situation makes Jimmy feel sick to his stomach. If he had been a lesser man, perhaps he would have even puked his guts out.
But rather than doing that he remains emotionless, silent and carefully neutral as the Leviathan slowly walks towards him, pacing closer to where he is with each and every step. The grass crunches under its feet as it comes closer; next to him, Jimmy can hear Dean sucking in a breath. From the corner of his eyes he sees Castiel glancing at them nervously, the angel’s own eyes wide in fear and darting between where the Leviathan’s walking and where they’re standing.
Castiel, Jimmy wants to start saying, try and at least make the angel feel better, but there’s no time for that as a hand rests against his cheek and gently nudges his face back forward, and Jimmy sees nothing but the beast who wears his and Castiel’s face. There’s a moment where he wonders how anybody could have mistaken the Leviathan for either him or the angel, because even with the identical looks they all share the difference is as clear as day to him. His eyes are blue, that much is certain—with Castiel they flare in a far brighter tint, shining with the brilliance of the angel’s Grace. Under the Leviathan, though—he sees his eyes now dark and shadowed, the blue of his irises so dark that they could pass for black instead. The cruel twist of lips that now splays across the beast’s face is also something that neither him nor Castiel would ever have.
Human, angel, beast. It’s strange how the differences are so small but yet so clear, especially when each of them are all in the same body. His body, but if Jimmy has to be honest that terminology is more or less already lost on him; it’s been lost from the moment he said yes to Castiel and gave his body over to the angel of Thursday. It’s Castiel’s body as much as it is his own, and in a twisted way it’s also the Leviathan’s—after all, Castiel had taken Purgatory into himself willingly despite how fucked up this entire situation is now.
“Jimmy Novak,” the beast before him starts to speak, and Jimmy instantly puts his train of thoughts to a halt as he directs his attention to the being that now looks at him with eyes that are the same but yet also so different. The sprawl of black flashes through its veins again, dark blood making itself visible under the skin that’s his as much as its own. Jimmy lets his eyes follow the flow of black from one side of the Leviathan’s face to the other, watching it vanish under clothes and hair before he returns his gaze to stare at dark, amused eyes.
“Let Castiel go,” he says, because there is no going around this. This is the reason why he’s here, why he’s even alive again in the first place after Raphael had tore both him and Castiel apart. He has to save his friend.
The Leviathan rolls its eyes. “Is that the only thing you all can say?”
Jimmy doesn’t let himself be deterred. “Let him go,” the man repeats himself, mustering up whatever courage that he can scourge up into those three words.
Rather than replying again the Leviathan only tilts its head in a very Castiel-like manner and blinks, studying Jimmy with its too-dark eyes. Jimmy looks back, feeling the gaze of the Leviathan settling onto him almost like a physical sensation; the moment holds on and stretches forward, and Jimmy can feel a trickle of sweat running down the side of his neck. The tension is so thick and solid that it hangs like a block in the air, catching on like the moment in-between the swing of a pendulum, both fleeting and evident.
It almost feels like forever to Jimmy before the Leviathan speaks up again, and this time its voice is questioning, prodding—curious. “Why?”
Jimmy blinks, having been caught off-guard by the unexpected question. “Why?” he echoes back, uncertain.
“Why do you let yourself suffer so much?” the Leviathan asks as it straightens its head back up, too-dark eyes still focused onto him. “Are you going to just let Cas here trample all over you again, Jimmy?”
“Cas isn’t—” Dean instantly starts to cut in, but his voice vanishes with a wave of the Leviathan’s hand and Jimmy watches in shock as the hunter continues to shout and swear but nothing comes out from his mouth. Dean stops after a few seconds, one hand instantly moving up to clutch at his own throat as he opens his mouth in a voiceless shout, green eyes going wide for a moment before realization settles in and the eyes instantly snap to the Leviathan’s, anger and indignation burning fiercely and doing a good job of saying everything that he could not speak out in that one, single glare.
Rather than being impressed the Leviathan simply remains uninterested, only giving Dean a cursory look to ensure his silence before returning its attention back to Jimmy who can do nothing else but follow the beast’s gaze. He feels a lump resting heavily at the back of his throat, solid as a stone and wholly immovable. There’s nothing he can say.
“You know best of all if I’m lying or not,” the Leviathan starts again now that Dean can’t interrupt them; Castiel is still there, too, but Jimmy knows that the angel is all but powerless now, and won’t attempt anything; from the corner of his eye he sees him moving towards Dean, asserting the hunter’s condition. “From the day you became Cas’s vessel, nothing has ever gone right for you, has it?”
Jimmy pulls his attention away from Castiel and Dean to properly focus at the Leviathan. “I gave him my consent,” he answers. “Castiel has the right to do whatever he wishes.”
“Of course he does,” the beast smoothly drawls back, eyes rolling once more. “But don’t tell me that you haven’t regretted that decision, not even once.”
Jimmy opens his mouth out of reflex, syllables of answers already starting to form at the back of his throat—but he stops before any of them can properly come out and snaps his mouth back shut. His jaw clenches, and he can see Dean stilling at the side, eyes widening as he interprets the silence; Castiel, on the other hand, quickly averts his gaze away. Even without words, the answer is obvious to all of them.
The Leviathan smiles triumphantly at the silence. “Being an angel’s vessel isn’t everything that it’s cracked up to be, eh Jimmy?”
A moment is all that Jimmy can give himself to deny the beast’s words before the reality sets in. “No,” he answers, head lowering down as his voice turns quiet, soft. “Not really.” Nothing had ever been the same for him from the moment Castiel entered his body—in less than a year Jimmy would only find his dreams and beliefs shattered, his hopes dashed and his entire world flipped upside down. Heaven and the angels weren’t like anything that any human could imagine—no peace, no tranquillity, no stability. There were only betrayals and half-truths and lies lies lies everywhere else. There’s no glory, no salvation, no power; only hurt and pain and fear.
“Do you want to take it back?”
Jimmy snaps his head back up, his eyes growing wide in surprise as he stares at the Leviathan. He feels his breath escaping from the back of his throat, a trembling release from his lungs he’s hardly aware of as conflicting emotions swirl in his gut. To get back his freedom, to get away from a lifetime and an eternity of being stuck with Castiel—the selfish, instinctive human part of him wants it so fucking much. He wants to see Amelia again, to watch Claire grow up happy and healthy; he wants to return to his normal life where he didn’t have to deal with all of this. He wants his life before Castiel came and sent everything to hell for him. He wants, but Jimmy also knows that he can’t have it. He can never have it, not again—this is the life that he has now, even if he didn’t choose it wholly.
The man tells himself all of that and more, but somehow it’s not enough to harden himself at the next thing that the Leviathan asks. The beast must have known this as well, because there’s a blatant smirk on its face and a gleam of triumph in its dark eyes as it questions. “If I gave you a chance, Jimmy, would you take it back? Take back that little ‘yes’ that changed your life?”
“I—” he starts, voice catching in his throat as two opposing answers clash in his mind. There is, of course, the ‘no’; no because despite everything now Castiel is his friend, and the angel had given everything to prevent the end of the world from happening and he doesn’t deserve this. But at the same time, there is the fact that Castiel has single-handedly fucked up the entire world and sent it spiralling towards destruction again by opening Purgatory. The angel has made him lose his family, his freedom and his life. Even now, there is no moment of peace for him, nothing close to serenity—from the moment he woke back to this world there had been nothing but chaos and madness, and try as he might Jimmy can’t help but hate Castiel for what he had done to his life, just a little. He once had been nothing but a simple man; it was only because of Castiel that his life had become so complicated.
The Leviathan regards Jimmy with another cursory look before it takes a step forward closer to him and places a hand on his shoulder; the touch is deceptively human—not cold or hot, but simply just warm in the way every human is. Jimmy can’t help but fix his gaze on the hand for just a few moments, caught off-guard by the near-friendly gesture. It’s been nothing but hardship and pain ever since he woke up, so to have something like this so suddenly… Jimmy returns his gaze back to the Leviathan, the mass of emotions still swirling in his gut even as he starts to speak again. “I—”
“—I’ll let you have a trial run first,” it cuts in smoothly, the smile on its face widening in a way that unsettles him. The hand on his shoulder tightens, keeping him in place as Jimmy finds himself caught in the Leviathan’s gaze, rooting him right on the spot. “Live the life a little, and you can tell me your answer after you’re done.”
Jimmy opens his mouth in an attempt to say something once more, but the Leviathan places a hand on his head, shoving him backwards, and the last thing he registers before blacking out is the quiet whoosh of air as he’s transported to elsewhere.
Chapter 6: Five
Five: Something of that fire burns still.
Consciousness comes to him gradually, slowly rousing him up through waves of sensation and feeling. Beneath him Jimmy feels the warmth and comfort of his bed, the mattress easily accepting his weight in a way that could only happen after years and years of usage. He shifts a little, humming in contentment at the simple pleasure he feels from having the sheets slide against the skin of his thighs. It’s almost a pity that he has to get up, when a part of him wants nothing more than to stay in his bed for the day—it almost feels like he hasn’t been here for what seems like a very long time.
—because he hasn’t been here for a very long time.
Jimmy instantly snaps his eyes open when his mind recalls back the memories, everything flooding into his mind’s eye in that split second when realization settles in him. The man bolts right up on his bed, chest heaving and his heart pounding erratically against his ribcage as Jimmy darts his head around him in quick succession while his eyes take in and register the sight of his bedroom. His bedroom.
The realization burns hot in his mind as Jimmy calms himself down enough to make a proper sweep across the room this time, eyes taking in and registering every single detail that he can recall and remember. This is his room, there’s no doubt about it. It looks the same as he’s always remembered it to be, right down to the cracks of the plaster in the corner of the ceiling that he never really got to fixing. He had been planning to fix it the next day—that is, until the argument with Amelia happened, and then the subsequent possession and everything else.
Jimmy drops his gaze back down to his hands that are pressed on his lap, and it only takes a second more after that to see something on his hands that should not be there. The man feels his breath catching at the back of his throat as he raises his left hand and can only stare in shock at the band of gold that’s around his ring finger.
His wedding ring.
Seeing it again is nothing but a giant shock to Jimmy, and the man can do nothing else but stare, feeling the world grinding to a halt around him. It should not be here, not at all—he had taken it out and left it at home before he left the house and spoke to Castiel, to grant the angel that ‘yes’ that changed his entire life. He had never so much as spoken or questioned about it all this time, but yet now, right there where it should he is his ring again. The commitment he had made with Amelia, and a commitment which he had to put away for what he had once believed to be for the greater good. How things had changed since then.
A shift at his side brings Jimmy out from his thoughts, and he turns his head around to finally register the other occupant in the bed with him, eyes widening once more as he quickly recognizes the figure lying beside him. “…Ames?”
Amelia Novak raises her head from the pillow, blinking out the sleep from her eyes and proceeds to smile at Jimmy as if there’s nothing wrong at all (when indeed, everything about this is). “What’s wrong? Did you have a bad dream?”
Jimmy feels words forming at the back of his throat, but when he opens his mouth to try and speak none of them comes out, every syllable knotting around his tongue and weighing it down. He feels his mouth turning dry, his breaths trapped somewhere in his lungs; he knows he should be wary and suspicious but seeing his wife again after all this time, to see her right beside him again when he had thought it would never happen—all of this is just—
“Jim?” Amelia’s voice takes a much more concerned tone now, and the bed creaks slightly as she pushes herself to sit up in bed as well, reaching out with one hand to rest on Jimmy’s own. Jimmy can barely manage to keep himself calm and composed as he turns his gaze properly on his wife, already feeling the tears starting to form at the comers of his eyes. Amelia notices it immediately and becomes much more concerned, and she raises her other hand to wipe away the tears with her thumb. “What’s wrong, dear?”
The words catch at the back of his throat again, all tangled and knotted up like a stone in his gullet. It’s been so long—far too long—and Jimmy can do nothing more but close his eyes and will himself not to break down as he reaches with his left hand and curls his fingers around Amelia’s one, letting their wedding rings click together. He presses her other palm to the side of his face, cherishing the feel and the warmth that’s now pressing on his cheek, letting the tears break free and roll down his face.
He hears Amelia call out his name, this time much more softly, and Jimmy knows he should answer, but for now he’s just too overwhelmed to say anything at all. He’s free and he’s home and he’s alive, and that’s all that he can ask for. Not glory or honour or being chosen for holy missions from Heaven and God. This is enough. Just like this, it’s more than enough for him.
He doesn’t need anything else.
Seeing Claire is, at least, something that Jimmy’s more prepared for after what had happened with Amelia up in the bedroom. Giving his wife another assuring smile (despite not having said anything, Jimmy did know that his sudden breakdown did worry her, and last thing he wants now is to make her concerned), Jimmy settles himself at his seat at the dining table—a place he hadn’t been again ever since that time when Castiel had been dragged back to Heaven.
Jimmy isn’t sure if he wants to see the irony of it.
Claire looks up from the bowl of cereal that she’s currently munching on, giving Jimmy a smile that sends a throb of heartache in his chest. God, how long had it been since he could see that smile? “Morning, Daddy.”
“Morning, bub,” he returns, just barely managing to not choke from the emotions that suddenly weigh in his words. So long, god, it had been so fucking long. He had missed all of this so much. It’s so hard to not just hold his daughter tight against him and assure himself that he’s back home, somehow. He knows that the Leviathan’s the cause of this and maybe this is just some dream world that the beast’s thrown himself into—but it’s been so long, and in the end he’s only human. There’s never been anything special or exceptional about him in the way the Winchesters are with their self-sacrificing ways. All he wants is the safety of his family and nothing else.
Claire smiles back brightly in response, returning to her cereal just as Amelia comes around to the table with two plates of sandwiches, one of them set before him. Jimmy blinks and looks up to his wife’s understanding expression, a small smile on her lips as she sets her own plate down and moves to settle on her seat at the table. Jimmy can’t remember when the last time that she had looked at him like that was; things had gotten strained between them from that day when Amelia caught him with his arm in the boiling pot at the kitchen. To see her smiling at him like that again… Jimmy feels his heart lurching from the mix of emotions that surges from his gut, regret and pain rolling around in his mind. This peace and tranquillity that he had so longed for—is what he could still have if Castiel had never come?
Jimmy looks back down at his sandwich and picks it up, and he feels his hands trembling, shaking with the effort to not break down again—at least, not in front of his wife and his kid. He had put them through so much already… they didn’t need any more now, not here. Here, Castiel had never come for him. Here, he could spend his time quietly with Amelia and Claire and let himself relax back in the comfort of his family once again.
“Jimmy?” comes Amelia’s voice from beside him, and the man pulls himself out from his thoughts to look over at his wife’s concerned look once again.
She doesn’t need to worry anymore, Jimmy thinks to himself as he blinks back his tears and shakes his head, putting on the best smile he can muster up. “It’s nothing, Ames. I’m just glad to be here.”
Amelia flashes him another concerned look at that answer and Jimmy can feel another uneasy question starting to come out, but Claire decides to speak up at that moment and unconsciously manages to save him from anymore soon-to-be awkward moments. “Dad? Can you drive me to school later?”
Jimmy turns his gaze to his daughter and nods, forcing his smile wider as he replies. “Sure thing, sweetie. I’ll be happy to.”
Amelia and Claire unharmed, and Roger alive and well… that’s more than what Jimmy can bring himself to ask for, really. They had all been hurt because of him, and so to see them happy and well and unaffected by his stupid decisions—yeah, Jimmy can’t ask for anything else more than that.
The drive to Claire’s school is filled with conversation about everything and anything, and for the first time in a long while Jimmy contributes gaily into it. He remembers how he never really used to pay much attention to this, but now he can’t help but take in every word and file every expression that crosses his daughter’s face. How could he have used to think that this was something so easily overlooked, when all he wants to do now is to keep every one of her smiles imprinted into his mind? So many things he had once taken for granted, once upon a time. But now he knows better, and he understands better. All he needs is Claire and Amelia and their safety and their smiles, and that will be enough.
This is enough.
“Dad?” Claire’s voice perks up from beside him once he reaches the school and pulls the car to a stop. Jimmy directs his gaze over to look at his daughter who’s currently looking back at him with hopeful eyes. “Are you going to get the double-layered chocolate cake? Pleaaaase say you will.”
Cake? The man wonders confusedly to himself before his eyes flicker to the dashboard and he notes the date blinking back at him in their electronic numbers. It only takes a few moments after for him to connect the dots—today is Claire’s birthday. His daughter’s birthday, and he had no idea at all until now. He’s going to celebrate his daughter’s birthday.
A tug on his sleeve brings him out from his thoughts, and Jimmy darts his eyes back to look at the pleading look on Claire’s face. He couldn’t resist that look, especially not now. Jimmy smiles, and hopes that his daughter won’t notice the tears starting to swell in his eyes yet again. “Alright, I will. But not a big one, okay?”
The bright smile on Claire’s face is more than enough to break Jimmy’s heart. “You’re the best, dad!” she chirps back happily, and the following hug she gives to him only breaks his heart a little more.
Jimmy bites the inside of his cheek tightly so that he can hold back his tears again as he returns the gesture, resting his head over his daughter’s own as he squeezes her back and murmurs affectionately in her hair. “Happy birthday, Claire.”
He feels Claire’s smile against his chest before answering him. “Thanks, dad.”
Jimmy holds her a little tighter in response and closes his eyes to stop the tears from falling.
This is all he needs.
He greets everybody who he talks to, trying to remember each and every face that he sees and committing them to memory. Never again will he take all these faces and names for granted—never again will he take anything in his life for granted. They’re all important to him, every single one of them, and there’s no way that he’s ever going to disregard them now. He can’t do it, not after all that’s he’s gone through.
Everything on his list is cleared by lunchtime and Jimmy returns back home soon after, opening the door to Amelia’s surprised face when she sees the numerous bags that Jimmy has lugged with him from the garage.
“Jimmy,” she starts, pausing to give the bags another glance before looking back at him again. “Are you sure all this is necessary?”
Jimmy only leans forward to peck Amelia on the cheek. “I just want to make this the best birthday party Claire’s ever had.”
Amelia rolls her eyes slightly at the answer, but Jimmy can see the smile that she fails to hide in her eyes. “You say that every year, dear.”
“And there’s something wrong about that?” he returns playfully, smiling as he brings the bags into the house two by two. Amelia only laughs quietly in response to him and helps with the bags, taking them all to the kitchen once Jimmy has transferred all of them inside.
Jimmy isn’t a fool though—he knows that this tentative silence doesn’t last long, and it’s soon broken by Amelia once all the bags are in the kitchen. He tries not to see the worried look that crosses his wife’s face as she turns to look at him, tries not to dart his eyes down in his ever tell-tale expression of guilt and regret. Jimmy know that he’s always one to wear his heart on his sleeve, but even then he doesn’t want to burden Amelia with the knowledge of what he knows, what he’s experienced. She doesn’t need to know about it.
“Ames, please,” he speaks before she can say anything, sending her the best pleading look he can manage out. “I don’t want to talk about this on our daughter’s birthday.”
Amelia doesn’t look assured in anyway by those words and she bites on her bottom lip in contemplation, giving him a cursory look that speaks both worry and concern. “Then will you tell me afterwards?” she ventures, frowning just a little.
Jimmy sighs quietly. “It’s just… I have a bit of thinking to do first, okay? But it’s nothing you have to worry about, Ames, trust me.”
“Anything that concerns you is my concern too,” she returns quietly, reaching out to lay an assuring hand on his shoulder. Jimmy closes his eyes and accepts the comforting touch as Amelia slides close and places a kiss on his cheek. Her hand moves down to wrap around his, fingers curling up and squeezing slightly as she speaks again. “I can wait until you’re ready, Jimmy, but remember that you’re not alone, alright? I’ll always be here for you.”
He nods in response, but all his mind can think of is but I abandoned you and Claire.
No more of that, though. He’s back, and he will stay here. His family is where his home is, and home is where he will be.
“You took out the grill, dad?” she asks after about a minute of hugging, looking up at him with those hopeful eyes of hers again.
Jimmy laughs softly and carefully pries his daughter away from his chest. “Why are you so surprised?” he asks back quietly, smiling.
Claire’s face turns into an amusing shade of red as she attempts to turn her (embarrassed) gaze elsewhere. “You never said anything about this, dad…”
He laughs again. “It wouldn’t be a surprise then if I told you, would it?” Jimmy squeezes her tightly in his arms one more time before he lets go, stepping back and bending down to place a kiss on her forehead. “Now go wash up and change, Roger should be coming over soon with his folks. You okay with just him and us?”
The girl rolls her eyes in response. “Of course, dad.”
“Alright then,” he returns with a small grin, ruffling his daughter’s hair affectionately before shooing her off to the bathroom. Once Claire is busy upstairs he returns back to the kitchen where Amelia is busy preparing the hotdogs and chicken wings. Jimmy doesn’t hesitate to take over naturally, prying the sticks and butter from his wife’s hands as he presses a kiss to her cheek. “You should wash up as well, Ames.”
“I can do that later,” Amelia returns with a huff as she stubbornly threads the chicken wing in her hand through the skewer, giving it a cursory look before putting in the container full of various other types of skewered food. “Is Roger coming over soon?”
“In about ten, I think,” Jimmy answers easily, smiling as he takes a skewer and several hot dogs for him to work on. “Sabrina and Katherine are coming over as well.”
Amelia hums a soft acknowledgement. “It’s too bad Peter’s away in college,” she remarks wistfully.
“Perhaps,” Jimmy replies, grinning quietly. “The girls will have more time for each other, at least.”
“Like they don’t have enough already,” Amelia retorts back with a shake of her head, but the smile is there on her face. “You’d think being in the same school and class with each other will make them tired of one another.”
Jimmy chuckles. “You know how they are, Ames.”
“Sadly.” Amelia finishes up the last of the skewers, taking a moment to rinse her hands at the sink before giving Jimmy a peck on the cheek. “You can start marinating the meats while I wash up. Open the door for Roger once he gets here, alright?”
“You don’t even need to ask,” Jimmy returns, smiling as he returns the peck with one of his own and quickly shoos her upstairs as well. Amelia throws him another smile over her shoulder before she leaves the kitchen, and yet again Jimmy feels his own emotions surging from the heartache that he feels.
He’ll make it up; he’ll make it all up.
“You seem really happy today, Jim,” Roger states casually halfway into their conversation, and the suddenness of it does make Jimmy pause for a moment. Roger shrugs his shoulders once before he continues. “I mean, I’ve just never seen you like this before. Did something good happen?”
Jimmy shakes his head. “Not really. I’m just… glad, I guess.” Glad to be home, glad to be with his family again. Glad to be away from all the pain and all the heartache and all the loneliness of being a prisoner of one inside his own body. He’s him again, and that’s what matters.
Roger gives him a brief, disbelieving look, but eventually just shakes his head as well and smiles. “Well, I guess every parent feels happy when their kid’s a year older.” He pauses for a moment after that before snorting softly. “Hard to believe she’s already fifteen. Almost seems like yesterday when our girls were born, huh?”
“Time just flies like that, sometimes,” Jimmy returns with a wry smile as he starts up the fire. “Next thing you know, they’ll be heading off for college.” And wouldn’t that be quite a day then, full of both joy and longing when he would send his daughter off for another important journey in her life. It’s something he certainly would never get to see if he’s stuck with Castiel.
Roger lets out a laugh and reaches over to pat Jimmy on the shoulder. “It’ll still be a bit more, man. No need to think so far ahead.”
Now is good enough, the man thinks to himself there and then as he smiles back and nods in agreement. Yes, right now is good enough for him.
This is why when Jimmy settles himself on the couch to watch the night time news, the last thing he expects to see on screen are the ruins of what had once been Pennsboro, West Virginia.
Jimmy instantly bolts right back up from his seat, eyes going wide as he sees the giant text flashing across the screen. NATION MOURNS FOR 1,214 LIVES LOST IN ’08 HALLOWEEN TRADGEY.
He knows that number.
(“There are a thousand people here.”
“One thousand, two hundred and fourteen.”)
No way, Jimmy thinks to himself in desperation as he leans closer towards the television screen, hand trembling as he flicks up the volume to hear the report better. No fucking way.
“—and although a year has passed since then, the freak incident that claimed the entire town of Pennsboro, West Virginia continues to haunt the minds of the people in this country. Until even today experts have not been able to make out just what exactly happened on Halloween 2008 that caused the deaths of the entire town, much like the following freak incidents that has claimed even more lives in places like Greybull, Wyoming; River Pass, Colorado; Detroit, Michigan and most recently the massacre at Carthage, Missouri. Incidents such as those continue to happen across the country, with no rhyme or reason behind them. Also across the world reports of tsunamis and earthquakes continue to escalate, and some experts say that—”
Jimmy shuts off the television before he can hear any more of that, tossing the remote away with more force than strictly necessary. The remote bounces off the cushions and lands in a clatter on the ground, and Jimmy is at least thankful of the fact that Amelia and Claire are both upstairs and won’t see this at all. Then again, they most likely already know—they just can’t understand it in the same way that he does; it’s a whole world of difference from witnessing and being directly involved, and Jimmy’s pretty sure that nobody here goes in the latter category. They don’t understand the significance of these lives in the way that Jimmy can.
A thousand, two hundred and fourteen lives—except it isn’t just that number any more. Pennsboro, Greybull, River Pass, Detroit, Carthage; all of those towns and cities already gone and dead, and Jimmy knows that this is only just the beginning. He doesn’t even need to guess what’s happening in the world now, the truth already hitting him hard and settling in his mind all too easily. The Apocalypse. The Apocalypse is happening, and the world is ending when it’s supposed to be saved. Except—
Here, Castiel never possessed him. Here, he had never said ‘yes’ to the angel. Here, Castiel is all but stuck in Heaven, unable to aid the Winchesters when they needed him most. In this reality, only God knows what’s happened to the brothers without Castiel at their side.
The realization weighs heavily in Jimmy’s mind as the man closes his eyes and focuses himself on simply breathing, to calm down the thundering heartbeat of in his chest as Jimmy attempts to connect the dots together in his head. In this life, he had never given Castiel the ‘yes’ that the angel needed, and with Claire still around, he figures that somehow he made her off-limits to the angel as well—and without Castiel being able to be with Dean and Sam, its plausible that some other angel had been placed in charge instead.
Jimmy grimaces at the thought. Uriel in charge of Dean—now that’s something that wouldn’t work out well. He knows for a fact that barely any other angel is sympathetic in the way that Castiel is, and that none of them could ever connect to Dean in the way that Castiel has done. So the Winchesters had no angel to their cause here, which means…
This? He wonders, glancing to the blank screen in front of him. All of these lives, these deaths, the countless number of people killed and murdered and butchered because of some stupid fight between Heaven and Hell—would they have been prevented if Castiel had been around on Earth and not trapped in Heaven? It almost seems hilarious, the thought of a single angel being the one thing that could turn things around and save the world—but then again, Castiel had never truly been an ordinary angel, not to Jimmy’s eyes. Castiel had turned against Heaven and fought for the Winchesters in the end, and that had resulted in the prevention of the Apocalypse—but the coming of something else altogether.
The man closes his eyes again and thinks, struggling to balance the enormity of his choices in his head. The Apocalypse or the Leviathans? The selfish, human part of him wants nothing more than to stay here, to enjoy every moment that he can have with Claire and Amelia and everybody else he knows in this quiet, peaceful life he has here, no matter how long or short it might be.
But—after that, what happens after? It’s only a matter of time before the world starts growing crazy and ends, and Jimmy doesn’t want his family to live that kind of future. He wants nothing more than to be with them, but at the same time if his being here would mean the end of the world, and for everything that he holds close to his heart… Jimmy lets out a shuddering breath and tightens his hold around the armrest of the couch he’s sitting on, feeling the material stretch under the force of his fingers.
Why does it have to be him? Why is he the one who has to make this decision? Gone were the times when Jimmy had once been proud and glad to be chosen by Heaven and God and the angels—now all he feels is a cynical, deep, bitter regret and so much heartache over the year he spent being stuck with Castiel, and the eventual end he had.
(“I want to make sure you understand. You won't die or age. If this last year was painful for you, picture a hundred, a thousand more like it.”)
And he understands it so much now, god. He understands more than ever what Castiel meant by that now. Amelia and Claire will be safe—they’ll always be safe, he thinks—but he’ll never get to see them again, or hear them, or… he’ll never know them again as time passes by and they grow up without him around. He’ll always be in this world, unchanging and unyielding, and even after Amelia and Claire pass on Jimmy knows that he’ll still never be able to see them too. He’ll always be alone, stuck with Castiel and trapped in his own body, a prisoner of one. Once he says that one word of consent, he’ll lose this life he that he now cherishes and desires so badly. Nothing will ever be the same for him again.
Jimmy feels the tears starting to build up again, and he forces himself to suck in a deep breath and blinks them away. Why him? Why did it have to be his bloodline, his family, him? Why does he need to give up everything? His family, his friends, his work, his life, his very identity—he’ll lose it all once he lets Castiel into him, and he’ll never be able to get it back. He’s given up everything for the world, and nobody knows about it. All they will see is the angel of Thursday, and not him. It will never be him.
“Jimmy?” he hears Amelia’s voice calling out from the hallway, and Jimmy turns around to see his wife slowly approaching him, eyes still looking at him in a concerned expression.
The man instantly forces a smile on his face. “Is something wrong, Ames?”
Amelia gives him a small, sad smile. “I would ask the same for you, Jimmy. You’ve been distracted for the whole day.” She moves over to sit at the spot on the couch next to Jimmy, looking at him pointedly as she holds his left hand with both of hers. The smile is still on her face as she continues to speak. “Why won’t you tell me what’s wrong?”
I wish I could, Jimmy thinks sadly to himself as he shakes his head. “It’s nothing, Ames. Just some stuff at work. You know how the boss can be at times.”
A wry twist comes to the smile on Amelia’s lips. “All too well, I’m afraid,” she replies with a shake of her own head, leaning in after that to press a chaste kiss on him. The smile turns softer after that when she leans back, sympathetic and understanding and everything that Jimmy loves so much about her. “Don’t stay up too late, alright? You do have work to return tomorrow.”
“I know,” Jimmy replies quietly, smiling slightly back in turn as he watches his wife get up and start to make her way out again. How many more nights will he be able to have this if he continues to remain here? How soon will the world fall apart now with Heaven and Hell fighting each other with Earth as their battleground? How can he ensure the safety of his wife and daughter for as long as he’s here, without Castiel to protect them? He wants to stay here, he wants nothing else in the world than to stay here with his family—but as long as he’s here Castiel can’t be around, and it’s because of Castiel that the Winchesters ever had their chance to fight against the Apocalypse and eventually succeed.
A part of Jimmy wants to sob about the decision that he knows he will make despite everything, but the man manages to keep that sorrow away as he calls out softly. “Ames?”
The woman pauses at the threshold between the living room and the hallway, turning around to send a questioning look over towards her husband. “Yes?”
Jimmy forces the best smile he can muster out onto his face. “I love you,” he says, quiet and simple and hoping that she won’t hear the wordless apology that line behind those words.
Amelia pauses for a moment, clearly confused and caught off-guard by the sudden admission, but she soon smiles back in return and the look on her face is something Jimmy tries to keep in his mind forever. “And I love you too, Jimmy.”
All Jimmy can do in return is to stretch his smile a little wider and turn his head back, squeezing his eyes shut to hold back the tears that are now quickly filling up his eyes. He only allows himself to finally break down once Amelia’s footsteps fade away and he hears the door to their bedroom clicking shut, taking in deep, shuddering breaths as the tears fall down from his eyes and roll down his cheeks, dripping from his chin. He cries for the family he’ll have to leave behind again, cries for the life that he’s going to put himself away from. He cries for the friends that he’ll never get to see again and cries for the lonely, eternal fate that will soon come to him. He doesn’t want to do it, but Jimmy knows that he has to.
He only hopes that Amelia will be able to forgive him this time around.
It’s a strange feeling, going through the motions again like before, but unlike before the headache he had is gone, and somehow now Jimmy feels that his head is especially clear. It’s as if everything has just simply clicked together and lifted up the fog in his head after the long moments he’s spent on the couch earlier making this decision. The irony of this isn’t lost on Jimmy, but he supposes that he can think about it another time. After all, he’s soon going to have all the time in the world.
He wears back the same attire as he did in the first time, and then the second time—his work clothes, topped off with that overcoat that Castiel never seems to take off at all. It’s for old time’s sake more than anything else, although somehow Jimmy can’t really picture Castiel wearing anything else besides this. It’s almost as if the coat’s burned into part of his psyche of Castiel, and somehow that shouldn’t be funny at all, but Jimmy finds himself amused for just a moment. He’ll take whatever he can get now, since he’ll soon no longer have anything at all under his name.
Once he has the coat on Jimmy pauses to look down at the band of gold around his finger—his wedding ring. He remembers the first time he had done this, of how long he had taken to remove it and leave it at the shelf for Amelia, his quiet way of showing his decision to leave them. Back then he hadn’t left on the best of terms and it had already been hard enough, but now… now, with his wife and daughter sleeping contentedly upstairs and not knowing about anything at all, it’s even harder for him to go through with his decision. He could just turn back down and go upstairs and nobody would ever know about this—this decision he’s made for himself, his family and possibly even the world.
It’s hilarious, how the world now weighs on his shoulders now, too, and Jimmy wonders for a moment if this makes him one of the Winchesters. He seems to be getting the self-sacrificing part down right, at least. But unlike them, here he is going to say ‘yes’ to an angel, and let that angel claim everything from him for the third time. Unlike the other two times though, this time Jimmy’s made the decision with a clear mind, and the irony of that—again—doesn’t escape his notice.
Third time’s the charm, huh? The man thinks mirthlessly to himself as he curls his fingers around the ring and only gives himself a moment more before moving to tug the ring out from his finger. The band eases itself all-too-easily from his finger, almost as if it had been waiting for this, and Jimmy smiles wryly at that thought as he places it on the nearby shelf. There’s a moment when he’s tempted to write a letter and explain himself, but Amelia would never believe it. Nothing good would come out of it. All Jimmy can do is to hope for the best.
He pauses with his hand on the doorknob to cast a final, lingering look in the house, trying to remember each and every detail and commit it to memory. He knows even without wondering that this will be the last time he sees this house, his family and his home. The moment he steps out of this place, he can never return here. Once he leaves this house, he will never be Jimmy Novak again. He will be nothing more but the nameless human who houses the angel known as Castiel in his body, and nobody besides Castiel will remember his name. Still, as long as this will keep Amelia and Claire safe and alive and have the world continue to spin, Jimmy knows that this is what he has to do—no matter how much a part of him doesn’t want to.
Jimmy tears his gaze away from the dining table and turns back to the door, reaching for the doorknob open to twist it open along with the door and step out of the house. He quietly closes it behind him and proceeds to step out to the cobbled path that lies from the porch to the front gate, hearing his shoes click quietly against the concrete for a few steps before he stops. The midnight air is cold against his skin, and the breeze sends up goosebumps crawling across his arms. Jimmy suppresses a shiver as he directs his gaze up towards the sky, staring for a moment before he closes his eyes, steels himself with a breath and proceeds to start speaking.
“Castiel,” he begins, hoping to get the angel’s attention—if he’s there. Jimmy sure as hell hopes that he’s there, because otherwise all of this will have been for nothing and Jimmy doesn’t want to think about that. “Look, I—I don’t know what the hell I said to you the last time you spoke to me, but whatever it is… I’m taking it back, alright? I—” He pauses, glancing down at his hands as he bites on his lower lip, trying to find the appropriate words to speak. What can he say, really? He doesn’t even know how to start. But he still has to try.
He raises his head back up again, eyes trying to find some spot in the sky where Castiel might be as Jimmy forces himself to continue. “I love my family, Cas, I love them like nothing else. They’re the most important thing in my life, and I don’t want—” The man stops then and closes his eyes, taking in a shuddering breath to calm himself before he opens his eyes back up and can talk again. “—I don’t want them to live in a world that’s going to go guano. I wish I could stay here, Cas. I really wish I can just stay with Ames and Claire—but if me staying here means that the world is going to end because I’m not letting you in, then I’ll just have to take my chances.”
Jimmy shuts his eyes once more, steeling himself as he spreads his arms open and shouts out so that the heavens can hear him and will listen to what he has to say. “So Castiel, you son of a bitch, get down here right now or I’ll go right up there and kick your feathery ass, one way or another!” He opens his eyes and glares now, ignoring the thundering heartbeat of his chest as he raises his voice to a snarl. “I’m saying ‘yes’, alright? Take my body, my life, my fucking identity and go and save this goddamned world with the Winchesters. Just—” his words stop on a choke, a dry heave as Jimmy feels his breath catching at the back of his throat, the words latching on and refusing to come out. He doesn’t want to do this, doesn’t want to leave everything behind, doesn’t want to leave himself behind.
But he has to. He must.
The man drops down to his knees, all of his energy seemingly having just up and left him, and Jimmy finds himself on all fours on the steps of his house, his arms trembling as he closes his eyes and forces out the last words out from his throat, and they’re spoken so softly and quietly that they’re only heard because of the quietness of the night. “—just… keep them safe. Don’t be an idiot again, Cas. Just stay with the Winchesters.” His voice drops even lower then, and the final bit leaves him in a whisper. “Just stay with Dean.”
“Your Righteous Man.”
Because Dean had never really been Heaven’s, not really—Jimmy knows that as well as he knows the backs of his hands. He is the Righteous Man, that much is certain, but right from the start Dean Winchester had never truly been on the side of the angels. He had only been on the side of one angel, and that angel in turn had been on his side when the time came for him to pick a side. Not Heaven, not Hell. Dean.
The Righteous Man and his angel. In another time and place, maybe Jimmy would laugh at that thought, but now he’s too tired to even do that. He just wants this his family safe in a world that wouldn’t end at the hands of Heaven and Hell, wants his family to forgive him for what he’s done and has chosen, wants to not have this destiny saddled onto him.
He wants this to end, but Jimmy knows now that it will never, ever end.
(“I want to make sure you understand.”)
Jimmy understands now. He understands it perfectly.
This is his destiny, and he chooses it out of his own free will.
Almost as if he’s just flicked a switch with that thought, Jimmy suddenly feels the warmth of Castiel’s Grace shining down on him. He raises his head up and stares up into the light that now floods his senses, unconsciously pushing himself up to his feet. He barely feels the slight stumble of his feet when straightens up and feels the familiar brush of Castiel’s Grace against soul, the whispers automatically translating themselves in his mind.
You will consent?
Jimmy sucks in a breath. “I already said I would.”
Even knowing the consequences clearly now, you will consent?
“Yes,” the man hisses back, scowling just a bit. “Do you need a freaking contract to go with this or something, Cas?”
There’s a surge of something in Castiel’s Grace that feels strangely apologetic. You must understand, Jimmy.
“I do, Cas, I do,” he returns, letting his breath rush out of him in one shuddering exhale. “Just don’t let the world explode again, and don’t go psycho afterwards either.”
Castiel doesn’t respond to that, but he can feel the angel descending upon him and entering his body. He feels the heat pressing down against his body and the cold that crawls out from his soul, waiting to be warmed by the intense heat of Castiel’s Grace. Being possessed by an angel had never been as easy of an experience as one would think it might be—it’s like having fire and ice in your veins at the same time, Grace pouring through your bloodstream like lava and liquid nitrogen. Twice he had already felt this sensation, but the pain is always muted, distant—taken away as Castiel slips into his body and claims it.
Just like this he’s lost everything again, but unlike the last two times this time Jimmy closes his eyes and accepts his fate, letting light and Grace wash through him as the entire world whites out behind his closed eyelids.
The white fades away, and now the world begins to slowly focus back before his already open eyes, and Jimmy mentally winces as he slowly allows his mind to adjust to the scenery that now lies before him. He sees the clouds in the sky dotting above him and hears the gentle lapping of waves at the nearby shoreline. The trees rustle quietly in the breeze and Jimmy has a feeling that he’s been here before, somewhere… somehow…
Jimmy, can you hear me?
It takes a moment for the man to realize who that voice is.
Cas, he starts instantly, pausing afterwards as he tries to make out what just happened. Why is he talking mentally to Castiel again? Jimmy tries to turn his head around, but his own body refuses to respond to him and he lets out a grunt of frustration. It’s almost as if—
The realization hits him right in the gut, and Jimmy has to pause for a moment to compose himself before speaking to the angel cautiously. Cas, am I…
Castiel makes a quiet sound of confirmation. We are in the same body again.
How— Jimmy starts to ask, but he’s cut short when he hears Dean’s voice beside him (Castiel, them, whatever) and Castiel turns his head around to where the hunter is, standing up and growling right at the Leviathan’s face.
“Bring him back, you son of a bitch!” he hears Dean snarl out.
The Leviathan only rolls its shoulders in a shrug and smiles not too kindly. “And deprive poor Jimmy from his nice, normal life? And why would I do that?”
Doesn’t it sense me here? Jimmy wonders out, both surprised and uncertain on what to make of this.
Castiel answers the question. I have shielded your presence with my Grace. It will not sense you unless you choose to let it do so.
Huh. Jimmy pauses for a moment, his mind putting two and two together. So you’ve still got your Grace?
Just a minimal amount, the angel admits quietly. It will not be enough to do much of anything.
It’s better than nothing, the man returns as he maintains his sight on Dean and the Leviathan facing each other, watching the hunter continue to snap back (courageously, if not stupidly) at the beast’s face.
“Bring him back, goddammit!” Dean snarls out again, fists already curled up and clenching tightly. Jimmy thinks that Dean would have punched the Leviathan a long time ago if he wasn’t certain of how hard the other might hit back.
“But he’s happy there,” the beast counters, smiling in a way that’s almost wistful. “Are you really so intent on not letting the meatsuit live out the nice, quiet life he wants so much? Really, Dean? I had no idea you were the jealous type.”
The words seem to strike a chord in the hunter, judging by how the human instantly tenses up and the way Dean’s jaw clenches as if the man has to hold back whatever that he had intended to say next. The glare that Dean sends over to the Leviathan is nothing but pure venom, and the beast only smiles in something that looks like triumph.
“Fuck you,” the man eventually hisses out fiercely, voice dripping with nothing but hate and disgust.
The corners of the Leviathan’s lips only curl upwards in amusement. “I think you should be saying that to the pretty-boy angel over there.” It jerks its head towards where Castiel is as it says that, and inside Jimmy can feel the angel recoiling just a little at the attention that the beast now signals towards him—towards them.
Jimmy tries not to let Castiel affect him too much, keeping his sights on the Leviathan as he hisses towards the angel. Any bright ideas, Cas?
I— the angel starts and then stops, pausing in hesitation on what he wants to say next and Jimmy has to nudge him a little before Castiel can speak up again. I—do have an idea, but it is risky.
It’s better than nothing, Jimmy quickly returns, impatience biting at him for a moment. What’s the plan?
Castiel hesitates once again, this time even before he starts to speak, and Jimmy is forced to give him yet another nudge. The angel makes a mildly uncomfortable sound before he speaks. Your soul is saturated with a significant amount of my Grace. I can draw it out from you and use it, and with the proper incantation I should be able to draw out the Leviathan from this body. Without a vessel, the Leviathan is useless, and the pull of Purgatory should draw it right back where it belongs. But—
—you’re not sure how well it might work, right? He finishes up for the angel, and Castiel gives a muted nod in response that only causes Jimmy to let out a sigh. Of course there always had to be something—but right now, there really isn’t much of a choice in the matter. Jimmy only gives himself a second before steeling himself, reaching out to Castiel and speaking to the angel. You know the incantation?
There’s a pause from Castiel before the angel responds. Yes.
Jimmy gives himself another moment to suck in a mental breath and stop the hammering of his (non-existent) heart. Okay, Cas. On the count of three.
Jimmy— Castiel’s voice suddenly rises up in alarm and shock, but Jimmy isn’t going to let that deter him. He’s already come this far. He has to do this.
Jimmy, you don’t—
Jimmy picks himself up from the ground at the last mental shout and starts charging head-on towards the Leviathan, pushing himself forward with all of his might and ignoring the startled shout of Castiel’s name that falls from Dean’s lips. Castiel is acting now, drawing out whatever Grace that’s seeped in the cracks of Jimmy’s soul and gathering it into himself and Jimmy feels his strength leaving him as he does so, the power of Castiel’s Grace sapping away whatever energy he has and draining Jimmy down to whatever he has left in his soul. The man grits his teeth together and forces himself forward, drawing out whatever strength that he can muster out from every part of his mind and body and soul.
The Leviathan whirls around, surprise flaring in its dark eyes as its caught off-guard by the sudden burst of energy that comes from Castiel. The moment quickly passes however, and soon the Leviathan narrows its eyes, thin silts of too-dark blue looking at the angel is disgust as it twists its lips into a twisted grin and moves to raise its hand, fingertips already starting rub in a snap—
A fierce roar suddenly pierces through the air, loud and violent, and there’s barely any time to register the sound before a flash of gleaming red crosses Jimmy’s vision and the next thing he hears is a shout of pain coming from the Leviathan, followed by a loud snarl. “Korialstrasz!”
The Alpha dragon returns the snarl with one of its own, leaning closer to the Leviathan as Korialstrasz hisses out with equal venom and hate. It is time for you to know your place. The dragon flares its wings out, and its then does Jimmy notice the battered, tattered state that Korialstrasz is in—he can see many spots across its body where the dragon’s scales have chipped and broken, the tender flesh scarred by scratches and stab wounds. Blood splatters across the rest of the untouched scales, staining and tarnishing the bright red into a color much darker and sinister. Judging from the awkward way that Korialstrasz stretches its left wing out, it’s also safe to say that the dragon must have fractured it as well.
Dean finally manages to find his voice then, and a look of relief washes across the hunter’s face for a moment before he shouts out. “Scales!”
Korialstrasz only returns Dean’s greeting with a snort, subtly shifting its right talon so that the Leviathan is held down securely under the weight of the Alpha dragon’s arm and entire body by proxy. The dragon gives the beast a passing glance before turning its gaze to Castiel, speaking out loud. Do the incantation, angel. I will help you and your vessel to accomplish it.
Crushed under Korialstrasz’s talon the Leviathan is unable to say anything, but the sudden struggle that Jimmy sees is more than enough to confirm the beast’s surprise. Dean, too, is taken aback, as he turns around to look at Castiel—at him—with wide, surprised eyes. “Jimmy? You’re in there?”
Jimmy is about to answer, but Castiel takes over there and then and replies in his stead. “Yes, Dean.”
There is no more time to waste, Korialstrasz speaks up sharply, letting out another cloud of smoke through its nostrils. Stay back, human. And then to Castiel: Do it now, angel.
“Yes,” Castiel answers, and quickly makes his way over to where the dragon is holding down the Leviathan. Jimmy can smell the thick scent of Korialstrasz’s smoke as the dragon breathes out, but Castiel’s angelic nature prevents his nose from choking and his eyes from watering as the angel kneels down at the Leviathan’s head, his gaze focusing wholly on nothing else but the beast who controls their bodies. The beast glares back venomously at them, unfiltered hate burning from its eyes.
Wait, Korialstrasz speaks up before Castiel can start, and the angel raises his head up just in time to see the dragon spitting something out at him. Castiel easily catches the item in his hand, and Jimmy follows the angel’s gaze to stare at the bloody fang that they hold now, saliva and blood dripping down from the tip. The Alpha dragon gives a brief nod towards the tooth now being held in their hands, explaining quickly. Stab this through its heart once you’re done with the incantation. It will unlock the cage that previously held them, and I will be able to throw it back in and close the cage for good.
Castiel only takes a moment before he nods, accepting the explanation, and tightens the hold he has on Korialstrasz’s fang as he reaches out with his other hand and presses it down across the collar, palm over where the sternum is and starts to let the words flow out from his (their) tongue, chanting in a language both familiar and foreign to him at the same time. It’s a mix of tongues that Jimmy can’t figure out heads or tails of but somehow the words click in his mind, translating over to English in his head due to Castiel’s power.
“By the power of the Father, creator of all, I purge you from this body. By the power of the Father, creator of all, I banish you from this vessel. By the power of the Father, creator of all, I send you back to where you belong.”
Somehow during the struggling the Leviathan manages to get its mouth free from under Korialstrasz’s talon, leaving it free to speak out as it snarls at Castiel’s face. “So you’re just going to play the good guy again, are you? After all that you’ve done, you think that this will make Dean forgive you? You foolish, foolish child.”
Jimmy attempts to help, supporting the angel in the one way he knows how as Castiel grits his teeth and continues with the invocation.
“—with the power of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, pull this impure soul out and return it to where it belongs. Bless this body with your power and burn the impurities that taint it so. With your power adjure the tainted soul that lives inside—”
The Leviathan lets out a scream there and then, and Jimmy sees the veins across its face turning dark with black blood, every one of the vessels highlighted out in black. The darkened veins sprawl out across the beast’s face in a crackling spider web, mapping out all of the veins and arteries of his face. Dark eyes flash again as the beast regains itself, and when it glares at Castiel this time Jimmy can sense how the Leviathan looks through the angel, and he knows that it’s not Castiel who the beast addresses next when he talks.
“And you,” it growls out, nothing but disgust dripping from its voice, and it’s almost a terrifying thing to hear between the burning hate in its eyes and the way its face is nearly black from the dark blood that pumps through its veins. “Even after what I’ve let you experienced, you still choose to be a slave for this foolish angel? You still allow yourself to be controlled by somebody like him? I gave you a chance to get out of this, and yet you still choose this life instead. Why would you allow yourself this, human? Why?”
Castiel’s still chanting out loud and there’s no way that Jimmy can interrupt without ruining the entire thing, but somehow Jimmy’s certain that the Leviathan can hear him as he replies, letting out a burst of courage and determination that he never knew he had within him up until now. “Because Castiel needs me, and Castiel is my friend. I can’t give up on him when everybody else has, because that’s what it means to be his vessel. To be his support, and his guide, and to help him where he fails. Because without me Castiel would not have been able to be around to help the Winchesters in stopping the Apocalypse, and even though I’ve lost everything that makes me Jimmy Novak there is still somebody who remembers me, and he will make sure that I won’t be forgotten.”
Jimmy pauses and takes in a breath, glaring straight back at the Leviathan’s eyes as he finishes his answer. “Because I made this choice out of my own free will, and no matter what you say I am still somebody. I still matter. So you can shut your mouth and go back to your cage.”
The Leviathan gives Jimmy a final glare before it screams once more, and Jimmy can start to see flickers of light starting to appear across the cracks of its face, and its dark eyes start to glow with an unholy light. The world focuses around him again as Castiel speaks the last bits of the incantation, voice rising higher and louder as he all but shouts out the last words.
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I abdicate you from this body. Amen!”
With the last word spoken Castiel swings down the fang in his hand and smashes it against its chest, over right where the human heart lay. Black blood spurts out messily over Castiel’s hand and Korialstrasz’s talon, staining through the already dark suit that the Leviathan wears as the fang digs in harshly through cloth and skin and muscle. The beast lets out a sharp, loud cry that can possibly rival the angels’ as the light starts to spread, flaring up brighter the more Castiel digs deeper inside with the dragon’s fang. Jimmy can literally feel the scream ringing in his ears, eardrums shaking so hard Jimmy has to wonder why they haven’t burst yet.
It’s just then when he hears Korialstrasz’s voice growling across his head, speaking in a tongue of its own that Castiel somehow translates as well. “In the name of my kin and brethren, I, Korialstrasz, banish you back to the Lake of Souls where you reside. Return, foul beasts. Return to your cage.”
The Leviathan lets out a final scream after the Alpha dragon says those words, crying out louder than its last few shouts as the light flares even brighter, perhaps even brighter than an angel’s Grace as nothing but white cloaks Jimmy’s vision. He feels his strength sapping out from him as Castiel struggles to pull together whatever Grace that his soul still holds onto, pumping it all out to force the Leviathan away from his body—from Castiel’s body—and the scream goes higher and higher until Jimmy is deaf from the beast’s cries. Whatever energy he has left quickly flees from him as his senses white out and Jimmy feels exhaustion like no other settling into him, dragging him down into the soft embrace of unconsciousness as white fades to black and Jimmy knows no more once again.
This is the end.
He doesn’t feel it at first, but eventually he does sense it—something else other than the darkness pressing against his soul, pounding insistently at his psyche as a voice calls out to him, indistinguishable at first but soon taking form, shouting out words that his mind manage to register.
Jimmy—yes, that’s his name. Jimmy Novak, thirties, born and living in Pontiac, Illinois. He has a wife and a daughter—a family that means everything to him, a family he had to leave for—
(“You served us well, your work is done. It's time to go home now. Your real home. You'll rest forever in the fields of the Lord. Rest now, Jimmy.”)
Rest? Yes, rest is good. Jimmy lets the darkness slip into him once again, gently tugging him away from consciousness. But the voices are loud and insistent, and the further he drifts the louder it pounds, nearly howling in the darkness. Jimmy!
Why are the voices calling him? Jimmy wants to bat them away; he’s tired, so tired…
This is not the end.
Jimmy finds himself slowly focusing on the new voice that suddenly booms, each syllable ringing to the core of his soul as he slowly starts to stir. The voices grow louder as he focuses in the darkness, and he can make out the different voices, all of them calling out his name.
He opens his mouth to start replying, but the loud voice booms again, questioning. Do you want it to end, Jimmy Novak?
The man only blinks once before the answer tumbles out easily from his lips, plain and simple. “No.”
His name is Jimmy Novak, thirty-four years old, born and bred in Pontiac, Illinois. He has a wife named Amelia and a daughter named Claire. They mean the world to him, but he had to leave them thrice now in order to be the vessel for the angel of Thursday. The last thing he remembers is the world turning white on him when Castiel banished the Leviathan back into Purgatory, and now—
Jimmy pauses when he feels a surge of amusement rippling in the darkness. To think that even the vessel is as exceptional as the angel it houses. You and Castiel are truly one of a kind.
He frowns a bit at the words, but decides not to comment on it. “Is the Leviathan gone?”
A pause. Yes, and it is you that the world has to thank for this time.
“You mean Castiel,” Jimmy blurts out before he can help himself.
The amusement surges through him once more, and there’s another brief pause before the voice speaks again. If I can give you one thing, Jimmy, anything at all—what will you ask for?
It’s a question that makes Jimmy pause. Once upon a time, Jimmy knows what he would have asked for—he would have asked to be taken out of this life and this destiny, to not be some vessel for some angel and be one of Heaven’s unwitting pawns. But now, after everything, Jimmy knows that asking that wouldn’t work out for the best. This is his destiny, and this is what he has chosen. But still, if he could…
Jimmy casts his eyes around the darkness and gives his answer. “I’d like to see my family.”
The warmth is evident in the voice this time round. You are a good man, Jimmy Novak.
“I try my best,” he replies with a wry grin, although that soon slips from his face as Jimmy feels exhaustion settling into his yet again. He lets out a loud yawn without thinking twice, eyelids already starting to droop over his eyes. He sinks back into the darkness, letting it comfort him again as he gradually slips back into it.
Just as he drifts off, he hears the voice speak one last time. The end is only but the beginning, Jimmy Novak. This is just the beginning.
Chapter 7: Epilogue
Epilogue: A million ways to say hello.
As consciousness drifts back to him for what seems to be the millionth time today Jimmy vaguely wonders if this is going to be a frequently occurring thing—it certainly feels like it, anyway. It’s actually kind of annoying how often he drifts in and out like this even though he is stuck with Castiel again; it really shouldn’t give him a reason to keep on blacking out on the angel.
Even if his head currently feels like shit for some reason.
Jimmy groans as the pain slowly pervades his senses, throbbing insistently at the back of his head. In the distance he hears some shuffling and hushed whispers, but they’re too soft for Jimmy to make out—and the headache really isn’t doing him any favours either. He’s about to move a hand up to press against his forehead before somebody else does it for him, a gentle sweep across his head before two fingers press lightly against his temple, and suddenly the pain is gone.
“Jimmy,” he hears his own voice speak, and the man opens his eyes to see his own face staring back at him. Jimmy only barely registers the hand that Castiel pulls away from his head or the fact that his head is lying on the angel’s lap as Jimmy can do nothing else but stare in shock at, well, himself.
He speaks the first thing that comes to his mind. “Am I in Heaven?”
There’s a brief gleam of amusement in Castiel’s eyes before the angel shakes his head and answers the question. “You are in Bobby Singer’s spare bedroom. You were, however, close to dying after the Leviathan left us.” Castiel’s smile grows pained and mirthless at this point, and there’s a flash of something in his eyes that passes too quickly for Jimmy to register. “You gave me all of the Grace that your soul held, and it was what held you in this world when Gabriel resurrected you.”
Jimmy nods quietly to the explanation, blinking once before he asks. “‘Was’?” If it’s gone, then what’s happened to him? Is he a ghost now, or something? The man closes his eyes at that thought and shudders. A ghost. Those had never ended well, as far as his memory can recall. He’d rather be Castiel’s vessel instead.
Castiel falls silent then, contemplating, and Jimmy feels a sense of dread pooling in his gut. “Cas?” he ventures out nervously, somehow now afraid of what he might hear.
“You were fading,” the angel blurts out, sudden and abrupt and somehow sounding so very lost. “Your soul couldn’t handle the lack of Grace and you were going to vanish into nothing, Jimmy. Gabriel and I were trying to prevent otherwise. Nothing we try would work—I couldn’t go into your body at all—and we gave up hope Jimmy, we were going to let you vanish just like that.”
“Well,” Jimmy starts slowly, trying to calm the angel down. “Obviously you guys must have done something, or else I wouldn’t be here.”
Castiel shakes his head in return. “We didn’t do anything.”
Jimmy has to pause then. “…what?”
“You were nearly gone,” the angel starts again, frowning this time. “You were just going to go—and then you came back.”
“I…” the man stops again, and this time he makes it a point to push himself up from Castiel’s lap and blink at the angel. “I—what?”
“You returned,” Castiel repeats himself again, plain and simple, but Jimmy can see the confusion showing in the angel’s eyes. “Somebody returned you, whole and complete. You’re as good as new.” He pauses for a moment before adding on. “Neither Gabriel nor I can figure out who did it.”
“Maybe it was God,” Jimmy jokes back mildly in return, about to laugh at his bad joke before he freezes up abruptly as the echo of a loud voice booms in his mind.
This is not the end.
Castiel puts on a contemplative look at Jimmy’s comment, and the look on his face seems to suggest that he did seem to be taking it rather seriously. “Perhaps this is my father’s reward for your services.”
“Uh,” the man starts, not quite certain on what to say. “I guess?”
You are a good man, Jimmy Novak.
The angel looks up at him now and stares in that ever serious way of his, although Jimmy really can’t find it within himself to be disturbed by them in the way Dean is. Maybe it’s the fact that Castiel’s been in him, or something. The seriousness just doesn’t feel as bad when you experience it from the inside. Or maybe it’s because he’s seeing his own face. It’s always hard to be serious about your own face.
“You are free from your services now, Jimmy,” Castiel starts as he pushes himself off the bed, tilting his head just so in a way that only the angel could accomplish. “Everybody’s waiting for you downstairs. Gabriel can bring you to where your family is when you’re ready for it.”
Jimmy nods and gets off the bed as well, dusting off his pants and straightening his clothes before looking back at the angel. “Thanks, Cas.”
Castiel smiles warmly, and shakes his head. “It is I who should be thanking you, Jimmy.” The angel looks at him with nothing but fondness in his eyes as a small smile plays with the corner of his lips. “Of all the vessels that might have housed me, I am glad that it is you.”
The man lets out a small chuckle of his own in return, grinning back as he replies. “And the same to you, Cas. I’m glad you’re my angel.”
Footsteps come into hearing distance then, and both angel and human turn their heads around just in time to see Dean’s slightly annoyed face poking through the doorway, the hunter giving both of them an exasperated look.
“If you two are done,” he starts, grimacing slightly at the sight of two identical humans in the room. “Get a move on and come down. Gabriel’s going to eat all the pie at this rate.”
“I can always make another one!” comes the archangel’s shout from downstairs.
Dean rolls his eyes then, but there’s no venom in his expression and he jerks his head out of the room. “So, are you guys coming down or what?”
Castiel lets out a sigh. “Of course, Dean.”
The hunter grins. “Well, come on down, then.”
He turns around and starts to move off quickly, Castiel following soon behind. Jimmy rolls his eyes outside of the duo’s vision of sight, shaking his head as the two leave together.
“Both of them really need to get it on one of these days,” he mutters to himself before he, too, steps out of the room and makes his way to the living room downstairs, where celebrations are in order before he can finally return back to his family in a world that’s safe and sound.
This is just the beginning.
He can believe it now.