Anna spends the first few weeks hiding from her brothers and sisters in places of panoramic beauty; places that she only saw on TV and in magazines, but whose songs she now feels in the threads of her being. She stands on the edge of ice cliffs in Blood Falls, Antarctica, where the earth bleeds red into the snow. She sits in the high branches of Taiwan's mountain forests and listens to the Bunun tribe's prayer for the millet harvest; indivisible faith sorted into eight-part harmony, voices rising to the sky. She prays in the rock-cut churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia, more out of habit than anything. Prayer reminds her of her parents, if not of her god.
She listens for her brethren. When they say her name on angel radio, it is always with anger and such bitterness. When they get too close, Anna spreads her wings and flies. She has wings made of God's words and the first light, and she has the ancient instinct to wield them once more. All she has to do is fix a destination in her mind, and she's off.
"You know what it's like?" Anna says, languid in the backseat. Sam sits in the passenger seat, and the driver's seat is empty. "Have you ever read the Narnia books?"
"Sure," says Sam. "Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?"
"It's like falling back out of the wardrobe. Everything that's real is superseded." She smiles faintly. "But is one world realer than the other?"
Outside, Dean emerges from the 7-11, and by the time he gets to the Impala, Anna is gone.
Earth should feel so ephemeral, but it is more solid than any connection Anna has left to Heaven. A handful of years on Earth should not be able to sway creatures who are millennia-old, but it is enough to make Anna Milton who she is. It may not be a lot for angels, but it more than suffices for humans, and there's the rub.
These sons of Adam, these daughters of Eve: once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia. Anna spends a day in Dedham's public library, rereading the books in a fit of nostalgia, and she thinks maybe it's not the loss of the Pevensies' former lives that makes them love Narnia. Maybe they love Narnia simply because it is the right thing to do. In the end, Anna and the Pevensies had to leave their respective paradises, but the difference is that Anna chose to leave. Whereas the Pevensies had their kingdom pulled out from under them, Anna left mortality as willingly and knowingly as she had fallen into it. This should make her feel better, and she thinks that maybe in time it will.
She wonders what Aslan would have to say about that. Aslan may not be a tame lion, but Anna thinks that maybe it's not about whether the lion is tame or not. She thinks maybe it's not about lions at all.
She pops up in the backseat of the Impala and wakes up the whole damn car.
"Jesus Christ!" Sam shouts, and from the front seat Dean yells, "Sam!"
Suddenly Anna has knives and guns all up in her face, for all the good they'd do. She says, "Guys, it's me."
"What the fuck, Anna!" Sam exclaims. "You teleported right on top me!"
The Winchesters were sleeping. It's 3:14 AM, and Anna should've known. She no longer needs sleep, and doesn't use it to divide the days anymore. She forgets sometimes that other people still do. The brothers are startled and sleep-rumpled, twisted in awkward positions in the cramped space of the car.
Dean lowers his gun. "The hell do you want?"
Untangling herself from Sam in the backseat is more awkward than she expects. Anna may be an angel now, again, but pressed up against Sam, the warmth of him, the smell of him, she feels the blatant tug of muscle memory. This tangled proximity recalls the men she's kissed, the ones she fucked, and it's such a human thing, this heat that simmers at the pit of her stomach. These are the trappings of a body no longer hers, and one she clings to only for sentimental value. She flits to the front seat in the blink of an eye before her thoughts outrun her intentions.
"There's another seal," she tells them.
They listen blearily as Anna explains, Sam blinking back exhaustion and Dean muttering all sorts of deprecations. At the end of it, Sam says, "Okay. Fine. We'll go to Frontenac in the morning, but right now we need some sleep."
"Sorry for waking you," Anna says, "but I thought it was best for you to know ASAP."
Dean grins a shit-eating grin. "You wanna stick around, get some shut-eye? We can cuddle. Stick Sam in the trunk."
"Fuck you," says Sam.
"That's generous," she says, wryly, "but I have to go."
As Anna leaves the Impala, she hears Dean say, "Why do angels gotta--" and then she is out of earshot, flying into the night.
The Pevensies forget about England in Narnia, but they don't forget about Narnia in England. It doesn't seem fair, but whoever said things are fair, anyway. Occasionally Anna allows herself to wish she had a Seven Friends of her own, someone to whom she could say, "Remember when...?" Her memories of two worlds remain intact in her mind, and her longing flits easily from the smell of her father's cologne to the graceful efficiency of the garrison she once commanded. Anna remembers her mother asking if she'd like to lick the batter off the spoon, and remembers the chaos of the battlefield in the final moments before victory.
Anna walks along the spine of a dune in the northern Sahara, and her feet sink ankle-deep into the sand. The sky is blue and cloudless, and there is nothing around her but the sand dunes shrugged up by the earth. People receive revelations in places like this, the word of God, visions, temptations, so many other things that are shorthand for mankind's inability to deal with mankind. They used to believe that demons come from the desert, for the very same reason.
In the middle of this desolation, Anna throws her head back, opens her mouth, and sings hosannas in her true voice, just to remind herself of it, just because she can. The song whips around her and disturbs the sand, rearranges the dunes. Miles and miles away, humans in the nearest settlement look up curiously at the horizon, snared by a sudden restless melancholy. Once it passes, they'll liken it to hearing a song in a dream; once you wake up, it is no longer music. You aren't what you were in the dream, so you can no longer understand. That's the best way they'll be able to explain it, if they're inclined to explain it at all.
Dean and Sam are arguing about music again the next time Anna very quietly and very carefully appears in the backseat.
"You can't say 'Stairway to Heaven' is their only good song," Dean says, one hand on the wheel and the other holding a hamburger. "That's like saying 'Tears in Heaven' is Clapton's all-time best."
Sam says, "I don't see why I have to justify it. They're just songs, Dean."
"Sam, Sam, Sam," Dean sighs, and throws the burger wrapper over his shoulder. It hits Anna in the face, so she throws it back, and Dean nearly runs them off the road.
"Jesus H. motherfucking--!" Dean glares at her in the rearview mirror. "What the fuck!"
"Anna, you have to stop doing that," Sam says, very seriously.
She smiles sheepishly, and shrugs.
"There's a seal in Ellensburg," she says, and Dean says, "It's like once you rescue an angel, you can't get rid of them."
"There's a seal in Ellensburg," Anna starts again, and this time they listen, because in the end they're all in this together.
She's about to leave, her job here done, when Dean says, "Hey, Cas has been asking about you."
"Castiel?" Anna frowns. "What did you tell him?"
Dean shrugs. "Nothing."
Sam adds, "He wants to know if you're okay."
"That's rich," she says, "coming from the guy who wanted to kill me."
Dean says, "Yeah, that's what we figured."
Anna is pretty sure that Castiel hasn't forgiven her for falling, but she doesn't mind. Her fall had nothing to do with him. Still, there had been a moment in the barn, as grace burned away the remnants of her humanity, when Anna met Castiel's unflinching gaze and felt something between pity and compassion. Anna knew he was seeing what mortal eyes could not – her true angelic form, bleeding out of Anna Milton's body – and in his eyes she saw recognition, and hope.
During their last conversation before she fell, Castiel had asked her, Why do you persist in this? This isn't you.
She had replied, Isn't it, Castiel? You only know the parts of me you want to know.
Anna cannot return to him, to what she was, not after all this. She hopes for Castiel's sake that one day he will understand.
"Good luck with Ellensburg," she says, and Sam replies, "Take care of yourself," and she is gone.
Sometimes she just flies and flies for the joy of it. Anna hurtles through the air and cuts through clouds, flies straight into the sun knowing that her wings will never melt. She remembers how much she loved this, the thrill of flight, the closest to freedom good angels ever get. In the upper reaches of the stratosphere, she can hear the light of stars, their bright voices that unfurl through space. Anna can almost hear God again, almost, and the thought of it makes her laugh, makes her cry, makes her heart ache with the stubbornness of angels and the vitality of humankind.
To be part of more than one world can't possibly be a sin. At the very least, it's an act of love.
"Dean, have you read the Narnia books?" asks Anna.
"I watched like five minutes of the movie on TV," he answers, eyes on the road.
"Dean doesn't do books," Sam explains.
"I don't do shitty kids' books," Dean clarifies.
Anna says, "What if Heaven and Earth were on the same side of the wardrobe?"
"Inside it?" Sam asks, "or outside it?"
"Maybe it doesn't matter."
Sam meets her eyes in the rearview mirror, and his expression is attentive, concerned. Sam opens his mouth to reply, but Dean barges in first.
"So, what," Dean says. "Can Aslan stop the Apocalypse?"
Anna says, "Aslan started his own Apocalypse, eventually."
Dean shakes his head. "Lions, man. Can't trust 'em."
The voices on angel radio are still angry and bitter, so she usually tries not to stay anywhere too long. She sticks around for a while this time, though, lounging in the backseat and watching acres of midwestern farmland drift by outside. Her mojo has begun to fizzle and fuzz; it takes more out of her to do certain things. More and more often now, the Winchesters find themselves with an extra passenger of the angelic persuasion riding in the backseat.
The late afternoon sunlight casting shadows across clouds reminds Anna of her garrison. Surely they'd be the one to catch her, if she gets caught? They know her best. She wonders if Johael's aim has improved, whether Barachiel has finally learned to angle his blows so as not to hurt himself. Does Uriel still laugh that booming laugh? And who does Castiel trust with his questions now that Anna is lost to him?
Are her parents okay, wherever they are?
"You like Black Sabbath?" Dean asks.
"Not really," Anna admits.
"Too bad," he says, popping in the tape and turning up the volume.
Outside, a cold wind blows and the Apocalypse continues to close in on all sides.