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The Trouble With Mice

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All at once, Mary was gone.

“Mary?” Jack asked the corpse.

That stayed with him, imprinted itself on his mind, and Jack caught it as it began to fall. The lingering warmth was a shock, and he fell with her, dropping to his knees in the snow. Cold meltwater seeped up through his jeans. It was sickening to see the heavy shed shell of her like this, without the light lent by her soul.

The first thing he thought was: they can't know.

That was followed by guilt, crushing in from all angles, like the pressure at the bottom of the sea. He felt as though his lungs would burst under the weight of it.  

They couldn't know. He'd done another bad thing, yet another murder, and Sam and Dean would never want to see him again. Maybe they'd be ready now to kill him, like he'd constantly wondered if they should. It was something a relief, to finally know what side he'd landed on.

Dean had been right—  he was turning out just like Lucifer.

He stayed with the body, unmoving, until it began to change. Until it went limp and pale and started to stink of the consequences of a recent killing. Then, all at once, he realised—  and looked to the sky.

Her soul was in heaven. It had to be.

Jack remembered his heaven. How it had felt as a tactile place, as the beautiful lie it was. The warmth of the false sun, the salt-fat-meat smell of the burgers they hadn't actually eaten. He focused on it, and flew.

His heaven was an empty room. The lights were off, white floor and walls illuminated only by the red glow of the locking device on the door. The entire space was just about big enough to stand in, but he only had to raise his arms slightly from his sides to touch the cool brick walls. The single strip light above seemed claustrophobically close to his head. The air smelled stale, like the space had gone unused for a long time, and the edge of a shelf dug into his back. It had the same dimensions of a grave, if the coffin inside was stood upright rather than being horizontal.

There was no handle on the door, just a smooth metal panel where one should have been, and the exit wound of a keyhole.

Jack put his fist through the lock.

Blood trickled from his knuckles. The door swung lazily outward, and when he stepped out into the infinite white of heaven, the world turned ninety degrees to meet him. All at once the entrance to his door was gone, as were all the others. He was standing somehow in a vast white hallway, no doors in sight. Heaven was isolating him.

Protecting itself.

Blood dripped from his hand into a steadily growing puddle at his feet. It seemed to be bleeding more than it should have been, like all the blood in his body was oozing out through a couple minor cuts. To his right, he could see a cluster of lights,filtering through the walls, blurry and indistinct from the faults of his human vision. To the left, another, smaller and tighter, the individuals closer.

Jack flexed his bloodied fingers, and picked a direction.

He walked towards the bigger cluster. He'd spent too long deliberating, blood had pooled around his shoes, and he left sticky red size ten footprints through the halls of heaven.

The lights began to resolve themselves into shapes, with time; not really humanoid but upright, with heads and limbs and moving twisting body language. His human brain and angel side were violently disagreeing. It felt like being motion sick, like being in a moving car and unable to see the horizon. When he stepped into the room, the effect only worsened.

The ceiling was ten feet, except for it was ten thousand, his senses disagreeing with themselves. The beings in the room looked human—  looked like the vessels they'd taken— except they didn't, they were towering creatures of crystal and grace and blinding light, or chitenous armoured wheels, covered in wet eyes that blinked open and shut with mechanical jitters, or a hundred other things he couldn't seem to comprehend. Jack felt achingly small , surrounded by these towering beings.

The largest, the brightest-burning, turned to him. The shadowy expanse of her true form knelt, and he was at once seeing her through different eyes; through hundreds of them. She was still much bigger, but the orders of magnitude between them had been reduced.

She had four faces, emerging nightmarishly from the same head; a lion, a water buffalo, something like a human with no eyes or orifices, and some long forgotten birdlike thing, all scales and feathers and too-sharp beak.  

As she turned her head to look at him—a disturbing process, because all eight eyes seemed to want to see—a shocking fact became clear.

Of the two of them, Jack was by far the stronger.

“Why have you come here?” The angel asked. “What do you want from us?”

Jack scraped together half-remembered lore. On one side of his body, a hundred bloodied hands dripped silver.

“I want to bargain.” he said. His voice was different, bypassing his body entirely. He raised it, to grind in his point as viciously as possible. “I want to bargain for Mary Winchester's soul.”

He knew that really, in the deepest recesses of his mind, in the place his soul should have been, he was bargaining for his redemption. To be given a chance to do something good again, to go against his nature. Maybe bringing Mary back to life would work better than healing Stacy had.

“Well, nephil , that's quite a request,” the angel said. She spoke his species in the tone of a slur, like she wanted the word to hurt him. She was bigger than him, more finished, but he could have crushed her if he'd wanted to, and almost wanted to. They all felt suddenly so small, humans even incomprehensibly smaller.

“What could you give us in return?”

“Well…” Jack haggled, with a confidence he didn't have, using words that weren't his, scary phrases he'd found in other people's mouths. Red blood again, staining the floor tiles. “Myself. A little birdie told me you're having trouble keeping the lights on up here.”

The older angel reeled back at that. Her dozens of shoulders began to shake. The movement made a hollow clacking sound—  bone on bone on bone.

She was… laughing .

Jack frowned. Squeezed his wounded hand into a fist.

“What would we do with you? You're not even an angel,” she said. “You're tainted with human blood and human life. We wanted you when you were new, but you're too far gone now.”

Jack touched his chest. Pressed his fingertips into his sternum.

“I don't know if you've noticed?” He said. “But I don't have a soul. It's just grace in here.” He tapped the spot over his heart again, invited power to course through him, to make his eyes glow. “I'm not an angel, but I'm the closest thing you'll get. Take me, and give Mary back to her family!”

It wasn't a fair trade, but the angels didn't know that. They wouldn't trust him though—  they'd lock him up somewhere. Put him somewhere he couldn't do any more harm. Somewhere he belonged.

“He's right, Naomi.” One of the other angels—  a lesser thing— broke in. “We could use him.”

A hand was laid on his vessel, his body. Eight on his true form. The other angel took a tone of sudden reverence.

“He feels like an archangel, Naomi.”

“Of course he does,” Naomi snapped. “He's Lucifer's son .”

“You think I'm going to turn on you.” Jack realised. The words spilled from him like water through cupped hands, slipping free at the accord of a force unknown. “You don't trust me.”

Bitterly defeated, Naomi shook her head.

“Don’t you think this, alone, is enough betrayal?” Jack asked, trying not to beg, to let his desperation slip through, to let the anger rising in his chest break his facade. “My father doesn't want me allied with heaven, and the men who raised me all want me dead. Do you really think I'd go- go grovelling back to either of them?”

“We need him, Naomi.”

Another nameless, faceless voice. So small, all of them. No wonder heaven was so weak.

Please , Naomi.”

“I brought Castiel back from the empty. When I was just born, and nowhere near this powerful.” Jack said, blood dripping silver, heavy as mercury. “I've never tried it with anyone else, but…”

“On my terms,” Naomi said. “You get your terms, I get mine.”

“I want to see her soul returned.” Jack insisted. “I want to see Mary Winchester resurrected and I want her to stay that way. I'll do anything.”

Anything didn't seem that hard.

'Anything’ was the chance to draw on his grace directly. ‘Anything’ was an alcove in the wall, and a silvery set of shackles, made from the same stuff as angel blades. 'Anything’ was the way Jack dutifully presented his wrists and didn't protest when they chained him in; how well he tolerated the hollow extraction needles that bit into his wrists and ankles. He didn't even cry when they slipped one beneath the skin of his neck.

His hand still hadn't healed.

Mary Winchester was back home, and Jack was paying a fair price for getting her killed in the first place. He would be drained of his grace at the rate it replenished; forever powering heaven.

Even with his arms shackled, he could still form a fist. Remind himself of his power.

He blinked back tears and the burn of pain, and prepared to bleed for Eternity.