Human Perspective

To former joys recurring ever

He startled himself awake, sat up and blinked in the dim light from the hall, it seemed he'd left the door open a bit. Dean's sleeping form was beside him and he lay back down, pressed up against Dean's back and threw an arm over his waist. What a horrible nightmare; but Dean was warm, and it lulled him back to sleep almost immediately. He woke in the morning to Dean kissing his forehead.

“Wakey, wakey,” Dean told him, “you wanted to go to that music festival whatnot today, and if we're gonna get a good spot for your blanket, we need to go early.”

Cas stretched; he loved to stretch, and he got his entire body in on the act and then he curled up, and Dean just laughed at him, then flopped on top of him.

“We could stay home; I could spread your blanket out on the bed and put some music on the stereo and we could have our own festival,” Dean said, “one with no bugs or chances of rain.”

Cas wiggled out from under him then, and Dean turned on his back, looking up at him, grinning. “You are oh, so tempting,” Cas told him, dragging fingertips through his hair, leaning down to kiss him.

“I know,” Dean purred before Cas silenced him with his mouth. His happiest days were all spent with Dean.

And that is when it hit him where he was and what this must be, because Castiel was still in thought an angel and angels knew how this worked. As if fleeing the sudden clarity, Dream Dean was gone from beneath him and Cas sat up in the bed, looking around the room he shared with Dean in the bunker. It would make sense that this would be his heaven. All he had to do was suspend his belief, just a little, and he could relive every happy moment with Dean over and over for eternity. He got out of the bed, dressed and went downstairs. He walked through the war room, into the living room, and he sat in Dean's big leather chair and he pulled his feet up into it and he hugged his knees. He felt blank and raw and empty; he didn't want memories. What was he to do? When he was an angel he had power and station and divinity; he was not insurmountable but he was diligent and true to purpose. As a human he'd been little more than a hopeless romantic and cataloger of old books. But Dean had loved him and that had, in its own way, meant more to him than what had come before. It had meant more because he had achieved it through his own doings and not in his role as servant of heaven.

He could journey to the garden, confront Metatron, and then what? Tell him his story? Ask to be thrown back down to earth? His vessel was dead now, and so was he: well and truly dead. If there were going to be divine intervention this time, he was sure it would have already happened. The passage of time here was different, but he felt that this had already gone on too long for it to be anything other than what it was: his heaven. He wasn't going to do this without Dean. He wasn't going to let Dean be left behind and unhappy while Cas replayed all their moments together. Dean didn't have that to fall back on; Dean had only Sam now, and probably more guilt than any human could bare. It wasn't his fault: very little of what Dean thought was his fault was ever truly his fault. But he would take Cas' death on as his own and Cas knew he would and felt absolutely helpless. He should be friendly with the feeling by now, he'd grown accustomed to it; but if Dean would be alone, then Cas would be alone until Dean could be with him. Solitude was purity, and he wasn't sure he should even be in heaven. The rules were always changing on him just when he thought he caught on.

But solitude had different ideas for Cas.

There came a knock on the door and Cas stared over at it with consternation. He was deliberately not having memories, so why anyone would be knocking on the door was beyond him. But the door burst open and a masked figure in a cape jumped through it and stood there, looking at Cas with his hands on his hips. Cas knew it was a man because the man's tights left little doubt of his gender. Cas frowned at him and tried to will him away, but it didn't seem to be working all that well. The masked man lifted his arm and pointed a finger dramatically in Cas' direction and Cas leaned back in his chair a bit before he realized he was doing it.

“Hola! You do not know me, but in time you will come to be in awe of me. You are the ex-angel, Castiel, and I am Mal Culo. Bobby Singer sent me,” he finished. “I've come to take you to him so he can give you the scoop on our plan; also, the automatic systems up here still work and they announced your arrival. Since we need you and we don't want MetaMan to get his hands on you before we do, we gotta move you on out of your heaven and somewhere a little more incognito.”

“Why is your name Bad Ass in Spanish?” Cas asked, because there were so many confusing points at this time he decided to go with the easiest one first.

“All in good time, Angel Man. Now, come on, we have to get out of here.” And Mal Culo opened the door and went through it, and, after a moment's hesitation, Castiel followed.

Sam was throwing seeds over the dirt. Dean just stood there with his hands in his pockets and watched him. Sam emptied the little packet, wadded it up and shoved it into his jacket pocket, then glanced over at his brother and gave a half-smile. They were in the woods bordering a large cattle pasture. They had scoped it out earlier and dug in shifts over two days before being able to sneak in a wooden coffin from the bunker's warehouse and finally bury Cas in it. The decision not to burn him had been Dean's, but Sam agreed on principle since Cas seemed to come back to life randomly and, were that to happen again, he might need the body. But the longer it went on, the more Sam had his doubts.

“Wildflower seeds,” Sam told Dean, “he would probably like them.”

Dean nodded without comment and took a deep breath and looked around. “He liked cows so, flowers and cows. You hear that, Cas, you're getting flowers and cows. He was getting really hippy, you know, he would have liked this whole clandestine wood burial shit.” Dean rubbed his face. “He would have thought it was funny. Is it funny, Cas? You laughing at us up there?”

Sam looked up, wondering if indeed Cas could hear prayers again. Dean turned away then, started heading through the woods toward the Impala. Sam trotted to catch up and they walked side by side in silence. Dean turned on the radio for the drive home; it was always a subtle hint that he didn't want to talk, and once they got back to the bunker Dean went straight to his room and closed the door. Sam sat for a while in the living room and half-heartedly watched TV because he didn't want Dean to have to try and hide the sounds of grief coming from his room.

Cas came through the door into what looked like a bar. He'd seen a number of bars in his travels with the Winchesters and so he could spot the characteristics of one right away. The masked man whom he had followed looked around with a satisfied nod and said, “Welcome to Casa de Ash.” Then he took off his mask and cape and headed over to the bar. “Okay, you park here. I got to go get a few people now that I got you here. Wanna brewski while you wait?” Mal Culo held up a bright silver can. Cas walked over to the bar uncertainly.

“Yes, thank you. Where are you going, Mal Culo? I should tell you that I am probably not a very popular figure here now; then again, there isn't anyone here aside from Metatron who would know me, among the heavenly host, I mean,” Cas took the beer being offered and popped the top, holding it in one hand and with the forefinger of that hand as Dean had taught him.

“First off, Mal Culo is my stage name, but because I like you, you can call me Ash,” Ash said, opening his own beer for the road, “and second off, Metatron knowing you is kinda a problem.” Then Ash sat a laptop up on the bar. “Okay, Heaven has all these little automated systems. When the angel dudes up here took the swan dive, they didn't switch anything off, so they're all still running. I started tapping into some of the minor systems. Metatron might be an angel, but he's only one angel and there are hundreds of these systems so it takes him a while to monitor through them. The arrival system red-flagged you, but since I was able to tap into it, I got you unflagged; but you're still showing up on the guest list. See, there is this group of us that doesn't really like what went down; we'd kinda prefer it if the other angels came back to run the show again. Metatron and all these souls just waiting to be siphoned up seems like a bad mix.” Ash paused to chug most of his beer.

“I speak from experience when I say it is a temptation almost too good to pass up,” Cas said glumly.

“I'm not saying the dude ever would, but if he did there isn't anyone up here to stop him. So we've formed a super-hero team.” Ash stuck his chest out. “I'm Dr. Bad Ass and you, my friend, are the nerdy braniac who knows this place inside and out.”

“I am?” Cas said, baffled.

Ash gave him a little smile, finished his beer. “Just wait here, I'll be right back.” Then Ash went through a swinging door behind the bar. Cas sat there and drank his beer quietly. He was almost through when Ash came back through the door with a couple of others. One was a very familiar figure. He slid off the bar stool as Bobby Singer rounded the bar and drew him into a hug. It was so good to see someone he knew. Bobby pushed him back then, held him at arms' length.

“Damn, son, I'm glad to see you but I hate to see you, too, you didn't last long,” Bobby sighed. The man behind Bobby was a black man who seemed to be about Bobby's age.

“This is an angel?” the man said and shook his head.

“Castiel, this is Rufus, Rufus this is Castiel,” Bobby released Cas' shoulders then with a fond slap on the arm. “He's a good friend, great fighter and can probably help us figure out what we need to do up here.”

As they talked, Ash went though the swinging door again. Rufus went behind the bar and sat out glasses and a bottle of amber liquid with a blue label. He poured two of the glasses, then looked at Cas and got a third and poured it, too.

“So, Cas, how are the boys?” Bobby asked, picking up his own glass. Cas pulled his glass near, looked over at Bobby with a sad smile.

“Truthfully, at this moment I don't know,” he sighed. “But before this? They seemed … happy. They have a home now: a bunker they found through their grandfather. Dean is very attached to it,” Cas smiled a little,” he likes having a home.”

“Yeah,” Bobby said, “I bet. And Sam, too.”

The door swung open again and Ash came through with more people he knew. Jo reached him first, throwing her arms around his neck, and he smiled, bent his head for her and awkwardly patted her back. Her mother, Ellen, waited her turn for a hug.

“Cas!” Jo said happily, rubbing her cheek against his. “I know everyone will be a downer about saying it's good to see you, but it is.” She released him then, moved back to let Ellen get in a quick one armed hug around Cas' neck as well.

“What happened?” Ellen said, because she was never one to worry about what others thought.

“Oh,” Cas started, “I don't remember everything but I'm pretty sure I was shot, in the chest,” he said. For some reason this made Jo frown and hug him around the neck again, tightly. “It's all right,” he consoled her, “it was very quick; I felt nothing, it was painless,” he continued, as if this made his death any better. Jo tightened her hug even further for another moment before releasing him.

“A hunt?” Bobby said because Ellen started it.

“Yes,” Cas said, bowing his head. “Nothing more dramatic than that. I think about it now, and considering everything, my death was far more merciful as a human than it ever should have been as an angel.”

Ash had slipped out again while no one was watching, and now he pushed the door open and a woman followed him in. Cas knew her immediately. He dropped his eyes and stood quietly.

Pamela came over to stand by Bobby and looked Cas up and down frankly.

“That's not the Castiel I remember,” she said and Cas looked up at her slowly then.

“Yeah, this is his meat suit,” Bobby said. “I guess maybe we should've waited around for him to introduce himself and not tried to force the issue.”

“I did warn you,” Cas said quietly, “I do feel regret for your injury; but you were prying where no human had a right to pry. If you had heeded the warning ...” Cas trailed off.

“So that's my apology?” Pamela said, leaning against the bar. Cas glanced at Bobby, then back to the floor.

“We're all here,” Ash said loudly, “and we can't all be together too long, it gets suspicious on the angel radar.”

“Ash is right,” Bobby said, “we can put this aside for later. Right now, we need to go over what we know and what we're going to do.”

“Okay, so we got the angel, now we need to stash him,” Ash said.

Dean stood leaning against the back of the Impala as Sam went inside to pay and grab some bottled water or whatever it was Sam wanted. Dean didn't want anything; there wasn't much he really thought about nowadays other than hunting. Sam was wheedling to take a break, head back to the bunker, do a few days of downtime. Downtime was the last thing Dean needed. On second thought, he did want something: he wanted some beer. He came into the tiny store and got a 40oz PBR and set it on the counter next to Sam's bottled water and granola bars. Sam looked at him but made no comment and paid for it anyways. Dean got a brown bag to disguise that he was going to be drinking and driving and Sam followed him back to the car, jaw tight.

“It's not enough to get drunk enough to pass out every night in the motel room?” Sam said brusquely, getting into the car.

Dean didn't answer him, just got on the highway to drink and drive. They were heading toward a rumor like always. Just something to pass the time some more.

“Do you really think that Cas would ...” Sam started and Dean cut him off.

“Oh no the fuck you don't, because you just better not. Don't use him to try and make me better, whatever the fuck better is; don't use him because I can say for a fucking fact he was sick and goddamn tired of being used,” Dean snarled.

Sam made a frustrated gesture, shoved himself back in the seat but didn't say any more, and Dean preferred it that way.

“This is ingenious,” Cas said as Ash drew yet another sigil on another door in some confused person's heaven. “I mean, I understand how you are using them, but I don't know why I never thought of this.”

“Maybe because you were an angel and you didn't have to do this?” Bobby said behind him.

“This is true,” Cas said with a tilt of his head and a half-smile at Bobby. “While on earth as a human I learned that all my previous assumptions as an angel were true. Doing things by hand is tedious.”

Ellen gave a bark of laughter behind Bobby and shook her head. “I tell you one thing it did for you, Cas,” she confided. “It sure got that stick out of your ass.”

“Funny, Dean said the same thing,” Cas murmured, following Ash through the door. The 'Away Team' as Ash put it (a reference Cas not only knew but appreciated) consisted of Castiel himself, Bobby, Ellen and Ash. The others had been left back onboard the starship Roadhouse. Cas found he was rather enjoying Ash's endless pop-culture references; in a way, it reminded him of Dean. And he missed Dean, and Sam, but mostly, if he was truthful, Dean. And he worried about him, on almost every breath he took; because he had glimpsed Dean's self-destructive ways when he was an angel. Then it was much easier to be concerned yet detached; to help when he could by soothing the occasional nightmare or offering counseling when Dean would accept it; as a human his help wasn't nearly so objective or useful, but he still tried. He was so caught up in missing Dean that he didn't notice the walk at first, but then he looked up at the house and came to a stop. Everyone else walked a little past him, then stopped to look back at him.

“I can't be here,” Cas said quietly without further explanation.

“Why not,” Bobby said, “after all, you knew this guy; hell, you wore him.”

“It didn't end well for him,” Cas said softly, studying his feet. “If this is where you were thinking of 'stashing' me, I think I can tell you he won't agree.”

“How about you just let us do the talking?” Ellen said. “This is bigger picture stuff, I'm sure we can reason with him.”

“I know all about bigger pictures,” Cas snapped, then sighed. “I'm sorry, I'm just very uneasy to be here. I don't think he'll want to see me.”

“If there's gonna be fisticuffs, I think I'll wait here on the walk. It's not my style to be assaulted by a man in front of his own home; usually heaven is full of peaceful types,” Ash said.

Bobby patted Cas' arm. “Well, just give it a go, would ya? It's not like we're doing this lightly.”

“What the Bobster is trying to say,” Ash jumped in, “is we think we can mask your signature here because you and he have the same wavelengths. It's the whole vessel thing. I mean if the dude wants, we can send him on vacation to someone else's heaven — like Galileo, that is one serious heaven.”

“I often wandered through Emanuel Swedenborg's heaven when I had errands,” Cas said with conspiratorial glee. “His theory of the scriptures being the immediate word of God made for some particularly grand hijinks ...” Then Cas noticed Bobby and Ellen looking at him, and he went back to studying his feet.

Ellen came over, took Cas' elbow and hustled him along and up the stairs and to the front door. He stood there with great trepidation as Bobby knocked.

“It's okay, we're right here with you,” Ellen said.

“I'm aware of that,” Cas whispered, “and though I might or might not be partially responsible for what happened with you and Jo, I am fully responsible for ruining this man's life, and if I were him I would punch me in the face — and that's just for starters.”

The door opened and Castiel stood there. Well, not really Castiel but the man responsible for the way everyone perceived Castiel. And he looked at Bobby first, looking confused, and then at Cas and Ellen. and he seemed to freeze in place.

“This was not my idea,” Cas started, but then he stopped, because Jimmy Novak punched him square in the face.

Sam brought the spirit board into the war room and laid it on the table.

“You are fucking kidding me,” Dean said, looking up from the magazine he holding in his lap. He wasn't actually looking at it; he was sitting at the war table with his feet up and the magazine in his lap in an effort to look normal. In reality. he was staring at some unidentified spot on the far wall, and had been for the past thirty minutes. In the thirty minutes he'd been sitting there, an empty six pack had also littered the floor around him.

“Why not?” Sam said. “I mean. hell, we can at least try. Even if we don't get through to him. there has got to be someone who knows someone who knows someone.” Sam made an offhanded gesture and shrugged. “Maybe even make sure he went?” Sam said hesitantly.

“Of course he went, he's not a fucking idiot,” Dean said, staring at the board like he wanted to light it on fire with his mind control. “If that's so reliable, why haven't we been using it all the time. I mean that one time in the hospital after the wreck and when I met the reaper, granted, it came in handy. But it seems to me we could have used it to suss out a lot of other shit since then.”

“We don't normally talk to spirits, Dean,” Sam told him. “We usually just dig up their remains and burn them.”

“Then how do you know any of them are even going to talk to us?” Dean countered. “If I was a spirit, I would be the last son of a bitch I'd want to talk to.”

“I'm not even a spirit and it's getting that way,” Sam said. “You know, the answer to this is not to burn yourself out or get killed on a hunt because you're running on fumes and alcohol. Another thing? I'm tired of not being able to mention Cas and what Cas might have thought or wanted. He was my friend, Dean, and I miss him, too. So yeah, I don't think Cas would be happy with your current outlook on life and I think he would be concerned, like I am. So throw it back at me, do whatever it is you're gonna do, Dean, because I want you to know my two cents before you drive off the cliff, okay?”

“Are you done, Oprah?” Dean grumbled, and looked away.

“For now,” Sam said. He sat down at the table, pulled the board out of the box and slid it over near Dean. “You don't have to do this if you don't want to. I can do it on my own.”

Dean sat up, leaned over, put his fingers on the planchette and looked skyward. “Hey, Cas, if you can hear me, I got this stupid plastic thing here, say something; and just to make sure you're you, what color underwear am I wearing?”

Sam sagged back in his chair with a sigh.

Ellen gripped Cas' arm and hauled him to his feet just in time for Jimmy to punch him again, and down he went again, almost pulling Ellen down on top of him.

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Now, hang on there a minute.” Bobby grabbed Jimmy from behind and pulled him back, got between him and Cas, who was now sitting up with Ellen's help and sporting a bloody nose. Just like Cas to get a bloody nose in heaven.

“Who are you people, why is he here?” Jimmy demanded, hovering in his doorway now, fists still clenched. “This is the last thing I wanted to see. At least I could maintain the illusion; at least I was convincing myself this was real.”

“It's a bitch, I get it,” Bobby said, “but beating on Cas ain't gonna solve it. I don't know how much you know about the situation going on up here; but the point is, we need your help. All I'm asking is for you to hear us out.”

Ellen had pulled Cas back to his feet, helped him back down the stairs to stand by Ash. Ash pulled his bandana out of his back pocket and Ellen took it to wipe Cas' nose.

“No,” Jimmy said instantly, “whatever it is, it's too much, and what's more insulting? He still looks like me. I am dead and here because of my willingness to help him; what more can he possibly do to me? Get out of here, all of you.”

“Please,” Ellen said, coming back up a step. “You do know that all the angels have fallen; that heaven runs on automatic with only one angel in charge; a rather unstable individual, I'd say.”

Jimmy looked confused for a moment, then nodded toward Cas. “If that's true, then why is he here?”

“He fell, too,” Bobby said, “and then the idjit went and got himself killed and now he's back and just like us; a human soul.”

“What I told you before,” Cas suddenly said, “it's all still true, Jimmy Novak.”

“Oh, is that right? What you told me before? You convinced me you were a righteous cause. You went on an on about faith and devout doctrine and you led me on thinking you were some sort of answer to all mankind's problems if only I was willing to let you use my body for your purpose. Holy purpose: that's how you lured me in, you used my love of God, you used my faith and my devotion and you skinned me with it. You stripped away everything that was me; you even came after my daughter. My daughter, Castiel, you were willing to take her and do all the things you did to me, maybe even worse. All for the sake of saving the world. Well, the world got saved, and I notice that I'm not there. And you want to know what else? This might have worked except I couldn't buy into it right away. I came home and to my house and was met by my wife and daughter; I expected it to be my wife and daughter. But you know what, I knew it wasn't, I knew it was just a memory.” Jimmy looked at Bobby then, at Ellen. “You seem pretty self-aware, too. So maybe it isn't just me, but there is still some piece of you clinging to me that makes this all surreal. I have tried to scrub it away; I've tried to cut it out, and I can't. The truth is I will never be free, and you lied to my face when you told me about paradise. How is it you even got to come back here? You should get the hell out of my paradise.”

And Castiel vanished and everyone jumped.

Back at the Roadhouse, Jo decided she would tend bar like she used to. The two customers she had were pretty unoriginal: one only wanted Johnny Walker Blue Label and the other one only wanted beer.

“Does anyone know how to do that thing Ash does so we could invite someone over?” Pamela asked. “Someone musically inclined, preferably.”

“I wish,” Jo said, “I'd have people over all the time.” She and Pamela shared a grin and nose wrinkle. Rufus rolled his eyes and drank.

“It's nice to know Heaven didn't change you much,” Jo said to him, leaning now on the bar close to Pamela. “Some of us have to be loveable old grumps forever; Bobby can't have a monopoly on that.”

“I don't know why I had to stay behind; I'm going to give them a piece of my mind when they get back. My people skills are just as good at the next guy's; and since this is so important, we don't negotiate with the guy, we tie him up in his basement. It's not like we can kill him again.” Rufus poured himself another shot.

“So this Jimmy guy is the guy Cas possessed when he first came to earth?” Jo said. “The way I understand it, angels have to have permission; so this guy said yes. I don't get why he wouldn't help now.”

“I'd pay real money to be there,” Pamela said, finishing off her beer. “The odds are Castiel wasn't any better to him than he was to me.” She smiled when Jo brought her another. “He could have said, oh, hey, you might not want to look at me, I will melt your eyes out of your skull. That would have been a more useful heads up thea just 'turn back, human, you have been warned'. He is so full of his own shit.”

Jo sighed, pushed her hair back behind one ear and just leaned there for a moment. “I know you got a beef with him and I get it; but he really helped us and I'm sure he's one reason that Dean and Sam stopped the end of the world and came out on the other side alive. I mean, that's gotta mean something, give him some points or something.”

“Maybe,” Pamela said, “just barely.” Then she stopped and tilted her head to the side for a moment, turned on her bar stool and looked behind her.

“What?” Rufus said, turning to look with her, scanning the area.

“Being dead didn't really cut me off,” Pamela said. “I thought it would, but there are still things to be picked up; just don't need a board anymore, it's like I am live-wired into the spirit world now.”

“You can still talk to spirits,” Rufus said. Satisfied that there wasn't any looming doom, he turned back to his glass.

“And the occasional earthbound psychic, if they are strong enough. Every now and again Ash asks me to tune into things downstairs. That's one boy that has this all figured out.” Pamela shook her head.

“Yeah, Ash had everything figured out,” Jo said. “Still didn't save him.”

There was some more silence and companionable drinking.

“Okay, guys,” Pamela said turning her head again, “someone just told me a Winchester is using a board.”

“Balls!” Bobby Singer really thought he'd given this all up: all this ego wrangling. “What the hell just happened?”

Ash raised his hand. “Uh, Mr. Novak here, being the generator for this heaven, sets its parameters and he just parametered Cas out.”

“Brilliant, Ash, thanks,” Bobby said with a not friendly smile. “Think you can go find him before Metatron does?”

Ash saluted Bobby. “Can do, boss!” Then Ash shrugged at Ellen and turned to trot off down the sidewalk.

Bobby exchanged a look with Ellen. She just made a subtle eyebrow lift and shrug of her shoulders, then he turned back to the man who had just banished Castiel from his heaven (and probably rightfully so) and sighed.

“Okay, now that he's out of the way, maybe we can talk? You, me and her?” He nodded toward Ellen.

“I don't know what you want to talk about,” Jimmy said. “What can we do about it? And who knows, maybe the human race is better off without the so called guidance of angels? Maybe I'm a cautionary tale. Who are you people anyway?”

“My name is Bobby Singer, this is Ellen Harvelle. We're friends of Sam and Dean Winchester, I think you know them,” Bobby said.

“Sam and Dean?” Jimmy said, and he actually looked like he relaxed a little. “I do know them, they helped save my family. They're ... not here, are they?”

“No,” Ellen said, “and we want to keep it that way a while, so that's why we need your help.”

Jimmy took a deep breath then. “What can we possibly do to help? What can we possibly even affect up here? I don't even think there is a God,” he gave a little half laugh, “or maybe not one who cares. It's really sad to me that I was raised to be devout and this is how it turns out: angels lie and God is gone.”

“Being disillusioned over and over is a bitch, I get it,” Bobby said, “but what does it say about the human race as a whole? It seems to me no matter what slap in the face we get, we still try to do right.”

“He's right,” Ellen said, “you're judging an entire race by the actions of one. Granted, maybe he lied to you; maybe he didn't. The end result is that your wife and daughter are still alive on a world that isn't reduced to an ember because that angel you despise did what he said he was going to do: he helped save the world. Things that matter come with a price; you had to pay more than others, so did I, do did Bobby, but in the end, people were saved because of us.”

“And because of Cas,” Bobby added.

Jimmy looked between them; he looked a bit uncomfortable and he looked away. “So what you're saying,” he finally said, “is I should suck it up, I'm not the only one who suffered. I know that's true. But you know, it doesn't invalidate my pain, or yours, or anyone's.” He turned back to look at them. “What is it you're trying to do exactly?”

“For starters? Hide Cas from Metatron,” Bobby said. “We need to babystep this thing, Jimmy, will you help us?”

Jimmy balled his fists, then released them and took a deep breath. “Fine, he can stay here, but don't expect me to interact with him.”

Bobby let go a breath and Ellen came up and patted Jimmy on the arm. “See?” she said to him, “that's why you're special, Jimmy, being a hero is in your blood.”

Cas felt the anger and resentment in the push. He stood dazed and alone on the grounds of a small country fair. People milled about him, doing as they would do in life at such an event. The memory holder wasn't evident, and probably would not be able to tell Castiel where he was in the first place.

Being lost in Heaven was so very odd. He searched his pockets for chalk, but all he came up with was the memory of his iPod. He slowly drew it out of his jacket pocket and held it in his hand. Of course he had died with it on his person, he cherished it. He took it everywhere. He found his ear buds in the same pocket, wadded up and tangled, and he stood there patiently untangling them before putting the plug in the top and one ear bud in his right ear. He carefully wheeled through his selections. All the music he liked, all the music he liked because of Dean, all the music he liked because of Sam; and yes, the music Dean didn't like but he liked anyways. He pressed the play button after the highlight settled on Bonnie Tyler. Dean only pretended not to like her, Cas knew, and he identified with Total Eclipse of the Heart. But when he called Dean Bright Eyes, Dean had almost imploded, so he felt he shouldn't mention that he always thought of Dean when he listened to this song.

He missed Dean: actively, physically, and he almost threw the ipod away from him because this was hurting so much, but instead he pressed it against his chest and held it there and listened. He truly would be damned if he denied even a moment of his memories of Sam and Dean; it was because of them that Castiel existed as more than an intention of Heaven. And Castiel liked who he was, who he had become, and what he might have been in the future under the love and tutelage of Dean Winchester; and he would never, ever deny it.

He jumped when someone touched his elbow, and turned quickly to find Ash there.

“Dude, Bonnie Tyler is one foxy lady, and when she gets up here I'm totally looking her up,” Ash said. “In the meantime, hombre, let's get you moving again. I got to take you back through the Roadhouse, that's my center point. And besides, some interesting things are going on there right now.”

“Dean,” Sam said as the planchette suddenly shot across the board and out from under Dean's fingers. That got Dean's attention. He sat up straight in the chair and looked across at Sam. The bunker was a fortress, well warded, but somehow, something had just gotten through. Sam lifted his hand cautiously and Dean hissed a warning, but Sam put his fingers on the planchette anyways. After a moment, it wheeled around and started to move, Sam had a time keeping up with it. Sam called out letters in quick succession, and Dean ran to get a pad and pen.

“W-I-N-C-H-E-S-T-E-R-S,” Sam spelled out, then there was a pause. “P-L-A-Y-I-N-G-W-I-T-H S-P-I-R-I-T B-O-A-R-D-S,” another pause, “N-A-U-G-H-T-Y” a pause “J-E-S-S-E W-A-S-N-T-F-O-R-E-V-E-R.”

“Pamela?” Dean blurted.

The planchette shot over to yes.

“How are you doing this?” Sam asked, “I thought this place was warded. It's the safest place on earth.”

“I'm not on earth,” the board spelled out. “I'm upstairs. Organizing revolution.”

“Revolution?” Dean said. “Against Metatron? You kicked so much ass here, should be a cinch for you upstairs. What's the plan?”

“Have you seen Cas?” Sam asked because he knew Dean wouldn't and Dean looked over at him, mouth pulling into a grim line.

“Revolution yes, Cas yes,” the board said. Sam watched Dean unwind and sag back against the chair. No point in asking if Cas was fine: he was dead and in Heaven, so fine might not apply. “This is hard,” Sam said, “do we have another way to communicate? This bunker is full of stuff; maybe a spirit box like on those ghost hunter shows?” Sam suggested.

“Mouthpiece,” the board said and then it stopped, no matter how many questions Sam and Dean directed at the ceiling.

“Talk about timing,” Jo said as Ash and Cas suddenly appeared through the swinging door. “Why are you guys back anyways? Why isn't Cas stowed?”

“Mr. Novak decided Costello here needed to get the hell out of dodge,” Ash shrugged. “But we're going back, just had to re-route us through the home office. Don't worry, I'm sure Ellen can talk him into letting you stay there, Angel Man; might just take a while.”

“I can go back with you,” Rufus said, “and settle it right now. What is that slacker Singer doing? If he was using his head we'd have this done by now.”

“It's the Winchesters,” Pamela said, sitting across the bar now with a spirit board and planchette. “Feels like Sam,” she continued.

Cas half-scrambled over to where she was, peering intently down at the board, then up to her. “What are they saying?” he demanded. “Tell them ...”

“Put a sock in it,” Pamela said. “I'm still not over being pissed at you. Basically, they're surprised I'm getting through to them in the bunker,” she said, then sighed and shook her head. “And yes, they asked about you.”

“I don't wish you any animosity or ill will,” Cas said, “that was never my intent. Can you please tell Dean …”

“No,” Pamela said, and Cas straightened up, took a deep breath and pushed away from the table. “Not with the board,” she continued, “it's a pain. I'm going to send over a psychic, so when she gets there, then yes, we'll tell Dean things.” Cas turned back to her, clearly looking surprised.

“In the meantime we gotta go hole up,” Ash waved at him. “Then we gotta start picking your brain about the inner workings of the Heavenly Empire; so we can find a weak spot and send out X-Wings.”

“Thank you,” Cas said quietly, then turned to follow Ash back around the bar.

“Yeah, don't,” Pamela said, “I'm not doing it for you. I'm doing it for them, and they asked, and that's the only reason I'm doing it.”

“Then I thank you for them,” Cas said as he pushed through the door.

“I'm not doing this for you,” Jimmy Novak said to him as they stood on the front porch of his house. “I'm doing it for them,” and he looked over at Bobby and Ellen.

Such irony, Cas thought, and the fact that he was so very unwanted didn't have any place there. He wasn't doing this for himself; he was doing it for Heaven.

Jimmy turned then and went into the house. Cas looked at Bobby and Ellen, and they both made encouraging motions like he should follow.

“But what about you?” Cas said, not wanting to be in a house alone with all this tangible guilt. “Is one of you going to stay here as well?” he asked, tentatively, hopefully.

“Ash is going to stay with you,” Ellen said, “for a while; you need to tell him everything you know about how this place works.”

“When you hop heavens you make subtle disturbances in the Force,” Ash said.

“Ah, so wait, wait, that other reference about X-Wing fighters,” Cas said with a smile, “I get it now, the other Star that isn't Trek. Star Wars.” Cas felt pleased with himself.

Ellen suddenly smiled at him, and he wasn't sure why; she turned down the walk and Bobby moved to follow her.

“Probably best if you don't try to talk to Jimmy or anything,” Bobby said. “We'll let you know as soon as we know exactly what's going on.”

“Back at the Roadhouse, the woman Pamela spoke to Sam and Dean through a spirit board,” Cas said. “Warn her to be careful not to attract attention that can be followed to Sam and Dean.”

“I gotta take them home, but I'll be back,” Ash said. “Why don't you go ahead and map out the Death Star for us while I'm gone.”

“I can try,” Cas returned. “as much as I can remember.” Then he watched them leave and slowly turned to the doorway behind him. He went in slowly, hesitantly and shut the door. It was very quiet and he recognized the interior immediately. He knew that he knew this mostly through Jimmy's own memories, the ones that were woven into his vessel. There were always residual traces of the rightful owner that never went away. Amelia's smile, Claire's laugh: Cas understood these now, much better than he did before; he felt this man's loss keenly. But he could't share with him, he couldn't go to Jimmy and say I understand so much more now than I did then. I had to leave Dean behind and that is the same pain you feel. Jimmy would not appreciate it; he would not want to commiserate with the thing that delivered him all that pain to begin with.

Castiel was sorry and he didn't know how to convey that to Jimmy in a way that would be the least bit comforting or offer any closure, so he refrained. He went to the kitchen, checking before he just walked in to make sure it was empty, and then went to the drawer where Amelia kept the pad she used for her grocery list. He took it out, along with her pencil, and he went to the kitchen table to sit down. Then he concentrated very hard and he began to write. He did it rapidly with few pauses, trying to get it all down while holding the memory in his head, and he sketched, little pictures in the margins and the header, and he stopped after a bit to organize his pages a bit better. Then he ached for the archive and he ached for Dean and he leaned his forehead against the table for a bit before he steeled himself to continue. He was not aware of the passage of time, and when he heard footsteps into the kitchen he assumed it was Ash; but when he looked up, it was Jimmy.

He said nothing, dropped his eyes back to his work, noting he was almost out of paper. His memories of this house suggested there was an office, and paper could be found there. He wondered if Jimmy was going to say anything, or punch him again; it wasn't like Cas would stop him. But they were both silent, just sharing this little bit of space. Cas found it extremely uncomfortable; he wondered if Jimmy felt the same.

“What did you do on earth that got you killed?” Jimmy asked suddenly, and Cas jerked, looked up at him again.

“I was hunting with the Winchesters,” he said quietly.

“Demons?” Jimmy pressed.

“Monsters, mostly,” Cas continued. “The demons seem disorganized; the talk is there is a battle for dominance now that the King of Hell is incapacitated. I am not sure of all the details. I was killed by a random monster you haven't even heard of, in a very undignified way.” Cas studied the floor between them. “It seems I'd only just got the knack of being mortal, and then I was back here.”

“So all the stuff they said about you saving the world, that's true?” Jimmy asked, his own voice getting quieter.

“I participated in the events that saved the world, if you must know, but most of your gratitude should go to the Winchesters,” Cas said. “But I did what I could.”

“You're going to find this strange, but I'm glad there is at least one thing you didn't lie to me about,” Jimmy said, finally moving into the room. “How can we have it so wrong? The scriptures, the prayers, are they all wasted?”

“No,” Castiel said, surprised. “There are special places here for prayers: highly prized, heavily guarded, cherished.” Cas gave him a small smile. “Your misfortune was to be meet with the warrior class. We are as varied and complex as the human race: no two angels are alike. Most of the angels here are dedicated to humanity, through the will of our Father. He commanded we love you and we obey; you know the punishment for that disobedience. Do not lose faith in your scriptures; they can carry you, Jimmy.”

“You're so different then what I remember,” Jimmy said then, “it's not like you're the same angel.”

“I'm not,” Cas replied. “I'm broken and disheveled and a bad example. I have lived the road of good intentions; in all honesty, I'm glad you were gone from me before you saw how low I could actually stoop. I'm sorry, Jimmy. I don't know if that will mean anything, and I know it won't help anything, but I am.”

Jimmy stood there for the longest time and then he finally said. “I believe you. I don't know that I forgive you, but I believe you.” And he left Cas there.

And well, there was that at least.

Cas went back to his task.

She dropped her second cup of coffee right outside the ticket stand at the Greyhound station. She stared at it sadly before turning to trudge off and get on a bus. An overnight coach of all things, and to go to Kansas, like she'd ever wanted to go to Kansas. She was here on an exchange and she liked California and this was all just so distressing, and every time the voice in her head spoke she dropped things. She was really starting to hate this third eye or sixth sense or whatever her grandmother cursed her with, it was really very inconvenient and sort of rude.

She chose a seat near the back of the bus, out of the way, and made sure to store her wheelie bag securely in the overhead bin. She sat in her seat, keeping to herself, and tookout a book she'd been trying to read and put on her glasses and wished for another cup of coffee. But still, it was a long drive and probably best not to have to visit the toilet here to much; it probably wasn't all that pleasant. Good girl, you're pretty resourceful, the voice said, and she dropped her book and it bounced off her knees and over onto the floor at her feet. She leaned over to see it and noted the floor was rather disgusting. She picked the book up with her forefinger and thumb and sat it on the seat next to her so she could go through her purse and find some tissues. When you get to Kansas we're going to have to get creative about how to get you to the bunker, the voice interrupted again. So she dropped her purse on the floor.

This was really starting to get out of hand, and a bit annoying, and she felt she should say something about it instead of just doing what the voice told her to do; so she picked her purse up off the floor and sat it on the seat next to her and then wondered what she was going to do for tissues now.

“Well it's about damn time,” Rufus said when Bobby and Ellen came back through the swinging door into the Roadhouse. “Did you get it straightened out? Sure took your time.”

“We don't bulldoze people in heaven, Rufus,” Bobby said with a snort. “We gotta get cooperation because physical force isn't much of a threat when you can just wish someone out of your heaven.”

“It's taken care of, Rufus,” Ellen said, walking over to where Jo and Pamela were seated with the spirit board between them. “What's going on here?”

“Communing with the Winchesters,” Pamela said, “until the spirit board talking got old; it takes a lot out of you. I found another psychic; I'm sending her to them now. We'll have an open line of communication with our headquarters on Earth.” And she winked at Bobby.

“Damn, girl,” Bobby murmured, “you can still psychic things?”

“I didn't ring them, they rang me. Okay, well, they rang the angel; Sam is damn loud,” Pamela said. “I just picked up on it. Probably because the angel was around me and Sam is known to me. Anyway, it's working, and we can use all the help we can get.”

“Cas didn't tell you when Ash brought him back?” Jo said. “He seemed pretty excited about it, kept wanting Pamela to talk to Dean.”

“Didn't mention it,” Ellen said, “but anyways, for now, we need to be going back home. Bill is probably wondering where we are.”

“Same for Karen, better get back. Ash, we need to set a time for the next rendezvous,” Bobby said.

“Let me check my appointment calendar,” Ash said, fetching his laptop. “It seems I'm free all millennium, what works for you?”

“It's gonna take that girl about three days on a bus to get to Kansas,” Pamela volunteered, “so how about three days? That gives the blips time to clear off the radar.”

Ash gave her a thumbs-up and tapped a few keys on his laptop. “Okay, reminder set, let's get people back where they belong.” And Ash escorted everyone home until it was just he and the Roadhouse again.

Small town America was just as the name suggested, small town America. Dean was loitering in the local WalMart near the automotive section because he really didn't have much to do today. They were on hunt hiatus until Sammy found a way to better commune with the spirits. Eventually he wandered over to the menswear section to see what the fall line up of plaid was going to be like this year; and it was just like it was every other year, he couldn't tell them apart, so it really didn't matter. Oh wait, he didn't remember seeing this particular shade of brown and green before. He started to look for his size. He found Sam's size, surprisingly enough, and was just about to ask a WalMart employee to go to the back and look for his size, when this girl with huge glasses and a red bobbed hairdo came rushing up to him and stopped and straightened herself up a little and stared at him. Dean watched her, waited on her to say something, and when she didn't, he decided to go on the plaid quest again and turned to walk away.

“Wait!” she suddenly cried behind him and then went silent again. So he stopped, looked at her, waited, and when she didn't say anything else, he turned away.

“No!” she cried behind him and he stopped once more and slowly turned back to her.

“Look, I'm flattered, okay, and you're pretty cute, but I'm not looking, sorry.” And he smiled what he thought was a good 'you're cute, kid, now fuck off' smile at her and assumed it was over.

“My name is Mary Patricia!” she said in a flustered rush with a flustered British accent, and turned red in her cheeks. “I'm told you're Dean Winchester and I'm to be a mouthpiece.” And after she said it she looked horrified at herself and covered her mouth and turned even redder.

“Wait, what?” Dean looked around then, took her by the elbow and steered her out of the main aisle into men's underwear. She looked shocked at his hand on her arm, then doubly shocked to be in the men's underwear aisle. “Say that again,” Dean said. “How do you know that name?”

“You're going to think I'm mad,” she whimpered.

“Trust me, lady, I don't think you're mad, you mean crazy, right? I don't think that. Just tell me who told you that name?” Dean said, trying to be reassuring instead of impatient. He wasn't sure it was working. She had covered her face now and she parted her fingers to look at him through the slits.

“Do you know a woman named Pamela Barnes? If you don't, I'm terribly sorry to have bothered you and is there some man here more attractive that you? She told me you were the prettiest man in the menswear section, and there was you and a very thin boy who looked to be about fifteen, and a man in a motorized chair ... so.” Mary Patricia stuttered to a halt.

“Pamela Barnes sent you. This is what she meant, this was the mouthpiece idea,” Dean said. “Yeah, okay, I'm Dean Winchester, and yes, I knew her and is she talking to you right now?”

Mary Patricia nodded slowly.

“Okay, listen good, what the hell, Pamela? You sent us a British kid? You do know that getting people mixed up with us is not a good thing, right? You are a fucking case in point. What the hell am I supposed to do with her?” Dean snarled.

Mary Patricia looked at him with wide, watering hazel eyes and moved her lips in an unhappy way, but didn't say anything.

“Well?” Dean stressed.

“She's laughing at you,” Mary Patricia said like she wanted to sink through the floor. “She says nobody gets to be exempt. She says she misses your ... I'm not going to say that,” the girl seemed to say to herself.

“Great,” Dean growled, “just fucking outstanding, come on.” And he took Mary Patricia's hand and marched her out of the Walmart to his big, black, American boat car and made her get in and drove them away.

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