And the stinginess suited our new credence
Ash was greeted at the door by Jimmy Novak, who informed him Cas was in the kitchen. Ash went there and was greeted by the spectacle of paper from one end of the room to the other, and diagrams taped to the walls, fridge and oven front.
“Whoa, occupy some dude's kitchen,” Ash said, looking around. “You don't mess around, Angel Man.”
“I'm assuming that's my superhero name,” Cas said, not looking up. “I only like it slightly better than Nerdy Brainiac.”
“Glad to have the approval. You, my friend have been a busy, busy bee.” Ash picked up some of the papers.
“Be careful; they are organized by reverence, importance, divinity and scripture,” Cas said. “It's not a self explanatory system so I don't want them shuffled.” Ash put the paper down, raised his hands.
“This is Angel Man territory, Mal Culo is capiche,” Ash said. “So, you wanna make some of this stuff portable for me, so I can take it back to the Mal Culo lair and read up and then write a program to implement it?”
“Hmm, let me organize a few stacks by biblical hierarchy for you,” Cas said, getting up and then wandering from stack to stack. He picked some up and carefully criss-crossed them. “When you lay them out, the top of the stack is the last pile, and don't mix them up. Some of these Enochian words shouldn't really touch other Enochian words. It could, as you call it, cause a great disturbance in the Force.”
Ash took the stack of papers gingerly, held them away from his body. “Okay, then, I will now retreat to my fortress of solitude and try not to blow myself up. Good work, we'll be in touch,” Ash said.
Cas went with him to open the door for him. He waved at Ash as he went down the sidewalk and disappeared out of sight. He ducked back into the house and shut the door quietly, then he went back to the kitchen. The missing piles of information in his otherwise pristine fortress of knowledge made him twitchy. They really shouldn't; after all Dean made huge messes whenever he visited in the archive. Cas would always just know he would need to add an extra hour or two to his schedule for re-straightening everything Dean disrupted just by walking in the room, and maybe feeling Cas up a little, and kissing him some, and there was that one time, under the table ... he squeezed his eyes shut. No, stop thinking of that. He beat himself in the forehead with the pencil for a moment, then opened his eyes and pulled his stack of paper close again.
“Okay, so, Mary,” Sam started.
“Mary Patricia,” Mary Patricia corrected him.
“Mary Patricia,” Sam corrected, “you have a direct link with spirits that doesn't require a spirit board or other talisman?”
“I wish I was informed enough to answer that the way it should be answered,” she told Sam earnestly, “but the truth of it is I don't have the first clue what you're asking me.”
Sam sucked the inside of his cheek and looked over at Dean, who was leaning in the living room doorway. Dean shrugged elaborately.
“Don't look at me, dude,” he told his younger brother, “she assaulted me in the WalMart.”
“I didn't,” Mary Patricia said, cheeks once again rising in color, “he dragged me into the men's underwear aisle; it was very disorienting, then he kidnapped me even though I went willingly. You don't just put people in cars and drive away with them.”
“But you just said you went willingly,” Sam said. “So, did you come willingly or not?”
“Listen here,” Mary Patricia said, setting her jaw, “I've had enough of this third degree. Is this any way to treat someone who's ridden in a bus for three whole days and stalked a man through a very large store and delivered a cryptic message that may or may not have been an actual message from beyond the grave but more likely some psychotic breakdown? I think you should be afraid of me and make me some coffee.”
“I thought Brits liked tea,” Dean snorted.
“I thought American men were all monosyllabic beer-swilling neanderthals,” Mary Patricia said, “but I was trying to be polite.”
“Whoa, let's get the Queen her coffee,” Dean said, pushing off the door frame and heading for the kitchen. Sam was smiling but looking at the table, he waited until Dean was gone.
“He doesn't mean to be a jerk but he does,” Sam said, gave a little shrug and tilt of his head. “Okay, so you were told to come here by Pamela Barnes.”
“Yes, and yes, and yes already, and I wish she'd tell me what I'm supposed to tell you so I can go,” and Mary Patricia looked at the ceiling. “She's being very quiet, not too recently she wouldn't shut up.” She looked down at Sam again. “I didn't come here to consort with American men, I'm here to study American filmmaking. I'm not sure I'm not being mind-controlled by this Pamela Barnes; this is madness, that is what it is. Don't you have one of those oujia board things? Why can't you use that?”
Sam propped his elbow on the table and sort of covered his mouth with his hand to keep from grinning.
“You're not subtle,” Mary Patricia tutted at him, “you're a big flashing neon 'I want to laugh at you' sign. And your brother is the man my mum warned me about, all hands and lip and no consideration. Pamela Barnes says they have stashed Cas at Jimmy Novak's house and that Jimmy Novak punched him twice according to Bobby Singer, and she says that if I don't tell Dean he has a nice ass she'll haunt me forever, all right? You have a nice ass, too. She doesn't want you to feel left out.”
“Okay, I believe you can talk to the dead,” Sam said, eyes a bit wide.
“Everyone's path to the garden is different,” Cas told them. “Everyone will see some representation of their life; the key is to follow each clue to the source, and there you'll find the garden.”
They were assembled at the Roadhouse again. Cas' handwritten guide to Heaven was placed carefully around them on various tables, and each had taken a turn trying to read and understand what was written there.
“So we can't go as a team,” Bobby muttered, still looking at the paper on the bar before him. “We all have to make our way to the nerve center alone? That doesn't sit well.”
“Not so fast,” Ash said, leaning on the bar, “I have a theory that another person can always journey alongside you; sort of like the heavenly buddy system. It's not exactly the soulmate gig, but it should work; that's in theory.”
“He's right,” Cas said, “Sam and Dean traveled together on one of the many times they were here. I would not exactly call them soulmates.”
“So we split up into teams of two?” Rufus said. “How do we keep track of each other while we go; and here is another thing, what are we gonna do when we get there? Don't get me wrong, I am all for wading in there and fighting, but see, I feel the lack of artillery here. This Metatron is an angel, right? Feels to me we'll need some big guns.”
“There is an armory,” Cas said. “When I was captain of the garrison I had full access. If it is still in existence, it housed many angel blades and assorted spell ingredients. I know some spells we could use, perhaps make portable versions; like little bombs, that could be thrown by hand. Dean was always pretty ingenious in figuring which spells he could toss by hand.” Cas gave a small fleeting smile.
“So how do we get to it?” Ellen asked.
“I believe Mal Culo and myself should be able to access the armory,” Cas said. “I have the co-ordinates ...”
“Already got them plugged in,” Ash said, patting the laptop, “it's calculating a trajectory as we speak. I designed this heaven-hopping program to save on chalk; it will take us the most direct route.”
“If we're going in two by two, we're an odd man out,” Rufus said, “you know, the team-ups being Ellen and Jo, and Pamela and Ash, and me and the old guy. What about him?” he jerked his thumb in Cas' direction.
“I go alone, of course,” Cas said. “I have the best chance of doing it alone as any of you.”
Bobby made a humphing noise, then sighed. “I don't like it, but I guess it makes sense.”
Cas looked at the assembled group. Human souls, some whose human lives he had touched, others he didn't even know. He smiled at them, ducked his head a moment, then looked up again.
“I just look at you, all of you, and I feel grateful,” he said. “Humans are so forgiving and accepting, maybe more so than they should be; sometimes I think you forget this is my home. And that touches me in a way few things have, because that means you consider me one of you. That's a rare quality; a beautiful trait. After I fell, Dean didn't give up on me; he doesn't give up on anyone; he taught me how to be human, and I just want to do him proud.”
Jo ran over to hug him then; she was very huggy with him for some reason, and he patted her back awkwardly.
“Wow, that almost earned you points,” Pamela said cryptically and moved away to the bar.
“There are points?” Cas said confused.
“Not to be a downer or anything, but maybe we might wanna thing about actually doing something with our time together,” Rufus snorted. “Instead of standing around getting in touch with our feelings.”
“Ok so the armory run, first priority,” Bobby said, “tonight?”
Cas glanced at Ash, Ash nodded. “Doable,” he said and gave a thumbs-up. “So, Angel Man and I hit the armory and bring the weapons back here to stash, then I skedaddle him back over to Jimmy's place. That man has good taste in after-dinner mints, there is a big dish right by the door.”
Cas nodded in agreement. “Butter mints,” he said with a smile, eyebrow lift and little nod, “Jimmy prefers the Old Time Candy brand.”
“Fascinating,” Bobby said, “but why don't you tell us how we're gonna know your raid is a success?”
“See, that is where Angel Man and his mumbo jumbo ways come in,” Ash said. He did a dramatic sweeping of his arms in Cas' direction.
Cas was mouthing the words 'mumbo jumbo' when suddenly everyone was looking at him again, and he just stared back at them because one thing Castiel had always been very good at was how to stare at people. Bobby craned his head forward, squinted at Cas and tilted his head. Cas squinted back, then it struck him that Ash was talking about the communication sigils.
“There is a sigil that when worn upon the skin can be used for rudimentary communication, mostly feeling and impressions and vague visuals,” Cas said. “Interpretation is up to the wearer, but I suppose an overall consensus could be reached or a designated thought processor could be elected, that was Ash's idea,” and Cas made a sweeping one-armed gesture at Ash, and Ash preened.
“So are you two gonna do that every time you want someone to pat you on the back?” Ellen asked.
“It's for group morale,” Ash said, “when one of you comes up with a brilliant idea, we'll do it to you.”
“I got a direct line to the boys on the ground,” Pamela said, and Ash made a grand two-armed gesture in her direction and she grinned. “I kinda like it,” she told the assembly. Rufus started to say something but Bobby raised a hand and shook his head and Rufus just snorted instead.
“Okay, Cas, we gonna paint these sigils on or what?” he asked, sounding tired when technically you couldn't be tired in heaven. “Can we get on with it?” he walked over to the bar, rolling up his sleeve.
“Angel Man you are the official Enochian calligrapher,” Ash told him, stepping around the bar and putting on it a small jar of black paint and a paint brush. Cas came over and sat beside Bobby to get started.
They had put her up in the spare room (not Cas' old room, that was kept shut tight and Sam knew better than to even mention it) and briefed her on the bathroom schedule. In the middle of the night, she knocked loudly on Sam's door and he opened it just as Dean opened his door down the hall.
“So, Ash and Cas are going to raid the armory and Pamela says Cas says there is a reference in the archives here about dreaming of Jacob's Ladder. He says it might prove useful, but he's not sure.” She was without her glasses so she leaned very close to Sam. “Cas says it could be used like dream root, maybe?”
“That's Genesis,” Dean said from down the hall. “A lot of verses in Chapter 28. So wait, he thinks we can dream our own Jacob's Ladder?”
“He is telling Pamela he thinks combining it with a Enochian ritual might open a channel to allow a living consciousness at least temporary access to Heaven,” Mary Patricia stopped a moment. “You're trying to get into Heaven, they are raiding an armory in Heaven? What sort of drug-induced dementia am I involved in? What did you slip in my coffee?”
“You mean the voices in your head thing is normal compared to this?” Dean asked with a smile that didn't reach his eyes.
“Pamela says that Castiel says please don't be smarmy to the person whom you are communicating through.” Mary Patricia lifted her nose in Dean's direction. Dean just stared at her for a moment before retreating back into his room and shutting the door. She turned back to Sam and Sam gave a little sigh.
“Dean and Cas are ... complicated,” he offered. She seemed puzzled, then realization dawned. She turned to look at the door Dean shut just moments ago.
“This must be hard,” she said quietly. Sam gave a half-shrug. “So let's talk about this Jacob's Ladder thing,” he said, stepping back so she could come into his room. “Ask Cas where in the archives I'm supposed to find this ritual.”
Mary Patricia came into Sam's room, all eager eyes and touchy hands. She handled the notes and books on his desk, she looked at his posters on the wall, then looked at him as if to judge the relevance of man to poster, then she sat on the side of his bed. She closed her eyes for a moment, frowned slightly, the corner of her mouth twitched and she gave a little jump, almost as if she'd been holding something she would have dropped it.
“He's worried about Dean,” she said first, opening her eyes to look at Sam. “Pamela is sorry for him, which is odd? Pamela feels she should not feel sorry for him, but she does. She wants to say it's Dean who has her sympathy; but you can't really lie in this,” Mary Patricia tapped her temple, “she's telling me to shut up and not tell you these things; these things are between her and me. She says I'm an amateur.” Mary Patricia snorted in irritation. Sam couldn't help but smile. “Ah, Castiel says to tell you it's in Fort Scully room, and that he knows it's Fort Sully but Dean never remembered that and called it Scully so he took to calling it Scully.” She stopped. “He's very chatty when he's worried,” she supplied.
Sam half smiled. The 'Fort Sully' room was actually room 12B; but it was also the room where Sam had constructed the blanket/chair/pillow fort; it was the room Cas hung out in the most, returning time and again to his favorite tomes and artifacts. Mary Patricia was right; this was hard.
“Okay, I got it, tell him I'm going to memorize it and we'll be ready if he needs us,” Sam said. “Is this uh, line of communication secure enough to give us the entire plan?”
“Bobby Singer says they are making it up as they go along,” Mary Patricia said. “He says that you and Dean are to just sit tight because they can't be killed any deader than they already are, and you have to make babies or something.” She grinned when Sam flushed a bit.
“I don't like sitting tight and neither will Dean,” Sam gave an explosive sigh. “I feel so useless. Is there anything we can do to help?”
Mary Patricia watched him silent, a look of sympathy plain on her face; she tilted her head to one side for a moment, then she tilted it back the other way. “He says you can pray. He says you're good at it,” she said after a moment.
“Bobby said that?” Sam asked askance and Mary Patricia shook her head.
“Castiel,” Mary Patricia said, glanced toward the door and back at Sam. “He says to tell Dean he is going to kick the everloving shit out of Metatron and then again, for Dean.”
Sam started. Dean had said that to Cas' body as it lay sprawled on the walkway of an abandoned apartment building. Cas could still hear prayers.
He was a bear in honey. He was a bee in flowers. He was a wallower in all the things he had had to leave behind so long ago and now he was here, himself, alone in paradise. Well, not precisely alone. There were all the human souls, but they kept to their little heavenly corrals and they were monitored very serenely by celestial software, so there was very little to worry about. There were a few minor hums and dings, and every now and again he made himself scroll through the entire system; but it was sporadic. But he just so happened to be mulling around the control center drinking the finest coffee that the finest master roaster of the finest coffee plantation could dream up when he took notice of one of the hums and dings. There seemed to be an unusual concentration of souls gathered in one place. Now heaven-hopping wasn't as uncommon as one might think; some souls were natural wanderers; but usually they would snap back in place within a day or two with no harm done. There was that one obnoxious little renegade who darted here and there seemingly at will; there were even notes about him in the logs all in neat, angelic script, but so far he'd done nothing but road trip around heaven. His patterns were random; that is, until recently. Now a number of small heavens were visited directly. This sort of recording usually fell off into the archives after a couple of days with no one there to physically monitor it, but now that it had been noticed, the sole angel in heaven decided to check it out.
He'd just come back from a little run in which he circumnavigated the globe when Marv was there again, waiting on his doorstep. Oh he wished he wasn't raised to be so very well-mannered at times, but he dived right into it; the faster he got on with it, the faster it could be over.
“There you are, Marv, we've wondered where you've been off to. It's not the same here at Bletchhey without you lurking about. What's on your mind today?” Alan Turning was a gay genius while he lived and he was an even more fabulous one now that he was dead. What sort of name was Marv anyway? Much like his unwanted guest; very American. Marv showed up as he pleased, without so much as a call to say he was on the way. He lingered for what seemed like days, roaming the hall of Bletchley Park as if he was privy to all her secrets. He watched the lads in sailor suits and gleaming white tennis gear and cricket whites parade the halls as if he summoned them himself; he was generally a thorn in Alan's side; but dear old mum made it a point to make sure he was nothing if not polite.
“I was just in the neighborhood and I thought I would just drop by and see how the bombe was today,” Marv said, clasping his hands behind his back, rocking back on his heels. “Maybe hang around for tea or something, get some opinions?”
“Smashing,” Alan muttered, leading him into the house. “I've just had a little run, so I need to freshen up. I'll have my boy show you to the front parlor. Alfonso, would you be so kind as to escort our guest,” Alan said to a very clean-cut blond and blue-eyed boy in shining white who seemed to appear out of nowhere. “He'll be taking tea with us, you'll need to inform Mrs. Grant. Marv, if you'll excuse me for a bit? I'm sure you'll find Alfonso's company delightful, I know we all do.” Then Alan made good his escape for the moment. What a ghastly man; it was so tedious trying to be accommodating. All he wanted to do was hear story after story, as if Alan had nothing better to do with his time than relive every boring, wretched moment of his existence. He briefly toyed with hiring a biographer to write it all down. Then maybe Marv, with a manuscript in hand, would elect to leave him alone. He took his time freshening up to give him enough time to steel himself to deal with Marv and his endless, personal, nosy questions. He made his way to the front parlor just as the tea service was being wheeled in and situated himself across from Marv in a glorious French-style mahogany wing chair with carved violins adorning it and charming blue upholstery. He crossed his legs and gave his expertly practiced full attention to Marv. It was expertly practiced because it was actually fake and he tended to wander off in his own mindscape while Marv prattled on. Really, like most Americans, Marv was blunt and overbearing; too personal by far in a false, friendly way. Alan was well-versed in manipulation and conniving; not only was he a homosexual, he worked in military intelligence: it all wentall hand in hand, really. Marv handled every tiny sandwich before making his selection, successfully ruining Alan's appetite for them.
“What is it you needed an opinion on?” Alan finally prompted. “I have a meeting this evening and I can't be late, you know how it is; so if you'd be so kind? I'm very pleased you value my opinions so, but really, Marv, I'm sure there are many others out there just dying to be thrown your way. You forget old man, I'm British; we're born with our shirts stuffed,” and he dipped his head and prompted Marv with his eyebrows, as if that ever done any good. Marv chewed meticulously as if the tiny cucumber sandwich might go off in his mouth at any moment; the tea, however, he had no problem sloshing down and then signaling for more. Alan could feel the tiny stirrings of a tension headache just behind his eyes.
“I was wondering if you wanted to see some very interesting computing equipment,” Marv said, “and maybe tell me if you think it is functioning in a correct manner. After all, the man who proposed the notion of the Universal Machine is surely a man who would like to see it in use.”
Oh, he really was insufferable. This Marv with his ratty cardigan and his poorly-trimmed beard and his air of superiority which he had no way of backing up: even for an American, he was a bit much.
“You know, this is what I admire about the British,” Marv said. “So easy to talk to, so polite. I will have you know I went to see an American, Howard Hughes,” he gestured with his teacup and shook his head and rolled his eyes. “Entirely too full of himself; do you know, he ordered me out of his heaven? Just like that. Not at all like you: sensible, intelligent, good taste,” Marv gave him a half-smile and Alan forced himself to return it.
“We really haven't gotten to any narrative around '52,” Marv started, and Alan cleared his throat loudly.
“I do so hate to be a bore, Marv,” Alan said, “but I simply must go; we'll have to do this some other time.”
“Oh,” Marv said, disappointed. “Well I would really welcome your opinion on the machines. I want to know if the congregation of souls I keep seeing in the logs is actual, or a ghost on the radar as it were. That many souls in one heaven is a bit unprecedented.”
“What the devil are you talking about?” Alan said, and Marv gave a little smile, a little shrug.
“Sometimes I forget not to talk shop,” Marv said, “don't worry, you won't remember it after I leave this room. Good talking to you, Alan,” and Marv stood to leave. Alan got to his feet, offered his hand. What Alan really wanted was to forget Marv the moment he left and never to think of him again.
Castiel hovered by Pamela until she made a dismissive noise. “That's all for tonight, got to let the girl sleep,” she told him. Cas nodded, he supposed that was true enough. Ash was sitting at the bar with a stack of newspapers. He still liked to read every edition of every daily paper he could get his hands on; it kept him well abreast of the affairs of the earth. He snitched them out of the angel's lounge and afterwards gave them to Eugene Turnbill, who had died when he was seven but had a large budgie aviary in his heaven. Cas came over to stand beside him and Ash glanced up at him.
“Ready to hit the armory, Angel Man?” Ash asked, setting his paper aside.
“I don't know if 'ready' is the proper term, but yes, we should go now while we have momentum.” Cas fingered one of the papers on the bar; then followed Ash as they went through the door. “I have to ask you something, in all your tinkering with the systems of Heaven, have you not found a means of communicating with someone on earth?”
“Don't like middle-manning it? Can't say I blame you. Pamela is one hot potato, but she is all thorny when you rub her wrong,” Ash commiserated. They passed through a number of nondescript heavens. Mostly meadows or mountains or flowering fields, houses on the hill, lakes and the occasional ocean. It wasn't until they were in the foyer of a very lavish mansion that they paused. Ash looked around, a bit confused. “Whoa, bit of a detour I wasn't expecting.” They turned in unison at the sound of someone on the stairs. Cas' eyebrows rose when he recognized the figure coming down the steps. He was wearing a robe and expensive looking pajamas, but the beard and the eyes gave him away.
“Chuck,” Cas said surprised. He was even more surprised when a few very lovely and very scantily-clad ladies gathered up on the landing, looking down at them, forlorn.
“Castiel,” Chuck said, and he still had the same wavery uncertainty in his voice that he'd carried in his life on earth. Chuck was, as a prophet, the living embodiment of the word of God, and after he'd completed his task, his reward was, of course, to be taken bodily to heaven. And given a lavish mansion by the looks of it, and many wives. “It's good to see you, it's been a long time since I've laid eyes on someone I knew on earth,” then Chuck trailed off. looking at Ash appreciating his wives. Cas leaned over and whispered quietly into Ash's ear, “Don't be rude, it's unseemly to stare so openly at another man's wives.”
Chuck cringed and Ash put on a knowing smile, ear to ear and said, “Trust me dude, these aren't his wives.”
Cas frowned, opened his mouth to make a reply then it caught up to him that if they weren't his wives, well, so all he said was, “Oh.”
“Never mind this,” Chuck said, taking Cas' arm and drawing him off into a lavish and gaudy sort of sitting room off the main foyer. Ash tagged along, gave a low whistle.
“So this prophet gig pays well,” Ash said, “I mean in the heavenly mojo and whatnot. So you dudes knew each other on earth? Sweet, but do we have time for catching up?”
“I have a warning for you,” Chuck said lowly, looking around a moment, “you're drawing some attention I'm sure you don't want. See, Metatron takes it upon himself to hobnob with the more elite of the human souls up here; not that I'm a soul, mind you, I'm still actually alive, so that makes me unique.” Chuck waved his hands, “I'm off track. Anyways, he drops in here every now and again uninvited to grill me about stories,” Chuck shook his head, “and then he starts asking who among the human souls might be up on the angel software running the place. He mentioned there were blips where no blips should be.” Ash and Cas exchanged a quick, worried glance. “So I thought up my old computer and sat down and sort of tuned in and wrote a few pages. It's not something I do with any regularity any more, but I found I can do it when necessary.” Chuck hurried over to a very overly done art deco style desk and picked up a few sheets of paper and hurried them back over, putting them in Cas' waiting hands. “He's been to see some of the mathematical geniuses, and Howard Hughes for whatever reason, and then I saw this bit about you guys making your way to the armory. So I sort of nudged my heaven into your path. He's onto you now: you're going to have to be a lot more careful.”
“What could he do to us, exactly?” Ash asked. “I mean, we're already dead.”
“There are many things you can do to a soul,” Cas said helpfully, “the first and foremost is you can consume it and convert it into pure energy and negate any previous attachments the soul had upon it; were he to do it to you or me, we would simply cease to exist. You can also ...”
Cas stared but Ash interrupted him. “Yeah that first thing is reason enough not for him to find us,” Ash said, “so let's get on with the plan.” They all turned to walk back to the foyer, where some of Chuck's not-wives were lounging on the steps. They gave small, sad waves to Ash and Cas.
“You don't suppose we have time for?” Ash started and Cas said, “No,” and pushed Ash out the door.
He was sure Sam and Mary Patricia were downstairs. He went into his room, sat on the side of his bed and reached down between his knees, shoving his fingers under the lip of his mattress. He pulled out an old iPod. He wasn't particularly enamored of iPods in general; he begrudgingly had music on his laptop, but mostly at Cas' insistence. This iPod he kept charged, and hidden. He pushed the large center button to make it light up and then he scrolled through the playlists. The corners of his mouth tugged up a bit. There were a few lists but he always paused at the list called 'Dean'. He clicked into it: it was mostly classic 70s rock as he expected, but there were other songs on the list that he didn't get sometimes. Songs that Cas would listen to over and over while staring at him, or mouthing the words to himself. At first it was creepy, then it was confusing, and then Cas called him Bright Eyes, like in that Bonnie Tyler song, and he got it. Cas had assigned songs to him like Cas was a sixteen year old girl. He told himself he wasn't going to do this; he wasn't going to sit around and moon over this stupid old iPod Sam had given to Cas and Cas had treated like it was made of solid gold.
He pulled the headphones out of his bedside table, picked out the tangles and plugged them in. He wheeled down to the a song called 'Mystery' and hit play. He did recognize the singers, it was the Indigo Girls, and they sang about things like driveways, barking dogs, danger shining like sugar on your lips. He rolled his eyes, he stared at the wall, he wondered why Cas picked this song to put on his Dean play list, then he went to the next one. After a bit, he wondered why the fuck 'I'm a Barbie Girl' was on the list. Cas being Cas, being crazy, being himself, and he only got to be it for a very short time. It was so fucking unfair.
He got up, carried the iPod over to his desk and opened his laptop. He fumbled around until he got the iPod plugged in, opened Cas' iTunes (password: bees-are-great) and sat there letting it charge. Then he took a deep breath and added a song to the library, then synced the iPod to add the song to its library. He had heard the song by chance while fiddling with the radio in the Impala; it had struck a chord, and it shouldn't have; he didn't want to be sixteen again, it had kinda sucked. But he had found the song, downloaded it, and had been trying to work up the nerve to give it to Cas. To give Cas a song he thought was a Cas song, for fuck's sake. Cas was the worst influence in how to have ovaries, sometimes worse that Sam. But he had waited too long, and now he couldn't give it to him, but he put it on his iPod, just the same. He made a new list, he called it 'Cas', and he assigned the song there. Afterwards he unplugged everything, returned the headphones to the beside drawer and tucked the iPod back under his mattress.
When Rufus turned around there was a man he'd never seen in his life standing in his heaven.
“Who the hell are you?” he asked by way of greeting, and the man smiled at him. He was a pretty average older white dude with graying hair and beard and a fuzzy gray sweater. “I'm Marv,” the man told him. “You must be Rufus Turner.”
“So what if I am,” Rufus said, still wondering how this guy got here in the first place; it wasn't like all the souls in heaven knew how to heaven-hop, but maybe that was what was going on here.
“So you get around a lot,” Marv said, “make all these little side trips and what not, back and forth through other heavens, and I'm sort of thinking it's not intuitive for you to know how to do that; so I'm here for you to tell me your story.”
“I hunted shit and now I'm dead,” Rufus said, “not much to tell. Kinda weirded out I'm not in a more Jewish neighborhood up here, but maybe I just ain't found them yet. So what's your deal, huh? Out seeing the sights, too?” Rufus Turner hadn't made it a point to worry what other people thought: of him, of his intelligence, of his bravery or really of his manners; those least of all. And that being said, he wasn't slow and he'd been briefed and he was pretty sure the only proper angel in heaven was standing in his living room. This was a problem. He thought briefly of his shotgun, propped right on the other side of the door leading from the living room to the kitchen. He wondered about his sanity, and if the gun would even have any effect on the angel in his living room. He wondered how to warn the others. He wondered how dying when you're already dead was gonna feel like.
“For a while I was sticking to the juicier choices for story time,” Marv said, “but this really nagging suspicion something is up got to me. You see there are computers here, just like on earth, but unlike the ones on earth, they know everything; literally. They know you've been heaven-hopping. But here is where it gets garbled: if you don't monitor these things constantly, things roll off the archive and get lost. And I'm not very techy myself; so, while I know you've been hopping around recently, I'm not sure where. What I'd like you to do is tell me, in as much detail as possible, where it is you're going.”
“There is this old saying,” Rufus said, taking a casual stroll into the next room and pausing by the door, “I can tell ya, but then? I gotta kill ya,” and he jerked his shotgun up, aimed in the rough direction of Marv and pulled the trigger to empty both barrels in his direction. Then he ran for the back door, through the kitchen and out on the porch and down the steps and Marv was standing there looking disappointed, hands clasped behind him back.
“What I don't understand in this whole scenario is why? I mean, what am I doing, really? I'm giving you free reign, I'm not imposing any angelic influence over anyone, I just want to be up in the clouds with endless stories, and that's not too much to ask. What do you care if the others took a nose dive for earth?” Marv squinted up at him. “That part I'd really like to know. But I can see you're not going to be co-operative so my alternative is to consume you and glean from your fading sense of self what I can about the situation. Last chance to come clean, Rufus,” Marv wiggled his eyebrows.
“Kiss my perfect brown ass,” Rufus said and backpedaled and almost made it up the steps before he froze. “You know, they warned me that angels were dicks,” he hissed out as he watched himself start to unravel.
“I'm really sorry about this,” said a voice from all around him, “I did try to be nice.” And then Rufus Turner unraveled and became part of the greater being known as Metatron, but he managed to take most of his memories into the ether with him, and left Metatron very unsatisfied.
The huge doors made no sound as they swung inwards, and Cas strode through them like he'd never left. He passed the racks of glittering armor and swords, the desks piled high with ledgers of acclamation and praise, and the apothecary cabinets that reached beyond the ceiling carrying every ingredient for every spell known to man, and went straight for the big doors in the back: the ones clearly off limits at most times. Ash trotted to keep up; Cas really had a head of steam on. They stopped in front of a set of highly ornate black onyx-looking doors, and Cas squared his shoulders.
“Hang on, Angel Man, Mal Culo has some valid concerns,” Ash said. “We need a superhero pow wow and possibly a monologue before we go any further.”
“They come from a far country, from the end of Heaven, even the Lord, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land,” Cas said, and looked at Ash expectantly. He caught himself, looked away; there was no Dean here to know which chapter, which verse. “Isaiah, Chapter 13, Verse 5,” Cas muttered, and Ash made an 'ah' sound.
“Uh, yeah, I'm sure that's biblical and all, but what's behind door number three, compadre? I mean it's all the way in the back here and behind a big, black, foreboding door. Are we talking nuke level?” Ash gave Cas a sideways glance.
“We're mortal souls battling an angel on its home turf,” Cas said, leaning conspiratorially close, “we're going to take all the help we can get. Some of the things in here can eat you if you get too close, so stay with me.”
“Yeah, no problem,” Ash said, reaching out to grip the back of Cas' sleeve as Cas reached to open the door.
Bobby Singer didn't know the man in his heaven, but he could damn well guess who he might be. The man stood back, watching him speculatively, rocking on his heels, hands clasped behind his back. Then he unclasped them, pointed at Bobby and said, “You're Bobby Singer, that much I got out of him. Tell me, Bobby Singer, how is it a ragtag band of human souls is traipsing over barriers so easily? I'm just dying to know how it's being done.”
“Who are you?” Bobby said needlessly and to stall for time. “What are you even talking about?”
“Honey, is everything okay?” came Karen's call from the kitchen.
“S'fine,” Bobby called back quickly.
The man lifted his eyebrows, eyes moving to look over Bobby's shoulder and then back to Bobby himself. “You're not alone here,” he said, “that might make this a little easier. Call me Marv,” and the man came forward, extending his hand; Bobby did not take it. After a moment Marv drew it back.
“I think you're playing dumb with me,” Marv said, “as a matter of fact, I'm sure you are. I just want some answers, that's all, then you can go back to your nice, happy, afterlife with your lovely wife and forget all about me. I'm promise, that's all I want. I just want the story, tell me what's going on?”
“Gee, I don't know, Marv, you showed up in my house, shouldn't I be doing the asking?” Bobby said. “Look, not to be rude or anything,” and Bobby backed up, just to the other side of his kitchen door, “but I want to see if this damn thing works up here,” and he put his hand over the angel banishing sigil (one of many he'd drawn around the house, seems blood was blood on earth as in heaven), felt the heat and turned his head as it flared; and then Marv was gone.
“Ball,” he muttered, “Karen, I gotta go out!” he called. He grabbed his scrap of paper with the sigil Ash had written on it, put on his hat and grabbed his chalk and started making his way back to the Roadhouse.
Mary Patricia leapt to her feet, then up onto the couch and she screamed to the ceiling, “Metatron knows!”
Dean and Sam both about came out of their skin and jumped; Dean slid off to sit on the floor. They'd all been engrossed in a Big Bang Theory marathon and somehow this just made it weird.
Mary Patricia ran in place on the couch, waving her hands at either side of her face, inhaling and exhaling like a child-birth labor coach. “Pamela says that Metatron seems to be onto them and that one of the party has disappeared and they aren't sure of Ash and Cas' whereabouts. Bobby is nervous because he thinks Metatron might finally get it together and figure out where they are and perhaps what they are plotting. Rufus, the man who is missing, he's Rufus. She's talking so fast.” Mary Patricia kept running in place.
“Whoa whoa whoa,” Dean said, getting up off the floor. “Tell her to slow it the hell down, and why are you running on the couch?”
“Do you want me to tell you these things or not?” Mary Patricia snapped at him, and Dean threw up his hands in surrender, looked at Sam a little wide-eyed.
“If Metatron finds them he'll eat them,” Mary Patricia stressed. “Pamela says, you slow your ass down, Winchester, it's a situation, and one that you're gotten her into yet again.”
“What do you mean, eat them?” Sam asked quickly, “What is she talking about?”
“She says souls are energy and angels can consume them. She thinks he got to Rufus. What do we do? What do we do?” In addition to running in place on the couch Mary Patricia was now turning circles.
“Well uh, we uh...” Sam stuttered to a halt: just what could they do? Not a damn thing really.
“Think of something!” Mary Patricia snapped again. “I don't even know you people, any of you, and already if you let something happen to them I'll never forgive you and that's without knowing you and if I get to know you it will be a lot worse!”
“What the fuck does that even mean,” Dean asked and ducked the following swatting attempt. “Wait a minute, eat them like ... when Cas was god?”
“Exactly like that,” Sam said grimly and Mary Patricia half-shrieked.
“What are you on about?” Mary Patricia cried. “Bobby says that you better stay indoors.” Her eyes darted back and forth nervously. “He doesn't want Metatron to come asking you. What does he mean? Come here looking for you? What are the implications if he comes here? Can he eat us?” Mary Patricia flung her arms out, bunched her hands in the collar of Sam's shirt and yanked him close. On the couch she still had to look up a little to be eye-to-eye. “What have you got me into?” Her voice came out all tragic and gravely.
“Nothing is going to happen to you,” Sam said, letting her shake him back and forth a bit, “we're going to look after you, all right? Just try to calm down and let's put our heads together and come up with a plan.”
“How can we make a plan for Team Free Heaven?” Dean half-exploded. “We can't even get up there to do anything and we have to communicate through...” and he made an exaggerated gesture at Mary Patricia, who huffed up like an angry cat. “What the hell can we even do?”
“How about calming down and trying to think of some strategies? Dean, we've been there before,” Sam said.
“We only went to the garden and half of it was with Ash's help.” Dean whirled himself away, paced angrily around the couch, reached up and shoved his hands over his head and gripped his hair for a moment. “If the only way to get there is dying ...” he started.
“No,” Sam said very loudly and very firmly. “Absolutely not. That would put you right in Metatron's hands, and if he's on alert now he's going to be watching. What the fuck is it with you and all out dangerous extremes?”
“Pamela says they don't think Metatron knows Cas is there, at least not yet,” Mary Patricia interjected. “Bobby says he was surprised Metatron didn't ask him because it seems to him the real threat is someone who knows Heaven and not just a lot of congregating human souls. What do you mean, you've been there before?”
“It's a long story,” Sam said.
“Amateur,” Dean muttered.
“Dean, that's not helping,” Sam growled. “Okay, to the stacks, there is something in the archives and we are going to find it. The myths on Jacob's Ladder for starters.” Sam gripped Mary Patricia around the waist and lifted her to the floor. She stared up at him mutely and when he released her she hurriedly smoothed herself down and looked at his chest, then lower, then back to his chest. Sam just shook his head and stepped around her, gripped Dean's shoulder and half-spun him, slapped a hand in the middle of his back and pushed him along.
The inside of the room behind the black onyx doors pulsated with a life all its own. Ok maybe 'life' was too prosaic a term, more like a holy spiritual back beat that hummed through his non-existent bones with every step they took into the vault. Cas just shrugged it off, his head turning this way and that, his feet staying to a well-worn path in the middle of the room and not straying from it. Ash had the insane urge to clutch to the back of his shirt like a five year old in the dentist's office. As they neared the back of the vault, Ash could feel the back beat start to head for a fevered pitch. Whatever they were approaching knew they were coming, and Ash could not discern if it was happy or angry or frightened or sad, it just was. Cas paused and came to a halt. He turned to look at Ash.
“There is a nexus here,” he said, “a tiny fracture of a web of creation. I'm not sure if it can be harnessed in any way by a lower form such as myself; in all honesty, it might just burn me away. I've been God before, you see; and it didn't go well. The power of this soul I wear is amazing; it's pure energy, but I still don't know if it would be containment enough.” Cas reached out and put a hand on Ash's shoulder. “Maybe I should go alone from here.”
Ash had found little on earth or in Heaven that he couldn't pull to pieces, figure out, squeeze back together — but creation? Like terraforming, worldbuilding, Big Bang evoking, actually spinning the universe into existence? That kind of nexus? That would of course be some heavy-duty mathematical super-star genius shit right there. Biblical: but that was the point. Ash gave Cas a short nod.
“All right, Angel Man, I'll play look out here; you be careful,” he said and Cas gave him that little sad smile Cas often wore. “Don't be gone long.”
“If my return seems very overdue, do not come looking for me; return to the others. Sam and Dean will think of something; my faith in them is resolute,” Cas told him. “If I don't get a chance to say it later, thank you for everything, Mal Culo. Thank you for not leaving me in my heaven where I would do nothing. People have taught me many things, but the most important among them is to never give up,” Cas took a deep breath. There were no more words, he turned and walked off.
“Okay, so the whole Jacob's Ladder thing was in Beth-el, that is Israel, dude, and how would we even know the pillar if we saw it?” Dean stressed, waving around a bible. “It's in Genesis, just like I said it was, even got the chapter and verses right. Cas would've been proud.”
“I'm proud,” Sam said, looking up from his old ledger. “And I think we should go through all these handwritten inventory logs. We have the Spear of Longinus and I didn't even know it until the other day.”
“I told you that months ago,” Dean said. “You never listen.”
Sam didn't dignify it with any further response. They read for what seemed like hours; Mary Patricia feel asleep on an ancient text about biblical warfare and Sam had to ease the book out from under her cheek to make sure she didn't drool on it. Dean was slouched so far down in a chair that Sam almost couldn't see him and Sam's own back was starting to complain.
“Fuckin' A,” Dean suddenly roared, sitting up and slamming his ledger down on the table. “We got a chip of the pillar somewhere in the warehouse!” he crowed. “Says so right here,” and he spun the book around so Sam could see. Mary Patricia picked her head up off the table and blinked at the two of them. “We just gotta find it.”
“You know, all these bits and pieces, sounds like we have some high power spell components,” Sam said slowly. “Do you remember that spell Henry used to travel? It was Enochian.”
“Yeah, what are getting at?” Dean said, disappointed his discovery was being interrupted by his brother the brainiac.
“We have a chip of the pillar Jacob used to name Beth-el, we have angel feathers and the bones of a spell, and we have a spear that pierced Christ's side. We have the blood of the son of God. What if we did a blood to blood spell, like Henry did with high powered components; what are the odds there is some bloody artifact in Heaven we could lock onto?”
“Beam me up, God,” Dean muttered.
“Exactly,” Sam said.
“Stop the world, I'd like to get off now,” Mary Patricia interrupted them. “You two are very, very not right. I'm not sure what you're getting at here with all this blood of Christ talk and angel feathers and spells; are you listening to yourselves?”
“We don't generally, as a rule, listen to ourselves,” Dean told her, “we sound fucking nuts.”
“Mary Patricia, tell Pamela everything we just said, ask her if Cas and Ash have made it back yet and ask Cas if he knows of such an artifact in Heaven, that's key,” Sam prompted.
Mary Patricia gave a deep sigh but she turned her look inwards and was quiet for several moments.
“They aren't back yet,” she told them slowly, “but Pamela says they will make sure to ask as soon as they reappear.”
“Okay, so while we wait, let's make a trip out to the warehouse and have a look-see around,” Dean said, getting up, stretching.
“Good idea, Mary Patricia...” he started.
“Mary Patricia is going to make coffee,” said Mary Patricia. “Good luck looking for your chunk of rock or whatever, I'm going to tag out this round.”
“What, so they got American wrestling in England?” Dean asked as he turned to follow Sam out.
“We do have internet you know, we don't still live in hovels and eat turnips all day,” she yelled after them.
“I know that one, that's Blackadder,” Dean yelled back before Sam yanked him through the doors going into the warehouse.