Human Perspective

He'll live his days where the sunbeams start

Bobby paced the interior of the Roadhouse once more; it was all going to shit so quickly, and to top it off, he'd managed to make it to Rufus' Heaven but couldn't find him. It was so fucking ironic to lose Rufus in Heaven that Bobby thought it would never be topped.

“What are we going to do?” Ellen said. “If Metatron finds out Cas is here then he'll probably do to him what he did to Rufus.”

“That's assuming he did do something to Rufus,” Bobby said, but he knew the truth. “The fact of the matter is we need to warn them somehow without attracting any attention. The thing is how do we even find them, anyone got any clues?”

“This is why you never send the President and the Vice President together on an air plane,” Pamela said, “you wipe the chain of command with one good shot.” She mimicked firing a gun with one hand.

“Not helpful,” Ellen said. “I don't suppose you can broadcast to them?” She tapped her temple.

“That's not how it works, but what were these temporary tattoos for anyways?” Pamela said. “Any of you tried tapping in on that line? Didn't Cas say this is our heavenly cell phone network?”

“Yeah, I've been thinking the hell out of this and nothings happening,” Bobby said, “we need a back up plan, too, suggestions?”

“Pray?” Jo piped up, “I mean, that is, if he could still hear it. But he's a soul in Heaven, and I used to pray to my Dad all the time and he heard it, so if someone prays to Cas, maybe that would do it.”

“Worth a shot,” Bobby said, “we'll give it a go, and Pamela, why don't you call in earth bound reinforcements?”

“What?” Dean said.

“They want you to pray to Cas, to warn him about Metatron,” Mary Patricia said.

“He's not an angel anymore,” Dean said, jaw tightening.

“But he can still hear you,” Sam suddenly rushed out. “When Mary Patricia first got here she told me something Cas said. I didn't share it with you because, well, it was from the day he died, when we were there with him on the apartment walkway. He said to tell you he was going to kick Metatron's ass and then kick it again for you. Verbatim, Dean, from what you said to him after he died on the walkway.”

“What happened to him?” Mary Patricia asked, and Dean tensed up all over.

“He got shot,” Sam said quietly, watching his brother steel himself against everything that might give him any comfort since Cas' death.

“I”m sorry,” Mary Patricia mumbled, not looking at Dean, “but even if he can't answer you back, praying to him might help? And they asked it of you, they need any help we can give them.”

“Fine, all right,” Dean snapped. “I'll do it, but I'm gonna have a built-in control, and if I don't hear back on it, then I'll know this praying to dead guys is bullshit. So here goes. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want except to want to say a couple of things to Castiel, who art in heaven. First, now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and entreat the Lord your God, that he may take away from me this death only, got it? Good. Now the second thing, I'm being told...” Dean hesitated. If this was working and he went blurting out Metatron's name in a prayer, then technically wouldn't Metatron hear it, too? “... told Marv is on the lookout for you.” He sure as hell hoped, if this was working, it didn't work with angels' pseudonyms. “So watch your ass. That's all I got. Say hi to people for me.” He looked at Sam and Mary Patricia, then snorted and turned away.

“Dean,” Sam said but Dean threw up a hand and stalked off and Sam sighed.

Mary Patricia watched him go, turned back to Sam after a moment. “I didn't meant to upset him,” she said. Sam smiled at her kindly.

“It's not your fault. You're actually a big help, but thanks for the concern.” Sam was glad she had sympathy for Dean; he could use the help.

The pull was strong and insistent and he let it guide his feet further into the bowels of the vault. His muted and dulled senses didn't tell him anything beyond what he could experience at the moment. It was so odd living in the now, so singular, so boring. When he was an angel, when he held his true form he lived in many moments at once. But here he could blink his eyes and miss something; so distractions were a constant threat. Then he heard his name and a presence in his head that startled him to a halt and would have made him hold his breath if he had any. He brought up his hand as if he could reach out and touch the face behind the words in his mind: words filled with irritation and disbelief and hope and longing; words that made him ache along every string of energy balled up within this loose shape called a soul. He weeded through the message again, to actually hear it instead of feel it this time. A verse, and Dean never picked one randomly, and it was painful; why did he always believe the worst of himself? And a warning, a dire one indeed. What to do? Turn back now? Warn everyone at the Roadhouse, or forge ahead and hope the solution lay just beyond him in the pulsing dark of the vault?

He was never so indecisive as an angel; and Dean still called him angel, and so he decided to be one, and he continued on. The resonance of the place was astounding: a living, vibrant hum at the very center of everything, so vast and unexplainable that if not for a temperance lent by the vault itself it would drive one mad at its very first touch. Castiel knew who cast the temperance, whose will calmed the maelstrom; and he missed him too, with an ache that eclipsed all but Dean. Just the lingering memory of his Father's presence made this chamber bearable.

“I am here for Heaven,” Castiel said quietly into the thick air around him. “I am not one to be asking anything on the behalf of Heaven; but I am here all the same. It is not a proud moment for our people that this is what we've come to: that the plea for redemption be from the mouth of the least of them all.” There was nothing but a tangible silence, a nearly unbreakable skin of tension over the whole of existence. He didn't notice at first the miasma of tiny particles of light that sprang up around him, like glittering gnats in an ever-gathering swarm; and then he saw it was himself, being picked apart, atom by atom: each tiny fragment plucked, examined, then released into the air around them. He was a mystery easily solved, but still, it was easier to understand some things better if you pulled them apart to see what made them they tick. Maybe Naomi had been right, maybe there was a crack in his chassis that made him very tempting; if it was any consolation, this would be a final end. He would have no more existence in any form, and so would be free from the pain of missing Dean and his siblings and his Father. Free from everything; and though he ought to struggle, he couldn't bring himself to do it. How do you outrun everything and nothing, the very fiber of your being, all that came before you and all that came after you? What was the point? Was there beauty in endless struggle? He thought of Dean, and then he tried to pull himself free, but it wasn't to be; and then he thought of the words of Uriel, whom he had loved even in his treachery.

Be unafraid.

Just when he had one thing settled, another thing flashed or beeped or made a trilling tone, and there was just him here, and he only wanted answers to one thing, and he was getting nowhere. This was all very frustrating and enlisting a human soul skeleton crew to man the place wasn't panning out as he'd hoped. He needed objective advice and he wasn't sure where to find it; but Castiel had been on earth long enough by now to perhaps know which angels were where, he was always such a goody two-shoes about helping others that surely he could point him in the right direction. The only problem was locating him; and he tried and he tried. He tried locating a Winchester, and he tried and he tried, and the more he tried, the more his patience thinned out to nothing. Nothing in creation had ever tested him more; and that was saying something. So it was just accident and the lack of orange juice in the bunker that brought Metatron and Dean Winchester face to face in the Quik Trip on the outskirts of Lebanon, Kansas. Dean jerked back, dropped the carton of orange juice he was holding and slammed the cooler door. Metatron gave him a half-smile and a head tilt and an eyebrow lift, and suddenly they were outside in the parking lot behind the dumpster.

“What the fuck do you want?” Dean said, pointing a finger, looking around, backing away. “I don't know what your fucking game is but I will find a way to kick your ass.” Dean had done this his whole life: threaten things that could kill him with a flick of a pinky. He was used to being a small aggressive dog in the face of a bull mastiff; it was a commonplace occurrence in his life.

“Now now, I'm not here to hear your condemnation or make any justification for what I've done,” Metatron told him, holding up placating hands. “As a matter of fact, I only came for some advice, mainly from Castiel. Can you take me to him?”

Dean said nothing, and he frantically clamped down on every thought he currently had in his head. But that was nearly impossible and he fumbled around for something to distract himself. Baby, think of baby, she needs a brake job; drum brake bleeder screws, rear drum hold down kit, front calipher bolt, disc brake backing plate gasket. Metatron stood there with his lips pressed together and lifted an eyebrow.

“Castiel is not with you?” he said, seeming puzzled.

“No, what with everyone being tossed out of heaven, things got a little jumbled,” Dean said. “You'd know all about that, I'm sure. Now, if you don't mind, I have to go get on with my life without the interference of dick-headed angels. It wasn't good to see you, don't keep in touch.” Dean turned to walk away, only to find Metatron blocking his path. He stopped and made a frustrated sound.

“That seems odd; all the prayers he heard were yours; I put him down close to you, to be in your path.” Metatron narrowed his eyes, pursed his lips a bit.

“Cas' grace,” Dean suddenly burst out, “do you still have it? You mealy-mouthed son of a bitch, you cut it out of him, didn't you? What did you do with it? Why did it have to be Cas? Why not Naomi's or yours, you are the one who wanted this, why did you make Cas be the one to pay for it?” And Dean knew the rage was too evident, the pain too plain there for Metatron to see, and he clenched and unclenched his fists.

“You had Castiel, but you lost him,” Metatron said slowly, keeping his eyes on Dean's face and Dean tried to jump from thought to thought, to make himself confusing, but Metatron shook his head slowly. “You know that won't work forever, in fact...” Metatron trailed off slowly. “He's dead,” he breathed in a hush, “Castiel is dead and in Heaven.” Metatron reached out then, grabbed Dean's forearm, and they vanished.

They weren't, then they were, and there was this loud klaxon, unlike anything he'd ever heard, it shook his very bones, and the grip on his arm vanished and he slammed his palms over his ears. His eyes were watering and he could only see things in shapes and blurs: where the fuck was he? Where the fuck was Metatron? What the hell did it matter? He ran, he ran like hell, because he didn't know what else to do. He was in some sort of forest, there were branches slapping him from all sides and his feet crunched over leaves and twigs and he ran with his hands over his ears and mostly blinded by his own tears and he wasn't sure how long he ran but the terrain under his feet changed to pavement and he stopped and looked up, turned in a circle, and seemed to be standing on the drive of some mansion. He slowly lowered his hands, ducking his head cautiously, but the thrumming bells were no longer heard, he let out a slow breath. Where the hell was he? He kept looking around for someone, and when no one seemed to be willing to come out and tell him where he was, he walked up to the door of the mansion, raised his hand, hesitated a moment, then knocked loudly. Almost immediately, he heard sounds from beyond the door, in the hall, the steady tap of heels on floor, and the door swung inward, and a man in a very fancy sort of suit like he would see butlers wear in old movies stood there and looked at him.

“How may I help you sir?” he asked, sounding like that guy who played the butler in the movie Arthur.

“Yeah, hey Jeeves,” he started, and the man in the suit interrupted him.

“It's Powell, sir,” the man intoned.

“Okay, Powell, I'm a little turned around here and I'm wondering where I'm at?” Dean prompted and smiled.

“Why, this is Bletchley Park, sir,” as in why don't you know this, peasant? At least that was what the accent made it sound like, but Dean decided, since he didn't know what was going on, it probably wasn't good to piss off the first person he met.

“Okay,” Dean said slowly, “Bletchley Park is in … ?” He squinted his eyes.

“Buckinghamshire,” said another voice behind him. Dean half-turned to the man that came jogging up the front walk. “I don't believe we've had the pleasure,” the man said, extending his hand, and Dean turned to face him then, took it. “Dean Winchester,” he supplied.

“Is that right, like the American rifle? Well, I am very pleased to meet you, Mr. Winchester. Alan Turing. How might Powell and I be of service?”

“Mr. Winchester is lost, sir,” Powell said and gave a little half-bow, stepping back to allow Dean and Alan to enter the house. Dean followed quietly, looking around as they walked down a large open hallway.

“Lost? That's a bit of bother isn it? Don't worry, we'll get you sorted out. Powell, tea for our guest and myself in the front parlor. Send Alonso around with a box of my good cigars and the brandy for after.” Alan indicated a room and made the gesture for Dean to proceed him.

Dean went in cautiously, looked around, decided there was nothing in here he could sit on because he wasn't polished. Alan smiled at him and shooed him over to a wing-backed chair and Dean sat on the very edge of it. Alan sat down opposite him and crossed his legs and smiled at Dean in a way that Dean knew. Dean Winchester was a master of the cruise, even if Cas had never appreciated it. He could look at a person in a way that would make that person's ego swell ten times larger that day. He could make his eye follow the line of a body, he could, with great precision, tilt his head up and down slowly and leave road burn, his cruise was so lethal. And now he was being cruised and he sort of felt naked fully clothed, and he vowed never to cruise another soul, living or dead, ever again.

“I'm so very glad to meet you, we don't get many visitors around these days,” Alan said, folding his hands in his lap. “Tell me, Mr. Winchester, what brings you all the way across the pond to grace these shores? And not that I'm complaining, mind you, but you really found your way out into the countryside. You're a lovely addition and I'm hoping you'll be summering at a place near here? We could attend parties, and do you play tennis?”

“Uh,” Dean started, but then the tea cart was wheeled in and boys in really, really white clothes began setting out little dishes and a tea pot. Dean looked around slowly. Metatron seemed shocked that Cas was dead, then he looked worried, then he'd grabbed Dean and...fuck no. Was he in heaven? This was Buckinghamshire, Heaven? Home of gay guys who liked tennis? Another boy entered the room and went straight to Alan, leaned over to whisper into his ear.

“It's always something,” Alan sighed and stood. “Dean, may I call you Dean? Would you like to see the bombe?”

“Yes?” Dean said, standing and followed Alan away.

“Okay, the one thing we are not going to do is stand around here waiting for him to show up and smite us all or whatever,” Bobby said. “You remember what Cas said: we find our path to the garden and when we get there, well, we'll improvise. I guess all we gotta do now is try to figure out what our path is.”

Ellen made a face and rubbed at the sigil painted on her arm under her sleeve. “Anybody else feel that?” she asked then she scrunched up her nose, “Ash?” she said to the air.

“Yeah,” Jo said, looking around, “it's weird, it feels like Ash. These things must be working,” she said, excited and covered her own with her palm.

Pamela, who had refused the mark, looked between them. “Is he talking to you?”

“No, not really,” Ellen said, “it's more like he's really unhappy about something and it's dark.”

“Yeah,” Jo said, “it's dark and he's worried about something. Cas, maybe?”

“Bobby aren't you getting any of this?” Ellen said, “You got the mark, too.”

“No I...” but he broke off because a whirling of tiny lights suddenly appeared over the pool table. He moved to grab Ellen's arm and push Jo in front of him, bark at Pamela to follow, all heading for the swinging door that still bore the chalk mark. But the tiny lights suddenly consolidated into a figure, and Cas fell heavily onto the pool table and lay there unmoving.

“Cas?” Jo cried, ducking under Bobby's arm and running toward the pool table. Bobby swore and realized he was holding Ellen's arm, and released her. She turned to follow Jo and Bobby was one step behind her when the swinging door slammed open and Ash stood there, breathing heavily.

“One hell of a kickback,” Ash said, and dropped a duffle on the floor that clanked loudly. “I got all the blades I could carry and then some, grabbed some glowy stuff in bottles, too.” He staggered over to the bar, around it and dug a beer out of the cooler and popped and drained it while everyone stood there looking at him. “Oh good, it spit Cas out here,” he said as he leaned there, “it has a hell of a vibrato, let me tell you. and it wasn't messing around. It was all get out and stay out if you know what I mean.”

“No, we don't know what you mean, why don't you enlighten us?” Bobby said drolly.

“Oh you know the fabric of creation, everything secular and just ... everything. Part of us all, blah blah blah, that sort of thing. At least, that's all I could perceive of it before it sorta slammed the door. It's really hard to explain,” he finally lamented. “Cas can probably toss some equations your way.”

“We'll pass,” Bobby said, looking at Cas still lying there on the table. “He still functionally dead? Because we got bigger problems.”

“What, more of them?” Ash said, looking between them.

“Rufus is gone, as far as we can tell, and I only got one explanation for that,” Bobby said. “We had Pamela tell that girl on earth to warn the boys. And to get Dean to pray to Cas and warn him, too. We figured he'd tell you.”

“So the MetaMan is onto us,” Ash said. “and he's drawn first blood. Time for diversionary tactics. We got blades, Angel Man's heaven mapping program and me, so I say our chances are above average. What we don't want is him finding us and confiscating our Angel Man, so, we need a decoy until we can find the Garden, which houses heavenly control central.” Ash tapped his lip. “So I been thinking of ways to mask Cas.”

It was, of course, at that moment Cas groaned and stirred on the pool table. Jo and Ellen helped him to sit up and he blinked at them, then blinked around the room sluggishly. He shut his eyes tight and then opened them again, looked at Jo and Ellen again. “Why aren't I disintegrated?” he asked the room in general.

“We're not that lucky,” Pamela volunteered.

“Yeah, okay, enough of that,” Ellen shot back. “He's trying, all right? So you got the short end of the stick, so did all of us and you know what?He did, too. So let's be a team here, okay? That's what this is all about, isn't it? We got a chance to make something right, let's just do it.”

Jo gave a nod, squeezed Cas' arm where she was holding it. Pamela took a deep breath and thought better of what she was going to say and just nodded.

“Angel Man, you got the heavenly equivalent of a Beam Me Up, Scotty!” Ash said, trotting over. “I sorta wigged out when I saw the sparkly light trail coming out of the belly of the vault, but then I thought, hey, it looks like a transporter beam. I guess that was a good guess. So what happened?”

“I'm not sure,” Cas said slowly, “it's in parts incomprehensible, but I suppose the gist of it was, it won't work for me.” He sighed, swung his feet off the side of the table and slid off, letting Jo and Ellen steady him until he was sure of his footing. “I'm sorry, I thought it might be a possible solution.”

“Well just come up with another one, but right at the moment we got the little problem of Metatron being on high alert,” Bobby said. “And Rufus is missing.”

Cas looked up in mild alarm. “Metatron is alerted to us?” Then he stopped, brow furrowing. In the vault he'd heard about this. Yes, Dean, he'd felt Dean touch him with a prayer, and now that he was no longer in the presence of the wavelength of all, the enormity of it hit him. “We have to move,” he said, “if we stay together he's more likely to pinpoint us. So we move now.”

“That's the plan, we split up like before, only we're one man short.” Bobby said. “So, Ash and I were thinking of a little diversion just in case Metatron tried to show up.”

“What sort of diversion?” Cas wondered, moving to pick up the duffle bag Ash had brought and go though the contents.

“A decoy,” Bobby said.

Sam got off the bus at the edge of town and didn't waste any time securing a ride. He wouldn't take it far because there was only so much of Lebanon, and Dean wouldn't have left the city limits without letting Sam know. He left Mary Patricia with strict instructions about the door and not opening it and drove around for a bit looking for signs of this brother. He finally found the Impala in the parking lot of a Quik Trip and checked it over. He prowled around the building and went inside and quizzed every employee he could find. One of them seemed to remember a guy like Dean talking to some old guy near the back coolers. The old guy had been in a ratty sweater, and they had just left, leaving a busted orange juice carton and orange juice all over the floor. He pressed for more details about the man other than 'old guy' and 'grandpa', and by the end of it he was certain that Metatron had Dean. He ran out to the Impala and slid in, apologized for hot-wiring her, and tore back to the bunker. There he greeted Mary Patricia by grabbing her shoulders and locking eyes with her.

“Tell Pamela, tell her right now that Metatron has Dean,” Sam said, breathless and slightly crazed.

Jimmy Novak stook awkward and uneasy in front of the bar in the Roadhouse. He looked in turn at each person in this insane plan, and then settled for simply glaring at Castiel until Castiel squirmed, which he did quickly.

“Thanks for coming, Jimmy,” Ellen said with a small smile, “I know this is asking a lot.”

“It seems important,” Jimmy said, glancing at Ellen then away, “if you've come this far, you mean to see it through; I admire your conviction. I'll do what I can to help.”

“The plan is, you're with me for our trip to the garden. Cas is going to go a more indirect and inconspicuous route and hopefully avoid attention. If we get there, he's got a better shot than any of the rest of us of shutting this operation down. I guess what I'm asking is, if we get confronted how well can you pull off being Cas?” Bobby folded his arms, tilted his head. Offering to help when asked earned Jimmy points with him, but it would be a fruitless gesture if Jimmy couldn't play the part.

Jimmy took a deep breath. “I'm fairly certain if the need arose I could do a convincing imitation.” His eyes darted to Cas briefly and Cas looked away. “I think I spent enough time with the script.”

“Okay, then, switch clothes,” Bobby said and leaned back against the bar.

“Not that you have to, like, really undress and hand them over,” Ash interjected a little loudly. “We don't need no twin strip show here, just think each others clothes and imagine them on yourself.”

For Cas it was effortless: the words had almost finished leaving Ash's mouth when he stood there in a cheap suit, blue tie and trench coat. Bobby looked at him hard a moment, then dropped his eyes. Jimmy took a bit longer to situate the band t-shirt, jacket, ratty jeans and boots that Cas had died in. They looked at each other again then.

“Cas looks too much like Cas,” Jo said. “Maybe only Jimmy should change his clothes.”

“How can he look too much like Cas when he looks like me?” Jimmy said a little irritably.

“Lose the trench coat,” Bobby said, “maybe that's the problem.” Cas complied, standing there in just the suit jacket now. “Lose the suit jacket,” Bobby said, and Cas complied again. Bobby and Jo stood there appraising him.

“Walk to the other end of the bar and make a sharp turn, all pouty,” Jo said with a grin, and Cas looked confused and Ellen snorted at her daughter.

“Hey,” Pamela interjected sharply, she then lowered her head and closed her eyes a moment, brow furrowing. “We got trouble,” she said, lifting her head and snapping her eyes open. “Mary Patricia is saying Metatron took Dean.”

Bobby pushed off the bar and Cas pushed around Jo. “What do you mean, took Dean?” he demanded before Bobby could speak. “How could he find Dean, the bunker is well warded.” His voice raised with tension, “I couldn't find it, so how could Metatron? Much less get into it, they had to disable certain wardings before I could even come in the door ...” he cut off when Ellen touched his arm.

“It's okay, Cas. If Metatron's smart he's not going to do anything to Dean,” Ellen told him. “I'm just wondering if it means what I think it means.”

“Damn straight it does,” Bobby growled, “it means he knows Cas is here. No more chit chat, we need to move.”

“These are, without doubt, some of the most interesting readings the bombe has ever offered me,” Alan said with obvious delight. “We had been well on our way to deciphering all the chatter when everything went quiet around here.”

“Okay?” Dean said, looking at the huge antique looking machine that did who knows what.

“It was up to the task with the Nazis, I'm sure it's up to the task of ... well, wherever we are now,” Alan said, studying a thin ribbon of paper that was slowly winding out of the machine. “It's been all sorts of fascinating, a jolly good challenge, and correct me if I'm wrong, but there is nothing better than a good old-fashioned brain teaser. If you really want to know my honest opinion, old boy, I'd say we were very far away from home, not matter what the surroundings look like.”

Dean wasn't sure what he should say, because he knew where they were, but he was a very special case and he wasn't sure he should be sharing his insider trader knowledge with a legitimate dead person who had stayed dead.

“You're quite the enigma,” Alan said then, turning to look at Dean, still threading the thin strips of paper through his hand. “Don't look surprised, I've seen your name come out of here before; whoever is in charge around here used to chatter about you a lot. The famous Dean Winchester, the man who had been saved. I have to say I'm terribly sorry not to have confessed to that straight away when you appeared on my doorstep; but I did want a chance to spend more time with you.” Dean shifted as he was cruised again: this guy was insatiable.

“That's okay, actually,” Dean said, “because that means you can probably help me. It's not like I'm not flattered but I'm sort of spoken for, and, uh, he's up here, around here, somewhere. I'd like to try and find him.”

“Oh well, not surprising, all the really lovely ones are usually snapped up. Well, yes, of course, I would love to help if I can. The bombe is a temperamental girl, but we might be able to coax some information out of her,” Alan said. “We could start with a name?”

“Cas, Castiel,” Dean said, not sure how much more he should volunteer. After all, Cas wasn't an angel anymore, technically.

Alan moved to the other side of the machine and Dean followed. There was an keyboard with hard, round buttons like Dean had seen on old typewriters. Alan typed out Cas' name on the keys, both variations, and watched as the machine whirled and digested it all. Alan gave him a little smile and a shoulder shrug.

“Nothing to do now but let her think on it,” he said. “So Dean, just what were you saved from?”

“That is a very, very long and crazy story,” Dean said and shook his head. “Not sure you'd really enjoy it.”

“Don't want to talk about it?” Alan said. “Believe me, I sympathize. There is this one neighborhood bore that shows up every now and again to ask all the awkward questions; believe me when I say I don't wish to be like him. We can both very well keep our secrets.”

“This, uh, this neighbor who shows up: about so tall, graying, sort of a van dyke around his mouth? Crappy sweater?” Dean asked.

“Oh, so you know Marv,” Alan said blandly, “and you're … friends?”

“Hell, no,” Dean said, “and I would appreciate it if you didn't tell him I was here, that is, if you see him soon. Just a lot of bad blood with that guy, you know how it is.”

“Do I? I suppose I do,” Alan said. “Listen to us gossip like debutantes at a dance, you'd think we had little else to do. I do so enjoy your company Dean, I really wish you were summering here. A change of scenery is refreshing. Did I mention we have a pool?”

“Ah,” Dean said, but he was saved by several levers shifting and ticking noises coming from the bombe.

Alan turned to look at it, eyebrows raising. “We might have a hit,” he told Dean cheerfully and went to check the tape. “Hmm, moving a little fast. I've been on my way to well acquainting myself with these symbols, but I'm still not fluent enough to translate right off the machine.” Alan tore the tape off and stood there with it and Dean came over to look at it.

Dean knew written Enochian when he saw it. He looked at Alan, impressed that this one human soul had built a machine in his heaven that could rival Ash's laptop. People never ceased to amaze him.

“Here we are, seems someone is sending out a broad message all across the board; this is more activity than I've seen in a while. A single thread however; before the silence as I call it, the bombe would struggle to keep up with all the threads running in the air. It was a constant communication hub, night and day. I've worked up a very good reference,” he walked over to the table, where there were a series of very thick notebooks lined up. He lay the tape down and selected a notebook and began to flip through it. “This might take a while,” he told Dean, then “Powell! Divert Alfonso here with some of my fine American bourbon. You like Four Roses, I assume?”

“I'll try anything,” Dean said and tried to keep himself from pacing back and forth behind Alan as Alan sat to work up a translation. He accepted a brandy snifter when it was offered, and felt a little self conscious sipping at it. He tried to copy Alan, but Alan was absorbed and so his sips were spaced few and far between.

Dean ended up pacing after all, but way over on the other side of the room so it wouldn't look like he was pacing. He tried to stay occupied and carried his snifter around cupping it from the bottom and holding it with the stem between his fingers. He'd seen enough old movies featuring rich tycoons to know this was the proper way to hold a brandy glass. Finally, he ended up slumped in a high wingback chair that even the back of Sammy's head wouldn't have hit the top of, still holding his brandy snifter aloft. Powell chased him down to replace the three sips he had taken and he swirled it around because once again, old movies made up the entirety of his manners training.

“This isn't very encouraging,” Alan suddenly said. “As a matter of fact, I don't think you're going to like it very much.” Dean sat forward now, brandy swirling forgotten.

“It's a rather ominous threat to Castiel from someone, and it involved you.” Alan gave him a pinched expression. “Sort of like a ;give yourself up or face dire consequences' type of message.”

“Fuck,” Dean said, leaping to his feet and trotting over, and Alan looked up at him with a small smile and an eyebrow lift.

“Americans,” Alan sighed and Dean rolled his eyes.

“I'm sure you can hear this, Castiel. I just want you to know the situation. I don't want any trouble. I'm sure we can co-exist peacefully: no trying to work out who betrayed who, no coup attempts, we just each keep to our own little bit of heaven. I have some collateral. I ran into an old friend of ours, Dean Winchester? He and I had a little heart to heart and I invited him back home for a visit. So you'll probably want to mind your Ps and Qs while he's here; that means no trouble. Whatever you and this little gang have going on, it needs to stop. If it stops, we're all peaceful co-habitants, just the way heaven was intended. If it doesn't stop — well, there are things a living person can run afoul of here in heaven. Let's both make sure that doesn't happen, all right?”

Metatron knew how to use prayer in a way that was impossible for others. He used it as a personal PA system in Heaven; a method only made possible by the cessation of all other angelic voices.

“What does he mean Dean is here?” Ellen said. “He killed Dean?”

“No,” Cas said with confidence; he would know if Dean was dead, he would. “He wouldn't do that. Dean is here as a living being, like the Prophet Chuck. There are some rules which he will not be bound by because he's not part of the whole, he is still his own vessel. It's hard to explain,” Cas sighed. “Metatron could even use Dean's soul if he desired, as an energy not bound by heavenly restrictions.”

“What's that mean?” Bobby spat.

“It means he has a bomb with no restrictions,” Cas said. “Metatron is smart, Dean is an excellent hostage and a weapon.”

“So what, we just give in?” Ellen said. “That's not happening.”

“Of course not,” Cas said, “but what it does mean is we do need to proceed with extreme caution.”

“Look, I can't keep asking the same thing over and over, it's annoying, I can't be annoying, can I?” Mary Patricia told him. “What if she gets mad? Then she won't talk to me. You need to calm down.”

“We just need to know if this Jacob's Ladder thing might work,” Sam stressed. “Is Cas there, ask about Cas!”

“He's there, he's saying for you not to worry, he promises you he will find Dean,” Mary Patricia said after a moment. “He says we should stick to radio silence as a precaution. I think he means me,” she gave a little grimace, “like I'm some sort of machine that can be switched on and off.”

“I haven't got time to deal with the fact that Cas' bluntness offends you,” Sam growled. “Tell Cas I have a spell that I think could be a possible Jacob's Ladder and is there any way to ... I don't know, tell it where to materialize. I mean, what part of Heaven are they in?”

Mary Patricia took a deep, fortifying breath, gave Sam the stink eye but got the look of inward concentration she had when she was broadcasting. She held up a hand when Sam started to speak and kept it there the entire time she seemed to be conversing in her head. Then she dropped it and sighed.

“Castiel says you shouldn't be using magics you aren't sure of and he's not convinced it would work; he says that you better serve Dean by staying where you are. On the other hand, Pamela says I should shag your fine ass to calm you down,” Mary Patricia said with a very straight face.

“He said he's not convinced it would work but he didn't say it wouldn't work,” Sam said, for the moment only hearing what he wanted to hear. Then he stopped a moment, turned his head and tilted it a little, as if replaying it in his head., Then he raised his eyebrows a bit, looked at Mary Patricia.

She shrugged at him, gave him a half smile.

“Okay, this is going to sound crazy but I need to get to Harvelle's Roadhouse,” Dean said. “Can that thing give me directions?”

“It's a decoder, not a map-making machine,” Alan said. “If you want to go there, then why don't you simply go? You know the way, don't you?”

“This is really hard to explain but here I go; we're in Heaven,” Dean said.

“Heaven,” Alan said, “are we really? You know I thought things were a bit too blissful. So this is Heaven and we're both here.” He paused for a moment, pursed his lips and sighed. “Well, I'm surprised I made it, but my condolences, Dean, you look too young and beautiful to die.”

“Okay, the point here is, I'm not dead,” Dean said. “I got dragged up here by an angel named Metatron. I think that is who your Marv guy is, and he's trying to use me against my friends who are already up here, dead, like you. It's a long story. But I know Ash and his heaven is a Roadhouse.”

“Ash?” Alan said. “A very charming young man, despite his hair affliction. I know him well.”

“You are fucking kidding me,” Dean said. “You know Ash?”

“Yes of course, he's brilliant,” Alan said. “He visits from time to time, one of the more welcome visitors I can tell you: keen intellect, poor fashion choices. I trust you I'm not fucking kidding you.” He gave a sigh and his eyes traveled Dean's frame.

“Yeah you weirdly don't seem too upset by this,” Dean said. “And quit hitting on a taken man, okay? I mean, thanks for the interest but the neon sign says closed. Can you like ... ask him to come here? Or something?”

“Let me give him a ring,” Alan said and headed for a telephone on a stand at the end of the room.

Mary Patricia flapped the arms of the shirt she was wearing. She was currently straddling Sam Winchester's stomach and sitting there as well, and his very large flannel shirt hung off her shoulders and over her hands.

“It's like wearing a tent,” she told him. “It's hard to imagine a human this big, or well, it was hard to imagine; I guess I got a first hand oogle at one, didn't I? You're very talented, Samuel.”

“Oh god, don't call me that,” Sam said with a groan and wiggled his toes and stretched under her. “Only my teachers used to call me that; let's not go there.” He rested his hands on her hips underneath his shirt and thought: well, if he needed to be distracted, that was certainly a nice way to go about it. It came with a twinge of guilt, but at the moment, what could he do? It was probably best to wait on Cas' say before he tried the spell, but only if Cas' say came before he imploded with worry and stress. What could he honestly do at this point? Nothing: that was just it, he could do nothing. The dynamics and engineering of heaven were in the toilet as far as he knew; and a spell directed to accessing heaven could have untold consequences.

No, it was probably best to wait it out a while. He squeezed Mary Patricia's hips.

“Cheeky, you can't possibly be ready to have another go right now.” She slapped his stomach with the sleeve of his shirt. Sam gave her a half-smile and she smiled back at him. “You're a worrywart,” she told him. “I understand we're in limbo here, but what good is wringing your hands going to do you? Not a bit.” She poked his stomach this time, with a finger.

“I just don't want to feel like I'm letting him down again,” Sam sighed, and when she started to open her mouth, he reached up quickly to press fingers against her lips. “I know,” he told her, because he was fairly certain she was going to reiterate the worrywart speech and tell him that this was not his fault. He knew it wasn't his fault; but his mind would trip him up. He shouldn't have let Dean go out for orange juice, but Dean, being Dean, had been going stir crazy and had been bound and determined to drag everyone with him. Sooner or later, with or without Sam's blessing, Dean would have had to have a breath of fresh air; it was just a matter of time.

Mary Patricia bit his finger and he whipped his hand back with a shake and a scowl.

“Tastes like brooding,” she informed him, licking her lips. He sucked the inside of his cheek and tried to think up a good retort, because 'bite me' was right out.

The phone behind the bar was ringing. Jo rushed around the bar to answer it, as she'd done most of her working life, and even answered it 'Harvelle's Roadhouse', which made her mother smile and Bobby shake his head. She looked confused for a moment, then she shook the phone at Ash. “Hey, it's for you, some guy named Alan.”

Now everyone turned to look at Ash, wondering why he'd get some phone call from a man named Alan at the Roadhouse in Heaven. Ash sauntered over and took the phone from Ellen's hand, gave them all a shrug.

“Enigma Man, what's shakin'?” he asked with a grin. The rest of the bar occupants went back to looking at the map Cas and Ash were working out on the table. “That is fortuitous news, my friend, I'll be right over,” Ash said to the man named Alan on the phone. “I really appreciate the heads up. See you shortly.” Ash hung up. “I need to go see a man about another man, I'll be right back,” he told the assembled, and took a piece of chalk from behind the counter.

“Make it quick,” Bobby snapped, “we need to get this show on the road and all the gallivanting around is just making me nervous.”

“Won't be a mo,” Ash said, drawing off a quick sigil and pushing through the door.

“He does that with a lot of ease,” Jimmy commented quietly, watching the door swing back and forth. “It makes me wonder that if a man can bend the rules of heaven, what was there to create order in the first place?”

“Maybe the lesson here is that the human race could be self-policing,” Ellen said, “and all of this up here could just be a guideline.”

“The Lord is my shepherd,” Cas said, not looking up from the map, “I think that was the original idea. It was humanity that took it far beyond what it was intended to be; it was humanity that helped to mold Heaven even as our Father shaped it with his hands from above. Perhaps you were created not so much from His will but rather to be our mission. Something to set us on the path He intended. What confused me about His divine intentions is why he left it to us; the very creatures who were not governed by free will but by His guidance. Perhaps that is the ultimate proof that God moves in mysterious ways.”

“You're downright poetic,” Pamela said from nearby, and Ellen gave her a little smile and looked away.

Cas glanced up to find them all looking at him; he quickly lowered his eyes back to the map: as ever, uncomfortable to be the center of attention. Then the bar door swung open again and he didn't bother to look up until Ellen gasped and Bobby made a half laugh.


Dean was walking just behind Ash as he came back into the bar and Cas' whole world spun to a single slow halt. Bobby was moving forward now, arms wide, and Dean walked into them, grinning happily. Then it was Ellen and Jo, hugged together, Dean pressing his face into Jo's hair. Jimmy was closer than Cas, and Dean was turning that way, but Pamela threw herself on him and he staggered back a couple of steps with a laugh, patting her back.

“It's damn good to see you,” she told him and he started to reply but instead he jumped and reached back to move her hand. She gave him a half shrug and disappointed look and Cas' stomach twisted uncomfortably. But Dean moved her aside with a fond smile and turned toward Jimmy. Then he stopped. It took a split second for him to turn back around, look straight at Cas and blind Cas with himself, his smile, his recognition.

“Cas,” Dean breathed out, and he moved toward him and Cas pushed himself to meet him halfway; to wrap his arms tightly around Dean's chest, to feel the warmth of Dean's hand spread against his back; to know everything he really lost in that one joyful moment. He closed his eyes.

He pressed his nose hard behind Cas' ear, he bunched his fingers into the shirt Cas was wearing, he leaned himself into Cas' hug and everything tilted and then sat back up right. He let go a breath he didn't know he was holding.

“Are you okay?” Dean asked and wondered if that was really his voice; it sounded thin and strange and Cas nodded, his cheek rubbing on Dean's. “It happened so fast,” Dean started out, “and I didn't even realize it at first and I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so fucking sorry,” he babbled.

“No Dean,” Cas said, pressing closer as if that was possible. “It wasn't ...”

“With my own gun,” Dean gasped out, “because I was being so fucking cocky and wasn't paying attention and it got the drop on me like I was a fucking kid with no experience ...”

“Please Dean, it wasn't ...” Cas tried.

“I was such a smartass to you that day,” Dean half-sobbed.

“Stop!” Cas said, gripping his forearms and pushing him back to look him in the face, and Dean couldn't, he dropped his eyes.

The room around them was very quiet.

“Is there somewhere we can talk?” Cas asked, and Dean knew it wasn't directed at him.

“Men's room,” Ellen said immediately and he wanted to thank her but Cas' hands tightened on his arm and he was pulled forward, being led, and then they were in a small bathroom, the door shut, the bare bulb of the light fixture above them buzzing softly.

“No, Dean,” Cas told him, “I won't allow it. You have given me everything. I have grown in so many ways because of you it's unimaginable; and there is not one regret, not one. Please look at me, please.”

He raised his eyes slowly and Cas gave him that brief smile, the one where he would lift just one side of his mouth, just for a moment and Dean reached up to touch it before it disappeared and he was too late but he left his thumb pressed there, right at the corner of Cas' mouth.

“You don't know how fucking much I miss you,” Dean said, his throat working, his voice scraping up through it, “every night, Cas, every night it's all I think about. You aren't supposed to be here; it's not supposed to stop now.”

Cas reached up to hold his face, his palms flat on Dean's cheeks, and he pushed his forehead into Dean's and Dean clamped his jaw shut to swallow his sounds and they stood there like that for the longest time, eyes closed, neither moving.

“I'm dead,” Cas finally said, “and by some miracle I am in Heaven, so this must be where I belong. I don't want to be dead, Dean, but even if I am, it's no reason for you to stop living. We have to get you back, we have to get you home. Sam said there was a spell ...”

“Shut up, just ... shut up about it, I don't want to talk about what the fuck I should be doing right now. I just want to stand here with you, okay? Can I please have that for five fucking minutes? You know I don't ask for shit because I don't need it; there isn't any fucking gadget or what the fuck ever I've ever needed. I had me and Sam, that was how it fucking worked, okay? Then you come along. You fucking waltz into my life like you got every damn right and you're so fucking superior and smug and sarcastic; and I hate your fucking guts; but I gotta play the game because we need help. And then you fucking turn around on me, you surprise me, you give a fuck, you come through for me when I needed you man, when I really needed you. You hand-delivered me the world, safe from the apocalypse. You were part of that, we never would have gotten that close without you. You truly were a gift from God, no matter how absent his ass might be; and I will never forget it, never. Everything that happened after that, everything we fought, everything we went through; it was us then, together. A team, and I never looked back, hell, I will still never look back. You were my endgame. Don't you get it? You were my prize; my stupid fucking crazy mixed-up life finally made sense. I finally really had someone to share all the crazy shit with; it worked, I wasn't going to have to do it alone. I thought maybe I had a chance of not dying with a gun in my hand. Fuck it all now, Cas, fuck it all, I don't even know if I wanna go back. Let Sammy be free, maybe ... maybe I should just stay here.” He covered Cas' hands on his cheeks and he closed his eyes again to avoid Cas' tears.

He felt Cas' fingers move against his cheeks, heard Cas suck in his breath between his teeth. He seemed to be gathering himself to say something.

“No fuck it, no, I'm not going to listen to it, not now,” Dean warned him. “Just don't, Cas.”

And Cas nodded and instead lifted his face and kissed him, and Dean crushed him against his chest and just pretended this is what his life was going to be like from now on.

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