Human Perspective

Know this, my brethren, Heaven is clear

When they came out of the men's room, Dean went straight to the bar and around it and started to rummage for a beer. Cas came out after him, glancing around at everyone, but he didn't follow Dean to the bar, opting instead to go back to his map on the pool table.

“Hey,” Ellen said indignantly. “What do you think you're doing?”

“This isn't your bar, it's Ash's heaven,” Dean informed her without looking at her. With looking at anybody, actually.

“Hey,” Ash said indignantly. “What do you think you're doing?”

Dean spread his arms. “Can I have a beer? I got kidnapped up to heaven by a angel you can smell the crazy on and now all my dead friends are giving me shit.”

“When are you going to tell us Cas is your boyfriend?” Jo asked him, coming over to lean on the bar.

Beer in hand, he looked up at them, knowing every eye in the room (with the exception of Cas') was trained on him.

“When's it any of your business?” he asked.

“Fine, maybe it's not, it's just an interesting development,” Jo said. “We're in Heaven, asshat, no one is gonna judge anything.”

“Don't get snappy, boy,” Bobby interjected. “If you want my honest opinion, I think I have suspected it for a long time.”

“For fuck's sake,” Dean groaned.

“Nothing wrong with a little switch-hitter action,” Pamela had to add, looking from Dean to Cas and back to Dean. “Not my first choice, but hey.”

Dean turned to look toward Cas and Ash, who were very, very busy avoiding any of this conversation. His eyes then found Jimmy, who seemed to startle when Dean's eyes rested on him and then turned an interesting shade of red. Dean started to ask what his problem was, but then he sort of hit on the fact he was fucking Cas in Jimmy's body, and, well, he might have a problem with that if he were in Jimmy's shoes, so he didn't press.

Dean shrugged and downed half his beer in one go; it was good, good beer, and ice cold, so he could believe it was Heaven. “So what's our plan?”

“You're going home,” Cas said firmly without looking up. “The last thing we need Metatron doing is using you as leverage, so you're going home and you're going to stay in the bunker this time.”

“Who the fuck made you ...” But Dean didn't finish, because Cas snapped his head up and directed a squint in Dean's direction.

“I'm fairly certain the only thing keeping him from swooping in to snatch you up is a combination of wards and Ash's modified sigils that have masking abilities. Do you have any idea what a generator your particular soul is up here, Mr. Righteous Man? That coupled with the fact he knows you make all of us, with perhaps the exception of Jimmy and Ash, an emotional cripple.”

“Hey,” Ash said, “I love the shit magnet, too.”

“Sorry,” Cas told him, and Dean gave him a mocking half-smile and shake of the head. “By the way, Dean, Exodus 11, verse 17.”

For a moment Dean didn't understand, and then he did: his control, proof Cas could hear him in heaven.

“Well fuck,” he said quietly, “I owe a lot of people a lot of prayers now, don't I?”

“It's not much different than when we was alive,” Bobby said. “You never wrote, you never called unless something was trying to eat you.” But he wasn't serious, and Dean grinned and ducked his head.

“This is heart warming, and Dean, we're all glad you got in touch with your feelings, but the longer we dawdle around here the greater the chance of getting made. We got an angel on our tails now, and time's a wasting.” Ellen gave them all a significant look.

It got the desired effect. Everyone crowded around the map. Cas and Ash took turn explaining how to stay on course, what to look for, what memory traps to avoid in order to keep moving forward. Cas ruled out prayer as communication as it was too easy to detect; they should rely instead on the sigils that used emotion and instinct. Cas' first order of business was going to be contacting Sam in order to figure out if his Jacob's Ladder spell was viable and somewhat safe; at the moment it was the only option to get Dean out of heaven. But Dean wasn't having it.

“This is bullshit! I can help, you know I can.” Dean took the argument straight to Bobby and Ellen. “Tell him, I am just as capable of kicking Metatron's ass as any of you.”

“He's got a point,” Bobby said, “it makes our odds a little better to have him on point. I mean out of the assembled, only four of us are actally hunters, I just lump Cas in because he's hunted before. But Pamela and Ash and Jimmy? Not so much, so Dean helps our odds.”

“No,” Cas said stubbornly.

“Your no doesn't veto a majority,” Dean said, waving his arms.

“I have to agree with Bobby,” Ellen said slowly, “Dean has lots of experience, he's highly resourceful and very intuitive and quick on his feet like no one I've ever seen. He's an edge.”

“No,” Cas said plaintively. “If Metatron falls upon us in true form he'll be devoured along with the rest of us, and he's still alive, I want him to live his life.”

“You don't get to decide how I want to live the rest of my life,” Dean hissed at him. “Are you seriously asking me to walk away from this when you fucking know you need all the help you can get? Now, now is when you decide to be selfish with what you want, and never before this moment? Come on, Cas, we have to fuck sentimentality; we're getting your family back, right?”

He wanted to hit him; he really wanted to slam his palm across that beautiful jaw and see him gape in surprise and see him get angrier; he just really wanted to lay one on him. Of all times to bring up family, when Cas was standing in the presence of the driving force of all his millennia of life. Yes, he wanted the angels back, yes, he wanted heaven free of Metatron's influence, and yes and yes, he wanted Dean to be safe, and was that to much to ask for? Apparently, so.

“I know that I've asked for stupid, impossible, tremendous things in the past,” Cas said, feeling his voice rise, “but can't you see in all my years of existence you're the only thing I've ever wanted? I was fine before, I had my orders, and then here you come, you righteous asshole, and fuck that all up! I want you to be safe! Bobby can understand that! Ellen and Jo and all of them here can understand that! Give that to me, Dean!”

“No,” the love of his very long life said stubbornly, and set his jaw.

So Cas slapped it.

“I don't think this is a very good idea,” Mary Patricia said, standing at the edge of a chalk drawing on the floor of an old warehouse not too far from the bunker. “You heard what Cas told you; no doing this sort of thing because we're not sure it won't blow up in our faces. Why did we have to come here to do it anyway? Afraid you'll make a mess and Dean will yell when he gets back?”

“Cas has a lot of nerve talking about things blowing up in people's faces,” Sam said matter-of-factly. “I get where the guy is coming from, I really do, but knowing that and him knowing me, he knows I'm going to do this anyways. My brother is up there. To make sure he gets back, I'm doing this. I can't do it in the bunker, it's warded.”

“I use to think being in Heaven wasn't such a bad thing,” Mary Patricia said, “is this the corrupting influence I was always warned about as a child? Oh, don't go round with those boys, Mary Patricia, they're bad lots. This makes you a bad lot, Sam Winchester, and I slept with you. Do you feel no remorse?”

Sam gave a shrug and pulled a face that made Mary Patricia snort in frustration. “It's that you're American, isn't it? No regard for anyone else's feelings when you think you're in the right. But being in the right doesn't make you right. You think I want to stand here and watch you blow yourself up? Is that what you think? I have news for you, yank, where I come from we have something called manners.”

“Where you come from, you get nothing done for the apologizing,” Sam told her. “I watch PBS.”

“Oh, so you watched Are You Being Served and Doctor Who and you think you have a handle on it?” Mary Patricia flared her nostrils.

“I also watched the Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and Fawlty Towers, so yeah, I think I have a handle on it,” he said.

Mary Patricia ran her foot over some of his chalk lines, and he swore at her but she darted away before he could swat her.

“You slapped me!” Dean yelled.

“Yes, and I want to do it again!” Cas yelled back. “This is what you get for being so fucking noble and for teaching an angel how to swear! And how to lie! And for being glorious! Go home!”

“No, fuck you!” Dean yelled back.

“Are you two finished with the foreplay?” Bobby yelled not to be left out. “I wish I had time to let you two get a room but we got a situation here. Are you with us? Good. Now, we're gonna have a little prom date switch up here. Cas, you're with me, Jimmy, you're with him,” and Bobby pointed at Dean.

“Wait a minute,” Dean said.

“Ellen and Jo, Ash and Pamela, that does it. Everyone has their map and their plan. Cas, put a sigil on Dean and let's move out,” Bobby finished, ignoring Dean.

“Decoy detail,” Ellen said with a wink at Dean. “The perfect set up to let Cas slip by.”

“Too damn perfect,” Bobby said. “So go out there and make a lot of noise and run really damn fast. Dean, you're a freakin' gazelle, keep an eye on Jimmy.”

It made sense and Dean groaned, threw his hands up. Then Cas came over and slapped some paint on his arm and didn't look at him.

“Fine, then give me and Novak here a head start.” He marched over to the door and Ash saluted him. He turned to see if Jimmy was following. Jimmy took a breath, then walked over, giving everyone a look as he went by.

“Okay, Dean-o, you've done this before, so whatever path to the garden you took, just try and find that. It should be okay with Jimmy tagging along with you, he can just follow you. Have you troopers checked your parachutes? It's gonna be a long bumpy ride. General,” Ash directed at Bobby, “on your orders!”

“Let 'er rip,” Bobby said with a tilt of the head. “See ya in the garden, be damn careful.”

Dean looked over at Cas one last time. Cas did not look very happy. He looked very upset and angry; he was glaring at the back of Bobby's head, but he always seemed to know when Dean was looking at him so he snapped his head over to glare.

“See you in the garden, Cas,” Dean said, then he threw his arm around Jimmy's shoulder and yanked him close, pressing his cheek to Jimmy's, and grinned as he barreled them out the door. Jimmy just yelped, but Cas shot Dean a bird.

“How do you read your own handwriting? I thought you bragged about going to Stanford,” Mary Patricia said, holding open the notebook.

“I don't need commentary,” Sam said, “I just need you to read the incantation. I thought you said you could read Latin.”

“I can when it's written legibly,” she replied with a snort and an adjustment of her glasses. “And I'm still not on board with this, I'll have you know, I think this is a really bad idea, considering an angel told you not to do it.”

“Ex-angel,” Sam said, getting the last of the ingredients ready.
“Still, he probably knows more about this heavenly hocus-pocus than you do.” She shook her head. “So I just read this and that's all?”

“Well, that and sort of keep watch; not sure what would happen in the circle was broken, but I don't want to be halfway up and have the ladder fall out from under me,” Sam said.

“I'm probably not the person who should have so much responsibility,” Mary Patricia said. “Are you sure you want to do this? I think maybe we should go and have another tumble and wait for someone upstairs to check in.”

“Tempting, but no, nice try,” Sam said.

“I should honestly be horribly hurt and throw this notebook to the floor and swear to never trust a man again, but I'm not, so it's moot,” she shrugged and Sam grinned. He sorta liked her.

A flash of wing was all it had taken to convince her. Perhaps it was because it was what she'd hoped for her entire mortal existence. Her heaven was an encampment with standards flown high and men in armor congregating around and waiting for divine providence. Really, it hadn't been that hard. And now she was prowling the gardens, good at following orders like any soldier. Metatron toyed with a few other military commanders but dismissed the idea. She was more malleable because she came from a time when beliefs were much stronger.

The Duke was happiest amongst his movie sets and was so embedded in his iconic image that he didn't even bat an eye when an angel approached him for help. He only requested that he bring his favorite guns and favorite horse; and now he, too, patrolled the grounds, on the alert for intruders.

One of the first righteous men, one who had weathered a great flood and with whom he'd shared a long conversation back when his father still resided on his throne, came to stand with him as well. It was unexpected, but he had garnered a few friends in his long years of service in heaven. It was good to have someone to speak with who didn't take his every word for scripture or scowl down at him from the back of a horse.

So among the powers he wielded now, he had an army, a posse and a flood to back him up. Whatever it was that was being plotted against him should stand little chance of succeeding. He found he harbored a mounting fury at the fact he had to take up these measures now after he was sure he'd eliminated all threats to his place in Heaven. He heard the sound of hoof beats behind him, felt the presence at his back and the heat from the air the horse blew from its nostrils.

“I think it's best if I ride out and do a little lookin' around,” said the movie legend behind him, “get a lay of the land, make sure the borders are respected.”

“An excellent idea,” Metatron said, “it's good to take initiative. Report back to me should you find any threat, or take even more initiative and handle it, would you?” He turned then to look up into the man's eyes. The man tipped his hat at him before wheeling the horse around and laying heels to its flanks, and they sped away.

“I don't get it, where's the road?” Dean groused, turning a circle. As far as he could tell, they were standing in some park. There seemed to be some ducks swimming in a maintained pond and everywhere he looked there were concrete benches and rolling hills and pavilions and strange looking things he couldn't make out on a hillside. It was like fucking tranquility. Okay, so it was Heaven, but still.

Jimmy Novak made a slow turning circle, gazing first one way then another. He walked away from Dean and Dean watched him go with a confused expression but trotted to follow him.

“Hey Cas, fuck, Jimmy, sorry, what the hell you looking at?” he asked. “You know if we're being decoys maybe I should be calling you Cas, huh? What do you think?”

“I think I recognize this place,” Jimmy said slowly. “I just need a better vantage point,” he ran over and climbed up to stand on a low wall that half encircled a garden. “Ah, yes, I see it! That's the Ten Commandments Mountain. This is Fields of the Wood Bible Park. It was in Murphy, North Carolina. I met Amelia here. Why are we here?” he looked down at Dean.

“Ten Commandments Mountain?” Dean said, squinting at him. “Are we in some religious theme park?”

“Oh, well, more or less,” Jimmy said, hoping off the wall. “I came here with a youth group from our church, not our normal sort of sightseeing but it was on the way,” Jimmy shrugged. “Amelia was working here on her summer break. We started to write to each other, like penpals,” Jimmy sighed. “But this is where I met her; it wasn't long before I was in love with her.”

“Touching,” Dean said, “truly, but we need a road?”

“Well I've never done this before,” Jimmy said. “What do you want me to do about it?”

Dean sighed. This wasn't like last time at all. In fact this seemed to be Jimmy's happy trip down memory lane. He felt eyes on the back of his neck and turned to see Jimmy staring at him, but unlike his döppleganger, when Dean looked at him, he looked away. Cas would have never let Dean off that easy.

“Okay, we scout around and look for the road then,” Dean said, “but don't get too far away. Never know what's lurking around here.”

So they walked around and took in the wonders of Field of the Woods Bible Park. Jimmy still remembered a lot of it. The All Nations Cross, the Psalms of Praise and the baptismal pool. He didn't like the supposed tomb of Jesus, however, thought it was tacky to have an imitation. “I'm really surprised,” Jimmy said finally, “I'm not being mocked right now.”

“Dude, you met your wife here, I'm not a pig you know,” Dean said with a snort. “Gosh, get out of line a half a dozen times and everyone thinks the worst.”

“It just doesn't seem to fit your personality,” Jimmy said. “I mean, I'm sorry to assume or put a label on you, but I do remember our brief time together and well, you don't come across as compassionate, and I'm not saying any of this right,” Jimmy stopped and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I guess I'm just at a loss. There are so many things about you that I just ... was it my body or the angel?” Jimmy stopped, staring resolutely at the ground. “You know, he doesn't really look like that. I've seen him. If you had seen him, he's ... so strange and awful and wonderful; it almost defies description. He has more than one head, you know.”

“Are we talking about Cas?” Dean said, “Look, don't be worrying about your virtue or anything, because it's not like that, I swear. You're fine. What do you mean he has more than one head?”

“I counted three?” Jimmy said with a shrug, “And his voice is, well I can't say it's like music, but it has that quality, like a lilt. Why he has wrecked my throat now is a mystery. What ... what do you ... how do you... I'm sorry, it's not my business.”

So not a conversation Dean wanted to have, so he pusheed forward quickly and heard Jimmy move to keep up with him. Then Jimmy stopped and pointed. In the distance stood a church. Dean didn't think it was out of the ordinary as they were currently roaming the grounds of a bible camp.

“That's St. Mary's from East Howard Street, what's it doing here?” Jimmy trotted toward it and Dean followed.

“How could he have three heads?” he asked Jimmy's back. “What do you do with three heads?”

“One's an elk with big antlers and the other is an eagle,” Jimmy called back. “They didn't say anything, and you really couldn't get a good look at his other face for all the hair.”

“Oh god, he has a do like Sam?” Dean asked as they went into the church.

Ellen Harvelle was just about as impressed with heaven as she was any other place she'd taken up residence in life. It had its perks. Being with her husband and daughter was, of course, the biggest of them and even now, doing this, it gave her a sense of purpose. She'd been many things in life and now that she was dead, it didn't mean she no longer wanted to contribute. Her daughter walked beside her, and while she was happy to have her close, she'd wished her daughter had lived more of her life on earth; maybe even had a daughter of her own. But now the name of Harvelle was just as dead as they were, and it was just the way life, and death, went.

As it turned out their path was a rainbow that shore bright and beautiful overhead. It came from one of Jo's early childhood memories, before Jo knew of monsters and hunters and all the other trials of human existence. A rainbow was human existence, too, and sometimes Ellen wondered where they had forgotten that.

“Maybe when we get to the end we'll get to see Thor,” Jo was saying, looking around as they went. It was pleasant enough, just like driving on a Sunday through a small town unmangled by more modern times.

“Here you are dead, and you're still on about that movie,” Ellen said with a grin and a shake of her head.

“Chris Helmsworth and Tom Hiddleston,” Jo said bouncing along in front of her, “what's not to love? When they die, I'm definitively going to meet them,” she announced nodding. “I should do that, you know, get the autographs of all the dead famous people in Heaven.”

“You could start a fan club,” Ellen said. There wasn't a single soul she'd met in Heaven as optimistic as her daughter. “You certainly aren't afraid to let down your inhibitions now that you're dead.”

“That's just it, we can do whatever we want, like right now. We're off to fight the only angel in heaven in hopes of getting all the other angels back, and when we win, not if, they'll be grateful. We'll be VIPs, I can make out with Kurt Cobain,” and Jo looked a little glassy-eyed for a moment, “until Courtney Love shows up, then I'll stop, I promise.”

Ellen just laughed. They were making good time, and the scenery was already taking on a lusher, forest like appearance, she supposed it wouldn't be long; but then again it was kind of odd there was no one guarding the way. Of course she spoke to soon.

There was the sound of hoof beats, and at the crest of the next hill, a woman appeared. She was sitting astride a horse that was decked in colors and she wore gleaming armor and carried a standard. She looked at them coolly from her vantage point.

Jo slowed down, stopped to wait for Ellen to join her. They regarded the woman together.

“Hey I think I know who this is,” Jo said slowly. “See that banner she's got? I've seen that. I know that! It's God and two angels on either side. Mom,” she said, urgently gripping Ellen's arm, “I think that's Joan of Arc.”

“You should get her autograph,” Ellen said, “I remember you wrote a report on her in high school, right? She was pretty kickass.”

“Yeah,” said Jo breathlessly, “she was, I kinda wanted to be like her. I can't remember if she can write, though.”

The woman put her heels to the horse and it started a slow walk down the hill toward them. Ellen and Jo looked at each other a moment, things unspoken passing between them. Ellen stepped forward to make it clear she would do any talking.

The horse and rider stopped a little ways away from them. Then the woman sat straighter in the saddle and looked down her nose.

“This camp does not tolerate followers,” she intoned, “I won't tolerate followers.”

“What do you mean?” Ellen asked. “We're not following anyone.”

“Don't be coy with me,” the woman said, “over the hill there is our base camp. My men are chosen by God. So you need to remove yourselves or I will remove you personally.”

Ellen furrowed her brow but Jo took a startled breath behind her.

“She's talking about women who used to trail after her army,” Jo said, “she was famous for breaking a sword or a standard on the backside of a …. she thinks we're whores!” Jo was all sorts of scandalized and affronted.

“Listen, sister, you think you're the only woman that can strap on a weapon and wade into a man's world? You got another thing coming,” Ellen said heatedly.

“Mom, don't lecture Joan of Arc,” Jo said in an embarrassed way.

“I'm not taking any sexist bullshit, especially not from another woman, Joanna Beth,” Ellen snorted. “We're trying to find the garden,” she said, glaring up defiantly at the girl on horseback. In truth, she really didn't look that much older than Jo, and Ellen wondered how she was here with an army of men and no mother in sight.

“I've been warned about you. You dare to stand against an angel of our Lord Almighty?” The young woman on horseback lowered the standard like a lance. “You should be burned for such heresy; perhaps my men need a lesson.” She laid her heels into the horse and it leapt forward.

Ellen went right, Jo went left. Joan of Arc swung her horse in Ellen's direction and Ellen dodged into the trees to make it harder to chase her; not that Joan of Arc wasn't giving it a valiant try. Of all the damned things to happen. Getting speared by an ancient hero of France might be the way to go in someone's book, but not Ellen Harvelle's, not today, not ever. She looked frantically around as she ran, then spotted an opportunity, let herself into the horse's path for just a moment, then barrelled into a low branch, pushed it with all her might, ducked under it and let it go. The horse cried in pained surprise; Joan of Arc kept her curse basic and French and nothing blasphemous.

“Run, tart,” she yelled after Ellen after managing to calm the horse, “I have your scent now, you will not gain the garden!”

Well, shit; but maybe while Ellen was running decoy, Jo could.

Mary Patricia read Latin from the notebook of Sam Winchester while Sam Winchester cut his own arm and bled into a copper bowl full of bits and smelly ends of assorted junk. She frankly thought he was mental. But the wind picked up as she was reading, scattering small debris along the warehouse floor, and the roof started to rattle, and she faltered once and Sam gave her a sharp look, so she soldiered on. She stumbled when the building shook and in order to keep from screaming in fright she instead screamed in Latin, and Sam gave her a huge grin and a thumbs up for courage and she got to the end of the verse, dropped the book and covered her ears. There was a loud whining pitch in the air and the whole building seemed to bend in on itself and she dropped to her knees and then bowed over them to try and shield her eyes from a blinding light that made her see her own knee bones through her skin, and there was a tremendous wrenching sound. Then all was silent and still again, just like that. She slowly lifted her head and squinted her eyes because the room still had a permeated glow to it and she felt her jaw drop because there was Sam Winchester standing in front of a staircase. A staircase that seemed to be made of light and air, and her first irrational though was it would never hold him because he was far too big and heavy.

She dropped her hands from her ears. Her second irrational thought she voiced out loud. “And just how long will it take you to climb the stairway to heaven?” she blurted. “It's got to be a million miles straight up, I'll be dead before you make the top!”

Sam started to say something, but he furrowed his brow as if he hadn't thought of that.

“I bet you're wishing you'd summoned an heavenly escalator now,” she told him, coming cautiously forward. “Do the Eagles know you've stolen their thunder?”

“I knew you were going to make an Eagles joke, how could you not?” Sam said. “It's going to be okay, you just wait here. But if something shows up, just ... don't be heroic, okay? Take care of yourself first.”

She went on tiptoe, grabbed him by the hair and yanked him down and slammed her mouth over his; when they parted he was blinking and she said, “For luck!”

“Right.” Sam kissed her back just as suddenly, then they nodded at each other and he took a deep breath, looked up into bright white nothing and took the first step.

“Wow, this is really boring. Your path is nothing but the unending corridors of MIT?” Pamela said, walking beside Ash.

“Brain food,” Ash told her, “and we're indoors in air conditioning.”

“So that's what's important? Air conditioning?” Pamela said.

“Remind me to tell you how it won the west sometime,” Ash informed her as they rounded a corner. At the end of the hallway before them stood a man dressed in a robe and sandals. He seemed to be studying papers pinned to a billboard there, and he didn't seem to be disturbed when Ash and Pamela approached him.

“I really do understand you think this is right,” he said to them mildly as they drew near, “but even with your conviction, it's not wise to stand against that which God has created.”

“Sorry,” Pamela said, “do we know you?”

“No,” he told them, “but that isn't important. Please know that I have no wish to harm you, any of you, but the garden was not meant to be controlled by the souls which it protects. There are some places that only the angels should tread.”

“Whoa there, Grandpa, in case you haven't noticed, the angels are gone,” Pamela said, but Ash laid his hand on her arm and she looked at him and he gave a sage nod of his head.

“What my lovely companion here is saying is that the lone angel in central command kicked all the other angels out and we just want to have a friendly chat with him about maybe getting them home,” Ash said.

“That's not for you to decide,” the old man said, and he looked regretful. “I ask you now to turn back.”

“And if we don't?” Pamela asked, chin up.

The old man said nothing, but there was a pressure to the air and then there was the sound of water and it came seeping under the double doors at the end of the hall.

“You clog all the toilets?” Pamela said, “that's the threat?”

There there was a roar and a rushing sound, and Ash had just enough time to turn back, grabbing Pamela to follow him, as a wall of water came crashing into the hallway.

“This is way too easy,” Bobby said, and Cas nodded beside him. Bobby's path, much like Sam and Dean's, was a myriad of roadways he'd traveled in his life. Right now, he and Cas were in a beat up pick-up truck that Bobby had made his first parts run in, back when he was merely Singer Auto and Salvage, and Karen was waiting for him at home.

“Surely Metatron isn't as incompetent as he's leading us to believe,” Cas said, craning his head to look behind them at the empty road. “It does lend a very uneasy feeling to this journey.”

“Well, this is the last thing I thought I'd be doing in the afterlife,” Bobby said, then shook his head. “Who am I kidding? I mean, why should all the fun stop just because I'm dead. I should have known the Winchesters would find a way to make me do all the leg work here, too.”

“They are just as blessed to have you in the afterlife as they were in life,” Cas said with a nod in Bobby's direction. “I know they both carry an ache inside them, for everyone of course, but for you in particular.”

“Well, that's not a happy thought,” Bobby snorted. “I can tell you ain't the type of comforting angel.”

“No, I was more the holy wrath type,” Cas said. “We left the comforting to the angels who had been assigned that particular task.”

“Still, I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Just as Bobby said it they felt a faint rumble to the road beneath them. They both squinted out of the front window and Cas turned again to look behind them.

“You should drive faster,” Cas said. “A lot faster.”

“What? Why?” Bobby said, trying to make out what he was seeing in the rear view mirror.

“A favorite of divine justice was always the flood,” Cas told him. “It's trying to overtake us now,” he imparted as he continued to stare out the back window.

“Balls!” Bobby retorted and put the pedal to the floor.

Wondering the backroads of Jimmy's childhood was as about as exciting as it sounded. Dean suggested they find a car so he could teach Jimmy how to hotwire it, but Jimmy looked slightly scandalized so he dropped it. Instead they were walking beside a wire fence that was keeping several sleepy-looking cows at bay. They both heard something on the road in front of him. It sounded like someone riding a horse toward them and they looked at each other and stopped to see what might be heading their way. They didn't have to wait long as a lone rider on a large bay horse came galloping up and stopped just short of them and the rider dismounted, reaching up to adjust his hat before he gave the horse a fond slap on the neck and started walking their way.

Dean and Jimmy just stood there, glanced at each other once again and then back at the man that came up to them.

“You boys don't look like the sort that's out to start trouble,” John Wayne said to them, “so I guess I got to ask you what you're doing out here.”

Dean and Jimmy both experienced a little fan orgasm, and both of them scrambled to come up with the right thing to say.

“I loved you in the Sons of Katie Elder!” Dean cried just as Jimmy came out with. “I loved you in The Longest Day!”

“The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance!” Dean cried.

“They Were Expendable!” Jimmy countered.

“True Grit,” Dean said baring his teeth.

“Sands of Iwo Jima,” Jimmy said, getting in his face.

“Easy fellas, easy,” the Duke said, holding up placating hands. “I appreciate that you're fans, but that's not answering my question about what you're doing out here.”

“Oh, well,” Dean said, hesitating to come up with one of his brilliant lies because this was John Wayne, and you didn't lie to the Duke.

Jimmy, on the other hand, folded like a napkin. “We're trying to find a path to the Garden,” and he gave John Wayne big guileless eyes, because that seemed to be the primary weapon in Jimmy's arsenal.

“For sightseeing purposes,” Dean tried to weasel, “we're not looking for trouble.”

“You two fellows wouldn't be Dean Winchester and Castiel, which is a right funny name,” John Wayne said, hooking his thumbs into his belt and leveling a hard gaze at the two of them.

“Uh, on the off chance we are, what would happen?” Dean asked.

“I hate it, fellas, but if you don't turn back and go the other way, we'll have trouble. And you look like a decent sort, you said you didn't want trouble. So let's be gentlemen about this, and you two be on your way,” the Duke told them.

This sucked. Dean didn't want to fight the Duke and Jimmy would probably just throw his hands up and plead with the Duke not to hit him in the face. Fighting with the Duke in heaven had to be all sorts of not good marks on his report card. He gave a sigh.

“I can't do that,” Dean said sort of dejectedly, and then he threw a punch.

The Duke blocked it easily and threw a punch of his own which connected solidly with Dean's jaw. Jimmy stood by, eyes huge.

“Don't just stand there, run, you moron!” Dean yelled at him, even as he backed down the road with John Wayne advancing.

Jimmy needed no further prompting; he took off down the road. Dean, meanwhile, traded a few punches with a childhood idol and felt like a heel before he decided he should try to run off, too. He feigned to the right, then took off like his ass was on fire to the left and jumped the fence into the cow pasture. He heard the Duke whistle sharply behind him, and the big bay horse trotted over obediently, but instead of heading after Dean the Duke turned his horse back up the road and spurred it after Jimmy. As Dean ran across the cow pasture, he looked back just in time to see John Wayne snatch Jimmy Novak from the road and throw him over the front of his saddle.

Just fucking great.

“What is happening again?” Metatron stood in the garden, his eyes following the lines of a celestial computer system that only angels could see. Some of Joan of Arc's battalion milled around in the background touching things, and he made an impatient noise at them. It was nice of her to leave a security detail, but they were no more help than a pack of bulls in a china shop. The systems were alarmed by something happening, perhaps some breach, and he couldn't quite make out what they were trying to warn him of, just the quadrant of heaven where this supposedly not good thing was happening. It was starting to look like he might have to repopulate heaven with a few handy angels after all. This was all getting so tedious. It was then that John Wayne came in the door dragging Castiel by the elbow, and finally perhaps he could get stuff done.

“Well done Mr. Wayne, very well done,” he exclaimed. Castiel looked around nervously and it struck Metatron that he looked sort of off, like he didn't know where he was and he hadn't said anything, hadn't offered any words of defiance and condemnation and that was very much not in character. He tilted his head. “Well, what do you have to say for yourself, Castiel? You and your little human friends planning some sort of ambush? It's not like it would do you any good, you know.”

Castiel wet his lips and looked from Metatron to John Wayne and back.

“That's not what I was led to believe. You need to stop this course of action, Metatron. You cannot possibly mean to keep our brothers and sisters from their home. This was not our Father's intent,” Castiel said, in Castiel's voice. But it was just all so suspect.

“You're not Castiel,” Metatron said. “I think you're the soul of his vessel.” He saw the flinch and sighed dramatically. “I'm almost starting to regret these decisions, just ... you lot, watch him.” He waved at the soldiers nearby and two of them came forward, took the fake Castiel by his arms and marched him off into the garden, presumably to keep an eye on him.

“Nice try, Mr. Wayne, he's a slippery one. Did you happen to see Dean Winchester?” Metatron asked.

“I did. Boy took off on me and you'd said you had more interest in the other one, but give me a little time, I'll likely find him. He doesn't strike me as someone to abandon his friends,” the Duke said, looking a little impressed. Metatron rolled his eyes; he was pretty sure one of the great mysteries of this millennium would be why everyone was in love with Dean Winchester.

“As you say, just find him, bring him back here. I need to chat with him,” Metatron sighed. The Duke tipped his hat and left, and Metatron turned back to the bleeping air around him in exasperation.

The water slammed them through the double doors and then they both tumbled in opposite directions. Ash managed to grab a door jamb and push his head above water. He didn't have the air to yell Pamela's name. He held on until his fingers started to go numb, until he was sure it was hasta la vista for him but the pressure of the water began to wane, and within moments his feet hit the ground and he gasped raggedly, looking around. There was no sign of Pamela. This was very not good. This was someone knowing they were coming and sending out the posse. This was human versus angel in Heaven, and he had to face it, human wasn't the home team. But there were rules here, even if they weren't readily apparent. Heaven ran on the beauty of mathematics, and that he could get behind. He was at MIT, mathematics personified, and all he had to do was find a computer.

They ditched the truck at the edge of the trees and ran. “I can't swim!” Cas informed Bobby over the roar of the water advancing from all sides. “Then climb a damn tree!” Bobby yelled back and paused to take his own advice. He was too old for this, dead, even, but he hauled himself up, limb over limb. He glanced back to see Cas doing the same thing in a tree adjacent, in the same clumsy manner as Bobby himself. The trees shook as the wave of water hit them. He heard a groan and a tumbling crash from the road where they had left the truck. He hung on hard, wrapping his arms around the trunk as far as he could. He couldn't look back to check on Cas; he had to just hope the idjit was ok. It went on for an indeterminate amount of time. The trees shook and swayed and bent; he heard cracking all around him and screwed his eyes shut tight and then slowly, finally, the surge dissipated and he took a moment to breathe before slowly looking around. He gave a sigh of relief and sagged when he saw Cas still in his tree. They looked at each other.

“That was unpleasant,” Cas informed him. You could take the angel out of the boy, but the boy still kept all his catchphrases, it seemed.

It occurred to Sam that just setting out without proper planning might have been a bad idea. His mind skipped around to various scenarios like starving to death or oxygen deprivation, like those poor bastards on Mt. Everest. Yes, he might have been a little hasty with this venture. But it was too late now; he supposed he thought divine intervention might turn this into an escalator, but that didn't seem to be the case. He couldn't remember if Jacob actually climbed the ladder either. He might just have seen it, and he winced to think that this was something Dean was probably more versed in than he was; because Dean read it with every intention of memorizing it for his game while Sam had read it a while ago and hadn't visited it since to refresh his memory. He thought maybe Jacob just saw angels going up and down it; yeah, so if that was the case he was breaking new ground. As if being named Winchester wasn't groundbreaking enough. He wondered what Mary Patricia was doing, and why Mary Patricia was so invested; they'd barely known her a week, maybe not even that long. Mary Patricia and her accent and her red hair in a bob and her glasses; Mary Patricia and wow, what she could do with her tongue. That was talent and Sam wasn't afraid to admit it. He continued on a while with his thoughts and was looking down and studying the stairs astutely when he saw a pair of feet. He jerked his head up and there, before him stood a man. They regarded each other for a few moments. The man was dressed in what appeared to be period costume, like you would see in the movies. The shoes were ornate with a large buckle, and he wore white stockings and knee pants with the buttons. He had on a tailored coat and a vest and ruffled sleeves pocking out of the arms of his coat and all ruffles at his throat. After a while it didn't appear as if he was wearing a wig; his hair was sort of curled up on the ends. It was like looking at someone out of one of those old movies with a French setting.

“This is very unexpected,” the man said with a French accent and Sam congratulated himself on being very observant.

“Yeah I'm sure it is,” Sam told him, “uh can I ask you a question, how far is it to the top?”

The Frenchman just smiled.

Dean crashed through the trees. No reason to hold back now, the Duke had Jimmy. He ran what he thought was parallel to the road, hoping to somehow cut them off; that horse didn't look all that fast, but when he turned back in the direction he thought the road would be, he had ended up at the edge of another field. He stopped and looked around wildly. Fuck! Then he heard another body crashing through the trees and before he could react, Jo ran out of the trees into the field a few feet away.

“Fuck!” she said.

“Jo!” he yelled.

“Dean! Joan of Arc is chasing Mom and I can't find my way back,” she screamed, flapping her arms.

“John Wayne just kidnapped Jimmy and I don't know where the fuck I am either,” Dean screamed back, but refrained from the arm flapping. That was a girls and Cas thing.

The ran over to each other, grabbed each other and just stood there panting a few moments.

“You good now?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she said, “you good now?”

“I'm good.” And they released each other and looked around.

“Did you say Joan of Arc, as in, the Joan of Arc who led armies as a teenage girl?” Dean asked.

“Yeah, and did you say John Wayne as in the John Wayne, the Duke, the king of the Saturday matinee?” she asked in return.

“Yeah,” Dean grinned, “he punched me!”

“Why is it you get all the luck?” she sneered. “I want him to punch me.”

“Well, maybe we can find him and you can piss him off,” Dean offered, “you're good at pissing people off.”

“He won't punch me, I'm a girl, he has a thing you know growing up in the era of you gotta be nice to girls,” Jo sighed.

“Oh, that sucks,” Dean commiserated.

“I know, you can piss him off and duck and I'll stand right behind you,” Jo cried, “that would work, it's happened before!”

“Okay, you're on,” Dean said, “but we gotta find him and Jimmy first.”

“We gotta find my mom and Joan of Arc first. She had a sword, she punches with a sword,” Jo said with a duck of her head and a raised eyebrow.

“Ah, yeah, okay, Ellen first then,” Dean said and they turned to walk in opposite directions, then they had a squabble about it and then Dean just used height and upper body strength to overwhelm Jo's argument and dragged her along.

Ellen stayed hidden most of the day in the woods, and as it started to get dark she decided she should move. She'd managed to duck Joan of Arc, but she wasn't sure for how long. She was probably still lurking out there waiting to insult feminism and do something outrageous like try to run Ellen through with a sword. Well, Ellen wasn't having it, but still, having no weapon, it was better to hide and hope that Joan of Arc just went away, so that is what she did. She sure hoped Jo had made more progress.

She seemed to be alone; she hugged the wood line until she found a dirt road that ran alongside a small creek and she followed it. She wondered how safe Heaven would be after dar,k because it wasn't like Heaven would have anything in the dark that would be out for human blood. Well, that wasn't entirely accurate was it? She'd just met a antique woman on horseback who would have been more than happy to shed her blood and her head and other bodily parts. She wondered if dismemberment would hurt in Heaven? Overall, she wondered how this was her afterlife in Heaven: doing the same thing she'd been doing on earth. It was really a bitch if she thought about it hard enough.

It wasn't long before she happened on the outskirts of a small town; it seemed quiet enough. There were a few people about but mostly they just went about their scripted routines and paid her no mind. She'd realized as she crossed boundaries that a person's heaven was just that, one person's heaven, and the players in that heaven interacted only with the person to whom the heaven was prescribed. It was a bit irritating, but overall convenient not to have to explain herself over and over again. It was almost impossible to figure out the generator of any particular heaven; she could never guess who the main player happened to be. So she just walked, not getting tired, not getting hungry, not really registering any bodily restriction. This would have been nice to have on earth.

She kept herself from dwelling on Jo. Jo was capable and competent, fierce and brilliant, Jo was just as resourceful as Ellen had always imagined her and for a little bit that was worrisome. Was this really Jo, or an idealized Jo Ellen was creating in her own heaven? But Jo had sass and opinions and was obstinate enough to be Bill's daughter, so that gave her some comfort. If she was dreaming up a Jo to populate her heaven, she'd be a damn sight more cooperative and respectful. It was her daughter's flaws that made her believable. She kept walking, and she walked right out of night in one heaven and into the daylight in the next heaven. She should really find that more disconcerting. It was also a little strange that she happened upon a man walking on the same road. He was wearing a leather bomber jacket like that jacket of Dean's daddy's that he used to wear, and he was sporting some big eighties hair. When she got close to him he turned his head slightly, then stopped and half-turned to face her. She knew this guy. She knew him and he smiled at her when she came close enough and she came to a stop. Well, damn.

“Michael Landon?” she asked.

“Jonathan Smith,” he replied. “It looks like we're going the same way.”

“Are you sure you're not Michael Landon?” she pressed. “I was a big fan of Little House on the Prairie back in the day.” It struck her then that Michael Landon had another show, one from the eighties, one where he played an angel. No, really? Seriously? “Is this the highway to heaven?” she asked with a little grin.

“So I've been told,” he said. “There's a garden a few miles this way.” He jerked his thumb up the road. “I hear something's going on.”

“No one is going to believe me when I tell them this,” Ellen said, mostly to herself. “It just so happens I'm looking for a garden, too.”

“Come on,” he said. “The walk isn't bad, but the company is better.”

Wow, Michael Landon. She wished she had a phone with a working camera.

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