Behind the blameless trees
“Now that this has all been explained as a hypothetical scenario, General Eisenhower, I'd really like your advice.”
It was 1945 and he'd finally received word of the unconditional surrender of the Germans. He'd been appointed Military Governor of the US Occupation Forces in Frankfurt am Maim and he had yet to discover the atrocities behind the walls of such places as Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dachau. He didn't know that he never got quite that far in this loop, preferring the surrender as the happy memory.
“Air strike,” the General offered, by means of trying to politely hold up his end of the conversation, all the while wishing this annoying little man would leave. Whose bright idea was it to give him an appointment anyways? “I'm very busy, Marv, and I really don't have time to play at war when I'm actively in one,” he said gruffly.
“Completely understandable, which is why I'll be taking my leave. It was a pleasure talking to you,” Marv said, levering himself up out of his chair. The General would have said something in parting, but suddenly the man was just gone. Very odd, but thoughts of his next action as newly appointed governor swept the concern away.
There were noises outside the warehouse and Mary Patricia briefly considered fleeing as Sam had told her, but no, she couldn't do that. There wasn't much in the way of weapons here, but she found a busted piece of two by four that was maybe two by one now and gripped it tightly in her hands. She watched the door at the end of the warehouse swing open slowly, and she looked at the very obvious staircase to Heaven there in the middle of the abandoned structure and figured there was no way to really talk around this. She licked her lips and crouched by the circle because the circle was important and she didn't want Sam to fall a million stories to his death, she really didn't, she sort of liked him.
She heard voices now, quiet voices, and that told her there were more than one of whoever was lurking out there. Then a figure appeared in the doorway and stepped cautiously inside. After a few more steps in, she noticed the figure was a woman, not very tall, hair pulled back in a ponytail and wearing normal sorts of clothing. Nothing looked spooky or demony or scary about her at all. In fact, Mary Patricia sort of liked the jean jacket she was wearing and her pointy-toed boots. Maybe she was just lost or something. Then another figure slipped in after her, and another. These were men, and again, they looked rather normal, but she gripped her piece of wood even tighter. Now she could hear them speaking better, but she still didn't know what they were saying because they were speaking something that sounded a lot like a lot of short random words. Then one of the men headed right for her and the other two started as they saw her and the woman trotted forward too, laying a hand on the man's arm and pulling him to a halt.
“Is this your spell, human?” the man said angrily and the woman made a shushing sound and stepped in front of him.
“We mean you no harm,” she said, “but tell me, how has this come to be?” She looked up at the staircase rather reverently.
“Uh, a Winchester,” Mary Patricia ventured, figured a little name-dropping might help.
“Winchester?” The man spat and clenched his fists. Behind him the other man laid a hand on his shoulder.
“That's enough, Barakiel,” the woman said, “and strangely, it's not a surprise. Please don't be afraid. I am Alat, and these are my brothers, Barakiel and Chayo. We were pulled here by this anomaly.”
“Why should humans have access to what we are denied?” Barakiel insisted. “It's not right!”
“Brother,” Chayo said behind them, “please try to be calm and hear what the human has to say.”
“My name is not 'human', you know, it's Mary Patricia,” Mary Patricia said, standing up straight now but not letting go of her piece of wood. “Look, I'm very new to all this business and if you'd like my honest opinion I'd just rather have never know, but, since I'm here now and this is what it is, I want you to know you can't mess with this stuff because it might make this stairway go away and there is a Winchester up there, and if he goes splat, the other one will be very, very cross.”
“We've no intention of disrupting anything,” Alat said. She then nodded to Chayo who pulled out a cell phone and stepped away from the little group and began making phone calls. “We'd like to determine if it is a way to get into heaven. Would you allow us the opportunity?”
“Why? I mean why should I let you, how do I even know who you are?” Mary Patricia said, feeling very uneasy in her role as authoritarian; but Sam had left her in charge so in charge she would be.
“I regret I no longer have wings to show you,” the woman said with a small, sad smile. “But I can still perform some minor miracles? Would something of that nature suffice?”
Mary Patricia looked slowly from her to the very uptight man and to the man on the cell phone, then back to her.
“What? You're saying you're angels? Like angels from heaven?” Mary Patricia narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “Okay, make with the miracle and we'll talk.”
“Perhaps you would like a break,” said the Frenchman. He then stopped, turned and sat on one of the stairs, and looked up at Sam expectantly.
Sam paused, looked up at the vast stairway before him stretching up out of sight, and sighed. He turned and sat himself, clasping his hands between his knees. The Frenchman had been infuriatingly vague about answering any questions and had only been walking along beside Sam, making light small talk, for the last half hour or so. Sam could no longer see the bottom of the stairs and he felt uncomfortably in the middle of nowhere in mid-air. That could be trouble later. He gave a start when he noticed the stairs had started to move, more or less like a celestial escalator. He turned to the Frenchman and the man merely smiled at him and gave a little shrug.
“This way, time won't be lost while we have a break,” the man said and Sam started to thank him but he held up his hand. “Do not be so hasty, my friend, for there are things I must ask of you. Surely you didn't think passage to heaven would be open to just anyone?”
“I wasn't even sure the crazy ass spell would work,” Sam said with a snort, “and I guess I'm not the most likely candidate to get into heaven; but I'm game, so shoot.”
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,” the frenchman said and smiled. “That was Mark Twain.”
Sam gave a half-laugh. “I feel like I should be quoting back to you, but that's what my brother does with Cas. It's surprising how good he is at it.” Sam rubbed the back of one of his hands with the thumb of the other.
“What is it you will do when you reach Heaven?” the Frenchman asked. “I ask more out of curiosity then a need to know; many people make this journey, but very, very few do it with a purpose. Most people find themselves here, as you know, when their earthly bodies give out.” He gave Sam's arm a solid pat. “You still seem to have many years left, so, you don't undertake this journey for the peace of salvation. And more notably, you take this journey by ladder, which is a seldom used route. There was a time it was exclusively for angels, but so few of them think they need contemplation nowadays; and well, there are none of them left. So, I'm glad for the company of someone who plans a return visit to earth, or at least that's my presumption.”
“So you're not an angel,” Sam said. “I wasn't sure and I'm not sure if it's rude to ask.”
“I'm not an angel,” the frenchman said, “I am a ferryman. Before you ask, a ferry doesn't have to be by boat over water; a ferry is passage at its root and I am here to make sure the passengers find their way. It's Heaven's policy that if you manage to seek a way in, at least you get there. No guarantee you can stay, but they are not my rules.”
“Long story short, my brother was taken to Heaven, probably against his will, and I'm trying to get him back,” Sam said and shrugged. “We are probably the only two people I know who want a way out of Heaven.”
“Well, I see,” the Frenchman said, “it's not a light thing when a living soul is taken to heaven, but then again, things around here have been very odd lately. So a selfless pursuit of your brother with no thought other than that; it rings of a just cause and that's my only test. I'm not here to judge, merely to ferry. I've done nothing but ferry for the entirety of my existence.”
“So do we get to ride the whole way to heaven? And uh, how long does it take?” Sam tried again, hoping that now that they were chatting he might get some actual information.
“As long as it needs to take,” the frenchman said pleasantly. “Tired of my company already? I could be a more demanding person and exact a toll from you; but that is in another incarnation, a less pleasant one, and sometimes I prefer being more benevolent as it were.”
Sam dug in his pockets. He had half a roll of butter rum Life Savers, a demon slaying knife, a compass, a pocket knife, a stray bullet, twenty-seven cents in change and some lint. He took a life saver, offered one to the frenchman who took it politely.
“Good enough?” Sam asked. “Wasn't that in ancient Greece? A coin in the mouth to pay the ferryman Charon to take you across the river Styx?”
“Oh yes, and if you were unburied or if you didn't have a coin you had to wander the shores for a hundred years before a tribunal was called to see if you were permitted passage.” The frenchman shrugged, “All very complicated and boring if you ask my opinion; but I was only doing my job.”
“Charon was the ferryman for Hell,” Sam said, raising an eyebrow. “Are you telling me you are a double agent?”
“Creatures like me really don't pick sides, we just do,” the ferryman said.
“Like independent contractors,” Sam said. “So, in theory you can be negotiated with by mortals?”
“I do like butter rum Life Savers,” the ferryman said.
Up, go up, go up. She managed to hang onto a stair railing and as the water gave way a bit, she got her feet on the steps and up and up she went until she hit the roof, she collapsed there, panting. Fuck, you weren't supposed to have to be physically assertive in heaven. Did they just make this shit up as they went along? Apparently so! Pamela pushed her wet hair out of her face and looked down at the parking lot full of red Corvettes. Really, Ash, really? She shook her head. Still, she didn't know where she was and hanging around here didn't seem to be a good plan. She located a maintenance ladder that took her down to the next level and she was able to get in through an access door. She cautiously walked the wet corridors until she found the steps to the ground level. Then she was out, across the parking lot and driving a red Corvette away from nerd central. It wasn't long before she spotted two figures walking along the side of the road. When she slowed down she saw one of them was Ellen and the other was a man who looked vaguely familiar, but whom she couldn't quite place.
“Going my way?” she called out after she rolled down the window. “It's a bitch it's a two seater, you comfortable riding in his lap?”
Ellen pulled the car door open, and turned to look at her traveling companion, but he just smiled and gave a little wave and continued walking. She shrugged and hopped in with Pamela.
“Where do you think we should be heading?” Pamela asked as they started to pull away.
“Hell if I know. That way,” she pointed straight ahead, “and open this baby up, I've always wanted to see what they'd do when you floored them.”
Jimmy sat hugging his knees while a group of men wearing armor milled around in a small clearing. They didn't pay him much attention after dumping him to sit on the ground. The didn't restrain him, check him for weapons or even speak to him. It was clear they didn't consider him a threat. Every so often he would scoot back just a little; no one seemed to mind. The men spoke among themselves in French. They looked battle-scarred and worn and not the type to be happy to be asked to babysit. That at least seemed to be to his advantage. They were too good to mind a prisoner, and so said prisoner kept scooting back until he could duck under the bush, and then he crept away. He never even heard one of them voice an alarm about his absence. He spent some time crawling under thick bushes and ducking tangled limbs and vines. It was so easy to get lost in this dense growth and the thick miasma that seemed to hang over it. When he finally found a small clearing, he got to his feet and brushed off his knees and palms. There were still no alarms, no voices shouting to announce his escape: it all felt a little lackluster and he was sort of disappointed not to be a proper fugitive. Still, from the confused way Metatron had mumbled to himself and the restless milling of the soldiers, it didn't seem there was really any proper organization. Not that he thought that was a particular advantage, power unchecked was just as bad as power with proper control in the right circumstances. There was no one here to see that balance, and it made him uneasy. He picked his way down what seemed to be a path and blundered into a cascade of colored blooms, colors of every description, pedals of all shapes and sizes.
He stood there stunned for a few moments, turning a slow circle, trying to take it all in with just his eyes and knowing that would never be enough. It was then he noticed the pricking along his spine, the fine hairs on the back of his neck itching; almost as if something were seeking his attention. He tried to pick a direction but doubted his own intuition in the decision, so the path of sorts became the only alternative, and he decided to stick with it and made his way slowly back into the canopy of trees and vines. It wasn't long before he came upon gently flowing water, a small stream with a defined embankment. There, just on the other side of the stream was a sturdy flowering bush. The flowers were heavily hanging downward trumpets, slender and white, almost glowing. Jimmy remembered flowers like this back home. One of his neighbors had a few of the towering plants in his back yard; they'd just called them trumpet trees for lack of the proper name. He took a few steps away, still looking toward the bush when the flowers on the bush all lifted and turned in his direction. Jimmy was sure the flowers on the bushes at home had never done such a thing. A very odd feeling settled over him, something like recognition, and he stood in a small daze of confusion, not knowing why he had this odd feeling or what it actually meant. He felt uncomfortable that a bush was apparently staring at him. He tried moving a little further away and the flowers turned with him. The feeling intensified and he slowly walked back up the embankment to stand directly opposite the bush. He sat then, absently pulling off his socks and shoes, rolling his pants up, wondering why he was bothering to do this, but just accepting that this was his way of coping with a fantastical situation. There was nothing about this that wasn't a conjecture of impossibility. He was dead and in Heaven and briefly held prisoner by a mad angel who had ejected all the other angels from Heaven. He was indirectly helping an angel who was pretty much the cause of his demise alongside a still living human hunter and really, what could sitting down and taking off his socks and shoes and rolling up his pants to cross a stream do to cancel out any of that? But somehow, it did, and he waded carefully across the stream, feet feeling out the smooth stones and sand until he stood directly below the bush, looking up at it. The bush let down its flowers to drape over his head and his shoulder and suddenly he knew why it recognized him.
The frenchman furrowed his brow, looked down the steps behind them and tilted his head.
“We are going to have company,” he said, patting Sam's arm.
“What, something is coming up the ladder?” Sam turned around. He tried to peer down the way they'd come, but could see nothing.
“Very many somethings, all with great haste,” the Frenchman said, turning to continue on, “it's probably best not to worry about it.”
Sam reluctantly turned to follow.
Mary Patricia was losing count and she couldn't keep up with the names. Amabriel, Myhel, Bohel, Phannel, all these 'el' things seem to run together. Finally there had been a Dumah and it was odd that one she could remember. But as soon as Alat had taken the first cautious step onto the ladder, they began pouring in from every where. Alat called it a garrison and Mary Patricia certainly hoped Sam wouldn't be very angry with her, there was really little she could do to stop them and after all, weren't angels supposed to be in Heaven? The minor miracle had turned out to be turning her bottle of water into a nice, crisp chardonnay and she did recall somewhere in the Bible that turning water into wine was a miracle. For some other odd reason she had 'When the Saints Come Marching in' stuck in her head, too. Seemed somehow appropriate.
Bobby and Cas both turned their heads to look over their shoulders at the roar of an engine and both scrambled off the road just in time for a cherry red Corvette to come hurtling past them. It hit the brakes and fishtailed in the road, coming to a stop a few yards away and throbbing with intent and power. The window rolled down and Pamela stuck her head out.
“Hey!” She called and waved, “Sorry for almost hitting you,” she supplied. Ellen then popped up over the roof, having climbed out her window to sit on the door.
“What in blue tarnation are you two doing in that thing?” Bobby asked. He and Cas walked over to the car.
“Seeing how fast we could go,” Pamela told him. “We can go pretty damn fast.”
“I can see that,” Bobby said, “but it's a damn two-seater.”
“There's the trunk,” Ellen said with a shrug. “You're already dead, not like you're going to suffocate.”
“I don't care to spoon with Cas,” Bobby said with a snort. “Trunk in this thing is gonna be tiny.”
Ellen grinned as Cas squinted at Bobby, then looked the car over. “This would be a much faster transport,” Cas said slowly, “I don't mind spooning for the cause.”
“Well I do,” Bobby sputtered. “Ellen Harvelle, you got a problem with my lap?”
“Not at all,” Ellen said, climbing out of the car altogether and opening the door.
Pamela looked at Cas and gave a shrug. “Guess you get to be the body in the trunk,” she said, hitting the lever to pop it open. Cas went to inspect the trunk, then Bobby came to give him a little shove and remind him it was for the cause, and they got him in and shut the lid and Ellen punched Bobby in the arm as he climbed into the car. She squeezed in, arranging herself in his lap and he shut the door. Then Pamela gave them a grin and a low whistle and floored it, and they all ignored the thump of something hitting the panel behind their seats.
Jo looked out across the field they were walking through, raised her hand to shield her eyes and pointed.
“Hey, is that a red Corvette?” She asked Dean and he paused and similarly shielded his eyes to look.
“Yeah,” Dean said, “and it is hauling ass,” and without a moment's hesitation, he took off toward the fence. Jo yelped behind him and ran to catch up. Dean scrambled over it, stopped to help Jo and they made it to the side of the road just after the car roared by. Dean ran out into the middle of it, waved his arms and jumped up and down.
“How do we know who that is?” Jo asked him, then heard the car brake hard, rev up and suddenly shudder into reverse. It came backing down the road toward them almost as fast as it had gone by them.
“It's a red Corvette in Heaven, Jo,” Dean answered, “it has to be somebody kick-ass.”
The Corvette stopped a little ways from them and Ellen stuck her head out the window. “Joanna-Beth!” she said.
“Hey, you were right!” Jo said, trotting for the car. Dean followed her over. Jo hugged her mother through the window and Dean leaned an arm on the roof to peer inside.
“Damn, Bobby, you have skills I didn't know you had,” Dean grinned. Bobby snorted, Ellen frowned and Pamela grinned.
“Uh, where's Cas?” Dean asked next. The last he knew Bobby had paired up with Cas for the trip to the garden.
“He's in the trunk,” Pamela said and hit the lever to pop it open. “He's been rattling around back there, see if he's okay.”
“The trunk?” Dean said, pushing off and heading back that way, “You put him in the trunk?” he asked, all offended on Cas' behalf.
“It's a two-seater!” Ellen called after him.
Dean pushed the trunk up and Cas blinked up at him, curled up and hugging his knees. “Hello, Dean,” he said gravely, like he wasn't playing body in the trunk of a red Corvette on a road in Heaven.
“Hey, Cas,” Dean said, then he leaned down, kissed the side of Cas' head, and Cas made a huff. “What? Are you still pissed at me?”
“Are you asking if I still wish for you to return to Earth? If that is what you mean, then yes, I'm still pissed at you,” Cas said, squinting up at him.
So Dean shut the trunk and came back to the door. “He's fine,” he told the others, “but how are Jo and I going to get in this thing? Trunk is all taken up with just one pissy ex-angel.”
“I can probably get on that little shelf under the back window,” Jo volunteered, so Bobby and Ellen got out and Jo climbed in and managed to wedge herself onto the tiny shelf. She gave them a strained smile and a thumbs-up. “Okay, not so great, but I'm dead, right? Doesn't matter.” So Bobby and Ellen got back in and Dean stood there blinking at them.
“You could ride on the trunk,” Pamela suggested.
“Or, since you and Cas are sweet on each other, you could try squeezing into the trunk with him,” Bobby said. “That seems safer, not that means anything up here.” So they opened the trunk again and Cas scowled up at Dean and Bobby and Ellen. Then Dean started to try and squeeze into the trunk with him and Cas made a lot of stilted protests and squirmed.
“Quit yer bitchin',” Bobby told him, and Ellen made an exasperated sound and reached into the trunk to help push Dean in, and finally, somehow they made it work. No one was sure how, and Bobby could no longer look at them, and Ellen grinned, gave them a thumbs up and shut the trunk. Then she and Bobby got back in the car and shut the door.
“This has got to be the most expensive clown car ever,” Jo said from her shelf. “Too bad there isn't any Guinness book of World Records up here, six people in a two-seater.”
“Let's find this Metatron and kick his ass before we pick up more hitchhikers,” Bobby groused, “and I haven't failed to notice someone lost Jimmy. And just where is Ash?”
Pamela gave them a tight smile, then floored it.
There was darkness in the trunk, and the sounds of heavy breathing and not enough room to do much but just lie there, or, well, that's at least what Cas thought.
“What are you doing with your hand?” he asked abruptly. “I don't think that's appropriate given the current situation.”
“There isn't anywhere else to put it,” Dean said behind him, “and it's not like you complained before.”
“I'm still 'pissed' at you, remember? You shut the trunk lid on me out of spite.” Cas grumbled and tried to squirm, but it was impossible. “I'm not amused, Dean, you shouldn't be … oh …”
“See? Why are you complaining? It's like the grand last night on Earth gesture,” Dean said, licking at the back of Cas' neck.
“We're not on Earth, and that is touchy subject right now, so just stop.” Cas managed to move his hand enough to swat at Dean's hand. Dean sighed and stilled all motion, but kept his nose pressed to the back of Cas' neck.
“You shouldn't be here,” Cas pressed.
“Don't start, I am, and there isn't anything to be done about it now. Let it go, Cas, as if I'd let you do this alone. And don't say you're not alone because of the mod squad we got going on here, you know what I mean.” Dean snorted against Cas' neck and Cas twitched. “Just let me be stupidly in love with you, can you do that?”
“So my gestures of stupid love are somehow less notable then your own?” Cas said, snippy. “Not wanting you to be absorbed is less championing the cause of stupid love then throwing yourself headlong into danger with a gang of friends who are already dead? I'm supposed to be your equal now, Dean. We're humans together, so I get to make the same grand, heedlessly noble, stupidly in love gestures as you do!”
Dean started laughing. His whole body shook with it and he tried to pull Cas closer, as if that was even possible, and Cas felt the corners of his mouth twitch up. One of the highlights of Cas' human existence had been Dean's laughter.
“It isn't funny,” Cas grumbled because that was what he did in these situations. The grumpier he was, the more of Dean's laughter he was rewarded with.
“Yes, it is,” Dean sputtered. Then he pushed his head forward and nosed Cas' ear and Cas tried to push him off and they kept at it a moment. Then they both just lay there in the moment.
“You know we can keep going on with our 'don't want to lose you's' until we're blue in the face,” Dean said quietly. “The whole point is we have to stick with each other. We always have, good or bad. You know it and I know, we're not what we used to be, we're this now: useless without each other. Maybe that's not right or healthy or whatever, but I'm done Cas, I'm done doing it alone. So either I'm here with you or you're there with me or we both cease to exist. You're not going to talk me out of it, either, so just accept it.” Dean pressed a kiss then against Cas' ear.
Cas had a hand on Dean's arm around him and he rubbed it. “Fine,” he said in his best, offended, snotty voice. He only did it for Dean's benefit, to let Dean have his little victory. Cas wasn't sure how Dean didn't know he always had his victory and Cas would do anything for his happiness.
“Thank you, baby,” Dean said, surprising Cas with sincerity. “It makes me feel good to know you can't live without me, either.”
“Well, we're both unhealthy messes,” Cas grumbled, “and when we go back home we'll let Sam lecture us on it.”
Dean groaned behind him.
He wasn't sure how long he stood there, letting Cas' grace sooth over him in the form of flowers. It was so peaceful here, so lulling in its serenity that Jimmy almost made the decision to never leave. But he couldn't do that; his heart knew what he had to do. He lifted one hand, palm up, and one of the flowers laid across it gently. He curled his fingers around it and plucked it from the bush.
The frenchman stopped Sam with a hand on his arm. Sam turned instinctively to see the figures coming up the ladder behind them at a jog.
“Who are they?” he asked, tensing up, this could be fight or flight. The first one to come close to them was a woman with long brown hair in a pony tail. She stopped, held up her hand, and the signal traveled down the line. Sam wet his lips, found his voice. “Are you angels?” he asked because he couldn't think of what else to say.
“Mary Patricia has changed us with your care, Sam Winchester,” the woman said. “I am Alat, these are members of my garrison,” she gestured behind her. “We would like you to lead us home.”
How insane this was, how not too long ago he had housed the antithesis of everything they stood for, everything they were? “Me, really? You do know who I am?” he said cautiously. He supposed this was a big risk, because how could they not know and he wondered what it would be like to fall from the ladder, how far down it might be if they decided to take that route.
“Did you not sacrifice yourself and all that you were to cage the Devil?” Alat said, with a slight tilt of her head. Sam's eyebrows rose a little in surprise and he nodded slightly.
“I don't know what you think of the rest of us,” Alat said, “but that's good enough for me, lead on.”
When Sam turned, the frenchman was gone, but he squared his jaw and led them on.
A second flower lowered to his hand, so Jimmy picked it.
The last straw was of course when he felt the tiny tug of his spell, the loosening of it, like a spool of thread sat on the table untethered. How the coils would just slowly, gently unwind and sag. How? How was this possible? All he wanted was peace and quiet and the tranquility of his home without the machinations of his siblings. He might understand a bit better now the subtle blind panic that had overtaken the archangels when their Father left; it really was a floundering sensation to have sudden responsibility. He tugged absently on the zipper of the sweater his vessel habitually wore. He looked around at the French soldiers with disinterest. Something was off. He squinted for a moment, trying to place what was supposed to be there; something that had been there before. Then it dawned on him.
“Where is the soul you were supposed to be watching?” he asked them slowly. The nearest soldier also looked around with disinterest, interrupted from his card game, and shrugged.
Metatron set his jaw. This was really starting to get out of hand. Maybe it was time he did something more drastic.
Ash found a way in through a back door, metaphorically speaking. There were no weak links in heavenly software, but there were rather glaring loopholes if you knew where to look; once he had a tentative access to the endless waves of intent that might not be there anymore, he looked for residual trails to follow. Nothing as powerful and universally connected as an angel left no trace of itself behind, and all the traces left behind from thousands of angels were a significant amount indeed. There were mostly flat lines on the actual monitoring systems now: nothing to monitor with no angels tromping around heaven, so instead he started trying to worm his way into the system that tracked souls. That was his intention until there was suddenly a huge fucking blip of motion, of detection. He backtracked to get a bearing on it, to try to figure out this surge of energy. It was so vivid and so right there all of a sudden where there had been nothing, and he looked at the huge wave of energy ghosting across the screen. The system didn't seem alarmed, it didn't ping, it didn't shriek; it just calmly spewed out a steady string of Enochian, computing along its merry way. Specs, there had to be specifications for this sort of energy mirage; the system just found a way around it, as if it was a common occurrence. So, it wasn't something that was out of the ordinary, it was something commonplace in heaven, it was something … holy shit, it was an angel and to the best of Ash's knowledge there was only one remaining angel in heaven and he was looking at its true form. Like there, all of a sudden, manifested and for some reason that made Ash all sorts of worried and uncomfortable. Time to find some particular human souls, and fast.
They ran out of road. There was simply no more road there. Pamela stared at the dense foliage ahead and gripped the steering wheel tightly, leaning forward a little.
“I appreciate the fact we're all dead,” Ellen spoke up, “but honey, dead or not, I don't want to wrap this little red death trap around a tree.”
“I'm with her,” Bobby said.
“Maybe if we all believe hard enough,” Jo piped up from her position crammed against the back window, “we can drive through the trees.”
“Don't start that,” Ellen said. “This wishing up stuff in Heaven always seems to work but not really work the way you want it to. Let's get out and see if Cas and Dean are still decent in the trunk.”
Bobby groaned at that, but they piled out of the car and pulled Jo from the car, then Pamela popped the trunk and Cas and Dean blinked up at them in confusion. Bobby still couldn't look at them, especially not now that Dean had his hands up Cas' shirt.
“Hey, enough of that,” Ellen groused and slapped at Dean's hands. Then she and Jo grabbed Cas and pulled him up enough so he could fall out of the trunk and they let Dean unfold himself and flail around to get out of the trunk on his own.
Once Dean was out and upright and smoothed down and Cas had his shirt mostly buttoned they all stood and stared at the forest in front of them.
“So now we go hiking?” Dean said. “Is this the garden?” He turned to look at Cas who by all logical means ought to be considered the heavenly authority on these things.
“It appears to be the outskirts,” Cas said slowly. “I suppose hiking is in order.”
“Great,” Pamela said, “I got on boots with heels. It amazes me that this shit still matters in heaven.” She went to lean against the Corvette's hood and pull them off to see if something could be done, and just then the Corvette's radio screeched to staticky life and white noise. They all turned to look at it, and a voice broke over the airwaves.
“Dudes, I got some bad news,” the radio spit at them, “the only angel is heaven is wearing his angel suit again, and by that I mean he's like powered up, like going from a semi-truck to Optimus Prime. This is like bad for you soul types and for that one still alive type we got with us.”
“Ash?” Pamela called, ducking down to stick her head in the window. “You okay?”
“Yeah, good to hear your voice, glad you didn't go down the drain, was that a rush or what?” the radio said.
Ellen pushed her head in on the other side. “What was that? We got trouble heading our way?”
“I'm all hacked into the heavenly wide web and I got a handle on how to track things. This giant energy blip on my radar is heading your way,” he supplied. “I think some running and hiding might be in order.”
“Wait,” Ellen said, “how'd you find us?”
“Well, that's sort of the other bad thing,” Ash sighed out, “you got a beacon with you, sort of alive and righteous? He's sort like a blip on a cellular tower and I'm thinking if I can see him, other things can see him, too.”
“Fuck,” Ellen muttered, and Bobby, who'd come to stand beside her, swore softly under his breath.
Dean had crowded in beside Pamela and he looked at Ellen across the car, jaw set. “I think that just gave us a plan,” he said, pulling out and straightening up. “Makes me the head honcho of decoys. I go left, you guys go right and try to get to the nerve center.”
“Hang on a second,” Bobby said, also straightening up to look at Dean over the top of the car. “Let's not get too hasty.”
“Hasty is about all you got,” Ash stressed, “it's moving fast.”
“There isn't any time for this,” Dean shot back. “If we got a shot on this then we got to take it.” He looked at Jo and she smiled at him a little. “I'm surrounded by people who gave their all when it was needed and I'm not going to do any less. I can take the car and buy you some time, lead him the other way.”
“And if he catches you?” Bobby snorted, jaw tight, “what then?”
“If I'm coming to Heaven when I bite it then I'm already here,” Dean said. “So in my opinion it's not a big risk.”
“Unless he just absorbs you,” Cas said behind him, “drains your soul's energy and incorporates it into his own, then you cease to exist entirely.”
“Okay, so Cas sees an alternative ending that I didn't want to think about, go Cas. The fact remains it's the only plan we got!” Dean slapped the hood for emphasis.
“Better make with the plan,” Ash's voice cut across the static, “because you guys should be feeling something by now.”
No sooner had Ash said it, then a sudden stillness seem to overtake them. This feeling of electricity just under the edge of your skin radiating in all directions. The feeling of vastness behind you, and Dean thought, hysterically for a moment, this must have been how that guy in Jurassic Park felt when the tyrannosaurus rex was looming behind him before eating him off the toilet. Not the way Dean Winchester wanted to go.
“Balls,” Bobby growled and grabbed Ellen's arm,”them's what's coming, get in the woods!” Pamela looked at Dean a long moment then turned away, followed by Jo. Cas just stood there.
“You got to go with them,” Dean said, yanking the door of the Corvette open, not looking at Cas directly. “I mean it, Cas, get a move on.”
“I know what I have to do,” Cas responded. “Allow me a moment to look at you and pray I see you again.”
“Hey, if you get home before me, I mean back to the bunker, I put a song on your iPod,” Dean said gruffly, sliding into the car and shutting the door. “On that list you got on it called 'Dean'. You really rival Samantha in girlness, you know that?”
“I'm not going to the bunker without you,” Cas started.
“The fuck you aren't, Sammy will need someone one if this goes south, I'm counting on you.” Dean looked at him.
“We're in this together.” Cas echoed Dean's words from earlier. “Together, Dean.”
Dean cranked the car, looked at him again with a small, sad smile. “Whatever it takes, Cas,” he said, and he threw the car into reverse, spun in on the road and floored it in the opposite direction. He kept his eyes on Cas' figure in the rear view until it disappeared.
Sam passed through a barrier. He felt it in every bone in his body and for a moment it was like walking through mud. The stairs beneath his feet gave way to grass and he stopped and looked around for a moment. Was this it? Was this Heaven? He turned back to look at the angels behind him. They were all standing on the stairs, and Sam walked back over, feeling the push again and stood on the top step.
“This is it,” he said. “So now what? Seems to be some kind of barrier here I have to push through.”
“I suppose we see if we can just walk into Heaven,” Alat said, she took a deep breath. “This vessel, her name is Sissy Guthrie.” She looked at Sam's questioning look. “She had no reason to allow me use of her body, but she took pity on me and helped me when I was alone and naked and fallen to Earth. Humans have such generous spirits, it makes me pause, is all, and I just wanted you to know her name. It seems I've grown a sentimentality since walking the Earth; a greater appreciation of my Father's creations. I guard a Hall, Samuel. I stand at its entrance with no knowledge of the passage of time and I watch the stewards run their errands. It's very peaceful. You have to realize I have not been on Earth in a very long time. I suppose I'm babbling because I don't know if I'll pass through the barrier and stand on the grounds of my home once again, or if the spell will disperse me or fling me back to earth, a trip I'm not sure I have enough strength to survive again; let alone Sissy Guthrie.”
Sam stood there a moment, tilted his head. “I don't think the spell works like that. I mean, if you were all flung from Heaven, and fell to earth, then it fulfilled its function, right? I mean, how would you be expected to get back other than how humans get here, you know, by death? That makes sense.”
There was quiet muttering amongst them now and Alat held up her hand. She nodded to one of the others with her and took a step up to stand beside Sam.
“You go ahead,” she told him, “that way if something does happen you won't be caught in it.”
Sam nodded, stepped through again and waited just on the other side. Alat took a deep breath, rolled her head on her shoulders and putting a hand up before her, stepped forward. Sam, on impulse, reached out and grabbed her hand, pulled her through and they stood blinking at each other on the other side.
Sam grinned and then they had to jump back as the other angels began to pour through.