The road home was longer than leaving; the calmness that they experienced on the way to the Singer's was long gone. The world had erupted since they'd hid underground, bodies were strewn about the roads and landscapes as if cities had been raided and the inhabitants were flown through the countryside in a hurricane.
Jet kept his gaze inside the car; he didn't look out the windows or focus on the road for the longest time. He didn't know how he'd handle it if he did. But how could he avoid it? Every glance toward someone else, looking over at Sam or Meg in the back, or even at John and Mary - he'd look toward a window. The sky above hadn't calmed down, he felt like he was jumping at shadows and it really started to piss him off.
But more than that he worried for his mom, the first few hours he heard nothing from her and it made him sick. Jet's mind was running a mile a minute, Sam smiled at him every time he looked to his right and Meg didn't bother giving an expression other than slightly annoyed. She was really put out by doing whatever it was Cas asked of her. But if Cas trusted her then he'd have to try and do the same.
"Hey," Jet felt he needed to say something; an hour of silence in the car was making him feel like he might vomit again.
"What?" Meg asked shortly, her eyes nearly rolled out of her head, he could've sworn.
"What are you?" He asked again, she'd never really answered, though last time he wasn't the kindest of people.
She held his gaze for several seconds before saying anything, "A demon." Her tone was a bit softer, as if she expected a lot of backlash for the words leaving her mouth.
"But you aren't doing what they're doing, so… what are you up to?" He did his best to keep a level head. Freaking out wouldn't help him, it wouldn't help Dean or Cas, and it wasn't going to get him in contact with his mom so why bother? All it'd get him would be a punch in the face or something equally as painful, maybe a panic attack.
"I'm Cas' friend, unfortunately." Meg laughed at herself and shook her head, "He's one of a kind and he's completely insane. I'm doing this because I like his dumbass and I'd rather be on his side than my father's."
"Your dad's a demon too, I take it?" John asked, kind of stupidly but Jet didn't say anything.
"Uh…" Meg looked at Jet for an answer as to whether or not John Winchester was serious. Jet had to nod his head, yes he was. Sarcasm had fled from her tone for a few seconds as she nodded at his gaze in the rear-view mirror, "Yeah, he is. His name is Azazel and he's the one who's been in charge of finding Castiel since day one."
Jet looked at her seriously again, Cas trusted her but she could just as easily stab him in the back, right? But she would've done that already…
His trail of thought was pushed aside when Sam leaned around him again, "Thanks for helping him instead," Sam smiled at her honestly, "we all appreciate it."
"You're welcome," she sounded content with that, like Sam was the best person in the car other than herself. "My dad's gonna be waiting for Castiel to come back up, if he ever does. In the meantime Earth is a playing ground; demons can roam freely from Hell to here with no angelic interference."
"What are Cas' odds of getting out?" Sam asked ahead of anyone else.
"Honestly I don't know. At this point in time it's all down to faith. Cas is an angel; I don't know what level of angel he is but he's gotta be something special. I think he'll make it." Meg's hands were clenched tightly in her lap and she looked out the window again. Jet didn't know what to say to her, his eyes followed her gaze and looked out at the land around them.
Castiel and Dean were going through something he'd never know, seeing and sensing things he was blessed enough to never experience. What had happened to him, what he'd been through seemed small in comparison.
His thoughts were cut short when his cell phone rang. Jet's heart jumped into his throat as he dug it out of his pocket, all eyes on him with hopes of it being Dean or Cas. He looked at the call display, "Oh my god-" answering immediately he couldn't control the anxiety in his voice, "Mom!? Are you okay?"
"Jet, sweetheart I'm fine. Are you alright? Are you safe?"
"Yeah," he felt his voice getting choked up and tears welled behind his eyes. "I'm okay, safe is a bit of a stretch but I'm alive. How was-"
"Don't even ask, kiddo." She laughed; it made him feel a lot better to hear it. "Where are you now?"
"Heading back home, we went to South Dakota and were in a bunker during the uh… start of the apocalypse? I dunno what to call that." Jet noticed everyone else wasn't quite as happy as he was, it wasn't Cas or Dean but they were relieved that Nikki was okay. "Where are you?"
"Doing the same, long road trip on a road that's not all there."
"We'll meet up once we all get to town," he insisted, accepting the relief that washed his nerves and cleaned them.
"That sounds like a plan," she paused for a second and he waited for her, "I love you, Jet. I don't know what happened to you today but I love you."
She could tell, whatever was in his voice or mind or words or anything else - she could tell. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back, hoping that would deter any tears from pushing out. "I love you too, I'll see you soon." Please let me see her soon. He wasn't sure who he was begging but it was a necessary thought.
"See you soon." The line clicked softly and that was it. Jet held the phone to his ear for a little longer and dropped a hand over his eyes. He hadn't realized just how worried about her he was, how much his mind felt like it was cracking under pressure.
"It's okay," Sam slid a hand behind his shoulders and moved around him for a hug. Jet scoffed through a sob and a laugh, his mouth pulled tight and he felt like he was smiling.
"She's okay," he laughed and let Sam drag him over for the embrace, "my mom's okay."
"Thank god," Mary whispered and looked out the window, her hand pushed up into her hair. John didn't say anything and neither did Meg.
Castiel noticed that every second he thought that his ears were used to the noise it got worse. The pain would renew itself, perhaps in invisible moments of relief he didn't comprehend until it was too late. People's shouts and cries for help were mixed into one loudness that made him want to turn around and liberate them. Time wasn't on his side, it never was but it didn't stop the urge. He wanted to save them and the thought remained in his mind, he felt like someday he would. That day wasn't the time but someday.
What his mind now told him was the fourth layer of Hell's ironic punishment passed him by in too much of a blur. He knew that arms reached for him, people screamed for his help. He pushed on; he could see the demons hording around the third level, a sort of parallel to Heaven.
Cas didn't like the knowledge that slowly seeped into his head; Death said it'd be the last thing he'd get before becoming an angel fully. Maybe he'd misunderstood, the transformation happened slowly in weird bursts and silences so maybe the knowledge would do the same. He'd randomly understand something and then nothing new would happen for a period of time in between. The last part of his angelic being to be complete would be his mind.
Regardless of how it was happening it bothered him. Like repressed memories surfacing, he didn't know how those images could possibly be his, how those thoughts fit into his mind or anything like it. Cas wanted it to end; he wanted to be himself and be left alone, was that so much to ask for?
The understanding of Heaven and Hell were similar as they appeared in his head, just small star bursts of information to fill in a gap he didn't quite get. Hell was more than what he'd seen; the space he was in at that moment was the levels of punishment that led down to Lucifer's captivity – which had been empty when he arrived. There were 9 levels, each one deeper than the last but all almost their own separate realms. People of significant sin were kept in there, the rest were scattered on the surface. The lakes of fire, limbo space and repetition of the worst moments of the sinner's life in pockets of time.
Heaven ran as a similar parallel, though it had 7 levels. Cas didn't know a lot about it yet, just that God resided in the seventh and in the third a gate to Hell waited.
He furrowed his brow when he considered the new information given to him by himself; Lucifer was trapped in the last level of Hell and God stood in the last level of Heaven. The two were parallels of one another in several ways; Hell must've had a gate to Heaven somewhere in it. Cas would've bet that it was in the third level.
As he passed the space between the levels he felt an icy rain hitting his face. At first it was okay but it only took seconds before it stung and made him want to cover his skin. He emerged past the level and saw bodies scattered around in a slushy mess created by the rain. They had no eyes and squirmed around like they were the only ones in the world. Their ears must not have worked because the people next to them were doing the same thing. If they were deaf Cas was a bit envious of them.
Then he saw it, there was a separate passage from where he was heading, his mind pounded and his heart raced – that was where he needed to go. Cas arched his wings and changed direction gradually then sharply beat the air to move faster. Heaven was close, the gate to Heaven from Hell was right there and he could get help. He could open the way and other angels would come and rescue him from his own mess.
But that wasn't quite how it went. As he curved through to a massively open space, a beautiful gate sitting at the end of the room, he knew he'd never reach it. The area was filled with demons, the walls melted with faces and grins – this was where they were headed. They'd gone to protect their only weak point, fulfill a duty given to them by a frozen fallen angel. Don't let Castiel into Heaven. It was a resounding order that Cas was fairly certain he'd heard echoing in the halls.
A large percentage of the demons left in Hell were standing before him, he couldn't comprehend every face and devilish feature. There was no way he'd make it through; that fact rang in his head like it was the only thing he should know.
Should he try? That was the follow up.
Castiel shouted at them; "Out of my way!"
"You won't get through." Another replied, it was calm and stepped forward with a massive dog-like beast at his side. "Heaven is, unfortunately, going to remain closed." Its eyes were red; its face was the most humanoid that Cas had seen in the depths. The bone of its skeletal face moved as if it were muscle, like a thin layer of skin was pulled across but not quite.
Cas lunged forward; he could never live with himself if he didn't try. It was right there. He could feel it; he could hear the angels on the other side. He was right there.
"Boys," the single demon said and in an instant the monsters swarmed forward. Castiel met them with the strongest burst of energy he could muster that fast, he needed to get through.
Demons came at him from every angle and for the most part he met their speed and matched the strength. A weaker creature could hardly move him or make a scratch while others sent him further and further backwards. He didn't understand the extent of the danger he was in until a single demon could hurl him against a wall with the flick of its wrist. There were power levels at play that he couldn't fully wrap his head around. He'd gotten over the fact that things like him existed and he could do amazing and awesome stuff, but using the Force!? Dean would be thrilled as soon as he told him.
Cas stretched out his wings and moved each one to slow him down, his head snapped up to see the funnel of monsters careening his way. He shifted his stance and readied himself to take them on again, he needed to get through.
"I'm pretty sure I told you not to die."
Cas' eyes widened when Death's voice pierced through the muddled space of his mind. Instinctively he dodged out of the way and continued on out of the passage and upward. Death was talking to him?
"I can do many things, Castiel."
"I need to get to Heaven, that's the closest way-!"
"Stop that immediately." Death interrupted him again, his patience clearly running out. "You chose the idiotic path to go into Hell and I knew you'd try to get through the third level gate. There are demons of very high rank waiting for you there, and unless you are in full control of yourself they will kill you. You've opened up one of the realms now I need you to live long enough to open the other."
Castiel didn't argue past that, Death had lost patience with him and poking that bear wouldn't end well. He wanted to ask 'why didn't you use your weird telekinesis or telepathy or whatever before' but he figured he'd get a short answer. In fact, he knew it was probably because something inside him finally woke up, or Death wouldn't have bothered with the house calls.
But on top of that, hearing Death from a distance of time, space, and reality wasn't the only thing that had started to register with him. He could hear the angels. The same strange language he couldn't stop speaking rang in his ears and repeated dully in his head.
We need you, Castiel.
He shook his head and tried to block it, or at least compartmentalize it away. Death had told him not to block himself but the sudden onslaught of voices was hard to stomach.
"We'll make it to Earth," he muttered to Dean just as much as himself. "I'll get to Heaven from there; we just need to make it home." He wanted to see everyone, the damage he'd done because of his selfishness. How bad were his consequences?
The second level of Hell lived up to the name; he would have described it as Hell if he weren't actually there. The winds were strong and nearly knocked him down. He couldn't go straight up, dodging through and trying to follow a flow or pattern. It took far too long, much longer than he'd ever anticipated it taking. This was where flying was not an advantage.
Castiel forced his wings to work, coated in his grace and a brighter light than he thought he could physically look at they started to cut through the wind. Demons were following up behind him; it was just as hard to get through the punishing circles of Hell for them as it was for him. Some fell and remained below; others latched onto the walls and climbed up like ants.
His wings worked harder, strained against themselves and his own weight as they fought their way through. Each motion pushed him higher but it felt like crawling, even inching as a worm on the ground compared to the speeds he'd achieved before.
But it didn't last forever; soon he passed the source of wind and cut through into the first level. It reminded him of Purgatory, there was grass and plants and people living – almost like Earth. It was a limbo of sorts, the kind of space where nothing really moved forward, everyone was stuck in waiting for eternity. It was less of a punishment for great sins as it was meant to be a slap in the face for those that were good but not good enough for Heaven itself.
The part about it that confused him was the weird sky above. The mass amounts of cave-like tunnels were gone; it was like he'd reached the surface but wasn't quite there. Instead of questioning it too long, though, he kept moving up. There was a strange container-like feel to it all as he flew above; there were walls though they couldn't be perceived. Fiery lands of messed up temperatures lay beyond, the sky lost the similarity to Earth and he could see different and strange pockets of time for separating people. Some wandered the wastelands endlessly below him, some falling into the pits of punishment, burning in the lakes, and an unlimited number of other things he didn't want to consider.
He'd flown right out of the pits that led down to Lucifer's cage. He was almost out. Earth wasn't far.
Demons had rocketed out of the ground below and he knew they'd be heading to block his exit. Castiel flew with the first creatures, letting them stay ahead but not losing them. He needed to know where the exit was.