"I am good, but not an angel. I do sin, but I am not the devil. I am just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love." - Marilyn Monroe.
1. Is that an Angel, or are you just happy to see me?
Date: September 20th, 2008.
Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The night was fairly clear. Cold moonlight searched out the dark crevasses of battered metal and glass piled up in Singer Auto Salvage Yard. Two women sat on the cooling hood of a car at the front of the main house. Somewhere in the distance a cat was having a very enthusiastic time with a partner. It sounded like an orgasmic fight to the death. The sheer volume of yowling was incredible.
It's probably for the best, really, Charlie thought, jutting out her jaw in contemplation. Out of practice with long periods of social interaction, Charlie Crivens made awkward conversation when there was too much silence.
Curling her fingers further up under her armpits - the denim jacket a pathetic covering against the brisk night - to bring back some circulation to her fingers, Charlie tried to think of something to say. Normally, the silence of her companion would be blissful to her, but the woman had driven her all this way. It was only polite to say something while they waited.
Her companion sighed, adjusting herself to take out a cigarette from a crumpled pack in her pocket. The small cloud of breath curled upwards. "Should have left the radio on or something." Delicate fingers pulled out a flick lighter, and she lit up, pushing a chunk of hair to one side so it didn't catch on the burning end. With how much hairspray she must have used to keep it so elaborately styled, Charlie idly wondered if there was a fire extinguisher nearby.
Charlie, now derailed from her initial attempt at human interaction, ended up nodding and coming out with, "Did you know that there's a Hebrew legend where Noah asked God to help protect the food on the Ark from being eaten by rats? God made a lion sneeze, and viola," She gestured in the vague direction of the yowling, before quickly stuffing her hand back, "we have cats."
Hillary Jensen, family friend to Bobby Singer (and hence the reason Charlie was outside the man's house in the middle of nowhere) turned to give the shorter woman a familiar "where-do-you-come-up-with-this-shit" look. Charlie sighed. Under any other circumstance, she rather thought that that had been a good ice breaker. Apparently not. Shifting around the hood of the car to find a different spot, she mused, "There's always some truth in legends. I wonder how much truth is in that one."
Hillary shook her head with a groan. Smoke billowed out and up before dissipating. Her blonde hair barely moved with her motions. Charlie wondered why people liked that look; rumpled morning bedhead. She had thought she had escaped out into the air to stave off the building headache from the smell of product, but it kept wafting in her direction. It was a sickening addition the the acrid smoke. "Good God, you need to get laid or something," Hillary said incredulously, "or find another hobby. All the way up here, you've said practically nothing except odd shit like that. Or nothing at all, which was rude. And a little creepy, just FYI."
Charlie shrugged, "Noted." She had tried.
"All you can hope for after doing your best," her aunt Martha had said to her, after a lady in the grocery store had stared at her eleven year old self when she had starting talking about how long someone could last on canned food if there was ever an Apocalypse. "You be as kind and polite as possible. If they don't take well to that, then it doesn't pay to know 'em, darlin'. Now grab a tin of peas and toss 'em in."
If Hillary didn't like the facts, that was fine, but there was no need to be rude about it. After a few minutes, the yowling stopped abruptly, leaving one of those awkward silences that only appear when two people were trying to ignore the sudden end of an embarrassing noise.
An hour passed, and Hillary began to restlessly pace to and fro in front of the car. She took out another cigarette, but didn't light it. Pulled her coat close around her. An annoyed sigh escaped. "I didn't think Bobby would be this late. He said to meet him here."
The shrill sound of a phone broke through the night air. Charlie twitched at the sudden noise, muscles tensing before she forced herself to relax. Thirteen years of Hunting and she still wasn't able to stop the reaction.
"Bobby? Yeah – No, we're here. You're what? No I – alright. You need help? Fine. Don't go dying on me summoning some crazy shit – No, no it's fine. I'll come in tomorrow if you're not dead. Oh don't be so surly, old man; you're the one going out of his mind - Oh for the love of – no, I'll head back to the bar and motel. Where's the warehouse in case – yeah. Alright. Got it. Okay call if you need to. Yeah, bye."
With a crunch of gravel under her boot, Hillary stopped pacing. She rolled her eyes at her phone before slipping it into her pocket and looking up at Charlie. "Stupid man. He and Dean are trying to summon whatever it was that brought Dean back from Hell. Load of bull, if you ask me. Said he didn't need help, so I'm heading back to town."
Tucking the unused smoke behind her ear, Hillary dug into her pocket for her keys and walked around to the driver's side of the car. It wasn't bad as far as cars went, but Charlie never really understood mechanics, nor did she particularly care. If it looked okay and functioned, that was fine with her.
Charlie had no idea what was going on, so curiosity made her walk to the passenger side to reach in and collect her bag. "Nah. I'll wait here for a bit, just in case."
Hillary glanced up from fastening her seatbelt, and started up the car with quick turn of her wrist. Light flooded the yard before them, and the radio blared to life. Hillary lowered the sudden blast of rock music with a start, eyeing her companion. After a pause, she asked, "Are you sure?"
"Yeah. Thanks for the ride. I'll catch you whenever."
The blonde woman shrugged, having only known Charlie for as long as the drive from Wyoming to the scrapyard in Sioux Falls had taken. "Fair enough. You have my number if you need me. Don't need me. Ciao." Without a backwards glance, Hillary punched the gas and took off, Charlie stepping back quickly to avoid getting her toes crushed.
When the taillights faded, Charlie sighed. At least she wouldn't have to pander to the woman again for a while. Long drives with strangers were taxing. Hoisting her bag to one shoulder, Charlie turned in the direction of the warehouse. There was nothing like a walk in the dark on a clear night to put you at ease, before hanging out with two guys she had never met while they summoned some creature who'd pulled one of them out of Hell.
Date: September 20th, 2008.
Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota - An abandoned warehouse down the road from Singer's Salvage Yard.
There was a gorgeous car sitting warm out front, but no sign of anyone in the immediate area. Charlie did a perimeter check anyway. When nothing seemed amiss, she approached the closed doors cautiously. A thin strip of light cut across the bottom. Shadows moved along it from the other side. Leaning in closer still, she began to hear shuffling, something that sounded like spraying, and varying tones of muttering. Sounds like chanting. Or spellwork, maybe. Resigned to the potential hostility she might encounter, Charlie knocked firmly on the door, and waited.
Everything quieted abruptly. The only giveaway? Their shadows shifting positions by the door. They were preparing for an ambush. Bracing herself, Charlie tried to adopt a fairly non-threatening posture. They could do anything, but Martha had vouched for Bobby Singer, and she wasn't going to ignore her aunt's advice.
The door flew open, and, after squinting at the sudden introduction of light, she could see two shotguns aimed at her head. Self preservation kicked in and Charlie raised her arms a little higher by her sides, palms out and fingers stretched wide. The strap of her bag slipped down to the crook of her arm. She bit back a curse. It would throw her off if she had to move quickly, but fuck it. She would deal with that when, and if, necessary. A nice, deep, slow breath to stay calm. Any movement other than surrender would only give the wrong impression. She was here to help, not get her face blown off.
"Hi," she said simply, smiling benignly in the hopes it conveyed a 'don't shoot me please' tone.
"Who are you, and what in the sam hill you doin' here?"
That one must be Bobby, judging by Martha's description. ("Gruff, bearded and often pissed off if not drunk.") He also matched the age she had expected. This, by default, made broody-with-a-hair-trigger Dean. Both men had steady aim and looked pissed. "I'm Charlie. Charlie Crivens? I came with Hillary."
Bobby's stare became, if possible, even more calculating and hard, eyes scrunching up to scrutinise her. Head to toe and back again, body never moving, arms and aim never wavering, and then he grumbled. "Crivens? Martha's niece?"
"Bobby, what the hell?" Dean grunted, maintaining his aim with a steady hand and giving a quick, incredulous glance at his friend. "Who is she and what the hell is she doing here?"
"Easy, guy," she murmured. He looked tense and exhausted. Strung tight, and alarmingly, aggressively distrustful. "Martha rang ahead last week. Sent me up to help, if you need it. And yes, I'm her niece. Though we're not related."
After Charlie's parents were killed at the hands of a Poltergeist, Martha (an old friend of Bobby's) had rescued her from foster care and, noticing Charlie's talent for learning quickly, she had decided to train her into their profession until she could go it alone. Martha hadn't hesitated to add her to the family, adopting her a year after saving her from the Poltergeist. Five years of training from the age of ten lead to Charlie hunting with the family, until she had turned legal age and took off on her own.
Finally, Bobby lowered his gun, but Dean wasn't so keen. "We gotta do this shit soon, Bobby. We don't have time for this."
"Take it easy, Dean. I'd forgotten she was coming until Hillary rang tonight. I've never met her - sorry, you - before, Charlie. Heard a lot of things. If it's all the same to you, though, I'd like Dean to run through a few tests before you help us. Just to be sure." He nodded once, gun still lowered but ready.
Although Dean seemed reluctant, he too lowered his weapon and moved off to get some things while Bobby kept watch. Five minutes later, Bobby was ruefully holding out a cloth, and Charlie wiped her face after the barrage of holy water, before pressing the cloth to the cut on her forearm.
"Didn't have to throw it so forcefully," she muttered at the back of Dean's head, but she soon ignored him when Bobby handed her a book of Sigils and spray paint while filling her in with a summary of what was happening. Once caught up, Charlie headed over to a wall to begin her artwork.
They had been waiting for hours now with no sign. Dean and Bobby were fairly relaxed on mismatched tables nearby, and Charlie sat cross-legged on a table she'd claimed near the back. It was the only clean spot where she could focus her mind. She had been making sure her mental barriers held for whatever was coming, but without a definitive idea, she had just spent the hours circling through the Monsters they had put Sigils up for. They had tried every spell they knew of. The fact that none of them were working was disturbing.
"You're not much of a talker," Dean commented. Eyes closed, Charlie could imagine him still playing idly with a knife and swinging his legs back and forth. He had been trying to get a rise out of her since the first hour passed with no show.
With a soft sigh of patience, Charlie opened her eyes to glance at him, hands moving from her knees to idly pick at the edging of the shotgun Bobby had lent her across her lap. "No," she agreed. She really wasn't. Ever since she was little, and had begun to see things that were not normal for a child to see, Charlie had kept to herself. Observant and silent was the only way to stay safe. Even among other Hunters. Especially among other Hunters.
"It's not normal to see things that aren't there," her mother told her, when she was six and getting ready to go to a friend's birthday party. She was brushing Charlie's hair with sharp, cutting movements. Charlie watched their pale features in the mirror. When she glanced down, she could just make out the purpling skin on her collar bone. Her favorite blue dress would cover it up, though before anyone could see. "If anybody or - God forbid, your father - hears you talking about it again, people will come and take you away. Do you understand? Jennifer's Auntie is gone from this world, now. The Devil took her away. All I want is for you to watch, listen and behave yourself, and don't talk about it. Understand?"
Charlie flinched at the pull of the brush catching on a knot and nodded. She didn't understand why her mother's tone was more sharp and unpleasant than Missy Derring down the road. Mrs. Derring was always nice to Charlie, and was gentle if she brushed her hair. Looking up to see a familiar darkness bleeding into her mother's skin, Charlie nodded. "Yes, Mama."
Dean waited with expectancy, but Charlie just turned her head back and closed her eyes again. She could hear him huff. "Is she a hippie, Bobby? Are you a hippie?"
"Then why are you sittin' like that? That meditating stuff. Hippie crap."
Charlie frowned. "I'm concentrating."
"We don't know what's coming through that door. I'd rather be prepared."
There was a short silence, but it was Bobby who spoke and it was with a distinct air of confusion and skepticism. "How does that help?"
Charlie's shoulders slumped. Rubbing her eyes, she let out another sigh. "It just does. I don't normally do it because I usually know what's coming." Charlie had spent many years struggling against the things she could see. Focusing her mind allowed her to erect mental barriers to block some of it out. She had visited a Hunter in Japan once, only to see a Gashadokuro. There was no way she would ever be able to describe the sound of the hollow, foreboding ringing and rattling when the giant skeleton lumbered over her. They tended not to travel across the sea, thankfully, and they often wandered around with specific purpose, so it was rare that they would spot her. Charlie had spent an entire day ensuring she would never see one again, just to be safe. Without knowing what was coming for them now, she might get a shock of a grotesque face or form that might force her to be useless.
When she didn't say anything more, Dean rolled his eyes and gave up. He turned to look at Bobby. "You sure you did the ritual right?"
Charlie smiled at Bobby's expression.
"Sorry. Touchy touchy."
Charlie drew in a sharp breath when the hairs on the back of her neck and arms suddenly stood on end. The atmosphere shifted abruptly, turning cloying and thick. The roof began to rattle.
The men stood quickly, guns ready. Charlie tensed, eyes roving warily around the warehouse, but otherwise remained where she was. All the Sigils were lighting up like elevator levels, glowing and fading in various intervals. One glowed bright enough to make her flinch, before a splintered crack crossed it, rendering it useless. The sound was lost among the clamoring.
"Wishful thinking, but maybe it's just the wind."
There was no time to respond to Dean's ridiculous comment. A bulb above flared, cracked and sent a shower of sparks down over Bobby. The rest followed suit, one by one in no pattern she could discern. Charlie rose carefully from her perch, flinching when each of them shattered and popped. The Sigils changed, flared as one, and took up a more rapid flashing pace. She tightened her grip on her shotgun.
Something big was coming.
The atmosphere thickened even more. Charlie's ears rang wildly from the pressure. She fought the urge to hold her nose, feeling like her head was going to explode from the intensity. The wooden bar-lock on the door snapped in two, the door swinging wide to allow a burst of wind to rush in, surging forth to break through the atmosphere. Her ears popped.
Squinting against the flare of sparking lights and struggling Sigils, Charlie stepped back when a man strode in.
Only, it wasn't a man. Not entirely.
He looked like something conjuring a lightning storm. All around him static and light blazed and burst out, before some sort of… bright thing….some sort of glowing being surged out of him like it was made from cresting waves and flashing shapes. It morphed and swirled into a fractal, bipedal configuration of - of - she didn't know what she was looking at. It hurt. There were spikes and horns and a twisted mask and long, thin fingers and it went up and up to the roof where the lights strained to capture its bare facade, before it curled in on itself to sink down into the man again. It happened once more, the glowing creature struggling, arching and twisting to stay contained. Something blue-white like starlight splashed out in long whips, spiralling with it's movements and Charlie could only imagine it looking like the thing was drowning but willing to dive back into it's man made cocoon.
Charlie swallowed when something dark unfurled out of his back.
"Jesus," Charlie breathed, raising a hand in a futile effort to block it out. They were wings.
She hadn't been prepared for this. There was nothing that could have prepared her for this.
The exploding lights ceased, but Bobby and Dean began to fire. The man kept moving towards them without a care, it's second, glowing companion now more or less crowded around his body, if not trying to stay directly in it. Charlie couldn't move. Waves of… the splashing something permeated the building, all exuding from this creature. Its wings remained free from the man; dark, enormous, and heavy, spreading out in a brief, stretched display. Without a doubt in her mind, she knew they were built for power; densely feathered and slow moving, curving to catch the sparks from the lights overhead. For a moment, she could see a multitude of colour, almost reminiscent of an oil patch before they and the being settled for what looked like the final time.
Shotgun forgotten, Charlie's arms lowered when the intensity of the light dimmed. When the bullets didn't seem to have any effect, Dean disregarded his gun to semi-casually pick up the knife he'd been fiddling with earlier. Every shot had hit the thing square on, but a sparking surge around the man just licked over the wounds as soon as they were inflicted.
The man turned, watching Dean with an impassive face.
"Who are you?" Dean asked. No, Charlie thought, it should be 'what'. What are you?
He, or perhaps, it, answered (because Charlie would swear the lightning storm of a creature was talking too despite its face - God, its face that wasn't really a face but glowing eyes and nothing else -), and the voice was… wrong. It was low, and resonated like the room wasn't big enough to contain it. Out of sync, she thought. A split second delay of someone speaking and the mouth catching up. "I'm the one that gripped you tight and raised you from perdition."
Dean turned slightly, keeping the man at his left shoulder, while preparing to throw his weight into his right. "Yeah, thanks for that."
The man almost-smiled, the expression not quite reaching the eyes, and the mouth twitching and head dipping for just a moment, before Dean lunged, stabbing directly into its heart.
He didn't even flinch. The knife was removed and dropped without care. Bobby, frozen for a moment like her, came to his senses and swung hard with an iron bar. Almost too quick to catch, the light creature opened it's giant, long fingered hand, the man's following suit a split second later until it gripped the bar without looking. Turning to face the older man, he pressed two fingers against Bobby's forehead. There was a small flash and Bobby dropped like a stone. The man-being watched him fall; the tilt of the head like a dog watching a mildly interesting toy drop to the floor.
Sinking further into the man again, the lightning storm for a being settled even more. Now it was a bare glow on the skin. A simple demand, "We need to talk, Dean." The voice was smoother now, catching up quicker than before but he, for Charlie could only think that's what it was now despite the two beings she could see, turned his head to look at her and finished, "Alone."
Charlie's eyes widened, and she distantly began to feel an ache in her muscles. The kind of ache that came with holding herself still for too long. The kind that when she trembled, it felt like coming back from a bad Hunt that had left her too close to her own mortality.
He moved more slowly than she would have expected, considering the speed at which he had incapacitated Bobby. Charlie backed away slowly. Cautiously. He matched every step until she hit a table edge. He was inches away, right in her personal space, nearly pressing against her. The beings face, under his skin, nearly featureless and feeling so very, very ancient, was terrifying. The flesh and bone of the man frowned a little, and the creature beneath frowned as well, the tiny crinkle in the… skin, creasing up.
For several long seconds, the stare never wavered. Charlie focused on breathing, on her free hand coming up to squeeze between them to press at his chest in a vain effort to push him away. She flinched at the spark that ran up her arms. The frown increased in intensity. He tilted his head at her, squinting his eyes as if looking for something. "You understand the necessity of this." It wasn't a question, but it sure felt like one. Almost as if he wanted to confirm that she understood why he was going to make her go out like Bobby. "It is imperative that Dean and I converse alone."
Charlie clenched her jaw, but eased up her pressure, and the grip on the shotgun, reluctantly. Nothing had phased this thing, so maybe giving in for now would be more beneficial until she could figure out what to do. If she could do anything at all. Without looking away from his strange gaze and arcing, galactic energy that hovered around them, Charlie put the shotgun on the table behind her with deliberate care.
This thing was something old, and powerful - she flinched at the appearance of his hand by her forehead, an old, instinctive reaction born of something else, and he was frowning again but continued until –
Charlie slumped, body limp. She was distantly thankful that she'd fallen against the leg of the table, propped up, unlike poor Bobby.
It took her a few seconds to realise she was awake. Paralysed somehow, but most definitely awake.
It took another few seconds to realise that the man-creature hadn't noticed. Eyes half-slitted, she could make out the straight line of the man's trousers, the dust covered boots, the very edge of his coat as he stood above her - but then he moved away to the other side of the table to… There was a gentle sound of turning pages above her. Is he reading?
There were several minutes of tense silence. Dean was out of her sight, at the far left, but he clearly wasn't going to start the conversation.
"Your friends are alive."
It sounded like a veiled threat in one aspect, but the tone was more like a passing comment. Perhaps even a reassurance.
What followed in the next few minutes, was one of the weirdest conversations to which she'd ever been privy.
She was relieved to find that Bobby was fine, but unconscious, unlike her.
He was an Angel. Called Castiel. A fucking Angel called Castiel. Isn't that the Angel of Thursday? The Angel of Thursday was standing in a warehouse with three Hunters, two of which were incapacitated.
Did all Angels look this way?
Charlie struggled to move, to do something, when he spread his wings in a defiant posture towards Dean as proof. It was a very predatory move. All dominance display and grandeur, and Charlie wondered if Dean could see the him throwing out his energy to give the best effect.
The conversation moved on. He seemingly expressed regret about a woman called Pamela, whom he'd blinded when she had spied on his true form. He had warned her, but she had continued heedless, and beneath the light tone of regret, Charlie sensed his apathy regarding the woman's decision. Pamela hadn't listened, so her injury was no fault of his.
When he explained his appearance, Charlie was just as shocked as Dean to find out that he was possessing some poor bastard who had been devout and eager to go along with it. Oh, she thought, her mind stuttering to a grinding halt when she connected a few dots. So that's the vessel. The man is the vessel, and the light thing is the….Right. Of course. That makes perfect sense. Because Angels apparently fucking exist and there's one just a few feet away reading a fucking book and my brain is still trying to figure out what he is.
Distantly, Charlie wondered if the vessel - man - had known what he'd be getting into. Having that thing fit inside you couldn't be comfortable. Or healthy. Of all the things Charlie had seen in her life, including Demons, Werewolves, Vampires and everything else, Angels had never occurred to her. He was the first Angel she had ever seen. At least to her knowledge. Childhood memories only went back so far.
One problem at a time, Charlie.
Castiel claimed to have raised Dean from Hell at God's Command, and that was a lot of capital letters to take in one sitting.
Finally, and the most worrying of all, God apparently had work for Dean to do.
Charlie wished she could hit her head on the table for her stupidity. She shouldn't have listened to Martha about paying her old friend Bobby a visit to 'get out of her comfort zone'. She shouldn't have agreed to hitch a ride with another Hunter who knew Bobby and Martha, and who just happened to have been going out to Bobby's.
This sort of stuff smelled like Fate and Destiny. And Charlie had never been very good at that.
A/N: Welcome to Guardian Angel. I began this over a year ago and it's unfinished (I'm still working on it), but I wanted it to see the light of day. My lovely beta has been helping me with this from the very start so it is much more improved upon than some of my other stories! Reviews, criticism, and even flames, are happily accepted, but are not necessary. I'm happy to just have people read and enjoy, but keep in mind; if you don't like it, just don't read it. I hope you enjoy the journey.