Chapter summary following a two-year hiatus:
Meet Charlie Crivens, a woman struggling to fit back into the world after she made an attempt on her own life. After her sister, Beth, found her on that day, her Aunt Martha decided sending her to Bobby Singer would be the best way to help her heal. When she arrived at Singer's Salvage Yard, Charlie met Cas, Bobby, Dean, and, eventually, Sam. She joined them on a journey that lead to her discovering her incomplete Soul, desperate Angels attempting to stop the apocalypse, and two opposing women, Hellbent on driving Charlie to the brink of madness by using her potential "gifts" when they discover that she could be a descendant of one of the first Human Beings. Turns out; Charlie is not a descendant; she manages to escape the women and is found by Gabriel, who helps her mend some of her trauma enough to reunite with the boys and an Angel - who, last we met, didn't want to help her due to his Orders from Heaven and the Bigger Picture – with enough time to go back in time to 1978 to help them stop Anna from killing John and Mary Winchester.
Last we left Charlie, she was regaining her memory from the ordeal and left to mind a comatose Angel in the Prairie Court Motel in 1978.
"The past beats inside me like a second heart." - John Banville, The Sea
Location: Unknown, Betty's Diner
There was something soothing about the clinking of cutlery, the noise of a coffee pot tipping against the rim of a mug for a refill, and the general drone of kitchen sounds that could relax some of the tension in one's shoulders in the early hours of the morning. That, coupled with a fuzzy murmur of voices and rustling of newspapers, sent a wave of calm through Charlie that she hadn't experienced since she woke up clutching her cramping calf, gasping from a horrific nightmare of her own making.
She flexed the muscle discreetly under the patterned Diner table and winced. Still painful.
"You want more coffee, hun?" came the waitress' voice from her right.
Charlie forced herself upright from her slump. "Please," she answered, proffering the worn mug for more of the dark liquid. Once full, she added some creamer and two sugars before nursing it like it was Mana. She hated coffee, but the bitter taste was worth the energy right now.
"You look like you been through some Hell, my dear."
Charlie squinted a tired eye to see a Preacher at the next booth over, giving her a sympathetic look. "If I could sell my scuffed Soul to Lucifer himself at this rate, Preacher, I think he'd be kinder than the people I'd dealt with. Humanity is cruel."
He blinked at her response before leaving her alone. Charlie was grateful, for all of five minutes, until a rift opened across from her, with a familiar eddying of color split down the seams of the seat. From it appeared a thin, tall, sandy-blonde Angel with tightly groomed white wings that seemed shockingly small on him with a quiet, "Fuck."
The rift closed behind him. Charlie's fingers tightened around her cup.
"Fuck. Fuck. Fuck a duck. This isn't the right timeline," he huffed, a lilting English accent curling around his rhetoric. He glanced around, scratching twice at a bit of pale scruff Charlie almost wanted to call a beard before rubbing the skin there roughly and, finally, noticing Charlie. "Oh. Hello." He paused, narrowed his bright gaze, eyed her up and down, and then came out with, "Oooh, no no no, almost right. Right person, but little side-tracked. Sorry, darling."
Charlie swallowed, slowly tensing in preparation to leave. "What?"
He blinked at her, before leaning forward a bit. Charlie flinched, so he stopped and began slowly, and his tone made her feel he perceived her as the most dense person on the planet. "Wrong time, love. Have you hit your head? You feeling alright?" He reached out as if to feel her forehead with the back of his hand.
Alarmed, Charlie slapped it away and tried to keep her voice low. "Who the - what the fuck? Who are you and what the fuck do you want?"
"Rude." He shook his offended hand. "Name's Bal. Don't know what's gotten your knickers in a twist, but I'm starting to regret this whole endeavor. But," he added, giving her another once over. "I do care about my brother. Maybe it'll change things. Who know the fuck knows? I don't at this rate."
Charlie started to laugh. It came out a little high pitched even to her ears, and, distantly, she could tell the Preacher was staring at her again. "Why is everyone so fuckin' cryptic?"
"So sorry, darling. Have things to do, and you… well, you clearly have some issues to work out. I'll just uh… go. Don't hate me later!"
He wiggled a few fingers in a little wave, opened another rift and vanished, leaving Charlie with cold coffee and more questions she didn't want about random Angels and their mysterious rambling. She blinked, pushed the coffee away, and raised a hand. "Check, please."
Location: The Prairie Court Motel
Back at the Motel, Charlie sighed when inspecting her leg. There was no wound, but the pain was very reminiscent of being stabbed. After massaging it for nearly ten minutes, she gave up and busied herself making a breakfast from cheap oatmeal, water from the tap, and sugar packets. It was disgusting, but it was food, and she'd had worse before. Tidying up the room, and resorting to perusing the shitty copy of the Bible stuffed in the bedside locker, by lunchtime made her realize the avoidance of looking after Castiel was getting a little ridiculous. Memories or no, the guy was looking worse for wear and the boys were nowhere in sight. It was time to be an adult.
It still took her twenty minutes to slowly work up the courage to prep the bowl and cloth. Then, she was left to stand and stare at the Angel on the bed. His wings were spread out and flapped over the edge, his tie was still askew, trenchcoat pushed open, and his face still covered in the dried blood from her failed attempt at cleaning yesterday.
"What am I doing?" she groaned out loud, wiping her hands over her eyes to her mouth. Sighing again, Charlie turned away to walk into the bathroom. There she sat, on the lid of the toilet, and tried not to think for as long as possible.
So much for being an adult.
Two hours later, she strode out towards the bed, carefully not looking at God's Divine creature, and picked up the dry cloth from the bedside table. She got as far as dipping it into the water when -
"Please," The Father said genially, directing her towards the Holy Water by the entrance of the Church.
Charlie blinked out of her stupor to make eye contact. "Oh. Sorry Father…"
"Kyle. Please stay as long as you need to. You look like you need a rest."
Charlie sighed, glancing behind her in case Ava had followed. Thankfully, the older woman hadn't. Yet. She turned back to the priest. "I need more than a rest, I'm afraid."
She dipped her fingers into the bowl of water, half wondering if it would melt skin from bone with everything she had done. Could blessed water discern a tortured, evil Soul from a normal one? She wasn't sure. When she came away unharmed, she adorned the sign of the cross from forehead to chest and either shoulder.
"You're always welcome here, should you need it."
Charlie paid him no mind, except a murmured, "Thank you." No one could help her now.
Gasping, Charlie brought her hand down too hard and knocked the bowl. It tipped abruptly and splashed in a dramatic display over Castiel's right wing.
"Fuck! M'sorry!" Grabbing the empty plastic dish, she ran to the bathroom and tossed it into the bath, then took a fresh towel and ran back in to kneel by the bed, jeans soaking up some of the water on the floor at her knees and shins. "Shit. I didn't mean to - that was stupid. I'm really sorry."
Droplets gathered on the larger flight feathers to trickle down and onto the carpet, but the bulk of the water had soaked into his downy feathers under the bone She quickly pressed the fuzzy fabric there to try and stem the cold water - "I'm not even sure if this will damage them but I don't wanna risk it. Fuck, what was I thinking? My head was somewhere else and I - I shouldn't even be touching you. Shit the things I've done, Cas. The people I've hurt. The blood I've - " Charlie released a shaky breath, blinking hard when she couldn't see through her blurred vision. Quickly swiping at her eyes with her left hand, Charlie gently moved the towel around to get a new dry spot to soak up more. "Gabriel said it would take about this long, but I didn't think they'd come back this fast. I hope the boys are finished soon. I don't think I'll make it through a lot of this sane."
It took another few minutes until the fabric was too wet to continue. Charlie pulled herself up and went back into the bathroom to let it slop into the bath and retrieved the bowl again. Refilling it only part way this time, she picked up the cloth she'd discarded on the side of the sink and brought both back in, careful to not leave the bowl near the edge of the table. Dipping the cloth into the water, she wrung it out and leaned over to clean the blood of the Angel's face and hands. There wasn't much she could do about his shirt, but it was better than nothing.
Discarding the bloody water and cloth into the bathroom again, she came back out to check how damp his feathers were - except she hesitated. They were a mess where she'd rubbed the towel, but there again, looking at the broader scale of his entire wingspan, she thought that both wings had looked better. Being cut off from God had done a number on him.
His primary feathers were a bit dull and frayed. The secondaries even more so, as if they'd been chafing off his coat for weeks; the same with his softer, downy-looking ones. The ones on his back, near his scapula - or, at least, where they'd be on a human - looked almost painful at the angle he was lying on them. They looked overall dull, dusty, and in need of care, and she'd gone and dumped him for a day on his back on a shitty hotel bed.
Charlie sighed and ran her hands down her face. "Ok then. Ok. I can do this."
"I can't do this."
She'd fixed his coat and tie, rearranged his body to be a bit more comfortable on the bed where possible but, "Where the fuck do I start on your wings?"
Cas, naturally, didn't answer.
"I feel like this is a violation. I mean, it is a violation. You're unconscious, and I'm going to be touching your wings. Gabriel warned me this was a private thing, and you - if you can even hear me - only found out I can even see them yesterday ."
Charlie was sitting at an angle at the end of the bed by his right knee, the bare tips of his secondary feathers touching her own knee, while the rest of the wing just… lay there, hanging part way over the side and then onto the floor. It was undignified and uncomfortable looking.
"Yesterday I couldn't look at you. Or touch you. Now I feel like I'll need the distraction. These memories aren't going to go away and… I just need something to do, and you, well, you need a groom."
She couldn't sing for shit, but that was what Charlie found herself doing, almost under her breath, as she worked. She had fixed herself a quick lunch from packets of instant stuff she'd bought in the market, eaten, and then taken a deep, meditating breath to try and center herself, before grasping hold of the right wing and maneuvering it as gently as possible so she was sitting against the headboard with it in her lap. From there, she followed what she remembered Gabriel had told her about when he was taking care of his own wings.
Wings were sensitive. Like, incredibly so. Angel wings weren't really a 'thing' in a corporeal sense unless a Human could perceive them, like Charlie, and even then, it was the Human's perception that made them unique. In an Angels true form, the wings were different again, more like how she first described Cas to him back in the warehouse, the first time she'd ever met him. After so long in his vessel now, to her, Castiel's wings – much like Gabriel's had looked very owl like to her – looked like a giant pair of eagle's wings that stemmed from muscles and bone from his back.
So, right now, all Charlie could do was to sit, very still, allowing the full weight of one wing to just… drape over her legs.
It was so warm.
And I'm such an abomination to be doing this to you, she thought.
Inhaling shakily, she gently placed her right hand over the large main joint. She didn't know what it was called, but it was larger than her fist and bent with supple ease when she encouraged the wing into a more comfortable position to begin.
Charlie knew, on top of being sensitive, they were also inhumanly strong. Treated in this type of form, they would be deemed hollow-boned for flight, but made of a celestial substance that could break through anything with a wing-beat or simple flick. She wondered if they could kill someone, and then frowned. There was no doubt that the capability was there, but after the initial rough touch she'd attributed to being unkempt… his wings were soft, the feathers delicate enough to bend at the press of the pads of her fingers and spring back up to tickle her palms.
The largest feathers at the top for flight… flight feathers?... were massive, longer than her forearm when she stretched the farthest one out, but she they were starting to catch and twist in uncomfortable way.
Charlie berated herself for spending too long over such intimate details when he was unconscious and grabbed the cloth to begin wiping the heavy dirt away, where she could from her position. She spent an hour on the flight feathers alone, dipping the cloth several times, and rearranging the feathers as she went to smooth their placement and ease any pain or discomfort.
Once, and only once, did she accidentally brush off one of the smaller glands underneath the downier set further down, but she shied away quickly. There was another way to aid in the maintenance of the oils and gloss, but Gabriel had warned her that that was only for mates or family. She would not overstep her boundaries there while they guy was out cold on a bed, unable to fend for himself.
Grooming Castiel was unsurprisingly calming, but difficult work with his position. Charlie took her time to break for not only food but moments of overwhelming memories that surged up like waves. Over the course of four days, she isolated herself to looking after Cas, crying, eating, and hoping the boys would hurry up.
On night three, when she'd managed to finish Cas' back - which was the worst mess she'd ever come across , she fell asleep on his left wing.
It still smelled like rain.
Looking up, Charlie could see thickening clouds threatening a storm but still no feeling to follow the scent. Water licked at her feet, and she looked down to find her toes starting to sink in the sand, the waves creeping up the shore for high tide.
A gust of wind tussled her short hair, distracting her for a minute to look to her right where there was a blue-black feather whipping around in the increasing wind.
The voice was faint, but she knew it from somewhere.
In the distance a figure got closer, hands cupped around his mouth to call out to her. Cas?
"Castiel?" she asked the wind.
The wind answered her by bringing the feather and the voice closer still. She tried to go towards him but the weight on her feet… the sand was too heavy… it wouldn't let her go.
No. She looked down. It wasn't the sand. A thin hand – the same as before – had found her again. Bursting from the earth, the mutated creature crawled up Charlie's form and screeched out its agony, nails piercing her skin and attempting to drag her down beneath –
A shadow overcame her –
The sound of a wingbeat. The creature screamed an unholy sound as it burned away under Cas' Grace.
Charlie choked, body seizing under the onslaught of the nightmare.
"It's alright," came the soothing gravel of Cas' conscious voice. Charlie shuddered, hands grasping at his feathers. He grunted before slurring, "The spell is gone. It was only a remnant, buried in your subconscious to torment you."
Charlie could feel her forehead crease at his words, but opened her eyes to find them in the dark, pinpricks of light shining through here and there due to -
Her breath hitched. He had her wrapped in his wings.
Becoming more aware, Charlie tried to apologize but he was already unconscious again. Gently, she pushed aside the top most wing to find he'd somehow managed to turn on his side and wrap them up. He was close to waking, but obviously had only been able to do enough to physically wrap them up.
Wincing in sympathy that she'd been lying on one of his appendages - that surely had to be uncomfortable - she slipped out from under the other and went to get breakfast, mind blank after what happened.
The memories no longer plagued her as badly. Now, it was a soft echo of regret that she was starting to adapt to. Charlie could only figure Cas had been trying to reach her in her dreams to help dispel the remnant of the curse one of the women had left on her. Even Gabriel had missed it.
Charlie sighed, absently threading her hands through the last remaining feathers to arrange them correctly. The downy ones were beautifully soft on her roughened skin, and she wondered if she'd even feel normal again and not be reminded of -
"Thank you," Cas' voice suddenly rumbled from the bed.
Charlie nearly fell backwards off the edge, until he caught her with the very wing she had been grooming around her back. Panting and wide-eyed, Charlie looked down at him to find him watching her with dark eyes. "I didn't know you were awake."
"I've not been for long, but I've been aware."
He sat up with ease and tilted his head, in a slightly different manner, when he allowed his wings to do a full, languid stretch. They spread apart, joints yawning, feathers rustling and separating enough that the tips of the largest touched the walls. When the wings retracted slowly, Charlie was suddenly aware that he was watching her.
She cleared her throat and shrugged one shoulder. "Sorry for uh… "
He blinked. "It's been a difficult and trying few months. I've been so neglectful of my normal grooming habits that it was a relief when you began. I'm very grateful. Thank you."
She nodded, shifting on the mattress. After a few moments, she belatedly remembered that she hadn't heard from the boys and said as much. Castiel closed his eyes for all of two seconds before opening them and shaking his head.
"They are no longer in this timeline. They've been sent back."
Charlie felt a lurch in her stomach. "What? Already? By who?"
"I'm not sure, but it's best we head back now so we don't remain here too long." He stood quickly and motioned for her to follow him into the center of the room. Charlie nearly stumbled over her own feet with the haste of his request, just managing to snag her jacket from the chair nearby.
Stepping in because she needed to hold on to him, she hesitated. "You sure you can do this? You just started recovering."
"I have no other choice," he replied, succinctly, stepping into her space and sliding his arms around her waist. Charlie stiffened, but he didn't seem to notice or care. "But, it helps to have my wings in better working order. Less distraction. Fewer people to bring along also helps."
Why is he acting like her seeing him like this is normal? Why is this happening so fast? Who sent the boys back?
She should have stayed behind.
"Oh," was all she could say, as, with a great whoosh and snap, Cas opened his wings and performed one, enormous downbeat that whipped up air and electricity, opened a new rift that swallowed them whole, and they were suddenly back in the present.
There was a scramble from the boys as they grabbed a slumping Castiel, before he dragged her down to the floor and helped him onto the twin bed. Several minutes later, Charlie was nursing a cheap beer while sitting on the plastic motel desk chair.
The boys stood tall, holding their own drinks, staring morosely at Cas and Charlie, and Charlie finally inhaled and broke the silence. "I think we have a lot to talk about."
Notes: I apologise for the 2 year hiatus for GA. In this time I have started a new job, dealt with family illness, personal illness, left my job, and personal illness again of which I am still recovering. I want to thank you for the continuing support for this fic that I have not abandoned. Should you wish to hear about progress, updates, or simply chat to me or other like minded people, please feel free to join my new discord here where I will be posting tid bits, answer any questions, and post how much progress is happening with GA and other projects (hopefully this link works for you here; just delete the spaces as usual - if not, please find it in my profile): WwbAp7b