...and Florence the plot bunny rounds the turn into the long home straight, go, Florence, go!


Chapter The Last

Castiel adjusted his coat as he prepared to take his leave. "I must say that it is something of a relief that I am no longer feeling unwell," he said, his voice back to its usual background non-sick gravelliness, "I am at a loss as to how humans cope with the knowledge that such an illness may strike them at any time."

"Well, humans have an immune system that can usually fight off a cold or the flu," Bobby pointed out, "And as a rule, we don't have to deal with a bug that's been specifically engineered to make us feel crappy." He gave Crowley a hard stare.

"Yes, yes, you make your point," muttered the demon, straightening his tie, "As ever Bobby, you articulate your opinion clearly with a few well-chosen words." He turned a mournful gaze to Sister Felicity, who held out his jacket. "I am hurt more than angered by your cruel, callous and casual charade," he told her.

"Yeah, yeah, I feel so dreadful about it," she drawled, handing over the garment. "Boo hoo, boo hoo."

"Such brazenly deceitful and hypocritical behaviour from a woman of the Church," Crowley went on grumpily, "How you're going to explain yourself at your next confession, I do not know."

'How indeed," the nun smiled sunnily. "Technically, I've been consorting with a demon, at the very least, offering aid and comfort to The Enemy – Father Tantaro can by quite old-fashioned about the whole thing, he'd probably suggest to Mother Superior that I be burned at the stake." She paused. "Actually, Reverend Mother has suggested before now that burning me at the stake might not be such a terribly bad idea…"

"I hope you spend a week on your knees in penance," grumped the King of Hell, "On a cold floor."

"Oh, don't worry about me," she observed smugly, "My Father-In-Law will forgive me."

"That's nepotism!" protested Crowley.

"No, that's His job," Sister Fic replied breezily.

"Think of this as cosmic comeuppance come back to bite you on the ass," suggested Bobby.

"Maybe that's where the boils came from," suggested Ian, "After all, who knows whether Karma bothers to brush and floss first?"

Crowley shrugged into his jacket, and drew himself up with as much dignity as is left to somebody who has been forcibly relieved of several boils on the backside and screamed like a little bitch during the procedure. "The Eighth Commandment is interpreted in catechism to cover all violations of the truth – you have borne false witness, Sister, and it's a slippery slope, I can tell you that with professional authority. Himself takes That Sort Of Thing very seriously, apparently – you had better hope, and pray, that you never find yourself in my grid square once that squishy wetware runs out of mortality."

Bobby laughed out loud. "Do you seriously think anybody would go to Hell for hurting a demon's feelings? Get over yourself, asshat."

"There is, of course, a real, if somewhat remote, possibility that, after the death of her earthly body, Felicity will meet you again, Crowley," Castiel intoned.

"Aha! See?" Crowley yipped in triumph. "So speaks the Paper-Shuffler of the Lord, the Tax Accountant Of Heaven. It could happen! So, maybe you'd better apologise to me while you can, because if you think that police officers have a rough time in prison, you cannot imagine what it's like for a nun in Hell…"

"That is not what I meant," Castiel cut in, "I was referring to the very small, yet distinctly existent, possibility of your Redemption."

"…And the demons at the racks have had plenty of practice with religious types, they've honed some pretty interesting techniques on televangelists and child molesting hypocrites in funny dresses…" Crowley stopped mid-outrage, and turned a shocked face to the Angel. "My… what?"

"The future is not determined," Castiel offered them a small smile, "But as a woman trying to follow the teachings of The Son and do His will on Earth, Felicity will most likely find eternal peace in my Father's Kingdom – and should you be Redeemed, as my Father hopes, as indeed all of Host hopes, you too will be welcomed back to your family as Crowliel, Angel of the Lord, Messenger of Heaven…"

"Nooooooo!" wailed Crowley, "How many times do I have to tell you? I don't WANT to be Redeemed! I don't WANT to go to Heaven! I DON'T WANT TO BE AN ANGEL!"

"Full-blown Redemption, that's old time religion," Bobby grinned, "What you want don't come into it."

"Hating the sin, and not the sinner," Fic reminded him, beaming, "I always wanted to play the harp, maybe if I asked nicely I could join in your music lessons."

Crowley scowled. "I am more inspired than ever to stay top dog in Hell," he announced, "If only to avoid a fate worse than death."

"Well, it sounds like you're about as far away from Redemption as it's possible to be," pronounced Bobby, "So, why don't you make like a good little King of Hell, and smoke off back to your realm, Your Majesty."

"Your scorn wounds me," sniffed Crowley, "One day, Bobby, one day, you will realise that my friendship is something worth having."

"But today is not that day," Bobby replied equably. "So, go on, take up thy bed and walk – go and sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee."

"I've been as sick as a dog, had boils on my arse, been betrayed by a nun, and threatened with Redemption!" yapped Crowley irritably, "How much worse could come unto me?"

At that moment, Bobby's phone rang.

"Singer," he barked into it, then he smiled. "Hey, Orgle, how's Phlegmgob? Yeah? Yeah? Really? That's great! I'm so pleased for you both! Give him a scritch from me. Oh yeah, the serum worked a treat, your boss is up and at 'em, and will be back with you in just a minute. Provided Dean has left him a realm to go back to, heh heh… huh? What? He did? Full tear-down? A rebuild? Wow, well, that should shut the Hierarchy up for a while… huh? What? You're shittin' me. You're shittin' me. You aint shittin' me? Really? God's tits, only that idjit… uh-huh… uh-huh… well, he don't know when to stop for his own good, and that's a fact, so I aint entirely surprised. Uh-huh, yeah, thanks for the heads up. Congratulations again for the big win." He looked up and smiled. "Phlegmgob has retained his farting title," he told them. "And Dean is on his way home, so," he waved a hand at Crowley. "Git."

With a huff and a pout that almost infringed on the Sam Winchester Bitchface™ trademark, the King of Hell disappeared.

Castiel cocked his head, apparently tuning in to Angel Radio. "I shall be leaving also, to resume my duties in Heaven," he told them, "Sam is returning to you now… oh."

Bobby sighed as Castiel relayed a small piece of information. "Never mind, we'll deal with it," he told the angel, "You got more important things to worry about, you've only just recovered, and you'll need to ease back into the work routine."

"Don't overdo it until you feel one hundred percent recovered," cautioned Ian.

"Very well. Goodbye Bobby, Sister, Doctor. Thank you again for your kindness and assistance."

With a brief flap-flap he took his leave.

"Well, that was an experience," mused Sister Fic, starting to strip the linen from the beds, "Nursing a demon and an angel. I don't remember that being covered in seminars when I was a postulant."

"It really is true that you learn something every day," agreed Ian, taking out his phone, "I'd better call Ryan, make sure that the salt and burn only took out the restless spirit's remains and not half the town – for a pre-turned rugaru, he sure does have some pyromaniac tendencies."

"Uh, actually," Bobby told them, "If you could both stick around for a day or two, I'd be grateful…"

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Castiel spent a few minutes standing in his favourite eternal sunny Tuesday afternoon, then carefully slipped out. He did not make any sort of announcement as he headed back to the small space he used for his administrative duties; he was returning to his work, that was all that mattered.

The desk he used as his seat of celestial oversight looked much the same as ever: piles of files, report, memos and assorted documents littered the surface. He picked up a piece of parchment; apparently, Sam's last act as stand-in had been to draft a suitably apologetic letter to Ra, of the Egyptian Field of Reeds, for 1) Jimi Senior stealing the Sun Disc and using it as a chew toy, and 2) for the letter of apology written by his brother.

He thought he might as well as make a start, so he picked up a file; it was from Danael.

He was expecting it to contain documentation that she deemed in need of improvement – all angels of the Host were acquainted with the Senior Librarian's Red Pen Of Fury.

What he was not prepared for was a piece of parchment that was practically covered with small adhesive tags of many different shapes and sizes and colours…

Somewhat bewildered, he had just called forth a mug of coffee – it was a cheerful red mug reading DON'T BUG ME UNTIL I'VE HAD COFFEE – I might have to smite you and get blood all over my lovely robe – when he heard the muted flap-flap of an angel arriving. Looking up, he saw three of his siblings. And something else unexpected…

"Hello, Ameniel, Zariniel, Maveriel," he greeted them.

"Welcome back, Castiel!" enthused the other angels. "Are you recovered?"

"Yes, thank you," Castiel replied, "I am well, thanks to the efforts of Bobby Singer, Dr Gregson and Sister Felicity. It was, in the end, a ploy by the Eternal Enemy to incapacitate me."

"Oh, demons," sighed Ameniel, the way a gardener might speak of slugs.

"They are so predictable," tutted Zariniel.

"Is there no end to their schemes and plots?" humphed Maveriel.

"The instigator was suitably punished for his sin," Castiel assured them, "I shall relate all in my report, which you may peruse at any time once it is filed in the Archives. Although," he glanced down at the document before him, "Given the new system of correction alerts that Senior Librarian Danael appears to have implemented, that could take some time."

"I suggest you get hold of a legend sheet," Ameniel the Herald gave the distinct impression that he was trying not to sigh. "You will get to know the common ones soon enough. A little red one means an incorrect spelling, a larger blue one is a dangling participle, a wide green one means a problem with tense, and the yellow highlighter means that the expression is inconsistent…"

"I shall do that," Castiel cut in, eyeing the object behind them. "What is that?"

"This is," Mevariel began with the air of a magician about to pull a rabbit out of a hat, "A… present. For you."

The smiling angels stood aside. Behind them stood a towering cake, iced in pink, its tiers disappearing towards the ceiling. Curious, he flapped his wings, rising to hover over the very top layer.

The piping on the top tier read WELCOME BACK CATSIEL.

He descended to his smiling siblings. "What is this?"

"It is a raspberry sponge," answered Zariniel.

"No, what I meant is, what is the purpose of this confection?"

"It is a human tradition," Ameniel elaborated, "The Dean told us about it…"

"By which, you mean Sam Winchester."

"Yes, he told us that the offering of a dessert to someone returning to their workplace after an absence is performed as an indication that a person's colleagues are pleased to have them back. In his society, this is usually in the form of a cake, traditionally decorated with an incorrectly spelled message of welcome." He gave Castiel a wistful stare. "We are pleased to have you back, Castiel."

Castiel took in the gigantic cake. "This is a very large cake, brother."

The other angels gave him eloquent stares. "We missed you a very great deal, Castiel."

"And I am pleased to return." Castiel regarded the cake, and looked at the other angels' expressions. "Thank you. This is most generous of you. However, I believe that eating it all by myself would constitute gluttony, and so…"

He did what Dean would refer to as put out an all points broadcast over Angel Radio, contacting all members of the Heavenly Host to alert them to his return to stewardship of their Father's Kingdom…

and bring a spoon.

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It might not have been strictly true to say that Crowley was looking forward to going home – after all, it was Hell – but he did experience a certain amount of relief that the whole disastrous episode was resolved, and he was anticipating sitting down with a bottle of Craig and maybe a toady to kick with a certain sense of enjoyment as he headed back to his office. With a groan as he arrived, he dropped onto one of the plush sofas.

"Hello, Mr Crowley!" the fiend greeted him as he floated past at shoulder height. "Are you feeling better now?"

"Hello Orgle," Crowley managed a small wan smile. "I suspect that the correct answer to that question is somewhere between 'yes' and 'no'." A bottle of Craig drifted past, and he grabbed it out of the air. "I have been traumatised in ways that The Pit cannot begin to replicate, although I wonder if I might speak to them on the floor down there, share some of my valuable and painfully acquired insights into the nature of…"

He blinked, and his brain caught up with his arrival.

"Er, Orgle," he began carefully, in the voice of a man who was out for a stroll and has suddenly realised that he's strolled right into the middle of a mine field, "I've just noticed now, mate, that you are floating in mid-air." He paused. "As was this bottle." Another pause. "As, in fact, is this couch. With me on it."

"I'm not exactly 'floating', Mr Crowley," replied Orgle, bobbing gently back in the other direction, "That would imply that I was surrounded by a fluid that was of a greater density than myself."

"Right, right, my mistake," nodded Crowley, "So, technically, not floating, but in appearance, Orgle, in appearance, you appear to be floating in mid-air. Like this bottle. And this sofa. Now, the reason I mention this is because when I was last here, there was no floating in mid-air, technical or apparent, taking place. And, call me a nosy parker, but I really would quite like to know what's going on."

"Well," began Orgle, "You know how Mr Winchester was here, not Mr Winchester, but Mr Winchester, well, Mr Winchester took a keen interest in Engineering, and the problems they've been having with demands on the Red Energy System, and he rewired Reactor Number One while he was here, and…"

Crowley sat up suddenly. This had the unfortunate effect of propelling him from the couch, and sending him drifting gently towards the ceiling. "What? Who let Squirrel mess with the…aaaargh! Hey! What the hell does that sofa think it's doing?"

"Equal and opposite reaction," replied Orgle, pushing off from a wall and gliding past to steer the sofa carefully back to the floor. "You applied a force, and so the sofa moved, of course, it moved less and more slowly than you, because of its greater mass and therefore greater inertia."

Crowley made desperate swimming motions to no avail; he bumped none too gently into the ceiling. "Ow! Bollocks," he muttered, "Who the hell let Squirrel mess with the power plant?"

"Nobody let him, Mr Crowley, he was The Boss at the time," Orgle pointed out. "Anyway, maybe 'rewire' is not the right word, 'rebuild' is probably more accurate, so, Engineering has been putting out more power than the system has ever produced before, and so…" He pushed off from a wall again, and executed a surprisingly graceful somersault for a creature that was ten feet tall and built like a steroid-abusing Kodiak bear.

Crowley let out a groan. "Oh, who the fuck decided that zero gravity was a good idea?"

"Well, Duke Anghaal has been demanding it for quite some time," Orgle reminded him, "And The Boss thought it might be fun, too, and to be honest," he performed another acrobatic move, all his mouths smiling, "It really has been terribly amusing, once you get the hang of it."

"Great. Just great." Scowling, Crowley gingerly gave himself a push, which sent him rocketing head-first into the sofa, where he let out a strangled yelp as he clutched at the upholstery.

"It does take a bit of getting used to," Orgle commiserated, "Because once you start moving, there is no downward force to slow you until you hit something more solid than you."

"That's very useful, Orgle," came the muffled reply. Crowley spat out a mouthful of cushion, and carefully manoeuvred himself into a sitting position. "And how reassuring to know that the couch is more solid than me. How strangely comforting." He opened the bottle he'd been clutching like a security teddy, and upended it. "Oh, bugger, Orgle, could you get me a straw?"

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Dean lay unprotesting as Ian finished examining him – the fact that he couldn't even find the energy to tell the vampire to fuck off was a testament to just how bad he was feeling.

"It's a cold," Ian assured Bobby as he put away his stethoscope, "It's a nasty one, yes, but it's not influenza, demonic or otherwise."

Sam made a noise of disbelief around the thermometer sticking out of his mouth. His big sister shushed at him.

"Are you sure?" complained Dean with a sniffle, "I feel like I've been hit by a truck."

"No, just a virus," Ian assured him.

"If you had actual flu proper, you'd be worse," Sister Fic told him, taking the thermometer from Sam's mouth, which left him free to pull an unhappy pout. "The fever would be higher, for a start." She passed a box of tissues over.

Dean took a handful, and honked into them. "And that's supposed to make me feel better, is it?"

"No, what will make you feel better is a few days of bed rest, and plenty of fluids," pronounced Ian. "And before you ask, by that I mean non-alcoholic fluids."

"Undead asshole," muttered Dean, following up with more coughing.

With an unhappy noise, Sam pulled the bedclothes over his head. "Crowley got booze in his lemon drinks," came the muffled complaint.

"You can have a hot toddy tonight," Fic stipulated, "Provided you have something to eat first."

"Pair of idjits," griped Bobby gruffly, "By now you should know better than to run yourselves into the ground like this – overworked and overtired, in the end, it always catches up with ya."

Sam's tousled head and bleary face popped out from under the blankets. "But there was so much to do," he protested, "And I felt like I was really making progress, Senior Librarian Danael was right on board with the stationery update, and I think we might have made a difference to the delinquent fledgling problem…" he broke off coughing, then let out a moan and collapsed back onto his pillow.

"Zero gees, Bobby," Dean snuffled and coughed, "Zero gees! Once I'd started rebuilding Morag, I couldn't leave her until I'd made her as good as she could be, and after that, zero gees! A once in a lifetime opportunity! I'll never get the chance to have frisky funtimes in zero gravity again, I had to take full advantage while it lasted!"

"Semelparity," mused Ian, shaking his head in bemusement. "Unreported in mammals. I should write you up, and publish."

"Semel... what?" Dean attempted to give the vampire a ferocious glare, which was somewhat spoiled by his red eyes, red nose and pale skin. "If you're accusin' me of some sort o' fetish, you fugly freak, let me tell you I aint…" he was interrupted by an explosive sneeze.

"Semelparity," repeated his big sister, rolling her eyes. "It's a reproductive strategy, seen amongst several species of marsupial mice. They mate repeatedly during the breeding season until the male's immune system crashes, and they die. They screw themselves to death."

"It'll never happen," rasped Dean, "The Living Sex God cannot be sexed to death."

"I don't want you sexed to death," sighed Sam, "I just want you too tired afterwards to tell me about it."

"Bitch."

"Jerk."

The honk of a horn from the yard made Ian look up. "That'll be my ride," he noted, picking up his bag and rising to shake Bobby's hand, "They're all yours."

"Thanks, I think," Bobby chuckled.

"We've got this," Fic assured him, wringing out a washcloth in the basin on the side table and running it over Sam's face while he let out a whine like a sick toddler, "Go read your pyromaniac apprentice the riot act."

"I'm not a damned baby!" Sam complained listlessly.

"You sure as hell sound like one," observed Bobby. "Behave yourselves, and maybe we'll make you something for lunch."

"I don't suppose a hamburger would be on the menu?" asked Dean without much hope.

"I'll make up some tomato rice soup," offered Sister Fic as she dropped Sam's washcloth and picked up another one from Dean's night stand, "Provided you behave yourself."

"Knock it off!" Dean came perilously close to whining too as he attempted to bat her away, "I don't need that, I'm fine."

"Yes you do," she replied firmly, "You're running a temperature, and this will make you feel better."

"Bite me."

"You perv, I'm your sister!"

"Then shove your washcloth, Sister sister."

"Be careful what you wish for, little brother."

Dean was about to make a statement to the effect that if she really cared about him and really wanted to cool him down, she'd bring him a beer, when there was a muffled flap-flap noise.

"Hello, Dean."

"Gaaaaaaaah!" Dean yelped as Castiel materialised sitting on the edge of the bed. "Oh, fuck, Cas," he moaned, letting his head fall back to the pillow, "The whole personal space thing is just so much white noise for you, aint it?"

"Hello again, Castiel," Sister Fic greeted him more politely, "What brings you back here?"

"It came to my attention that Dean and Sam were unwell, as a result of their efforts to assist during my recent illness," the angel replied gravely. "And so, I am here to assist during their recovery."

"Awesome," Dean let out a sigh of relief. "Thanks, Cas, you're a dude." He found a tired smile. "But I'm still gonna hold out for the tomato soup afterwards. Bonus is, I'll be able to taste it. So, make with the mojo, and…"

"Regretfully, I am still recovering from my own recent bout of diabolic influenza," Castiel said in a disappointed tone. "My grace, my 'mojo', is not quite fully recovered just yet."

Sam looked confused. "But, if your grace isn't up to killing off nasty colds, how do you propose to heal us?"

"I did not propose to heal you," Castiel pointed out, "I said that I am here to assist during your recovery." He gave Fic a small smile that was almost shy. "And so I am here to offer my assistance to Sister Felicity and Bobby in their ministrations, to care for you and alleviate your symptoms, until you are able to recover naturally.

Dean's eyes widened. "Huh?"

Sister Fic burst into a huge smile. "Oh, Castiel, that is so kind of you," she gushed, "Bobby has the yard and his work helping other Hunters to attend to as always, and I'm just so busy with these two, run off my feet, it will be such a relief to have your help."

Dean's eyes bugged even wider. "What? Er, you know, Cas, I appreciate the thought, dude, but you don't have to…"

"I know I do not have to," the angel cut in, giving Dean the Eye Sex Stare Of Doom, "But I want to. As you were so assiduous in helping to look after me when I became unwell, without being asked, you were attentive to my welfare, fetching medication and blankets, and soothing drinks, and comforting food…"

"There was sponging," Sam added helpfully, "I saw, there was definitely compassionate brow-sponging."

"Indeed," Castiel continued earnestly, "Your only thoughts were to help me. You acted as a true friend to me, Dean. And now, I am here to do the same for you."

Behind the angel, the expressions of pure evil that formed on Sam and Fic's faces would have been more at home on demons rather than a Hunter and a nun.

"Oh, you know what he's like, Cas," , "Thinking of everybody else except himself, he just can't bear to let himself be helped, by now you should be familiar with the he-man act. Really, deep down, he'd be so happy to have you help."

"I am glad I am able to offer succour," stated Castiel. "Sister Felicity, how may I assist?"

She proffered the basin and washcloth. "He's running a fever," she told him with a perfectly straight face, "And it's making him so uncomfortable…"

"No it's not!" yipped Dean, clutching the bedclothes to his chin.

"Oh, Dean, why do you have to be so stoic all the time?" sighed Sam, "He's been so uncomfortable with it, Cas, he was tossing and turning all night last night, he was so hot, he was practically panting."

"No I wasn't!" Dean protested.

Cas gave Dean the Eye Sex Stare Of Diagnosis. "Your sister is correct," he pronounced, "You are running a fever. Sponging with tepid water will make you more comfortable."

"He's right, Dean," sighed Sam, as Felicity gave him a doting smile and tenderly wiped his face. "Aaaah, I feel better already."

"Now, just wait a minute," began Dean, but he was being triple-teamed by two siblings and an angel.

"I am familiar with what Sam calls your 'he-man act'," Castiel intoned, dunking the washcloth in the basin and wringing it out, "And recognise that you feel compelled to offer token resistance."

"It's not token!" squeaked Dean, "It's not at all token, it's totallyyyyyEEEEEE!"

Even a non-sick Dean would never be a match for the angel in any physical contest; Castiel grabbed the bedclothes and whisked them down efficiently. "Having established that you are a self-sufficient individual, you may now cease resistance."

"Who the hell are you, Castiel of Borg?" Dean almost wailed.

"I don't understand that reference," the angel said matter-of-factly. "Please remove your shirt."

"Like hell, I will not stand for havin' my brother and sister teach you to be some sort of pervAAAAAARGH!"

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Having stood at the door to wave goodbye to Ian and his sidekick Ryan, Bobby headed back inside, but paused at the bottom of the stairs when he heard voices coming from the Winchesters' room.

"Don't worry, bro, it was an old shirt that was about to fall apart by itself anyway."

When you're done sponging, you can apply some of this, it's Vicks, here, catch."

"Thank you Sister, I shall do that directly. As soon as I have finished with this."

"Aaaaaaaargh!"

"Dean, this will go more quickly if you will stop trying to pull the bedclothes back up."

"Aaaaaaaaargh!"

"Dean, do not be foolish – I believe the expression appropriate here is 'You do not have anything I have not seen before', remember that I raised you from Hell and returned you to physical form and mortal life."

"Aaaaaaaaaaargh!"

"You'd better rub some Vicks on his chest, too, Cas, he's got a really, really nasty cough."

"AAAAAAAAAAARGH!"

"Dean, please try to hold still, this is for your benefit."

"Yeah, bro, you'll make your aches and pains worse. He's been complaining that everything hurts, you know, groanin' all night like a ninety-year-old with turbo-charged arthritis."

"If that is the case, I shall procure an oil blend with a component of soothing aromatics such as eucalyptus and clove – these things will not cure a cold, but massage with such topical ingredients can be very useful in the relief of physical symptoms associated with a viral infection."

"AAAAAAAAAAARGH!"

Idjits, thought Bobby, I am surrounded by idjits. From Above, from Below, from Right Here. Wonder what I did in a previous life.

Shaking his head at the sheer idjitry of which Creation was capable, he headed for the kitchen to start collecting the ingredients for tomato rice soup.

THE END


Wait for it... wait for it... wait foooooor iiiiiiit...

SQUELCH

And another Jimiverse plot bunny gets stomped, with some sniffly snuffly sicky Winchesters to finish off, because for some reason certain Denizens like That Sort Of Thing. We say farewell to Florence, who was not the most talkative of plot bunnies, but she got over the line in the end, which is what matters in this day and age where Everyone Is A Winner and you get a medal just for participating...

Send your reviews and I shall bunch them together in an attractive vase for Florence's funeral, and then possibly a visit from a certain van, which hasn't graced the pages of the Jimiverse for some time now.