The café was small, crammed with furniture and local paraphernalia, but there was hardly anyone left inside. The breakfast regulars had already finished and the lunch crowd wasn't quite ready to shuffle in. Dean and Sam sat across from one another, in front of the large window to the outdoors, the sun just warming up to the Midwestern state. Iowa. It had been breezy all morning and Sam still had his tan jacket pulled around him, Dean had stripped to his charcoal t-shirt. Neither of the Winchester brothers was in the mood to eat – coffee, some toast – but nothing real, substantial. It perhaps had to do with the fact that as far as they could calculate, Dean's time was running out. A couple of days, maybe three. Maybe. Sam had woken up that morning, looked over at his sleeping brother and went into the bathroom and thrown up. He couldn't help it. His hands had shook, his eyes had teared up and spots had blinded him for a few seconds, making him feel as though he was going to pass out. Thank God for the coolness of the bathroom floor, he had thought. It had kept him awake, sane and blind to Dean's eyes.
Dean let out a sigh. Lately it was always a sigh. Nothing more. Sam looked down. "I'll call Bobby in a little while. See if he's found anything."
Dean nodded. "Yeah."
Sam looked out the window and watched the little action happening in his small picture of the world. A woman's yellow coat blew in the wind, she grabbed it tighter to wrap it around herself and a child next to her, lost her hand for a moment and then regained it again. Delicate in the wind.
They had came to Iowa on a whim, hearing there was an old Indian remedy for breaking curses, breaking bonds with spirits, devils. The road had only led them to a ghost town, nothing had been living there for years. They had asked around and no one had ever met anyone from around there that was even half Indian. Every chance of breaking the deal had ended like this recently. All roads ended with nothing. All of them were dead ends.
Their food arrived and Sam gulped down a rise in his throat. Dean picked up the coffee and took a drink. He picked up a package of jelly from a small bowl and then held it out to his brother. Sam reached for it, their index fingers touching for a brief second and Dean thought he was going to drop the bowl in a horrible smash all over the table. He quickly looked away and glanced at the counter, at the cashier, at anything that wouldn't take his mind off the deadly stillness between them.
So they sat in silence, ate in silence. Each could hear their own jaws moving, chewing food, sipping on coffee and juice – it was all that filled their ears. The jingle of the register, the ring of the doorbell blowing in occasionally occurred and then Dean thought maybe he caught something else. Low in the background, there came a whistle. Quiet at first, but it was there beyond the news report on the TV. Sam heard the waitress let out a laugh and the whistle seemed to get louder and perhaps change as though it was a missile plummeting to Earth. He glanced up at his brother, but Dean had already stopped chewing and his eyes were locked on Sam. The sound got louder, seeming to take over all the noises in the restaurant, but no one else appeared to notice. They continued working and talking as though they couldn't hear the world was coming to an end.
Both Winchester brothers grabbed at the small table that separated them when the ground started to shake from an apparent impact. Dean rocked back and forth in the vinyl booth, watching Sam as he rocked the same way. It took a moment for them to catch their breaths as the shaking settled and their surroundings began to return to a normal state. Sam reached over and picked up the salt and peppershakers, replacing them back with the dessert menu. Dean looked around at the others, but again no one seemed to be the wiser. At the same time, the boys bolted from their seats and ran to the swinging café door, opening it up abruptly. They looked frantic, both to the left, the right, straight-ahead, up and down. Nothing. The wind still blew. The lady with the yellow coat was almost out of sight now, her child still walking sweetly next to her. A man crossed the street, maybe heading for the bank. It was all… normal, quiet.
The brothers turned around and saw their waitress, short and skinny staring at them, bewildered.
"Sir, is one of you going to pay for breakfast?"
Dean and Sam exchanged looks and then retreated back into the restaurant, they sat clumsily into their booth and looked up at the young lady. Her name pin said, "Lola". Of course, Dean thought. "Are you done eating?" She asked callously.
Sam frowned. "Almost." And after a quick pause, he curiously questioned, "Did you feel that earlier?"
Lola gave them an odd look. "Feel what?"
"The shaking, the whistle from outside?"
Lola stared at the young men as though she thought maybe she was on Candid Camera or Punk'd. She looked out the large glass window in front of all of them and a dog suddenly appeared, staring into the café. It gave a ferocious bark, staring right at Dean. Dean's body jerked away, his head whipping towards the animal. Oh, no. The hounds of hell. He gulped. Already? No, it wasn't time yet!
"No, no shaking or whistling, but there's Duke. Looking for his mid morning snack I s'pose." She placed a finger out towards the window. The dog-focused on Lola and started wagging his tail so fast, his whole butt started to move. "I'm coming, Duke," she called and turning from them she walked over to the counter and grabbed some old bacon she'd been saving back from the breakfast herd.
The men let out simultaneous sighs, both of them sinking in the booth, relief momentarily flowing over them.
"Oh, my God," one of them whispered.
Dean looked up. "I thought…"
"It wasn't, Dean."
"I know, but…" Dean grabbed at his tightening chest with his fist. The color had left his face. "I can't take much more of this, Sammy."
Sam felt something tug at his heart just then. His stomach lurched a bit and his face flushed with heat. He looked at Dean, not having any words. None.
"I feel like a dead man walking," Dean's voice rang in his ears.
Sam turned from his brother to look back out the window. The dog had gone and now there was a woman standing, facing the both of them. She pulled her face in closer to the window and really looked at Sam, studying his face and suddenly she lit up into a bright grin. Sam was puzzled, his neck lurched back and he gawked at her, clearly unsure of whom she was. He shrugged his shoulder at her. She was mouthing something at him, but Sam wasn't catching what her lips were trying to say. Finally she waved her hand at him, as to say, no matter, it's okay and she walked from the window and into the restaurant. The ring of the swinging door and the breeze of the wind came as a surprise – a warm feeling - to Sam as the woman walked in. She approached their booth and looked over to see Dean completely slumped down, looking wary, defeated. She waved her hands to the still confused Sam and encouraged him to scootch down. Without hesitation, Sam did exactly that.
The woman was of an average height, plump around the middle, with a round sweet face, younger – maybe in her early to mid thirties. Her hair was blond, wavy, cascading down to her shoulders, her eyes an icy green. She wore a white shirt, blue jeans, and white tennis shoes, carrying with her a white satchel to make the outfit! She looked at the brothers and smiled and Sam thought to himself – maybe he did know her. Something was familiar about her. Had he met her before?
" Can I get you something?" Lola returned upon sight of the potential new customer.
The woman looked to what Sam and Dean were eating and made a funny face. "Do you have pancakes?" she asked, a bit excited.
"I'd like an order of the biggest stack of pancakes you have," the woman responded.
Lola snapped her gum. "What kind of syrup?"
"What do you have?" again, her voice seemed to sing, the more excited she became over these pancakes.
Lola threw her hip out and twirled her hair slightly. 'Maple, honey, blueberry, strawberry…"
"Just bring me all of them," the woman interrupted.
Lola looked for a moment and then said under her breath, "All of them." She started to turn and then looked back. "Oh, is this still on one ticket?"
The woman smiled and answered, "Yes."
When she had turned her attention back to the brothers, both of them were staring at her, fuzzily. There was a slight happy shrug of her shoulders towards them and the fact that she couldn't stop smiling was giving Dean the creeps.
He looked at Sam, pointing at the woman. "Who's Mrs. Butterworth, Sam?"
Sam's eyebrows came down. "I don't know."
"Oh, my, you don't know me, right?" the woman seemed half surprised, half not. She waited a moment, perhaps giving them a chance to come up with an answer, but neither was playing so she continued. "I'm Abia. Well, not really, but that's what you can call me. My real name is really hard to pronounce in your language.
Dean looked at Sam and then back at Abia. Sarcasm dripped from his tone, "Don't tell me… you're a mermaid?"
She laughed hard at him and then gave him a bizarre look. "You're a quiz, aren't you?"
"A quiz? Oh my, God, Sammy…"
Sam looked to his left. "Is there something we can help you with?" he tried.
Abia looked at the brothers. "You are the Winchesters, right?"
Sam and Dean nodded.
"Oh, good, sometimes I get it wrong, but I thought I was right. I saw your scar." She reached up and pointed to Sam's right hand, where he had gotten wounded in battle, "and yours," she motioned to Dean's shoulder and chest where he had scars, which were currently covered by his t-shirt.
Dean pointed to himself. "My scars? You can't see any of my…" his voice trailed off.
"Well, they can't," she gestured to the café patrons, "but I can. And then I knew you were the Winchesters. Your Sam and Dean. I only have certain pictures in my mind of you, so I have to sort of put them together like a puzzle. Your scars are stories from where you've been and then I knew when I saw them that I was where I was needed."
"Where you were needed?" Dean probed. "You think we need you."
Lola arrived with the pancakes and Abia squirmed in the seat next to Sam. She nudged her dinner partner with her elbow. "Just a warning, I'm not going to share," she joked with the younger man. She reached for two kinds of syrups – maple and strawberry – and started with them. After slicing a large piece of the flapjack, she inserted them into her mouth and made a sound of pure happiness. A sound the boys were familiar with when it came to women but not normally when they encountered breakfast foods. Abia pointed to her plate, "This is so good!" she exclaimed.
Dean cleared his throat. "I don't mean to rush you through this, lady, but I don't think you are going to be able to help us."
Abia swallowed, took a drink of her large chocolate milk and wiped her mouth. "You're right. I'm here to help him." She signaled to Sam sitting next to her now with a gaping mouth. She lowered her voice to Sam. "I'm here to help you help me help him." She gestured to Dean.
Dean threw his arms out into the air. "Oh my God."
Abia pointed her fork at him. "Exactly." She stabbed the pancake with the utensil and started on another bite.
Sam blinked at her. An idea was slowly dawning on him, but he dare not say the words for fear of Dean's reaction. Sam put his long fingers to his forehead, his elbow resting on the table and stared at this woman. "How did you know where to find us?" he asked.
Abia looked over at him. "You told me."
He was perplexed. "I did?"
Abia nodded. "Yes, for 363 days now you have asked for someone to come and help, but we're just now getting through all the paperwork and, well, you don't care about that stuff, but we're sorry it's taken so long. I'm pleased to tell you that He can help you."
Dean smirked. "Who's He?"
"God, of course. Silly!"
Dean rolled his eyes and sat up straight, looking at Sam. "I've had enough, you, too? Great let's go." Dean rose to leave, but Sam sat still. He looked at Dean, pleading with his eyes. Where are we going to go? We have no other options. Dean hesitated for a moment and then swung back in the booth. "Are you seriously listening to her, Sammy?"
"He likes to be called Sam," Abia chimed in.
Dean ignored her. "She just shows up…"
"Actually I just dropped in. Right before I got here, I fell out of the sky."
Dean's jaw muscles throbbed. "You fell out of the sky?"
"Yes. Didn't you hear it? Usually it makes a lot of racket when one of us comes to Earth. The ground shakes, the sound barrier sings."
Dean looked back to Sam. "Come on. This isn't real. It isn't."
Sam glanced over at Abia. "Why do you think I told you where we were?"
Abia was eating more of the pancake and looked up over her much smaller stack. "For 363 days you've been praying the same prayer." Rapidly, she reached into her white knapsack she was carrying and pulled out a small white notebook. She flipped through it quickly and stopped. "August 14th, Dear God, please save my brother Dean, September 3rd, Dear God, please save my brother Dean, November 7th please, God, save my brother Dean, December 25th please God, save my brother Dean. There are 363 prayers, every day for almost a year now from Sam Winchester asking God to save Dean."
Dean's eyes bore imaginary holes into Sam's forehead from where he sat.
"And you're saying, God got those prayers?" Sam asked, wanting so badly to believe this was possible.
Abia nodded. "Of course he did. Like I said, sorry we're a little late. We've been backed up."
Sam shook his head. "So you're an… angel?"
"I'm a guardian angel." She said it so convincing, Dean even got a lump in his throat.
"Whose?" Dean asked, turning again pessimistic, "Mine or his? And where've you been all the other times we need you?"
Abia put her finger to her lips to silently hush Dean. "You humans get it so confused. No one has their own guardian angels. We're not personal assistants, but were are around. We just aren't assigned to any one human."
Sam was more eager to get back at the question on the breakfast table. "So you can save Dean?"
Abia took another bite of her stack, again pointing at them with her fork. "These really are phenomenal." She chewed and swallowed, enjoying every moment. Then turning towards Sam, she answered, "No. I can't save anybody. But I can help you to make your request to God more visible. Like I said you have to help me help you help him."
Dean was growing tired. "So there's a Heaven? Wait, is it Iowa? If I build, will he come?"
"Of course there's a Heaven. Is that so hard for you to believe?" Neither brother said anything to that question which never seemed to have a definite answer anyway. Abia looked at them, hurtfully.
Sam's eyes narrowed at her. She really did seem familiar to him. In a soft voice, almost a whisper, the endearment escaped him before he knew it, "Mom?"
Abia laughed. She reached out and firmly placed her palm gently over Sam's entire backhand. Sam thought he was going to melt away from the sensation. She looked up and rested her eyes with his. "No, Sam. I'm not your mother, but she is with us."
"With who?" Dean growled from across the table. There was nothing about this… fallen angel… that was going to convince him of the existence of cherubs, angels, and dead mothers living happily up in Heaven.
"Where do you think your mother currently resides?" She inquired, her gaze holding with Sam's. She broke free of her hold on Sam and flipped though her notebook again. "Ah, right here, your mom – Mary - she says 'Hi'. And she wants you to know she is doing okay." She turned to Sam. "And Jess is with us, too, she says to tell Sam everything that happened, it wasn't your fault."
Without any warning a tear streamed down Sam's cheek rolling all the way down his neck. He never even had time to reach up and wipe it away.
Dean drooped back in the booth's vinyl again. He felt his chest pound, not sure if it was frustration or heartache, he but refused to look at his little brother, not trusting his own emotions. Everything inside his head told him that this could not be real, there was no Heaven, no lighted afterlife with tunnels and singing and pearly gates. There couldn't be, he had never – not once – ever encountered proof that any of this existed. Demons, yes. Hell, yes. Coincidence, yes. Heaven couldn't possibly be sitting on the side with coincidences. Meshed in unknown continuation. No, that was too vague, too vast, too easy. If it existed, he would have seen something before this. Something real.
"Our Dad," Dean lifted his eyes, almost sounding accusing.
"John Winchester was.. a wonderful man. I wish we could have saved him. He just didn't give us enough time. He made that deal so fast by the time we knew… he was already gone." Abia's voice was so crystal, so clear, so honest. Dean wanted to accept this woman's answers.
"Is there any hope for him?" Sam's eyes pleaded.
Abia shook her head. "I don't have all the answers, I'm sorry. Miracles happen. Sometimes things shift and we get a few wondrous souls from below to come and join us. Your Dad, what he did, was such a great sacrifice for you," she looked at Dean, "and what your mother did for you," she turned to look at his little brother. "You had such amazing parents, you should both feel so blessed."
Sam looked away, feeling the hot burn of tears again. He swallowed hard and tried to block the mounting emotions inside of him. Two days, maybe three. Maybe. And now this woman shows up to offer help, guidance. He let a shaky breath out and tried to calm his body down. It felt like a racehorse was inside of him, running the Kentucky Derby. Her words rang out – help me, help you, help him.
"You said," Sam pulled himself together for a moment, "you could help me."
Abia swirled the remaining blueberry syrup around her plate. "You guys have done such a great job fighting for us…"
"Fighting for who?" Dean interrupted.
"Whose side did you think you were on all this time?" She giggled.
Dean rolled his eyes. "I don't know. The greater good of mankind."
"It's a war, Dean, just like in real life. There are sides to this war. One of Good and one of Evil. Whether you know it or not, every time you have successfully achieved your goal, you have helped us in our plight. The greater good of mankind is sort of just a perk for you. Something tangible." Abia took a bite her pancakes almost gone now. The syrup dripped just a bit and then seemed to disappear from her lips like magic. "I can't save anyone, but I can give you tips on how you can summon us to help your brother when the time comes."
Sam sat up, interested, focusing on the woman who as she had been speaking to him was becoming more and more beautiful to him. He nodded. "Okay."
Abia turned and gave Sam her full attention. "When you get ready for bed tonight, you need to pray."
"I knew it!" Dean exclaimed, hitting his hand down hard on the table. "Jehovah's Witness, right? Well, I'm not paying for your hotcakes, Aunt Jemima!"
Abia narrowed her eyes at the older Winchester and leaned across the table, her ample bosoms just missing the sticky plate in front of her. "I know a yellow-eyed demon targeted your family, I know that you – Dean Winchester – at the age of four was entrusted with known target in one sweep of your Dad's hand. I know that you felt it the moment you held your baby brother in your arms. I know that you sold your soul to buy your brother's life back – something – by the way - you should never, ever, ever, ever, ever do. I know that right now, you are scared as Hell wondering when is it going to be – today, tomorrow, the next. It's coming. You can feel it with every breath and it doesn't seem like it was such a great idea anymore, does it? And Sam is here, he's alive and you're scared. You're scared about what this is going to do to him when your gone, but you won't tell him that. You have pain, he has pain, but neither of you will talk about that, not even now. Not even with two days left."
"Maybe three," Sam whispered.
Abia looked at him. "Two. Two days." She focused on Dean again. "They'll come for you at midnight."
"Jesus Christ." Dean looked warn, sick. The time. The date. His death. He shook his head and tried to get her words to unscramble. "We pray?"
Abia smiled. "Yes. And then they'll come tomorrow night – at midnight."
"But you said two days…" Sam interjected.
"They count that as the second day. They're demons, not the IRS." She sounded sad for them, empathetic of their dilemma.
Lola's skinny framed appeared at the table. She pointed to the empty plate. "Finished?"
Abia nodded. "It was Heavenly." Lola gathered the plates and glasses and smiled at them. Abia smiled back and under her breath she stated, "She's having an affair on her husband. He just doesn't give her the attention anymore. I think he may be losing her. You don't realize how to keep the one you love sometimes, what to say to them, until it's too late. And usually the answer is so simple." Then after a sigh she excused herself. "Well, thanks for the pancakes. I've got to be going. Good luck to you boys. It was a pleasure meeting the both of you. Pray and hopefully I'll see you tomorrow night." She stood and bent over the small table, touching both Dean and Sam's shoulders simultaneously. She closed her green eyes and mumbled a few silent words, reaching her hands to the top of the brother's heads, they instinctively closed their eyes with her. After a few seconds, she opened her eyes. "Bless you both," she whispered. And when the Winchester's opened their own eyes, the angel was nowhere to be found.