Summary: What Anna overheard.
"Dean Winchester is saved."
She jerked upright in her chair and looked around the lecture hall. Nobody else seemed to have heard anything; they were all in the catatonic state that the Ethics of Journalism class infallibly induced. Shaking her head to clear it, Anna attempted to focus on Mr Spencer and his powerpoint slides about journalism's first obligation being to the truth and the discipline of verification. Falling asleep in class, however justified given the content of said class, really wasn't going to help her get the credits she needed.
Later she headed out to the athletics field. She wanted to complete the latest photojournalism assignment and had had the brilliant idea of taking pictures of the empty track and the bare bleachers rather than the usual shots of the college stars in action. It had seemed an emotionally insightful piece when she first had the idea, but now she was standing there, shadows lengthening in the early evening sunlight and the air chilling with the advent of Fall, she had the uneasy feeling it was just trite. Lacking any other ideas, she went ahead with it anyway, taking several pictures of the track from different angles before walking to the centre of the field and taking some shots of the stands, trying to capture their stark loneliness as the shadows deepened,
'He has found his brother.'
She spun round to see who had snuck up behind her, but the field was empty.
'Does he know?'
"Have you revealed yourself?'
''Where is Sam Winchester?'
Question followed question, building to a cacophony of voices that pounded at her until finally all was silent again. She was left kneeling in the damp grass, the camera tumbled beside her and her hands clasped tightly over her ears.
Knees wobbling, she got slowly to her feet, only to duck at the sound of wings beating the air. A flock of crows passed low overhead, flying fast into the oncoming gloom.
She showered when she got back to the dorm, changed into clean warm clothes, and had a mug of coffee. The familiar rituals were soothing and by the time she started downloading her photos to her laptop, she realized that she'd been mistaken in thinking she heard things. Because the only other alternative, according to google, would be a mental health issue along the lines of schizophrenia or psychosis. And really, she had no other symptoms. She knew she wasn't nuts. She knew nothing fundamental had changed. Her brain had simply conjured something out of nothing as a reaction to too much partying and too little sleep.
She was sketching out a layout for her photos when it happened again.
Urgent voices, talking of people and places she had never heard of. More and more voices, building in volume and number until she screamed at them to shut up, to please for the love of God stop.
By the time they finally ceased, she was curled up under her desk, her head buried in her arms.
The respite didn't last for long. The voices returned, filling her head with mythical, impossible, mad things. Even pulling her pillow over her head didn't block them out.
Lying in bed the next morning, waiting for her roommate to leave, she thought about making a doctor's appointment. Once she was alone she actually got as far as thinking about picking up her cell phone and making the call.
She never did make that call. She couldn't figure out how to explain to a doctor that just thinking about the phone being in her hand had caused it to pick itself up off the desk and float across the room to her.
At least now she knew she wasn't going insane. She'd never heard of insanity, hereditary or otherwise, that involved telekinesis. Instead she concentrated on listening to the voices, making sense of what they were saying and picking out individual voices to listen to so they wouldn't overwhelm her. She came to know of Dean and Sam Winchester, of Lilith and Azazel, of signs and seals, and things she had never learned in her father's church. She came to know the names of those whose voices she heard. She recognized some, googled others, and at half past midnight on 2nd October she finally came to believe that the voices that spoke about demons and the end of the world were those of angels. She drank the best part of a bottle of vodka in less than an hour, and spent the rest of the night throwing up.
When she woke up early the next afternoon – head thumping, throat sore, stomach churning – she took off for the library instead of making her way to class. She stayed there late into the night, delving into mythology and theology and mysticism while everyone else slept.
The more she learned, the more she felt that she knew the angels. She found herself talking back to them, asking questions, even though they never answered. After she'd shouted at Uriel in public, calling him a dick in the middle of Professor Hoffmann's lecture, her attendance at class slid off even more. She didn't need the rest of her class to think she was batshit insane.
"Look, Anna, I think maybe there's something going on with you and you need to get some help."
Kelly, her roommate – make that ex-roommate – was packing her books in a way that looked rather panicky. Anna guessed she'd meant to be packed-up and gone before she came back from her morning's lectures, but the angels had gotten so chatty that she'd given up on being able to hear Mr Spencer, and come back early to the dorm.
"Did – What did you tell them to get reassigned?"
Kelly shrugged, avoiding Anna's gaze. "Just that we had an irreconcilable interpersonal conflict. Sorry and all, but I need to get some sleep."
"I understand," Anna said. Not that she did; this charge of her disturbing Kelly's sleep was a crock. She was always careful to be quiet when she came in from the library and she didn't tend to talk to the angels much in the night as they too were quieter. Apart from Castiel, whose voice was always there through the night. She found it soothing.
"Can I help you with your stuff?" she asked Kelly. Best not to burn any boats; if the angels decided to pack up and move on out, Kelly Hopkins was one of the best connected students there was. A job in her father's media empire would, with Kelly's recommendation, be a shoo-in.
"He is an abomination."
Oh shit. Uriel, of all the times to pick.
"He is still my Father's creation."
"You know as well as I that what he was no longer matters. It is what he is becoming that must concern us."
"Until we know for certain what that is, we cannot move against him. If we do, we will lose Dean."
"And that is a price you will not consider, isn't it, Cas? Why do you tolerate such disrespect from one so lacking in judgment, in spiritual insight, that he would have been nothing more than dust to be shaken from your feet when last you walked the earth?"
Wow, she hadn't known angels were capable of such vitriol. And damn it, at some point while she was listening to their bitch-fest, Kelly had picked up her box and left. Scratch Kelly's daddy when it came to employment opportunities.
"He was chosen," Castiel said.
"Samhain rose. Another seal was broken. This is unacceptable."
Anna jumped at the tone of Castiel's voice, then relaxed when the calmness she normally associated with him returned as he continued, "For now, we need Dean Winchester. We are not to touch Sam Winchester unless things change."
She never heard the battles themselves. She wondered if that meant the angels went into stealth mode for them. Whatever the reason, she was thankful beyond belief that she did not have to bear direct witness to the losses they sustained, losses that happened more and more frequently as time went on. Had she been privy to the battles themselves, she thought she really would have gone insane instead of simply bearing the stigma of mental instability as far as other people were concerned. Friends would no longer speak to her – they'd keep their eyes trained on the ground whenever she walked past, as though embarrassed by her proximity. But it suited Anna. This way she wasn't distracted from the angels' voices.
She listened to the planning, the hopes and fears and calculating of the odds, the weighing of probability over which seals Lilith would attempt to break next. She heard the sorrow and the anguish as losses were reported: the telling of names that had echoed down the years from the beginning of time and were now no more.
The only consolation she had as she lay curled on her bed, clutching her pillow, was that Dean Winchester would save them all.
"You are no longer objective on this, Castiel."
"I will see it done, no matter the cost."
"So you say, yet you stay with him at night, watching over him. What happens when he defies you? Because he will; his loyalty for the abomination that he calls brother is too strong. In the end Dean Winchester will stand beside Sam Winchester, and both must be turned to dust."
"Dean dreams of Hellfire and it will consume him. We need him whole."
"Is this why you shelter him beneath your wings when you think nobody is watching?"
"He has known the torment of the pit, Uriel. Can he not know a little peace while he sleeps?"
"You have changed. These mud-monkeys have weakened you."
Castiel's reply was little more than a whisper. "Perhaps."'
Shutting the door, Anna leaned back against it for a moment before sliding down to sit on the floor. Her mom and dad had visited. Unannounced. Given how awkward they were about their decision to just drive up and see her she had the feeling the student counselor might have suggested it after the last meeting Anna had had with her. In the middle of it Malchediel had started getting all gung-ho and had had to be talked down – finally ordered down – by Castiel. It had made for some pretty riveting listening. The counselor, however, had not seemed too impressed.
Her parents had asked how she was with an earnestness that also gave away the true purpose of their visit. They'd taken her out for lunch to a nice restaurant in the city, which had been fine until news had come in that Malchediel had fallen in the latest battle. She had wept, inconsolable, and finally they had taken her from the restaurant and back to her room. She knew she couldn't tell them the truth; she knew how it would sound. Even if she did find some non-crazy-sounding way of telling them what was happening, they wouldn't be able to understand the way she felt about the angels, how every loss they suffered was a loss she shared.
When all this had started she'd wanted to ask her father about Revelation and the apocalypse and the signs and the seals, but she now knew more than he did. She knew the reality, not simply church doctrine and tradition.
She'd tried to calm herself and to reassure them she had just been working too hard. Finally they had seemed convinced and after hugging her tightly, they'd left for the long drive home.
It was only now, listening to the voices speak of yet another broken seal, Anna realized she'd been wrong. She should have told them; they needed to prepare for what was coming. She had to warn them. She had to warn everyone.
The whole warning thing didn't go so well.
Eventually there were no tears left, just the knowledge of what was to come. Anna huddled under her blankets in the shadowed night-time lighting of the psychiatric ward and waited for the end.
"All is well."
Castiel's voice was low and tender. She stopped breathing for an instant, believing he had felt her need and had come to her.
"It is a dream, no more. We are safe in the vineyard, where the vines are budding and the pomegranate trees are flowering and the fragrance of blossom softens the air."
She knew then he wasn't speaking to her, yet she clutched at the comfort of his words. The warmth that infused them cradled her and kept her from harm.
As her eyes closed in sleep, the last thing she heard was Castiel's voice.