"We contacted one of our teachers in Asia, and he told us to tell you what was going on," Jeshe explained.
"He did?" Dean said, surprised. "Okay, what's up?"
"We have some houseplants around the Abbey. One of them, we need to prune dead leaves off it daily. It's just ordinary for this sort of plant. But now, for about a week, we haven't needed to prune a single dead leaf. It's stayed in the same form all week."
"Maybe the plant's just…healthier?" Dean suggested. "Did you give it some Miracle Gro?"
"No," Jeshe said patiently. "One thing we believe in solidly is the impermanence of all things. By default in nature, nothing can stay static – that is go on forever. Everything constantly changes. This plant was the perfect example. We took turns pruning it, using it for our practice to remind us of the impermanence in life."
The thought that nothing can go on forever reminded Dean painfully that his relationship with Castiel might already be over, either through Castiel's death or return to angelhood.
"Well, that is kind of weird, then," Dean stammered out. "What do you make of it?"
"Our ancient writings tell us that this is a sign that the end of the world might be coming," Jeshe said gravely.
"The end of the world," Dean said slowly.
"I know it sounds crazy, but our teacher said you would understand," Jeshe said hopefully.
"Actually, I do understand," Dean said. "That is just really weird that your teacher would know that I would understand it. In fact, does this guy have any advice on how to stop the end of the world?"
"All we know is that a selfless man and a deva together can do actions to stop it," Jeshe said.
Dean wondered immediately if he could be considered selfless. He was having some trouble with that picture. And a diva? "A diva?" he asked. "Like Aretha Franklin?" How on Earth was he going to get a hold of a diva?
"No, no, sorry, I'm forgetting you don't know many of our words. Its deva spelled d-e-v-a. It's a being similar to an angel."
Dean's heart leapt at the word angel. "An angel? Really? That's great!" Dean said enthusiastically. "So, what are these actions that need to be done?" Dean was hoping his Buddhist friends had instructions laid out for him like a grocery list.
"Well, I'm afraid I do not know much – the man and his angel will need to follow their hearts, yet make difficult decisions as well. It is a long path having to do with balance, and strength, and kindness. I'm sorry to be so vague. I wish I could tell you more."
"No, you've been a great help. Thanks for calling. Please call again – either if you see or hear from Castiel, or your teacher has new advice. And did you say a man and his angel?"
"Yes, sorry, that's one other thing I do know about. The man and the angel have a profound bond. Do you know someone like that?' She asked.
"Yeah, I do," Dean said. "Let me know what is going on with your plant, will you? It sounds like it's an apocalypse thermometer." They said their goodbyes and hung up.
"Wow," Sam said, having overheard the conversation. "It sounds like Castiel has to be okay. Doesn't it?"
"I really hope so. They didn't say that it was written in stone, their ancient writings, that is, but it is giving me some hope that things could be right, I mean, if Buddhists were writing about Cas and I during ancient times? Wow. Just wow."
Dean was back to being shell-shocked at how important he and his decisions were to the entire world. It was too much. "Let's get something to eat," Dean said. "I want to drown my worries in a piece of pie."
They went to a diner nearby that had the clichéd red and white checkered tablecloths. Their food was above average, though, and Dean not only bought himself a piece of blueberry pie, he bought an entire pie for the two mothers they were going to see next.
"If I'm going to have to be selfless, I guess I better start now," Dean joked. "Besides, I think they might be more willing to talk if we come bearing gifts."
The women lived in the same neighborhood, but several blocks away from each other. They went to see Helene Markham first. When she opened the door, Dean, Sam, and Bobby could tell that grief had taken a toll on her. Her face looked eternally tired, and she wasn't able to muster up a smile in return for Dean, Sam, and Bobby's smile.
They gave her their condolences, and asked if they could speak with her about the burial. Dean also offered her the pie, which brought out a small tinge of smile from Mrs. Markham. She invited them in, and looked curious as to why three men would be so interested in her daughter's burial.
"We heard that your daughter and her friend were buried at night," Sam said, sensing her curiosity. "Plus, we're sort of working on the case, trying to find some clues as to what happened to them. Could you tell us if there was anyone who tried to influence you, or the other girl's mother, to bury them at night?"
Mrs. Markham insisted they all have some tea and a slice of the pie before she got started. Dean wondered if she were eager to serve someone – by looking at the family photos on the fireplace mantel, there was only one child, in different stages of life. He felt bad for her all over again.
Pie and tea in hand later, on very fancy china in Dean's opinion, she was willing to talk.
"Yes, there was someone who influenced me. And Margaret. That's the mother of Emily, my daughter Heather's best friend. Margaret and I had been talking about burying the girls together anyway." She choked through sobs on the next sentence. "They were born together, they died together – well sort of, at the same time, anyway, and we thought it was only appropriate that they be buried together."
They patiently waited for Mrs. Markham to compose herself, and Sam even patted her hand with sympathy.
"Anyway, we were at the funeral home, discussing all our options, for caskets, flowers, all the arrangements, including the day and time of burial, and this man came in. Dusty's boy – the funeral director's son – he was asking him how could he help him, and to our surprise, he wanted to see us.
"He offered to pay for our favorite set of caskets, if we agreed to bury the girls at the same time at 8pm. We were flabbergasted, but decided it wouldn't hurt to bury them at 8pm. The man covered the funeral director's after-hours fee as well."
"Did he give you any reason as to why he wanted it done at 8pm? Did you call the police? It's rather odd that a stranger suddenly has interest in a couple of stranger's burial. He could be the killer," Sam said.
"As for the 8pm part, he said something about full-circle, I can't remember it all, but it had to do with their birth time, and how it would be ceremonial to bury them at the opposite time of their birth. We thought it was just his odd way of paying his respects. Dusty told us later that he knew the man was a rich recluse, and so we assumed he was harmless. Do you think he could really be the one who – who…"
"We think he might have something to do with it. Not necessarily be the murderer, but be in league with the murder. We have to look into every possibility if we're going to help the police find and stop who did this to your daughter," Sam said.
Dean wrote down the man's name and made a mental note to ask Dusty if he knew where the guy lived. "Did he stipulate anything else?" Dean asked. "About the funeral. Besides the odd time? Any other details?"
"Well, he did give this to us…hold on a minute." Mrs. Markham got up and went to her purse, and pulled out a piece of paper with scalloped edges.
"He didn't say we had to use it or anything, he just offered it to us for the service, if we wanted it." She handed the paper to Dean.
A child's love shines like no other. Multi-faceted and etched into every corner of our hearts, its brilliance can know no death, no darkness befall it. Where can an eternal love hide, when its very existence eliminates all shadows?
If a child's love is obscured from view, it peeks out from the edges of shadows like the silver lining of a cloud. Look to that light, and once again, the child's love covers ever corner of this world with its gleaming.
Dean made sure Sam and Bobby could see it. "Oh man, this looks really familiar," he said.
"Oh. My. God," Sam said. The three men looked at each other.
"What is it?" Mrs. Markham asked.
"We've seen another version of this before, is all," Dean said. "We think it might mean something. Can I copy down this version to keep? And did you actually use it at the service?"
"We did, we thought it was quite comforting. And let me get you a pen and paper."
Dean copied it down, and took down the woman's phone number as well, telling her he'd be in touch if they discovered anything interesting. They also advised her to give the same information to the police.
Back in the car, Dean said, "What's his name's poem. Father O'Brien. Except it was slightly different. It was about Cas. Not children."
"Damn, this is just getting weirder and weirder," Bobby said. "There's no way this is a coincidence."
"Yeah, we've got to call O'Brien later and ask him about it," Sam said.
"You know what's been eating at me all afternoon?" Dean said. "I'm wondering if the nun's place in Washington is no longer a safe spot. I mean, now that the nuns see that there can be an end of the world. According to Cas, before, they were in their own peaceful little bubble. Now it's like they've become players in the whole apocalypse scene too. It worries me."
"Yeah, me too," Sam said. "I really wish Cas were here to tell us."
"Tell me about it," Dean said softly. Then louder, "Okay, next order of business?"
They went to see Margaret Shadle, the other mother. She gained a pie, but they didn't gain any extra details on the mysterious recluse. It was a much quicker visit – five minutes on her front porch and it was over. They decided to scope out Mr. Mysterious's house since they had the address.
Dean was expecting some gnarly old mansion up on a hill a la Edward Scissorhands, and he wasn't too far off. Except it was not so secluded and was not ugly. It was a beautiful, large brick house, with a gate and an intercom. Dean pressed the button, but no one answered. Not even a butler. Dean thought that was odd. Surely he keeps hired help around all day, if he has this kind of money to blow?
Dean tried a few more times but got the same results. Dean headed back to their motel, and Sam called Father O'Brien on the way there.
"Voicemail," Sam said, and left a brief message.
After pizza and beer, and a few discussions about the day's events, Dean was ready to hit the pillow early. Bobby and Sam didn't mind crashing early either. The lights went out and Dean eased into a comfortable sleep. He was still faintly aware of Castiel's absence as he usually was – his arm would reach out and find air, and then the blanket. Yet he never failed to reach out as if he were actually there and could be pulled into his arms.
Dean woke up somewhat in the middle of the night, and reflexively reached out to hold Cas as he usually did, when he realized something warm was pressing up against the full length of his body. His arm didn't land on the blanket, it landed on something warm and breathing. "Cas?" Dean said groggily. "Cas, is that you? Oh god, let that be you!" he said in a whisper. He realized if it was Castiel, he didn't want to wake Bobby and Sam – well not right away.
"Hello Dean. I've missed you."
A/N: ACK! I know, I know bad place to stop, I thought I was going to write more, but it's almost midnight, I really need to get to bed, I wanted to be able to leave the readers something today though. Hope you enjoyed it, and yeah I stole that "profound bond" line, I couldn't resist! Haha!
And please remember a lot of what I write about the Buddhists is going to be imaginary for the story – they do think about impermanence though, and I got the part about the deva from Wikipedia – so thanks to Wikipedia for the info!