Spoiler warning: Spoilers through Season 5, Episode 3
Warnings: dark, adult themes; sexual situations
Disclaimer: All characters from Supernatural are the intellectual property of Eric Kripke, Warner Bros. Television, and Kripke Enterprises. I make no profit from this fanfiction.
Author Note: I apologize for the long delay in uploading this last chapter. I was abroad on a work trip and couldn't find time to work on this chapter until now. Please accept my thanks for your patience and encouraging words.
She rests on the single sheet covering the stripped down mattress, lying skin to skin with an angel, inhaling his stormcloud scent and thinking, 'I've never experienced this before.'
She curls into the warmth radiating from this body, this man, her head cradled in the familiar hollow of his shoulder as she matches her breaths to his, and thinks, 'I'll never experience this again.'
Melancholy sweeps through her in a swift, relentless rush. She realizes if she wants peace, she'll have to expose the last of her pain to the light of day; if she wants absolution, she'll have to confess.
She knows he'll understand.
"I used to pray," she says, breaking the comfortable silence. "I used to pray a lot those first few months. I thought he was dead, but I still hoped…I'd say, 'Please, God, give me five more minutes with him. Give me just five minutes to tell him everything, what he meant to me, how much I loved—'"
His fingers tighten on her waist, and she shakes her head in response; it's not his guilt she seeks but to finish this for herself. "I was given more than five minutes; I was given hours. Yet instead of saying what I should've, I pushed aside his pain in favor of spilling out my sense of betrayal, my pain—" The words sear her throat, but she forces herself to go on. "Why do humans do this? Why do we pray for a second chance, then throw it away when we get it?"
Her head rises with his inhalation, and she hears his voice rumbling in his chest. "He loved you and Claire—he loved you down to the cells of his being. And he knew that you loved him as well."
It's not the answer to the question she asked, but it's the answer she needs to hear. All the same, she has trouble accepting absolution so easily.
"Did he know it?" She bites her lip to keep from sobbing. "Because the last words I said to him in my own voice were, 'You're sick; get the hell away from us!'"
"Stop." It's a gentle command, but a command nonetheless. "Listen to me, Amelia. He drew his strength from your love, and in the end, he…his emotions were very powerful. You were right: I didn't understand. But I understand now, and I learned from him as well as from you."
So this is it. Jimmy's wake, funeral, and epitaph, or as much as he'll get in the face of the oncoming apocalypse. Her husband had taught an angel the truth of love—perhaps one of the greatest accomplishments any human could ever hope for.
She knows the horror of the end of days will strike her soon, yet this moment seems to hang suspended in time. This is her last chance to say farewell to the man she loved, and she can't help wanting one more piece of him, one memory untainted by grief and regret.
"Did he…was there any time during the past year when all this was worth it to him? When he was happy?"
The angel is silent for so long that her heart sinks. Her muscles begin to tense (to pull away? To flee?), but he begins to speak, soft and low, as if he has difficulty forming the words. "It was after we'd left you and Claire at the warehouse. He and I were both…" His free hand clenches on his chest. "We needed something—so I searched his memories for a place, somewhere distant, pristine. We arrived just as the sun had begun to set. The top of your world: snow and ice as far as we could see, small shrines, flags flapping in the wind. Below us, other mountain peaks stretched to the horizon. Eternity. I woke him and let him take control. He blinked and—"
He lifts his hand from her waist and stretches both arms outward across the mattress. "He held his arms out like this and laughed and laughed…and then he cried. I had to take over; the air was thin and his eyelashes were freezing together. I had to take him away, but before he went under, he seemed…at peace."
"Everest." She's full out crying now, her tears running across his skin. "You took him to Everest!"
He sits up, alarmed, catching her shoulders and staring into her face. "I've upset you."
"No. No, you've made me happy," she sobs, then laughs at his confused expression. "It was his dream. He'd always wanted to go to Everest, but only to the base to see the mountain; he'd never dreamed of getting to the top." She scrubs at her face, trying to regain control. "You did a good thing. It was good. A good memory."
He still looks uncertain, so she smiles at him, noting that his hair is tousled in unruly waves—Jimmy's sex hair, she thinks, then blushes. How completely ridiculous. Here we are, stark naked in bed together, and I'm embarrassed for thinking his hair is sexy?
She isn't finished blushing just yet. Her change in position has caused the liquid evidence of their lovemaking to slide between her thighs, so, with a few stammered excuses, she escapes his embrace and flees to the bathroom to clean herself.
She freshens up as much as she can with a washcloth and a small bar of soap. She'd intended to stay at the house only long enough to put a few last things in order, so her big, fluffy towels have been packed away and sent to her mother's. No bathrobe, either, and her clothes are still scattered on the bedroom floor.
She peeks shyly around the bathroom door. He's standing at the window, looking out through the blinds. It's bright outside and dark within the bedroom, so it's unlikely anyone can see in, but still, should Rachel Tyler across the street catch a glimpse of a very fine, very exposed man at her window—
She clears her throat, and he turns, tilting his head as he looks at her. There's nothing salacious in his gaze, just mild curiosity, and she's struck by the essential innocence of this being. Nudity seems to mean as little to him as being clothed; he might not find it inappropriate to meet up with Dean with his clothes draped over his arm, and smelling of sex.
"Would you—" she holds her hand out. "May I do something for you?"
He follows her into the bathroom and watches patiently as she fills the sink with warm water. She's struck again by his stillness—doesn't he ever blink? Jimmy had always been quicksilver motion, expressions racing across his face as rapidly as his thoughts: eyes widening, nose crinkling, changing from serious to teasing in a heartbeat. Castiel, on the other hand…Castiel is different.
"Please turn around." It's easier with his back to her, so he can't see the slight tremble in her hand as she lifts the damp, soapy washcloth. She starts at his shoulders and neck, wiping away the faint traces of sweat near the dark curls at his nape. Falling into a rhythm, a trance almost, she follows the infinitely familiar lines of his back down across the tight muscles of his buttocks, the long sweep of his thighs, the curve of his calves, those slender ankles as graceful as her own.
She rises to rinse the cloth and reapply soap, kneels to clean him again, rises and kneels, rises and kneels, the repetitive motions sending her mind drifting back, recalling the flicker of candlelight, the scent of incense.
It isn't until she turns him to face her and begins tracing his collarbone that she realizes what she's doing. This is her final goodbye to this body, this exact copy of the shoulders she had slept on, the arms that had held her tight against his heart. It reminds her of the Japanese ritual of cleansing the dead, although the body beneath her fingertips is warm and breathing.
Bone-deep sadness permeates her being, a sorrow too profound for tears, but that suits her. She doesn't want the cloudy release of tears—she wants to remember this, to use her hands to engrave the memory of him deep into her being for the lonely stretch of years ahead or the bright, violent end of the world. Whatever is left of her future, she wants the memory of Jimmy beside her at the end.
Perhaps the memory of Castiel as well.
She drops the washcloth in the sink, having cleaned every last trace of their lovemaking from his body, erased her scent from his skin (cleansed and prepared him for the battles that lie ahead).
"Thank you." He places his hands on her hips and turns her toward the mirror. "There's something I need to do for you now."
His gaze searches her reflection, and she feels a gentle probing at the surface of her mind. She nods, although she's not quite certain what he's asking of her…a design…somewhere on her body? His hands move to the small of her back, lower still, and suddenly she feels the sensation of a thousand tiny needles piercing her skin. Before she has time to flinch or even gasp, the pain is gone. She turns in his grasp, trying to see in the mirror what he has done to her.
It's a symbol etched low on her spine, looking something like a sun with a five-point star in the center.
"This will protect you from demon possession in future." One corner of his mouth quirks up. "I'm sorry it couldn't be the butterfly you'd hoped for."
"That was a teenage fantasy. This is better, much better." It is better in every possible way, this release from the deep, crawling terror that someday something is going to come after her again, force its way into her body against her will, make her perform unspeakable acts—
"Never again," he murmurs into her hair, and she can't help leaning back against him in relief. "But demons are not the only danger. I apologize, Amelia; this is going to hurt."
Before she can ask what he means, his hands slide around to grasp her ribs just under her breasts, and then—Her breath punches out in a sharp burst as pain rockets through her, leaving a trail of fire burning along her sides as her knees almost collapse. Tears blur her vision, preventing her from seeing his face, but she senses two fingers moving before her eyes—
And the agony abates, leaving her sore but able to breathe again. She blinks away her tears to see him peering over her shoulder with an expression of concern. "What was that?" she gasps.
"I carved Enochian sigils into your ribs. They will keep you hidden from angels—all angels, including fallen ones. Lucifer."
For the first time since she's learned of Jimmy's death and the threat of Armageddon, terror strikes her heart. It's the matter-of-fact way Castiel says the name that makes it clear the Devil is now walking among them. "Claire!" she chokes.
"She's safe for the moment. I had carved the sigils as I left her." He averts his gaze from her astonished reflection. "As my former vessel, she should be protected by Heaven's law from any other angel, but I have reason not to trust…I've learned to be cautious."
He stares impassively at the far wall, yet his pain is palpable in the small room. On an impulse, she turns and loops her arms around his neck, drawing his head down to press her forehead against his. You're not alone, she thinks at him fiercely. It might be just us humans who care, but still, you're not alone.
He leans against her lightly. It's only for a moment, but it comforts her that she can give him comfort. She glances at the mirror and is suddenly reminded of a phrase from her high school days. Communing with angels, Sister Bernadette Joseph used to exhort the girls, double chins waggling as she would fix her fiercest glare upon them. You need to make yourselves worthy of communing with angels.
If Sister Bernie Jo were to catch a glimpse of her former student at this moment, naked with her arms clasped around an equally naked male angel—
Amelia can't help it; she stifles a giggle.
"Something amuses you?"
She smiles up at Castiel. "It's just a silly thought. One of my teachers—a nun, very strict and proper. If she saw me right now, she'd say, 'There aren't enough rulers in the world!'"
"To beat the sin out of me. She always did think of me as a troublemaker."
He draws back from her embrace and clasps her hands between both of his. "What happened between us didn't feel like sin."
"What did it feel like?" She's oddly breathless, waiting for his answer.
His eyes light up. "Redemption."
Clothed at last, she once again peeks around the bathroom door. Funny how the act of dressing seems more intimate than undressing, so much that she'd retreated to the bathroom with her hastily gathered bundle of clothes. She'd pulled herself together in privacy, tying her hair back into a severe ponytail, everything the same as earlier in the day. Game reset, she thinks.
To her relief, Castiel is dressed as well, with only his tie hanging loose as he tucks his cell phone in his coat pocket. "Dean will be here in five minutes." His brow creases as he fumbles with the tie. "He must not have driven far. He said he was about to knock the door down, but I assured him that wouldn't be necessary."
She smiles wryly at the thought of the hunter bursting in on them even twenty minutes earlier. Considering Dean's protectiveness toward his angel, she's grateful not to have faced his demon-killing knife or even the angry awkwardness resulting from such an interruption.
Walking up to Castiel, she brushes his hands aside, deftly taking over the tie-knotting problem. "He's a good friend to you."
"Yes," he answers in his usual noncommittal tone, but she hasn't missed the way his eyes shine and soften at the thought of his charge. He obediently tips his chin up at the pressure of her fingers.
"Do you really think he'll be the one to save us all?" She keeps her eyes fixed on his collar as she fastens the top button, not wishing to betray her fear.
He senses it anyway, touching her fingers to comfort her. "We're searching for all possible solutions. However, if it comes down to him in the end, I believe Dean will do whatever it takes to save this world and its people."
"I envy your faith," she says wistfully as she centers the Windsor knot and flips his collar down, smoothing it over the tie. Castiel has lost so much, yet he still has something to believe in. She wishes she could say the same.
"You can believe in him and perhaps also in me, to help him for as long as I'm able. And God, of course."
"So after all this, you still believe in God?" It seems a ludicrous question to ask an angel, but this particular angel has seen his share of Heaven's betrayal, if Dean Winchester's story is true.
Castiel tightens his jaw and stares past her for a moment. "Yes," he says quietly, and she realizes his faith is hard-won, probably from an internal battle fought fresh every day. The same way humans must fight for their faith.
She pulls a comb from her pocket and strokes it through his hair until it lies neat. He turns the full force of his otherworldly stare upon her. "Amelia, you must protect yourself and Claire. I've shielded you from Heaven's gaze, but demons and angels can still find you by human means. If they decide they want either of you, this house is the first place they'll look."
"I know. After the demon thing—" She pushes away the vision of Roger lying on her living room floor with his throat cut, a bloody horror miraculously gone by the time she and Claire had returned that night. Nonetheless, the memory haunts them both. "That's why the house is packed up; the movers are coming in the morning to place my things in storage. I've already pulled Claire out of school, and we'll leave my mother's house tomorrow. You were lucky to catch me here." She bites her lip, realizing how stupid that must sound under the circumstances.
He squeezes her hand. "Yes, I was lucky."
Suddenly she's lost in blue, in the endless clarity of his eyes, her heart beating fast as she wonders if time really is standing still—
The moment is shattered by the angry blare of a car horn.
Castiel releases her hand. "I have to go. I won't forget you, Amelia—and I won't forget him."
She nods, silenced by the lump in her throat. As he turns to go, she's struck by how much he looks like Jimmy, neat and combed and ready for Sunday service—
—and how wrong that is.
She catches his arm, making him turn back toward her, then yanks his tie until the knot lies crooked. She finishes by unbuttoning his collar and running her fingers through his hair, mussing it into angelic waves. "There," she chokes, "now you look more like you." Smiling at his confusion, she stands on tiptoe and kisses him on the cheek. "Good luck."
He opens his mouth to reply but is interrupted by a fierce pounding from the front foyer.
"Go on, go," she makes a shooing motion, "before mankind's last hope knocks down my door."
She watches from the landing as he descends the stairs and pulls the door open, causing Dean Winchester to almost fall over the threshold.
"Geez, Cas, give a guy some warning!"
"You knocked. I answered. I fail to see what other warning you required." Again with the noncommittal tone, but she can sense his delight in teasing his charge. He looks back at her, and she lifts her hand, suddenly too shy under Dean's glare to say good-bye.
Castiel leaves her house for the last time. Dean catches the doorknob on his way out, shooting her a look that is equal parts resentment and confusion.
"Wait! Mr. Winchester, please wait!"
Dean glares up at her. "If you think I'm gonna do penance as well, you can—"
"No. No, please, I just need one minute." Without waiting for his reply, Amelia turns and runs back to her bedroom, dropping to her knees and dragging her old leather suitcase from under her bed. She tears through several boxes until she finds the oldest one, rips the duct tape curling from its seams, and starts throwing several items into the suitcase.
Jimmy's hiking boots, running shoes…she hesitates at a couple of soft packages covered in fraying Christmas wrap, then throws them in, followed by a pair of faded blue jeans and a few more articles of clothing. Fearing that Dean might leave if she takes any longer, she slams the case shut and hurries down the stairs.
To her relief, he's still scowling on her threshold. "Here!" She shoves the suitcase into his arms, ignoring the soft "oomph" driven from him. "I'm guessing you won't have much time to shop during the Apocalypse, so these are for him. Jimmy's things."
"Yeah." Dean is flummoxed, obviously having trouble coping with her radical attitude change from earlier. "Um, thanks."
"Listen," she places her hand on his arm, "promise me you'll look after him. Promise me you'll take care—both of you."
"Yeah, sure. Um, you too…and Claire." He heads out into the street, where Castiel waits beside the huge black car, head tilting as Dean grumbles something in his direction. Once Dean is occupied with fitting the suitcase into the car trunk, the angel looks back at where she stands watching them.
A gust of wind suddenly whips through the quiet suburban street, sending his trench coat flying out behind him. She's transfixed by the sight, barely registering as Dean curses the weather and slams his door, followed shortly thereafter by Castiel.
Long after the roar of the black car has faded into the distance, Amelia still stands in her doorway.
She knows she has taken only the first few steps on the long road of grief, and the worst still lies before her, nights of silent tears and hidden anguish as she and her daughter flee the terror of the Apocalypse. She knows her time as a woman is over, her role now solely that of mother-protector, fierce guardian of her child against the dark days that lie ahead.
Yet, she thinks, if she can hold onto this image—Castiel with his coat flying around him, Jimmy's face alight with joy as they stand on the peak of Mount Everest in the amber glow of sunset—she thinks she might make it through after all.