Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free
~"Blackbird" by The Beatles
Water, the Spirit
Green Grace Sanctuary
"Joshua?" Sam can hardly believe his eyes. If this was indeed the same gardener he and Dean had met months ago...he takes in the trees and shrubs surrounding him, like a garden. "Is this Heaven?"
There is a nod from the older man. "It took you some time, but you made it home, and with Adam too. Good job!"
Sam grasps the groggy younger man around his upper arm and helps him from the boat. "He needs some water."
"Or what? He'll dehydrate?" There's a soft knowing laugh. "Sam, you and Adam don't need anything, you're both dead."
"This doesn't feel like dead." Adam was already coming awake as they stepped on shore. "Will he be alright?"
"His soul is a bit in shock. It was never suppose to leave this place. It's best you go now, before he fully awakes and starts to ask questions."
Before Sam can speak aloud, Joshua answers.
"Michael and Zachariah used this poor boy to no end. It's time he gets his reward and some peace with his family. And that doesn't mean you. The real Adam doesn't know you, hasn't met you."
"But, what about when he was brought back to Earth?"
Joshua places his fingers on Adam's forehead. "He's about to forget."
Before Sam can protest further, both angel and brother are gone.
Sam hasn't traveled far down the axis mundi before he finds what he's looking for, a run-down trailer surrounded by desert shrubs and sand. He whistles twice and a floppy haired golden retriever comes from behind the trailer. "Bones! Come mere you old boy."
The crap old trailer looks just the same as it had a dozen years ago, when it was part of a park on the outskirts of a little town not too far from Flagstaff, Arizona, but to Sam it is a palace. He's pretty certain no archangel is going to butt in this time and tear him a new one, or mess with him and leave him in darkness. He's got a TV here, in his created paradise, and it may not be LCD, but it plays any program he wants, even including Casa Erotica. There's cold ones in the fridge, and never a hang over. Sam's pretty content, settled, even forgetful. He's no longer counting days, or weeks. The sun seems to rise and set, but it's of no import. And for the life of him he can't place who said that.
In Heaven, which looks like a dumpy trailer in Flagstaff, Sam stops praying.
It's days, or weeks, or maybe even years later, and Sam's opening what could be his fifth or his tenth beer, who recalls when you never get hung over, never get a beer gut? But for all his comfort in his eternal resting place, he hasn't completely lost his edge. When the doorbell rings, he takes up a knife from the kitchen drawer, wary and ready to spring into action if needed. But Bones is yapping at the unseen intruder with more curiosity than worry. So Sam shrugs and puts his beer bottle on the counter, but not the knife. He makes a mental check list of possible threats, ticking Lucifer and Michael off immediately, then...what was his name? Zachariah, oh yes, the one Dean killed. Not likely to be Joshua, never leaves his garden, or Cassidy, no no, not Cassidy, no, it's Castiel, that was his name.
Minutes have passed, and the doorbell rings again. Sam comes out of his stupor at the sound of a male voice. "Pizza. Pizza for Sam Winchester."
"Who is it?"
"Open the door and let me in." Is all he hears in reply. Sam opts for following directions and is greeted by a teen aged boy a head shorter than himself.
"I didn't order pizza." The delivery boy doesn't seem to care that Sam stands at the ready, knife in hand, just pushes his way in, places the pizza box on the coffee table and plops down on the couch, making himself at home.
"Who the hell do you think you are?"
The pizza boy is unmoved by Sam's anger. "Left off anchovies, never actually met anyone who liked them, well there was that one guy in Italy, oh, what was his name, that's right, DaVinci."
"Da Vinci liked anchovies?"
"That was the least of his vices. Let's just say, this visage, more his speed than ole Mona."
"Yeh. You know that wasn't her name."
"No shit genius, and I ain't a pizza boy." The door, which Sam had left open when he followed the boy and the pizza into the living room, suddenly flew shut, moved by invisible hands. "I'll take a beer while your up."
Sam is staring at the arrogant teen, there is something familiar there, something powerful. When he turns from the fridge to ask his guest which brew he prefers, he's so shocked by the newcomer's appearance the bottle he is holding slides from his grasp and hits his big toe. "Son of a bitch!"
"I've been called a lot of things in my day Sammy, but that's a new one."
Sam stands at his full height, the pain in his toe completely gone, and comes face to face with the archangel Gabriel.
""Well no, not technically. This is Heaven, Sam." Gabriel stuffs pizza into his mouth and continues between swallows. "It took some time to locate you, what with the power vacuum and me being incognito."
"So, you're just going hide out; let Heaven go crazy, just like you let your brothers run all over the Earth."
"I'm a POW. It's not my fault that Michael screwed the pooch and got himself locked up in Hell. Serves him right, if you ask me. But if you think I'm stepping forward to take his place? Think again. Not my job, and certainly not my problem."
"Then why the Hell are you bugging me?"
"Easy tiger! I just came to bring you a fruit basket." The angel snaps his fingers and a gaudy bright orange basket appears on the previously empty kitchen counter. "You caged not one, but two archangels. Makes you MVP."
"Yeh, but meanwhile Dean still probably thinks I'm in Hell suffering. You couldn't, you know, pop in and let him know I'm okay?"
The archangel gives a frown as if he is considering Sam's request. "Sorry, kinda got my wings clipped."
"What's that mean?"
"Can't leave Heaven. Sucks too, I was so hoping to catch up with Kali, finish our little reunion. Look, there's nothing you can do about the communication beyond the veil thing. It's not like people haven't tried. But you should know that any ghost activity comes from spirits who haven't left the Earth. And you, like me, are here. So we're incommunicado Sammy, suck it up and deal."
"I forgot what you're like when you're bitter. Fun for hours."
"Sam, as exceptional as your company is..." Gabriel rolls his eyes before continuing. ..."Why don't you ask me what you really want to know."
"I don't know what you mean."
"Lucifer fry the brain cells in that thick head of yours? How? Why? Ringing any bells?"
"I was just relieved to not be there any longer, why beat myself up wondering how I came to be in Heaven. I'm guessing God wants me here, and you here too."
"Maybe. Sure wasn't me who saved your ass. Wanna know what the cage was like?"
"Way I figure, it was mental trickery. Lucifer kept calling it his Matrix. If I made something one way, better, he'd pop up and make it nasty again."
"Makes sense. Can't imagine wanting to spend eternity knowing you were wedged in a box so small you can't move. And to have to share it with your enemy, the one you once loved the most. Unbearable."
"So Michael and Lucifer are actually trapped in a box too small for them?"
Gabriel looked uncharacteristically somber. "Angels, as creative in torture as Medieval humans. So, what was it like? How's Michael taking his time out?"
"Let's say it was impossible to distinguish between the two of them."
"Already? I figured, over time." Gabriel suddenly looked serious, distracted. "See you around." Within the blink of an eye, he is gone.
Over the next weeks, or months, Sam and Bones fall into a routine. There is always food and drink. Dog toys, aplenty, who could deny man's best friend a pleasurable afterlife, and kibble too. Sam and Bones run daily, but never see another, neither human or canine. On one particularly mundane day, it begins to rain. As Sam and Bones make their way back to the trailer, they spot a girl carrying an enormous umbrella. When she offers to share with them, they invite her home.
Minutes into thinking he might get lucky in the afterlife, Sam's hopes crash and burn as the girl morphs into Gabriel. Sam alternately looks startled and pissed.
"Well hello, Sunshine!" He takes in the sight of a pot collecting water in the middle of the living room. "See you haven't upgraded your digs. You know there are some pretty prime pieces of real estate up here. In ground pools, Jacuzzi, even streets paved with gold if that's your thing."
"What, are you selling time shares?" Bones chooses that moment to shake himself dry all over Gabriel and Sam watches as the archangel snaps his fingers and changes into dry clothing. He's not impressed. He's had enough of archangels to last his entire afterlife, but like a typical unwanted guest, Gabriel makes himself comfortable by snapping his fingers again and giving himself a recliner. The performance is so identical to the one Lucifer gave him in Hell he worries about what will come next from Gabriel's mouth, and whether he'll find himself plunged in darkness again.
The archangel notices his wan expression and gives a half snort. "Take a picture, it'll last longer."
"Just how close were you with your brothers?"
"Very. At first it was just the four of us, and it was the good life. Other angels came along, but we were in charge. The big kahunas. Until, you know." Gabriel frowns. "Why the sudden interest in my family?"
Sam wishes he hadn't started this particular conversation. He's met three of the archangels and knowing even one of them is reason to be very afraid.
"It wasn't my idea you know?" Gabriel continues, and although he is cloaked in this human visage Sam once knew as the Trickster, his Grace rolls off him like a force of nature. Sam finds himself drifting in it's wake.
"What?" Sam asks dreamily.
"The cage thing, Hell." The angel clarifies. "I voted Lucifer off the island. I said, let him wander, he'll cool off. Maybe he would have, maybe not. Never had the time to figure it out. Far as Raphael and Michael were concerned he was interfering too much with humans, tempting, manipulating, doling out his own brand of justice."
"Sounds a lot like you."
"He was my big brother. You know how that feels, to wanna be just like your bro?" Sam nods.
"I love my brothers, but Michael and Raphael have a serious poker up the ass problem. There's no give and take for them." Sam remembers how Gabriel looked, trapped in a ring of holy fire in that old warehouse. How talking about his brother's drained the mirth right out of the usually droll being. It was like that now, even though the story he told happened many millennia ago.
"Raphael built Lucifer's cage. I know what you're thinking. It takes some sort of sick creativity to make something like that for your own brother. But we did what we had to. And Michael was the one who set the seals."
"So if Raphael built the cage and Michael locked the door. Why is it that you look so guilty?"
"Because I'm the one who lured Lucifer into that cage. We all played our part in betraying him."
"And that's why you left?"
"Pretty much. Heaven just wasn't any fun after that. It was my turn to take a tour of duty down on Earth. Found me a willing bunch of pagans who were glad to make me their god, and I never looked back."
"Until Dean and I tripped the apocalypse, and blew your cover."
"And don't forget, you got me killed for saving for your asses. You owe me big time."
"That's why you're here?"
"Maybe. We never properly finished our conversation. I believe I was endowing you with my Heavenly wisdom. You think God bounced you from the pit? I'd go there. But you're asking the wrong question. You wanna know why? Ever think that maybe he isn't finished with you yet."
"Finished? I think I've given enough."
"That's what they all say, but the truth is, you aren't like other humans, you're practically part of a breeding program, and you might get a vacation upstairs, but ultimately. Your work is never done."
"I think I liked you better as a Trickster. Seems you might be hiding from the rest of Heaven, but you're up to something." Sam leans over the recliner, inches from Gabriel's face. "I'm done being a pawn. As far as I'm concerned. I've played my role. I'm finished. Now go!"
In the middle of thinking "Dean would be proud of me for standing up to the douche with wings" the world goes white.
When Sam fights his way back to consciousness, the first sense to return is touch. He can feel warm sand beneath his bare feet. The air smells fresh and clean, and a little bit salty. Somewhere in the distance he hears a dog bark. Even without his vision he knows the sound of Bones and he calls to him. His vision at first is hazy, but as it clears he sees two figures approaching, and one is most definitely female.
Remembering all too clearly Gabriel's affinity with body swapping, he is cautious as she approaches. But she is the perfect woman, and as she nears him, he hopes desperately that she is the real thing, because this woman is none other than the love of his life, Jessica.
She is leading Bones down the beach with a leash. Sam doesn't dare ask where she came from, he doesn't need to know. He runs to her and takes her in his arms. She feels real as her lips gently touch his. He pushes her back at arm's length. "Gabriel?"
"What? Who's that? I've been waiting for you back at the house. You said you'd only be a minute. But I knew Bonesy would find you, wouldn't you , you good dog." She dissolves into human to canine drivel as the dog rolls to his back for a belly rub. Sam is still staring at her when she returns to her full height.
"Hello!" she waves her hand before his face . "Anybody home?" when Sam's only reply is a grunt her face grows wary. "You okay, baby? You don't rally seem here." She seems as real as the dog, so Sam takes her hand and follows her back up the beach.
There is only one house there, sitting too close to the water for Sam's taste. He's seen this house before, with it's stilt support and glass walls, but he can't place where. Jessica takes Sam inside the palatial home and leads him to a bathroom twice the size of his old trailer.
"I hope the water's still warm." Jessica dips her hand in and smiles. She eases her blouse from her shoulders and turns to Sam and begins to unbutton his shirt. He's still speechless and staring as she unzips his pants and pulls them to the floor.
Turns out, the beach house is Jessica's, culled from one of her happy memories and part of her personal Heaven. But Sam doesn't believe this at first. He thinks she might be a replica in his Heaven and not real at all. There is only one way to find out, and he isn't sure it's full proof, but it'll have to suffice.
One gorgeous day (and they all are, this is Heaven after all) Sam and Jess are lounging on their deck, relaxing to the sounds of the gentle ocean surf, when Sam voices the question that's been nagging him since he met her in this afterlife.
"Do you remember your death?"
Jessica is so still, for a moment Sam fears she truly is a mirage and will waver like some sci-fi hologram and then disappear. But she opens her mouth, at first wordlessly, then, without looking towards Sam , begins.
"I was gonna say yes."
"You knew? How'd you know I was looking at rings?"
"Oh, I didn't know that. But I loved you, I could only picture my future with you in it. And I was pretty sure you felt the same; so I knew it was a matter of time. When your brother showed up and you stood by me...well that told me a lot." She looked at him then, but the memory was bittersweet. That night was the last they saw of each other.
"When you called me to say you were on your way home, I decided to bake you cookies. I'd just finished when the doorbell rang. Thought maybe you'd forgot your key, but it was Brady. Remember him?"
"Jess, you don't have to-"
"No, I want to."
"I thought Brady was using again. He came in and, he was all aggressive. He sounded like he'd completely lost his mind, spouting about some demonic plan, and how you'd step up if you weren't so whipped. I told him you would be home any minute, he should leave."
"If I'd gotten home earlier." Sam notices fresh tears on Jessica's face. "Did he hurt you?" She nods in confirmation and continues.
"He chased me into the bedroom, I thought he was going rape me, but turns out, that's not what he wanted. The last thing I remember was being slammed into the wall, like by some invisible force. I couldn't help but look at him. Sammy, his eyes were black. He laughed. He laughed, like he was having fun."
"He was possessed. A demon killed you Jess. And I should have been there to stop it. I'm sorry."
"You're a demon hunter?"
"Among other things."
"Why are you here, dead?" Sam attempts to tell Jessica the abbreviated and less traumatic version of his life since her death. It comes out too clinical and in the end she is walking the deck, pacing actually, and a bit angry."
"I call BS. I know you. And I know how you always liked to change the subject when it was about family. Never really wanted to let me know what was really going on. So, are you going to be honest? Or are you going to paint me a pretty picture?"
"Okay. First off, I'll never lie to you. We were raised to not tell the family business, so I'm sorry. It's ingrained. Dean and me, we got caught up in some angel business-"
"Wait, angels are real?"
"We're in Heaven, and you're asking me if angels are real?"
"It's not like I've ever seen one." Sam thinks of how Lucifer used the visage of Jessica to tempt him, again realizing that there were some pieces of information he was better off not sharing.
"They are real, and here in Heaven, and some on Earth too. And, they wanted an apocalypse, but Dean and I stopped them."
"Wow, that really sheds a lot of light on what you were doing."
"Sun's gone down, wanna go for a twilight swim?"
"Are you an idiot, or do you think I am? We're not leaving this deck until you give me some answers."
Sam Winchester remembers why he loved Jessica Moore. She never put up with his bullshit.
It's the darkest of night when Sam is done telling Jessica everything about his life and deaths during the five years they'd been apart. Satisfied by his candor, Jessica steps into the house and beckons Sam to follow.
"I should make you sleep on the couch, but you came clean, and that's what I wanted, so..."
"You don't have to do this. I spent years lying to you, you tangled with me, I got you killed. I should leave."
"Sam, no. I'm not going to lie, you're complicated, but still you. I still love you."
"You're too good for me." And with that, the two of them kissed and forgave.
Months pass, or years, each day lighter than the one before. Sam has worked hard to regain Jessica's trust. He's shown her how to manipulate their after world. She isn't ask skilled at bringing her imaginations to life as he, but they have fun finding new ways to adventure. Days are long in the after life, and their passing not as synchronous as on Earth. So it is one day, while Sam and Jess are watching an old black and white movie on their TV, that they find themselves at the end of their fantasy.
A storm comes, beating rain against the glass walls of their sanctuary. As they look to the distance large dark clouds obscure the sky and the wind creates monstrous sized waves. In short, this looks nothing like Heaven.
"Demons can't come here, can they?"
"No, but remember what I told you about angels?"
"What can we do?" Jessica jumps as the TV goes snowy, then pops, leaving an acrid burned plastic smell in the air.
"Stay calm, they won't hurt you. It's me they want."
"Oh my God!" Jessica is pointing to the window. Bones, who had been napping, is now awake and alert. His ears plastered against his head as he takes an aggressive stance of protection.
"There's a huge wolf on the deck!"
Before Sam can respond, a booming voice speaks from the other side of their door.
"Let me in or I'll blow this house down. Don't think I can't."
"And risk outing yourself. I doubt it."
There is silence on the other side of the door. Sam steps back towards Bones who's lips still quiver in fright. And the dog has a right to his apprehension when the door blows off it's hinges. An enormous wolf rides it flat to the floor. Bones whimpers, tucks tail, and flees the room. Jessica springs into action and grabs a poker from the hearth.
"How do we kill it?" She shouts. Sam's response makes no sense to her.
"You proved your point. Mind morphing into something little less clichéd?"
Jessica doesn't flee the room like Bones, but she isn't stepping any closer to the door either. "Sam, you're having a conversation with a wolf."
"That's not a wolf, it's an angel, specifically the archangel Gabriel." Sam's voice rises as continues. "Who chooses disguises because he doesn't have the stones to man up and run Heaven."
Something between a growl and words comes from the mouth of the wolf as he rises up on his hide legs and begins to transform. Sam notices this being is already taller than him and that's when it dawns on him that Gabriel is taking his true form.
"Jessica, cover your eyes, don't look at him!" Sam doesn't take his own advice. He's seen archangels in Hell, and he figures this can't be any different. Gabriel's true form is slightly different from his brothers. His wings and skin are the same oily black and horns protrude from his head. But there is something softer, almost sad about the expression all four of his eyes carry. Sam can't help but find himself filled with a sort of compassion.
"This is the real me. No more hiding, but that goes for both of us."
Gabriel's Grace is so overpowering, and intoxicating, that Sam is no longer aware of Jessica's presence in the room. The archangel speaks in his native Enochian tongue, and though Sam can not distinguish the words, he somehow comprehends their meaning.
In his angelic state Gabriel is less the jokester, more to the point. Or maybe that's just the way the Enochian translates into Sam's head.
"There's a storm brewing on Earth."
"So, what do you want me to do about it."
"I want you to shut up and listen. Raphael isn't satisfied. He's always been a bit of a loaner, preferred to do things his own way. Not rebellious like Lucifer, or even me, but independent. Seems my brother is pretty pissed things didn't go as planned."
"You mean that he was wrong, that his whole belief in destiny turned out to be a load of crap."
"His take on things can be a bit sanctimonious. I won't argue with you there, but that's not my point. He's on the move, he's shut down, I can't read him at all."
"Then send some angels to bring him home."
"Look, this isn't Saving Private Ryan. This is an archangel gone rogue. And believe me, I'd go get him myself if I wasn't under house arrest. No, I need the two mutton heads who tipped the scales."
"Me and Dean? And you think we can do a better job?"
"I'll bet on the pair that includes the only human to kill an angel, and the one who managed to beat the Devil back into his cage. Is that enough reason for you?"
"No, and the answer is no. You need my consent to use me, and I'm not giving it to you."
"You stupid sack of piss, I'm not asking you to vessel me. I'm not asking you jack squat. I'm telling you the Earth needs you. So man up and go back and deal with the problem."
"The answers still no. I'm done. Finished. Retired! I've done more than my share for Heaven, Earth and Hell. Get someone else."
"Fine". Gabriel turns to leave via the broken door. Just before he's about to cross the threshold, he turns, and in a flash is standing within a hair's breath of Sam. "You'll have your peace, all of this returned to you, including Jessica, after you complete your mission."
Sam is in the middle of repeating no when Gabriel's claw like hand descends on his forehead.
Early evening, somewhere on Earth.
A man stands stock still on the pavement of a quiet side street. His legs have the unsettled feeling common to stepping off a boat after several hours at sea. His hands flex as he cracks his knuckles, rolls his shoulders and neck as he feels blood pumping , filling his veins, bringing muscle back to life.
It's dark on the street. The man lifts his head and notices the streetlight above him is out. It is early evening, and some of the homes have yet to draw their curtains. The darkness makes it easy to see inside. But there is only one home he is interested in, and he spots it immediately. Inside, there is a family. A child sits with his back to the window, a woman brings a bowl of food to the table, and a man stares into the distance. At the approach of the woman, he stirs and smiles. The family shares their meal with laughter and conversation. This scene is unfamiliar to the man, like something more from a movie than real life. And yet, the characters are familiar. They have names: Ben, Lisa, Dean.
The man is no longer confused. He knows for certain that he's on Earth, alive, human. He loves the man named Dean and wants him to be happy. When Dean tosses a roll to Ben and smiles, the man knows for certain what he must do next.
He's been told he has a job to do. A mission to complete, and a reward at the end of his hard adventure. The sooner he starts, the sooner he'll finish. So Sam Winchester turns on his heel and walks down the road.