Nothing had changed, unsurprisingly. In the underworld, very little ever did.
The Hall of Eljudnir was just as grand and towering as ever, and it gaped in the same magnificent, cavernous way he remembered. The servants, titled Ganglati and Ganglöt, were as slow and nonchalant as ever, greatly resembling mimes walking into the wind.
Beetlejuice was reminded of exactly why he went freelance.
"Please..." The manservant, Ganglati, extended his hand with an agonisingly long movement, rolling his eyes as he spoke. The myths said that the servants moved slowly. What the myth missed was the attitude; their pacing was not to do with their corporeal state, more to do with the fact that Hel found it hilarious to wind up her guests with lack-lustre service. "Walk..." he continued, and Beetlejuice had to admire the effort he was putting in. He knew from experience; it took a lot of commitment to look like you didn't give a shit. "This..."
"Yeah, it's alright, buddy, I know the way." He pushed past him, walking on into the gaping hall. Eventually he saw a small wooden table, rough and simple, designed to seat two people. On it sat a bowl and a knife, similarly rustic (he knew, however, they were "hunger" and "famine" respectively, and she could do all sorts of wicked things with them). Beside it sat a carved wooden throne, which looked like it had been rescued from a back-alley antiques shop somewhere, and on that throne sat the Goddess herself.
"Hel. Babes. Long time no see."
"Ah, my dear..." She smiled; her face so pale it was almost luminous. Her dark eyes sparkled like stars as she cut a wry grin towards her guest. "As ever, both informal and inaccurate."
"Inaccurate?" Beetlejuice laughed, bowing ever so slightly, not wanting to appear too cocky. He glanced at her, her skin breathtakingly pale and flawless from the waste up, but dark and rotting from the navel down. "Impossible."
"Surely you know me better than to think you can flatter me, Beetlejuice..." She took an apple from her maidservant, who was approaching with a deliberate lack of speed. "That is the name you go by now, isn't it?"
"It's the name I've been bound to." Beetlejuice sniffed, as he manifested a deck chair on the other side of the table. "So be careful how you use it. May I?"
She cut into the fruit, peeling it with her knife. The peel collected in one long spiral, landing intact in the bowl before withering and shrivelling. She then cut the snowy white apple into eighth segments.
"So." She glanced up at him as she cut, her dark eyes sparkling with a sense of learned wit, betraying her hard mouth and daring him to surprise her. "You're here on business?"
"Well, yeah, actually, I'm here on behalf of a client."
"A client?" She allowed herself another small smile, setting her knife down as she began to eat the apple. "And who on earth would that be? I can't imagine there are many who would want to talk to me. At this point I'm so desperate for a chat, I'm beginning to wonder if I should take up offers on those Wiccan circles that have come back in style."
Beej shifted uncomfortably, unsure of how she would take the news. He had been the Ganglati for some centuries, and had become quite close to her. He admired her the same way anyone would a teacher, or an old friend. She was one of the few people he would honestly sit and listen to, and he was one of the few people she would smile for. He knew that any self-deprecation on her part was founded in insecurity, and he hated to risk making her feel uncomfortable.
"Well... I'm here on behalf of the Archangel Gabriel..." Her eyebrows slowly raised themselves, suspicious. He continued, "AKA, the trickster, AKA Loki."
She sat perfectly still; not a part of her moved, and yet she changed. Her eyes stopped shining, and the glum, brooding expression she was known for took hold once more.
"You come here on behalf of my father." She nodded, setting her knife down, her hand tense enough to imply that if she hadn't set it down, she would have thrown it. Her dark eyes set in fierce determination, she stood. "I do not wish to hear from him."
"But... uh... majesty... babes..." Beetlejuice stood, stumbling after her. "He wants to make it up. He, uh... he needs a favour..."
"A favour?" She spun on her heel, glaring at him. She pointed one slender, white finger an inch from his nose, snarling. "I haven't heard from him since he hid himself as that damned Jötunn and made it so that Baldur had to stay here with me."
"Well... I mean, it's tragic, but it's not that bad..."
"That was his attempt at fixing us up." She hissed, and Beetlejuice had to suppress a smirk. Hel scowled, her formidable glare on par with her father's, when he bothered to be serious.
"I had presumed him dead," she continued, her voice a deathly whisper. "Or in some state between life and death."
"But then I hear, from Odin's bloody ravens, of all things, that Baldur and Odin were both murdered by some up-his-own-arse Ex-Archangel, and that my father was also an Archangel."
"That... I could see how that would upset you."
"My father has a secret life. I was told to wait here for him; that it was my destiny to wait in the bowels of the underworld, tending to the pestilent dead, until he gave the signal to start Ragnarök. Which, it seems, he couldn't care less about and which is never going to happen. "Upset" doesn't cover it."
With this, she spun again, storming further into the hall. Beetlejuice stumbled after her, seeing (after a while) a tall four-poster bed appear before his eyes. It was clad in swathes of silver, pale blue and even paler pink, looking very much like it should be on top of a Christmas cake somewhere. The gossamer curtains swung slightly, as he saw Hel's silhouette shaking with sobs behind it.
"Uh... if you'd just hear me out..."
"You said you'd leave Yggdrasil. You said you'd never come back. And now you return with news of a man I want nothing to do with..."
"Majesty, your Pops is deadski." He respected her, and he admired her, but she did nothing for his patience.
The sobs stopped.
"See, right after Lucifer snuffed Odour and Baldy, he went ahead and snuffed Gabe too. And now he's stuck in the Neitherworld."
"It's a localised region. It's for ghosts, poltergeists and the schmucks who haven't been processed yet. The suits can't get him back in Heaven, and they can't put him back in the Living World. They don't know about his, uh..." Careful, Beej, you just got her listening to you... "His... time in... Asgard... So they haven't even tried sending him here."
"I don't see why I should care."
"He misses you." It was one of those rare moments where Beej actually seemed to care, and for a brief fleeting second, didn't seem to be looking for his own gain.
And, by nature of being a rare moment, it was over as quickly as it started.
"'Sides, if you can get him in here, he's outta my hair." He made to run his fingers through his mane of dry blonde locks, but got his finger caught in a particularly aggressive tangle. He spoke through gritted teeth as he tried to pull his hand free. "And frankly... that would be just peachy with me..." As he finally disentangled himself, he heard her laugh. He blinked. Hel very rarely laughed.
"Does he..." Her head poked around the gossamer curtains, the silver-blue complimenting her pale complexion. "Does he really miss me?"
"And then some." Beej chuckled, leaning against one of the columns. "Hey, if he knew what I was thinking about you an' this bed right now, he'd show just how much he cares, know what I mean?"
Hel shot him the quickest, tiniest smirk, before sighing.
"Alright. What's your plan?"
"Hey, woah, no need to get straight to business." His eyes glinted wickedly. "If you want him to prove himself, I'd be willing to work on this "you, me and the bed" thing."
"Beetlejuice," she said, pushing past him and gaining a playfully haughty expression. "This bed is known as Kor. It is the "Sick Bed". It doesn't need to get any sicker."
The suits quaked. If dealing with Archangels was scary, dealing with Pagan Afterlife Goddesses was terrifying. Miss Argentina had bowed and curtseyed profusely as the powerful figure had demanded to speak to the people in charge, mentally scolding herself for daring to think that the day had been boring.
Her silver-blue cloak hung from her neck to the floor, and her headdress rested on sleek black curls. Her eyes shone with rage, and her mouth curled into a despairing snarl.
"The Archangel." She spat. Pagan Goddesses had a rep for being confrontational, and damn if she wasn't living up to it. "The one they call Gabriel. He is rightfully mine, and as such, I demand you allow him to serve the remainder of his existence with me, in the roots of Yggdrasil, in the land of Helheim."
"Well..." One of the suits managed to quiver. "That would require a lot of paper-work. Such a transfer..."
"His brother killed my people, and threw our pantheon to chaos. If I cannot have this... "Lucifer"... I will take Gabriel."
The suits began to stammer more excuses about paperwork, at which point the cloak moved back to reveal her powerful white arm, slamming the knife of Famine into the desk, where it swayed slightly, embedded in the wood. Between Loki's smile and the strength of her mother, Angrboða (a frost giant), she gave the impression she was not just any other testy pagan Goddess.
The suits shook.
One of them lost a button.
"We... uh... we'll hurry that paperwork through now."
She allowed herself a small, pitying smile which she shot at the suits, who hurriedly began sorting paperwork. Unbeknownst to them, a pasty skinned poltergeist floated outside the window behind them, grinning and pointing his gnarled thumbs up.
"So are you both gonna be ok down here?" Beej grinned, as father and daughter stood glaring at each other from twelve feet away.
"No!" Gabriel growled. "I did not agree to being brought here... not... for that!"
"Well what were you expecting?" Hel shot back, keeping her deadpan scowl. "A red carpet? The gods in Asgard think you're dead! And even if they didn't, you really think they'd want you here now they know you're an Angel of the Judeo-Christian Lord?"
"Hey, I'm an Archangel! And I demand more respect!"
"Why, because you're so much more important than us?"
"No, because I'm your father and you should treat me accordingly!"
"Ha! You haven't been around in at least five centuries; I think I should be the one calling the shots here."
"But... I... It's so degrading!"
"Look. Gabey. Babes. If I may." Beetlejuice cleared his throat, straightening his lapels. "You're not gonna have to be acting as the Ganglati all the time. Just while there are visitors. The rest of the time, there's enough space in Helheim that you don't have to be near each other if you don't want to. It's a fair enough condition, surely."
"It's completely fair." Hel nodded, as they all stared each other out.
"And don't call me "Shirley"."
They all blinked. Gabriel grinned at his daughter, who was biting her tongue.
"See, kid. We're two of a kind."
"Hm." Hel was not impressed. "We'll see."
"Well, regardless of the state of your relationship," Beetlejuice bowed slightly, "because frankly I couldn't care less, I have delivered you from the Neitherworld, and have therefore terminated the terms of our contract. So, if you'd do me the honour of zapping me out of this particular Hel-hole... geddit?" He snorted, meeting derisive tutts from his audience. "Hel-hole... 'cause you're... called... heh... Gabey, lay those B words on me."
"Allow me." Hel allowed herself a small, wry smile, which instantly sparked Beetlejuice's warning signals. "Have you ever travelled by Fallandaforad before?"
"It means falling to peril. But it will get you where you need to go. Thank you, Beetlejuice, and farewell!"
Without further warning, a seemingly endless pit sunk out of the floor beneath him. He screamed as he fell, seeing the dwindling silhouettes of Gabriel and Hel waving at him from the ever diminishing ring of light.
"Well." He thought. And then, "shit."
Furthermore, he added, out loud:
"I should have known better than to trust a goddamn Angel! You better keep your end of the deal!"
"OhMyGod!" The blonde quaked, gripping the arm of one of her chaperones. "I can feel it! It's just like it was the last time! Can't you feel that freaky vibe, Agent Hendrix?"
`Agent Hendrix` smiled down at her, missing her eyes by a few inches, but quickly recovered and began making the climb back up from her chest.
"Well it's uh... interesting."
"Yeah." His partner nudged him sharply in the ribs. "Uh, Christelle, why don't you go back and wait in the car? We wouldn't want you getting... uncomfortable."
Christelle sniffed, nodded, and bounced from the room.
"In a minute..."
"In a minute... Just... just until she's closed the door..."
Sam rolled his eyes and produced the EMF tracer from his jackets inside pocket.
At first, there was nothing.
Then, there was a tremor or two in the needle.
Then the needle shot off the end of the scale, just as a rather plump apparition fell out of the ceiling with such a force that the floor he landed on buckled and splintered. The Winchesters recoiled and, as they looked into the storm of dust and sawdust, they saw the haggard poltergeist stumble out of the crater he had created for himself. He choked on the dust, looking like some peculiar alien as he stumbled into the dim light. Eventually, he looked up at the two suited men, and groaned.
"Let me guess..." He looked at the back of his hand. "Winchesters?"
They nodded, staring at him.
"You pals with the ex-archangel Gabriel?"
"Uh..." They exchanged glances. What the hell was this guy? "Yes?"
"Goddamn it!" The ghost growled, dusting off his coat. "Where the hell were you a month ago?"
He coughed again, spat onto the floor, and tehn ran a hand through his hair, composing himself. The Winchesters were dumbstruck.
"`scuse me. I've, uh, been through Hel and back." So saying, he clicked his fingers and disappeared out of the building, leaving Sam and Dean Winchester utterly clueless.
"Should we... go after him?" Sam suggested, staring into the crater.
Dean thought for a moment. Then a moment more.
Then, he licked his lips.
"No. No, let's... just never talk about this one again."
It was Sam's turn to think.
"Yeah... Tell Christelle we've already exorcised it?"
"Yeah. Then beer."
So they left.
And, from their pocket of reality, on another metaphysical plane, Gabriel and Hel watched over the proceedings. And shared candy apples. And they saw that it was good.