A/N: An odd sort of fix-it ficlet for D-Day, inspired directly by a comment I made on one of gaelicspirit's rambles and Ike: Countdown to D-Day, and indirectly by milbloggers Sgt. Hook and John of Argghhh! Spoilers of a sort for late Season 6. Many thanks to jennytork for beta-ing and suggesting a line here and there!
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Old Soldiers Never Die
by San Antonio Rose
Halfway between Heaven and Hell, there is a plane that few know exists and even fewer may enter. Its entrance is hidden from angels and demons alike. It is not part of Purgatory, for no monster may enter there; it is not a place of torment, for men of evil heart go straight to Hell; nor is it an eternal rerun of a soul's best memories accessible only to that soul's mate, for the souls there are bound to one another too tightly to be separated so. It is a special place of rest for a special breed of humans.
Precisely why Castiel thought Eleanor Visyak would have a written copy of the genuine spell for opening Purgatory lying around in her house is anyone's guess. Precisely how her faked version came to be the exact spell needed to open a door into this other dimension... well, Divine Providence hadn't necessarily been as inactive as everyone had thought. But the door didn't just not go where Castiel thought it would.
It opened the wrong way and spit Castiel out at the train station... in front of John Winchester, who was expecting someone else to arrive on the next train from Afghanistan.
To say Castiel's arrival caused a commotion would be an understatement. He suddenly found himself on the business end of not just John's, but about fifteen other guns, surrounded and declared captive, while alerts rang out in virtually every language known to humankind. Deciding discretion was the better part of valor, Castiel surrendered to John and allowed himself to be marched into the bar to face millions of men and women who had dedicated their lives to fighting evil, whether natural or supernatural—warriors all, whether soldiers or hunters. The outraged uproar threatened to overwhelm the confused angel until a five-star general whose nametag read Eisenhower nodded to Mary Winchester, who stuck two fingers in her mouth and whistled shrilly.
The silence that followed was almost more deafening than the shouting had been.
Eisenhower nodded to John, who stepped forward with a deadly glare Castiel recognized from Dean. "Who are you?"
"My name is Castiel. I'm an angel of the Lord."
There were some derisive snorts from the crowd at that, but John didn't waver. "How did you get here?"
"I don't know. It was a mistake. I was trying to find Purgatory."
A beat passed, and then every single soul in earshot burst out in unison:
"Why the hell would you do that?"
So Castiel explained more or less as he'd tried to explain to God in the hope He was listening. But these were humans, not God, and they peppered him with questions, poked holes in his reasoning, forced him to consider angles that he had never even thought existed, challenged him to weigh what he was losing against what he was trying to gain. And every time he dismissed a possible flaw in his plan, they always said the same thing, and all at the same time:
"No plan survives the first contact with the enemy."
Finally, backed against the bar and without an easy escape route, exasperated and barely refraining from trying to smite the lot of them, Castiel cried, "There is no other way!"
And Eisenhower stood toe to toe with him, looked him in the eye, and said, "Don't be too sure. If you want your war won for you, you can tell it to the Marines."
Suddenly the bar was gone, and they were standing in a place Castiel slowly recognized as a replica of Southwick House circa May 1944—but instead of maps of Normandy, the walls and tables were covered with maps of Heaven and of Earth. Communication stations flared to life. Intelligence operatives flitted in and out. Generals of all ages and nations pored over dispatches and argued quietly with one another. And just as slowly as he'd placed the location, Castiel came to a startling conclusion: this wasn't just a memory. This was really happening.
By the time he'd figured that out, Eisenhower was dragging him into another room for a briefing. The other generals, with the help of their subordinates, had processed all the incoming data and come up with no fewer than five plans of attack that didn't involve Purgatory.
"The problem is," said Eisenhower when they'd finished, "that these plans are all too obvious if Raphael knows our location. Not only that, most of them require Earth as a battlefield. It would be better if we could find a back door into Heaven." The room was silent for a long moment while he thought. Then he looked at a general named Smith. "Find me Ellen Harvelle, Beetle. We need to find a way to get word to that foster son of hers."
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Crowley looked up in surprise as Castiel returned to the slaughterhouse. "Hallo, where've you been? You've been gone for days."
"I know," Castiel replied truthfully. "I have... made some unusual discoveries and been given some unusual insights."
The demon frowned. "You've not been near the Winchesters. I would know. So have you found Purgatory or not?"
"No. And I'm not going to."
"What the hell do you mean, you're not going to?"
"Your assistance is no longer required. I have returned your fifty thousand souls. And I will do whatever it takes to prevent you from finding Purgatory yourself. Dean was right. It's too dangerous."
"And I suppose you're just going to roll over and play dead for Raphael?"
"On the contrary," Castiel replied, feeling free again for the first time in close to two years. "Raphael is on the run. I have all the help I need."
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Raphael could not believe his eyes. Heaven was swarming with new human souls, and they weren't sinking into isolation as the devout dead properly should. They were more like those pesky Winchesters, but there were millions of them, working together independently of Castiel—and they were picking up more followers as they fought their way toward the Garden. They came from every direction, land, sea, and air, fighting with so many different styles and tactics and using so many different weapons that Raphael could hardly keep up with whether he needed to be fighting Gurkhas and Sikhs hand to hand or watching the skies for the RAF. They kept saying ridiculous things like "We're making the universe safe for democracy." And not only that, they kept singing, songs that he'd only ever heard on Earth, including one taunt that he could almost swear was being directed at him rather than being a friendly swipe at another branch of the same tree:
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven's scenes,
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines!
But they weren't just current or former British subjects. There were souls from every nation on Earth, all trained for battle and disciplined in a way even Heaven at its finest points under Michael could never achieve. And even some of his own supporters had broken ranks and joined the invaders, seeing what free will and independent thinking could achieve when applied to a common cause.
How could such a thing happen? Whose side was Father on?
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Dean was about to fall asleep reading Jedediah Campbell's journal when a voice unexpectedly demanded, "Whose idea was this?"
Sam looked up from his own reading. "What are you talking about?"
Balthazar strode agitatedly toward him. "I'm told Cas has found a way to make the joke about seventy-two Virginians come true!"
Dean blinked. "Wait, what?"
"Apparently he went looking for Purgatory and found... I don't know, Valhalla, I guess? And your buddy Ash has found a way to let all those souls into Heaven by a back door somewhere, and Cas has let them get hold of all those weapons—ones I stole fair and square and gave back to him just because I couldn't stand the thought of Raphael getting hold of them." Balthazar paused. "I'm not sure if it's bloody stupid or bloody brilliant."
"Or bloody both," rumbled Bobby, who'd just stopped in the doorway.
"If it means the war stays off the planet, I'm goin' with bloody brilliant," Dean replied.
Balthazar shrugged with his eyebrows. "I'm with you there. But you didn't know about it?"
"Balthazar, you don't even know what Cas found. How the hell are we supposed to know how he got there?"
Balthazar held up his hands in surrender. "Just asking."
Sam frowned. "You said something about seventy-two Virginians?"
"Mm. Not many names I recognize personally, though I did recognize a few of the ones my informant mentioned—Nathan Hale, David Crockett, some others I was a bit surprised not to have run into Upstairs before. And apparently some chap from Kansas by the name of Dwight is running the whole show."
The humans stared. "You don't mean Dwight Eisenhower, do you?" Bobby asked.
Balthazar shrugged. "Sounds familiar. Name means something to you, does it?"
"Yeah. Only the most powerful man in history at one point in time. Former President of the United States, and before that he was the supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe, mastermind of the D-Day invasions in Normandy."
Dean swore quietly. "You say he hadn't been in Heaven before?"
Balthazar shook his head. "Not to my knowledge. Or my informant's."
Dean cursed again, and this time he was joined by both Bobby and Sam.
Balthazar was taken aback. "What?"
"Cas, you damn fool idjit," Bobby breathed, but the reproach was mingled with admiration. "How the hell did you find Fiddler's Green?"