The Valley of the Shadow of Death
Castiel and Jimmy bring a whole new meaning to self-confrontation.
A/N: So, a little conversation between a vessel and an angel that I feel is long overdue, and is in part, many of my own frustrations over the Jimmy and Castiel body situation. Dedicated to breewiley of Twitter, whose awesomesauce writing stirred up enough of a muse in me to take to my keyboard and spit this out.
"You won't die, or age. If you thought this last year was painful for you — picture a hundred, a thousand more like it."
Jimmy grasped his daughter's shoulder with urgency. "It doesn't matter," he spluttered through bleeding lips, eyes pinning Castiel, needing the angel to understand him. "Just take me."
Castiel struggled to hide confusion, instead focusing on the fact that as every second passed, the man was fading, and so quickly spoke.
"As you wish."
Placing the girl's small hands against her father's cheeks, Castiel could feel the man tremble, but his eyes never left his daughter's face — as if he were memorising her.
Castiel willed himself from the child's body, and the two vessels were engulfed in a blinding golden glow that burst from Jimmy's eyes and mouth.
Suddenly, the light dimmed, and Claire was left panting and wide-eyed, staring at her daddy. Except that now, Jimmy Novak was no more than a faint imprint in the back of an angel's mind.
Or so everyone thought.
Sometimes, especially during periods of silent meditation, Castiel would stop thinking, and his mind would still. It was then, sometimes, that he heard him. If Jimmy's will was strong enough, Castiel would see him in his mind's eye.
This was one such occasion, and Jimmy's will was very strong indeed.
"Castiel." (A greeting that seemed to double as an accusation.)
Identical pairs of bright blue eyes stared into each other.
"Jimmy Novak." (Inflectionless; factual even.)
One pair of eyes seemed to darken, and darted away to stare at the ever-changing scenery.
Colours swirled around them, stopping and starting as if they could not hold one shape for long. Sometimes tangible things appeared, but their edges were blurry and felt wrong, as if they were drawn in oil. Messy green streaks that might have been grass flowed underfoot.
"What I don't understand," Jimmy started, sitting down on an oil-struck rock and pushing his palms against his knees. "Is if humans are so... sacred to God, then why are angels allowed to cannibalise them like this?"
Castiel frowned, unconsciously noting the brief, disconcerted gaze Jimmy threw his way. An uneasiness that appeared to come from the form he was speaking to — Jimmy's mind had manifested Castiel in his own body, since he had never seen his true form, only the light of his Grace.
"Talking to myself..." the man muttered below his breath, though Castiel heard him as loudly as if he'd spoken in his ear. Or his mind. Which was where Jimmy lived, now.
"Cannibalise?" Castiel asked, tone grave.
For a human, Jimmy's eyes were exceptionally sharp as they drilled into his counterpart's. Castiel had not thought humans capable of such piercing, knowing looks. These were the kind of looks that came from Castiel's superiors as they delivered orders — the kind of look that said they knew more than he could ever hope to know. It was slightly unnerving to see it in his vessel's eyes — now Castiel's eyes.
"The word seems apt — you've taken over my body, taken over my life, my voice, my mind... I'm barely here anymore. Candle in the wind. You've taken the parts that are useful, and smothered the parts that aren't. Would you prefer bastardised?"
His voice was harsh, harsher than Castiel had made it, even, and the angel found himself wanting to flinch. But he did not move a muscle.
"You permitted me entrance." Castiel found it was the only thing he could think to say. He did not deny the charges laid against him.
Jimmy's gaze flickered away.
"Yes," he whispered raggedly. "And don't I wish every second of every day that I hadn't."
Unexpectedly, Castiel felt his chest twist with a twinge of emotion. Jimmy's chest.
He couldn't tell if it was coming from himself or his vessel anymore.
"You invited me back, even once you were freed." Castiel continued along the same vein, the one that kept him secure in the knowledge that what he had done was okay, that it was right.
"Of course I did," Jimmy hissed. "You had my daughter, you sick bastard! What was I supposed to do?"
Castiel found he had no answer, and so he kept silent. However, it became clear this was what humans termed a 'rhetorical question', and the man had required no answer from the angel.
"Your way, it would be Claire sitting here, trapped inside her own mind, talking to herself! Not dead, but not alive, not in control of her own body! How could I possibly let that—what kind of father would I be if I let that happen?" Jimmy continued to rail on, ire blinding him as his voice rose to near-deafening tones.
Castiel felt his vessel's chest constrict once more, and suddenly light flashed behind his eyes. Colour. Blurs of colour and sound and motion that suddenly snapped into a picture. Blonde hair whipping around tiny shoulders... a pair of twig-like legs high in the air, shoes falling off tiny feet... a girlish laugh as a child flew forward, tiny hands clasping rope as the swing she sat upon was urged forward by a larger hand — his hand. The echo of a laugh bubbled up Castiel's throat and resounded clearly as Jimmy's laugh in this... memory.
"Why are you showing me this?" Castiel frowned.
Jimmy looked pained, and Castiel spied the sheen of watering eyes before the other man turned his head away.
"I apologise for littering my own brain with my memories," he hissed through what sounded like gritted teeth.
Jimmy looked up, and as his face twisted into dark anger, the tears gathering in his eyes spilled over and ran down his cheeks, disappearing all too quickly beneath his chin, leaving behind only two faint watermarks tracing their path.
Castiel bowed his head, and studied his feet.
I can't care about that, Dean. I don't have the luxury.
He'd said that once, and it hadn't seemed to appease the oldest Winchester brother. Then it had been about a child, too. It seemed that when it came to human children, somehow the rules were different.
Harming an adult, and harming a child were different. Taking an adult, and taking a child...
Castiel knew that taking a child as a vessel was wrong, definitely taboo in the eyes of humans — but the circumstances were the same as they had been with the child he had been forced to momentarily torture for information.
He couldn't care that he had possessed a child. He didn't have the luxury.
And he definitely didn't have the luxury of caring about Jimmy Novak.
That didn't mean that in times of quiet, of solitude — when Sam and Dean slept, or he stood silent by a noisy roadside, or when he interrupted a dead man's eternal Tuesday and stared at his kite, stark against the clear blue sky — that he didn't feel compelled to reflect on the day he had stolen Jimmy. That he didn't suddenly feel like a thief, an alien presence in a body not his own.
He was told not to care, that he was doing God's work. The angels who received Revelation, who laid a comforting hand on his shoulder and ordered him down to Earth to take a vessel — they told him it was necessary.
They expected him not to care for the human soul that resided within as he quelled its light with his own.
But then again, Castiel was getting pretty good at flying in the faces of angels and their expectations.
He looked up, and once more met the sky-blue eyes of Jimmy Novak, who was looking at him with an emotion that for once, Castiel could place.
He'd seen it before. On Dean, on Sam, on Bobby.
He'd seen it in the mirror as he strengthened his resolve; convinced himself he was right, that he was on the right path.
Jimmy's brow creased further, as though he were daring Castiel to say something cold, unaffected. Daring him to say that Claire didn't matter, that he didn't matter. Castiel would not say that. Neither would he make excuses, or petty appeasements. He would not want them in Jimmy's place.
"There are angels who care nothing for the vessels they inhabit."
Jimmy met his gaze steadily.
"I am not one of them."
Castiel let his words hang in the air between them for a moment, and they seemed to ring around their shared mind like a soundless echo.
"I wish it could be different. But it cannot be." Castiel's voice was stern, but the low volume at which he spoke softened the harsh tone of the words.
Castiel paused. "Even so... I am sorry."
Jimmy recoiled as if he had been slapped, and when it became clear to Castiel that the man wasn't going to speak, he stepped forward. Crossing the distance between the two doppelgangers seemed to take longer than it should have done.
Castiel looked down at Jimmy, who was still sitting on the rock.
"I wish it changed anything. It doesn't. But I still feel you should know."
Jimmy's face seemed to droop, and a faraway, sorrowful look entered his eyes.
"I just wish I could see them again," he whispered, in a voice smaller than he imagined he had ever spoken. In that moment, Castiel felt so very, very old.
With hesitance, Castiel raised an open hand, and touched Jimmy's shoulder gently. When he met no resistance, he rested it there more firmly. A gesture he knew was meant to comfort in the human world — thus was his intention.
He couldn't promise Jimmy anything. He didn't know if the man would ever see his loved ones again.
Instead, he simply said; "I hope you will."
Castiel realised it was true as he said it. He didn't know how it could be possible, or what it would mean for himself... but he did wish that the man could see his family again. Family was important. The Winchesters had taught him that. No, it wasn't just important. Family was sacred. Just as sacred, perhaps, as mankind itself.
Castiel felt Jimmy's shoulder begin to soften under his hand, as if smoke was gathering there, and realised that Jimmy's presence was dissipating — the man's mind wasn't strong enough to hold it all the time.
The rock faded, the colours swirling back into the rest, and Jimmy looked weary.
Translucent smoke engulfed him, and a whisper followed his disappearance.
"Goodbye, Cas." This time the tone of accusation was absent.
With that, Castiel was alone again.