"...right," said Dean blearily, as he noted the Leviathan heads that were slowly making their ways back to their bodies, "The room at the end of the hall, get me a jar of their blood and we can start the ritual."
She plopped him down on the floor of the bedroom before setting off again, and he grabbed the journal notes from his jacket pocket. The numbers no longer ran together incoherently, he found they made perfect sense here in the Dream.
When Rachel returned with the blood, he was kneeling on the bed, putting his hand on the wall and feeling it with one hand.
"It's just on the other side," he said, "I can feel them."
"All of them. All the monsters I killed."
Pushing her glasses up her nose, she handed him the blood and said, "Well they're about to get some new roommates."
He made fast work of it, copying his notes while trying to ignore the sounds of bodies knitting themselves together nearby, and the heat that was starting to make him break out in a sweat.
"Are you almost done?" she asked nervously.
He stared at the completed work. Double-checked his notes. The portal should have opened by now. What was missing?
He pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes, just as a hand reached up to touch his shoulder. "I don't know, maybe I copied it wrong." he said.
Rachel screamed, and he look to find that the hand on his shoulder wasn't connected to anything else. Tossing it across the room with a disgusted noise, he shouted, "Get on the bed, they're starting to regroup."
Jumping up next to him, she took out her gun and aimed it shakily at a torso that was pulling itself along the floor. "Dean..." she hissed, "Why isn't the portal working?"
He looked at her, and for the first time noticed the way she'd dressed herself, the blouse buttoned all the way to the top with a little pearl strand around the collar.
"You weren't lying to me back at your place." he said.
"What?" she said, not taking her eyes off the torso that was slowly lurching toward them, it's entrails trailing behind like black confetti.
"You never been with anyone?"
"What kind of-"
"Yes or no."
Her cheeks blotched with anger, slapping at the papers in his hands. "No, now get on with it you redneck."
"Give me the gun." he said hollowly, turning her to hold her by the waist.
The question froze on her face.
"I'm sorry." he said, the smoke trailing from the barrel.
She tried to speak, but only managed a small choking sound that could be hear over all the other noises in the room. She fell forward onto him, and kissing him softly, his mouth filled with her warm blood.
The spray of her blood touched only some of the sigils on the wall, but they sucked at them, reshaping them until red and blood were the same, and a pocket of darkness twisted into being.
Dean tried to hold onto her, but the effort of killing thirty men had left him half-numb, and he couldn't even gather the will to push her to the floor. With a last look of sad amusement, as if this was all she'd expected from him, Rachel let go of his arm, and was sucked into the void.
The Leviathens began to scream, but in their broken state they had no way to avoiding Purgatory's pull, and instead began to latch onto Dean for purchase. Heads snapped at him like nightmarish shellfish, their voices a high trill. He scrambled on the bed, trying to pry off fingers and teeth, but soon could not even see for the crush of bodies on him.
The top half of Pyesell's head sat on the floor next to him, the bottom half having been severed, and his tongue lolled stupidly from beneath his upper teeth.
Dean was halfway thru the portal now, his hands gripping the rail of the hospital bed, which had flipped sideways against the wall.
"You won't get all of us," said Pyesell, teeth black with ooze, "Even if you get all the ones in this house, there's still hundreds of us across America."
"They can wait their turn." said a booming voice.
Dean looked up. Behind him, in that awful darkness, he could feel more hands reaching out for him. They had been waiting a long time.
All around him the room was on fire, and the roof had been torn off to reveal a bloody sunrise, against which stood a pair of black wings.
"Cas..." he said disbelievingly.
A white marble hand grapsed Dean's amid ashes and leaping flames, and pulled him into the night sky. Some of the Leviathans tried holding on, scratching at his clothes, but the portal sucked at them like an old tooth, and they fell.
Dean barely heard the house collapse over the rushing wind. He didn't bother to look down, all he could do watch Castiel, his body stretched out toward the horizon. Was it an angel who flew too close to the sun? Dean wondered.
"Cas?" he asked again, the wind eating his words.
The moon hid behind a cloud. His wings beat slowly, elegantly, as the fire receded, and between the black sky and blacker water, Castiel was the only source of light.
"Am I going home?"
Cas looked down at him, and said something that Dean didn't quite catch, before his grip weakened, and he fell headlong into the ocean.
Dean awoke on the beach, the back of his throat dry from coughing up salt water. Turning his head to one side, he saw the black smoking remains of the Witch house, the brick oven its only survivor.
"Cops gonna be here any minute." he muttered, pulling himself up on his elbows. A red light blinked through the trees nearby, a crossing signal, and he decided train-hopping would be the fastest exit strategy.
He spotted an empty shipping container and jumped in, wedging himself in a dark corner.
"Hey now, get your own ride." said a high voice.
He looked down. "Maizie?"
She smiled, her rhinestone glasses pink in the dawn light. "Runnin' from the authorities?"
"Well...maybe. Don't tell me you're an outlaw." he said uncertainly, eyeing her knitting bag.
"Me? No, just making sure you got out of town all right."
He licked his lip. "Someone ask you to find me?"
"I ran into your boyfriend last night, before he took Rachel with him," she said, running her nail along some balls of wool, "You think he'd look good in an ivory scarf, or ya think he's more of a navy man?"
Dean said nothing, looking out at the sunrise through a chink in the steel wall.
"Maybe something in a nice mustard, bring out the grey in his eyes." she mused.
"Maizie..." he said, his voice cracking.
"Did Castiel say anything to you, before he left?"
"Didn't really have time, he just said you'd need help come morning."
He had a fleeting memory of angel wings beating against a red sky, and of falling back to Earth, but even now the details were fading. He was tempted to go back to Professor Hickman and give him the official story, if only to get it off his chest.
"Why are your clothes all wet?" asked Maizie, eyes down on her knitting.
He choked back a smartass reply, he was tired of being a dick to women. "Castiel came for me at the last minute, when it was over, just picked me up and flew out. But he couldn't hold on, and he-" he stopped, rubbing his eyes, "...he dropped me into the water."
She looked up, understanding in her face. "You thought you were dead?" she said, the needles pausing mid-click, "You thought he was taking you to the Great Hereafter?"
He didn't reply.
"Well," she said smiling, the needles clicking again, "You must have a very important job here on Earth."
Refusing to cry, he ground the heels of his hands into his eyes until he saw stars. "Yeah, well, sometimes this world feels like a ball and chain."
"Hmmm." she said absently.
Hands still on his eyes, he struggled to think of something, anything good to say, tired of this pity party. "You...you got a nice town."
"Well we're glad you stopped in." she said, slapping his thigh, voice as warm as chicken soup, "You oughta come back in the winter, nothing better than a hot cup of tea while watching the geese fly away in the morning."
He noted a little arrowhead of birds in the distance, dipping below pink-bellied clouds. They looked to be sparrows.
"A host of sparrows." he muttered bitterly.
"...and if you stay for dinner, bring some vanilla ice cream for dessert, my neighbor's got this blueberry pie so good you will DIE," she nattered, not hearing him, "But the geese are my favorite."
He watched the birds for several seconds until they were a pinprick against the sun, and he had to look away it was so bright.
"Where do they go?" he asked.
"Don't know," she said, "Birds...fly to the stars, I guess."
The sunlight broke thru the chink and blinded Dean on one side, his eyes watering.
"That so." he said.
She looked up from her knitting, at his bare feet and dripping clothes. "You got somewhere to go, hon?"
"Yeah, yeah I do," he said, turning to a more familiar problem, "But I'll deal with that when I get to it."
"Then I'll let you go," she said, as the train began to move. And tucking her knitting into her bag, she hiked up her skirt and lept into the grass. "Drop by when you get a chance."
He wanted desperately to sleep, but was afraid of what lingered from the House, and decided that drying off was the next order of business. Pulling his shirt off his head, he looked down and found a brown stain on his collar.
Dean looked up, and found Castiel sitting before him. It was like looking as a projected image against the passing landscape.
"I killed that girl." he confessed weakly, "I'm going to Hell for it this time."
Castiel said nothing. His power was fading, and saying anything would only speed the process.
"Just promise me you'll be there when I die," he said, "I don't think I could face another stint on the rack thinking this was all a fever dream and you're not still out there somewhere."
Cas's face twisted, as if he were all out of promises.
Dean hesitated. "My life's been one long string of dirty memories, and I got nothing to look forward to. It's nice to think that, between this world and the next, I'd die seeing something beautiful for once."
Cas said nothing for a while, his eyes on the horizon as the little sparrows made their way to the end of the world. The dawn cut through the trees, thin pencils of light and shadow flickering across Castiel's face like the bars on a birdcage.
"Watch the sunrise with me," said Cas, "You earned this one."
For a few minutes, the two men sat on the side of the train car, their feet swinging over the high grass, the ocean crashing at a safe distance. The deaths of so many weighed on them, for different reasons, and the good works of last night brought no absolution, but for the first time since Castiel's death, Dean felt some peace.
"You've got blood on your mouth." said Cas, his head reaching out to touch him. It passed right through.
Dean turned to say something, but he was gone, a few motes in the sunlight the only evidence that anyone had been there.