Calling All Angels
Back in Business
It was a quiet evening in Windom, Minnesota. The weather was still, revealing the star-speckled sky to the cool, bare street below. Being nearly one o'clock in the morning, the houses were dark at the windows, row after row of sleeping brickwork and silent estate cars waiting for the morning to signal the start of life – except for one.
Lily Sparrow had the house to herself that night. Her parents had gone for a weekend away ("to get to know each other again," she'd overheard her mother say), and so she'd taken full advantage of the peace and quiet by watching some classic Hollywood films uninterrupted. The latest one having finished, she'd made the decision to get a mid-marathon snack before continuing with the next film, and wandered into the kitchen with a bowl of ice cream and chocolate chips and sauce in mind.
The freezer hummed as she pulled it open, scanning the draws for the ice cream tub she knew was hiding at the back. Having retrieved it, she picked out the chocolate chips and sauce from the cupboard, selected an aptly sized bowl, and helped herself to a rather large portion. Well, it needed to last the whole movie – and maybe part of the next one, too, she thought. It was past one in the morning now, but Lily was adamant that she would stay up as long as she could. Not that it particularly mattered if she fell asleep on the couch, but she knew her parents would be made if she left the television on all night. Somehow, they always seemed to know. Maybe they were psychic after all.
A couple of hours later, just as the film was finishing, Lily was aware that a headache was building up at the front of her head. Sighing, she scooped up the last of the ice cream and trudged into the kitchen for a glass of water. Upstairs she found some aspirin, taking two rather than her usual one because, damn, this headache hurt. Perhaps it was a migraine instead, brought on by too much ice cream or too long spent in front of a TV screen. That sounded like something her mother would say. Catching sight of herself in the bathroom mirror, Lily groaned. She looked terrible, really – pale, heavy-lidded, and with messy hair. Maybe she should go to bed, sleep off her pains somehow. Leaving the bathroom, Lily blearily realised that that was something else her mother would say. Oh dear.
The aspirin hadn't worked, and yet Lily dreamt through her headache. She saw herself up early in the morning, the light outside grey and watery. She was running downstairs, opening the front door, staring at a figure lying in the middle of the street. Suddenly she was next to him as he staggered to his feet, dazed and confused. "I'm home?" he mumbles. He looks wide-eyed and ragged, his blonde hair messy and unkempt. He's trembling slightly. Overall, he looks… vulnerable.
"I'm Lily," she hears herself saying. His blue eyes settle on her as if in some sort of recognition, but she doesn't know him – he calls this street home, but as far as she knows he's never lived here. Who is he?
"Three of a kind."
Muttering a curse under his breath, Sam watched as Dean snatched up his winnings, a shit-eating grin splitting his face. "Gotta say, Sammy," he said as he pocketed the money. "You're getting too easy to read."
"That's because we only have each other to play with," Sam said, gathering up the cards that littered the small table.
"Well it's not like I can ring up Bobby and get him to drive out for one poker game. Can you imagine the reaction?"
Sam chuckled, slipping an elastic band around the cards and tossing them back onto the table. He raised an eyebrow. "What about Cas?"
Dean smirked. "Now that would be interesting. Think he'd enjoy it?"
"Unlikely." Hearing the deep voice come from out of thin air, Dean couldn't help but jump a few inches in his chair, and once his heart began to return to a regular pulse he threw a glare at the angel stood at his shoulder. Castiel was frowning slightly, eyeing the pack of cards the boys had been using. "Poker seems like a pointless game of luck," he continued. "I never understood your species' fascination with gambling."
About to yell at him for not arriving in a more subtle (make that less 'crapifying') manner, Dean bit back the words on his tongue at a nudge from his brother's foot. "Good to know, Cas," he said instead. "What's up?"
Finding no other chairs in the room, Cas moved to sit on the edge of the closest bed. "Heaven is frantic." He sat down wearily, looking between them both a little expectantly as if that was all the explanation they needed.
Dean gestured for more. "And?"
"And nobody's quite sure why."
"What do you mean?" Sam asked.
Cas regarded them both briefly, as if deciding how much to tell them, before presenting more details. "The rumour is that there is some panic towards the top of the chain of command. Although there are many speculations as to the cause, the most common theory is that it has something to do with the Cage." Sam tensed up automatically, but the angel continued unaware. "There was, apparently, something sighted leaving it, and whatever it was, it was no mere angel."
"So you're saying the Cage is broken?" Dean summarised.
"Well hasn't anyone gone to check it out?"
Castiel nodded grimly. "They have. It remains intact, and both Michael and Lucifer are in there. But that's not all." Standing, Cas made his way over to the window. "A new prophet has been chosen of late," he said. "This event would have coincided with the breaking of the Cage, if that is indeed what has happened."
Dean frowned. "So?"
"Prophets are protected by archangels."
"But there aren't any left," Sam pointed out.
"Which is why there has been a hold on the selection of new ones," Cas explained, "and any already existing have been assigned specially trained angels to act as 'bodyguards'. This new prophet is the first to appear since…" Cas faltered, taking a moment to collect his thoughts. "Since the death of Raphael. The fact that the Cage was breached at the same time is significant."
"Hold on a sec," Dean interrupted. "Are you saying that one of the archangels got out? Because a minute ago you just said they were both still in Azkaban."
"I never mentioned any Azkaban, Dean, but yes, Michael and Lucifer are both still in imprisonment. In fact, their guard has been increased."
Ignoring the typical Castiel uselessness at modern referencing, Dean tried to understand what the angel was saying. "So you think that whatever got out of the Cage is headed towards this new prophet?"
Sam looked confused. "But why are you telling us? Aren't the angels sorting this out?"
Cas' shoulders dropped. "No, they are not."
He let out a soft sigh, actually rubbing a hand over his face. "Heaven is still in disarray," he explained. "Now that there is no definite leader, nobody is quite sure from whom we should take orders. Similarly, it is not clear who is to give the orders."
"Can't you step in?" Dean asked. "You were going for that at one point."
Castiel looked slightly haunted by the memory. "My position in Heaven has been somewhat… reduced in light of my recent actions," he admitted. "It was felt that this was the best compromise, enough to satisfy everyone."
Scrutinising him, Dean asked, "How far reduced?"
Cas didn't blink. "Far enough."
As the tension began to climb steadily higher, Sam stepped in to get them back on track. "So why did you come to us, Cas? What do you think we can do that angels can't?"
"You mean besides sort themselves out?" Dean muttered, receiving a bitchy look for his troubles.
"I was able to find out where this 'escapee' supposedly landed," Cas informed them. "It was here, in America."
Dean quirked an eyebrow. "Minnesota?"
"Windom, Minnesota, to be precise."
Something clicked in Sam's mind. "Wait – that's where Adam lived." Both Dean and Castiel looked at him with puzzled expressions. "Adam was in the Cage!"
Confused by the funny flip his stomach did, Dean voiced the question they were all thinking. "Could he have gotten out then?" They turned to Cas.
"It seems unlikely," he said hesitantly. "After all, this is merely a rumour at best. If we are wrong, this trip will be for nothing, and something else is afoot."
"And Adam's still in there," Sam added forlornly.
His face fell, and Dean had the urge to comfort and reassure him. "Hey," he said forcefully, catching his brother's eye. "Adam's got Winchester blood in him. If that counts for anything – and it should, 'cause the guy's been in and out of Heaven like a yoyo – then he'll be okay."
"Positive." Having spent many nights over many years reassuring his little brother, Dean had become fairly good at putting sincerity behind words he didn't believe in.
Lily pressed her back into the wall at the end of her hallway, trying to keep her breathing quiet. At the back of her mind, something told her she should have expected this sooner or later, but all she could really think of was how terrified she was – terrified that another dream had come to pass, and terrified that the monster she dreamed of was now coming towards her.
It was a huge skeleton – so big it had to stoop to walk down the hall, bony knees bent slightly, and even then its purple crescent hat brushed against the ceiling. Its huge, matching purple cloak trailed along the floor behind it, and in its right hand it held a staff that almost touched the ceiling too. The orb at the top alternated between glowing painfully white, frosty blue, and burning orange, all the time with something similar to lightning writhing at its centre, as if all the elements were at war with each other inside it. Such a thing would have been mesmerising if she wasn't so scared (and it was all slightly ridiculous. Come on, a giant skeleton wearing a hat and cloak like a wizard? Seriously…).
The skeleton glided towards her again, the sound of bone scraping the wooden floor making her own bones tremble. Why hadn't her parents returned? Why had a strange boy shown up outside her house? Why were her dreams suddenly coming true? Why was this thing in front of her now? Of all those questions, she knew the answer to one, and as the monster drew closer still, she found herself praying.
She saw the light from behind closed eyelids. Putting her hands up automatically did nothing to dim the sudden brightness either, and Lily's ears were filled with a horrific screeching. When she dared to look, the monster was stumbling backwards away from her, arms also up protectively in front of its face. It fell to its knees, and Lily's jaw dropped involuntarily. A hand grabbed her arm, and she whirled round, expecting another one to be grinning sadistically down at her. Instead, it was – "Adam?!"
"Come on," he said calmly, tugging her arm where he gripped her tightly. "Pick up a bag on the way out," he added. Though his tone was steady, he moved quickly through the house, and the way he held her told Lily he was, at best, nervous. He led her through the living room towards the garden, and just as he said there were two duffel bags waiting by the glass doors. Without breaking stride he scooped on up and onto his shoulder, and Lily quickly mimicked him before stepping out into the cold evening air.
"What are you doing?" she asked, trying to break free from his hold. "Adam, where are we going? Do you even know what that thing was?"
"Not really," he said grimly, neither looking at her nor relaxing his grip. "As soon as we get to the car I'll tell you all I've been told."
"And that means what, exactly?" Lily had given up trying to free herself, and was now concerned with keeping up.
"It means we have to leave."
"But my parents –"
"Aren't coming back."
Had she been walking on her own, Lily would have stopped there and then. As it was, she stumbled forward as Adam pulled her on, unaware of the effect his words had on her. She didn't need to ask him what he meant – that was pretty obvious – but half of her couldn't quite believe it. Maybe he just meant they were missing, or being held captive. She could live with that. But if he did mean that her parents were… dead…
"Here." Adam threw the bags over the back of her fence, before cupping his hands to give her a boost over. "Lily," he said sharply, "let's move."
The sound of something breaking in her home restored some movement to Lily's limbs. She landed heavily on the other side, turning robotically to face the car that was randomly parked on the road behind her house. She'd never seen it before, but the way Adam strode up to it suggested this was their 'getaway vehicle'. "Get in," he said, popping the trunk and dropping the bags inside.
At first, Lily told herself the only reason she did what he said was because she wanted answers. Later, though, she had to concede that it was because, with Adam, she felt some sense of safety.