Song Remains the Same
Chapter 93 / Revelation
"I wore your promise on my finger for one year. I'll wear your name on my heart til I die."
- Coco J. Ginger
Some moments in life seem too surreal to even be happening, too inexplicable to be true, and too unexpected for us to know how to confront them at all. This was one of those moments.
In the back seat of the Impala behind Dean, Alex sat in utter silence and tried to comprehend what was currently happening. In the front seat sat a man who looked like Castiel and very well might be him. It had her completely wrecked inside, but somehow she was holding it together for now after that brief breakdown a few minutes prior. She searched his appearance for proof that it was him or that it wasn't him as she fought through a million conflicted feelings about what it would mean if it were Castiel sitting there within arms reach. It meant he didn't remember her. It meant he'd married another woman. It meant she'd mourned his death all that time in vain. It meant her world no longer made any sense at all.
Her eyes constantly went to the back of Emmanuel's head and his profile as she studied him closely. It was all so familiar: his strong nose, the fierce brow, his sharp jawline, those beloved shaggy curls behind his ears, the slightly stern and thoughtful expression on his face… it looked just like him. And more than that he felt familiar. His presence and demeanor and the way he moved—he looked just like Cas, save for the outfit he wore. It made her chest ache so hard that she could have had heartburn.
All of three minutes into the seventeen hour trip they were embarking on, the Impala merged onto a rural highway and Dean cleared his throat and threw a hooded glance at the Cas lookalike. "So, Daphne—your wife," he began cautiously, trying to sound casual and polite. "How'd you two meet, huh?"
Alex's stomach, which had just settled, suddenly began to churn again. She tried to look like she wasn't paying attention, but every atom of her body was suddenly put into straining to hear his answer. She knew what Dean was about to do. Root around for answers and clues as to who this guy was and where he'd come from—try and find out if he really were Cas.
Alex noticed out of the corner of her eye how Emmanuel looked a little grudging to discuss the answer to Dean's question. "She found me and cared for me," he answered vaguely, looking out of the window, maybe trying to silently say he didn't feel in the mood to talk.
Too bad. Dean had a comeback ready. "Found you and cared for you?" he repeated. "What, like a stray dog?"
Emmanuel turned his head toward Dean, picking up on the cynical tone and appearing all the more hesitant for it. "It's a… strange story," he said faintly. "You may not like it." He sounded reluctant and his nearly guilty eyes glanced sidelong and back at Alex, who was caught already looking at him. Her eyes quickly darted away as her pulse hammered so hard she had to breathe in deeply to not feel faint.
"Oh believe me, I'll love it," Dean replied, not really succeeding in hiding his more bitter feelings. At the ensuing silence, he pressed. "What, you don't wanna say or something?"
Emmanuel glanced at Dean a couple more times, then towards Alex. Then inhaled. "A few months ago in Kansas, she was hiking by some water." Kansas. Water. The lake. Those details matched up with what had happened. Alex was on the edge of her seat, breathless, sick, confounded—oh my god. "She found me at the shoreline, drenched and confused, and…" he grew visibly uncomfortable, his eyes darting to Alex's, "unclothed." Alex was immediately all the more distressed. She'd had this crazy, farfetched, wild hope that maybe their 'marriage' was sexless. But that revelation made her realize that she was ridiculous and juvenile to think that for a second. Emmanuel was still explaining his first encounter with Daphne. "I had no memory. I still don't." He attempted to sound less uncertain. "She said... God wanted her to find me."
"God?" Dean repeated incredulously, like Emmanuel was a real chump for believing anything of the sort. "And you bought that crap?"
Emmanuel didn't appear to know what to do or how to respond to the very blunt question. He didn't really answer the question at all when he spoke up. "Well… she seemed very certain of what she believed."
"So you believed it, too?" Dean challenged. His underlying anger and frustration was audible. "And just, just married her sight unseen? What if you already were married?" Alex's eyes jumped up to the back of her brother's head in shock as he passively aggressively berated the man he believed to be Cas for what he had done: hurting Alex and letting her down on a whole new level. "I mean, you had amnesia, did you really need to marry the first chick you saw?" Dean demanded roughly. "Or did you not care enough to try and find out who you were and who you might have left behind?"
Who he left behind. Me.
Emmanuel looked like he was guilt-stricken by Dean's very brass interrogation and he confirmed as much when he replied. "That thought crossed my mind many times…" he admitted softly, and Alex's heart twisted. This had to be him, oh god, it had to be. The things he was saying, the way he was, the feeling she got from him on a sixth sense level. Her eyes stung. How did I not know? That he was out there, alone, without memories? "I wondered if I had someone… a family, a wife," Emmanuel said heavily, contemplating the passing scenery and unwittingly making Alex's internal pain worse and worse. "But no one came looking for me." Those sadly-spoken words absolutely broke her heart and made her pain intensify yet again. I didn't know I should have been looking for you… if I had, nothing in Heaven or Hell or anywhere between would have stopped me from finding you. She wanted to cry at the tragedy of this situation. And now he didn't remember. Even now, with her less than five feet away. He looked at her and didn't know her. Emmanuel glanced down at his hand, contemplating his wedding band pensively. "And I wasn't wearing a ring when she found me."
"Still, you couldn't know for sure," Dean muttered sourly, his disapproval almost palpable.
"No," Emmanuel conceded grimly. "I still don't know." He exhaled wearily and looked down at his hand again at the silver band circling his index finger. "But… I seemed to have little choice in the matter."
Very little choice in the matter. His choice of words had Alex's very close attention—she didn't like the way that sounded or what it might imply. Dean too was immediately suspicious and his eyes narrowed. "What's that supposed to mean?" he asked cautiously.
There was a brief, uncertain pause as Emmanuel searched for the right words. "Daphne is… very headstrong. Very willful. Very determined when she sets her mind to something." He quickly added to what he'd said, almost like he was afraid to say anything remotely negative about her. "And also very kind." Dean sent him a skeptical, hard glance. Emmanuel looked away guiltily but kept talking. "When I think about what she did for me… taking a strange man into her home without question, providing for me, helping me… I had to show my gratitude for what she did." Alex immediately felt a deep sense of alarm. Had to show his gratitude? That statement and the heavy way he said it rubbed her the wrong way, worried her over what had happened to him all these months—surely he didn't mean Daphne pressured him into stuff…? Dread and something akin to horror filled her veins as Emmanuel continued. "She said we were meant to be together. In marriage. That God had brought me to her. And, well, I was living with her, we were sharing a bed, so… I thought it would be proper and honorable. After all, she did save me."
Sharing a bed. Living together. How was she supposed to know how to process those things? Alex wanted to be sick at the thought of him with someone other than herself. Dean looked similar to how Alex felt—completely baffled and dismayed. "…You telling me you felt like you had to put out or get out?" he asked dubiously.
Emmanuel frowned curiously and looked at Dean. "What does 'put out' mean?" he asked, clearly having no clue as to what the term meant. Then he abruptly looked like he might understand. "Sometimes I would put her laundry out on the clothesline, if that's what you mean."
Alex might have laughed at his confusion if the subject matter and what was being revealed weren't so awful. Had he been manipulated and coerced into having sex with Daphne then marrying her? Had she pressured him and used fear-tactics and you-owe-me mind games on him? When he didn't want it? Oh god, Alex had never felt so awful for someone in her entire life, she had never been so horrified on someone else's behalf. Or maybe he had wanted it and was just explaining himself badly. Either way, it made her feel incredibly upset in a way that had her thinking she might never be able to be happy in her life ever again, not even for one lousy second.
Dean shook his head, disgusted. "Never mind," he muttered. For a minute, the only sound was the muffled roar of the car engines. Then Dean continued to try and get answers. Maybe for his own sake, maybe for Alex's… she didn't know. "So, you find yourself with some chick who brings home naked homeless guys with amnesia—which by the way is insane, no offense—and she wants you to marry her… so you marry her." Apparently Dean couldn't get over it—his obvious disapproval and anger over it was beginning to become telling, but he didn't bother hiding his true feelings. "Wow, you are a piece of work, man. How the hell did you even… I mean, did you get a fake ID or what?"
"Well, there was never a ceremony of any kind," Emmanuel admitted evenly, patient in the face of Dean's rudeness. Inside of Alex, a sudden feeling of hope tried to spring up. No ceremony? No vows? She tried to push it down so she wouldn't be crushed all over again inevitably. Just wait and listen to what he says. Don't get ahead of yourself. Emmanuel sounded more and more uncertain about where the conversation was going. "We just… she gave me this ring and began referring to me as her husband," he said, deep in tense thought. "Um… I find it a bit odd, to be completely honest with you. She told me marriages are in the heart, not on paper. I can't say I feel the same as she does, but…" he trailed off as he realized how open and candid he was being. He quickly changed that and attempted to be veiled, guarded, inscrutable. "It's not important," he said, brushing it off and trying to close the subject. "She believes in destiny. In soulmates."
Dean glanced at him long and hard. "What about you? What do you believe in?"
Alex watched Emmanuel's face in the rear view mirror, watched as he met Dean's brief look with one of his own. He was obviously puzzled over the other man's insistence to continue discussing all of this. "I'm… not sure." He frowned at his lap for a long couple of seconds. "I… I think I believe in soulmates…" his eyes scanned back and forth in thought, then without warning snapped up to look at Alex's in the mirror—the waterblue depths startled her. She tried to look away fast enough to not be caught staring at him again, but it was too late.
"And Daphne's yours? She's your soulmate?" Dean pressed relentlessly. Alex tried not to gape at her brother or kick the back of his seat—he'd preached so hard to her about not triggering Cas and now was borderline giving everything away. She didn't even get it: Dean hated them together, right? And yet here he was giving this guy hell for doing exactly what she thought Dean wanted Cas to do: walk away, leave, get out of her life.
At the question asking whether or not his wife was his soulmate, Emmanuel looked up, straight ahead of himself with a slightly pinched expression—he was clearly growing irritated with Dean's line of questioning. "That's a very personal question, Dean," he said cryptically, voice a touch lower and darker than it had been before.
What did that mean? Yes? Or was that a no? Alex tried to find the answer to the greatest question in her life currently by looking at him closely, even though she sort of didn't want to know at all… did he love Daphne? Treasure and cherish her the way he'd treasured and cherished Alex? Was it possible that the love she thought was so once-in-a-lifetime now belonged to this out-of-nowhere Daphne bitch? Why, why did this woman get what Alex never had? Unbroken time with the man she loved, a home to share together. She thought it was so damn unfair—she and Cas had all this fragmented time together, never long at all, never consistent, never enough. And now to find out he'd been living quietly, all this time, with this bimbo God-crazy woman…? Alex didn't understand how the universe could be so unfair and so cruel.
"So who named you Emmanuel?" Dean asked, trying to lighten the conversation after Emmanuel's unspoken request to back off. Apparently silence wasn't good enough for Dean. "That was her, too?"
Emmanuel shook his head, distracted. "No. A website called BouncingBabyNames."
Dean hesitated, the smallest taken aback smile on his face at the unexpectedly humorous answer. He quickly pressed it away. "Huh. Well. Must be weird not knowing who you are."
There was a somber nod as Emmanuel scanned far distance with unseeing eyes. "Yes. It is. There are many questions I have about it all. I've had to come to terms with the possibility that I might never know. But I do know I'm grateful Daphne was there to help me. I don't know what I would have done if she hadn't found me. I don't seem to be very adroit at some things."
"Like?" Dean prompted.
"Well… anything, really," Emmanuel said, appearing a little uncomfortable and sheepish. Another huge sign that pointed toward him being Castiel—Castiel who was clueless in so many areas of life. And then he brightened slightly, recalling something. "Well, perhaps I shouldn't say I'm good at nothing. I've learned some skills since she took me in. Like how to build birdhouses. And how to complete some repair tasks around the home. She also tells me I have a green thumb, which apparently means I'm talented in growing living things and tending to them." He grew mildly confused. "I fail to see why the color of my finger would have anything to do with that, though…" Alex stared at the side of his face, sick and stricken. He was just like Cas. She was really, truly, totally beginning to believe it, that he was her long lost Castiel. There were less and less explanations remaining. Who else could he be?
"Right…" Dean commented awkwardly at the green thumb comment. He exhaled and tapped his fingers tensely on the steering wheel. He took a few seconds to gather his thoughts. "So, this is your new life. Colorado. Gardening. Weirdo hippie wife. Special healing powers. No idea who you were before." He paused heavily and sent the man beside him a look. "But I mean, what if you were some kind of... I dunno… bad guy? In whatever life you lived before?"
Jesus Christ, Dean. Alex was pretty sure if Dean kept this up Emmanuel or Castiel would definitely remember himself before they were even halfway to Sam. But would that really be so horrible? To know for sure it's him? Emmanuel looked genuinely startled by Dean's question, then he considered it with a deep frown. "I… don't feel like a bad person," he said, then frowned more intensely Dean's way, becoming almost suspicious. "That's an odd thing to ask." Dean shrugged and said nothing, leaving Emmanuel to wonder. After an awkward silence, Emmanuel was the one who continued the conversation. "So, your brother…"
"Sam," Dean supplied curtly.
"Sam," Emmanuel repeated. "What's his diagnosis?"
"Well…" Dean cleared his throat lightly as a grim quality descended onto his face, "it's not exactly medical."
Emmanuel nodded once, slowly. "That should be fine. I can cure illness of a spiritual origin."
"Spiritual?" Dean asked doubtfully. "…Okay." He paused, darkening a little. "Well… someone did this to him."
Emmanuel turned his head to Dean, his bright blue eyes contemplating the other man studiously. "You're angry," he said, clearly wondering what had happened.
"Well, yeah," Dean retorted, avoiding the other man's gaze completely. "Dude broke my brother's head and jacked a bunch of other shit up, to put it mildly." What a way to sum up everything Dean held against Cas.
"He betrayed you, this dude," Emmanuel said, showing himself to be intensely gifted in reading between the unspoken lines. "…He was your friend?"
Dean met the other man's piercing gaze in surprise then quickly looked away and clenched his jaw tight. "Yeah, well, he's gone now, so I don't see how it matters either way," he replied in a near-mutter.
"Did you kill him?" Emmanuel asked quietly, drawing a silent, quizzical frown from Dean. Emmanuel looked vaguely disturbed. "I sense that you kill a lot of people."
Dean let out a soft, cynical huff as he concentrated on the road ahead. "Well I'll tell ya this much—I wanted to kill him at a certain point after what he did." He sounded tired and disillusioned now. "Honestly, I-I-I don't know if he is dead. I just know that this whole thing couldn't be messier." He wasn't kidding. Alex had to agree. Never in all her life had she ever thought things would unfold like this or be more jumbled up, painful, more confusing and hard to understand. "He really made me regret ever trusting him in the first place," Dean mused quietly, sounding forlorn and lost and only half-cognizant that he had a listening audience. He stared at the road ahead with a pained expression on his face. "You know, I used to be able to just shake this stuff off, whatever it was. It might take me some time, but... I always could." Alex heard the pain in him and understood it all too well. "What Cas did… to me, to my family… I just can't get past it—I, I dunno why." Dean didn't even seem to realize he used Cas's name. But Alex heard it and froze, looking at Emmanuel as she waited for him to get a look of realization on his face.
But nothing happened. Emmanuel didn't react except to respond to Dean. "Well, it doesn't matter why," he said factually.
"Of course it matters," Dean retorted, face twisting. It was almost like he wanted to pick a fight at this point.
"No," Emmanuel said firmly, looking at the other man meaningfully. "You're not a machine, Dean. You're human." He took a moment and contemplated something, seeming to find it peculiar. "Your friend's name was Cas? That's an odd name." Alex watched him, not even realizing her face betrayed all of the agony she was feeling inside. Is it not you? Are you not him? Emmanuel was thinking hard, and didn't see the way she looked at him. "He must have been quite powerful to have been able to mentally cripple your brother, this Cas. Was he some kind of warlock?"
Dean shook his head grimly. "He was an angel."
Emmanuel's frown returned, but it was quizzical and a touch amused. "Is that… a term of affection?" he asked, then suddenly looked like he knew exactly what was going on—an almost sly expression crossed his face as his chin lowered. "…Was he more than a friend to you?"
Dean made a face at Emmanuel's very wrong assumption. "No, dude, no!" he said immediately, getting very irritated very fast with the mistake. "He was a literal angel." Annoyance was making Dean insolent and prissy. "Demons are real, so are angels," he said forcefully, then started complaining under his breath. "Geez. Like explaining things to a fucking three year old…"
"Dean…" Alex reprimanded, but she had a feeling it was too late to stop Dean from taking his grumpy and running with it. Still, she tried to shut him down. "Don't be an asshole."
Emmanuel looked at her squarely, gentle in the way he addressed her. "It's all right, Elizabeth," he said, sensing her distress and using the wrong name for her and making her feel smaller inside because of it. "I'm new to all this—angels, demons. I'm sure my ignorance is aggravating. And your brother is frustrated and very physically tired—his patience is short." He peered at Dean in concern, seeming to think of something. "When was the last time you slept?"
"Like three years ago!" Dean fired back in sharp retort. Great. Just like Alex had thought. She could tell. He was about to go off—and Emmanuel was right. Alex didn't think Dean had slept in like two days now or something. "You're damn right I'm tired," he ranted. "And hungry." He suddenly looked into the rearview and aimed all of his frustration at his sister. "And pissed off that I'm surrounded by liars."
Alex looked at him in complete annoyed and disappointed puzzlement. Really, Dean? You pick now to bitch at me about this? "Just shut up," she muttered, looking away from him sullenly. His sense of timing was fan-fucking-tastic.
"No! I won't shut up!" he said, throwing a series of angry scowls into the rear view mirror. "You know what? Screw it. What the hell are you doing, huh? Messing around with pills? How bad is it? What kind? How long? I mean, you got a death wish or what? Isn't our life enough of a risk for you?"
God, just leave me alone you jackass! Alex scowled out the window and sat all the way back in her seat as she crossed her arms hard over herself in an attempt to deflect him. She was deeply embarrassed and ashamed of her addiction and wished so badly he hadn't found out at all—because she had known his reaction would be like this. That he would make her real problem all about himself, that he wouldn't see it as evidence of her pain but instead see it as evidence of her weakness. "I'm not having this conversation with you right now, Dean," she said in forced calm, trying not to do what he wanted—argue and fight and throw verbal punches at each other.
She could hear the sneer on his voice even though she forced herself not to look at him. "Oh, miss big bad therapy, self-awareness, the power of healing from within…" he basically mocked, "and all along you're popping pills." He was foul and angry and hurtful. "What a freaking joke." He put the turn signal on and slowed down, apparently headed for the gas station just ahead.
Alex said nothing (if she opened her mouth she'd say a bunch of shit she'd regret). Instead she tried to hide how incredibly wounded she felt by his verbal swings. But it was hard because he really knew where to hit her right where it hurt. Who gave him permission to be awful to the people he loved just because he was going through some hard feelings?
Emmanuel was looking at Dean hesitantly. "Forgive me but there doesn't seem to be a need to be rude to her," he said quietly, surprising Alex and drawing an incredulous stare from Dean at the unsolicited interjection. But Emmanuel didn't let the hard stare keep him from speaking. "She's hurting too, Dean," he said softly, a certain level of empathy and pain in his voice. "I can sense it. And your unkind words only served to make her pain worse." He looked at her again, and she swore his eyes cut through to her soul. His gentle protectiveness of her made her feel so incredibly vulnerable, his clear concern for her touched her so deeply. "You carry so much weight with you," he said to her, his eyes showing how that fact burdened him and puzzled him all at once. She swallowed through a thick throat—she was defenseless under that intense gaze of his. He seemed to sense he was making her uncomfortable and he backed off, glanced at Dean, who was pulling in to the gas station. "Both of you."
Dean slammed the car into park at the first space he found and gave Emmanuel a dirty look. "Spare me the gentle-hearted crap, man," he muttered through a scowl, then pursed his lips in annoyance and looked into the rear view mirror. "You want anything?" he asked brusquely. He sounded like she better not want anything.
Alex shook her head just slightly and didn't look back at him. "No."
"Yeah," Dean muttered. "Great."
He got out with the keys and slammed the car door then marched toward the gas station in a way that conveyed that he was pissed off. Good for you, Dean. Go ahead and be mad. Ugh. Drama queen. Alex watched him and wished he would just grow the hell up. One second he could be so caring and thoughtful, the next a complete and total jackass. It was a ridiculous, confusing way to live. She wondered, not for the first time lately, what was going on with him. He was really having a hard time with everything, she thought. But he wouldn't completely admit to it. And heaven forbid you tried to reach out to him.
She suddenly realized that she and Emmanuel were alone in the car and when she realized that, her heart rate picked up as anxiety jumped up a couple levels. Discomfort immediately made her feel like everything was pressing down on her. Just don't look at him, don't talk to him. Maybe he won't talk to you either. Silence made her ears ring. She tried to breathe very quietly in an attempt not to solicit a conversation with him—maybe he'd forget she was there at all if she was quiet enough. The thought of talking to him terrified her and made her feel like puking. What if he asked her things she couldn't answer? Or what if she couldn't keep a lid on the reality of the situation? It began to worry her to the point of dizziness.
Just don't say anything to me. Don't talk to me. And then he did. "Your brother Dean seems very temperamental."
Her mouth was dry like cotton as she tried to answer him in a nonplussed voice—she almost felt like she couldn't remember the English language for a small moment as she made herself get it together and respond to him. "Yeah… that's… that's putting it lightly," she managed nervously.
Her eyes slunk over and up—she couldn't not look at him, but it was terrifying somehow to lock eyes with him. She found him already looking at her across his shoulder. He noticed her distress right away and his features immediately bore witness to his genuine concern. He studied her face openly, his features twisting. "Are you… all right?" he asked in all innocence and earnestness.
Oh, the times that same deep voice had asked her that very question. The way he asked it to her now. Alex tried to pretend the only reason she was upset was her brother's rudeness. "We fight all the time," she said, trying to smile to excuse it all away. Her face felt like it was grimacing instead—her mind was at war inside of her, not sure how to feel or react to this moment. "It's fine," she lied. "I'm fine." Her eyes, which had fallen down to avoid his when she said the opposite of truth, raised slowly again to his. She wanted to know who he was, if he was the Castiel she had known, loved, lost. He was so close, and this trick of fate was so utterly obscene.
In the silence, with their eyes holding each others gaze like they were, Alex thought for a minute, they could have been themselves. Even if he didn't know who he was, he obviously was intrigued by her, drawn to her, and deeply observant to her and he looked at her like he used to—like he loved her and it confounded him completely. Not for the first time that day, Alex wondered how this was actually happening at all. And then he mistook her silence as an invitation to comment on her obvious pain. "Dean told me that you've had a hard time recently." His gaze was intent and empathetic on hers, he looked so sad and helpless. "I'm sorry to hear that." You're half of the reason why I've had that 'hard time.' Alex tried her damn hardest to keep a poker face on, but when she turned her head away as she struggled inside. She was thinking of all her mistakes, all the fuck ups—a gashed open wrist, stolen pills, sex on a dirty floor with the wrong person, months of giving up on life completely like a coward. Emmanuel mistook her expression for one of physical pain. "Does your head hurt very badly?" he asked in increasing concern, craning his neck a little in an attempt to see her face.
My head? For a second, she was confused. Then she remembered. Oh. She'd actually forgotten about it. The constant pounding pain had been there this entire time, but she'd been so riled up and distracted by her emotional pain, she'd forgotten the physical pain. "It's fine," she said quietly, wishing she had either the courage to tell him the truth or the ability to get up and leave, escape this painful place she was currently in with him so close and yet so far away. She nervously wrung her hands in her lap, wishing the car didn't feel so small and stifling. She almost felt claustrophobic at that moment, and it was an alien feeling to her. A bad feeling.
Emmanuel sensed she didn't want to be looked at and he tried sitting there in silence for a couple seconds, but his gaze kept darting back to her sidelong. "So do you… see demons often?" he asked after a few seconds of hesitant silence.
Alex shrugged, still avoiding his eyes. "Yeah." Her mind was other places—she didn't really want to, but she was remembering how three years minus one day ago she'd been standing opposite of this man and holding his hands in hers they'd been promising each other things they would never be able to fulfill. And it hurt, god it hurt. April 29th. Tomorrow was their anniversary, but now he was married to someone else, or at least thought he was. She was beginning to feel very, very upset, to the point that she might lose it again.
Emmanuel was still on the demon thing, and talking about it out loud, currently unaware of her inner turmoils as he looked out of the front of the car in deep thought. "That's… it's very hard to believe," he said in quiet, fearful wonder. "Demons, here on earth. And angels, too…" he turned a very curious look onto her. "Have you ever met an angel?"
She felt slapped. That question was the cruelest and most sadistic thing she could imagine and it pushed her over the edge with startling suddenness. Had she ever met an angel? Her lungs suddenly felt like deflated balloons that refused to be blown up. No. I can't do this. I can't sit here and keep talking with him in this tiny car, the roof is pushing down and the walls are all so close—it's too hot, I can't breathe, he needs to stop looking at me and asking me things—holy shit I'm gonna die if I stay in here. No. No no no. She was already reaching for her door handle and trying to get out of the car as fast as humanly possible to escape the panic gripping her.
She stumbled out of the back seat and into the outside world where she barely saw or heard anything—just pinpointed a wooden bench on the grass next to where they were parked. She made a beeline for it, walking a few uneven steps and then pitching forward slightly. She caught herself then sat on the bench and clutched onto it hard with one hand and tried to breathe right, shutting her eyes and puffing in and out for a few seconds as she leaned heavily over her own knees. Breathe. Just breathe. She counted to ten with the slow breathing and when she was done, she opened her eyes, at the very least breathing better. Then she saw brown shoes in front of her and looked up in stunned disbelief. He'd followed her. He stood there looking alarmed and unsure of what to do—like he was holding himself back from steadying her. "Are you all right?" he asked, his expression showing deep worry. "Is it something I said? Is it your concussion?" He knelt down in front of her, his knee hitting hers when she did. She pulled back from the touch, upset all over again at it. He looked beside himself and intensely upset. She said nothing and looked away, breathing heavily against the threat of tears. She was honestly considering getting up and literally running away from him, but her dizziness said that was a bad idea and probably doomed to fail, too. At her lack of response, his distress only deepened. "I wish you would allow me to heal you," he said, and it sounded pleading. "I assure you—it's not painful in the least. It only takes a fraction of a second." He tried to catch her gaze, he tried to appeal to her. "You needn't be frightened. I would never hurt you."
If only he knew how ironic that statement was. That he would never hurt her. That, and he thought she was scared to feel physical pain. It was almost laughable—after the emotional shit she'd endured, physical pain was nothing. "Pain doesn't scare me," she said woodenly, looking away from him and wishing she could be stronger, wishing she could just let this roll off her shoulders. But he was her Achilles heel and he had this hold over her that rendered her completely vulnerable and weak and near to utter emotional ruin. "I just… I don't need your help," she murmured. She was deeply afraid that his touch would do things to her she couldn't escape. And that it would also prove, once and for all, that he was or wasn't Castiel. She didn't know if she wanted to know.
Her statement seemed to sadden him. "Everyone needs help, eventually," he told her quietly. And then he reached out very carefully and so gently touched the top of her jeans-clad knee.
Alex stiffened and stopped breathing for a fraction of a second as her eyes flew up to his. She was so confused about that touch, and she saw that the hand he used was the one that bore his wedding ring. The warm weight of his large, familiar hand on her was too much. "Please don't touch me," she whispered, her voice barely audible and shaking with the threat of nearby tears.
Her agonized request affected him immediately. "I'm sorry," he said, already taking his hand away and appearing embarrassed at himself. She couldn't know it, but he hadn't thought that action through—he'd just done it without thinking, out of a need to comfort and reassure her. A need that was in him without him even knowing why.
He remained crouched there for a second then stood with a vexed expression. Even though Alex thought it was clear as water she was upset at his close proximity, he didn't leave. He hovered, seeming too concerned with her wellbeing to depart her side. And then, he falteringly asked to stay, motioning to the other end of the bench. "May I sit with you?" he asked timidly, uncertainly, like he was expecting to be rejected. Her heart clenched at the things his voice did to her. Jesus. Well, she figured she had to get used to being close to him. They were going to be in the car for a long, long time. So despite her misgivings, she acquiesced with a deep inhale and exhale, however grudgingly. He sat a safe, respectful distance from her.
After about twenty seconds, Alex had calmed down a little more and felt like she owed him an explanation, however feeble. "Sorry," she said, looking sidelong at his arm instead of his face. "Just… like Dean said. Hard time lately." She let her eyes flicker up and found his gaze waiting for her. How the hell could a mere look make her feel so weak in the knees?
"There's no need for apologies," he said quietly, and she almost broke in half from the look in his eyes. There was a very long pause in which he studied her with more of that intense, almost pained concern. "Something bad happened to you, didn't it?" he asked, like he dreaded the answer but already knew. "The pain you carry," he said as his eyebrows bent in more and more towards each other. "It's tremendous."
Alex's eyes dodged his and she stared ahead of herself with a stiff jaw. "It's not really something I like to talk about," she said faintly. She wanted to, though—she wished she could move across the distance separating them and cry in his arms and tell him everything—she imagined he'd hold her and stroke her hair and tell her everything would be all right, I'm here now, and every other stupid cliché in the book. But he wasn't him. He didn't know her from a stranger. And that's what made it so painful. For a moment more, they were quiet and looked out at the passing traffic together. Well, Alex did anyway—she looked at passing traffic in an attempt to appear focused on something.
Emmanuel watched her, his eyes traveling every detail of her face in a search for answers. He still felt like he knew her, had seen her before, and it was driving him to madness. He was also beginning to wonder if she was someone from his past life. It would explain the undeniable connection he felt toward her. But perhaps he was just imagining things. He tried to find out more about her and the life she lived. But he was careful, as he noticed she was easy to upset. "So, you and your brothers… I take it you're close?" he asked cautiously.
Startled out of her staring, Alex looked back at Emmanuel and considered him trepidatiously. "Yeah," she confirmed a bit nervously. She considered lying or making shit up, but truthfully? She almost wanted to provoke him into remembering. To see if he would remember at all. "We um… we work together," she said slowly. "Hunting demons and monsters down. 'Saving the world.'"
The way she said the last part caught his interest. "You sound very cynical," he observed curiously.
"It burns you out after awhile I guess," she said, and it did. It never ended. It never stopped. No rest for the weary, or some crap like that. "I've been doing this shit since I was a kid," she reflected tensely, kicking at a pebble with the toe of her boot and watching absently. "I'm tired of it, sometimes. You lose so many people to the life."
There was a heavy silence. And then a quiet observation. "You're worried about your brother Sam." Alex's startled gaze was drawn to him. How did he know that? Or was it a guess? Was it him knowing her but not remembering that he knew? Emmanuel… maybe Castiel… seemed very serious about what he said next, almost severe. "I promise you, I'll do everything in my power to fix him, Elizabeth."
The way he said that. It was like speaking to a ghost. It was like having him back but not having him back at all. Her throat was tight, her chest ached, and she couldn't stand underneath his close gaze anymore. "I hope you can," she said quietly, sandwiching her hands between her knees and looking at them.
There was more silence and then Emmanuel hesitantly spoke up again. "I'm sorry, I hope this isn't a rude question, but can I ask how old you are? I can't quite tell."
Alex eyed him sidelong. "Almost thirty. Why?"
"You look much younger than that," he admitted, and Alex realized oh my god. Is he… interested in me? Trying to figure out if I'm too young for him? Had he forgotten he was married, or what?
She felt a little uncomfortable but also slightly pleased. "Everyone always thinks I'm like ten years younger than I actually am," she said, averting her eyes from him almost bashfully. And then whatever good feelings she'd had dwindled as the cast her gaze sidelong and caught sight of the wedding band on his finger. She just didn't understand how Cas could ever have forgotten her or what they had shared. She didn't think she knew how to process him ever loving someone else in any way. It made her so incredibly sad inside and she asked a question she probably shouldn't have, but did anyway. "Do you love her?"
Emmanuel frowned slightly. "Who?"
"Your… your wife," Alex said, thinking it very odd he asked who. She also felt like saying the word 'wife' was like blasphemy when referring to someone other than herself.
Emmanuel looked a bit startled. "Oh," he said, and he became intensely awkward as he fumbled to answer her question. "I appreciate what she did for me… I… she's very kind and good, and I'm very grateful for everything she's given me…" he paused and he looked vaguely ill. "Husbands love their wives. And I am her husband, so…" he looked down at his ring and without warning about-faced and abandoned everything he'd been trying to convey. "No," he said softly, almost a whisper, and he stared at the ground. "I don't love her. I try to, because she wants me to. But it's just not inside of me. I can't find the ability no matter how hard I try." Alex looked at him and her emotions were so strong, her hope so vast, her relief so deep. Emmanuel, however, looked confused and his eyes met hers questioningly. "I've… never admitted that before. I… don't know why I'm telling you this."
She thought maybe—maybe—it was because it was like it had always been with herself and Cas. They'd always been able to talk to each other better than they had other people. She'd always kind of understood him from the get go, and he'd always been drawn to her and open with her on levels he wasn't open with others. She tried to help him understand that love wasn't something you could force. "Love's kind crazy like that," she murmured, and she was talking about them. "Can't control who you fall for or don't fall for." She knew when it had come to Castiel, she'd tried not to fall for him, at least at first. But it had been out of her control. Still was out of her control.
Emmanuel seemed very intrigued, if a little disappointed—was he jealous? "And who is it that you have you fallen for?" he asked, startling her. At the look on her face, he explained himself. "I assume you're speaking from experience."
She swallowed and had to admit he was right. "He's… not here anymore," she said, averting her eyes and remembering dark water, black plasma, and the trench coat in the back of the car. She was so confused, so lost. "He… he died."
Emmanuel nodded sympathetically, appearing pained on her behalf. "Your boyfriend."
Alex's jaw tightened as her voice softened and her eyes rose to his. "My husband." His eyebrows raised slightly in surprised confusion. And that was the moment that Alex decided Dean's plans could go take a long walk off a short pier. She decided to say everything and give Emmanuel a chance to remember because she had to know if this person in front of her was Cas. She blurted out the truth with an abruptly racing heart in her chest. "It was Cas. I married him. In secret. When Dean and Sam found out… everything just crumbled around us, one thing led to another…" her voice softened as terrible memories played in her mind. "Now he's dead. At least… at least I'm pretty sure he is."
She had hoped he would somehow hear all of that and have a eureka moment. But the only reaction she got was a confused frown. "You married an angel?" he asked in faint disbelief. "And he betrayed your family? That… doesn't sound very angelic."
Alex was heartbroken at the lack of response and she felt like all that heartbreak was resting in her eyes as she gazed at him in a silent plead to please—remember me! Remember us! "You really don't remember anything?" she asked in a whispering, broken voice. How could he not? How could he not? "About who you were before?"
"No," he said unhappily. "I wish I did." Then he seemed to remember something. "Well, there is something." He shifted and put his hand into the pocket of his zip up, searching around and then pulling out something small and shining. "I had this when I was found," he said, showing it to her. Her breath was knocked out of her because what he held was her definitive answer and she was immediately stricken senseless and shocked and unable to breathe. It was her penny on the chain, and she could find no words. Emmanuel—no, Cas—was studying the object. "Daphne said I should throw it away but… I've kept it. What do you imagine it might mean?" he asked, then looked at her and saw how her eyes were flooding with tears. He became mildly alarmed and forgot the penny. "Why are you crying?"
"My—my head," she lied, trembling and shaking her head as she stood up and walked away from the bench, keeping her back to him when she stopped a few steps off. "That's all."
"Please," he said, and she heard how he stood up. "Allow me to heal your injury. I don't want you to be in pain."
She shook her head, fighting a complete breakdown. "It doesn't matter," she insisted, quashing down her tears as she wondered what the hell to do. "I get hurt all the time."
"But why should you suffer?" he asked in a faintly frustrated tone. He was coming closer and closer. "I could take it away," he all but begged. "Living in pain seems a bad choice if you could have it another way." He was closer now, just behind her and she shut her eyes tightly as she struggled. "Will you let me help you? Please, Elizabeth."
My name is not Elizabeth. Her eyes opened and so slowly, she turned around to face him. He was very close to her—god, he'd never been too good at personal space—and he was hanging onto every part of her distressed expression. Castiel. How are you alive? And why did you forget me? How could you marry someone else? She searched his eyes silently as he waited for her to please give him permission to lay healing upon her. She was so close to crying and didn't think she could handle being touched by him, but she just nodded once in a silent go ahead.
He hesitant as if he were afraid to touch her at all or too stunned that she was going to let him. Slowly, his hand raised and instead of putting two fingers to her forehead like he did with everyone else, he cupped the side of her face with his hand. Oh and she crumbled, she barely noticed the pain disappear from her head.
Emmanuel couldn't explain it, but the second his skin touched to hers, he felt a vivid rush of something beyond explanation flash through him: a jumble of feelings and sensations and sounds too quick to catch. There was a laugh, ivory lace, a soft murmur, the feeling of being held, the memory of a gentle kiss on his lips—all of that darted through his mind when he touched and healed her. He drew back as if bitten, blinking at the unexpected feeling.
Alex watched as one moment he touched her and healed her and the next he suddenly pulled his hand away with widened eyes and a confused, upset expression. "What is it?" she asked, worried and hopeful all at once.
He shook his head, eyes never leaving hers. This feeling, this woman… he had felt it all along and it was all beginning to come together in his mind. All these months his head turned when he saw women with brown hair like hers. He'd always noticed black muscle cars and that was what her brother drove. He'd noticed, in the trash on the passenger side, a crumpled up cupcake wrapper, the kind he'd been so transfixed by in every store he saw them in. And there was something else. The name of that boy he'd seen that one afternoon at a farmer's market. And maybe, he realized—maybe that name belonged to her. Was this girl standing in front of him his missing piece? Was his feeling of love at first sight towards her earlier today because he already loved her in some forgotten place deep inside? Was her reaction to the penny because she recognized it? Was it easy for him to talk to her because they knew each other? Was the pain he saw in her because of him?
"I… I don't think your name is really Elizabeth," he said in the softest, most cautious voice. Her eyes blinked and slowly widened. He swallowed deeply, and he meditated on the name that was fixed in his mind. "Are… are you Alex?" he asked just above a whisper, and the second he said that, her expression said it all. She was utterly confounded and her intensely emotional expression became even more so. She said nothing though, and Emmanuel was desperate for answers. "Who are you?" he asked, voice wretched with anxiety and the need to know who she was to him, what it all meant. "Who am I?"
Her eyes were shining and she took a very long moment to reply. "You're…" she trailed off, her eyes flickering back and forth between his. Her voice softened further. "You're…" her voice seemed to give out and something about the look in her eyes suddenly sent a shocked revelation over him, a startling possibility.
It smacked him in the face and he wondered why he hadn't realized it sooner. "…Am I Cas?" he asked softly in something like absolute horror. The one she had married and clearly loved then lost, the angel—the non human angel who Emmanuel was certain would never sleep or need to eat and who could heal the sick and injured. Just like him. He felt ill because he didn't see any other explanation now. It explained why she looked at him like that, why his touch upset her, why her brother was so quietly angry at him. Emmanuel couldn't even comprehend the staggering magnitude of it all. "Was I… am I the one you lost?"
Elizabeth—Alex—held his gaze in hers for a long, silent moment and she looked completely devoid of the ability to speak. And then without warning she moved closer, invaded his space unexpectedly. Her nose brushed his, her hand cupped the side of her face even as her lips brushed and pressed against his in the gentlest, most mournful kiss—her thumb stroked against his cheek just once and his eyes fell closed, his eyebrows rose and pressed in together faintly, his every atom exploded in a sparkle of endorphins. Yes. He understood her sudden kiss to be yes to his question, and even before it had started, the kiss was over and he was left stunned and warm and breathless by what she'd just done.
Alex didn't move far back—just a breath away so she could see his eyes—and she waited with bated breath for his reaction, her heart hammering into the top of her throat. Castiel looked confused but intrigued by what she had just done, and after his eyes scanned between hers for a scant few seconds, they fell to her lips and he drifted closer and held her face in his hand then kissed her back softly, slowly, hesitantly—tasting her innocently, asking a question to her with those warm lips. She had never felt such a mixture of sadness and hope and exhilaration and fear in her entire life. His slightest touch had her warm all over, had her feeling alive again. And then he suddenly pressed his mouth to hers hard, tangled his fingers into her hair and made a soft sound as he opened his mouth and began to kiss her with a passion that made her whimper in wretched relief as her mouth opened too. He remembered her—he remembered himself—he hadn't forgotten—she could feel it—and they sank into each other's arms deeply, holding close, arms circling and fingers clenching, bodies crushed tight. His fingers were curled into the hair at the nape of her neck, his other hand grabbed into a shoulder blade and pulled her close to him as he kissed her with a wildness she hadn't ever felt from him before. It was so intense that she gasped a few sobbing sounds into his mouth as the messy, mindless kiss continued—her hands couldn't find a place to stop, she wanted to touch him everywhere—his neck, face, shoulders, arms, back, sides, she grabbed at him and tried to pull him closer where he could never leave. Her back abruptly hit up against something and at that thudding sound, the spell was broken and Cas drew back, stunned, panting faintly.
They were against the side of the Impala—Cas was pinning her there by accident thanks to the heat of the moment. Alex's eyes were shining from tears at the intensity of what had just happened, her hands were clenched into his forearms, one of his hands was at the side of her face, frozen in place. They breathed heavily and stared at each other, remembering the outside world, remembering where they were. Alex's eyebrows moved in toward each other as she looked at Castiel. Those brilliant, soulful crystal eyes were locked on hers and there was a new depth there, a familiar light. It was Castiel, and he knew who he was. She understood that before he even opened his mouth and said her name.
It had been like a single small hole in a dam. The water—his memories—had been drawn to that little hole made by her kiss and the pressure had suddenly burst the dam completely, flooding him with memories, with knowledge of who he was and what he'd done… "Alex, I…" his voice was weak and upset, he looked like he had been stricken. "I… remember. I remember everything." His expression became even more vastly pained and guilty as his hand drifted down from her face to her shoulder. "Everything." And then he looked down at his left hand and his face contorted—that was the hand he had killed her with. And there was a gleaming silver band on the index finger. With a startling suddenness, he pulled away from her and yanked the ring off and stared at it in horrified disbelief before he dropped it to the ground like it was poisonous. Ping, ping, ping. It dropped down and rolled away. Against the Impala, slumped there almost, Alex watched as Cas shook his head and grew more and more upset. "I forgot everything, I don't know how, I… but I forgot. How could I forget you? Or what I did?" His features contorted with self-loathing, confusion, pain. "It's not—it's not what you think. She made me, I never—it wasn't real, I didn't consent to it, not really—" he was flustered and ashamed and appeared at the point of tears. "I… I didn't marry her. It was just, she made me feel like if I didn't agree to certain things, I would be thrown out on the streets and I was afraid, I was intimidated." His voice sounded choked and he was definitely approaching tears. "It seems very foolish now. I'm very ashamed," he managed.
Alex left her slump at the car and went to him—she couldn't bear to see him like that. She steadied him, held his arms and even though she was in a shock, too, she coached him. "Just, just breathe and then you can tell m—"
"What is going on here?" cut in a hard, female voice. Alex and Cas turned in shock to see a furious, trembling Daphne standing there a few paces off. She looked mad enough to kill and she had her fists clenched at her sides. "Emmanuel? I tracked you by your phone here and find you… you making out with a strange woman then throwing your wedding band away!?" She was shaking hard from anger and had obviously seen everything."Explain yourself!"
Going from shocked to pissed in .2 seconds flat, Alex's protective nature flared. This fucking woman who had taken advantage of Cas was in for a rude awakening—already putting herself between Cas and Daphne like a bear, Alex quickly got into the other woman's face, making her step back and give way. "Okay, first?" Alex demanded, her voice harsh and loud and fast. "He doesn't have to explain a damn thing to the likes of you. Step—off." She punctuated those two words with two light shoves and she continued to follow Daphne's retreat. "Second? His name is Castiel. Third, he is my husband and if I ever see your face again I will break it in half, do you hear me?!" she punctuated the third threat with a hard shove, the kind that Daphne had to scramble valiantly not to fall down from.
Even though she was shocked at the attack and shaken up, Daphne drew herself up and pointed a finger at Alex, trying to stand her ground. "Now just wait a minute, who are you to tel—"
Alex grabbed Daphne by the front of her shirt and whirled her, slamming her into the telephone pole they were right beside. "Bitch, I will fuck you up," she growled, and held Daphne there hard. "You took him home, made no effort to help him find out who he was, told him God wanted you to find him? Locked him away for yourself, took advantage of how trusting he is? He's a person, how dare you treat him like a means to your end, how dare you impose your bullshit on him?!" She was shaking from anger and Daphne looked scared for her life as Alex made her final threat. "I am only gonna say this once. Don't you—ever—come around him or me again or I will fucking annihilate you." Alex yanked Daphne away from the pole and shoved her away. "Now screw off before I scrape your eyes out of your face!"
Daphne looked traumatized and her eyes went to Castiel, who had drifted after Alex nervously. He looked at Daphne with trepidation but he stood a little taller, maybe a final act of defiance on his part. "You should leave before my wife, um… fucks you up," he said quietly as he stood at Alex's side. Shocked, appalled, realizing it was over and she was clearly in for the beatdown of the century if she didn't leave, Daphne backed up two steps then turned and fled, throwing backward glances over her shoulder. Alex watched her go, her scowl promising hell on earth should Daphne change her mind.
Once the woman was far enough away, Alex turned her attention back to Cas and held her hand out urgently. "Give me the phone she gave you," she said, and Cas did. The second she got her hands on it, Alex sent it hurling the the ground and into a hundred pieces. Daphne wouldn't ever be able to find him again. She stared at the pieces, trying to calm down. She couldn't think about the whole Daphne thing right now. She looked up at Castiel and didn't even know where to begin. "Cas… everything that happened…" she began.
His expression grew suddenly fearful. "No," he said, losing his bravado and backing up from her as something like panic overtook his face. "I can't. I can't." And without warning, he disappeared out of thin air.
Alex's stomach dropped to the ground. "Cas! Cas!" He didn't return and Alex turned in a fast circle. Oh my god no, you can't just run off the second you remember who you are!
"What the hell happened?" came a familiar voice—Dean was striding toward her. "Where'd he go?"
Alex raked an anxious hand through her hair and then shut her eyes briefly in an attempt to try and calm down. "He—he ran off."
Dean pulled an incredulous expression which quickly became pissed. "I'm gone ten minutes and you lose the only guy who can heal Sam?!"
"It's not—" she began, then froze as her eyes went wide. "Holy hell."
Sauntering up behind Dean was a familiar, short woman with impish features, glittering dark eyes, and a flirtatious smirk. "Missed you too, Ariel."
Even as Alex's hand went into her jacket for her blade and her body tensed up in preparation to attack, Dean's voice stopped her. "Hey hey hey!" He held out a hand and Alex remained frozen and completely mystified. "She's with me."
Alex looked at her brother like he had just spoken another language. "She's with you?"
"She's backup," Dean said stiffly.
"Backup?" Alex echoed. "What are you, nuts?"
Enjoying the show, Meg had her arms crossed and a pleased little smile on.
"Just listen, all right?" Dean asked impatiently. "She saved my life in there—I got jumped by three smokers and she kinda…" he got mildly embarrassed and mumbled the next three words, "saved my ass. Look, I spent the last ten minutes deciding not to kill her 'cause she can help us spot the black-eyed mooks before they can get the jump on us, all right? Turns out more than that one random demon bastard at Daphne's are trying to get their hands on Emmanuel."
Alex sobered and grew quieter. "Castiel," she corrected. "It's Castiel."
"Oh, so now you're a believer?" Dean wisecracked.
She looked at her brother with a very open, pensive expression. "He remembered."
His rudeness dropped away and his eyebrows slammed together. "What? …How?"
When Alex hesitated too long, Meg's smirk increased exponentially. "True love's kiss, I'm guessing," she drawled. At the look of complete annoyance that crossed Alex's face Meg grinned widely. "Oh boy!" she exclaimed in her usual slow, ambling, maddening tone. "Where's my gold star?"
"Lucky guess," Alex retorted in a mutter.
Dean looked so, so done. "You are kidding me," he said, then made a face that showed the extent of his exasperation. "Well, you slipped him the tongue, he remembered and he ran. Great! Just fucking awesome!"
Alex wasn't really listening. She'd just realized something. "Calm down," she said absently, suddenly realizing it was all gonna be okay. She tried to figure out the fastest way to get there on foot. "I know where he went."
"How?" Dean asked sarcastically. "You got ESP now?"
"No," Alex said and looked her brother in the eye plaintively, ignoring his behavior. "I know him. That's how I know where he is." She took a second and inhaled deeply, knowing she was going to have to have a very tough, painful conversation and that getting Cas to come with them might be a pretty huge task. "Give me a little while," she told her brother. "I have a feeling I'm gonna have to talk him into coming with us." She made to leave then shot a dark glance at the female demon. "And Meg."
"I'm watching you."
It was a threat, but Meg practically cooed. "Oh I'm counting on it, sweetcheeks."
Alex rolled her eyes and set off to find Castiel. She hadn't gotten him back to lose him again. She had no idea how the hell they could get past half the stuff that they were gonna face, but she at least had to get him to heal Sam. Anything past that… she just didn't know.
She thought of the way he'd kissed her the entire time she retraced her steps back to the park they'd passed a mile back.
Author's Notes: OMG THIS CHAPTER WAS LIKE MY FAVORITEEEEEE ARGGGGHHHDGKJFHKDJFH CALEX *SCREAMS TO THE HEAVENS*