Prologue

Jimmy Novak led a pretty good life.

True, it wasn't perfect. Maybe not ideal. But it was his, and he was grateful for it.

Four years ago, something had happened that had thrown all of that out of whack.

He was a man of faith. He and his family went to church every Sunday. He knew all of the Psalms and held the Lord in his heart. He was no saint, but he did his very best.

And then the angel had spoken to him.

He had thought at first he might be going insane, but the miracles that Castiel had shown him won him over, and he accepted this as one of the most incredible things that had ever happened to him. Him. Jimmy. Average guy, played poker on Thursdays, sells ad space to radio stations Jimmy Novak.

He had tried to tell his wife, Amelia, about the miracle, but she couldn't accept it as readily.

And then the ultimatum came.

Amelia had said she was going to take their daughter, Claire, and go to her mothers if he didn't stop, if he didn't take his medication, if he didn't keep seeing that quack therapist. He knew he wasn't crazy, but she didn't have faith.

Seeking guidance, he stepped out the front door of his house and prayed to Castiel, beseeching his angelic overseer to help, to show him how to survive this.

That's when the hell had begun.

The angel had asked him for one thing; to use his body as a vessel to carry out the will of God.

How could a pious man like Jimmy Novak refuse?

Of course I understand. Just promise me my family will be safe.

He felt the angel's presence invade every synapse, taking him in part and in whole, and he found himself locked away in a corner of his own mind, not really asleep, not really awake. He just was, and there was Castiel.

He caught flashes from time to time. Demons. Angels. Horrors he couldn't describe. Beauty he couldn't define. And it all just was.

Then, out of nowhere, he felt Castiel ripped from him- their souls parting in a violent eruption of light. And then there was darkness and pain.

He didn't know how long he lay in that ruined warehouse before he heard someone calling the angel's name.

No, it's me, it's Jimmy- Jimmy Novak...

There was confusion. They told him he couldn't go home. They took him in that beautiful black car, bounced him into a motel room and told him his family was in danger. They told him that he had to stay with them until it was safe. How long is safe? We'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

They weren't going to take him home. They were implying he might never see Ames and Claire again. It had been a year. He didn't know if they were all right, if they were waiting for him to come home...

He snuck out. Got a bus ticket. He went back home.

He never heard from Castiel or the Winchesters again.

[XXXXXX]

Four years later, he was still in Pontiac. It had taken some time- he had moved into an apartment on his own for a while, but eventually Amelia welcomed him back.

They had started slow. It was like they were meeting again for the first time, going on dates, getting to know each other. It was hard, but it was also one of the best times he could remember.

Clair had been reluctant at first. She had remembered the chilling words that Castiel had said to her before he had left, taking Jimmy out of their lives. Amelia had put her in counseling for a few months. It was rough on the kid. Her grades slipped. Other kids started picking on her as she became withdrawn.

It started turning around when he came home, though. He visited once a week at first, then more and more often until it was almost every day. After a few months, Claire would come and stay with him at the apartment most weekends. Gradually, though he had to push her, her grades started picking up again. She was still something of a recluse, and he wasn't sure about some of her choices in friends, but he had faith in her, and he knew she would make good choices with her parents' guidance.

Faith.

He wondered if he had any left.

An angel of the Lord had nearly ruined his life. Had left emotional scars on him and his family. He didn't think he wanted anything to do with God anymore.

[XXXXXX]

It took a little over a year before Amelia finally broached the subject.

"You know, Jimmy," She had said one night over dinner. "You're over all the time now. Maybe it's time... time you came home."

Jimmy nearly burst. He swept her out of her seat and he kissed her. He kissed her as though he thought she might disappear right out of his arms.

He vacated the apartment the next day.

He was finally, truly home.

Chapter One: The Good Life

Jimmy sat on the couch, flipping through the channels. Claire and Amelia had gone to church. They still went every Sunday, but Jimmy just couldn't bring himself to go.

He no longer believed in God. Angels, Heaven, Hell- sure. Those he had seen in glimpses too brief to truly recount, but he knew they existed. Castiel had proven them to him. But he hadn't proven God, and Jimmy just couldn't imagine any creature so cruel could be a creature of God.

He didn't hate Castiel. He only barely resented him. The angel was a single-minded creature, a warrior. He didn't fault him anymore than he faulted bees for stinging. But that didn't mean he ever wanted to be stung again. Once was enough, and he washed his hands of it.

Christmas season was coming up and the office was getting busier and busier, negotiations had started for prime air time slots. It was tedious work, and Jimmy had thought about changing gears more than once since he got back, but he didn't hate his job. It was secure, if anything else. They liked him there.

Flipping through the endless channels of nothing, Jimmy paused in the low three hundreds, straining at the screen.

It was strange, like some kind of reality show. He saw the water approaching, and then the camera seemed to submerge- and then there was static, followed by nothing. The television had just turned itself off...

He frowned at the remote, clicking it back on, but there was nothing but 'NO SIGNAL' on the top left corner of the screen.

Dismissing it as technology being technology, he kept surfing.

An hour later he heard the car pull up out front, followed by Claire and Amelia chatting as they came in the front door.

Jimmy smiled and got himself up off the couch.

He was still in his pajamas and bore the weekender scruff proudly. This had become his ritual. He was no longer a pious man, and no longer saw a reason to shave on Sundays.

"Hey," He beamed at them, hugging Claire and then kissing Amelia. "How was service?"

"Everyone misses you, you know," Amelia kissed him back. "I know we've talked about it, but you should at least come to Sunday Brunch some time. Think about it. Reverend Cooke would love to see you."

Jimmy just smiled at her and ruffled Claire's purple and pink hair, just to annoy her. That was his right, afterall. He was her dad. Can't be cool all the time.

"Daaad," Claire groaned, unmussing the short tangle. She'd taken to wearing it spiked since she'd entered highschool, but on Sundays she just clipped it back.

"Dinner's on me tonight. What do you say we go out?"

Amelia smiled. "I thought you didn't find out about that contract until Tuesday?"

Jimmy just grinned at her. "It's in the bag, Ames. Besides, it doesn't have to be anything super fancy, I just want to treat my favourite girls."

Amelia leaned up and kissed him, bristling his scruff with her fingertips.

"Yeah, yeah. How's five sound?"
"Sounds good," Amelia replied, smiling at her husband.

The afternoon went as it usually did. Amelia talked to Jimmy about the morning's service. It was a compromise they'd come to. Jimmy didn't go to church, in return he took his medication and after service Amelia gave him the brief while Claire texted, or Facebooked, or whatever it is teenagers do on Sunday afternoons.

They went out to dinner, fancier than he'd led on, but not a five-star establishment or anything, a casual yet classy Italian bistro in town.

They chatted and laughed as they ate. It was just so good to be doing this, being with his family. He could almost forget that any of it ever happened- Castiel, the Apocalypse, the warehouse and the heartbreaking months that followed as he struggled to put his life back together. If there was a God in Heaven still, then this was the one good thing he had done for Jimmy. Allowing him to take this back.

[XXXXXX]

Jimmy stood in front of the mirror in his pajamas, squeezing minty fresh paste onto his brush. He turned on the water, letting the stream glance over the bristles before he stuck it in his mouth, going through the morning routine.

He finished, splashing cold water over his face and then toweled off, looking into the mirror to make sure he hadn't missed anything.

What he saw staring back caused the pit of his stomach to drop, and he flew back with a startled cry- knocking the towel rack off the wall.

He stared at the mirror, but all he saw was his own terrified reflection staring back at him, wide-eyed and harried looking.

But for a moment, just a moment, he swore he had seen himself in that old black suit and trench coat he had burned when he came home.

[XXXXXX]

Days went by. After the incident with the mirror, Jimmy went to see his psychiatrist. He only went to see him once a month, or sometimes every other month. He didn't feel like he needed a shrink- not any more- but he needed to keep up on his medication. It kept the nightmares at bay.

Doctor Raymond had suggested he may be stressed, or there was some sort of trigger that was causing the hallucinations. He had told Doctor Raymond about the mirror, and the television as well. The strange vision of a camera being submerged and the T.V. switching itself off.

He was told to come back if they kept happening.

Nothing else happened. Not for months.

It was March. Amelia's birthday was next week and her parents were coming to visit from Chicago for the weekend.

He was in the kitchen- it was his night to cook.

He stood at the counter slicing vegetables with Claire. It was a special occasion, her new boyfriend was coming over tonight. He was happy for her, she'd been so closed off other than a few close friends. It was good that she was taking an interest in someone.

It struck out of nowhere.

One moment he was standing at the counter, the next he was in front of what looked like some sort of hospital, or institution, walking towards a group of people. It was night, and the people were staring at him. He could feel the old familiar weight of the trench coat on his shoulders. He saw his hand reach out, though he willed it not to. He saw the look of fear in the other man's eyes, and then the flash of light that poured out of the man's eyes, ears, nose and mouth as the man fell dead at his feet. He felt himself pause, and he looked at his own hand, as though confused by it...

This is right...

No, it isn't!

Jimmy began to panic. He opened his mouth to scream, and then-

He was back in the kitchen.

He was on the floor.

He was screaming.

Amelia was at his side.

Claire was at the counter, looking frightened.

What the hell was going on?

(Note- This idea was clawing to get out. We'll see where it goes. I'm still going to finish Corpus Verto (It's almost done!), but this is going to be my next project of character torment. Muahaha.)