(A/N: Hello lovelies! I'm sorry this took so long to put this up, I've been really busy lately moving and general irl stuff... Hopefully I should be getting back into regular updates on all my fics pretty soon. Cheers to Heaven's Eagle for beta'ing you're awesome sweetheart!)
Jimmy wondered briefly if he was dead, and if this was Heaven.
It didn't feel much like Heaven. Maybe it was Hell - but he'd always expected Hell to be a lot less pleasant.
He couldn't tell if he was blind and senseless or if he was simply swimming in a sea of soundless white light. The pain was gone, only a vague lingering burn in his lungs remaining to validate that he was still even corporeal in the aftermath of whatever it was the angel had done to them.
"It will be... very dangerous."
He hadn't even had time to formulate an opinion on what Castiel had meant by that before he felt himself burning, drowning in white fire. It had been terrifying, whatever it was, and Jimmy absently wondered where Castiel was now. He couldn't sense the angel's presence , and the thought worried him.
He still felt something, but the distinct presence of another was simply gone.
Gradually, the white began to fade from his vision, shapes becoming distinct around him as he felt his weight settled on the plush microfiber couch beneath him. At some point, his boots and jacket had been removed, and there was a soft velour blanket draped over him. There were a few candles lit in the main room of the suite; all of the lamps in blackened ruin where they lay, the overhead lights completely blown out.
Jimmy frowned, recalling the few moments of panic before he'd blacked out. He remembered the loading dock, Bobby's spirit possessing the woman from the hotel in Hoople, and-
A sudden wave of nausea passed over him as he remembered the Leviathans, the monster plunging its arm into his chest and the acrid taste on his tongue as he felt himself drowning. Along with the urge to spill his guts came a splitting headache and a dull throb beneath his skin that caused his fingertips to tingle uncomfortably.
Suddenly, he wasn't so sure he wanted to be conscious just yet. He felt hollow and cold, and despite his rising gorge he felt as though he hadn't eaten in days - a point his stomach urgently agreed with.
"Cas?" he ventured in a hushed tone, apprehension writhing in the pit of his stomach. There was a long pause before he felt what he thought was a faint whisper of acknowledgement - remote and removed, not unlike when the angel had first made his presence known before the whole shitstorm and the Apocalypse and everything that followed, but so faint it may have only been his imagination, wishful thinking.
Tentatively, he tried to sit up - a movement quickly aborted when the white flashed behind his eyes again, threatening to make him pass out, or vomit, or both. He squeezed his eyes shut, flopping back down on the cushions and going as still as he could muster until it passed.
"Easy there, Balboa," a familiar voice lilted, "you don't look like you're ready to come up swingin' just yet."
Jimmy opened his eyes, taking in the sight of Meg leaning against the door frame of the room housing the surveillance equipment. He almost found it comforting that he could still make out the subtle shift of the demon's true face beneath the flesh mask, though it was far less pronounced; a vague suggestion of the corrupted soul he had seen all too clearly at the police station in Pontiac.
"What happened," he slurred, words thick and sluggish on his tongue, "how long was I out..."
"The boys were hoping you could fill in the 'what'," the demon shrugged, sashaying over to the dinette table across the room. "You've been out for the better part of a day. You went supernova after you dragged the boys back from Dick's. One of the big-mouths messed you up good - we weren't sure who was gonna wake up."
Jimmy frowned, processing this. Cas had done something to him after they'd been attacked, but where was the angel now? Despite an inkling sensation he couldn't quite explain assuring him that Castiel was still alive, he was almost positive he wasn't, strictly speaking, 'there' anymore. He couldn't sense the angel's presence in his head, which made absolutely no sense, considering the angel had been pretty certain that if he were to separate himself from Jimmy, one or both of them would almost certainly die.
He couldn't shake the feeling of emptiness, of abandonment that followed this thought process. It was slightly irrational, considering he'd spent the last four years regretting having said yes to Castiel to begin with, but now that he appeared to be gone, now that Jimmy was alone, he couldn't help feeling as though he'd lost some important part of himself.
At the same time, however, he felt strange, sort of loose on the inside, skin made of rice paper, fragile like a shattered vase pieced back together with Elmer's glue. He searched his senses and found he could no longer feel Castiel's wings, which was odd in and of itself in the fact that, although they had felt alien, he felt the loss as though he'd lost a limb of his own.
"Where are the Winchesters?" he asked after a long pause to take inventory.
"Supply run," Meg offered back over her shoulder with a playful smirk, "should be back soon. After their ghost friend blew their cover, we ain't got Dick."
Jimmy sighed, pushing himself slowly upright, leaning forward on his knees with his head in his hands. Despite the pain, his head felt clearer than it had in all these weeks since he'd woken up in the real world, his thoughts more familiar. More himself.
"I think Cas," he began, "I think he's gone."
He felt a minute shudder as Meg leaned against the arm of the couch. Glancing up, he saw her looking down at him, arms folded across her chest, an odd expression on her face that could only be described as amusement, curiosity and disbelief. There was something else underneath it all, as well - something he couldn't quite put a name to.
"You really believe it, don't you," she asked after a moment of consideration.
Jimmy raised an eyebrow at her, getting slightly irritated at the fact that everyone seemed to be doubting him the last few days. He'd inferred from his conversation with Dean before heading out to SucroCorp that everyone was under the impression he was Castiel, just gone so far off the rails that he believed he was Jimmy Novak, some kind of twisted schizophrenic persona brought about by the angel's psychosis. He had no idea where that idea had come from, though. Of course he was Jimmy Novak! Sure, he had his own issues lately, but he was certain - now more than ever - of who he was.
He was damaged, abused and taken advantage of, rode hard and put away wet by an angel of the Lord who'd gone off the deep end after befriending a couple of kids who had made him question his loyalty when it counted. Now, his life in shambles after the injured celestial had done what he could only imagine was something incredibly stupid after nearly being struck down by one of God's deadliest creations, he found himself dumped in the laps of the angel's friends, who were convinced he was dead and thought he was some kind of angelic personality disorder.
"You don't," he countered, his tone perhaps a bit more bitter than intended.
Meg leaned back, reclining across the arm of the couch with her elbow resting on the back, poised like a sated jungle cat watching a rabbit from a tree limb; the instinct to hunt present despite the lack of hunger. Her eyes raked over him, eyebrow quirked in a physical manifestation of sarcasm as she took him in. He wondered what she saw, if it was the way he had seen those feds in Pontiac, his aura on display like a nimbus of colour and emotion, or if demons saw something else entirely when they looked at humans.
"I'm not Castiel," he insisted, feeling a little petulant at the declaration.
"Maybe not," she shrugged, reaching out to play with his hair and smirking when he batted her hand away and drew back with a scowl, "you've just been twisted up with him so long you might as well be. I can see it now, though. You really got shafted, didn't you..."
Jimmy frowned, watching her warily. "What's that mean?"
"All that's left of you, all torn up to ribbons," she drawled, shrugging, "wonder how much of himself Clarence had to use to glue you back together..."
He felt his blood run cold at the suggestion. Was that what had happened? Did Cas sacrifice himself to save him after the Leviathan attack? In that context, a few things made sense, theoretically - like how the angel had managed to 'separate' them, and possibly why he was still able to see Meg for what she was underneath her stolen skin.
"Shit," he muttered, leaning forward and twisting his fingers into his hair in frustration. His life had been so easy before all of this angels and demons and Apocalypse crap. Because he'd said yes, because he'd so blindly believed in God and Heaven and the pure goodness of angels, his wife and daughter were on the run from demons, thousands were dead thanks to Castiel tapping Purgatory like a keg and getting more than he bargained for when he decided to play God, the angel himself was damaged and possibly dead, and he was alone and adrift in a world of monsters and demons and spirits that he still only barely comprehended.
"Don't let it eat you up, Jimbo," the demon consoled, sliding off the arm of the couch and onto the seat next to him, patting him on the shoulder companionably, "there's worse could've happened, you know."
Jimmy couldn't help but scoff out an incredulous huff of laughter at that, because he really couldn't imagine how it could get worse.
"I've got nothing left," Jimmy mused aloud, "my entire life is gone. I'm wanted by the FBI for crap Cas pulled while he was in control of my body, and even if I wasn't I can't go back to my family because I'd only put them in danger and, hell! They probably think I'm dead, or don't want anything to do with me anymore."
He sighed, putting his face in his hands and growling in frustration.
"You're lucky you're not human," he continued, words muffled in his hands, "you don't have to worry about crap like this."
Meg snorted, giving him an almost offended look. "I used to be human," she retorted, standing and walking briskly away, "sometimes I even almost remember what it felt like."
"I'm sorry," Jimmy offered sincerely, feeling like a bit of an asshole. He'd never really stopped to consider where demons came from. Scripture varied on what they were; fallen angels or sometimes twisted human souls. He knew now through Castiel that fallen angels didn't always fall so far as to become patrons of Hell - more often it seemed they took the middle ground with humanity. Souls corrupted by torment in Hell, however...
Meg gave him a seething look from across the room, a glass of amber liquid now in hand as she tossed a haughty smirk at him. "Don't you go getting all sentimental, Jimbo. I don't need pity."
Jimmy scowled in return, ready to dish out a response when the door swung open, Sam and Dean Winchester blowing into the room like twin cyclones laden with gear and plastic bags.
Dean stopped in mid-track, staring at Jimmy a little apprehensively, as though not quite sure how to address him. After a moment looking him up and down, glancing sideways at Meg before settling back on the other man, he shook his head and proceeded to the table. "Sleeping Beauty's awake, I see..."
"Sorry for the scare," Jimmy offered back, nodding a greeting at Sam as the younger Winchester approached him with compassion in his eyes.
"How are you feeling?" Sam probed, setting his bags and parcels down on the floor in a neat pile.
"Like I got shot out of a cannon into a pile of bricks," Jimmy responded cordially, a weak grin splitting his face from ear to ear.
Dean chuckled softly, but there wasn't much humor in it. The elder hunter took the unspoken affirmation that the angel was still MIA, and given what had happened the previous night, that he probably wasn't going to be back. Jimmy looked like warmed over dog crap run down ten miles of bad road, and it seemed like too much to hope for after everything that things would just snap back to the way they should be after last night. Everything was so freakin' convoluted, and it seemed like his friend was gone-for-good-gone this time. Which was messed up, because Jimmy was kind of his friend, too, and he'd been wearing that suit a lot longer than Cas had. But then, there was still the possibility, crazy as it was, that Cas was still there and had been all along, but that line just hurt Dean's brain, so he dismissed it.
"You need anything?" Sam asked in his bleeding heart tone.
"Yeah, actually," Jimmy said, "I'm starving. I don't suppose room service is out of the question?"
Dean raised an eyebrow at that, alarm bells immediately going off in the back of his head. Over the last few weeks, 'Jimmy' had gone through the motions, but hadn't really expressed much of an interest in food aside from when it was put in front of him. It had been completely different from the time before, when the wirey little guy had put away something like ten cheeseburgers in one sitting after just a year of Cas riding him around like a shiny new bicycle.
"Yeah, sure," Dean shrugged offhandedly, trying to play it nonchalant, "knock yourself out."
Sam handed him the phone and menu from the desk and Jimmy immediately set about ordering what seemed like one of everything.
Dean caught his brother's eye and motioned with his head toward the bedroom, indicating for the young sasquatch to follow before heading toward the door. Once they were both on the other side, closed off from the main room, Dean sighed, running his fingers over his stubbled jaw, locking eyes with his brother.
"Something happened to him," Sam confirmed the unspoken question between them, "to Cas."
Dean nodded, his jaw clenching reflexively in apprehension. "That's just great. Awesome. So if he's not Cas, and Feathers has flown the coop, how the hell're we gonna know which Dick to stick?"
"I dunno Dean," the younger Winchester replied, pushing his hair back out of his eyes, "I guess we're gonna just have to wing it."
"We've only got one shot at this, Sam. No reloads, and we don't exactly have the time or resources to make a back-up plan."
"I know that, but what else can we do? We've been up against worse crap before."
"Yeah, well," Dean huffed, pointedly not looking at his brother, "the fate of the world didn't exactly hang in the balance back then."
Sam choked out a disbelieving laugh at Dean, his eyebrows drawn together and a disbelieving smirk resting on his lips.
"Seriously?" he reproached. "Phoenix ash, saying 'yes' to Lucifer, trapping Death... how are those not insane ideas that might or might not have worked to save the world?"
Dean crossed his arms, pulling a face at his brother as he nodded. "All right, so I guess we have pulled some pretty stupid shit before. So what do you suggest, then?"
Sam thought about it long and hard for a moment, going over the possibilities in his head.
"Do we have the building schematics?" he asked, as a light went off in his head. "I need to look at everything, wiring, pipe layouts, sprinkler systems, water reserves, sewage outlets..."
"Woah woah woah," Dean held up his hands, giving his brother his most seriously serious look, "I am not going spelunking this time."
Sam gave him a withering looking, exhaling harshly and blowing a strand of hair out of his face. "Do we have it or not?"
Dean rolled his eys, heading for the door. "I'll check with Meg. What're you thinkin', Sammy?"
The younger Winchester just smiled smugly up at his brother. "How much Borax you think we can get our hands on in the next couple of hours?"