Rating: PG to PG-13
Characters: Castiel, Mary Winchester, Jimmy Novak
Word Count: ~3200
Warnings: Unbetaed, so expect errors. Some mild fantasy violence and metaphysical shenanigans. No real pairings in this story but could be read with a Dean/Castiel slant. Also traces of Jimmy/Mary and brief mentions of Mary/John. Spoilers for 7.02.
Summary: When the Leviathans overtake Castiel, he retreats inside himself and discovers two souls already fortified against the monsters.
Author's Note: I've had this written in a notebook since 7.02 aired (along with several other stories and ideas) and decided after the finale last night to just post it, beta read or no.
He was first aware of the screaming. Then came the staccato flares of light, streaked red and glowing gold buffeting against a gray sky. An unseen force pushed, shoved him to his knees. Something was dripping, rolling from his fingertips down to the ground. It looked like thickened old blood, brownish-black and clotting. A vague part of him knew it wasn't blood, not entirely, but this thought was overshadowed by another resounding scream.
A large, rapidly shifting, amorphous shape flew overhead. Castiel had the impression of claws outstretched, reaching towards him. The heat from its passing scorched the back of Castiel's neck. Darkness followed in its wake, seemingly deeper than natural due to the flaming brilliance that burned into his eyes just before. Another form pushed past him in the blackness; it smelt heavily of dirt and decaying things. The ground beneath him buckled and heaved as the first shape turned back around. In the licks of flame and light spewing from the sparks of heat, Castiel saw a wave crash on the beach coastline before him. He recognized the location immediately: he was staring out towards shores of the beach where he was created.
A burst of flame burned above his head, and as more sparks trailed to earth he saw the water had become a roiling riot. Lightning began cracking, revealing the first slimy, shiny glimmer of a large, tentacled mass under the water's surface. Flash, and a new appendage would appear. Another flash came, and another, until the sea itself was more creature than water. The mass thrashed against the surface, and it was with a dull, weary sort of horror Castiel realized that the water would not be able to contain it much longer.
The phoenix in the sky (for that is what the shapeless fire was, Castiel suddenly knew) screeched, her long fiery tail snapping the inky air. She swooped towards the angel, jaw glimmering brilliant and bright. The sand he was precariously perched on began to slip-slide beneath his feet. Castiel knew--simply knew--that if any of the tentacles in the water grasped him, if the phoenix swallowed him, if the earthy shape that'd passed by him in the gloom ate him down--that'd be it, he'd be over, done. There were never any guarantees he'd return each time he was smote down, but the idea of any of the creatures here touching him echoed with such a resounding sense of finality....Castiel found himself resigning to this fate when a voice cut through the dark.
In his more optimistic moments, Castiel had allowed himself to believe Dean calling to him in that breathless, affected way would be the last thing he heard before his final immolation. He'd never expected it to be Jimmy.
The phoenix drew closer, the ground more precarious, the ocean's waves more violent, the smell of overturned soil stronger.
He turned, stumbling across the sand, and before where he could have sworn to his Father was nothing than more than an empty expanse stood a stone watchtower. It was tall and smooth, comprised of limestone blocks so closely interlocked that no mortar was necessary. It appeared nearly impenetrable.
One blink of his eyes and the tower's walls were closed to him, no windows or doors near ground level for him to see, not even an arrow slit breaking up the solidity. Another blink, and there was a small hole, perfectly formed, just at his eye level. The crackling lighting overhead flashing revealed his own eyes staring at him from within that hole. When Jimmy spoke again Castiel wondered when he'd begun thinking of Jimmy's form as more familiar—more his own—than the one he was created with.
Tripping, the soles of his shoes not providing much traction on the soft sand, Castiel slid towards the tower and Jimmy's voice. The phoenix screeched and the sea boiled more ferociously the closer he got. The ground began to rumble as it buckled beneath him, and a hulking form began forming behind him, the wind picking up as the figure grew taller and more complete.
“Castiel!” Jimmy called. “You have to run! Run, and pour yourself into this breach in the wall.” When the angel dared a look behind him at the creatures teeming there, Jimmy shouted, “You have to hurry, Castiel. I can only keep the brick out for so long.”
Brick? Castiel wanted to ask. He saw no bricks in the wall, only limestone blocks several feet wide and tall. Additionally, the space where Castiel could glimpse Jimmy's eyes was too small for the angel to fit through in his current form, and he shouted so against the growing cacophony behind him.
“You'd think you were never once nothing more than pure consciousness,” Jimmy said, sounding disgusted and panicked at the same time. “Pour yourself through. I can't make the hole in the wall any larger or they'll topple the whole tower. Now, Castiel!”
Of course. He was a multidimensional wavelength of intent. He had no form, not really. Making his way through a small space in the wall should be no true challenge for him. Castiel allowed himself to break apart and re-coalesce into light, a brilliance that shined much more purely than the oppressive fire-like glow of the phoenix at his back.
The primordial things surrounding him screeched their anger, their fury clear at the knowledge their prey was slipping from their grasp, but it was too late. Castiel slid away from their desperate reach and through, collecting himself instinctively in Jimmy's familiar form before collapsing onto a cool stone floor. He heard what sounded like distant shouting.
“Mary, help me reinforce the barrier--”
“Not sure if I have a strong enough memory to hold up that support--”
“--we're going to need one from him or it won't hold, that's how it works! For the tower to accept him he has to sacrifice to it just as we have or the whole thing will crumble down--”
Then Jimmy was kneeling in front of him, the face Castiel had last seen reflected back at him in a mirror staring at him in concern and fear.
It was disconcerting looking at his vessel in this manner again, especially when he'd automatically manifested himself to look the same. He tried to focus on the man in front of him but found his attention and lucidity wavering.
“Castiel, we need a memory,” Jimmy was saying. The angel's confusion must have shown through, because Jimmy grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him.
“A memory, Castiel! I need you to think of thing in your entire existence that brought you a moment of true joy.”
“I've not had many of those,” Castiel admitted. He'd only truly begun to feel emotions at all in the past few human years, a blink of time in the span of his life.
“It can be anything. Something small, Cas, but we need it and we need it now!”
His mind cycled through many things that had brought him pleasure in recent years: the street bazaar in Paris where he'd sipped warm wine as snow fell around him during his fruitless search for God; a child on the street tugging him by the hand and directing him to a spray-painted saint on the side of an abandoned building in Ecuador; the wind buffeting the Impala, blowing through the windows on a cool fall nighttime drive, Dean behind the wheel and Sam, newly returned to them, cradled in the backseat...
“There!” Jimmy said. “That's it!” A twist, a pull, and then there was a glaring emptiness in Castiel, a big blank maw where what he'd just been thinking of used to be. Castiel felt panic rise in him as he looked upon the squirming, phosphorescent ball of swirling colors Jimmy held in his hands.
“C'mon, take it, take it...” Jimmy was saying to the walls around them as they began to tremble. The woman Castiel had only heard before, blonde and pretty, stepped forward and picked it up out of Jimmy's hands.
She gasped, cradling it in her palms for a moment, her face lit with a peace that looked sadly foreign on her face.
“Mary, the wall. We have to get it to accept the memory--”
The woman—Mary, Castiel assumed—jerked as though startled from a wonderful dream. She blinked heavily first at Jimmy, then turned dark, considering eyes on Castiel. The weight of the woman's gaze seemed to settle fully on him before she turned on her heel. She walked up to the space Castiel had squeezed his true form through and shoved the colorful ball inside. The ground underneath them gave one last protesting shake, and then all was still.
The angel looked up at the woman. Now that the immediate danger was passed—and now that he fully understood what exactly Jimmy and she had opened themselves to, the danger they courted by letting him in—Castiel recognized her. Mary Winchester was just as beautiful as Dean's memories of her indicated, although there was a weary set to her shoulders that Castiel thought perhaps was new. He nodded at her before turning his attention back to Jimmy.
The man was bedraggled. Small sores were visible on his bare forearms; a weeping scrape was above his left eye. Patches of his clothing were either singed and burnt or covered in a brackish goo Castiel shied away from identifying. He'd done much wrong by this man, someone who'd only wished to devote their lives to the service of God, not the whims of one of his angels.
“I would have thought you'd enjoy watching my suffering. To say...'now you know how it feels',” Castiel commented.
Jimmy shrugged. “Maybe I should. And believe me, part of me wanted to scream that right in your face.” A wry smile twisted Jimmy's lips. “And I'd like to believe I'm not that petty. But the truth is before Mary came and she explained...” The man spread his hands as though what Jimmy would have done before should be self-evident, and indeed for Castiel it was. There was not much he didn't know about Jimmy Novak, but apparently there was plenty he didn't understand. “Mary explained how truly lucky I was to have you as an angel, because you're not like the others. You didn't absorb me, my psyche or whatever when you took over...and she said how it showed it was always your original intention to give me my life back, how you never meant for things to get this far, and well...”
“If there is one thing humans understand,” Mary broke in quietly, “it's how good intentions often lead to terrible destinations.”
“I did want you to be able to return to your family when my work on earth was done, Jimmy.”
“Yeah, and I get that now. From what Mary's said you could have eaten me, taken all my memories and made me a vegetable. But you didn't. Instead you gave me a safe harbor in your headspace, a place where you felt protected...”
“The beach,” Castiel agreed.
Jimmy nodded. “So when I saw what the Leviathans were gonna do to you, when I saw how they were gonna eat you the way you refused to do to me...well. I started trying to build a wall, like the one I'd heard you and Dean talk about being in Sam's head. That was when Mary found me and suggested this watchtower.”
A hundred questions pressed upon Castiel. How had Mary Winchester found Jimmy in the press of souls that must have flooded this plane? Why had she decided to cooperate with him in building this shelter? The one question he actually voiced was, “What is this?” At the two puzzled faces that greeted him in return, Castiel clarified, “The watchtower. How...”
“Ah,” Jimmy said, looking a bit embarrassed, “have you ever read the story of Peter Pan?”
Castiel tilted his head. “About the boy that refused to give up his childish ways and his peers who cavorted with a fae? I have not read the source material but I have heard of the tale.” At Jimmy's surprised look, he added, “Dean told me of it once.” What he didn't add was that Dean's rendition had been presented with a lot of eye rolling at Castiel's ignorance and crude colloquialisms, but he doubted that would surprise either of the two standing in front of him anyways.
“Erm, yeah. Although, um, I wouldn’t really describe Peter Pan that way...”
Mary laid her hand on Jimmy's shoulder in a comforting and companionable manner. “What I believe Jimmy is trying to say is that he hoped you were familiar with the concept of your positive memories or desires shaping the reality of what surrounds you, similarly to how Peter Pan first instructed the Darling children to fly. Is that right, Jimmy?”
“Yes,” he smiled. “Exactly. One of the most powerful things out there they say is love, right? So my idea was...instead of forming a mental wall out of sheer will, like what some trauma survivors will do...why not try to build a construct of a wall out of good things?”
“This tower is made from your memories,” Castiel realized, putting the fragments of conversation and the few desperate moments when he first arrived together. “Pleasant memories.” The angel tried to recall what he'd been thinking of just before Jimmy pulled that globe of shifting color from his chest but found he could not. “What memories have you both given up for this place?” For the size and scope of the tower, Jimmy and Mary would have had to each give up considerable parts of themselves, especially if whatever was pulled from Castiel was only strong enough to seal a minor breach in the wall.
“I don't know,” Jimmy said, kneeling down to give Castiel a hand in standing back up. He absent-mindlessly brushed off the back of Castiel's trench coat as he said, “They were gone as soon as I used them to create this place.”
Beckoning both men forward, Mary began to lead them deeper within the tower's walls. “The memories could have ranged from something simple like the mischief in his daughter's smile or something as complex as a date night with his wife. He'll never know again, just like I'll never know just what I gave. It's the price we had to pay.”
They keep walking until they enter into a wide, open room with tall ceilings and an enormous fire burning away in a grate in the center. Off to one side are a pair of chaises and a small stack of pillows, a bowl of fruit on the ground next to them. Jimmy plopped himself onto the pile of cushions and fished out an apple, handing it to Castiel with a smirk on his face the angel didn't entirely understand. Mary chuffed Jimmy on the shoulder and said his name in a chiding tone, but Castiel took the apple anyways.
The flesh of the fruit was tart, the skin breaking away cleanly under his teeth. Castiel sucked on his first bite for several long moments before swallowing and asking, “What now?”
“Now...” Mary said, sitting on one of the chaises with a sigh, “we wait.” She motioned for Castiel to take the other seat. “And we hope the boys find a way to expel the Leviathans.”
Castiel couldn't look at Mary while she was talking about her sons. Not after the way he'd failed them so completely. “I have done Sam a most grievous harm, and Dean...he has given up on me. They will be in no hurry to assist me out of a situation of my own making.” Jimmy snorted and took a large bite of his own apple, but Mary said quietly, “No, Castiel. They wouldn't leave you to this.” As though sensing where the majority of his disquiet lay, she added, “Dean wouldn't.”
“He already has. He was angry, Mary, so angry--”
Mary sighed. “He just...doesn't know what to do with you, Castiel. You're not his friend, not really, and not family, and not his lover, yet he would die for you. What you did really hurt him, deeply.”
Castiel moved to turn away but Mary stopped him with a gentle hand to his forearm. “I'm not saying I blame you, Castiel. I know why you did what you did, and if anyone would understand making what seems like a good deal with a demon thinking you can outsmart them in the end it'd be me. Dean doesn't blame you either, because he did the same thing as well.”
“You didn't see his face.”
Reaching around, Jimmy wrapped a hand across one of Castiel's knees and gave it a squeeze. The two points of human contact—Mary's hand on his arm, Jimmy's on his knee—felt like a sort of absolution Castiel never would gain from Heaven.
“He used to get so angry with John.” Mary said, apropos of nothing. She added, “John...left us, more than once. We fought so often, you see.” A second pause, this one longer than the first and Castiel waited for Mary to continue. “Unfortunately for Dean, and for anyone who loves him...he's very much a Campbell in spirit. It's common for my family to fight bitterly with those they love most, and I'm afraid Dean has always been more like me than his father.” She gave the angel a pointed look.
He understood. But still...
“I hurt Sam,” Castiel said bluntly. “That is not something Dean will ever forgive.”
Mary withdrew her hand and looked down at her lap. Jimmy's fingers slid from his kneecap to around his ankle, where they began stroking up and down in a manner Castiel wouldn't have thought could be soothing without experiencing it. They all sat in silence for several long, fraught moments, until Mary finally broke it by saying, “If I already have forgiven you, Dean will too.” She looked up again, eyes suspiciously bright. “Another thing about Campbells: we fight and yell and scream and say we don't ever want to see you again...but we're liars.”
She laughed then, briefly. “I make my family sound so attractive, don't I?” Jimmy gave her an inscrutable smile, and Mary continued with, “But even though we can be mean to those we love, and we lie...we're fighters. We'll do anything to save those we care about, and even if he's hurting Dean still cares about you. He'll come, Castiel. You just have to have faith.”
Castiel's head jerked up. The supposed-mortal woman's soul sitting in front of him preaching about having faith finally broke through his melancholy brooding.
“I haven't had faith in something for what feels to be a very long time.”
Jimmy spoke up softly. “Then don't you think it's time to start?”
Castiel smiled. Outside the watchtower, the battle raged on.