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Heaven's Descent

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Summary: Castiel is killed again, and brought back, fifteen years earlier. Something's changed about our favorite angel, and even he doesn't know the whole of it. AU from Season 5 SPN.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Supernatural > General
Stargate > General
KagekoFR15652,5951133,7447 Oct 1219 Nov 12No

Chapter Five: Graceless Hangover

Title: Heaven's Descent: Graceless Hangover

Rating: Teen or so?

Characters/Pairing(s): Castiel, Jimmy, Gabriel, Uriel, Michael (SPN), Jesse, Giles, Darla (BtVS), Jack, Daniel, Teal'c (SG1), Crowley (Good Omens), Cheshire Cat (Alice in Wonderland), Kushiel, Kit (mine)

Summary: While Gabriel shows his obnoxious side, Castiel has serious business to attend to (not really), and Kit finds that something has been making waves on the Hellmouth.

Disclaimer: All I own is the weird stuff from my brain, and even some of that is just borrowed. Anything SPN is Kripke, SG1 is MGM, BtVS is Joss, and whatever others got their fingers in the copyrights cookie jar.

Warnings: Spoilers up to the end of Season 5 of Supernatural.



Chapter 05: Graceless Hangover

~@~

There was no food in the kitchen, Jimmy noted irritably. For some reason there was an overabundance of tea, but no food at all. He suspected Crowley's Britishness for that. It wasn't like Jimmy even liked tea; he could drink it, if coffee wasn't available, but he didn't actually like it. Tea did not a meal make, and Jimmy was far more interested in getting a meal than in discovering the truth behind the tea.

"Hello, human," he grumbled to himself, finding that there was more than enough money in his wallet to cover another trip to the burger place. He wasn't sure why there was still plenty of money in his wallet, but didn't think questioning it was a good idea. Then again, he wasn't sure if he wanted burgers again, since he'd had a couple the night before, while Castiel was off doing his flitting thing.

As far as Jimmy could tell, Cas was in the mansion with him, but when he reached out to sense him (and he still wasn't sure about this ESP thing), all he got was a sharp buzzing sound for his troubles that sounded suspiciously like an egg timer. The sound grew louder as he walked toward the designated common room, and once he reached the door, he could hear a suspicious, frantic hissing sound.

There was a drunken archangel lying unconscious on the couch, tightly clutching a frantically squirming, huge snake of an unknown variety. Jimmy suspected that it was Crowley. After having many discussions with the fake-demon, some of which had disintegrated into hissing, he was fairly certain that that was Crowley's hiss. Thinking to rescue the poor guy, Jimmy started across the room, only to trip over the body in the middle of the floor.

Cas, when he slept, slept like the dead, only more vengefully. Jimmy had never had the opportunity to see Castiel's sleeping habits in person, but he could remember Dean saying something about it. The angel was curled on his side, breathing loudly, almost snoring. The beige trench coat looked messier than usual, and that was a great indication of the rest of his person. His hair didn't even have the semblance of order, and Jimmy could only see a flash of his tie, right under his collar. The rest was mysteriously hidden.

"Looks like someone had a fun night," he uttered, and poked at the unconscious angel with the toe of his shoe. "Hello? Cas? Castiel? Are you aware, Cas?" The only response he got was a snore that sounded like it might still be drunk. Crowley, if that was indeed him, wriggled more wildly in the archangel's grasp, and his hiss had taken on a hopeful tone. "I'm coming, I'm coming, but I make no guarantees." He stepped over Cas in his quest to rescue Crowley. "Hey, asshole," he said, nudging one of Gabriel's hands. "Let go of the snake."

Just like that, the archangel's hands relaxed, and Crowley was free. He made it over to Cas, still in serpent form, before changing back. "Not fun," he groaned. "Bring a... a... Manchester. He brought a bloody archangel back with him. How the... Manchester, did they get so drunk?"

"Cas is special," he responded. "I'm looking for food, and honestly, Cas can suffer through his hangover on his own this time, thank you."

"Right." Crowley disappeared, and after waiting a few minutes, Jimmy suspected that he wasn't coming back.

Unintentionally parroting Crowley, he said, "Right..." and headed out the front door, not bothering to make sure that he was less rumpled.

~@~

He might not have chosen to walk into the main part of town if he had realized that it was a Saturday. Teenagers were likely to be running rampant, and other than the time he had spent as one, Jimmy had never spent much time with teenagers. In other words, he didn't know how to handle them, other than treating them like adults.

Jimmy hadn't quite reached his destination, a small place he had noticed earlier in the previous day, before all the drama with Cordelia and the Bronze, when a voice called out to him from behind. Actually, the voice could have been calling out to anyone, but he knew that it wasn't because he knew the voice, from the prior evening, and the moniker he was given also sounded familiar. "Hey Mr. Not-as-glowy!" Jimmy stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, hands in his pockets, and turned his head to glance at the speaker. It was Jesse, just as he had thought. "Sorry," the boy gasped, he had been running, as he reached Jimmy. "I'm sure I got your name last night, but I forgot it, what with everything else that was going on..."

"Not a good habit to have," Jimmy stated with a slight shrug. For Jesse's benefit, he introduced himself, "Jimmy Novak. How did Angel handle his transition? It didn't seem like a good time for me to stay there, so I'm sure you understand why I left."

"Yeah, man, of course." Jesse looked really uncomfortable for a moment. "I think I should have recognized you when I saw you, yesterday. Sorry about that." The boy huffed for breath before speaking again. Apparently his run hadn't been a short one; that, or he wasn't in good shape. "I mean, you look exactly the same, except you know..."

"We act different, yes, I do know." Running a hand through his hair (and realizing that he hadn't even seen a comb yet, that morning), he made the turn toward the Espresso Pump anyway. He could have sworn that the sign had proclaimed sandwiches and soup too. If it didn't, he would have to find a different destination. The sound of music coming from the front of the place was a pleasant surprise. He was no music connoisseur, but he knew what he liked, and while Dean's music was alright, he could definitely say that he liked this better.

Jesse, on the other hand, looked mortified. "Oh my god, that's Giles!" He looked like a kid who had just caught his parents making out in a semi-public place. "What is he doing here?"

"Playing good music," Jimmy replied, and went inside, straight to the counter without waiting and saw all manner of pastries. He wasn't usually a pastry sort of guy, the oogy cinnamon roll from last night aside, but every single one drew his attention. There were fritters, pillow cookies, scones, donuts and... cream puffs. He had been thinking of a good sandwich, maybe with horseradish, but those cream puffs were absolutely, sinfully beautiful. Jimmy swallowed. "Two cream puffs," he said, pushing a five dollar bill over the counter. If they proved to be really good, he would buy a dozen of them, bring them back and share them with Cas and maybe Crowley and Gabriel.

He sat down in a corner to enjoy them. It couldn't be possible, yet it was; the cream puffs were even better than they looked. They were so good that when someone cleared their throat nearby, Jimmy flushed vividly over how distracted he had been. He looked up to see an older gentleman in wire framed glasses, looking rather uncomfortably at him. "Mr. Novak, I presume?" the man asked, and Jimmy nodded, reaching for a paper napkin before he lost the filling all over his hands and the table. "Rupert Giles."

"Yes? What may I do for you?" For some reason, in spite of the interruption, and the way Jimmy's life had been going recently, it had gotten easier and easier to keep up a polite façade.

"Jesse tells me that you were involved in that little incident last night," said Giles, sitting down across from Jimmy.

"Ah, Angel and his abomination," Jimmy sighed.

Giles seemed surprised at Jimmy's words. "Isn't that a little harsh?"

"If you can say that, you couldn't sense it, what someone did to that poor man's soul." Jimmy set the cream puff down, his usually indomitable appetite temporarily fled. "I'm not sure what the story behind it is; perhaps he deserved some for of retribution, but that was beyond overboard."

"What, exactly, was done to him?" asked Giles. "None of those there seemed sure."

"Do you mean 'what did Cas do?' or 'why did Cas do it?'" He sadly prodded at the cream puff, certain that if he picked it up now, the nausea from the night before would come back. Although he had asked, Jimmy didn't bother to wait for Giles to clarify. He could answer both questions just as easily as only one. "What Cas did: he removed a curse, gave him back his humanity, untwisted the metaphysical pretzel his soul was twisted into with that demon. Why he did it: the metaphysical pretzel thing was about as unnatural as it gets. I've never seen anything like it; didn't know it was possible; didn't want to know that it was possible. Whoever did that is probably rotting in Hell right now, and if they haven't already, they'll soon be receiving the personal attention of the big guy."

Giles was quiet. "The girls said you reacted at though his presence was physically sickening you."

"Not so much him, as his hitchhiker and how they were twisted together," Jimmy corrected, pursing his lips. The prodding of the cream puff became a little more vicious. He really did want to eat it, but he didn't think he could bring it to his mouth at the moment. "Thank you for reminding me," he said, once he thought about it.

"My apologies," said Giles. "Miss Chase said that you are some kind of psychic?"

A startled laugh escaped Jimmy at that. "I'm not surprised that she would interpret it that way. The reality of it is more complicated."

"Can you explain?"

Giles seemed to have one of those personalities that was easy to talk to, so, after checking to see where Jesse was (safely just outside the door), Jimmy decided to talk. "Say there's these creatures, higher beings, really, that can't interact with humans on a normal basis."

"Go on," Giles responded, interested.

"In order to do so, they need a physical front for said interaction. Here and there, scattered throughout the world and possibly beyond" as Jimmy had no idea about the people on other planets "are humans with an innate... Let's call it a gift. There are these people with this gift, who can see and speak to these higher beings without being damaged. With permission, the higher beings can use the bodies of these people to interact with other humans. Are you following me?"

"I believe so," Giles said. There was something dark in his tone, like Jimmy's story was making him angry, but he was determined not to show it.

"I met one of these beings, say a couple of years ago, my time, and he told me he was an angel" at this point, Giles was beginning to gain an angry flush "and I believed him. I still believe him, for reasons a bit beyond easy explanation. He asked for permission to use me, and I agreed. Something... strange happened, and we both must have died, and when we came back, 'we' was just him. Awkward, right?" Jimmy shrugged, wishing he had thought to get a coffee. "Then he came to Sunnydale and had to ditch the body for a little while. This was... weeks... perhaps a few of months ago? Miss Chase would know; that's when we met. Just about a week ago, something else happened, so Cas and I are... not the same as we used to be. If he's not what he says he is, and I should know if anyone does, then he's been lied to about it his whole life; possible, but unlikely. Anyway, it left him a bit more human than he should be, and me... a bit more angel than I should be."

"Angels are wrathful beings from the heavens," Giles said, and it sounded a little like he was quoting, but if so, it wasn't something Jimmy recognized. It was true, but in modern tradition, that seemed to be forgotten.

"Pretty much," Jimmy agreed. "Funny how meeting the real deal can make a man lose his faith." Those words deserved a moment of silence, which they got, then the air behind Jimmy was filled with angelic presence, and not just any angelic presence; it was an archangel.

"Ah, cream puffs," Gabriel said, and stole the half finished pastry that Jimmy had been intending to finish. The archangel situated himself comfortably, on the edge of the table with his feet against the wall to hold himself up (like he needed to). "You know, littlest brother, Cas didn't know that he was buzzing someone's wards every time he came to town. I love this place." He helped himself to the other cream puff, much to Jimmy's chagrin. "Totally ruined them... Mmm these are pretty good."

"Please don't take them all," Jimmy requested. "I was hoping to at least finish one, and bring some home for later."

"Yeah, well, Jimmy Bean," Gabriel said, intentionally grating on Jimmy's nerves, "I would have asked if you knew about the Hellmouth, but that's fairly obvious." He couldn't see Giles through Gabriel, but the man had to be losing patience. "What with little bro and his visit to the big bad whip wielder down below..."

"Excuse me," Giles began, but before he could continue, Jimmy interrupted.

"Yeah, Cas is good friends with Kushiel, it seems." It wasn't a lie, and from what he had seen of Castiel's memories of the Garden, Kushiel actually did like Cas. "So, you better be careful with your words, Gabriel. And if you don't want to take a trip to visit the big bad whip wielder in the sky, you'll get off the table before I scream for Zachariah, who, I'm sure, would love to see you."

Very quietly, Gabriel got off of the table and gave Jimmy an inscrutable look. He shook his head. "No, I don't think I know what to do with either one of you. Do you have any idea how weird you are?" He disappeared before Jimmy could retort.

Giles had a pretty good lemon-face, too. "Gabriel? Of six hundred wings? The messenger, Gabriel?"

"Six hundred wings? That's a lot of wings." Jimmy was impressed, but he also wondered if that was just the myth. "But yeah, that Gabriel."

"I just tried to scold an archangel?" Giles asked.

"If it makes you feel better, he's not in Heaven's good book." Jimmy poked at the empty bag that had once contained another cream puff.

"No, I don't think it does," the man admitted. "I think... I think I'll be looking up the Christian mythos, now."

"Might be a good idea," Jimmy said, nodding. "Most mythos, that I've noticed, are actually connected to something, when they aren't pure fiction, and a surprising amount of the Christian stuff has a basis in fact..."

~@~

When Jimmy returned to the mansion, Crowley was horrified. His hair was still in disarray and his shirt was rumpled; truth was, if Crowley had bothered to asked, Jimmy would have admitted to having fallen asleep in it. When the demon (ha!) tried to give him an ultimatum, "Don't leave the house without someone checking to see if you're, you know, appropriate," he just laughed.

~@~

Castiel had awakened with a pillow in jammed into his face. He didn't need to breathe, so he was lucky in that, but it was still irritating, along with the strange pulsing sensation in his head. It was perhaps his third hangover, and he didn't like it any better than the previous ones. Strangely, functionality through a hangover seemed to grow easier with practice, so unlike the previous times, he scraped himself off of the floor comparatively quickly. He willed his nausea away, and tried to figure out what he was going to do with his day.

When in doubt, he preferred to seek advice; as Jimmy was out at the moment (getting breakfast, from the sound of it), and probably too close to the problem to be able to offer an unbiased opinion, Jack was probably his best option. He took a few minutes to sort himself out then reached for Jack to determine his location.

Jack was not on Earth. It wouldn't be the first time that he had spoken to Jack on another planet, but for some reason, the angel still had no idea what the SGC actually did. Humans get into the strangest places, he thought, not bothering to wonder why Jack kept showing up on other planets. All he cared was that it had something to do with the SGC, and Jack was in these places of his own volition.

He suspected, as he stood behind the man, silently assessing the situation, that he should associate "Jack is not on Earth" to "Jack is busy". Jack's team appeared to be in the middle of some kind of deep discussion with the planet's natives, and from what he could tell, there were things being lost in translation. Daniel Jackson was a great linguist, but he was still human.

"Should I come back another time?" he asked, and Jack made that strange clutching motion that he made whenever Castiel startled him.

"What the heck are you doing here, Cas?" the man demanded, eyes wide from the fright the angel had given him. The natives looked nearly as frightened. Castiel found that odd; the natives should not have been able to anticipate his appearance better than Jack should.

"Seeking advice," he replied absentmindedly. "I can leave, if that would be better?"

While Jack opened his mouth first, Daniel was the one to speak, "Actually, if you want to be helpful..?"

The angel dropped his chin, thinking. Daniel probably wanted help with their negotiations, though Castiel wasn't sure how much help he would be - He was a warrior; he didn't specialize in communication. "What would you have me do?" he asked anyway. Before Daniel could answer, there was a rush of the sound of wings at Castiel's back, and Gabriel was there, in his personal space, patting enthusiastically at his shoulder.

"Hey, do you have anymore..?"

He didn't wait for Gabriel to finish his sentence, just pulled the other flask he had been carrying from his coat pocket, and told the archangel to "Go away, Gabriel." Humming happily, the archangel did just that. After several seconds of silence, during which Jack and his team stared at the angel, he sighed and repeated himself. "What would you have me do?"

"Hey, Cas, who was that?" asked Jack, nonplussed.

"An obnoxious sibling," he replied. Then Castiel asked again, "What would you have me do?" In his mind, he could almost hear Dean telling him "Stubborn, thy name is Cas."

"Ehrm, we're having communication issues," Daniel finally told him.

Frowning, he replied, "I'm not good at communication." He had been told so many times, usually by Dean, but lately Jimmy seemed to be the one making the accusations. At the sarcastic look Jack gave him, he continued, "However, I can smooth over your translations until you've got the... knack?"

~@~

Helping Daniel develop the knack for an unfamiliar language (unfamiliar to Daniel that is, as the angel didn't have the human difficulty with language barriers) turned out to be a relaxing activity, and listening to the team's snarking at each other (except in the case of Teal'c, who merely raised an amused eyebrow at the others' carrying on) reminded him of his time on the road with Sam and Dean. The time he spent with the brothers had made Falling seem worth it, until Dean... But he would rather not think on that.

It was more important to decide what he was going to do next. There was a strange feeling, like an itch, an urge to return to Heaven, but he didn't think that that was a particularly good idea. To top it off, he had gotten distracted from asking Jack for advice... not that he hadn't asked on arrival. Castiel wasn't sure he liked the fact that he had gotten so easily distracted from his entire reason for being there.

A flutter of wings interrupted his musing, and he wondered why it was that his siblings were trying to sneak up on him today. This was only the second intrusion, but he felt as though it wouldn't be the last. He glanced up from his position on a park bench (in the snow, somewhere in New Jersey that he was sure he had seen before, probably when Dean called him) to see Uriel's vessel, the same one he had had in the Not-Future, looking down at him with a curious frown. "Yes?" Castiel asked, only because it needed to be said.

Uriel's presence brought to surface the circumstances surrounding the other angel's death. It wasn't something that Castiel would like to see repeated, but if Uriel's decision was already affecting things... then, unfortunately, his old friend would have to die. "Our superiors have been having difficulty contacting you," Uriel said, examining him closely.

Was that what that peculiar buzz in his mind was? Funny, Castiel had related it to the itch that desired to return to Heaven. "I haven't been listening," he admitted. "There is no point."

If Uriel was shocked, he didn't show it. If anything, the unconscious tilt of his wings seemed inquisitive. "I've been asked to bring you back."

"And I was told to 'Choose'," he countered. "If they cannot remember that order, there's more wrong in Heaven than I had initially believed."

The other angel was patient with his eccentric breed of reservation, he always had been. It was one of the things that had made Uriel one of his favorite companions in the past; he understood his friend's understated desire for quiet. Knowing Castiel's nature, which was to observe before speaking, Uriel probably was able to grasp the depth of what Castiel actually meant with his observation. What Uriel didn't know was that, coming from Castiel, this was a test, one that he wasn't expected to pass. "There's been something wrong in Heaven for a long time, Castiel."

And there it was, the opening he had been hoping not to find. "Stagnation," he said. "We are stagnating, Uriel, and I fear that the rot has done more damage to you, than to most." It had occurred to Castiel, some time back, that Uriel's decision to follow Lucifer had been a long time coming. All those times that Uriel had interacted with humanity, it had been as a final test, a test that humanity always seemed to fail. Sighing heavily, allowing his wings to droop just a little bit more than necessary, he asked, "What would you have me do, Uriel?"

His heart sunk (a very human sensation, one that he didn't appreciate) as Uriel's eyes lit up.

He had already known that Uriel would fail... but perhaps there was a way to give him a second chance.

~@~

A short while later, a thick chested man in a leather coat stumbled to a stop near the park bench where the two angels had been talking. His head was tilted sideways, a look of intense concentration on his thuggish face. He could have sworn that he heard something. A soft whine came from beneath the bench and the man let out a startled laugh. It was no wonder he hadn't seen it: if it weren't for the pink around its eyes, it was the same color as the snow.

"Oh, you poor puppy," he said, picking tiny creature up. It tried, and failed, to bite him, and its breath rattled worryingly in its tiny chest. "Let's take you home and get you warmed up." If nothing else, he could make the puppy's last hours more comfortable.

~@~

Jimmy was still busy when Castiel returned to Sunnydale. He wasn't sure if it was amusing or not that the man was allowing himself to be dragged to and fro by a bunch of teenagers, but there was no mistaking Crowley's opinion on the subject. The other angel was snickering wickedly as he told Castiel all about it. "When he gets back, tell him I went to Hell."

He could have told Jimmy himself, but he thought that Jimmy didn't like hearing "angel radio", so deemed it better to just leave a message. Ignoring Crowley's cheerful acceptance of the simple task, the angel flitted over to the Hellmouth, and, body and all, went right through it. For some reason, he seemed to be incapable of leaving his physical body behind now that he and Jimmy had been forcibly separated.

It wasn't until he fell into an exceedingly large flower that he realized that if he wanted to speak with Kushiel again, this was going to take a while. As, the drop was the first thing that happened upon entering the Garden, the conclusion wasn't long coming. Using the stamen to pull himself into a sit, Castiel pondered his options. No matter which direction he went from here, it would still take weeks to get to the center of the Garden, and thus Kushiel's abode. Last time he had come, he had been too inebriated to try to go anywhere, so hadn't even seen his brother.

He was covered in pollen. As he started dusting himself off, an action he had seen Jimmy do several times now, the flower in which he still stood spoke up. "Hey, could you deliver that pollen down a few rows for me? Second flower on the right, the bright blue one; you can't miss it."

He blinked. "Alright," he said, because he couldn't see the harm in following the flower's request.

The Garden never seemed to lack for strangeness.

Pollen was delivered to a particularly chatty blue tulip (strange, because the flower he had fallen in was a tiger lily), and he was off again. Today, there didn't seem to be any fish in the sky, just birds larger than him, and bees nearly his equal in size. Some of them were red plaid, so Castiel kept an eye on them, wondering if one of them would turn out to be his friend 564 of the 75th Squadron. When one came close, he asked, "Is 75th Squadron out today?"

The bee shook its head at him. "75th is at a battle site on the east side of the daisies for a regularly scheduled battle with the Redcoats."

"Perhaps I'll see them some other time, then." It was better not to interrupt a battle in progress, not for idle chatter, anyway.

An hour later, much to Castiel's chagrin, a large paw swatted him out of the air. "You're much smaller than before, little Angel," said a voice that came from behind a familiar set of very sharp looking teeth. Bright green eyes looked down on him, the slit of each pupil just as tall as he was. "I don't suppose you'd make a good snack?" the cat asked.

"All glow, no substance," Castiel said, repeating the words of the rabbit from his first visit.

"More substance now, I think," the cat contradicted, its tongue darting out to lick its chops. "You certainly didn't have much before, but now..." Castiel did his best to climb to his feet, only to find himself caged by the cat's claws, as it continued staring down at him. "I'm doing the Master a favor," the cat told him then its mouth opened and nearly engulfed one of Castiel's wings. The prickling of the cat's teeth was minimal as it lifted the angel by the half-folded wing.

~@~

When a very human looking hand gently extracted his wing from the grinning feline's mouth then wrapped completely around his body to lift him to Kushiel's eye level, Castiel felt it was appropriate. Kushiel was an archangel, after all, and the archangels had always been that much bigger than him. It was far stranger, he thought, looking at them almost eye to eye (in Kushiel's case) or needing to actually look down in order to meet their eyes (like with Gabriel, who had chosen a particularly short vessel, which Castiel figured he should ask about, some day).

The archangel's eyes were bright and intensely grey, like chlorite glinting in the sun, or crinkled metal foil, and he looked far too interested in the much smaller angel's predicament; his very, very tiny predicament. "I hear you came to the Garden again," the archangel said, his breath washing over Castiel and ruffling his feathers with the scent of tea and cardamom and the barest hint of brimstone. "I had expected you to visit, but then you left."

Unnerving as his position was, Castiel was never one to allow such discomforts to dissuade him from his course of action. "I was intoxicated when I came," he said, shrugging. Grey eyes blinked a little closer, and one crimson eyebrow rose inquiringly. He sat back in Kushiel's palm. It wouldn't have been difficult to get down, but he suspected that Kushiel wasn't going to allow that. "There was no actual reason for me to be here, last time," beyond visiting, that was, "so I allowed myself to become distracted; however, this time, I wished to seek your opinion on something."

"Yes?" Kushiel asked. Then, seriously, he added, "You're different," like it was a curious revelation.

"Uriel," Castiel sighed. "I did something I shouldn't have been able to do. I'm certain, in fact, that it was completely beyond my capabilities, before. It seemed as though it was something within your realm of... influence."

"What did you do?" There was a smile on the archangel's face, though it didn't come into easy focus from Castiel's position.

Biting his lip (a gesture that he wouldn't have preformed before; it was too human), he began, "I gave him a final chance." Then he explained, as best as he could, the fine line Uriel had been walking, about to Fall, about to Rebel... and the chance he had given their brother.

~@~

Malik was beginning to think that Castiel took his belief that nothing could surprise him any more as a challenge. The other angel, currently as small as a fairy (something Malik took an unexpected delight in), was the only thing in millenia to truly surprise the archangel. He had already done it often in their short acquaintance, and was doing it again, even now. Just by meeting his eyes, Castiel surprised him; so few had ever been capable of doing so.

Uriel wasn't a surprise. Malik had known for a long time just what it would take for that one to come under his jurisdiction. What Castiel described, indeed, what he remembered of Uriel from Castiel's thoughts when they had communed, was something he had predicted long ago. "I don't suppose you'll return to normal size today?" he asked, distracting himself from his thoughts.

Tiny, azure eyes looked up at him inquisitively. Castiel was unlikely aware of the image he presented. "The rules are strange here," the miniature angel finally said, with a slight shrug that made his wings tickle Malik's palm. "It will be some time, I think, before I'm able to manipulate them that way."

Malik hummed in agreement. "As for Uriel, I don't know what to tell you; only that living in such a limited fashion may be good for him." With those words, and the other angel still cradled in one hand, he turned to walk to his table. "Would you like some tea, before you go?"

Castiel did stay for tea, though he didn't drink much. Instead, as they conversed, he sucked on a pale brown grain of sugar that was too big to fit into his mouth, like it was candy. He barely even flinched when the archangel gave in to the mildly irrational urge to pat his head with one finger, even though it was obvious that the pat was too hard. Malik realized, quite suddenly, just what it was that little girls found so amusing about dolls.

He watched, enthralled almost, as the tiny angel did his best to drink from his tea cup, a task made difficult by the fact that it was taller than him. Castiel shortly grew irritated with it and gave up. "You don't have anything smaller, do you?" he asked.

Although he had nothing of the sort on hand, it was hardly a problem to conjure an appropriate sized cup of tea for his guest. "My apologies for not considering that earlier," Malik said, touching a plate with biscuits and the like and shrinking it down to the right size as well. He could have done so earlier, but then he would have lost the entertainment of watching Castiel attempt to use a cup the same size as Malik's. He also could have changed his own size, and that of his table to match Castiel. For that matter, he could have changed Castiel to match him.

He was well aware that by not bothering to offer, he was being a dick. That didn't stop the situation from being entertaining. Of course, now Castiel had a tiny tea set to match his tiny size, and his irritability quickly faded as he again became a polite guest. Malik wanted to push him; he liked seeing that prickly side of Castiel's personality, and just like his inability to drink from the large cup, his actions (though contained) when he grew irritable were all too entertaining for Malik to watch. As he watched the angel fidget, Malik wondered what he should do to get that kind of reaction out of Castiel.

Again giving in to the urge to do so, he patted his tiny brother on the head with an extended finger.

~@~

Southern California was too darned hot for as late in the year as it was. The kitsune chortled to herself. The heat was a nice change, at least. She had spent the last month running away from Canada, after some rat-minded Trickster had set Duckzilla off near Ottawa; Kit did not want to be blamed. It wasn't that Duckzilla wasn't a great idea, but she didn't care for how destructive it was (also, the fact that it was Duckzilla told her all she needed to know as to who to blame. Only one Trickster she could think of could be so... rat-minded and name something anything-zilla. "Fuckin' Loki," she grunted. The engine of the truck she was driving gave way with a loud clatter and the vehicle rolled to a stop. "Fuckin' Chevy," she complained, as smoke rose from beneath the hood.

She should probably just leave it to someone else. It wasn't like the truck was hers, anyway. It belonged to some dude who had been driving it illegally for a while. The damned thing wasn't currently registered, and his license had been cut after too many DUIs nearly five years previous.

There was a sign above her head, proclaiming that she was entering Sunnydale, with the "dale" struck through and replaced with "hell" in black spray paint. Well, she supposed, it doesn't really matter where a girl goes, teenagers are the same. It was hard to believe that Castiel (the acquaintance she had with whom already seemed too short, which was one of the reasons she came to California) lived in such a small town, but she trusted her instincts, and her instincts had led her here.

Giving the sign a dubious frown, she clambered out through the truck's window, not even bothering to open the door. The keys were still in the ignition, and the only proof that it had been stolen lay with the fox fur shed all over its ancient, cracking upholstery. If only Kit had known how to teleport, she would have instead ditched the truck in a more compromising place. DUIs weren't the worst things on the owner's record.

The thought of teleporting led her back to thoughts of Cas, and his description of an intoxicated teleport. It had sounded as though the world was lucky that no one was injured aside from a caribou and several penguins, and he had stopped his explanation right there, leaving her to try to extrapolate just what had happened to said creatures. It was almost infuriating, and she highly suspected that he would have made a terrific Trickster, if only he saw the point of it.

Thoughts of Cas going Trickster (gave her a creepy pleasant shiver, that thought) aside, the two-tailed fox was lucky that she was a Trickster. There wasn't much out there that could easily kill one of her kind, and in a place like Sunnydale, that could only be a good thing. After all, it wasn't like this was her first visit to Sunnydale; the town was on a Hellmouth, and everyone knew that places like that were awesome tourist attractions to creatures like her. It was like a trailer park American teen getting to go to the Eiffel Tower, or getting to see the pyramids at Giza. The only difference between the two as far as Kit was concerned was that for her, it was just plain easier to get around for supernatural beings.

Not that she believed herself to be anything but natural, she mused as she padded toward town. She was au natural, and all she had to do to prove it was to lift her arms. Kit snickered at that thought. Americans had strange ideals, wanting to look like Roman statues, she suspected. She had always liked the David statue, but that was because of the obvious, and unlike many of her kind, she hadn't been born yet when it had been commissioned.

"Oooh, a bar," the fox noted and paused. Willy's Alibi, the sign up front proclaimed. It wasn't like Cas was expecting her or anything.

...

The atmosphere inside of the bar was dejected. It hit Kit like a wave when she opened the door, and she nearly gagged as the feeling washed over her. She had been in bars like this, on several Hellmouths, and usually they were almost too lively even for her taste. There were only a couple of vampires, and they were wary, tired and thin things. Sensing an opportunity to gather information, something Kit was rarely amiss in, the fox sidled over to their booth and sat with them. They stared at her with yellowed eyes and bared fangs for the prerequisite ten seconds before putting away their game faces for civilized conversation.

"What do you want?" the female, a pale (most vampires were paler, though) blonde who looked even more dejected than the rest of the bar's patrons asked. "If you're looking for an in with the Master, you aren't going to get it." The large male at her side sat quietly and brooded.

"Just wanted to know what's the what," Kit replied, shrugging. "And I guessed that you two had better information than anyone else in this dump."

The male grunted in a sarcastic manner while the female, who was obviously in charge, frowned. "We're leaving," she said after a moment. "This place is cursed. Ever since we lost Luke at that old church, it's been one thing after another. At first, I thought I was lucky, that I somehow missed the lightshow in the crypt, but now... I can't even make minions - minions! - that can survive one damned night. Between that thing and the Slayer..." the female vampire moaned, dropping her head into the crook of her elbow.

Kit sucked her lip through the gap in her teeth, thoughtful. "That thing?" she asked, hoping for clarification.

"It's Light," the vampiress whimpered. "It's Light, like the sun and crosses and rosewood and churches. I was outside, and its light filled the crypt so bright, it burned, and now... It's still here, on the Hellmouth, and it won't leave, and it's bringing other things, bigger, brighter things here, and this is no place for a vampire anymore. And this, this uncommunicative bastard is the only minion that I've managed to keep since that thing came."

As if to prove that he was capable of communicating, the large male said, "Darla's distraught."

Mockingly, Kit stated, "I see no problem with his communication skills." The female vampire didn't seem to notice that she was being condescended towards. The kitsune sighed at the lack of a response to the insult. "I guess the booze here isn't shit," she commented. It didn't take long before she realized that Darla wasn't going to give her any more information, so she moved on to the bartender, who gave her nervous looks even as she took to a bar stool. "So..." She waited until he actually looked at her to continue. "I'm thinkin' gin. And a good tip if you can tell me what's goin' on around here. I ain't seen a bar this depressed in years..."

He seemed nervous, but guys like that usually were, and the promise of a large tip was usually a good lure, even if she had to scrape the bottoms of her pockets to find enough cash to give him even a mediocre one. As a Trickster, Kit could give him a pine-cone and make him think it was gold, but she doubted she would be all that welcome next time she came if she did that. No, it was usually best to pay with mundane methods, even if the pine-cone was a good thought for later, perhaps.

It didn't take long to find that he knew nothing of local politics (in the "working hard to keep it that way" sort of way). That is, for some reason, he specifically knew nothing about the mayor and whatever he was up to. What he did know was that there was apparently a couple of new big bads on the Hellmouth. The first one sounded a bit like Darla's "Light", and now that Kit got to thinking about it, she suspected that that was Cas, and knowing him, he was completely unaware that he was scaring the crap out of the population of a small town. The second one...

As a kitsune, a pagan god and a Trickster, she didn't know much about this "Serpent of Eden", but as a creature born after the advent of Christianity, she knew that it was a biblical creature (possibly a monster, possibly a demon). Apparently he wasn't even doing anything and he was freaking out the locals. His mere presence was upsetting the local supernatural community.

"You wouldn't know where I can find a fella called 'Casti-el', wouldja?" she asked him, interrupting a diatribe about what these things were doing to the bartender's business. At his horrified look, the kitsune grinned. "Yeah, I got some idea who I'm askin' after, so please make it a little easier, wouldja?"

"I don't know anything," he squealed. "Things like that ain't got nothin' to do with me. You couldn't pay be enough to even think about where he might be."

"I guess it's a good thing," Kit sighed. "It's not like I've got enough to be wastin' on tips."

"Wait, wait. Are you saying... after all that, you aren't tipping?" Now the man was beginning to look offended. "I might know a little, you know."

"Naw, it's a waste anyway..."

"Serious. I've got a little info. Not cheap info, either." He leaned over the bar earnestly. "Before I say, I gotta see how much you'll leave."

"Horrible tactics," she critiqued, frowning. "I need to know how much it's worth before I even think of puttin' anything down. I wasn't born yesterday, kiddo."

"Fine," he grunted. He scowled for several seconds before continuing. "If I was lookin' for a guy like that, I'd look for new wards up in the rich part of town, if you know what I mean. I ain't sayin' that he's up there for sure, but it's most likely spot a guy like me could figure."

It was worth the tip she'd been contemplating. "It gives me a place to start anyway, so thanks." And she promptly emptied her pockets. If he was disappointed, he didn't show it, just carefully picked up every last penny.

"If a guy like that actually drinks, and doesn't fry my customers, you might tell him that there's a decent bar in the area that, you know... we don't hide what we are, here." A shameless plug for the bar, she suspected, but the gin wasn't all that bad, and Cas did drink, so she'd mention it.

"Don't know about him not frying your custom, though," she told him as she got ready to leave. "He might be convinced, though."

~@~

The fox didn't know it, but she missed Castiel by about twenty minutes. He checked in with Jimmy and Crowley, mostly to let them know that he was going to be gone again, for a bit longer this time, and made a trip upstairs, as Dean would refer to it. The angel had been putting this off ever since coming to the past. There were so many reasons that he didn't want to be in Heaven.

Heaven was too much like a broken home, to him. Gabriel likely felt similarly about it. Beyond that, there were many angels that Castiel just didn't want to see, for fear of how he might react to them. Zachariah was on the top of the list of angels he didn't want to see, followed closely by Michael and Lucifer, who tied for second place. More than that, however, was the image in his mind of an innocent Heaven, which didn't match the truth nearly so much as he wished it would. Perhaps he didn't want to ruin his memories with the truth, or perhaps Heaven really had been that naïve, and if it was... If it was, then he would be the one to ruin Heaven.

The only person here that he wished to speak with was Joshua, yet somehow, he ended up in a completely different part of Heaven than where he would find Joshua. Heaven was immeasurable in size, partly due to its non-physicality; in that, it was similar to Hell. It wasn't strange at all that he found himself in a part of Heaven that he had no memories of.

It was a strange and relaxing place, and like Kushiel's Garden, seemed to have a bizarre sort of pseudo-physicality. It wasn't real though. Castiel was fairly certain of that. In spite of this, he found himself relaxing and sitting down. Even when his presence was recognized by the Host with a happy clatter - a cacophony really, it was like children screaming about the return of a favored pet, though less grating to the senses - he remained at ease. Everything was soft and green, warm and alive, and he could hear a faint tinkling sound like bells. He could have sworn that he could smell something like engine grease and leather as well, and found himself smiling at it.

It reminded him of Dean, really, and that explained why he found it so relaxing. He doubted that Dean would enjoy sitting in a place like this, though. Then again, one of his favorite things about Dean was how often the man surprised him. Sam, he thought, Sam would like this place. It would remind him of his brother just as much as it reminds me of him...

Castiel might have taken a nap, or he may have just zone out, because the next thing he knew, there was an archangel (another one) homing in on him, and it wasn't Raphael. He didn't like the idea of seeing Raphael, either, but Raphael was much better than Michael.

"A strange place for a Soldier," hummed the archangel, and the very sound of his voice set Castiel's teeth on edge. If the angel hadn't spent so much time in Kushiel's Garden already, he would be unnerved by the sensation.

"I wasn't aware that Michael was anything but the same," he countered, refusing to look at the archangel, half-fearing that he would see Dean's youngest brother's face looking back at him.

"I am more than a Soldier," Michael said, his tone disapproving. "As an Independent, you should know that before others."

Independent. Jimmy had commented once, on not understanding what that meant to an angel. "I know that you and Lucifer are cut from the same material," he said. Michael and Lucifer, the brightest of the archangels, were created together, much like Castiel was born of the cosmos alone.

The archangel, instead of growing irritated, instead seemed interested. "This is true," Michael admitted easily. All of Heaven knew as much, so it would do him no good to deny it. "What is your Choice?"

Castiel's Choice? "Choice" is such a laden word when used by angels, he mused. "I have made many choices," he prevaricated.

Michael recognized the misdirection for what it was. "When you were told to Choose, Castiel, what did you Choose?"

Castiel sighed, continuing to stare into the distance. He had a growing suspicion that the Host was under the impression that his supposed Choice had something to do with the coming war. Uriel had been about to try to convince him to join Lucifer, and here Michael was, trying to force him to tell him what his Choice had been. It was like Michael didn't understand that "Choose" was an ongoing order. "That is not for you to know," he finally said, and felt relief when his cell phone rang, as odd as it was that it was ringing in Heaven. Checking the incoming number, he saw that it was Jimmy, and decided that instead of answering, he would return home. "Don't wait up for me," he said, darkly amused, and with a flap of his wings returned to Sunnydale.



Author's Extra: I suspect that each time I write of the Garden, it's just going to be little glimpses of what it's like there. It's a complex place, and it remains difficult to describe, unfortunately. Best I can think of is Wonderland meets Army of Darkness meets Labyrinth meets Wonderland again (full circle!). Other than that, I seem to be able to hammer one of these chapters out every week and a half... not too bad, that's a thousand words a day, almost... So, yeah, help would be appreciated, as I have no rubber wall when I am home, and have no internet when I have a rubber wall... I know where I'm going, it's just going to take a while to get there... Quite a while...

Next Time:What Ever Happened to Prophesy Girl? (or In Which Prophecies are Defunct Because of a Meddling Angel) The Anointed never arose, and if nothing else sends Giles' spidey sense tingling, the strange lack of direction of the older vampires left on the Hellmouth does. Cas searches Australia for the angel of silence, who has been silent for far too long, and Crowley wants his Aziraphale.

Excerpt:Rupert Giles slipped his glasses off of his face and dug the heels of his hands into his eyes to try to stave of the impending headache. Yes, Rupert, he told himself, Buffy was right. There's nothing strange happening at all. The prophesies said that the Anointed one was to arise tonight, so why is there nothing?
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