Yes, I'm let loose
From the noose
That's kept me hanging about
I've been looking at the sky
'Cause it's gettin' me high
Forget the hearse 'cause I never die
I got nine lives
Abusin' every one of them and running wild
- AC/DC, Back in Black
Death does not agree with Charlie.
Sure, heaven doesn't suck; it definitely beats the alternative. But, it's boring now that the novelty has worn off.
"I just don't think that I was done yet," she says to a copy of Dorothy as they lay in a field of orange poppies beneath a purpling blue sky. She brushes her fingers against the other woman's. Dorothy's skin is warm and soft but her hand is stiff, unyielding. "I just thought that there would be something more."
For a moment she pretends that this is her life. If she never left Dorothy in Oz would she still be hanging around the mortal coil? What if Dorothy came back with her to Lawrence? A make-believe future spools out in front of her in a glow of motorcycle rides and stolen kisses. She sees them playing house in an eccentric apartment in the Emerald City, or maybe a house in Lawrence. There are tea and biscuits on the counter and books stuffed into every nook and cranny. It's a life of lazy Sunday mornings and a pair battle callused hands wrapped around her own; always ready to catch her when she falls.
Dorothy had always kissed her like each kiss was goodbye but Charlie can't stop playing maybe-somedays.
"I should've asked you to come back with me." Up above the stars peek out around the green glow of a crescent moon, "You should've asked me to stay."
Dorothy is silent. Once again Charlie is the one that says goodbye, that leaves.
"It wasn't all bad," she whispers against Gilda's mouth. This had been a good day and she drops into the memory with a smile.
Gilda tastes like candied violets and honey. When they kiss Charlie's head spins and her knees go weak and for a moment she forgets that it's only a memory. She lets the memory pause there, stringing out the moment like syrup before it snaps and fades.
When she opens her eyes she's ten years old with her mother's arms around her and she's crying without knowing why. Everything is soft and warm and the stars on her ceiling glowing faintly in the half light.
"It's not fair."
Her mother's hands are soft in her hair. She smells like powder and perfume. "It's not fair," Charlie wails, "It's not fair."
It seems like she's always saying goodbye to what she wants. It's always the adios, Dean had said to her once while he watched Castiel eat pizza and tasting molecules. He had looked so sad then, older and frailer than his thirty odd years. She understands now better than she wants to.
Eventually she ends up where she always does. The bunker is empty but it feels like home. She knows that if she wanted she could conjure up a memory of Sam or Dean but she doesn't. She's not sure why. She chooses to spend this bit of eternity alone. Her fingers trail inroads on dusty book shelves, her footsteps echo down empty hallways.
One day Charlie comes back to find a man waiting for her in the library. He has a mullet and wears a cape and a luchadores mask and she hears herself saying, "Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?"
He doesn't say anything, just reaches out a hand for her to take. She grabs on and there's something that pulls and pops and rings through the air. When she opens her eyes all she can focus on for a minute is his white tee shirt. Someone has written 'Dr. Badass' across the front in Sharpie.
"The name's Ash."
"Charlie," she says before turning in a circle to take her surroundings. For the most part, it looks like any bar that's a bit down on its luck. But then she notices the computer setup on one of the pool tables and the tiny blonde slouched against it.
“You can call me Jo,” says the blonde, pushing away from the wall and stalking over to the two of them. Charlie smiles nervously while the mantra becoolbecoolbecool loops endlessly in her brain.
"Scuttlebut is you’re a friend of Sam and Dean?"
Charlie nods and then everything clicks and she lets out an excited oh, because she knows who's who now, and then another softer, resigned oh because they're all dead but apparently not off the clock.
"So, let me guess there's a new big bad in town and the Scooby Gang is back together?"
She gets a snort from Jo for her effort and a beer can thrown at her from Ash. She ducks and squeaks and the can hits the floor with a lackluster thump. Jo finally laughs and Charlie figures it's worth the affronted look on Ash's face when Jo's eyes sparkle with light.
"So, tell me, what evil thing and we plotting to take down today?" Charlie would be lying if she said she wasn't a little bit excited to head back into the fray. Then she remembers Dean's descent into madness and the words are tumbling out before she can stop them, "It's not Dean, is it?"
"Nope." Ash is at her side pressing a fresh beer into her hand before turning toward the computers and gesturing her forward, "It's worse."
"Yay?" It doesn't take Charlie long to figure what she's looking at and when she does she's more than a little impressed. The demonic tracking system is an idea she'd toyed with when she started hunting, "So who or what exactly are we tracking here?"
"The end of everything," Jo says carelessly and her smile is sharp as a knife.
"It's the end of everything."
Anna's voice pulls him back to consciousness and it takes a moment for Castiel to remember why that's wrong. Her face is wan and sallow beneath the guttering half light of a yellowed bulb. Her eyes large and liquid as she watches him. Castiel tastes blood on his mouth, feels it drying and itchy on the skin of his face, the palms of his hands. His coat and shirt are painted red with it and he can't remember how it got there or who it's from.
It's not the first time he's been in this situation.
He wonders briefly if he's going mad again.
"Anna," he says and his voice is raspier than usual, "Anael." Something in his chest tightens and his eyes burn as she smiles at him before kneeling down and resting her hand against his face.
"Hello, Castiel." Her voice warm and her eyes bright but the hand on his face is too cold and clammy. Anna's eyes go sad and her mouth soft as she sees realization flood Castiel's face. It should be a comfort, he thinks. Proof that there is some sort of afterlife for his kind. But staring up at the face of his dead sister all he can feel is his complicity in her situation and guilt twists sharply in his gut.
The silence stretches between them heavily now and somehow the words Castiel wants to say can't make it to his mouth. They're too small, too insignificant, meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
"I know," Anna says, her voice a benediction and Castiel flinches in its wake.
"That doesn't make it okay. But I forgive you anyway, Castiel."
Her mouth on his is chaste and perfunctory and when she pulls away she's smiling in the small secret halfway of an angel. He feels the tingle of her grace beneath his skin.
"Because you need it. Because you're my brother."
He opens his mouth to say her name but his throat closes around dry, heavy air. Her hand is soft on his face as she strokes one thumb along the blood under his eye, "Remember, Castiel. The river ends at the source."
When the blackness hits Dean squeezes his eyes shut, hands clutching at Sam as he prepares to die yet again. Only nothing happens except the radio giving a pop and a wail of static that has him cupping his ears as a lone sh-bop-sh-bop bursts forth before dying again.
"Well isn't this cozy?" It's not a voice he thought he'd ever hear again. For a moment his eyes squeeze shut tightly and his mind is a non-stop scream of itcan'tbereal but when he opens his eyes he catches Alistair's smile in the rear view mirror.
Beside him Sam has gone completely still.
"Gotta say, Dean-o. I am impressed. The Mark of Cain. Always knew you had it in you."
From the corner of his eye Dean can see Sam's hand twitch but he knows that they have nothing on hand that will kill a demon. Sloppy, but it hadn't been a priority this last year. Behind him Alistair starts to laugh. Outside the windows the darkness swarms and presses in and he can hear it chittering against the glass.
There's a crack in the windshield.
Alistair is pressing up close behind him now, hand circled possessive around his neck. The skin beneath it burns and he can smell sulfur and blood, the rot of the pit clogging his nose and throat.
"Don't worry. I'll be seeing you again, boys. Real soon."
The windows shatter.