cuda: Castiel from Supernatural (angel sarcasm)
[personal profile] cuda
Play It Again Jack, Part 4

As far as I understand it, Henderson, Nevada is the place to live if you want to be in Las Vegas but at the same time you're sort of annoyed by... well... Vegas. It's filled with ritzy estates and expensive condominiums, along with the usual pretentious coffee bars and boutiques. I'm sure plenty of decent people live there too - after all, Angelo Colasanto lived there. He had his faults, but he wasn't a bad guy when I knew him.

The Colasanto estate was set away from the city hubbub, closer to the desert. The house stood out of the landscape, huge and pale, pink in the last of the sunset. Taking advantage of the fact that Castiel still had the wheel, I reached into the back for my coat. October or not, desert nights were chilly and I was starting to feel it.

"It's for sale," I said quietly, as we pulled up to the front gates, "Angelo passed away this year, and his only granddaughter was killed in a car bombing." Because of me. This branch of the Colasanto bloodline wiped out, because of me. "She didn't have a family of her own."

"There are no other outbuildings," Castiel observed, which drew me back to the present. I let myself out of the jeep and approached the gates. I might not have had Tosh, but I had my own set of skills, and in a few seconds the iron bars slid to the side. No guard approached us as I waved for Castiel to pull inside. The guardhouses were empty. Apparently the realtor figured the walls and electronic security system would be deterrent enough.

Once Castiel had the jeep in park, I circled to the driver's side window and folded my arms on the sill. "No, there's no other outbuildings above ground," I said, "but I did a sweep of this place the last time I was here and I picked up some interesting energy readings coming from underground. Nobody else noticed, so I let it be. We just have to find the entrance." I flicked the handle and swung the door open. "Come on. Time to test those spidey senses of yours."

Castiel narrowed his eyes, in a look I was beginning to understand as confusion rather than irritation. "I don't understand."

"Let's see who finds the tech first," I challenged, "or do you just have a life signs detector?"

"I have no 'detectors,'" Castiel replied, and I realized that the narrowed eyes could mean either or both. He stood with a hand on the door, managing to look freshly starched in spite of the blue jeans.

"Then how did you know the Leviathan wasn't in the Hub?"

Castiel gave me a long-suffering glare. I clapped him on the shoulder. "All right, so show me. Here's your chance to make a believer out of me."

He snorted. "Even if I were capable of miracles, Captain Jack Harkness, faith is not created that way."

"We're not talking about faith here, Halo. We're talking about you showing me what you can do. Or are your batteries still dead?" I liked needling him, and it got results. Sue me.

Castiel bristled. He walked around the car door and turned his back on me. I grabbed the keys from the jeep ignition and shut the door, letting him have what I assumed was a pout. He was still facing away from me, hands in his pockets and giving me the silent treatment when I finished up. I was half a beat away from saying something when he spoke.
"The storage facility is roughly eighty meters below the surface. It appears to have at least one entrance directly from the house. The other is outside the walls. I see power signatures extending beyond the property boundary on nearly all sides."

I needed a minute to let that sink in. "Yeah," I said at last, for lack of a wittier comeback, "But I bet you don't know what color--"

"The walls are painted an industrial gray," Castiel interrupted, and turned to look at me.

I grinned. "Show off. All right, lead on."

We started across the courtyard, Castiel in the lead, moving right to the front door. I had to smile at that, too. I could already tell I was going to like Castiel's style. Very direct. In my line of work, you can get into most places if you just move like you know where you're going.

For a brief instant, I thought back on those orders Tosh left for me in the database. I remembered the envelope; remembered it was addressed only to her. She'd stayed late that night, long after everyone else went off. What had she felt, reading that? And what did it mean for Castiel?

I reminded myself that I shouldn't think about that too much. Whatever it meant (and it could mean a lot of things), I had my orders for a reason. I'd seen my own handwriting. That was one of only three sets of handwriting I recognized well enough to believe, and I'd certainly known that when I left it.

Castiel tried the door. It was locked, of course. I'm not the kind to waste time picking locks, but before I could kick it in, he opened up his hand a few inches from the handle. It clicked, and the door swung in obediently on its own steam.
All right, yes. I was impressed. "Don't take this the wrong way, but when this is over, I have some scans I want to run on you."

"Would the outcome of these scans increase your faith?"

"Not a bit," I chuckled, following Castiel inside, "But they'll satisfy my prurient curiosity."

"Then your 'prurient curiosity' will simply have to go unsatisfied," Castiel replied. I heard the lightest lilt of a tease in his voice, I swear I did, and that just made me grin even harder.

"Would you change your answer if I said 'yes?'"

Castiel's outstretched hand halted me. "I believe we've tripped the security system," he said, head tipping up like a dog trying to catch a faint sound. I glanced at the keypad just inside the door and agreed; it hadn't gone off yet, but was counting down.

"On it," I said, and moved to the panel. Taking control of a twenty-first century computer was a matter of a few well-timed button punches, and in a few seconds I had the system disarmed. "Hah."

Predictably, Castiel hadn't noticed. He'd moved further into the house, out of sight, and I had to follow the sound of footsteps to catch up. I found him standing in front of a large marble fireplace, flanked by a pair of angels holding up the mantle. He was looking at the sculptures with intense concentration.

"Angelo, do not tell me you went the Temple of Doom route," I knelt to feel around the statuary for a draft or an exposed crack, "Harrison Ford was just not that hot in a leather jacket. I liked him much better in chaps."
"The entrance isn't here," Castiel said, still looking at the statues.

"Then what are we doing?"

"These angels were sculpted in your likeness."

Stunned, I took a closer look at the nearest statue. Sure enough, I recognized my own face - or at least the shape was right. I'd never worn that expression in my life. At least I didn't think I had. "Huh. Now that's devotion. Angelo, you romantic old geezer," I swatted the hip of the statue lightly and stood up.

"I find it somewhat disturbing," Castiel observed, "and ironic." When I peeled my gaze off the statues to look at him, he was turning away.

"What? Disturbing? Why? Didn't anyone ever carve you a statue?"

"No." Castiel's voice was flat and surprisingly fierce, "it fringes upon worship. And I am not God." He glared at me. I glared back, mostly just to keep the eye contact.

"I sense something more going on here," I raised my brows at him, "but it'll have to--"

Castiel's head snapped up and my wrist strap beeped a warning at the same time.

"There's someone on the grounds," I said.

"A Leviathan," Castiel agreed. He moved to the tapestry at the left-hand side of the fireplace and swept it aside, revealing a blank wall.

"I don't understand. The entrance is here," Castiel insisted.

I glanced at my wrist. "It's on the grounds, headed towards the house. It knows we're here. Can you open the wall?"

For once, Castiel did something I asked him to. But try as he might, the door wouldn't budge for him.

"I don't understand," Castiel repeated.

The red blip of life glided slowly closer to where we stood. I tore my eyes away from the screen and cast wildly for an exit other than the one leading to the foyer. No luck. What was wrong with this guy? Even the rooms in the Clue mansion had at least two exits!

We could go out the windows, I thought, if we had to. But I'd rather not alert the intruders to our location any more than we already had. Maybe Castiel had enough juice to pop us out of there and back to safety--

--I could not believe I was even contemplating angel teleportation as a viable option.

The front door rattled. At least we had the good sense to lock it behind us.

Scanning the room for heavy objects to throw at the windows, my eyes skated one more time over the statues flanking the fireplace, and an unusual detail of their construction made me take a closer look once more. Their hands weren't carved smoothly into the corniced mantle they supported. Instead, they held up short, square columns that in turn held up the mantle. And right above their fingertips were large, noticeable crevices in the stonework. The statues weren't actually supporting anything. They were free-floating. They could be moved.

"You were an Indiana Jones fan!" I laughed, and attacked the fireplace. A good hard shove on the chest of the right angel pushed it smoothly, silently back. There was a click inside the wall where Castiel stood holding the tapestry, and a panel slid back with a pressurized whoosh worthy of a science fiction flick.

The front door rattled again and I waved Castiel through the panel like a drill sergeant. I felt along the inside wall for the button I knew was there, pressed it, and breathed out with relief when the panel whooshed back into place, leaving us in total dark.

I heard Castiel's footsteps shuffling away, and I snapped a hand out to drag him back.

I got the pocket of his jeans. The back pocket.

I did mention it was dark, right? As in, couldn’t see my hand in front of my face? Guess I've just got an innate sense for these things. Castiel crowded into me, apparently having no concept of personal space. He was so close I could breathe him in. He smelled about as human as anybody else who's been driving all day - sort of like sunshine and metal, with the added chemical scent of a new shirt. I realized I was breathing on his neck. I also didn't care.

But no flirting. No. Flirting.

Did it still count as breaking the rules if I skipped right to the making out?

But that isn't how I operate. I limit my field to informed, willing partners only. There's plenty of them out there, after all.
Then I felt someone's hand moving down my side, and I was pretty sure it wasn't the Leviathan. The thickness of my coat blunted the sensation, but I'm pretty good at spotting wandering fingers by now.

And then Castiel was breathing on my neck. He inhaled to say something, but right about then the Leviathan - showing none of Castiel's skill at breaking and entering - kicked the front door in. I jumped at the sound and suddenly that hand petting my side was under my coat and around my back.

"I'll transport us to safety if it becomes necessary," Castiel murmured, taking a tighter grip on me. I understood that I wasn't being groped. Castiel had declared himself my bodyguard - for the good of the world, you understand - and was prepared to carry me off.

I'm not a damsel in distress. I make the rules. And I can damn well protect myself.

So I ignored the orders, grabbed the back of Castiel's neck, and kissed him.

I had no idea what I was getting into. But seriously, how many people have kissed an angel? With those kinds of statistics, I think I had a right to be a little overwhelmed.

I could hear the Leviathan moving around the first floor. I knew it'd be in the room outside this wall in minutes. But none of that mattered for a few hot seconds, because Castiel - apparently - had just been waiting for an opening.

I like kissing. It's one of my favorite things to do. It's different every time, and it's almost always a surprise. I've had kisses of all flavors of emotion. I've certainly had people kiss me like they thought they owned me; once or twice they actually did - on paper, anyway. Understandably, though, none of them were quite like this. Castiel kissed with possessive heat and desperation; open, wet, and eager. Better yet, he clearly didn't have a clue what he was doing, but he made up for that with pure enthusiasm. I caught a corner of my mind wondering what else we could get up to in the dark here.

Then it was over, way sooner than I was in the mood to let it go.

Castiel's cheek rested against mine afterward. We breathed together, shallow and soft, and listened. Footsteps thudded heavily in the exterior room. Minutes of enforced silence passed like hours. The floorboards squeaked near the fireplace, and I held my breath.

An electronic version of Vivaldi's "Spring" eased through the panel, cut off ten seconds later as the Leviathan answered its phone.

My jaw tightened. Rex. The voice on the outside was Rex.

"Heh. Wondered when I was gonna hear back from you," it said, warm and aggressive, "yeah, whatever. Don't try to sell me that put-upon housewife crap, Gwen. You know you'd rather be here."

It said Gwen.

Castiel's arm around my waist was a steel band. I'd been struggling before I realized what was happening.

"Nah," the Leviathan went on, "no big deal. Guy's a pain in the ass as usual. I called you because he hasn't been around in a few days. Not sure what case he's working. Wondered if you'd heard from him." A pause, presumably for Gwen on the other end of the line.

"Okay, yeah, fine. I get it. Anything weird shows up, you'll call. Yes ma'am. Oh. Right. You mean you haven't killed the kid yet?"

Castiel kissed me again, hard and sharp. I fought him briefly, until I realized what he was doing. The Leviathan knew we were in the house. It was trying to draw me out, letting me know Gwen and her family was in danger.

With no other outlet, I poured all the fear and rage into Castiel that I would have spent completely blowing the plan. I'm sure I drew blood, at least once. And he took it, just like that.

Rex's voice receded, as the Leviathan moved away from the room, and Castiel released me. A few minutes later, when the footsteps did not return, I dug a torch from the pocket of my coat, and we headed down the stairs in silence. Though there was a light switch on the wall, the last thing I wanted was light shining through a crack in the door panel at the top of the stairs. Did I think Angelo would have thought of that? Yes. Did I want to bet our safety on it? No.

"We know a few things about the enemy now," I said, as we arrived at the first landing. The stairs took a hard right and dropped away into the dark, "their hearing and their sense of smell is comparable to a human's, at least when they look like one. That thing was about three steps away from us and didn't even blink. Makes tactics a little more straightforward."

"Additionally, they don't seem to possess any diagnostics tools of their own," Castiel added, "yet." The shadows created by my torch pooled under his brows, adding an extra shade of sinister meaning to his words.

"They get them in the future?"

"Among many other things, yes. However, the Leviathan knew of our plans tonight. Its arrival time suggests we were followed."

"Good point," I grimaced, "It's probably going through the jeep right now. Glad we got everything critical moved before we left California."

"Once we've secured the device, I'll scout the Leviathan's location and--" Castiel trailed off. He tilted his head back to survey the ceiling thoughtfully, then frowned. "--it's blocking me."

"The Leviathan?"

"No. The structure. I can't sense anything beyond these walls."

I put my hand on the wall, although my wrist strap wasn't capable of testing samples by touch. All it could do was tell me what trace minerals were in the air, emitted by the walls. And as far as my wrist strap was concerned, this looked like a concrete bomb shelter, painted in - you guessed it - industrial gray.

"If it's a shield, it's not putting out a power signature--whoa. But everything else in here is. The energy readings in here are off the scale! There's no way the U.S. could ignore this. This place is lit up like a Christmas tree!" Ignoring Castiel for the moment, I galloped down the remaining stairs and through a short hallway, sliding my free hand along the wall in search of a light switch.

"It wasn't producing those readings outside," Castiel reminded me.

"No," I agreed, laughing, "it wasn't. I wonder why?" Then the beam of my torch collided with a sight that took my breath away.

A giant cog, blocking our path. In a previous life, it marked the entrance to Torchwood 3.

"No," I repeated, for a different reason. I'd walked through that door for decades without really looking at it. In Cardiff, it was a piece of the landscape, only notable when it didn't work. And now I couldn't bring myself to touch it. If this was the first taste of whatever waited inside, I wasn't sure I wanted to see.

But I haven't been a coward in a very long time.

With a familiarity that ached, I found the wall switch and activated the door. The cog rolled aside, revealing a room bathed in warm light.

A knot of anxiety that had been building up... uncoiled. I'd been, okay, maybe a little more worried about what I was going to find down here than I liked to admit. Reconstructing a space to resemble the Cardiff Hub would have simply been a matter of time, money and will. Angelo clearly had all three.

It wasn't a replica. It was better.

And... worse.

"Oh, Angelo," I said, keeping my voice hushed in reverence for the room, "you should have worked at the Smithsonian. You could've shown them a thing or two."

Pieces of the Hub had been carefully preserved in a roughly accurate reconstruction of the original. Battered, burned sections of the Rift Manipulator occupied shelves of a central clear cylinder, soaring upward from the center of the room. It was assembled in the wrong order, but only someone who lived with it would have noticed.

Around it were shards of catwalks, fragments of stairs and railings, the splintered remains of Tosh's workstation, and other wreckage sealed in cubes and domes and spheres. Some of the higher display cases seemed to float free on wires or thin supports, roughly in their appropriate places. Bits of a spiral staircase curled upward in a loose arc. It looked somewhere between an exploded diagram and… an actual explosion. Or a carefully deconstructed corpse.

A coffee cup, somehow miraculously unharmed, sat next to the mangled remains of the coffee machine. One thin line of blue glaze curled up the outside from bottom to top. My chest tightened.

I reminded myself that Ianto hadn't died in an explosion. He'd gone down spraying bullets at a monster; protecting the children of Earth to the last. This wasn't him. If there was gore splattered on anything here, it was mine. I'd died here, not Ianto.

Housed in illuminated insets along the walls surrounding the Hub wreckage were bits and pieces of tech. Some of it was unrecognizable, but some of it had apparently been deep enough in storage, or protected enough by their housings to survive. Not... quite ready to leave the coffee machine just yet, I stood next to it while I activated the Torchwood software on my wrist and gathered information from our databases on the Portable Prison Cell's elemental makeup and energy output.

What, you think my agents spent all their time chasing Blowfish and Weevils and flirting with each other? Please.

Initializing a full sweep of the room, I waited. If it wasn't here, we'd have to start over. But it would be here. It had to be here.

The scan stopped cycling and locked onto the device with an encouraging b-deep. "Hah! There you are. We've got a live one, Cas." GPS coordinates were useless this far underground, but I turned on the secondary search function and followed the increasing beeps like a metal detector. It led me along the walls of cubbies, increasing in intensity until it abruptly died away.

I walked backward. The signal grew frantic again. Forward, and it slowed. Moving back until the signal reached its peak, I looked up.

"This row," I called back to Castiel, patting the sill of the bottom cubbie with a view to hauling myself up like a climbing wall at a gym, "it's up here!"

Five cubbies up and discovering the going more treacherous than I'd anticipated, I turned at the sound of something heavy rolling across the floor. A steel library ladder on tracks glided towards me along the wall, guided by Castiel, hand on a low rung. He looked up at me.

"This way's more fun," I said defensively, not above reaching out to catch the ladder anyway.

"I believe you should meet Dean," Castiel said, sounding amused, "you and he seem to share similar tastes in entertainment."

"I don't know what surprises me more," I grunted, following the beeps of the scan up the ladder, "the fact that you have a friend like me, or that you have friends."

"Then again," Castiel seemed to rethink the idea, "Dean would likely shoot you."

"Oh, jealous boyfriend, huh?" I teased, peering into the next cubbie. Sealed behind a plate of glass was a silver device, somewhere between a paper football and a seashell. The Portable Prison Cell. "Jackpot!"

"Dean is not my boyfriend," Castiel retorted fiercely, "my bond with him transcends such a profoundly inadequate label."

"That's cute, I'll have to remember that one," I chuckled, pushing on the glass. The ladder vibrated and I looked down. Castiel, who had been obligingly holding the ladder steady, looked like he was ready to come all the way up here and punch me. "Easy there, Halo. Didn't mean anything by that."

"I love him," Castiel snapped, voice humming with strange power that shivered along my skin like static, "I am not in love with him. I consider him my brother and as such, I don't appreciate your inferences to the contrary." Which said volumes about what Castiel actually felt for the guy and had rationalized away, but I knew I was already walking the line. Not that I wouldn't mind stepping over it, just to see what he'd do, but hey, I had priorities right then.

"All right. No more inferences to the contrary will be made. Scout's honor." I even gave him the two-fingered salute for good measure, and turned back to popping the cubbie open. In the end - may Angelo forgive me - I just bashed the glass in with the shaft of my torch.

Have fun with that line. I know I did.

Evading the jagged glass, I pocketed the device and started down the ladder. Castiel still looked mad enough to spit bullets, but he calmed down when I handed over my loot for inspection. "All right, so we contain them with this. It needs charged by now, but I've got that covered. Let's go. We're on borrowed time; that Leviathan could have called for backup by now."

"They cannot be allowed to find this facility," Castiel said, looking up. "Any one of these items in their possession could have catastrophic consequences."

"My thoughts exactly," I said, taking the device from his hands and tucking it back into my pocket, "Nice alliteration, by the way. Still can't teleport?"

"No."

"Right. Maybe that's for the best anyway, since you said it could attract attention. Didn't you say something about a second exit, outside the walls?"

Castiel closed his eyes. He turned slowly in place while I watched.

"Ah," Castiel gestured across the room, "this way." And off he went, like a power walker in the Boston Marathon.
The central room was just the showpiece. Branching off from there were entire display rooms. Everything was accessible, organized, and neatly notated; some even had name plaques. There were inane things, unrecognizable things, burned tatters of books and blackened metal boxes. There were disguises, costumes, clothing from all of the eras I'd passed through. If Torchwood ever merited a museum, I'd have wanted Angelo to curate it. But a Torchwood museum would mean Torchwood was dead, and that wasn't happening on my watch. Not now.

What with the impending destruction of the world and all, I didn't have the luxury of time to examine how I felt about Angelo constructing this place, but I knew I needed to. I could feel the pressure of it building up inside.

"Jack," I heard behind me unexpectedly, and turned. Castiel faced the wall, transfixed, where a series of coats marched on headless mannequins, ordered according to decade. An American Naval officer's dress uniform, a singed British Army jacket, and the remains of a rabbit fur coat were only a few of the items there. And at the end, next to a perfectly tailored dinner jacket I'd prefer to forget… was a trench coat.

I glanced from Castiel to the coat and back. "Never fit me right," I temporized with a smile, "can't believe something like this made it through." Castiel didn't answer immediately, though I knew he'd heard me.

"This is yours?" He asked, stiffly at attention, eyes all for the coat.

"It was in the Hub," I shrugged. It wasn't a lie. "You want it? Might need it. Where we're going, October actually feels like October."

When he went another minute or so without speaking, I slid back the glass and climbed into the case. It was a private collection - of course Angelo wouldn't have bothered with locks. I could feel hungry eyes on me while I moved into the bright, clean light and pulled the article of clothing from its dummy. The fabric was only a little stiff from its tenure in the case. I held it up to my nose and inhaled, before I tossed it out to Castiel. Though it must have been preserved in a trunk in the lower levels of the Hub, it still smelled faintly of smoke. Or maybe it was just my imagination.

"Here," I said, flinging it into Castiel's arms, "even though I just remembered you don't get cold. Compliments of Torchwood Cardiff."

He caught it, staring at the fabric in his hands with absolutely no expression on his face at all.

"Come on," I prodded, "we've got more walking to do before we're out of here."

Castiel slipped on the coat and followed without a word.

We went down another short flight of stairs, which turned back on itself and opened out into a sterile, tiled room with a low ceiling. Compared to the rest of the facility, it looked cold and surgical.

Then I noticed the rows of steel doors lining the left-hand wall, and froze. "That's not possible."

Castiel stood a few paces away from me, also examining the wall. "There are human corpses inside these drawers," he said, confirming my initial guess.

"But the morgue went up with everything else in the explosion," I said, as if somehow that could negate the reality of those neat rows, "the cleanup didn't get started until days later. Any pods that survived would have been offline. Thawed. Wouldn't they?" A treacherous little surge of hope choked me until I couldn't swallow. I started opening drawers. If Gray was inside, even if he was beyond saving, I had to know.

Well before I found Gray, I found Castiel.

He was pale and still, frost in his five o'clock shadow, sealed up in his own private capsule with its time-lock still ticking down the seconds. Of course. If he hadn't made it all the way through to 2012, we wouldn't be here.

In my defense, I tried to get the drawer closed before Castiel got a good look at it. After all, I still had my orders - such as they were.

Castiel's hand closed over mine, stopping me from sliding the tray back into the refrigeration unit on its casters. We stood staring at one another across the body, while the unit exhaled cold, dry air over us both and the LED display at the head of the capsule marked the time.

"It's got to go back in," I said, lifting my chin in an open challenge, "if it doesn't, bad things happen."

Castiel's eyes dropped to the peaceful, chilly blue-white face that mirrored his own, and back up to me. "Bad things," he echoed, his own features a still mask.

"Yeah, Castiel, bad things. Now let go."

"Captain Jack Harkness," Castiel said slowly, "tell me why this is here."

"No."

"Tell me," he pushed the tray into the drawer, closed the door gently, and advanced on me like a stalking predator, "or I will take it from your mind."

"You don't need to know. It's not important." I stared him down, heart thudding so hard that I could feel it in my neck. "Getting out of here is important. Putting the Leviathan back where they belong is important. Saving your friends? That's important. None of that has anything to do with this."

Castiel shoved me into the wall and pinned me, forearm against my throat. "TELL ME," he barked, and for the second time I felt the power in him wash over me. And maybe, just maybe, I started to believe. A little.

Angel? That's crap. Soldier of God, now, I might buy that. "Get it yourself," I gasped.

He hesitated. I felt it.

"Can't?" I needled.

He backed off and turned away. I sagged against the wall, rubbing my throat. "Don't feel too bad. Nobody's been able to do it so far."

Castiel put his hand on the drawer that held his body, then pulled it away. "I didn't stop for lack of ability," he said, sounding defeated, and moved to the exit at the other end of the room, "finish your investigation, and I'll lead you out."

I watched him go. Suddenly, inexplicably, finding Gray's body seemed selfish. I patted an unopened drawer and followed Castiel, still massaging the spot where his forearm banged my windpipe. "It'll keep. They teach Jeet Kun Do up there in Heaven?"

"No," Castiel answered. He didn't elaborate, not that I expected him to.

"By the way?" I said, apropos of nothing, "Call me Jack."

The lights flicked off behind us.




The second entrance turned out to be at least a mile northeast beyond the property walls, in the craggy, brush-covered foothills between Henderson and Las Vegas Bay. Quite the walk. Good for bad moods, at least. By the time we waded out into the thorns, it was well after midnight. The lights of civilization glittered at us from below.

I checked the energy signature coming from the estate once more before we left. Curiosity had been niggling at me now and again and left me a little unsettled, especially considering Castiel's inability to leave the underground bunker. I watched the readout on my wrist, comparing it with previous readouts taken underground. "Ah-ha! I think I solved the mystery of how Angelo's little collection managed to stay hidden from the military. Besides just not appearing as a threat, of course."

Castiel turned away from pulling the small, sand-colored door closed. "I can no longer sense the enormous energy output from the archive."

"Exactly. Whatever's in those walls is designed to reflect only specific kinds of energy, Cas. It cuts down on how much we can see out here versus what it's actually doing. We had a couple pieces of camouflage technology that could be programmed to do that. If Angelo got hold of one of those, it's a short leap to camouflaging a whole building. I wonder why he let a little leak through though. Scientists just not advanced enough to reverse engineer something like that?" I mused.

"Reflecting all forms of energy would result in a very obvious dark spot," Castiel replied.

"I should learn to stop underestimating that guy," I muttered, "but my guess is that whatever it is, it was reflecting you, too. So you couldn't just… phase through the walls, or whatever it is you do. Come on," I gestured with a broad wave for Castiel to follow me, ignoring what had to be a glare, "let's get going. I don't want to be stuck out here when the sun comes up."

We ditched the jeep. We had to. Maybe we could have gone back to the Colasanto estate, but by then - considering what Castiel told me about the Leviathan - a tracking chip hidden in the electrical harness would be the least of the worrisome things they could have done. That meant my laptop was a wash as well.

At least I still had my coat.

We spent the night walking back to Henderson. I insisted. I was hungry, and we needed transportation, but all of those things could wait. We weren't in immediate danger, and I needed to process. Normally, I'd prefer to do that alone, but Castiel's current mood made walking with him fairly lonely.

We had a device capable of containing one Leviathan in a human body. One. Castiel was sort of fuzzy on the numbers we faced. Plus, what happened to the person? Were they still in there? If we tossed a Leviathan into Purgatory, was the person stuck there with them? And just how, exactly, did one go about 'tossing a Leviathan into Purgatory?'

"How hard is it to open Purgatory?" I asked. Castiel glanced at me, the faint light of stars just barely making his profile legible. I had no idea that it could be this dark, so close to Vegas.

Castiel sighed. "Extremely difficult," he answered, "there are… some very specific parameters that must be met."

"How specific?"

"It must occur during a lunar eclipse. And it requires the blood of a virgin, as well as that of a creature from Purgatory."

"You have that?"

He looked away. "No, although it shouldn't be too difficult to acquire. The Leviathan are creatures from Purgatory. They already have my memories. If they contact me in the process of acquiring their blood, it will make little difference."

"They don't have your memories of Angelo's Torchwood museum," I reminded him, "or the device we're planning to use on them. I think we need a Plan B here, Cas."

Then I remembered Tosh's message, attached to the Torchwood database search results.

"Wouldn't it just be easier to let somebody else do the legwork?" I asked, thumbing over the ridges of the Portable Prison Cell in my pocket, "Go back to the last time the door opened? You can travel through time."

"Bringing one other person is taxing enough. Carrying Leviathan as well..." Castiel shook his head.

"How many Leviathan are we talking?"

"I don't know."

"Mm." I let the conversation lapse, considering which of several avenues to take. "But it is within your abilities to at least take me back to the last time the door opened?"

"With one qualification, yes," Castiel answered. I heard the caution in his voice.

"Which qualification is that?"

"I am still operating on a fraction of my typical power."

"Right," I nodded, "to keep the bigwigs from catching you with your hand in the till."

"I'm not sure what that means," Castiel pushed through a thick stand of brittle thorns to stay abreast of me. Seriously. Just plowed right into it, when he could have gone around. "I'm doing so in order to avoid recognition."

"That's what I said," I shrugged. Over the crunch of weeds, I heard Castiel's frustrated exhale. My grin widened.

"My point is that I'll require an external source of power to ensure our departure," Castiel said.

"A backup battery?"

"No," he was silent a few moments, thoughtful, before adding, "I believe the appropriate phrase is 'fill the tank.'" And then he glanced at me, and I had the sneaking suspicion that whatever he was considering, I was involved. He stopped, and I stopped too a few steps later, looking back at him.

"I'm not going to like whatever you have to do to fill the tank, am I?" I said, tipping my head at his continuing silence.

"I don't like it either," Castiel replied, advancing on me now, "but it's the only way. I need to touch your soul."

That set off all sorts of personal alarm bells. I'm not the kind of guy to back off, but I thrust out a hand to keep Castiel at a distance. "Whoa. I don't know about you, but I expect dinner before I let someone do that. It's called standards." The only response that got was a perplexed tilt of his head, and I sighed, saddened to have sacrificed yet another sex joke on the altar of Castiel's sobriety. "Sorry to have to be the one to break this to you, Castiel, but I don't have a soul."

"Yes," Castiel tucked his hands into his pockets, "you do. I've seen someone functioning without a soul, Jack. Have you ever resisted taking the path of expedience, because your morality or conscience prompted you?"

"Bad for business; I like to keep that on the down low," I smiled, and shook my head. "Like I've said before--faith? Souls? God? Love to have this conversation with you, just not now."

Castiel didn't answer at first. He just looked at me. It was really too dark to see if he was looking with pity or worry or exasperation, but his voice was definitely a little warmer when he spoke up in the end. "Jack, I need to borrow your innate energy, of which you have a great deal. It will hurt you, which I regret, and I will have to do it very carefully. But it is the only means I have of gaining the necessary strength."

More alarm bells. I kept my hand up. "And by 'innate energy,' you're referring to--"

"Your soul," Castiel translated, sounding harried.

"My life force," I corrected.

He shrugged. "Call it what you will. The energy remains the same."

And that was how I ended up sitting in a Vegas wasteland with an angel's hand shoved underneath my ribcage. I suppose there were worse places it could be.

On the plus side, he did have to sit in my lap to do it.

Having Castiel reach inside me was excruciating, but I've been in more pain. It was the kind of pain that actually brings a couple seconds' worth of mental high, before even the endorphins are overwhelmed. I've been sliced open. I've had my stomach removed forcibly from my abdomen by a close-range shotgun blast. After a while all you can do is howl, because no other part of your body obeys you. Believe me, I did that. Luckily though, I convinced Castiel to let me lean on his shoulder before he started. From there, I had a fantastic view of his hand disappearing up to the forearm in my gut. I probably left him a little deaf in one ear, but I kept enough of my focus to see and remember what he was doing to me.

The spot where his arm had breached my stomach gave off shards of golden light, glowing like a small sun. In seconds the light intensified, until all I could make out were indefinite shapes. The glow spread between us to fill the space, flickering out into the night. It was beautiful. Even in the middle of all that pain, I could see how beautiful it was.

I pride myself on my ability to keep calm even in stressful circumstances, but after a minute or two of constant agony my motor control broke down.

Castiel let me go after that and I collapsed on his shoulder. He put his arms around me and yeah, I figured I deserved a hug after that.

"You have a... very powerful soul," I heard Castiel murmur.

Sweating, exhausted, and humming like I'd just run face-first into an electrical field, I still couldn't resist. "Bet you say that to all the boys. Did it take?"

Didn't realize he had his mouth against my forehead until I felt him smile. He pulled away to nod. "The procedure was successful, albeit I was forced to move more slowly, due to the increased risk. I am sorry for that." Warm air brushed my lips as Castiel spoke, stark against the chill. The thought of just… leaning forward the inch or so necessary to reach his mouth was tempting. There's nothing like kissing on a crisp, cold night. But the circumstances were different now. I knew better.

"If it worked, that's all that matters," I said firmly, and leaned back on my hands. I expected the muscles around my navel to protest, considering the recent trauma. To my surprise, they didn't complain. I'm used to healing quickly, but usually not that quickly. Castiel shuffled backwards on his knees and rose. He didn't offer me a hand up, not that I'd have taken it anyway. Probably.

From the ground looking up, I had to admit it: even with jeans and a pullover, the trench coat worked.

"The issue of how to transport our captives remains," Castiel said with concern as I worked out getting upright again - concern that was clearly more directed at my sudden woozy stagger than the Leviathan. I shook my head at him hard and propped my hands on my knees, pride insisting I'd get my land legs again without his help. I should have known better by then, but who am I kidding?

An iron hand closed around my wrist, and Castiel sidled up to me, looping my arm around his neck. The arm closest to my side went around my waist with casual efficiency, and he straightened.

"Not your first rodeo, huh?" I taunted.

"I injured Dean Winchester so badly that he could not walk unsupported," Castiel growled, and I was pretty sure it wasn't directed at me, "My ability to heal him had been stripped, and it was important to return him promptly to his brother. So, no, Jack. This is not 'my first rodeo.'"

A lot to take in, there. "Where'd you learn that? I didn't figure you'd get it. And I thought you liked Dean."

"I do."

"You do that a lot? Beat up people you like?"

"Only if they deserve it," Castiel replied curtly.

We walked like that for a few minutes. It took me longer than I liked to get back to full steam. Forcibly reminded at every unsteady step, a corner of my mind marveled over what I'd just done. Sure, I had orders to get the guy to a certain place and go from there, and I'd do whatever it took. But while I had my doubts about what he was and where he really came from, I realized I trusted him. I hadn't just let him shove his hand in my gut because of those orders. I'd done it because I believed he needed to, and that he wouldn't hurt me - wouldn't really hurt me - if he didn't have to. Gwen was the only other person I'd give that kind of trust to, verbatim. Ianto wouldn't hurt me, period. Gwen would if it was necessary - kill me even, permanently - and that was the vibe I got off of Castiel. Somehow, that made the order not to save him a little easier to bear.

But not that much easier.

"You know, I had a thought Cas, regarding this whole Leviathan thing," I withdrew my arm from his shoulder. He let me, considering that I was no longer swaying like a drunken sailor, "Why do we need to catch them here? Can't we stop them from ever getting free?" I couldn't force him to the deduction he needed to make. If I prodded him too hard, I was pretty sure I'd blow my cover. Everything was already on uncertain ground after he'd gotten a look at his face in the freezer.

Silence descended while Castiel appeared to give this some serious thought. I put my hand on my stomach in the meantime, looking down for about the fifth time at the spot where Castiel's hand had been. As collecting life energy went, Castiel's approach was sort of unorthodox. And where'd he go to get at it? Was there some sort of central point under my ribs where it all cycled through, like a second heart? Or was that whole business just an unnecessarily excruciating symbolic gesture? Not that overfeeding Abaddon with life energy had been a picnic.

"In order to stop the Leviathan, I would need to be more discriminating in my--" Castiel paused, and I wondered what he'd just self-censored, "--selection upon opening Purgatory. Even then, their escape would still be a potential risk."

"So just stop yourself from opening Purgatory," I suggested casually, taking my hands from my midsection by will and pushing them into my pockets instead. Honestly, it bothered me. Worse than having a scab. At least a scab you can pick at. Not that I've had one in, oh, a couple millennia.

Oh, wait. Yes I have. Now I'll have to find some other jaded line to use. Damn.

"I can't do that, Jack," Castiel replied. He didn't sound sad. He sounded desolate. Lonely. I looked up at him, distracted from the terrain and the still tingling non-injury.

"Why not?"

"As I've said, without sufficient power, I will be unable to keep the Winchesters safe from Raphael's preoccupation with restarting the Apocalypse. Purgatory is still the only option."

"Whoa, wait, Apocalypse? With capital letters?" My question earned me another long stare. Rolling my eyes and narrowly resisting a sigh of my own, I stuffed my curiosity into a box for later. "Thought I had that handled. Okay, scratch that question. But you and me?" I gestured between us, "We're so having a talk once this is all over."

"Of course," Castiel replied, as if it was what he'd intended all along.

"So pretend I believe you. You're saying we have to open that door."

"Even if it were an option," Castiel replied tightly, "stopping myself without potentially doing irreparable harm to the universe would be difficult."

"Not that hard," I shrugged, "I could just shoot you. Voila. You don't cross your own timeline, and Twenty-Ten-You can't open the door."

"Not opening the door is not an option," he reminded me, "additionally, you can't damage me - even temporarily - with mere bullets."

I shook my head. "You volunteer way too much information, Cas. Ever heard of the element of surprise?"

"Not when it involves my own teammates."

A few minutes later, the brush gave way to a paved road with a wide gravel shoulder. I looked down at my coat and grimaced at the burrs coating the wool. "I'm sending the Colasantos my dry cleaning bill."

Castiel went quiet again as we turned onto the road, silence persisting all the way to Henderson still a quarter mile away. We found a set of wheels - a battered eighties pickup, not my usual choice - and headed out of town as quickly and quietly as we could. Still ravenous, I stopped off at a 24-hour Wendy's drive through on the way. Feeling sort of sorry for Castiel for no identifiable reason, I bought him a cheeseburger too, and passed the sack over to him. When I finished paying the cashier - careful not to let our skin touch - and turned back to Castiel, he had one cheeseburger open on his lap and was busy examining the other.

"Hey! Hands off the goods, Halo!" I protested, reaching out to take the sandwich from his hands, "You only get one!" He tossed me an insulted look like a wet cat and re-wrapped the cheeseburger on his lap.

"I was inspecting the beef for contaminants," Castiel explained, offering me the paper-wrapped package, "The Leviathan have already begun contaminating the ingredients of several restaurants like these. If unchecked, by 2012 the results will be global and catastrophic."

I chewed and swallowed before I spoke, taking the time to process the information. "You keep saying that word, 'catastrophic,'" I said, nudging the cheeseburger he held back at him with my forearm, "No, eat it. That's for you."

"I don't require food," Castiel's answer was prim. He moved to put the uneaten sandwich back into the bag.

"Then eat for the sake of trying something different," I prodded.

"I don't need 'something different,' Jack," Castiel snapped at me, turning towards the passenger window with about as much grace as a moody teenager, "I need to fix this, before it gets any further out of control."

"News flash," I shamelessly borrowed one of Rex's lines, "it's already out of control, Castiel. Pull it together."

He glared at me. I hit the brakes and glared back at him. Even this late at night, Henderson was moderately busy. Cars honked and swerved around us.

"You have people depending on you," I reminded him, "you want to have a tantrum, do it on your own time."

For a beat or two, Castiel looked murderous. Then he dropped his eyes, gaze flickering away as if searching the floorboards for an answer.

"And eat the cheeseburger," I nudged it at him again, peeling the wrapper down a little further on mine before I stepped on the gas, "lots of salt and saturated fat, guaranteed to put you in a better mood. The only thing that works better in this day and age is a controlled substance. Well, and me, but I should really keep both hands on the wheel."

He didn't get it.

I didn't figure he would.

I finished my own meal and flipped on the radio to drown out the deafening silence. Normally I'd rather talk, but conversations with Castiel - to be honest - had gotten a little too tense and frustrating, even for me. Then, as we turned off a business access route, I heard paper rustling. Curiosity must have won out.

"What do you think?" I asked, a minute or two later. When Castiel didn't answer, I checked to see how he was doing. He had his eyes closed, brow ridged with concentration, cheeseburger frozen less than half an inch from his mouth. Apparently realizing I kept looking his way, he put the sandwich down and explained.

"I have consumed food similar to this before," he said.

"Ha! So you do eat!"

"Under certain circumstances, yes," Castiel agreed, but the tone of his voice made me blink. That tone was the kind I'd heard from prisoners of war.

I weighed the options. Sure, I could have just called him on it, but believe it or not, I'm not insensitive. Not completely insensitive, anyway; only mostly. Finally, I twitched the volume down on the radio. "You want to talk about it?"

"It isn't a pleasant memory."

"Ah. Just cheeseburgers, or eating in general?"

Castiel considered the question, and there was that hawklike head-tilt again. "It appears to only be this food."

"Then we'll find you something else," I grinned, "in the meantime, recap. To keep moving and for lack of any other specific destination, we're headed for Kansas again. We have one fully charged angel?" Castiel nodded and I went on, "One clever and dashing hero, also fully charged, and one containment device recharging as we speak. We've knocked down a couple options already: we can't stop you from opening the door, we don't have the resources to open it again, and we don't have the power to catch Leviathan and haul them back to the last time you opened up Purgatory. What's left?"

To be completely honest, even I wasn't sure how it would play out. None of the messages were all that detailed. A cautionary measure, probably to make sure I didn't know something I shouldn't, but as frustrating as having half a book. Castiel was silent for a good, long while. I kept the radio on low for company while he thought. In the end, it really had to be him anyway. He was the one holding the door.

"I opened Purgatory the second time to return the--" Castiel paused, "--power I had borrowed. For a period of time, the Leviathan controlled my vessel, until they were able to free themselves and disperse, utilizing the nearby water supply."

"The Leviathan were controlling you?"

"They were inside me, Jack."

There was a perfect opening in that reply, but I was too busy adjusting my assumptions to take advantage. Up until that point, I'd just assumed the Leviathan slipped out of the portal while Castiel was doing... whatever he was doing. 'Returning the power he borrowed.' "All of them?" I asked, surprised.

"All of them." Castiel's voice was grim.

"Huh."

"I mention this because - for that brief period, every creature that escaped is contained in the same place. The simplest answer would be to simply ensure that the vessel and all it contains passes through the doorway before it closes."

"Not an option," I said, so quickly after I realized what he meant that I nearly cut him off. From my periphery, I could see him glance at me. Carefully, I kept my eyes on the road.

"If I exist in Purgatory, then I am not destroyed," Castiel replied, "I can be freed."

"But even if you can, who says your payload won't come right along with you?" My hands tightened on the steering wheel, kneading along the ridges. "Trip to Purgatory's going to be a life sentence, Cas. Find another way."

Yet again, as I had countless times, I reminded myself that I had orders. Orders not to try to save Castiel. Orders to let him do his job by himself.

At the cost of damning him to a lifetime in some wasteland, alone? Why would I leave myself orders like that? What did I know? Other than myself.

I didn't know much about angels; how long they lived, what they needed, or whether or not they even wanted companionship. But the thought of spending eternity trapped by myself sounded less like Purgatory and more like Hell. I've been on some long, lonely flights before, but come on.

"You'll have to do it, Jack," Castiel was saying as I dragged my awareness back to the surface, "you know I can't be allowed to see myself. Nor should the Winchesters see me."

"This'll wipe you out," I warned him, "you do this, and maybe you'll save the world. But you won't be here. You'll change your timeline. Maybe you'll be stuck in Purgatory permanently. Probably permanently."

I looked sideways just in time to catch Castiel's resolute nod. "It's a risk I can choose for myself."

"You're sure."

"Very."

"Then we'll work out the details on the way. I'll drive. Save your batteries."

Meanwhile, I was working on my own plan, putting together what I knew of the Leviathan with what Castiel could tell me about the last day he remembered. Sure, I had orders, but I wouldn't be Captain Jack Harkness if I let a few cryptic lines on a Post-It get in the way of saving lives.

Especially the hot ones.

Master Post | Part 5
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