cuda: Jack Harkness from Torchwood and Castiel from Supernatural, about to kiss (jack and castiel romance)
[personal profile] cuda
Play It Again Jack, Part 7
December 11, 2012
Somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic.
Jack


"Tell me again," Rex crossed his arms to bundle himself up tighter in his parka. His breath smoked contrails off the side of the ship, "what the hell are we doing out here? If you want to dump a body, there's warmer places to do it. I could name you five, right now."

We stood at the railing of the Oregon, a dilapidated tramp steamer operated by a friend of mine, bound for the Norwegian coast. At the moment, the ship was quiet in the water. We rocked gently with the swells like a toy boat in a very, very cold bathtub. I grinned sideways at Rex, putting on my best incredulous expression. "You aren't enjoying the trip? Cruise lines pay good money for this view!" I swept an arm out at the chilly dark ocean. The sea was calm, the air so clear that the night sky showed even the faintest stars.

Rex huffed a short, sarcastic laugh. "I'll enjoy it more when it's over. You haven't told me a damn thing. Like how we loaded up a body in a freezer and nobody batted an eye. And how two thirds of the people I've met on this piece of shit boat talk like they've got more college education than God. I've seen guns on at least a dozen. If this is need-to-know, believe me, I need to know. I don't do blind ops."

"And yet you're here." I swung back from the rail with a shrug and checked my watch, "They're friends of mine."

Rex shook his head. "Of course they are." He tossed his hands wide. "Everybody wants to hang out around the intergalactic gay dude with the World War Two fetish. I do not get it."

Daleks will always hate, the Slitheen have bad breath, and Rex… will always be Rex. I'm sure there's comfort to be had in that.

Somewhere.

You live the way I have, though, and eventually people have to get creative to really insult you. Creativity? Not Rex's forte.

"Safety precautions, Rex," I said, relenting a little. "You saw the lock on that box. I don't know what will happen when it opens."

"You mean it's gonna explode."

"I mean I don't know. But there's a lot of power wrapped up in there; it could. Hopefully the depth will cushion the blow, if that's the case." While I couldn't see much of Rex in the low light, I could almost feel his stony disapproval, and sighed. The CIA is all about rules and protocols - on the surface, anyway - because the surface has to keep the rest of the world from guessing just how deep the rabbit hole goes. Torchwood? We're not so worried about public image. Protocols are just guidelines for paperwork. We'd never be able to agree on that. "The less anyone knows about what we're doing, Rex, the safer we'll all be. Let's go. We've got some cargo to unload and about a forty-five minute window left to do it."

"Yeah, whatever," Rex grumped, but followed me down to the hold.

The cargo hold of the Oregon looked much like the exterior - flaking paint and patchwork rust. It held the assortment of odd cargo you'd expect from a freighter with no set itinerary. There were drums of kerosene, bales of fabric; crate upon crate of cheap pottery vases. Of course, no tramp steamer is complete without a stock of illegal firearms - Russian make, by the look. The Oregon looked the part, I'd give it that. Castiel's cryogenic unit was exotic here, its white metal and glass glistening in the middle of third-world trade goods like an alien egg case. The control panel on the side blinked steadily now, warning that we had less than an hour left on the lock.

Rex, inexperienced with seafaring, never seemed suspicious of the Oregon's large size and its comparatively tiny hold. I knew better. There were stranger things on the other side of the wall than angels in freezers.

But that's a story for another time.

A few members of the crew arrived to help us roll the cryogenic unit back into its heavy metal container. I did my share, trying my best to shake off the pallbearer sensation of carrying a dead man. He wasn't a dead man, I reminded myself. There were many dead men in the morgue vaults of Torchwood 3, but the vitals panel on Castiel's unit was still bright with signs of life.

His face was set, granite-pale. Some people look peaceful in that state. Castiel, on the other hand, was asleep and hating every minute of it. I'd protected him long enough. Soon, this last piece of the timelines that were - and those that weren't, anymore - would fall into place.

In December of 2011, the Colasanto estate had been purchased for a ridiculous amount of money in the current economic climate, by an individual whose credentials only went far enough to make the sale. The notebook notes said the paperwork fractured off into dead ends and 'lost files.' Some branch of the Families, I'm sure. The estate was gutted, everything scattered to the winds - Castiel among them. The ship originally carrying him and countless other Torchwood acquisitions mysteriously sank between Boston and Fredrikstad, Norway. Big to-do. Lots of press coverage.

Thankfully, though, I read the notebook shortly after John and I parted ways. I have clippings of a New York Times issue that was never printed - something I'd tucked into the book during my various attempts to save the world. I should really have those framed.

Going on the information I had, I spent the rest of 2011 orchestrating the removal of anything... important... from the estate, including technology, a few intact files, some computer hardware, and bodies.

Gray, I remembered too late, had been in the cryogenic vaults circling the surgery. Explosion epicenter.

Castiel and several others in cryogenic units survived the blast due to the sturdy nature of the morgue vaults. It wasn't the first time Torchwood Cardiff fell in on itself, after all. We learned our lessons and reinforced the facility after an earthquake in 1908. The weight of debris falling from above crushed it, but some of the containers were unharmed. Redundancies in the preservation system apparently kept powering a few - specifically the ones directly surrounding Castiel's.

Or maybe they had a guardian angel looking after them.

Above us, the massive hold doors rolled back, revealing a field of stars. Cold air poured into the hold from overhead. A few minutes later, one of the cranes on deck (the only one aft that worked, if you could believe the crew) lowered its massive bucket into the hold. Another fifteen minutes ticked off as the crew secured the container to be lifted, and set small explosive charges on the container doors. Restless and tense, I watched the box holding Castiel hoisted up, and raced to the deck to watch its ascent. The box hung in midair, a dark shape against the sky. For the moment, I forgot about Rex. Forgot about everything.

"Here's looking at you, kid," I said to the angel as the crane rotated the box in a slow arc.

Captain Cabrillo of the Oregon joined me at the rail as the crane swung out over the sea with its cargo. He held a comm in one hand, borrowed from one of the crewmen and painted with a white '7' that glowed like a sign. As he approached, I could hear the chatter of the crew and the hiss of occasional static from the comm.

Rex joined me shortly thereafter, and the three of us watched in silence for a few minutes while the crane shifted its load further and further from the ship.

"That far enough, Harkness?" the captain asked.

"Yeah," I said.

"Hold it right there, Pete," he said into the comm. The crane slowed to a stop, its load swaying gently at the end of its cable. The crew trained the Oregon's exterior spotlights on the container. My hands tightened on the rail.

"Just give the word, Cap," Pete the crane operator replied, his voice small and roughened by the comm.

Captain Cabrillo glanced at me. In the low light, I couldn't read his expression, but I knew what he was waiting for.

Castiel had his wings clipped for far too long. I nodded. "Do it."

Less than three minutes left to go. I hoped he'd still be sinking when the locks opened. Everyone deserves a ray of hope. As long as Castiel never noticed that freezer, dropping away into the abyss, maybe he'd never know the truth. As long as he kept on believing the Winchesters saved him, he'd still be the Castiel I came to know. That kind of loyalty is a precious thing to me; more than being the dubious hero of someone's rescue story.

"Blow those doors, Pete!" Captain Cabrillo barked.

Up in the operator cabin, Pete detonated the charges we'd set on the container doors. Twin puffs of smoke and a sound like a pair of gunshots echoed across the water. Then the crane came to life again, lifting the opposite end of the container.

In the glare of halogen spotlights, the silver-white pod nosed slowly out of the open doors, driven by its own weight. It tumbled free and catapulted into the water with an impressive splash.

"So that's it?" Captain Cabrillo asked, turning to me again as waves from the drop rippled against the Oregon's hull. I held out a quelling hand, peering into the water as the pod sank. I counted the last moments down to zero.

A few seconds later, there was the muffled boom of a depth charge, and the ocean lit up like a stained glass window.

Believe me, you don't want to know how deep that water is, but it's deep. All you need to know? For a few seconds, Castiel's fireworks flipped everything upside down. Up here was the deep water, and down there was the daylight. He warmed up the waves like a Cuban sunset, fire burning under the surface so bright that the side of the ship turned red. Energy like blue lightning webbed out across the waves. I've seen a lot of beautiful things in my life, like I've said before. That one ranks near the top.

It faded slowly. By the time the ocean slipped into night again, most of the crew was standing at the railing, watching with us.

"I believe you, Harkness, when you say that thing's not dangerous," Captain Cabrillo warned mildly, "don't prove me wrong."

"Oh, he's dangerous," I breathed, "but it all depends on where you're standing."

"From where I'm standing right now," a low, gritty voice said behind me, "you don't look like a threat."

I whipped around.

Castiel smiled one of his faint, rare smiles. "Hello, Captain Jack Harkness."

It ached, but I swallowed the words I wanted to say. I hadn't expected to see him - possibly not ever again, and not so soon at the very least. Unsure how time would have worked out the wrinkle of two Castiels existing simultaneously, I still knew that it would. Powerful things like Castiel might not be subject to the same rules that governed the rest of us, but . Most of me - used to friends not coming home - expected his memory to be wiped clean.

"Hello, Castiel," I said. Beneath us, the engines fired and the Oregon stirred to life. A cold breeze threaded along the deck. Castiel's open trench coat flared around his knees, as perfectly as if he'd engineered the wind just for that purpose. Under the coat, he wore blue jeans and pullover - neither of which were Torchwood issue for cryogenesis. As much as I wanted that to be a sign, I forced myself to discount it.

"You're understandably concerned," Castiel said. His eyes were on me.

"Goes for me, too," Captain Cabrillo said behind me. He sounded amused. I watched Castiel look up, as if just noticing the multitude of people now circling us slowly. A few of the crewmen had their hands on weapons. Brave.

Castiel tipped his head. "Captain Juan Cabrillo of the Oregon. You have nothing to fear. Your crew, your vessel and your continued clandestine operations aren't in danger. I came here only for Jack."

"How do you know who I am?" Captain Cabrillo demanded. There was suspicion and alarm in his voice. I waved a hand dismissively.

"He does that," I said.

"Is he a security risk?"

"God knows." Maybe I was a little more flippant than I should have been. Probably. I turned my attention back to the angel. "So. Came for me, Halo? How are your boys?"

"They are both well. Their reception was as difficult as I anticipated." Castiel answered. He glanced away, then back, looking more pleased than he had a moment ago. He smoothed down a stray lapel twisted by the wind. "Dean kept my coat."

"Did, did he? Glad to hear it," I said cautiously, still not entirely sure who I was talking to, "What do you want?"

"I would expect that to be perfectly obvious," Castiel replied, lowering his chin to look at me from the tops of his eyeballs like a disappointed professor.

"Sometimes I get a little thick," I shrugged, "tends to happen around good-looking men."

Faint but distinct, I heard Rex snort. One more reason why we'll never have embroidered tea towels. If you can't have a bit of a flirt now and then, what's the point?

"I am fulfilling your request," Castiel started walking toward me, which I hadn't expected. Determination telegraphed through every movement; familiar even after months without him.

"And what request is that?" I asked lightly.

"I believe this is the equivalent of 'looking you up,'" he answered. The lights on the deck seemed a little brighter. The cold burned my face a little less.

"You know, it's not fair," I said conversationally. He stopped short and looked puzzled. He's not quite the blank slate I thought he was at first blush. Or, no blush, really. Though he can and does get a little red from time to time, trust me.

There I go, jumping ahead again.

"What you do to me," I went on, one hand flicking to indicate the space between us, "it's not fair, Castiel, for someone to make an impression on me this fast. We had what, a few days together and a kiss or two?"

"For you, perhaps," Castiel replied.

"And what is that supposed to mean?"

Silence stretched out between us. I watched Castiel's face; the drop of his eyes while he clearly weighed the consequences of whatever he was about to say. When his gaze flicked back up, he seemed resolute. "I am an angel of the Lord, Jack. You were my charge. Until my responsibilities shifted to the Winchesters, it was my duty to observe and guard you. I have known you for nearly your entire life."

There's just some things a human isn't designed to react to. Especially not this human. Really, how do you answer something like that? Say 'thanks'? Ask where to send the fruit basket? Because if it was true, I wanted to know where the hell his observation and protection had been last July. And the year before. And if it wasn't on his watch, I wanted the names and numbers and asses of whichever angels did have my shift. Guard? What guard? And whose business was it to decide I needed guarding anyway? Captain Jack Harkness, thank you very much, and I can look out for myself.

"That's not possible," I managed, retreating briefly into denial. As if he'd sensed me taking a mental step back, Castiel moved toward me.

"You became of special interest to the Host when the Bad Wolf changed you," he told me, "through actions that were no fault of your own, you became an abomination. A threat. You should not exist."

"Heard that one already," I said easily, although I'll admit, hearing Castiel use a word as strong as 'abomination' did, actually, sting a bit. Not that I haven't been called that before. I've been called the Devil in a few languages, even. How much lower can you go from there? In Christian mythology, anyway?

A flicker of movement nearby drew my attention from Castiel to the ring of onlookers. I knew Captain Cabrillo's men dealt with stranger things than what had just happened on board their ship, externally, anyway. However, this discussion was headed into deeper waters than they needed to swim. Some pieces of personal information just don't lend themselves to casual disclosure. Not even among friends.

I smiled at Castiel, although I certainly wasn't feeling it. "Come on, let's take a walk," I said, and turned, walking with purpose towards Captain Cabrillo and Rex. They drew aside to let me pass in silence. I didn't look back, but kept my face firmly in the cold breeze, inhaling sharp spikes of arctic chill and quieting my thoughts.

Just out of earshot, I paused at the railing and turned. Castiel - a yard or so behind me - froze when I looked at him. Maybe he had more in common with the quantum-locked kind of angel than I thought.

"For an abomination," I said, maybe a little sharper than I intended, "you seem to care an awful lot about what happens to me."

Castiel tilted his head. "It describes your current state. You are a human and yet you possess traits that you were not created to possess. Traits that set you apart from humanity. The original Latin ab homine means, roughly, 'away from man.'"

"Maybe so, but by current standards, it's a little harsh."

"Current standards are inaccurate."

"They usually are. Look, I'm immortal, I know that. Believe me, I've already had it looked at by a doctor. Nobody's got a prescription for being a fact."

"'Immortality' is also inaccurate," Castiel replied, "You are not without death. But you overflow with such life, you constantly overcome it. And by existing, you unbalanced the entire cycle."

"Yeah," I shrugged, "tell me something I don't know, Castiel."

"What has been done to you cannot be undone, even by Death itself. Thus, Heaven moved to guard you, to ensure you did not damage the progression of time." I sensed the touch of sarcasm in his voice as he added, "Actually, to ensure you did not interfere with timelines that are of interest to the Host. But something happened that we did not anticipate. The cycle has rebalanced itself around you. Time made room for one immortal human." Castiel lifted his chin, defying someone, although I was pretty certain it wasn't me, "I view that as fortunate, considering the good you have done. The good I have observed you do." Which implied that he'd seen the bad, too.

"I'm not a--"

"No," Castiel cut me off, "you are not a hero. Nor are the men for whom I rebelled from Heaven." With the words, he filled the space around him and more, as he had in the Rockies a year ago. I felt the sizzle of gathering energy over my skin. "But as I believe in them, Jack, I believe you are a good man."

Part of me wanted to believe that. A piece of my own self-worth is wrapped up in being a better man. For Gwen, for Ianto, and for all the ones that came before that got under my skin. And here was someone who claimed to have watched my whole life. Whose credentials - to everyone else - declared that he had the final say.

I've been seduced by offers that weren't half so enticing. But absolution isn't that easy.

"In my experience, it's easier to be a good man when there are other good men to back you up," I said, and regretted the words as soon as I said them. Though I'd intended them as a way to sidestep Castiel's declarations of faith, suddenly the names of the dead hung between us. The dead I sacrificed for a world full of people; for an angel who opened a door he should have left alone. Nobody came to save Ianto. Nobody fluttered down from on high to heal Tosh.

"I failed you, Jack." Castiel stood with his hands curled into fists at his sides, stiff as a plywood cutout of himself. I caught myself almost agreeing with him, and then I recognized his posture. He was taking responsibility, not necessarily because he thought it was true, but because he thought I needed him to. As I'd done for others.

Amazing, how quickly someone can go from not believing in 'angels of the Lord' at all to blaming them for a bad day. It was a moment of weakness. I'm shocked that I had it at all, but I'm over it, and it will never happen again.

"When you weren't watching Torchwood, were you saving the world?" I asked, after a slow breath.

"At first, yes, and then... no," Castiel replied, stark and honest as ever, "and then, yes. It's complicated."

"I figured. Well," the corner of my mouth tugged up into a lopsided smile, "saving the world gets a pass."

"I don't understand."

"Castiel, you didn't fail me," in saying so, I reminded myself as well. Turning to face him squarely, I smiled. "But don't think you can use 'saving the world' as an excuse every time you ditch me."

Castiel ignored me. Or didn't acknowledge me. Or maybe he was so focused on me that he couldn't hear a word I said - and he's the only person I've ever met who could use that as a legitimate excuse. Instead, he barreled into me with so much force that he nearly knocked us both down. I put a foot back to accommodate, shouldering into his charge like an American linebacker. He wrapped both arms around me and held me hard, fists punched up in the middle of my back. My hands landed on his shoulders.

I hate it when people don't listen to me. But I'm willing to make exceptions.

It's the hot ones, I'm telling you. It's always the hot ones.

It was an awkward hug, stiff and desperate. He probably learned that from those boys he hangs out with; they look like the repressed type. Over Castiel's shoulder, I saw Captain Cabrillo grinning at me. It wasn't the first time he'd seen this happen to me, not by a long shot, and I had to smile back at a stray memory or two that dodged the seriousness of the moment.

There was no question. This Castiel was mine. The understanding that he was the Castiel who remembered me, and I could probably have him if I wanted made me tighten up around him. Moments like this don't come along very often, and I didn't want to end it. In a messy sort of gesture of my own, I got my hands around his face, tipped his head up, and asked for permission with a look.

He gave it. I kissed him.

From the corner of my eye, I caught Captain Cabrillo waving off his crew. Not that I mind being a peep show, but apparently it was clear that I wouldn't need an armed intermediary this time. There were more critical things that needed doing, like steering the ship.

I peeled Castiel off with some difficulty. "What are you doing here, Cas?"

"This is my own time," Castiel replied. His expression had smoothed back down; flatlined the way no human could ever hope to duplicate. Except for the treacherous little glances he kept shooting at my mouth, you'd never know he'd just been wrapped around me like a starfish. "however, you are aware that another version also existed?"

That question had to be rhetorical. I raised an eyebrow, and he dropped his eyes to somewhere in the vicinity of my lapels. "That version of myself was no longer... necessary. Therefore I eliminated it."

"You mean you killed yourself?"

"In a manner of speaking, I suppose," Castiel's head went to one side, "yes."

"That was dangerous, soldier," I stepped back, "You came out of that box in 2012, too. That could have killed both of you!"

"It is good that you chose to submerge the pod. The energy released in the process was... substantial."

"Blinovitch Limitation Effect," I murmured, "I saw the lightning."

"The timeline has already adjusted far enough that eliminating this parallel of myself posed no threat to my continued existence. I could not simply cease to exist - that would have resulted in a temporal paradox. History was always meant to turn out this way, or I would not have been able to achieve my goal."

"How can you be sure?"

It was Castiel's turn to hike an are-you-serious eyebrow at me. It was cute. It made his forehead wrinkle. In retaliation, I swatted his ass, getting a little satisfaction out of making him jump. "Watch that ego, Halo. You're not as good as you think you are."

"I am aware of the full extent of my abilities," Castiel protested with a glare.

"That's what they all say," I took his arm and turned. Everyone seemed to have found something else to do, including my team. "Come on. I want to introduce you to Rex."

"Rex? Ah. The associate who was taken by the Leviathan."

"Yeah. If I know him, he's probably downing a scotch and pretending tonight never happened. Say," a thought (and a potential opportunity for some mischief) occurred to me, "You report to God. Right?"

"In a manner of speaking, yes."

"Just out of professional curiosity - what's his official take on, you know, flexibility?"

Castiel shot me a lengthy, sidelong look. His eyes narrowed, then widened, and he nodded to himself. "You're referring to current popular opinions regarding translations of certain Biblical doctrine."

"It's sort of hard to miss, these days."

"Heaven is indifferent to sexual orientation, Jack," Castiel turned to face front, the faintest hint of a smile touching his lips again, "I assumed you might have guessed that by now."

I grinned. "Oh, Rex is gonna love you."

Master Post | Epilogue
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