Fandoms: Criminal Minds/Supernatural
Characters: Emily Prentiss, Spencer Reid, Sam Winchester, Aaron Hotchner, Jennifer Jareau, Derek Morgan, David Rossi; Castiel, Dean Winchester
Word Count: 9160
Spoilers: Through 5.10 of Supernatural and 5.08 of Criminal Minds.
Warnings: Serious off-screen gore and violence
Disclaimer: Criminal Minds and Supernatural belong to their respective creators
A/N: My thanks to bluflamingo and scrollgirl for the excellent last minute beta jobs.
Summary: Castiel has a mission for Emily Prentiss.
"There's something wrong here." Morgan frowned down at the file in his hands.
"You mean besides the fact that the guy who just confessed to slaughtering four families has no criminal record, and bears absolutely no resemblance to our profile?" Emily asked wearily. She closed her eyes briefly, thinking longingly of her lumpy motel bed. It had been a long five days, punctuated by even longer nights, the latter for reasons that had nothing to do with the case.
"This is the sixth case we've had like this in the past year," Rossi observed. He, too, was frowning. "All horrific crimes committed by people with no history of violence."
"It doesn't make sense that this guy did it." Morgan looked up from the file. "We just don't get the profile this wrong, this often."
"So you think Green's lying?" Emily asked. She could hear the edge in her voice and tried to smooth it away. Her fatigue and frustration weren't Morgan's fault, and he was right: they'd gotten far more wrong here than they should have.
"Items from all of the families were found in his home," Hotch said evenly, as if he hadn't been just as surprised as everyone else when the purchase records had led them to Green. Emily tried to find the statement reassuring.
"I know," Morgan replied grimly. He still looked unconvinced, and Emily didn't think anyone else was feeling any better. The evidence was there, and yet...
"Do you think Green will recant too?" J.J. asked. Which was, perhaps, the heart of the matter. A wrong profile was one thing, but five withdrawn confessions, when all of the confessions had been obtained by BAU agents...the situation was proving demoralizing despite Hotch's best efforts.
"It is odd the way they confess when we arrest them, and then claim afterwards they didn't do it...except when they're on the stand." Rossi's frown deepened. "Somehow they always confess on the stand."
"And then go back to saying they're innocent as soon as the trial's over," Emily said. At least the first one had. They were still waiting for the other trials to wrap up. Or begin, in the more recent cases. It was her turn to give evidence at the trial starting in two weeks, and she'd been spending her nights before this case started reviewing the file. She still shuddered when she looked at the photos of the crime scene.
"We can't do anything about that now," Hotch said firmly. He shifted position subtly, as if preparing to redirect them, but Reid beat him to it.
"We have another problem as well." Reid was staring up at the photos of the victims. "Green confessed to four sets of murders..."
"But five families were killed," Rossi finished, turning to look at the photo board as well.
"Strictly speaking, we don't know that the Novaks were killed. Unlike with the others, no blood was found at their home," Reid said.
"They just disappeared," Emily recalled. The details of the homes were still burned into her brain, would stay there until the next case chased them away. "What did the original investigators find?"
Morgan reached for a different file and flipped through it. "Not much. The Novaks disappeared about two weeks after the Morettis turned up in the park. Their house was a mess; there had obviously been a struggle..."
"The police assumed it was the same killer," Hotch said flatly.
"Yeah." Morgan flipped another page in the file. "They did interview the neighbours...apparently the father, Jimmy Novak, disappeared almost a year before his family did."
"Disappeared?" J.J. asked.
"Just walked away one day and didn't come back."
"Did they try to track him down?" Emily cast a quick look around before she spoke, making sure there were no local officers lurking in the doorway to the small meeting room that had been all the Pontiac police could spare. If the Novaks had been killed by a different perpetrator, implying that the police hadn't investigated their case properly was not going to win the BAU much support in a new investigation.
"Doesn't look like they had much to go on," Morgan said, still reading. "He didn't take anything with him. Left behind his clothing, his car..."
"Wait. You're saying he literally walked away?" Rossi asked. "Around here?"
Morgan nodded. "That's what his wife said in the missing person's report. Filed it two days after he disappeared. Said he'd been acting strangely for a while. Hearing voices."
"If that's true, that suggests some sort of psychotic break," Reid said. "There's no record of a history of mental illness?"
"Apparently not," Morgan said. He glanced down at the file again. "One of the neighbours said Amelia Novak had given up on him by the time she and Claire disappeared. Decided her husband was dead."
"What if he wasn't?" Emily asked. "The first person we look at in domestic homicides is always the husband."
"Yeah, but usually the husband doesn't walk away and then come back a year later to kill his family," Morgan said.
"It might depend on the type of delusions he was suffering," Reid said. "If they went untreated and got progressively worse..."
"Tell the police to look for him," Hotch said. "Start with the local bus terminals. And ask Garcia to--" He stopped abruptly and cast an apologetic glance at Morgan. Emily thought it was a measure of how tired Hotch was that he'd fallen so easily into old habits. He was usually so careful these days to defer to Morgan. She wondered if he was being kept up by nightmares of his own. No doubt ones starring George Foyet.
If Morgan was bothered by the slip, he hid it well. He was already reaching for his cell phone. "I'll call Garcia," he said, heading for the door.
J.J. rose to follow him. "I'll talk to Detective Linwood."
Emily watched her leave, and then turned back to the photo board, studying the faces of mother and daughter. Amelia's arms were wrapped tight around her daughter's shoulders, and Emily wondered about their relationship. Had they become closer when husband and father walked out on them, or had they always been close? Or was their apparent closeness merely an artefact of the photo? Her own mother had always been so concerned with appearances...
She jumped at the touch of a hand on her shoulder.
"You okay?" Rossi asked.
She turned to face him. Hotch and Reid, she noted absently, had both disappeared. Probably in search of what passed for coffee in the station. "Yeah. Just...wondering how a man could walk away from his family like that."
"Maybe it wasn't his choice." His tone was relaxed, but she could see the concern in his eyes and it puzzled her. She couldn't think of what she might have done to trigger it
"Maybe," she said, because she didn't want to argue and that wasn't really what this conversation was about.
"You looked tired."
Which was nothing new when on a case, even if she was sleeping less than usual, and she still wasn't sure what had caught his attention. "We all are."
He trapped her gaze and held it steadily, clearly waiting for more. After a moment she sighed and acquiesced.
"I haven't been sleeping well." She'd really thought she'd been doing a good job of covering it.
"Not bad, exactly." She paused, not quite sure how to explain the strangeness of her nights. The lack of words was one of the reasons she'd been so reluctant to say anything. "I wake up feeling like I spent all night fighting. No, not fighting. Resisting. Like I've been struggling with a used car salesman for hours."
"Used car salesman?" Rossi's concern was suddenly displaced by amusement, and Emily smiled reluctantly at his exaggeratedly sceptical tone. It sounded much funnier talking about it in the middle of the day than it did when she awoke late at night, heart racing from rapidly scattering dreams.
She held up a hand. "I know, I know. It sounds ridiculous. But I wake up exhausted every morning."
The amusement vanished as quickly as it arose. "Just since we started this case?"
She shook her head. The dreams had crept up so slowly she wasn't sure she could pinpoint when they'd actually begun, but it had been at least a week before they'd been called out to Pontiac, Illinois to investigate four families killed in ways that would give anyone nightmares. And one family whose fate was still unknown.
Rossi looked like he wanted to say more, but before he could speak, Morgan returned, looking frustrated. Hotch and Reid followed behind him.
"Garcia says there's nothing on Novak for the entire year he was missing. No credit card activity, no activity on his bank account, not even a parking ticket. The only thing we have is a cash advance on his credit card a couple of days before Claire and Amelia disappeared."
"Where did he access the money?" Reid asked.
"An ATM outside the bus terminal in Brooksburg, Indiana."
"A bus terminal," Emily said. "So maybe..." She didn't need to finish. They all knew what that might mean. What it probably meant.
"We need to find this guy," Rossi said.
"Yeah, but there's been nothing since," Morgan said. "He dropped off the map again after that."
"He must be getting money somehow," Rossi said. "If we can--"
He was interrupted by J.J.'s return.
"They just found Jimmy Novak," she announced.
The room fell silent.
"Where?" Reid asked in an astonished tone.
"He walked into the station," J.J. replied. She cast an odd look at Emily. "He wants to talk to you."
"To me?" she said, surprised. "How does he even know I'm here?"
"I don't know, but he asked for you by name."
Emily's heart sank. "Just what I need," she muttered. She wondered briefly if suspects requesting her by name was some sort of karmic payback for flirting with Dante and Karl Arnold to get information.
"All right," Morgan said briskly, "you'd better talk to him. Reid, you go with her. See if you can get him to tell us what happened to his family."
Emily let Reid lead the way into the cramped interrogation room, hanging back just a moment to study the suspect. Jimmy Novak looked more like a rumpled accountant than the salesman his file said he was. His beige trench coat was immaculate but creased, his tie was askew, and his suit looked oddly ill-fitting, as if he didn't know quite how to wear it. The man himself, however, looked perfectly at ease, sitting patiently in the uncomfortable metal chair with no sign of either guilt or urgency. It occurred to her that the clothing he was wearing matched the description his wife had given when he disappeared. If this was the same outfit, what did it mean that he'd shown up here wearing it?
She sat down across from Novak and dropped the stack of files on the table between them, watching him carefully as she did. He didn't flinch at the sound; just regarded her with mild curiosity and that preternatural stillness. Reid eschewed the other chair, taking up position in the corner behind Emily.
"Mr. Novak," she began, "I'm SSA Emily Prentiss. I hear you wanted to talk to me."
"Yes," he said flatly. His voice was low and gravelly, harsher than she'd expected from his appearance.
"But I'm not Jimmy Novak."
Emily felt Reid go still behind her. Apparently Novak had gone beyond hearing voices into a more complete break with reality.
"Okay," she said carefully. "Then who are you?"
"Castiel. I'm an Angel of the Lord."
Emily took a deep breath. Somehow she always found religious delusions more disturbing than other types. Especially when they led men to slaughter their families. "An angel," she repeated incredulously.
"Yes." He leaned forward in his chair, blue eyes regarding her with a disconcertingly intense gaze. She resisted the urge to look away. "I have a mission for you, Emily Prentiss."
"A mission from God," she said. "For me." She didn't bother trying to hide her scepticism.
Novak hesitated for a long moment, keeping that uncomfortable--and unsettlingly familiar--gaze fixed on her. "Not from God," he said at last. She caught a hint of reluctance in his voice. "But necessary to the survival of your race." His tone on the last words was absolutely certain. She suspected he believed what he was saying. Not just an act, then.
"Why don't we go back a step?" Reid interjected. He stepped forward, hands in his pockets, stopping just beside Emily. Emily offered silent thanks as Novak finally turned away from her. "If you're not Jimmy Novak, what happened to him?"
Again a long hesitation. "He's dead."
"How did he die?" Reid asked.
"We were both killed some months ago, and this body destroyed. When I was resurrected, I was alone."
Reid cocked his head, smiling a little. "What can kill an angel?"
Novak's face went stern and sombre. "There are...disagreements in heaven."
"Disagreements." Reid's tone was mildly quizzical; his posture relaxed. He kept his hands in his pockets.
"So...you're saying you were killed by another angel?" Emily asked. She adopted the same tone as Reid; there wasn't any point in challenging Novak on the details of his delusion. What they really needed right now was information on his family.
His expression hardened. "Yes."
"And who resurrected you?"
He lifted his head, refocusing on her. Watching for her reaction? "I don't know. I suspect it was my Father." He didn't blink enough, she realized. That was part of why she found him unsettling. Her own eyes watered, watching his.
"What about Jimmy Novak's family?" Reid asked. "What happened to them?"
"They're safe," Novak replied.
"Safe on Earth?" Emily asked.
"They're still alive." Novak frowned, staring off into the distance. "I think they're still alive. They went into hiding several months ago. I don't know where they are. I'm no longer able to track them. "
"That's convenient," Emily said dryly.
"It is not...convenient," Novak said. "I would prefer knowing they are well. But it is safer."
"Why does it matter to you whether they're well if you're not Jimmy Novak?" Reid asked.
"When he agreed to serve as my vessel, I promised to keep his family safe. I would regret not being able to keep that promise."
"You're saying he volunteered for this?" Reid asked. He pulled out the chair beside Emily and sat down, keeping his eyes on Novak.
"He was a devout man," Novak said. "He prayed to be of use."
"Castiel...he was traditionally regarded as the angel of Thursday," Reid said casually. Emily recognized the tactic: one part irrepressible expression of random trivia, and one part trying to bond with Novak through shared knowledge.
Novak didn't look impressed. "Your books are often wrong. Especially when it comes to my brethren."
"So you're not the angel of Thursday," Emily said, drawing his attention back to her.
"Why would a day of the week need an angel?" he asked acerbically.
"Why would an angel kill another angel?" Reid countered, keeping Novak's attention divided.
"The others decided that it was time to defeat Lucifer and purify this world once and for all, by bringing on the Apocalypse. I came to disagree with their methods."
"You're saying the Apocalypse has already begun," Reid said.
"Have you not seen it?" Novak asked. "A whole town slaughtering each other in Colorado, tornadoes and countless deaths in Missouri, the spread of new pandemics that leave a trail of dead behind them. Everywhere evil rises. Surely you've seen that in your own work? Are there not more men killing men...and women...and children...for no reason at all? Are you not deluged with cases?" His voice rose as he spoke, ending on a dramatic pitch. Emily made a mental note that there was at least one topic that could draw an emotional reaction.
"We're always deluged with cases," she said.
"Actually, there has been a noticeable rise in homicides nationwide over the last eight months," Reid said thoughtfully. "I thought it was a temporary aberration...."
"It is not," Novak said firmly.
"Yes, it is," Emily said, just as firmly.
Novak tilted his head, full focus back on her. "I didn't think you'd believe me."
"Then why come in?" she asked.
"To show you," Novak said.
He stood up suddenly and raised a hand toward her. Emily stood too, suddenly panicking. She saw the door to the room open out of the corner of her eye, saw Hotch and Morgan silhouetted in the doorway, saw Reid standing to help her and Novak's other hand reach out for him. She felt a hand on her forehead, surprisingly gentle, and heard a sound that might have been the fluttering of wings, and then the room vanished.
When the world re-materialized again, she was surrounded by trees. She took a step forward and staggered on the uneven ground. A hand grabbed her arm, steadying her with effortless strength. Novak. We teleported, she thought, breathless at the idea. He actually teleported us. There was a crunch of leaves behind her. She pulled her arm free and turned around. Reid stood a step behind them, staring up at the bare November branches that cut them off from the sky, looking as amazed and lost as she felt.
"How did you do that?" she demanded, looking at Novak. She couldn't quite keep her voice steady.
"I'm cut off from heaven," he replied, "but there are a few things I can still do. This is one of them."
She was no longer completely convinced it was a delusion.
"Where are we?" Reid asked. He took a step forward and pressed his hand against a tree trunk, as if to assure himself of its substance.
"Minnesota," Novak replied tersely. "I couldn't bring us in too close, or we would have been detected. We need to go this way." He strode forward.
"Wait!" Emily said. "Where are you going?"
He paused mid-step and looked back at them. "To where you can see."
Emily suppressed a sigh of frustration. "See what?" she called as he started walking again. There was no reply.
She looked at Reid, who shrugged helplessly. She nodded resignedly, and the two of them began following him.
"Do you think he's telling the truth?" Emily asked Reid quietly as they walked. "I mean, this is..." She gestured at the surrounding trees, still not quite able to believe that they'd gone from an interrogation room to the middle of a forest in less time than it took to breath. Minnesota...what an oddly mundane place to end up after such a journey. If that was really where they were.
"I don't know," Reid replied. "Do you have another explanation?"
She shook her head, not sure how to respond. Their situation was clearly impossible, and yet.... "Some sort of psychic ability?" she ventured at last.
"I suppose it's possible," Reid said. "Or at least as possible as a rebellious angel pulling us out of an Illinois police station and dropping us in the middle of Minnesota."
"You were not dropped," Novak said seriously, as if he truly believed Reid was being literal. "I was very careful."
Emily raised a surprised eyebrow; she didn't think they'd been talking loud enough for Novak to hear. She sped up, grateful she'd chosen low heels today. "You never finished," she said as she caught up to Novak. "What exactly is my mission?"
He twisted his head to look at her, but didn't slow down. "I'll explain after you've seen."
Novak's aversion to direct answers was starting to wear on her nerves. "After I've seen what?"
"We're nearly there."
The trees had been steadily thinning as they walked. Now suddenly they were clear of the woods, and in sight of a town. Novak stopped abruptly.
"We must be careful from now on," he said. "Stay close to me. I will prevent us from being detected."
"Detected by what?" Reid asked, but Novak merely held up a silencing hand and stepped forward onto the road that wound into the town. Reid shot Emily a questioning look. She sighed and nodded. She still wasn't convinced Novak was who...and what...he said he was, but she wasn't ready to let him out of her sight
It was the middle of the afternoon, but streets that should have been bustling were eerily empty. There was no movement, no noise...no signs of life at all. Not even a songbird or stray cat.
Novak led them forward confidently, apparently certain of where he was going. Once or twice he stopped, head tilted, as if listening for something, then turned right or left and led them down a different street. Emily and Reid followed quietly behind him, watching the empty streets apprehensively and sticking close together. Novak didn't look back at them, but Emily got the sense that he was keeping close track of where they were. The one time that Reid stopped, distracted by a display in a bookstore window, Novak was at his side immediately, urging him forward. For all of his warnings about being detected, he didn't seem too worried about being seen. Then again, there wasn't anyone around to see them.
Emily was beginning to wonder if the whole journey was one giant practical joke--heavenly humour?--when Novak stopped again. This time, in the silence, Emily heard a faint scraping sound. Her hand went automatically to her belt before she remembered that her gun was sitting in a locker outside the Pontiac police interrogation room.
Novak turned sharply and began heading toward a nearby alley. Emily and Reid followed cautiously behind him. They entered the alley behind him, and were confronted by the barrels of two shotguns.
Emily froze, and then slowly raised her hands. Beside her, Reid did the same.
"It's okay," Novak said. The two men glowered suspiciously, but lowered their guns.
"Cas, where the hell have you been?" The speaker seemed torn between frustration and relief. Emily studied him covertly as she let her hands fall. He looked to be a few years younger than her, fair-haired and attractive, dressed casually in jeans and an olive green jacket. He jerked his chin toward Emily and Reid. "How'd you find us? And who are they?"
"I followed the reapers. They are Supervisory Special Agents Emily Prentiss and Spencer Reid."
The man's eyes widened in surprise. "Supervisory Special Agents? You brought the FBI here?"
"They need to see, Dean," Novak said. "She needs to see."
The man grimaced. "See what? A whole lot of dead people?"
"She needs to understand that there is more to the world than she has previously known."
"Okay," said the other man. "Why not just...show her a demon? A little, manageable demon? Something...safe."
Novak looked at him disapprovingly. "There are no safe demons. And I do not think a demon would be sufficiently convincing, given what I am asking her to do."
"Which is...?" Dean prompted.
"The angel Harahel has chosen Emily Prentiss as her vessel."
"Vessel?" Emily said. That was how he'd referred to Jimmy Novak.
"So you're trying to convince her to say no?" Dean asked. "Keep one more angel off the battlefield?"
"Hold on a minute," Emily protested. "What exactly is going on here? You tell us you're an angel, you drag us out of the police station and drop us in the middle of the woods, and now you're saying I'm some sort of vessel?"
The taller of the two men regarded her sympathetically. "Cas," he said, turning to Novak, "did you tell her anything before you pulled the whole angel teleportation trick?"
"I told her that I was an Angel of the Lord, and that I had a mission for her."
"A mission that involves bringing another angel into play. Cas, are you crazy?" Dean said.
"I am not crazy."
"Could have fooled me," Dean muttered.
"Look," said the other man, "it's really long story, and this probably isn't the place to tell it. Uh, Agent Prentiss, right? Why don't you and Agent Reid get out of town, and after we've finished here, we'll catch up and explain a few things."
"No," Novak said. "She needs to see, Sam. She has a role to play."
"Yeah, and we're not done talking about that," Dean said.
"Who are you?" Emily asked.
"Sam and Dean," Novak said, gesturing to each in turn. "They're hunters."
"What do you hunt?" Reid asked. Emily thought he sounded genuinely curious rather than challenging.
"Every monsters that's ever shown up in your worst nightmares," Dean said.
"Funny," Emily said wryly. "That's what we do too."
"The difference is that the monsters we hunt aren't human," Sam said.
"Demons?" Reid said.
"Sometimes. And sometimes other things."
"And what are you hunting here?" Emily asked.
"Death," Novak said.
"You're hunting death? Isn't that kind of a natural process?"
"I don't think that's what he means," Reid said. "Death is widely regarded one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."
"Yes," Novak said. "He was released by Lucifer two weeks ago in Carthage, Missouri."
"Lucifer," Emily said disbelievingly. She'd accepted that teleportation was real, and she suspected she'd soon be forced to accept angels, or at least some sort of supernatural being, but Lucifer? Heaven and hell and God and the Devil still struck her as a distant, childish fantasy. A source of comfort for some, yes, but mostly a tool for controlling people. For shaming them. Not something with an actual bearing on reality.
"Lucifer's real," Sam said. "I've spoken with him. Demons are real too. And angels. We've fought them both."
"You fought angels," Emily repeated. The two men sounded as delusional as Novak. If she weren't a few hundred miles from where she was supposed to be, she'd have dismissed them instantly. And then tried to figure out how to talk them into putting down their guns.
"They aren't as nice as you might think," Dean said. His eyes were distant. Remembering?
"And he's really one of them," Emily said, nodding toward Novak. Castiel. If she believed them.
"Once of the nice ones, I assume?"
Dean laughed harshly. "Not sure that's the word I'd use. But he's on our side."
She took a deep breath. Three true believers. All claiming firsthand knowledge, and not merely blind belief. This wasn't a simple group delusion.
He'd teleported them to another state. She supposed that ought to constitute proof of something.
Maybe there really were angels. And Jimmy Novak was dead, and Lucifer walked the Earth, and the survival of the human race depended on Emily saying yes to an angel named Harahel.
Religion was less comforting than she remembered.
"What about God?" Reid asked calmly, as if this were a simple empirical question rather than one who's answer would reshape their entire view of the world and their place in it.
"He is real," Castiel replied at once.
"We're still debating that one," Dean said.
"He resurrected me. And put you and your brother on that plane."
"Someone did," Dean agreed. "I'm just not so sure that someone was God. After all, you've never spoken with him."
It had the sound of an old argument, oft repeated. Castiel's expression suggested that he was prepared to repeat it again. Sam apparently came to the same conclusion. "So, what's the plan now?" he asked before Castiel could respond. Castiel continued looking at Dean for a long measured moment, then exhaled slowly and turned to Sam.
"Did you find it?" he asked.
"The white Mustang?" Sam said. "It's right over there." He gestured toward the opposite end of the alley.
"Did you get the children out?"
"The daycare at the edge of town? We loaded them on a bus and sent them down the highway right after we got here. By the time we got back into town, everyone else was gone."
"Good. One of those children is very important."
"Great," Dean said. "Children safe, Mustang located. Now we go after Death, right?"
"We need to find the place where he did his work," Castiel said.
"What kind of work is he doing here, anyway?" Sam asked. "I thought Death went in for large scale killings. Earthquakes, tornadoes.... There hasn't been anything like that here."
"Occasionally he likes to make things...personal." He emphasized the last word as if it had special meaning.
"The recent natural disasters in Missouri," Reid said. "Are all of those from....?"
"Yes," Castiel said. "We failed to stop Lucifer from summoning Death. The destruction were the result of our failure."
"Which is why we need to act now," Dean said. "So where does Death like to work?"
Castiel strode to the end of the alley and looked around, scanning the street. "There," he said finally, pointing. Emily joined him on the sidewalk and looked. He was pointing toward a church.
"Great," Dean said. He hefted his shotgun. "Let's go."
"Wait," Sam said. "Do we really need to bring in two civilians? Couldn't they wait here, and come in after?"
"We're not civilians," Emily protested. If she was in, she was in all the way. She wasn't going to be left out of whatever happened.
"In this world you are," Dean said. "Cas?"
"Let them come. I will see to their safety."
"Yeah? I hope you can see to ours too," Dean said. He took a deep breath and began marching resolutely toward the church. Sam took up position on beside him, gun steady in his hands, and Castiel moved to his other side. Emily and Reid fell into step behind them.
They crossed the street in silence, footsteps echoing unnaturally loudly in the still air. Emily's heart pounded as they neared the church, and she wished once again that she had her gun with her.
They stopped on the sidewalk just outside the church. Dean turned to Sam. "Back door, or..." Before he could finish, Castiel stepped past them and pushed the doors open.
Inside was carnage.
Emily couldn't hold back a gasp when she stepped through the door. Only steely resolve and long years spent studying the worst that humans could do to one another kept her from turning and fleeing the church as quickly as she'd entered. She focused on the people with her to keep from looking at the floor. And the walls. And the altar.
Reid looked pale, Sam horrified, and Dean angry. Castiel merely looked sorrowful, as if this was no more than he'd expected to find.
"I guess we know where the town went," Sam said, breaking the silence. His voice was shaking.
"Yes," Castiel replied.
"Where the hell did Death go?" Dean asked.
Castiel cocked his head and took a step forward. He vanished as he moved and reappeared beside a window, staring out into the street. "He's finished here."
"What do you mean?" Dean strode over to him, looked out, and began cursing. Emily picked her way through the mess, trying not to think about what she was stepping over, and joined them at the window.
The Mustang was gone.
"Now what?" Dean asked.
"We bear witness," Castiel said. "And do better next time."
"Next time? Cas, he slaughtered these people. Horribly. This...." Dean stopped, voice catching.
"Yes. And he will continue to do so." Castiel turned to Emily. "This is only the beginning. If the Apocalypse continues, things will get much worse. And if Lucifer wins...." His voice trailed off ominously.
"No. We won't let this happen again," Sam said. He was shaking
"There is no way to prevent it," Castiel said gently. "The only way to defeat Death is to defeat Lucifer."
"We stopped War," Dean said stubbornly.
"You temporarily bested him," Castiel corrected. "He was on a new battlefield hours later."
"We took the ring!"
"The ring was only a symbol of his power. There are other symbols he can use."
"You're saying that whole fight was for nothing. And this...."
"You saved the lives of several hunters," Castiel said. "That was important. As was saving the lives of the children here."
"Great," Dean said in dispirited tone. "So now what?"
"Now we return to Illinois," Castiel said.
"What's in Illinois?" Sam asked.
"The rest of our team," Emily said. She wondered how she was going to explain this to them, and was suddenly grateful that Reid was here too. Maybe the story would sound a little less crazy if two of them were there to tell it.
"That is where Harahel will expect to hear from Agent Prentiss," Castiel said.
"Tell me again why you're so intent on summoning another angel?" Dean asked.
"Harahel is the angel of knowledge," Reid said. He still looked pale, but his voice was steady. "Unless the books have that wrong too."
"No," Castiel said. "That is correct."
"Knowledge, huh?" Dean said. "As in information on how to kill Lucifer?"
"Possibly," Castiel said.
"That might be worth raising an angel for," Sam said.
"Still damn risky, if you ask me," Dean said. "And what about her?" He nodded toward Emily.
"The two of you do not need to be there," Castiel said. He didn't answer the second question. Emily suspected the answer wasn't one she'd like.
There'd be time to worry about that later.
"We're not letting you face off against another angel alone," Dean said sharply.
Castiel nodded in acquiescence, and Emily remembered that he'd said he died at the hands of another angel. One of his brethren. Heaven at war with itself. It was a frightening thought, if one believed in such things.
It took Castiel two trips to bring everyone to the Pontiac police station, both of which were accomplished in minutes. Convincing the rest of the team that Castiel was really who and what he claimed took longer. Reappearing out of thin air helped. So did the eventual display of giant, immaterial wings.
"You couldn't have just done that earlier instead of dragging us across the state?" Emily asked, staring up in fascination at the shadows covering the back wall and ceiling of the meeting room that was serving as the team's temporary home.
"It would not have worked," Castiel replied gravely. The shadow-wings folded in and disappeared. Some of the station lights started to flicker back on. Emily wondered briefly what the police thought about the sudden, highly localized power outage. "Not when it came time to do what I'm asking. You would have talked yourself out of it."
Sam and Dean were positioned on either side of the angel, three believers arrayed against a room of sceptics. They both looked tense, as if they still expected to be arrested for aiding in the kidnapping of federal agents, or perhaps just committed to a mental health facility for their obvious break from reality. All three were standing; there wasn't enough room for them to sit down.
Rossi was still staring at the wall behind Castiel, but he refocused as Castiel spoke. "So tell us again exactly what it is you want Prentiss to do?"
"The angel Harahel seeks a vessel on Earth. She has been courting Agent Prentiss for some time."
"My dreams," Emily said in sudden realization. Those long, wearying dreams that had left her feeling like she'd been treading water all night. Apparently she'd been spending her nights arguing with an angel. She wanted to laugh at her earlier comparison to battling a persistent used-car salesman.
"Yes. Angels cannot simply steal a vessel as demons do; we must have consent. She has been attempting to persuade you."
"And you want me to say yes."
"Which is where I have a problem," Dean interjected. "Not only do angels tend to leave their vessels in bad shape, but why would you want another angel in the game? The ones we've met haven't exactly been clamouring to help us."
"Harahel is not an archangel; the damage she would do to Agent Prentiss would be minimal. "
"Aside from the part where Agent Prentiss loses all control over her own body and her own life and spends the next thousand years feeling like she's been strapped to a comet," Sam interjected.
Emily shuddered inwardly at the thought. To give up everything, even the simplest control over her own actions, and to be aware of that loss, to live on tethered to another being in her body...she couldn't imagine a more horrifying fate.
"You're saying once Harahel is in, there's no way to get rid of her?" Rossi said. "Prentiss would just be stuck as a passenger in her own body forever?"
"The risk exists," Castiel admitted.
"Because once I give consent, there's no way to withdraw it," Emily said. She knew the absolute truth of those words as she said them. She suspected on some level she'd known it before Sam spoke. Perhaps Harahel had told her.
It was a terrifying idea.
"If Harahel leaves your body, she can not re-enter without your consent. But as long as she is there, she can remain."
"Then this isn't an option," Hotch said. His arms were folded across his chest, entire posture screaming stubborn defiance.
"Agreed," Morgan said, just as firmly. Emily warmed a little at their protectiveness, knowing that they'd do the same for anyone else on the team, and also knowing that it was futile. The final decision was hers, and she thought she already knew what the decision had to be.
"Harahel is the angel of knowledge," Castiel said. "She may be able to tell us how to defeat Lucifer...or how to find the one being who can defeat Lucifer."
Dean scowled. "Again with the God-hunt."
"What else would you have us do?" Castiel asked bitingly. "We know how that the Colt holds no power over him; unless you wish to say 'yes' to Michael and watch while the two of them lay the world to waste...."
"That can't happen," Sam said quickly.
"Michael?" Rossi said. "The archangel?"
"He is the one destined to fight Lucifer," Castiel said. "And Michael has chosen Dean as his vessel."
"Which can't happen," Sam said, turning from Castiel to the team, "because a war between Michael and Lucifer would kill millions of people."
"Billions," Castiel corrected.
Dean smiled bitterly. "Neither side's exactly big on minimizing collateral damage."
"So you're trying to find a way to kill the Devil besides bringing in Michael," Morgan said.
"That's the idea," Dean agreed.
"There is only one being other than Michael who can defeat Lucifer," Castiel said. "And we need Harahel to find Him."
"How do you interrogate an angel?" J.J. asked. She leaned back in her chair, tapping a pen absently against the table. "It seems like you guys can just disappear when you like."
"Holy fire," Sam said grimly. "You can trap them in it."
"Trap them, but not drive them out," Reid said.
"Then the answer's still no," Morgan said.
"It's not up to you," Emily said. She placed her hands on the table, palms down. Tried to relax as she turned to Castiel. Tried to summon confidence into her voice. To sound as if she was sure of what she was doing. "I'll do it."
"Prentiss..." Morgan said, worry and frustration warring in his voice.
She wasn't sure at all. Didn't know if this would really help the cause, or save the world. She did know one thing, however. "There are things happening that can't be allowed to continue," she said. "If I can help stop them, I have to do it."
"There's absolutely no way to force an angel to leave its host?" Rossi asked, leaning forward, elbows on the table. "Make it return to heaven?"
Castiel shook his head mutely, but Sam's face lit up. "Wait a minute. Isn't that what Alastair was trying to do to you? Back in the barn?"
Castiel hesitated, then sighed. "Yes." He sounded reluctant to Emily's ear.
"So there is a way," Morgan said.
"Who's Alastair?" Rossi asked.
"A very powerful demon."
"A very powerful dead demon," Dean said.
"Are there others?" Morgan asked.
"You cannot summon such a demon into the world," Castiel said.
"Well, we could exorcise him afterwards," Sam said.
"Exorcisms are unreliable with demons that powerful," Castiel said. "And even if you could summon such a demon, there would be no way to force it to cooperate."
"What about the demon in the other room?" Reid asked from the far end of the table. Everyone turned to look at him, and Emily realized that he'd barely said a word since their return. She should talk to him, when they had a moment; find out how he was handling everything. Especially the church.
"What demon?" Morgan.
"Think about it; we've had six confessions, all from people who in no way match the profile, all accompanied by irrefutable evidence that they did it."
"And you think a demon made them do it?" Rossi asked.
"It fits what they've said about how demons work," Reid said. "Taking over people's bodies, making them do terrible things...it explains why there's evidence, and even witnesses, but why the perpetrators don't fit our profiles."
"Wait," Sam said, holding up a hand, "you're saying this is an ongoing issue? People confessing to crimes they have no reason to have committed?"
"Six cases and counting," Morgan said. "All over the country. All within the past year."
"I've never heard of a demon operating that way," Sam said. "Repeating a pattern like that over and over."
"Doesn't mean they couldn't," Dean said. "Cas?"
The angel was frowning. "I can sense something nearby. Darkness."
"And you didn't notice this before?" Sam asked.
"My abilities are...weakened of late."
"Well, we gotta do something for that poor bastard," Dean said.
"After we deal with Harahel," Rossi insisted.
"We don't know that this demon has the power to gank an angel," Sam warned. "And like Cas said, trying to get a demon to cooperate...."
"Is there a way to bribe them? Something they want?" Rossi asked.
"Nothing you'd find palatable," Dean replied.
"Then I'll take the chance without the demon," Emily said. She felt curiously unafraid, considering what she was signing on for. Harahel's influence again? Or just her own body dissociating to protect her? She stood up, suddenly eager to be out of this room, away from all the worried looks. "When do we do this?"
"Dawn is best," Castiel replied. "We need to make preparations first."
"I guess that leaves us time for an exorcism," Dean said, pulling out of his slouch. "Haven't done one of those in a while."
"Will Green be okay afterwards?" J.J. asked.
Sam and Dean exchanged glances. "Maybe," Sam said. The word sounded ominous.
"Some people do not survive demonic possession," Castiel clarified. "It depends on how strong he is."
"Better than spending the rest of his life as some demon's bitch," Dean said.
"It wouldn't be the rest of his life," Rossi said. "Just until the trial was over. Then the demon would find a new host."
"It still might," Sam said. "Exorcisms don't kill demons."
"What does?" Morgan asked.
"There's a knife," Sam said. "But that often kills the vessel too."
"We can't risk killing Green," Hotch said. "Not like that."
"Then be ready for the next case," Dean said. "Because it will keep going."
Rossi and Reid elected to go with them, to watch the exorcism and to smooth the way with the local police, who still thought Castiel was a suspect in the disappearance of Amelia and Claire Novak, and had no idea what to make of Sam and Dean beyond J.J.'s description of them as potential witnesses. Emily wasn't quite sure how they were going to get unsupervised access to Green, but she trusted Rossi or Hotch would be able to think of something.
Still feeling restless, she slipped outside while the rest of her team was distracted, and began walking up the street until she found a tiny park with a weather-worn bench and a handful of trees. She sat down, and watched as the people walked by, thoughts on another town where no one would walk the streets again.
The sun had nearly set when she heard footsteps behind her. Hotch sat down silently beside her.
"How are you?" Emily asked, eyes still on the street.
"I was going to ask you the same thing."
"I don't know," she said. "I was never much of a believer...not since I was a teenager. And now all in one day I find out there are angels and demons and the Devil walks the Earth and angel wants to use me as its vessel. It's kind of overwhelming."
"You don't have to do this, you know."
"No," she said, turning to look at him. "I do. What Castiel showed us...if there's something I can do to stop that, I have to do it."
"Hotch, if Harahel...if I don't come back, tell my mother...." She stopped, unable to think of what last message she'd want her mother to have. "Never mind. Just...make sure the team understands."
"No. They don't. But if we don't succeed, then I think they will." She stood up. "I'm going back to the hotel." She didn't think she'd be able to sleep, but a bench on the street was no place to spend what might be her last night on Earth. She felt Hotch's eyes on her as she walked away, but he didn't try to follow.
Early the next morning, they gathered again in a field outside the town. Emily drove over with Hotch and Rossi, and none of them said a word. The rest of the team didn't say anything either, once they arrived, but everything managed to touch her at least once, offering what comfort they could.
Sam and Dean were already there. They directed her to a patch of ground that looked like the rest of the field, but which they assured her was not. Apparently trapping an angel was simpler than she'd thought. Although simple wasn't necessarily, as Castiel's anxious air made clear.
As the sun peeked over the horizon, Emily stood straight and took a deep breath. She felt the eyes of her team on her, worried and doubtful. Rather than face their concern, she looked toward Sam and Dean, who also looked uneasy but at least managed to nod at her reassuringly.
"Harahel," she said, "I agree." She didn't bother raising her voice; Castiel had told her it wouldn't matter. For a moment she felt foolish, speaking into nothing, and then there was a rush of light and sound and glory, and she was filled and overwhelmed and not at all in control. Like a being chained to a comet, Sam had said, but that wasn't what it was like at all. Harahel was a hearth-fire, warming her gently, murmuring to her comfortingly, praising her courage. Emily relaxed, and let the warmth of Harahel's approval fill her.
"Castiel," she heard her voice say, only it wasn't quite her voice anymore. The sound that came from her throat was bright and smooth and clear, and left Castiel's name hanging in the air like the echo of a bell.
"Harahel." The angel stepped forward, eyes intent on hers.
"Yes." Harahel looked down at the ring of fire surrounding them. "You arranged this, brother?"
Harahel tilted her head, smiling. Emily could feel her amusement, was amused herself. There was no distance between them. "What did you think I would do?"
Castiel looked startled by the question, and that amused them both further. "I wanted to be sure that we had the opportunity to speak to you."
"Oh, my brother. I would have talked with you anyway. That's why I came down here." Emily could feel the truth behind Harahel's statement.
"Really," Dean said, eyes defiant. "I thought you angels had other ways of communicating?"
Harahel extended her smile to him. "The...traditional channels are unavailable right now. Anyone who tried to speak to Castiel that way would be sanctioned most severely." She turned back to Castiel. "I know why you summoned me here, brother. Ask your question."
"Where is our Father?"
Harahel shook her head. "I do not know. But I know that He is not dead." Emily could feel Harahel's absolute certainty in those words, the complete comfort of knowing that her Father was alive and acting in the universe. She wanted to weep at the purity of Harahel's faith.
"Then why is He not here?"
Harahel smiled again, beatifically. "Because he loves us, brother. He loves us so much that He is willing to give us a chance to prove ourselves. Is willing to sacrifice his own great creation to prove to us that we also have free will, and to test us to see what we do with it."
"Wait," Dean said sharply, stepping forward. "You're saying God's throwing away the entire planet in a loyalty test for angels?"
"It is not a test," Harahel said patiently. "It is a demonstration of love and trust." And again Emily felt that rush of love, of certainty, of trust...and beneath it, a rush of anger that she recognized as her own. What right did God have to kill millions of humans in order to help a bunch of angels through a crisis of faith? The anger energized her, and she clung to it, panicking as she realized how far her identity had been subsumed. Be easy, murmured Harahel in her head. You are very strong and we are nearly done.
"Trust which you've apparently betrayed," Sam was saying bitterly.
"Not all of us," Harahel said. She nodded toward Castiel. "Some keep the faith."
"So what now?" Dean asked. "We just hang up our spurs and wait for God to come back?"
"You continue to act as you feel is right, and trust that God will return when it is time and judge you appropriately," Harahel said. Emily mentally shook her head; Harahel believed it, believed that humans and angels alike would receive their rewards, but she had no understanding of the price that this test...if that's what it was...was extracting. Emily tried summoning up memories of the church, to show her what letting this test go on really meant, but Harahel gently pushed them down, urging her to relax. To wait.
Castiel looked unhappy. "That is not...satisfying."
"Faith rarely is, brother," Harahel said. "Not when you have free will."
"Is there any other way to defeat Lucifer?" Dean asked.
"Lucifer has a role to play," Harahel replied. "He cannot be defeated until that role is fulfilled. Such is our Father's will." Harahel spoke the words with peaceful certainty. She didn't respond to Emily's objections.
"If that's all you've got to tell us," Rossi said sharply, stepping forward, "then get out of her."
"Of course," Harahel said, smiling. "I have no desire to tear apart this poor child's life." She hesitated, then added, "Brother, I am sorry I cannot offer you more." There was a rush of wings, and Emily was alone again. She fell to her knees, gasping for air. Her team was beside her in an instant."
"Are you okay?" Hotch asked.
She nodded. "Yeah. She's gone." She stood up shakily, leaning on Hotch's arm, and took a breath, enjoying being able to choose to breathe. She was herself again. She got to keep her life. She was also suddenly, intensely aware of just how alone she was. How alone all people were. It wasn't an entirely pleasant sensation.
"Now what?" Dean asked, staring up at the sky before turning angrily away from it. "God's not coming, the Devil can't be killed..."
"I don't know," Castiel replied. The angel looked utterly forlorn, and Emily wanted to reach out, to touch him, to comfort him. She wasn't sure if the impulse came from her, or from some remnant of Harahel, but she gave into it anyway, laying a gentle hand on his arm before she walked slowly back to the car. She heard Rossi and J.J. speaking to Castiel, saw Morgan and Hotch pause near Dean for a moment, and Reid gravitate to Sam. Knew that they were offering help where they could, and asking for promises of help with their next-demon case, and silently wondering how long they all had. She climbed into the car and closed the door against the conversations, too drained to do more than sit and wait for her team to return.
Harahel faded from her mind quickly, memories of that incredible clarity disappearing and taking with them the odd loneliness that had plagued her since Harahel had left. She thought the dreams had stopped to, but she wasn't sure. She no longer woke up exhausted, but sometimes she woke up feeling wiser or more confused than she had when she went to bed, and she wondered at the reasons.
From time to time, the team discussed the ongoing Apocalypse in hushed tones, pointing to various odd events that might be portents, and wondering how long they had. Their world was one of perpetual low key anxiety now, forever altered. She thought Morgan had been the hardest hit, having had his faith in God's existence confirmed, and his faith in God's benevolence challenged. It was possible that others were facing similar challenges, but while the Apocalypse was now openly discussed, reactions to Harahel's statements remained off-limits. Although they didn't say so, she knew nearly every member of the team was spending their free time reading up on legends and mythologies, trying to find the key that would stop Lucifer without calling in Michael. The rare book dealers came to know Emily by name, and she ran into Rossi in those shops more than once, both of them reaching for the same book.
None of them asked about Harahel after they left Illinois.
It was Reid she talked to, in the end. Any of them would have done it, of course, if she'd asked. Or hinted. She'd actually thought it would be Rossi; he was usually the one she held the discussions on religion with. But it was Reid who was at the office late the day she felt like talking, and so it was Reid she took with her to the pub, and perhaps that was fitting, since he was the only other one to have seen what the Apocalypse truly looked like.
"What was it like?" he asked as the server set down their beer, and she smiled. This was the other reason she liked Reid for the role of debriefer: he wasn't afraid to ask her questions.
She raised her glass and took a long drink, savouring the taste and the ability to choose to taste it, and the fact that a world still existed in which people could sit down in pubs and order drinks. At least for now.
Then she told him.
- END -
The BAU investigate the disappearance of Amelia and Claire Novak, not to mention the deaths of their neighbors/friends, they end up having to deal with Castiel (preferably from s5) and think he (aka his vessel: Jimmy Novak) killed his wife and child. Also draws on the thematic prompt "Religion."