warnings: disturbing imagery, gore, blasphemy
thanks: to my betas nwspaprtaxis, quickreaver and amberdreams
story summary: Jessica Moore is in Heaven, at least she thinks she is. But Sam isn't how she remembers him.
Jessica Moore rolled onto her side, still too groggy from sleep to open her eyes fully. She reached across the bed wearily, just far enough to touch Sam's back and feel him breathing. He was laying on his side, his back towards her, torso expanding slightly with every slow breath. Instinctively, and with what felt like a great deal of effort, she inched herself closer and slid her hand between his arm and chest, working her fingers down until they just grazed his stomach. Smiling to herself, she pressed in closer to his warmth and tried to let his breathing lull her back to sleep.
This was her favorite moment of the day, followed closely by their last kiss every night, after which Sam would always say, "see you tomorrow," and it was a little dorky maybe, but it made her smile every single time.
Their days had gotten longer lately, busy school schedules growing busier with every passing semester. And now, after Sam's admirable LSAT scores, he was going to be even busier. She had plenty of things to fill her own schedule with, too. She'd been wavering back and forth between Psychology and Art as a major, and was even considering a double major since she couldn't decide. Maybe Art Therapy. She'd always believed that art—in whatever form—was the most direct route to the soul.
"Do what you love best," Sam said. "You just need to decide if you want to make people feel, or make them tell you what they feel."
"Psychology is about trust," she countered, raising an eyebrow.
"Who wouldn't trust you?" he asked, voice filled with sincerity. "Who could possibly look at your eyes and not want to tell you everything?"
Most nights, comments like that just made her roll her eyes. But then there was the night Sam's brother came and they both disappeared, right before Sam's law school interview. That was when she figured out that he hadn't told her everything. In fact, if her instincts were right, he'd barely told her anything at all.
She'd been right. He'd kept something from her. Something big. She'd seen it in him for days before she died. His smile had dimmed, and his hazel eyes seemed darker than usual; they were heavy with sorrow and fear and a need to confess something but he couldn't. Or wouldn't. Whatever it was, she never found out.
Sam came home after Brady left—after Brady's eyes flipped beetle-black and sent her crashing into the ceiling. She knew then, with bone-deep certainty, that she was going to die that night. Not just because Brady had promised her she would. "He's ours," Brady had said, as he ate one of her piping-hot fresh-from-the-oven cookies. "Sorry, you're pretty and all, but you did your part. Now it's time to go."
"Why?" she'd pleaded, just before his fingers wrapped around her throat and lifted her like she weighed nothing.
"Because we need him angry," Brady'd replied, showing teeth as he smiled. "We need him bloodthirsty." He cut her open, right across the middle with nothing more than a tilt of his head. It was a long, thin wound and soaked slowly into her nightgown.
Brady—or the thing she'd thought was Brady, had left her there, stuck to the bedroom ceiling just above the bed. She waited, and when Sam came home, she tried to tell him, tried to warn him, but she couldn't speak, she couldn't do a damn thing, except bleed on him slowly. Then there was fire everywhere. She burned, while Sam screamed below her.
But that was before.
Since that night, she'd been here. She wasn't really sure if it was Heaven, though it felt like she thought Heaven should. She'd burned while Sam watched, powerless to save her, and then she'd woken up here in the dark in the bed next to him.
She'd been terrified at first, until the warm morning sun came through their window, revealing their ceiling, same as always—a water stain in the far right corner, but not a scorch mark to be seen.
Sam woke up, turned towards her and smiled, wrapping his arms around her before drifting back to sleep.
She'd thought it had all been a bad dream at first, but that hope was short-lived. Time wasn't linear where she was now, and she drifted from place to place, memory to memory, without really understanding how. They moved from the bedroom to the kitchen where they were fully dressed and giggling, as Sam cooked an omelette, insisting that this time he could flip it closed perfectly, despite the spatter on the wall from his prior attempts just minutes earlier.
Time wasn't real anymore, not here, and sometimes she could sense holes on the edges of her mind, shallow ones, and deeper ones, and ones that felt like the void, pulling her in if she got too close. Those she stayed away from the best she could, afraid of what would happen if she tried to look at them straight on. They were empty of sound and light, but she knew that things had vanished there. Important things. She just couldn't remember what.
They lived in their apartment, and Sam went off to class during the day and came back to her at night, same as always. Jessica tried to go to class a few times, but she could never find the right room, or the buildings were empty, or sometimes filled with trees. Once, she found her medieval art class and the room looked just like it should, except there was a young, slender man dressed as an angel—fluffy white wings, halo and everything—posing nude for Angie, her old roommate from freshman year. Angie winked at Jessica when she walked by, and whispered, "they don't do this for everyone, you know."
Out of the corner of her eye, the angel looked like he was covered in eyes, and all of them were watching her.
Sometimes, she went to visit her grandpa. He'd died from lung cancer the year she graduated high school, but here he looked like he had when she was still small enough to sit on his knee.
He hugged her like he used to, saying, "There's my little jelly bean." And even though she'd long since grown taller than him, he still lifted her easily.
Other days, she'd go to the cabin her parents had up north in Washington state and wade through the creek. It smelled just like she remembered, of trees and earth, and if she waited long enough the salmon swam past her, turning the water pink and red. Sometimes the water turned red anyway, even without the salmon.
When she remembered her birthdays, she often thought about the ones where Sam had taken her out to dinner, to her favorite restaurant by the water. Pricy but worth it because their desserts were so good she still remembered what they were supposed to taste like. Now that she was dead, food didn't taste like anything but her memories. All food dissolved like powder on her tongue, and if she was lucky she'd remember the scent it was supposed to have.
A few times, when she went back into those memories, she still thought Sam was going to propose, because he'd say things like, "we should get a house someday, after we graduate. A house with a yard." He didn't know she'd died, and even when she told him, he didn't ever remember because he was just a memory too. It made her feel safe in a way, because nothing would ever change. They'd stay on the cusp of happiness forever here, and she was okay with that most of the time.
"Can't get a yard here easy," she said when she was reliving one of her favorite birthday restaurant nights.
"We can get a yard," Sam said, dimples in his cheeks. "Might need to move a little further away is all."
"I don't want to move further away," she countered. "I like it here." And because she felt like teasing, she added, "Of course since you're going to be a big time lawyer, maybe we can get a yard here after all."
"We'll get a yard," Sam repeated, "a big yard, and a big house."
They'd eaten lunch and were about to start dessert: raspberry parfait. If she thought really hard about it, Jessica noticed that none of the waiters had faces. She tried not to think about it. "You know how much the big houses here cost? A little house is all we need. A little blue house with a little yard and a garden big enough for me to grow my own tomatoes."
Sam nodded and pursed his lips. "How many tomatoes?"
Jessica laughed and leaned forward to steal a bite of his parfait. It tasted like summer, and she was pretty sure that was right.
"We'll get a little blue house, and you can have your tomatoes," Sam said. "And then when your garden's full we'll get a bigger house." He leaned back in his chair, and for just a moment he seemed…different. The way his lips curved and the glint in his eyes wasn't Sam the way she remembered him here. He flexed his fingers as he looked down at them, and she could have sworn she heard his knuckles crack.
Outside of the window next to them, the sky over the water had turned dark with dusk and there was a heavy blanket of fog where the Golden Gate Bridge should be. "And an even bigger garden," Sam added, his eyes full of promise. "You'll have your own field."
They celebrated Sam's LSAT score at a bar on Halloween. Sam never liked Halloween parties, even though she'd done her best to show him how fun they could be. She'd relived that night in the bar hundreds of times now, and it always ended with her kissing away the taste of beer from Sam's lips. He never kissed in public like he did at home. When nobody was watching he'd nip at her with his teeth, sometimes hard, moving his way lower down her neck with every bite, but he never did that when others were watching.
Except this time he did. Jessica was surprised, but filled with such a thrill that she didn't even mind Luis whooping at them in the background. Sam bit down harder, right by the bottom of her throat, as his fingers curved more tightly around her shoulders. She could feel his teeth against her skin and for a second, Jessica thought he'd broken through. She pushed down on his shoulder, began to pull away from him, and found herself blinking into the hazy sun, wondering where the bar had gone. Drifting from place to place and time to time didn't frighten her as much as it used to, but this particular shift had felt unusual--even for the strange new world she now lived in.
She was just inside their closed front door, still in her pajamas, and her eyelids felt heavy with sleep. The morning light poured through the glass in the door and she could just make out Sam's profile coming down the walkway. He'd been out all night again, studying. There were books in the Law Library he couldn't borrow and he seemed determined to memorize every single one of them. He stopped a few feet from the door and reached his hand into his jacket pocket. He looked nervous and glanced towards the house before pulling a small box from his pocket. He flipped it open and Jessica almost squealed when she realized what it was. She stepped further back into the hall, hiding in the shadow, trying to calm her racing heart.
Sam took a deep breath and he looked so sweet and so young and suddenly Jessica panicked realizing she had bed-head and her breath probably stank and she wasn't ready, but then he walked right up the door and saw her watching him through the glass. Instead of reaching for the doorknob, he fell to his knee right there, never taking his eyes off her.
He'd barely pulled the box out of his pocket before Jessica had her hands over her mouth, trying to hold back tears. He smiled again, little hints of dimples in his cheek and a few strands of his hair fell down, covering his eyes. He flipped the box open and stayed where he was, still looking at her with his mouth slightly open like he didn't know what to say.
He didn't have to say a word, because she heard his thoughts clear as words saying, "Let me in. Say yes to me. Please."
She tore open the door, grabbed his face and kissed him. "Yes," she said. "Yes." He took her hand gently and slipped the ring—a woven circle of silver and gold—onto her finger. Their fingers intertwined and they stumbled clumsily across the threshold. Her eyes opened wide when Sam found that same spot by the bottom of her throat and bit down. For just a second the sky outside lit up candy-apple red and the big fluffy clouds filled with veins of blue light.
Outside, thunder rumbled closer and closer, and amidst the waves of pleasure coursing through her, Jessica wondered if it was ever going to start raining. Sam was different today, the sweet shy boy she knew replaced by somebody rough and eager enough to leave bruises along her thighs. She'd always wondered what he'd be like if he let go completely, and now she knew. She knew and she loved every moment of it. She felt real and alive for the first time in far too long.
Sam grabbed her and flipped her over, running his hands up and down her back before pushing into her again. His fingers slid between the mattress and the tender skin beneath her breasts and worked their way lower until his hand was splayed over her stomach. With one quick motion, he pulled her off the mattress, holding her up against him with nothing except his raw strength. She'd always known Sam's wiry frame would fill out eventually, but when she reached back towards him, desperate to grab hold of something, his arms felt so thick with muscle she gasped at the suddenness of her own release.
Her back arched and her head turned towards the window as she cried out. The sky was a darker red now and there were birds outside—enormous ones with black wings so wide they blocked out the sun.
Sam was off to his first day at the law firm that had hired him straight out of school, and Jessica was so proud, her heart felt like it was going to burst.
"Good luck," she said, grinning ear to ear and blew him one more kiss. He held his hand out to catch it and waved before climbing into their car. There was a distant flock of birds overhead, flying in a perfect circle, a holding pattern. They broke formation when Sam started the car, and reformed in a V, following him down the steep hill until they all disappeared from view.
Jessica walked back into their apartment, still thinking about the birds as she went down the hall, into the small room into the back where she kept her easel. She'd been working on a painting of their little blue house. Sam had told her to start painting it now, because in a year or two they might have enough money for a downpayment. She picked up her paintbrush and began filling in the rust-colored roof.
Like she often did, she lost herself in the details and colors and didn't stop painting until she heard the doorbell chime. She placed a last stroke on the oak front door with the angel-wing-shaped frosted glass, put down her brush, wiped her paint-stained fingertips against her smock and tore it off before running downstairs. She'd just finished painting the house of her dreams and they'd move there someday soon. They just had to find it first.
Or maybe we already found it? she thought, as their apartment hallway lengthened and dipped sharply downward before her eyes. The stairs were steep in their new blue house and she still wasn't used to them—especially the low ceiling, which was even harder for Sam to duck under than her, but she moved quickly, excited to see him. He'd gotten promoted again, and they were going to celebrate. There was a roast in the oven and champagne chilling.
When she got to the door and pulled it open she was more than a little surprised to see Sam's brother Dean outside. He looked nearly the same as she remembered—black jacket, spiked hair, but his eyes were sunken and haunted. There was a long gash down the left side of his face, running from temple to chin, that was new and raw.
"Dean?" she asked, confused. "Are you looking for Sam? He just—"
"Sorry, I don't have time to explain." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a shiny red apple. He held it out to her. "Eat this."
"What?" Jessica took a step back. She'd been wary of Dean since he'd broken into their apartment back at Stanford. From the look of things, he still hadn't gotten away from his criminal tendencies; if anything, they'd gotten worse. "I'll tell Sam you stopped by, okay?" she said. "He'll give you a call." She stepped further into her house, keeping the door between them as Dean took a step forward.
He'd stopped short of crossing the threshold, but it was clear he wanted to. It was written all over his face. "You don't know what I went through to get this," he said, his voice wavering between rage and fear. "You have to see. You have to know."
Jessica began to push the door closed.
"No, wait!" Dean lunged forward and collided with the air, like there was an invisible barrier inside of the doorframe. His dirty, blood-flecked hands slammed futilely against nothing, before he stepped back. With a look of desperation, he tossed the apple from his left hand to his right and threw it underhand. It flew past Jessica's leg and rolled down the hall, coming to a stop at the foot of the stairs.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Jessica yelled back before slamming the heavy wooden door shut. It had frosted glass cutouts that looked like wings. The door was one of the reasons they'd picked this house—she'd loved the design of the door, the hardwood floors and, most of all, the small garden in the back. She locked the door for good measure and watched through the windows until Dean finally stuck his hands in his pockets and walked away.
Jessica picked up the apple and looked at it. It hadn't bruised at all, despite Dean's throw. It was a perfect apple, actually—beautifully red with slight tinges of gold. It shone in the light and her fingertips prickled where she touched its skin. Her mouth began to water, as it hadn't since she was alive, and a powerful need to taste filled her.
Without thinking, she bit down on the apple. Her teeth pierced the crisp flesh of the apple and it tasted sweet, wonderful and fresh, like life. She chewed, savoring every bit, feeling more and more real with every second. She could feel the apple slide down her throat and felt her stomach respond. She felt alive. She felt real.
But then she felt pain. Her head pounded and a wave of nausea began to build. She went to the back door, toward the yard, hoping that fresh air would help... if the air outside was actually real like her. Maybe it was now. She slid the glass door open, and walked outside, her vision blurring more with every step. The apple slipped from her grip, rolling down the three narrow steps leading to their small yard. She walked slowly down the steps, closing her eyes against the sudden gust of air that seemed to come from everywhere at once.
Her legs gave out and her world tunneled as she fell down into the grass. The wind above her howled so loudly it sounded like screaming.
Jessica dreamed of an ash-darkened sky and red rain that smelled like copper. She was lying on the ground in their backyard, looking up at the newly ripened tomatoes hanging from their vines. She had just enough room for two small gardens: one for tomatoes and onions, the other for herbs. Two plots: four square feet of earth each, which she'd fed fertilizer and plant food and everything else she could. The tomato vines were changing, new fruit swelling and ripening in seconds flat as the vines grew thicker and longer, snaking higher and higher up the trellis. All of that could've been real—as real as anything here was—because time was a fluid thing and it was hard to know how long she ever spent in one place doing one thing, or nothing. That wasn't how she knew it was a dream.
She knew it was a dream because the little blue house was changing too. Its sides expanded, vinyl paneling breaking apart to reveal dark marble and stone underneath. The windows grew along with the stone walls until they were twice as tall as she was, and the three narrow steps that led up from the little backyard widened until they were ten feet across. They were growing broader still, as the house behind it reached higher and higher into the sky.
The rain above fell faster: heavy, red drops landing on her bare arms. She looked down and wondered what could make the rain turn the color of blood. It had happened once in India, she thought she remembered reading. Something about algae spores. Head craned upwards she searched the clouds and saw shadows moving—massive wings that she could hear if she listened closely enough. The earth below her shifted and she took a startled step back as her garden became a softly sloping field, acres of crops planted all around her. She stood between a row of tomato plants and grapes, with more planted to the right of her. Kiwis, possibly, and passionfruit, and farther away she saw dark berries that looked ready to burst. She began to walk downhill, curious, brushing her fingers under the tomatoes. They were fat and ripe and smelled wonderful, and she wondered if they too would taste real.
The sky began to clear and brighten, turning from dark grey to the palest yellow. The rain slowed and then stopped completely. There was an odd pulsing sensation between her fingers, and when she bent down to look at the tomato, its skin looked wrong, like it was made of muscle. As she pulled it free from the vine, it pumped again, just like a heart. Jessica let out a choked gasp as she realized that a heart was exactly what she was holding. She dropped it in horror and her vision began to flicker in and out. The bamboo poles holding up the vines suddenly weren't poles at all, they were spears made of thick bone and blackened metal, planted in the ground evenly every few feet, and impaled on every single one was a body. Not human, she realized quickly enough, because humans didn't have wings, and they only had one face, and they didn't bleed white-blue light. They were angels, hundreds of them, all mounted here like butterflies.
The heart she held had slipped out of the chest of an angel that lay at her feet. He'd slid all the way down the spear piercing his middle, and left some of his innards behind along the way. His ribs were splayed open and he looked up at her with a shifting visage; he was a lion, then an eagle, then a man screaming in agony. His voice was deafening, and she covered her ears as she staggered back, terrified. Impossibly, he was still alive. And he wasn't the only one.
A hand reached out for her ankle and she moved just before it could wrap its fingers around her. Another angel with two faces—that of a young woman and a lamb, both of them in anguish—called out to her and said. "Stop…him…stop…this." White light spilled out of her mouths and trickled blue into the grass beneath her, where it ran in small rivulets uphill, towards their house.
Jessica ran, weaving between the pinned angels faster and faster as terror clamped around her throat. The ground grew steeper, but she pushed on. She couldn't scream anymore, she couldn't even cry, she just knew that she had to get out of the field and that the only way out was up.
She stopped running when she got to the foot of the stairs. Their little blue house had become a palace made of dark blue marble and black stone, with spires that reached high into the yellow sky. Bone-white steps, broad, twenty feet wide and covered in golden sigils written in a language she'd never seen, led up to a grand archway that seemed to gleam with its own light. The blue-white liquid from the garden flowed towards the stairs, pooling on either side of her.
And there on the ground, just inches from her feet by the foot of the wide stairs, lay the apple. It was still missing a chunk, where she'd bitten into it. Without really knowing why, she reached down for the apple. It prickled under her fingertips like a mild electrical current, and when she brought it close to her nose she could still smell its scent. Her body shuddered with understanding. This wasn't a dream. This was real. She'd finally woken up.
There was a slight pull, like the force of a magnet, and the apple flew from her hand.
Sam sat on the stairs across from her holding the apple. He should have looked out of place sitting on the pristine white steps, wearing old worn jeans and a simple grey t-shirt, but he didn't. His elbows were resting on the top step, and his long legs were sprawled casually wide, bare feet on the grass. He was comfortable here. His hair had grown longer, and a strand came loose from behind his ear as he bit into the apple.
The pools of light, which had become as large as ponds, began to snake towards Sam's feet eagerly, like they'd been waiting for him. Then, the light was flowing into him, soaking through his skin, and lighting him up from inside. He didn't seem to notice, and took another bite of the apple, never taking his eyes off hers.
She stared, unable to think of a thing to say, and her vision began to blur. Another image overlaid itself on top of what she was seeing and then came into clear focus: Sam's face twisted into a satisfied smirk, and his clothing turned the color of old blood. His eyes glowed with an inner light, something sickly yellow, streaked with the blue-white of the angel-blood. He was larger than she remembered, like he'd grown older without her noticing, his body heavy with muscle won from combat. She remembered him hard behind her, the feel of all that strength holding her up, and saw, with startling clarity, the view she'd seen outside the window that night: the winged beings had been angels, locked in battle, fighting each other and every time one of them fell, Sam had moaned behind her, his pleasure spilling into her like fire.
Apple just about gone, eaten down to the core, Sam watched her with amusement. He tossed the core onto the ground and said, "Dean was trying to help you. I get that." He leaned forward, resting his chin on his hand and Jessica thought she saw Dean for just a second, lying on the ground by Sam's feet, bound in chains. "But it's okay. I was going to show you anyway." Sam's shoulders shrugged and two huge wings unfurled from his back. They were made of shadow and flickers of light and were so wide they spanned the stairs easily. When he brought them back in, their tips brushed the grass next to his feet.
The little tendrils of light still flowed towards him, so quickly that they'd dug into the soil, a network of jagged veins, all with the same destination. Now, some rivulets altered their course slightly, trickling into the tips of his wings and filling them with light.
"I just wanted to keep you out of the fray. Keep you safe." Sam nodded at her, and there was a crown on his head, made of bone and blood. "But it's over now."
"What's over?" Jessica asked as the yellow sky above her deepened into a peaceful blue and the sun shone down, warm and comforting.
"The war." Sam's gaze turned towards the field behind her, the one she wouldn't look at again. Not ever again, if she could avoid it.
"It'll take some time to reap," Sam said with a slight smile on his lips. "It's a big harvest." He stood and was as tall as a mountain, his wings brighter than the sun and twice as wide and as they unfolded fully, the little streams of light lifted off of the ground in a latticework, rushing towards him. Jessica couldn't bear to look at all of his glory, but she couldn't imagine being anywhere else.
She sunk to her knees, exhausted and far beyond fear. A strange sense of weary calm filled her and her eyelids became heavy. She felt Sam lift her gently and she couldn't tell if his arms were wrapped around her, or just his fingers, but it didn't really matter. Then there were bedsheets underneath her and the scent of their bedroom and she knew she was back in their bed in their little blue house. She was home, she was safe, and when Sam kissed her she felt it everywhere at once. His voice echoed through her bones as he whispered, "See you tomorrow."
inspired by lyrics from Devil Gate Drive by Suzi Quatro:
I lead the angel pack on the road to sin
Knock down the gates!
Let me in. Let me in
Don't mess me 'round, cause you know where I've been
I lead the angel pack on the road to sin
Knock down the gates!
Let me in. Let me in
Don't mess me 'round, cause you know where I've been