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Title: Five Times Walter Bishop Met an Angel, and one that never happened.
Fandoms: Fringe/Supernatural
Characters: Walter Bishop, Peter Bishop, Olivia Dunham, Dean Winchester, Castiel.
Pairings: none
Rating: pg-13 (for drug use)
Word Count: ~4.2K
Spoilers: through the middle of S5 for SPN (with two gratuitously quoted lines from S6); through S2 for Fringe. Specific spoilers for Fringe 2.16 (“Peter”) and 2.23 (“Over There, Pt. 2”) and SPN 5.04 (“The End”).
Warnings: recreational drug use.
Disclaimer: Fringe and Supernatural belong to their respective creators.
a/n: many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] dotfic for the extremely helpful beta! All remaining mistakes my own.
a/n: the main action of the story takes place between 5.02 and 5.04 for SPN, mid-S2 for Fringe.
a/n: quoted text, and one unmarked allusion from T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland and Little Gidding.
a/n: the idea that angels can move between alternate universes stolen from His Dark Materials, although that story has nothing to do with this one.
a/n: written for [livejournal.com profile] ozmissage at the multifandom [livejournal.com profile] xover_exchange and originally posted over there.

Summary: Castiel’s search for God brings him into Walter Bishop’s life—again.



Four (2009)

“Walter Bishop,” said the man. It wasn’t a question.

Walter stumbled back, one hand going up to clutch the doorframe. He had no idea who the man in the rumpled trench coat was, or why he had rung their doorbell at 11:38 on a Tuesday night. The lacunae in his knowledge scared him.

His first thought was that he had done something wrong without realizing it, that the man was here to arrest him, or worse. But why would an officer of the law show up with another man, clearly favoring an injured leg, leaning heavily on him for support?

His second thought was that these were people he’d once known, but couldn’t remember--friends, even, from some part of his life stolen by lobotomy or madness. That idea was even worse. That idea made him so anxious he couldn’t even respond to his own name.

“Walter?” Peter came up behind him, put a steadying hand on his shoulder, and the panic dissipated slightly. “Walter, do you know these people?”

No, Walter was about to answer, when a gust of autumn wind brought a strangely familiar scent across the threshold, a smell something like apples, and yet nothing like apples at all.

“Yes,” said the man, in a deep, dry voice, fixing Walter with startlingly blue eyes. “He does.”

And everything came rushing back to Walter. He remembered who this being was, although he had never before seen it take a human form.

“Yes, Peter,” he whispered. “This is an angel.”

“Okay,” said Peter cautiously—he seemed to be mentally translating angel as friends of Walter’s from St. Claire’s—“well you’d better come in out of the cold, then; we’ll see if we can help you with your friend.”

The other man, who had appeared all but unconscious, lifted his head at that, and produced a surprisingly charming smile. “Dean Winchester,” he said, “pleased to meet you. Any friend of Cas’s is a friend of mine.”

One

It had happened first during his early experimentation with LSD, when the drug still seemed mystical, sacred, the fields of consciousness the Elysian Fields.

On one of these nights, when lights of a thousand colors gilded the scrubby trees of Cambridge Common, and the new blades of grass made sweet choral noises as they rubbed together, Walter wandered away from the others and met a mouse.

The mouse was very brown and very small and very ordinary, tucked away amidst the riot of color and sound. Walter crouched down to examine it more closely. The fur on the top of its narrow head was oddly ruffled, almost feathery.

It was holding some kind of fruit between its paws, examining it without eating it. The fruit looked like a crab apple, but smelled slightly different: cleaner, almost citrusy. Walter sniffed more deeply. He decided that, surprisingly, the scent might be coming from the mouse, and not the fruit. A fragrant mouse. Walter paused to appreciate the wonders of LSD.

“Who are you?” he asked. “And why do you smell so good?”

The mouse twitched its whiskers at him, as if annoyed. “I am an angel,” it said, with terse and miniscule dignity.

“You’re a bit small for an angel,” Walter pointed out, not at all surprised that it could talk. Then he made a tch, tch sound at it, because it was adorable.

“In my true form, I am as big as the Chrysler Building.” The mouse seemed affronted. “I am not sure why you can see me at all.”

“Maybe you’re my guardian angel,” Walter suggested. At this point in his life, he was both optimistic and convinced of his own importance to the world.

“No,” the mouse made another irritated gesture with its whiskers, adding a tail-swish for good measure. “It doesn’t work that way.”

“Oh,” said Walter. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pink jelly bean. Carefully, he dusted off the lint and offered it to the angel-mouse.

The mouse nosed it delicately, then picked it up between its paws, darted out a small pink tongue, and gave it one, precise lick.

“Thank you,” it said gravely.

“You’re welcome,” Walter replied. He watched the mouse watch the jelly bean for a minute, thinking of all the fascinating ways the divine was made manifest by this remarkable drug.

Then he lost interest in the abrupt way one does under the influence of powerful hallucinogens. The statue of John Bridge in the middle of the Common seemed to be executing a complicated series of pirouettes. He didn’t want to miss that.

When he glanced down again to say good-bye to the mouse-angel, it was gone, leaving nothing but a sweet, faint odor in its wake.



2009

Walter could perform any operation you liked on a dead body—on a living one, too, provided it was properly sedated. But he wasn’t as good with conscious bodies—especially restless, wisecracking ones like that of the angel’s friend. They were too unpredictable. Peter was much better at that kind of thing.

And so it was Peter who helped lower the man—Dean—onto the couch, put a towel under his injured leg, and used his Swiss Army Knife to cut through the leg of his jeans, Peter who removed the makeshift bandage to reveal a shallow, jagged animal bite in his calf.

“What did this?” Peter asked.

“Black dog,” Dean said, his face white and sweaty with pain.

“Dog? Really? Did you see its tags? Because you might need rabies shots—“

“It didn’t have rabies,” said the angel.

Peter looked between the two strangers, unsure as to whether or not to believe this information.

“Okay,” he said again, in the same skeptical tone as before. “Well, let me just get my keys—I’ll run you over to Mt. Auburn—“

“No hospitals,” the angel said, in that same authoritative tone of voice.

Peter raised his eyebrows at the man on the couch. “You in some kind of trouble?”

“Just the trouble I’ve been in my whole life.” Dean smiled again, rakish.

Peter rolled his eyes, and looked at Walter, a trace of accusation—for having such disreputable acquaintances?—in his eyes.

“Help them, son,” Walter pleaded. “I’m sure they have their reasons.”

Peter held his gaze for a long minute, but the truth was he was as comfortable with the wrong side of the law as Walter, maybe more so. “I’ll get the first aid kit,” he said.

++++++

Two

There was a moment, as he trudged across that frozen lake, the boy’s hand tucked into his own, when Walter was suddenly sure that he would fail, that he would lose this other Peter just as he had lost the first. It was a horrible feeling, one he had rarely known before his son had become ill, and it hurt worse than the sting of the snow or the cold of the ice beneath his feet.

But he doggedly put one foot in front of the other, kept his head down against the wind, tugged at the child’s hand.

Gradually, however, he became aware that they were not alone. He looked around, frightened that Elizabeth—the other Elizabeth—had followed them—had sent someone after them. But no other figures troubled the white blankness of the landscape.

Something tickled his nostrils. A faint, but incongruous odor, like the first hint of fall--apples, but not any apples Walter had ever tasted. An olfactory hallucination, perhaps; such things could happen in cases of extreme fatigue and exposure.

Then he recognized the smell.

"Who is the third who walks always beside you? /When I count, there are only you and I together,” he quoted bitterly. Perhaps Dr. Warren had been right, and a jealous God had decided to wreak his vengeance more swiftly than Walter had anticipated.


But when I look ahead up the white road /There is always another one walking beside you.” A disembodied voice finished the passage for him. The words felt very like a small animal darting its tongue into the cavity of his ear.

“Go ahead,” Walter muttered, filled with a dull fury towards the universe for trying to thwart his plans. “If you’re going to smite me you might as well get it over with.”

“That’s not how it works,” said the angel.

“So you’ve said,” Walter pointed out. He trudged on in silence, having to pull a little harder now on Peter’s hand to make him keep up. The unseen angel kept pace with them.

But now that divine vengeance did not seem to be an immediate threat, another thought occurred to Walter.

“Are you an angel from this side, or from our side?” he asked. The duplication of celestial beings in alternate universes wasn’t something he’d ever considered.

“What you call ‘sides’ make no difference to angels,” the voice tickled in his ear. “We are always the same. The barriers between the worlds mean nothing to us.”

“You travel back and forth at will?”

“As we travel through time,” the angel replied.

Fascinating, thought Walter. Despite the storm and his overwhelming concern for Peter’s cure, some part of him was already trying to think of a way to lure the angel back with him, so he could study it, figure out the source of this ability.

Then Peter moaned faintly, pulling weakly against his hand.

“Why are you taking the boy?” the angel asked. He seemed genuinely puzzled. “He will not replace your son. You must learn to let go of the dead.”

“I’m saving him,” Walter said. “He’ll die if I don’t take him to our side. I’ll bring him back.” He believed all these things at the time—believed them with all his heart.

But he got no reply. The portal was in front of them. And the angel—that formless presence--was gone.

++++++

2009

Peter had a neat hand with sutures. It was one of the skills he had learned, goodness knows why or how, during the long, painful years when he and Walter hadn’t spoken. Walter watched him, proud of the competent man his son had become. No—not his son—he reminded himself. A jolt of nearly physical pain shot through him.

For reasons of his own, though Walter could guess what they were, Peter also kept their first aid kit alarmingly well-stocked. He gave Dean a local anesthetic before sewing up the wound, along with a dose of antibiotics.

Walter hovered by the living room doorway, fidgeting nervously. The angel stood behind Peter’s shoulder, observing. His new human face was masklike, but every time the injured man winced, or bit back a groan, Walter saw the angel move towards him almost imperceptibly, head tilted in what seemed to be his version of sympathetic distress. Walter mulled this over: he hadn’t been aware that angels could have friends. Dean was silent, jaw clenched, clearly exhausted, though he responded well enough to Peter’s questions and directions.

Twice, Peter had to ask the angel to move out of his light. After the third request, Peter looked beseechingly at Walter.

“Perhaps you could get our friend here—“

“Castiel,” the angel supplied.

“—Castiel—something to eat and drink?”

“I do not require sustenance,” the angel said. But he followed Walter into the kitchen anyway.

Despite Castiel’s words, Walter pulled the bottle of Glenfiddich out of the cabinet and handed him a glass. It was what Peter did whenever someone was upset, and it seemed the right thing to do now. To his surprise, the angel accepted the alcohol. He held it in his hands, not drinking, while Walter started to make himself a milkshake.

“You did not return him,” Castiel said, as soon as the blender had finished whirring.

“No—“ Walter replied, and was suddenly too choked by guilt and remorse to manage anything more. He took a gulp of the cold, sweet drink, hoping it would wash those feelings down.

“You have a body—a human body,” he said, when he could speak again.

“It is a vessel.” Castiel peered down at himself, as if still bemused that he was wearing this flesh. “Or, at least, it was—“

Walter’s ears pricked up. He itched to take Castiel down to the lab, get some measurements from him, try to map the brain chemistry of the angel-human interface.

“Thank you,” Castiel went on, “for taking us in—we’ve been running low on supplies—“

He made it sound as if he and Dean worked together, the way Peter and Walter worked with Fringe division. Walter tried to imagine what such an angel-human partnership would be like, and failed.

“But that is not the only reason I am glad we came tonight,” Castiel continued, “I am looking for something, and I think perhaps you might help me—“

*****


Just as Castiel finished telling Walter about his search for God, Peter came into the kitchen. He poured himself a measure of Scotch, and looked at them wearily.

“Seventeen stitches,” he said, “but he’ll be fine. He’s pretty out of it, but I gave him something for the pain, and he should be able to sleep. Who’s Sam?” He looked at Castiel. “He keeps asking for him—“

“His brother,” the angel responded, but did not explain further.

“Right,” Peter looked between them. “Well, I’ll leave you two to catch up. Call me if he needs anything.“ He downed the last of his drink, and headed upstairs.

“Walter,” said Castiel, after Peter had gone, “I believe God may be on the other side.”

“But you told me once that ‘sides’ meant nothing to God—or to angels. Surely you could look for him there as well as here.”

Castiel shook his head sadly. “My powers are—diminished—and God is, I believe, hiding. Or at least he doesn’t want to be found. But you have the technology to help me move between the worlds—”

“Castiel,” said Walter, “I would help you if I could, but the technology, my machine, was lost—lost that very night. I have no way of taking you across.” It made Walter very sad, sadder than he would have thought, to tell Castiel this.

The angel stared into his drink. He seem to deflate somehow, to grow as rumpled as his clothes. “I see,” he said. “Thank you.”

But then something occurred to Walter. If Castiel still had any of his powers left, it might just work.

++++++

Three

There were bad days in St. Claire’s. And then there were days that were worse.

There were nights when everything hurt so much—the scrape of every noise, the yammer of casual touches--that Walter thought that his body had somehow been literally turned inside out. He would keep himself very still, convinced that if he moved at all, he would end up nothing more than a tangled skein of veins and arteries and nerves--all coherence lost.

But sometimes, on nights like that, in the wee hours of the morning, he would feel something covering him, like the lightest touch of a silk sheet, cool and supple, holding everything in. Whatever it was, it was barely there, and yet it was strong enough to hold him together, to shore fragments against his ruin.

“Why?” he asked once.

“Perhaps because God always offers comfort to those who need it most. Perhaps because you gave me a candy once, and such kindnesses are rare,” a small voice said, deep inside his ear canal.

The room filled with the scent of an orchard at harvest time—startling in the stale, medicated air of that place.

“Thank you,” Walter breathed. “Thank you.”

++++++

2009

“Walter?” Olivia said, as Peter ushered her into the kitchen the next morning.

“Olivia,” Walter caught her hands between his own. “Thank you for coming.”

“Of course.” She held his gaze questioningly.

“I’d like you to meet my friends. This is Dean Winchester.” Walter gestured towards Dean, who was sitting at the kitchen table, injured leg propped on a chair, plowing through an enormous plate of blueberry waffles.

He had one of Peter’s dressing gowns pulled on over his t-shirt, and was wearing an old pair of Peter’s jeans, rolled up around the bandages. Somehow--Walter was never quite sure how these things happened, although he was glad Peter was so good at it—Dean and his son seemed to have struck up a friendship. Dean had even allowed Peter to move his car from its wildly illegal space in front of the house, the two of them grumbling all the while about Cambridge’s Byzantine parking laws.

“Thanks for coming,” Dean echoed, nodding his head politely, but allowing his eyes to roam over Olivia in a way Walter found altogether too appreciative. He started to bristle on Olivia’s behalf.

But Olivia just favored Dean with the stern yet compassionate look she reserved for those who were foolish enough to believe she might be interested in such nonsense, as if their wasted effort made her sad. Dean grinned at her, unabashed.

“And this, my dear, is Castiel.” The angel had been leaning against the counter, but he stood up now, and nodded gravely at Olivia. “Castiel needs your help. He needs to cross to the other side.”

Olivia peered at him, puzzled. “Walter—you know I can’t---“

Castiel stepped towards her. “I will not harm you,” he said. “You will not even need to accompany me there. I merely require what Walter calls a signal boost.”

They were very close together now, Olivia and the angel. She regarded him for a moment, and then her eyes widened. She reached out as if to touch him, then dropped her hand again. “Who—what—are you?” She whispered.

Castiel put a careful finger on the gold cross Olivia wore around her neck. “I am what your mother hoped would watch over you when she gave you that,” he said. “I am sorry we haven’t done a better job.”

With a sharp intake of breath, Olivia closed her hand around the pendant, backed away a step or two. Then she nodded. “Yes, alright, whatever you need.”

Peter said, “Olivia, you don’t need to do this—“ at the same time that Dean said, “Way to go with the ladies, Cas—“

But Castiel was already leading Olivia into the living room. Walter and Peter hurried after them, Dean hopping behind. And so all three were there in time to see Castiel sit with Olivia on the sofa, press his fingers to a spot in the middle of her forehead, and flicker out of sight.

They all gaped, dumbfounded for a moment, and then Peter knelt in front of Olivia and took her face in his hands. She shook him off. “I’m all right,” she smiled. “He didn’t hurt me.”

And before the four of them had time to do much else except glance at each other awkwardly, Castiel was back.

He stood in the center of the room, hands at his sides, shoulders slumped. “He’s not there,” he said, voice flat. “He’s not there either.”

“I’m sorry, Cas,” said Dean, and Walter thought he’d never heard a man’s voice, not even Peter’s, sound so gentle.

++++++

Five (2014)

This never happened:

“Now there’re three faces I never expected to see again,” Dean Winchester said when they finally reached Camp Chitauqua. He had looked hard the first time Walter had met him; now he looked like a granite rock face, cracked and chipped, but still impenetrable. He smiled, thin but true, clapped Peter and Walter on the back, and shook hands with Olivia

“Always glad of more trained guns,” he said, taking in the rifle strapped to Peter’s back, the bandoliers of ammunition crossing Olivia’s chest. “How’d you make it through the patrols?”

Olivia started to fill him in on their long journey, voice brusque, roughened by exhaustion. Peter chimed in occasionally with details. Walter slumped on the hard wooden bench, hands around the tin cup of water they had given him, and surveyed the ragged band of survivors Winchester had gathered. The one face he had hoped to see was missing.

“Where’s the ang—where’s Castiel?” He asked abruptly, interrupting the flow of numbers and coordinates going on around him. He was a little scared of what he might hear.

An expression Walter couldn’t identify flitted across Dean’s face—disgust, irritation, maybe sorrow. “Cas is taking some ‘me’ time,” he said. “Go say hey—might perk him up some.”

So Walter made his way to the cabin Dean indicated. Castiel sprawled loose-limbed on the narrow cot, knees drawn up, an arm behind his head. The joint in his hand filled the room with cannabis smoke.

It took a moment for him to register that Walter had entered the room, and he took his time sitting up even then. His face was slack, his eyes blood-shot and watery. But the odor of not-quite-apples still clung to him, even if it was slightly sour now, like fruit ready for the cider mash.

“Dr. Bishop,” Castiel said, his voice slurred. “Wanna hit?”

There was something ineffably sad about the fact that the angel Walter had first met while was he was high was now high himself. But then everything in the world was sad these days. So Walter sat down beside him, aging limbs protesting, and took the proffered drug.

“At least you didn’t think I was a mouse,” he said, after a minute, and Castiel laughed, brief and harsh.

They passed the joint back and forth silently for a while. Then Walter thought of something. He dug in his tattered overcoat pocket—home now to most of the things he owned—and pulled out a yellow plastic bag of Swedish Fish, treasure gleaned from a wrecked gas station. He dangled the package in front of Castiel, who grinned.

The brightly-colored, rubbery candies spilled out over his hand, vivid against the drab hues of the cabin. Castiel peered at them owlishly, then, with great care, selected an orange one, popped it quickly in his mouth.

“Mmmn.” His face relaxed into an expression of perfect pleasure.

Solemnly, taking turns with exaggerated courtesy, Walter and the angel devoured the fish together.

When they were done, Walter couldn’t help but ask, “Are you still—is there any angel left in you at all?”

“No,” Castiel drawled out the word, but the pain was evident behind his nonchalance. “My brethren have departed this world.”

“But not you—“

“Not me.”

“You chose to stay?” Castiel nodded. “But why?” And then he knew. “You stayed for him.”

“I stayed,” Castiel said, and did not elaborate.

Emboldened by the cannabis, Walter put a hand on the angel’s knee. The joint felt thin and bony beneath his fingers.

“Sometimes it is impossible to let go of those we love,” he said.

Cas started to laugh again, in a way that frightened Walter. But just then Peter put his head around the cabin door.

“Walter,” he said. “Dean’s got some Croat bodies for you to dissect—you can test your hypothesis about the virus’s effects on the hippocampus, if you like.” He paused, and waved a hand under his nose. “If you’re not too stoned, that is. Only you, Walter, could find the drugs in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.”

Walter stood up, the pull of possible answers stronger even than his affection for Castiel. “’Til next time,” he said, and Castiel waved him away.

Peter curled a welcome hand under his elbow as they left.

++++++

Five (2010)

But this did:

Despite Bell’s promise that his body would provide the power needed to get them back, there was a moment when Walter felt the swirl of pure energy around them falter.

But then it smoothed out, stronger than ever.

And all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” A familiar voice caressed his inner ear.

“Eliot again, old friend?” Walter said, relief mixed with a little thrill of joy as he recognized their unexpected rescuer.

“Julian of Norwich, actually.” The voice was slightly pedantic. “Eliot stole the line from her.”

But Walter didn’t care. “You’re here?” he said, delighted, “you can move freely now?”

The voice seemed to purr with satisfaction. “I am again as I once was,” it said. “A multidimensional wavelength of celestial intent.”

The field of energy held them all suspended for an infinite moment between the universes. And then, very gently, in exactly the place they had started from, it let them go.

fin

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