A Christmas Carol
Twenty years ago, Mary Winchester — the beloved Wife of John Winchester and adored Mother of Samuel and Deane Winchester — was cruelly lost within a fire that claimed the Winchester family's home.
This tale takes place within the Supernatural By Gaslight universe (AKA, the DeaneVerse), and is the prequel to the main storyline in By Gaslight.
Disclaimer: The Winchesters, even within this incarnation, are regrettably not my creation. However, I will take full and knowledgeable blame for impinging upon your senses with this entirely silly romp through a very different Victorian England.
Pairings (Overall): None
Rating (Overall): PG-13
Summary: Deane's attempts to exorcise the Demon do not take into account whisky's effect upon one's Latin.
Feedback: I would consider you most kind if you would do so.
Miscellaneous: This lovely little homage to Romance and Adventure owes its sparkle to the ever-radiant wenchpixie.
Stave Five: The End of It
The obvious conclusion, unfortunately, did not present a simple method of execution.
In point of fact, Deane Winchester had not performed an exorcism without the assistance of a family member – his father understood which ritual to use for a particular incident, and Samuel's pronunciation of the Latin itself was far beyond Deane's abilities. He frowned. Father was still cavorting with his friend and Samuel was – if the vision was to be believed – drinking himself into stupidity.
Deane grinned suddenly – it would certain discomfit Samuel to realize that he was spending his holiday in the same fashion as the other men in the family; Winchesters were certainly foolhardy creatures when intoxicated. While Father may not approve of Deane's ghost-chasing methodology, it had certainly worked its way to a positive outcome. With additional luck, Deane would awaken in the morning no less perturbed than he otherwise would have been after consuming an entire bottle of whisky – including the inevitable memory loss that such a blessed event afforded.
There were too many memories he wished to forget. Including events yet to come. At the very least, Deane was intoxicated enough that the residual glimpses of her curls within his passing thoughts ached no more greatly than the memory of her letter's receipt. In truth, it was Samuel's cruel fate that carried the worst shock – even alcohol could not diminish its edge. Perhaps the exorcism will save them all. For unless he was mistaken, all the visions of that sad future had a common connection – a storm with Samuel Winchester as its epicenter.
He prayed that such hopeful thoughts were not the result of his whisky consumption.
The clock outside had begun to chime midnight. Blast! There was no true way to perform an exorcism on a man when Deane could not even leave the room. He shook his head, once, to clear his thoughts. Think hard upon this, Deane! The spirits had always appeared directly at midnight, but as there were but three sent to haunt him – and the spell would not allow him to leave until they had done so – then perhaps the spell itself had reached its completion with the departure of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
Deane rushed towards the door to the room, flinging it open with a loud, "A-ha!" He peered into the hallway, hearing the sound of someone laughing downstairs, before stepping back into the room and closing the door.
Free to wander again outside the confines of his three-hour prison, Deane began gathering the objects that would be required. His father's journal was a necessity for it contained the text of the actual ceremony, along with the large wooden rosary that Samuel used when performing such tasks. Deane slipped several flasks of holy water into the special holster upon his waist, and then set about ensuring that the pistols he would bring with him were full of rock salt.
He had no desire to kill Ebeneezer Scrooge, but incapacitating the Demon's human host was not an entirely untoward proposition – particularly given that Scrooge's hands were almost as claw-like as the first spirit's.
Deane mentally reviewed the list of necessities required to perform the ritual. "Idiot," he snapped. He had forgotten an additional bag of salt – if Luck was indeed smiling on the Winchesters, then Deane would be afforded the opportunity to create a simple salt barrier prior to performing the task; a barrier which would, hopefully, limit the creature until such time as Deane could complete the words of the ritual. Luck, as Fate would have it, did not often smile upon the Winchesters and perhaps it was time for it to do so.
It was, after all, Christmas Day.
Luck, unfortunately, had determined otherwise. Deane was halfway down the hall before he realized that he did not think to bring his thieves' tools. I doubt highly that the Demon will allow Scrooge to perform his magic with the doors to his home unlocked. When he returned to the room to retrieve the necessary items for bypassing the locks upon Scrooge's doors, Deane realized he had no idea as to where the moneylender resided. For some reason he would never understand when relaying the tale at a later time, Deane carefully peered through a crack in the window's curtains.
Ebeneezer Scrooge was standing across the way, half-hidden in a nearby alley, staring into a dark bowl.
You cannot hide from me, magus.
Deane grinned – it was a definite truth that Luck was a Lady and the Winchester charm had proven a boon. It would occur to him afterwards, when communicating the experience safely within the shelter of another lady's arms, that Scrooge's spell most likely required a close proximity to his victim; Deane would blame that digression, along with every other for the evening, on the whisky. (The lady in question would look upon him gravely and concur that whisky was often at the root of Deane Winchester's folly, but that is another tale.)
He walked quietly down the stairs, skirting around the back of the inn – sneaking upon Scrooge using a circular pattern that allowed him to remain unseen while inevitably surprising the magus by appearing opposite him on the other side of the alley. Father could not have approached more effectively.
The gaunt figure knelt in the cold snow, rocking back and forth upon his knees, as he stared into the dark bowl. The images of three spirits fluttered before him, all gazing directly upon Scrooge as he twisted his body before them. He was muttering, "Yes, yes, more memories," to himself as each spirit seemed to grow brighter. "Show me how to break him," the dark whisper continued.
Deane slipped the rosary out of his pocket, and opened the journal. "If I break the son, I break the father – and then the boy will be mine," the magus nearly sang, his sibilant hiss echoing throughout the alley, and the spirits grew brighter still. The child-sized one spied Deane; he was certain that it had done so, but it said nothing.
It was, as his father would often attest, the perfect occasion for the direct approach.
Deane charged, knocking the old man sideways to the ground. The bowl spilled beside them, dark blood moving in rivulets through the snow, and Deane choked back a gasp; the blood smelled fresh, and he had no doubt that a circumspect perusal of the alley would also mark Scrooge's latest victim. The old man screamed and turned so that Deane was straddling him about the waist. Dear God, I hope that no one spies upon us like this!
"Impossible!" The old man cried.
"Never underestimate the worth of a dreadful bottle of whisky," Deane replied, pressing down onto the man's face with the rosary. Scrooge screamed where it touched him, a hissing steam erupting from the skin. Deane pressed down on Scrooge's chest with the open journal.
"Exorcizamus te, omnis immúnde spíritus, omnis satánica potéstas, omnis incúrsio infernális adversárii, omnis légio, omnis congregátio et secta diabólica, in nómini et virtúte Dómini nostri Jesu Christi," Deane cried aloud, struggling to keep the journal open while Scrooge bucked against him. "Eradicáre et effugáre a Dei Ecclésia, ab animábus ad imáginem Dei cónditis ac pretióso divíni Agni sánguini redémptis!" he continued.
"You will burn," the magus cried. "Just like your mother!"
Insults, the man would later learn, did not work against a Winchester.
Deane gritted his teeth, jabbing the man in the neck with the hand that held the rosary before taking another breath. "Non ultra áudeas, serpens callidíssime, decípere humánum genus, Dei Ecclésiam pérsequi, ac Dei electos excútere et cribráre sicut tríticum." Deane gasped as the man's entire body gibbered beneath him. "Remain where you are, you insolent magus!" Deane snapped, quickly striking Scrooge's throat. "Imperat tibi Deus altíssimus, cui in magna tua supérbia te símililem habéri adhuc præsúmis; qui omnes hómines vult salvos fíeri, et ad agnitiónem veritátis veníre!"
Scrooge's eyes rolled back into his head, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come moved to stand above their altercation – its empty hood staring down as Deane struggled to subdue the magus. "Imperat tibi Deus Pater; ímperat tibi Deus Fílius; ímperat tibi Deus Spíritus Sanctus." A mist had begun to form around them, and the Ghost of Christmas Present's laughter no longer sounded mocking to Deane's ear.
"We must help him," the smallest one whispered. "While we have the chance, we must help him."
The spirits were masking the disturbance!
Emboldened by the assistance which he had not foreseen, Deane somehow managed to maintain his hold upon Ebeneezer Scrooge – even as his claw-like hands scratched against Deane's face. "Imperat tibi Christus, ætérnum Dei Verbum caro factum, qui pro salúte géneris nostri tua invídia pérditi, humiliávit semetípsum factus obédiens usque ad mortem."
"Qui Ecclésiam suam ædificávit supra firmam petram et portas ínferi advérsus –" Deane's recitation was interrupted when Ebeneezer Scrooge's elbow came into direct and voilent contact with his throat. It hurt to speak, and yet he continued after a ragged swallow. "Eam numquam esse prævalitúras edixit, cum ea ipse permansúrus ómnibus diébus usque ad consumatiónem sæculi Imperat tibi sacraméntum Crucis, omniúmque christiánæ fídei Mysteriórum virtus." His voice was raspy.
Scrooge laughed, teeth gnawing so voilently against his lips that small streams of blood mixed with his spittle. "You will not win, boy," the magus returned when Deane pressed the rosary back into its face, and yellow eyes glared at him mockingly. "I will debone you as you breathe and dance upon your flesh."
Claw-like fingers encircled his throat, pushing Deane backwards with a scream. Ebeneezer Scrooge stood above him, howling louder than the last banshee the Winchesters had encountered in Dublin.
"Imperat tibi excélsa Dei Génetrix Virgo Maria, quæ superbíssimum caput tuum a primo instánti immaculátæ suæ Conceptiónis in sua humilitáte contrivit." A man's voice echoed throughout the alley, immediately followed by the crack of gunfire. "Imperat tibi fides sanctórum Apostolórum Petri et Pauli ceterorúmque Apostolórum!" A wash of water splashed against Scrooge's back, and the magus screamed. "Complete the ritual, son!" John Winchester was smiling, despite the situation. The worried face of Robert Cratchit appeared above his father's shoulder; they must have arrived together.
The man is a master!
Deane rolled to his knees, retrieving the rosary that had fallen from his hand. He threw Scrooge back upon the ground, and the voice that sprung from his throat was a bellow that caused the three spirits pause – each of them stiff witnesses to the final moment. "Imperat tibi Mártyrum sanguis, ac pia Sanctórum et Sanctárum ómnium intercéssio," Deane roared.
Ebeneezer Scrooge's body convulsed, bending backwards as though his spine had been pulled back like the string within a bow, and an oily black mass expelled itself forcefully through the magus' mouth. Whatever had been possesing the old moneylender flew through the sky, momentarily blotting out the stars that sparkled above them.
Deane caught his breath, staring down upon Scrooge's face – the old man's mouth was opened wide with shock, and then the moneylender shuddered when a frog no larger than Deane's thumbnail dropped into Ebeneezer Scrooge's mouth.
"Bugger!" Deane cried, pulling Scrooge to his feet at the exact same moment that a deluge of frogs rained down upon the alley, freezing where they fell. Scrooge choked, and pulled the frog from out of his mouth.
The moneylender looked faintly ill, and then threw his arms about Deane's neck. "Thank you, good sir, thank you!" His breath, Deane noted, had a peculiar odor. Perhaps it was the frogs?
"It was no issue, Mr. Scrooge," Deane returned faintly, delicately attempting to remove himself from the moneylender's embrace while avoiding the vigilant – and, presently somewhat amused – eye of his father. "It is what my family does," Deane added.
Scrooge was shaking, but allowed Deane to extricate himself. "You do not understand, Deane Winchester. You have saved me from such a fate." He lowered his eyes, and he looked less like a figure from a penny dreadful and more like an old man with a burden lifted from his shoulders – even with the bloodstains about his lips. "The things it made me do. The people I have hurt." Scrooge's voice throbbed as he added, "The people I have killed."
He touched the old man's shoulder awkwardly, and coughed. "It was not your fault, sir," Deane said softly. He frowned. "But I must know. Is that the creature the very same one that..." Deane's voice trailed off as his father's body stiffened, and John Winchester's eyes flashed underneath the falling snow.
"Yes," Scrooge whispered. "Yes. It did not trust such an exercise to one of its minions. You have only delayed the inevitable. The storm is still coming."
And my little brother stands directly within the midst of it.
Robert Cratchit stepped forward, glancing at his employer with what some may have considered an obsequious manner. "So I can assume, Mr. Scrooge, that..." He coughed. Deane found himself frowning despite the victory – all that seemed important to Father's friend was his reputation. But he does not know what Scrooge was actually performing.
The moneylender chuckled. "Of course, my boy. That matter is closed." He patted Robert Cratchit on the arm. "I've had a youthful indiscretion or two within my day, though you would not suspect by viewing me now."
"My home is not far, sir," Mr. Cratchit replied, leading Scrooge jovially out of the alley. "We can dress your wounds there. My wife has a gentle touch."
The two men laughed, talking to themselves about women as though nothing had happened. Deane sighed. That was often the way of these things – the brain could not encompass the shock of what was seen, so the situation was forgotten once a conversational topic presented itself that could otherwise be discussed. This was not the first such occurrence that Deane had witnessed through the years.
The spirits, curiously, had not yet disappeared.
The smallest came forward, looking nothing like the shriveled old man it had presented itself to be. A smile was beaming on its youthful face, and its white robe – covered with blooming flowers – shone within the gentle moonlight that now graced the alley. "Thank you, Deane Winchester," it said. The voice was as soft and youthful as a child's, but the eyes within that face stared at him gravely. "You have done me a service, and now I offer you a boon."
"I do not require a boon," Deane said, although his entire being was begging to know answers to certain questions – questions he dared not voice, either to himself or in front of his father. "It was my appointed task to save you."
The small spirit smiled. "Then I will tell you two true things." Its eyes were gentle, and it placed on hand upon Deane's arm. "The first is that the past will always remain a part of your soul, Deane Winchester." It sighed. "But the corollary to such an assertion is that the past is not necessary to determine what you will become." The ghost's smile grew bright, and it added, "And the second is my boon to you. You will have no stronger a recollection of those memories I forced you to endure. They will be no less – though no greater – than any you will recall."
Deane felt a jolt within his arm as the ghost squeezed it – and the memory of Samuel staring at the popper Deane had thrown near his hand dimmed. Although the season still reminded him of her, it was no stronger than before. Only the memory of his mother remained whole within his mind, and Deane smiled. He suspected he had been given a third gift, but wisely chose to say nothing.
"Your strength did serve you well, my boy!" A hearty voice boomed in Deane's ear. It was the second spirit, a large and affable creature in its original state. It bore none of the signs of excess that the demon possessing Scrooge had forced upon it, and its eyes continued to twinkle.
"I suspect it was as much the whisky as my nerve," Deane replied. There was no way to remain gloomy within the presence of such a ghost; the eyes themselves demanded a jest at every possible opportunity.
The Ghost of Christmas Present roared heartily, and slapped Deane on the back with all due mirth. "I, too, would present a boon for your efforts in affecting our relase," the spirit said. Its eyes narrowed, but were still as bright as any star in the sky. "I suspect your answer will be the same as the one you gave my brother."
Deane nodded. There was much for which he could ask, but it seemed inconsequential in light of his younger brother's fate. The spirit harrumphed with a look upon its face that could only be a grin, and stated, "There is no shame within living each moment to its fullest, Deane Winchester – even at those times when you feel you should not, for fear of what may yet come. The present is as potent a gift as the past or the future. You should live it well."
"But it is your future," a soft voice intervened, "Which does concern you." It was the third spirit. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was as unlike her former self in appearance as her brothers, but she still held herself with the same serious air. The spirit was dressed in a simple robe, still black, and her hair and eyes matched it in colour – but she had a young face, and was beautiful if somewhat unearthy in appearance. No woman alive would have eyes that color. She was smiling at him. "And I will not give you the opportunity to turn down my boon."
He recoiled. "I do not wish that," Deane stammered.
"No," she replied, "But it is yours all the same." There was a stubborn look in her eyes that reminded Deane of his little brother, and he smiled in spite of himself. Samuel would not fall, so long as Deane drew breath.
"You are correct," the ghost's soft voice said, breaking into his thoughts. "My boon to you is simple, Deane Winchester. I shall give you the gift of possibilities." He must have appeared confused, for the spirit continued. "Every human life is defined by moments where one decision can effect several outcomes. You will be given three chances to influence those decisions; but you must be careful, for the gift is subtle. You cannot use your influence to change singlehandedly what you have seen."
"Subtle?" he asked.
The ghost smiled. "Subtle. For example, you can use it to influence someone down a different path – such as convincing your brother to save the girl whose death will make him stop hunting." The memory of that choice filled Deane, and he knew – whatever happened – that he would not forget it. "The other two opportunities are for you to decide based on what you have already seen."
Deane's throat swelled. There was still yet a fighting chance – and that was all a Winchester needed in the end. The spirit smiled, as sweetly as any girl he had come across in his travels. "There is," she returned with a small laugh like a bell. "There is always a chance." Her eyes shone as brightly as her brothers, and she tilted her head. "Your dreams never die, but you must hold onto them when they appear once more." Her eyes were full of hope and promise.
Deane started. Although the ghost said nothing else, the look upon her face was as much a boon as anything else she could give him. He swallowed, the small ache at the back of his throat disappating as he calmed himself.
"Goodbye, Deane Winchester," the first spirit said.
The second one nodded. "You will not meet us again within your lifetime."
"But you will always have our thanks for securing our freedom," the third ghost added. She kissed him on the cheek, before the light emanating from their faces became so bright that Deane was forced to look away from them.
When they light faded, the Winchesters stood alone within the alley.
Father was staring at the fallen bowl of blood, carelessly tossed where Scrooge had dropped it when Deane first arrived in the alley. "You should practice your Latin, Deane," he said gruffly, scratching underneath his left ear. Deane felt the shift within his chest, the cold stabbing pain of disapproval. "Unless, of course, you prefer to summon hordes of tiny frogs along with your exorcism attempts," his father added, grinning. "Which, by all means, you've proven you can effectively perform."
Deane snorted. "I am a master of many things, Father, and it would appear that frog summoning ranks highly upon that list."
Father gave him a strange look, and then laughed outright. "You did well, otherwise, son." His eyes narrowed. "But we have two options once we finish cleaning the alley. We can rest for the evening, or we can go to the tavern." A smile reached his eyes. "The pretty brunette waitress was unattended when Robert and I left. She may yet be unaccompanied upon our return."
"I believe the tavern is in order," Deane returned. While he was still, in fact, the very same Deane Winchester who happily pursued pleasurable assignations, there was something else he wished to do in its stead. "I would enjoy a Christmas toast with my father." His voice softened. "For Mother and Sammy."
His father said nothing, but clasped Deane upon the shoulder.
The exorcism ritual is a real one, although I only used one paragraph of it – the first section of the actual ritual itself. Much as I love Deane and his Latin, I thought pages and pages might have been a little much.
The tiny frog summoning was an homage to the character Charlotte Webb in Strange Angels.
As always, feedback is welcome. Comments are the things that make this fangirl dizzy.