I have to thank/blame my Mother for this particular plot bunny. She's the real Supernatural fan of the family. However, I like to think this is one of my better stories. It's taken up a hell of a lot of time, but I can't deny that I'm proud of it.
Sam and Dean aren't going to show up right away, but it won't take too long before everybody's all together. I've got to get two of the Dramatis Personae across the ocean, after all. The Prologue's a bit lengthy, and most of the chapters will be pretty long. But I've got this thing written in its entirely, so I feel safe in promising you that if you don' tget a chapter a day its for reasons beyond my control.
This prologue takes place a few months before the actual story begins...I'd say the events of Are You There, God? It's Me, Dean Winchester have only just started at the time of this chapter.
Hope you enjoy!
It was a cold day in Lower Tadfield. Autumn had come to the tiny village and settled in. It had painted the leaves of the trees burnished copper and gold, sucked the green from the grass, and gave the wind a bite to match any dog. It was an autumn you might expect to see in an after-school Thanksgiving special, the sort that couldn't go ten minutes without teaching kindness and goodwill towards men and the virtues of eating until you were half-sick.
Adam Young had watched quite a lot of after-school Thanksgiving specials over the years.
And as far as Adam Young was concerned, it was as good an autumn as any autumn had a right to be. The forces of nature had truly outdone themselves this year. The trees had shed their leaves so quickly that it was almost as though they'd been expecting the Them to use them for leaf piles.
The Them, never four to disappoint, were spending the day doing just that.
Currently it was Pepper's turn to jump. The three boys took the opportunity to rest against a tree…making the leaf piles was nowhere near as fun as jumping in them, in their very definite opinion…while the lone female of the group backed slowly away from the heap, preparing to charge. The only person who got more distance than Pepper on a good jump was Adam. She could send leaves flying yards in any direction with a good run-up. She pushed her hair – braided into two pigtails, as usual – away from her face, clenched her fists at her side, and prepared to run.
Adam reached over and absently scratched Dog's ears. On cue, Dog's tail began to thump against the ground. Brian was absently engaged in poking at the dirt with a stick, hoping to uncover some worms so he could scare Wensleydale. And Wensleydale was just as absently inspecting his shirt, where dirt and leaf mold had stained it to the point where he could barely recognize it. It had been a new shirt. He'd been planning to spend the day enjoying having a new shirt by constructing some of his newest models. But then Adam had come knocking at his door and asked if he might like to spend the day jumping in wet, dirty leaves instead. Wensley had decided that the models could wait.
The three boys looked up as Pepper began to run. Her face was set, and they knew that there would be no putting the pile back together once their friend was done with it. The disassembling of a good leaf pile was serious business to Pepper.
With a battle cry that would have sent armies running for cover, Pepper leapt into the air and came down. Adam nodded approvingly as her bright red pigtails were the last to disappear into the pile and leaves were scattered in all directions.
As the storm of red and gold dispersed, Pepper came back into view, shaking leaves out of her hair. She looked over at Adam and grinned proudly. Adam smiled back at his friend…and then something shifted in his mind, something changed before his eyes, something imperceptible but just as present…and he froze.
Brian grinned and made to stand. "It's my turn next!"
"No," said Adam. He also got to his feet, keeping one hand on Dog's back and both eyes on Pepper. "I reckon that's enough for today."
"What?!" cried Brian indignantly. In his opinion, a mere three hours at jumping in leaves was not enough. "It's not even dinner time! Why's that gotta be enough?!"
"It's going to rain," said Adam firmly. He did not look at Brian; he had eyes only for Pepper. "It's going to rain and the leaves will get wet and everyone knows you get the best leaf piles when they're dry."
Wensley frowned in puzzlement, before shading his eyes and glancing up through the treetops.
"…the sky does look rather grey," he conceded. "And the air feels…odd. There seems to be a lot of humidity building up. But on television, they said it would be sunny all day."
"My dad says television makes your brain turn into porridge," said Adam, still in that same level, firm voice. "So obviously people on television must have porridge for brains. What do people on television know, anyway? They stay inside all day and sit at their desks and tell people how the world's going to be. Not a proper job at all."
Wensleydale had to concede that Adam had a good point. He nodded and joined the other two boys back on their feet. "I…suppose so." He did not say that the thought of working with weather satellites for a living made his heart flutter in a way that even Pepper had not yet managed, because Adam's disapproval could cut through stone.
"So what'll we do?" Brain demanded. He gestured wildly with his hands, at the woods around them. "We've only got a few more hours!"
"We'll watch some television. I heard there's one of those Thanksgiving specials on in a little while. The ones about Pilgrims and Indians and giant pumpkins."
Pepper folded her arms, glowering at Adam. "You just said watching television turns your brain into porridge! I'm not afraid of getting wet!"
"Sometimes your brain needs regular porridging," said Adam simply. "And Dog smells funny when he's wet. We'll go to my house and watch."
Brian nodded slowly, beginning to warm up to the idea. Adam had recently gotten his hands on the newest Transmogrifier Robot, and might have gotten tired enough of it by now to consider letting him play with it. Adam's mother, who knew how things were with the Them, was good about keeping enough cocoa mix in the house to keep them quiet. Wensley, who knew he was already in for a lecture for the state of his shirt, nodded eagerly. They made to tramp off through the woods, back across the field to Adam's house…and had only gotten a few yards before they realized that it was just the two of them.
Looking back, Brian and Wensley saw that Adam and Pepper had not moved. Dog was shifting nervously from paw to paw, but Adam kept a hand tightly clenched around the scruff of his neck. Their gaze was locked, and the air between them seemed…charged, somehow.
"Adam?" called Brian.
"You both go on," said Adam, without taking his eyes off of Pepper. "We'll be along. Pepper and I just have to clean up the leaves."
"Why?" asked Wensley.
"Because its polite. Squirrels and moles and animals like that probably spent days making this place nice and tidy, so we're going to clean it up. We'll be along soon."
"Of course we will," said Pepper. "Adam and I just have stuff to talk about. Important stuff. While we tidy up the leaves, of course."
Brian and Wensley exchanged a look. Something strange was going on between their leader and his de facto second in command. Something strange, deeply personal, and incomprehensible to the two boys. It was as though they were two strangers looking in on something that did not include them. As lifelong members…or as long as a life could be, when you were thirteen…of the Them, it was not a nice feeling.
But the two boys heaved a mutual sigh, and continued walking away through the woods. The clouds were massing overhead, now. A storm was fast approaching. It was definitely going to rain.
Adam waited until he could no longer hear the sound of sneakers crunching on frozen ground before he dared to breath. Pepper smiled at him.
"Weren't we going to clean up, Adam?" she asked pleasantly. "We oughtta hurry, if we are, or else Brian will eat all the popcorn before the movie starts."
"My mom can always make more," said Adam simply. "And anyway, you were right. We do have stuff to talk about. Important stuff. But before we do, you really need to leave Pepper alone."
Pepper's smile widened even as her eyes changed. The familiar plain brown faded away, and what looked back at him was a flat marble white.
"You recognized me," she said happily.
"No. I don't. I don't reckon we've ever met. I just know you're not Pepper." Adam couldn't quite know how he knew. He just knew that he was right. Before his eyes was Pepper, properly known as Pippin Galadriel Moonchild. And yet…there was something about his friend that did not fit. He was looking at Pepper's body…familiar to him as his own tattered sneakers…but what was speaking to him in Pepper's voice did not at all belong in Pepper's body. "How long have you not been Pepper?"
"All day!" She took a step nearer to him. Dog gave a whine and tried to back up. Adam tightened his grip and stood his ground. "I just wanted to play with you, Adam. It's been so long since we've seen each other. I missed you a whole lot!"
She continued approaching him, taking slow deliberate steps, until barely a foot separated them. But Pepper leaned even closer, close enough for Adam to see just how empty her eyes were, and asked in a voice that was almost a plea. "Are you sure you don't remember me? Are you sure you don't remember your Auntie Lillith? But I guess you wouldn't. It's been a long time. Not to me, of course. But they put you here in a human body, so I guess it would be a long time to you. Thirteen years since we've last seen each other. Since you were last down there with us."
Adam felt a chill creeping down his spine. "Down where?" he asked.
Lillith pointed at the ground beneath their feet. "Down there! With me and your father! I used to take care of you when you were just starting to exist. You were so cute."
Adam did not remember any of this, but he did remember enough to know that, when Lillith referred to his "father", she was not talking about Mr. Young. She was talking about someone else entirely…
"What do you want with Pepper?!" he demanded, standing his ground.
Lillith giggled. "Nothing, silly! But she does have such a pretty body, don't you think?" When Adam only swallowed, this set Lillith off in a fresh bout of laughter. "You do! I can see it in your mind! Isn't that sweet? But if we're being honest…and I really hope we are…Pepper doesn't mean anything to me. Nothing at all. I just needed a physical form to talk to you, and she seemed as good as any."
Adam's fists clenched. Dog whined again as his master's grip on his scruff increased to the point of pain. "You need to leave Pepper alone now," he said. The words were spoken softly, but the voice behind them suddenly had enough force to move mountains. It was less an order, more a statement of fact.
A shiver ran through Pepper's body, and she took an involuntary step back. Her eyes narrowed.
"I guess the rumors were true," she said, and all traces of childishness or silliness were gone from Pepper's voice. "When you put everything right last time…you didn't put yourself right, did you? You're still his son…"
Suddenly she was grinning again. "That's just perfect! That's wonderful news!"
"And why is that?" asked Adam warily. He could feel the faintest trace of something stirring in his mind…something familiar, something old, something infinitely powerful and something he thought he'd buried two years ago. That something knew the answer to his question before Lillith spoke again.
"It's all going to happen again, Adam. But this time, we're going to make sure we win. I've already set things in motion. This time, I'm going to make it happen our way. Those stupid angels won't have a chance against us this time. The seas will turn to blood and the earth will turn to ash and this time we will be the ones who rise up victorious. We will march on this world and we will end it. We will march on Heaven and we will end it. We're going to end the world, Adam. Doesn't that sound like fun?"
"It wasn't fun last time." At least, it hadn't been fun once Adam had fully regained his senses. When he'd been drowning in his destiny as the Antichrist, he'd been having the time of his life. He'd been drunk on his own power as he reshaped the world in his image, magnificent in the certainty that it would be he…he, Adam Young, son of Lucifer…who would make the world better.
No. That had been two years ago, and two years was a long time when you'd only been alive for thirteen. He'd kept his powers, but his father was Mr. Young and he was Adam Young and that was that.
"Maybe," was what he said out loud in the face of Lillith's cold marble eyes. "Only it's really a lot of work. Ending the world, and all. The summer holidays are almost over and Mom and Dad are going to make me go back to school, and…"
Lillith giggled again. It was such a strange sound to hear, coming from Pepper's mouth. Pepper never giggled. Pepper chuckled, sniggered, or laughed so loud that birds would flee from nearby trees. Pepper never giggled.
"Silly!" said Lillith, when she'd calmed down a bit. "You wouldn't be ending the world. You had your chance last time, and you blew it straight to…well, Hell! No, I'm afraid your father's not gonna trust you with the reins a second time. And neither are we. But if you're really good and help us break the Seals, you can watch and help us once Lucifer's back on Earth. If you don't…well, you're in a human body. You'll burn like the rest of them, when all's said and done."
She held out a hand. It was Pepper's hand. He knew it to the last freckle. But it was not Pepper who was holding out Pepper's hand. He knew that just as firmly.
"What do you say, Adam? Help an old friend out?"
Adam Young took a very deep breath.
The words that were spoken next could not be heard by ordinary human ears. But Dog howled as the voice sawed through his mind, piercing and powerful as a bolt of lightning, and a few birds and squirrels fell from the trees crying out in animal agony. Reality twisted and bent as the voice of the Antichrist resounded through the clearing, with the force of an avalanche and the power to decree exactly how the world would go.
"YOU NEED TO LEAVE PEPPER ALONE RIGHT NOW."
Lillith was forced to clamp her hands over Pepper's ears, and Adam still saw blood seeping through his friend's fingers. She opened her mouth in a howl of agony, and it was not Pepper's voice that she screamed with.
When the echoes died down, the demon Lillith looked out at Adam through his best friend's face, and Adam saw hellfire in Pepper's eyes.
Her body twitched convulsively, her face jerked towards the sky and her mouth opened in an unearthly scream. A black something left her mouth in a raging torrent, streaming up into the cloudy, stormy sky.
Then it was gone, and Pepper went limp and fell to her knees. Adam was there before she hit the dirt, however, holding her up. Her face was stark white underneath the freckles, her eyes were closed, and her skin was cold and clammy.
Pepper would live. Pepper would live and she would not remember anything that had passed between two of the most powerful beings in existence. Pepper would wake up with a headache, because there was only so much a thirteen-year old Antichrist could do, but she would wake up. And then they would walk together back to Adam's house, because their television program was going to start at any minute. They would watch the Thanksgiving special and drink hot cocoa and play with Adam's new toys. Brian, Wensley, and Pepper's parents would all come and get their children just before dinner, and his friends would depart for their own homes and their own beds and sleep safely through the night.
So he had said it, so it would be.
Adam hoisted Pepper onto his back. Dog looked around nervously and pawed at Adam's leg. He freed a hand from holding Pepper on his back to scratch his dog behind his strange inside-out ear.
"Good Dog," he said, with a tired smile. "Very good Dog. Let's go home."
Together, the boy and his hellhound trudged away through the woods. Adam was silent. He was silent because he was exercising all his considerable willpower to push the dark tide back. He couldn't face the coming storm as the Antichrist. He would only hasten its arrival. But Adam Young could help. Adam Young knew people. People who seemed all too skilled at warding off such things as the end of the world.
He did not make the call right away. He watched the Thanksgiving special with his friends and drank hot cocoa and played with the Transmogrifier Robots and saw them off at the door when their parents arrived to take them home, because some things were more important even than the end of the world. Only when his father had shut and locked the door for the final time that night did Adam go to the phone and dial the number.
It rang so long that he was afraid he might get the answering machine…and then, blessedly, his call was answered.
"Hello? Is this the angel who runs the bookstore?"
"…yes, I suppose it is. Um…may I ask who, in fact, I am speaking to?"
Adam grinned. "Aw, you remember me, Mr. Aziraphale. And I remember you. And I just heard some stuff I think you and your friend in the Bentley might like to know…"