::::That call with Castiel had confirmed his worst fears: he knew that at least some of this story had truth in it... how much of a stretch was it that the rest of it was true? He didn't want to think about it, didn't want to get his hopes up, but the matter was pressing. He needed to know.
He would find Castiel later, but right now, he had to go to Chuck, and find out what the hell was going on. With a determined scowl, Dean turned the keys in the ignition, leant back on the seat to look behind him as he pulled out, and sped off to Chuck's house.:::::
"I keep writing because I have to. It's a certain compulsion; can't really explain it. Dean has the Prophecy now – as he calls it – but I want to keep writing. The Winchesters' story is not over, and nor is my part in it.
"Now if you don't mind, I have a guest coming for dinner."
'Sweet Home Alabama' played on the fading radio station as Dean sped along the blacktop. He was almost out of range of the station, but the music was good, and he half-hoped the station wouldn't flicker and die, at least not before the end of this song.
Late July heat was all around him in the car – even with the windows down, the day was still and muggy and there was not much breeze to be had. He drove with more determination towards the setting sun despite the heat.
Dean was back to the life he remembered. Driving along, with nothing but endless highway, windows open to the summer heat. He hardly had the chance to enjoy it though; he had more important things on his mind.
Lynyrd Skynyrd finally was drowned out by static as Dean crossed the state border. He didn't bother changing the channel, but instead switched the radio off.
A million thoughts ran through his head. He wondered what he would find out when he got to Chuck's house. He wondered whether Chuck would even be there when he got there; he had no doubt that Chuck would know he was coming.
He considered the options: Chuck was God – that just got more and more ridiculous every time he thought about it – and Sam was back – don't think about it, don't get your hopes up. Either that or this was all some sick joke and he'd go back to the way things were before, and Chuck was just a Prophet and an author like he'd always assumed…he just had these unseen powers that made words appear out of thin air.
His thoughts swirled into his head until one bled into the other, like the fields of the Midwestern farms melding together into one big green blur as he drove past. Like the towns melding into fields melding back into towns.
There came a time when he couldn't bear the silence any more. He switched the radio back on, searching for a good station. He couldn't bear to put the tapes in, it would only bring up memories he'd rather forget. Songs would spur thoughts of long drives, heading towards another hunt, listening to Sam singing along, the whole time not being able to carry a tune in a bucket. The radio yielded nothing, only some shitty country songs, but he listened anyway, hoping annoyance at the music would block out thoughts of anything else.
He stopped by a diner at the side of the road, for a boost. He'd missed lunch because he was driving, and suddenly felt remorse because dinner was supposed to be Lisa's spaghetti. He pulled out his new cell phone – paid for legally; he would never get over that – and sent Lisa a text. He hadn't left a note or anything before he left, so he apologized now, telling her that something important had to be done.
He assumed Lisa wouldn't question it, because she knew that when Dean meant important, he meant, like, end-of-the-world important.
He grimaced as he chugged down almost-warm coffee. He was sitting in this crappy little diner; a real shithole, even by Dean's standards – and Dean had eaten in some pretty shitty diners. The waitress looked enthusiastic enough to serve people their drinks, though. She was pretty, too, blonde hair falling just past her shoulders and apron hugging her hips nicely. Dean had neither the energy nor the motivation to hit on her. Besides, she reminded him a little too much of Jo.
Aw, jeez. Can I make this coffee Irish?
Dean groaned, and rested his head in his palms, elbows resting on the countertop.
"Something bothering you, buddy?"
Dean looked up and to his left where the voice came from. He was greeted with a wide smile. "Thanks man, but…uh…nothing you can help me with."
He couldn't have been much older than Dean, but his dark brown hair was already receding – Dean guessed it was because the guy brought his work home with him: there were various documents littering the table in front of him. He wore a dark grey suit and his briefcase was pulled as close to him as it could possibly be.
"Hey, try me," the man said, cocking his head to the side in concern for Dean, something which was eerily reminiscent of Castiel. "What is it, then? A relationship? Your family?"
Dean raised his eyebrows, wondering if it was that obvious that he was dealing with a family problem. "Um…yeah. It is family, actually."
"Lay it on me."
Dean smiled a little at this stranger, so willing to listen to his problems. He briefly hoped he wouldn't charge him for this. Whatever, he'd buy the guy a coffee or something. "Uh…well. It's a long story. And it'll probably sound like a soap opera, but…" Dean took a deep breath. "So, my brother, he…well, we thought he'd died. But then there's a …rumor going around that he's not, and it's…" Dean pinched the bridge of his nose. "He's not…himself anymore."
The man looked at him sympathetically. "That does sound like the plot of Ugly Betty," he laughed, something infectious that made Dean smile too, in spite of himself. "Listen buddy," he said, clapping a comforting hand on Dean's left shoulder. "You just gotta accept your brother the way he is, you know?"
"Yeah…" Dean laughed once. "It's just all a little confusing at the moment." The man nodded knowingly. "In fact I was just…uh…heading to my father's house to…um…get some answers." This, Dean thought, was pretty much as close to the truth as he was willing to admit.
"That's the spirit, man. Face this head-on." Dean smiled.
"Thanks, dude. Here, let me buy you a coffee for your trouble." The man scoffed and began to collect his sheets from all over the counter top.
"No, please. It's no problem – I'm leaving now anyway." The man stuffed his papers haphazardly into his briefcase, standing up. "But hey, listen, if you ever want to talk again, here's my card."
"Thanks…" The man slipped him a business card over the counter. Dean peered at it, reading that the guy's name was Dan Price, and he worked for a company called Ashcroft Enterprises. When he looked up again, Dan was gone, and when he looked towards the door to say goodbye, he'd already disappeared.
The drive to Chuck's house was not far after that. Dean didn't notice the countryside anymore; he was concentrating on getting there, and nothing else.
It occurred to him that he didn't know what he was going to actually say when he got there. To start a conversation with 'So… you're God,' would be slightly awkward, to say the least.
Soon enough, he pulled up outside the house, and with the creeping sense of déjà vu up his spine, set upon the front door with determination. With a roll of his eyes and a scowl, he knocked.
"It's open," called a voice from inside and Dean pushed open the door.
Chuck's house looked exactly as it always had; empty liquor bottles strewn in the most awkward and random of places. When he walked into the living room/study/sometimes bedroom of Chuck's, he saw the familiar untidy piles of manuscripts, scribbled on and in a kind of order that he was sure only made sense to the author himself.
Speaking of the devil – holy…mother, that was an inappropriate phrase to use right now – he suddenly heard Chuck's voice coming from across the room.
"I always bet on you being the sentimental type, Dean." He was sitting in a huge, shabby recliner on the opposite side of the room, facing away from Dean.
He couldn't help it. "Huh?" he asked, dumbly, walking towards the chair.
At that, Chuck spun around to face Dean. He wasn't wearing his usual boxers-bathrobe ensemble that he used to sport so well, but instead a crisp white shirt and dress pants. In one hand was a glass of scotch, in the other, twirling in an infinite, annoying circle was…
"This amulet," Chuck began, looking up at Dean, who began to get the uncomfortable feeling he was been looked into rather than at. "It was a symbol of your brother's love." Suddenly, it stopped twirling and came to an abrupt rest. "You don't realize how much it hurt him when you threw it away. Think fast…"
Dean did have to think fast, but caught the necklace just in time. He looked at Chuck for some sort of explanation, but it wasn't for long. For, almost as soon as it met with the skin of his palm, he felt it begin to heat up. It burned an impossibly bright white and soon it was too hot to touch. Juggling it, he almost dropped it but before he did it immediately cooled and changed back to its original color.
He looked up, trying to form a question on his lips, "Wh -?" Chuck just smiled.
Proof, Dean thought, if there ever was any.
"So you're here about the book, right?"
Dean simply stared at Chuck, jaw slack and eyes wide. He remembered why he was here. "Y-yes. The book." He coughed. "What the hell?"
Chuck shrugged. "It's…what it is."
Dean scoffed. "It's very well written, if that's what you want me to say." He passed a hand over his face, beginning to pace. "What did you just do it to hurt me or something?"
Dean watched as Chuck stood from his chair, looking like a kicked puppy. "Hurt you?" He sounded truly insulted. "No…I wouldn't…would never write to deliberately hurt someone. That's the highest form of blasphemy, and that's coming from me," Chuck said, laughing a little. Dean briefly wondered if Jesus would occasionally talk this passionately about carpentry.
He shook the thought, still too afraid to not be skeptical. "Look, Chuck. I'm not buying it."
Chuck sighed, and looked at Dean sadly. "Surely you've seen more ridiculous things in your life?" Dean did admit that it was true, but he didn't say it out loud. He wouldn't let Chuck be right. He was actually pretty lucky Dean was being this civil – if it weren't for the extraordinary circumstances, he'd be tearing God an epic set of new ones for all He did…or didn't do.
Not that the point was valid, because Dean still didn't believe this guy was God.
"What is it you want me to say, Dean?" Chuck gazed at him imploringly, before walking over to his desk and setting down his drink. "Look, I told you the truth in that book. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…" He chuckled to Himself, stretching out a hand to rest it on a sizeable pile of old and edited manuscripts. "…hand on the Gospel."
Dean hardly knew what to say. He was powerless to do anything but use the skepticism and doubt that his family had practically patented. "So, sure. You're God, and Sam…Sammy's an angel." He looked down. "That's believable."
"You need more proof than you already got?" Chuck walked up to him – did they not teach personal space rules in Heaven? – and all but forced him to look up at him, simply by his…what? His strength of character? "Okay, you know what? Believe me, don't believe me…I'm just trying to help you." He looked Dean in the eye – apparently they didn't blink in Heaven either. "Look, I've put you through enough shit, this is just an apology. Trust me, alright? You've trusted me in the past."
Dean was silent. He'd been fed a lot of information today, not all of it necessarily information he wanted to hear. He thought he was done with all this, but then again, nothing's ever done, is it? Dean would never be done. He didn't really want any of it to be true. Dean knew that things that sounded too good to be true usually were, and he knew that if you let yourself get caught up in them, you just end up hurt. He wanted to wake up from this nightmare, but now that he knew the truth – or as much of the truth as he was ever going to get – there was someone he needed to see. Someone he needed to find.
"Atta boy, Dean," Chuck supplied, interjecting with a rather redundant comment and a laugh that simply infuriated Dean further.
This was it. Dean decided to take the leap of faith and chose to take all he'd just read as fact. In which case, he needed to speed like Hell back to Cicero and find the house all the kids thought was haunted.
A/N: HOLY MOTHER that chapter took me a long time. I'm sorry about that. Anyway, only two chapters left folks. Thanks for all the support up until now :)