Title: Nothing and Everything
Part Two: Retribution
Disclaimer: Supernatural was created by Eric Kripke. No disrespect is meant with this work of fan fiction.
Notes: Merry Christmas all! Thank you for reading and thank you to those who've left reviews and will leave reviews in the future. I'm working on a companion piece to this and will hopefully have it ready to post very soon.
It was on the edge of town that Sophie waited, standing beside her car. She wasn't sure why she waited except that, over the hours they'd ridden together, she'd come to like Teddy the former Trickster. Not so former now. He had his powers back. He'd asked her to meet him here and she'd come straight here after leaving the building.
She should run the other way. He was a Trickster after all, the Trickster, the father of all other Tricksters. He could do anything, be anyone, and was a thing she'd normally hunt.
His knee had felt human beneath her hand back in Las Vegas and that arm he'd put around her not ten minutes earlier human also.
Sophie crossed her arms. Mick was gone, really and truly gone. She'd dreamed a few times about getting him back, yet known it was only that: a dream. He'd been gone for a year and a half.
Had it been that long?
She frowned. It had. Most of that time she'd been in this partially souled state, floundering emotionally and lonely. She'd planned to end her own life after taking what was left of Mick's. It had been agony being in pain as long as she had. Her only thought for months had been to be free of that pain.
Meeting Teddy had changed that. She'd felt something with him…. A part of her wondered if Teddy could fill part of the void inside her.
Standing over Mick, the man she'd loved, and seeing that alien coolness on his face had been like a shower of ice water poured over her. He wasn't the man she'd loved anymore and hadn't been since the creature had eaten his soul.
Sam had been right. The man on that floor had been a shattered shadow of Mick, a broken memory that didn't even play right. Sophie had started shaking at that realization and the realization that she didn't want to die. Not anymore. She no longer desired to follow Mick to the grave and had had a sudden sense of being set adrift, lost in uncharted waters.
If it wasn't right to die, then what did she do now? How did she go on without revenge to carry her? She'd been so focused for so long that she had no idea what else there could be.
Teddy's arm about her and voice in her ear had grounded her, given her hope, a thing that had been missing from her life for months. She'd come here to meet him because of that hope.
"You should be happy."
Her heart beat a bit faster in response to his voice. "Why?" He'd appeared beside her in a blink.
"You were able to save Mick."
"Not his soul."
"You freed him. You loved him and did what you had to. I've been there."
Turning her head, she looked at him. When their eyes met, Sophie felt like she was home, like he understood her and always would. "You wanted to talk?"
He leaned against the car. "It's not your imagination, you know."
"What's not?" She forced herself to shift position and turn her attention elsewhere.
Teddy chuckled. "I can give you something you've been missing, something you need. You can do the same for me."
"Are you offering?" She said the words almost scornfully, aware of what he'd 'offered' Gwen.
"What is it you're offering, Teddy? A good time until I pop out a kid and you take it and disappear forever?"
He moved to face her, fingers tipping her chin up, making her look at him again. "That was all talk. I was angry. I said things I'd never do. I've never parted any of my children from their mothers and each woman knew the truth. I was honest. Had to be. Children are important, I think we can agree on that. I don't trick when it comes to choosing a woman and fathering. I'm offering you life, Sophie, life with me, and a life that'll have enough new things in it to keep you wanting more. I know how to treat a woman and you are an exceptional one." He grasped her hips in his hands.
"You're a Trickster, Teddy. I'm a hunter. We don't mix."
"On the contrary, I think it just makes us more interesting."
"I won't stop hunting." Though hadn't she already? Her hunt for months now had been tracking the soul stealer. Any jobs she'd found had been passed to other hunters. Hadn't she already stopped hunting?
"Neither will I." He shrugged. "Maybe we can…merge our careers on occasion. We worked well together tonight."
"What do you say, Sophie? Make something special with me?"
She slid her hands up his chest to his shoulders, letting him draw her close. Human, he still felt human to touch and she liked his lean form pressed against her. There was so much strength to him…. "No illusions, Teddy." She meant it on several levels and he shook his head.
"Only reality. I won't deceive you, Sophie."
What did she have to lose? Love? Already gone with Mick. Self-respect? Did she even know what that was anymore? Her soul? He was hardly a demon to take her soul. Maybe he could give her life and did she want to throw away a chance to feel something again? She knew he wasn't playing a trick on her. He meant every word - for now anyway. He was a Trickster however, and a monster, and some day, his nature would shine out. Right now though, she needed him. Sophie nodded. "Let's make something special then."
He kissed her, a careful caress that didn't hurt her split lip, and joy sang through her veins. It had been too long since she'd had even a glimpse of raw emotion inside herself and Sophie wept from it.
This'll work. We'll make it work. God, please, don't let this end too soon.
Teddy drew back and wiped away her tears with gentle fingers. "What do you say we ditch this place in style?"
A limo pulled up and Sophie took a last glance at the empty road behind them before letting him help her inside. She didn't know where they were going, but found herself looking forward to the journey.
Jo was taking half the dose of painkiller she was supposed to and was in a pissy mood. Dean had had to help her dress, a completely different experience than helping her undress and one that took about twice as long. He'd had to resist the urge to not take off what he'd just helped her put on.
"He could've healed it completely," she grumbled after giving her order to their server. "I know he could have."
Dean sat back in his seat and stretched his legs out, hissing a little as the muscles in his back pulled wrong. He probably should have accepted Castiel's offer of a little help. That moment of stubborn pride was definitely felt now. He'd even thought about taking one of Jo's pain killers. "Probably the only sort of loophole he could think of in his restriction on healing was to partially heal you. Then he could say he hadn't healed you when he sort of did." He was glad Cas had bent the rule and knew Jo was too when she wasn't in pain.
"Yeah? Well it sucks. Gwen gets angelic healing."
"Gwen's pregnant and the baby is Abby's charge. It's sort of the requirement now."
Jo snorted. "Maybe I should get pregnant again, have that healing myself."
He cleared his throat and crossed his arms. Not quite the time to talk about more kids in his opinion. "Let's not have that discussion right now."
"You're the one wants like twenty kids."
She was spoiling for a fight and he hoped that half dose of painkiller would kick in soon or this meeting with Heather was going to go wrong fast. "I never said twenty. I think I said ten." Though one more would be good, maybe two if it worked out. He'd like to have a girl next time, one with Jo's eyes and attitude.
With another snort, she tapped her fingers on the table. "Where's my coffee? I need coffee. What's taking them so long?"
Okay, maybe not with Jo's attitude then.
Sam and Gwen entered the restaurant, joining them. Sam was still limping and, like all but Gwen, looked like he'd been in a bad accident or bar fight. When Dean and Jo had finally gotten to the motel, Sam had developed a black bruise all across his kneecap and the kneecap was swollen. Dean wondered if Gwen had persuaded him to wear a bandage around his knee under his jeans to stabilize it or if he was ignoring that advice.
Out of all of them, Gwen looked the most well-rested, though that might be because she went into a pregnancy caused sleep coma seconds after lying down and stayed asleep until either someone or her alarm woke her.
Gwen took the seat beside Jo and reached for a menu. "Man, I'm hungry this morning!"
Even as hungry as she claimed to be, she still ordered fruit, toast with no butter and scrambled egg beaters. It wasn't a large breakfast like Dean's sampler, hardly more than what she usually had. He leaned a little around Jo. "Sure you can eat all that," he teased.
"Dean." Sam raised his brows. "Don't."
"Looking out for her."
She grinned. "I think I'll be fine, Dean. Drink some coffee for me. You look like you need it this morning."
Their server brought the coffee, Jo doctoring hers, adding ice cubes and drinking the first cup as fast as she could. "If she's not here in five minutes, we're leaving."
"We just ordered," Sam protested.
"Not you two. Me and Dean. We're leaving in five."
Dean made a noise of protest himself. He'd been looking forward to a hearty breakfast. "Belgian waffle, Jo. With eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, hash browns, and that apple crisp stuff that's like pie." He touched her hand, stroking a finger along the back of it in a tender caress. "Breakfast. Apple pie. Those two don't go together often."
Sam's cough sounded suspiciously like he was covering a laugh.
She turned her head, giving him a stern stare. "We'll swing through Arby's and you have apple pie for breakfast at home all the time."
"Not all the time."
"There's a reason I don't buy pies from the bakery anymore, Dean."
Heather arrived a moment later, negating Jo's threat. She slipped into the chair beside Sam and across from Jo. Her hair was no longer curled and she wasn't wearing makeup. In the harsh fluorescent lighting she looked older, weary, and surprised they were still there. "You're here." She hung her purse on her chair and laid the thick file she was carrying on the table. "I didn't think you would be."
"In another minute we wouldn't have been," Dean told her as she sat. He gestured to Sam, then Gwen. "Brother Sam. Sister-in-law Gwen."
"Hi. I'm Heather. Nice to formally meet you. Thanks for doing what you did last night. All of you."
And there was that 'thank you' Dean had never thought they'd hear. He blinked in surprise.
She licked her lips and tucked her hair behind her ears. "It's all over town, you know. The serial killer Mick Richardson taking the class reunion hostage, killing most of them, and getting taken out by a mystery woman thought to be a vengeful family member of a previous victim." She sighed, dark amusement in her green eyes. "Town hasn't seen this much excitement since the Roadhouse blew."
"We Harvelles always liven up the place." The edge was gone from Jo's voice and either the pain pill had taken effect or the coffee had mellowed her.
Heather's smile was wry. "True. Life is certainly more interesting with your family around, Jo." Her smile faded. "I know he wasn't human. Do I want to know the full story about what he was?"
"Probably not," Gwen told her. "Most civilians -"
"Heather's a witch," Dean informed her, saying it blunt and watching the friendly warmth in Gwen's eyes ice over.
"I see." Gwen's eyes narrowed. "How long have you been one, Heather?"
"Since I was about thirteen. Is…is that a problem?" She looked at each of them.
"Let's just say it doesn't endear you to us." Sam put his napkin on his lap and then their food was there, Heather declining to order anything but coffee.
"What do you want, Heather?" Jo scowled at her English muffin. "Dean, I need strawberry jam on this."
He thought she could do it herself, but added the jam for her anyway. "Why don't we wait until after we're all done before we talk about whatever Heather wanted to meet about?"
"I don't mind waiting," Heather offered. "It's fine. Eat. Go ahead."
The Belgian waffle was a tad overcooked. Dean ate it anyway. "So tell us, Heather…. What's up with your class and summoning demons?"
"What do you mean?" She didn't seem guarded, just curious, like she had no idea what he was talking about. Maybe she didn't, but he'd bet she knew something.
"You know nothing about it?" Jo took a bite of the English muffin, chewed and swallowed. "About Cheryl, Thad, and Steve? Maybe Toby?"
"About what? I knew Cheryl, Thad, and Steve all died. What do you mean summoning demons? You think they did that?"
"Ten years after graduation those three died after reaching pretty damn good levels of success. It was in your reunion booklet." Dean cut his sausage and speared a piece with his fork. "Classic crossroads deal. Ten is the usual number, though they've been known to make that number higher or a lot lower depending on the individual and how tasty they are."
She crossed her arms on the table. "Well, they did borrow a book from me and never returned it. It was a really old one that Amelie Grafton gave me before she moved away. I'd never actually looked at it, so I don't know what was in it."
"Amelie?" Jo shook her head. "I don't remember her. When was she here?"
"She was only here a couple months in eighth grade. Actually, she was the one that showed me witchcraft worked and got me started. She gave me two books to help me before she moved. I still have the one. I can show it to you if you want."
Sam's laugh was like a snort. "Your friend Amelie was a demon, Heather. She enticed you, got you going. You're under contract with her and her boss."
"Which means ultimately, she's under contract with Crowley now," Dean said, his appetite suddenly much diminished. "Word is he's got his sticky fingers everywhere: crossroads, regular sales of all levels…." Crowley wasn't going to go away and with the soul stealer gone, he'd be putting his crossroad demons back onto their usual beats. Some day, they were going to go up against Crowley again and maybe this time they'd be able to gank him before he ran away. It still ticked him off that Crowley had gotten away from them.
"I didn't sign anything." Heather still didn't look like she understood the gravity of her situation.
"Doesn't matter." Gwen turned her plate a fraction and reached for the ketchup, covering her egg beaters with it. "As soon as you started using, she knew you'd be hooked."
"It was probably verbal, couched in old language like Latin, something she could count on you not understanding and being trusting enough to repeat." Jo shoved her plate away, English muffin half eaten. "They took the book and it disappeared with the crossroad demon, I bet. Probably passed on to give to another new witch to entice her, or his, friends. You know, I do vaguely remember mom saying something about some possible demon activity she was looking into around that time they would have asked for the book." She sipped at her coffee, a pensive expression on her face. "I was getting ready for college then, not really paying much attention to hunting for like the first time ever."
"Unless you can get out of whatever pact you made, you're going to hell," Dean told Heather, mostly to watch her roll her eyes in that clueless way that indicated she didn't believe him on that.
"He's not kidding," Gwen told her. "That's how it works. Make deals with demons -"
"Go to hell," Sam finished for her. "Do not pass go -"
"Do not collect two hundred dollars." Dean took a last bite and shoved his plate away.
Heather stirred her coffee. "Geez. Are you stuck on all that hell stuff, too, Jo?"
"Dealing with demons is never a good idea, so…yeah. I guess I am. I know enough about hell to know I never want to end up there and you shouldn't want to either."
They finished eating and it was time for business. Heather rested her hands on the folder in front of her. "You tried to save my life last night, Jo. Thank you for that. I know we weren't close in high school -"
"Understatement of the year. You tormented me for four years. That's definitely not close."
"I didn't torment you." Heather's eyes widened. "I may have said a few things from time to time -"
"Torment. Every day. And it wasn't just the words, it was the actions."
Her lips parted and she frowned. "You never acted like it bothered you. You gave back as good as you got."
"Because I had to. You were a serious mean girl. No way I was going to let you and your gang win."
"Win?" She started to reply and sat back. "Okay. I guess what I remember isn't what you do. I thought that while we weren't friends exactly, we got along okay. We had different friends, different interests, different ways of doing things, but…." Heather groaned. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all."
"Why?" Dean was curious about that awfully thick file on the table.
"It's fine, Heather. That was in the past." Jo shifted in her chair. "Go on. Tell us what you want."
"Okay. My dad died a few months back and I've been here settling the estate. It's a lot to do and a lot I still have to do. He had so many secrets…."
"Parents always do," Sam said.
"Sometimes it's a real doozey that comes your way, too." Gwen crossed her arms on the table edge.
"Tell me about it. I had no idea about half of what I've found so far." Heather nodded. "It's how the reunion idea came about, by the way. Some of us were sitting around, reminiscing, and got to wondering how the rest of the class was. Voilà. Reunion. I thought fourteen years was a stupid idea, but was overruled. Fourteen. I mean, really? Reunions are supposed to be at certain year markers, right? Like five, ten, and fifteen, not fourteen."
The derision in her voice for the idea was the same as Jo's had been.
"You know some of those idiots actually thought it'd been fifteen?"
"That doesn't surprise me," Jo said. She'd perked up a little at Heather's disdain for the fourteen year idea.
"It shouldn't have me either, but it did. Some of our classmates weren't the brightest."
"Don't have to tell me that."
"I figured I might as well coordinate and make it something besides a few kegs set in the back of Vinnie's pick-up. Anyway, I'd been setting aside the weird things I was finding in dad's files, things that didn't add up. About two months into it, I determined I needed to get a private detective to sort it all out, track down people, and just figure out what I can't." She pushed the folder towards Jo. "Your RSVP came in and I thought, it's got to be fate or something. I need an investigator and you are one."
"You want to hire us," Gwen asked.
"Yeah. Why not? At first I thought I'd hire your company because I know Jo and I know she'll get to the bottom of whatever was going on, but then, after last night…." Her attention turned to each of them in turn. "It's got to be fate. Seriously. I think you're the only ones who can figure this out and not freak out if it's what I think it could be."
"Why do you say that?" Dean shifted in his chair, managing not to hiss again from the discomfort in his back.
"You told me you use spells to take care of evil creatures, Dean. That means you hunt them down and you're obviously familiar with this stuff. All of you."
Sam reached for the folder. "I think we should take a look at what you have before we accept anything."
Heather nodded. "Feel free to peruse. This is just a fraction of what I've found." She shrugged a shoulder. "I thought it might be enough to get you interested."
Dean watched Sam's face as he glanced through several pages. There was an intriguing flash of alarm in his eyes before he masked it and casually handed a page to Gwen. She took it and studied it, handed it to Jo, who glanced at it and handed it to Dean. He looked at the page and saw what Sam had: a name that made it quite clear what Heather's dad had been up to: Bela.
He gritted his teeth. Occasionally, they still did run across aftermath of Bela's work.
So, Artie Holt had dealt in cursed objects and set up shop right under Ellen and Bill's nose, continuing long after Bill died and the Roadhouse blew up. That had to be where he'd gotten his money. Dean suddenly understood that it hadn't been that Ellen had had something on him like Jo suspected. No, Artie had let her win on matters to keep her from looking into his business. He'd let her win and Dean wondered if he'd known the Harvelle real business and been keeping tabs on the family. For who though? Himself, or someone else? What, exactly, had Heather's father been up to?
He turned his attention to Sam, asking the silent question of whether they wanted to check it out or not.
Sam nodded. Dean moved on to Gwen and Jo next and, when he'd gotten their nods as well, he leaned forward slightly. "Okay, Heather. We're sufficiently intrigued. Let's discuss our fee."
For twenty minutes, they haggled over prices, making it clear that Heather had a firm grasp on what the going rates were for what she was asking and she'd get a deal if she could.
Jo's eyes had brightened with interest and the challenge as the conversation had continued. Dean thought she was probably hoping to uncover some big Holt skeletons. She cleared her throat. "You said you wanted to hire us because you know me and know I'll find out the truth. Then you said we might be the only ones who wouldn't freak. These are our prices, Heather. They're set and we have a proven track record and references from satisfied clients if you need them. Or you can go with a cut-rate company that'll do a half-ass job for half the price. Your choice. Frankly, we don't need the work. We're busy enough as it is without taking on a job of this size."
It was the right thing to say. Heather was raring to sign the paperwork and Gwen just happened to have not only a hunting kit, but an investigation kit in her car. She was just as prepared as Jo was, for either business.
Sam played secretary, filling out their end of the paperwork, then handed it off to Heather to finish. Heather took a pair of reading glasses from her purse and put them on, perusing the papers slowly. She was going to pay them an astronomical sum to do a job that was technically not in the scope of their front job. She was paying them to hunt and find out a truth that Dean suspected she wouldn't want to know in the end.
Speaking of that, he had a change to make before things were final. He held up a finger. "One last thing before we dot all the 'i's' and cross the 't's' here."
Heather glanced up, over the rim of the glasses, pen poised over the paper. "Yes?"
"However this turns out, whatever we uncover, you never use your witchy powers against us."
"I wouldn't," she protested.
"Let's just make that official," Sam said, reaching for the contract and scrawling an addendum at the bottom.
"Why?" Heather read the addition.
Gwen laced her fingers together on the table. "In this business, you never know what'll happen. Best to be safe in the things that can be controlled." She could mean either of their businesses with that statement.
With a final look at all of them, Heather signed the papers and handed them to Sam. "There. Can you start today?" She dug in her purse and pulled out a key ring, setting them on the table. "Here are the extra keys. I'm sure Jo remembers where the house is. I could take you over now if you like, show you where I found things?"
They made arrangements and Dean wondered what else they might find as they dug through Heather's business and family. He hoped that little addendum would keep them safe, but the sad fact was, they were never safe and never would be.
Nearly two weeks after the reunion, Jo stood at the front windows back at their house and watched Abigael work up the nerve to come to the door. She paced in the front yard, glanced at the house, crossed her arms, started to walk away, and paced some more. She'd been doing it for nearly an hour. Once, she'd gotten to the steps before changing her mind.
Jo glanced over her shoulder. Sam and Dean were working on various tasks, Sam for the job Heather had given them and Dean on something Mel had sent them. Jack was playing on the floor and Gwen was in the kitchen making a cup of herbal tea. "Gwen."
She came over, holding a mug and looking out the window. "She's still out there."
"Why won't she just come up? I didn't think angels got scared."
"Maybe she's trying to figure out how to do her job when Dean and Sam are having trust issues with the angels again?"
Castiel appeared beside her, the two talking. It looked like they were giving each other a pep talk.
Talking was what they needed to come in here and do. They all needed to sit down and hash things out, but getting Dean and Sam to agree to it was the problem. They were avoiding anything that had to do with the angels.
She watched Castiel give Abigael's shoulder a bracing squeeze and Abigael marched towards the house and up onto the porch.
Gwen went to the door and opened it before Abigael could knock. "Might as well come in."
"Oh. Thank you. You seem well?"
"Peachy. A little nausea now and then still."
"Ahh." She glanced towards Jo. "Hi, Jo. Are you all available for a few minutes?"
"No," came Dean's denial from across the room.
"We're available," Jo said, overruling him and ignoring the sour stare he turned her way. "Well, we are."
He shoved aside the papers he was going through. "Fine. What?"
Abigael moved to the table and sat, waiting until Sam, Gwen, and Jo joined them. "Castiel told me you've read the prophet's latest work. You know what happened leading up to the accident and immediately after."
Dean crossed his arms.
Sam leaned on the table. "So?"
"So, I need to know where I stand with you. I'm the Guardian of your child, Dean, and of you wife and unborn child, Sam. I need to know neither of you will interfere with me doing my job. I need to know that you won't hold those days against me."
"You mean you need to know we won't try to kill you," Dean said.
"Killing me would be unfortunate for your children, though they'd receive another Guardian eventually."
"What about Cas?"
"What about him?"
Jo stayed silent, listening carefully and saw Gwen had the same idea.
"Would he be that Guardian?"
"Do you want him to be?"
Dean looked away and so did Sam.
Abigael laced her fingers together. "No, Dean. He won't be the Guardian in the event you kill me. He'd appoint the Guardian."
Jo cleared her throat. "I think we need to have another…probationary period with you. Supervised visits and so on. Slowly get back into things." She looked back to the front windows. "We're cool, Abby, or as cool as we can be for now. Why don't you send Castiel in?"
It was time they had it out. Dean and Sam might not think they were ready, but Jo did.
The meeting with Dean and Sam wasn't going well. Castiel was frustrated and trying to hide it. It had started out nice and rational - until Sam's temper flared about Cas not doing anything to help Gwen. Gwen had attempted to intervene and Sam had stormed out, Gwen going after him.
Jo had excused herself soon after to tend to Jack, leaving only Castiel and Dean.
Castiel touched the box, placed his hand on the lid. "I know you're angry with me -"
" - and that trust we had can't easily be rebuilt, but I'm an angel, Dean. I'm a righteous heavenly being and my job will sometimes go against what you consider right and just in the sphere of what you see around you."
"Don't give me that, Cas. There's right and wrong and none of you get to exempt yourselves from either."
"I have to look at the bigger picture. I have to. I will have to act on what will be coming and not just what is happening now, or what you see right now." He wished they didn't have to have this conversation, that he could simply say he was sorry and they'd go back to how it had been. But that wasn't possible.
Dean rolled his eyes and snorted.
"It's a lesson I had to relearn and I'm sorry we can't be friends in the human definition of the word. I would have liked that." He smiled a little, recalling the days of Dean teaching him how to be human. "I did like it."
"You kept things from us, Cas. It's hard to get past." Dean clasped his hands together and looked down at the floor. "You kept things from us, worked for Death, and you let Gwen get hurt." He glanced up. "I understand the last even if I can't let it go yet."
He acknowledged it with a nod. "I'm not denying it. I admit I had to keep things from you. I had a job to do and precise timing for it, but I was manipulated and tricked into working for him. You understand that, right?"
"Yeah, I get that part. So, was it in the cards that we all get beat to hell? That Jo has a broken arm and Sam's got a twisted knee? That all those people died in that building? Death had all that planned out…and you helped him with it?"
"I did the job he gave me to do to the best of my ability. Atropos, the Fate, was under the impression you, Sam, and Jo were going to die, leaving Gwen to face him and die containing him. She told Balthazar, who told me, and I…. I decided to hell with what Death wanted, I couldn't let you all die. I had to give you a fighting chance. You know the rest. Abigael bringing Gwen. Me guarding Jack and waiting for news, then realizing that it did play out as it had been planned. He could have taken you and didn't." He looked down at the box. "I love you all, Dean. You, Sam. I've come to love Jo and Gwen and others. You might not believe it right now, but I do and I want to show my love for you and some day regain your trust. I've thought a lot on how to do that."
"What's your big plan?"
"I'll take the box, lock him up in heaven and throw away the key. I'll keep it safe and keep your descendants safe from ever having to deal with him again. What Aaron did was wrong and all of you shouldn't have to pay the price for his sin."
Dean didn't answer, head remaining bent, and Castiel picked up the box.
"I'll understand if you don't call for me again. I expect it. I accept it. Just…know that I do love you all. You'll never have to fear this creature again." He hoped to see Dean look up again, or hear him say something and was pricked by disappointment when neither occurred after a prolonged silence. He dematerialized and made the arrangements for the box.
It would be kept under lock and key, with two keys needed. He'd have one and Uzziel the other. A guard was placed on the small room and Castiel slipped from heaven to Bobby Singer's house. The Winchesters weren't the only ones he needed to say goodbye to.
He found Ellen bringing in groceries.
She gasped when she noticed him and leaned against the counter, using both hands to brace herself. "Hell's bells, Cas. Could you announce yourself or something? About gave me a heart attack."
"I apologize, Ellen."
Straightening, she peered at him, then got out a bottle and a shot glass, gesturing to the table. "Sit."
"I don't -"
"Not a request. Sit. You look like you need to talk." She sat, poured a shot and set it in front of the chair across from her. "Don't keep a lady waiting."
He sat. "You're not drinking?"
One brow twitched upwards. "It's not even ten in the morning, boy. You go ahead. You'll be fine. You've got that angel metabolism." Her fingers nudged the glass closer. "Drink up."
The first shot wasn't smooth going down, but the next several were.
"Now, tell me what's got you looking like you just lost everything you ever had."
He floundered a bit on the story, certain she already knew most of it. Jo would've told her and if not Jo, then Gwen, though it looked like Gwen had kept that promise he'd asked of her. She'd not told anyone until it had come out anyhow.
Ellen listened, not commenting.
"Sam remains angry with me for not helping Gwen and Dean…." He tapped the glass on the table several times. "I freely admit I did keep things from them and I had to. I've been told the balance of the world is pretty much where it was before Sam and Dean messed it up unknowingly the first time. You see, it had to go on as long as it did, as many months, to reach that level. If it hadn't, if they'd gone after the creature sooner, balance would still be off just a hair, maybe a tiny bit more. This was a chance to make it really right again."
"Everything is even now?"
"So I'm told, yes." He sat back in the chair, only realizing that Bobby hadn't come in. "Where's Bobby?"
"Caught a job with Rufus. Good thing, too. He was driving me nuts." Her smile was fond and he saw the faintest of flushes color her cheeks.
"You love him."
Ellen didn't deny it, nor did she verbally confirm it, returning to the original topic. "You need to give them time, Cas."
"Don't pop in, just…let them think awhile. Let them get to an understanding point. Them boys are stubborn, but they've got my Jo and Gwen who'll knock sense into them as soon as they can." She capped the bottle and set it aside, then glanced at him. "Do you regret it now? What you did these months?"
"I regret that it's put a wedge between me, Sam, and Dean. I regret that I've lost trust that was hard to get in the first place. I regret that we're back where we started: the human hunter and the angel he's not sure he can count on. Maybe that's how it always had to be. The nature of my job and the nature of his. I'm an angel, with a view of events he can never have and struggles to see. He's a hunter and can't know some of the things I do." He blinked. "But do I regret the job itself?"
She nodded in encouragement.
Castiel shook his head. "I can't. The world is on track and my friends are alive. I did what I had to do to get the job done. No, Ellen, I don't regret the job. I merely regret those things that came about personally because of it."
She touched his hand, squeezed it in hers. "Time's your friend here. Trust me. This'll be mended before you know it."
He hoped so. He didn't like being at odds with Dean and Sam.
While he understood all of what Castiel had said and knew what it felt like to be tricked into working for someone you'd rather gank, Dean had trouble letting go of the hurt. He closed his eyes as Castiel promised to keep the box safe. In the silence that followed he decided to try. He'd try to move past it because, under it all, he knew Castiel hadn't meant to hurt them in any way.
"You're talking like it's goodbye here, but you don't get to walk away, Cas. You don't get to come in people's lives, make a mess and leave. You stay and pick up the pieces and -" He looked up, licked his lips and nodded. "- and I'm talking to myself. Great. You couldn't stay another minute?"
"He'll be back." Jo came over to him and sat down beside him.
"Doubt that. He took that box and said he'll keep it safe for us, watch over it so we never have to worry again. It was his way of saying goodbye, stupid nerdy angel with big gallant ideas. He's gone, Jo."
She touched his knee. "It was his way of trying to rebuild. Give it time. Give him time."
"Angels drive me nuts."
"Has it been all bad knowing him?"
It was a leading question, one she said while looking enticingly saucy. "You know it hasn't." Without Cas…. He and Sam would both be without a lot in their lives.
"Then you decide to forgive him, work through it, help Sam with it, and when you're ready, I think Castiel will come back."
He hoped so. He didn't like this rift between he and Sam and Castiel. It felt wrong.
Another Winchester had been born, a precious boy to greet the world. In a rare giving moment, the Fates had taken Castiel aside and told him that, barring any more big events, there'd be one more child born. Jo and Dean would have a daughter if nothing changed the slated timeline. They didn't say exactly when the child would be born. Jo could be pregnant again any time now. Sam and Gwen would only have the one son and be perfectly content in that.
Castiel stood just out of sight, Abigael beside him. While his friendship with the Winchesters had been dealt a heavy blow, things were slowly returning to normal. Dean and Sam were softening, occasionally asking Abigael about him. He stayed away, taking Ellen's advice and waiting. When the time came, it had to be them contacting him. He found himself excited for that day and hoping it'd be soon.
"Did you notice," Abigael asked him. "At the birth?"
"The burst of mermaid magic dispersing."
He hadn't noticed, but trusted Abigael in that. "Is that why the birth was easy?"
"Actually…yes. I was told her labor was supposed to be rather like Jo's."
He smiled a little at how tenderly Sam embraced his wife and son. "When did they meet a mermaid?"
"Probably on their cruise."
"They must have impressed her somehow. They don't give out their blessings easily."
He was pleased at how life was treating his friends and, as he watched with Abigael, he heard a familiar call.
It was agreed that Dean would be the first visitor to greet the newest Winchester. Jo would step in next, then Ellen. Dean donned the sterile gown required and went into the room.
"How is it that we get the huge baby that spends an entire day millimetering his way out to greet the world and you get tiny little Slippery McSlips-a-Lot who shoots out less than five hours after her water broke?" While Dean knew it didn't sound like a serious question, it was. How on earth did that happen? He went to the chair and sat.
Gwen looked good. Tired, but good. The baby was only just over five pounds and half the size Jack had been, not to mention Gwen hadn't looked remotely pregnant for a ridiculously long time, a thing that had cause a few disgruntled comments from Jo. Jo had seemed to blossom with pregnant belly immediately after realizing she was pregnant. The only vague problem had been that the baby had been a week overdue. Jo had been sure the baby would be Jack's size.
"Must be Gwen's side of the family." Sam shrugged, cradling the boy in his arms.
"Must be." Dean studied Gwen. She was picking at her dinner, looking at Sam and the baby with wonder on her face. "How're you doing?"
"I can't believe he's here. I'm not pregnant anymore." Stretching out a hand, she touched the blanket around the baby.
"You got a name picked out yet?"
"Sean Alan." She smiled. "Sam picked out the first name, I picked out the middle. Sean Alan Winchester."
Dean nodded. "Sounds good." He got up from his chair. "I'd better let Jo and Ellen come in before they break the door down. Congratulations you two." With the door half open, a thought occurred to him and he looked back at them. "Hey…. Isn't Sean a form of John?"
Sam's shoulders shifted almost guiltily and he cleared his throat. "Maybe?"
He held Sam's gaze for a couple seconds. "It's a good name for a good kid."
The door closed behind him and as he took the gown off, he grinned. Sean was totally a form of John.
He took a walk, leaving Jo and Ellen to go in and coo over the baby. Eventually, his steps took him outside, into the garden area in the courtyard and Dean thought it was a good time for a new beginning all around. He cleared his throat.
"So, Castiel, I suppose you're busy right now doing angel stuff, but if you have a minute…. Stop by."
For once, Castiel appeared before even a minute had gone by. "Hello."
"That's got to be a record." Cas frowned and Dean went on. "You have a minute?"
"I have nothing but time, Dean."
The meeting was awkward on both their parts, the words slow in coming, but it was a start. It was something they could work with and build on.
God, as Chuck, approached Death. He was at the mall food court, eating what Sam called a 'heart attack special': two hamburger patties with triple cheese and layers of both bacon a deep fried onion rings. He joined him without asking, sliding into a chair and sipping at a coffee while waiting for him to finish eating.
Death eyed him coolly, popped the last piece of burger in his mouth, chewed and swallowed. He drank cherry slushie from the largest size available, then wiped his mouth with a napkin. "Making public appearances again, I see."
"On occasion. Can't rush these things, you know."
His glance slid across the crowd of people. Death was here for a reason. Perhaps he'd spotted the next person on his list. "We never rush into anything. None of us. Except a few angels currently running about and your humans, of course."
"Did you see the child?"
"I had occasion to be on that floor. A new mother just down the hall from Gwen bled out. It wasn't long after Gwen gave birth. Lachesis was there in the nursery, as was Abigael. They were deep in discussion when I walked past the window." He took another sip of slushie. "I won't take them off the board, no matter how many times you intervene somehow on their behalf." His voice was pleasant. "They will die."
"Every body dies eventually. Every person is born and every person must die. It's the cycle of their existence. I don't deny that their time will come in the future."
"By rights, I should have them already, even Ellen Harvelle and Bobby Singer."
"Choices were made by all involved. They made theirs and you made yours. It's a little late to cry foul, don't you think?"
Death didn't care for that comment or reminder, those cold eyes staring hard at him. "When their time is up -"
"They'll be yours," God assured him. "Not a moment sooner. Buy you a coffee?"
Death pursed his lips like he'd been sucking on a lemon, then nodded. "I suppose. I've had a hankering to try that new concoction that's been advertised." He stood. "Besides, I have an appointment there shortly. Father of three. Undiagnosed heart condition."
True order and balance had been restored, the scale finally level once more. It had been a very long time since there had been such balance. The timing had been perfect and he made a mental note to show his appreciation to all involved soon.
The Winchester family had time. For awhile anyway. They had time, new allies, and there was happiness. There was contentment. They were in a calm place right now, but soon, as always, a wave would be coming their way. The first ripples had begun with their ongoing investigation into Heather Holt's business and family. They would be tossed and turned and maybe, just maybe, Death would have a say in the outcome.
He smiled softly to himself.