Shitsílí Shíká Doogááł
"By yon bonny banks and by yon bonny braes / Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond..."
Joe Winchester sighed as he watched his grandson standing by the corral and singing softly to one of the horses—Sam's favorite horse, Aggie. She'd been Sam's high school graduation gift.
Now she and Dean were mourning together.
"Where me and mo bhràthair will never meet again / On the bonny, bonny banks o' Loch Lomond..."
Joe still remembered the Christmas when Sam finally got tired of Dean's whistling the AC/DC version of the old Scots tune and forced him to learn the lyrics. And laughed when Dean said, "Dude, that's depressing."
When had they learned Gaelic? He'd never noticed them speaking it before.
"Ye'll take the high road... and I'll take the low road... And I'll be to Lawrence afore ye..." Dean's voice cracked, and Aggie gently nuzzled his shoulder as he began to cry quietly.
If history was any guide, this would be the last time Dean would speak English until he worked through his grief.
Joe was suddenly aware of someone else standing beside him—the Bóhólníihii bidiyingo yá Dį́'íjį́ Nida'anish who looked like some Bilagáana accountant, the one Sarah's kids called Bináá' yágo dootł'izh... Castiel, that was his name. He'd shown up several times when John's boys were visiting these last two years, but this was probably the first time since the world... didn't end four days earlier.
"I thought he was in Indiana," the angel said in Diné bizaad.
"Indiana?" Joe asked. "Hait'éegochą'?"
"There is a woman there whose son might be Dean's. Sam made him promise to try to live a normal life with her."
Aggie nudged Dean, and he climbed onto the top rail of the fence and then onto Aggie's bare back. She looked back at him, but he simply sat there, listlessly stroking her mane. The horse then looked at Joe and Castiel for a moment and took off for the other side of the corral, jumped the fence, and cantered off into the hills.
"She can wait," Joe declared. "We can give him normal here. Sam was always the one who wanted the city house and the white picket fence, thought that would solve everything. Dean remembers a time when it didn't."
Joe also remembered the year after Mary died, when Dean refused to speak English—if he spoke at all—because English was his mother's language and it made him cry. However much he'd tried to hide it, and as much as he loved his mother and her heritage, Dean's heart had always been closest to his father's people. And Joe knew that when Dean had given up hope and planned to say yes to Michael, just hours before Sarah's grandson Adam had disappeared, Sam and Castiel had intercepted Dean in Jericho, Texas, because Sam knew that the last stop on his farewell tour was going to be Dinétah.
Castiel nodded thoughtfully as he watched Dean and Aggie disappearing into the distance. "Yes. It will be better this way." Then he turned and laid a hand on the wall of the hooghan, letting out a brief burst of white light.
"Why did you do that?"
"I have placed wards upon your hooghan. Dean will be safe here for as long as he wishes to remain."
Joe frowned. "I thought the war was over."
Castiel shook his head. "We have stopped the Apocalypse, but Heaven and Hell are in disarray. There may yet be demons and other monsters who will try to kill Dean, or to kill you in order to torment him. I am needed elsewhere and can no longer watch over him in person."
Joe glanced back out at the hills and sighed, then turned back to Castiel. "Will you stay for lunch, my grandson?"
Castiel nearly smiled. "Thank you, my grandfather. I will."
The land was Sarah's now, since both Emily and her mother had passed on during the famine, and the hooghan that John had grown up in had been torn down because they hadn't been able to get Emily to the hospital in time. But Sarah had insisted that Joe build a new hooghan for himself nearby for the boys' sake. "We're the only family they have," she argued, "the only constant thing in their lives except for Bobby Singer, especially now that John is dead. If we change too much... they may not survive."
Neither of them had known then how right she was.
Dean stayed on the ranch all summer, leaving the Impala under a tarp and riding only horses, helping tend the livestock and doing chores and growing nearly as brown as his Chee cousins. He refused to go into town except at greatest need, unwilling or unable to face being called Monster Slayer, hailed as a hero by the elders, or having to answer questions about Sam under any of his nicknames—and the Holy People have mercy on anyone but Joe who mentioned the scar on Dean's left shoulder or asked whether he knew what had happened to Adam. And as when Mary died, Dean spoke only Diné bizaad the entire time, even with Castiel, who came to visit at least once a week and quickly became just as much a part of the family as Dean was.
When the heat started getting bad around mid-June, Joe suggested that they consider moving into Sarah's house, which had air conditioning. Dean responded by building a summer hooghan by himself, which Castiel warded while muttering something about St. Anthony.
"I think he wants to suffer," Castiel explained when Joe cornered him about it. "He knows that Sam wanted him to be able to get out of hunting, to go on living, but he can't let himself enjoy modern comforts knowing that Sam's in Hell. He thinks he doesn't deserve it."
It wasn't just air conditioning, either. Joe managed to convince Dean not to drown himself in alcohol, but Dean would often ride out into the hills with minimal provisions and a handgun and knife, sometimes on one of his own horses but often on Aggie, and stay away for two or three days at a time, and Joe had no way of knowing what he did out there. Castiel did report that he wasn't doing anything to break his final promise to Sam, but they were both worried about him.
And then, one evening at the end of September, Joe heard Dean shouting something in the distance and ran outside to see Aggie returning at a gallop with not one rider, but two—and the second...
"Shinálí hastįį! Shinálí hastįį! Shoo, shoo! Naaltsoos-miil shaa níyá!"
Joe could scarcely believe it, but it was true. Even from a distance, there was no mistaking Thousand Books for anyone else.
Dean had his hands full getting Sam into the hooghan, however. Still wearing the clothes he had supposedly died in, Sam was pale, disoriented, and shaking as if he hadn't eaten in days; his eyes were glassy and unfocused, and he could neither follow what Dean was saying to him in Diné bizaad nor put together a coherent sentence in any other language. Dean, for his part, seemed to have forgotten his other native language entirely and kept fussing at Sam in Diné bizaad. It wasn't until Joe grabbed the arm that wasn't around Dean's neck and pulled it across his own shoulders, ignoring the fact that Sam smelled like Iwo Jima, that Sam managed a "Grandpére?"
French. That was a new one. Fortunately, Joe knew just enough French to be able to answer, "Oui, c'est moi" as they all but carried Sam into the hooghan.
And that seemed to flip a switch for both boys.
"Y'r accent's t'rr'ble, G'n'pa," Sam slurred.
"So's yours, Sasquatch," Dean shot back, and they settled him beside the hearth.
"Howw'd you know, D'n?"
"Dude, you sound like you're drunk."
"Nnngh... tha am pathadh orm."
Dean swallowed hard and replied, "Dè ghabhas tu?"
"Glè mhath." Dean shot Joe a worried look and got Sam a glass of holy water.
Sam took a sip and frowned. "D'you put corn pollen in this?"
Dean blinked. "No. Why?"
"Tastes funny." But he drank the rest of it in one gulp. "Guess my taste buds are kinda messed up."
"Hell will do that to you."
Sam handed the glass back to Dean. "Ahéhee'. I'm gonna pass out now." And he did so, nearly knocking Joe over in the process.
"'Swhy we call 'im Thousand Books—that's how much he weighs," Dean grumbled, but Joe could still see the concern in his grandson's green eyes.
"A thousand paperbacks don't weigh that much," Joe teased and got an amused glare for his trouble. "Since when do you two speak Gaelic?"
Dean sighed and started working Sam's jacket off. "Sammy was... twelve, I guess? Wanted to do a report on Scotland for World History, and Bobby suggested he try learning a little Gaelic to impress the teacher. Sam asked me to help him practice, and... next thing I know, we're speaking it to each other all the time, and Dad comes back from a hunt lookin' at us like we're nuts." He shrugged. "We're Campbells, Grandfather. We just... wanted more of a heritage than soup can labels."
Joe laid a hand on Dean's right shoulder. "Mary would be proud of you both, my grandson. So would your father. So am I."
Dean looked up at him then and whispered, "Ahéhee', shinálí hastįį."
Together they got Sam stripped to his boxers, and Dean gave his brother a gentle sponge bath and washed his long hair in a basin while Joe took his sulfurous clothes outside to air and retrieved his duffle from the trunk of the Impala. They had just gotten him into a clean T-shirt and shorts and onto a bed when Castiel appeared.
"Shoo, Cas," Dean whispered, gesturing toward his sleeping brother.
"I am glad, Dean," Castiel replied gently. "He did not deserve to die." After a pause, he continued, "I'm sorry, but I have bad news. Crowley is holding Bobby's soul for ransom."
Dean frowned. "Can he do that?"
"It depends on the terms of the contract, and of course he won't let me see it. But he is demanding that Bobby give him a powerful artifact that even I can't find. If Bobby doesn't come up with it in two weeks, Crowley will kill him."
Dean spat a Gaelic curse. "Can you heal Sam? Kid deserves a break, but we can't let Bobby die."
Castiel touched two fingers to Sam's forehead, and the boy's hazel eyes were clear when he sat up and blinked at the angel. "Cas? What... what are you doin' here? What's goin' on?"
"Bobby needs us," Dean replied, handing Sam a clean pair of jeans. "I'll explain on the way."
"Yeah, but not for long if Crowley gets his way."
Sam echoed Dean's Gaelic curse and threw on his jeans, socks, and boots while Dean stuffed his own possessions back into his duffle.
"Sorry to leave like this, Grandfather," Dean said, giving Joe a one-armed hug. "We'll be back for Thanksgiving, I promise."
"What do you want me to do with Sam's clothes?" Joe asked.
"Burn 'em," the brothers chorused—and oh, Joe had missed their speaking in stereo.
Castiel stepped toward Dean. "Dean, I could..."
"We're driving," they chorused again.
Sam hugged Joe and accepted his duffle. "Love you, Grandpa."
"Hágoónee', shinálíké," Joe replied.
And then they were out the door, Dean calling over his shoulder, "Sołtį', Cas!"
Castiel hesitated, but Joe chuckled. "Go, Castiel. I'll see you at Thanksgiving."
"Hágoónee'," Castiel nodded and vanished.
As the familiar roar of the Impala's engine reached his ears, Joe stepped to the door of the hooghan and waved goodbye to his grandsons... all three of them. Monster Slayer, Thousand Books, Blue Eyes. Between them, they had saved the world, though Joe didn't quite understand how it had all happened, and he had no clue as to how Sam, beyond all hope, had returned to them.
Aggie was still standing near the door looking bewildered, forgotten in all the excitement. And as Joe walked her back to the corral, a badger came out of the brush to investigate the commotion—a very plain badger that showed no signs of growing horns.
Joe sighed and looked down the road again at the cloud of dust obscuring the Impala. And he wondered... without their Diné family to keep them sane, could Sam and Dean still have won their war?
He decided he'd rather not know.
Shitsílí Shíká Doogááł – My Brother Will Come for Me
Bóhólníihii bidiyingo yá Dį́'íjį́ Nida'anish – angel of the Lord for Thursday
Bináá' yágo dootł'izh – His eyes are blue
Hait'éegochą'? – Why?
Shinálí hastįį! Shinálí hastįį! Shoo, shoo! Naaltsoos-miil shaa níyá! – Grandfather! Grandfather! Look, look! Thousand Books came to me!
Hágoónee', shinálíké – Goodbye, my grandsons
Sołtį' – Let's go
mo bhràthair – my brother
tha am pathadh orm – I'm thirsty
Dè ghabhas tu? – What will you have?
Uisge – Water
Glè mhath – Very well.
(Mild spoilers for Season 6 follow.)
This AU, mostly written in the first half of July 2010, was inspired by the dark_agenda Racebending Revenge Challenge, specifically the SPN AU in which Mary is Korean—I had to wonder what would happen if John were the minority parent, and I immediately thought of both my distant cousin's half-Cherokee wife (who has pretty green eyes like Our Boys) and the Navajo Code Talkers (what with John being a Marine and all), and a very little bit of online research revealed that the Navajo connection could actually work very well. My own ethnic heritage is weighted heavily on the European end, and my American Indian heritage does not include Navajo, but I was a Code Talker fangirl long before Windtalkers came out—in fact, I haven't seen the movie because I hear it's far more about Nicholas Cage's character and rather stupid overall.
So this story of Diné!John sort of wrote itself. Though I wrote most of it on the fly, I did my best to use genuine Diné sources, and I did manage to find a beta with some personal ties to Navajo culture. Where I've had to wing it most is in negotiating the culture clash, since I've been blessed to live among people who view American Indian heritage as a positive thing; if I've been unjust, I humbly apologize for the shortcoming. And I hope it's clear that John is not the most reliable of narrators in any 'verse.
Ray Tracey, my Diné!John, is a renowned Navajo jeweler who worked as an actor in the '70s and '80s; I found his IMDb page and thought he was perfect for the part. (I think he's better-looking than both Matt Cohen and JDM, honestly.)
Disclaimer on terminology: Different tribes, and even different individuals, have widely varied and often vehement opinions as to whether to use American Indian, Native American, First People, or what have you. I believe American Indian is more accurate than the other terms, despite its dodgy origin, but I also recognize that plain "Indian" can have racist connotations, so I've tried to identify John and his family primarily as Diné except in culture-clash contexts. "Navajo" is an outsider's term, coming from Tewa via Spanish, but it's become more commonly accepted among the Diné in recent years, and I'd expect John to start thinking of himself as Navajo more frequently the longer he lives in Lawrence. But there's no question that "Injun" and "half-breed" are slurs.
"The rez" is common slang for the reservation; I wouldn't have used it myself if I hadn't come across it on sites written and maintained by genuine American Indians.
Also, a note on the term "clan" (because I understand there was a dustup on the subject in SG-1 circles): Both Scottish and Navajo societies place heavy emphasis on the clan as an extended family unit, though the basis of clan membership differs—Scots is patrilineal, Diné is matrilineal. Clan Campbell is among the most powerful of the Highland clans, and the Salt Clan is, as far as I can tell from the mythology I've read, one of the oldest Diné clans. This kinship structure has nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan, and both the context and the spelling ought to make clear which I mean.
Title: The title comes from "When All Things Come to an End" by Ray Baldwin Louis on Discover Navajo; "the badger will grow horns" is one of the signs of the Apocalypse, as are an increase of intermarriage between Navajos and non-Navajos, a major famine, and lightning flashing across the sky from east to west. Interestingly enough, two of the four major omens stipulated in Navajo mythology supposedly occurred in the 1950s and '60s—in other words, during John Winchester's childhood!
Names: Quite a few Diné have very Anglo-sounding legal names, and not a few of those family names were the result of a Bureau of Indian Affairs registrar not understanding the Diné name, so a full-blooded Diné named John Winchester is plausible. He would have a Diné name as well, but since he was anxious to get away from certain parts of his heritage, he would think of himself more by his English name. However, Navajo identification is not limited to the individual's name; when introducing oneself to another Navajo, one usually begins with at least the names of the parents' clans, maternal and paternal, and a son belongs to his mother's clan. So in 1973, John tells Dean that his mother belongs to the Salt Clan and his father to the Bitter Water Clan, and Dean replies that his mother was white and his father belonged to the Crystal Rock Clan (which seemed to me the obvious choice for a Van Halen). And yes, the clan names for John were deliberate choices. Grandmother Chee is a nod to Tony Hillerman's mystery novels featuring Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, detectives with the Navajo Tribal Police; there were also several Chees among the Code Talkers.
In 1978, Michael identifies himself to John by translating his name—Michael literally means "Who is like God?" And the Navajo Bible refers to Yahweh as Diyin God to distinguish him from the other gods.
The Diné also give nicknames readily based on a person's characteristics. The Chees' calling Sam "Thousand Books," for example, refers only to the fact that he defines himself as someone who loves to read. (Joe's not quite right about the weight, though—a thousand four-ounce paperbacks would weigh 250 pounds, and Jared, last I checked, weighs 220.)
Alcohol: Federal law prohibits alcohol on the Navajo reservation. That doesn't mean that the Diné never drink—but those who do often become alcoholics. It's not a problem limited to the Navajo, either; many tribes have a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism, and veterans are especially susceptible (Ira Hayes and Pappy Boyington are two famous examples who come to mind). Canon!John has his alcoholic periods, as do Sam and Dean and Bobby and probably most of the other hunters they know, so it makes sense that Diné!John would trend that way as well, perhaps even more strongly than in canon.
Religion: Not all Navajos, even those who live on the reservation, adhere to the old Diné beliefs; some are orthodox Christians, while others belong to the Native American Church, which mixes native rituals and peyote use with some elements of Christianity. Given what we know of John's spiritual journey in canon, however, it made more sense to me for him to have a very traditional Diné upbringing and for his agnosticism to arise both from his rebellion against those traditions and from the balance of supernatural power in SPN-verse being distinctly against the Navajo gods. (It's also worth noting that sources differ on details of Navajo beliefs, sometimes to a considerable extent; for example, one text that's available online, compiled from both oral tradition and the records of Catholic missionaries, refers to Changing Woman as White Bead Woman.) Another advantage to giving John a traditional background is that it allows for an allegorical connection between John, especially through Dean and Sam, and the twin sons of Changing Woman, Monster Slayer and Child-Born-for-Water. The Hero Twins' exploits are a crucial part of the Navajo origin mythos and form the basis for the Enemy Way, one of the two major Navajo ceremonial rites (the other being the Blessing Way). The Enemy Way is intended to exorcise the ghosts of aliens and the effects of violence, and it is frequently sung for returning veterans.
As for the Sioux: I have not been able to find any definitive, reliable description of Lakota beliefs regarding the Apocalypse, and I get the impression that eschatology isn't terribly important to traditional Sioux. The Native American Church also seems very vague about its doctrines on last things.
Communication: Even today, many Navajo homes on the reservation don't have landline telephones because of their remoteness, and wireless service for both phone and Internet is limited. In the '70s and '80s, the only options for someone in Lawrence wanting to reach the Chee-Winchester family would have been snail mail or telegram. CB radio was also popular on the reservation well into the '90s and was used somewhat like the old party-line telephones, but its range was limited to fifty miles.
Skinwalkers: In my opinion, "All Dogs Go to Heaven" really wasted a great MOTW. As portrayed in Navajo lore, skinwalkers are witches who use necromancy to transform into animals (especially coyotes), and they are every bit as dangerous as the other witches we see in canon. If you want to see Jossed-but-canonish Sam and Dean up against that kind of skinwalker, I heartily recommend "The Cloak" by greeneyes_fan and its remix by i_speak_tongue (Dean h/c ahoy!).
Wounded Knee: Accounts differ as to exactly how it all went down, but from February 27 to May 5, 1973, there was a standoff at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, between federal agents and members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) who were protesting the terrible conditions and overt racism faced by the people of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation; two Feds and several protesters were killed, and murder rates on the reservation spiked for several years afterward. The protesters selected Wounded Knee because it was the site of the last massacre of American Indians by the US Army during the Indian Wars. The conflict gained national attention when, in what was supposed to be a show of solidarity with the protesters, Marlon Brando sent an Apache woman to the Oscars in his stead to refuse the award he won that year. Though many Diné have no use for Russell Means and the AIM, it would not have been a good time for John to be the chief suspect in the murders of Samuel and Deanna Campbell. (It wouldn't have been good in canon, either, but Diné!John would have had an even harder time figuring out what to do about it.)
The Long Walk: The Navajo equivalent of the Cherokee Trail of Tears: During the Civil War, a cavalry detachment under Kit Carson rounded up the Navajo and forced them to walk all the way to Fort Sill. It wasn't until 1868 that the tribal leaders convinced Washington to establish a new reservation in (one of the least desirable parts of) what had previously been Navajo territory because so many Diné were dying of disease and starvation in Oklahoma.
Mary's Journals: According to transcripts on SuperWiki of the early entries in John's journal, Mary still had her old hunting journals locked away in the family safe, but they were destroyed in the fire. Azazel obviously knew how to cover his tracks. But from what he says to Dean in "In the Beginning," it sounds like he had to get permission to enter a home unless he possessed its owner. If that's correct, then Mary could conceivably have left her journals with someone else for safe keeping before the deal came due, but in canon she was cut off from the only group of people she could have trusted to take the journals without asking questions, namely hunters. In this AU, however, she does have Grandmother Chee as something of a confidant—I can't see her opening up about hunting completely, but she could at least trust that Grandmother Chee would keep the journals safe and unread until either Mary survived the deal or John came looking for answers regarding her death. Then again, the survival of the journals poses a problem for Michael's erasure of John and Mary's memories of 2010!Dean; surely she would have written down at least the fact that she had met Dean in '73, if not the full warning he gave her. Hence the smudges. Also, "Family Matters" established Elton Ridge as the canon name of the place where John proposed (assuming Samuel was brought back to the place where he officially died); it first appeared in the comic Origins 1, which is extremely dodgy on canon details.
School: I was blessed with good public schools for most of my grade school years, but even in canon, Sam and Dean seem to have gotten stuck with mostly mediocre to poor schools, and even decent schools can view underprivileged minority and learning-disabled students more as demographic ticky boxes and funding sources than as kids who might actually want to learn. It's not clear how much stock Canon!John put in formal education, but Diné!John doesn't get the point, and that attitude eventually rubs off on Dean. And I do think Canon!Dean is both mildly dyslexic and G/T, but that's meta for another day.
Scots Gaelic: In canon, Sam and Dean don't seem all that interested in Mary's side of the family prior to "In the Beginning." We know now that Mary was estranged from the other Campbells because of having left the hunting life, and John probably didn't try to contact them when he started hunting himself (if he even knew at the time that they were hunters). But the Winchesters' nomadic lifestyle doesn't seem to have made that estrangement any more hurtful than it would be for a normal family; relatives outside the immediate family seem to be just another one of the Normal Things Winchesters Don't Have™. In this 'verse, however, both the fact that the boys know that their heritage is mixed ("Dóone'é Campbell ei' nishli, Ashiihi bá shíshchíín") and the fact that the Navajo side of the family remains intact while the immediate family spends most of its time in the dominant culture seem to me to be factors that would push them to try to find some kind of anchor in white culture to help them get their bearings. By Diné logic, they are more truly Campbells than John is, but without a connection to Mary's extended family, there's only one other basis for that identity: the family's Scottish roots. And, since Diné bizaad is part of their Salt Clan identity, Scots Gaelic is a natural part of their Campbell identity.
At least, that's how it made the most sense to me. YMMV; please don't beat me with a stick, please...
Loki: Okay, I couldn't resist throwing Gabriel in. The German line is the original text of the Haribo jingle (literally, "Haribo makes kids happy, and grown-ups, too"). And John's initial observation about Gabriel is based on this exchange from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, in which Mr. Beaver gives some sensible advice:
"No, no, there isn't a drop of real human blood in the Witch."
"That's why she's bad all through, Mr. Beaver," said Mrs. Beaver.
"True enough, Mrs. Beaver," replied he, "there may be two views about humans (meaning no offense to the present company). But there's no two views about things that look like humans and aren't."
"I've known good Dwarfs," said Mrs. Beaver.
"So've I, now you come to speak of it," said her husband, "but precious few, and they were the ones least like men. But in general, take my advice, when you meet anything that's going to be human and isn't yet, or used to be human once and isn't now, or ought to be human and isn't, you keep your eyes on it and feel for your hatchet."