A/N: These "Bits and Bobs" collections will contain most of my one-shot comment-fics from various LJ comms. Each chapter will be self-contained.
December 23, 2009
It was Castiel's turn to rent something to watch, as Dean was fighting an upper respiratory virus, Sam was in a funk, and both had agreed that there was nothing on worth watching. The three-stoplight Texas town where they'd stopped didn't have a Blockbuster, but the local video store didn't look too sketchy, so sticking his hand in his coat pocket and fingering the handful of bills Dean had given him, Castiel straightened his shoulders and went in. He'd chosen movies a time or two before with minimal instruction from Dean; he could do this.
"No," whined a female voice as he walked through the door. "They're kids' movies, and I don't like allegories."
"It's not an allegory!" replied another exasperated female voice. "How many times do I have to tell you? It's suppositional representational fantasy."
Castiel blinked—he'd heard that phrase before. He glanced around and saw two young women, roughly Dean and Sam's age, among the older DVDs. Curious, he made his way toward them.
"Easy for you to say," groused the first voice, which belonged to a thin red-haired woman dressed according to the latest fashion. "You're an English prof."
"That has nothing to do with it!" cried the other woman, a blonde who looked oddly like Ingrid Bergmann in Casablanca. "All you have to do is read the books to see the difference!"
"And anyway, the visual effects are stupid."
"They were made for TV in the '80s. They're still closer to the books than the Disney version." She caught sight of Castiel and nodded in greeting.
"No," came the stubborn reply. "I'd rather watch something else."
"... I dunno..."
The English professor rolled her eyes. Art majors, she mouthed to Castiel. Aloud she said, "Look, why don't we make a day of it tomorrow and have our own Trilogy Tuesday?"
"No!" the red-head frowned. "Twelve hours of hobbits? Bo-ring."
The blonde was simmering now. "Fine. You've got five minutes to pick something before I make you watch The Longest Day and Patton back to back. And no romantic comedies unless it's got Cary Grant in or it's something like Stardust."
The red-head stomped off to the newer releases.
"Sister?" Castiel asked as he approached the blonde.
"Cousin," she sighed. "I get spoiled having other Inklings fans around at school who actually understand these things." She looked wistfully at the DVD set labeled The Chronicles of Narnia. "I have these on VHS, but I didn't think to bring 'em down with me. Guess I should have."
Castiel tilted his head and regarded her closely. "You enjoy them?"
She nodded. "Sure, the visuals are cheesy sometimes, and some of the actors are pretty over-the-top, and they did abridge Caspiana little too much... but there's so much deep-seated theology in the books that the new versions just don't seem to catch, and this version does. Spiritual comfort food, but no empty calories." She in turn regarded Castiel closely. "You ever seen them before?"
"No," Castiel admitted, looking at the box, "and I don't think the friends I'm with have, either. How long are they?"
"Nine hours total. Three three-parters." She paused. "Look, don't ask me how I know this... but I think your friends need to see these. Call it a hunch, call it a word from the Lord..."
Castiel looked at her sharply. "You believe in such things?"
She seemed ready to apologize, but something flickered in her eyes that sent a sudden pang of homesickness through Castiel, and she stood a bit straighter. "Yes. I do. And I'll tell you what else I believe." She placed a gentle hand on Castiel's shoulder and whispered, "'Above all shadows rides the Sun / and Stars forever dwell; / I will not say the Day is done / nor bid the Stars farewell.'"
Castiel took a deep breath and nodded. "Thank you."
She smiled and released him, then dug something out of the pocket of her own trench coat. "Here's something else they might like," she said, placing a small fabric bundle in his hand. It crinkled, and he opened it to find that it held several packets of tea. "Not many things better than literature and tea on a cold wet evening. Unless, of course, you add a dog and a roaring fire," she added with a twinkle.
"Dean is ill," Castiel confessed. "He doesn't normally drink tea, but I think it would help him tonight. Again, I thank you."
"Hey, you know anything about this Stargate: Continuum?" the red-head called.
The blonde's eyes glittered deviously. "Excuse me," she murmured to Castiel, then left.
Castiel looked again at the DVD set. He had met "Jack" Lewis once but heard him spoken of repeatedly, had heard countless redeemed souls mention this series as one that had set them on the path to salvation. Maybe this waswhat they needed, if only for the refreshment of their spirits.
Before he could talk himself out of it, he snatched the card and headed to the rental counter.
Both brothers were asleep when Castiel returned to the hotel, having finished the brisket he had brought them from across town before going to the video store. It took a call to Bobby for him to figure out how to heat plain water in the little coffee pot that was in the room, but by the time the sound and smell of popping corn roused Sam, he had succeeded in fixing a mug of tea for each of them and one for himself.
"Cas?" Sam said groggily as he sat up. "What'd you bring us?"
"I believe it is called suppositional representational fantasy," Castiel replied, handing Sam the mug with Earl Grey. "Also tea."
Sam raised a skeptical eyebrow but took the mug without protest. Castiel crossed to the other bed and shook Dean's shoulder, which elicited an unintelligible groan cut off by a horrible coughing fit. Sam was halfway around Dean's bed before Castiel could call him for help, and together they got Dean propped up at an angle that eased his breathing. As soon as Dean had caught his breath, Castiel pressed the mug of tea into his hand, and Dean gulped half of it down right away.
"Yech... I can't taste a thing," Dean wheezed. "What is this?"
"Lemon tea," Castiel answered. When Dean stared at him, he continued, "You need Vitamin C, and I understand strong black tea contains a bronchiodilator as well as anti-inflammatories."
Dean blinked and looked at Sam.
"Drink it," Sam ordered. "It's good for you."
Dean grumbled and took another drink.
Satisfied, Castiel turned his attention to hooking Sam's computer up to the TV. Dean had talked Sam into installing the right kind of connector just a few weeks before.
"You okay?" Sam asked quietly behind him.
"I'll live," Dean croaked.
"Cas brought popcorn. You gonna want any?"
"Nah. Thanks. Couldn't taste it anyway, and with my luck, I'd start coughing and choke." As if to prove his point, his attempt at a chuckle came out as a wheeze.
Sam's "Okay" was barely audible.
Dean's voice dropped an octave below its normal low register. "Hey. Thisain't your fault. Okay?"
Castiel turned just in time to see Sam nod glumly and get up to go back to his own bed.
"Cas?" Dean shot the angel a meaningful look.
Castiel retrieved the bag of popcorn from the microwave and presented it to Sam. When Sam looked away, Castiel said kindly but firmly, "I do not care for popcorn. I bought it for you."
Sam looked back at Castiel, sighed, and took the popcorn bag from him. "Okay. Thanks."
Castiel smiled and handed him the TV remote as well, then put the first DVD, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, into the computer's DVD drive. By the time Sam got the TV turned to the right channel, Castiel had maneuvered past the opening menus and started the movie.
Castiel was still adjusting to having emotions, but no human language had a fitting word for the feeling that swept over him when the majestic French horn theme began. He very nearly burst into tears, but the theme was too short—and oddly enough, he sensed the same about Dean. When he glanced over at Dean, however, Dean had, with slight difficulty, stifled his desire to cry.
"Are you familiar with this movie, Dean?" Castiel asked.
Dean shrugged. "I think I saw it when I was nine."
"Really?" Sam asked around a mouthful of popcorn. "Where was I?"
Castiel took a drink of tea, savoring the variety of flavors in it before turning his attention fully to the screen. He was slightly confused as to why the story was beginning with four siblings on a train leaving London, given that the cover of the set bore a picture of the two girls riding a flying lion, but he kept his questions to himself and soon picked up where the story was headed once the eldest boy, Peter, suggested exploring the large house where they were staying. After that, at least for the next fifteen minutes or so, it seemed a straightforward fantasy adventure, so it surprised him when the youngest girl, Lucy, began crying over her siblings' refusal to believe her story and he started hearing sympathetic sniffles from Dean.
"Dude," said Sam, "are you crying?"
"Shuddup," Dean croaked. "That was youonce upon a time."
"Like you wouldn't have gone off to have tea with a faun at that age."
"Dude, shut. up." And Dean sniffled again.
They left their banter there for the moment and kept watching... until the white-faced woman in the sleigh started offering the younger brother, Edmund, a hot drink and Turkish delight, and Sam started to squirm, more inwardly than outwardly. And then, toward the end of the first hour, there was an exchange between the brothers that sounded terribly familiar:
"Shouldn't we be going that way," began Edmund presently, "if we're heading for the lamp-post?" He had forgotten for the moment that he must pretend never to have been in the wood before. The moment the words were out of his mouth he realized that he had given himself away. Everyone stopped; everyone stared at him.
"So you were here," Peter said, "and all the time you made out that Lucy was telling lies."
There was a dead silence. "Of all the poisonous little beasts—" said Peter, and turned away and said no more. There seemed, indeed, no more to say, and presently the four resumed their journey; but Edmund was saying to himself, "I'll pay you all out for this, you pack of stuck-up, self-satisfied prigs."
And then they discovered that Edmund's conversation with the White Witch had led to the faun's arrest for treason.
Dean's pain and anger at Sam's betrayal was very close to the surface now, although he had genuinely tried to forgive and move on. Castiel glanced over at him and saw more tears spilling down his fever-flushed cheeks, tears that he would never have shed if he weren't ill. And Sam looked like his guilt was trying to eat him alive. Castiel wondered whether this movie had been such a wise choice after all.
Most of the second hour was much the same, aside from piquing Castiel's curiosity about the mysterious lion Aslan. Peter's attitude and Edmund's behavior and internal dialogue continued to mirror Dean and Sam uncomfortably well, down to Peter's "All the same, he is our brother, even if he is rather a little beast. We have to go and look for him." Castiel sensed rather than saw the awkward look that passed between Sam and Dean at that moment.
"I loved these books as a kid," Sam confessed quietly during a part where the characters were traveling and not talking. "I never..." He sighed, unable to finish the thought.
Dean didn't respond. But toward the end of the second hour, he was gripped by a terrible coughing fit, and when Sam crawled onto his bed to support him and rub his back, he stiffened only for a moment before allowing the touch. When the fit passed, Dean was too weak to do anything but slump against Sam. They were still sitting like that at the beginning of the third hour, when the children finally met Aslan.
"But where is the fourth child?" asked Aslan.
"O Aslan, he has tried to betray them. He has joined the White Witch," said Mr. Beaver. And then something made Peter say,
"That was partly my fault, Aslan. I was angry with him and I'm sure that helped him to go wrong."
And Aslan said nothing either to excuse Peter or to blame him but merely stood looking at him with his great unchanging eyes. And it seemed to all of them that there was nothing to be said.
"Please—Aslan," said Lucy, "can anything be done to save Edmund?"
"All shall be done," said Aslan. "But it may be more difficult than any of you can imagine."
And Dean burst into tears.
"Aw, Dean," whispered Sam brokenly, pulling Dean closer and letting him simply sob into his shoulder.
Dean's tears had pretty well subsided by the time Peter had to fight the werewolf, but he kept sniffling through Edmund's rescue, and he didn't move away from Sam. And then:
When the other children woke up next morning (they had been sleeping on piles of cushions in the pavilion) the first thing they heard—from Mrs. Beaver—was that their brother had been rescued and brought into camp late last night; and was at that moment with Aslan. As soon as they had breakfasted they all went out, and there they saw Aslan and Edmund walking together in the dewy grass, apart from the rest of the court. There is no need to tell you (and no one ever heard) what Aslan was saying, but it was a conversation that Edmund never forgot. As the others drew nearer Aslan turned to meet them, bringing Edmund with him.
"Here is your brother," he said, nudging Edmund forward, "and—there is no need to talk about what is past."
Edmund shook hands with each of the others and said to each of them in turn, "I'm sorry"—and Castiel could just hear Sam whispering the same thing miserably to Dean.
"Sammy," Dean whispered back, in much the same tone as Lucy was saying "Edmund!" as she hugged him—a tone that held far more love and forgiveness than the word itself could easily convey. And Castiel didn't have to look to know that both brothers were crying now.
As soon as the White Witch showed up to talk to Aslan, Castiel finally understood what the English professor had meant by 'suppositional representational fantasy'—supposing there were a world wherein creatures of legend not only existed (as they did in this reality) but were the majority (as they were in Narnia), Messiah might well take the form of a great lion in that world. But he found himself distracted from the revelation by the fact that Sam and Dean kept clinging to each other and sniffling... even sobbing outright during the night scene at the Stone Table. He could feel Dean's fever climbing, and Dean's defenses seemed to fall proportionately further; Sam, too, seemed more physically and emotionally exhausted than Castiel had realized after Carthage. Neither could keep the grief and remorse bottled up any longer. And not even the happy ending and the transformation of Edmund from bratty little brother to King Edmund the Just seemed to help much, since both brothers evidently wondered whether Sam would have to echo Edmund's daring to break the Witch's wand and his resulting brush with death to end the Apocalypse and redeem himself.
As the final credits rolled, Dean shivered and mumbled, "My fault, Aslan... 'm sorry, Sammy..."
"You were only an ass," Sam replied sadly, and Castiel got the sense that he was quoting another book from the same series. "But I was a traitor."
"Still m'brother, Sasquatch."
"B—tzchoo!" The name was cut off by a violent sneeze, and Sam wasn't able to dodge.
Dean deliberately wiped his nose on Sam's shirt. Sam pretended more disgust than he actually felt. Dean grinned shakily... and suddenly the atmosphere felt much, much lighter.
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, the writer of Hebrews had admonished his audience, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. But sometimes, Castiel reflected, something even greater than showing hospitality to an angel happened. Sometimes the right word from the right person made possible a miracle that no one else could recognize. And this measure of healing that Castiel could never give his friends through his own power? That was a miracle in his book.