This wasn't what Chuck had signed up for. Damnit, he'd graduated college with a pretty good GPA – not perfect, but then he'd spent rather more time stoned than he'd like to admit – and had been voted 'most likely to almost succeed' in his high school yearbook. And yet here he was, sitting in his one bedroom apartment, clad in a ratty old pair of tartan pyjama pants and an embarrassing t-shirt that Becky had bought him, embellished with a gaudy fan-made portrait of Dean and Sam, hanging from his wiry frame.
He sighed, allowing himself a quick, regretful glance at the two empty cans of beer on his desk before re-reading his latest paragraph.
"Goddamnit, Sam! I'm sick of it, y'know?" Dean rubbed the bridge of his nose in irritation as he strode agitatedly, pacing up and down the motel room. Sam watched, weary.
"Sick of what?"
"This!" Dean replied angrily, gesturing at their surroundings. "Crappy motel rooms and getting stabbed in the shin by demons." He sighed and rubbed a hand through his hair before sitting down on the bed opposite Sam and placing his head in the hands. "Jesus, sometimes I let myself wonder what it would be like. A normal life. Wife, kids, a regular bar. A regular anything."
Sam didn't know what to say. He watched his brother's breathing slow steadily.
"We don't have a choice, Dean," he said quietly. "This is how it has to be. Without intentionally bringing on a chick-flick moment – because God forbid you should have to deal with actual feelings – this is our destiny."
At this, Dean looked up, and there was something that looked a little like defiant anger in his eyes.
"Well," said Dean. "Destiny sucks."
Chuck could relate. Destiny really did suck. Look at him. Destined for a promising career in screenwriting, his college professors had said. Fuck that. He'd been destined for a life of writing things he didn't even choose to write, scribe ideas passed onto him from the ether, and he was sick of it. Most people got to decide what they wrote about. Most people were allowed to take days off work – baristas, Chuck thought. Most aspiring authors these days seemed to be baristas – and sit on a park bench for a few hours, laptop on their knees and a polystyrene cup filled with fuckberry latte in their hand, and think. Mull over ideas. Develop characters, plots, scenes.
Chuck didn't get any of that. All Chuck got was a bunch of vivid dreams and the occasional migraine.
It sucked. Hard.
Sighing rather dramatically, he pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his laptop. It could wait. Becky was due to arrive any minute now, and he could do with the distraction.
He stood up and headed over to the mini fridge in the corner of the room. His 'den', Becky called it. It felt more like a prison these days, the amount of time he spent holed up in it with only a back wall window for dim light.
He opened the fridge and frowned when he realised that there was no beer left. Well, wasn't that just the cherry on top of the world's most disappointing cake? He had no idea what he was going to serve Becky now. She was coming round with expectations of wine and dinner. He could offer her a slice of mouldy brie and a glass of cloudy tap water. If he was lucky and had remembered to pay his water bill, that was. He sighed and slammed the fridge shut.
Everything was shit. He hoped that, somewhere out there, Dean and Sam were having a better time of things than he was. By his calculations, they would be on about chapter six by now:
Sam threw up his hands in defeat.
"I don't know what you want from me, Dean!" he cried. "We do everything together, you and me, and now it's you, me and Cas! Pardon me for questioning where exactly I fit in anymore."
Dean rubbed his forehead, frustrated. Why was Sam even questioning this? The answer was obvious; he fit in the same way he always had. The fact that Castiel had started to spend more time with them in the wake of his massive betrayal of Heaven didn't mean that Dean wanted Sam to take a backseat. Heck, he still rode shotgun in the Impala a good 80% of the time, if Cas didn't materialise there first. He had a bad habit of doing that, teleporting into situations with the grace of a water buffalo with a broken ankle. He wasn't the most tactful of beings, it had to be said. The thought of it made him chuckle, and it must have shown on his face because Sam huffed an impatient sigh.
"Whoa, dude," said Dean, raising his hands in an inadvertent reflection of his brother's gesture only moments before. "Chill, all right? I don't want you to go anywhere. Jesus, where did all this come from? You're acting like a high school girl worried her prom date won't make it in time. Cut me some slack, man. I'm trying to make things work."
In hindsight, it seemed unlikely that they were enjoying things any more than Chuck was.
He was considering digging through his desk drawers in hope of locating an old takeout menu when the apartment buzzer rang and he jumped a clear foot. Becky. Picking his way over piles of old paper and rejected manuscripts, he made his way over to the door and opened it.
"You really should respect the apartment building rules," he told Becky as he held the door open for her and she walked in. "That means that you don't bribe the doorman to let you into the building."
Becky raised an eyebrow and sat down on the couch, pushing away a heap of tattered Supernatural books with a pinched look of distaste.
"I'll start respecting apartment building rules when you start admitting that you're terrified of that doorman," she returned. Chuck nodded; she had a point. He closed the door and sat next to her on the sofa, and she looked at him, a vague expression of concern on her face.
"What?" he asked. She frowned.
"Something's wrong," she said. Chuck shrugged.
Becky rolled her eyes.
"You get your plot ideas via divine intervention, Chuck," she said. "You're the last person to suffer from writer's block, unless the Big Guy upstairs stops throwing you plot bunnies. What's really wrong?"
Chuck sighed and rested his head in his hands, and Becky patted his back sympathetically. He'd have to tell her. She'd only worm it out of him otherwise.
"To tell you the truth, I'm getting disenfranchised with the whole thing," he started. "It's a pain in the ass not being able to write what I want to write, you know? I'm fucking sick of being dictated to by the powers that be. It's like I'm transcribing the world's most predictable sitcom. I'm not even a writer, am I? I'm just an interpreter, and it sucks."
Becky shifted closer to him on the sofa and put an arm around him.
"Have you ever considered just not writing what they tell you to?" she asked, and Chuck looked up.
"Why not?" She fixed him with a stern look. "You're the guy with the laptop, for Chri... for crying out loud! You can write whatever you damn well please." Her expression changed into something rather more guilty. "Anyway, the fandom is crying out for new material, and you're the only guy who can give it to them."
Chuck raised an eyebrow.
"New material?" he questioned. "What, the homoerotic tension between Dean and Sam isn't enough for you guys anymore? Wincest falling out of favour, is it?"
Becky's faint blush told him all he needed to know, and he sighed.
"What do they want?" he asked. She shrugged.
"From what I can gather, it's all about Destiel these days," she responded, and Chuck furrowed his brow in confusion. She sighed, exasperated. "Dean and Castiel. Together. Romantically."
Oh God. She couldn't – no. What was she thinking? What were the fans thinking?
"Jesus H Christ," he muttered, and Becky shoved him.
"Hey, we're the ones who buy your damn books and keep your bank balance in the black, and don't you forget it!" she scolded him. "Although by the looks of this place, that's not helping much."
"Sales aren't what they used to be," he admitted. Becky grinned.
"So, this is the perfect solution!"
He wasn't sure. What would happen if he wrote something other than what he was supposed to? His job as a divine prophet was to tell the stories of the Winchesters as gospel. It was pretty much the job description. He didn't have 'precognition' listed under his special skills for nothing, after all.
Becky clearly sensed his hesitation as she held him a little more tightly.
"Chuck," she said, voice soft. "You have nothing to lose."
He laughed, a little bitterly.
"Except perhaps my career, my fans, my life..." He sighed. "Those guys – the angels – are powerful, Becky. I don't really want to piss them off. I'd probably wake up with more than a horse's head in my bed. Hell, I might wake up with a horse's head. On my head. If I'm lucky."
Becky poked him, and he couldn't help but smile. She grinned in return.
"You're making pop culture references. I'm clearly winning you over."
The worst thing about it was that she quite possibly was. He couldn't deny that the idea appealed to him; creative freedom was something that he'd always felt strongly about but been denied through no fault of his own. He didn't have any time to write anything other than the Supernatural books, so it wasn't even a case of picking a meaty little side project for his creative outlets. He was tied, both contractually and psychologically, to the adventures of Sam and Dean, and this seemed to be a pretty good compromise. He groaned.
"Look, I'll think about it, all right? Now can we please change the topic before we get smited by Hellfire for blasphemy?"
"'Smote'. 'Smited' isn't a word. And to think, you're the guy who makes money from this," she teased.
He shoved her at that, and she laughed delightedly. For her, he thought, he could do this.
"Sorry, I've never gone against God's direct command before. How do you feel about dinner?"
"Generally favourable. What are you serving?" she asked, and Chuck realised that she had won him over. He would give her her Deanstiel, or whatever it was that the fans had dubbed it. He would do it for the fans, he would do it for Becky, and he would do it for himself, because God knows he deserved it.
He smiled guiltily, and spread his palms.
"What are your opinions on brie?"
Chapter 6 – An Unexpected Turn of Events
Dean sat alone in the Impala, fingers steepled under his chin, and thought. He rarely got time to think like this; between the hunts and the arguments he'd been having with Sam, he barely had time to eat and sleep. Now, Sam had stormed away from the Impala and back into the motel, where he had locked the door to their room and proclaimed that Dean wasn't allowed to enter until Sam had cooled down sufficiently. Dean knew that could take a while. Sam rarely got angry like this, but when he did, it was best to take cover.
Sam was different from Cas in that respect, Dean thought. Cas didn't get angry in the same way. Where Sam boiled, Cas simmered. Beneath the surface there was tension, but it never really seemed to come to a head. Until it did, of course, but they would always be able to deal with it. It was as though Cas had never really learnt to use his anger maliciously, to gather it and twist it into something malevolent that could hurt and sting. From Cas' anger came results, plans, ideas. If Dean was honest, it was one of the things he loved most about him.
He gasped and clasped a hand to his mouth, making a mental note to try and find out when he'd turned into a Jane Austen heroine. Where the Hell had that word come from? 'Loved'? Jesus... he really needed more sleep. Insomnia apparently turned him into Jennifer Aniston.
Loved. Yeah, right.
"That's perfect!" Becky squealed, clapping delightedly. She grabbed Chuck's face and planted a kiss square on his mouth, and he flushed furiously. "The fans are gonna love it, baby! Thank you!"
"Yeah, yeah," Chuck said, waving a hand nonchalantly. The effect was rather lessened by his scarlet cheeks, but Becky grinned anyway and clasped her hands together.
"No spoilers, I promise," she said. "My lips are sealed."
"This had better not come back to bite me in the ass," Chuck retorted. Becky raised an eyebrow.
"It won't," she countered. "Unless you're somehow opposed to massive rises in your book sales. Trust me, honey, this stuff? Gold dust."
"I did enjoy the freedom of writing it," Chuck admitted, and Becky beamed.
"I told you!" she cried. "This is a good thing, Chuck. A very good thing."
"Let's just hope it's a good thing that doesn't turn into a bad thing."
She seemed so sure, Chuck thought. So resolute that it would be all right. He found it hard to ignore her at the best of times, but now he found it hard to refute her beliefs. What could happen? At the worst, surely, he'd get a snarky dream-visit from some archangel, or maybe they'd just sigh and send down some winged equivalent of a public relations officer, try and smooth things out a bit.
It would be fine.
Gabriel looked at the angels around him. With the exception of Uriel, who looked mostly bored, they all seemed to be seething with rage. He could understand why. It wasn't often that a prophet directly contravened divine orders. Still, it had happened, and they might as well fix it.
After they'd had a little fun, of course. Gabriel was only Trickster, after all, and he'd be doing the title a disservice if he passed up this opportunity.
"You're all focusing on the negatives!" he cried. Michael raised an eyebrow.
"There are positives?" he said. Gabriel clasped his hands together benevolently.
"My brothers," he said. "There are always positives. There is light at the end of every tunnel. There is gold at the end of every rainbow. There is - "
Uriel sighed and crossed his arms.
"Get on with it."
Gabriel fixed him with a hurt look, but did so.
"Chuck believes he is writing false prophecies," he said. "He thinks he's in control. We have to show him that he's not."
"And how do we do that?" Michael asked. "Personally, I think we should just smite him and find a new prophet."
"Too much hassle," Uriel said, waving his hand dismissively. "It took us long enough to find a prophet who could differentiate between past and present tense. With his large number of followers, we would be foolish to cast him aside."
"Exactly," said Gabriel, seizing onto his brother's reluctance. "We keep the little bearded fellow, and we make him believe that he's not writing his own destiny at all."
"How?" Michael asked again. Gabriel spread his hands as though offering them a great gift. Which he was, of course.
"We make his prophecies come true," he said.
Uriel unfolded his arms.
"What do you suggest?"
"Exactly what I said. We take Chuck's fiction and we make it into fact."
Michael shook his head.
"No. He could easily write a chapter in which we are all killed."
"We can be appropriately selective," Gabriel argued. "Think of it as copy-editing, or proof-reading. We authorise certain chapters, pulp the rest."
"Have you read his most recent? It's blasphemous!" Uriel protested.
"But hilarious," Gabriel pointed out. "C'mon, don't act like you wouldn't all pay good money to watch our fallen brother bone Michael's failed vessel."
Michael growled, but Uriel raised a hand to silence him, and Gabriel silently cheered. This would be good fun. This would be the project of a lifetime. Chuck had the right idea, he thought; creative control was fun.
Shame only one of them would be able to exercise it.
"In light of recent events," Uriel began. "I am inclined – and I never thought I'd say this, so don't hold it against me – to agree with Gabriel. The prophet needs to be taught a lesson."
"I agree with Gabriel too," Gabriel added. Michael sighed.
"Then it's two against one," he acknowledged. "Fine. The prophet learns the hard way. But we don't permit him to rewrite history or any significant future events, is that clear?"
"Crystal," Gabriel agreed. Michael closed his eyes and slumped a little. He looked defeated.
"God help us," he sighed.
If Dean had overheard that particular conversation, he might have agreed with that statement. As it was, though, he was busy arguing with Sam.
"Whoa, dude," said Dean, raising his hands in defence. "Chill, all right? I don't want you to go anywhere. Jesus, where did all this come from? You're acting like a high school girl worried her prom date won't make it in time. Cut me some slack, man. I'm trying to make things work."
Sam, still pacing, raised a hand to indicate that Dean should probably shut the Hell up.
"Well, things aren't working!" he argued. "You're always with Cas nowadays - seriously, are you joined at the hip or like conjoined or something? - and what am I supposed to do when you two are off on your little dates? Sit in the motel room and twiddle my thumbs?"
Dean snorted a laugh. For all that Sam was usually considered the quiet one, he could make a heck of a noise when angry.
"Don't get so damned pissy!" he retorted, and Sam stopped pacing the motel room to face Dean with an enraged look on his face.
"Pissy?" he repeated. "You think I'm being pissy? Jesus fucking Christ, Dean!"
"Not proving me wrong here, Sammy," Dean retorted, and Sam closed his eyes. He was counting to ten, Dean thought, to try and calm down. It wouldn't work. It never did.
"We are not having this discussion now," Sam said eventually. Dean rolled his eyes.
"Then when will you deign it possible to have it?" he asked angrily. "Damnit, Sam – we need to talk about this!"
"Go talk about it with your angelic boyfriend!" Sam bit back, and whoa, where had that come from? Dean reeled, feeling not unlike he'd just been punched in the guy, and Sam's face softened almost imperceptibly. "Dean - "
"No, no, you're right," said Dean, hands raised in surrender, as he backed towards the motel room door. "I should talk about this with Cas, because he'd probably quite like to know that you're sick to the teeth of him after all he's done for us. Y'know what? I'll sleep in the car tonight."
He fumbled blindly behind him and felt the door handle. Sam pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Dean - " he tried again, but Dean was in no mood to listen. Not now.
"Don't," he said warningly, and opened the door. He had to leave.
Slamming the door, he made his way over to the Impala and unlocked the front door. Still shaking slightly from rage, he sat in the front seat and pressed his forehead against the steering wheel. Damnit all to Hell, really. He didn't need this. Sam was being ridiculous. His 'angelic boyfriend'? Really? Was there any need for him to make it so personal – and so stupid?
He steepled his fingers under his chin, reflecting on the angel in question. He never got angry like this. He always seemed more rational, even when he was interrogating cats – the thought made him laugh, even now - and flitting about the place in a trench coat. He wore his tie backwards and he still made more sense than Sam most of the time. He was a bundle of contradictions, Dean thought; calm in his rage and angry in his serenity. It was probably the thing he loved most about him. Either that, or -
"Fuck," he gasped, clasping his hands to his face. "Fuck."
Sam was right. Normally, that in itself would be enough to send Dean into a panicked frenzy of rage, but this time... shit. He actually...
He couldn't verbalise it. He didn't want to have to.
"Fuck," he said again, because it was easy to say. Then, because it was hard to say, "I love him."
Chuck lay on the sofa, can of beer in his hand and seven more empty on the floor. It had been a long time since he'd indulged himself in a little drunk writing. He'd done it all the time at college; downed two vodka shots and written poetry that was so experimental, it made his brain hurt to read. He'd written some of his most interesting pieces with the aid of a bottle of scotch. Since he'd become a prophet, however, it hadn't even been possible, let alone fun. Writing when drunk wasn't usually a risk. It was boring when you knew what you were going to write. Dean-and-Sam-did-this, Dean-and-Sam-said-that – alcohol didn't dull the predictability of the narrative.
But now? Fuck, he could write anything. He would.
Cracking his fingers, he spread them across the keys, and began to write.
From his vantage point in Heaven, Gabriel read over Chuck's shoulder and threw back his head in delighted laughter.
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me."