Witness to Hidden Things
Summary: Harry will not let Dean go quietly into the night. Dean won't let Harry go either. Part 2 in the Human'Verse. No Slash.
The high gods, clothed and crowned with patience,
Endure through days of deathlike date;
They bear the witness of things hidden;
Before their eyes all life stands chidden,
As they before the eyes of Fate.
-Swinebourne "Ilicet" Lines 134-138
Castiel suddenly bent over, hissing in surprised pain and cupping his furrowed brow. Derailed from their argument, Bobby, Sam and Dean glanced over at him.
"Cas, you okay," Sam asked.
"No," Castiel said shortly, suddenly standing up and looking around.
"Something's happening," Castiel said distractedly.
"Where?" Dean asked.
Castiel didn't answer. Instead he disappeared in the muted flapping of wings. Sam heaved a long sigh and moved into the kitchen, trying not to look at his brother. Dean, stubborn ornery bastard that he sometimes was, took great pleasure in glowering at Sam and Bobby in turn. Dean could glare and pout as much as he wanted; it didn't make what Sam knew untrue. Because right now, for the first time in a long time, Sam Winchester understood – no – understatement – Sam knew his brother.
He knew all of it. A part of him, the part that was always so angry that he tried to ignore, resented Dean for his weakness. But mostly he felt the guilt of the profoundly selfish. Dean had been fighting his entire life. He'd fought for their father, following the man's orders even after he'd died. He'd fought for Sam, probably more than he ought to have. He fought for strangers, for the whole of humanity, but Dean Winchester seemed to make a marked effort not to fight for himself. So here they were, Dean determined to do what he could for humanity before he went gently into the night, and Sam was holding onto him with everything he could before everything spun away from him.
But mostly Sam knew that Dean was tired, and there was nothing that could fix that except for rest. Well that wasn't about to happen, the end being nigh like it was.
There was a strong gust of wind, but before Sam or Dean could even turn to acknowledge Cas' arrival, Bobby was calling out for them.
Dean turned, not sure what he was expecting. It certainly wasn't that familiar face, streaked liberally with dirt and mud. But there he was. Castiel moved over to Bobby's bed, and with more care than Dean would've expected, laid that thin familiar body down. Cas moved back, allowing Dean to get up close.
"Huh," he grunted lowly. There was no denying that he was feeling something, but he did his best to hide it behind a curious frown. "What's going on here Cas?"
"Angels," Castiel said shortly, thumping two angel swords on the desk.
Dean's eyebrows shot up, turning to face Castiel with profound anger smoldering in his eyes. "Angels," he repeated flatly. Castiel looked up at him, something like guilt drawing his brows down. Dean let him hang for a moment before he sighed and shook his head. "Why would they bring him back?"
"I don't know," Castiel said. He moved forward, hand held out. "But he's not what he was."
Dean smoothly stepped between Castiel and the motionless form on the bed, his whole body vibrating with suppressed violence. Castiel drew back, visibly surprised by Dean's sudden hostility.
"Whoa Mama Bear," Bobby said and tugged Dean back by jerking on his t-shirt.
Castiel's gaze had turned back to the bed. "We must hide him," he said. "As Master of Death he was hidden from us, but he is not hidden any longer. They raised him for a reason, and I doubt we want to discover why."
Sam watched Dean forcibly swallow his protective instincts and step aside. Castiel pressed his hand against that narrow chest, the points of contact beginning to glow as he carved into the kid's ribs.
And Harry's hyper green eyes shot open, one slim grimy hand coming up to grip Castiel's wrist. Job finished, Castiel shook himself free and moved back. Dean seamlessly took his place.
"Easy," he said calmly.
Harry flinched away from him, eyes open so wide that the whites around the iris was clearly visible. Dean hesitated for a moment and then perched on the end of the bed. He glanced uneasily at Sam, Bobby and Castiel before dismissing them. He held out both hands, fingers splayed.
"Easy, half-pint. You're looking a bit better than the last time I saw you." Harry relaxed slightly, one shaking hand coming up to cradle his brow.
"I'm back here," he said softly. "Why am I…"
"The angels," Castiel said helpfully.
Harry looked up at him blearily, the words visibly failing to penetrate. "What?" He looked back to Dean, some of the typical sharpness returning to his gaze. "Dean? What the hell? I was…" He trailed off. "I was no where."
Then something fascinating happened. Harry's hand fell from his head to land limply in his lap. He was staring at Dean, but his focus was far away. Even as he stared his eyes were never still, they jerked back and forth as if examining the Dean's face. Sam drew back even further, disquieted by the display. Dean moved closer, peering into the kid's face.
"What's wrong with him?" he asked shortly.
"He is no longer Master of Death," Castiel said, as if that explained anything.
Dean frowned, reaching out to touch one of Harry's small hands. At once Harry's fingers tightened on Dean's, gaze zeroing in.
"They're trying to use me against you," he said desperately. "I…I think I was in heaven."
Dean rubbed his free hand over his face, looking a bit overwhelmed. For a moment Sam thought about moving forward and taking over this encounter, but one glance at the tight grip Harry had on Dean's hand made the decision an easy one.
"Yeah?" Dean said casually. "What did it look like?"
"It was really quiet," Harry said simply. "Nothing much happened." He frowned, shaking his head. "The angels came and said that they needed me to come back but it didn't make any sense."
"What did they say?"
"They said that Michael needed me, that I could help convince you to say yes. It doesn't make any sense!"
"Okay," Dean said calmly, and reached out to grasp Harry's other hand, which had come up to grip at his hair in frustration. "We'll figure everything out. Let's hose you down first. You're looking pretty gross."
Dean glanced over his shoulder, jerking his head in a silent bid for them to stand aside. Sam frowned but stepped back, tugging Cas with him. Dean helped Harry down from the bed and propelled him out of the room.
Sam looked down at Bobby, eyebrow raised in question.
"Don't look at me," Bobby snarked. "I have no idea."
They both turned to Castiel, whose head had turned to follow Dean and Harry as they'd exited the room. He sensed their stares and turned to face them, his face as impassive as ever.
"Why'd the angels bring him back?" Sam asked, as if the question should have been obvious.
Castiel frowned, turning to stare at the doorway again. "I'm unsure. It is no secret that Dean and the Master of Death-,"
"Harry," Sam interrupted softly.
Castiel tilted his head to the side, staring at Sam curiously for a moment before he nodded. "It is no secret that Dean was fond of Harry. Perhaps they raised him thinking that they could use him against Dean. They incorrectly assumed that Dean would require further convincing."
Sam was quiet for a moment, making the decision not to respond to Castiel's remark about Dean. "Does him being Master of Death mean that he can control the Horseman?"
"No," Castiel said shortly. "The Master of Death is not really the master of anything. It is a title given to a mortal born with the power over the common reapers."
"There are a few books that mention a Master of Death," Bobby said as he wheeled himself behind his desk. "Some lore says that he's just a supercharged reaper. It also says that he's supposed to be immortal but we saw that disproven."
"I didn't know that reapers had ranks," Sam said.
"There is an hierarchy to everything," Castiel responded flatly. "Even death."
"And his supposed immortality?"
Castiel thought for a moment. Finally he said, "His immortality is debatable. He was born a mortal, and through fate was given control over the deathly hollows. The true nature of death is shrouded, even from the angels, so I'm not sure what exactly his role is."
"Back when…" Sam trailed off, remembering both Dean and Harry being rushed into the hospital after the fight with Alastair. It was like trying to remember a particularly vivid dream, but something stood out. "Dean believed that Harry was involved in all this. The demons wanted him in hell."
"Yes," Castiel said. "I remember."
Sam's eyebrows shot up in surprise. Castiel looked down at the ground for a moment, something like shame painting itself across his face before it was swiftly swept away.
"Harry Potter's soul was known to us. There was a minor prophet who chronicled his work for a time. She was killed." Castiel frowned and shook his head. "She should not have been killed, but she was. Things were not supposed to happen the way they did. Harry Potter was not supposed to make a deal. He was not supposed to go to hell. He was not supposed to meet you or your brother."
"So why?" Sam asked earnestly. "Why were the demons so focused on him? If he wasn't supposed to go to hell, why didn't anyone rescue him?"
Again Castiel's face twisted, but this time the expression was deeper. It remained, even as he turned his head away.
"I'm unsure," he said lowly. "He should have been rescued. His soul cried out for such a long time. At first it was so loud that it shook heaven." Castiel paused, examining the ground for a moment before he continued. "Zachariah told your brother that Alastair broke Harry, but Harry never broke. We would have heard it, like we heard Dean. Harry's cries grew quiet, but they never stopped."
"Let me get this straight," Bobby growled from behind his desk. Sam startled slightly, having forgotten that the older hunter was even there. "You knowingly left a 15 year old kid to rot in hell?"
"He was not my task," Castiel said flatly.
Bobby shook his head in disgust. "Well I did the math," he said gruffly. "I had to read a bit of those books." Bobby actually looked a bit embarrassed at having to admit that he'd stooped so low as to read Harry Potter. It made Sam smile, however fleetingly. "The kid was dragged down when he was 15, that would have been in '95. Twelve years later…"
"2007," Sam finished, quickly coming to the same conclusion. "The Devil's Gate."
Bobby shrugged. "It's all guess work. We'd have to ask him to be sure."
"That sounds likely," Castiel confirmed for them.
"Well good luck interrogating him," Bobby said. "Only one other person I've seen that boy get so territorial over."
"Who?" Sam asked thoughtlessly.
Bobby rolled his eyes. "What do you mean who? You, you idiot."
The first thing Dean did upon coming back downstairs was begin making a pot of coffee. It was impossible not to feel the stares, but to their credit Bobby and Sam had made a point look away by the time Dean turned to face them. Castiel however, was scowling at Dean, and making no effort to hide it.
"Is he okay?" Sam asked when Dean joined them in the study.
Dean ran a hand over his face and shrugged. "He's a tough kid. He'll be fine. He's just a bit shaken up." Dean paused, feeling a bit shaken himself. "He was at peace," he said lowly. "Those bastards pulled him from it and threw him back in the center of this mess. Why?"
"Cas said it might be a ploy to get you to cooperate," Sam said.
Castiel snorted and crossed his arms over his chest. Dean's eyebrows shot up.
"Something to say?" he goaded.
"It's unfortunate that they pulled him from peace for no reason. Little did they know that you're planning on offering yourself to them without a fight."
"Blow me Cas," Dean snapped.
Sam raised his hands and inserted himself in-between them. "Lets all calm down," he said reasonably.
There was a soft clattering of dishes and they all turned to see Harry standing on his tiptoes to get a mug from the cabinet. He poured himself a cup of coffee and turned to face them, hair wet and weighted down from his shower.
"All right, half-pint?" Dean asked lightly.
Harry looked embarrassed for a moment before the expression went away. He gave a little shrug.
"You ready to tell us what you know?" Bobby asked gruffly.
Again Harry shrugged but came forward. It was impossible not to notice the way he skirted around everyone, taking special care to stay outside of an arms-span. It couldn't have been easy, the room being as small as it was, but he managed it. He sat down on the bed, bringing his legs up underneath himself without spilling a drop of his coffee. Dean shifted closer, sitting down backwards in a nearby chair.
Harry shot him a look, those sharp dark eyebrows raised in question. Dean gave him a reassuring nod.
"I was in heaven," Harry began, turning to address the entire room. "That asshole Zachariah showed up and in a nutshell said it was time to make myself useful." Harry paused, looking over at Dean pensively. "Your brother was there. The other one, Aaron."
"You know damn well his name was Adam," Dean said.
Harry's lips quirked up, a hint of mischievousness bleeding through his normally stoic expression. It reminded Dean of those few weeks on the road, Sammy in the passenger seat, Harry in the back. Simple hunts, criss-crossing the country to speak to different shamen and seers. Before Castiel had disappeared to heaven, only to return a brain washed shadow of himself. Before the heaviness weighed so heavy on his shoulders.
Dean found himself smiling back, shaking his head ruefully.
"Your brother was there," Harry continued pointedly, once again turning to speak to everyone. "Zachariah was going to raise him instead, but he changed his mind. He said that I would be more affective." Harry's eyes jumped to Castiel for a moment before fastening back onto Dean. "What did he mean?"
Sam opened his mouth, but Dean was already speaking. "It doesn't matter," he said calmly. He reached out and gave Harry's narrow shoulder a little nudge. "You'll be safe," he promised.
"Dean," Sam barked.
Dean turned on him, mentally prepared to dig in his heels in a way that he'd never had to do before. Dean was honest with himself – knew that he was a stubborn son of a bitch, more stubborn than their father, and spades more stubborn than his brother. This was not a fight that Dean was prepared to lose.
"You can't stop me," Dean said, throwing his arms open in invitation. "We all know that this is it. We're out of options."
"What's going on?" Harry asked voice rising in alarm.
Again Sam began to speak, but Dean interrupted him. "It's nothing that you need to worry about."
Harry stared up at him, eyes wide and incredulous, but it seemed that Sam had finally had enough. He jumped to his feet and advanced on Dean, using those four extra inches to his advantage. Dean just lifted his chin, holding his ground.
"I'm not going to let you do this," Sam said firmly
"Not going to let me do what? Save the world from Lucifer?"
"There has got to be another way."
"This is bigger than me," Dean said. "It's bigger than all of us. One person is not worth the entire world."
"I don't give a shit about the world!" Sam exploded. "I honestly could not give a single shit about anyone else. Dean, you're my brother!"
Dean looked up at Sam, shocked speechless, wondering when Sam had reached out and grabbed his shoulders. It was hard staring into Sam's eyes, seeing that he was probably quite literally breaking his brother's heart.
"Sam I -."
"Just give me more time," Sam said desperately. "More time Dean. Please!"
Dean had never been able to deny Sam anything, especially something so direct. Refusal rose up in him. He wanted to call his brother selfish – God – Sam had always been so fucking selfish. But Dean couldn't do it. All he could do was nod and turn his head away. Sammy laughed, squeezed Dean's shoulders and turned away to get back to work. Dean slipped his keys from his pocket and put them down on the desk in a show of trust.
"I'll be on the porch," he said tonelessly.
He stopped at the fridge and grabbed a few beers. Then he left the house without looking at anyone. He'd barely gotten himself settled before Harry was joining him. Not that he'd expected anything different.
"What's going on?" he asked again. "Tell me."
Dean twisted open one of the beers and took a long drink, stalling. The kid continued to scowl, and even if it wasn't his intention, Dean felt himself relaxing a bit at the familiarity of it.
"You look constipated," he said lightly.
Harry eyed him for a moment before sighing and sitting down on the step next to him. "Your stupid face looks constipated, and don't try to change to subject."
Dean finished off the beer, absently handing the bottle to Harry, who immediately began picking at the label.
"Can I have one?" Harry asked.
Dean was moving to offer him a bottle before he even realized it, but then he paused and stopped himself. It wasn't as if he hadn't seen the kid drink. He, and even Bobby, was sometimes able to see past the physical form to what Harry actually was. But now, for the first time, Harry didn't look like a weary miniature adult. He looked like a weary ten year old. If anyone had asked him to explain to difference, he wouldn't have been able to. But here he was, and something important had changed.
"No," Dean said shortly.
The answering frown was fleeting, but present. Harry, as sharp as he was, had noticed Dean's thoughtful pause. True to form, he gave Dean a narrow eyed knowing glance and left it at that. Dean shook his head – not everything had changed.
"I'm Michael's vessel," he blurted. Then he paused, surprised at himself.
Harry had stilled next to him, suddenly tense fingers wrapped around the empty bottle. "A vessel," he repeated dully. "An archangel's vessel…"
"Sam is Lucifer's."
"That's…" Harry paused, expression twisting in thought. "Fitting…" he finally said.
Dean stamped down the surge of irritation that rose up, the same irritation that arose anytime anyone even hinted at paralleling he and his brother with Michael and the devil.
"You're going to say yes," Harry stated.
Dean nodded anyway. "I have to."
Harry turned to look at him, examining his face carefully. Dean wasn't sure what he saw, but he seemed satisfied when he looked away.
"I understand," he said quietly, and the words seemed strangely weighted. Dean frowned in confusion, but Harry had turned away to watch the sunset sink into the horizon.
Dean followed his gaze, morosely wondering if the sun would still set after Michael and Lucifer were done using the earth as their battleground.
That night, tucked into bed in one of the upstairs guest rooms, Harry dreamed.
He dreamed of an older man with a thin sunken face or was it a young girl with lank decaying hair? Or a thing without a face, just a gaping bottomless hole were a face might have been? Perhaps it was darkness neverending? An infinitely looping sunrise?
But then it all condensed and became the older man again. It spoke to him, touched him with hands that were either burning cold or burning hot. Its voice was soft and it buoyed him up, imparting a hard truth that he felt he'd always known. It touched his face, gave him its blessing and told him that it would all be okay. No matter what, it said, everything would turn out fine.
And Harry believed it, and for perhaps the second time in his eventful life knew without a doubt what he needed to do.
AN: Reading through the reviews to Gods Be Gentle, most of them said something like "Hey that didn't seem like a real ending!" And I cackled to myself because well…yes it wouldn't would it? Gods Be Gentle was an appetizer. Witness to Hidden Things is the meat. It's a chapter fic, but won't be particularly long. Around 10 chapters. And you know…it will answer at least a few of the questions I raised. I'm cackling again.
Thanks for reading, and I treasure all (constructive and polite) reviews!