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
He figured that he should be used to it by now, but every time the shit hit the fan there were always those several moments where he needed to sit back and process. He was alone now, Sam combing endlessly through the library as if he could find the all the answers he sought through dogged enthusiasm. Dean was sitting outside the panic room, speaking to their newest cluster-fuck through the door. And the angel was…wherever. So Bobby went out and disappeared into the yard, a six-pack in hand. He sat down on one of the benches in the detached garage, turned to regard his house, and he processed.
It was the end of the world and they all freaking knew it, and he also knew that they simply didn't have the time for this. Drama, it dragged along on those boy's laces. He supposed that he should be used to it by now, but he wasn't sure what to do with this. It was out of his hands, out of his experience. It rankled. It had been worse when he'd been stuck in the chair, unable to even maneuver around the entirety of his house. This was better, but still intolerable.
He didn't know what to do. The time for research and contacts was over, and that had always been Bobby's go to.
There were footsteps and Bobby turned to regard Castiel with a furrowed brow.
"Wondered where you'd gotten off to," he greeted. He hesitated for a moment and then offered Cas one of his beers.
The angel (or ex-angel, whatever) regarded him silently for a moment before joining him on the bench, taking the bottle from Bobby and deftly twisting it open.
"I was attempting to confer with my brothers and sisters." The rest, they didn't answer, remained unsaid.
Bobby sighed, straightening his cap restlessly. The angel didn't seem interested in being consoled, something that Bobby was endlessly thankful for. Instead they sat side by side, making their way through the pack of beer until there was only one left. Bobby eyed Castiel and wordlessly offered it over. The angel had drunk it down to the label before he finally spoke.
"I'm unsure what to do," he admitted quietly.
"You and me both," Bobby said.
"I have never been so without purpose," Castiel said. Bobby sighed quietly and fiddled restlessly with his empty bottle. "I cannot help but wonder why Dean seems so invested in the concept of free will. What do you do when you don't know what to do?"
"It ain't easy," Bobby said honestly. "We muddle through things, and we make mistakes. But that's part of being human. It sucks, but we make due."
"That sounds extremely depressing."
"Welcome aboard," was Bobby's dry rejoinder.
They fell back into silence, but Bobby had questions. The humanized angel was just tipsy enough to be talkative.
"What do you know about Harry?"
"It is unprecedented," Castiel said without hesitation. "There is enough of the Lord's Grace inside me that I recognize one of my brothers. He is Michael, but he is also Harry Potter. Death still halos him."
"All that huh?"
"Is he gonna be okay?"
Castiel paused, looking towards the house. "The essence of an archangel is very powerful. We've seen the effects on both Lucifer's vessel and Harry Potter, but what we see is just what happens to the physical body. An archangel's grace burns, not just the body, but the soul. The vessel sometimes survives, but there is damage. There is always damage."
Bobby mulled that over for a moment, frowning up at the sky. "You didn't answer my question," he observed gruffly.
Castiel huffed irritably through his nose. "You haven't seemed overly concerned for him before now," Castiel said.
"He's a kid, and I'm not sure he deserves to suffer as much as he has," Bobby said, and groped absently at his pocket for his flask.
He shook his head at himself because he couldn't afford to get stupid right now, but also because the statement, while somewhat true, didn't accurately express why he had sought whatever answers Castiel had. He debated for a moment whether or not he wanted to emote anymore and then decided that there was no point in going half in at this point.
"I ain't just asking for me."
Castiel didn't pretend to misunderstand. "He is unusually attached."
"Not that unusual," Bobby sighed. "That boy has always been soft hearted."
Castiel sighed. "That is true."
He'd said it firmly, his knowledge absolute. A screen door slammed, and Sam appeared on the porch. Bobby watched him scan the yard, spot them, and then trot over. The kid eyed the empty beer bottles on the ground but said nothing of it, making himself comfortable on the other bench.
"Any luck?" Bobby asked, already pretty sure of the answer.
As expected, Sam shook his head, running one of those huge hands through his hair. "There's nothing. No mention of this ever happening before. We're completely off the map."
"I could have told you that," Castiel said. "I did tell you that."
"Excuse me for not taking your word for it," Sam said snidely. "Dean asked me to look."
Castiel scoffed, rolling his eyes up at the darkened sky. Sam shared an exasperated look with Bobby and the three of them fell into a tense silence. It wouldn't last long. Silences never lasted long when Sam was around. It was one of the many reasons Bobby preferred Dean's company. No denying that Dean had an energy to him; when he needed it, he generated a momentum that swept anyone close by along with him. But there was a steadiness to him as well. He appreciated the calm between storms like no one else Bobby knew. He had no idea where the boy had learned it - definitely not from his father.
"So best case scenario, Harry is Harry again. Then what?"
Bobby just shrugged, having chased that thought many times and given up pinning it down for the moment.
Castiel, cheerful bastard that he was, made a point of saying, "Harry will never be himself again."
Sam grew quiet, the sentiment enough to sober him and cement the silence.
Dean ascended from the basement the next morning, moving like a man twice his age and his face carefully blank.
Bobby glanced at him and pushed over a mug of coffee. Dean sent him a grateful nod and drank deeply, skillfully avoiding Sam and Castiel's stares.
"Well?" Sam prompted.
"What?" Dean returned, eyebrows raised.
Sam settled down in his chair and scowled. Dean pursed his lips, visibly warring with himself over what he should say.
"He's not asking me to kill him anymore?" he offered weakly.
Bobby shook his head, unsure how to take that. Sam fell silent, brow furrowed as he stared at his brother's face. Finally he sighed, sympathy tightening the skin around his eyes. "Look man, I'm sorry – you know I am – but we're kinda on a deadline here."
Dean's face hardened and he took a pointed sip of coffee, stepping into the study and closing the pocket doors behind him. "Okay," he said gruffly. "He's lucid enough that he knows what's going on. I'm not sure if he can use any of his mojo. He keeps passing out before I can ask." Dean shrugged, trying and failing to hide his thoughts on that tidbit. "He's done that shrinking thing again. Like when we were spirits." Sam nodded at that, expression intent. "There haven't been any signs of -." Dean waved his free hand, unable to put Harry/Michael's bipolar act into words, but managing to clearly convey his meaning. "When he wakes up I might try to shove some food in him."
There was a creak, the soft sounds of someone moving around in the kitchen. Bobby at once reached for the shotgun sitting on a nearby table, Sam reacting similarly across the room. Dean seemed unsurprised. Instead he reached for one for one of the pocket doors leading to the kitchen and pushed it aside. The sight of that kid rummaging around in his cabinets was familiar. He looked a few years younger than he had that last time Bobby had seen him. The skin on his face was raw, like a sunburn that had been left to fester.
"Couldn't wait?" Dean asked.
"I haven't had coffee in forever," Harry replied.
Dean glanced at them before moving into the kitchen, wordlessly pouring the kid a cup of coffee. There was a tense silence as they all watched him drain the cup. When he surfaced he glanced over at them coolly, and offered the mug to Dean, eyeing the coffee left in the pot. Dean rolled his eyes but refilled the mug and passed it back. Harry finally entered the study, examining them wordlessly. His eyes lingered on Castiel, a frown crossing his face before it was wiped clean. Eventually he found a chair and sat, staring down at the rug between his socked feet.
When he looked up his expression was hard. "Here are our options," he said gravely. "I can feel his grace inside me, it wants to…" He closed his eyes for a moment, brow furrowed. "Cleanse," he finally settled on. "The angels would get their paradise. Lots of people would die."
"Okay. Next?" Sam prompted after a brief pause.
"We use the rings, try to force Lucifer back into his cage. It won't be easy. He doesn't want to fight me directly. In the state his vessel is in, I'd trounce him right now. So he'll want to draw this out as long as he can, and while he waits he'll take the world down with him."
"Great," Bobby said gruffly. "How exactly do we get close enough to get him in the cage?"
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Sam raise his head. Harry's eyes flicked over in Sam's direction and the boy frowned.
"It could work." Sam said firmly, and they all knew exactly what he was talking about.
"No," Dean said sharply.
"I'm not more important than the rest of the world Dean," Sam said calmly. He turned back to Harry, who was regarding him evenly. "It could work," he said again.
"No," Harry said simply. "It will not." Sam's eyes narrowed, expression tightening. He opened his mouth but Harry raised a hand in the universal bid for silence. "You're tainted." Harry said quietly. "Your rage taints you. Lucifer will use it. All that you are, he will use to control you. He's been doing it a long time."
The kid closed his eyes and turned his face away. Sam had shrunk back in his chair, his shoulders hiked up towards his ears and his face shuttered. Dean was staring at him. He looked concerned, but he did not jump to his brother's defense.
It had remained unspoken until then, but it was something that they all knew. Sam took after John in a way that Dean didn't. There was a brooding anger about him that had only increased as he'd gotten older. Perhaps the demon blood had made it worse. There was no way to know for sure. But here they were. Sam was looking up at Dean now, and they were doing that thing where they spoke without saying a word. Sam's expression was vaguely pleading. Dean just looked tired.
Eventually Harry turned back, his face pensive. He looked to Castiel and examined him in silence for a moment before tilting his head to the side.
"We will bring the battle here," he said.
Dean turned from his brother, raising his eyebrows at Harry in question.
"We will cut the legs out beneath him. When he becomes desperate, he will come to us."
"You mean to take control of the Host," Castiel breathed.
Harry got to his feet, his expression going hard. "I need to get in touch with Gabriel," he said. For one of the first times Harry turned his attention onto Bobby. Those eyes had weight, for all that they sat in a such a young looking face. Bobby felt himself stiffening, hackles rising before he was even aware that he felt threatened. Harry merely tilted his head to the side. "You're in touch with hunters."
"Good. I need them. All of them."
"That might be a bit hard. We're not exactly the most social of people."
Harry shook his head. "Try?"
Bobby rolled his eyes and moved toward his desk. "Since you asked so nicely."
Bobby buried himself in his address book. When he glanced up a few minutes later, Sam was still sitting slumped in his chair, but Dean and Harry had left and Castiel was thumbing ideally through one the books on the couch. Sam shook his head, lips pressed tightly together.
"I can't even sacrifice myself properly," he said lowly.
Bobby hissed out a breath through his teeth, wondering when he'd become the group shrink. Sam turned to him, eyes glassy.
"Can't do anything right."
"Stop that," Bobby said sharply. "We got more important things to do than listen to your pity party."
Sam slumped even more. Bobby rolled up a piece of paper, and tossed it at Sam's head.
"Look," he said, carefully gentling his voice. "You got anger in you kid. We all know that. But none of us are saints here. We've all gone things that we regret. But we don't have time to cry about it now. Maybe later, if we're all still alive."
Sam sat for a moment, then vigorously ran his fingers through his hair and straightened. "Okay," he said firmly. "Let me help."
Harry let the screen door swing shut behind him and perched himself on one of the steps leading up the to porch. Dean dithered for a moment before joining him.
"What can I say?" Harry said flatly. "I don't do things by halves."
Harry didn't turn to look at him, but he sensed Dean fidgeting. It was obvious that the man had something to say. Harry, welcome for any distraction from his mudded thoughts, turned to stare at him. Dean glanced up from the packed earth between his knees. He seemed hesitant.
"What is it?"
Dean sighed and said, "I spoke to Death."
Harry frowned, struggling to remember why that mattered. Death tended to keep his distance from angels, though his reapers made their appearances when it was necessary. He had some sort of agreement with Father.
No, that wasn't him. James Potter was his father.
No. Not since Hell. He had been unmade there, and had returned as something else. He was Harry Potter, wizard. No, Harry Potter, Master of Death.
He was fire and light. Father's best weapon. The faithful son.
NO! He was…
There was a hand on his shoulder. Big and warm and so-so-so real. There was someone making noise, a low, hissing sound.
He opened his eyes and turned his head. The sounds had tapered off. And yes that made sense.
Dean was sitting next to him, his expression warily concerned. Dean was…
Mine! Carefully crafted over years and years and years. The instrument. The means to fulfilling his Father's last commandment.
His friend. Dean was his friend. Dean was safety. Dean understood.
"What did Death say?" he rasped, and Dean's eyebrows shot up.
Harry cleared his throat, shifting a little uncomfortably under the hand on his shoulder. He didn't shrug it off. Instead he let it ground him. Because he was Harry, and right now he had a job to do.
"You said that you spoke to Death. What did he say?"
Dean stared into his face for a long moment. He understood. Dean understood; Harry could see it.
"A lot of things," Dean finally said. "Some of it didn't make sense. Some of it I didn't understand. He said that we were parallel."
Harry did his best to take that in. "What else?"
"You're a descendant of Seth. Gabriel mentioned that too."
"Seth," Harry said musingly. "The third son. The spare."
Dean looked unsettled but nodded.
"That makes you uncomfortable," Harry said in realization.
That only made Dean's face twist up further. His fingers tightened on Harry's shoulder for a moment before falling away so he could massage his neck.
"Yeah," he admitted gruffly. "It does. I don't like the angels. Never have. They use us just like the demons do. But at least the demons don't pretend like they're doing us a favor."
It took a moment to arrange the words correctly – he was Harry, not Michael – but eventually Harry quietly said, "I don't mind it. It seems stupid to be upset about it now."
Dean sighed, long and heavy. "Don't tell me that you're giving up."
Harry felt his shoulders and spine straighten. His heart hardening at the mere thought of doing nothing. He frowned, pausing to examine the notion carefully. Perhaps he could give up. He'd suffered for so long. Even then, if he wasn't careful, the memories threatened to rise up in an overwhelm wave. Death, even though it had arrived at an inconvenient time, had been welcomed.
Harry knew that if he let himself stop, allowed himself to slow down and actually consider the relatively short years of his life, it would break him. Even the thought of what was expected of him now, was astronomically overwhelming.
"I want to," he said quietly. He turned his head away, unwilling to look at Dean in the wake of his admission. "I'm so tired, Dean."
There was a long silence. Harry didn't turn his head, couldn't. Finally he heard Dean sigh. "One way or another, it'll end," he said honestly.
Hilarity bubbled up, and Harry found himself smiling. "Yes," he said happily. "It will, won't it?"
Harry glanced up at Dean through his eyelashes, and saw that Dean was staring out at the auto yard like it held all the answers. Harry turned his attention to the sky, thinking that he might find his answers there.
"But it can be good too," Dean said gruffly. "Life is more than suffering. It can be good."
Harry felt Dean's fingers brush against his hair, and he closed his eyes. His inaction must have been a sign, because Dean's hand, large and warm, cupped his neck. He was drawn in, his forehead pressed into the soft material of Dean's shirt. It wasn't new, this position. Dean had done this before, surrounded him in safe protective warmth.
He remembered others, before he'd descended. The memories were present, if dull. He must have found comfort there, but even if he had, he could not remember. His years as Master of Death had passed without much touch. Dean had showed no such compunctions. He touched Harry, offered comfort freely.
And Harry took, because he was simply unable to resist doing so.
He closed his eyes, chaotic thoughts calming for a moment.
"What are you doing to me, kid?"
Harry had no answer to that, so he remained silent.
"I'm going to show you," Dean said firmly, his fingers pressing Harry closer. "There is more to the world than suffering. We'll get through this, and then I'll show you. There's this place, a little shop in Michigan, near Richmond. They make the best cherry pie I've ever had. It's like award winning. That'll be the first stop on our we-survived-the-freaking-apocalypse roadtrip."
Harry sighed, relaxing further.
"Have you been to the grand canyon?"
Harry shook his head.
"We'll go. I'll let you take one of those donkeys down. I won't do it because no fucking way, but you can do it. It'll be epic. We'll go to the Niagara Falls. I'll take you to Chicago, we'll go to that Bean thing, and have pizza."
Dean continued, but Harry didn't hear it. There were things to do, but exhaustion called. Dean was here. He could rest for a moment.
Harry woke ravenous, and Sam was treated with the sight of his elder brother desperately trying to put together a meal with the contents of Bobby's fridge. It brought back memories, some of them fond, some of them not. Dean was passable cook by necessity, and managed to put something together.
Harry looked very much his age as he tucked himself into one of Bobby's armchairs, bowl tucked in closely to his chest. He bid Castiel to speak of the Host, and then sat back and listened. Castiel spoke of the 3 archangels, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, and the angel Lucifer, who had once been an archangel but was one no longer. He spoke of the garrisons, listed troop numbers and allocations off the top of his head like he was reading from a list.
Harry was supposed to be Michael so it was likely that he knew or at least was aware of everything Castiel spoke of. Even so, he quietly absorbed the words, interrupting only to ask a rare question. Bobby was actually taking notes.
Dean was watching from the kitchen, arms folded and expression grim. Sam stared at him, and it only took a moment for Dean's attention to turn to him. Sam nodded meaningfully in the door's direction. Dean paused for a moment before straightening. He passed Harry on the way to the door, dropping a hand onto the boy's shoulder as he went. Sam followed.
Dean led them out past the porch to the Impala, where he leaned comfortably. His expression and manner seemed resigned.
"All right," he invited tiredly. "Let's have it."
Sam could have taken offense, could have, but didn't. Instead he moved to Dean's side, and bumped shoulders.
"Remember when we used to hunt wendigos?"
Dean smile was a bit fragile, but Sam had put it there. "No," he said ruefully.
Sam took a breath to prepare himself, and then took the plunge.
"I'm sorry Dean." Dean lifted his eyebrows, questioning. "Harry was right. I am…angry. I'm always so angry. It's ruined everything."
Dean looked uncomfortable at that and opened his mouth to refute Sam's words but Sam didn't let him.
"This all started because I didn't listen to you, because I thought that I knew better."
"That bitch Ruby didn't help," Dean pointed out grimly. "Look man, it's…" Dean faltered for a moment before plowing on. "It's stupid to try to dole out blame now. This is what we've got but we can fix it. We will fix it."
"Do you think that we can? Do you actually think that Harry can fight Lucifer man on man, and win?"
Dean sobered, frowning down at his boots for a moment. "He thinks he can."
"And that's enough?"
"It's got to be." A moment later Dean's eyes narrowed as he realized the trap he had stepped into. "No," he said shortly. "Why can't you understand that I would never let you do that? It's bad enough that Harry's being ridden by one of those bastards. You want me to sit by and watch the same thing happen to you?"
"You're a hypocrite," Sam said without heat.
Dean sucked in a sharp breath, and pushed himself away from the Impala. He paced a few steps away, and then returned, his expression thunderous.
"Fine," Dean snapped. "Yeah, fine. You're right. I don't give a shit. I will not let it happen again. You said that you should have listened to me. Truth is: yes you absolutely should have. And Harry should have. You both should have fucking listened to me!" Dean broke off, taking a deep breath. "And now here we are. I don't know how this will end, but in a perfect world, we'll be able to walk away from all this, bodies largely intact. To do that we need to stop digging ourselves into the hole. So we'll stop, right now, and work with what we've got."
Sam shook his head. "We go in smart or we don't go in at all?"
"Stop," Dean growled. "Stop throwing that in my face."
"Then stop being stupid!" Sammy finally exploded. He took a breath, regained himself. "We're trying to end the apocalypse. You don't do that half-cocked. Can't you trust me?"
Dean turned away, but not before Sam was able to see the despair in his face.
"I'm sorry," Sam said. "God, I'm so sorry Dean. But please, let me try. I did this. I have to fix it."
His brother ran a hand over his face, and he seemed so tired. The little brother in him, Dean's Sammy, waited to stop. His brother loved him, was only doing what was best. But Sam was not worth the world, he just wasn't.
Dean looked at him, his eyes anguished. Sam let him see it. He let Dean see it all. His openness was returned, and Sam saw Dean's all in return. His brother's fear, his boundless worry, but mostly his love. And he saw it, when Dean gave in.
Sam didn't speak, didn't want to push the scales back out of his favor. So he just nodded, and tentatively reached out to touch Dean's forearm. He was only slightly surprised when Dean pulled him into a hug.
"You little idiot. Okay." He pulled away. "Now convince the others."
Sam had to smile because this was proof. He shouldn't have needed it, but he soaked it up anyway.
Michael looked older, Harry noted curiously. It was strange, seeing a face that was his but not. His age was always in flux. Was he fifteen, the age he had died and been dragged to the fires of hell? One thousand two hundred years had passed there, more than a millennium. Was that his age? Or twenty-seven, the age he would be now if he had lived?
Or perhaps his face reflected the age he'd been when he'd been set on the path to lose his innocence, such as it had been.
The last thought rang uncomfortably true. Of course it was the one that Michael responded to.
"You will not succeed," Michael said.
Harry tilted his head to the side, staring into eyes that were not is own, even as the opposite was simultaneously true.
"What makes you say that?"
"My Father has decreed that paradise will exist on earth. He has said it, so it shall happen. His word is divine law, and it shall be so."
Harry reached out, touching the reflection that was him, but was not him. "You could never gain access to my thoughts. It frustrated you."
Fire burned in Michael's eyes – anger – smoldering for a moment before it was whisked away beneath a mask of cold benevolence. It should have scared Harry it made him smile instead.
"The night before I agreed to your possession, I had a dream."
It was Michael's turn to tilt his head to the side, unable to hide his curiosity.
"I am to Death, as you are to your Father, I suppose. He spoke to me, and revealed to me that this was my task, to make sure that Dean's body and soul remained free of your influence. Why do you think Death would tell me to do that, if I wasn't destined to?"
Anger had fled. Now Michael appeared intrigued. "I don't know. Death has always been beyond us. Separate." The hardness returned. "It doesn't matter. I will follow my Father's decree."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I plan to do it for you. But it would help if you stopped resisting."
"You want to use my Grace." It was not a question.
"I can't take care of Lucifer without it."
Michael smiled at him. It was not a wholly kind smile. "It will destroy you. Your soul will burn away." Hardness gave way to earnestness. Michael meant what he said, and his concern was real. "As it is, your body is damaged, perhaps beyond saving, but your soul would eventually move on. If you take my power as your own, it is only a matter of time before it burns everything away. There would be nothing after; it would be like you never existed."
Harry only had to think for a moment.
"To save the world? I think I'll take one for the team."
Michael regarded him for a moment, something new entering his gaze. It looked remarkably like respect, though here was the last place Harry would think to look for it.
"You are not what I expected, Harry Potter."
Harry smiled. "I get that a lot."
Michael tipped his head down, his eyes, which were really Harry's eyes, grew lidded. There was a burning, a sensation that put the previous burning out of his mind. This was happening now, Harry realized. His reflection lost color, lost shape, and became light.
"We'll become one, but you must move quickly. You now exist on borrowed time."
"All time is borrowed," Harry said haltingly, struggling to stay focused as Michael's Grace began to overwhelm him.
Michael laughed, and then he was gone, his essence bonded tightly to Harry's. At once, it was as if his mind burst open.
The Host, he thought distantly. He could hear the Host, and he knew, quite clearly that they could hear him. They were his, his men to command.
Sam stood just to the right of the bathroom door, listening as Harry's breathing slowed and quieted. The one-sided conversation he'd overheard bore examination. His resolve had flown in its wake. He'd wait, he decided queasily.
Late that night, after everyone had settled down to bed, Harry quietly padded down the stairs. He paused long enough to glance into the study, and saw that Sam had folded himself onto the small couch with Dean stretched out on the floor nearby. He eased the front door open and stepped out onto the porch. The moon was bright, and Harry sat in what was quickly becoming one of his favorite spots.
He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and prayed.
What felt like a moment later, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Harry took another slow breath.
"Gabriel," he greeted on the exhale.
"In the flesh," Gabriel quipped. "And I gotta say, happy to see you short stuff. I knew you could do it."
"I need your help," Harry said shortly.
"Sure you do. What are brothers for?"
Harry opened his eyes and Gabriel grinned at him. "Oh Harry, Harry," he said, and something like awe gave his voice an unexpected weight. "They have no idea what they've got coming to them, do they?"
Harry thought about his plans, sketchy now, but quickly evolving. He thought about the allies he had. About Sam, Bobby, and Castiel, all who had nothing left to lose. He thought about Dean.
And he smiled.