Plans to capture Rowena move forward with the help of the King of Hell, but Dean keeps dropping dead. The last remnants of his soul fail bit by bit, until the least altercation puts him at risk and leaves Sam desperate. Against the tenets of Heaven, Cas attempts a dangerous and complex transfer of power, life’s energy, soul to soul, from Sam to Dean, putting them both at risk of instant death. The consequences are unknown, but comes with one certainty; there will be a cost.
Tell me lies
Tell me sweet little lies
Oh, no, no you can’t disguise
Tell me lies
Tell me sweet little lies…
“What do you mean I can’t tell him?”
In the semi-darkness of his room, Sam blinked at Cas, who was sitting in a chair by the bed while Sam leaned against the headboard. Getting even that far upright had taken nearly all his strength. He felt just about as bad now as he did near the end of the trails, so damn tired that getting out of bed was an act of sheer will. He drew his knees up and leaned on them because he had to, trying to understand what Cas was telling him.
Cas didn’t answer right away, looking about as worn out as Sam felt. Worry stood out starkly in his eyes and something else that seemed like regret, but Sam couldn’t quite place it. Of course, he could just be thinking of something else entirely that he wouldn’t explain. In some ways, since getting his wings back, Cas had reverted to that angel from so many years ago who didn’t tell them anything he didn’t have to – only this time, Sam thought his reasons were different. There was fear behind everything.
“You could equate this kind of transfer to a transplant, like a kidney or a heart,” Cas said finally. “In that case, the patient would have to undergo treatments, I believe, to prevent rejection. It’s the same concept here, or as nearly as I can explain it. There are intricacies to what I just did that are too complicated … Suffice it to say that if Dean finds out about it, it could set in motion a chain reaction that would end his life … and…”
“…And his existence,” Sam finished when Cas didn’t go on. That was a big enough and good enough reason right there to keep his mouth shut, except … “I promised him, we both did, that we wouldn’t do this kind of thing any more. That we wouldn’t lie to each other, Cas.”
“I know. But the danger is too great to risk it. If we tell him, he’ll start to feel the differences, the alien nature of what is now inside him. It’ll set up a kind of dissonance in his mind that he won’t be able to combat and he’ll worry at it until the realization comes that what’s there isn’t him.”
Sam blinked at that, trying to understand. “Wait. Is this … Is what you did to him going to change him? Like make him more like me somehow?”
“No,” Cas said and he spoke forcefully enough that Sam believed him. “As long as we give him time to adjust to it, he won’t be different at all.” Cas wagged his head back and forth. “Which honestly, isn’t all that great either.”
“You know what I mean. He very frequently doesn’t think before he acts and—”
“And sometimes I think too much,” Sam said. “He’s saved an awful lot of people by just charging in.”
Cas grunted and grimaced at the same time. “Myself included,” he agreed, but shook his head. “Still, maybe he’ll pause just a fraction longer now. But I doubt it. No, he won’t be different, but – he might seem … I don’t know how else to put this … but he may be overly emotional. There might be mood swings. Happy, sad, furious. It’ll be important that you don’t overreact to any of it because he might not even recognize that it’s happening. Since he took on the Mark his emotional state hasn’t been anything close to normal, and when he was a demon … well, I think you know. Now that he has his soul mostly patched back together, those feelings may overwhelm him. Mostly, these are all good things, Sam, but he needs a few days to adjust. You do too. He has to be given the time to get used to what he’ll be feeling, to absorb the strength from you that he’s been given. But you can’t tell him, Sam, without risking everything. Probably not ever.”
“Is this going to fix him? I mean, make it so he gets to heaven someday?”
Silence followed the question and again Cas seemed to be thinking over the answer. “I don’t know. I hope so, but … it’s never been done before.”
“It isn’t allowed,” Cas said, looking away, his expression worried again and Sam pulled in a breath.
“You could get in trouble for this,” he said as a statement of fact. “Talk about rushing into something without thinking about it. What the hell, Cas? We can’t really afford for you to be heaven’s most wanted again.”
“Which is why I’m going to go there now and explain myself. I have to, Sam. I have to make the other angels understand. I have to tell them the whole plan. If I don’t, they’ll lose all trust in me and we can’t afford that either. We’re going to need their help.”
“And what if they don’t listen?”
“I’ll be fine,” he said and stood. “I have to believe they’ll give me the chance to see why I did this and why it’s so important. I also have an escape plan in place and I’m the only angel with wings at the moment, so…”
“You’ll be fine too, if I don’t make it out. You’ve managed without me on more than one occasion.” Cas smiled at that and then nodded toward the door. “When he wakes up, he’ll feel like he’s had 20 cups of coffee. You won’t. You should rest while you can. I’ll check on him before I go.”
“Cas wait,” Sam said and moved to stand up. He only managed to get his feet planted on the floor before a wave of dizziness swept over him. It was another long moment before he could speak again. “We have to go find Rowena. We don’t have a few days here.”
He couldn’t argue the point so he didn’t. Cas already knew the reasons. He frowned over the predicament for a moment, then abruptly reached over and set his fingers to Sam’s forehead.
He felt the piercing power of angelic healing shoot through him. Within seconds, Cas swayed where he stood. Sam realized that he was weakening himself so that Sam could recover his strength faster. He reached to stop him, guessing they’d be better off with a fully powered-up angel, but Cas pulled away before he could. He sank down into the chair again.
“Damn it, Cas.”
He only shook his head, but he seemed suddenly exhausted. “I’m an angel, Sam. We regenerate much faster than you do.”
With that, he closed his eyes and bowed his head. Sam admitted that he felt better, but he didn’t like putting their most powerful ally at risk. Before he could say so, Cas looked up. He straightened his shoulders and stood.
“I’ll be back.”
Sam clambered to his feet, taking a step after him before he could leave. “Cas, what am I supposed to tell Dean?”
“That I healed him. And just like the damage you had from the trials, it took time to fix and required more than one try.”
Sam nodded to that, feeling that was at least, some of the truth. It was still mostly lying, but when the alternative was death that put a whole different spin on it. He felt fine about leaving out the parts that might kill his brother. He was about to say so, but Cas was already walking out the door. Sam left him to it; checking on Dean before winging his way to heaven. He set aside Cas’ warning over Dean being emotional, thinking that was the least of their problems. Rubbing a hand down his face, he sank back on the bed and then on impulse, like he used to do for so many years of his life before he gave up on it, he got down on his knees, clasped his hands together and bowed his head.
“Please let this work.”
Dean turned and as quickly as he could, made his way to the kitchen. Since he was dressed in shorts, an undershirt, socks, and his robe, he didn’t make a sound. The need to creep through his own home so he wouldn’t get caught eavesdropping made him want to throw the bowl he picked up clear across the room, but then that would defeat the purpose of keeping this discovery to himself.
He needed to.
Having come in at ‘It isn’t allowed’ and staying through to ‘what am I supposed to tell Dean’ along with the answer, had completely imploded his entire world.
So much for promises.
Which meant absolutely nothing right from the jump.
He had to think, but there were too many questions ram-rodding through his brain. He supposed he should just confront them both and decided he would.
Except he didn’t want to.
So much for trust. So much for rebuilding their lives together. They didn’t trust him. Maybe they had a reason not to. He could accept that, except for the last few days of talk, and that’s all it was, just talk, of not doing this. Not going behind his back. Not lying any more.
He grabbed the box of cereal and managed to not crumple it, poured a bowlful and found the last of the not quite sour milk in the fridge. He’d discovered long ago that almost bad milk with a little water and sugar went down just fine.
He wasn’t even hungry, but filled with a need to do something to combat the nearly mindless rage that threatened with every passing minute to explode out of control.
He knew that one or both of them would be in here any moment, asking him how he was and he didn’t want them to know yet. He didn’t want them to see what they’d just done. Otherwise, he’d never find out what it was.
Or maybe it was more that he wanted to find out, right here, right now, if Sam was going to go through with it, with the lie, walk in here and not say a word.
Dean told himself that he wouldn’t. Sam was just going along with whatever the hell it was, whatever Cas had done that wasn’t allowed and once he was gone, he’d come clean. That thought was immediately followed by an equal certainty that he wouldn’t.
He didn’t have time to think much past that because he felt suddenly that he wasn’t alone. He had his back to the door – on purpose, and had maybe three seconds to get it together, so he stuffed it all down, the anger, the growing sense of betrayal, and an unwelcome blossoming pain that grabbed him by the throat and clamped down.
“Dean,” Cas said, moving around to look at him. “You’re up. How do you feel?”
Like I want to end you. “Fine. I guess. What happened?”
“You collapsed. Crowley left. I healed you. Again. Do you feel all right?”
Did Crowley have something to do with this? Was there a deal here? “Yeah, Cas. I feel fine. Good actually.” That was true. He felt better, physically at least, than he had since the Mark came off. “But why? I mean, you only just healed me on the boat. So why did I drop like that?”
Cas looked down at the floor and then over to the doorway. Dean stole a glance that way, expecting Sam, but he wasn’t there. So, here it was. Cas wouldn’t look at him. A sure sign.
“The kind of damage you had required more healing than I realized. I told you before, it’s a different kind of problem from fixing a wound, or…”
“So I’m good now? How’d you do it? I didn’t think it would be that easy.”
“Well it wasn’t,” Cas said, stammering a little. “It-It helps that I have all my powers again. So … I’m glad you’re feeling all right. Better at least. Uh. I have to go. Report in on all this. I’ll be back as soon as I can. You should try to uh … pace yourself … as much as you can. I know you have to go find Rowena as soon as possible but it’ll be better if you take it easy at first. You should let Sam deal with as much as he can handle right now. Let him do the … heavy lifting. Can you do that? It’s important, Dean.”
It was the concern in Cas’ voice that made Dean pause and think. It was real for one thing, even edging into fear.
“Not just for you,” Cas went on, looking especially perturbed. Or no. He was struggling to hide his emotions. “For Sam too. He made mistakes, trying to get you back. We both did. He can’t take it, Dean. You understand? Watching you die. Not knowing if I can bring you back. So just think about that before you go out there and throw yourself into harms way.”
“I hear you,” he said, looking into the bowl at the cereal he had yet to touch, getting mushy while it sat. “I’ll do my best.”
“Good. Thank you. All right. I’ll be back soon.”
“Cas … You’ll tell us, won’t you? How it’s going in heaven? We all have to be on the same page with this.”
He didn’t even hesitate. “Yes. Absolutely. I will. And I’ll get them on the same page.”
With that, he turned and three steps later, he vanished.
Dean looked after him, most of his anger bleeding off. He realized that whatever they’d done to fix him hadn’t completely worked. Cas was too worried. That made him stop and re-examine what he’d heard and what he hadn’t heard. Now that he was past the initial shock of them trying to hide something from him, it came to him that they were doing it to protect him. This felt different from other times they’d been sneaking around behind his back and reluctantly, he recalled a time or two when he’d flat out lied to Sam, like when Death put up the great wall of Sam to keep him from remembering hell.
Dean stopped. He did an internal check to make sure he even had a soul anymore, and the answer came back instantly, yes. He rolled his eyes at himself. He was plenty emotional, something that wouldn’t be happening if what little of the soul he had left had somehow been removed. That wasn’t it.
Lying to Sam to keep him from scratching the wall around his mind hadn’t been the wrong thing to do. And it had worked, particularly so after Sam started remembering and finally got it through his thick skull the danger he was in. Back then, that brief moment he was unconscious on the floor turned out to be a week in hell. He stopped pushing it. The wall held. Sam stopped scratching at it. He stopped looking for the truth.
Dean grunted under his breath. “I guess I better stop scratching at it too.”
Sam stopped looking because he trusted Dean. That thought made him pause. That trust had saved Sam’s life and if it hadn’t been for Cas breaking the wall, he probably would have been fine. With that admission, another realization came in, also born from memory. He knew what it was like, wondering and worrying, terrified half the time that the wall was going to crumble. He understood better what Cas was getting at. He even felt a little bad for so instantly doubting them both, doubting their intentions, thinking that they didn’t tell him because they didn’t trust him or believe he wasn’t capable. It wasn’t that, which meant they were doing this for the exact same reasons he hadn’t let Sam go off and find out all the things he’d done. Dean decided right then that he didn’t want Sam or Cas going through what he had. He’d figure out a way to tell Sam, Cas too, that he was okay with whatever they’d done because they’d done it to keep him alive.
Mostly okay, at least. He really wanted to know, but pushed that thought from his mind. He looked at the cereal and guessed he should have it, but instead dropped the spoon in semi-disgust into the bowl. Sam liked mushy cereal. He could eat it.
Dean left the kitchen for the shower instead, passing by Sam’s room to tell him about the food, but jerked to a halt in the open door. Sam was slumped on the floor, sitting on his feet, his head and arms on the bed, completely knocked out. By the way his hands were clasped together, Dean realized in dawning awareness and surprise that he’d been praying.
“That can’t be good,” he muttered under his breath.
Sam used to pray all the time, or so he said, but quit once he came to the brutal realization that God just wasn’t around to listen. The reasons why he was praying now weren’t too difficult to guess, but Dean stopped those questions from forming, along with the answers he made up for them, and went to Sam to wake him – if only to get him into bed. If he was that tired, from whatever Cas had done to him, he needed to sleep.
Sam woke with a start, spinning around and slamming back into the nightstand beside his bed. Dean grabbed the lamp as it threatened to teeter over before it could. “Easy there Sleeping Beauty.”
“What … what is it?” Sam climbed to his feet for a second but ended up plopping down on the bed, all the while trying to hide how tired he was. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, except for you camping out on the floor.”
“What? I’m fine. I just—”
“Uh-huh. Save it. I’m hitting the shower and then the web to track our least favorite witch. Sleep while you can.”
“No, I’ll get started—”
“Sam. Stop. You’re beat. I get it. Get some rest. Look, Cas just gave me a long lecture about not over-doing it, so now I’m giving it to you. And the truth is … I need you at 100 percent when we go out there, because I’m not. You’re going to have to be the point on this.”
Sam couldn’t hide the sudden wave of fear that washed over him. The muscles of his jaw line bunched and he stopped looking up. It was only for an instant though, before his face became a schooled mask. “Sure. Of course.”
“I’ll be fine, Sammy,” Dean said in a softer tone. “I’m not scratching the wall.” And then he smirked at him. “See, I’m the older, smarter brother and I know better.”
Sam only froze in place as if he’d been struck.
“I’m serious man. I’m not an idiot, you know. I know you did something you can’t tell me about. It’s okay.” He pulled in a breath and said what Sam needed to hear. “I trust you. So relax already. You need to rest. You look like death warmed over.”
He did actually and another piece of the puzzle Dean wasn’t supposed to put together chinked into place. He remembered when he’d seen that level of exhaustion before. In Bobby. Right after Cas used him to get them back from Sunrise, Wyoming, circa 1861. He still didn’t know what the big deal was, but pushed the thought away.
“Go to sleep,” he said and without difficulty, pushed Sam down. He really was that tired. He grabbed a spare blanket off the end of the bed, reverting to that 10 year old who’d tucked his little brother in countless times before. Still, Sam resisted – as always. “What, you need a bedtime story?”
He rolled his eyes, sort of. They were mostly closed.
“Sometime on lonely mountain-meres, I find a magic bark…”
“Shut up.” That came out as mostly a mumble.
Dean only smiled and headed for the door. “I leap on board: no helmsman steers: I float till all is dark. A gentle sound, an awful light! Three angels bear the Holy Grail: With folded feet, in stoles of white, On sleeping wings they sail.”
It was funny, when he stopped to think about it, how stories of angels had followed them the whole of their lives, without them even knowing it.
Sam was out before Dean turned the corner into the hall. So Tennyson still had that effect, Dean thought, smiling to himself over it. It had been a while since he’d pulled that one up from the dustbin of childhood memories.
Twenty minutes later, showered and dressed, with Sam still asleep, Dean pulled out his laptop and settled to the drudgery of searching for some clue as to Rowena’s location. His email was overloaded with search engine hits of the weird and wild. There was too much of it, all of which culminated in the realization that finding news of her amongst all the crazy going down in the world right now was an all out impossibility.
“Crap.” He leaned back, fighting down the near constant urge to get up and do something. He closed the laptop and stood, pacing back and forth by the two library tables. “Too much crap. We’ll never find her this way.”
He was stumped for a time, and decided to put the moment to good use. Testing Cas’ radius of consecration, he hopped in the Impala and headed for the store. Or market really, just three aisles, but for what he needed, sufficiently stocked. The owner of the place wasn’t there, but his daughter, Cindy, sat behind the counter, yawning while she paged through the latest People magazine. It was nearly closing time, and here that meant 6 o’clock sharp.
They’d lost a whole other day since getting back from Mexico and they’d probably lose another one before they could hit the road.
Cindy, who he’d seen a few times, now and again, when her folks weren’t running the store, gave him a nod and went back to reading. The TV behind her, the volume off, showed a solid stream of crazy, of murder and mayhem scrolling by on the ticker.
“How are your folks?” he asked, grabbing a hand basket from the stack by the door.
“Better now,” she said, pushing a handful of brown hair out of her face. She was barely sixteen and looked like she hadn’t been getting much sleep lately. “Since the storm finally pulled out of here. It’s been a weird week, you know?”
“Yeah, I heard. They’re all right though?”
She nodded. “Especially since the other day. Like a black cloud lifted and everyone went back to normal. Billy Lake killed a bunch of people over at the Auction, did you hear? He hung himself yesterday.” She glanced at the TV. “Kind of like everywhere else.”
“It happens,” Dean said since he didn’t know what else to say. “Wasn’t Billy mostly crazy to begin with?”
Cindy snorted at that. “I guess so.”
“He get anybody you know?”
To his relief, she shook her head. “Just some folks in for a sale. Somebody knew them. It’s the like the whole world went mad all at once.”
“Good time to stick close to home,” Dean said and gave her a pointed, parental look. “I’m pretty sure things here are going to be fine.” He held up the basket, indicating he had to get on with it.
“If you say so,” Cindy muttered, clearly not believing him.
Time would prove him right though, so Dean didn’t argue the point. Again, he was thankful for Cas and his mojo, protecting the place Dean called home. The entire tiny town fit inside that ten mile radius and while the world outside might be going to hell in a hand basket, Lebanon at least was out of the danger zone.
He went about the necessary shopping, getting enough supplies for a couple of days that included stuff for the road. Cindy helped him at the deli counter with the sandwich makings, expertly slicing up some turkey and roast beef. By the time he made it around to the dairy bin, the bell over the door clanged.
Sheriff Bob Sharky was the only person in town who knew who Sam and Dean really were, making the discovery last year when they’d helped him out with the ghost of his great, great grandmother who came back through a Ouija board one of his kids was playing with, pissed at having her afterlife disrupted. It was a good thing having the sheriff in on it, except for the usual downside of knowing the Winchesters and about monsters in general. He kept any potential law enforcement entanglements off their back.
“Sherriff,” Dean said with a nod. Bob had made a beeline for him, so he guessed he’d seen the car parked outside. Sharky, as most people called him, was a good ten years older, a decent guy, and didn’t take much shit from anyone. He’d been on the job a long time.
“I was wondering if I’d see you pull through here. Home to lick your wounds?”
“Something like that.”
“What the hell, man?”
“We got it under control,” Dean said and then recanted. “Or we will soon.”
“I suppose I have you to thank that Lebanon is somehow right as rain.”
“Friends in high places,” Dean said, glancing toward the counter to make sure Cindy wasn’t listening in. “Do what you can to keep everyone in town and you’ll be all right.”
“When are you heading back out?”
“In the morning. Early.”
Bob nodded to that, heaving a worried sigh. “Stop by when you get back,” he said, and clapped Dean on the shoulder. “And good luck.”
Sam was still out cold by the time he made it home again. Dean unpacked and put away the groceries, then with a roast beef and melted cheddar sandwich for sustenance, went back to the search. Time had not made it even a little bit easier. He had 50 more email alerts.
“Screw this,” he muttered and yanked out his phone. He knew going to Crowley would piss Sam off, but there wasn’t a choice here. He hesitated only a moment before tapping the King of Hell’s contact.
He answered on the first ring. “Dean. I thought you were dead.”
There wasn’t a drop of concern in his voice. Just the usual sarcasm. “Not yet,” Dean said.
“So good of you to let me know. Glad you called. I have a bit of a bone to pick over your overgrown brother always trying to kill me. Makes the whole idea of letting the big galoot into hell a bit more than I’m willing to go along with. What’s his beef? You’re back, safely bosomed in. Time he moved on, don’t you think?”
“I don’t know, Crowley. He might have a point, considering it’s because of you and the Mark that my damn soul is broken, and he’s never going to believe—”
“What are you saying? A broken … It isn’t possible. I know a thing or two about—”
“Guess again. I’m going with angels trump demons on this one.”
Silence greeted that statement, making Dean wonder what the demon’s problem was with it, as if he cared at all, which he didn’t.
“I’ll look into it.”
“You do that.”
“You have to believe me on this. I didn’t know.”
“Wouldn’t have stopped you if you did, so what’s the difference? Let’s cut to the chase, and leave off the BS. Where’s your mother, and don’t tell me you don’t know, because I know you do.”
Another lengthy silence ensued, broken by the sound of distant screams that Dean really didn’t want to listen to, or know what was going on to cause them.
“I haven’t got all day, Crowley.”
“I have her location narrowed down but not pinpointed,” he said after another moment. “But before I tell you, I need some assurances.”
“Call your dog off.”
Dean closed his eyes at that, wondering if he could. Sam had wanted Crowley dead for years. “Consider him called, but know this; when I do finally drop, which isn’t going to happen any time soon thanks to Sam, but on that day, you better make yourself scarce. For a good long while.”
“Duly noted. Mother was last seen in a small suburb of Denver; a little stain on the road called Stonegate. Make a stop at the Celtic Pub off Lincoln. The proprietress will have more when you get there. Oh and Dean, don’t completely trust her.”
He didn’t really need the warning, but accepted it as intended. That there was some underlying game Crowley had going on beneath the surface went without questioning. That came with the territory.
“Duly noted,” he said, mimicking the dripping tone. “I’ll call you from the road.”
He hung up, decided not to dwell on anything to do with the King of Hell, and instead considered the aftermath of getting their hands on the queen bitch, rolling through a contingency list of shit to deal with. Glancing at his phone and checking the time, he made another call, this time to friendlier climes.
“Jody. It’s Dean.”
“Dean Winchester. It is so good to hear your voice. What in the holy hell have you boys done? Oh, and I met your angel friend. Quite the social butterfly, that one.”
“I’m kidding. No, he barely looked at me. Popped in. Scared the crap out of me, by the way, said he was your friend, and then seared some sort of, I don’t know what, onto my ribs. Didn’t quite catch what that was about exactly, and he did the same to the girls and Donna.”
“Sherriff Hanscum. You know, with the vampires? She and I have kinda gone into together lately, what with these girls. She’s, you know, grown on me, and I gotta admit it’s nice having someone else in on all the crazy crap.”
“Jody, wait. What? Slow down. Girls? What are you talking about? I thought you just had Alex.”
“Sam sent us Claire a while back, oh about a month I guess – ish. Cas’ not daughter. Poor kid. It’s no wonder she’s a bit lost.”
It all fell into place memory-wise, but before he could say so, Jody kept going about how much fun it wasn’t having a teenager and a ‘young adult’ under one roof, since they immediately formed a pact to gang up on the grownups. Before too long, Dean was smiling over the unadulterated joy he heard in her voice.
“You know you love it,” he said when she paused to take a breath.
“You caught me. Yeah, I do. Crazy, but yes, except when the two of them sneak out at night to go meet the boys at the street corner and then get mad when I catch ‘em. Then, I don’t love it so much. They’re on lockdown right now, what with the whole damn world coming to an end. That’s it, isn’t it? It’s all crashing down around us.”
“Uh, it’s gonna seem that way, yeah,” Dean said when he didn’t want to. “It might get worse before it gets better, but we’re working on it. That’s why—”
“What happened? I mean, one minute it was sunshine and roses, and the next this unholy cloud of black rolled over us. Everyone and everything went stark raving bonkers. I saw a guy get eaten alive by a swarm of bees. Seriously, there was nothing left of him. The dogs, the rats, the snakes, all over, killing each other off. The birds were the worst. I swear even my house plants tried to grab me.”
“It’s kind of a long story,” he said.
“Okay. I got a minute.”
He supposed he owed her the explanation, considering his part in it all, but he really hadn’t intended to go into it, feeling like he didn’t have the time. He realized he actually did, since he had to wait for Sam to wake the hell up. He could map out their route for the trip to Denver in five minutes.
“All right. Get comfortable,” he said and proceeded to tell her the whole thing, going all the way back to when and why he’d taken the Mark of Cain. With a few interruptions for questions and more than a few exclamations of ‘what the hell were you/Sam thinking’, it took almost two hours. At the end of it, there was a long enough silence that he thought the connection had dropped.
“Are you all right?” she asked finally, the tone of her voice hollow and worried. “And Sam? Both of you?”
“Yeah, yeah. We’re okay. I mean, dealing. I’ve died like three times already, enough that I’m starting to lose count, but it seems like we’ve got a handle on it now.”
She didn’t speak again for a moment, but he imagined she was sitting there trying to absorb it all. Despite knowing, all these years, about the world and the life he inhabited, she had only seen so much of it up close and personal, one small sliver of the nightmare that blanketed the whole shebang.
“You killed Death,” she said as if she was thinking it over. “The Big Daddy Reaper, as Bobby put it. I read the books, by the way.”
“How the hell did you find out about them?”
“Researching the supernatural. The books popped up on Amazon. One title caught my eye and to my complete surprise, it was all about the zombie attack, back when I first met you two … when my son…” She left off there and then went on in the next breath. “And there I was in print, or you know, ebook.”
Dean internalized another groan at the mention of ebooks. Sam had fallen in love with the idea he could stick a whole book right on his phone, or his laptop, but to Dean it meant another much larger avenue for people to find out about a story, his story, that was deeply personal. He hated the thought. “Yeah, Jody, I know. Eerie, isn’t it.”
“Well I went back from there, and I just want you to know that if I ever do run into God, I’m going to give him a piece of my mind for all the things He’s put you through. I don’t know how you do it, how you manage it, and you know, after all this, after you figure this Darkness business out and fix it … I know you’ll fix it too, after everything I read about you … You maybe ought to think about retiring. Both of you. I don’t want to go to your funeral. I really don’t.”
“Right. We’ll do our best,” he said, smiling over her imagined meet-up with a possibly non-existent being.
“About Death,” she went on. “After what you just told me, it’s starting to make sense.”
“Have you been hearing about the ghosts? Like a lot of them? All over. It’s even been on the news. People are seeing ghosts everywhere this past week, since all this started, and they’re all talking about something called the veil. Do you know what that means?”
Dean was already groaning. “Crap. Yes. I’ll add it to the list.”
“Tell me what I can do to help. You didn’t call just to chat, although, it wouldn’t kill you to do that more often. Get a second or third opinion or just to unload, Dean. You know I’m here.”
“I know, and thank you. I appreciate that. More than you know. But Jody, it really sounds like you’ve already got a full plate, what with the girls and—”
“Dean, we can handle it and so can they. They’re aware, obviously. We, uh, had a thing happen here the other day, right after Cas blew through here, and if it weren’t for those girls, Donna and I wouldn’t be here right now. They’re tough. They’re smart. They can deal.”
Second thoughts on getting her or anyone else involved descended. He thought about Charlie and the unrelenting fact of her death on his hands, on Sam’s hands, and on Cas, and he didn’t want to add to that list. It was already long enough. He drew in a breath to say it wasn’t all that important, lie, but she cut him off.
“I know what you’re thinking and you can just stop it right now. You and Sam aren’t the only ones who can do something about all this. You’re not alone. I’m a cop, Dean. I’m in danger of being gunned down pretty much every minute I’m on duty. I’ve been walking around this world for a lot of years with a target on my back. So don’t you dare think that if something were to happen to me, it’d be your fault. We have just as much chance of dying here, fighting this fight right where we are as we have fighting it anywhere else. So what’s it’s going to be, Winchester? What do you need?”
He knew that tone of voice and knew there was no denying it. There was also a pretty good chance that she and the girls would be safer here. “All right,” he said quickly when he heard her draw in another breath to go on. “All right. Fine. You’re in. Have it your way.”
“Well thank you for your permission,” she said, voice dripping with a sarcasm that reminded him a lot of Bobby and had him staring at the ceiling in frustrated annoyance. It didn’t last because she laughed at him. “Spit it out, Dean. Haven’t got all night, you know.”
“Sam and I are about to go and get a piece of the chessboard we need to put a stop to all this, and we gotta have someone competent to watch her once we get her back here, so I need you to come to Lebanon. Kansas. There’s a dive motel on the edge of town you can stay in until we get back. When you get here, tell Sherriff Bob Sharky you’re a friend. He’s aware, but no one else is. The town is safe. Cas did a thing. It’s small enough, so he made the whole place a Darkness free safe zone.”
“The consecrated ground. Yeah, he said something to Claire about that. All right. Except it all sounds a little too easy, if you know what I mean.”
“It isn’t. The woman, her name is Rowena, is a witch,” Dean said, about to drop the bombshell of the real danger. “She’s incredibly dangerous, and she’s powerful. She’s the Queen Mum, Jody. Her son is the King of Hell.”
He expected her reaction, which was another drawn out silence that was finally broken with, “Crowley? You’re kidding me.”
“Nope. There’s more.”
He waited before he let her in on a truth she’d probably find unacceptable. He understood that feeling well enough. She knew it before he said it. She’d read the books after all. “You’re not … No.”
“We’re working with him.”