The events and revelations of the past hour had been almost too much for Dean to handle. Left alone in the silence of his room, he knew he was going to lose it if he didn’t find a way to sort out the mess inside his head. He dragged his hunter’s journal out from his sock drawer and began to write and sketch out the basics of what had happened. He had more pieces of the puzzle that was his weird meshed up life/other life but he still didn’t know what it all was supposed to add up to.
Demons. Angels. Demon blood. Sam. An alternate reality. Changing the past. Not existing in the future. Being on a demon’s hit list. Hunting. Future. Plans. Destiny.
All Dean knew for certain was that something big was coming, and somehow he had ended up right in the middle of it.
The sound of a door slamming and movement downstairs interrupted Dean’s thoughts.
“…John? You’re home early…”
“…call from the school… Dean here?”
“…not that I know of…why…what happened?”
“I intend to find out. DEAN!”
Dean swallowed and shrank back into the corner of his room. Maybe if he stayed quiet enough they would think he wasn’t here.
Footsteps pounded up the stairs and before Dean could weigh the risks of climbing out his window the bedroom door burst open.
Uh oh. He looked angry. Really angry. “Um, hi, Dad.”
“Don’t ‘hi, Dad’ me, son. You are in big trouble young man.”
Mom appeared in the doorway. “John, what happened?”
“Dean attacked a teacher is what happened.”
“I didn’t-” Dean started.
“Don’t lie to me, Dean Winchester,” Dad growled. “The school told me everything.”
Dean knew that the school couldn’t have told him the real story because his dad would never have believed it. But the way he had left things there had to be a lot of unanswered questions, and it seemed like someone had filled in the blanks with a story that somehow painted Dean as the bad guy.
“Whatever they told you it isn’t true.”
“There were witnesses, Dean. Your own brother was a witness. You mouthed off to Sam’s teacher and got in trouble for it. The other students left you alone with her to go out to recess. Half an hour later Miss Saunders staggered into the sick bay, soaked to the skin, sporting a lump on her head the size of a tennis ball and she had no memory of the past two weeks!”
Two weeks? How had it taken Dean two whole weeks to notice that a demon was walking around his school?
“You were the last person seen with her so naturally the principal wanted to ask you what had happened. But you had run off, leaving school grounds in the middle of the school day without permission. How do you think that looks?”
Dean didn’t have a good answer for that.
“What happened, Dean?” Mom asked gently.
I exorcised a demon and gave Miss Saunders her life back, probably saving Sammy in the process, he wanted to say. But they wouldn’t believe him. Best case, they would call him a liar. Worst case, they would call him crazy.
“Miss Saunders did get me in trouble. She told me I had to spend lunchtime picking up rubbish and sent me out with a bucket. I found a mouldy old sandwich wedged under a bench and it smelled so gross I nearly puked everywhere. I wasn’t feeling well so I came home. I don’t know what happened to Miss Saunders, but it didn’t have anything to do with me. Sounds like she slipped in a puddle of water and knocked herself out. Maybe someone’s water bottle was leaking – I don’t know. But I didn’t attack her.”
Dad did not look convinced; if anything he looked even angrier than before. “Nice story, Dean. But if you were really sick you would have gone to the sick bay and they would have called your mother to come and pick you up. You fled the scene. That is as good as an admission of guilt.”
“I didn’t do anything!”
“Tell us what really happened or this will only get worse for you. As it is, you have been suspended from school for the rest of this week and I am grounding you for the rest of the month!”
“That’s not fair! I didn’t hurt anyone!”
“It is obvious that you did, and since you can’t even come up with a good excuse the attack must have been unprovoked. I am ashamed of you Dean. We raised you better than this.”
“Why don’t you ever believe me?”
“Because you are a chronic liar, Dean. I don’t know where you got it from but you have been telling fibs ever since the night of that fire.”
“I told you the truth!” Dean screamed. “Demons are real, Dad! A demon set that fire and tried to kill me, and a demon was possessing Sam’s teacher until I exorcised it! And you know what, I lie to you because you wouldn’t know a monster if it bit you on the ass!”
“How dare you speak to me that way? I am your father!”
“No! My father is a badass hunter who saves people! He’s a friggin’ hero! You’re just a mechanic who is too afraid to face the truth!”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“It means I am sick of babying you! You treat me like a kid but I’m the one protecting this family.”
Dad scoffed. “From what? Make-believe monsters?”
“From demons who would skin you alive and eat you for breakfast if it wasn’t for me.”
“Demons. What is all this satanic bull crap you’re spouting? You into Devil worship or something?”
Dad spied the journal that had fallen open on the floor. He swiped it up and shoved a sketch of a Devil’s trap in Dean’s face. “Then what is this?”
“A trap for demons-”
“It is a pentagram, Dean!” Dad flipped roughly through the pages, growing more and more furious with each new drawing of a monster he came across. “So this is what it is about. Your sick obsession with monsters. I thought we stamped that out of you in Kindergarten, but you are a better liar than I thought. Well, better late than never…” With that he tore a page from the book and ripped it to shreds.
Dean lurched forward. “No!”
“No, Mary, we tried your way. No more molly-coddling. This ends now.” He tore out another page.
“Dad, that’s important!”
He pushed the beseeching hands off him and continued to rip apart the pages of Dean’s journal until they were reduced to tattered pieces scattered on the floor.
Dad threw the empty leather cover on the floor with finality. “It is over, Dean. No more monsters, no more Satanism. I expect to see a marked improvement in both your behaviour and grades by the end of this year and to make sure that happens, you are grounded until school is out for the summer.”
“I could extend it until Christmas if you prefer.”
Dean dropped his gaze. “No, sir.”
“Good. This discussion is over.”
Dad turned on his heel and strode from the room. Mom lingered.
Dean threw himself face down on his bed, blocking her out. “Leave me alone!”
She quietly withdrew and Dean screamed all of his frustration into his pillow.
If he didn’t scream he would cry.
The hesitant call came through angel radio and Castiel responded immediately, worried that Dean was in trouble again.
“Whoa, Cas, stand down!” Dean exclaimed.
Castiel lowered his angel blade when a quick glance around Dean’s bedroom revealed that it was void of threats. “Oh. My apologies.”
Dean waved it off. “It’s all good. If it had been an emergency you would have been right on the ball.”
Castiel tilted his head to the side. “What sort of emergency would involve a sporting competition?”
Dean raised his eyebrows. “Haven’t you ever watched an NFL game? When your favourite team is losing it is definitely an emergency.”
“Football. Seriously man, you gotta catch a game sometime. It’s awesome.”
“It sounds stressful.”
Dean laughed. “Nah, only if you take it too seriously. Which, okay, you might, but – I’ll take you to a game one day, okay? It’ll be fun.”
Castiel was not quite sure what to make of the offer. He had observed various sporting events over the centuries, but he had never taken much interest in the strange forms of friendly battle the humans had invented. However, accompanying Dean to a football game did not sound entirely unpleasant.
“I think… I would like that,” Castiel admitted.
Dean’s face lit up with a smile that began with a slight curve to his lips and shone in his eyes. Cas stared, entranced, until the smile suddenly faltered and fell away.
“Dean, what is it?”
“I was gonna suggest next Saturday, but I just remembered that I’m grounded.”
Castiel squinted a little, not sure how the term ‘grounded’ could apply to a human. “You could fly before? But you don’t have wings.”
“No, it’s a punishment for what happened at school. My dad won’t let me go anywhere or do anything. Not that I have friends to do stuff with…”
“A punishment? Dean, you did not do anything wrong.”
“Tell that to my Dad, or Sam’s teacher, or the principal, or the other kids in my class. They all think I’m some sort of out-of-control violent psycho nut job who could crack again any second. The only reason they haven’t expelled me is that they have no actual proof that I hurt Miss Saunders. Hasn’t stopped the rumours though.”
“They shouldn’t judge you without evidence.”
Dean shrugged. “Can’t really blame them. And it’s not like I was super popular to begin with. The couple of kids who didn’t think I was a freak show do now, but hey, it’s their loss, right?”
“Yes, it is,” Cas said seriously.
Dean flushed a little and looked down at the floor, scuffing his foot on the carpet. “What do I need friends for though? The one I have is worth a million of them.”
Cas felt a strange pang of something unfamiliar, almost like an… emotion of some sort. “To whom are you referring?”
Dean offered a shy smile. “You, dummy.”
Friend. This was not the first time Dean had identified him as such, but for some reason this time it seemed to mean more.
“Why did you call me?” Cas asked.
“Oh.” Dean rubbed the back of his neck, cheeks colouring with embarrassment. “I was just… kinda lonely. Did – did I interrupt something important?”
“No. Watching bees is not of particular importance to me, but it does pass the time between hunts.”
“Wait, what? You’re an angel. Don’t you have angel things to do? Or, like, angel friends to hang out with during your down time?”
“The angels are my brothers and sisters. There are no ‘friendships’ between us as humans would understand them, but we do tend to share stronger bonds with the angels in our garrison.”
“So why don’t you spend time with them?”
“I cannot. I am not from this timeline, Dean. I am an anomaly and if I were to return to Heaven it would cause a dangerous paradox. If I attempted to re-join my garrison I would be cast out for my discretions – probably by this timeline’s version of me.”
“There’s another Cas floating around up there?”
“Technically yes, but we are not the same. He does not know you. He has not lost half of his garrison in a doomed siege. He has not doubted. He has not broken the rules or interfered with destiny. He is a good soldier.”
“Hey, you’re not bad yourself. I keep, well, I kept a tally of all the monsters you killed and the people you saved until my dad destroyed my hunter journal… my point is, you’re like a one-man army. Heaven would be lucky to have you.”
“You don’t understand. For an angel, obedience is everything. I was expressly ordered not to interfere with your life until after the wheels of destiny began to turn, no matter how much I wanted to. When I allowed the other you to change history I laid waste to centuries of careful planning, and to make matters worse I turned up in Sam’s nursery that night. We were not supposed to meet until you were an adult.”
“I would have died if you hadn’t turned up when you did.”
“True. I think that is why the angels have allowed my unsanctioned activities to go unchecked for so long. They have plans for you.”
Castiel thought about the Righteous Man, the prophesies, the seals and the impending apocalypse. He thought about how Dean was expected to ‘finish it’, presumably saving the world. But Castiel was just a foot soldier – the archangels had only kept him informed on a need-to-know basis. Part of him had wondered why he had not been permitted to respond to Dean’s desperate prayer for the life of his brother after Jake stabbed him, when a miracle in that moment of need would have meant Dean did not have to resort to making a demon deal, thus preventing the breaking of the first seal. He wondered why his garrison had been sent in so late and so under-equipped. He wondered whether the demons had managed to stay one step ahead, or whether everything had gone according to Heaven’s plans… but it was not his place to question.
“I don’t know, Dean. I’m sorry.”
Dean sighed. “Okay, well, we’ll work that out too I guess. Add it to the ‘to do’ list. But until then… if Heaven won’t have you, you’re welcome to hang out with me when you have time. I think we could both use the company.”
“I am unfamiliar with the etiquette for casual social interaction among humans.”
“That’s alright, I’ll teach you. Lesson one – video games!”
Dean beamed at him and Cas couldn’t help but smile back.