“Mom… I can explain.”
For a long moment she just stood there staring at him, her expression unreadable.
“It’s not what it looks like,” Dean tried. He was home in the middle of a school day without permission, he was covered in blood that wasn’t his own and he had a half-naked injured man lying unconscious on his bed. He wasn’t really sure what it looked like, but it couldn’t be good.
“I think it is exactly what it looks like,” she said. “A hunt gone wrong.”
Now it was Dean’s turn to stare in shock at his mother. He couldn’t believe those words had come out of her mouth. Had she really just said a hunt? She could have guessed that he had been involved in a fight or a brawl or a car accident or something –but she had said a hunt. Like she knew what that was. Like she knew what that meant.
“You could have been killed, Dean. You could have been ripped to shreds and we would have never known where you were or what had happened to you. How could you do that to your family?”
She was using her lecturing voice, the one she used when his room was a mess or when he got bad grades or when he put Nair in Sam’s shampoo. But she was talking about hunting. She knew about hunting.
“How long?” Dean asked, when he was finally able to force words out. “How long have you known?”
She faltered. “About you?”
“About hunting. About monsters. How long, Mom? How long have you been lying to me?”
“Are you a hunter?”
“Are you a hunter?”
“I used to be.”
Dean staggered back. He had suspected, but to hear her say it, admit it just like that…
“It was more than 20 years ago, Dean. I quit. I got out of the hunting life before it could get me killed and I don’t regret-”
“You lied to me!” Dean shouted. “A demon nearly killed me when I was four years old and you lied to my face. You told me monsters weren’t real! I needed someone. I was scared and alone and I thought no one believed me! But you knew!”
“Yes. I did. But Dean, what I did – what I said – I did it for your own good.”
“My own good?”
“Yes! I grew up in the life, Dean. My parents were hunters and they taught me everything they knew. I killed my first monster when I was twelve and every evening after school my father would have me cleaning guns and smelting silver bullets. I ended up in hospital more times than I could count. I had to watch my father kill a girl in my class who had been turned into a werewolf. I had more than enough reasons to quit, but after a demon murdered my parents I swore I was done hunting for good. You know why? Because I wanted a better life for my children. I wanted my family to be safe. I wanted to keep you as far away from hunting as I could.”
“Well you did a bang up job.”
“I tried my best, Dean.”
“That’s not good enough! Do you have any idea how many nights I spent crying into my pillow, too scared to sleep, too scared to go into your room for a hug because you would just scoff at the idea of monsters and send me away? I was terrified and I had no one! You are my mom! You should have been there for me. You should have been protecting me!”
“I know, I should have. But I hoped that night would just become a bad dream that you could forget about. I wanted you to be able to live the normal life I never got to.”
“A demon wants me dead, Mom. My life is never going to be normal. In fact, if it wasn’t for Cas I would be dead a dozen times over.”
Dean jerked his thumb towards the bed. “Mr Comatose over there. The ‘figment of my imagination’ that I ‘made up’ to cope with the trauma of my home burning down around my ears.”
“This is the angel who saved you?”
Dean narrowed his eyes. “So now you know about angels too?”
“No, I just- I remember you said… But he isn’t what I expected.”
“Don’t mention harps, halos and fluffy wings to his face – he doesn’t like it when people stereotype him.”
“It’s not that. He just looks so… vulnerable, lying there like that, wrapped in bandage- is that one of my bed sheets?”
“He was bleeding out all over the floor,” Dean said, and the tone of his voice made it more than clear that he could care less about her precious bed linen.
Mom wisely didn’t argue the point. “What could possibly hurt an angel?”
Unconsciously, Dean rubbed at the dried blood on his hands. “I don’t know. But whatever did this, I am going to hunt it down and kick its ass!”
“No! Dean, it nearly killed an angel. You don’t stand a chance.”
“Don’t underestimate me.”
“Dean I forbid you! I won’t have you hunting anymore. You are going to get yourself killed and I won’t let that happen!”
“You lost the right to make decisions about my life when you decided to lie to me.”
“Whatever I did, you are still my son and you will do as I tell you or-”
“Or what? You can’t stop me. You won’t tell Dad because then you’d have to tell him that you’ve been lying to him, too.” She paled and Dean pushed it one step further. “I know, why don’t I tell him and save you the trouble?”
She went deadly still. “You wouldn’t.”
Dean’s eyes glittered dangerously. “You wanna put that theory to the test? No? Then turn around, walk out of this room, close the door and go back to pretending that you don’t know anything about this. That’s what you’re good at, isn’t it? Leave Cas and I alone.”
“Dean, you can’t keep him here…”
“He’s not going anywhere! He needs me. He stays until he’s better, and you don’t say anything about it unless you want Dad to get the full story of your secret past.”
“Dean, you’re going to break this family apart.”
“Cas is my family. He’s shown me more love and care than you guys ever have! Don’t make me choose between you, because I know who I’d pick.”
“Get out. Get out!”
She backed off and Dean slammed the door behind her.
It was hours before Cas began to stir. Dean kept himself locked away in his bedroom, ignoring the sound of his mother crying, her footsteps approaching his door before retreating again, the front door closing and the car pulling away, her return with Sam. He overheard Sam asking where he was and Mom responding with a smooth lie about Dean feeling ill.
It made Dean wonder what else she had lied to them about. All the times she had told him she loved him… Dean didn’t even know if he could believe that any more.
It hurt to think about, so he was relieved when Cas started to wake up.
He sat on the bed next to him and reached out to gently squeeze his shoulders. “Hey, Cas. Wakey wakey, rise and shine.”
Castiel’s eyelids fluttered.
“That’s it, show me those baby blues. Come on, Cas.”
Cas blinked once, twice, and then frowned up at the ceiling. “I don’t…understand. Where…?” His voice came out even more gravelly than usual.
“You’re in my bedroom,” Dean explained.
Cas slowly turned his head to look at him. “I’m…lying down.”
“Yeah. You fell down, actually, but I thought you’d be more comfortable in my bed.” He coughed awkwardly. “On a bed. Because it is softer. Yeah, um-”
“I don’t remember…” Cas mumbled. He tried to sit up and grunted in pain.
“Don’t do that.” Dean pushed him back down. “You’re hurt.”
Castiel ran his fingers over the make-shift bandages that covered his wound. “Oh. Yes.”
“What the hell happened, man? I’ve never seen you with so much as a scratch before!”
“I have been… too long separated from Heaven,” Cas sighed, sinking back into the pillow. “My Grace has been gradually… fading.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It was not… a problem. Even without the powers of Heaven behind me, few monsters pose a threat. But I did not count on…him.”
There was a long pause before Cas answered. “A demon… old…very old. Powerful. He holds one of the highest ranks in Hell, but he rarely leaves his post. I did not expect to encounter him here… on Earth.”
“You know him?”
“I’ve seen his work,” Cas said darkly. “All demons are evil, Dean, but this one is worse than most. I should have killed him. I need to kill him, before he-”
Dean pushed Cas back down again; he was struggling to get out of the bed. “Before he does what? Cas, who is he? What is he going to do?”
“Nothing. I won’t let him. I won’t-”
“Okay. Okay, calm down. When you’re better we’ll find him and kill him together, alright?”
Cas grasped his shirt, dragging Dean closer. “No,” he growled. “I’m not letting you anywhere near him.”
Dean swallowed. “Does he… do something to me? In the future? Is that what you’re not saying?”
“He won’t touch you,” Cas swore. “Not this time. I promise you, Dean.”
“Okay. I trust you.” Despite his words, Dean felt a sick feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach. He didn’t know what had happened, what still could happen, and he was afraid to find out. But if anyone could stop it, Cas could. “First you need to get your strength back, alright?”
Cas nodded tiredly and his eyes fluttered shut, only to blink open again a few seconds later. “Your bedroom? At your home?”
“Yeah. You turned up at my school but we couldn’t stay there so you brought us here, remember?”
“Middle of the day… I should not have done that. I should go.”
“Castiel, lie still!” Dean barked. “I just sewed your stomach back together and I won’t have you tearing out all of my stitches. You are going to rest and recuperate whether you like it or not!”
“But your family could find me here…”
Dean shrugged a little. “Yeah, well. Mom already did.”
“Oh, it’s fine,” Dean said bitterly. “Turns out she knew all along. My mom used to be a hunter, Cas. Can you believe it?”
Cas was silent.
“I know,” he said. “Mary Campbell comes from a long line of hunters.”
“You know?” Dean couldn’t take much more of this. Was everyone in his life lying to him? “Cas, I’m having a bad enough day as it is. Please don’t do this to me.”
“I’m sorry, Dean. I did not feel it was my place to tell you. Mary is your mother.”
“And you’re supposed to be my friend!”
“I knew that the knowledge, if not given freely, would only cause you pain. After all, your mother is the reason Azazel was able to enter your house that night.”
Dean froze. “What?”
He listened in growing horror as Cas finally told him the full story of what had happened when the original Dean had travelled back to 1973. He had met his parents, and his grandparents. He had discovered that his mother was a hunter, but that she hated it and desperately wanted out. He had learned that John was going to propose. He had joined a hunt and stumbled across the activities of the yellow-eyed demon. Mary had caught the demon’s eye and he had said he liked her. Dean had tried to save her by killing the demon there and then, but he had failed. The demon had possessed his grandfather, killing both him and his wife before going after Mary. He had killed John, and then he had made Mary an offer.
John’s life, for permission.
Mary made the deal. 10 years later, a demon had come into Sammy’s nursery and bled in his mouth. He had nearly killed Dean. He had burned their house to the ground.
Mom had invited the demon in, just like he had said. But if the other Dean hadn’t been there, Mary might not have gone to the Walsh’s that night. The demon might never have caught her scent. Her parents might not have been murdered. She might have left the hunting life and married John and had children and they might have led normal lives. They might have been okay.
“It is not blame that rests on you, Dean,” Cas said, knowing Dean well enough to guess his train of thought. “Fate is a stubborn mistress; she would have ensured that the deal was made one way or another. It was remarkable that you were able to change as much as you did. You saved your mother. That is no small feat.”
“Yeah, well then why do I feel like crap?”
“Because it has been a bad day,” Cas tried. “You will feel better in the morning.”
Dean didn’t think it would be that easy, but he was too exhausted to argue. He curled up next to Cas the way he used to when he was little and felt the familiar, comfortable weight of an invisible wing settle over him like a blanket.
They fell asleep like that, leaving their worries to another day.