Without So Much As A Tablet of Stone
"Because I overheard Chelsea before she left. I know Cas is out with his ex." Sam looks up at Dean with his big, stupid, empathetic Fed eyes. "And I overheard you this morning and I know you and Cas are together."
Dean just stares at his younger brother. He should be thinking of a reply. Any reply, but he's been fighting with people about this all day and he's tired. And Cas is out with a guy that is so much less complicated than Dean is and Dean doesn't want to discuss something that might already be over.
Sam's big forehead furrows. "And you know I'm supportive, right?"
And that's what pushes Dean over. He kicks the coffee table so hard the whole thing creaks and jumps over a few inches.
"Dammit, Sam! I am sick of you and Chelsea and you're fucking support. Take your PFLAG, happy pride bullshit and shove it up your ass!"
Sam purses his lips in response. "Yah done?"
"Chelsea's been down my throat about this alre-"
"Yeah, I know," Sam cuts him off. "But guess what, Dean? She's awesome, but she's a girl and she grew up with a normal family in a big city." Sam jerks his thumb at himself. "I grew up the way you did. I can hear Dad joking about "Hunting Fairies" in my head too. And more importantly: I can hear him telling you that your happiness isn't as important as saving people and –oh right- taking care of me. I can recite the speech about how you don't have anything but family and you can't lay down roots anywhere that you could get someone killed. So yeah, I know what Chelsea said, but I know what you're actually thinking, because unlike everyone else around here, I was trained to think it too."
Sam drops back against the couch. "It's not just because he's a dude, it's because you're fucking terrified of settling down. And no one knows more about that than me, because I've already done it. So how about you calm the fuck down, sober the fuck up and talk to me about this big dark secret you've been trying to protect me from?"
Dean crumples back into his chair, and tosses Sam his flask.
Sam doesn't manage to catch it and lets it fall to the couch. "We'll get the rest out of the Impala later."
"I don't know how to be this guy, Sam," Dean says.
"I know. Do you think I ran off to Stanford and I was just happy and normal and Jess instantly liked me and I was a good boyfriend and I was totally okay?"
Dean sees the look on Sam's face and decides not to mention that's almost exactly what he thought.
"It was like going to a foreign country and not speaking the language. I didn't know anything about how to fit in long term with ordinary people. I wound up patching a personality together out of Nick at Night reruns and treating all of freshman year like a long grift. I had a gay roommate who hated me because he made me super uncomfortable and I changed in the bathroom.
"I kept joining clubs and dropping out because I couldn't handle all the inane discussions. Some bastard whose rich father got past the admissions board snuck up on a group of girls on the mall one night and I didn't understand that they were all just playing. I knocked one of his teeth out and probably would have been dismissed, but I'd finally started to make friends so I didn't seem completely crazy, and one of the girls he'd been trying to scare was in classes with me and told the faculty that I had been convinced they were actually in danger. But I'd still beat him so badly that, as a condition of getting to stay- I had to go to counseling for the rest of the year, which I then had to fake my way through, because I couldn't just admit that I knew how to deal with a threat and it seemed like a totally appropriate action to beat an attacker until he stopped moving. I felt like a freak and I was fucking miserable."
Dean nods along. They'd never discussed Stanford. Sam hadn't wanted to talk about what had happened after Jess. As curious as Dean had been about this big missing spot in his brother's life, he hadn't wanted to pour salt in the wound by making Sam talk about it. And then they'd been swept up in a storm of demons and vampires and their father and they'd never had the chance to talk to each other about it.
"You know why I really fell for Jess? Because she figured out what a freaking head case I was and she didn't care. She made me able to function out in the world. And look around you. That's exactly what Cas has done for you. You look healthier. You have a job. You have friends. You have a house. You have the entire white pickett fence life you've always wanted and he even sobered you up for it. And all the stupid bastard wants in return is you."
"Yeah, not really getting his money's worth is he?"
Sam groans. "If I was strong enough, I'd hit you for that. Give the 'not worth anything' shit a rest. You've saved the world. You've killed thousands of monsters. You've saved thousands of people. And Cas has been hauling me around for weeks and talking about you. You've saved him too. Believe me."
"You know, Sam, this is the third time I've been berated about this today."
"Is it the charm?"
"Everyone around you wants you to be happy," Sam sighs. "The things in your head, the ones Dad put there? You know they're bullshit. You've done everything he asked you to do. I'm safe and you killed the Yellow Eyed Demon."
You killed the Yellow Eyed Demon Dean feels that last thing hammer into his mind. Yes he had. He'd killed Yellow Eyes, and that had always been the most important thing. They'd been hunting leads on that Demon for his entire life, running around on an epic quest for vengeance that had lasted longer their parents' marriage actually had.
And something else that had gotten pushed under the constant battle strategizing and case hunting occurs to Dean. His father had known about the Demon's plan for Sam when he'd told Dean that he might have to kill his brother.
He'd asked Dean to kill the only person in his entire life, not to prevent the Apocalypse, not to save Sam from going dark side, but just to make sure that Yellow Eyes would be down a pawn.
His father hadn't thought about protecting Sam, he hadn't considered what it would do to Dean to have Sam's blood on his hands. But he'd known the Demon's plan. And he'd known that Dean would follow orders.
And his dying wish had been for Dean to destroy his entire life, because nothing was more important to John Winchester than vengeance.
A wave of nausea pours out over Dean. This was the man he'd worshipped? This was the man he'd let dictate everything he thought about himself? The man who had once walked out on the wife he had spent years trying to avenge. Who had been willing to make Dean kill Sam (and should have known, or cared, that it would kill Dean in the process) in order to hurt the demon.
The demon Dean had killed.
"Dean? Dean?" Sam taps his shoulder. "You haven't said anything in a while. You okay?"
Dean didn't owe John Winchester anything, and certainly doesn't deserve to let a dead man ruin the one thing that might be part of his reward
Dean shakes his head. He's not totally sure what to do next but there are two thoughts buzzing in his head, both of which pour out of his mouth.
"I killed Yellow Eyes. I need to talk to Cas."
Sam nods. "All right. If you call him right now is he going to answer?"
Dean shakes his head.
"I'll call him," Sam volunteers. He's already dialing. Dean hears a couple of rings and a low growling voice on the end of the line. Sam gives him a thumbs up.
"Hey, Cas. I was just calling you to tell you that I know what's going on, and Dean I were talking about it… No. He didn't tell me, I overheard Chelsea talking to him… well, but I know now, and I know where you are, okay. Please come home…Yeah. I know that it's late…" Sam looks a little worried, then looks up at Dean with an 'oh shit' expression that Dean recognizes instantly.
There is a sudden crack like lightning.
Sam is gone and Cas is on the couch with a Butterfinger's wrapper on his lap. He's wearing a ratty t-shirt and flannel pants that Dean knows don't belong to him. He looks up at Dean, and Dean can tell he looks guilty.
He can hear Sam on the other side of the line.
And then the whole world freezes. Dean feels suddenly cold and Bobby's whole living room dims around him, just slightly, like when a cloud passes over the sun. Cas is frozen and blurred too.
"You know, there's something about you that resists any effort at divine planning."
Dean recognizes the voice. It's a little nasal, a little high, and suddenly lacking that indefinable quality that made the speaker sound like he was waiting to be hit.
He wheels around, right into a beatific, bearded, smile.
The writer shrugs. "Sort of. Not exactly. It's a vessel, but I don't… own it. I sort of just hang out in the subconscious part. Enjoy the ride."
Dean's hand twitches at his side. He may be a civilian now, but he's still got a knife in his boot and he's sober enough to only need one shot. "Okay… then who are you exactly?"
Chuck tilts his head to the side, almost an 'I'm so shy' boyband type pose. "I'm God."
Dean lets that settle for a moment and when it does, he cocks his fist back and slams it directly into the middle of Chuck's face.
Unlike punching an Angel, which is like hitting a stone, Dean's fist sinks into Chuck's face with a satisfying "crack".
Chuck groans and cups his face in his hands. "Son of a bitch."
He makes a weird snuffling sound and Dean's about to deck him again when the man moves his hands away from his gushing nose, and taps his forefinger to the tip of it. The blood is gone instantly.
"You know, that's why I started appearing as weird shit. No one ever clocks a burning bush." He clears his throat and looks up at Dean. "So. You're angry."
"Oh, ANGRY doesn't BEGIN to cov-"
Dean's lips keep moving, but his voice isn't working. The sudden freeze in his vocal chords feels bizarre, like swallowing a huge jawbreaker and having it stick.
"Dean- I haven't interfered like this in millennia."
Dean feels like he's about to burst with rage at being unable to point out that only a year ago they were all neck deep in the apocalypse and could have used some goddamn interfering.
"I know, I know. But I couldn't play my hand there," Chuck says, responding to Dean's thought. "It's complicated, it was a really well set up story if you ask me. I planted you and Sam and Bobby centuries ago. And the Angels never saw you coming. Every father hits the point where he has to give up and let his kids duke it out and then- there you were-" He thrusts his fist into the air, more like a cheerleader than a revolutionary. "Team Free Will. Stopping what I couldn't just sweep in and halt, not without just setting up another one in a few decades."
"That had to happen Dean. I'm sorry, but it did. I gave you the tools you needed, made you the people you needed to be in order to stop it and gave everyone else the pieces too. The Demons had to have boy king Sam. You know that. Our side had to have you as our Righteous Man. You had the training, the humanity, the brotherly love. I needed you to be what you were. And you exceeded my wildest expectations. So now, my project for the last year has been making you what you could be. Giving you your reward."
Dean's voice is returned. "My reward was to watch my entire family die in a field and get sent back to a dead man's house to grieve and drink and nearly eat my gun?"
"And then I gave you Castiel," Chuck says quietly.
Dean stops and digests that. "You gave me Cas?" Dean demands. "You stripped him out of Heaven, you made him human and miserable?"
Chuck crosses his arms behind his back and rocks up on his tiptoes. "Dean, you don't know much about Heaven. Or Angels. Angels are warriors. I gave Castiel an honorable discharge. No Angel has ever cared about a specific human like Castiel does. He was given a life as a gift. Angels don't live. Humans live. I gave him family and experience and love. I'm giving Bobby and Jo and Ellen all of that too."
"You left us all to die in the apocalypse and now you're dropping pieces back on the chess board to watch them dance?"
"This is my last hurrah for a good long while Dean." Chuck sighed. "Yes. I set the pieces up to stop the apocalypse. You stopped it. And now? Now we all go off into the sweet hereafter. Jo and Ellen get their lives back because they didn't deserve to die that way. Bobby has done so much good. He got his wife back, he got the life he so easily may have had. Gabriel- exiled from Heaven, rules it. He has the energy for it. He cares about people in a way that a God can't. And he's doing a hell of a job." Chuck smiles at Dean and it burns away under Dean's glare. "You were just supposed to fall in love with Cas and be happy."
"Your last game before retirement is The Dating Game?"
"History's been manipulated to make you the warriors you needed to be. I needed you to be exactly the man you were a year ago. And I can't unmake that man. I had to work with the pawns I had. You came here alone so you wouldn't fall right back into Hunting. Who but Castiel would convince you to retire? Who but you could teach him to be human? I couldn't rewrite you, but I could give you new circumstances and hope you grew into happier lives. If I'd given you Sam and Bobby right away you'd packed up the Impala again and all lived short, lonely lives of terror and destruction. I brought Castiel back when he was ready. It takes time for an Angel to be made human."
"And Bobby?" Dean demands. He could have gone back with Bobby to recover. That might have worked.
"He had to be alone too. At first. He had to settle in with Karen, start building a life he couldn't leave. Like you and Castiel were by the time Bobby found you. It's not a chess board it's a garden. A little water here, a little pruning there. Just to stop you from throwing yourselves into the thorns." Chuck smiles. "That's a good line. I'm going to let Chuck keep that."
Dean clears his throat.
"Anyway. I've been trying to just make you wait before you charged back into those old lives and see what you could have in the new ones."
"Wait and See?" Dean demands.
Chuck… God shrugs with a self satisfied smile and Dean almost punches him again.
"What about Sam?" Dean asks. "Why is he sick?"
Chuck finally looks guilty. "He wasn't supposed to be. I was trying to get him back to you months ago. He was supposed to be better than this and he was going to help you and Castiel get together. It all made so much sense in the idea stage, but complications arose."
"Complications arose?" Dean demands. "You're God."
"And there are still rules. Multiple players. Earth is a garden but Heaven and Hell are still chess boards. Pieces move in certain ways. Sam sacrificed himself. He drank Demon blood. He was Lucifer's vessel. There are rules that I couldn't just overturn. Getting him back at all was only possible because I am God and because he didn't technically die. Hoops were jumped through. Favors were cashed in. Bargains were struck. Death and Fate are not happy anthropormorphic personifications. Sam's back now. He's suffering from… call it a celestial hangover. He'll recover once he starts to remember where he was."
"And where was that?"
Chuck shrugs. "He has to realize that on his own. It'll work out."
"And where is he now?"
"Gabriel zapped him to Chelsea's. He's fine. There are plans in store for Sam's reward too."
"Gabriel said he hadn't seen you around."
"That's true. No one but Joshua has spoken to me in months. Making Gabriel the new god was his idea. And I think that's panning out. Gabriel's not… involved he's just cheering you two crazy kids on."
Dean flushes with angry embarrassment that all the top players in heaven have been watching him like a soap opera and trying to make him gay.
But Cas does make him happy. And apparently Cas got humaned up because Dean is supposed to make him happy. And God does owe them all.
"I don't suppose there is anything you can do that is actually helpful? Maybe let us undo a mistake or two and start over before the last few fights? Considering what a crap deity you are?"
Chuck pursed his lips. "Not this time."
"When have you done anything for me before?"
Chuck gave him a look that was finally genuinely annoyed. "There's something huge you'll ask me for in the future. Impossible. And you only get one huge thing. There are still rules."
"What huge thing?"
Chuck shrugs. "Wait and See."
Dean nearly hits him again but his arm finds itself frozen at his side.
Chuck looks up at him, looking just a little pitying. "Look. I'm talking to Cas right now too. Little Father Son chat."
"Is it working?"
"That's still going to be up to you," Chuck says. "I'm turning time back on after our little reprieve here. You need to get your head out of your ass, talk to the Angel" – Chuck points a finger accusingly at Dean– "And don't screw it up this time. I am the Lord Your God."
And without so much as a tablet of stone to commemorate those words from the Lord, the world unfreezes and Dean's staring back into Cas's wide blue eyes.