And so just as Sam had hoped, they went right back to the way things were. Riding in the Impala, fighting demons. Everything was fine, everything was cool. Things were pretty much entirely normal, pretty much. Dean maybe knew some more stuff than he had in the past, maybe he had some weird hobbies now like astrophysics and reverse taxidermy – that was where he actually brought stuffed formerly dead animals back to life again – and bansai (he could grow a stunted, twisted little Japanese tree from a seed in only a few days) but he was still Dean, good old Dean. Distracted Dean, but still Dean. He had so many things on his mind sometimes he started thinking about them at all the wrong times. Sam sometimes thought of him as the Absent Minded Professor.
One night they were cleaning out a nest of demons when one thing led to another and Distracted Dean made a mistake Regular Dean, thinker of few thoughts, never would have made and took a scimitar to the midsection.
He looked down at the blade sticking straight out of his chest and snorted. “Well, that ain’t good.” He fell to his knees and Sam rushed to help him into a laying position, but then a quick glance revealed that wasn’t going to work, it was a through and through. About a foot of blade stuck straight out from between Dean’s shoulder blades. They exchanged a look, and then somehow Dean managed a strangled laugh. “I guess I’ll just hang out here for a while.”
“Why aren’t you dying?”
“I don’t think I can any more.”
“Do you want me to…I don’t know, yank it out or something?”
“Not unless you brought some Bactine.” Dean still was capable of joking somehow.
“I’m fresh out. What are we gonna do?”
“Help’s coming.” Dean didn’t explain who the help was, he didn’t have to. Sam ground his teeth and wracked his brain trying to think of any conceivable alternative, but before he could say anything, there she was. She looked different. Classy. Elegant, even. Almost regal. Sam thought that maybe if he’d seen her looking like that in the first place, he’d have known right away who she really was.
Jovi’s vessel had put on some weight, no longer was it a skinny, scrawny methhead’s corpse. It looked healthy, if still freakishly short. She’d been caught in the act of brushing her teeth and had a toothbrush still jammed in her mouth. Sam hadn’t thought it possible, but he hated her even more; that she could still be alive and all concerned about oral hygiene when Jess and so many other people weren’t, all at her behest. And why? Not even for some grand, higher plan. Just so she could have a Dean-shaped eff buddy for all eternity. “You changed your hair.” God damn it, Dean.
“Oh. Yes.” The pink was gone, returned to its natural color. “I liked it, it was fun, but it just seemed too…unprofessional.”
“It looks good.” Sam fought a nearly uncontrollable urge to smack Dean upside his head. He often suspected Dean was carrying a torch when he should be holding a grudge.
“Geez Louise!” Jovi spat a mouthful toothpaste on the floor vehemently. “What have you done to yourself? You look like a shish kebab.” She put the toothbrush back into her mouth and continued brushing.
Without ceremony, without removing the toothbrush from her mouth, without even ceasing to brush, she strode forward pulled the blade out, causing Dean to shriek. “You could’ve at least counted to three!”
“Just postpones the inevitable.” She must have finished with her teeth because the toothbrush vanished and she spit on the floor one more time, rather close to Sam’s leg. Deliberately, he thought.
“What did I tell you, Dean? She likes inflicting pain on people.”
“Oh, and like you don’t, Sam.” Before she’d even finished speaking Dean’s injuries were already healed and she was making ready to poof herself back to whereever it was she’d come from.
The second he was able, Dean launched himself to his feet and across the room at Jovi. “Wait, wait, wait, don’t go!” She recoiled a little, leaned back, like she was being accosted. Sam shook his head and stood as Dean completely invaded her personal space with the enthusiasm of a Jehovah’s Witness used car salesman. “I need your help with my dodo!”
“With your what?”
“My dodo. That I made.”
“You made a dodo? Damn it!”
“Was that wrong?”
“I owe Oriphiel…Crowley…20 bucks. He said the first thing you would make was a dodo bird, and I was like, no freaking way.”
“Was it wrong to make a dodo? Because it seemed like the right thing to do.”
“Well, yeah, because. I mean, DUH. You can’t just remake old things, Dean. They had their chance. Things that died need to stay dead.”
“Because it upsets the natural order of things, that’s why.”
“You brought me back. Repeatedly.”
“Well…that was different.”
Sam couldn’t hold his tongue. “Don’t you see, Dean, it’s fine when she does it. Just not anyone else. Right, Jovi? Your game, your rules?”
“No, that’s not it at all, you giant, literally giant ass, it’s because I was trying to accomplish something, a larger goal, and your brother here is just doing it for…oh I don’t know, mental masturbation.” She turned her attention to Dean. “Just to see if you can. You haven’t put a second of thought into it, you just recreate the most ridiculously obvious thing you can come up with. “Oh I’ll make one of those crazy dodo birds I learned about in kindergarten, hurr de hurr.”
“And how is that better than creating life because you’re lonesome?”
“Screw you.” And she was gone.
Over the next several weeks Dean sustained mortal injuries 17 more times. Sam eventually had no choice but to conclude he was doing it on purpose to see Jovi. She would always appear without being called – Dean said they had a bond and Sam didn’t much care for the sound of that. Dean would try to suck her into an argument or a discussion about some finer point of creation and then Sam would intervene, reminding Dean about all the terrible things she had put them and their family and friends through. Sam had put together quite a thorough dossier on God’s wrongs by this point and was only too happy to call Jovi to account for each and every one. After the first few times, Jovi refused to engage, but Dean would usually engage enough for the both of them. At least he still listened when Sam tried to reason with him. God had ruined their lives, and some things are just too big to forgive.
In the meantime, Sam and Castiel continued their research, trying to find anything, anything at all that could turn a god human. Short of somehow managing to get Dean retroactively born to a virgin, there wasn’t anything they hadn’t tried. Potions, spells, rituals, various mystical devices. They could try to kill Dean, they thought, with the Colt or Death’s scythe or possibly a couple other ancient weapons they hadn’t managed to track down yet, but since the Colt hadn’t killed Lucifer and Dean was supposed to be stronger than Lucifer, not to mention the fact that they didn’t want to kill Dean anyway, it all felt rather pointless.
Dean stopped reading books, which at first felt to Sam like a bit of a relief; he’d grown tired of stumbling out for a midnight snack only to find SuperDean sitting in a circle of lamplight reading Nieztche with an expression on his face that Sam could only describe as sinister. But then he started the experiments. Instead of spending hours reading, he spent hours dissecting pretty much everything that Jovi had ever created, right down to the subatomic level. He still seemed like Dean, still drank like a fish, played music too loud, chased women incessantly – if anything, did more women chasing than normal – and indulged his every whim, but when he wasn’t doing the Dean stuff, he was doing the mad scientist stuff.
He mixed acids and bases. He raised planarians and multiple generations of fruit flies. He spread out thousands of species of wasp on a table and stared at them for 4 hours before carelessly bringing them back to life again leading to a very exciting 10 minutes in the bunker while he tried to convince them all to leave voluntarily. In the name of science he churned butter and baked bread and brewed beer which was very quickly gone. He got drunk on his homemade beer and tried to explain random elements of it all to Sam, like how ingenious lima beans were and what the deal was with snapdragons and why leopards really had spots because it actually wasn’t the reason why everybody seemed to think. But his increased understanding did not lead to improved results. He just wasn’t as good at making things as Jovi was. He could repeat the things she made, most of them anyway, clumsily and with a lot of effort, but he couldn’t seem to make anything, new or old, without a template to follow.
Mostly he just wanted to recreate a dodo. He tried and tried with the dodo. It never panned out. Got so that while Sam was never quite used to coming home to find a half-dead dumpling of a formerly extinct bird gasping for air on the bunker floor, it wasn’t a complete surprise, either.
Whatever it was that Jovi had done to make that bird work, Dean couldn’t repeat it. “I just don’t get what I’m doing wrong, Sammy? Why can’t I get this right?”
Sam understood that this was a point of pride for his brother. Jovi had told him not to do it, had mocked the very idea of it, so of course he had to. “I don’t know, Dean. I wish I did.” And he did, too. He really did.
For some reason Sam had a feeling that if Dean could only get the damn dodo right, everything else would fall into place and they could keep going on along as they had done for so long. Things would get back to normal just like they always did. With God in the Impala beside him, and all right with the world.
The thing that bothered Dean the most was that he kept killing the gerbil. The dodo thing was annoying, sure, of course it was. But the gerbil, that furry little guy had a freaking death wish or something. It just kept dying. When it wasn’t getting kicked or stepped on or dropped, it drowned. It got electrocuted. He forgot to feed it one time…ok, maybe more than one time.
Have fun loving a gerbil. That was what Jovi had said to him. She had said she tried her hand with humans in the past, extending their lifespans, keeping them as companions, but that in the end they lost their spark, turned into little more than pets. At first he hadn’t believed it; after all, he and Sam had come back more than once and they still seemed ok. But after he had brought the gerbil back a few times, that’s what happened to it. At some point, after enough resurrections, it wasn’t a gerbil any more. It was a nothing in the shape of a gerbil. It just stood in the middle of its cage and shivered. It would still nibble a pellet now and then, take a lick at the silver ball of its water dispenser, just enough to stay alive, but it wasn’t a gerbil any more. It was a nothing. So Dean took it outside and willed a hawk to come by and take the poor shivering thing from his hands. At least someone could get some good out of it.
Later that same day, he went to see Lisa. He hadn’t gone to see her since the last time, since the time he walked away from her forever, for her protection. But now? Why would she need protection, if she had him? Who could stand against God?
She was with Ben, of course. Ben was a man now. It was strange. They looked happy. Wait. It was strange that Ben was a man, not that they looked happy. Of course they were happy. Why wouldn’t they be? I mean, just because he wasn’t in their lives any more, did he really expect them to have sensed his absence somehow, did he really expect that they’d have been worse off without him? That there would be a missing piece they couldn’t fill? They didn’t even remember him. Had he expected otherwise? Had he expected that down deep, on some level, they’d know he was gone? That they would mourn him, or miss him even just a little? Because it sure didn’t look like they’d been mourning. And anyway, it had been years, even if they had noticed something was awry at the time he had gone, surely they would have gotten over it by now. Moved on. He had moved on, and he could remember. Why shouldn’t they?
For the umpteenth time Dean looked at Ben and wondered if Ben was really his son. Sometimes he thought he wasn’t, and then other times he was almost 100% that he was. This was one of those times. He was pretty sure. Something about the kid’s build, about the way he moved. The rest of him was all Lisa, but something about the body seemed familiar. And it was mighty tempting to just reach out with the power and know for sure. But he didn’t. Because why? What would change? If he knew for sure, if he knew that Ben was really his son, he wouldn’t want to let go of them. He could reveal himself, he could restore their memories, he could try again to live happily ever after, but he didn’t think he was really made for happily ever after.
And then what? Lisa would get old and die, Ben would get old and die, and if he tried to change that too many times, it would be like the gerbil all over again, except worse. He didn’t think he could stand to make them into angels; angels were just so…angel-y. He wondered idly if he could make them like he was. But he couldn’t even make a dodo bird work. What Jovi had done to him seemed like it had taken her a lot of effort and she had said it took generations to get it right. She hadn’t been sure it would even work, and she was so much better at making things than Dean was. If he tried and failed and Lisa just fell over dead like the dodos had, or Ben turned into something like Lucifer, he could never bear it.
So he turned and walked away from them again and much to his surprise it hurt just as bad as it had the first time.
The eighteenth time Dean died on purpose, Jovi didn’t show. Sam had never seen so much blood in all his life – and Sam had seen a LOT of blood in his life – but Dean just kept on walking and talking and laughing about it like it was all some hilarious practical joke she was pulling on them. Sam couldn’t reach Castiel and so he actually had to take Dean to the emergency room to get him stitched up. The doctors and nurses scurried around treating Dean with grim, horrified faces, as if he was a zombie or something, and Sam couldn’t shake the feeling that he kinda was. A walking dead man.
His flesh was in ribbons, in tatters. His blood pressure was zero. They dumped, as one of the doctors kept repeating with awe, over two gallons of blood back into him. All the blood in his body had to be replaced, and then some, since a lot of it just ran right back out again. 1700 stitches. Dean cracked jokes about running on empty and repeatedly said “thank you sir may I have another” and apologized profusely for the mess. He kept right on flirting with the nurses who perhaps unsurprisingly weren’t particularly into it. When Castiel got back he healed up the slice wounds and Dean laughed off the entire adventure.
But all the same, after that, Dean stopped taking chances. He started using his God power a lot more preemptively. He was able to vanquish a demon from across the street or down the block or without even leaving his barstool. Which was good in a way, and not so good in other ways. It was way easier, safer, they were able to put down a lot of beasties in very short order, but it was honestly more than a little boring even for Sam, who generally enjoyed having more time for research and sleep, or even time to do something totally crazy like read a book for pleasure now and then. And for Dean, who really did live to hunt, it gave him more time to drink and carouse and way too much time to sit and think about things. One thing in particular.
He rarely talked about Jovi, but something about the oh-so-casual way he would bring her up when he did, made Sam suspect that he was thinking a lot more than he was talking. “I mean, when you stop to consider it, being alone is pretty much one of the worst things you can go through.” This was totally out of the blue after Dean had gotten a few pitchers and then a few more shots into him one night. “I mean, that’s why they put prisoners into solitary confinement, it’s as a punishment. I mean, it’s like in the Geneva Convention that you can’t do that. I can’t even imagine being alone like that, can you? And I’m a loner.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Sam knew, of course, he just didn’t want to talk about it. Talking seemed to only encourage Dean to think about Jovi even more. Besides, when the subject came up, Dean phrased everything so reasonably that it was sometimes hard not to agree with him on the finer points even as he danced around the big picture. Dean seemed incapable or unwilling to see the forest for the trees where Jovi was concerned and would take concession on anything, no matter how small or obvious, as an endorsement. So Sam tried not to get sucked into the debate, focusing instead on wondering with a vague unsettled feeling about why exactly it was that Dean, who had once spent 15 minutes reading the ingredients on a tub of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” with his lips moving, now knew what was in the Geneva Convention, let alone that there had been one. Smart Dean messed with Sam’s head sometimes.
“I mean, Jovi, you know? Alone for so long. I mean, Sammy, I get where you’re coming from, believe me, I really do, but I think maybe we should…I don’t know, cut her some slack?”
“No, shut up and listen for a change. I mean, I already know all the things you’re going to say already, Sam, but she was right, you know, when she said we break the rules all the time and everybody always forgives us. I mean, I tortured people in Hell. I’ve hurt people, real people. You drank demon blood, and you didn’t have a soul, for like, a whole entire year…”
“Because she MADE those things happen, Dean!” Why could he not see that?
“Right, exactly, there were mitigating circumstances. Made the things that we did seem like a good idea at the time, sometimes the only way, even. And maybe that’s how it was for her. I mean…”
“Quit saying I Mean every other word out of your mouth.”
“We forgave Cas for the things that he did that were…less than ideal. Even Crowley, ok, maybe I didn’t exactly forgive him in the strictest sense, but…”
“Don’t even get me started on you and Crowley. See, that’s the thing, Dean. It’s the Crowley situation all over again. You spend enough time with a monster and you start seeing them as…I don’t know…some kind of friend.”
“I don’t see Crowley as a friend, Sam. He’s a tool. In every sense of the word.”
“Ok then, a compatriot. A brother in arms. It happened with Crowley and now you’re falling into the same trap with Jovi. She is NOT our friend. She is not on our team. She is the source of every awful thing that has happened to us since we were even born, practically. Don’t forget that.”
“I almost killed you when I was a demon. And you forgave me.”
“She could have stopped that. She could have stopped Metatron as easily as swatting a fly, Dean! She could have saved your life at any point in time but she didn’t, and she said it herself, the reason why she didn’t, the reason why she let us suffer, it was all just a test. Mom, Dad, Bobby, Jess…and how many more people…like Kevin…are dead because of her actions, or her failure to act?” Dean said nothing, just drained his drink and poured himself another one, full right up to the brim of the shot glass. “All this time I thought, well, at least there’s some grand plan here, we’re going through all this torture for a good reason and someday we’ll find out what it is and it will all be worth it. But we aren’t, are we? There’s no higher plan! All this stuff happened for basically no reason, because God is a douche!”
Dean scrunched up his face and nodded agreement. “I’ll drink to that.” And he did.
Three days later Sam came back to the bunker to find Jess standing there waiting for him. It wasn’t really Jess, it was just her body. She was stiff and still, like a mannequin or a robot, only it was her real human body. She looked exactly the same as when Sam had known her over a decade before. She hadn’t aged, she was even wearing the same clothes she’d had on that night he left her for the last time, that night Dean had showed up on his mission to find Dad and derailed Sam’s life forever. Sam felt his heart skip and skip, and skip, and then finally it resumed beating normally again. Only it seemed to be up in his throat somewhere. Dean came in with a big smile on his face. “I’m gonna leave this one up to you, Sammy. You get the final word. Yay, or nay?”
“Well, I wanted it to be a surprise, and then I thought maybe…well, it was all a long time ago, and maybe you aren’t necessarily unhappy with the way things turned out in the Jess department.”
“The Jess Department?”
“Maybe you don’t want to be tied down, is what I’m saying?”
“Dean, what is going on here?”
Dean grinned sheepishly and scrubbed at one of his eyebrows with the back of his thumb. Sam had a sinking feeling that whatever Dean was about to say, he was totally, for sure going to hate it. “Well, I got to thinking about what you were saying, the other night, you know, about all the people who were close to us, that, that died for no other reason than Jovi was testing me, and how that was the reason why we probably shouldn’t forgive her, her tresspesses, you know? And, and you were right about all that, Sam, you were right, and so, I uh…” He trailed off and looked back over his shoulder. “Guys, come on in.”
The first one to come in was Jo, then Ellen. Then Bobby, oh, Bobby. And then they just kept filing in, one after another. So many. Sam had forgotten how many people there really were. The room was packed with familiar faces. There were people he was embarrassed to realize he hadn’t thought of in years, like Ash and Frank Deveraux and the virgin they’d been trapped with that time when Lilith was after them; Sam felt deep shame when he couldn’t recall the girl’s name. Kevin wandered in eventually and the sight of him made Sam’s guts twist. If Dean thought this would somehow make him more kindly disposed to Jovi, Dean was dead wrong. “What did you do?”
“Isn’t it obvious? I brought them all back.”
“Everybody I could think of that I felt like, oh I don’t know, were taken too soon. Because of us. I didn’t bring back Mom and Dad though. I wanted to talk to you about it first.”
“What…what do you think this is going to accomplish?”
“No harm, no foul, right? I mean, if Jovi did wrong, and I make it right, it all comes out ok in the end, and everybody lives happily ever after. There’s no reason for any…hard feelings.”
Sam couldn’t even. He couldn’t even. He mostly thought that expression was stupid and trendy but seriously, he. couldn’t. even. The most unforgivable part of all the things that Jovi had done, was not that it had all been for nothing, not exactly. The most unforgivable part of it all was that the pain and the suffering and the death had all been to bestow the powers of God upon a man who, while he was Sam’s brother and of course he loved the guy, had all the forethought and impulse control of a 13 year old boy. He sometimes even thought Dean was borderline retarded, he really did, like maybe Dad had gotten drunk and dropped him on his head when he was a baby or something, and now was absolutely one of those times. The idea that in any conceivable reality, Dean Winchester of all the people on the face of the globe, living or dead, would be the best choice to become God was like a freaking joke. I mean, resurrect Mother Teresa for Pete’s sake. Gandhi. What about Malala or, or…or Jimmy Carter? But Dean? It was idiotic.
Someone spoke up then. It was Ellen. “Um, excuse me, boys, uh, I have a question?”
“Dean, what do you want us to do now? Where do we go?”
“Oh. Huh. Well.” The befuddled look on Dean’s face confirmed Sam’s suspicions, that Dean had had absolutely no long-term plan going into this endeavor, of course he didn’t. He was Dean. Plans were for pussies.
“We can’t exactly stay here, Dean, sugar, I mean, I can’t even scratch my own ass it’s so crowded in here.”
Jo rolled her eyes and Sam was so happy to see her doing such a familiar human thing that he almost forgot how terrible the entire situation was. “Mom!”
“Good question, Ellen. Well, I guess you just resume your life again. Pick it up right where you left off. Only…no hunting this time. You let me and Sammy take care of that.”
Dean considered this and ground his teeth. “Well, uh…money. Here. I have lots of money. You guys take it, take all of it…” He started shoving stacks of bills, his gambling money, into the resurrectee’s hands. “And there’s more where that came from, lots more. You’re always welcome…to uh…if you need anything, anything at all, just shoot me, I don’t know, an email or something.” One by one, they wandered out, their hands full of cash. Sam wondered if he should stop them, help them, but it seemed such a massive undertaking that he honestly didn’t know where to begin and simply stood silent as a small army of resurrectees shuffled out into the night. Bobby made as if to follow them, but Dean just laughed. “Well not you, Bobby. Duh!”
“What’s…what’s going on, Dean? How are we here?”
“Bobby, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
That night was fun, in spite of Sam’s grave reservations, which were numbering into the thousands by that point. They threw a sheet over Jess – something about her just standing there staring at them was off-putting – and then he and Bobby and Dean sat around and got drunk and it felt a little bit like old times. Bobby told them all about heaven. He could remember it, he said, a little, said he did a lot of fishing, but it was fading fast. They tried to fill in all the things that had happened since Bobby had been gone but it was a lot to put into words. It was nice being back together again though. After a while, the conversation lulled and Dean got up to take a leak. He still had to do things like take leaks and sneeze and puke and all the rest of it, the downside of being in a vessel, apparently. Bobby, having concluded by that point that Dean was not gonna give him a straight answer, screwed up his courage and asked Sam how it was that he had come to be back on Earth in human form again. “You’re sitting down, right?”
“Of course I’m sitting down, I’m sitting right here in front of you, ya little…”
“Dean.” Sam sighed. “Dean is God now, ok?”
“Dean is God.”
“Dean Winchester has been invested with the power of God. Not a God. The God.”
Bobby paused to take a swig of whiskey right from the bottle. “What happened to the other one?”
“It’s still there. Sort of split the job into two. And gave half of it to Dean. The bigger half.”
“The one and only.”
“That, hands down, gotta be the worst idea I ever heard of.”
“I’ll drink to that.” And he did.
Dean came back in then, and Bobby sent him a WTF look. “Aw, you told him, didn’t you. I wanted to drop the bomb on him right when he least expected it…”
“I always the least expected it.”
“Just to see his face. Heh. Oh well. Well, Bobby, what do you think of that?”
“I think it’s bat-poop crazy, that’s what I think of that!”
“Well, nobody asked you.”
“You just did, genius.”
Bobby sighed and scratched at his beard. “Well, I guess it ain’t any weirder than any of the other stuff we been through, now, is it?”
Sam turned that around in his mind a few times and while it may have been the booze talking, it felt true. “Don’t jinx it, Bobby. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through all of this, is that things can always get weirder.” He drained the dregs of his beer and reached for another, popping it open. It began to overflow and he hurried to slurp at the escaping foam before it could spill. Out of the corner of his eye, Sam noticed a strange half-smile on Dean’s face, the kind he always had when he was up to something. A glow broke out over Dean for a split second and leaped out of him. It flew across the room and into Bobby. Bobby gave a shout and leapt to his feet and turned around and around craning his neck to look at his own back, like he was trying to get a kick me sign off his shirt. Wings sprouted from Bobby’s shoulder blades and curse words flew from his lips. Of course. Of course he did. Sam should have known he would. “You didn’t.”
“Oh, I did, baby.”
“Because I need three, and I need someone I can trust.”
“You need three? Three whats?”
Before Dean could respond, Bobby had recovered his wits. “Did you just turn me into a goddamn angel, you little weasel?”
“No, I turned you into a goddamn archangel, bitch. That’s even better.” He continued explaining to Sam. “I need three archangels. I already got Cas, but I need two more. And I gotta be sure it’s someone who won’t go to Lucifer and who won’t go to Jovi.”
Sam felt a chill move down his spine and squeezed his shoulders together as if trying to prevent the wings from emerging. “Don’t even think about it.”
“I wouldn’t do that to you, Sam, come on.”
Bobby sputtered. “But you did it to me?”
“Eh, you weren’t doing nothing better anyway. Fishing in heaven, sounds boring as Hell.”
Bobby sighed, still craning his neck to inspect the wings protruding from his back. “Balls.”