He couldn’t believe Jovi hadn’t come. Dean had killed 14 million people directly or indirectly, had tried very hard to kill himself, had even finally mastered a freaking dodo for cripes’ sake, and she still didn’t come.
What more did a guy have to do?
Beyond wanting, which seemed such a lily-livered word for it – he “wanted” a beer, he “wanted” a Kit Kat bar – Dean craved seeing Jovi. He had never “wanted” something so bad as he wanted to be in the same place as Jovi even if it was for only like 10 seconds. Just a glimpse would be enough, he figured. He felt with every fiber of his being that if he could only just set his eyes upon her, then he would see she was nothing special. The feeling of desperate longing that had seized him could surely be alleviated if only he could see her and remind herself that she was not anything special, not at all.
The irony was, that even though she wouldn’t see him, everywhere Dean looked, he saw her. Something she had made, something she had touched. Her fingerprints were on everything right down to the subatomic level and while he tried not to think about her, tried with everything he had not to think about her, he failed miserably because her very essence surrounded him.
In retrospect he realized the reason Jovi had kept her distance, why she had tried so hard to avoid him. It was because when he’d kissed her, their connection had sprung to life like a downed power line. He thought it was strong before but now it was prodigious, stupendous, gigantic, titanic. It hummed. It thrummed. It pulsated with both kinetic and potential energy. And it didn’t seem to have an off switch. It was a perpetual motion machine.
Agh. Dean hated that he couldn’t think of any non-electric, non-nuclear descriptors. He found his emotions – even the squishy ones – to be exceedingly masculine, all angles and edges, nuts and bolts, cogs and widgets, as if taken from the pages of Popular Mechanics rather than a book of poetry. His love, because he had finally accepted that’s what it simply had to be, was all pistons and gunpowder. His love was as tender as a cudgel, as welcoming as sandpaper. Yet beneath the heavy machinery lay a soft underbelly, tender and delicate and fragile. He felt it exquisitely but he couldn’t express it in words. In moments of fierce self-loathing he thought it was no wonder Jovi despised him, because nothing about the way that he felt about the way that he felt seemed at all appealing to a woman.
Dean found himself oddly limited by his nature; despite having the universe laid bare before him he himself was tongue-tied and paralyzed, incapable of expressing the thing he wanted to express the most. He knew every word in every dictionary now and no word that had ever existed accurately described his feelings.
Sometimes in moments of weakness he tried reaching out. Because obviously, duh, she wasn’t heartless. Obviously, duh, she’d come around eventually and he’d get another chance and this time he wouldn’t blow it. He just had to make her see, and to make her see he had to see her. It wasn’t a big deal. He just wanted to see her, a few minutes was all, just enough time to explain how it had been an accident. He hadn’t meant to hurt anyone. He hadn’t known what would happen and now that he knew of course it would never happen again. He tried begging her, pleading with her, asking nicely. He told her he wanted to apologize in person. He asked if they could still be friends. He asked if they could start over again and told her that if he had a time machine he’d go back to that day in the meadow when it had been just the two of them and he’d never leave. She didn’t answer. No matter what he did, no matter what wild and heartfelt promises he fervently made, she wouldn’t take the bait.
Fine. Whatever. He got the message. Jovi wanted nothing to do with him. Ok. Fine. Whatever. Thanks for nothing, bitch. That Dean still wanted to do with her seemed to be a problem dropped squarely on his shoulders. Not her problem, even though she had made him (cursed him) and conjured the terrible, wonderful connection between them it wasn’t her problem, it was his problem, his and his alone.
He was very alone, by the way.
Why had he kissed her? If only he hadn’t kissed her!
If only he hadn’t kissed her, he could have endured it, but he had kissed her. That kiss had broken him, stripped him bare, left him defenseless. That kiss had unmanned him. She hadn’t warned him. She could’ve warned him. She should have warned him!
He wondered whether their connection had been an accident and he went back and forth arguing with himself over the possibility. When he was in a charitable mood he understood in his heart, mechanical as it was, that it had likely been an inadvertent side effect of his creation and that Jovi had to be suffering from it just as he was suffering. And when he wasn’t, he swore in his soul that it had been deliberate, that she was immune, that she’d programmed it into him to ensure his obedience.
In those dark moments he found it plausible that she enjoyed tormenting him. Probably she and Crowley were off somewhere cuddling and laughing at his misery and he was taken with such envious fury that he could hardly control himself.
It was in the depths of the blackest of his black rages that Dean summoned Crowley.
The darkangel appeared in a small room way down in the innards of the bunker, and Dean realized with a rush of pleasure it probably reminded the man/angel/demon/thing of places he’d been held against his will before, occasionally by Dean himself. Crowley looked around like a frantic trapped animal but what choice did he have? Dean was the Head Honcho, the Big Cheese.
Crowley still sported a ‘tude, though. “What is thy bidding, Master?”
Dean got the reference but was unamused. “Sit.” There was a chair in the middle of the room. Hardback. Wooden. Looked tailor made for torture sessions. Crowley considered disobeying, attempted to, but found that he couldn’t. Heh. So he sat, not liking the turn events seemed to be taking, not at all. Dean couldn’t blame him. “Yep. That’s a command, not a request. Angels gotta obey the Big Guy. Even half-demon mutts like you.”
“What do you want?” Dean snapped his fingers and the angel circle lit. Crowley rolled his eyes. “You could have just asked nicely, Winchester. I’d have been happy to pop round for tea and conversation. Remember, we’re all on the same team now.”
“Are we?” Dean grinned chillingly and turned the radio on with a thought. There were many things he enjoyed about being God, but the telekinesis aspect had to be one of the best. As he had planned, Crazy On You played, loudly. He paced around the room, circling Crowley. The idea that Jovi might appear, surely would appear this time because obviously she wasn’t heartless, duh, filled him with so much nervous energy that he couldn’t keep still.
“Spare me the romantic power ballads, would you? I missed you, too, Mate.”
“I’m not playing it for you, Crowley. She’s listening, isn’t she?”
“Standing outside the girl’s window with your pitiful little boom box, are you? How low you’ve sunk.”
“Is she listening? Command, not request!”
Crowley didn’t want to answer, struggled not to, tried to hold the words back, but had no choice. “She’s always listening.”
“Tell me what she’s thinking!” Dean stopped his pacing to retrieve an angel blade he had stowed on a shelf. He wielded it threateningly in Crowley’s direction. Just to intimidate him, of course, not like Dean intended to use it. “Or I’ll make you tell me.”
“Do I look like a bloody mind reader? Her mind is INFINITE. Asking me what she’s thinking is like asking the letter Q to interpret the works of Shakespeare!”
“She talks to you. Doesn’t she?”
“Confides in you?”
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
“What do you talk about with her?”
“What do you discuss with your angels? Business. She tells me to take out the garbage, and I obey. I make her angels, and I train them. We discuss. The process, the weather. And other ephemera.” Dean would have loved to pump Crowley for details about his relationship with Jovi, if any, but it seemed so…desperate.
“Does she ever talk to you about me?” Well, that wasn’t much better.
“This is an oddly personal line of questioning, isn’t it, Winchester? Don’t you want to know about our sinister plans?” Crowley was desperately clinging to any distraction he could think of to avoid spilling Jovi’s secrets.
“I thought there weren’t any sinister plans, Crowley.”
“There aren’t. Apparently one of the downsides of your new status is that you lack the ability to understand sarcasm! Oh wait, you never had that.”
“Tell. Me. The. Truth! Why are you guys making angels out of demons?”
“That isn’t even what you asked me!”
Without warning he stabbed Crowley in the hand with the blade. Crowley screamed. “I can make it so she can’t bring you back, Crowley.”
Dean stabbed Crowley in the other hand and even though he knew he shouldn’t have done it, and certainly shouldn’t have enjoyed it, he was getting a good deal of joy out of it. A very good deal indeed. Crowley screamed again and struggled to speak. “My name is…is…Oriphiel!” Dean had gone too far, he knew he’d gone too far, but his rage had hold of him and he wanted for Crowley to hurt the way Dean himself hurt.
“What’s the matter, Crowley, you can dish it out but can’t take it?? After all the people you’ve tortured over the centuries, a couple little pinpricks bringin you to tears?? If you want to cry, Angel Baby, I’ll give you a REASON to cry.” He sliced Crowley’s ear off and was surprised at how fricking amazing it felt. It felt so fricking amazing the toecurling pleasure of it pushed the small rational voice telling Dean he was going too far to the back of his brain behind a lot more much louder and much less rational voices. Crowley grabbed at his ear stump with his bleeding hand and cowered. “I can make you grow your bits back and cut em off again, if I wanna.”
“I am Oriphiel. And I am a changed man. I’m good now!” Crowley stopped talking for a moment, gasping in pain, before recovering his ability to speak. “Not saying I like it, because I DON’T. But she changed me…just like she changed you. Only in my case it was a change for the better!”
“What are you saying? That I’m not good anymore? I AM good. I am THE good.”
“Not good enough for her, obviously.” And ba-da-boom, the other ear went. Crowley gave a bloodcurdling shriek. God, that guy was loud, not that he could hear himself, since he was earless and everything. “You’re becoming a monster, Winchester! And it isn’t cute, and it isn’t romantic, the whole star-crossed lovers thing is wearing thin for everyone except you. You’re becoming one of those things you used to kill. She gave you the gift of the world and you were unworthy of it. You’ve been judged by the original judge and found lacking. The worst punishment there is, is when she withdraws her love. Cut off from the source.”
Dean felt stricken, terrified that it might be true, but allowed jaws of cold rage to swallow the sensation like a snake eating an egg. He put the angel blade to Crowley’s throat. Ice. Made of ice. “I’ll cut off your source.”
“You wouldn’t dare. You’ve gone as far as you can go.”
After a moment of consideration, Dean was forced to concur. He stepped back, noticing as he adjusted his grip on the sword, that his palms were drenched with sweat. “No, you’re right. I wouldn’t dare. There are ten thousand reasons why I would LOVE to finish you, Crowley, and only one reason why I don’t.” He threw his head back to scream at the ceiling, at the sky. He made his voice shake the very heavens and the bunker reverberated with it. “Do you hear me, Jovi??? Because I know you wouldn’t like it!!!! Answer me!!!”
Dean turned away and fell to his knees. Even torturing her favorite pet wasn’t enough to draw her out. It hadn’t worked. Nothing worked. He would never see her again.
The angel blade clattered to the ground, forgotten. Suddenly Gabriel popped in and kicked the weapon away into a darkened corner far from Dean’s reach. He broke the angel trap with another kick, and Crowley immediately disappeared, reappearing just long enough to retrieve his ears with a sour expression on his florid face.
Gabriel gave Dean a WTF expression. Dean looked up at Gabriel, trying to keep the hope from his face. “Did she send you?”
“I sent myself. I’m not with her, you know.”
Dejection. “Oh. I thought maybe.”
“…I came with glad tidings of great joy? No. But I’m here to help. If I can.” Gabriel paused, searching the best way to phrase his next statement. “Dean, seriously. Don’t you think you’re a little bit…letting it control you, instead of the other way around?”
“I know.” Dean climbed to his feet. “I need help, Gabriel! I know, but the only person that can help me, won’t help me. And I don’t know why. Why won’t she tell me why? I don’t know how to do this. It’s too much for me. I just need some help, that’s all. Help.”
“Where’s Sam? Castiel?”
“Hiding, probably. Everyone’s afraid of me. They’re afraid of me now.”
“Do you think they might have a good reason for that?
Dean spoke and was annoyed to detect a petulant tone in his own voice. “NO! No, because I can just find em!” Dean got into Gabriel’s face, more than he really intended. “You should tell her that. Tell Jovi. Anywhere she goes, no matter where she runs. I’ll be there. I’ve respected the boundaries and I been more than patient. But I’m getting bored now, and my patience has reached its end.”
Gabriel recoiled and took a few steps back. “That wasn’t quite what I was going for there, Dean-o. Do you get that you might be…scaring them a little bit? Even Jovi?”
“Why would she be scared? Of ME? That’s ridiculous! I haven’t done anything. I could have. I could come after her. Attack her! Her power is nothing compared to mine. I just keep thinking that if we go to war, and then when I win and after I totally rub her nose in her disobedience and offer her my forgiveness, maybe she’ll understand that I really really miss her!”
“Ok, uh. Wow. How about instead, of, um, that, Dean, how about instead, if I go and talk to her, on your behalf, and see what’s the what?”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you? To be alone with her?”
“Well, see, Slugger, the flaw in that logic is that I can already see her whenever I want to. You’re the only one who seems to be…out of the circle of trust.” Dean disappeared for a split second and reappeared with his hand at Gabriel’s throat pressing the obnoxious archangel up against the wall. Gabriel pretended to be unimpressed, but he was scared. Dean knew he was scared because Gabriel liked having his life back, he liked it way too much. Gabriel’s thirst to live was a weapon Dean could use, would use, at some later point in time, he decided. Dean could taste that useful, useful fear coming off of the guy and boy howdy, it was delicious. Not as good as Crowley fear, but still. “Don’t smite me, bro.”
“Your childish antics are not gonna play with me in charge, Gabriel. I don’t think you’re funny, not even a little, and I don’t really quite GET the purpose of you. I never have, and now more than ever.”
“Me either. Something to do with free will, I think. I’d tell you to ask my mom but…I was remembering SHE WON’T TALK TO YOU NOW.”
“And if you think for one minute, Loki, that I forgot allll those times you tormented me, KILLED me for your own amusement, think again. Cause we could run that game again only with the roles reversed and a hell of a lot more lava!”
Castiel appeared. He looked bone tired and Gabriel inhaled sharply, apparently shocked by how rough Cas was looking these days. But Cas was fine, he just needed a little rest from all the angels he’d been making was all. “Dean.” Dean ignored Castiel and squeezed Gabriel’s throat – just a little – until Cas laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Dean.” Dean let Gabriel go. Of course he let Gabriel go, he was always going to let Gabriel go. Gabriel was in no danger, not from Dean, I mean DUH. Gabriel seemed reluctant to leave Castiel alone with Dean; tch, like Dean would ever do anything to hurt Cas. Ridiculous. These people are being ridiculous. Castiel nodded at Gabriel. “I got this.”
Gabriel agreed with a tilt of his head and vanished. Dean looked at Cas and grinned a WTF half-smile meant to reassure, but Cas didn’t seem reassured. Why were they all freaking out? Everything was fine, everything was cool. He was the same as ever. Why did people act like he wasn’t? He was good. Everything was good. It was all good! He just had to get this Jovi situation worked out and then they’d all poof off to a tropic island somewhere for a nice long vacay. “I was just having some fun, man.” Castiel glanced around, spotted the blood on the floor and the blade in the corner, and nodded.
Good ol’ Cas. He understood.
Once it became apparent that Dean was not exactly himself, and the shifting target of his instability even extended as far as Sam himself, Sam holed up in the bedroom with Adam.
Barricaded was such a strong word. He was holed up, that’s all.
Over the months Sam had tried repeatedly to get Dean to allow Adam to wake up, but he wouldn’t. He kept saying they had enough on their plates right then. So Adam slept on, as he had for months, oblivious to the God-sized nervous breakdown happening around him. Gabriel appeared unexpectedly and Sam nearly jumped right out of his skin. He actually yelled a little, “Aaa!” and then felt rather idiotic for having done so. Gabriel laughed just once, drily.
Funny, not funny.
The archangel looked around the room, taking in the sight. Sam realized that because there was several days’ worth of garbage in there it had to be obvious to anyone who wasn’t a complete idiot that he was basically living in the room and had hardly ventured out for days. And Gabriel may have been many things, few of which Sam liked, but he was not an idiot. Sam felt an embarrassed flush rise in his cheeks as Gabriel spoke. “Expecting someone else, Sam? Or were you saving all these bottles of pee for a special occasion? Glad you were skipping the big jobs.”
Sam exhaled. No point in trying to keep a charade going. Things were not ok. Everyone knew it, and this game he and Cas and Bobby had been running where they tried to cover it up, prevent the news from getting out that Dean wasn’t right, giving Dean as much time as they could give him to figure himself out, was over. Sam admitted it with body language that yes, he was actually afraid. Of Dean. “Please tell me you’re here to help.”
Gabriel laughed, not unsympathetically. “Me? Do you know me? I cause trouble, I don’t fix it.”
“Well, everyone else is at a loss. He’s barely listening to Cas any more.”
“I promised him I’d talk to Jovi for him. What do you think about that?”
“I think she got us into this, it would be freaking fantastic if she had a solution.”
“But what if she doesn’t? What if she’s just as scared as the rest of us? What if she’s ducking and covering for a good reason here? I mean, seriously, Sam, the way he’s talking, she may be the one who has the most to fear from him.”
“She needs to do something, Gabriel. He won’t hurt her. That I know.”
“Why do you know that? Because I’m not feeling so sure.”
“I just do, ok? She won’t talk to him. It is, uh, slightly upsetting to him.”
Gabriel laughed and Sam couldn’t exactly blame him. Understatement of the year. “Yes, he said that. At length. Do you really think it would help, if she did?”
“Can it hurt?”
“Well, Champ, we’re in new territory here. I’m not sure that anyone really knows if it’s a superduperly fab idea to get those two together. Maybe it will be like peanut butter and chocolate, two great tastes that taste great together, or maybe it will be like Diet Coke and Mentos. Explosive. Literally, figuratively, Biblically, explosive.”
Sam hadn’t considered this and the implications caused the pillow fort of denial he had built for himself to come crashing down upon him.
What if the cure was worse than the disease?
Gabriel intended to go home then, back to the welcoming bosom of Middle America where he could motorboat to his heart’s delight. Screw it, he intended to give all Gods and hangers-on an angelic middle finger and poof himself right back to his new life working at the diner. He had met a woman, a human woman, cute as a button and horny as hell. A single mom with a couple of adorable little kids. She had a heart of gold and a sex drive of titanium. There’s one in every town, you just have to know where to look, and Gabriel always knew where to look.
But he couldn’t. Damn it, he couldn’t.
He went instead to Jovi’s fortress, if you could call it that. She had no wards, no protective spells, and she probably didn’t even lock the door when she went to the grocery store. Dean or Lucifer or both of them together (which was a possible combo no one else seemed to be taking seriously, but Gabriel actually found it most likely) could have walked right into the joint. She had no defenses other than an army of dangles that Dean could have obliterated with the power contained in his eyelashes. It was almost like she wanted to be attacked, and he wondered if on some level, maybe she did.
He appeared inside the castle hallway outside a closed door and was immediately greeted by Crowley. Crowley embraced Gabriel as a brother and Gabriel endured it, holding his body perfectly stiff, overcome with the proximity of that hideous twist of demon Crowley contained. Not to mention the sheer unadulterated weirdness of being hugged by Crowley, because ew! “Gabriel. Thank God. I hoped you’d come.”
Gabriel tried not to be, but he was completely skeeved out. Everyone was putting way too much importance onto him. He wasn’t important. He refused to be important! He declined the invitation! “Things have got to be getting pretty bad when I’m the one greeted as the savior. Has everyone forgotten, I’m the black sheep of the family?”
“If you thought he was acting strangely…you haven’t seen her.” Against his will, Crowley started to break down, his voice cracking. “I’m so worried! Gah, I hate being an angel. I’m all emotion and feathers!”
He wasn’t an angel, not at all, but Gabriel held his tongue. “I knew she’d be a disaster…but he…he caught me off guard. He says she won’t answer when he tries to contact her?”
“She barely speaks. But she’ll see you, Gabriel, I know it. Hope you like Streisand.”
Gabriel missed a beat. “And if I don’t?”
“Sometimes she’ll turn it down when I ask.”
“Good to know.” Crowley swung the door open and Gabriel entered.
While Dean had been brimming over with manic energy, Jovi was very still, almost meditative, sitting on a bed in a darkened room. But like Dean, she had music blaring – Barbra Streisand singing Evergreen. Crowley stared at Jovi with a forlorn expression before stalking out. Gabriel knew the look – the poor guy had it bad. He almost felt sorry for the former demon; Gabriel understood only too well what it meant to love God so hugely, so bigly, so all-encompassing that it wrecked ya, when all along in the end it was kind of a one-way street. The song eventually finished and Jovi snapped out of her reverie, turning the music off and the lights on with a gesture. “Hey, Gabriel.”
He contemplated exchanging pleasantries but decided to cut to the chase instead. “What’s going on, Peaches?”
“I guess I’m supposed to be doing something big and meaningful, either starting trouble or fixing everything? But I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round.”
“I’m looking for peace. Which is strangely elusive for such a simple thing.”
“I understand. Everyone’s always after me to intervene. I’d rather not.”
“But you’re here.”
“People are scared. Dean’s um, he’s um, pfft. Jovi, he’s…not right, somehow.”
“Oh, I’m well aware of that, Gabriel. He and I are connected…all the time. He has my brain on speed dial. He’s screaming at me inside my head right now. That’s what he does. Screams at me for hours, then he begs me to forgive him, to talk to him, to help him, then gets angry all over again and screams at me some more, accusing me of…all sorts of things. It happens over and over again. You guys think I’m not doing anything. But I keep him busier than you realize.”
“Can’t you talk to him, Jovi??”
“Don’t you think that will just encourage him? He just needs to accept the status quo and fly off and find his own planet somewhere. This one is mine.”
Gabriel laughed in wry disbelief. “That’s a little cold, don’t you think? You made him.”
“It’s not. I don’t want my creation to be harmed any more than it already has been. It doesn’t make me happy to send him away, Gabriel. Quite the opposite. But he needs to start creating on his own and get his mind off of what might have been.”
“Can you fix him?”
Jovi laughed. “You guys act like being God comes with an instruction booklet. I don’t even know what’s wrong with him, Gabriel. If anything even is. It may be that he’s just very…Old Testament. And I had to grow out of that. I assume it’s the same for him.”
Much to his surprise, Gabriel actually found himself caring enough to get annoyed. “Just a phase?”
“The terrible twos.”
“Well, I think he needs a time out, Jovi.”
“Can you make him stand in the corner, Gabriel? Because I can’t.”
“You haven’t even tried. Passive is not a good look for you.”
“I’m not right somehow, either, in case you hadn’t noticed.” Gabriel paused to consider it. She’s not right either, could that be? And it rang true. Maybe it wasn’t so much that she didn’t want to act, but that she couldn’t. Maybe she didn’t have it in her any more. Maybe she’d given that away. Maybe she was as broken as Dean, just a different kind of broken. “I think the less contact he has with me, the better.”
“The better for him, or the better for you?”
“The better for my creation. He has to get away from here, away from Earth…and if I see him…I don’t trust myself. I could try to keep him here, to keep him close to me. I love him, Gabriel. Beyond all reason.” Jovi nearly began to cry, struggling to keep her emotions in check. Gabriel sighed. It wasn’t that he was unsympathetic to her plight, he was, but she had made her bed and all that. She had made all their beds, without consulting anyone beforehand. Same as it ever was. “When I went through…my dark period…there was a hundred million people on this planet if that even, and most of them were like way innocent-er than people are nowadays? And I was used to being…this. There are 8 billion totally debauched human beings on this Earth right now calling out to him. The only way he’s gonna make it through without destroying them is if he sets up shop somewhere else. I can’t let myself stop him.”
“A little late to think of all this now, isn’t it?”
Gabriel tilted his head to the side, unsatsified by the exchange, and vanished.
Once he had gone, Jovi sat for a moment in silence and steeled herself. She put her guard back down and winced as the screaming in her mind started up again. It wasn’t fun but at least Dean wasn’t hurting anybody as long as he was busy hurting her.
She turned the lights down with a gesture and the music up with another one.
Love, ageless and evergreen.
When Gabriel arrived, Oriphiel had taken the opportunity to travel to Chinatown. The one in London. He knew a guy.
A demon, actually. One of the nicest bits about Jovi having him turn the demons into angels was that he could stay in touch with old friends. He didn’t have to make excuses, tell everyone about how he was an angel now and the old lady won’t let me perform evil any more. He could still run in his old circles, keep his old connections, let the word get around. They were more accepting of his angelic status than one might think, all things considered, and it just so happened that he knew a guy.
After treating himself one of his favorite meals, lungs (he was enormously thankful that Jovi had seen fit to allow the new angels to retain their earthly appetites and the ability to indulge them) he entered the shop, an unassuming place marked with Chinese-looking characters that only demons…or former demons, apparently…could read. He entered the shop and was assaulted by odor, incense and spices and magic and dead things. He loved it. One of the things he desperately missed about his old life was the fragrance of the demon world and he wanted to strip naked and wallow in it like a boar in the mud.
Zhang Yong looked up from where he was measuring something that would have appeared to the uninitiated to be dried mushrooms, but Crowley recognized them as desiccated monkey hands. Zhang Yong himself would have appeared to the uninitiated as being human, but he was genetically closer by far to a mushroom. “Crowley, you stink! You smell like angel!” Oriphiel didn’t correct the name, he never bothered with demons. It only confused them. “You take shower, then come back!”
Oriphiel laughed. “I’ve tried, believe me. Doesn’t wash away.”
“What do you want? Hurry, you scare my customers!” While joking, the demon was probably right; if most demons got wind of an angel in Zhang Yong’s shop they’d turn tail and run and probably never return. Oriphiel decided to hurry for the sake of friendship. He had planned upon dissembling, working his way around to it after a lot of witty banter but he didn’t feel particularly witty. He sometimes feared the cleverest parts of him had gone along with the bulk of his demon nature.
He mostly just wanted it over. “I need to kill a god. A very, very, very strong god.”
Zhang Yong tilted his head back and forth like a curious little bird. “What? You too?”
“Yeah I guess everybody want to kill a god lately!! Two other guys want to kill god, they come in here maybe a few weeks ago, and ask for something to kill a god!”
Michael and Lucifer. Had to be. They were back in the present time and he had left Jovi alone. He felt sweat break out upon his head and down his back, but he needed more. “Describe them.”
“One real tall, and other one wear coat, even though weather is hot. One human and one like you.” Oh-ho. Not Michael and Lucifer. Sam Winchester and Castiel. Wanting to kill a god, you say. Interesting. “They say they got problem god they need to get rid of.”
“A p-pppr-pproblem?” Oh no oh no ohno ohno ohno ohno ohno nononononono. Not Dean, of course not Dean, those two would never even think about killing Dean, they intended to…
“Yeah, some god cause a lot of trouble for them. They want to get rid of it. Maybe you know same god, heh!!”
“Maybe.” He mopped sweat from his forehead. Why had he stopped for the lungs? They shifted uncomfortably in his stomach as if to remind him of those precious minutes, wasted. Maybe they were already there, maybe Gabriel had been in on it. And Oriphiel had left her. Alone, defenseless. Nononononono. Couldn’t be, it simply could NOT be. It took everything he had within him not to leave that very second. But he must have what he’d come for, now more than ever. “And what did you give to them, Zhang? If you don’t mind my asking?”
“Don’t worry, boss. I don’t give them good gun. I give you good gun.”
“You didn’t give them a good gun?”
“Yeah. I have two gun. One good, one bad. I give them bad gun.”
“Why was it a bad gun?” Please, please, please. Oriphiel didn’t even know who he was praying to. Dean, perhaps, and then he stopped because he didn’t want Dean to hear what he was doing.
“Because it only kill little god. Not big god. Only little.” Oriphiel relaxed for a moment but then thought of Jovi, how small she was, and his heart lurched.
“I want the big gun.” He threw everything he had in his pockets on the counter. He had brought thirteen enchanted demon gemstones with him, unsure as to how much the transaction would cost. He had saved them up over a hundred years’ time but he was suddenly terrified that it wouldn’t be enough. He worried that in his eagerness he’d shown his hand to the demon and now the price would go so high that Oriphiel couldn’t afford it without having to go back for more. He had more, of course, and he would have given every treasure he owned freely, but the bloody time it would take!
Fortunately Zhang Yong was a good-natured sort and Crowley had always been an excellent customer. Only a foolish businessman tries to cheat a loyal customer. He took the gems with cheer and fetched a very old box tied with a string. He opened it for Oriphiel to inspect its contents. The gun was made of two pieces of bamboo tied together with strands of very old silk and a triggering device on the bottom of carved bone. It looked very unassuming, which Oriphiel took as a good sign that it was authentic.
You could always tell. The Indiana Jones factor. The fancier something looked, the less likely it was to work. “Bullet is dragon bone. Dragon bone kill anything. Only one shot, only one chance, Crowley. Make sure you don’t miss!”
“I won’t. And the god will stay dead? Forever?”
“Yeah! Of course! My guarantee! Some magic, not even gods come back from!”
He went first to Jovi. He was relieved to find her perfectly fine, even better than when he’d left her. She had eaten something and bathed and dressed. She looked more…herself…than she had for some time. Oriphiel’s fellow darkangels – who he’d had his doubts about honestly, but seemed to be working out well enough – informed him Gabriel’s visit had raised her spirits a bit. Jovi seemed happy to see him and he took her in his arms and smoothed her hair from her face. “Let’s run away together, Oriphiel.”
“Yes, let’s. Where shall we go?”
“A galaxy far, far away from here.”
“I’ll pack my bags.” He so wished it for a moment that it seemed it could come true and the insanity came over him once more. “Do you love me?”
“I love everything I ever created, Oriphiel, I already told you.” Ah. But then she grinned saucily. “But some things, I love better than others.” And he felt a feeling that simply had to be bliss.
The entire time in the back of his mind he repeated it to himself. Only one shot. Only one chance. Only one shot. Only one chance. Only one shot.
Only one chance.
The gun was so lame, Sam thought it had to be a fake.
It was made of some kind of pressed thick paper, like a toilet paper tube but ancient, and was the size and shape of a Roman candle. As the demon had explained, that’s how you fired it, too. Held it in your hands like a drunk teenager on the Fourth of July, aimed it and prayed. But Sam didn’t know who to pray to any more. Neither option held appeal.
How could you kill God with a firecracker?
He and Castiel sat in the kitchen with the gun on the table between them. They had agreed it would be Castiel but Sam sensed the waves of doubt coming from his friend. He sighed and blinked and slumped in his chair. “I can’t, Sam.”
Sam sighed. The entire plan had been built around getting Castiel into Jovi’s fortress. The idea that Sam could possibly get inside without Cas’ abilities, could get in the same room as Jovi without being searched, could get close enough to Jovi to do the deed – the odds felt insurmountable. “You have to, Cas!”
“I can’t. And if I try, Sam, I’ll fail. Because I can’t.”
“You have a better chance than I do!”
“Sam, it is something I cannot do.”
Bobby appeared then. He must have sensed something amiss because his eyes were already narrowed accusingly upon arrival. “Well, what the hell is that, then?” Castiel bowed his head, ashamed. Sam could have throttled him for showing their hand.
“Bobby, it’s…don’t even worry about it. It’s nothing.”
“It’s something. Cas?” Castiel simply shook his head. “Is it for him, or for her?”
Maybe their cause wasn’t lost. Maybe they could get Bobby on board. He had eyes, he could see what was happening. Sam hoped against hope and rolled the dice. “Bobby, look, we have to do something, we can’t just go on like this…” It was obvious what needed to be done, why was he the only one who could see it?
“Is it for him, or for her?” Bobby had gone red in the face, as red as the bottle of beet juice Dean had recently hucked Sam’s direction, and Sam felt his hopes evaporating.
“It doesn’t…it isn’t…Bobby, come on…”
“It’s for her.” Castiel sighed.
“So he’s the problem, and killing her is your solution? Idjits!”
“She created the problem in the first place, Bobby!”
“So this is revenge, then?”
“It’s not revenge, Bobby, it’s HER, she makes him crazy…”
“And you think that’s gonna stop if she’s gone, huh, Sam? Everything’s just gonna go back to normal again? You’re even stupider than I thought!”
“Bobby…” Sam could hardly bear to see it all falling apart now, slipping away like rock salt through his fingers, not when they’d come so close.
“You’re a Hunter, kid, believe me I understand. Everything to you, looks like something to kill. It’s your solution to every problem, is killing. But I’ll tell you right now, Sam, if you think that killing Jovi is gonna make Dean simmer down and behave himself…you don’t know nothing about God, because vengeance is his, not yours. His to take.”
“I agree it’s a gamble, Bobby, but there’s no other option…”
Bobby apparently thought there was another option and before Sam could do anything to stop him, he’d grabbed that precious God-killing gun from the table and crammed it right down the garbage disposal and flipped the switch. In a heartbeat Sam’s last hope of saving his brother was gone with a metallic whine. A few supernatural sparks flew from the disposal and then that was the end of it. Castiel looked relieved. “He was right, Sam. It was a mistake. Thank you, Bobby.”
Sam tilted his head back to stare at the ceiling. Something was going to have to give, and soon. No one wanted to admit it for fear of changing the status quo, for fear of breaking this strange tentative truce they were all living under, but it was true.
Something had to give.
Oriphiel didn’t have any trouble getting into the Winchester’s bunker. They hadn’t raised wards against him. He suspected it was likely the same reason Jovi hadn’t raised wards either – neither she nor Dean truly wanted to prevent the other from coming to them. They still hoped. It was sad, really.
Only one shot, only one chance.
But she would forget Dean in time. Her strength would return and eventually she would have recovered enough to create another God and he would be there waiting.
Only one shot, only one chance.
She had forgiven him everything else, so she would forgive him this, too, because of all the things he had ever done as Crowley, all the horrible, awful, dreadful, unforgivable things, this thing was done from love and not selfishness. She would forgive him. Eventually. It might take a few millennia but they had the time.
Only one shot, only one chance.
He decided to become Crowley again, for a moment, to let the demon part of himself free to finish the task set before him. Crowley wouldn’t have wavered.
Only one shot, only one chance.
Crowley crept down a corridor to a room in which Dean was curved over a desk, writing something. He raised the bamboo gun before him.
Only one shot, only one chance.
He had a perfect shot. The back, or the head. Perfect. The shot was his to take. All he had to do was pull the trigger and Dean would be gone and Jovi would be his. Eventually. After a few hundred years, maybe some penance, a century or several in Purgatory, Jovi would be his.
Only one shot, only…
He found that he couldn’t. He couldn’t pull the trigger. Not even as Crowley could he pull the trigger. He thought for a moment it had be some sort of spell, some sort of magic, a ward perhaps, or a precept set into him upon his creation that he couldn’t harm God, but upon closer inspection he realized it wasn’t. He still had his free will and full control over all his faculties. He could pull the trigger, he was physically capable of doing so, but he couldn’t pull the trigger because it would hurt Jovi. And Oriphiel, even wearing his Crowley-suit, didn’t want to hurt her.
He wanted Jovi to have what she wanted and not have to settle for a disappointing traitorous replacement. He wanted her to have better than him.
Oriphiel lowered the gun and as he did Dean turned around in the chair. His mouth went dry. Dean had known he was there all along, of course. He was never in any real danger. Dean smiled with cold amusement and Oriphiel knew he was well and truly screwed this time and what was worse, he had taken the only thing he’d ever really loved down with him. For Dean would not let this stand unanswered, of course. Of course. “What brings you by, buddy?”
“I…I…she didn’t send me. It was me. I acted alone…”
Faster than even an angel’s eyes could see, Dean moved across the room and had taken the gun before Oriphiel could lift a feather to stop him. “I know it was you, Crowley. Jovi wouldn’t hurt me. Because she knows better.” He looked the weapon over with an appraising eye. “This little thing? You really think that this little thing could hurt me?”
“I had to try.”
“You had to fail, is what you had to do. You can’t destroy me, Crowley.” Dean raised the gun to his temple and Oriphiel felt a sense of dread coming over him.
“No! You can’t!”
“I thought you wanted me dead, Crowley. Don’t you want me dead?”
“I thought I did, but…I couldn’t…I didn’t…I stopped.”
“Because you didn’t have the cojones, am I right? Couldn’t get the job done when it counted. No wonder she’d rather be with me.” He closed his eyes suddenly and pulled the trigger. Oriphiel felt himself give a shout as the gun went off. But Dean didn’t fall. The dragon bone bullet passed through his skull from one temple to the other and came out the other side and lodged in the wall of the bunker. Dean reopened his eyes but they were gone, just bloody red sockets where they had once been. A wave of revulsion rose up Oriphiel’s throat. “Little help?”
His hands…no, his entire body trembling, Oriphiel reached out and healed the vessel of this…thing…whatever it was, that had once housed his friend, Dean Winchester. He longed for the real Dean Winchester in that moment, wished that the human Dean was still there to help him stop the beast that stood before him. This monstrous God. It reached out and seized Oriphiel by the scruff of his neck and they disappeared.
They reappeared in a room, the kitchen, Oriphiel realized, once he got his bearings. Castiel, Sam, and Bobby stood around a table, apparently having a tense argument. The Dean-thing threw Oriphiel to the floor at his feet as the three stopped to gape. “Looky what we have here, guys.”
“What happened?” Sam.
“Crowley here just tried to kill me.”
“I didn’t…strictly speaking. I thought about it, but, but, but I changed my mind. I decided that we could find a better way…to communicate…” Dean kicked Oriphiel in the ribs. He coughed and tried to catch his breath. “They…they were…” He coughed again. “They were planning to kill her, Dean! They were going to kill Jovi!” Even though that hadn’t been quite the way the timeline had gone, it was a plausible enough lie and Dean fell for it, hook line and sinker as Oriphiel had hoped he would.
His face went vivid red and his voice shook the building. “What!?!”
“I heard through my connections that they…and I assumed YOU, Dean, wrongly, wrongfully, I see that now, had procured a weapon that had been rumored to kill a God. And I acted, I see now, wrongfully as I’ve stated, perhaps a bit rashly, but you can surely understand my dismay…”
“Shut up, Crowley. Where is it?”
“Dean, come on, he’s lying…”
“You know, I don’t think that he is. Well, I’m sure he is, because his lips are moving, but Sammy, I can see it in your eyes, you have it, I want it, where is it?”
“Damn it Dean, come on, we weren’t gonna use it on YOU!”
That idea had not even occurred to Dean. “Use it on me? Was that an option on the table? Cas, Bobby? Were you planning on trying to kill me?”
The old man went red, or redder, since he’d been rather impressively red to start with. “You can leave me the hell out of this, you pack of lunatics, you all deserve each other.”
Castiel finally spoke up. “Bobby wasn’t involved.”
“But you two were? You were plotting to kill me? You, Cas? Sam? Really?”
“No, Dean, come on, be serious here. Like Cas, or, or, or like I would do that, come on, I’m your brother. I mean, come on! It was…it was for Jovi, ok? If Jovi was gone, maybe, you know, things would be easier on you, is, is what we were thinking.”
“Easier, on me? Is that what you think, Sam? Easier on me. Heh. Yeah, that would not…that would not have been…easier.” Dean laughed bitterly. “Well, where is it now?”
“Bobby put it down the garbage disposal.”
“Heh. Well, good, Bobby, thank you, I appreciate it.” He seemed so normal in that moment, so Deanlike, that Oriphiel’s hopes rose a little, thinking maybe there would be no truly terrible consequences for his actions, that while he might be in for a lightning bolt or two up his arse, maybe nothing that had happened would blow back onto Jovi.
“Doesn’t mean I don’t think everything is all hunky dory here, because I don’t, Dean.”
“I know. I know, Bobby, you’re right.” Dean stared straight ahead without moving for quite some time and it went on for so long that eventually the rest of them all glanced nervously at each other, wondering what to do next. But then he puffed out his cheeks with air and breathed out and the angel Gadreel appeared in the room with them. “My third archangel. Fill him in, guys.” As the others moved together to form a circle, Dean turned his undivided attention back onto Oriphiel and the casually demented expression on Dean’s face as he stared down at him, caused Oriphiel’s fledgling hopes to disintegrate into dust. “And you…are free to go.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that, Crowley. I am nothing if not…benevolent.” He smiled a terrible empty smile and Oriphiel knew it wasn’t over, would never be over, this was the new normal, the human Dean was gone forever. Oriphiel disappeared, praying desperately to no one in particular that he could persuade Jovi to run, far and fast.
Because vengeance was his.