Women in Fridges – A Cold Day in Hell Part 2: “The Walking Dead”

Women in Fridges – A Cold Day in Hell Part 2: “The Walking Dead”

Click here to read Part 1 –  Boy Meets Girl, Girl Meets Fridge

DeShawn Wallace had been a detective with the Los Urbanos PD for 12 years and during that time he’d worked with quite a few of the capes. Some of them were good people, some of them were assholes, just like everybody else.  

None of them he liked better than Captain Obvious. Obvious had a well-deserved reputation of being everyone’s favorite superhero to have a beer with. He was a chill guy, laid back and cool and funny, treated the fans good, quick with a selfie or a visit to a dying child. The authorities appreciated him since he followed the letter of the law like he was supposed to. And Detective Wallace, who had had a few beers along the way with the guy himself, even went so far as to consider the Captain a friend. And cops didn’t often befriend supes, so. 

He kept the crime scene locked down tight cause of the secret identity factor. He only sent up a few cops he trusted and told em not to get nosy and to forget the address when they were done, thinking to disrupt the Captain’s life as little as possible. But once he got a look at the inside of the apartment he knew the guy would be moving houses anyway, ain’t nobody could’ve got a good night’s sleep in that place again seeing all that even if it hadn’tve been someone he knew.

When Detective Wallace entered the apartment Captain Obvious was sitting at a table with his dark eyes molten and furious, flicking around like he was watching something pass by in the air around him. His jaw muscles spasmed as if he was grinding his molars to dust. He sat up suddenly and wrote something down on a notepad and when Wallace got close enough he could see it was a list of names. “Cap,” he prompted and the guy looked up, blowing air out of his nostrils like a mad bull and his mouth was all crunched up in the front. “You ready to talk?” 

Captain Obvious sat back sprawling with his knees jutted up like he was a gangly teenage boy, all full of attitude like the kind of punk-ass kids Wallace got in the interrogation room at times. There was something so incongruous about seeing a superhero sitting like that, especially a by-the-booker like Captain Obvious, Wallace found it mighty concerning.  

Obvious was wearing his full-on costume, even the cape, and Wallace wondered if the supes just lounged around around dressed like that, or if he’d felt like he had to go put it since a crime had been committed. He nodded just once and breathed a puff of air out of his lungs like he was clearing his throat. The detective slid into the seat across the table. As he did, Cap must have thought of another name, and wrote it down on the list he was making.

“Who’s the girl?” Wallace asked, even though he felt like he ought to offer condolences or something for the guy’s loss. Then again, for all Wallace knew, the Captain was the perp. He doubted it, but always tried to keep it in mind, the heroes could be just as guilty as anyone.

He swallowed a couple times before he spoke. “Zoe Rose.” And then he rocked in the seat a couple times like he was trying to keep his emotions under control.  

“The girl on TV? Damn.” Wallace felt mildly annoyed to hear it – Obvious and Zoe goddamn Rose. The capes could have anyone they wanted it seemed like; it didn’t seem quite fair to the regular schmoes like him. Then he wondered if it was an inappropriate thing to say, all things considered. Probably. He ran a hand over his shaved head and smothered a wince. He’d been on the job so long he sometimes forgot the niceties.

If it was inappropriate, Cap was too far gone to notice. He pulled at his ear absentmindedly and nodded. “Damn indeed.” Then he thought of another name and wrote it down. 

“What happened to your wall, there?” There was a huge scorch mark across the painted brick of the living room wall. Wallace recognized it as the result of Cap’s eye beams and wondered if it might have happened when he was fighting with the girl.  Although that wouldn’t have been much of a fight; super speed, super strength, impenetrable skin, and flamethrower eyeballs versus the ability to banter charmingly with one’s fellow co-anchors. 

“I was upset, when I…when I. I lost control.”

When he found her, Wallace filled in the blanks. Obvious had got so upset his eyeballs went off. “Jesus, bud, I didn’t even know that could happen.” Sometimes Wallace wondered how safe it was keeping these freaks around who could accidentally kill hundreds of people if they sneezed.

“It hasn’t, for a long time.” His brow furrowed and he wrote down another name.  His fingers were stained with spots of black ink.

“What you writing there?”

“Possibilities.” Wallace could see a flush of color rise in the Captain’s cheeks. His eyes glinted with anticipation and he swallowed. Not the guy, Wallace was suddenly sure.  Captain Obvious was not the guy.  

Which meant, of course, that he was gonna go after the guy at the first available opportunity. And that created a whole ‘nother set of problems for DeShawn Wallace. “You’re not thinking about anything stupid, now, are you, Cap?”

“Stupid?”  He licked his lips and wrote down another name.

“Stupid, like, maybe round some folks up and forget to bring them in for a trial by a jury of their peers?” It happened sometimes, one of the capes got fed up with the system or pissed off at the world and decided to go full vigilante. Detective Wallace did not want to have to bring in Captain Obvious, not only because he was one of the stronger capes and he’d undoubtedly put up a hell of a fight, but also because he flat out liked the guy.

Captain Obvious smiled, a big wide toothy smile that gave Wallace the creeps, and he had seen more than his fair share of creepy people over the years, just sayin. It was like watching a crocodile smile, or a wolf – the hungry smile of a predator. He shook a finger at Wallace a few times as if he’d told a really funny joke. Cap looked away and stared out into space for several seconds. But that smile, it never faded.  If anything it got wider.

Then Wallace felt a gust of wind and his ears detected a faint ripping sound.  

He was alone at the table.  

The noise he heard, he realized, was the sound of a piece of notebook paper being torn loose. Obvious had written up his kill list and took it with him wherever it was he was going.

Well, that ain’t good, Wallace thought, as he took out his phone and made a call.  “Yeah. DeShawn Wallace, LUPD? I think we got a rogue on our hands,” he said. The person on the other end of the line said something and Wallace replied, “Captain Obvious, believe it or not.” Then the person said something else and he said “Girlfriend in the ‘frigerator,” and hung up.  

He didn’t need to explain any more than that.  About the oldest story in the book, for superheroes.

*****

The weirdest part of being dead, Zoe decided, was how aware of everything she was. She hadn’t been quite dead when she’d been shoved into the fridge, but at some point she died, she knew she died because she felt her heart stop and thought welp, I’m dead now. But her awareness never faded. She just kept on knowing things and thinking things even though she was broken in two and sliced to ribbons. 

When Sanjay had found her he screamed and cried and threw up on the floor and she ached because he was in such anguish. She longed for him, longed to comfort and be comforted by him; even though she wasn’t feeling physical pain any more her non-beating heart still felt emotional pain as acutely as it ever had. She couldn’t believe how unfair it was that right when they found each other they were getting ripped apart forever but at least she was dead and didn’t have to deal with life and its cruel and unusual bullshit any more. Sanjay wasn’t so lucky.  

Zoe wanted to reassure him that she was ok now, not to worry, she didn’t hurt anymore but her voice wouldn’t work. She thought about how she had been so scared she couldn’t scream and she felt like such a moron, because maybe someone could have saved her if only she had screamed. Maybe Sanjay would have heard her if only she had screamed, even though he didn’t have super hearing.  

But she didn’t. She didn’t even scream.

After a while some people came and took her body out of the fridge and unfolded her and put her in a black plastic bag and zipped it. She went in a car and it occurred to her they were taking her to the coroner’s office and they’d probably be cutting her up to look inside her. Now that she knew people stayed aware after their deaths, autopsies seemed incredibly cruel. Even if it didn’t hurt at all, since nothing seemed to hurt her any more, getting cut up into pieces by scientists sounded intolerably awful. Then she started to worry that once they started chopping her into pieces this strange lingering sentience she seemed to possess would evaporate and she really would cease to exist forever.

People’s hands were on her again, lifting her, moving her. She felt herself being pushed into a building, down an elevator, into a chilly room. The cool air seeped through from the outside of the bag and felt delightful. That had been one nice thing about being in the fridge, at least it was cool in there. It was way too hot inside the body bag. Muggy and stifling.

The motion stopped and she knew she had arrived. She was in the morgue. They were going to chop her up, probably cut her into pieces and take parts of her out like her brain and heart. Dread swallowed her, followed by outrage.  

How could a person get sliced up two times in one day?  It was so unfair!

She tried to scream, even though it was a lost cause since she was dead; she tried to scream and scream and scream but nothing happened just like nothing had happened before, and then the bag was unzipped and some hands flopped her over onto a metal table. What kind of an idiot couldn’t even scream? 

She couldn’t see anything but she could hear, and she heard an old man’s voice say, “Gosh Milo, isn’t it cold in here?” It was, it was cold, frigid, even, but the colder it got, the better Zoe seemed to feel. The blissful refreshing coldness of the morgue made her feel almost like she was still alive, but of course that was ridiculous. “I’m gonna get my sweater. Can you begin?”   

There were footsteps and rustling and clanking metal and running water and Zoe knew that they were about to start doing the autopsy. To take her mind off her rising panic, Zoe considered the nature of screaming. She thought maybe she hadn’t been able to scream earlier that day because she was holding her breath out of fear, so when it came time to scream she had no air. And now, she couldn’t scream because she was dead, but then again she was thinking, and she was dead.

Didn’t that mean she was able to do some things she had done when she was alive? She wondered what might happen if she tried to take a breath, if she took that nice icy wonderful air into her lungs, so she did and much to her surprise she actually felt her chest rise with the effort. “Ho-lee hell,” said the younger man standing over her. She took another breath and he continued in a quavering voice. “Dr. Bonaventure? I think we got a live…”

Zoe screamed finally and the sound that came from her throat was so high pitched she could barely hear it, but Dr. Bonaventure and Milo grabbed their ears and writhed like they couldn’t stand the sound. That was how she realized her eyes were open, too, because she could see them doing it. Zoe sat up suddenly and kept screaming long past the point she should have run out of air. She kept screaming till Dr. Bonaventure struggled his way over to her and patted her on the arm gently. He had his head tilted against his shoulder trying to plug his ear with it, and he patted her soothingly with his free hand. He had a kindly face and gray hair and black-rimmed eyeglasses balanced precariously way down on the tip of his nose. He was wearing a ratty-looking Mr. Rogers cardigan sweater over his lab coat. He looked huggable, like somebody’s grandpa or something. He looked so sweet and dear and trustworthy that she stopped screaming and him and Milo, who was a plump nerdish guy with dark brown skin and a round Afro and a bow tie, unplugged their ears. “Am I a ghost?” she said once she caught her breath.

Dr. Bonaventure considered it and then shook his head. His assistant Milo stared at her with wide eyes through clear plastic safety glasses and she realized that if anything, he looked even kindlier than Dr. Bonaventure. She realized she was in good hands, whatever she was. “Are you…are you sure she’s not a ghost, Dr. Bonaventure?” Milo asked in a worried tone. “Or maybe a zombie?” he continued.

“Quite, Milo my boy, because ghosts aren’t real. And neither are zombies.”

“But I have to be a ghost though, or something, because I’m dead!” Zoe protested.

“Why are you so convinced you’re dead, Dear?”

“Because my heart stopped beating, and I died.”

Dr. Bonaventure looked her up and down and she suddenly realized she was naked.  Before she could get too shocked about that, she realized that her wounds had healed up considerably from what they had been, and surely healing wasn’t something that dead bodies did. “Can you get us a blanket, Milo?” the doctor said. “Or two?” Milo hurried to obey, going into another room attached to the morgue by a swinging Plexiglass door that kathunked noisily as he went through it. “Your heart may have stopped beating, but I don’t think you did die. I think, Miss Rose, that you’re still alive. Your heart stopped because it ran out of blood to pump, but you’re still very much in the land of the living.”

“How? How is that possible?” 

Milo, who was now wearing a parka for some reason which made no sense since Zoe thought it was the perfect temperature in the morgue even though she could see everyone’s breath except for her own, held out a blanket to her. Dr. Bonaventure took the other blanket and wrapped himself up in it. Zoe used the blanket to cover herself for modesty’s sake, but she wasn’t cold at all. If anything she was kind of too hot with the blanket on. Snow started falling and while in a corner of her mind she knew that wasn’t supposed to happen, for some reason snow felt like her best friend in the whole wide world and she was glad to see it. Dr. Bonaventure stared upwards at the snow falling out of thin air. “Miss Rose, does it often snow indoors, in your experience?”

“No, I suppose not,” Zoe admitted.

“Nor does a human being survive the kind of trauma you have just survived, not often. But occasionally, someone does. And do you know what we call those people? The people who can make it snow indoors and survive losing all the blood in their bodies?”

A superhuman. “But I’m, I’m not though?”

“Well, perhaps you weren’t, but I think you are now.”

“What? How??””

“If you would be so kind as to make it stop snowing in here, I’ll try to explain.” And even though Zoe was not at all convinced she was the one making it snow, she concentrated and it stopped. The temperature rose several degrees and it felt to Zoe like going into a sauna after having been out in the snow.  Dr. Bonaventure looked at her with an approving expression. “As I’m sure you’re already aware, 30% of all human beings have the genetic capability to become superheroes…”

“Or villains,” Zoe said emphatically.

“Or villains,” the doctor agreed. “…but only a very few ever do. That’s because the genes need some sort of catalyst to trigger a change. Have you by chance been exposed to any superhuman DNA recently? Bodily fluids, a blood transfusion, perhaps?”

“Well, yes,” she agreed, thinking of Sanjay and all the times they’d been together over the past several weeks. There were other things that she didn’t want to think about, that she would have preferred not to think about ever again, and she pushed those things away.  Stubbornly they refused to go, kept coming back again and again. Her stomach roiled and tears peppered her eyes, but her intense journalist’s curiosity kept her from breaking down. Breaking down would be something that simply had to wait for another time because for now she needed to get the story. She shoved the memories away with all her might, and this time, thankfully, they stayed gone. “…but Dr. Bonaventure, you can’t be saying that becoming a superhero is like catching an STD, can you?”

“No, no.  No no no. Not at all. If it was, we’d be swimming in superheroes by now. The superhumans, they tend to be…well.” Dr. Bonaventure realized he was going off a tangent and cleared his throat. “No. Exposure to hero DNA helps prime a human body to make the change, it’s like seeding a cloud, you might say, or perhaps giving your body a recipe to follow. But it takes something else to trigger the metamorphosis.  Hmm. It occurs to me, Miss Rose, that if you’ve been around superheroes…”

“Or villains,” she prompted.

“Or villains, you’ve been around superhero stuff. Radioactive waste, toxic chemicals, ion storms, electromagnetism, that kind of thing.  Think back, does anything jump out at you?”

Zoe wracked her brain trying to think of anything. Inside Sanjay’s fridge, she recalled, he had all sorts of chemicals stored that he used for catching bad guys in one way or another. There was a whole shelf in his fridge set aside for chemicals, like other people had ketchup and mustard and salad dressing. He had warned her to stay away from them the first time she’d stayed over, and she always had, but when she’d been violently stuffed into the fridge a lot of stuff had clinked around and fallen over, and she thought it very likely that some of it had spilled on her. And plus, fridges were pretty gross anyway, for all she knew Sanjay had left some rancid disgusting Tupperware in there or one of those million-year-old boxes of baking soda meant to absorb odors. “Maybe,” she admitted, but then she recalled that Sanjay was out there somewhere thinking she was dead. She tried to jump to her feet, but her knees buckled. Dr. Bonaventure steadied her.

“Not so fast.  You need blood, and lots of it.”  He looked her over again. “And we’ll need to stitch up the rest of these wounds as well.  It’s apparent your ability to heal has been dramatically accelerated, but it will work even faster if we assist your innate abilities.”

“Can I use a phone?” she asked, and Milo handed over his. She dialed Sanjay’s number and it just rang and rang. Then she called his other phone number and was dismayed when it went to voicemail.

He had changed his voicemail message. “You’ve reached the phone of Captain Obvious!” he said in a voice full of smarm and fake cheer that was utterly unlike him. “I can’t come to the phone right now because I’m committing suicide by cop. Please leave your message, and maybe somebody will find it eventually. Peace out.”

She left a message anyway explaining that she was possibly alive still somehow and texted both phones too, but she had the sinking feeling he had probably left them behind someplace and wouldn’t ever get her messages. She had to find him before he did anything irredeemably bad since he’d have to go to Hellgate Island if he did, which was where they put the crazy superhumans.

Dr. Bonaventure started an IV in her arm to give her some blood and Zoe didn’t feel it.  Well, she felt it, but it didn’t feel painful, just informative. The needle digging into her arm sent information to her brain, but it wasn’t unpleasant. It just, was. She explained this and Dr. Bonaventure poked and prodded at her with his medical instruments. They discovered she no longer felt pain, which seemed like a very handy ability to have especially given her recent very up close and personal experience with it.

They stitched her up without any anesthetic which she was glad of since it hurried the process along considerably. The more blood they put into her, the faster she healed, and by the time Dr. B put the last stitch into her, into a deep gash above her left eye which was ugly but not life-threatening, the first stitches in her abdomen where she’d been gutted were almost completely healed and so he and Milo pulled the stitches right back out again. By the end of it all she didn’t have a scratch on her.

Somewhere along the way her heart shuddered and then started beating again. She was alive, she was actually alive, after all. She finally started letting herself believe it.

While he sewed her up, Dr Bonaventure explained that when it came to developing powers, particularly when the change occurred in a life-threatening situation as hers had, the body seized on what it thought it needed to survive. So in her case, she needed to heal quickly, she needed to be able to survive in the cold of the refrigerator, and she needed to be able to call for help. So that’s what her body had given her – healing powers, cold powers, and the screaming – plus the ability to withstand pain as a kind of a perk.

They were good powers, if all rather defensive. She wished she had something more in-your-face. She wanted firepower. She longed for the ability to burn stuff with her eyeballs like Sanjay did; if she did she’d hunt down that brick wall guy and fry a hole right through him. What could she do now, throw snowballs?   Yell really loud? 

They found her a set of surgical scrubs to wear and Milo let her borrow his car which was nice of him since she was a total stranger and he seemed kind of scared of her. But it had all taken so long, so long, and Sanjay was out there doing God only knew what. She desperately wished she knew where to start searching.  

As she got into Milo’s car and adjusted the seat so she could reach the pedals, she looked down at her hands and realized her body had done something else for her,as well, something neither she nor Dr. Bonaventure had noticed in the harsh light of the morgue. Her fingernails sparkled, refracting the light of the full moon into glinting rainbows. She turned on the overhead for a closer look and when she held them to the light, little specks of color bounced off of them and lit up the interior of the car like a disco ball.  

Milo had discarded an empty glass bottle on the floor of his car and she picked it up.  With her index finger she drew a circle on the bottle and popped out a round of glass easily, with a merry little ‘clink’.

Diamond fingernails. I mean, they were really more like claws if you thought about it. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, a voice in the back of her mind whispered.

Her body had meant for her to fight after all.

 

Women in Fridges – A Cold Day in Hell Part 1: “Boy Meets Girl, Girl Meets Fridge”

Women in Fridges – A Cold Day in Hell Part 1: “Boy Meets Girl, Girl Meets Fridge”

As many of my readers are aware, there’s an infamous trope where a superhero’s girlfriend is killed off as a cheap plot device to create angst and/or motivation for the hero, typically sending him off on a mission of revenge (while conveniently freeing him up for a new love interest along the way). This has been called “fridging” after a Green Lantern storyline where one of the Lanterns’ girlfriends was murdered and shoved into a refrigerator for him to find. 

Over the years, the trope has grown to incorporate more than literal fridges.  It’s grown into a term that describes the sexist way that many male writers treat female characters as disposable ways to trigger a male character to take action – as if female characters exist in fiction for no other reason than to provoke men to have a reaction to them being hurt. It’s pretty gross and terribly dismissive of the many women who, you know, maybe don’t always want to see their fave female characters getting raped and murdered and tortured just to make male characters get spurred to action.

The writer Gail Simone has an excellent website where she outlays these deaths all together and it’s pretty damning: Women in Refrigerators. 

So anyway, a few weeks ago, my friend jokingly suggested I write a story about a woman fighting a refrigerator along the lines of what I did with my short story “Mom Vs. Couch” (read it here, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) and I replied “Women in Fridges – A Cold Day in Hell” as a humorous potential title for such an endeavor. But alas, just like with “Mom Vs. Couch”, what started as a joke turned into an actual idea which wouldn’t leave me alone.

What if, I wondered, what if, getting shoved into a fridge could serve as a catalyst not only for a male character, but for a female one? What if women could reclaim the fridging trope for ourselves? Was it possible to actually give fridging a feminist treatment, or at the very least, not make it grossly anti-woman? 

And away I went. So, here you go, the first part of “Women in Fridges – A Cold Day in Hell.”  Be aware, I wrote this entire story (not just this part) in 3 days. Plus it’s the week before Christmas and I have about a zillion things to do so I’ve been getting up at 2am to write and keep my life going at the same time, so if there are any typos or weirdnesses or things that don’t quite add up, let me know in the comments below and I’ll fix them.

VERY IMPORTANT TRIGGER WARNING: Since the entire point of this story is a woman who ends up getting stuffed into a fridge and what happens as a result, please be aware that a woman is gonna get stuffed into a fridge at some point. While I tried not to make it too graphic and the story WILL have a happy ending I promise because I prefer happy endings, I can easily, easily see how it could be disturbing for some, so if that is you, please read “Mom Vs. Couch” instead.

“And this is Zoe Rose, for KAQT News. Good night and have a wonderful tomorrow.” Zoe smiled pleasantly into the camera and held that pleasant smile in place without wavering until the producer waved her hand signaling they were off the air. Then Zoe yanked off the mike and stood up. While normally she was ok with hanging around and making chitchat after a broadcast, tonight she couldn’t wait to get away from these people.  

“Where are you off to in such a hurry, Zo?” asked Chuck, her co-anchor, a walking amalgam of hairspray, Botox, and Crest WhiteStrips. “I thought maybe we could go catch that drink we’ve been talking about?”  

They hadn’t been talking about a drink. Chuck had been talking about a drink. In the three months since Zoe had come to KAQT-TV, Los Urbanos’ Number One News Source, he had asked her for a drink at least once a day, sometimes more than once. Chuck was a veteran anchor, a holdover from another time, who walked around looking at every attractive woman he encountered as if they were entrees at the All-You-Can-Sex-Buffet. Everyone called him Matt Lauer, Jr. and they were only barely joking. Zoe counted her blessings because she knew that even just 5 years ago the expectation would have been for her to go have that drink and be appreciative of the opportunity to sleep her way to the top.

Thank GOD for #MeToo, she thought. “I can’t tonight, Chuck.” She forced regret into her voice although it wasn’t easy. “I have to get my computer fixed.”

“Again? Jesus, Zoe, you have to get your computer fixed at least twice a week!”

“At least twice,” she said, and laughed. Chuck joined in even though he had no idea why it was funny because he was trying to create a false sense of familiarity he could exploit later. “Have a good night, Chuck.” Zoe made her escape and headed back to her office.

Zoe’s office was small, but it was a corner office and it looked out over the sprawling megalopolis of Los Urbanos, and it had these big glass windows all along both external walls so you could appreciate it all. It was way bigger than what she’d had back in Cascade Falls. Everything in her life was way bigger since she moved to LU. She felt like the luckiest woman in the whole world as she swung open the door. She had worked hard, of course, very hard to get to where she was, as far back as she could remember she’d been working towards this dream coming true before her eyes, but she knew tons of other journalists who had worked just as hard and hadn’t had anything approaching the opportunities she’d had. And that didn’t even take into consideration her personal life, which was fucking spectactular and totally undeserved.

She was blessed. Incredibly blessed. Even though she knew it was a trite and borderline offensive bourgeois expression, Zoe Rose felt with every fiber of her being that she was blessed beyond belief and she was so, so very grateful for it.

Sanjay sat at her desk, fiddling with her computer. His long dark hair was pulled up into a man bun, which was his disguise. It was so funny how he could hide in plain sight just by putting his hair up in a bun and being a mild-mannered tech support guy. She told him that once, that she couldn’t believe people didn’t recognize him right away – his face was everywhere, on billboards and in TV commercials and plastered onto the side of city buses and smiling from the cover of People Magazine. He joked that the best disguise of all was being Southeast Asian, it was like he was invisible, no one even looked at him twice, and she thought that was really sad and wanted to beat up the whole world on his behalf.

Personally, Zoe wanted to look at Sanjay constantly. She wished she was invisible so she could follow him around and stare at him while he went about his day fixing computers and sitting in meetings and eating lunch; the most mundane details of his life, Zoe wanted to witness every one of them, except for maybe the bathroom stuff. Maybe.

Zoe thought Sanjay was the most beautiful man she had ever seen and that was when he was just being Sanjay and not the other guy. When he was being the other guy she couldn’t even breathe when she looked at him.

He glanced at her with a sexy smirk playing on his full lips and Zoe thought she might die, literally might die in that second. “What do you even do to this thing?”

“Whatever it takes,” she replied, which was true. She would go into the settings on her computer and start clicking randomly till her computer stopped working, then she would call tech support and Sanjay would come and they could see each other during the work day. Zoe often felt she couldn’t make it through the day without seeing him, without reminding herself that he was actually real and not just a daydream.

“Well, I fixed it.” Sanjay stood up and his dark eyes traveled up and down Zoe appreciatively and she was really glad she’d wore her shortest tightest skirt. It was amazing how different it felt when Sanjay let his eyes rove than when someone like Chuck did. “Don’t let it happen again, Miss Rose,” he joked. Then he wrang his hands in front of his chest, which Zoe knew from firsthand experience was exquisitely muscled, but as usual he wore a loose-fitting shirt which covered it up.

He seemed nervous; he always seemed nervous when he asked her out, even though they’d been going out, or more accurately, staying in, for several weeks now. They couldn’t be seen in public, of course, not only because dating coworkers was frowned upon at the station, but because of the other complication.  

Supervillains.  

Staying in had its perks, anyway. Did it ever. “Thank you.” It was flabbergasting to Zoe that someone as mindblowingly phenomenal as Sanjay Biswas might have any nervousness regarding her whatsoever. Even though she knew she was successful and considered quite attractive – tall and willowy, brunette hair cut in a flattering chin-length blunt style, a made-for-TV face like a grown up version of Selina Gomez – even though she knew in an ordinary relationship it would be understandable for a man to be intimidated by her, it was still flabbergasting. Compared to what Sanjay was, she was nothing, nothing at all. 

“Meet you outside then?” he said, his hand reaching towards the man bun.

“Yep.” Zoe felt a gust of wind and when she blinked he was gone.  

She had started wearing her ID, debit card, and keys on a lanyard around her neck since carrying a purse was an enormous pain in the ass when Sanjay picked her up. Slinging the jingling mess around her neck, she rushed down the hall to the door that led to the fire escape, tucking her stuff down inside her pale pink silk shell as she did.  She cringed as the icy metal of her keys hit her skin and buttoned her suit jacket shut for warmth.

As she opened the door she realized she’d foolishly worn the wrong shoes, she’d worn slip-on mules that while comfortable for a day of work, could fall off her feet and probably kill a pedestrian, so she slipped them off and left them on the fire escape to retrieve the next day, or maybe someone would find them and steal them, she didn’t particularly care.

Then Zoe climbed up onto the railing of the fire escape and jumped off. She was on the 16th floor so it was quite a ways down.  

As she fell she saw him just for a moment silhouetted against the full moon, his shoulder-length black hair flowing loose in the wind, his crimson suit so tight it left absolutely nothing to Zoe’s imagination, his gold cape reflecting the moonlight. His one leg was straight, the other bent at the knee like a ballet dancer in mid-spin. In the very next moment she was in his arms. “Thanks, Captain Obvious,” she said breathlessly.

“You need to stop doing that, Zoe, what if I can’t make it in time?”

“You’ll always make it in time,” she said, and kissed him.

As she removed her tongue from his mouth he swallowed a couple times. “You ever been to Lake Geneva?” he asked with his voice all husky, and Zoe laughed because he was always asking her things like that about random and unusual locations. He never took her places like Paris or Hawaii, he took her better places, peculiar places, places off the beaten path, places where villains probably wouldn’t be hanging out. He took her to Banff and the Isle of Man and Prague and Namibia. He took her to the Mitchell Corn Palace in South Dakota. He took her to the Bikini Atoll. One time he took her to Antarctica and they fed penguins a can of sardines. Even though he was called Captain Obvious because it was a meta joke that raised his cool factor considerably, he actually despised being obvious, at least where Zoe was concerned.  

“I’m not wearing any shoes, though,” she complained.

“I’ll carry you.  Whereever you want to go.”  

And that sounded lovely so she said no she hadn’t been to Lake Geneva, and off they flew across the Atlantic, headed for Switzerland. They were there in five minutes, even though what Sanjay would very much have preferred was to head straight back to his lair and pound the shit out of her, only tenderly and with a lot of consideration for her needs.

There were stronger superheroes than Captain Obvious – the Flying Brick, Idaho Spud, the Manatee. There were faster superheroes – the Pink Cheetah, Shelby Cobra, the Millennial Falcon to name a few. There were superheroes that had way more firepower than he did like Champagne Supernova and Black Betty. There were definitely grittier superheroes like Batverine, True Grit, and the Soiled Dove. But Captain Obvious was the absolutely coolest superhero. He didn’t just think that he was, even though he did think that he was.  He’d been officially deemed the coolest superhero by People Magazine for seven years running, stealing the crown from OK Boomer who had never bothered learning how to use social media.  

Part of being the coolest hero was that you never did what people expected. Being the coolest meant you set trends, you didn’t follow them. So while he did tend to take Zoe places where villains wouldn’t be, because DUH, it was really more about him not wanting to be, well, obvious. Inviting a girl to Paris was so fricking predictable Captain Obvious would never have let himself do it so whenever he had a minute to spare when Zoe wasn’t with him he was scrolling desperately through Atlas Obscura looking up places to take her to on dates.

Lake Geneva was pretty awesome though. Even though it was dark, the moon was full, so they had a lot of light to see by and Sanjay flew them over the water and they took in the beauty of the snowcapped Alps in the distance gleaming in the moonlight, and looked at the fancy houses and there were even castles and fortresses dating back to the Middle Ages on the shore.  

After awhile, though, Zoe started shivering. He hadn’t figured a way around that yet; she always got cold when they flew places unless it was someplace tropical. Zoe was the first woman he’d dated as Captain Obvious so he didn’t have the finer details worked out.

Since his lair was in the tropics, it was a nice excuse to get her back to his place anyway. 

The secret fortress of Captain Obvious was beneath an abandoned temple half-eaten by jungle on a small island not too far from Sri Lanka. He had an apartment in Los Urbanos of course, as Sanjay Biswas, ordinary citizen, but his lair was really his home. He kept his prize possessions there – memorabilia from the cases he’d solved, photos with celebrities, his Teen Choice Awards. And of course, since it was a lair and everything, it also housed his command center – surveillance equipment, a fully-equipped crime lab, top-of-the-line computing system, and his weapons collection, which he fortunately rarely needed, since he was a weapons collection himself. 

The living quarters were masculine, even a bit spartan, since the lair was where Captain Obvious came to work, not hang out. The lair, despite all its technical bells and whistles, didn’t even have Dish Network. But Zoe found she felt very much at home there because there was nothing to focus on but each other.

While Sanjay disappeared off into the kitchen to make her some hot tea, she snuggled into a blanket on his couch, although to be honest she hadn’t been anywhere near as cold as she pretended to be.  She was just ready, beyond ready, to be alone with him and for some reason she had a hard time just asking for what she wanted sexually, she felt like she had to trick people into it, or else she’d come off like a slut.  

Zoe had been to the lair many times; it felt safer than either of their apartments since Sanjay was so emphatic that no one know about her for her protection. Even though she thought he was being a bit silly about it, since no one knew who the secret identity of Captain Obvious even was, let alone the girlfriend of the secret identity of Captain Obvious, she loved it because it felt like they were the only two people on the face of the planet. When they came to the lair, it felt like she had Sanjay all to herself and didn’t have to share him with whatever passers-by were in trouble right that minute. Even though she understood when he had to run off and perform a heroic rescue during a date, it was still disappointing when it happened because she wanted to be with him as many hours in the day as was possible.

The first time he’d kissed her had been at the lair. She’d done a one-on-one with him at the station, visions of Peabody Awards dancing in her head. They’d hit it off right away; Captain Obvious was as humble and down-to-earth and earnest as his reputation had led her to believe. She met a lot of arrogant assholes working in media, and it was refreshing to find that the one guy who actually had the God-given right to be self-important, wasn’t. Anyway, she found herself laughing and blushing and fawning over the guy in a way she normally didn’t during interviews; she fawned over him the way she cringed at when other female journalists fawned over celebs. But I mean seriously, he was Captain Obvious, fawning over him was different than fawning over Justin Bieber or some sportsball-playing-douche, right?  

At the end of the interview he offered to show her around his lair on one condition – no cameras. No one had ever seen the inside of the Captain’s lair before so it was a massive scoop for her to land after she’d only been in town a few weeks. She agreed and sent the cameraman home and Obvious swept her off her feet, literally. They talked for hours like they were old friends. By the end of the night she was shocked to find herself making out furiously with Los Urbanos’ resident superhero which seemed really unprofessional on both of their parts, but neither of them cared.

He came back in with the tea and set it down on the coffee table and then they forgot it was there.

Some time later, because Zoe was thirsty, Sanjay left the bedroom and got her tea and heated it back up with the fiery beams from his eyes. When he came back Zoe was sitting up in his bed with her always-perfect hair all messed up and her lips swollen from kissing so much. Mascara had smeared down below one of her eyes and the sheet slipped off her chest and she didn’t bother to pull it back up. He felt a rush of an emotion he had never experienced before and it took him a moment to pin down what it was.

His confusion must have shown on his face. “What?” she asked him, as she sipped her tea, which was turmeric and ginger, like Sanjay’s mother used to make when people caught a chill.

His long hair hung down into his face and his brown eyes were wide and intense.  He shook his head like he was surprised. “I love you,” he said. “I love you, that’s all.”  He laughed in disbelief. “It’s amazing. You’re amazing.”

Zoe was so happy she could have exploded.

The next day, Zoe took a half-day off work because she was so full of joy she didn’t think she could read the news without smiling, which would be terribly inappropriate if people had died or something. So she decided to surprise Sanjay. She got an Indian Cooking for Dummies cookbook at Barnes and Noble and went shopping at the farmer’s marketplace for ingredients. And then she bought a big bouquet of flowers even though she knew giving a man flowers was frowned upon because it made you look needy. She didn’t care, she didn’t care at all. She wanted Sanjay to know she needed him, so, so very badly. She didn’t want him to have a single doubt.  

The night before, after he had told her he loved her, he gave her a key to his place, and so she let herself in. Sanjay’s apartment was clean and spacious and airy, converted space from an industrial building. It had hardwood floors and an open floor plan, high ceilings with the beams exposed and the far walls were made of bricks painted white. There was exercise equipment in one corner; while it seemed weird since he was superhuman and everything, Sanjay still had to train hard to keep ahead of the other superhumans, she’d learned. The kitchen was in another corner and the bedroom and bathroom were through a door at the far end of the large room.  Framed posters lined the walls and a ficus plant grew against one of the windows.

She wondered if she’d move in someday or if they’d get a place together, and she knew she was counting chickens but she couldn’t help it.   

Sanjay had a friendly black cat named Midnight. As Zoe came in, Midnight rubbed against her leg. She set the bags down for a moment and locked the deadbolt behind her. Then she scratched Midnight under his chin and he purred appreciatively.

She carried the bags into the kitchen and started to unpack them. Then she heard a really weird buzzing hum like electricity arcing and turned around. The front door was glowing and then she saw a foot step through the door and then a whole body followed the foot. The glow on the door died out. Standing there was a short squat guy with a strange broad but thin body, like someone had taken a regular human head and stuck it on a brick wall or something.  

He was mutated, she realized.  Mutated. “What?” she heard herself say, even though he hadn’t said anything.

“Captain Obvious?”

“What?” she repeated, and realized her heart was beating about a million miles a second.

“I know you’re his girlfriend, or his wife, or something. Captain Obvious. Where is he?”

“I don’t…what?”  

“I can smell him on you,”  the strange man said, and sniffed through his nose as if to illustrate the point. “I been tracking him for a week. I caught his scent but when I followed it, it wasn’t him. It was you. He’s been all over you. And I mean ALL over,” he said, and then he laughed way down low in his throat.

“Oh,” she breathed and noticed she was really really dizzy all of a sudden.

“I’m guessing since he hasn’t blasted me yet, he’s not here?”

“Um,” Zoe said.  

“Well, well.” He laughed again and he started walking towards her. “Well, well, well.”

“Are, are, are, are are…are?” She paused and regrouped. “Are you gonna kill me?” It didn’t seem right that you could get killed when you’d spent the entire day dreaming about your happily ever after.

“Well,” he said, and he smiled, and Zoe was really, really sorry to see that he didn’t have teeth like a human being, they were pointy teeth like the cat had. “Not just yet.” 

She tried to scream but no sound came out at all.

When Sanjay got home that night after work he was in the best mood, like, ever. He’d gotten a text from Zoe that she’d taken the rest of the day off – normally she had to work late, since she read the evening news and everything – and that she had a surprise for him at his apartment. He hoped it involved nudity.

He’d even taken the chance of using his powers uncostumed, zipping back by 5:01 rather than taking the subway like he should have, because he just couldn’t wait any longer to be with her. He loved her so much it felt like the time he had to fly into the sun to defeat Dr. Coppertone, being burned alive and crushed by a massive gravitational pull, only good. So good. Good, like he had never even imagined what it could be. Now he understood what the people making all those sappy and cringeworthy love songs were actually singing about, even Bryan Adams.  

He stuck his key in the lock and pushed the door open.   

The lights were off and he flicked the switch on. Across the wall of his apartment it said ‘Catch me if you can’ and it was written in rusty red letters. 

In red letters. Red letters. Red. His brain dispassionately noted there was a wilted bouquet of flowers on the kitchen table.

Poor Midnight was hanging on a noose from the chandelier but as Sanjay looked around he saw blood everywhere it seemed like and it was just too much blood to come from a cat, no matter how he turned it around and around in his head he knew it couldn’t have come from a cat, not all of it and that meant only one thing. But no, it couldn’t be, it couldn’t be, please no, please, please don’t let it be that thing, he prayed to any deity who would listen; his brain even invented new deities to pray to like the God of Superheroes, there had to be one, surely, please, some higher power out there looking out for people like him who had to face so many terrible things.

Oh, my God, PLEASE.  

He darted from room to room in a tenth of a second but no one was there. Then he spotted the groceries on the floor, noticed that a bag had tipped and some vegetables and a bottle of fish sauce had broken on the floor which no one would leave broken on the floor without cleaning it up because it reeked to high heaven.

It felt like he died and came back to life again only he wished he was still dead.

The blood, he realized, wasn’t random, it was a path of blood, with drag marks and footsteps in it, and the drag marks led all across the apartment from the bedroom

the bedroom, the bedroom, oh my god

…into the kitchen. So he followed the trail and realized that there was a puddle of blood in front of the refrigerator and more blood was leaking from the bottom of the refrigerator door. He walked over and even though he didn’t want to, even though he would have rather done anything else in the whole wide world, Sanjay pulled the refrigerator door open and when he saw what was in there, he shrieked a sound that wasn’t even human and his eyes blasted fire. He squeezed them shut and didn’t dare open them again because he’d end up burning the whole building down if he did. 

He reached into the fridge and touched the terrible thing just to be sure it was what he thought it was.

And it was.

 

 

 

the incredible shrinking woman

the incredible shrinking woman

I’ve really been struggling with my writing lately.  Well, not superlately because I basically gave up writing (aside from work, which is also writing) for the past 2 months, but right before that.  Ironically, just as I celebrated my 100th piece for the online magazine Ordinary Times the bottom dropped out and I sort of had a meltdown.

Writing – at least publicly – is not easy for me.  It’s a struggle every time against various demons that descend from the woodwork to tell me how much everything I do sucks, and also against various slightly less demonic entities that constantly demand my time.  Right before I went on hiatus this last time, I wrote a few things I thought were terrible, inexcusably, irredeemably, embarrassingly terrible.  I found myself sinking into a frustrated despair because I have virtually no uninterrupted time to get my work to the level I prefer, and if what I write is lousy, I cannot justify the time I take from my family who needs me.  It’s a conundrum because I do really and truly feel I have something unique to say if only I could get everyone to shut up long enough for me to get it down on paper.

Anyway, the other day I reread the pieces I recalled being so unacceptably dreadful and found to my surprise they’re perfectly fine.  Not my bestest best work perhaps, but better than just adequate.  On Glorious Bastards is actually pretty darn good, I was pleasantly surprised to discover.  But it took me forfuckingever to write that and its sister piece Put Away Childish Things and that was time I really needed to spend doing real things in the real world.  Again, I can’t justify the time I spend on writing if the end result is anything less than my best.

Finding out my suckiest pieces didn’t totally suck in retrospect is great, but not as great as if I could have just known that all along in my gut and not lost hope, not lost the past 2 months where I did nothing but play video games and scrub toilets, and the former a lot more than the latter.   In the end, though, it wasn’t my self-doubt that did me in, it was what other people had to say about my work that killed me.

You see, I made a critical error when writing those last two posts in particular, because I wrote them for other people and not for myself.  I wrote them because in my self-doubt I was questioning the types of things I liked writing about.  In my self-doubt I thought if only I could write about something I knew people wanted to read, I’d surely stop secondguessing myself.  So I pursued a subject (the ubiquity of male ennui in recent literature) I thought people seemed intrigued by, rather than something I was truly passionate about.  What could go wrong, I thought.  People are interested in this!

Long story short, the reaction of one of these people – indeed, the person who had demanded the loudest that I elucidate upon the topic in the first place – was this:  “So you don’t like Bukowski.  Got it.”

And encapsulated in one sentence is why I haven’t written anything to speak of for the past two months.  Just that quick, a person cut me down, diminished me, reduced my innermost thoughts to complaining and hypersensitivity.

Time and again I’ve found that men online come to women in the public sphere saying things like “I really want to hear your opinion, can you explain your point of view” as a pretext to get you to open up to them so they can slam you or debunk you.  I’d originally held back on talking online with this particular person (a total stranger BTW, not a friend) for exactly that reason.  I felt that his request for communication was not legitimate and was simply a pretense to yell at me about how stupid I was for not liking the right books, but he assured me repeatedly he was merely curious about where I was coming from.  Assured.  Repeatedly.

“So you don’t like Bukowski.  Got it.”

A man read what a woman had to say about something she thought was relatively important, AFTER EXPRESSING DESIRE TO HEAR THOSE THOUGHTS, and took the opportunity to remind her that no one wants to hear what she had to say.  He took the opportunity to play the “bitchez be crazy” card by implying I was a moody harpy with a personal grudge against a writer who’s been dead for decades.  (BTW, not even true, as anyone who actually knows me is aware, I love seedy underbellies and human flaws, it’s just that I’ve gotten sick of reading about the exact same seedy underbelly again and again.) This guy looked askance at something I’d worked very hard on, expending precious time I didn’t have, that I hadn’t even WANTED to write in the first place, and shit on it.

I’m sorry to say that I took it very much to heart and it’s taken me this long to get over it, inasmuch as I have, which I probably haven’t.

Now, I’m a pretty tough cookie and people say harsh and negative things to me all day long and it mostly rolls off.  People regularly dislike things I adore, despise things I write, and are disdainful of thoughts I hold dear.  I’m not a creampuff that can’t take criticism.  But that wasn’t criticism, it was dismissal.  In its casual dismissiveness, the comment brought home with crystal clarity how pointless having an online existence is, how no one cares about what I have to say, my silly small ambitions are ridiculous distractions that keep me from providing the maid service to which my family is entitled, that all I’m good for is wiping snotty noses and scooping cat litter boxes.  It played right into that negative selftalk that I already had going on, and just happened along at a time I was already vulnerable.

The person who wrote those words so carelessly claims to be a writer himself, and I assume that means he struggles like I struggle and fully understands that this isn’t an easy endeavor on a good day.  Yet he went out of his way to put me in my place.  It would have taken him not a second longer to write an encouraging platitude and less time still to say nothing, but he chose to insult me instead.  And it wasn’t even a bad piece.  He insulted me over a piece that was good.

Big Man.

In retrospect I realize I wrote a piece (taking time away from things I would rather have been doing and writing about, boy howdy, did it ever) in no small part because I didn’t want to give this Big Man and the Big Men like him, justification to dismiss me without also giving him the greater context so he couldn’t.  It just never occurred to me that he was so invested in winning an argument I didn’t even know we were having that he didn’t actually care about the context.  He was going to dismiss me either way.  It was predestined going in.  I could have written the most genius, brilliant, stunningly insightful essay in the history of humankind and the response would have been the same.

I wrote about what it feels like to be a woman being constantly told to read literature written by men and for men where women are afterthoughts and playthings and I got “So you don’t like Bukowski?  Got it.” in return.  It’s fucking flabbergasting.

It’s been said many times before that comments online are rarely about anything than the commenter’s own self-aggrandizement.  They’re picking a fight or preaching their gospel.  They’re meeting their own needs, and I very much expect that was the case here.  Big Man probably enjoyed the game where he watched a woman write furiously about a topic upon his request, and then passive-aggressively insulted her work with just enough clueless deniability to get away with it.  Or maybe he didn’t at all and he was just so self-centered, so entitled, that he thought he had the God-given right to repeatedly demand to hear what a woman was thinking and once she gave in, to pass judgement upon her opinion as if he was some sort of a moral or artistic authority.  Regardless, it was all about him, and anything I may have experienced as a result was collateral damage.

None of that takes away from me.  I wrote a good piece – a couple of them, matter of fact – that I’m proud of.  For me to stop writing because someone acted like an asshole online is self-defeating and only completes the job he set out to do – to shut me up.  So here I am, back again, as irritating as ever, ready for more.

I’m happy to report, one of my very first pieces back, Square Peg, Round Hole: Veronica Mars Season 4 was picked up by both WordPress and Google Chrome Reader for promotion and has thus far been read by more than 10,000 people.

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Oh Internet, you’re such a confusing mixture of discouragement and encouragement.

A lot of men entirely aside from Charles Bukowski exist to diminish and reduce women, to keep them in their place.  They thrive on it.  Many men prefer small and quiet women, not big and noisy ones, and prefer that even in random strangers that they don’t even know because unruly women cause them discomfort.

But I don’t like being kept in my place.  I’m too big to fit there.  I just needed a couple months to remember that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Glorious Bastards

On Glorious Bastards

Should women read books about bastards?

Must they?

I started writing about this subject tangentially for Ordinary Times as a part of a different piece, and I realized that my piece was getting too far afield.  So instead of giving you one overly long and ranging piece, you, my super awesome readers (all six of you) get two slightly more focused ones. Two for the price of one, that is a bargain!  But please do dart back to read the original piece if you have the time.

Anyway, there’s an essay by Rebecca Solnit called 80 Books No Woman Should Read.    I strongly recommend reading it because she makes a lot of good points, even though I mostly disagree with it, because I do think women should read books by bastards and about bastards.*  

There are noble reasons for this and you can read Marina Manoukian writing about them here or read Elissa Strauss writing about them.  But the real reason you should read men’s books is IMO the most noble of all – self-protection. 

Because you need to be fucking warned about what men really are, ladies.  (hint – it’s bastards) 

Not all of them, not all the time, but to paraphrase Lincoln, who himself was probably a bastard I assume since his wife Mary Todd got driven nuts for SOME reason (when it comes to crazy women, cherchez l’homme, just sayin) some men are bastards all of the time, and all men are bastards some of the time, so as a woman you gotta assume that any given man has the potential to be a bastard all of the time.  Even the generally nice ones.

If you were like me, growing up you were innocent and naive and probably read a lot of fluffy girly books and even some very serious and important ones, and you likely watched movies like The Princess Bride or When Harry Met Sally and maybe you watched Days of our Lives and Moonlighting on TV.  And these delightful pursuits maybe made you think – as I did, with every fiber of my being, until life beat it out of me – that most men are looking for a special woman that suits them better than all the other ones, that he’ll love her for who she is even if she’s different from him or high maintenance and he would never expect her to change, and once he finds her he will be completely devoted to her forever and she won’t have to work slavishly at keeping him every second of the day and of the night.

And I’m so sorry (you have no idea how sorry I am) to report that this is completely bullshit.  A woman being special and unique in the eyes of any man effortlessly and forever is a line of crap that people have sold us to get us to buy romance novels and to get us to behave ourselves, because if our man thinks we’re special just the way we are, what happens if we change, so we’d probably better not. 

The truth is, most men end up in relationships not with the most superspecialawesome woman they’ve ever encountered but just with that chick that works in the building next door or that nice girl who their friend happened to know from Pilates and they stay in that relationship till they get bored or someone better – or new, at any rate – comes along.  There is no magic here. There is nothing remarkable or unique about us (well, there is, of course, but don’t count on your man friend there to see it). And a LOT of men secretly think they could probably do a lot better than you or me and are constantly on the lookout for any reason to trade up.

Aside – while men of course do get massively obsessed with women in many cases it’s women that they barely even know, like a chick they once saw on a bus, or who they lived next door to when they were 10 but she moved, or Gabrielle in Marketing.  This fantasy woman is not an actual woman, but is a fictional character who they can imagine to have all those qualities that they think the ideal woman should have in any given moment, and the nice thing about her being a fictional character is that her qualities can change with a man’s mood.  When and if they conquer said woman and realize “oh wow she’s just a regular chick after all” and they have to start putting up with her bullshit, the bloom is off the rose and the relationship often sours. 

Given all that, the good thing about reading the worst types of men’s novels is that you get a front row seat into the way men think about women.  Reading Lolita (every woman on Planet Earth should read Lolita immediately) shows you just how actually evil some men can be when it comes to getting what they want sexually, even when they know full well that what they want sexually is actually evil.  Reading Fight Club (definitely do, when you get around to it) gives you an insight into how modern society, that men themselves largely created and have benefited from hugely, can demoralize younger and less successful men who haven’t had a chance to hugely benefit from it yet, and how these young men often look around and see women standing there and think “well there’s a likely cause for my unhappiness”, especially their moms.  Reading Bukowski (I wouldn’t bother, except for the poems, many of which are online for free and will kinda give u the jist) reveals how men think women are disposable and replaceable and how some men eventually decide to “treat women like human beings” as if it’s somehow noble of them, like they’re doing us a favor, as if they’re granting women a boon that we should be eternally grateful for.

The fundamental reason women need to read men’s books is because we need to know about the existence of men other than Prince Charming and Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables.  Because these men are legion and in fact these men, at least certain aspects of them, are lurking inside of every man, even Prince Charming and Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables.  Trust me, I beg you, it’s good to have a heads up on this in advance, as there are a whole lot of women who learn these truths about men eventually and are gobsmacked by it after building their whole entire lives on the lie.  Or so I hear, like, through the grapevine, or whatever.

BUT. 

The bad thing about reading the worst types of men’s novels is that they’re fucking boring as hell after you’ve read the first few and unless you’re 22 years old you’ve probably lived this shit already up close, personal, and repeatedly.  Take it from a middle-aged woman, by the time you’re a middle-aged woman you will have had ample opportunity to observe men, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  

So sure, maybe it’s desirable, indeed, necessary, to read a few important men’s novels along the way.  Some of them are worth your time for any number of reasons. But there is absolutely no need to read them all.  And there is absolutely no need to continue to read them forever, if, as in the case of Charles Bukowski, a small taste would suffice.  Because they’re all the same variation on that same damn theme, a bastard and his penis and their delightful adventures, how they struggle for recognition and adoration from their parental units and society as a whole even though women are kind of insipid and disappointing and a boy’s precious penis deserves so so much much more, like that girl they lived next door to when they were ten who was perfect, but she moved.

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Regardless of your opinion on penises – and I got nothin’ against ‘em – IT’S BORING.

A dear friend of mine recently suggested I read the Rabbit series by John Updike (a man who David Foster Wallace, himself a dick with a dictionary, once referred to as “a penis with a thesaurus”).  I took this recommendation very much to heart since this is a dude whose judgement I trust and whose writing I greatly enjoy.

But when I looked up Updike’s books I realized could never actually read them.  The first in the series, the very famous and beloved-by-many Rabbit, Run, involves a man who gets bored with his tedious existence of like, having to have a job, and take out the trash maybe I guess, it does kinda get old, abandons his pregnant wife to have a 2 monthslong affair with a prostitute, then comes back when his wife has the baby, tries to have sex with her as soon as she has the baby, can’t because firstly that is against the medical rules and secondly anyone who has had a baby will tell you that would be incredibly painful, jacks off onto her all pissed-off-ed-ly, and leaves.  Then the next day because she was so upset about her husband being a ginormous asshat, she gets drunk and accidentally drowns the new baby in the bathtub (it was a girl, naturally, since they are disposable). But don’t worry, the prostitute is pregnant so there’s already a replacement on the way.  

I mean seriously, I don’t even know what to do with all that.  Rabbit’s wife can’t even make a terrible mistake on her own. She has to be forced into it by the actions of a man; because he’s withdrawn his affection she can no longer function.  Lack agency much, Janice?  And then God-The-Author essentially punishes the temerity of refusing her husband sex by taking her baby away from her.

This doesn’t mean my friend was in any way wrong for liking Rabbit, Run.  By all accounts it’s great and undoubtedly brilliantly written and it’s a product of its time and should be viewed thru that lens.  He’s right, I probably should read it to be the well-informed person I hope to be. It just means that for me, personally, I’ve had enough.  My father left, my stepfather left, I’ve been pressured into sexual encounters I didn’t want and have talked to thousands of women (at my regular job as a fertility counselor) who have also been pressured into sexual encounters they didn’t want and/or who were themselves abandoned by fathers and husbands.  I have been told by a variety of sources that any physical weakness I have (such as, Janice needing more than 10 minutes to recover after giving birth before getting back in the saddle again) is simply me being a pussy and I need to suck it up and not complain and keep my man happy because a man’s temporary happiness is more important than a woman’s physical pain.  I have read dozens if not hundreds of books about the subject of male ennui, and seen hundreds, if not thousands, of movies and TV shows about it.  

I. Have had.  Enough.   

I’ve had enough of it in my personal life and I’ve for sure had enough in my fictional one. The last time I checked, engaging with fiction is a voluntary endeavor and not like eating my fucking spinach.  Reading as a chore? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Please don’t get me wrong here.  I believe that men’s experiences as relayed in these sorts of novels are profound and meaningful to other men.  I believe fully that men have a different set of drivers and experiences than women starting at conception itself (don’t @ me, people, it’s really actually science, the Y chromosome makes testosterone in the womb and it does stuff to ya as your brain forms, even if as some people claim there are exceptions and I’d never dare to quibble with their lived experience, it is the general rule) and they deserve to have books written by and for them about those drivers and experiences.  I get that in many, many cases these tales are told not as recipes for happiness/success, but as cautionary tales or as commentary on brutal reality. In many, many cases there are larger points being made and a greater theme underlying the penis pity party. I do get that. I would never presume to tell anyone that novels of male indulgence are bad, or not worth reading. I believe men have the absolute right to tell their stories and humans can and should sip from lots of different fictional cups along the way.  

But do they all have to be presented as MUST READ?  Because there are SO MANY OF THEM!!!!

Seriously, women have drivers and experiences too and there are far fewer books about the female experience.  Additionally, a whole lot of books allegedly written about or including the female experience – even those written by women – are written like women ARE men or are there for men’s gratification (either the character or the reader) , such as in The Corrections where Jonathan Franzen writes a lesbian character and somehow has her act first like a seductive ingenue, then like a man’s sexual fantasy of how a lesbian would act, and finally brings it on home having her act how a man would act in a similar situation (so she sleeps around and mistreats her partner badly).  And Franzen then is somehow PRAISED by “the critics” as being good at writing women.   

Less often, but too often, women are written from the perspective of maleness as a default setting, as if women are flawed and lamer men and not some other thing entirely, or that they’re entirely some other thing and not people at all.  Or we’re regaled with a thinly veiled parable about how men have made the rules and women need to live within them in a certain way or be considered failures to be punished accordingly (Anna Karenina, looking at you here).  There are really very few great novels featuring female protagonists at all, let alone that I relate to, and barely any that I find uplifting. I walk away from most books containing a female protagonist thinking “wow, thank God I’m not her,” and I find I’m mighty tired of women-who-misbehave-will-get-beaten-down cautionary tales.

Aside from that, it’s condescending as fuck to have our heads patted and be told “here’s a list of the greatest books in human history, Hon, read them to be a learned and well-educated person” only to find out that the Greatest Story Ever Told was actually Portnoy’s Complaint

Or if you prefer a more tangible example, here: Screenshot 2019-08-16 at 9.18.11 AM

Acclaimed literature, y’all, by Updike lover, and probably really cool guy Nicholson Baker.  I think it’s meant as a joke, and Christ, I sure hope so.

There is no written law that states anybody has to read an endless stream of books that are boring, gross, 400 pages too long, and shed no light on our personal experience in order to be well-rounded people.  And we for sure don’t have to read them at the expense of other things we’d rather be doing. It isn’t a black mark on our cool-chick-ometer if we decline the invite. It isn’t a sign of a willfully ignorant person for a woman take a pass on learning more about a topic (bastards and the inner lives of bastards) she feels she is already an expert in.  There is no shortage of material out there to read and watch and listen to. Somewhere between 200,000 and 2 million books are published a year, depending on the statistics you use, and in my rough estimation 190,000-1.9 million of them are male-centric.  

And if that’s not enough, streaming is a thing now if you prefer to watch rather than read.  We don’t have to waste our lives engaging with concepts we would rather not hear about any more.

I still believe, fully, that everyone should read books about everyone.  Of course. Fiction is a lens through which we can learn to view the motives of other people with empathy, even as they do some pretty heinous things .  But once you’ve read some of them and feel, like I feel, that you’ve had enough of a bad thing, I hereby absolve you of the need to continue reading similarly themed books till you’ve crossed them all off some arrogant dude’s imaginary list of bastard-centric literature.  

I think it is absolutely fine and dandy if a person prefers to read The Hunger Games or Little House on the Prairie or Anne of Green Gables because even though they are kids’ books, kids’ books are one of the few places I recall ever seeing a true and realistic accounting of my experience as a female human – even though, or possibly BECAUSE, they are completely asexual.  This doesn’t mean I’m asexual, or that I require or desire that in my fiction, just that stories without that dynamic have been where I’ve found the truest representations of myself.  

I happen to find that interesting and worthy of reflecting upon.   I think there’s a reason why women write and read more YA novels than men tend to and it’s because it’s the only place we can be free of penis-based literature.

In closing, my fellow women, I call upon you – yes YOU –  to stop reading some man’s book list before you feel you can write your own stories.  Write your story before you spend another second reading someone else’s. 

Look, I’m just like you. I’m a mom, I’m middle-aged and haven’t accomplished much creatively speaking as of yet, but I’m out here giving it a whirl because I know I have a unique perspective just like you do.  All these men’s books of the past half- to three-quarters-of-a century are regaling us the same goddamn story about the needs of a sad penis and the dull and weak women who surround said penis and fail to live up to its like, so totally reasonable expectations.

I heard that one already.  I want to read your story, ladies!

*I enthusiastically agree with the part of this essay where Rebecca Solnit called Hemingway’s prose “Tonka Toys”.  One of my fave encounters with mansplaining in the wild was when I wrote a piece about a romance novel I enjoyed as a teen written by a woman who revolutionized the genre and pretty much singlehandedly invented “bodice rippers”.  Hey, a woman did something and I found that worthy of note. Men came winging out of the stratosphere to define “purple prose” for me as if it was a term that I’d never heard before and to explain that Hemingway was better because he wrote sparsely.  It was even suggested that the Twilight books were well written because they were sparse (How far would YOU go to prove an absolutely meaningless point?  If it’s to the point of calling Twilight well-written, I humbly submit you may have gone too far).  

Tonkas may be fine for little boys but I’m a girl and I prefer playing with my sparkly holiday Barbie, so fuck off and get trampled by a bull, why don’t you?

No More Tender Vittles

No More Tender Vittles

This piece was originally published at Ordinary Times Magazine.

Andre was running late.  

Andre couldn’t stand being late. He knew people thought of him as a bit of a slacker and because of that, he dressed with care, spoke politely, worked fast, and was punctual. But he knew that despite his best efforts, they’d notice he was late today and use it as a data point to support their original assertion that he was a slacker.

It didn’t seem fair exactly that people could make a decision about a person and then forevermore be on the lookout for evidence to support their conclusion. It didn’t seem fair exactly that nothing you said or did for the rest of your whole entire life mattered once people had made up their minds about you.

Then he caught a light and the traffic gods were with him. Andre rammed his hovercar into the closest parking hole without hitting the brakes till the last possible second. He barely managed to stop within the zone. If he’d gone any further he would have had to keep going out the exit side of the hole and come around for another try and he totally for sure would have been late if that happened. But he had no time to celebrate his superior parking ability. He sprinted into work with about 60 seconds to spare, smiling as the security camera scanned his face. Officially on time.

There was a horse in the lobby. Looked pissed, which was par for the course. It was one of those huge ones, a Clydesdale or whatever, with those big hairy hooves that could kick your skull open, probably. Andre had never drawn a horse on any of his assignments and getting a look at the sucker he was pretty glad of that.

Nova was bringing him in. Nova weighed about 45 kilograms soaking wet and Andre thought for a moment how stupid it was they didn’t take an animal control agent’s size into account when handing out assignments. He knew it was supposed to be fairer that way, but in a cosmic sense it kind of wasn’t fair at all. Nova had a split lip, a pretty bad one, and she was limping. She sent him a rueful look and he knew it had been a rough one. Poor kid. “Hey.”

The horse snarled at Andre, like an actual snarl, which was disturbing.  “Hay? Real funny, pal”.

“Shut up, Wilbur.”

“Wilbur was the man, you twat.  You mean Mr. Ed.”

“Ok, shut up, Mr. Ed.”  He gave Nova a once-over. “Are you ok?”

“Don’t aggravate him, Andre, I barely got him here as it is. And I’m fine. Cracked some ribs, probably I think.”

Mr. Ed made a sound that was somewhere between a human laugh and a whinny. “You know what they say, once you’ve had horse, you’ll walk funny.”

Nova elbowed his flank. “Shut up or I’ll trank you again.” In response Mr Ed raised his tail in the air and plopped a massive pile of moist green turds onto the lobby floor. Nova considered it with a sigh. “That’s about the last thing I need right now.” She looked like she was about to fall over from exhaustion and Andre was overcome by chivalry.

“I’ll get it.”

“Really, Dre?”

“Yeah.”

“Won’t you be late though?”

“Eh. They got me on camera, they know I’m here.  Work is work, right?”

“Oh gosh, well, thanks!” Nova led the horse into the waiting elevator and pushed the button.  

The horse looked back at Andre with a smirk. “Enjoy.” The door closed before Andre could reply.   

By the time he got up to Argonne’s office, everyone else had picked up their assignments and left. Yay, one-on-one time with the boss. Fantastic. “Late again, DeLuca?”

“There was a horse in the lobby.”

“It’s always something.” Argonne took his phone and downloaded Andre’s assignment into it. “Here, kitty, kitty.” Andre thought again about poor Nova wrangling that Clydesdale and here he was getting a cat. Didn’t seem quite fair, cosmically, but you can’t change the world, so. 

A cat seemed like such an easy retrieval he decided to bring Harry along. If Harry didn’t get out enough he got stir crazy and weird and even though it was a risky thing to do, Andre swung back by the apartment to get him.

Harry was laying sprawled on the couch, one of his freakishly long arms draped along the back of the couch, and the other buried in a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. He had orange dust in his black fur and all over his mouth, and he was naked. Andre happened to know Harry hadn’t showered for a good long time and if he hadn’t happened to know it, he would have known it anyway because of the smell. He pushed down a wave of disgust, since he couldn’t exactly judge Harry by human standards, and Harry had certainly not asked to be created that way or any way at all.

The chimp was watching one of the Game Show Networks, a rerun of that stupid old show with the people on a desert island. Andre vaguely recalled his grandma had liked it. Harry loved that show because he loved anything that seemed tropical. Said it was in his blood. “Is this when the Skipper meets Gilligan? I love that one.”

“Up yours.” Harry sat up and touched the picture to pause it and Andre was chagrined to see he left a massive Cheeto fingerprint smear on the tv screen. “What are you doing here?”

“You want to get out of here for a few? I could use some backup.” In reality, Harry was generally more of a hindrance on retrievals than a help, but Andre figured he maybe needed a reason to live, just like everybody else needed a reason. So when he could, Andre treated Harry like a sidekick, a partner maybe even. He figured maybe it helped his friend get through the long days of his confinement, having a purpose, even if it was just charity.

“Hellz yeah. What do you got?”

“Cat. You gotta wear clothes though.”  

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Since he hadn’t had time for breakfast, Andre mixed up an energy smoothie while Harry put on a striped shirt and a pair of red Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls. He felt bad for the guy, for his dignity, but they had to dress him adorably when they went out in public in case he had to pass. Selling a pet chimp was hard enough, so he had to look every inch of the part. Harry posed comically, a forced innocent expression on his simian face. “Ooo ooo aaa aaa?”

“Heh. You look like a chimp to me. Keep your mouth shut for a freaking change and we won’t have any trouble.” Harry nodded once and went out the windowdoor to the hovercar while Andre guzzled his breakfast and surveyed the ruins of his apartment. Since Harry moved in the place was thrashed, there was garbage everywhere, fur everywhere, the air smelled like sweat and bad breath and something worse that he didn’t want to know what it was. He didn’t dare walk around barefoot or he’d get tetanus or ringworm or something probably. He’d had to fire the cleaning lady so she didn’t rat him out for having a genetically enhanced animal on the premises. Most pressing, Andre found himself practically dying of the hornies since he couldn’tve had a girl come up in that mess even if he could have convinced Harry to hide in the closet for a few hours. And even if he could have convinced himself to bang some unsuspecting woman knowing that Harry was hiding in the closet listening in the entire time.

It sucked, and sucked hard, but what else was he supposed to do? Put the guy out onto the street? Not like he was a dog or something who could blend in if he tried; a lone chimpanzee walking unaccompanied down the streets of urban Cincinnati was not exactly inconspicuous. What was he supposed to do? Turn Harry in, walk him across that lobby and into the elevator on a one-way-trip like how Nova had taken the horse? Harry was a half-step from human, it just…it didn’t seem right. Andre guzzled the dregs of his smoothie and as he felt the rush of the epinephrine start to kick in, he wondered for the millionth time if there might possibly be a safe place in the world for Harry that wasn’t the inside of Andre’s apartment.

It was turning out to be a nice day so they put the top down on the hovercar. Since Harry didn’t get out much, he loved to feel the sun on his skin, the wind in his fur. But unfortunately the trip, while pleasant, didn’t last long. Much to Andre’s surprise, the cat wasn’t hiding out in a fancy neighborhood, it was only a few blocks away from his own place. Most of his retrievals were of course in the better neighborhoods where the rich people lived, since regular people didn’t have the spare change to waste on genetically altering their pets. This cat was in regular old low income housing, in a run down part of town Andre didn’t recall ever having visited before.

Harry played navigator, checking the GPS for directions, moving his finger across the screen of Andre’s phone as he held it securely in his foot. “Third story, round the back. Not the corner one, second one over.” Andre was glad to see there was no hovercar parked at the window dock, made things a lot easier when the perps didn’t have a way to run. He docked the hovercraft on the parking ledge. Harry looked at him drily. “You want me to come in?”

“Shut up and get in the back, would you? There could be cameras.” In the backseat of his car Andre had a cage and some retrieval gear, but he hoped he wouldn’t need it. Gloves, a loop and pole, even a trank if it came to it. But it was just a cat. Maybe it could be reasoned with. It was always better when they could be reasoned with. Harry scrambled out of sight and hid under a blanket Andre kept there in case he had to retrieve a parrot. Andre approached the windowdoor and peered through. The woman who lived in the apartment gazed warily at him through the glass. “Animal Control, ma’am.” She didn’t move, just swallowed hard. Oh yeah, she was hiding something, that was for sure. Andre tapped the screen of his phone. “I’m sending you the warrant now.” He could hear the buzz of her phone as it went through. She let it buzz five times before she answered, trying to prolong the inevitable, he figured. Her face had gone very red. Slowly she scrolled down, reading every word of the warrant. Innocent people never bothered to read the warrant, they just let him in. “You’ll see it’s all in order. Did you want to call a lawyer, maybe, before you let me in?”

She looked to the side as if someone was talking to her. “No.” She opened the windowdoor and let him in. It was a nice little place. Girls always kept such nice places, single girls anyway. Andre wondered if he should look into moving someplace like this building, maybe keep paying the rent for Harry and just find a nice little place of his own instead. It would cost a lot, but as long as he didn’t have to eat, drink, or keep the lights on it was doable. “Hey! Are you even listening to me?? I said, what do you want?”

“We’ve had reports…”

Before he could continue, he heard an unmistakable sound. Andre had grown up with pets himself, with normal pets anyway, and only one thing on earth made that sound. It was the sound of a cat jumping down from someplace high, in this case a dark wooden entertainment center that held a TV and several potted plants. “I guess you’re here for me.” The cat put his paws out in front and stuck his tail up into the air and stretched. He was a black and white cat, longhaired, with white mittens like that kind of black and white cat always seemed to have. He blinked his green eyes slowly and yawned, exposing sharp white teeth and his scratchy pink tongue curling. Then he sat and began to lick a paw.

“Tigger, no!”

“Tigger, did you say, ma’am?” The bastard wasn’t even orange. Andre made a note of the cat’s name on his phone. It was that kind of attention to detail that would get him ahead with Argonne. Eventually.

“I don’t want for you to get into any trouble, Zara, ok? If I go now you won’t get in trouble. That’s the way it works. You know as well as I do that if a human knowingly lies to Animal Control it’s a felony. This way they’ll let you off with a warning, right?” He put his paw down and looked expectantly Andre’s direction for confirmation.

“Exactly. If the owner turns the pet over when asked and is willing to testify, then the state doesn’t press charges.” The woman burst into tears. Andre was glad he was dealing with a good kitty. A fair number of enhanced pets would happily let their owners hang right alongside them, begging and pleading and guilt-tripping their humans into senseless acts of heroism and doomed last stands. “We don’t want you, Ms. Briggs, we just want the bastards who are doing this to defenseless animals.”

The cat walked over and rubbed against his owner’s leg. “Aw Zara, come on. We had fun. This day had to come someday.” She picked him up like a baby and nuzzled him, and Andre could hear the low purr from the cat’s throat. “Enough of that mushy stuff, now.” Tigger wriggled in her arms till he could get a good look at Andre. “She won’t get into trouble, though, right?  You promise? If I come peacefully, she’s in the clear?”

“As long as she’s willing to testify about whoever made you.”

“She doesn’t know, though. She didn’t have anything to do with it, she just found me.”

“Who made you?  Do you know?” Andre knew it was clutching at straws to ask, because the animals rarely retained any memory of the enhancement process, but the more information he could give the bosses, the better. 

“Couldn’t tell ya. I was a scrawny kitten living off scraps when Zara found me. I don’t have the vaguest recollection of how I got there. She didn’t even know I talked for the longest time. I scared the hell out of her when I started, heh.”

Zara started laughing through her tears.  “No more Tender Vittles.”

“Yeah, that’s right – no more Tender Vittles.” Tigger rested his forehead against Zara’s cheek for a moment. “You’ll be ok, kid. Just get yourself a real cat like God intended. ‘Cause I was never meant to be.” The cat squirmed till he dropped free from Zara’s arms and ran to the windowdoor. It was still open, just a crack. Zara wiped at her cheeks but more tears came as quick as she wiped them away. Tigger looked back at her.  “So long, and thanks for all the fish.” And he slithered out the door and was gone.

Andre saw through the glass of the windowdoor that the cat had hopped into the passenger seat of his hovercar, which was a relief, because he didn’t feel like chasing him down. As Andre filled out the forms on his phone to confirm retrieval, he tried to ignore the woman’s quiet sobs. “Sorry, Ms. Briggs, but I, uh – I need your John Hancock. Your signature?”  She stopped crying…well, mostly anyway…and glared at him. He held out the phone and she pressed her thumb onto the screen.

“How do you even sleep at night?” Andre had heard it all before and he knew better than to take the bait and get embroiled in some sort of a big philosophical argument with a grieving owner. That was for the politicians to worry about, not him. He was just doing his job and if he didn’t do it there’d be 20 other guys and gals lined up to do it inside of 5 minutes.  

He left the way he’d come in and climbed into the driver’s seat beside the cat. The furry jerk had his leg hitched up in the air and was licking his ass vigorously. “Do I need to put you in the cage?”

He didn’t even have the decency to stop licking himself.  “Does it…snarf…look like…mlerf…you need to…ffrelf…put me in the cage?”

“No.”

“Well, there ya go then.” The cat finished what he was doing and sat up. “So why d’you have a genetically enhanced chimpanzee hiding in the back of your car?”

“What?”

“Don’t insult my intelligence. The nose knows, man. Smells like he’s been eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or something, amirite?”

Andre willed Harry to stay put, stay silent so they’d have plausible deniability at the least, but he didn’t.  He popped his head out of the blanket and said, “What’re we gonna do now, Dre?”

“Goddammit, Harry, why did you talk? It was our word against his if you wouldn’t’ve talked!”

“Even you’re not that stupid, Andre. Come on! Animal Control gets accused of having an enhanced pet, whether he saw me or not, whether I stayed quiet or recited all of Roddy McDowell’s lines from Planet of the Apes, they’re gonna investigate! They’re gonna find my hair all over your apartment…and would it kill you to clean up once in a while, for Chrissake…”

“Well, Harry, maybe I could manage it if you weren’t such a freaking slob…”

“Even if I was a neat freak, they can get my DNA from a single hair!”

“Ladies, ladies.” Tigger licked his paw and wiped at his face with it. “Let’s save this lovers’ spat for another time, shall we? The question ‘what are we gonna do now, Dre?’ is sitting on the table before us, and I’ve got a suggestion, if you’d care to hear it.”

Andre sent a glare Harry’s direction, imagining his life going up in smoke for the sake of a damn dirty ape who hated showers and loved Cheetos. “I’m all ears, Tigger.”

Harry chuckled. “Tigger? His name is Tigger?  Dude, you ain’t even orange!”

The cat scrubbed his face with his paw furiously. “It’s because I’m bouncy, if you must know. Or I was, in my younger days. Now if I may continue?” Tigger shot Harry a side eye and Harry gestured at him to keep talking. “My suggestion is this. You pull over and I jump out and walk away. You tell ’em you lost me. I know you guys lose us now and then. You take your slap on the wrist, I keep my mouth shut, like, forever. No harm, no foul.”

It was a stupid idea. “They’ll just send somebody back to Zara’s place and pick you up again.”   

“I won’t go back to Zara’s.  She’s a good kid, but truth be told, the life of a housecat was getting kinda meh for me anyway.  The ennui.”

“The ennui?” Harry guffawed incredulously at the choice of words.

“It’s like French, for boredom.”  

“Oh I know very well what ennui means, you can trust me on that, Mr. Pussycat.  I could tell you about ennui for hours and hours.”

The cat considered Harry knowingly.  “Yeah, I bet you could, you poor bastard.”

Andre breathed in sharply through his nose and tried to keep his cool. The cat never looked his way, just kept washing his face. Andre looked at Harry, who shrugged, as if telling him the ball was in his court, and somehow the pitifulness of his friend’s gesture brought it home, how screwed they actually were. He hit the steering wheel a couple times in frustration, because this was a disaster, it was a complete and utter disaster, Argonne was never gonna let him hear the end of it, this would undo years of near-flawless work on his part. He groaned through his teeth and shook his head with vigor, as if he could just shake it all away. No good deed goes unpunished, ever ever ever it seemed like. “Fine. FINE! You got a preference where you want us to let you off?”

“Here is as good as anywhere.” Andre maneuvered the hovercar down to street level, past a fruit stand and some kids playing in the street. “Where do you take guys like me anyway? What do you do with us? I’ve always wondered.”

“I don’t know, believe it or not. They don’t tell us.” Andre drove the car into an alley to avoid the security cameras out on the street. There were supposed to be security cams in alleys too but they cost so much and were always getting vandalized, so most of the ones off the beaten path were fake or broken. He sure hoped the cams in this alley fell into one of those two categories. The cat stretched and leapt onto the top of the door frame where he balanced precariously for a moment. “Catch you on the flip side, gentlemen. Or not.” And he jumped onto the ground and scurried away while Andre and Harry watched.

Harry climbed into the front seat. Andre was lost in thought, trying to come up with a story he could tell Argonne so he wouldn’t get his ass completely chewed. He was so lost in thought he didn’t really pay much attention to Harry messing around with the glove box, debating as he was the merits of saying the cat had escaped versus that he had never been there to begin with and that he’d hit the wrong button on the touchscreen when he verified retrieval. But Harry was messing around with the glove box, and then IN the glove box, and when the chimp pulled out Andre’s service revolver that got his attention right quick. “What the hell are you doing? Harry, wait…”

Before Andre could even think of what to do, let alone do it, Harry had taken careful aim at the cat, who had climbed up onto a dumpster and was in midsquat, about to leap up onto a narrow ledge on a nearby building. The gun went off and Andre smothered a cry. “Problem solved.” Harry put the safety on and shoved the gun back into the glove compartment. He slammed the small door shut and Andre jumped at the sound. He realized he was shaking, shaking all over with anger, fear, sorrow, and something else underneath it all that he didn’t want to look at too closely. His stomach churned and he felt tears burn his eyes. “The cat ran, Dre. You had no choice.”

“Why did you do that for Harry, it would have been ok, I would’ve, I could’ve, I would’ve took the punishment, it was no big deal, everything was cool…” Andre realized he was babbling and forced himself to stop talking.

“Because screw him, that’s why. Screw him. Because better him than us, that’s why.”

Andre grew dimly aware that the troubling thing lurking underneath the swirl of more acceptable emotions he was experiencing was relief. “Better? Better him?”

“That’s right. Better him than us. The cat ran. Which he did, in a way, didn’t he, if you think about it? You had no choice.”

“No choice.” Andre nodded, and swallowed, and nodded again. The anger and fear and sorrow began to recede into the background and with more room to stretch its legs, the relief began to grow. It was wrong, what had happened, it felt wrong, and he knew it was wrong, but the thing was, if he was being honest the thing that just happened was really what he did anyway. It was what an animal control agent did. He took things…creatures…beings…things…that could talk and think and feel and had people that loved them across a lobby and into an elevator and then they went away somewhere and probably ended up just exactly like Tigger did and he was ok with that because he didn’t see it happen firsthand.

“All that just happened was an animal killing another animal, Andre.  It happens every day. It’s the most natural thing in the whole wide world for that to happen.”  

Natural. It was natural. It was entirely within the bounds of nature that a strong animal kills a weaker one in order to live. But what the hell did that mean anyway, natural, I mean seriously he was a guy sitting in a hovercar for Chrissake, how natural was that? He was a guy sitting in a hovercar beside a talking chimpanzee that had just wasted a talking cat. It was disturbing how quickly a person could go from thinking something was unnatural to justifying it as being natural all in the same moment. “Natural, yeah.”

Harry peered at Andre with those hooded round eyes of his for a long moment and then he leaned over and grabbed something from the back. Then he swung himself out of the hovercar with that casual ape athleticism he possessed, and scrambled up onto the dumpster where Tigger’s body lay. What he’d grabbed was the body bag that Andre always brought along in case a retrieval ever went south, like, deep south, which had never happened to him before but apparently it had now. Harry shoved the cat into the bag and then straightened up with sudden purpose just exactly how people do when their phone is set on vibrate and it rings. Andre realized with dismay that Harry had taken the phone and he knew it was because Harry hadn’t trusted him with it. Harry still thought Andre might turn him in and had taken the phone so he couldn’t call for backup. The chimp looked at the screen and touched it a few times and read something. He glanced at Andre with an amused air, tucked the phone back into the front pocket of the red Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls and leapt from the edge of the dumpster into the passenger seat of the car. He landed lightly in the seat, depositing the cat’s body in the back of the hovercar at the same time. “You got a text. From Nova, Lothario.”

“Oh yeah?” For a chilling moment Andre considered how strong Harry was and how far he could jump and how fast he could move. For a moment Andre considered how tough it would be to retrieve a chimpanzee, harder than a horse probably even, then he pushed that thought away because Harry was his friend. “What’d she want?”

“Meet you for drinks.”             

“Huh.”

“Life goes on.”

Andre stepped on the pedal and the hovercar rose straight up.  Drinks with Nova sounded pretty ok to him. “Yeah, it does, I guess. Life goes on.”

After all, it was just a cat.  

 

   

Photo by Tambako the Jaguar

Photo by Tambako the Jaguar

There’s Something About Mary Sue

There’s Something About Mary Sue

This piece was originally published at Ordinary Times Magazine.

The topic of “Mary Sue” came up on Twitter the other day. A friend of mine (we’ll call him “Rod Shelley”) mentioned that he thought that people calling characters Mary Sue was sexist because they always seemed to apply it to female and not male characters. This spurred an interesting conversation.

So – is the expression “Mary Sue” sexist?

Rod was absolutely correct in his observation that “Mary Sue” is a term that is used to exclusively describe female characters. But this is because from its inception, Mary Sue is a term that depicts a certain type of always-female character. Mary Sue is not applied to dudes because it’s not a descriptor that is applicable to male characters. It’s like the term “buxom” – it’s pretty much exclusively used to describe females but it’s not because it’s a sexist term per se, it’s because it’s a word that describes a quality present in females and not males. Buxom, like Mary Sue, can certainly be used in sexist ways, but it isn’t inherently sexist and it certainly isn’t sexist to apply it exclusively to women, because it describes a quality some women have. “Mary Sue”, the expression, isn’t anti-woman any more than the word “priapic” is anti-male.

Even though it’s become ubiquitous of late, the origins of Mary Sue are humble. It’s from A Trekkie’s Tale, a very funny, very short parody story about a certain type of writing that was…and still is…common in fan fiction. In 1974, when A Trekkie’s Tale was first published, fan fiction was just starting to become an Official Thing (in those dark pre-Internet days, fanfic spread at conventions and not online). Paula Smith, the author of A Trekkie’s Tale, realized that most bad fan fiction – particularly that written by women authors (then again, most who write fan fic are female so it goes to follow that most bad fan fic would therefore be written by women)- fell into a peculiar and oddly specific category, which we now refer to as Mary Sue. In Smith’s words (and may I just say I adore how spectacularly startrekian this is), “I simply named a bug, I found a new fern. I identified a piece of humanity and put a name to it, but that’s all I did.”

The qualities of a Mary Sue:

*A female character who is pretty obviously meant to be a stand in for the author (particularly in fan fic) or the author’s perceived audience (fan service).

*She’s an original, non-canon character who comes in from seemingly out of nowhere, with little explanation. If she has a back story at all, it’s fascinating and/or heart wrenching and/or incredibly impressive – in the case of the original Mary Sue, “the youngest lieutenant in Starfleet at only 15 and a half years old”.

*She’s incredibly gorgeous (often possessing rare and unusual beauty – IMO green or violet eyes and wildly curly hair in an unusual shade are dead giveaways), is unbelievably smart, witty, charming, sweet, and is often but not always a badass.

*The regularly occurring canon characters are bizarrely, even inexplicably smitten with her. If canon characters are female, Mary Sue becomes protegé/daughter/best friend/love interest, if the canon characters are male, Mary Sue becomes apprentice/daughter/kid sister/love interest. What’s more, the regular characters want to protect and defend Mary Sue, not just coexist alongside her. An intimate relationship of some sort begins immediately, no getting-to-know-you grace period, regardless of the canon character’s personality.  Even if the main character is generally taciturn, unfriendly, or standoffish, they aren’t any of those things when it comes to Mary Sue. She is embraced by virtually all the regular characters, and if there’s a recurring character who doesn’t fall head over heels in like with Mary Sue, they’re typically portrayed as bitter or jealous of her greatness.

*Mary Sue possesses an impossibly wide array of talents that surpass the skills of all the canon characters. She’s even good at things that the regular characters do that she’s never tried before. She can hack computers, set broken bones, fight demons, bake cupcakes, and play the lute. She’s well read, well dressed, well heeled, well connected, and well rested. There is nothing Mary Sue cannot do when she sets her mind to it. She puts all the everyday characters to shame with her wonderfulness, but she doesn’t rub it in their faces, though, because she’s also totally nice. Most of these characteristics aren’t relevant to the plot, they’re just there to make Mary Sue the awesomest.

*There never seems to be any price to Mary Sue’s skillset, either in acquisition or execution. She never (well, rarely) spent years in a university learning stuff, she never spent years slaving away in a workplace to get where she is today, she’s just inherently, naturally born amazing and the world has recognized this by giving her responsibilities far beyond her years. She never has to juggle priorities or limit herself in any way, she has an endless supply of time and money and energy to be great at however many things the plot needs her to be great at, plus all the things the writer happens to think are cool. She only ever has to pay a fee in terms of physical limitations or personal sacrifices when her fragility and spirit of self-sacrifice makes her more sympathetic and endearing to the canon characters.

*Usually, she dies a tragic death in which she saves everyone on the ship/planet/police squad and the main characters are utterly transformed by it in ways that they were never transformed by previous characters’ deaths, even when they’d known the other characters for years.

*And finally, (and I think this is the surest tell) she deprotagonizes the other characters. Suddenly, a show that was an ensemble cast about people on a spaceship or two brothers fighting demons to give a couple random and meaningless examples I just spun out of thin air, becomes about this other person entirely for an episode or three (or in the pages of a fanfic) leaving the characters most of us show up to see sitting on the sidelines waving pom-poms for her. Even more so, the recurring characters act completely out of character on Mary Sue’s behalf – gushing and paying compliments and giving hugs – even though they don’t DO stuff like that, like, ever.

Now, what a Mary Sue is and isn’t beyond all that, is a matter of great debate. The term has been watered down and bastardized and is admittedly grossly mis- and overapplied. It’s been stretched to include lots of variations, most famously something called a Canon Sue. Canon Sue is mostly just like her big sister Mary Sue, but she’s a recurring character. All the same qualities apply, though – Sue’s just too good to be true and she’s just born awesome and all the boys fall in love with her and all the girls fall in love with her too and she saves the whole entire universe. Be they Canon Sue or Classic Mary Sue, Mary Sues are loved by everyone, protected by everyone, cherished by everyone, and they are there to help everyone through their sheer unadulterated awesomeness. Mary Sues are awesome without assistance from anybody else, right up till they swoon dramatically and die from an overdose of saving the world.

At first my friend Rod shrugged off my claims that Mary Sue has to be female by definition, because as he said, he sees plenty of male characters who are Chosen Ones, who are inexplicably awesome at something-or-the-other for no real reason. But if you take a closer look, while there are absolutely plenty of male heroes in fiction that are Chosen Ones, they aren’t Mary Sues.

Everybody in a galaxy far, far away, doesn’t magically fall in love with Luke Skywalker. Heck, he walks into a bar and a total stranger says “I don’t like you” and he has to be saved by a geezer. Han Solo is always busting his chops and the princess he comes to rescue insults his height. He requires the help of Han and ObiWan’s ghost to blow up the Death Star. Later he gets his ass kicked and his hand chopped off and he needs his dad to kill the Emporer for him.

Everybody at Hogwarts doesn’t magically fall in love with Harry Potter. He has to deal with a hostile press corps, tons of people who don’t like him for various reasons, and even those who like him, don’t always believe in him. He needs the help of dozens of people to defeat Voldemort, even Neville, even his archenemy Snape for Dobby’s sake!! Nobody protects him from anything, even several people who by all rights should be looking out for him.

Everybody in the Matrix doesn’t magically fall in love with Neo.  In fact, Morpheus is hard pressed to convince anyone else that Neo is the Chosen One. Neo needs help from Morpheus, Trinity, and lots of other people (including parts of the Matrix itself) to defeat Agent Smith and save Zion.

Everybody in the Jedi Order doesn’t magically fall in love with Anakin. Mace Windu and Yoda never trusted him, the Jedi Council refuses to make him a master and even his teacher ObiWan doesn’t exactly have his back. He may fly a pod racer when he’s 9 (at Qui-Gonn’s request – not exactly protecting the little bugger, was he?) but he is very far from being universally loved or good at everything.

All the other characters have to protect and love a Mary Sue. That’s the deal with a Mary Sue. She is universally loved. She is universally nurtured. She isn’t just Chosen, she’s Cared About. She doesn’t even have to be chosen at all (the original Mary Sue isn’t a Chosen One!) she just needs to be adored. Mary Sue is a vector of wish fulfillment for people who want to be loved and taken care of by everyone around them while still being seen as a brave and daring heroine, and it makes for unrealistic fiction that a dude – no matter how awesomesauce he is – will show up anywhere and be incessantly fawned over by both men and women alike. Mary Sue is already an unrealistic character on a good day.

Try to make Gary or Larry or Marty Stu show up on an established show and make a bunch of grizzled old reserved and surly dudes like Jean Luc Picard or Dean Winchester or Han Solo suddenly start gushing about how fantabulous he is and how they want to be BFF’s and protect him at all costs to themselves.  At least in any fashion that is remotely believable and doesn’t end up with you despising the smarmy little twerp and/or wanting to slap the older dudes for debasing themselves that way.

Go ahead, try it, I’ll wait.

Mary Sue is a woman for the same reason a Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a woman – it’s a close enough approximation of a type of person and/or scenario that exists in real life. It’s just plain more realistic that a winsome and talented chick shows up out of the blue and wins a bunch of people over without having to try very hard. That scenario is much more plausible than having a winsome and talented guy show up and everyone gloms onto him trying to be his mommy or daddy or buddy or pal or long-lost uncle or hoping to seduce him. Even more, it is much more realistic that people will behave protectively, solicitously, towards a female character than a male one. It may not be fair, it may not be right, but it be. Writing Mary Sue as a man just doesn’t ring true, and Mary Sue doesn’t ring too true to start out with. And trying to make Mary Sue a Gary Stu (kinda sorta) yielded one of the most hated characters in all of history…Wesley Crusher.

But maybe you’re still not convinced. Rod wasn’t. And that’s because the writing of a Mary Sue is only half the equation. There is also the reading (or the watching) of a Mary Sue. Because the audience is just as important to the existence of Mary Sue as the writer is.

The thing about Mary Sue that makes her interesting despite her triteness (to me anyway) is also what makes her 100% for sure not sexist. A Mary Sue is a female conception of an ideal female character. If you’re a man reading this and you’re confused or disgusted or annoyed by the ubiquity of Mary Sueism, it’s ok, Mary Sue isn’t intended for you anyway. Believe it or not, there are things in this world that women do for ourselves and each other and not for men, and one of them is Mary Sue. A Mary Sue is what women ourselves think the ideal woman should be. How can something that is made by women, for women, be sexist?? We Internetters have fun sometimes joking about men writing ridiculously idealized female characters but Mary Sue is women writing what women secretly want to be, down deep inside ourselves where we think no one is looking.

Women writing idealized female characters is as psychologically telling and as tragically hilarious as men writing idealized female characters. Men may write women as one-dimensional (and I hope it isn’t because men think the ideal woman IS one-dimensional) but women think the ideal woman ought to be so multidimensional that she’s positively interdimensional. Women have it drummed into us since the moment we emerge from the womb that we need to be successful in every arena and if they invent a new arena we better be good in that one too even though we never practiced before. Is it really any surprise that when we concoct an ideal woman, it’s one who is effortlessly successful at everything she ever tries?

A female friend of mine pointed out, and I fully, fully concur with her brilliance, that when it comes to Mary Sue, if our lives were a narrative, we would want to be the character who is good at everything, adored by all, protected and nurtured, and so desirable that love interests are actually fighting over us. She said, “We don’t get that in the real world and so we have to invent it.” This is very very much a similar sentiment to the sentiment of “unearned specialness” I explored in my recent piece about Twilight – and Bella Swan, the main character of Twilight, is widely considered to be one of the most well-known Canon Sues.

Men like wish fulfillment just like women do, but their wish fulfillment avatars tend to be more of the Everyman variety – guys who are nothing special, even damaged goods, but circumstances thrust them into situations where they have the opportunity to excel, to succeed, without really changing much or having to work too awfully hard at it. Everymen may be Chosen Ones, but they’re really only Chosen in one arena. Neo doesn’t also become a concert pianist and a New York Times Bestselling Author in addition to being The One. Luke becomes a Jedi, but he doesn’t even get the girl. This isn’t hard for me to understand – after all, I can see that would be a wonderful fantasy – to be average, to be flawed, to not succeed at most things, and still find some way to shine.

But honestly, that doesn’t do it for me.

I need to feel deserving of success. I need to feel like I earned it. I need to feel like the people around me – my parents and bosses and friends and love interests – look at me and see some version of perfection. Even my flaws are the flaws that they would have picked out if they could have ordered me from a catalog. And unfortunately for me, I find I need that even in my fictional escapades. I’m sure that this is in no small part because I’ve never felt good enough, or right enough, or fixed enough to be worthy of success or even worthy of love. It’s like a chronic case of Imposter Syndrome and most of us women are afflicted. Deep down inside, I don’t feel I’ll ever be good enough until I am perfect, and so in order to enjoy a fantasy – even just a FANTASY – I need to incorporate that desire to be seen as perfect through someone’s eyes, since that’s the only way I feel worthy.

Hence Mary Sue.

Mary Sue is not sexist. The term has been misused, grossly at times, with sexist undertones, for sure. But it isn’t a sexist term itself. The character “Mary Sue” is something that’s made for women, by women, and it endures because there’s something about Mary Sue that speaks to women both as creators and as readers.

 

Is “Supernatural” Sexist?

Is “Supernatural” Sexist?

Since I’m coming off my Supernatural binge I’m gonna take the opportunity to write about something that has long bothered me.

Is Supernatural sexist?

People are often surprised to hear I like Supernatural.  After all, I identify as a feminist, if an unorthodox one, and Supernatural is supposedly the most sexist show ever.

But I don’t think Supernatural IS sexist.  Even though I’m pretty sensitive to stuff like that, I really don’t find it at all sexist.  I have literally never been offended by anything that has happened on Supernatural, except for Charlie Bradbury, an insufferable Mary Sue who was ironically written to serve as some sort of female representation.  That’s right, the only thing I ever found sexist on Supernatural was the magical talisman that was supposed to prevent me from thinking Supernatural is sexist.  Don’t do me any favors, yo.  Don’t give me a crappy character you put 10 seconds of thought into and pretend it’s for me when it’s just so you can shut people like me up.

I think Supernatural,  rather than being a sexist extravaganza, is just a show that is mostly about men, and not as much about women.  And hey, that is perfectly ok with me.   IMVHO, it’s not at all feminist to demand that shows about men actually be about women.  Women don’t need special treatment, we just need an equal shot.  Right?  If we need special treatment to succeed, if we need to force people against their will to watch shows that feature female characters, then we really AREN’T equal, are we?  We’re just LARPing equality.  I want the real deal.

I enjoy a good estrogenfest now and then just as much as the next gal, but I also like watching shows that are about dudes doing dude things too.  There are an infinine number of stories out there in the world to be told and as such it’s only natural that some stories are mostly about guys.  So?  I believe with every fiber of my being as both a feminist and a fiction writer that there is room in the world for stories that are mostly about men, stories that are mostly about women, and stories about both men and women interacting together in all sorts of different ways.  A world that features ONLY tales that involve a set number of boys and a set number of girls every single time would drastically limit the number of stories that could be told.  As a writer, I will never approve of limiting the number of stories that can be told!  We can call for and hope for AND PERSONALLY CREATE more stories that are centered around female characters and include lots of female characters without demanding that stories that are about men be altered to include female characters when it doesn’t serve the story.

In the case of Supernatural, a show that is mostly about men, a lack of a main female character is not extreme, sexist or unusual.  It is realistic.  Fun fact, there are vast, huge swaths of the world in when men do things together without the presence of women.   (Trust me, I have 4 sons and my husband is a truck driver.)  There are men – and not a few – who go days, weeks, even months without having a single meaningful interaction with people of the female persuasion at all.  It is not because they think females have cooties and they think men are superior so they don’t let stinky ol’ girls join the He Man Woman Haters Club.  It is because they’re completely cut off from them.  Men LIKE WOMEN.  They seek them out whenever and however they can.  They want to have women in their life, would love to, they just don’t.

Seriously, Supernatural fans, after watching this show for 15 years, do you think Dean, Sam, Bobby, and even Castiel aren’t SUFFERING from not having women in their life?  They are, it’s obvious that they are.  It causes them great pain to not have love, to not have female companionship, and it’s a pain that a lot of men actually kind of relate to.  It is not sexist to portray men who are isolated and suffering because of their isolation.  That isolation is, in fact a huge part of why Dean, Sam, and Bobby are so miserable all the time.  They don’t have love in their lives.  (Castiel, of course, doesn’t need that in the same way, but he still might wish to have a female friend, which he is unable to have due to circumstances out of his control.)  These guys can’t have love in their lives.  Every time the Winchesters start to pursue a relationship (even just friendship) their loved ones die or they have to leave to protect them.

This matters.  This dynamic is critical to the plot of Supernatural, it’s critical to the characters as they’ve been written, it’s critical to the greater subtext (because it’s a story that is ABOUT MEN).  If the writers stick a girl into this masculine melee to tick off a SJW box on a PC checklist, it changes that dynamic irrevocably just like it would change the dynamic of Steel Magnolias if one of the Magnolias was Chris Hemsworth.  It undermines the fundamental premise of the show, which involves men, who through no fault of their own, just a terribly unlucky twist of fate, are cast into a battle they never wanted to fight, and as a result are completely cut off from the things that most of us take for granted, like family and love and happiness.

You know, the way billions of men have lived and died throughout history.  Alone.  Of all the men who have ever lived, only 40% of them have passed down Y chromosomes that endure to this day.   This means that huge, huge numbers of men have lived their entire lives and died without being married, without even getting close, without ever having children.  They went out on pirate ships and into monasteries and joined armies where they were surrounded by men all day every day.  Except for their mothers – and a good many men, like the Winchesters, lost their mothers at young ages – and the occasional encounter with a prostitute, the existence of a whole lot of men throughout history has been one of being surrounded by all dudes, all the time.  Even still to this day tons of men are single, have exclusively male friends (or no friends), may be employed someplace with primarily male coworkers, and just don’t see many women from day to day.

Again, this is not because they’re big fat mean sexist pigs, it’s because fate has put them into a position where they have no access to women, not even in the friend zone.   It’s not by choice, it’s by necessity.  It doesn’t make them happy to be alone, and Dean and Sam Winchester, in their female-less misery and isolation, exemplify this.  Sam and Dean, as silly as it sounds, are the fictional embodiment of millions, if not billions of dudes who went out and fought the good fight and saved the world in some small way and died, forgotten, without anyone there to mourn them but their brothers.   Dean and Sam are the modern day avatars of men who died at sea and on battlefields and in jungles and forests thousands of miles from home doing heroic ass shit to bring we ladies cinnamon and safety and never even got laid as thanks for their sacrifice.

Given all this, it’s really rather asinine to demand there be a consistent “female voice” in Supernatural because Supernatural is about the male experience – particularly the male experience feeling sexually and emotionally isolated from women and having to save a world you never even get to partake in.  Shoehorning a “female voice” in there could very easily drown out a good part of what the show is even about – male pain.  And not, you wiseacre you, because women never shut up either, but because men act differently when women are present.  Men, particularly tough men like the Winchesters, rarely talk about their feelings in front of women.  Men try to impress women, when women are present, by being brave and strong and stoic.  All those scenes where Dean and Sam sit in the Impala and hash out the terrible things they’ve been through would not happen if there was a girl or two in the car with them (well, they might, but they’d be a lot harder for me to buy as a viewer.)

Men being open to discussing feelings is really important.  Men seeing other men, even fictional men, doing so is really important.  I know some feminists think it’s fun to belittle male tears but I think every human being’s pain matters and for men to talk about their emotional baggage now and then with somebody now and then is critical.   Even if you really don’t give two figs about men and their feelz, it is important ~for women~ to allow men to explore male vulnerability through fiction even out of our own self-preservation.  We all know the trope of that strong, silent man who lashes out at his wife and his kids, we all know the story of that quiet guy who kept to himself right up till the day he snapped.  Don’t stifle yourselves, my dudes.

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Supernatural is exquisitely rare in that it shows men being vulnerable with each other sometimes.  We as feminists should be encouraging that and not sitting around whining that we didn’t get enough representation.  Because normalizing male vulnerability is the cure for toxic masculinity.

But Supernatural is about more than just male pain.  It’s about male fear.

What is the thing that men fear the most?  It’s not spiders, it’s not dental work, it’s not snakes like Indiana Jones, it’s not demons, it’s not even killer clowns.

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Men’s greatest fear, programmed into them from a kajillion years of evolution, is that they cannot protect their loved ones.  Whether or not you believe gender is mostly a social construct, the fact is, biologically, right down to their very DNA, male animals are hard wired to protect their flock or their tribe or their family and desperately fear failing at that task.  And Sam and Dean, again and again and again, are unable to protect the people closest to them.  They fail in their primary mission, protecting the defenseless people who rely on them and they fail at it repeatedly.   As the song says, it’s almost like they were born to lose and destined to fail.  The amount the Winchesters spectacularly fail at their fundamental role as men is downright emasculating.  But then they have to regroup and do it all over again.  And they do, no matter how hard it is, no matter how much it costs them.  Supernatural is a story of men who cannot accomplish the one thing men want the most – to keep their loved ones safe from harm – again, as a great many men throughout history have been unable to keep their loved ones safe from harm.  But it’s also a story of men who don’t give up trying.

When you watch Supernatural through that lens, it’s incredibly moving.   Dean and Sam try and fail and try and fail and fail and fail some more.  No wonder they push women away – they don’t want to let them down.  They don’t want to get them killed.  Their lives are a train wreck, their saga is tragedy-in-progress.  The “women in fridges” trope has come under fire recently and rightfully so, but Supernatural should be held fully exempt from that criticism because women dying on Supernatural serves the greater subtext of the show – men being chronically unable to protect those they love.  The greatest fear that men have.

So if the writers decide to now cram some adorable female version of Cousin Oliver into the show and have her survive???  and become a regular character?????  that would  undermine what the show is even about.  A show about men’s isolation and men’s pain and men’s deepest darkest fear that they can’t protect the people who rely upon them would be rendered meaningless by the introduction of a character who directly undermines that subtext.  Supernatural with a recurring female character who survives indefinitely invalidates the whole entire freaking point of Supernatural.  It’s not sexism not to have a “consistent female voice”, it’s simply staying true to what Supernatural is about!

But even if you look at Supernatural from a fully female perspective, it’s still not sexist.

So you don’t like men?  You don’t care about their fear and their pain?  Ok.  Let’s talk the women on Supernatural.  One of my biggest, hugest, personal pet peeves is how we are told that cramming spectacularly beautiful, always flawless, nearly always young women into a movie or show is supposedly feminist or something.  Are you seriously telling me that putting forth women whose physical attractiveness is so far beyond that of mere mortals as to be unattainable, that are OBVIOUSLY put into a program not for me to relate to but for men to ogle (no doubt whilst comparing gals like me unfavorably) is somehow more feminist than a show that doesn’t have a “consistent male voice”?

Are you kidding me?

Wonder-Woman-Movie-Sexism-Feminism

Shoving a gorgeous chick at me telling me it’s for my benefit when really it’s for the benefit of thirsty dudes does not feel even remotely feminist, mmmkay??

And Supernatural never, ever, ever does that.  The women in Supernatural are average and get dirty and look gross sometimes and don’t wear that much makeup and aren’t perfectly coiffed and most of them don’t ever dress slutty unless it’s important to the character (rare).  Watching the women on Supernatural feels like a breath of fresh air to me.  They look like me.  They’re put together like women who are working hard and fighting for their life would be and aren’t running from demons wearing 3 inch heels.

Let’s take a look at some of the gals who have shown up on Supernatural the most.

Sheriff Jody Mills:

Jodymills

Ellen and Jo:

EllenandJo

Meg:

meg

Ruby in both incarnations:

Ruby_Supernatural

While all these women are beautiful, their beauty is attainable.  It’s not Hollywood level insane off-the-charts-Megan-Fox-Margot-Robbie beauty.  They wear real clothes suitable to the job they’re doing.  They get dirty and bloody and their hair gets messed up.  Kudos to whoever does the casting and the costuming/makeup, because I for one really appreciate it.  The women on Supernatural seem like real people doing real things in a messed up world and not chicks who are prancing around on a screen for dudes to jerk it to.  The women in Supernatural feel like they are there for me to relate to and they are there to tell a story and not there for men.

And that, cats and kittens, is entirely feminist.

Beyond all that, Supernatural does something extraordinary with its female characters, something that I believe to be entirely unique.  It lets them have sex in a way that is normal, that approximates to a reasonable extent the type of sexual activity women have in the real world.  The female characters on Supernatural are sexually active without it being a gimmick.  The women of Supernatural have sex just as an ordinary part of their lives and it is not a huge deal.  No slutshaming, no virgin-celebrating, no Madonna/whore complexes.  They fuck sometimes because people fuck sometimes.

Examples?  But of course.

Lisa Braeden, Dean’s on again, off again girlfriend, had a one-night-stand with Dean, then shortly after got pregnant from another one-night-stand, had a baby on her own, raised it, we assume she had sex many times along the way with various people, and then Dean got back together with her and they lived together for a while.  Her sexual choices were not presented as disgusting or indeed in any way remarkable.  Dean had absolutely no qualms about picking it up again with Lisa right where they left off despite the fact that she’d had sex with other dudes.  Lisa Braeden was not a soiled dove; Dean wasn’t doing her a favor by going out with her, in fact he felt lucky to have her.

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Amelia Richardson was a woman who Sam had an intense fairly long term relationship with.  Dean and Sam had had a falling out and he was on his own.  She thought at the time her husband was dead, killed in Afghanistan, but later it turned out he was actually alive.  Neither her husband or Sam was consumed with jealousy, neither punished Amelia for the terrible situation she found herself in.  Her husband let Amelia decide for herself what she wanted to do and didn’t pressure her in any way.   Her body, her choice.

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One of my personal fave Supernatural women is Jo Harvelle (and one of the reasons I hate the Charlie Bradbury character so much is that Sam and Dean actually HAD an adorable little sister character that they never gushed about anywhere near how they gushed about Charlie FFS).  Jo, as many younger women do when it comes to older guys, had a bit of a crush on Dean, which Dean being Dean, reciprocated in a sexual way.  But Jo knew (please note, it was NOT that Dean was sooo wise and mature that HE knew, Jo herself was the one who knew better) would have never been the guy that Jo needed him to be, so she never acted on it.  This went on till the night before they were going into a situation where they’d likely both die.  Dean played the “it’s our last night on earth, why not?” card.  And Jo thought about it, thought about it very seriously, and turned him down.  Because sexual freedom also includes the right to say no.

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But the one that takes the cake for me is Annie Hawkins.  Annie was a Hunter, like Dean and Sam are Hunters, who went missing.  In the process of looking for her, it is revealed that she had slept with Bobby, Dean, and Sam at various points over the years.  It was funny, but it wasn’t painted as funny in a “ha-ha slut” way, it was funny because life is funny and people are funny.  It wasn’t a laugh at Annie’s expense at all.  And Annie wasn’t a throwaway disposable character.  She wasn’t a woman in a fridge, she was an important part of the plot.  Even though she was only in one single episode, she was a fully-fleshed out 3 dimensional character, not a punchline.  She was neither punished nor celebrated for her sexual choices.  All three of our heroes cared about her and valued the time they’d spent together, but it was just that nobody needed to marry nobody or nothing.  It was a really nice way to illustrate that women have sexual histories just like men, we have sex for all sorts of reasons including that we’re in the mood to.  I wracked my brain and I couldn’t think of a single other show that had ever featured a non-slut woman having sex with three different guys at various stages in her life as a non-joke plot point aside from Supernatural.  Totally a feminist moment for me.

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Final analysis – Supernatural is not sexist.  Far from it.  In many ways, it’s downright feminist.

Look, here’s the thing.  We live in a world full of oodles of people who think they get to have everything JUST the way they want it all the time.  If they aren’t the absolute center of the universe in everything all the time they pitch a fit and moan and complain and make demands until someone gives them fan service.  But fan service sucks and intersectionality is impossible.  It just isn’t possible to produce a book or a movie or a show that is fundamentally about men and male pain and male fear and then decide to flush that away to make a show about some extraneous woman designed by a focus group instead because some people have loud mouths.  Because HEY, it would be an entirely different show if the writers did that, and I suspect a very much inferior one.  Plus, despite being a show about men, Supernatural does a pretty fantastic job of bringing us strong and relatable female characters anyway!  Don’t fix what ain’t broke!

Long story short, I think it’s fucking ridiculous – and antifeminist – to pretend that a show is anti-women just because it happens to be pro-men.

Supernatural is NOT SEXIST.   The atomic feminist has spoken.

If you want to see my take on adding a female character to the Supernatural universe please check out my (long) short story Supernatural: Manic Pixie God Girl.

 

Supernatural: Manic Pixie God Girl Part 14: Carry On, Wayward Father

Supernatural: Manic Pixie God Girl Part 14: Carry On, Wayward Father

Sam didn’t know what Dean had said to Crowley but the demon/angel thing had gulped and the blood had drained from his face.  He half-expected Dean to smite Crowley where he cowered there on the floor and felt a surprising relief when instead Crowley simply disappeared –  seemingly of his own accord.  Dean looked up, a positively cheery expression on his face.  His eyes gleamed too brightly, like he had a high fever.  “Well, looks like we’re going in!  Everybody wear your Sunday Best.  Sam, let’s take a walk.”

They left the angels in conference and moved purposefully down the corridor.  “Going in where?” Sam was none too sure he wanted to know.

“She can’t control of her people, Sam.  Crowley showing up here…we can’t have that!  If she can’t keep her end of this arrangement running smoothly, it means we just have to step in and do it for her.”

Oh, effff……… “Dean, wait, let’s think for a minute…”

“Sammy, alls I been doing for the last few weeks is thinking.  Thinking, and thinking, and thinking some more. Quite frankly I’m kind of sick of thinking.  It’s obvious that Jovi can’t run things.  I get where you’re coming from there, I do.  I acknowledge we have a Jovi problem, I just disagree with your solution.  Jovi just can’t run things.  It’s undeniable.  Whatever part of her used to be able to, it must be that I got it now, and it’s time to stop thinking, and start acting.  I mean, seriously, Sam, making angels out of demons, it’s, that’s just crazy!”

“What about what Cas said…that it made some sense, to make the dangles, and the balance of power…”  Dean suddenly caring about this ongoing issue when he hadn’t cared in the slightest before felt an awful lot like a convenient excuse to Sam.

“Eh.  She’s giving Lucifer an advantage that he doesn’t deserve, you know, and um, if she and I were together, really together, I mean working together, as a team, instead of this ridiculous separation of church and state…it’s just that we could do so much more if we were together!  It’s so inefficient for us to be separated, it’s just stupid.  It’s a waste is what it is.  Us being together is the only thing that makes sense.”  Dean stopped walking and then stopped Sam with a hand to his midsection.  His tone went from faux-casual to spookily intense.  “We were made to be together, Sammy, you see, don’t you get it?  You get it, right?  She and me were literally made to be together.”  Dean seemed to be waiting for a response so Sam nodded and as he did he noticed his mouth had gone Sahara dry.  Satisfied, Dean resumed walking so Sam did too and when Dean was no longer looking his way, he gulped.  “Now come to find out she can’t even control her own people?  They’re plotting behind her back, behind my back…she needs someone to tell her what to do and make sure that her operation is running according to plan…”

“Whose plan?  Is there a plan?”  Sam suspected pointing out that Dean’s people had also been plotting behind his back would probably go over like a lead balloon.

“Well, of course there’s a plan, Sam.  My plan.  I’m the captain.  I’m steering the ship.  I know where we’re going.  Jovi just needs to get on board.  Smooth sailing.”  And with that, Dean left to go take a shower.  He shaved and trimmed his fingernails and flossed and even put some cologne on.  He didn’t wear his normal Dean clothes, he wore black Levis and a pristine white dress shirt that had a mandarin collar and real mother-of-pearl buttons and a pair of new boots.  For Dean, that was his idea of high fashion.  While the rest of them scurried around amassing angel blades and holy oil, Dean acted like he was going out on a date and Sam realized with some dismay, that in his mind, he probably was.   

And even though Sam still hated Jovi with every fiber of his being, there was a little kernel of fear in his belly.  

Not of her, not this time.  He wasn’t afraid of God.  He was a little afraid for her.

******************

Jovi was waiting for Oriphiel when he got back.  He could see it in her face she already knew what had happened and he was thankful for that because it took that much less time to explain. “Darling, we have to go!  NOW!”  He fought a nearly irresistible urge to start flinging clothing around packing luggage, because it was silly; they could just make whatever they needed wherever they were going.

“Ori.”  She smiled at him, a small, gentle smile.  He saw both a fatalistic resignation and boundless forgiveness in her face and he wasn’t sure which of them cut deeper.  He had ruined her and she knew it and yet forgave him for it, without question.

He was such a fool.  As they say, when you shoot at the King, you’d best not miss.  And he’d not only missed, he hadn’t even taken the bloody shot!  He desperately wished he had the moment back again.  The gun had hurt Dean.  What might a shot to the brain stem have done?  If it hadn’t killed him outright, maybe it would have knocked him senseless long enough for Oriphiel to cut him into pieces and scatter those pieces all around the world where no one could find them and then toss Dean’s blonde pretty head into the Marianas Trench or something.  Yes.  That would have done nicely.  Thick layer of barnacles on that handsome face and probably conscious of every moment.

Delicious.

Even if Jovi would’ve been forever unhappy with Dean gone, at the least she would be alive to be unhappy. “I’ll apologize later, I’ll do penance, I’ll even go to Purgatory if you’d like, but please, please come with me!  He’ll be here any second!”

“Ori, come on.  Be realistic.  He’ll only follow us.”

“We can stay one step ahead of him!”

“Forever?”

“He’ll get bored with the chase eventually, surely!  Dean Winchester has the attention span of a fruit fly!”

“Well, he’s not exactly Dean Winchester any more.”

Oriphiel knew that, of course; if he hadn’t truly known it before, certainly he did now.  “Please, Jovi, darling!  Please.  We have to at least try!  For my sake, please try.”  If he thought begging would have helped, he’d have begged her on hands and knees.

“It IS for your sake, Oriphiel.  If I run, if I run with you now, he’ll kill you.  And I mean forever dead.”

The thought that she might be refusing to run for what she believed to be his sake felt like a knife to his guts.  “If we stay he’ll kill YOU.”

“Maybe.  Maybe not.  I don’t think he will.  Even if he does, I guarantee you, it won’t be forever.  It might be a nice vacation, actually.  Part of me actually kind of hopes for it.  And honestly, between you and me and the lampost, it’s not a small part at all.”

“Stop talking that way!   I’ll stay and let him kill me, even if it is forever, and you go.”

“No, Oriphiel.  I couldn’t ever manage without you.”

He made a desperate sound.  There was only one other option.  “Lucifer?”  He had a beautiful vision of Dean and Lucifer tearing each other to shreds while he sneaked Jovi off to Outer Mongolia or perhaps the Gamma Quadrant.

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“But…”

“Oriphiel.  Enough.”  Her voice was stern in a way he’d never heard before and it stopped him cold.  “We were living on borrowed time, anyway, you know that, right?  He was already headed my direction.  Maybe you sped it up by a day or two – a week at the outside, but he was already on his way.  It was only a matter of time till something triggered him.”

“I should have gone through with it!”

“No.  You did the right thing.”  The right thing.  Oriphiel hated the right thing.  Doing the right thing would now cost him everything.  One way or the other.  “And I’m proud of you.  It’s ok, Ori.  It’s just Dean.  How bad could it possibly be?”

Oriphiel thought about how utterly mad Dean had looked.  Very bad.  He feared that it could be very bad indeed.

******************

Dean, Sam, Bobby, Castiel, and Gadreel burst into Jovi’s castle as soon as they could with a minimum of preparation because Dean really didn’t think he could stand waiting any longer.  The anticipation was killing him.  He was so delighted to have the excuse finally he was practically beside himself with glee.   

He hadn’t ever been in Jovi’s place before, of course.  He’d never got an invite.  Must’ve got lost in the mail.  Huh.  He’d only ever seen it from the outside when he just so happened to be passing by now and then on his way to somewhere else.

Not that it mattered now.  Things would be made right.  

The inside of Jovi’s castle echoed with her essence.  Everything was peaceful and tasteful and color coordinated, shades of cream and gold and the classier shades of pink, with touches of green and brown that kept it from overwhelming the eye.  The halls were deserted; wherever the dangles and darkangels were, they weren’t defending the place that was for certain.  Dean felt surer than ever that he was making the right call.  If he had walked in so easily, what was stopping Lucifer?  Nothing, that’s what.  Jovi was defenseless and she needed protection and he was the only one who could give it to her.  The only one who could keep her safe.  She needed him whether she wanted him or not.

They made their way through empty corridors to a huge, high-ceilinged throne room with a raised set of platforms at the far end.  On the highest sat a queenly throne made from ebony wood.  The blackness of the ebony stuck out like a sore thumb against the cream-gold-pink.  It was so black it felt like it was siphoning off light from the room.  It was hers; he swore he could sense the remnants of her essence coming off of it.  The throne was carved with flowers.  Dean couldn’t see the flowers from where he was, he could only see a distant blur, but he just knew it was flowers.   

A lower platform had two more humble thrones upon it side by side – barely thrones, more like chairs, really, and the lowest still had an even plainer one, so small and spindly-legged it seemed like practically a folding chair.  Dean surmised that this throne belonged to the least popular of Jovi’s darkangels, whoever they were.  A set of steps ran up the middle of the platforms, covered with a pale rose carpet.  The carpet looked soft and deep and welcoming and Dean decided later on once he’d won, he’d slip off his boots and walk up and down those steps barefoot in triumph.  

Dean felt a surge of power in the air and got his hopes up, but disappointingly, Crowley and fricking Ruby, RUBY!!! appeared in the humble side-by-side thrones.  Sam gaped at the appearance of his former demon squeeze.  A moment later Metatron appeared in the lowest throne.  Crowley, Ruby, and Metatron.  Jovi’s darkangels.  That’s nice.  “Really?”

Metatron grinned evilly.  The man was a rodent. “She works in mysterious ways.”

Gadreel seethed, Sam seethed, and Dean found himself seething a little himself.  Crowley he’d been able to explain away as convenience, but Ruby and Metatron?  Darkangels? Jovi had to have done it deliberately just to give him a big ol’ FU.

Ruby and Sam barely exchanged a glance.  She rolled her eyes and cast her attention towards Dean instead.   “What do you WANT, Winchesterrrr-s, plural?

“I’m just here to talk, Ruby.  I don’t want trouble, but I want to see Jovi.  I need to see her.  We can’t just go on like this, working in opposition to each other.  We have to at least be in communication, in case of… I don’t know.  Emergency?”

Crowley, naturally, didn’t want that to happen.  “You can’t see her.  She doesn’t want to see you!”

Dean sniffed, offended.  He was fighting his raging jealousy and the words flew out of his mouth before he could stop them.  “Is she seeing Lucifer?” Grr.  What was the point of being God if you couldn’t even stop words from emerging from your mouth, seriously.

Crowley went ballistic over that.  Apoplectic.  Ruby calmly a sputtering Crowley into silence with a gesture and responded to Dean’s accusation.  “Why do you care, exactly?”

“Curiosity.  I’d like to know if there’s a plot brewing against me.”

Ruby didn’t buy his carefully crafted explanation at all.  She rolled her brown eyes.  “Curiosity.  That killed the cat, you know.”

Before Dean could come up with a clever retort, Metatron sniffed disdainfully, as if he found the entire accusation offensive.  “You know nothing about her, Dean, if you think for a moment that she’d plot with Lucifer.”  Weasel.

“Well, I’d like to hear that from her.  You and I don’t exactly have a firm basis for a trusting relationship, Metatron.”

Metatron grinned from ear to ear.  “I knew you wouldn’t stay dead, Dean.  And it was such a good plot twist.” 

Plot twist.  I’ll twist your plot you little…“Crowley, please.  I know you’re still in there somewhere.  Help a brother out.”

“It’s Oriphiel.  We have our orders.  And she has her reasons.”

“Then I’m gonna come in swinging.  And she will lose, and she’ll have no choice but to listen to me then, whether she wants to or not.”

Jovi appeared beside her throne.  She’d been crying, sobbing by the looks of it; black trails ran all down her cheeks from eye makeup.  Dean couldn’t help but react to it.  He didn’t want to make her cry.  Why wouldn’t she just behave herself, why was she making him do this?  Ruby stood up to shield her mistress, as if to shield Jovi from him…from him, why?…and magically fixed Jovi’s appearance by wiping away the tears, carrying the ruined makeup away as she stroked Jovi’s cheeks with her thumbs.  The women exchanged nods and then Ruby stepped aside.  Jovi stepped forward, dejected, defeated, but still the brightest light in the room.  Every eye was drawn to her; after all, she was God, the great and powerful.  She straightened her shoulders bravely even as her hands nervously clutched two fists full of the long, full skirt of her dress, which was so dark green it was nearly black. “Let’s fight.”

The room filled suddenly with Jovi’s dangles, nearly all of whom Dean recognized as former demons the Winchesters had faced in the past.  Dean took it all in.  Even Yelloweyes was there.  Sam looked at Dean in disbelief but he couldn’t believe it himself.  How could she?  HOW COULD SHE.  Resurrecting demons at all was bad enough, but how dare she resurrect the demon that had killed his mother, his grandmother, the monster who had killed Jess and fed Sam demon blood when he was a defenseless baby?  He couldn’t even believe she’d do such a thing.  Dean felt himself start to lose control and struggled to keep it.  “You’d rather fight a battle you can’t win, than talk to me for 5 minutes, Jovi?”

“Yes.”

“Well, that’s mature.”  Jovi simply shrugged, helplessly.  Why didn’t she have more backbone?  Or less?  What was wrong with her?  Why did she have to be both so annoyingly stubborn and disobedient, but at the same time so weak-willed that he couldn’t respect her, couldn’t just step back and trust her to run her own life and take care of herself?  Why was she forcing him to control her due to her constant and unremitting ineptitude, and yet holding it against him when he tried?  All he was trying to do was save her from herself, why couldn’t she see that?  “So be it.” Dean focused for a moment and his angels appeared.  He hadn’t gotten creative, himself; he hadn’t had the time.  He’d simply had Castiel and Bobby remake the old angels who had perished along the way.  It just made sense to him to do it that way, since they already knew how to be angels and he didn’t have to train them.

Jovi apparently found this concept tedious.  “You really have no imagination, do you?  Like, zero, nada, zilch.”

“I don’t need any.”  He disappeared and reappeared in front of Jovi, grabbed both her upper arms in his hands and disappeared again.  They appeared outside, away from the others, in Jovi’s garden where no one could intervene. “…because I have all the power.”

Jovi headbutted him for his trouble, broke away and ran.  Her forehead could only reach up to his chin.  It stung a little.  Dean grinned, finding he was warming up to the idea of this fight in a big way.  He took his time following after her.  Because she couldn’t go far.  When he’d laid his hands on her just then, the waterfall that pushed him towards her became a black hole pulling him and he understood he could simply let go, let the gravity have its way with him, and it would carry him to whereever she ran.  He had all the time in the universe.

**********************************

The angels raised a loud cry and attacked each other.  Chaos ensued as blade met blade and the throne room became a war zone.  Castiel turned to Sam. “I’m concerned for your safety, Sam.  But I can’t leave the fight.  I promised Dean.”  Castiel had to fight, every molecule of glory within his being vibrated with the need to fight.  But Sam was alone, defenseless, and what a coup it would be for a dangle to take out a Winchester.

Gabriel suddenly appeared.  “I’ll keep an eye on him, Brother.”

Castiel could not believe that Gabriel still hadn’t picked sides.  “You won’t fight?  Still?”

“On which side, Castiel?  And why?  All this is meaningless.  The real fight has just been moved to a different venue.  And it’s equally meaningless.  Jovi’s already lost.  She lost when she created him.  And she knew that.”

Castiel couldn’t understand what Gabriel was saying.  She lost when she created him? What did that mean?  She wanted it to come to this?  Jovi wanted to lose?  But she was God, and God was destined to win.  Wasn’t she?  “Then why?  Why is she doing this?”

“Castiel, you realize, don’t you? Haven’t you put it together yet?  This isn’t a fight.  It’s suicide by cop.”

It felt true, but Castiel did not want to believe it.  “No? No!”

“Think about it, Cas.  She made him, then denied him, then abandoned him.  Maybe she’s even helping his archenemy, for all he knows.  She’s got him so worked up about her he’s damn near lost his mind and he’s damn near lost his mind anyway because of how she created him.  You’ve been here as long as me, my brother, she doesn’t do things like this on accident.  She never has.  It’s a setup, dude.”

“She’s provoking Dean to kill her?  Sam, do you think this could be true?”

Sam furrowed his brow.  This drew Gabriel’s wrath for some reason Castiel didn’t understand.  Gabriel had always been better at reading human faces than Castiel was; to Castiel, human expressions were like clouds crossing the sky.  He might be able to tell when there was a thunderstorm coming or when the weather was clear, but most of the time he had no idea what weather patterns the clouds signified.  “Oh, concerned now, are ya, Sam? A little of that concern, that empathy, somewhere along the way might have made all the difference.  Now it’s too little, too late.”

“Can’t we do something?  To stop them?”

“What could you, or I, even do?  Heard the whole, unstoppable force, immovable object thing, right?  Don’t get in between em.”

“I don’t know, warn Dean!  If he doesn’t understand…”

Castiel was confused.  “But Sam? I thought we…wanted her dead?”  Castiel had never, of course.  He never wanted Jovi dead.  But Sam did.  Or he thought Sam did?  Maybe he had misunderstood.  Humans were confusing.  For his part, Castiel had simply thought eliminating Jovi was the only way, their last, best chance to restore Dean to himself.  Castiel missed human Dean so badly sometimes he didn’t think he could bear it.

“Not like this, Cas.  I don’t think Dean could forgive ever himself.  We have to…I don’t know…tell him what she has planned!”

Gabriel laughed bitterly.  “How do you know that’s not exactly what Dean’s endgame is, here?  “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.””

Castiel tried very hard not to find that scenario plausible, but couldn’t, quite. “Dean would not do that, Gabriel. Not ever.”  As he said it, he wondered if he was lying.

“Because he’s been acting so normal and everything?” Gabriel looked over Castiel’s shoulder and gestured with his chin.  That was a gesture Castiel understood, it meant that someone was coming up behind him.  Castiel turned, finding that Ruby was coming at him with an archangel blade raised.  

Of course Ruby would be the one; surely she would love nothing better than killing Sam Winchester personally.  At the last moment Castiel dodged quickly left and Gabriel, also in her path, disappeared out of the way, reappearing again a few feet to the side.   Her blade plunged into the wall, useless.

*******************************

As Ruby struggled to pull her angel blade free, Castiel took the opportunity to engage her.  Ruby and Castiel began to grapple hand to hand and while Gabriel wasn’t a coward, per se, he didn’t really want to hang out as the sole disinterested party in the midst of a heavenly war zone, either.  “Kiddo, I think we ought to skedaddle.  I’m as susceptible to an errant blade as I am one meant for me.  And I don’t know if anyone is going to be here to remake me in a little while.”

“We have to stop him, Gabriel.  He’d never forgive himself.”  The earnestness coming off the guy, sheesh.  It was mindboggling, all things considered.

“One of the things I find fascinating about you Winchesters, both of ya, is how many times you say you’ll never forgive yourself and then 2 weeks later it’s like it never even happened and you never mention whatever it was, whoever it was, again.  Makes me wonder how much you really, like, value, the rest of us bit players.”

“I have to try.”

“I heard tell you were trying to kill our girl God just a few minutes ago.   Changed your mind about the necessity of that?”

“I.  I haven’t, to be honest.  In the long term.”

“Well, he’s the best weapon you’re ever going to have, Sam.”

“Yeah, I know but…But tell me this, Gabriel – if he’s the one who does it, Dean himself…if he’s the one?  How can he ever come back from that?”

Gabriel rolled his eyes, barely able to comprehend the notion that Sam still thought Dean COULD come back, that this was all going to end up with the two of them rolling out in the Impala to fight demons like nothing had ever happened.  But convincing a Winchester of anything they didn’t want to hear was like beating your head against a brick wall.  He attempted to disappear with Sam, but didn’t go anywhere.  He tried again, and failed again.  He reached out and explored the energy holding him, even though he already knew it would be Jovi.  “She’s keeping us here, Sam. She means it.”  Gabriel was temporarily overcome with emotion.  Sam closed his eyes a moment.  His lips moved. “What are you doing?”

“Praying, I guess.  Trying to contact Dean.”  

Gabriel examined the idea and found it sound.  “If he hears anyone, it’ll be you.  Keep it up.  I’ll buy you as much time as I can.”  Feeling like a sentimental fool, Gabriel stepped up to engage a couple of Jovi’s hybrids…dangles, as the Winchesters called them…headed toward Sam.

*******************************

Dean followed Jovi out of her garden into the deep woods that bordered it.  She was nowhere to be seen but he knew she was there just as he knew his arm was there.  She was an attachment, an appendage.  He called to her, making his voice loud enough so it could be heard for miles.  “You can’t run away, Jovi.  I feel you.  You’re always there.  I could track you down if you were a million light years away.  And it would take me less than a heartbeat.”  Jovi popped out of thin air in front of him and attempted to fight but her blows were absolutely ineffective.  He barely felt them.  Dean grabbed her fist in midswing.  “Jovi, listen, I don’t want to fight. I’m enjoying the hell out of it for some reason, but I don’t want to.”  He was, too, enjoying it.  He felt happier than he’d felt in months.

“I have nothing to say to you.  Just leave me alone!”

With a kick to his shin, she broke away again, disappearing and reappearing behind him, armed with a small, lightweight jeweled sword.  Before she could strike at him, Dean manifested his own sword from nowhere.  It was slim and long like a samurai sword, completely undecorated and utterly deadly.  He was unaware of any conscious thought, the blade was simply there in his hand, and he spun to easily block her blow.  They exchanged a few halfhearted thrusts but Jovi was completely outclassed. 

Even though swordfighting wasn’t even one of the things he’d studied, he was immediately better at it than she was.  She had had trillions of years to exist and he was only like 10 minutes old and he was still better at practically everything.  What did she even DO all day?  

Dean couldn’t help but find it it all very amusing. “Pretty feisty for somebody so…pitiful.”  He struck at her using a fraction of his strength, really holding back, but even that was enough so Jovi was thrown back onto her heels.  Before she could regain her footing, Dean was already upon her.  Without meaning to, he sliced her cheek open with the tip of the blade.  Careless, so careless, always he was so careless.  He recoiled, shocked, and threw his sword away to the side.  It vanished as it hit the ground and Dean resolved not to call it back again no matter what.  “I’m sorry!” Jovi responded by holding her sword to his throat.  Dean laughed and she pressed the blade harder, enough to hurt.  “Ok, ok!”  He pretended he was putting his hands up in defeat, but instead he grabbed her arm, the arm holding the sword, at the wrist before she got any bright ideas about trying to finish the job, not that she could.  He heard an audible crack as the bones broke beneath his fingers.  She gasped in pain as he forced her to her knees.   Her sword fell to the ground and he obliterated with a glance. “I’m going to heal you.”

“Don’t do me any favors!”

Dean started to heal her, but then he hesitated.  She sent him a challenging look.  He echoed her words to him the day they’d met.   “I just want to give you a taste of what it means to disobey me.  Pain.”

“My life has been pain!  This is nothing to me! A hangnail!”  Jovi’s eyes narrowed with purpose and Dean felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.  She’d called down lighting from the clear black sky.  At the last second he raised a protective dome around them like the one she’d made when they were in Hell, and the lightning arced around them and into the ground.  As the lightning flashed he realized he was still holding her broken arm in his hand, none too gently.   And he realized he was ok with that.

“What else you got, Jovi?  I’m ready for whatever you want to throw at me.  Water, fire, earth, any other elements you got up your sleeve?  I’d rather talk, though.”  She still refused to yield.  Dean smiled, admiring the moxie, then squeezed her arm so hard he could feel the ends of the bone at the break grinding together through her skin.  He could rip her hand right off if he wanted to.  She gasped, gasped, gasped, but still she wouldn’t surrender.  A tear came from the corner of one eye and snaked down her cheek.  His heart gave a little twitch, guilt and sympathy and self-disgust, and he realized he had had enough.  It had been fun, but now fun time was over. 

Time for the ace in the hole. 

He glowed from head to foot, holding nothing back, unleashing his full glory onto her. She had no choice but to worship him and as she gave in she sobbed quietly, defeated.  She tried to prostrate herself, wanted bury her face into the dirt as she should, but he had hold of her wrist and wouldn’t let her look away.  She ignored him long enough, now she would look at him till he said otherwise.

Dean took a great satisfaction in knowing, finally knowing, she’d told him the truth, that she really did have to worship him and he was under no compulsion to return the favor because if he had been, she’d have played the same trick on him he was playing on her.  “I’m sorry, I know that’s cheating.” He had a thought, a thought he knew he shouldn’t indulge, but it was a thought he couldn’t resist.  “Glow for me.”

“No!”

“It’s your game, Jovi.  You made the rules.  It’s not my fault I’m better at it than you are.  That was what you wanted, wasn’t it?  Someone who could actually beat you?”  Jovi said nothing and Dean gave her broken arm another squeeze.  A good strong one with a vicious little twist at the end.  She screamed and squirmed and he still wouldn’t let her look away from him.  “You know what they say, Jovi.  Be careful what you wish for.  Now glow, because I told you to, and I’m the boss of you.”

Jovi didn’t like it, not at all, but she obeyed him because she had no choice.  Dean fell to his knees worshipfully, not because he had to, but because he wanted to, and as he did, he willed that Jovi’s cheek heal.  He could feel the small bones in her wrist beneath his palm knitting together again, felt the veins and arteries he’d ruined becoming whole.  He released her arm and she pulled it to her chest protectively, rubbing it with her other hand.  The glow faded from both of them and as it did they looked at each other and Dean could tell she felt it the same way he did.  She felt it too.  No playing.  Jovi pulled out of the moment and turned away to sit on the grass, hugging her knees to her chest and resting her cheek on her thigh.  Dean stayed on his knees beside her.  Up close he could see her green dress was made of crushed velvet and he wanted to touch it to see what it felt like, imagined running his fingertips across it.  

He grimaced for a moment as the voices in his head intruded.  “Shut up, Sam.” He looked at Jovi and shook his head. “Do they EVER shut up?”

“No.  If you go far enough away, it’s…it’s better.”

Dean considered this as he shifted position from his knees to sit beside her.  It felt like her proximity was helping, somehow, bringing him back to himself again.  With every second that passed he felt more reasonable and tolerant and patient and he he realized he hadn’t felt any of those things for some time.  With a chill, he understood how far gone he’d been.  “Why do you keep trying to get rid of me?  Why do you keep pushing me away?  Pride?”

“No.  I’m…I’m afraid for you, Dean.   And I’m afraid OF you.”  

“You should have come when I called you, Jovi.  And you would’ve had no reason to be afraid.”  

“I’m not afraid for my sake, you idiot.  I’m afraid of what you’re going to do to my creation.”

He wanted to argue, to reassure her, but given what he actually had done, Dean realized it was a fair concern.  A different question occurred to him. “Why am I so drawn to you?  Is that something you’re doing to me?”

“No.  It’s happening to me too, Dean.  That’s why I’ve been trying so hard to stay away.  Once…once I realized, I knew I had to stay away from you.  Because if I was with you, I’d try to keep you, even if the price I have to pay for it is Earth.  You would destroy Earth right before my eyes and I…I would let you.  It’s like a compulsion, to be with you.  I thought if it didn’t work out with you, it would be like a bad blind date that I would laugh about later.  Not…not like this.  It hurts so much.”

“I had to attack you…because…because I had to see you.”

For a perfect moment, Jovi was comically oblivious to how twisted it sounded.  “Oh, that’s so sweet.” She gave Dean an adoring look that felt like a treasure and he wished it could last.  But then it faded, as he’d known it would, as she regained self-control.  She had so much self-control, he hated her for it.  Send a little of that my way, wouldya lady?  “No it’s not, it’s horrible.  I messed up when I made you, Dean.  So bad.”

“Are you sure, Jovi?  Was it really a mistake, or are we…just going about things wrong?”

It was as if he hadn’t even spoken.  “Surprise, surprise.  Something I did went terribly bad.”  She hesitated, trying to find the words to explain. “I always had this duality of nature, Dean.  What a human would call, male and female spirit.  I’ve always been both.  I made the life that I created, in the male or female image but I never…I never fully separated out the energies themselves before.  I never truly divided male from female.  The beings I made are like tiny pieces of me, so they’ve always had elements of both.  My energy, my essence is…it’s not…used to being divided.  It’s been together for over 17 trillion years and…I don’t think it likes being split up like this.”

Dean agreed.   It made sense, what she was saying.  “Doesn’t like it at all.”

“It’s worse than that though.  I think you, well, both of us really, but especially you, Dean, you’re…out of balance.  The part that I gave to you is the judge, jury, and executioner.  The vengeance.  The, “an eye for an eye”.  I gave it all to you because I didn’t want the responsibility for it any more.  I gave it all to you because it makes me sad and I’m tired of being sad.  And I kept the other half, the nurturing, the forgiving part, the soft and fluffy, for myself because I’m greedy and I didn’t want to give any of that up.  So who you are now is not being tempered by anything other than just a very cold and inflexible sense of rationality, and your, I mean, Dean Winchester’s, humanity.  Whatever’s left of it.”

“I’m still Dean Winchester.”

“I hope so.  I loved Dean Winchester.  But I don’t know who you are.”

“I am what you made me to be.  What you wanted.  The most dangerous creature you ever made, Jovi, is a human male, and I am that, a million times over.  They are stone cold killers.  I was a killer when I was a human.  They’ve killed so much, and so much of what they kill is smaller and weaker than themselves.  They even kill the people they love.  When I think about it, it amazes me that women would even want to be around men.  You’d have to be insane. Like kissing a loaded gun.”  Jovi closed her eyes and tensed up, as if she was afraid to hear what he was going to say next. “I think women – which, you are, now, Jovi, in case you forgot – are either incredibly brave, or totally crazy.  You must be like lion tamers, you know, the kind that stick their heads right into a lion’s mouth.  Why would anybody do that, unless they wanted to be bitten, a little?” He found the situation amusing in spite of himself and grinned a half-grin.   “If I’m messed up and out of balance, then you’re right there with me, sister. Two halves of the same sick coin.”

Jovi admitted it.  “I know.”

“Can you stop what’s happening to me?”

“You and Sam, always looking for the quick fix.  The magic that will just be like poof, ok everything back to normal.  Yay, happily ever after.  But, Dean, the real work of creation is slow and tedious, and it takes a really long time and a whole lot of effort.  You are going to have to learn how to handle…this.  You have to learn control, not to go all Yoda on you or whatever, but you do.  It’s not going to be easy and I think you’re going to fail more often than you succeed.  And every time you fail, people are gonna die.  Lots.” Dean considered the notion.  Not the answer he’d been hoping for.  But he wasn’t entirely surprised by it.  “When I was where you are now, Dean, I killed off the entire population of the world…repeatedly.  Everybody hears about the flood, about Sodom and Gomorrah, but there were other times.  Plenty of other times.  So I could start over and get it right. But you know what I learned eventually, is that there IS no getting it right.  The humans have to stand or fall on their own.  We can’t fix what isn’t broken.  They aren’t broken, Dean.  They’re just.  Human.”

“They’re so messy, though.  And it’s so tempting to just…clean up a little.”

“I know.  But it never works, Dean.  They are what they are.  They’re good at life.   I made them to be good at life.  It’s just that being good at life has side effects.”

“Everything seems to have side effects.”

“It does, at that.  What we see as imperfection, Dean, is part and parcel of humanity.  And our job is to love them anyway and forgive them for that.”

“But you got that part, Jovi.  The love, the forgiveness?  What if I don’t have enough? ”

“Then we’re screwed.”  Jovi stopped talking and thought for a while.  “I can’t destroy you, and if you destroy me, if you even can, you’ll be too depleted to stand against whatever Lucifer has planned – for thousands of years afterwards.  He will rule the world until you regain your strength.  Then my creation would be even worse off than it is now.  A world with Lucifer on one side and you on the other. Humans and angels will be crushed between you.  And, Dean, you realize, I hope, that if you destroy me, there’s no guarantee my energy would go back into you anyway.  It might just dissipate, become part of the universe.  It might even go into him.”  

“Huh.  Do you think I’ll end up just as bad as Lucifer?”

“No, of course not, you dork, but a lot of evil gets done in the name of unbending, uncompromising good.  I’m so, so sorry, Dean.  I can predict so much, but then when it comes to my own behavior, I have this massive blind spot.”  She sighed and plucked at the grass beneath her with her fingers.  Her nails were coated with glittering polish, the same dark green as her dress.  “I’m trying to hang on so I can help you if I can, however I can, but I was barely hanging on before.  I just want…to end.  To die.  I think that’s the real reason why I made you.  I’ll help you defeat Lucifer for all eternity, and then I want you to end my existence, too.”    

“I don’t ever want you any further from me than you are right now, Jovi.  Not even that far.  I can tell you right now I will never.  I will never do that and I don’t ever want you to ask me again.  The very idea causes me physical pain.”

“It would be a mercy killing, Dean.  Really.  They shoot horses, don’t they?”

“Jovi, hear me.  Never speak those words again.  They are forbidden to you.” Jovi breathed through her nose, disappointed.  “I won’t control your thoughts…”

“You can’t control my thoughts.”

“Well, I haven’t tried.  But I will not hear those words again.”  Dean understood, at least a little, how deep it ran, how tired and sad and defeated Jovi really was.  “Maybe I can help you, too.  This isn’t a one way street.  Maybe I can make you happy.  Let me try.”

“What you feel is irrelevant.  What we feel.  It’s not real.  It’s empty.  Meaningless.  You don’t really have feelings for me.  It’s just the energy pushing us together.”   

“I wouldn’t…I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”

“You made it pretty clear at first that you weren’t interested.  And that was when you were in control of your faculties, as much as Dean Winchester was ever in charge of his faculties.”  She laughed through her nose and Dean couldn’t help but grin wryly.  “I’m just saying, for me to believe what you say now over what you said then, because it’s what I wanted to hear…it feels like taking advantage.”

“I didn’t know you then.” 

“You don’t know me NOW, Dean.  I loved you because I knew you, I knew your whole life.  The good, the bad, and the…karaoke.”

“You’re wrong, Jovi.  I do know you. I look around the world and everything in it, everything amazing and beautiful and infinitely complicated, you made it.  A flower, a snowflake, sunrise…the taste of chocolate.  And I and I alone know how you did it.  The time and the care and the thought you put into it.  The effort, and pain, that it took you?  Into making the smallest grain of sand.  Everything in the universe, I can see how you touched it.  I can’t imagine I could know anyone better.”

“You’re justifying it, that’s all.  It’s no different than if I forced you to love me.  And I don’t force people to love me.  I decided that a long time ago.”

“Tch.  We’re all just victims of circumstance when it comes to love anyway.  Who does a guy end up with in the human world, Jovi?  The girl next door, or at work, or on the barstool beside him.  Random chance puts two people in the same place at the same time when they’re at a place in their lives when they’re looking for someone.  Attraction is programmed by genetics and life experience, and a relationship is just attraction plus opportunity.”

“You’re entirely too smart now.  You’re messing with my head.”

Dean felt a rising sense of panic.  “I have to be.  I have to stop you.  I have to keep you.  It’s too much for me to go through without you.  Lucifer’s getting stronger and eventually he could maybe get strong enough to really hurt you.  And maybe you’d even…you’d even let that happen, you’d ask him to do it, if I won’t.  He could get strong enough and you might let it happen.  You’re scaring me with the stuff you’re saying, Jovi.  And nowadays, when I get scared, I get really, really angry.”

“Dean…Let me go, then.  Instead.  It will be easier if I go.  If you don’t want to leave Earth, it’s ok.  I’ll go far away and I’ll make a new world, if this one means that much to you.  I wanted to hang onto it because I’m sentimental and it took me for-freaking-ever to make it, but you can have it.  I guess.”

Dean refused to listen any more.  “No.  No.  I understand what you’re saying and I can control this, Jovi, I swear to you I can, but I need your help.  If you have the love and forgiveness, then help me.  Be my better half.  Tell me when to act and when to lay off.  I will listen to you, Jovi, I promise.  It’ll be, so much better if you stay.  For everyone.”

“You don’t know that.  It may be worse.  Something bad could happen.  It could destroy us both.  It could destroy the entire world for all we know.”

“I don’t care.  We can make a new world.  This was a stupid world anyway.  No offense. We should let Lucifer have it.”  Jovi didn’t approve, tensed up and took a breath of air and cocked her little head from side to side in an attempt to disapparate, but nothing happened.   She started to panic.  Dean gave her a sympathetic look as it dawned on her.  “Yeah, I stuck ya here. Sorry.”

“You can’t…!”

“I just did.  I give you the gift of sleep, Jovi.  Sleep.”  Jovi blinked, struggling to keep her eyes open, overcome with the irresistible urge to sleep for the first time in her heartbreakingly long lifetime.  Dean caught her as she fell to the side and pulled her to sprawl across his lap.  He ran his fingers up and down the sleeve of her dress like he’d wanted to and could feel her warmth coming through the soft fabric.  He was sorely tempted to just stay there for awhile, hold her in his arms, look up at the stars, the smell of the woods in his nose and the sounds of nature in his ears.  Sorely tempted.  But he had a war he had to get back to. 

They reappeared back in Jovi’s fortress, up on the dais where her throne was.  Jovi was cradled in Dean’s arms, limp, looking dead.  But Dean didn’t realize how it looked, so he just stood there dramatically and waited for everyone to react.

At first Sam, the only entity in the room who wasn’t actively fighting, was the only one who noticed them.   Dean could see in his brother’s face he was shocked, horrified, disbelieving, and Dean knew what he was thinking – but then again Sammy was always  little slow on the uptake.  Let him wonder, Dean thought.  As the battle raged, Dean raised a new throne beside Jovi’s – his throne, taller and larger, and clearly above hers, in every way.  Folks needed a reminder about who was really in charge here.  He made the darkangels’ thrones disappear because who wanted those clowns hanging around?   He glanced around and the feminine quality of Jovi’s castle vanished, replaced by dark wood, stone, metal.   It was his castle now.  Theirs, but you know.  His.

He noticed that many of his angels had fallen, so he brought them back to life and healed their injuries.  He even brought back the dangles since Jovi seemed to like them.  As the environment changed before their very eyes, the heavenly hosts gradually stopped fighting to gape at Dean.  Believing Jovi dead, all the angels, both Jovi’s and Dean’s, reacted with great sadness.  They keened as one, wailing and crying, and Dean realized finally it must look to them the way it looked to Sam.  In the crowd he spotted Crowley hurrying to Castiel, beseeching him with his expression, but Castiel was equally stricken. 

Idiots.

Seriously?  They all really thought he would kill Jovi?  Really?  FFS.  “The war is OVER!  Stop fighting and get out!”  Everyone in the room had a comical moment of hesitation.

Dean repeated himself, inhumanly loud.  “Get OUT!!”  It wasn’t a command, not yet anyway.

After a few moments, angels and dangles started to disappear, one by one.  The archangels and Sam declined Dean’s request, or maybe they thought it didn’t apply to them.  As beings disappeared around them, they shrunk together into a cluster in the center of the room, almost as if they were circling the wagons, almost as if they were gonna make a last stand or something.  Against him.  It was pretty funny, really.  Dean wondered what it was exactly they planned to do.  So he listened in.  Sam pleaded with Gabriel. “Did he…did he…he couldn’t have…could he?”

Gabriel seemed stunned himself.  “I don’t know.”

Bobby, faithful as always, was still not ready to believe it.   “He wouldn’t have.  He wouldn’t have.”

Castiel shook his head, sadly.  “You have more faith than me, my friend.”

And that was enough of that.  If even Cas was doubting him, Dean realized, things had gone far enough.  He jumped across the room and landed in their midst, soft as a cat, with Jovi still cradled in his arms, sound asleep.  He was so gentle he didn’t disturb her at all, and that just goes to show he DID have self-control after all.  So there.  Crowley snarled at him.  “I’ll kill you, Winchester, I don’t know how, but I will kill you.”  He made as if to rush Dean but Ruby quickly and wisely snaked her arm through Crowley’s to stop him.

“Don’t be stupid, stupid.”  Dean despised Ruby, but she wasn’t dumb.  He would have killed Crowley, no hesitation, killed him forever dead, if Ruby wouldn’tve stepped in.  “He wouldn’t have killed her, Ori, at least not permanently.  He wants her alive.”  Crowley pondered the implications and he worked his jaw. 

“She’s alive, Crowley.  Oriphiel.  And…I’ll take care of her.  I promise.”  In spite of himself Dean felt a little sorry for the guy.  He was really the big loser of the day.

“She’s not breathing!”  Crowley ground his teeth and clenched his fists.

“We don’t always have to breathe.  But she is alive, Crowley, I swear to you.  She’s just sleeping.  I made her sleep.”

“He gave her a roofie.”  Ruby figured she had it all figured out.  And maybe she did.  Dean glared at Ruby for a long and chilling moment and then laughed.

“She’s…she’s tired, Ruby.  She’s been awake a long time.  She needs to rest.  And no one understands that feeling better than me.”  Gabriel sent a querying look Dean’s way. “She asked me…asked me to.  She asked me to kill her…and I said no.  Even if I wanted to, and I don’t, I can’t spare the power.  She’s safer with me, even if she’s not too happy about it, than she is on her own, Gabriel.  She could…in this frame of mind, I think she could go to Lucifer.”  Gabriel made a face as he connected the dots.  “I know you guys have your concerns.  I understand why.   I understand I haven’t exactly been…my best self lately.  But I think Jovi and me, we need to help each other get through this transition.  I’ll keep her alive and she’ll keep me…human.”  Dean meant it as a joke, but it fell flat.  He looked away for a moment, no longer sure what that word human even meant.  But Jovi knew, and that was gonna have to be enough.  “Get out of here, go far away.  Don’t come back.  None of you come back here again unless we invite you.  It’s not safe to be around us right now, I don’t think.  We need rest.  And peace.  We have to learn to work together, and it’s not gonna be easy.  We’ll be in touch when we’re needed.”

For his part, Gabriel couldn’t wait to leave.  He liked the humans too much, Dean idly thought.  Best to keep an eye on that.  He made a mental note.  “Sounds like a plan, Dad.  Take all the time you need.  Like, take extra time, why don’t you?  Catch ya hopefully several thousand miles down the road, maybe in a century or two.  Or ten.”  And with that he was gone.

Sam was not going to give up that easily, of course.  “Dean…”

“Adam’s waking up, Sammy.  Be the big brother for awhile.”

“What?  You’re sending me away?  Me?  No!”

Suddenly, Dean felt very weary.  His mitochondria were begging him to take five.  “Sam, it’s a lot of energy for one meat puppet to contain and I need…solitude, I guess you could say.  I can’t maintain the level of control I need to be around you plus do all the other things I have to do right now.  Having people around me is very draining, and Sammy, you are the single most draining person I know.”  Sam snorted bitterly and shook his head.  “Please, Sam, just don’t fight me. Not this time.”  Dean turned to Ruby and nodded her direction. “You’re human.”  Then he set his sights on Metatron. “You’re a gerbil.”

Ruby gasped, shocked into speechlessness as her wings shrank away into nothing.  She leapt away from Crowley to grab at herself, catching only a handful of feathers as her angelic nature evaporated.  “No, no no, no!  Oh!  God DAMN it!” she whined, looking at the remains of her wings with a stricken expression. 

Metatron didn’t have time to say anything.  He morphed into a gerbil in a ball and started skittering around.  Gadreel laughed.

Dean tried to explain to Sam about Ruby.  “I always thought you two made a…” He searched for the right words.  “…a cute couple?”  Sigh. “That expression is beneath my dignity.  The circumstances were not right before, but things are different now.  Maybe you two can work it out.  Or not.  You have free will.  Enjoy it, Sammy.  Surprise me.”

Neither Sam nor Ruby seemed particularly enthusiastic about that idea.  Sam protested. “Dean…”

But Dean had had his fill.  “Bobby, Cas, get him out of here.  Everybody, out.  Aren’t you supposed to obey me, or whatever?  Or do I need to get my wrath on?”  Bobby and Castiel looked a little sad, because it was an ending and endings are sad.  But they obeyed even as Sam started to struggle.  They disappeared, taking Ruby with them.   

Crowley lingered as Dean had known he would.  “I guess this is goodbye, Squirrel.”

“Let’s keep that nickname between you and me, ok Crowley?”

Crowley stifled a bitter laugh.  “It’s Oriphiel.  Take care of her, eh?”

“If I can’t, you’ll be the first person I call.”  Dean could see his friend’s Adam’s apple move as he swallowed.  Crowley was his friend, Dean knew that now.  He felt kinda terrible about the whole ear thing all of a sudden.  The darkangel stared at Jovi for a long moment but then he disappeared finally, and lucky for him too since even though Dean had some regrets, he was starting to get pissed off.

Gadreel, oddly since Dean barely knew the guy, was the last to go.  He picked up the hamster ball containing Metatron and peered into it.  “Can I have him?” 

“He’s all yours.”

Gadreel tucked the ball under his arm and disappeared.

And with that, Dean was alone, but not really alone.  Not ever really alone again.

Dean disappeared his boots and socks and carried Jovi up the stairs to his throne on the dais.  The plush rose carpet felt just as good on his bare feet as he’d thought it was gonna and he was glad he’d left it behind when he got rid of all the rest of the pink.  He blinked and It’s Good to be King began to play.   

It seemed fitting. 

He sprawled in the throne, which was uncomfortable as crap, so he turned it into a La-Z-Boy by tipping his head slightly to the left.  Better.  He popped the footstool up with a twitch of his little baby toe. 

He could have done it all without even moving anything but he was wore out.

Jovi slept on his lap, her upper body cradled against his chest.  He buried his fingers in her hair and realized he’d wanted to do that since the first second he’d seen her.  He thought about how he’d liked her pink hair so he switched it back again.   She wouldn’t mind, probably.

His other elbow rested on the stuffed arm of the chair, his forearm sticking up in the air.  Dean had an urge and a cheeseburger appeared in his free hand.  He bit into it, a massive bite, and it was delicious.  Extra bacon.  Extra cheese.  Extra gooey.

Dean stared into space while he chewed and while he found the responsibility of being God and everything did weigh on him some, overall he was pretty darn satisfied with his new existence.

 

Supernatural: Manic Pixie God Girl Part 13 – Crazy on You

Supernatural: Manic Pixie God Girl Part 13 – Crazy on You

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?”

“At times.”

“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!!!” 

Nothing.

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.  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.”

“Why?”

“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?”

“Yep.”  

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?”

“Me 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!”

Good.

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!?!”

“Dean, listen…”

“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, 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. 

Supernatural: Manic Pixie God Girl Part 12 – The Gods Must Be Crazy

Supernatural: Manic Pixie God Girl Part 12 – The Gods Must Be Crazy

If you missed Part 11, it’s here: https://atomicfeminist.com/2019/05/15/supernatural-manic-pixie-god-girl-part-11-angles-in-the-architecture/

If Bobby would’ve only been a human still it wouldn’tve been so damn frustrating.  

It happened sometimes with the Winchester Boys, they’d start doing crap Bobby didn’t approve of, things he couldn’t keep his mouth shut about, so he’d take a step back and get busy with his own life for awhile.  After all, he wasn’t their boss and he wasn’t their daddy, and they were grown ass men.  Dumb as balls both of them in their own way, sure, but grown ass men all the same.  Wasn’t his place to tell Sam and Dean how to live their lives no matter how bad they needed for someone to tell them how to live their lives.  So he’d take a step back. 

He couldn’t do that now because he didn’t exactly have a life to get busy with. 

Being Dean’s archangel meant he was a servant, like a butler or a bodyguard, and the expectation was that he would be at everybody’s beck and call.  No one came right out and said it but Bobby knew damn well if he went incommunicado there would be annoyance and snarky remarks, if not wrath.  But he wasn’t any man’s whipping boy, not even God’s.  While Castiel may be ok living like that, Bobby Singer wasn’t.

Bobby decided he was gonna be an angel more in the mold of Gabriel.  More of a doing-his-own-thing kind of angel.  A don’t-call-us-we’ll-call-you kind of angel.  A taking-road-trips kind of angel.  That’s how he came to be standing in front of Sheriff Jody Mills with his hands in the air, looking down the business end of a loaded, cocked double barrel shotgun.  “What are you, because I know you are NOT Bobby Singer?”  She was scared of him, which figured, and he couldn’t half-blame her.  She’d seen loved ones come back in the wrong form before, not that he was her loved one or nothing, but just, you know.  It was understandable.  It might not be him, was all, and he’dve done the exact same had their places been reversed.  “What are you?”

The problem was, he just didn’t know how to explain it.  It just seemed too…stupid.  It wasn’t so much that it was unbelievable, it was that it was plain idiotic.  Bobby found the entire concept of what he was and how he’d come to be, downright humiliating.  “Jody, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Well, why don’t you try, and then we’ll see if I fill you full of buckshot, or rock salt.”

“If you need to, that’s ok.  I can’t die though, at least, not that way, so don’t be too shocked when I don’t.”

“I bet it will hurt though no matter what you are.  So.”

She was right about that.  “Ok, well, I’m an angel, apparently.  An archangel, I guess you could say, not to put too fine of a point on it.”  And then to prove the case he unfurled his wings, which felt ridiculous and show-offish but seemed like the fastest way to convince her.  He felt a blush rise beneath his beard as he did it.

Jody was unimpressed.  “I’ve seen better tricks than that at the grade school talent show.”

“They’re real.”

“Real like a Kardashian.”

“What’s a Kardashian?”  The name sounded familiar but Bobby couldn’t place it.  He figured there must be some new kind of demon in town.  “And how do you kill it, because if you need me, Jody, you know I always got your back.”

She lowered the gun suddenly.  “Bobby, it IS you, isn’t it?  Really?  Is it you?”

“Yeah.  It’s me.  Unfortunately.”  He sucked his wings back up.  “I keep pinching myself hoping it ain’t true, but then I say ow.”

“How?”

“I got resurrected, or whatever, and then before I could escape into the night I got angelified.  Heh.  I can’t even get left alone when I die.”

“Huh.  Who did it this time?”

Bobby started talking and then stopped.  The words Dean is God tended to get stuck in his throat.  “You got anything to drink?  Because I think this is gonna go down better with a whiskey or two.”

“Can you drink?”

“Almost as much as I could when I was human.”

“That doesn’t seem right somehow.  Like, morally?”

“Angels ain’t what they used to be.”  

Jody fetched a bottle of Wild Turkey and when they’d got good and drunk, he told her the whole story.  When he was done telling it, Jody sat there in silence for a while and he knew she was thinking about the people she had lost.  Her son, her husband, friends and neighbors.  All of em things that God could have stopped as easy as pumpkin pie, but didn’t.  “Well, I gotta say, Bobby, I think I’m with Sam on this one.”

“Oh, believe you me, I see that side of it myself.”

“I mean, I guess I always thought that God had some sort of higher purpose, for all the suffering, and it would all fall into place someday, once I knew what that purpose was.  Like, I would feel ok about it once I understood that that was the way things had to be?  For things to be as they should be, you know?  For God’s plan to come out the way it was meant to, in the end.  I never really stopped to consider that maybe God is just an idiot?”

“If you met her, you could see.  She means well.”

“Wasn’t she the one who said the road to Hell is paved with good intentions?”

“I s’pose she knew from personal experience.”

“But knowing didn’t seem to stop her from inflicting her good intentions on the rest of us, now did it, Bobby?”

“Like I said, Jody, I do see that side of it, I surely do.  But.  Well, I think she was just in over her head, a bit.  With Dean to help her now, things’ll maybe be different from here on in?”  He didn’t sound convincing, not even to himself.

“Don’t even get me started on that dubious concept, Bobby.  Dean Winchester as God?  I mean, that’s just crazy!  Seriously.  No way that’s not gonna end up going bad in a big way.  Hm.  If I knew back then what I know now, I guess I should have walked away and let him die one of the zillion times I had the chance.”

“Heh.  Yeah.”  He had thought she was joking but she seemed kinda serious.  She poured herself a full-to-the-brim whiskey and sipped at it.  Bobby didn’t know what more to say, and so said nothing.  But he couldn’t help but think.  Dean as God?  Dean as GOD??  While Jovi essentially turning her back on Earth for centuries and doing nothing with her omnipotence had been bad enough, somehow the idea of Dean, a man of action who’d spent his life rushing in to hordes of slavering monsters to kill everything he could get his hands on and thought plans were for pussies, seemed significantly worse.  It was like following President Obama with President Trump or something. 

Jody was right, Dean being God was the Bad Idea to end all Bad Ideas, and probably literally.  It was only a matter of time before the kid blew his cool in some fashion or another.  People would die, people always did. 

And worst of all, if Dean wasn’t real careful, and and who was Bobby kidding, Dean was never careful, people might find out the truth of who they were really dealing with.

What might humans do if they found out God wasn’t all-knowing, that there wasn’t some benevolent plan, that human misery was largely borne from the misery of a higher power who was hurting even worse than they were?  That the person they’d been counting on to make things all right, was actually all wrong?

Bobby didn’t know, exactly.  He tried to remember being human, the nuances of it, the particulars, but it was fading faster than heaven had faded.  Still, he remembered enough to know that most humans weren’t like Jody.  Most humans weren’t reasonable and sympathetic and decent and slow to react without knowing all the facts.  Most humans were actually the polar opposite of all those things.

Looking at Jody’s face, the disappointment settling in, the defeat, he realized people finding out that God was a lonely needy little girl who was barely hanging on by her fingernails instead of an all-knowing all-seeing type of guy doling out presents to everyone like Oprah, it simply could not be a good thing.  Let alone if they found out about Dean, that there was a brand spankin’ new God who had been a human up till 5 minutes ago, and that he was none too steady himself. 

When you looked at it from the outside it was clear nobody who ought to be was in the driver’s seat. All of creation was careening off a cliff at 100 miles an hour with two scared kids who had stolen their parent’s car behind the wheel.  

Humans would rebel like the angels had rebelled, and the funny thing about people is when they rebel, generally they hurt themselves the most. 

In that moment he knew he’d never be able to be an angel like Gabriel, no matter how bad he wanted to.  Bobby Singer had spent his life fighting against evil and it looked like he’d spend his afterlife doing the same, just in a different capacity.  As a PR rep and cleanup man for the two least awe-inspiring Gods ever.

No matter what the price he had to pay, people couldn’t ever know that the lunatics were in charge of the asylum.    

********************

Over the next several weeks Dean tried, he really tried not to use his powers, and had some measure of success with it.   No more frivolous stuff, he’d decided, no more gambling and miracles and magic tricks.  The juju was for emergency use only.

Dean quickly learned, much to his dismay, that not using his powers actually started to hurt over time, like having a toothache or an ingrown toenail or one of those giant zits you get that just won’t pop no matter how hard you squeeze em.  The urge was an ever-present, irritating, dull ache.  He felt antsy and squirmy and just a little swollen all over his entire body.  He felt tender and sensitive and bruised.  His ears rang and he felt a sensation behind his eyes like there was a monkey in his brain tugging relentlessly on his optic nerves. 

And that was on a good day.  On a bad day the discomfort swelled into insatiable hunger and unquenchable thirst and intense desire all wrapped up with something he now recognized as the creative urge.  Those days he longed for release so he could feel normal again, so he didn’t feel like he was climbing the walls and that his skin was crawling. 

He found giving up his powers harder than quitting drinking, which he also did, but easier than quitting Jovi, which would have been impossible if not for the occasional maintenance dose of hot fury.  He would have missed her terribly except for how dare she, how DARE she create him, create the ridiculous, inexplicable, bottomless pit of emotion he felt, and then reject him?  It made his blood boil which was good because anger was the only thing allowing him to function.  If he didn’t have his anger to cling to he thought he might end up curled in a ball crying or something and Dean Winchester didn’t cry over women and he certainly wouldn’t cry over THAT one.

He was fine without her.  Fine and dandy.

Dean decided to look at his suffering as a means to an end.  Because the more he hurt, the more he felt like he was gonna explode from pent up energy, the stronger he was getting.  And the stronger he was getting the closer he was to defeating Lucifer.  Life was pain, Dean was miserable, but it wouldn’t last forever.  It hurt, it hurt bad, but it was temporary.  Endurable.  It was only a means to an end.  The pain would end when Lucifer was vanquished.  Forever this time, no more half-measures.   

That God had been trying to defeat Lucifer for eons, well, Dean preferred to not dwell on that too awfully much.  Accentuate the positive.  He would win, and he would win SOON.  He just had to get strong enough – mentally, physically, metaphysically – to defeat Lucifer and then with that chore off their to-do list finally, surely Jovi would soften.  Once Jovi wasn’t so stressed out, wasn’t so worried about the fate of the world, she’d be more receptive to new things, probably.  New developments.  Plus, come on, she’d have to be pretty dang impressed that he’d worked the one trick that she never could. 

Not that he cared, really, because he didn’t.  All the things Sam said about her were totally right, and besides that, she wasn’t his type anyway. 

Giving up booze made him sleep better, which surprised him since he’d generally gotten drunk so he could sleep.  He got 10 hours of sleep a night and even took naps in the midafternoon like a child.  He started drinking kombucha, which was awful, and kefir, which was ok, and various fresh squeezed juices, which varied, instead of living off coffee by the pot and the hair of the dog like he had been.  He went Paleo and gave up gluten. He started eating foods he’d never heard of like Acai berries and coconut oil and quinoa.  He communed with his mitochondria and was pleased to find they were full of gratitude for his efforts.  

He did these things even though he knew damn well that it was pointless.  Alls he had to do was have Castiel heal his vessel to be in perfect health.  But Dean discovered there was value in the effort.  He felt in control, he felt like he was accomplishing something and it was only when he dwelled on it too long that he admitted it was probably all just mental masturbation.  

He could feel himself getting stronger again, but so slowly.  Too slowly.  His glory was like a big empty rain barrel filling up and even though it added up it was still just trickling in a few drops at a time.  Chronos was living up to his end of the bargain and keeping the lesser gods on the move, but it wasn’t a perfect system and Lucifer was still catching an unlucky one now and then.  It was a race to the finish, Dean knew, and it was impossible to con himself enough to believe that drinking a flaxseed/spinach smoothie and sleeping in could really be the key to winning Armageddon.

But he did it anyway.  At the least, getting healthy gave him something to focus on.  It gave him something to hang onto, a vine to pull himself out of the divine quicksand he felt like he was sinking in sometimes.

Even as he lamented how slowly his glory accrued, he found he had an excess of physical energy so he took up jogging and weightlifting and kickboxing.  He could exercise for hours on end, then have Castiel heal his vessel and exercise for hours more, putting all his anxiety and misery into smacking a heavy bag and with every punch he threw he told himself he was that much closer to proving to Jovi once and for all that she wasn’t good enough for him.

When one sport got boring he switched to another.  He found his body could learn in days skills that it took humans years to master.  He went mountain biking and golfing and bowled 300 at every alley in the United States which was a huge, strange source of pride for him.  He took up tae kwon do and krav maga and archery and this weird stupid thing called parkour and he got satisfaction in knowing the next time he encountered Lucifer, even if he couldn’t kick his ass, at the least he’d be able to run away in an interesting fashion.   

And yet the pressure kept building.  God was who he was now and he couldn’t just leave it behind and take up a new hobby.  Just like Dean Winchester had once been a Hunter, now he was a Creator.  Needing to create was like a pebble in Dean’s shoe, a burr in his saddle; it poked at him as he was riding a bike down a rocky slope and tickled him as he was putting a golf ball across a green.  The more he hungered to create, the more he came to resent that he couldn’t do it as well as Jovi could, and the more frustrated got about how bad he sucked at it.  He would look at the trees as he whizzed by them on his bike or the blades of grass under his feet on the golf course and feel extreme awe that Jovi could construct something so absolutely perfect completely out of her imagination.  Along with a surge of burning jealousy that he couldn’t do it himself.

Copying things she had already made wasn’t good enough for Dean.  Not anymore.  He wanted to make his own things.  He urgently wanted to show Jovi that he could create things himself, new and dazzling things, so much better than her creations, so she would feel that same awe of him that he felt of her.

But he couldn’t.  He couldn’t even practice.  Freaking Lucifer.  Dean couldn’t even make a fly.  He had to be strong enough to fight Lucifer.  He didn’t have the glory to waste with experiments that would likely end in failure. 

Eventually Dean decided that since he couldn’t make stuff, he would just DO stuff instead.  Fix problems, correct errors.  Perhaps that was where his talents lay.  The things Jovi created were ok and everything, some of them were pretty cool like hummingbirds and watermelon and the Grand Canyon, but surely there was room for improvement.  Just look around, look at the world, what a freaking disaster.  What a mess it all was.  Maybe he could take Jovi’s creations, the things that didn’t work as well as they should, which was most of them in his very humble opinion, and give em a tweak.  Home improvement projects, he thought of them as.  Like training his muscles required small repetitive motions over time, surely he could hone his ability to create the same way.  Little adjustments, again and again, until he mastered creation.

People seemed to be the main problem, thus Dean decided it was people who he’d fix first.  Since he didn’t have the glory to waste on kicking ass, he had to work smarter, not harder.  He did the math and calculated that only a very small percentage of the human population committed most of the violent crimes. He could sense them sticking out of humanity like a sprinkling of black pepper on mashed potatoes.  God, how he loathed them.  So he very, very subtly began to change the odds so the worst people would be just a little more likely to die.  He didn’t kill them, exactly, he just made unlikely, unpleasant events a little more likely to happen until eventually they’d either contract some rare, usually incurable illness or manage to kill themselves through some sort of delicious, poetic justice-y freak accident.

It didn’t take him anywhere near the kind of effort that killing them all outright would have done; in fact it took barely any effort at all.  He could do it on the sly and keep gaining strength at very nearly the same pace.  It just…took the edge off, was all.  Of course he was doing it to make the world a better place and everything, but it also took the edge off.  He figured it was like methadone for a heroin addiction.  A pale imitation of the thing you really wanted to do but somehow it got you through.  

More important, it didn’t attract any untoward attention.  

Dean understood instinctively that the concept of a real live God performing real live miracles, particularly killing-people-related miracles, would have a negative effect on humanity as a whole.  Not only would it scare them, but people seemed to need the uncertainty of it all; the “does God exist” question seemed to spur them in ways that absolute faith couldn’t.  He had read that when training animals, intermittent punishment and intermittent rewards were much more effective training tools than consistency.  Which was mighty effed up when you stopped to think about it, but maybe that was one of Jovi’s careless mistakes that he needed to fix.  When he was strong enough he was going to fix all her mistakes.

This went on for a few weeks before Death wised up to the game and paid Dean a visit. 

Dean had been surfing, his latest endeavor.  He’d been at it for three days and was getting pretty good.  He’d had a crowd of people watching him, even.  As he came out of the surf he saw Death appear, and so he sent his admiring onlookers away with a thought.  “Hey, D-Man. Pallid as ever, I see.” Death was a guy who needed to give up gluten and take up mountain biking, for sure.  Dean stuck his surfboard into the sand and shook his head to dry it.  He was pleased to see that a whole lot of small beads of water flew from his hair to splatter across Death’s black suit.

“You should see yourself, Winchester.”  Dean knew all too well that despite his best efforts at eating clean, despite having spent the last 3 days in the Australian sun, his vessel was still was a little gaunt, a little pale.  His eyes were still sunken and red-rimmed.  He still had more healing to do before he was ready to face Lucifer even though it felt like the healing was killing him.  “I’m sure you’re aware why I’m here?”

“No.”  He was, of course, but it seemed smarter to play dumb.

“Been killing rather a lot of people lately, haven’t we?”

“So?”

“I thought you’d learned you can’t disturb the natural order?  Remember?  When you tried to do my job for a day and made such a mess of things?”

“Ah, but that was by saving people who were meant to die, not killing people who were meant to be alive.”

“Semantics.”

“It isn’t semantics.  Your argument is fundamentally flawed, Death, because I can’t go against the natural order.  When I was a human, yeah, sure.  I was subject to the natural order.  But I’m God now.  I create the natural order.  I make the rules, so I can bend em whenever I see fit.  You got a problem with that?” 

“Well, I don’t, no.”

“Jovi sent you?”  Dean found the concept of a messenger sent by Jovi more than a little thrilling, which was irritating.

“Not exactly.   We spoke, and you’re causing her distress.  I took it upon myself.”

“Why?”

“Old friends.  The oldest.” Dean knew that Death and God had been together since the very beginning and just the idea that Death had ever known Jovi so well, had ever had the privilege to be alone with her for a second let alone for trillions of years, caused a flare of jealous rage so great that the earth shook under Dean’s feet.  If Death felt it, he ignored it. “I don’t like to see her that way.  Death is my domain, as her domain is life.  I try to protect her from it, when I can.”

Dean wondered if it had ever been love, as unlikely as it seemed; he wondered if there could be something there still, which seemed even unlikelier.  He realized that even if Death was no more than a friend to her, he did not want Jovi to have a single friend other than him and the earth shook again.  “You have no need to protect Jovi from me.”

“Not from you, Winchester, from the consequences of your actions.”  The concept that Death felt interceding between him and Jovi was even remotely acceptable was infuriating.  Dean wanted Jovi to be for him and him alone, a trillion years in the past and a trillion years in the future.  He knew it wasn’t right and it wasn’t fair to want that but he wanted it anyway.  “What you’re doing is stupid anyway, there’s no bloody point.  You’re making a rookie mistake, don’t you realize that?”

“I don’t make mistakes!  I act, and it’s up to everyone beneath me to react.  Nothing I do is a mistake. I am the Word.”

“She is the Word as well, and she doesn’t like killing for no reason!”

“She’s allowing evil people to live.  And they kill.”

“Once they’re dead, they cannot be redeemed.  She allows the evil to live to allow them every opportunity for redemption!”

“They don’t deserve redemption.”

“Redemption isn’t deserved, it is bestowed!  Redemption is a gift, not a payment for services rendered!!”

“I have no interest in arguing about the finer points of Godhood with the likes of you, Death.”

“Well, you should discuss it with someone, because you’re botching the job!”

“Says who?”

“She does.  And honestly, she seemed a little sorry to have made you at all.”

Dean remembered what Lucifer had said, that Jovi wouldn’t have created him without the ability to destroy him, and he remembered that Death’s Scythe maybe-just-maybe could kill God.  Even if the scythe couldn’t kill Jovi, maybe-just-maybe she had made it so the scythe could kill Dean.  Maybe Death was the failsafe that Lucifer had been so sure existed and he felt goosebumps rise even though he was baking in the warm sunshine.  “Is that why she sent you here? To kill me?”

Death laughed drily.  “She didn’t send me.”  The temerity of it, that Death had taken it upon himself to come here!  That Death thought he was worthy of standing in judgement on the actions of God!  The rage boiled inside Dean then out of him and because he knew he couldn’t kill Death, he reached out with that precious power that he’d been so carefully preserving, that had taken him so much effort to accumulate, that he knew he shouldn’t be squandering, and he snuffed out every one of the evil men (and a not-small group of evil women) that he’d been killing off one by one by one.  Snuffed them in a heartbeat. Death sensed it immediately, of course.  His beady eyes went wide and a flush of red appeared on his pale cheeks. “I had plans tonight!”

“Guess you’ll have to reschedule.”

“I’m trying to explain, what I came here to try to explain, Winchester, you can’t just kill off the evil!  It doesn’t work like that!

“I know, because it looks suspicious.”

“No, because it’s pointless!  You realize every evil person who falls, more rise to take their place?”

“What?”

“Evil is largely about opportunity, you twit.  Human nature and opportunity.  The world is full of people who would simply love to be evil, to do evil, but they just never had the chance yet.  All you’ve done is created millions of job openings that will soon be filled, and the precise sort of chaos in which evil thrives!”

“Maybe, but the world will get a couple good years before they do.”

“You’ll see.”  And he disappeared.

That night, the evening news breathlessly reported millions of inexplicable deaths across the world.  People were saying it was Armageddon.  There were bank runs and all the food in all the grocery stores was gone because people were hoarding it.  Riots and revolutions had broken out around the globe.  People were sacrificing animals and virgins.  There were mass suicides, mass murders, genocide.  North Korea launched a nuclear warhead into Portland, Oregon.  Apparently Death had been correct, there were still plenty more evil people left to take the place of the ones Dean had killed.  Hundreds of thousands of innocent people were dead already and the number kept climbing.  It was like the aftermath of a tsunami where the death toll keeps rising and you’re wondering how high could it possibly go.  

Exactly like a tsunami, he realized.  He had unleashed a tidal wave of divine wrath and the world was drowning in the wake of his temper.  He may as well have made it rain for 40 days and 40 nights.  Dean, of course, didn’t have to watch the news, he already knew everything that was happening.  He knew because billions of people were praying at him, giving him a full accounting of the penalty humanity was paying because he had faltered for a split second.  He felt each and every one of those prayers like he was being poked all over with small icy needles, millions of them per second. 

It didn’t seem right that you could be good – better than good, great, practically perfect even – like 99.99% of the time but with a single, brief moment of weakness, just like that, boom, everything is undone.  It occurred to him that of all the demons they had ever fought, he had just done worse than them all combined because he was upset that a girl didn’t like him any more.

He knew it all already.  He didn’t need the news to tell him, he knew how bad it was.  He had turned on the news so Sam could find out about it without Dean having to actually tell him what he’d done.  Sam and Castiel sent alarmed looks back and forth at each other as they watched the images on the screen but no one said a word.  Dean sat on the couch and stared into space and chewed the inside of his cheek till he tasted blood.  He couldn’t decide if it was worse that they didn’t say anything, or if it was better.

They didn’t even look his way. 

After a while Dean got up and left the room.  He got drunk for the first time in weeks and took sleeping pills at the same time.  A whole lot of sleeping pills.  He figured it didn’t matter, not like he could die anyway, so he took the whole bottle and then conjured up another whole bottle and took that too.  Then he took some other stuff he found in the cabinet, cough syrup and antihistamines and painkillers and he washed it down with whiskey.

There was something symbolic about it, ritualistic, even though he knew he couldn’t die.

If he could have died, he would have, he would have died to take it all back if he could but he didn’t have enough power to undo what he had done and he couldn’t die.  If he could have died he would have died of shame.  Dean was so ashamed of himself, of his anger, of his pride, of his lack of self-control that he wanted to die and so he pretended that he could.  He just wanted to be numb, completely and totally numb for a while.

It worked.

*********************

Sam called Bobby back from South Dakota.  

It wasn’t because of what Dean had done, it wasn’t because everyone on Earth was freaking out and killing each other or that it was all Dean’s fault, because that seemed like such an insurmountable thing Sam just wanted to push it away forever and never think of it again, even though that made him a bad person or something, probably.  

Sam called Bobby back because the bunker was full of animals and Dean wouldn’t wake up.  Dean was making animals in his sleep.  Wild animals.  Lots of them.  He couldn’t create things when he was awake, but apparently when he was unconscious he had the knack, and Sam couldn’t get him to wake up.  Castiel had healed him, had filtered the drugs and alcohol out of his system, but Dean still wouldn’t wake up.  It was like he didn’t want to wake up or something.

Bobby already knew what had happened of course and when he appeared he waved off Sam’s apology.  “I was on my way anyways, ya idjit,” he said as he kicked what Sam recognized as a Komodo dragon away.  “I saw the news.”  Bobby ducked as a peregrine falcon swooped past his head in pursuit of one of the hundreds of small rodents that scurried across the floor.  “It’s like Noah’s frigging Ark in here!”  

“Tell me about it!  What do we do?”

“Well, put em back where they came from, I guess.”  That’s the way the night went.  They tried to get Dean to wake up, tried everything from cold showers to coffee, but he wouldn’t wake up.  As the animals appeared Sam would Google them and try to find out where they belonged and then Bobby and Castiel would drop them off whereever it was on Earth – an adventure made all too thrilling by the frequent appearances of Bengal tigers and alligators, animals which Dean had a particular affinity for.  Thankfully, Dean didn’t seem to be able to create dinosaurs which he also loved, or, as Bobby quipped, “We’dve had to open up our own version of Jurassic Park.” When the angels were gone and couldn’t see him doing it, Sam pray-screamed at Jovi to come and help them, to do something, to do anything, and she didn’t answer, naturally.

Sam was so over Jovi it wasn’t even funny.

Gabriel, thankfully, did hear and respond, and a good thing too because Sam didn’t think they could have managed without him.  He seemed to think the entire situation was hilarious and cracked jokes and threatened to give Dean a cocaine enema if he didn’t wake up soon.  Somehow his high spirits were contagious and pretty soon they were laughing even though everything was infinity miles beyond awful. 

When Dean woke up the next morning, Sam was dozing on the couch fitfully.  Dean had stopped making animals a couple hours prior and the angels had gone off to see what they could do to mitigate the civil unrest.

There was only one animal left, the last one Dean had made.  It didn’t have a place in the world any more since it was technically extinct.  Sam hoped against hope that Dean might find some joy in it.

Dean had finally managed to make a Dodo.

Dean shuffled in, holding his body stiffly, his fists clutched tight and drawn up to his chest like he was sore or injured or really cold.  Sam knew that he couldn’t be hurt because Castiel had healed Dean repeatedly during the night and he realized with a chill that some injuries are on the inside where no one can really see.  Sam sat up as the dodo waddled over to Dean and gazed up at him with an adoring expression on its cartoonish face.  Dean stared at it blankly.  “You made it in your sleep.”

“Did she come, Sam?”

She hadn’t, of course, and Sam was overcome with a sudden need to change the subject. “The dodo, Dean, you did it, see, isn’t that awesome?  Now you can just copy it and…”

“Did she come, Sam, and if you ask who, so help me…”

“No.  She didn’t.”  Dean sighed, and blinked, and sighed again.  He looked at the dodo and much to Sam’s dismay the rotund bird disappeared into a cloud of dust and then the dodo dust disappeared into nothing.  “Dean, wait!  What?”

“You can’t just remake old things, Sam.”

“What? Why?”

“It’s against the natural order.”  Dean shuffled in that strange stiff way into the kitchen and stopped.  Since he’d been on his health-food kick the kitchen was full of vitamin bottles and exotic fruits that Sam didn’t recognize.  “It had its chance.”

“But I thought you wanted…”

“I wanted?”  Dean’s voice cracked and he spun around and the expression on his face, Sam didn’t recognize it.  Like, he barely even recognized it was Dean that’s how different he looked.  Like, unhinged, totally unhinged.  If Dean’s eyes had been twirling in spirals, they would have matched what rest of his face looked like.  “I WANTED!?!  Since when has what I WANTED mattered?  In my LIFE?  Never?  I didn’t think so!”  As he yelled spit flew out of his mouth, so much spit that Sam could see it from across the room.

“Dean.  It’s ok.  Who cares, about the dodo, or whatever.  It doesn’t matter.  Just…it’s ok.  It’s fine!  Do you…do you want to talk, or something maybe?”  Sam desperately hoped Dean would say no because Sam didn’t know where to even begin, I mean what could a person say that could begin to make yesterday even remotely ok?  He hadn’t the foggiest notion.  They didn’t exactly make Hallmark cards full of encouraging platitudes for when God gets cranky.

Dean tugged the refrigerator open way too vehemently and everything inside sloshed and jostled in protest.  He bent over to rummage around inside it.  “And what, pray tell, might I want to talk about, Sammy?”

“Uh, I don’t know, yesterday?”

He slammed the fridge shut and turned, his arms full of juices and smoothies and other mystery potions.  “Do I WANT to TALK about YESTERDAY?”  Dean flung a bottle of wheatgrass juice at the wall.  It shattered, leaving a massive green splot on his Van Gogh.  “Hell YEAH I want to talk about YESTERDAY!”  He flung a bottle of something vivid orange at the floor roughly in the neighborhod of Sam’s feet, which were bare because he’d been sleeping.  Sam could feel droplets of icy juice splash his lower legs.

“Hey!  Dean…!?”

“But do I want to talk you YOU, Sammy?”  He flung a yogurt smoothie in a plastic container at the TV.   It went right through the screen and exploded on the wall on the other side and Sam recalled Dean had supernatural strength and didn’t feel particularly awesome about being right in his line of sight.  “I can say pretty EMPHATICALLY…” He threw another bottle Sam’s direction, so fast Sam couldn’t see what it was till it hit the floor and drenched his feet in purple fluid.  Beet juice.  “…That I DO NOT!”  The last bottle whizzed right past Sam’s head and hit the wall with a loud ker-sploosh.

As his brother spun on his heel and yanked opened the fridge again looking for more ammunition, Sam took the opportunity to flee, ignoring the tiny shards of glass burrowing into his bare feet as he did.  He heard another bottle breaking behind him and felt more liquid hit the back of his legs.  As he shut the door behind him, another bottle hit the door hard enough to shake the entire wall and Sam wondered what would have happened if he’dve been ten seconds slower and the bottle had hit his skull instead.

Castiel and Bobby appeared beside him.  They were both filthy and exhausted and they’d only been gone a few hours.  Whatever Dean had unleashed, it was bad.  “What’s the ruckus?”  Bobby asked, but Sam could only shake his head.

From behind the closed door they could hear the sounds of smashing plastic and shattering glass as Dean obliterated the vestiges of his latest self-improvement project.  The destruction continued until he must have run out of stuff to throw.  There was a long moment of silence and then Dean howled in frustration, an inhuman sound of pure wounded animal agony that shook the entire bunker.  Sam clapped his hands over his ears and winced because it was so loud his teeth hurt, but more than that his heart ached for his brother.  Before Sam could stop him, Bobby opened the door to go to Dean’s aid.

The horrible sound stopped.

There was no glass, no mess.  It was like nothing had even happened.

Dean was gone.

Part 13 is here: https://atomicfeminist.com/2019/05/18/supernatural-manic-pixie-god-girl-part-13-crazy-on-you/