?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Unmaking, Chapter 4



Chapter Four

Dean came back into control with a gasp for breath as Michael left him. Without the support of the archangel’s power his knees were jelly and he obligingly dropped down to a sitting position next to the still-sleeping form of Lilith’s former host. Other abandoned hosts were scattered around the salvage yard like the aftermath of a particularly enjoyable kegger, in various states of consciousness and health. Cas was standing a few feet away, looking down at Dean without expression.

“That,” Dean began, looking up at the cloudless sky and blinking lazily, “was awesome.”

“Michael’s presence often has that effect,” Castiel said solemnly.

“Dude, it was like riding shotgun at Nascar,” he drawled out. Then his eyes slid shut and his body collapsed bonelessly to the ground.

He woke up on Bobby’s couch a few hours later. There was a warm weight curled against his side, lying quietly against him with very little movement. Dean looked at the little girl who was currently responsible for the numbness in his arm. Her eyes were open and he could tell that she was really seeing him, not just staring blankly ahead.

He sighed. Leah Stuart, the former host for Lilith. Mike had wanted to let the girl die so that she could go straight to heaven, apparently a reward for everything she’d been through. Dean had argued for the girl’s life and apparently won.

“She wouldn’t rest apart from you,” he heard Castiel say, and turned his head to look at the angel. It was weird seeing him now, with his own human eyes instead of Michael’s vision. “When I attempted to take her to another room, she cried and clung to you.”

“ ‘S my magnetic personality,” he said, sitting up carefully and trying to discreetly shake the pins and needles from his left arm. Leah had readjusted her own position and climbed into his lap. “Everything ok?”

“Lilith is sealed away, the other demons are back in the Pit, and we have returned all of the hosts to their families, save for Leah.” Cas inclined his head slightly. “Michael said that you would care for her personally.”

Dean nodded and brought his still-tingling hand up to lightly stroke the girl’s hair. Leah relaxed into the touch and finally closed her eyes. He had fought for her life, and that made her his responsibility.

He repeated the action, wanting to take the same kind of comfort from Leah as she took from him, and nearly fell off the couch as the knowledge poured into his head.

It took a moment to sort through the jumbled emotions, fear and sorrow and a tiny ribbon of hope all mingled together, and focus on the other details. There was Leah as she looked now, little-kid jeans and a long-sleeved pink T-shirt, her hair still in tight, neat cornrows. A flash of a younger Leah, giggling as she runs through a set of sprinklers while Mommy watches, her hand on the belly that would be baby Kat. An old woman who was also Leah, wearing a white coat and gloves on her hands as she stitches up a gash on the arm of a gangly pre-teen. Leah walking across a platform, tall and elegant in her black robe and cap, reaching out a hand to accept the diploma.

It ended when Castiel pulled the girl from his arms and the contact between them ceased. Dean came back to Bobby’s shabby living room with a gasp, eyes searching the room before landing on the angel. “What the hell was that?”

Cas soothed the whimpering child, looking oddly comfortable with her on his lap. “Michael,” he said grimly. “It’s one of the aftereffects from acting as his vessel. You were warned that there might be consequences.”

“All I did was touch her and it was like downloading ‘Leah’s Greatest Hits.’” Dean rubbed the palms of his hands on his worn jeans. “Is this permanent? Am I gonna get the portable version of someone’s life history every time I touch them?”

“There’s no way to tell. The more compatible an angel and his vessel are, the more carries over when they separate and the longer it takes to fade. Michael has no doubt taken on a few of your characteristics as well.”

“Well, that’s just friggin’ great,” Dean spat out. “Michael gets a sense of humor, and I get the damned Shining. Oh, that’s fair.”

“It will ease with time,” Castiel said, finally touching Leah’s forehead with two fingers and sending her into a deep sleep. Dean wasn’t sure if the angel was tired of keeping the kid’s hands away from her objective or if he’d decided that rest was more important than her wishes. “The knowledge that you gained from Michael will take longer to absorb.”

Dean had been purposefully avoiding that particular landmine, but Cas’ offhand mention set it off regardless of his wishes. Seeing things through the eyes of an archangel meant you saw a lot more than the human mind could easily handle, and every single one of those things were fresh and vivid behind his eyelids whenever he so much as blinked. It was almost like when he’d been yanked out of hell three years ago, though his memories from Michael, while still terrifying in their own way, didn’t have the painful edge of his time in Hell.

Castiel was looking at him with Jimmy Novak’s bright blue eyes, and in his mind’s eye Dean could see Castiel, the real Castiel, looking out behind the mask. “You should let Jimmy go back to his family,” Dean said. “Find another vessel that doesn’t have a wife and kids.”

“I will return him without harm when my mission is complete.”

Dean gave a snort of humorless laughter. “Dude, you and I know that it’s going to be a long time now before your mission is complete. Jimmy misses his family and he’s pretty fucking traumatized by all the crap he’s seen. Send him home and find someone else.”

Castiel blinked, finally, and nodded slowly. “If it will put you at ease.”

“Gonna take a hell of a lot to put me at ease about this, Cas,” Dean said. “Send Jimmy back to his wife and kid. That’s a pretty good start.” With that he stood up and wobbled into the kitchen like a newborn foal. He needed food and caffeine, not necessarily in that order.

Bobby, bless his trucker-cap wearing soul, had a fresh pot of coffee sitting in the kitchen, the first cup cooling in front of his friend as Bobby read through a battered text, occasionally making notes. Dean poured out his own, trying to control the trembling in his hand as he handled the battered percolator, and sat down at the table next to him. He needed food still, a genuine need rather than a desire, since Michael had wiped out his energy reserves, but he couldn’t stand long enough to even fix himself a sandwich right now. Once the caffeine from the coffee hit his bloodstream he would try again. Dean took a sip, then another, before turning to his friend. “Hey Bobby?”

“Yeah?” The other man’s tone was preoccupied, but he looked up from the book and Dean counted that as a win.

“We just put off the apocalypse, man. School’s out for summer. You don’t need to be doing homework right now.”

Bobby shrugged and looked back down at his book. “Passes the time,” he said, taking a sip of his own coffee. “Had to have something to keep me occupied while I waited for your lazy ass to wake up.”

Dean snorted, gulped down his coffee, and got up to heat up a can of beef stew. The tremors were still there as he ate, and he was pretty sure that Bobby had noticed since the man put down his book and scrounged up a sandwich, setting the plate in front of Dean without comment. Once that was finished off, Dean sat back with a second cup of coffee and let his mind drift.

“So what are you going to do with the girl?” Bobby asked, pushing aside his book, grabbing a beer from the fridge and sitting back down. “Castiel said that you had something different planned for her.”

Dean nodded, looking at the beer longingly before turning his attention to his coffee. Michael had left a jumbled mess of information in his wake that he needed to sort out, and until he had everything compartmentalized again he wasn’t putting anything stronger than caffeine into his system. “Lilith used her to kill her family,” he said, eyes on the table and ears perked for signs of movement from the living room. “Mike dulled the memories a little for her, but she’s gonna run into a boatload of problems if she goes into foster care. I’d take her myself, but it’s gonna take a while to work through the crap Michael left in my own head. No need to screw up the kid more than she already is.”

“All right. So long as you have a plan. You do have a plan, right?”

“It’ll take me a couple of days to get everything lined up, but I think I have a place for her.”

It took three, all told, since the paperwork was harder to pull together without the benefit of the internet. Castiel offered to take Leah, but Dean refused the offer. After a great deal of trial and error, he had figured out how to dull the things he picked up when he made contact with someone. It wasn’t perfect, not yet, but one of the things that had shaken loose from the pile of information that Michael had left behind was that this new quirk of his would either fade completely or eventually come under his control, and practice would be the key to that control. He could live with it until then, though it was going to make getting laid a bitch. In the meantime, Dean would spend the next week or so driving Leah down and getting her settled in her new home.

Assuming that her new guardian said yes, of course, but he had a feeling she would.

***

He realized as he drove into the city limits of Lawrence, Kansas that he had missed the anniversary this year. November 2 had come and gone while he was ass-deep in apocalyptic bullshit, and Dean had been too caught up in dealing with the mess Michael had left behind to notice until now. Leah was sitting in the front seat, watching the golden-brown of fall in Kansas, but she turned to look at him when the thought crossed his mind. She seemed to pick up things like that, which had him dialing back all the drama of his own life as a precautionary measure.

Hope Missouri didn’t mind taking in a formerly demon-possessed kid with possible psychic powers.

He was pretty sure she was going to say yes, and that wasn’t entirely intuition from Michael. Missouri stood out vividly in his own memories as the kind of person who would never abandon someone if she could help in anyway, even if she got a little violent with a spoon now and again.

The house was much the way he remembered it, though newer and with a slightly neater yard. The sign outside was freshly painted and swung gently in the breeze as Dean parked the car and got out. Leah scrambled out when he opened her door, abandoning the blanket she’d had wrapped around her since she left Bobby’s.

They fell into step as they walked toward the house, Leah’s small hand creeping up and grasping Dean’s large, rough one. Dean muted the stream of potential Leah’s as best he could, focusing on the here and now and hearing the voice of Yoda in his head.

Leah giggled as they climbed the steps to the porch, and he intentionally brought up a mental image of the little green Jedi Master. Old school Yoda, of course, no prequels here. He was rewarded with a brief, bright smile. Yeah, Missouri was going to have her hands full with this one.

The door opened before they could knock. Missouri looked at them both in the late-afternoon sunshine before stepping back and gesturing into the house. “Better come in, both of you,” she said, leading the way through her ‘office’ and into the kitchen. “Take a seat, you two. I have a feeling you need food before we do anything else.”

Dean did as he was instructed, suddenly too weary to object behind a token grumble. Leah scooted her chair over close to Dean’s before climbing up and letting her legs swing. She seemed a little more at ease her than she had at Bobby’s. Dean thought that was probably Missouri’s influence, or possibly the fact that Missouri’s house was definitely a home, while Bobby’s place was just as emphatically not.

After a few minutes of comfortable quiet, broken only by the sounds of food cooking, Missouri set down grilled cheese sandwiches and mugs of tomato rice soup in front of both of them before sitting down at the table across from Leah. Dean looked at the psychic with suspicion; this particular soup was his mom’s specialty when he was sick and he’d never been big on coincidence, but if Missouri had picked up on something she was keeping it to herself.

Missouri kept quiet until Leah noisily slurped up the rest of her soup. Dean’s own food had been finished for a while by then, so he’d settled back and watched the girl eat her grilled cheese, disinclined to talk until she was done eating. He still hadn’t decided how much to say, and how much of it could be said in front of a five-year-old who could barely be coaxed from his side for long enough to pee. The past few days had been hell on his vocabulary. Dean hadn’t realized how many curse words he used on a regular basis until there were two little ears listening in on whatever he said.

“Whatever it is you’ve come for, I’m guessing it’s not personal this time,” Missouri said once the dishes were pushed away. “Your mind is a straight-up mess right now.”

“There’s a bunch of stuff I need to sort through,” he said, leaving out the part about having the Unabridged and Complete Works of the Archangel Michael dumped into his subconscious. She might have picked up on it anyway, because she gave him a sympathetic smile. “I’m here about Leah.”

The girl sat up straighter at her name, looking from Dean to Missouri with a frown on her young face. “What about me?”

Dean was saved from answering by Missouri’s thoughtful hmming. “I see what you mean,” she said cryptically. “She’s got a powerful gift, but no idea how to control it.” There was a pause, then an exasperated huff. “Child, you need to learn when not to go poking around like that. It’s downright rude to try and peek around in my mind like some kind of Nosy Nancy when I can see you doing it.”

Leah rocked back in her seat at the reprimand, surprise evident in her expression. Dean had never bothered to try and level a punishment for this behavior; he was shit at discipline and until now he was the only one she’d tried it on. Seeing Missouri step into the gap made him relax a little. This had been the right choice. “Will you teach her?”

The woman reached across the table, touching Leah’s cheek and staring into her eyes. “Give me an hour with her. I’ll know by then.” She nodded to Dean, dismissing him from the room. Dean left quickly, before Leah could object or he started second-guessing this decision. This was the best thing for Leah. He was barely holding on with his fingernails, trying to absorb and process the mountain of crap that Michael had left behind without drowning, and Leah needed someone who could focus on her with only minor distractions.

He started walking, more to keep busy than anything else. Until he had Leah taken care of, he couldn’t afford to stop moving. Slow down for a second and the undertow would drag him under like the freaking Titanic.

His feet carried him past the garage where John worked, and he watched him work for a few minutes before moving on, brushing a hand across the surface of the Impala as he moved on. He missed that car.

Mary’s restaurant was next, though he didn’t go inside. Dean caught a glimpse of her through the window, her face set in concentration as she balanced a tray of drinks, but he moved on before she could see him. There was no way he could keep up the façade with his mother looking at him, even if she didn’t know she was his mother. He kept moving.

It was probably closer to two hours before he made his way back to Missouri’s place. Leah was asleep when the woman let him in, curled up on the couch and more at peace than he’d ever seen her. “I wore her out,” Missouri said, looking down at the girl with fondness. “Child’s got a lot of potential, if she can learn to curb her mouth.” She glanced at him sideways. “Guess she picked that up from you.”

“I tried my best,” Dean said.

“Mmhmm.” There was another look, practically oozing suspicion. “I don’t have to be psychic to know what you’re thinking right now.”

Just to be contrary, Dean looked at her and thought of the raunchiest porno he’d ever seen. Missouri recoiled in reflex and slapped him on the arm. “You stop that right now!”

He chuckled, dodging another blow. “Stop what?”

Missouri glowered. “You know. Don’t make me get a spoon.”

The image of this Missouri, a few years younger than he was but wielding a long-handled spoon at his hand, made Dean laugh out loud. It was shallow laughter, petering out quickly, but he felt better for it all the same. “So you know what I want, then.”

“I do.”

“You gonna make me say it?”

She snorted out a laugh. “I should. But I won’t. I’ll take Leah in. We fit together well.”

Dean relaxed. Part of him wanted to reach out to the woman, touch her hand and see how the little girl fit in with the life of Missouri Moseley. But he didn’t trust this thing that Michael had thrust on him. Beside, she would probably make good on the spoon threat if he tried to use any psychic mojo on another psychic. “Good.”

***

He didn’t go straight back to Bobby’s once Leah was settled in with Missouri. Probably should have; God knew his friend had enough issues of his own without Dean ditching him, but instead he holed up in an abandoned house a few miles away from Lawrence. He needed time to deal with the things he had learned from Michael, time and solitude.

Castiel came to him anyway.

“We need to talk,” the angel said. As suggested, he had taken a vessel other than Jimmy Novak, this one much older but built with a wiry, lean strength. Dean touched the vessel’s arm through a worn polyester shirt and saw the day Paul Rogerson took his orders, the first Mass the man ever conducted, the church he’d served for decades gently but firmly urging him into retirement. Then one day the skinny old man got a visit from an angel.

Now that he was aware of this bond between them, Castiel’s motivations and actions became clear. “You’ve known from the beginning,” Dean stated.

“I have known since the day I came into being that one day I would rescue you from hell and the consequences of the action.” Castiel sat down on the dusty floor next to Dean. “The sacrifice was well worth the result.”

“And is being stuck with me for the rest of your existence the result or the sacrifice?” Dean asked pointedly.

“An anticipated side effect,” Castiel answered, tilting his head a fraction. “The sacrifice was the separation from Father when I entered Hell. That is the only sacrifice an angel can make.”

“Right,” said Dean, rubbing the bridge of his nose. He’d known that, or at least he’d remembered it as soon as Cas had brought it up. “So we’re stuck being heterosexual life partners until the end of time, then. Friggin’ great.”

Castiel frowned. “It isn’t something that could have been prevented. The only way your body could be returned to life after four months in the grave was an angel’s grace.”

“At least it was you and not one of the other dicks,” Dean said testily. “Michael kinda left me a dossier on some of the other angels, and for the most part they’re pretty much jackasses. Especially the ones who were trying to jump-start this whole thing.”

“Most of us lack flexibility,” Castiel agreed. “It is the way we were designed. Our true purpose is to worship and serve the Father by following his commands, but it is easy to lose sight of the spirit of those instructions while staying to the letter of the law.”

“Well, Michael’s cleaning house upstairs. Guess that leaves the two of us to muddle through down here.”

“With Bobby Singer,” Castiel said, smiling. “Having him as a friend has helped you.”

“You are one sneaky son of a bitch,” Dean complained. “I thought you just wanted me to help Bobby.”

“I did. But I knew that you would be less lonely if you had a companion.”

“Next time, send strippers. A lot more pleasant to wake up to than Bobby’s grumpy ass.”

“If that is your wish.” Castiel was studying him now, Paul’s sharp brown eyes just as intense as Jimmy Novak’s blue ones had been. “I am sorry that you were not given a choice in this matter, Dean. The life in front of you will not be an easy task.”

Dean shrugged his shoulders and settled back onto the sleeping bag he’d spread out. He knew Cas was right. One of the first things Michael had shared with him were the consequences of coming back from the dead the way he had. Castiel had used a portion of his grace to create a new body and tie it to Dean’s soul, which meant that as long as Cas was still kicking, Dean would be too, looking exactly the age he had been when he crawled out of his grave. And human beings weren’t meant to live forever. “Bring it,” he said.

***
Life slowly returned to an approximation of normal for Dean. He and Bobby started hunting again, though they made Bobby’s house a staging ground and didn’t go as far afield. His friend was getting tired of life on the road, something Dean understood even if didn’t feel the same way. The life he’d always lived wasn’t for everyone. Most people, Bobby included, grew weary of the constant upheaval and traded it in for the comfort and stability and home. It was difficult to keep up a constant state of vengeance when the memory of the reason for it began to fade around the edges. He suspected his father would have been the same way if he hadn’t had his sons to remind him of Mary at every turn.

Castiel spent more time with the hunters, Paul’s lean frame appearing in the back seat of the car or in Bobby’s kitchen. Dean was never sure if the angel was there for Dean’s sake or his own, but the company was welcome.

Despite the absence of his family, as time went on Dean became content with his life. He had friends and hunting and a lack of apocalyptic bullshit, and his family was alive and safe even if he couldn’t be with them.

There were people to save, things to hunt, and plans to make.

Next