rageprufrock: (east coast tourist)
[personal profile] rageprufrock
Title: Wayfinding 4/?
Rating: R, for shitty parenting
Summary:

"And what the hell do you mean, 'work for you?'" Bobby asks.

They're all sitting around the library, feeling wronged and suspicious, clutching at coffee cups and stacks of old books.

Okay, that's not true: they're all sitting around the library, and Dad is feeling wronged and suspicious; Bobby's recused himself from discussing his feelings beyond giving Sam a stink eye when he asked; Deanna's feeling disoriented, and Sam's feeling — well, from his face, he's feeling awesome, camped at his MacBook abusing the law school's Lexis Nexis account like a motherfucker. On the other side the room, Dad's going for a gold medal in the international being totally fucking unhelpful and brooding Olympics.

Instead of trying to strike up some sort of awkward early morning discussion, Deanna's elected to curl up in their battered old wingback, feet tucked up underneath her, trying to shake the memory of blue eyes and electric gratitude out of her head. She can't.

"I mean," Dad huffs, "he just said, 'We have work for you.'"

"And," Sam cuts in, "he was an angel."

"Well, that's what he said," Dad mutters, and when he walks past her, he cups the back of her head, affectionate in a way she knows used to make Sam seethe with jealousy. She's glad he turned ten, finally, and decided hugs were for girls, anyway, so that she can lean into the warmth of her Dad's palm without any guilt. "You sure you're okay?"

Deanna smiles up at him. "Yeah, Daddy," she promises quietly. "I'm fine."

When she'd wakes up in the barn, it'd been morning already, sunlight pouring through the opened doors and the holes in the roof. Someone had put a musty-smelling blanket over her, and Dad's jacket had been folded up under her cheek. In daylight, the barn had looked normal again, safe, the same place she used to come to find Sam when he was in one of his moods, the same place she hid when she absolutely had to be alone — nothing at all like the night before night, and even though all the sigils and signs were still decorating the walls, still marking out the floor, it had felt warm and human and ordinary, and everything that had happened before felt like a fever dream.

"You said he had wings," Bobby argues.

Dad looks up at him, frowning. "I saw something that might have been wings, mostly a shadow," he admits. "But — "

"Making deals with crossroads demons can't possibly be legally binding in the eyes of the Almighty," Bobby says, wry, leaning back in the desk chair. "It does make sense."

"This is good news," Sam says, picking up on that thread, and he smiles, giddy with their good luck, and unfolds all seventeen feet of him from the desk chair to say, opening his big arms wide, "Guys, come on. This is good news."

"How the hell is this good news?" Dad demands, and Deanna reaches up to take his hand with one of her own, folding their palms together the way she used to hold his hand when she was just a baby.

She barely remembers, but she thinks maybe he liked to take her to the playground, somewhere near their old house in Lawrence, and that she'd walked with him — tiny steps, tiny sneakers — and held his hand with him bent over her, following like a huge, dark-haired shadow in her wake. Deanna knows that most of her memories before she was five are bare instances she's sketched in with her imagination, but she likes to think that it was true, that once upon a time she had the kind of father who followed his daughter to playgrounds and drank fake tea with her in the sandbox, doting.

"Because it's not a demon, Dad," Sam points out, slow, an introductory course in gratitude for the perennially and violently paranoid. "If it's an angel, then maybe he pulled you out because of God's grace — because you didn't belong there."

Dad clutches at Deanna's fingers hard enough to hurt, just for a beat, and he mutters, "Sorry, baby," before he says to Sam, "God? Grace? Sam, I don't buy it."

"You don't have to, but it's looking more and more like an issue of proof versus an issue of faith, Dad," Sam says. "And look, like Bobby said, nothing else we know could have popped the lock on hell for you — the best proof of what it is is that you're here."

Sam catches Deanna's eyes, and she smiles at him, tipping her head to the side. She doesn't know if Dad appreciates it the way she always has, but Sam's so good at reminding her there's good, that some people want to be good, and Deanna's grateful for that, even when it's hard to be grateful for anything.

"But why me?" Dad asks, rough, and maybe that's the heart of the question.

He pulls his hand away from her, looking guilty, and lumbers over to the other side of the room, to where Bobby's situated himself behind the desk and in a fortress of old books, Gideon and NIV and King James versions of the bible and heretical lore.

"If there is a merciful, involved God out there, why me, out of every — "

"Because you weren't supposed to go in the first place," Deanna hears herself interrupt.

It makes Sam stare at her. It makes Bobby stare at her. It makes Dad close his eyes, dip his head low and press his chin to his chest. It's also true.

"Because, hell, Dad, you weren't supposed to die in the first place, right?" she says, staying folded up on the chair, pulling her arms and legs in as tightly as possible.

After that car wreck, when there'd been no way she should have lived, with punctured lungs and a lacerated spleen and a smashed-up kidney and liver and so much internal bleeding everybody agreed it was just a matter of time, just a matter of making her comfortable — she'd woken up fine. Fixed. Impossibly perfect from the inside out, the ugly shadow of a purpling bruise on the corner of her mouth. She remembered being in the hospital bed, looking at Dad's busted-up face, the tears swimming in his eyes when he'd told her a terrible secret about Sam, and how he'd wandered off, promising he'd be back in a minute and they'd talk more, and how that's when the code blue was called.

"Maybe they're just fixing something that was wrong to begin with," she whispers.

Dad barks, "It wasn't wrong."

"It was if you had to trade your soul for it," Deanna grinds out.

She's wanted to yell at him about this for two years now. Since he's come back, it had never seemed like the right time. And while he'd been dead, getting drunk and yelling at his gravestone had, inevitably, led to crying, and twice to Sam coming to find her late at night and half-carrying her home, which, mortifying.

"I'd do it again in — " Dad starts, and Deanna yells:

"That doesn't make it right."

"Hey, Bobby, did I ever show you that thing in our kitchen?" " Sam says, supernaturally chipper, and Bobby, that fucking coward, gets right up on his feet and starts following Sam out of the library saying, "No, Sam, you haven't, but I'm friggin' eager to see."

That leaves Dad rubbing his face, muttering, "Jesus Christ," because this is fucked up, whatever this is between them, and Dad knows it and Deanna knows it and probably Dr. Phil knows it, from letters written by concerned passers-by.

"I'm not going to apologize for not wanting my daughter to die, Dee," he says, obviously from between gritted teeth.

Deanna swallows hard, because what's she supposed to say to that? No, Dad, I was really looking forward to dying? She remembers the hospital, and Tessa, with her soft hands and dark hair and easy smile, the way she'd put an arm around Deanna's shoulder and kissed her on the temple, comforting. Death hadn't seemed so bad, and Deanna was tired, and it had been easy to rest her cheek on Tessa's shoulder, to mull the possibility of sleeping, dreamless, or whatever came after, if it was something quiet and restful and painless. She can't say that shit to Dad, though, any more than she could tell Sam.

"Do you think I wanted to carry that?" she asks, and she presses her forehead against the rim of the coffee cup because she can't bear to look at Dad. "To know that I was only alive because you'd…" she swallows hard. "You shouldn't have done it, Dad."

There's a long, long, horrible silence, and it grows out of the space between them and fills up the air, pushes out all the muted house noises and distant chirping of birds and the the sound of Bobby and Sam hiding in the kitchen. Deanna looks up when, eventually, she can't stand the agony of waiting for Dad to start screaming anymore.

But Dad doesn't look furious for her ingratitude, he just looks gutted, wild, and she's only seen him like that once or twice in her whole life of knowing him, and she whispers, "Dad?" He closes his eyes, and when he does, his cheeks are wet.

"I couldn't've, Deanna," he tells her, wrung-out. "Carried it. Carried that, if you'd died."

A metric fuckton of things pile up in Deanna's throat, back up down into her chest and fill up all the space in between her thoughts at that. She's got a whole childhood of dubious responsibility and weird emotional patter. Dad's always put more on her than is fair, than is right, really, but Deanna's his best girl, she'd been happy to take it. She knows — and really, really tries not to think about it too much — that she's never just been his daughter, always been some terrible combination of friend and kid and soldier co-parent and spouse, and her college psych professors would have had a fucking field day with the codependency in this family. She's always lived and died by her father's praise, the tick in his jaw, or that slow, rueful smile she wins sometimes, and how it feels like fireworks on Independence Day and popsicles on the hottest day of summer all combined, how when he's mad at her she's physically sick, and how she's lived with his constant and unspoken disappointments. Deanna shouldn't put so much on him, but hell, Dad started it.

Deanna's grown up making excuses for Dad the way she learned from Mom, from her earliest days, and just like Mom, she'll never know how to stop, never be able to tell herself to stop cutting John Winchester slack, giving him enough rope to hang them all.

"I'm just glad you're back," Deanna tells him.

She carves it out of her chest, even though that's not what she's thinking at all, or at least, not all she's thinking. Deanna realizes in that instant she's never going to tell him what she's really thinking, that she's just as big a coward as he is, and that they will always live in the spaces created by what they leave unspoken. There will always be things that Deanna won't be able to bear to tell him, and maybe it's better that way: they've always meant to much to each other, they've always bet the house, and everything in it.

"Okay," Dad says, scrubbing at his face. "Yeah — okay."

There's a beat and then another before Sam calls out from the kitchen, "Is it safe to go back in there?" and Bobby muttering, softer in the background, "Jeez-us, it's a houseful of idjits in here."

*

Two hours into their marathon research section, Deanna says, "Yeah, okay, ya'll are on your own for this," and goes to work, Sam shouting, "Dee! Dee! Oh, come on," after her and John saying, "Don't yell at your sister."

She spends the day trying not to laugh at people who roll up into the ER with weird shit stuck in weird places and placating little kids who scream like banshees at the prospect of needles. She never holds it against them; she remembers being shit-scared of hospitals when she was that age, and hell, Sam's never grown out of it, still just idles outside and refuses to come in and wait when he picks her up from work, pussy. She works a double to make up for the wonky scheduling the past few days, and comes home exhausted, gone through the ringer, to find Sam waiting up in the kitchen.

Deanna checks the clock: 2 a.m. "It's late, dude, go to bed."

He shrugs. "Couldn't sleep. We put out some calls."

"To who?" Deanna asks, and slides into one of the kitchen chairs, stretching her toes, and Sam gets up for the fridge.

"Hunters we know. System checks. See if anything hinky's been going around," he says, distracted, and turns back around with a plate. "I made you a plate. Chicken parm for dinner — you hungry?"

"Enough to eat the plastic wrap," Deanna says, and Sam laughs and sticks it in the microwave for her, brings it over with a fork and a diet Coke. "Thanks."

For a while, they talk around the subject of their shared interest, and then they get quiet, the only noise Deanna's fork against the china for a while, until Sam comes up with:

"He's different."

"Who?" Deanna asks. "Dad?"

Sam nods. "Yeah."

He is, a little, Deanna admits. He's quieter, and where before, John Winchester was always ready with a snotty comment, and usually quick to lecture, he also liked to laugh. Since he's come back, Dad sleeps badly and spends a lot of time in the cellar cleaning weapons and quizzing Sam on how classes have been, like school and anything she and Sammy did that took them away from hunting hadn't once been one of those wedges that could trigger an entire week's worth of violent silences.

"He died and went to hell, Sam," Deanna says. "It probably changes a person."

He gives her a dirty look. "I know that, I'm just saying that — " he makes a constipated face, like he's not sure what he's trying to say, either " — it's weird, having him back. And not just because he was dead."

Probably, Deanna should say something profound here, but all she can think is, "God damn, we have some seriously fucked up conversations in this family."

The next morning, they get calls back from just a handful of the dozen hunters they'd called, and it seems to be all quiet on the saving people, hunting things front.

There's generalized suspicion and a good bit of bad blood about why the Winchesters of all people are calling around, given John Winchester's traditional salt-and-burn approach to both hunting and friendships. And anyway, most hunters work alone, maybe in packs of twos every once in a while for a particularly big job, but they touch base at places like Ellen's Roadhouse and sometimes with research nuts like Bobby and then peacefully vanish into their own corners of the country. That's not even addressing the issue of Deanna's little brother, quietly ensconced in his third year of law school, who many years ago might have killed another hunter with his mind.

"Nothing," Bobby pronounces, hanging up the phone.

"Nothing on my end," Sam agrees, and punches END on his BlackBerry.

Deanna listens to Judy Murphy hang up on her. "Yeah, Judy appears to think nothing, either," she translates. It's a sentiment that was, technically, conveyed, in between swearing at her and calling her a whore.

Sam smirks at her. "Judy's still mad about Jackson, then, I gather."

"I don't know why, it wasn't like he was particularly great in bed," Deanna complains, because Jackson had been one of her passing whims during her early twenties, when she felt particularly hideous and everybody else disagreed. Dad had always taught her and Sam to seize all available assets and sometimes, coincidentally, those assets had allegiances to other people, although clearly not strong enough to keep them from straying into Deanna's motel bedroom.

"Dee, Jesus Christ!" Dad shouts, from the other room, because apparently dying and hell and all that hadn't done shit about his bat ears.

"Ignore him," Deanna tells Sam, who doesn't, and shouts instead, "Don't worry, Dad, Deanna's just kidding — we all know she's saving herself for marriage."

She smacks him upside the head, his bang flying, but Sam's too busy laughing himself sick and Bobby's too busy chortling for anybody to glean any lessons about interpersonal relationships from the moment.

"Right," Deanna tells him. "For that, you're coming to the Teeter with me."

Keeping food inside the house but not also inside of Sam is a challenge under normal circumstances; adding Bobby and Dad in the equation means that Deanna's given up on making herself a grilled cheese with tomatoes in favor of just dialing for Gumby's most nights, because she knows there's going to be a whole fuckload of nothing in the fridge. She'd be okay with that, except now they're out of beer, too.

So she and Sam tool around the Harris Teeter in their yuppie green-metal shopping cart and buy Sam Adams for Bobby and Coors for Dad and Corona for Sam and Red Stripe for Deanna before loading up on frozen pizzas and Morningstar spinach and artichoke bites, which is one of those food decisions Sam makes that leads Deanna to leave him trial boxes of tampons and maxis on his desk.

They're standing in the meat aisle, Deanna pricing steaks, when Sam busts out with:

"I'm really glad it's an angel."

Three girls — obvious freshmen given their GAA sweatshirts and the fact that they're wearing makeup to go to the fucking Harris Teeter at nine o'clock at night — give them a wide berth, and then each other a look, before vanishing down an aisle.

"I mean," Sam goes on, lowering his voice a little, "it's just — maybe our luck changed."

"Sure, angel," Deanna mutters.

Sam gives her a Look.

She points a package of porterhouse steaks at him. "I don't want to talk about it," she warns him, because she doesn't.

"I just thought maybe this whole thing with Dad might have changed your previously held opinions about God," Sam says, because he's a dick, and grabs the steaks out of her hand to swap them out for the organic ones. "These are grass fed."

Deanna stares down at the price before swapping them for the originals.

"Those cows had better be fucking caviar fed for that price," she tells him, and pushes the cart away — porterhouses safely tucked inside — before Sam can start in on her about how he'd just reread the Omnivore's Dilemma and how it had really touched like, him and everybody else in his law school study group.

They're standing in the checkout line when Sam starts again.

"You really don't believe in God?" he asks. "Still?"

"Oh my God," Deanna says, more to the store clerk than her brother. "Credit. Credit."

"Because I mean, signs and wonders, Dee," Sam pushes on.

The checkout guy's shoulders start shaking, not making eye contact, obvious signs of hysteria that Deanna's trying to ignore for the sake of her dignity. This is why everybody in Chapel Hill probably thinks they're like paramilitary bible-thumping Clampetts, she thinks bitterly, and hands over her credit card, adding, "We just broke him out of a cult last summer. They keep telling me the recovery process can take years."

"I believe in God, Dee," Sam clarifies for her, when they're out in the parking lot again, stowing bag after bag of food into the truck of the Imapala. "Dad's proof of that."

"Sam," she says, slamming the trunk shut, "I do not want to talk about this."

"Because ultimately," Sam says, instead of listening or cowering in fear at the tone of her voice —

"Jesus Christ," Deanna mutters. The worst day of Deanna's life had been when Sam had come downstairs for breakfast and realized with an overjoyed shout that after seventeen years of trying, he'd broken 5'8" and, more importantly, could begin towering over his sister. The additional six thousand inches he grew was just spiteful.

" — Ultimately," he repeats, "the point I am trying to make, Dee, is that good things do happen, and…" he falters her, a bit, shy "...you should stop feeling bad about it. About what Dad did."

Deanna closes her eyes, swallowing hard. "Yeah?" she asks. Maybe she should.

"I didn't want Dad to die, either," Sam tells her, earnest and reasoned and hard to argue with. Deanna doesn't know how Dad does it, because she never really manages to fight with Sam, not when he's trying this hard. "But I'm so, so glad you lived, Dee."

She feels something that might be tears tickling the back of her throat. "All right," she declares, more bravado than actual spunk. "Tuck your vagina back in, I get the point."

"No, I'm pretty sure we should hug," Sam tells her, solemn.

"Stay away from me," Deanna warns him, but she's already laughing, and when Sam dives for her, she shrieks, "Sam!"

"Deanna, I have so many feelings," he insists, and he chases her around the car in the fucking parking lot until she cries uncle and lets him pick her up and twirl her, and she knows he means it, that he loves her, that despite the way Sam judges her and envies her and extends chauvinistic tendencies he doesn't think he has over her — they're family, the closest thing they've had to constancy all their lives.

If lost, Deanna will navigate by Sam.

"Lemme go, you freak," she tells him, and he does, grinning like a maniac.

"Seriously: angels," Sam marvels.

She points at the Impala. "Get in the fucking car."

And then it's Sam and Deanna in the car, just like so many lazy summers during school and frigid, month-long winter breaks when they'd criss-crossed the country and collected postcards and tourist kitsch and scars. Outside, the air has tipped from the heavy wetness of the day's last burst of heat into the easy chill of early evening, the sky purpling and pink overhead and the red and white tail and headlights of cars looking shaky and impressionistic in the night, banked by dark North Carolina forests.

Sam laughs and rolls down the window, and Deanna cranks up the music, her old tapes reliably awesome now matter how many faces Sammy makes. And for now, she's driving her baby, and Sam's happy and beside her, the music is blaring and there's long fingers of wind carding through her hair. Her Daddy's back and alive. And right now, this very moment, Deanna thinks, is probably perfect happiness, and all she can hear in her head is her own voice echoing, thank you, really, thank you, and she wonders if Castiel is the kind of angel who can hear that kind of thing.

*

Two days later, Bobby goes home. Deanna sends him off with all the pies she baked, panicking, right after Dad had come back and a squeeze, a kiss on the cheek that makes Bobby go bright red and bashful, out of character.

"Take care of yourself, Bobby," Deanna tells him, watches him put his hat back on.

He nods. "And you — keep your idiot dad and brother from killing each other," he says.

Deanna beams at him. "I've got lots of practice," she says, and watches him drive off, leaving a dust cloud in the wake of the truck as the taillights of it get fainter and fainter in the night, until the sound of the car blends in with the noise of the streets and they're alone again, just the three of them.

"I can't believe you gave him all the pies," Sam says, wronged.

"It's Bobby," she says, handing him dishes for the dishwasher. "He probably lives off of Slim Jims and spite — he needs those pies more than you do."

Sam just fills up the detergent well sadly. "You even gave him the buttermilk pie."

"And on that note, I'm going to bed," Dad cuts in, pressing a brushy whiskered kiss on her forehead and giving Sam's shoulder a squeeze. "Night, kids."

Sam's "night, Dad" gets mixed in with Deanna's, "night, Daddy," and because in a really tragic way, they understand this, they don't say anything when Dad detours to the liquor cabinet for the fifth of Jim Beam tucked in alongside the Knob Creek and Jack Daniels. He's been drinking himself to sleep since he came back, and just like every other night since he'd scared the shit out of her in the kitchen that first night, Deanna finds him face-down in bed, making hurt noises in his sleep.

It's almost 2 a.m., silver light slanting across Dad's bed, and Deanna picks her way carefully across the creaking floorboards, bare feet pressing against the rag rugs. She doesn't want to wake him up, he needs the sleep, even if it's bad sleep, and when she gets close enough to look, she sees the dark circles under his eyes, the unhappy slant of his mouth.

She and Dad share a bedroom wall, and for all of the charms of the farmhouse, sound dampening isn't one of them. Deanna remembers — too vividly, like suffocating — listening to Dad crying at night, the noises of him trying to choke it down, the bangs and knocks when he'd slam into things, accidental. She remembers Dad knocking out Morse code above her bed, spelling out, G-O-O-D-N-I-G-H-T-B-A-B-Y-G-I-R-L in the aftermath of fights with Sam. She remembers being eight and waking up screaming from nightmares to her Dad's reassuring face, his big, warm smile, his easy hugs, the way he hushed her, horsewhispered nonsense into her hair and rocked her until she was drowsy again, cried out and exhausted.

If Deanna ever has kids, she never wants them to know the things about her that she knows about her Dad, never wants them to grow up knowing she drinks, that she grieves, that she's scared, that she's fucking it up every step of the way. But there's also no profit in resentment, so she just brushes the hair off of Dad's forehead and pulls a sheet up over him, picks up the empty whiskey bottle, and goes downstairs.

The kitchen's ghostly, silvered over by the pale light, tinged orange from the street light, with neon green pinpoints on her microwave clock, the stove, the iPod dock-radio Sam had installed under one of the cabinets. Deanna tiptoes over the freezing tile, jumps onto the rag rug in front of the sink, hums under her breath when she turns on the cold tap — the water lukewarm from sitting in warm pipes — and rinses out the bottle, tucks it along with Sam's mountain of empty Black Cherry Fresca cans and all the beer bottles from the last few days.

She's looking out the window over the sink, caught in a serious case of the stares, when there's the sound of something fluttering, like a flag flicking in a summer wind, and a voice saying, "I do — hear your prayers."

Deanna freezes.

In the mirror, when her eyes focus, she can see the profile of a man, and there's a shock of recognition that runs through her like an electric charge.

"Castiel," she says, trying the word out on her tongue, turning slowly.

He looks like she remembers — like the little pieces she remembers — dark, messy hair, like he just rolled out of bed, the wrinkles in his shirt and his ugly suit to match. But just like the last time, she's not really looking at his scuffed up shoes or his tie, and Deanna wonders if that's an angel thing, that draws her gaze to his eyes.

He nods at her, thin lips in a thin line, and even though he's just an ordinary man in ordinary clothes with an ordinary nod, every thing about him echoes volume, is huge, and pre-possessing and fills up spaces in her kitchen she didn't know the kitchen had. She feels very quiet, still, and there's thready beat of something a half-step off of fear that's pulsing under her skin, making her neck and her chest and her face hot with awareness: Deanna's been in the presence of ghosts and demons and terrible things — she has never felt this humbling wonder.

"So," she starts, tongue too big for her mouth, "you're — "

Castiel tips his head to the side. "An angel of the Lord," he supplies.

Deanna laughs, she can't help it, this is all so ridiculous. "Yeah, okay," she hiccups.

He's silent a long minute, and for a beat, Deanna thinks she's going to get fucking smote or something, but he only shakes his head, like he's done this before, and says, "You don't believe."

"In angels?" Deanna asks, and she can feel the kitchen counter digging into her back, and Castiel just stares back at her, silent.

Deanna's been the object of a lot of considering looks in her years, she's intimately familiar with being taken apart by somebody's eyes, has checked all her buttons and zips to make sure they haven't come open or undone she's been so fucking creeped out — but this is different. This is something else.

He's looking like her like he's looking through the skin, underneath the muscle and bone, peering in the spaces between her ribs and perusing all the secrets she keeps, paging through the unspoken volumes of her. She thinks maybe she can feel something like a touch, fluttering under her breastbone, the cup of a warm hand around the curve of her heart, a considering weight beneath her sternum. She feels pulled inside out, and Deanna knows she should tell him to stop it, whatever it is, or break this moment, but she doesn't, just lets the silence percolate, fill her up until she's dizzy with it.

"I see it's a skepticism you and your father share," Castiel says finally.

"It's always served me well," Deanna says, automatic, and her breath catches in her throat, like Castiel takes up so much space there's hardly any left for her thoughts.

He rocks back on his heels, an utterly human gesture on such a foreign canvas it looks even stranger. He looks curious, distantly interested, and he takes a step forward, presses his hands against the counter, near enough that she can feel the warmth of him, smell soap and ozone and something dewey like night.

"You'll thank me for bringing you your father, but you won't believe what I am?" he asks.

She blushes. "That's different," Deanna argues.

Castiel slants her a look. "I don't see how."

"That's different because Dad is actually here," she says, and the blood in her cheeks suddenly flushes through the rest of her body, something like embarrassment, like anger rushing along her arms and legs, making her jittery, making her feel invincible. "So, if you're an angel — there's what, a God?"

"You don't believe in God, either?" Castiel asks her, and this time, he turns to look at her. "In spite of everything you've seen?"

"Not any God with fluffy cherubs," Deanna spits out.

Castiel pushes away from the counter, takes two steps closer. "There is a God."

She is thinking, unbidden, of the fire in Lawrence, all the good people she's seen die and the bad people who just keep on keeping on. She's thinking about Malcolm Verkerk, the way he'd bit open her mouth and held her against a motel bed. She's thinking about Dad, about the shock of physical pain she'd felt when Sam had told her he'd died, that had cleaved her in two like a tree split down to the root.

"Well, I'm not convinced," she goes on, and she knows she should shut up, knows that the sizzle she can feel in the air is Castiel, that whatever he is, he could probably kills her in between heartbeats, long before she'd ever get a chance to scream. "Because if there's a God, what the hell is he waiting for? Genocide? Monsters roaming the Earth? The apocalypse? At what point does he lift a damn finger and help the poor bastards that are stuck down here?"

He doesn't smite her. Instead, he says, "Free will, Deanna. That's the trade."

"I thought angels were supposed to protect people," she spits out.

"Read the bible," Castiel shoots back, and when she narrows her eyes, he says, "I'm not here to perch on anyone's shoulder, Deanna. Angels are warriors of God. I'm a soldier."

"What's more important than people then?" Deanna demands, because she has read the bible, all the paper Gideon copies left in all the motels she's ever known. She'd spent a summer cataloguing it for dirty bits, for the stuff about sex and alcohol and prostitution. "If it's true, and your God made us in his own image — what's bigger, what's more important than people?"

It's only because he's so close that she feels it, the sudden tension in his shoulders, when he says, "The Lord works — "

"Do not," she hisses, fierce and trembling, because as long as she's known about father figures with questionable motivations, she's known this fury like a second skin; Deanna might be a good daughter, an obedient soldier, but she doubts, she hurts. "If you say, 'works in mysterious ways,' I swear I don't know what I'll — "

And somewhere in the space between one second and another, Castiel is so close her breath catches in her throat, chokes her, and when she tries to back away, she finds herself still trapped against the sink, moonlight filtering in around them.

"This is your problem, Deanna," he tells her, voice gravel and sand and the grit in skinned knees and palms, a sting on her skin, "you have no faith."

But Deanna doesn't really hear him, because in that moment, the darkness of the house behind him, over Castiel's shoulder, is suddenly obscured by something meltingly black, huge, solid like a wall. She blinks three times before she realizes what it is, and then it's like her heart stops beating, like her blood stops and her breath stops and time stops, and all there is is the hugeness of Castiel's wings — ebony black and sweeping, the glimmering suggestion of jet-colored feathers, eerie and otherworldly and unruly and so close Deanna thinks that if she could move, she might touch them — wrapped around her, wrapped around both of them, hiding them from view, blocking out the rest of the sound in the house, muffling them together.

So that all Deanna can do is stare: at Castiel's wings, at Castiel's blue eyes.

"You say you don't believe, but you sing hosannahs of thanks to me," he tells her, whispers it into the air next to her ear, and Deanna feels the press of his body — heavy, hot through the cotton of his shirt and the rustling of his trenchcoat — along her like a warning, his hands white knuckled on the countertops, blocking her in with his hands and his presence like a weight and his wings like the walls of Jericho, keeping her frozen still. "You say you don't believe, but it's a dozen of my brothers who died dragging your father out of hell."

It's accidental, it must be, Deanna thinks, frantic, but she feels the soft edge of a feather, she thinks, something brushing over the naked skin of her shoulder, where the nightgown's slipped down, and Castiel says, murmurs it too close to her cheek, near enough she can almost feel the scrape of his cheek:

"You should show me some respect."

"Why did you bring him back?" she asks him, turns her head so she can stare at him from the corners of her eye, gasps the question in little hitches of terrified breath, dignity discarded for panic instead. "Why would you — "

And that's when Castiel's eyes soften, like he's seen something in her Deanna didn't know existed, something worth protection, worth mercy, and he says, "Your father is a righteous man, Deanna."

"But I prayed before, too," she sobs out. "When he died, I — "

"And I heard you then, too," he says to her. It sounds like a promise.

She closes her eyes, swaying forward, and Deanna wants to lean against him, press her forehead against Castiel's shoulder because she thinks he can take it, that he could take the weight of her, that she could be heavy and he could carry her.

"You aren't going to take him back?" she asks, hoarse, like she's been screaming all night.

"No," Cas says, quiet, all the thunder and fury wrung out of him, and his face, when Deanna dares to look up at him again, is surprisingly kind. "No, I won't."

Deanna's always been tactile, always ready with a touch, to steady herself against a wall, against the familiar lines of the Impala, always reaching for Sam, for her Dad, and so she grabs a fistful of Castiel's trenchcoat — and it's just khaki, ordinary — and she doesn't die, and the moment isn't lost, and Castiel doesn't pull away.

"So," she croaks, unsteady. "You're an angel?"

"Yes," Castiel says, and Deanna thinks that if he knew how to smile, he might be smiling right now, teasing. "And you are still mostly faithless?"

Deanna can't help the smile that tugs at her mouth. "Yes."

"We can work on that," Castiel tells her, painfully earnest.

Before Deanna can tell him there's no way in hell, he's gone, just the lingering weight of his presence, the void where his wings had been, the sudden shock of sound: the hum of the fridge, cars outside, the whistle of the wind, the creaking noises of the house, settling into its foundation.

And Deanna would swear that it had all been a fever dream, except that in the box of shards on the windowsill, there are four perfect wine glasses instead, gleaming and whole and like brand new, weighty in her hands.



It's official. This story is going to be huge. I made a fucking playlist for it. DAMN ME.
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