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[personal profile] rageprufrock
Title: Wayfinding, pt 6/?
Rating: R, for John Winchester
Summary:

*

Deanna remembers when she was twelve and bored out of her God damn mind in that motel room in nowheresville, Dad on some bullshit hunt that was going nowhere fast. She was too young to go with him, Sam was too bitchy and eight to enjoy as a sibling, and it was the sticky, miserable sort of hot that filtered in around the faint whiff of cold air churning out of the AC. She'd read all her books, twice, ran out of crosswords to do, and nothing was on the TV. She'd collected a handful of quarters and gone looking for a video game and came back to a fucking shtriga trying to kill her brother, sucking all the light out of him, and even thought Deanna's hands hadn't been shaking when she'd picked up the gun, until Dad busted into the room and saved the day, that knee-jerk hit of full-body cold has never left her.

And two years after that, in the lazy August heat, a few weeks before high school started, they'd been in Mississippi, and Deanna remembers meeting Malcolm, another hunter, for the first time: the way he smoked Marlboro Reds, his button-fly jeans, his shitkicker boots and crooked grin, and the way Dad had given him a sharp look and hustled Deanna into the motel room. If he could have locked the door and thrown away the key, he would have, and maybe it would have done her good.

The way it worked out, Dad got tangled up in a particularly complicated piece of exorcism work in a restaurant in Biloxi, and Deanna applied herself with equal fervor to leveraging her brand new body as well as she could. The flare of her hip and the weight of her breasts had been brand new and as alien to her as anything, but Malcolm had liked them, liked her, and he'd snuck her into bars and bought her rum and cokes and nipped at her collar bones, made her feel grown up the way she thought she was at fourteen, palmed her tits over the stickshift of his Chevy truck and stroked a finger over the seam of her pussy — teasing — when he'd kissed her with his smokey mouth. She remembers waiting until Sam was neck deep in the library and sneaking back to the motel, letting him into the room she and Sammy were sharing at the Grand Fairway Motor Lodge. She remembers panicking when his hand had crept up the inside of her leg, underneath her denim skirt, and how she'd said, "Malcolm, stop," and "Cut it out," and "No," and "Please," and being ignored.

More than that, really, Deanna remembers — her whole body numb even though the had been pounding in her ears so hard she can't even hear over the sound of her own panic — looking up to see Sam standing in the doorway, eyes round and terrified and the room in chaos, Malcolm dead on the floor, his own knife in his gut. She remembers asking, "Sammy, how — ?" and how he'd just run into the room, grabbed her by the wrist and started dragging her to the car, because they had to get away.

She remembers huddling by the soda machine in the parking lot, clutching Sam's flannel shirt around herself, asking, "Sam, did you…" and Sam staring at her with red, wild eyes like his heart was breaking and he didn't know what to do when he'd said, "He was hurting you — I couldn't — I didn't mean to — I didn't know I could — " and how she'd hushed him and hugged him. She remembers ignoring the way her lip was bleeding and probably other places were bleeding, too, because they had to get the hell out of that motel. There was a dead body in the room, and they had to get away, and Dad would be back soon and he could never know what had happened and Jesus fucking Christ.

And in the hierarchy of fears Deanna has experienced in her too-long-already life, she doesn't know where exactly it falls to find the bald man in the Brooks Brother suit standing over her father, but it's high, she thinks, and so she grabs the nearest thing — a picture of her and Dad and Sam from some long forgotten summer — and hurls it at him, watches the glass shatter in midair.

*

"That," the man says, clucking at her, "is rude, Miss Winchester."

She looks for something else, anything else; Dad has a gun under his pillow, but she'd never make it in time. She has a knife in her room, a rifle near her collection of impractical shoes, but that's yards and yards away, and more to the point, why is Dad still fucking asleep?

"Oh, don't worry," the man assures her. "There's nothing wrong with your father, I just didn't want to interrupt his well-deserved rest."

"Sure you didn't," she spits at him, edges closer to Dad's bed.

The man lowers his hand, flicks his wrist, and Deanna's eyes widen as she watches the broken glass of the photo frame begin to knit back together, the scar across the picture healing itself, efficient. And it's then that Deanna realizes the muffled silence of the moment: no ticking clocks, no wind rifling through the leaves outside Dad's opened windows, no creaking of the house settling. It's like the kitchen with Cas all over again, except where Cas had been sprawling and glitter-dark and like a breath she couldn't catch, Deanna feels wrapped in cotton, dying from deoxygenation: painless and spare.

"And you, Deanna Winchester, are exactly as Castiel said you'd be," the man laughs.

She tenses. "How do you — "

The man holds up a hand, interrupting, and Deanna watches the photo frame drift gently through the air, back to its place on Dad's dresser, sets it down with a tiny click.

"Before you get too worried, sweetheart," he says, like he's gearing up to sell her snake oil and miracle cures, "Castiel and I, we're colleagues."

Deanna narrows her eyes and takes a step back. "You're an angel."

"Not all of us could find male model pretty boy vessels, you know," the man chortles, and before Deanna can ask, "vessel?" he's pushing on. "Now — we've gotten off onto the wrong foot, but — " he holds out a hand, and when he smiles, he looks like the mid-level hospital administrators Deanna hates the most " — I'm Zachariah, at your service."

She ignores his hand. "You're an angel?" she repeats.

"Oh, ye of little faith," Zachariah sighs and withdraws his arm, but perking up, he says, "Then again, I was warned about that, too."

Deanna makes a mental note to kick Cas in the nuts the next time she sees him.

"If you're an angel, where are your wings?" she demands, and she tries not to think about how idiotic it sounds, how after an entire life of batshit, impossible things, sometimes twice before breakfast, it came to this.

Zachariah arches one eyebrow at her, and slowly, like he's reevaluating the situation, he says, "Now, you're very pretty, but I'm not that kind of girl, Miss Winchester."

Deanna swallows hard. She doesn't really have a response to that. "Fuck you" seems somewhat inadequate given the circumstances.

"Show me," she demands. "You call me faithless — I need proof."

He laughs, and she can tell it's at her. "Okay, okay, you win," Zachariah says, and eyeing her with interest, says, "But don't go telling all the other boys in school. I wouldn't want to get a reputation."

Deanna's about to inform him that it's great he thinks he's funny, because he's not actually funny, when suddenly the space in the room is cut in two, and where Castiel's wings were the swallowing dark of dreamless sleep, Zachariah's are rainbow — brilliant, gorgeous — like someone upended a rainbow across the long, flawless feathers, not a single pinion out of place, gleaming and still in the night. They arc across the darkness of the room and vanish, seamless, into the walls, and Deanna wonders how broadly they stretch, if they extent past the edges of the house, into the forest beyond.

"Convinced?" he asks, smirking.

Deanna nods, just a jerk of her chin. "Okay," she says, hoarse.

The wings wing out. "Nice angels usually don't go around flashing those," Zachariah explains. "Although this certainly puts Castiel's recent behavior into a brand new light."

Deanna's scowl must manifest faster than she thought, because Zachariah holds up his hands, dismissive, friendly.

"But! That's none of my business, is it?" he says, cheerful. "Anyway, I know I'm not much to look at wearing this vessel of mine, but believe me you, missy, in heaven, I have six wings and four faces, one of which is a lion."

"That's — " Deanna starts, and then gives up " — no, that sounds horrible."

"Hey, your little boyfriend looks like a tree," Zachariah says, stung, and Deanna barely has time to think, I like trees, before he tells her, "But all of that is beside the point." He looks down at Dad. "I've come here on orders."

The inside of Deanna's mouth goes dry, and the silence gets huger and huger around them until everything goes still, too: not a single movement, just Deanna and Zachariah and Dad asleep on the bed dividing them.

"What orders?" she asks, her throat hurting with worry.

Zachariah's face is kind. "Deanna, you had to have suspected," he says, gentle.

And it pours in, all the paranoia and fear, because no matter how many wendigos Deanna can keep dad from chasing or how many violent ghouls, it comes down to the fact that she can't really protect him from the forces that be. There are angels and demons and monsters, and they're all circling Dad like they want something from him. It had been too easy, after two years of numb hurt and guilt like an open and unhealed wound, to have Dad back and absolution, to have peace, and to have on top of all of that Castiel tell her it was okay, that maybe good things just happen.

She should have known then, and should know better now, but she just shakes her head. "No. Castiel said that Dad — "

"Castiel is a soldier, Deanna," Zachariah interrupts her. "He's given orders and does what he's told. Most of this stuff is above his security clearance."

Deanna doesn't think about it, but she closes that last space between herself and the bed, fists her hand in the sheet, near Dad's foot.

"Please don't take him," she says, hoarse.

She thinks about where she might hide Dad, what she could do to buy them some time, even a few minutes, maybe that would be enough to get Dad out of the room, into the car. And then at least they'd be on the road and harder to nail down. Maybe she can ask Cas for help, but he's an angel, too, and even though apparently she's been thinking his name as hard as she can for five minutes now, it's into the muffled, overfull space of the room, nowhere beyond, and Deanna can't really explain it, but she knows somewhere in the bone that he can't hear her right now, that she's got no signal.

"He was never supposed to come back. The fact he got out at all was an error, a misfire," Zachariah murmurs, eyes sad. "He made a deal with a demon, Deanna. There's a reason we discourage those — this is out of my hands."

"He made the deal for me," she insists.

Zachariah gives her a lingering, honeyed look, eyes gleaming, and he murmurs, "Oh, and I don't blame him for making it. You are quite a remarkable specimen, Deanna."

"There's gotta be something I can do," Deanna snarls at him, ignoring the way she can feel all of those words like oily fingers over her body. It's that odd comprehensiveness, again, the way that Cas had looked at her the first time, like he was seeing through her and about her and around her, a 360 degree snapshot of her everything. Castiel had just looked; Zachariah feels like he'd dipping a thumb in the space between her breasts.

"Oh, Deanna — you won't remember any of this," Zachariah tells her, flicking from leering to soothing in a heartbeat, so fast she knows he's faking it, all of it. "I know this all feels horrible now, but as soon as I'm done with your father, I'll zap you and Sam. It'll be like this never happened."

Maybe that's true, maybe angels can do that, but Deanna doesn't believe. Cas has said her problem is a lack of faith, and she readily admits it. She doesn't believe that she can lose her father again, not like this, knowing he's trapped in the pit because of her, because he hadn't been able to let go of her, knowing that she would be carrying it, the guilt of it, the loss of it, all over again, like a stone on her chest. She doesn't believe that there's no other way, that they have to do this, that she's built to live this life of constantly yearning and never getting, that there isn't a moment of peace she can curl up in and make home. She doesn't believe she can do this to Sam, again, that they can afford to lose the only family they have left anymore. She doesn't believe that Zachariah will let her forget. Mostly, she doesn't think she'll let herself forget.

And she's known this has been living in the back of her throat all along, that from the minute she saw the man in Dad's room or maybe even before, she's been ready, waiting, but even so, when she says, "Take me instead," it comes like a surprise.

*

The next morning, it's pouring, and Deanna makes a bunch of phone calls sitting cross-legged in her bed, clutching the phone between her shoulder and her ear, tying up some loose ends. All in all, it takes about 20 minutes — inclusive of the ten that Felicia spends swearing at her, noises of the ER busy in the background — and then Deanna's done, and she's got nothing to do but stare out the window of her bedroom at the thunderstorm battering all the waxy green leaves outside and breathe.

This time, she hears the flutter of wings and grins. "Hey."

"You vanished last night," Castiel informs her.

"I was home, all night, promise," she tells him, turning to look at where he's sitting on the corner of her bed now, trench bunched up around his hips, eyes blue and disquiet. His hands are folded together, hanging in the V of his legs, elbows resting on his thighs, and it's such an ordinary gesture it looks alien against his otherness. She wonders if he knows, that he's distracting and handsome, and that she likes looking at him, that she could look at him all day, but she imagines if he can hear her hosannahs of gratitude, he must know this, too — he hasn't call her out, maybe he doesn't mind.

"I meant your soul," Cas tells her. "For two hours last night, I could not locate you."

Creeper, Deanna thinks, but without any heat, and that's how she should have known she was fucked from the get-go.

"What are you doing locating my soul, anyway?" she asks, trying to sound normal about it. "I thought you were Dad's non-guardian guardian angel."

Cas pauses. Like he's collecting his thoughts. "Your father is my charge."

Then Cas pins her with one of those looks within a look, like he's trying to write entire novels about feelings that angels probably aren't supposed to have, and he says, his voice rough over her skin:

"But your soul is as bright and ageless as a fire in heaven, entirely unique to you. I could recognize you anywhere, through anything, I could find you in an instant in a crowd of six billion. I would not even have to search."

"Um," she says, breathless, all the blood in her body gathering in her cheeks, across the tops of her breasts. She's never blushed this hard before in her life.

"Your soul," Cas starts again, hesitating. Then, like he doesn't mean to do it, he reaches one hand out, strokes a finger down the line of her shoulder like he's never touched skin before, but has want to, as long as he's known how to want. "It barely fits — is barely contained beneath your skin."

Deanna leans into the touch, because it's been ages since anybody touched her like this: casual, without any intent, because he could. She loves to be touched, arches into it, even when it's just a precursor to sex and never the point, she still loves it, the sparks it sends up along her spine. Maybe no one has ever touched her like this, because the warmth and weight of Cas's fingers are innocent, in its own way, thoughtful and unhurried. She thinks angels must look at people like art, something pretty to be studied at a distance; maybe Cas was that kid who wanted to touch the Picassos.

"John Winchester is my charge," Cas tells her, "but my eye is always drawn by you."

She should laugh, play it off, change the subject the way she always does, but instead she asks, breathless, "Really?"

Then Cas smiles for real, and it is small and private and just for her, and Deanna commits it to memory, like Sam's wide-open laugh or the brushy affection of Dad's kiss on her temple, folds it away deep inside herself. Castiel's fingers slide up her arm, into the hollow between her collarbones, barely touching, but Deanna can feel him all over, the weight of him, and she wonders if his wings are extended, if they are wound around them both on this rainy Thursday morning, hiding them away.

"You are your father's daughter, and you are beautiful," Castiel tells her, murmuring it like a verse of Psalms, "but you are also our Father's daughter, and you are radiant beyond all words — "

At which point Deanna has to kiss him, just to interrupt the flow of words from his mouth, because it's too much, it's mortifying. She doesn't even like being singled out at birthday parties and now Cas is talking about her like she's — like he — and she doesn't want to think about the implications, especially not now, so she just kisses him and kisses him, wet and worshipful and closed-mouthed, puts a hand on rough chin and does it all over again.

"Thank you," she tells him, in between kisses, and Cas cups his hands around her face, his thumbs and palm and fingers wanting and uncertain what to do about it. Deanna's miles from Earth right now, giddy with bliss and preemptive grief and terror and she wonders if Cas can taste it in her mouth. "Thank you, for everything."

Cas pulls away from her, watches her with those wide, too-blue eyes. He asks, "What did you do, Deanna? Where were you?"

"Nothing," she lies, and it tastes like ashes in her mouth.

She wants to say, I had to, and I'm sorry I'm going to miss everything, I'll miss you, and ask, what is it like? In hell? But she doesn't, just lets herself lean into Cas, smells the printer paper and ballpoint pen ink smell of him, so beguilingly ordinary for someone who makes the air in her room crackle with electricity, and it figures, she thinks ruefully, that of all the people in the would, she would trip, tumble, slide into yearning for this one — for someone she can't have and shouldn't anyway.

"Sorry," she murmurs, forehead pressed into the cool khaki of the trench.

Cas stirs, puts a palm between her shoulder blades. "For what?" he asks.

"For kissing you," she lies. She's not sorry about that at all. She'll carry it with her when she goes, when Zachariah comes for her. "I know angels probably aren't supposed to."

She feels him smile into her hair. "Don't be," he counsels, and strokes her back, unfamiliar with the gesture, though he seems to know it by rote, large palm sliding along her spine in comfort.

"Stay here," Deanna says suddenly, pulling away to look up at Cas.

He frowns. "I have other — "

"Just today," she tells him. "It's raining, it's dark, it's scary — come on, Winchesters need their very own guardian angel today. And Sam has never seen your wings."

Castie's mouth knits together in irritation, and he squares his shoulders. Deanna wonders if — if she could see them — his feathers would be ruffled, annoyed.

"I am not in the business of showing everyone my wings, Deanna," Cas says.

"You showed them to me," she argues.

He levels her with a look, a faint echo of his earlier gaze, but it still feels like a fist gripped around her heart, squeezing the breath out of her.

"You," Cas says evenly, "are special."

"Well, Sam is short bus special," Deanna says, determined, curling her hands into the gathered fabric of his trench like a child, and she watches Cas's eyes flick down to her fingers, where they are probably warm through the coat. It's worked before. Maybe it will work again. "Stay. We'll play board games. I'll teach you how to make a pie."

He looks torn. "Deanna — "

"You can write this off as anthropology," she proposes, feeling a strange, vertigo-inducing desperation. "Studying your human charges in their natural habitat."

His eyes are softer now, when he looks at her. "You will not tell me where you were?"

"I wasn't anywhere," she lies again, ignores the way her heart flutters under her breastbone, like it wants to give away her secret. She knows this is something she has to do, and more than that, do on her own; Deanna doesn't know why she's started to doubt this: that her choices are a weight she can't divide. "I just want you to stay today."

Cas slides his palm down, into the well of her spine, warm and huge across the back of her waist, and he promises her, "I will stay," and Deanna gives him her most brilliant smile.

*

The house is still and quiet and cool from the rain when she and Cas tiptoe downstairs.  She'd made him leave his shoes and tie, his trenchcoat and suit jacket upstairs, tossed across the foot of her bed, and she laces their fingers together and leads him down the hall, down the staircase, and she tries not to think about how small her hands feel inside of his, and how she shouldn't like it as much as she does.

The kitchen looks gloomy and atmospheric, water patterns diamonding on the walls, and the tiles are deliciously cool against Deanna's bare feet.  She's still in her pajamas — gray and fraying UNC track shorts and one of a dozen white wifebeaters she has stashed around her drawers — and all the air in the kitchen feels good on her skin, cool and liquid, almost as good as the feel of Cas, warm and close to her back when she goes to the fridge.

"Have you ever made pie?" she asks, pulling out butter and ice cubes.

Cas blinks.  "I have never even eaten pie," he confesses.

"What, there's no pie in heaven?" she says, making a face.  "What kind of heaven is that?"

"Heaven is different things to different people," Cas explains, and holds out his hands when she motions for him to do it, opening his arms for canisters of flour and salt and sugar, big mixing bowls from the cupboards.

She angles him a skeptical look, hitching one knee onto the counter to reach for the foot processor on the upper shelf of the cabinet — just half an inch out of reach.  "What the hell does that mean?"

"It means," he tells her patiently, settling the flour and bowls onto the kitchen table and reaching over her, easy, to snag the appliance, "that each person's version of heaven is very different.  Some people see heaven as a garden, like Eden, others maybe see and ocean."  He hands her the food processor with a smile.  "Maybe your heaven is pie."

She swallows hard, puts that thought away.  She's going to enjoy today of it kills her.

"That would be stupid, wouldn't it," she mutters, holds the food processor close to her chest.

Cas tilts his head at her.  "If it makes you happy, then no, it is not."

Deanna clears her throat.  "Do you know how to use a knife?" she asks, and she knows it's a desperate change of subject, but nobody's ever accused her of being graceful.

Cas says, "I do," and they're off.  

She shows him what to do with the nearly-frozen sticks of butter, and Cas applies himself to slicing them into perfect half-inch cubes like she'd showed him the directions chipped into stone tablets.  She measures out flour and salt and sugar and water and the butter in the food processor, and Cas watches with wide eyes as she pulses it all six and a half times, just the way she's always done it, before turning it all out over the cool surface of the kitchen counter she's dusted down with flour.

He watches her hands, when she's molding the mix into two discs, and she points out the little flecks of still-whole butter while she covers them in Saran Wrap, tells him how she'll leave them in the fridge for an hour, and it'll be the perfect time to make a filling.

"Where did you learn to make pies?" he asks, and he's still standing too close to her, perched near her hip and sitting now, on the one clean section of counter while Deanna plucks a pint of strawberries and a half-dozen peaches and lemons out of a basket on the window sill.

Deanna laughs.  "If anybody else asks, tell them Mom did."  

She grabs a pairing knife and starts slicing the peaces, into rich, yellow half moons, red on the inside curve as she pries them away from the pit.  She hands one to Cas, who inspects it and inspects it before he puts it into his mouth, hesitating.  

"But just between you and me?" she says, winking.  "Bobby showed me."

Cas frowns, brow wrinkling.  "Bobby," he repeats.

"Another hunter," Deanna explains.  "His wife apparently used to make pies all the time."

"You've all lost someone," Cas observes, and he takes another piece of peace.  Normally, that'd be worth a slap to the hand, but Cas is new, and doesn't know the rules, so she lets him slide.  She hopes he learns better kitchen manners later, that someone will explain them to him after she's gone.  "Is that how you all become hunters?"

Her knife slips, and there's a sudden shock before she sees red blooming across her thumb, and she's already grabbing a kitchen towel by the time the sharp ache registers.

"Maybe," she murmurs.  It sounds better than, Dad never really gave us a choice on that one.  She's glad for what she knows, that they can save people, and whatever distant promise of an unremarkable life — that Sam had wanted so badly when he was little, that he still does — Deanna has a list in her head of all the people she's helped, that most times, that outweighs any regret.  Today, she's not sure.

Cas takes her hand, takes the towel away, and Deanna lets him, watches the blood pearl around the cut for a beat before Cas runs the pad of his own thumb up her palm, along the stem of her finger, over the cut, and before she can say, "Hey, watch it," the blood smears and the pain is a vanishing ache.

She looks wonderingly at her thumb, healed.  "I didn't know you could do that."

"Well," Cas hedges.  "I'm not supposed to."

"No pie, no fixing people," Deanna sighs.  "What can you do, Castiel, angel of the Lord?"

"I follow orders," Cas answers.  "I keep watch.  I stay vigilant."

Deanna raises an eyebrow.  

"I can see that you are grieving today," he concludes, thoughtful.  

She clears her throat.  "And now," she says, turning to her peaches, to the lemon slices and her microplane, the ordinary, uncomplicated things she can get her hands around, the easy things she knows, that she has always loved, "we make the pie filling."

Deanna is introducing Castiel, angel of the Lord, to the wonders of coffee and scrambled eggs and bacon by the time Sam staggers down the stairs, the rain outside still going strong.  Her brother falls down the last three steps in shock and by the time he manages to scramble to his feet, Deanna's already started pouring him a cup of coffee, saying, "Morning, Sam — Sam, Castiel.  Castiel, Sam.  Sam, Castiel is spending the day with us."

Sam blinks twice.  "O—kay," he says, sitting down carefully across from Cas at the kitchen table with wondering, curious eyes.  "Um.  Is everything okay?"

Cas nods.  "I told you sister I had never eaten pie."

"You never eaten pie?" Sam asks, and grabs at the coffee Deanna puts down in front of him before sliding back into her own seat, crying:

"That's what I said."

Cas gives them both a look, at what must be matching baffled expressions.  "I still have not tasted pie," he points out, and Sam gives Deanna an aggrieved look, like she's personally denying Cas pie.  

She points at the oven.  "Dude, I am working on it."

Sam stews in his bitchiest of bitchy expressions for a long minute before he asks, arrested, "Wait, does Dad knows Cas is spending the day with us?"

From the stairs, Deanna hears, "What the hell is he doing at my table?"

"Yeah," she says, and reaches for her coffee again.  "Yeah, I think he knows now."

*

Dad, aside from being furious about "that angel" being at his kitchen table, can't really do all that much about it.  It's the downside of having two adult children who both like your angel, and appreciate his breaking you out of jail, and advising you to shut the fuck up, sit down, drink your coffee, and wait for the pie to be ready.

"Deanna," Dad tries.  

"No," she tells him, and tops off Cas's coffee.  He has discovered he likes it with sugar, no milk, and Deanna gives him the sugar bowl and slides the half and half at Sam, easy division of resources, and sits down to drink her own black.

Dad starts, "But — "

"He dragged you out of hell, Dad," Sam cuts in reasonably.  "He's an angel."

Cas just observes the conversation ping-pong between everybody, watchful, and Deanna presses her knee against his under the table because she can.

"Anybody who busts anybody in this  family out of hell can have coffee," she says.

"And eat Deanna's pie," Sam says loyally, and flashes Cas a grin.  

Deanna doesn't feel like breaking his heart and telling him Cas probably isn't going to show Sam his wings, so instead, she says, "Right, he can have as much of my pie as he wants," before she really thinks about what she's said.  "Um."

Sam's face gets that manically gleeful look on it, and before he can make the inevitable and shitty joke, Cas interrupts to say, "To clarify, I still haven't tasted this pie."

"Okay, that made it worse," Deanna decides, and pushes away from the table, where Sam's herniating something in his effort to resist laughing out loud, and Dad's glowering so hard he's going to glare a hole into Cas's face.

"Hey, Castiel," Sam says, "you know who has tasted Deanna's pie?"

"Sam!" she and Dad shout at once, and the day deteriorates from there.

*

Sam manages to hold it in until almost lunchtime before he asks Cas if he can see his wings, and Cas, heartless, says, "No," flatly, and goes to investigate the bank of hideous pre- and post-adolescent photographs of Deanna and Sam that line the mantle.  It rains, all day long, no thunder or lighting, just a heavy, even downpour, and the sky is a uniform gray-blue overhead.  It chills the summer air to a minor key, and Deanna, after breakfast, and after doling out slices of pie to Sam and Dad and Cas and herself, takes hers and goes to sit on the old wicker chair on the back porch.  Outside, it smells green, it smells alive, it smells like a lake, earthy and alive and like damped-down wood chips and just-waking gardens.  Deanna thinks about the massive sycamore that shades the porch, and wonders what kind of tree Castiel looks like when he is in heaven, if the ground underneath is wet with moss or soft and green, and since Cas says that heaven is different things to different people, Deanna decides it is grass.

It's weird, she thought she would have things to say to Sam, and to Dad, that she'd want to wrap herself up in them both but she doesn't.  She thought maybe swimming at the rock quarry, ice cream on the porch at Maple View Farm, dinner at Crook's Corner, a 3 a.m. burrito at Cosmic.  It turns out, mostly, she wants to sit here and breathe, curl her feet up under herself and nurse her coffee, savor it.

"What are you thinking?" Cas asks, there suddenly where he wasn't, standing next to her on the porch and gazing outward at the trees, at the water washing downward.

Deanna smiles against the lip of the cup.  "How much I like today," she says.

Cas makes a vague noise.  "The rain?"

And the company, Deanna thinks.  "All of it," Deanna murmurs.  She tips her head to look up at him, fond in a way she shouldn't be.  She barely knows him, never really will, but Cas is easy for her where he shouldn't be, too.  "Thank you.  For staying today."

"Thank you for the pie," Cas answers.

Deanna laughs.  "You didn't like it."

"It was strange," Cas admits.  But then his mouth tugs up again, that thing she thinks is a smile, and maybe is just for her.  "But it was good.  It was new. It was sweet."

"It's a good start," she decides.  

She's planted a seed, she's sure.  In the future, probably, Cas will be curious about pie forever, and maybe he'll taste pumpkin pie and strawberry pie and she's only sorry she won't be here for it — or for the day that Sam wears him down and Cas gives in and shows Sam his wings.  Cas looks restless, even though he's perfectly still, and Deanna sees that he's put on his shoes again, his jacket and his trench, and she thinks he probably has other things to do, other charges to follow, other souls to creep on.

"Hey, if you have to run," she says, waves a hand out, toward the trees.  "You should go."

He looks at her from the corner of his eyes.  "I must," he says reluctantly. "I am being recalled to my garrison."

She nods, because Zachariah had said he would, that Castiel, although he had a good heart and was a good soldier, could never understand the complexities of gray areas, that he'd fight her decision if he knew about it. "I'll call him back," Zachariah had said, writing Enochian in blue ink across parchment that looked as old as time, reassuring her as they'd struck their deal. "You don't want that level of complication, anyway."

"Go," she says.

"You're not telling me something," Cas accuses.

"You can yell at me about it later," Deanna offers, because she's a little shit down to the bones of her, she can't help it.

He nods at her, and takes a step forward like he's about to launch away. "I will," he promises," and vanishes between one blink and the next.

Dad spends the rest of the day stomping around the house like a bear with a sore head and an itchy trigger finger. Deanna alternately ignores him or coddles him or feeds him, and for dinner she makes Sam make chicken parmesan again, because it's her favorite, and she should have her favorite for dinner. Afterward, they show Dad the newest Die Hard movie — he pronounces it "okay" — and he claps Sam on the shoulder, kisses Deanna on the temple, and goes to bed without stopping by the liquor cabinet at all. She's happier about it than she should be.

"Hey, Sam?" she says, later that night, knocking as she peeks into his room. It's half packed up, half put away, stacks of textbooks piled sky high, and Sam folded up in the middle of all of it in a law school t-shirt with a highlighter stuck in his mouth. She feels a moment of longing for him so aching and sharp she fists her hand, holds it over her heart. "Can I come in?"

He nods, and clears a spot on the bed for her. "What's up?"

I'm going to miss you. You're amazing. I'm so proud you're my baby brother.

She shrugs. "It's just been a while since we talked," she mumbles, pulls her knees up to her chest and rests her chin on them. "Not since right after Dad got back, really."

"Well, you have new friends now," Sam says, too earnest. "You know. Angels."

Deanna throws a study guide at him. "Bitch."

Sam throws it back. "Jerk," he quips.

Sam is a giant and a genius. He takes a fuckton of women's study courses, and every year, he goes to Take Back the Night and stands out like a massive, awkward beanstalk in an ocean of girls with Buddy Holly glasses. He vets all her boyfriends. He sort of telekinetic and scared of it, but he fights it, it works it, he tries to control it. He always wants to listen, to know how you feel about something. He always wants to help. He fights with Dad because he thinks Deanna deserves better, that he deserves better. He wants, and he wants to give, he wants to help. He makes her laugh.

Deanna can't think of anybody better or more wonderful in the world. She thinks she's so lucky to have known him, to have spent time with him, and reaches out, ignores the fact that she hasn't done this in half a decade, now, and runs her fingers through his bangs, pushing them out of his face until he slaps her hands away, embarrassed.

"Dee, Jesus, come on," he complains.

She grins. "You're pretty solid, you know that, Sam?"

"Is that a fat joke?" he asks suspiciously.

"Good night, Sam," Deanna laughs, leans over to kiss the crown of his head.

She knows that to Sam, she blurs the line between mother and sister and friend, but she's always lived in that gray space, it's who she is. It would be a lie if she tells herself he's only ever been her little brother, that she didn't walk him to school and fret like any of the moms, waiting in a line for him to come out at the end of the school day. Sam has always been hers, more than anybody else's.

He shoves her away, easy. "Go away," he mutters. "Go to sleep."

"Okay," Deanna agrees, and she pauses just a minute in the doorway. "Hey, Sam?"

Her brother looks up at her, hair right back in his eyes, and he asks, "Yeah?"

"Don't stay up too late." She smiles at him. "Okay?"

Sam waves her off. "Night, Deanna."

"Night," she murmurs, and goes, down the hall, past the door to her room and to peer into Dad's bedroom.

It's late — past midnight — and Dad's asleep, or looks like it, curled up on his side in his bed, halfway under the sheets. There's something sad and small about looking at her father like this; he's always been larger than life in her head, the shadow that stretched over everything she did, everything she said. He'd always been the voice in the back of her mind telling her she was being an idiot, that she didn't need this, that she was better than that, that she better look after her brother, that that boy wasn't worth her time, that she was good, that she took such good care of them.

She thinks about being seven and Dad saying if she were a boy, that they'd hunt more, that he could trust her to take care of herself; she remembers Pastor Jim saying maybe it was a God damn blessing then, that Deanna wasn't. She remembers being eleven and lonely, dumped at the Roadhouse with Ellen and Jo for the weekend, Sammy running around with Jo on the floor of the restaurant like an idiot, and Deanna at the bar doing long division. She remembers the long, awful months when she wouldn't let Dad touch her, and how he had to know — had to — that something was wrong, and how they'd both been too cowardly to say anything. She remembers eighteen, and twenty-one, and twenty-six all blurring together. She remembers being twenty-seven and burying her Daddy, being thirty and finding him all over again.

It's been a short life, but they're worth it. Sam and Dad are worth it, Deanna thinks.

"Deanna," Zachariah murmurs, his voice wet against the back of her neck, "it's time."

She shudders, clutches at the doorframe. She thinks about running. She thinks about changing her mind. She thinks about Sam. She thinks about Dad. She thinks, Cas, sorry, and she says, "Okay, fine," and Deanna feels Zachariah smiling against her shoulder, pressing a proprietary kiss there.

"Perfect," he murmurs, warm on her skin.

*



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