|Back to Broken|
The same morning as Dean began a new chapter of his life, one without Sam, Chuck shot awake at 6am, his head aching with the dull throb of a hangover. He reached for the half empty bottle of cheap bourbon by the side of the couch, gulped back a mouthful, flipped open his laptop and began to type.
He was making good headway through a story that brought Tessa the Reaper back. He was still concerned that he hadn’t had any inspiration on how to get the brothers talking to each other, trusting each other again. Despite telling Sam that he remembered his time in hell, and that he’d tortured souls, Dean was repressing so much, and as for Sam … Chuck was bracing himself for the fallout. When Dean finally found out what Sam was doing with Ruby, how he was using her blood to make himself stronger, Dean would go ballistic. But he’d also die a little more inside.
Chuck sat back and sighed. He’d put both of his characters through so much, always thinking along the way that eventually, things would work out. But so far, his muses hadn’t inspired him to put Sam and Dean back together. They were splitting further apart by the day. At least he hadn’t been inspired to write much of their physical relationship lately. He’d kept that out of the published books, even though it was all saved on his hard drive, just like everything else that came to him. It seemed important to capture every detail, even though he wished the story would fade to black at certain points.
Chuck took a break to make coffee and to toss three slices of bacon into a pan to make a sandwich. Feeling marginally better after he'd eaten, he returned to work. He was pleased at how the story was progressing, and thanks to the dream the night before, had the rest of the book all planned out. He’d be sad to see Pamela go, but her death was necessary. Or he guessed it was. He supposed that he’d eventually work out why she had to die. He was aware that the story was getting darker by the minute, but it was the way his muses were taking him, and he'd always followed their guidance.
Before he could type another word, pain lanced through Chuck's head. His fingers faltered on the keyboard, trembling. Another spike of pain, and he could see Dean sitting at a table in a motel room that wasn't the boys usual style, cleaning weapons alone.
Chuck wondered where that fit. Before or after they met up with Tessa. Then the pain struck again, so bad that he yelped and clutched his head. The scene faded, replaced by a new vision of Dean drinking alone, then one of Sam, doing laundry and musing on his life. Chuck tried to focus on what he’d seen and his fingers began to fly over the keyboard.
Rewrites. New scenes overlaying the story he’d already written. That had never happened before. In all the time he'd been writing about the Winchester brothers, he'd never done a rewrite. Whatever his muse had shown him, he'd written down. Sure, he'd edited it, but always true to the original story. It had been important to him to keep to whatever he'd dreamt, but this was different.
Once, he'd been a fan of stream of conscious writing, loving that time first thing in the morning when he cracked open a laptop, and wrote down whatever came out, not reading it back until he was done. Then came the idea of the Winchesters, and that had stopped. From then on, he dreamed of them, and as soon as he woke up, wrote down what he'd seen. It had been a long time since he'd felt the joy of not knowing what was about to be written, a long time since he'd let words flow out of him without a known direction.
When he'd finished, he sat back, pulling the laptop onto his knee, and read back what he'd written. It was different, raw, painful, and exactly how he'd have expected the brothers, especially Dean, to react after the things they’d yelled at each other under the siren's spell, but it wasn't the way his muse had shown him things played out originally.
Chuck read it through one more time, wondering where it would lead. What would happen to the characters he'd come to care about.
Without warning, pain lanced through his head again. More images flooded his mind, random, meaningless images mixed with glimpses of Dean, of Sam, of Bobby and Pamela and of his angels. A pair of baleful yellow eyes gleamed, something he hadn't seen for a long time. Nuns screamed, Sam fell to his knees in Bobby's panic room, Anna talked directly to him, Dean drove the Impala alone, Pamela Barnes sat across a table from Sam and held his hands, a bald headed man turned to look at Castiel, Dean lay in a hospital, beaten and bloodied. Then Chuck’s head was filled with one image. An explosion so huge that it rocked the earth, throwing debris and shards of sharp material outwards as an inhuman scream tore through the air.
Chuck found himself on the floor, curled into a tight ball. He only began to relax when it seemed the visions were over. Visions. He snorted quietly to himself. Well, they sure as hell hadn’t been dreams since he’d been wide awake when they’d struck. Gingerly, he got to his feet. He closed the laptop down, not wanting to think about what he’d seen, not yet. He wished that he’d never been inspired to write about the demon hunting family and everyone that got caught in their wake.
He wondered if other writers went through this. He’d never read an interview with J K Rowling, or anyone else for that matter, where they’d described their writing process as head splitting migraines, trauma inducing dreams and visions. Right now, he’d give anything to be able to say “I like to write my highly successful masterpieces in a cool, cosmopolitan coffee bar, over a vanilla latte and a slice of chocolate truffle cake.”
Shaken, he headed to the bathroom to take a well needed shower. He wondered if it was time to try therapy again. He’d almost burst into hysterical laughter when the last therapist he’d tried suggested he stop writing, as if it were as easy as saying no to an extra donut, so maybe it wasn’t such a good idea. He stood under the spray, letting it hit the back of his neck and soothe the tension that wasn't helping with the headache. He shampooed his hair twice, then washed his body, feeling marginally better by the time he reached around the shower curtain blindly for a towel. He sighed as he stepped out of the tub and into the steamy room.
"Get dressed and collect your things."
Chuck screamed, not exactly manly of him, but there was a woman standing in his bathroom, ordering him around. A woman who looked very familiar. He clutched the towel tighter around himself and backed up until the backs of his legs hit the tub.
"Who are you?"
"I'm Anna, but then you know that." The redhead replied. "Hurry, we don't have much time."
"Time for what?" Chuck began to hyperventilate. Anna, his fallen angel, his fictional fallen angel, was standing in his bathroom.
"For explanations. They can come later."
"Is that my laptop bag?" He pointed at the bag she held.
"Yes. Now hurry!"
"Can I ... can I have that back?" He reached towards the bag, his fingers twitching.
"When we get to where we’re going. Move now or I'll take you there naked." She reached for him, and he whimpered.
"No! Clothes are good!" Chuck scooted past her into his bedroom and pulled on jeans, a shirt and clean socks. He was pushing his feet into his boots when Anna strode into the room.
"Take what you need. We have to go now."
Chuck hurriedly threw whatever was to hand and clean into a hold all. As he pushed past his kidnapper to get to the dresser for more underwear, she rounded on him and placed her hand against his chest. He had the strangest sensation that insects were crawling around his ribs, then it was gone.
"Hey! You can't just touch a guy like that! What did you do to me?"
"I hid you."
Before he could ask more questions, and to add to the extreme freakiness he'd gone through since he'd woken up, the whole house began to shake and bright white light poured in through the window.
Anna turned to him, thrust his half packed bag at him and reached out to touch his forehead. Next thing he knew, they were standing on the edge of a forest. A very damp forest.
"What the fuck?!? Where are we?"
"We're on the Olympic Peninsula."
Given what he'd gone through that morning, Chuck didn't think passing out at that point was an unreasonable thing to do, so that's exactly what he did.
When he came round, he was propped against a tree, and Anna was hunkered down in front of him.
“Come on, Chuck, we don’t have time for this.” She patted him on the cheek, and he scooted away from her.
"Why are we here?" Chuck shivered against the chill of damp air after the warmth of his bedroom. "And where are we, exactly?"
“I told you." Anna thrust the laptop bag against his chest.
Chuck clung to it, blinking and wondering if he was still dreaming, if he'd inserted himself into the story. Given that, yeah, it had to be a dream, because being zapped across country wasn't possible outside of dreams or stories, Chuck decided that some demands wouldn't hurt.
"Look, I want to know what's going on. Who are you? Why have you kidnapped me and what are we doing here?" He glared at her.
"My name is Anna, I've told you that already, and you know who I am. What you’ve been writing is all real, and you need to accept that quickly because I don’t have time to argue with you.” Anna gazed off into the distance as if she were listening to something, then looked back down at Chuck. “I haven't kidnapped you, I saved you. Remember the light and the shaking house? That was your archangel."
“I have an archangel?” Chuck’s eyes were wide.
“Not anymore,” Anna muttered. "We're here so you can see the truth. Hold on to your bags, we need to make another stop.”
Before Chuck could object, she touched his forehead again and with a sickening jolt that left his stomach somewhere around his knees, they were standing close to an overlook point on the edge of the ocean. Anna pulled him down to crouch in the undergrowth, and as he watched, a sleek black car pulled up and it’s driver got out.
Chuck blanched. If he didn’t know it couldn’t be possible, he would have sworn that was … but it couldn’t be, no matter what the woman who claimed to be Anna said. He glanced at her. She was watching the man intently.
“That's Dean Winchester," Anna whispered.
"He's ... what? No, he ... he can't be, he can't know his surname, no-one did." Chuck's hopeful thought, that some batshit fans of the books were messing with him, faded. No-one knew that but him. He wondered if this was what madness felt like.
"He knows. It's been his since birth and belonged to his father before him, and his father before him. Dean’s mother was Mary, her maiden name was Campbell. Dean has a brother called Sam. He's taller than Dean and has unfortunately taken up with a demon called Ruby. Dean got back from Hell a few months ago, pulled out by an angel called Castiel. Do you want me to go on?"
Chuck chanted "No, no ..." under his breath, hiding his face in his hands. Anna grabbed his arm and shook him.
“Look at him.”
Chuck reluctantly glanced over at the man. The first thing that struck him was how world weary he looked. As he watched, Dean, and Chuck knew without a doubt that it was, walked around to the back of the car and opened the trunk. He rummaged around and picked something up that he held in his hands, finger smoothing over the surface of what looked like a book.
Chuck was musing on how the man's jacket looked old, as if it had been handed down to him, maybe from his father, when another man appeared behind Dean. He didn't walk, run, or even fall from the sky, he simply appeared out of nowhere. Chuck almost dropped his bag, fumbling with it to keep it in his arms.
"That's ..." Anna started.
"Castiel." Chuck finished for her. Who else would appear like that?
"I'm going crazy." Chuck pulled a small flask from an inside pocket in his jacket.
From where they stood, he couldn't hear the conversation between Dean and Castiel, but from the way her face hardened, it was clear Anna could.
"What … what are they saying?"
"You really don't know?"
Chuck looked up at her, then across at Dean and Castiel, then back at Anna.
"Well, no, how could I?"
"You didn't see this? This place? This conversation?"
Chuck shook his head. "I saw Dean with Sam in a small town that had lost its reaper. It was taken by Alistair. But then … then things changed. I started getting … rewrites. But they're not the same, not linear. Now it's single places, actions, thoughts, ideas. Nothing is running in a straight line anymore."
"I had to be sure."
Across the road, Dean dropped the book back into the trunk and shut it. He and Castiel got into the Impala. Minutes later, they pulled away.
Chuck whimpered and sat down in the wet grass.
"I need a drink."
"You need to sober up," Anna chided disapprovingly.
She hauled him to his feet, and touched her fingertips to Chuck's forehead again. Suddenly they were somewhere else. An alley that Anna led him out of and to a diner across the street. She ordered breakfast for him and coffee for them both.
"It's all real?" Chuck whispered.
They were sitting in a quiet booth in the corner of the diner.
"Angels and demons and hell? Oh God, hell! He … that Dean, he really went to hell?"
"And you and him …" Chuck’s eyes widened. “Which means Dean and Sam …”
"Let’s stick to the important things, Chuck."
“Good idea.” Chuck nodded. "Why did you come for me?"
"Do you know anything about Zachariah?"
"Not much, just from the flashes, but I couldn't tell if he was a demon or an angel."
Anna snorted. "He's Castiel's superior. He's been watching you for a while now, and he knows that something’s changed. You might have been protected by an archangel, but Raphael sides with Zachariah. He wouldn't have seen Zachariah as a threat."
"I was protected by an archangel? But not anymore?" Chuck didn't want breakfast. He wanted clarification on the whole archangel thing which was news to him. Most of all, he wanted a deep hole to crawl inside for the rest of time.
"He saw me as a threat,” Anna explained. “So he came for you. You would have ended up in Zachariah’s hands, and believe me, you don’t want that. When I touched your chest, I carved sigils into your ribs that will hide you from all angels. Even me."
"Why? And why would angels be interested in me?"
"You're not a writer, Chuck, you're a prophet. You see the future, write it down and call it fiction. Only now you're in freefall. Dean left Sam last night, he went against his destiny, and shattered the future. What you're seeing is those fragments, and now no-one knows what's coming. If Zachariah finds you, he'll dissect you to find out what happened to your heavenly connection and to see if he can put the pieces together to make a whole."
A perky waitress sashayed over with their order, setting a plate of breakfast down in front of Chuck as he struggled to come to terms with everything Anna had told him.
"Right now, the Winchester brothers are re-writing the future, but they are doing it apart, alone, and given the power that Sam’s been messing around with, that’s dangerous. Sam’s too close to Ruby and Dean is being manipulated by Zachariah through Castiel. They need your help."
“How could I possibly help them?”
“You’re not completely cut off from heaven. You said that you got rewrites? That means you’re still getting something direct from the source. You can help by letting Sam and Dean know what’s inside your head. It could give them the advantage over both the angels and demons. Both sides are working towards an end game, and if we can find out what that is, maybe they can be stopped.”
“Okay,” Chuck reluctantly agreed. “So what happens now?”
“Now, you write. Everything you saw, everything you can remember.” Anna pulled his laptop out of the bag and set it down in front of him. “I’ll be close by.” She downed the last of her coffee and left him on his own.
Chuck pushed his plate away and opened the laptop. He was badly shaken by the knowledge that everything he’d been writing was real. It was too big for him to completely wrap his head around, but this was familiar. The keys beneath his fingers, the words filling the screen in front of him. Writing was what he did, and he needed to lose himself for a while in that familiarity. He’d suffered enough trauma for one day and this way, he could push aside his newly discovered and totally unwanted prophet status but still be helping in the only way he knew how.
He shifted in his seat, getting himself comfortable and glanced out of the window. The view down a small town main street, down towards the ocean, wasn’t a bad one, and the diner itself was pleasant, warm and welcoming. So it wasn’t some cool, cosmopolitan café bar, but it would do. He caught the eye of the server who smiled at him and bustled over.
“Could I have a large latte, please?”
“Sure thing, honey.”
Chuck smiled back, and settled down to write as she went to fetch his order.
Back in the motel room Dean had left that morning, Sam paced like a caged tiger. Ruby sat on the bed watching him.
"I know you miss him, Sam, but we've got work to do."
"Yeah, we have. We have to find Dean."
"He's made it clear he doesn't want to be around you right now.” She tried to keep her annoyance from showing. “You know he'll be back as soon as he's got it out of his system."
"Got what out of his system? The fact I told him he was worthless?" Sam snapped.
"He isn't as strong as he was, he has to face up to that," Ruby reasoned.
Sam walked over to the window and stared outside, as if he could bring Dean back by the force of his will alone.
"He didn't deserve to hear what I told him."
"He's been keeping secrets from you, Sam."
"Secrets? And what have I been doing, huh? I haven't exactly kept him in the loop."
"You know how he would have felt about ..."
"Yeah, I do." Sam sighed. "I can't do this anymore. I don't care how strong it makes me, I'm done."
"Because Dean wouldn't approve? You’re getting close to being able to take out Lilith. Once that’s done, he’ll come around."
“What if he doesn’t? What if it’ll make me more of a freak in his eyes than I already am?” The memory of the day Dean had found out he could exorcise demons with his mind still gave him chills when he thought about it.
”If I didn’t know you, I would want to hunt you.”
Sam’s chest constricted. He glanced at Ruby, knowing how good he would feel if he had just a little taste, how it would help him get his head together. As if she could see what was going on in his mind, she got off the bed and joined him by the window, touching his face almost tenderly.
“Let me help, Sammy, let me make you feel good.” She brushed the pad of her thumb across his mouth.
Sam let out a ragged sigh, grabbing her wrist and holding it tight. She smiled at him, biting down on her bottom lip. It would have been so easy to take what she was offering, so easy to get back that confidence that he was right, his way was the only way, but he thought of Dean and it helped strengthen his resolve.
“No,” he growled, and pushed her roughly away.
He stuffed his things into a bag, and left without another word. She watched him go, never doubting he’d be back.
Two days later, the sound of an engine outside his door had Bobby on his feet and peering out the window. He watched as a Thunderbird rolled up, and Sam got out of it. Sam’s shoulders were hunched as he walked round to the trunk to fetch his bag. Bobby guessed that meant he was staying. By the time he'd made it to the porch, Bobby had the door open.
"Sam. How you doin', boy?"
"Hey Bobby. Not so well."
Sam looked at him briefly, gaze flicking up then away as if he were ashamed to meet Bobby's eyes. There were bags under the kid's eyes and he looked like he hadn't slept for a week.
"Come on in, son." Bobby patted his back as he walked through the door. "Have you heard from Dean?"
"No." Sam shook his head and put his bag down in the hallway. "Have you?"
"No. What about Castiel?"
"I haven't seen him either."
Sam didn't need to say anything else. The implication hung in the air. Wherever Dean was, Castiel wouldn't be far away.
"Dean doesn't trust me, Bobby, and after the things I said ..."
"You both said things you regret, Sam. That's how sirens work. You can't blame yourself."
"But I can. All he wanted was his brother back but what I said to him ... I told him he was weak, useless and deep down, I guess that's how I've felt since he came back. I just wanted to keep him safe."
He followed Bobby into the kitchen and sat down when Bobby pushed a chair out for him with his foot.
"How did you plan on doing that?"
Sam hung his head.
"I've been getting stronger ..."
"You think you're gonna be able to keep Dean safe by bulking up?"
"Not that kind of strength." Sam looked down at the table. "I found a way to build up the psychic strength that yellow eyes gave me."
Bobby studied him for a moment.
"How's that working out for you?"
"It's not. I'm ... I'm in too deep, Bobby, and I don't know how to get out of it."
"What kind of trouble we talking about?"
Sam kept staring down at the table, clenching and unclenching his fists.
"I can't help unless I know." Bobby said gently. "In this life, it's easy to get sucked into something bad, Sam."
"Ruby, she showed me how to increase my powers. She ... demon blood. Demon blood makes them stronger."
"Demon blood? How ..."
"I drink it." Sam hunched further down. This was where Bobby threw him out on his ass.
"So if you stop, you lose your powers?" Bobby wasn't going to go into exactly what powers Sam was talking about, not just yet. That would come later when he wasn’t in the middle of a confession that was obviously hard for him.
"It's not that easy. I need it, I ... I crave it. If I don't get it ..." He trembled as the discomfort of withdrawal skittered through him.
"When did you have your last hit?"
"Five days ago."
"How are you feeling?"
"Not so good. I'd give just about anything for more, but I don't want to, Bobby. I lied to him, kept so much from him and now I'm paying for it."
"How bad is it gonna get?"
"I just need somewhere to lay low, until it’s out of my system, somewhere safe.”
“You’re safe here, for as long as you need.” Bobby reached out and put his hand over Sam’s.
It was warm and comforting and Sam nodded his thanks, blinking back unshed tears.
"Where’s Ruby?” Bobby asked.
“I left her back at the motel. Told her I was done.”
“I’ll make sure she can’t get in. You take your stuff upstairs, see if you can get some sleep.”
Sam got to his feet wearily and picked up his bag on his way up to the room he and Dean had shared often growing up. Bobby’s place was the nearest thing they had to a home, and being there was bittersweet without Dean.
“He’ll be back, Sam, you know that, right?” Bobby reassured.
“People keep telling me that.” Sam trudged upstairs, his feet heavy, his body longing for sleep.
Bobby checked on Sam every hour during the evening, between bouts of research on the seals. He was trying to get a jump on which ones were next to be broken, see if there was any way to stop it.
Despite being exhausted, Sam was having a hard time sleeping. His body ached and his head thumped and he missed his brother.
"You okay, boy?"
"Tired." Sam hiccupped out a sob. "So fucking tired."
Bobby nodded and went to get him something to help him sleep. He didn’t take no for an answer and Sam eventually gulped the pills down gratefully. Bobby dragged himself back downstairs, thinking that he’d do another a couple of hours research then head to bed himself. A knock on the door startled him and he opened it warily. A small, nervous man stood on the porch, clutching a laptop bag, a backpack slung over his shoulder.
"Bobby Singer!" There was awe in his voice and he stared at Bobby with wide open eyes.
"Who the hell are you?"
"I'm Chuck. Chuck Shurley."
"And?" Bobby wasn't in the mood for dealing with strangers.
"Um, I er ... I know this is going to sound crazy, believe me, I almost wish I'd been dreaming, but I wasn't, at least I don't think I was ..."
"Are you gonna get to the point anytime soon?"
"I'm here to see Sam. Sam Winchester. An angel sent me." Chuck braced himself to be hit, or possibly thrown off the porch, but the man in front of him, the man he'd written about without knowing he was real, simply sighed.
"Oh, er, Anna."
"Anna?” Bobby had never met her personally, but he’d heard of her from Sam and Dean. He could have sworn they said she’d been vaporized. “Isn’t she dead?”
“No, no, she’s most definitely not dead. Very much alive and zapping people all over the country. She took me to meet Dean. Well, not meet him, we just spied on him from the bushes. He doesn’t look very happy without Sam.”
“Slow down!” Bobby eyed Chuck. “You’ve seen Dean? Where is he?”
“Way up in the north west. Not the driest of places, I can tell you.”
Bobby thought Chuck looked like a lost soul, standing there, holding his bag tight. He was intrigued enough by his story to see what else he had to say. As long as Chuck passed the tests, he’d give him the benefit of the doubt for now.
“You'd better come in, then." Bobby opened the door wide enough for Chuck to get through, and watched him walk through the devil’s trap painted under the carpet with a grunt of satisfaction. Then closed the door and locked it behind him. "Beer?"
"Yes, thanks. I could do with one. Or twelve. It's not the best of feelings, one minute I was standing in a motel room in … well, I’m not sure where we were exactly, but it was beside the ocean, the next, I’m on your doorstep and she was gone.”
"So she brought you here but didn’t stay long enough to say hi to Sam?" Bobby fished out two cold beers and handed the one laced with holy water to Chuck.
"Yeah, she wanted to keep track of Dean. I was wondering how we’d find you because I never did give you an address, it was just vaguely in the Sioux Falls area, but I guess angels don’t need addresses."
"Will you quit talking in riddles. I haven't slept in almost 24 hours and you aren't making a lick of sense. Who exactly are you and how do you know Sam? And what do you mean, you never gave me an address?"
"I'm a writer. I wrote a series of books a while back about two demon hunting brothers. Turns out they weren't fiction after all." He gave a little half hysterical laugh that had Bobby's eyebrows shooting up. "I know Sam because I wrote about him. I know how his mother died, killed by Azazel. I know how he was brought up by John, although Dean was more of a parent to him than his old man ever was. I know how he ran off to Stanford. I know what happened to Jessica. I know how he died and how Dean brought him back, and I know about the demon blood."
Bobby blanched, but Chuck kept talking.
"I thought they were my characters, thought I'd made them up, given them these shitty fucked up lives to work through. The fans, few as they were, ate the books up. But it's not fiction. I didn't know, I swear I didn't know."
Chuck looked as weary as Bobby felt. He steered the writer to the couch where he sat down heavily and drank most of his beer down in one.
"So I'm in the books too?" Bobby humored Chuck.
"Well, yeah." Chuck gave him a quick, crooked smile. "The boys needed a father figure with John out of the picture and I thought ... only I didn't did I? I thought I'd made you up, but it turns out it's all real. Demons and hell and angels and ghosts and monsters ..."
Chuck's hands shook badly. Bobby took pity on him and fished out a couple of shot glasses and something stronger than beer.
"So why are you here?"
"Things started to change. The books aren't published any more, but I've still been writing the characters.” Chuck explained about the dreams and the headaches and the unexpected rewrites.
"Yeah, that's how it works. I dream what's going to happen and then write it down." Chuck knocked back another shot. "I'd already written down what happened after Sam and Dean had the run in with the siren and you saved them. Good timing by the way. That could have been messy if you'd gotten there two minutes later."
"Thanks." Bobby downed his shot of Jack, not entirely sure he wasn't dreaming up this odd little man himself.
"They were supposed to end up in a town where people had stopped dying because Alistair had kidnapped a Reaper. Course, they didn't know it was Alistair when they got into town. They saved the day, as always, but Pamela ..."
"Yeah, Pamela Barnes. She was killed helping them."
Bobby dropped the shot glass to the table with a clatter and staggered to the phone. He punched in Pamela’s number and waited, the ringing tone sounding like a death knell. He closed his eyes as the seconds ticked by. He'd lost too many friends already, and losing Pamela would be one too many.
"Pamela. You took long enough to answer."
"Jeez, Bobby, what crawled up your ass and died?"
"Just glad to hear your voice, is all."
"I'll get back to you on that one. Pack your stuff, I'm coming to pick you up. I'll be there by noon tomorrow."
"What the hell? Don't I get a say in this little trip?"
"No, you don't, not this time. Promise me that you won't open the door to anyone but me. I mean anyone."
"Seriously, man, what's going on?"
"I'll explain when you get here. You're gonna have to trust me on this, okay?"
"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow."
"Tomorrow, and remember, don't talk to anyone but me. Anyone."
"I got it, Bobby."
Bobby rang off and turned back to Chuck.
"She's not dying. Not on my watch."
"I get that." Chuck nodded.
"So if it didn't happen like it was supposed to, what happened instead?"
"It's hazy, like some of the connections are missing and I'm only getting half the story. Alistair still ends up in the town, and the Reaper will disappear, but I don't know what happens to Sam and Dean now. Anna said Sam was here."
"He is, he's ... sleeping."
"What about Dean?"
"We saw him talking to Castiel. They got in the Impala and drove off. Anna said was I would be more useful close to Sam and you, to help with research. There’s more going on than just setting Lucifer free, but I don’t know what."
Bobby scrubbed a hand across his face and sighed.
“Look, I need some sleep, and you look like you could do with some too. Once Pamela’s here, safe and sound, we’ll start looking into whatever you’ve got, okay?”
“You’ll have to take the couch.”
“It’s what I’m used to.” Chuck grinned.
“See you in the morning.” Bobby made his way upstairs as Chuck settled down on a couch that turned out to be more comfortable than his own.
Castiel stood in front of his superior, receiving his latest orders.
“Dean’s safer away from his brother. And it was a stroke of luck that he decided that for himself.” Zachariah was obviously pleased at this turn of events, which puzzled Castiel.
He nodded, keeping hidden the misgivings that wormed their way through his heart.
Dean was lost without Sam. Castiel had kept him company since the two had parted, but he didn’t know how to be human. And he wasn’t Sam. Dean hadn’t asked about his brother even though Castiel knew how much he wanted to. The strength that Sam couldn’t see any more stopped Dean from pleading with the angel to find out how he was, where he was. Anyone else would think the man had no family left, but Castiel knew differently.
“What do you want me to do?” Castiel asked.
“Make sure he’s kept busy. Let him hunt, as long as he puts himself in no real danger.”
“He is asking to meet whoever is giving the orders.”
“Is he?” Zachariah seemed amused. “I’ll check my schedule and get back to you.”
“Might it not be wise to encourage him to speak to Sam.” Castiel risked the suggestion.
“No. Sam’s made his choices. He sides with a demon and uses the cursed power in his veins even after he’s been told not to.”
“But Sam saved the town from Samhain.”
“After he was expressly told not to use his power!” Zachariah rounded on him. “Are you refusing to follow my orders, Castiel?”
“No, I was merely suggesting …”
“I don’t need your suggestions, I need your obedience. If you aren’t up to the task, there are plenty who are.” The threat hung in the air. Zachariah didn’t tolerate argument or dissent. His word was law and he wouldn’t hesitate to remove Castiel if the angel even thought of going against that.
Castiel bowed his head. Up until now, he’d followed orders without question, but then he’d never seen a need to question them before. Something about the way Zachariah wanted to manipulate the Winchester brothers didn’t sit quite right. But Castiel knew if he voiced that opinion, he’d be removed. Dean needed him, needed someone who cared what happened to him.
He looked back up at Zachariah and promised he would follow his orders to the letter, hiding the shock he’d felt in admitting to himself that he’d grown fond of Dean.
“Good.” Zachariah beamed at him, and left him on his own.
Castiel he left to check on Dean, h decided that he might not be allowed to let Dean speak to Sam, but he could check on Sam himself. That way, he wasn’t disobeying any orders.
The next morning, Bobby set off to fetch Pamela. He introduced a still exhausted Sam to Chuck before he left, but Sam only stayed downstairs long enough to swallow down a few bites of breakfast, then he disappeared back upstairs.
Chuck was washing the breakfast dishes when Castiel appeared in the kitchen beside him. He fumbled with a plate, which Castiel caught for him before it hit the ground. Images of the angel had plagued his sleep the previous night, and he hadn’t liked what he’d seen.
"You are the prophet Chuck." Castiel stated as he straightened up and handed the plate back to Chuck. "It is an honor to meet you."
"You're Castiel, right? No offence, but it's not an honor to meet you. Why are you here?"
"You should know that already."
"Well, I don't." Chuck backed away from him.
"Why are you afraid of me?" Castiel tilted his head as he looked at the small man.
"Because ... because you betray them."
Castiel blinked, his brow furrowing. "It is my purpose to keep Dean safe, not betray him."
"He is not my concern."
"He should be. From what I've seen, they're only flashes now, not the full picture, you are as responsible for what comes next as the Winchesters are."
"I side with heaven, do as my father commands. I do not serve Lucifer."
"People ... angels even, aren't always what they seem. You have to do what you feel is right, not what they tell you to do."
"How can you know what is to come if you are cut off from heaven?"
"The connection isn't severed, but it's not working the way it did. Now all I'm getting are insights. Scenes, emotions, snippets of memories and none of it makes sense. All I know about you is that someday soon, you'll know in your heart that your actions are wrong, you'll struggle against the orders you're given and you'll make the wrong choice. But I don’t even know which orders." Chuck sighed. "It's like having a jigsaw puzzle in my head."
"He thinks you are without visions now."
"Don't trust him. I haven't seen much but everything I know tells me he's not to be trusted."
Castiel worried his lip and looked away.
"You don't trust him already!"
"He is my superior. I trust him." The angel insisted, but wouldn't meet Chuck's eyes.
"Trust yourself, dude." Chuck reached out and squeezed his shoulder. Castiel stared at his hand until he took it away awkwardly.
“How is Sam?” Castiel looked towards the stairs leading up to the bedrooms.
“He’s fine,” Chuck lied. “But he’s missing Dean. Where is he?"
"Dean is safe, away from his brother. He knows Sam doesn’t need him anymore."
"That's not true!! Sam does need him, especially now, he ... " Chuck couldn't betray Sam, couldn't tell the angel what Sam had been through. "Ask Dean to contact him, please. It's important."
"I cannot. Dean has made his choice." But he knew it was a choice Dean regretted. He'd needed to be away from Sam, but he'd seen how often Dean took his new cell from his pocket and almost called his brother. He felt the turmoil the hunter felt at being alone again. He'd seen the loneliness in Dean's eyes. But he had his orders.
"But he'll listen to you. Even a phone call, just ..."
"I cannot help you."
With a flurry of wings, the angel was gone and Chuck was left standing alone in the kitchen.
A jigsaw in his head. Yeah, that's exactly how it felt. Chuck paced. Backwards and forwards in front of the window. In and out of Bobby's kitchen, trying to make the pieces fall into place. With a strangled cry, he tore at his hair and then stopped in his tracks.
Before all this had begun, before the headaches and the drinking, before his head was constantly filled with the Winchesters and their fucked up lives, he'd written other stories. Twisty espionage stories that would have put Tom Clancy to shame. He'd hardly ever written in a straight line, A to B to C to D. Scenes would come to him, pages of dialogue that fitted the concept in his head, but that didn't have a place yet. He'd be inspired by overhearing an argument, by an intriguing person walking past him on the street, by the sinister way the wind rustled through the trees outside his dorm room window.
Photographs too, random pictures he found on the net, specific pictures he hunted for when something hit him about where a character would live, what they liked to eat, what color they painted their toenails. He'd researched, cataloguing every aspect of the story, of his characters, putting it all together in a way he could manipulate and mould into a final, coherent story.
He threw himself on the couch and tugged his notebook out of his pack. On each page, he wrote what he could remember of a scene, a time, even strong emotions and everything he remembered about when and how they occurred. Some of them were painful to commit to paper, but everything had to be there, available to him, to them. He ripped out the pages one by one and put them in a pile on the floor in front of him. Then he wrote down all he could remember of the original story, how things were supposed to have played out after Dean and Sam's encounter with the siren. These pages, written in red, went on a different pile.
When he was done, he strode towards the one wall in Bobby's living room that wasn't hidden by bookshelves. He took down the ugly picture that hung in the center of it, and shamelessly rummaged around in Bobby's desk and kitchen drawers for tape, pins, anything that would help him do what he needed to do.
He started with what was originally supposed to happen, pinning each scene low down on the wall in a neat line. There wasn't much, compared to the rest, but he wanted it there for comparison. He left space above, then pinned all the random thoughts, ideas, emotions etc above the space. He pulled out another notebook. This one had thick cream paper in it, and would stand out from the rest. On each page, he wrote a name, and below it, a list of everything he knew about them.
In distinctive blue pen, he wrote down the names of the places he'd seen, or where he'd simply known that events would take place. Then he opened his laptop, and while it was booting up, found Bobby's printer under a stack of books in the corner behind his desk.
He searched for pictures, images that would immediately bring to mind something he'd seen, and he printed them out. He looked for specific places too, even if he’d only gotten a fleeting glimpse. He pinned them all to the wall, then went to get the roll of twine he'd spied in one of the kitchen drawers. He stood back, and did some rearranging, moving things that he thought might be connected closer together, linking others with lengths of twine tied to the pins holding them to the wall.
He spent the next hour immersed in the notes on the wall, moving them, shaping them into possible scenarios, disregarding some with a huff and a shake of his head, brightening up when something struck him as being right on the button. He was so engrossed that he didn't hear the truck pulling up in the yard, or the door opening.
"What the hell is that?"
Chuck spun round to see Bobby and Pamela standing in the doorway. Bobby eyed Chuck’s wall.
"It's um, it's a jigsaw. This is everything I've seen so far."
Bobby dropped Pamela’s bags on the floor and walked closer, reading a few of the notes, following the connections. He nodded, mainly to himself. Sam wandered downstairs, running a hand through his mussed up hair. He was about to go and say hi to Pamela when he saw Chuck’s handiwork.
"What the ..."
"It's everything." Chuck repeated as Sam did the same thing that Bobby had done, moved closer and started to read.
"So do I get to know what's going on?" Pamela asked.
"Sorry." Bobby turned away from the wall sheepishly. "Pamela, this is Chuck. Chuck, meet Pamela. Chuck’s redecorated while I’ve been gone.”
Chuck moved closer and took her hand, shaking it lightly.
"Well, if I remember rightly, anything would be an improvement. So you're the prophet?"
"Er, yes, I am, I suppose. Not quite working the same as it used to but, yeah." Chuck stuttered.
"We need to fill in the gaps." Bobby sounded almost excited. "Time to hit the books, and the net."
Pamela stood quietly off to one side, taking in the auras of the three men. She was drawn to Sam’s. It was dark and wounded, which matched what Bobby had told her on the way over.
"Could you boys manage without Sam for a while? I need to talk to him.” Pamela asked. "Come on Grumpy, why don't you get me something cold to drink and sit a while."
Sam led her through to the kitchen, waiting until she was sitting at the table before he got them, and Bobby and Chuck, beers from the fridge. Once he’d given them to the two distracted men, he sat down at the table opposite Pamela.
"You've been playing with things best left alone." She never had been one to take time to get to the point.
"Not any more. That's over now."
"Don't be too sure."
"No! I've stopped, it's over, I don't need it anymore."
"Sam?" She reached out over the table and he reluctantly took her hand as if his soul would be laid bare in front of her. "I can feel it in you, the need for it. Part addiction, part power trip, it's there under the surface of your skin. Saying no and walking away is good, but it's only the first step. If you deny how you feel, you're never gonna kick this."
Sam sighed and looked down at their hands.
"I don't know where to go from here. I know I need to kill Lilith."
"What do you mean? Why would I not?"
"I don't know. Just ... listen to Prophet Boy out there. We don't know how this is meant to play out yet."
"Yeah we do. Lilith has to be stopped from breaking the seals. End of story."
"I'm pretty sure that won't be the end, Sam."
"So what do I do? I'm not gonna sit here on my ass while Dean is out there alone."
“How about I teach you to use the power inside you naturally? No need for demon juice?”
Sam stared at her, mouth open wide.
“You might wanna close that, before the flies get in.” Pamela grinned smugly. It didn’t take eyes to guess at the look on Sam’s face.
On to Splintered