delanach_dw: (Soul)
[personal profile] delanach_dw
Fic title: Old Magic
Genre: Gen
Characters: Dean, Sam, Lisa, Ben
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 11,625
Beta: [ profile] seleneheart Any mistakes are mine due to tweaking.
Notes: AU from the end of Swan Song.
Summary: Dean can't leave Sam in the cage with Lucifer, and the journey to free him takes him to places he'd never thought he'd go.

Inspired by [ profile] kimonkey7's beautiful and unique art.

“You’ve gotta promise not to try and bring me back.”

Dean knows he should feel bound by that promise, but he doesn’t. If he never actually said the words, it can’t be binding, he rationalizes to himself. He’d agreed with a curt and reluctant nod, that was all. There’d been no swearing of oaths, nothing written in blood, no words spoken.

After he loses Sam, he goes to Lisa, another promise that he made, but one he needs to follow up on. She takes him in, holds him as he sobs out his grief. Losing Sam broke him in a way that Hell never could. He takes what she freely gives him, a home, love, warmth, kindness, and slowly begins to return her gifts. He becomes part of them, part of their lives, their small family and it helps him. Slowly, so slowly, he begins to heal.

He starts to research. He might have left that to Sam in the past, but John taught them both and taught them well. How to research, how to plan, how to get the job done. He maxes out his remaining credit cards on old books. The smell that rises from their pages when he opens them reminds him of days spent at Bobby’s, the three of them digging through books in search of answers to whatever fugly monster needed to be dealt with, and Bobby cursing and grumbling over having to cook up pans of chili to keep them going.

He misses Sam so much his heart aches in his chest.

That night, his new family eats the chili he makes for them, and Dean begins to understand about making new traditions. Not to replace the old ones, but help him feel that he’s in the right place, doing what needs to be done.

Dean takes a lot of walks in the first months he’s with Lisa. There’s a river that runs through the town and on the opposite side of the bridge from Lisa’s neighborhood, a park stretches it’s green fingers along the riverbank.

At the times he wanders through its leafy trees and across the gently rolling grass banks, there aren’t many people around. All but the smallest kids are in school, and he doesn’t mind sharing his peace with the laughter of toddlers. It reminds him of how Sam was once that small, how he’d waddle after Dean on little legs, reaching out for him, giggling when Dean tickled him.

His eyes are damp when he spots the woman. She’s heavily pregnant, her face creased up with discomfort. One hand is pressed into the small of her back, and her breathing is ragged. Ever the hero, although that’s something he’d never call himself, he walks towards her, slowing as he reaches her side. She has thick, waist length red hair loosely tied back from her face, which she turns to him as he approaches. Her eyes are the palest blue, almost like wolf’s eyes, her gaze steady as she looks at him.

“Are you okay?” He asks.

“Yes, just winded.” She replies, and smiles at him and Dean is astounded by how beautiful she is. “This little one can’t wait to be born. I swear she’s trying to kick her way out today.”

The woman is still in discomfort, so Dean points to a nearby park bench.

“Do you want to sit down for a while?” He tentatively reaches forward to help her, and she takes hold of his hand, squeezing it gratefully.

When they reach the bench, he takes off his jacket and lays it down on the wooden slats so she has a little comfort when she sits down.

“Thank you. You’re very kind.” She still has hold of his hand , so he rubs his thumb across hers in soothing circles, hoping it will help.

“So it’s a girl?”

“Yes. And she’ll be a fighter.”

“She’s gonna be the terror of the schoolyard?” Dean smiles, imagining a small girl with long red hair chasing boys around the playground.

“She’ll fight when she needs to, stand up for what’s right, no matter the cost. That’s how a life should be lived. No regrets, no looking back in anguish.”

The woman’s free hand strokes her distended belly as she talks. Her face is serene now and Dean wonders at her prophecy of how her child will live. He drops his gaze down to where their hands are still joined. Hers is warm, and it’s a comfort to him.

“Regrets are a part of life.” His voice is quiet, and he doesn’t know why he said that out loud. “I hope your girl grows up with as few as possible.”

“Is that your wish for her?”

Dean frowns. He hadn’t meant it like that, hadn’t meant to bestow any kind of gift on the unborn nestling safe in her mother’s womb, but of all the gifts he could wish for her, it’s the one he wishes someone had given him. He hesitates, unknowingly understanding the importance of his next words.

“Yes, that’s my wish for her.”

“Thank you, it’s a fine gift to give.” The woman beams at him, eyes dancing. “Do you believe in magic, Dean?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Good.” She squeezes his hand, and they sit in silence for a minute or two.

Strangely, Dean doesn’t feel the need to fill the quiet with idle words. He stares out over the river, watching the water flow swiftly along, a force of nature that doesn’t care about human grief.

“You look sad.” The woman’s voice doesn’t shatter the silence, it soothes it away.

Dean nods, compelled to tell her at least a little of the truth.

“I lost someone. I lost my brother.”

“I’m sorry.” She doesn’t ask how Sam died, and Dean’s grateful for that. He’s sick of making up lies and half truths. Even Lisa doesn’t know it all, he just can’t bring himself to get the words out.

Now, her thumb moves on his hand, another comfort she’s provided.

“It’s fitting that you grieve for him. In time, it’ll ease, I promise.”

“it’s more than that, it’s …” How does he explain to a stranger how close he and Sam were? How Sam took Dean’s soul with him when he jumped into the pit. The brother he helped raise, the friend he can’t stand to be apart from, everything that was good about his life, all ended up in a hole in the ground. He looks up at her, straight into those blue eyes of hers.

“You would trade places with him.” It’s a statement, not a question.

Dean nods. He feels vulnerable, bared to the world as she continues to stare at him, but he can’t look away.

“Your blood for his?” Now, it’s a question, but this time, he doesn’t hesitate.

“My blood for his.” Dean’s voice drops to a whisper, and he closes his eyes against her piercing stare. “My blood for yours, Sammy.”

Her fingers touch his cheek, and gently lifts his face so she can look into his eyes again. She smiles, and it’s as if the sun has come out.

“It may not come to that.”

She drops his hand and stands up, picking his jacket off the bench and holding it out to him.

“Will you walk with me to the gate?”

“Sure.” Dean gets to his feet and shakes his head. He feels like he’s been dozing, and he doesn’t think too much on the conversation he had with the woman.

They walk slowly towards the entrance of the park without the need for words. When they reach the heavy wooden gates that stand open until sunset, she reaches forward and takes his hand again.

“Thank you for your kindness. I’m going to repay it.”

“You really don’t have to do that.”

“Yes I do, Dean. Open your heart and open your mind. Follow wherever your instincts take you. Remember, love is stronger than hate, and it will help you overcome your fears.” She stands on her tiptoes and kisses him on the cheek. “Good fortune follow you.”

She smiles, then turns and walks away.

“Wait! How did you know my name?”

“You told me.”

Dean is pretty sure he didn’t.

A week later, he takes a job. He wants to contribute to the upkeep of his new home, wants to be able to treat Lisa and Ben occasionally, and he needs to finance his research.

Lisa knows he’s working on something, he just doesn’t elaborate on what. His reasons for hiding the truth from her are myriad and top of the list is a fear of seeing pity in her eyes when he explains that he just can’t let it go, can’t let Sam or Adam rot in a cage with two arrogant archangels.

Another package arrives and he tries to hide his excitement, but later, when the text inside proves to be nothing he hasn’t read already, he slams it shut with frustration and sits back, glaring at the book.

“No good?” Lisa asks.

“No.” Dean rubs his eyes.

“Have you been to Celtic Spirit?”

“No, not yet.“ He knows the name of the new age store in town, but he’s avoided it so far.

“Why don’t you check it out tomorrow? You might be pleasantly surprised.” Lisa adds at his grimace. “The owner, Eve, has lived in town since I was a kid. She’s not your typical new age store owner.”

Dean reluctantly agrees, deciding he can always forget to go. He takes Lisa’s hand, and follows her up to bed.

Eve reminds him of the pregnant woman he met in the park. She has the same pale blue wolf’s eyes, and long, waist length hair. Only Eve’s hair is every shade of coarse grey, held back from her face in a severe ponytail that hangs down her back.

She doesn’t look up as he walks through the door of the store, so he wanders around, checking out the surprisingly useful herb section, and a shelf full of protection amulets which he would swear are the real deal if they weren’t priced scandalously low. He spots the books at the back of the store and makes his way past a display of knives safely locked in a display cabinet.

There are the usual paperbacks, promising happy, prosperous lives if the reader follows their contents to the letter, and there are three shelves full of tarot reading books and packs of cards. But as he works his way towards the back corner of the store, he sees older books, covers worn, some even tattered. He picks one up and flicks through it, noting the comments written in a precise hand in the margin. It’s a spell book, and at the back, in the same hand, are additional spells and remedies written on the blank pages.

“You won’t find what you’re looking for in there.”

Eve’s suddenly beside him, peering over his shoulder.

“How do you know what I’m looking for?”

“You’re a hunter, so I’m guessing a book of spells to help your garden grow isn’t going to be of much use to you. The exorcisms are on the top shelf.” She grabs the book out of Dean’s hands and points upward.

“I’m not looking for exorcisms.” Dean tells her.

“No?” She looks slightly baffled at that. “Well, you should be.”

“How do you know what I should be looking for?”

“Well, how else are you going to rid your brother of the devil?” With a huff, she walks back to the counter, and picks up her mug, taking a sip of something that to Dean smells like liniment.

He watches her carefully, wondering who she is. Demon? Angel? Or something in between that knows who he is. He walks purposefully towards her and pulls his gun out from where it was tucked in the back of his jeans. Some habits are harder to break than others. He points it at her face, the click of the safety coming off audible in the peace of the store.

Eve glances up, gives him a withering glance and looks back at the candle catalogue she’d been pouring over.

“Put that thing away before some concerned citizen calls the cops. You’ll be no good to anyone behind bars.”

She sips her tea, completely unconcerned that she’s got a Glock pointed at her head by a man who really isn’t afraid to use it.

“How do you know I’m a hunter?”

“It shows in your aura.” She snorts with laughter.

“Lady, you’d better start giving me some answers. What are you?”

What am I? That’s not very polite.” She closes the catalogue and slips it into a drawer under the counter. “I’m serious about the gun. I really don’t want to be the one who has to tell Lisa that you got yourself arrested.”

“You know Lisa?”

“Sure I do. She said you would be calling in.”

Dean holds the gun in place for a heartbeat or two longer, until the sound of people going about their day to day lives filters through from outside and he realizes she might be right. Reluctantly, he lowers it.

“Did she say why?”

“Why you were coming to see me? She told me that you were researching something, and were having trouble finding exactly what you were after. But she didn’t say what that was. I’m guessing that she doesn’t know.”

“But you do?” His hand twitches, logic telling him to keep his guard up, but instinct telling him that she isn’t a threat.

“Dean, anyone who has any contact with anything the least bit supernatural knows something big went down. Some of us, the ones who like to gather information, know more than others.”

“And what do you think you know about me?”

“I know that you’re grieving for your brother, the brother that sacrificed himself to prevent the apocalypse and I know that you’re looking for a way to get him out of Hell.”

“How do you know what I’m looking for?” Dean frowns.

“Isn’t that what anyone would do? If my brother took the fall for something and got himself locked up, don’t you think I’d be working my ass off to get him released? It’s no different, only you’ve got the added incentive of Sam being in Hell.”

Dean stares at her for a long moment, then visibly sags with relief. All this time, he’s been treating his need to free Sam like a guilty secret that no-one else would understand, when it’s the most natural thing in the world to want.

“Can you help me?” He’s not pleading, but he’s opening his heart, just a little, to let in the possibility of hope.

“It’s a tall order, freeing someone from Hell. As I understand it, only an angel can raise a someone from the pit, and rumor has it that Sam’s deeper than that.”

“Yeah, he is.” Dean’s shoulders slump.

“But there might be another way. How about telling me the details over a nice cup of tea, then we’ll figure out if there’s anything that can be done?”

“Make it coffee and you’re on.” Dean smiles weakly.

Eve locks the door to the store, and flips over the closed sign. She leads Dean through the back of the store, and into a large kitchen.

On one of the chairs around the large table that dominates the room, a grey cat stirs from its slumbers. It jumps down from the chair with a thunk and slinks around Dean’s ankles. He bends down to pet its head and scratch behind its ears.

“That’s Gomez.” Eve introduces the cat as she rummages around for a packet of coffee.

“Hey Gomez.” Dean smiles when the cat begins to purr.

Eve busies herself making them coffee and a rich aroma soon fills the room. Dean sits down on one of the chairs, followed by Gomez who jumps up into his lap and makes himself at home. She sets mugs, a bowl of sugar and a cream jug down on the table. Dean takes his as it comes, while Eve adds both sugar and plenty of cream to hers, just like Sam would have.

“Tell me.” Eve instructs.

So he does.

It feels good to let it all out, so be able to talk about Lucifer and Michael and Death without fear. He tells her everything, from the beginning of the yellow eyed demon’s influence on his family’s lives, through Sam’s first resurrection, his own stint in Hell, the dark path that Sam trod with Ruby, and finally, the last days that led up to Sam’s sacrifice.

At first, he kept the truth from Lisa, because he’d been afraid that if he told her everything, she’d decide it was too much, too dark, that he must be too broken to allow him to stay around her, around her son. The longer he stays with her, the more he realizes that she loves him, and wouldn’t make him leave if she knew the truth, but he keeps it from her anyway. Some things aren’t meant to be said in bright suburban houses. In Eve’s kitchen, it’s different. She reminds him of Bobby, although he won’t be telling her that. She’s part of a world he’s not supposed to have anything to do with anymore, but he welcomes the edge of darkness that hangs around the store. He can almost smell the magic in the air, and it soothes him more than it should.

When he’s done, Eve sits back, sipping at a second cup of coffee.

“There’s no way to get him out.” She states.

Dean hangs his head, wondering what the point had been of telling her everything if she’s only going to state what was already obvious to him. He thought she was going to help him come up with some absurd, wild plan that couldn’t possibly work, but that would anyway and end up with Sam standing in front of him, grinning.

“I already know that.”

“So the only thing to do is to stop him falling into the cage in the first place.”

“It’s already happened.” Dean growls, glaring at her.

“So stop it from happening.”

Dean draws a breath to yell at her before he leaves. He even gets to his feet, but then he stops, pauses, and sinks back down.

“Time travel? Like Back to the Future, or Superman? I’m not sure Cas would be up for that.”

“Cas? You mean Castiel? His way wouldn’t work.” Eve shakes her head.

“How do you even know what his way is?”

“It’s going to get very tiring, you asking me that all the time. So accept that I know things, a lot of things, and let’s just leave it at that.”

Dean nods, with an added eye roll. “Why wouldn’t that work?”

“That’s small scale work. You have to think bigger.”

“What about Death? He said I had to be willing to give Sam up.”

“You already did that. He can’t insist you do it twice.”

Dean opens his mouth to ask her how she knows, but closes it again as she quirks an eyebrow at him. She gives him a sort of explanation anyway.

“He’s always been a fan of drama, but you did what was necessary the first time round. He’ll respect that.”

“So what now? I learn to fly like Superman, and turn back time?”

“No, you learn how to live in the moment, then you don’t need to fly.” She smirks, and sorts through a pile of books on the table. She finds what she’s looking for and hands it to Dean. It’s a notebook, every page filled with neat handwriting.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a beginning. If you want my help, read it from cover to cover and come back next Monday night at around seven.”

Dean thanks her, although he’s not sure for what, and she sees him out. He tucks the book into a pocket inside his jacket and walks slowly home.

Later, after dinner and after Ben’s gone to bed, Lisa sits next to Dean on the couch. He wraps an arm around her shoulder and nuzzles her hair.

“How did it go with Eve?” She asks.

“Okay. She’s, well, different. I’m going back to see her next Monday night. Are you okay with that?” He doesn’t want to assume that spending time with another woman is okay, even though Lisa knows her. They have something, and he doesn’t want to jeopardize that by doing the wrong thing.

“Yes, I’m fine. It’s good that you have someone you can talk to about … hunting.”

Dean starts to protest, but she puts her fingers against his lips.

“I know you aren’t hunting now, but it was a big part of you, not something you can forget. She helped me, after you saved Ben. Helped me understand things. Maybe she can do the same for you.”

Dean holds her closer.

“She gave me homework.”

“Well, you’d better make sure you get it done!” Lisa says, in the same voice she uses when she’s talking to Ben.

Dean laughs, and feels something loosen in his chest.

That night, he dreams of Sam and for the first time in a long while, his brother is smiling.

Dean reads the book from cover to cover. It leads his thoughts down paths he never expected them to go. He won’t say the word witchcraft out loud, as if saying it will summon demons demanding a price for their help. But the more he reads, the more he learns, the more he understands that the witches he’s met in the past, the ones that drew their power from hell, were the exceptions to the rule.

He finishes the book in two days, and uses Lisa’s laptop to research the subject. From there, he learns how power can be drawn from nature, how there is a balance in all things, how witches respect that balance, and work with it, not against it.

By the time Monday rolls around, he’s full of questions.

“So this is white magic? Good magic?” He asks Eve, waving the book at her before he puts it down on the table.

“No. Magic is magic, it isn’t good or bad. It’s all about intent. How we use it, whether we use it for good or evil is up to us.”

“But the witches I’ve met before, they get their power from demons. How can that not make it bad?”

“Again, it goes back to intent. You can either devote years of your life to learning how to tap into the power all around us, or you can give your soul up to a demon for a fast track to the darkside.”

“Like Star Wars?”

“Just like Star Wars.” Eve agrees and pushes a mug of coffee towards him.

“There’s power all around us, all the time. The elements are incredibly strong forces that won’t be tamed. If you’re skilled enough, you can tap into that power, but it’s not something to be attempted lightly. The air and earth, fire and water? They deserve the greatest of respect. Forget that, and they will tear you apart. You’ll always find people who aren’t willing to learn, aren’t willing to wait. Those are the people who seek out demons and sell their souls for fleeting glory.”

Dean flinches at that. He sold his soul for love, not for glory, but the results were the same. He listens as Eve continues.

“For demons, it’s a quick turnaround. People don’t usually read the small print, or lack of it, don’t take the time to ensure their safety. Most of them die within a year, maybe two, killed by their own arrogance. They perform parlor tricks, turn lead into gold and overextend themselves, believing they can control the sliver of power they’ve been given. But real power has to be earned. They have no respect, and therefore cannot comprehend what they do. If your intent is pure, and you give the elements the respect they deserve, there is nothing, given time, that you cannot achieve.”

“So if you can conjure the elements, why are you running a hippy bookshop in a hick town?”

“Conjure?” Eve snorted with laughter. “Have you not been listening to a word I said, boy? At this rate, you’ll die of old age before you understand.”

Dean shifted uncomfortably on his seat.

“But seriously, why here?”

“I’m where I’m supposed to be. Do you think I should have asked for riches or fame? A mansion with a handful of houseboys to dote on my every whim? Material things aren’t the key to happiness. You of all people should know that.”

“What do you mean?”

“When were you happiest?”

“It’s too long ago to remember.” Dean huffs. He remembers fine, all his happiest memories involve Sam, and he’s not prepared to go there.

“No, it’s not. Another thing you need to learn, and learn fast, is that you need to be honest with yourself. You need to open your heart and your soul and you can’t do that if you’re denying everything that makes you who you are.”

“I didn’t come here for therapy.” Dean grumbles.

“That’s not what you’re getting.” Eve shakes her head. “We’re done for today. If you’re still interested in learning, come back in two days, and come back honest or we’re done.”

Dean sighs and gets to his feet. He’s about to give her a curt goodbye when she stands up and goes over to the dresser, rummaging around on the shelves.

“Read this. From cover to cover.” She thrusts a volume of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist into his hand.

“More homework?” He eyes the volume.

“No-one’s forcing you to come here, Dean.” She dismisses him with a pointed stare.

“Yeah, I know.” He walks back to Lisa’s, not noticing the sunset. He’s too preoccupied. He’s not used to waiting, to taking time to learn. He’s used to action, to fighting hard and dirty to get the job done. Right now, he doesn’t know why he’s spending time with Eve, when the woman hasn’t come up with answers, hasn’t given him the key to Sam’s cage. All she’s given him are books and questions and an unsettling feeling that he’s taking the first steps on a long road.

Two days later, Eve’s making coffee when Dean arrives. He knocks on the back door, and pushes it open.

“You’re a bad influence on an old woman. I haven’t drunk so much coffee in years.”

“You’re not old.” Dean smiles and wraps his fingers around the warm mug she places in front of him

“So, did you read the book?”

“Yes ma’am.”

Eve thwaps him around the back of the head.

“Now that’s one way to make me feel old! What did you learn from Coelho?”

“That if you want something badly, be prepared to stumble along the way. But don’t let that deter you. Keep going, follow your dreams.”

“Very good. What you have to understand before you begin, is that it may take years to find the answer you seek. And all that time, you have to stay focused. Did you read the notes?”

“The interview with the journalist? Yes.”

“Then you’ll have read one of the great truths. Such a simple concept, and it’s hidden away in there but to accept it is the hardest thing you could ever do.”

Dean thinks back. He paid attention as he read, he even made some notes because he had a feeling that Eve would test him on the text.

“He talks about time, how it doesn’t really exist?”

“Right on the button.” Eve smiles proudly.

“Now I’m confused.” Dean frowned, but eve kept smiling.

“There’s nothing you can do for Sam now. He’s trapped in a place so deep that no-one could get him out. Not even your God.”

“My God? I don’t have a God. His sons made me see that He’s not exactly worth following. But you keep saying that I can’t help him. If there’s nothing I can do for Sam, why are we even bothering to talk.”

“That’s not what I said. I said that there was nothing you can do for Sam NOW.”

Dean eyed her. It kept coming back to this. He didn’t want to think on high level concepts that sages and scientists had debated and argued for years, he wanted a practical solution, a real way to save Sam. But maybe there was no other way.

“You keep saying that, but It’s not possible. I can’t go back and stop it happening. I don’t have a DeLorean tucked away, or a time machine.”

“That’s the problem with men, always thinking with their machines. You don’t need mechanics, Dean, you need strength and devotion and fortitude to last the course. When I said that this could take years, I meant it. So you have to be very clear going in that this is what you want. Because if you succeed, you’ll also lose.”

He takes a shaky breath. It’s what he wants, no matter what he has to give up to get it. He knows Adam is down there too, also trapped and needing a way out. Dean doesn’t intend to leave him behind if he does find a way to free them, but his focus is Sam, has to be Sam. Sam’s the fulcrum on which Dean’s life balances, even now.

“Tell me about him.” Eve’s voice is soft, almost coaxing.

The words come easier to Dean than he thought they would. He’s so used to hiding everything away, keeping himself in check, that he’s forgotten how good it can be to let it out.

“When he was born, I couldn’t wait for him to get bigger, so we could play together. Mom and Dad told me that being a big brother was the most important job in the world, and they were right. After Mom died, I couldn’t sleep unless he was right there with me, and we slept wrapped around each other for longer than we should have. I guess it was because we only ever had each other. No friends, no family apart from Dad. We moved around too much to put down roots, so there was only ever really us.”

Dean paused. Eve slid her hand across the table and held his. He squeezed it and went on.

“You asked when I was happiest? That’s when I was happy. When it was me and Sam together against the world. There was a water hole close to one of the motels we stayed in one summer, and we’d go there on warm afternoons, splash around, and lie floating on our backs for hours. Dad was away one 4th of July, and we set of enough fireworks to light up a whole field. He laughed and smiled and I was so happy …”

Dean stops, taking a moment to really remember how he’d felt back then. It helped strengthen his resolve about what he had to do.

“I can’t leave him there because he doesn’t deserve it. He was manipulated into thinking he was doing the right thing, and please don’t say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, because believe me, I know. If he’d died? If he’d given his life to save the world, then maybe I could be okay with that. Maybe. But he didn’t. He’s stuck in a cage with Lucifer for the rest of eternity, and he doesn’t deserve that. He sacrificed himself for all those schmucks out there who’ll never know what he did, but he’s not gone.”

Eve strokes his hand. “How do you know he’s not gone?”

“Because I’d feel it.” He looks up at her and the sorrow in his eyes takes her breath away.

“Looks like we’ve got work to do.” She smiles at him and he nods in agreement.

Part Two


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January 2011

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