Dinner would have been fun if the circumstances weren’t hanging over their heads. As it was, it was a ton of awkward and Jo didn’t eat much, fleeing into the kitchen as soon as she was done eating. Her headache was increasing and she thought that the only cure was going to be sleep. She wanted to retreat into unconsciousness and pretend this was a dream. Sleep would be welcome.
She set her plate in the sink, then raised a hand and rubbed her fingers across her forehead in an attempt to ease that growing ache. Jo drew in a deep breath and slowly let it out. Her emotions were all over the place, up, down, back, and forth, though there was one constant: fear. The weird burst of anger she’d felt at Dean had gone, leaving in its place a wondering about their relationship and how it was going to change by necessity.
Footsteps sounded behind her. Without turning, she knew it had to be Dean. Her mother was busy catching up with Sam and Sam seemed to enjoy having Ellen to talk to. Jo and Dean, however, had been making awkward glances at each other for two hours and making equally awkward small talk as they ignored the elephant in the room: the reason Castiel had brought her back from the dead.
They weren’t going to be able to ignore it for long. Night was falling and she thought Castiel might be coming back soon. He’d said he’d give them awhile to become reacquainted and she suspected he wouldn’t give them more then a few hours at most. So what were they to do? What sort of arrangement could they come to?
He moved to stand beside her. “I never asked him to do that, Jo. To raise you and Ellen. I never asked him to.” Dean’s voice was low and hesitant, like he was afraid to bring up the subject with her. Surreal. Dean hesitant? Seemed bizarre to her. He’d always appeared so confident in himself. Even his gaze had a hesitancy to it, almost like that from a puppy who’d been kicked too many times and was hoping for some gentleness while suspecting none was forthcoming.
Dear God, she thought. What else has happened to him that he hasn’t told me about?
Dean looked defeated and the idea that he’d been broken down that far saddened her.
“I know. I didn’t think that.” Lie. For a second, she had thought it. She’d thought it and been angry, while knowing he wouldn’t do that. Dean wasn’t like that, not with them. The only one he’d move heaven and earth to bring back was Sam -- and he had once. He’d made a deal and gone to hell so Sam could live.
They stood at the fridge, in almost the same position they had that night before Carthage. Jo leaned against the counter. Did he remember? Were the events of those two days burned into his mind like they were in hers?
“Yeah, you did,” he said with a weary half smile. “And I don’t blame you for it. I have a history and Castiel…. It’s no secret I’ve tried to get him to do things before, like heal Bobby from the chair.” He looked down at the floor and shrugged. “I wouldn’t ever have asked for you to be pulled from your rest. You should have been able to enjoy it and not have to be brought back here. You were in heaven, right?” Another hesitant cast to his words and he glanced back up at her with the question.
“I think so. I remember being at total peace. I guess that means heaven.” It was fading a little now, the memories sliding back beneath the press of the present. She glanced into the other room. Her mother was grasping Sam’s hand, smiling at him. Jo lowered her voice a fraction “I can’t be what he brought me back to be, Dean. You know that, right? I’m a hunter. It’s what I am, what I died as, and what I’ll always be. I can’t -- ”
“He’ll kill you. I can’t see that a third time. Once was bad enough, twice was gutting, and a third time…. ”
“Twice? Third?” What did he mean by that? “I only remember once.”
He leaned against the counter as well. “The second was an alternate timeline created when Balthazar unsunk the Titanic.”
“Balthazar is an angel, right?”
“Was. Castiel killed him. He’s killed quite a few of the angels.”
“He unsunk the Titanic? Why?”
“He did. Castiel needed souls.” Dean frowned, fingers tapping on the kitchen counter. “Did we mention that earlier? Souls can increase an angel’s battery?”
“I think you did mention it. You didn’t mention the Titanic, but you did mention souls.”
His nod was slow. “The Titanic not sinking gave us a couple other hunters who took you and Ellen’s place in Carthage, meaning you were alive still. Ellen and Bobby were married and Ellen had us all organized. You were heading a team of your own and you were alive, Jo. You were so…strong. Then he took you and Ellen away and didn’t let us forget it. So, him taking you again would be three by my count.” He turned to face the cupboards, voice lowering further. She saw him carefully keep his attention on the cupboards. “The Castiel who was our ally is gone, Sam is hanging on by a thread, I’ve lost an entire year of my life, and if I have to lose you and Ellen again I think I might just start howling and never stop. Not much more I can take…and Castiel knows it. He knows just what buttons to push and how long to push them.”
He was hanging by a thread just as much as Sam she realized, and Jo also turned to face the cupboards. “You have a plan for us,” she asked in a whisper. “Some way to cope….” She didn’t finish the last question. Sam had said they never knew when Castiel was hanging around and it was possible he was still here, listening to their words.
“I want you alive. I can’t be the cause of you dying again, Jo.” He turned his head to look at her. She’d never seen such raw emotion in his eyes and she’d seen many variants of emotion from him. The emotion was almost like tears welling up there. He was an open, raw nerve right now and it almost hurt to see him like this. He was a far cry from the Dean she remembered. Time and trials had shaped him into a different man and Jo wanted to find out the details of those trials. She wanted to hold him and soothe some of that pain. “We do what we have to -- whatever that ends up being.”
Reaching out, Jo touched his hand, covering it with hers for only a couple seconds, enough to show him she didn’t blame him for Castiel raising her from the dead. She nodded. “We’ll work it out.”
He let out a long, slow breath. “I know.”
“We’ll be okay.”
A chuckle left him. “You really believe that?”
She shrugged one shoulder. “Maybe if I say it enough I will. I’ve been dead. Can only go up from there, right?”
“Yeah, well…. Live in this world Castiel brought you back to awhile before you start thinking anything will ever be okay again.”
The pronouncement, said in a sepulchral tone, reminded Jo that there were still a ton of things she didn’t know about the current world, but that was for another day. Maybe tomorrow. It was time to go to bed and maybe by morning she’d be able to think clearly, without her temples throbbing with pain that could become a migraine if not taken care of. She felt jittery, nervous, and very scared, but how much of that was an after-effect from being raised? “I’m going up to bed. Being raised from the dead is sort of tiring.”
“Been there. I remember the feeling.” He jerked his head towards the doorway. “Go on. Get some rest. I’ll be up in a bit.”
She paused after two steps, not sure which room to go to. “Which bedroom?”
“I guess we’ll take the one with the most furniture -- if that’s okay with you?”
“It’s fine.” It was the former master bedroom, the one Bobby no longer slept in. He hadn’t slept in there in years. Too many memories of his wife, Jo thought. She wondered what Bobby was going to say when he returned home.
Jo passed by her mother and Sam, the two sitting on the couch together talking quietly, and headed up the stairs. She found pain pills and took them, then searched for a toothbrush. In a drawer, there were new toothbrushes and she grabbed and opened one package.
Her reflection in the mirror caught her eye. She was very pale, with lines of strain by her eyes and mouth. Slowly, Jo raised the hem of her shirt, looking at her side for some sign of the wounds that had killed her, but there were no scars visible, not even thin lines to mark the spot. Dropping the hem, she reached for the toothpaste.
Like it or not, she was alive again and there were plans to make and execute.
But first, sleep. Perhaps when she woke she’d feel more like herself again.
Dean remained standing where he’d talked with Jo, leaning against the counter and thinking about Castiel’s directive and what they could do about it that wouldn’t hurt Jo or Ellen. He was feeling numb again and a little detached, probably not the best state in which to decide how to deal with this. The numbness made it difficult to think and he wondered if maybe Jo had the right idea about going to bed.
Not that he was sleeping much anymore. He’d developed insomnia again, spending more hours awake than asleep, Watching over Sam and thinking about everything that had happened. Obsessing about things was the phrase Sam used to describe Dean’s nocturnal ruminations. He obsessed about those things he couldn’t have changed. When he did sleep, it was from sheer exhaustion, his body demanding rest.
He understood the anger Jo wasn’t admitting she’d had. If she’d been happy in heaven and at peace there, though the heaven he’d seen had been as bad as hell in some ways, being drawn back could cause anger. That total peace she’d described versus being back in this crap storm? The anger was understandable in that case.
Both she and Ellen were both a tiny bit off from what he’d observed so far and he hoped it was a temporary thing and not a problem with how Castiel had put them back together. After all, they’d learned it was him who’d raised Sam without his soul -- a major problem in Dean’s book. How had Castiel missed that or had he missed it? Had he noticed and just not cared? Might be Castiel had missed something when bringing them back, too, though he hoped that wasn’t the case, that they’d wake in the morning and be themselves completely. He wanted them to be fine. He didn’t want to spend weeks thinking about differences in them like he had with Sam.
Had he himself been different the first couple days after being raised from hell? Bobby could tell him. Sam, too, though perhaps not. He’d been distracted with covering up his involvement with Ruby right then. Dean contemplated going in and asking Sam right now if he’d noticed a difference, but a glance into that room showed him deep in conversation with Ellen, their heads close as they talked. What were they talking about? Their voices were too low for him to hear any of their conversation.
Castiel appeared beside him.
It would have been more convenient if Castiel had left them alone all night, but when did Cas do what was convenient for them?
No, he thought. I can’t tap dance for him again today. I can’t do this.
He would however. That was the bitch of it. He’d do that dance because he was honestly afraid of what Castiel might do if he didn’t toe the line.
Castiel studied him with a puzzled frown for a long moment before asking, “Do you not like my present, Dean?”
“Course I do.” He raised a hand, rubbed it along the back of his neck, kneading the muscles a little. “Having them back is…is great.”
“But you haven’t unwrapped the main gift.” He snapped his fingers and Jo appeared, in the middle of brushing her teeth.
She coughed and spit toothpaste into the kitchen sink. “What the hell?” She ran some water, cupped a hand, rinsed, and spit.
“You are planning to unwrap her?” The puzzled frown deepened. “I thought you’d have her upstairs rather quickly. I know it’s been awhile for you. Your last encounter with Lisa was months ago.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Yes, it is,” he insisted, hoping that Castiel would leave it right there and knowing he wouldn’t. He was going to push this until what he thought should be happening happened. Castiel still had that angelic incomprehension about free will. Strange, since Castiel had used free will and gone against his conditioning. He should have an understanding and didn’t. Just because he wanted something to happen and thought it should, didn’t mean the humans he knew would go about things his way. “Jo’s been dead. There’s more than a little catching up to do. And there has to be some emotional connection --”
“Excuses.” Castiel shook his head slowly. “In your past you’ve met women and had them in your motel room within an hour. Whatever emotional connection you forged with them you already have with Jo. You’ve had a deeper connection than that and I gave you over three hours to become reacquainted.” He sounded confused now. “Therefore, I must conclude it’s not you who is reluctant.” His eyes narrowed. “I could make her compliant for you, change her mind?”
“Change my…. I’m standing right here,” Jo said, slamming her toothbrush down onto the counter in a show of exasperation. A red flush darkened her cheekbones. “As for being compliant --”
Dean stepped slightly in front of Jo, as if he could shield her from whatever Castiel might do. He held up his hands, palms facing Castiel. “No, Cas, don’t. Please don’t do that. Don’t change one thing about Jo. I like her as is. You used to like her, too. I remember that.”
“I still do like her. I like her and Ellen both.” He said it like that fact should be evident. Castiel’s gaze slid to Jo and back to Dean. “Very well. If her…demeanor pleases you, I’ll not change it. If you change your mind, just say the word. How much longer do you require to reacquaint yourselves? From past talks we’ve had I believe your physical need is likely great at present.”
Jo cleared her throat. “His need? How about you talk to me, Castiel? What about my wants here? Don’t they mean anything?” Jo’s voice was sharp, but low. “I don’t have casual sex and I’m not starting now. What part of that do you not get?” Her hands were on Dean’s back, pushing at him, trying to make him get out of her way. “It’s not who I am and Dean knows that. If you’re all powerful you’d know that about me.”
A ripple of anger crossed Castiel’s face and Dean felt a sinking sensation in his stomach. Even after what he and Sam had explained, she still didn’t understand, did she? Had he and Sam not explained the consequences of angering Castiel well enough? They hadn’t, had they? She didn’t realize what could happen.
This was going to escalate and he had to diffuse it somehow.
“I believe,” with one hand, Cas shoved Dean aside, “I made it clear that this isn’t casual for either of you. I raised you specifically for Dean. You’ll comply or you and your mother will be returned to the dust from where I retrieved you.”
Seeing Jo open her mouth to retort and the ugly gleam in Castiel’s eyes growing, Dean grabbed Jo and yanked her against him, pressing her head to his chest. She struggled, voice muffled against his chest, and he held her tighter, forcing himself to smile at Castiel. “Later tonight, Cas. I promise. We just need some more time to get to know each other again. We’re all tired, it’s been an emotional couple hours.”
His eyes narrowed once more. There was a marked difference between a calm Castiel and an angry one, like there were two different people…things…inside there. Normal Cas and demonic, corrupted, evil Cas. A part of Dean thought that assessment supported his idea that Castiel was possessed by the monster souls from Purgatory, while another part insisted he was mistaken. This was simply the new Castiel, one who didn’t even try to reign in those emotions he was feeling. “She should be grateful. I’ve given her a second chance at life, her and Ellen both.”
“She is grateful,” he hurried to say. “You know she is. She and Ellen. They’re grateful and probably a little overwhelmed right now, so just back the hell off. Please? Okay?” He hated this feeling of teetering on the edge of an abyss on a flimsy board because he knew that, one of these days, either the board was going to break or he was going to misbalance and fall into it anyway.
Castiel touched Jo’s hair, slid his fingers through the length. “It’ll be fine, Jo. Trust me. You wanted this. I can see it. It’s there in your mind. You dreamed of having Dean as yours.” That hand raised, rested a moment on the top of her head. “I know how to ease your mind.” He smiled gently. “You’re husband and wife now. I decree it. See? I told you this isn’t casual. You’re a wife now. There. It’s all better.” He turned his pleased stare to Dean. “Take your wife up to bed before she says something she might regret later.”
Dean did as Castiel said, not only because of what Castiel might do, but also because of what Jo might say if he didn’t get her out of there. He hurried her past Ellen and Sam, not slowing down to see if either of them had heard what Castiel had ordered, and when they were in the most furnished of the extra bedrooms, he released her.
“Are you insane, Jo? Talking back to him like that?”
Her chin quivered and he realized she’d started shaking. “What the hell is his damage?”
“We told you what happened. Absolute power. He took it all in and it corrupted him.”
“But how did he get to that point? You didn’t tell us that. He was fine when mom and I last saw him. Losing powers, yeah, but he was fine, he was normal. Normal for him I guess. How did he get from that to this…monster?”
Dean leaned against the door, realizing that in their talk earlier, he and Sam had skipped over Castiel as much as possible. They’d focused on what had happened to them. “Something happened to him after he was raised that last time, something to do with the angelic civil war. I don’t know. I wasn’t in the loop for much of it. Raphael had his greedy hands on heaven and wasn’t letting go and he hated Castiel. I think Cas started out trying to do the right thing and it snowballed the other direction, twisting him. Maybe. Don’t really know and don’t really care anymore. He broke Sam and won’t fix him. That sort of ends any friendship we had or could have. It’s not a thing I can forgive. You don’t break my brother and expect to go out for beers a few weeks later.” Exactly what Castiel seemed to think could happen. He appeared to expect things to go back to how they’d been.
“Can he fix Sam?”
“He says he can, but he won’t. Claims Sam betrayed him. He’s just changed, Jo. Does it matter how it happened?”
She sat on the bed. “I’ve never been this terrified, even when I was dying.” Jo held up her hands, watched the shaking, then closed them tightly into fists and lowered them to her lap.
She hadn’t looked terrified to him when she’d been facing off against Castiel downstairs. She’d looked full of fight and ready to defend herself. He’d been like that once and that time seemed so very far away. He wondered if he’d ever be like that again and turned away. When was the last time he’d been like that?
Dean tried to keep busy across the room, looking through the drawers, trying to find the clothes Bobby had once said Jo and Ellen had left behind. He’d been surprised to find out that Ellen and Jo had kept a few changes of clothes at the house. Bobby had left the clothes where they’d been, out of sight, out of mind. “You’ll get used to it after awhile. Sam, Bobby, and I have. The fear sort of levels out, terror mixes with adrenaline, and it becomes a natural state.”
“I just…. Seeing him like that.” Jo shook her head. “Such a total change, from holy being to corrupt monster.”
“Don’t say you pity him. Pisses him off and you don’t want him pissed. Trust me. He can pull things out of him and throw them at us like it’s nothing. The last time he threw a tantrum, Dayton, Ohio was nearly wiped out by a couple freak weather systems and some creature we haven’t even been able to identify yet. We lost six hunters trying to kill the thing. I don’t know if he created it, pulled it out of him, or brought it out of hibernation. I think it was sheer dumb luck we hit on a combination of things that got rid of it.”
It wasn’t lost on Dean that there were shades of Lucifer in what Castiel had become. He’d fallen much like Lucifer had and his tantrums were just as bad as Lucifer’s actions when he’d been on earth.
“He’s a threat.”
“One we don’t know how to stop or even neutralize.”
Jo was quiet a long moment, then asked, “he can’t seriously expect us to ‘be fruitful and multiply’? Him declaring we’re married doesn’t make it so. I’m not having babies because he thinks you need a family. He can’t make me do that.”
“He’s totally serious and I can’t guarantee he can’t make you. I think he was serious about giving you a change in attitude, Jo. We really don’t know the full extent of his powers now. Might be he can turn you into Susie Homemaker in a snap.”
“Well, that’s just great,” she muttered under her breath.
“Or maybe he’s bluffing. Can’t tell anymore. Used to be he couldn’t lie for shit and now he’s a pro.”
Maybe that was one thing he could have changed. After all, he’d been the one to first encourage Castiel to lie. He’d told him “when humans want some really bad, they lie”. Castiel had taken that lesson, applied it to himself, and later used it to lie to everyone around him and perhaps even himself.
He found Jo’s clothes, items he remembered having seen on her, shoved in the bottom drawer, and brought them to the bed for her to look through. “Everything he did, he did for me, saved me, he only wants me happy, and will do whatever he thinks will make me happy. Keeps saying those things. I think he believes it. He went from saying I was insignificant and not worth his time right after taking in all the souls to changing his tune and wanting to be friends again after people started worshiping him.”
“Worshiping?” Jo set a hand on the clothing pile, staring up at him with lips parted and a disbelieving gleam to her eyes. “You mean --”
“He’s got a church now. The Church of Castiel.” He half laughed. “You should see the ads on tv. Probably will if you watch anything. The ads are everywhere. A lot of young women talking about how unexpectedly sexy God is and saying they’ll do anything for him, meaning Castiel. He eats it up like the pagan gods and their tributes.”
“He’s not…eating people like them though, is he?”
“No. At least not that I’m aware of. He’s enjoying the adoration of the masses, keeps trying to add me to that number. Honestly, I think you’re supposed to be a distraction, keep me from insurrection against his god-ness. I think there’s something out there that’ll hurt him, maybe even kill him, and he wants me distracted so I can’t find it. That’s his goal lately, to keep me distracted.”
She shoved the clothes aside without really glancing at them. “Don’t worry about me, Dean. I’m a grown woman.”
He slid his hands in his jeans pockets. “Can’t not worry. Whatever happens to you and Ellen is really on my head now. He made sure of that.” He couldn’t help the bitter cast to the words. Castiel had known just how to distract him. First Sam, then this. Both would keep him busy for months. While he and Sam had been hunting, it was far harder since Sam might start hallucinating any second. “He broke Sam to distract me and now he’s added you two to --”
“Don’t feel responsible for us. We’re Castiel’s problem. He’s the one who made the decision, not you.”
“Yeah, well, I do feel responsible. I’m not good for your life, Jo. I got you killed and there’s a pretty good bet I’ll get you killed this time, too.”
“Got me --” She shook her head, eyes widening. “No. You didn’t get me killed. You asked us to go with you on a job and we went of our own free will. I turned and started back to you instead of running on. That was my decision. My decision is what got me killed.”
He didn’t quite believe her, yet she was insistent.
“It wasn’t anything you did. You didn’t ask me to come back for you, or order me to. I went because I wanted to help you if I could. We were a team that day and teammates have each other’s backs. I knew the risks. I learned all about the risks long before that day.”
He eased to sit on the end of the bed, not answering, considering her words.
“You’re not responsible for me even now, Dean. Him bringing us back doesn’t make you responsible for us. Mom and I can make our own decisions. You are responsible for yourself, not us.”
“You don’t understand.”
The bed shook as she crawled closer. “I understand plenty. I understand that you’ve got this sense of responsibility for every person around you and that’s not a new issue, but you can’t take the blame for things that were never yours to take blame for. My death, Dean, was my fault. Mine. I chose to come back after you and you are not responsible. Do you hear me? Should I keep saying it? I don’t hold you responsible and if I died again tomorrow, it wouldn’t be on you then either.”
A part of him began to hope that maybe, just maybe, it was truth.
“So put those thoughts out of your head and let’s move forward, okay?”
If Jo didn’t blame him, perhaps Ellen didn’t either.
A tiny bit of tension slipped from his shoulders. “You don’t blame me at all?”
“Not the slightest.”
He looked over his shoulder at her. She was serious. She really didn’t blame him. It was there in her eyes. “You’re positive?”
“Yes. My actions, my death, my fault. Not yours and mom chose to stay with me. Her decision, not yours.”
The guilt he’d been feeling over Jo and Ellen’s deaths began to slip away. It was hard to let it go. It had been a part of him for years now and releasing it brought on a wave of exhaustion that had him smothering a yawn. Maybe he’d be able to sleep tonight after all.
Jo settled back on the mattress. “I ask you something about Castiel?”
“Would he kill you? I mean, if he got mad enough.”
“Over and over, then bring me back over and over, try to make me worship him. He wants to be worshipped. He’s the new God he says. He hasn’t done it to me so far, but I don’t doubt he would if he got the notion. Then he’d claim he saved me. Already does claim that. Says he saved me from hell. Technically true.”
She finally stopped shivering and began rifling through the clothes Dean had found. He could see her hands were still shaking. “How do we deal with his…order?”
Exactly what he’d been trying to figure out. “I don’t think he’ll breech the bedroom boundary, though I can’t be sure he won’t.” The impression he’d gotten earlier was that Castiel trusted Dean to follow his orders. “He’s unpredictable now. Used to be he had some sense. That’s all gone these days. I think we need to behave outside this room like we’re hot and heavy, make him think we’re following his little script. Can you sell it?”
Jo stopped looking through the clothes, gathering them up and moving them to the chair in the corner. “I don’t have a choice. I have to or he’ll kill me and mom both. I died once. It’s not an experience I want to repeat anytime soon.”
“None of us intend to.” Maybe Castiel was standing there listening and there’d be consequences in the morning. Maybe he was really giving them privacy. And maybe they weren’t completely up shit creek without a paddle yet.
She turned to face him, hands coming to rest on her hips. “What if he does pop in here in the room?”
“We sleep in our underwear?”
“I guess that’s the logical thing.” Jo nodded.
“Got a side of the bed you prefer?”
“I don’t care. Whichever one you don’t want.”
Dean studied her. She looked as exhausted as he felt. “Look, I promise you, I won’t touch you ever…unless you one hundred percent want me to.” He didn’t think he’d be wanting to touch any woman for awhile yet. Not after Lisa being hurt. The wounds from what had happened there were still too deep to contemplate another woman.
It sounded like she didn’t believe him and he peered at her a bit more closely, trying to discern if she really thought that about him. “You do know that I’m not that guy, Jo, the one who --”
“I know. I don’t think that.” She smothered a yawn with one hand. “We should sleep. Talk more tomorrow.”
“I’ll take the side by the door.” Meaning, in theory, that anyone or thing coming in would have to get by him first. It wasn’t much, but he could pretend he was protecting her.
He could pretend he was still the man he’d once been.