Dean Winchester woke up in a cold sweat, shaking and looking around frantically.
"Sam?!" he called. "Sam?!"
God knew how many nights in a row he'd done this; woken up calling out his little brother's name and got no answer. Not from his brother at least.
"Ssshhh," a soothing voice said gently. Slender arms wrapped around Dean's shoulders.
He took three deep, trembling breaths with his eyes closed before opening them again and looking down at the woman next to him. "Sorry," he muttered as he pulled away. "I'm sorry." He shoved a hand through his short hair, scratching at it as he got to his feet. He backed away and made his way to the bathroom.
He'd arrived at this tiny apartment just outside of Wichita three months prior, when everything had finally ended. He'd killed Lucifer and all that Apocalypse crap had finally ended.
But it had been with mostly a whimper instead of a bang.
Sam was dead.
Sammy was dead.
His little brother who he'd protected with everything he had- the little brother whose well-being he'd always placed so highly above his own- had died by Lucifer's hand because Dean had hesitated.
He had stopped, and Sam had paid the price.
"This was always going to happen," the angel Zachariah had said. "Sam was always going to die and you were always going to kill The Morningstar."
He stared at himself in the mirror, hands gripping the porcelain sink in front of him. He looked crappy, but not as bad as he had when he'd first shown up here. Yes, his eyes were bloodshot and his skin a little pale, but he was looking more like himself day by day.
And that was thanks to the woman standing behind him in the doorway.
Miranda Tyler was a short, thin (almost too-thin) woman of just around Dean's age with long red hair, and big, knowing brown eyes. Her nose was a little long, and her lips were full and wide. She had a very slight overbite that made her smiles look a little on the toothy side, but it was more endearing than anything else.
She wasn't his usual type of woman, but maybe that was why he was attracted to her, because she was different. Miranda was shy, and this could take the form of anything from complete silence to a stammering ramble that made her blush from embarrassment before she ever finished it. It was pretty damn cute.
What was a little less cute and bordered on the scary was how smart she was, how much she seemed to know about just about everything.
This, Dean supposed, was because of the whole half-alien thing.
Yeah, weird, but kinda hot in a "check me out, I'm sleeping with a chick from outer space!" kind of way. Except for the part where she wasn't from outer space. Her dad was from outer space. She was from England.
England! He was dating an English chick!
He was dating period!
He had to grin a little at her in the mirror. "Sorry I woke you."
Miranda shook her head. "A'right?"
"Yeah," he said shortly. "Yeah, just...the Apocalypse kicked my ass and now I get shitty nightmares."
She took the few steps into the bathroom to move just behind him and started rubbing his shoulder. "Want anything? Cuppa?"
"What is it with you and tea?"
"It," she said as she kissed his shoulder, "is good for the synapses."
"Whatever the hell that means."
Miranda chuckled and rested her chin on his shoulder. "You know, it's almost Christmas."
He tensed slightly, a thousand images going through his head: Santas with bongs, and faking the words to Silent Night, endless snowy nights wondering if Dad would ever show up and stealing presents from other people's houses. Skin mags and shaving cream and candy bars and Pagan gods dressed in festive sweaters...
"Yeah. Yeah, I know it's almost Christmas."
"And...and...you know...people, they go places on Christmas," she said, her voice colored with a bit of nervousness. "They...they go...to places. With people and they do Christmas-type...things, and-"
"Babe," he said affectionately, grinning.
"I'm going to my grandparents house and I want you to come with me," she said, getting the words out as fast as her mouth would let her.
His grin faded and he stared at her reflection for a moment before turning around to face her. "You want me..."
"To meet my family."
"The alien family."
"It's only my Dad and technically it's only his brain that's alien, the rest of him is almost completely human."
Dean squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them again and shook his head. "I don't wanna have that conversation again."
"Me neither," Miranda replied. "Especially the part where you drank too much while I was trying to explain."
He gave her a sheepish look. "Sorry."
Dean opened his mouth and then closed it again. He'd never done shit like this, meeting some girl's family. Never spent Christmas with anyone other than...
But Miranda looked hopeful and nervous at the same time.
Ah, hell. First time for everything. He was starting to love the crap out of her anyways, and how bad could it be? It's not like he had anywhere else to be. Bobby already told him he was leaving town for the Bahamas for the holidays.
Dean took a deep breath and nodded. "Okay."
Her eyes widened, shocked. "Really?"
"I...really?" she asked, smiling a little, eyes squinting a bit.
She stood there, smiling widely as if she might explode before flinging her arms around him.
He hugged her back and looked up at the white ceiling, wondering what he'd just gotten himself into.
Packing his clothes wasn't hard. He was pretty much still living out of the car, so all of his clothing was in a duffle, and Miranda's washer and dryer came in very handy for keeping everything clean. He even washed the actual duffle, and he had to admit, having a clean bag for once was kinda awesome.
Other obstacles were in his way, though. The first and most immediate one being buying gifts. He had the distinct feeling that going to the mini-mart down the road wasn't going to cut it.
He was going to have to find something nice for Miranda. Not only because he thought she deserved it, but because her entire family would more than likely get a glimpse of whatever it was he got her, and if it wasn't something she loved, then someone was going to kill him.
The other, less alarming obstacle came in the form of choice.
How much heat should he pack for Christmas at his girlfriend's grandparents' house? He'd be damned if he left everything behind. No way was he walking into a new place feeling that naked.
Dean sighed heavily and pulled his cell phone out. Miranda was in the shower, and Dean made sure that the water was still going strong before pressing the speed dial for Bobby's place.
"Yeah?" Bobby Singer grunted down the phone line.
Dean nodded. "Yeah...yeah. I'm at Miranda's."
"Kinda figured. You two left the bedroom since you showed up?"
"Not so much, but we'll be getting outta here pretty soon."
"Yeah? Got holiday plans?"
Bobby paused for a second. "Don't her family live in England?"
Dean frowned. "Yeah..."
"Don't you gotta fly to get there, ya idjit? Unless you was planning to take the Queen Whatever? Which would get you there in just about enough time to miss the day completely?"
Cold fear swept through Dean's chest and belly and swallowed, trying to push it down.
"Didn't occur to ya, did it?"
"No," Dean's voice cracked. "No it didn't, but I didn't call to ask you to say something that would make me wet myself."
"You did what?!"
"No!" Dean snapped. "I...I need advice."
"Uh-oh," Bobby said playfully.
Dean sighed. "I need to figure out a Christmas gift for Miranda..."
"And skin mags ain't somethin' she'd take kindly to, I'm guessin," Bobby finished.
Dean smiled sadly. "Exactly. Come on, Bobby. You know way more about this stuff than me."
Bobby sighed heavily. "She's a girl, Dean, figure it out."
Dean frowned and thought for a long moment, scratching at his hair.
Bobby groaned. "Dean. Girls like girl things. Remember?"
Still, Dean thought without replying.
"Jewelry? Flowers? Ringin' any bells?"
"Yeah but...she's all brainy," Dean replied. "She might like different stuff."
"Then what're you askin' my advice for?"
"Hey-" Dean said, changing the subject. "How much ammo should I pack? How many pieces?"
"You're goin' on a plane, genius!" Bobby cried. "You show up at the airport with a load of firearms you're gonna get thrown in jail! Again!"
Dean frowned. "Shit."
"Sam really was the brains of the operation, wasn't he?" Bobby marveled.
"Hey!" He was about to protest louder, when he heard the water in the bathroom shut off. "Crap. Gotta go."
Bobby sighed. "Take care of yourself, ya idjit."
"I hope you get sunburned to hell," Dean snapped playfully. "Bye." He snapped his cell phone shut and turned as Miranda poked her head out of the bedroom and into the living room, her hair wet and dripping.
"A'right?" she asked.
"Yeah! Yeah. Just...what airline are we takin? I mean...to get to your family's place?"
"Oh, no airline," she replied conversationally. "Granddad's pickin' us up in his zeppelin at the airfield."
Dean's eyes nearly fell out of his head. "Zeppelin?" Only the really wealthy rode in zeppelins, and only the filthy, stinking rich owned them.
Miranda nodded. "Yeah. Tomorrow afternoon."
He gave a nervous smile. "O-okay."
She frowned. "Dean?"
"I'm good!" he replied. "Hey- if we're flying all private-like...does that mean I could bring a couple pieces with me?"
"Pieces of what?"
Dean huffed. "Pieces...you know...guns. Weapons. Maybe a machete?"
Miranda frowned. "What d'you wanna do that for?"
"I'm a hunter, Babe," he replied, giving an exasperated smile. "Precaution, partially, but mostly out of your average everyday paranoia."
She gave a grin and walked in, holding her towel to her chest. She kissed him briefly and then tweaked his nose. "I'll give my Granddad a ring, an' see what he says."
Dean grinned back. "I'm grateful." He wrapped his arms around her as his grin widened.
"Is that so?"
He nodded, and started to pull at her towel. "Wanna see just how grateful?"
"I would love to," Miranda replied, but danced away. "Love to, love to, love to, but I have to go into work for a few hours."
"No, you don't," Dean replied.
"What?" She gave a small laugh. "Yes, I do."
He gave an exaggerated pout, and Miranda giggled a little before gently pushing him away, before heading back into the bedroom to get dressed.
Dean sighed and flopped down onto the couch, looking around the small, cozy apartment. Mostly it was filled with Miranda's things. Not a big shocker, all things considered. His mind wandered slightly to getting things that left his own mark; that said "Dean lives here too!" other than the occasional cassette tape or emergency hunting knife left around.
He blinked and shook the cobwebs out of head, a little terrified and a little excited at the thought of living somewhere. Really living somewhere.
Oh, if Sam could see him now.
He sighed and rubbed his face before dragging himself to his feet. "Gonna make breakfast!"
"Don't have time for it!" Miranda called.
"Yes you do!"
"I have to-"
"Eat before you go, or else you won't eat until you get home, and that sucks, so you're eating what I make!" Dean called back evenly.
He heard a soft sigh of resignation. "Fine."
He smirked and headed for the kitchen. He pulled out a couple pans to start making bacon and eggs, though mostly eggs, because he knew she wouldn't eat much of the bacon ("It's...greasy! It makes my stomach hurt!"). More for him. He pulled out a couple of paper plates and set them aside.
Miranda had had real plates until they'd all been broken, which was which was completely Dean's fault. That was to say he got pissed off one night that Sam had had the audacity to die on him and slammed every single plate in the house to the floor.
Miranda whizzed into the kitchen and started making tea, and then began setting up the coffee up for Dean. "I only need a couple hours at the office. Should be home by 1."
Dean nodded as he pushed the eggs around the sizzling frying pan. One gave him a couple of hours to go into town and figure out some Christmas gifts. "How pissed off at me would you be if I headed up to Bobby's before we left?"
She frowned. "We're leaving tomorrow afternoon. That's over eight hours each way, you'll be knackered."
"Done farther and still hunted something the same day, I'm used to it."
Miranda bit her lip.
"Babe, come on, I wanna drop off his and Cas's stuff before they leave."
She gave him a quizzical look. "Where do rogue angels go for Christmas?"
"The Bahamas, I guess," Dean shrugged. "Bobby's takin' him along, as far as I know." He began dumping eggs onto plates, trying not to laugh at the mental image of Castiel, angel of the Lord, still wearing his suit and coat, amongst the beach bunnies and girly drinks with umbrellas in them on a busy beach.
Miranda must have been picturing the same thing, because she let out a small giggle. They smiled at each other for a moment, before Miranda took a deep breath. "Oh, alright, go on then, but don't be late comin' back, yeah?"
He leaned over and kissed her before handing her her breakfast. "Promise."
The only thing Dean could think to get Bobby was a new trucker hat. He thought about getting Cas a puppy but with the amount of work that goes into training a dog, and the fact that they were going out of town, it didn't seem like the greatest idea.
So for Castiel, he picked up the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Everyone should know their Buffy, and it was time for Cas to get started.
He was on his way out of the Best Buy with Castiel's gift, when he passed a display of shiny new laptop computers. He stared at them for a long moment.
"Can I help you with anything?" a perky voice inquired.
He looked up at a young woman with big blue eyes, her brown hair in a ponytail, a smile on her pudgy face.
"Uh...I was just looking," Dean fumbled.
"Laptops are really great. Very useful. But you know, netbooks are way cheaper, and just as useful if you're looking for something to travel with."
Sam had talked about trading down to a netbook, Dean remembered. But he hadn't really known what one was, so he just let Sammy go on without thinking too much about it.
"My brother..." Dean said quietly. "He uh...he had a laptop but it kinda got broken." He wasn't about to explain that Sam's laptop had been run over when Meg had stolen the Impala that one time. Demon bitch.
"Oh, that's too bad," the saleswoman said sympathetically. "You know a netbook might make a good Christmas present."
Dean swallowed a little. "Well I-"
"Would you like to take a look at them?"
Dean found himself blinking and nodding as the saleswoman led him to a nearby counter, continuing her patter all the way.
Dean eventually found a couple of nice things for Miranda; a necklace and a couple of hardcover omnibuses that he hoped she would like. Once that was taken care of he drove like a bat out of hell towards Bobby's.
Dean sauntered up to the older hunter’s door and pounded on it. Bobby wrenched open the door, looking none too pleased, until he saw who was his visitor.
"What the hell are you doin' here, boy?" Bobby asked, half annoyed, half-amused. "Ain't you supposed to be gettin' ready to go to Jolly Old England?"
"I'm trying not to think about it," Dean replied. "It helps me to not throw up." He held out the hat. "Merry Christmas, Bobby."
Bobby rolled his eyes and took the hat. "Thanks." He let Dean in, who was carrying a conspicuous yellow bag.
"What the hell is all that?" Bobby asked.
"I got something for Cas." Dean set the bag down on the desk in the cluttered, dusty living room. "CAS!"
"Why do you insist on yelling?" Castiel asked from behind them.
Dean jumped and turned around. "Why do you always do that?"
"It's somewhat humorous to see you frightened," Castiel replied.
"I got you a Christmas present," Dean said, ignoring his last comment. He pulled out the Buffy DVDs, and handed them over.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Castiel read. He looked worriedly at Dean and Bobby.
"It's not porn, I promise!" Dean cried.
Castiel looked to Bobby for confirmation and he nodded, but not without a chuckle.
"So what else is in the bag?" Bobby asked.
Dean rocked on his heels. "Nothin'. "
"Liar," Bobby muttered. He snatched the bag, and looked inside, before looking up at Dean sympathetically.
Dean shrugged. "They were on sale...and...and...and..."
"And Meg ran over the laptop."
"Yeah but this is tinier than a laptop," Dean said. He tried for a smile. "Could you imagine the enormous freak trying to type on this teeny tiny little thing? It'd be like watching a T-rex trying to use chopsticks."
Bobby clasped his shoulder firmly. He'd once told Dean to do whatever it took to keep going.
Castiel watched them, holding his box set. "Thank you for the gift, Dean."
Dean nodded. "Yeah, Cas, no problem." He tried for a smile again. "I should get goin'...You guys probably still have packing to do and I promised Miranda I'd be back in time to leave tomorrow."
"I'm makin' chili," Bobby told him. "And there's pie."
Dean dropped his head, half in resignation, and half in amusement and nodded. "I guess I could stay for dinner."
Dinner came and went, with Castiel examining every bite of his food (this was normal) and Dean eating only half his portion (that wasn't). Bobby stared at them both, and Dean knew he was watching for all the little ways he'd changed since the apocalypse had ended, while being, amused as always by Castiel's fascination with just about everything ever.
Dean stretched after finishing the small piece of pie he'd taken. "I should get goin. We leave tomorrow, and if I don't get back before daybreak, Miranda's gonna be pissed."
"She don't seem the type to get angry," Bobby replied wryly.
"She's not," Dean replied. "Not in the ways you and me get angry. No, she'll tell you everything is fine, give you the silent treatment, and the next thing you know there aren't any pillows on your side of the bed."
Bobby blinked and then shook his head. "You know I always imagined you goin' after some brainless bimbo after what happened."
"Smart chicks are better at sex," Dean replied as he got to his feet. "Dumb girls, they just lie there. Brainy chicks actually know how to participate."
Bobby blinked, and then picked up the pepper shaker from the table and threw it at Dean. "Get out of my house."
"See ya," Dean caught it easily with a small grin. He put it down and then started heading for the door.
Castiel got to his feet at that point, and followed Dean toward the door.
"Are..." Castiel looked as if he wanted to put his hands into his pockets or fold his arms across his chest, but the movements were too human for him, so he settled on fidgeting like some kind of robot with a blown fuse. "Are you angry with me?"
Dean glanced back at him and shook his head. "No. No, I'm not angry with you, Cas."
Castiel nodded. "I am sorry."
Dean took a deep breath as he turned to face Castiel. "Don't be sorry. You saved my ass from the pit. Again."
"I meant about Sam."
Dean looked down.
"The computer you bought...that was for him, wasn't it?"
Dean swallowed. "Yeah. I guess it was. I mean...it's not like I can give it to him. But it didn't seem right, finally buyin' Christmas gifts for real and not gettin' one for him. You know?"
Dean smiled thinly. "Yeah, I didn't think so."
Castiel looked him straight in the eyes in that unnerving way the angel never seemed to realize was unnerving. "Will I see you upon my return from the Bahamas?"
Dean tried not to laugh at that; Castiel talking about going to the Bahamas as if he were going on a mission there. "Sure, I'll come visit."
Castiel seemed satisfied and then turned around and walked back into the kitchen.
Dean let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and let himself out.
2 Months Prior...
The crossroads demon shuddered and screamed as Castiel gripped her forehead tight, concentrating hard.
Dean couldn't even look. Never mind the fact that his vision was blurry; his mind hazy from all the whiskey he'd guzzled down. This was something Sam used to be able to do.
When it was over, and the woman who had been possessed was left unconscious on the ground, the angel turned to Dean.
"What the hell, Cas?!"
"You were about to try and make a deal with that demon and I could not allow that," Castiel replied, his voice colored with frustration and anger. "I could not let you make the same mistake again."
"It's my god-damn life!" Dean snarled. "It's Sam's god-damn life!"
"Sam does not have a life anymore," Castiel said. "Sam is dead. He died a hero. He is in a better place."
Dean found himself laughing uncontrollably, stumbling and holding his belly. "'A better place.' That...that is such a load of shit, Cas! There IS no better place! There never was! It's all lies! Even...even Tessa said it was all lies!"
Castiel shook his head. "I will not allow you to throw your life away for your brother's. You have a different path to take now."
"Ooh, a path. I'm so lucky!" Dean stumbled and threw his arms out. "YOU HEAR THAT, SAMMY?! I GOT A PATH! AIN'T THAT SO DAMN EXCITING?!" He tried to keep a smile up but it faltered, as did his legs from under him. He dropped to his knees, stirring up some of the dirt at the crossroad. He slumped down, hands clutching at the gravel around him.
Slowly, Castiel walked to stand beside him, reaching a hand to his shoulder.
"Touch me, and so help me, I will end you," Dean slurred out.
That didn't scare Castiel. He gripped Dean's shoulder, and when Dean blinked, he was lying haphazardly across the couch in Miranda's apartment, the sounds of her cleaning up broken plates in the other room grating on his state of mind.
It was around three in the morning when Dean tiptoed into the bedroom. He slipped his boots off quietly, and then shucked his jacket, over shirt and jeans, sliding into bed in just a t-shirt and his underpants.
He felt Miranda shift and curl up against him, huffing in her sleep, and it made him grin a little. For the moment, this hot second, he was glad he was still here to be curled up against.
Which managed to make him feel gut-wrenchingly guilty.
He lay there, motionless, and knew he wouldn't be getting any sleep tonight.
He felt Miranda shift again and slide closer as her arm wrapped around him.
"Hi," she said, her voice thick with sleep.
"Hey," he replied. "Sorry I'm so late."
"Nuh, figured you would be," Miranda muttered. Her eyes opened a little. "Good time with Bobby and Cas?"
He nodded. "Yeah, it was fine. Gave 'em their gifts and stuck around for chili and pie."
"Did they like their presents?"
"Hope so," Dean said. "I got you presents, too, y'know."
She smiled, her eyes closing again. "Bet they're nice presents. I go' yours ages ago."
"Yeah? Whadja get me?"
"A chicken you can teach to cross the road," Miranda replied.
"Yeah." He slid closer still, pulling her into his arms. "But...y'know. Not about important crap."
He watched her for a moment and then leaned in, kissing her softly and slowly. Her arms wound around him and she half-heartedly kissed him back, clearly falling back into sleep.
"You're not gonna wake up to play, are you?" he asked.
She grimaced. "You wanna shag now?"
"Well, I wanna shag you all the time," he replied. "But I can wait til the sun comes up."
"We have to leave in..." she rolled over a little and checked the digital clock on the bedside table. "Six hours."
"Awesome, that gives us an extra hour of shag time."
"Don't say shag ," she replied. She flopped back onto the bed, her splayed out on the lemon yellow pillowcase. "S'weird when you say it."
He chuckled. "Why's that?"
"Cause you sound like a cowboy," Miranda replied. "Cowboys don't say shag."
"Well, if you say so, little lady," Dean started, in his best John Wayne impression.
She let out an airy, sleepy laugh.
He gazed at her fondly. "Hey."
He squinted, and wrapped an arm around her. "Hey."
"You said that, and I said hello."
"I didn't say hey to say hello, I said hey to get your attention."
She frowned. "Oh."
Dean gave a nod. "Hey."
Dean opened his mouth, and then closed it. He kissed her briefly and then brushed his nose against hers. "G'night."
He held her tightly as he felt her drift back to sleep.
"What did your grandfather say?"
"About what?" Miranda asked as she rushed around the apartment, doing her last-minute packing. She zoomed past Dean, and into the bathroom, a whirl of red hair and pale skin.
"About bringin' weapons," Dean reminded her as he shoved a couple things into his duffel bag. "You asked him, right?"
"Oh!" Miranda said. "I did. He said it's fine. Just don't bring an entire arsenal."
Dean smirked. "What counts as an arsenal?"
She poked her head out the bathroom door and pointed to him, obviously trying not to laugh. "No grenades."
He laughed. "Aww. Cute little nerd, quoting the Firefly movie."
Miranda blushed and rushed off again, back into the living room. "What are you bringing to wear?"
"You know what I'm bringing to wear," Dean replied, slightly amused. "Jeans, t-shirts, long sleeves, my boots..."
Dean frowned. That phrase normally meant they were about to have an awkward conversation. "What?"
She fidgeted a little, biting her lip. "I...I don't supposed you've g-got...y'know...a dinner jacket?"
Dean's eyes widened in surprise. He walked to the bedroom door and looked out at her. "A..."
"No. I don't own a tux. You know that."
"Oh. Right. Well...no bother. We can get you one when we get there."
"And why do I need a tux?" he asked slowly.
"Well," Miranda started to explain as she did her best to zip up her duffel bag. "Nana Jackie hosts a big fancy Christmas party and...and the ladies wear nice dresses and the men..."
"Wear tuxes," Dean finished.
He blew out a breath and rubbed his eyes before giving her a pointed look. "And you didn't tell me because...?"
"Because..." she took a deep breath. "Because I thought it might make you change your mind about coming with. And I really want you to come because I don't want you to spend Christmas by yourself, that would be terrible, and I would miss you, and..."
"Whoa," Dean replied, holding up a hand. "Deep breath."
Miranda nodded and did so.
"I've worn a tux before," he told her. "I don't like to, but I have done it."
He could tell she was a bit embarrassed. And really she had a right to be. They were sort of still getting to know each other on a deeper scale, especially now that they essentially lived together. Dean wasn't surprised that she looked at him and only saw the bad-ass sometimes, instead of the normal guy who did things like wear tuxedos without it being part of a hunt.
To be fair, that had never happened before.
"It's fine, Babe," he said. He sauntered over and wrapped his arms around her. "I don't mind wearin' a tux." He quirked a playful eyebrow at her. "Now tell me. What kind of nice dress are we talkin' about you wearing?"
She laughed a little and nudged him. "Go finish packing. We have to leave."
Dean gave a short nod and headed back to his duffel bag. "We're takin' your car, right? To the tarmac?"
"And we're leavin' my car here, in the garage."
He nodded slowly, shoving his hands into his pockets. "Good."
She blinked and looked at him. "Dean."
"The Impala will be fine."
He blew out a breath. "Yeah, I know."
"Would you like to say g'bye to her?" Miranda asked, her tone teasingly indulgent. Dean knew that even though she often poked fun at him for his relationship with his car, she understood.
"Y'know, I just wanna give her one last look-over before we leave," he replied sheepishly while making a beeline for the door.
Miranda laughed incredulously as Dean pulled open the front door and hustled to the garage to wish the Impala an early Christmas.
It was cold as hell on the tarmac in Topeka, though Dean was more worried about Miranda than himself. She always looked as if a stiff breeze could knock her right over, though he knew that wasn't really true. It still worried him, though.
She was bundled up in a sturdy black winter coat, the hood up, and had on some fluffy green knitted fingerless gloves and a matching scarf. Her wavy red hair was pulled back from her face but wisps of it were being blown into her eyes by the wind. Her winter boots were pulled over her jeans which Dean knew she hated, but it kept her warmer so she sucked it up.
She looked very beautiful, but very cold.
"Maybe we should wait inside the 'port," Dean suggested. He was wearing his usual attire, though for once his leather jacket was zipped up. It was still just a tad big on him, and that actually worked better because it made room for the black scarf Miranda had insisted he to wear. He was glad he'd remembered to shove a pair of gloves into his jacket pocket the night before; if they had to wait much longer he'd need those too.
"Nah, he should be here any minute," Miranda said. She reached down and took his hand, giving it a squeeze.
It was an odd sensation to him, hand holding. No one had ever really tried that with him; not even Cassie. But it was odd in a good way. It made this...thing between them feel more solid.
A couple of years ago, maybe even a couple of months ago that woulda scared him so bad, but now...
It just felt nice.
No sooner had he thought that, than did a giant, silver Zeppelin begin its descent to the tarmac, landing smoothly and slowly, blowing cold air into their face and making Miranda scrunch down into her scarf and hood.
A couple of the workers dashed up to the Zeppelin as the door opened and a set of stairs folded down. A man began heading down them, older, with almost no hair on the top of his head. What hair that was there carried a red tinge kind of like Miranda's. the man walked toward them, suddenly flanked by who Dean guessed was a bunch of personal assistants.
As the guy got closer, his face became more familiar, and not just because of the family resemblance. This was a face Dean could have sworn he'd seen somewhere before.
And then the man smiled.
"Holy crap!" Dean said suddenly, startling Miranda enough to make her jump a little. "Holy crap! That's the drink guy! The...the trust me on this guy!" Dean pulled his hands out of his jacket and gave two thumbs up, while giving a large grin.
Miranda turned and stared at him as if he were totally nuts.
His eyes wide, Dean pointed at her. "You never told me you were related to the drink guy!"
"Vitex," Miranda said. "Granddad built the company from the ground up."
"I believe you said that twice," Pete Tyler said as he reached them. "You must be the infamous Dean."
Dean slowly turned to Pete. "Uh..."
Miranda sighed and stepped between them, hugging Pete. "Hi."
"Hello, love," Pete said, hugging her back. He pulled away to take a look at her. "You're looking well. And warm."
"S'freezing," she replied.
"It's not much better back in England," Pete told her. "But it is good to see you."
Miranda smiled. "You too. Granddad." She took Dean's hand, pulling him closer. "Granddad, this is Dean Winchester. Dean, this is my Granddad-"
"The Trust Me On This Guy," Dean finished. He held out a hand. "Hi."
The moment Dean set foot on the airship, his legs began to shake slightly. He swallowed, his throat suddenly dry as they climbed the spiral staircase from the piloting chamber and into the passenger section.
Which turned out to be nothing at all like he'd expected. Then again, he'd been way too nervous about the flight to think too much about what the inside might look like.
It was huge. A big open space with three levels, each a couple of steps up from the last. The lowest level held a large, crescent-shaped couch, deep red in color and squishy-looking. In the middle of its curve was a wooden table, covered in board game boxes and a fancy-looking chess board plus a set of matching red coasters.
The middle tier held a few more smaller couches which matched the big one, and a couple of nicely-set dining tables, covered in white tablecloths and with a candle on each, while the highest level looked like it had a fully stocked bar and an open kitchen.
In each corner of the main area were metal staircase that looked like they led up to narrow hallways.
Dean hadn't even realized he'd stopped moving until Miranda squeezed his hand.
"Whoa," Dean replied quietly.
Miranda grinned. "Yeah, Granddad didn't scrimp on decorating this thing, did he?"
He turned to her, eyes narrowed. "Why didn't you tell me you were loaded?"
She tilted her head, giving him a curious look. "I'm not. My grandparents are."
"A little warning woulda been nice," Dean grumbled. He tried not to get snippy with her, knowing it wouldn't get him very far. "I don't exactly fit in."
"Neither does anyone," another woman's voice replied. "We lived on a council estate before all this, you know."
"A what?" Dean asked, looking up at the owner of the new voice. She was walking down one of the staircases; an older woman, around Pete's age, and a bottle blonde. She was short, only a little taller than Miranda, and seemed to have the same sort of sweetness to her face. She wore a pink sweater, and a matching shawl with a pair of jeans, and plain sneakers. Dean was surprised they weren't some insanely expensive designer sneakers, incased in gold.
"The British version of the projects," Miranda informed him. She then rushed forward, letting go of Dean's hand to hug the older woman. "Hi, Gran."
Which explained the resemblance.
"Hi, sweetheart," Miranda's grandmother said, hugging her back. "Oh you're all skin and bones still. No worries, you Gran'll fix you up nice and proper."
Miranda smiled fondly, though her cheeks tinged slightly pink. "Gran, this is my boyfriend, Dean Winchester. Dean this is my Gran, Jackie Tyler."
Dean smiled politely and held out a hand. "Hi."
Jackie seemed to pay no mind to his hand and proceeded to wrap him up in a great big hug. "Aren't you a lovely boy!"
Dean stiffened, not sure what the hell to do. Besides never ever being called a "lovely boy" before, he definitely wasn't used to this kind of outburst of affection.
He patted Jackie's shoulder as he watched Miranda stifle a giggle. "Nice to meet you too," he said.
She pulled away and then looked him over. "You know they joke on the telly about all Americans being fat, but I never believe 'em. It's very nice to be proven right."
Miranda gave in and laughed. "Gran."
Jackie grinned mischievously at her granddaughter. "Now I know why you didn't have time to call that first month he was stayin' with you," she went on. "I wouldn't have had time either."
Dean blinked. That clinched it. Jackie was officially awesome.
Miranda blushed again. "You know, I should be used to these sorts of comments by now."
Jackie smiled at both of them. "And don't you just make a lovely couple. Much better than your last bloke, Miranda. Isn't he, Pete?"
"Now Jacks," Pete said as, gently chiding. "I don't think Dean and Miranda want you to start plannin' their wedding just yet. Let me take your coats, and you can both relax."
Dean tried not to let his stomach flip into more knots. Wedding? He gave Miranda a slightly panicked look, and she gazed at him sympathetically, patting his hand in understanding and commiseration.
He sighed, at least off the hook from that, and looked around as he peeled off his jacket and scarf. It was then he realized that other than from the four of them, whoever was flying this thing, and Pete's small group of PA's, there was no one else on board.
Pete caught his calculating expression and explained. "We find that on personal trips, having a wait staff is a bit unnecessary." He took Dean and Miranda's and hung them up on a nearby coat rack.
"All those extra people just get in the way," Jackie added.
Pete crossed the room again, climbing the few steps to the bar. "Drinks?"
"Oh just a lemonade for me," Jackie replied. She took one of Miranda's hands and one of Dean's and led them to the couch. "I want to know everything ."
"I'll have a water, Granddad," Miranda said.
Pete grunted. "Dean?"
"Uh...beer if you got it," Dean replied, sitting awkwardly after nearly being pushed down.
"Cold or warm?"
"Cold," Dean said. "Definitely cold."
"So?" Jackie said excitedly. "Don't keep me in suspense."
"What do you wanna know?" Dean asked.
"How did you meet?" Jackie asked. "Our Miranda, she's such a quiet thing, so shy, she only tells us the basics. And you usually have to get those out of her with a crowbar."
Dean smiled a little. They had agreed to keep the details of their relationship to themselves; keep things private. No use in jinxing things by blabbing everything to everyone, especially after all the end-of-the-world crap.
But he'd almost forgotten that Pete Tyler, along with being the Vitex dude, was now publicly known as the director of the Torchwood Institute. It was a good bet he knew about all the apocalypse stuff, and he probably knew about Dean's job.
"Work," Miranda said. "Torchwood ran afoul of a spirit Dean and his brother were hunting. I was assigned to help out with the research."
"And let me tell you," Dean grinned, turning on some of his charm. "Your granddaughter here? The most professional person on the planet. I kept tryin'a flirt with her and get to know her and she wasn't havin' any of it."
Miranda gave a short laugh, and yet again, she flushed. "Mostly I w-was so nervous around him I wound up keeping my mouth shut."
"So?" Pete asked, bringing the drinks over on a tray. "How did you win my granddaughter the professional over?"
Dean took his beer and slugged down a sip. "Mm. So we finish the job, and we all go to a bar for a kind of celebratory drink, and some idiot spills his beer on her."
Miranda smiled a little. "So Dean takes the liberty of helping me out. Takes a few napkins and starts trying to clean me up. Except..."
"Except he wound up groping you?" Jackie asked gleefully.
Dean looked appropriately embarrassed. "It's not like it was on purpose..."
"Ha!" Jackie crowed.
"But it was so ridiculous that we both sort of laughed and..." Miranda bit her curved upward a little. "And after they left town, we kept talkin' on the phone, and Dean kept coming back to visit."
"That's sweet," Jackie reassured them. "So you been livin' together?"
"Yeah, Dean's staying with me," Miranda replied.
"Between jobs," Dean said quietly.
"Really?" Pete asked, obviously interested.
Dean nodded, taking a longer gulp of his beer. "I'm done."
"So what're you thinking of doing?" Jackie asked.
"Not sure yet," Dean said. "Something that isn't likely to get me killed hopefully."
Miranda took his hand again gently. "You'll find something. You're brilliant."
He glanced at her and gave a small grin. He didn't really believe her on either count. He'd been hunting his whole life. He figured he was ruined for any job approaching normal, even one that involved flipping burgers.
"I have no doubt someone will snap you up," Pete asserted as he sipped the amber liquid in his own glass. "How's work, Miranda?"
"The usual," she huffed, still holding Dean's hand. "Wasn't for you I'd probably be working over the holidays."
"No granddaughter of mine spends her Christmas buried under work," Pete said. "Only one in this family who does that is me."
"Oi!" Jackie cried. "Over my dead body. You'll be spending Christmas with the rest of the family, ta very much."
"Yes, dear," Pete said good-naturedly.
It was then that the Zeppelin began to lift off the ground, and Dean reflexively clenched his hand around Miranda's.
"Ow! What's that for?"
What?!" Dean's voice cracked. "Nothing!"
"You look whiter than a ghost, love," Jackie said worriedly.
"They're usually gray," Miranda corrected her. She turned her attention back to Dean. "Are you afraid to fly?"
"Course not!" Dean snapped.
"Oh that's yes in man-speak," Jackie said. "Better take him upstairs."
Miranda looked appraisingly at Dean and got to her feet, gently pulling him with her.
He clasped tightly not only her hand, but any convenient surface or support. The engine grumbled lightly around them, making the floors and walls hum, and Dean was pretty sure he was gonna toss his cookies.
After making it up the steps in one piece, Miranda pushed open a large metal door and led him inside. The engine noise wasn't as noticeable here, and he looked around, trying to focus on something that didn't remind him they were in the air.
They were in a bedroom. The walls were draped with soft-looking fabrics in dark blues and creams, making the entire thing looked like the inside of a big tent. The bed was set in a corner next to a reading lamp, and an old, mostly empty bookshelf. There was a large dresser in-between two doors on the other side of the room. Dean guessed he'd find out what those were for later.
Miranda guided him across the room, gave him a gentle shove onto the bed and he flopped down.
"Why didn't you tell me you were afraid to fly?"
"Why didn't you tell me your grandparents were the king and queen of soda town?" Dean replied, taking a few deep breaths to calm his nerves.
Miranda sat down next to him and sighed. "Suppose we're even." She bit her lip. "You know...it's not like I grew up with all that money. My parents raised us in a suburb in Wales. You know that."
He nodded and rubbed his face. "Guess I just wasn't expecting this."
"Shoulda told you. Sorry."
Dean nodded again. "Anything else you forgot to tell me?"
She nodded, scooting closer to him. "You're absolutely adorable when you're terrified and trying not to show it."
He snorted. "Is that right?"
"You know, I don't get where your family gets this shy stuff about you," Dean joked. "You're a big flirt around me."
She laughed, her face flushing. "You, Dean Winchester, bring it out of me."
He grinned and leaned in, capturing her lips gently.
Miranda reciprocated the kiss and smiled. "Feelin' less terrified?"
"Ask me again when you're wearing less clothing," he muttered, planting a series of kisses on her neck.
"Now who's the flirt?" she giggled, pulling him down to her.
One of his hands slid up her sweater while the other tangled into her hair. He kissed her again slowly, letting the feel of her body against his sweep some more of his fear and worry away.
An hour after they were both wearing much less clothing, Miranda asked him her questions again, and Dean nodded, blowing out a soft breath.
"Oh yeah," he sassed and turned on his side, propping his head up with an elbow. "So...really. any other things you forgot to tell me?"
"Well," she said as she stretched a little. "You know about all of the alien stuff."
"Yeah...came as kind of a shock, when I found out," he said, watching her shift around.
Miranda grinned and poked his ribs gently. "That'll teach you to knock."
"How the hell was I supposed to know you had a little green man hangin' out in the bathroom with you?" Dean grinned back and gave her shoulder a playful poke. "You gonna answer my question straight up?"
"I have a large and...intense family," she admitted. "And...there's a chance my ex will be at Gran's Christmas Party."
He frowned, brow knitted. "Your ex?"
Miranda took a deep breath and nodded. "Yes."
Dean's frown deepened. "I'm not allowed to beat him up, am I?"
"Not so much."
"He did cheat on you," Dean pointed out. "I call bullshit."
She wrinkled her nose at him.
"Come on, Babe," he said, sliding closer to her, giving her a pleading look. It had taken a long time (and a couple of incredibly strong martinis) to get Miranda to talk about her previous relationship. Jason Barrington had cheated on her like crazy during the last six months of their two-year relationship. What she had thought had been his impossible work schedule had actually been a rotating booty call schedule with a gaggle of tall, leggy blondes.
"It happened a long time ago," she said evenly. "There's no need for you to hit him."
Dean blew out a breath and slumped back against the bed.
"Oi," Miranda said, obviously starting to get irritated. "How would you feel if I went after that Cassie girl and popped her in the nose?"
He blinked, unsure of where his own ex was fitting into all of this. He didn't think about her often; it didn't seem worth the trouble.
"Terrified for you," Dean replied honestly. "That girl has a mean left hook."
Miranda gave a disheartened pout and rolled over, her back turned to him.
He scooted closer to her, kissing her shoulder. "I won't hit Jason. I promise."
She huffed. "I could take that Cassie Girl."
"You're way too good-natured to be able to take her on, she fights dirty," Dean grinned. He paused for a moment. "But I like it that you're so gentle."
It felt a little strange to sweet-talk Miranda. He actually wasn't great at it when it involved someone he had serious feelings for. It was easy to do with one night stands, but he felt he had to choose his words more carefully with someone he was planning to spend more than a couple of hours with. It made him feel a little clumsy.
She turned her head to look at him.
"You're also way smarter than she is," Dean said.
Miranda's face lit up a bit and he knew he was back in her good graces.
"I am clever," she said, rolling to face him again.
"I could outsmart her," Miranda added.
"I'm so clever," she said, cuddling against his side.
He chuckled and kissed the top of her head. "Yes you are."
He had wandered out of the bedroom after Miranda had dozed off again. It had taken him a few minutes (twenty) to get his bearings and not feel like he was going to throw up over the knowledge that they were in the air.
After that it was smooth sailing and he found Pete Tyler sitting at the bar in the main area, a glass of whiskey in front of him.
"Hey, Mr. Tyler."
"Pete," the older man said. "My father was Mister Tyler, and he was a grumpy bastard."
Dean gave a grin and sat at the bar with him.
Pete reached over and pulled another glass out, filling it halfway with whiskey. "Shall we toast?"
Dean cocked his head as he lifted his glass, and narrowed his eyes. "To...to not dying in a fiery, exploded mass of Zeppelin."
"I can drink to that," Pete grinned.
They clinked glasses and Dean sipped his drink, while, out of the corner of his eye, he watched Pete toss most of his back. Damn.
"I was sorry to hear about your brother," Pete said.
And that was probably why.
Dean stopped, his glass just at his lips.
"I didn't want to mention it in front of Jackie and Miranda," Pete told him. "Didn't want the girls to kick up a fuss."
Dean gave a nod, staring down at his glass. He'd been good about focusing on everything but crashing and dying and Sam. And in the span of a sip of whiskey, he'd brought the former to the forefront, and Pete had brought the latter.
"So," Pete said, sitting back. "Dean Winchester single-handedly defeats the devil..."
"Believe me, it wasn't that easy," Dean muttered, downing the rest of his whiskey. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment.
"...He saves the world, and then he starts looking for another vocation."
"Time to move on."
"As I understand it there are still demons and monsters left in the world," Pete commented. "Still plenty to hunt."
"Not for me," Dean told him as he set his glass down slowly. "I'm hangin' it up."
"So what's the plan now?"
Dean narrowed his eyes and stared at Pete. "Why do you care?"
"Because you're dating my granddaughter," Pete replied with a grin, indicating that probably wasn't his reason at all. "I want to know that the man she's with will take care of her."
"Well, apparently, she's a trust-fund baby," Dean replied. "Which she forgot to mention, by the way. That means she doesn't need anybody to 'take care of her.' Not to mention that she's more than smart enough to take care of herself. Hell, she's been takin' care of me. So why not just tell me the real reason you're asking?"
Pete got off his stool and sauntered behind the bar, facing Dean properly, his hands flat on the smooth oak surface. "You're a man with skills, Dean."
Dean looked one way, and then the other. "What kinda skills are we talkin' about?"
Pete chuckled. "You're crafty, smart, skilled with weaponry, and mechanics."
"Sam was the smart one," Dean muttered, looking into his empty glass.
"No one survives the hunting life for long without brains and a good dose of native sense," Pete pointed out. "As Torchwood's director I'd be a fool not to offer you a job."
Dean quirked an eyebrow. "You want me to hunt...aliens."
"There are many different divisions in Torchwood," Pete explained. "You could do anything. Undercover ops, negotiations, weapons training, artifact recovery. You could even work with Miranda in the research department."
Dean stared at him blankly.
Pete poured them both another glass of whiskey. "Give it a think. The offer will probably always be on the table." He grinned and sipped from his glass. "Unless you hurt my granddaughter. Then I'll have your knackers surgically removed."
Dean's eyes widened and he felt his legs shift together tightly. He wished briefly then that Miranda hadn't made sure to teach him all that British slang.
Dean stumbled off of the zeppelin and onto the airfield. He ambled around a bit more, disoriented from the flight, and then still a bit more, until two thin hands grabbed his jacket and pulled him into a better position to walk instead of randomly drift to and fro.
He looked down and found Miranda smiling up at him, amusement in her eyes. "This way," she said, as she led him toward a stretch limo.
"What about our stuff?" Dean asked.
"S'all right," Miranda told him. "Marcus will get it."
Dean wrinkled his forehead. "Who's Marcus? Did I meet-"
He didn't even get the whole sentence out before a camera flash went off in his face, and he squeezed his eyes shut.
"The fuck?" he muttered.
It all seemed to go pretty quick after that. Miranda literally hid behind him as more cameras clicked and flashes went off, and at the same time propelling him forward and into the limo.
Dean had had no idea that she was that strong. He scooted over inside the limo and Miranda dove in and slammed the door.
He stared at her, eyes wide, as she looked out the window and then quickly ducked away from it.
"Tinted windows, Love," Pete said. He and Jackie had made it to the car before them obviously. "They can't see you."
"But I can see them," Miranda said meekly.
Dean stared at Pete and Jackie. "What the hell is all that about?"
"We're famous," Jackie said simply. "Even you knew who we were in the states. But here, Between Vitex and Torchwood, an' my charity work we get a lot of attention. And Miranda hasn't been home in two years, that's bound to be fodder for the rags." She quirked an eyebrow at him. "Along with the arrival of a new flame."
Dean narrowed his eyes. "What?" He thought for a moment. "Oh. Shit."
“You know it's almost refreshing to be cursed in front of,” Jackie commented, her voice chipper.
“You'll want to watch that in front of my parents,” Miranda warned as the car started to move. “Especially my Dad.”
“Prim and proper Englishman?” Dean asked curiously.
“Well...” Miranda said thoughtfully. “It's more that he's...”
“A prude,” Jackie finished. “The man is a prude. Despite being married to my Rose for so long, and having three kids. Total, complete prude.”
“He's not as bad as all that,” Pete said. “He did help create Josh after all.”
“Josh?” Dean asked, and then it clicked. “Ooh. One of your brothers.” He grinned at Miranda. “He's a bad boy, huh?”
“Well...not as such,” Miranda replied, rubbing at her hair a little. “To be honest he's...well he's a bit of a tart.”
Dean blinked. In his head, he ran over the British slang he'd been learning, but all he could think of was a delicious pastry. It was a like a little pie.
Damn, he hoped they had pie in England.
Miranda giggled at his far-off, slightly clueless expression. “He's a slut, Dean.”
He blinked and shook his head out. “Oh!” Dean knew quite a lot about being a slut. Before defeating the devil and somehow winding up with the pretty redhead beside him, he'd been one too.
Which Miranda knew about. She was well aware of his sexual habits before they became a couple. Not only was she aware, but she could get a little jealous, which could be either extremely cute, or slightly irritating depending on Dean's mood. Usually it was kinda cute. She would pout and cross her arms and call whatever other woman was in question a “slag” and then wander off to do something productive to take her mind off it.
He just hoped the rest of her family stayed in the dark about his promiscuous past. From what Miranda had said, her male relatives could be a little unreasonable about her boyfriends. If Pete was anything to go by, this was certainly the truth.
Dean Winchester, bad ass and self-proclaimed love machine afraid of his girlfriend's family finding out how much he used to sleep around. He could almost hear Sam laughing at him.
To say the house was enormous didn't even begin to do the place justice.
It was the most ridiculous thing Dean had ever seen. Two stories, maybe three all made of stone, the grounds lush with big trees and a large garden in front.
He unconsciously tightened his hand around Miranda's as they walked up the path to the door. It was blustery, and frost covered the plants and trees they passed by.
They followed Pete and Jackie, and stepped into the house after them. The front hall was enormous, leading off in all different directions, including two double staircases, each of which formed the shape of an L. In-between them was either a closet or a bathroom, going by the tightness of the space.
The walls were done in blue and white panel and the wooden floors were shined to perfection. To the left was a set of double doors, and to the right was one smaller one. In front of them was an almost cavernous hallway, leading to an archway, and another set of double doors.
“Nana!” an excited voice cried from the staircase that faced them.
About halfway down the stairs was a man, a couple of years older than Dean. He had impeccably-styled blond hair, and an incredibly thin and tall frame (though not quite as tall as Sam had been; Few people were). He was dressed in a dark purple golf shirt and khaki pants. His smile was genuine, Dean could tell, but a little smarmy.
“Joshie!' Jackie cried as she bustled up the stairs and threw her arms around the man.
Out of the corner of his eye, Dean spotted Pete rolling his eyes a little.
Once the hug ended, the man, presumably Josh, struck a little pose, leaning on the ornate golden railing. “Is that my baby sister?”
Miranda giggled. “Hi, Josh.”
He seemed to float down the stairs more than walk as he rushed over to Miranda and wrapped her in a hug. “Oh, it's so good to see you!” He pulled back from the hug to look her up and down. “You're too skinny.”
Miranda huffed, but managed to keep the smile on her face. “What is it with everyone saying that?”
“You'd think with the way Americans serve food you'd have gained a couple stone,” Josh grinned. “But it is good to see you.” He ruffled her hair gently, and then stopped when he spotted Dean. He then turned back to Miranda. “Is this my Christmas gift?”
Dean felt his face redden.
Miranda cleared her throat and nudged her brother. “Josh, this is my boyfriend , Dean Winchester. Dean, this is my brother, Joshua Tyler.”
Dean nodded and held a hand out. “Nice to meet you.”
Josh grinned, giving him a once over as he shook his hand firmly. “And you.” He turned to Miranda again. “Well done, little sister.”
It was Miranda's turn to blush. “Er...”
“Much prettier than the last twazzock,” Josh grinned. “I am a little bit jealous. Or I would be if I didn't have Tina, Carter and Jaida in my room just now.”
Pete groaned. “Joshua. What did I say about the large number of guests ?”
“It's not a party!” Josh defended. “There's only four of us! And it's been confined to my room the whole time! I swear!”
Dean felt his eyes getting wider and wider.
Josh must have noticed because he gave a smirk, leaning in. “Although if you wanted to join in, we could make it five-”
“S-stop it,” Miranda stuttered out, the tone of her voice a warning.
Josh pouted. “You never were any fun, Miranda.” He sighed dramatically. “I supposed I should go and entertain my friends.”
“Send them home,” Pete ordered as he pulled off Jackie's coat for her, and then his own. “The agreement was that when family started showing up, you would cease having your little parties until after the New Year.”
“I suppose I did,” Josh sulked. “All right. I'll go tell them to shove off then.”
“Thank you,” Pete nodded. He sighed and turned to Dean and Miranda. “Terribly sorry, Dean. Josh sort of turned into the wild child of the bunch. You should've seen what he got up to when we didn't set ground rules. Let me take your coats and you and Miranda can settle into your room.”
The room they were staying in, like the rest of the house, was ludicrously oversized, spacious in a way that no other bedroom Dean had ever seen was. It was painted in a sort of light, creamy orange and adorned with large windows.
The bed was huge, and its sheets were a really pale shade of blue. There were bookshelves and a desk in the corner, along with a dresser by the door. Near the bookshelves a small loveseat faced the windows. Another door inside the room led to what was probably a bathroom.
Dean looked around, eyebrows raised and mouth open, before turning to Miranda.
"What?" she asked.
"This room is gigantic," Dean told her.
Miranda nodded. "Yes. Yes it is."
Dean narrowed his eyes and gazed at her.
She frowned. "What?"
He leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. "So answer me this: Your grandparents are famous. They have all the money in the world, and you even have a trust fund which...I can't even imagine how the hell much money is in there. But you live in a small, cramped rented apartment in Kansas."
Miranda's frown deepened. "Why?"
"Yeah," Dean nodded. "Why? You could have a big house...hell, I bet with the money you got saved up you wouldn't even have to work. But you work your tail off, and you live in that dinky little place. Why?"
She took a deep breath. "I...I like it. I don't want to live in a big house and I like my job." Her expression became nervous. "Why do you care so much whether I spend the money I have or not?"
Dean shrugged. In all honesty, he didn't really know. Money wasn't something he thought about too often. He'd never really had any of his own, surviving off of rigged poker and pool games and phony credit cards. He'd never really thought about what it would be like to have a real income.
He certainly had never thought about having some sort of relationship with anyone with a lot of it. It always seemed like something Sam would do; find some classy girl. Like that Sarah girl from that case in upstate New York. She'd been pretty awesome, and loaded. Dean wondered if that was someone Sam woulda looked up after the Apocalypse was all over, if he'd survived.
He stopped cold. Sarah wouldn't know he was dead.
Nobody really knew, actually. Just Dean and Bobby and Cas as far as hunters went. But none of Sam's old friends knew and nobody they used to work with knew. Almost no one, in the grand scene of things.
He swallowed and looked over at Miranda. She was staring at him worriedly, and chewing on her lip.
"I don't care," he said tersely. "I gotta use the can."
"What can?" Miranda asked.
Dean huffed. "The bathroom, Babe. I gotta use the bathroom." With that, he marched himself over to it and stepped in, flicking on the lights and closing the door. He slumped down onto the toilet seat and rubbed his face, trying to get a hold of his emotions. This girl's entire family was going to be wandering around this place, and soon. He couldn't afford to act like a mess.
He stayed there for a few moments, his breathing slowly evening out slowly. He felt himself start to calm down. Maybe Bobby had told people...maybe...maybe Sam's old friends from college or whatever had forgotten about him anyway. And what did it matter if that girl Sarah knew or not? It's not as if they'd kept in touch, and she was hardly the only girl Sam had had some sort of connection with in those years they spent on the road.
"I'm sure he's fine, Miranda," a low voice said outside of the bathroom door. "It's a lot to take in, this house and all of us. We're not exactly shy and retiring. Especially since Josh was the first immediate family member he met."
"Glad he sent his friends home," Miranda's soft voice replied. "Don't fancy running into naked strangers like I did last year."
Dean found himself grinning at the thought of Miranda running into a random naked person out of the blue. She had probably had turned as red as her hair and then scurried off as fast as her legs would take her.
He took another deep breath and got to his feet. He looked around the bathroom, really seeing it for the first time. The paint job matched the one in the bedroom, and the shower curtain matched the bed sheets. The tub was big enough for at least two people, and had a couple of shower heads as well. It had two shiny pearl white sinks, and the towel rack's contents were a cheery yellow. Across from the toilet was a porcelain structure that looked like it was a cross between a urinal and a sink. Whatever it was, Dean didn't wanna know.
A light tapping on the door brought Dean out of his thoughts. "Be right out."
"You a'right?" Miranda asked.
"Be right out," he repeated. He looked around a little and flushed the toilet, even though he hadn't used it. He turned on the tap to run for a second, then decided to really wash his hands so at least he wasn't wasting the water, then finally opened up the door. Standing behind Miranda was a man who looked around five years older than her, who was maybe just a touch taller than Dean.. The guy was muscular-looking, with neatly-cut brown hair and blue eyes, bracketed by mild crows' feet. He was wearing a pair of expensive-looking jeans and a white button-down shirt.
Miranda smiled. "Dean, this is my oldest brother, Noah Tyler. Noah, this is my boyfriend, Dean Winchester."
Noah grinned and held his hand out. "My pleasure."
Dean shook his hand firmly and nodded. "Hi. Sorry I was in there so long," Dean said. "Guess I had it saved up from the flight."
Miranda wrinkled her nose at Dean and Noah looked suitably puzzled. "Right. Well, I should go check on Lucy and Peter. Make sure they're settling in."
Dean gave a slightly confused look to Miranda.
"My wife and son," Noah clarified. "You'll meet them at dinner tonight."
Dean nodded. "Right. Great."
Noah smiled at them and nodded, before walking out of the room. When he was gone, Miranda groaned and flopped down on the bed.
"What?" Dean asked, watching her.
"He doesn't like you."
Dean frowned and sat down next to her. "What? He seemed okay."
"He was being polite," Miranda clarified. "Too polite. Too...wooden."
Dean stared at the wall for a moment before shrugging. "Oh well."
Miranda looked at him.
"Not everybody's gonna like me, Sweetheart," he explained. "There's a reason Sam's nickname for me was 'Jerk,' y'know."
"You're not a jerk."
"Not to you," Dean grinned. "Cause if I was you wouldn't sleep with me anymore."
Miranda nudged him and grinned. She opened her mouth to reply, but was cut off by a couple of voices that were coming from the first floor. Dean watched as her eyes widened and she hurried to her feet, and bolted out the door.
"My parents are here!" he heard her cry.
Dean slowly got to his feet and took a deep breath as butterflies started in his stomach. It was stupid to be nervous. If he didn't care if Miranda's beefy-looking big brother didn't like him, why should he care about her parents?
He steeled himself and walked out of the room and down the staircase to the front hall. Miranda stood at the front door with a couple he presumed to be her parents. The man was tall and skinny, like Josh, but his hair was the same than either of his son's, except it was starting to go grey. He was dressed in a blue pinstriped suit and a pair of red Chuck Taylor high tops, and he had a big, goofy grin on his face.
The woman next to him was a full-figured bottle blonde, wearing a fitted leather jacket over a light pink blouse, jeans and boots. Now he knew where Miranda's full lips and beautiful brown eyes came from. The woman hugged Miranda tightly before pulling away to look at her.
"You look beautiful, love."
Miranda blushed but smiled. "Thanks, Mum."
"Bit skinny," the man admonished gently.
"Glass houses and stones," Miranda replied, before hugging him.
"And the throwing thereof," the man nodded as he hugged her back. "Right. Sorry. Hello."
Miranda pulled away and then smiled at Dean, tilting her head, gesturing for him to come over.
"Mum, Dad, this is my boyfriend, Dean," she said as he sidled up to her. "Dean, these are my parents."
Miranda's mother smiled at Dean and offered him her hand. "I'm Rose. We've heard so much about you. It's great to finally meet you."
Dean nodded and shook her hand. "Yeah. Hi."
"I'm the Doctor," Miranda's father said, looking Dean up and down in a completely different way than Josh had.
Dean frowned. "Doctor what?"
" Just the Doctor," he replied.
"Well, I'm just Dean," Dean replied with what he hoped was a winning smile. He held his hand out. "Nice to meet you."
The Doctor looked down at his hand, and then back at his face. "You're that hunter, Dean Winchester, aren't you?"
Dean's smiled faded and he shoved his hands into his pockets. "I was. Yeah."
"Lots of guns involved in hunting," the Doctor said disapprovingly.
"Dad, don't start," Miranda warned.
"I'm just making conversation," the Doctor replied innocently.
"Awkward conversation," Rose pointed out. She gave Dean an apologetic look. "You'll have to excuse the Doctor. It's been a long drive. And he's very rude."
Dean gave a thin smile. "That's okay. Little time to stretch his legs, I'm sure the Doc'll be good as new."
"Doc-TOR," the Doctor corrected. "It's Doc-TOR."
"I'll try to keep that in mind," Dean replied.
"Oh, good, you're finally here!" Jackie cried as she bustled out to the front hall. She hugged Rose and bussed the Doctor on the cheek, at which the older man grimaced. "Late, but here."
"Traffic," Rose explained. "And this one had to stop for 'the loo' three times, though I know he just wanted to get sweets from all the rest stops we passed."
The Doctor pouted. "You did too!"
Jackie sighed. "I need someone to go look at the fuse box. Something's blown in the ballroom."
Dean's eyes widened. "There's a ball room. And you don't mean like those little things at Chuck E. Cheese."
"Whatever that cheese thing is," Jackie replied, waving a hand. "Where else would we have the Christmas party?"
Rose bit her lip. "Mum, you sure it's a good idea for the Doctor to look at the fuses?"
"Why wouldn't it be a good idea?" the Doctor asked.
Miranda looked at him sympathetically. "You shorted out the entire house last Christmas, Dad."
"...Well...it's just the wiring's a bit old," the Doctor grumbled.
"Dean can look," Miranda said. She beamed at him. "He's fantastic with fixing things."
He gave her a skeptical look. 'I'm okay at it."
"You've rebuilt the Impala how many times?" Miranda's smiled wider. "Don't be so modest."
"Oh, he's handy?" Jackie asked, looking a bit excited. "That's brilliant! Josh is a bit too fussy to do handiwork, and Noah's every bit as rubbish at it as the Doctor."
"Mum!" Rose admonished. "He's not rubbish."
"I'm just more advanced than your systems are able to accommodate," the Doctor said, sniffing.
Jackie snorted and then turned to Dean. "The door to the basement is just past the dining room, and the fuse box is just at the bottom of the stairs. Go into the kitchen and through the swinging door into the dining room and there's a door that leads down to the basement."
Dean nodded slowly, glancing at the four of them. "Okay. Be back, then." He turned and started to walk off. He could hear Miranda whispering harshly and he had a pretty good idea why. He and her dad hadn't exactly hit it off. Not that Dean usually had much of a welcome anywhere when he'd been hunting, but he was sure Miranda had been hoping for things to be less awkward.
Still, it could have been worse.
He wandered into the kitchen, which was possibly the largest he'd ever seen that wasn't in a restaurant (just like every other room in the house), and decorated in the same cheery yellow as the bathroom towels upstairs. It had what could be considered to be too much counter space and a large island in the middle that was surrounded by stools. He walked through the swinging door and into the dining room, which, strangely seemed smaller, decorated in light greens with a long, glass table in the middle of it.
Dean spotted the basement door and opened it up, flicking on the light and heading down the stairs.
Which was when that familiar old uneasy feeling crept up on him; as if he was being closely watched. He got to the bottom of the steps and looked around cautiously, but there was nothing there.
He shook his head and turned to the fuse box, pulling it open easily and looking it over. He found the odd switch out and flicked it back into place. Just as he closed the box, he sighed with relief, and his breath billowed out visibly in front of him.
Dean narrowed his eyes, his body tensing, ready to defend himself, but when he turned around, he found Jackie Tyler standing there watching him.
But not Jackie. Because on second glance this Jackie was much younger than the woman he'd been getting to know and a hell of a lot more dead.
She glared at him with a bitter anger he wasn't sure Miranda's grandmother was even capable of, and then flickered out of sight.
Dean blinked rapidly, looking around, and threw up his hands. "Son of a bitch!"
Keeping the whole ghost thing to himself was, Dean knew, probably the best course of action for the time being, but keeping it from Miranda wasn't going to be easy. Especially not if he started sniffing around the kitchen for rock salt.
He paced in the drawing room, which passed for small in this place, even though it was damn near the size of Miranda's apartment. It was done up mostly in gold, with a fancy-looking piano and a small drafting table (for drawing, since...drawing room). There was a large couch, and a slew of matching armchairs all set around a coffee table.
Dean slumped down onto the couch and blew out a breath. He'd never really actively tried to get away from hunting before. He'd made it his life, and at one point, he'd even enjoyed it.
Now, though, he just wanted out, and it seemed it would be harder than he thought.
He pulled out his phone, and contemplated calling Bobby, despite the fact that the old man would be pissed about some vacatious interuptus. Dean began to dial, but was stopped by the sound of a clearing their throat.
Dean looked up, and found Noah and Josh standing in the doorway. He nodded slowly and sat back. "This is the part where you threaten me with a slow and painful death if I hurt your sister, right?"
Noah sauntered in, arms crossed over his broad chest. "Yes it is."
Dean glanced at the other man, and marveled at how different all three Tyler siblings looked. Not that he and Sam looked identical, but there was at least some resemblance. With Noah, Josh and Miranda, there seemed to be strangely little.
Josh sat down next to him, almost too close. "Listen, Dean. We're sure that you're a decent bloke. Certainly decent-looking..."
"Focus, Joshua," Noah warned, as he stood in front of the couch.
"Right," Josh nodded. He looked Dean up and down. "Yes. Focus."
Noah groaned. "Dean, if you hurt our sister, , we'll take measures to make sure you’re unlikely to attract another female’s interest again. Or be capable of acting on it."
Dean nodded. "Fair enough, guys. She's been messed with by a dude before, so I get it."
Josh looked surprised. "She told you about Jason?"
"It took a little booze, but yeah." Dean replied. "She also said he might be coming to your grandmother's party. You two care to explain that to me?"
Noah nodded. "His parents are very wealthy and very connected both in business and politics. Their family is still invited every year so no one starts any rumors of bad blood. It's all political. And besides, it's not as though his parents had anything to do with the situation."
"But because the whole family gets an invite, he shows up," Dean said.
Josh rolled his eyes and flopped back against the couch. "Usually with some moronic arm candy." He leaned in, obviously in full gossip mode. "I went out with his sister, Leora the other night? She says he's bringing some six-foot-three blonde glamazon to the party."
"Ponce," Noah muttered. "He knows he can't replace our sister and she'll never take him back."
"So all I gotta do is make sure he's insanely jealous of Miranda having somebody new and improved," Dean shrugged. "That's not gonna be hard."
Noah stared at him and then grinned slowly.
Dean shifted on the couch again, another inch or two from Mr. No Sense of Personal Space. He could almost hear Sam's voice jokingly demand a visit from Sexual Harassment Panda. "What?"
"You really care for her," Noah said.
Dean felt his face starting to turn red. "Wouldn't be here if I didn't, now would I?"
Josh stared at him, and then looked at Noah.
An instant later, Dean found himself wrapped in a bone-crushing hug from Josh.
"Welcome to the family!" he cried.
Dean blinked, his body tensing, as he Josh started to rub his back a little to enthusiastically. He looked up at Noah for a little help, but found that the eldest Tyler brother was sniggering behind his hand.
Welcome to the family. Right.
Dinner felt awkward. Not because the Doctor kept glancing at him warily, and not because Josh kept looking at him admiringly. No, it was because he kept checking out Jackie, looking for something -anything- that would indicate that she wasn't really Jackie Tyler.
He couldn't figure out how the pieces came together; not at all. It just didn't make any sense. He'd seen the ghost of a Jackie Tyler who was thirty years younger than the one sitting at the table. And this Jackie Tyler gave no indication that she was anything or anyone other than what she appeared to be. She said slightly snippy things to her son-in-law and smiled at her husband and daughter and doted on her grandchildren, passing them food and reaching over to wipe tomato sauce off of Josh's face with her napkin.
"How's the food, Dean?" Jackie asked, turning to him.
Dean tried not to seem like he'd staring at her as he stammered out a reply. "Wh...oh. Yeah it's great, thanks."
"Miranda tells us you're a big eater," she went on. "But save room for dessert. I've had the chef make some pie. Miranda said pie is your favorite."
Dean beamed, flattered. "Thanks."
There was no way in hell that this woman was anything other than a grandmother. She was just too awesome. And it didn't make any damn sense. If something had killed Jackie Tyler thirty years ago and then taken her place, wouldn't the rest of the family be dead by now? Wouldn't the thing have made its move? He'd never heard of a monster taking over someone's identity just to have a big, weird family all to themselves. Although for all he knew maybe there was some weird kinda ghost in England that did just that. The Winchester style of research had always been focused on solving the immediate problem at hand, not reading about random types of creatures for recreational purposes. Unless you were Sam, and then you did that for fun.
"So," the Doctor said, in an overly-casual drawl. "Dean."
Dean tensed a little. He was officially on the job; he didn't have time to play twenty stupid questions.
He grinned again anyway and played along for Miranda's sake. "Yeah."
"Are you still hunting?" the Doctor asked.
"Not really. Lookin' for a new line of work," Dean replied, sitting back.
"Really?" Rose asked. "Anything in particular?"
"Still thinking about it."
"Hrm," the Doctor said thoughtfully.
"What's this about hunting? Not with hounds and all that?" Lucy asked. She was seated next to Noah, tall and blonde, with a sweet face. Next to her was a young boy with brown hair and wide, blue eyes that matched Lucy's. Obviously this was their son, Peter.
"A different sort of hunt. Dispatching supernatural entities," the Doctor answered, looking to his grandson and then back to Dean. "And not very nicely."
"It's a dirty job," Dean said. "But somebody had to do it."
"Of course," the Doctor said icily.
Miranda quirked an eyebrow at her father, but he didn't seem to notice.
Jackie rolled her eyes. "Doctor, leave the poor boy alone."
"I'm merely taking an interest," the Doctor defended.
"You're hardly one to criticize over unusual lines of work," she said. "And it's about time Miranda brought someone a bit more manly around. Not to mention the fact that he's just lost his last living relative, which I know for a fact you can relate to."
"Jacks," Pete said gently, looking pointedly at Noah and Lucy's son, who was starting to take an interest in the conversation around him. "Dinner's not the time for this discussion."
Dean stared at the food on the last bits of food on his place, the second helping of pasta red and chunky-looking from the sauce it was covered in. He swallowed hard and didn't even try to keep his mind from wandering to what some of Sam's insides looked like the last time he saw him. "I’m afraid my eyes mighta been bigger than my stomach here. If you’ll excuse me.” He pushed back from the table, and caught Rose poking the Doctor lightly in the ribs out of the corner of his eye.
Miranda looked at him apologetically and took his hand. "I'll make sure some pie gets saved for you."
He gave her a weak smile and kissed her cheek, before getting to his feet.
"Oh, Dean, don't leave," Rose said. "We're sorry. We're all a bunch of natterers around here."
"Nah, it's cool," he replied. "I'm gonna check out the library, if that's okay."
"Be my guest," Pete assured him.
As Dean walked away, he could hear the Doctor's astounded whisper:
"The library , as if the big ape can-Ow! Why is it always the mothers?!"
Dean chuckled as he left the Tylers to their own devices.
The computers in the library were top notch. Sammy woulda been impressed.
In fact, Sammy would have screamed he was so happy to be in a library so comfortable, clean and well stocked. The walls were lined with books, and there were bunch of comfy places to sit. There was even one of those old school globes sitting next to the desk Dean was using.
Finding information on Jackie and Pete's life wasn't exactly difficult. They were public figures of interest. The internet had a bunch of personal information, along with critiques of everything from their eating habits to their clothes, to their attitude towards the media. He even came across pictures of Miranda as a small child. She'd looked almost like a porcelain doll with her pale skin and big eyes and curly red hair.
Dean narrowed his eyes when he came across a news article detailing an attack on the house Jackie and Pete had owned before any of the Doctor and Rose's kids were born.
"This is a very large room."
Dean jumped. When he looked up from the computer he found Castiel wandering around, taking in his surroundings slowly. "Jeez, man! Doesn't that ever get old for you?"
Castiel turned and gave him the smallest of smiles. "Not usually."
Dean rolled his eyes. "What're you doing here?"
"Bobby is sleeping," Castiel replied. "As are most of the people in the hotel we are staying in. I became restless."
Dean narrowed his eyes. "You were in the Bahamas, dude. You don't get bored in the Bahamas. Go to the beach! The bar! Go learn to play the steel drums or something!"
"Do you wish me to leave?" Castiel asked, tilting his head.
Dean blew out a breath. "I could actually use your help, believe it or not."
With a completely straight face, Castiel said "I cannot Adam and eve it."
Dean blinked and stared at him.
"Miranda is English. Do they not use rhyming slang here?"
Dean opened his mouth and then closed it.
"I have embarrassed myself again," Castiel said, looking down. "Haven't I?"
"What was your first clue?"
Castiel opened his mouth and then stopped. "That was rhetorical."
"Good job," Dean retorted.
"What did you need my assistance with?"
Dean sighed and sat back, rubbing his face. "There's a ghost here. But she looks like Miranda's grandmother."
"When did she pass away?"
"That's the thing," Dean replied. "She hasn't passed away. She's still alive. And the ghost is her."
"You're certain?" Castiel said, taking a seat.
"I know she's not a monster," Dean replied. "She made pie for us! Or had it made, anyway. Monsters don't care if you have pie."
Castiel looked surprised. "You did not check if she was not human?"
"Not yet," Dean muttered. He leaned closer to the computer screen and narrowed his eyes. "Huh."
"It is unlike you, not to check these things. This could be a demon," Castiel said. "Bobby would call you names."
He chose to ignore Castiel's chiding remarks. "There was some kind of an attack at Jackie and Pete's old house, got their president killed and everything," Dean said. "A Cybermen attack." He checked the date of the newspaper article, and then double checked a couple of facts. "Thirty years ago, and it was also the same night that crackpot John Lumic died."
"I know nothing about any of this," Castiel told him.
Dean sighed heavily. "There was this guy, John Lumic. Created all sorts of gadgets for people to use. Earpods that told you news, played music, jokes...traffic reports, everything. The whole world was gettin' swallowed up by it all...that's what Dad told me at least. But Lumic was nuts. All he really wanted to do was turn people into monsters. Paperwork they found afterward said he'd even come up with a name for 'em. Cybermen. Had a logo made up and the name trademarked and everything. Big metal monsters that went around killing people, it was crazy." He narrowed his eyes as he kept flipping through online news articles about Pete and Jackie Tyler. "Peter Tyler got a commendation from the new British president for his involvement in stopping Lumic...but after that night Jackie Tyler was missing and presumed dead for three years."
"However, she's here now," Castiel said.
"And so is her ghost," Dean added. "There's a follow-up piece on a separation...some kinda medical spa...Pete finding out that Rose existed...He didn't know they had a daughter? None of this makes sense." He got to his feet. "I gotta talk to Miranda."
"Won't this upset her?" Castiel asked, getting to his feet as well.
"She might already know all this, it's not exactly hard to find out," Dean replied. "And even if she doesn't she's one of the most rational people I've ever met. She'll wanna help."
"What should I do?" Castiel asked.
"Leave before someone sees you," Dean replied. "This house is full of scientific types. They see an angel, they'll want to poke you with a stick."
"Go," Dean snapped, as he headed for the door. He heard the soft sound of flapping wings, and headed up the stairs to the room he was sharing with Miranda. He grabbed the doorknob but stopped when he heard voices from behind the door.
"Stop it, Dad," Miranda snapped.
"I have every right to be concerned," Dean heard the Doctor say. "This man is a hunter, that makes him dangerous! And on top of that he was involved in the Apocalypse!"
"I know that, Dad," Miranda said. Her voice was soft but determined. "But I really care for him."
"He could get you killed," the Doctor snapped. "That's what happens when you become involved with people like him! Death follows them everywhere they go!"
"Oh, I'm sorry," Miranda scoffed. "Certain reports say the same thing about you."
There was a moment of cold silence after that. "I'm not denying that," the Doctor murmured. He sighed. "I want you to be safe, Miranda. You're my only daughter, I love you very much, I only want what's best for you."
"Dad, you have to let me live my own life," Miranda said. "You have to let me make my own choices. If...if I'm making a mistake, I have to make it for myself. I'm over thirty, you can't treat me like I'm still a child."
Dean heard the Doctor grumble. "What do you see in him? Other than him being unlike the last idiot you dated in almost every way?"
"He's gorgeous," Miranda replied with a laugh. "And clever, and funny and charming."
The Doctor sighed. "Miranda..."
"You have to admit," she said. "He's better than Jason."
"Well," the Doctor considered, "that's not hard to manage."
Dean stepped back from the door. He was torn between wanting to hear more and wanting to get to the bottom of whatever was going on with Jackie and her ghost.
He wandered away from the door, and back down the stairs slowly. So Miranda's dad didn't like him. At least Miranda was sticking up for him. She cared enough about him to take on her dad, and that actually meant a lot.
Before he knew it he found himself in the kitchen doorway, and there was Jackie. She was sitting at the large, marble-countered island, with a steaming cup of what was probably tea, poring over a magazine.
It suddenly occurred to Dean that Cas had probably been right. Bobby would call him an idjit for not making certain that Jackie was actually Jackie.
He cleared his throat and stepped in, causing the older woman to look up.
She smiled. "Oh, hello, Dean. Miranda wanted to go lookin' for ya, but I told her you could probably use some time alone. You want some pie? There's plenty left."
Dean smiled gratefully. "Thanks, Jackie, pie would be awesome."
She got to her feet, heading for the fridge. "You shouldn't let anything the Doctor says upset you, you know," she said as she pulled a large pie plate out and set it down. "He's not worth getting twisted up about."
"I didn't really expect him to like me," he said. "I'm not exactly the kinda guy you bring home to your parents."
Jackie snickered as she used a spatula to dig a piece of pie out of the dish, and onto a small plate. "Few men are. And remember, a father isn't supposed to like the boys his daughter brings home. It doesn't matter how old she is."
He leaned against the counter trying to think of a better subject. "Hey, how come the entire family knows I'm a hunter? I told Miranda, and then everybody knew."
"Pete did a background check on you," Jackie replied with a grin as she handed him the plate she'd prepared. "Perk of bein' Torchwood's director. You want some whipped cream with that?"
Dean nodded slowly as she took back the plate, and then pretended to sneeze. "Christo!" he blew out into his free hand just as Jackie turned back to the fridge.
"Oh!" Jackie cried, worriedly, without giving any indication she'd noticed he'd actually said something into his sneeze. "Are you a'right? Are you allergic to the spices in pumpkin pie?"
"No!" Dean cried. "No, I'm okay. I think some of the cold air from the fridge got up my nose."
Jackie smiled. "Yeah, it's bound to happen, innit?" She took a large container of freshly-whipped cream out of the fridge, grabbed a large spoon out of a nearby drawer and wandered back over to the island. Dean followed her then sat down and started scooping the whipped cream onto his pie. Jackie smiled as he planted the spoon into the cream and then eagerly dug into his pie.
He chewed thoughtfully and glanced at her. "Miranda and her dad are fightin' about me."
Jackie quirked an eyebrow over her teacup. "S'at right?"
Dean nodded, tapping his fork lightly against his piece of pie. "I think he hates me."
"He's supposed to," Jackie said. She gave him a kind smile, before say "Besides, with you two sharing a bedroom you're definitely you're shagging his daughter."
He blinked, a little startled. "Uh...well...I mean..."
Jackie snorted and sipped more of her tea. "Please. S'perfectly natural, two consenting attractive adults. Nothin' wrong with it."
"I don't normally do the whole meet the parents thing," Dean admitted awkwardly.
"And I bet none of the girls you were with before had an alien parents, either," Jackie replied, amused.
Dean took a rather large bite of his pie before replying. He had no idea why he was talking about all this with her, when there were more pressing questions he knew he had to ask. "I never really stuck around long enough to meet any family at all."
Jackie tittered. "Neither did Miranda's father, before he met my Rose."
He grinned at that. Ammo. Nice. "Really?"
"He was a stray," Jack said warmly. "Just like you."
Dean frowned and blinked. He'd never thought of himself in those terms before, and he wasn't sure he really wanted to. That involved thinking of himself a bit like a puppy, and that was just weird.
"Miranda's really taken with you," Jackie told him. "Smilin' all the time when you're around. Thinkin' and talkin' about you all the time. You'll have beautiful children."
Dean choked on his latest bite of pie.
Jackie laughed and patted his back gently.
He tried not to look too horrified and grabbed a napkin to wipe his face. "Not really thinkin' that far ahead yet."
She smiled. "I'm sure you will when the time is right."
He nodded slowly. "Yeah. Right." He took a deep breath and then cleared his throat. Time to focus on the important stuff. "So the basement. You don't go down there much, huh?"
Jackie looked a little surprised by the change in subject. "I did last week. Went looking for an old brooch. Somethin' nice to wear for the Christmas party tomorrow, but I couldn't find it."
Dean blinked, suddenly sidetracked. "That's tomorrow?"
She nodded and grinned. "Miranda was able to give us a general idea, so I picked up a couple of options, and we've hired a tailor to fit the tux for you."
He swallowed. "Right. Okay. Good."
"But no, I don't normally go into the basement," Jackie said. "It's a bit creepy down there."
Dean nodded slowly. He was about to say something else, when Miranda stormed into the kitchen, which was a little weird, considering he'd never seen her storm anywhere.
"Hey, Babe," he said, watching her as she swung open the refrigerator. "Everything okay?"
She huffed, and pulled out a jar of marmalade. "Fine. Brilliant. Fantastic."
"Oi!" The Doctor cried, as he likewise stormed into the kitchen. He looked like a practiced stormer. "That's mine!"
"Not anymore it's not," Miranda replied, shoving her fingers into the jar and coming up with a clump of marmalade. She proceeded to hold it up to him, and then shove her fingers into her mouth.
The Doctor's eyes widened, his mouth dropping open in shock.
So did Dean's, but for completely different reasons.
"Miranda!" the Doctor cried in shock.
Jackie groaned. "It's like watching two ten-year-old girls fight."
Dean shook his head. "What...what...that was awesome."
Miranda and the Doctor turned to look at him, the same quizzical expression on their faces.
"It was!" Dean cried.
The Doctor ignored him. "Miranda, you are being completely unreasonable!"
"I'm being unreasonable?"
"You're being unreasonable!"
"What?!" the Doctor asked, his voice high-pitched. "You're the one running around with the shooty American!"
Dean rolled his eyes and sighed. "Shooty. Okay. Whatever."
Miranda slammed the jar of marmalade down on the counter. "Do you know what I think?"
The Doctor quirked an eyebrow, crossing his arms. "What?"
"I think you’re blowing this whole shooting thing out of proportion. He hasn’t shot anything while he’s been here, has he?"
Dean looked at Miranda and hoped his nervousness didn’t show. She already looked nervous enough for the both of them put together.
The Doctor hemmed and hawed.
"Well?” Miranda bristled, her arms akimbo. At her father’s lack of response, she swallowed hard, and then strode over to Dean, taking him by the arm. "I think the only thing that matters is what I think.” She yanked on Dean’s arm and all of the sudden Dean found himself being kissed rather roughly.
It was even more awesome. It was like that scene in Empire Strikes Back where Leia kisses Luke...without the brother-sister thing. Bonus!
When Miranda pulled away, Dean felt his eyes cross.
Jackie tittered again and shook her head before taking another sip of tea. "You've lost this one, Doctor."
The Doctor rolled his eyes and shook his head.
Miranda's face was bright red, but she was standing up straight, looking quite defiant. She sniffed. "My shooty American and I are retiring for the evening. Come on, Dean."
Dean let Miranda pull him out of his stool and take him by the hand. He gave the Doctor and Jackie a little mock salute as Miranda guided him out into the hall. Jackie chuckled and waved back as the Doctor growled a little, then snatched the still-open jar of marmalade from the counter and scooped out a big, fat dollop for himself.
Dean was pretty sure he didn’t need to see what came next, and only heard Jackie’s disgusted “Oh, must you?” as Miranda led him away
A couple of silent minutes later, Dean followed Miranda into their guest room. "So what was all that about?"
She sighed and slumped down onto the bed, pushing her hair away from her face. "He doesn't like you."
"I know," Dean shrugged. "And as I said before, not everybody's going to."
"But he's my Dad!" she cried, getting to her feet again. She paced a little. "I was hoping..."
He watched her and nodded, walking up behind her and wrapping an arm around her. "I have never seen you so pissed off."
Miranda sighed. "I don't really...I don't get angry very much."
"I know. But seein' you that angry on my behalf was kind of a turn-on."
She gave a soft, incredulous laugh. "What?"
"Fingers in your mouth like that and then stompin' over and shovin' your tongue down my throat."
"I did not," she said, a bit flustered.
"No, but I kinda wish you had." He grinned and kissed her shoulder. "It's gettin' late. And I gotta get squeezed into a tux tomorrow. So how about we go to bed for real?"
She nodded and turned to him, wrapping her arms around his neck. He laid back on the bed with her, rubbing her shoulder gently.
There were times when Dean could almost, just about hear Sam laughing at him.
Now, back in the drawing room, getting his measurements taken for his tuxedo, was definitely one of those times.
He huffed and looked over at Pete. "This sucks."
Pete chuckled gently and nodded as he too, got his measurements taken. "Only just noticed did you?"
The tailors murmured something about being ready to make their first set of adjustments, and hustled out of the room with their supplies in tow, leaving Dean alone with Pete.
"Can I ask you somethin'?"
Dean looked him dead in the eye. "How often do you go down into the basement?"
Pete raised an eyebrow. "Why?"
"No real need," Pete said slowly. "We use it for long-term storage. Why?"
"Because your wife sent me to change a fuse down there yesterday," Dean said. "And her ghost showed up."
Pete's eyes widened.
"Funny thing about ghosts. You don't usually see 'em of people who are still alive."
"Who else have you mentioned this to?" Pete asked, his voice tense.
"Nobody," Dean replied. "But if you can't give me some answers, I'm gonna have to start askin' Miranda for them."
Pete's jaw set firmly and he nodded grimly. He stepped down from the small measuring platform, and Dean hopped down, following Pete out of the drawing room, and toward the library.
Once both men were inside, Pete closed the door and then walked swiftly to his desk, setting his hands down on the desktop, staring at Dean.
"You're sure it was her."
"A very young and very dead version of Jackie Tyler that also looked very pissed off."
"She didn't attack you?"
"Nope," Dean replied. "Pretty weird for a ghost."
Pete sighed and slumped down into his chair. "I can't believe this is happening after all these years. Why now? Why here?"
Dean slumped down into one of the chair across from him. "I don't know, but I think you better Start talking."
"Alternate universes?" Castiel asked. He and Dean were standing on the front porch of the Tyler mansion, and he was wearing a pair of banana yellow shorts, and a t-shirt. He looked incredibly uncomfortable, partly because he was far from used to wearing this kind of outfit, but also because it had snowed over night, and without his full angel strength the elements affected Castiel a little more than he would have liked.
"That's what the man said," Dean replied. "He said that Miranda's parents, and this Jackie are all from a different universe, and the original Jackie Tyler from this one really did get killed during the Cybermen attacks. When the other Jackie, Miranda's grandmother, came over here with Miranda's mom they covered up the whole thing and made it seem like a scandal, Rose being the secret baby Pete never knew about."
"That story seems awfully...flimsy," Castiel pointed out, his eyes squinting in the cold daylight.
"It was a scandal; that's all that interested people at the time, and it's been so many years now that nobody cares anymore," Dean said, shoving his hands into the pockets of his winter coat. "Except somebody must because the original Jackie is haunting them. And this isn't even the house the attacks happened in, so there's gotta be a cursed object around somewhere."
"The question is, what set her off?" Castiel asked.
Dean nodded. "Yeah. Good question. Neither Pete or Jackie go into the basement often, and that might be where they're keeping the original Jackie's old things." He stopped and thought. He snapped a finger. "Jackie went down there to get something out for tonight's party tonight."
"You think it was something that belonged to the other Jackie."
"Something cursed," Dean replied. "But she said she came up empty-handed. Still, it doesn't hurt to check."
He made to run off, but bumped right into Miranda.
"Oh!" she smiled at him. "Hello! I was just gonna go ice skating. You should come with, I can teach you."
"Babe, I can't, we gotta-" Dean turned back and found that Castiel had disappeared. "That sneaky bastard."
Miranda looked at him, slightly worried. "Dean..."
"The house is haunted," he blurted out.
"The damn house is haunted. There's a cursed object in the house somewhere and we gotta find it." He grabbed her hand and pulled her back inside.
"Dean, wait," Miranda said. "What d'you mean the house is haunted?"
"I mean the house is haunted," he repeated, turning to her. "Very traditional, you've got a ghost in the basement."
"There's something cursed in the house that's brought the ghost here."
He glared at her. "You think I'm crackin' up."
Miranda sighed and held his hand in both of hers. "I think you've been through something completely traumatic, and you lost your brother. You've been havin' a hard time." He began walking again, letting her keep hold of his hand and follow him. "It's not out of the realm of possibility that you might hall- that your mind's created something else for you to focus on. Lots of people do that when they're grieving."
Dean's back stiffened, and he turned and stomped through the kitchen toward the dining room, catching Rose's attention.
"What's goin' on?" Rose asked, following them.
"Dean says the house is haunted," Miranda replied. "I think he's just-"
They all stopped in front of the open basement door.
"Somebody's down there," Dean said.
"Yes. It's a basement, in a mansion filled with people getting ready for a party," Miranda said. "They're probably just getting some chairs out of storage."
"You think something's haunting the basement," Rose said. "You're sure it's not an alien or something?"
"I know something is haunting the basement," Dean said, looking back at her. "It's got all the telltale signs."
Rose took a deep breath. "Well, you would be the expert in that case. Come on then." She took Miranda's arm, pulling her back to let Dean's hand go. "He's gonna need his hands free, love."
"You two should stay up here," he told them.
Miranda quirked an eyebrow. "You want me to believe something is haunting the house, then I'm coming with."
He huffed and nodded, knowing he wouldn't have any choice in the matter. "Yeah. Okay." He slowly opened the basement door wider and started to step down the stairs. He pulled his pearl-handled Colt 1911 from the back of his pants and readied it. As he slowly descended with Rose and Miranda behind him, Pete came into view, facing the alternate Jackie's ghost.
"How could you!" the ghost cried. "How could you replace me!"
"It wasn't like that, Jacks," Pete pleaded. "I'm sorry. But I'm beggin' you to stop this."
"Oh my god," Miranda whispered. "Is that-"
"Oh no," Rose muttered.
"You said I was the love of your life!" the ghost cried.
Pete scoffed. "You'd chucked me out! We were getting a divorce!"
Jackie's snarled and flung her arms out, using all her might to throw Pete back through the air and into the wall.
"Dad!" Rose cried.
The phantom whirled around to face them and jeered cruelly, just as Dean let off two rounds. She dissipated into vapor, and Rose and Miranda rushed past Dean to check on Pete.
"Granddad?" Miranda asked, helping him to sit up.
He blinked and put a hand to his head. "I...I tried to convince her to leave. To move on."
Dean shook his head as he walked the rest of the way down the stairs. "Doesn't work on malevolent spirits. They're too far gone."
"Did you get it?" Rose asked.
"Gonna take more'n a couple salt rounds to gank her," Dean replied. "Gonna have to find whatever's keeping her here, cover it in salt and burn the sucker."
"But that could be anything," Pete said. "This whole basement is scattered with her things."
Miranda shook her head. "It'd have to be something that's been disturbed, else she'd have started causing trouble before now." She bit her lip, looking from Rose to Pete. "But...who was she? I mean...she looked like Gran!"
Pete sighed and looked down.
Rose took a deep breath and looked at Miranda appraisingly. "Why don't we all go up to the kitchen? Get some tea, get your Dad, and we'll talk."
Dean had opted out of the tea, but it seemed that all four Tylers couldn't do without it at this point. Pete was standing by the doorway to the dining room, gripping his mug, while Miranda sat at the island across from her parents. The Doctor and Rose were huddled next to each other, their hands clasped tightly together. Dean was standing behind Miranda's chair, his own hands gripping the back of it.
"A different universe?" Miranda asked, looking back and forth from her mother to her father. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"We didn't think it mattered in the long run," the Doctor replied. "We told you about the alien part, we figured the rest would never be relevant."
Rose sighed heavily. "Never expected to get haunted."
"You and me both," Pete muttered, sipping his tea. He looked to Dean. "So what do we do?"
"We gotta find that cursed object," Dean said. "Problem being it could be anything. Hell, it could be multiple things."
"Brilliant," the Doctor said. "We'd better get looking."
Miranda bit her lip, still looking at her parents. "I...I feel like there's so much I don't know now."
"After this is all over, we'll tell you everything," Rose promised. "Josh and Noah, too."
"We will?" the Doctor asked, clearly worried. "Everything, everything?"
Rose nodded at him, nudging his shoulder gently. "Yep. Everything, everything."
The Doctor frowned. "Blimey, that's a lot of everything."
"In the meantime," Dean said, taking Miranda's hand and pulling her to her feet. "We got a scavenger hunt to work on."
The Doctor took a deep breath and nodded, stood and straightened his suit. "Allons-y."
Dean blew out a breath as he did up the cuffs of his tuxedo shirt. They'd searched not only the basement, but the entire house up and down for anything that could have been cursed and so far they'd come up with nothing. . Narrowing down the options to possessions that might’ve been recently disturbed hadn’t help; so many people had been in and out of the basement looking for one tchotchke or another that it was impossible to pin down.
On top of that, Pete had insisted on keeping what was going on between the five of them. They were not to mention what was going on to Jackie, Josh, Noah or his family, since they had all been out shopping when it happened. Dean thought this was the worst idea ever, and had said so, but Pete was determined to keep things quiet.
Pete Tyler was also adamant that the famous Tyler Christmas Party still take place.
Dean sighed heavily as he pulled on his tux jacket, and then concealed his gun beneath. He looked at himself in the mirror and quirked an eyebrow. "Winchester," he muttered. "Dean Winchester."
Again, he could nearly hear Sam's incredulous laugh in his head.
Sure, Dean. Real Bond.
"I totally am," Dean muttered, knowing he was talking to himself.
"Did you say something?" Miranda asked from the bathroom.
Dean jumped slightly. "What? No." He turned back to the mirror and lifted his fingers in the shape of a gun, but then quickly put them down. Way too Charlie's Angels .
"Listen, I'm sorry I didn't believe you before," Miranda said. "About the ghost."
"Plenty of people woulda had the same reaction, Babe," he said, turning to the bathroom door.
"I was just being a know-it-all," she said, walking back into the bedroom. Her hair was hanging loose in long, chunky curls. Her dress was a rich brown, and the skirt hit just above the knee, and seemed to be tucked in on itself. There was a black sash wrapped around her waist, and the neckline was in the shape of a heart, with a gold flower design cut into the fabric.
Dean's eyes widened. "Wow."
She blushed and bit her lip. "You, too."
He looked down at his tux and grinned. "I was just pretending to be James Bond."
Miranda gave a quiet laugh. "Course."
"And yes, before you ask, I have read the books," Dean told her, turning back to the mirror and straightening out his jacket. "I know how to read."
"I know you know how to read," she nodded as she stepped into a pair of heels. "There were three Vonnegut books in the bottom of your duffel bag the first time you did your washing at my place."
He frowned. "I didn't know you saw those."
"Let's be fair," she replied. "I didn't know you had them."
He chuckled to himself and shook his head. "Ready to head down there?"
Miranda took a deep breath and straightened her back. "As I'll ever be."
When Dean thought of pigs in blankets, he thought of cut-up hot dogs wrapped up in some of that tinned biscuit dough, warmed up in a toaster oven, or sometimes just the dogs microwaved and a piece of bread around ‘em, because for him and Sammy growing up that had been gourmet eating.
But the British version was so much better, because it was a little baby sausage, wrapped in bacon instead of dough, and he could have as many as he wanted. He'd heard other guests at the Christmas party (which felt more like a prom for grownups) call the idea "jolly quaint."
This entire experience was just plain weird. He hadn't lied to Miranda when he'd told her he had worn a tux before, but he hadn't mentioned that it was only once, and that he and Sam were undercover with Bella Talbot to stop a ghost ship from killing people.
Dean smiled as he remembered Sam, tall and awkward in his tux, with the old woman they'd used to get into the party grabbing at his ass every chance she got.
That had been a very different party. Sure there had been food and dancing and snooty people, but they were American snooty people, and definitely not in a place this swanky. The ballroom was enormous, and filled with people all dressed to the nines. The lights from the chandeliers reflected off of the marble floor, making it look like it was covered in gold. Soft classical music played from the string quintet set in a corner, and people were dancing. The buffet-style food tables were set up near the door, and there were more places to sit and hang out scattered around the room.
Dean had opted to loiter near the smorgasbord, so he could get more food when he ran out.
When they'd arrived, people had stared at him, shocked. Probably marveling at sweet, sensible Miranda Tyler's taste in men. He'd gotten even more bizarre looks as he ate. He didn't know why though, it wasn't like he had burped or anything. He hoped he didn't have anything in his teeth.
"Dean," Miranda's amused voice came from behind him, pulling him away from his thoughts.
He turned and beamed at her, before munching on a piece of that seriously strong English cheese. "Babe, this food is awesome!"
She laughed a little and looped her arm through his. "I can see you're enjoying it."
"Your pigs in blankets are way more awesome than the ones back home," he told her.
"Don't eat too many," Miranda warned. "You'll get sick from all that grease."
He chewed thoughtfully and then smiled. "I'll take a break."
She smiled and kissed his cheek, and he let her lead him away from the food.
"Havin' a good time?" Dean asked, as they took a seat at one of the tables.
She shrugged and looked out at the people. "Not bad. Could be worse."
"But it could be better?"
"Well, we could be elsewhere; that would be better," Miranda muttered.
"Not your favorite thing in the whole world, huh?"
"It's Christmas Eve," she shrugged. "I'd rather be reading or watching a film or disassembling and reassembling a sink."
Dean quirked an eyebrow. "A sink?"
"Never mind." Miranda took his hand and held it tightly. "Thank you for coming with me."
"Sure thing, Babe." When they'd first walked in, she'd been pulled away by Pete to go and mingle with some of the guests, and she'd looked so awkward and at a loss. It had hit him then that her shy nature didn't make this easy on her. "Just doing my Boyfriendly duties," he gently teased.
"Boyfriendly duties?" she chirped.
"Well, yeah, It woulda been pretty sucky if I'd let you face all this fancy crap alone," Dean said. "And I woulda missed out on the spread."
Miranda laughed, and Dean smiled.
His head turned when the doors to the ballroom opened loudly, and a man with slicked back, dark hair strode in. A pair of rimless glasses were perched on his face, and his head was held so high, Dean could almost see the guy's nose hairs.
On his arm was a woman with long blonde hair, wearing a tight, short, shiny silver dress. Her feet were encased in matching heels that made her look far taller than her date.
Dean quirked an eyebrow, and checked around the room. He caught Noah's eye, and the older man gave him a look that said "Yeah, That's Jason." Dean looked back to Miranda, who was exasperated, and had gone a bit pale. It was pretty clear she didn't want to have to make nice with her ex and his glamazonian arm candy.
He blinked. had he really just thought the word "glamazonian"? He shook his head, and then reached down to grip the leg of Miranda's chair, pulling it and her closer to him.
Her attention shot back to him. "What are you doing?"
Dean grinned. "Nothin." He leaned in and kissed her, slow and soft.
Miranda gasped in surprised but still kissed him back. She pulled back just a little. "What're you doing?" she asked again.
"Kissing my girl." He brushed his nose against hers and then brushed his lips over hers again.
"Dean..." she said in-between kisses. "Dean we're at my grandmother's Christmas party, in the front of the room and everyone can see us."
"Yeah it's kinda hot."
Miranda wrapped an arm around his shoulders, but pulled away again. "Are you trying to make Jason jealous?"
"Yep," he replied, shifting to place a kiss on her neck. "And it's workin."
"No, it isn't," she muttered, stroking the nape of his neck. "We've been broken up for a long time. I haven't seen him in two years. And he's brought a date of his own." She gently pulled him away from her neck and pecked his lips. "You're very sweet, but he cheated on me, remember? He'd hardly be jealous of anyone who's with me. He was bored with me."
"Miranda! How...how lovely to see you!"
Dean grinned at her, his shit-eating "I told you so" grin. He turned around, broad smile still on his face as he looked up at Jason.
He almost looked nervous, the poor bastard.
Miranda's voice came out awkward. "Jason. Hello." She got to her feet, standing behind Dean. "Nice to see you as well."
"What's it been?" Jason asked, trying for a smile but ending up with a sneer. "Two years?"
Miranda nodded. "Yes it has."
"Yes, it is."
Jason cleared his throat, and jumped when his date poked his arm. "Oh." He turned to the blonde, taking her hand. "This is Raquel. Raquel, this is Miranda."
Raquel gave Miranda a bored look, but let her eyes wander to Dean, and he noticed the flirty spark in them. "Hello."
Miranda took a deep breath. "H-hello, Raquel. This...this is..."
"Dean Winchester," Dean said quickly. He didn't bother getting to his feet, but he held out a hand to Jason for a shake.
"Pleasure to meet you," Jason said, his voice tight as he shook Dean's hand.
"Pleasure's all mine," Dean replied. "Miranda here has told me a lot about you, isn't that right, Babe?"
Jason scoffed. " Babe ? So...you two are..."
"A couple," Miranda nodded. She stroked Dean's short hair gently. "Been...what? Three months?"
"That's just how long we been living together," Dean said, looking up at her. He was only a little embarrassed that it came out as kind of a purr, due to how good Miranda's fingers felt as they stroked his scalp gently.
Her face flushed gently and she nodded to Jason. "S'true." She smiled at Dean.
Jason's face became as tight as his voice had been. "Miranda, can I have word in private?"
"No," Dean said, looking up at Jason. "You got something to say, you say it in front of me, and Raquel here."
"I'm sorry, I was asking Miranda," Jason snapped. "I know she still has the ability to speak, just as she has the ability to make decisions for herself."
"You're right," Dean said. Slowly, he got to his feet, demonstrating just how much larger he was than Jason. "She does."
Miranda sighed softly. "Dean, don't-"
"You see?" Jason said. "She does want to talk to me!"
"No she doesn't," Dean replied, his voice incredulous. "She just doesn't want me to beat your face in."
Miranda got between them then, putting a gentle hand on Dean's arm. "Jason, I don't have any desire to speak to you alone. It was nice to see you, but I think we-" She stopped as a sudden chill settled in the air, and her breath came out in a billow of fog.
Dean's eyes widened as his breath did the same. He looked from Jason to Miranda, and then to Raquel.
Raquel, who had black, inky ectoplasm sliding down her face from her eyes.
Dean groaned. "Son of a bitch!"
Jason squinted at them. "What is wrong with the two of you! What are you -" he turned and Raquel grabbed a handful of his tuxedo. She assessed Jason, and chucked him aside like an old toy. Someone screamed, and it brought most of the Tylers running, except for Josh, who was nowhere to be seen.
"What in bloody hell?" Noah asked, keeping in front of Lucy and their son.
"Ghost possession," Dean replied.
"You," Raquel snarled, pointing at Dean. "You shot me. You ruined my dress."
"You're dead, lady, your dress was pretty far gone to begin with," Dean snapped.
"What the hell is going on?!" the living Jackie demanded.
Raquel turned to her, a scowl on her face.
"That girl is possessed by this world's version of you," the Doctor told Jackie calmly.
Jackie's eyes widened and she looked from the Doctor, to Rose, to Pete. "Oh, you have got to be kidding me."
Raquel gave a high, piercing scream, and most of the guests began fleeing, screaming as well. Raquel advanced on Jackie, but Dean grabbed hold of Raquel's hair and yanked hard.
"Oi!" the Doctor yelled. "there's still a person in there!"
Dean grunted as Raquel's fist connected with his jaw. "And right now she has no control!" He put Raquel in headlock. "Babe! Get me some damn salt!"
Miranda made a run for it.
“What do we do?” Rose asked urgently.
“Go find whatever the hell it is that’s keeping her from moving on!” Dean barked. “A hair, a fingernail, an eyeball, I don’t care what it is! Find it and burn it!”
Miranda rushed back over, stumbling over her high heel a little. She emptied a saltshaker into Dean’s hand and he shoved it into Raquel’s face.
The ghost screeched something that sounded suspiciously like “my makeup!” before billowing out of Raquel and reforming into the ghost of the younger Jackie. She screeched again. “I liked that body!”
Dean gently laid the unconscious Raquel onto the marble floor without taking his eyes off the ghost. “I’ll hold her off,” he told everyone else. “Go.”
The Doctor was the first to move, snagging Rose’s hand and pulling her. She was followed by Miranda.
“Be careful!” she called back.
“Yeah!” Dean said as the ghost grabbed him by the neck. He glanced at Pete. “Take Jackie and get outta here!”
“That’s me,” Jackie said in a daze, staring at the ghost.
“No, it’s not!” Dean choked out as he kneed the ghost. He reached down and pulled a gun from his pants. He aimed it, and the living Jackie screamed as he fired, and the ghost disappeared in a puff.
Pete grabbed Jackie’s arm. “Come on.”
“No!” she cried. “No, you go, I won’t leave him on his own to do this!” She shoved Pete and he watched her worriedly as he dashed out of the room.
Dean groaned as he looked around, trying to find the ghost. “Jackie, there’s nothing you can do.”
“Like hell there’s nothing I can do, what else besides salt hurts ghosts?” she asked.
The entire ballroom had cleared out, and Jackie rushed over to the buffet tables and picked up an iron skillet that was lying on a forgotten hotplate. She wielded it like a baseball bat, looking around with wide eyes. “How comes they can do all these things? Possess people and go invisible and have a body of their own?”
“Don’t ask me, I just get rid of them,” Dean replied, looking around. “My brother probably knew.”
“Fat lot of good he is,” Jackie snapped. “No offense.”
Dean scoffed out a laugh. “I guess it’s about time for the morbid dead brother jokes to start.”
Just as the ghost reappeared, his phone started ringing and he groaned. “Crap!”
Before he could do anything, Jackie swiped at the ghost with her skillet and it disappeared again.
“Nice swing!” Dean said as he picked up his phone. “What, Miranda?”
“We’re in the basement,” she told him frantically. “Can’t find anything!”
“Keep looking,” Dean ordered. “Anything that could have her hair or…or anything! Just keep looking!"
He heard a crash on the other end of the phone then, and narrowed his eyes. "What was that?"
"Er...oh. The ghost," Miranda replied. "It's here."
Dean growled, nearly snarled, and made a beeline for the doors of the ballroom. "It's down there with everyone else!" He called back to Jackie and she followed him.
He kicked opened the heavy doors and picked up his pace. He knew he'd lost Jackie, but it was probably better that she stayed where the damn ghost wasn't, even if she was handy with a skillet. He bounded down the stairs, pulling his gun from his waistband as he did. When he stepped down into the basement, it was to find the ghost strangling the Doctor.
Dean lifted his gun, shooting the ghost in the back. It disappeared again, and the Doctor rubbed his neck.
"Always with the guns!" he coughed.
"Shut up," Dean replied automatically. "I just saved your ass! What's your progress? Find anything?" He started randomly sifting through open boxes.
"Still looking," Rose replied. She and Noah were digging through a large bin, while Pete and Miranda were pulling boxes down off the shelves.
"Why is this so damn hard?!" he cried. "How much crap did you keep?!"
"What is all the commotion?" Josh's voice snapped from the stairs. "Guns being fired, people screaming, it's insanity upstairs!"
Miranda looked back at him. "There's a ghost, Josh. It's haunting the house, it's tried to kill...oh, everyone."
"Is that all?" Josh replied sarcastically. "How do we get rid of it?"
"There's something keeping it here," Dean replied, still digging through boxes. "Something with the ghosts hair or nails or...anything. A finger! I don't care! We gotta find something!"
"Could be anything," Josh said casually. "Old make-up, stockings with some nail clippings in them...an old hairbrush..."
Dean watched as Pete, Rose, and the Doctor looked at each other slowly, before all three of them began to scramble around. He was about to ask Miranda what in god's name was going on, but he didn't get the chance. The ghost flickered into existence in front of him and snatched him by the neck. He choked, and Miranda and Noah dashed over to try and get her off.
Josh, meanwhile, leaned over the railing, watching the commotion. "It's like a movie." He considered. "Not a very good one though."
"The other Jackie had a really posh brush set," Rose said, as she helped Pete and the Doctor. "Didn't you and mum put it in storage?"
Pete nodded. "I offered it to one of the staff, but they didn't want it, so we put it in an acid free case down here! But where?!"
"Hurry up," Dean's voice caught as a cold hand lifted him off the ground by his throat. The ghost was back. With her free hand, she began to dig into his chest, through his tuxedo shirt. His eyes rolled up and he groaned.
"Oi!" Miranda cried as she and Noah did their best to pull the ghost off.
Jackie rushed down the best she could, pushing past Josh. "Don't just stand there like a lump! Help them!" She got into the basement and looked to Pete. "What're we looking for?!"
"Those damned silver brushes!" Pete cried. "I have no idea-"
"Top shelf, third box to the left on the bottom!" Jackie cried.
The Doctor was off like a shot, but that's when things started to get blurry, as the ghost's fingers dug deeper to reach Dean's heart.
"Oi!" the Doctor cried, holding up the case. "Jackie! Look what I've found!"
The ghost's head moved around unnaturally fast, and she let out a growl.
"Oooh, this is what's keeping you here, isn't it, Jackie," the Doctor taunted, hopping down from the shelves he'd climbed to get to the case. "This is what's-"
Before the Doctor could continue, Dean slugged the distracted ghost in the face, and she stumbled, letting go of him. "Monologuing sucks! Gimme the case!"
The Doctor huffed indignantly, but tossed him the case, and he pulled his lighter out. He popped open the case, and looked in at the brushes, covered in long, blonde hairs. He smirked. "Say g'night, Gracie," he said, before clicking his lighter and dropping it into the case.
As the hair burned, so did the ghost, giving a hideous scream as she went up in flames and then vanished.
Dean took in a couple of deep breaths and looked around at the Tyler clan. Miranda had rushed him, and was checking out the fresh wounds on his chest from where the ghost's fingers dug into him. Noah and Rose were staring with wide-eyed shock at the spot where the ghost had been, while Pete and Jackie were hugging tightly. The Doctor was look at Dean, obviously unhappy. From the landing on the stairs, Josh huffed.
"Well that was exciting for about five seconds," he grumbled. "I could have ordered something on digital with more thrills, thanks."
Dean watched Josh saunter back up the stairs as though he hadn’t witnessed anything worse than two chicks fighting over having worn the same dress to a party.
Christmas Day came and went in a blur of gifts and food and Dean was glad for it. If it had lasted for longer, it would have depressed him. It was evening now and everyone had dispersed for the most part.
He'd cleaned up pretty good in the gift department. Miranda had gotten him a bunch of different things, including new boots, a couple of nice, hardback Vonnegut books, and something lacy in a very pink bag which she'd promised (with a blush and a small stutter) to model for him later.
Jackie and Pete had gotten him a nice toolset. Miranda had probably told them about the Impala, and they'd gone off of that for a gift idea. Looking at tools got him thinking about the garage his dad had owned, before the hunting. Dean remembered foggily that it had made the man pretty happy. He wondered if it might make him happy too.
He was sitting in the kitchen, at the large island, looking over the socket wrenches, when the Doctor sat next to him.
Dean nodded at him. "Doc."
Dean smirked. "Yeah."
The Doctor gave him a wary look. "I still don't think like you."
"Tell me something I hadn't figured out yet."
The Doctor blew out a breath and sat back. "But, Miranda does. And you did save us the other night."
"Always with the guns," Dean quoted, trying to imitate the Doctor's accent.
The older man wrinkled his nose. "Don't do that. Really. Don't. Just don't."
Dean chuckled. "So?"
"So...I suppose...I should try to be nice to you."
Dean turned his eyes from the toolset and looked at the Doctor. "I don't really care if you're nice to me or not, you know. As long as you don't try to screw things up for me and Miranda, you can treat me any way you like."
The Doctor's expression brightened at that. "Really."
Dean nodded. "Yep. Believe me, I've taken far worse."
"Speaking of which, how's your chest?" the Doctor asked. "I could take a look if you like. I am a doctor after all."
Dean waved a hand, signaling he was fine.
"Just like your father," the Doctor muttered.
Dean blinked and slowly turned toward the older man. "You knew my dad."
"Well...I wouldn't say knew...I would more say...ran into on one of his jobs and argued with. Miranda isn't the first Torchwood agent to run afoul of a hunter, you know."
Dean snorted softly. "That's why you've been a dick to me?"
"I haven't! You're dating my only daughter," the Doctor pointed out. "I'm well aware of how your father raised you and your brother. It's a dangerous life, and she's had her heart broken before. That was difficult enough to watch. I don't fancy a repeat."
"It's not in the plans," Dean said quietly.
The Doctor glanced at him and nodded slowly. "Good."
Pete walked in then, and opened the refrigerator. "It's nice to see the two of you can be in the same room and not try to kill each other."
"He's the one who starts it," Dean voiced. "I'm innocent."
As the Doctor raised his eyes to the ceiling, Pete chuckled. "Course you are." He pulled a bottle of juice out and poured a glass for himself. "Have you thought any more about my offer?"
The Doctor looked a bit pained at that. "Oh, Pete. You offered him a job? Blimey, you've only just met him and you're keen to make him part of the family."
"This is strictly business. He's a skilled hunter, looking to retire," Pete defended. "I'd be mad not to offer him a job."
Dean considered his new toolset again and sighed. "You got a department that fixes cars?"
Pete grinned. "What kind of cars?"
"Any kind," Dean replied.
"We have a couple of vehicle maintenance shops around the globe," Pete told him. "But it's not just cars that get fixed, you'd have to learn how to take apart, analyze, and sometimes fix alien craft as well."
Dean considered this and nodded slowly. "We'll talk more before I leave, but right now, Miranda's expecting me for an ice skating lesson."
The Doctor snorted, laughing a little, and Dean gave him a sour look as he got to his feet and headed out of the kitchen. He pulled his leather jacket from the coat rack by the front door and pulled it on, along with his gloves and scarf.
He stepped out onto the front porch and began to make his way toward the large, frozen pond at the far side of the house. As he got closer he could see Miranda sitting on a bench, tightening her skates.
Alien vehicles , he heard Sam's voice say out of the blue. That's so cool .
"I'll think about it."
Oh, come on. You can't tell me you don't think it's cool.
"I said I'll think about it."
You'd still be helping people. You just wouldn't be risking your own life to do it.
"Give it a rest, Sammy."
I'm just saying.
"So this is how it's gonna be now, huh?" Dean muttered. "You die but you still gotta be heard, because you've got a big mouth and you think you're always right, so you decide to haunt the inside of my head?"
"I'm never gonna be rid of you, am I?"
'Fraid not, Dean.
Dean hadn't realized he'd made it to the pond until he heard Miranda's voice.
"Who're you talking to?"
He shook his head. "Nobody. Just talkin' to myself like a crazy person."
Miranda smiled and skated over to him, nearly plowing into him.
He caught her and laughed a little. "Easy, lady."
She kissed him softly, and then brushed her chilly nose against his. "Ready for your skating lesson?"
"As I'll ever be," Dean replied. "You sure you don't wanna skip this and go inside? Get warm...maybe try out that very, very nice lacy nightgown thing?"
"After," she replied, and slid away from him. "Your skates are on the bench!"
He sighed and trudged over, slumping down onto the bench. He put one foot up to untie his boot, and it tapped against someone's leg. He looked up, blinking, confused. "Cas?"
Castiel looked almost embarrassed. "Bobby has female company. And I enjoy snow."
Miranda skated over and grinned. "Happy Christmas, Castiel."
He nodded. "And you, Miranda."
Dean huffed as he laced his skates on. "Yeah. Merry friggin' Christmas, I'm gonna fall on my ass." He shakily got to his feet and started shuffling toward the ice. "Miranda, this is such a bad idea."
She slid over and snatched his coat as he edged toward the ice. "I've got you."
Dean turned to Castiel, who had a sort of amused, curious look on his face as he watched them; Dean's legs were shaky and clumsy, while Miranda moved gracefully and did her best to keep them both upright.
"Laugh it up, Fuzzball," Dean snapped toward Castiel.
Castiel blinked, confused, and looked down at himself as if he were trying to figure out what made him a fuzzball.
Which was when Dean finally lost his balance and landed on the ice with a thump.
Miranda giggled as she went down with him, landing next to him with a yelp.
"Babe," Dean pleaded. "Come on. I'm built for baseball...football...you know...stuff that involves more dirt and running and less ice...not figure skating."
"You're wearing hockey skates," she replied as she got herself upright again. "I'm wearing figure skates."
Dean blinked and looked down at the black, heavy skates on his feet. "...Really? There's a difference?"
"Yep. Toe pick," she explained.
He thought about this for another moment, before grinning and getting himself upright.
He could deal with hockey.