“What. The. Fuck?” Dean said. And given the fuckery he had seen in his lifetime, he did not say that phrase lightly.
“That’s… That’s not possible,” Sam said. He looked over as Castiel, who was just as gobsmacked as the rest of them. “Is it?”
Castiel turned wide eyes towards the Winchesters. “Uh. Theoretically? Anything is possible.”
“A giant turtle?” Dean demanded. “You’re going to stand there and tell us that ‘theoretically’ a giant fucking turtle is possible?”
“It must be possible,” Castiel said, sounding altogether too calm for the circumstances for Dean’s liking, “because it is here.”
“ It’s a giant fucking turtle, ” Dean said one more time, in case he just...wasn’t getting it. “ In the goddamn sky .”
“And you’re a giant fucking dork on the ground,” a new voice interrupted. The Winchesters and Castiel whirled around to see a tall, scruffy man in glasses regarding them with a mixture of wariness and amusement. “But no one seems shocked about that.”
Dean pulled the demon knife from his belt at the same time that Sam levelled his gun at the newcomer; Cas flicked his wrist to make his angel blade appear. As a unit, they moved to block Jack from the stranger’s view. The man’s eyes widened and he pulled his hands out of his pockets to hold them up. “Whoa, the fuck?”
“Who are you?” Dean demanded. “Are you with the turtle?”
As far as crazy sentences went, that one definitely made his top ten.
The man spared a glance up at the turtle, which was just… hanging there. In the sky. Beating its flippers at a slow, lazy pace. “ With the turtle?” the man repeated. “Well, we aren’t going steady, if that’s what you mean.”
“Richie?” a frantic voice called out from the woods. There were more distant shouts, different names being yelled through the muffling trees.
“Over here,” the man - Richie - called over his shoulder. He didn’t take his eyes off Sam’s gun. “Kinda in a tight spot if you wanna hurry.”
Dean thrust his knife back into his waistband and pulled out his gun instead as several more someones crashed through the trees. Richie was soon joined by four men and a woman, all of whom stopped short at the sight of the guns and Cas’ angel blade.
One of the men took a cautious step forward. “E-easy there,” he said. He held out his hands like a man trying to approach a rabid tiger. “W-we don’t want a-any t-t-tr-tr-”
“Trouble,” Sam supplied. Dean shot him a scathing glare; you weren’t supposed to play nice with the crazy turtle-people.
“Trouble,” the man agreed. “S-so if you c-can just go ahead and l-lower your w-w-weapons.”
“No way,” Dean said. “Not until you tell us who you are and what the fuck is going on right now.”
“My n-name is Bill,” the stutterer said. “These are m-my fr-friends.”
“I’m Mike,” a Black man said next. The others volunteered their names: Bev, Ben, and Eddie. “Now,” Mike continued, “can we put the guns away?”
“They met Richie first,” said the small man named Eddie. “Of course they drew their fucking guns on him.”
Dean put the safety back on and brought his hand to his side, but he didn’t put the gun away. Sam did the same. Cas kept his blade raised, but his shoulders dropped slightly. Jack peeked out from behind Cas’ shoulder.
“Actually,” the kid said brightly, “I think we’re more concerned about the ‘giant fucking turtle’ in the sky. That’s what Dean kept saying, anyway.”
Dean closed his eyes, feeling Cas’ reproach boring into the side of his head. “Jack, we’ve talked about not repeating what Dean says word-for-word.”
“Hey, kid,” Richie said to Jack. “If you wanna swear you go ahead and mother-fucking swear, okay? Are these guys your bosses? Hell no.”
“They’re my dads,” Jack said before Dean could stop him. His stomach gave the familiar jolt/twist it did every time he thought about how people would interpret that particular phrase. Especially when him and Cas were the only two “dads” around…
There was a bit of an awkward pause. “Oh,” Bev said at last, obviously trying for nonchalance. “I guess I, uh, didn’t realise you guys were old enough to have a teenager. But I suppose you could have adopted.” She let out a strained laugh. The other strangers looked like they were trying to do advanced calculus in their heads.
“Actually, he’s three,” Cas said.
This time the silence was more stunned than awkward. “Tall for his age,” Richie managed after a long moment.
“Oh my god,” Eddie muttered, fumbling in his fanny pack - the guy actually wore a fanny pack! - for something small and plastic. He gave it a shake, and Dean realised it must be an inhaler. “Oh my god, oh my god. What the hell is going on here?” he demanded, taking a giant suck off the inhaler.
“You tell us,” Sam said. “We’re sort of in the middle of a crisis here, and then you show up.”
“W-what s-sort of crisis?” Bill asked.
“Killer clown, by any chance?” Richie asked sardonically.
Sam’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Pennywise the Dancing Clown?” Mike said. “Is that what you’re up against?”
“ No. ”
“No, our problem is God’s gone insane,” Cas said.
“Oh,” Richie said. “Well, of course. That makes so much more sense than an interdimensional killer clown that makes all your worst fears come true.”
“Can we please stop saying ‘clown’?” Sam pleaded.
Dean couldn’t suppress a snort. “Alright, alright. We’ll save the killer clowns for later.” Sam shot him a dark look, but honestly? Sammy deserved a little ribbing over this stupid clown thing. “Where did you guys come from? How did you get here?”
“Derry, Maine,” Ben said.
Sam pulled out his phone and typed something in. He frowned and typed something else. He tried one more thing, then said, “It doesn’t exist.”
“What?” The intruders stepped forward, ignoring the weapons in light of this news.
“We were just there,” Bev said.
“Can I?” Mike asked, indicating Sam’s phone. He handed it over, and Mike scrolled down a little before clicking on a link. “There was a settlement back when our Derry was founded, but after that first mass disappearance, they never rebuilt. It’s untouched to this day.” He looked up at his friends and raised his eyebrows. “Derry doesn’t exist.”
“You guys are from one of the other worlds,” Dean hazarded. Made sense. Although he was still clueless about the giant turtle.
“What other worlds?” Eddie asked, his voice on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Was this guy really going to fight an interdimensional killer clown? He looked like what the result might be if someone crossed Garth with a chihuahua.
Sam sighed and ran his hand through his hair. He had put his gun away at some point, although Dean wasn’t ready to follow suit. “God? He created a lot of worlds. Ours, yours, and others. They’re all a little bit different from each other.”
“Is there one that is completely full of shrimp?” Richie asked, then looked around. “Oh, come on, no one gets that reference?”
Dean did, but didn’t say anything. Knowing Sam, he was going to look the reference up later. And there was no way in hell Dean would ever let slip to Sam that he’s seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer .
“Anyway,” Sam continued, “long story short, he’s killing his other worlds. He’ll kill this one, too, unless we stop him somehow. But that doesn’t explain how you guys got out.”
“I-it was m-me,” Bill said. He’d been listening to everyone else talk, a thoughtful look on his face. Now he looked grim. “I s-saved us. But I think the tur-turtle helped.”
Dean frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I’m a wr-writer,” Bill said. Cas, Sam, and Dean all exchanged looks. Oh, no. “I c-can see that m-m-means something to you.”
“Yeah, uh, God’s a writer, too,” Sam said. “Writers are creators.”
Bill nodded. “Exactly. L-last night, I s-suddenly felt the urge to start writing. It didn’t make any sense. I-I shhhhhhould have been scared sh-shitless about facing Pennywise. And I was. B-but suddenly I felt calm and in c-control. Like if I could just sit down and write out how it would end, it would all be f-fine. I d-don’t know where the inspiration came from, but I wrote that when we went down into It’s lair, Maturin would take us to another world. A world where It doesn’t exist.”
“Maturin?” Dean asked.
Bill pointed silently up at the giant turtle.
“So… that’s a good guy?” Dean asked. “A nice turtle?”
“He is,” a voice behind Dean said. Dean jumped; he’d been so focused on the strangers, he forgot all about Jack.
“Yeah, but… Chuck created him, right?” Sam asked. “How can he go against Chuck’s will like that?”
Jack cocked his head, squinting up at the turtle. “He… well, he is one of Chuck’s creations, but also not. He is… sort of a god in his own right. He is less a creation and more of...an aspect.”
“He’s part of Chuck?” Dean demanded.
“Uh,” Richie said, raising a finger. “Are you calling capital-G God Chuck ?”
“Yeah, it’s - it’s a long story,” Sam said.
“Written by God, no less,” Dean muttered.
Richie shoved his hands into his pockets. “Just wanted to make sure we’re all on the same page.” There was a beat. “Get it, Eds?”
Eddie groaned. “Shut up, Richie.”
“Chuck has created other gods,” Castiel pointed out. “Or, more accurately, humans have created other gods and given them life. Kali, Loki, Osiris… But none of them could break free from his narrative.”
“Maybe they weren’t powerful enough?” Eddie suggested.
Mike glanced at Bill. “More like they didn’t put their faith in the right person.”
Bill nodded slowly. “Th-they must ab-bide by the r-rules of the universe th-they create,” he said. “Ch-Chuck gave power to wr-writing, s-so writers have p-power. Maturin used m-my writing against Chuck?”
“Something like that,” Mike agreed.
“Great. Cool,” Dean said. “Goody for you. If you’re interested in helping us kill God, that might come in handy. If not, just get out of the way.”
“You’re going to kill God?” Bev asked, eyes wide.
Richie whistled. “Man, I thought killing It was going to be a nightmare.”
“God - Chuck - is destroying entire worlds,” Sam said quietly. “We don’t exactly take kindly to anyone thinking human lives are expendable, never mind all the animals and other creatures that also inhabit those worlds.”
“Shrimp,” Richie said, grinning.
“Man, would you fucking quit it with the shrimp already?” Eddie snapped. This just made Richie grin harder.
“Guys,” Bill said.
“How can we help?” Ben asked.
“Death has a plan,” Dean explained.
“I’m sorry, did you say Death has a plan? On how to kill God?” Eddie demanded. “You take orders from Death ?” He grasped his inhaler harder.
“I’m going to kill Chuck and take his power and become the new God,” Jack said brightly.
There was a long moment of silence.
“Uh, didn’t you say you’re three years old?” Richie asked.
“Yes! But I won’t destroy worlds on a whim,” Jack said. “I know right from wrong.”
“By whose judgement?” Bill asked, softly enough that Dean was sure he didn’t expect an answer. Still, it rankled a bit.
“Look, it ain’t our first choice, either, but we’re a little short on options. A human can’t just take up all God’s power. Jack might look human, but he’s the son of - of an archangel,” Dean said. “He can take the juice.”
“Okay…” Bill said slowly. “Except I th-think we might have a different option now…”
As one, their heads turned upwards, staring at the turtle.
Dean looked at Sam. Sam looked at Dean. Dean looked at Cas. Cas frowned up at the turtle and cocked his head in that way that totally didn’t make Dean’s stomach do somersaults.
“We’ve had worse ideas,” Sam said.
“How do you think Billie’s gonna react if we renege on her deal?” Dean asked.
“She’ll say you better have a damn good reason for it,” a new voice said. This time Dean wasn’t the only one to jump. Bill appeared just to the left of Bill. The newcomers all took a moment to process her appearance - specifically the scythe in her hand.
“If I was Catholic, I’d cross myself,” Richie mumbled, just loud enough for Dean to hear. “I guess I better settle for pissing myself instead.”
“It won’t help,” Billie said. “Either action.”
“D-Death, I presume?” Bill asked, a lot braver than the others looked right now.
Billie turned her eyes on him, regarding him as a human might regard a particularly nasty bug. “Yes. And no need to ask who you are. You don’t belong here.” She shifted her grip on her scythe. “I don’t like things being out of order.”
“Look, Billie, they just wanted to, you know, not die when Chuck collapsed their world,” Dean said. “Can’t really begrudge them that.”
“Considering I’m Death, I think you’ll find I can.” Her eyes flicked up to the giant turtle. “But in this case, they may have actually done something useful. I think I can work with this.” She looked at Jack. “You’re off the hook, kid.”
With that, she disappeared. A moment later, so did the giant fucking turtle.
“What - and I say this with as much feeling as I possibly can - the fuck just happened?” Richie demanded.
“Did - did we just get a happy ending?” Dean wondered.
Richie looked him up and down. “I don’t know about you, but I sure didn’t.”
Dean flushed. “I mean, Jack doesn’t have to be God, and Billie is going to find something else to be her champion. And this one might actually be able to do it.” It wasn’t that he doubted they’d have pulled it off, but… well. Jack really wasn’t cut out to be God material quite yet. Maybe in a few million years. “If this works out, it’s the ultimate win.”
“It will work out,” Bill said with such confidence and lack of stutter that even Dean actually believed him.
After all, writers have power….
“I guess this makes you guys honorary Losers,” Ben told them.
Dean snorted. “I don’t think so.” He gestured with his head for them to follow him back the short distance to the bunker. “You’re staying in our house, that makes you guys honorary Men of Letters.”
“‘Men of Letters’?” Richie snorted. “I think I prefer being a Loser.”
“We did just lose our whole world,” Ben added. “At least we can still have our title.”
“Too bad we didn’t get here in time to save Stan,” Bev added.
“Not to, uh, point out the obvious, but we kinda might be doing Death a favor. Maybe she’ll let us have one tiny little person back from the dead,” Richie said. “Whaddaya think, Eds?”
“Is that your office?” Eddie asked, ignoring Richie and eyeing the bunker distrustfully. “Is it up to code? It looks ancient. Have you had it inspected for asbestos? How close is the nearest fire department? How -”
As they trudged towards the bunker, Cas dropped back slightly. Dean automatically slowed his pace to match with him. He bumped Cas’ shoulder gently. “Hey. If this works out, things are going to be so good.”
Castiel nodded. “I know.”
“Then what’s eating you?”
Cas glanced at him as if he wanted to say something snarky, but instead he looked ahead, where Richie was now ruffling Eddie’s hair. “Richie always singles him out.”
“Yes. Did you notice?” Cas asked.
Dean shrugged. Yes. “Not really. I guess they’re close. You know, best friends and all. Sometimes friends tease each other.”
“Yes, I have noticed,” Cas said dryly. Dean shot him a look, but Cas’ face was carefully blank.
Dean shrugged again, aiming for nonchalance. “Or maybe he’s pulling Eddie’s pigtails.”
Cas squinted and tilted his head. “Eddie doesn’t wear pigtails.”
Dean rolled his eyes. “Metaphorical pigtails. You know, how little boys let little girls know they like them before they’re able to talk about that stuff.”
“Ah. And once they are able to talk about that stuff, the pigtail pulling ends?” Cas asked.
“No,” Dean admitted. “The talking and the pigtail pulling go together at that point.”
“Hm,” Cas said. They were quiet for a moment, watching the others. Specifically Richie and Eddie - at least, Dean was. He was fairly certain Cas was, too. Then Cas said, “How does one know?”
“If the boy is teasing out of friendship or pigtail feelings?”
Ahead of them, Richie and Eddie’s arms bumped together once. Twice. By the third swing, there was the barest brush of fingers against fingers. Fourth time, and their fingers intertwined. Then their hands began to swing in sync.
“One of them has to say something,” Dean said. He couldn’t look at Richie and Eddie. He couldn’t look at Cas. He stared hard at the ground in front of him, placing one foot in front of the other with deliberate care.
“Ah.” Cas’ voice was so quiet, Dean was tempted to turn and look at him. He couldn’t, he couldn’t, he couldn’t. “And if neither says anything?”
He was drowning, he couldn’t breathe. “Then they’ll never know for sure, I guess.”
Dean swallowed. “For some, maybe. If they think the risk is too high, yeah.”
“I see,” Cas said. He was withdrawing, Dean could feel it. Dean’s head jerked up involuntarily, staring at Cas wildly. What does it mean, what does it mean? What…?
Cas paused, and Dean stopped as well. The others were going into the bunker, but the two of them hung back just for a moment. Cas was giving him that stupid head tilt again, and Dean’s heart hammered in his chest.
“There’s something in your hair,” Cas said.
Dean’s hand came up to brush through his hair. What, a leaf? He couldn’t feel anything. “Did I get it?”
Cas reached up and gripped a tiny clump of short hair - and tugged. Right where a pigtail would be if Dean were five years old and a girl. “I believe the phrase is: I made you look.”
Dean’s lip twitched. It wasn’t funny. It was fucking stupid, in fact. But the glint in Cas’ eye and his ridiculous pride at “mastering” this human ritual was beyond endurance. “Goddamn it,” Dean huffed, covering up a laugh. He didn’t pull away; nor did Cas.
They stood like that long enough that Richie’s voice called out from the entrance to the bunker, “Hey, assholes! Are you coming or what?”
Cas’ hand dropped and Dean stepped around him to head for the entrance. “Bunker’s gonna get busy again,” he said.
“I look forward to it,” Cas said.
“Yeah,” Dean said.
It was nice when the bunker was busy. Lots of people around. And Dean lived to cook for large groups of people.
And with lots of people around, maybe Sam wouldn’t notice if Dean and Cas started pulling more than pigtails.
With renewed hope, Dean trotted down the bunker stairs two at a time.