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The Response to Alturism

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 The Response to Alturism

Crowley, demon of unspecified position with relation to Hell, caught himself against the flank of the Japanese, tin-can, people-mover and surveyed the uninspired dwelling before him.

That he’d come to this, irked him, but he straightened his spine and made his way up the house’s front steps.

….

 

Hearing a knock at the front door, Michele put down the potato peeler she was wielding against the pile of root vegetables and wiped her hands.
Lifting her toddler down from the stool he was standing on to ‘help,’ she went to answer the door. Her son, Chris, trailed after her. Seeing mother and son leave the kitchen, the cat on the diningroom windowsill stood, stretched languorously, and decided to follow the humans to investigate the visitor as well.

Shadowed by her little entourage, Michele walked through the lounge room and opened the front door.

….

“Ma cherie.” Crowley greeted the woman cockily, a smug smile positioned for best effect.

“Crowley! I thought you were dead.” Michele Cherie Chadwick gasped, her face a picture of incredulous shock.

So, she’d seen Lucifer try to kill him then. 
“Rumours of my death are somewhat exagger-“  Something appeared behind her which made him stumble back a step in shock; a completely visceral reaction in his weakened state. He would have done a pratfall onto his arse, but for the good Samaritan who darted heedlessly out beyond her wardings to steady him.

Tucked herself under his arm and led him back down the front steps, to a bench seat in the garden, a few feet away.

“Sit down,” she commanded, “I’ll be right back.”

A minute later she returned, with a glass in one hand and a blue and white plastic box under her arm.

“Drink,” she commanded, placing the glass into his hands, “It’s Bourbon, not scotch, but it’s what we have…”

Crowley looked down at the glass with a frown.

“Drink.” She commanded again, placing a hand underneath and lifting the glass to his lips, like he was an invalid.

Off guard, he swallowed a mouthful compliantly before coming to his senses.

“What in the bleeding hell are you doing, woman?” He demanded. Unaccountably irritated by the way she’d abandoned the safety of her warding and appeared to be…

“—Ow!” He flared in betrayal. Trying to slap her hand away as she started to dab at the cut on his meat-suit’s cheek with a square of gauze soaked in god-awful smelling disinfectant.
It stung.

“You’re hurt and you’re filthy, what do you think I’m doing?” She snapped. “Stop being a baby and let me clean it.” With that she renewed her assault on his wounds.

Baffled by the unexpected solicitude, he sat there under her ministrations, sipping at his bourbon. Until she reached for his tie and started trying to work the dirt encrusted fabric loose.

He grabbed her hands, “What are you doing?” He growled suspiciously, somewhat distracted by seeing a new and very pink cast around her wrist.  “… why are you wearing that?”

Glancing at the cast she shrugged. “It’s broken,” she answered matter of factly, “and I’m trying to assess if I need to take you to a hospital.”

She started in on his tie once more. 
In response he grabbed her cast-encased wrist to stop the continued assault.

“As much as this little medical game of S&M thrills me to the core, I can assure you, your Florence Nightingale impersonation is unnecessary.”

“Sure,” she scoffed, “you all but fell down my front steps. You’re hurt, and filthy... I don’t even know  how you’re alive. I saw him stab you in the chest with an angel blade…”

“Spying again Poppet?” He asked.“All a bit of slight of hand, as you can see. I’m very much— not dead. All the damage, except to the Armani, is unimportant.”

“Yeah, sure! Because Crowley, King of Hell, usually knocks on people’s doors, then falls down their front steps.”

“I was—“ he glanced at the cat standing in the doorway “—surprised, that’s all.” He muttered tightly, feeling ruffled. “I simply forgot you had one of those.” He waved a hand at the feline sat on the top step, glaring menacingly at him, and shuddered.

The soiled prophet stared at the cat, frowning like a particularly stupid student faced with an algebra equation. “Slinky?” She asked, little nose scrunched in confusion.

“Yes, the sodding cat!” He spat, irritated, “-merely an instinctive survival reaction.”

The little hobbit housewife gave him another frown, “so wait, demons are scared of cats?… like, like Minecraft creepers? Seriously?! Is that why witches are associated with th—“

“No! You little dingbat,” he cut her off in irritation, “I just spent three days hiding in a sodding rat!”

“Oh…” She frowned and blinked at him.

As if her saying the name (Slinky, after one of the cats in the storybook, he noted) drew the creature closer, the blasted feline stalked down the steps towards them. Tail and body fluffed out to twice the size. It began yowling and growling at him. 
He tensed. Lip curled and eyes narrowed in annoyance. Even before his sojourn inside the  rat, he’d never liked cats, not since Mother’s attempt to summon Taghairm when he was a lad.

Beside him, Sam’s foundling ficwriter looked back and forth between him and the cat, then shot to her feet. Rushed over and picked the infernal moggy up, throwing a, “I’ll be back,” over her shoulder as she disappeared inside the house and shut the door.

Minutes ticked by, which gave him time to drink his bourbon in peace and wonder why he’d decided this was a good idea in the first place. Then the front door opened again.

“Okay, I think I’ve gotten rid of the warding in the lounge, kitchen and bathroom… Slinky’s locked in the hallway… so ummm. You can come in if you promise not to murder my cat, or whatever…”

He just stared, as the little hobbit housewife skipped down her front steps once more and proceeded to try to help him to his feet.

He shook her off, stood by himself, looking down at her in disgust. “What is wrong with you?!” He demanded, “I’m a demon, de-mon. And you’re just… just going to let me into your house?!”

The woman pouted at him, lifting her chin and gave him that bambi eyed look of hers. “You’re hurt…” she said, as if that were a good enough excuse for her utter stupidity.

“So?!”

“…so, I can’t just…”

“So, you slam the door in my bloody face, you little idiot! You try and kill me… Or, you use my weakness to your advantage…you don’t just…”

She blew a gust of air through her overlong bangs and sighed. “You came here because you knew, or hoped, I’d do exactly what I’m doing Crowley.” She sounded more than a little irritated now, hand propped on her hip.

“Now, I’ve got stuff to do. When you’re finished sulking, having a tantrum, a crisis of conscience, or what ever this is, come inside.” Then, she turned herself around and walked back into the house, leaving the front door standing open.  

After a moments hesitation, he followed her through the lounge and into the kitchen, stood there watching her peel vegetables.

“I don’t have a conscience,” he informed her sulkily and banged his empty bourbon glass down, onto the bench.

The woman peeked up at him from under lowered lashes, a smile ghosting briefly over her lips.
“If you want...There’s some clean clothes that ought to fit, and towels in the bathroom.” She offered gesturing towards a doorway just beyond the kitchen.  He glared at her silently, arms crossed for a long minute, before finally giving up and turning towards the bathroom.  He’d come to try and find out what was happening out there without having to stick his neck out. But washing away the filth from the shallow grave his empty meatsuit had been dumped in , sounded marvellous.

….

 

When the ousted King of Hell emerged, feeling much cleaner, and dressed in the black t-shirt, athletic pants and socks he’d found in the bathroom, the prophet was no longer in the kitchen.

He found her seated at the computer, typing away; toddler perched on her lap, watching cartoon dogs on an iPad.

The child looked up from the iPad. “Gar ace awww.” It piped amicably, gazing at him with curious hazel eyes.

The mother didn’t react, simply continued typing. Stepping closer he leant down and began reading what she was writing over her shoulder, hoping for some answers.

“I’m not a blood junkie!” He flared reading her words, felt attacked and insulted, “and if I am, it’s your fault! I was clean before you started leaking all over the place!”

At his outburst, she flinched in obvious shock, turning to look at him with startled owlish eyes that showed she had been somewhere else the entire time she was typing.

Swallowing her startlement the bespeckled brunette turned her eyes back to the screen and skimmed through it.

“That’s what you’re getting from this chapter?” She asked finally.

“That and Moose and Squirrel are once again in need of having their chestnuts hauled out of the fire. Imagine my surprise.” He muttered sarcastically. “How very fortuitous, I bartered for that Men of Letters warding and formulated a work around.” He continued. “I had planned to use it to retrieve the demon tablet. Thought it might be useful to track down Dagon and that blasted Nephilim... But well!” He shrugged and smirked self importantly, savouring the fact he’d once again be saving Winchester bacon (and showing them them up.)

“At least, now I know why you’re truckling to me.
You’re going to beg me to save them, aren’t you.”

The woman scrunched up her freckled nose at him, “The demon tablet? You think I can translate it? Doubt it!
And don’t you think I’d have said something before now? They were suffocating Crowley! I might have begged you days ago, if I’d known you were alive. But Dean blew a hole in the wall with his grenade launcher, they’re…” She looked aside and one corner of her mouth twitched downward, “Fine.”She didn’t look entirely convinced.

He felt … weirdly letdown by the missed opportunity as he watched her save the document file and turn to look him up and down.

“Well, at least you’re looking a bit better,” she said.

He grunted by way of reply, fingering the black polyester-cotton clothing scathingly. The last time he’d worn something similar, Lucifer had him chained in a kennel. But being ungracious would be rude.

“Why then? What do you want?” He demanded.

She tilted her head and looked puzzled by his question for a moment. Then smiled with a glint of something slightly feline in her expression.
“Romans 12, 19 to 21. ‘Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good’.” She finished the quote with an arch little smile.
“Will you be staying for dinner Crowley?” The sanctimonious little bitch asked him almost tauntingly.

He snorted in response, feeling uneasy.
“What exactly do you think is happening here Darling? I don’t eat! I’m a demon. My natural habitat is fire and brimstone … Burning coals? bah!” He spat a bark of laughter into her face and was gratified by clocking the flinch she didn’t manage to repress. “Get it through your fluffy little head, you daft twat. I’m a monster, you can’t cure me with kindness!”

The prophet swallowed and lifted her child slowly down off her lap and set him behind her,  met his eyes flinchingly. He could see the pulse jumping in her throat as her hand crept up to clutch the shiny silver cross and rings strung there.

“What about with consecrated blood?” She asked quietly, sucking in a frightened little breath. “You call me an idiot, but I’m not the demon stealing blood from a prophet— a firetrucking vessel of God, and injecting it into his veins.
You’re not a liar Crowley, admit it to yourself. On some level you stopped wanting to be King of Hell a long time ago. You want what I’m trying to offer, you want to be saved. You’ve craved love and forgiveness ever since the Winchester’s half cured you in that church. You just don’t know how to get there.”

He had to laugh at her utter stupidity and gall, she thought she had him all worked out, but she was wrong. He wasn’t foolish enough to go chasing things that would never happen. He was a realist.

“What I want, Pet, is to find Castiel and that infernal Nephilim before the bastard who stole my throne does. Because if that happens, it’s game over, for all of us.”

….

 

Michele was beginning to regret her thoughtless altruism, the Christian charity she had learned at her mother’s knee.
Maybe, she would be rewarded in heaven like her mother taught her, but right now, it was truer, that no good deed went unpunished.
Having Crowley in her house was shaping up to be an unpleasant experience. It felt like she’d let a large vicious animal inside her home and was now at a loss on how to get it out again.

For the past two hours she’d watched helpless and uncomfortable, as he roamed about, poking through everything in the rooms he could enter.

Ransacked her husband’s liquor cabinet and generally made himself at home. 

He was currently seated at the Family PC, seemingly intent on reading every file on the hard drive and viciously criticising everything he read.

E v e r y t h i n g: the folder of bible studies she’d written before Chris was born, the last 10 years of Christmas Letters, the quasi research papers she’d written on Autism, the guide she’d begun writing on how to wrangle the New Zealand school system if you had a child with special needs...

Even the gushy, embarrassing poetry she’d written for Phil on their first anniversary.

 

To have someone go trolling through all that was bad enough, but to have it critiqued and commented upon in that smug condescending tone... It was like…

It was like being back in her parent’s house, listening to her father tell her every tiny way she was a failure, each and everything that was wrong with her. All the reasons she’d never be good enough… 
It was a kind of non-contact torture.

“…I’m curious Darling, are you an angel in the kitchen and a demon in the sack.” Crowley continued unabated, apparently thinking himself the height of wit.

Michele seated on the sofa with her sleeping son in her arms, closed her eyes and prayed for patience.

“The most amusing thing is that you dote on Moose. 
Winchester the younger is all talk and no trousers, Pet.
Now Dean, he tried something real to look out for you. Nearly poisoned you too, of course. But, what do you expect, he’s the pretty one, not the smart one.”

Michele gritted her teeth.  

Crowley reopened the chapter of her fic she’d been working on before he interrupted and began to read it from the beginning, her stomach lurched uncomfortably when the demon hummed in delight.

Damn!

“Are you really going to keep pretending Moose sees you as just a friend, Darling? That he doesn’t harbour dirty, adulterous aspirations?” He sneered in a delighted tone, tapping the computer screen with one manicured finger. “Wake up and smell the ejaculate Darling. ‘Wants to slide the pad of his thumb over the plush give of her bottom lip, see if those lips will part accommodatingly under his exploration…
Wants to feel the warmth of her breath against his skin…’
” he read out the words mockingly. “His thumb isn’t the only thing he wants to push into that little mouth of yours.” He chortled to himself.

“Stop it,” she muttered dully, curling in on herself as she held her sleeping son closer, “Please, just stop it!”

“Wha’— ” The demon stared over his shoulder at her, looking confused by her outburst.

“I’m not an idiot, of course I know that Sam’s a guy. Of course I know that occasionally, he confuses friendship with something that feels like attraction. But that’s all just the crap and trauma he’s been through. It’s only because I’m someone that feels safe who gives a damn and knows the things he’s been through!
I’m not stupid enough to think any of that is actually about me.” She muttered and turned her head away, eyes unaccountably brimming with tears.

The demon pushed back from the computer and sauntered over to her, looked down at her thoughtfully stroking at the stubble on his jaw.

“You’re not wrong Cupcake.
Still, I also suspect you remind young Samantha of things and people he wants but can’t have— for a variety of interesting reasons.
From his dead and much lamented first love, Jessica Moore.
To the Mommy dearest he grew up longing for. But, whome, by all accounts was never the saintly, sweet little homemaker the Winchester boys believed her to be— being brought back by Amara, primordial force of darkness and destruction may account for some of it, of course; Amara doesn’t really understand humanity, probably left out a few of the key squishy bits.” He shrugged carelessly. “But more importantly, Moose likes you, because you…” he crouched down and tapped her nose almost playfully. Chuckled when she jerked away.

“…you, with your pretty green eyes, freckles, lack of self-esteem, self-sacrificing loyalty and tendency to baby him... You remind him of his big brother, Dean.
All rather incestuous, if you ask me!”

Michele narrowed her eyes and glared up at Crowley standing there above her, with that condescending smirk on his face; and felt a icy fury flood her chest. He could mock her, but implying disgusting things about Sam like that. That was a road too far.

 “Does being this awful to everyone make you feel better, Crowley?” She asked. “You’re so smart, you can turn people’s insecurities, pain and longing against them, it’s so very easy for you, isn’t it? You know how to play people, and you mock us all for our humanity and weakness. But you’re not so far above it.
You act so cool and in control, but you’re not.” She sneered. Allowing that cold, glinting, scalpel-like part of herself, which she usually kept locked up tight, to slash back.

“I know why you drink Craig Scotch whiskey, Crowley – it’s because when you were a child, and your mother just wanted you to go to sleep, she’d dose you with whiskey until you passed out. Those moments, when she was doing that, were the closest thing you ever felt to being loved, weren’t they.  That’s why it comforts you, times like now, when you’ve been tossed off your throne.” Then came the regret, as it always did when she used heart-knowledge as a weapon.

She let out a slow breath and reminded herself to be kind, not for Crowley, but because she didn’t want to become like him.

“Crowley,” she murmered softly, “none of us can help how we feel because of what we’ve been through. All we can really help is what we do with it.”

He stared at the her and let his head rock on his neck, pasting on that mocking amused smirk of his.

“That’s the best you’ve got?” He blew out a derisive breath and arched a brow.

She just felt so utterly weary under that look. 
She wasn’t made for this. 
All she wanted was to curl up and cry.

If she did, some of those tears would have fallen for Fergus MacCleod, a little boy trapped somewhere inside the demon in front of her. A boy who’d grown up and died, choking on his own vomit in a ditch, so very long ago. A boy who’d never known his father and had been given a mother that believed love was weakness.

“No,” she shook her head, “the best I’ve got, is to say I’m sorry.” She said, quietly, throat aching with unshed tears. “I’m so sorry that your mother didn’t love you the way you deserved to be loved when you were a child.” She looked away from Crowley then, and down at her own sleeping boy, praying he’d never become something so damaged and broken. Pressed a kiss against her son’s baby soft curls and held him close.

When she looked up again, Crowley was gone.