Hey, all. Been going through a bit of a writing dry spell: think I might have burned out for a while there. My mojo seems to have come back from the Carribean though, so here's the piece that brought me back home. Hopefully, this means Seasons will start clicking again, and I can get that bitch closed for the final word count. In the mean time though, let me know what you think of this one. I knew there was something digging at my insides after In My Time of Dying, but it didn't want to come out to play. I have to send a big thankyou out to dotficfor arguing Bloodlust meta with me in such a way that the subject of Pastor Jim came up, which just put a plot bunny the size of Gigantor in my brain and this is what came of it.
Title: Bless Me Father
Challenge: Paranormal 25: Retrocognition
Word Count: 6,100
Rating: R for language
Spoilers: Up through Everybody Loves a Clown
Disclaimer: I don't own the boys, I'm just stalking them for a while.
Summary: Bless me, father, for I am totally fucked up.
Bless Me Father
"Bless me, Father, for I am totally fucked up."
Pastor Jim chuckled from behind the loose weave of a screen that looked more like lattice under a raised porch than anything that ought exist within the sanctified confines of a confessional. "You do realize I’m not Catholic, right?" he asked grinning.
"Pastor, priest: Poe-tay-toe, poe-tah-toe," Dean said.
"Interesting perspective. I’m not sure I agree, but interesting."
"Dude. My dream. I can make you a priest if I want to."
"Fair enough," Jim agreed. Crossing himself with an X rather than the sign of the cross, he intoned, "Mother Mary full of grace, you’re forgiven for being fucked up because I know the guy who raised you."
"Funny," Dean said.
"I thought you’d like it. So what can I do for you today, my best friend’s son?"
Dean studied the older man through the holes in the lattice between them. "I need to talk," he said.
"I assumed that much."
"And yet still you asked."
Jim shrugged, his expression indulgent, tolerant as he met Dean’s gaze and waited. "Would you like to go somewhere more appropriate?" he asked after a beat.
"No. I like it here."
"I don’t know. Makes me feel safe I guess."
"The church used to make me feel safe, too," Jim noted. "Then Meg walked in and cut my throat. Feels a little less safe now."
"Here in the confessional," Dean clarified. "A church is nothing but a building where people go to talk about things they don’t understand. But in here?" Dean let the sentiment dangle, then shrugged, letting the gesture speak for him.
"Should I remind you you’re not Catholic either?" Jim asked.
"Do I have to be?" Dean countered a little tersely.
"Helps a little."
"Why? Because of the ritualistic aspects?"
"That and believing contrition earns absolution. The whole point of confessing your sins is in believing it’s the road to contrition."
"The road to contrition is paved with bad behavior," Dean quipped.
Jim smiled again. "Is that why you’re here? To confess your sins to me?"
"Hell, no. Wouldn’t want to give you a stroke or anything."
"I’m dead, Dean," Jim reminded him.
"Wouldn’t want to give you an electromagnetic spike or anything," Dean adjusted easily.
"I’ve heard my share of sins over the years."
"Not like mine. I’m creative."
"And prolific," Jim agreed.
"What? You’ve been counting?"
"We use your sin clock as a fan in the Big Guy’s office."
Dean laughed. "Hey, I’d almost forgotten that joke."
"No you haven’t," Jim corrected without missing a beat. "You tell it several times a year even though everyone on the planet has already heard it more times than they wanted to."
"Well, technically, my joke’s not about a sin clock …"
"They moved your other clock to the storeroom when you hit fourteen," Jim told him.
Dean laughed again. "Kind of sounds like the boat’s already sailed on that whole ‘confessing your sins’ thing, then."
"Yes, it pretty much has. Why don’t you tell me why you feel safe in the confessional instead?"
Dean shrugged. "I don’t know," he repeated.
"Yes you do."
"What? You’re psychic now, too?"
"I’m dead, Dean," Jim said again.
"And I’m not really here."
"So … virtual psychic then?"
"You do know you’re dreaming, right?" Jim asked.
"Of course I do. You’re dead. If I wasn’t dreaming I’d be salting your ass by now."
"Then you know I know everything you know."
"Figured as much. Which is why I don’t see the point of telling you why I feel safe here in the confessional. Because you already know that, right?"
"Of course I do."
"Then what’s the point of asking me?"
"You tell me," Jim said.
"Or not," Dean returned.
Jim sighed. "Isn’t the point for you to say what’s on your mind? For you to tell me why you feel safe in a confessional so I can ask what you want me to ask?"
Dean looked down at his hands. They were greasy from working on the Impala. Small sparkles of safety glass from the window he’d crowbarred glittered like iridescent powder, punctuating the smears of oil and dust. A scar wound around his wrist like chalk put to flesh, a thin line of white that started under his thumb and traveled half the distance to his elbow. It was a souvenir from the wreck; one of many wounds that would never completely heal. "You have to keep what I tell you here secret, don’t you?" he asked finally.
"I think that’s the way it works. Again, not Catholic so I’m not really sure."
"That’s the way it works on TV," Dean said.
Jim smiled. "Well absolutely then: that must be the way it works in real life."
"This isn’t real life," Dean reminded the older man. "It’s a dream. My dream. Which means it works any way I want it to, doesn’t it?"
"You tell me."
"Stop doing that, Jim. You’re not a psychiatrist either."
"Pastor Jim to you, boy." It was John’s voice, not Jim’s. Dean’s head jerked up, his eyes startled. It was still Jim watching him from the other side of the screen.
"What is it?" Jim asked.
Dean stared at him a moment longer, then said, his throat so tight the words hurt squeezing through, "Not funny."
"What’s not funny?"
Dean looked away. "Nothing. Yes, that’s the way it works in my dream." He looked back, met Jim’s gaze. "What I tell you here is between you, me and God. You don’t get to tell anyone else. You most especially don’t get to tell Sammy."
"That’s what this is about? Sammy?"
"Everything’s about Sammy," Dean said. "I would think you’d know that by now."
"I do. I just wanted to hear you say it."
"Fine. I said it."
"What else did you want to say about Sammy?"
Dean looked down at his hands again. "I’m not sure I can protect him the way my dad wants me to," he said, his voice suddenly quiet, suddenly confessional.
"Did John ask you to do that?"
"Dad wasn’t really much on asking. It was more of an order. An ‘I want you to do this’ kind of order, but still an order."
"I don’t think John would have charged you with a task he didn’t think you were ready for," Jim observed.
Dean shook his head. "I’m not ready for this. He kind of sprung some things on me at the last second, and I don’t know how to deal with them. I need Dad back. He’s the one who always protected us, who always protected Sammy."
"No, Dean," Jim said gently. "You’re the one who protected Sammy."
Dean didn’t argue that, saying instead, "Dad protected me."
"He did the best he could."
"Don’t say it like that." Dean’s voice was tight, his tone harsh. He looked up, met Jim’s steady gaze. "Saying it that way makes it sound like he didn’t do a good job. Like he just did the best he could, and it wasn’t good enough."
"Fuck you, Jim."
"Pastor Jim to you, boy," his father’s voice said again.
Dean was looking right at Jim when he heard it this time. The older man’s lips hadn’t moved; his expression hadn’t changed even a flicker. He was watching Dean patiently, like he hadn’t just corrected him, like he was waiting for something more productive to respond to than fuck you, Jim.
"Fuck you, Pastor Jim," Dean said.
Jim smiled. "I take it that means you think it was enough?"
"I don’t think it was. It was. He did everything he could. Everything anyone could have done."
"He put too much of it on you," Jim said.
"He even told you as much, didn’t he? That he knew he failed you in letting you take on burdens that should have been his?"
"That’s bullshit," Dean said again, more ferociously.
"It’s the way your father felt."
"You don’t know how Dad felt."
"Don’t I? I’m his best friend, remember?"
"No you aren’t. You’re just a dream. My dream. You’re saying that because you think I think he felt that way."
"No," Dean said firmly. "I don’t."
"You’re not supposed to lie in the confessional, Dean. Or to yourself, for that matter. At least, not in the sanctity of your own dreams."
"I’m not lying," Dean insisted. "He did everything he could, took on more than anyone else could have. All I did was pick up a little of the slack."
"You were too young. It was more than should have been expected of you."
"He didn’t expect it of me. I just did it."
"I didn’t say he expected it of you."
Dean frowned. "Meaning?"
"Meaning you expected it of you," Jim clarified.
"Just pointing that out," Jim returned mildly.
"Because you want me to. That’s why I’m here. To point things out to you that you already know but aren’t willing to admit."
"You’re here because I ate too much pizza for lunch," Dean said. "And because I needed someone to talk to. Someone I could trust. Someone who knows my dad and Sammy. Who knows me."
"Wouldn’t your mother have been a better choice?"
"Fuck you, Jim," Dean said again.
"Pastor Jim to you, boy," his father’s voice said a third time. "Don’t make me tell you that again."
It wasn’t Jim talking to him. He was sure of it now, sure by Jim’s expression he not only wasn’t behind John’s voice, he didn’t even hear it. He had no idea John was speaking to Dean, calling his son down for a form of disrespect that had existed between Dean and Jim for as long as Dean had known him.
A disrespect to God, not to Jim … something Jim always understood, but he wasn’t sure his father ever had.
Or perhaps he did; he just wouldn’t admit it.
Swiveling his neck to look around the confines of the small confessional, Dean tried to see something there, tried to find a clue in the color of the wood panels, or the way the shadows fell on the floor under his feet. When he couldn’t find anything after several minutes of looking, he returned his attention to Jim, staring at him through the screen between them.
"That’s not you doing that, is it?" Dean asked just for the sake of clarification.
"Nothing. Don’t talk about my mother. That isn’t why I’m here."
"Why are you here then?"
"To talk about Sammy."
"About what he is?"
"Who," Dean corrected sharply. "Who he is."
"And what," Jim said easily.
"No. I don’t want to talk about that."
"We’re already talking about it."
"No, we’re not."
"Because I don’t want to. And this is my dream."
"You keep saying that."
"So? It’s true, isn’t it?"
"In a way."
"What in a way?" Dean demanded. "I’m asleep. I remember falling asleep."
"Do you usually remember things like that when you’re dreaming?" Jim inquired.
Jim smiled. "Most people don’t realize they’re dreaming when they’re dreaming," he pointed out. "They only realize it later, when they wake up."
"What about lucid dreaming?" Dean challenged.
Jim chuckled. "I can’t believe Sam is gullible enough to buy he’s the only one who can look things up on the internet. How did you convince him of that?"
"I play stupid good."
"You never did care much for that aspect of working with John, did you?"
"I’m not a Geek Boy like Sammy is. I would rather be out in the field than sitting in some musty library somewhere, doing research and looking shit up."
"That’s an important aspect of the work."
"That’s a boring aspect of the work," Dean countered. "Which is why Dad stuck me with it and why I’m sticking Sammy with it."
"He thought you were safer in the library," Jim said.
"Yeah? Well you thought you were safe in the church, too."
"I was. For the most part."
"Not when it counted," Dean pointed out. "That seems to be a pattern with God, doesn’t it? He’s all around you in the flowers and the trees and the pretty ballerinas when things are running smoothly; but when the shit hits the fan and you really need Him, He’s nowhere to be found."
"Are you talking about God or your father?"
"Dad was always there when I needed him."
"He’s not here now."
"He’s dead, Jim. I don’t think you can really blame him for not being here now."
"I can’t. But you do, don’t you?"
A hand slapped Dean on the back of the head while Jim was speaking. It was a sharp blow, and not a particularly gentle one. Dean twisted on his seat, but there was nothing behind him but the confessional wall. "What the hell was that for?" he demanded as he turned back to face the screen.
Jim lifted one eyebrow in question. "What was what for?"
"Why’d you slap me on the back of the head?"
Jim’s expression shifted to a frown. "I didn’t."
"Yes, you did."
"No, Dean," Jim assured him. "I didn’t."
"Then who did?"
Jim shrugged. "Your dream. You tell me."
"I didn’t dream that," Dean announced. "Somebody slapped me on the back of the head, and it wasn’t me."
"Did you call me Jim instead of Pastor Jim?" Jim asked.
Dean frowned. Rewinding the last couple of minutes of conversation in his head, he found the infraction. "So it was you, then," he accused.
"No. It wasn’t. I’m not really here. I’m just part of your dream."
"Then why’d you smack me in the head?"
"I didn’t. I just told you what you already know but aren’t willing to admit."
"You were never this much of a pain in the ass when you were alive," Dean announced.
Jim chuckled. "Actually, yes I was. I think that’s why you and I got along so well."
"That’s why you and Dad got along," Dean countered.
"That, too," Jim agreed. Then he added, "So are we going to talk about him again now?"
Jim just smiled.
"What’s there to talk about?" Dean said after a moment. "He’s dead."
"But isn’t that why you’re here? To talk about him? To talk about him being dead?"
"No. I’m here to talk about Sammy."
"About what Sammy is?"
"It’s not fair," Dean said.
"What’s not fair?"
"He shouldn’t have told me. He put too much on me. I’m not up to this; I can’t do it."
"Your father thought you could."
"No, he didn’t," Dean snapped. "Dad didn’t tell me because he thought I could protect Sammy. He told me because he wasn’t man enough to stay around and do it himself." The bitterness of Dean’s words hung in the confessional like rain suspended in air. They cloyed against his flesh, condensing to tears that rolled down his skin as if he was crying when he wasn’t.
"John did the best he could," Jim said after several endless moments of silence.
"Well it wasn’t good enough, was it."
"You don’t remember the reaper," Jim said calmly. "But I do."
"I remember him," Dean countered.
"Not that one."
Wiping impatiently at the tears-that-weren’t-tears rolling wet across his flesh, he demanded, "What do you mean, not that one?"
"There was another one. One you don’t remember."
"If I don’t remember it then how can you? You’re just a figment of my imagination."
"I’m part of your dream," Jim corrected.
Dean frowned. "Come again?"
"I’m not your imagination," Jim clarified. "I’m the part of you that knows what you know but won’t admit."
"What do I know about a reaper that I won’t admit?"
"You know she came for you, and you’re not dead."
Dean stared at Jim for some time through the lattice of the screen between them. He reached out to touch the screen, asking, "Can we get rid of this?" When the screen vanished, it startled him, and he snatched his hand away.
Jim smiled on the other side of the now-open window. "Your dream," he pointed out.
Dean reached out again, wiggling his fingers experimentally where the screen used to be. "Cool," he said. "Can I fly, too?"
"If you want to."
"Can I see through chick’s clothes with x-ray vision?"
"If you want to," Jim repeated, chuckling. It sounded like his dad’s laugh.
"Are you my dad?" Dean asked.
Jim didn’t seem surprised by the question. He answered it calmly, coolly, unequivocally: "No."
"You can’t lie to me in the confessional, right?"
"I don’t think that’s the way it works. I’m the priest, you’re the confessor. I can lie to you, you just can’t lie to me."
"You’re not a priest," Dean pointed out. "You’re not even Catholic."
"Still," Jim said.
"That’s hardly fair."
"No one ever accused organized religion of being fair."
"So you are my dad then?"
Dean sighed. "Will you answer one question truthfully at least?"
"Are you lying when you say you’ll tell the truth?"
Jim smiled. "Is that the question you want me to answer truthfully?"
"Then why don’t you ask the one you do," Jim suggested.
"Does that mean you’re going to answer it truthfully?"
The spark of amusement in Jim’s eyes wasn’t very helpful to the end of inspiring confidence, but Dean asked his question anyway: "Am I really dead instead of sleeping?"
"Am I in a coma then?"
"Are you lying to me?"
"How can I not be dead if a reaper came after me?"
"He traded himself for you."
Dean jolted to his feet. And just that quickly, the confessional was gone.
He was standing in a hospital corridor, dressed in blue scrub pants and a white t-shirt, the floor cold against his bare feet. Somewhere deep inside his gut, he could feel his body dying in another room.
"No," he whispered. And he started to run.
The stairs were cold and dark and slick. He grabbed onto the walls to keep from falling as he took them two at a time all the way to the basement. The boiler room was dank and smelled of sulfur and smoke. His father was sitting cross-legged on the floor, ancient symbols chalked out on the cement in front of him, the trappings of a summoning spell set out ritualistically and lit by the warm flicker of burning candles.
"Stop it, Dad!" Dean ordered, his voice tight with panic.
John threw something into a pot. It flared and started to burn.
"Stop it!!" Dean tried to touch his father, to restrain him, but his hands passed right through flesh and bone the like of which he wasn’t. "No. Don’t. Dad. Please don’t do this. Please." He fell to his knees, crying now, his tears the tears of pain rather than the condensation of bitterness against his skin. "Don’t you let it kill you. Dad, please."
The demon came. It tried to trick him, but his dad recognized it for what it was. He had the colt pointed at it, the one bullet that could end it chambered and ready to fire.
"Shoot him, Dad," Dean begged, knowing even as he did so it was useless. His father couldn’t hear him; he wouldn’t listen even if he could.
"Did you really think you could trap me?" the demon asked, yellow eyes glowing in the dark.
"Oh, I don’t want to trap you." John lowered the colt to his side as he spoke. "I want to make a deal."
Dean gasped, coming awake in his own body, fighting the respirator as it worked against lungs struggling to breathe on their own. Sam bellowed for help. He grabbed Dean’s hand, hovering over him, talking to him, holding on to him and refusing to let go, even when the nurses came and tried to push him out of the way.
"Stop it," Dean whispered. "Just … stop it."
And just like that, he was back in the confessional again, sitting across from Jim, gasping with the memory of the breathing tube down his throat, crying out at the explosion of pain behind his eyes as the reaper placed her palm on his forehead and pushed, her eyes glowing a familiar and horrifying gold.
"Dad," Dean whispered.
"He’s dead, Dean," Jim said gently. "He’s dead because he was man enough to go. To leave protecting Sammy to you. He knew he was failing you even as he did it – knew he was putting too much on you by letting you take on burdens that should have been his – but he did it because it was the only thing he could do. The only way to save you."
"Your father loved you. He loved you more than he wanted to killed the demon."
"I’m just the part of you that knows what you know but won’t admit," Jim reminded him. "I’m only telling you what you already know."
Dean felt the whisper of his father’s words against his ear, heard his father’s secrets again, heard is father’s confession.
"I can’t do this," Dean insisted. "I’m not ready."
Jim smiled at him. "No one’s ever ready, Dean. Sometimes you just have to do it. Sometimes you’ve just got to have a little faith."
And just like that, Jim was gone.
Dean was alone in the confessional, crying, his heart hammering so hard it felt like the pressure of blood pumping through his veins was going to split him in two. "Pastor Jim?" he called.
"This is my dream," Dean told the silence around him almost desperately. "I want Pastor Jim back. Bring him back for me."
Jim was gone.
Dean sat in the dark silence, numb, stunned, alone. He didn’t know how long he’d been sitting there when a quiet knock startled him to alert.
He threw the confessional’s door open, hoping to see Jim, hoping to see his father. The man on the other side of the threshold was neither. He was a big man, heavy, congenial in the way he smiled and dressed in the grey uniform of a janitor. He reminded Dean of someone, but he couldn’t figure out who.
"Are you finished in there?" the janitor asked.
Dean nodded. He stepped out to let the janitor in. The church’s sanctuary outside the confessional was huge, grand, ostentatious in a way that smacked of indulgence rather than chastity, of power rather than piety. He took a seat in a pew and bent his head in prayer.
He hadn’t prayed since he was four, kneeling at his bedside with his mother watching, praying for sweet dreams and a dog and blessings on Mommy and Daddy and little Sammy, too. He didn’t know how to pray now – it had been too long; he had been too bitter – but he tried. He prayed for strength. For forgiveness. For mercy. Most of all for mercy.
When he looked up, the janitor was standing beside the pew, leaning on his mop. "Are you finished here?" he asked.
"Dude." Dean gestured at the grand space around them. "You’ve got a whole church. Can’t you clean somewhere else for a while?"
The janitor smiled. "No. I have to clean here."
"Fine. Whatever." He rose to move to another pew.
"I’ll only follow you, Dean," the janitor said.
The words stopped Dean in his tracks. He turned back to study the janitor with a hard, critical eye. "Who are you?" he asked finally. "How do you know my name?"
"This is your dream, isn’t it?"
"Who are you?" Dean repeated.
"I’m the janitor. I’m trying to clean here. This is the house of God. It should be clean."
Dean’s eyes narrowed. "Are you calling me unclean?" he asked carefully.
"This is your dream," the janitor said again.
Dean shook his head slowly. "No. You’re not part of my dream." He scanned the church around him for a long moment, then added, "This place isn’t part of my dream."
The janitor’s smile deepened. "You don’t belong here," he said simply. "Look around you. Is this someplace you think you belong?"
"It’s a church," Dean said.
"Churches aren’t safe. Jim learned that. I thought you already knew as much."
"So I should leave because I’m not safe here?"
"You don’t belong here. This isn’t a place for you."
"The house of God isn’t a place for me?" Dean clarified.
The janitor shrugged. "Don’t sound so hurt, Dean. It’s just a house. He entertains here; He doesn’t live here."
Dean frowned. "What?"
"I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. This is your dream, remember?"
"And you’re like Pastor Jim?" Dean asked. "A part of my dream that knows what I know but won’t admit?"
"I thought you said I’m not part of your dream," the janitor reminded him.
"You tell me."
"If you’re not, then who are you?"
"You wouldn’t understand. No disrespect, but you’re not exactly a believer."
Dean’s jaw clenched. He stared harder at the congenial, portly man. "Are you saying you’re God?" he asked after a beat.
The janitor laughed. "Oh heavens no, boy. I’m just the janitor."
"Then why are you saying I don’t belong here?" Dean insisted.
"Because you don’t. I try to tell the truth when I can. It makes things much easier."
"What kind of things?"
"Why don’t I belong here?"
"Because you have an important purpose. A job to do. And you aren’t finished yet."
Dean recognized him then, like a cold, hard slap to the face. "Roy," he said, his eyes widening with recognition.
"I’m not Roy LaGrange," the janitor said.
"Bullshit," Dean countered.
The janitor clucked his tongue. "Such language in the house of the Lord."
The janitor grinned. "I’m just messing with you, son. God created profanity, just like he created jellybeans."
"But you are Roy LaGrange," Dean said firmly.
"Have you ever seen Roy?" the janitor asked.
"No, you haven’t," the janitor corrected.
"Roy healed me when I was dying," Dean insisted. "Or … I guess gave me a good deal on a trade-in would be a better way to put it."
"He didn’t pick you, Dean. The Lord picked you."
Dean blinked. "What?"
"The Lord picked you," the janitor said again. "He looked into your heart, and you just stood out from all the rest."
"That’s what Roy said."
"No, he didn’t. I said that."
"Roy said it," Dean argued. "He said it to me while we were sitting in his living room in bum-fuck Nebraska with his evil bitch of a wife Sue Ann looking on like the vulture she was."
"Sue Ann isn’t evil," the janitor said. "She just lost her way. People do that. It’s the down side of the whole free choice thing."
"Sue Ann was evil," Dean repeated firmly. "She took the lives of people who didn’t live up to her high and holy standards and gave them to others who did."
"You didn’t live up to her standards," the janitor pointed out.
"Yeah, well, she figured that out and tried to fix it."
"You tried to let her fix it, you mean," the janitor said. Dean cocked his head, narrowed his eyes. "When you didn’t run from the reaper?" the janitor prompted.
"What difference would it have made?" Dean asked. "He was a reaper. You can’t run from a reaper."
"You’re supposed to try, Dean," the janitor said gently. "That’s why God gave you survival instincts. So you’d try to survive."
"I survived," Dean pointed out.
"Yes, you did. You have a purpose. A job to do. And it isn’t finished."
"That life wasn’t mine to keep," Dean said.
"It was given to you."
"It was stolen from some guy because he was gay," Dean countered bitterly.
"It was Marshall’s time," the janitor said.
"Then it was stolen from Layla. She should have been healed, not me. It was her turn, and she deserved it more than I do."
"Layla wasn’t meant to be healed. She was meant to see you healed."
"That’s a load of crap," Dean snapped. "I stole her miracle. I shot off my big mouth, and Roy picked me instead of her. I killed her."
"Roy didn’t pick you, Dean," the janitor said again. "I did."
"Yes. Me. Don’t you recognize me?"
"Of course I do. You’re Roy LaGrange. Your wife was an evil bitch who was stacking the deck with her own personal reaper, and she got a lot better than she deserved."
The janitor smiled. "I picked you because the Lord told me to pick you," he said. "And you never met Roy LaGrange. He met you, but you never met him."
"What in the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"It means the Lord works in mysterious ways. Sometime I’ll introduce you to Roy. He’s about five foot six and weighs maybe a hundred and forty pounds, soaking wet."
"No." Dean was shaking his head. "I met him. I saw him."
"Ask Sammy what he saw," the janitor suggested. "Ask him to describe Roy LaGrange for you. That might help you understand. Or it might confuse you more. Sometimes He says mysterious when what He really means is confusing. There are times even I don’t know what He’s up to."
"Who are you?" Dean asked again.
"I’m the janitor," the janitor answered again.
"If you are who you say you are, then prove it. Bring my Dad back."
"I’m a janitor, not a short order cook."
"At least let me talk to him. Let me see he’s okay."
"I don’t have anything to prove to you, son. You either believe or you don’t: the choice is always up to you."
Dean reached out, grabbed the other man’s arm. "Let me talk to him," he said again. "Please."
"It’s time for you to go," the janitor responded. "You don’t belong here."
Dean’s fingers tightened into the other man’s flesh. "Please," he said again. He was begging, and he knew it; but he didn’t care. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was seeing his dad one more time. "He traded himself for me. He made a deal with a demon."
The janitor chuckled appreciatively. "Yes, he did. He always was an unpredictable one, your father."
"I have to know he’s alright," Dean insisted. "That he isn’t in hell."
The janitor shrugged. "Sorry. Nothing I can do. I’m just the janitor."
"Do you know?" Dean asked.
"Then at least tell me."
"Tell you what?"
"Is he with my mother?"
Something in Dean fractured. He lost his grip on the man’s arm, stumbled. "Oh, God," he breathed.
The janitor reached out, steadied Dean with one hand on his elbow. "I can’t tell you where your father is," he said kindly. "I wish I could, but I can’t."
"Is he in hell?" Dean asked, terrified of the answer but needing to ask anyway.
He would have fallen if not for the other man’s grip on his arm. "Are you sure?" he whispered.
"Then where is he?"
"I can’t tell you that. I’m sorry. Now you need to go. You have things to do. Dreaming isn’t one of them."
"Is this a dream?"
The janitor smiled.
Dean’s eyes popped open. Sam as shaking him by the arm, his face only inches away, his expression lined with concern. "Dean? Dean? Are you okay, Dean?"
Dean looked around, disoriented. He was sitting in the dusty yard, leaning against the Impala’s driver’s side door exactly as he remembered. This was where he’d been – how he’d been – when he let the warmth of the sun and the emotional and physical exhaustion of taking a crowbar to his baby push him away and down and inside until he let go and let it have him. Let it take him.
The crowbar was still in his lap, warm from the heat of the sun beating down on it from the clear, blue sky.
"Dean?" Sam pressed. He was holding him by both arms now, still shaking him, his face still only inches away.
"Dude," Dean said. "Personal space."
"Personal space. As in get out of my."
Sam expression relaxed a little. He quit shaking Dean and settled back on his haunches at a more respectable distance. "You were dreaming," he said.
"Was I?" Dean reached up, wiped the back of his hand across his eyes. His skin was damp. He’d either been sweating or crying.
"You were crying," Sam said, kicking the better of the two options right out from under him before he had a chance to grab on and make it his own.
Dean bristled a little. "So?"
"In your sleep, Dean. You were crying in your sleep."
Dean shrugged. "Sad dream." He struggled to his feet, slapping at his jeans to jar free some of the junkyard dirt that clung to them. "A real chick flicker. Three snaps up on the hankie meter: worse than Brian’s Song and Field of Dreams put together."
"Did it have anything to do with trashing your car?" Sam asked.
Dean glanced over at the Impala’s trunk. It was destroyed, crumpled in on itself, damaged beyond repair. He’d have to find another in the junkyard and switch them out. "Damn," he said, running one hand along the Impala’s quarter panel as he walked to the damaged trunk. "I was hoping that was part of the dream, too. The sad part that made me cry."
"You did that?" Sam asked cautiously.
"No, Sammy. A band of roving Impala trashers did it. Get me some salt and some Metallica, and we’ll go hunt ’em down and kill ’em."
Sam smiled a little. "Do you feel any better?"
Dean ran a hand over the damage he’d done with a crowbar and a momentary loss of control over the grief and pain and anger that had been boiling like a soup under his skin since he watched his father’s body burn in a funeral pyre he lit himself because it was the weight of being John Winchester’s son that he would eventually have to put his old man’s remains to a match. "Hell no, I don’t feel better. Now I’m going to have to find another trunk and switch them out again." Then, to the Impala, he said, "I’m sorry, baby. I was out of my head, didn’t know what I was doing. But I’ll make it up to you, I promise."
"Were you dreaming about Dad?" Sam asked.
"No. Let me ask you something though: What did Roy LaGrange look like?"
Sam frowned. "What?"
"Roy LaGrange," Dean repeated. "You know, big guy, dark glasses, put a hand on my head and stole some other guy’s life?"
Sam cocked his head to one side. "I remember who Roy is," he said carefully. "Why do you want me to describe him to you?"
Dean shrugged. "I don’t know. Just humor me, will you?"
"Okay. I wouldn’t really call him a big guy though. He was, what? Five six? Five seven? Maybe a hundred and fifty pounds or something? Dark hair, eyes white like cueballs in a snowstorm. Looked like he was maybe mid-forties. Maybe fifty if you stretch it a little."
Dean nodded. "Yeah," he said quietly. "That’s how I remember him, too."
"Why are you asking me about Roy, Dean? What’s he got to do with anything?"
Dean looked up, smiled tightly. "Not important. I’m hungry. Want to go get something to eat?"
"Sure. You want to tell me what you were dreaming about that made you cry?"
"Give me a clue?"
"I was dreaming about Jim," Dean said.
The blow to the back of Dean’s head was hard enough to actually rock it forward slightly. Dean caught his breath, closed his eyes. He stood that way for almost a minute, silent in the sunlight, his eyes closed, his body shaking.
When he opened his eyes again, Sammy’s expression was one of near full-blown panic. Grinning to ease the exponential escalation of worry in his brother’s eyes, Dean corrected himself: "Pastor Jim." Then, before Sam could respond, he added, "You drive. I don’t want to even be seen behind the wheel of that SoccerMomMobile Bobby calls a loaner."
"Dean …" Sam started.
"You ask again, and I’m going to deck you," Dean warned.
Sam studied him for a long moment, then nodded with a small, decisive dip of his head. "Fine. Be a bitch. Let’s go to Sandy’s; I’m in the mood for a burger."
They walked away from the Impala together, leaving it in the junkyard where Dean would return to it later to continue with the purpose he’d taken on as one he considered important.
It wasn’t finished yet.
And neither was he.