“No,” Naomi Novak said, shaking her head firmly. “It’s out of the question.”
Her son, who now looked nothing like the man who had been pulled out of an immersion tank resembling a skeletal, animated corpse, sighed with frustration. For the first time in his life, Jimmy actually looked like his in-game avatar. Or at least like Castiel’s in-game avatar, since lack of sunlight meant he was still a little too pale and he was still several pounds lighter than optimum for his frame. But, except for the leanness of his body and a desperate need for a little more sun on his skin, James Novak was now the picture of rude health.
Because he was healthy.
For the first time in twenty-four years he was well enough to do anything he liked.
Except, apparently, the only thing he actually wanted to do.
“You asked me to give you six months and, despite everything, I have done so. I have done everything you asked of me and more. I have allowed you to parade me in front of senate committees, religious bodies and medical quorums. I have been poked, prodded and examined to the point I feel like a cross between a dancing bear and a pincushion. I have appeared on more talk shows than I had even imagined existed. I have exhaustingly been interviewed by journalists, by scholars, by politicians, by bigots and by fanatics who want to call me the second coming. My face has been on the cover of so many magazines, proclaiming me either Saint or Sinner, that I will probably have to spend the rest of my life wearing dark glasses and a baseball cap.
“Neither I, nor Castiel have complained about the situation. We both understood the necessity and we fully appreciate your efforts in turning the tide of public opinion in favor of Moondoor and its people. We both accepted this was the price we had to pay to support your campaign. But enough is enough. Now that the President of France is hosting her own V.I. and media attention has, fortunately, turned firmly in her direction, I have the opportunity to bow out gracefully from the spotlight of public interest. Far more importantly, Dean has finally recovered enough to reach out to me. And I do not take that lightly, mother. Were it not for both Gabriel and Sam entreating me to tread lightly and allow Dean time and space to heal from both his physical and psychological wounds, I would have flown to his side months ago. So, like it or not, mother, I will be flying to meet him tomorrow.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s completely out of the question, “ Naomi repeated. “Quite apart from the logistics, because – like it or not – you are still possibly the most famous, instantly recognizable, figure in the World right now so you aren’t going anywhere without a full security team until the spotlight moves away from you completely ; the real problem is one of perception, isn’t it? Despite the Matthew Shepard Act being passed by Congress last month, the very fact we needed to set that law in stone proves that certain groups of, admittedly primarily American, people are not ready yet to accept that homosexuality is not an unholy perversion.”
“Fuck ‘em,” Castiel growled furiously, inside Jimmy’s head.
Jimmy’s eyes glazed over as he switched his attention instantly to the angry protest of his savior and best friend. “One telephone conversation with Dean and your language has immediately descended into the gutter,” he pointed out, fondly.
“Since the art of conversation is to achieve a meeting of minds, communication is best served by pithy statements rather than by pontificating with lengthy oration,” Castiel countered snottily. “In a situation such as this, I find Dean’s preferred lexicon to be a far more effective tool than your own. So I repeat, ‘fuck ‘em’.”
“Castiel is intensely outraged by the idea that our behavior should be constrained simply to appease the sensibilities of bigoted bible-belt fools,” Jimmy advised his mother diplomatically.
“See,” Castiel pointed out. “It just took you twenty-three words to say what I far more effectively stated in only two. I therefore will continue to allow Dean to be my mentor in such matters.”
Jimmy snorted, then tried to cover it up with a fake cough.
Naomi didn’t look fooled.
“Life is always a compromise between our desires and the necessity to conform to public expectations of behavior. Without rules and social constructs, we would all be little more than primitive savages,” she replied coolly. “Whilst I am sincerely relieved to hear that your friend has finally recovered from his experiences in Moondoor – because although he remains of necessity an unsung hero, there are none in a position of influence who are unaware of his crucial role in this matter - Dean Winchester is, undoubtedly, a man worthy of a great deal of esteem and respect. I understand how, in view of your sheltered upbringing, you may have confused your natural admiration for a man such as he, with romantic feelings.”
“Please,” Jimmy groaned. “Don’t disrespect my emotions by attempting to dismiss them as invalid. Your condescension is not appreciated. If Dean were female, would we be having this conversation at all?”
Naomi huffed out a breath and capitulated. “Of course not. The pair of you riding off into the sunset together would be the ultimate ‘happy ending’ to the narrative. But Dean is not female, and the tolerance necessary for public acceptance of a ‘hero’ choosing a same-sex relationship does not exist in the world we are living in at this time. Do I believe that is fair? No. But the world is not fair. So, no, you running off to his side like a love struck fool is out of the question, James. I will not allow it.”
Jimmy cocked his head inquisitively, a frown forming into a V between his eyebrows. “This is the point at which you baulk?” he asked her, unsure whether it would be totally inappropriate to give in to his instinct to laugh out loud at the utter ridiculousness of the situation. “You have accepted, even embraced, the idea of Castiel’s presence inside my body. You fight daily for he and his kind to be accorded legal rights as people. For their acceptance as emissaries of God, no less. You have turned your back on your previous religious beliefs, even to the point of publicly condemning the catechisms that initially emerged from the Vatican on this matter as being founded in nothing more than fear and ignorance. You have, quite frankly, proven yourself so magnificently, unexpectedly, eloquent on the whole subject of the V.I.’s that I am in constant awe of you, mother. And yet, in this one small matter you cannot bend?”
“I cannot afford to bend so far that I break, James,” she retorted sharply. “This whole situation is nothing more than a house of cards. The greater this movement grows, the more fragile it becomes. I have spent literal months arguing the precise definition of accepted Catholic dogma. I have successfully, if I say so myself, convinced all but the most die-hard adepts that there is interpretative room within Catholicism for Angels to manifest themselves in any form that they choose. They have always been canonically accepted as ‘immaterial beings formed of light’, after all.
“In these modern times, light and electricity are such interchangeable words that the whole argument is won by nothing more than accepting an easy interpretative shift. The Church is hard pressed to argue that an Angel cannot be formed from digital code and powered by electricity. It is the same logic that has allowed all but the most fundamental scholars of both Judaism and Islam to also cautiously accept the possibility that the Angels of Moondoor are genuine manifestations of divine healing.”
“I know,” he agreed. “Your hard work in these areas has definitely eased much of the initial resistance to accept the V.I.’s as a ‘gift from God’ rather than demonic temptations.”
A wry smile teased the corner of Naomi’s mouth. “Oh let’s be… what is it the kids say today? Let’s be real. Even the Holy Father counts his influence today on the number of people who ‘like’ his posts on that newfangled Facebook nonsense. Religion as a formal institution has always understood the need to bend and adapt to popular whim. It has not been that difficult to convince institutions totally dependent on the goodwill and finances of their followers, to adapt to a more populist viewpoint. And the bottom line is that nothing can ever be more popular than the idea of beings that can cure all ills and offer near immortal life.”
“Then, accepting that as a fact,” Jimmy retorted, “I don’t understand your stubbornness over my own situation. Is it that your cynicism only extends to religious institutions, so I still offend your personal beliefs?”
Naomi rolled her eyes impatiently at the suggestion.
“I wish nothing more for you than that you should be healthy and happy,” she said. “I am long past being capable of claiming my personal faith is stronger than my maternal instincts. My own faith in a benign, loving God died on the day I was told my five-year-old child had been cursed with an incurable disease. When my own family priest dared to have the audacity to suggest your leukemia was a test of my faith. A test? How I didn’t eviscerate that mealy-mouthed fool with his own crucifix still amazes me.
“In the face of that wickedness, from that point on, I would have dealt with any crossroads demon who offered you a cure. So do not mistake my refusal to accept this development as proof of any religious fervor. I am not driven by either religious piety or personal bigotry. Frankly, I would not personally care if you walked through the front door arm-in-arm with a Chimpanzee named Bubba and declared it your intended bride.”
“That’s worryingly specific,” Jimmy muttered.
Naomi’s mouth twitched with humor. Her eyes, however, remained dark with worry. “I cannot condone this, James, because I cannot fight a battle on multiple fronts. I cannot allow my defense of Castiel and his brethren to be hijacked by a separate agenda. You can’t afford to waive a Rainbow flag, Jimmy. Whatever feelings you have developed for Dean Winchester must be sacrificed for the greater good. I should not have been so crass as to suggest your attraction to him may be no more than a ‘crush’. So I apologize for that. Despite the shortness of your association and your unfamiliarity with matters of the heart, not to mention the superficial appeal of his undoubted physical attractiveness since I witnessed that for myself; I do not doubt that the dangerous nature of the challenges you met together may have formed the foundation of what could become a truly serious and deep relationship. However, realistically, regardless of its genuine nature, that relationship is still in a fledgling form. It surely is not too late for you to choose a different, wiser, more socially acceptable path.”
Jimmy opened his mouth, then closed it again. His mother, as always, had removed his ability to react to her denial with simple anger, leaving him with no argument except a childish, “But I only want Dean.” Which was, obviously, true. Yet would sound so… weak.
Castiel took over, swiftly, surely and without hesitation.
“You misunderstand the situation,” he told Naomi, his eyes flaring and his voice resounding with the deeper resonance that always marked when his own identity was ‘in the driving seat’. “Dean Winchester is not Jimmy’s ‘chimpanzee’. He is mine.”
Jimmy was still mentally spluttering over that comment when he saw his mother’s worried expression clear somewhat, her eyes sparking with fresh possibilities as she contemplated Castiel’s words.
“Now that I can probably work with,” she said. “Let me see what I can do. It’s the fourteenth of November, James. Give me a fortnight before you make any decision or take any action. We’ll discuss this again after Thanksgiving. If nothing else, let us spend just one Thanksgiving together in which we are not both simply pretending to have anything to be thankful for.”
The Haute Autorité de santé has joined the governance board specifically dedicated to the application of Angelic Healing. Despite the Authority’s initial dismissal of the Moondoor ‘Angels’ as merely a new scientifically unproven example of La guérison divine, or faith healing, the documented complete remission of President Madeleine Courbet’s stage four breast cancer has forced the French Health Authority to reconsider RRE’s invitation for all Worldwide Health Authorities to appoint representatives to the board of the newly formed Charitable Organization, Campbell Medical.
The New York Times, 18th November, 2009
Judaism preaches that health issues can, among other things, be G-d’s attempt to wake a person up from spiritual slumber and rekindle the bond between man and his Creator. There are stories of great saintly individuals who would appear to heal others, but these righteous people weren’t the actual healers. The healing only ever resulted from their prayers and trust in G-d.
There are some metaphysical means, perhaps with Kabala, that can be used for healing, but we must remain vigilant against the slippery slope towards idol worship. Healing powers emanate only from G-d and direct prayer and trust in G-d are the ultimate means of healing in both the practical and the ideal.
Where then do the Angels of Moondoor fit within our faith? Only if we accept that they are simply the emissaries of G-d. The tools of G-d’s divine will. In accepting their aid, we receive not their power but that of a merciful G-d.
The Jewish Chronicle, 20th November, 2009
Angels are pure intellects that do not have physical forms and do not reproduce sexually. They are numerous, immaterial, and immortal.
Sexual reproduction is something God designed many earthly creatures to do. Others he designed to reproduce asexually (for example, by mitosis). But since angels do not reproduce sexually, God naturally did not design them to be male or female.
Angels may appear to have gender in visions, or in digital avatars, or in artwork, but that is just symbolism that makes it easier for us to think about them. If we were being strictly literal they couldn’t be seen in visions or in avatar form or depicted in artwork because, according to their immaterial nature, they have no true visible or physical forms at all.
When an Angel inhabits a human host to perform the mercy of God’s healing, the gender of the host is irrelevant. Angels, as beings of pure holy light, are not affected by the mortality of their temporary hosts nor by their gender.
Catholic.com. 24th November, 2009.
”I need you to hire me a car.”
Sam pursed his lips and frowned. “Why do you need a car?”
“Because Jimmy’s bitch mother has refused to let him come here, so I’m going to go there.”
“Naomi, who is actually a surprisingly nice lady in her own way and definitely not a ‘bitch ‘, has not said he can’t come here. She’s just asked him not to come yet. I know this for a fact because I was here when he rang and told you that,” Sam pointed out disapprovingly. “It’s Thanksgiving in another couple of days and then she said she’d work out a way to get Jimmy here safely.”
“I’m tired of waiting,” Dean said petulantly.
“It’s been six months, Dean, and most of the delay has been caused by you, anyway. You’ve waited this long. You can wait two more days.”
“It’s like you don’t know me at all, Sam. Sure, the delay was down to me. I needed to think. Some decisions are too important to just jump in blindly. But now I’m ready. Decision made. I’m on the cliff edge, ready to jump, and the delay is killing me. I just need to damned well get this thing over and done with.”
“Two days, Dean. That’s all.”
Dean shook his head stubbornly. “Nope. Because it’s not like he’ll be on a plane the day after Thanksgiving anyway, is it? She’s still got to figure out the whole logistics to prevent every pap in America arriving hot on his tail. Makes more sense for me to go to him, doesn’t it? I bet the Novaks have one fuck of a big Turkey. Plenty to go around. They’re hardly going to notice an extra mouth at the table. He’d probably have suggested it himself if he knew I was mobile.”
Sam’s frown deepened. “The fact you haven’t checked out of the hospital yet hasn’t helped that impression. You could have been attending your physio as an outpatient for the last month. Just because we can afford for you to keep paying for this private room is no excuse for using a hospital as a hotel, Dean. Even if the nurses all treat you like you’re a rock star.”
“Which is exactly why you should be pleased I’m planning to check myself out today,” Dean smirked. “Look, I need a car but I don’t have a current valid license to use to hire one. So if you don’t help me out, I’m going to have to get a cab to the DMV and sit there for hours just waiting to get a piece of paper that won’t do me a lick of good since I’ll have to reapply again as soon as I move house anyway.”
“Move where?” Sam demanded, his expression alarmed.
“I dunno, anywhere,” Dean said with a shrug. “Whatever else happens, regardless of what Jimmy and Cas have to say because they’ve both probably come to their senses anyway, there’s no way I’m moving back into my apartment. Now Ash has put Lil’ Beanz up for sale, there’s no reason for me to stay in Lawrence at all. That part of my life is over and done.”
“Fair enough,” Sam said. “Besides, your license is up to date. I dealt with that a few weeks ago. I knew you’d ask me to help you like this at some point and I like to at least pretend to care about the Law. You know, what with me being a Lawyer, and all.”
“See, that’s why I never sweat the small stuff,” Dean joked. “No point having a dog and barking myself.”
“So you’re seriously planning on gatecrashing the Novak’s Thanksgiving?”
“Don’t you think you ought to at least give Jimmy a heads up?”
“Nope and don’t you dare either, and don’t try to look innocent, because I know the two of you talk about me all the time.”
“The four of us, actually,” Sam corrected.
“Gabriel is always on the phone to Castiel,” Sam explained. “It’s a big brother kind of thing, I think, plus Gabe never really got to know Jimmy so there’s not much of a relationship there. So I call Jimmy a lot myself, even though I obviously got to know Cas a lot better, because I don’t want Jimmy to feel left out. I encouraged Ash and Charlie keep in touch with him too, so he’s not facing all this publicity crap alone.”
Dean grinned. “Sam Winchester, Patron Saint of Stray Puppies, Kittens and Jimmys, huh?”
“Patron Saint of Lost Causes, considering the amount of time I’m spending with you at the moment instead of concentrating on stuff like RRE and Campbell Medical.”
“CM’s doing fine,” Dean scoffed. “Woolfe just sent me the transcript of the last board meeting of CM’s oversight committee. I sent that Ukrainian moron who said he’d block his entire country from using CM’s services unless he was given personal priority access to Moondoor, a direct log-on link to Hell instead. Crowley will enjoy giving him an attitude adjustment. Everyone else seems decent enough though. The rest of Eastern Europe is open to the idea and with the UK, Germany, Italy and now France on board, the rest of Western Europe will follow suit by Christmas.”
“Donald told me you’d been showing a surprising amount of interest in that aspect of the operation. He told me it was your idea to concentrate on Europe rather than America for getting the ball rolling.”
Dean shrugged self-effacingly. “I just said I thought the ‘old’ countries had more experience of rolling with changes. When the Romans enforced Christianity on whole swathes of European Countries, the populations didn’t give up their own religions, they just adapted their existing beliefs and incorporated them into the new religion. The whole Easter thing is a case in point. So those guys already have custom and practice in being flexible; In finding ways to simply incorporate new ideas into their pre-existing beliefs, rather than seeing change as automatically something threatening.
“And America, for all it likes to consider itself the center of the World, is always open to gentle moralistic nudging from Europe. That’s why I believe the key is having the Angels accepted by people America consider allies rather than rivals. And, at the same time, it prevents the Angels from being perceived of as an American idea. Realistically, American support of the Angels is a two-edged sword. Countries such as Russia and China, and probably the entire Middle-East, will baulk at the idea of accepting an American ideology. That’s why it’s so important that Campbell Medical is seen as an independent International Charity.”
Sam grinned proudly at his older brother.
“Donald was blown away by your ideas. He actually suggested I should concentrate on pulling RRE power and RRE digital under the Campbell umbrella and leave the charitable arm to you. He thinks you have a natural talent for just cutting through the crap and getting to the meat of the matter.”
Dean flushed, and looked embarrassed.
“He just means I have the diplomacy of a rocket launcher whenever people try to use CM as a platform for their own self-aggrandisement.”
“See, I always knew you were capable of words with more than two syllables,” Sam smirked.
“Yeah, laugh it up. Seriously though, if you don’t mind then, yeah, I think CM is my bag. It was Ash who gave me the idea. He said the best thing I could bring to the party is my ‘heart’. Truth be told, all I’m really doing is baring my teeth at people when they get out of line. It’s easy to make people play nice with each other when you own all the toys. The fact I have the ability to put all those toys back in the box, and don’t care who I upset by saying so, seems to work a hell of a lot better than diplomacy anyway.”
“Only because you have this unmistakable air of being a ‘good guy’,” Sam argued. “Since it’s blatantly obvious to everyone that you’re on the side of the Angels, pun definitely intended, Donald says anyone who finds themselves on the wrong side of your disapproval automatically gets painted as a ‘bad guy’ by everyone else. I can’t wait for you to start doing your act in person, rather than by email.”
Dean frowned at him suspiciously. “You’re the one who put Ash up to suggesting the idea, aren’t you?”
“Absolutely not,” Sam lied.
“So a car,” Dean said, deliberately getting the conversation back on track.
Sam looked peculiarly shifty for a moment. “Forget the hire car. I think we should all gatecrash the Novak Thanksgiving. You, me and Gabriel could go together tomorrow.”
“I don’t think the Turkey is going to be that big.”
“I’ll call Jimmy and invite myself and Gabriel on the basis that Gabe wants to be there for Castiel,” Sam suggested. “That way they’ll be expecting guests, anyway. Adjusting for three, rather than two, will be easy enough. I’d hate to think they might run out of turkey or, more to the point in your case, pie. I think you’d struggle to get past the security if you turned up unexpected and alone, anyway,” he pointed out.
“Actually, that sounds good to me. We can share the driving. I haven’t been behind a wheel for ten years. Even a short road trip probably isn’t the best way to get back in the saddle. Is your car big enough for three? I thought you were driving a 2-door Honda Civic these days. I know I take the mickey out of Gabe’s height but even he can’t sit in the back seat of that thing for a couple of hundred miles.”
“Oh, that’s fine,” Sam said. “I’ll call Gabe and ask him to come down to pick us up in a bigger car. I bet Bobby Singer has one Gabe can borrow.”
Dean flinched slightly, then said, “So, um, how is that working out? Bobby Singer and Mortimer Blake, I mean. They’re both presumably still hosting aspects of the Reaper. They getting any trouble from the authorities?”
“Nothing they can’t handle. They’re both obviously going to be on permanent F.B.I. Watchlists but the surveillance is pretty low key. Naomi Novak’s influence, I think. Since the existence of the Reaper has been kept out of the public disclosures, both of them have avoided any press scrutiny at least. Bobby moans a lot about ‘civil liberties’ and ‘police states’ but, really, he’s just grumbling to hear the sound of his own voice.”
“Am I the only person who thinks it’s weird that this whole shitshow has somehow worked out for everyone?” Dean demanded. “Even Penelope got her job back and a raise.”
“I find it worrying that we are all apparently so predictable,” Sam admitted. “But what bothers me more is how improbable it was that the Reaper, for all his godlike powers and lack of human emotion, did have benign intentions after all. When I think about how many plates he had spinning, it’s less the fact he didn’t let any of them get smashed that surprises me than the fact that none of us screwed the pooch completely and derailed his whole scheme. Let’s be honest here, Dean. If you had made different choices, been a different kind of man, I don’t think any of us would be here to worry at all. That’s kind of sobering. The idea my own big brother saved the world. I still have moments when I find myself considering all the ‘what ifs’ and just feel stunned we all got out alive.”
“We all worked together,” Dean protested. “That was the whole point. We worked as a team, Sam.”
“Yeah, of course,” Sam agreed, smiling wryly at Dean’s absolute refusal to accept personal credit. There was little point protesting such a fundamental part of his brother, considering his whole point was that Dean was pretty much perfect exactly how he was.
It only took a little over an hour, the next morning, for Dean to work his way through the various paperwork required to escape his voluntary prison. He wasn’t 100% yet, by any means. It would take considerably more than a few months to restore musculature lost over a decade. But he was well on the way to recovery. His limping gait was barely noticeable unless he let himself become overtired and as long as he continued his exercises, in time even that limp would fade completely.
So he didn’t need to wait for scripts to be issued. He didn’t need any medication. He had no aches or pains that couldn’t be handled with over-the-counter tablets.
By the time he and Sam left the hospital, Sam carrying Dean’s bag of clothing and Dean clutching only a printed list of exercises, Gabriel was already waiting outside, engine idling, huge shit-eating grin on his face.
Dean froze in place, his eyes blank with shock and emotion.
“What. The. Fuck?” he finally managed.
“Funny story,” Gabriel said, climbing out of the huge black car but leaving her purring on the asphalt. “When I asked Bobby if there was a car that I could borrow, he said I was shit out of luck. Turned out there was one that was long overdue to be returned to its owner though.”
Dean swallowed heavily.
“I… I don’t understand,” he admitted, his voice barely a whisper.
“You had other things on your mind at the time,” Sam took over, “so you probably don’t remember Ash saying Robert Singer lived in a salvage yard.”
He saw the penny drop immediately. “Singer Salvage,” Dean said. “The place I’ve been cutting checks to for years for her storage.”
“Turns out I wasn’t the only person who thought you were wasting money storing a wreck ,” Sam continued. “Bobby started to feel so guilty about the money he was charging you that he gradually started using the funds to restore her for you. Took him years to track down all the parts.”
“Weirdest part,” Gabriel interrupted, “was that he had no idea who you were when he was doing it. The Reaper never mentioned you to him at all until the whole Knights Of Hell stuff kicked off this year, by which time she was long finished, just waiting for him to get around to drop her off. He says he knew you were paralyzed in the accident and he was just trying to save you wasting your money. He just vaguely hoped you might finally agree to ‘sell the damned thing’ if she was restored. Now though, he thinks the Reaper always had a hand in awarding him the salvage contract that meant he was in place to pick her up in the first place.”
“Problem with that idea, of course, is that he was awarded the contract before Chuck caused the accident. So that proves the Reaper knew it was going to happen, but did nothing to prevent it,” Sam added darkly.
Dean ignored them both, stepping forward and running a hand reverently over Baby’s hood. He thought seeing her like this, as spotless as the morning before the accident, should hurt even more than remembering the way she’d been as he’d been cut out of her, still covered in his father’s blood. But it didn’t. It just felt like a missing puzzle piece of his life unexpectedly being found and then seamlessly slipped back into place.
“It doesn’t make it right,” he muttered, knowing the Reaper wouldn’t hear him, wouldn’t even care if he did, but needing to say the words out loud regardless. “Fixing me, fixing Baby, it doesn’t undo anything. It doesn’t erase what happened. People aren’t like that. Memories aren’t like that. You can’t just rub a magic eraser over everything and pretend it didn’t happen. The scars will always remain.”
“There’s a note for you in the glove compartment,” Gabriel said.
“From Bobby?” Dean asked, climbing into the car and seating himself behind the steering wheel before reaching across the dash to retrieve the paper.
“I don’t think so. Not his style. I think it was written by the Reaper.”
Dean opened the folded paper and read the single word.
“ 金継ぎ. Kintsugi.”
He gasped and then choked as a lump rose in his throat and tears burned his eyes. He dropped his head to the steering wheel and his back heaved with silent sobs.
Before Sam could speak, Gabriel grabbed him by the arm, and pulled him away. “Leave him,” he urged. “Give him a few moments alone.”
“What the hell did the note say?”
“Which means what exactly?
“The art of precious scars,” Gabriel explained. “Kintsugi is the Japanese art of using gold to put broken pottery pieces back together. Embracing the flaws and imperfections, making them more obvious rather than less, in order to create an even more beautiful piece of art.”
Sam blinked in surprise. “But she’s been restored perfectly. Not a mark on her.”
“I don’t think he was referring to the car,” Gabriel replied. “How about you and I go find some coffee and snacks for the trip, huh?”
Although his mother griped about Gabriel and Sam’s ‘lack of manners’ in inviting themselves to spend Thanksgiving with them, Jimmy knew her well enough to recognize she was not genuinely annoyed but was, actually, quite possibly pleased about the development.
She definitely seemed to enjoy telling several people, when the subject of the holiday was raised, that she and Jimmy would be totally unavailable that day because they were ‘of course’ having a ‘large’ family gathering.
Certainly, she had the staff lay on a meal that probably would have been sufficient to serve a small third-world country.
He handed over control to Castiel, letting the Angel interrogate Naomi over the origins and purpose of the Thanksgiving celebration, whilst he himself considered the best opening gambit to take with Sam.
The way he saw it, Sam’s co-operation was going to be critical if he was going to pull off getting Dean and Cas back together.
Because, realistically, that was what he was trying to do and, oddly, he had no feelings of bitterness about that despite his own sincere feelings for Dean. This was an unprecedented situation, for sure, and maybe he ought to feel like a third-wheel in their peculiar triangle, but that simply wasn’t the case. He loved Dean. He knew that was true, regardless of his mother’s efforts to convince him he was too inexperienced to really understand what love was.
She was actually probably right.
It was probably his whole inexperience of any form of romantic love that made this whole situation better. If he had ever experienced any form of Eros before, perhaps he would be less able to adjust to the idea that Dean’s affection for he, Jimmy, was never going to be as all-encompassing as his feelings for Castiel. Perhaps, then, his own emotions towards Dean were Agape after all. Unconditional love. Because he had no feelings of resentment over the idea that he was only the host body by which Castiel and Dean could experience a physical manifestation of their undoubted Eros.
What made it so much easier, of course, was that he loved Castiel too. How could he not? Castiel had given him his life back. But that wasn’t the only reason he cared. Loving Castiel for what he had given Jimmy was just a conditional love, an obligation, an insurance policy even. If that was the only reason he cared for the Angel, the emotion would be bogus.
But the truth was that Castiel had, over the last six months, become the most important person in Jimmy’s life. His best friend. He understood now why Sam and Gabriel could not bear to part from each other, even though their love was – they claimed - not of a physical nature.
Gabriel’s crude comment about them ‘sharing a litter box’, now made total sense to Jimmy.
Nothing, no relationship with anyone else, could ever be closer than the one he and Castiel now shared. To have someone who knew everything about you. Every deepest, darkest thought. Every secret desire. Every embarrassment. Every triumph. Who shared every sorrow and every joy. Who knew everything and yet judged nothing.
Living as the host of an Angel was like taking every breath under the close omniscient view of God himself.
Well, not literally.
Jimmy didn’t necessarily believe in the existence of any higher power – well, except for the Reaper, obviously, and he was hardly a candidate for worship – so he wasn’t thinking of Castiel in a spiritual way. But as a child, when he’d been taught the Catholic dogma that god was always watching him, the idea had been offered as a threat, rather than a comfort.
Don’t sin, because God is watching you.
Catholicism had been, in his personal experience, a religion of fear. He could remember feeling envy of Evangelics whose god was a loving, merciful one. Happy worshippers who sang ‘Jesus loves us’ with the carefree abandon of children. Who didn’t face endless sermons of the hellfire and brimstone that awaited any catholic boy who misstepped off the path of righteousness even a single iota because SIN would bring damnation and there was no avoiding hell because GOD IS ALWAYS WATCHING.
Castiel was always watching.
But his gaze brought Jimmy comfort not fear.
Jimmy never felt judged by his Angel. Castiel offered him nothing but understanding, forgiveness, solidarity and… well, peace. The knowledge that no matter what he did, whatever mistakes he made, Castiel would always know the intention of his heart and would, therefore, forgive him.
So Jimmy loved Castiel. Loved him even more than he could ever love Dean. And, so, could he feel even the slightest hypocritical resentment that Dean loved Castiel more than Jimmy too? Of course not.
Maybe that was the bottom line.
Jimmy was not the third-wheel in the Dean/Castiel love story, after all.
He and Dean were simply both sister-wives sharing their love of Castiel.
He snorted as the thought caused Castiel to break off his conversation with Naomi and say ‘I DARE you to ever repeat that comment to Dean.”
“Maybe we just keep that one to ourselves,” he suggested, biting his lower lip to prevent himself from laughing out loud.
The house phone rang and Naomi answered it. “ Yes, of course. They’re expected…..what? Really? You’re sure of his identity? How peculiar…. No….No, that’s fine. Just unexpected. But absolutely fine. Let them through,” she said, her face pursed in thought as she hung up.
“Sam and Gabe are here?” Jimmy asked her. “That’s a few hours earlier than expected. I’d better make sure the staff have gotten their rooms ready.”
“Tell Maria to prepare the Green Room too. They have apparently brought a ‘friend’,” she said, drolly. “Perhaps we should have taken out an advertisement opening our house to the entirety of the homeless population for the duration of the holiday.”
“The Green Room? Really? Have they brought the President?” he joked. The Green Room was a suite built over the left Annex of the house, a virtually self-contained private suite accessible from the main central stairwell but also having a private side-entrance with its own elevator. The last time Castiel remembered it being used was when the Clintons had stayed for a weekend.
“Go find Maria,” she said. “You know how snappy she gets about ‘surprises’. You deal with her whilst I greet our guests.”
Jimmy pouted slightly at being thwarted from his own urge to excitedly race outside to greet his ‘friends’, but his mother was right. The housekeeper was liable to throw a minor tantrum about the necessity to urgently prepare the suite, which would cause her to utter a rapid flood of complaints in her mother tongue and his Spanish was far better than Naomi’s.
Marcel, their exceedingly snooty French butler ( who was actually named Sean and was a fourth generation Irish immigrant from Brooklyn rather than a Parisian but delighted in playing his role to the hilt ) blinked in offended surprise when Naomi charged past him ( as he was waiting, with the intention of hesitating a further several minutes after the doorbell was rung before opening the door with a studied look of distain ) and she opened the door herself before the visitors had even left their vehicle.
Hands on her hips, she glared at the driver of the huge black classic car that had just rolled to a halt.
“I always suspected you were a showman,” she drawled.
He grinned back at her, totally shamelessly, and said, “I heard you had pie.”
“I heard you were paraplegic,” she replied, as he opened the car door, swung his legs out easily and rose to his feet.
“Hopefully the pie rumor was more accurate,” he said, with a ridiculously charming smirk.
She turned to Sam and Gabriel as they too emerged from the black behemoth. “You two get inside and distract James. Dean, come with me. We need to talk.”
Without waiting for agreement to her demands, she stepped forward and snatched Dean by his right arm with surprisingly strong fingers and pulled him down the path with her towards the side of the mansion.
Stiff from the drive, he was limping enough that Naomi thought he’d probably appreciate the elevator even if he wasn’t using a chair anymore.
“So you’re hosting?” She asked, curiously.
“Nope. The Reaper threw me a quick freebie. Fixed my spine but then left me to do the rest myself. Still working on it,” he answered easily enough.
“Well, it was probably the least he owed you,” she accepted. “Tell me. Are you here for Castiel, or for my son?”
“Both,” he answered. “But, honestly, possibly Castiel more than Jimmy. I dunno. It’s a complicated situation.”
“Indeed,” she agreed.
“I saw the updated advisory on Angelic gender identification from the Catholic Church,” Dean mentioned, with studied casualness. “I assume your hand was in that.”
She shrugged a nonchalant agreement.
“This house is not a private place, Dean. I have an obscene amount of staff. It’s impossible to keep such a ridiculously large property habitable without them though, and my late husband’s family were a stupidly pretentious bunch. I have to employ ten gardeners just to keep the lawn in check. I can’t wait for the day when I can retire from public life and move into a modern two-bedroom apartment in somewhere civilized like London. However, we work with what we have. My point, and it is a hugely salient one, is…”
“That I am officially here to see Castiel?” Dean suggested cynically.
“Exactly,” she agreed, nodding at him approvingly. “I knew you were smarter than you look.”
“Why does everyone always say that to me?” Dean groaned.
“Because a boy being as pretty as you offends the world order,” Naomi snarked. “We therefore comfort ourselves by dismissing you as stupid. However, since you are not stupid, I expect you to heed my words. Unless you are in the private apartment I am having prepared for you as we speak, do not ever make the mistake of assuming anywhere within this house is private. Your ‘miraculous’ cure fits the necessary narrative, fortunately.”
“What narrative?” he demanded.
She held a hand up, flicking her fingers to silence him as she thought furiously. Then she said, “forgive me, I’m thinking on the fly here.”
“Yeah, I seem to do that a lot these days too,” he agreed dryly.
“Right, this is how we pitch it. We sell the idea that you were Castiel’s former host. That will explain your ‘cure’, which will inevitably need some kind of explanation as soon as the wider public become aware of it because, obviously, the Reaper cannot be mentioned. It will give credence to a relationship between you and the Angel who ‘saved’ you. Just as Samuel and Gabriel have openly admitted they now have an unbreakable ‘platonic’ bond that, let’s face it, no-one really believes but at least pretends to accept, so you and Castiel can be accepted to be inseparable, even though he now resides within James.”
“Sam and Gabe really are just friends,” Dean protested.
“Mmmm,” she hummed, clearly unconvinced.
“You do realize this whole narrative is a case of putting the cart before the horse, don’t you?” Dean protested. “Jimmy and I haven’t even talked about any of this yet.”
She shrugged. “I find most situations in life benefit from being handled from an anticipation of worst case scenario. At the very least, I wish you, Castiel and James to reunite in a totally private setting. What you choose to do after that may prove that my precautions are unnecessary. Should, however, you emerge from that room as a couple, or a triple, or whatever goddamned term needs to be coined for this totally bizarre situation, the official explanation is to be that you are Castiel’s ‘special friend’.”
“Alternatively, we could just be ‘out and proud’,” Dean suggested.
“Equally alternatively, I could get one of my aforementioned gardeners to dig a big hole under the Magnolias. No one would ever find your body.” She smirked at him unrepentantly.
“Woah,” Dean said. “You’re one scary lady.”
“Where my son’s health and happiness is concerned, I am probably your worst nightmare,” she agreed. “Remember that.”
Dean stopped walking and looked at her with softer eyes. “I swear I care for Jimmy. Probably too much. I don’t know how this will work out, Naomi, because the whole situation is fubar, but I swear I will never deliberately cause him any pain.”
Her own expression lightened and she patted his arm reassuringly. “I know. You’re a good man, Dean Winchester and I truly believe, well within our lifetime, there will come a time when I might be able to proudly call you, legitimately, my son-in-law. Perceptions and attitudes are softening, and I think you and James and the rest of your generation may be the catalysts for far more changes than simply the acceptance of the miracle of actual Angels living amongst us. These are interesting times.”
“The Chinese consider that a curse,” he pointed out.
She shrugged and laughed. “Everyone’s a critic.”
She led him to a doorway. “This leads to the elevator to the Green Room. Good luck, Mr. Winchester. I will leave you to it. Apparently I need to go check the kitchen staff have baked a sufficiency of pie.”
To say Jimmy knew the identity of the mysterious visitor waiting in the Green Room would be a lie.
But, as he flew up the main staircase in that direction so swiftly that even Castiel’s wings couldn’t have gotten him there any faster, he was filled with so much hope that he thought his heart might burst out of his chest and beat him there.
Why else would the visitor have entered the room via the elevator rather than by the front door?
Why else would Sam and Gabe be looking so damned smug?
Though his mother’s quiet acceptance of the situation did give him a little pause for doubt.
Which was why, when he burst into the suite without knocking and saw the man standing with his back to him, staring out at the formal gardens of the mansion, his headlong rush stuttered to an abrupt, faltering stop.
He was expecting Dean. Dean in his wheelchair. Dean, vibrant and alive and real, finally smiling at him in the flesh. Not this stranger standing silently in the bay of the window, a dark shadow against the bright daylight.
And, even as the man turned, his face remained in shadow because the sun was behind him, blinding in its intensity.
Yet, even before his eyes adjusted against the glare, even before he saw the man’s face he knew.
His knees weakened with shock, with surprise, and it was abruptly too much to handle, too much to cope with, and he shrank back in his own head, begging for Castiel to take over before he fell to his knees in the soft carpet, before he made a total fool of himself by literally weeping with relief.
His eyes blazed, as Castiel moved into place, as he seamlessly accepted the reins of their body. And the voice that emerged from his mouth was a deep rumble as he said, “Hello, Dean.”
“Hey, Cas,” Dean said, stepping forward, his gait a little awkward as though the movement pained him. “Hi, Jimmy, “ he added. “It’s good to see you both looking so…. well.”
“It is surprising to see you looking so… tall,” Castiel replied, his tone slightly admonishing.
Dean blushed and dipped his head slightly. “I know. I’m sorry. I should have told you.”
“THIS is why you were comatose for so long?”
“I think so. It only felt like a few hours to me but it seems to have taken the Reaper that long to actually cure my injury. I guess he must have implanted an aspect inside my body, but somehow removed it before I actually woke up in the hospital.”
“I imagine it slipped out of you via the life support equipment,” Castiel said. “In our natural form, we can move easily throughout electronic wiring. Why did you not contact us before last week, Dean? You awakened months ago. Were we of no import to you at all?”
Dean stiffened defensively. “I was kinda busy. Little matter of learning how to walk again, ya know?”
Castiel’s eyes blazed hotter with the deflection. He opened his mouth but it was Jimmy who rushed forward to speak. “He’s not angry. He’s hurt,” Jimmy told Dean quickly. “He’s trapped here, in a strange and terrifying world. He needed you, Dean, and you refused even to accept a telephone call. And we both thought it was because of your stupid hang up about your paralysis and now we find out it wasn’t even true anymore.”
“Stupid? Was it stupid to want you both to end up with someone who actually had the ability to live more than a half-life?”
“Yes,” Jimmy said. “But it wasn’t even still the case, was it? Even if you still needed to ‘learn how to walk again’ the promise of it was there. The situation was already completely different. And Castiel needed you.”
“Why did he need me?” Dean demanded angrily. “He has you. You have each other. You’re Jimmy Fucking Novak. Media darling. Son of the woman everybody is saying will be the next goddamned President. Why the hell would either of you need me?”
“Ohhh,” Jimmy said, his heart breaking as he saw the defeated expression in Dean’s eyes. “Is that why? Of course, that’s why. Oh, Dean, you idiot. In fact, we’re all idiots. I didn’t think. WE didn’t think. We both forgot who you were, didn’t we? All we saw, all we remembered was the hero who saved us all. We forgot the man. We shouldn’t have listened to Sam and Gabe. We should have flown down anyway to show you how much you mean to us; but it honestly never occurred to us that you didn’t know. How can you even be real, Dean? How can you have done all that you have done and still not believe yourself worthy of love?”
“Damnit, Jimmy, don’t you understand it’s because I love you, love both of you, that I know you both deserve better than me? That it’s only selfishness that’s driven me to hope you might not have come to the same conclusion.”
Castiel moved forward again, gently pushing Jimmy aside. “I believe you overestimate the appeal of a hosted Angel,” he said, wryly. “Besides, you are the only person who will ever truly see both Jimmy and myself as distinct individuals. Who else knew and learned to care for both of us separately? As for us, who could possibly ever compete for our affection? Even should you choose to reject us, we shall never choose another in your place. Both Jimmy and I are determined that will be the case. If you leave here, without us, then we will remain alone. In refusing us your love, you will remove any possibility that we will ever experience an external relationship.”
“Pressure, much, huh?” Dean snorted.
“A human I know, for whom I care very much, taught me that it is necessary in war to utilize whatever tactics are necessary to assure victory,” Castiel said.
“War?” Dean queried.
“Is this not a battle for your heart?” Castiel countered.
“You already won that battle a long time ago, Cas. But what about Jimmy? I can’t… look I care for Jimmy but… but it…”
“Isn’t the same,” Jimmy interrupted. “I know, Dean. But that’s fine because, well, I kinda love Castiel more than you, anyway.”
Dean blinked at him in surprise. “Huh?”
“This can work, this will work, because all three of us truly care for each other. Love isn’t measured in degrees anyway, is it? You fell in love with Castiel, who always looked like me. So there’s that… Plus I would dare go so far as to say you do love me. But you simply love Castiel more. And I get that, because I feel the same way about him. So if, for this to work between us, I always need to let Castiel take the reins when we are ‘together’, then that’s fine. I still get to have you, don’t I? We’re all winners.”
“But that’s not fair on you, is it?” Dean protested.
“I’ll thank you to give me the courtesy of believing I am an adult capable of deciding for myself what I do or do not consider ‘fair’,” Jimmy retorted. “This is what I want, Dean, and it gives both you and Castiel what you both want. So where’s the problem?”
Dean shook his head slowly. “No, it’s not… not…”
Jimmy stepped forward, almost aggressively, his movement forcing Dean back against the window until his body was aligned against Dean’s, pressing against him, their groins touching closely enough that it was obvious that Jimmy was turned on.
“Can you feel that?” he demanded angrily. “That’s me, Dean. My body. My feelings of attraction to you. That’s all me. I’m twenty-nine years old. And let me put that in context for you. I was raised Catholic. Do you know that Catholics even consider masturbation to be a sin? And even if that wasn’t the case, I spent most of my life too ill to do anything about it anyway. But that doesn’t make the reality that I have never experienced any form of sexual release any less true.”
Dean gaped at him in near horror.
“Yes,” Jimmy agreed, nodding firmly. “Exactly. And don’t even pretend that hasn’t just made you react, because I can feel you, Dean. So I know how much the thought of that turns you on. That I’m not only a virgin but literally so damned frustrated that I could explode here and now. And that’s my body you’re reacting to. My arousal. So do you really think I give a damn if it is Castiel’s name you call when you finally give me the release I am aching for?”
Jimmy’s eyes flared electric blue once more. “I do not mind if you call Jimmy’s name instead,” he pointed out helpfully. “In my prior form, moving within the metadata of Moondoor, I effectively existed for the equivalent of millennia. Therefore my own claim of virginity could be considered to exceed Jimmy’s by several thousand years. I too feel extremely frustrated and would appreciate some relief should you feel so inclined.”
“I thought you were asexual,” Dean pointed out weakly, rubbing his lower back and wishing he’d let Sam do some of the driving after all because, unbelievably, it seemed that he was being offered what he wanted, what he had barely even dared hope for, but he didn’t actually feel physically able to go through with it. It was as though life, or fate, was still screwing with him.
Castiel shrugged. “I did not have the necessary context to translate love into sexual desire. Now I am residing within Jimmy’s flesh, I have been suddenly educated.” He deliberately ground Jimmy’s groin against Dean’s. “See?” He said, with satisfaction. “I now know how it feels to have desire. And, unless I am greatly mistaken, to be desired in return. Gabriel was correct. It is a remarkably enjoyable sensation.”
“Woah. I’m getting tag-teamed,” Dean protested weakly, wishing his damned back wasn’t hurting so much that his primary wish was to sit down, rather than follow through on his cock’s eager reaction to the teasing.
“Is it working?” Jimmy asked hopefully. “Because I would really, really, really, like it if you decided this was a good moment to show Castiel how much you love him. Have you seen the bed in this room? The last person who got lucky in here was Bill Clinton.”
Dean’s face screwed up in distaste. “Not a visual I needed,” he said. “Anyway, you’re both barking up the wrong tree if you think this is going to end up like a cheap porn movie with us bouncing around that bed doing gymnastics. I only checked out of hospital this morning and that drive just about killed me. The only thing I really want to do right now is get some sleep before it’s turkey and pie time.”
“We have much to be thankful for,” Castiel said. “I like this idea of sharing a Thanksgiving meal.”
Jimmy’s expression softened. “I do too. And I think the idea of a restorative nap before dinner sounds wonderful, Dean.”
“Together,” Castiel demanded. “A sleep together.”
“Well, of course together,” Jimmy agreed.
“Sleep. Turkey. Pie. Sleep,” Castiel suggested. “And then sex.”
“Yes,” Jimmy agreed.
“Um… do I even get a say in this?” Dean asked.
“No,” Jimmy smirked.
“No,” Castiel agreed, his voice so deep and firm that it sent a shiver of anticipation through Dean’s body.
Dean looked at them, at the single face of the two people he loved, and considered the long and impossible journey that had brought all three of them to this point. Kintsugi, he thought. The Reaper was right. It was in their trials, their experiences, their pain and their losses that they had become who they were; the scars they bore, both visible and internal, were the roadmap of how they had all found strength and, together, they formed a rare and perfect new form of beauty.
The art of precious scars.
Because what better example of the unique beauty of Kintsugi could possibly exist than this bizarre but wonderful relationship that would evolve between them?
“Okay,” he agreed. “Sounds like a plan.”