Kevin hates his life. He knows he’s not unique in that regard, knows that everyone still on the planet is only just eeking out a living in between starving and running and mourning. But this—sitting in the middle of a camp, hearing people not so subtlety mutter his name and glare at him, it sucks.
He’s not saying they don’t have their reasons. The angels are responsible for everything turning into a shitshow, for everyone who’s died in the last few years, and Kevin is working for them. Helping them. But what was he supposed to do, really? The angels had explained it the first time he met one. You act as a prophet, or you die. And if you die, the angels will remember you when you’re judged, and then the next prophet will come into being. At the time, dying sounded like the worst option. He had been fifteen, still really just a kid. The only time he’d ever brushed with death had been when his dad died, but as a four year old, he barely remembered that. Death was scary, and it was hard to grasp the scale of what prophet meant, of how familiar he would become with death in the coming years. It didn’t feel like something he needed to weigh the morals of. It felt like a fucking angel was telling him his choices were safe or not safe, and that was all there was to choosing.
Now the only thing that keeps him going is that he knows if he pisses off the angels by doing something like dying on purpose, they can and will turn him away from Heaven out of spite. But he can’t say that, not to these people who are spitting traitor at him and giving him a wide berth. Especially when they’re not wrong, when he’s going to take the easy way out to his mom and take all of them with him.
After an hour of staring towards the trees and being whispered about, there is a tap on his shoulder. He turns. Mary. She smiles at him, and jerks a finger back to one of the shelters.
“Mind if we talk?”
He shrugs and follows her. She holds the door open for him, and does a surreptitious glance in either direction before she shuts the door behind her, which freaks Kevin out a little bit. He’s not sure what she’s looking out for, because it’s not like anyone here cares what she does to him, but it does not feel like a good sign. He’s half expecting the room to be filled with something awful, or at least with half a dozen survivors who sneer at him, but it’s just Mary.
“You looked kind of lonely out there.”
Kevin shrugs again.
“I grew up lonely, and then my mom died, and then the angels left me alone unless I had something to report out.”
She looks taken aback by this, and gives him a sad smile.
“You’re pretty young, huh?”
Another shrug. His social skills got rusty with only rustier angels to talk to.
“I’m older than a lot of my high school classmates ever ended up being.”
A look of shock passes Mary’s face before she schools it into something neutral again.
“I’m sorry. A world like this… it’s no sort of world to come up in.”
He doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t need this weird blonde lady to tell him that this place sucks when that’s something he’s known ever since he was tapped to be a prophet. Whatever she’s going to say, she’ll get around to it if he talks or not.
“It’s better, where I’m from. Not perfect by any means, but the world isn't ending. We're going to stop Michael, and if we're lucky, Jack and I will be able to get home."
She pauses, waiting to see if Kevin has any reaction to that. He doesn't.
"Anyone who wants to come on the escape attempt with us is welcome. You included."
She has the decency to look abashed.
"We're extending this offer to everyone."
"But I thought I'd talk to you personally to see if you were onboard. And if you are, there are some things we could really use your help with."
"You need a prophet."
Mary's eyes become steely.
"We need manpower. I'm not going to lie to you. What we're going to try to do, it's not easy. We might fail. But the more people we have, the more likely it is we succeed. The more likely it is that we make it out to living something that's not just trying to make it to the next day."
She lays a hand on his shoulder.
"You know more about angels than anyone in this world, and maybe anyone in mine. If you help us, we just might have a real shot. If you don't, we're going to try anyway."
Kevin doesn't trust this. Why should he? He hasn't been able to trust anything in years. There's a catch somewhere that she's hiding, he knows it. He knows this doesn't end well for him, not with a mark of God on him, not with the way it was predetermined that he was going to live his life lonely and afraid and fantasizing about dying just to see his mom again. But he asks anyway.
"What's that world like?"
"Overwhelming. I haven't been there too long myself. The technology is... incredible. I don't know how different it is from the last year your world was normal, but it's nice. I hunt in that world. The showers have hot water and you can get a mean steak if you drive about twenty minutes in any town. Where are you from?"
She hms to herself.
"I haven't been to Michigan in awhile, but it's the same as everywhere else. The world is... the world. It's still turning. Population of about seven billion."
"Do you... do you know if my mom's still alive?"
Mary grabs onto this like a lifeline.
"Yes. I think so. My boys, they mentioned they knew you, their world's you. The last time they saw Linda was about four years ago. They made it sound like she's a capable lady. From what they told me, your mother was bound and determined to have a normal life, even if she had to claw it out with her teeth."
A wave of relief. He knows that his mom's in Heaven here, but being alive in a world that's not beset by angels and monsters has got to be better than being dead.
"Do you think my mom is happy? My real mom. The dead one."
She smiles at him, but it's sad.
"I know she is. I've been to Heaven. It's... you know that saying, about your life flashing before your eyes? Heaven is that, but only the good parts. You don't get tired. You don't get bored. You relive the best moments over and over."
"You've been to Heaven?"
"I died in '83."
At the look on Kevin's face, she quickly clarifies.
"1983. But my sons got mixed up with God himself, and God's sister, and Dean and Sam did right by them. So here I am again."
A silence grows. Mary looks uncomfortable, and Kevin feels uncomfortable.
"So... am I alive, over there? How does that work?"
She looks at him with something way too close to pity.
"No. You died. Your mom misses you."
"My real mom, the one who's dead. Will she know I'm gone? Will she miss me?"
Mary goes from looking sort of uncomfortable to very uncomfortable.
"Your mom is going to keep loving you. She's going to keep living out the favorite parts of her life. She doesn't know what's happening to you. Even if you stay here, she won't know what happens to you. She won't know if you live, and when you die, she won't know that either. She'll just keep playing out her favorite memories."
Jesus. Mary claps him on the shoulder.
"Think about this as much as you need to. Even if you decide to stay here, or you decide not to help, we'll protect you until the second we leave."
“Because it’s what you deserve. Your whole world… you’ve been through enough, don’t you think?”
“But why me? Why do you trust me? No one else does. I’ve been living with the angels since I was 15. Everyone here thinks I’m only here to betray you.”
“I’m a hunter. Most of the time, that means killing things. But it means more than that to me. It means keeping people safe.”
Her face softens.
“My kids… they grew up hard, the way you did, because I wasn’t around to keep them safe. And without someone around to tell them to know better, they made some bad decisions that made a lot of people not trust them. But when I look at them, I see good kids dealt a hard hand. I see the same thing when I look at you, and this time I’m around to keep you safe.”
Kevin doesn’t know what to say to that, and Mary’s shaking her head minutely, like he doesn’t have to. She turns away from him to open the door, and stops in the door jam to look back at him once again.
“I’m supposed to be helping with plans just about now. You can stay in here as long as you want, if you’re itching for some privacy.”
Michael’s instructions ring in Kevin's head. He can almost feel the symbols on his skin. He swallows.
“I think I can help.”
Kevin's teaching about half a dozen people how to draw some more obscure sigils when Mary walks in, looking harried.
"Some of our wardings went down at the outskirts. I'm taking a group to go check it out. Hopefully it's nothing, but still. Be ready for anything."
Kevin nods, and the group around him starts sharing glances. They know better than to outright start murmuring in front of Mary, but the way they're tensing up is not subtle.
"Stay safe," he says, and Mary gives him a tight smile before she leaves again.
He's glad she didn't say what the two of them know—That Kevin's reinforcements of the sigils prevented angels from being able to destroy them, that an archangel is the only thing that would be capable of taking them down. Like an archangel who is hellbent on taking out the remaining survivors who has a grudge on Kevin for disobeying direct orders. Like Michael.
Now the group dissolves into quiet chatter and quick looks at Kevin before cutting their eyes away again. He knows what they're thinking. The traitor shows up and is marched straight to their defenses to fix them, and then a day later they're fritzing out. He hopes Mary comes back safe. He likes Mary, as much as he's capable of liking anyone here. He appreciates how staunchly she vouches for him, even though she doesn't know him. He wants her back for her sake, but for some selfish reasons too.
If she doesn't come back, Kevin's about 95% sure it means they're royally fucked and will be annihilated, tortured, and killed within the day. On the off chance that it's not angels, but Mary runs into a group of monsters or survivors that deals with her before she deals with them, then Kevin's royally fucked. He's picked up on the fact that Mary and Jack's staunch approval of him is the only thing that keeps him from getting dragged out into the woods never to be seen again. The people in front of him who haven't warmed to him—who carefully triangulate him out of their conversations and only look at him to shoot an accusatory glare his way—confirm that. He clears his throat.
"You heard Mary. We need to be ready for anything. There are some more potent sigils I can show you, but drawing one wrong is worse than drawing none at all. At best, a wrong one does nothing. At worst, it rebounds on you, or sends out a homing beacon. I've seen it get ugly."
He points at two of the specific survivors.
"Fiona, Noah, the last few you've practiced have been almost perfect. There's a couple of things you could neaten up to really harness the full capacity of the sigil, but 90% effective is good enough when we have to be ready for anything. I want the rest of you to keep practicing. See how fast you can turn a binding sigil into a banishing one. You two, I'm going to show the harder stuff to."
Neither of them look particularly pleased about this, but they're professional enough that they swallow their distaste for working one on one with Kevin for the greater good and shift themselves so they're closest to him. Noah looks at him, unimpressed.
"Isn't there a sigil that can kill angels?"
"Uh, technically. But it's really complicated. I haven't been able to study it much, for obvious reasons, and I wouldn't trust myself to draw it correctly, which means I don't trust you guys to draw it correctly."
Fiona purses her lips at this.
"Right. But isn't there something? Something that we can do that will at least incapacitate a group all at once?"
Kevin's mind flashes to the spell Michael had diagrammed for him, how it had made his eyes sting, how he's pretty sure he could draw it in his sleep. He's never been so glad that he's the only prophet, that this sigil in particular will die when he does.
"No. But, uh. I think you guys are ready to start working on one that separates an angel from their vessel. It's not permanent, because the vessel can always say yes again, but the process will knock the vessel unconscious and knock the angel... somewhere. It sounds like it's a pretty arduous process for the angel to lock down the vessel's location again."
A raised eyebrow.
"You haven't actually tried this one before?"
"No. You know, when I was locked in a dungeon on a compound of angels with at least one standing ten feet away from me at all times, I didn't get a chance to try to the separator sigil. I was kind of more interested in staying alive than experimenting."
Fiona and Noah exchange a look at that, and Kevin clears his throat before showing them, painstakingly slow, the strokes.
By the time the commotion starts, Fiona's mostly gotten it down. Her sigil is blocky, like an angel kindergartener Kevin thinks, but the bones are there and he has faith that it'll neaten up after a few more hours of practice. But not now, because there's a rush of people outside the window, and everyone in the room looks up and drops their brush. Kevin swallows, trying to get rid of the spike of fear.
"I think Mary's back."
At that, his students abandon all pretense of practice and stand up to leave, Kevin trailing behind them. He hopes Mary is back.
When they push out to the crowd, he breathes a sigh of relief.
Mary made it. She's got a couple of people with her too, and Kevin's heart drops when something pings on his mental radar and he realizes they're angels. And he's pretty sure they're powerful ones, too. He doesn't know this in a way he can explain, he just knows in his born-prophet bones.
The man standing closest to Mary turns Kevin's way, at which point his face goes through a complicated series of emotions Kevin couldn't explain if he tried, then makes a beeline straight for Kevin. People naturally part for him, clearing the way to Kevin, and he feels another bolt of panic. A stranger walking right at him can't be good, and on impulse he turns to fight his way back through the crowd and away from this guy before Mary calls out.
"Kevin! It's—that's my son. That's Dean. You know."
She makes a vague series of gestures, in what Kevin assumes is an attempt to communicate the one from the other world, the one where he watched you die.
At this point the guy—Dean—has stopped a few feet away from Kevin, a smile on his face that reminds him of the wistful look Mary wears sometimes, sad and reminiscent.
"Kevin. Man. I didn't think I'd ever see you again."
He sticks a hand out.
"I know this is probably weird for you, but man is it good to see you. We'll get you back home if we have to carry you out."
It is weird for Kevin. He shakes Dean's hand anyway.
Dean seems satisfied with this and claps Kevin's shoulder, smile still intact. Kevin gives him a wobbly smile back, and Dean nods at him before rejoining his mother.
Things get hectic after that. Dean's brother comes back from the dead with the Devil in tow, who is Jack's father. And there are two other angels milling about. Gabriel, the archangel, who is nothing like Kevin expected, and Castiel, not an archangel, who seems to be friends with Mary and her sons. At one point, Castiel comes over to him with Mary's sons in tow and offers to ward Kevin himself so that he's untrackable to angels. Kevin's hesitant about this until Dean and Sam both assure him and say Castiel—Cas—did the same thing for them years ago, and it's kept them safe all this time. He doesn't expect the warding to be done on his ribs, to burn the way it does, but Castiel declares it effective and then Dean steers Castiel off to ward the rest of the people in the camp.
Sam stays behind. Kevin hasn’t talked to him much, mostly because Kevin doesn't talk much to anyone. It doesn’t help that Sam's arrival had heralded a flurry of information and activity.
He smiles at Kevin. Different from the way Dean and Mary do, but still sad, and it makes Kevin feel weird. It was was weird when everyone in the camp only looked his way to glare at him, and it was weird when Mary and Jack showed up claiming they were from another world and that Jack was half angel, but Kevin thinks having someone who watched you die give you sad glances every once in awhile when you don't know who they are takes the cake.
Kevin gives him a half wave, and starts to walk off, but Sam just matches his stride. Kevin clears his throat awkwardly.
"I have to go teach a group how to draw an angel banishment, so..."
"Right. Right, I just—can we talk for a second?"
They both stop. It's weird how Sam is so tall but so awkward, quiet and careful. He sticks his hands in his pockets before he meets Kevin's eyes.
"I know this is probably a lot for you. Escaping angels for the first time in years, portals to other worlds..."
Sam laughs a little.
"You know, the last time I saw you, you were pretty much still a kid. You'd just turned twenty, and you were upset about it, because your life wasn't what you thought it would be, and you only had me and my brother for company, which gets old after a while. I kind of... still see that kid, when I see you."
Kevin doesn't know what to say to that, and he can see the moment Sam realizes that he's said something weird.
"I'm just saying. You've been through enough. And me, my brother, and my mom are going to do everything we can to make sure that you get to live a safe life where you can see your mom again."
Sam looks like he wants to say something else, but he just nods and jerks a hand in the general direction of his family before he walks off that way.
It's good to have actual angels on their side, especially ones as powerful as Lucifer and Gabriel, but it also makes things more complicated. The warding sigil, for one. It has to stay down as long as their new angel allies are there, which puts the whole camp at risk for attack. Most of the sigils Kevin's been teaching people have been ones that impact whatever angel is in the vicinity, which means that as long as Gabriel and Castiel and Lucifer are around to help, those can't be used either. So the plans have to be sped up. They have to be out of there as soon as humanly possible, preferably before nightfall.
Everyone's set to different tasks. There's a jittery feeling over everything, tension that's waiting to break. And there's a low buzz of excitement, too. What if they really make it out? What if they don't have to spend every day running from angels and rationing out supplies anymore? It's a tantalizing possibility that Kevin won't allow himself to think about. He knows it's just as likely, if not more likely that this ends with the whole group of them, angel and archangel and devil included, as a smear on the ground. So Kevin keeps his head down. He works. He helps carry supplies. He helps load guns. He does whatever he's asked to do, and he does it as quickly and correctly as possible, because it's what he can do. He's used to playing his part. When his mom was alive, when things were normal, he was supposed to be a good student so he took the classes and did the extracurriculars he was told to. When things went to shit, he was supposed to be a prophet, and he did the translations he was told to and not much else. And now. Now he doesn't know what he is. A survivor, maybe. Hopefully.
Eventually, they've done all they can. It's now or never. The camp starts milling around the bus they're apparently going to drive into a different fucking world, unsure of what, exactly they're supposed to do. Find a buddy? Single file?
After a few minutes of this, Dean shows up and pries open the doors. He looks out into the gathered crowd, searching until he finds Kevin, then gestures at him.
"Kevin. Come on. Let's go. Your pick of the seats."
God. Kevin hated doing this even when the only stakes were social. Now he has to do it when it very well might impact whether he lives or dies. He doesn't want to sit in the back, because it's, well, the back, but he doesn't want to sit in the front because he knows that won't help with the way everyone is still shooting looks at him. He hedges his bets and sits five rows from the front. That feels appropriate. After he sits down, Dean starts directing more people in, two then three then five at a time, and pretty soon the bus is full and the tension is back, swelling to what feels like it has to be the breaking point.
It settles again when Lucifer walks onto the bus and climbs into the driver's seat, firing off a quip about being their pilot for the day. Everyone looks at each other, appropriately weirded out, and chatter breaks out again. It feels eerily reminiscent of a field trip, for a drive that everyone is aware may well be a doomed voyage.
Eventually, the bus rumbles to a stop. A hush falls back over the group. The devil is slapping his hands against the steering wheel to a beat Kevin doesn't recognize. If he cranes his neck, he can see the flash of light on the ground. The portal. The other world. His mom.
Mary hops off the back of the bus and starts directing people, all while keeping her head and gun swiveling towards the woods around them, just in case. Sam and Dean clamber up the front steps of the bus and also start directing. When it's Kevin's turn, the brothers nod at each other. When Kevin steps off the bus, Sam is with him, every step, escorting him to the sliver of light. It's weird that he's decided to be Kevin's chaperone slash bodyguard, but Kevin really doesn't want to complain when it could very well keep him alive.
When they reach the portal, shimmering and bright, Kevin looks away from it for a moment to look at Sam. He's smiling.
"Go. We'll see you on the other side."
Kevin steps through, still not quite convinced this is real. That he's escaped, that anything is going to change, that he’s not going to wake up gasping with Zachariah and others around him. He braces himself.
Kevin stumbles, tripping over his own feet, and falling an inch or two. He looks up from where he's landed and there's a redheaded woman smiling at him.
"Come on, let's get you up and out of the way before someone falls on you."
Kevin grabs her hand when she offers it, and she pats his shoulder after she pulls him off to the side where everyone else is. Then she returns to the portal.
Kevin looks around. They're in a room. A huge room. The lights are warm. People have started milling, picking up books and flipping through them, flopping in chairs and putting their feet up, grabbing their friend's hand and wandering down one of the hallways. This... seems real. This seems like a world where people are happy and comfortable and aren't constantly looking over their shoulder for the next threat, be it a monster or an angel. Kevin runs his finger over some book spines, and then he laughs. Holy shit.
He touches everything. The wood grain of the table, the dust on the bookshelves. It's all real. It's all part of a world that isn't at war with itself. It’s just a world that’s slowly turning on its axis and not worrying about anything cosmic. It's amazing.
Kevin meanders around the big main room for a while, keeping an eye on the glimmer of light, counting to see how many of them actually make it. And they all do. All the people born in his world, and Mary's family too. He grins. He catches Dean's eye and waves, and Dean smiles back at him and fires off a lazy salute.
There's a headcount. Kevin was right. Everyone made it, and nobody's quite sure what to do now. They made the impossible play, and it worked. Someone draws a crude map of the building they're in, circling showers, bathrooms, bedrooms, and the kitchen, and people start drifting overwhelmingly to the showers while Dean will tell anyone who will listen about the water pressure. Kevin, for his part, wanders to the kitchen. It's an industrial sized thing, like the rest of this place. He feels a certain kind of glee when he opens the fridge and there are oranges just sitting there, ripe and fresh and cool. The angels certainly hadn't starved him, but they were angels. They weren't too concerned with taste. Most things Kevin had eaten in the last few years came from a seemingly never ending supply of cans, and here was an entire row of oranges.
He’s about halfway through an orange when Sam walks in, looking tired but happy. He sits down across from Kevin, and Kevin, feeling guilty, quickly swallows.
“Hey. I hope it’s okay that…”
Sam waves him off.
“Yeah, of course! Dean’s gonna make a grocery run pretty soon so we don’t have thirty hungry people on our hands. Help yourself.”
Kevin grins at him and pulls off another orange segment. Sam clears his throat, and then speaks in a rush.
“So, we’re working on tracking down your mom. We’ll definitely find her. I mean, we can hack traffic cams and databases and we have the most powerful witch alive willing to do us some favors. We’ll find her. But we haven’t yet.”
Kevin nods, and tries not to look like his heart is sinking. The reassurances are nice, but he knows better. A lot of things can happen in 4 years, even in a world that doesn’t have to worry about angels. Car wrecks, break-ins, freak accidents, genetic dispositions towards all things deadly. It was stupid to get his hopes up in the first place, to assume that everything would magically fall into place as soon as he crossed the threshold into another world.
He makes sure that his voice is careful, that there’s no thin line of despair to it.
Sam gives him a sympathetic look. He starts to reach for Kevin’s hand, but then thinks better of it and rests it on the table again.
“Uh, another thing. We do our best to protect this place, but I’ll be straight with you. If things go sideways, they’re going to go sideways here, and you’re going to be involved. But we’ve got a friend a couple of states away who takes kids on who need a place to stay because of these kind of things.”
“You pick up trans-dimensional twenty somethings with no social security number a lot?”
“You’re the first, believe it or not. But she has a few girls living with her right now. One lost her parents to vampires, one to angels, and one got kicked out for being psychic. She takes good care of them. I think that’s a good place for you to stay until we find your mom.”
Kevin’s silent, weighing his options carefully. He can stay here, where the people who know him either look at him like they’re mourning or with pure disdain, or he can have a fresh start with a bunch of other people who got their fresh start.
“Where’s your friend live?”
The woman has short hair, and it kind of reminds me of the way his mom used to cut hers. She pulls Dean into a hug when he steps out of the car, and when she steps away she sticks her hand out for Kevin to shake. Her grip is firm, and Kevin shifts the go-bag he was given on his shoulder. She turns back to Dean, and they have a short conversation about some girl named Claire and whether Dean’s gonna stick around for dinner before he heads out. Dean waves that off, then shoots a “see ya, kid” Kevin’s way, and then his car is roaring out of the driveway. The woman turns to him, smile bright.
“Hey. Jody Mills. Claire and Patience just got back, so the house is fuller than usual. But don’t you worry, there’s room for you. As long as you need it. I guess I should say as long as you want it. God knows Claire thinks she’s too grown to need a designated adult when she’s in town. But does that stop her from asking for me to switch her laundry for her when she sneaks out with Alex to go smoke? No, it does not.”
At the look on Kevin’s face, she cuts off whatever she was going to say next and smiles instead.
“Let’s give you the tour.”
After briefly stopping by the door to kick off his shoes, Kevin is walked through the house. He’s shown his room and a few closed doors that Jody names as hers, Alex’s, Claire’s, and Patience’s. He drops his bag into the room that’s his, and then Jody steers him back downstairs and into the kitchen.
She talks to him, idle chatter, as she rummages around in the fridge. When she turns around she’s holding a glass container that she tilts his way.
“Lasagna from last night. I’m gonna heat some up for you. That paper pad hanging up on the fridge is for grocery requests. If you can get me a list of your favorite foods and stuff you won’t eat, I’ll keep that in mind when I make dinner.”
She slices and plates a piece, talking over her shoulder the whole time.
“What do you feel like tonight? I’ll send Claire out to pick something up.”
She wipes her hands on her jeans.
“Those parallel universes? They’re nasty pieces of work. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in one, but I bet it’s been awhile since you had hot food delivered to you. If you’re not up for picking, it’ll be a tossup between Claire and Patience, which means burgers or pizza. Your call, Kevin.”
“Uh, is there any good barbecue around here?”
“Oh yeah. I’ll dig out a takeout menu for you and let the girls know.”
The microwave beeps, and she slides a plate onto the table and gestures for him to sit down.
“I’m gonna go work on some research for a friend, but call me if you need anything, okay? I’ll be around.”
With that, she pats his shoulder and then goes up the stairs.
Lasagna feels like a luxury after years of canned soup and chili and MREs, and he polishes it off quickly. A blonde girl comes in while he’s scraping the last of the tomato sauce off his plate.
“Hey. You’re Kevin, right? Claire.”
Claire leans on the doorframe between the kitchen and the living room.
“Alex is the one in scrubs, and Patience is the one who’s a total drag.”
“Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.”
She eyes him a moment, and Kevin wonders if he’s done something wrong. He stands and takes a couple of cautious steps towards the sink, and she doesn’t react. He walks the rest of the way over and squirts the soap that’s sitting out onto his plate.
“So you were in an alternate reality, huh?”
“Oh. Yeah. Do not recommend.”
“I went to one once. I was trying to find Dean and Sam, who were trying to find you. Well. They were trying to find your world. It sucked. It was all huge monsters, and I mean feet-that-could-crush-an-SUV-huge.”
“Yeah. Really puts things in perspective when this is the best any world has to offer.”
Kevin dries his plate and puts it on the rack next to the sink.
“Well, the food’s good here. And the water pressure. And the being-able-to-walk-twenty-feet-without-running-into-a-pack-of-monsters.”
Claire points at a cabinet.
“Yeah, it’s not so bad. Plates in there.”
While Kevin does so, he can hear Claire tapping her foot.
“Do you need something? Am I in your way?”
Claire looks embarrassed.
“No. I just wanted to ask if you know a guy named Jimmy.”
She’s trying to sound casual, but the look in her eyes betrays her.
“I didn’t really know anyone. After the angels showed up, they were the only people I really talked to.”
“You knew the angels? What about Castiel?”
“Uh, no. I met this world’s Castiel, though.”
Claire rolls her eyes.
“That guy’s a total dweeb.”
“How do you know him?”
She laughs, a short humorless thing.
“When I was 12 he needed a vessel and he used my dad until he died. Now it’s just Cas in there, no Jimmy. My mom went off looking for him, and then she got killed by an angel too, and my grandma died of old lady diseases, so. That’s why I’m here.”
“Shitty? Yeah. Jody’s cool, though. She cares and stuff. She’ll take care of you and give you space or whatever if you stick around.”
“Good to know.”
Claire gives him a two finger salute.
“See you around, new kid.”
“Aren’t you in high school?”
At that, she bristles.
“No, that’s Patience. And she graduated early, anyway. She’s doing these dumb online community college classes now. I’m 20. Been out of the high school joint for years.”
“And I’m three years older than you.”
“I’ve been here for years, you’ve been here for twenty minutes. That makes you the new kid.”
With that, she turns and leaves.
Kevin doesn’t really have anything to do, after that. He knocks on Claire’s door and asks where he can get a laptop, and she hands him a small sleek tablet instead.
“iPad,” is all she offers as an explanation, so that’s the first thing Kevin looks up.
He spends the day catching up on eight years of current events and politics and technology, and when Jody gently knocks on his door and tells him dinner’s on the table, his eyes are swimming.
Kevin gets introduced to Patience, who feels achingly similar to the kid he used to be. She talks about how she does readings for class on the drive between cases, and how a lot of people get their associates at a community college before going on to Ivy League schools and being more successful than people who went there straight after high school. Claire scoffs at this conversation, and everyone tactfully ignores it. Eventually, it turns Kevin’s way. Jody laces her fingers together, tone bright.
“What about you, Kevin? It’s the middle of the semester right now, but if you’re here in August I can get you set up at the same school Patience is in.”
“Oh, uh. I’m technically a drop out, I guess. I was a freshman in high school when society broke down.”
She nods, unfazed.
“I’ve got some of Claire’s GED books still sitting around, if you want to take a look.”
Claire snorts at this, impaling a sausage on her fork.
“Are you kidding me? He came from a place that was basically on fire 24/7. Getting to skip out on high school was probably the only upside.”
Jody sighs, like this is a conversation they’ve had before.
“Not everyone hates school as much as you, Claire. Alex is glad I encouraged her, and Patience would have driven herself to the open house if I’d let her.”
Kevin sees Claire open her mouth, and he butts in.
“I’d love those books if you can find them, Ms. Mills.”
At that, a round of giggles goes around the table.
“Just Jody is fine, sweetheart.”
The conversation peters out after that, and Kevin bustles around the table with everyone else clearing plates and putting up leftovers.
After that, he returns to his room. He watches the sunset through his window, and he feels—something. Overwhelmed, he thinks. Time had been so fluid, in his old room. There wasn’t really night and day. There were meals, spaced roughly 8 hours apart, and when he started yawning the angel outside his room would come in and hold a hand out Kevin’s way, and then he wouldn’t be tired anymore and he’d keep scribbling down notes about the tablet. But it was night now. Definitely, totally, night. He’d just watched it happen. He’d slept on the drive over, and he was sure the years of having his need for sleep magic-ed away had completely ruined whatever circadian rhythms he started out with. But the exhaustion set on suddenly, so he laid down on the bed and stared at the ceiling which had a faint impression of where a poster used to be. He didn’t know how long he’d been laying there, how long he stared at the ceiling listening to the sounds of a house for the first time in years. When he opened his eyes, though, the lights were on and Claire was hovering over him, with a dark haired girl behind her. Alex.
“Hey. Time for our smoke break. You wanna come with?”
Alex gives him a look and raises her eyebrows and elbows Claire.
“I told you he needed to sleep, you dick.”
He sits up quickly, afraid the invitation will be revoked.
“I can come.”
At this, Claire elbows her friend (sister?) back.
Once they get in the car, Alex introduces herself more than she did at dinner. She’s in nursing school, and she’s been living with Jody for four years, about a year longer than Claire. She makes some lighthearted jokes about how it’s been nice to have someone else normal around since Patience got there, and Claire fires back that it’s nice to have someone cool around now that Kevin’s here, which makes Kevin laugh and Claire grin at him in the rearview mirror.
They drive for maybe 10 or 15 minutes before Alex is pulling into a parking lot. The two girls hop out, Claire walking down a trail into the park as Alex waits for Kevin to get out of the car.
“It’s not far. We used to just smoke in the backyard, but if we do that Jody tsks at us from the window the whole time, so we come here instead. It’s super fucking pretty, you’ll see.
Kevin follows Alex down the trail, Claire out of sight. When they stop, Claire is sitting against a tree, legs sprawled out in front of her.
“Took you long enough.”
Alex flips her off as she digs through her bag.
Claire looks at him curiously.
“Did they have weed in the apocalypse?”
“Uh, not where I was, no.”
Claire raises her eyebrows at that, lets out a little huh, and Alex laughs to herself.
It’s a good night. Kevin hasn’t had a good night in years, and here he is, sitting with two people he just met, talking and staring at the sky and laughing. Yesterday, he didn’t believe that feeling like this was possible. Today, he ate dinner with a family and laughed until tears sprang to his eyes. He smiles all the way back to the car. When they get back to Jody’s house, Claire and Alex exaggeratedly shh each other and giggle all the way back to their rooms. They wave to Kevin as they split off towards their bedrooms, and Kevin waves back. He falls asleep almost as soon as he hits his bed. His sleep is eventful in how uneventful it is. He hasn’t slept like this since before everything. It’s incredible.
When Kevin goes downstairs in the morning, Patience is the only one in the kitchen. She smiles at him, and talks as she pours a glass of orange juice.
“Jody works today, but she didn’t want to wake you up. Alex works today too, and Claire’s still asleep.”
A slight eyeroll.
“She’s like that on cases, too. It’s a miracle if she’s up before noon. Do you want some coffee? It’s in the pot.”
He stands dumbly in front of the coffee maker, not knowing where the mugs are.
“Cabinet right above you,” Patience says, and Kevin mumbles his thanks as he pulls one out and then starts the arduous task of finding milk and sugar.
Patience busies herself with scrawling on the grocery list.
“Do you have any plans today?”
Kevin inhales the scent of coffee.
“I don’t know anybody on this planet, so no.”
“Oh. Well, um. I have class at 3, so if you want to go get new clothes or something, I can take you.”
Kevin looks down at his shirt. He’d pulled it out of a plastic bag of Hanes white t-shirts this morning. It still smells like plastic.
“That’d be great,” he says, and Patience straightens up.
They leave a note on the door for Claire and then climb into an older car, a red four door.
“This is technically Claire’s, but no one’s allowed to drive Jody’s car, so we share. She’ll forgive us if we bring home food.”
Patience makes polite small talk all the way to the thrift store, and Kevin appreciates how hard she’s trying to be normal and make him feel welcome. She enthuses about her classes. Kevin doesn’t have anything to add to the conversation since he hasn’t gone to a school since he was 15 and now every square inch of his brain is devoted to knowing Enochian and translating the ancient language of the Word of God into something approximating English, but he listens and asks questions anyway.
At a stoplight, Patience glances his way.
“I feel like—I wonder how similar it is for us. Finding out you’re a prophet, finding out you’re psychic. I felt so out of my depth when it happened. I didn’t know if I was crazy, or if everyone else was crazy, and I didn’t have anyone to help me.”
“Yeah, being a prophet is like that except angels tell you that they’ll kill you if you don’t cooperate.”
Patience grimaces, and makes an attempt to change the subject, but Kevin stops her.
“What’s it like? Being psychic? Can you control it? Could you see someone, if you really tried?”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. I’m still… getting a handle on all this. There’s a woman in Minneapolis who’s helping me learn. We talk every week, and I go out there once a month, but I still mostly just have visions and don’t know when I’m going to have them.”
Kevin settles into his seat.
“So you can’t find my mom.”
Patience gives him an uncomfortable glance before snapping her eyes back to the road.
“No. I can’t. I’m sorry.”
Kevin waves her off, and they settle back into talking about classes until they go into the store.
Kevin learns that things are generally pretty uneventful at the Mills home. A few days after he gets there, Claire and Patience load some bags into her car because they’re headed out to Deadwood to deal with a ghost. Kevin’s not surprised when Jody and Alex get hugs, but he is surprised when he’s next in line.
When Claire pulls away from him, she socks his shoulder.
“I’ll see you when I get back, Kev. Keep Jody on her toes for me, will you? She gets rusty when I’m not around.”
Kevin spends most of his day either on a laptop trying to learn all the new things about this world, or asking if Jody’s heard anything from the Winchesters about his mom while she gives him a sorrowful look. Claire knows this. He socks her back.
“Yeah, will do.”
Jody good naturedly laments about being teamed up on, and then Claire and Patience are gone. Kevin’s routine doesn’t change much, he just does less studying with Patience and hanging out with Claire and more helping Jody around the house. He starts looking up recipes he remembers his mom making, and Jody dutifully buys everything he puts on the grocery list and gives him a wide berth when he’s in the kitchen trying to make the stupid ingredients taste good. He spends a week like this, then two, then Claire and Patience are back, slightly bruised.
One morning Jody knocks on his door, and Kevin stops scrolling through a list of Best Movies of the 2010s to look up at her. She’s fighting a smile off her face.
“I just got a call from Dean.”
Kevin shoots out of his chair.
“Did they find her?”
Jody nods, and Kevin starts laughing. He runs over to her and hugs her, and she hugs back. He’s mumbling oh my god, oh my god, over and over while Jody pets his hair and mumbles I know, I know back. When they pull away from each other, both their faces are tear streaked.
“I told him I’d be happy to drive you out to her, but he said as soon as she heard where you were, she got in her car. She’s coming from Wisconsin. She should be here by tonight.”
Kevin wipes his face.
“I should pack.”
Jody nods, face still wet.
“You let me know if you need any help, okay? You can keep the laptop, and the phone. You’ve got all our numbers if you ever need something or just want to visit.”
“I will. I promise. I’ll cook the next time I’m here.”
“That’ll be the day.”
Even with his new wardrobe and electronics, Kevin doesn’t have very much to pack. He throws things in haphazardly at first, then pulls everything back out so he can neatly fold and stack them. After an hour, he has a backpack and a duffel filled with everything he owns in the world separated into organized sections. His mom won’t be there for another six hours. He’s pacing back and forth when Claire walks in.
“Hey. I heard you’re flying the coop.”
“My mom’s gonna be here by tonight, yeah.”
“Good for you, Kev. You wanna try looking a little less like you’re going to have a panic attack?”
Kevin stops in his tracks.
“It’s my mom.”
He doesn’t know how to really get across the rest of it: that as long as he could remember, it was just her and him, that he lost her when he lost everything, that he’s spent years wishing that he could see her jut her chin out and tell him that her son could do anything, so he could make it through this one more time.
“I get it.”
And the weird thing is, he thinks Claire does.
“But you should still stop looking like you’re going to have a panic attack. Do you want a smoke?”
“I can’t be high in front of my mother.”
“Suit yourself. I think Jody should make you go chop wood or something. Maybe move her bed across the room like she’s always talking about doing. You’re wired.”
“Of course I’m wired.”
“Oh, does that mean you can finally beat me in Smash Bros?”
He knows an out when he’s given one.
Kevin spends that afternoon losing to Claire sans a few games where he gets to crow victory. It makes the hours feel shorter, even if every time they finish a round he glances at his phone to check the time and his stomach lurches. It’s almost dark by the time Claire claims carpal tunnel and they stop playing. Kevin checks the time, and then he checks the window for any headlights on the street.
Claire nudges him.
“You gotta stop doing that. You’re driving yourself crazy.”
“I can’t not do it. It’s—”
“It’s your mom. I know. I bet your mom doesn’t want you to look like you’re going to explode the first time you see her.”
Kevin takes a handful of slow and deep breaths, and Claire looks at him, deep in thought.
“Come on. Let’s go do the rounds. Tell Patience you’ll miss being her semi psychic study buddy, and Alex that you’ll miss… whatever it is you’ll miss about Alex.”
So they do. Patience cries, and Claire squeezes Kevin’s arm every time he looks like he’s about to cry. Alex doesn’t cry, but she does hold their hug longer than he expected, and she double checks to make sure that he has her number right in his phone. And then Kevin’s checking the time again, so Claire steers him downstairs onto the couch.
“Stay”, she orders, before disappearing into the other room.
She comes back with a cootie catcher, and Kevin raises his eyebrows.
Claire climbs up on the couch and crosses her legs, reciting the rules since Kevin hasn’t done this in near a decade.
“So? What’s your question?”
“I don’t know. Are cootie catchers bullshit?”
She glares at him.
“Now pick your color.”
“G-R-E-E-N. Okay. Now a number.”
Kevin doesn’t answer, because he can hear the slow roll of tires on the street outside, and he can see when the car comes to a stop outside the window. His heart starts thumping in his chest. He runs a hand through his hair, hoping that makes it better instead of worse, and then rushes out the door while Claire yells behind him.
The driver’s door opens and closes, and there’s his mom. He doesn’t even think before he runs toward her. Somehow, this is more surreal than coming through a portal to a different world. He stops just short of her, and she reaches out towards his face. Her voice is soft.
His own voice is shaky.
“Yeah, mom. It’s me.”
She hugs him. She smells like his mom. She moves her fingers in slow circles on his arms like his mom does. She’s talking a mile a minute, Oh, my baby, I missed you so much, you’ve gotten so tall, you cut your hair, it looks good, you look handsome, all in rapid fire. Kevin doesn’t say anything, just relishes the fact that this is his mom. She’s right in front of him. She’s alive. She’s happy to see him.
He doesn’t know how long they stand in the street with her fussing over him while he laughs, but eventually she stops hugging him and stops cupping his face and peers towards Jody’s house. Claire ducks out of the doorway.
“I think it’s time I meet the woman who’s been taking care of my son.”
Jody and his mom get on shockingly well, and when Jody disappears into the kitchen to put the finishing touches on dinner, his mom looks like she’s going to insist on helping before she sits down on the couch with him instead. They talk and talk and talk, and his mom occasionally asks questions of the girls too.
When they sit down to eat, his mom squeezes his hand and sits beside him, and it’s nice. Everyone chats with each other, happy and polite, and his mom has warmed up enough to start telling stories about his childhood, to Kevin’s chagrin.
Afterwards, Kevin moves his bags out of his room so his mom can sleep in the bed and he settles in on the couch. Everyone flits in and out a few times before they go to bed, wanting to talk once last time before he leaves. Claire’s the last to go. She tells him she’s gonna miss having someone to hang out with when Alex and Patience are being nerds, and she makes him swear to come visit so they don’t get comfortable ganging up on her. He promises. Of course he promises.
In the morning, he’ll get in the car with his mom. They’ll road trip back to her house, and it’ll feel like home. His friends will check in with him, and so will Jody. His mom will be down the hall, and he’ll spend a few weeks settling in. What he does after that is up to him and only him, which is new and terrifying and exciting all at once. For the first time in ages, he feels ready for the next day, month, year. He feels ready for his life.