Dean eventually figures out the driving instructions to the address on the card the angel gave him with the help of Google maps and Sam’s computer. He can practically hear Sam bitching at him to only use Google and not any of his other virus-laden porn sites, it makes him grin just thinking about how easy it was to wind Sam up with that shit. He can’t contain his hope at this point that he’ll get to do it to him live and in person soon.
His destination isn’t down in this low-rent part of town of course, but up in the steep hills and canyons above Santa Barbara, where the ranchos of the rich spread out and sprawl on the hillsides. Before it’s time to head out for his appointment, he calls Bobby one last time, but he’s not there. Dean’s slightly disappointed because he needed the boost of hearing Bobby’s familiar gruff voice. So he leaves a short message anyways, “Bobby, I’m just leaving now, wish me luck. I’ll call you when I know anything.”
He can’t eat anything even though he’s kind of hungry, trying not to admit to himself how damn nervous he really is. Then all of a sudden it’s time to leave, if he wants to be there on time, so he checks his pocket one last time for the amulet, looks over his written list again, smiling to himself at the last thing he’s written, and puts on his favorite red over shirt, takes a swig out of his flask, and he’s out the door, checking out of the motel and pulling out onto the road.
“Just like any other gig, right?” He tells himself, trying to reach down for the mojo that usually gets him through tough spots like this.
After a relatively short drive, listening to some old Muddy Waters tape that Sam used to always like, he’s soon pulling up at the address where he encounters a gate (not at all pearly how about that), with a speaker intercom. He quickly rolls his window down, takes a deep breath to steady himself and pushes the button and soon hears an unremarkable voice asking “who is it?”
As loudly and strongly and with as much confidence and bravado as he can manage, “Dean Winchester, I was invited.”
“Drive on up, park next to the other cars.” A buzzer sounds and the gate slides back on its track slowly. Dean drives up the winding small road that goes up a little hill and down into a hidden valley filled with oaks and grassy meadows. There aren’t any people he can see, or anything manmade looking besides the road, then around a last corner and he sees the house with a circular drive out front with several cars parked already.
“What? Is God havin’ a party or somethin’?” he nervously jokes to himself, parking next to an enormous deep navy Bentley. The last time he saw cars like this was at a car show he’d dragged Sam to on one of their yearly pilgrimages to Vegas. There’s a vintage Porsche, a fairly new Ferrari and a brand new bright green Volkswagen Bug. He chuckles at that last one, wondering whose kid it belongs to.
He takes one last breath of the familiar air of the Impala, touches his hand briefly to the spiky lump in his pocket that is the amulet and gets out quickly. The house is huge (of course), sprawling, a one story ranch house with a traditional tile roof and thick adobe style walls, there is a beautiful courtyard filled with sweet and spicy smelling flowers and herbs with a rich clay tile underfoot. The door is one of those old Spanish Mission style affairs, heavy with iron fittings and a big doorknocker in the shape of a dove. Dean takes a deep breath and lifts his hand up to work the doorknocker just as the door is flung open wide, revealing a smiling Chuck.
“Chuck! Hey! What the hell are you doing here?” Dean exclaims, pulling him in for an enthusiastic man hug.
“Hey Dean, well, I’m the one who invited you.” Chuck pulls back from the hug and looks up at him with a sardonic smile.
“Uhhh.” Dean can’t formulate a response more coherent than that, because there isn’t anywhere in the universe this can make any sense at all. But before he has a chance to try to answer Chuck, er God, he hears another familiar voice, suddenly coming from behind him, “Hullo Dean, come to bring me my ring back have you?”
Dean turns around quickly, “Eh, Hello, Mister, uh, Death. Yes, I’ve got your ring right here, thanks for the use of it. It really worked, just like you said, well you probably know that already, anyways, thanks, here you go.” Dean pulls the four horseman rings out of his pocket and separates Death’s ring, placing it in the gaunt old man’s hand gently.
“You’re welcome, I thank you for returning it unharmed.” Death glides out of the hallway and through some open French doors onto what looks to be a large patio, both Dean and Chuck turn to watch him go.
Chuck turns back to Dean and that gives Dean the chance to ask, “Chuck, are you really God? Or is this Chuck’s body that you’re using? I’m so confused who I’m talking to here.”
“It’s me Dean, there wasn’t a human named Chuck Shurley, I created him for my own purposes. I thought if I wrote the next gospel down myself there would be less chance of it getting as misinterpreted and screwed up. Turns out writing is harder than I thought it would be.”
“So what? You always look like this?”
“No sometimes I look like this” Chuck waves his hand across his face and turns into Crowley.
“What, wait a minute, you’re Crowley too?”
“Yes, when I need to be. Its fun to play the bad guy every once in a while. See who I can tempt with what. Test people’s loyalty, that sort of thing, just making sure I’ve left the right people in charge.”
“But how did Cas not know it was you?”
“Dean, I’m God, all-powerful, all that, so when I want you to know something you know, and if I don’t, then you don’t.” He switches back to the Chuck body.
“Oh right, gotcha. Well, nice to meet you, uh, what should I call you?”
“God or Chuck is fine, whatever works for you. I’m just glad you’re here Dean.”
“Me too. Uh, thanks for inviting me.”
Dean turns as he hears someone else come into the entryway, and is surprised to see Jesse the Anti-Christ, looking much older than he had just a few years ago, still on the small side, with big earnest eyes and a hesitant smile. “Hey Jesse, wow it’s good to see you.”
“Hi Dean, it’s been awhile, how are you?”
“Not too good, but you all know about that don’t you. It’s why I’m here and all.”
“Yeah we know Dean, I’m glad you asked for help.” Jesse smiles up at Dean, now looking genuinely happy to see him.
“So how about we all go out onto the patio and have ourselves a talk? We’ve got some snacks that Death brought for us, he always finds the best junk food out there.” Chuck motions Dean out through the enormous great room to some huge doors that are open to an expansive tiled patio. Comfortable benches and seats are arranged in various locations, all turned towards the beautiful view of the green valley and the Pacific Ocean sparkling off in the distance. One table has food on it, and Death is already seated there, so Dean heads towards it, taking deep breaths and trying to calm down, he’s in the presence of God (Chuck/Crowley what in the ever-lovin’ fuck?!) and Death (no big deal, just hanging out with Death, again) and The Anti-Christ (just a kid, just Jesse) and it’s almost too much. He dials himself back into badass-I-can-handle-anything mode because he needs to do this and get through it for Sam.
“Dean here try these dill pickle chips from Florida, I think you’ll enjoy them.” Death offers him a greasy white bag that smells heavenly (hah!).
“Uh, thanks, that sounds good.” Dean takes a seat and tries one and his eyes close in bliss, they really are amazingly good. “Wow those are terrific, I have to say you have great taste in junk food.”
“From one connoisseur to another, I thank you for the compliment.” Death inclines his head regally in Dean’s direction, with just a hint of a sardonic smile. Jesse and Chuck choose seats and take some of the pickle chips also.
“So Dean, you’re here because you had a request I believe, why don’t you restate it for us all?” Chuck asks, smiling gently towards Dean.
Dean gathers himself together, remembering just a few days ago standing there with Bobby and Cas, he touches the amulet through his jeans pocket, takes a deep breath and says, “My reason for wanting to find God is to ask him to release my brother Samuel Winchester from Lucifer’s cage.”
“I heard your request, and wasn’t sure why you’d ask this of me, so that is why I requested your presence here with us. Death and Jesse were willing to sit in on this conversation since they know about you and your brother.”
Death nods slightly and Jesse smiles encouragingly at Dean.
“So, uh, what do you want me to say?” Dean's totally at a loss here, doesn't know what the protocol is, doesn't want to screw up this one chance to save Sam.
“Well, explain further why I should change everything around just to suit you?” Chuck replies with an encouraging yet challenging look on his face, gesturing with a come on, come on twist of his hands.
Dean takes a deep breath and recites his six reasons that he’d written down last night, emphasizing the sixth one. It feels even more powerful saying it out loud in God’s presence, “I love him. I sold my soul for him. I’d do it again.” He finishes and realizes his eyes are wet with tears, he blinks them back squaring himself to hear God’s answer.
“I see, that is a good case, but Dean there is the natural order to think of, and an exception to it has already been made for you on more than one occasion.”
“But Chuck, God, sir, you made us to be together, soul-mates remember? We aren’t any good apart. I’d rather be back in the Cage with him than here without him.”
Death raises his eyebrows theatrically high and asks sharply, “Are you serious about that Dean?”
Dean quickly turns to look Death square in the eye, “Yes sir, yes I am. I’ve never been so serious in my life.”
“You’d really do that Dean? Go back into the Cage just to be with your brother?” Jesse asks, his voice cracking on the question. The Anti-Christ has to go through puberty too apparently, Dean thinks randomly, trying not to smile.
“Yes Jesse, I really would. I can’t stand the idea of him being there being tortured by Lucifer and Michael for eternity without me. It’s just not fair that I’m here and he’s there.”
“I know Michael and Lucifer are probably pretty unhappy in there, and I know that it seems unfair Dean. But Sam’s sacrifice was part of the plan all along.” Chuck says firmly and without a trace of humor.
“Well your plan sucks.” Dean retorts flatly.
Chuck raises his eyebrows in surprise to be talked to this way by a human, but he’s certainly heard worse from Dean before, “Oh does it now? Do tell.”
“Yeah it really does. You could have fixed all of this, at any point, why put us all through all that shit anyways? Did you really want the world to end or is it all a big game to you or something?”
“No Dean, it’s not a game, it’s just how it’s supposed to be.”
“What, Fate? Fuck that, if you’re all-powerful, then you can change whatever you want. Why won’t you?”
“For the sake of The Balance Dean. It’s as simple as that.”
“But it’s not balanced, it’s out of balance, that’s the whole problem! The angels you left in charge didn’t know what they were doing, and Michael isn’t supposed to even be in the Cage, how is any of that in balance?”
“The one who began it is in the Cage, that’s how.”
“But I began it! I’m the one who broke the first seal. I should be there, not Sam! And what the hell kind of reward is that for sacrificing himself for the sake of saving your world to be tortured for eternity? Maybe angels can handle something like that, but humans can’t. Not what they’re doing to him in there, no way. Couldn’t you count it as time served or something? It probably already feels like forever to him at this point.” Dean’s breathing hard after all that, and he feels this pit in his stomach opening up getting wider and wider as no one says anything. Deep down he’s disgusted with himself for begging like this, but its Sam’s life he’s begging for, what else is he supposed to do?
Death interrupts the heavy silence, “I think Dean has a point, if anyone it should have been him there In the Cage, so The Balance never was righted and it is not correcting anything having Sam in there, as long as Lucifer and Michael remain contained. Sam being there is not helping The Balance get closer to right again.” Death offers in his dry unimpressed tone.
“Hmmm, you might have a point there. What do you think Jesse?” Chuck inquires.
“Dean and Sam deserve to be together, after all they’ve done, and how they were created in the first place, it is right that they be together.” Jesse states simply, turning to look straight at Dean, smiling. Dean can see how much he’s grown since they last saw him, he’s not a little kid anymore and he can tell that Jesse’s grown into his job, whatever the hell that might be.
“Thanks Jesse.” Dean says quietly to Jesse, meeting his kind eyes.
“Dean, I saw how you and Sam are together, in all my travels over these years, I haven’t seen any couple like you two. You’re extraordinary.” Jesse says the last with real reverence in his voice.
“It is true God, they are unlike any other humans I’ve encountered, they’ve fought against their destiny and made their own path through all the crises you’ve ever thrown at them. A heavenly reward doesn’t seem like too much to ask really after all they’ve done.” Death finishes up with emphasis on the last bit. They all look towards Chuck to see how he’ll answer.
Chuck sighs heavily, “Let me consider this for a bit. I will return in just a little while.” Chuck gets up and goes back into the house.
“Well that’s just peachy.” Dean grumps.
“Give him a bit, he actually can be fair sometimes.” Jesse says encouragingly.
“Dean you made a strong case, I’m sure he’s considering everything you said.” Death adds.
“Thanks, I mean it, both of you, thanks for what you said before. I never thought that I had a chance of having allies at all in this crazy thing. I’m just, well I’m very grateful. I owe you both.”
“No, you don’t. We’ll call it even. You saved me before remember?” Jesse protests, voice cracking once again.
“Yeah, but I almost got you killed too by telling Cas about you.”
“How is that little guy doing?”
“Little guy?” Dean asks, grinning despite how on-edge and terrified he’s feeling inside.
“I’m just remembering when I turned him into an action figure.”
“Hah! I forgot about that, he’s uh, he’s good I guess. We don’t see him much anymore.” Dean trails off thinking how much Cas would have loved to be at this meeting.
“I bet he’s busy in Heaven with Michael gone.” Jesse muses, searching Dean’s face to see if he’s upset.
“So he says, doesn’t tell us much about it.” Dean shrugs, he doesn’t want to think or talk about Cas right now, he’s just worried about Sam and what God is going to decide.
Death clears his throat, getting Dean’s attention, “Dean, you don’t owe me either. You kept up your end of our bargain, and you returned my ring. For a human, I find you most trustworthy, and worth speaking up for.” Death also searches Dean’s face and see’s his surprised acceptance of this compliment.
“Well, uh thank you. I mean it, thank you. And Sam will thank you too once God lets him out.”
“That’s not going to be happening Dean. I’ve come to the decision that this is the life you, Dean Winchester got as the result of all your choices. You had free will, you made your choices and now you’re not even accepting the consequences of your choices. I don’t believe that you’ve grown enough in your understanding of the natural order to deserve yet another second chance. I will not release your brother Samuel Winchester from Lucifer’s Cage.” Chuck finishes his proclamation and remains standing there looking down at Dean’s shocked expression as impassively as a marble statue.
Dean leaps up, yelling down into Chuck’s face, “No wonder no one believes in you anymore! I can’t believe you’d do this to someone who believed in you his whole damned life. You saddled him with this destiny, and he did exactly what you wanted, why does he have to suffer forever? It doesn’t make any fucking sense!”
Jesse jumps up and pulls on Dean’s arm to get him out of yelling mode. It’s like holding onto a hardly controlled tiger though, Dean just barely containing his urge to smash Chuck’s bearded face to pieces. Jesse says quietly, “Dean hold on, remember who you’re talking to.”
Dean shakes off Jesse’s hand and growls, “Yeah, I know, it’s useless isn’t it. Well so that’s it huh? No chance to get you to change your mind then?”
“No Dean, there really isn’t.” Chuck says, with a hint of sadness, he knows Dean had his hopes up sky high and this is not the result he wanted.
“Well, thanks a lot for nothing, guess I’ll just go then. Oh, can I ask one more question?”
“Sure Dean, go ahead.” Chuck answers, of course knowing full well what’s coming.
“When I swallow a bullet this afternoon, am I going up or down?”
“Up Dean, that’s where you belong.”
“As far away from Sam as you can get me right?” Dean spits out venomously.
Chuck looks up at Dean with immense sadness in his eyes, “No, that’s not what the point of it is, it’s just where you’re supposed to be, The Balance will be restored then.”
“Screw you! Screw The Balance! You’re supposed to be a loving God, what do you call this?”
Dean feels his heart speeding up, his whole body going hot and tight, the adrenaline from the extreme anger and disappointment crashing through his system, he knows he needs to get out of there before he starts swinging or worse. As useless as he knows that would be. So he stumbles off the patio, tears of frustration filling his eyes, strides back through the house and is halfway out the front door before Jesse appears before him, halting his progress. “Hey Dean, can you hold on for a second? Death and I have something to ask you before you go.”
Dean wipes his eyes with the back of his hand, clears his throat and faces Jesse, “Yeah what is it?” He says brokenly, feeling more hopeless than he’s ever felt in his whole life. Death’s there now too, standing next to Jesse, both of them looking up at Dean.
“We don’t agree with God, and we want to offer you an alternative to what was it you said? Swallowing a bullet?” Death says gently.
“I’m not on your list yet huh?”
“Not quite yet. Plenty of time left for that. So would you do us the courtesy to listen Dean?” Death asks patiently.
“Sure, why not. Isn’t like God left me many options.”
Jesse looks at him brightly, “We’ll get Sam out for you, me and Death, we’ll do it together.”
“You can really do that?” Dean asks, not wanting to let himself let hope in, but it comes in unbidden and curls around his heart warming him instantly.
“Yeah, we think so.” Jesse answers him grinning.
“Well shit then, do it! What are you waiting for?” Dean waves his arms dramatically, as if he’s demanding instant satisfaction.
Death recoils slightly in the face of Dean’s outburst and holds up his hand in a stopping motion, “First things first Dean. God had a point about you needing to learn that your life is a result of your choices. But I believe that you also need to learn that your choices are more meaningful than you realize. You need to understand Dean, that bearing all these burdens your entire life is what is of value. It is that you’ve borne those burdens that makes you the righteous man worth me helping. Dean you need to learn to value your own soul. And you’ll only understand this when you see what would have happened if you hadn’t made the choices that you now regret.”
“How in the world do I do something like that?” Dean asks, not really getting what Death is talking about, but willing to try anything if it will get him Sam back.
“Death says he can do a life review, kinda like in that Christmas movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.”” Jesse offers helpfully.
“So I go through this, uh life review, and then what?” Dean is beyond skeptical at this point, not seeing how looking back at his life would be worth anything to anyone. He wishes Bobby were here, he could put it all in terms that Dean would understand.
“We’ll see if you’ve learned what you needed to. Because I predict that if you don’t learn this, you’ll find another way to upset The Balance even more than you have already by trying something else to get Sam out.” Death looks hopeful that Dean has truly understood what he is proposing, because if he hasn’t, then the chances of him surviving go down to just about nothing.
“You’re probably right about that.” Dean answers smiling to himself, because yeah, he was planning to try the Black Magic stuff that he’d found as a last resort before giving up and swallowing a bullet like he’d told God.
“Learn this lesson Dean and then Jesse and I will get Sam back for you. I can get his soul, and Jesse will be able to move his body out of the Cage. Your brother will be returned to you if you can do this.”
“Sounds good to me, let’s do it already. Oh, but what about God though?”
“He said he’s good with it, said to wish you good luck. I think he’s sure you won’t be able to do it, but I think he’s wrong. But one more little request Dean, from me.” Jesse states, sounding just a little unsure at the end.
“A request?” Dean’s confused, what in the world could the Anti-Christ want from him?
“Yeah, when Sam’s back, can I hang with you guys for a while?” Jesse asks, now sounding like the twelve year-old that he is.
Dean smiles reassuringly, pleased that Jesse’s request is something so easy, “Sure Jesse, why not, I’m sure Sam won’t mind.”
“Cool, thanks.” Jesse grins and looks like he’s a kid who just won a new X-Box.
“Dean let’s go back into the house, I believe there’s a room that will suit our purposes very nicely.” Death turns and glides back inside, Chuck’s nowhere to be seen thank God (thank Chuck?). Jesse and Dean follow Death, Jesse bumping into Dean’s hip and smiling. Dean’s reminded of how Sam used to do that to him when he was twelve just to keep his attention that little bit longer.
“Hey, uh, you think this is gonna work Jesse?” Dean asks quietly, worried that he’s going to fail Sam yet again. Feeling silly for asking this kid for support, but he’s all he’s got at the moment to draw on. He has an inkling that this life review is going to be harder than Death’s making it out to be.
“Piece of cake.”
“Not pie huh?”
“Why would it be pie?” Jesse tilts his head a little to the side in question reminding Dean instantly of Cas, and looks up at Dean.
“Uh, I just like pie better than cake.”
“Oh, me too, how about you guys take me out for pie when Sam’s back.” Jesse generously offering a sweet hope for Dean to grab onto while he dives into the unknown task ahead of him.
“Sure, I found a great place down in town, had the best pie I’ve ever had, it was called “American Dream”. It was strawberries and blueberries on top of lemon cream cheese with whipped cream. Awesome.”
“Awesome.” Jesse repeats, grinning up at Dean.
Death’s holding open a door at the end of the long softly carpeted hallway and Dean slows down as they approach, fear of what’s coming ramping up inside him, but he tamps it down, this is how he gets Sam back, he’s doing this no matter what. “Come in here Dean, and we will begin.” Death says as he disappears through the doorway.