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28 May 2011 @ 08:17 am
[fanfic] Poetic Justice (1/4)  
Title: Poetic Justice
Chapter: One (of four)
Author: tiptoe39
Pairing: Dean/Gabriel
Rating: NC-17 overall; PG this chapter
Words: 17,500 total
Summary: Without Gabriel, the world needs a Trickster. Dean is offered the job.
Author’s notes:
* Written for morganoconner for help_japan.
* Set in Season 6, sometime after the Dean/Lisa breakup.
* Beta’d by the fantastic stellamaris99.
* The auction was for a ‘verse. That means I will take requests for side stories, drabbles - anything set in this ‘verse. So if you have an idea, please share it!

Ideas, unlike people, are not easily killed.

You can tamp down on an idea, root out its followers and break them down, but there's always the idea, the potential for being, sitting out there like a bump in the road, waiting for someone to stumble on it and break their neck. And it's that idea, that potential, that makes certain things so hard to kill.

Like God. Like angels and devils. Like dreams. Anything that people need to explain their own existence is notoriously hard to kill. And even when you manage, even when you succeed in killing the embodiment of an idea, its potential is still out there, like a whirlpool, a hole in the world. Waiting for something to rush in, to fill it. To make it real.

There's a hole in the world now, and it's looking for a way to fill itself.

Dean's shifting through newspapers, looking for a case. A job, a distraction, a road trip. Anything. He doesn't like staying still. He feels like time is shifting all around him. And Sam by his side is steady and confusing, a signpost pointing in the wrong direction, a broken compass. Dean doesn't know what to make of him anymore.

The other day, Sam came home in the morning from a girl's house and commented loosely, "I feel like I'm picking up the slack for you, dude."

Dean looked up from the Nashville Times. "What do you mean?"

"Well, you remember how it used to be." Sam slung one long leg over a chair and folded his arms over the seat, his chin dropping into the middle of them. "Used to be you were the one chasing some girl and I was sitting in the motel room waiting for you to come back."

"Mmhmm." Dean didn't much want to follow this conversation to its conclusion.

Sam didn't notice his discomfort. "That's changed, huh?"

"A lot has changed," Dean said, His voice sounded rougher, harsher than he expected - he wasn't sure he even recognized himself. Was this him? Still?

It was, and it is. It's him, and it's Sam, and there's nothing between them. No secrets. They're brothers. Normal brothers.

Dean's starting to resent that they still pretend it's more.

His eyes slide over a police blotter column, a man declaring that his house has been broken into by a stampede of killer squirrels. Definitely supernatural enough to register as a case, but at the same time so ridiculous that it hardly seems even worth mentioning. It's possible the guy was attacked by some kind of creature, but at the same time, Dean almost hopes it really was killer squirrels. It'd at least be interesting and new.

What the hell could enchant a bunch of squirrels, though? There must be a branch of magic with power over animals. Or it's a skinwalker, pissed off at this guy for cruelty to animals. Maybe he used to run over squirrels for fun in his RV.

Or, Dean thinks suddenly, maybe he killed a Chippendale's dancer. So he's being attacked by Chip and Dale.

OK, he's just gonna pretend a pun that bad never showed up in his brain. But still. Something this bizarre should be poetic justice. If only because that would amuse Dean.

Not that Dean gets amused by the suffering of innocent people. Or even slightly guilty people. He's not like that.

There was someone who would have appreciated this. But that someone's gone. And Dean didn't like him that much when he was alive. Still, the guy'd just started to come round when he was killed. Seems to Dean that after a lifetime of making sure everyone got their just deserts, that was a hell of an unjust way of going.

Too depressing to dwell on. Dean shunts the thought aside. He keeps doing that, going back into the past, romanticizing what they've been through before. What's the use? It's gone.

But there's just not that much left in the future to look forward to.

The recent run of cases have all been incredibly creepy, and although he isn't prone to nightmares as a rule, Dean's been having some bad nights. Tonight's involves a thousand music boxes, all playing out of tune, the stilted noise from each making the others sound even more sour. His head aches, his stomach turns, and he isn't sure the noise isn't going to melt the walls. When he wakes up, the awful, repetitive drone of them is still in his head, and his skull feels like it's been struck from within. It's chiming like a bell.

Everything feels sick and wrong lately, like the life he's been pursuing has been twisted into a dark parody of itself. The white picket fence was broken down, muddy grey slats hanging disjointed against the fabric of his memory. And the freewheeling on-the-road mentality has never recovered since Dean's journey to hell; everything that he's done since, all the chicks and the fights and the beers, feel like a pale reflection of a life that can't be recaptured.

Who is he, now, after all he's been through? What is there left for him to be?

Dean talked about it to Sam once. "I spent 40 years in hell," he said, "but it doesn't show. Honestly, I'm not 30, I'm 70. I'm an old man, I just look really good."

Sam rolled his eyes. "Seriously!" Dean went on. "By the time I really hit 70, I'm gonna be a hundred and ten. If I even make it that long." He sighed. "You wanna know something weird? With every damn thing we hunt, I'm more and more surprised every time we survive. The thing I'm scared of most right now is dying of old age."

He expects something to tear him to shreds, eventually, again. He's felt it before, he can stand it. But what if he's too good? What if, with everything the night throws at him, he survives it all, kills them all?

What then? What if the music boxes never run down?

There's too much melody in his head and his memory. It doesn't feel anything like the kind of music Dean actually likes. He has to go for a drive and let AC/DC set his mind at ease.

The road feels good, the old steady rhythm of his best girl beneath him, chugging along into the night. He can read her every mood, he can feel every hiccup of her engines. She's familiar, and good, and steady. The life he knows well, there beneath him and around him. Holding him up, holding him safe, holding him in.

Holding him down.

He's never harbored any ill will toward this car. Even when he was fighting with Sam, fighting with Dad, the car was always a safe place. He'd lean into the leather of the seats and find the foundation he needed for his world to hold together. She's never been a trap.

But just now, he feels like he's trying to drive her so hard even she'll be left behind.

He's got solidity now. He's got stability. And the good kind, the kind that's based in family and legacy. He's a hunter, with his brother, like old times, before all the madness. Before angels and devils drove up from the earth and down from the skies to tear it all apart. He held on as hard as he could then, held on so tight that it was locked into his skin, an unbreakable bond that neither heaven nor hell could crack.

But what if he wanted to? Could he break free? Or has he tied himself down so surely that he's locked himself into a fate that's unchangeable?

Maybe it's the truth that he's always been driving hard to escape something. But now he's driving even harder, just to escape the fact that he can't escape anymore.

"I gotta get it together," he mutters to himself, a fist pounding on the steering wheel, as an endless red light stares him down. "This isn't right. Something..." Something's missing.

"True. Most notably, me."

Dean whirls. The light is so dim, the streaks of rain so fat against the windows, that for a moment he thinks he's gone back in time again. The dead man in the back seat is an echo of an earlier time, a time when Dean had, if not fun, at least purpose.

But the light turns green, illuminating Gabriel's eyes and making them swim eerily sea-green. "Go," he prompts, waving a hand.

"You're dead," Dean says stupidly.

"Yup." Gabriel waves at the traffic signal again. "Go."

The car lurches forward without Dean's permission, and he grabs the steering wheel, pulling as though on the reins of an obstinate horse. The wheel responds in his hand, and as soon as his foot hits the pedal the car is back under his control.

Dean glances in the rear view mirror. The same puggish nose, small mouth and clefted chin stares back at him, every inch the man - or, at least, the form - he remembers. "So what is this? Angels can be ghosts now?"

Gabriel smiles, a crooked thing that looks out of place on his face. "Not exactly," he says. "I'm not me, precisely."

Dean snatches up an aluminum foil hamburger wrapper and tosses it over his shoulder. The mess of greasy silver smacks Gabriel on the cheek and falls useless at the side. "You're you," Dean says.

"I'm solid," Gabriel corrects, and he leans forward to pick the wrapper up from the floor of the car. "Which is pretty impressive, I gotta say. It's a testimony to the sheer power of my awesome that I can manage to be solid, even though it's not really me."

"How the hell is it not you? You're in my car. Playing with my leftovers."

"If it were me, that thing would be wrapped around your unmentionables," Gabriel says casually. He spreads his fingers, and abruptly, the wrapper slips right through the flesh of his palm and falls again. "I'm dead, bozo. You know that."

"So if you're not you," Dean says, pulling over to the side of the road, "what are you?"

Gabriel waits for the car to slow to a stop, waits for the lurching moment as it falls still. "I'm kind of... the idea of me."

"Say that again?"

"I'm not me, I'm the idea of me. The concept of the Trickster. I was it, you know. I wasn't a Trickster, I was the Trickster. Without me there are still comedians and self-righteous assholes, but none with phenomenal cosmic power. I don't exist. The idea of me's all that's left."

Dean clutches his head. "That is the most convoluted thing I ever--"

Gabriel whistles. "25-dollar word there."

"So if you're the idea of you, how is that not... you?"

"It's not me because I can do squat right now," Gabriel says flatly. "No tricks left. No angel power, no homespun TV sets, no slow-dancing aliens. Just a thing that kinda looks like me, kinda sounds like me, and can sort of manage to be here."

"That makes less sense the more I think about it, so I'm not gonna bother." Dean harrumphs, shifts in his seat. "New question. Why are you here?"

"Trying to fill a hole."

Dean makes a face.

"Why did I know you were going to go there? Sicko. Like I said, I'm just the idea of me. I don't exist anymore, and that means there's a hole in the world. I'm looking for a way to fill it."


"Meaning, there needs to be a Trickster if I'm ever gonna rest in peace."

"And how the hell am I sup--"

Dean stops short. He goes white. "You're not." But a glimmer has entered Gabriel's eyes.

"You're in the right spot for it. You've got the sensibility."

"No." The word speeds out of Dean's mouth. "No."

"I haven't even made my pitch yet!" Gabriel leans over so his chin is hanging over the passenger side of the front seat. "It's a good one, too. Been rehearsing it. Ready?"

Dean slumps. "Do I have a choice here?" Gabriel shakes his head brightly. "All right. Just-- start from the beginning, and don't give me any bull. What's this hole you're talking about?"

"Look at it this way." Gabriel phases right through the seat, ends up sitting next to Dean in the front of the car. He folds his arms behind his head and tilts his head toward Dean. "You've run into Death already, right? And Fate. Some people are more than people, OK? I'm an archetype. There's got to be me, somewhere. Someone's gotta be the Trickster. Now, some poor schmo can get called up out of nowhere, or I can pick someone before I kick off entirely. So, I've picked someone." He leans in, and his eyes glint that green-amber hue that Dean's never been entirely sure how to characterize. "And it's you, Dean."

Something about the way he's smiling, the flash of his eyes, makes Dean swallow hard before he answers. "Yeah, I got that much. Why?"

"Hey, you liked my style when we first met," Gabriel says. "The feeling was mutual. You're cool. You can pull it off. And frankly, Dean, you're the most qualified applicant I've ever seen."

"What does that mean?"

"It means, you've been a vessel for angels. Hypothetically, at least. You've been a vampire. Hell, you were even Death for a while. There's something about you that tells me you could be anything. Why would I not want to tap that?"

Dean draws back. His lip curls.

"Potential, dumbass. I want to tap your potential." Gabriel rolls his eyes. "And let's face it, Dean, after what you've been through, you think a couple of hunts are gonna cut it? You've tried the white picket fence thing. It didn't take. And no offense, but Sam looks like he can pretty much take care of himself without you."

"You drag Sam into this, I'll--"

"Relax, Kujo. I can't do anything. But really." His voice softens. "You did your job, Dean. Better than any of us expected us you to do. You protected Sammy-boy so well that you guys even averted the Apocalypse through the power of your epic brotherly love. Enough already with Sam. What about you?"

Dean's jaw flaps, but nothing comes out. There's nothing to say. Gabriel's got him pinned, sure as a bull's-eye on a dartboard.

"There's something about you, Dean," Gabriel says. "Something that everybody wants a piece of. You could be anything you wanted to be. So think about it." His voice drops to a charged whisper. "Why not be a god?"

The possibilities spark in Dean's mind despite him. His calloused, dull human hands alive with power. Fatigue falling from his weary back. All at once the world that's dealt him blow after blow, his to shape, to punish. And does the world ever deserve it.

Wild fear grounds him. He holds tight to the shoulder strap of his seatbelt. "No. No. Just-- no."

Gabriel regards him through glimmering eyes. "I saw that," he says. "I don't blame you. I didn't handle it the way you would. But that's the point." His lips press together briefly, and he shifts, sitting straight up. "You can make it work the way you want. I bet you think you can do better. I'm giving you the chance. Just think about it. That's all I'm saying." He lifts his hands, wide palms spread, and his eyebrows quirk up twice before he's gone.

Dean comes back to find Sam awake. He's sitting on the edge of his bed, fingers curled around a cup of water, and at Dean's entrance he looks up with a vaguely worried face. "Hitting the hard stuff?" Dean jokes with a nod at Sam's glass.

He doesn't get a smile in return. "Everything OK?"

Dean drops his jacket on the bed and avoids Sam's eyes. "Yeah. Just had a dream. Went for a drive to shake it off." He figures he can save the metaphysics and godhood offers for morning.

Maybe he can, but Sam's less likely to leave it alone. "A dream? What about?"

"Bad music," Dean says flatly. "Nothing, Sammy, it was a dream. I'm fine."

Sam shrugs. "If you say so. You sure there's nothing bothering you?"

Dean glares at him.

"Right," Sam says, sliding along the bed to kick the sheets down. "I'll just go back to bed, then."

Dean feels vaguely guilty. They have a bad track record of keeping secrets, the two of them. Sooner or later something will come out. It always does.

But does that mean it always will? Is Dean as locked into this relationship as he was into the angels' plans, as he was into the hunting life? Doesn't he ever get a say in what he wants to be?

He grumbles away the guilt and climbs into bed without another word. Damn it, this time he's not saying anything, and it's not because the information is dangerous (though it probably is) or because it'll shock Sam (though it probably will). It's because Dean wants to not say anything. Just to prove that he can.

And that's it, that's where he leaves things, and he thinks that's where they'll stay. But just before he nods off, Sam says, "You know I'm here if you want to talk," that cloying benign voice crawling into his personal space, and Dean feels vaguely assaulted. He pretends he's already asleep.

Something's been assaulting denizens of the Tenth Street suburb of Tuscon, Arizona. Dean and Sam swelter in their FBI suits and listen to laborer's pidgin-English tales of the masked man. Dean thinks it's Zorro. Sam laughs. It's a perfectly healthy, typical bit of fun between the two of them. It feels usual. Old-hat. These things used to be comfortable. Now they feel cliched. It could be any reference to anything at any time. It's a stale taste in his mouth.

Turns out to be a cursed tribal mask from Africa being held in the personal collection of a developer who's been gentrifying the 10th Street area. And by gentrifying, please read evicting longtime residents from their homes to put in a mini-mall. The mask is unwittingly doing his work for him. But he turns around and begs Sam and Dean for help, because now that these grisly murders are happening, his investors want to pull out. It's all delightfully ironic.

Dean thinks it's a shame to destroy the mask. He'd rather give it to one of these families, let them harness its power to deal a blow back to the idiotic, idle rich. Not that he says that out loud. But he can still dream of someone terrorizing the poor guy, making him afraid to stay in his home after he's wheedled and scared and wrenched so many families out of theirs. It'd serve him right.

Dean can honestly picture the entire scenario. Think Jim Carrey but with the creepy dialed up to a hundred and seven. Invading his space, telling him disturbing details about the people it's killed for his sake. Turning the man's mind upside down until he doesn't see any safe place.

Poetic justice.

The connection clicks in his mind and he immediately tries to shove the rest of the thoughts out of his mind. He's not that guy. He's already told Gabriel he's not. Because he cares, because he wouldn't do that. No matter how much the guy deserved it.

Yeah, he would. Who's he kidding? He totally would.

And what's more, he should.

His morals fight him all the way past the ceremonial burial ground where they're supposed to be breaking the mask in half and burying it. Sam has to yell at him to turn back. Dean swears he hears the mask cackling and rattling in the trunk.

"So Sam," he says, after a half-hour of silent driving, trying not to say it. The heat's dissipating into the chill of Colorado mountains, and it loosens his tongue. "You, uh, you think we'd ever go our separate ways?"

Sam stares at him for a long moment. "What are you talking about?" he says, his tongue drawing the syllables carefully.

"Just as a hypothetical," Dean adds. "You think anything'd ever happen that we'd say it's time to split up?"

Sam's still, thinking about it. He draws his hand across his cheek, tapping his lips briefly. "Honestly? I've sort of given up on the idea."

Dean almost drives off the road. "So you mean you'd want to--"

"No!" Sam's this close to grabbing the steering wheel. He waits for Dean to straighten out before he goes on. "Dean, I'm happy. I like what we do. It's just I wish you had a chance to do something for you, you know? I had a break. I went to college. You've done this your whole life. And if you wanted to do something else, I just-- I hope you wouldn't turn it down because of me, you know?"

A grunt escapes Dean's mouth, but he's too busy turning Sam's answer over and over in his mind to form words of his own.

"Dean." Sam's quiet and even. It's infuriating. "Is something going on?"

"No." Dean drums his fingers on the steering wheel. "But suppose, hypothetically."


"Yeah. Hypothetically. Suppose I decided to go somewhere for a while."

Sam leans back, giving a short sigh. "OK. Suppose."

"So, what would you do?"

"That depends, Dean. Where would you be?"

Dean hasn't thought about that part of the hypothetical. "Suppose-- suppose I couldn't tell you," he spits out.

"You couldn't tell me? So what, is this some kind of secret mission?"

"Not quite. Think... more like an extended vacation."

"A vacation you can't tell me about."

Dean scowls. "Dude, it's my hypothetical. Just go with it."

A laugh skitters from Sam's lips. "Fine, fine."

"So, hypothetically, what would you do?"

"Hypothetically? I'd worry like hell about you, and I'd probably look for you."

Dean's heart plummets to his stomach. He should have known better than to think this conversation would go well.

"But Dean--"

A warmth lights Sam's voice. Dean looks over and sees the same light in his eyes. A lump wells up in his throat, and he swallows it hard.

"If there's something, really-- if you need to do something for you, you can tell me, OK? I mean, as long as it's not something where I'll never see you again. I can deal." Sam's tone tries to be evasive, casual. It's not working. Dean's fingers tremble on the steering wheel.

"You'll see me again," he says.

Sam nods. That's all they talk about it.

Dean doesn't take the car. He figures Sam'll need it, and Dean'd rather leave it with Sam than bring it with and submit it to whatever Gabriel's (not-Gabriel's) got planned. So he just saunters out to a green light, backpack stuffed, and stands by the side of the road, his thumb hitched out, waiting for his ride. It'll be the right one. he's pretty sure about that.

A Mack truck pulls over and a redneck leans out of the cab. "Where to?"

Dean shrugs. "You know where."

The redneck's expression quirks into a grin. "Is that a yes?"

"Yes," Dean says. "On a few conditions."

"Conditions? Do tell."

Dean rounds the truck's front and slips into the passenger seat. "Two. First of all, I want a trial run. I give it a go, but if after a month I don't like the gig, I get to leave it behind."

"Just call me Mr. Applegate," Gabriel says, a raspy aside in a foreign voice.


"Never mind." He starts the truck. "It's doable. Thirty days, starts first thing tomorrow morning, but that’s all you get. Shall we?"

Dean waits for the kick of the gear to settle him deep into his seat. His heart is thrumming with a sudden, inexplicable excitement. As he looks out the window, watches the motel where Sam's staying get smaller in the rearview mirror and finally dot out of sight, he gives a soft smile. It feels like launching into space. Dean the astronaut, exploring yet another strange new world.

He turns to Gabriel, who's melted back into his usual form, the scrappy janitor-cum-judge-cum-TV doctor who finally revealed himself as an angel. The familiar face gives Dean some comfort. "So. The other condition."

"Oh. right." Gabriel mutters, clutching the gear shift. "I'd hoped you'd forgotten about that. I really hope it's not a deal-breaker, kemo sabe, because I'd hate to have to turn this thing around--"

"It's you."

Gabriel loses his grip on the lever, cocks his head, squints at Dean. The truck happily barrels onto the highway, switching its own gears. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that. What did you say?"

"You," Dean says. "And not this bullshit 'idea of you,' either. I need the real Trickster, back alive, showing me the ropes. That means full resurrection, magical powers and all, for as long as it takes until I'm ready."

Another blank moment. The truck whistles dramatically.

Dean blinks. The face that smiles back at him is no different, but his mind tells him more than his eyes that something changed. Gabriel's more solid, more real than he was just a moment ago.

"Ask and ye shall receive," Gabriel says. And to prove his reality, he promptly turns Dean's backpack into a giant, living, slippery, thrashing sturgeon. “But warning -- this is only good for the trial period. Thirty days max. Please make a note of it."

"Oh, God." Dean groans, wriggling his way backward on his seat and letting the fish flop onto the floor of the cab. "What have I gotten myself into?"

"Don't worry, boy wonder." A hand snakes over to pat Dean on the damp knee. "I'll make it good for you."

The fish flops one more time and turns back to canvas. Dean looks at it a moment before deciding it's the funniest thing he's ever seen. He laughs, loudly, feeling free, feeling like the sky is open to him for the first time in years. Gabriel chuckles briefly along with him and then just grins, watching the emotion crest on Dean's face and subside again.

"So what made you say yes?" he says finally.

Dean grins at him. "Honestly? It just seemed like the right time to make a change."

Kevin Jonesmulder200 on May 28th, 2011 12:32 pm (UTC)
Hm. This is going to be fun!
Morgan O'Conner: SPN Dean Gabriel take a chance by tempormorganoconner on May 28th, 2011 12:38 pm (UTC)

Oh my God. Oh my God, you are brilliant. And this is already pretty much my favorite thing ever, and I don't know how I'm going to survive waiting for the next part, but I WILL BECAUSE I NEED MORE.

Zekkass: Death Starzekkass on May 28th, 2011 12:58 pm (UTC)
Oh, goodness. I adore this opening, I love where you're taking it, and I hope against all hope that Gabriel gets to stay for more than thirty days.

Also, turning things into fish = awesome!
Xarixianxarixian on May 28th, 2011 01:24 pm (UTC)
Oh man, this so beautifully written.
Dean seems to be kind of stagnating, I'm glad he went with a yes.
I'm so excited to read more of this!
God, I love some Dean/Gabriel <3
Artmetica: Misha luvartmetica on May 28th, 2011 01:59 pm (UTC)
Oh this is exciting! XD XD XD Also, love the title ^^
And I've been reading a bit of Dean/Gabe recently :p
More soon?
rowdy_missusrowdy_missus on May 28th, 2011 02:21 pm (UTC)