Summary: The Winchesters' story doesn't have one ending. It has dozens of endings, each one as plausible as the next.
Characters: Chuck, Castiel (implied Sam/Dean)
Original story: Catty-corner From Hell by girlguidejones
Chuck decided to give it a shot. He didn't think he'd be able to pull a fast one over the warriors of God, but he figured it couldn't hurt to try.
He sprang for a bottle of Jameson's. This wasn't the kind of job you sat down to do with cheap gin in a plastic jug. If he succeeded, it wouldn't matter if he couldn't pay his electric bill next month. If he didn't succeed–
If he didn't succeed that asshole Zachariah would probably show up and tell him to write in his own goddamned blood if he couldn't power up the computer.
Chuck thought about words all the time. That was pretty much all he did, all he'd ever done. Dreams and words, words and dreams. Goddamned. A useful cuss word for PG-13 audiences, never had much meaning before now. Not one of his favorites. He preferred fucking as his angry adjective of choice. Maybe it was overused to the point of saturation, staid and comfy and family-friendly these days, but it still had more bite than goddamned.
Goddamned. Damned by God.
He had a bottle of pills. That was another skill he'd picked up since embarking on his glamorous life as a writer: how to type while three sheets to the wind, how to make a loaf of bread and jar of peanut butter last two weeks, how to turn nightmares full of blood and terror and pain into more or less coherent novels, how to start an internet flame war by posing as his own worst critic online, how to score prescription pills from the local high school dealer without landing himself on the neighborhood watch warning list.
He opened the bottle and spilled the pills onto the coffee table. The prescription belonged to a Mr. Roger Bell. Take one as necessary for insomnia. No refills. Do not exceed one dose per day. Do not drive or operate machinery.
Chuck wondered what kind of man Mr. Roger Bell was to sell his drugs to a teenage dealer or let his kid steal them from the bathroom cabinet.
He opened the whiskey and flung the metal cap across the room; it plinked to rest in a dark corner, out of sight, out of mind.
He poured the whiskey slowly, filling the glass to the brim, and reached for the pills.
The medicine was gone. Only the bottle remained, and it was empty.
Chuck groaned and fell back into the cushions of the sofa. "Come on!" he said, glaring up at the ceiling. He lifted the glass of whiskey and took a defiant gulp. It burned his throat going down and his voice was hoarse when he continued, "That is not fair. That is really fucking unfair. Don't you guys have rules?"
"Your life is precious to us."
Chuck hadn't expected an answer. He startled, sloshing whiskey over his fingers, and whipped his head around. "Oh. It's you. Is your boss to busy to stop by?"
Castiel tilted his head to one side thoughtfully. Saurian. Reptilian. Serpentine. Inhuman. Chuck hadn't been kind in his written descriptions, but he couldn't say he'd been overly harsh either. Angels were creepy motherfuckers.
When Castiel just kept staring, Chuck asked, "What do you want? Can't a prophet even get drunk in peace anymore?"
"Your life is precious to us," Castiel said again. "And I do not believe you have thought through the consequences of your actions."
Castiel glanced down and Chuck followed his gaze: the angel had the vanishing pills cupped in one hand.
Chuck took another swallow of whiskey and wiped his mouth. "I've thought about it, all right. I've done nothing but think about it since..." He gestured with the glass. "You know."
"Have you?" Castiel stepped forward. It was only one step, but suddenly he was a lot closer than he had been before, staring down at Chuck with those unsettling - inhuman - eyes.
Chuck opened his mouth to answer, but something stopped him. Chuck remembered Sunday school. He remembered construction paper collages, Nativity coloring books, the flavor of paste and apple juice. He remembered eavesdropping when Mom whispered with Sister Mary Catherine after Mr. Reynolds died. He remembered what they had said: poor Mr. Reynolds, what a sorry way to go, all suicides go to Hell.
"So that's it?" Chuck said. He let out a breath that was halfway to a laugh. "That's what I get? Sit down and write, sucker, there ain't no promises of kittens in heaven for you?"
Something almost like emotion flickered over Castiel's face. "You have seen much, Prophet," he said. It almost sounded like an honorable title on his tongue.
"I see everything," Chuck said tiredly.
He didn't. They both knew it. But he saw enough. Some images stuck. The abandoned strip mall beside an empty road, trash and bottles and used condoms littering the pavement beneath washed-out signs and broken windows, and Dean Winchester screaming for reassurance from a Heaven that had never bothered to answer before. A scared kid demanding answers for the sake of his Mom and Dad, for the sake of questions nobody else dared ask out loud.
("Why is he so angry all the time?" Chuck's editor had asked once. "Do you have secrets you want to share, Chuck?" That had been when they were working on revisions for the evil clown novel. It had been funny at the time, laughing over the psychological quirks of a fictional character. It wasn't funny now.)
That scene, like so many others, sat in a pile of discarded pages on the edge of Chuck's table. There were a lot of scenes that never made it into his complete drafts. Sam's thirsty vampire routine encompassed quite a lot of them. What happened in those cheap, anonymous motel rooms after the lights went out and the angels fled took care of the rest.
("I don't care how perverted your fans are," Chuck's editor had said, rolling her eyes fondly. "There's no way in Hell we're putting incestuous gay blowjobs in publication." Chuck had reluctantly admitted he could see her point, but he still believed it was deeply unfair. He had to dream it; other people should have to read it.)
This memory – this vision – was relatively tame by comparison. Dean was always angry. Dean was always cursing Heaven. Dean was always a bundle of grief and fear and courage strung together by the frayed ends of desperation, but in that vision he was surrendering to gentle touches, quiet reassurances, unspoken promises passed through fingers and words in a lonely parking lot stinking of oil and asphalt.
Kittens in Heaven, for God's sake. The fans would have eaten it up, if he ever got around to publishing for his fans again.
Chuck had left that scene out for another reason.
"You lied to him," he said.
Castiel's expression was alien, impossible to read. Cas the Unfriendly Lizard-Man, Chuck thought. Wears a trench coat, watches you sleep, fights crime. When all this end of the world shit was over, maybe he could make a career writing kids' books.
"You told him his ending wasn't written yet," Chuck said. "You told him his story has no ending. That's a big, fat lie, angel, and you know it."
A few months ago, before any of this was real, Chuck spent a weekend working through a ream of printer paper and two cases of PBR writing nothing but endings. He must have typed The End at least fifty times, possibly more. Endings full of blood and fire and pain, endings full of joy and sunshine and laughter. Sometimes Heaven won, sometimes Hell won, sometimes they destroyed each other and left mankind behind to rebuild a scorched Earth.
In some endings, Sam was the only one who lived. In others, it was Dean. In far too many, both of them perished. ("Much too dark," Chuck had thought when he still believed it was fiction, "but it has a certain tragic appeal.") The endings in which they survived whole and together were few and far between.
"I told him what he needed to hear," Castiel said.
Chuck sipped his whiskey pointedly and waited.
Castiel lowered his eyes. Chuck wondered if he did that because he was afraid or because he was lying. "And what I pray to be true."
Chuck snorted. "Right. Awesome. That's really awesome. Even the angels are praying for a happy ending. Good luck with that, man. I really hope it works out for–"
Castiel was gone. The white pills again littered the top of the coffee table.
Chuck stared at the pills for a long moment, then he reached over and swept them all aside. He would forget they were there; they would end up ground into the carpet before the day was over. It was hard to bring himself to care.
He felt like he'd been drinking all day, but his glass was only half empty. He would finish it. He always did. He would dream of blood and sweat and vomit, of blinding white lights and raging black smoke, of brother turning against brother, of fathers and children and the end of the world.
Chuck picked up the bottle and filled his glass to the rim again.
He would have to find the true ending of the story eventually. He didn't think Heaven let its prophets be cowards, no matter what the angels got away with.