Haha! But isn’t that what we love about Misha? Either way, I expected it because the few times (once before, I think?) that he followed someone, he unfollowed them the next day. So, I don’t mind. I’ve never won raffles or contests or anything of the like- the fact that my first time ‘winning’ something had to do with Misha, who I admire and respect, is nice enough. Besides, I got my little 15 minutes of fame, I suppose!
Naturally, the milestone is met in the Impala. Like so many things, like conversations about faith, or the end of a night spent indulging in desperately needed laughter at a terrified Castiel’s expense, or the interrogation of an amnesiac, the deepening of their relationship happens in the Chevy. The night sky is bright, the stars shining with a joyful flamboyance that Dean wouldn’t have noticed unless curious, wide blue eyes had looked up through the window and spotted them first. Sam is sleeping, lying across the seats in the back of the car after an all-night hunt that cultivated in more than a few bruises. And Dean isn’t at his best in that moment- there are times when he looks freakin’ fantastic, but with a cut lip and a deep bruise on by his ear, with red knuckles and a throbbing headache, today is not one of those days. Dean wonders for a bit if the angel spent too much time looking at stars to really look at him, because the question comes all the same.
“Can you teach me?” he asks, suddenly. The hand that let go of the steering wheel to softly stroke the back of Cas’ neck immediately halts. The car is parked and the hill they rest on is tall, the city below unassuming. For all his wit and brass humor, Dean can’t muster a single thing to say. “Dean?”
He knew he’d come to this. He didn’t know he’d be nervous. Nervous about what? What would come, he wondered, with teaching the oblivious angel how to kiss? Oh, he realizes. Scared that you’ll mess up. Scared that you’ll break him. Vulnerability, honesty, completely at the advantage and exposure of someone else. The age-old demons of his past.
So, it turns out I published the last chapter of Katabasis almost a month ago- what a douche I am. I’ve finally gotten the chance to start writing chapter eleven, but it’s so difficult. Tackling Leviathans and trying to build suspense, it seems, is not my forte. Grr! Rawr! Pterodactyl screech! What’s making this so hard? Why can’t I just get this through? It’s one of those chapters that make me feel like I’m just shoveling through dirt and slipping into mud, and just have this nasty mud pie to offer my readers. Gosh darn it.
When Sam first finds the box of radio cassettes, it is hidden safely under a pile of hoarded weapons and tools of the trade in the Impala’s trunk- the signature work of Dean Winchester, no doubt, who stows all things of importance in his baby. And it is only afterward that the Aha!-moment comes when he realizes that Dean paid careful mind to place it where the tattered and bloodied trench-coat once was. When Sam first hears the tapes, however, is much later- and the second a different sort of song plays- a softer one, one that sounds almost akin to the sound of a softly blown saxophone, it is quickly ejected. The radio’s eject button is slammed with a quick ferocity that makes Sam jump and stare at a flushed and mortified Dean in complete shock. He asks, of course, what the song was, why his brother was so adamant about grabbing the tape and throwing it under his seat- Sam is answered only with a gruff demand to shut up.
“They’re mine,” Castiel tells Sam softly, when the two sit alone together in a cheap motel room, waiting for Dean to return with take-out. “I’m afraid Dean wouldn’t want me to tell you much more- he’s adamant about it being kept between us both.”
“When did he make them?” Sam asks, hoping to inquire more about the mysterious collection of music cassettes. There are moments, the Winchesters know, when Castiel behaves more like a child than an angel- and the nervous, guilt-ridden look that Cas gives Sam when he considers the question is nothing if not infantile. Like a child unsure of sharing a sworn secret, battling between the desire to blurt it and the fear of chastisement, Castiel is all nervous glances and shuffling feet.
“I shouldn’t say anything about it,” Cas tells himself more than he does to Sam, “but if I am to say one last thing about them, Dean made them for me after our return.”
Everything shifts, then, and the whirring thoughts are visible in Sam’s face. It’s been half a year, now, since his brother and the angel where ripped out of Purgatory and back into the younger Winchester’s life. Six months, that is, until Sam’s life was put back together and the two most important people in his life came back- safe, sound, but somehow secretly, intimately, changed. Not in how they spoke, that is, or how they carried themselves about- they are the same courageous though flawed, and occasionally unnerving family Sam had known before the attack on Dick Roman. But it is in how they walk, side by side, now- be it intentionally, but most often not- and it is in how they hunt. It is in the way they reach towards one another in times of danger, though they do not touch- not when Sam can see. It is in the way they jest and they grimace. It’s in how Dean is already smiling before Castiel laughs; it is in the way Castiel exhales when Dean breathes in. An unnamable, unspecific change- a fluid transformation of a relationship, ever toiling and swaying between certainty and secrecy. It is the relationship Sam already knows of, and the one he’s never ceased to support.
It then makes sense to Sam, why those tapes exist. Why Dean, he can only imagine, would’ve spent hours upon hours manually recording on cassette tapes an array of songs for Castiel’s sake. Because he knows Dean, and he knows his pride- he’ll never use the douche-ish conveniences of CD’s or iPods. He’ll use the only thing he’s known, he’ll go through as much trouble as it takes, if it’s for the sake of sharing the intimate.
Sam had long decided not to press them. Not to press them about Purgatory, about their relationship, or about the mixed tapes. But eventually Dean explains a few things- small things, short blurbs. He, of course, will always omit the full story. He talks about hunts and monsters and sluggish creeping things, but he will never share mentions of embraces, whispers, or the tears and sweat and blood that fell like rain in the dark depths. And, of course, he never talks about the singing or the humming or the soft coos and stroked hair before the angel passed out or the hunter fell into much deserved sleep. He doesn’t talk about the two exchanging songs like birds, or the melodies Castiel never heard in the car, only first heard in Purgatory- songs about standing beside one another, songs about not taking eyes off each other. Old songs, classic songs, but songs that don’t blast in the Chevy radio for the sake of Dean’s machismo. Castiel did not mind hearing the new songs, then. They made those quiet instances more precious, more crucial to the healing of a once severed bond. And when he receives the gift of that music from Dean in the form of a box full of tapes, he does not mind then, either. Because, by then, he has memorized each word and hearing another voice singing those ballads is always fascinating- albeit, always a bit amiss.
The older brother explains, and sometimes the angel does, too. And when things get more comfortable and hunts are less about principalities and more about the simple monsters that go bump in the night, special attention is paid to the unsaid things. To what to call their relationship (a failed experiment, they’re bond has no name besides ‘profound’) or to wether or not approval is to be gained (a silly inquiry, Sam proves with a roll of the eyes and an ‘oh please.’) And then something miraculous happens- something more out of this world than any encounter Sam had faced; the music starts changing. Slowly, gradually- but it’s there. And it starts with a night on the road, when Dean and his angel think Sam had fallen asleep listening to his iPod. It starts with their shared humming and low murmuring of lyrics in perfect, rehearsed unison- and they don’t see Sam smile and they don’t notice he’s only feigning sleep. But eventually, different songs play- only rarely, and mostly by accident. The songs in those mixed tapes are private ones, one saved only between the two, and Sam does not strive to intrude.
But they’re shared, and things are progressing. And when the cassettes play on while they drive interstate, Sam can’t help but wonder when the day will come when Dean relents and uses iTunes for the first time in his life. Sam isn’t holding his breath, of course, but the angel in the backseat humming and drumming his fingers is living proof that things with his brother can and do sometimes change for the better.
Hadrian looks to her only when he knows she cannot see. There are lessons that the eldest child must learn quickly and earnestly, and he had been well-taught, through pinches and scowls, that staring at others is not only immodest, but a gross sign of low class. The curious orbs that shone with childish fascination at the direction of street artists and slumbering vagabonds were quickly shut in pain. There was no other way, Hadrian knew, for the problematic son of an important man. Lessons were learned through rushing hands that could not be avoided. In the bumbling caravan of the Romani people, he is no longer a child, nor under his father’s jurisdiction. But the departure of familiar landscapes do not dispel the vices and virtues of the men who inhabit it- and Hadrian, despite himself, does not deem it proper to stare. Not, at least, when he knows the small girl can see.
He feels guilty, all the while, with secret glances. But he swallows the guilt and allows himself to peer past the pages of the aged book in his hand to take the image of her in. She is delicate, he realizes, and thinly-framed, despite the thick and loose clothing that do not flatter her figure. Her clothes, he observes, is adorned in complex patterns and sways of thread, nothing comparable to the fashion of the French. But the young man has seen England and many islands all the same- and she, he can confidently deem, is incomparable to all. The woman must be from a different place entirely- but he cannot name the place, and the ignorance makes him shuffle slightly in discomfort. He is not the handsome son, nor the one fit for games and brute strength. He is lanky and solemn, and he is nothing if he is not, at the very least, an intellectual. He does not favor, then, not knowing.
There are things, however, that he knows. He knows she does not speak English or French, nor any of the Romance languages. He knows she is alone- her crouched posture and cramped place between two groups of families and friends in the caravan’s buggy is testament to that. And he can deduce, then, from the sores and the faint scars on her thin fingers that she is a working girl- one could assume all the people traveling with the gypsies through the icy mountain-tops are lowly, working people, Hadrian thinks to himself, but he is the living exception. And he is not the only one. The man studies her profile; studies her distant, distracted gaze and the way her pale, sunlight-colored hair clings about her face through the gaps and folds of her warm-looking scarf. She is well-intentioned, he perceives, but quiet. Scared, almost, and worried about something of grave importance. But, most obvious of all, she is alone; alone in company, alone in language, alone in every slight movement of her arms or legs, or the turn of her head and the closing of her eyes.
The girl looks at him, then, and her eyes are a curious grey- but he does not pay mind. He quickly looks down, speedily enough, he hopes, to have avoided her notice entirely. The man looks to the ink words stenciled into aged pages and takes in a painful breath of sheer cold. Hadrian is not a brave man, nor a scandalous one- he will not touch the girl, nor invite her by his side to retain warmth. He will, instead, stay shivering to himself and attempting to read in short spurts between wonders of what is to come and worries of the life he threw behind. From time to time, he will think and look to her, who will be sleeping, or thinking, or bracing herself against the winds. He will watch her, only quickly, until it becomes to dark to see her- and all the while he will be secretly happy that she is alone, because he is alone, too, and being isolated with one other person gives the weary wanderer just a spark of hope that solidarity is possible. It is hope, a feeble and ill-founded one. Solidarity cannot blossom between people who cannot speak to one another- but it is a dream, nonetheless, and dreams warm the heart just as clothes warm the flesh.
All masterpieces have prototypes. There are roles, Chuck knows, that every character has to play. Novels upon novels testify to that, as did the beginning of time. He put his drink down and takes a deep breath, staring at the new document page on his computer screen. He has his favorites, he admits, characters that played their roles deliciously. He thinks of Abraham and his wife, the parents who preferred family over calling. He thinks of Moses, the wanderer who stuttered- all great characters have defects, mind you- but cared more for his people than promised lands. And he thinks of kings, like David, who’s power was a long-time coming and came at the price of iron and blood. Chuck likes that. Some writers say that characters write themselves, pave their own stories even against the initial plans of their creator. That the writer is just a median, just a referee of what has happened and what is to come. And referees can make a big difference in the game, but the players are the ones who run- Chuck holds the whistle, he knows, but his job is to let each player rush towards the ball. So, they’re right when they say that, Chuck thinks- creations, when done right, direct you and write themselves. It’s not always a delight, and sometimes you worry the whole ensemble is crud, but there’s just no other way. The characters that really shine don’t privilege you with alternatives.
Chuck has his favorites. Always has. Writers, like fathers and potters, shouldn’t have them. It can mess up the work. But they do anyways. He has favorite chapters, and favorite themes. He liked the Renaissance, for example. And how his characters yearned for Utopias in the 1800’s was pretty humorous- in a universal humor sort of way, that is. He imagines dying of Malaria wasn’t very funny for most of the early American settlers.
Chuck has chapters he wish he could tear out- like genocides and wars, page written in blood ink. He didn’t like writing them, but some things write themselves and being a writer is masochistic work. But then he has favorite lovely things, too. A gruff drunk named Robert, who wore stained shirts over a heart of gold, will always be a favorite. And an archangel with a pretty kick-ass attitude who liked stupid jokes was just a trip to write. The father and the comic relief, he knows. The essential figures. Chuck liked the foxy physcic, too. The Mage character with a penant for sass- always fun. And then there are sadder characters, ones like the archangel gone rouge, the misbehaving son with daddy issues. Tragic, relatable, but inexcusably cruel at heart- the kind that plays on the readers own insecurities and fears, all the while indulging in ruthless evil. Yeah, chuck thinks, the Devil is a draining character to let take the pen, but dynamics make the story.
And then there are love stories. Because, hey, being disillusioned doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a fine chick flick moment or two. And, c’mon, the romance between an angel of the Lord and a not-always-so righteous man with a father complex? Always in demand. United through Hell, Heaven, and Purgatory? That blows Romeo and his twelve year old Juliet completely out of the park, and no one can tell Chuck otherwise. Have Juliet raise Romeo from perdition, then we’ll talk.
Some characters write themselves. Characters like John, the broken man, who’s outcasted love made all the wrong choices. Characters like Sam, the hero archetype, a living paradox on how one can have such a valiant, moral spirit but such a diabolical predeposition. Character like Dean, knight-like characters, warriors, grown children, in need of love and security behind the sex appeal and the cheesy pick up lines- the kind that makes the reader want to skip to the page where they realize, yes, they’re good enough for happiness. Yes, they deserve it. And characters like Cas, wonderful, bird-like Cas. The kind of canary-like characters that aren’t suppose to mean much on entry, but end up having such vibrance in their voice that they simply take the stage like it was theirs from the start.
Chuck has been writing for years, centuries even, and there is nothing new under the sun. Stories are re-told and scenes are really always the same, just worded differently. But, the creator smiles to himself, it’s been a while since writing has been this fun. The Winchesters, the garrisons, the to’s and the fro’s. This is a great story, a different one, and the archtypes are all there to make this story an epic one. And it’s taking a whole lot of waiting, but he’s pretty sure this is one masterpiece he and Death will be reminiscing over a long time after the finale has come.
The notorious chapter ten, finally finished! All the angst, all the sweat and tears, all the pure confusion and self-talk I strained through to get this damned thing done! Anywho, if anyone wants to read it, it’s posted [here.] I can honestly say I am completely and utterly indebted to a certain reviewer who gave me a whole bunch of insight and some amazing pointers. And, of course, to all my lovely followers who gave me their support and attention. I love you guys endlessly, and now I shall stop rambling.
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I just realized I never uploaded this onto my Tumblr. Hurm. Also, I’m submitting some artwork so it can be considered for a art gala at my school. Dunno what pieces I’ll submit (the one of Sigyn I really liked I’ll submit, but what else, I wonder?) Either way, we’ll get there when we get there.
I don’t really know what to say about this- I really wish I hadn’t been cheap with the background, but I didn’t have the slightest inkling what to do with this. Either way, I hope you guys like it- thank you for all the support and compliments you all paid me while I was working on it. Words can’t express my gratitude for how kind you all are to me.
Uploading this because I put it up on Facebook- I don’t think I’ll put this up on dA, since the background is so very messed up. I don’t have the means to fix it right now so I don’t quite know what to do; I like their expressions and Jonah came out cutely, if I can say so, but even so. -sigh- This stinks.
Drawing cute girls and frills is my form of stress relief, it seems.