"So, whoíre you planning on coming back as this time?"
Crowley regarded the newcomer without surprise. "Chuck. Or should I call you God?"
Chuck shrugged. "Youíre not the only one who enjoys a human life, Romo. Or reinventing yourself. Or did you really think that Iím not the same entity that changed you after your first life?"
Crowley regarded him with interest. "I go back and forth on that. Death certainly seems to think that youíre something different, more recent... Then again, that would suit your purpose, wouldnít it?"
"You always understood me better than any of the others," Chuck chuckled, sitting down and sipping from the glass of scotch that appeared in his hand. He nodded to the one that now sat on the table next to Crowley. "Gaius and Six were content to follow me, but you, you always wanted to know why."
"Thatís what you get for making an angel out of a human being instead of simply creating a being that looks like one."
"Youíre the only one, you know," Chuck observed, swirling his scotch in the heavy crystal tumbler, watching the rich amber liquid as if it held the secrets of the universe. "Iíve never done that with another being."
"Iíve wondered," Crowley observed. "Why?"
"You have to let an experiment run its course before you attempt to duplicate it. I still donít know if I did the right thing with you."
"Arenít you supposed to be omniscient?" Crowley asked dryly, making Chuck snort and look up at him.
"Donít believe all the press. You of all people should know better."
"I do. I just wondered if you did."
"Oh, I do," Chuck assured him. "Thatís part of the reason Iíve been so hands off for the last few centuries. Iím not sure if humanity can be better, but I thought they deserved the chance to try. And your Dean seems proof that they can, despite themselves."
"Heís not my Dean."
Chuck just looked at him. "Still lying to yourself? You intervened as much as I did recently, if not more. And now you set it up to eliminate Crowley, presumably to meet him with a clean slate, so who are you going to be this time? Someone completely new or one of the human identities you havenít killed off yet?"
It was Crowleyís turn to stare into his drink in search of answers. "I havenít decided yet. Obviously the Ring Director is no useóand could you imagine Dean meeting Casey or Chuck?" He shook his head. "Valda would have worked, but Iím not sure I want to resurrect him. And I donít know if Sterling is appropriate. I donít know that a slightly shady Interpol officer is the right match for a very battle-scarred hunter."
Chuck regarded him searchingly, his eyes for once showing the limitless knowledge and age of his true self. "Donít waste the opportunity by hesitating too long, old friend. Thereís no perfect match for someone like Dean Winchester, and his life isnít one that lends itself to longevity." He smiled suddenly. "Besides, Dean wouldnít know what to do with someone who didnít have a bit of a dark side."
Crowley returned the gaze, one of the very few beings who could. "I thought you meant Castiel for him."
"It was a possibility, but Castiel is concentrating on Raphael, and Dean... Dean needs someone to concentrate on him."
A sudden laugh escaped Crowley. "If they only knew what youíre really like."
He and Chuck shared a grin and tapped their glasses together.
"What the hell?!"
The moment Dean opened the motel room door, he yanked a vial of holy water from his jacket pocket and hurled it in the face of the man standing on the stoop. After of moment of silent staring, the dark-haired, dark-eyed man drew a handkerchief from his pocket and mopped his face.
"Interesting greeting you have there. Iíve always found hello sufficient."
"Crowley!" Dean snarled, causing dark eyebrows to wing upward.
"Is that supposed to be an alternate form of greeting? Because my name is Jim Sterling. Officer Jim Sterling of Interpol. And Iím curious to find out why two men are impersonating FBI agents."
Dean frowned, not moving even when the other manódemon?--took a step forward. "What the hell are you playing at, Crowley?"
"Sterling," the other man insisted, taking another step forward and forcing Dean to step back if he didnít want to end up with the shorter man plastered to his front. Once over the doorstep, he pushed forward enough to swing the door closed behind him and then leaned back against it, his sharp gaze sweeping the room.
"Sooo... FBI agents?" he prodded.
"Look, I donít know how youíre here, alive, or how you didnít react to the holy water-"
"Holy water?" Sterling interrupted in tones of incredulity. "Look, I donít know what youíre playing at here, but I know that youíre no FBI agent, Mr. Winchester. In fact, youíre apparently a dead murder suspect, which is the only reason I havenít arrested you yet. Something doesnít add up. So why donít you clarify it for me."
Dean stared at him, his green eyes hard. "Am I supposed to be buying this? Crowley dies and an Interpol agent who just so happens to look exactly like him shows up? I donít think so. Why the hell would Interpol be in Buttfuck, Wisconsin, anyway?"
"For the last time, my name is Jim Sterling; I donít know any Crowley; and you probably shouldnít keep talking about someone dying unless you really want a murder investigation."
"No body, as you very well know," Dean retorted.
Sterling yanked his badge out of his pocket and flipped it open, practically shoving it in Deanís face.
"Iíve got one of those too," Dean sneered, rummaging through his bag to pull out an FBI badge and wave it at Sterling.
"Yes, but mine is real," Sterling growled.
"Yeah right, demon agent, sure thing."
"Demon? Okay, never mind arresting you; youíre in dire need of a psych eval," Sterling snapped, making Dean pause and regard him curiously.
"That almost sounded sincere. Of course, you could prove me wrong easily," he said with a smirk.
"Fine, how?" Sterling bit out with an air of humoring the lunatic.
"Step in and out of the devilís trap," Dean challenged, flipping over a rug at the foot of the bed to show one drawn on the underside.
Sterling gave him a look before stomping over to stand in the middle of the design and then stepping back out again. "Happy now?"
Deanís jaw dropped, and he stared from Sterling to the devilís trap and back again. "Oh, I am so fucked," he muttered.
"Finally, something we can agree on."
Dean gave him a sickly smile. "I donít suppose we could start over and pretend none of this ever happened?"
"What do you think?"
"Look, Iím not a murderer, and Iím leaving town. Canít we just leave it at that?" In response to Sterlingís expression, he added, "Look, you really donít want to know, and you wouldnít believe me anyway."
Unfortunately for Dean, Sam had already left town, both brothers agreeing that they needed some downtime apart, so no one was going to come through the door and help him get away from the Interpol officer glaring at him, so he had no choice but to try to convince the guy to let him go.
"My brain hurts," Sterling announced a long while later after being inducted into a hunterís view of the world.
"Yeah, well, at least you get to go back to your normal life. This is my normal life."
"Thereís nothing normal about it," Sterling muttered. "And how the hell am I supposed to just forget about all this?"
Dean shrugged. "You havenít actually encountered any of it. Count your blessings and go home."
"And what do you do?"
"I look for things that go bump in the night and make sure they stop doing whatever it is theyíre doing. Someone has to do it." Dean pulled a card from his pocket and offered it to Sterling.
"I hope you donít ever need to use it, but if you ever run into something weird, call me."
Sterling regarded the card for a long moment before accepting it and tucking it into his pocket. "No offence, Dean, but I hope I donít ever need it too."
Dean shrugged. "See you around, Officer Sterling."
Sterling nodded and left, seemingly shell-shocked, but once he was a few miles down the road, a small smile curved his lips. "See you soon, Dean."
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