moragmacpherson: (discworld)
moragmacpherson ([personal profile] moragmacpherson) wrote2010-05-04 06:54 pm
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Fic: A Grand Sneer - Chapter 9/10 (Supernatural/Discworld BigBang)

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Chapter Nine

It had been a long time since Dean had ridden a horse - had to learn when he was fifteen, hunting a chupacabra through West Texas backcountry - so he was distracted through most of the trip with keeping himself in the saddle. This Lancre place was mostly vertical; no way the coach could have made it through here, but at least the mare was sure-footed which eased some of Dean's anxiety. The rest of Dean's attention centered on the noises and movements in the woods around them and he released his right hand's death grip from the reins to clasp the handle of his sword. In just one week, it had become Dean's weapon of first resort, the Colt still resting at the small of his back but Dean found he couldn't reach for it without hesitating: it didn't belong here. He frowned. This place was getting to him, but hopefully he'd be out of it soon enough.

Shawn Ogg spared him a look. "I wouldn't worry about that."

Dean grunted. "Don't know if we made it clear back there, but these things that have been attacking me just show up out of nowhere."

Shawn shook his head. "Beggin' your pardon, sir, but you're not in nowhere anymore, you're in Lancre." He raised his chin. "We're known for our witches, and there's not many willing to cross Mistress Weatherwax, even in the Dungeon Dimensions."

"These things attacked me while I was standing in the middle of the wizards' school," said Dean.

"Oh, wizards," scoffed Shawn. "Don't know much about them, but our Mum says they mess about with the Dungeon Dimensions all the time. Mistress Weatherwax doesn't hold with that sort of thing."

"She doesn't hold with it?" repeated Dean. "What does she hold with?"

Shawn looked thoughtful. "Pickles," he announced. "Mistress Weatherwax makes a fine pickle. And she likes the King. At least, I think she does, she and our Mum put him on the throne and all. And when the vampires tried to take over the kingdom a few years back, she didn't take too kindly to it. We was all worried after they bit her, because," and Shawn paled, "the thought of Mistress Weatherwax as a vampire, that's a bit much to digest, y'ken, but it was all just fine. Turns out, you bite Mistress Weatherwax, you winds up Weatherwaxed, and not the other way round." He looked over at Dean, proud and more confident than he'd appeared before. "Since then we haven't had a lot of excitement here abouts. Things know better."

Huh. True to Shawn's word, the rest of the short journey passed without any incursions from the Dungeon Dimensions. Shawn turned his horse about as they crested a hill. A cottage stood at the bottom of the slope, not over-grown but rather looking like it had become part of the landscape itself. It wasn't exactly inviting, but it wasn't foreboding either. Then again, what had happened to the birdsong which had been constant until now? "Here we are. I trust you can make it the rest of the way yourself?"

Dean blinked. "Not coming in?" Shawn said nothing, shook his head with his lips set in a narrow line. "Okay then." Dean dismounted and retrieved his bag. He handed the mare's reins over to Shawn, who tied them to his saddle. "Well, thanks for seeing me this far."

Shawn's nod was sympathetic. "Granny Weatherwax will sort you out, you'll see," he said as his farewell, and even if this Weatherwax witch apparently scared the crap out of him, he said these words as hard truth.

Dean held his breath for a few long moments while Shawn set off, staring at the cottage before exhaling, flexing his shoulders, and walking the remainder of the way to the witch's doorstep. He raised his hand to knock but the door swung in with a creaking whine before his knuckles could make contact. It was dark inside the cottage compared to the dazzling spring sunshine outside and it took Dean's eyes a second to adjust. When they did he saw a thin old woman with severe features sitting straight-backed at a small table in the middle of the revealed room.

"Come in," she commanded, and Dean's feet moved one in front of the other until he was inside the threshold. A thin eyebrow arched at him and he pushed the door shut without turning his back on her.

"Mistress Weatherwax?" he ventured, recalling the odd title that Shawn had used.

"I am. And you'd be Dean Winchester."

Dean froze. "How-" he began reflexively but then he stopped, remembered Carrot's walking tour of Ankh-Morpork. "They sent a message ahead of me on those towers," he said, answering his own question. Explained why there'd been two horses for only one guard at the border too, Shawn must have known about the message but didn't say anything, the sneaky bastard. Mistress Weatherwax's blue eyes glinted with approval, her only overt reaction, and before she could say anything another old lady had swooped in to take his things.

"Oh, but he's sharp, Esme. And a handsome young thing too, but even so traveling takes it right out of you, doesn't it? Come along and sit down." This one was short and round, her wrinkled face barely coming up to his chest. Dean felt thrown because until she'd spoken, he could have sworn that there was no one else in the cottage. He hoped it was magic or else his game was seriously off - and who was he trying to kid: if magic was the better option, then his game was already fucked to hell. Either way, the new one took a hands-on approach: he had to fight to keep his coat on while letting her take his sword, cloak, and bag and set them aside.

"No, thanks, it's fine," he said when she seized his lapels.

The old lady continued to tug. "Nonsense, make yourself comfortable. Leaving your coat on, why, it's like you're going to run out the door at any moment."

Dean swallowed. That wasn't why he was keeping the coat on - wasn't sure exactly why he was fighting her on this point and wasn't going to analyze it - but the urge to run had crossed his mind once or twice in the last few seconds. Could these witches read minds? He pulled down on the flaps of his jacket, dislodging her hands. "It's fine, I'm just a little cold."

Then she directed him into the chair opposite Mistress Weatherwax at the table. Specifically, she directed him by firmly pushing on his ass. He was prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt right up until she squeezed with both hands on the release. With Dean sitting she could look him level and square in the eye to introduce herself as "Nanny Ogg, dearie, you can call me Nanny," while giving him a broad smile that was toothy in that it consisted of a single tooth.

"Gytha, that's a bit familiar for an acquaintance of a minute. My cottage is not the tavern," said Mistress Weatherwax, slotting herself into the category Dean thought of as Old Ladies with Standards - flirting is useless, remember to use a coaster, and don't even think about putting your feet on the furniture.

The scolding bounced off of Nanny with a loud laugh. "Not all of us stand on ceremony, Esme, and this is far too good-looking a problem for me to let you handle all alone. Let me fetch us a cup of tea, lad, while you tell us what all the fuss is about." Nanny hopped off the chair and bustled over to the kitchen. Dean cleared his throat and pulled the envelope out of his jacket.

"The Archchancellor sent this along with me, ma'am," he said, handing the letter to Mistress Weatherwax. She took it without a word, noted the intact wax seal, and cracked it open. Dean sat back to watch her read and a small white cat surprised him by hopping up into his lap. The cat rubbed its face into his chest until he relented and scratched behind its ears. It purred, kneaded the top of his thighs with its paws, and settled in for a nap.

"That's the right idea, You," snickered Nanny as she set the tea tray down. "How do you take it, lad?" Her salacious wink combined with the way she said it turned the line into a single entendré and Dean had to hold back a smirk. He figured that he'd found the author of Snacks.

"Uh, sugar, please?" Dean didn't much like tea but wasn't going to let his manners lapse around someone who went by 'Mistress,' and it would give Nanny a chance to tell him how he was already sweet enough.

To his surprise, Nanny didn't take the opening and set about pouring. "Esme likes to savor her letters like folks in foreign parts do with old wine, so you may as well start talking." The other witch's nose wrinkled at this but she continued reading. "The clacks said you were from another world; s'pose that's where you picked up the funny accent." She dropped two lumps of sugar into a cup before sliding the cup and saucer in front of Dean.

"Thanks, that's right," said Dean. "I'm trying to get home: the wizards thought you knew some people who could get me back there-"

"The Feegles," said Mistress Weatherwax, interrupting Dean.

He met the thin witch's gaze. "Yeah. Little blue guys that move between dimensions all the time, I guess: the Archchancellor said you knew how to find some." Dean, knowing how his life worked, braced himself for the inevitable revelation that he was going to go on some lunatic quest before he could meet them.

Nanny snorted. "Open up a stiff drink and you'll have to fight them off. Biscuit?" She pushed a chipped china plate featuring a spare assortment of cookies towards him.

Dean blinked. This wasn't how the story went: no quest, the possibility of drinking, and the guarantee of a cookie? "Sure, thanks." Having schmoozed with his fair share of old ladies on jobs in the past, Dean steered clear of the chocolate and picked a plain sugar cookie. Nanny Ogg snapped up the chocolate one as soon as he made his selection. He tested the corner of the cookie: stale but not inedible. Dean dunked it in the tea to soften it up and then shoved it whole in his mouth. "Will it really be that easy? I'm kind of in a hurry," he said while he finished chewing.

Nanny made a face. "What? You hardly just got here."

"Not fond of the countryside then, Mr. Winchester?" asked Mistress Weatherwax, glancing over the top of the letter. Dean was pretty sure that was a challenge.

He kept his gaze steady while he sipped at the tea and didn't flinch as the liquid seared off half his taste buds. "Nah, I like the countryside just fine, it's a lot nicer than Ankh-Morpork. But I really need to get back home to my brother."

Nanny Ogg shot him a knowing look. "Ah, family matters."

Dean gave her a small nod before noticing that Mistress Weatherwax was giving him the hairy eyeball again. "Is that all you need to get back to?"

"Well, there might be - uh, it's complicated." Dean really didn't feel like getting into this again, just wanted to get this over with, but who knew what Ridcully had included in that letter?

Mistress Weatherwax's nostrils flared. "Too complicated for the likes of us country witches, then?"

"No!" Dean had miscalculated. "It's just - I need to save the world, okay? I know it sounds crazy, but we're in the middle of an apocalypse, and I'm the only one who can stop it." The witches both frowned at him and he looked down, rubbing the back of his head.

Mistress Weatherwax set the letter on the table, writing-side down, giving a look to Nanny before speaking to Dean. "Sounds like we should get you back, then." She cleared her throat. "The Nac Mac Feegle know I don't hold with them loitering about here, but they will follow Tiffany Aching wherever she goes."

Nanny nodded and got to her feet. "She's with Eunice Caldicott today, I can fetch her. Shouldn't be more than an hour or two, 'less things get complicated."

Dean looked up. "I can go with you, it'll save time."

Nanny patted him on the knee. "Lancre's a traditional place, Dean, and menfolk aren't welcome at confinements." Dean's brow furrowed at the phrase. Nanny grinned. "It's a birthing, boy. Most any witch worth her salt is a midwife too."

"Oh." Dean's lips lingered in the 'o' shape. That would explain why things might get complicated, and Dean really didn't want to be around for that. "Right, don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies, I should stay here." With the Weatherwax witch and her prying little questions: he'd been totally out-maneuvered. Dammit.

Nanny grinned. "There's a good lad. Don't worry your pretty head about a thing, we'll be back soon enough." With remarkable speed for a woman of her age and girth, Nanny was out the door. Dean looked up at Mistress Weatherwax, whose expression he couldn't read, but the way she was looking at him made him just a little uncomfortable. It wasn't that she had warts or green skin or cackled - wasn't like she had used any magic at all in front of him, and hell, her cat looked like something out of a cat food commercial - but Weatherwax just looked like a witch. Not just a witch, but the kind of witch that vampires and things-with-tentacles and maybe even smiling geriatric monks wouldn't want to mess with. And the way she could just sit so damn straight and still kind of freaked Dean out.

"Thanks for helping me out, ma'am," he said, looking around the room, trying to think of a way to avoid being interrogated for the remainder of his stay. The sunshine out the window looked welcoming. "Uh, I don't have any money or anything, but is there anything I could do, y'know, to pay you back?"

Mistress Weatherwax's lips twitched. "Don't take payment for witchin', but you look like a capable young man, and there are some chores that require capable young men." She looked thoughtful for a second. "You have any experience digging holes?"

Dean smiled. "I may have used a shovel once or twice in my time."

The witch stood and he set the cat down with a pet and followed her outside. She pointed to the outhouse. "Need a new privy dug. Ten feet or so to the left will do - not to the right, mind you, that's too close to the well. Has to be at least four feet deep. Shovel's in the shed." And then she left him. Dean blinked, shook his head, and pulled his jacket off and laid it on a stump. He walked around the existing outhouse to get an idea of the dimensions, found the shovel in the unlocked shed - but then who would steal something out of this lady's anything? - and started digging where she'd indicated. After a week stuck in a coach, he could use the exercise.

There was a method and rhythm to grave digging, and even though he would have to adjust for the slightly smaller hole - walls of earth too close in to get up to his fastest speed - Dean found himself slipping into it easily. He was just starting to work up a sweat, maybe two feet down, when he heard a thin cough. "Water?" asked Weatherwax, extending a glass down to him.

Dean paused. He'd only noticed he was thirsty a minute before. Looking up, he took the glass. "Thank you, ma'am." She watched him while he finished drinking. Dean considered handing the glass back to her, but instead planted it in the dirt pile before taking the shovel back in his hands. He started digging again and it was only a few more shovelfuls before she opened her mouth.

"What's that tucked in your belt?"

This lady was a real pro at finding conversations that Dean didn't want to have. He reached behind his back and felt where his shirt had ridden up and revealed the gun. "This?" He pulled it out of his waistband and fixed his shirt before setting the shovel aside and turning to face the witch, holding the pistol up but not pointing it. "This is a gun, it's a, uh, a kind of weapon."

Mistress Weatherwax examined it. "It's... fancy."

"Yeah, she's a beaut, ain't she?" Dean realized too late that 'fancy' wasn't a compliment. "But it's not just about looks. She packs a punch, has never jammed on me in a fight, and aims true."

The witch's stance shifted and Dean understood that he could put the gun away. "Never had much use for weapons," she sniffed.

Dean took the shovel back up. "Yeah, well, no offense, ma'am, but I kind of always felt the same way about magic."

Mistress Weatherwax grunted. "Hmph. Probably for the best, that sort of attitude. Magic's at its worse when you've got lots of uses for it. Question is: how do you feel about using your head?"

"Sammy's the one who did the school thing," said Dean, tossing up another load of dirt.

"And what's schooling got to do with using your head?"

Dean grinned. "Nothing at all, ma'am." He kept digging, and so did the witch.

"Why you?"

"Keep asking that question myself." Dean grunted as he planted the blade down in the earth with his foot. "You ever meet an angel?"

"Can't say as I have."

Dean flung the load of dirt onto the pile. "Don't believe the stories you hear about 'em. They're manipulative, cagey bast- er, jerks, not real big on giving straight answers. Pretty much all they've ever said is that it's my destiny. Sent me back and forth through time, show me how much bigger than me this whole thing is. They've got this whole family drama planned out, and it's like my brother and me are their favorite dolls." He looked up to roll his eyes at her, let her know how he felt about the angels, and he paused when he saw the new fire that had lit in her eyes.

"Tell me," she commanded, so he did. It wasn't quite like talking to Carrot, but it was easier to talk about the whole apocalypse mess while he was digging and could concentrate on the job in front of him instead of the insanity coming out of his mouth. Sam always wanted him to talk about this shit, like he'd feel better or have some epiphany by spilling his guts. But it never worked that way for Dean - it still sounded crazy to him, still sounded impossible, still sounded hopeless. Saying it out loud just made it real.

By the time he was done, he was standing in a six foot deep hole. He shielded his eyes to look up at her, though she blotted out most of the sun. "Think this'll do, Mistress Weatherwax?"

She nodded. "This will do just fine I think, Dean." She stepped back as he pulled himself out of the pit, standing and brushing the dirt off, sweat making his shirt cling to him uncomfortably. "You can call me Granny, if you'd like," she added.

Dean's lips quirked. Mistress Esme Weatherwax wasn't anywhere near the decidedly vague concept that came to mind when he thought about the word 'granny,' but the offer was about more than that, and he wasn't enough of an idiot to turn it down. "Yeah, okay, Granny." He ran a hand through his hair, realizing he was standing just a few feet from the witch and that he had to look down to face her - he'd thought she was taller. He gave her a self-deprecating smile. "I, uh, kind of smell. Got someplace I can wash off?"

"Kitchen basin, be sure to knock the dirt off your boots first," she said. She remained still while he replaced the shovel in the shed and picked his jacket up off the stump. "So what's your plan when you get back?"

Dean turned to face her, more comfortable with a few yards between them. "Keep killing the demons, try to minimize the damage. Figure as long as me and Sam stay strong, keep saying no, we've still got time to figure out how to kill the Devil. There's gotta be a way, right?"

Granny licked her lips. "They can't have their apocalypse without you?"

"Yeah, me and Sam, that's what they say." Dean shifted his weight on his feet, stretching out the muscles in his arms and upper back. "Thought about offing ourselves, but, uh, apparently Lucifer told Sammy that they would just bring us back to life. Lucky us." He laughed bitterly, gritting his teeth. "Kind of makes me wonder how long they're willing to wait us out, because I still can't think of a reason that'd make one of us say yes first."

Granny jutted out her chin. "Aten't any angels coming here to the Disc, that's what the Hublander told you. You're so determined to save your world, why're you so keen on getting home?"

Dean's stomach twisted at the question. The thought had occurred to him - of course it had - but he'd refused to think about it. "No, no. Angels - they don't give a crap about people, they really don't. I saw the future - if I'm not there and they get Sam to say yes, he'll bring Hell on Earth, and the angels won't do a damn thing to stop him." He was shaking his head compulsively. "I need to be there for Sam. He doesn't want to say yes, but the demons, Lucifer - they've been messing with his head his whole life, feeding him that demon blood crap. He gets lost so easy, you gotta - I gotta - I'm just his brother. He's the one that really matters-"

"Stop for a moment and listen, boy." The witch's blue eyes caught his gaze and Dean had to stop his whole body from leaning forward in an effort to listen closer. "Interestin' fact I know about doors: there's only one I've ever encountered that you may only pass through in one direction. This aten't that one." Her head tipped forward towards him. "Not to mention that you're evidence that not even that door is one way." She folded her arms. "The Feegles will have to find their way back here anyway. It's a hard living in these mountains, but if your brother's half sturdy as you, you should both be able to get by just fine."

And now Dean's body lurched backwards as he understood what Granny Weatherwax was offering him – was offering Sam; hell, what she was offering to Dean's world. Deals like this didn't work. "What about the Dungeon Dimensions? Shawn Ogg said the reason I'm not getting attacked here is you." He let his eyes linger on her white hair, on her wrinkles. "You won't be here forever."

Granny snorted. "I'll be here long enough, boy." She glanced over at the forest, perhaps the first time he'd seen any sign of weakness in her. "And when I'm gone, there will be others." Granny said this with a plural but Dean understood that she had a particular someone in mind, that she wouldn't have made this offer if she wasn't sure. This offer was real.

Dean and Sam could come here, make lives here, not as freaks but accepted on the word of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg and accepting the word of those two came as natural as breathing to the people of Lancre. It wouldn't be a retirement, because there would be work and there was always evil to be fought, but the Winchesters wouldn't be on the front lines anymore, wouldn't be the pinions that the world turned on, and that was fine by Dean. Small potatoes, Vimes had said, and he'd been right.

It sounded better and better, the more he thought about it: a giant 'fuck you' to the angels and all their destiny bullshit. But there was that niggling thought - that the Disc had plenty of people looking out for it - Vimes and Carrot and Vetinari and Lucy and the witches. What did his world have? Him and Sam and not much else. He didn't want to be the guy who had to save the world, but then again, who did? Dean struggled to swallow around the lump in his throat. "I, uh, I'll think about it."

Granny Weatherwax nodded. "You do that. Now come along, you must be hungry after all that work."

Dean followed her inside, looking at the door's hinges as they squeaked open. "I could probably take care of that, too."

She waved her hand. "Maybe later."

Maybe later. Right. Dean shut the door with the knowledge that he could always open it again. If he wanted.

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