I opened the package I had brought from Italy carefully, and a smile planted on my face as I realized it was still hot. The homemade pasta smell soon flooded the entire bunker, making both of the Winchesters appear as if by magic.
"You brought pasta?" Asked Dean. I answered as I transferred the food to a more suitable container.
"Yep, homemade. From a chef in Italy. I helped him some years ago and now I have free meals for the rest of eternity."
"Wow," gasped Sam, "you really meant it by 'decent dinner '."
"You're welcome," I joked, "let's get going, shall we? Cas is back already."
They both nodded and followed me through the hallways, until we met the king of hell and the seraph, who seemed to be silently disagreeing over something.
"Everything alright?" Asked Dean
Castiel looked at him, annoyed, and sighed.
"Yes, it's fine. Don't worry about it."
"Okay, everyone;" I called, grabbing their attention, as I put down the pasta. "Ground rules: no murder attempts, no talking about the case during dinner, and especially , no weapons, exorcisms, demonic powers or grace on the table," I said, giving each one of them meaningful looks.
"Sounds fine to me," said Crowley, and the other three decided to remain silent.
"Good! Let's go, then."
Dean sat on one extreme of the table, Cas on his right and me on his left. Besides me was Crowley and, in front of him, was Sam.
I started serving Crowley, who murmured a "Thank you, dear," before moving on to Dean, who limited himself to nod. When I was over with Sam, and his "Thanks, Sera," I tried to take Castiel's plate, but he interrupted me.
"We don't require food to function."
"I know, but this pasta puts ambrosia to shame, I promise."
He frowned, tilting his head to the side.
"How'd I know? Everything I eat tastes like molecules."
I lifted my eyebrows with realization.
"You don't know..?" He didn't know! "Give me that," I ordered, motioning to his plate. He obeyed. I served the food, careful not to spill sauce on me or anybody else, and handed it over to him. "Before you eat it, retract the grace from your tongue," I explained. His brows furrowed even more.
"He can do that?" Asked Dean.
"Yeah, it's just like... when you project your wings," I continued, "but the opposite. Instead of adding more grace, you move it to some other place. Try it."
He didn't argue, just limited himself to do as I said. Castiel put the pasta inside his mouth, and after a second of tasting it, his eyes shot open in a delighted expression.
"This is amazing."
Sam let out a chuckle that was mirrored by his brother. I could have sworn I saw a smile on Crowley's face, but he replaced it quickly with a smirk.
"Holy-..." muttered Dean, who in my distraction had taken a bite of his meal, "this is... By far, the best pasta I have ever tried. Ever."
Sam, Crowley and I imitated his actions and we all had the same reactions.
"This is really good, indeed," agreed the King of Hell, as Sam nodded.
"I'll make sure I tell him the next time I see him," I promised.
"How'd you met him, anyways?" Asked Dean.
Part of me was worried that the dinner would be full of uncomfortable silences, but it seemed that I might have been a little pessimistic.
"Seven years ago or so, I was travelling through Italy when I walk into this tiny restaurant, in a terrible neighborhood. I get my food, and before I can take a seat, this man walks in, waving a gun around, yelling for the money."
"You stopped a robbery?" Questioned Castiel, but I denied shaking my head.
"I played along, gave him my purse, and everything was fine until he trips and shoots accidentally. The bullet hits a kid, of no more than nine years. The next thing I know is that the robber is on the run and the boy is bleeding to death. So with no explanation, I heal him and go chasing the man."
"Did you catch him?" Asked Sam.
"Of course I caught him! And I got him arrested. The kid ended up being the owner's son, so after a short explanation, he says I'll have free food from him for the rest of my life."
"Wait, so he knows you're immortal, and still offers you free food for life?" Said Dean, in a playful tone.
"Yep. Honestly, not the best business management." Crowley laughs at my bad joke and I can't help but smile. "Some days later a critic comes by the restaurant because of the notice of the ' heroic girl who stopped a robbery '," I explain, air quotes included. "And I'm staying there until I get my strengths back, so he gives him an amazing review and the place is suddenly crowded all the time, thing that the owner gives me credit for. I go back some years later and he had already the third most successful restaurant in the country. And when he sees me, he instantly remembers me, and-" I interrupt myself, embarrassed of how much I was talking. "And, that's it, basically."
"Woah, Sera. A true everyday hero." Commented Dean, laughing.
"I'm not, really. But after hundreds of years on Earth, I've done almost everything there is to do."
"Sounds like you have some stories to tell," joked Sam.
"Says the boy who stopped the end of the world," I replied, "Three times," I added. "Or more. I stopped counting."
Dean starts laughing as Sam's cheeks start to get red.
“Touché,” said Crowley, in a mocking tone.
Dean stops laughing and, seeing a chance to bother him, speaks:
“You should know, right? Since we stopped you too.”
“Ha!” He smirks, “I may have been against the two of you, Squirrel, but I’ve never wanted the world to end. Humanity is a sad, doomed, little thing, yes; but I have a Hell to run and it needs it alive.”
Dean rolls his eyes and I know that I should drop it, but I ask anyway, “Don’t you think that’s a little bit pessimistic?”
Everyone in the table looks very surprised at my words, and I use that time to continue. “I, more than anyone, have reasons to despise the humankind, and yet I don’t. They deserve some credit, in my opinion.”
“I didn’t strike you as a philanthropist,” replied the demon, softly. His voice tone makes me calm, for some reason.
“Am not, trust me,” I smirked, faking confidence. I am not really comfortable talking about this. The problem isn’t really this subject, but the one that unavoidably comes right after: home. “I see what you mean, about the world being sad and little, but you’re missing the best part. It’s alive. And you can see it , because people live their lives with so many feelings and experiences... No life or person will ever be repeated, everyone has their own unique perspective and- Well, I don’t expect any of you to understand it, you should have been alive for way longer than you had but...”
The words seem to abandon me and I stop talking. The hunters and the King of hell watched me in awe, surprised by my proclamation.
Castiel, sitting in front of me, doesn't even smile. He just stares at me, his eyes full of an emotion I can't understand.
“Every day I’ve spent on Earth has been a blessing. And, about the ‘doomed’ thing: If there’s something I’ve learned here, is that as long as there’s life there’s hope.”
Sam let out a breath, stunned.
“Wow,” muttered Dean.
“I had never thought of it that way,” smiled Crowley.
"Sera, how long have you been on Earth?" Asked the youngest Winchester, carefully, and I stopped for a second to think. That can be a touchy subject. I am, after all, way older than most beings. That, of course, includes angels, humans... And demons.
"I fell a little before the Egyptian Empire was founded."
"Really?" Asked Crowley, surprised. He didn't seem bothered, to my relief. Just impressed.
"So, you saw the pyramids being built?" Asked Sam, returning to the subject. "How'd they do it?"
"Hell if I know, I landed on Madagascar," I replied, noticing the sass in my words only after they had left my lips. I've been told that I can be incredibly witty, especially when I don't intend to be.
Everyone in the table laughed, except Castiel, who limited himself to smile minimally for a second, before returning to his concerned expression.
"I spent most of the time in Australia, actually. Gabe was there a lot, to watch over the platypuses," I explained, getting more than one looks of confusion. "I can't believe those weird little things are still kicking," I whispered, obviously not low enough.
Dean starts laughing again and Sam joins him in less than two seconds. Crowley laughs too, but his laugh is more calm, like he knows he can spend the rest of his days laughing at my stupid little joke. His face, his true face, gets blushed thanks to the laughter. His vessel gets red a lot, but his soul, which usually covers his face when I look at him (like it happens with everyone), normally has a blank expression.
Unlike some angels, I rarely see people's faces. I, for example, don't need to stick my arm inside someone's chest to see the state of their soul. All it takes is one look.
It doesn't discriminate between species either. I remember the first time I saw a demon. It was Lilith: Luci's first creation. I was used to seeing human souls, and the sight of something so corrupted made me look away, horrified.
Then, I remember the first time I saw Crowley.
It was nothing like looking at Lilith, I must confess. There was no horror, or fear, or disgust. First, it was surprise, because I was not expecting a demon inside the bunker. Especially, not a demon as powerful as him. Then it was curiosity, that kept me from attacking him right away. Finally, the feeling that established and never really left, amazement. His face was more complex than any other I had ever seen. It didn't take me long to realize it wasn't just his face that had such complexity, but his soul too.
Because (and I do remember that I'm talking about a demon here) I have seen evil before.
It has stared down at me, and I have held it's gaze like the warrior I was raised to be.
I've never been other than brave in the face of evil, and there's a reason why I don't fight Crowley like I would fight anyone else.
It's because, truth be told, I don't think he's evil. He has a business to run and he does the best he can, but he's not evil.
He's far more complex than evil. And so help me , it's making me crazy.