Karya breathed a sigh of relief when Gabriel reappeared in her clearing only a few hours after he'd left it, carrying two wooden bowls. She knew from experience that one would contain holy water and the other hazelnuts, walnuts and sweet chestnuts; her offering. He'd always come back and given it to her before, she was glad he'd kept up the tradition, she needed to warn him.
She waited for him to place the bowls on the ground before she stepped out of the tree to stand between them. Gabriel tensed up and jumped back, his blade materialising in his hand. She didn't move, just stood with her hands clasped in front of her and a soft smile on her face. When manifesting always be demure and polite, it was a rule she'd stuck to even if she couldn't quite remember these days where she'd got it from.
His eyes widened and the blade disappeared again. He looked her up and down once and then bowed. "Do I have the honour of addressing Karya the hamadryad?" He asked.
Oh, wasn't he a darling boy. "Hello Gabriel, or should I call you Loki? Yes, I'm Karya, thank you for the offering."
"Gabriel is fine." He was frowning, obviously trying to figure out why she'd chosen to talk to him.
"There is something you must know, I must warn you." Now he looked alarmed. "Earlier, when you and your brother were here with the little girl there was someone watching you."
"I didn't sense anyone." No, she knew he hadn't or he wouldn't have stayed. "You're sure there was someone here?"
"Yes, I didn't sense them either until after you'd gone, until after they'd gone. But they left behind a Demonic aura and a smell of sulphur. There is a Demon interested in your family, Archangel Gabriel. Be vigilant."
Gabriel growled a string of words in Enochian that Karya was pretty sure were rude but then he pulled himself together. "Thanks, I appreciate the warning."
"You're welcome. And Gabriel, if you ever have need of me, just come to this clearing and call my name, I would like to help."
He grinned at her, Loki's mischief shining in his eyes, "I'll remember that." He said and then vanished with a snap.
Definitely her favourite, she hoped everything worked out okay for him.
Dean had to suppress a grin as Joanna came thundering down the stairs calling, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy." She ran full tilt around the corner, smack into his legs and grabbed hold of his jeans to stop herself falling. "Daddy, guess what? Guess what?" She cried happily.
He knelt in front of her, raising his eyebrows. "What?" She grabbed hold of his shoulders and bounced.
"I've gots wings. I flyed!" Dean let the proud, beaming smile, that had been wanting to escape ever since Cas and Gabriel had come back and told him what had happened, spread across his face.
"That's my girl." He gathered her up in his arms and lifted her as her got to his feet, moving till he was standing in the middle of the living room. "You want to show me?" Dean hadn't been sure that he'd be able to see this yet. Cas and Gabriel had been worried that the kids wouldn't have enough control of their Angelic half to not harm their human fathers. If Joanna hadn't shown the automatic control of her grace the way she had today, Gabriel would have had to suppress both her grace and Robert's to make sure there were no accidents. They'd needed to know, because even at only a year old, Robert was already as powerful as Cas.
Joanna nodded, hard, so Dean shifted his grip so her shoulders were free and watched, still beaming, as she screwed up her face in concentration. He knew what to expect, by now he'd lost track of how often he'd seen Cas' wings, properly seen them, not just the shadow of them, so he shut his eyes and only opened them once he'd seen the flash of light through his eyelids.
When he saw her he stared, Cas had told him but it didn't compare with the reality of holding his daughter in his arms and seeing soft downy wings sprouting from her shoulders. It was still a miracle to Dean sometimes that Joanna even existed, that he got to be her father. He'd never expected his family to be any larger than Sam.
He shifted her in his arms again so that he could brush the tips of his fingers across her feathers, making her giggle. That this beautiful half-Angel child could be his daughter was even more astonishing to him than the fact that he had a daughter at all, especially when he got to see the evidence of her grace right before his eyes.
"Wow," Dean looked up and found Sam standing in the doorway, cradling Robert and staring, mesmerised, at Joanna's speckled, silver-grey wings. Joanna looked up at him too, peering over her feathers.
"Uncle Sam! Look, look." She called out and Dean had to tighten his hold as her wings flapped excitedly. Sam stepped in close so he could smile down at her. "I've gots wings, I flyed!" She repeated her earlier pronouncement and Sam twitched.
Dean held his breath, knowing what was coming next. "You flew." Sam corrected, Dean rolled his eyes.
"I f-lew." Joanna repeated obediently.
"That's right." Sam congratulated her, reaching out to smooth one of her feathers that was out of place. "They're beautiful, Joanna." She beamed at him and her wings flicked in close, surrounding them in feathers. Dean realised that she was doing it on instinct, using a body language of wings that she could never have been taught. His train of thought was derailed by Robert grasping the tip of one of Joanna's wings in his small hand, making her squeal and laugh and wriggle.
The resulting tickling and grabbing left both Dean and Sam breathless from laughing and keeping hold of their squirming kids, Joanna giggling with her feathers in a mess and Robert gurgling happily.
Dean glanced away from his family's laughter when he noticed Gabriel appear in the doorway. He was about to call out for him to come over and join them but Gabriel's expression stopped him. He felt the happiness drain out of him as he met the Archangel's solemn gaze.
Something was wrong.
Dean packed the last of their bags into the Impala and was grateful once again that his basically-brother-in-law was an Archangel. It made moving from rented house to rented house across state lines so much easier.
He looked back at the house they were leaving and smiled, he'd liked this one but they'd hunted everything they'd could find in the area and it was time to move on. Sam had found information about a place with a lot of Demon sightings, a couple of states over, so Cas and Gabriel had gone on ahead to find them a place.
If Dean and Sam were lucky the Angels would have moved all their stuff in, out of the Archangelic equivalent of big yellow self storage, before they got there.
Sam came out of the house carrying Robert and trailed by Joanna. Dean watched, smiling, as, at Sam's instruction, she placed the key carefully under the flowerpot on the front step. He wondered if she'd even remember this house when she was older, Robert certainly wouldn't.
The first thing that told him something was wrong was that when he glanced back at the Impala one of the protective sigils on the boot lid was glowing, burning through the paintwork that had been covering it. Dean frowned and then turned back to call out to Sam but before he could speak three Demons, eyes deliberately black, appeared between them.
Dean's gun was out without him even having to think and behind the Demons he could see Sam passing Robert to Joanna and pulling his knife. Dean fired but the Demon in the middle, who's eyes had stayed black while those of the other's had faded back to human looking, waved a hand. The bullet went wild, the gun was yanked out of Dean's hand and Dean was thrown against the side of the Impala. When he tried to move he found he couldn't and the Demon smiled, maliciously.
Sam, who'd been moving quickly and quietly up behind the Demons chose that moment to strike, only to be frozen in mid-movement and then flung back against the wall of the house with a flick of the Demon's fingers.
Dean struggled against his invisible bonds as the Demon holding them turned to the other two Demons, bodyguards, a retinue, Dean thought, and gestured towards the kids.
"Get the boy. Leave the girl, we don't need her."
Dean tried to call out, to tell them to run, to yell for Cas or Gabriel, anything, but he couldn't make a sound. He looked frantically over at Sam and could see him trying as well and failing to break the silence forced on them.
There wasn't anything Dean could do except watch helplessly as the minions advanced on Joanna and Robert, Joanna glaring fiercely at them and backing away. She scratched and bit and hit at them as they pulled Robert away from her arms. She grabbed one of them around the legs and tried to drag him down.
The head Demon just watched, smiling, not doing anything to stop Joanna's efforts. He was using a lot of power keeping Dean and Sam frozen and silent but he obviously didn't consider Dean's daughter a threat.
That was his mistake.
"'anna! 'anna!" Robert wailed, reaching back towards his cousin and struggling in the Demon's hold.
Joanna screamed fury and light flashed around her as her grace erupted. Dean slammed his eyes shut, grateful that he still could, only opening them again once the light had dimmed. He squinted, his eyes itching and burning, watching with proud triumph as the Demon Joanna was clinging to tried to escape his body and failed; the smoke dissipating and the vessel crumpling to the ground.
Joanna scrambled to her feet, her wings manifested and flapping in agitation as she reached out for the other Demon, the one holding Robert. But before she could reach them she seemed to run into an invisible wall, Dean saw her stop and felt the Demon's hold on him weaken in the same instant.
So, he couldn't hold them all, not properly.
Joanna screwed up her face and little flickers of her grace began to flash across her wings. Dean closed his eyes again, wishing there was something he could do to help her, wishing Cas was here. He struggled against the power holding him again as Joanna's grace flared, painting red across the inside of his eyelids, and then brightened even further, leaving white spots on his vision.
The hold on Dean gave out and he was moving before he even got his eyes open again. When he did look, it was to find smoke pouring out of the head Demon as he made a run for it and the minion that had been holding Robert already crumpled on the ground. With Robert sitting happily on his chest, flapping three pairs of soft, downy, bronze-coloured wings and looking as pleased with himself as was possible for an eighteen month old.
Dean scooped Joanna up in his arms and shared a despairing look with Sam. He had no idea what the fuck had just happened but it couldn't be good. He stroked Joanna's hair, held her close as she trembled in his arms and watched as Sam carefully lifted Robert.
"We need to get out of here." Dean said when it seemed like Sam was just going to stand there and stare. Sam flinched and then nodded, reaching for the back door of the Impala and climbing in, without prompting from Dean. It was this thing they did; if the kids were upset, one of the four of them would let them curl up against him on a sofa, or in the back seat and hold them close, usually until they both fell asleep.
Dean got Joanna settled and then slid into the drivers seat with a sigh of relief, pulling out onto the road. His body was still thrumming with adrenaline but in this car they were as safe as they could be without the Angels.
He looked in the rear-view mirror at the image of Sam cradling Robert on his lap, wings and all, with Joanna curled up against his side, her wings now folded back inside her grace. He could hear Sam murmuring to her, that she'd done good, that she was safe, all the things Dean would say to her once they were even safer across a state line or two. The relief he felt became a torrent, swamping him; they were alright, they were all still here, they were safe, at least for now.
Dean pulled his phone out of his pocket, his whole world had just been turned upside down and there was only one thing he could think of to do right now. He hit speed-dial.
"Cas, we need you."
"Do you get it now?" Gabriel asked, watching Dean pace across they're new kitchen, "How much danger they'll be in? How much danger they're in already?" Sam was pressed in close against Gabriel's side, clutching a mug of tea between his hands as if he needed the warmth.
"Training them as hunters won't keep them safe. You know how dangerous hunting is." Dean hissed, Gabriel got the feeling he would have been yelling if Joanna and Robert hadn't been in the other room, curled up on the sofa with Cas, sleeping off the shock.
"Karya warned us and the Demon still got to them. We can't keep them safe all the time, they need to know how to defend themselves."
"They seemed to do pretty well today." Dean clenched his fists, Gabriel could tell he was still beating himself up over not being able to do anything.
"Joanna surprised them today but she doesn't have the raw power to kick Demon ass if they're expecting her. We can't rely on that to keep her safe." Dean glared at him but Gabriel didn't back down, he knew he had to win this fight and this was probably one of the best chances he was going to get. He knew he had to win because the Joanna and Robert he'd met when they travelled back in time had been hunters, it had been obvious in the way they moved, the way they held themselves and the way they handled weapons. "Robert does but he doesn't have any control yet. I won't be able to stop suppressing his grace for another couple of years at least."
Gabriel hadn't wanted to have to do that but Joanna's little stunt had pulled Robert's grace to the surface. Sam reached out and took one of Gabriel's hands, twining their fingers together and Gabriel realised that he was trembling and hadn't noticed.
"Dean," Sam's voice was placating, pleading, "Gabriel's right. I don't it like any better than you do but we at least need to teach them enough to be able to fight back."
Dean growled, "They're too young, Joanna is four." His determination was fading, Gabriel could hear in his voice that he knew they were right.
"And how old were you when Mum died?" Sam asked, quietly, softly.
Dean's shoulders slumped, "I just wanted her to have a chance at a normal life." Gabriel felt Sam flinch at his side.
"She's half-Angel, half-Winchester," Gabriel reminded him, squeezing Sam's hand, "No matter which side of the family she takes after, normal is not something she's ever going to be."