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“Damn, check that guy out. Tatted up like a motherfucker.”

One of the guys kitty-corner across the bar from him is muttering to his buddy, eyes trained forwards; he’d heard the door open and close a couple of seconds ago so they must be talking about the newcomer.

Oh. So that’s what it is, then.

Newcomer pulls up the chair one over from him and he steals a furtive glance over. The guy is, actually, covered head-to-foot in tattoos – the traditional kind, the kind that make you think that there’s a real history behind ‘em, the kind of tattoos that are tattooed because they’re pure art. To top it off, there’s a nice face behind the bold curves and delicate whorls. A really nice face. The djinn’s got a sharp, neat nose and sharp, angular cheekbones and a sharp jawline and sharp eyebrows, and they all come together with those stunner baby blues to make a surprisingly soft face.

But then there’s that scent.

Yeah, it’s unmistakable. Like blue sparks dancing on oxhide. Ice-nine.

See, Dean knows that he’s a freak. Dean knows that everyone he knows is also a freak. But he also knows that he can keep himself in check, that he’s human enough to be human.

Mostly.

He tosses back the rest of his fifth whiskey (fifth or fifteenth, he neither knows nor cares, but the point is that alcohol just doesn’t work the same on him) and watches Newcomer order an equally eyebrow-raising amount of drinks. Dean’s definitely done here. Newcomer barely spares him a glance as he eventually pays his tab and heads out; it’s bright out, with a nearly full moon and the city lights blazing.

It makes him itch.

 

 

“You’re out of there early,” Sam snorts, the second he opens the motel room door. “What, bartender turn you down again?”

“Ha, ha,” Dean says dryly. “Actually, a djinni walked in there a couple minutes ago.” Sam just gives him a look.

“A djinni,” he repeats flatly.

“Yeah, a djinni,” says Dean, exasperation bleeding through his voice. “Skin all marked up and everything. I’d know that scent anywhere, all... trippy.” He wrinkles his nose. Sam rolls his eyes.

“Whatever you say, Lassie. So what are we gonna do?” Dean shrugs, flexes his hands.

“Keep an ear out,” he says, “ask Ellen if she knows anything about it, check for missing people, see if he’s been stringing anyone up. Take him out if he has.”

“But djinn don’t usually go out in public,” Sam reminds him, and leans against the back of his chair. “Like, ever. They’re solitary. I wonder what this one’s deal is.”

“Don’t know, don’t care. Long as he’s not killing people.” Sam sighs and gets up, starts throwing his stuff into a duffel; Dean pulls out his Glass and shoots Ellen-slash-Ash a quick message before pulling up a city map. “Looks like there’s an old factory and a couple warehouses on the outskirts,” he says, watching Sam scrutinize one of their knives. “Worth a shot?”

“What’s Ellen say?”

“Uh–” He bumps the map over to Display, where it starts glowing softly on the stained motel carpet, and checks. “Huh. Two kidnappings, three months apart, usual signs of a djinni attack.”

“Alright,” says Sam, duffel in one hand and two knives in the other, “let’s get this thing.” He makes an arc over the map with his toe. “We’ll search east to west?”

“Yep. Hey, Sammy–” He grins broadly. “So a djinni, a wolf, and a vamp walk into a bar–”

“Oh, shut up.”

 

 

Sammy looks– damn, Sammy looks great. He looks fantastic. There’s a glow to his cheeks, a real, pink glow, face flushed with real blood pumped from the heart that’s still beating in his chest, and there’s nothing sharp about his grin. Dean feels himself grinning back instinctively and god, as he takes the basket of rolls from Mom and plops two down on his plate, he–

Wait a second.

That’s not right. He’s faced this before.

 

Then everything’s whirling again and changing and–

 

Mary, twisted and burning on the ceiling. His hands are getting burnt as he reaches for her, to try and get her down.

John, crumpling to the floor in a hospital room. Mysteriously exsanguinated, they said. Puncture wound – but how would an animal have gotten in the hospital, anyways?

Fangs, tearing apart his side and shoulder as he throws himself in front of his brother thinking only to spare Sam’s life.

Bobby, torn apart by hunters.

Sam, cornered and dying.

Sam, cold and dead in his arms, cold and dead and bloody, ripped to shreds, not moving. A single, too-bright drop of blood makes its way down his chin.

Sam, a husk, dead of thirst.

Sam, decapitated.

Sam, with his heart torn out, still beating, clawed hands bringing the steaming flesh to a hungry, fanged mouth and Dean watches his brother’s blood drip down his own chin, watches his own hands methodically take apart Sam’s heart and eat it, chamber by chamber, and he wishes he could be sick because he wants to vomit for days–

A bright burst of blue.

 

 

The first thing he sees is Sam’s shaggy mop of hair flying sideways as he barrels over the bluish smudge that had been crouched over him; there’s the sound of a scuffle and a snarl and then Sam is shaking him, all concern.

Dean!” He shakes his head, trying to clear it, and pushes himself up somewhat vertically. Sam, check. Warehouse, check. Limbs, check. Consciousness? Not so much. This is easily ten times worse than being hungover. His shoulder is cold-burning like it’s been doused in liquid nitrogen. “Dean, you with me?”

“Yeah,” he croaks, and then sees the djinni getting back up behind Sam. He pushes past his brother and launches himself forward with a snarl, fatigue and dizziness pushed away as he shifts, lets his nails curl into claws, feels his teeth shifting and his ears changing. His fingers curve to fit perfectly around the djinni’s throat and he slams it into the nearest moldy wall.

“Wait,” the djinni manages, and his hands are surprisingly strong against Dean’s grip.

“Give me one good reason I shouldn’t rip you apart,” Dean growls, claws tightening over the djinni’s thudding pulse point. And then he realizes with a start that he knows this scent – it’s the djinni from the bar and yeah, now that he’s gotten a better look, he recognizes the face. He can hear Sam doing his looming thing behind him, the sound of an extra set of teeth being bared.

“I’m the one who pulled you out of that dream,” the djinni says through gritted teeth. There’s a fierceness in his face and his pulse is strong and even – it’s the truth. Behind him, Sam makes a quiet, skeptical noise. Dean loosens his grip.

“So who put him in?” Sam fires back.

“There was someone else here, wasn’t there?” asks Dean, with dawning comprehension. Stupid. He should’ve been able to tell right away that there’s more than one scent lingering. He pulls his hand back and rolls his shoulders. The wolf retreats back under his skin and Sam huffs at him. The djinni rubs his throat.

“Yes,” he answers. “An old... I used to know them.”

“Why did you do that?” Dean asks, brow furrowed, and he can feel Sam bristling with the same question. The djinni cocks his head, ever so slightly, and looks at him as though the answer was obvious.

“I’ve seen a lot of people dream,” he says, “and there’s something righteous about you. No one deserves to be tortured by their own consciousness.”

Dean is so fucking thrown for a loop that he nearly misses the exchange between his brother and the djinni.

“Who are you?” asks Sam, obviously more than a little weirded out himself.

“Castiel,” answers the djinni, long-fingered hands smoothing out his clothing.

“I mean, what are you?” Sam asks again, and there’s frustration showing in the set of his jaw. Castiel calmly looks up at him. “What kind of djinni helps a snack get away from under another one’s nose?”

“And what kind of a djinni goes to a bar?” adds Dean, feeling the hair on the back of his neck rise. “You’re solitary creatures.”

“And wolves are pack animals,” says Castiel. His voice is calm but there’s a shrewd iciness in his eyes. “Vampires are social by nature as well.”

Well played.

He makes to move past them and immediately Dean bares his teeth; Sam does the same next to him. Castiel raises his hands, fingers spread pacifyingly.

“I mean you no harm,” he says, but his voice is pitched low and Dean knows he’s capable of kicking ass. Or at least sounding like he’s capable of kicking ass. He lets the wolf start bleeding through again and Sam crowds up on Castiel, 6+ feet of intimidating L’Oreal hair and bloodsucking, razor-sharp fangs.

“Why should we trust you?” says Sam, eyes narrowed dangerously.

For some reason, Castiel chooses to look at Dean instead.

 

 

“Ellen is the leader of your Underground, then?”

Sam steals a glance over at him and Dean shrugs in response.

“I guess, yeah,” he says, clicking the turn signal on and letting his reflexes work with his baby, turning the Impala on a dime like she’s an extension of his body. “The Underground’s the Underground, dude. Ellen is just kinda pack mommy ‘round here.” Sam muffles a snort. “Just whatever you do, don’t tell her I said that.”

Castiel makes a sort of noncommittal sighing noise and Dean tries to surreptitiously take another look at him in the rearview mirror. He’s kind of quite a sight, for a djinni. Dean’s seen (read: killed) a small handful of the fuckers and they’re not exactly the prettiest creatures out there – hermity old dudes or intimidating old ladies, usually, but Castiel actually has a full head of hair (dark and thick like whoa, looks like he’s just been ravaged in bed, et cetera, ad infinitum) and he looks young, like he could pass for being Dean’s age.

Well, not like Dean has a legit “age” in the first place, but that’s beside the point.

Djinn are weird little things at the best of times and they keep themselves out of trouble (at least for the most part) so Dean really doesn’t know much about ‘em, except for what the whispers say – they’ve got some kind of caste system, apparently (but he doesn’t see how that makes much sense if they don’t socialize), some weird magic, and according to Bobby, they’re the closest thing this world is gonna see to angels.

“Anyways,” Sam says, clearing his throat, “the Underground around here is pretty tight. We don’t get a lot of others coming through here, so, you know, first instinct is that you’re more on the rogue side of things.”

“I can assure you, I don’t find any amusement in slaughtering humans for sustenance.” The way Castiel says it makes the hairs on Dean’s neck stand up, hackles up, and his spidey-sense is motherfuckin’ tingling.

“But the other – others – we ran into, that’s not the case,” he says sharply, meeting those crazy cyan eyes in the rearview mirror again. It’s three a.m. and pitch-black in the car but the negative space on Castiel’s skin looks like it’s glowing right now.

“For them, that’s not the case,” Castiel quietly affirms, low rumble matching the Impala’s. Dean heaves a sigh.

“Not so much angels, then,” he mutters under his breath. In the rearview mirror, he can see Castiel judging him. Fuck that, he can smell the judgement.

“Bobby's gonna want to know,” Sam says, rubbing his temple.

“Excuse me?”

“He's basically our info hub,” Sam explains, with a lot more patience than Dean would have. He’s already twitchy, this close to a full moon, and the bruises are starting to set in. “He likes keeping tabs on rogues. Helps us Undergrounders take out the monster monsters, if you catch my drift.”

“What makes you think I want to help your cause?” Castiel says, disdainfully apathetic, and Dean nearly goddamn stops the vehicle right there.

“Because it’s the right thing to do,” he snaps and oops, there’s a snarl. His temper goes to shit during the waxing gibbous and no matter what the fuck Sam says, it’s not PMS. “You know, morals? Or do you people conveniently not have those things?”

Castiel leans forward and Dean can smell the change; the tang of hot metal is added to the burning-ice and Dean devotes a whole eighty-five percent of his attention to the djinn in his backseat.

“I pulled you out of a dream state,” he half-snarls, half-purrs into Dean's ear, “and I can throw you back in. I’m willing to give you information because you and your Underground can grant me asylum, not because I have a moral obligation to help humans.”

“Alright,” Sam says quickly, ever the diplomat, but Dean can’t not have the last word here so he lets himself shift, just enough to let Castiel see his fangs, and growls deep in his throat. Sam closes his eyes with a pained expression.

Oh-kay.” Sam blazes forward, determined to be the neutral party. Dean withholds an eyeroll. “Castiel, we are both really glad that you want to give us some updates on djinn, and the Roadhouse crew are gonna be grateful, too. We don’t get a lot of visitors, but that doesn’t mean we’re inhospitable.” Sam shoots him a nice, solid bitchface, then crosses his arms and leans back against the seat with the type of finality that can only be achieved by younger siblings.

 

 

It’s closing in on four in the morning when they finally pull onto the gravel that makes up the Roadhouse’s parking lot. Dean’s pissy and Sam’s grumpy and Castiel smells like he’s peeved, too, but when Dean shuts off the engine the djinn takes his time leaving the car, running his pale, long-fingered hands over her doorhandle, her roof.

“Dude, quit fondling my car,” he snaps. No one touches his baby like that.

No, he doesn’t have a problem.

“She’s beautiful,” Castiel murmurs, and whoa, okay. He trades a look with Sam.

Yeah, she is,” he says, surprised, and he can’t do anything about that note of pride in his voice. “Built her from the bones up. Sucked having to overhaul her engine after the biofuel regs finally beat their way through to classic cars, but she still purrs.” Sam rolls his eyes, irises flashing silver in the bright neon signage, and heads for the door.

“She’s... incredible,” Castiel continues, still keeping one dark-lined hand on her roof. “Your hopes and dreams are written all over her. You don’t find many objects like this any more. Sometimes a toy, or prayer beads, but your car is really something else.” Dean frowns.

“Alright, flower child, let’s get you over to Ellen.”

Ellen, in turn, is colored generally unimpressed until Castiel downs a foot-long row of shots (Ellen’s shots, Ellen’s shots made for people who aren’t exactly people, Ellen’s shots that have knocked Dean on his ass in the past) and then she gets Jo to call Bobby to ask Jody to patch through Pamela, who’s up there for the weekend, for a truth-spell, who then listens to Castiel’s story for about twelve seconds, snorts, and asks a thoroughly unamused Ellen why she’d ever think Castiel could be lying.

Ellen rolls her eyes and hollers for Ash to clear out a basement room.

“If you think you’re gonna skate by as a freeloader, you’ve got another thing comin,” she says sternly, one finger jabbing at her Glass’s screen, and Sam smiles from where Cas can’t see him.

“So, nothin’ funny about this guy?” Dean asks as Sam takes a look at the rapidly-lightening sky and stifles a yawn. Pamela chuckles; the Glass pixelates and clears up for, like, the fifth time.

“I might be blind, but he’s got a poker face like no other,” she says. “Can’t lie for shit, though. Can’t you smell it, Fido?” Pamela bounces her eyebrows and Sam chokes on his yawn.

“Can it,” he fires back, but there’s no malice in his voice. “I think it’s time for us to hit the hay. Nice seein’ you, Pam.”

“Still waitin’ on you boys to visit.” Sam grins at her before clomping his way down to the basement; Dean ends the conversation and snags a beer from behind the bar, taking advantage of Ash being downstairs, then follows his brother.

 

 

The Roadhouse is huge.

Well, okay, it’s not Disneyland or anything, but Ellen, Jo, Ash, and various transient Undergrounders have made it into a safe haven. There’s a full bar and a huge menu for humans and Undergrounders alike, but Dean’s favorite thing about the Roadhouse is that it’s a home.

The basement had started out as a panic-room-slash-Cold-War-bunker from way, way back when, but after years of addition and renovation and building and tearing-down, the basement’s more of a library-slash-hostel-slash-emergency-infirmary.

Sam’s got a more-or-less permanent room down there along with Ash, and Ellen and Jo have rooms just behind the bar. Makes sense, since Sam only deals with sunlight when he really has to and Ash is a fucking hermit at the best of times. Dean had discovered early on during his stay at the Roadhouse that there’s an attic and that Ellen and Jo never use it, so he just sort of... claimed it. International Dibs Protocol won.

He doesn’t really remember how long it’d taken to give it an actual floor and sand down the wooden walls and pest-proof it and put in a row of skylights and a window but now it’s his place, his room, with his decently average collection of books and dresser full of jeans and flannel shirts. In its own weird way, it reminds him of the Impala – open and full of light when he wants it to be, open to the sky and the road that he can just barely see, curving out into the horizon, candy-bright clouds at sunrise and a perfect view of the stars.

The basement’s nice, yeah, but it’s got nothing on his cramped, sloping, perfect little goddamn attic.

Turns out Castiel is gonna hole up in a basement room as far from Ash and Sam as possible, and he’s neatly arranging the sheets and comforter and blankets on top of the old-ass twin mattress Dean vaguely remembers having carted into that room ages ago. He clears his throat.

“Beer?”

Castiel straightens and looks at him, eyes calculating, before saying, “Please.”

Dean hands him the other bottle and thinks that this is probably the weirdest (read: probably the coolest) thing that’s happened to him in years. There’s a weird tug in his gut that seems to be pointing to this strange enigma of a djinni and Dean’s starting to think that this is some kind of Wolfy Loyalty Thing where because Castiel here saved his life, he’s gonna feel indebted until he can reciprocate. Or something.

He’s also never managed a conversation with a djinni that lasted longer than “you son of a bitch” before knives were pulled out, so there’s that.

“So, uh,” he starts awkwardly, totally not watching as Castiel takes a slow pull of beer, “thanks for savin’ my life. Back there. And about the whole thing in the car, I–” He clears his throat. “My temper gets shitty before the full moon, but, uh, not really an excuse, so.”

“You’re welcome,” Castiel replies, quiet, with a level of gravity Dean hasn’t heard from anyone in a long, long time and this is getting really awkward really fast.

“So–” he says again, awkward, awkward, “why is it, exactly, that you’re staying here? You, uh, weren’t too clear on the details.”

Castiel nails him with this dead-on look that screams are you serious and Dean just raises an eyebrow in return.

“Historically, only rogue djinn, senile or out of their minds, or both, have preyed on humans in a way that makes you hunt them,” he rumbles. “It’s only recently that this has become a more wide-spread... problem, and I want to know why.” His serious mouth twists up into what can only be called half a smirk and goddammit. “There are ways other than murder to keep oneself alive on a diet of human blood, as I’m sure your brother and the Vetala pair upstairs are aware.” He folds his hands together. “Something seems to be... happening. You feel it too, don’t you?”

Dean shifts his weight.

“Well... sure,” he answers lamely, uncomfortable because there’s another kind of tug, one that sits in the roof of his mouth and the back of his neck, and it’s telling him run and hide, run and hide, run and hide, whispering so quietly that he has to really focus to notice the way it’s got its tendrils snaking through his mind.

Castiel sits down on the bed, mattress sighing underneath him, and exhales slowly.

“It feels like an order,” he says. “Feed. Give in to instinct, self-preservation.” Castiel links his hands together and Dean can’t help tracking the movement, slim, pale fingers folding over another, broken by neat lines. “For us, as long as it is or was mostly human, the blood will work. Most of the other djinn have chosen to obey, so to speak. The three who, ah, disabled you in the warehouse were among that faction.”

Three. Three? This half-scrawny djinni fought off three of its own kind against some kind of order to save a werewolf he doesn’t even know, just because he had bad dreams?

Yeah, this is one of the weirder days Dean’s had.

“So you’ve rebelled like a bad little angel and you’re gonna camp out here with us, then?” Dean says, falling back on snark and sass to cover up the fact that he’s still definitely mulling this shit over. Castiel nails him with another deadpan look.

“If it helps you to think of it that way, so be it.”

“Yeah, okay,” Dean chuckles, killing the beer, “I’m gonna hit the hay. Get Ash if you need anything, Sammy can be a zombie if you wake him up before sunset. See you ‘round, Cas.” The djinni’s eyebrows go up skeptically and Dean hurriedly tacks on a “-stiel.”

 

 


 

 

 

The first few weeks with Cas – Castiel – are quiet. Dean catches murmurs of a poltergeist north of Colorado and Ash confirms for him, so after the full moon, he and Sam head out to clean it up. Bobby stalls their departure by three hours as they catch up with him (and maybe reacquaint themselves with a hypothetical bottle of really damn good whiskey) before he marches downstairs to squeeze every bit of information out of Castiel as he can. Dean almost feels sorry for Cas. Almost.

Victor and Ruby pass through at almost the exact same time, much to the disgust of both of them and much to the delight of both Sam and Dean. Even Cas comes out of his batcave to meet Victor because Dean’s talked about their fucking epic adventures while trying to implement Ellen’s new genius plan to re-re-expand the basement, aimlessly telling stories as they re-route the plumbing together. It sorta takes Dean by surprise that Cas and Victor end up in a weird sort of comradeship but then again, Cas is mostly solitary, no-nonsense, says what’s on his mind and doesn’t fuck around with extra words, and exactly the type of person Victor tends to like.

Ruby flits in and out of the Roadhouse like the restless creature she is, spends the night with Sam and leaves marks on his skin (ugh, ew, Dean’s not gonna think too hard about it), shares a drink with Dean before going off to do whatever the fuck it is she does on her own time. Dean likes Ruby, in his own, grudging way. She’s sharp as a whip and witty as fuck, unafraid of anything, blunt, a vampire who’s often way too hot-blooded for her own good. Cas instantly dislikes her, much to Dean’s amusement. Charlie can’t make it, but Dean’s pretty sure she and Cas would take to each other like ducks to water.

He’s in a strange state of suspended animation. Castiel saved his life. Dean owes him for that. Both of them know it. Dean hates being indebted to people. It’s not a responsibility thing, not really, but he hates the feeling of not being broken even and of not being on equal footing, especially because he’s starting to actually like Castiel as a person.

The djinni is reclusive and brusque but he’s got a very specific, dry sense of humor that Dean’s surprisingly on board with, and he falls in step easily beside him and Sam. He’s earnest and honest and he wants to earn his keep – Ellen’s thinking of getting him on the barback-to-bartender track and moving Dean to the kitchen, and there’s no way in hell Dean is going to complain about that. They get a good thing going in a matter of weeks, but Dean should’ve known better that it’s the calm before the storm.

 

 

The fourth full moon after Cas’s arrival would’ve gone without a hitch. Would’ve. All in all, he’s goddamn lucky Sam was there to knock him the fuck out and cart him far away from all human contact and then back to the Roadhouse, because something is definitely fucking rotten in the state of Everything.

Sam’s first words to him after the full moon are a flat, “Dean, what the hell.”

“I don’t know,” he snaps back, tired, and wolfs down three ibuprofens. “I feel like shit, man. Like a lunar hangover, or something.”

“I meant–”

“I know what you meant, okay?” Dean picks at one of Sam’s leftover bagels and decides to abandon it. Shit’s weak. “I’ve got no friggin’ clue what that was. It wasn’t a me thing, it was a– a wolf thing.” And it’s terrifying, he doesn’t need to add.

Sam sighs and rubs his temples.

“Djinn are going whack, demons are going whack, and now you’re inching toward the deep end, too?” he mutters, distractedly running his fingers over the wood of his desk. “What the hell’s going on?”

“It was kinda–” Dean frowns, trying to find a way to verbalize the gross whirl of everything he felt last night. Words were never his strong suit. “It’s like my fight-or-flight went into massive overdrive. The smell of people hit me like a brick and I just– I knew I had to get out, or else.”

“We’ll figure this out,” Sam says, slowly, like he’s already off in his own world.

“I goddamn hope so,” Dean snorts back.

 

 

His temper is foul for the rest of the night. The bar gets a lot of traffic that night and he and Jo and Ellen are stretched thin, carting food and drinks non-stop, and Dean paces his way through the bar at least seven times in thirty minutes, fidgeting, pissed at the goddamn universe, pissed at himself. He needs to sit down with Ellen and Jo and Ash and talk over what happened but there are still three hours left until last call and Dean’s about ready to eat someone’s face off.

Pretty fucking literally.

“You’re tense,” comes a low voice, and Dean’s never been more grateful to see a familiar face.

“Too many people,” he mutters, and slides a beer across the bar to him. Cas wipes at a bit of overambitious foam.

“I can’t argue with you there.”

Hey!

He and Cas both turn to see a big, fuckin’ comically stereotypical biker shouldering his way through a group of humans to where Cas is perched on a stool. His eyes flick black and that’s great, fantastic, a macho demon who smells like a grudge getting right up in his space, jabbing an accusatory finger into Cas’s chest.

“You djinn killed off two of my buddies last weekend,” he growls threateningly, and Dean’s relieved that the demon at least has enough sense to keep his voice down. The Roadhouse is exceptionally full of civilian humans tonight.

“I killed no one,” Cas answers back, cool as anything, staring the demon down with that creepy, electric look in his eyes. Dean hates being on the other end of it. Shit’s terrifying.

“Yeah?” The demon smells like alcohol – like Ellen’s monster-level drinks – and Dean shifts, subtly enough to not draw attention. This isn’t going to be pretty. “I’m thinkin’ that’s bullshit. And I’m thinkin’ an eye for an eye sounds real nice.”

“I’m thinking you need to leave,” Dean says, quiet and low and as dangerous as he possibly fucking can, because not only are bar fights a pain in the ass, bar fights are a straight-up terrible idea if there’s a bunch of humans around. The demon’s eyes go black again so Dean bares his teeth and snarls, head down, eyes up, shoulders back. “See, my friend here can knock you the fuck out in one touch, and I’d rather it not come to blows. You lost people and it sucks, I get it, but don’t go picking fights with innocents when civilians are around.”

His nose is tingling like a motherfucker and he can see one of Cas’s hands out of the corner of his eye, glowing blue, and the mojo smells like too much pepper and a brainfreeze. He can’t vault over the bar right now but he moves around it as quickly as possible to take (arguably) neutral ground between Cas and the demon.

“That thing ain’t innocent, man,” says the demon through gritted teeth, “or you turnin’ a blind eye to all the killings lately?”

Everything’s been killing lately,” Dean snaps.

“What’s one more to add to the list, then?”

It takes less than a split second to register – the demon’s brows furrowing even deeper, a slight flick of his wrist, the heady smell of lamb’s blood cut through with the dangerous, bright tang of silver – and Dean’s fucking had it, he bowls the demon over and pins him down with a hand at his throat, claws creasing into the soft flesh. Half the bar falls into a hush.

“You do not threaten my people,” Dean breathes into the demon’s face, giving a nice display of Typical Alpha Male Bullshit Aggression, showing off his pearly whites. “I’m sure Ellen wouldn’t be happy to find stains on her floor.” He smacks the demon’s head into the floorboards with a satisfying crack and stands up, shifts back, rolls his shoulders.

Time to assess the damage. Most people are already turning back to their drinks and food, rolling their eyes, and he decides it’s time to go when he catches Jo’s death-glare from across the room.

He’s up on the roof in record time, holding the half-flat beer he’d never even gotten the chance to start before his shift. It’s a clear night, pleasantly brisk, and he cracks one of his skylights as an afterthought before leaning back against the shingling. The noise of the bar is a soft buzz underneath him and if he focuses he can catch snippets of conversation – whiskey, comin’ right up, sweetheart and ganked two of those fuckers up near Duluth, nasty-ass mothers and damn, these need some more salt – but for the most part he tunes everything out, listens to the rumble of cars out on the interstate ten miles out.

“You should probably make noise when you walk,” Dean grunts. “Goddamn, man, I wouldn’t be able to deal with you if I couldn’t smell you coming from a mile away.”

Cas doesn’t answer, just settles himself down on the sloping roof half a foot away from Dean and cracks open his own beer. It’s quiet for nearly fifteen minutes and Dean can hear his steady pulse, warm and muffled, and it’s so nice to be around someone who’s got a life-beat. He loves his brother to death and beyond, but there’s just something about being around people with a pulse.

“You know, I’m perfectly capable of defending myself,” Cas finally says, and Dean bristles.

“He was picking a fight on my turf,” he fires back.

“I could’ve handled it.”

Still.”

“Dean, you’re not indebted to me in any way because I saved your life. These aren’t medieval times, trust me.”

“I’m not–” Dean huffs angrily, beyond irked at this point. “This is about assholes being assholes, not me groveling.”

“Assholes threatening your turf?”

Cas’s correction is a smug, sly dig and Dean can feel his ears turning red. Everyone he knows is an asshole. Why is everyone he knows an asshole? Bad luck? Karma? Fuck if he knows, but any tension is effectively erased.

“It’s– a wolf thing,” he mutters, even though that’s not even slightly any kind of excuse; he finishes off his beer and wipes his mouth with all the grace of a five-year-old.

“It seems strange that you weren’t born a werewolf,” Cas murmurs amicably, like they weren’t snapping at each other less than a minute ago, and leans back against the roof. His bottle clinks lightly against Dean’s as he sets it down. “You carry the bite well.” Dean shrugs.

“It’s not like I was bitten yesterday,” he responds. Cas raises an eyebrow at him, and Dean’s surprised that he can translate his body language already. He chuckles. “I’m eighty-two, Cas,” he says, laughing even harder at the look of surprise on his face. “I got the bite when I was thirty-one.”

“So, then, I suppose that makes you well-aged wine.”

“Rich, coming from a guy who’s old as Babylonian dirt.” He scratches at his chin. “It was weird at first. You know, suddenly I’m hunted, not hunter. We kinda accidentally fell into the Underground a couple years after that happened. Turns out Bobby was a skinwalker the whole time, who’da thunk it.”

“What about Sam?”

His chest feels tight. There’s only a handful of people who know what happened (or rather, who don’t really know what happened) and that includes Bobby and Ellen and Ash and Jo but there’s a nudge in his gut telling him that it’s okay for Cas to know because there’s always a nudge in his gut when it comes to trusting Cas, and Dean’s always been one to trust his instincts.

“Sammy’s, uh–” He clears his throat. “Sammy’s kind of a mystery.” Cas is silent. It’s reassuring. “Our mom was killed when he was six months old. It was– there was a fire. Arson. Whoever set it, they did something. We don’t know, really. Our dad spent years trying to figure it out, raised us black-and-white, indiscriminate, kill-all-monsters hunters in the process.” Cas’s face is completely taken aback. He chuckles. “Yeah, I know. Anyways, Sam got turned when he was twenty-two. We’ve still got no clue who– well, no, we’ve got clues, but not much to go off of. We’re pretty sure it was the same person who killed our mom. Exactly the anniversary of her death, and all. Creepy obsessive behavior, all that.”

Dean’s fervently wishing he had more beer with which to chase down that story.

“What on earth has been happening?” Cas breathes quietly, linking his fingers behind his head, frown creasing his brow. “Djinn, demons, and you–” Dean can’t meet his eyes. “–you said you’ve never tasted a human heart, and you had to ask Sam to drive you into the middle of the countryside last night. Something isn’t right.”

“Yeah, no shit,” Dean mutters. Cas is silent for the next few seconds, tentative, and Dean can smell his hesitation.

"So now you feel it too," he finally says, "whatever it is I’m feeling. It's--" He pauses, makes a face "--primal. Base."

"Fight-or-flight," Dean murmurs. “I dunno, man, it’s weird. I’m not one of the older wolves by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve never felt anything like this.”

Cas makes an unhappy noise and closes his eyes.

 

 


 

 

It starts off normal – well, as normal as a full moon can be expected to go. Sam’s off in Idaho somewhere with Ruby, trying to figure out a lake-spirit or something, and Dean’s back on full-moon lockdown for the first time in roughly half a century because shit’s been going from bad to worse. It’s been nearly a year since the first time he’d had to ask Sam to get him away from people and he hasn’t passed a normal full moon since. He can smell the sheep hearts and they’re enticing enough, sure, but the itch is never gonna be gone. There’s no fighting who he is, there’s just beating around the bush.

The moon keeps inching closer and closer to its peak and Dean gets anticipatory shivers, ears and nose going into overdrive, fingertips itching. Shifting is a total headrush and he loves it, honestly, but the way the last almost-year’s moons have gone, all he wants is for it to be over.

Ten more seconds, then three, and then there’s that icy chill down his spine and he’s shifting, bones resettling and teeth moving and oh, oh, he’s so goddamn hungry and he thinks his brain just short-circuits because it’s all instinct from then on – instinct that makes him ignore the sheep hearts next to him and the two vamps at the end of the hallway and all he can focus on is the throb of human life on the floor above, so many heartbeats and so many hearts and he’s probably drooling all down his front right now.

It’s easy enough to slip a claw between the door and the frame; the lock turns with a quiet click then he’s out. Technology might be on an exponential curve, but bolting a door has stayed the same for thousands of years. A fresh wave of smell hits his nose when the door swings open – flesh flesh warm flesh bodies flesh – and he’s weak at the knees at the thought of carving into a heaving chest, delicately severing arteries and veins, sinking his fangs into a still-beating human heart.

Someone bumps into him as he pads silently up the stairs to the bar but he doesn’t even bother registering who it is. Self-preservation has been outranked by hungry hungry bodies flesh hearts warm beating hearts human hearts and he thinks he hears a name but nothing matters, because there’s less than ten feet separating him and the nearest beating heart–

–and then he’s being slammed against the wall of the stairwell by something that smells wrong, like fire on ice, something that has too-tight hands saying things like dean stop not you dean moon dean dean so he snarls at the obstacle and pushes away, feeling flesh give way under his claws with vicious satisfaction, because he’s only got time for hearts hearts hearts human beating hearts bloody warm hearts hearts–

–his field of vision goes cyan and there’s a flaming blue angel before him and then he’s out like a light.

 

 

The first thing he does after jerking awake is stumble to the bathroom and throw up everything in his stomach. He’s caught somewhere between sick and sickened and the only thought he can manage is that he’s so, so glad Sam hadn’t been there to witness him losing his fucking mind.

It's quiet. Judging by the way the light is slanting through the skylights, spilling over like honey, it's somewhere just before sunset. Fantastic. His wolfy-spatial-awareness-sixth-sense-thing pings softly like a sonar, telling him that everyone who's supposed to be at the Roadhouse is here - Sam is back now and snoring up a fucking storm - but then another wave of nausea hits him and he's praying to the porcelain god again, re-emptying his already-empty stomach.

His shirt smells like vomit and sleep and everything from last night so he strips it off, tugs on a new one, and walks back to his room before slumping bonelessly in the chair.

"You're awake," comes Cas's voice, quiet, from the doorway. "Good." He holds out a bio-d foam take-out box and Dean wordlessly accepts it; he can smell a sheep heart through the plastic.

"Cas, I-"

"Eat," he says sharply, "then we talk."

Dean takes a deep breath and starts on the heart, methodically eating it chamber by chamber, peeling it apart and not letting the taste linger. When he's done, Cas gently pulls the box from out of his hands, sets it on the desk, and turns his stupid 5000-watt eyes onto him.

"I hurt you, Cas," Dean finally says, hating himself a little bit more with each syllable.

"I'm fine."

"No, you're not," he fires back, and there'd be more venom in it if he weren't so goddamn tired. "You haven't even cleaned the wounds." He can't smell antiseptic or bandages or, luckily, any festering.

"I had a bit of a situation to manage," Cas says icily. "Forgive me for putting myself last.

"Up," Dean says, standing, and motions for Cas to stand up with him. "Actually, down. You need to dress that shit before it gets infected."

There's a first-aid kit in the second-story kitchen (actually, there's a first-aid kit in every room of the Roadhouse and this one is Jo's fault, for once, not Dean's) so Dean stomps down and pushes Cas into a chair, ignoring the eyeroll, then pulls the grey, worn v-neck up and off of him. And then he's hit with another bout of nausea.

There are two sets of gouges on his skin -- five angry stripes on one shoulder, and a mirror set on his ribcage. Dean spreads his fingers over each mark and they're a perfect fit, spaced exactly like his hand. Cas takes a sharp, quiet breath at the contact of skin on his open wounds.

"Told you you shoulda cleaned these, angel," he chides with a mirthless chuckle. They don't feel too deep under the pads of his fingers but they’re definitely a little inflamed, slightly warm, raw-edged, skin trying to sew itself back together.

“Don’t call me that,” Cas says, but it’s absent, a snap-reflex, because once Dean’s got a nickname for someone it’s never gonna die and Cas is well on the path to just wearily accepting it.

Distantly, he notes that Cas’s blood is a deep, rich blue. He doesn’t know whether it’s because of magic or because of some actual biological thing (hemo... cyanin?) but it fits, he supposes. Cas is also– well, he’s kinda fit as fuck. He tends towards baggy, oversized clothing so Dean had always filed him away in the skinny-slash-shrimpy category but Cas is built like a fucking marathoner – lean cords of muscle spanning his shoulders, toned stomach, the whole nine yards.

He takes some time to study the loops and whirls on Cas's skin as he tries to apply some hydrogen peroxide as gently as possible; the pattern is never-ending and impossibly intricate and like nothing else Dean has ever seen. Cas's tattoos are beautiful.

"Is there a square inch of you that isn't marked up?" He finds himself asking, unrolling gauze.

"No," Cas replies, looking him dead in the eye, "every inch is covered."

Dean chuckles for real this time and forces his brain to grind to a halt before it goes south because goddamn, Cas has a real affinity for delivering shit like that poker-faced.

"How come you're all different? Djinn, I mean. The patterns."

"How come you have freckles and Sam doesn't?" Cas retorts, and pushes Dean's hand off of his shoulder. "That's more than enough." He gestures to his side with a look and Dean sighs. Bossy, bossy. Fuckin' primadonna. "This isn't something that's put on us, per se. They're not tattoos in the way you would think." He reaches out to touch Dean's chest where his well-faded anti-possession tattoo is and Dean's expecting a sharp jab, honestly, but Cas's fingers are soft against his t-shirt.

Either Cas sighs or Dean fidgets or something but the stillness is over and Dean realizes he still needs to clean up the table (bloody cotton swabs everywhere, Ellen would kill him) so he starts putting away bottles and gauze and medical tape, busying his hands.

“Last night, I–” Dean starts and he can’t keep going because there aren’t any words for the thrumming rush he’d felt, the urge, the need, and he still feels sick. He can practically feel Cas’s gaze shifting to stare him down. “It was like I had no choice. I just– I could smell their hearts and that’s all I could think about, how much I needed to eat, you know? Animal instinct.” He shivers and pours himself a glass of water to choke down the bile.

Cas stands up and gets right in his personal space, concern wrapped up in neat, thin lines, and puts a palm against his cheek.

Wow. Okay.

See, Dean’s a tactile person. A really tactile person. His hands are way more trustworthy than his eyes are and between fingertips and nose and ears, there’s really nothing more he needs. He’d never been incredibly touchy as a human but after a decade of being a wolf, of growing into his new identity, he’d learned to break through his old habits. He and Sam have always had a robust body language inventory full of taps and elbow checks and nudges but now Jo and Ellen are used to him too, the way he brushes up against them or runs his hands over things when it isn’t strictly necessary. It doesn’t weird him out that Cas is touching him because he’s touching him, it’s more that it’s Cas and that Cas has never been too open to his and Sam’s body language.

Huh. Well, that’s being marked down as a victory.

“I could put you to sleep right now,” Cas murmurs. “I’d have all of your blood to feast on. Every instinct is telling me to do it.”

Whoa, back the fuck up. Previous train of thought? Completely negated.

“Dean, it terrifies me,” he continues. “I knocked you out last night and it took everything I had to not take your body and run. This shouldn’t be happening. Instinct should never trump agency.” Dean takes a deep breath and leans into Cas’s cool hand.

“What the hell is going on?” he whispers, for what feels like the thousandth time in the past few months.

“I wish I had answers for you, Dean. I’m only a djinni.”

Cas’s thumb runs slowly across his cheekbone and Dean can read frustration in the tension of his palm and hear the clenching of his jaw so he reaches out and squeezes Cas’s shoulder to let him know that it’s okay not to have answers, that they’re going to figure this out one way or another.

It’s a little funny, he thinks, that a few decades ago he still would’ve considered this sort of thing obscenely intimate – someone touching his face (and a dude, no less; how scandalous) but Dean’s had much more time to spend with himself than most people who’ve lived as long as he has. He’s gotten over himself in a major way, shucked off his insecurities and the machoism he’d forced himself into growing up; he’s exactly who and what he is, and he doesn’t give a damn what it is to other people.

 

 


 

 

“Hey.”

Cas tears his eyes away from his Glass to look up at him, hair tousled, eyes bright in the semi-darkness of Dean’s room. “Ellen’s dispatching Sam and me to go take care of a wendigo, and, uh, we could use a wingman.” There’s a ton of old, scanned documents and photos of ancient tablets projected up onto the walls from Cas’s Glass; all of it looks like unintelligible chicken scratch, paired up with what looks like old-as-dirt drawings of man-like creatures with patterns made of fire running up their bodies. Go figure.

Cas’d better tidy up or something. Dude camps out in his room nine times out of ten. Not that he’s complaining, but still.

Cas just keeping looking at him, completely nonplussed, and he seriously looks so much like the textbook definition of “nerdy college dude” that Dean has to bite back a grin.

“Why?” he asks, letting a sneer curl into his words, and Dean rolls his eyes.

“Because I wanna see how you handle yourself, angel,” Dean replies, crossing his arms. “Seriously, you can’t be half-bad in a fight if you managed to pry three djinni off of me.”

“You must be rusty if you can’t keep three djinni at bay,” Cas retorts, and there’s a smug smirk in his eyes. He sets his Glass down and stretches, lithe as a cat. “If you insist. I wouldn’t mind stretching my legs.”

“Awesome,” he says, and grins. “Me’n Sam are already packin’ up.”

 

 

They’re north of Cheboygan in two days’ time. Cas is a bit of a disaster when it comes to talking to the cops and rangers – holds his badge upside-down, doesn’t bother with the normal pretenses – but the sheriff, miraculously, doesn’t have a stick up his ass and shares what he knows. He’s feeling pretty good about this hunt already, not to count his chickens early. With Cas on board they can get more done in the daytime without Sam bitching about sunburns, and his weird brand of charm is actually getting them places.

“Last time we hunted a wendigo it was back in what, ‘05?” Sam says around a yawn. “Haven’t personally taken care of one since. I dunno, Dean, think we can risk taking it down at night?”

“I’d rather have to take care of a wendigo at night with you than during the day without you,” Dean replies, shrugging, and checks the flare guns for the eighth time. “No offense, Cas.”

“None taken.”

“What the hell is that?” asks Sam, curious, staring at– well, yeah, Dean’s not exactly sure what it is that Cas is holding.

“It’s my blade,” Cas says simply.

“I can see that,” Dean says, “but what is it?”

Dean’s seen a hell of a lot of knives out there in his eighty years of hunting and while this is definitely some kind of knife, it looks... off. He’s never seen anything like it. It’s got a simple, straight hilt, a little on the thin side, and practically no crossguard to speak of at the base of a flat, triangular blade. It looks old as shit and there’s this smell around it that Dean can’t really place, but it’s definitely in the realm of bad smells.

“I’ve had it ever since I can remember,” Cas says, running a thumb down the raised ridge in the center. “Every time I’ve come across any kind of magic-user, I’ve had them curse or bless it.”

He hands it to Dean, hilt-first, and Dean’s got a palm closed around it for less than a full second before sneezing.

“Wow,” he says, “jesus. That’s one hell of a knife.”

“I’m fine not touching it, thanks,” Sam says, pulling a face. Cas raises an eyebrow at both of them and takes it back from Dean.

“I haven’t yet come across anything it won’t kill,” he says, and shrugs. “It’s a good knife.”

 

 

 

Shauna Stillman, Guadalupe Munoz, and Elijah Mah, missing for three, seven, and nine days, respectively, all disappeared within the same north-west corner of the Sault Ste. Marie State Forest. The Impala can only take them so far – Dean doesn’t want to ruin his baby by dragging her off-road – and by the time pre-dusk hits, Sam layers up and they start hiking. The forest is thick, green, still, thrumming with life, and Dean feels both strangely at ease and incredibly tense. He can’t even see the stars through all the goddamn leaves.

“I think I’ve got something,” Sam murmurs. “Footprints. Clawmarks, too, way over there.”

Dean closes his eyes and takes a deep breath through his nose; the rich bouquet of general forest smells is underlined, ever so slightly, with the smell of a human. Underneath that is the smell of something even older, warped, and it makes him want to sneeze. Again.

“Lead the way, Sacagawea,” he says, and claps Sam on the back. Sam frowns like thunder and opens his mouth (Dean can already hear the lecture: Dean, do you even know what kind of treatment–?) but Cas cuts him off.

“Something’s here.”

Cas’s voice is suddenly sharp in a way Dean can’t remember it being – but then again, Dean’s never hunted with Cas (or hunted him, for that matter) and he files away that tone into the “danger imminent” corner. Dean runs his fingers over his flare gun to make sure everything’s still good and he can hear Sam doing the same, and then he shifts. Just for good measure.

He can hear it. It’s maybe half a mile out, moving quietly (but not quietly enough) and moving further away much more slowly than he remembers wendigos moving. Then again, he’d been human the last time they’d hunted one.

“Where’s its hidey-hole, though?” Dean asks quietly, adjusting his grip on the gun. Sam’s eyes glow silver in the dimness.

“We could always just follow it,” comes Cas’s voice, sarcasm duly noted, thank you very much.

And then everything goes to hell because there’s a quiet rustle and then Sam’s being bowled over by what looks like Gollum that’s been stretched out to impossible proportions, gray-skinned and all bones. Dean snarls and digs claws into the flesh that used to be human, throws the wendigo off of Sam’s body, and roars.

Intimidation is gonna have to hold them over because he’s lost his flare gun and he has no idea whether Sam still has his and Cas has his knife held up, knees bent, a couple feet over to his left, eyes laser-focused on the wendigo, and then suddenly there’s a rustle and it’s booking it the hell out of there.

Dammit!” Sam yells.

At least now they know where to look.

 

 

An hour later, they’re all half-covered in grime and smelling way too damp for comfort, worming through a series of natural caves and following muffled sobbing. There’s only one fresh scent in the cave, and Dean is never going to not hate wendigos.

“Wait,” Sam whispers, “what’ll we do without flare guns?”

“I can take care of it,” Cas says firmly.

Dean’s about to ask how when there’s a low growl from the other end of the cave. Sam locks eyes with him and nudges his shoulder before taking off towards where the sobbing is getting more and more frantic, and then the wendigo gives a nice, full roar and throws itself after Sam.

Oh, no you fucking don’t.

Dean catches the wendigo – barely – and then they’re grappling like street rats, snarls echoing off the walls, before it manages to send him packing straight into a wall and launches itself towards Cas.

Cas gets a few good hits in, smooth and fast, but the knife goes skittering away onto the floor and oh, fuck, they’re royally screwed now.

“Cas–”

“Get behind me,” Cas barks, and the wendigo’s just sort of appraising them both. Prey obviously doesn’t fight back often; this one’s smart. It’s weighing its options. Dean lets another snarl ripple up, low and dangerous, teeth bared.

Cas exhales and his whole frame goes loose – what the fuck is he doing? – but then Dean’s nose starts tingling and there’s a new sharpness to the air; the wendigo obviously feels it too because it lunges for Cas, but not fast enough. Dean’s able to tackle it to the ground and it’s yowling above him and it smells disgusting, christ.

“Cas,” he yells, “whatever the hell you’re gonna do, do–”

And then both he and the wendigo freeze because Cas isn’t just glowing, he’s flaming, blue fire licking up his arms and off of his shoulders, and he pulses once, twice, then flares brighter than a supernova before yanking the wendigo off of him and Dean can barely watch through watering, squinted eyes as the wendigo shrieks and claws at this djinn-creature before Cas sticks his fiery arm all the way through its chest and everything whites out.

It takes a solid thirty seconds for his vision to unfog; Dean shakes his head to clear it and shifts back. Imprinted on the backs of his eyelids is the apocalypse-white silhouette of an angel with flaming wings.

He’s covered in disgusting wendigo-ash and guts and the dank grime from the old cave and everything fucking reeks. He can hear Sam’s voice somewhere a half mile away, low and comforting, and the quick, panicky rapport of what must be their one survivor. Good. Both alive and well.

“Cas,” he croaks out, then clears his throat. Everything tastes like burning and smells even worse. “Cas.” He can still (barely) smell Cas and hear the blood rushing in his veins so he slides forward on his hands and knees, trusting his fingers because there’s still a whole fuckin’ galaxy of stars in his eyes.

He reaches a body and he knows instantly that it’s Cas’s – soft flannel and a delicate brush of stubble against his palm – but he’s unconscious.

“Cas,” he barks, more sharply this time, “c’mon, angel, wake up.” He moves his thumb under Cas’s jaw, searches under that sharp curve of bone, and he’s about to dig into the pressure point when Cas groans and coughs.

“I hate it when you call me angel,” he mutters, but leans into Dean’s palm anyways. “Remind me to not do that again.”

“What, take down a wendigo single-handed? Duly noted.” Cas’s pulse is back from sluggish to regular under his fingers so Dean gives the back of his neck a light squeeze, stands up, and offers him a hand. “You smell nasty, man.”

“Dean?” comes Sam’s voice, from far away, and there’s a note in it that Dean is really not liking. He and Cas share A Look and then they’re scrambling to find a way out of the caves, Dean following his nose because he’s still got stars in his eyes.

“Dean–”

Sam sounds a lot closer now and the note has turned into an edge and then they’re out of the cave, crashing through the foliage, and then Cas coughs and sputters and sags against his arm.

“Cas?” Fuck his life, Cas is half-unconscious. “Sam!” He grits his teeth and slings Cas up into his arms, bridal-style, and that’s when Sam stumbles into his field of vision, eyes wide.

“Dean–” He stops dead. “Is Cas okay?”

“I don’t know,” Dean says back, angry, louder than he’d intended, “are you okay?”

Sam swallows and looks around wildly.

“I’m– I’ll meet you at the car,” he says, voice breaking. “I can’t–” He shakes his head, swallows again. “It’s happening. I’m gonna hurt someone.”

“Sam–”

“Just go help her, okay?” Sam’s already sprinting back towards where they came from, yelling over his shoulder. “I’ll be at the car!”

“Dammit,” Dean snarls under his breath, then adjusts Cas’s limp body and stomps off to find their rescuee.

 

 

“Okay, first order of business–” Dean drags a hand down his face. “What the fuck happened back in that cave?”

Cas sighs and rubs his temples, then takes another swig of blood from the chipped motel mug.

“I’m an ifrit,” he says, voice tired, and at Dean’s raised eyebrow, clarifies. “A fire-djinni. I just didn’t expect that to take so much out of me.”

“So you’re saying you can Burning Man your way out of a situation and it’s no big deal?”

“I don’t understand that reference,” Cas snaps, glaring, “but yes, that’s something I can do. Obviously, it takes its toll on me. Never like this, though.”

“Never like this what?” asks Sam distractedly, trying to fish the last few drops of blood out of his own mug. “You never get KO’d or you’re never that... I dunno, intense?”

“Both,” Cas replies, muffled by the mug. “I don’t think I’ve made a display like that since the First Crusade.”

“I’m gonna shower,” Dean grunts.

Peeling off his sticky, tattered clothing is like a little slice of heaven, compounded blissfully by the shower’s actually-not-shitty-for-once water pressure. The water does wonders for cleaning off his skin but his thoughts stay completely muddled and, reluctantly, Dean starts picking apart the mess in his head.

Dean knows he’s got some issues when it comes to being overprotective (and codependent, but that’s not a knot to be unraveling in a motel shower) but the thing is, he hadn’t known he cared until he’d thought something had happened to Cas. Like, yeah, he’s considered Cas a friend for a long time now – a close friend, a best friend, even – but today’s panic has him thinking that Cas might be moving from best friend to another category that smells suspiciously of pack.

It’s a matter of personal growth, he thinks, absently rubbing shampoo out of his hair. Thirty years ago this kind of thing would have had him running for the hills. He’s long since learned to just roll with whatever crap his feelings decide to cook up.

Not that he would ever ‘fess up to Sam or Cas about this.

 

  


 

 

 

Jo leans forward over the bar and lowers her voice conspiratorially.

“So Jody told Bobby to tell me to tell you–”

Jo,” Dean groans, rolling his eyes. She grins smugly.

“Oh, fine. So I guess you don’t want to hear about the wolf killings that sound suspiciously like one Gordon Walker, then, do you?”

Sam stands up.

“Where?” he says, voice pitched low, eyes flicking silver.

“Sit down,” Dean chides, and yanks on the back of his jacket. “What’s going on?” And okay, yeah, his reaction is essentially exactly the same as Sam’s, but he’s got to be a Big Brother here. He nudges Sam softly with his knuckles, a silent cool down, it's okay.

Jo glances around – Dean can hear Ellen down in the basement and he nods – then leans even further over the bar.

“Somewhere between the Dakotas, both sides of the border,” she says quietly. “The deaths match Gordon’s usual MO. Some hunters in North Dakota caught wind of it and grapevined our side of it through to Jody.”

Sam stands up again, back stiff, and says, “I’m gonna go talk to Bobby.”

Dean rolls his eyes again and accepts a beer from Jo and she walks around the other side, rag in hand.

“Come on,” she scoffs, and knocks his arm with her elbow. “Sam’s totally allowed to hold grudges and have an archnemesis. Besides, Gordon needs to be taken out. You know that. He's been sneaking around us for way too long.”

“Yeah, I know.” He catches a whiff of icy blue fire. “Hey Cas, wanna help us kill a wolf?”

Cas frowns at him from across the room and picks his way across to slide onto the barstool next to him. Someone’s shouting for Jo and she’s gone in the blink of an eye, conveniently missing when her mother appears.

“What wolf?” asks Ellen, sharp as ever, balancing two crates off the side of the bar. Cas’s eyebrow echoes her question.

“Some packless rogue up in Bobby’s area,” Dean says. Technically, that’s true. Technically. “Sam’s on the horn with him.”

“And you want me to go along why, exactly?” asks Cas, skeptical.

“‘Cause I like your company, angel,” he fires back with a nudge. The tight-jawed glare he gets in response is golden. “Because you’re useful,” he says, sarcasm-free this time. “Good in a fight. C’mon, dude, why else?”

“He does like your company,” Ellen adds in, amused. Fuckin’ traitor.

 

 

Dean scrubs a hand down his face; the warehouse is dim and dusky even though it’s freaking three in the afternoon, and it’s perfect for housing someone who doesn’t want to be seen. It’s always abandoned fucking warehouses. Always. It’s a bouquet of residual smells: sweaty people, old blood, greasy machinery, dead body, all underlying the earthy smell of werewolf. Yeah, definitely Gordon’s scent. What’s fishy as fuck, though, is that didn’t bother getting rid of his scent. Smells like a fuckin’ trap.

There’s quiet shuffling – two sets of feet – and a low murmur from the opposite corner of the warehouse. The smell of two humans washes over him, diner food and beer and the road and something he can’t quite put his finger on, so they’re definitely hunters. Probably also on Gordon’s tail. Dammit. Bobby didn’t say anything about other hunters so these guys probably aren’t Undergrounders and this has the potential to turn into one hell of a mess.

He runs through a couple of scenarios. One, he announces his presence to the hunters and gets his ass threatened. Two, he leaves well enough alone and the hunters potentially fuck everything up. Three, he outs himself as a wolf and an Undergrounder and deals with either a) death or b) death threats.

“Hi, I’m– hi.”

They whirl and Dean’s got two guns and two flashlights in his face.

“Whoa, whoa, I’m unarmed. Look.” He opens his hands and holds them out, keeping his face neutral, hoping against hope that nothing they do sets off one of his reflexive eye-flickers. 50 goddamn years, still can’t control everything; the flashlights are right in his fucking eyes. “You’re here about the werewolf, right?”

“How did you know?” barks one of them. She’s tall, less than half a head shorter than he is, with her hair pulled back in a no-nonsense bun. Her face is all sharp planes, focused, hawklike; she looks like the wilds of Central-North Asia personified and she’d be terrifying if she didn’t look like such a greenhorn. He can smell her fear from being startled but her hands are steady, he’ll give her that.

“I’m hunting it too,” he says, voice low and calm. God dammit, these two are going to be hard to convince into knowing that he’s not the wolf they’re hunting. “I’m Dean.”

“Natalia,” she says slowly, and barely lowers her gun. Barely.

“Akashdeep,” says the other one, and yikes. Talk about a voice to give you chills. She sounds like woodsmoke on a starry night. Smells like it, too, come to think of it.

“I’m gonna tell you right now, he’s gone,” Dean says, letting his shoulders relax and his arms drop. “The only thing here is a dead body. Let’s talk outside, okay?” Natalia and Akashdeep share a long look a la his and Sam’s, then they nod and head towards the half-open warehouse door.

“How do you know it’s not here?” Akashdeep asks, eyes narrowed suspiciously, and pointedly plays with a bowie knife. Natalia keeps a hand at her waist, where Dean can just barely make out a holster under her coat. Good. At least these two are prepared.

“I’ve been after this guy for a while,” he hedges. “Gordon Walker. He was–”

“Guy?” Natalia interrupts.

“Guy, yes, male werewolf, dude.” Christ, these two. “He was at the warehouse earlier, and the fact that he didn’t clean up after himself is fishy.”

“You’re hunting alone?” Akashdeep’s voice is softer now, moving more into curiosity. He can hear police sirens starting up in the distance, dammit, dammit, they’ll be here for the body in less than fifteen minutes.

“My brother and our buddy are around,” he says, intentionally vague. “I’d love to keep chatting, guys, but the police are on their way.” Akashdeep and Natalia glance at each other again, startled this time, and start moving to wherever their car is but then everything goes wrong because Akashdeep missteps and bumps into him and his wrist is fucking burning, that’s silver, goddammit

A set of slim, strong hands shove him against the outside wall of the warehouse.

“What are you?” Natalia snarls, and holy fuck, there’s a motherfucking scimitar at his neck.

“Relax,” he says, raising his hands again “Relax, okay? I’m part of the Underground. I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Why the hell should we believe you?” Akashdeep says, voice shaking with rage.

“Because I want to save people from ending up as Gordon’s chow,” he snaps. “You two would’ve been easy prey in that warehouse. If I’d wanted to, I’d have killed you ages ago. You can trust me.”

“What’s the Underground?” Natalia asks, deep suspicion in her voice, but the police sirens keep getting closer.

“Look, I can explain everything, but I can smell the police now so we should really get going.”

 

 

So that’s how Dean ends up in a parking lot across the highway from his motel with two highly suspicious hunters.

Akashdeep is irate and Natalia has a silver knife hovering under his chin and he keeps fucking sneezing because just the smell of the silver is burning his nose but eventually he convinces them to relax, just a little bit, just enough to let him call Cas over. It’s still nowhere near sunset and this too-complicated bullshit isn’t worth Sam getting a sunburn over and besides, Cas kind of has a way with people where his brash awkwardness is just endearing enough to get someone to see his side of the matter.

It’s a messy explanation, long and convoluted, but eventually Dean and Cas have Natalia and Akashdeep (mostly) convinced that a) they’re not going to hurt them and b) they need to get out of town, because they are exactly Gordon’s type. Two people who care for each other, two people that Gordon can manipulate the fuck out of because he’s a sick bastard. The dude was twisted before he’d gotten the bite. Being a werewolf just made it worse.

“Where in Sioux Falls?” asks Natalia, pulling up a map on her Glass.

“Jake’s Bar,” Dean replies. “No one should give you a hard time. If they do, tell Bobby or the Sheriff we sent you.”

“Thank you,” says Akashdeep, face pulled into a frown, still obviously mulling everything over. “Never thought I’d be saying that to a werewolf.”

“Be careful,” Cas adds. “It’s definitely likely that Gordon is still in the area.”

 

 

Dean can smell absolutely nothing from inside the house except for the wolfsbane that’s clogging his nose, but he just knows that Sam’s inside. He can only hope Natalia’s in there, too.

His 1911 is full of silver bullets and he’s got two extra mags on him, just in case, because at this point Gordon deserves to have all of his extremities slowly removed with silver utensils. This whole kidnapping Sam bullshit is majorly, majorly crossing the line, and that’s aside from all of the other insanely sketchy shit Gordon’s been caught up in for the past 40 years.

“If I can’t smell, he can’t smell,” Dean breathes to Cas, and pulls out a lockpick. “He’s probably booby-trapped the place to hell and back.”

“Keep your head,” Cas murmurs back. “Making a stupid mistake because you’re worked up over Sam could cost us all our lives.” Dean starts to bristle at the jibe, but Cas lays a hand on his arm and makes eye contact in a way that makes all of his thought processes clog, bumper to bumper. “Dean, be careful.”

It takes him a solid minute to pick the lock (he’s still getting the hang of these damn industrial ones with rotating magnetic fields) and he does a quick check on the doorframe for traps, sweeps low for trip wire, sweeps high for light-interrupters, and takes a few cautious steps inside before motioning Cas in.

The whole process takes five minutes because Gordon is a fucking psychopath. There’s trip wire in the most ingeniously inconvenient doorways, and Dean starts triple-cursing the fact that this is an old, empty building because every move he makes echoes way too loud. Gordon has to know they’re coming.

“Stay back here and wait for an opening,” he says, close against the shell of Cas’s ear. “Get Natalia out of here. Me’n’Sam can hold our own against him.” Cas looks at him, brows drawn, and he resettles the grip on his knife before nodding.

Dean rounds the last corner, pulls his pistol out, and flicks the safety off in one smooth motion.

“Hi, Dean,” Gordon says conversationally.

He takes in the room, and nearly vomits. Sam is trussed up like a fuckin’ hog in an old chair and oh, god, he’s cut up and pale and bruised and he looks like he’s inches from death. There’s a jar sitting on the table and its mouth is messily slathered with half-crusted blood; Dean knows instinctively that it’s a dead man’s and Sam’s poisoned, god knows how long–

A muffled half-whimper draws his attention to the chair that’s in the corner, almost like an afterthought – Natalia’s tied up and gagged, hair escaping from its neat bun, bite marks on her forearms.

Yeah, Gordon isn’t getting out of this alive.

“All this, just for me?” Dean says, refusing to lower his gun. “You shouldn’t have.”

“It’s messy,” Gordon sighs, “I know.” He leans over the back of Sam’s chair and gently draws a bloody knife down the side of his cheek and Dean’s whole field of vision goes red as every muscle in Sam’s body goes tight as a bowstring. “You want the bitch? Her heart’s all yours. My treat.”

“Fuck you.”

“Still fighting yourself? Come on, man. This is what you were made for.”

“Let them go,” Dean growls.

“I don’t think so,” Gordon murmurs, and his voice is like oiled honey. “Dean, let’s talk.” He pulls a chair out and sits down with altogether way too much comfort.

“Talk,” he snaps, and bares his teeth.

“Gun down,” purrs Gordon, “or Sam gets dead man’s blood down his throat.”

Dean puts the gun down.

“You want her heart.” Dean can feel a muscle twitch in his jaw. “I can smell how badly you want it. You’re not breaking any laws of nature, you know.” Gordon uses the same bloody knife to wedge some dirt from out under his nails. The fucker hasn’t even shifted. “This is what you’re made for, Dean. You can’t fight who you are.”

This is why Gordon is so dangerous. He gets deep inside your head somehow, finds all of the things that hold your feet up, and tears them away piece by piece, so smoothly that you don’t realize you’re there too, tearing away with him, until it’s way too late. He takes the little voice that Dean’s been trying so hard to fight – you can’t fight who you are, this is what you were made to do, this is what you must do, this is your nature – and amplifies it, lays it out on a table and makes him face it. Dean’s got a bad history when it comes to facing things.

“Something’s coming. Can’t you feel it?” Gordon looks earnest now; every bone in Dean’s body wants to believe him. “The food chain is going to get turned upside down, can’t you feel that? The itch in your bones, that urge? The hunger?” And Dean shifts his weight because he can feel it, has been feeling it, has been fighting it with everything he has. “Everything’s gonna change soon, brother, and you and I can end up at the top. Stop hurting yourself like this, man. Just give in. You have no idea what it’s like.”

“You’re not gonna make it out of here alive, so how about you let Sam and Natalia here go?” Dean says, finally playing Gordon’s game and keeping his voice smooth, letting a smile creep across his face.

“You won’t let it rest, will you?” Gordon replies, and there’s a grind to his voice. “You’ve always been too high-and-mighty, too human, too stubborn to accept yourself for who you are. You make me sick.”

Dean growls deep in his chest, hackles raised, and he knows it’s coming. He breathes in. Gordon stands up slowly, sets the knife down on the table with deliberation. The air is thick with tension and he’d be able to smell it if there wasn’t wolfsbane everywhere; Sam’s eyes are closed and Natalia’s are burning a hole in the side of his head. He exhales.

Dean doesn’t so much shift as he rips through his own skin at the same time Gordon does and they launch themselves at each other like rabid dogs, snarling, jaws snapping, and Dean lets instinct take over as they grapple.

The bite rewired his brain with the big things like How To Shift and Eat Your Hearts Dear but there were other things, too, like the need for a pack (a shame, that, compounding his already unhealthy codependence on his brother) and an enhanced gift for reading interpersonal dynamics.

Dean’s an alpha. He’s got no pack, sure – not a wolf pack, at least – but he’s an alpha. The problem is, so is Gordon. There’s a deep-rooted instinct whispering in his ear, eat his heart and assert that you’re alpha, and Dean thinks that this isn’t something he can just resist. It’s deep in his core and there’s no loophole like with his diet and he’s on autopilot right now, aiming straight for Gordon’s heart.

It’s a dirty fight. Short. He grabs his pistol and manages to shoot Gordon in the shoulder before Gordon snarls and knocks it out of his hand, nearly severing the tendons in his wrist in the process. Hot blood is splattering him from seemingly everywhere and Dean wrings out a satisfyingly high-pitched yelp when he gets his jaws around Gordon’s injured shoulder, pushing away from Sam and Natalia, away, but then Gordon grasps for something, finds it, and the next thing Dean knows, he’s got silver shrapnel embedded in his neck and down his side, practically blinding him on the left. Gordon gets his jaws on him, in turn, and Dean only bears it because he can just barely hear Cas grabbing Natalia.

“Dreameater,” Gordon spits around a mouthful of blood, and Dean gets a solid few hits in on him before Gordon sinks claws in his stomach and it’s deep, too deep, but Sam would never forgive him for dying in such a stupid way. It takes Dean a few seconds to realize that Gordon was talking about Cas, who’s made it to the doorway with a struggling Natalia by the time Dean finally finds an opening and pins Gordon to the ground, claws halfway into his neck.

“Rot in Hell, you sick son of a bitch,” Dean snarls.

“Monsters don’t go to Hell,” Gordon whispers, and smiles.

Dean’s whole left side is still burning and he’s lost at least a pint of blood (hopefully Gordon didn’t puncture his organs in too many places) and he doesn’t remember the last time he was in this much pain but there’s a savage, pure joy in his gut as he sinks his claws into Gordon’s throat and rips his windpipe out.

White noise fills his ears and he’s distantly aware of Natalia panicking, practically shrieking at Cas, but he’s on autopilot now, claws splitting open Gordon’s chest like a roast turkey, snapping three ribs, fingers moving with instinctive precision to remove the steaming heart sitting encased in bright-red organs.

It tastes bitter.

For a second his blood surges and it feels like everything is short-circuiting. He’s never had to take over an alpha before – he’s packless, he just is an alpha – and it feels weird but right at the same time, nerves fizzling out, ears singing. The world slowly starts trickling back to him and he becomes aware of Sam’s ragged breaths, Natalia’s panicked ones, Cas’s rapid heartbeat.

“Dean,” Cas starts, crouching down and offering him a hand, but Dean just meets his eyes and exhales. Suddenly he’s bone-tired and extremely aware that he’s been alive for eighty-eight years. Cas pulls him up and puts a surprisingly tender hand on his shoulder; Dean shrugs him away and breaks the bonds holding Sam to the chair with a lethargic twist of his wrists.

“Dean–”

“Sam,” he interrupts wearily, and there’s a part of his brain distantly registering how much is communicated with just a name. He hoists Sam up and drapes his weight across his shoulders, ignoring the fact that he is now literally dripping blood, and starts for the doorway where Natalia is trembling.

“You ate his heart,” she says faintly. Her eyes are wide, mouth slack. “You ate– you just–”

“Shut up,” he mumbles, and pushes past her.

“Dean,” Cas snaps from behind him but he doesn’t care, doesn’t have the energy to care, and he dimly takes note of Cas comforting Natalia, steering her to follow him and Sam.

Ushering everyone into the Impala is a blur and he makes it to the hospital okay, lets Cas pass Natalia off to Akashdeep, drives back to the motel fine enough, props Sam up in the bed on the far side, and then he hears his name being shouted right as everything spins and goes black.

 

 

“Fuck,” he groans, and pushes himself up off of the couch.

“Dean,” croaks Sam, “are you okay? You were out for, like, an hour.”

“Christ,” he mutters, then louder, “are you okay?”

Sam makes a sort of half-choked sarcastic laughing noise. Dean sits up and looks around; Sam’s got a bag of what smells like lukewarm AB- in one hand and his Glass in the other.

“Where’s Cas?”

“Shower,” Sam replies. “When you were out, he took the chance to try and get some of that silver crap outta your stomach. Got out the blood bags out for me, too.” Sam shifts and immediately makes a pained face. “I’ve been trying to get him to have one but he’s more stubborn than you are.”

Dean grunts and turns on the TV for background noise. Cas must’ve changed his clothes for him (how awkward, christ) because his shirt is clean; he lifts it to see that both the mangled wound on his stomach and the silver burns on his side are angry and raw, much more so than they should be. Awesome.

Thankfully, one of the less-fuzzy channels is showing an episode of the 3D-remastered 100th anniversary Star Trek: The Original Series episodes (they’re halfway through season 1 now) so Dean zonks out to the Enterprise crew pacing around the room.

 

 

Cas is fiddling an awful lot as Sam trudges obediently through the last bag of blood they’ve got on hand (and he still looks peaky, Dean’s gonna drive faster than hell tomorrow for more) and as he watches Cas lick his lips and close his eyes, jaw tight, he gets it.

“Cas, can I talk to you? Outside?”

Cas gives him a weird look and Sam’s still too beat-up to really give a shit about anything (Dean is never going to forgive Gordon, ever), then stands up and puts a palm on the doorhandle.

“There’s a blizzard,” he says conversationally, eyes narrowed, but Dean turns up the collar of his coat and shoulders his way past him outside. Fucking heater’s broken, anyways, so it’s not like they’re letting the cold in any more than the shitty, thin walls.

Cas opens his mouth the second the motel door is closed but Dean cuts him off because there’s gonna be no arguing this.

“You’re hungry,” he says. Cas doesn’t meet his eyes. “Right. I’ve got IV crap in the medkit.”

“Dean, you can’t expect me to–”

“What, you think I’ve never donated while on a hunt before?” Dean snorts. “Seriously, dude, you’re gonna keep me up all night if you keep fidgeting like that.” Cas is stubbornly silent. “Look–” He thins his lips; his patience is ending, and fast. Today sucked. “–I don’t know if you’re trying to be polite about not taking any of Sam’s blood bags and I’m not gonna argue with you on that one, but you need some, so I’m gonna go get the IV, you’re gonna drink yourself a square meal, and tomorrow we’re gonna gorge.”

Cas licks his lips again, in spite of the blistering cold, and then he sighs and his shoulders slump. Victory.

 

 

The wind is positively shrieking outside; the heater keeps coughing and Sam is snoring and his makeshift bandages are fucking itchy and between all that and the super-extra-shitty-short couch (seriously, it should be against all laws of probability to lose the coin toss as often as he loses it), he isn’t expecting much sleep.

That, and the fact that he’s definitely way colder than he should be. Not that he’ll ever admit it. He’s dealt with blood loss before.

Cas’s blankets rustle, and then he sighs.

“Dean, come here.” His voice is all raspy and sleepy, trying vainly to hold on to its normal gravity and failing spectacularly.

“What?”

“I can hear you shivering,” Cas says, and there’s irritation in his voice. “You’ll end up in a morgue if you don’t warm up.”

He tries to say that he’s fine, really, but his vision fades out when he sits up, the pain in his side ratcheting up to positively blinding levels, and all he registers is another huff from Cas before covers rustle and there’s a quiet thump of bare feet hitting the floor. Cas’s voice then gets very, very close.

“Dean, come here,” he growls into his ear.

Fine. He gets up – slowly this time – and Cas clamps a hand around his shoulder, pulling him along as he walks backwards to his bed. The fine, dark hairs on Cas’s arms are standing straight up and there’s gooseflesh disappearing way up into the sleeves of his t-shirt. He sits down on the side of his bed (Sam snuffles in his sleep) and Dean obediently stands close, even colder, waiting for something to start making sense.

“I’m not going to bite you,” Cas snaps quietly, then hooks a thumb into the back of his t-shirt and pulls it off. Dean has barely a second to process this before Cas leans forward, reaches for Dean, and carefully, clinically rucks his shirt up to his armpits.

“Whoa, angel, usually you gotta buy me dinner first.”

“Off,” says Cas. “Body heat. Don’t be obtuse.”

Dean really can’t deny that he’s shivering violently by the time he’s stripped down to nothing but boxers and maybe his fingertips and toes are looking a little blue, but he’s had worse. Cas raises his eyebrows and tilts his head towards the empty (emptier) side of the bed and Dean figures he might as well just give in without a fight because it’s fucking cold and the more he thinks about it, the shittier he feels.

He slides in next to Cas with the smallest amount of awkwardness he can manage; the sheets are still warm and oh, Dean can feel himself starting to melt already. Cas hikes the blankets up over both of their shoulders and Dean is left curled in on himself, still freezing, still feeling like absolute crap, and then Cas reaches out and matter-of-factly molds himself around Dean, being careful of the gauze all over his upper body, spreading a warm palm against his back, pulling their chests close, tucking Dean's head under his chin.

It feels– god, fuck everything, it feels profound. He’s got the bridge of his nose pressed against a tattooed clavicle and Cas’s breath is tickling his scalp and Cas is so warm against him and he feels this tiny little shift and knows right then and there that Cas isn’t skirting the edges of his tight little family-sphere any more, he’s scored himself a spot.

And then Dean squirms and Cas coughs and Sam snores and he presses his freezing toes against Cas’s shins and Cas hisses, pushing him in retaliation, before sitting up.

“What now?” Dean whispers crossly because he was warm for those few seconds, goddammit, but then Cas unfolds another blanket from the foot of the bed, yanks it up, and covers them both. Cas moves like he’s got a plan – wraps that arm around his shoulders again, roughly pulls them close, nudges a knee between his thighs. Hello.

“Go to sleep,” Cas whispers back, muffled against his hair.

So he does.

 

 

He wakes up to warm sheets, an empty bed, and the smell of coffee.

“Sam,” he croaks, not even bothering to raise his head, and his response is a still-asleep snuffle. The left side of his neck and all down his side still burns from the silver and his muscles scream when he pulls himself up; evidently, he’s not over the blood loss, either, and holy shit the mess on his stomach hurts like hell.

“Time,” he groans, to which the clock (barely functioning) drones back, “eight fifty-two, central standard time.”

“How you feelin’, Cas?”

“Better than you or Sam look,” Cas says absently, nose buried deep in his Glass. “Akashdeep says that Natalia is recovering well. They’re both very grateful.”

“Thank christ,” he mutters. Cas sets down his Glass, scoops up a coffee and a paper bag from the table, and sets them down on the nightstand closest to Dean before sitting on the edge of his bed. “Hey, whoa.”

“Let me see your neck,” Cas says, completely unfazed, and Dean grudgingly turns his head.

“Sleeping with me, breakfast in bed,” Dean grunts, “what’s next, you’ll want to drive the car?”

“I am in a considerably better condition than–”

Fuck no, dude, I barely ever let Sam drive.”

“Eat. We need to leave.”

“Shut up,” comes a muffled groan from Sam’s general vicinity.

 

 

The first thing Dean notices once they get to Lebanon, Kansas, is that someone’s graffitied their huge steel sewer door. Again. This time, it’s an illegible scrawl. The city’ll probably get around to it in a year, if they’re lucky.

Sam yawns and winces as he pulls at some of his half-healed scars, but Dean gets almost immediately distracted by a head of bright-red hair bobbing up the “secret” stairs.

Charlie doesn’t say anything until she’s squeezed the shit out of both him and Sam, and then she turns to Cas and gives him a long, appraising look. To Dean’s delight, Cas looks slightly uncomfortable.

“Damn,” she sighs. Dean lifts an eyebrow. “Now that there’s three of you, I’m gonna have to figure out who’s the Kirk, the Bones, and the Spock.” Dean starts laughing first at the look of “how do I know these people” on Sam’s face, and then at the pure bewilderment that Cas is radiating. “I’m Charlie.” She’s grinning hard as she holds out a hand for Cas to tentatively shake. “Fellow Undergrounder, keeper of the vault, resident fire-breathing flying lizard, Y Ddraig Goch.”

“Castiel,” he says, and hesitates for a second.

“I’ve never actually met a djinni before,” she says. “Awesome. You guys aren’t gonna, like, bleed all over the floor when you get inside, are you? Because all of you kind of look like shit. Um.”

“We’ll be fine,” Sam says, corners of his mouth turning up. “It’s not gonna be a repeat of that one thing, with the–”

“Really, Sam? Really?” Dean snaps, glaring.

“Okay,” Charlie interrupts, “can we take this inside? Sort of in PJs over here. Also, it’s getting light out.”

Cas shoots Dean a look that clearly says I hope you know what you’re doing here.

 

 

“Dean, stay still.”

“You know,” he groans, fist clenched tightly in a rag, “I really should’ve figured it’d be you two who’d gang up on me.”

“Seriously, you’re– you keep squirming and I can’t see what I’m doing. Not that I really could see anything in the first place, since everything looks kind of gross and red anyways–”

“Charlie,” Cas chides, and for some reason, the softness in his voice makes something warm spread across Dean’s chest. He just hopes it’s not internal bleeding. Dean concentrates on the feeling of Cas’s fingertips keeping watch on his pulse point instead of Charlie trying to sort out his stomach wound and he’s almost gotten his heart rate even when Charlie sighs in exasperation.

“That silver dust got everywhere,” she explains, frustrated. “I mean yeah, brilliant strategy–” Both Dean and Cas shoot her a glare. “–I’m not saying ‘oooh, good job, Gordon,’ guys, geeze, I’m just saying it was smart. Anyways, the silver got all up in here and it looks like your body is just kinda doing its best to flush it out.” She sighs again and strips off one of her gloves. “You’re probably gonna be healing like a normal person.”

“You’re joking,” Dean says. He tries to sit up but two pairs of hands force him back down. “Seriously? Seriously? You’re putting me on house arrest for the near future?” Charlie crosses her arms. “I’m fine!” Cas lets him sit up, this time. “I’m a little twingey but I’m fine, I can still hunt.”

“Two months,” Charlie says, and there’s no compromise in her voice. “I could cauterize it, if you want.” She wiggles her fingers. Dean scowls.

 

  


 

 

 

They work out a system within a week. Sam and Cas take care of the local hunts, and Dean and Charlie try to look into what’s been happening. Cas leaves his massive pile of research with them (over two fucking terabytes of it) but there’s still not much to go on, so they invariably end up either marathoning something (they went through the three Star Wars trilogies in one sitting) or playing video games (Dean plays some classic Halo; Charlie works her way through the first two episodes of Half-Life 3 again and gets frustrated enough about the “pending” release of Episode 3 that she nearly melts her mouse and keyboard).

Dean’s happy sticking to the physical books while Charlie splits her attention between a ton of huge projections from her computer and Glass, code scrolling in one corner, and Dean is pretty sure that Charlie is hacking into the New York Stock Exchange in one window. When he asks about it one morning (evening), Charlie just gives him a look and says, “dude, “that guy’s such a back-asswards douchebag. That money’s long gone into public schools.”

The closest they get to relevant information is when Dean finds some kind of lunar chart from the eighteenth century that turns out to be scarily accurate, and it’s predicting a full lunar eclipse to happen some time next year. The kicker is that it’s supposed to happen the night before Samhain, and it peaks at 3:33 in the morning. Right in the middle of the hour of the wolf.

Lunar eclipses are weird. The partial eclipses are pretty damn enjoyable since his urges are dulled down and all he has to deal with is being shifted for a few hours, but he’s never been forced to shift during a total eclipse. They leave him at a strange in-between where he knows that it’s a full moon, he can feel it, but nothing is happening. The last few he can remember – only a few total eclipses in the past ten years or so – made him particularly uncomfortable. More so than usual.

A gut feeling leads him to look up what kind of shit can go down during a lunar eclipse, and the resulting flood of information makes him groan loud enough that Charlie can hear him from the kitchen.

 

 

Sam and Cas have a shitty-as-fuck three weeks where they’re back at the bunker for exactly one day before sprinting out to the car again because of some poltergeist in Lincoln. Dean misses them. Dean misses Cas. Over the past year and a half they’ve fought together and bled together and after the whole Gordon fiasco, Dean feels close to him in a pretty goddamn rare way. Sam is his brother and Charlie is basically his sister and Ellen and Jo and Ash and Bobby are all his family, too, but Cas feels like pack in a way he can’t really explain.

His stomach wound heals slowly but steadily and he’s limber after a month and a half, only twingeing slightly if he twists the wrong way. He still hates Gordon, though. The hunts calm down and Dean goes after an irritating ghost with Sam and Cas; he feels alive for the first time since Charlie grounded him, and they have a celebratory two days of research-free drinking.

(The hangover is so worth it.)

 

 


 

 

“Z-Lumen,” Charlie crows, reverently placing a box on the dining room table. “Boom.”

“Seriously?” Sam asks, instantly dropping his book. “You got one?”

“Preordered,” Charlie says smugly, and gets to work on the box.

“Z-what now?” Dean asks, keeping his distance. You never know. Geekery might be contagious.

“The newest high-end Glass on the market,” Sam says, awed, watching Charlie unpackage it. Dean rolls his eyes and sighs. He’s had his Glass for two years now, since the last one broke during a hunt, and he’s got no need for dorky high-end bells and whistles.

“Technology is so cool,” Charlie sighs dreamily. “Remember smartphones?” She snorts. “Puh-lease. This thing’s capable of things Tony Stark could only dream of. Integrated touch-sensitive 3D projection, cross-platform device coordination, 200-megapixel sensors, best surface projection stabilizers on the market–”

Dean shakes his head and tunes them out, heading for the living room instead. He’d been looking for a quiet evening, maybe just a beer and a movie. Anything that didn’t involve nerdlord technology worship or sitting alone, suffocating in his thoughts.

“Cas?”

The TV is murmuring quietly, projection turned down to minimal brightness, so there are ghostly, dim figures from some crappy, old sitcom walking around the room. Cas is curled up like a cat, zoning out, and he checks back in to watch Dean sit down next to him.

“I’m–” He scrubs a hand down his face. “I’ve been thinking, and, uh...” He’s got no idea how to say this, but Cas is giving him a spit it out face. “These– instincts, you know? I mean, they’re instincts for a reason, right?”

“You’ve been thinking about Gordon,” Cas says quietly. Dean opens his mouth but Cas sits up properly and cuts him off. “Dean, your instincts should never overpower your will.”

Dean looks down and smiles mirthlessly at his knees.

“Yeah, well, instincts overpower my will once a month,” he mutters. “I just–” He exhales. Cas is looking at him patiently. “I’ve spent a lot of time... trying to change my nature. You know, with other stuff. Convincing myself of one thing or another in spite of the fact that– I don’t know, trying to cover up the real me or whatever. What if this is the same deal, you know?”

“Dean.” He doesn’t look up. “Dean, look at me.” Cas takes Dean’s chin in one of his hands and gently turns his head. “You are not a monster.” Dean makes a dismissive noise and tries to turn away but Cas’s hand is firm. “No. You’ve saved countless lives. Every month, you make the conscious choice not to kill. You’re a hero, and that is your nature.”

Dean takes a slow breath. Cas’s hand moves to the back of his neck; they’ve scooted together somewhere in the process, and Dean leans their foreheads together.

He’s got no idea what he’d do without Cas.

 

 

A week later, Cas walks into the kitchen wearing black pants and a truly unfortunate mustard-yellow long sleeve so Dean smirks at Charlie then schools his face, puts his hands behind his back, whips out his best, gravelly Leonard Nimoy voice, and rumbles, “Good morning, Captain.”

“Excuse me?"

Charlie is shaking with laughter, practically wheezing, and Dean can’t help grinning at the sight. Cas looks at her, then at Dean, then back at Charlie, and frowns so hard it looks like his face is going to implode.

“Charlie, can I speak with you?” Cas asks, still looking distinctly weirded-out, and Charlie, takes a deep, steadying breath while nodding.

Whatever Cas needed probably wasn’t complicated, Dean thinks, because Cas is back in the kitchen in less time than it took for him to finish a chapter of some 15th century whackjob’s alchemy journal. His coffee cup isn’t even half-empty.

“Dean, I’m leaving.”

The temperature in the room drops about ten degrees and the floor swims and no no no no no no no this can’t be happening Cas can’t be leaving he wasn’t supposed to leave and when did he even start wanting Cas to stay dammit dammit

Dean.” He swallows and looks back at Cas. “I... It would be prudent of me to search for the Alpha.”

“Alpha as in–?”

“Yes,” says Cas, exhaling, and leans against the bar. “Given the circumstances of whatever is happening, it would be... prudent.”

Alpha Alpha, though, right? Not just, like, clan leader? I mean wolves, you know, there’s your alpha and there’s your Alpha,” Dean says, gesturing vaguely, and he knows he’s rambling.

Cas nods, short and tense.

“So...”

“I think I’m going to try returning to the Middle East,” Cas says quietly, perching on the edge of a pool table. “I don’t know. Syria, Oman, Iran, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan. He – or she – could be anywhere. Anyone. Maybe the mountains in Chile or–”

“Wait, wait.” Dean holds up a hand, frowning. “You’re not sure if your Alpha’s a he or a she?”

“Djinni do not traditionally conform to your gender standards,” Cas says icily.

“Yeah, I know,” Dean replies (somewhat) patiently. They’ve had this talk before, and this is something you don’t just disregard about your best friend. “I meant that in the sense of, like, you don’t know which of your genders or– lack thereof–” He stumbles. “–that stuff, your Alpha is?” Cas suddenly looks very young, and very guilty. Dean feels like someone lodged an icepick in his throat. “You’ve never met them, have you? You don’t even know what they look like.”

“Have you ever met your Alpha?” Cas asks, and Dean knows within milliseconds that the look Cas sees on his face is enough of an affirmative. Cas's eyes soften. "Dean, I'm-"

“Don’t worry about it,” he mumbles. “Was ages ago.”

“I think finding my Alpha might answer some questions,” Cas says slowly. “These instincts, this hunger, it’s all trickled down to us through our Alphas. It’s evident that this isn’t going to blow over easily. The last full moon was–”

“I know what it was, Cas,” Dean says, more sharply than he’d intended. He reaches out by means of apology, thinks twice, and pulls his hand back. “I’m–” He clears his throat. “Yeah, I think... I mean, it sounds like a solid plan. When are you gonna, uh–?”

“Right now,” Cas says, very, very quietly, and nods towards a loaded mountaineering backpack near the stairwell. Dean thinks he’s going to puke. “I’ve already said goodbye to Sam and Charlie.”

“Come back,” Dean whispers. “Don’t just–” He swallows. “Make sure you come back, Cas. Don’t disappear.”

A mess of emotions crosses Cas’s face and Dean realizes a little too late that Cas is leaning in for a hug; it starts out awkward and ends desperate.

“I will come back,” Cas says, muffled, into Dean’s shoulder. “Tell Ellen and Jo thank you for me.”

“Yeah,” Dean replies, voice cracking, as he pulls away. “Yeah, I, uh, I will.”

He scrambles to try and take all of Cas in, commit him to memory before he’s gone – oversized shirt, heavy-duty jacket, ill-fitting pants, wide eyes trying to express too many emotions at the same time, hands on either side of Dean’s face, palms warm, forehead against his.

“I should go.”

Cas’s voice cracks and he breaks eye contact a little too quickly, heads for the stairs, and Dean’s got half a mind to run up there, at the height of selfishness, and yank him back down.

He pauses in the doorway and looks back, one last time, before disappearing into the sunlight.

 

 


 

 

His bed is cold the first morning Cas is gone.

It never gets warmer.

–––

They go back to The Roadhouse after five months. They’ve done all the research they can, and Charlie needs some alone time.

His bed at The Roadhouse is even colder.

–––

A year passes.

Dean visits Charlie and together, they go through an entire bottle of Ellen’s whiskey and the two Lord of the Rings trilogies.

–––

Fourteen months.

He goes down south to see Benny, and revels quietly in his company. Benny helps him beat the hunger. He’s scared he’s forgotten Cas’s scent.

–––

Sixteen months.

During the full moon, he has someone pinned underneath him, claws ready to rip out his heart, and Sam has to pull him off of the poor guy and knock them both out.

A witch flirts with him in a dusky bar and they’re halfway back to the motel when Dean starts realizing that her hair isn’t the right shade of dark and her eyes aren’t even blue and he breaks it off, sorry, hun, no harm no foul.

–––

Seventeen months.

He’s hungry.

 

 


 

 

Dean hears him before anything else – he’d know those footsteps anywhere – and he sits bolt upright.

“Cas,” he says, before either Sam or Jo can shoot him A Look. He doesn’t even stay to watch their reactions (but he hears them – Cas is back? He’s back? He’s back? echoing around the Roadhouse) and shoulders his way outside as the floodlights paint a ghastly, long shadow across the gravel; Dean tries hard not to fidget because Cas is still half a mile out, hands in his pockets, pack hunched behind his shoulders, then Cas calls out and he’s moving forward, easy as breathing, and he isn’t sure if he’s wrapped around Cas or if Cas is wrapped around him.

“Dean,” he breathes, and Dean can tell right away that this didn’t go well. Cas’s hand is fisted a little too tightly in his shirt and he smells like he’s off; there’s definitely something wrong, and Dean is gonna do whatever it takes to get his best friend back up and running.

“C’mon,” Dean murmurs, cupping his face in a palm, “inside. It’s crowded in the bar, though.”

He pulls the pack off of Cas’s shoulders and slings it over his back instead. Cas clings to him resolutely as they head towards The Roadhouse proper, keeping a hand on Dean’s bicep, then moving to curl his fingers into the back of his flannel, then latching desperately onto his forearm, finally fitting his palm against Dean’s like a child, all meekness, and Dean doesn’t give a shit whom he shoves out of the way when they shoulder their way through the throng of people in the bar.

“Downstairs, please,” Cas breathes into his ear, and holy shit, Cas only resorts to politeness when something’s really wrong. A wave of guilt hits Dean.

“I, uh–” He licks his lips. “Ellen had me move the rest of your stuff up to my room a few months back. Wasn’t much down there and she needed the room.”

“Your room is fine,” Cas says, pressing close as someone tries to pass him, and Dean resists the urge to pull him even closer. The desperation is rolling off of him in waves.

“Talk to me,” Dean says, the instant he’s got his bedroom door closed. Cas just shakes his head, mouth open, like he’s trying to find words and nothing’s working.

“Pointless,” he finally grinds out, like the word is hurting him. “I– pointless. There is nothing out there. No one.” He shakes his head again and Dean realizes that Cas is trembling when he reaches out to pull Dean towards the bed, open and scared.

Dean pulls off his flannel and tosses it onto his chair, then lets Cas’s needy hands pull him down into the mess of blankets and comforter, lets Cas wind himself into his chest, lets Cas dig his fingers into his back, too tightly for comfort.

“Breathe,” he murmurs into Cas’s temple, rubbing a slow circle into his back. He’s hoping Cas has enough room down there to actually follow his advice because it really seems like he doesn’t, the way he’s got his forehead pressed determinedly into Dean’s collarbone.

“God is dead.”

Dean doesn’t really know what to say to that (other than make fun of him for quoting Nietzsche, of all people) so he kisses the top of Cas’s head and pushes a hand through his hair, soft and slow, waiting for the tension to melt out of Cas’s shoulders. He's quiet for the next few minutes but his breaths are uneven and his hands keep moving, trying to find purchase, trying to find a way to get closer.

"Dean?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm going to sleep," Cas says, muffled, "and when I wake up, I'm going to drink until I pass out."

Dean reads between the lines easily enough and knows that Cas just wants to not think for the foreseeable future and he'll talk later, yeah, but now all he wants is escape.

"Okay," he murmurs, then tips Cas's chin up with a knuckle. "One thing at a time, tiger. Go to sleep."

Cas leans their foreheads together and exhales shakily; he feels almost feverish, overheated with too much emotion and unable to parse anything. Dean sweeps a thumb over his cheekbone and that’s how Sam finds them, ten minutes later, with his eyes wide and worried. Dean glares until he finally gives a short nod and leaves, closing the door behind him, and Dean tunes out everything except for the still-anxious thump of Cas’s heart and the breaths accompanying it.

 

 

It’s a restless night for everyone. Dean doesn’t get to sleep until well after the bar closes down and he watches the thunderheads roll by through the dimmed skylights, dozes for a few minutes, wakes back up, stares out of the windows. Cas seems to have actually passed out – he’s motionless against Dean’s chest and his heart rate is even, so Dean’s pacified by the fact that at least someone in this equation is getting some rest.

He’s replaying the entire nineteen months that Cas had been gone, thinking about every full moon and the fact that Sam’s had to keep him on goddamn lockdown for every single one. He can’t stop thinking about Gordon’s last words and the months of fruitless research and frustrated hunts and how by all means having Cas back should be calming him down, but his thoughts are in massive overdrive.

 

 

Cas wakes up right as the sunlight is starting to slant low, way ahead of when either of them are normally up and at ‘em.

“Dean,” he croaks, half into the pillow and half into Dean’s shoulder.

“Hey,” he murmurs back. Cas cracks open an eye and stares at him – it’s the same mind-reading stare Dean’s gotten so used to, he’s missed it so much – then makes an irritated noise.

“You didn’t sleep,” he mutters, and sits up. “I could’ve knocked you out. You should have asked.” Dean snorts and shoves lightly at him.

“‘M fine,” Dean says. “I can function on less. Cas, how are you?”

“Hungry, mostly,” he says offhandedly. “French toast would hit the spot.” Dean reads between the lines on his face and nods because Cas doesn’t want to go downstairs, he doesn’t want to deal with how’d it go’s and what’d you find's.

“Cas,” he starts, and then stops because it’s one thing to accept that feelings are A Thing and no matter how much he accepts himself or whatever yoga crap Sam spews to him every few years, accepting that he’s allowed to have emotions is not the same as being not-grumpy about expressing them. On top of the fact that, you know, he mostly has always just plain sucked at Talking About These Things.

Cas leans forward and kisses his forehead.

“Me, too,” he says wryly. “Now that we’ve adequately discussed our emotions, I’d like some food.”

Dean rolls his eyes and pushes the covers off of his legs. Jesus christ, and Sam thought he was bad at ruining the moment.

The kitchen’s dusky, with no lights on and the windows dimmed; Sam should be sleeping for at least another hour, so he slides a finger over the light-strip, un-dims the windowpanes, and lets the sunlight pour in. He’d never been too much of a morning person, but when your mornings consist of sunsets, there’s something super extra special nice about being up early.

There’s a series of groans and rustles from the basement, followed shortly by Sam’s tousled head, a grunt, and the windows getting dimmed again.

“Rise and shine,” Dean says, grinning sunnily enough to make Sam squint. Sam then makes a sort of gurgling noise in response and heads for the coffee pot, throwing an interested look toward the french toast in the pan.

“How’s Cas?” he asks after taking a long drink, voice still all sleep-croaky. Dean pulls out some plates and the maple syrup.

“Decent,” he replies, splitting the toast between two plates. “Just, uh... gimme ‘till after Ellen closes up, you know? Maybe ‘till tomorrow.”

Sam looks at him, takes a deep breath, and nods.

“I’m glad he’s back,” he murmurs from behind his coffee cup. “I missed him.”

“Me too.”

  

 


 

 

 

The next full moon – two nights after Cas comes back – is absolute hell. All three of them are hungover as fuck; both Sam and Cas lock themselves into the basement with blood bags and Dean eats a grand total of 5.75 sheep hearts to try and fill the never-ending hunger in his stomach.

The three of them eventually stagger up through the bar to the second story, where the din is muted to more of a murmur, and Sam silently folds himself into a chair at the kitchen table. Dean starts on coffee.

“I know who turned you,” Cas says wearily to Sam, without preamble, and Dean slops coffee all over the table as he sets down a mug.

What?

“I did some digging,” he continues, and pulls the mug towards him, leaving a trail of coffee on the tabletop. Dean brings over the other two mugs, shaking his head. “Old, old vampire. He’s up to something but no one knows what it is, of course. He goes by Azazel.”

“Isn’t that a Biblical thing?” Dean asks, finally taking a seat.

“Evidently, he thinks very highly of himself,” Cas mutters. “‘Yellow-Eyes’ is also not a metaphor. He was jaundiced when the Alpha turned him.”

“The Alpha turned him?” Sam asks quickly, coffee dribbling down his chin, and Dean can’t help snickering. He gets an angry glare in return. “Well, that’s... great.”

“I wasn’t able to get too much information,” Cas continues, “but he’s out there, and he isn’t resisting this... thing.” Cas waves a vague hand at himself and it’s obvious that he means the tug. The hunger. Whatever. “He has a lot of vampires on his side, and he is definitely up to something. There’s no one willing to talk. It’s–” Cas runs a hand over his hair. “I don’t know. It’s starting to look like war.”

Excuse me?”

“No, I can see that,” Sam muses. “This whole instincts thing is splitting every species down the middle. Everyone’s picking sides. Undergrounders and others like us versus those who aren’t gonna give it up, and on top of that, every species trying to stand on its own.” He runs a hand through his hair and exhales. “God, this is gonna be bad.”

“So now what?” Dean leans back in his chair. “Spread the word, get some feelers out?”

“It would seem so,” Cas says glumly into his coffee. Dean sighs and pulls out his Glass.

 

 

One
big
fat
nothing.

There’s a suspicious, boring radio silence everywhere. No one’s acting up more than usual, no one’s going on crazy murder sprees. Everything is normal. Not a peep out of Azazel or anyone supposedly on his side.

It’s been progressively harder for Sam and Cas to resist their urge to hunt but they manage it, steadily, painfully, and Dean can tell it’s going to be a rough full moon. The hours to the peak tick away faster than should be possible and then he’s shifting, ripping through his skin–

–hearts hearts hearts hearts hearts thundering under his feet and he needs them he needs to eat them all but there’s something in his way and he’s grappling with this creature, growling low in his throat, and that’s when he feels hands on the sides of his face and his name being shouted.

“Cas,” he chokes out.

“Focus,” Cas snarls, blood dripping down his chin, pinning him to the floor. Dean moves to throw him off but Cas is faster, and– “Focus, Dean, come on!

So Dean focuses. He takes a deep breath and forces his eyes to follow one of the patterns on Cas’s face, forces his ears to tune into Cas’s heartbeat and the adrenaline-filled blood rushing through his body, forces his nose to parse out all of the smells that Cas has on him, cotton linen denim polyester ceramic kitchen stainless steel forks and knives food no no sweat cow’s blood half a pint of Guinness coffee french fries outside wildflowers ice dirt basement underground and he’s okay. He’s okay.

“I’m okay,” he gasps, and pushes lightly against Cas’s weight. “I’m– I’m okay, Cas, I’m okay.”

Cas hauls him up by way of answer and pulls him over to his bed, sits, and then grabs one of his hands and lines Dean’s fingers up with the pulse point on his neck.

“Focus,” Cas says again, and Dean starts counting Cas’s heartbeats and stops counting the ones downstairs. Cas keeps a warning hand on his shoulder and nudges the plate with a pig’s heart on it over to him with a knee.

It’s all good until a fight breaks out downstairs and someone spills blood. Cas stiffens next to him; Dean feels his mouth watering in spite of the fact that he literally just finished that heart, and he’s halfway to his feet before Cas yanks him back down. He can feel his humanity warring with the wolf and it’s so hard to hold back and not fight against Cas’s steel-fingered grip because there are hearts so close, nice and intoxicated and so easy to get to but he can’t, he can’t, and Cas is murmuring things to him in another language, soft nonsense, calming him like a spooked animal. He shudders. There’s just ten minutes left until the peak is over and he can shift back, only ten minutes, ten, and his claws are splintering the hardwood of his bedframe and Cas is still there like the fucking saint he is, smoothing one hand over his face and keeping the other on his back, close, and Dean finally gives in and presses his face into Cas’s shoulder.

Finally, it’s done.

He shifts back and slumps bonelessly against his best friend, more exhausted than he’d usually care to admit. Cas cradles his head and Dean wonders how the fuck he ever got lucky enough to have someone like Cas.

“I split your lip,” he mumbles. “You’re still bleeding.” Cas’s blood smells sharper than anyone’s he’s ever smelled. He’s rubbing a slow circle into the back of Dean’s neck and he’s tired, so tired.

“‘Tis but a scratch.”

Dean’s way too drained to do anything more than groan weakly at him.

 

 

It takes him way, way longer than normal to recover from the full moon. Half of the time he’s lethargic and unresponsive and slow, barely any help trying to track down what Azazel is up to, and the other half of the time he’s picking fights left and right. He spends fourteen days trying to get back on his feet and the next twelve dreading the full moon, throwing himself into research with everything he has and getting two, four hours of sleep a night until he’s so strung out that he nearly collapses on Jo while serving.

His sleep problems are back with vengeance.

 

 

You are seated. The room is large, open. Very spartan. Circular. Stone. Your back is flush against wood. Straight. Proud. Your hands lie on your thighs. Your claws are sheathed in gold leaf. They gleam in the dull light. You are not dressed. You are dressed. The clothing is unfamiliar. The clothing is recognizable.

You rise. You control this room, this place. It bends to your will. Behind you is your throne. Ahead of you is a looking-glass.

It takes three strides to reach the looking-glass. It takes three hundred strides to reach the looking-glass. It takes thirty strides to reach the looking-glass.

Your reflection is unfamiliar. Your reflection is recognizable. You are dressed like a king. You are not a king.

A cloak flows from your shoulders and brushes the ground, woven from gold. You wear a tunic, and it is embroidered with thread that glows like the sun. Your boots glisten. Gold-plated greaves and bracers match the spaulders and chestplate that house your lifebeat in a cage. There is a circlet on your brow – heavy, of substantial weight, but wrought delicately. Rubies glisten like blood. Your fangs are sheathed in gold leaf. They gleam in the dull light. Your eyes are made of molten gold. They gleam in the dull light.

You are dressed like a king. You are no king. You look regal. You look preposterous. You are a doll wearing the clothes of a monarch that you could never be. You are a wolf in king’s clothing.

You are the pack-leader. You have no pack. You are the king. You have no kingdom.

                              {Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown
                                                          And put a barren scepter in my grip}

This place bends to your will no more. The smell of rotten leaves and dampness washes over you, bringing with it the stench of bloated corpses and stale blood. A terrible, all-consuming hunger wraps itself around you.

“Alpha,” whispers a voice in your ear. Oozing. Oily. Not of this world. “Join us, hungry king.”

 

 

He wakes up with a start.

Jesus christ. It’s just past three in the morning (afternoon), according to the watch he forgot to take off last night, and Cas shifts blearily next to him. Dammit.

“Sorry,” Dean murmurs when Cas cracks an eye open, and apparently whatever look he’s wearing is weird enough to warrant Cas sitting up. He’d feel a lot more guilty if he weren’t weirded out past the ends of the fuckin’ earth. Cas reaches out and flattens a cowlick, hand lingering, and he’s got this patient, expectant look in his eyes. “I had this– god, I don’t know. It was a really damn weird dream.” He scrubs a hand down his face.

“But you feel it to be important,” Cas prompts.

“Yeah.” He takes a breath. “I don’t know, I don’t– it was weird as hell, Cas. I was in a throne room or something and I was all dressed up, all of this crazy medieval shit with armor and a crown and everything was made out of gold. Fuck, my claws were gold. My teeth. And then this–” He shivers. Even the memory of the dream is more than enough to creep him out. “A voice came out of nowhere and said ‘join us, hungry king.’”

Cas is silent.

Cas is silent for three fucking minutes before Dean can’t take it any more.

“Dude, please say something or I’m gonna–”

“You need to tell Bobby,” Cas says sharply, and Dean sighs. “Or at least Sam.”

“Dreams,” he mutters, letting his head drop into his palm, “this is Sam’s thing. He’s supposed to be the one who deals with this, not me. I usually dream about mundane shit like– I dunno, Benny owning a cafe where I help out wearing a pink fuckin’ frilly apron.”

“I–” Cas pauses, carefully swallows his smile. Cas is definitely laughing at him. Bastard. “It’s not my place to say, but Sam has been having strange dreams.”

What?” He’s flooded with terror anger why didn’t Sam say anything why didn’t Sam tell him

“Calm down,” Cas says, and tightens his hold on Dean’s shoulder. “Sam meant to tell you last night, after he finished helping me. You were already asleep by the time we were done.”

“Oh.” Dean can feel himself deflating. “Christ.”

“Tell Sam in the morning,” Cas murmurs, “and go to sleep. You need it.”

Cas pushes him down by the shoulder, gently, and Dean opens his mouth to protest yet again but Cas just raises his eyebrows in warning and slings himself over Dean’s body, propped up on his elbows, eyes searching.

That’s about where Dean’s 99% sure he’s having an out-of-body experience because he doesn’t remember getting to this point, where Cas is leaning his forehead against Dean’s and Dean’s got his hands sliding up Cas’s back and they’re just breathing together like fucking lovers and it’s ridiculous, disgusting, cliche, typical of some trashy romance novel, but he’s okay with it. He likes this, he wants this. It’s grossing him out in the little-kid, love-is-gross, cooties kind of way, but Cas is warm and comfortable and Cas is undoubtedly pack so he shrugs mentally and un-out-of-body-experiences himself.

“Sleep, Dean,” Cas whispers, breath warm against his jaw.

So he does.

 

 

The morning is a jumble.

Dean’s alarm goes off and he’s running on way too little sleep but he drags his ass down to The Roadhouse anyways, and nearly ruins a few meals due to combined sleeplessness and absolute mayhem. The Roadhouse, bar and restaurant, is absolutely packed, and everyone is stretched so thin that Ash is serving and Sam comes on two hours early to work an extra-long overlap shift with Cas at the bar.

Lunch would have been a welcome reprieve if it weren’t for the fact that Dean sharing his weird-ass dream gets Sam angry, of all things, because he didn’t say anything earlier. Jesus christ. Cas is having a doubleplusungood day as far as his dietary issues go and he takes seven goddamn breaks to go chug a bag of blood. Seven.

Dean spends about five minutes looking for Cas when he’s finally done working and starts worrying because he’s not in any of his usual recluse places (i.e., the basement library or the stockroom with blood bags) so he tries upstairs, with a sinking feeling.

Cas’s silhouette is just barely outlined by the dim light filtering in through the window, and he’s hunched over, perched on the edge of Dean’s bed. Dean can hear him trying to swallow.

“Cas?” he tries, softly.

There’s a quiet rasp of clothing on skin as Cas turn to look at him and his eyes are begging, whites shimmering dully in the darkness. Dean moves closer and the second he’s within arm’s length, Cas reaches out and just grabs him, pulls him close and buries his face in Dean’s stomach. His thighs are warm against the sides of Dean’s legs and he feels so oddly safe like this, with his best friend trembling in his arms.

“It’s so hard,” Cas murmurs, and it takes a really monumental amount of self-restraint (along with the fact that Cas is Obviously Not Okay) for Dean not to crack a joke. “I’ve– Dean, you should probably leave.”

“You’re in my room, angel,” Dean replies, gently joking, and kneels down, still framed between Cas’s thighs. “Hey. Breathe. I know how it feels. Just breathe, angel, come on.” His hands are on either side of Cas’s face, stubble itching at his palms, and he runs a thumb across one of Cas’s cheekbones.

Cas’s sand-rough hands search for his face and tilt his head forward, fingers curling around his jaw, and he rests their foreheads together and squeezes his eyes shut. Dean leans forward and kisses him, gentle but firm, easy as breathing.

Cas exhales, long and steady. Dean swallows – suddenly his mouth is dry, what the hell’s up with that? – and rubs his thumbs reassuringly over Cas’s cheekbones, eyes still closed.

“Take it easy, angel,” he whispers, “breathe.”

He honestly needs to stop underestimating how strong Cas is (they’ve known each other for years now and he still underestimates him, in a lot of ways) because one second there’s an arm around his back and the next, Cas is hoisting him up onto the bed; he’s squirming and Cas is scooting but they figure it out eventually and then Cas is slowly winding a hand into his hair and Dean’s nosing under Cas’s jaw, breaths soft against his ear.

“Still want me to leave?” And it’s not teasing, for once, because if Cas is actually gonna feel better with him out of the room then he’ll happily camp out elsewhere.

“Stay,” Cas murmurs against his mouth.

So he does.

 

 

Sleep doesn’t come easily. The lunar eclipse is throwing weird shadows across everything outside his windows and his skin is crawling, itching, like he’s going to pull an Alien and rip out of his own stomach. He’s antsy and fidgety and there’s something nagging at him but he can’t remember what it is; his sleep schedule has been haywire. He’s back on human time instead of Sam’s flip-flopped vampire time, but he still hasn’t been sleeping like normal lately. Eventually he falls into an uneasy sleep with Cas’s breaths as a metronome.

 

 

He goes from asleep to instantly, fully conscious in less than a second, halfway through a deep, sleep-slow breath, and he knows that Cas (still draped across his chest) is just as awake.

Everything feels wrong.

“Cas,” he breathes.

“Yes.”

It’s like someone’s opened floodgates and the water is rushing in, roaring, but he can’t hear it – it’s crawling all over his skin and up through his nose, flooding him, and he can hear a grinding rumble rolling through his chest but it’s dead silent in The Roadhouse save for the steadily increasing heartbeats in each room. It feels like a hole’s been torn, the dam’s been broken; everything is spilling over with terrifying force and all he can think is well, when the levee breaks.

Dean realizes neither that he’s sitting up nor that his hands are shaking until Cas rests a palm across his fingers and leans close. Cas is shaking, too. Fuck. The rushing-roaring-not-quite-a-noise keeps going and going and louder and louder and louder and just when Dean really thinks he’s not going to be able to take it any more, it cuts off like someone’s shut an enormous door.

For a full five seconds, the silence is positively oppressive.

He hears movement from the ground floor – actually hears it, not whatever that rushing-water-broken-dam-hole-in-space was – so he slides out from under the covers and follows Cas downstairs.

Sam’s sitting at the bar; Ruby’s pacing, restless, and Jo is fiddling with a corner of the bartop. Ash’s mullet appears at the top of the basement steps as Dean crosses the threshold and he can see a couple of Roadhouse guests behind him, looking confused and more than a little concerned. He can hear Ellen still back in her room, talking to someone via Glass, and he tunes her out.

In a rush of hot, dry air, Charlie unfurls from empty space, looking panicked.

“Okay, so judging by the looks on your faces, I’m not the only one who felt that,” she says. “Um, also–”

“All the demons are gone.” Ellen interrupts Charlie, ashen-faced, clutching her Glass like a lifeline.

“Yeah,” Charlie says quietly, “that.”

“Hold up,” says one of the guests, a young rugaru. “What do you mean, gone?

“‘S far as we can tell, every demon on earth has up and vanished,” Ellen says faintly. “Meatsuit and all.”

With their meatsuits?” Sam asks, half-perched on a bar stool. Cas crosses his arms.

“Oh my god.” It hits Dean like a sucker-punch to the chest. “Victor. Oh, christ.”

Sam makes a half-choked sort of noise in his throat like he’s about to say something, then changes his mind and puts a hand on Dean’s shoulder.

“That’s not good,” Charlie mutters, faintly. “That’s– wow, we are so screwed.”

“Is there any indication of what happened?” Cas asks, because apparently no one else is wondering this.

“Bobby says so far, not a trace,” Ellen replies, scrolling through messages on her Glass. “Just some blood splatters, DNA matches the meatsuits, traces of sulfur still there. Something did ‘em in before anyone could smoke out.”

“Well, shit,” says Jo, and looks at her mom with wide, worried eyes.

 

 


 

 

 

With a huge network made up of both hunters and assorted, recently-stopped-warring non-human personnel, you’d think it’d be decently easy to get some kind of patchwork theory up and running. You’d think.

Three weeks pass, and the only thing that actually happens is that Dean gets A Really Bad Feeling about the upcoming full moon, Sam sucks dry an entire fucking cow, and Ellen has to order more blood because they’re
all
hungry
all
the
time.

Everyone.

Aggression is through the roof. Dean can’t honestly remember a night there wasn’t a bar fight in The Roadhouse these past few weeks and half the time, he’s taking part. Everyone he talks to is antsy and anxious and twitchy and just waiting for all hell to break loose because there’s an overwhelming, crushing feeling that everything is going to be turned upside-down and everyone can feel it.

Dean watches married couples at the bar snap at each other one minute and cling to each other in nervous fear the next. Hell, he spends half his time yelling at Sam or Cas and the other half sitting in anxious silence with them, swallowing the urge to hunt, letting Sam cut off the circulation in his arm with a death grip because the alternative is drinking a lake of blood, huddling up with Cas to try to beat the hunger.

No one even bothers dispatching hunters any more. Someone does anything that could possibly be construed as making a wrong move and it’s a battlefield. Packs are declaring blood feuds left and right based on who’s still eating human hearts and who’s on the animal diet. Covens are drawing lines. Even djinn are starting to crawl out of the woodwork, Cas says, and creatures even older than djinn, too.

 

 

The Roadhouse is slow. It’s just past 5pm (i.e., the fucking crack of dawn as far as Dean’s concerned; he still can’t sleep right) and dinner rush hasn’t started yet; Cas, fuck him, is somehow in an excellent, fully-awake mood, reorganizing the pint glasses under the bar. No one’s ordered serious food yet so he’s loitering behind the bar with Cas, waiting for Jo to finish up taking orders from their one party of guests so far.

“Garden burger, no onions, bacon burger, extra onions, Southwest burger, all the fixings,” Jo calls. “And all of ‘em with fries.”

“Got it,” Dean replies, halfway through a yawn, and he’s about to pass it on to Ellen when Cas fumbles and drops a glass. Dean lurches forward to catch it and he’s about to ask Cas what the hell is up, he’s never clumsy like this, when he realizes that Cas is staring openly at the doorway.

“Cas?” he says quietly.

The person walking up to them is grinning, short (well, shorter than both of them by at least half a head), dressed like a hunter, human-looking enough to be passable, but the scent completely belies any plausible humanity.

“Gabriel,” Cas blurts, incredulous, and the grin grows even wider.

“Hey, bro,” he says loudly, and parks himself on a stool at the bar. “Nice digs. The pool boy come with the down payment?” This fucker has the balls to wink at Dean.

“Watch it,” Dean snaps. “We’ve got the right to refuse service to asswipes.”

“Dean,” Cas sighs, at the same time as Ellen yells from the kitchen, “Dean Jonathan Winchester, get your ass in here right now,” and because the only person he’s ever truly been terrified of is Ellen Harvelle, he books it into the kitchen.

“Okay, did you–”

“Winchester, you be polite to customers,” Ellen hisses, brandishing the knife she’d been using to cut onions.

“‘Pool boy,’” he snarls.

“Drop it,” Ellen warns, and then her face softens. “That’s not all that’s eatin’ at you, sweetheart.”

“He’s a djinni.” Dean exhales and rubs the back of his neck. “He’s not all marked up the way Cas is but there’s no mistaking his scent. I just... I don’t know. With all the weirdness going on, I’m– I don’t know.”

“Keep an eye on him as best you can, then, and let Jo know,” Ellen says, going back to her onions. “And don’t forget about those burgers, either.”

They’re lightly browned right now but they haven’t hit the point where they smell right just yet so Dean lets himself fall into the rhythm of cooking, babysitting the burgers while getting the buns and plates and fixings ready, making sure everything looks great before passing the plates (and info) to Jo and sliding back behind the bar. Cas is pouring a round of beers for a group of hunters that just trickled in and the supposed djinni – Cas had called him Gabriel? – is halfway into a second pint.

“Ready to play nice?” asks probably-Gabriel, watching Dean walk up with a really infuriating smirk. Dean just leans against the bar and smiles wide, showing off all of his nice, pointy teeth. “My, Grandma, what big–”

Gabriel,” comes Cas’s hiss from behind Dean, and then Cas is standing next to Dean, arms crossed. “Dean, this is my... brother, you could say.”

“Or cousin,” Gabriel adds, and holds out a hand for Dean to shake. The air snaps cold and blue and Dean looks down at the innocent-looking palm, then at Gabriel’s grin.

“Tickled pink to meet you,” he says, pointedly not shaking hands.

“Smart,” Gabriel says, then bounces his eyebrows and takes another drink.

“You’re a djinni.” Dean crosses his arms. “Smell like one, don’t look like one.”

“Goin’ straight for the personal stuff, huh?” Gabriel says, laughing. “Cute. Nice pick, baby bro. See, Cassie–” He inclines his head. “–is an ifrit. Me? I’m a marid. Totally different, except not really.”

“Okay,” Dean replies slowly. “I assume you’re not here just to catch up.”

“See, now you’re catching on. There a dessert menu lying around anywhere? We got some talkin’ to do. Castiel looks like he’s going to explode if he doesn’t ask all those questions he’s burning to ask.”

 

 

Gabriel mops up the rest of the ice cream with half a cookie and pops it into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully.

“Well,” he finally says, “the other marids are gonna be crawling out of their hidey-holes soon, too. I’m not sure if–” He spews out a bunch of consonants jumbled together that Dean assumes are names. Yikes. “–are gonna feel kindly towards you, but the other one might. Zach and his crowd are all with the popular kids, trying to get on Daddy’s good side. Heard you had a run-in with him and his.” Gabriel grins; Cas narrows his eyes.

“So this last djinni might know what’s going on?” Dean clarifies, stirring his coffee with one hand and draping the other along the back of Cas’s chair. Cas leans back and Dean lets his hand brush down along his shoulder; there’s tension there, so he moves his knee to press against Cas’s, too.

“Might,” Gabriel says, pointing at him with the other half of the cookie. “No promises. Dude’s always, uh, done his own thing.”

“And why might he feel particularly predisposed towards me?” Cas asks stiffly.

“‘Cause you’re–” Gabriel gestures vaguely. “The s-word,” he stage-whispers.

Dean doesn’t think he’s ever seen Cas look more particularly predisposed to murder in cold blood.

“Okay, boys, pissing contest is over,” Jo says, one hand on her hip, and the other holding a tray. Bless her perfect timing. “Seriously, no bloodshed inside.”

Inside,” Gabriel repeats, eyes glittering mischievously. She yanks the dessert plate from between his elbows and walks away, pausing at the bar to shoot a warning look over at their table. Gabriel grins. “Well, boys, it’s been a pleasure.”

“But?” Dean prompts.

“Gotta keep moving,” he says, and stands up. “Cassie? I’d try Detroit. You know how he feels about Detroit.”

“Have you heard from any of my tribe?” Cas asks, very quietly, and Gabriel’s face turns (what Dean assumes to be) uncharacteristically serious.

“Last I heard of all y’all was that you split,” he says. “That’s it. I’m sorry, Castiel. I’ve got no clue if they’re suckin’ people dry or keepin’ their noses clean. If I hear anything, I’ll pass it along.” Then the shit-eating grin pastes itself back across his face and Gabriel turns back to Dean. “I guess this counts as introducing you to the family, then, huh?” he says, and claps Dean on the shoulder, hard. “See you ‘round, Cassie. Thanks for the chow.”

Dean waits for Gabriel’s silhouette to clear the doorway before rounding on a frazzled-looking Cas.

“Dude,” he says, “what the hell?”

 

 

That night they grapple like children before going to sleep, wrestling childishly for the covers and sparking a brawl that ends with Cas accidentally smacking Dean on the nose and apologizing through poorly withheld laughter. Dean’s eyes are still watering but he curls himself into Cas’s side anyways, drapes an arm across his stomach, listens to Cas’s heartbeat and to the air whooshing in and out of his lungs, progressively steadier.

“Hey Cas?”

“Yes?” The reply rumbles against his ear.

“Tell me about djinn.” Cas is silent. “Or, I mean, if that’s taboo, it’s fine.” Oh, god, awkward. He hadn’t even considered that it might be a Thing for djinn to not talk about themselves, stupid, stupid

“No, it’s not taboo,” Cas says thoughtfully, “it’s just that no one has ever asked.”

“Hermit,” Dean teases, and nudges Cas with his elbow. Cas gently cuffs his head. “C’mon. You’re an ifrit, so you’re a fire-djinni.”

“I am,” Cas muses, and pushes Dean off of his chest in favor of propping himself up on an elbow. “I was head of my tribe before we... disagreed.”

“Do you miss ‘em?”

“Of course.” Cas’s voice is quiet; Dean traces the line of his jaw. “But I have you and Sam and Charlie, so it isn’t so bad.” He turns to press his lips against Dean’s palm. “Gabriel is a marid, so his markings only show up when he uses magic. His taste in blood is–” He makes a face. “–Gabriel prefers frustration.”

“How do you mean?”

Cas smiles, a little sadly, and lowers his eyes.

“Back in the day, as you would say, people willingly offered themselves to us as food,” he murmurs. “Some of us – a mark of self-control, refinement – developed a taste for certain hormone levels associated with strong emotion. Gabriel prefers the frustration of being pranked, unsolvable puzzles, that sort of thing.”

“And you?”

Cas rolls onto him at that point, propped up on both elbows, and his smile turns absolutely chilling.

“Fear.”

 

 


 

 

 

Sam sighs and gives him an uncertain look.

“Dean, Detroit’s practically Chernobyl,” Sam reminds him.

“I don’t know what Detroit you’re talkin’ about, but last I heard, Old Detroit, Michigan, has not had any nuclear meltdowns,” he snorts back.

“It’s a freakin’ ghost town!” Sam continues, indignant. “There’s nothing there!

“And it is therefore the optimal place for a djinni. Duh.”

“Seriously, I don’t know if this is a good idea. You don’t know anything about that Gabriel guy.”

“Cas trusts him,” Dean says. “‘S all I need. C’mon, man, you know we’ve been shit out of luck figuring out whatever the hell is going on.”

“Yeah, exactly.” Sam makes a face. “Whatever it is could also be holing up in Detroit.”

“You gotta admit, this is the best potential lead we’ve had in weeks,” Dean says, and when Sam sighs, he knows he’s won. “C’mon. We’ll stop at Bobby’s on the way back and swap info.”

 

 

It’s dusk by the time Dean parks the Impala in a parking lot where she doesn’t stand out and hopes, vehemently, that nothing will happen to her.

Old Detroit is dead fucking empty, anyways.

Their plan is solid – they’ll use their handy dandy enhanced senses to root out this djinni – but, predictably, everything goes south the fucking second they hit the suburbs. The smell of djinni is is so unbelievably overpowering that it’s literally all Dean can smell. He can’t even filter out Sam or Cas from the overwhelming smell of other permeating every inch of the city and it’s way older than Cas, somehow, with the lingering trace of a fire that’s been put out.

Cas describes the kinds of buildings djinn find attractive and they poke their heads in to a few, break into a couple of basements. Cas gets his forearm cut on a piece of stained glass from a cathedral, and Sam eats major shit when a staircase collapses under his weight (and Dean laughs hard, of course, at the look on his face).

It’s past midnight when they work their way into the city center, walking aimlessly along an old broad boulevard, sizing up the storefronts and edifices. Some windows still have Clearance! Everything must go! signs hanging up by threads, faded and torn.

“Dean,” Sam says suddenly, “in here.”

He’s stopped dead in front of one of those old row houses, the kind you really only see in the older US cities, and he’s staring at one of the top windows like a cat that’s seen a laser pointer.

“Cas?” Cas is looking warily at the building; a cold breeze ruffles his hair and blows some trash down the empty, too-wide street.

“I’m... not sure,” he says.

“I am.” Sam rips his eyes off of the building and turns back around, face stony. “It has to be this one.”

Dean glances at Cas, who shrugs.

“Okay,” he says, “sure. Let’s check this one.”

The door is ajar, which should be setting off warning bells everywhere, but Sam pushes through it without thinking twice, eyes shimmering flat silver in the dim, dusty interior. The staircase crumbles under their feet as they pick their way up and Sam’s still leading on like he’s got a plan. It’s an old, old house, and Dean’s heart kinda twists because there’s latent beauty in the crown mouldings and paneled walls and dark wooden floors but it’s long fled with the people of Old Detroit. There are a few signs of life – a swath of floor slightly less grimy than the rest and even a lamp plugged in and turned on, lampshade knocked askew, an actual lightbulb with a filament, damn – but no one here, and the scent of a djinn is no less overpowering in here than it was in the outer suburbs.

Dean’s about to ask what makes him so sure when Sam pushes one last door open and a rush of cold air – colder than outside – washes over them.

The room looks empty. There’s frost crusting over the window and Dean thinks he can see something drawn there with a finger, like a kid on a car ride, and he and Cas start creeping forward to get a good look when–

“Hello, brother,” comes a soft voice, and Dean whips around to find the speaker at the same time Cas does.

“Iblīs,” Cas says evenly. The room’s other occupant is so darkly shrouded in shadows that Dean can only make out a basic outline: not too tall, not too slim, incredibly average.

“Oh, come on,” he– it– they– ze? says. “I thought we went Christian with the names eight centuries ago. You’re not Tzadquiel any more than I am Iblīs at this point.”

“Who are you?” asks Sam, eyes narrowed, and the djinni turns to him for the first time, facing the dim light. Something spreads across not-Iblīs-anymore’s face that makes a chill run down Dean’s spine but the kicker is that Sam looks just as captivated. Oh-kay.

“If you know him as Castiel–” Sam nods slowly. “–then you can call me Lucifer.”

A desperate, wry laugh scrapes up through Dean’s throat.

Lucifer? You’re the devil?

“In every sense of the word,” Cas says tightly. “Trust me.” Lucifer smiles– at Sam, specifically. It’s predatory. Yeah, Dean is pretty much done here.

“What are we doing here, Cas?” Dean asks, keeping his eyes on apparently-the-devil.

“Azazel,” Lucifer answers instead, finally taking his eyes off of Dean’s little brother. The look he gives Cas isn’t exactly comforting, either.

“As in–?”

“No.” Lucifer cuts Cas off before he can finish.

“Can someone explain what the hell is going on here?” Sam finally shouts, too loud in the tiny room, and both djinn turn to look at him. “Without being cryptic,” he adds.

“Azazel was the name of the djinni who worshipped Allah above all others in heaven,” Lucifer says smoothly. “And when he was cast out, betrayed by his brothers–” He looks pointedly at Cas, who stares back without flinching. “–the djinni became despaired of His mercy, and so he was named Iblīs, he that causes despair.” Lucifer turns back to Sam and loses his preachy tone. “Now, your Azazel–”

“He’s not mine–”

“–is a vampire who’s gotten his nose stuck in business way above his pay grade.”

“What do you mean?” Dean asks. There’s a chill in the room and he can feel the hair on the back of his neck rising.

“Job 41.” Lucifer perches himself on a chair like he’s got no clue how you’re supposed to sit on it.

“No,” Cas says sharply. “That’s impossible.”

“Totally possible,” Lucifer fires back, a little too cheerfully.

“What, exactly, is Job 41?”

“A verse in the Tanakh,” Cas explains, brows furrowed, and it takes a couple of seconds for Dean’s brain to reconcile “Tanakh” with “Old Testament.”

“And?”

Nothing on earth is his equal—a creature without fear/He looks down on all that are haughty; he is king over all that are proud,” Lucifer says. “Leviathan.”

“That shitty horror movie?” Sam snorts, in a knee-jerk reaction.

“I saw the porn version,” Dean mutters to him. Sam’s aim with his elbows is unerring.

“I thought Leviathan was a myth,” Cas says, the look in his eyes turning suspicious. “And even if it were true, Leviathan would be impossibly old.”

“So are you and I, by most standards,” Lucifer says. “It’s Leviathan. Take it or leave it. Don’t believe me and you’ll be much worse off, trust me.”

“Why should we trust you?” Sam asks, and finally voices what Dean’s been thinking this whole time.

“I would never lie to you, Sam,” Lucifer says quietly, and Dean watches an incredulous expression cross Sam’s face.

“What the hell does this have to do anything? Cas? What does Azazel have to do with this? How the hell do you know my name?”

“Now that,” Lucifer murmurs, “is a very complicated tale. The best I can do is quantum entanglement. Ansibles.”

Sam looks like someone just stuffed a cork into him and completely stopped up all of his thought processes. Dean can practically hear the gears whirring, overloading.

“The... creatures behind the disappearances are Leviathan.” Cas’s voice is quiet but firm, bringing them all back on track. “Azazel must be the one who opened their cage, but he couldn’t have done it alone. I suspect this is what Gordon Walker was implying when we– met.”

“Alright.” Dean squeezes his eyes shut and sits the fuck down on a table that looks like it isn’t going to break. “One more time, from the top. What’s with the name-changing? If he’s Lucifer, what does that make you? What does that really make you?” Cas looks at him for a full ten seconds before replying quietly.

“I feel that it would be cliche of me to say ‘I’m an angel of the Lord.’”

“It would also be technically untrue,” Lucifer notes, absently picking at his nails. “Just a technicality, really. We’re both djinn. Angels are a whole ‘nother ball game. No free will, poor saps. Judeo-Christian lore assimilated the pre-Islamic and Islamic djinn into what they think of as angels so here we are, once raised and now decayed.”

“Decayed,” Sam murmurs. “Just like Charlie. Huh.”

While Sam’s fixated on how djinn are apparently in that small class of creatures that gets its powers based on cultural belief in them (which, holy shit, sucks), Dean’s stuck breathless because now he has to rethink everything he grew up with – angels are watching over you, fallen angels, Paradise Lost, fuckin’ Lucifer–

“Okay, but can we just–” Dean squeezes his temples and sighs. “Can we save the metaphysical mindfucks for later?” Sam glares. “Right, so we’ve got you–” He points at Cas. “–who’s actually a djinni but for all intents and purposes an angel because of transference. We’ve got you–” He waves a hand at Lucifer. “–who’s the Devil, and honestly, I still don’t know what we’re doing here talking to you. We’ve got Azazel, who’s a vampire, and who unleashed god knows what on the earth. And we’ve got that god knows what, which is apparently Leviathan.” He pauses. “What the fuck is Leviathan?

“Angels do exist, by the way,” Lucifer adds. “Or they did, at least.”

“I don’t care,” Dean says, teeth gritted. “Tell me what Leviathan is.”

“Leviathan is–” Cas pauses, frowns, and crosses his arms. “It’s the monster of monsters. It’s older than anything I know of, and certainly older than your kind, Sam, or even yours.” Cas nods towards Dean.

“The story goes, God– or Allah, or Jehovah, or YHWH, or–” Lucifer waves his hand impatiently. “–pick a name, any name. During those seven days and seven nights, he decided to make the beasties before angels or djinn or man, and along with the lions and tigers and bears, he made the Leviathans.”

“So how come I’ve never hunted one?” Dean growls.

“Oooh, cool it, macho man,” Lucifer purrs, amused. Dean growl-growls in response, and gets a glare from Cas for his trouble.

“You’ve never hunted one because they were banished from earth,” Cas says. “That’s why no one ever considered them to be anything more than legend. They were– they’re creatures of hunger. They consume. The Creator created Purgatory to contain them and their hunger.”

Dean feels positively sick to his stomach because that dream, that voice, the hunger and the smell of rotten flesh molding leaves hunger hunger such a terrible hunger–– -

He forces himself to swallow.

“If they were banished, how come they’re back?” Bless Sam, asking all the right questions.

“That’s what’s interesting,” Lucifer muses. “The gate to Purgatory isn’t exactly easy to open. A human has to do it.”

“So then Azazel couldn’t have opened it,” Sam says, looking like he’s on the verge of throwing his hands up.

“Regardless,” Dean says, “it’s been opened, and we need to know everything there is to know about these things.”

“That’s basically it.” Lucifer shrugs. Dean is 100% prepared to lodge a bullet between his too-blue eyes. “Black-blooded hive mind. Good luck actually killing one of ‘em.”

“It makes sense.” Cas has a look on his face like he’s finally seeing the full picture, like he finally got that one last puzzle piece that pulls everything together. Dean feels a cold weight settle in his stomach. “All of those deaths, every monster going haywire, this must have been it. Everyone’s instincts are responding to a new threat, a new predator.”

“Like putting a house cat in a cage with a rabid bear.” Sam exhales slowly, then locks eyes with Lucifer again.

“Awesome.” Dean shakes his head. “Incredible. I’m out of here.”

He’s halfway down the stairs by the time Cas catches up with him and he’s almost at the door when Sam jogs up to them and all he can think of right now is a cold beer and one of Ellen’s burgers. Avoidance strategies are at fucking maximum.

“Castiel,” Lucifer calls, and all three of them turn back. “You’re shaytan, aren’t you?”

Dean looks quickly at Cas because that sounds an awful lot like “satan” and that definitely does not seem like anything to be proclaiming to the whole street.

“I am,” Cas says slowly. “If we’re expected to blindly follow those instincts, then I choose agency. If that means I am shaytan, then so be it.”

“I’m proud of you, brother,” Lucifer says, face suddenly regal and old. “You didn’t end up an angel.”

 

 

The walk back to the Impala and the subsequent drive down to Bobby’s is one long, awkward, tense silence. Sam is tapping away like crazy at his Glass, projecting notes onto the glovebox and across his knees, full of a weird, nervous energy, and it’s just making Dean more and more antsy. Cas is dead silent in the back, stone-faced, absolutely unmoving. It’s blissfully empty on the M-Bridge; Dean loves driving by day and seeing the countryside, but there’s honestly not much that can top crossing Lake Michigan in the dead of night, alone on the bridge with nothing but black water on either side of the road. He doesn’t dwell on the pressing problem, files it away for later, focuses instead on the way his baby’s tires caress the bridge, the way her engine is purring oh-so-beautifully, cruising at 75 miles an hour.

 

 

“Boy, what in God’s name do you mean by Leviathan?” Bobby growls, and Sam shrinks a couple of feet. Dean leans an elbow on the roof of his car and wishes he had a bucket of popcorn. “If this is your idea of a joke, it ain’t funny.”

“It’s... not,” Sam says meekly.

“Right,” Bobby says sarcastically, nodding, “the Devil told you that the big bad Leviathans took away all the demons.”

“You know, Bobby,” Dean says, because Sam is truly in need of rescuing now, “it’s, uh... well, when you put it that way–”

“You three’re actually serious.” Bobby crosses his arms, then uncrosses then, then shakes his head. “Get inside.”

They obediently file into the overflowing house after him and take turns laying out all their info – Sam’s got fucking charts and notes and color-coded labels on his Glass – and Bobby starts digging up books as they all finish up, making stacks, and when they’re all finished, he gives each of them a long look from under his cap.

“Dean, you’re in charge of gettin’ chow,” he rumbles. “You two, you’re with me. Pick a book and start readin’.” Sam looks like Christmas came early and Cas looks a little apprehensive but starts on a tome anyways, handling it with much more care than Bobby.

Yeah, it’s gonna be a long-ass night.

 

 

Dean waits for Bobby to turn in and for Sam to hit the shower before addressing the elephant in the room.

“Cas,” he starts, “all this time– why didn’t you say it was insulting of me to call you angel?”

Cas reaches out and fixes the collar of Dean’s flannel for him, deliberates for a few heartbeats, and Dean stops resisting the urge to pull him close.

“It isn’t insulting,” he murmurs, running a hand along Dean’s jaw, and he shamelessly leans into it. “It never was. When people think of angels or pray, it’s to us. The Renaissance artists got it all a bit wrong.” Cas whispers the last part into the corner of his mouth; Dean runs a hand up his back and tugs lightly on the hair at the base of his neck.

“But how?” Dean’s monumentally confused and he’s not sure whether he’s just being thick or whether it’s complicated. “I mean, if I can think of djinn and angels as totally separate things then–”

“Marids and ifrits,” Cas says simply. Understanding washes over Dean. “Gabriel, Lucifer, the other marids – humans took their form and used it to suit their image of angels. Ifrits are what you generally call djinni. Actual angels–” Cas pauses. “Well. They left when the Creator did, supposedly.”

“So basically, you’re saying humans totally botched up their own religions.”

“Basically.” Cas smiles. “Actual angels were… terrifying. Enormous creatures. You wouldn’t be able to perceive their form, even in a description. But no, Dean, ‘angel’ is no insult.”

“Still,” he says, kissing Cas’s temple, “don’t be afraid to call me out on my bullshit.”

“I already do that,” Cas replies, amused, and kisses him, slow and open-mouthed. Dean presses their foreheads together and inhales, exhales, watches Cas’s heartbeat, follows his own breaths around his chest.

“How are we gonna find these Leviathan things?” Dean breathes. “What are we going to do? What are they going to do?”

“We can’t do anything until tomorrow,” Cas says, quiet and even, slowly moving backwards and pulling Dean with him. “Relax, Dean. Sleep.”

“With you?” Dean nudges him towards the squeaky old twin mattress that’s been there since 2018 and kisses his mouth, his jaw, his neck. Cas’s hands are warm against his skin.

“With me.”

 

 

“Shifters are gone,” is the first thing that Sam says to him, the second he reaches the bottom step.

“Motherfucker,” Dean snarls, and drives a fist into the nearest doorframe.

“Watch it,” snaps Bobby. “That doorframe is older’n you are.”

Dean rumbles deep in his throat, keeping it below a real growl, and pours himself a slightly tepid cup of coffee. Sam sighs and resettles himself in his chair, sticks his nose back into his book.

“Any good news?” Dean grunts, and attempts to pull his Glass out of his pocket without spilling any precious caffeine.

“More and more people are dropping their ridiculous grudge matches,” Bobby replies, “so there's that. Also got a job for you, ‘cause I know you’ve been itchin’ to move for the past week.” Dean stops dead with his mug in one hand and Glass in the other, all ears. “High school swim team got mauled to death in the locker room. Stockville, Kansas.”

“Wow, that sounds great,” Dean snorts. “Mauled to death, that could be literally anything. Sam, you in?”

Sam makes a half-disinterested noise without looking up from the dusty old book he’s got his nose buried in, so Dean takes that as a no.

“I’ll take Cas,” he says, shrugging. “Hey, Bobby, make sure you water him and, uh, periodically rotate him to make sure he gets enough light.” He gets a middle finger from Sam for that one, but Bobby huffs and his beard twitches in half a smile.

 

 

The locker room is a bloody disaster. There are a few CSIs crawling around the room, taking samples, cordoning off areas, and Dean treads very lightly because bloodstains are really fucking hard to get out of suits. He’s got first-hand experience.

“Cas?” Cas stops investigating a dented, smeared locker and heads over. “I can’t smell anything,” he says quietly. “Like, I can smell literally nothing aside from you and the cops and the dead kids. Either some human nutjob did this, or–” He shrugs. “–I dunno. Definitely in the realm of heebs and maybe even jeebs.” That earns him an exasperated look, and then Cas’s face turns hard as he looks at something past Dean’s head.

Dean turns around as Cas moves past him and strips off his jacket – it’s stuffy and moist in this room, he’s got the right idea – then stares, hard, at a dark smear on one of the walls.

“Huh.”

Cas unbuttons his cuffs and starts neatly rolling up his sleeves and that’s when Dean realizes that two of the CSIs are doing that I’m-not-staring thing in Cas’s direction and a third is blatantly checking him out. Like yeah, sure, Cas does look damn good in a suit, but still. This is going to be joke material for eternity.

“Anything?” Cas asks, and Dean’s brought back to reality. He pointedly clears his throat towards the cop who’s staring transparently, which gets him to turn bright red and look away, then checks to make sure everyone else is preoccupied before dabbing a finger in the still-tacky goo.

“Cas, this doesn’t smell like anything to me,” he whispers. “Like– I mean, okay, water has a scent and so does air and all that shit but this has no scent at all. I’ve never seen anything like this, not even when it comes to witches.” He wipes his fingers off surreptitiously. “Our, uh, buddy in Old Detroit said they bleed black. This could be it, though it’s one hell of a coincidence.”

“I’ll let Bobby know,” Cas sighs, and pulls out his Glass.

One of the policemen in the doorway is getting pulled aside by two Feds and yeah, it might be the time to leave. Dean nudges Cas, who nods back, and then heads for the door.

“You haven’t pieced together what exactly happened here?” one of the suits is asking. Dean takes an innocuous sniff, then tries (and fails) to stifle a grin.

“You know, pal,” he says, and claps the talking one on the shoulder, “I think it’s safe to say that this isn’t any kind of, uh, underground crime ring of murderers or anything. Probably just a solo crazy. They shoulda sent the BAU over.”

The two “agents” both stare at him, eyes narrowed, and then it clicks for Suit #2 when Cas walks up behind Dean, suit jacket draped over one arm, rolling his sleeves back down.

“Waters, good to see you again,” Suit #2 says, nodding at Cas, in spite of the fact that they’ve never met, and that Cas would be hard to forget if they ever had met. “Officer, if you don’t mind–?”

They all manage to shuffle through the doorway to their respective destinations and once the hallway is significantly less packed, Dean gives one of the local deputies a charming smile.

“‘Well, officer, I’m gonna need all the info you guys managed to get about the, uh, attackers.”

 

< Whatever did it is moving up towards the Dakota border, cops caught video footage. Keep an eye out. We’re stopping for chow, should be home– Dean backspaces furiously. –should be back in ~2hrs we can do recon from your place. Make sure Sam’s still breathing. We’ll update you when we get there it’s pretty weird >

< MESSAGE DELIVERED >

< MESSAGE READ >

Cas is chewing thoughtfully on a french fry on the barstool next to him and he’s got half a beer ‘stache on his upper lip, so Dean wipes it off with his thumb and steals a fry as payment.

“Those two from the high school are back,” Cas says, and nods towards the door. Lo and behold, the two not-FBI-agents are dressed in Generic Hunter Ensemble 3a and sitting down at an out of the way table a couple feet away. One of them notices him and Cas staring, nudges the other, and Dean acknowledges both of them with a nod and a raise of his glass. He’s about to suggest to Cas they buddy up and swap info with these guys when–

“Dean, sweetie, how nice to see you,” comes a sickly-sweet voice, and the only thing stopping Dean from yelling get out is the fact that he’s in public.

“Bela,” he says, piling as much blatantly fake warmth into his voice as he can, and he lets her euro-kiss-cheek-bump him. God, he hates her.

“Who’s your dashing friend?” she asks, putting a hand on her hip. She’s dressed subtly today, none of her overtly-rolling-in-money filthy rich clothing, and she actually fits in with the bar crowd. It’s extremely unsettling.

“Cas, this is my dear old friend, Bela,” Dean says. “Bela, Castiel.”

“Charmed,” she purrs. “Well, I must say, it’s quite a surprise–”

“No it isn’t,” Dean interrupts. “Why’re you here? What are you stealing this time?”

“I can’t tell you that, now, can I?”

“I need some fresh air,” Cas says pointedly. “Maybe we should have this conversation outside.”

“Anything you want, darling,” Bela says with one of her razor-sharp smiles, and heads for the door. Dean scoffs loudly.

“You need to calm down,” Cas murmurs to him, a hand on his shoulder, and he’s amused.

“Don’t tell me what to do,” Dean grumbles back, then slaps down some cash and stands.

“Who is she?” Cas asks quietly as they wind through the bar.

“Wolf,” Dean mutters, “and one hell of a professional thief. She’d make a great hunter – Undergrounder, whatever – if she actually had a moral compass.”

Bela is standing near the Impala, arms crossed and half-shifted, lit up by the neon signs adorning the roadside bar. Her eyes are a cold, steady gold.

“What kind of mayhem are you wreaking now, huh?” Dean asks. “Judgement Day 2.0? Those fucking books are still in print, by the way.”

“What?” Cas looks completely lost.

“There was an apocalypse situation back in the 2000s,” Dean mutters. “I don’t wanna talk about it.”

“Oh? You don’t want to tell all about how some poor psychic latched on to yours and Sam’s lives and wrote–”

Bela,” he snarls, “don’t tempt me. I’d eat your heart without blinking. What are you doing here?

A slow grin spreads across her face.

“The same thing you are,” she replies. “Looking into the tragic murder of a group of teenagers.”

Because that’s totally a legit answer Dean snarls at her, low and loud, but she just snarls right back and bares her teeth. To be completely honest, he’s got no idea why he hasn’t killed her yet. She’s been fucking up hunts left and right for the past thirty years.

“You don’t think there are bigger things to worry about than stealing some trinkets?”

“Right now, I have immunity from those bigger things,” Bela says, that smug motherfucker, and tosses her hair over her shoulder. “I’ve got a contingency plan for when conditions change, of course. I don’t trust my current employer to not stab me in the back, the elitist pig.”

“Wait, what?”

“Look,” she says, and her face gets uncharacteristically serious and sincere. “The message about the Leviathans, that’s filtered out to every species, but the one who’s holding their leash is intent on staying incognito. All I know is that he’s human, and he’s rich enough to make enough shell corporations to give me a nice challenge when trying to figure out who’s paying me.“

“Your point?” Dean grunts.

“Right now,” Bela says, getting impatient, “the person who’s paying me is ultimately answering to an ‘Azazel,’ and I know that this ‘Azazel’ character isn’t at the top of the food chain. He has got something to do with the Leviathans, though.”

Cas stares at him, really fucking hard. Dean rolls his eyes and barely holds back a “thanks, Captain Obvious.”

“They’ve got no scent,” Dean finally, crossing his arms, because now he feels obligated to trade info.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Bela snorts.

“I’m serious,” he insists. “That thing at the high school, we’re pretty sure those were Leviathans.” He sighs. “You’re a valuable asset when you do the right thing, Bela, so do the right damn thing. Now move, so that we can leave.”

Bela’s careful mask is slipped, just a little bit, as she moves out of their way. Dean is once again painfully reminded that the main reason he hates her is that they’re too alike for their own good.

 

 

“Got a present for you,” Bobby says by way of greeting, and Dean is instantly wary.

“Why’s Jody here?” he asks slowly. “Did something happen?” Her car (not the squad car) is parked next to one of Bobby’s useable vans and he can smell her cooking something, plus an assortment of cleaning supplies, some industrial-strength bleach.

“Caught ourselves a fish.” Bobby raises his eyebrows and that’s when Dean knows he’s just fucking around. Probably. Maybe.

 

 

He’s not sure in what language “fish” translates to “Leviathan,” but there’s a gangly high-schooler in Bobby’s basement, practically fucking bolted to a chair. Bobby crosses his arms and scrutinizes his “catch.”

“Trapped it under a car for all of two minutes,” he grumbles. “Jody was smart enough to look for a spell to immobilize it, after half the lot got destroyed. It’s got a real mouth on it, but it ain’t talkin’.”

The Leviathan grins right then, way too wide and way too inhuman.

“Called in backup, did you, you sad old fuck?” Dean’s never heard a pubescent high school voice sound so fucking creepy. It’s also been, like, at least 60 years since last he wanted to punch a high-schooler.

Cas takes a step forward and rests his palms on the arms of the chair, leans right into the Leviathan’s space, and stares. It’s one of the most unnerving things Dean’s ever seen him do.

“You have no fear,” Cas murmurs, and Dean and Bobby glance at each other. “We should change that.”

“They’re shapeshifters,” Bobby supplies. “Get a sample of human DNA, morph into whoever they want. Goddamn president could be a Levi, for all we know. Nothin’ I’ve tried has worked at all. Cuttin’ off his head keeps him quiet, but it ain’t permanent.”

“Doesn’t even tickle,” says a voice helpfully. Dean turns back to the chair. There’s a grown man sitting there now, buzzed hair, neither stocky nor lanky, earrings curled into his lobes. “This fella? He was delicious. The high schoolers were… kinda tender, not too chewy, not a lot of flavor. This dude was like the best smoked steak you could possibly imagine.” He makes a kissing noise. “Perfetto. Can’t say I’ve ever had a djinn before. You probably taste amazing.”

“Enough,” Dean snarls, really snarls, and the Leviathan laughs.

“Ooh,” he purrs, “territorial little puppy. Your widdle teefies ain’t gonna do shit, Rover, so put ‘em away.”

“Never runs out of one-liners, either,” grunts Bobby. Dean crosses his arms. “Tried almost everything in the book. Every book. Even the Biblical crap doesn’t do a thing.”

Cas finally steps back from the chair and moves close enough to Dean to where their jackets are barely brushing. Dean resists the urge to reach out and touch him.

“So,” Dean starts, “they bleed black, resist literally every kind of weapon we’ve got, have no scent, and change shape at will. Awesome.”

“Bleed like a fire hydrant, too,” Bobby snorts. “Jody’s been trying to get that black crap out of the floor upstairs for two hours now.”

“And Sam?” asks Cas.

“University library, theology department.”

Cas opens his mouth to add something when suddenly the Leviathan squirms. And squirms again. And then yells, panicked, “Get it off! What is that, what’s–?” And another, louder yell.

Something’s dripping down onto them through the floorboards. Bobby looks at Dean and Cas, and then hauls ass upstairs. Dean watches him go, adrenaline already ratcheting up, and then turns to Cas to find him bent over the Leviathan again, face flushed, lips parted, eyes half-lidded.

“You’re terrified,” Cas breathes. The Leviathan is in a full-blown panic now, trying as hard as possible to get out. “Eating you would kill me, but you have no idea how tempting all of that fear is. A supposedly indestructible being, scared. Incredible.”

“Cas,” Dean starts slowly, but then Bobby comes hurtling back down the stairs, sloshing a bucket of something wet everywhere. It smells like– well, it smells like soap.

“Sodium borate,” Bobby says triumphantly. “It’ll liquefy you, if what it’s done to your blood is any indication.”

Cas marches over to Bobby, sticks his hand in the bucket, then wraps that same hand around the Leviathan’s throat. It screams.

“You’re going to tell me about Azazel,” Cas says, voice low, “and you’re going to tell me about the human who let you out, and you’re going to do it now.”

Dean tries to not stare with his mouth open. The Leviathan is making incredibly human noises of pain and panic and Cas is– jesus christ.

“I am going to douse every inch of you in this chemical,” Cas continues, voice dropping even lower, “and you are going to tell me exactly how to get to your boss. My friends and I are going to give your boss this same exact treatment–” Cas’s voice is the whisper of a breath now. “–and your leader, your human leader, will become the first human whose blood I will have feasted on in centuries.”

Dean shivers.

 

 


 

 

Azazel: inside job on procuring all the esoteric crap for opening Purgatory. Deceased. Very recently. Cause of death, Sam Winchester.

Dick Roman: the big-name CEO that’s actually been a Leviathan for 2 years now. Very much still alive. Location unknown.

Standing in front of them: the problem.

He should’ve known it was too good to be true. He should’ve fucking known that this looked too easy.

The three of them – he, Sam, and Cas – are staring down a smirking, well-dressed man, protected by a barrier of fucking god knows what, fucking witchcraft, he doesn’t fucking know, but what he does know is that Sam is drenched in a hellhound’s blood (he’d had no idea those actually existed) and that Ellen and Jo–

Ellen
                                       and
                                                     Jo–– -

It’s looping infinitely in his head, the sound of hellhounds snarling, the collapsed building, Jo’s stomach ripped open, Ellen’s voice hard as steel as she orders them to set the charges, give her the detonator, she’ll stay with Jo–

He clenches his fist hard enough to draw blood. Steels himself.

––and that Ellen and Jo gave their lives – they’ll be fucking heroes – in order to get them here.

Trapped.

Three feet away from the person responsible for everything.

“Fergus MacLeod,” purrs the suited megalomaniac, brushing an invisible speck off of his immaculate pants. “Call me Crowley. I run America.”

“MacLeod as in MacLeod Corp?” Sam asks, voice low. “You own the New York Stock Exchange.”

“Smarter than you look, moose.” Crowley’s smirk widens. “Well, you’ve caught me. Guilty as charged.”

Dean growls, deep in his throat.

“See, that?” Crowley points at him. “That’s what I’m trying to fix. All this–”” He waves an imperial hand. “–monster business. That’s what I’ve got the Leviathans for, see. Handy beasts.”

“You’re trying to purify the world?” Cas asks, using the tone of voice he reserves for when Dean says something spectacularly stupid. “You do know that’s generally classified as genocide, right?”

“And yet you’re the ones who feed on humans,” Crowley replies quietly, the corner of his mouth curled upwards, eyes narrowed shrewdly. “You haunt people, you go bump in the night, you kill off innumerable human beings. Why do you think there are still hunters out there, huh? Because you still kill people.”

“So you’re pissed humans aren’t at the top of the food chain?” Dean tries. “Wow.”

“I’m trying to save the human race,” he fires back. “Following in my father’s footsteps. Brilliant bastard, really. He figured out how to open the gate to Purgatory.” Crowley is smug, proud, and he knows he’s safe from them all by some fucking magic, so he’s gloating. Dean lets him. The more info they get, the better. The more info, the more––

––it won’t have been a waste.

“See, he only let out a few Leviathan per lunar eclipse,” Crowley continues. “I decided–” He spreads his manicured hands, cocks his head. “–what the hell. I’ll let them all out, get this place cleaned up nice and quick. I didn’t come across the Atlantic just to take over the stock market, you know.”

“How did you know about Leviathan?” Cas asks, eyes narrowed.

“It’s amazing, what oral culture preserves.” Crowley’s smug smirk is back. “The whole process has been passed down for centuries in my clan, Scottish tradition, blah blah. Dear old dad was the only one insane enough to do something with it, bless his ornery soul.”

You’re Scottish? With an accent like that?” Dean interrupts, skeptical.

“I’m from Inverness, you uncultured swine,” Crowley shouts. Jesus christ, this dude only has two volumes. Deadly velvet and yelling for the whole street to hear. Crowley clears his throat and straightens his suit. “Well, now that I’ve told you more than enough, it’s high time I kill you. It’s been a pleasure, boys.”

Dean’s madly calculating the distances to all the blocked-up windows and doorways and he can tell Sam and Cas are doing the same and shit, shit, the closest door is the one that reeks the most of magic; Crowley opens his mouth to say something but suddenly there’s loud, familiar yelling from behind the door, accompanied by the sound of flesh being hewn apart. Crowley looks alarmed. Good.

Someone is whistling Grieg’s In The Hall Of The Mountain King. Dean grins. There’s one thud against the door, another, and then the locks – magical and physical – shatter.

Benny strides in, still whistling, that makeshift machete of his leaned up against his shoulder. Three other hunters file in behind him.

“Hey, brother,” he drawls, completely nonchalant. “Looks like you could use a hand.”

Dean grins even wider and then he shifts, really shifts, letting it ripple through his whole body, resetting his hips and his spine and his skull, and roars. With Benny here, they totally got this.

Except for the part where Crowley fucking conjures four Leviathans somehow, shouts something unintelligible in god knows what language, and disappears.

Dammit!” Sam yells, voice booming through the room, then takes a deep, calming breath. Dean can practically hear the gears whirring in his head, calculating their odds. The three of them sans weapons, Benny, and three hunters versus four Leviathans. Yeah, not exactly fair.

Sam cracks his neck and slides out his second set of teeth.

 

 

The rest of the night is a total blur. Dean makes it halfway to The Roadhouse before jerking the Impala off of the highway (earning some honks) getting out, slamming the door, and jerking his thumb at Sam to drive instead.

He can’t even make it inside The Roadhouse once they pull into the gravel parking lot. He gets within two feet of the doorway and smells Ellen and Jo and he doesn’t even have the energy to turn around, just stares at the unlit neon sign, slumped over. Cas lightly touches his back and slips quietly inside, then comes back out with with two duffels that look like they contain some clothes and toiletries. Sam puts a hand on the doorway, takes a deep breath, and tells Dean and Cas that he’ll catch up with them later. Dean swallows and pulls Sam in for a rough hug because he knows that’s how Sam deals with grief, that’s how he’s always dealt with grief, and Sam clings to him for a few seconds before nodding tightly and walking in.

Dean stares at the driver’s side door for a full two minutes, hand halfway in his pocket, before slowly fishing out his keys and handing them to a dumbstruck Cas. Not even the Impala can do anything for him.

Cas drives way too fast back down to the bunker. Dean drinks himself stupid, and consequently maybe cries himself to sleep a bit. Cas, god fucking bless him, says nothing and wipes both their faces off.

 

 


 

 

“Dean.” Benny’s voice is low, uncharacteristically gentle. “Come help me out with somethin’.”

He takes another drink and closes his eyes.

“Car’s makin’ noise again,” Benny continues, leaning against the doorway. “No one calms her down like you do, brother. You need somethin’ to do with your hands, so come on.”

Well–

Well, he’s right.

 

 

Twenty minutes later, Charlie wanders out of the street entrance and finds him elbow-deep in car parts.

“Aren’t you guys getting hungry?” she asks, popping a mouthful of peanuts in her mouth. “Or thirsty, whatever.”

“Whoa,” Dean says, pulling himself out from under the hood, “you are not making dinner.”

“What?” Charlie asks innocently. “I can cook totally fine.”

“Yeah, if you can call charcoal ‘just fine.’”

“Well, you’re filthy,” she argues. “No way you’re going into the kitchen like that. I can make you food while you shower or something.”

Wait,” comes a shout, up the staircase. “I can make my own meal, Charlie, it’s fine.” Cas’s voice manages to be both panicked and resigned. Dean smiles for the first time in what feels like years.

“Go pick a movie,” Dean tells Charlie. “I’m, like, five minutes from done.”

“Marathon night,” Charlie crows triumphantly, and punches the air.

“Benny, you feelin’ steak? I gotta get rid of that beef in the freezer.”

“Sure thing,” Benny drawls back, smiling.

 

 

Dean realizes halfway through making dinner that a) Charlie, Cas, and Benny had been trying to distract him from drinking and b) that it worked. He pauses with a steak halfway flipped and thinks about it, then carefully files it away for later consideration. Dinner’s gonna burn.

 

 

Charlie delivers a rapid-fire speech about queer representation and feminism after the second movie (to which both Benny and Cas pay close attention; Dean’s heard her spiel a thousand times) and after the third one, the four of them are all drowsy, sitting in a quiet, companionable silence as the credits slowly roll.

“Thanks,” Dean says quietly, and surprises everyone. Including himself. Cas moves a hand to his thigh.

“I think I’m gonna turn in,” Benny declares, yawning, and gets up. “Thanks for fixin’ the car, brother.”

He puts one of his big huge paws on Dean’s shoulder and squeezes, then heads to the bedrooms corner of the bunker. Dean swallows and looks down at Cas’s hand, then up at Cas’s face, and he only realizes that it’s been a significant chunk of time when Charlie clears her throat.

“So!” she starts, “next –?” But Dean’s head is already on Cas’s shoulder and he’s so tired, so goddamn tired, and Cas’s hand-waving must’ve cut her off. “Right. Okay. Goodnight? Yeah, goodnight.” He can hear her soft footsteps moving away but everything is kinda fuzzy and Cas is gently prodding him towards a bedroom and a bed and he’s in just a t-shirt and boxers now and he’s being pulled down, down, down into soft pillows and blankets and everything smells like Cas.

 

 

He wakes up – well, he’s not entirely sure what time it is or anything, since Cas must’ve taken off his watch, but he feels more rested than he has in a long time. He’s probably not okay or anything (definitely not okay or anything) but he thinks he slept for, like, two days straight and it feels like he can get some shit done.

He’s feeling breakfast (even though the oven clock says it’s past 3pm) so he heats up a pan and starts on some scrambled eggs and doesn’t react to the way Sam carefully slides into the kitchen, sits at the counter, and folds his hands patiently.

It takes Sam approximately five minutes to start talking.

“So,” he starts slowly, “Leviathan.”

“Leviathan,” Dean repeats evenly. “We gotta do something. I mean, the news is out, I’m sure, but we gotta make sure these things are dropping like flies and that no one’s getting killed in the process.”

“Dean, I think the only way to do it is the old-fashioned way,” Sam says carefully. “Just... full-on warfare.”

“Right.” He snorts. “Should I start training the minutemen, or are we holding off on that until the muskets come in?” Sam glares. “C’mon. How the hell would we even get everyone rounded up in one place for a Battle of Five Armies? Doing this hunter-style obviously isn’t going to work and I dunno about you, but the idea of guerrilla warfare while trying to keep this whole monster business under wraps is not appealing.”

“I think between witches and the demons’ spells we can probably shove them all in–” Sam shrugs. “–I dunno, Siberia, Canada, the Gobi Desert, hell if I know.”

Dean runs a hand through his hair.

“Who do we even call?” he asks. “I’m not a fucking general, I can’t– this isn’t some sort of draft we’re starting. No pack is going to take me seriously.”

“Hey, remember those kids in Michigan? With that girl, what was her name? Kate?” Sam taps his Glass thoughtfully with a stylus. “We could probably track her down. Or that one pack in California. Uh, North California.”

“What, the one with the whole accidental druid hell-gate thing a couple decades ago?” he snorts, then bolts upright. “Sam. Clan Campbell.”

“Are you sure?” Sam looks uneasy. “I mean, they don’t exactly–”

“Yeah, but they owe us,” Dean fires back. “They totally owe us for the demon thing. And besides, this is everyone’s problem, not just ours. And they’re family.”

“So, okay, let me get this straight–” Sam raises an eyebrow. “–you want to take an SST flight to Scotland?”

“Charlie,” Dean answers, triumphant.

Sam rolls his eyes and concedes momentary defeat. Hell yeah. Flying with Charlie is mildly terrifying (read: actually really fuckin’ terrifying because you’re going at, like, Mach 10,000 being carried by a fucking dragon) but it’s over in a matter of seconds, versus an SST flight’s 3-hour time frame or, god forbid, a subsonic 11-hour flight. Christ. He’s too busy thinking about flying to see the cogs whirring on his brother’s face.

“Hey Dean?”

“Hmm?”

“I, uh–” Sam clears his throat. Awesome. That’s, like, a 90% positive indicator that Dean isn’t gonna like what comes next. “When you’re off with the Campbells, I think I’m gonna go back to Old Detroit.”

“You’re gonna what?” Yeah, no, he must’ve not heard that right.

“Old Detroit,” Sam repeats, more firmly this time. “I think we could use Lucifer.”

Dean rubs his temples.

“You wanna listen to yourself, there?” he mutters. “You want to go ask the Devil for help?”

“He’s powerful as hell, Dean,” Sam says seriously, then looks flustered when he realizes that was an unbelievably terrible pun. Punbelievable. “C’mon. Seriously, though. We could use his help and besides, he’s old. He’s been around ages. He might know more than he was telling us, you know? I think it’s worth a shot.”

“Yeah?” Dean knows he’s pulling a spectacular bitchface right now, and he’s not even trying. “Is it still gonna be ‘worth a shot’ when your buddy Satan decides to jump-start Judgment Day?”

“I don’t think it works like that,” Sam says thoughtfully, like he’s just happened upon the idea.

“Do what you want,” Dean grunts. “Just make sure you’ve got backup for when things go to shit.”

Sam smiles like he knows he’s won.

Whatever.

 

 


 

 

Sam stares at the house. It’s a different one, this time, closer to the water, and the wind shearing through his jacket feels icy even though he’s got no real body temperature to speak of.

There are thick sheets obscuring all of the windows and no overt signs of life; a thin line of smoke is getting mercilessly blown away from the chimney before it can properly curl, but Sam just knows that this is the house. There’s something in the air, a thickness, almost tangible, and Sam can feel deep in his gut that this is where he needs to be. As if on cue, a blast of cold wind pushes the front door ajar.

Well. No time like the present.

The stairs are empty, falling apart, and Sam is strangely confident that he knows where he’s going. He pushes open another door.

“Lucifer,” Sam says. The word feels so strangely right in his mouth, like he’s been waiting to say it his whole life.

“Sam,” the djinni replies, and smiles in a way that really shouldn’t, by any logic, be as intimately familiar to him as it seems. “You remember me. I’m touched.” Sam realizes that the reason his silhouette looked so strange is that Lucifer is, again, sitting on the chair’s back with his feet on the seat, elbows on his thighs. The fire is the only source of light in the decrepit living room, churning out heat, and it’s dead silent aside from the crackling and Lucifer’s slow, steady heartbeat.

He pulls round another chair and they sit in (surprisingly) companionable silence for ten minutes, fifteen, watching the snow pile up silently on the windowsill.

Sam thinks it would be churlish of him to ask if he’s really the Devil so instead he says, “Why do I–?” And then he stops, half-laughs self-consciously, looks down at his hands. “I dunno. I feel like... I’ve got a lot of questions,” he says slowly, “and I feel like you might have answers. Somehow.”

Something pings his sixth (seventh?) sense and unfurls, slowly, as Lucifer’s way-too-blue eyes soften.

“Sam,” Lucifer says, and Sam thinks that no one has ever made his name sound like that. “There are no words, no poetry, no Bible verse or sura of Qu’ran that could possibly describe all that you are.”

He blinks for a few seconds, struck mute, and frantically searches for something not completely idiotic to say.

“That apocrypha,” he blurts out. Goddammit. “The– that thing from the 2000s, that stupid Winchester Gospel, there’s Biblical scholars who think it could actually... be something. And it fits, you know? You know me, even though I know we’d never met. And you were– I was–”

“In a different life,” Lucifer says quietly. “In a different universe, maybe, with angels and demons and a real Apocalypse, maybe.” He cups his palms together; a bright blue spark dances from one thumb to the other, and a small, ice-blue galaxy shines in his hands. “I hold millions of those possibilities, right here. I win, you win, neither of us win. There’s nothing to win. There’s everything to win.”

They’re nearly nose-to-nose now, and Sam’s got no idea how they got there. He’s knocking knees with the Devil, sitting across from him, holding his breath, staring intently. Probably rudely. Lucifer is taller when he sits like that.

“There’s a thread,” Lucifer murmurs, and another spark dances through the cloud. “Joining everything. Whatever you do, you will always end up here.” Sam’s breath is caught in his chest. His trains of thought are massive railway collisions, backing up, clogging everything, crashing to a halt. Against his will, Sam’s eyes are filling up with tears. “Whatever choices you make, whatever details you alter, we will always end up—”

Lucifer’s voice is low and smooth and sad, so sad, so old and so tired, impossibly infinitely sad.

“–here.”

 

 

Sam’s not entirely sure what happens how, but there’s a crushing silence and all he knows is that he doesn’t want to leave Lucifer and Lucifer doesn’t want Sam to leave him and Sam blinks awake, groggy only for a couple of seconds, and realizes just how much time has passed when he realizes that Lucifer is standing directly in the middle of a thick, dusty beam of low sunlight.

He stands and yawns, slides out his second set of teeth, shakes his head, runs a hand through his hair. Shit. He actually dozed off in that chair. Lucifer watches him quietly.

Sam thinks it would be churlish of him to say that he should go so instead he asks, “Will you come? With m– With us?”

“To fight Leviathan?”

Sam nods slowly. Lucifer sighs.

“Why would you think that I would fight for you?” A cold, dead weight settles in Sam’s stomach. “All those lost Apocalypses? Sam, this one could be mine.”

“They’ll eat you,” he says, and it comes out strangled and quiet. “They won’t just stop at what Crowley wants, you know that. You’ll just be another speck in their teeth when the djinn get wiped out.”

“Sam,” Lucifer sighs again, and again Sam feels that unfamiliar rush at the sound of his name. “I am so old. You have no way to comprehend just how old I am. I’m tired. I’d shuffle off this immortal coil in a heartbeat. ‘Tis a consumption devoutly to be wished, if you want to get bad with the puns.” The ghost of a smile flickers across his face. It’s gone almost as fast as it came. “I just want it to be over.”

“Then fight,” Sam says – no, pleads – quietly. “Help us end this. You–” He chuckles mirthlessly, breathlessly. “You deserve a better Apocalypse than this mess.”

“Go home, Sam,” murmurs Lucifer, and puts a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Fight for your cause. Survive.” Lucifer touches a thumb between Sam’s brows, murmurs something in another language too quiet for him to catch. His skin tingles. Lucifer’s lips are ice-cold when they brush against the same spot. “Survive.”

 

 

By the time Sam gets back to the bunker, Dean’s already drunk two of the Campbell cousins under the table. There are three empty bottles of whiskey on the table, Charlie is apparently procuring more alcohol, Dean is in a fucking kilt, cackling to himself over terrible puns (djinn and tonic, djinn rummy, djinn mill, djinn-ger); the other three Campbells are roaring some kind of folk song in Scots too thick to understand, and Cas looks like he’s both hammered and regretting every single one of his life choices. Another day in the fuckin’ life.

 

 


 

 

The bunker starts becoming an actual bunker. Undergrounders flock to their home base because it’s undetectable and unbreachable. Supposedly. They’ve added layers and layers of protection since the whole Leviathan thing started, and Dean sure as hell isn’t going to play any games with hubris.

Thankfully, no one seems bent on going into the town proper. With a population just barely above 200 people, Lebanon, Kansas probably wouldn’t take too well to about 20 new (and very much atypical, for this town) citizens that all mysteriously appeared in a two-month window.

The amount of people is driving Dean up the wall.

Undergrounders are scared enough to take him seriously about this Ultimate Battle crap – which is kind of a mixed blessing – so that means Undergrounders are also scared enough to accept Charlie’s “if you need a place to stay” invitations. Seeing old friends is great, sure, but he seriously needs to talk to Charlie about diverting some traffic to other places.

He never really had this problem in the Roadhouse because patrons were patrons and guests were guests – everything was separated and plus, he lived the furthest away from everyone else. The constant noise and press of people in the bunker is making his temper shorter and shorter and by the time Bobby arrives, he’s barely talking to Sam and conversations with Cas have consisted mostly of yelling for about two and a half days.

 

 

“We could always just make it a cage match to the death, you know,” Dean says sarcastically. “Leviathan vs. assorted monsters, place your bets.”

Cas looks a little absurd standing there like an indignant bird, glaring, in one of his oversized flannels and a faded, bleach-stained t-shirt that used to be black, with the logo of some band that was semi-popular in the 2030s flaking away on his chest. Dean ignores him and instead glares steadily at Sam.

“It would truly be an exercise in–”

“Shut it, the both of you,” Bobby snaps, and Dean turns to glare at him instead. “You two do realize that America’s not the only place in the world where bad shit happens, right?”

Silence.

“We need everyone’s help in this,” Bobby continues, “and that means thinkin’ ‘bout the whole goddamn world. This is everyone’s problem, not just yours, just ‘cause you were unlucky enough to figure it out. There’s a lot of people here, but we gotta get everyone possible on board.”

“I’m sure the, uh, glowworm here can help us out with that,” Dean says snidely, and he can feel Cas stiffen. Sam shoots him a warning look.

“How old are you, Dean?” Bobby growls, and Dean knows instantly that he’s truly crossed the line into pissing Bobby off. “I don’t care what kind of spat you two are havin’ here but you both need to suck it up. We’ve got a hell of a problem crawlin’ across the planet. Now, I’ve got contacts in Tibet and Siberia–”

“Siberia,” Sam says flatly, eyebrows up, and glances at Dean, who glances at Cas.

“I can try contacting Gabriel,” Cas says evenly. “Charlie suggested that, ah, the really bad ones always need a special sword.” Dean almost laughs at him quoting her. “Gabriel… might help.”

Dean makes mocking faces at Sam, and gets Bitchface #9 (Grow The Fuck Up, Dean) in return. Cas pulls out his Glass after Bobby grunts in affirmation.

“And you know, Dean, if you needed some time to yourself you could just say so, like an adult,” Cas says snidely over his Glass.

Dean just whuffs at him and pushes past Bobby towards the kitchen. He might as well clean the goddamn grill if he’s feeling this pissy.

 

 

Dean slowly walks into his room. The lights are off; Cas is sitting cross-legged on the bed, in boxers and an oversized tee, the muted glow of his Glass painting his face. Dean clears his throat.

“I, uh... I’m sorry,” he says quietly. “For snapping at you.” He runs a hand through his hair. “All this, you know–– it’s just– hard to process. Sometimes.” He sits down at his desk chair and it squeaks anticlimactically. “All the time.” He huffs. “Plus there’s so many fucking people here, doing this, doing that, offering condolences to everyone. I used to think, you know, so it goes, I’ll deal with it, but lately it’s just– just so much, Leviathan, and– and all their crap.” He looks down at his hands. “I’ve been acting like a child. Sorry.”

“You’re not a machine, Dean,” Cas murmurs. “You’re human.”

“No I’m not.” A laugh forces itself up, mirthless and dry. Cas gets up.

“Dean,” he says again, and tilts his chin up with gentle fingers, “you are the most beautifully, heartbreakingly human person I have ever met. I’m not saying that I appreciate your, uh, lashing out–” He makes a face and Dean half-smiles in spite of himself. “–but I understand your grief and your frustration, and I validate it, and I’m not angry with you for being yourself.” Cas’s palm comes around to his cheek and Dean leans into it, exhales slowly, closes his eyes.

“Thanks,” he finally says lamely, and his voice breaks. “I think I’m gonna–” He clears his throat. “Gonna head to sleep. I’m fuckin’ beat."

“Okay.” Cas smiles and kisses his forehead.

Dean zombies his way through washing his face and taking a piss and brushing his teeth and by the time he shuffles back into his room and sloughs off his jeans, Cas is under the covers, eyes half-closed and drowsy. Dean crawls under the comforter and takes Cas’s face between his hands, kisses his forehead, then his nose, then his mouth, then leans their foreheads together.

“Thanks,” he whispers again.

“Go to sleep,” Cas grunts, but the smile tugging at his mouth belies any actual grumpiness. Then a hum, and: “No. Kiss me again, first.”

So he does.

 

 


 

 

“I’m positively quaking in my boots,” Crowley says blithely, and walks around to the front of his desk. “By the way, if you do try anything, you’ll have Leviathans on you faster than you can comprehend.” He pauses. “Well, faster than you think you can comprehend. You’re not too bright a bunch, are you?”

See, this is Dean’s life. A simple “let’s do some recon” outing turns into an impromptu and ill-thought-out sneak attack on what’s probably headquarters of Richard Roman Enterprises, and now he, Sam, and Cas are tied to chairs in Crowley’s office.

“I’m surprised you weren’t killed earlier,” Crowley continues, “but at least now I can personally get you out of my hair.” He pulls a handgun out from under his too-expensive suit. Sam scoffs.

“You don’t really think a gun will kill any of us, do you?” Sam asks, and Dean resists the urge to kick him. Not like he could, anyways. His ankles are literally chained.

“Nope,” says Crowley, then moves forward and in one smooth motion, presses the barrel to Sam’s chest and fires.

Dean snarls. Sam coughs and grins at Crowley.

“You know, if you’re going for torture, there’s better ways to do it,” Dean adds, once he’s recovered and back to trying to think up an exit plan. Crowley’s feathers remain staunchly unruffled.

“I suppose you’re right,” Crowley says, and puts the gun against Sam’s throat. Dean’s blood runs cold. “What’d you think, then? If I shoot him in the neck, does that count as decapitation?”

Dean has never hated having enhanced senses more. He can see every nanometer of progress that Crowley’s index finger is making towards the trigger and he is absolutely not bluffing, eyes watching Sam’s face with put-upon boredom, and all Dean can think is not like this, it wasn’t supposed to happen like this.

It’s over in less than a second.

There’s a nearly-blinding explosion of blue and Cas launches himself out of his chair at Crowley, bowling him over – the gun discharges in midair – and Cas has his knife (how’d Crowley’s minions miss that when they got frisked?) pressed against Crowley’s throat. Dean gapes.

“You might regret that,” Crowley croaks, panic evident in his face, and Cas’s expression looks murderously euphoric, eyes dark and hungry, blue flickering over him like a second skin.

“I really don’t think I will,” Cas breathes, and slits Crowley’s throat.

A wave of blue blows out from Cas and through the room, underlined by the sharp smell of something old, something broken.

“Cas?” Sam calls. “Cas, I’m… thanks.”

“Damn, dude,” Dean mumbles. Cas gives him a long look before moving towards Sam, hands outstretched carefully, still glowing.

“Are you hurt?” he asks, and when Sam shakes his head, Cas goes to work on the chains. Apparently, they’d been werewolf- and vampire-proof, but not djinn-proof. Not that Dean’s complaining. He shakes himself out once he’s out of the chains and takes another look at Cas.

“Cas, are you okay?”

Cas’s wrists are rubbed raw and one of them is bleeding – or, at least, Dean thinks so, because it’s hard to tell what’s blood and what’s magic. He’s also got Crowley’s bright red blood sprayed across his neck and painting his hands, giving them a creepy purple tinge through the blue.

“I’m fine,” Cas says, but his voice is far away. He and Sam are staring at Crowley’s body like they’ve both been recently stranded in the desert and then introduced to an all-you-can-eat buffet.

“We gotta get out of this place,” Dean says pointedly, and Sam jumps slightly before tearing his eyes off of the blood-soaked carpet.

“Yeah,” he says, then licks his lips. “Uh, yeah. Out. Cas?”

Cas is kneeling down next to Crowley’s body, using his finger to draw something in blood across Crowley’s forehead and cheeks.

“...Cas?”

“I’m cursing him,” Cas says simply.

“Right,” Dean says. Curse. Naturally.

“He won’t return as a ghost,” Cas continues, still drawing, “and if there were still ghouls, they wouldn’t be able to do anything to him. His body can’t be possessed or used, and he can’t return as a demon.” He starts collecting blood in a cupped palm. “He is, however, going to Hell.”

“Well, that’s a relief,” Sam mutters.

Cas murmurs something in a language Dean doesn’t understand and the blue around him intensifies again; he brings his cupped palm of blood to his mouth every few words and with each drink the blue flares brighter and brighter until Cas says something with righteous finality, and the glow disappears like it’d never been there.

Dean doesn’t really know what to say so, for once, he doesn’t say anything.

“Impressive,” says a voice from the doorway, and all three of them whip around.

It’s the scent that gives him away. Lack thereof.

Dean shifts and snarls. They are absolutely unprepared to deal with a Leviathan.

“Hold your horses, partner,” says the Leviathan, a made-for-TV grin spreading across his face, “I just want to have a quick conference with you and your associates. Specifically, you.” He points to Cas.

Cas straightens up, chin lifted, Crowley’s blood dripping down to his neck.

“Dick,” the Leviathan says, holding out his hand, and it takes Dean a few seconds to realize he’s introducing himself. He makes a mental note to, if they get out of this alive, make as many jokes about this as he can. The possibilities are endless. When it becomes apparent that Cas isn’t dumb enough to shake his hand, Dick lets it fall. “Dick Roman. I gotta say, you’ve definitely aroused my curiosity. You’re a real team player.”

“What are you talking about?” Cas asks flatly, eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“You let us out.” Dick is still smiling that plastic smile. “You killed Crowley! Got that leash off our necks.”

What?” Dean knows that look on Cas’s face. He’s trying (and mostly failing) to hide pure horror.

“Tell you what,” says Dick, plowing on like he’s in a meeting, “I’ll give you your bonus up-front. I’ll let you keep running around for now.” He steps closer. Dean steps towards Cas. “No sense killing you just yet. It’d be a waste of a good meal. Don’t worry, though. We’ll get around to your species eventually. You’ve given us the time and ability to rethink our marketing strategies.”

Sam glances at Cas, then back at Dick, then at Dean. Dean can’t bring himself to do anything other than stare as Dick Roman primly adjusts his bowtie, steps backwards towards the door, and then looks at Cas again with that same smile.

“You’ve got some red, there.”

 

 

Dean’s not entirely sure how they got back to the Impala but his hands are still shaking 20 miles out, and Cas hasn’t said a single word. The drive back to Lebanon is dead silent.

“Cas, there was no way you could’ve known,” Sam blurts, the second they get back in the bunker. Cas just shoots him a glare.

“It was still my fault,” he says, voice pitched low and dangerous.

“Cas,” Dean starts, and also gets a glare. “Goddammit, man, you’re–” He pauses, sighs explosively. “There was nothing you could’ve done. Cas, look at me.” Cas grudgingly obeys. “Sam’n I’ve fucked up a lot. Like, a lot. There was this one time in 2009 where–”

“Dean, can we not? Really?” Now he’s got Sam and Cas glaring at him. At least Dean knows he sucks at being emotionally supportive.

“Cas, the point is, you can fix this. We can fix this. This doesn’t change anything.”

“This changes everything,” Cas snarls.

“No it doesn’t,” Dean snaps back. “We still need to kill Leviathan. We’ve still got all that crap laid into place. We’ve still got a bunch of people willing to help. You just took the number-one homicidal maniac out of the game. Whatever the Leviathans are up to now, it’s not what Crowley wanted, and that’s sure as hell in our favor.”

Cas crosses his arms.

“We gotta let people know,” Sam says, already pulling out his Glass. “I mean, the witches should be done with the spellwork soon, right? Crowley being dead won’t change any of that stuff. We’re still prepared. Almost.”

 

 


 

 

 

Cas’s Glass is making a racket.

Dean blearily opens his eyes just in time for the display to blind him; Cas taps answer.

“Gabriel,” he rasps, and squints.

“Hey, bro,” Gabriel answers cheerfully, voice tinny and half-muffled by Cas’s hand propping up the Glass. “And hey to you too, Dean.” He winks suggestively.

“I assume you got my message,” Cas says, and Dean can tell he’s slowly waking up. Dean’s completely happy staying on the half-asleep track.

“Yep.”

The silence stretches deep into awkward territory.

“And?” Dean prompts from behind Cas’s shoulder.

“And I thought about it,” Gabriel answers unhelpfully, shrugging. Cas groans and sits up.

“Dean, I’m going to take this outside,” he mutters, then shoots a glare towards the Glass and stands up. “I’ll be back soon. Hopefully.”

Dean makes it less than ten minutes before falling asleep again.

 

 

Cas is at the kitchen table when Dean wakes up enough to try and find some coffee.

“You look beat,” he grunts, and starts trying to find a clean mug.

“I finished talking with Gabriel ten minutes ago,” Cas replies, muffled, and Dean turns around to find him with his head in his hands. “It’s like trying to get a dog to sing.”

Dean gets the percolator going, ignoring Cas’s questionable metaphor, then pulls Cas’s chair out. Cas squints up at him.

“Go get some sleep,” Dean says, and he really wishes he could pull out a Mom Voice the way Charlie sometimes manages to. Cas opens his mouth to protest. “Nope. Seriously, you look like you’re about to pass out. Sleep for a bit, then we’ll talk.”

“Nothing to talk about,” Cas says, and stands up heavily. “Gabriel refuses to give me an answer that isn’t hopelessly ambiguous. Our time would be better spent elsewhere.”

A weight settles deep in Dean’s stomach, next to all of the other horrible weights. This is starting to look like absolute shit.

“Okay,” he murmurs, and puts a hand on Cas’s back. “Get some sleep anyways.”

 

 

“Okay, okay–” Charlie takes a swig of her coffee. “Got one. Rampant, senile, murderous robots versus, like, calm and collected kill-all-humans murderous robots.”

Dean groans loudly.

“You can’t expect me to choose,” he complains, then whuffs when Charlie gives him a look. “Dude, both are equally bad. Equally badass.”

“Ugh, whatever,” Charlie says, waving her hand. “Your turn.”

“Terminators versus Aliens aliens. Who’d win?”

Charlie narrows her eyes and opens her mouth to answer but–

“Dean Winchester?”

Dean turns around and unattractively slops some coffee all over his wrist. There’s a witch in front of him, someone he vaguely recognizes; he’s pretty sure she’s from one of the Scandinavian covens. He can’t remember her name to save his life but the Kenyan witch he’d been drinking with a couple nights back is there and Dean can remember his name, at least, so he doesn’t feel too bad. He surreptitiously wipes off his hand and stands up.

“Uh, yeah?” He looks at her – Sanna? Saara? – and then at Reth, who’s got his hands in the pockets of his blazer but whose face belies any relaxation.

“The spell’s been put in place,” she says. Dean’s blood runs cold.

“We have until the sunset after next to use it,” Reth adds. “Otherwise we’ll have to start the month-long process over. Saara’s coven lost a witch to exhaustion–” Reth puts a hand on her shoulder. “–and so did Ryan’s.”

“So this is it,” says Charlie faintly. “Oh, god. Oh my god.”

“The witches are ready,” says Saara. “We’re moving tonight. Coordinates are 40.860045, 76.745574. A number of covens are staying behind to help with, ah, transport.”

Dean pulls out his Glass and writes the sprawl of numbers down, then runs a hand down his face.

“Thanks,” he says quietly. “Seriously, thank you. Without your help, I don’t think we’d have a chance in hell.”

“We know,” says Reth, and the shadow of a grin plays around his mouth. “Best of luck, and Godspeed.”

“You too,” Dean mumbles, voice breaking. Saara nods at him, smiles slightly, and then she and Reth look at each other before straight-up vanishing.

“Awesome,” says Charlie, voice at least three octaves higher than normal. “Okay, great. I gotta–” And she stumbles up out of her chair and to the bunker’s “war room.” Dean stares at his hands.

 

 

TO: ALL
SUBJ: Leviathan
>send.all//path:6degsep
>_bypass ~domain/filter/box/_urgent

2/18/2070 08:21 CST

< Coordinates 40.860045, 76.745574, Central Asia. Witches set up a call-and-trap spell for the Leviathans; it’s got to be used before tomorrow’s (19 Feb) sunset. Borax and beheading works on them. We need all the help we can get. I’m not going to give a Gettysburg Address. You guys all know exactly what these things are capable of, and if we don’t do something, we’re all dead. Humans and monsters alike. Pass it on. Can’t do this without you. >

 

 

“So,” Sam says, opening his beer, “last night on earth.”

“How many times have we had this talk?” Dean grunts. “Like, five? Six?”

“Dean–”

“We’re gonna survive,” he says, “or we’re not. That’s it. Sam–” He sighs. “I’ve fucked up. Like, a lot of times. And you’ve fucked up. But we always managed to stick it out and stick together. And honestly, if we go out fighting magical, hungry, shapeshifting ooze monsters from the Bible?” He shrugs. “I dunno, man. Could be worse.”

“Thanks,” Sam mumbles, picking at the label. “I’m– thanks.” He clears his throat. “So. You doing anything, uh, special with Cas?”

“Hmm?”

Sam raises his eyebrows skeptically, then smirks.

“Come on, man. You guys aren’t exactly subtle. You’ve been sharing a room for years. Should I be distributing earplugs tonight?”

And that’s just about when Dean’s had enough. Like, yeah, okay, there are tons of jokes still yet to be made about all of his various sexual exploits, and that’s all great, but when it comes to this, Dean’s had enough. Contrary to what his brother is insinuating, he’s not one of those people who thinks only with their genitals.

“Jesus christ, Sam,” he snaps and stands up, grabbing his plate, making the silverware jangle harshly. “Cas is– I’m–” He struggles to find something that doesn’t sound teenager-melodramatic, and fails spectacularly. “It’s more than– Sex doesn’t matter. I don’t have to be banging the dude to be in love with him.”

Dead silence.

Yeah, there is no way to recover gracefully from a statement like that. He flees. Honorably.

 

 

Cas is standing in the basement library, hands in his pockets, staring at all of the Men of Letters’ files. Dean walks up next to him.

“I would hope that if we fail tomorrow, someone records what happens.” The stale, still air muffles Cas’s voice. “I’m not sure what use it would be if the Leviathans truly do consume the earth, but I hope our daring, heroic adventures get immortalized.”

“You’re not scared?” Dean asks, mostly because he’s kind of terrified.

“Of losing you, yes,” Cas says, and turns to look at him. “Or Sam. Or Charlie. Or even Benny.” He gently touches Dean’s shoulder. “My life’s been a good life. I met you and Sam. I’ve helped people.”

“I lo– I need you, Cas,” Dean blurts, suddenly, because he needs to Say It but he doesn’t know how. Somehow That Word doesn’t feel like the right one, despite what his mouth spit out at Sam. All his brain can come up with right now are Star Trek quotes and a bad knock-knock joke.

“I know,” Cas murmurs.

“No, Cas, seriously,” Dean says, and he’s overwhelmed by the need for Cas to understand. He takes Cas’s face in his hands. “I can’t– I don’t think I could live without you, man.”

“I would walk through Hell to find you,” Cas breathes.

When Dean kisses him, it’s charged. He doesn’t bother trying to rein in the desperation because even though he was all cool bravado to Sam, he’s so scared of losing any of his family. Cas’s fingers dig into his back with the same raw desperation and Dean thinks that, as far as last kisses go, this one isn’t so bad.

 

 

Charlie flies them out. There’s a flare of heat – she and Sam disappear – then another flare, she grabs Dean’s arm, and then, suddenly, Dean’s standing on the other side of the world. The air is crisp, cold; clouds are snagged on the mountain tops surrounding the valley and there’s frost coating the ground, getting trampled by by the hundreds of monsters milling around. Holy shit.

Charlie and Cas appear.

“I’ll be back–” Charlie frowns. “–soon, hopefully. I need to go get the others.”

“The others?” It’s Sam’s turn to frown.

“Yeah,” Charlie says, “other dragons. Duh.”

“Oh.” Dean suddenly feels stupid because of course there are other dragons. “Be safe,” he says, and his throat suddenly closes up. Charlie’s face softens and she leans forward to kiss his cheek.

“You too,” she chirps, and then disappears in another blast of warm air.

Dean doesn’t even have time to properly get a look at where they are for the first five minutes. People keep stopping him to say hey, to wish him luck. Scores of faces he hasn’t seen in what feels like decades – Tamara, Isaac, Ruby, Bela, Pamela, Ash, Jody, Benny, Kate, he loses track – and it just goes to show that saving someone’s skin never gets forgotten. He’s pretty sure he even saw Natalia and Akashdeep heading towards Bobby. Witches start making their way through the crowd, pushing everyone into a ragged sort of circle, giving five-minute warnings; Dean makes another weapons check (machete, two knives, jars of Borax, all check) and he’s about to ask Sam if he’s ready when–

“Heya, Cassie.”

Gabriel is walking towards them. Of everyone they’d talked to, he was the last person Dean had expected to show up. And behind him–

“Lucifer,” Sam blurts, before anyone else can get a word in edgewise.

“What are you doing here?” is what Cas follows up with, logically. Sam is still gaping at the other djinn and Dean takes a split second to wonder – if Gabriel and Lucifer and Michael were all supposed to be marid-angels, then why would Lucifer have markings like Cas?

“Talked to Lucy,” says Gabriel, jerking a thumb over his shoulder in Lucifer’s direction. “Decided I might as well throw in my lot with you guys. Life would be a lot more boring if Leviathan ate all the porn stars.”

Sam makes a choked gurgle, then clears his throat.

“So here I am,” Gabriel continues, “deus ex machina, at your service.” Dean stares blankly at him, then at Cas, who’s got his eyes narrowed. Lucifer is wearing a neutral smile. Gabriel sighs dramatically when it’s clear no one’s got any idea what he’s talking about.

“Your sword,” Cas ventures carefully.

“Bingo!” Gabriel grins.

“Why didn’t you say anything earlier, then?” Dean snaps, temper flaring, and Cas looks just as angry.

“Whoa, relax,” Gabriel says. “It’s not someth–”

Dean sneezes. Four times in a row.

The magic in the air is stifling, crawling down his throat, and everyone’s attention shifts tangibly towards the center of their big, messy circle. The witches’ spell is so strong that it practically cripples half the crowd waiting in the ankle-high grass; Dean’s driven to his knees because it smells, he can hear it, and Sam and Cas are quick to help him back to his feet. The spell sings, high and pure, and Dean can see Sam’s eyes watering with pain. Cas’s fingers dig into his biceps.

At first, Dean isn’t sure what’s happening. Clouds start looming above them, foreboding, threatening snow, and he realizes that it’s the Leviathans dropping like meteorites from the clouds, bursting through dark underbellies to shake the ground, rising up from their craters and reconstituting their bodies from black ooze. They’re hissing, inaudible over the spell’s now-piercing shriek, mouths gaping open, hands clawing at empty air. There’s easily hundreds. Dean’s stomach knots.

The spell ends. It’s almost deafeningly quiet and Dean can hear Cas’s heartbeat, Sam’s breaths, Bobby’s ragged bear-snorts, Gabriel re-settling his grip on the supposed magic weapon, Lucifer’s knuckles cracking––

Some wolf way, way down on the left flank howls and starts a charge. All Dean can do is hope with all his might that this doesn’t end up like Culloden; he exhales and loosens his shoulders and shifts before unsheathing his machete and heading for the nearest Leviathan.

it’s absolute

bloody

                                                                                                                                                                                             mayhem

Sam’s yelling, baring his fangs, swinging his machete with deadly precision, and then Dean whirls around and catches one in the arm, stops the sneak attack–

–Cas is accumulating blue like static charge, dancing between three Leviathans and just pissing them off, nipping here and cutting there and then lunging forward and beheading one, using the body as a shield, hands covered in black–

There’s a choked scream and an explosion of heat and Ash’s fire dies and no no no no no no not Ash not Ash another one beheaded not Ash – - ––

Another burst of heat from behind and this time it’s hot breath nearly bowling them all over and the dragons are here, Charlie’s flaming red scales glittering even under the clouds.

 

 

four seven eight eleven fifteen

he’s lost track of how many he’s taken care of now but they still keep coming like giant, indestructible worker bees waves and waves and waves Gabriel had better be getting a move on if his sword’s what he says it is but–– -

 

 

Cas runs up to his side, bleeding, holding Gabriel’s sword.

“Is he–?” Dean can’t even finish the sentence.

“No,” Cas pants back, “just injured, his arm– we need to end this, so many have died already–”

“I know,” Dean says, and engages a Leviathan headed for Cas. It’s a short, ferocious fight – he’s determined not to get separated from Cas, now that Cas has the sword. His stamina is pushed to its limits for the first time in decades; he’s pretty sure he’d been human the last time he fought to exhaustion. The smell of blood and earth is starting to get overwhelming. They need to end this.

“Cas–” Dean spits his own blood out of his mouth. “Back then, hive mind, if that’s true there’s gotta be a queen bee, right?”

“Dick Roman,” Cas growls, and all of his energy seems to flow right back into him. He’s no longer sagging, shoulders hunched, but standing straight up, blade drawn. He offers the sword to Dean, handle-first. “Take this.”

“Wh–”

“Don’t argue,” Cas snaps. “Help me find him.”

An enormous Leviathan in a chef’s uniform comes hurtling at them and Cas crouches low, rams his shoulder into its stomach, uses his height (dis)advantage to bowl it over and decapitates it in one smooth stroke. Dean shoulders through the surging, chaotic crowd as best he can, eyes open, nose useless, ears deafened, as close to Cas as possible.

 

 

Leviathan falling rolling back up from the ground cuts at Cas and a tiger-skinwalker intercepts it yowling with bloodstained fur Cas a gash in his leg spilling blue––

––the skinwalker has it under control and he’s a gory sticky tacky mess blood ooze guts everything then suddenly they’re face to face with Dick Roman.

“I knew I should’ve killed you,” Dick says, eyes dark with recognition, face splattered in blood and mouth painted red.

Dean’s whole world narrows down to him, Cas, and the Leviathan.

Blue fire races down Cas’s arm and he thrusts his blade through Dick Roman’s sternum.

For a blissful second, everything freezes. The momentum pushes Dick back and his face goes blank. Cas stumbles forward, shoulders going loose, but then the world catches up to them and Dick tosses Cas over his shoulder, slams him into the ground, and Dean thinks he hears bone cracking. The sword in his hand starts humming.

Dick Roman snarls at him, face split wide open, as he pulls Cas’s blade out of his chest and shatters it in his hand.

“That tickled,” Dick hisses, and lunges forward but then Cas gets an arm around his chest from behind, holy shit, yanks back on his hair, and Dean takes the opening to shove Gabriel’s sword through his neck, straight through both carotids.

It’s like a huge switch gets flipped.

The Leviathans’ attack patterns dissolve into uncoordinated pandemonium; all the monsters and witches and hunters get a second wind and a huge roar builds up from their side, their beaten, tired, sweaty, bleeding, beautiful side–

Leviathans start turning tail and Charlie roars at their backs, loud enough for the ground to shake, before dropping back to the ground and taking her human shape.

“Cas,” Dean calls hoarsely, shuffling just far enough away from Dick Roman’s body to get it out of sight, if not quite out of mind; he drops to his knees, drops his machete and dirk. Cas limps over to him, cradles his head between his ooze-covered palms, sinks down in front of him, and leans their foreheads together.

“I’m here,” he murmurs, “I’m okay, I’m– we did it.”

“Where’s Sam?” Dean whispers, searching Cas’s eyes as if the answer could somehow be there.

“He’s okay,” Cas whispers back, kissing his forehead, “I saw him with Charlie and Lucifer.” Dean lets his eyes fall shut as giddy relief spreads through his whole body and Cas kisses both of his eyelids, his cheeks, the corners of his mouth and then, finally Dean leans forward and kisses him back.

“So many died,” Dean says quietly. “God, they– Ash, Bela, Pamela, so many–” He swallows; Cas presses himself into the crook of his shoulder and Dean wraps his arms around his back. “And we didn’t even get rid of all the Leviathans.” Brain-mouth filter’s long gone; he’s in stream-of-consciousness mode and he can’t be fucked to care. “Gonna have to track down the rest somehow, do ‘em in before they can hurt more people or get any plans in motion. God. We gotta–” His voice breaks. “We gotta do funerals. Fuck, we barely put a dent in their numbers, didn’t we?”

“But we did something,” Cas says, firmly this time, leaning back to look Dean in the eye. “We did something.”

“Yeah,” Dean murmurs back. “We did.”