Actions

Work Header

The Long and Winding Road

Work Text:


It ended in Detroit, but it started because of a dream.

Charlie Crews had been sitting at his desk in the station. His partner, Dani Reece was typing away at her computer working on paperwork. Charlie was supposed to be working too, but the not sleeping he’d been doing from worrying about the Winchesters caught up with him. He nodded off with his face propped up on his hands.

He damn well did not enjoy opening his eyes to that green room. A very French looking, not quite sea green, room with ornate molding and table, never minding that on that table sat a large, overflowing bowl of fruit of every variety.

He frowned at the white glass bowl. Something about it was too clean, too perfect.

He was especially upset because he did not remember going to sleep in the first place and it felt like he’d been here before. The room felt like a cell, a fancy cell with décor instead of concrete block, but a cell regardless.

See, Charlie wasn’t much for dreaming. He learned that about himself in prison. Dreams could hollow a man in a cell out and give hope where there’s none to be had. False hope in the inside was dangerous. It made the darkness of being inside palpable. It made the shadows slither in, under skin, and set up like an infection. It didn’t help a man through, especially when a man was innocent. Dreaming took away the light and made a man believe he could do all kinds of things and that he could be guilty of those things.

So Charlie hated closing his eyes and opening them outside the realm of consciousness. Even when he dreamed of walking a banana grove, barefoot, safe and sunny, he felt uneasy there no matter how much he told himself it was just a dream and he should enjoy it.

Charlie was the furthest he could possibly be from calm in this room, this dream, this cell, no matter how ripe those pears looked. Well, maybe he could not enjoy this place while having some sort of melon.

He chose a dragon fruit instead while reaching into his inside jacket pocket for his knife. He switched it open and began to prepare the fruit to eat, the juices running down his wrist, pooling against the cuff of his sleeve. He took the first bite and gave another look around the room.

“All paintings and no door to see,” he mused, taking it in while walking to the nearest painting. “All paintings of the battle of Lucifer and Michael and still no door.” He ran his fingers along the wall between paintings trying to feel a way out using the tips of his hands like a dousing rod. “There’s always a door. I’ve been locked up before. Even when there’s no key, there’s always,” he put his ear up to the wall, "a door."

All of this, the room, the décor, the fruit, wreaked Heavenly Host and no one had even bothered to great him. How rude. He’d just have to get someone’s attention.

He glanced down at his knife and back at the nearest painting. Its subject matter was hideous in that it was one brother killing another. He couldn’t stand for that, he decided as he wiped his hand and blade free of juice on the white table cloth. So he sliced the painting right down the middle, splitting the depiction of Michael in half and beheading Lucifer. He gave it a few more slashes and then started on the next painting and the next.

On the fourth one, he felt he had a visitor, but didn’t turn around. He could be rude too.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” a voice, middle-aged and male, sounding more than a little full of himself and annoyed. It caused Charlie to smile.

“Maybe rejecting the grand design,” Charlie answered not pausing his destruction. “Or simply making slices on these canvases. It’s hard to tell. This place probably isn’t really here, making me not really here and not really talking to you. But that’s reality for ya. What’s real anyway?” Charlie asked and turned to find someone who looked like some mid-level CEO, but that was probably giving the guy too much credit. Of course, from the corner of his eye, Charlie would swear he saw six wings and more than one head, but it could’ve just been a trick of the light.

“You are so much more infuriating in person,” the angel said. “Castiel really didn’t do you justice.”

“Hi Zac,” Charlie deduced, grinning and taking it as a compliment. Zachariah was one of the more dickish, higher on the totem pole angels Sam and Dean told him about.

The angel looked uncomfortable and corrected, “That’s Zachariah. I don’t do nicknames. You’d do well to remember that.”

“I bet,” Charlie said and winked. “Now, am I here because you brought me here or because someone else did?”

The angel shrugged, looking even more unsettled and more than a little angry.

“So you didn’t bring me here,” Charlie decided. “Not part of your grand design then. I know I’m not a part of ‘the plan,’ not saying that I want to be. The plan involves great harm and destruction, fire and brimstone, brother against brother. And it’s all because the parents are out of town—well, just Dad. And what did He know anyway? His last bright idea was humans. Which, I thought turned out pretty great, but I’m one of them and a little partial, not to mention my non-violence stance.”

“You and your fellow mud monkies have ruined it,” Zac sneered, voice rising in anger.

“And the angels would do better?” Charlie asked lifting an eyebrow. “I seem to recall a bit of infighting in Creation. So I doubt the Earth would have fared better with your lot calling the shots. Not to mention, you don’t look at any of the good, because you don’t believe in it. Actually you probably don’t believe in anything because you supposedly know. But, as far as I can tell, you know nothing, especially if you think that either of those boys will be your puppets in this. And I’ll see to it they aren't, even to my dying breath.”

“That certainly isn’t any incentive for me to allow you to live,” the angel threatened.

“But that really isn’t up to you, is it?” Charlie asked, calling Zac’s bluff.

Zachariah was practically seething.

“That’s what I thought,” Charlie said and noticed the door had appeared out of the corner of his eye. “I’ll just be going then.”

“Good riddance,” the angel muttered glaring daggers at Charlie.

“Have an apple,” Charlie suggested. “Maybe you’ll feel better. Achieve enlightenment. Start with fruit.”

Charlie dashed out before he could be smote. No sooner than the door shut behind him, he jerked awake to find himself sitting at his desk in the station. Dani was scowling at him and it was almost overwhelmingly normal.

“Crews, if your just gonna sleep instead of doing your paperwork, could you at least snore somewhere else?” she asked.

“Why?” Charlie asked, trying to gather his wits. “Was I damaging your calm?”

She rolled her eyes with the corner of her mouth upturned. “I have no calm.”

“Because I took it with my supposed snoring,” Charlie said.

“And because your phone kept ringing while you were counting sheep,” she added with a wave of her hand. “Back to work Crews,” Dani ordered.

“Okie dokie,” Charlie agreed and basked in the normal that was his job for a minute. He’d take an irritable Reece over the foul tempered angels any day. He couldn’t help but frown when he saw that he’d missed a call from Dean Winchester.

“Crews, everything okay?” Dani asked concern in her brow.

“Maybe not,” he answered still frowning.

“Well, go do the thing where you wander off and take care of it,” she said, going back to her report.

He took off while dialing his voicemail and made his way for home.
**

“Charlie, it’s Dean. But, you knew that. It’s just…” Inhale. Exhale. “It’s just…You know? Nevermind. Do your ‘detective-thing,’ Crews. Click.

Charlie Crews played Dean Winchester’s message that he missed two hours ago again on speakerphone with no one but his kitchen walls and a bowl of fruit. He’s tried to call back every 5 minutes since and still no answer from either of the boys.

“How long ago was that?” Rachel Seybolt, his, sort-of, niece asked, walking into the kitchen. She looked as worried as Charlie felt. She’s gotten almost as good as him when it comes to listening between the lines with Sam and Dean.

“Two hours and four minutes ago,” Charlie answered, glancing at the clock on his phone and ruffling his ginger hair.

“He doesn’t sound good,” Rachel observed and pulled out her own cell phone and dialed, tucking a few dark strands behind her ear. She disconnected after Dean didn’t answer. She then tried to call Sam. “C’mon,” she urged and didn’t leave a message when there wasn’t any answer.

“No luck for you either?” Charlie asked, sounding sad. They both must be in deep shit to not answer Rachel’s calls.

“Haven’t tried Bobby yet,” Rachel answered instead already dialing the elder hunter.

“I’ve tried there to,” Charlie informed and played Dean’s message again.

“Bobby, its Rachel. Call me when you get this,” Rachel said to his answering machine and sat down across the kitchen island from Charlie and sighed.

“I don’t like this,” she said finally after a couple minutes and reached for a pear. She rolled it around in her hands as if gathering her thoughts.

“Me neither,” Charlie agreed. “I very much don’t like this. I like this even less than unripe pears.”

“Something’s definitely wrong,” Rachel continued, fixing her stormy eyes on Charlie. His dark blue met the challenge and blinked.

“It certainly isn’t right,” Charlie agreed. “But they’d call back if they wanted any help. And I’m just me. It’s the end of the world. I’m a detective,” Charlie shrugged, feeling completely unsure all at once. The universe was expansive, after all. He’s just one redhead and sometimes Zen detective.

“Something needs to be done,” Rachel prompted and lifted an eyebrow at Charlie. It was a very Dean look for her to have. “Maybe it needs a hands-on approach, whether we think we’re worthy or not.”

Rachel was looking at him like she had complete faith in him, like he could drag the boys from whatever hole that they were in. He would take all he could get. Maybe it was time to do something stupid like hit the road and find them.

Charlie Crews, at his finest, did his best work making rash, seemingly not thought out at all decisions. He also was good at listening between the lines, especially since this was Dean calling and not saying much, while saying everything.

“At the very least,” Charlie concurred and Rachel smiled making her stormy eyes shine in the morning light. “And you’re not coming, at least until I scout everything out.”

She scowled at him and was a little tempest of controlled, sad fury while she helped him get everything together. He just needed to make a few more calls.

Charlie had vacation time coming up, so taking time off to drive across America was at least doable. Besides, he couldn’t find a reason not to. He might find a peaceful soul, but mainly he was hoping to find Sam and Dean Winchester, if just so he could make sure they were still in one piece.

Ted Earley, his accountant and best friend, was still in Europe chasing Olivia’s tail so he didn’t bother him with his decision. Dani Reece, his partner on the force, told him to go, that he’d been distracted for days since the Winchesters had left LA. She was right, his heart wasn’t in it to solve murders and help people at home when he felt like he should be focusing his attentions elsewhere.

Rachel was resigned as they packed his tricked out Monte Carlo light, including a cooler filled with water and mango juice, armed with his sunglasses and the latest road atlas for that just in case instance, and the car pointed east.

He kissed her cheek and said, “Don’t follow me.”

“Sure,” Rachel agreed, but he didn’t believe her for a second. He knew his smile back at her said that as he ruffled her hair and she playfully slapped at him letting him know he was forgiven for now.

He may have told her not to follow him, but he left a sizeable sum of cash for her to buy her own car and tide her over before she caught up with him.

Now it was three days later and he’s in Kansas already. If he could only get one of the Winchesters to answer their phones instead of just leaving him cryptic voicemails. He imagined it could have something to do with the Apocalypse. The only other contact he’s had was a text message from Sam telling him that Bobby Singer was in the hospital. At least it was a start. Charlie would have never dreamed where all this would lead, especially when an angel appeared in his car, looking even more disheveled than usual and quite a lot sad around his eyes.

“Castiel,” Charlie said feeling a little proud for not jerking the car off the road in surprise. He’s Zen, after all—well, most of the time.

“Detective Crews,” the angel replied.

The last time Charlie saw the heavenly creature was less than a month ago when he dropped the Prophet Chuck off and vanished to leave the prophet to explain. He hadn’t heard a peep since, of course that could have something to do with leaving such a train wreck of a person, but it probably dealt with this whole end of the world stuff. Castiel never struck him as the kind of person to worry about committing any social faux pas, especially now that he had been destroyed and remade by something powerful.

“You don’t have to call me that, you know? Call me Charlie,” Crews offered, looking the angel over and then back at the road. “What happened? Did you get blown up again?”

“No,” the angel said. He was never one for offering long, drawn-out explanations and Crews figured he wouldn’t be easy by starting now.

“You just showed up because you needed a ride? Everything efficiently and effectively mysteriously solved itself resulting in your immediate vacation? Started eating fruit?” Charlie asked.

“No,” the angel looked just a little upset at last. “It is not that simple or ridiculous.”

“Then make it be,” Charlie insisted. “Tell me what’s going on.”

“Zachariah found the Michael sword,” Castiel said.

“And that’s not good? Why isn’t that good Cas? That could defeat Lucifer and save the world,” Charlie argued and felt a pit of dread in his stomach. He suspected he wouldn’t like what the angel was going to say.

“Yes, but the sword is Dean. He is Michael’s vessel,” Castiel confirmed and sounded just a hint sad.

“Oh,” Charlie said and it wasn’t an all encompassing response. It wasn’t even good. Charlie would have to dwell later though. Cas hasn’t bothered him with a great deal of the big picture yet. Charlie’s problems usually dealt with Sam and Dean. “But that isn’t what you’re here for. You’re here because you’ve changed something. What did you change, Cas?”

“I hid Sam and Dean from the angels,” Cas said. “It was necessary. Heaven cannot be trusted.”

“Which means that you’ve hid them from yourself, too,” Charlie reasoned, and smiled a little finally getting what was bothering the angel. Charlie knew that he had a solution to this.

“Yes,” Cas confirmed, “I do not know where they are.”

“Well, I can fix that,” Charlie said cheerfully and reached across in front of the angel to pop the glove compartment open and pulled out one of his spare prepaid phones. Charlie had a feeling that he’d need a few spares. He handed one to Castiel.

“What is this?” Castiel eyed the square of plastic Charlie handed him with a deep and quiet suspicion.

“It’s a cell phone,” Charlie said, grinning.

“I am aware of that, Crews,” the angel countered, a little furrow in his brow.

“You make calls on it,” Charlie continued. “Or text. Oh! You can even take pictures. It’s like living in the future.”

“You might have to show me that,” Cas finally conceded and studying Charlie with that unwavering stare of his.

“Sure,” he started to reach for it.

“But that is not my reason for asking,” the angel clarified. “Why did you give me this phone?”

“You hid them, even from yourself. This is a way to see them. They need to be able to be seen by someone who cares about them. I’ve programmed their numbers in already.”

Cas looked down at the phone and then looked back to Charlie, his face quite unreadable. Charlie looked away from the road long enough to meet the angel’s eyes.

“I’m in there too,” Charlie said, fighting the urge to look away from the angel’s penetrating gaze, but taking refuge in looking back at the pavement.

“Will you show me how to text?” Castiel asked, peaceably changing the topic.

“Love to,” Charlie held his palm out for the phone, while still keeping one eye on the road.

“Crews?” Castiel asked.

“Yeah?” Charlie asked in turn.

“Thank you,” the angel said with just the hint of smile on his face.

“You’re welcome,” Charlie grinned.

Castiel hung out long enough to learn the basics of cell phone use. Just as Charlie crossed into Kansas, Cas called Sam to find them at the hospital Bobby was admitted to and promptly disappeared with the sound of rustling feathers.

That night he finally got a call from the boys.

“You know,” Charlie said lightly and feeling anything but, “When I said keep in touch, I kind of meant it.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Dean said. “Just been a little busy with demon attacks and finding out some heavy shit.”

“Like you’re the Michael’s sword,” Charlie said conversationally.

“Of course you know about that,” Dean said sounding jaded and not at all surprised.

“I might’ve had a certain heavenly visitor,” Charlie confirmed.

“You gave him the phone,” Sam said and Charlie gathered that he was on speakerphone.

“Yep, even showed him how to text, not that he’ll use it,” Charlie shrugged wondering if he could make it any farther or whether he should stop for the night. It was only three in the morning and he’d only been driving for twelve hours. Dean would have stubborned through at least two more hours of driving. Charlie said as much.

“Take a break Crews,” Dean said, sounding tired at Crews’ expense.

“Yeah, we have to go meet Rufus,” Sam confirmed.

“Oh? Anything I can help with?” Charlie asked.

“No, it’s a demon thing,” Dean said simply in the tone that really said ‘and you’re still very much a civilian on that front so don’t even ask to come.’”

“Okay, just don’t be strangers this time,” Charlie said, “it damages my calm.”

“Sure,” they both agreed. “See you Charlie,” Sam added and the call disconnected. Charlie had a feeling that their trip to deal with those demons would go anyway but good.

*****

Two days later, when he walked out of the room he’d slept in for the night, Rachel was leaned against the driver’s side of his car, her dark hair shining in the morning light and blue eyes stormy.

“Hi there Uncle Charlie,” she greeted.

“Hi Rachel,” he returned smiling and standing beside her. “Well that didn’t take long at all.”

She shrugged, “I guess not, especially when I heard about Bobby. So I did a search for the transportation I needed then booked the first flight I could get.”

“That was crafty,” Charlie said.

“Says the guy who told me not to follow him and left an obscene amount of money in my account to buy something to play catch-up in,” Rachel countered.

“Was it a sensible car or something completely garish that you’re not going to get attached to?” Charlie asked, a little excitedly. He’d always wanted to drive a Bugatti.

“That really depends on your definition of garish,” Rachel chirped and tipped her head at a new black Cadillac Escalade EVS parked in the adjacent space. “In my defense,” she added, “the rims are stock even though they look enormous and obnoxious. I figured I might actually have to drive it off road. Or haul a couple really tall guys to safety. Or lug a ridiculous amount of occult books somewhere safer because some crotchety old guy wants them moved. You know, just planning for contingencies as best as I can.”

“Like a regular girl scout,” Charlie grinned at her. “Bet you’ve even got the plates to be shipped to Bobby’s.”

Rachel nodded and took time to take in her surroundings and focused on another car in the lot, her brow furrowing.

“Dean hasn’t seen it yet, has he?” Charlie asked.

“No,” she might have blushed a little just thinking of the ribbing he was going to give her over it. “I haven’t run into the boys, yet. The last I heard from Dean was a call two days ago telling me that Bobby was in the hospital, so I knew I had to move fast. Otherwise, I might have tried to talk myself out of this.”

“Well, the Apocalypse is on,” Charlie mused, “its hard not to do something, even if that something’s nothing.”

“I know that car,” Rachel said, pointing to a classic that had seen better days parked in front of room number thirteen, the one she’d been staring at. She glanced at Charlie and there was a look on her face that he couldn’t quite place, but amused was part of it.

“Who’s is it?” Charlie asked, but Rachel didn’t get a chance to answer because a fierce brunette woman stalked up with barely contained rage. He missed her approach while trying to figure Rachel out. Sloppy.

“Are you Charlie Crews?” the woman asked. Charlie couldn’t help the stray MILF thought that flashed in his mind along with DANGER.

“Yes?” he didn’t mean to answer, let alone make it a question. Sometimes his mouth and brain connection short circuited and got him into extreme trouble. Rachel was wisely standing back and he was sure she knew exactly who was standing in front of him as well as the precise reason she was this angry. The little traitor.

The woman smacked him across the cheek. This wasn’t the first woman to smack him. But it’d be nice if this was the last.

“What was that for?” he asked, trying not to sound like a whiny seven year old but failing a little.

“Not calling me back and letting me know how the boys are,” she said glaring daggers at him. “Which apparently is shit! I oughta do more than slap you.”

“Ellen?” he asked and braced to be slapped again.

“You got some nerve, Detective,” she said, looking like she really wanted to slap him once more. He wouldn’t blame her. He probably deserved it a little. Teach him to call a Harvelle woman and promise to keep in touch then fail epically. She’s probably going to shoot me. He gulped at the thought.

“Is this Crews?” a younger woman asked, stomping up towards them, blonde hair waving wildly past her shoulders. She couldn’t have been too much older than Rachel.

“As a matter-of-fact it is,” Ellen confirmed with a smile bordering on malicious.

The young woman slapped Charlie as soon as she was close enough.

“Ouch,” Charlie said in way of reply and did sound like a wronged seven year being teamed up against on the playground by a gaggle of girls.

“Hi Jo,” Rachel chirped and then tipped an imaginary hat at the older woman, “Ellen.”

“Rachel!” Jo, the blonde, exclaimed and pulled Rachel into a tight hug, which Rachel returned with equal enthusiasm. Rachel had been emailing Jo back and forth learning about the supernatural and helping to do research through most of the winter and spring and after the Winchesters had taken care of the demon problem that had been one of his cases last fall. Bobby had introduced her to the Harvelle women. Apparently, they all got along swimmingly.

Actually, Charlie was kind of glad Rachel got to know the Harvelles. She needed a strong influence like that, just as long as they didn’t teach Rachel to slap him.

“Rachel, darlin’ how you been?” Ellen asked, taking her turn at hug. “This inconsiderate yahoo has been treating you okay?”

“Yeah,” Rachel said and looked fondly at Charlie. “And I haven’t even had to slap him.”

“So when you said you spent some girl time while we were apart, you meant you were with two whiskey swillin’ badass women?” Charlie asked.

“I almost feel bad about slappin’ him now,” Jo said.

“Well I don’t,” Ellen said and gestured toward a room. “C’mon and let’s talk. Maybe head out for breakfast. We’re we just got done dealing with a town taken over by demons with Rufus and those boys, so a little visiting won’t hurt.”

“Yeah, I might have dropped our coffee when I saw who it was,” Jo explained to Ellen looking a touch sheepish. “Sorry Mom.”

“That’s alright. There’s a good reason,” Ellen shrugged. Charlie imagined getting to slap an ‘inconsiderate yahoo’ more than made up the delay in that first cup of caffine.

“Yes ma’am,” Charlie agreed. He knew when to shut up and just follow orders, especially from women. Reece would be so proud of him if she could see this. And he was never going to tell her.

“So how was Rufus? How many demons?” Rachel asked.

“Nothing you need to worry about, I bet,” Charlie said. The thought of her actually hunting created a weight in his gut, especially if demons were involved. Besides, he’d heard enough of what happened from Bobby. War, one of the Four Horsemen, turned the townsfolk against each other causing complete chaos.

“Now that’s the most sensible thing you’ve said so far, Detective,” Ellen agreed. Rachel might have pouted a little while Jo gave her a look of understanding.

Ellen led the way and they all fell in line and followed.

That night, after the Harvelles had already made their way on to fight more demons somewhere else and without Rachel in tow, Charlie tried to call Sam and only got an ‘Out of Area’ message. Cas didn’t answer either.

**

A day after that, Charlie made it to Bobby’s hospital room. He imagined that the old hunter had already yelled at everyone, members of the staff, Winchesters and angels included. Charlie was man enough to admit he might be a little afraid of this visit. His past dealings with Bobby have been gruff and full of impatience at best. Crews wasn’t sure what he’s doing here.

Charlie paused in the doorway, lifted his fist to give a quiet knock, but couldn’t bring himself to. He could run. He’s run from less, even if that wouldn’t be a very brave thing to do.

“I see ye there,” Bobby said, cutting off any plans of escape Charlie might have been considering.

“Can I come in?” Charlie asked, finding his voice and proud that it sounded level.

“Even if I say no, you’re going to anyway.” Bobby sounded grimly positive.

“True,” Charlie agreed, walking in and taking a seat beside the hospital bed. “And I figured that you’d be less likely to threaten to shoot me in here.”

“Well, it wouldn’t be from lack of trying,” Bobby grumbled.

“Makes you feel any better, I can swing by your place later and you can threaten me properly with your favorite shotgun. I won’t even pull a knife on you this time.”

“Hmph,” Bobby grunted.

“You know,” Charlie said leaning a little closer in the chair, “This is the part where I might ask if you’re doing okay. Or if you’re angry? Or maybe if you are considering something drastic? It’s okay to think and feel that way.”

“Crews, I’m too old for a pep talk,” Bobby grumbled, “Especially from a nut job such as yourself.”

“But are you too old for contraband cheeseburgers?” Charlie asked, brandishing the bag he’d been hiding and changing the topic to something lighter.

“You charmed the nurses into leaving us alone?” Bobby asked, not sounding at all surprised. Charlie almost wondered when he became so predictable, but figured it had something to do with seeing the impossible every day.

“Of course,” Charlie grinned, setting the food out where Bobby could reach it.

Bobby just rolled his eyes and asked, “You didn’t happen to sneak in a beer, did you?”

“No,” Charlie looked a little sad and set down two Cokes instead. “I’m saving that particular card with the nursing staff. Didn’t want to play them all on my first visit.”

“That sounds fair, I guess,” Bobby said, reaching for dinner.

Charlie smiled, slathering ketchup on his fries.

“Have you talked to those two eejits? I know they’re on a hunt. Rufus called.” Bobby asked after they had dug in.

“I called, but I haven’t seen them since they showed up in my kitchen about three weeks ago now. And Ellen mentioned that they’d been in town with War, and Rufus,” Charlie sighed then added, “Best I could tell, nothing good happened in that town. Rachel, should be by a little later. She’s looking into something for Jo Harvelle.”

“Ellen slapped you, didn’t she?” Bobby looked almost happy at the thought.

“Yep,” Charlie touched his cheek at the phantom sting there. “Then Jo did. Then I got told off for having such horrible communication skills.”

“Sounds about right. I told you that woman don’t mess around,” Bobby said, and he was smiling now.

“That you did,” Charlie agreed smiling back only slightly and feeling more than a little chastised.

“Did Rachel happen to get a picture of the ordeal?” Bobby asked.

Charlie frowned. “I don’t know. I was a little caught up in the moment. You know, trying not to move suddenly or get shot.”

“And how did that go?” Bobby asked.

“About like you’d expect,” Charlie answered vaguely.

Bobby chuckled. “How bad does your jaw hurt?”

“I might live,” Charlie admitted.

“At least she didn’t clock you,” Bobby said, a funny sort of look on his face.

“Spoken like someone who’s been on the receiving end of her fist?” Charlie asked.

Bobby just rolled his eyes and asked, “When’d you say Rachel was going to get here?”

“Is Uncle Charlie giving you a hard time, Bobby?” Rachel asked, showing up right on cue smiling at the grisly old hunter. Bobby’s smile back at her was kind and fond, which he quickly covered with a scowl.

“About time you showed up, girly,” Bobby grumbled, “I was afraid he was going to start hugging me.”

Despite his words, Rachel walked right up and wrapped her arms around him as best she could, “Glad I could rescue you,”

“Hmph,” Bobby muttered and rolled his eyes good-naturedly. “And you brought pie, I imagine.”

“Banana crème, though I didn’t make it. And some actual bananas for Charlie,” Rachel confirmed.

“She’s like a regular girl scout,” Bobby said to Charlie.

“Hey!” Rachel protested, but she was smiling. Charlie was full-out grinning. Bobby just rolled his eyes and called them ‘eejits’ under his breath, but seemed to be in much better humor than when Charlie first showed up.

**
On Charlie’s way out of town to try to catch up with the boys, he should have expected the visitor waiting for him in the parking lot.

“I was wondering when I’d see you,” Charlie greeted the man leaned against his car. He’s pretty sure that that guy there was the Devil—well Lucifer, he prefers to be called. Old things are always particular about names. He’s learned that from his friends—friends that Lou here was looking for. It always comes back to those damned Winchesters, to quote Bobby Singer.

“And here I am, Charlie Crews,” the man cocked a grin.

“Can I call you Lou?” Charlie asked and leaned against his car beside his visitor. Might as well be comfortable for any possible smiting.

“Why ‘Lou’? Were you thinking of something more classically colorful?” the Devil asked.

“Probably, unless you’re just pretending to be the first Fallen Angel. A lot of people and/or creatures pretend to be something other than themselves. Would you rather I came up with something a little more colorful?” Charlie asked.

“Lou is fine,” he quirked a smile.

“Are you here to give me a talk? Threaten me and my loved ones? Scowl at me? I know someone who could out-scowl you.” Charlie allowed himself a small smile thinking of his spitfire of a partner. Dani Reece could really give the fallen angel a run for his money. Charlie kind of wished she was at his side right now. It’s always easy to be brave when someone so strong was around, but the thought of her would have to fortify him for now.

“I see why He would like you,” Lou said, and looked a little aggravated.

“Sure,” Charlie said, pulling an apple from his coat. “Who’d that be again?” He expected one of the Winchesters to come up. He liked to think that the brothers were fond of him, somewhat. And really, they’d be the only reason he could think of that Lou would visit him.

“God,” Lou said. Or that, Charlie thought. He felt like he was having one of the more surreal conversations he’s ever had. Actually, what would be even weirder would be if he did run into God at this point. Maybe there would be fruit involved.

“And here I thought you were going to say someone else,” Charlie said, turning the apple in his palm. Actually, this conversation really kind of was about Sam and Dean. Most conversations these days for Charlie are about them, but he can talk about God. That’s no trouble.

“Maybe if I met Him, He’d tell me to have a mango,” Charlie said, deciding to roll with the present subject matter. “Mangoes are tasty. Only got an apple today, though,” Charlie shined it on his sleeve. “Could I interest you in an apple, Lou?”

“Cheeky detective. That was my trick first,” Lou smiled. It was actually a friendly smile that caused Charlie to repress a shudder. “I don’t make threats Charlie. And I don’t lie, but a word of friendly advice.” Lou paused.

Charlie quirked an eyebrow. He had a feeling that he was treading on dangerous ground, but he couldn’t help it. It wasn’t in his nature to be anything else.

“Don’t offer me an apple again,” Lou said. It certainly didn’t sound threat-like, more unpleasant hinting of violence.

“Would you rather a mango?” Charlie asked, genuinely curious and because he couldn’t help it and then a thought occurred to him. “It was a fig wasn’t it?”

“What?” Lou asked, looking just this side of confused.

“It’s the sweetest fruit, especially for its size. Tasty. Not an apple in the garden, but a fig. Right?” Charlie asked in way of explanation. He’s talked to Dani about this, before. It’d be nice to have a little confirmation from the source.

“Perhaps.” Lou was smiling, a funny grin—not amused per se, just on this side of unsettling.

“Not the manliest fruit you could have used.” Charlie said, sagely.

“Who said it was me?” Lou scoffed the question, smile in the corner of his mouth that said that there wasn’t actually a question at all.

“You telling me it wasn’t?” Charlie asked, calling the Devil’s bluff.

“Apples seem to look more appealing in paintings. At least that’s been my experience.” Lou answered. It wasn’t a confirmation exactly.

“I’d say figs were cute, but I wouldn’t quite mean it,” Charlie nodded.

“Tell me where they are Detective,” Lou requested. His tone was congenial, but his face held a warning. Charlie wasn’t about to cooperate, though. He’d made it this far, no use in falling in line now.

“That’s a bit vague there with your pronoun Lou,” Charlie said conversationally. “They could be anyone and anyone could be ‘they’. For instance, them over there,” Charlie gestured to a couple holding hands across the street on their way into a diner, “could be a they.”

“But they are not who I mean and you know who I mean Charlie,” Lou said, starting to look just a shade angry.

“Do I need to give you the ‘anger ruins joy’ speech? Because it does, Lou,” Charlie said with upmost seriousness. “But maybe that’s just the universe being insecure. Yet, if you think of the universe as being God then I’d have to say that the universe isn’t insecure at all and quite possibly making fun of us all.”

“Charlie, I won’t ask again,” Lou said firmly, like Charlie should fear him. Charlie’s got nothing to fear. He’s protecting his friends. He survived twelve years in maximum security prison and all that’s come after, so facing the Morning Star should be no big deal because he won’t let it be.

“No, you won’t. You won’t, because I have nothing to tell. The Winchesters aren’t here. As far as I can tell, those boys are nowhere. Cause, where is here anyway? Just a state of mind. Where those boys are not? Here, there, everywhere, and nowhere are just the labeling of places.” Charlie opened his car door, causing Lou to move away from it.

Lucifer gave Charlie a long hard look that Crews caught out of the corner of his eye and said, “The next time I ask, Charlie, you will tell me.” He sounded confident.

When he looked back to say something else, Lucifer was already gone. Charlie decided he’d tell him later, but first he needed to find Sam. Dean hadn’t been taking any of his calls, but Bobby still answered. Dean had told him that Sam had quit hunting and gone off on his own after what had happened in that town and War, one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Castiel would be with Dean, so Charlie figured that it wouldn’t hurt to check in on the youngest Winchester.

 



Sam needed to breathe. He couldn’t breathe in the room, not with Lucifer’s words still echoing in there. He had to believe that people can change. He had to believe that he could say no—that he would say no.

So he went outside, feet bare despite the cold just to find air. He’d barely taken the first lungful when he spotted Charlie, leaning against Sam’s parked stolen car.

Sam laughed his exhale. He hadn’t expected to see the redhead, maybe ever again if he could help it, but not because he didn’t want to. Sam loving Charlie was just doing to get the Detective killed he was sure of it. His plan had been to stay far away. Charlie has always been marching to a different drum though, which seemed to include showing up magically when he was needed.

“How do you do it?” Sam asked, plodding over his feet barely making a sound.

“Do what?” Charlie asked, frowning at Sam’s complete lack of shoes. Charlie’s probably thinking about what would prompt Sam to come outside without footwear and wondering how little of it had to do with a philosophical choice. Or maybe he wasn’t thinking about anything at all, it was hard to tell when Zen, ex-con detectives were involved.

Charlie looked up and smiled at Sam, his usual smile that was genuinely happy and a hint of mirth.

Show up at the exact moment? Sam thought. Always know when to call. Always find me when I need you and didn’t even know I needed you?

Sam shrugged and couldn’t find his voice. He felt like crying or screaming or running away. There was just too much guilt and anger inside him. He closed his eyes, covered his face with his hands to try to hold himself together.

He didn’t hear Charlie move, but all at once he was there. Charlie’s hands covered his and pulled them away from Sam’s face. Crews then kissed both palms, and then looked at Sam.

“What’s going on? This isn’t because you and your brother are apart. It’s something else,” Charlie reasoned. “I heard about what happened at the bar. Bobby told me that some guys had been looking for you. He said it was demons. But you didn’t go. So it’s not that—or not all that?” Charlie looked puzzled, but kind and patient. He wanted to figure it out. “Unless, it’s something else—someone else. Did you have a visitor, Sam?”

Sam knew he was crying, he cheeks felt wet, and it was from bone deep frustration and sadness. Sam nodded and said, “Lucifer, he was in my dream. He told me that I’m his vessel and that I’ll say yes.”

“Don’t believe him,” Charlie said, like it was the most the simple thing, like it would be easy to do. Charlie was confidant. “You won’t say yes because that’s not the person you are.”

“And who am I Charlie?” Sam asked, feeling his anger stir.

“You are your father’s son, just as stubborn and headstrong with a full heart. You will say no because you care too much not to. You believe people can change, because they do. They have that choice, just like you do,” Charlie explained. “You can take control of this. You control your own destiny. You just have to start.

“You can start here. Tell me what you want and what you need, Sam.”

“I want to not feel so angry about all of this, but I need,” Sam leaned down and kissed Charlie and exhaled, “this.”

“Glad we’re on the same page,” Charlie smiled, blue eyes twinkling in the light of the moon and tilted his head back toward Sam’s room.

Sam leaned forward to steal another kiss then maneuvered Charlie toward the door, unlocking it with one hand and guiding them both with the other. When they are inside, Sam pushed Charlie towards the bed, ridding them both of their clothes all the while. The fabric made a trail behind them on the floor.

The back of Charlie’s knees hit the bed and he fell back, scooting until his shoulders met pillow as Sam climb over top of him and straddled the redhead’s hips.

Sam took a moment to just look. It had been awhile since he’d been this close with anyone. Dean and he just haven’t made that connection again. There’s too much hurt between them now, too much that’s gone down and lack of trust. Sam doesn’t blame Dean for not trusting him, for not being able to touch him. Sam can’t even look at himself most days.

But Charlie was looking at him now and all that was in his blue eyes was love and want. The way that Charlie looked at Sam threatened to rip the younger Winchester apart. Sam fought to not look away, having that focus on him burned and felt like he needed it like breathing at the same time.

“Do you want this, Sam?” Crews asked, shifting his hips to brush his erection against Sam’s ass. “Or do you want something else?” Crews purred the question and spread his legs to allow Sam access.

“Something else,” Sam growled, reaching for the lube and condom in the night stand drawer.

Charlie reached up and stole a kiss, while Sam slicked his own fingers. Sam shifted to rest on his heels between Charlie’s legs, his lubed fingers teasing Crews's sensitive hole.

“Yes Sam,” Charlie hummed, “take it.”

Sam slid a finger in quickly followed by a second, gently scissoring in causing Charlie to hiss then moan when Sam’s fingers delved deeper and brushed that bundle of nerves. Sam lingered on that spot for a moment causing Charlie to squirm against Sam’s hand. Sam added a third finger and worked until he had enough room for the forth and made quick work stretching Charlie out to ready.

“Come on already,” Charlie muttered pushing back against his hand.

Sam stole a kiss and made quick work of sliding the condom on his leaking cock and applying more lube. Sam positioned himself and encouraged Charlie to wrap legs around him as he eased in, using his hips to shimmy into where his fingers couldn’t reach.

“Perfect,” Charlie breathed.

“Now move,” Sam told them both and did, sliding out and back in. Quickly he formed a rhythm, pounding into Crews, hitting the prostate every third stroke and Charlie pushing back, matching stroke for stroke.

“Let go,” Charlie urged. “We’ve got to let go,” he gasped.

“I am,” Sam grunted.

“Stop thinking,” Charlie panted. “Just be.”

“Okay,” Sam shifted to stroke even deeper and shakier. Right at the cusp of his own orgasm, reaching between them, he used the hand not supporting his weight to jerk Charlie off with Sam’s name on his lips.

“Charlie,” Sam whispered, saying everything but the name, thrust once more and came.

Collapsing with most of his weight off of Crews, Sam breathed and felt like for the first time in awhile that he was getting enough air. Charlie carded his hair with gentle fingers until Sam had the presence of mind to ease out, then tie off the condom and throw it in the direction of the trash.

“That’s not very tidy,” Charlie spoke, nearly slurring the words. Charlie sounded worn out and Sam guessed that had something to do with all the traveling Crews has been doing.

“I don’t plan on staying here another night,” Sam said, in way of explaining.

“Oh?” Charlie asked. It wasn’t really a question, but Sam could hear all the implications there.

“I’m going to call Dean,” Sam elaborated. “We’re stronger together even if we’re not as close as we were. Even if he’ll never trust me like he did before. I have to try. I haven’t been as much as I could. It’s time to try. I believe we can fix what we broke—what I broke.”

Charlie was smiling at him, “Yeah, you can.”

Whether that’s true or not, Sam knew that sometimes the faith of a Zen detective had to be enough and he’s just beginning to think it would be.

**

Rachel Seybolt was propped against the driver’s side door of his car, arms crossed over her chest, and the slightest of smiles on her face. He hadn’t seen her since the last time he was in LA. She looked good to have been traveling so much. He knew that she’d been looking around the country for books that Bobby wanted.

“Don’t tell me,” Dean said holding up a hand and trying his best not to smirk, “something in your car is broken and you just happened to be in the same town as us.”

“Are you trying to imply that I haven’t listened to a word you’ve said particularly where any car maintenance has been involved?” she asked, eyebrow full of bravado and challenge. It’s nice to see this side of her. She’s grown up a lot in the time that Dean’s known her. She was almost a shell of a girl when he’d first met her and the young woman before him now was quietly feisty, looked up to him in a way, and still had hope despite what she’s been through. It was refreshing and almost fun.

“I was mistaking you for some redhead,” Dean waved off and settled on the car beside her.

“Uncle Charlie is amazingly clueless when it comes to cars,” Rachel agreed. “Not that I am a whole lot better, but details.”

“What do I owe the pleasure?” Dean asked. He didn’t mind her being here exactly, but shit seemed to follow him and Sam around and he just didn’t want for her to be caught in it. She’d been through enough crazy all her own.

“I was getting ready to go in for coffee and I saw the car,” Rachel explained. “Thought I’d stop by and say hello. And I called Bobby Singer. He might’ve mentioned you’d be in this town. Speaking of that redhead, he said you haven’t been answering your phone.”

“Figures,” Dean said. “Maybe I haven’t wanted to talk. He should worry about you a little more.”

“Charlie never tells you how he just shows up, does he?” Rachel asked looking far too amused for her own good and graciously changing the subject.

“Nope,” Dean answered then asked, “Why? Has he told you how he does it?”

“Nope,” Rachel smiled. “I think it’s mostly dumb luck and Charlie being Charlie.”

“Let’s hope he never just disappears,” Dean said and immediately wished he could have kept his big mouth shut. But, he might’ve just been a little worried about it since coming back from the future—a future where Sam said yes to Lucifer and Charlie had vanished off the face of the Earth.

“Now where did that come from?” Rachel partially asked, partially was thinking out loud while searching Dean’s face. Dean scratched the back of his neck.

“Nowhere,” Dean answered.

“Riiiight,” Rachel said dragging out the word. “Try again, because if you know something, something that involves Charlie just disappearing, I need to know. He’s part of my family just like you’re part of my family. I already went without him for twelve years and forgot who he was to me. I can’t go without having him in my life again now that I know him.”

“Yeah,” Dean said then asked, “You know I met you in the future?” He hadn’t really talked about his little foray, aside from telling Sam parts of it. But this part he must have been saving for her.

“No, I think I would have remembered you mentioning it,” Rachel answered. “I’m guessing it wasn’t all good?”

He remembered being frozen at seeing her huddled there in the corner of Castiel’s love shack. He almost didn’t believe it was her.

“Rachel?” he asked disbelief evident in his voice.

“Dean who isn’t Dean,” she answered, standing up and walking over. She looked much older for her—he did the quick mental math—26 years and was dressed demurely in comparison to Cas’s companions. He always knew she wasn’t that kind of girl and he said as much.

“Yeah, well,” she said, slight smile and shrug, “I got my fill of guitar, love-centric guys back in California before the world started ending.” She turned her head to regard him and the light hit her cheek just right to revel a rough red scar marring from the corner of her eye to her chin.

He reached out to touch before he could stop himself. She turned her eyes back to him when his fingers touched her cheek. She felt like a sister to him and they understood each other with a kinship of having experienced loss and dealing with people they love who can be difficult.

He frowned and asked, “Are you going to say, ‘you should see the other guy?’”

“It’s just a line, Dean,” she answered. “It doesn’t define me.”

“You sound like Charlie,” Dean said.

“Someone has to,” Rachel spoke, blinking back tears.

“He’s gone isn’t he?” Dean asked and that felt all the more heartbreaking than everything else that he found out about how the world was now.

“If he isn’t, I don’t know where he would be. He was supposed to be in Detroit and he never showed. I’ve looked everywhere. It’s like he never was,” she squeezed her eyes shut and then began to cry. “He wouldn’t go unless something made him go. He wouldn’t go without telling either of us good-bye.”

He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close and let her cry. She pulled away after a few minutes, wiping her eyes, but he kept his hands on her shoulders.

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have unloaded all that on you. You’re dealing with enough shit as it is,” she said and for a moment looked like her old self, the survivor with a wry grin.

“Future me is sort of a dick,” Dean agreed. “Did you think I was a dick before? Actually, maybe you shouldn’t answer that.”

“You weren’t. A little broken, a lot charming, some loud and a little brash, but not dickish,” she answered. “Dean, this Dean is a lot more broken, a lot less charming, much more loud and brash.”

“I’ve noticed,” Dean agreed, averting his eyes.

“He’s had to be,” she said, placing a hand on his cheek and meeting his eyes.

“So that’s how I’ll end up,” Dean said.

“Not if you don’t choose to be. We are who we want to be. If you don’t want to be him, then don’t. It’s all connected Dean. Whatever choices he made to get here, you can make different ones.”

“So I should say yes to being an angel condom?” Dean asked. Rachel wouldn’t bullshit him on this. She’s experienced how impressively shit has hit the fan here and she knew him before, not to mention her Crews-Zen-like frame of mind.

“I didn’t say that,” she countered, voice and face firm. “We choose our own destiny. I don’t give a shit what anything else has said to you about that fact. The choices are infinite. You can hold on to the one thing he didn’t. And you’ve got balls, Dean. You’re a big damn hero. I think he’s forgotten that, a little. He’s too busy surviving. He lost the person he was being a hero for.”

“Sammy,” Dean breathed the name.

“Sammy,” Rachel agreed.

“We—me and Sam—we’re kind of fucked up right now,” Dean admitted, and that was putting it mildly.

“Nothing that can’t be fixed,” she said sure, true and smiling a little.

“I don’t know about that,” Dean argued because it was true. He had no idea how the two of them could ever be right again.

“You don’t because you haven’t even tried yet. This Dean didn’t even try. Be better than this Dean,” she told him. She’s kind of amazing in the future. He just hoped she wouldn’t harden like that now, that somehow he could live up to her future expectations.

Rachel brought him out of his thoughts after taking a few minutes to absorb all of that.

“But you said yourself,” she reasoned. “It could just be a preconceived Angel version of the future. You know? A what-if worst case scenario to get to say yes to be an angel condom? It wasn’t real Dean. You’ve already made a different choice. You called Sam. You’re both working together.”

“Fat lot of good that’s been doing,” Dean argued. “We-we’re… It’s… Shit.” Dean struggled for words.

“What?” Rachel asked. “It’s not easy anymore. You two are different people. He’s changed. You’ve changed. That’s all true.”

“Don’t go all Zen logic on me, sister,” Dean warned.

“It’s not Zen,” Rachel said. “You two have hurt each other plenty and both have been through some shit that no one should have to go through. It’s kind of a fresh start now. You’re re-learning each other. And it’s gonna be hard. Sometimes you won’t understand why he hasn’t bought any more furniture or driven a bullet ridden car or left you in Los Angeles and didn’t ask for you to tag along. But at least he told you he was going, this time. And that’s a bit more than I meant to say, not to mention where I was going with this.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and looked out across the parking lot. Dean slung an arm around her shoulder and pulled her in.

“Is this where I’m supposed to agree that boys are stupid?” Dean jokingly asked, but it oddly felt like an appropriate sentiment.

“You make us sound like two hormonal girls and I don’t think I ever sounded that young,” Rachel said and looked a little lost for a moment.

“Yeah, me neither,” Dean admitted causing Rachel to move to wrap her arms around his middle. “So, how did you get here if Charlie ditched you in LA?”

“I called Ted, who offered to come back home so I wouldn’t be alone. But Charlie had already left money and a note, I was just getting Ted’s blessing, of sorts. So I bought a car—something new and reliable and good on gas, kind of. It’s got Flexfuel,” she defended and Dean hadn’t even laid eyes on it yet.

“So where’d you park?” Dean asked looking around for what he thought Rachel would have bought. Some little VW Passat maybe or a little beamer.

“So I was kind of a sage-like baddass?” she asked with the hint of mirth mixed with her seriousness doing her very best to change the subject.

“Seemed like,” Dean answered but wouldn’t be deterred. “So whatcha get?”

Rachel sighed and tipped her head toward the black Cadillac SUV parked across the street and said, “That.”

“That’s not a car, it’s a high-brow, show-offy tank,” Dean answered, trying not to gape. “I really wouldn’t have picked that for you. Ever. Even if you suddenly decided you needed to be someone’s trophy wife.”

“I had a feeling about it,” she defended, sounding a little childish.

Dean smirked, “Are you sure you’re not trying to overcompensate for something?”

She pulled away and punched his arm. “I guess you don’t want pancakes, then.”

“Curbs, parking meters, and small children don’t stand a chance against you,” Dean chided.

“You don’t even get to have coffee now,” Rachel nodded, blushing furiously. “Stop giving me shit, Winchester. I’m an excellent driver. And it’s got one of those backup cameras so you can see exactly where you are and for the record, I haven’t run over any small children.”

“I never said you weren’t a good driver, darlin,’” Dean consoled, his eyes smiling.

Rachel scowled and dragged him toward the diner causing Dean to ask, “I thought you said I didn’t even get to have coffee.”

“That doesn’t mean I have to go without,” she smirked. “And I guess I could forgive you. My giant show-offy tank forgives you. You’ll thank me one day when I save you from zombies because I can just drive over them without even slowing down.”

“Keep telling yourself that, princess,” Dean teased.

“I’m right, you know,” she said after crossing the street and stopping on the sidewalk, bringing the conversation back to what was bothering him. “You are better than that. You and Sam’ll stop it.”

“Your blind faith in us two fuck-ups is ridiculous,” Dean said.

“Justice is blind. Faith is kind and precious and deserving. And being a smart ass won’t make me believe it any less,” she declared and rose on her tip toes to kiss his cheek. “Now, I think we need pie.”

He slung an arm over her shoulder and led her towards the diner, “Pie I can get behind.”

“You big self-doubter,” Rachel said.

“What are you? Seven all of a sudden?” Dean asked.

“I might’ve been hanging out with Jesse,” Rachel admitted.

“How is the little anti-Christ doing?” Dean asked, thinking about the kid. He hadn’t seen him since that case and the kid had disappeared into the ether with only a goodbye note to his mother and father.

“Coping,” Rachel said. “But, I’m working on the whole parent angle. He’s got them and should be with them. I’ve about got it worked out.”

“I don’t even want to know,” Dean said seriously and then joked, “You could just hide them in that giant SUV.”

Rachel glared at him and stormed into the diner, trying her best not to smile as she ran up and gave Sam a ferocious hug.

“Traitor,” Dean declared completely failing at scowling while Sam looked puzzled.

After there was coffee and pie instead of pancakes and Rachel very seriously looking at Dean and telling him he really should consider eating more actual vegetables that aren’t fried potatoes, she had to leave. Apparently she wanted him to stick around after they had saved the world. But before she went she said, “You boys play nice together now,” and looking oddly serious despite her joking tone and finger waggle.

“Says the girl driving a small tank,” Sam protested.

She cheerfully flipped him off as she climbed into her SUV. “I mean it,” she said. “Get your shit together and stop dancing around it.” Before they could protest, she drove off.

“Well, that was weird,” Dean said, puzzling it over.

“Not really,” Sam said.

“What?” Dean asked, lifting an eyebrow. He had a feeling he knew, but playing dumb might be the safer course. Heaven and Hell was already was against him, why wouldn’t a young twenty-something be conspiring to get him to go back to having a relationship with his brother. Kids these days. “Why not?”

“You really aren’t this dense,” Sam gave him a look, somewhere between fond exasperation and frustration. It wasn’t quite the look Dean was going for. If he were going to have this conversation with his little brother, then Sam was going to make the face.

Dean hung his head, sighed, and then looked back up into the direction she drove off. “Are you making up with me?”

“Dean!” Sam said firmly and there was the look Dean wanted to see. Sam’s bitchface, finally.

“Aha! You are,” Dean said. Despite his joking, the idea of it was a little terrifying, actually. Trying for that level of closeness again, that level of trust when they’re just starting to get almost comfortable with each other again, it was just going to be that much more devastating if they didn’t fix what they broke.

“Don’t make this a joke,” Sam spoke, “I’m scared too.” Sam was looking down then back up, hands in his hair and back down at his side. His face looked so sad, so lost. Even after everything that’s happened, Dean’s first instinct was to fix it, but he’s been shit at that recently.

“Sammy,” Dean said, more or less breathing the word. It could have been a plea or an order to tread no further. He was saying everything he didn’t mean to with that one word, same as always.

“Dean,” Sam answered in turn, his eyes narrowing in on his brother, with his fox slanted eyes serious and underlying promise—promises of maybe everything of doing better and no more bullshit. It was terrifying. “You can’t say you don’t even want to try.”

“Sam,” Dean said, hint more insistent now, but he wasn’t sure what he meant by it, whether it was ‘back off’ or ‘fucking kiss me already.’ Same old song and dance and maybe he was just too worn out for it.

“You have to tell me what you want here Dean,” Sam said palms up, face open, eyes focused wholly on his brother.

“I don’t know,” Dean shrugged, scratching the back of his neck and fighting between closing the distance and walking away. He finally met Sam’s eyes. “I’m so tired.”

Sam nodded, flash of heartbreak across his face quickly tucked back away. “Okay,” he said.

“C’mon,” Dean said. “Get in the car.”

Sam got in and they drove back to the motel, Dean trying his best not to think and failing spectacularly. When they got back in the room, Dean dragging his feet while Sam gathered his things to take a shower, the elder Winchester found that he was trying to gather his nerve. His brother turned to face Dean again, words forming on his lips when Dean stepped forward closing the small chasm between them and kissed Sam.

“Mmph,” Sam said, whatever he was going say hushed in surprise. He quickly recovered and kissed back, pleased, relieved, and eager.

The kiss was so familiar and new, both of them hesitant, but the feeling that it was everything was still present even after all that had happened.

“This is a mistake,” Dean said, breaking away from the kiss to catch his breath. He hated to be the bearer of bad news, but someone had to say it.

“Probably,” Sam agreed, smiling goofily at his brother. He knew that Dean was still in it till the wheels fell off.

“Bitch,” Dean grumbled.

“Jerk,” Sam grinned, looking just a hint teary-eyed.

“You are such a girl,” Dean muttered, rolling his eyes but looking a touch fond.

“I bet a hand job could change your position on that,” Sam countered still grinning like the big, ridiculous sap he still was.

“It’d be a start,” Dean agreed reaching for the zipper of his brother’s pants, reaching for Sam’s already half-hard cock while Sam reached for Dean’s hard cock.

Dean took a smear of his own precome and used it slick his brother’s cock to give the right amount of friction as he jacked Sam’s cock causing Sam’s strokes on Dean’s cock to stutter and become increasingly uneven as Dean thumbed the slit.

“Dean,” Sam moaned. “Fuckin’ dirty, rotten cheater,” he cursed and adjusted his grip, tugging at Dean’s cock.

“Less talkin,” Dean groaned and soon they were both reduced to grunts. Sam’s forehead resting against his brother’s, moist with sweat, and Sam’s tongue darting out between his lips in concentration. That settled it. Dean caught Sam’s lips with his own and when his tongue breached Sam’s lips, Sam came and Dean swallowed his moans.

Sam pulled away long enough to look his brother in the eye and breathed Dean’s name. Dean could see a whole helluva lot there. He let go and spilled his load all over Sam’s hand. They would both have to hold on just as tight if they were going to make it through this.


 

Ideally, Charlie could have picked a better place to stop, but his eyes were starting to cross from driving so long and he was a bone-deep tired that had nothing to do with regular fatigue. This end of the world stuff was really starting to wear him down. He’d just get out of the car for a minute. California was still only a thousand miles away. It wasn’t getting any farther.

He stretched and looked around to find that he was parked at a crossroad, when he turned around he almost jumped out of his skin at the girl standing in front of him. Well, woman actually. Her feet were bare, earth caked on her toes, nails free of polish. She looked like she could be anyone, like someone’s sister or daughter. But, he knew exactly who she was the moment he laid eyes on her.

“Holy shit!” Charlie exclaimed, his mouth running away from him before he could stop it.

She laughed and it carried on the breeze. The trees even seemed to laugh with her. “Oh Charlie,” she spoke with the fondness of an old friend and a smile to match, “I really like you. You’re so refreshing. You even know who I am.”

“Well, you’re only the Creator,” Charlie shrugged, trying to ground himself. “Just seems like I should know you on sight.” Actually, he felt like that was true. Weird.

“And you’d be surprised to find out how many don’t know me when they meet me,” She said, looking sad.

"Who were you pretending to be for all this time?" Charlie asked finding his nerve. Everyone's pretending to be someone that isn't themselves. Buddha said so. He'd know. He's done his Zen readings.

"I'm sorry," spoke the Lord, "what?"

The vessel that God was wearing-at least Charlie thought it was a vessel since this was God that he's dealing with-looked patiently amused at Charlie. He thinks that's a good sign. Usually people looking so at him were less likely to do violence to him. He's got plenty of experience to back that up.

Anyway, the person, currently housing God, looked very much like a girl, well a twenty-something woman with auburn hair and freckles. Actually, She's kind of a plain Jane. She's pretty enough, just normal looking with an underlying allure. He thinks that he might've thought that God would be flashier, which is part of the reason he asks the question.

"Which has what to do with anything?" God asked reading his train of thought and looking even more amused.

"Well," started Charlie. "Buddha has said that we're all pretending to be somebody. Maybe that somebody is greater than the self or maybe it's less than the self. Maybe it isn't even close to the self at all. Maybe that somebody is pretending to blend in to see if they should be stopping the Apocalypse or let their little ant farm sit under a heat lamp ‘til there are no ants left and then start with new ants? Which is unfair if the ants never get a say. Let the ants have a say. They might rather be outside baking in the sun and fending for themselves."

Charlie could admit that he has the terrible habit of rambling. Apparently, talking to the Creator was no exception to this rule.

"Maybe that somebody just wanted to play pinball in Jersey instead of thinking about the insolence of heavenly creatures," God spoke and smiled a private smile.

"You've seen 'Dogma'? After all this, you're gonna make a joke about it—not that I didn't love that movie," Charlie thought about the desolation of the town that Death had been in, feeling his anger rise and burn the tips of his ears. That town that was a peaceful little hideaway until the week before that now looks like something from news report on the war in the Middle East. He stopped there to look for Sam and Dean because that place looked like trouble and trouble for them was never too far behind.

"Not that maybe making a joke out of this mess isn't deserved," Charlie continued. "Not that maybe those two boys didn't start it, cause they did. But we're trying here. All of us. We are trying so hard. Some try harder than others. Some are completely out for themselves. I know-I'm a detective. Just," he felt his anger ebb and fatigue creep back in. "Tell me this is more than a joke, more than some universal version of a political snafu, because it is more than that. We are all more than that whether you or the angels or demons think any different."

She looked unbearably sad, all at once. He tried not to feel bad, even as he averted his eyes.

He couldn't help that he's angry. It's just, he didn't somehow survive twelve years in prison and three years back outside in the world just to find out that not only was God real, but could very well not give a shit about any of this. But this isn't nothing. It's one big something and it all comes back to fruit. And he's afraid, mainly for his friends. If everything ended here for him, maybe he'll get to come back as a ferocious Norwegian rabbit. He'd probably get along better with less questions and carrot eating. Fifteen pounds of pure bunny. And not a coward who couldn’t keep looking God in the eye as he thought all of these things and felt so mad.

She touched his face, regarded him with patience and a slight smile. "I can see why the Winchesters like you so much," She said and it looked like She liked those brothers too—like She was cheering for them. Then Her face shifted to serious. He found his courage, tucked deep, and he looked into her eyes.

He could see the power behind those eyes wrapped around the essence of the universe and barely contained. The sight took his breath, but he couldn't look away—not even if he wanted to. Time for bravery. He had to see. Someone had to see, had to witness, so they could know. Knowledge came at the price of fruit once. And the being holding his face was not just some thrown away demigod trying to get its sacrifices in time for Yule. The being shrouded in a girl was the real thing here, not some cheap imitation whose power has lessened over time.

Charlie was in the presence of the Maker of fruit and could no longer find it within him to fear.

"Exactly," She said and grinned. "Fear not, Charlie Crews. I am watching now and I'm not pretending to be anything other than myself. Soon it will be time. You will know what to do."

He blinked and She was gone, leaving the warmth of Her palm cooling on his cheek. He touched his fingers where Hers had been.

"But what now?" he asked the empty air.

"Have a mango," the leaves whispered in Her voice.

"But there aren't any..." his protests tapered off when he saw that the tree beside him that had previously been Redbud tree had been transformed to a mango tree heavy with ripe, lush fruit.

"Now that's just showin' off," he said, because it was, and grinned. At least it wasn't apple. If it were, he'd be totally suspicious after eating at least three.


 

**
Rachel really had been working that whole parent angle where Jesse’s parents were concerned. It just involved Charlie buying a house somewhere tropical and sunny and helping to angel and demon proof it, which he was happy to do. It had been like a really unconventional art project. Not to mention, he liked Jesse. The boy made him think and made him remember how important family was. While waiting for Rachel to bring Jesse’s parents to this hideaway, he and the kid talked. To be fair, the kid started it and needed it.

Jesse said, "I make people disappear." The boy fidgeted and tried to make himself smaller, like he was afraid his confession would make him a target.

"I once made a Russian mobster disappear. But you don't mean it like that do you?" Charlie asked staying open and nonjudgmental. It was the least he could do.

Jesse shook his head. God, the kid was so young. It had been forever since he was that young. It feels like forever since he’s talked with a kid, let alone one holding such power. Charlie can feel it. It tickles his skin and makes him feel unsettled. He feels like the world could be anything and then nothing. He feels like he's being trapped.

“Do you want to make people disappear?” Charlie asked in turn.

“No.” Jesse shook his head and looked a little frightened for a moment.

“Then don’t.” Charlie said like it was simple, but it sort of was. Everything can be simple if it doesn’t get over thought, just like everything is connected.

“That sounds easy.” Jesse argued, pouting a little.

“Sometimes what is easy is what is.” Charlie countered.

“What’s that suppose to mean?” Jesse asked, wrinkling his nose in confusion making the freckles there dance a little.

“No idea,” Charlie shrugged and gave a grin. “I read it on a fortune cookie.”

“Fortune cookies were an American invention,” Jesse said like that settled it.

“That might explain why they aren’t quite like cookies, exactly,” Charlie mused. “I prefer to eat fruit better myself.”

“You’re weird,” Jesse decided.

“That’s very true,” Charlie agreed, the corner of his mouth upturned and thinking of all his friends. “You aren’t the first to say.”

Charlie almost said, “Your face is weird,” but reframed because he didn’t quite feel like a nine year old. He felt way too mature for stopping himself.

“So, are you two going to sit in the sun all day, or do you want to have some supper?” Rachel called from inside and standing next to her were who Charlie guessed to be Jesse’s mom and dad.

Jesse leapt up and ran to them, while Rachel and he shared a look of joint satisfaction. He was proud of her and hoped she continued to surprise him, even if he’d be back in LA and wouldn’t be seeing all the ways she found to be amazing. He had work he should be doing too.

**
Charlie made it back to LA and barely got out of his shoes before falling asleep in his bed. But he did not wake up there. Actually, he didn’t remember waking up at all. He opened his eyes and found that he was in a kitchen that wasn’t his own with a very attractive chef making pumpkin soup. He went with it, because he’d never tried that kind of soup before and wanted to know if it counted as a fruit. He felt like the Winchesters should be around here somewhere. Now he’s somewhere else.

Judging by the three bodies in the clearing, Charlie figured that he was just a little too late and stuck in the middle of a procedural cop show. He’s got a love/hate relationship with these kind of shows. On one hand, they hit too close to home and on the other he can’t help but be curious. He guessed he could go ahead and work the case anyway. Playing along with that cooking show earlier had worked and eating mango sorbet had been a bonus.

Besides, it had been awhile and wouldn’t hurt to give practice a chance since this was a crime scene and he was a detective.

He flashed his badge at one of the lackeys on the scene and said, “Detective Crews.” He hoped the kid didn’t notice that it was a Los Angeles county badge, but his tone and demeanor was spot-on, naturally. “Could you tell me which the first victim is?”

“Does it matter?” the kid asked.

“To start at the beginning is to see how we arrived at this moment,” Charlie said with a smile.

The kid looked at Charlie like he was absolutely insane. Charlie was use to it. He has that effect on people.

“The stiff on the ground with the gut shot,” he pointed to the dead man’s stomach then the neck, “strangled. Found with a roll of quarters shoved down his throat.”

“Guess that gives him more than enough for the ferryman,” Crews said. The lackey’s face was unreadable and a little bewildered. Charlie ignored him in order to look at the other two bodies lying on the grass. “So, two fellas—a taller one and a short one—came through and stabbed these two?”

“How’d you know?” the lackey openly gaped.

“I’m a detective,” Charlie smiled and felt even more unsettled. He was more use to his hair-brain theories getting a bored glare. He wished Reece were in this strange dream with him.

The lackey’s face morphed and changed and he looked like someone Charlie arrested before, but he knew it wasn’t the same guy. He’s totally dealing with a something else here.

“Charlie Crews,” the newly transformed man said, clapping a little. “That quarters line was an excellent ad-lib.”

The man snapped his fingers and the crime scene vanished and was replaced by a bowling alley bustling with noise of people and honky-tonk music. Actually, there were a lot of senior citizens about. Had he been teleported to a retirement village? Huh.

“So,” Charlie said taking a look around. “This your sandbox, then?”

“It is. Not that I know how you made your way into it. I bet that pretty boy angel helped you,” the man sneered. “Besides, Phoenix has the best bowling.”

“What? You’re jealous of his hair?” Crews asked. He was half joking. Charlie actually had no real idea how he got here. He’d been prone to this sort of thing lately. Being in Arizona did explain the amount of retirees though and this was more than hair jealousy. He’d have to think on his toes.

The man gave a look that asked, “Are you serious?”

“What do I call you?” Charlie asked.

“I’d almost tell you my name. It’s not like you'll make your way back out of here on your own. Like you said, it’s my sandbox,” the man mused.

“Or maybe I will. Like you said, you don’t know how I got into your sandbox.” Charlie shrugged and smiled, settling in behind a booth to set up a game.

“You can call me Trickster,” the man said, sitting beside Crews.

“So,” Charlie said, writing it in, “are you Coyote, Wolf, or Spider?”

“Of course, you’d ask a question like that,” Trickster said, cocking a grin.

Charlie shrugged, “It’s amazing who you’ll run into when traveling through America’s West or Africa. But I don’t think you're any of them. I think you’re something else.” He was thinking out loud, but there was a feeling about this Trickster, something he’d run across before. Something not just godly but Godly.

“What are you looking for Charlie Crews?” Trickster asked him, his face a mask to what he was feeling. Charlie that there might be a hint of a little fear there and snide.

“A more peaceful soul,” Charlie answered honestly.

Trickster laughed, head kicked back, practically giggling. He whipped a few tears from his eyes and asked with surprising seriousness, “How’s that working for ya?”

“All right,” Charlie said then elaborated. “Real good since I haven’t had to kill anyone in a whole three months.”

“That’s swell,” Trickster said, with sarcasm and looked a little unnerved.

“So Trickster, what are you looking for?” Charlie asked, feeling like he was just on the brink of figuring this out.

“I want to see those two chuckleheads play their roles,” Trickster said, sounding angry and tired and sad all at once. Charlie knew he was talking about Sam and Dean. The Trickster wanted the Winchesters to say yes to the angels, but that would destroy the world. But that was at the heart of the matter, wasn’t it? Everything was connected and it all came back to those two, it all came back to brothers.

“They’re both kind of stubborn,” Charlie reasoned. “I’m sure you’ve met them. They never see it your way. Kind of like all siblings, I imagine,” Charlie said and something on the Tricksters face shifted. “They don’t care about anyone but themselves. Always got something to prove to a father who doesn’t seem to care for the challenge of authority or approval.”

“Detective stop trying to psycho-analyze me here,” Trickster said, air of a threat. “This is my sandbox remember.”

Charlie shrugged, “As you wish. But in my experience, no one gets this upset if it isn’t a family matter.”

Charlie would bet on a whole lot that he was dealing with an arch angel right now. Hell, he’d met Lucifer and God. He was kind of surprised he hadn’t run into one before now.

“All the more reason not to talk about it,” Trickster said.

“Well,” Charlie offered, “in that case, we could both get blindingly drunk and bowl.”

“That’s actually not a bad idea,” Trickster agreed and the cocky, self-assured grin was back.

When Charlie finally woke up that morning, he found the still lingering taste of tequila on the back of his tongue and a monster of a headache, but he was wearing all his clothes. He distinctly remembered hitting on a palm tree at one point during the whole exchange. After showering and drinking a half pot of coffee, he called Dean to find his number out of service. He then called Bobby to the last place they had been and called Rachel to just scope things out.

Rachel called two hours later to let him know that she’d found the car and that the boys had come strolling out of a run-down warehouse. She also said that she’d kicked Sam’s shins, punched Dean in the arm and gave Cas a withering look for, “worrying them all sick.” Her response only caused Charlie to smile and decide that no matter how the apocalypse went, she’d at least be feisty enough to survive.

“What had them tied up?” Charlie asked.

“The Arch Angel Gabriel,” Rachel answered.

“Huh,” Charlie responded.

“Now why do I feel like you’re holding out on me here, Charlie?” Rachel asked.

“I might tell you later after I drink the rest of this pot of coffee,” Charlie said vaguely, leaving Rachel to scoff on her end of the phone and mutter about all the men in her life being tight-lipped dunces that were going to worry her into an early grave. No sooner than he hung up, Reece called to let him know that someone had been murdered and he needed to hurry up. Death really doesn’t wait for anyone and at least that hadn’t changed about being back home.

**

Charlie had been home a month or so when Dean actually called him for the first time in forever. Usually Charlie was the one to initiate a phone call. Sam always tried to keep in touch, but Dean seemed to pretend that his phone didn’t make calls. Naturally, he didn’t sound like Dean at all. Charlie almost hung up.

"Will you still love me when I'm 64?” a grizzled old voice asked.

“Depends on who me is?” Had he been flirting with old guys again? He doesn’t remember running up on any geezers and turning on the charm. But there was that time in Phoenix when he was black-out drunk, even though he might have not actually been in Arizona. Teach him to drink with an Arch-angel in a maybe dream.

“It’s me, Charlie. Dean,” the speaker, Dean, said.

“I imagine this is a long story, possibly involving some stupidity.” Charlie reasoned

“Yep,” Dean confirmed.

“Then yes, I still love you while you’re 64. Are you 64?” Charlie asked, still working out the finer details.

“Are you asking philosophically or physically?” Dean asked, sounding a little reluctant.

“Both?” Charlie wasn’t sure. Maybe he’s always asking questions on more than one level. He’d have to think on it.

“Yes physically, actually older.” Dean answered vaguely.

“Huh.” Charlie mused.

“That real deep there, Detective.” Dean sounded bemused.

“So’s your voice,” Charlie said, not quite sounding like a kid, but he wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders. He’d just gotten home after working half the night and trying not to feel sick from thinking about his last drunken experience.

“Batting a thousand tonight there, Charlie.” Dean teased.

“I just had a flashback to a terrible drinking binge,” Charlie pouted. “I’m just trying to get my footing here.”

“You got drunk?” Dean asked and Charlie could hear the upturned eyebrow.

“It was a lapse of judgment involving peer pressure,” Charlie explained in the vaguest of terms. He knew how Dean felt about Gabriel. But to Charlie’s credit, he hadn’t officially known who he’d actually been drinking with. It had only been a suspicion at the time. “I think even I get one of those screw-ups every few years or so.”

Dean chuckled. “I would have loved to see that.”

“Nah,” Charlie argued, pursing his lips. “You didn’t really miss anything. I might have hit on a tree, twice, but really that’s the only thing worth mentioning.” Certainly not flirting with retirees and potted palms. Nope.

“I knew you were a hippie,” Dean said with good humor.

“I was born and raised in California,” Charlie shrugged, then steered it to more serious waters. “You know Dean; I’ll be 64 a good ten or so years before you will.”

“Unless I die in the next few hours,” Dean countered.

“You won’t,” Charlie said positive.

“So, then, what’s that got to do with anything?” Dean asked.

“Will you still love me when I’m 64?” Charlie asked.

“Charlie, both of us got to live through the Apocalypse first,” Dean said. It wasn’t a no and it wasn’t a yes either.

“But yeah, after that?” Charlie asked again.

“Yeah,” Dean said after a moment’s pause.

“Way to reassure a guy,” Charlie joked.

“Maybe I’m not sure about anything—not to do with you, exactly,” Dean exhaled. “I’m so tired of all this shit.”

“I know,” Charlie spoke, wishing he was there to at least look Dean in the eye. “I could tell you that it will get better. That it will get easier, but even I don’t know that. You know if you want me there, I’m there.”

“Yeah Charlie, I know,” Dean said. “Just… I...”

“You’ll never ask and I think I kinda get it,” Charlie said, letting love and kindness color his words. “I don’t know if it isn’t because you don’t think you’re worth it or that you don’t deserve someone to be there for you that isn’t there because they’re blood or they want you to save the world. I know you’re worth it even if I have to deal with a crotchety old guy. But, I’ll shut-up before you stammer even more and tell me to shut up. You’ll hear me eventually, but now isn’t the time.”

“Yeah, well I gotta go,” Dean said, “check in with Sam.”

“Good night, Dean,” Charlie spoke and when the phone cut off, he wondered how long he’d worry before he fell asleep. Turns out, it was a good long while, just after dawn.
**

Sometimes, even Charlie can learn to use the internet, but he might never have found any of what’s out there about the Winchesters had it not been for Ted sending a few links. Ted had some major Google-fu and used it to find links to fanfiction about the brothers—not on purpose, mind. After reading some of that, Charlie figured it was almost natural for him to end up at the con, if just to defend Sam and Dean’s honor. Chuck knew exactly why Charlie was there as soon as Charlie sat beside him at the bar.

"You're not going to yell at me too, are you?" Chuck asked and gulped. Apparently, the Winchesters can defend themselves. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to have a little fun.

"Why would I yell? Anyway, we're inside, so inside voices," Charlie's eyes twinkled with amusement and Chuck shifted nervously. He could yell at Chuck for calling the boys who are stressed enough without driving nonstop across the country and being somewhat traumatized by the whole ordeal. He thought of threatening Chuck, but instead asked something else. Something that had bothered him.

"Why aren't I in the books Chuck?" He continued to eye the prophet just to see how much he'd squirm. A lot apparently.

"Because you'd make them dirty," Chuck blurted, furrowing his brow and staring intently into the counter.

Charlie laughed, "Dirty?" He’d expected all sorts of answers. Talk about how he was just too Zen or how, as far as Heaven’s radar was concerned, he simply didn’t exist.

"Yeah, you're like some kind of Zen Casanova machismo or something. And it's like every time you show up, sex happens. Kids might read these books. They can't be reading all that," Chuck made spastic, somewhat rude gestures with his hands, and ended up just looking horrified.

Charlie laughed. It was just too funny.

"It's certainly not because you're Zen," Chuck struggled to regain some composure.

"Yeah, my concern was related to my conflicting higher philosophies," Charlie said once he'd stopped laughing.

Chuck looked even more confused and uncomfortable. "Actually that might be part of it."

"What do you mean?" Charlie asked, curious.

"I know you talk to them, a lot, but I never see any of that. Like only when you’re on the same line of thought is the only times I see you," Chuck baffled.

Charlie made a thoughtful sound. Maybe he's more Zen than he thought himself to be. He knew that he tried for a peaceful soul and now it might not be so far out of reach.

"Oh God, you're going to start having even kinkier sex aren't you!?" Chuck hissed mistaking Charlie's silence.

Actually Charlie hadn't got that far in thought. He smiled. It wasn’t a friendly smile but one more of mischief and a touch evil.

"Now you're just trying to punish me for messing up your Tivo," Chuck face-planted on his arms against the bar as his phone started buzzing again. He should really answer it. He knew it was work and Dani losing patience with him.

"I missed three episodes of Castle. I love that show." Charlie agreed, paying both their tabs and more than a little extra.

“Where are you going?” Chuck asked a note of concern in his voice.

“To find something kinkier,” Charlie winked, heading for the door and listening to Chuck groan far behind him.

When he got outside, Sam was leaning against his car. Charlie smiled at him. Sam’s return smile wasn’t as bright as it could have been, even a touch shy.

“You know,” Charlie said, “Being parked next to these Impalas, I feel like the only uncool kid at school.”

“What else is new?” Sam asked, looking at Charlie through his bangs.

“I’d protest, but really,” Charlie shrugged.

“You were totally a dork in high school, weren’t you?” Sam asked, but couldn’t quite picture it. Sure, Charlie would’ve been a freckled redhead, kid, but he didn’t see an outsider— not like Dean and he had been— but someone, who’d been involved, liked.

“More than a little, probably because I can’t really tan,” Charlie answered.

“Yeah, that’s it in a nutshell right there,” Sam agreed.

“You’re making fun of me,” Charlie observed.

Sam gave a look that asked, Who? Me?

“Sammy giving you a hard time?” Dean asked, walking up.

“You’re in a better mood,” Charlie noticed, smiling a little.

“Can’t be all doom and gloom all the time, now can I, detective?” Dean asked about the time he noticed Sam looking curious at his brother.

“I guess not,” Charlie agreed, giving them both a quick peck on the cheek and strolling back over to his rental. “I’d love to hang around, but I gotta go do that work thing.”

“That’s too bad,” Dean said, hint of playful promise in his words.

“Rain check?” Sam asked, sounding just a touch the same.

Charlie grinned, winked, and got in his car. It took everything in him to drive off. If he didn’t like being a detective so much, he would have stayed, but apparently he actually had to show up and solve crimes to keep a job. Pesky detail, especially when he had to drive away from two very well-built brothers. There’d be other times though. He can always fake a family emergency. They are family, after all.


 

“So,” Charlie started and Dean braced for it. He should have known when he called Rachel to let her know that they’d gotten out, mostly intact, that she’d call Charlie and send Crews his way. He’d be grateful if he didn’t feel like he was about to get a talk.

“Yeah?” Dean asked. He couldn’t believe he was encouraging the man. He knew better. There’s no excuse. Charlie wanted to talk. He could hear the desire in the detective’s pause. It was all he could do not to look over at Crews, so he focused on the ground and pretended it was the most interesting thing ever.

“A nuthouse?” Charlie made it a question. Dean wanted to punch something. He wanted to get angry. But he was so tired. There was too much he was trying to push back down so he couldn’t feel it.

“Mmmhmm,” Dean answered noncommittally.

“Not one of your best ideas, either of you,” Charlie said like it was obvious, like the two of them only made a small lapse of judgment or a wrong turn. Not like the whole thing hadn’t been a complete clusterfuck from the word go.

“No,” Dean agreed, but it barely came out a whisper.

Charlie was quiet. They were sitting close enough on the park bench that he could feel the heat of Charlie. He could touch if he wanted, either of them could.

Instead, Dean crossed his arms in front of himself and spoke. “Are you gonna lecture me about what a bonehead idea it was? It needed done. So it’s done. That’s that. It doesn’t fuckin’ matter.” He forced the words out through a clenched jaw.

Charlie placed a hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze, just hard enough to ground Dean and waited for Dean to look at him. Dean took a breath to steel himself and met Charlie’s eyes. Charlie’s face was open with concern in his brow and love tucked in the corner of his mouth. He looked at Dean like he really saw him and showed him that he was glad to see Dean, all of him. Dean looked away. It was too much. It’s always too much where Charlie’s concerned.

“It’s done, that’s true,” Charlie said. His voice soft and sure. “The job is complete. Wraiths don’t play fair as if it wasn’t hard enough to cope before. As if you didn’t already have enough to carry, you’re going to have to carry this too. You’re not going to talk about it because you never talk about this kind of thing. You’re going to try your goddamn best not to even think about it because you were reminded what’s in your head. I get it. I’ve met you. But I want to ask you a question. It doesn’t matter what the answer is, especially if it’s true. It’s just, I need to know. And I think you just might need to say it.”

“What Charlie?” Dean found his voice to his surprise and looked at Charlie trying his best not to wince at whatever the question was. Charlie’s face was still full of concern and care, unwavering.

“Are you okay, Dean?” Charlie asked.

Of all the questions… He thought of a thousand smart ass retorts he could throw back. Charlie would listen to them all and take them for what they really were. But sometimes, no bullshit was best.

“No,” Dean answered, looking away. His ears burned and he thought that might be shame.

Charlie’s hand moved so that he could wrap an arm around Dean’s shoulder and Dean leaned in to where their heads touched. Charlie placed a soft kiss to his temple.

“Thank you,” Charlie said.

“You know, I kinda did expect a lecture,” Dean said after a few moments silence.

“Well, I know you like it when I shut up, too,” Charlie said, smile in his voice and the slightest of promises.

Dean shrugged as best he could. “So, do you care that you’re sleeping with a crazy person?”

“Nah, and really, it’s two crazy people,” Charlie clarified. “Besides, it takes one to know one—I have been called a fruitcake. And I don’t think that there's a person out there who isn’t a little crazy. Do you care that you’re sleeping with a fruitcake?”

“Not one so good in the sack,” Dean mused.

“That’s the spirit,” Charlie agreed. “Now, do you want to take this to my room or christen the backseat of my car?”

“Never let anyone say you aren’t a romantic,” Dean muttered, moving for a kiss and then hesitating.

Charlie took Dean’s face in his hands, “Hi Dean,” he spoke, his voice soft.

“Hi Charlie,” Dean whispered, just looking at the detective and feeling so adrift for a moment.

“Be here, Dean,” Charlie matched his tone.

“Okay,” Dean agreed and did kiss him then. “We’re going to need to take this inside.”

Tugging on the sleeve of Charlie’s dark green button up shirt, Dean guided them toward Charlie’s room. He didn’t want to share Charlie with Sam right now. He’d never had Crews all to himself. He wanted to know what it was like and it had been a long time since he’d let himself be intimate with anyone—well, anyone that mattered. Sam doesn’t count, because it’s old hat and still new at the same time. But, this redhead, whose face was open with nothing but love, mattered to Dean. Hell, he might even love him and even though that scared the shit out of him, because caring will just leave him that much more heartbroken at the end of all this, when Crews ended up dead due to the Apocalypse.

Door open and hardly clicked shut before Dean was kissing Charlie again, letting himself kiss like he needed it. Charlie returned his kisses trying to convey all matter of feeling of need, want, stay, and love.

In response, Dean unbuttoned Charlie’s shirt, removed it and the t-shirt underneath, and then tugged out of his own Henley. Charlie tipped his head at Dean, stole another kiss, and asked, “What do you want?”

“Touch me,” Dean said.

Then Charlie’s hands were everywhere, caressing Dean’s back and snaking further down. One hand ended up on Dean’s hip and the other his face all while they made out like horny teenagers with a more desperate undercurrent, more frantic. Charlie’s hands spoke volumes. They said, “Feel you, you’re tangible, you are here.” But then, so did Charlie’s kisses and everything that he said and didn’t say to Dean.

“What else?” Charlie asked, breath tickling Dean’s ear between kisses. “Do you want me to make you feel something more?” Kiss and a shift of Crews’ hips. “Something deeper?” Kiss and Charlie was pressing his hard length against Dean’s thighs. “Dean, tell me what you want.”

Dean was nearly keening and he couldn’t stifle his moan. “Yes,” he spoke. It was barely a word more than a whisper wanting everything and nothing at all. Feeling could be terrifying. Dean’s felt enough shit tonight. But this was Charlie asking. Charlie who would take care. Charlie who would take only what Dean was willing to give and give Dean back more tenfold.

Charlie lifted an eyebrow and nuzzled at Dean’s neck, kissing the hollow there, and then eyes focused back on Dean.

“Say it,” Charlie requested, a glimmer in his eye of desire and love.

“Blow me,” Dean whispered, decided. He knew what he was asking; all of Charlie’s attention focused wholly on him encompassing all of Crews fondness, kindness, and desire that would touch upon Dean’s closely guarded insides. Charlie wanted everything. Dean was letting go enough to give it, trusting Crews enough to take it knowing Charlie would cherish anything.

With a smile, Charlie unzipped his pants and removed them along with his shoes and boxers. He bent down and took great care in untying Dean’s shoes and helping remove them. He stood back up and got Dean out of his pants, taking great care, eyes never leaving the elder Winchester’s face.

Charlie guided Dean to the bed, stealing a few more gentle kisses and encouraged him to lie down. He then kissed Dean’s mouth once more and trailed kisses down his neck, pecks, and stomach. His touch teasing around Dean’s navel as his kissed hip bones and drew closer to his goal. Dean’s cock twitched at the attention.

“So beautiful,” Charlie said and it sounded like he was saying everything. When Charlie said that, Dean almost could believe him, but he kept his gaze shuddered.

Charlie licked from the base to tip along the underside, teasing the vein there and Dean sucked in a gasp of air. Charlie used his hand to angle Dean’s cock so he could lick around the tip tasting salt and precome there. Tonguing the slit while using his thumb to tease the skin under the balls, Dean bucked up against him. Charlie used his other hand to hold Dean down as he took the length into his mouth all the way down and back up.

Dean moaned wordlessly as Charlie hollowed out his cheeks and sucked like a well-paid French whore. Charlie met his eyes when he deep throated the length once more and Dean shot off, squeezing his eyes shut shouting, “Fuck!”

The eldest Winchester lied there boneless for a few minutes and Charlie crawled up beside him.

“I’ll totally get you next,” Dean said, words slurring a little.

“Rest Dean,” Charlie said hand soothing circles on his back. “There’s always later.”

“You sound so sure,” Dean declared drifting off.

Of course Charlie was sure. He couldn’t afford to have any thoughts to the contrary. Losing simply wasn’t an option that Crews wanted to exist.

 

Later, after Sam had graciously not mentioned the still lingering smell of sex or bitched about them playing without him, Charlie was still in the mood to talk even iwith Dean having some of the first good sleep he’d had in a while.

“Are you going to talk to me about anger, Charlie?” Sam asked the Detective keeping his voice low.

“I do have an anger speech,” Charlie admitted matching the youngest Winchester’s tone. “I know that if I conquer anger, then I can have a peaceful soul.”

“How’s that working for you?” Sam tilted his head.

“Not so well,” Charlie said with a smile that reached his eyes.

Sam tried to loosen the tension in his jaw and finally said, “I can imagine.”

“You don’t have to talk to me,” Charlie said.

“I know,” Sam agreed.

“Maybe you could talk to Dani,” Charlie suggested. “Are you open to that?”

“Reece?” Sam asked, surprised.

“Think about it,” Charlie said. “I think there’s things both of you need to say, things that you’ve got in common, that might be easy to say to someone who would understand, someone they don’t normally talk to.”

“Huh,” Sam said intelligently in response.

“Exactly,” Charlie said.

“Are you two girls done having this heart to heart? Cause I’m totally done sleeping now,” Dean said, rubbing the corner of his eye. His hair was sticking everywhere and he looked so young for a moment that Sam’s heart ached.

“Okay Charlie,” Sam agreed. “I’ll talk to Reece, if she wants to.”

Charlie grinned, “Excellent.”

When he came out of the diner three days later, Dani Reece was leaning against the Impala. Dean gave her a nod in acknowledgment, and then looked at Sam to find him looking nervous.

“Right, I’ll just be somewhere else for a little while,” Dean said, nudging Sam towards Reece with his shoulder.

“I’ll call,” Sam said after him, fighting down temporary panic, and walked over with his hands stuck in his pockets. “So, I didn’t think you’d show up,” he admitted.

Dani shrugged, “Well you were in the state and I needed to see my aunt anyway. She lives in the county.”

“Charlie used his Zen on you didn’t he?” Sam hedged.

She scowled a little, but there was a smile underneath. After a few minutes of silence and Sam thinking about everything and nothing, he finally spoke even if he wasn’t sure it was what he meant to ask.

“Are you still angry at your father?” Sam asked her.

“Yeah,” Dani said kicking some dirt with her shoe then settling down. She looked everywhere but at Sam and elaborated. “I don’t understand how he could do something like put an innocent man away for money that he just gave away. Was loyalty to the badge and his partners really worth the price? And I don’t understand how he could just leave my mom like that. Was his guilt really that overwhelming that he could break her heart before Christmas like that? I hate that he’s dead now and I don’t get to say this shit to him. I should get to say this shit to him. I shouldn’t have to vent to someone who’s practically a stranger, no offense.”

“None taken,” Sam obliged, smiling a little.

“I’m mad that he wouldn’t trust me with this. I’m mad he tried to protect me from it and did such a piss poor job,” Dani said finally and smiled, albeit a tad bitterly. “Why? Are you still mad at your father?”

“No,” Sam said. “I was because he didn’t trust me with everything, with the truth. But I get it now. I understand. And for a while there, understanding made me angry, but I’ve made peace with it.”

“You’re just mad at just about everything else now?” Dani lifted a questioning eyebrow.

“Pretty much,” Sam admitted.

“I get that,” Reece said taking another sip of coffee from the take out cup she’d been holding.

“Oh yeah?” Sam asked. “How’s that?”

“I’ve got a Persian dad and an Irish mom,” Dani shrugged. “I’ve been angry since I’ve been old enough to realize that made me stick out like a sore thumb.”

“And you’re a girl,” Sam nodded.

“And an ex-drug addict,” Dani agreed.

“No wonder Charlie told me to call you,” Sam admitted, thinking of his own bout with demon blood and recent relapse.

“You do have long hair for a guy,” Dani joked, wryly.

Sam threw his head back and laughed for the first time in what felt like forever. He’d forgotten she could be funny with the serious way she comes off. “I noticed you skipped over that drug addiction business,” he said after he regained some composure.

“I don’t like to talk about that much,” Reece admitted.

“Even though you probably need to?” Sam hedged. “You just don’t have anyone who could listen that gets it.”

“Do you need to, Sam?” Reece asked. She looked at him; there was willingness on her face. She’d talk about it if he wanted to. Charlie asked her to meet Sam, to talk with Sam because she’d understand. Charlie wanted both of them, him and Reece, to heal some of their broken parts, but that part of him was still raw.

Sam shrugged in answer and then causally changed topics. “You know Charlie might actually be kind of wise.”

“Calling me to talk to you was a very Charlie thing to do,” Reece shrugged. “Maybe he’s actually achieved enlightenment.”

“Maybe,” Sam pondered.

“Here,” Reece said, handing Sam a card. “Call me if you need to. Charlie already gave me your number.”
Sam took it, gave a small smile, and said, “Thanks,” meaning the word down to his very bones. If he ever makes it through this end of the world shit, maybe a little healing would be nice.

 

Dani gave him one last look over and walked back to her car, just as Dean came back.

“You’re in one piece,” Dean observed.

“Yeah, I know how not to be a total jackass,” Sam joked.

“Low blow,” Dean pursed his lips and moved to get in the car. Sam followed his lead. They drove with the windows down, air whipping about their ears with no destination in mind, until Cas called about a rogue Cupid, if only if had been just that and not a horseman.

**

Charlie heard Dean’s broken plea to God as he finally reached the outside of Singer Salvage. Charlie was walking up the drive behind Dean and could see the line of tension and defeat in the young man’s shoulders as he looked up Heavenward. Cas called him when the angel realized they were dealing with a horseman, so Crews hit the road.

He knew Dean wasn’t asking him for help. The kid doesn’t like to ask Charlie for much these days because he’s so busy trying to carry the weight of the world on his own. Dean seemed to think it was his burden, his guilt, his responsibility, all his own. But the thing was, Charlie would have helped him carry all of that if only Dean would just ask. So when Charlie heard Dean ask the sky, he couldn’t help but answer.

“Sure,” Charlie spoke.

Dean turned looking halfway panicked and angry while drawing a gun on Crews with the hand he wasn’t holding the bottle of cheap whiskey with.

“But not if you’re going to shoot me,” Charlie said with a smile and holding his hands up in peace. “I’ve already been shot once, which was quite enough and I’d hate to have to give a bullet back to you.”

“Fuck, Charlie!” Dean said, forcing an exhale that seemed part relief part anger out of his lips and putting his gun away as Charlie closed the distance between them. “Where the hell did you come from and why aren’t you making any goddamn noise?” Dean sounded angry, but Charlie was pretty sure it wasn’t his fault.

“I’ve got a flat and the engine of my car is making a noise,” Charlie said kicking the dirt a little, embarrassment coloring the tips of his ears.

“You’re hopeless,” Dean said, just the hint of fondness coloring his words.

Charlie closed the distance then and pulled Dean into a hug. Dean hugged back, but whether it was his arms just reacting to Charlie’s embrace or because he needed it Charlie wasn’t sure.

“You know what to do,” Charlie said pulling back to cradle Dean’s face with his hands. “Have a little faith in yourself. You’re the most capable, steadfast person I know. Don’t forget that just because everything feels impossible right now.”

“But it is impossible,” Dean argued. “Charlie, it’s the fucking Apocalypse. It’s impossible and Sam…” Dean shook his head, refusing to finish the sentence.

“Then just forget it’s impossible,” Charlie shrugged. “Nothing’s impossible and everything is connected.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “I’ll get Bobby’s tow truck and fix whatever you broke in your car.”

Charlie looked a touch sheepish, and then suggested, “How about some coffee and we worry about it in the morning?”

“Why? Don’t you trust me?” Dean's waxen bravado was turned back on as he pulled away and started toward the garage in the back of Bobby’s.

“Well, I might’ve gotten a little stuck in a ditch,” Charlie said off-handedly as he followed Dean.

“Then I guess we’ll just have to settle for drinking whiskey in the garage until daylight,” Dean declared. Charlie followed. After all, no one should drink alone.

It was too bad that Charlie couldn’t be there to drink with them after they had to battle zombies. Bobby still wasn’t answering his calls. Rachel had visited, but she wasn’t giving him any useful information as if to protect the old grizzily hunter’s privacy. But that was okay with Charlie, she was picking up where he left off. She even managed to help Sam save the day.

**
Rachel had a headache that danced close to the line of migraine. She had forgotten how some occult bookshop owners refused to haggle and hated taking young women seriously. She was not a Twihard wannabe. Damnit.

Now her phone was ringing. Who’s calling? She checked the time and groaned. It’s 2 a.m. Ted needs to get his head out his ass in regards to time zones.

Then she saw the caller id and her stomach felt leaden.

“Sam,” she answered and didn’t get a chance to say anything else. She’d seen him a month ago when Sioux Falls had that little zombie problem. She got him and the sheriff to Bobby’s in time and even got to run over a zombie. Never mind that he made her wait in the car with the doors locked like some helpless girl. But a part of her was fine with that. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to know if she could actually shoot something that was human once. Sometimes, it’s nice to never learn about yourself and he spared her that. So whatever he needed in this moment, she’d do her best to help him.

“Rachel, he’s gone. He just drove off. He ran away,” Sam didn’t quite sound distraught, but it was a close thing. There were tears in his voice though, maybe more heartbreak than anything else and not quite anger.

Of course, she knew exactly who he was talking about. It was only the other half of his entire world gone off to turn himself over to the angels. Idiot.

“I don’t even have to ask who,” Rachel said attempting to make light as she pulled her jeans back on and was even more grateful for not even unzipping her backpack as she shouldered it on her arm. She toed into her sneakers and grabbed her coat as she made way to the door of her motel room.

“Yeah, of course, I’m calling because Castiel took off to find Spongebob in the Pacific,” Sam snarked but he only sounded even more desperate. She could hear the jagged pieces of him through the phone and it made her chest ache that she wasn’t in front of him right now. He needed a hug and someone to tell him it would be okay. Well, at least a hug, she didn’t know if she could tell him that and make him believe her.

“I’d expect no less,” Rachel spoke conversationally while using the keyless entry to toss her bag and jacket into the backseat of her SUV. “Now where am I driving to? Are you still in Blue Earth?” She asked while using the backup camera so she didn’t have to turn and break the connection with Sam for a second.

“Yeah, me and Cas,” he confirmed.

“I’m about an hour South of St. Paul. I’ll be there in no time at all,” she reassured flooring it and glad to have a full tank of gas, wheels eating the pavement of the interstate. Maybe she really was a girl scout. “I’d tell you to get Cas to do his teleport thing, but he drunk-dialed me earlier, so I figure that’s out.”

Sam gave a genuine, albeit, abortive chuckle, “Seriously?”

“I was as surprised as you are,” Rachel said. “He even called me ‘confounded little sprite', whatever that means.”

“You are a confounded little pixie,” Sam confirmed and sounded just a little more like himself.

“Only because you’re a giant in comparison,” Rachel heckled and took a breath. Best to just go ahead and get down to it.

“So what were you hunting that made Dean decide that surrender was an option?” she asked. “Last I checked this was his ship and we’d be fucked to follow destiny. He’s said that. Charlie’s said that. I’ve said that. You’ve recently said that, which I knew you’d get your head out of your ass sooner or later. I’ve been cheering for you.”

“You are full of it tonight,” Sam said, but there wasn’t any heat to his words, like he was closed off all of a sudden. She was trying to get a rile out of him. All she was getting at the moment was a grim resignation. She knew she’d need faith and hope if they were going to fix this.

“You’re goddamn right,” Rachel assured. She can be full of it if she needs to be.

“And cussing like a sailor,” Sam sighed. “We’ve been a great influence on you.”

“Yeah, you have,” she spoke with sincerity. “I’m glad to know you Sam, you and your brother and that angel. I’m glad I got to know Jo and Ellen.”

“Who we as good as killed,” Sam said his voice filled with sorrow.

“Don’t even fucking go there,” Rachel threatened. “Wallowing is an insult to their memories. They made their choice. They were warriors. They fought till the end. Besides, we’ve all gone too far to just tuck-tail and run now.”

“Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out,” Sam said.

“Yep, because it’s something I believe,” Rachel said.

“What?” Sam sounded incredulous. “You going to talk to me about faith next?”

“Bingo,” Rachel confirmed.

Sam scoffed.

“I have faith in both of you. I believe in your ability to say no, whether that’s from stubborn or your own faith. I know that your faith in your brother will get him through this. We’ll find him and you’ll fix it. I know it. You can call that faith or foolishness. I don’t care because it doesn’t make it any less true.”

“Rachel,” Sam spoke and she couldn’t quite figure out what he was actually saying.

“Sam,” she countered sounding sure and true.

“You’ll be here soon?” he asked.

“Half an hour,” she confirmed, urging her tank to go even faster. “Don’t do anything too rash other than pack your shit before I get there. Promise.”

“I promise,” he said softly. Maybe the tone of his voice was hopeful. She couldn’t be sure she wasn’t just wishful thinking.

“Good,” she said and disconnected. She wiped off her cheeks and checked herself in the mirror. It wouldn’t do to look like she’d been crying. No worse for wear instead of looking like someone who still had a pillow crease on her face, she decided it was fine.

Half an hour later, she pulled up to the motel in Blue Earth. Sam was standing outside, pacing.

She parked and didn’t even take time to shut off the engine till she was hoping out. She ran over and gave him the fiercest hug she could muster.

“Hi,” he said, voice gruff and returning her embrace. He held her tight. “That was fast.”

“Well, it’s a fast tank,” she shrugged as he let her go. “You didn’t brood too much in the last half hour, did you?”

“No,” he answered, but she wasn’t convinced.

“Good, because there’s a limit. I have a no brooding rule in my vehicle. You’ll just have to think positive thoughts and play with the radio,” she said firmly, picking up his laptop bag. “Go get the angel.”

“You know, you’re a little terrifying when you’re this bossy,” Sam said with the glimmer of a smile on his face. “And Cas has already vanished, looking for leads. I think I know where Dean’s headed though.”

“Well, then you’d best quiver in fear,” she said trying her best to be serious, but she couldn’t help but smile. “And Cas can call.”

“I’m glad you’re here,” Sam said, looking a touch awkward, after his bags had been stowed in the trunk of the Escalade and they’d gotten back on the road.

“Me too,” Rachel said, “I’m sorry I’m not Charlie.” She didn’t know why she’d said it, even if it were true. Charlie would be better at talking Dean out of it or Sam into remembering that he has faith too.

“You know, you’re not some second best, Zen detective substitute right? And Charlie wouldn’t have gotten here this fast. If he was going to be here, he would have already been here.” Sam said.

“I guess,” she said. “I was just thinking about how I’d be terrible backup if we have to shoot anything between here or there.”

At least that was part of it. Before she could think further her phone rang. She checked the caller id and answered.

“Hi Cas,” she chirped, causing Sam to make a face that might have been sympathy for her tone verses the angel’s hangover.

“Where are you?” the angel asked, sounding more than a little annoyed.

“I-95, mile marker 103,” she said as they passed it. When she checked her rearview again, she found an angel sitting in her backseat. She didn’t even flinch at his arrival. She must be tired.

“Your good cheer is unwarranted, pixie,” Castiel said.

“Keep telling yourself that,” Rachel smiled.

“Any news?” Sam asked.

“There is talk amongst the host, but I haven’t been able to gather anything of real importance,” Cas answered, brow furrowed. “It is very spacious back here. Maybe my perception is still altered.”

“No, it’s that giant,” Rachel explained.

“You are a very small girl to be driving such a large automobile,” Cas said pressing a few buttons on the console. She was trying to remember what was in the DVD player. She was pretty sure that Charlie had been watching Castle back there last.

Sure enough after Cas touched a button, she heard Richard Castle making a horrible pun about murder.

“This is that show Detective Crews watches,” Castiel observed.

“Yep,” Rachel confirmed. “Go ahead and watch if you want.”

He stared at the screen; his head slightly tilted and made no move to turn off the player.

She stole a glance in Sam’s direction and found him looking amused and a little befuddled. When he noticed her looking, his face became serious again. “What?” he asked.

“If an angel of the Lord can seem to enjoy a TV show about a crime novelist solving crime, I’m going to have to remind you about how people can do extraordinary things and about having faith.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he sighed, but his cheek twitched a little in a smile.

They caught up with Dean after he had been to Lisa’s. Sam went in to talk to him and Cas mind whammed him. The angel then bamfed them both off, she assumed back to Bobby’s. After that, the world didn’t immediately end, even though no one called her to confirm. She called and told Charlie everything hoping that one of the boys called him, but the radio silence seemed to include him as well. Typical Winchester behavior. Shit hits the fan and abandon any of your friends thinking that will keep them safe and it doesn’t even matter if she threatened to track them down and rip them a new asshole.

****

Charlie wasn’t sure how he ended up sitting on a bench in West Hollywood with a goddess, but he’d had weirder days. Actually, it was a sad day. Gabriel was dead, killed by Lucifer, and she was one of the remaining gods of old and someone who’d cared about the angel too. He couldn’t vouch for those other guys, but he had got drunk and bowled with the arch angel once. It was fun when he hadn’t had real fun in a long time.

“Mango,” he offered Kali, first peeled slice resting on the edge of his knife.

“Is this you flirting with me?” she asked, looking a little tired mixed with more than a bit of amusement and not too much like killing him so he figured being himself wasn’t such a bad idea. She was a beautiful woman, but out of the corner of his eye he kept getting flashes of something unbelievable and not human at all.

“Did you want me to flirt with you?” he asked. “I’m kind of out of practice.” Charlie admitted as she took the slice and ate it. He cut another one for himself and popped it into his mouth. “And it’s just fruit. We aren’t even in the garden. Sometimes a mango is just a mango and not a precursor to anything but a shared moment in time.”

She looked at him and a strange look crossed her face, recognition and a touch fond. “What if I wanted you to flirt with me?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” Charlie admitted, reaching her another slice. “I’ve got some pretty cheesy lines and musings of the universe. It’s probably everything you’ve heard before or will ever hear again.”

“You don’t even know who you are, do you?” she asked suddenly.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out,” he admitted.

“You’re so close to it, you can’t even see it,” she said, a touch sad for him. Then she smiled and it was genuine. “I might be open to hearing a few cheesy pick up lines.”

“Then I can certainly tell you a few,” he grinned at her. “But I have to tell you up front, they’re just lines. I won’t be acting on them, even though you are quite beautiful and I might be more than a little curious about the multiple arms thing.”

“Maybe one day when you aren’t so involved and I’m not so heartbroken,” Kali suggested taking another offered slice of mango.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” Charlie agreed. “Now, this line is how I got to go on the first date with my ex-wife.”

“Hit me with your best shot, detective,” Kali said, leaning towards him smirk tucked into the corner of her mouth.

He puffed out his chest a little, cocked his head and said, “Are your legs tired? Because you’ve been running through my mind all day.”

Kali giggled, her hand covering her mouth. “Oh, that’s terrible!”

“She was charmed by it,” he defended. “Kind of. After she stopped laughing at me.” He shifted around, nervously.

“I bet,” Kali nodded solemnly doing a poor job of hiding her smile. “Now, give me more lines then feed me a steak dinner.”

“It’s probably the least I can do,” Charlie smiled. “I already booked a reservation when Dean called.”

“How enlightened of you,” Kali observed.

Charlie shrugged and stood, offering his hand. She took it, using it to stand and then sliding her arm in his. “Now, where was I?” Charlie gathered his thoughts. “Right,” he whispered in her ear, “I have a heated pool.”

“Does that really work?” she asked, curious.

“It has,” Charlie confirmed and felt the blush on his neck rise to his cheeks. “More than once.”

She shook her head, but she was still smiling. “Clearly it’s because you’re adorable.”

“Or my freckles,” Charlie suggested. “Women really like freckles. Of course, I like freckles unless their mine. Maybe that makes me a girl.”

“Well, in your defense,” Kali offered, “I have seen a mere sliver of freckles you would have the most interest in. A freckle thing would be understandable in that particular flirty case.”

“Yeah,” Charlie smiled a private smile. Kali looked at him knowingly and with more than a little sadness. “You’ll have that again, you know?”

“What Charlie?” Kali asked, pulling herself out of her thoughts.

“Someone to call home,” Charlie answered.

“Maybe,” she said. “But the world is a lot smaller. Harder for someone like me to find someone that important.”

“Keep your eyes and heart open,” Charlie suggested. “You’d be surprised what comes along.”


After dinner was had and he put her in a cab, going wherever it is a Goddess wants to go—he didn’t ask, someone was leaning against the driver’s side of his car.

“You know,” Charlie said approaching the visitor. “I have a phone and a house. I’m really not on the road enough to constitute all these out in the open visits. Surely, creatures of the supernatural nature would prefer a little cover and maybe an offer of coffee.”

“I’m aware of all that,” the visitor said. English accent and adorned in a posh suit.

“Are you a book editor?” Charlie asked, puzzling it over, but a demon was more likely.

“And a demon,” the guy said, eyes quickly flashing black. “I’d tell you it’s a pleasure to meet you, but I doubt you’d believe me.”

“Maybe,” Charlie allowed. “And you are?”

“Crowley,” he tipped an imaginary hat. “Now, I want you to know that this is just a courtesy call. I wanted to warn you that Lucifer is going to make his move soon and I think it would be best if you are nowhere near Detroit in the next few weeks.”

“That’s a lovely suggestion,” Charlie said, crossing his arms over his chest.

“That you won’t take,” Crowley said and gave a frustrated sigh. “Here a fella is, just trying to do his best to keep the precious Charlie Crews out of the line of fire, not to mention risking my delicate neck.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Charlie waved a hand, “No respect, no appreciation.”

“Exactly,” Crowley said, something twinkling in his eye.

“In that case, thank you for the warning. I’m sorry it’s something I won’t be heeding,” Charlie said, reaching into his open window and pulling out a antique coin from above the visor. “And here’s this. I’m pretty sure it belongs to you. Keeping tabs on me would be pretty pointless, especially since you know where I’m going.”

Crowley looked genuinely impressed and a little tickled. “Very well Charlie.” He flipped the coin into the air, caught it and then disappeared. Charlie almost missed the demon.

**
He didn’t see either Winchester for two months and contact between them had been sporadic at best. Mainly, it just seemed to be one long game of phone tag. What was even more unsettling was that Charlie had been missing time. Blank spots in his memory where there was simply nothing, usually when before he dreamt. The missing pieces left him with the feeling that he’d traveled or been somewhere else other than California in place of sleeping. It turned out he had been traveling with the help of higher beings.

See, in May, he had a dream he did remember. He was outside a rundown warehouse with the Detroit skyline in the distance, yet that wasn’t the focus. What he was looking at had him frozen in fear. Sam and Dean facing each other, looks of hatred on their faces and something else. Something inhuman, something lurking beneath their eyes.

“No!” Charlie said, knowing exactly what he was seeing. It wasn’t Dean and Sam. It was Michael and Lucifer, but neither creature paid him any mind. They were both poised mid-blow, mid-motion that would destroy them.

“They cannot hear you,” She explained.

He turned around to find God there, the same redhead from before looking even sadder.

“They have to hear me. They can’t do this,” Charlie said and he sounded desperate even to his ears.

“You are not here yet Charlie,” She said. “Besides, their choices are their own. I didn’t choose this for them.”

“This can’t happen,” Charlie argued. “You can’t let this happen. They shouldn’t fight like this.”

“It has happened and it hasn’t happened and I will do what I like,” She sounded a little angry. “You are asking me to choose between children. I can’t do that. I love them all. They get to choose, Charlie. I made them to choose.”

“There is always another way,” Charlie insisted. “I know it’s all connected, but there has to be another way. I don’t want this for them. You can choose too.” He didn’t know if he was talking about the Winchesters or the two angels. Those angels are brothers too. He may be on the side on humans that he believes they can make a difference, that they give reason to hope, but that doesn’t mean others shouldn’t get the same courtesy.

“They have to stand on their own two feet,” She insisted. “They already know how. They just have to do it.”

Charlie felt in his bones that she was speaking truth. Maybe if they could hear him. He would have to be where they could hear him.

“Wake up, Charlie,” God spoke and just like that he opened his eyes. He was lying on a concrete floor that hadn’t been swept in a very long time. He had the feeling that he was far from his home in California. He stood, dusting off his suit and tilted his head. He heard voices outside. He heard Sam and Dean. He heard Lucifer too.

He bolted for the door. Maybe if he hadn’t thrown caution to the wind, if he hadn’t felt such panic, he wouldn’t have run right into Lucifer’s waiting dagger. The devil had plunged it into Charlie’s stomach and gave it a twist.

Lou smiled calmly and said, “And I didn’t even get to ask you like I promised.” He twisted the knife deeper then pulled it free and Charlie collapsed meeting the pavement with a sickening thud feeling wetness of blood seeping into his pants and pooling around his middle. He heard Sam and Dean call his name in a broken sort of way and knew it couldn’t mean anything good.

From this angle on the ground he could see the dim outline of Detroit behind the Winchesters being held by angels and demons. Castiel lay unconscious just a couple feet away. Lucifer was still talking, but he couldn’t concentrate on the words. His eyes drooped closed and he thought about how angry Rachel was going to be at him for not saying goodbye. He’d have to fight. He couldn’t just give up even with the cold seeping into his bones. It can’t be left like this. This needed healing.

He opened his eyes was more to find that he was looking at a pair of familiar bare feet.

“Fancy meeting you at a place like this,” Charlie tried to say, but couldn’t form the words. She’d hear them anyway.

She squatted down and gently put Her hand under his chin so that he could look at Her.

“You want me to fix it,” She said. “Please let me use you to help fix it. Do you understand what I’m asking, Charlie? As I am now, I’m just an echo. I’m just you seeing what you want to see because my true form would burn your eyes out, my voice make your ears bleed. I need you to give me permission to fix this.”

“That’s all I’ve wanted you to do,” Charlie thought. “I am not afraid.” But what he managed to say was, voice garbled with blood and barely more than a whisper, “Yes.”

Then everything went oh so bright and he thought that maybe he would be no more, that maybe he wasn’t anything, or maybe he was the light and the light was everything.


Dean’s dreams were feverish. He could still feel Death’s breath on his face and slick of blood on his hands. The lingering smell of sulfur burned his nose. Fear still buried in his gut at how close he’d come again to saying yes to Michael—no matter how fleeting the thought. Damn it Charlie. He squeezed his eyes even tighter shut to try to ward everything off but they still prodded at his consciousness.

And Charlie Crews had showed up as God. After his half-brother Adam standing there as Michael wore him like a suit, Charlie rising as the Creator was almost the last straw. The detective had been laying there on the street, bleeding out, and then stood up as the freaking Lord and Savior. Now, Dean really had seen it all. Charlie had said yes to God and now the world’s still turning. Charlie said yes to God like it wasn’t a big deal, like it couldn’t have destroyed him. He saved them all without asking for anything.

“Fuck,” he spoke, his voice scratchy like he’d been screaming while he slept. He felt someone else sitting on the bed with him. “Sammy?” he asked.

“It’s just a dream,” Charlie answered, whispering. “Sam’s in the other bed, Dean. Your back-from-the-dead brother—which I’d like some explanation about later, Adam, is recovering in the hospital. Prognosis good and all that. So there’s nothing to worry about. Go back to sleep,” he soothed, hand ghosting a touch across Dean’s cheek. Dean wanted to, but he was pretty sure that he was done with it for the time being.

“No,” Dean said defiant, opening his eyes and looking the Detective over. Charlie looked fine, better than fine for someone hurt so badly then ridden by God. Actually, he almost looked peaceful, like actually and legitimately calm all with a fond smile on his face. It was like the spirit of Charlie Crews, unburdened by his previous worldly weights, was sitting on his bed, not the man he was familiar with. Dean couldn’t help but ask, “Are you really here?”

“Yeah,” Charlie answered, crooked grin. “Where else would I be?”

“Dead,” Dean said. “Thought you’re dead, for sure.”

“But I’m not,” Charlie countered.

“Thought you would be,” Dean insisted and he couldn’t figure out why he was questioning it. Probably had something to do with how he didn’t think any of them would live through this.

“Me too,” Charlie agreed, darkness clouding his face for the first time, and then shrugged. “But I’m not, so go back to sleep.”

“Your Jedi mind tricks will not work on me, Yoda,” Dean said sitting up. “Don’t want to sleep anymore.”

“I still think you should rest,” Charlie suggested. “You can rest now. You’ve been saying you’re tired.”

“Dean go back to sleep,” Sam muttered through his pillow.

“What was that Sammy?” Dean asked. “I couldn’t hear you through that mouthful of pillow.”

Sam turned his sleep ruffled head to look at Dean through squinted eyes. “It’s barely daylight. Charlie saved the world. Go back to sleep.”

“I didn’t save the world,” Charlie said.

“Bullshit,” Dean countered.

“I didn’t,” Charlie insisted. “I just wasn’t afraid because She told me not to be.”

“Wait, ‘She’? Are you saying God’s a girl? You had a girl inside you?” Dean said, part joking and part bafflement.

“Yep,” Charlie confirmed.

“No, say more than that,” Sam demanded, awake and more than a little sleep ruffled with some of that child-like faith in his voice, college-boy still questioning. “Charlie, it was God.

“She was the Maker of Fruit. I told Her where I stood; She listened, then gave me a mango and told me not to fear.”

“And just like that you weren’t afraid?” Dean scoffed. “Not even after Lucifer basically gutted you for not giving us up? Charlie I was terrified. I thought you’d be gone because of me—because of us.”

“I thought I’d be gone too or that I was still dreaming. I just knew when I came through that door out of that warehouse that I’d see the two of you as someone else. I couldn’t let it come to that. I wanted to do everything I could to avoid that. Besides,” Charlie took a breath, his hand absently rubbing the area on his belly where the knife had gone in. It didn’t even tingle. There wasn’t even a mark that he could see or feel. “I’d thought it was going to be all over anyway. I wanted to do anything I could so it wouldn’t be over for you both too. You both need to get the chance to grow old, have a home.”

“Charlie,” Dean sounded like he wanted to tell Charlie to go fuck himself or something impossibly sad and Sam was looking at Dean liked his brother had broke his heart.

“What?” Charlie asked, giving a wry grin. “You’d thought I’d say any less?”

“No,” Sam answered. “It’s just that I forgot how you you could be.”

“Well,” Dean swallowed. “Since we are all up…” his voice trailed off and he looked more like himself with most of his swagger and innuendo back in place.

“I would like you to fuck me,” Charlie allowed, out-right grinning at Dean.

“Charlie!” Sam sounded just slightly aghast and excited underneath.

“Prude,” Dean rolled his eyes with a smile and looking fond. “I don’t know how you ever got laid before.”

“Yeah, me neither,” Sam agreed, pulling off his t-shirt and tossing it on the floor, all nonchalant and near flaunting at the same time.

“Well, I might see a little bit of his charm,” Charlie said admiring the ripple of the younger Winchester’s abs.

“Old perve,” Dean chided Crews.

“You would know,” Crews agreed causing Dean to roll his eyes as he took his own shirt off and reached to get Charlie’s. It wasn’t long until they were making out like teenagers. Sam stealing kisses from both Charlie and Dean or the brothers kissing each other. Getting out of pants and underwear was a little trickier, but it wasn’t long until there was naked skin exposed for hands to explore.

Charlie noticed a few more scars on both boys, but didn’t get a chance to explore them before they were laying him on the bed farthest from the door. Sam handing Dean lube as Charlie watched, unabashed as the eldest Winchester slicked his fingers and started working Charlie’s tight hole.

When Dean’s deft fingers brushed Charlie’s prostate he bucked up against the digits as his cock took even more interest. He didn’t even mind the burn and worked his hips as Dean added another finger and another all while Sam made work of sucking on sweetly, sensitive spots on his neck leaving Charlie with not to do but moan and watch Dean look increasingly cocky.

“Fuck me already,” Charlie sounded more than a little sexed out and Sam laughed softly against his neck, then his tongue was back to playing with the pulse point.

“C’mon, Dean,” Charlie groaned, pushing against his fingers. He was more than a little eager. But who could blame him? It had been a long while since he’d gotten off with both of them and Dean was standing above him, cock at attention, looking more gorgeous than any human had right to.

“Such a whore for my cock,” Dean said, sliding the condom on with a grin tucked in the corner of his mouth, just as Sam tweaked one of Charlie’s nipples.

“Could do with less cheesy lines and more fucking,” Charlie muttered breath catching as Sam grazed teeth around the sensitive bud and his hand ghosting around the tip of the other.

Dean took this moment to line up and work his way in to the hilt shimming his hips causing Charlie to feel split down the middle and complete all at once. He was fine with how ridiculous he felt. Sex was about connecting with another person and he’d never felt as connected with anybody else besides these two brothers—not even his ex-wife. But he was far from that time in his life now, both in miles and years and at this moment he wanted Sam and Dean to keep going, keep taking him apart and build him back up down to his very nerve and fibers.

“Move,” Charlie whispered voice full of need and want.

Dean slid all the way out and back, the friction less. Then out and in again slowly building a rhythm that hit him just right every third stroke. Charlie had the presence of mind to reach out for Sam’s cock, but did not contain enough blood in his head to properly jack him off. His wrist would only comply with sloppy slip-slides that were enough for the younger Winchester to take incentive and fuck into his hand.

The boys were looking at each other when Charlie teased along the slit of Sam’s cock with his thumb causing Sam to come first. Dean looked back at Charlie and showed him everything he couldn’t the last time they were together.

“Now,” Charlie whispered and came just as Dean did, thrusting through the aftershocks. Dean slid out, disposed of the condom and rested on his elbow next to Charlie. All of them breathing heavily. After Charlie used the sheet to wipe them off to ensure no one or thing would be too sticky, they moved over to the undefiled bed.

Before drifting off, Charlie thought there were worse ways to go about saving the world and his own little family.

 

 

** Epilogue**

A month before Detroit, Rachel called Charlie and told him, “I need to you co-sign on this farm I’m buying. They seem suspicious about the whole me buying it upfront thing without payments and need you to sign a few papers so they know I’m on the up and up and not some young meth-head or something.”

“Hello to you to?” Charlie responded as Reece handed him a fax of several papers with ‘Attention: Uncle Charlie’ on it, fixing him with an amused look. “Does Ted need to see any of this?”

It wasn’t news that Charlie had no real idea about any of his finances. He’d be completely lost without Ted.

“I called him first,” Rachel said. “He’s looked over everything and thinks it’s a great deal even though it’s, and I quote, ‘in the middle of God’s country and shouldn’t I start a little closer to home’ and all that. You know how he is.” She smiled at the thought. Ted was kind, amazing, and brilliant with money.

“Well if Ted thinks its okay,” Charlie said and she heard him ruffling the papers. “It’s in Kentucky? That might be kind of far,” Charlie sounded reluctant all of a sudden.

“It’s got plenty of room and even comes with its own tractor to run on the back forty,” Rachel said, sounding sure but feeling the butterflies in her stomach. She’d been pretty much on her own for awhile, traveling all across the country, but tying herself to a stretch of land over two thousand miles away from Los Angeles was an enormous step. Rachel knew she was a grown-up and even though it was far, it felt like the exact thing she needed to be doing. She just hoped he’d be for it. She wanted him to be okay with it.

“Besides, Lola needs a home instead of being cooped up in the truck,” she added.

Lola, named after the song, was the Irish wolfhound mix that found her outside of Kansas City the week before. The black, grey spotted dog didn’t have a collar and was half starved. Rachel had asked around but no one could tell her if she belonged to anyone with the girl following behind the whole time.

Lola saved her life before lunch. A car ran a light and would have run over Rachel if Lola hadn’t grabbed her coat at the last second. She bought the girl a steak for lunch and ate outside with her. She’d put the girl out the rest of her supper and when she went to leave the next morning, Lola walked up to the passenger side door and looked at Rachel as if to say, “I’ll ride here, unless you’d prefer I get in the back.”

Rachel had looked at her and said, “Really you shouldn’t feel any loyalty to me. I just fed you one meal. You saved my life and I appreciate it. I’m sure you could find a real family to take care of. I’ll find one for you if you want me to.”

The dog looked at her with her dark eyes and whined.

“A real family with like 2.5 kids and a yard,” Rachel continued, “not some half-crazy girl who gallivants the country looking for occult texts and artifacts and walks out into traffic.”

The dog whined again, like she understood exactly what Rachel was saying, which wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. Rachel had seen some weird shit by this point, but still.

“There’s a blanket already in the back seat,” Rachel gave in. “You’d be more comfortable and it’d be better ‘til I get a chance to give you a bath.”

The dog moved to stand at the door to the back seat. It was almost spooky.

She called Dean and Sam to make sure neither of them or Castiel had been turned into a dog of the opposite sex. It was worth it even though she didn’t think Dean would ever let her live it down. With that settled, she let the dog into her SUV, gave her a name for the first song that came on the radio after they started driving. A short vet checkup later, they were fast becoming family.

“Well, since it’s got a tractor, how could I say no?” Charlie asked and she could hear the smile there.

He’d faxed the papers back within minutes causing Rachel to suspect Dani had helped him. But that was a month and a half ago. She’d nearly had her work cut out for her since then.

The house itself was two stories not including the attic and basement and it looked like it had multiple personalities with the couple of rooms that had been built onto it. It had light yellow peeling paint on the original house and bare wood siding on the addition that housed the remodeled kitchen and family room. It had an enormous covered porch that nearly wrapped around the whole house. Rachel had replaced a few rotten boards and sealed the whole thing after giving it a good scrub. It just needed furniture and she’d have the house painted eventually. Inside, the home was in surprisingly good shape with a renovated kitchen. A wonderful barn, made with weathered grey boards and a tin roof sat off not too far from the house. She cast and carved protections in both the house and the barn.

She’d done all the gardening in front bringing it back to a reasonable state after the jungle it had been in the mere month she’d owned it. She’ d planted mums for the late summer, daises for the late spring, and lavender as well as a few odds and ends in between of tracking down occult books for Bobby Singer. She had an herb bed beside her kitchen door and sage drying tied up on her porch. Spring was just starting to come in full force.

Charlie was going to help her figure out a reasonable vegetable garden. He’d decided this after she picked him up from the airport during a three hour car ride. Currently, he was out back near the barn trying to get the ancient tractor to turn over, but probably actually talking Lola into deciding he was her favorite. He’d wanted to buy a new tractor—some sort of beast that would be far too large for what she wanted to do. She’d put her foot down and knew she could make it work, even if that meant conning Dean to do it after he’d gotten over that whole saving the world thing a couple weeks ago.

She was just starting to unload some wooden porch chairs when the Impala pulled up the drive. Perfect timing.

“I heard you were nesting,” Dean said strolling up with Sam walking beside, leaving someone else in the car. “World nearly ends and housing crisis not going to stop you, huh?”

“Is that anyway to talk to someone that has cold beer in their fridge?” Rachel asked not able to keep the smile off of her face and trying to figure out who the hell else would be in the car. She hugged them both.

“Yeah Dean,” Sam elbowed his brother and matched Rachel’s grin. Then the brothers shared a look. They seemed lighter in spirit. She guessed wrapping up that whole end of the world thing would improve anyone’s mood.

“So what’s going on?” Rachel nodded her head to the Impala. “Picking up hitchhikers now or what?”

“Look, I know you said you’re door was always open, but we’d get it if this is too much,” Dean said, struggling for words, like this was a big deal. She was fairly confident that it wasn’t. A big deal was a month ago.

“Start at the beginning, this is clearly the middle,” Rachel said patiently, eyeing the two of them and keeping her face open.

“Did we ever mention that we had a half-brother?” Sam asked face pinched.

“Nope, I would definitely remember that bit of info,” Rachel said, her brain going a mile a minute. Sure the Apocalypse was over, but the fallout was still coming down the pike. “And?”

“Well, we didn’t know until last year after he and his mom were killed by ghouls,” Sam continued.

“Shit,” Rachel muttered. “My condolences.”

“Then, right before I was about to say yes to Michael, the angels bring him back from the dead,” Dean added.

“To use him as a vessel instead,” Rachel concluded. Let it be said that she’s a quick study.

“Yeah, but it was really just a ruse to get me to agree,” Dean explained. “But Michael used him anyway. He was in the hospital for over a week. He’s fine now. No scars or brain damage, but…”

“Having an angel wear you is a big deal, not to mention riding around in the Impala and hunting evil is not something you want him to do ever, especially when getting over something like this takes time,” Rachel said and Dean gave a jerky nod.

“We might need a little break too,” Sam said. “But we called ahead to Charlie’s house and Ted told us that you both were here. It was a shorter drive, anyway.” He shrugged.

They weren’t just asking to stay for a few days and get back on the road. They were asking to stay for a little while and maybe their half-brother for a little longer. Her invitation covered long stays, but they were giving her an out regardless. Not that she was going to take it. She’d already washed all the sheets in the house in preparation for them showing up.

“So why’s he sitting in the car then?” Rachel asked, lifting an eyebrow and glancing back at the Impala. She noticed Lola sitting near the passenger side door, her head cocked to the side as she looked through the window.

“He’s asleep,” Dean said, looking back at the car and noticing movement. “Or he was. Hey, your dog wouldn’t eat him, would she?”

“Lola has a far better temperament then you, but I wouldn’t insult her like that,” Rachel explained and then took off for the car. Through the glass, she could see someone about her age that looked an awful lot like both brothers. He was also sporting a mildly panicked look, which could have been the result of being met by such an enormous dog or Rachel. She wasn’t sure.

She paused at the back window and bent down to peer in at him. “Hi there,” she said cheerfully.

“Hi,” he spoke, his voice rough with sleep. His green eyes stared at her while he tried to smooth his hair down. “Your dog’s not going to eat me, is it? Looks hungry,” he gulped.

“I’m Rachel Seybolt, but you probably knew that,” she said, giving a small smile. “This is Lola and you should have met her a month ago when she looked even worse. Be good to her and she’ll return the favor.” She rubbed her hand down the flank of the dog’s back and encouraged him to do the same.

“Okay. Your name might’ve come up,” he agreed. “I’m Adam.” He let Lola smell his hand. She gave it a lick and encouraged him to scratch her ears. He obliged, and then she took off to meet Sam and Dean. From the corner of her eye, she saw Lola fully standing paws on Sam’s chest while he cooed at her. Dean looked fondly exasperated at the two.

“Nice to meet you,” she shook his hand. “Feel free to go on inside and make yourself at home. I’d send you out to stop my Uncle from breaking my tractor, but really, you should have a little backup when you meet Charlie.” She winked as he comically widened his eyes. She then moved so he could open the door.

She glanced back at Sam and Dean who were wearing faces of bemusement. Dean was petting Lola’s head.

“What?” she asked, hands on her hips.

“You little charmer,” Dean muttered.

“I heard that,” Rachel declared as Sam snickered. “Now you both have to unload porch furniture.”

“About that,” Dean said and gestured inside her Escalade. “How much do you have fit in here?”

“Couple of rockers, three chairs, and a porch swing,” she said and dismissed with her hand. “I already had a couple tables, but I had room for a couple more.”

Dean whistled as Sam said, “I told you it was ridiculously spacious. I even felt small in there.”

Dean chuckled.

“I could help too,” Adam said shuffling up behind her.

“Are you sure kiddo?” Sam asked causing Adam to roll his eyes.

“I’m not an invalid,” Adam answered. “Is Charlie a big guy or something?” he asked no one in particular.

“What did you say about Charlie?” Dean asked Rachel.

“I could ask you the same thing,” she countered.

“He’s just that Zen,” Sam answered vaguely.

“Who’s just that Zen?” the redhead in question asked, walking up while wiping grease off his hands.

“You are,” Rachel answered. “And you broke it worse than it was, didn’t you?”

“Broke what?” Dean asked curiously, interest peeked.

“No, moving things first. Fixing things later. I’ll give you pie,” Rachel ordered, grinning a little, noticing again there was less shadows on the brother’s faces, though Adam still looked quite haunted, but one step at a time.

“Hi Adam,” Charlie said. “We’ve met, but you were in a coma at the time so maybe that doesn’t count unless you count meeting on a subconscious level as meeting.”

“I see what you mean,” Adam said out of the corner of his mouth, causing Charlie to grin at him. “You’re Charlie.”

Charlie nodded then looked at the furniture still inside Rachel’s SUV. “You know you could have bought another table or two. There was plenty of space.”

“But who’d carry it?” Dean asked, feigning laziness.

“You will do almost anything for free pie,” Sam said and they all laughed.

Yeah, they’d all be okay. They had nothing but time now.