Even though I'll never know what's up ahead,
I'm never letting go, I'm never letting go
Rollercoaster through the atmosphere,
I'm drowning in this starry serenade,
Where ecstasy becomes cavalier,
My imagination's taking me away.
Reverie whisper in my ear,
I'm scared to death that I'll never be afraid
-Alligator Sky, Owl City
The story begins the same way it ends, with a boy sitting in the windowsill of his apartment's bedroom, looking out towards the trees in the very distances, smudges of black on the dark gray expanse of the sky. His chin is in his hand, one knee drawn up, one dangling towards the sidewalk a few floors below, and a distantly distraught expression on his face. But the boy who sat there during the start of things was an entirely different person on the inside than he was when the end came to pass.
The boy turned, letting his hand drop, and faced his younger brother, who stood in the doorway with a jacket and his sneakers on.
"Sammy. You're really leaving us? For her?"
Sam didn't flinch at his brother's accusation, because he knew it to be true. That was exactly what he was doing.
"I have to go. You know that. You really think with the way Dad is that he wouldn't disown me? Wouldn't disown you for that one angel-"
"That was a mistake!"
Sam opened his mouth to contradict him, but changed his mind and said, "Come see me. Or better yet, come with me. Bobby would love for you to stay with us. You wouldn't have to hunt the angels anymore."
"I like hunting them," Dean said coldly. "And I won't leave Dad alone on his search. And-", he lowered his voice carefully, just in case their father overheard somehow, "I won't meet another angel like him. That was a one-time deal that I know shouldn't have happened."
A creak coming down from the stairs caused them both to jump, Sam tightening his clutch on his bag nervously.
"I need to go before he wakes up. I left a note for him explaining things so he wouldn't blame you, so you'd better go to sleep and act like I didn't come say goodbye, alright?"
Nodding, Dean slid off the ledge as quietly as he could manage and enveloped his brother in a hug, trying to imagine a life where what he was about to do wouldn't be seen as wrong, but he couldn't just yet. Even as he slipped away in the night, turning to wave at his window from the street before taking off, Dean wished that he had never met Jessica.
Jessica, the girl Sam loved with every fiber of his being.
Jessica, who was also an angel.
When their dad woke up and found his younger son gone, he flew into a rampage, yelling at Dean for letting him go and then preparing to take off on a solo hunt to let out his frustrations.
"Which angel?" Dean asked, for they were countless, all taking certain duties. All working together on a plane above humans, but coexisting all the same. Like Sam and Jessica.
"Which do you think?" his father said, tugging his jacket off the coat rack forcibly; it fell to its side with a noisy clatter, but John ignored it. "See if you can sell some of those feathers, would you? From the Angel of Nature's wings?"
That meant he would have to go down to the black market, but it also meant they could afford rent; being an angel hunter was a deadly profession, but taking things from angels you had slain, such as their blood, which was capable of healing almost any wound, and their glossy feathers, meant you would get an increased income every time you had a successful hunt. This was the family's routine. Hunt. Kill. Sell. Repeat.
After his father slammed the door, Dean picked up the rack and flung himself onto the couch, thinking of the angel he had met in the park. Would he have left his father to hunt alone for him?
"Hell no," he muttered aloud, throwing his arm over his eyes and settling in for a nap. Once his father got going on a search for the angel that killed his mother, the angel with black wings, he could be gone for days, driven by newly-surfaced grief.
The black market could wait a little while.
The agonizing year's wait for his dad to calm down by a fractional margin gave Dean a lot of time to rethink his life style, even while still practicing it. He couldn't stop then, after all, but he became sluggish in his killings, a fact his dad loved to remind him of.
"Are you turning into an angel-lover like your brother?"
"Come on, Dean! You could kill better than that when you were nine!"
"I didn't buy you an angel blade so you can stand back and stare at!"
The longer he went without seeing Sam, the more he wondered if he was truly happy with Jessica, and thinking about it made him shudder. He couldn't help it. There had been that one angel that he cared for when he was sixteen, but that had been seven years ago from the night Sam left (eight, to be exact) and he felt guilty thinking about it. His only excuse was that he had been young and he didn't know at first what the boy was.
But it didn't matter now.
Angels were still his enemies, and despite his poor hunting as of late, he would always hate them.
One day, when John left to go on a round-trip hunt for that black winged angel for what could have been the thousandth time, Dean actually called Sam for the first time in a while; he had otherwise been writing letters to Sam, which John had no idea of.
"Hello?" said a pleasant female voice, and he knew right then who it had to be.
"Give the phone to Sam," he said flatly. It didn't matter that they had never met. The simple fact was this: she was an angel, had taken his brother away from him and their father, had caused a rift in his family, and he had been taught that every creature of her kind was evil.
"Fine," she said coolly. A moment later, in the background, "Saaaaaaaaaaaam! There's some dick on the phone!"
He heard Bobby's reproachful voice: "Jessica! D'you kiss your mother with that mouth, girl?"
There was laughter between the two of them, and Sam joined in a moment later, becoming louder as he took the phone and pulled the receiver close to his lips.
"I apologize for my girlfriend," he said, still chuckling. "Who am I speaking to?"
"Dean!" he cried delightedly; the laughter cut off in the background. "I didn't think I would hear your voice again for a long-ass time. It's nice of you to call."
Dean sank into a chair in the kitchen, grinning foolishly. It felt damn could to hear Sam speak and to hear him laugh, even if it was because of Jessica.
"I've been wonderful, thanks for asking. I think - well, I mean now that I have some free time - that I'm going to come for a visit. You know, stay a couple weeks."
"That'd be great!" Sam said, though Dean thought he heard something in his voice, just beneath the surface.
"What?" he asked, affronted. "Is it a bad time?"
"No, no of course it's not!" Sam said hastily. "I'm just wondering…."
"What?" He didn't much like how their pleasantry had only lasted for a good twenty seconds.
"If you can behave yourself. You know…around her?"
"What? Of course I can!"
With that said - though he honestly didn't know if he could resist attacking her, because damn, he was a hunter - he started packing and set out the same night, keeping the music turned down like Sam always liked it and trying to picture him. Maybe he looked like an entirely different person.
Just from the times he came back from seeing Jessica (when he could sneak away) had made his face almost glow with a punch-drunk wonder. What would a year of living with her do to him? Would he be all soft and mushy around her? Maybe he would have turned into a total wuss, like most men do when they fall for that one girl.
But that was okay. Maybe. All that mattered to Dean was that he still was Sammy.
He had grown a few inches since Dean had last seen him, a fact that annoyed him more than anything else. He should be right along with Sam, watching him grow. Bobby was probably doing a great job at raising him, but he wanted to be there, and he couldn't because Sam had chosen an angel over his own brother.
But he refused to let that spoil their reunion. As soon as he opened the door and Dean got a decent look at him, he grasped him in a firm hug, and realized that they had all but swapped height proportions since he had last seen him. When did the kid get so tall?
"I missed you," Sam said, his tone light with laughter; he was probably thinking about the height change as well.
"Come in," he invited, stepping back and pushing the door open further. "The hamburgers are almost done."
Dean left his bag in the living room and went to greet Bobby, who sat at the table with a tattered newspaper, tapping his fingers on the table impatiently.
"What's wrong, grandpa?" he greeted sarcastically, elated to see that he hadn't changed in the least little bit. He still wore his flannel and trucker cap. Still had the same drawn, tired face, and the same grumpy expression.
"Nothing's wrong," Sam said pointedly. "He's just hungry."
The words were not said in a teasing way like they should have been, but rather as a warning that Bobby apparently acknowledged.
"Yeah, I always get impatient 'round this time. Come here, boy," he said, standing up and stretching out his arms for Dean. He still carried the distinct smell of an angel hunter; the smell of gun powder, smoke, a hint of nature, and the pungent smell of grease. It was the same smell that Dean and his dad had about them, though he had retired from that career a long time back.
"Sit down," Bobby invited, doing so himself. Sam rounded the corner of the table and sat across from Dean, glancing towards the door anxiously.
"So, how's John?"
"Great," Dean replied, choosing his words carefully. He could feel Sam's eyes boring into him and he didn't want to upset him in the first five minutes of being there. "He's off on another big trip. You know how he is. I've been out on my own a lot lately, too."
There. That didn't sound so bad. From that, Sam probably knew that his dad had gone off hunting and Dean was carrying on local hunts by himself, but his brother did relaxed a little, only to spring up like some overgrown jack-in-the-box when the backdoor was nudged open.
"Let me help you," Sam was saying to the angel, but Dean could barely hear him. Every instinct he had screamed at him to pull his blade from the inside pocket of his jacket and take a swipe at her. Every formal lesson he had learned since age twelve (and even before that, when he practiced on his on) demanded that he attacked, but the creature could attack him first.
He thought, just perhaps, that Bobby would feel such instincts as well, having hunted far longer than him, but instead, he was saying in a jovial voice, "They smell delicious, Jess. We're both going to be fat if you keep this up. Well, actually," he looked down at his stomach, wistful. "I think I'm already getting there."
Dean kept his eyes locked on his knees, not looking up until the last possible second, when she extended a smooth hand to him.
"Hello, Dick - I mean Dean," she said in what sounded like a normal, human voice. "It's such a pleasure to meet you after all this time. Sam never shuts up about you."
Not even for Sam could he reach out and shake an angel's hand, but he did force his gaze up and nod jerkily at her. The friendliest action he could manage, all things considered.
The angel had thick blond hair that fell in curls around her shoulders, lush, pink lips, and wide, kind eyes, contradicting what Dean knew about her thus far.
Sam watched him carefully, and Dean knew he was waiting for him to lunge across the table and attack, but he remained firmly seated. Not that he could deny how tempting it was. She withdrew her hand, a bit annoyed, and joined Sam in spreading the food out.
"You let an angel operate the grill around here? Are you crazy?" Dean asked, making it clear that the question was expressly for Sam.
Truthfully, he had kind of become horrified for his brother's masculinity long ago, but this was worse than he could have imagined. Guys did the grilling. Simple as that.
"Yeah," Sam said, having the good grace to look embarrassed. "I tried once, when we first moved here, and I almost caught Jess's wings on fire."
She giggled, and they shared a sappy look, as if the memory were a happy one.
"Yeah that would have been a shame, an angel's wings burning. They fetch such a great price on the market," Dean remarked with a snarky smile, not bothering to keep his voice low. The mood shifted instantly; Jessica's eyes tapered dangerously, her expression turning from adoring to deadly in a second. Bobby cleared his throat warningly, and Sam raised his eyebrows and ducked his head a bit embarrassedly.
"Dean!" he said sharply. "Not here. Not now."
Dean swiveled his head around, taking in their expressions, and suddenly felt like he had just walked into an ambush.
"Fine. I'll be upstairs."
He shoved away his plate, hating Jessica even more because the hamburgers smelled so damn good, but one of his dad's first lessons was to never accept anything from angel, and he retreated up the stairs, still hungry. They creaked familiarly, reminding him of all the times he and Sam had run up them, trying to be the one to get the top bunk and the times when they were very little and played hide-and-seek with Jo. That ancient, creaking wood had always been such a giveaway for them.
Upstairs, he pushed open the door to the room he and Sam shared on the nights they stayed here, and received a severely unpleasant surprise. The room was obviously shared by him and Jessica. The bed had been neatly made, girly clothes were folded on the bed, and the whole place smelled distinctly like an angel: that deceivingly sweet but wild scent.
"You've gotta be kidding me," he murmured.
"What's your problem?"
Sam had followed him up the stairs (apparently he hadn't lost his stealth) and was now glaring at him with his arms crossed.
"You know damn well, Sammy. You're dating an angel. You're living with her, sleeping in the same bed as her, and you're so young. How do you know that she's what you want? Or did you just do it to piss Dad off?"
Instantly, he knew he had said the wrong thing; Sam's eyes narrowed warningly and his jaw clenched.
"You think I ditched you and Dad just to see how much it would piss you both off? Come on, Dean, you know me better than that. Now stop being an asshole. She's wanted to meet you for a long time, and I told her you would be mature enough to be pleasant, and I've never lied to her before, but I still kind of hoped you could suck it up. But you're just like Dad."
"One of those things killed our mom, Sam!"
The words came out a lot louder than he intended, but he thought his brother needed to be reminded of that particular fact.
"They took her away from us, and you ran off with one!"
"They aren't all the same!" Sam snapped. "It was just one angel that killed Mom, not Jessica! You think they all deserve to be hunted down and slaughtered just because of what one freak angel did? What about that one angel you met?"
"They're all the same, Sammy. And you know it." Dean said darkly, his eyes locked on Sam and his voice gruff and serious, avoiding the question entirely. He stalked away from his brother, into what he hoped Bobby had intended to be his room for the duration of the stay, slamming the door behind him.
Searching for reasons to avoid going back downstairs, he tugged open all the drawers, pulling out old papers and skimming through the books. This had been the room his father stayed in, back in the old days when he and Bobby and Ellen hunted angels together, and Sam, Dean, and Jo would play hide-and-seek until they returned.
One particular book caught his eye, and even then, staring directly at it, his mind denied that it was there. Not in a million years would his father have left such an important book behind. John knew better than that.
But he had.
The pages were yellowed at the edges, worn and wrinkled in other spots. A few pages near the front showed the signs of water damage, and even near the back, rarely were there pages without some sign of wear and tear.
The spine crunched as he opened it to the middle, the more damaged pages sticking up stiffly. Pressing them down, he turned them and took in the faces sketched by Ellen of the angels they had seen, though they had not killed them all.
He started his reading at a random spot; an unsuccessful hunt, apparently.
The Angel of Laughter
Current Reigning Angel: Gabriel
Under that, a finely drawn face of an angel with brown hair, pushed away from his face, which adorned an arrogant smile.
Brown with golden tips. Angel of great importance.
After a few minutes, he became bored and flipped the pages faster and faster, his mind now seized to find the page of only one angel in particular, he only took in a few odd names.
The Angel of Connections: Dahlia
The Miracle Angel: Cain
The Song Angel: Farah
The Sky Holder: Joshua
The Angel of Misfortune: Benjamin
The Angel of Nature: Cecilia (His father had killed that one; the first name had been scratched out, and questions marks hovered around the Apprentice name).
Angels lived a normal life span, constantly being assigned duties only to be replaced when they could no longer carry them out. It could be seen as a bleak prospect, always having another angel to track, but he believed his dad secretly liked it. He always had a new one to torture, to kill, and Dean certainly didn't care.
The angels existed on the edge of humanity for the most part, and though many adored them, others had trouble finding use for them, save for making money from killing them.
Such as himself.
He kept going, seeing his Dad's markings, each one marking another success in his hunting. Bobby's name popped up now and again, for the particular angels he killed, and Ellen's, though she had killed fewer.
And then, on a page that had been dog eared for so long it had a permanent bend to it, was THE angel.
The Wind Keeper
Current Reigning Angel: ?
And, under the feathers label, in a bold font that had been circled several times; Black.
Sinking down against the wall, he placed the book in his lap, studying the pages. Thinking about all the times that his dad had stared at them, wishing he could write the name only to cross it off, disturbed him.
Sam knocked on his door a few hours later, timid but trying his best to act natural.
"Do you want to go out camping tomorrow? We can still use the old grounds. Stay for three days?"
Dean didn't answer him immediately.
"You can teach me to fish," Sam offered, trying to joke.
"Will she be joining us?" he asked, not entirely in the mood to play around just yet.
"No, she'll stay here with Bobby. I think he would starve if she didn't. He's forgotten how to cook at this point."
Dean made a disgusted noise in the back of his throat, which Sam promptly ignored.
"Is that a yes or a no?"
After a moment's thought, Dean replied grudgingly.
"Yeah. Sorry I can't get used to…this. But I just don't think I can accept her, Sam. Not even for you."
Silently, Sam crossed the room and sat down next to his brother, eyes flickering down to the book with warily, before he spoke. "She saved me, though. I really need her. Maybe you'll meet an angel one day that will change you like the other one did."
Though he clearly meant it as a joke, the horror and disgust on Dean's face had him backpedaling rapidly.
"Okay, okay. Just kidding. You need to learn to relax."
"There isn't a kind angel alive," Dean replied. "You are a dumb-ass if you think differently."
They sat quietly together, still a bit tense, but Dean knew he didn't need to ruin his moment with Sam after being apart for so long. He decided then to shut up about angels for the next two weeks, until he went back to Dad's and resumed hunting them.
But then Sam brought them up. Again.
"Why do you have that old book out, anyway? Most of those angels have probably retired by now."
Dean didn't answer right away, instead turning the page over and trying to imagine drawing in the face of the angel that took his mother, and crossing the name out with his dad after what had been about a twenty year hunt now.
"Which is she?" he asked quietly.
Sam cocked his head to the side, the same way he did when he was a kid. Dean recalled him doing it because he went through a phase where he wanted to be like the owl from the movie Bambi. Not that they would admit to ever watching such a movie. It had become a habit over the years, and almost an alarmingly odd gesture for anyone who didn't know Sam personally.
Now in good spirits from the memories, Dean said, almost sounding friendly, "I'm guessing she's still an apprentice. Which duty does she have?"
"Oh," Sam said, relaxing and smiling. "The Hearth's Angel."
"Of course she is," Dean said sarcastically, his good mood abruptly stolen from him.
Dreams plagued him that night, of that one angel from the park, the one he met up with every day, had shown card tricks to, had even dared to ride the deadly roller coaster at the local amusement park with. (Dean would never tell a soul, but he was actually terrified of roller coasters. But no one had to know that.) The angel he had kissed, not knowing what he was. And then the angel saw him one last time, told him what he was, and left without a trace.
At that time, Dean had no idea how to handle it, how to deal with the concept. His initial disgust had been buried beneath the thoughts of the way they had held hands on that scary roller coaster rides, of how he had tried to get him to try a cigarette, and how he whistled elaborately when they grew quiet.
He didn't want to go back to that park and see him again. He was the scum of the earth, the thing he slaughtered on a weekly basis.
But for the longest time, he sat on their park bench, leaning forward, hands interlocked with one another, and he stared off into the distance towards the trees and closed his eyes against the wind, picturing their short month together and wishing he hadn't have left without at least saying goodbye.
And then he did his best to forget that he had done such a terrible thing, but he had always been translucent to Sammy, and his brother always wanted him to remember things like that.
His dreaming of the angel wasn't entirely uncommon, though he wouldn't admit that, but the fact that the dream he had that night had such vividness to it that it alarmed him. How could he forget when those days flashed beneath his closed eyes like a movie, bright and warm and drenched in the colors of their emotion, of how they had lain together on some days and found odd shapes in the clouds? He could almost smell the scent of that angel's dark hair when they lay close, could almost see the crisp sapphire color that filled his eyes.
But he woke up with the same narrow mind, the narrow mind that didn't allow that angel to walk beside him any further than those dark corners of sleep.
"You are not real," Dean said to his memory, shutting his eyes tight and rubbing them with his tired hands, because he wanted that statement to be true more than anything. He wanted his mistake to not be real because the more he thought about it, the more he felt it was the best thing that ever happened to him.
They left that morning for the camp site that lay on the outskirts of the town, requiring a good five mile hike before you could get to the one that the Winchester brothers used. As they left the house, he couldn't help but to notice Sam glancing back over his shoulder on the walk to the car, worry displayed in his eyes.
"She'll be okay without you for three days," he said.
He couldn't help but to feel annoyed with his brother and his obsession with an overgrown bird, but he remained silent with much effort.
Grumbling, he turned around to see Jessica hanging out the second story window, waving at them.
"You forgot your jacket!"
Sam slapped a hand to his forehead, a sheepish smile on his face.
"Sorry, Dean. I wasn't thinking; I don't think I've been up this early in a long time. I'll run in really fast and-"
He cut off, delighted, as Jessica swung herself out of the window, her snow white wings emerging from her shoulder blades and slowing her fall. An angel could hide their wings effortlessly, and sometimes it could be hard to distinguish them from humans without them, like that boy Dean had known, and the reminder of that only annoyed him more.
But now that he had seen Jessica's, it really hit him WHAT his brother was dating. He stood stiffly as she ran to them, clutching the jacket in her arms, her wings still spread out behind her. Shuddering, Dean tried his best to avoid looking at them and instead focused on the ground.
She wasn't wearing any shoes.
"Thanks, Jess. I don't know what I would do without you."
She drew him to the side, whispering urgently, and then Dean heard the sounds of a kiss (to which he cringed) and then she took flight, touching down on the patch of roof outside her and Sam's window. Her wings slid back into that invisible spot behind her skin before she turned and waved. Then she slipped back into the house.
"She's great," Sam said, mostly to himself.
"It looked to me like you just made out with an overgrown chicken," Dean replied, turning to the car and sliding in.
The drive mostly involved them bickering over the radio station and Sam panicking over Dean's driving, which had had deemed 'suicidal' but Dean had only answered by changing the song to 'Life in the Fast Lane' and singing obnoxiously.
In no time, they had fallen back into a familiar rhythm of screaming at each other and laughing for no reason, and Dean felt better than he had in a long time. Though, when they neared the spot where they would have to get out and hike, Sam at up straight and alert.
"Hey, let's go to another camp site. I heard some animals have been around our old one."
Dean stopped the car, put it into park, and turned to face his brother slowly.
"You heard there were animals."
"I would hope so. It's kind of nature. Now get your ass out of the car and get the packs. We need to get there as soon as possible; I've been dying to go swimming in the old river."
Sam's protests were cut off as he got out and shut the door, whistling cheerfully.
"Dean, I'm serious. They've seen bears and stuff and I really don't want to-"
"Who's 'they'?" Dean interrupted.
Sam rocked back on his heels, face pinched nervously.
"Just…people. I just think we should go to another spot. Please."
Tugging out the packs, Dean did his best to ignore his brother and his usual peculiarity.
"We're going to our old spot. We have guns. Guns are usually effective on living creatures."
He meant it as a sarcastic comment, but from Sam's expression, he remembered there was a creature that wasn't harmed by an ordinary gun, but instead only by a blade of pure gold. Like his girlfriend.
Refusing to apologize, because why the hell should he, he shoved one of the backpacks into his brother's arms, nodding towards the path.
Sam followed, though he did his best to change Dean's mind the whole way, relating to him all the times people had died from bear attacks, though all this fell on deaf ears as they neared the campsite and Dean heard a very, very familiar rustling sound.
"Listen!" he whispered fiercely, sticking an arm out to stop Sam in his tracks.
"Listen to what?" Sam asked, his voice small with terror. "We should go this way now, it might be a bear, after all."
Dean slapped his hand over his brother's mouth, straining his senses for that sound, which promptly returned.
"There's an angel nearby," Dean breathed, his hand moving to draw his blade.
"Dean. It could have been a bird. Now come on, let's go find another spot and-"
He faltered as Dean turned to stare at him.
"You knew there was one here."
Sam shook his head stubbornly, but a year away from their dad had made his lying skills a bit rusty, and Dean knew that this angel probably had some kind of connection with Jessica. Shaking the pack off his shoulders, he followed the rustling, stopping every now and then to make sure he was still on the right path.
Sam followed trying to drag him towards a different path, but the sounds only grew closer, the rustling in the trees more violent.
"We should go," Sam said grabbing Dean's shoulder and spinning him around. "I'm telling you, it's a bear."
"In the trees?" he replied skeptically.
Whatever lame response Sam had prepared was lost as the creature dropped out of the trees, not even making a sound when it gracefully touched ground. Dean spun, golden blade out, and found himself confronted by Jess, who looked as though she had been roughing it in the woods for a long time, with her wild hair and dirtied clothes.
"I warned you not to come here! We have to go," she cried, eyes locked on Sam with pure horror. "They're here!"
Dean looked at them both, but Jess had already taken Sam's hand and was tugging him back down the path to the car.
Reluctantly, Dean followed, swiveling his head to search the skies and treetops for any signs of an angel. They had almost returned to the starting point when Jessica stopped, her wings unfolded and her face set with a new determination.
"I'm calling him, Sam. We aren't getting out of here any other way."
"Jess. No." he looked at Dean with fear in his eyes, but Jess had already leaned towards the slight breeze. Her snowy feathers rustled in synch with the leaves. She was still barefoot.
"Castiel!" she cried into the winds. "We need out of here. Now."
She tacked the last part on for an obvious reason. The wind had died entirely; all the animals had gone silent. Then, the sound of a branch being ripped apart resonated to them from the depths of the trees. Jess groaned and stepped back beside Sam, taking his hand; Dean could see the skin over her knuckles straining as she grasped at him desperately.
"You called?" asked a new voice, one that Dean had most definitely heard before, though he couldn't place it.
Turning, he saw a boy that could have been his age with black, windswept hair and eyes the color of denim. They grazed over the three of them, lingering on Dean with keen interest before he turned to Jessica.
"You ARE aware Scylla is moving to you with intent to kill?"
"No, of course not," Jessica said sarcastically. "I thought I would call my dear older brother here for a cup of tea."
"Brother?" Dean asked. No one acknowledged him.
"We need to get out of here. Now. Can you do that weird teleport thing?"
The other angel, Castiel, looked at her, stricken by her apparent lack of a better term for what he could do.
"It is not," he said slowly, "teleporting. By flattening my wings and encasing our bodies with the winds, I can accelerate to great speeds that are nothing short of-"
"Yes, yes I know! I was there when you were picked as the apprentice. Now let's go! Grab him," she jerked her head to Dean, who was having something like a revelation.
"You're the Wind Keeper," he breathed, dumbfounded. But that couldn't be. This angel would have had to kill his mother when he was nine. Had it been his mentor? Or could it have been him after all?
"Yes, I am," he answered slowly, approaching him with his arms stretched out. "I know what you are thinking, but we can discuss it in just a moment."
"Don't you fucking touch me," he spat, eyeing his hands like they were snakes. Those could be the hands that killed his mother.
"I'm afraid I must. Don't worry, it will be over soon."
With that said, he strode forward and scooped Dean up in his arms, as easily as if he were a kitten.
"Woah! What the hell?" Dean cried. "I'm not your fucking bride!"
"We need to leave," Castiel replied simply.
And then, like ghosts rippling over water, his wings unfurled, stretching to the sky and blacking out the sun. Jessica grabbed Sam's hand and nodded, watching the spot over Castiel's shoulder with pure terror. With a downbeat of wings that sent dust into the air, they were airborne.
At first, the whole situation could be deemed down right ludicrous, but when the other angel, the one they feared, broke through the canopy of leaves, Dean wanted to be far, far away from her.
It was a mark of the desperation of the situation that he could overlook Castiel's wings, which glowed with patches of purple and blue in the light, and only stare at this new angel, Scylla. Her wings were black as well, but instead of an inky blackness like Castiel's, they were more so the absence of light. Her eyes, he could see even from here, were the same color.
"Ready?" Castiel called to Jessica, who had Sam grasped firmly under the arms. Maybe it just took soaring through the sky with the mutated birds to realize how tiny she was, but he knew she had to be struggling with his weight.
"Yeah! Let's go, she's gaining on us!"
Castiel's wings flattened out until he glided effortlessly beside her; the wind that slipped in between his feathers carried the distant sound of laughter, a few snatches of conversation.
"Bobby now knows we are on our way. We'll be going now."
The wind roared in his ears then, reminiscent of the sound of the monstrous waterfalls he and Sam used to swim under on dares until their Dad threw a fit. He felt his eyes watering and his nose running, but he couldn't help but to be more concerned with the angel that had apparently made it her goal to chase them until she caught and killed them or flew until they froze.
"Three..." Cas said with intent. Jessica gritted her teeth.
Scylla gave a terrible cry and grew closer, until, in the millisecond before Cas could finish his count down, Dean could see right into her eyes, viewing his reflection in them like they were a black pool. She reached a hand forward, fingernails yellowed and curved like claws, then flashed past him.
On that rollercoaster that Dean had ridden with the angel eight years ago, it didn't slowly gain momentum, but instead was given a kick-start, jerking them forward alarmingly fast and leaving their guts way behind him. The moment in which the word 'one' pushed itself from Castiel's lips was exactly like that; a moment of semi-comfortableness and then a breakneck speed that had Dean's head thrown back and his mouth opened in a silent scream.
He blinked, and then felt an odd stillness.
"Would you like to be released now?" Castiel asked, amused.
They had touched down in Bobby's yard, among all the junk cars and strewn gravel. Immediately, Dean scrambled out of his grip, trying to make his numb legs put a decent distance between him and the black winged angel.
"Don't touch me again. Or I'll skin you up real nice and hang you up for all your little angel buddies to see."
Castiel narrowed his eyes but gave no comment, instead turning to Jessica curiously.
She leaned against Sam, who didn't seem very steady himself, and rubbed her arms.
"She almost got us," she gasped. "And she isn't going to give up, what if it's like - Sam? Sam!"
His brother had abruptly toppled over, eyes rolling back in his head as he collapsed to the ground.
Dean lunged, pushing Jessica aside and scrambling to keep Sam's head off the ground. He placed a hand on his brother's chest, reassured by the steady heartbeat.
"Hey, listen to me! Keep your eyes open!"
His brother groaned but obliged, a temporary relief, but now there was the problem of what went wrong. Then, he felt something wet seeping through Sam's shirt, and, looking down, he saw a horrifyingly large blood stain that bloomed even further as the seconds ticked away.
"What do we do? This was HER doings, right? Fix him!" he snapped at Jessica, who knelt beside him, hands trembling.
"I - I don't. I can't -"she met Castiel's eyes, absolutely devastated.
Dean felt him move to join them around Sam, but even then he couldn't bring himself to flinch away; he wanted to stay as close to Sam as possible.
"I'll do it," Castiel said quietly.
He leaned over, slipping his hands into Dean's jacket and tugging out the golden blade.
"What the hell are you-"Jessica grabbed his hand warningly and searched Castiel's face with an urgency that had nothing to do with Sam.
"You can't. You know what it will mean for you."
Castiel looked first at her, and then Dean with ancient sadness that drew lines in his face someone so young should never carry, before he answered.
"I know. But I have to."
That said, he shook back his sleeve and drew a deep line over the inside of his forearm with the golden blade, lips pressed together that implied that it hurt much more than he let on.
Dean sat back, mouth open with indignation, and then shock, as Castiel titled his arm and let the blood drip into Sam's mouth. If a joke could be deemed appropriate, he might make one about Dracula, just to cover up how sick the whole scenario was, but even after a drop, he saw Sam strengthen, so he dared not complain.
"He'll be okay," Castiel said after a moment, voice an octave higher with pain. "We need to get inside, though. Before Scylla follows. Help me, Dean."
They met eyes, and Dean nodded after a second of hesitation, thinking to himself that Sam needed him more than anything right at that moment.
Together, they carried Sam inside, with Jessica preceding them to warn Bobby to set up the protections, whatever that meant. Dean had never wanted protection from an angel. More often than not, he was trying out rumored rituals to summon them, because, as his dad put it, the sooner they were dead, the better. And his dad was always right.
Sam was placed on the couch, where Dean had thrown a blanket over him and left him to Jessica's car. Silently, he joined Castiel beside the door, where Bobby was dripping some dark substance across the entrance.
"What is that?"
The question had been for Bobby, but Castiel chose to answer.
"Lamb's blood. It will seal Jessica and myself in and everything else out."
Snorting, Dean retreated back to the living room, where Sam had already progressed to sitting up. Jessica's eyes sparkled with tears as she watched him; she knew how close she had come to losing him.
"How did she catch you?" she moaned. "I should have flown faster. Oh, Sam. I'm so sorry."
Sniffling, she lifted her chin to look at Castiel, who had moved to stand in the doorway just behind Dean.
"Thank you, Castiel. I'm so sorry about what this means. This just shouldn't have happened."
At that, she dissolved into sobs so strong, Dean had the distinct impression that he had missed a very, very important factor in the situation.
"What, are the mighty angels going to give you a slap on the wrist and stick you in time-out?"
He threw the words over his shoulder to Castiel, whose hair still looked as through the wind had had sex with it, but he didn't respond, only moving around him to sit on the couch across from Sam.
"I wish it were that," Jessica cried, but Castiel shot her a warning look and she fell into a silent distress.
He stood there, not joining any of them, but still watching Castiel with wariness. After all of Dad's searching and hunting and research, the Wind Keeper was here, sitting calmly on the couch with his hands folded. But it couldn't be a coincidence, could it? Sam must know something, but he wasn't exactly in the state to be interrogated just yet.
"Did you kill her?" he asked bluntly. Jessica's head jerked up, her eyes stretched wide.
Castiel met him with an even gaze before answering calmly, "No. That was my mentor, and he passed away the same night."
"He took over as reigning angel so young," Jessica told Dean with a proudness that Dean could relate to entirely. He had boasted on Sam all the time, about his school work and how he had the best aim out of the family. Not that the last one was a huge compliment. There were only four of them left, including Bobby.
Watching Castiel, he could tell that he was in great pain, no matter how hard he tried to hide it, and, for the sole fact that he had saved Sam's life for what apparently had been a heavy cost, he found himself feeling the tiniest bit of sympathy.
"I have medicine," he said, looking at the wall. "Dad uses it for-"
Sam cleared his throat.
Dean knew his brother though he was about to blurt out something thoughtless without meaning to, but he could honestly care less if the Wind Keeper knew that his Dad would torture angels only to heal them and start anew. Hell, he would be delighted to tell him that he tortured them for information on where Castiel was hiding.
"I'll go get it," he finished, glaring at his brother.
Bobby sat at the table, chewing on his thumbnail and staring at the newspaper. He didn't look up as Dean approached him.
"You knew he was in the woods. Where we were going camping."
The accusation should have angered him, but instead, he let his hand fall on the table with a sigh.
"Yes. And I knew what you would think. You would think Castiel killed Mary Winchester without thinking about how old he would have had to been. You would have killed him on the spot and a good angel would have died. But I wasn't scared about him."
"How many times do I have to tell you," Dean said, slamming his hands on the table. "There are no such things as good angels? Why do you and Sam insist on thinking differently?"
"You don't think he's good?"
Bobby nodded towards the living room, where Jessica and Castiel were talking in low, urgent voices.
"He just saved your brother, and he's going to pay for it in the worst way. You probably won't even say thank you because you have your father's prejudice against them. If you knew what really happened that night-"
"You know?" Dean interrupted, his voice dangerously soft. "You know what happened to Mom?"
Bobby blinked, his jaw working like he was chewing something.
"Yeah. I do. And I'll tell you that it was exactly one angel's fault. Just one. And she's the one that just injured your brother."
Dean rocked, grasping the back of the nearest chair.
"What do you mean? Did she kill Mom? Bobby - I need to understand. JUST SPIT IT OUT!" he roared as Bobby shook his head ruefully.
"Scylla did not kill your mother. But that's the point of everything that is happening right now. Castiel has to be the one to tell you - me and Sam and Jessica can't. Under oath."
Growling impatiently, Dean made to go up the stairs but changed his mind and headed back to his bag that lay on the floor, where he pulled out a bottle of paste.
"He did nothing wrong," Bobby said, as if answering a question someone else had asked.
Watching him, Dean could see that he had gotten even older than he should have in just a year, and he felt a bit of remorse for yelling. But he had the right to know, right? But as he passed the bottle to Castiel, who thanked him fervently, the sick churning in his stomach told him that maybe he didn't want to know after all.
Outside, just at the point where the trees started, a flock of crows became unusually interested in making a permanent nest in the exact same tree, around a point where you could see into the windows of all the rooms in the back of the house. Jessica made a point of drawing the curtains on them, adding in a rude hand gesture before stomping away.
"I didn't know birds were that intelligent," Dean commented one day, when they began squawking indignantly at Jessica for preforming her usually routine of cussing at them.
"Well, all the angels have certain birds that help them," Sam replied, like it was a fact taught in first grade. "Like Jessica has doves and Gabriel has a falcon, and Castiel has the swallows."
"Swallows? What the hell are swallows?" Dean asked, suppressing laughter as he tried to ever remember hearing the term in a way that did not involve blow jobs or basically anything inappropriate, a hard feat for him, really.
"You're hopeless," Jessica laughed, but she did not do so in a mean way, and, for the first time, Dean offered her a grudging smile.
They remained in the house for weeks, long past the time Dean had planned to stay and past the point where his Dad probably would have come home. As June came about them, they took to playing board games and watching series on TV, and, as twilight neared, counting the fireflies through the window, except for when the crows decided to be especially annoying.
"I swear those stupid birds are eating them just to take away our fun," Jessica said one day.
"This is fun?" Sam had teased her, tugging on her curls.
Castiel had been forbidden to leave as well by the others, and again Dean knew it had something to do with all the secrets they were keeping from him, but he didn't ask about his mother again. He received a sharp kick in the gut whenever he thought about what could have happened that was so bad.
Before, it had been so simple; an evil, black winged angel had killed her, leaving his feathers scattered around her room, and Dean and his father sought revenge. But now two other black winged angels were thrown into the equation, and the angel the both of them had devoted their lives to hunting had died on the same day his mother had.
Castiel offered no further information, but instead took to following Jessica around the kitchen, trying to learn to cook, though he royally sucked at it.
"I never stayed in a house before," he admitted to them one evening, after they had all (yes, even Dean) choked down a particularly terrible meal prepared by him that looked vaguely like cat food. "I've always had to stay where the wind could reach me."
At that, he turned his eyes to the covered window sadly.
Sam and Jessica spent a lengthy amount of time in their room near the end of June, apparently discussing the big secret. Bobby would look up at the ceiling, features strained with worry, but he didn't ask them to come down and discuss anything with them. Instead, he took to his own room, where he had been making a scrapbook of all the pictures they had taken during their imprisonment (Dean didn't know another word for it).
"You're such a girl," he had commented. "I mean, no offense."
"I ain't got nothing better to do!"
That, unfortunately, left Dean and Castiel alone in the living room a lot, and at times like that Dean had to ask him certain things, but Castiel only answered when he decided the answer wouldn't affect the big secret.
"Did you know that your mentor was going to kill my mother?"
"Then how do you know all the secret stuff?"
"I arrived as he was dying; Scylla attacked him. He explained everything to me. I'll tell you very soon, I promise."
At that, he looked again to the windows with the same desperate sadness, sighing a little.
"Probably sooner than later."
If someone told Dean a month ago that when he went on a harmless trip to visit his brother, he would end up locked up with two angels, one of them the Wind Keeper, no less, he would have stabbed them. More than likely.
But he had slowly become accustomed to them, to his disgust. Try as he might, they became more and more impossible to hate, as Jessica cooked his favorite foods and Castiel showed an appreciation for classic rock and even recommended some songs that Dean had not heard before but seriously enjoyed.
"I hear them as people are driving with their windows down," he explained. "I've chased a car for miles before just to listen to a good CD. But that's about as far as my knowledge of technology goes," he added sourly.
There were still several moments where Dean looked at the angels and shivered, because despite their friendliness, he had grown up hating them, killing them, but the longer that days stretched, the more he saw them as what they absolutely were not.
One day, when he sat alone in his room, flipping through the book, Castiel came in and shut the door, a determined air about him. Striding across the room, he all but ignored Dean and flung open the window.
"What are you, crazy?" Dean cried, throwing the book aside and scrambling up.
A great wind stirred up, blowing past them and unsettling the large flock of crows in the tree. He shut the window without a word and sat on the bed, as far away from Dean as possible.
"I had to send a farewell message," he explained.
"To who?" Dean asked, picking the book back up and studying the picture of Gabriel. Where had his father met him, and how had he escaped?
"Anna. The Angel of Good Intentions."
"There are too many of you," Dean muttered to himself before saying aloud, "Your girlfriend?"
"Oh no," Castiel said dryly. "Certainly not. I am in love with someone else."
That caused a weird reaction in Dean, one that hadn't expected; the faintest, most miniscule ounce of jealousy, jealousy at the thought of another angel laughing and joking with him (though Castiel's jokes were about as pleasant as his cooking), and exchanging favorite songs with him.
"That's great," he replied, in a way that implied everything but. "I always wondered, though, what happens when an angel gets with a human instead of an angel?"
Castiel raised his eyebrows, taken off guard.
"Well, I mean," Dean said gruffly. "Jessica won't get in trouble for being with Sammy, will she?"
Castiel just stared at him, disbelief splayed out on his face.
"You're concerned about Jessica? Dean, I must say, that is incredibly thoughtful."
The room abruptly felt too hot; he began sweating in his shirt for no particular reason.
"No, she will not get into trouble. It's very uncommon that an angel will be with a human; we need to keep our race going after all, and we are already hunted almost to extinction.
They lapsed into silence while Dean mulled that over, and he decided that he and Castiel were not exactly friends, but they could put up with each other, so he asked his question.
"Why do we even need angels, Cas? Are you guys really that necessary?"
Castiel narrowed his eyes and tipped his head to the side, almost in the same way Sam did when he was confused.
"Necessary? Dean, we are vital. Without us, the world would fall into chaos. But we are being hunted more and more often, for our feathers, for our blood. You humans do not seem to understand the importance of us, how often we watch out for you."
"Oh, you watch out for us, do you? Well, thanks a shit-ton for your mentor watching out for my mother. Awesome job. And I suppose you look out for me and Sammy?"
Castiel stood up and moved to leave, but not before saying, "Not Sam, anymore. Just you."
Even after the door had been closed for several minutes, he stood there, staring at the doorknob and almost wishing Castiel would come back, just explain everything to him and maybe, just maybe he could start to feel sorry for all the angels that he killed.
The proximity they were granted would not have caused Dean to change his mind about the angels, but the thing that did came a week before the fourth of July, when they were peeling potatoes in the kitchen.
"You and Jessica rest," Sam had told Castiel, who peered around the corner curiously. "Let us cook for once."
Bobby reacted with mingled relief and sorrow, for in losing Castiel's 'cat food' he also lost Jessica's dishes and that was a shame for everyone.
"I'll tell you one thing about what's going on," Sam said in a low voice, scarcely concealed by the sound of the TV. "But that's it. Don't ask me again. From now on, talk to Castiel. Because you have to before, well... Anyway."
He broke off, pink in the face, and Dean had a feeling that he had almost said something he certainly shouldn't have.
"Well, go on then. Say it."
That sick feeling had returned to his stomach, but he knew that this could be important, and in the end, it really was.
"Mom loved the angels, Dean, particularly Castiel. She had been planning to talk to Dad about you and him being friends. She would have let him move in with us if, well… The point is this; Mom knew what she was doing in the end. Just…trust me, okay?"
"Okay," Dean agreed reluctantly. "But why are you telling me this now?"
Sam looked over his shoulder, making sure no one was near, before whispering, "Because you need to stop being such a jerk to Castiel. You've been a lot better than we've anticipated," he amended at Dean's incredulous look, "But he's in love with you and he has been for over seven years and since he's about to-"
Again, he sunk into silence, on the verge of letting something important slip.
"Are you telling me," Dean said slowly, placing his knife down, "That a male angelis in love with me? Because that's just not going to work, Sammy. Nope. Sorry. Not in a million years."
But even saying that, his mind had already been taken a million miles away, to his mother ruffling a young Castiel's hair, talking to him about Dean, about how they could be friends. Had that really been what his mother wanted? Was that really what Sam wanted? And now, with a jolt, did he remember him, Jessica, and Bobby exchanging pleased looks whenever he and Castiel got along particularly well?
"Shit," he whispered. Sam glanced up, eyebrow cocked, and gave a little laugh at his brother's expression.
"You feel something for him don't you? Oh, why the hell am I even asking? You won't admit shit. Not ever."
He gathered the potatoes and moved to the stove, leaving Dean with his fingers lingering on the knife. Since a considerably young age, he had countless ways to kill with one stowed away in his mind, what part of the angel was weakest, which color feathers were coveted above others, and how to trick them into thinking that he was a friendly person.
His whole life, entirely encased around killing these creatures, tricking them and harming them and bringing them down to the same level that he and his Dad had been placed at. Desperate and all but alone.
And now, one loved him. An angel that his mother had loved, had wanted him to be kind to, to call his friend.
His brother turned around expectantly.
"He's the angel from the park."
Sam laughed, running the sink and washing his hands, hardly reacting to this earth shattering news.
"How long did it take you to figure that out?"
Dean turned around, leaning back and crossing his arms.
"Since I saw him. I just couldn't be sure at first. I've seen so many faces over the course of eight years, it was hard to tell. But I know it's him."
He heard the sound of the water being turned off, Sam flicking his fingers in the same manner his mom had done when she finished washing her hands.
"Well, I'm glad we set that straight."
That night, he was exceptionally kind to and confused, but apparently delighted, by Castiel. Though by now, that name was too much of a mouthful.
"Cas, huh?" Jessica said, interrupting their conversation about the newest episode of House. "Why haven't I ever thought of giving you a nickname? A little sister should have names like that prepared to use in embarrassing situations."
"I'm a genius," Dean answered, lifting his chin up. "And I don't think he looks like a Castiel."
He met the blue eyes, and he saw some kind of warmth in them that he had not known before, drawing his thoughts to what Sam said about him loving him. That was weird, but the clenching in his stomach, not painful this time, told him something he didn't want to hear, not ever. He couldn't recognize it, especially not because the feeling had been evoked by an angel. But Cas had made him feel before, and now that he had said it out loud to Sam, that he had already loved Castiel before, he knew that it might be okay, with time.
"I think he looks just like a Cas," he finished, still searching his blue eyes, trying to find a trace of what Sam said he had felt in them, of what they had held eight years ago.
Then, he found his search misdirected, for all the emotion came from his single, radiant smile.
"Mary called me Cas."
Dean had never been in a serious relationship before, and he didn't intend to start one while on house arrest. Not with a guy and certainly not with an angel. But the more and more he thought of Sam's words and how severely they affected his newfound (almost) friendship with Cas, who he had a relationship with long ago. Now, when their eyes met, he felt almost embarrassed, and he floundered for topics that had not been visited before.
When they sat together on the couch (it took him two weeks into the lockdown before he felt okay doing such a thing) he could feel the heat radiating from his body and felt the urge to get even closer, a great change from his previous urges in the forest that first day, where he had demanded that Castiel never touch him again. In fact, he wanted the exact opposite now. But he couldn't decide if he was okay with feeling that way or not.
He had been such a firm course, sailing along on familiar waters: research, track, the hunt, the kill, and then visiting the black markets and selling the feathers, sometimes the blood. Now, a storm had rocked him, pushing him into a new ocean entirely, one where an angel with blue eyes, an angel that had looked at Mary and cared for her as she did for him, and he apparently had loved Dean for a long while.
And Dean had loved him at some point as well.
All he had to take in threatened to overwhelm him, so, more often than not, he sat alone in his room, avoiding the look Castiel gave him that caused the lurch in his gut, and he stared out the windows, where the crows still gathered.
The night he knew he was in trouble came two days before the fourth of July, when Bobby had planned to take a risk and encircle the yard in the lamb's blood and have Ellen, who had been personally delivering them food, bring fireworks that they could set off. Jo wouldn't be there; she had gone off to college and couldn't get away just yet, but sent her love and told them to hang in there. Dean could picture her secretly laughing over the situation, but she tended to be the type of person who looked for the best in things.
Dean had been sitting alone, leaned back against his pillows and flipping through the tiny photo album he always took with him on trips, about the time it happened.
In the album, Mary Winchester was featured the most, and then a baby Sam, but Dean and his father had been what Mary had called 'camera shy' and they were either both in the same picture or not there at all, save for a picture of Dean holding Sam, wrapped in a blanket.
Castiel walked in, holding a plate of pie, which he offered wordlessly to Dean before sitting beside him and sighing as he took in the pictures.
"She was very kind woman. Her condition plagued me for a long while, even after her death."
"When will you tell me? Everything that happened, I mean?"
Dean disguised his awkwardness behind taking a bite of the pie. Cherry, his favorite.
"On the fourth," Castiel replied decisively. "When it's over, I'll tell you everything."
"When what's over?" he spewed pie crumbs at Castiel, who only watched him fondly a moment before pulling something from his coat pocket.
"I would like very much for you to have this. I've carried it since her funeral."
The gift was a tattered picture, and as he held it out, Dean could see his mother's face. Swallowing, he placed the pie on the bedside table and gingerly took it, his fingers brushing against Cas's for a second; his skin erupted in goose bumps.
The picture was worn near the edges, bent oddly, as though it had been folded several different ways over the years, but the faces were still there: Mary Winchester, glowing and beaming, sitting in their living room. In her lap sat a young Castiel, his hair still wild, his blue eyes large and delighted. They were hugging, her arms encircled around his small, black wings.
He tried to form a thank you, but the words got stuck in his throat. Instead, he grasped Castiel by the shoulders and drew him into a hug, inhaling the unmistakable angel scent he carried, the scent that previously told him to draw out his blade, to get ready to kill. Now it meant Cas, or Will, as the boy from the park had called himself. It meant Jessica, his brother's happiness. It meant home.
"Thank you," he managed, pulling away, and, after an awkward moment, he added, "Can…can I see them?
"See what?" Castiel asked, sounding almost dizzy as he watched Dean.
"Your wings. Please?"
Castiel didn't answer, and Dean wondered momentarily if he offended him before there was a quiver in the air, and his wings unfolded, seemingly from nowhere. They were large, stretching towards the low ceiling, some feathers bent at odd angels.
"Fast flight has its draw backs," Castiel said, following his gaze.
Dean looked down at the picture of his mother, of her fingers half buried in the same black feathers. Setting it aside, he suddenly felt the urge to touch them as well.
"You know, my dad told me to never take anything from an angel," Dean said, drawing his find through the silken feathers, almost mute with wonder.
"Then I must say," Castiel replied, simply, "I think he would be most displeased with you. You've taken all of me."
And there it was. Not from Sam's mouth, but from Castiel's, in a graceful manner. In a manner that caused the unfamiliar waters he had been sailing in to calm, and he felt like he had known Castiel all his life, just as Mary had intended, instead of sixteen years in. He had no awareness of doing it, but he and Castiel were both leaning forward, and a timid touch of lips ended up becoming a test to see how close they could get to one another.
Dean felt his breath, hot against his face, across his neck, and he felt his smile during the brief lulls in ferocity, though they rarely lasted long.
Castiel was essentially all that he remembered from those nights, but he somehow felt better now, as an adult. They had more passion, a better grip on where they stood, but that didn't exactly matter because they stood together. All his doubts had been cast out the window. Let the crows have them.
They lay back after a long while, Cas with his chin on Dean's chest, looking up at him with wonder.
"I was scared you would forget me, would forget everything. And I got so scared because I knew that you were a hunter, that there was no way you would accept me. I got out before I caused a strain your life. But I never stopped thinking about you."
Again, he felt the guilt, but this time, he felt it because he had tried to forget, out of shame, and now he felt shame because of that.
"I never stopped remembering you," he said gruffly. He didn't know how to say these romantic things; they were so unlike him. But he wanted to say them, and he could mean them.
Castiel looked at him, relieved.
Again, Dean felt the odd fluttering in his stomach, and he knew that something seriously wrong had happened over the course of the past few days, but when Castiel had fallen asleep, still partly on top of him, Dean had no idea how to react, when his world had been flipped quickly.
After a moment of watching him, his lips parted slightly in sleep, Dean softly took his hand in his own, finding the roughness of his skin pleasant.
In his sleep, Castiel smiled, and his loose hand tightened a little in Dean's, and he thought to himself that maybe this world wasn't so bad.
The day before the fourth was spent with Dean receiving a lot of smug looks and Sam muttering to him, "I told you so!"
Dean couldn't quite decide what was appropriate in a relationship, having never really been in one, save for his secret one with 'Will', but from how Sam and Jess behaved, it seemed to be wild make out sessions like the one they had last night were labeled as inappropriate, but hand holding, the same looks they had been exchanging prior to kissing, and an occasional peck on the cheek certainly worked.
More often than not, Dean could catch Cas watching him with a look that said he could hardly believe his luck, and that night, as Dean brushed his teeth, he admitted that he was feeling exactly that.
"I thought I would watch over you forever," he said, sitting on the edge of the bathtub, his hands folded. "And that you would never know me as Castiel. That, or you would be the one to kill me."
His expression became troubled at that, but he continued on, "Even when Jessica called me and said that you would be camping so close to Scylla's hideout, I didn't think any of this would happen. I didn't hope."
Spitting in the sink, Dean thought that Cas had perhaps chosen the worst place and time to make a romantic confession, but, meeting his eyes in the mirror, he felt a tugging at his heart that sealed off his throat. What would he say after the big secret was revealed? Would he still care for Cas like he did now, in that way that felt as if he was gaining momentum, going down a hill?
Would whatever had truly happened to Mary end this?
Dean didn't want that. He just wanted what he and Cas had in this exact moment in time, as long as possible.
He wiped away the remaining toothpaste with his hand and turned away to kneel in front of Castiel.
"I'll warn you now. I'm not good with feelings. But I really like having you around, and I definitely like kissing you." His mind wanted to linger on that same, halting fact, that he liked kissing a male angel, a previously disgusting combo, but he too, went on.
Some things just needed to be said.
"Cas, I don't know what to do. My dad won't allow this, and when I really think about it, I don't know if I blame him. But I don't know if I can stay away from you. You kind of fucked up my mind."
At eye level with each other, Dean could see his lips press together, and his face crumpled with despair before he composed himself.
"Do you think we could have a life together?"
Dean, skeptical, lonesome, harsh, prejudiced, often thoughtless, and entirely disregarding of love, met those blue eyes, and he wanted to watch them forever, to see the changes in them. The lust, the love, the anger when they might argue, the light in them that seemed to pierce directly though him, right to his lungs, where they stole every last ounce of his breath.
"I think we could have the best," he answered, for once entirely honest.
The next morning, Dean trotted down the stairs, humming to himself, for as of late he felt particularly elated, and he found a pie sitting on the table.
"Cas made it," Jessica said, bustling in, arms filled with clothes. "I took a tiny piece of it"- she winked at him- "It's safe to eat, I promise.
She turned to the living room, but Dean stopped her.
She raised her eyebrows curiously at the nickname, of which he had been the only one not to use so far.
"Thanks for looking after Sam for us. I want to stay here, I think. I mean, if that's okay."
"Oh, Dean," she whispered, and the pity in her voice damn near broke his heart, but she didn't explain, instead fleeing the room, rubbing at her eyes, her small shoulders shaking slightly.
The odd behavior continued all through the day, with Bobby digging out his favorite leather jacket and telling Dean how much he would like him to have it, with Sam offering to paint the bedroom with him so he could move in, and with both men offered to break the news to his father that he had pulled a 'Sam'-Jessica broke out into wild laughter for the first time that day - and that they could go retrieve his stuff and maybe, just maybe, explain to his dad what happened.
"But I don't even know if I should yet!" Dean protested, and then everyone grew quiet, save for Cas, who said happily, "I want to make a blueberry pie next time, Dean. Do you like those?"
Jessica shoved her chair back from the table and disappeared into the bathroom; Sam and Bobby exchanged a look before Sam got up and followed her.
Completely bewildered, Dean replied, "Yeah. Sure, Cas."
Jessica remained in the bathroom, muttering into the phone, for a large chunk of the day, only to really brighten up as Ellen pulled into the driveway, fireworks in tow.
"Those are excellent!" she exclaimed, sounding suspiciously happy. "I can't wait!"
They all exchanged confused looks, particularly Castiel, but they said nothing, only moving to the backyard.
As Sam set off the fireworks (Jessica insisted he aim them at the crows) Dean and Castiel sat on the hood of his Impala, watching them for a just few minutes before Castiel leaned back placing a hand on his shoulder to bring him along.
"You're going to tell me?" Dean asked breathlessly.
"I'm going to tell you," he confirmed, and, with a deep breath, he began.
"My mentor's name was William, after his father. I used his name when I met you. The first one I could come up with on the spot."
He smiled wryly.
"He grew up in the forest, same as myself. And Mary, even young, would meet with him and they would pick berries together. As they grew older, he fell in love with her."
"And he killed her?" Dean sat up, vexed.
"You must hear the story," Castiel replied firmly, and waited until he sank reluctantly back down before going on.
"At sixteen, Mary became terminally ill with cancer. William was devastated, and he offered to do anything to help her, but she only asked for one thing."
Here, Cas's eyes grew distant and were again overcome with a sadness Dean had seen in his father's eyes for all these years.
"She wanted to be with a boy, John Winchester. William was devastated, but he brought Scylla to her. The Angel of Bargaining."
Closing his eyes, Dean thought he could see where this story might go, but he didn't want to believe it yet.
"Mary did not know the deal she was making, did not know how it would affect you and Sam. She bargained with Scylla; if she could live long enough to bear two sons - your father wanted sons, though he wouldn't admit it to her - then she would willingly die, as long as she could know you and Sam first. Scylla asked for one thing."
"Which was?" Dean asked through numb lips, but already his mind was sewing together the pieces: the reason Sam was attacked, the way people tiptoed around him and Cas, that desperate, searching look, their kindness….
"One of her sons would be in a doomed relationship with an angel, about twenty years after the deal was made, and she would take one of them. Sam had not been her initial choice, but he was easier to get to. But when I saved him-"
"She's going to take me?" Dean asked, caught off guard.
"No, Dean." He felt Castiel intertwine their fingers, holding to them fast like a lifeline. He took in another breath. "She's going to come for me."
He jerked his hand away, rolling off the car and looking to Sam and Jessica and Bobby, who were now watching them with expressions of pure desolation. Dean's breaths heaved faster and deeper with each second, his stomach churning with panic.
"She will, Dean. In fact, I hear her now."
This had to be a dream.
He sighed, standing as well, and encircled the car, grabbing Dean's face and forcing him to look at him.
"I'm sorry, Dean. I really am. When I saved Sam, I - well, I certainly didn't count on this. I didn't think you would ever see me as more than an angel."
Then, in the same second in which Castiel kissed him, Bobby gave the warning.
No. No. No. This couldn't be real. Dean had just found himself sinking deeper and deeper into the world that was Castiel and nothing else day by day, and he couldn't have been happier. And now it was being jerked away from underneath him, like some sick joke? He wouldn't believe it.
The crows lifted their wings in response to a terrible cracking noise, and he knew, undoubtedly, that it was her, tearing her way through the forest, but she couldn't possibly cross the seal, after all.
That was all that reassured him, but as she tore her way to them, he had a terrible feeling that something had gone wrong.
Bobby and Sam pulled out golden blades, angel blades, and took a battle stance, watching her move forward. Something about Jessica looked a bit guilty, but he didn't have time to do much about her as Scylla emerged, wings flared and her chin high and arrogant.
Her gaze locked on Castiel, then turned to the front of the house with vague surprise as a car spun into the driveway, and John Winchester sprang out, face savage and his lips curled back.
"Where is she?" he screamed, and Dean couldn't even begin to process why he was there, until he caught sight of the relieved look on Jess's face, and his scrambled mind but a few pieces of the day together.
"She called him here to kill Scylla," Dean told Cas, and a bit of hope seeped through to him. If anyone could kill her, it would certainly be his father.
As if answering him, she descended on them, her black hair whipping around her face. Her dark eyes took each of them in before narrowing in on Castiel and Dean with interest.
"Dean, I need you to run."
"Hell, no! I've killed plenty like her, and I'm not going to let you die!"
He drew the blade from his pocket, his father doing the same, like mirrors, all the training, all the techniques came rushing to his brain, and all he needed was her to make the first move.
The skin around her eyes crinkled with a smile before she dove, the ground tearing apart underneath her. Instinctively, Dean stepped in front of Castiel, blade ready, but Castiel pushed him aside at the last moment; Dean could hear the tearing of fabric and Jessica's scream, and then a challenging call from his father.
"Come and face me, coward! For everything you've done!"
Scylla faced him unconcernedly, touching down to prepare for what she must have thought a dull fight. Dean knew she would have liked to draw out the agony of it all, and killing John Winchester would only add to her satisfaction. She moved to him, sneering at Bobby and Sam's expressions.
"Are you alright?" Dean asked, helping Castiel up. If he could just focus on him, what was going on might seem less real.
"Fine," he answered firmly. "We need to help your father."
But John needed no help. Scylla struck first but quickly became alert as she realized his endurance and skill. Her feet moved in a blur as she swiped at him with her claws, tearing slashes on his face, on his chest, his arms. But he never stopped his retaliation, if anything; he became angrier and more determined. Sam and Bobby moved to help, but John's voice was firm.
Castiel, from beside him, gave a great sigh and took Dean's hand.
"You are the best part of me," he said solemnly, and then his wings were out brushing past Dean and he moved in a blur across the yard. Dean could not even stretch out his hand to catch him, to stop him and plead for him to let his father handle it, before Castiel was behind Scylla grasping her around the arms. She growled, momentarily off guard, and slashed wildly over her shoulder at him. He nodded at John. Whatever unspoken message that passed between them, no one would ever quite know, but John, with a savage cry, stabbed her through the stomach, teeth clenched in effort; she screamed in utter terror, silver blood flowing from her mouth as she fell.
And the same blade that passed through her had gone through Castiel, who swayed on the spot, watching John sink to ground before he, too, fell.
The others were crying out, voices cracking, but Dean couldn't find his voice just then. He moved across the yard to them, feeling as though he was walking through quicksand. Each heartbeat pounded the blood through to his head and drowned out the sounds around him. Time had slowed as he watched the blood pooling onto the ground, the silver mixing with the red, and Dean, in a moment of shock, wondered how his father would feel about that. As he approached, he heard Sam talking to him, telling him he still loved him after a year of silence.
"I killed the black winged angel," he kept repeating, a smug look on his dying face as Sam nodded again and again.
"Jess called me," he broke off to explain. "Said the angel was going to be here. That she would break the lamb's blood seal to let me at her, and I got her, didn't I, son? She was probably the easiest angel I ever killed. I could have gotten her long time ago, if only I had done some more research, realized that the Wind Keeper wasn't the only angel with black wings."
But Dean ignored all this and fell to the ground by Castiel, pulling him into his lap and staring at his face, listening to his ragged breathing.
"Hey. Cas," he said brokenly. "She's gone…dead. Wake up now."
A small, terrified part of him believed that Castiel would never open his eyes again, but he did, groaning and wincing.
"I can't stay awake for long."
Dean became aware of the others moving to stand around them; John must have passed away, finally satisfied, and now they came to bear witness to another passing, prepared with another goodbye.
"No. No - Cas. Please don't go." And, after a heavy swallow, "I actually think I'm in love with you."
"You think that's going to make me stay?"
Castiel laughed; the silver blood bubbled from his lips.
"I want nothing more than to stay with you Dean, but I can't. I'm sorry for the promises I couldn't keep."
He was slipping away faster and faster, the blue in his eyes shifting hues, occasionally sparkling with a distant firework in the sky from some other homes, some other people living normal lives. Dean could almost see the memories flashing through those eyes, like minnows in a pond. They dimmed, rapidly, and Castiel sighed before reaching a shaky hand up to try and touch Dean's face.
One last time.
Dean caught his hand, grasping it with both his own; the heat from Cas's body had all but faded, though the night was quite warm.
"You should listen to the wind. It's a very calming thing, and I promise some part of me will still be there."
"I don't want to listen to the wind, Cas! Stay with me! CAS, DAMMIT!"
He quickly became furious as Castiel smiled and let his head fall back, eyes closed as if he no longer had the strength to keep them open.
He couldn't die. Not now. Not ever.
"I want to listen to YOU," Dean said desperately, ignoring the salty tang of his own tears in his mouth.
"I want you to tell me everything, and I want to teach you more human things. I want us to live in Bobby's house with Jess and Sam. We could be a family. I want to forget my jacket in the mornings and you have to turn into an oversized bird to bring it to me before I leave. I want to teach you how to cook and-"
"You're just as bad as I am," Cas said, his voice alarmingly faint.
"No I'm not. I'm great."
Castiel's eyes flickered open then close, like a dying fire. With must have been a massive effort, he fixed Dean with a final stare.
"I know how great you are, Dean. I've known since I was young. I'm sorry I couldn't have loved you longer."
Though his eyes remained open, they dimmed entirely, fixed no longer on Dean, but a point past him, or perhaps through him entirely. The life was drained right out of him, and Dean couldn't have done a single thing to stop it. This was no fairy tale. He couldn't undo what had been done with some magic potion or fairy dust. This was real.
Those final words were like knives, tearing at Dean's stomach from the inside. He was going to throw up. He knew it.
He felt gentle hands on his shoulder, feathery light.
"He's gone, Dean. I'm so sorry, but we need to go now, before the council angels arrive. Come on."
"We can't bury him?" he whispered.
"No," Jess said firmly. He heard the heavy footsteps of Sam, the click of a rifle, though he surely knew angels couldn't die from it. Hadn't he just witnessed what it took?
"Angels are mostly creatures of the sky. He will be cremated by his brother and they'll spread his ashes in the wind."
"That sounds nice," Dean said weakly, and then he began sobbing, as Jessica had that morning, because she knew it would come to this, that Castiel would pay the price for Mary's happiness and, by saving Sam, her own, but she had called John and had hoped.
At some point, he felt the absence of Castiel from his arms, and someone - Sam, he thought, guiding him up the stairs to his bed. The sheets smelled like the both of them, and he wanted to tell Sam that it was the worst place to take him, but as he collapsed there, he thought maybe it was the best place in the world after all.
Dean sat in the old apartment he shared with his father, watching dimly as Sam cooked and Jessica scrutinized him across the table.
"You've gotten thin."
He didn't answer, unconcerned with how he looked, frankly.
"Dean, I want you to know something. One last thing."
"Jess. NO," Sam said, his tone deadly, but Jessica promptly ignored him.
"William did kill Mary, but she asked him to. She didn't want to die by Scylla. When she realized that you Castiel were inevitably bound together-" Dean's head jerked to the side as though he had been punched at the sound of HIS name-"She decided to try and break the contract by having William kill her instead on the night the contract deemed as her final day. Scylla was furious, and she killed him and decided to still take Mary's price."
"And?" Dean asked dully. It didn't matter to him. Dead was dead. Mary was gone, John was gone, and now Cas - his insides felt like they were being shredded.
"I just thought you should know. We all had an idea of what was going to happen, and I'm sorry that I put my faith in your father entirely to solve the problem. But she would have gotten in, one way or the other. And-"
Here, she began to cry a little; Dean watched her dumbly, because he had hardly cried at all since the day he had died, since the one, broken moment. He didn't really done anything since then, since he woke up from whatever state he entered after his death and they told him the angels had taken his body.
"I'm so sorry. It's my fault. But all the angels that came for him spoke of how brave he was, and they were angels who rarely showed their faces, like Gabriel, Anna, Cain, and Joshua. They have important things to do, but they took him away and insisted on a private funeral."
As she said their names, an emotion flashed across her face, a small bit of something that had Dean perked up a little, but she hastened on.
"You made him so happy. He would want you to be happy again."
"That's not likely at the moment," he answered bluntly, and he left the room, painfully aware that Castiel had paid the price for his brother's happiness, that if he hadn't have harmed himself to save Sam, it could have been Dean and Castiel cooking, with Sam sitting at the table, crying over Jessica. Or maybe Jessica crying over Sam.
But neither of them would have wanted that.
Sam and Jessica had been hesitant to leave his side for the next couple of weeks, but they didn't bother him when he retreated to his room. Not often, anyway. He had taken to sitting in his windowsill, like he had before Sam first left them, looking out over the town and watching the stars fade from the sky as the sun rose, and then emerge again, like needles poking themselves through fabric, as the sun set.
"Dean, will you be okay?" Sam asked one night, arms crossed as he leaned against the doorway.
The urge to answer wasn't particularly great, but he couldn't worry Sam now, not now that he had cost him so much, had caused so much grief.
"Yeah," he managed at last; it felt as if there were an enormous lump in his throat. "I'll be fine. Go down to Jess. I can smell her cooking from here. You're lucky she's so good at that, otherwise I would be concerned for you and Bobby."
He was aware about that joke having been made before, when he was still an intruder in the home with angels. But now, he felt like he could have had years to laugh about it, years that he had denied to please his father on a vengeful hunt that had been doomed from the start.
"Castiel would have starved me, I think."
Sam lingered a moment more, face torn with something before he asked, "Why don't you move from that spot?"
Dean blinked at him in a way that implied he had just asked something ludicrous, like if he liked Justin Beiber or if he wanted to go dress shopping.
"I'm listening for Cas, Sam," he replied in an impatient way, and Sam took that as a dismissal. "The wind," he added to himself.
Turning away, he stared out, across the rooftops, to the bleak tree line in the distance. How long had Castiel sat on the branch of some tree, looking in Dean's direction, waiting to know him again, as Castiel? They could have met at about Sam and Jessica's age, and they could have had something just as good.
A sharp ache shot through his chest. For the past few days, it seemed every part of him either was in agony or had gone entirely numb. How could this have happened? How could he have come so far only to end up right where he started, sitting in his windowsill thinking of angels and black wings?
The temperature dropped a little, but he wasn't even aware until he caught sight of the chill bumps out of the corner of his eyes. They annoyed him more than they should have, but stupid things always tended to annoy him.
He sighed and slowly closed his eyes, picturing a life where Castiel waited downstairs for him, maybe with a crappy meal (he could never live up to Jessica's cooking) but all the same, a meal that Dean would be more than happy to eat. For him.
Pulling a note out of his pocket, he turned it over in his hands, trying to imagine it in Castiel's rough hands, his blue eyes skimming over it in a way that they never would. He had written it in a stunned daze a week after he had died, and he couldn't even place why. He wanted to release it to the wind, like a single ship sailing out into the ocean, alone, but carrying a desperate message.
Dean wanted to say 'please come back to me', but he couldn't do that. That, more than his note would destroy him.
I never wanted to be in love. That's what killed my mom. That's what destroyed my dad. That's what changed Sam so much.
You did all three to me. I guess I did the same to you. I can't see the world right anymore, and I've taken to looking at the sky, waiting for you even though I know you aren't here anymore. This house is not the same, and even writing this, I can hear Jess's feathers ruffling downstairs, and my heart will do this stupid thing where it forgets how to work right.
For a second, I think it's you.
I'll never stop listening and hoping it is.
I'm so sorry it wasn't me who paid the price in the end.
A gust of wind blew past, rattling the metal trash cans outside; a cat hissed from nearby. In the same flurry of wind, Dean felt his heart ache lessen slightly. Opening his eyes, he thought, just maybe, that he saw a disturbance against the sky, like a black substance moving against the back drop of the sky.
Dean's lips curled in a smile, and he felt a trembling in his stomach, like the fluttering of wings.
Two blues eyes flashed like fire in the alleyway.
And then they were gone.