Chapter 1: No Direction Home
Title: No Direction Home (Blood on the Tracks, Chapter 1 of 7)
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Cas; Sam, Crowley, Bobby, Gabriel
Warnings: Cursing, some violence, Dean being dickish, appetizing descriptions of Greek food.
Word count:I dunno. Long-ass story. It was up over 30K last I checked.
Summary: Sam can't read a damn map; a mad scientist archangel is after Cas' grace; Crowley is going through a nasty demonic divorce; and the angel voices have all suddenly gone silent.
Notes: This is semi-post-Season 7 on the timeline, with the caveat that I’ve arbitrarily resurrected some characters just for the hell of it. Also: each chapter begins with a brief flashback that takes place prior to the main narrative. I have labeled these flashbacks, but you gotta pay attention, OK? Also, there's gonna be a Coda following Chapter 7.
A demon, a human, and an angel walk into a bar....
Unfortunately for all parties, this is not the beginning of a terrible joke.
Abduxuel couldn't remember a whole hell of lot about how he'd gotten there. Must have possessed some poor dickwad at some point. That was how it generally happened. But he wasn't sure why this fucking meat suit felt so tight. And clammy! He was burning up. He tugged at his collar.
It was growing dark, as evening came early here. He looked up at the neon sign, shining on the street like a grease-smeared orange beacon, so out of place in this bleak part of the world. There was one thing he knew for sure: he needed a damned drink. Ha! A drink would be damned, once it made its way down Adbuxuel's cursed gullet.
He opened the heavy wooden door and pushed his way inside. He noticed the stares as soon as he entered. Why was everybody still wrapped in their winter coats? It was so bloody hot in here. Stifling.
The bartender just nodded, and Abduxuel nodded back and pointed, and soon found himself with a shot of whiskey before him.
What he really wanted was a nice, frosty margarita, but he could tell it was not that kind of place.
He took a gulp. It burned his throat. It was OK. Not great, but OK.
He wished to express this sentiment to the bartender. Abduxuel cleared his stinging throat. “He will sit on his throne, in glory,” was what came out.
The bartender said something like, “What's that, buddy?”
“He will place the sheep to the right, and the goats to the left,” Abduxuel replied. He said it in Russian, of course, but that was still what he said.
The bartender gave a sort of “what the fuck?” expression. And there were now a couple of other fur-coated regulars crowding nearby.
“He will say to those on his left,” continued the demon, “depart from me. And, can I get another?” he finally managed at the end, though it came out a little strangled. He held out the glass to make the point, tugging again at his collar, the sweat now openly dripping from him.
“Uh, I think maybe you've had enough,” opined the bartender.
“I thirsted, and lo, you gave me nothing to drink!” grumbled Abduxuel, throwing money onto the bar.
“Look, buddy. Your money's no good here,” said the bartender, as a couple of the regulars drew nearer and tried to loom over the demon. They were bigger than Abduxuel's meatsuit, as if that even mattered.
"For those on the right, you will dwell with me forever, in kingdoms of glory."
“Why is he getting so red?” asked one of the patrons.
“For those on the left, you who are cursed with eternal fire!” warned Abduxuel. He tore his shirt open, revealing a purplish, sweating chest.
“I think you need to leave,” urged the bartender, as other hands started to grip Abduxuel. The demon effortlessly shook them off, humans scattering like leaves. There were screams, and some people started to run.
They would not, alas, get very far.
“I am the alpha and the omega. The first and the last. And that drink was fucking watered down!”
Abduxuel, who was now actually glowing a lurid heliotrope, whose hair was now giving off a slight but visible steam, hefted his empty shot glass high and then slammed it down on the counter.
The explosion was visible from as far away as Alaska, where the weird purplish lambency was mistaken, by some, for northern lights.
The present day....
“Right or left?”
Sam looked glumly at Dean, the mad pilot behind the wheel of the Impala. Yeah, he thought, his mind now speaking to him in his brother's voice, shut your cakehole and bark out directions. Even though it was, you know, contradictory.
“Sammy, do we turn right or left?”
Sam made his reply, but because he (intentionally) did not raise his voice, his response was buried beneath the musical stylings of Metallica.
So Dean steered left. The Impala, obviously, would not be held back by the infernal wimp-itude of a certain brother/navigator. The car, and Sam, veered left with Dean's whim. One of them let out a long sigh.
“What?” snapped Dean, finally jamming down the volume on the car stereo. Dude needs eight tracks, thought Sam.
“Dude,” said Sam, who was now noodling with his cell phone. At least one of the Winchesters had bid goodbye to the twentieth century. “It would help if you’d ask me more than five seconds before you make the turn.”
“Have you got it figured out or what?” Dean persisted.
Sam held up the phone. “It’s saying no service out here.”
“Let me see that!” demanded Dean, who grabbed the phone from his brother and started madly thumbing it while he was driving.
“Dean. The map application won’t work when there’s no service. Watch it!” warned Sam, suddenly fearing impending death.
Dean maneuvered the car around a turn without taking his eyes from Sam's phone. Disgusted with modern technology, Dean lobbed it back at his brother. “Try the map,” he grumbled.
“In the map compartment!”
“What, the glove compartment?”
“Who keeps gloves in there? That's a dumb name.”
Sam pulled out a map as Dean squealed through another fork in the road, choosing the direction, seemingly, with a mental coin flip. “Should we pull over until we figure it out?” asked Sam, who of course knew the answer. “We might be headed off in the wrong direction. “ This was true. The area was wooded and hilly, and it would have been awfully easy to get lost. Which was where they were rapidly heading with their possibly demon-possessed driver. Sam cast a glance at Dean, expecting his eyes to go black at any second.
“Fuck pulling over, the car does not stop. We got a faceless demon to catch, dude! Now, read the damn map, Sammy!”
“I don't even know how to unfold these fucking things!” whined Sam, now faced with the sickening prospect of ancient Auto Club treeware. “And Dean, if you keep making turns like this before we can tell where we are,” he protested as Dean steered off on yet another switchback, “you'll get us so lost I won't be able to figure it out!”
“You're not doing a great job now!”
“Can you just- Can you pull over for a sec?” demanded Sam.
“THE CAR DOES NOT-” began Dean, who thereupon laid on the brakes with all of his might. The car squealed to a halt a mere inches before an orange barrier propped across the middle of the road.
“Who puts a fucking barrier in the middle of the road?” howled Dean.
“Uh. Maybe the guy who wanted to warn you the bridge ahead is fucked?” proposed Sam, who popped out and pointed ahead at the washed out river crossing. He leaned against the car and opened the map, which unfolded like a crazy paper accordion. “I'll never get this crappy thing folded back together,” he grumbled.
“Where the fuck are we, Sammy?” asked Dean, now himself spilling out of the car. “We're pulled over now! Like you wanted!”
“I can't tell,” said Sam, who rotated the map 90 degrees, and then another 90 degrees. And then he flipped it upside down. Alas, the lines and images on the map appeared to have no resemblance to physical reality.
“Just look for the washed out bridge,” grunted Dean.
“There is no bridge on this map, washed out or otherwise."
Dean was about to tear the map away from his little brother when he and Sam heard the familiar soft sound of beating wings.
“Hello, Dean. Hello, Sam. Bobby sent me to look for your two.”
“AT LAST! Someone who can tell us where we are,” Sam told their trench coat-clad friend.
“I know exactly where we are!” protested Dean.
“Oh yeah?” asked Sam, pointing to the acres of map he had spread across the Impala's hardtop. “Then where are we?”
Castiel looked quietly between the brothers. “Are you two currently engaged in a quarrel of some kind?” he inquired.
“NO!” chorused Dean and Sam.
“You’re fighting, aren’t you?” sighed Castiel, a look of infinite disappointment spreading across his angelic features.
“Never mind, Cas!” said Dean. “Where are we?”
Cas narrowed his eyes. He stepped forward, his face inches from Dean’s, peering with concern into his human friend’s face. “You’re right here Dean,” he comforted.
Dean stared back at Cas for a long moment. “OK!” said Dean, throwing up his hands. “That’s enough!” He abruptly turned and stalked off over to the back of the car, where he wrenched up the trunk and started grubbing around.
“Um. Sam. What is your brother doing?” Castiel whispered.
“No. Fucking. Idea. Dean, what the fuck? I thought we were late for a very important date? You know, demons don't slay themselves? Unless they're really stupid, I guess.”
Dean did not reply, but came back with a roll of duct tape. He crouched down in front of Castiel and, with a ratcheting sound, peeled off a line of tape and stuck it down on the dusty asphalt in front of the puzzled angel’s shoes.
“Dean, um, may I ask what the tape is for?” asked Castiel.
“One minute,” said Dean. “Now, you stay there and do not move!” he ordered Castiel. He then paced off three steps down the road and laid down another line of tape, which he then stood behind. “OK, now, Cas, that’s your mark. You remain behind that mark, and say what you just said.”
“Uh. ‘May I ask what the tape is for?’” repeated Castiel, looking confused at Sam, who shrugged.
“No, no, what you said before that!” said Dean.
Castiel frowned. “’Hello, Dean?’”
“No, no, no! After that, but before what you just said!”
Cas looked at Sam again, and then tried. “Uh. ‘We are right here, Dean?’”
“Yes, exactly! Did you see that?” said Dean, who was glowing in triumph.
“Uh, what did we see, Dean?” asked Sam.
“Look,” said Dean, wandering back over to where Sam and Cas were standing. “It’s an appropriate personal space distance! I’m over there, and Cas is over there, and guess what? I can still listen! And understand! Without you standing so fucking close I can count your nose hairs.”
Castiel self-consciously put a hand to his nose. “Why wo’d you wan’ to do dat?”
“You don't need to be up my ass to communicate!” continued Dean, now leaning in so close his nose was inches from Castiel's, and his spittle actually fell to the angels stubble-covered chin.
"Dean, how would I be able to count nose hairs if...."
"I am capable of comprehension over a distance!” said Dean, who was leaning in even more.
“Uh, Dean,” said Castiel, staring cross-eyed at looming Dean Winchester.
“Shouldn't you be behind your mark?” asked the angel, pointing behind Dean to his sadly abandoned duct tape mark some distance up the road.
That was all it took to send Sam into a giggle fit. “On your mark, Dean,” he taunted.
“Come on!” yelled Dean, now finally snatching the paper map from Sam. “Cas, can you at least tell me where we are on the map?” he demanded.
“Well, I could-” began Cas. But then he did something really odd, even for him. He froze, his eyes focused on the middle distance. His face a mask of confusion, he slowly turned all the way around, a full 360 degrees, as if searching for something.
“Oh what the fuck is it now? Imaginary bees again?” asked Dean. “Tell me it’s not the invisible bees!”
“The angel voices,” said Castiel quietly.
“What about 'em, Cas?” asked Sam. Their angel appeared concerned.
“No matter where we are, not matter what we are doing, we can ever hear our brothers and sisters, as they converse in Enochian,” Castiel told Sam.
“You’re missing angel gossip? OK,” said Dean. “Kristen Stewart cheated on Robert Pattison.”
“Oh, that is terrible. He must be heartbroken,” said Cas sympathetically.
“What happened to the angels, Cas?” prompted Sam.
“I do not know, Sam. They just stopped,” said Castiel. “Every voice, suddenly silenced.”
Sam and Dean exchanged a glance. “You're telling us there's a great disturbance in the force?” asked Dean.
Cas opened his mouth. “I-“
“OK, OK, don't say it,” said Dean.
“Actually, I do understand the reference," Cas told him. "Sam showed me the movie you speak of.”
“What?” asked Dean, rounding on Sam. “You showed him Star Wars? When?”
“When you were with that cocktail waitress,” sighed Sam.
“Oh!” said Dean. “The one with the nice...?” he asked, sliding his hands through some splendid curves.
“Yeah, that one,” sighed Sam. “Anyway, Cas came looking for you, and the trilogy was on Spike.”
“I find the work had a surprising amount of spiritual content. Also, lightsabers are quite cool,” opined Castiel, who mimed whacking something with a laser sword.
“Wait, you guys hang out without me?” asked Dean.
Castiel and Sam looked at one another in confusion.
“Well, to be perfectly blunt, you were out screwing a waitress, Dean,” said Sam, while Cas looked slightly embarrassed.
“But it’s Star Wars! I would have hung out,” pouted Dean.
“OK, well, given we ever get out of this mess, next time the trilogy is on, we'll get popcorn and hang out,” said Sam, his voice now straining with exasperation.
“Oh, yeah, we gotta get the fuck out of here. Hey, Cas, since you're here, could you just use your Jedi thing and zap us out?” asked Dean.
“I do not think that Jedi evinced the power of teleportation, Dean. Perhaps you need a closer reading of the trilogy. However, no, I cannot zap us out.”
“Wait, why not?” asked Dean,
“I- I am afraid the cessation of the angel voices has interfered with my sense of location,” Castiel confessed.
“You use the angel voices to tell where you are?” asked Sam.
“Yes. It is a way of placing one’s self,” said Cas, who nodded.
“So you're a bat!” said Dean.
Castiel suddenly scowled, his eyes two blue lasers pointed at Dean. “I am an angel of the Lord. I am absolutely nothing like a bat!”
“No, dude, you're Batman!” laughed Dean.
Castiel's glower deepened, and Sam, sensing an oncoming storm, jumped between them. “OK, Dean? Offensive, dude.”
“What's offensive?” asked Dean.
“So you can't just zap us out of here,” Sam asked Castiel.
“No,” said Castiel. "I cannot just zap you out of here."
“What do you usually do when the angels all decide to shut their pieholes?” asked Dean.
“This has never happened before,” said Castiel, concern washing over his features. “I fear something terrible has happened.”
“Wait, this is serious then?” asked Dean.
“Yes, Dean. It could be terribly serious,” said Castiel.
“Well why didn't you tell us that?” asked Dean.
“I believe I just did,” sighed Castiel, his angelic patience nearly exhausted.
“No, you didn't. Look, dude, this angel nonchalance is not doing it. If it's upsetting, you need to, you know, react,” said Dean, who was suddenly frantically waving his arms. “Like this!”
Castiel stared at Dean. “This is a demonstration of a human reaction to danger?” he asked Sam.
“Uh, no, actually, Dean's being a dick,” Sam told him.
“Well,” said Castiel. “Why don't you two simply enter the car, turn around and retrace your steps to the place where you got lost?”
“Not possible, thanks to Mr. 'Car does not stop,'” grumbled Sam.
“Well, we might as well get in try to find our way out,” said Dean, heading around to the other side of the car and opening the driver's side door.
“Wait, I gotta fold up this piece of shit,” said Sam, wrestling with the map that seemed to have unfolded to roughly the size of Nebraska.
“Allow me, Sam,” said Cas, who grabbed the map and shook it once. It magically refolded. He smiled a smile of angelic smugness.
“Whoa, hey, cool!” said Sam.
“Oh, yeah, Cas. You can't get us out of here, but thank god your map folding abilities are unaffected!” grumbled Dean.
Castiel's look turned dark again. “Dean,” he said, waving the map in an accusatory manner. He took a very deep breath as if steeling himself for something. “I came here today because Bobby requested me to do so. He was concerned that you two had gotten yourselves in trouble. Again! In return, you have criticized my understanding of personal space issues, my expression of emotion, the fact that I sometimes socialize with your brother and … and … you have compared me to a bat!”
Dean stared for a moment, one arm resting on the Impala's top. “You really don't like the bat thing, huh?”
“No I really don't like the bat thing!” said Castiel, who actually threw his arms up in frustration. It looked to Sam rather amusingly similar to Dean's previous demonstration of “emotion.” But, Sam wisely shut his piehole, and instead sympathetically patted Castiel's back.
“Well, OK,” said Dean, who was smart enough to recognize a “this chick’s about to blow” outburst, but was more than a little weirded out hearing that kind of thing from Cas. “I guess it's been kind of a shitty day, and I'm frustrated. But, I'm sorry I said all that stuff.”
Castiel nodded, but continued to scowl.
“And, you're not anything like a bat,” Dean continued. “You're like, um, a bee?”
“Bees are admirable,” said Castiel. Dean smiled in triumph. But then he emitted a cry and crashed to the ground.
Sam was around the car in an instant, and Cas literally leapt over it, holding a sword and yelling at something Sam couldn't see.
“Off him! Now!” shouted Cas, waving the sword.
Sam was on his knees, wresting his brother up from the ground. “Are you OK?”
“Something tried … to lick me,” said Dean. He looked at the front of his shirt, which was wet.
“Hellhound,” said Castiel, who was holding out his angel sword at the invisible something.
“Oh holy fuck!” said Dean. He looked at his shirt again. “This is dog drool? Ewwww!”
Suddenly, there was a piercing whistle, and with the sound of thumping paws, Castiel appeared to watch the beast run off.
“Growly! Good boy! That's Daddy's good boy!” came a familiar voice.
“What do you think you're doing, Crowley?” called Castiel, still holding his sword, as the demon emerged from the woods, patting a very, very large invisible dog.
“Well, nice to see you too, Castiel,” sighed Crowley. “And here we came all the way out here to rescue you boys!”
“Rescue us from what?” asked Dean, sadly regarding his icky shirt as Sam helped him to his feet. “Clean laundry?”
“Unless I miss my guess, which I rarely do,” said Crowley, “Hansel and Great-Bigel and Feather-Fill forgot to leave a trail of breadcrumbs when you left grandmother's house this morning?”
“I thought your grandmother had passed away,” Castiel asked Sam and Dean.
Crowley sighed. “The angel voices?” he asked Castiel. “Radio Free Enochian? Off the air? Poof!” he added, his hands miming and explosion.
Castiel studied Crowley. “Yes, something has happened with the angel voices.”
“What do you know about this, Crowley?” asked Sam.
“And angel-boy can't get it up to transport you gentlemen without his bat signal, correct?” Crowley asked Sam and Dean.
“WHAT?” said Castiel, aiming his angelic glare of vengeance now at the demon.
“Well, it is the logical analogy, dude,” said Dean.
“Gentlemen, as difficult as it may be to believe, I did not arrive here strictly through the badness of my cold, cold heart. We may have a mutually agreeable business situation,” said Crowley. “I would like to discuss matters. Er, somewhere we might not be overheard.”
“Somewhere, meaning...?” asked Dean.
“My evil lair, of course!” said Crowley.
“You are warded against angels, Crowley,” Castiel reminded him, giving the demon a cold, cold stare.
“I was. Due to pressing present circumstances, I have had a couple of fork-tailed minions running around all morning with a can of magical paint remover and a rag.” He sighed as Cas continued to glower. “Oh for Chuck's sakes, you can all hold hands like we're going on a kindergarten trip if you wish to!”
“Cas,” said Sam quietly, putting a hand on the angel's arm. “I think maybe we should hear what he's got to say.”
“What about the car?” asked Dean.
“I will bring the damned car! Though it may strain my back!” promised Crowley, putting a hand to the small of his back. “Remind me to schedule a massage when I get back. We always have happy endings at Casa de Crowley. Anyone care to join?” he asked, standing a bit too close to Sam.
“Uh. Ew, Crowley,” said Sam. Dean smiled and shrugged, getting a scowl from Sam this time.
Cas made an “I'm watching you,” gesture at Crowley, who rolled his eyes and said, “All rightie, Bam!”
And then, wherever they were, they were there no more.
Chapter 2: Tangled up in Blue
We meet a new (and not terribly sane) player, and the boys must recapture their youth to confront a rather vile demon, whilst Crowley shares recollections of a vile demon of his own.
Title: Tangled up in Blue (Blood on the Tracks, Chapter 2 of 7)
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Cas; Sam, Crowley, Bobby, Gabriel
Warnings: Cursing, some violence, Dean being dickish, appetizing descriptions of Greek food.
I dunno. Long-ass story. It was up over 30K last I checked.
Summary: Sam can't read a damn map; a mad scientist archangel is after Cas' grace; Crowley is going through a nasty demonic divorce; and the angel voices have all suddenly gone silent.
Notes: This is semi-post-Season 7 on the timeline, with the caveat that I’ve arbitrarily resurrected some characters just for the hell of it. Also: each chapter begins with a brief flashback that takes place prior to the main narrative. I have labeled these flashbacks, but you gotta pay attention, OK? Also, there's gonna be a Coda following Chapter 7.
Some months ago....
It was something out of a glorious old black and white monster movie: a mad scientist’s lab, complete with mysterious test tubes and Erlenmeyer flasks and even, for no particular reason, a fizzling Jacob’s ladder, electrical current arcing up between the poles.
“Now, this won’t hurt a bit!” said the crazy-eyed requisite mad scientist type. He was hovering over the requisite victim, who was strapped, naked and shivering, to a cold metal table. He was wearing an old fashioned white laboratory coat, and had a shock of Einstenian tangled grey hair.
As the subject on the table squirmed, the mad scientist leaned over closer. “Confidentially, it will hurt. Quite a bit. And probably kill you!” And here he cackled. It wasn't actually a very good super-villain laugh, it was too high pitched and slightly hysterical.
“Please,” said the victim. He seemed oddly detached. He appeared to be a young man, although he was not. Not really.
“Oh, the time for pleading is over, my friend. Time to separate the sheep from the goats, the wicked from the righteous. And you, my love, from your grace.”
“My name is Inias. What is yours?” asked the victim.
“Oh, don't try to personalize, dear. I know what the books say! But it is time. Sinners to the left hand, and the righteous at my right hand side.” He held up his hands, and lightning crashed and thunder roared.
“But why would you do this?” asked Inias.
“I am doing the Lord’s work! Our glorious Father’s work!”
“But no one has seen our Father for many years. How can you claim to act in His holy name?”
“His will be done!” bellowed the scientist. Inias noticed he was now running his thumb over some kind of serrated knife.
“You are an angel. Like me. Aren’t you?”
The scientist leaned over again. Inias shivered. And he smelled something very familiar on the mad scientist’s breath.
“I am an angel. But not at all like you. Not anything like you.”
And then he plunged in the knife.
The present day....
Sam, Dean and Cas had been suddenly yanked somewhere else. The somewhere being Crowley’s current hideout, which looked not unlike his old hideouts, namely, a rather posh mansion. Dean was already running to the window to look out.
“Yes, your car arrived safely,” said Crowley, once again gripping his back. “That’s it out in the drive. Damn, those old muscle cars are heavy bastards.”
“It did! Thanks, dude,” said Dean. “You’re not all bad. Well, actually, you are. But thanks for the car.”
“Now, shall we have the strippers perform first, or would you care to get right to business?” inquired Crowley as a line of rather good-looking women, and one terribly good-looking man, all dressed in frightfully skimpy costumes, suddenly appeared in a kick line in back of him, to the accompaniment of an unseen orchestra’s vamping some burlesque themes.
“Uhhhh,” said Dean.
“DEAN!” scolded both Sam and Cas.
“We need to get to business,” groused Sam.
“Guess not,” said Crowley, snapping his fingers. The women disappeared. The lone man remained, and cast an expectant glance at Crowley. “Laters, dear,” said Crowley, blowing a kiss and then snapping his fingers again.
‘You guys seriously gotta learn to live a little,” sulked Dean, sinking down onto one of the plush leather couches and grabbing a handful of cocktail peanuts.
“Those are actually left over from hell,” Crowley explained.
“Really?” asked Dean, who continued stuffing his face. “They're pretty good.”
“Ah! But they're supposed to be a cocktail mix!” said Crowley, sitting down opposite of Dean.
“And it's all peanuts!” said Dean appreciatively. “Excellent. Damn, Crowley, you thought of everything.”
“Crowley, why did you call on us?” asked Sam, who also sank down into the couch next to Dean. Castiel remained defiantly standing, arms crossed, glaring righteously at the demon.
“As it happens,” explained the ex-chief of hell, sampling some peanuts of perdition for himself, “I have a spiffy new enchantment which I am itching to try. However, as so often happens when one is working within the black magic genre, I have need of a few … somewhat arcane ingredients. At present I am short precisely one essential element. And that is why I chose to call up on my two favorite hunters, pouty lipped division. Of course, it was a special side dish to also bring along their trusty little angel pal.”
Castiel's scowl increased in intensity.
“What is the ingredient, Crowley?” asked Dean.
“A demon heart!” said Crowley.
“Tell me where it is,” said Castiel, taking out his sword. “There is no need to involve Sam and Dean. I will go slay it.”
“Now, see, this is how synergy works!” said Crowley. “When I waylaid you,” he asked the brothers, “were you or were you not on your way to confront a faceless demon?”
“Yeah, reports are he's been preying on lost kids in the area,” said Dean.
“Ah, but did you know why you couldn't get to him? And why you never would have been successful, if I had not come to your aid?” asked Crowley.
“Because a certain relative of mine can't read a fucking map?” asked Dean, offering a bowl of peanuts to Sam. Sam put on his best bitch face and waved his hand.
“The faceless demon lives in an intersection between dimensions,” nattered Crowley. “Really, a bit above the present crowd's educational level....”
“I went to Stanford!” said Sam.
“As I said,” breezed Crowley.
“Only children are allowed to approach a faceless demon’s lair,” said Castiel.
“Aw! You obviously peeked at the answers in the back of the book!” said Crowley. "Yes, it's like an inter-dimensional spider web."
“Wait, we are not getting kids to help with this,” said Sam.
“And I am unfortunately several eons too old,” said Castiel.
“Ah, but what if I could fix that?” Crowley asked Castiel.
“How?” asked Castiel.
“A small, temporary de-aging charm. We cut you down size,” said Crowley, pressing his palm towards the floor, as if shrinking Cas, “and you go smite your demon.”
“He’s gonna be turned into a kid?” asked Sam, who was suddenly almost clapping his hands with glee. “Oh, cool, can I go along too?”
“I am grieved to report,” said Crowley, who was suddenly holding a measuring tape, “that you are almost certainly beyond the parameters of my little charm.” The tape jumped over and extended itself over the length of Sam's body, and then hopped back into Crowley's hand. The demon tsk-ed and tutted.
“What? No! That’s no fair!” said Sam.
“Well, you see, it’s not a very strong spell, and there’s not much of him to reduce,” Crowley explained, pointing to Castiel.
“My true form is the size of the Hindenburg,” grumbled Castiel.
“I thought you were the size of the Chrysler building?” said Dean. Castiel scowled at him.
“Now, you,” Crowley said to Dean, as the enchanted tape measure made its way to his portion of the couch.
“Hey, watch it!” shouted Dean, ineffectively slapping at the tape measure as you would a pesky mosquito.
“You ought to do,” Crowley told him, examining the tape measure with apparent approval.
“Hey, no way!” said Dean. “I'm not doing some kind of weird age reduction magic!”
“Dean, you don't want Cas to go alone,” said Sam, waving at the angel.
“Cas has a lot of years! A lot of years! What if Crowley goes too far, and turns me into a zygote or something!” protested Dean.
"We need to figure out a way to stop the faceless Demon," reasoned Sam.
"And once we get the heart, what exactly are you gonna use it for, Crowley?" asked Dean, turning suspiciously to the demon.
"I would rather not say, at this particular point in time," hedged Crowley. Dean began to protest again, but Crowley held up a hand. "I know this will be a difficult concept for your tender monkey brains to absorb, but I am actually keeping this information to myself for your protection. There is something a trifle … unpleasant going on, and I would like to spare you a bit of strife."
"What kinda trouble?" asked Dean.
"Domestic issue," said Crowley. He sighed. "If you absolutely must know, I'm in a bit of a row with the ex."
"The ex?" asked Sam, exchanging a glance with Dean. “As in ex-wife?”
"You were married, dude?" asked Dean. “To a chick?”
"My condolences," laughed Dean.
"She rather made off with some of the joint property, and I am attempting to track it down," huffed Crowley. "I have the appropriate enchantment but find myself in need of the blackest of demon hearts for this..."
"Because she's got one too," grinned Dean sympathetically.
“You can assist me in this matter,” said Crowley, “I will provide this spell for you. And then, as they say, I shall owe you one.”
Sam and Dean nodded. “You do not wish to know more about this situation?” Castiel asked them.
“Dude. Divorce,” said Dean. “Believe me, we do not want to know more about this situation. Not without a lot of beers, anyway.”
Castiel nodded, although he still appeared puzzled. “I shall assist you. Then, afterwards, I should probably pursue what is the matter with my brothers and sisters,” said Castiel, who sounded a little more distracted than usual.
“Yeah, we'll figure that out, dude,” said Sam, patting the angel's arm. “We know you're worried.”
“How can you know he's worried? Dude’s always got the same expression,” grumped Dean, which comment received rather unpleasant looks from both Castiel and Sam. “OK, OK,” said Dean. “Can we get with the kiddie magic then so we can get this hunt over with?”
Some time later, there was a small but dramatic crash. Also, flashing lights, and the distinct reek of sulfur.
The swirl of black smoke slowly evaporated, and there stood two figures. Two small figures.
“So, when is it supposed to work?” grumbled a little freckle-faced boy.
“Dean,” smiled Sam, grinning like a jack o’ lantern and pointing at his brother.
Dean looked down at his body. “Son of a bitch!” he said. “I didn't even feel that.” He regarded his little hands. “It worked. Crowley, you actually didn't fuck this up. Hey, Cas-?” He looked beside him, but there was no one there.
That's because the little blue eyed boy standing beside him had already gone running over to Sam.
“Well, hey there,” grinned Sam, crouching down to be at eye level with child Castiel. “Hey, you're kind of cute,” he laughed, running a hand through his tousled hair. Castiel stuck out his arms in an unmistakable gesture. “Is that what you want, little guy? Hey, OK,” said Sam, grabbing him and picking him up.
“Sam! What are you teaching him?” asked Dean. “We know he has personal space issues!”
“Hey! He wanted to be picked up!” protested Sam, who was now carrying Cas on his hip. “I don't want him to … get a complex. Or whatever.” Castiel smiled up adoringly at an indulgent Sam.
“Wait a minute. Are you OK in there, Cas?” asked Dean. Dean's spider sense was tingling. Castiel looked at Dean and nodded enthusiastically.
“Hey, what's the matter, can't he talk?” asked Dean.
“Can you talk, Cas?” Sam asked Castiel.
Castiel moved his mouth, but nothing came out. He held his throat and, eyes wide, solemnly shook his head at Sam.
“Aw, well, that’s OK,” Sam cooed to Castiel.
“What? No, it's not OK!” pint-sized Dean protested. “What the fuck, Crowley?”
“Er. There might be a few kinks,” said Crowley. “I haven't tried this one on an angel before," he noted. “Now, we should all get prepared to drop you off-”
"You haven't..... Look, we're going to be in some danger out there...." protested Dean.
“Aw, he'll be OK,” said Sam. “Won't you, little guy?” he asked Castiel, who nodded enthusiastically and added a hug. “Awww!”
“Yeah, when we meet the faceless demon, he'll just bat his eyes and give it a big old hug,” grumbled Dean as Castiel suddenly wriggled in Sam's arms and signaled to be put down.
“What's the matter?” asked Sam. “You need to use the potty?”
“Oh, I do not fucking believe this,” said child Dean.
There was a sudden crash and a padding of huge feet. "Growly! How did you get in?" scolded Crowley. But the footsteps only sounded louder. “Wait! Get back!” said Crowley, now sounding rather frantic.
"Cas! Don't!" yelled Sam as tiny Castiel barreled towards the invisible hellhound.
"Oh dear!" said Crowley, covering his eyes with his hands. “I believe Growly smelt Angel McNuggets.”
“Cas!” yelled Dean.
Castiel screeched to a halt and squeezed his little blue eyes shut, and suddenly, it looked as if some great thing was licking the side of his face. He reached out his hands and scratched what may have been an invisible nose, and then to everyone's surprise, seemed to be climbing up something that wasn't there,
"Crowley! What is Cas doing?" asked Sam.
Crowley uncovered his eyes and stared. "He's.... He's riding my hound. Growly! Stop that at once! Growly doesn't let anyone ride him! He is a fierce hellhound!" But despite Crowley’s words, Castiel was atop some unseen mount, giggling madly and riding around the room.
“I don't know about this, Sam,” little Dean told his brother. “I don't think Cas came out ... right!”
“He rides hellhounds, Dean,” said Sam. “I think you guys will be OK.”
It was actually a lovely day for a walk in the woods. The sun was high in the sky, but there was a soft, cool breeze.
“So, great, lost in the woods with a psychopathic demon and my batshit angel buddy,” sighed Dean once they were alone.
Castiel was standing before him on the path, holding out a hand, his eyes wide with expectation.
“Cas, come on! You're a full grown adult! You're just in a weird little kid body like me,” sighed Dean. “All right, all right,” he finally said, exasperated, taking Cas' hand in his. He got a smile as Castiel tugged him along the path, into the dark woods.
Dean thought it was probably not that much unlike when he and Sammy had been small. Although he wondered irritably why Crowley's spell had turned a million-billion year old angel into a child smaller than he.
“OK. Faceless demon. Faceless demon,” muttered Dean. “Not much to put on a wanted poster. And I guess we're basically bait, huh?”
Dean briefly dropped Cas' hand to recheck the gun he had in his waistband. Crowley had loaned him a 22 since his regular gun turned out to be a bit too much for him at this size. And loaded with salt ammo, of course.
Some delicate white butterflies had flittered out into the pathway, and Cas had heedlessly run off to follow them.
“Stay on the path!” warned Dean, to absolutely no effect. “Not a brain left in his head,” he muttered, as he replaced the gun in his waistband and hastened to follow Cas. “Not that there was much there to start with.” Dean pushed through to where the path narrowed, and came upon Cas, standing in the dappled sunlight, proudly displaying a butterfly perched on one of his small fingers. "Well, look at that," Dean told the beaming angel. "Friend to all of nature, huh?" He watched as the delicate creature began to flap and once again fluttered away.
Dean turned and cast a glance at what appeared to be some round, white rocks piled by the side of the path. He felt something lurch at the pit of his stomach. He crouched down and took another look.
It was a mound of small, white skulls, neatly arranged.
Dean shot back up. He noticed Castiel was looking up at him, concern in his eyes. “OK, Cas, listen to me. I'm not sure what's left of you in there, but from now on,” he told the angel, holding out a hand, “you stick with me. You hear?”
Castiel nodded and gripped Dean's hand, and together, they set off again, although both were more wary than before. It seemed so much different here, off the main path, darker and more foreboding. And quieter: Dean noticed the sound of birds chirping and insects buzzing had quieted. All he could hear was his shoes crunching on gravel.
And a rustling?
He turned. No. Must have been the wind.
“You hear that?” he asked Castiel, who nodded solemnly. They continued walking. It seemed like the trees were taller here. Or maybe it was just Dean was smaller now.
Movement? Dean stopped again. Weird: it looked like one of the tall trees was moving. He shook his head at Cas. Now he was just freaking himself out.
They walked on.
And then Dean halted. He dropped Cas's hand and spun around, gun pointed.
“Shit,” grumbled Dean. “I'm getting twitchy.” He went to grab Cas's hand.
But Cas was standing, mouth gaping open, pointing to something behind Dean.
Dean started to turn again, but only got the barest glimpse before he was knocked from his feet, the ground coming up fast beneath him, his knee slamming down hard on a root. He pushed himself up, spitting out a mouthful of dirt.
He looked up. And then kept looking up.
Whatever the hell it was, it had Cas gripped tight by the arms and held suspended, far above Dean. Cas was squirming, legs kicking ineffectively. Dean realized Cas must have knocked him out of the way, but then the thing had grabbed Cas instead of Dean before he could draw his angel sword. It was so strange, tall and thin, like one of the spindly trees had snapped to life. He heard a crackling as it moved, like sticks breaking. The face was the worst. It reminded Dean of the figure in The Scream painting. Only there was no scream. There was no mouth. There was no face at all, just a white blur where a face should be.
Dean grabbed for his gun. He fired a round into the body, and landed on his butt again from the recoil. Can’t even handle a 22? Why had he let Crowley talk him into donning this useless kid's body? He remained seated and fired again, but it seemed to do nothing.
In desperation, he pointed the gun higher, carefully drawing a bead, sending a round into a long arm, hoping that could make it at least loose its grip on the angel.
It worked: the demon emitted a terrible piercing cry, and dropped Cas, who fell with a small thump.
There was a rustling. Dean screamed as the dry branch-like limbs wrapped around him and he felt himself jerked from the ground and brought up, up, up, up. The thing not only had a pair of regular arms, it had a set of branch-like limbs that appeared to originate from its back, making it look like a large, horrible insect. And here he was, lifted up, face to faceless.
Dean was terrified. The thing was not only massively tall, the branch arms were improbably long, and although he kicked with all his might, as had happened to Cas before him, his arms were pinned to his sides, and it was holding him far enough out so he was nowhere near the thing's body, where he could do damage.
And then he felt the horrible wrenching. Knowing what would come next, he desperately clenched his jaw shut, shaking his head violently from side to side. But finally, his mouth was wrenched open, and he could feel it, his soul being slowly, surely ripped from his body. It was the worst pain ever, like getting a tooth pried out without Novocaine. A whole row of teeth. Dean gurgled, unable to even scream.
But then, suddenly, Dean swallowed hard, and let out a strangled cry as he was released and dropped to the ground. He fell right on his butt. He craned up at the demon, now halted, frozen, a thick honey-colored sap-like liquid oozing down its front from the knife blade that was now sticking through its chest.
The blade wrenched out, and Dean rolled to the side. There was a soft crunching sound, like a dead tree falling, and the faceless demon collapsed with a thump onto the forest floor. Dean gazed disbelievingly, and then glanced up at the unmistakable sound of soft, beating wings.
Castiel was there, two small, dark-feathered wings extended from his back fluttering madly, a sap-covered angel sword in his hands.
“Cas,” choked Dean. And then, “Wow,” because he couldn't think of anything else useful to say.
Castiel glided to the ground. “Well,” said Dean, “I guess we gotta get the heart. Can you-” But he had no sooner said it than Cas ripped into the demon's chest with the sword. Dean soon found deposited in his hands a large, blood-clotted heart. “OK. Done,” he said, adding, "Uh. Ew."
“That is seriously cute, man. I mean, seriously,” Sam babbled as Dean deposited the icky, sticky demon heart in the small metal tin Crowley was holding out when they returned. Sam was crouching down next to l'il angel Cas, taking yet another cell phone picture. Castiel then ran over to Uncle Crowley.
“Aw, yes, look, how darling, he had the blood of his enemies on his chubby little hands,” said Crowley, deftly catching the angel's wrists as Cas reached up to him. “Let's apply some soap, shall we?” asked Crowley, who leaned over a nearby sink and hit the faucet. Cas obediently fluttered up to sink level and calmly washed his hands. “Come on, you too!” Crowley barked at Dean.
Dean looked up at the towering sink. He held up blood-sap-stained hands. “Dude. No wings. Why don't you just switch us back?”
“That is going to take a moment, and in the meantime I don't want the mansion despoiled with sticky little fingerprints,” sighed Crowley.
Dean looked up indecisively at the running sink, and then felt himself yanked up under the arms. “Oh, uh, thanks Cas,” he said, soaping up his hands as Castiel kept him at sink level.
“Aren't you a handy little kitchen appliance?” asked Crowley as Cas returned Dean to earth.
“Can't we just keep him this way?” asked a doting Sam.
“Sam!” said Dean.
“Unfortunately, if nothing else, the spell ought be wearing off by itself in a little while," Crowley told them.
“Wait, there was a time limit on this spell?” asked Dean, staring up at Crowley. “And you didn't tell us?”
"Oh, no need, I had worked in plenty of margins. I am no fool. Oh, watch it!" he cried as suddenly a cloud of sulfurous smoke surrounded Dean and Cas.
Dean emerged, coughing, a moment later. He ran his hands over his body and found it to be reassuringly adult sized. "Ah, that's better!" he said. "Hey, Cas, are you...?" But he didn't need to ask, as a frowning Castiel emerged, too, from the smokescreen, adult-sized, and bearing a pair of adult-sized smoky-dark wings sprouting from his back.
"Crowley!" barked Castiel, who had the demon by the collar.
"Well, you have your voice back, that's a positive development," pleaded Crowley. From the way Cas was arching up the wings, Dean did not think he looked pleased. "It's probably just a small, temporary side effect," Crowley continued.
"This vessel was not supposed to sport wings!" grumbled Castiel.
"But you gotta admit, it's pretty cool," said Sam, who had his cell phone camera ready.
"And there's no way anyone's gonna mistake you for a bat looking like that!" reasoned Dean.
"Who would mistake me for a bat?" Castiel demanded of Dean, as he dropped Crowley.
"Look," said Dean, holding up his hands, "why don't you just … put them away?"
"Put them away how? They are not a winter coat!" Castiel pointed out, giving them a good flap for emphasis.
"Dean's right," said Sam. "When you were a kid, you didn't have them at first." He held up a cell phone photo he had taken of himself holding little Castiel. Cas regarded the photo with curiosity, suddenly too intrigued to be angry.
"Oh. We were friends?" Cas asked Sam.
"We were best buddies," smiled Sam.
"I wouldn't say that," countered Dean.
"If you boys don't mind," said Crowley, who had now picked up the container with the demon heart, "I need to throw some bits and bobs together for a location spell. You can go ahead and keep bickering."
Dean frowned at Crowley.
"Maybe you just think them away?" Sam proposed to Cas as Crowley began to throw some strange ingredients in with the heart.
"Why did I extend them?" asked Cas, who apparently didn't remember the interlude terribly well. Crowley hummed tunelessly and dumped something that looked an awful lot like an eye into his bowl.
"Faceless demon attack," said Dean. "You were defending me! Your best friend!" he added, looking at Sam.
Sam regarded his brother with the utmost skepticism, but Cas looked thoughtful. Crowley threw some foul-smelling powder into the bowl and lit it on fire.
"Perhaps if I concentrate," said Cas. He closed his eyes and went silent.
Crowley repeated something in Latin.
There wasn't a poof, but suddenly, Cas's wings had gone back to ... Well. Wherever they had come from.
"Cool!" said Sam.
"So maybe they are like a winter coat," Dean proposed.
"I have torn my coat," said Cas, who, indeed, had two great tears that went through the back of his coat, jacket and shirt, evidently where his wings had sprouted.
"Aw, we can get you a new one," Dean told him.
"But I liked that one," said Cas.
"Did someone summon me?"
Everyone, whether human, angel or demon, now looked to the other side of the room, where there had appeared the strangest being. He was tall with a cloud of wild grey hair, and wore an old fashioned lab coat. He in fact looked every bit the old movie mad scientist.
"Raguel!" said Cas, who had actually torn his attention from his damaged overcoat.
"Castiel," said Raguel. "How fortunate. I have need of your grace." He made a beckoning gesture, and suddenly Castiel hurtled towards him, and fell, unconscious, at his feet.
"Cas!" yelled Dean. He and Sam both attempted to run forward, but were halted in their tracks by a gesture from Raguel.
"What are you?" Raguel demanded.
"What do you mean what are we?" demanded Crowley, who had come up behind Sam and Dean. "That's my Bride of the Demon lab coat, you bloody bastard!"
Raguel smiled. "I am sorry my friends. I have need of him," he said, indicating Castiel. "I have no need of you." He aimed a hand at Sam, Dean and Crowley.
"Smiting! Not good, not good!" said Dean. "Crowley?"
But Crowley gave no reply. He seemed to be distracted.
And then there was a light. And Dean felt his body wrenched through time and space.
Chapter 3: Shoot out the Lights
Unicorns are annoying, as are mad scientist archangels. Demon strip clubs can ruin your appetite. And it’s good to have a plan, even a dumb one.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Title: Shoot Out the Lights (Blood on the Tracks, Chapter 3 of 7)
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Cas; Sam, Crowley, Bobby, Gabriel
Warnings: Cursing, some violence, Dean being dickish, appetizing descriptions of Greek food.
Word Count: Somewhere between 36K and 37K, depending on which software program you believe.
Summary: Unicorns are annoying, as are mad scientist archangels. Demon strip clubs can ruin your appetite. And it’s good to have a plan, even a dumb one.
Notes: This is nowhere logical on the timeline: I make vague reference to stuff that happened in S7, but there’s also some folks alive who shouldn’t be. I’ve started each chapter with a flashback. They don’t make sense now, but they will, I promise. But if you wanna read something linear, this ain’t it. Drinking with Australians is fun: this isn’t relevant to anything, just an observation.
Some weeks ago....
“Goddammit!” said Sam. He sat down hard on the ground, not caring any more about the mud and muck, and wiped a grimy arm across his grimy forehead. “Fucking unicorns!” he bellowed. “Fuck you!”
“Oh, not you, Cas,” said Sam after the angel had appeared to the soft sound of beating wings. “I don’t mean fuck you, I mean fuck the unicorns.”
Castiel looked puzzled. But he often looked puzzled. “Dean said you were having some trouble obtaining powdered unicorn horn,” he told Sam, head tilted, eyes blinking.
“Yeah. I have problem with getting powdered unicorn horn. It's the FUCKING UNICORNS!” said Sam. There was a distant thrum of hoof beats, and some neighing that sounded an awful lot like laughter. “Dean was supposed to come out and help.”
“There is no need. For I have an affinity for unicorns,” Castiel told him. He extended a hand, and Sam, albeit reluctantly, took it and let Cas raise him up from muddy perdition.
They walked together to the field, where, under the moonlight, two or three of the pale beasts congregated. The herded together, as if sharing a secret, and then looked, as one, at the two approaching beings.
“Here, allow me,” said Castiel. He raised a gentle hand, and strode towards the unicorns.
The horses emitted mocking whinnies and trotted away from him. Cas looked puzzled. But then he often looked puzzled. He repeated the gesture, to the same effect, except this time the beasts scattered.
Castiel frowned. “This usually works,” he muttered. “Oh, well.” He raised his hand again, and now walked towards the nearest unicorn. It seemed to stare at him until he got within an arm’s length.
The unicorn suddenly reared, knocking a surprised Cas back into the mud. And then it cantered away.
“That…. I don’t understand,” said Cas as Sam caught him under the armpits and dragged him back to standing.
Sam regarded his angelic friend. “Uh, Cas. You know what they say about unicorns? They like … virgins?”
Castiel turned to stare at Sam. “But….” He scowled, deep in thought for a moment. Sam saw many expressions fleet across his face, one after another. “I didn’t think that counted…” he finally muttered.
Sam smiled mildly at Castiel. “Dude. When this is over, if you wanna talk…?” Castiel tilted his head. “For now, let’s try to corral one, OK?”
Cas nodded, regarding the mud stains on his coat. “Fucking unicorns,” he sighed.
“Yeah. Fucking unicorns.”
The present day....
Dean was choking. He put a hand up to his throat, and felt his collar drawn tight against it. He blindly reached back. There was a hand gripped tightly to the back of his shirt.
"What the blazes?" asked Bobby, upon whose floor Sam, Dean, and Crowley had just appeared.
"That, my non-friend," said Crowley, who had just released his demonic grip on both Sam and Dean, "was utterly brilliant timing."
"What the hell happened to you boys?" asked Bobby. "I sent Cas after you, and you come back with Crowley instead? Can’t we keep our damn supernatural beings straight?"
"Cas!" shouted Dean, who had leapt to his feet. "We gotta get him! That Ragweed dude has him!"
"You two should consider yourself lucky I managed to escape with you," lectured Crowley. "I sensed this one's clumsy summons coming down the pike,” he added, pointing an accusing finger towards Bobby, who artfully ignored him.
"Ragweed? Cas has hay fever?" Bobby asked Dean. “That’s just what we need, a sneezing celestial being.”
"No, Bobby, someone named Raguel?" said Sam, who had recovered and picked himself up.
"Ain't he one of the angels? A higher up bugger?" asked Bobby.
"Sadly, I believe I know what this particular bugger is on about," said Crowley, who had risen to his feet and begun to dust himself off as well. "He- Oh for fuck's sake, Bobby!" he shouted, pointing upwards. "You've got me under one of your ridiculous traps?"
"Put me in a good mood, demon," warned Bobby, crossing his arms, "I'll let you out. But right now I am in a very, very bad mood."
“What’s going on?” asked Dean.
“Easier to show you,” said Bobby, who held up a strange conical flask.
“I that what I think it is?” asked Dean. The milky, glowing substance inside the flask looked familiar.
“Is that angel grace?" asked Sam, taking the flask from Bobby and turning it over in his hands
“That item is worth a pretty penny,” Crowley noted. “On the open market.”
"You in the market for this stuff, Crowley?” Bobby asked the demon suspiciously.
“If you're not part of the solution....” said Crowley, feigning great offense. “No. Absolutely not. I don’t deal in the hard stuff! But you lot probably don't want to know how many vials I've been offered of late.”
“They're killing angels and taking their grace?” asked Dean.
“You extract it from live angels, pet,” corrected Crowley. Dean swallowed hard. He remembered Anna saying the process was pretty painful. Agonizing. “Oh, fuck, Bobby!” he said, suddenly putting two and two together. “Ragweed – or whatever the fuck its name was – said he needed Cas for his grace.”
“Shit,” said Bobby. “So how the hell did you idjits bump into Raguel anyway?”
“That was my fault, as I was prepared to explain, before….” said Crowley, scowling and pointing accusingly upwards to the demon trap on Bobby’s ceiling.
“If anything happens to Cas, Crowley….” warned Dean.
“Yes, yes, yes, you’ll extract my beating heart with a rusty knife,” grumbled Crowley, who sat back down on Bobby’s floor. “Kindly quit overacting and let me explain. As I told you, I am involved in a sort of domestic squabble.”
“Domestic? You?” asked Bobby.
“Divorce,” supplied Sam.
“Ohhh,” said Bobby.
“Irrelevant details!” protested Crowley. “To cut, as they say, to the chase, the insufferable cunt has made off with what are rightfully our joint possessions. Your perky-assed hunter boys and their unshaven sidekick helped me obtain an ingredient vital to tracking down the vile whore’s ill-gotten gains. And indeed, when we encountered our celestial friend Raguel, he was clad in my priceless 1938 ‘Bride of the Demon’ laboratory coat!”
“Crowley,” said Sam. “Let me get this straight. You collect … movie costumes?”
“It is a part of cultural history! It was screen used! I matched it myself!” wailed Crowley. “I outbid Peter Jackson for it! I currently possess a rather decent stable of artifacts from that particular film. And now that great feathered lout is … is … wearing my coat around to clobber angels! It could get stained!”
“Yeah, lord help us all if Cas uses to blow his nose,” grumbled Bobby.
“Crowley,” asked Sam. “I don’t understand. Why the hell is the archangel Raguel wearing your horror movie lab coat?”
“Absolutely no fucking idea!” said Crowley. “As I have told you, my vile and foul ex-domestic partner has gotten her repulsive claws into some of my prized pieces.”
“Crowley,” said Bobby, “So, you used a conjuration to find Raguel? Or the coat?”
“My coat,” pouted Crowley. “The spell only found that ratty archangel as a side dish.”
“Would it work again?”
Down on the floor, Crowley sighed and gripped his own knees. “Even if I could reproduce it, it turns out to have a rather fatal flaw, in that Raguel could evidently use his angel trickery to trace us as well. I doubt he’ll hesitate to smite us if he sees us a second time. Your angels do like smiting things.”
“What should we do?” asked Dean. “Bobby! Cas might already be dead.”
“Might be better off that way,” muttered Crowley, “considering the alternative.”
Dean turned to the demon, breathing hard and staring him down for a moment. “Bobby,” he finally said. “I need a gallon of holy water. I wanna see how much this guy can guzzle.”
“Wait wait wait!” urged Crowley holding up his hands. “There might be another way. There is a magical object that could find my item.”
“Why the fuck didn’t you use that in the first place, instead of putting us through all the shit with the faceless demon?” asked Dean.
“Sadly, it has been … borrowed from me,” hedged Crowley.
“You got an annoying neighbor?” asked Bobby.
“It isn’t a lawn mowing device,” grumbled Crowley.
“Then, what is this thing?”
“And more importantly,” said Sam. “Where is it?”
“It is an enchanted compass,” said Crowley. “Really unique little item. But it’s been waylaid by … an old acquaintance.”
“You mean another guy who wants you dead?” asked Dean.
“More or less. Claims I owe him a debt. Wanker.” Crowley narrowed his eyes.
“Where, Crowley?” repeated Sam.
“Ah, my friends,” smiled Crowley, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. “As to the where: have you never watched a police procedural, then?”
“I hate police procedurals,” muttered Dean.
“Well then, you wouldn’t know,” said Crowley. “It lies where investigations inevitably begin … in a strip club!”
Sam rolled his eyes, but Dean quite suddenly did not appear so wrathful as before.
Castiel lay on the cold metal table, contemplating his fate.
It was a sham, actually. Evidently, at some point during the time he was unconsciousness, he had been stripped of his human clothes and strapped to the table. But it was all cardboard and tissue paper. He could have easily broken free, even without his angelic powers, were he not being held down by the magic of an infinitely strong, half mad archangel.
Indeed, the room appeared to be some kind of cruel joke: like a movie set, it was only authentic-seeming from a certain, precise angle, but otherwise all quite visibly constructed of chicken wire and bare two by fours. Cas thought of his brother, Gabriel, regretting that he wouldn’t see it. He would have appreciated the dramatic flair.
Raguel, who seemed to have been occupying himself with nonsense, fussing with test tubes filled with sugar water and whatnot, finally turned to see Castiel. “Ah, so you have decided to join us, my unlucky brother!”
“Am I correct in that you intend to remove my grace by forcible means?” inquired Castiel.
“Yes! When the Son of Man sits on his throne, in his glory, we must separate the sheep from the goats. And you, unfortunately, are going down, with the sinners! Now is the time to plead, before you are cast into the fiery pit of eternal punishment.”
Castiel considered this. “Well, it is probably an appropriate fate for me,” he mused.
Raguel blinked. “Um. I’m sorry?” His eyes, like his wild hair, were grey, and seemed oddly unfocused.
“Considering my behavior, I think this consequence is meet,” Castiel told him. “I am fallen. And I have done many terrible things. The loss of my grace would seem justified.”
“So you accept the judgment of your holy Father?” said Raguel.
“I accept the fate. I do not accept that you are passing judgment. You are obviously mentally incompetent.”
“I judge the nations in His holy name!” growled Raguel. He was not only wearing an old-fashioned white medical tunic, but red rubber gloves that appeared a size too big for him.
“That's ridiculous,” scoffed Castiel. “No one has heard from our Father for years. You can hardly claim to speak for him, nor are you within your rights to take on his job. That was something important I learned, to my dismay.”
“Sinner! You are trying to tempt me.”
“It is probably true I have sinned, but I am just laying out the facts. Now, you say you are judging, but why use sets and artifacts from a twentieth century human cult movie? I recognize these objects from a film my human friend, Sam, showed me.”
“Get thee behind me, Satan!” bellowed Raguel.
“No, Satan is still in his cage. There was another person, a demon, running the underworld for a while, but he grew quickly tired of the job. And anyway, I am neither of those individuals.”
Castiel could hear Raguel breathing: heavy, measured breaths. Cas didn't suppose he would survive this. The extraction of grace was a high casualty process at best, and this fellow didn't look like he was terribly careful about it. He didn’t know a whole lot about this brother. Gabriel had always talked about him as if he were insane, which meant a lot, if Gabriel thought so. So reasoning with him was almost certainly out of the question. But Castiel thought, for reasons that were not quite clear even to himself, that he should not go to his final reward without lodging a protest.
He did not expect the archangel's face suddenly to be so close to his, breathing hard. His breath smelled distinctive. A spice. Castiel tried to recall what it was.
“This will hurt,” said Raguel. “Not a little. A lot.”
Castiel nodded. He had borne pain before. Angels rather liked torture. They were dicks, many of them.
Raguel drew his knife. One edge was serrated, and stained red.
And then Castiel's world was torn asunder.
“Damn! Bobby will be disappointed he didn't come along!” said Dean as the paused outside the Second Circle Gentlemen’s Club.
“Bobby is doing research,” sighed Sam.
“That's what we're here for!” grinned Crowley, slapping Sam on the back. Sam glared at the demon. Despite many reassurances, Bobby had been fairly damn reluctant to spring Crowley from the devil’s trap. Sam agreed with Bobby: it felt like Crowley was holding something back from them, but as yet, Sam wasn't quite sure what. Dean had been persuaded when Crowley, as a gesture of good faith, and despite constant bitching about his tricky back, magicked Dean’s beloved Impala back to Bobby’s wrecking yard. But Sam wasn't certain Dean was the best judge of character right now. Sam was pretty sure his brother was at least partially sublimating a growing sense of worry over Cas into a newborn enthusiasm for demon strip clubs.
But Sam couldn't tell Dean that. For one thing, he doubted Dean had even heard the word “sublimating” before.
The black-eyed doorman seemed reluctant to let them in, especially when it became apparent that Sam and Dean were nothing but a couple of humans. But Crowley chatted amiably and passed the hulking door guard several bills of some currency Sam didn't recognize: what country had pictures of Dick Cheney on their 66 dollar bills? In fact, what country had 66 dollar bills?
The inside of the club was about what Sam had expected from following Dean into a number of similar human establishments: smoky and too loud and smelling of something Sam didn't want to think about.
With one distinctive difference....
“Whoa!” said Dean, pointing to the girl who was currently defying gravity on one of the poles. “That stripper! She has four.....”
“You'd be surprised what she has two of,” grinned Crowley.
“It's like twins. In one girl....” muttered Dean.
“Dean!” scolded Sam.
“Well, as long as we’re here,” his brother protested.
“Dear,” Crowley asked a passing waitress, “Will you please tell the proprietor that Mr. Crowley is here to see him?”
“Is the owner your friend?” asked Sam as the demon girl sauntered off, her forked tail switching lazily in back of her. “The one with the compass?”
“My compass,” grumbled Crowley.
“How did he get it then?” asked Sam.
Crowley sighed. “During the interlude when I was overseeing hell, I had to make outlays for certain … capital improvements. So, I sought out external funding sources, you might say, investors, of a sort.”
“Uh. Are we talking loan sharks, Crowley?” asked Sam. “Demon loan sharks?”
“No, no, no, no, no, nothing of the sort!” fluttered Crowley. “Well, I mean. Something like that, but not much.” The demon waitress was signaling, so Crowley motioned to Sam and a fairly oblivious Dean to follow him into what looked like a back room. It was a lot quieter back here. And a lot darker.
Sam gasped as he was suddenly shoved up against a wall. A black-eyed demon thug held him, knife to his throat. He cast his eyes to the side and saw Dean and Crowley were in the same predicament.
“Crowley,” came a very, very deep voice. Sam looked around the demon thug’s knife arm, over to the center of the room where, sitting at the round poker table behind a mighty pile of chips was the biggest, baldest demon he had ever seen. He smoked a fat cigar, and had gold rings on his big, fat fingers.
“Uh. Fenriz,” said Crowley. “How pleasant to see you again.” His voice was strangled as a rather large demon had a blade pressed into his neck so hard it was drawing a bit of blood.
“Crowley, you bring humans into my bar?” tutted Fenriz. “You disrespect me!”
“There is a perfectly reasonable explanation,” said Crowley. “A friend of ours is in a bit of trouble, and we simply need use of my compass. For a time.”
“You mean my compass?” hissed Fenriz.
“Look, Fenriz, my old friend. These aren't just any humans! These are the Winchester brothers, the famous hunters.”
“They don't look famous to me,” snorted Fenriz, rubbing his head with his sausage-fingered hand.
“And these boys … love a game of chance.”
“Hmpf.” Fenriz didn't move very much, but might have nodded his head just a fraction, and suddenly, Dean, Sam and Crowley were released.
Sam's head spun. Games of chance? Did he mean gambling? Sam had never been much for poker, and he didn't see a pool table in here.
“A game? I like games,” rumbled Fenriz. He wore his human eyes, not his demon ones, but they were still blacker than black, two dots lost amid all that pink skin. “What about a little contest?”
“How about we see how loud these humans can squeal?” asked one of the demon henchmen, running a finger over his blade.
One of the other demons leaned over and whispered in Fenriz's ear. The giant demon sat back and laughed: a cold, malicious sound. “Yes, that would be amusing. You boys look hungry,” he said, casting his eyes between the brothers. “What about an eating contest?”
“Sure!” said Dean, who confidently barged up to the table and took an empty seat. “What do you got? I could use a burger,” he added, patting his stomach.
“Dean!” warned Sam, who somehow did not think burgers would be on the menu. Unless they were maggot-ridden. He already felt himself gagging at the memory.
“I have a specialty in mind,” said Fenriz, whose grin showed off a shiny gold tooth. “Lazlo!” As the poker players cleared away from the table, a large, red-haired demon took the chair opposite Dean, glaring at him. Someone buzzed in carrying two steaming, covered bowls on a tray. They sat one down in front of Dean, and another in front of Lazlo.
Sam sniffed. No, definitely not hamburgers. He wasn't even certain the dish was going to be from this world. “Oh, dear,” muttered Crowley.
“What is it?” whispered Sam.
“You don’t want to know.”
“The usual terms, Crowley,” said Fenriz. “Your boy wins, I'll loan you my compass. For a short period of time.”
“What if he loses?” pressed Sam.
“As I said before, you don't wanna know,” whispered Crowley.
“I won't lose,” said Dean, staring down Lazlo.
“Are you totally sure about this, Dean?” pleaded Sam, wondering if he was the only sane being left in the room.
“Let's get going,” his brother answered, leaning forward. “I'm starved.”
Fenriz's gold-flecked grin widened. He waved a hand, and the covers were whipped off the bowls.
“Bloodworm stew,” rumbled Fenriz. Sam, his curiosity getting the better of him, leaned over to catch a glimpse of the foul-smelling dish, and was immediately sorry he did. Swimming in Dean's bowl, obviously still alive, were fat red wriggling things that looked like well-fed leeches. Sam backed off, but Dean only continued glaring across the table at Lazlo.
“On your marks!” said Fenriz. Lazlo picked up his large metal spoon, and so did Dean. “Ready … steady … go!”
At that, Lazlo, who still had his black eyes locked to Dean's, plunged his spoon into his bowl and began to slurp.
He can't do this, Sam thought, wondering about his new life as a slave in a demon strip club.
Dean held up his spoon, and as Lazlo watched over his soup bowl, looking puzzled, Dean dropped it to the table. It fell with a clatter.
Lazlo continued slurping, but kept an eye on Dean.
Grabbing his own bowl with both hands, Dean raised it to his lips, and began to drink straight from the bowl. No, he was not drinking, he was guzzling it down, eyes squeezed shut, Adam’s apple bobbing.
“Drink!” shouted Crowley. “Drink … drink … drink!” More demons picked up the cry. Dean gulped at the disgusting stew as a surprised Lazlo watched in horror. “Drink … drink … drink!” Dean’s bowl tilted higher, at a 45 degree angle. Lazlo, perhaps sensing defeat, tilted his own bowl towards him and spooned faster, but it soon became apparent who was winning: not he. He finally threw away his own spoon, and, stopping to take a breath, grabbed the bowl and began to drink himself.
Dean's head was back, the bowl now all the way up above him, rivulets of the disgusting stew dripping down either side of his face as demons chanted. Lazlo's eyes were wide open, desperate.
And then a smack, as Dean smashed the empty bowl upside-down, back down on the table, wiping his mouth with the back of his sleeve. He gave his stomach a thump, and, to his own apparent surprise, emitted a puff of red smoke from his mouth.
“Wow,” said Sam, who had probably never been quite so impressed with his brother's iron stomach.
“Lazlo,” said Fenriz. “You suck.” He snapped his fingers, and Lazlo exploded in a splatter of red guts and puff sulfurous smoke.
“That's my boy,” said Crowley, slapping Dean on his back. Dean, who only now had started looking a trifle woozy, belched more red smoke, which also emitted from his ears.
“This human is impressive!” said Fenriz. “Are you certain you won't sell him to me, Crowley?”
“Um, maybe later on that one?” asked Crowley, who was wresting Dean to his feet. “Now, I don't mean to be rude, but promises were made, entertainment doesn't come for free, does it?”
Fenriz snapped his fingers, and there appeared in his big hand what looked for all the world like a normal cheap compass, the kind you killed yourself to figure out in Boy Scouts.
If you had a normal ass childhood and were in the Boy Scouts, Sam thought sourly.
The big demon flipped the compass over the table to Crowley, where it was deftly intercepted, one-handed, by Dean. “We gotta go,” Dean said, standing and putting a hand over his mouth. Red smoke emitted between his fingers. He turned and, head held high, strode on slightly wobbly legs out of the room.
“Uh, be seeing you,” said Crowley, who cast a nervous glance at Fenriz and then hotfooted it after Dean.
“Of that I am certain,” said Fenriz, adding a hearty laugh. Sam hastened after Crowley.
“Show me how to work this compass whatchajiggy,” Dean told Crowley the minute they were all outside in the alley behind the club.
“Dean, what are you doing?” asked Sam, shivering in the cold night air.
“Going to get Cas,” said Dean, who was still burping smoke. “And hope to fuck he's still alive.”
“Dean. No! We go back to Bobby's and we make a plan,” reasoned Sam, rubbing his own arms.
“I got a plan,” said Dean. “We go get my damn angel. Now. Crowley?”
“I hate to cast aspersions on your obviously well thought out strategy,” said Crowley, “but had you carefully considered perhaps listening to your brother?”
Dean grabbed Crowley by the collar. “I got a belly full of demon bloodworms, Crowley. You wanna cast aspersions? Try it with an iron bar up your ass.”
“All right! All right!” said Crowley.
“You can stay here if you want, Sammy,” Dean told his brother.
“No, I'm going. I'm going,” said Sam.
“As am I,” said Crowley.
“Why the hell are you coming along, Crowley? You're a coward,” grumbled Dean.
“Yes indeed, but I'm not having you fluttering away with my devil's compass,” said Crowley. “Whatever you would do to me, Fenriz will do much, much worse if I lose or damage his toy.”
Hunched over the cold metal table, Raguel twisted the knife again.
This one's grace had remarkably strong roots. But he was almost there. The subject had lost consciousness some time ago, which removed some of the entertaining element of the procedure. But Raguel reminded himself to consider his holy mission. He was, after all, doing his Father's work.
“You imbecile! You're getting bloodstains all over my priceless keepsake!”
Raguel straightened, his work suddenly forgotten.
“I outbid Peter Jackson for that coat! Peter Fucking Jackson!” wailed Crowley, who was standing, improbably, across the room.
The demon, thought Raguel, wondering how the hell it had got in here, and contemplating how much fun he would have taking it apart, fleck by fleck.
Raguel raised his hand to make a warding gesture, but screamed as his sleeve caught on fire.
“That's for you, assbutt!” hollered Sam, who had lobbed an improvised molotov at him. There wasn’t much to work with in the “laboratory,” as most of the chemicals seemed to just be water with food dye in them. The flaming grenade had been vegetable oil, which, while not lethal, was at least a distraction.
“Shit!” yelled Crowley, now witnessing his blood-stained collectible incur further damage.
“Come on!” urged Sam, grabbing Crowley by the arm and tugging him away from the fake laboratory. They were both out the door and running, after one final look back by Crowley.
It was fortunate that Crowley was out of sight, as Raguel at once threw off the lab coat and then stomped out the fire. He glowered and, with a glance back at the unconscious Castiel, ran after Sam and Crowley.
Dean, who had been crouching behind one of the fake lab benches, crawled out and ran across the room to where Cas was still lying on the table. “Cas? Can you hear me?” he whispered. There was only the sound of labored breathing, raggedy and rasping. Dean tore off the straps and pulled Cas down to the floor, where Dean positioned the naked, shivering angel somewhat awkwardly in his lap. Then Dean pulled out a knife, drew it across his own arm, and began to mark some Enochian sigils into the pillar underneath the table. He paused one moment. Was that approaching footsteps? He heard voices, including his brother shouting something.
Dean finished the angel banishing sign, and, pulling Cas as close as he could, muttered, “I'll be back for you, Sammy,” adding, “I hope this shit works. I’m getting tired of being zapped the fuck around today.” And then he smacked a palm into the middle of the banishing sign, and the world turned white.
Just a sorta FYI, The More You Know kinda thing, Peter Jackson (yes, THAT Peter Jackson) really does collect expensive movie props. Yes, really. He's outbid a couple of my friends for various items. Don't think he's ever really bid against a demon though.
Chapter 4: I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Castiel's grace is hanging by a thread, but he just wants a damned hamburger. Visitations from archangels and demon brides, and poor Dean gets zapped around again.
Title: I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (Blood on the Tracks, Chapter 4 of 7)
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Cas; Sam, Crowley, Bobby, Gabriel
Warnings: Cursing, some violence, Dean being dickish, appetizing descriptions of Greek food.
Word Count: Almost 40K total.
Summary: Castiel's grace is hanging by a thread, but he just wants a damned hamburger. Visitations from archangels and demon brides, and poor Dean gets zapped around again.
Notes: This is really nowhere logical on the timeline: it's vaguely post S7, but not really terribly spoilery, and I've brought back people and locations that should be gone. The beginning of each chapter is a little flashback, so you need to pay attention to that, there will be a quiz.
A few days ago….
It was late evening, and traffic had thinned here off the main street. This was one of those cities that had thought to preserve its downtown area, so the buildings were of quaint design and solidly wrought from thick old growth timber.
There was a neat plaque on the side of this building, Glaucus Appraisals, LLC, set beside an intricately carved wooden door. The door, if it had been opened (which it was most assuredly not) guarded a staircase which led to a second story office.
There were currently two demons, one standing to either side of the door, leaning against the building, both looking ill-tempered.
“You got business with me?” asked a female voice.
The demons turned, startled. They were not used to being surprised. The woman appeared to be about the human equivalent of thirty-something, and possibly of Mediterranean ancestry, as she had a fine clear olive skin and dark eyes. The most distinctive thing about her was a tangle of light brown, very, very curly hair, only partly tamed by a colorful hairband.
She wasn’t as tall as the demon men, but somehow, she appeared to be staring down her aquiline nose at them.
“You run Glaucus?” asked the bigger demon, whose demon name was Eblis. Not that he bothered to introduce himself.
“Yes, I am the sole proprietor,” she told them. She, too, did not bother with further introductions. “Look upon me and weep.”
“You’re working for Crowley, then?”
“Well, not that it’s your business, but yeah. I have ongoing consultation with Crowley.”
“You need to reconsider your decision then,” said Eblis, cracking his knuckles to emphasize the point.
“From the surfeit of muscle and paucity of brains, I take it you're some of Jahi's boys?” asked the curly haired woman, raising an eyebrow.
The two looked at each other, slightly confused at all the SAT vocabulary. “As a matter of fact,” said the smaller of the two, who was named Forcas. “Yeah.”
“Can you please get a message to her for me?” asked the woman.
“Yeah, sure, I guess so,” said Forcas.
“Now, listen up,” said the curly-haired woman, beckoning the two to lean in. When they were all close together, she said, very clearly and distinctly, “Fuck. Off. Bitch.” She scowled at the demons, drawing back. “Got it?”
“I don’t think you got the message,” snarled Eblis, now attempting to loom over the woman.
“I don’t think you got my message,” said the woman. “Want me to repeat?”
“You gotta stop working for Crowley,” said Eblis.
“You gotta stop making me annoyed,” said the woman. “You won’t like me when I’m annoyed.”
There was the flash of a knife that hadn’t been in Eblis’ hand one moment ago. And then a smashing sound, and Eblis was laid out flat on the ground, blood from the great crack in his skull now throbbing out and pooling on the ground beneath him, a very surprised expression on his dying face.
The woman checked the end of the long staff she was now holding. It now had bits of skull and blood and hair on it. “Got the message now?” she asked Forcas.
And then Forcas was suddenly no longer there.
An owl fluttered by, and came to rest on the woman’s shoulder. “Fucking demons,” she grumbled to it. She touched the staff to what was left of Eblis, who disappeared. And then she was no longer holding the staff. She scratched the owl on his forehead. Then she turned, and put a key in the heavy lock on the wooden door.
The present day....
Dean clutched at the bag of groceries from the 7-11 and pulled the motel key out of his pocket, smiling wryly at the funny, awkward key ring. The motel had some kind of dumb nautical theme, so the key ring was shaped like a flat, vinyl compass.
Of all the places they could have been banished to by the angel sigil, they had come to a landing at this same exact crappy motel room? He wasn't quite certain how Cas had managed it, as Cas was not in the state for too much conversation. But when they’d appeared here, the key had dropped out of Cas’ hand. Had he been clutching it the whole time he being tortured by Raguel? It was weird.
Well, it was fortunate, anyway. What the hell would Dean have been supposed to do, crash landed in the middle of nowhere with a naked, dying angel.
No, Dean corrected himself. Not dying.
Dean steeled himself and entered the room. Cas was still exactly where Dean had laid him out, huddled on the bed beneath a mountain of covers. He lay, gasping for breath, occasionally emitting a small moan of what Dean guessed was pain.
If Cas had been human, of course, Dean, despite his distaste for the institution, would have immediately transported his angelic ass to a hospital. But that just wouldn't work. “Well, he's an angel of the Lord, and somebody just tried to pull his grace out with a rusty knife?” No. That was more likely to get Dean transported to a mental institution. Where he wouldn't do anybody any good.
Dean had cleaned up the blood as best he could with a damp hand towel, but yet another weird aspect to this whole enterprise was that he still had no fucking idea where it had all come from. Cas still had the faint scars on his chest from the angel banishing sigil he'd carved there years ago, but that was the only visible damage. Dean guessed Raguel had opened him up inside somehow, but he just wasn't sure how. Nor how to fix it.
Dean thumped the groceries down on the motel room’s sole table and sat down on the edge of the bed and told Castiel, “OK. OK. Cas. Here’s the situation. I don’t know where the fuck just happened to you, and I don’t have a fucking clue how to make it right. But, given that, you’re gonna be OK. Understand?”
Amid the terrible gasping, Cas emitted a soft sound. Dean smiled. It sounded like a small laugh. But then it was back to the wracked breathing and the terrible moans. Dean put his head in his hands. More blankets? Less blankets? Fuck blankets, where was a fucking angel paramedic when you needed one?
It was the breathing that was driving him crazy. It seemed panicky and raggedy and all uneven like some kind of asthmatic fish.
And then Dean remembered something. He wasn’t certain how it came to mind just then, but it did. Sam had been very small, just tiny, and he’d gotten a cold, or whatever it was that babies got, and it was the middle of the night. And Sam was just a little thing: it was hard to think of now. But he sounded like a goddam bull moose when he breathed.
And it was 3 am or something, and you couldn’t get a damn doctor, and Mary had crawled right into the cradle with him, and wrapped her body around him, and just held him tight. And it had passed. Somehow, he had made it through that hellish night.
Dean quit thinking and kicked off his shoes. He tore off his leather jacket and his unbuttoned his shirt and then said, “Slide over,” and crawled in under the covers behind Cas, wrapping his arms around him. Dean tried desperately to calm himself: Cas felt clammy as hell, and now that Dean was in contact with him, he could feel the angel's human heart rattling like it was going to explode right out of his chest.
“Slow down,” ordered Dean. “Breathe with me.”
Cas whispered something.
“What?” asked Dean.
“Personal. Space,” rasped Castiel.
“Oh, fuck you, Cas,” said Dean, who squirmed closer. “Come on. Just … calm down. You’ll be OK.” He grabbed Cas’ hand, and put it on Cas’s own stomach. “Come on. There's your diaphragm. Slow down,” he urged. He knew he was sounding too damn much like a yoga guy, but gradually the panicked gasping began to catch Dean's rhythm, steadying and slowing down. He could feel the pulse rate edging back from the scary rattle to a more reassuring thump. “You’ll be OK,” Dean murmured. “I swear, you’ll be OK. I'm with you. I'm with you now….”
Dean awakened as the first light of dawn came slanting into the room. He reached out and, feeling nothing beside him, looked up in panic.
Cas was sitting on the edge of the bed, one bare leg dangling over the side, sheets bunched around his waist, looking not like death warmed over, but just cold hard death itself.
“We need to go. Get Sam!” Cas gasped. There were dark, dark circles under his eyes.
“You’re not going anywhere,” scolded Dean, sliding over and putting a hand to Cas’ forehead, though he was not 100% sure what he was feeling for. His skin felt reasonable enough, neither the scary clammy of last night nor the burning fever.
“We have to go, Dean!”
Dean frowned and gave Cas a very light push on one shoulder. As he had expected, the angel thumped right back down on the bed. “Yeah. You can’t even tangle with a human right now,” said Dean, hovering over him. “How good are you gonna be in a fight?”
“Then leave. You go,” breathed Cas, who struggled to painfully push himself up to a sitting position again. Dean could see the pale chest rise and fall with the strain.
“Look, Cas,” said Dean, “they got Sammy, they got Crowley,” he said, ticking off on his fingers. “That's pretty much the brain trust of the organization. And I’m not getting a cell signal for Bobby. We're in a dead space again.” Castiel nodded sadly. “We can't go without a plan. And, also, you probably need pants, dude!” he said, pointing to Cas' bare legs.
The small laugh again. It had been startling, once, to hear laughter coming from the angel. It was still a small, rare thing, but Dean could sometimes evoke it. He saw Cas start to sag again, and grabbed on to him, only intending to support him, but sometimes that's what happens with the best laid plans, and then Dean was up far too close, kissing him, and even with Cas pale and weakened, it was a glorious thing, shooting through every nerve fiber in Dean's body, pushing away any thoughts of anything in the world, anything but they two.
Cas was the one who pushed away first and, since he had been using Dean to support himself, he started to fall back, but Dean caught him and gently lowered him back to the bed, where Dean remained, bowed over his angel.
“Are you … counting ... nose hairs?” Cas breathed.
Dean smiled. “Don't be snotty, Cas.”
“I thought you said ... was a mistake,” said Cas. And Dean's smile faded.
“We were drunk,” said Dean. “That first time.” His fingers felt the ridges of the light scars on Cas’ chest.
“Angels … do not get drunk.”
“I know that.”
“And then what of the second time?” added Cas.
“So, I’m a mistake-prone guy,” said Dean.
“And … the third?”
Dean was running a hand along Cas' side, knowing this was stupid, and crazy stupid timing, and everything was wrong and … stupid. “Maybe it was a mistake, but it was an awesome mistake?” Dean proposed. “Maybe, when we get outta this, we need to talk?”
“You … hate ... talking,” said Cas, too weak to even raise his head from the pillow.
“True,” admitted Dean, who sat for a while and thought.
“Sam,” prompted Cas.
Dean reluctantly pushed himself up. “Sam. And maybe Crowley,” he answered.
“And maybe Crowley.”
“If we're feeling generous,” smiled Dean. There was a soft laugh again. He eyed Cas, and then sent his hands down to grip the angel's waist. Castiel squirmed, and then frowned as Dean removed his hands, keeping them frozen apart as if embracing an imaginary Cas.
“What are you doing?” asked Castiel.
“Trying to figure out your clothing size,” said Dean. “Cause there's no way you'd know it.”
“That's true,” Castiel confessed. He seemed to try to get himself sitting again, and then gave up.
“I can't really tell the girl at the store, 'he's about your size,'” Dean laughed. “And don't want your pants falling down at the wrong damn moment.”
“No,” agreed Cas.
“Look, I'll be out a few minutes. If you can get yourself up, try to eat some of that stuff,” Dean said, indicating the sack of groceries. “It's the shit like Sam eats, so it's probably healthy.”
“As you know, I don't need-”
“Yeah, I know, I know. But it can't hurt, right? I mean, do you know how to get your grace to heal back in?”
Cas shook his head at him, and Dean headed out. “I'll be back. Eat something.”
The anxiety hit Dean again like a blast of summer heat as soon as he shut the door. Sammy had been captured. And to make matters worse, was probably going to be used as bait by someone who wanted to finish the job killing Cas.
A mad archangel. Redundant, Dean thought: was there any other kind? The Lord Creator dude had kind of fucked up on the whole sanity thing with those guys.
Dean walked along the side of the highway, grateful that it wasn't terribly busy in these parts. The Walmart was across on the other side, and it looked like the only way to get there, if you didn't have a car or wings, was to madly run across and hop the Jersey barrier. Not a lot of planning for pedestrian friendliness, mused Dean.
The perfect counter to their supervillain would be another archangel. But where did you rustle up one of those guys? The ones on Dean's speed dial were all dead or missing.
His phone, thought Dean, as he made it to the outskirts of the parking lot. He felt it vibrating in his pants pocket. They must be in cell range here, at least over on this side of the highway. He pulled it out, and waved it, but it showed no service. Damn. He must have just run through a sweet spot, he thought.
Dean was surprised to see his email inbox was bursting. He thumbed the screen, and was rewarded with about a billion emails from Sammy, all of stupid baby angel Castiel. Sam and him, they needed to talk, thought Dean as he scrolled through the JPGs. Smiling bloody Castiel. Cas riding that stupid hellhound. Cas with wings. Sam holding Cas on a hip.
Dean paused, wondering about Sam.....
Sam Winchester sighed. It wasn't the first time, he reflected, that he had been confined in a metal cage in some idiot's dungeon. Or the second. Or even the third. In fact, considering his life, this experience was getting rather old hat.
Dungeon people needed to put up more curtains. Or something.
He heard the stirring over in the next cell and craned his neck, anxiously. “Crowley,” he whispered. “You up?”
There was some moaning and the sound of dragging, and then the demon had crawled near, looking much the worse for wear.
“Crowley?” asked Sam, grabbing onto the cold metal bars between them. “Can you talk, dude?”
“Broken ribs. At least two. I have … one question,” Crowley muttered. “Why am I in this state, rather than safely dead?”
Sam leaned over so his lips were near Crowley's ear. “I may have told our friend you were Cas' lover.”
There was a chuckling sound, followed immediately by another choke of pain. “Oh. That was brilliant, my dear moose. Now, were I to survive, your brother will murder me.”
“They're kind of obvious, huh?” asked Sam, leaning back and stretching out his long legs.
“They have always been a bit obvious.” Crowley pushed himself to where he was leaning, albeit uncomfortably, on one elbow. “Well?”
“Well what?” asked Sam.
“You are going to fill me in? I am bored and aching, and this place doesn't seem to have its own theater company. Although we might start one. Demon and Moose Productions. Yes, I like that.”
“Moose and Demon.”
“No. That's sounds too much like moose and squirrel.”
Sam laughed quietly. He listened for a moment, straining to catch whether anyone might be lurking. And then he said, “Dean got drunk. One night.”
“Only one night?”
“OK. Maybe more since then.”
“Will you at least tell me there's a video recording somewhere?”
“In your head, you perv. Playing on a loop,” laughed Sam.
“And you heard this from....?”
“Both,” said Sam. Crowley was silent for a while, so he continued, “So, I could tell something was up. And then a couple days later, Dean starts asking a bunch of questions about what happened to a hypothetical friend of his....”
“Dean does not have a friend, hypothetical or otherwise.”
“Yeah, there's that. So, anyway, then a couple days after that, Cas comes over while Dean is out, and I ask him what's up, and he goes, 'Dean and I engaged in sexual relations,'” said Sam, doing a decent job at imitating Castiel's low register. He listened to Crowley alternately chuckle and moan in pain.
“Oh, why are you telling this now, when it literally hurts to laugh?” sighed Crowley.
“I’ll leave them to work it out,” said Sam. “But tell me your story, Crowley.”
“What bloody story?”
“Your divorce, man,” said Sam. Normally, Sam would have kept a polite distance from the whole thing. Dean, now, he would probably have taken Crowley out for a drink or ten and ended up commiserating about women. That wasn’t Sam, but he was growing a little bored, and more than a little anxious. Sam knew from the flash of light that his brother had made off with Castiel, but what the hell state was the angel in? Sam realized angels could take a lot of punishment, but Cas had frankly looked halfway past dead. Even if he’d survived, he didn’t look in shape to be leading a cavalry charge to rescue some guys being held by a crazy archangel.
“Jahi?” asked Crowley. “It ended, as did every relationship, in a storm of bitterness and recrimination.”
“All relationships?” asked Sam.
“It’s a pity, that. The sex was actually quite good.”
“OK, Crowley, TMI,” laughed Sam. “But seriously, dude, no offense, but I'm more stuck on how it got started. I mean, no offense, but you and a woman?”
“Such narrow-mindedness!” scolded Crowley. “I would expect as much from your brother, but I had reckoned you at least attended university.”
“I did. I did.” It seemed like decades ago, thought Sam. “I just got the impression you got your jollies from making out with Bobby Singer.”
“You underestimate your mentor,” said Crowley. “In so many ways. But more to the point, young one, there are occasions upon which you find you will meet the one soul for whom you break all your rules.”
“And end up in the divorce of the millennium?” asked Sam.
Crowley was silent for a moment. “And it was worth every damned moment of it. Every damned moment.”
Castiel wrapped a bedsheet around his waist and then, with much effort, stumbled over to the little table where Dean had set down the bag of substances from the human convenience store which Dean appeared to believe possessed magical healing properties. He sat down heavily in the battered chair and clumsily pawed through the bag. He felt strangely disconnected from his vessel, as if someone had randomly loosened some of the marionette strings.
He extracted a cup of peach nonfat yogurt. He stared at it for a while. He realized that, although he had no physical need for food, many human rituals and beliefs centered around the consumption of various foodstuffs, just as humans had many beliefs and taboos regarding sexual relations.
He tried not to think about sex, just then.
What he really longed for right now, he thought, was not milk byproducts, but a hamburger. A big, juicy hamburger. Had all the business with Raguel rattled Jimmy awake again?
"Little bro! You watching that sexy waistline for Dean?"
"Why would I want to do that, Gabriel?" Cas inquired of the mischievous archangel who had just appeared sitting across from him. He wrenched the top from the yogurt carton and took a hesitant sniff.
"What did you do to yourself this time, little bro?” asked Gabriel, who actually might have looked genuinely concerned. “Your grace is hanging by a thread!”
"Long story," said Castiel. "How did you manage to get here?"
"Whoa! That's a long story too! For some reason, our feather-brained brothers and sisters chose this moment to do exactly what I wanted for centuries: shut the fuck up. But I heard your cries of pain last night. It was pretty soft, just barely audible. I don’t think I would have been able to tune in if I didn’t know you. So I headed this direction."
"Oh," said Castiel, who was now slightly embarrassed. He pretended to direct his attentions to his yogurt cup.
"But I had to fly here by sight,” said Gabriel.
"Sounds tedious." Castiel, not having a spoon at his disposal, stuck a finger into the yogurt and took a taste.
"It was fucking tedious. How is it?"
"Gross. But, I need to … repair myself. Urgently.”
“You gonna tell me what the fuck happened? So I can go smite the guy?”
“Our brother Raguel is, as the humans say, off the reservation.”
“Eh,” said Gabriel, who pawed through the grocery bag and pulled out an apple. “That son of a bitch was never wrapped up too tight. What rock did he crawl out from, anyway?” He polished the apple on a sleeve and gave it a bite. “He took a powder way back about the time I did.”
“I do not know. But that is why our brothers and sisters have grown silent. I think they have all grown fearful.”
That actually shut Gabriel up, mid-crunch. “What? Afraid of Raggy-butt?”
“Yes. He has apparently been absconding with our brothers and sisters and tearing out their grace. That is what happened to me. He was nearly finished with the exercise when Dean found me.”
“Why would he…. What would he…. FUCK!”
“That was more or less my reaction too,” said Castiel, who had set aside the terrible, terrible yogurt. “Sadly, Raguel evidently captured Sam while Dean was achieving my rescue. But I’m afraid I won’t be much help to him in finding his brother. Not in this sorry condition.”
"Oh, I think I can help you there!" said Gabriel confidently, tossing away his apple core.
"How is that?"
"C'mere," said Gabriel, who jumped up and gripped Cas by his shoulders. Gabriel was now wearing a nurse’s outfit, complete with little hat with a cross on it. Sadly, he hadn’t remembered to shave his legs. "So, you know how sometimes you break a bone and you have to set it? And, it hurts like a mother, but then it's better?"
"Actually, no," said Cas.
The door opened, and Dean was standing there gripping a bunch of plastic Walmart bags. "Who the hell…? Gabriel? What the fuck do you think doing with my angel?" he demanded as he dropped the bags and started to rush over.
"Your angel, huh?" laughed Gabriel. "Fixing him! Though, not like you fix a cat. So, don't worry, lover boy."
"Gabriel!" warned Dean. “Whatever you’re doing, cut it out!”
"Why don't you just ... Hang?" said Gabriel, whipping a hand around and sending Dean back onto the bed.
"GA-BRI-UH!" protested Dean, who suddenly found a Walmart bag over his head.
"This won't hurt. Much," Gabriel told Cas.
"I wish people would quit saying things like that to me," sighed Castiel.
And then there was a flash. And it hurt. A whole lot. His mind screamed in agony.
Cas was lying on the floor as the white hot cloud of pain slowly receded. Dean, who had somehow managed to disentangle himself from Walmart plastic, grabbed him. "Cas. You OK?"
“Actually,” said Cas, who sat up. “Yes. I am much recovered.” He looked at his fingers, wiggling them. He still didn’t feel quite … right. But at least he seemed to have been snapped back into his vessel.
Gabriel, who had gone back to his street clothes, had grabbed a banana from the grocery bag and had begun to peel it.
“You sure?” asked Dean.
Cas impulsively flicked a finger at his brother, who wailed and went slamming into the wall.
“Yes, much better,” smiled Cas.
“Shit!” opined Gabriel.
“Then come on,” said Dean, helping Cas to his feet. “Get some pants on, we’ll go get Sam. And maybe Crowley.”
“Oh, you’re not hanging with that creepy ass demon again are you?” asked Gabriel, who looked sadly at his now badly mashed banana before he tossed it away.
“He helped us rescue Cas,” said Dean, setting the Walmart bags up on the bed for Castiel. “We owe him.”
“Even though his strained marital relations seem to have gotten us into this trouble to begin with,” said Castiel, who limped over to the bed to survey his new wardrobe.
“Look, I’m gonna go grab something to eat while you get dressed,” said Dean. “I’m fucking starved, and I can still taste that goddam bloodworm stew.” He smelled his own breath, and shook his head. “You guys want anything.”
“Cake!” said Gabriel. “Or pie. Or cake and a pie. Or maybe a pie baked inside a cake.”
Dean rolled his eyes.
“Would it be too much trouble to get a hamburger?” asked Castiel, rubbing his stomach.
“Hey, sure! Anything!” said Dean. “Be back in a flash.”
“Anything for yoooouuuuuu, Castiel,” mocked Gabriel after Dean had shut the door behind him.
“Gabriel. Kindly … blow me,” grumbled Castiel, who grabbed a plastic package of underwear.
“Oh, you don’t want those boring tighty whities, little bro!” announced Gabriel. Cas suddenly found himself holding a thong with a large pink bow on it. He trained a rather intense glower at Gabriel.
“Gabriel, cease,” Cas warned him.
“All right all right all right,” grumbled the archangel, who changed the garment back. Castiel then signaled for him to turn around. Gabriel sighed dramatically and turned his back.
“So when did you start … you know … with the hunter boy?” asked Gabriel. It was fortunate Castiel’s back was turned, so he did not witness Gabriel’s rude gesture.
“I don’t know.”
“How could you not know? Even you aren’t that thick!”
“What I meant was that…” started Castiel. “I know. Dean evidently has mixed feelings regarding the matter.”
“Whaddya mean mixed?”
“He told me afterwards that it was a mistake,” admitted Cas.
“WHAT? What a dick! You want me to smite him! Because, I’ll smite his ass!” Gabriel turned around. “Oh, those jeans are too big.”
“They will serve,” said Castiel, pulling on the waistband and shrugging. He went through the bags to find a shirt.
“I could just zap you into a better outfit,” offered Gabriel. “Something suave! How ‘bout a tux?”
“No tuxedo, Gabriel! Dean was kind enough to purchase these clothes for me, so I shall wear them.”
“Dean’s a dick. I’ll smite him!”
“Gabriel! Do not be … Smitey McSmiterson!”
“Hey, wow,” said Gabriel. “That was pretty good!”
“Was it? Human levity still eludes me in many cases,” said Cas, who had just pulled on a flannel shirt.
“Ha!” said Gabriel.
“Oh, what now, Gabriel?”
“Your boyfriend dressed you just like him!” taunted Gabriel.
“Got burgers!” said Dean, who had just barged in the door. Castiel regarded him, in jeans and a flannel shirt. Gabriel, damn him, was correct.
Castiel sighed in relief as all of them now gathered at the small table around the greasy bag of fast food. Dean meted out several mini-pies and an ice cream sundae to Gabriel, who seemed pleased at the take. Castiel sat down and hugged a still warm hamburger to his chest.
“You gonna marry it or eat it?” asked Dean, who already had a mouth full of burger and fries, which he was downing with a huge gulp of sugary soda. Cas unwrapped his hamburger, wondering as to the origin of this strange craving. It smelled savory and enticing. He took an experimental nibble and decided ordering this particular item had probably been his best decision for at least the past month. He took another, bigger bite.
“How’d the clothes fit?” asked Dean, just at the exact point when Cas’ mouth was completely full. Cas nodded and pulled at his shirt, as if in demonstration.
“The pants are too big and the underpants are boring,” groused Gabriel, licking his fingers and popping the plastic lid off the sundae.
“Oh, I guessed wrong?” Dean asked Castiel.
“Everything … is fine,” said Castiel, who had hastily swallowed his burger.
“And you’re a giant dick,” Gabriel told Dean.
“What?” said Dean.
“G'biuh!” admonished Cas thought a mouth full of 100% ground beef.
“But Cas says I can’t smite you. Or else I would!” warned the archangel.
Dean cast a withering glance at Gabriel, like, why don’t you try it. “Look, eat up, Candy Man. We gotta go make a run at the Death Star trench.”
“What?” asked Gabriel.
“He is referring to the Star Wars trilogy…” Castiel added helpfully.
“I fucking know that!” said Gabriel. “Look, even in his nearly sane days, Raguel would smite me as much as look at me. And I heard the elevator no longer goes all the way to the top. Leave me out of this one, hunter boy.”
“Yeah, I know we seem outmanned, but that’s when we pull together!” said Dean. "Seriously, we'll be like Han and Luke freeing Princess Leia from the Death Star.”
Quite suddenly, two angels were staring intently at Dean.
"But the important question," said Castiel, leaning forward. Dean also leaned in closer. "Who is Chewbacca?"
“Uh,” said Dean, who had not quite expected this particular response.
"Sam is obviously Princess Leia,” said Gabriel.
"Obviously," agreed Castiel.
"Then I'm Han and you're Luke," Dean told Castiel, who regarded him skeptically.
"And I'm Obi Wan Kenobi!" said Gabriel.
"WHAT?" said Dean, who had never heard a greater sacrilege. "Dude, you are absolutely nothing like Ben Kenobi."
"I am strong in the force!" countered Gabriel. "And I got the Jedi mind tricks down,” he added, pointing to his own head.
"But Ben was wise! He wasn't some pint sized smartass,” argued Dean.
"Sticks and stones, pretty boy," said Gabriel.
"Dean, aren't Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia actually siblings?" asked Castiel, grabbing one of Dean’s French fries and dunking it in Dean's pile of ketchup.
"Well ... Yeah."
"I believe that would make you Luke. So I will be Han Solo," reasoned Castiel, triumphantly ingesting the French fry.
“What?” barked Dean, who was about to lodge a greater protest, but for a sudden commotion in the motel parking lot. Instantly, three beings were at the window, peeking through curtains that never quite shut right.
“For I hungered, and you did not feed me. And I thirsted, but you did not give me succor!” raved the archangel wearing a burned and blood-stained laboratory coat who was now standing in the middle of the parking lot.
“He must have heard me. Gabriel, when you reset my grace,” whispered Castiel.
“Shit,” said Dean, as there was nothing else to say.
“Boys,” said Gabriel, who had just crammed the last of his apple pie in his mouth. “I am about to do something really stupid. You guys take the back way out.”
And then he disappeared with the soft rush of angel wings, so he didn’t hear Dean say, “But this place doesn’t have a back way out!”
“Come and get me, dipshit!” screamed Gabriel, who was now also in the middle of the parking lot, standing up on the top of a camper van. He wore a white robe with paper wings on the back and carried a harp.
There was a flash, and the camper van was a pile of ash.
“I’m over here, dickweed!” shouted Gabriel, who was now sitting in a convertible, sunglasses atop his head. This vehicle was also summarily reduced to car scrap.
“I got your grace, right here!” came Gabriel’s voice again. This time he was calling from the roof of the motel, where, although Dean and Cas couldn’t see him, he was gleefully mooning Raguel.
“Cas, we gotta go,” said Dean, who suddenly felt two fingers on his forehead.
Crowley stirred. From the soft sound of snoring nearby, he assumed that Sam was asleep. He wasn’t quite certain why he himself had wakened. Maybe the pain and stiffness. Fucking archangel was keeping him down in his meatsuit, otherwise he would have bailed long, long ago, Sam Winchester be damned.
No. He had awoken because he sensed something. There was someone down here.
Someone he knew.
He was on his feet before he knew what he was doing. Crowley strained his demon eyes, peering into the darkness.
He sniffed the air. Yes. It had to be.
Barely there, in the corner of his eyes.
“… Jahi?” he asked.
“Crowley?” The voice was Sam’s. “Someone down here?”
Crowley stood for a long moment still as a statue.
“No,” he finally said. “No one down here.”
“So I send you out with Crowley, now you come back with Cas?”
Dean looked around. By some miracle, they were safe, for the moment at least, at Singer Salvage.
“Cas!” said Dean. “How the hell did you do that? I thought the angels had all shut up.”
Castiel shook his head, panting for breath, looking around in wonder.
Dean suddenly grabbed Cas’ hand, turning it palm side up. The key. He held the motel key with the compass keychain.
“That’s what you did last time,” said Dean, now grabbing Cas’ arm to steady him as he stumbled.
“What last time? What the fuck happened to you kids?” asked Bobby.
“We got trouble,” said Dean. “Shitloads of trouble. I got Cas back from Raguel, but I lost Sam and Crowley up there. And now Raguel is chasing down Gabriel.”
“Gabriel? When the hell did the Trickster get involved?” asked Bobby.
“He was alarmed, as I was, by the cessation of angel voices,” whispered Castiel. “This was my fault, Dean. My cry of pain must have alerted Raguel to our presence.”
“Cas, you couldn’t help it, dude,” said Dean.
“We must stop this,” said Castiel. “But, I fear I am still not fully healed.”
“Yeah, you still look kinda shitty,” said Dean, holding a hand to Cas’ forehead. Did he always look this pale? Angels were pale, right?
“Fucking shame about Crowley…” said Bobby.
“And my brother, Bobby,” Dean reminded him.
“We’ll get Sam back, boy,” said Bobby. “Don’t worry. What I meant was, I been looking into this mess, I got a feeling it all somehow leads back to Crowley and his crazy ass ex-wife.”
“What? Crowley’s divorce? Made an archangel lose his shit?” asked Dean.
“As Gabriel so wisely pointed out, my brother Raguel was never fully in possession of, er, his shit,” said Castiel.
Dean turned and studied Castiel. “Hey, that’s kind of funny, dude.”
“Thank you, Dean.”
“Well, I got a lead I think you boys could check out,” said Bobby, handing Dean a business card.
Dean scrutinized at the card. “Glaucus Appraisals,” he said. There was an address, and a picture of an owl.
“Word is, they've been doing business with a certain Demon. It’s not too far, so you could drive if you ain’t in the mood to fly.”
“Sounds good,” said Dean. “I've had enough of being zapped around for a lifetime.”
“Though you, uh, might wanna get that one some shoes,” noted Bobby, pointing to Cas’ bare feet.
“Hey, at least he’s wearing pants,” laughed Dean.
“What happened to his pants?” asked Bobby.
“It’s not what you think,” said Dean.
“Oh. Ain’t it?” asked Bobby, crossing his arms and looking Dean up and down.
“Uh,” said Dean, who was suddenly uncomfortable. “Let’s uh, get shoes. And go track down a lead.”
Chapter 5: Just Like a Woman
How Dean and Cas made a mistake; getting an appraisal; some domestic squabbling regarding joint property; and one crazy archangel is chasing another (or is that redundant).
Title: Just Like a Woman (Blood on the Tracks, Chapter 5 of 7)
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Cas; Sam, Crowley, Bobby, Gabriel
Warnings: Cursing, some violence, Dean being dickish, appetizing descriptions of Greek food.
Word Count: 40K-ish
Summary: How Dean and Cas made a mistake; getting an appraisal; some domestic squabbling regarding joint property; and one crazy archangel is chasing another.
Notes: This is semi-post-Season 7 on the timeline, with the caveat that I’ve arbitrarily resurrected some characters just for the hell of it. Also: each chapter begins with a brief flashback that takes place prior to the main narrative. I have labeled these flashbacks, but you gotta pay attention, OK? Also, there's gonna be a Coda following Chapter 7.
A few weeks ago….
What Castiel remembered most afterwards was the smell of fresh spring rain.
They had walked back to the motel from the bar, Dean's arm draped over Cas' shoulder. Sam had been off somewhere with the car. Castiel recalled later he had been concerned about his friend's consumption of alcoholic beverages, as the rate appeared to be excessive. But he was also pleased to see Dean in what appeared a happy, relaxed mood. As they neared the motel, a spring rainstorm erupted. "Dammit, you're the only one dressed for this, and you don't need it!" Dean had laughed. They had increased their pace, Cas still half carrying a stumbling Dean Winchester along. Cas had considered for a moment simply transporting his friend back to his bed, but they were close by now and, truth be told, it was not unpleasant. It was a warm night, and to have Dean close like this....
When they had both gotten upstairs, Dean laughingly handed over the motel room key. It was a real key, not an electronic card, and it had a silly themed key ring. It looked like a little compass, Cas thought as Dean handed it over to him, Dean not being in the mindset to go to the bother of slotting a key into a lock. Dean was smiling at him, lighthearted, hair plastered down, a single rivulet of rainwater dripping down his forehead and over one eye, making him wink like a madman, too drunk to remember to reach up and wipe it off.
Cas managed the key and opened the door, and, because it was bothering Dean, brushed a thumb across Dean's forehead to wipe away the rain. Dean pitched forward towards the bed, and Cas ended up being dragged partway with him, as he realized the hunter had a grabbed a fistful of his tie somewhere along the way. Dean sat down hard on the edge of the bed, Cas standing awkwardly over him. Castiel slipped the key with its odd key ring into his coat pocket and put a hand down on the bed on either side of Dean's legs, straining to balance and not to fall into him as Dean kept his hold on the tie. His face was now inches from Dean's, as he called to mind Dean's many lectures to him regarding appropriate levels of personal space. Castiel understood now there was some sort of connection with human mating rituals. It was difficult to parse, however, as Dean never evinced any sign of displeasure, outward or inward, and tonight was clearly the initiator of the physical closeness. When Cas looked now, as he had a very good view, there seemed to him a kind of sobriety in Dean's eyes, a clarity of purpose: something he very rarely sensed in the self-doubting hunter.
He wasn't quite certain later what it was – whim or madness – that drove him to close the small gap that remained between them. What he wanted to do just then was touch Dean's face one more time: to run a hand and smooth his forehead, tell him everything would be all right. Lies, but humans seemed to like their lies. But he could not raise a hand from the bed without losing his balance and tumbling into Dean, so instead he did the ridiculous, mad thing, allowed his human eyes to flicker closed and, as he had seen in countless human films, ranging from those meant for children to pornography, let his vessel's face drift closer, and let his human lips gently brush those of Dean Winchester. A strange, crazy, fluttery feeling which he could only savor for a tiny sliver of time, as quite suddenly Dean was yanking him down, and Cas did end up toppling into Dean, the both of them going over, and Cas’ eyes flickered open with the sensation of everything in his world suddenly an irrevocably changing for good and all, a sensation as profound as that day in hell, when he had grabbed onto Dean's immortal soul and wrested him back up from perdition.
And Deans mouth was still on his mouth, and now he could not just smell but taste the alcohol on Dean, and it seemed to all wash into him, as he absorbed his friend's reckless drunken mood, and then all his strength and resolve seemed to flutter away on butterfly wings, and he found himself easily rolled over and pinned underneath Dean. He finally discovered his hands, but they betrayed him, working to pull Dean even closer, if that were possible, and he became nothing more than a lost, lustful creature, straining to find his way.
Angels do not sleep, so when they were finished, and Dean had drifted off to the half sleep, half unconscious state that followed, Cas had gathered his clothes and then, with a light kiss to Dean’s forehead, left the room in a soft beating of angel wings.
The next time he saw Dean, which was actually only a few hours later the same day, his heart was oddly heavy with a sense of expectation. But Sam was there as well, and Cas did not think it appropriate to make mention.
But then, at last at last, they were alone, sitting side by side in driver and passenger seats of the Impala, taking in the moonlight.
“Last night,” said Dean.
“Yes,” said Castiel.
A pause. Dean's face, impossibly stunning in the moonlight.
“Cas. I think it was a mistake….”
“Can you read the map? The GPS is acting funny,” said Dean.
“There is no need to read the map, Dean.”
“Why not?” asked Dean, looking over to the passenger seat in concern.
“This is the location we seek,” said Castiel. “Up there, ahead.”
Dean peered up ahead, where he spotted the Glaucus plaque set in the wall. “Hey, you just got yourself the job of navigator!” he told Cas, who didn’t reply. Cas had been oddly quiet during the drive, which Dean had decided to attribute to the fact that the angel wasn’t feeling well. He saw him from time to time put a hand up to his chest. He had asked if Cas needed something, but Cas had simply shaken his head and looked out the window.
Dean looked around for a parking spot, thinking this was a weird place for someone like Crowley to go for an appraisal. He had figured the demon would have some fancy dude in Paris or something like that. They got out and walked over to the doorway, where Dean looked around for a buzzer or something like that.
“You here for Glaucus?” asked a female voice. Dean turned to see a curly-haired woman staring him down. She was shorter than him, but she still kinda appeared to be looking down. Not bad looking, a little older, but that was cool. As far as Dean was concerned, that is.
“Yeah,” said Dean. “I’m Dean, this is Cas. You with Glaucus?”
“Minnie. I am the sole proprietor. I don’t remember an appointment?” She seemed to really be giving Cas the once-over. The angel, for his part, stared back.
“We don’t have an appointment,” Dean admitted, making the decision not to fake his way through this one. Well, mostly not fake his way. “We’re here for a friend. Guy named Crowley?”
“I know a guy named Crowley. But he doesn’t have any friends,” said Minnie.
“Yeah, must be the same guy,” laughed Dean. “Look, I swear, it’s just a couple questions. I figure you’re busy?”
Minnie gave Cas another long searching look, but then gave a slight shrug and put a key to the heavy wooden door. She led Dean and Cas up to a cluttered second floor office. She pushed books and notebooks and a plush Bullwinkle moose plus various other oddments out of a couple of chairs and bade them sit.
“You are a goddess,” said Cas as Minnie settled herself behind a heavy oaken desk.
“Well, thank you, hon. Flattery will get you everywhere,” she said. The words were light, but Dean noticed her gaze was quite serious.
“No,” insisted Castiel. “You are a goddess.”
Minnie stared at him hard. “Yeah. Guilty. And unless I’m off my rocker, you’re an angel.”
“Yes,” said Castiel. “That is correct.”
“What,” Dean asked Minnie. “Wait. Really?”
“Yeah, really,” said Minnie.
“Wow,” said Dean. He’d met goddesses before, but it was still a rare thing. And kind of cool.
“OK,” said Minnie, sitting back and rearranging her long skirt. “So maybe you guys will answer my question first: how the fuck did Crowley get mixed up with an angel?”
“Long story,” said Dean. “And we’re really not sure about all of it yet. Crowley’s going through a divorce, I understand.”
“Yeah. I’ve done consultation work for both parties,” said Minnie. “A lot of it is public record. I mean, public demon record, but same thing. Their courts are just as fucked up as yours,” she added, smiling at Dean.
“Well, the other thing is some crazy angel dude is grabbing other angels and carving out their grace,” Dean told her.
“Oh!” said Minnie. “Honey, is that what happened to you?” she asked, turning to Castiel, her eyes now full of concern.
“Yes, he attempted the procedure on me,” Castiel told her.
“Ah, yeah, that’s why your aura looked off. OK,” said Minnie. “I might have something for that,” she noted, pointing a finger at him. “Anyway, go on, Dean.”
“We’re not sure what the connection is, exactly, but when we ran into Raguel – that’s the crazy ass angel – he was wearing Crowley’s lab coat.”
“Oh shit!” said Minnie, hands over her mouth. “Shit! Not the 1938 ‘Bride of the Demon!’”
“Yeah, that’s the one.”
“Fuck! He outbid Peter Jackson for that piece!” Minnie looked furious. She glanced again at Castiel, who made the gesture of holding his chest and shifted uncomfortably. “Hey, look, maybe we could chat in my place, the other side of the door?” she told Dean. “I got something that could help your friend, and it's more comfortable back there.”
“You have stuff to heal up an angel?” asked Dean, who thought back to his own joke about angel paramedics.
“Oh, hell yeah. Medicine was my schtick. One of them. Back in the day.”
“This treatment...” said Castiel, who remained seated as Dean and Minnie rose.
“Yeah?” asked Minnie.
Castiel was silent for a moment. He finally looked up at Minnie, pleading in his eyes. “I have experienced some … painful procedures lately.”
“Awww,” said Minnie. “I'm sorry, doll.”
“I can bear pain,” said Castiel quickly. “I do not want to risk … crying out again. Involuntarily. As that could alert Raguel to my present location.”
Minnie was on the other side of her desk, leaning over the angel. “Awww, look at those puppy dog eyes,” she soothed.
“Uh, what?” said Dean, a mortified look on his face.
“No, you'll be fine, sweetie,” said Minnie, taking Cas' face in her hand. “Why don't I get you boys something to eat? That will make you feel all better.”
“Do you have a hamburger?” asked Cas, who was actually batting his eyes at her.
“Or a nice souvlaki? Come on, you look starved,” she said, grabbing Cas by the arm and half dragging him into the next room. Oh, boy, is he ever milking this, Dean thought irritably. On the other hand, it might mean lunch. He shrugged and followed along.
That’s what was needed, Gabriel thought. An appropriate soundtrack.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t risk it. Rag-balls was dumb, but not that dumb.
And something, Gabriel noted, was making him even stupider. Stupid even for a Seraph. They weren’t as dumb as the Cherubim, but Seraphim weren’t noted for their brilliance.
Since he’d left his little brother and the Winchester kid, Gabe had had an amusing ride. His first move of course had been to send out clones of himself. OIdest trick in the book, though it seemed to take old Rag-butt a long time to realize. And lo, there were many funny comedy chases, which begat many jolly pratfalls. And it was good.
And now here he was atop the battlements of an old, abandoned castle. Somewhere in France or Spain or something, he had never actually memorized all the current borders for stuff. Boring! He was crouched next to a particularly ugly gargoyle, watching Raguel run himself ragged smiting a couple of Gabriel twins he’d conjured. Damn, this guy was smite crazy.
Gabe was pretty sure by this time Castiel and Dean Winchester were far from danger, but now his curiosity had gotten the better of him. He hadn’t seen his big brother Raguel in a while. Maybe the dude was just a few fries short of a Happy Meal these days? Their Father’s little stunt of running out for a pack of Heavenly cigarettes a few decades back and just never returning had made everyone in the family a little punchy.
Gabriel was pulled from his thoughts by a familiar whiff of sulfur. And … something else, some other smell. He looked down. There were two figures down there now, Raguel and…. HELLOOOOOOO, NURSE! Gabriel imagined himself suddenly morphed into a cartoon wolf, his eyes bulging out, his tongue trailing down to the floor. It was one of the sexiest broads Gabe had ever seen, and he had seen a lot of cute chicks. But what the hell was this babe doing around crusty old Raggy?
Gabriel crouched and strained his angelic ears. He wanted to go to his true form, but didn’t want to attract attention. Raguel, dumb and batshit as he was, still packed a punch. He’d seen what Raguel had done to Cas, and he knew is little brother was one tough little bastard.
There was some conversation, something about a supply of grace. And did they mention … Crowley?
And then they both popped out of the picture.
Wait, Raguel had given up on chasing Gabriel? Well, that sucked. BORING!
Gabriel sat for a moment. Getting involved wasn’t his style, that was for sure. On the other hand, maybe Cas could use the information that Raggy was working with a cute chick. And, you know, Cas tended to hang out with those hunky Winchester boys these days. Maybe Sam was in the shower right now, and, you know, needed someone to soap his back! Hey, it was possible….
Minnie’s apartment seemed somehow larger on this inside than was possible given what Dean had seen of the exterior of the building. And it was utterly crammed full of odds and ends and knick knacks and tchotchkes. After ventures down a number of hallways, they ended up in the kitchen, which was just as cluttered as the office, and Minnie soon had a number of ingredients steaming and frying and boiling on just about every pot and pan in the place. Dean had lost track of what was supposedly the remedy for Cas and what was lunch, but had to admit it all smelled pretty damned good. Over in the corner, there was what he had at first taken as a stuffed owl resting on a perch, but some time through the conversation, it apparently woke up, and stared over at them, its eyes amber and intelligent.
Minnie had given Dean the assignment of removing Cas' jacket and shirts, as evidently she now believed the angel was too hapless to achieve such a thing for himself. Dean made himself a mental note to remember the “puppy dog eyes” ploy. Where the hell had Cas learned such a thing? Sam? Yeah, maybe Sammy was to blame. A bad influence. But then Dean’s thoughts turned to worry about Sam, and he made himself shut off that line of thought.
Minnie had just wrapped up some sort of mystery poultice in a hot towel, and ordered Cas, who was seated at the table, to lean forward. It had a very familiar odor to it, like candy. “Now,” she told Dean, “you hold it right here,” she said, pushing the towel more or less in the center of Cas' back. She took Dean's hand and carefully placed it where hers had been. “There you go,” she said, as Dean felt Castiel's muscles quite suddenly start to relax. Cas propped his elbows on the kitchen table and glanced up at Dean: it was a weird, dopey, mildly drunken expression Dean didn't even think he'd seen on the angel's face before.
“He's gonna be a little goofy for a while,” Minnie whispered to Dean. “You know, the aniseed oil.”
“The what?” asked Dean.
“The anise,” said Minnie. “Wait, you have an angel boyfriend, and you don't know about anise? I swear,” she said, returning to the stove, where she gave one of the frying pans a jiggle. “I should write a book.”
“He's not my...” started Dean, who stopped when Minnie shot a glance at him. “OK, OK.” Dean watched Cas sprawled contentedly over the kitchen table, purring like a contented cat. He decided to try a different tack. “So, I don't wanna be rude, but you're a goddess? Like a real goddess?”
“Yeah,” said Minnie. “That was my gig. Goddess of wisdom! But, who needs a wisdom god any more, am I right? You kids these days know it all.”
“Oh! So you're-”
“They called me Minerva, among other names. I got a lot of names. But that was back in the day.” She dipped a large wooden spoon into a bowl and tasted. “Mmm! I make my own tzatziki. Wanna try?”
Dean leaned over and took a taste from the same spoon. It was awesome. He wondered if there was room on the table for him to collapse like Cas, as he had started to get the impression they weren't going to leave this place without bellies full of Greek food. Delicious fucking Greek food. He wished Sammy were here, and then regretted once again thinking of his brother.
“So you wanted to know about Crowley and Jahi, right?” asked Minnie, grabbing a crystal decanter and putting it in the center of the table along with a few mismatched glasses.
“Yeah,” said Dean, who, one handed, poured himself a glass of what turned out to be a sweet wine. Honey, maybe? He cast a glance at Cas, who was still pretty blissed out.
“I worked for both of 'em,” said Minnie. “I don't like to play favorites, and I'm pretty much the go to person now for demon divorces.”
“You get a lot of demon divorces?” asked Dean, sipping his wine and checking to make sure the towel on Cas’ back was still positioned right.
“Yeah, like you'd expect. Maybe not as many as you humans. But those guys inevitably have a ton of crap to divide up.”
“Really?” asked Dean, eyeing the clutter in the kitchen.
“OK, yeah, I should talk. Anyway, Crowley's a bastard. I mean, am I right?”
“He's an asshole, but he plays fair. I mean, at least he's got rules. But it's pretty clear Jahi is fucking around, playing games. Concealing assets, basically. So some time back I tell her, go fuck yourself, bitch, we're done. Well, that doesn't sit well with Little Miss Cursed Tits. She's a demon of lasciviousness, by the way. Those bitches always expect to get their way. I'm like, yeah yeah, take that shit to Pan, I'm the wisdom god, lady. So now I'm working only for Crowley, she starts sending her minions – her minions! - after me, like that's gonna intimidate me.”
“I take it that didn’t intimidate you,” said Dean.
“You take it right. Anyway, what I think set her off was the alimony demand.”
“Alimony?” asked Dean. “Crowley was supposed to pay her?”
Minnie barked out a laugh. “Ha! He didn’t tell you. Typical man. Naw, Crowley asked her for alimony.”
“No shit. I mean, crossroads, that’s a good gig mind you, but sex sells, and like I said, she’s a sex demon. And word is Crowley took a bath when he was trying to run hell. Oh, look, the lamb's nearly done. You can take off the towel.”
Dean removed the towel from Cas’s back. The angel immediate straightened up and blinked.
“How does that feel, baby?” asked Minnie, who was now placing platters on the table.
“I feel … much improved. I thank you!” said Castiel, who, Dean had to admit, looked a lot less like he was going to barf.
“Aw, that’s good sweetie,” said Minnie, who leaned over and patted Cas’ cheek, to the angel’s apparent approval.
“Uh, Minnie, you know, this guy is a million years old?” said Dean, who was getting a bit annoyed at the spectacle.
“Hundreds of millions, actually,” said Minnie, who pulled out a chair and sat down. “But those poor angels, growing up without a mother like that!”
“I grew up without a mother,” said Dean.
“Tsk, you poor dear!” tutted Minnie. “Here, have some of my gyros! I make my own tzatziki!” Dean grabbed an overstuffed pita bread. He noticed Cas, who could usually give food a pass, was already digging in.
“This is really very good,” said Cas through a mouthful of food.
“You need to taste the shawarma as well,” said Minnie, holding up another platter. Cas greedily grabbed it, even though he was only halfway through his first sandwich.
The owl, which Dean had almost forgotten about, had now fluttered over, and perched on the back of Minnie’s chair. She picked bits of meat from her sandwich and handed it up to him.
“You feeling OK, buddy?” Dean asked Cas as he watched his friend now attempt to eat two-handed.
“I don’t think I have felt so good in many eons,” munched Castiel.
“Well, you might feel a sting when the anise wears off,” said Minnie.
“I’m sorry?” asked Castiel, tilting his head.
“I put a little bit in the poultice, since you said you were having trouble with pain,” said Minnie, holding up the towel Dean had been pressing on Cas.
Castiel suddenly set down both of his sandwiches, all of his attention focused on the towel. He leaned over and, seeming careful not to actually touch the towel, took a whiff.
“Just a pinch,” said Minnie. “Didn’t want you to pass out.”
“That smell,” said Cas.
“Pure aniseed oil. I use only the best,” said Minnie, setting the towel aside.
“We are vulnerable to it,” said Cas.
“That’s one way of putting it, I suppose,” laughed Minnie.
“What’s up, Cas?” asked Dean. Castiel looked as if he were concentrating very hard.
“When I was with Raguel, his breath smelled of something I did not recognize at first, Dean. This smell,” he said, pointing to the towel.
“Wait, someone fed him so much you could smell it on his breath? And he was still walking around?” asked Minnie.
“You think someone … doped him up? Or something like that?” asked Dean.
“I fear that may be the case,” said Castiel, who picked up his shawarma again and started to chew thoughtfully.
“Could someone do that?” Dean asked Minnie.
“Well, I’m not sure. Usually you give them enough to affect them, they’re like your friend here,” said Minnie, “on the floor. But I’m not so familiar with archangels. Tend to give the bastards a wide berth. Don’t get me started on that Lucifer person. Bad news.”
“So, we have a crazy bitch demon, and a doped up psycho archangel. Great,” said Dean.
“It actually seems a typical venture for us,” said Castiel through a mouthful of grilled lamb.
“Can I ask what you boys do?” asked Minnie, giving Dean a critical eye.
“Honestly? My brother and I, we’re hunters. You know, demons, restless spirits, that kinda thing.” He didn't volunteer that they had hunted down goddesses before.
“Oh!” said Minnie, who, to Dean's surprise, smiled happily. “Some of Artie’s boys! Very good.”
“Artie?” asked Dean.
“The very first hunter. Old buddy of mine. I’ll introduce you some time.”
“Wow,” said Dean, who was picturing in his head something like a Greek Chuck Norris. Only maybe even more awesome. He leaned back and slung an arm around the chair next to him, where he had draped the jean jacket he had loaned Cas, as the angel had lost his overcoat to Raguel. “Minnie,” Dean said, suddenly digging into the pocket, “you appraise magical stuff?” He grabbed something and tossed it over to her.
Minnie looked at the motel key. “Glasses, Hegel?” she said. The owl flapped off, and returned with a pair of reading glasses in its beak. She donned the glasses and turned the object over.
“What do you think of that?” asked Dean, who noticed Cas had stopped eating again.
“You angels kill me,” said Minnie. “Did you do this, hon?” she asked Castiel.
“I am … Castiel,” said Cas.
“Castiel,” she said, considering the name. “You put away some of your grace in this, didn’t you, Castiel?”
“I did?” asked Cas.
“Did he?” asked Dean.
Minnie tossed the key to Castiel, who grabbed it and looked with astonishment. “Oh,” he said. “That is why Raguel could not remove my grace.”
“So, it’s magic?” asked Dean.
“Yeah. It’s magic,” said Minnie.
“Look, Minnie…” started Dean. He glanced over to Cas, who nodded at him. “Something I didn’t tell you. Raguel…. He’s got Crowley now. And … my brother.”
Minnie removed her eyeglasses and stared at Dean.
“We thought they weren’t in a lot of danger. He wants angel grace. But if someone’s got him doped up, like you said…” He looked at Castiel again. The sense of worry he had been tamping down for the past days had suddenly bubbled up.
Minnie nodded. “I have a lot of contacts in the demon world. I’ll see if I can figure out what the fuck Jahi’s been up to. I sense her claws all over this.”
Crowley heard the distinctive sound of her footsteps even before he smelled her this time.
“Where ees eet?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said the demon, pushing himself painfully up to a sitting position.
“You know fuckeeng well what I am talkeeng about.”
“Had I ever told you, my dearest: some women, as you know, can get terribly attractive when they are angry? This has never been the case for you.”
Jahi glowered. She stood glaring over Crowley. “I weell burn everyzhing of yours. Everyzhing!”
“You won’t even be able to find it, sweetheart.”
Jahi turned to where Sam was stirring in the cell nearby. “I weell cut hees heart out.”
“I would actually encourage you to do that,” chuckled Crowley as Sam blinked.
“You are bluffeeng!”
Crowley laughed, and then gripped his side and moaned. “If you touch one luxuriant hair on the lovely moose’s skull, you will only incur the wrath of his elder brother. Which will be most amusing to watch.”
Jahi fumed, and then disappeared.
“Uh, Crowley,” asked Sam.
“Uh, who was that?”
“Oh. No one of consequence,” said Crowley, waving a hand dismissively.
“Uhhhhhh. She just kind of threatened to cut out my beating heart?” croaked Sam.
“Oh, foof. A bluff.”
“I’m kind of attached to my heart Crowley.” Something occurred to him as Sam stared through the bars. “Holy fuck, is that the ex?”
“Hardly holy, but yes, that is the ex,” acknowledged Crowley.
“She’s um, attractive?”
“Oh, she is ever so much more when she smiles,” Crowley noted. “Women do tend to forget a pleasant expression is their biggest asset! As well as a sense of humor. And really big tits.”
Jahi had appeared again. She was not wearing a very pleasant expression.
She held in her long-nailed hands the damaged lab coat.
“No,” whispered Crowley.
Jahi snapped her fingers, and a flame appeared at her fingertips.
Crowley had used the cell bars to struggle to his feet. “Now, my dear. Think about this. This is not about you and me! This coat is a part of the cultural heritage.”
“Where. Zhe fuck. Ees eet?” hissed Jahi.
“I don’t know!” pleaded Crowley. “I really, honestly do not know!”
And then the edge of the coat erupted in flames.
“NOOOO!” screamed Crowley.
Jahi paused for effect, and then tossed the coat to the floor, stamping out the flames with her high heeled shoe.
“Remember!” she spat.
And then she was gone, the crumpled, burnt coat lying before the cell.
“Noooo!” wailed Crowley. “Don’t leave the coat on the floor like that! It will get dirty!”
The drive back to Bobby’s, like the drive out, was conducted mostly in silence. Dean glanced over at Cas, who was looking especially disheveled. He had shrugged back into his clothes, but hadn’t bothered to button the flannel shirt Dean had bought him, and it just hung down, looking rumpled, as all of Cas' clothing had a tendency to do. He held the motel room key in his hand, and had been turning it over and over, as if thinking something over.
Dean turned down the car stereo. “Puppy dog eyes, huh?” he asked, more to break the silence than anything else. “You got a way with women, I guess. Or maybe with goddesses.”
Cas looked up sharply at Dean. “Are you experiencing feelings of jealousy, Dean?”
“What? No! I mean, maybe. I mean…. Look, Cas! You’re a million years old! It’s not like you’re an innocent little kid and I’m the bad guy!”
Cas tilted his head. “I never claimed innocence, Dean. I have, on the contrary, done a great number of terrible things during my existence. I have always admitted this.”
It was Dean’s turn to frown. He glared and thrummed his fingers on the steering wheel. “That’s not what I meant,” he muttered.
“Are you possibly concerned regarding your brother, Dean?” Cas asked, more softly this time.
“He’ll be OK,” said Dean. “He’s OK. He’s been in worse scrapes than this.”
Castiel was silent for a moment. He pocketed the key. “I have decided what I must do,” he said at last.
“Wait. What do you mean?” asked Dean.
“I know now Raguel cannot kill me. You realize this as well, correct?”
“Cas,” said Dean. “What are you doing?”
“What I must,” said Castiel.
Dean heard the wingbeats, and the car veered over to the shoulder, screeching to a halt. Dean looked to the passenger seat, but of course, there was no one.
“Cas? God damn it,” muttered Dean, pounding a fist to the steering wheel. “Did you zap out again? You could have zapped me with you!” he yelled.
Chapter 6: Here My Dear
Crowley is annoyed by casual footwear; the gang reunites for a big, big boom.
Title: Here My Dear (Blood on the Tracks, Chapter 6 of 7)
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Cas; Sam, Crowley, Bobby, Gabriel
Warnings: Cursing, some violence, Dean being dickish, appetizing descriptions of Greek food.
Word Count: 40,000, more or less
Summary: Crowley is annoyed by casual footwear; the gang reunites for a big, big boom.
Notes: This started out in a brave attempt to stick to post Season 7 canon, but utterly failed. Sorry, I just love some of these characters too damn much. This timeline skips around a bit, as I was trying to be clever, or maybe The End!Cas slipped me something, I don’t know. Anyway, lots of exposition in this one. Also, there’s a coda after Chapter 7, so those of you who are religious about waiting for stories to be finished might wanna wait. It didn’t feel big enough to warrant its own chapter, but there was still a bit of story left knocking on my window.
Weeks, months, years, and maybe even decades ago….
Auctions, thought Crowley, were almost never as dramatic as the ones you saw in the movies. For one thing, nobody got dressed to the nines for these things, especially in Los Angeles. Here it was strictly T shirts and flip flops, and you probably ought be grateful they just didn’t all show up clad in their footie pyjamas.
Not that Crowley would get caught dead wearing flip flops, mind you. He had opted for his customary black suit, but had made the concession to go tieless. Didn’t want to look like a prat. He sat somewhat uncomfortably in his folding chair – the event wasn’t even being held in a real auditorium, just a hotel ballroom that had been outfitted for the occasion – and pretended to browse through the glossy printed catalog while he eyed other bidders entering the arena. His biggest competition, he knew, wasn’t going to come from the floor, but from the phone bidders. He looked over at the row of card tables with phones strung out on them. He shook his head. Priceless pieces up today, many of them going for more money than a typical human would see in a lifetime, yet it was folding chairs and Styrofoam coffee cups and those cursed flip flops.
“Quite a crowd today, huh?” Crowley looked to his right side, and crushed a deep sigh. A flip flop-clad LA beastie was sitting two chairs down from him. The simpleton stuck his pricey sunglasses up on top of his head and crossed his legs in a manner that said, “I’ve got a red Ferrari parked in my garage that I never actually drive as I never learned manual shifting.”
“Yes, it is, indeed, a crowd,” agreed Crowley, viewing the patches of empty seats and wondering how his new companion would look with his flip flops set afire.
Crowley’s glanced to his left, hoping for a distraction.
He found one.
Those were not flip flops. Rather, they were shoes crafted by some pricey designer, whose name was on the tip of Crowley’s tongue. But what mattered was not the idiot cobbler, but rather the feet within the shoes, as they were attached to a pair of legs that went up and up and up to a body that could only have been crafted by God Himself, and maybe after a few shots of a fine whiskey has loosened up the fusty old bastard.
Goddess. Or demon.
Who was she? What was she?
Crowley didn’t give a shit. From this day on, and forevermore, she was his.
“Ooo, I’d tap that,” mused Flip Flop. Crowley quietly snapped his fingers, and the man let out a gurgle. He was, sadly, swallowing his own tongue.
Crowley turned his attention back to the woman of his dreams as Flip Flop stumbled off to the the bathroom, or wherever the fuck he was going off to collapse. She was surrounded by an entourage of some kind, but who cared, really. They were a bit better dressed than the rest of the tatty LA crowd. A woman with standards! Crowley approved.
She pointed a well-manicured hand down a nearly empty row just two ahead of where Crowley was sitting. Good. He would be able to make some observations of her behavior now whilst he planned their life together. She settled her utterly perfect ass into a folding chair and gave a flick of her lustrous coppery brown hair. She was one of those women, Crowley noted, who always seemed to have a wind machine trailing around just in back of them. He imagined the look of her, on his arm. Mmmm, yes.
Crowley had just gotten around to arranging appropriate schooling for their future grandchildren (their children, of course, having been paired off in arranged marriages) when the auctioneer finally stepped up and called them to attention. Said auctioneer was, sadly, another disappointment, as he spoke clearly and not really terribly rapidly at all. He had, in fact, a slight American Southern accent. A drawling auctioneer! Well, it stood to reason.
The first few lots were crap, of course, as they always were: bits from somebody’s attic. There was sheet music for a composer’s minor film, a mask from a horror movie few had seen, autographed posters of somewhat dubious provenance.
And then it was time. Lot 240c. Screen used laboratory coat as worn by Bernhardt Culpeper in the 1938 film classic, “Bride of the Demon.” There were three known versions of this coat, two of which were ensconced safely in the Mallet Films archive. This was the third, which had been gifted to a drinking buddy of Culpeper’s (actually, one of his many male lovers, but Crowley wasn’t one to parse) who left it in his attic, where, following his death, it was discovered quite by chance by the new owners of his house.
Crowley had super slow-motioned through his Blu Ray copy of Bride of the Demon now many dozens of times, and had concluded with a great deal of certainty that this was the coat – missing for many years – which Culpeper had worn when bringing his monster woman – now Dame Dorothy Weathermere, in a very early role – to life.
There was an early flurry of bidding, but when too many zeroes became stuck to the high bid, the pace slackened.
Crowley pounced. He raised up the flimsy circle of cardboard containing his bidder number so the auctioneer could see it.
He waited. Slience. Could it be this easy?
No, a phone bid. Damn you, Peter Fucking Jackson, thought Crowley.
With nary a second to consider, he raised his number once again to counter-bid.
He lowered his number. He was being watched. He saw only a profile, but what a lovely profile it was, one dark eye glancing coolly at him.
Crowley’s heart threatened to leap out of his chest, but he mastered himself.
Another phone bid. Crowley’s paper number shot up. Not going to be outbid by a fucking New Zealander. Uppity colonials!
Crowley let himself glance ahead again. She had now shifted in her seat, so she could watch him. He saw the rise and fall of her perfect chest. She had two fingers resting on her heart.
The phone bidder upped the price. Damn! This was higher than Crowley had expected to go.
He steeled himself. He glanced up again. She was watching. This time, he did not drop his eyes, but looking straight at her, he raised his paper number. She appeared to sigh, and he was certain she was now smiling, ever so slightly.
Phone bidder again. Fucking Peter Jackson and his fucking Hobbits, fucking everything up!
She had turned some more, draped a perfect, silky skinned arm over the back of her chair, playfully twirling the slightest bit of copper hair.
Crowley glared straight at the bitch and raised his number.
The audience was now openly gasping and chattering.
A longer pause. The audience craned their necks at the bank of telephones.
Crowley locked eyes with the woman, glaring as if she were the one outbidding him. Her smile had turned to a smirk. He noticed she wore heavy mascara, making her look ever so slightly cross-eyed. This, of course, only added to the mystique.
One more phone bid.
Crowley’s paper sign shot up.
She licked her lips, tilting her head back slightly.
The room waited in silent anticipation.
Another phone bid. The number was outrageous. No sane man would pay that much for a fucking laboratory coat.
Crowley’s paper number was already raised. Both of her hands were on the back of the chair now, gripping it tightly.
The audience – the jaded LA audience – actually leapt to their feet in applause as the gavel came down.
Crowley remained seated, as did his new companion. His hand reached to his throat, grasping to loosen the tie that wasn’t there. And then he was politely tapped on the shoulder, and he was getting up, being urged to come somewhere, sign some papers.
How the fuck was he going to afford this shit, anyway? Crowley scratched the back of his neck. He looked around, one more glance back.
A pair of mocking eyes were following him out of the room.
The present day....
Sam was pretty certain his eyes were playing tricks on him. He had thought at first it was Dean coming into the dungeon: some guy in jeans and flannel coming striding up. But the figure seemed to have … he had a strange light around him.
Sam could see Crowley had wrested himself up to a sitting position.
“Hello, Sam. Hello, Crowley. We are going. Now.”
Castiel took out a funny looking key: it resembled one you’d get at a service station to unlock the Men’s room. It had a funny, kind of klunky key ring. And it didn’t match the keyhole on Sam’s cell, but oddly, Cas inserted it and unlocked it.
Sam was out almost before the door opened. He was not inclined to question angel magic. Cas similarly unlocked Crowley’s cell.
“I apologize, but I fear I am not at present ambulatory,” said Crowley. Cas was there in a flash, with Crowley in his arms. “Well, this will work,” said Crowley. “Going to carry me over the threshold now, love?”
“What do you think you are doing, you foul sinner!” intoned Raguel, who was now suddenly down in the dungeon as well, wearing the lab coat, which was looking much the worse for wear.
“Oh, you’re getting it sweaty,” grumbled Crowley.
“Fuck you sideways, brother,” said Castiel mildly. And then he touched a finger to Sam’s forehead, and he, Sam and Crowley were gone.
Dean, who had been sitting in his car by the side of the road for a few tense minutes, looked up now to the familiar rustle of wings see Castiel appear beside him.
“Cas, where the fuck did you just go? I was-“
Cas hooked a thumb towards the back seat.
“Sam! Oh, and Crowley,” said Dean.
“Dean!” yelled Sam.
“Well, this back seat is rather capacious, isn't it?” grunted Crowley.
“I did not want to risk transporting us directly back to Bobby’s, in case we were being followed,” Cas explained. “I do not think Raguel was able to trace me, as I did not use angel voices to navigate. However, I suggest you convey us out of here, post haste, Dean.”
“I’m on it,” said Dean, revving the car and peeling out as if the devil himself were after them. It was actually an archangel, but still….
“Gabriel, will you please put everything the fuck back where it belongs!”
“But the cars look better sorted by color combination!” said Gabriel.
Bobby gazed in horror at his now rainbow-hued wrecking yard. “Nobody sane is gonna get within a mile of this place. Gabe, this is a salvage yard, not a damn angel playground!”
“I’m bored! When is Sam coming back?” whined Gabriel.
“Gabe, put everything the fuck back before I get out the deep fryer and the holy oil!”
“Hey, look!” said Gabriel as a very familiar Impala rumbled up.
Bobby sighed and approached the car. “Well, look at this! At least I didn’t lose anybody this time,” said the old hunter as a number of beings struggled out of the car, Castiel stepping back to give Crowley support. “And I got some extras! Good, I think we’re done now. And I’d be especially grateful if someone could divest me of….” Gabriel suddenly gleefully bounded into a very surprised Sam’s arms. Bobby sighed. “I got one angel too many round these parts.”
“Were you followed, Gabriel?” asked Castiel, as an annoyed-looking Sam let the archangel drop to the ground.
“You’re welcome, little brother,” sniffed Gabriel.
“We are grateful for your timely intervention,” Castiel told him.
“Timely intervention! I saved your worthless, bony, malakh ass!” raved Gabriel. “And why the hell are you palling around with a demon?” he added, eyeing Crowley. “Ewwwww!”
“The Trickster,” said Crowley. “How terribly charming. I had heard your elder brother turned you into a Seraphic blob of goo.”
“I’m not a Seraph!” protested Gabriel.
“Will the supernatural beings, feathered or horned, kindly QUIT YOUR BELLYACHING!” bellowed Bobby. “We got a sitchiation here!”
“I’m sorry. Am I interrupting?” The group of male beings turned immediately to the sound of a female voice.
“Minnie!” said Dean to the curly-haired female figure holding a long staff.
“Well, hello, pretty lady,” said Bobby, striding forward and doffing his cap. “Welcome to Singer Salvage.”
“Oh, are you Mr. Singer! Charmed,” said Minnie, smiling and repositioning her staff so she could shake his hand.
“Bobby,” said Bobby.
“He takes his cap off?” Dean whispered to Sam.
“Yeah,” said Sam, looking puzzled.
“Minerva! May I ask, what the fuck!” said Crowley.
“Crowley?” said Minnie. “Oh, so you got rescued? What happened to your crazy archangel. Wait!” she asked rounding on Gabriel, who had just appeared in back of her. “Are you him?”
“That is not Raguel, but rather my brother, Gabriel,” Castiel reassured her.
“The archangel, Gabriel,” said Gabriel, flexing his biceps.
“Huh. You’re shorter than I expected,” said Minnie, to Gabriel’s obvious dismay, and Castiel’s obvious amusement.
“We were just gonna tell Bobby what you told us,” Dean told her.
“You got blood on your caduceus, dear,” said Bobby, squinting at the end of Minnie’s staff.
“You got a lot of nerve, talking about a lady’s caduceus,” laughed Gabriel, although no one laughed with him.
“Well, I got more, uh, information, I guess. But I parked him a short distance off,” she said, pointing with her staff. “I don’t think he’s, uh, safe?”
“Is he not wearing a condom?” asked Gabriel.
Minnie frowned at the trickster, and then gestured for everyone follow her. There was a body lying in the middle of the salvage yard. “OK, maybe everybody stay back here for a minute? But the angel guys follow me?” Castiel and Gabriel exchanged a puzzled glance. Cas handed Crowley off to lean on Sam for support, and then he and his brother followed the goddess closer to the body.
Castiel said, “Oh!” and immediately squatted down nearby, placing a hand on the figure’s forehead.
“Jahi’s been sending demons after me,” Minnie explained. “But this guy … something seemed off about him. Luckily I saw him before he saw me. Get a load of that aura! He’s radiating power.”
“What’s up with him, Cas?” asked Dean.
“This dude’s hopped up on angel steroids!” shouted Gabriel.
“He is demon possessed,” said Castiel. “But also appears to have ingested someone’s angelic grace.”
“I thought you guys had to be real careful picking a vessel? How is he still even … in one piece?” asked Sam.
“That’s one good fucking question!” said Gabriel.
“I got the fixings to get the demon out,” suggested Bobby. “If we need a quick exorcism.”
“I think the demon is the only thing holding him together right now!” said Gabriel.
“I believe Gabriel is right!” said Castiel. “If you attempt to exorcise him….”
“Blooey!” said Gabriel.
“Great. Dude turns to holy Jiffy Pop,” muttered Dean.
“Shit, what do we do?” asked Bobby.
“You don’t have anything to get grace out of a person?” Sam asked Bobby.
“I ain’t never had this problem before,” said Bobby.
“Whoa!” said Gabriel, as suddenly he, Cas and Minnie all took a big step back from the demon.
“Bobby,” said Castiel, who was abruptly in front of the hunter, most definitely invading his personal space, gripping his shoulders. “Is there … an old mine, a deep lake…. Something like that nearby?”
The unconscious figure had started to glow, a weird purplish color.
“I gotcha,” said Bobby, who closed his eyes a moment. “Old copper mine. Two miles. Due north,” he pointed.
“Gabriel!” shouted Cas.
There was the sound of wings, and Gabriel and the unconscious demon suddenly disappeared. Everyone watched the sky nervously for a moment.
A full minute ticked by. Maybe two. And then the ground shook, knocking Crowley and all the humans from their feet. There was a muffled boom.
Castiel pointed to the north, where there was a strange, purple-colored glow above the horizon. “Gabriel?” he whispered.
“Dang, I cut that close!” yelled Gabriel from atop the Impala.
“Gabriel, get the fuck down, you’ll get footprints,” warned Dean.
“Yeah, you’re fucking welcome. Again!” said Gabriel, whose hair was still smoking.
“Come on, everybody, inside!” said Bobby as Minnie helped him up to his feet. “I gotta show you something. I think it’s pretty damned important.”
“Can I just stay out here in the fields?” asked Crowley, who was still lying on his back.
“Absolutely not!” said Bobby. “I need you front and center, demon!”
“But I re-injured whatever I broke before,” sighed Crowley, rubbing his painful ribs.
“You want me to get the salt gun?” barked Bobby.
“Bobby’s in a bad mood. He threatened me with holy oil,” said Gabriel, helping Crowley to his feet.
“You fucked up my damned wrecking yard, you nut ball!” growled Bobby.
“Hey, it is looking kind of rainbow bright around here,” grinned Dean.
“Get the fuck inside before I start knocking heads!” said Bobby. He turned and then courteously offered an elbow to Minnie, who grinned and took it, causing Sam and Dean to exchange another glance.
“Bobby needs to watch his blood pressure,” said Crowley.
“I tell ya,” agreed Gabriel.
They assembled in Bobby’s main downstairs room: three humans, two angels, a demon and a goddess.
“While you boys were away, I started looking into this,” said Bobby, pulling out a laptop computer. There appeared the talking head of a news reporter, discussing a nuclear plant meltdown in remote Russia.
“Bilibinskaya,” nodded Sam. “Chernobyl-nick they're calling it.”
“Biblio-what? What does this have to do with a fritzy nuke?” asked Dean. “Don't the Russians just generally suck at building power plants?”
“The town – the say the whole village is uninhabitable, Dean” said Sam.
“Probably the entire district,” said Crowley. “Not that anyone ever gave a shit about Chukotka.”
“How do you know the area?” asked Bobby, who turned towards Crowley.
“I had my damned tungsten mine there,” groused the demon, who was sitting on the couch, holding his side.
“Who the hell has a tungsten mine?” asked Dean.
“I do! Or, I did. Until the meltdown,” grumbled Crowley.
“Ain't a meltdown, Crowley,” said Bobby. “Least I don't think so. Especially after seeing your ex's boy go kaboom out there.”
“Wait. It wasn’t a meltdown?” said Sam.
Bobby frowned. “I heard from some hunters in the area: the EMF readings were off the charts. And the other thing: witnesses in Alaska say it looked like Northern Lights, only it was purple. Now maybe it's just me, but the aurora is usually green.”
Crowley suddenly sat forward. “Jahi. She said she was going to burn each and every one of my possessions. She picked that city deliberately! To destroy my mine! The insufferable bitch!”
“Jahi is supplying the extracted grace to demon possessed humans?” said Castiel.
“Like a human letter bomb,” said Dean.
“Crude. But effective,” sighed Crowley, burying his face in his hands. “That's my girl.” He held his rib cage and moaned.
“You know, I got something for that!” said Minnie, sitting down beside him and poking at his ribs.
“So, Crowley,” said Sam, “what are you hiding from her?”
“What?” asked Crowley, who suddenly sat up and acted offended. “I have no idea what you're talking about.”
“When Jahi was talking to you,” said Sam. “Back when Raguel had us.”
“I would hardly term that screeching to be talking,” muttered Crowley, who was looking awfully nervous.
“Crowley! Are you holding something back from Jahi?” asked Minnie who sat back and crossed her arms.
“Of course not,” muttered Crowley.
“Jahi said you had something of hers!” insisted Sam. “I was listening pretty closely! She was gonna cut my heart out!”
“Repair your own fucking ribs. liar!' said Minnie, who stood up and glowered at Crowley.
“Jahi's a lying cunt! You know that!” Crowley told her.
“A box!” said Gabriel. “She had a box.”
Crowley turned around, and then grimaced and gripped his ribs. The archangel was suddenly sitting on the back of the couch, craning his neck at Crowley.
“Mind reading is … really rude, angel!” scolded the demon. “You know that.”
“That would typically be the case, Crowley. However, your thoughts of Jahi are not well concealed,” said Castiel, who had a far off look in his eyes.
“What's the matter, Cas?” asked Dean.
“I did not think that particular sexual position was anatomically possible,” marveled Cas.
“She is a demon of lasciviousness,” grinned Crowley.
“Wait,” Dean asked Gabriel, “when you said a box, you meant that kinda box?”
Gabriel laughed so hard he fell off the back of Bobby's couch.
“Will you idjit angels concentrate!” yelled Bobby. “We got the potential of angel nukes now. Cas! Gabriel!”
Crowley sighed. “All right. No need to pry at my subconscious. I don't know what it is. And I don't know where it is. Now, isn't that helpful?”
“You wanna clarify?” asked Bobby.
Crowley looked around a living room of scowling faces, plus Gabriel, who had just popped his head back over the couch back, who shrugged. “I've probably done worse, brother,” Gabriel told him.
“After this, we should have a drink,” Crowley told him. He drew breath. “Jahi had … a lockbox,” he told them, holding his hands to mime something that seemed about the size of a shoebox.
“Like the curse boxes I make?” asked Bobby.
“Something like a human curse box. Entry is … difficult. It's customarily a combination of clever spells. And they are often … larger on the inside than outside. So there is no telling what might be within.”
“You figure it's some kinda magical object?” asked Bobby.
“A weapon would be useful!” said Dean.
“I quite literally have no idea,” Crowley confessed. “But it was apparent that what lay inside was precious to her. Therefore, when the troubles began, and there were … disagreements regarding joint property matters, I took it and secreted it away for safekeeping.”
“You concealed assets! You lying motherfucker!” growled Minnie.
“I did not technically lie, Minerva,” said Crowley. “I had no idea it was assets! For all I know, it could be something else! Her grandmother's sampler, perhaps.”
“Yeah, I'm so sure a lust demon keeps a memory quilt in her fucking lockbox!” raved Minnie.
“Crowley, where did you put the damned thing?” sighed Bobby.
“Well, that at least will be easy. I used my magical compass to select a spot.”
“Wait. The one I used to find Cas and Raguel?” asked Dean.
“Yes, it is not only good for location, but also for concealment. I set it to a random location and sent the box there. And then loaned it to Fenriz as a supposed payment for a debt.” Crowley grinned at his own cleverness. “So, if you wish to retrieve it, we have only to use the compass....” Here he turned to Dean. Who was looking around in confusion.
“Yeah. Fenriz's compass whatchajiggie. About that....” said Dean.
“Dean?” asked Crowley, who began to rise off the couch, clutched his side, and collapsed back.
“I was saving Cas!” said Dean. “And we got angel-ed away! I dunno what the hell happened to it! I think it fell out of my pocket.”
“Oh, that's just perfect!” wailed Crowley. “So now as well as my ex-wife planning my downfall, Fenriz will definitely slay me.”
“Nothing you don't derserve, liar!” Minnie told him.
“Oh, spare me, Minerva! It's not as if you have never been ... misled before.”
“Crowley,” said Sam. “Here’s a big question. So, where all are your assets located? I mean, besides a remote Russian village?”
“Oh,” said Crowley. “Well. Uh. No place important. I mean, especially important.”
“Where?” asked Bobby, nodding at Sam. The others in the room began to catch on as well. “Crowley, are they all remote like that Russian town?”
“Er. You know,” said Crowley.
“Crowley, for fuck's sake....” said Dean.
“The outskirts of Paris. St. Petersburg. London. San Francisco....” said Crowley.
“Shit,” said Sam.
“And how many angels has Raguel ripped? How many vials of grace are we talking here?” asked Bobby.
Castiel and Gabriel looked at each other, and then both appeared to lose focus.
“At least twenty....” said Castiel.
“Almost thirty,” said Gabriel one second later.
“Between twenty and thirty, Bobby,” Castiel told him.
“I ain't gonna ask how you boys did that,” said Bobby, shaking his head at more angel weirdness. “So, we got two dozen demon letter bombs poised to go blooey at major cities where Crowley has his crap….”
“It is most assuredly not crap!” protested Crowley.
“And we got one lost curse box,” said Bobby. “We gotta locate that puppy, it’s our only bargaining chip.”
“And we need to figure out how to head off Raguel, before he kills more angels,” added Sam, to nods from Castiel and Gabriel.
“Look,” said Minnie. “I'm overdue talking to my friend, Artie. I really think she could help with the demon lockbox situation.”
“The original hunter you told us about?” asked Dean. And then, more eagerly, “She's a chick?”
“Yeah, idjit. You don't even know about Artemis?” asked Bobby.
Dean grinned. Instead of Chuck Norris, he was now picturing Angelina Jolie, only hotter.
“Yeah, she's been outta the business for a while,” Minnie told them, “but that bitch can hunt down anything.” She had out her cell phone and was madly texting.
“You've done this before, haven't you, Minerva?” asked Crowley.
“I handle a lot of divorces, kiddo,” she told him. “You have something of hers, by the way? Something personal? That might help.”
Crowley sighed and dug into a jacket pocket. He extracted a wallet, and pried into one of the folds. He extracted something, which he held carefully between two fingers. Minnie frowned and held out a hand. It was a lock of copper hair, held by a tiny ribbon.
“What?” asked Crowley.
Minnie shook her head and placed the hair in a pocket.
“I think I got an idea about our friend, Raggy,” said Gabriel. “That Fenriz dude you mentioned,” he asked Crowley, as he was now suddenly sitting on the crouch next to him. “That the bad boy with the strip club?”
“The same,” said Crowley.
“You know him, Gabriel?” asked Dean.
“He's known in the, er, adult film industry,” grinned the archangel. “His sex workers are sex slaves. Kind of a creep.”
“He is loathsome,” agreed Crowley.
“Your kinda guy,” sniffed Bobby.
“You still got that bottle of grace, Bobby boy?” asked Gabriel. Bobby nodded and went to somewhere in the clutter that was his house, and extracted a vial from the mess. He tossed it to Gabriel.
“Aw, shit,” said Gabriel, who shook his head and looked sad.
“What's the matter?” asked Dean.
“The brother from whom that was taken,” said Castiel. “He is no longer alive.”
“You fellows can tell?” asked Bobby.
“Angels are strange creatures,” Minnie whispered to Bobby.
“You got that right,” said Bobby.
“So, I don't feel a twinge doing what I plan to do,” said Gabriel. “But I'll need your help, sunshine,” he told Crowley. “Hey, whaddya say, we team up, angel and demon, just like a bad Dan Brown novel?”
“Isn't that redundant?” groused Crowley. “In addition, I have what I believe to be at least one broken rib.”
“Oh, yeah, forgot about that,” said Gabriel, who leapt to his feet. “Angel healing magic!” he shouted, putting a hand on Crowley's head. There was a slight glow about the demon, and then he stood up, gingerly feeling his sides.
“I could have done that,” said Castiel.
“But you didn't,” said Crowley.
“No. I didn't,” said Castiel, a slight smile tracing his features.
“So, what exactly are you planning on doing?” asked Bobby.
“I think I can get Raguel and Fenriz off our backs. All in one brilliant stroke. Because I am brilliant. SHAZAM!” he shouted, and disappeared.
There was a beat.
“Whoops!” Gabriel said, suddenly reappearing. He grabbed Crowley by the shoulder. “Shazam!” he shouted again, and this time, they both disappeared.
“Angels,” sighed Bobby. “No offense, kid,” he told Castiel, who was frowning after Gabriel.
“My brother has ever been a bit … eccentric,” said the angel.
“I'm going to see Artie,” said Minnie, pocketing her phone. “Any of you guys wanna come with?”
“Oh hell yeah!” said Dean, his head reeling with visions of Angelina Jolie, lips at full pout, cocking the giant salt ammo-loaded gun on her hip.
“Why don't you boys go along, I'll mind the fort,” Bobby proposed, nodding at Minnie.
“Be careful,” she warned Bobby, who smiled back.
“Hey. Why should he be careful! We're the ones going into the firing line!” Dean told Sam.
“We're going to Beverly Hills,” Minnie laughed, as Dean blushed slightly.
“I can convey us,” offered Castiel.
“Can you manage it with the angel voices still out, dude?” asked Dean.
Castiel removed something from the pocket of his slightly outsized jeans. “Yes, I believe I can,” he said, holding the key with the compass keychain.
And then Cas aimed what a very stunned Dean Winchester would believe for the rest of his life could not possibly be a wink right at Dean, and they all disappeared to the soft beating of angel wings.
Chapter 7: Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat
The final confrontation, featuring humans and demons and angels and goddesses, but it's probably not what you think. I know Dean is annoyed.
Title: Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat (Blood on the Tracks, Chapter 7 of 7)
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Cas; Sam, Crowley, Bobby, Gabriel
Warnings: Cursing, some violence, Dean being dickish, appetizing descriptions of Greek food.
Word Count: Around 40K total, give or take.
Summary: The final confrontation, featuring humans and demons and angels and goddesses, but it's probably not what you think. I know Dean is annoyed.
Notes: This started out as post-Season 7, but ended up more Classic Team Free Will, because that's how I roll. And just a reminder: this isn't quite complete, as there's also going to be a short coda where I tie up at least a few of the loose ends.
About a month ago....
The sound of lightsabers humming and clashing emitted from the television. A space battle, in a galaxy far, far away.
Sam nudged the pizza box that was sitting between them on the bed. “You want another slice?” he asked, politely holding up the lid.
Castiel nodded and leaned forward. “I.... I think I will,” he said. “A small one.” He took one of the smaller pieces, putting a careful hand underneath so it wouldn't whip around and stain the bedspread. Sam grabbed a bigger slice and closed the lid. Then he readjusted himself back against the headboard. The picture flipped from an epic space battle to a women nattering about controlling her genital herpes.
Sam cringed, and then glanced at Cas, who was nibbling at his slice. He knew the angel didn't technically need to eat, just as he hadn't really needed to slip off his coat and flop it over a chair. He seemed to want to be companionable tonight, and Sam didn't mind.
“A mistake?” asked Sam as at last he got to the cheese-stuffed crust. It wasn't the first time he'd asked this particular question. It was getting to be a bit of a refrain, a call and response.
“A mistake,” answered Cas.
Sam shook his head. He popped the rest of the crust in his mouth and sat forward, long legs twisted up like a lanky Buddha. “Look,” he said, brushing at a small grease spot on his jeans. “You didn't ask for advice, but I'm gonna give you some, anyway. I know you, and I think you think you're misunderstanding this because of the angel thing.”
Cas didn't reply, but cocked his head, as if listening with interest.
“But the truth is, with my brother, you just don't fucking know. You don't know how his mind works,” said Sam, tapping his own cranium. “You just … I dunno. Look. Where Dean is concerned, here's the rule. Pay attention to what he does. And not what comes out of his mouth. Because what he says sometimes....” Sam ended with a shrug.
“Oh,” said Castiel, who nevertheless looked perplexed. He blinked at Sam, staring into his eyes in that unnerving manner of his. “I had thought that your brother was being … a dick?”
“Oh, yeah! He's definitely being that!” laughed Sam, poking at the pizza box again.
“All right,” nodded Castiel, who sat back, the half-finished pizza slice still clutched primly in his hands. “I believe I like pizza, Sam. Although I do not think I like it as much as hamburgers.”
“That's OK,” said Sam, grabbing another slice.
“So,” mused Castiel. Sam watched, visibly puzzling out the wonders of human relations. Cas turned again to Sam. “The Force: do you think it is the equivalent to God?”
“Hey, that's a great question!” said Sam, who began to elaborate in great detail.
The present day....
Dean looked around.
This was not what he had pictured as the residence of the original hunter.
Although, thinking about it, he wasn't quite sure what he had in mind. Maybe Bobby's wrecking yard, only writ large? And with tires and barbed wire set out back and a bunch of black-clad guys all out there training in the mud while big guys barked at them? Maybe he was thinking of an army movie?
“Artie?” Minnie asked again, pushing at the intercom button on the vast front porch. Thanks to angelic mojo, they had all appeared here – Sam, Dean, Castiel and Minerva, erstwhile goddess of wisdom – else they also would have also needed to request passage through tjhe high, iron fence that surrounded the property.
Artemis was a Greek goddess too though, right? That would explain the big old white columns in front of her home. Though it still looked more like something out of “Gone with the Wind” than “Clash of the Titans.” Maybe there was football training here? No, that was “Remember the Titans.”
“Artemis? Are you around?” Minnie grumbled into the intercom.
“Mi-NER-va! Its been for-EV-er!”
The vision who appeared in the doorway, giving Minnie insincere air kisses, was nothing like what Dean had pictured in his head. She was tall. Taller even than Dean – she was nearly as tall as Sam, tottering in six inch heels – blonde as hair could possibly be bleached, eyes a perfect shade of contact lens blue.
“These are Sam and Dean. They're hunters,” said Minnie as they all filed into Artemis’ mansion.
“Oh you're my boys! How stunning!” gushed Artemis.
“And this is their friend, Castiel,” said Minnie as the group gawped at the high-ceilinged entryway.
“Oh, an angel?” asked Artemis. Her collagened lips pushed into a moue. “Sweetie, you KNOW about my allergy to down feathers?” she told Minnie.
“I am not winged in this form,” explained Castiel.
“And I am Artemis Huntsman-Oglethorpe,” fluttered Artemis. “Welcome to my stately home. Can we all take off shoes?” she asked, waving a long-finger-nailed hand at their feet. “I don't want stains on the carpet! Ooo, hello little sweetie!” she sang as a tiny white dog came yipping out. “Mommy will get you something,” she said, sweeping it up and giving it more air kisses and tottering out of the entryway.
Dean, who was sitting down on the carpet next to Minnie unlacing his boots, shot an annoyed glance at the goddess.
“I think some of the brains leeched out with that dye job,” whispered Minnie. “But don't worry, she's still got it.”
“Got what?” muttered Dean, rolling his eyes.
“Artemis … Huntsman-Oglethorpe?” asked Sam.
Minnie sighed. “More like Huntsman de Medici Rothschild Ali Khan Romanov Astor Vanderbilt Oglethorpe. But I lost count some time during the Renaissance. Her specialty is rich gentlemen. Elderly rich gentlemen.” Minnie added.
“Is this Mr. Oglethorpe?” asked Sam, indicating a large oil portrait in the entryway.
“The late Mr. Oglethorpe,” said Minnie. “Died in the saddle, if you know what I mean,” she told him, arching an eyebrow.
Dean chuckled, but Cas asked, “He was a horseman?”
“We’ll explain later, Cas,” grinned Sam.
“Artie,” called Minnie, who was on her feet and hurrying after her tall friend. “We got a job for you.”
“Now, Minnie, you know I don't do that sort of thing anymore,” Artie called.
Dean hurried after them as well. Artemis had tottered into her kitchen. Acres and acres of marble countertop. She was sitting on a stool, the tiny white dog up on the counter, eating something off a saucer. Dean squinted. She had an open tin on the counter that said pate de fois gras.
“I'm doing a divorce,” said Minnie.
“Awwwwww!” said Artemis, suddenly coming off the stool and catching Dean and Castiel each by a shoulder. “Are you two getting divorced? I'm sooo sorry!”
“What?” asked Dean. “We're not- We didn't-”
“Oh, that's good, it's nice to have your own angel. Look at those puppy dog eyes!” she cooed, patting a completely mystified Castiel on his cheek.
Dean sputtered but couldn't manage to produce any words.
“Artie!” said Minnie. “Listen! It's Crowley's divorce.”
“Ewwww!” said Artemis, plonking back on a stool and scooping the little dog back onto the floor. “Jahi is such a bitch! Isn't she?”
“Soooo,” said Artemis, leaning towards Minnie. “You and Crowley....”
“Artie! Crowley is a demon!”
“Awww! But he has such a sexy voice! I loooooove British accents. Don't you?” she asked Sam.
“Uhhhh,” said Sam.
“Artie. I am not gonna chase after Crowley. And you of all people should know damn well why,” said Minnie.
“'Cause you like Bobby?” grinned Dean before Artemis could offer another opinion.
“WHO'S BOBBY?” gushed Artemis.
“Nobody!” grumbled Minnie. “Stop trying to fix me up, Artie! Look, we need a location spell. Something airtight!”
“What's the object?” asked Artemis, who was suddenly directing all her attentions towards an emery board and a hangnail.
“Jahi has one of her possessions in a demon hex box of some kind,” Sam explained. “Crowley wasn't sure what was in it. But he hid it from her, so well now he can't find it.”
“I knew he was concealing something! Did I tell you?” Artemis asked Minnie. “Can't trust those guys with the sexy accents.”
“We gotta get the box, Artie,” said Minnie.
“Eh, why not leave it lost? Serve the bitch right!” said Artemis.
“It’s a long story,” sighed Minnie.
“Ooo, I love long stories!” said Artemis.
“OK, OK,” sighed Minnie. “Jahi is in league with some kind of batshit archangel named Raguel.”
“Ewwww!” said Artemis. “I avoid archangels. No offense!” she told Castiel.
“None taken,” he told her.
“We think she’s drugged him,” Dean supplied. “You guys have some kind of angel catnip?”
“Yeah, I think maybe Jahi ran off with a bottle of my pure aniseed oil,” admitted Minnie. “Anyway, she gave this Raguel fellow Crowley’s lab coat-“
“Not the 1938 ‘Bride of the Demon!’” fussed Artemis.
“That’s the one. And get this: he’s now kidnapping angels and carving out their grace. It almost happened to Castiel!” said Minnie, pointing to Cas.
“Oh, you poor, poor angel!” cooed Artemis, who seemed to have forgotten her allergy to down.
“But the point is,” said Sam, “she’s evidently feeding the grace to other demons. It makes them … unstable.”
“She sent one against me. Fucking blew up!” Minnie told Artemis, miming and explosion with her hands.
“We think one of Jahi's demons took out an entire city in Russia,” added Sam.
“Oooo, how thrilling!” said Artemis.
“We’re thinking she’s going to move against locations where Crowley’s stuck his assets,” said Sam.
“Which is…?” asked Artemis. “Oh, not here I hope?”
“Just about everywhere, sweetie,” said Minnie.
“Oh no!” said Artemis, clutching again at her little dog, who yipped in protest.
“So, that’s why we need to find Jahi’s box,” said Minnie. “We need to have a bargaining chip.”
“But wasn't it Crowley's location spell that put Raguel on our scent?” asked Dean, casting a nervous glance at Castiel.
“Oh, honey!” sighed Artemis. “Don’t worry your pretty little hunter head over that. That’s why you should never send a demon to do a goddess' work!” She rose to her full height. “All right, let's get to the armory, and get my stuff.” And with that, she tottered off down the hall, the tiny dog nipping at her heels. Although it seemed to Dean physically impossibly for someone to actually walk in those shoes, on those long legs she was terrifically fast, and he found himself part jogging, stocking-footed, after her. He noted with annoyance that his socks had holes in both the big toes.
“She's got an armory?” he whispered to Sam.
“Guess so,” said Sam, who was looking around with interest. Funny, Dean thought he'd seen this house before on TV. One of those shows they advertised during Dr. Sexy: Real Bitchy Chicks of Beverly Hills, or something like that.
“I notice she doesn't have to take her shoes off!” groused Dean.
“It's her house.”
They finally arrived at a most impressive library: two full stories of shelves bursting with books. At least, it was impressive until Dean glanced at the titles: lots of self-help and new age crap. He shook his head in disgust, imagining Bobby’s reaction to all the waste.
“Just a minute, just a minute,” said Artemis, who, as her annoying dog yipped, started to reposition what looked like a random assortment of books from a shelf underneath the staircase. She stepped back, there was a small creak, and then a hidden door popped out.
“Oh, cool!” said Dean. A secret door? Artemis and Minnie and Cas had already slipped inside, and Sam hastened to follow them. The doorway was low enough both Artemis and Sam had to duck their heads. “Is there room inside for all of us in there?” asked Dean.
Sam popped his head back out, huge grin on his face. “Uh. Yeah. I think so.”
Dean entered. It was like a crazy cross between a Costco warehouse and the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark. He frowned and peeked back out the door, and then looked inside again. Artemis' house was monstrous, but there was no way it was this monstrous.
“Ingredients ingredients ingredients,” trilled Artemis, as she strode over to a section that resembled nothing so much as the spice bins at Whole Foods. She was suddenly holding an ancient book in her hand – there was no way she had grabbed it outside from among those crappy self-help books – and began throwing odds and ends into a little plastic shopping bin. “Witch's tongue: oh ewwww! The house is gonna smell after this one. Oh, could you grab me the powdered unicorn horn from up there, sweets?” she asked Castiel. He pointed up to a shelf near the ceiling and in an instant had a vial in his hands. “Oh, it's so nice to have an angel around when you have high shelves!” said Artemis as she patted his cheek and plonked the vial in her basket.
“You know what might be good, Artie?” asked Minnie.
“Judging from the visitors she's been sending me, Jahi's got a pretty big posse of demons.”
“Oh, they always have minions,” sighed Artemis. “Minions minions minions.”
“Maybe the hunters could … borrow a few items while we're here?” asked Minnie, getting an enthusiastic nod from Dean.
“Oooo! That's a lovely idea!” said Artemis. “You know where it is. Take anything you like dears! You're my little hunters! I'll just keep my angel here, and we'll be done in a flash.”
Minnie inclined her head, and Sam and Dean followed her away.
“Her angel,” fumed Dean.
“Artie's a little … high strung,” said Minnie. “But she'll do a good job on the spell. And she's got a sweet little armory back here.”
But Minnie didn't have to elaborate. Dean turned a corner and thought he was going to have a weapons-gasm.
“Erk. Does your friend have a shopping cart?” asked Dean. “I'm gonna need one!”
“I can probably find a hand truck,” laughed Minnie. “Let me see.” She departed, and Dean occupied himself trying to find the perfect shotgun while Sam poked in the cold iron implements. For a while, the brothers lost themselves in the paraphernalia of demon battling 101.
“I think we're ready to go,” said Artie, who showed up a while later with Minnie and the handtruck. Castiel trailed in back of them, somewhere behind the pile of objects in the now incredibly heavy looking shopping basket, although he evinced no apparent strain at the weight.
“Can you give us another minute or two?” asked Dean, who was down on the floor half buried in firepower.
“Sure, love!” said Artemis. “I like this one myself, good stopping power,” she said, suddenly hefting a sawed off shotgun. “But my weapon's the bow, you know,” she sighed, placing it down on the floor again.
“Yeah, you should see this girl loose arrows!” said Minnie.
“Maybe later, I just had my nails done. We'll just go get started on the little spell.”
“We can make you some lunch, honey, you look starved!” Minnie told Castiel.
“As you probably know, angels do not require food,” came a voice from somewhere behind the pile of oddments in the shopping basket.
“No, sweetie, you're looking pale. And maybe we'll give you a little more treatment with the aniseed oil.”
“Oh, yes! That would be pleasant,” said Castiel, who suddenly turned and eagerly followed the goddesses out of the armory.
Dean shook his head. “That shit is like angel catnip,” he grumbled.
“Dean?” asked Sam, who had squatted down in order to be at eye level with his big brother.
“What!” snapped Dean. He then sighed, put down the rifle he had been cradling, and said more softly, “What, Sammy?”
“Look, Dean, don't take this the wrong way....”
“You're already making me take it the wrong way,” snapped Dean.
Sam ignored Dean and thumbed the edge of a cold iron knife. “So, the thing is, you know, nobody ever thought to send me my own angel from heaven.”
“I dunno. You might wanna consider being less of a dick,” said Sam.
“OK, you want him? Why don't you take him? You two can go … pal around all day watching movies.”
“He showed up, everything got … complicated!” said Dean, throwing up his hands in disgust.
“Everything was already complicated,” sighed Sam. “It's us, right?”
Dean shrugged and exhaled. Carefully laying out a selection of shotguns, and avoiding Sam's eyes, he said, “I'm gonna fuck it up, Sammy. Like I fuck up everything.”
“I doubt it.”
“Well, unless you're so afraid you're gonna fuck it up by accident that you fuck it up on purpose. Which you'd never do,” smirked Sam.
“OK, who's being a dick now?” asked Dean, regarding his grinning brother. “Let's get this haul out of here and see what the goddesses are doing with my fucking angel,” he urged.
Dean wheeled out the truck, feeling a little like he'd just visited Hunter Costco. As it turned out, once they exited the secret stash, the door automatically sealed itself up. They pushed on down the hallway of Artemis' elaborate mansion. Dean was unprepared for the sight they came upon in the kitchen.
Castiel, whose face was already flushed pink, turned a deeper shade of crimson when he saw Dean approach.
“They … uh … wanted to see.”
He had stripped to the waist, and somehow, once again extended the dark pair of wings he had grown after Crowley's enchantment.
“I thought you were allergic to down, Artie?” Minnie, who was over at the stove, baking and broiling and frying, demanded of her friend.
“Oh, but these are of such good quality,” said Artemis, who currently had her hands running through of some of Castiel's flight feathers. “They are so soft! You could not believe! Come here!” she urged, grabbing Sam's wrist and wrenching him over. “You will not believe.”
Sam put a hand down the wings, and suddenly his expression changed. “Wow! This is really soft!” Minnie wiped her hands on a dishtowel and, as Cas continued to look mortified, put a hand to the wings as well.
“Will you people please quit groping the angel!” said Dean.
“He said it would be OK,” protested Artemis, although Sam and Minnie, both looking a bit sheepish, took their hands off.
“I said I would take out the wings,” Castiel told Dean.
“Oh, hey, Artie, I think the vampire's tears are boiling over!” said Minnie.
“Oh, ewwww! Don't let it stain the stove!” shouted Artie as both goddesses ran to hunch over a burner.
“Dude, you didn't need to do this,” Dean whispered to Castiel.
“I did not wish to be impolite,” murmured Castiel, who looked up at him gratefully, wings drooping in misery. “They are assisting us!”
“You can...” said Dean, making a complicated motion that evidently meant folding wings away. Castiel shut his eyes, and then the wings somehow went back to wherever they had come from.
“That's actually pretty cool,” said Sam.
“I was afraid perhaps I could not make them go away,” Castiel told him. He seemed relieved. “Were we to fight, they are cumbersome.”
Dean was already handing him his shirts, which he donned while Minnie bustled over with a platter. “Have some sandwiches,” she said, and turned to fuss over something else bubbling on the stove.
“Is this falafel?” Sam mouthed around his sandwich. He sounded like he couldn't believe his good luck.
“I make my own tzatzaki!” Minnie called back from the stove.
“Completely vegetarian!' said Sam, waving the sandwich, little flecks of white sauce going here and there.
Dean rolled his eyes and tried to find some lamb, and even Castiel was picking at something.
“Oh, look at this!” said Artemis. Minnie, using a pair of oven mitts, brought a large bowl over to the bar area.
“That's not lemon rice soup is it?” wondered Dean. It smelled delicious.
“Ha! It's our location spell!” laughed Minnie. She pulled the ring of Jahi's hair from her pocket, and popped it into the bowl, where it fizzled and created a puff of black smoke.
Artemis raised a well plucked eyebrow and pulled on some Playtex living gloves. And then she started running her hands through the gooey stuff in the bowl, frowning in concentration.
“Can we drink the spell after she's done?” asked Dean.
“It's got hair in it!” said Sam. “Yuck!”
“Hey, after bloodworm stew…” said Dean.
“Have another gyros, honey,” said Minnie, who was herself jamming her mouth full of sandwich.
“Oh, are you eating lunch, Minerva?” Artemis asked Minnie as she trolled her hands through the bowl.
“Of course I'm eating lunch!” said Minnie.
“I'm on the San Antonio diet!” said Artemis.
“What the hell is that?” asked Minnie.
“Maybe you eat cowboys?” proposed Dean.
Minnie suddenly threw her head back and choked with laughter. “I'm down for that, honey!” she laughed.
“Shhhhh!” said Artemis.
“Are you getting something?” asked Sam, who wondered if he was the only one still paying attention.
Artemis suddenly withdrew her hands from the bowl, a look of horror on her face.
“Artie, what's wrong, honey?” asked Minnie.
“Oh, this is horrible!” said Artie, contact-blue eyes filled with horror.
“What's the matter?” asked Dean.
“Did it get destroyed?” worried Sam.
“No, it's worse!” wailed Artie. “It's in Barstow! Ewwwwww..... Central Cailfornia!”
Sam, Dean, and Castiel all looked at each other. To Dean's infinite amusement, it was Castiel who rolled his eyes.
The demon strode confidently into the Second Circle.
But not a single eye inside Fenriz’s strip club was on Crowley.
That's because almost every being in the place was staring at his lovely companion: she was an utterly gorgeous green-eyed redhead, almost a head taller than he, with a body clearly engineered by the same heavenly beings who had created Sophia Loren. And it was all poured into an astonishingly tight, slinky dress.
Even in the middle of a crowded strip club, she made quite a show.
Crowley didn't have to beckon to a waitress to let him in back this time. The door was swung wide open.
Fenriz sat alone at the great card table tonight, although a couple of his minions were milling around in the back of the room.
“You are bringing me back my item, I presume?” rumbled the deep-voiced demon. He looked at the woman, and stirred in his chair, the effect being a bit like an entire mountain quivering.
“I'm bringing you something better,” smirked Crowley.
Crowley's companion slipped off his arm and wiggled into Fenriz' ample lap.
“A woman? You mock me,” said Fenriz, although his gaze did linger on her. “I can have any woman.”
Crowley invited himself to sit, though on a chair, not a lap. “No, not Lilu here, though she is lovely.” Crowley motioned to Lilu. She reached two fingers into her ample bosom, and extracted something. It was a conical vial on a long chain, which she dangled in front of Fenriz, but then quickly handed over to Crowley.
Fenriz leaned closer, Lilu giggling on his lap. “Is that what I think it is?” he asked.
“Pure. Angelic. Grace,” said Crowley.
Fenriz sat back, seemingly impressed. “How the hell did you get something like that? You have to kill an angel, don't you?”
“Details,” tutted Crowley. “The really sad part is, I can't enjoy my little celestial steriods.”
“No?” asked Fenriz.
“No,” pouted Lilu, putting a long nailed hand down Fenriz’s chest.
“My meatsuit’s in the wrong bloodline,” sighed Crowley, giving the vial a little spin on the end of the chain. The cuts in the glass picked up the light and sparkled.
“It takes a real man to contain such an essence,” purred Lilu. Fenriz took in a breath. It was getting a little difficult for him to think clearly.
“Pity, that,” said Crowley. “It will increase your powers, not by half, not even tenfold, but thousandfold. Well, so I hear.”
“That's the rumor,” Lilu breathed into Fenriz's ear.
“Crowley,” said Fenriz, ducking away from Lilu. “No more nonsense. Where is my compass?”
“Well, that is a tale,” said Crowley.
“A sad tale,” said Lilu, her eyes wide.
“So, the fellow who sold me the angelic grace wanted to do a trade. As part of the deal.”
“Part of the deal,” echoed Lilu.
“My compass?” fumed Fenriz.
“Well, technically my compass,” muttered Crowley. “But, little details. And we're all friends here. As you know, I am not a stupid man. I had thought to do the deal, take in this angel essence for myself, and then, as it were, persuade our friend to let me borrow back the compass.”
“Just borrow it,” said Lilu, squeezing Fenriz's thigh for emphasis.
“I must have that compass!” blustered Fenriz.
“If only there were a way,” sighed Crowley. “But he is one tough customer, this Raguel, and I can't think of a way.” Crowley gave the bottle of angel grace a little toss in the air and caught it.
“Raguel,” said Fenriz. “An angel?”
“Oh, yes, an angel. Full of grace,” said Crowley, giving the vial another toss. He drew back as Fenriz snatched at the vial.
“Give me the grace,” thundered Fenriz.
“Or … what exactly?” asked Crowley, holding it up, just out of his reach.
“Give me the vial and I may let you leave here alive,” said Fenriz.
Crowley looked at Lilu, who shrugged. He tossed the vial to Fenriz. “Sounds good to me!” he sang. “Oh,” he added, flipping a card to Fenriz. “Here is Raguel’s last known address. But take care, my good friend!
Lilu had undulated out of Fenriz's lap and walking with Crowley to the door.
Fenriz signaled to a henchman. “Kill them. Kill them both,” he growled, large thumb already popping the top off the vial of grace.
Crowley and Lilu walked with surprising rapidity to the back door and were out in the alley before the two henchmen caught up with them. Lilu deftly turned and smashed their heads together and left them unconscious and bleeding in the alley. Then she and Crowley disappeared to the gentle whisper of wing beats.
“Ewww, Barstow,” bitched Artemis as the party of three – an angel and two goddesses – alit in the Shurgard parking lot.
Or party of four, we should say, as Artemis' little yappy dog was there as well, nipping at her heels.
“This way,” said Castiel, striding across the hot parking lot.
“You didn't have to come along, Artie,” sighed Minnie.
“I gotta see what's in it!” squealed Artemis.
“You know where it is, Castiel?” asked Minnie, who was now hurrying after the quickly striding angel.
“Yes, I can sense the presence now,” said Castiel. He paused before a storage shed and cast out his hand. The rolling door glowed slightly, and then rolled up, seemingly of its own volition. The trio hurried inside, Cas flicking a hand to turn on the one bare lightbulb.
There was only one object in the large storage shed, a single, shoebox-sized wooden box marked by arcane lettering.
“Can you open it, honey?” Minnie asked Castiel, who was crouching down, regarding the box. Artemis' dog was taking a sniff.
“I feel confident that I can. These are trivial demon tricks.” He looked at the goddesses. “Shall we wait for Sam and Dean to arrive with the armaments?”
Minnie and Artemis looked at each other. “NO!” they both shouted.
“I mean, um,” said Minnie, glancing at Artemis. “Jahi could be on the move right now with those grace-hopped demons. Need to investigate this. Quick!” Artemis nodded enthusiastically.
Castiel squinted at the women, and then stood up and told them, “Please stand back.” The goddesses backed up a few feet, craning their necks to peer at the box. He closed his eyes and extended one arm, palm out flat.
The symbols on the box began send out an eerie glow, which then, all at once, retracted into the box. And then the box rattled and, before their eyes, seemed to unfold, sort of like one of the big robots in a Transformer movie, building and building until the wooden box had built itself into....
“A doorway?” asked Artemis. “Huh. First I've seen of this.” She and her dog walked all the way around it. It was, indeed, a wooden door set in a frame.
“Yeah, demons. What are you gonna do. Am I right?” asked Minnie.
Then Castiel, who must have been curious as well, approached the door and carefully turned the knob. He opened it, and stuck his head inside. Artemis' dog barreled in as well, and then romped out. The door seemed to open onto a room in some other dimension.
Castiel stepped back out, seemingly confused. “I do not understand this.” He stepped back through, and Minnie and Artemis followed him this time.
It looked like they were inside a really enormous walk in closet, something about the size of a grand ballroom.
The space was completely filled with shelves, all of them bearing women's shoes, hats, purses and accessories.
“I do not understand,” repeated Castiel, picking up a faux leopard-skin handbag.
“Oh, I do,” grinned Minnie, as Artemis whistled low. Minnie stepped back out of the doorway, and got out her cellular phone and held it to her ear.
“Bitch,” Minnie yelled into the phone. “We got your Blahniks and your Birkins. You better talk turkey, or we're torching the lot with holy fire.”
Fenriz looked around, completely confused. Was this a movie set? What the fuck had Crowley pulled on him this time?
He wiped the sweat dripping from his bald forehead.
“Get thee behind me, Satan!” came a voice.
“Thanks for the compliment,” rasped Fenriz, pulling uncomfortably at his collar. “I've heard you have my compass, angel.” It was one weird angel. He was dressed like a mad doctor in some kind of human movie.
“I will exorcise you, foul swine!” yelled Raguel, who was suddenly directly in front of Fenriz, hand on his head.
“I wouldn't try it, bitch,” said Fenriz, who grabbed the archangel's arm and sent him crashing back against the wall. His gold-flecked grin flashed.
“Fiend!” roared Raguel, leaping to his feet apparently unhurt, although the wall looked the worse for wear.
“Why do you keep it so damned hot in here?” grumbled Fenriz, ripping at his shirt to show a sweating, lavender-hued chest.
“Goats to my left!” screamed Raguel, pouncing once again on the demon. “And more goats to my right.”
“I'll goat you,” rumbled Fenriz, who started to throttle Raguel. They wrestled for a moment, and then a hand was on Fenriz's forehead, and the demon threw his head back, jaw open, belching black smoke.
There was a low rumbling noise....
Two beings stood side by side at a safe distance, taking in the now purple-hued sunset.
“You enjoyed that entirely too much,” said Crowley, as the figure at his side suddenly morphed into a much shorter, and most definitely much less female figure.
“Drag acts are a classic!” lectured Gabriel. “Besides, guys do stupid stuff when there's a chick around.”
“Perhaps you are right. But you treasured every moment, nonetheless, didn't you?” asked Crowley.
Gabriel just grinned. He looked at the white laboratory coat Crowley had carefully draped over his arm. “So, is that the coat? That’s why we had to check the dungeon?”
Crowley nodded sadly. “It has sustained some damage but....” He frowned. He put a hand in one of the pockets. “Oh, what do you know?” he said, holding up a compass.
“Wonder how the hell it got there?” asked Gabriel.
“No fucking clue.”
“I could restore that, you know,” Gabriel offered, fingers on the burnt hem of the lab coat. “A little angel magic here and there.”
“Thank you, no,” said Crowley, tugging away the white coat. “No offense, but I've had quite enough of angelic interference with my piece.”
“Well,” said Gabriel. “I guess we should go do some manly stuff now, huh?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know, go smoke cigars, drink whiskey....”
“See if Sam Winchester is taking a shower....”
“WHAT?” asked Crowley.
But Gabriel's phone went off in his pocket just then. He took a glance. “Ah, your ex is on the move,” he said, and then his hand was on Crowley's shoulder, and, with a wing beat, they were there no more.
“This is one sweet ride!” enthused Sam, stepping out of the Porsche Cayenne that had just pulled up in the storage facility parking lot. He tossed the keys to Artemis.
“Thanks, hon,” said the goddess, catching the keys.
“If we ever need to upgrade from the Impala…” noted Sam.
“We're never gonna upgrade from the Impala!” swore Dean, who had just popped out of the passenger seat. “So, our secret mission is to make the world safe for shoes?” he asked.
“Well,” said Castiel. “There were also handbags....”
“And hats! Don't forget the hats!” said Minnie.
Someone had opened the back of the SUV by now, and in an instant there were a lot of bodies, both human and supernatural, poking their heads in grabbing weaponry. Artemis had a bow and a quiver, and a great big grin on her face.
“How many demons do you think Jahi has?” asked Sam.
“I dunno. A lot?” said Minnie.
“How many in a lot?” asked Dean, who was mulling over the various guns.
“A lot,” said Minnie.
“Never fear!” came a voice from the top of the SUV. “Big Gabe is here!”
“Whoever you are, will you get off my car! You'll get footprints!” raged Artemis.
“Gabriel! Damn your feathery hide! Get me the fuck down from here!” agreed Bobby, who, along with Crowley, had appeared beside the angel.
“Hey, you're welcome! Again!” said Gabriel. But then the threesome was down in the parking lot. Minnie made some quick introductions.
“What happened with Raguel?” asked Sam.
“Both the movie-prop desecrating archangel and the demon formerly known as Fenriz have been turned into attractive smears of purple protoplasm,” sneered Crowley.
“And Crowley here even got his coat back!” laughed Gabriel. “Though it looks more like a burnt pizza.”
“It can be restored,” protested Crowley.
“Raguel took my overcoat,” said Castiel, who was cradling a shotgun, far off look in his eyes.
“Hey, man, we could get you another coat,” said Dean quietly.
Castiel looked at him. “I could … reconstitute it I suppose. I simply find it … oddly annoying.”
“It was your coat,” Dean nodded sympathetically. He pointed to Castiel. “You don't like your clothes?”
“I appreciate my clothes, Dean,” said Castiel. “I thank you for purchasing them.”
“They look like your clothes, Dean,” laughed Sam, who had been observing the conversation.
“Well...” said Dean. He blushed but convered it in a scowl. “They're functional!” He turned to Bobby. “So, what's news on the Jahi-pocalypse, Bobby?” he asked.
“I'm not gettin' reports of crazy EMF readings in any of the locations Crowley mentioned,” Bobby told everyone. “I'm hopin' that means she hasn't graced up any demons yet.”
“That's a distinct relief,” said Crowley.
“If you gave us the right list,” snapped Minnie.
“Minerva! Why the hell would I mislead you on something like this?” asked Crowley.
“Because you can,” she sniffed.
“Oh! Don't be like that!” said Crowley.
“You'd probably wanna wait until right before you were ready to do it,” said Gabriel. “Those grace-juiced demons are not long-lived puppies. Fenriz was one big, powerful mother, and I don't think he lasted ten minutes.”
“It is very unstable,” agreed Castiel.
“So is my ex,” grumbled Crowley.
“Yeah, she had to live with you,” said Minnie.
“Oh, now we're sympathetic to Jahi?” mocked Crowley. “The woman you referred to as that cross-eyed cunt?”
“Who hass called me zee cross-eyed cunt?” came a really lovely, foreign accented female voice.
Dean looked up in surprise. He was used to the whispering approach of angels. Jahi had snapped into the parking lot with no sound, only a whiff of sulfur.
As had her veritable legion of minions, who were now pretty much perched all over the damned place. The E-Z-Stor parking lot was now filled with black-eyed beasties. It was like an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
Dean steeled himself, and those in his small party (and it really seemed small, despite the presence of two goddesses, a fairly powerful demon and two angels) instinctively drew into a circle around the vehicle, weapons drawn.
“I called you a cross-eyed cunt, you cross-eyed cunt,” snapped Minnie.
“Minerva,” warned Crowley.
“Pffft. Leettle goddess,” mocked Jahi. There were some chicks, Dean had noticed, who always seemed to have guys with a wind machine somewhere in back of her, and Jahi was one. Somehow, her amazing coppery hair was blowing out just so. Dean could see why Crowley had kept a lock of it, even though that kind of thing was sort of old-fashioned and weak.
But Minerva was right about one thing: she'd overdone the mascara, and she did look a little cross-eyed.
“I could undo you weeth a snap of my feengers!” said Jahi, snapping said fingers.
“Oh, spare me,” bitched Minnie.
“Now, whar ess my box?” Jahi demanded, turning to Crowley.
“Shoes?” he asked. “I mean, really, Jahi? You were ready to destroy San Francisco over your fucking Blahniks?”
“Californeea ees tacky, as are zhee people who leeve here!” said Jahi.
“Watch it bitch,” Artemis, notching an arrow.
“Whar ess thee box? Eet ees mine! Return it to me!” Jahi told Crowley.
Dean glanced up nervously. There were so many demons hovering around the storage unit, they had actually darkened the sky.
Crowley pointed. The lockbox was now on the asphalt between them. Castiel had somehow re-folded the doorway to shoe heaven and reconstituted it as a wooden box.
Jahi took a step towards it.
“Ummm!” warned Crowley, who also snapped his fingers. Flames now danced off his fingertips. “Pre-soaked in holy oil.”
“First, we would like all of the angelic grace returned,” stated Castiel.
“Before we get annoyed,” added Gabriel, who was suddenly standing beside Castiel. Jahi gasped and took a step back. It only happened for an instant, but Dean could have sworn he saw the archangel stretch out not one but three pairs of really massive, dark wings.
Jahi, looked at Crowley, and actually seemed nervous. “He ees an archangel,” she said.
“Drinking buddy,” said Crowley. “It's quite the thing. Everybody's got an archangel pal nowadays, it seems. Oh, except maybe, you.”
“Ja, I have heard. Raguel was zee eediot,” grumbled Jahi.
“You drugged him,” said Castiel.
“Zhose Seraphim! Zhey are stupeed!”
“Well,” allowed Gabriel. “She's got a point.”
Jahi whistled. Many weapons cocked as a demon suddenly appeared at her side. But he simply produced a batch of glowing conical vials, all hanging on silver chains. Jahi grabbed the chains and held them out. They disappeared from her hand, and ended up clutched by Gabriel. He and Castiel counted them.
“Think they're all here,” said Gabriel.
Jahi was glaring at Crowley, who put a toe on the box and kicked it towards her. She nodded, and the demon at her side was suddenly holding the box.
“So. You got what you what's important,” grumbled Crowley. “Shoes.”
“Better my shoes zhan your beeg movie zhunk!”
“It isn't junk!” fumed Crowley. “Besides, I thought you liked my film pieces!”
“Zat is all you thought about! Nevair me! Always zee leetle sword from zee space movie...”
“It was a lightsaber, woman!” growled Crowley.
“Whoa, you got a lightsaber,” asked Dean.
“An original stunt lightsaber,” Crowley told him.
“Cool,” said Dean. He squinted. “Uh. Original trilogy, or prequels?”
“Well. Prequels,” admitted Crowley. “But it had the blade!”
“Pretty cool,” admitted Dean.
“You and your toys! You know notheen!” Jahi shouted at Crowley. “Notheen!”
Crowley stepped forward. “You should show some respect,” he told her.
“Respect? You? Oh, you amuse me, leetle man.”
Crowley reached back his hand to slap her. Everybody cringed, but Jahi grabbed onto his wrist just before he made contact.
They glared at each other.
And then they were madly making out. Yes, with tongue. And everything. This seemed to discomfit nearly everybody, including some very confused demon minions.
“Oh. I didn't need to see that,” said Sam, covering his eyes.
“What are you doing?” Dean asked Gabriel, who was holding up his cell phone.
“This is so going on YouTube, man,” said the archangel.
“As Artemis would say, ewwww....” said Dean.
“I don't understand,” whispered Castiel.
“And for that, dude, you should be grateful,” Dean told him.
Jahi had now actually hopped up and wrapped her legs around Crowley's waist. Crowley opened one eye, looked around, and then, with a whiff of sulfur, they were both gone.
There was a confused silence. The demons appeared to regard each other, and then, with many shrugs, they too disappeared.
“So. Was I right, or was I right?” asked Minnie.
“When you're right, you're right,” said Artemis. She slipped two fingers into her bra and pulled out a dollar bill, which she snapped and handed over to Minnie.
“And that was why, among many, many other good reasons, you don't get involved with your divorce clients,” said Minnie.
“That? That's just fucking weird,” said Dean.
“Heh. Women,” laughed Bobby.
“Men!” countered Minnie. They grinned at each other.
“OK. I did not expect that,” said Sam.
“Really?” laughed Gabriel. “Aw, Sammy, you're so adorable,” he said, giving a very unappreciative Sam a Bugs Bunny like smooch on the forehead.
“You should see what I've seen, kids,” said Minnie, who was already piling her weapons back into the trunk of Artemis’ Porsche SUV.
“I do not understand,” Castiel repeated. “I thought that they were going to obtain a divorce?”
“Yeeeeeeah!” said about five voices all at once.
“Uh. So, you think they're back together now, Minnie?” asked Dean. “Like, forever?”
“Them?” asked Minnie. “No fucking way. But I'd give them another ten years, maybe.”
The arsenal made its way back into the SUV, and Artemis shut the door. “That was cool!” said Artemis, who was tottering around giving everyone air kisses as her dog trailed her. “We’ve gotta do that again, Minnie!”
“Maybe we’ll go get manicures next time, honey,” said Minnie.
“Or that!” agreed Artie. “Bye!” And then she and her little dog hopped into the SUV and disappeared.
“I gotta jet as well, work backing up,” said Minnie, consulting her wristwatch.
“Thanks for your help,” said Dean.
Minnie nodded. And turned. But then she turned back. She held a business card in two fingers, which she extended towards Bobby. “Uh. Did you get a card, Bobby? In case you ever need anything, you know, appraised?” she asked him.
Bobby snatched the card and grinned.
“That’s my personal cell on the back,” she said, indicating the handwritten number.
“I’m thinking I’m in need of a lot of appraisals,” said Bobby.
Minnie smiled back, and disappeared.
“Wait wait wait!” said Dean. Everyone looked at him. “All of us … all of us … here, and Bobby gets the goddess’ phone number?”
Bobby smiled and slotted the card in his front pocket. “Idjits,” he said. “Hey, Gabe, you give me a lift back to where you found me?”
“Yeah, sure,” said Gabriel.
“Oh, uh, you know what,” said Sam, who suddenly elbowed Gabriel. “I was gonna, uh, go back to Bobby's too. To do, uh, important stuff.”
“You were? Oh yeah, you were! Sure,” said Gabriel, casting a glance at Dean and Cas. And then he grabbed Sam and Bobby and the three of them were gone to the soft rustle of angel wings.
Castiel frowned, looking very confused.
“Cas,” said Dean. “Is there some place, maybe more private, we could go to, you know, talk?” Dean only had time to blink. “Oh,” said Dean, looking around the familiar setting. “This motel again. You like it here, huh?”
“I already have a key,” said Castiel, holding it up and giving a faint smile.
Dean sat down heavily on the edge of one of the beds.
“Cas…” started Dean.
“Oh. You actually mean to talk,” said Cas, tilting his head.
“Well, that was the intention. I guess,” admitted Dean. Castiel crossed his arms and scowled down at Dean. “Look, don’t give me the angel of vengeance look. I already suck at this.”
“Yes. You do.”
Dean took a breath. This was going to be harder than he expected. “You’re not a mistake. It wasn’t a mistake.” He looked up, batting his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“You are attempting puppy dog eyes!” scolded Cas.
“Aw. Shit. Look, Cas.” Dean shook his head and started to pick at something invisible and yet terribly interesting on the knee of his jeans. “I think you’re probably my best friend. And I don’t wanna mess this up. I don’t have a whole lot of friends, and we’ve both fucked this up pretty badly before. Both of us! Sometimes, when people get together…. You saw what happened with Crowley and Jahi! They end up wanting to destroy the fucking universe! Over shoes! And a lab coat!”
Castiel was silent for a time, parsing Dean's words. “So we are … together?” he finally asked.
Dean looked up to a pair of expectant eyes. “Well … yes,” he admitted dropping his eyes again.
“Then I will attempt not to destroy the universe!” said Cas.
“OK. Well, that's good. I guess.” Dean felt in his jeans pocket. “Hey, look,” he said, holding up a small vial. “Minnie gave me some of her aniseed oil-“ Dean stopped. He quite suddenly had a lap full of angel. Cas was gripping him by the lapels, hungry look in his eyes.
“Is this a violation of your personal space, Dean?” asked Cas, who did not appear to care.
Dean leaned in for a kiss that ended up taking rather longer than he had expected. Not that he much minded. Lots better than talking. Much, much better than talking. “This is just perfect,” he muttered.
“The anise oil?” asked Castiel.
“Oh! Oh yeah,” said Dean, who had quite suddenly and completely forgotten the vial clutched in his hand. “She says just a drop in the bathtub-”
“Bathtub?” asked Cas.
“Yeah, in the bathtub. You could-“ But then with a soft flutter of wings, Dean was no longer sitting on the bed. And neither was Cas.
And then there was the sound of running water. And two loud splashes.
“CAS!” came a shout from the bathroom. “You take your clothes off first!”
Chapter 8: Bring It on Home to Me
What do you do with leftover angel grace; a discussion of hot tubs; and another auction.
Title: Bring It on Home to Me (Blood on the Tracks, Coda)
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Cas; Sam, Crowley, Bobby, Gabriel
Warnings: Cursing, some violence, Dean being dickish, appetizing descriptions of Greek food.
Word Count: 40,000 give or take.
Summary: What do you do with leftover angel grace; a discussion of hot tubs; and another auction.
Notes: This is the last bit, in which loose ends are either tied up or left to wriggle. Oh, and even though this is only one line, this is the internet, so I know someone will inevitably mention it: through a complicated set of circumstances, Loki is said to be the mother of Odin's horse, Sleipnir. Yes, the mother.
The figure could have been a pilgrim. Or a western tourist trekking the Himalayas
He was neither.
Pulling his overcoat tightly around him, Castiel entered the monastery and quietly made mention of a name to one of the saffron-robed monks. He was ushered him into a small, sparely furnished room.
He stood as he felt the presence at the doorway. “Brother Inias!”
“Brother Castiel?” asked the monk. He hurried forward and warmly embraced Castiel.
“It is very … beautiful here,” said Castiel.
“Yes,” said the young-appearing man. “I am very lucky.”
“I have brought something for you,” said Castiel, tugging at a chain around his neck. He brought out a conical vial which held a strange, glowing substance.
“Oh,” said Inias, clutching at the vial. He frowned in puzzlement. “You retrieved my grace from Raguel?”
“Yes. As you may have heard, he has been stopped.”
“I have begun to hear the voices once again,” said Inias, smiling broadly and tapping his ear. “Our brothers and sisters.”
“You can still hear them?” asked Castiel.
“Yes. I had no idea. I can't speak any more, but I can listen. It has given some comfort.” He looked back at Castiel. “May I ask...?”
“Why?” said Castiel.
Inias nodded. “I am not certain why my heart is troubled about this....”
“Raguel had fallen under the influence of a demon,” said Cas. “But I am not certain he was entirely … stable, beforehand.”
“Well, it's good that the threat has ended,” said Inias, who appeared to consider the matter closed.
“So. Will you rejoin us?” asked Cas.
“I.... I thank you for this. But....” Inias slipped the chain around his own neck, tucking the vial deep in his robes.
“It's just...,” Inias began. He considered for a moment. “I have learned so many things. So many things. Being human.”
“I am not surprised. Many of our brothers and sisters, the ones who survived, feel the same as you do.”
“Really?” asked Inias.
“These last few years have been full of confusion,” said Inias. “I feel.... I feel I have some peace here.”
Castiel stood. “I am glad for you, brother.”
Inias rose and once again embraced Castiel. “And you, brother,” he asked. “Have you found your peace?”
Castiel tilted his head. “I believe in my case, peace and happiness are not the same thing.”
Gabriel lay on the couch in Bobby Singer's main room, chatting on his cell phone. Bobby came by and glared at him. Gabriel gave the hunter a happy wave.
“So, Innie wouldn't go for the grace? Yeah, well none of them do. Maybe we can start dealing the stuff to college athletes. I'm joking, brother! I thought you got humor now. What, humor is funny? You're yanking my chain, aren't you? Brat. Yeah, OK, I'll tell Sammy.” He pushed the END CALL button and sat up, cross-legged on the couch. “Ooo, looking sharp, Mr. S.”
“So, I suppose I permanently got an archangel ass attached to my damn couch?” grumbled Bobby, who was, to be fair, dressed rather more nicely than usual.
“Everybody's got an archangel. We're the latest fashion accessory. Soooooo, you going on a date? Anyone I know?” Gabriel batted his eyes and wiggled his eyebrows.
“Maybe,” snarled Bobby.
“Hey, Bobby!” said Sam, brightly. “Oh, uh, hey Gabriel,” he said, not quite so brightly. He held a pizza box and a six pack, which he set down on the coffee table.
“Goin' out,” Bobby told Sam. “Don't let that one rearrange the furniture,” he said, pointing at Gabriel. And then he left.
“I'm sitting right here!” Gabriel called after him. “Be home before midnight!” he yelled after Bobby.
“Call if you're gonna be late!” yelled Sam.
“Don't do drugs!” yelled Gabriel.
Sam smiled despite himself.
“Oh, and my baby brother just told me he's hanging out with a Winchester tonight,” Gabriel told Sam. “You can maybe guess which one.”
Sam shook his head and thumped down on the couch, where he fished among the detritus on Bobby's coffee table for a remote control.
“You know, we could go out! Us two boys! Get better acquainted!” said Gabriel, scooting over nearer to Sam.
“No,” said Sam without even looking up from the TV.
“But I'm an archangel! That makes me way cooler than Castiel!”
“Gabriel, frankly, I was waiting for something a little more … female,” Sam finished, glaring right into Gabriel's eyes.
Gabriel snapped his fingers, and turned into Lilu.
“No,” said Sam.
“Odin's horse didn't mind.”
“I'm sure he didn't,” said Sam. “Hey,” he said, pointing to the TV, “have you ever seen Star Wars?”
“Yeah,” said Gabriel, going back to Gabriel, although he was now wearing Jedi robes.
“Hey, cool! Can you do that for me?” And then Sam was all Obi-Wan Kenobi as well. “Sweeeeet.”
“You wanna real working lightsaber?” asked Gabriel.
“Huh,” said Sam, pulling the top off a cold one. “Maybe later. After we have a couple beers?”
“OK,” said Gabriel, helping himself to a long-neck.
I am turning into a chick.
Dean settled into the motel room bathtub, not really regretting the observation, just letting it float out there. He took a healthy swig from a cold long neck, carefully setting the bottle down on the floor beside the claw foot tub. After all these years, why hadn't anyone told him about hot baths? After a crappy day getting battered around by demons, this was fucking awesome.
Maybe at some point he would get a place with a hot tub. That made sense. But, wait, he was thinking about getting a place? As you couldn't really tow the hot tub behind the car. Or could you? Naw, too close to having a fucking camper van.
But a hot tub. He could sit out on the deck (he would have to get a deck, too), warm as hell, drinking beer, and then maybe if Cas was around....
He grinned up at the sound of familiar wing beats. “Dude, just in time! The water’s getting cold.”
Castiel shook his head, and then leaned over, putting a hand just over the bath water, heating it up. Dean rolled his eyes back in happiness. “Oh, yeah, that's just perfect.”
“I am your holy water heater,” grumbled Castiel. Dean threw his head back and laughed.
“Hey, you're getting pretty funny. Clothes!” he said. Castiel nodded, and began to shrug out of his clothing. Dean smiled as Cas very carefully folded the trench coat – Jimmy’s coat – he had so carefully reconstituted (or whatever the hell angels did) down to the last wrinkle. Cas then laid it over the back of a chair as if it were some kind of ermine robe. Or a prop from a 1938 horror film. But Dean also noticed with a small sense of smugness that the angel had retained the clothes Dean had bought him. Angels are sentimental bastards, he thought. That stuff, however, all ended up in kind of a tangle on the floor.
“So how did it go with...” Dean started.
“Inias?” said Castiel, pulling off his undershirt and adding it to the pile.
“Inias.” Dean repeated the odd name.
Castiel looked far off. “I returned his grace. He has, for the present time, opted to remain human.”
“Like they all do,” said Dean. “What?” he asked to Castiel's questioning look.
“Should I have allowed Raguel to make me fully human?” asked Castiel.
“Oh fuck no! How would we keep the water warm? Well, unless we got a hot tub. What do you think?”
“A hot tub?” asked Castiel, who had finally removed his clothing, and now was stepping into the tub. Dean reached up and guided him down so he was sitting between Dean's legs. “Wouldn't you need … a location? To place the hot tub?”
“So. We get … a location. I guess.”
“Or I suppose my brother could constitute a hot tub for us,” said Cas uncertainly.
“But it would probably have rainbow water and running unicorns.”
“You are right about that.”
Dean fumbled on the bathtub shelf for a small vial. He twisted out an eyedropper to tweaked out a drop of aniseed oil into the water. He felt Castiel instantly start to relax. Then he carefully sealed up the bottle. Cas reached a lazy hand towards the bottle, like a cat batting at a cloth mouse, but made no further attempt to grab it. The stuff was amazing, but Dean had found through his own experimentation that it was also pretty easy to get an overdose and end up with an angel who acted like he'd just had all his bones surgically removed.
Dean, recognizing the distinctive smell, had also tried soothing Cas with licorice whips, but those seemed to have no effect, and usually ended up getting snarfed up by Gabriel anyway. Minnie had given him some story about how it needed to be pure and from blah blah blah source. She had put out the suggestion of candles. But … candles? Fuck, no.
“Or we could just set up a hot tub in this motel room,” Dean suggested. “We seem to be the only people who stay here anymore. Are you doing that with angel mojo?”
Castiel smiled slightly and shrugged. “I suppose so. I don't really know.” Dean was running his hands up and down the angel's chest now, feeling the small ridges of scar tissue from the angel banishing sigil Cas had carved there in his own chest long ago. Cas had mentioned, once, all apologies, that he could never real get his vessel to heal completely. Dean didn't mind. People should have scars. It made sense. Dean’s expression turned to a smile. Here he was, in a warm tub with a naked angel? It seemed, for once, his life didn’t suck.
“Soooo, you got the leftover grace, right?” asked Dean.
“Yes. From the brothers who did not survive,” said Cas, his voice more melancholic than usual.
“What if I took one?”
Castiel twisted around to look Dean in the eye. “Why the hell would you do that?”
“Then we could both be angels.”
“Even angels do not wish to be angels,” sighed Castiel, leaning back again. “And besides, you might cause yourself serious injury!”
“Aw!” scoffed Dean. “I was supposed to be Mike's vessel. I think I could take it.”
“I do not think it works that way. But, no, I do not wish you to become an angel.”
“You are perfect as you are.”
“What? I thought I was a dick!” said Dean.
“You are a perfect dick.”
“Are you being funny again?”
Castiel considered. “Maybe.” He settled back.
“Hey, you know,” said Dean. “I never got to touch your wings.”
“Perhaps I will let you. At some point....”
“You let the goddesses grope you!”
Castiel relaxed more, and grinned.
“Hey, you're being a dick, aren't you?” asked Dean.
“It is surprisingly enjoyable!”
Dean held Castiel for a while. He let his hands stray further down, and felt Cas tense again, though in a very pleasant way. Cas twisted around again, this time for a long kiss. God, there was something worth losing your soul over.
“Hey,” Dean whispered. “Do you ever wonder what's going on with Crowley and Jahi?”
Cas sat back. “No.”
It was Dean's turn to grin. “Me, neither.”
“I shall have to rob a bank.”
“Do not bee overly dramateek.”
The couple peered at Lot 342 some more.
“Eet ess as worn by Leez Taylor. I have matched eet to zhee Blu Ray.”
“We shall see, my pet. If the bidding does not to too high perhaps.”
“Oh the bidding will be through the roof on this puppy!” The couple did not move, but both glared over at the guy who had just strolled over before the clear acrylic case containing Elizabeth Taylor's authentic, screen-used crown from the movie classic, Cleopatra.
“You are going to beed?” she asked him.
“Am I gonna bid! This little sucker is as good as mine,” he bragged, putting his expensive sunglasses on top of his head.
Crowley cast his eyes up and down. “Shoes,” he whispered in Jahi's ear.
“Yeah, I figure I'm gonna jump in their early on the bidding, push this bitch sky high! I- Ow!” yelped the man as Crowley snapped his fingers.
He started dancing, and then ran off.
Somehow, his flip flops had caught on fire.
“Fleep flops,” grumbled Jahi.
“I hate those things,” said Crowley, patting her arm.
“Hate zhose theengs,” she agreed, leaning her head over to rest on Crowley's shoulder. And they gazed at Cleopatra's crown for some minutes more.