After Lily had agreed to try and make the spell work, Fran had been quiet for a long time and had watched him closely. Finally, she asked what she could do to help. Being a scientist to the bone she treated this project like every other - as an experiment.
She had started years ago to gather data on each and every incident of people claiming angels exist, from ancient Egyptian scrolls to modern scholars like Lily. And she had made it her goal to prove that every single one of them was fake or explainable by other causes. Like she did with all her projects, she poured all her energy into this one too and helped them with an enthusiasm that had to look like blind faith to an outsider.
That didn’t keep her from commenting on the texts they translated with biting sarcasm whenever the authors spoke of the “otherworldly beauty of God’s winged messengers that would blind mere humans with the glow of their supremacy”. Fran wasn’t a woman easily impressed and laughed about the poetic descriptions they had to comb through to find information.
Dean refrained from explaining to her that seeing an angel could very literally cost you your eyesight, and he refrained from admitting that the term “otherworldly beauty” made some nerve in his stomach twinge sharply. He wouldn’t have believed anyone who told him about this either before he met his first angel.
The sun rises higher and melts away the fresh morning air. Fran and him have fallen into that easy kind of camaraderie he had with Charlie or Jo, and the silence between them doesn’t feel strained. They are each following their own thoughts, Fran focused on the road to lead the horse around potholes and branches, while Dean lets his gaze drift.
They only need two more ingredients for the spell, mandrake and silver cassia (and what a fitting name that is), which they hope to find in the well-stocked pharmacy in the next town. Maybe they will be ready for a first attempt tomorrow, he thinks, and the low hum of anticipation in his veins spikes to a buzz at the possibility.
The prospect to meet an early version of Cas and the chance that he can return home soon mingle into a complex emotion. When he rubs his sweaty hands down his pants, Fran shoots him one of her trademark looks that always seem to go right through him.
“Stop it,” he says, and she snorts, but turns her head back ahead. Dean wonders what she makes of him and what hypotheses about his behaviour she is currently verifying. She obviously isn’t buying his story about wanting a favor from an angel, and she seems to know that he isn’t telling them the whole truth. But that can’t be all, and Dean would bet good money (he doesn’t currently have) that there are some interesting theories about him whirling through her head.
They arrive in Bangor around eleven and navigate the busy main street to a beautiful building with an off-white façade and an intricate bronze door. It looks out of place in a town like this where most people earn their living as farmers or woodworkers. A dark wooden sign with golden letters announces the shop as Bramble’s Pharmacy.
Fran hops down the buggy and fastens the reins on a nearby handle. She dusts off her dark green travelling dress and squints at Dean against the sun. That weird jolt of recognition is back, but Dean’s used to ignoring it by now. He follows her to the door and into the murky half-light of the pharmacy.
Jonathan Bramble is about Dean’s age, tall, lean, dark-haired and full of that specific unobtrusive self-confidence of people who know that they’re best in their field and don’t have to prove it to anyone anymore. His face lights up when they tell him what they’re searching for. He dives into a story about his travels through Australia from which he happened to bring silver cassia back.
“May I ask for what purpose you’ll need it? I’m always interested in new recipes and I don’t recall the specific usage for these.” He lifts the paper bag with the dried bark.
Dean stutters but Fran’s quick mind saves him. “We found it in a French travelogue from the late 1800s, you wouldn’t have heard of it.”
Jonathan nods. “You’re right. I don’t find the time for reading as much as I’d like to. If you are in Bangor again, will you tell me if it worked?”
Fran promises and pays an unholy amount by the time’s standards. With the best wishes of the pharmacist, they step out into the blazing sun. The drive back is spent in silence again but now it’s taken on an urgent undertone. Tomorrow they will try to summon an angel. And Dean has to make sure that angel is Cas.
He tosses and turns half of the night, every nerve strung tight about the next day. When he finally falls asleep, his dreams are full of thorns. There’s screams and torture in the worst of them, and when he awakes, shaking, he can’t say if he was the one screaming or the one ripping the screams from someone else. His shirt is drenched and he gets up to change it before he crawls back into bed and prays to get another hour of rest in before the sun comes up.
He sinks back into blackness and this time, the dreamscape changes. Washed-out colors form into a familiar scene. He’s sitting at the kitchen table at the bunker, a beer bottle sparkling with perspiration in front of him. This is how this dream begins, every time. His dreamself doesn’t turn when he feels the weight of a hand on his shoulder, just soaks the comfort in.
Cas can’t visit him in his dreams anymore and Dean is aware of that even now, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that he’s calmer, centered.
And because the real Cas has no part in this and dreams are places without rules and restraint, he covers Cas’ hand with his own and finally turns his head, reaches up with his other palm. The movement is steady and sure like i would never be outside his own mind. He cups Cas’ jaw. And because this is a dream in which even the most impossible things are possible, Cas doesn’t pull away with a frown and a total lack of understanding like he would if this was real. This Cas bends down, a slow smile moving over his face.
Yes, the books are right, because Cas is blindingly, breathtakingly beautiful. Dean has to close his eyes.
Their lips meet as if they’ve done this a thousand times, and they have, here, in the safety of Dean’s mind. Here he can hum into the kiss and stroke Cas’ cheek and let his heart roam free to try and jump out of his chest. They kiss deep and unhurried, warm, wet, and then the room slowly falls away and Dean drifts back towards consciousness.
When he wakes up, loneliness settles back on his chest like a tailored piece of armor. He breathes in and out until he’s familiarized with the weight again and ready to face whatever’s waiting next.
Setting everything up in Lily’s attic takes nearly the whole day. They have to mix the paint to draw sigils and pentagrams, boil some of the ingredients at a low simmer for hours and purge the room with herbs and incense. By afternoon, Fran’s hair has come loose and sticks to her shining face, and her cheeks are glowing from exertion. Dean swipes away his own sweat with an old rag before he puts a dozen candles in their designated places.
At home, Sammy does most of this work, and Dean’s reminded just how time-consuming it is. He’ll have to thank his little brother for the effort when he comes back… if he comes back. He has to concentrate on the instructions, but during the simpler tasks Dean can’t help thinking about all the things that could go wrong.
This morning Fran and him had come to an understanding to leave Lily out of the invocation. They don’t want to put her in danger. Dean started to argue that he didn’t want a young mother in the center of heavenly wrath should anything go wrong, but Fran was faster: She warned that the herbs could have unknown and negative effects when mixed and consumed in such a high dosage. Lily hadn’t been happy with the decision, but had agreed reluctantly. She had to think about May and couldn’t afford getting sick from poisoning even for a day or two.
Dean hadn’t mentioned the much more severe danger that they could summon an angel with a mean streak or a deep aversion to lowly humans. He had gone over the spell more times than he could count, finding all the spots where he could individualize the wild mixture of Enochian and Latin but he could not be sure it would work. Fran had left the invocation to him willingly – Dean assumes so she can make fun of him for it later.
Lily comes up the stairs and puts the small cauldron with their potion on the table. Two glasses sit next to it waiting to be filled as soon as the liquid is cool enough. They’ll have to drink a pint each to begin the ritual. He looks over to watch Fran finishing the last line of a sigil. Their eyes meet over the expanse of the room and Dean nods.
He’s halfway through the spell when the pressure in room drops and seconds later a blast of energy kills the candles. His skin is itching with power and a small whirring sound begins to build in his ears, pushing against his eardrums. It’s high-pitched, nearly unconceivable, but Dean recalls it all too well. The window panes rattle in their frames.
If they already had a radio it would come to life now and spit out white noise. Dean goes on reading and ignores the unsteady tremor in his voice. When he’s finished he looks up to see Fran, wide-eyed, shell-shocked. Unable to help himself, the corner of his mouth lifts just a tiny bit. I told you so , he thinks, before focusing back on the phenomena wreaking havoc to the room.
Tiny whirlwinds stagger over the floor like drunken goblins. The buzz has built into a screech and drowns out every other sound. Dean takes a deep breath and raises his voice to be heard over the racket. “Sorry for the summoning. We just want to talk to you.”
The sound recedes slowly but the pressure in the air still pushes against his skin and there’s the smell of ozone that comes with the exertion of grace. All the signs tell him he’s sharing the room with an angel – and he hopes it’s his angel. Even in the midst of this pandemonium, his mind stumbles over the word, like it always does, and if he had said it out loud he would change the topic now to gloss over the slip-up.
With a hiss the pressure returns to normal and the electric whizzing stops. One of the candles flickers back to life.
“Is it gone?” Fran sounds nothing like her usual cocky self, her voice tiny and unsure.
“He might not have a vessel yet.” The thought hadn’t occurred to Dean before, but it would make sense. Cas had said himself he didn’t spend much time on earth before they met.
“What do we do now?”