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Follow My Lead

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Lebanon, KS

 

The disappearance of the little girl made the papers, catching Sam’s attention when he was searching for a case. Sam had managed to find papers from surrounding towns and states when he’d been at a bookstore a few days ago. He was now just getting to the stack, reading through them to see if there was anything of interest in them. Dean had been wound pretty tight lately and was restless. Even Sam was beginning to feel the walls closing in on himself. They really needed something to hunt. Sam’s eyebrows raised as he picked up the Minnesota Times and began to read the front page. If it hadn’t been for the color picture of a little girl in pigtails, smiling up at him with shining brown eyes, he might have overlooked the story all together.

 

He scanned the article for details and then fully read through it. The story was only a few short paragraphs long, just above the fold and not much to really go on. But as Sam continued reading, something just didn’t sit right with him. The little girl, Madison, had been playing in the park one moment and then she was gone the next, like magic. Her frantic mother had searched the area before calling the police. There were no signs of a struggle. No witnesses had come forward saying they saw anyone suspicious around the time of the disappearance. Madison was just gone.

 

“Dean, look at this,” Sam called to his brother and pushed the paper across the table as Dean walked over, abandoning the sandwich he’d been making. Dean picked up the paper and read the article before making any comment. He quirked an eyebrow as he lowered the paper and looked at Sam.

 

“Sounds like a case,” Dean said as he let the paper drop to the table.

 

“Yeah, thinking the same thing. I’ll do some research. See what I can come up with. There’s gotta be more than what’s here in the paper.” Sam opened his laptop and his fingers began to click over the keys. “Dean, she’s not the only one to go missing. Seems every three months a child goes missing. They’re there one moment and then gone the next.” Sam looked up over his laptop at Dean. “Everyone says the same thing, ‘it’s like magic,’ sounds like it’s something we need to look into. All the kids are eleven or younger.”

 

“Hmm, well, the younger the better. Pure and innocent. Helps with summoning something powerful, blood magic or whatever the sick fuck is doing. Bodies ever found?” Dean asked, hoping the answer was no. He hated having to see a child’s dead body. An adult’s body, he never blinked twice at seeing it but a child’s body, tore at his very core.

 

“No, never found,” Sam said turning his attention back to his research.

 

Dean let out the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He’d thank God for small favors, if he thought God was even listening. “So, we’re about twelve hours away. If we pack up now, we can be there before morning,” Dean said and walked out of the kitchen, not waiting to hear Sam’s reply. As he walked to his room, he stopped to knock on Castiel’s door, waiting for the door to be opened.

 

A few moments went by before Cas opened his door, fully dressed, including his signature trench coat. “Dean,” was all he said as he looked at the man in front of him.

 

“We caught a case. Minnesota. If you wanna come, pack up. We’re leaving soon.” Dean continued to his room to pack. He took a few minutes to gather his clothes and toiletries and shoved them into his duffle bag. The suits they might need were already stored in the Impala. Hefting his duffle bag over his shoulder, he walked out to the hallway and called to Cas as he walked past. “Meet us in the kitchen, even if you’re not coming,” he called over his shoulder as he continued walking to the kitchen. He found Sam waiting for him, a packed duffle bag near his feet.

 

“Cas?” Sam asked and Dean shrugged at him.

 

“Yes?” Cas said from behind Dean’s shoulder.

 

Dean whirled around to find Cas standing behind him with his own packed bag in hand.

 

“So, we’re all going,” Sam said as he packed his laptop into his satchel and slung it over his shoulder.

 

“You sure you’re up for this Cas,?” Dean eyed him. “You’re still on the most wanted list by angels and demons. It might not be safe for you. At least in the bunker, you’re still cloaked from them.”

 

Shaking his head, Cas looked at Dean and then Sam. “I should be alright if I’m careful. I can still be of some help to you both. I won’t do anything to draw attention to myself.”

 

Dean grunted in response to Cas before walking out of the kitchen, followed by Sam with Cas right behind.

 

Dean led them to the garage and the three slid into their seats; Dean behind the wheel, Sam at his side and Cas in the back seat. The trunk of the Impala was already stocked with everything they could need to fight whatever they might find in Minnesota. Dean pulled his baby out of the garage and in the direction they needed to get to their destination. Cas sat silently looking out the rear passenger’s door window watching as the landscape change from Kansas to Nebraska to Iowa. Cas never moved or spoke, which was a common thing with him, even when he was at full strength.

 

Six Hours Later

 

Sam turned to Dean. “Hey, I need to stretch my legs. Maybe get some food?” he said.

 

Dean muttered ‘yeah,’ to him in agreement.

 

Thirty minutes later, Dean pulled the car into the parking lot of a Millie’s Mile-A-Way diner in Des Moines, IA. They got out and stretched their cramped and aching muscles before walking into the diner.

 

As they entered a bubbly waitress greeted them. “Welcome! Are you all together?” She asked, not waiting for a response she motioned to them “Follow me,” she said. Leading them to a booth, she placed menus in front of them and took their drink order. She returned with three coffees and produced her order pad, ready to take their orders. They each rambled out their food choices and a thanks to her as she wrote everything down. With a smile, she disappeared to place their orders, leaving them to talk about the case.

 

“So, what’s this case?” Cas asked, finally showing interest in why they were on the move. Cas listening intently before reading the article Sam pushed at him. As they were eating, Cas looked up from his food. “It sounds like the work of a witch. She or he is working on a quarter moon cycle,” Cas said as he took a bite of his sandwich. Sam’s eyes widened and Dean just stared at Cas.

 

“Well, that’s an angle I didn’t think of,” Sam said as he pulled out his laptop, pushed his food aside and started researching. He looked up Dean. “I think he’s right,” Sam said as he closed down the laptop and placed it in his satchel.

 

“Awesome, just awesome. I hate witches.” Dean crushed his napkin in his hand and then tossed it onto his plate as he pushed it away. “Well, I’m no longer hungry.” Dean signaled the waitress for their check.

 

He paid their check and walked out to the car. He needed to settle his nerves. He was down for the hunt, just not the possibility that it was a witch. With a sigh, he slid his body behind the steering wheel and closed his eyes. Witches! He thought to himself. Well at least he wasn’t alone. And if it was a witch, they’d be able to prepare themselves instead of going in blind. His upper lip curled into a sneer. Well, it would be one dead witch soon. He was jostled out of his thoughts by Sam and Cas getting into the car. He cracked an eye open and looked in the rear view mirror seeing Cas’ bright blue eyes looking back at him.

 

“Dean.” Cas waited for Dean to acknowledge him. He tilted his head and smiled before he reached out and place a hand on Dean’s shoulder. “There’s nothing to fear. I know how much you hate witches. You have me and Sam with you . . .”

 

“Cas, finish that sentence with you’ll protect me and you’ll be walking the rest of the way to Minnesota,” Dean spat out at him and glared at the angel sitting in the back seat. Sam suppressed a chuckle as Dean threw him a sideways glance. “That goes for you as well.” He started the car, waiting for either to say a word.

 

Cas knitted his brow together in confusion at Dean’s sudden outburst but remained silent. Sam threw his hands up in mock surrender but couldn’t hide the smile on his face. Dean pulled the car out of the parking lot, muttering under his breath about how he was stuck with them. Sam turned away from him as his smile grew into a grin, knowing Dean’s blustering was all for show. He delighted in grumbling at them but never really followed through with such threats.

 

Three hours later, Dean pulled into a Gas-N-Go for road trip food and a fill up for the Impala. As Dean filled the tank, he leaned through the open window. He looked over at Sam’s sleeping form before turning to Cas. “You want anything while I’m inside?” He asked in a low voice not wanting to disturb his brother.

 

“A large slurpy, raspberry or cherry and a meat stick,” Cas said, a lopsided smile on his face.

 

“You mean a Slim Jim?” Dean shook his head. Cas never did get the hang of certain things.

 

“Yes, Slim Jims, I find those pleasing on a long drive.” Cas settled back against the seat as Dean pulled himself back from the window.

 

“Yeah, you got it,” Dean said under his breath as he closed the distance between the car and the store.

 

He looked around before he grabbed a basket and loaded up on Slim Jims, water, a couple bottle of sodas, sour cream and onion chips and any other snack food that caught his eye. He eyed the slurpy machines, there was no way he was giving Cas a large slurpy. Sugar and Cas were not always friends and he wasn’t willing to be cooped up for another three hours with an angel on a sugar high. He filled a small cup with a raspberry slurpy and then paid.

 

As he neared the car he saw the pout on the angel’s face as he saw the small cup rather than the large one he’d requested. Dean slid back behind the wheel without waking Sam and handed the slurpy to Cas. “Don’t pout. I’m keeping you on a sugar ration for all our sakes.” Dean pulled out a soda, opened it and gulped half of it down before starting the car. Not another word was spoken as he pulled back onto the highway and into the darkness of night.



Edina, MN

 

It was in the early morning hours when they reached Edina, MN where Madison had gone missing. Pulling off the highway, Dean breathed a sigh of exhaustion as he noticed the street he’d stopped on, Center St. Twelve hours of almost nonstop driving had him cross-eyed. He scrubbed a hand down his face trying to stave off the overwhelming desire to close his eyes and sleep. He looked at his phone, trying to figure out what time it was as he elbowed Sam, waking him.

 

Sam stirred and grunted at him as he batted at Dean’s hand. “What?” Sam asked, his voice was rough from sleep.

 

“We’re here and it’s four in the morning. What was the name of the park Madison was last seen playing at? Might as well search it now. Might look a little odd, three grown men searching the park while kids are playing there in the morning,” Dean said, fatigue showing on his face and filtering into his voice.

 

“Ah, Crosby Park,” Sam said as he turned to look at his brother. “You get any sleep?” He asked, seeing how tired Dean looked. Sam turned and looked at Cas who was sitting back, watching the exchange between the brothers. His eyes flicked back and forth between Dean to Sam as they spoke.

 

“No, I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” Dean said and chuckled at his own joke. “Let’s just get this over with and then we can find a motel to crash at.”

 

Sam checked his phone for the directions to Crosby Park. “It’s not far from here. Three blocks up and then take a right. Then two more blocks. You want me to drive?” Sam asked already knowing what Dean’s answer would be to his question.

 

“Do I ever want you to drive?” Dean asked as he pulled the car back onto the street and followed Sam’s directions.

 

A few minutes later Dean pulled the car onto the street the park was located on and drove the perimeter of the park before stopping for them to get out.

 


“Christ it’s cold, feels like it’s gonna snow.” Dean rubbed his hands together trying to warm them.

 

“Where was she last seen, swings, right?” Dean asked as he retrieve flashlights from the trunk, not waiting for an answer from Sam. Closing the trunk as softly as he could so he wouldn’t draw attention to them, he tucked the flashlights under his arm and waited for Sam and Cas to join him. He handed them the flashlights and together they walked the park looking for any clues.

 

“Well, this was a bust,” Dean said as he walked back to the car. They had searched for an hour, covering the entire area in and around the park hoping to find anything that would help them. They had known it was probably useless, it had been well over a week since the girl had gone missing but they needed to be thorough in their investigation.

 

“It was a longshot at best,” Sam said as he got back into the car. They watched Cas as he stood looking over the park.

 

“Cas? You got anything?” Dean asked, trying to get the angel back to the car.

 

Cas shook his head as he walked back to them. “No, maybe if we’d gotten here soon. But any residual magic is gone.” he cast another look at the park before getting into the backseat.

 

“Okay, then. Let’s find some place to sleep,” Dean said as he drove them back the way they came.

 

“There’s a motel a few streets away, on Fletcher,” Sam pointed to the road ahead of them.

 

Pulling onto Fletcher Street, Dean saw the two-story brick motel in front of them. He stopped at the motel office and requested a room with two beds and a pull out couch. The clerk eyed him as he set aside the magazine he’d been reading but Dean was too tired to even care what was going through his mind. He slapped down a credit card and waited for the key and credit card to be given to him.

 

“Number twelve, last one on the right,” the motel clerk said before he went back to reading his magazine.

 

Wearily Dean pulled the car around the side of the motel and parked. They got out, grabbed their bags and headed inside. Dean was too tired to care about anything at the moment, including salting the door and windows. He crawled onto one of the two full-sized beds and dropped his exhausted body against the pillows.

 

Sam was in the middle of speaking to him when he turned around to find Dean fast asleep. Sam gave up anything further discussion, settled himself on his bed and pulled out his laptop to do more research. Sam located where Madison’s family lived as well as the police report and any findings that had been reported; both were scarce in information. He was closing his laptop when Dean finally stirred on the bed. Both Sam and Cas looked at him, waiting for his lead in what was next.

 

Dean rolled over, sat up and swung his feet off the bed to get up. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he disappeared into the bathroom to grab a quick shower. When he emerged, he was dressed in a suit, ready to deal with the situation at hand. Taking his cue from Dean, Sam hurriedly got up and changed into a suit.

 

“So, we know where the family of the missing kid lives?” Dean asked as Sam emerged.

 

“Yeah, not much to fill you in on,” Sam said as they walked to the car. “They live about ten minutes away and in walking distance of the park.” Sam handed out the fake FBI credentials. “Family has never been in trouble. Just moved here about a year ago, no known enemies. Just a seemingly normal family; mom, dad and the missing kid.”

 

Dean adjusted the rearview mirror, catching Cas’ eyes. “Listen up there, Columbo, just follow our lead. You’re an agent-in-training. And you will not be interrogating any family pets. You got it?”

 

Cas’ eyes darkened before he answered. “Yeah, got it. I just thought the cat could have information. And, my name is Castiel, not Columbo.” Cas sat back, crossing his arms over his chest, sulking at Dean’s words.

 

Sam read off the directions to 223 Maple Avenue where the Bennets lived. It was a quaint neighborhood filled with two-story houses, two car garages, white picket fences and a tree-lined street; the perfect place to settle down and raise a family. Dean surveyed the area they were in; he couldn’t see himself living here, not with the life he led but it was a place he would have considered had his life been different. The three walked up the stone walkway and knocked on the front door. Several minutes passed before Mrs. Bennet answered. She was a small woman with a tight smile on her face that didn’t reach her eyes. She looked worn out, almost ready to drop.

 

“Look if you’re here for an interview, get off our property,” she said to them.

 

“Mrs. Bennet? We’re with the FBI, I’m Agent Hannigan, this is Agent Page and Agent-In-Training Adams. We’re here about your daughter’s disappearance. We’re doing a follow-up regarding what happened and we were hoping you or your husband could spare some time to go over things with us,” Dean said, flashing his credentials at her.

 

Her eyes opened wide and she turned to call her husband as she ushered them in. “Brad, these men are with the FBI. They want to speak to us about Madison,” she said as a tall, thin man appeared in the doorway of the living room.

 

“We’ve already spoken to other agents and the police,” he said, with a tired edge to his voice.

 

Sam stepped forward. “We understand this is a difficult time and we don’t mean to intrude but if you could go over it with us that would be a big help.”

 

“Pam,” Brad said as he walked over to her.

 

She shook her head and began to retell the story. “I took Madison to the park so she could play with her friend, Alexa while I chatted with Alexa’s mom as we sat on a bench. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. There were other kids playing. Madison and Alexa were on the swings, I remember because I had to tell Madison not so swing so high,” she said, he voice breaking from retelling the story. “Alexa had come over for her water bottle and was laughing because she squirted her mom with water. When Alexa turned back, the swings were empty and Madison was gone. We searched the park and then called the police.”

 

“Thank you,” Sam said in a soft voice. “I can only imagine how hard it is for you to have to relive that day.”

 

Pam placed a hand on his arm. “Please bring our daughter home,” she said through a choked off sob.

 

“We’ll do our best,” Sam said as they left the parents to their grief of longing for their missing child. Once in the car Sam turned to Dean. “So, what do you think?”

 

“Seems legit,” Dean said as he drove them through the winding, tree-lined streets of Edina. They were on the outskirts of the town when Cas spoke up.

 

“Stop,” Cas said in a low gruff voice. “I can feel a surge of dark energy. It’s not far.” Dean cast a glance back at him through the mirror, waiting for anything else the angel might have to say. “It’s getting stronger as we drive toward that old house.”

 

Dean stopped the car in front of a small rundown single story home. The windows were darkened and covered in tin foil and newspaper. The paint was peeling and the screen door was hanging off one of its hinges. The porch stairs looked precarious but they weren’t about to let that stop them.

 

Dean looked at Cas again. “Are you sure about this? It’s what, twenty or so miles at least away from the park? And it doesn’t look like this place is even lived in.”

 

“Pretty remote place to bring a kidnapped child, though,” Sam said as he looked the place over. “Hell, we’ve seen worse places and some places that are mansions where a witch has lived. Remember that married couple who were witches? Don and Maggie Stark; he was a warlock and she was a witch. They lived in a pretty nice place.”

 

“Yeah, worth checking out,” Dean said. His gut was telling him that this could be the place and they weren’t prepared. “Look, let’s go back to the motel, change and do some research about this area.” He suggested, trying to fight off the feeling of dread that was trying to overtake him.

 

Dean drove them back to the motel and he and Sam went inside. Cas waited in the car while he and Sam went in to change into their normal clothing for a hunt. Sam did a quick search on the house they had just been at. The home and land had been abandoned a few years back and were now banked owned.

 

Dean looked at his phone, pulling up the weather report. “Crap, there’s a blizzard predicted for the area.”

 

Getting into the car, Dean turned to Cas. “We gotta do this fast, there’s a blizzard moving in. It’s supposed to hit hard and fast.” He began the drive back to the dilapidated house to search it for any leads. As they drove the weather began to turn from gray with swollen clouds hanging low in the sky to a blanket of white snow covering every surface.

 

“Dean, pull over,” Cas said from the back seat. “There, in that parking lot. I think we might need a second vehicle, in case one of us has to get Madison out of there fast.” Before Sam or Dean had a chance to argue Cas had thrown open the back door and was halfway to a battered looking car. Dean got out of the car, closing both doors before coming to stand outside the car Cas was sitting in trying to hotwire it. The motor sputtered to life and Cas gave Dean a smile and a thumbs up before rolling down the window. “Get back in the car. We need to get there before the weather gets worse,” Cas said, rolling up the window and turning on the wipers to clear the windshield. Dean huffed at him but returned to his car. Sam and Dean, followed by Cas drove the remaining miles and parked before getting out to go through the weapons arsenal kept  in the Impala’s trunk.

 

The snow on the ground was undisturbed around the house, showing no one had entered or left since it had started falling. The only indication of life in what was supposedly an abandoned house was the smoke billowing up from the chimney.

 

“Sam, thought this was abandoned,” Dean said, pointing to the chimney.

 

“Yeah, supposed to be,” Sam said.

 

“I’ll go distract whoever lives there. This way you and Sam can check around the house. See if Madison is there.”

 

Shaking his head, Dean answered. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

 

“Dean, it’s not like we another plan,” Sam said looking at his brother. “We’ve got to get in there and Cas can help with that.”

 

Cas walked up the porch steps and knocked on the door. He heard movement from inside and knocked again.

 

“Hello, may I help you?” The door was opened to reveal a pleasant, middle-aged woman peering up at him.

 

Cas flashed his credentials. “I’m Agent Adams. May I come in and speak with you about a missing child’s case I’m working on?”

 

Dean and Sam made their way around back while Cas kept the woman engaged. Coming across a backdoor to the house, Sam tried the doorknob.

 

“It’s locked. I’ll have to pick it,” he whispered to Dean.

 

Taking out his lock picks, Sam was able to pick the lock with little effort. Carefully they made their way into what appeared to be a kitchen. The stench of spoiled food (they hoped it was food) was overwhelming.

 

They could hear Cas and the woman speaking. They searched the rooms leading up to the living room before retreating to find a door that led to the basement. They climbed down the stairs coming to a room filled with items used for spell work. Candles burned, casting the room in shadows making it difficult to see what in front of them. A muffled sob could be heard coming from a corner and Sam made his way over there to find Madison tied up and cowering in the corner.

 

“Hey, I'm Sam and that's my brother Dean. We're here to bring you home,” he grabbed his knife and began to cut the ropes that bound her hands and feet. He helped her to her feet and she staggered against him and cried out.

 

They heard hurried movement from upstairs and and the sounds of a struggle. They heard muffled voices and what sounded like Cas yelling ‘Dean’ and ‘glamour’ before a thud and the door to the basement was thrown open.

 

Heavy stomping on the stairs was heard as they looked up. The woman was no longer the pleasant, middle-aged woman’s she had been earlier. She was now tall and thin with long stringy black hair, grayish skin and gnarled hands that ended in nails that looked sharp. She howled in rage at seeing the hunters, exposing yellowing gums with rotting teeth. She turned her red eyes on them, focusing on Sam who was holding onto a wailing Madison

 

“She’s mine,” the witch howled at them. “Need her to survive.”

 

“Sam, she’s been using taking the kids, she’s been drawing out their life essence in order to work her glamour magic, prolong her life,” Dean hissed at him. She was probably using other body parts of the children, which he didn’t want to think of, in other spells.

 

Dean stepped in front of them, protecting both as the witch advanced. “Come on you bitch!” Dean yelled, dragging her attention away from Sam and Madison, enabling them to get to the stairs and to safety.

 

“Dean,” Sam called out.

 

“Sam, don’t worry about me. Get Madison outta here. Get her home!” Dean yelled out. Hearing the tight-edged tone in Dean’s voice, Sam didn’t fight him, realizing he was right and Madison needed to be brought to safety. She didn’t need to see anything else that would add to the nightmares she would most likely have. With the witch’s attention on Dean, Sam scooped the terrified child up in his arms and fled with her to the car that Cas had “acquired” without looking back.

 

Cas appeared at the top of the steps unsure as to how to aide Dean in this fight. “Cas, go with him,” Dean yelled out, not giving him a chance to argue. This way he knew everyone was safe. He could deal with the witch without having to worry about Sam or Cas getting hurt and Madison was no longer part of the equation. He really wished Cas had back his full angel mojo but at least he’d be able to help Sam protect the girl.

 

God, he really hated witches. He still stood by his original thought, the only good witch was a dead witch. He was about to put that thought to the test. He turned his attention back to the witch.

 

The witch extended her gnarled hands and advanced at Dean. With one powerful swipe, her nails impacted with Dean, gouging and slashing along his left side. Dean howled in rage and pain. He pulled back, feeling the nails dislodge from him and rake over his side. Dean grabbed for his gun, only for it to be knocked out of his hand by the creature.

 

Shit . Dean thought to himself. This witch was fast and seemed to be countering all his moves. He needed to be faster or this witch was going to be the death of him.

 

He wasn’t about to die today, not here in some out of the way rundown house. He needed to get his head back in the game, protect Sam, Cas and the little girl.

 

He shook his head, trying to clear his vision. He was already tired and now he was seeing two witches. His vision was beginning to swim and his head felt like it was wrapped in cotton.

 

Fuck. She had to have done something to him when her nails gouged him. He needed to kill this bitch.Then, he’d figure out what was up with himself.

 

“Wonder what you taste like,” she rasped out to him.

 

The witch smiled at him and then licked her nails. He watched as she seemed to savor his blood.

 

That’s just sick . Dean felt his stomach roll.

 

“Sweeter than I expected,” the witch purred at him.

 

She smacked her lips and then licked her teeth, like she liked the taste of him.

 

“Oh, hell no, you bitch. That’s the only taste of me you get.” Dean tried to focus on the witch in front of him. He shook his head trying to clear the cobwebs away. This was going to be tougher than he thought.

 

“You think so? You’re already hurt.” A smile spread across her bloodless, thin lips, taunting him.

 

“Fought uglier things than you in worse condition and I’m still here.”

 

Dean reached inside his jacket and withdrew his hunting knife. The one made of silver and he smiled this time. Holding the knife in his right hand, Dean charged at her plunging the knife into her gut. She shriek out in pain. “Hurts, doesn’t it?” he said through gritted teeth.

 

She laughed at him. “Just as much as the poison coursing through your body. Not enough to kill you but enough to fuck you up for quite awhile.” She chuckled at the look on his face, green eyes wide in shock. The witch’s nails were razor sharp and unknown to Dean, she had dipped her nails into a poison that was harmful to humans.

 

“What poison? Tell me and I’ll end you with little pain,” Dean yelled at her.

 

She laughed again but whispered the answer to him. “Poison of the Hedera helix. It’s not widely known as a poison; hard to come by the antidote.”

 

Shit . Why does the universe hate him?

 

But, being a man of his word, he withdrew the blade only to plunge the blade up to the hilt into her heart.

 

“Kept my word, you got better than you deserved,” he grunted at her.

 

He withdrew the knife and backed away from the witch as she began to glow from the inside out. He put his arm up, covering his face and slightly turned away from her to protect himself as her body imploded on itself. He dropped to his knees to catch his breath. He pressed his left hand to his left side, applying pressure to the wound before forcing himself to his feet. He picked up his gun and tucked it back into the waistband of his jeans, grabbed a rag and wiped the blood from his knife before replacing it in the hidden sheath in his jacket. He staggered to the table, looking through the jars.

 

“There’s gotta be an antidote here,” he muttered to himself as he moved jars around. Nothing! And he knew he was screwed, because he was Dean Winchester, the universe’s whipping boy. He swiped his arm across the table, knocking everything off and smiled in dark satisfaction when he heard glass jars shatter against the wooden floor.

 

He grabbed a candle that was still burning and brought the bloody rag to the flame, lighting it on fire. He let the rag drop to the floor into the puddle of goo that had pooled on the floor and watched as it caught fire. He only stayed long enough to watch as the goo was engulfed in flames. He made his way to the door, slowly climbed the stairs and staggered to the front door before forcing himself to walk the short distance to the Impala.

 

He slid himself in behind the wheel, closing the door with a groan of pain. He had to wait until his vision came back into focus before he could even try to get the key into the ignition and pulled the car away from the burning house. He knew they had to split up, Madison needed to be taken home but he really wished Sam or Cas was with him.

 

“Dean.”

 

The voice drew Dean’s attention away from the road, causing him to brake hard, the Impala fishtailing on the slick, snow covered road. Regaining control before he ended up crashing the car, Dean managed to pull them off to the side of the road. He glared at Cas, trying to hide the fact that his heart was beating rapidly, feeling the rush of adrenaline. He’d nearly crashed his baby.

 

“Why are you here? Thought I told you to go with Sam and Madison,” he groaned out in frustration. He felt Cas reach out and place a hand on his shoulder.

 

“Sam brought her home. She’s safe. Told me to help you,” Cas said matter-of-factly.

 

“Cas, a little busy here, not killing us,” Dean quipped at him. Cas just shrugged, because well, he was Cas, after all. Not much phased him except when one of the Winchesters was in danger. Which, right now one of them was in danger. But, they’d managed to sidestep the danger for Sam and Madison. Sam had been able to get out with her and got her back to parents. Sam and Madison were safe, unharmed. Injury free. Score one for the good guys. Then reality set in. Now, he and Cas had to deal with the blizzard and finding shelter. And, he had to deal with his wound but he pushed that thought away. He didn’t have time to worry about himself. There were still angels and demons out for Cas’ head. Cas was vulnerable against them without his full angelic strength.

 

Dean threw the car in reverse, trying to get them off the shoulder and back onto the road. The tires spun, not gaining traction. With determination, he put the car in drive, trying to get it to move forward without luck. The car was stuck in the snow; not going anywhere anytime soon.

 

“Fuck,” Dean breathed out. He’d managed to give Sam his coordinates before he’d lost service. Now he was screwed, separated from Sam, in a dead zone; no cell service and the snow made the roads impossible to drive. He needed to find some place to hold up until the blizzard past or he would freeze to death.

 

“Dean,” Cas said again, softly. “We need to get you out of this weather. We can’t go any further in this vehicle. We, you can’t stay in the car. You’ll freeze to death,” Cas said, watching Dean’s movements and reaction to his words. Dean grunted in response. He hated to agree with Cas but he was right and they both knew it. The snow had come down so hard and fast that the road was covered in several inches, making it impassable. The snow was still steadily falling, not stopping and a plow had yet to go by, clearing the roads.

 

“Yeah,” Dean muttered. “Open the glove box. There should be a map. Picked it up at the last stop. I think there’s a way station around here. It’s most likely closed for the season but it’s better than the car. Protection from the weather, we should be safe,” Dean explained to him. They needed protection from the elements battering at them. Well, Dean mainly. Do angels freeze? No matter, he really didn’t want to find out.

 

Cas reached out and opened the glove box, muttered ‘no gloves’ before he looked at Dean in confusion “I don’t understand Dean. Why is it called a glove box? Where are the gloves? You keep papers in here. Why?”

 

“Cas, kinda not the time for this,” Dean said in a tired voice.

 

Cas rifled through the contents until he found what Dean wanted and handed it to him. Dean grabbed his flashlight and pulled opened the map. “Yeah, we’re around mile marker fifteen,” Dean said, tracing his finger over the route they had driven in. “A mile up the road is the station. Come on,”

 

Dean folded the map and tossed it on the seat between them before getting out of the car. Dean trudged through the snow to the trunk to grab his duffle bags. He slung one over his right shoulder and tossed the other to Cas. He made sure the car was secured before leading them into the snow filled night.

 

“Cas, get a move on. I’m freezing here,” Dean said as he pulled up the collar of his jacket to shield his face from the cold and falling snow.

 

His breath was coming in short, sharp intakes. He could feel his lungs fight to draw in air as he pushed on in the snow. Fucking snow! Fucking Minnesota! Fuck. His. Life!

 

His left side hurt, the wound burning but he had to keep moving. Had to make it to the station, to survive when all he wanted to do was curl up and . . . He not only lost his train of thought, but his footing and fell forward onto his knees, barely stopping himself from falling face first into the snow. He groaned as he dragged himself back up to his feet and shook his head.

 

“Dean!”

 

He looked at Cas who had reached out and placed supporting hands on him. He was grateful for the help but then pulled away with a snarl.

 

“What?” Dean turned away from Cas and forced his feet to move. “Come on, we’re almost there.”

 

Only a little bit more and they’d be at the station, warmer than they were now and out of the snow. It was enough to get his ass moving faster now. The prize was in sight and he’d be damned it he didn’t get it. He heard Cas tsk his tongue at him in disapproval but he ignored it. He couldn’t waste the last bit of his own momentum he’d mustered to look back over his shoulder.

 

What should have taken them fifteen to twenty minutes to walk took over an hour. When they got there, they found that Dean had been right, the station was closed for the season. He checked the door, finding it locked and cursed his at luck.

 

“Door’s locked. I’ll see if I can pick it, though I can’t really feel my fingers,” he said more to himself than to Cas.

 

He pulled out his lock picks and started working on getting the door open. His fingers were stiff and frozen from the cold by the time he was done and he tried to breathe some warmth into them. He flexed them, willing them to work. His jacket and boots weren't made for this weather and he cursed at his predicament, he was soaked to the bone.

 

He looked at Cas who was just as wet but didn't seem bothered by it. Cas was actually looking up into the night sky, examining the snowflakes as they fell.

 

“Done! You coming or you gonna try to see if each snowflake really is different?”

 

“Dean, it’s true. No two snowflakes are alike. There’s really nothing like it . . .”

 

He pulled at Cas’ arm and entered the station, closing the door behind them. He pulled out his flashlight, shining it around the room until he found a lightswitch. He found that the electricity was still working when he flipped the switch and was happy for small favors.

 

“Yes, there’s still power.” A small smile spread across Dean’s lips.

 

He let his duffle bag drop to the floor and rooted around in it until he found the box of salt to and secured the doors and windows with protective lines. When he was done he, turned his attention to the heat, hoping luck was still on their side and was rewarded when he heard the heat kick on. He sagged against the wall as he felt his energy beginning to drain from his body.

 

“We’ve got heat, electricity and shelter. Sam has our coordinates; knows we couldn’t get back to the motel. He’ll find the Impala and look for us.”

 

He’s gotten them inside. He just needed to rest for a minute, that’s all. His head started to spin and his stomach roiled. His veins felt like the blood coursing through them was on fire. He reached out to steady himself but only grasped air. He heard a thud and thought to himself that Cas had knocked something over as the blackness surged up to claim him. He didn’t realize the thud was him as his body dropped to the floor.

 

On His Own

 

“Dean!”

 

Cas watched in shock as Dean dropped like a stone to the floor. He scrambled to Dean trying to see if he was still breathing. He was, Cas could see the small rise and fall of Dean’s muscular chest and it was a small comfort. Cas shook him but Dean didn’t respond. “Dean.” Cas called out again hoping that would be enough to rouse him. It wasn’t and he felt a flicker of panic beginning to build. Something was wrong with Dean and he hadn’t seen it. He didn’t know what was wrong or what to do. He rested on his knees, trying to think like Sam or Dean, what would they do? Check for injuries. He pushed Dean onto his back and stared in horror as he saw the blood coating Dean’s left hand and his side. He pushed up Dean’s shirt to see the injury, the gouges, scrapes. They were red and angry looking and hot to the touch. It looked like there was a substance dripping from the wound along with the blood. Why didn’t Dean tell him? He could have helped. Then he scoffed at his own thought. Dean’s, well Dean. He’d never admit to being hurt because then that meant he was vulnerable.

 

“Dean, you’re hurt. Why didn’t you tell me something happened in the house? What did that witch do?” He asked, hoping Dean would answer him. “I don’t know what to do,” he whispered to the unconscious man.

 

The problem Cas found himself in was this, he wasn’t sure what the witch had done to Dean, what was affecting him and causing this. He could do more harm than good by trying to offer up a cure. He was also out of his angelic strength. He used it all getting back to Dean at Sam’s request. He couldn’t heal him, even if he wanted to and he really wanted to. He hated seeing Dean hurt. But, he had to do something, he just had to figure out what. He grabbed his cell phone, at the ready to call Sam only to realize they were in a dead zone. It’d be so much easier if he had been able to call Sam for advice or if he was at his full strength. But he wasn’t so he had to move on to plan B. Now, he just has to figure out what that was before it was too late. He was over his head and he knew it.

 

“Dammit, Dean wake up. I don’t know what to do,” Cas muttered to the unconscious form at his knees.

 

Cas looked down at the wound on Dean’s left side. It needed to be cleaned he thought to himself. Getting to his feet he searched the small building, finding a bathroom at the back. Flicking on the light he searched until he found a small first aid kit. He carried it back with him to Dean’s unconscious body and knelt down by him to open it. He found an antibiotic cream and bandages but wasn’t satisfied. He knew those were used in aftercare. He got up and went back into the bathroom. He found a bottle of antibacterial soap and paper towels. He wet several and took them along with the soap back. He applied a small amount of the soap to the wet towels and gently scrubbed at the wound. He inspected the area, hoping he’d been able to clean it before an infection set in.

 

He got up, tossed the used towels in the trash, replaced the soap and brought more clean, wet towels and a few dry ones with him. He wiped again at the wound, making sure to thoroughly clean the soap off before patting it dry. He then applied the cream to the open wounds before bandaging the area. He looked at Dean, his skin was flushed and there appeared to be a sheen to his skin, like he might be fighting a fever. ‘That can’t be good,’ Cas muttered to himself.  He wiped down Dean’s skin and felt his forehead. He seemed warmer to the touch. Cas worried his bottom lip and said a silent prayer that Dean would wake soon. If Dean could tell him what had happened, he’d have a better chance of helping him. He watched as Dean shivered and realized Dean’s body was most likely fighting some type of infection from his wound.

 

He took off his trenchcoat and covered Dean with it, hoping it would warm him. He got up and searched around for anything he could use as a pillow for Dean’s head. As he walked the room, his foot came in contact with the duffle bag he’d been carrying. It didn’t seem like there were weapons in the bag. He unzipped it to find rolled up clothes. He could use Dean’s bag to rest his head against. He gently lifted Dean’s head and placed it on the the bag and waited. He pressed his back against the wall, rested his hands on his knees and sat next to Dean, watching him as he slept. Cas kept watch over Dean long into the night and early morning when Dean finally stirred. Cas sat up as he heard a groan coming from Dean, who was trying to sit up. He only managed a half roll before he lost momentum and flailed helplessly on his side.

 

“Dean,” Cas said and placed a hand on Dean’s shoulder. “Don’t try to move on your own, I’ll help you,” he said as Dean tried once again to sit up. He heard Dean hiss out in pain and saw the pinched lines around his lips as he fought against it. Cas got up, went into the bathroom and returned with a cup of water. He knelt by Dean and helped him into a sitting position before holding the cup against Dean’s lips. Dean took a few small sips of water before coughing and pushing the water away. “Dean, why didn’t tell me you were hurt? The wound, is that the cause?”

 

Dean rested his head against the duffle bag and tried to breath in deeply. His lungs felt like they were on fire. His skin burned and his head was pounding. He felt like shit. “Poison. The witch had it on her nails,” Dean said in between gasps for breath. “Hurts like a bitch. The pain . . .” his words dropped off as the pain racked his body.

 

“Antidote?” Cas asked, shocked that Dean was holding his own and not writhing on the floor in agony.

 

“Didn’t find one. Not enough to kill me but enough to kick my ass or so she said before I killed her.” He looked at Cas with pain dulled eyes, the ache rising in his body, threatening to tear him apart at the seams. “Snow?” Dean rasped out.

 

“Still falling. Has been since yesterday. Doors blocked with it,” Cas said as he got to his feet to look out the window again. He looked out over a field of blinding white snow. He turned back, his hands clenching and unclenching in agitation. “Dean, I’m not anywhere near full strength. I can’t heal you or take away the pain. I’m sorry.”

 

Dean tried to raise a hand as if to dismiss Cas’ words. Dean felt the pain spiking and he tried to breath through it. He rolled onto his right side, drew his knees up to his stomach and waited for it to subside. He felt his body shaking from the pain and blood thundered in his ears. He tried to look at Cas only to screw his eyes shut and curse under his breath as he was hit with wave after wave of shooting pain. Cas watched, his heart aching with the knowledge that there was nothing he could do for Dean. He could only watch, unable to help his friend. He said a silent prayer to his Father, hoping he was listening. ‘Please God, if you’re listening lessen Dean’s pain and burden. He has been loyalty to you and to me. He needs mercy at this time.’ Cas sent his prayer out to the heavens, not knowing if he would be heard by anyone or if he was heard if anyone would do anything to help Dean. He looked over at Dean to find his eyes closed and his labored breathing a little more even. “Dean?” he questioned, only to find that Dean was blessedly unconscious again.

 

Day turned into night with Cas faithfully watching over Dean with ever growing concern for his friend. He felt helpless and useless at not being able to do anything more than offer him comfort as Dean was hit by pain. He winced when he heard Dean's teeth grinding as he tried to hide his pain. He'd managed to get Dean up once and into the bathroom. It had been slow going with Dean hunched over, barely shuffling along on his own feet. He knew if Dean had been coherent he would have been mortified that Cas had to help him in the bathroom and afterwards, even going as far as stripping him of his clothes caked in his own blood and sweat. He'd washed Dean the best he could, examined the wound and bandaged him again before dressing him in clothes from his duffle bag. He got Dean to the makeshift bed as pain wracked his body. Dean's legs gave out on him and he sank to his knees as a yelp of pain escaped his lips.

 

“Dean!” Cas yelled out trying to stop Dean from falling face first onto the hard wooden floor. He managed to pull Dean back up and onto his right side, hoping he would be able to lay comfortably and sleep. He watched over Dean as if he was Dean’s true guardian angel, wishing he was at full strength. He felt his strength returning, slowly but he was nowhere near being able to heal himself should he need it, let alone healing Dean. If he had his Grace, there would not be a question about healing Dean. He sighed in frustration, wanting so badly to be able to do more than what he’d done already.

 

He got up and looked out the window, hoping to see some sign of life. Cas noticed that the snow had finally stopped falling. Maybe, Sam would be able to find them and soon. Maybe, he was on their trail right now. He hoped this was true because he feared for Dean’s health. He stood watch as the dark night sky began to fade into a soft gray as the sun rose against a blanket of clouds. He heard Dean muttering and turned to look at him.

 

“Cas,” Dean breathed out softly. He pushed himself up on his trembling right arm, his left holding his wounded side. He sat, looking up at the angel, his friend who had remained with him while his body fought off the poison. “How long?”

 

“Two days. It finally stopped snowing sometime last night. I don’t know how the roads are,” Cas said with a tight smile. “How are you feeling?” Cas dropped down next to Dean, sitting with his back against the wall. He looked Dean over, trying to determine if he was getting any better.

 

“Head’s pounding. My body feels like it’s on fire but at least I’m conscious and alive,” Dean said. “Thanks . . . for staying with me, watching over me,” he said and looked away because he didn’t do emotional shit.

 

“Yeah.” Was all Cas said in response. No words were truly needed between them and they both knew it. Aside from Sam, they were each other’s best friends. They’d go to Hell and back for each other, they had in fact done just that. Cas looked over to see Dean dozing off, head resting on his chest, breath coming in an easy rise and fall of his chest instead of the labored breaths of earlier. Cas chuckled at the sight; Dean was always able to fall asleep easily.

 

A sound caught Cas’ attention. He stood and crossed to the window to look out. A plow truck was making a sweep of the road. Cas backed away, not wanting to draw attention to them. They had eliminated the threat of the witch but he wasn’t sure of what else might be lurking out there. With neither at their full strength, he didn’t dare chance Dean’s safety. Cas hoped whoever it was didn’t linger or come any closer. Thankfully, he’d turned off the lights earlier so it wouldn’t draw attention to their presence. He heard voices, two men talking. He peered out the window again and saw they had shovels. They hastily shoveled a path from the road to the door and the turned around to leave. They tossed the shovels into the truck and disappeared down the road. Cas let out a sigh of relief and returned to sitting next to Dean.

 

Rescued?

 

Sam waved at the Bennets as he climbed into the car the Cas has purloined two days ago. He’d made it back with Madison as the blizzard had hit, stopping all traffic and forcing him to stay with the family until the roads had been cleared. He hoped that Dean and Cas were safe, back at the motel as he drove the few miles there. He looked over the parking lot, concerned at not seeing the Impala. He parked and walked over to their room, pulling out the room key Dean had given to him earlier. He pushed the door open and was met with musty air; no one had been back since they had left.

 

“Dean, Cas?” He called out, hoping he was wrong. “Shit, where are you Dean?”

 

As Sam looked around, he was hit with the thought that he really needed a shower. He’d been living in the same clothes now for the last two days. The need to be clean won over; he couldn’t stand the feel of the dirt and two-day old clothes against his skin. He striped, tossing the clothes on the floor before taking a quick shower. Less than ten minutes later, he emerged feeling clean. He dressed and gathered their belongings, looking around the room to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything. Satisfied that he hadn’t, he hauled everything to the car, dumping it into the trunk.

 

He knew that staying in this motel wasn’t safe after dealing with the witch. If any other supernatural creature knew hunters where in town, this would mostly be the first place they checked. Staying here, even waiting for Dean and Cas, was no longer an option.

 

Sam pulled out his phone, thankful that he had service again. The blizzard had knocked out one of the local cell towers. He saw a message from Dean; coordinates. Staring the car, he followed them until he reached the Impala.  

 

He pulled up behind it and cut the engine, getting out, gun in hand, he walked toward the car. The Impala was empty; he wasn’t sure if that was actually a good thing.

 

“Shit,” he muttered. Dean wouldn’t just leave the car like this. Sam made the decision to move the stuff from the car he’d been driving to the Impala.

 

“Dean’s gonna kill me,” he said as he leaned down to hotwired the Impala. It sputtered to life and he left it running as he fished out a shovel from the trunk to clear away the snow blocking the tires and the bumpers. Once enough of the snow had been removed so he could try moving the car, he tossed the shovel into the trunk and got back in, adjusting the seat to accommodate his legs. His hand hit something on the seat and he pulled at it.

 

“Crap, Dean’s phone.” He looked down, seeing the map that had been next to the phone. Picking it up, he looked over the route he was on and smiled. He put the car into drive and gave it some gas, forcing the car to move from its resting place. The tires spun before finally gaining traction and pulling back onto the road.

 

Cas wasn’t sure how long it had been since the men with the plow had left when the rumble of a car could be heard from the road and Cas wondered briefly if it was the plow again. It stopped in front of the station, idling like the person was trying to figure out if they were staying or not. The car door opened and closed and footsteps could be heard, the person making their way from the car to the door of the station. Cas pulled out Dean’s gun, holding it in hands that weren’t used to holding the weapon. He‘d use it against the possible threat if he had to.

 

“Dean, Cas!” Sam’s voice called out as the door was thrown open. The doorway was filled by Sam’s body standing there looking down at them. He walked in, gun in hand checking for possible threats. Seeing his brother’s body, Sam kicked the door closed and came to kneel in front of Dean.  

 

“Cas . . .” Sam breathed out, too afraid to say anything else. Too afraid to hear what Cas might say to him. He looked around and saw Dean’s bloody and discarded clothes and his breath hitched. “Cas, Dean . . .” Was all he said before he was searching for injuries. Sam looked over Dean’s body, hands hovering over the bandages. He couldn’t take his eyes off of them; his brother was hurt. “What . . .” Sam’s words were cut off by Cas as he began to speak, trying to calm him down.

 

“He’s asleep. The witch wounded him. His body’s been fighting off a poison. He’s made it through the worst of it,” Cas said, his voice low and sad, saying everything he couldn’t voice. He couldn’t heal Dean. He wasn’t anywhere near full strength and Dean had suffer for it. He was sorry. Sorry for the pain Dean had been in, sorry that he’d been useless.

 

Sam let out a strangled breath. “But, he’s . . . he’s gonna be okay?” Sam asked, hazel eyes looking at him full of unspoken fear.

 

“Yeah, I think the worst of it’s over. He’s a fighter,” Cas said and heard a small chuckle from Sam. Cas reached out, placing a comforting hand on Sam’s shoulder. Sam looked at it before looking into Cas’ blue eyes, understanding the fear they reflected back at him.

 

“That he is,” Sam stood and looked around the station, seeing that Cas hadn’t had much to work with and counted himself lucky that Cas had been with Dean. Who knew if Dean would have survived this alone.

 

Cas stood and placed a hand on Sam’s shoulder, pulling his attention away from his brother. “We should get him out of here,” Sam nodded in agreement, they had to get Dean someplace safe, that had a bed he could rest on. Together they dressed Dean in his jacket and boots and carried him to the Impala. He stirred but didn’t fight them as they got him into the back seat. Sam slid in behind the wheel of the car as Cas slid into the seat next to him. Sam adjusted the rearview mirror, glancing at his brother before looking over at Cas.

“You did good Cas. Kept him alive,” Sam said, his voice so low only he and Cas could hear it. “Thank you.”