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Blame it on Singer! (or It's all Bobby's fault!)

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Chapter One

Jai

The sound of the silverware clanking against the old glass dishes nearly drowned out the annoying chatter of conversations that filled the diner, but it was the nasally sound of the waitress that approached asking if I needed yet another refill of my already full cup that had me grinding my teeth. To top that all off, I could hear the stifled laughter of the woman on the other end of the phone.

Putting down the knife and fork in my hand, abandoning the French Toast that sat soaking on the plate in front of me, I picked up the cup of coffee and took as much of it down as I could without burning a hole through my esophagus. It had been a very long twelve hour drive and an even longer day collecting evidence that brought me to this exact point, which was discussing the case over a long-distance call with my partner-in-crime.

“Not funny, Gwen.” I growled as I put the cup down and readjusted the Bluetooth earpiece before I picked up the fork again. “It’s crowded, noisy, and smells funny, but I’m starving and it’s the only halfway decent place to eat in this small shitcan of a town. So, can we get back onto the who-done-it so I can get out of here?”

“First off,” her humored voice chuckled in my ear, “you have been in a lot of other places that smelled worse than that, I’m sure. Secondly, what does it smell like… exactly?”

“Trust me, if you want to keep that dollar burrito down, you won’t ask again.” I smirked, not that she could see it, and took a bite of the toast. “So, you got the coroner reports and the photos I sent, are we still on track for what this little beastie might be?”

“Don’t mock my dinner, it’s called living economically. As for our wee beastie … it’s a Redcap.”

I nearly choked on the piece of bread in my mouth before I quickly took a sip of coffee. “Excuse me? What the hell is an English goblin doing in Wisconsin?”

“The hell if I know, but that’s what it is. According to the lore, you are chasing down a Redcap, end of story.

I sat back in the seat, glanced down at the phone on the table and sighed. “So, tell me how to kill this thing.” And just my luck, that was the moment the waitress walked by and sucked in a deep, shocked breath, while she looked at me in terror. I blinked at her once and licked my lips. “I have rats, fucking huge rats. I’m on the phone with the exterminator.” She only nodded quickly and walked away. Great, she thinks I’m psycho. I grabbed a twenty from my pocket, drank the last of the coffee and hauled ass out of that place. Looks like I’m McDee-ing it for the rest of my time in God-only-knows-where cheese country. “Talk to me, Gwen, any leads on where I might find said hobgoblin?”

“Redcaps like to waylay travelers so you’re probably going to find them somewhere off the beaten path, a spot where he can draw unsuspecting people in and keep it on the down low.”

“So, a literal bed and breakfast?” I slipped into the old Cavalier that I had picked up along the way and jammed the key into the ignition. “What kind of out of the way place are we talking about? Woodsy back road or wide open, American Gothic?”

“Definitely woodsy back road. You’re close to Devil’s Lake, right?”

“Yeah, Baraboo… why you got something?” I didn’t pull out of the parking lot but waited on Gwen to come up with something better than a woodsy  back road because I’ve seen “The Hills Have Eyes” and I am NOT going to be someone’s dinner.

“I might… where are you staying?

“You’re kidding right? I’ve been in town a whole of six hours before I called you. I haven’t been able to grab a place.” I rubbed my forehead, just above my eyes hoping to get rid of the headache that threatened to make me crawl under the covers and turn off the lights.

“I found a motel near the sight of the disappearances. You could always stay there.” I rubbed my head just a little bit harder as I shook it, yep, definitely someone’s dinner. “It’s called Devil’s Lake Motel and Cabins.”

“Nope, not ominous at all!” I let out a huff. “Great, must be Thursday.”

“What did you expect, the Four Seasons?”

“HA!  Yeah, when was the last time we went higher than three stars?”

“Three stars?” She snickered at me, and I only say snickered because it wasn’t a real laugh, “I like my motels like I like my Netflix horror movies. One star or less! ” I rolled my eyes, not that she could see, put the car in drive and headed off to the right, following the GPS. “Listen, Jai, try to at least be polite, I know it’s not your style, but you can’t tip it off that you’re a hunter. So, BE a TOURIST.”

“Fun times!”

~~~~~

Devil’s Lake Motel and Cabins was set back in the woods off the beaten path just a few blocks up from the Route 136 and 12 cross section. The two-story, burnt sienna colored building with bright red doors would have definitely stuck out in my head even if it wasn’t for the God-awful yellow sign that signaled my arrival.

I think I needed a drink before I even pulled into the driveway. I parked the Cavalier and walked up the office door, which was situated in the basement of what was probably the owners house. The annoying bell above the door clattered back at me as it closed and an ornery old man walked out from the back.

“Can I help you?” Ah, he sounded like he had smoked about four packs a day since birth, but the smell was even worse.

“I need a single please.” I tried to smile, but I think I frowned instead.

“$135 cash.” He bit back and held his hand out. I held back the urge to roll my eyes, yanked my wallet out of my coat pocket and took out the credit card with the name Jeannette Cooper before handing it to him. “Cash.”

“Yeah, sorry,” I stuffed the card away and yanked the seven $20 bills out of the bi-fold and handed it to him. “Been a long drive, y’know, heard this place was a good stop along the road.”

“Are you just passing through?” He questioned, but there wasn’t a genuinely curious note in that whole sentence. It was more of a “so I know when to start the water boiling for supper” kind of tone. Dude gave me the creeps.

“Ah, yeah, headed out to Sioux Falls to visit a cousin of mine. She’s a sheriff out that way, but I’m exhausted. A friend recommended stopping here since I was coming through.” I couldn’t believe the crap that I was spouting and let me tell you, if that cousin of mine ever saw my face again, she was bound to lock me up or salt and burn me.

“You’re traveling alone?” Again, not curious or concerned, and damn, heebee-jeebees. I had to get out of there quick.

“Life of an artist, right, gotta go where the money is.” I grinned, and opened my hand on the counter, looking for my five and keys.

He plunked down an old hotel key and a $5 bill before he nodded out the door. “Room 213, second floor, left side.”

“Thanks,” and you will never see me exit a building faster than I did at that very moment. I hit the button on my Bluetooth, connecting to the last caller and listened as Gwen picked up. Without waiting for her to say anything, I snapped. “YOU are the hunter next time. Seriously, I feel dirty and just need to shower and I’ve only been in the office. What the FUCK am I doing here again? And remind me to really kick Uncle Bobby in the nads next time I see him because this is some screwed up shit.”

“Calm down, Tiny Dancer. Geez, gonna give yourself a coronary. It can’t be that bad.” She laughed... the fucker just laughed. “I would have went with you if I thought I would have any service for my equipment and you know I have a lot of stuff. And, you’re there to find the Redcap.”

“I think I already did,” I sighed, unlocked the door of room 213 on the second floor left and stopped dead in my tracks. “Oh, HELL no!”

“What? You okay? What?” Gwen practically screamed in my ear.

I dropped the back and let the door close behind me. “There is a Coca-cola bedspread and pillow cases. Why would someone do this? What possesses someone to decorate in soda products?”

“Maybe it’s a sponsorship deal.”

“Shut up!” I huffed and sat down on the edge of the single bed. “Anyway, like I was saying, I think I found the thing? The guy at the front counter just hit me the wrong way.”

“Describe him to me.”

“We doing police line-up or average Joe shake down?”

“Really, give me a damn description.”

“Five-five, thin, like bony, balding, sounded like he was on his last lung and his voice… it was like my Grandfather’s, all gristly and stuff.” I shrugged, but paused in my thoughts to take in a deep breath. “Huh.”

“Yeah, that sounds like what we’re looking for.”

“Hey, what does it say about smells?” Weird question right, but I had my reasons, especially as I sat up and looked around trying to pinpoint where the copper tang in the air was coming from.

“I don’t know, dried blood maybe? I mean it does soak it’s cap in the blood of it’s victims.”

Making my way through the room, the scent was stronger along the back and side wall, closest to the next room, but there was another thought in my head at that same time. “Scent rises, kind of like heat.”

“Eww.”

“Seriously, G, I think I might have found something.” I grabbed the key, took my lock-pick kit and headed out the door. The parking lot was empty, the sounds around me were only the ones that came from the forest and I was on my way down to 113, the room just below mine.

Picking the lock was easy, getting in the door, easier, but getting slapped in the face by the smell of death nearly had me puking. I gagged several times before I was able to pull my shirt up over my nose, blocking it just a bit and I moved towards the back of the room.

“Ugh, I will never get used to the smell of decomp.”

“That’s not something you should get used to. What the hell are you doing?”

“Room below me is covered in death stench, like they just recently removed a body, but I can’t pinpoint it, it’s just… everywhere.” I shivered and stood in the middle of the room. “You need to tell me more about this… whatever the hell goblin I’m chasing before I become lunch.”

“They don’t eat you… they just kill you and use you for finger painting, it fuels their magic.”

“You know what, Bancroft, screw you and your magical cryptos. I’m going back upstairs for a nap.” And with that, I headed out the door and back up the stars, but as I entered the room once again I was stunned awake once more. “Oh my God, this place is just fucking creepy!” I had temporarily forgotten about the sponsorship program that was going on in my room, so I took a deep breath and sat down at the table. “What’s our timeline look like? I mean, when do they strike? I gave this guy some pretty tempting bait, how long before he takes it?”

“They’re more opportunistic, there’s no real timeline so I would just try not to get caught alone.”

“Perfect and here I am… ALONE.”

“They just can’t let their cap dry out so by the sounds of the room below, you’ve got some time.”

“All by myself…” I sang in a muffled voice as I moved over to the bed and laid down with my feet on the floor. “Don’t wanna be all by myself…. Anymore.”

“Please, never do karaoke.”

“So, I’m good for today, I’m gonna catch an hour, then maybe head out and search around. I might have gotten away with the coroner’s office and the sheriffs department but I need to scout the area.” I stared at the ceiling and tapped my fingers on my stomach as I thought aloud. “Any other lore I should know of in the area? Like lake monsters or Bigfoot or something?”

“Funny you should mention that...”

“Oh, give me a break…”

“There’s a lot of lore in the Devil’s Lake region, but right now we have to concentrate on the crypto you’re chasing not the ones that have been there forever.”

“Great, new plan, next time I stay home and feed the cats and you go on one of Uncle Bobby’s massively stupid hunting trips.”

“Hey, got another call coming in, try to get some sleep and call me when you decide to head out. I wanna know what you’re looking at.”

I glanced around as she spoke and shivered. “I think I’m just going to drug myself, it’s the only way I’m sleeping in here without help of the tall and muscular kind.” I let out a sigh and grabbed my phone from my coat. “Talk at ya later.”

“Yeah, bye.” She was always for quick and easy, so there was no pomp and circumstance to hanging up the phone either and suddenly I was thrust into the silence of the old motel room.

This was going to be so much fun.

Chapter Text

Gwen

So, two things happened at once, Jai hung up and my hunter’s cell rang. Stupid phone, stupid calls… stupid Bobby, because it wasn’t his number that popped up on the line, it was one I didn’t recognize and I hated to talk on the phone, Bobby knew this, but if someone had this number, it had to be important. Still, why couldn’t they text like a normal person?

REDCAPS! Outside Europe? Excite! I was practically buzzing with it, but there wasn’t anything more I could do with it until Jai was up and moving around. I was pretty sure she had our guy… thing? Guy-thing? Anyway, I was pretty positive this would be over by the morning and she could head home, or out to Bobby’s whichever was faster for her. Things on the last hunt hadn’t ended well but when Bobby called, there was no way she was going to say no. The man had saved her life, and mine, way too many times to leave him hanging.

Hunting was a Jai thing, she loved the thrill of the chase, unless it was her being chased, then that was a completely different story, but me, I preferred to stay behind my laptop and research. It was just safer that way. For both of us. I didn’t mind the cryptos but the ghost children , shudder, those things were fucking scary. That was the last time I had hunted with the likes of Jai Lancing, at least out in the field part, I still drove around with her, tramping across the country to one hunt or another, but we usually stayed in the Northeast, Bobby had other boys that could take care of the rest of it.

Which brings me to the phone… again. Stupid phone! Annoyed, I hit the accept then the speaker. “Password.”

“Grizzly bears.” The smile in his voice was almost contagious, like the prospect of learning something new made him perky and optimistic, I already didn’t like him, but the deep voice was intriguing and he knew the password.

“Okay, so you know Bobby Singer, what can I do for you?” I didn’t really need to be friendly, did I?

“Yeah, so,” he cleared his throat, “my name is Sam Winchester, and Bobby said you might be able to help me with something. He said to tell you he would have never given me this number if it wasn’t important but you were the only one he could think of that might know what we’re dealing with.”

“If you really knew Bobby, he would really know me, so I know he gave you something besides the password.”

I could hear him laugh on the other end, like a silent laugh that he held back on. “Um, he said… you’re never going to find your Lancelot playing on the computer.”

Yeah, Bobby never really understood the bonding over World of Warcraft, but then again, he was Bobby.

“Okay, so you’re legit, what can I help you with, Sam Winchester?” Hey, straight and to the point, I had stuff to do. It’s kind of my thing.

“My brother, Dean, and I are on a case in Wisconsin and we could use some info. Bobby gave us some rough details but we can’t seem to find a legitimate pattern or an actual creature involved. I know just about everything there is to know about what mythology is connected to that area, but I’m coming up with jack on what this one could possibly be.”

Wisconsin? This can’t be a coincidence, but I wasn’t going to tell him that. I didn’t know this hunter from a hole in the wall and Jai was out there alone, so… the only thing I could do was push some info on him and let the two Winchester brothers ride it out on their own. Winchester? The only one I really knew was John.

“What do you got for detail, or more to the point, what did Bobby tell you? Because he isn’t going to send you out on a goose chase.” That man so owed me chicken wings for this one.

“So, I’ve got the mutilated bodies of five people, two locals, a couple of hikers, and one trucker that happened to be passing through Baraboo, all over the course of a month.”

“That’s not a lot to go on, could be grizzlies.” Hey, my other option was moose, but I’m not going to throw that at him. Moose are scary.

“We ruled out wild animal attacks. Got the coroner reports,” of course, they did, “looks like there isn’t anything missing, so we’ve ruled out weres, shifters, and ghouls. No poison, so Djinn are crossed off the list, and while there was a lot of blood unaccounted for, there was also a lot of carnage, so that might explain the missing fluids.”

Ew, fluids… shudder!

“I need something more specific, like the area, maybe where the hikers were staying, or where the trucker last had dinner. Details, Sam, details.”

“Right,” he scoffed, but it seemed to have humor behind it. “Hey, Dean!” his voice seemed to get deeper as he yelled for his brother, “ DEAN!” there was a pause on the line, “hey, hand me that folder. ” I listened to the baritone voice in the background. “Ow! Jerk! I said hand it to me, not give me a black eye with it. Christ!”

“What?” I couldn’t help but burst out laughing, “how do you get a black eye from a folder?”

“He rolled it up.” Sam stated flatly and cleared his throat. “Ah... okay, here… looks like the two hikers were staying at a motel near Devil’s Lake, the couple had a summer house not a half a mile from those same cabins and the trucker…” pause again, he wasn’t really well organized, was he? “Yeah, the trucker had checked into one of the cabins on the same property.”

God, I was pretty sure Jai had text me this information within five minutes of stepping foot in the town and here I was listening to this kid… probably a kid, because who the hell is that unorganized? I blame Bobby. Anyway, Jai had this shit down and Bobby wanted me to help these clowns? Jai knew not to give me this half-assed information, what was I supposed to do with these guys?

“So, same property, got it. Can you send me the reports? I want to know the volume of blood left in the body. If you’ve ruled out all of those, then it has to be something you don’t normally see. Take a picture of it and send it to me, use a scanner app, email it, whatever you got to do. If you need something, I can recommend it.”

“No,” again with the smile in his voice, was he high? “I think I got it, I’ll take a picture and send it to this number.”

“Great, give me a bit to look it over and I can call you right back.”

“Thanks, Gwen.”

“MMhmm,” and that was it, I hung up.

Sitting back in the chair, I heard my phone beep, not the one that I just got off of, but the one attached to Jai. It went off three more times before I picked it up.

Jai: I can’t.

Jai: I’m going to be up all night now.

Jai:  Goddamn! I just want soda.

Jai: Bubbles!!!!!

Oh, great! Now, she’s on drugs. I wonder if they served the original stuff, from 1886, you know the one with the cocaine in it. That would explain how he gets his victims. Share a Coke with… well, who wants to be his next meal? CRAP! Should I tell Jai about the hunters? Should I tell the hunters about Jai? This could be bad. Best to air on the side of caution. Well, text it is.

Gwen: okay, crazy girl, you may have some company.

Jai: Wonderful, someone to share a Coke with?

I really hated when she did that… the whole read your thoughts thing.

Gwen: Yeah, um… Bobby gave my info to a couple of hunters.

Jai: And let me guess, they’re in beautiful, downtown Baraboo?

Gwen: Is there even a downtown Baraboo?

Jai: Semantics.

Jai: Tell me about these hunters.

Gwen: I don’t know much, but I have names. Sam and Dean Winchester.

Jai: SON OF A BITCH!

Gwen: And Sam is highly unorganized. My OCD wanted to reach through the phone and smack him.

Jai: He might like that.

Jai:  I’ve met them, briefly when we were kids at Uncle B’s.

There was a pause in her thread of text messages, like she wasn’t giving me the whole story, which was just like her but it could be important information.

Jai:  They’re John’s boys.

Gwen: Son of a bitch!

Jai: Yeah, my thoughts exactly. Dean’s the hot-headed one, Sam does research, both are some of the best hunters in the world, which begs the question…

Jai: Why did Bobby send them to you?

Gwen: Got me! But they are hunting the same thing we are, they just don’t know it yet. They have absolutely no clue what they’re looking for.

Jai: Because Sam is an all-American boy, seriously, I don’t think they’ve ever come up against something that isn’t Greek or American made. Hell, we’ve taken on more Kitsune than they’ve touch Pokemon cards.

Gwen: So, great, total greenhorns when it comes to European anything.

Jai: Yeah, pretty much. Hey, what season is it there?

Gwen: Relevant to what?

Jai: My nice little innkeeper just walked by the back window with an ax...

Gwen: So…

Jai: And a shotgun. I just wanted to make sure we were still in the same universe cause I’m pretty sure it’s not hunting season.

Jai: I’m gonna follow.

Gwen: Wait! Do I tell the boys.

Gwen: What do I do with the Winchesters?

Gwen:  Don’t go unarmed!

Gwen: Son of a bitch! Jai! Die and I will kill you!

Why was I still texting, she obviously didn’t have her phone, better yet, why did I tell her not to go unarmed? Because she’s an unstable hunter with a napoleon complex. And, she has no back up.

That settled it, it was time to send the Winchesters. This was going to go over as well as a fart in church. CRAP!

I picked up the other phone, saw what Sam had sent, not that I needed it and took a deep breath.

And away we go…

“Yeah!” The gruff voice that answered the phone this time was not the same as before and I couldn’t help the shiver that went through me.

“Sam, please,” I can be cordial, yes, not that I liked to be, but this one didn’t sound like he played nicely with others.

“Hey, Gwen,” Sam’s smiling voice picked up the line.

“Found your monster.” I had so much more to say but Dean’s voice had shaken me just a little bit more than I thought it would.

“Already? Wow,” he seemed surprised, why do they always seem surprised?

“It’s a Redcap, a English-Scottish goblin, not the kind you want to meet at Hogwarts. This one is malevolent and pretty damn nasty.”

“Okay, wait,” Dean again, “what’s an English Goblin doing in Wisconsin?”

Was it a trait that all of Bobby’s “kids” were so damn infuriating? It was like talking to a male version of Jai. Creepy, but she definitely wasn’t as inviting as the Winchester on the line. Oooh.

“Lots of things have been migrating lately,” I snapped at him. Seriously, I had this conversation with Jai not more than a month ago when we ran into that Baku in Northern Nebraska. “It’s like when the climate shifts, or the tectonic plates move, everything just goes wonky. Plus, it’s cold and wet in England, maybe it just wanted a vacation.”

“In Wisconsin?” Dean was in total disbelief but I could hear him continue to mutter something as he walked away.

“So, how do you know it’s a Redcap? ” Sam, finally, as unorganized as he was, I knew he would listen instead of question.

“The elevated levels of iron in the victim's blood gave me an indication that whatever was used to chop them up had to be something with that type of metal. The Redcaps are known to carry iron pikes, which is what he most likely used to do the deed. A rip and shred with those wouldn’t take long at all. The blood volume in your vics is pretty low, but from the photos of the scene, there’s no way to account for the amount that is missing, which means it was collected and Redcaps use their victim’s blood to keep the magic in them flowing, by soaking the cap in it.”

“Wonderful.”   Sam huffed. “So, where do we find it is the next question.”

“That one’s easy too,” I sighed, best hunters in the country… whatever, Bobby! Oh, and John’s boys, if my dad was alive, he’d have a field day with this. “You told me where it was when you called last. Devil’s Lake Motel and Cabins. Everything is connected to that land.The only issue would be tracking down what might not look like a goblin.”

“Looks like we’re off on a stake out.” Sam seemed relieved. “Thank you, Gwen, for your help, looking off continent never crossed my mind. What we hunt is usually deterred by Iron, so I would have never thought of that.”

“I know,” and yes, I was damn smug about it. “You know how to reach me, so… if you need to…”

“We will.” Sam’s happy voice seemed to get… happier? And the line disconnected. Great, now what was I going to eat for lunch? Just then a new text beeped through and I snapped up the phone, giving it a glance over.

Jai: Ah, G, I think I might need those Winchesters after all.

Chapter Text

Chapter Three

Jai

The diner was the last place I wanted to be today, but it was only noon and whatever the hell I was chasing wasn’t going to come out of hiding until dark. Sitting down in the same little spot that I had sequestered that morning, I waited for the nasally voice of the waitress to ask about my order. It never came, or maybe it did and I just worked on autopilot because a deep, rough, angry-for-too-long voice interrupted my thoughts.

Looking up at the counter, I eyed over the length of a man that I recognized. Shit! He was dressed in dark slacks that hugged his body well, not that I was admiring his backside, because I wasn’t, a matching tailored suit jacket that followed the curves of his shoulders, white dress shirt that I could see from above his collar. All in all, Dean Winchester was a good looking man, and apparently asking questions about the victims to the head waitress, not my new friend Flo either.

A burger and fries were set down in front of me, startling me back to reality, the problem was, startling me wasn’t the best thing in the world, but not her fault. Wasn’t her fault when I reached for the glock usually tucked in the waistband of my jeans, and it wasn’t her fault when I finally came to my senses and just slammed said hand down on the table, attracting the unwanted attention of one Dean Winchester.

“Sorry, I, ah, sorry.” I mumbled to the woman. She gave me a frown and right then I thanked whatever higher powers that I had left my weapon in the car. There went my appetite.

I sat back in the chair and thought about the message conversation with Gwen.

Gwen: Ok, what exactly is going on? Cause needing the Winchesters would never leave your mouth.

Jai: Followed our boy, Klem.

Gwen: Wait, it’s got a name?

Jai: No. I made it up. Anyway...

Jai: So, KLEM, is not alone. There’s a cabin on the far back corner of the property and it’s not empty.

Gwen: A den?

Jai: At least 5.

Gwen: Shit.

Jai: Found out where the vics are too. Whole place smelled like death. Pretty bad. The space around it is covered in lavender, masks the scent.

Gwen: You need more recon.

Jai: I’d hate to say it but I think I need backup.

Gwen: I think I have a way to send some to you.

Jai: Perfect, I’ll just wait here then.

“Hey,” his voice was just the way I remembered it from the last time I walked out on him. Slowly, I brought my eyes up from the tempting burger that sat in front of me, and I was jostled out of the recap of the text conversation with Gwen.

My eyes connected with the grass green ones of the older Winchester brother as he slid into the booth seat across from me. I watched that sly smile grace his lips as I finally rested against the back of my seat and worried my bottom lips as he looked me over.

“Bobby know you’re out here?” Fuck him and his dickish ways. Any pleasantries just went out the window.

“Screw you, AGENT!” Yep, there was bad blood here.

“I’m just looking out for Bobby’s girl.” Dean held his hands up as if to surrender and I took it, backing off to continue with my lunch. “So, what brings you out this way?”

“Lunch.” Okay, so call me a sarcastic bitch, but really, what kind of question is that? “You?”

“Case.” Straight and to the point, I love me a Winchester conversation. “So, Bobby?”

“Left him at home with a bottle of rotgut and some 90210, told him I was going on a drive and I ended up… here.” I grinned sarcastically at him and took a drink of the now flat soda before me. “Gwen said there might be something up this way, so I stopped and viola, here we sit.”

“Funny, Gwen was the one that Bobby sent Sam to for some info about the case.” Dean, his normal asshole self, just put his arm on the back of the booth and smiled as he tilted his head, like he was looking for a weakness. His eyes narrowed on me and I grabbed the napkin, wiped my lips and tossed it down. “You alone?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know.” I winked, stood, and pulled the twenty from the back pocket of my jeans. “Pie is on me. Have a good day, Agent.”

I wasn’t blowing his cover but I sure as hell wasn’t going to be questioned by Bobby’s “boy.” Of course, the last time we met might have a little to do with our unfriendly nature to each other but hell, put two pigheaded people in the same room with a banshee and you know something bad is bound to happen.

I was out by my car just as the sound of boots hitting the gravel filled air around me. I turned just in time to watch Dean come to a stop at the back of the car.

“Don’t need it, don’t want it, and if you try it, there’s gonna be hell to pay.” I snapped, fishing my keys from my pocket as he took a deep breath in, expanding that impressive chest.

“You know about how well I Iisten, right?” Was Dean’s witty reply as he cracked a smile.

“Dean, you know I appreciate the…”

“No, you don’t,” he stepped closer, the space between us disappearing faster than I could breath. “You don’t appreciate anything, let alone Bobby…” and, the truth comes out. “All the crap you put him through is going to kill him one of these days and you just keep on doing it.”

“This coming from the man who started the apocalypse… fuck off!”

Done! So done! I got in the car, revved her up as much as she could take and hauled ass out of the parking lot.

So, it was back to Coke-central with six hours until sundown with the wrong Winchester on my ass, not that Sam and I ever met, but this day just kept getting better.

Welcome to the life of Jai Fucking Lancing.

No, Lancing isn’t my real last name, it’s the place I was born, where real life started and stopped, before the darkness of everything else started. Hell, Jai isn’t even the real deal either, but I was happy there, I tried to hold onto it, so when I needed to disappear, that was the only thing I had left, and I kept it.

You can’t know my age, that’s not an option but I can tell you everything that’s ever happened to me and we can go from there.

At 6, I experienced my first trip into the supernatural by means of a Ghost. Not scary at first, but the more the kid stuck around, the more malevolent it became. Dad took care of it pretty easy, not sure how but “you’re safe now” was always my favorite line.

At 8, I knew my first tragedy. Mom died in a horrible car accident, one that I miraculously survived. Dad said I had angels watching over me, I told him that they needed their wings clipped for not saving her too.

At 10, I went to live with my Uncle Bobby for a summer, not that he was my real uncle but I had known him for five years now, I didn’t know what else to call him. He was awesome!

At 11, I moved in. Something happened to Dad and instead of being placed in foster care, I was shipped off to live with him. I also learned how to shoot a gun that summer, it was great.

At 12, I killed my first baddie… and I don’t even know what it was.

At 15, I met two boys that Uncle B always had showing up, and usually when they showed up, I disappeared, but there was no way I was moving that summer because it was also the one that I had broken my first bone. Had to be my ankle, didn’t it. They didn’t stick around, I didn’t ask questions, sequestered myself to my room and let Bobby bring my food to me. The older kid was a jerk anyway. We started fighting right away. I didn’t see them anymore.

At 19, I caught my first case.

At 22, I got my first partner.

At 23, I lost that partner… hardest thing I ever did was watch him burn.

At 24, I got another one. And SHE was just a bit different.

Bobby had sent me on a hunt that no one else wanted, mainly because they thought it was just an average run-of-the-mill Rugaru. They could never have been more wrong. I ended up in Eastern Massachusetts, in a place people referred to as the Bridgewater Triangle, our very own version of the Bermuda triangle but set on old Native land and this wasn’t a Rugaru. It was something much more complicated.

I had called Bobby, which wasn’t a usual thing for me. I had ways in and out of hunts that most people didn’t but this one had me stumped.

“No wonder no one wanted this crap, because it’s pure crap.” I had scolded him but listened intently to the voices in the background. The boys were back in town. “Listen, if you’re busy, I’ll let you go, you can deal with the Winchesters and call me back when you can.”

“These idjits are old enough to deal with themselves and they’re not alone on a hunt. You and me, we’re gonna figure this out. Listen, I’m going to give you a number. Call it, might be the best thing you ever do. I know you don’t like partners but she’s local and can give you some of the best crypto of anyone I know.”

“Better than you?” I could only laugh, who was better than Bobby?

“Call her, Lancing, or I swear, I will send these boys out to you.”

God, that threat! He knew it would get me everytime.

“No, I’m good, you keep your hunters and I’ll call your contact. Give me her name.”

“Glad you see it my way.” He was full of shit because he knew I would only ever trust him. “Alright, you got a pen?” Sure, right here in my handy, dandy notebook. “Her name is Gwen Bancroft, and trust me, she knows her shit.”

“Great,” I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep going and irritate the old man for being a pain in my ass, or just keep it to myself and do my job. I chose the latter, might as well be civil and hope for the best. “You owe me a bottle of Jim when I get back.”

“I’ll owe you a kick in the ass if you don’t come back in one piece.”

“Hey, Bobby…” I heard the rumble of a voice in the background. Not too high but deep enough to make me shake involuntarily with a warmth that I didn’t like. It had been a while since I had heard Sam Winchester’s voice and, damn if it didn’t sound good, but I wasn’t going to stick around to hear what he wanted.

“I gotcha, Uncle B.” That was when I hung up the phone.

Now, to call Gwen and see just what the hell I was up against.

Or at least, that was then… and this is now.

“Okay, you never call me this much on a hard case, so why are doing it on a relatively easy one?” This time she was a little annoyed but not unhappy to hear from me.

“Three words: Dean Fucking Winchester.” I growled as I flopped back on the bed, picking at the small picture of the coke bottle.

“Excuse me?”

“Dean just interrupted my lunch, so, I’m gonna guess they were already in town when Sam called you because he arrived pretty damn fast.” It wasn’t that I was mad at her, I really wasn’t, but that man ruffled my feathers the wrong way. “How do I get him to stay away?”

“What does he have? The plague?”

“A cocky ass attitude. I have my own, thank you very much, I don’t need to compete with his.” I tried taking a deep breath but the tang of dried blood seemed to assault my nose. “I need to get out of here but I don’t wanna chance running into him again.”

“I got something for you,” Gwen reassured me and sent a few text messages my way. “If you feel like dressing up.”

“Ah, no, I’ll pass.” Grabbing my bag, I pulled out the laptop and fired it up. That was when I heard it, the rumble of the familiar 1967 Chevy Impala that John had driven all those years ago. “Crap, what the hell is he doing here?”

“Following up a lead I sent him on, sorry.”

“No,” I moved to the window and watched as Dean made his to the office, “it’s okay, you were doing what you do best. I just hope he doesn’t notice my car.”

“You park in your usual spot?”

“Round the corner, towards the back, yes ma’am.”

“Close the shades and take a breath, you’ll be fine.”

Just a few more hours. I needed some sleep or I’d be pretty useless tonight. Laying down on the bed, I close my eyes, not bothering to hang up the phone. Half in a daze, I heard the line disconnect and so was off to dreamland.

Chapter Text

Chapter Four

Gwen

Sending the Winchester’s to Jai was either the best or the worst decision that I could’ve made. Yes, they were definitely capable of handling the task of taking down the Redcap. That wasn’t the issue. The problem was that Jai could be… prickly when it came to any sort of assistance being directed her way. Especially if she knew I sent the boys without her permission. I learned that early in our relationship.

We met through pretty much the same circumstances that had led Sam Winchester to me. Bobby Singer deciding to give my number to a Hunter that couldn’t figure out what they were hunting. I don’t want to toot my own horn but fuck it, I’m good at what I do. There’s a reason Bobby sends them to me when he knows almost everything about anything. I’ve been researching cases like this since I was a kid, helping out my dad who was a Hunter, and years later I’m still at my best pouring over books of lore. Turns out Jai is also a Masshole and was tracking what she thought was a rougarou in the Bridgewater Triangle.

“*Sigh* Password?”

“Ugh...umm...some sort of wild animal. Oh, what the fuck?! Bobby told me to give you a call. I need help trying to figure out what the hell I’m hunting. I don’t have time for password bullshit.”

“Yea well I don’t have time for someone that can’t follow simple instructions. Password or I hang up.”

“Fine! Whatever! Umm...prairie dog. No wait… grizzly bear!”

“Correct. Now how may I be of assistance?”

“Really?! That’s it?!”

“Yes. You give me the password, I give you information. So what is it you THINK that you’re hunting?”

“All the information I got pointed towards a rougarou, but since I got here, I’m starting to think it’s something else.”

“Oh?” Despite my initial feelings, my interest was piqued. “What sort of conflicting information are you finding?”

“Well for one thing, there are no tracks. Zip, zero, zilch. Even at the scene, there’s nothing identifiable.”

Thinking back on it I wonder how the hell we even got through that first conversation, let alone case, and still be working together for all these years. Shaking my head to focus on the task at hand. What to do about the Winchester’s? Then the phone started ringing… again… ugh.

“Need help again so soon, Sam?”

“Hey Gwen. Yea...kinda. Do you know who the hunter is that’s already out here?”

Ah shit! How am I gonna play this one off? “Umm...maybe?”

“I’ll take that as a yes. So what’s the deal?”

“My partner and I were already tracking the redcap when you called. Turns out it’s not just one though, there’s an entire den of them. So the fact that you two are there works out really well cause she could use the help.” I was pretty much babbling at this point, but I didn’t like having to explain myself and Jai could use the backup.

“Who’s your partner? Where is she staying? I can send Dean to help her out.”

“Jai Lancing. Last thing I knew she was staking out the cabins. That’s where she found the den.”

“Oh shit...seriously? Like Dean’s Jai?”

“That would be the one.” Hearing Sam state “like Dean’s Jai” means that it wasn’t just me that was aware of their angsty past. Not that she ever told me his last name, but how many men named Dean, who is also a hunter, can there be, plus Sam pulled Jai’s name out so that must mean they’re one in the same.

“Dean’s supposed to be up around the cabins, checking out the owner. I’m sure he knows Jai is in town.” I listened to him pause, wondering if he had more to say when he suddenly came out with: “ hey, if you know Bobby so well, how come we’ve never met? I mean, you would think somewhere along this line we would have known about each other.”

I thought for a moment, “I honestly don’t know.” How much would I reveal to him, ah what the hell, “my dad knew John. In fact, so did I, but I don’t know why we never met.”

“You knew my dad?”

“When I was younger, my dad was a hunter… I mean, yeah, kinda… yeah, he was, but he hated taking me along, so I started doing the research for him. Got into all sorts of mythology, demonology, finally landed in cryptozoology and I was damn good at it.”

“Yeah, I could tell.” There was an actual smile in his voice, not like the fake stuff he had been pulling all day.

“When I was fourteen, I remember your dad coming up the driveway with that Impala he used to drive, huge boat of a car, but my dad let him in and he asked me if I could look up some information. In the summer of 1994, and I remember it because I was just starting high school and it was SO boring. I just wanted to stay home with my dad, but he was gone on hunts.” I moved from the computer, headed from the office to the kitchen to start some tea as I thought back. “John was here in Massachusetts, he was searching for something in my area of expertise, not what he could pull out of a library or off the internet.”

“So, what was it?”

“Phantom Hitchhiker,” I shrugged, not that he could see me.

“Those are simple, Dad could have handled that one with his eyes closed.”

“Sam, look up the hitchhiker of Route 44 in Rehoboth, trust me, your Dad didn’t have this one handled.” I wasn’t trying to be snarky but it was still there and I remembered when John came back a week later. Needless to say, we actually used that guest room for about a week. “Anyway, he came to me after that no matter what he needed information on, but only if Bobby couldn’t find it for him.”

“It’s so strange to still find his connections after so long.”

“I was sorry to hear about his passing.”

All Sam did was sigh, clear his throat and pretend to move on. “So… I’m going to let you go so I can fill Dean in on this, plus, I should probably warn him about Jai, and make sure he knows to look before he fires.”

“That would probably be a good idea,” and it might have gotten a little smirk from me to think of Jai facing off against Dean one more time. “Here’s hoping that we hear from them before we hear the police reports.”

“Thanks again, Gwen.”

“Yep, yep,” and the call disconnected.

Now… we wait.

~~~~~~

The phone rang again about six pm on my personal line and instead of rolling my eyes because how much information could the Winchesters possibly need, I pressed the accept on my Bluetooth.

“Oh, so, you’re alive, that’s good.”

“I overslept.”  Jai’s voice was groggy but I could hear the coffee machine in the back gurgling. “And, I’m out of creamer.”

“Could be worse,” dramatic pause, “you could be out of coffee.”

“Bite your damn tongue.”

“What are you calling me for, Tiny Dancer?”

“Sun sets in less than an hour, I need to go over the plan just one more time but I need a little more about the cap.”

I heard the clank of the spoon as she stirred whatever she dressed up that crap she called caffeine with and her obnoxiously loud sigh as she took a seat. I could hear the windows chime as she booted up her laptop and it almost made me want to be there hunting with her. I said almost, but I remembered the last time we walked into an unknown situation that left me searching the nearest hardware store for an iron pan. One of these days we were going to have to sit down and discuss rules.

“What do you need to know?”

“Is there a specific kind of material that it’s made from? Cause you know polyester smells really bad when it burns. Like fucking nasty stuff.”

“No, there’s no details, not even if its a newsboy cap or some beanie. I think it’s just whatever they happen to have that they can soak it in. Want me to check?”

“No, I don’t need to know if it’s a magical beanie… geez, Gwen, we’re not going for fashion week here, I just want to be prepared.”

I grabbed another cup of tea, wrapped up in the hoodie that I loved to wear during the fall weather and sat down at my desk again. “You know, just because it’s a goblin doesn’t mean it can’t be stylish.” I could almost hear her rolling her eyes. “Dean knows you’re hunting tonight, and where, I just haven’t told them when.”

“Ugh!” she groaned, “I was trying to forget about him! Wait, did you tell Sam or actually talk with the douche?”

“You don’t really think he’s a douche, you know it’s okay to admit that.”

“Nope, just nope.”

It was fun to goad her on, but she was right, she needed to know. “I told Sam, and apparently, to him, you’re Dean’s Jai.”

That little bit of information was going to set her off.

“He can go to hell! I’m not Dean’s ANYTHING! Besides, if I remember correctly, Sam was a tall drink of water the last time I caught a glimpse of him at Stanford.”

“You’re full of shit, because you barely remember him and you’re just deflecting. You’ve never even been to Palo Alto.” I couldn’t help but laugh, her reactions to everything Dean was the strangest, most annoying but funniest damn thing ever.   “If I get off the subject of Dean, could we get back on the case?”

“If I get off… what?”  I knew it, I knew she was going to go there as soon as the words left my mouth.

“Concentrate,” I snapped but couldn’t help the smile. “You’re in a life or death situation, you need to know the facts.”

“I live in a life or death situation, and the fact is, I need to know what the hell the hat is made of so I can bring the right kind of accelerant.”

“Kerosene is probably your best bet. It ignites at 100 to 150 and evaporates the moisture. Which is good if the cap is soaked with blood. You’re going to have to find it though, it’s possible that it won’t be wearing it, especially if you said there were bodies around. It’s got to keep the blood somewhere and it might be re-upping the magic, so it could be soaking.”

“Yeah, Short, Raspy, and Ugly wasn’t wearing a cap when he came out to the counter, he didn’t look like he was dripping with blood either, and the den was pretty amped up but there was nothing there at that point for a heat source, except a fireplace.”

“Then it makes sense that it’s hidden somewhere.” I heard her exhale on the line. “Get something to eat.”

“I could say the same about you, and not those damn burritos,” she cleared her throat, “listen, I finally got to deposit your part of the take from the last job, should be a good 2K in your bank account. Do something with it, get rid of it so it can’t be traced after you get it out. Got it?”

“Do I look like an amateur?”

“You don’t look like anything, you’re on the phone, not a video.”

“Sarcastic bitch,” I wanted to reach through the phone and smack her, “go order a pizza, or a Winchester, I could give Sam your room number and send Dean up.”

“You wouldn’t!” She knew I would. “Don’t you dare! I swear I will hunt you down and take all your power cords!”

“You just sent me two grand, do you really think I can’t go out and buy more.”

“Harsh, really harsh. Okay, I’m going to get dinner, make sure I have everything I need, and possibly stop off at a hardware store. Used the last of my fluid on the stupid salt and burn that Bobby sent me on in Arizona.”

“The one that nearly kicked your ass?”

“Hey, it was a poltergeist, thank you very much, not your typical vengeful spirit. You would have known that if you had come along like I asked you too.”

“Ghost children, Lancing, and that’s all I got to say about that. Just… ghost children. I was nice and comfortable in my own house.”

“Chicken shit!”

“Night, Jai, message when it’s done.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

And the line disconnected. I shivered at the thought of the last case I had worked over the line for her. It hadn’t been pretty, an orphanage full of creepy little adolescent spirits, all determined to take down any adult that walked in through the door. Nah, I was good being right here behind the computer.

The phone beside me dinged, but it wasn’t Jai, it was Sam and I grinned at the message.

SAM: Dean knows it’s Jai and he’s pissed.

What the hell was it with those two? I put the phone down and didn’t bother to answer because at the end of the night, they would either work together or die together, either way something would have to give.

Kicking my feet up on the desk, I clicked on Netflix on the computer and pulled up Nailed it!, and wrapped my hands around the warm mug of tea. All I had to do was wait.

Chapter Text

Jai

This wasn’t going to be good, not good at all…

Night had fallen… finally... and here I was crouched behind an uprooted tree, hiding in the dirt-covered remains, gun in one hand, machete in the other as I waited, and listened. I could hear the strange grunting noises, shifting of heavy boots and the sound of metal scraping against metal. This was going to be fun… yeah, right!

So… the plan was simple… I had no plan. Run in, shank the leader, behead the followers and make a grab for the blood-soaked thing it wore on it’s so-called head. Easy-peasy, right? One would have thought but… turns out my luck was running out.

I never heard the one that snuck up behind me, never even got a whiff of the putrid smell of whatever body odor it reeked with before I was tugged up by the back of my jacket and thrown clear across the glade before landing face-first on the wet, thick grass. Oh, maybe my luck hadn’t run out, at least there was some sort of cushion.

Shaking off the nearly blackout inducing loss of breath, I pushed myself to my knees, resting one hand on the ground and looked around for the gun, and the blade, which had gone flying as I… well… flew to my current resting spot.

“You have got to be kidding me!” I mumbled, because, yeah, again… no luck. Black gun, mostly moonless night, yep… so screwed, but I saw a hint of the blade not ten feet to my left, and started to shuffle towards it. I definitely knew where the Redcap was now, and managed to get within fingertip distance of the handle before my world tilted again and I was staring up at the God-awful demon.

Okay, wait, let me rephrase because Demons I got, Redcaps were crazy, and pretty well the most nastiest things I had ever come across in the decades I had of hunting under my belt. It leaned over me, and in the dead of night, I wasn’t sure if it was a he or she but I didn’t really care. I scrambled back, putting my feet down and digging in my heels in order to get the blade.

I wrapped my fingers around it, fell back and with both hands snuggly holding tight, I thrusted upwards as it fell towards me. Blood poured down my arms and over my chest as I closed my eyes and tilted my head away. That was when I heard it, the whoosh of a thick blade through the air and suddenly, the thing above me was just a little lighter, the sound of it’s head thumping down on the grass and rolling away had my stomach turning.

Taking in a deep breath, I opened my eyes, yanked my arms to the right and knocked the body off, feeling the slide of muscles and bone along the length of the blade. Shifting so that I was sitting, I turned my gaze upward at the smug face of the green-eyed man from the diner. Goddamn Dean Winchester!

“I hope you’re happy,” I snapped, my tone low and annoyed, “two minutes earlier and you could have saved me from having to burn my favorite shirt.”

“Yeah, well,” he started as he reached out and grabbed my outstretched hand, yanking me to my feet, “you’re lucking I like my brother, or I wouldn’t have been out here to save your ass at all.”

“You’re brother?” I snickered, looking around for another body in the night, “funny, I don’t see him out here, where is he? I’d like to thank him, preferably with my tongue.”

“Fucking gross,” he rolled his eyes, “glad to know you haven’t changed.” I turned and started looking down around my feet, shuffling the soles of the boots I was wearing along the grass. “What the hell are you doing?”

“I lost my gun,” I replied, pointedly, continuing without looking up.

“Really?” he was questioning me now, great, so much for some teeny-tiny spot of common ground. I stopped, threw my hands in the air and turned towards him. “You’re looking for a black gun, in the grass on a night where there’s barely any light to see two inches in front of you… did you hit your head?”

“Apparently it’s not dark enough,” I snapped back, nope wasn’t going to let him pick on me, “I can still see your ugly ass!”

And with that, I wiped the blade on my jeans and moved on with my mission. There was no way I was going to take back my statement, even if his ass was a lot better looking than I was going to give him credit for. It might have just been the thing that made me storm off on him last time we “met” but there was no way I was giving into that temptation again. NO SIR!

Tucked up against a larger cabin, set deeper in the thickening woods, I turned slightly to stare into the window as the firelight from inside burned brightly. I could feel the heat of Dean’s body pressing up against my back as he literally looked over my head at the same scene I was staring at.

“How many do you count?” He whispered softly, and I so didn’t need him to be breathing that close to my ear. Damn distraction! I was not attracted to Dean… not attracted at all, and that was what I was going to keep telling myself until his happy ass was clear across the country… again.

“Five, which means that there was six to begin with,” I stepped back, into the solid muscle of his chest, felt his hand go to my hip as he slipped me his spare gun, since, you know, mine was lost in the grass. My fingers closed around his and the grip as I turned to look up at him. “So, what’s the plan?”

“Not a clue,” Dean let out a huff, and pulled me back into the darkness, “didn’t your little research friend give you the details on how to gank the bastards?”

“She would love you for calling her little, since she’s just as tall as you are,” I grinned and checked over the gun in my hand before tucking it away behind my back. “And, yes, actually, she did.” I pulled the blade from my boot, checked it over in what little light came from the cabin and looked up at him. “The big guy, well as big as they get, is wearing a cap, take that off, light it up and poof, no more magic.”

“Sounds simple,” he checked over the 1911 and looked around for some sort of strategic starting point. Guess what, there wasn’t one. We were just going to have to go in guns blazing, but who was I to tell him that?

“Yeah, not so much.” I smirked and made my way past him, around to the other side of the cabin. That was when I happened to look up. “Hmm.”

“Please, tell me you’re not…” I held my hand out to him. “Really, this is a brand new jacket.”

“Fork it over, Dean, stop fucking belly aching.” I watched as he divested and handed me the damn jacket. Wow, it was heavier than it looked. “You’re not going to freeze out here, are you, Princess?”

“You know, I could just feed you to them, right? I mean, you’re small and edible.”

Fuck you, Winchester! My brain went south pretty damn quick as soon as the words left his lips and I hated him for it because as I hid the blush well in the dark, I couldn’t help but see the smirk on his face. I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of a response, but it looked like he already knew how much it affected me.

It was the thrill of the hunt, I swear! It happened all the times we had ever done this together. Snarky little flirtation comments back and forth, but when it was over, we were right back at each other’s throats. It was a stress relief, that’s all it was, and that was all it was staying, except you know, maybe that one time…

I placed my foot on the stack of wood, looked up at the chimney and found a handhold, something I could use to pull myself up, but before I could, I watched the shadow that loomed over me and turned to see Dean standing there with his hands folded together, offering me a boost.

“Try copping a feel, and I will kick you in the jaw.” I growled and watched his lips turn up.

“Noted,” he almost laughed… almost, in reply before I braced my hands on his shoulder and let him push me up until I was able to stand on his shoulders.  “You know, this would be fun if you were wearing a skirt, I could see right…”

“Shut up, Dean!” and then, I was pulling myself up and over the small, shingled roof.

As silently as possible, I made my way up the pitch and stood against the brick chimney. Dean backed up, getting close to the treeline but at an angle that I could see him, and he could protect me, before I stripped off his jacket. I had slipped it over mine in order to make it easier to carry, and now I was rolling it up. I knew he was going to be pissed about it, but as I stuffed it down into the cap, clogging up the flue.

My intention seemed pretty obvious, block the smoke, force the little, ugly, English goblins out of hiding, of course, it only backfired a little when the smell of decomposing bodies inside started to fill the cabin and bellow out the slightly open windows. The fire started to rise, the flames seemed to gather the oxygen in the house and feed on whatever it could to keep lit.

Oops.

Dean moved closer to the house, standing under the pitch as he held his arms wide and gestured for me to jump.

“Back off,” I whispered, there was no way I wouldn’t manage to hurt him.

“Just… let’s go! I’ll catch you.” he was still waving those arms at me.

“Yeah, right, you’ll purposely drop me, now back the fuck off.” Yes, we were doing this now.

“You are a thick-headed, little, son of a…”

“Dean! MOVE!” Not that I didn’t appreciate his concern for my mental and physical but the flames were starting to lick at the ceiling and I could feel it getting warm under foot. Without warning, and just as the man’s attention was drawn to the fleeing goblins, I jumped. Less than gracefully, because if you weren’t Supergirl, you better learn to tuck and roll, I stumbled, knees bent as I hit the ground, and his arms suddenly wrapped around my waist. At least he didn’t let me face-plant. “They’re on the move.”

“No shit.” Dean snapped, got me upright and drew his gun. I grinned, because, well I could, and pulled the borrowed gun from its hiding place. “Target practice time.”

“Make sure you hit what you aim for.” I laughed as I went to move around the other side of the building.

“I’ve never had any complaints on my aim, baby.”

I stopped mid-stride and looked over at the mischievous grin on his face, the twinkle in his green eyes and I nearly let him have it. I did have a full clip, but I took in a deep breath. We would be discussing his pet name when this was done, in very vivid and possibly bruising detail. He winked, took a step around the corner and disappeared.

I hated him!

Gun fire and blades were all I remembered for the next few minutes, that and the sound of the Winchester behind me making some sort of snide comments when I wasn’t rushing headlong into the blazing cabin to find the damn cap, which I had seen on the alpha of the pack before. Finally, when all but one were either beheaded or down for the count by bullets, I took a deep breath and jumped into the meylee.

I pulled my collar around my nose, breathed through the fabric and searched. Of course, it was in the very last place I looked, right in the bucket by the door. Why the HELL would he leave it in a burning building, but it didn’t matter. What did was that he had overpowered Dean and had the man on his knees, iron pike pressing into his chest just to the right of his sternum.

“Fuck!” I snarled under my breath, reaching in with bare hands to the five-gallon bucket of blood. I started to fish around when I heard it.

“Any fucking time now, Lancing!” Leave it to Dean to pick the exact moment I was about to curse him to remind me that I kind of needed him, but I wasn’t going to admit that… ever.

“Hold your damn horses!” I replied, but that was pretty much under my breath too because just as I said it, I pulled the soaked material from the bucket and felt sick to my stomach. I’m pretty sure there was someone’s hair in there. GROSS! “Found it!”

I moved out, pulling the gun from its hiding spot once again, blood covered and slick and I braced my thumb on the trigger. I raised it to eye-level, got the goblin in my sight and clicked off the safety.

“Hey, Ugly!” It looked up just as I squeezed.

The sound echoed through the night, bounced off every tree in the area and hit it’s target. It released Dean, stumbled back a bit and looked up at me beyond pissed off.

“Crap!” I exclaimed and moved, bringing the cap with me. I ducked around the cabin, hid in the thick blanket of smoke as the wind changed direction and pulled the small flask of lighter fluid from my pocket. Yes, I carry flammable liquids, don’t we all? Dumping the cap on the ground, I pretty much emptied the canister of the kerosene down on it in order to get the damn thing to light. Flicking at the wheel, I begged it to catch the flint and ignite the flame but NO, some dumbass had wet, sticky, blood-covered fingers and it wasn’t working. “Double Crap!”

“Lancing!” Dean hollered over the sound of the fire crackling beside me. I could hear the wood splintering as it ate through it and there wasn’t much time before that wall came down.

“Yeah, yeah!” I mumbled in reply. “I’m working on it.”

Suddenly, it sprang to life just as Dean rounded the corner and I dropped it to the cap. It caught and the cap started to burn, my eyes moving up to the smile on Dean’s face that I gladly returned, until the shadow of the goblin stalked up behind him, pike at the ready, but the cap seemed to have melted into a pile red, bubbling goo. The tang of burning blood filled the air.

“DEAN!” I screamed and watched as his instincts kicked in and he turned, at the same time bringing his blade up. It sailed effortlessly through the air, and cut like a knife through softened butter when it connected with the neck of the crypto. Separating in two pieces, I watched as it fell to the ground and finally I could breath. “Jesus.”

“Hey, would you look at that.” Dean grinned like a fucking boy, staring down at his handy work before he came over and offered me a hand. “You okay?”

“Yeah, just, you know, covered in dead man’s blood.” I shivered looking down at my ruined clothing before he tugged me away from the building. “Hey, sorry about your jacket.”

“Ah, no sweat, got it on sale,” he grinned, which made me stop because, what the actual hell, and I watched him slip his blade away before he wiggled the fingers of his free hand. “Five finger discount.”

“Oh,” I shook my head, thrifty man, I like it. NOPE, nope, not liking anything about Dean. NOPE.

“Hey,” he started as we continued to walk, still not having dropped my hand as if I were going to disappear, “how come you didn’t just use the fire from the house? I mean, it was right there.”

Okay, that got me to put on the brakes and screech to a halt. “What?”

Dean turned to look at me. “The lighter that you kept playing with, why didn’t you just, I don’t know, toss the damn hat into the fire?” To be honest, my head wasn’t really in it, so yeah, I wasn’t even thinking about that but Dean’s hand came down and softly caressed my face. “Jai? You there?”

“Yeah, what?” I stepped back, maybe I was a little dazed, maybe I had hit my head. “I… ah,” nothing, I had nothing. “You know what? Next time, you go ahead and do my job and let me do yours, oh master of the universe, and we’ll see what you come up with.”

I slipped out of his touch, so did not want to be touched by him, and stalked off towards the hotel, leaving him there in the night. Yeah, the last comment didn’t make sense, but all I wanted was a drink… and maybe a nap, and to call Gwen and tell her to put another one down in the books.

I absolutely did NOT want to stand there in the fire light being touched by Dean Fucking Winchester.

Chapter Text

Sam

I had just sat back to rest my eyes, blinking away the double vision of staring at the Enochian text in front of me had caused and stretched my arms back behind my head. Somewhere in the bunker, probably buried under the stacks of books I had not only laying around on the library around me, and also down on the map table, a phone rang.

I listened as it rang three times before I got curious, and yelled: “Dean!?”

No answer.

Sliding the chair back, I followed the sound, curious as to why I felt like I was totally alone. The bunker was a big place but Dean was usually pretty childish when it came to actually answering a call. He would come out with: “County Morgue, you stab’um, we slab’um” or some bullshit, but now… where the hell was he?

“Dean!” Still nothing, but I found my phone… in the refrigerator, and I’m not even sure how I heard it. Dean had been cooped up for WAY too long this time. Pulling the post-it note that was signed with a smiley-face, I shook my head and put the phone to my ear, automatically accepting the call, without looking at the caller ID. “Hello?”

“Sam?”

I smiled, genuinely happy to hear the voice on the other end, “Hey, Gwen.”

“You guys free for a couple days to help us out down here?”

Okay, weird. “Ah, yeah, sure.” I grabbed a beer, might as well since I was in there anyway and tossed out yet another post-it, this one with a middle finger drawn on it. “You two come up on something?”

“We’re down in Virginia, got something that could be one thing, or something totally different but we could use the backup.”

It’s a good thing I had gotten used to the way Gwen talked, because her cryptic answers drove Dean up the wall, which was the reason her and I texted so much since our first “virtual” meeting in Wisconsin six months ago.

“Okay, any clue as to what one thing or the other?” I had to smile, because I knew this was going to irritate her to no end, and just then I heard the voice in the background.

“Are they coming or not, we are less than three hours out…” And that was Jai, always on edge and not someone I wanted to talk to often. She was just as ornery as Dean on a good day and I gave props to Gwen for not locking her up.

“Hey, Jai,” I laughed over the line and made my way towards the library, looked around and turned left, headed towards the hallway that led me to the garage, not that I thought Dean would be there, but you never knew. He loved that car. I could hear Jai mumbling something in the background, something that almost sounded like “can I have fries with that” and decided she was ignoring me. “So, Gwen, monster or cryptos?”

“Leaning towards monsters.” It sounded as if she was clicking away on her laptop as we talked. “We’re looking at either a Stonecoat or a Wendigo.”

“Stonecoat, is that really a thing?”

“Ugh, God, Sam, haven’t I taught you anything yet. It’s an Iroquois legend.”

“Right,” I couldn’t stop from grinning, she was easier to get going than Dean. “So, where are you again?”

“Woodstock, Virginia.”

“Really, so why lean towards a Wendigo?”

“Well, their attacks are very similar. Mythology is also very similar but it’s all about location, Sammy.”

I stopped dead, and let out a breath, “it’s Sam, and what do you mean by location?”

“Wendigos are Algonquin, northern Great Lakes region, where as we are in Virginia, so like I said, location.”

She had a point.

“But, who would even think of looking at a Wendigo, or a Stonecoat, I mean, except for you,” I stopped at the bottom of the flight up to the garage and debated. Tell Dean now, or tell Dean when I had all the information and already agreed to it. Hmm, I turned and sat on the step, wanting to get everything first. “Was there a hunter in the area?”

“Last time we were in Virginia, Jai caught a case of the salt and burns in Old Town Winchester. Surprisingly, she made a friend, shocking I know, but one of the local librarians promised he would keep an eye on any strange happenings in the area. Woodstock has had four hikers go missing in the Shenandoah Valley, just to the east of Blue Ridge mountains. Not all at the same time, so there wasn’t a pattern established until number four disappeared in Shenandoah National Park.”

I know I blinked a few times when she finished speaking, just to clear my head and take it all in. They were good, real good, and I knew we weren’t going into this half-assed like most hunters we worked with, so Dean really shouldn’t have an issue agreeing.

You know what… fuck it, he wasn’t going to agree at all, he was just going to go because he was driving me nuts and I had to get out.

“Well, you convinced me.” I took the last swig of the beer before I put it down beside me on the stair.

“Oh yeah, I can tell I really twisted your arm.” She deadpanned and I let the smile come because there was just something about her sarcasm. “Now, how are you going to convince Dean, especially with my prickly little partner here.”

“NOT LITTLE, ya asshole!” I heard her practically scream in the background, and I could just imagine what she looked like fired up if she sounded that feisty. Um, maybe I shouldn’t… I had to stop dreaming of the girl that I hadn’t even laid eyes on yet, but the way she kicked Dean’s ass and infuriated him made me just want to know.

“Don’t worry about Dean, I’ll handle him. We’ll be on the road soon, I’ll text when we head out.” I was waiting for that beep, the tell-tale sign that she ended the call like she usually did, with just a nod, but I could still hear the radio in the background. “Gwen, something else up?”

“Not that we won’t text in the next eighteen hours, but when you get some time to yourself, send me a message, we need to chat.”

Okay, that didn’t sound good at all but… “alright, when we stop for coffee or gas, something, I’ll text you.”

“Yeah, bye.” Then she was gone.

I stood, grabbed the empty bottle and went up the seven steps to the garage. Heading towards left, I found Dean in one of the larger bays by the door bent over the engine of the car.

“What’s wrong with it?” I questioned, speaking up far enough back that should he turn and throw the wrench in his hand, I had time to duck. Sneaking up on Dean has become a “take your own life in your hands” situation. Something about Wisconsin set him off in a bad way.

“Just a tune-up,” Dean replied without looking over his shoulder. He straightened, grabbed the rag and wiped his hands before turning towards me. He looked at me, the phone in my hand and the empty bottle in the other, before he moved towards the tool box. “Did you bring a second one?”

“There were only two in the fridge, figured the “fuck off” note was because you were bringing the rest of the case out here.” I leaned back against the hood of the Charger, crossed my ankles and set the bottle down on the black hood. Hey, it was my car, if I didn’t mind condensation rings, what the hell was he going to say about it?

“You’re right,” he popped the top of the green cooler and dug out a long-neck, twisting off the cover with ease. “So, what brings you way up here into the nosebleed section, Sammy? Find anything on that spell Cas left with you?”

“No, and it’s giving me a headache.” I growled because it was the truth. The angel had dumped the spell in our lap two months ago and disappeared without so much as a word to what the hell he was doing, so I just figured in my spare time… “Wanna get out of here?”

“What?” Dean’s eyes snapped up to mine from where he stared at the discarded rag that he had draped over the side of the car.

“I think I have a case for us.”

“You?” Why was he being such an asshole? “You caught a case? From where? Angel Radio? You’ve been neck deep in books all day.”

“Gwen called…”

“NO!” He snapped, adamantly shaking his head. “NO way, because where there’s a Gwen, there’s a Jai and I’m not in the mood to deal…”

“Dean, we both need to get out of here and the girls need help.”

“Oh, the girls now… when did it become the girls ? I thought you were buddy-buddy with Gwen, so when did Jai get into the picture.”

“What is your deal?” I had no idea where this sudden animosity came from but he sure as hell wasn’t taken it out on me. “They have a case, they need help, we’re hunters, it’s what we do!”

“Where? How? When did they find it and how much trouble are they in?” I really needed to know what happened six months ago, because there was no way any of us were going to survive this if Dean and Jai didn’t figure themselves out.

“Woodstock, Virginia, and they got the case from a contact.” Dean rolled his eyes so hard his head was going with them before he turned back to the car and started putting it back together. “Look, Dean, I know you and Jai have issues but we need to do this, we need to get out. I need to get out and so do you. It’s not anything we haven’t done before. We’ve hunted on less information and you know Gwen, she has her shit together and can hand you a full case file before we even get out of the car. You know I’m right.”

“Fine,” I watched as he took in a deep breath, like he was steadying himself, took a moment and turned in my direction before he pointed at me. “But, if she gets out of line and gets hurt, if anyone gets hurt, it’s on you.”

“If who does?”

“Jai!” Dean threw down the towel and started to walk by, “I’m going to pack. Car’s ready, just needs gas. Meet you back here in fifteen.”

What. The. Actual. Hell! Dean stormed off, leaving me standing there like he had just punched me, or worse, gave me the keys to the car. One of the first things I was going to do when I finally met Jai was get to the bottom of this… this… whatever the hell this was.

3 hours into the drive....

The laptop screen was the only light besides the occasional one that we passed under, but it was the blue glow from the screen that helped me see the irritation on Dean’s face. I had a few tabs open and one happened to be a shared document with Gwen so she could give me more information on the Stonecoat while I described some of our run-ins with the Wendigos, trying to narrow down the best course of action.

Dean’s frustrated sigh pulled me from the tapping of my fingers against the keys.

“Man, I don’t know…” he started but stopped, like he had a thought but then it was gone.

“Don’t know what, Dean?” The sound of his name had him quickly glancing over at me, as if he had forgotten I was there. It took him a minute to actually come back enough to answer.

“Why are we helping?” Dean shrugged, “I mean, I get it, I really do. Hunters help each other out, but you just dropped everything to race across the states to help out these two. What does Gwen know anyway? She’s a book nerd, does she know how to hunt?”

“Yeah, and she’s really good at it.”

“Can she follow directions though? What if I tell her to stay back and she doesn’t?”

“Dean, what’s this all about?”

“She’s your friend, Sam, she’s Jai’s partner and we both know Jai can’t follow directions for shit, so who’s to say her friend can?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Jai is a liability, she just jumps headlong into everything, fuck the plans, and that could put her in danger. YOU, it could put you in danger.” I’m pretty sure he thought I wouldn’t catch that.

“You’re pissed because she doesn’t follow your directions. Not any directions.” Dean rolled his eyes at me… again and I closed mine, taking just a second to compose myself. “That’s just fucking childish.”

“How it is they are hunting together? When Gwen was in Mass while Jai was in Wisconsin, what if she got hurt? What if we weren’t there? Huh? I can’t drop that, who partners up like that?”

“Apparently, they do. What the hell is going on between you and Jai anyway? Why are you so freaked out that she’s going to get hurt? She obviously knows what she’s doing, they both do otherwise Bobby wouldn’t be sending them on these things.”

“Bobby didn’t send them!” Dean snapped like a dry twig, just belted that out. Was that what was bugging him? That Bobby wasn’t involved. Right now, I swore Dean was about to have a panic attack, he wasn’t making any sense and I didn’t know what to do to help him.

“Dean…”

“No, Sammy, just drop it.” With that, he did what he always did to avoid anymore conversation, he reached over, grabbed the volume and cranked it up.

Great, at least six hours of listening to the greatest hits of mullet rock before was even calm enough to turn it down. Got to love earbuds. I pulled mine out of my pocket and plugged them into my phone, before finding my playlist on Spotify. This was going to be a long trip.

~~~~~

We hit the nine hour mark, nine long hours on the road, it was just a bit past Midnight and Dean was still going, though the music wasn’t blaring and he had stopped sulking, but we were turning into a gas station and I looked up from the laptop.

“What are you doing? You have a full tank?”

“Gotta tap a kidney, Mr. Impatient,” he balked and pulled up alongside the building. Dean stopped on his way out of the car and turned to the strip joint behind us. “Hey, Sammy, how much impending doom will happen if we make a quick detour?”

“You wanna stop for a lap dance?” Not that I blamed him, like I said, he hadn’t been out in a long time, not long enough to pick up someone and let off some steam.

Dean sighed, “we have to spend all this time with two chicks that we’re not even banging, I figured maybe we should stop off somewhere.” He leaned down to look at me before his eyes went back to the “love shack” across the street. “Here seems as good a place as any.”

“We still have ten hours to go, you really wanna be nodding off behind the wheel?”

“I won’t be nodding off ,” he snapped with mock anger, “you kidding? I’ll be wide awake.”

“Sure, you go ahead and deny that you cuddle after sex because it knocks you the fuck out, I’ll just wait here.” I just opened the door, got out and stretched my long legs, because the prospect of another ten hours and Dean smelling like a sleazy strip joint and sex was just not what I wanted.

“You know, if you could get over your love/hate relationship with Jai, maybe the two of you could hook up,” it slipped out, there was no way of stopping my overtired brain from bypassing the filter. “There’s angry sex right there, and she’s a hunter, she’ll totally understand.”

Dean literally slammed the door on that one, walked over to the tree line with his back to me and unbuttoned the jeans just before he started to piss.

“Ah, no thanks, too much history.” Dean growled over his shoulder. What the hell, why was he holding back? The way he bitched about her, you would think it was sexual tension, but there was something in that growl that was more possessive… protective maybe, but definitely weird. “I prefer a love’m and leave’m.”

“One of these days, you’re going to tell me what’s up between you two, right? Even Gwen isn’t sure what the hell happened, but dude, you have it bad.” I leaned my arms on the roof of the car and looked around, not watching as he put himself away and turned, adjusting his belt.

You wouldn’t know it but Dean had a thing for hand sanitizer and that was exactly what he went for when was done. We didn’t always have access to a sink, but he made sure he used it. He only rolled his eyes at the comment.

“Yeah, someday.” which in Dean Winchester terminology meant never. He tossed the bottle of sanitizer on the seat and grabbed the keys. “I’m getting coffee, want one?”

“Sure.” I watched Dean walk away and pulled out my phone. No way she would be awake but I tried anyway. Sending Gwen a message, I kept my eyes glued to the store.

Sam: Free.

Gwen: Not, she’s in a tizzy about something your brother sent. I didn’t even know they were in contact.

Sam: Dean just went in the store.  I looked into the car, sure enough, his phone was on the seat. Gwen, whoever is texting her, isn’t Dean.

Gwen: Weird. Okay. How far out are you?

Sam: Ten hours tops. Want me to tell Dean.

Gwen: Should if it gets him to haul ass.

Sam: When did the messages start?

Gwen: Not ten minutes ago.

Sam: What do they say?

Gwen: She won’t let me see the phone, but from the look in her eyes, something seriously personal.

Knowing that she was “Dean’s Jai,” personal wouldn’t be off the books but who else would know of their relationship if Gwen and I didn’t really have all the details. It was frustrating to be so far away and not be able to do anything. Cas was in the wind, and Dean was headed out of the store, two coffees and a bag in hand.

Sam: Keep texting me, Dean’s back, we’re getting on the road.

Gwen: Yep, yep.

And I stuffed the phone in my pocket before getting back in the car. Dean handed me my cup, slid in behind the wheel and started her up. Was something going on? Because suddenly he was different and didn’t even give the club a second glance as we headed on our way again. Not that I was going to question him because he looked like he could blow at any moment.

After about an hour of silence, I mean even the radio was off, Dean glanced over at me with a strange smirk on his face, “hey, remember that chick in Portland? The one you told me about that you had heart-eyes over for a month... What was the name of the place… Theodore’s? Ever hear from her again?”

“You mean the bar you left me in when you took off after the blonde in a barely-there mini-skirt two minutes after we walked in the door? I was there for two hours before she even walked into the place, but no, never heard from her again.”

“Catch her name? What was it again?”

“Aimee,” I replied, smiling, “Her name was Aimee.”

“Fun times, right.” But I think he was trying to distract himself, because his eyes went back to the road and he seemed lost in the night.

“Hey, Dean, I talked to Gwen,” and they were right back on me. “Jai was getting texts.”

“So?” Like he couldn’t have cared less.

“They were from you, while you were in the store and your phone was here. Gwen said they seemed kinda personal, any idea what was going on?” I watched the color of his face, even by the dashboard light, pale as he heard that. His jaw clenched, he held in as much as he could and then...

“An hour?” Dean snapped, completely out of the blue, I didn’t think he would have that kind of reaction to it. “You waited an hour to tell me this? What the fuck, Sam?” He grabbed the phone, hit a few buttons and placed it to his ear. All I could do was sit back and listen, or try to drown them out. I got the first part of the conversation. “It’s me… no, whoever that was… it wasn’t. Jai, just listen… Stop and fucking listen! No, I’m okay. You’re… you’re okay... Please, just tell me.” His voice, which was never soft when he talked to her, never not snarky, was light and tender. I was confused as hell. “Well, it wasn’t. No, we’re fine. Yes, we’re on our way to you. Just… just wait. No, don’t answer anymore… because, it’s not me. I don’t know how, I don’t… but it’s not. Okay, okay… I’m right here. Yes, I’ll stay on the line. Yeah,” was that an actual smile, a grin, and that’s when I faded off into my own world because they didn’t need someone eavesdropping. “Talk to me, I wanna hear about it… yeah, all the time… okay, I’m listening…”

I closed my eyes and leaned against the door, blocked out the sound of Dean, of the conversation and let the memory of that night fill my head, and I let the smile play over my lips. It’s good to have at least one good memory.

I had been at the bar for two hours, mostly because I was finally enjoying a few moments of peace and partly because Dean had taken the keys to the Impala and the room key was sitting on the front seat. It had been a long few months. Dean had been obsessed with finding a cure for Charlie, and I admit it, I was right there with him, but thankfully, in the end, it had been Chuck that had come through, but that didn’t mean that Dean wasn’t still on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop. So, yeah, he needed the buxom blonde that stole him away not more than five minutes after he walked in the door and I needed a few minutes to breath.

At least, that was until she walked in. Her bright eyes were full of mischief, she looked as if she had just gotten out from behind the wheel of a car, a fast car, one that pumped up her adrenaline, and she had this small smile on her face, one that begged to be challenged. She was alone, and just strolled up to the bar, the man behind it was probably twice her size if not bigger and she winked at him, before she ordered.

I knew I was staring, and I didn’t even care. Not sure what it was about her, but damn, I couldn’t think of leaving without my arms around her. She was… I swallowed hard, watched her for about twenty minutes and finally she looked up and in my direction. I noticed and I had to look away. Her eyes were so intense but I heard her clear her throat and give a little laugh, which only made me smile as turned the bottle in my hand.

“You know, a cheesy pick up line isn’t going say itself,” a soft, affectionate voice whispered close to my ear. God, how did I not notice she had left the stool and was suddenly standing right next to me. I blinked, prayed it was true and sat up, looking down at her from my full seated height. She was not more than five-foot, maybe as high as five-two, but her presence was gigantic. I know I licked my lips, only because her eyes went right to my mouth and followed the movements as my eyes finally landed on hers. So very intense.

“You looked like a woman who needed some personal space, I didn’t want to intrude.” I was surprised it wasn’t filled with every intention of doing the things that were bouncing around in my head. Picking her up, pressing her against the wall as her legs wrapped around me, sucking on every… single… part of her that I could get my lips on. I took a breath, tried to calm the raging boner that I was sporting.

“Aren’t you just the cutest thing,” but there was an edge in her voice telling me that cute was far from what she was thinking. “I appreciate the gesture, but I’m tired of being alone, and you look like just the type of guy that knows how to get a girl to feel needed.”

“I’m Sam,” I spouted, because as cheesy as her pick up line was, I was hooked… line and sinker, and I could almost imagine sinking into her.

“Oh, we’re doing that now,” her smile was brilliant as she glanced around the bar, like she was waiting on the other shoe to drop.

Strangely, it made me think of Dean, and I so should not be thinking of him with a beautiful woman in front of me but her movements all seemed to mirror his usually ones, a hunter casing the place. Her attention focused on me as she slid her fingers around mine, gently easing the beer from my hand. I watched her bring it to her lips, wrap that mouth around the top and take a drink. THAT should be illegal.

When she put it back on the counter, her hand went back to cover my fingers. Small hands that could do some serious damage, and something in me clicked. I was right she was a hunter, had to be, no one alone in a bar could be that smooth, on edge, and relaxed at the same time. Like it was second nature.

“I’m Aimee.” She had been looking at the dartboard, calculating, watching as they lined up… aimed. Yep, not her real name, but I was okay with that. Even if she wasn’t a hunter, I had met women who never gave up their real ones, sometimes they said it didn’t matter. This was a hunter getting intimate, giving up something so powerful even if it wasn’t true. She was opening up. “So, what do you say, Sam, wanna get out of here?”

“Yeah,” and her fingers wrapped around mine, as she winked and stepped back begging me to follow.

I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about that night and it had been a little less than a year, maybe shorter, but I couldn’t get her out of my mind. I saw her at every turn, heard her voice, her laugh in places that she shouldn’t be.

I longed for her kisses, the way she started out wild and untamed when we got back to the room, her need outweighing her senses, but she let me take control, let me have my way and I wanted slow and sensual. Maybe it was just her, because it was never that way, never a pause and enjoy the moment when you take someone back with you, it was always in for the rush, but with her, it was, I don’t know… different, like the night had to last a lifetime.

The push and pull of it all locked her in my mind, her scent was something I would never forget, the way her breath felt against my skin, her hands in my hair. Lost in everything that was her, and in the morning, as the door opened and the sun broke through, the last glimpse of her was when she turned, coat in hand, winked and disappeared into the light that blinded me from the doorway.

“Dude!” Dean’s voice broke through my daydream and I cleared my throat, sitting up more in the car to meet his questioning eyes. “Did you just moan?”

Chapter Text

Dean

Sam’s snoring was almost as irritating as sitting here watching the lines on the road fly by. I had no idea why the hell we were doing any of this, but at the same time, I was starting to not really care. It was good to be out, be behind the wheel of my Baby, open road, no one else around me, just the feel of her engine purring and the wheels turning.

The quiet didn’t help though. I know, I know, I just said Sam was chainsawing away, but it was easy to drown him out, I had been doing it since he was a kid, not hard at all to slip into… what do they call it… highway hypnosis. That was really a thing for me, cruising down the backroads, wandering into my own thoughts. Not that I really wanted to bring these up, but she just seemed to have a way of getting under my skin.

Jai Fucking Lancing. Little brat “sister,” if I wanted to put a label on here, which I really didn’t, was someone I tried to get rid of years ago. She wasn’t someone one I wanted to care about, it just kind of happened. Now, Gwen… as much as I protested, and Sam would tell you I do it a whole hell of a lot more than I should, she was someone I wanted to get to know. Granted she only seemed to want to talk to Sam but if I could just get her to lighten up the way he did, get her to make those small laughs that Sam drew out of her, then I would be happy.

Christ, what was I thinking? I hadn’t even met her yet, and from the sounds of our interactions, not that we had many, she was either going to kill me when we finally stood in the same room, or I was about to meet my match.

I know what I had said to Sam earlier, the whole “she left Jai to hunt alone,” but hell, if I’m not actually thrilled that she wasn’t there. I’m sure Jai played it off as something she just brushed off her shoulder but I watched her… I fucking watched her run into a burning building… who does that? And when I first came up on her, she was fighting one of those asshats with an iron pike as big as Death’s Scythe.

What got me, and another big reason that I was glad Gwen wasn’t there, was when I followed Jai up to her room.  The fiery little imp made it to the second floor and unlocked the door without so much of a wince, but as she pushed on it, I heard her grunt in pain. Fuck, she was hurt! Not that she would have told me since I asked fourteen billion times on our way back but I knew it, not all that blood was the Caps.

I didn’t say anything, what the hell would I have come out with anyway? Hey, Jai, I know you're hurting, let me stitch you up? That worked oh so well in the past, but that was just it, she needed help especially when I saw the slash across her stomach when she yanked off the bloody shirt she had on. Jesus Christ, how was she even standing?

“What do you want, Winchester?” That tone of voice had me looking up at her and it stopped me in my tracks.

“You’re hurt,” was all I had. Stupid voice or lack thereof. She hadn’t been that little girl in years, not the one that fought me tooth and nail for dominance at Bobby’s, not the one that was my responsibility, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t feel that pull to protect her.

I stepped forward, like a moron, because you don’t approach a wounded animal without some kind of lead up. She shifted, so did I as I raised my hands.

“Easy,” another stupid thing to slip out, she wasn’t a dog.

“Dean!” That voice again, and my eyes were locked on hers, “don’t.”

And I listened. Not sure why though, maybe it was the adrenaline, maybe it was the wild look in her eyes, or hell, it could have just been that I was so out there in left field with her that I didn’t know what to do, but I stopped.

She stepped back, grabbed her bag off the… what the fuck? Is that Coke bottle. The whole room was full of old Coke stuff. Okay, if we hadn’t killed the asshole for being a monster, I would have ganked him on principle alone because what the actual hell is this crap?

“I’m going to take a shower,” and we were right back at it, her eyes on me, “you can either stay here and take one, or you can go back to Sam. Your choice.”

I didn’t say anything, I just watched that door close and the room fell silent, until the shower started up and now all I was thinking about was that it sounded as if someone had popped the top on an old soda bottle.

Maybe going back to Sam wasn’t such a bad idea.

~~~~~

The phone jolted me out of the haze I was in, which made me yank the wheel to the right, straightened the car back into the lane I meant to be in as the sound of “Smoke on the Water” blared through the car.

I grabbed it from the seat between us, checking on Sam to see if he was still zoned out. The kid hadn’t even moved. Without looking, I put the phone to my ear, took a deep breath and let it out with one word.

“Jai?” It was meant to be hello, but her name just slipped out.

“I need to talk to Sam.” Not Jai… Gwen’s voice was commanding on the line, and she sounded like she had just woken up. It was deep, sleep-filled and sexy as hell, and I had to give myself a pat on the back for not saying that out loud. Awkward.

“He’s sleeping,” was probably the best I could do as I felt my heart race waiting to hear her voice again.

“Wake him up, I need to speak to him.” Cranky Gwen was hotter in so many ways, and suddenly I could picture cat-o-nines and blindfolds and I really shouldn’t be having these thoughts and driving or thinking this way when Sam was in the car or… “Dean, wake him up.”

“Ah, yeah, sure…” I shifted trying to get rid of the uncomfortable way the zipper of my jeans had dug into the hard-on I was sporting before I reached across the seat and knocked Sam in the shoulder with the phone and a well-placed knuckle. He grunted, snorted back a breath and slowly lifted his head. “Hey,” I really needed to not sound turned on, “Gwen’s on the phone.”

Do you think he heard the way the pitch in my voice changed when I said her name? God, I hope not. Sam, with rapidly blinking eyes, turned in the seat a little, sat up and narrowed those fox eyes at me, like I had purprosly called her and made her call back, just to wake him up. I pushed the phone at him again, not saying a damn thing and waited for those giant mitts to take it, which he did and then he dropped it on the floor.

“Ugh!” Mr. Morning-Person was never a middle of the night guy and I snickered at him, smiling all the way back to staring at the road in front of me as he groaned again, mumbled a few swears and found the speaker button. “Gwen?” It was cute, it really was, even for the big moose, cause he sounded just a bit confused, like he used to when he was seven and caught me sneaking in. “What’s going on?”

“Why the hell would you send me something like that?”

“What?” He was suddenly wide awake at the question and I looked over at him, both of us pretty well lost. “Send you what? I’ve been asleep for… Dean, what time is it?”

“Four.” I shrugged. Being awake at any given time in the middle of the night wasn’t an issue for me, I was so used to the screwed up sleep schedule that this was normal.

So, Sam carried on. “Gwen, I’ve been asleep for at least three hours, I haven’t sent you anything? What are you talking about?”

She let out such a hard sigh that I heard it clearly on the line. “Hold please.”

Sam blinked, looked at me again and I threw him a glance to confirm that I had no clue. The phone lit up, showing a new picture message and Sam opened it quickly, the bright light making him draw back just a little to wait for his eyes to adjust, before he looked again.

“Gwen, I didn’t send those,” he whispered, like it was some sort of secret. “I would never… You told me that stuff in confidence, I wouldn’t bring it up again, not unless you did.”

“Wait, what’s going on?” Because big, bad secrets get people killed, and with what Jai had told me earlier, this wasn’t a new thing.

“What’s going on is I told Sam personal stuff about my past and now I have at least seven text messages from his phone about secrets we shared. Stuff that very few people have access to, but here it is, written down.” She was fuming, and I wanted to point out that I was very much sure that I was going to get shanked when I walked in the door. Just going to reiterate that point. “If you were asleep, who wrote it?”

“Gwen,” that would be Sam’s I had a thought voice, “why did you call Dean’s phone?”

“Because Jai called it earlier,” as she spoke, she started off very confident in her answer but by the time it was done, she seemed to be questioning herself. “Honestly, I didn’t believe they were from you, like Jai’s wasn’t from Dean before, but I wasn’t sure how safe the line was.”

“So, you called Dean,” repeating statements, Sammy? He had a habit of doing that when he was thinking too, like it helped him put it together. “Are you on Jai’s phone?” She didn’t answer. “Okay, this is what I want you to do,” the sasquatch leaned forward in the seat, dug out the cigar box from under it and pulled out a flip-phone. “Take down this number, it’s a burner phone.”

“Dude, does that even still work?” Even I was skeptical.

“Still works, Dean.” I think I actually heard him huff, like he was put out or something. “So… this phone doesn’t get iMessages, it won’t get pictures, just text and calls but that’s all we need for now.”

“I would rather call Dean’s phone than play with something from the 1970s, Sam. What kind of plan do you have that doesn’t take pictures or IMessages?” It was like she was hit with something rotten that smelled like feet, or at least that was the face I imagined her having. I had no problem with her calling my phone, none at all, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell either one of them that.

“It’s just for now, at least until we figure out what exactly is going on with the messages you’re getting. Jai’s stopped right?” Sam questioned, because if I did, the Wrath of Khan would be nothing compared to what Jai would let reign down on us.

“She’s sleeping,” Gwen said matter-of-factly, as if the fact that Sam had asked was some sort of criminal offense, “she was pretty much out of it as soon as Dean hung up. What did you say to her anyway?”

“That’s none of your business.” No, dammit! It shouldn’t have come out like that. Where was that beer bottle from earlier? I know it rolled under here somewhere, might as well just smack myself with it now. “Sorry, I’m… I didn’t mean it like that.”

“It’s fine,” she seemed to deflate, as if my apology took the fight out of her. “How long before you get here?”

“Six hours?” Sam shrugged in my direction, the only thing I could do was shrug and nod in agreement. “Six hours out. Try to get some sleep, Gwen, sounds like it’s been a long night.”

“You’re probably right. We have a meeting with the rangers at Shenandoah at 9, so another few hours would work well.” I had to smile when Gwen yawned before simply stating. “Night.” and disconnected the call.

“She always do that?” I had never actually gotten through a conversation with her before she asked for Sam, so I had no idea.

“Yeah,” he grinned like the little bitch he was, “all the time.”

“Great,” because there was nothing else to say to it. “I’m stopping to top her off before we hit this stretch of I-70. Should be about three hours before we get into Pennsylvania and have to switch to 119.”

“Okay, but I’m driving the rest of the way.” I must have looked at him like he was twelve kinds of crazy because he just gave me bitchface #42 and I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes. “You’ve been driving for eight hours straight, you need to sleep at some point. You said it was a stretch of highway, what could be the worse that happens? Deer? Shifter deer?”

“Hey, don’t push your luck!” I pointed at him, inside jokes were kinda funny at four in the morning, right? “You know what happened in Lexington, it’s not funny, Sam, and you should really just not, okay?”

“Yeah, you’re tired.” Maybe he was a little right, a few hours wouldn’t hurt.

So, when we pulled off at the next service area, I bought him an extra-large, mocha-choke-ya grande with some sort of burnt, coffee-flavored, java shot, I don’t know, it was hella expensive though, but if it kept the kid awake and my car on the road, I was good with it.

I didn’t even sit in the passenger seat, I took the opportunity to curl up in the back, put the duffle under my head and let the sway of the car lull me into dreamlessness. Of course, it was never really dreamless, but almost like a rundown of the last six months since Baraboo.

Life over the past few months since then has been hectic and only slowed down about a month or so ago when the hunts suddenly stopped, which was pretty fucked up on it’s own but when you think of what we found out in those months before, it might have been some sort of sign. So, this is what I got in no particular order.

Cas took off to points unknown, for a month, at the request of Bobby, which was weird on it’s own but since neither of them would tell us where the hell he was popping off to, that just irked me. To top it off, when he did come back, for at least a good stretch, he brought back some sort of spell that had Sam going nuts trying to translate it.

Sam gets a little obsessive, which is the reason for the books spread out everywhere in the bunker. I mean, there were some on the kitchen table. Found one in the bathroom the other day. Hell, Sam’s been pretty much sleeping at the library table. The kid is starting to worry me, I know he won’t stop until he gets it all figured out.

And then there’s the phone calls.

Sam spent a lot of time on the phone… elbow deep in lore helping hunters on the east coast, which is something new too. Not the help, Sam’s always been good with that, helping out others by research, but this time, their location, can’t be a coincidence, because it means time on the phone with Gwen and that stupid smile slapped on his face.

It’s not lust or anything like that, not really, but there’s something in it that makes me think that once we’re all together, Sam’s going to become a protective little shit, and he can be a beast when someone he cares about is threatened. This isn’t going to be good at all. His focus will be on her, not on the case, and if this really is a Wendigo, or hell, whatever a fucking Stonecoat is, then we’re all gonna need to be on our toes.

But, at the same time… the smile. All I ever wanted for Sam was to be happy, to get out of this life, to live a normal one, and for a moment, when he was on those calls, I could almost see him getting it, but he always insisted that things with Gwen weren’t like that. Even if they weren’t romantically involved, she made him happy and that’s what counted.

Then the call came in. I had just set the beer down in front of Sam, and he looked up, glassy and red eyes from staring at the books too long and mouthed a thank you as I sat down across from him at the table, hiked my heel up on it and crossed my ankles before I took a nice long pull from my own.

“Yeah, I get it,” he had answered, though I totally missed the question. “Hey, Gwen, mind repeating? Dean just came in the room.”

“No problem. Hello, Dean,” her voice echoed over the speaker and I felt my whole body shiver, completely involuntary, I swear. It made me wonder though if she had studied Cas, since she pegged his usual greeting perfectly.

“Hiya, Gwen.” Don’t smile, don’t you dare fucking smile, Winchester! I quickly placed the bottle to my lips. Mission accomplished. “What do you got?”

“Well, Jai is out in Sioux Falls, thought you should know in case you were wondering after her.”

“Really wasn’t but thanks for the update.” What was she doing there? Was Bobby okay? Was she okay? Okay, stop thinking about it. “So, don’t leave me hanging.”

“I’d like you to head down to Nebraska, to the Roadhouse. Ash has been gathering some information and it’s something you both need to see.”

“Wait, Ash, like “party in the back” Ash?” I kicked my feet off the table and sat forward. Not sure why it would surprise me because they were both massive computer geeks. “What’s he got for us?”

“The influx,” Sam added, “the rise of the cryptos that Gwen keeps coming up with, everything that we fought the last few months. I thought there might be something, and Ash would be the man to help with it.”

“Don’t get started on your hero worship, Sammy, let’s just check it out and see what he’s got.” I couldn’t believe I had agreed to it that fast, and apparently neither could he because he looked at me like I had gone nuts. And that was my cue to exit. I got up from the table and headed into the kitchen again. No need for him to seem me concerned about the whole deal because Ash and Gwen weren’t the only ones keeping track of this stuff.

It was a less than two hour trip, what could it hurt to follow up?

~~~~~

The parking lot of the Roadhouse wasn’t exactly full, but then again it wasn’t empty either. The lunchtime rush of hunters, bikers and truckers was in full force and I parked Baby as far away from them as possible. Sam only gave me a slight face as he got out, because God forbid he walk after his strenuous six mile run every morning.

The door opened, squeaking on hinges as it always did, and I inwardly cringed, like nails on a chalkboard, one of my least favorite sounds. That and any time Jai bitched at me, that just… wait, sorry, not the point. Most of the counter was empty, the tables in the back by the dartboard was full and some were sporadically taken up front but it gave us a beeline right for the bar.

Jo was wiping down glasses as we stepped up, smiling behind her blonde hair, taking about thirty seconds before acknowledging us at all. She grinned as she placed two amber bottles, already opened, on the counter and slid them over to us, winking at me with a wicked turn of her lips. She was still just as feisty as ever.

“Hey, Jo,” I gave her my best charismatic grin, not that it worked on her anymore, she never let me get away with shit before and she wasn’t going to start now.

“Hey, Dean,” and then she winked. Son of a bitch, she really was feeling feisty, which meant if I played my cards right… “Sam,” she turned to my brother, who all but elbowed me to stop staring at the low-cut of her shirt. “What brings you two down this way? Let me guess… on the run… again?”

“No,” Sam laughed, “none of that. In fact,” he leaned on the bar, crossing his lower arms as he leaned forward, “we were sent here on a secret mission.”

Was he purposely being flirty? What the hell, Sam? I rolled my eyes, couldn’t hold it back because she turned those big brown ones right back on him and I watched his cheeks turn pink. AH-HA serves you right, little man! If you can’t play with the big kids, stay out of the…

“Hi, boys.” Ellen’s voice made us both look up and over at the kitchen door as it swung closed behind her. “Need me to get Ash for ya?”

“That would be great, Ellen.” I agreed, because anything to get them two to stop making disgusting, needy eyes at each other, and I felt myself shudder before I grabbed the bottle and walked to the other end of the bar.

“Wait right there.” The quiet conversation of the two behind me picked up and I started to zone out, taking in the sounds that surrounded me. The sound of the pool balls whacking against each other, darts as they were plucked from the board, the sound of glasses against tables and utensils against plates and just as I was about to go crazy, my ribs turning inward ready to squeeze the life out of me, a hand rested on my shoulder. “He’ll meet you in the back.”

Internally, I jumped, taken out of my daydream, but outwardly, all I did was nod, take a swig and look at Sam before gesturing to the back of the bar. He left Jo there, thank God, and the two of us headed to the room, looking at the big sign in the middle that stated: The Doctor is: In. I would never get used to that.

Ash quickly opened it just as I reached up to knock and he passed a glance between us. “Guess I gotta get pants.”

And then he was gone again.

Sam looked at me, I raised a brow and shook my head. Taking a seat at a nearby table, we waited all of about five minutes before Ash joined us, some hacked up creation of a laptop in his hand and he set it down.

“So, you two know Bancroft?” He started right in. “Wild child right? She knows her shit, let me tell you. Best cryptozoologist out there, hell of a hunter, though her partner is just a little nuts. That one’s fucking bonkers. I’m not sure how Gwen keeps her handled but that woman is amazing. Anyway, I know why she sent you, we were just talking about it.”

“Ash!” I snapped, couldn’t take the rambling anymore. “Just… slow your roll, okay, one thing at a time.” Ash flipped the chair around, squatted down and used the backrest for his arms. “Now, Gwen said something about you having information for us, about the cryptos.”

“Riiiggghhhttt.” Ash shifted his hair over his shoulder, the man needed a haircut worse than Sam and my fingers itched for a razor, even a pair of scissors. Hell, at this point, I thought about the damn demon blade. I looked away and blinked back the visions. “So, this is what I got. It started on the east coast, moved west through the Appalachians, hit the Great Lakes and took a swan dive south to the Mississippi, from there it turned due west and traveled there for sometime, making its way through Ouachita National Forest. After that, it was all uphill.”

“Uphill to where?” Great thinking, Sam because I was trying to remember my geography lesson and I was having a real hard time keeping up. Instinctively, I shook the roadmap out of my thoughts and just listened.

“Right into the heart of the University of Kansas.”

I sat back, shocked, I mean who wouldn’t be shocked. “What the fuck?!”

“Sorry, man, that’s what I got,” Ash just looked at me like I had been kicked in the balls and he sympathized. “If it makes you feel any better, it didn’t hang around your hometown, just did some real nasty stuff to the co-eds there.” he paused as I looked at Sam but when the kid opened his mouth, Ash held up a hand, “trust me, you don’t wanna know.”

“Right,” Sam agreed, and shut up, which didn’t really sit well with me because Sam never shuts up.

“Okay, so it moved on from there, where did it go?” I snapped.

“Easy-peasy answer, my friend.” Ash opened the computer and turned it towards us. We were looking a map of South Dakota and right in the middle…

“Jesus, it’s Bobby’s place.” Sam pointed out.

“Crap!” I closed my eyes, thought back to what Gwen had said to me earlier on the phone and ran a hand down my face. “I swear between the two of them, one is going to give me a heart attack.” Sam looked at me like I was cross-eyed but I just offered him an answer. “Jai is there, at Bobby’s, right now! Where is Gwen? Is she safe? I can’t run across the country and save both their asses.”

“She’s safe,” Ash was the one who offered this, “like I said, just talked to her. She’s working a bit in South Carolina with a hunter named… ah…” he turned the screen, typed away and nodded, “Elias.”

“Who?” Not sure if that was Sam’s jealous voice or his protective, growly one, but it wasn’t a typical Sam response.

“Easy, tiger,” I patted him on the arm, “I’m sure she’ll poke his eye out with her pencil if she needs to.”

“Not funny, Dean.” Okay, now his panties were in a twist.

“Should I be calling Bobby and Jai? Maybe even Jody?” Addressing Ash as calmly as I could, because not funny was exactly what I was thinking.

“Nah, here’s the thing, it stuck around town for a bit and moved again. Hit Yellowstone when it moved west, and went south again, rolling over the Grand Canyon like a dust storm, took out a lot of shit down that way.”

“What are we even talking about?” I was completely confused now, to me it all sounded like a bad winter storm.

“Monsters, Dean,” Ash snickered.

“Things that have been here forever. Cryptos are not new to the states.” I retorted because I’m not as stupid as I look… wait, that came out wrong. “This pattern, what is it telling us exactly?”

“Signs, man, big, honkin, come-and-get-me signs.”

“Of what?” See, even Sam was confused.

“Think Ghostbuster… the end of the world crap.”

“No, just no… we are not playing with the apocalypse again.” I stood from the table.

“Dean, wait!” That was Sam and I was pretty sure he was following me out the door. It slammed behind him as he kept pace until I made it to the car. The door squeaked open again, I turned to see Jo, Ellen and Ash standing there, watching. Sam stopped not more than ten feet from me. “It doesn’t mean that. It could be a hundred different things.”

“And I don’t wanna know about them. Don’t you think we’ve done this enough? Saved the world and all the bullcrap that goes with it? I’m not in the mood to stop yet another fucking monster invasion, Sam!” I tried to breath as the anxiety crept up on me and I flipped the keys in my hand. “Right now, I just want to grab Bobby, hogtie Jai, find Gwen, and lock down in the bunker until all this is over. Come on, Man, we deserve a break.”

“And we’re getting one.” Stop trying to be logical, Sammy. “Listen, this time we know it’s coming, that’s what she sent us here for, to get what we need. You know I’m right, so let’s do it, let’s get the info and head back. If it’s going to be bad, then we get the girls, we get Bobby and we do what you want. I’m telling you, though, something else is here, just under the surface. We just have to look.”

I took a few breaths, turned away from him to put my hands on the roof of the car because I couldn’t get the pressure off my chest, and took a moment to gather up everything I could before I nodded.

“Okay.” I whispered, trying to kick my own ass, but Sam took it different.

“Good,” his hand came down on my shoulder, “let’s go back inside.”

“Yeah, alright.” And I blindly just followed.

The next thing I knew, I was standing beside the car, night had fallen, I was somewhere in the woods and Sam was holding a flashlight as he threw shit in the trunk. My phone rang, not loudly but enough so that I had to dig it out of my pocket. The screen nearly blinded me as I held it up and read: Just Fucking Answer. Must be Jai, and since I was still pissed and still avoiding her, Sam edited the profile.

Deep breath in. “What?”

“Don’t hang up, I need your help.” She didn’t sound afraid, hurt, like she was running, or driving overly fast… okay, that last one wasn’t exactly true. Her overly fast nearly left me in the dust, so…

“Wait, was that Bobby?” Was all I had for her, because I could hear the old man cussing at something and what sounded like a wrench hitting the wall.

“Ah, yeah… we’re… kinda in the middle of something.” Did I even want to know? “What do you remember about shifters, you know like the time that one stole your face?”

“Jai, what the fuck are you doing?” Sam stood up and looked at me curiously from the back of the car and all I had for him was a confused shrug.

“Okay, listen up, Bobby and I got this nasty son of a bitch locked up down in the panic room, and it’s stuck between shifts.” Suddenly, it growled, like full on, wolf-like growl.

“Gank it and get the hell away, Jai.” That was my only advice.

“Can’t... it’s leading us into a den of Leshy, but something happened and now it’s stuck.”

“And you need my help how, Lancing? Like I said, gank it and get rid of it.”

“Okay, well then I need you to check your line.”

“What?” Now I really was confused.

“Your line, Dean, I think you caught something.”

And, suddenly I was sitting on a dock, pole in front of me, beer in hand and I was looking out at a crystal blue lake. The only thing that was missing was…

“Hello, Dean.” Cas’ voice picked up beside me and I turned in the chair, pulled my sunglasses from my nose to look up at him.

“Cas?” I slowly stood, looked him over and reached out, grabbing him by that fucking coat in order to pull him close. With all that I had fought the last six months, I couldn’t help but hold on and hold on tight. Cas was my rock, my best friend, and right now, he was my anchor. But wait… “My conversation with Jai didn’t end like that.”

“I know,” Cas admitted, “but it was easier to segway into your dreams by interrupting your memories with a little alteration in the conversation than yanking you out of them all at once.”

“So, this isn’t a dream?”

“Technically, it still is, but I changed it to make you feel more comfortable. You are still on the way to Virginia to meet them but I needed to speak to you. Sam being in the car and how long you’ve been asleep would have been disorientating and not very beneficial.” Fucking stick up is ass deadpan as always. All I did was smile.

“Where have you been? You dropped in and then poof you were gone again.” Cas pushed me back, grabbed me by the shoulders and braced me there for just a moment before he guided me towards the shore. Who would have thought an angel would be nervous around the water?

“I’ve been helping with the strange influx of non-indigenous creatures on the coast. However, I thought it would be prudent to offer my assistance on this case. I trust in the information that Gwen has gathered but I feel there might be something more to it.” I stopped and narrowed my eyes at him, something he mimicked with a tilt of his head because why all of a sudden would he need to help, and with a Stonecoat of all things?

“No, we’re good,” I was so tempted to tell him to stay, that we could use his help, that I could use his ears, because there was so much I needed to vent and he was the only one outside the four of us that I had to tell it to. The hurricane of feelings that I had were just pulling me down, I felt like I was drowning, but all I said was… “We need the out, and I need to hunt. I’ve been restless since the roadhouse.”

“I’m always here for you, Dean.” Cas reassured me, but there was a question in his expression.

“I know,” I patted him gently on the arm, giving his bicep a gentle squeeze before I let him go. “We’re good though, I promise.”

“Dean,” Cas started, as he switched his footing. The next time he opened his mouth though, it wasn’t Cas.

“Dean,” Sam’s voice and he patted me on the thigh with the back of his hand. I blinked awake and sat up quickly. The morning light was blazing in through the window, blinding me. “We’re here.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight

Sam

Dean popped up, and I mean actually popped up in the backseat, his arms reaching out for something, but he found the backrest and held on tight as he stared at me a little pissed off. He didn’t look like I had pulled him out of a good dream, he just looked...

“Dean, you okay?”

“Yeah,” he mumbled, looked around for something and then relaxed taking a deep breath before he moved his hand down his face, like he always did, as if putting on a mask.. “I’m okay. I…” he suddenly had that look, the one like he was going to actually debate on telling me something. “I saw Cas.”

“Really,” I smiled and turned in my seat, because picking on him was always best when he just wakes up. “In your dream? What… What did you two do? It’s been a few months since you saw him, did you at least, you know, hug him.”

“What are you getting at?” Dude, did he turn red! “Yeah, I hugged him, so what?”

“What kind of hug?” Okay, maybe I was really pushing this but it was so fun to see his eyes, because he wouldn’t look at me, his mouth moved like a fish out of water, like he couldn’t get his words or his breath and then he turned to me.

“Fuck off!” he snapped and rounded to grab the door handle, quickly moving out of the back of the car. I laughed, and I mean really laughed as I got out.

It was always a blast to get him riled up,especially when it came to Cas. He was like a brother to me, but I knew he was so much more to Dean. Not… not like that, I mean, Dean never put stock in anyone, not for a long time because of how bad it hurt to lose them and Cas… Cas kept coming back and that was definitely something for Dean. He usually didn’t know how to handle it, or express it, so to see my big brother get flustered about it, well, that always made my day.

Closing the door to the car, I took the keys and slipped them in my pocket, no way I was letting Dean escape from this, and watched as he looked up at the two-story building. He put his hands in his pockets and took in a deep breath. Was he nervous because of Jai or Gwen? He would say he wasn’t nervous at all, but I knew my brother, I knew what kind of anxiety he held in.

Dean Fucking Winchester, best hunter in the world, unreadable poker face, immovable mountain when it came to his decisions, always had your back, but held in everything that weighed on him.

I had walked in on one of his panic attacks, and only on accident. He was in the smaller of the library rooms, somewhere deep in the bunker. He had been looking for lore on something stupid, something I knew we had right on the shelves in the main hall, but he had gotten up so fast from his seat, it hit me that something was wrong.

Bobby’s journal was open on the table, something dated July 13, no year but it had something on it that confused me, at least until now. The entry was simple. Changeling taken out, J hurt. Headed home.

J? Like, Jai? But then I remembered that one summer, she was fifteen, had a broken ankle and Bobby waited on her hand and foot, not that she rarely left her room, but I would get glances of her when she snuck out onto the porch and watched as we went through routines that Dad had set up, or just goofed around.

Dean would look up at her, would catch her eye, and there would be a moment that they just stared, just watched and then she would leave, and the smile was gone. Dean looked defeated in those moments, but then the poker face would come up and he would be right back on it, as if nothing ever happened.

That was when I followed him, found him curled up in the corner of the room, knees to his chest, hands in his hair, shaking, eyes wide as he struggled to breath. I knelt down in front of him, my hand resting on his knee, and he jumped, before his eyes locked on mine.

“Can’t… breathe.” He was in full panic. “An elephant, Sammy, can’t…” His face paled and I shook my head, reached out, put my hands on his cheeks.

“Hey,” his eyes snapped to mine, “hey, Dean, you’re safe, okay, watch me.”

Those glassy eyes were latched onto mine and I took a deep breath in, watched as he did the same before I released it. It took longer than I wanted to get him to breathe with me, but he did it, finally and I let go, sitting on the floor with him as he turned his head away and stared at the wall.

“What happened?” I whispered, not wanting to frighten him.

“I saw…” his inhale was ragged, but he cleared his throat, “the entry in Bobby’s book, it triggered a memory. I couldn’t let it go and I just…” he looked at me, his eyes filled with pain, “it wouldn’t let me go, I tried to get away, but it wouldn’t let up.”

“Hey, it’s okay,” I let the corners of my lips go up, tried a comforting smile but shook my head. “We’ve been through so much, I’m surprised it’s never hit you like this before.”

“It…” Dean’s words died and he looked away.

“It has? How many times?” I only got a shake of his head as an answer. “All the time?” A nod. “Dean, why didn’t you tell me?”

“I need to protect you, Sam, that’s my job. I can’t do that if I’m worried about this… shit happening, so I stow it.”

“And then this happens.” I sighed, because what was I going to do, go off on him? “Listen, Dean, you can talk to me, you know that, but I know that this is hard for you to do, so I won’t ask, I’ll just leave it to you.” he nodded again and I reached out putting my hand on his shoulder. “Okay?”

“Right,” Dean sighed, finally looked at me and nodded, “okay.”

“You good?” I slowly stood, reached out a hand and offered it to him.

“I’m good.” I needed his responses, not just a nod or a gesture, I needed to hear it in his voice and he grabbed my hand, letting me pull him up into a hug.

“Good,” end of the chick-flick moment, as he called them. “Now, what did you come down here for?”

“Doesn’t matter,” he brushed it off, “wasn’t anything useful in these books anyway.”

He let me go, turned and walked out of the room, but when I looked around, before turning off the light, I noticed a little box on the table, something that might have been one of those music boxes with the little ballerina, but it was hollowed out when I opened it.

Inside was a note, unfolded and redone so many times it looked as if it might rip, a strand of what looked like it might have tied someone’s hair up, and few other odds and ends, but at the bottom was a small bottle of beach sand with a shell in it, and attached was a little handwritten piece of paper that simply stated: for when you get there .

I looked around, placed the bottle back in the box and closed the lid, leaving it where I found it because there had to be a reason that Dean hid it in the small room, one that I rarely went into. I flicked the light off, closed the door and left in the same direction that Dean went, back to the library.

Before I knew it, we were standing at the door of the first floor hotel room. Dean was standing stiff in his spot, hands at the ready as I gave him a nod. He gestured back and I raised my hand.

The door swung open before I even connected with it and there she stood, almost tall enough to look me dead in the eyes and she narrowed hers at me. Dressed in a tank, skirt, and leggings, I noticed her hand was hidden behind the door up to her wrist, not like she was holding it, but that she was holding something.

She scanned me over, seemed satisfied with what she looked at and then her eyes landed on Dean and with as much control as she tried to hold onto, that scan made her blush before she snapped back to look at me.

“Password.” Now, I was smiling.

“Really?” Dean groaned in the background, “we’re doing this?”

“Tutankhamun,” I watched her smile, something I had only really seen on the video chats we did, which was few and far between because it was usually only when she had to show me something and pictures were too slow.

“You know Egyptian Demonology pegged him for a shifter?” She shrugged and brought that hand from behind the door. Silver blade. She held out a hand. “Rules.” I took a breath and rolled up my sleeve, letting her give a small slice to the meat of my lower arm before she handed me a shot glass. “Bottoms up, Stretch.”

“Cheers,” I raised the glass and downed the liquid. To me, it was just water, to demons, it was a sure sign that they were in serious trouble. She gestured me in, and pointed at the flask. I turned, looked up at Dean, who seemed frozen in his spot as he stared at her and suddenly he was stepping forward. “Dean.”

He seemed shaken out of whatever trance he was in as he suddenly took the glass and tipped it back, taking down the Holy Water, but it was great to see the reaction when he stepped up to Gwen and looked her straight in the eyes locking them in a staring contest. Gwen slowly held out her hand, a quizzical expression on her face as if Dean was a crypto himself and she wanted to study him longer.

Dean did what Dean always does, licked his lips and looked down, placing his wrist into her palm before she closed her fingers tightly around it. Okay, this was funny. The last time I saw anything like the expression Dean wore in that moment, Cas had basically put him against the wall and held him there. Dean wasn’t scared… he was… oh, God, I really didn’t need to think about that.

He took a deep breath, looked at her and then both glanced down at his arm when she put the blade against it. He swallowed and I only note that because it was funny and full of nervousness before they made eye contact again. Gwen sliced down, Dean outwardly flinched, not something he would normally do, before Gwen put something across it.

Huh, I looked at the napkin, where was mine?

“Gwen, this is my brother, Dean.” I smiled as she stepped aside, quickly let him go and walked away with the blade. Dean just kept staring, like he was in awe or something. Watching every move she made as she put away the knife, stowed the bottle and sat down behind the laptop, probably something she used as a defense because she was side-eyed Dean as much as he was her. “So, where’s Jai?”

As if on cue, the low, off-key sounds of singing came from behind the bathroom door. Tiny Bubbles? Who the fuck sings Tiny Bubbles, and Gwen was suddenly smiling. Dean, a little lost, made his way down towards the door, his hand out to grasp it when I cleared my throat. Like some scolded kid, Dean looked up at me, dropped his hand and sat down on the edge of the bed closest to the door.

I don’t think I will ever understand the dynamics of that relationship. EVER. First he’s pissed at her, and she’s taking off his head and now, he’s waiting for her to get out of the shower? I closed my eyes, turned and sat down with Gwen at the table.

“So, what do you have for me?” I grinned, because I was finally able to do this in person. Gwen peeked up over the back of her laptop and narrowed her eyes before her lips turned up.

“What haven’t I got should be your real question, Samuel.”

I rolled my eyes at that and grabbed the notebook beside her, turning it towards me as I heard her start to click away at the keys. The door to the bathroom opened, and I glanced over quickly but that was only because I heard Dean whisper her name.

What I got was a view of her standing there sideways, her long hair coming down over her face in waves, hiding her profile but her hand reached out and she threaded her fingers through Dean’s hair, his face turned up to hers in a wicked and wide grin as his hands rested on her hips. They looked… comfortable. I wanted to keep watching but with her standing there in a towel, the water dripping down the length of her legs, more or less… well, less of her covered by the towel since it was almost too small to fit around her body, I had to catch my breath and look away.

She had leaned down, placing her face against the side of Dean that was farthest from me and I could hear Dean mumbling under his breath until…

“Ow, Bitch!” He snapped and that got both Gwen and I to look up as she stepped back but gripped the top of his head, a handful of his hair in her small hand. “Keep it up and I’ll put you over my knee and smack your ass.”

“Dean,” her voice was playful as she gave him just a bit of a push back with that grip on his head so that he was staring up into her eyes. “Fuck off!”

I watched her turn, watched as she released him and used both hands to flip her hair out from in front of her face, and suddenly I was on my feet. I thought I was dreaming, there was no way this was possible. Not in a million years was this supposed to happen. It was just… fate didn’t happen this way, the stars didn’t align.

Was I really standing in the same room as...

“Aimee?”  She looked up quickly at the name, the smile she had just given Dean faded from her lips as she stared, probably just as I did, like a deer caught in the headlights.

“No fucking way,” Dean slowly stood, moving up to stand right behind her and I clenched my fist because I wasn’t sure if he was keeping her from running or getting ready to protect her.

“Holy shit,” she whispered before she stepped forward, licked her lips. Jesus, I remembered that fucking tongue and I couldn’t breathe. “Sam?” Wait, that was my name, did she just say my name? I couldn’t speak, couldn’t think, not until she asked.  “What are you doing here?”

Gwen stepped up beside me, “Jai, this is Sam Winchester.”

“No fucking way,” Dean mumbled again and I saw Jai backhand him in the stomach. Dean let out a little “umph” and looked down at her.

“Thanks, G, I kind of got that.” Gwen gave her a dirty look and she mouthed the word “sorry” but it didn’t come out at full volume as she continued to stare. “Uh, hey, Sam.” In hurry, like a rabbit trying to scurry away, she grabbed her clothes as she backed into Dean, then whipped around him and slammed the door shut.

“Seriously?” Dean asked, turning to follow her movements before he looked back at me, still standing there kind of dumbstruck. “She’s Aimee? Like best night of my adult life, can I get some more, Sir , Aimee?”

“Screw off, Dean!” I snapped and sat down quickly in the seat. All Gwen did was give a little humph like she thought it was funny but didn’t want to laugh. I leaned my elbows on my knees and ran my hand through my hair before I looked at her. “Did you know? Did she tell you?”

“That she hooked up with a hunter named Sam? Yes,” I would never get over her pointed responses, “did she tell me your last name? No.”

“Did she tell you she told me her name wasn’t Jai?” is what I really wanted to know.

“She was on a case, a very sensitive one that required very little interaction with people. She was supposed to be stealthy and quiet.” Dean snorted at this comment and I looked over at him as he leaned on the dresser. He grinned and raised his hands in a surrender. “Her time with you would have blown the whole case, and you can’t tell me that you’ve never given anyone an alias.”

“No, but..”

“Life or death for a female hunter, Sam,” she stated, “if someone else knew her name, this name , she would be a prime target.”

“I get that, I really do, but nothing, for almost year?”

“Did you honestly think she would try and contact you? Look you up in a hunter’s phone book?” Dean questioned, “hell, she won’t even call me, and I bet unless it’s needed, she won’t call Gwen either.”

“I prefer text messages, personally.” Gwen added and her fingers were back at the keyboard.

“Not the point,” I sighed and watched as the door opened, Jai stopped dead to look at me again and she grabbed her coat. Taking a breath, she pushed passed Dean and quickly made her way out the door.

“Way to go, Casanova,” Dean growled and moved to follow her, but I stood and stepped in front of him.

“Wait,” this only made him pause, “I got this.”

“You sure?” I shook my head and hoped that he would just back off.

“The way I look at it, this goes down two ways,” I closed my eyes and shook my head, “either she punches me if I go out, or she shoots you because you went out.”

“Point taken.” Dean backed off, which in itself was odd because he seemed to love to go toe-to-toe with Jai.

I turned, took a deep breath, squared my shoulders and walked out of that room not knowing a damn thing about what to do next.

She didn’t get very far, in fact, she was pacing just behind the back end of the Impala, her fingers tented over her nose, but I could see how tightly wound her body was, ready to spring at the slightest threat and I slowly approached, both hands up palms out as she side-eyed me.

“I’m sorry, Jai,” I know it came out but I think it wasn’t more than a whisper but she slowed and dropped her arms to the side, before I stopped not more than ten feet from her. She was in a stance, not sure if she were ready to spring or draw until her hands went into the front of her jeans, digging down in her pockets like she was trying to keep from reaching out. “That’s not how I wanted to say hello, I certainly didn’t want to have you run.”

“It was just a reaction,” she looked down at my feet, followed the line of my body until she hit my eyes. “It was a shock, you know, seeing you standing there, because I never thought I would see you again.”

“You and me both and to find out that you’re Dean’s…”

“I’m not,” she cut me off, “I’m not Dean’s Jai, I never was in any sense of the word. We’re… friends, family, arch rivals?”

“You don’t act like family,” I laughed at this because they actually kind of did. They acted like John and I when he was alive, constantly battling for control, for who was in charge but that was when I looked at her, really looked at the way her eyes filled with so many different emotions.

The turn of her lips accompanied the shake of her head, “a story for another day.”

“Yeah, that’s usually what Dean says.” I lowered my hands, stepped a bit closer and leaned on the back of the Impala. She seemed shocked, just like I was that the two of us were standing there, but there was amazement in her eyes at the same time. “Why did you just leave?”

The space between us disappeared as she stepped between my legs, her hands came from her pockets and grabbed my coat, clenching it hard as she looked up at me. Those eyes, damn her and those eyes, it was like drowning in oceans.

My eyes roamed over her features, taking in everything about her that had changed since that night. The hard look in her eyes was new, but it slowly softened. The rigid way she held her body told me she was in a constant state of fight or flight, but when I settled my hands, one between her shoulder blades, the other in the small of her back, she relaxed.

“Sam,” I closed my eyes, listened to the way she said my name and it just brought me back to the breathless way she had managed to get it out between kisses. My fingers tightened on her back, and she settled against them. “I knew you were a hunter, it’s not like we signed up to be pen pals. That’s just what happens.”

I wasn’t upset, just confused, and I made sure to school the tone of my voice so that she didn’t run. The curiosity filled it and I finally rested on those eyes. “So, that’s it, you were just gone? I mean I get that you needed to be undercover but you could have told me your real name, at some point that night.”

She smiled, as if to ask if there had been any real time for talking before she shook her head, “No, I really couldn’t. I was chasing something that could read my mind, Sam, knew everything I was thinking. You would have been caught in the crossfire, you, Dean, Bobby, even Gwen. We hadn’t talked for weeks just so that I could have a clear mind.”

“Did you catch it?” Her fingers played with the snaps on my jacket, taking her gaze from me.

“I,” she paused, her body went rigid with what I could only assume were memories before she tilted her head back and really looked at me. “It got away, at least from me, a hunter named Asa Fox pinned it down just over the border into Canada.”

I needed a quick distraction, as she started to shiver, like the memories were too much and I moved, running my hand from her shoulders to her neck, up so that I could brush her cheek with my thumb. Her eyes closed slowly. That was exactly what I wanted. “So, Aimee came from?”

“The dartboard…”

“Really?” With eyes still closed, she grinned. “Who were you before the bar?”

“Serenity Gates,” it was a smile, before she opened her eyes and rolled them, “I know, sounds Heavenly right? I was supposed to be all virginal Pastor’s daughter and all that.”

“So,” I felt the heat in my face as the thoughts of the way she moved that night, body, hands, lips, crept into my thoughts, “Technically, I was your first?”

She winked, biting down on the flesh of her lower lip before her eyes filled with fire, “figured I would make it worth your wild.”

“So, you and Dean?”

“Back on that?” She turned her head away, but she knew why I asked again, safety of the group. “There has never been a me and Dean, ever, in the history of never !”

“Okay, so I know you were at Bobby’s when we were younger. What happened?”

“Between me and Dean?” She smiled, shrugged and it faded, “he’s just a douche.” And dropped  the subject. “You and Gwen though…”

“Friends, really.” I grinned, “though, I’m pretty sure there’s something going on between my brother and her.”

“Eww,” she smiled, “gross.” but her eyes went back to the door. “Should we go in and make sure they’re not sucking face?”

“You think?” Dean, I could see making a move, but Gwen…

“She’d probably tie him up first, examine him, poke and prod, then…” Jai stopped her eyes went wide, then her jaw clenched, “we should really go in before we spend the night in the car.” Again she stopped and looked up at me, “not that I wouldn’t mind spending the night, it’s just there’s stuff that needs to be done and…”

“No,” my heart was thumping against my chest at the thought of her hands, “we should really go in and make sure Gwen hasn’t turned him into a hunter’s science project.”

“Right,” she nodded and made her way towards the door, her face as red as mine felt.

The door opened and both Jai and I stopped to look at the scene. Gwen was typing away, mumbling only loud enough for Dean to hear her and he was almost pressed against her side, watching her do research. His body was relaxed for the first time in months and I heard Jai let out a little noise as she moved past me and over to her bag.

Dean looked up, did a double take and sat back. “Hey.”

“What are you two working on?” I questioned, moving toward the first bed as Jai grabbed something, a journal from her bag and sat down near me, her thigh rubbing against mine and Dean’s eyes went right to the point of contact.

“Gwen was showing me the differences between the Wendigo and the Stonecoat, but I think I’m with her on this one, it’s not a Wendigo.” Dean shook his head.

“You’re positive of that?” Jai questioned, my brother’s eyes snapping to her. “It’s just… I think we need to actually investigate the area before we make a definite assumption.”

“Are you saying you don’t trust your partner?” Dean changed in that second, he put up a wall and I’m not sure exactly why.

“What I’m saying is that there is some physical stuff that we should look at before we get packed for one thing and come up against another.” I moved my hand, rested it on her thigh and watched Dean shift, staring at where we connected. “I’m not trying to start a fight, Dean, but I’m not going in half-cocked without checking out the area.”

“I agree with her,” Gwen spoke up which got all three of us to turn and look in her direction. “We always work this way, there’s no need to stop and change it just because we have partners.”

“Right,” Jai looked towards Dean and rolled his eyes.

“So, show me where we’re going.” Dean huffed. I narrowed my eyes at him, curious about the whole deal and watched Jai stand, my hand slipping from her leg. Her gaze was locked on Dean’s as she headed towards the map on the wall, Dean suddenly at her back, but Jai never stiffened, never once tensed and now I was really curious. “Shenandoah National Forest, awful big place.”

“Except they made it easy for us,” Jai grabbed a marker, and checked off a few locations just outside of town. This was what she was best at, and how their partnership worked, I guess because Gwen sat back and waited, watching over the two, until her two cents was needed. “The missing hikers were here, here, and here.” She drew a circle around the area, giving us a general two miles and then she marked a fourth spot. “Last ones went missing here, closer to the center.”

“It’s den?” Dean questioned himself.

“Yeah, something is keeping it from moving further out around the perimeter again.” Jai shook her head. “Wendigos are smart, Stonecoats are smarter, some think they were never human to begin with so the canniblitory nature would have never messed with their minds.”

“Either way, it’s best to check out the area.” Gwen added and looked out the window. “Rain clouds are coming in, best not to go out when the sun isn’t shining.”

“Why?” This was the first time I spoke up after watching the two of them but, now I was really curious.

“They hunt in the dark because they’ve lived so long in caves that their sensitive to the light, so it would be prudent to assume that if the sun is hiding behind dark rain clouds…”

“They’d be out on the prowl,” Dean agreed. “Good call. Well, while we wait,” he clapped his hands together once, and it echoed off every wall, making me jump as I looked up from the view of Jai’s ass to find my brother staring at me. “Who’s hungry?”

Chapter Text

Chapter Nine

Dean

It's a beautiful morning…  Or it was, until I remembered the chick in the room next door. And Sam, and the fact that Sam slept with the chick in the room next door because what the actual fuck, Aimee?

I looked over at Sam, who’s massive frame took up the entire bed, arms and legs everywhere, feet hanging off the end, and his mouth slightly open and half buried in the pillow. The joys of road life. He could never find a bed that fit him and I was surprised the man ever got a decent night of sleep but here he was, passed the fuck out, and I was wide awake.

Running a hand over my face, I sat up, and pulled on my boots. I had passed out shortly after walking in and crashing down on the mattress, forget undressing, I was just done, but as I sat there, I couldn’t help but think of Gwen. Damn, mysterious much? I don’t think I had ever met anyone that drove me so bat-shit crazy with a need to know about them.

Jai, on the other hand, drove me fucking bonkers for a completely different reason, something I wasn’t even about to admit to myself. She just… pushed the wrong buttons. And now Sam was involved with her! I tried so hard to keep them apart through the years, she was bad news, but now I find out they hooked up, with assumed names, because… Aimee? I don’t think I’m gonna get over that.

I needed a coffee, and maybe some whiskey… soon. But, I really needed a shower and the bags were still out in the back of the Impala. Grabbing my keys and the flannel that I managed to shuck off sometime in the night, I glanced one last time at Sam and went out the door, closing it quietly, not that the moose would sleep through it, but, hey, always give it a go.

I managed to get out without a single sound, that was until the hatch to Jai’s CR-V slammed shut without warning, or necessity. Gwen huffed, like the vehicle was the most annoying thing she had ever faced and was put out because there was door in the way, but that was before she leaned down and grabbed the two laptop bags from the side of it.

“Hey,” okay, that wasn’t my best line, but if I admitted she made me nervous, I’d be admitting something I wasn’t ready for. Gwen looked up, and I felt the smile fade from my face. Crap! “Do you need help?”

“The amount of books that Jai finds necessary to stuff into these bags is absolutely ridiculous,” she stated and handed one over to me. It felt like it weighed at least fifty pounds. “She likes to travel “light” but I believe her view of the word is a little skewed.”

“Yeah, feels like it,” I followed her to the door, waited for her to open it with the key card, or maybe she was going to kick it in, because she started swearing at it.

“You know, if they just designed these with a little bit better magnetic strip, the keys would actually work the first time!” I couldn’t help but laugh as she suddenly grew quiet when we stepped inside. Jai was on the bed closest to the door, curled up as close to the pillows as possible. The grip of a gun peeked out from under the pillow’s edge and her fingers twitched as we set the bags on the table. Gwen backed out slowly, which had me back stepping until the door was sealed. “Best not to wake her, she tends to be a little irritable.”

“Yeah, I remember from Bobby’s and…” I shrugged, stuffed my hands down in my pocket as I looked around.

“Coffee?” Gwen asked, and suddenly I was staring into her eyes. Maybe she did know Cas because personal space between us had disappeared.

“Ah, yeah, sure. That’s where I was headed when I came out.” I felt like an ass just playing it off but I guess smooth goes out the door when those eyes are looking at you. “Diner’s just over there.”

It didn’t take long to get settled and really become comfortable as we sat across from each other in the booth. The first thing I learned was that “coffee is a Jai thing,” Gwen preferred hot chocolate… extra whipped cream. Breakfast wasn’t her favorite meal in the world and she could do without the eggs, but brownie points for bringing on the extra bacon.

Pancakes were a must, unless they had waffles, and the way she met Bobby was “something she would rather not talk about.” Probably wasn’t a good thing, but I wasn’t pushing because how weird was it that we all knew that one man and that’s how we were connected.

It was really easy to talk to her, just to keep a conversation going without much effort and things seemed to flow even when the topic was odd, like Jai and her lack of discipline, but that’s just my point of view. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go in depth about how the little pain in the ass hunting alone really pissed me off but it was Gwen’s past with Dad that got me. She didn’t really admit anything outright, but she did tell me Sam knew, and that was kinda how I found out. Wasn’t outing that secret though.

She on the other hand brought up my issue with Jai, not that it was really an issue, just something that we had a hard time with. I wouldn’t ever let anything happen to her, or Gwen, and that was just how it was but she wanted to know why we couldn’t just get along, because Gwen thought the little jabs were stupid. I plead the fifth on that subject too.

Odd things popped up at random times, like in the middle of cutting through my eggs, Gwen casually brought up aliens, and there was some intense talk about why I do or don’t believe in them. I finally had to conclude it with “the truth is out there,” and leave it at that.

Of course, we had a mutual fondness for fried apples and the conversation went to why they are the best, which lead us to “is it pecan or pe-con?” We agreed to disagree before my toast got cold.

Joker or Batman, which makes more sense and which was actually the villain of the story. I was personally offended by that, but then again… I’m Batman. She didn’t get that reference either. SO completely Cas.

Past hunts came up, and the fun question that seemed to be on everyone’s mind of “did you really take on 5 wendigos at once” popped up. Why was everyone stuck on that? I mean we seriously spend a whole hunter’s funeral dodging that one, but then again she put a great spin on it. What if it weren’t wendigos? What if they were something else, which brought us back to the hunt at hand and then one last question came out of the blue.

“What kind of hair products does Sam use and where can I find them?” She just spit that one out, which was almost what happened to the coffee I had just inhaled the wrong way because of the directness of it, but I smiled, swallowed it down and shook my head.

“How should I know?” I think my eyes were starting to vibrate. How many cups was that?

“You live with him. I’m sure with all the travel, you’ve shopped together. Is there a certain store he goes into?” She was smiling, like this was all some big joke, but I was trying to figure out how much coffee we had finished off and what the hell time it was because my phone was vibrating off the table. “Ugh, Jai’s awake.”

“You make it sound like that’s a bad thing.” I was confused but when she turned the phone around, I could see why she was exasperated.

Jai: I’ve finished every fucking package of coffee in here, can we go yet? Where are you?

“She doesn’t wake up,” Gwen explained and set the phone down. “She springs out of bed, fully dressed and ready to go. It’s exhausting.”

“Sam does the same thing, except it’s usually so he can go for a run.” I stretched, reached over and looked at my own phone, seeing Sam’s name popped up. “For example,” I held it up to her.

Sammy: Why is there a packet of aloe on the sink? Did you burn yourself?

“Oh, sorry, not that one.” SHIT!

“No problem, I’m sure aloe works better than lotion on some things, a little less effective than lube on others.” Her voice was deadpan, as she held her mug close to her lips but never smiled. I, on the other hand, choked.

“That’s not…” there was no point in even arguing that I had cut myself shaving because the look in her eyes was pure hunger and not for breakfast. I flipped through the text and slid it over to her.

Sammy: Hey, I’m with Jai, brought her the coffee from our room. Where are you guys? We can’t find Gwen either.

“Looks like it’s about time to head back.” She let out a sigh and then literally said: “deep sigh,” which only got me to smile. I’m sure if ugh was a feeling, she’d figure out a way to express that too. “Plan of action.”

You got one?” I pulled out a few bills and placed them on the table as the two of us stood.

No,” she exclaimed and I stopped to stare at her before we exited the building, “we need one.”

Back at the room, Sam was standing in front of the dresser, arms crossed looking pretty smug, and Jai was sitting on the bed, right across from him, refusing to look at me, but I could see the corner of her lips curled up. Something happened.

“How was breakfast?” Sam was a smug little shit, wasn’t he.

“It was breakfast, how else would it be?” Gwen quipped back and Jai just shook her head.

“Ah-huh,” Jai added but stood up and grabbed the hoodie from my chair before I sat down. I looked up at her, gave her my best “I know what your game is” look and watched as she winked. Fucking winked before she walked away. Seriously, if I didn’t… if she wasn’t Bobby’s, I’d kick her ass. “So, while you were at the strip club...”

“Across the street,” Gwen corrected as she opened the laptop.

“Whatever you wanna call it,” Jai added but continued, “they found another body.”

“Excuse me?” I may or may not have been paying attention at that point, watching Gwen’s fingers on the keyboard had me thinking of that aloe packet and the comment from the diner, but Jai had my attention. “When?”

“About twenty minutes ago,” Jai shrugged, as if it were the most boring thing she had ever discussed and I looked up at Sam, who just eyed her like the world revolved around her. Fucking Jai! This is why I wanted him to stay away.

“Okay, what do we got?”

~~~~~

Shenandoah National Park, at least the ranger station, was something to see. We had been in plenty of forest before but the shear size of this one was pretty intimidating.

I sighed as I leaned against the car, the tell-tale signs of my chest tightening had my heart rate skyrocketing, and I took a moment to breath through it. That didn’t stop the pain of someone punching me in the sternum.

“Hey, Dean,” Sam’s voice penetrated the haze that I was fighting and I looked up at him. He blocked everyone’s view, having moved from his side of the car to stand in front of me in the matter of seconds, or at least it seemed that way.

“Yeah?” I took a few deep breaths as his hand came down on my shoulder. “Yeah, I’m good, Sammy.”

“You sure?” Way to make it weird, little brother, though it seemed that Gwen and Jai weren’t even noticing since they had approached the guy from the morning before and Jai was all sort of charm and wit.

Flirting, I remembered the way she flirted to get the information she needed and the pain in my chest was replaced by a heat that I really didn’t want to talk about.

“Let’s get going,” I probably snapped a little too quick at him and Sam nodded, patting me on the arm. The two of us stepped up to the girls, the ranger took one look at us and did a double take before focusing on the shortest of the group a little more anxious than before. “So, what are we doing?”

“Ranger Stevens was just telling us about the latest victim and where they found the body.” Gwen stated and she locked eye-contact with me, narrowing her sights as she tilted her head a little, like Cas did when he wanted to try and see right through me. “He’s offering us the use of a few four-wheelers to make it out to the sites.”

“Are you sure going to a fresh crime scene is a good idea?” Sam and his damn logic, but he was right. Stevens smiled and shook his head.

“The new one wasn’t in the same radius as the others, you should be perfectly safe.” He assured us.

“And, that makes it better, how?” I added, because now we have a Stonecoat that’s working outside it’s normal parameters.

“We’re cleared to go to the first few,” Jai spoke up, catching my attention, that sarcastic expression locked on mine as if to say “don’t fuck it up,” and I shook my head, turned and headed back to the car to get my bags.

Sam and Gwen joined me shortly after I pulled things from the trunk and placed them on the ground. Jai was still talking to Ranger Rick and I couldn’t help but stare. It was Sam that broke me out of it.

“She’s getting coordinates.” He said it with a bit of different tone of voice, like I was some kid that needed to be pacified.

“I figured since she has a map in her hand, genius.” The instant it was out of my mouth, I gave him an apologetic look. I really needed to get my reactions to her under control. “So, what’s the plan?”

“We need to split up.” Sam sighed, like he was afraid to even suggest it.

“What?”

“Dean, it’s the best way to go about this,” I blinked at him, blankly, and waited for him to continue, “look, I know you don’t like it but Gwen and I know the most about these things, it would work better if we had one of each of us with one of you. Jai could come with me and Gwen could go with you. This way we could not only check out the sites but keep a watch for anything that would point us in the right direction.”

“You and her?” Why did that bother me? Oh, wait, because she was unstable, but then again, I glanced at Gwen. “Me and her, you sure this is the best you can come up with? No offense.”

“None taken, I’m well aware of how the two of you work and how it differs from Jai and I. The change in partners can be a little unnerving.” She shrugged, like it was the simplest explanation in the world and she was okay with it.

“Sam, we never split up,” I could feel the tension in my chest begin to grow, the strange empty feeling around my lungs, “and when we do, bad things happen. You know that.”

“We know the lore.” Gwen whispered, stepping closer, personal space be damned but it was strangely calming. “Best that each of us goes with one of you.”

“Here,” Jai’s voice broke through the darkness that seemed to gather at the edge of my vision. I looked at her, the brightness of her eyes as she stared at me, like the panic I was feeling was right there on the surface and she was reading it. My eyes went to her hand, to the black walkie that she held out to me. “Sam and I won’t be that far away, Dean, we’ll be closer than you think.”

Why was she saying it like that? I reached out, snatched the walkie from her hand, watched the hurt in her eyes for just a split second and then it was replaced by that look, the one she always had. I took a deep breath, grabbed my bag and narrowed my eyes.

“Let’s get on with this.” I know I snapped but I couldn’t help it. The tightness was getting worse, so we needed to get it done before I broke, or lost it.

Sam took off to the left with Jai barely hanging on behind him. She was humming into the walkie as we moved. Gwen’s arm wrapped around my waist, a warm hold that seemed to keep me grounded but I could hear the conversation between them.

“Hold me closer, Tiny Dancer…” I couldn’t help but smile at Jai’s voice, and her favorite song, “count the headlights on the highway.”

“It looks like we’re approaching the outer diameter of the sites,” Gwen announced as she cut into the sound of Jai’s solo. She wasn’t getting a contract any time soon so there was no harm or foul in it. “Where are you, Tiny Dancer?”

“About a quarter out.” Jai replied. “I’m checking my good vibrations… he’s giving me good… I hate this song.”

“Why are you singing it then?” Gwen snickered, not really a full laugh but something that sounded good in my ear.

“Sam’s fault.” Yeah, right, Sammy and the Beach Boys, no way. “How’s Deanie? He doing okay?”

“You’re concerned?”

“Nah, just wanna make sure the pain in the ass was still breathing so I could bug the shit out of him for the next three hours.”

“He’s listening.”

I slowed down, not sure if I wanted to get off the ride or just sit there and listen to what she had to say, not that I was curious about Jai’s opinion, but Gwen’s responses had me wondering.

“We’re here.” I announced, loud enough for the one at the other end to understand before I shut off the machine.

“G, word of warning, don’t touch his ass when he’s walking in front of you. It makes him stiff.”

“Your concern is heartwarming, however, his ass wasn’t my first thought.” I stopped dead, grabbed my bag from the back rack and blinked. I turned and looked at Gwen, whose eyes snapped up from a pretty low spot behind me. She didn’t grin, didn’t blink as if she weren’t ashamed to be caught. “You were saying something about stiffness?”

I felt my eyes bug out as she turned and walked away, the walkie close to her ear. Jesus, what were they going on about now?

The track through the woods was disturbed only by random chirps of the walkies when Sam or Jai had something to say but Gwen moved on without any thought of the danger around her.

The quiet of the forest seemed to echo in my ear. My thoughts suddenly went in five different directions and I felt the panic rise up. It had been too long since I heard from Sam. How many minutes had gone by since he checked in? What about Jai? Was she out there alone if Sam was hurt? I didn’t know Gwen’s hunting style, would she be safe if anything happened to me?

The thoughts raced, the pain in my chest moved out to the edges of my ribs, squeezing tight and I reached up, placed a hand against my chest, willing away the flutters of my heart, ones that they all insisted were in my head, but I knew they weren’t.

Where was Sam? Why did I agree to splitting up? We never hunted alone voluntarily… but we weren’t alone, we had Jai, we had Gwen. I cleared my throat, had to get this under control, couldn’t leave her unprotected.

“Hey, so, I don’t think we ever talked about your crypto obsession.” I wondered if my voice came out as shaky as I thought it was but Gwen just shrugged, brushed off anything out of the ordinary and looked down at the map.

“It’s not an obsession,” she was stone cold in her response and I smiled, “I’m very passionate about my work, but since you asked. It’s from my father.”

“Your dad was a hunter, right?”

“Correct,” she raised the walkie to her mouth. “You there?”

“Anyone ever tell you that you have the worst timing?” Jai’s voice bit back and I felt the crushing around my chest loosen just a little. “Sam was just about to… HEY! You can’t put that there!”

“Do I even want to know?” It slipped out before I had a chance to bite the comment back but Gwen only grinned.

“Deanie, I thought you taught your brother everything, might wanna give him another lesson on where to stick it.”

“One,” I snatched the walkie from her, “stop calling me that! Two, I don’t give my brother lessons on where to stick anything, so what the hell are you talking about?”

“It’s okay, Dean,” Sam’s voice came through, laughing no less, “we uncovered tracks headed due east, same as the first scene we came to. I slipped, and the stick… we’re all good here, she’s just having fun with you.”

“This isn’t a game, Sam, make sure she knows that before she gets you both hurt.” So, the protective older brother came out but this really wasn’t something to fool around with. I took a moment, took a breath and rubbed my forehead. “You hit the second one already?”

“Yeah, where are you?”

“Just coming up on our first.”

“Right, let me know what you find, and ignore Jai. We’re good, really.”

“Will do.” I handed the walkie back to Gwen and the two of us made our way down to the crime tape that still hung from the trees. Good to know no one ever came out this far.

“Dean.” My name on her lips had me looking up quickly from the strange footprint in the drying dirt. “Jai wants to know if you’re alright. I’m not sure what to tell her, you’re a little too pale for my liking.”

“Tell her to…” I paused because I really couldn’t tell Gwen to have her shove off. This was Jai and as much as she was the bain of my existence, she knew something was up. “Tell her I’m fine.”

“And the pallor?” Her eyes narrowed at me.

“It’s past lunchtime.” What a fucking lame excuse but I couldn’t tell her that I was in the midst of a damn panic attack. Gwen nodded, mumbled into the walkie and tucked it behind her, hooking it on her pocket. She leaned down to where I had moved away the leaves and looked at the print on the forest floor. “So, were we right?”

“Stonecoats, definitely Stonecoats.” There was a bit of awe in her voice, like she had stumbled onto the greatest find ever, but at the same time, there was sadness. We were going to have to put it down before she had a chance to really examine it.

“Onto the next?”

She only nodded.   

We made our way back to the ATV. Nothing had jumped out at us, Sam and Jai were fine, and Gwen seemed to ease the tension inside me, but it didn’t make the pain go away, or the elephant on my chest as I waited for the other shoe to drop.

I needed a distraction.

“So, why are the two of you partners but don’t always hunt together?” I questioned as we walked side by side back down the trail.

“Ghost children.”

I paused at this reply. “What?”

“A hunt upstate New York involved children. I hate children.” She was pretty straight forward with it but she stopped and looked at me. “I don’t hate children, just the ghosts of them.” I nodded and we walked on. “It was a haunting in some old mansion. She was all for it, I was a bit unsure. There was little to no history on the venue, at least so she said, but after we cased the property, I found an entire website on it. Needless to say, I was ill prepared for our encounter.”

“Were you hurt?”

Again, she stopped. “No.”

This had me turning to face her. That wasn’t the answer I was expecting, or the tone and she seemed to fade off into a memory.

“We were at the cemetery, Jai was all for digging them up and getting rid of the little pests but we didn’t realize how many there were.” I stepped closer and took her hand, felt her fingers squeeze around mine. “She was deep into the third grave when they appeared, seven of them to be exact. They attacked, I was safe, the crowbar was solid iron but she was unarmed. I was able to do away with four of them, but she....”

“Hey, it’s okay, you don’t have to talk about it.” I gave her a little squeeze, then gently placed a hand on her cheek. “Gwen, seriously, we can stop.”

“No, it’s fine.” She shook under my touch. “She had a concussion afterwards, but we managed to get rid of them all. There was something much more violent about spirits when they’re ripped away from life so young. The way they looked, just smaller versions of people, but the innocence you expect to see wasn’t there, it was replaced by pure evil.”

“So, possessed, sacrificed? What?”

“Yes to both.”

“Oh,” okay, shocker there.

“A headmistress was part of a cult, the children were possessed then sacrificed, it was all very strange. The school burnt down before the ritual was complete, leaving the children possessed, but ultimately they died, leaving angry spirits. All very… Jai would call it, fucked up.”

“Yeah,” I smiled at the way she finished her story, “yeah, she would.”

“After that, I decided that the field wasn’t my place. She was much more adept at handling things, concussion and all, and she doesn’t sit put. She’s manic about driving and I’m perfectly content behind the computer.”

“She’s always been one to be on the move.” We started to head again and I smiled. “You’re like Sam, more the research. I guess that makes Jai like me.” She nodded. “Partners work in different ways, just going to take me a bit to realize that.”

“So, are we meeting them at the fourth site?”

“We probably should.”

“No more talk of ghost children after this, if you don’t mind.”

“Of course,” I gestured to the ATV, “come on, let’s finish up and get out of here.”

The pain, the anxiety, eased as we made our way towards Sam and Jai, but I couldn’t figure out who it really was that was having that effect on it, but as the arms wrapped around my waist, I hoped above anything that it was the woman behind me.

~~~~~

Sam was poking at the ground when we got there, crouched down, moving leaves, but it was Jai that had me staring. She was standing on the back of the machine, one arm stretched to the sky, one holding the binoculars to her eyes and the way she moved her head…

“Is she singing?” Gwen stepped up beside me as I asked. Sam smiled, looking up.

“Yeah, Whitney Houston if I make out the words right,” Sam’s eyes went to her back side. “Apparently, it…”

“Helps her when she’s nervous.” Gwen added, looking around, “but I don’t see a reason for her to be, she’s totally in her element here. Hunting and working a case, except…” Gwen’s eyes dropped to Sam. “Oh.”

And then she walked away, heading towards Jai.

“Oh?” Sam questioned, a little shocked, “Oh what?” Sam stood and looked at me, total confusion on his face and I couldn’t help but laugh. “You okay?”

“Me? What? Yeah, I’m great.” I stammered, wasn’t expecting that question.

“Really?” Sam, ever the observant one, crossed his arms as he looked me over. “No panic?”

“Maybe a little, but I had it handled.” I growled, actually growled at him. “Look, don’t say it too loud, I don’t want the girls to know.”

“Jai knew,” and he turned and went back to the pack that was on the ground.

“Wait, what?” I crouched down beside him. “What do you mean, she knew?”

“She knew, Dean, like, you know, she knew what was going on.”

“How did she know?”

“I don’t know, she just knew.”

I rolled my eyes and stood. “Great! Now she’s going to tell Gwen.”

“She probably knew too.”

“Shut up!” I crossed my arms, standing guard over Sam as he mixed the concoction of plaster in a Ziploc bag.

“She’s not going to tell Gwen, even if Gwen did realize.” Sam’s voice traveled up to me as I stared at the two girls, who were standing close, heads together, looking over a map. “She barely wanted to tell me, thought I didn’t have a clue.” Sam looked up, the movement catching my eyes and I glanced down. “She knows you pretty well.”

“Yeah, well…” I wasn’t justifying that with an answer of how well. “What did you find at the sites?”

“More prints, hair, some nasty looking things that Jai thought were… might be… pretty certain was chunks of skull.”

“Skull?”

“Yeah, with hair and everything, oddly enough, they were stuck to stone.”

“Not odd, Gwen confirmed they were Stonecoats. So, according to what she told me, it’s possible, right?”

“Right.” Sam stood, looking down at the cast that he left in the dirt. “We got about 45 minutes before that’s set, so, what do we do now?”

“Beats me.”

“Well, how about we look for caves, open spots that could be where the dens are?”

“Could work,” Sam nodded in agreement but that didn’t mean I was taking my eyes off the girls, who were still in quiet talks themselves.

Jai had moved and the map was spread out on the seat. She was animatedly pointing out the directions of where her and Sam had come from and the directions that Gwen and I took, which was weird that she knew it. Gwen was standing there, her arms crossed but her finger playing with her lips as she listened to Jai rattle on.

I was starting to see how they functioned as a team because as much as Jai was wild and ready to jump into it, Gwen was there to make her hash out the details. This could be good, for both of them. Jai had never sat put, not even before, which was why it was so hard to work with her. She was like me, guns blazing and it sucked because there was no way to keep her tied down, safe, but now I saw the difference, I saw the little bit of control that Gwen seemed to have over her.

Keep your head down, think, and don’t run in. Bobby always told us that, probably told Gwen, definitely told Jai, but now I saw it. I saw that Gwen took it seriously and made sure that Jai stuck to it.

Sam’s not to light tap with his knuckles on my arm brought me out of the stare that I had locked on the girls.

“Keep doing that and Gwen’s going to think your funny, or stalker-ish.”

“Ha, ha.” I rolled my eyes. “As long as she’s thinking about me, I don’t care what form it’s in.”

“Really, Dean?” Sam didn’t seem really put out, he was smiling. “There is so many other ways to get a girl like that to notice a guy like you.”

“What makes you think I want her to notice?”

Sam turned and knelt down beside the cast, looking up at me from over his shoulder. “You’re kidding, right? Dude, you’ve had it bad since you stopped at the damn door and touched her hand.”

“What? No I haven’t.” I don’t know why I was even trying to defend or reject his idea, he was right. “What about you and... Aimee ?”

“Stop,” he smiled, “seriously, just stop.”

“Oh, come on, that’s classic.” I laughed, apparently loud enough to catch attention from the taller of the two women. Gwen gave me a little smirk and then went back to the map as Jai tapped her leg. “So, what are you going to do about it?”

“Live through this hunt without either of you getting me killed, and then figure it out.”

Suddenly, there was a chain around my chest, squeezing the breath from me and I tried to inhale. Sam’s hand was on my elbow, blocking my view of the girls.

“Hey, Dean, breathe.” Sam’s voice invaded. Dead, killed, Sam dying, Jai gutted, Gwen with blood leaking from her lips. SHIT! Breathe, he said breathe. What the fuck, Winchester, get it together. “Come on, follow me.”

My hand was pressed against his chest, I felt the deep breaths he was taking and my body followed his example. Slowly, the world came back in view. I patted his chest, nodded, and swallowed as I regained some control.

“Why are they getting worse?” His voice was just above a whisper.

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s the hunt, or the fact that Cas has been missing for months, or the fact that we’re on the edge of another Goddamn apocalypse.” I was definitely worked up. I needed to calm down. “I need a beer, or a fucking drink.”

“That’s not going to help, Dean.”

I pointed at him. “Stop, Sammy, just stop. I need a minute, okay, just give me a minute.”

“Okay,” he raised his hands and stepped back, giving me space.

I grabbed the shotgun and turned, walking into the woods on my own. I needed this, I needed to be away from thinking about Jai, worrying about Sam, concentrating on Gwen, I just needed a minute.

Of course, a minute of not being bombarded with supernatural shit wasn’t in the cards. I walked right into the middle of the damn den. Not more than half a mile northeast of the fourth victim was a series of caves and the stench that flowed from them was a dead giveaway.

I pulled the walkie from the belt at my back and clicked it on, squeezed the trigger and took a breath.

“Sam,” my voice was quiet and my eyes locked on the entrance. “I found it.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Ten

Sam/Hunts

The Hunt

 

It was supposed to be a simple plan. Survey the area, check out the scenes, make sure we were at least in the right spot. And then the walkie chirped and I stood up, the cast of the print in hand as Jai pulled it close to her face, ready to reply.

It was Dean, it could only be Dean and my heart skipped.

“Sam, I found it.”

Found it? Found what? I dropped the cast. Jesus, he found the den. Jai lowered the walkie in slow motion, her eyes wide as she looked in the direction that he had taken off in. I didn’t even know she was paying attention but she zoomed in on his location. Gwen yanked a blade from the back of her jeans, one I didn’t even know she had and both girls were gone before I could blink, or breathe.

Simple plan, right? When I caught up, the three of them stood looking at the carnage that covered the ground just before the entrance. The bodies of multiple animals were just torn to shreds and the smell made me gag, but it was Dean’s pale face that caught me.

I stepped up in front of him, blocked the view and put my hands on his shoulders. “Hey, Dean, you got this?”

“Yeah,” he nodded, looking right into my eyes, “yeah, I got it.”

“Good, now that we know what we’re looking at…” I started.

“Let’s get the hell out of here.” Jai’s voice was close, and I felt Dean tugged out of my hold.

I looked down at where her hand held his, fingers tightened around his larger ones, pulling him in whatever direction was as far away from here as she could. It was Gwen that brought up the back, going over the area with expert eyes. She nodded, agreed with her partner and stepped up next to me.

“We need to come back in the morning, depending on what we find. Remember what I said, they see better in the dark, light kills their eyesight.” Gwen twirled the handle between her fingers as she waited.

“Morning?” I repeated, looking over the area, “are you sure they’ll stay put until we come back. Look at this, it’s like they’re feeding before hibernating.”

“Grizzly bears,” Gwen whispered and my eyes snapped to her when the words left her mouth. She raised a brow and shrugged, “grizzly bears hibernate, Stonecoats don’t.”

“How do you know?” She reached out, patted me on the shoulder and started walking after Dean and Jai. “Wait, seriously, how do you know?”

“Semantics,” was her reply when I caught up with her.  A half-mile seemed like forever but I was able to hold back and walk with my friend, seeing the way that Jai talked to Dean, a civilized conversation in the works, was weird in itself but I guess I wasn’t the only one feeling it, because I could see the confusion on Gwen’s face. “I will never understand the boundaries of their relationship.”

“I’m never going to understand it period.” I stuck my hands in the pocket of my jacket as I watched her tilt her head, like they were something she was examining.

“There were cultures long ago where the warriors would keep each other safe by pretending to hate each other. They pretended so much that enemies thought what they saw was true, but when one of the tribe was captured, all differences were put aside and they fought to the death to free them.”

“That’s not a culture, that’s family.” I snickered, not sure if she were trying to convince me or herself. Neither of us had the answers and that was probably how it was going to stay.

By the time we got to the ATVs, all bets were off and Dean was sitting on one, hands deep in his pockets as if he were trying hard not to swing, or strangle and Jai was standing in front of him. The conversation was quiet, but intense, if the body language was anything to go by, but he was staring up at her with a cocky grin on his face and I knew this couldn’t be good at all.

“You know what, screw you!” And suddenly, she was walking by me, back towards the pack that I had left on the ground and Gwen who was checking out the map on the second ATV.

“I’m not even going to ask,” I held up my hands as I approached and watched his eyes follow the woman towards Gwen, but that smile didn’t fade. “So?”

“Thought you weren’t going to ask?” Dean grabbed a beer from the sack on the rack and smiled up at me. “We have a mutual disagreement that we agreed to disagree on… again. Nothing special, just something that we kinda keep between us.”

“Like everything.” I shook my head, watched as he handed me a beer can and snatched it from him. “Why are you two like this?”

“Because we can be,” he was in a great mood to be dodging questions. “Besides, it’s not her that I’m interested in. I know all about Jai Lancing, trust me, not interesting news anymore, but that one,” he tipped the can towards Gwen, “man, she stirs up something.”

“Yeah, I’m sure.” I popped the top, tapped his can with mine and took a drink. “Gwen’s a little bit like Jai, not exactly people material, so go easy.”

“And you know this how?”

“Dean, I just spent the better part of a year getting to know her and she still isn’t letting me in, so you and your… being you,” that wasn’t exactly how I wanted to put it, “can be a little hard to manage, so, like I said, go easy.”

“Why?”

“She’s liable to kill you if you piss her off.” I shrugged, as if that information was common knowledge but the woman knew how to handle her blades, even some swords. “So what now?”

“We go back,” Gwen’s voice interrupted and the two of us looked up as she stopped, eyes going over us before moving over to Jai, “the slaughter outside the den was something I wasn’t expecting and all my research is back at the room, so we go back, get settled, regroup.”

“Drink,” Jai added from where she lay, reclined on the seat of the ATV, thumbs up in the air.

“Possibly that too, depending on your inclinations.” Gwen slipped the blade away and shook her head. “Stonecoats don’t do this unprovoked. There has to be a reason that the area is filling with them, besides the obvious rise in Crypto activity that’s hit the states.”

“You saying you don’t think our crypto-pocalypse is behind this?” I rolled my eyes at Dean’s creative words. Leave it to him to make up something to break his own tension. I could see the anxiety waning but I think it was because we finally found what we needed, a good starting point to end it.

“Not in the least.”

“Well, let’s get back then.” I dumped the rest of the warm beer out and stood, making my way towards Jai.

“Yeah, the sooner we get this done, the better.” But the tone in Dean’s voice wasn’t aimed at anything, but maybe a certain person because Jai had just sat up on the seat.

I waited for her response, which was just a quick grin and a flip of the bird before Dean laughed and we set about to get our gear together.

~~~~~

I don’t remember much of the ride, just the way that her arms felt wrapped around my waist, the feel of her hands braced against my chest and the tickle of her fingers as she found every excuse to trail them down to the waist of my jeans.

God, I was lucky I didn’t crash the damn thing a few times, and I might have hit a bump or two on purpose when she was close enough just so her hand jumped into my lap. It didn’t last because as soon as we were back at the station, she was right back to flirting with Ranger Rick, something that got that heated look from Dean again.

“Seriously, what’s up?” I bumped him from behind as we packed the trunk of the car.

“Women,” he sighed, eyes going to the girls as they talked. “I don’t get it, man, they wanna face the danger but they don’t realize they’re putting themselves in it by doing that shit to get what they want.”

“Flirting?” I laughed and watched him give me the death stare. “You can’t really be saying that they’re putting themselves in harms way by using that to get information. Dean, you do it all the time.”

“That’s different.”

“Different how? Because you’re like 200 pounds and she’s not? What about Gwen? Think she’s putting herself out there right now?”

“I’m just saying, it’s dangerous.”

“Yeah, female hunter in a world of assholes, I get it.” I slammed the bag down, and walked away.

It wasn’t Jai and it wasn’t Gwen, though I had seen her do her fair share of flirting to get information, okay, heard maybe not seen but it was Dean actually getting pissed about it that really ticked me off. These two had been at it a long time, knew how to handle themselves and Dean was being a complete dick but that was when it hit me and I turned to look at the scene.

Dean was fidgeting, a sure sign of his anxiety, Gwen was moving back and forth, switching her weight, a form of her own unease and Jai had her hand tucked behind her back, not in her pocket, not just for comfort, but her hand was wrapped around the grip of the Walther she kept tucked back there.

They were all on edge, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why.

~~~~~

I raised my hand, held it up and thought for a moment of how monumentally stupid this idea could be if I was interrupting anything, but this was the girls room and Dean was out getting something, beer, coffee, I wasn’t sure what, I just knew he was gone when I was done with the shower.

Taking a breath, I knocked three times and waited, heard the muffled sounds of talking and then the click of the deadbolt.

Jai pulled the door open wide, tucked her hands in her jeans and looked at me through wet hair. I could see the small, healing scar on her stomach, from where Dean had mentioned she was hurt during the Devil’s lake hunt but I moved my eyes quickly back to hers as I cleared my throat.

“Well, if it isn’t Sam Fucking Winchester.” She winked and stepped back into the room, letting me by as she surveyed the lot before closing it behind me. Gwen looked up from the table and raised an eyebrow.

“Hello,” her voice was deadpan, like she was expecting me but not impressed by it. “Where’s Dean?”

“Store run,” I shrugged and sat on the edge of the bed, watched Jai grab a shirt and pull it over the sports bra she had on when she answered the door. Tucking the front of it into her jeans to get it out of the way, I watched her reach down and pull on her boots. “Where are you going?”

“You’re kidding, right? I’m out of coffee, and Guinevere, Warrior Princess, here said no to stopping on the way back, plus she has a shit-ton of research, SO, on that note, hasta luego, I’m going to the diner.” Jai popped up, grabbed a handful of my hair and yanked my head back before she kissed my nose and I distinctly smelled the whiskey on her breath. It was kinda hot.

Gwen just gave a small wave as the petite brunette made her exit, before looking up at me. “She said she needed a drink, whiskey was all I had. Sorry about that.”

“No,” I smiled, my eyes on the door hoping she would come back to do it again, “don’t worry about it.” I got up, moved towards the table and sat down so that I could see what was on Gwen’s screen. “Think we need to call Bobby on this one?”

“GASP!” She sat back, her hand went to her chest, her eyes bugged out wide and she looked mildly amused, but not at all… “I’m offended, Samuel!”

“No, you’re not.” I scooted closer and moved the laptop, something she slapped my hand for.

“No touchie!” This made me smile, glad that we were back on how we usually operated, at least the two of us. “This is what I got. The influx of people in the area has basically encroached on their environment. The last known Stonecoat attacks, at least in lore, was during the last major blizzard that they had when the natives were moving through the area.”

“That was hundreds of years ago,” I whispered, but watched whatever animation she had up on the screen play through. She had set up some sort of algorithm to follow the patterns. It had been a good century before the next one hit, this time with settlers from the colonies. “People, it’s hunting people.”

“Specifically, yes.” She turned the laptop back and her fingers flew over the keys. “Most of the animals in the area also divert to other routes when the population of humans grow and move through the forest. Shenandoah is perfect for the den because of how isolated it usually is. Until now.”

“What changed this season?”

“Besides the crypto-pocalypse as Dean so eloquently put it?” I waited for her to take a deep breath and pull up the articles that littered the local papers. “Demonic omens.”

“Wait, so not only are we dealing with Stonecoats but we have demons too?”

“Not at the moment but I’m pretty sure that it spurred our little friends into action.”

I sat back, ran a hand through my hair and then down my face. Dean was going to love this. He hated demons and our run-ins with them lately had been anything but cakewalks.

I heard the rumble of the Impala, the cutting of the engine and the slam of a door all before a knock came on the one I had entered a few minutes before.

I stood, opened it and stepped back as Dean handed me an amber bottle. He placed the rest of the six-pack on the dresser and glanced around.

“Where’s Jai?” Funny how I didn’t think those would be the first words out of his mouth but his eyes darted to her knife and then to the door.

“Coffee run,” Gwen said, uninterested, and I smiled as Dean took my place beside her. “So, we have theories.”

“Hey, theories are better than nothing.” He grinned and I listened to Gwen going through the whole thing again, but something struck me as odd when she left out the demon theory and went with the increase in tourism, which meant more people hiking. “Great, hippie crap, save the environment, be one with nature,” Dean chuckled, “don’t think they were expecting to be all over nature’s floor.”

“Dean,” I scolded and watched as he invaded her space. He wasn’t listening to me, he was very much into being close to Gwen and that was perfectly okay with me.

“So, what are we waiting on...?”

My thoughts faded, my surroundings became the wet, cold slabs of basement rocks that formed the caverns around me and I struggled to sit up as I felt the pain rip through my shoulder. My thoughts moved from the predicament I was in now, back to the hotel room, flitting through memories until I was locked in my current state.

I could hear the growl of the Stonecoat down the passageway that lay before me, but I could also hear the faint sounds of singing, a deeper voice urging her to be quiet somewhere in the maze of tunnels, and the faint whisper of someone just a bit closer.

“Gwen?” I didn’t shout, but at the same time, I shuffled closer to the corridor in order to really pinpoint where she was. “Gwen?”

Gwen

I shouldn’t have listened to her, we should have never split up but that wasn’t what was going on at the moment.

What was happening was this:

Sam had run away, pulling the Stonecoat, a large female from the look of her, in a different direction, away from Jai and I as I struggled to keep her on her feet. Dean had taken off after a male of the species, not because of anything other than it had attacked us and left one of us injured, but it was Jai that encouraged me to move away, to keep going in order to survive.

“Someone has to make it out of here and come back for the bodies.” She had laughed about it, not that it was funny at all, but it was also about the time that I was tying Dean’s flannel around the large gash in her side to keep the pressure on and stop the bleeding. She put her hand on my shoulder as she sat against the wall. “Listen, G, I’m being honest. If anyone needs to make it out of here, it’s you.”

“And what, pray tell, do you think makes me so special?” I’m pretty sure I growled at her, not in anger but in frustration that she had even suggested it. This was her way of getting back, or giving back, because of the ghost children, I knew it had to be.

“I’m going to go out on a little limb here, something probably insubstantial enough to hold my weight, and say I think you have an angel looking out for you.” This had my attention. I had told her about it, about my knowledge of the afterlife, but she had never actually acknowledged my claim on it. She knew him, she knew why I knew him, and she was smart. “You know what I’m talking about, but you can’t call him here, not with me around, you know he won’t come.”

“I’m not leaving you. Sam and Dean already have them handled.” I was sticking to my point but that only got the little shit to laugh. “Listen up, Tiny Dancer, it’s not happening.”

“Then we’re not all making it out. He’s our only chance.” She put her head back against the wall and both of us sat up at the deep roar that came up the tunnels.

She had dropped her Walther, and I reached behind me, unholstered my Glock and put it into her hand. I hated guns anyway, would rather take this thing on myself with just my blades, but I wasn’t leaving her to hand to hand when she could barely lift one.

She smiled as she held it tightly then nodded as I stood and headed off in the same direction as Sam, praying quietly to myself that she knew what the hell she was doing. That was when I heard it, the song that started out low and slowly before rising in volume ever so slowly.

So, now here I sit, backed against a wall, somewhere deep enough in a series of tunnels to know that I’m never getting out in time to bring help and I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and whispered.

“Please hear me, I think I need your help.”

There was silence, a nauseating silence that took forever before I heard the flutter of wings. They were ethereal, the sound was just part of the magic but when I opened my eyes, I was staring into bright blue ones. He was squatted down, elbows on his knees as his head tilted slightly looking me over.

“What are you doing so far underground?” And I couldn’t help but smile.

“Hello, Castiel.”

Dean

He was a big mother fucker. Huge, but there was no way that I could keep Jai, Gwen, and Sammy safe with her being injured and the female right on our tail. We had lost the pack, or one of the packs and I had the second one. I should have waited, should have given it to Sam, but he was in charge of getting the girls out.  

I chased after the male, firing the flares in front of him to draw him away before following after and I put that son of a bitch down with a second one, of course, it meant I had to get right up close and personal and right under the fucker’s throat to put the flare into its head but hey, you do what you gotta do.

Now… Now I was trapped. The walls had given way, leaving me with an opening not much larger than my body and there was no way I was getting through it. The only good part, I could still breathe, but that didn’t stop me from trying. I moved rocks, heard Sammy run by and that monster follow him but I couldn’t get to him and to yell would have only distracted my brother and gotten him caught.

“Gotta get out, gotta get out.” I knew I was mumbling but there wasn’t much else to do in this situation, I was trying to pump myself up, get it in my head that I was going to survive, but that was when I heard it.

“I'm sailing away set an open course for the virgin sea,”  Jai’s voice seemed to bounce off every wall, fill me with fear because she only sang when she was nervous, right? That’s what Gwen had said. If she was nervous, that meant… “ I've got to be free, free to face the life that's ahead of me.”

“Jai, shut it!” I snapped through the hole in the rocks, hoping that it was loud enough for her to hear, but that only spurred her on, getting her voice to raise in volume.

“On board I'm the captain, so climb aboard.”  As much as she was either trying to piss me off or warn me of something, I noticed right away how weak her voice was. “ We'll search for tomorrow on every shore…”

“Jai!” I growled, literally felt her name vibrate through my teeth, “die and I swear I will rip your ass straight back from hell.”

That was when the voice stopped and I sat back. The silence was killing me. I didn’t mean to make her stop, I didn’t want to not hear her voice and the panic raced through me. I couldn’t breathe, the feeling of my ribs burrowing down into my lungs caused the pain with every inhale and my heart began to race.

I put the stone wall to my back, closed my eyes and counted, thinking of Sam, of my hand on his chest above his heart and his voice.

“Breathe with me, Dean, ” his voice was clear as day, the rise and fall of his chest wasn’t a phantom feeling, it had to be real and I felt the tear run down my cheek.

I had failed them, failed them all, because I was a pompous dick and just knew I could help them escape, so I ran away. The breathing wasn’t helping, I couldn’t follow his rhythm, the mirage of Sam fell away.

“Sammy?” My eyes opened only to see nothing but blurry darkness as whatever small amount of light streamed in through the hole, and a body shifted.

“Nope, sorry, pal, it’s just me.” A light struck and I was looking at Jai’s face, beaten and bloody, and her eyes, those bright eyes, were starting to turn gray. “Looks like the shoe is on the other foot, you know, you ripping my ass from hell.”

“You’re dead?” My lips trembled as I saw the gash across her throat. “I’m sorry, Jai, I’m so sorry.”

“It’s no sweat, Winchester, we had a good run.” She seemed to shift in the darkness as the match burned out. “You can’t leave yet though, you have other things to hunt, and people to save… Family motto, right.”

“What do you want then?” I turned away from her, the punched-feeling in my sternum came back and I raised my hand to press against it.

“Just to tell you that you’re a douche,” The ghost of her smiled, “honestly, I love you, that’s it, that’s all I wanted to say.”

My heart thumped in my chest so hard that I nearly doubled over, my breath left me as if I were punch and my eyes came up to meet the dead ones of the woman standing in front of me. They seemed to glow with an unnatural light.

“What’s the matter, Dean?” She was grinning like the devil.

“You’re not her!” I placed my hand on the ground, pulling a handful into my fists. “She’s still alive out there, and you’re not her.”

“Awe, don’t say that,” IT tilted it’s head trying to get a better look at me as it’s fingers ran though my hair and grabbed a handful. “That’s hurtful and just plain mean. I confess feelings and you take it and just stomp on it.”

“That’s just it,” I reached into my pocket, the best I could, and fiddled with the small flask of holy water, but they felt swollen and not my own. “Even in death, Jai would never admit that.”

“We all do things when we die, Dean,” it’s voice changed, because IT wasn’t Jai, “some of us see the error in our ways, some of us,” it’s eyes glowed brighter as the smile turned deadly, “Just want revenge.”

It reached for my throat, wrapped cold hands around it and squeezed as I finally was able to get the bottle open and slashed some across it. It slithered and screamed in my head, letting me go as I covered my ears, exploding in a ball of light, but as I cried, and damn was I crying, a faint voice filled my ears.

“I thought that they were angels but to my surprise…”

“Jai?” It slipped out breathlessly and suddenly, I was sitting outside, the cool air of a fall day sent shivers over the sweat-drenched shirt and I slowly looked up at the shadow that stood over me. I couldn’t believe who I was seeing, who I was looking at as his blue eyes stared down at me. “Cas?”

“Stay here, it’s exponentially harder to locate the others in this tunnel system than I originally thought. It might take a moment, but I’m pretty sure I have a location on Sam.” Cas crouch down, placed two fingers on my forehead and I felt the warmth of his mojo flow through me. The weight of the panic slipped away. “We should talk about this anxiety thing when we have a chance. You don’t need to carry the world on your shoulders, I wish you understood that.”

“Just get Sam, and Gwen. She broke off from Jai, they’re scattered through the place.” Cas stood, nodded to me and suddenly, I was alone in the forest, daylight streaming in through the trees.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eleven

Jai

I hated monsters! Hated cryptos more but that might just be because of the bitch that sliced me up. Sailing Away wasn’t just to keep my brain occupied while Gwen went to find her angel, it was to make sure the other dipshit knew I was okay. Sam, I was pretty sure, hadn’t ventured far, but Dean… something happened when Dean ran, there was some sort of noise, like the walls had cracked somewhere and I wasn’t sure he was safe.

It was the reason for suggesting the angel. If anyone could get to him, it was Gwen and I knew he wouldn’t stay away. They had an understanding , maybe, I guess you could call it, but when Gwen called, he came.

Pushing on the wound only had me rolling my eyes, but I could feel that the makeshift bandage was holding me together.  The bleeding had lessened but then again, I wasn’t sure if it because I didn’t have any more to give or because it was actually working.

“I thought that they were angels but to my surprise,” I mumbled, or sang, I wasn’t sure but I put my head back against the wall and let my eyes close. Wouldn’t be long now, it was becoming hard to stay conscious and I wanted to give in.

“Hey,” Dean’s voice interrupted my pity party and I forced them open to look at him.

“Not the person I expected to see in the moments before my passing,” I smiled and blinked away the light. “What do you want?”

“You’re not going to die, Jai, not today.” Cosmic deities were pretty funny creatures to give me the man who hated my guts as a last kick in the ass. “You think this is funny?”

“Dean, you hate me, what makes you think that listening to you is even going to remotely sway me to stay around?”

“I’m here on behalf of Sam, this has nothing to do with you or me.”

“Even in my last moments, you’re still a dick.”

“What can I say, I’m adorable.”

“Go away.”

Dean sat down beside me and looked around the small cavern I had managed to get left in.

“What are you thinking about?”

“Not you.” I sighed but hell if my conscious was going to speak up, now would be the time. “Gwen, actually.” He nodded and moved closer, laying across the floor as he placed his head on my lap, not something that he hadn’t done before, but that was neither here nor there or anything I wanted to think about, but instead, I ran my bloody hand through his hair. “She needs a good life, Dean, she likes you. You need to work with that.”

“Me and Gwen?” He grinned and took my fingers from his hair, holding them gently as he played with them. “Yeah, I could see that, and I’d like that.”

“Now I know you’re not real.” I laughed, but it kind of came out more of a breath than a sound. “You never agree with me on anything that quick.”

“Your last wishes, right? What am I going to do, deny you?”

“You have, more than once, just like I have to you, but that’s always been for the best, right? Not giving in?” I took as deep of a breath as I could and felt myself shiver, cold was setting in, and numbness in my feet. “What about Sam?”

“Your last wishes, remember?”

“I want him,” I sighed, “I want him to be happy but I want to be here with him. How girly does that sound, how selfish?”

“Newsflash, princess, you are a girl and… I want you to be here with him too.”

“You are so not real.” I sighed and let my fingers drop, they were too heavy to hold up anymore. “Dean…” He shifted on my lap, held himself up so that he was close enough to my face to feel the warmth of his skin. “I’m sorry.”

“There’s no need.” The deep, gravelly voice interrupted my thoughts and I fought to open my eyes as Castiel knelt before me. He reached out a hand, ran his fingers down my face and smiled. “Don’t you realize how important you are, you and Gwen, that’s nothing to be sorry about.”

“I wasn’t apologizing for that, Cas,” I smiled and let my eyes close. “I’m sorry to leave him with this, one more death on his mind because you know that he’ll take this as his failing.”

“You were right to do what you did,” he sighed, pressed two fingers against my forehead and leaned in closer.

“Drag them down into this system with me?” I coughed, unable to breath, still trying though.

“No, telling her to call me.” He pressed harder and suddenly, the pain faded, the weakness from the bloodloss ebbed and I could feel my strength coming back, but I wasn’t completely healed. “I need the strength to get the others, when I’m out, when Sam and Gwen are safe, then we’ll finish.”

“You’re way too good to me, Angel.” I smiled but let my eyes fall shut. Even with his magic, my body just wanted to sleep and I felt him scoop me up before the world twirled around me. The breeze was cool against my skin, the day smelled like forest and suddenly I was moved from one set of strong arms to another and I ran my hand up Dean’s chest to lock it around his neck. The warm, wet feeling of his lips on my forehead was a shock, but the tears on his cheeks made my own eyes water. “This doesn’t mean I like you.”

“Oh, good, you even kept her sense of humor intact.” Dean’s rough voice penetrated the darkness but he held me tighter. “Bring me my brother, Cas, and Gwen, please.”

“I’ll return shortly. Make sure she doesn’t make sudden moves.” And with that, and the flutter of wings, Dean and I were alone in the woods.

He slowly sank to the ground, taking me with him and under my fingers, I could feel the rough bark of the tree he leaned on. “So,” the voice was a whisper, but filled with relief as he held me against him, “Styx, huh, couldn’t think of a better song to go out on?”

“Nah, just thought it was annoying enough to set you off.” I tried to laugh but all I did was take as deep of a breath as I could before relaxing into him. “Didn’t work.”

“Nope,” his chest expanded against me, and slowly he let it out, “no, it didn’t.”

Sam

The singing stopped, nothing but the irritating drip of the water that surrounded us echoed through the tunnels. I moved, no longer afraid of the rest of the pack.

“No,” I whispered, my heart raced, my breathing was no longer controlled as I wanted it to be. “No, no, no…” I shifted moved towards the end of the corridor and listened, still silence. “Jai?”

“Shh,” the tone commanded and I spun around, looking for where it might have come from. “The female is still out there, you led it away but it’s not done yet. It’s stalking.”

“Gwen?” My body shivered as the adrenaline flowed and I crawled over to the thin wall of  rock that seperated whatever corridor she was in from mine. The possibility of miles of tunnels separating the entrance to where she was had my thoughts going in a million different directions.  “Where are you? Are you hurt?”

“I’m fine, Jai is in the cavern you left us in. We had to split up. Don’t worry, I’m sure she’s safe.” The logic in her voice, the knowing demeanor in her tone was calming but that didn’t mean it was true.

“She’s not singing.” And there it was, my fear, the silence or what it meant.

“Dean’s not bitching either.” She snickered and I leaned back against the wall, putting my head to the stone.

“You’re right,” but I didn’t need to think of Dean or Jai as the moment, I needed to figure out how to get Gwen and I out. “What if,” I sighed, “what if the silence means Dean got to her?”

“Then, they’re probably both dead because their stupid, relentless arguing definitely would attract the rest of the pack.” You could hear the smile in her voice, and I knew she was deflecting because thinking of her friend any other way then alive would be a very bad thing. “What’s our plan, Stretch? How do we get out of here?”

“First, we need to find a way back to each other, then we can figure out the damn tunnels. It’s a maze down here.” I ran both my hands through my hair and sighed. “If I remember right, we were less than a mile from the entrance when we split up.”

“Map in your head?”

“Have to be when you have Dean driving, he just fades off when he’s behind the wheel, like he’s daydreaming.” I pulled my knees up and braced my arms on them. “Jai too, right?”

“Yeah, but I usually don’t have to say much. If we’ve gone too far for her to be comfortable with, she asks.”

“That’s good.” I heard it then, the sound of rocks being kicked under foot and I got up. “Listen, “ I pressed my ear to the wall, my hand right beside it, “Gwen, listen, it’s coming back. Stay put, I’m coming to you.”

“Be safe, Sam.”

I nodded, not that she could see me and moved away, headed down the corridor. Rounding a corner, I came face to face with a wall. I had no pack, no flares and only a Bowie, what the hell was I going to do with that?

Turning slowly, I watched the monstrous thing fill the doorway, and I braced myself, blade ahead of me, feet planted and ready to go, but just as it charged, swung those gigantic claws, flames ignited around it and it screeched as it nearly blew up.

Covering my face with my hands , tucked down to protect my body, I tried to see through the dust and smoke as a figure approached. Great, there were two and somehow one of them spontaneously combusted.

“Not very likely, Sam.” Cas’ voice penetrated the darkness as he waved his hand in front of his face. He must have heard my thoughts as he stood there. “Spontaneous combustion is a myth.”

“Cas?” I slowly stood, still keeping the blade up. “Cas, what are you doing here?”

“As Dean would put it, I’m saving your asses.” He raised a brow and stepped closer again. “What are the four of you doing in here separated?”

“It’s a long story,” Cas nodded at the reply.

“Sam, I’m going to give you a bit of advice that I haven’t given to Dean yet, given his current state of mind, I think it would be better to hold off on any kind of revelation this big.” Cas tilted his head, like he was about to scold me, but he reached out and touched my forehead. Instantly, I could breathe better and I wasn’t cold, my clothes were dry and he seemed to be assessing the situation. “These girls, Gwen and Jai, they need to be protected at all costs.”

“That’s exactly what we’re doing, Cas, trust me, neither of them make it easy.”

“I’ve come to realize this as well, but they’re needed, much like you and Dean were with the war between Heaven and Hell, Jai and Gwen have an important part to play.”

“God, no wonder you didn’t tell Dean, this would kill him.” I stashed the blade and ran my hand over my face. “You can’t expect me to keep this from him. They’re our friends, more than that. You know Jai, you know what she means to Dean.”

“Actually, I’m very confused on the situation. Their relationship is… complicated, but yours with Gwen is important. Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you. Those women, they don’t just hunt, they aren’t just fodder in this world. They’re important and need to be kept safe.” Cas’ point was well made and I nodded. “Good, let’s get you out of here. I believe Dean is in need of you. He seems to be having issues.”

“The anxiety, yeah, he’s been working through that for a while now.” Cas placed a hand on my shoulder.

“He’s going to need more help than working through it.”

Suddenly, we were standing outside. I closed my eyes, let the cool breeze flow over me, the air fill my lungs and for a moment, I enjoyed the freedom before I looked over at the sight of my brother against the tree, Jai curled up in his lap.

“Dean!” I snapped, forgetting that Cas was even there and I moved, as fast as I could while Dean moved the unconscious woman from his lap and stood. Wrapping me in a bear hug, I could almost feel the smile on his face. He stepped back, put his hands on my face and looked me over. “Did Cas get you out?”

“Yeah, both of us,” Dean’s eyes cast down on Jai, “she’s healed but not completely.”

“Where’s Gwen?” I watched the smile disappear and I turned to look where I had left Cas. The angel was gone.

“She’s not out yet.” The fear in his voice had me looking into his eyes, and Dean quickly peeked past me at the entrance to the den. “Cas hasn’t found her yet.”

Gwen

The sound of his wings brought my attention to the small opening that he was ducking through. The cavern I had found wasn’t big enough for either of us to stand up in but it was safe and dark. I didn’t think any of the Stonecoats would find me in here and that was the way I wanted it.

Cas moved across from me and sat down, elbows on his knees as he pulled them up.

“I’m not certain I understand your reasoning behind being the last one out, in fact, I think it’s rather counterproductive, don’t you? Sam and Dean are currently standing outside possibly debating on which one will come back in to find you. Sam knows your general location.” I smiled at his forwardness but I didn’t reply, just let him babble on, something he tended to do when we were together, as if there were just some things he couldn’t say when he was with the brothers. “Jai seems stable. Like you suggested, not healing her completely has put both Sam and Dean in “protective mode” but you still are only buying limited time before they decide she’s well enough for one of them to make a move.”

“It’s all part of the plan, Castiel.” I sighed, “and there is one more thing you need to do before you really disappear.”

“In addition to your safety?”

“Yes, you need to leave me just inside the entranceway.”

“Why?”

“Well, this… whatever mission Bobby sent you on to keep me safe, would be nullified if they thought you and I knew each other. As it is, they really don’t know who called you here, do they? I mean, besides Jai?”

“No, the boys are clueless.” Cas sighed, as if an angel needed to express his distaste for the whole thing and he shook his head. “I just don’t understand keeping them in the dark.”

“You warned Sam, right?”

“Yes, Sam is well aware of the situation.”

“But not Jai or Dean?”

“No, Dean has no knowledge of it and while I understand the reasoning behind it, lying to him doesn’t feel right.”

“And Jai?”

“I don’t think she would understand the magnitude of this even if she were faced with it directly. Your friend seems to have a “fly by the seat of your pants” mentality that rivals Dean in more ways than I care to admit. She isn’t sitting down on this one.”

“She never will, which is why we don’t tell her.” I took a deep breath and scooted over to sit beside him, placing my head on his shoulder. “We’re doing the right thing, Cas, for all of us and when the time is right, you and I can come clean, Bobby can come clean.”

“It still doesn’t mean I have to approve.” He reached down and took my hand in his, locking his thick fingers between mine as he returned the gesture and leaned against me.

“I never said I liked it either.” I waited a moment, content to be cuddled up against the angel, to feel the protectiveness of his wings, as much as he swears they were hidden to us, I could almost feel them and I sighed. “Okay, bring me to the beginning.”

We were standing around the bend, out of sight of the boys and I turned to Cas. His hand came up, brushed over my cheek before he stepped back and I grabbed two fistfulls of his trench coat, drawing him close enough that I could see every silver speck in his eyes.

“Wait for me, Cas, promise me that you will wait for my signal before you say anything to Dean.” He blinked, two long, drawn-out things that made him look sexier than hell but his hands rested on my hips.

“I promise.” He whispered, his stoic voice told me everything about it, that he intended to keep that promise and suddenly, he was gone.

I squared my shoulders, turned and walked to the entrance of the den. Stepping out into the sunlight, I squinted to see Dean, who turned and looked over me, searching for any injuries. Sam stood behind him, Jai, lay on the ground, a blanket beneath her head and I smiled. She was safe, they all were safe.

It took a moment to process the fact that there were warm hands on my cheeks again, and that moment faded as hot, wet lips pressed against mine and I wrapped my arms around Dean’s solid muscles. He held me tightly, his kiss full of fire and need and I returned it ten-fold because I needed it, I needed him and it was all too much to say with words.

When he backed away, he was breathless, nearly as much as I was, and he ran his thumb over my cheek.

“You scared the hell out of me.” He said softly, the smile coming up on his lips.

“You don’t seem to have much faith in my ability to keep myself alive, Dean.” I smiled back, only because I knew different, I knew that he had more than enough to think otherwise. “If it’s any consolation… You scared me too. What possessed you to run in the opposite direction?”

“You,” he was honest, that was a good thing, “and Sam, and Jai. I knew I had to save you, or at least try.”

“Congratulations, Mr. Winchester,” I winked at him and watched that smile grew. “You did.”

Sam

I turned the shower off, let my hair drip down as I stood there, eyes closed, and reached for a towel. It had been a very long day, and I think I needed some sleep, or at least something strong enough to make me drown out the memories.

Drying off, I managed to pull on my boxers, then the jeans, but the too small bathroom was getting claustrophobic and I swung the door open, hand-drying my hair with the towel as I went. I dropped it down, reached for the shirt on the dresser and looked up.

Jai stood there, jeans and a tank, with her hands in her back pockets looking still a little pale, but up on her feet. She stepped towards me, as I turned and sat on the bed, and slowly, teasingly, she moved one leg, placing her knee on one side of me before she managed to straddle my lap.

Her hands came up and carded through my hair as I grabbed her around the waist.

“You’re healed?”

“Cas must have come back when I was out of it and, poof, whole me again.” She smiled, tightening those fingers in my hair and I pulled her against me, chest to chest. “I’m not going anywhere, you know.”

“You mean…”

“Sam,” she whispered, and my name on her lips like that had me closing the distance, stopping just a hair away from her mouth, “you’re an idiot.”

“Yeah,” I could feel my heart racing, “I know.”

And I couldn’t hold back. It had been too long, I just wanted to feel her again. Kissing her brought back the memories of that night, of the feelings, the touching, and everything in between and I missed it, I missed her, even when I didn’t even realize it. There was no way I was letting her go after this.

There was no way I could.

Chapter Text

Mobile, Alabama

I rolled my eyes, huffed and stuffed the phone in my pocket. Stupid phone. Stupid hunters and stupid Bobby for sending me more stupid people. On a good note, I had just gotten off the phone with Sam and that had put me in a better mood. What didn’t was that they needed our help… again.

So, here I stood, at the bottom of a grand staircase, listening to Jai sing at the top of her lungs, and completely out of tune. Shaking my head, I made my way up the stairs. Mind you, the accommodations were great, in fact, they were more than great, they were virtually grandiose, because we were housed in an abandoned mansion, and I say abandoned lightly. There was still running water, hot water, and electricity, but it was still odd that we had been here for three days and the cops had yet to stop by.

I blame it on Singer. I’m pretty sure that Bobby had his hands in this pot somehow, keeping this place as some sort of hunters’ haven, after all, he was the one that pointed us in this direction. But, enough of that. As I turned left and made it to the second landing, I started to see the evidence that I was, indeed, on the right path to Jai.

We had just finished a hunt that afternoon, shortly before the phone calls started to be precise, and Jai had decided that she was no longer in the mood to play dirty. The trail of mud-caked, dried blood-stained clothing started shortly after the banister, first with discarded boots, onto socks and crusted jeans, before was a once white bra, now dark red, hung from a lamp and her shirts, at least three of them, littered the floor.

“Seriously, how many clothes do you need to wear?” I hollered as I kicked them out of the way.

The out of tune song stopped and I heard her sigh, which echoed through the bathroom that she currently occupied.

“I can’t help it if I’m always cold, besides it keeps some of the blood off my skin.” And the song began again.

I turned into the bathroom, stopped in the doorway and looked at the dirty footprints that led all the way to the tub in the middle of the tile floor that seemed to overflow with bubbles and one brunette hunter, who yet again sang Tiny Bubbles at the top of her lungs.

“You realize that the lyrics of that song refer to champagne, right?” I questioned and watched as she sat up more, whipped her head in my direction and scoffed.

“Listen, if Dean Winchester can pretend he’s a damn cowboy, I can certainly pretend that tiny bubbles has everything to do with a clawfoot bathtub in the middle of a mansion, and absolutely nothing to do with that… gross shit.” She snapped and rolled her eyes.

“Eloquent as always.” I took a deep breath and looked around. “If I could get over the fact that I’m living in a season of American Horror Story, I would actually like it in this house. As it is, it’s too damn big and the wi-fi connection sucks.”

“Which season?” She questioned, and I raised a brow, because really? That’s what she goes with?

“Of what?”

“AHS,” she leaned her arms over the tub and rested her chin on one of them, “which season?”

“They’re all rather disturbing, take your pick.”

“Okay, so quick quiz, Murder House or Cult, which had the clawfoot tub?”

“How is that even relevant?”

“Answer the question, G, and I’ll give you a cookie.”

I crossed my arms over my chest and narrowed my eyes at her. “I could hold you underwater and not even get wet, so what makes you think cookies are going to persuade me to answer anything?”

“It’s a snickerdoodle.”

“Cult.” Might have answered a bit too quick because of a damn cookie.

“Very good… now… favorite season?”

I sighed, “I haven’t seen Cult, so Murder House would be the obvious choice, however if you want my opinion on seasons, I would go with Coven.” And I watched the smile form on her lips. “That was a trick question wasn’t it?”

“Absolutely.” She disappeared under the bubbles and her feet suddenly lounged against the sides before she suddenly popped up again with wet hair. “Dean called me.”

“Dean hates your guts,” I pointed out, only using her own words.

“You’re right, he does, the douchebag, but… he wanted to check in and apparently, someone was on the phone.” She pointed at me and reached for a towel before I turned and looked back over the mess of clothes she had left. “He was telling me about this fun little trip that they were on, wondered if I was in the area so he could… check in.”

“Check in?” This made me turn and narrow my gaze at her. “I thought you reserved your role play for Sam, why was Dean checking in ?”

Jealousy was not my strong suit.

“Relax, Queen Bee,” she finished wrapping the towel around herself and then began to dry her hair with the other. “Bobby couldn’t seem to get through, which was probably about the time we were giving those demons a sound send off back to Hell, or Purgatory, where ever the fuckers go.” She moved past me and towards her room, where I followed, still kicking clothes out of the way. “Don’t worry, I’ll clean those up, and probably burn them.”

“Why would Bobby be so concerned with where we were, he checks in everyday. We weren’t off the radar for that long.”

Jai pulled a large shirt and a pair of sweats from her bag and slipped them on before sitting on her bed as I grabbed the plush chair in the corner. “New hunt maybe, not sure, but Dean wanted to know if we were okay, and since he was close, could he check in. I told him he was an asshole and hung up the phone.”

“Really?” I looked at her in disbelief because… I repeat… really?

“No, actually, I told him we were fine and if he really wanted to make that kind of trip, sure.” My eyes widened because me and Dean in this house, with this many bedrooms… oh, wait… Sam and Jai in this house with this many bedrooms, the noise would just be…

“Did you tell him to bring earplugs?”

“Screw you, Bancroft!” She smiled. “Sam and I aren’t that loud, and no, he’s not coming up. He did say something about a hunt first? Not sure what that meant.”

“Well, Sam called about us joining them in Louisiana.”

Jai shifted to slip under her blankets, shivering suddenly. “I swear there’s a damn ghost following me around. One minute I’m fine, the next…” I looked at her as if she were nuts because I don’t think she was even listening. “Hey, toss me the EMF in my bag, would ya?”

“Sam called,” I repeated and tossed the little orange machine towards her. She flipped it on scanned around her head, down one arm and up the other. “Are you even listening?”

“Sam called,” she echoed and turned the machine off, but her voice was less than excited.

“He wants us to go to Louisiana.” Her face didn’t change, as if she were waiting on the punchline of a joke. “To help them with a case… did you hit your head?”

“No,” she blinked a few times at me and I’m pretty sure she was lying. “Wait, Sam called you?”

“Apparently, you were on the phone or something…” I snarked back and watched her roll her eyes. “Yeah, there’s a strong possibility of a rogue pack in the bayou, they need our help.” I watched curiously as her lids drifted down, even as she tried to hold her stance, arms crossed as she sat up on the bed, but she was losing the battle. “You did hit your head, didn’t you?”

“Hmm,” she fought to find words, which was odd for her to do but then again, she was like a motor, go-go-go and STOP, like someone turned the key, but this was different. “Maybe.”

I sat there, forever, didn’t move as Jai finally gave in, slowly fell to the side and managed to hit the pillow next to her. Great, a concussion. Last one she had was nearly six months ago, just after the last hunt that we went on with the boys, and if you think she’s ornery normally, she was worst then.

Six months, that’s how long it had been since we hunted that Stonecoat in Virginia… six months. But, as I reach up and plunged the room into darkness, still keeping an eye on Jai, and want to be honest with myself, it wasn’t the last time I saw Sam.

A little over three months ago, while she made her way to Texas of all places, not that I think she ever got there because Bobby had her going in five different directions at the time, I stayed home. It wasn’t a mutual decision, not one that we had outright discussed, but when the phone call from Sioux Falls came in, she had been two towns over looking into a quick salt and burn.

“I don’t know, G, you really want me to just hit the road? This could be a long one. Apparently, it made a path.” She was calling me from the motel afterwards, sounded exhausted but I could hear the sounds of her packing up the place. “Demons, shady-ass bastards.”

I was at my desk, after finally finding it, and pulled up the screens. Looking at the algorithms that had been previously established a long time ago, yes, Ash and I worked on a lot of these things, this one made to track Demonic signs and activity, I could see where Bobby got the pattern.

“Yeah, you go, there’s no way for me to keep track of our little crypto friends if I’m on a case that covers at least three states. Who the hell is this guy? Pac Man, you should see this pattern, up one side and down the other.” I was thoroughly confused as to what the hell I was looking at but the signs were everywhere. “I wonder what’s with the up-crop of demon’s being assholes.”

“Douchebags.” Jai corrected and I listened to several doors shut. She must be loading up the car.

“Okay, douchebags, still doesn’t explain the increased activity.”

“So, I’ll call Bobby back, tell him I’m on my way. He said he’d meet me south of Tulsa. That’s a fucking ride and a half by itself.”

“Tell me you’re stopping, Jai, that’s a 22 hour ride.” I heard her sigh and the engine start up.

“After I get out of Penn, then I’m stopping.” Her replied was laced with aggravation. “I promise, Mom!”

“Ass!” I smiled, but there was no way to not when I could tell she was on the edge of needing another coffee. “Call.”

“Text. Promise.” The sounds of her adjusting something told me she was more than likely at a gas station.

“Yep, yep,” was my only reply and I hit the button, sitting back to stare at the ceiling.

I don’t think Bobby intended for her to take it alone. He had been on us about keeping together for hunts since Virginia, actually before that but when he found out she was taking the trip out there without me, I knew I would get a call.

It seemed to come sooner than I expected. I had only been staring at the wall for about two hours when the phone beside me rang, and it wasn’t the Hunters’ Helpline, it was my personal cell. Two hours, which meant that it wouldn’t be Jai, she probably had some highway hypnosis going on by this point and was deep in her own fantasies but that could only leave three people.

Grabbing the device, I looked at the caller ID, raised a brow and became curious. Hitting the accept, I pushed the speaker button as well.

“Sam?”

“What, no password?” That smile in his voice was instantly contagious and though he couldn’t see me, I smiled back.

“That would be useless by this point in our relationship, don’t you think?” I listened to him laugh, and the sound of a gravelly voice in the background had my attention. “Sam, why are you calling me if Castiel is there?”

“That’s why I’m calling you,” and the smile faded, “are you and Jai busy? We’re in a place called Pine Plains, New York, and we could use your help.”

“That’s two hours away.” I wasn’t looking forward to driving two hours on the highway, much less the backroads to get to the small town once the highways ran out. “Jai isn’t here.”

“What?” And here I thought they talked all the time, but it had been a few hours and Jai probably had the Do Not Disturb on for the trip, Sam’s text wouldn’t have interrupted her playlist. “Where is she?”

“On her way to meet Bobby from what I understand. I don’t have all the details, which believe me, is driving me completely senile. I don’t know how you hunters manage to stay alive with the bare minimum facts, but it’s amazing you’ve made it this long.” I guess it must have bothered me more than I thought to have her up and leave. “So, what’s this case?”

“You still want to come help?”

“Of course, Sam, unless you say it’s ghost children, and that’s where I draw the line.” He chuckled again, but he knew I was serious.

“No,” there was the smile in his voice again, “nothing sinister like that. We think it’s the work of fairies… again.”

“You sound… intrigued,” but he really didn’t, not at all.

“The last time I dealt with them, let’s just say it wasn’t fun, but like I said, we think it’s fairies.”

“Sam, where’s Dean?” It was a question that I couldn’t hold in any longer, and Sam cleared his throat.

“We had a fight, and he sat this one out.”

“Interesting.” Because when did Dean Winchester ever sit one out? “Okay, so it will take me two hours to get there, about an hour to pack my equipment because I am not Jai and I don’t keep my bag handy, nor, do I leave my electronics stuffed in an old satchel. These are delicate machines.”

“I can send Cas.” Sam jumped to volunteer the angel, not that I would be disappointed in it and I tried to curb my enthusiasm to say yes, giving him a moment to think that I was… thinking on it, when really I just wanted to see Cas.

“Fine, I hate driving anyway. Tell him to give me an hour and then…” I turned to get the bags and came face to face with the blue-eyed man, every bit the same as the last time I had seen him the week before. Hair tousled up like he had just crawled out of bed and I shivered. “Hello, Castiel.”

“Hello, Gwen.” There was a small smile that curved up the side of his lip.

“Oh, good, he’s there. So, when you get here, I’ll fill you in.” Sam was still on the line? I had nearly forgotten because I was drowning in those eyes. “See you in a bit.”

“Mmm, bye.” I replied and the line disconnected, which meant Sam knew the score and I watched as Cas narrowed his gaze at me. “Why are you hunting with Sam?”

“As he said, Dean is sitting this one out .” I nodded and moved around him collecting my things. Cas watched me as he moved to my now vacant chair and sat down. “I’m not positive what happened between them but Dean seemed to be set on taking a different case, however, I believe that Sam was much too interested in this one to let it go.”

“Well, let’s not leave the boy hanging.” I reached over him to grab the laptop on the desk and found myself staring straight into his eyes. Gently, he reached out and placed his hands on my hips, before slowly pulling me down onto his lap, something I put little to no effort in resisting and when we were eye level again, I let my fingers dance over his neck. “One of these days, we might have to let them in on this.”

“I don’t see the benefit in telling them anything about our relationship.” Cas whispered, still staring at me, but his voice was a whisper. “The course you and I are on has nothing to do with the Winchesters, or Jai. It’s something that Bobby deemed important which is why we started this, there’s no reason to involve the others.”

“But if the end course is the same, than it will take the five of us to make this happen.” His tongue ran along his lips and I nearly lost my breath. It was the sexiest thing I had ever seen, rivaling Dean’s and I shook my head. “We need to go to Sam.”

“I agree.” and I shifted from his lap, grabbing the rest of the necessary equipment before he stood and walked over to me. Taking the strand of hair from my forehead, he smoothed it down is if that would put it back in the bun where I had gathered the rest. “Shall we?”

“Sure.”

His hand touched my arm and suddenly, I was standing in the middle of a motel room, Sam at that table with piles of papers and his own laptop buzzing, but he was on the phone with a very aggravated Dean spouting off angry words loud enough so that we could hear them.

Sam gave me a half-smile, something apologetic, before he took the phone and stepped outside. I glanced at Cas, because, why not and huffed. Dean could be like a child sometimes but I didn’t see the issue with Sam being out and about without him. Placing my stuff on the bed, I sat behind his laptop and looked over the cases that were listed on the screen.

“He really thinks these are fairies?” I questioned softly and Cas gave a muffled hmmph from the bed. I grabbed the curtain and looked out as Sam stood against the dark colored Charger, looking up at the sky, as he listened to his brother on the line. Quietly, I heard: I’m hanging up now, before he pulled it away and quickly stuffed it in his pocket. “They seem strange, the two of them. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of them fighting. What started it?”

“Jai,” Cas spoke up.

“Of course,” I replied, sighing.

“And you.” He finished and this made me look up at them. “Apparently there was some disagreement about your involvement with Bobby and the Crypto movement. I don’t understand the significance of it but I believe they may have found out the end game to this... “

Sam walked in before he was able to finish and both of us looked up. Sam smiled, half-heartedly and made his way towards me, arms opened, which prompted me to stand for the inevitable hug. Wrapped in a Winchester was never a bad thing, but I was hoping to see Dean more often, Sam’s hug would have to do.

“Hey, Gwen.” He said against my hair and I sighed. You could feel the stress of his argument in his muscles and I ran my fingers up between his shoulders to hold on just a little bit tighter.

“Hi, Sam.” I whispered and felt him nod as he stepped back and placed a hand gently on my shoulder. He nodded again, like he wasn’t sure what to do next and quickly moved to the computer. “So, tell me what you have.”

“Well,” he cleared his throat, rolled up the sleeves of his shirt and put his fingers against the keys, all totally Samisms. “Over the last few weeks, farmers in the area have noticed that their cows are dying off, some of them by starvation, which doesn’t make any sense because they were perfectly healthy. The vet was out the week before and now they’re just keeling over.”

“Interesting.” I grabbed the seat beside him and sat, my mind going blank as I thought over the details. “Diseased or just dying?”

“Well, that’s the strange part, the tox on them pulled up some odd immune problem, but the cows aren’t interbred, so there shouldn’t be any genetic abnormalities.” Sam raised a brow. “And, it’s not just the cows.”

“Okay, you have my attention.”

“In the last week, three people have been hospitalized for some kind of mental illness. Two of them claimed to have been on the farm, but the third was walking on the side of the road.”

“Just randomly walking?”

“Well, her car broke down and she was headed back towards the gas station. Apparently, there was a dead zone where it quit and she had no way of making an outgoing call. She’s the only one that still has a clear enough mentality to answer our questions. Cas and I…” he stopped and looked over at the angel who was staring off at the blank television screen, before he continued. “Cas and I stopped by the hospital first thing this morning and asked around. She said nothing odd happened except she thought she had kicked a porcupine.”

“Just one?”

“Well, yeah,” Sam pulled up the pictures that were emailed over and turned the screen towards me. There was one bull’s eye mark on the woman’s leg, but it was rather large to be a porcupine quill and I shook my head at him. “What?”

“That is not a quill mark.” I grabbed his laptop, turned it so that I could get at the keys and quickly Googled the injury before showing it to him. “It’s bigger than it should be, the area around it is puffier and red, like an infection has already started. Or…” I stopped for a moment, reached for the messenger bag and pulled out the old black journal before setting it down on the table. It was well worn, some of the leather was scuffed off in places but it was loved, very much loved. Sam stared at it as if he was in awe before he glanced up at me. “It was my father’s.”

“Yeah, makes sense.” He smiled, almost comfortingly and his fingers pressed on my knee, looking for a connection. I flipped through the pages.

“Ah, here it is.” I turned the book towards him and watched as he scanned the page before he picked it up and placed it down directly in front of him.

“A Dökkálfar?” Sam questioned, which made me smile at his attempt at the name.

“It’s pronounced Do-kal-far ,” Cas stated from the bed and both of us turned to him. His eyes hadn’t left the screen yet and his hands lay flat on his thighs, “it’s a Norwegian elf.”

“Thank you,” I smiled, but watched as he only nodded. If he was trying to keep Sam from figuring out there was something between us, he was doing a piss poor job because that awkwardness was going to give something away.

“You’re welcome,” was his reply. I took a deep breath and turned back to Sam.

“They are essentially dark Fae. Creepy pale-skinned gnome like creatures that use what they call “elf-shot” to spread disease. The thing is, most can’t just show up in our world, they have to be summoned.” I watched Sam flip through the journal but I had gone back to his laptop and the picture of the wound. “They say the dart is like a crossbow bolt, but this looks more like a dart… maybe a blow dart or tranquilizer.”

“Really?” Sam looked up as if he had found something of interest in those words and scooted closer. A little kid in a candy store was the expression on his face. “Huh,” his nose scrunched up like he was trying to memorize the photo. “So, now we just have to figure out how to get rid of them.”

“You have to find them first.” Cas pointed out, and both of us again were looking in his direction. He slowly turned his head this time, aware of the eyes on him and tilted his head just a bit. “I didn’t realize I had said something wrong.”

“No,” I smiled, “you’re right, we have to find them. Our only question is, where do we start.”

~~~~~

I stood in the knee-deep, soggy grass with my eyes closed. The wind coming off from the trees brought with it the mist from a recent rain and I hated it. I had worn boots but they weren’t made for this, and had only brought a light hoodie because I usually left the leg work to Jai, but I had forgotten that I wasn’t with her on this hunt, I was with the boys and ugh, stupid weather!

“The river is right through those woods, the road is to the west and this is the main pasture where the cows died. I would assume that it’s got to be around here somewhere.” Sam rattled off as he looked down at the notebook in his hands, his large body shivering from the cold rain that drenched him. I watched that hair whip around in the breeze and found it fascinating. “What do you think?”

“I think this is utterly ridiculous!” I was only being honest, but the smile ran up Sam’s lips like it was the most comedic thing he had ever heard. “I think farmers are stupid, I think centuries old feuds are worthless wastes of time and I think calling on a damn DARK fairy to settle scores is absolutely the most childish thing I have ever heard of, and I’ve heard Jai’s side of her unending adolescent thing with Dean so there’s definitely a bar there.”

“Wow,” Sam grinned, “don’t hold anything back now, tell us what you really think.”

“What I think is that if my boot wasn’t stuck in the ground, it would be so far up someone’s a…”

“I found it.” Cas’ voice traveled over the field and both of us looked at the way he stood, arms at his side, tie whipping him in the face, staring down at the ground for a moment more before he looked up, wondering if we had heard him. “I believe this is where it was summoned.”

“How can you tell?” I wasn’t more than a step or two behind Sam when he asked the question but it was the look on Cas’ face that made me smile. “Oh, never mind,” Sam stopped suddenly, looking down, “yeah, ah, definitely looks like the spot.”

“What has the two of you all up in a…” stopping, I looked down at the burnt piece of land, and the bones of a calf that lay arranged in a peculiar pattern on the scorched earth. “Well, hey now.” I drew out my phone and took a picture before stashing it away. Crouching down beside it, I picked up a nearby stick and gave it a nudge.

“Are you sure you should be poking at it?” The level of concern in his voice had Sam looking at him with a bit of curiosity.

“It’s not going to bite me, Cas, relax.” I mumbled and shifted the bones aside. “There’s a symbol dug into the ground below the bones, I’m guessing it was made after the fire.” I shifted, dropped the stick and reached out. “Help me move them.”

“Are you sure?” Sam this time. Both men were a couple of babies. I frowned up at him.

“Who’s the specialist here, Sam, you or me?” I raised a brow. “Right, I thought so, now, help me move them.”

Once they were cleared out, I stood and viewed the sigil from the top. Strangely enough, it reminded me of the Helm of Awe, a Norwegian symbol for protection, but something crucial was off. I picked up the stick again and tapped at the far southwest end of the drawing was off.

“See this?” I waited until they got closer. “There are only two crossing, where there should be three and the centerline, here… is too short.”

“And that is important?” Cas’ voice filled with curiosity.

“It’s the difference between conjuring protection from death and darkness, to bringing those two elements to life, in the form of a little creature hell bent on causing it.” I raised my eyes up to both of them and finished the lines on the sigil before standing. “It tells me one other important detail, I know where it is.”

I looked over at the trees that we had started out by and drew in a deep breath before shaking my head. I hated field work. Why the hell was Lancing on her way to Texas again? Oh, right, blame that one on Singer, too.

~~~~~

Armed with a bag full of probably useless weapons, mostly guns, but one very effective crossbow, Sam, Cas, and I made our way towards the woods. Sam led the way, I was protected nicely in the middle, and Cas fell in behind, his eyes narrowed on everything just to make sure he could feel it out with his angel senses.      

Just as we stepped beyond the summoning spot, Sam took in a deep breath, his hand going straight to his neck as he turned to me, a little blue in the face and pulled out what looked like a porcupine quill.

“Sam!” Cas moved beyond me, grabbing the taller man before he hit the ground and slowly lowered him. I stepped up to the two and looked around in the direction that I presumed the dart had come from. There, in the distance, the waist-high grass moved. Cas grabbed my arm, pulling me quickly to my knees and I sneered. I hated being manhandled unless I was in the mood. “Stay low, I think it’s out there.”

“Ya think?” I snapped and moved closer to Sam, taking his hand from his neck to inspect the wound. Just as I thought, it had gone in at an upward angle, the little shit had to be close in order to get the jump on Sam. “Wait here.”

Cas was about to protest, but he shut up just as fast as I grabbed the crossbow and a package of darts. These things were pure silver but they were heavy as hell and I was going to have to be right on top of it to get close enough to fire.

The angel was quiet as I slipped off my boots, put my finger to my lips to tell him to keep silent, though I’m pretty positive that he knew just how to hunt. The muddy ground was cold, but it was better than my boot getting stuck in it and becoming a target for the damn thing.

Crouch low enough to blend in, and hoping that he couldn’t see above the grass, I moved in the direction I had seen the swaying. Just as I was about there, I heard a whispy noise, as the grass moved around before me. Too low to the ground to be an animal, and I paused, took out a bolt and readied the bow.

That was when it happened, I heard the dart sail past my ear, missing me intentionally. He was toying with me and I was cold, wet, and had just about enough of mucking around in the damn field. Pulling the knife from the sheath at my calf, I made my way forward but was quickly knocked back.

The little meaty fingers of the thing were digging into my hair, yanking it tightly as I swung my hands, aiming high up because it felt like it was sitting on my shoulders. I dropped the crossbow, but grabbed the bolt and I could hear it growling in my ear as it’s claws sank into my skin.

“Little bastard!” I snapped and dropped the knife, trying my best to get my hands around it.

That was when I noticed the plating. It was wearing armor. Not only had it toyed with me but the chicken shit wasn’t playing fair by covering himself up. I felt along the sides of the back plate, looking for a split in the armor. There had to be something, some way… and there it was, where the breast and backplate met, along the side seams, just below the armpit and I stabbed upwards, praying that it didn’t move because I was looking at stabbing myself in the eye if it did.

The bolt hit home, lodging into the thing’s meat and suddenly I was covered in sticky black goo. Blood, the thing had black blood! It released my hair, let me grab it fully around the waist and I sent it flying, but it screamed, brought whatever little blow-gun toy it had up to its mouth and fired off as many as it could, with terrible aim.

How the hell had it even hit Sam? It couldn’t seem to hit the broad side of a barn, but as I ducked and weaved out of the way, retrieving my knife, I realized that it was aiming blind. It really was blind! Part of the summoning was that it was to sacrifice one of its senses and apparently it thought it was smart enough to go without eyes.

Stupid fairy!

It lunged again, I rolled out of the way, turned the blade so that it was up against my arm and swung, the tip shattering whatever material covered its breast before slicing upwards and into the unprotected part under its jaw.

I released the grip, watched it stumble as it stood, a look of surprise on its dying face and in a last ditch effort to bring one more person down, it raised the blow-gun to its mouth before it suddenly fell over backwards.

I took a deep breath, nearly choking on the smell of cow manure, and looked down at well, everything because I was covered in… everything. So gross!

Just as I got to my feet, after collecting the crossbow and knife, I heard Sam call for me.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m over here.” I huffed, and really hope he heard because I didn’t even yell it. I pulled out my phone from my back pocket, now that my fingers were dry and snapped a picture of the dead thing before composing a text message.

Gwen: See all the fun you miss when you decide to go out to see Bobby?

Jai: EWWW! Gross! So, Sammy and Cas take you on a wild adventure?

How does she even know this stuff.

Jai: Bobby told me.

I hate when she does that too. Rolling my eyes, I put the phone back in my pocket as Cas and Sam stepped up.

“It needs to be burned.” I instructed.

“Easy enough, maybe we should do it on the same spot that the summoning was,” Sam looked better. Seemed the poison issue died when the fairy did because he only had a small bruise.

“No,” I paused, “you don’t seem to understand,” I caught his eyes and raised brow. Good time to practice my Dom Brow, right? Maybe I could use it on Cas later… wait, no, not thinking that way, so I cleared my throat. “It all needs to burn, the whole field.”

“All of it?” Cas questioned, looking at me.

“All of it.” I answered and Sam hiked the bag up to his shoulder.

“How the hell are we going to pull that off?”

~~~~~

I stood next to a one Mr. David Bridges, owner of the farmland that lay before us, dressed in the best pants suit I could find at such a short notice. It was a really good thing that Kingston was only thirty minutes away and had just the store I was looking for, because the alternative was wearing Sam’s and I just don’t think I would have filled out the shoulders well enough.

“Thank you again, Ms…”

“Cummings,” I smiled. “And thank you Mr. Bridges for being so cooperative. The CDC appreciates it very much. It’s unlikely that it will happen again, but once the field is gone, the chance of any contaminated feed getting into the animals in the area will be slim to none.” I explained and tried not to smile as Sam and Cas moved across the field with flamethrowers, essentially setting the thing ablaze.

What was even more astounding is how Bobby convinced the local fire and law that this was actually a legal and controlled burn. I will never understand the way that man worked.  

When the fire was well contained, the three of us packed up the Charger and headed back to the hotel.

~~~~~

A faint rustle of wings shook me from my memories and I turned to find Cas sitting in the chair looking at me. His blue eyes almost glowed in the darkness and I raised my finger to my lips before pointing to my temple. Cas nodded and I felt the tingle of his thoughts along mine.

Good evening, Gwen.

Hello, Cas, what are you doing here? Not that I’m complaining.

Dean wanted me to stop in and check on you. He seems… anxious, about something but is reluctant to talk about it.

I’m not sure what he has to be anxious about, I told Sam we were going to come down, I just had to convince Jai that it was the best option for what was going on.

Did you not tell her the importance of the case?

I tried to explain it, but suggesting her and Dean be in close proximity of one another still seems to make her edgy. She did seem excited that Sam was going to be there, but other than that. I shifted as I looked over at her bed again. I think she has a concussion.

I can check if you’d like.

Not yet, let her sleep.

There was a moment of silence and then the sound of movement along the sheets seconds before a glint of light along the barrel of a gun had me sitting completely still.     

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve

Jai

“Jesus,” I sighed, recognizing the two in the chairs that took up the wall of the bedroom and safetied the gun. “That’s just fucking creepy, Cas! Could you two not use your freaky Vulcan mind-meld shit while I’m in the room?” I could almost hear Gwen snickering from the seat. “You know what, Gwen, screw you! I’m going back to sleep, my head is killing me.”

“Jai,” Cas’ voice swept through me like a warm, summer day, and that might only be because I had just woken up from a fantastic dream of Sam in swim trunks on the beach with the sun shining off his…

“What, CAS?” I growled and felt the bed sink beside me as I tried to burrow back into my pillow.

“Gwen said you may have hit your head,” he was whispering but it was echoing through me like a freight train.

“Yeah, Cas, I think I did.” Nope, I’m going to deny it until the day I… ugh, it hurts too much to think about denying anything. “Can you? You know, get rid of it?”

“Yes,” his finger was warm against my forehead, “and, if you’d like, I can put you to sleep as well.”

“Thanks, Angel.” I sighed and remembered absolutely nothing else about the rest of the night.

Coffee the next morning, on the other hand, was the first thing in my thoughts as I rolled out of bed and looked at the second one in the room. Gwen was burrowed into a small nest somewhere in the middle of it and I couldn’t help but smile.

I pulled on the slippers beside the bed because mansion floors were fucking cold, took the flannel on the nightstand and slipped it on as well as I made my way out the door and down the stairs. The best part of this place was that I could brew a pot, check my emails, and answer the call that was coming through all without waking the sleeping bear upstairs.

She wasn’t a morning person… trust me.

I set the phone down on the counter, hit the accept button and the speaker before I grabbed the grounds and started the pot.

“Morning, Sam.”

“Hey, morning, Sunshine.” I could almost see the smile in his voice.

“Dean must still be sleeping, you’re happy.” I laughed and heard him huff.

“Actually, he’s getting dressed. I’m out grabbing breakfast and you’re the one that’s happy so I’m going to assume he hasn’t texted you yet.”

“Why would asshat be texting me so early in the morning?” I smiled and grabbed a mug out of the cabinet, fished through the fridge for my creamer... ooh, French Vanilla… and made my way back to the phone. “Besides, I wouldn’t think he’d be up this early. What are you guys doing?”

“We’re checking out the coroner’s office this morning, so, it’s an early day. Did Gwen talk to you? I mean, I know Dean called yesterday but did you and Gwen get a chance to talk?”

Shit! I closed my eyes, what the hell did we talk about? Things were fuzzy, but I know she mentioned Sam had called. What was it about? Ghouls in the circus? Nope, Paris in Palisades Park? Oh, definitely not that. Werewolves. YEP! That was it, werewolves in the bayou.

“She mentioned something about a hunt that you guys were on, down in the bayou, and with Dean checking in, I figured you guys wanted us to come down and tag along.” I quickly took a sip, hoping i had pulled that off.

Sam cleared his throat, ordered two black coffees and a dozen or so pastry items before getting back on the line. “You girls up to it? It’s been a few months since we’ve gotten the chance to be in the same state, let alone a two-hour hop from each other. We were thinking maybe hitting New Orleans after the hunt.”

“You said NOLA, I am so there!” I smiled, because come on, you can NOT pass up an opportunity to go to New Orleans… ever. “I might actually pretend to like your brother for the entire time, just to stay in a good mood.”

“He thought you might say that.”  Sam laughed, “he said he’d promise to keep his dickishness to a minimum. Really? That’s a word?”

“Is for us, Sammy.” I moved towards the pot to refill the cup and heard the distinct sound of something dropping upstairs. “Well, Gwen’s awake.”

“What did you do?”

“I may or may not have rigged a few empty soda cans along a line in the bathroom to let me know when she wakes up.” I shrugged, not that he could see me and suddenly the man on the other line was laughing, bellowing actually, and part of me hoped he had put the coffee somewhere safe. “Completely necessary. She likes to sneak up on me while I’m brushing my teeth, stands there behind me and just scares the shit out of me, every. Single. Time!” The laughter only got louder. “Seriously, we are two people in this massive house. You’d be daft to not think there was a ghost in here, besides, with the way my head hurt…”

“Wait,” the laughter died, “you got hurt?”

“Not a kid, Sam, and yeah, I hit my head on… something, but it’s fine… it’s all fine.” I rubbed my forehead and prayed that I stopped talking, BUT, I didn’t. “Cas fixed it and now, I’m all good.”

“Wait,” this was becoming a thing, “Cas was there?”

“He popped in last night, Sam, he does it a lot. The old man is pretty protective, you know that.”

“Yeah, I get it.” he sighed, I sighed, we all just stood in silence before he cleared his throat and I looked up at Gwen standing in the doorway.

“Jesus!” I put my hand over my heart. “I need more cans.”

“Gwen?”

“Good morning, Sam.” She mumbled while looking at me with narrowed, judging eyes. “I tripped over your early warning system this morning, Jai.”

“Sorry, too close to the toilet this time?” I turned and poured just a little more coffee into the mug.

“Anywhere within the path of my feet before eleven is too close.” She yanked open the cabinet and took out a mug. “Where’s the hot chocolate?”

“Third cabinet to the left, second shelf.” I answered and listened to the going-ons on the other end of the line. Sam had just set the coffee down and was rustling something. “Sammy, want me to let you go?”

“No, I was just getting settled. Dean’s in the bathroom. Morning, Gwen.” He rattled off and Gwen mumbled as she took the seat beside me. “Hey, Dean, coffee?”

“Why are you so cheerful?” Dean’s angry voice came muffled across the line.

“The girls say hello,” Sam was trying to give him the heads up before he said something stupid.

“I’m not nearly awake enough for that.” And he walked away… loudly.

“Well, top of the mornin’ to you too, Dean.” I laughed and watched as Gwen rolled her eyes. “What?”

“You know you do it to yourself, right?” She scolded. “Comments like that just egg him on, which eggs you on, which in turn…”

“Alright! I get it.” I waved my hand at her. “Sam, go do what you boys do best. Gwen and I will get packed up here and settle our tab, then see you down there.”

“Looking forward to it.” And Dean was protesting in the background. “See you girls soon.”

“Later, Tater.” I grinned.

“Yeah, bye!” Gwen waved and the line disconnected. “Are you even going to behave when we get there?”

“Scouts honor.” I said holding up two fingers.

“It’s three.”

“What?” I looked at my hand.

“Scouts honor is three fingers.”

I rolled my eyes, rolled my index finger down and flipped her off, “whatever.”

“What tab are we settling?” She wrapped both hands around her mug and brought it to her lips, blowing on the whip cream she had topped it off with.

“Billings, the guy that gave us the info, he’s supposed to have an envelope with a couple grand in it.”

“Why? We never get the money for these jobs until after.”

I shrugged. “Bobby did say it was a favor, so apparently it was a big… big favor.”

“How big?”

“Didn’t you say you needed a whole new laptop?” I questioned, finished pouring the rest of the pot into the mug before I made my way past her. “You know, the custom made one with all the bells and whistles?”

“Yeah, that was five grand.” She shook her head before it seemed to dawn on her. “He’s giving us five grand?”

“Each.”

“Each? This job was worth ten grand?” Gwen followed me through the house as I made my way back upstairs and I turned to her on the landing.

“This house is worth millions, G, did you not think they were going to pay a pretty price to keep it from being torn apart by vengeful spirits and the like. Besides this whole place is a haven for the supernatural. Dollars to donuts, we’ll be back in a month anyway.”

“Mmm, donuts.” Gwen hummed and I smiled.

“Get your stuff together, we’ve got Winchesters to find.” I smiled and watched as she got that look in her eyes. Poor Dean didn’t stand a chance.

~~~~~

The highway had faded to memory before we even hit fifteen minutes. Gwen was on the laptop, documenting everything that had happened in the last week, not that it wasn’t a fine thing, because who wanted to deal with paperwork, but my summary of it was put in the journal I carried, short, sweet and to the point. Probably something I should work on. But the sound of the road under the Jeep’s wheels made me think of Texas, the last time I had seen the south, and Bobby.

We had met up in Tulsa, made our way down in near silence, hopping from one site to the next of where the demon had landed and finally, we found ourselves in a small place call Dripping Springs, Texas. It was cute, not much to it but the location seemed to be anything but ordinary.

“A brewery?” I ask as I got out of the car and stood in the dirt parking lot looking at the lack of cars but the amount of space. It had a small two-story house on it, resembling a small plantation, and a large red barn that I assumed was where they kept everything. Bobby got out of the car, slipped on that mangled old ball cap and turned to me, hands in his pockets. “Too bad I don’t like beer, this could be really fun.”

“It’s not at the brewery,” he growled, and I narrowed my eyes at him, because, what the hell? “Let’s go!” He turned away and began to walk up the warn, rocky path in between the rails. I stopped at the sign and shook my head, before he turned and gave me one look. “Behave yourself, this is important.”

“Behave myself,” I mumbled following him, “I am not a child, why would he think that I wouldn’t behave myself, Christ!”

But as we entered the red building, I could see why I was forewarned. It was white, immaculately so, and right in front of me was the bar. The woman that stood there, her copper hair twisted up in a bun, held there tightly by some colorful wraps looked up at Bobby and smiled so brightly, I would have thought the sun had come out.

I cleared my throat, looked away and found myself walking towards the large doors. The inside of the building had rows of tables, almost like a cafeteria, something you wouldn’t think to find in a brewery, and the back wall, opposite the bar, had a strange design that almost resembled sun rays, but they were rainbow, or were my eyes playing tricks on me.

Stepping out onto the back porch, I looked over the rest of the “compound.” Picnic tables filled the back, a fenced in playground for kids took up one corner and a food truck sat still unopened since it was so early in the day. Which all made me question…

“Why the hell are we here?”

“Bobby said you could use some help with tracking the demon down this way,” her voice made me close my eyes, stilling the flinch in my body. Outwardly, I didn’t make a move, but deep within, my heart raced. I knew that voice, that face, that smile and I clenched my fists as I turned slowly and looked up into those light brown eyes, ones that sparkled with mischief as she leaned on the railing next to me. “Hey, Jai, long time.”

“Hey, Dee,” I wonder if she caught that crack in my voice, but she didn’t make a move to acknowledge it. “Really? Bobby said that, because he just seemed full of surprises.”

“I told him not to tell you it was me,” she said with a sigh, “I didn’t think you would come if you knew.”

“If I remember, that was never a problem.” I can’t believe that left my lips and suddenly I was looking away, hot with the blush that ran up my face. Great way to make an ass out of yourself two minutes into seeing the woman again. Taking a moment to gather my… I don’t even know what I was gathering but my composure was pretty well shot, before I turned back to her. “You own a brewery?” she nodded, “And named it The Family Business?”

“Seemed fitting, don’t you think?” She reached up and moved a stray strand of hair from my face. “I’ve missed you.”

“Yeah,” I sighed, “me too, but that doesn’t change anything.” I stepped back from her touch and slipped my hands into my pockets.

“Maybe now isn’t the best time to talk about it but…”

I cut her off, not wanting to go there, not wanting to remember her, or time spent with her. That was too long ago and still too fresh in my mind. “So, Bobby has you on demon expert duty? Thought you got out of the business.”

“Jai,” she sighed and stood straight as Bobby came out, beer in hand, foam on his beard and both of us couldn’t help but smile.

“You girls behaving?” he questioned and moved towards one of the tables that lined the building. Dee and I followed, sitting next to each other as he sat across. Neither of us answered. “So, I’m gonna guess you know why I brought you here.”

“No, seriously, I still have no clue, B, what the hell is going on?” I folded my fingers together, trying to keep them from straying to the soft ones that sat on the bench beside my thigh, as Danneel Harris, badass ex-hunter and apparently a brewery owner, slipped a little closer. Yeah, we had history, but it didn’t end on bad terms, it just ended.

“Danneel, here, knows where to find our demon.” My head whipped around to look at her and she just gave me a half-smile, totally fake and shrugged. “Seems whatever this thing is, whatever it’s mission, it’s hitting the spouses of hunters, or in, Dee’s case, ex-hunters.”

“Your... spouse?” I questioned and watched her pull out her phone, click on the screen. A selfie with some gorgeous, green-eyed man popped up and I sat back. There was no way! No way that anyone should resemble Dean so closely. “Wow, married. Crazy.”

“Yeah, I thought so too.” She slipped the phone away.

“You didn’t have him protected?” I knew it was a stupid question but hey, I had to ask.

“He was, but it got in anyway, which is why I was tracking it. This one didn’t seem to even be fazed by it.” Dee turned to me and that hand came down on my lap. “I called Bobby for help and I knew he would call you. I know it’s been years, but if anyone could save him, it would be the two of you. Now, this is what I know…”

It took nearly two hours for her to explain everything that had come up in the last week, including the day that he changed, almost the moment. And, with an awkward goodbye, her arms wrapped tightly around me for way too long, Bobby and I pulled out of the parking lot, heading for the nearest motel.

Twelve minutes down the road and I was finally collapsing on the bed, my eyes drifting shut as Bobby took the one closest to the door. He didn’t say a word, hadn’t brought up the relationship between me and Dee, never even batted an eye at the physical contact she needed and I was okay with that.

I could hear the sound of books being placed on the table, the laptop firing up and I did my best to turn my head in his direction. I fought with my eyes to stay open long enough to see him sit down and start typing but it was the sigh that left my lips that got him to look over.

“You’re exhausted, why don’t you get some shut eye and I’ll wake you in a few hours. It’s going to take a little bit to track down this guy.” Bobby instructed, because you don’t argue with the man and it wasn’t a suggestion.

“Why didn’t you tell me it was her?” I mumbled, but he understood it perfectly. “Or her husband, for that matter?”

“Would you have come?” He questioned outright. “I know there are very few people in this world that you would drop everything for, Jai, just wasn’t sure if she was one of them.”

“I would have booked a plane instead of wasting two days driving.” I replied and listened to him snort.

“Answers my question, don’t it.” He shook his head and let his eyes set on me. “You and Dean still having issues?”

“Always,” I smiled, and placed my hand on my stomach, running over the scar from Baraboo. “Surprised it took you this long to ask, thought it would have been the first thing out of your mouth.”

“I don’t understand why you two can’t get along.” He was just like a parent, always trying to do what was best, but Dean wasn’t my brother, at least not… well, maybe he was, because we had a sibling rivalry that could make history. “What about you and Sam?”

That got my attention. I didn’t know if Sam had told him about our little connection or if he had kept it to himself but I did my best to wipe the shock from my face as Bobby smiled and I had to look away.

“We’re fine,” was my only answer and I slowly sat up, placed my elbows on my knees and laced my fingers together. “What are we doing here, Bobby?”

“Hunting a demon,” he replied, pointedly and went back to typing.

“Together, what are we doing here together?” I reached for my bag, stood and started to sort through things as I put it on the dresser. “We never take the same case, you never come with me… at least, not since…” I paused and walked over towards the table, sitting down across from him. “What’s going on?”

“I needed to check on you, that’s all.” He sighed, like it was the biggest secret in the world. “You haven’t been back to Sioux Falls in almost a year, your calling schedule is so far off the grid there are some days when I don’t know if you’re alive or dead and Gwen isn’t the biggest fan of phone calls either so getting in touch with the pair of you is nearly impossible. Excuse me for worrying about my kids!”

“What did Dean say?” I whispered, because there was a reason for the fear in his eyes.

“That you are hunting alone… again.” He admitted and shook his head, moving the seat to make sure he got the most eye contact. “I thought we talked about this, about you being safe, even if that meant having to take some dumbass hunter with you when Gwen wasn’t available. Hell, it was one of the reasons I set you two up in the first place. She needed an out and you needed a partner.”

“I’m used to doing it alone, Bobby,” I sighed and looked around. “I thrive on it, and Dean… That was one time… one time, Bobby.” The man’s face gave me the impression that he was far from convinced. “Listen, Gwen is great, in fact, I couldn’t do it without her but there are just sometimes that I don’t want to…”

“Want to what?” I flashed back to when I was a kid and he scolded me for doing something stupid, usually after John had picked up the boys because Dean had set me off in some stupid way, and even now, it affected me just the same.

“That need, that darkness that I’ve always been fighting is still there and it’s better to not let her see that.” I scooted off the chair and moved towards the dresser. “She doesn’t need to see that side of me, Bobby, she really doesn’t.”

“She already has,” he announced and slowly I looked over at him. “Everytime you come back from a hunt covered in blood, every time you check in with her breathless or hurt, you ain’t fooling her, you must know that.”

“I thought I was,” I put down the blade I had picked up and sighed. “I thought I was keeping her safe.”

“She’s a hunter in her own right, she knows darkness, hell she’s lived through her own, so you not saying anything isn’t keeping her safe, it’s just putting yourself in danger.” I felt the phone in my pocket vibrate and smiled at the picture of the ugly little thing that lay in the grass. Some sort of fairy, goblin, whatever… Bobby had said she was hunting it with Sam and Cas. Dean was “sitting this one out,” according to her but that was wrong. Dean was on his own hunt, one that would have had her up in arms. Hell, it had me going and I didn’t even like the douchebag. “That her?”

“Yeah, they got the Dokk… whatever they were chasing.” I slipped the phone away, before looking up at him. “Heard from Dean?”

“Called a bit ago, apparently he and Jody are settled up in Colorado. Shouldn’t be long now.” He sighed and I nodded, grabbing what I meant to take with me into the shower.

“Perfect.” I nodded and walked away.

~~~~~

Sitting in the car with Bobby snoring away was one thing. Sitting with him snoring and having run out of coffee nearly an hour ago at two o’clock in the morning was something TOTALLY different.

The phone in my lap vibrated and with a sigh, I hit the screen. Being on night mode, it only lit up enough to see, didn’t blind me or give away the fact that I was sitting there in the dark. Even then, I’m not sure if my cover wasn’t blown by the megawatt smile on my face as soon as I saw Sam’s name on the screen.

Sam: Hey, Sunshine, I know it’s late but I wanted to say hi. Cas and I are headed back towards home. Gwen is safe and sound.

Jai: Hey, sugar. Bobby and I are doing a stake out, no biggie. Be safe going home, won’t you? You know how it can get with two men on a lonely stretch of highway. And don’t pick up hitchhikers!

Sam: I miss you, is that too forward?

Jai: You miss Aimee, I’m just the nutcase hunter you got involved with. Hey, no texting and driving!

Sam: Stopped for coffee. Don’t worry, Cas will keep me safe. Heard from Dean?

Why was that question going around? Dean was a big boy, I only asked it to distract Bobby but you would figure…

Jai: Wait, you haven’t heard from him?

Sam: Argument, kinda… I’m sure he’s fine.

Just then, a man walked calmly out of the old house that I was watching. He looked both ways, flipped the keys in his hand and got into the red pickup just outside the house. I sat forward, thought I must have fallen asleep because he looked so much like Dean, but I reached over and patted Bobby on the arms.

Bobby snorted, scaring himself awake and looked at me as I pointed out the window, just as the lights on the truck popped on and it swung around to drive right past us. We both ducked, and waited a minute before looking back at the taillights. I grabbed the phone and set out one more text.

Jai: It’s on, gotta go.

And I slipped it into my pocket. I wasn’t about to tell the old man I was having a middle of the night conversation with Sam but by the look on his face he knew something was up.

I grabbed the bag out of the backseat, slipping out of the Jeep, as Bobby checked the one in front of him, and slipped the straps over my shoulders. I knew what was in mine, I had checked it three times.

Sneaking up to the property was easy, so was getting in the back door, but once we moved passed the threshold and into the kitchen, things go just a little bit squirrely. The walls began to breathe… if that was possible, and there were some strange sounds coming from the pipes.

“Oh, this can’t be good.” I mumbled and looked around. “I think we tripped it’s wires.”

“Ya think?!” Bobby snapped. “Just do what you gotta do and let’s get this done before it gets back.”

“You’re the one with the spray paint, old man, get-ta spraying!” I growled and fished the journal out of the bag.

Oh, how much I hated this part.

I took a deep breath, flipped the page open in the journal and began to chant in Latin. It was an old spell that my father had used specifically for demons and it worked ten times better than a devil’s trap because this one couldn’t be broken. It encompassed the whole house, not just the circle, but it was nearly invisible to everything, and I say nearly because the only being on earth that could spot it was currently sitting in the car beside Sam on the way back to Kansas.

The biggest issue of this whole thing was that the spell took the energy out of me, like sucked it right out every muscle in my body but I had grown a tolerance to it and was able to hold out longer than most people using it. Which is why I wasn’t particularly fond of demons, they had this thing about them… they liked to play messy and I hated messy.

The rattle of an empty can brought me back to the reality that I was standing in an abandoned house with Bobby staring at me like I had four heads. I finished the incantation and closed the book slowly, drawing in as much air as I could stand before I let my heart settle. And I found myself slumped against the wall.

Bobby grabbed the book, stuffed it in my bag and nearly dragged me out of the house. “I hope your little spell was worth it.”

“Trust me, we can come back tomorrow and he’ll still be stuck. I used it on Dean once, it was great.” I smiled and let him drag me back to the Jeep. Bobby had me tucked into the passenger’s seat and buckled just as my eyes started to close. Man, could I go for a coffee now. There was no way I was texting Sam back anytime soon. “Home, James.”

“Keep going, little Miss, and the only place you’re going is right back to the Salvage Yard with a Winchester so far up your ass, you’ll be praying he finds something else to focus on besides bothering the hell out of you.” Why was he growling? Why was he pissy? UGH, I would never understand the men in my life, and did he seriously just threaten to ground me and use Dean as my nanny?

“Who pissed in your Cheerios?” I blinked as I sank down into the seat when the Jeep swung around and headed north.

“Did you not see that?”

“See what? I saw the inside of the house, the words in my journal. I have no idea what else you expected me to see,” I was grouchy, I admit it, but I was dead on my feet.

“Your name was on the wall!” Bobby snapped. “So, who or what did you manage to piss off this time?”

“Beats me, you’re the one that wanted me on the case, Bobby!” We rolled into the motel parking lot and I did my best to get out of the jeep, nearly falling on my ass before his hand wrapped around my arm. “DON’T touch me.”

“Oh, don’t go getting all snippy, just let me help you to the room.” His helicopter parenting was getting on my nerves but I let him because I just wanted to go to bed. Once in the room, I shook out of his hold and made my way over, kicking off my boots before I landed face first on the mattress. “You need anything?”

“Aspirin, and maybe a shot of Jager,” I mumbled past the throbbing in my head. “Danneel.”

“I’m not running one of those kinda rooms, girl, you’re gonna have to wait until the deal is done.” He was an ornery little bastard, wasn’t he?

“NO!” I snapped and rolled over to look at him. “We need to talk to her. If my name was up there, it must have been because of something either the demon knew or her hubby did, which could only mean one other thing… she’s in trouble too.”

“Ah-ha, you don’t think I saw how you looked at her,” I rolled my eyes at his comment, “what you do on your hunts is your thing, and I’m not saying anything about what goes on after them either, because I know things can go sideways or… however they go for, you know, you girls, but you can’t let your feelings for her cloud your judgement.”

“They’re not clouding anything, Bobby, I just… she needs to be protected.” I ran a hand down my face, trying to fight off the sleep, “we know how it goes, those closest to the demons always get burned. Hunter or not, she’s in the line of fire. So, either you call or I do, because you’re the one that brought me to her.”

“Go to sleep, Lancing,” he pouted. HA! Okay, I was too tired to celebrate being right, but it did make me smile that he was giving in. “I’m sure I can call her first thing, maybe she can bring donuts.”

“Coffee,” I whispered, letting my eyes close. “She knows how I like my coffee.”

“Sure that’s not a conversation you’d rather keep to yourself?” He scoffed.

“Prude!” I giggled as I moved for the pillow, managing to slip off the jeans I was wearing once the covers were pulled up nice and tight. “Night, Pops.”

“I ain’t old enough to be your Pops, Missy, just get some sleep.”

And I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

~~~~~

The aroma in the room was a mixture of coffee and sweet vanilla, one that had my eyes blinking and the world around me coming into focus. I turned my head towards the scent and found myself staring into the soft brown eyes of one copper-haired hunter.

She was laying beside me on the bed, her head resting on the pillow and I sat up just enough to see Bobby at the table, trying very hard to ignore the fact that the woman was laying in bed with me.

“What is your husband going to say?” I whispered, but smiled as I did so. Dee grinned, reached out and traced my chin.

“That I picked a beautiful target.” She giggled, GIGGLED, and I looked away.

“He’s a hunter, huh?”

“Nah, couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn,” which got me to look back at her to see the twinkle in her eyes. Yeah, she loved him and that made me take her hand, removing it from my face. “He knew about you, you know.”

“Well, that’s good,” I nodded but the smile faded, “and a little intimidating and probably the reason my name was in that house.”

“He would never…”

“He might not,” I moved up, leaning on my arm to keep our eye contact. “But that demon in him might. I’ve put more of them away in the last ten years than most people, I’m connected to the Winchesters, very, very connected and he probably knows that too, so, yeah… he might not, that doesn’t mean I’m not a target.”

“Jai, if I had known…” I leaned down and kissed her cheek.

“If you had known, you would have never gotten out, and that would be a bad thing, Dee.” I shifted, grabbing my jeans as I sat up and moved from under the covers. Bobby moved the chair so that his back was to me and I felt Dee’s hand run up my spine. “We’ll get him back, I promise.”

“I know you will, I trust you.” She whispered softly in my ear before moving from the bed.

“What’s his name anyway?” I stood, buttoned the jeans and then grabbed the flannel at the end of the bed. Why was it always so damn cold in motel rooms?

“Jensen,” she grinned, like the light just came into her life, and I shook my head before my own smile faded.

“Jensen, like the actor Jensen?” I watched as she stopped and turned to me, nodding slightly. I blinked, thought for a moment, then blinked again. “Am I stuck in some screwed up episode of Freaky Friday? Not the one that Sam and Dean ran into right? When they were dealing with Balthazar?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Danneel shook her head, which made me pause since Bobby was looking at me cross-eyed as well. Okay, maybe it was a dream or something
I had but seriously, the actor Jensen… what the hell was his last name? He was HER husband? I raised a brow, gave her a good once over and shrugged before heading into the bathroom. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, great!” I replied, turning on the water as I grabbed the toothbrush. “Jensen? What the hell kind of name is Jensen. It’s like Misha…” I paused at that one too, shook my head and laughed. “Misha… Gwen would get a kick out of that one.”

~~~~~

The three of us had split up, making sure that Demon Jensen was locked in the building nice and tight before we made our move, but with the Bluetooth earpieces securely connected to one another, we could keep in touch without losing anyone.

“Sweet Caroline… duh, duh, duh…” I sung quietly to myself as I checked the mag in the gun before I moved from where I had crouched below the kitchen window.

“Are you seriously singing?” Bobby snapped across the line and I paused, looked around and remembered that he could hear me.

“Maybe?” I answered and made my way towards the porch.

“She sings when she’s nervous, or bored, or thinking.” Dee giggled and i shook my head, she knew me well. “There was the one time she started singing in the middle of…”

“Whoa, there, Lass, I don’t need to know anything about that.” Bobby stopped her dead and I quickly placed both my hands over my mouth the best I could.

“No, it wasn’t THEN…” Dee chuckled, which left me shaking my head. It was kinda then, but not then… then, slightly after, maybe post… I may or may not have been in a sort of euphoria. I shook my head, harder this time, not thinking about Dee or anyone else in that situation before I started humming again. “Are we doing this?”

“Whenever you ladies are ready.” Bobby announced and I stood to look in the window. As promised, Demon Jensen was stuck in the middle of the living room floor, just standing there as if he had stepped in glue. Waiting.

“It’s now or never. Don’t wait for me, he can’t do anything in that trap.” I moved up the porch steps and stepped into the house, turning right to move into the living room, my gun at my side, not even at the ready, which got a curious look from the Dean look-alike. “You know, you wearing his face, just make me like you less.”

“Ah, Jai Lancing, I thought this might be your doing.” Demon Jensen even sounded like Dean, it was creepy as fuck. “This is unique, very… new worldly…”

“Hey, thanks, I’m trying new things, you know, switching it up.” I tucked the gun behind my back as Dee and Bobby entered the house, moving in where he couldn’t see them. “So, which one are you, again? Some low level or are we actually playing with one of the big guys, or girls, sorry, you know I’m a sucker for equality.”

“Yes, so Jensen’s memories told me. You and his wife, huh, that’s kind of hot.” Okay, must definitely be a male demon because that just screamed slimeball. “My name is George.”

“George?” I repeated and tried really hard not to smile. “Really? George?” He looked unimpressed but I raised my hand as the smile just grew, and I really tried hard to suppress my laughter. “Sorry, hold on.” I shook my head and looked away, but as soon as I turned back, I couldn’t help it. “Sorry, it’s just… George sounds very… very,” I cleared my throat, “so not demonish.”

“Did you get it all out?” he snapped, his eyes turning black as he got pissed.

“I’m sorry, you can’t expect me to be afraid of you with a name like George! You’re a demon, couldn’t you have picked something like… I don’t know… Crowley or something?”

“Crowley’s the King of Hell, why would I chose that name?”

“Exactly! KING of Hell, but can you imagine if his name was George… George of Hell? No, just no!”

“When I get out of here…”

That made me draw my gun, “you’re not getting out of here, Curious, in fact the only place you are going is back to the rack that you jumped off of.”

“I could rip him apart from the inside out and there isn’t a damn thing you could do to stop me.” George threatened and I shook my head, lowering the gun. I stepped up to him, tucking it behind my back and I looked up at the devil’s trap on the ceiling, just to get my boundaries.

“I can do a lot of things to you, George, a lot of very bad things.” I whispered, taking in a deep breath, but I let it out slowly, needing the darkness in me to subside. I wasn’t killing the person, I was exorcising a demon and that didn’t involve blood, or killing or the knife that sat against my side. I needed Jensen to come out off this whole and I took a step back. “Leave him and you can go free, don’t and well… I know Crowley loves when I send him presents.”

“You don’t know the King, he will strike you down!” George growled, making that gorgeous face scowl at me, and as much as he looked like Dean, there was no way the Winchester was pulling off a scowl that hot. I sucked on my teeth, nodded and looked past him at the two in the doorway.

“Bobby, you think Crowley would strike me down? Like be honest? Would he do that to me for sending him back?”

The demon looked surprised at the name and tried to turn to look over his shoulder at the man behind him.  “No, no, wait, I didn’t know.” George pleaded. “I didn’t realize that this was someone that Singer knew.”

“Oh, so that’s your excuse? First it’s he’s going to strike me down, now it’s I’m sorry, can you make up your mind on your loyalties?” I sighed. “Dee, wanna take care of this? I mean, you gotta be your own hubby’s savior once in a while.”

“I don’t know, you seem to be doing pretty good.” She grinned and stepped up to the line, the demon inside Jensen was shaking, you could feel the vibration of power through the magic. “How did that go again? I think I’m a little bit rusty.”

“Want me to start you off?” I grinned, “I’m a hell of a fluffer.”

“Maybe later, sweetheart.” She winked but turned to the demon. “Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus…”

I smiled as I listened to her voice, to the way Bobby joined in, but I just watched as Jensen’s head tilted back and the demon billowed black smoke from his lungs, trying to escape the trap but there was no way for him to move. Jensen’s body crumpled to the floor but the demon circled.

“Why can’t it get out?” Dee questioned softly.

“Another little puzzle piece of this new spell, they can smoke out of the body, but they can’t get out of the trap, or the house… ever.” I winked and walked across the line to Jensen, knelt down and placed a finger on his pulse. Nice and strong. I smiled up at Dee and then turned upwards towards the demon. “Wanna take your man out of here and I can deal with George of Hell?”

“Don’t do anything stupid, Jai,” Bobby scolded as he helped Dee take the unconscious man out of the room.

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” I sighed and sat down on the floor looking up at the trapped swirl of angry smoke. “Now, you and I are going to have a little chat, what do you say?”

It swirled faster and the only thing I could do was smile.

~~~~~

Dee looked at me as I leaned against the car waiting for Bobby to finish his discussion with Jensen, but it was the light kiss she planted beside my ear that got me to turn towards her.

“Thank you,” her voice was quiet and a little sad. “Now that you know where I am, you can come back down and see me.”

“You don’t think he would have a problem with it?” I grinned, looking at the man again. “He reminds me of Dean.”

“I know, me too, which might be a little bit of the reason for the attraction.” The cute little turn of her lips made me shake my head. Dee with Dean on the brain, who would have thought. “He reminds me of you too, a bit of a badass when he wants to be but all heart.”

“Ouch, you’re accusing me of having a heart, how dare you.” I laughed and suddenly felt her lips on mine. Unexpected but okay, just for a split moment before she pulled away. “Wow, um, yeah.”

“Don’t be a stranger.” She whispered and suddenly walked away. Jensen waved at me, to which I gave a quick salute and got in the Jeep as Bobby piled into the other side.

“So, what now?” I questioned, pulling out of the brewery.

“Home, I guess, or you could come back to Sioux Falls, take it easy, ride out this crypto thing, you and Gwen.”

“You just want to hover and make sure we’re safe.” I turned right onto the highway and headed for Austin, headed north towards Tulsa.

“A man can try to protect his kids from what hides in the dark, can’t he?” Bobby asked softly and I only stared out the windshield.

He had no idea.

~~~~~

I blinked as we pulled into the gas station that had become our meeting point, thirty miles somewhere outside of New Orleans, and I let out the breath I felt I had been holding the whole trip. Sam stood against the Impala, hands in the front pockets of his jeans and Dean was casually reclining in the front of her, sunglasses on and tapping the steering wheel.

At some point I was going to have to tell them about George, about the hunt and the info that I had gotten, but right then, we had bigger problems, like werewolves and Winchesters. I pulled the car up beside them and shut off the engine. Gwen smiled at me before quickly getting out and greeting the younger one, but I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think of what was to come.

This was going to be interesting… very, very interesting.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fourteen

Gwen

Drench and caked in mud, we pulled up to the motel. I was beyond annoyed, Jai was behind the wheel bitching, but I wasn’t sure what she was mumbling about specifically because she had gone off on a tangent about twelve miles back and hadn’t stopped. The topic of conversation was in the car ahead of us… Okay, maybe both topics of conversation, but like I said, it was a tangent and I stopped paying attention about mile number two.

It was an average hunt, nothing to write home about but it was werewolves in the bayou and … eww, yeah not exactly a cakewalk or a walk in the park... or sunshine on a rainy day, let’s just say we were pretty dirty.

Sam knocked on the window beside me and I took my eyes off of Jai, who finally shut her mouth when he smiled at the two of us, and if there hadn’t been mud caked on her face, I would have sworn she was blushing. I looked between them… what happened out there when we split up that would get that cheezy grin from Sam and actual embarrassment from Jai?

Dean bumped Sam’s shoulder, getting the younger brother to move away before Dean grabbed the door handle and swung it open.

“Home sweet home,” he laughed and held out a hand for me as Sam rounded the car. I gladly took it and let Dean lead me to the room as Sam and Jai playfully joked behind us.

“I think they smoked something out there that they weren’t supposed to,” Dean whispered as he smiled, but that didn’t make any sense, why would they smoke anything, that would have just given away their position?

“Dean, I don’t…” I started but the bellowing laughter that escaped Sam just before the door closed had me almost agreeing with him. “Okay, there’s a possibility.”

“That they’re high? Yeah, Sam was a college boy after all.” Dean grinned, not dropping my hand, in fact, he used it to tug me closer. I had been waiting all day for this. Didn’t care if I was muddy, dirty, or presumably stunk because of the river mud, I just wanted to feel his arms around me. His bright green eyes locked on mine, his lips a breath away. “Hi, Beautiful.”

“Hello, Gorgeous.” That soft brush of his lips had me shifting my feet, nearly dancing in his hold but I wrapped my arms around his neck and deepened the kiss, at least, until the door flew open.

“EW! GODS! Gross!” Jai laughed as she walked by, dropping her bag on the bed, and Dean broke away, eyes rolling.

“I call dibs!” I snapped, a little pissed that she had broken the moment, but as I walked by I narrowed my eyes at her. “Child!”

“Well, duh!” She retorted and started to yank clothes out of her bag. “Save me some hot water.”

“NO!” I stated, matter-of-factly as I closed the door.

She hollered at me but I chose to ignore it.  I wasn’t as dirty as the rest of them, but I also didn’t fall that deep into the mud when a were knocked Sam on his ass. I didn’t jump in after the man who was a foot taller than me because Jai was impulsive, and I certainly didn’t wade in to shoot the remaining were that Sam was fighting with a silver bullet, but I had gotten knocked on my ass on the riverbank trying to pull Dean out when the shot went off and the kickback sent him flying.

Strange that he wasn’t prepared for it with his own gun, but he reassured me that he was fine… all the way back to the car.   

Washed, dried, and dressed, I stepped out of the warm room and right into what felt like World War Three, or a relatively normal argument between Jai and Dean. They were toe-to-toe in the middle of the walkway from the bathroom to the table and I did my best to scoot around them, but I didn’t care what they were arguing about, in fact, I never bothered to ask.

I sat next to Sam, who was watching with a slightly amused, but not really at all, bitch face as his brother and the other woman in the room argued, quite loudly about something in a language I’m not sure I completely understood. It wasn’t one of the seven dead languages I knew, wasn’t Enochian, definitely wasn’t Latin, and that only left one thing that it could be.

“They’re speaking Winchester again, aren’t they?” I questioned and watched as Sam shifted, placed his chin on his fist and shrugged.

“Broken sentences, leering looks, funny eye gestures and facial expressions that no one else would get?” He questioned as if he were completely bored. “Yep!”

Suddenly, Jai called dibs and disappeared into the shower, leaving a very bewildered Dean standing there wondering what the hell just happened.

After a moment of looking at the spot she had been standing in, to the bathroom door. He turned to us and shrugged, his hands coming up in an I don’t get it gesture. “Girls, man!” Dean stated annoyance in his voice, but his eyes landed on mine and his smile fades, “not you, definitely not you. Her…”

“Dean,” I sighed, “don’t hurt yourself.” And the smile edged up on his lips, making me want to go back to kissing them and oh, so much more. Sam cleared his throat and stood, which caught my eye.

“I think I’m going to check on Jai.” He announced a little flustered, picking up on our non-verbal communication and suddenly, he was gone.

Dean moved closer, placed one hand on each side of the chair and leaned down to close the distance between us.

“Where were we?” He asked softly, his warm breath against my lips.

“You were about to take off your shirt.” I replied and the grin really lit up his face.

“Oh yeah?” Definitely was okay with that idea.

“Yeah, you’re covered in mud, I just took a shower, so if you think I’m getting that close to you with that gross shirt on, you better strip or start thinking otherwise.” His eyebrow shot up and he licked his lips, smile never leaving his face as he stepped back, grabbed the hem of the dirty, black tee and I watched as he pulled it smoothly up and over his head. Holy shit!

He was gorgeous, tone and tan and muscles right down to those hip bones that his jeans hung low on. He had lost his belt somewhere along the way, probably trying to tie an anchor to a tree in order to reach Sam but without it, they hugged him just enough over his ass to stay up but I could see the waistband of the black boxer-briefs he wore, and the way the light brown line of curly hair ran from his navel and disappeared below them.

Part of me hoped that Sam was IN the shower with her and they took all the time in the world, but Dean definitely had to get in there soon, because his hands were caked with dirt, and I just needed to feel them on me.

I stood, stepped up to him and placed my hands gently on his shoulders. He moved to raise his hands but maybe it was the look in my eyes, or the way I stiffened but he stopped and clenched his fists. Softly, I used the the pads of my fingers to run over the tight muscles of his biceps, before running back up to follow the curve of his neck.

His lips parted, his eyes went right to mine and that smile faded from his face, especially when I moved along the ridge of his collar bones and down over his pecks, putting just a little pressure on his nipples as I flicked them with the tips of my nails.

He growled, literally growled as I passed over them, hmmphed, and swiped by again, this got him to draw in a deep breath before he slowly closed his eyes, letting them droop as he took a sharp breath.

I could only watch his face, take in the small ways he moved under my ministrations, before I moved lower, tracing over his abs, around his ribs and down lower until I could feel his hips just under my touch. He swallowed hard, jaw clenched tight, lids half-laden but those green eyes were full of want, especially as I followed along the line of his jeans, fingertips dipping under that waistband until they met in the middle.

His lips parted, like he was starving for air as I popped the button on his jeans and suddenly the door to the bathroom swung open. Dean’s eyes went wide with shock as the sounds of “My Favorite Things” pierced the air. His hands went quickly to my hips, either trying to steady himself from bolting or grounding himself in order to will away the growing hard-on that was very evident by the tented ridge in those well-worn jeans.

“Shower’s free!” Jai announced, as if we didn’t know this already but she was totally oblivious to whatever was going on between Dean and I because she just continued to move around as if there was nothing to see. It was Sam, however, that gave away the indication that he knew something was up.

“I’m gonna get my bag out of the car. Keys’ in your jacket, right, Dean?” But he didn’t wait for an answer before he bolted out the door. Jai laughed as she grabbed a seat by the table and snatched up a bag of chips that were in the brown bag she had brought in with her rucksack.

“I’m gonna…” Dean swallowed and I gave him a slow nod, telling him to stay calm, not rush, but as his hands left me, they shook. He ran one through his hair, grabbed his bag off the bed beside us and turned, marching into that steam-filled room.

After the door closed, I took in a deep breath because I was just about ready to explode. What was I thinking touching him like that in a room full of…

“You should go help him with that.” Jai interrupted my thoughts and I twirled around to see her with her feet up on the table, leaning back on the chair, the bag she had grabbed was Smart Food and she was munching away, tossing one back in her mouth as she smiled. “Poor guy’s gonna have blue balls soon.”

“Shut up!” I growled as I sat down on the bed, crossed my legs and my arms and pouted.

“No, seriously, G, you really should do something about…” she pointed back and forth between the bathroom and myself, “whatever is going on with you and him. It’s making me frustrated just watching it.”

“What?” I wasn’t confused but she was just that side of annoying right now.

“It’s called a back seat for a reason, and hell, if the one in the Impala isn’t made for it.” She popped another kernel in her mouth and looked down into the bag as if it were getting empty. “If I were you, I would just grab him by the hand and take him out on a nice ride and, well… ride him, but I’m not you, and I can’t stand him… so, do what you need to…”

“I hate you.” I sighed.

“No, you really don’t.” She shrugged and grinned.

I took a deep breath and looked towards the bathroom door. This was going to be a long night.

~~~~~

I sat up slowly and looked over at the bed beside me. Jai was laying on her stomach, one arm off the bed and her hand tucked between the mattress and box spring, no doubt on the handle of the knife she kept there. I could see the top of Sam’s forehead on her opposite shoulder and his large hand braced against her back.

Nothing like looking at the younger Winchester to give you a perspective on just how small the wylie hunter was. I blinked away sleep, turned over and looked at the baby face of Dean Winchester. The man was laying on his side, facing me, one hand tucked under his cheek, the other was heavy on my waist, his fingers sliding as I moved. He was dead asleep. I could have stared at him all night if it wasn’t for the feeling of being watched.

Shifting slightly, just enough to see the table by the door, I watched the silhouette move to peek out the window. The light from the parking lot hit his face and I noticed the worry in his eyes.

Cas, what are you doing here?  I made that small connection with him and he dropped the curtain quickly, as if he had never noticed me wake up, or move. His blue eyes turned to me in the darkness and yes, I could plainly see them.

I needed to make sure the four of you were together. He stood and moved to the edge of the bed, where Dean had pulled his leg up and slowly sat down. I’ve been hearing… things… through what Dean terms “angel radio.”

Did it bother you? What they said? I sat up more and felt him shift, as if trying to get closer to me, but also stay as close as he could to Dean. I wanted to smile, to act as if I were just like everyone else and completely oblivious to the two of them, but I just reached out and placed my hand on Dean’s leg. He’s okay, you know. There hasn’t been any anxiety attacks for a while.

I know, I’ve been… Cas paused and now I was smiling. Ever seen an angel blush, it was cute, but he reached over and placed his hand on mine, his thumb stroked gently along Dean’s leg and the man who seemed deep asleep shifted, ducked down the bed, and slipped that leg further between the two of us, as if he were adding himself to the equation. He seems fine.

Again, Cas, what did they say that bothered you?  

Cas blinked a few times, seemed to figure out his words when Jai sat up on the bed, essentially knocking Sam over.  She looked at the two of us, held the tip of the blade out and shook her head.

“Just fucking creepy!” She growled, leaned over the bed, and slipped the knife away before she faced Sam and tucked up against Sam’s chest. He sighed loudly, gathered her up in his arms and kissed her forehead before settling in again.

“Okay,” Dean’s deep voice mumbled in a sleepy haze, “why did she have a knife and Cas,” he propped himself up on his elbow, “what are you doing here, Man?”

“Maybe, it would be better to talk somewhere else, where we wouldn’t be disturbing the two of them.” Cas whispered, his eyes still locked on Jai. “She seems… ornery.”

“Like a fucking bear!” Dean replied, not knowing that he woke up usually the same way, but he flipped the blankets off, after what seemed like a moment or two of letting the feeling of Cas’ thumb on his leg settle into him. “Coffee?”

“I believe there is a diner across the way.” Cas reassured him and Dean, ever the walking zombie when first awoken, went through the steps to get dressed. I glanced down at our hands, my thumb tracing over Cas’ fingers and smiled before I got up to do the same.

~~~~~

Dean looked up from the steaming mug at me as I sat across from him. Cas was pressed against him in the same small booth but Dean seemed completely unaware of it as he breathed in the aroma before blinking.

“You left a note, right?” He mumbled and I smiled, couldn’t help it, he was a cute, grumpy cat when woken up in the middle of the night.

“Yes, Dean, I left a note beside her phone.” I reassured him and watched him nod.

“Good, a knife can’t be a good thing.” He replied and brought the mug to his lips. “I don’t want her to wake up and freak out.”

“Why not?” Cas questioned and Dean turned to him, his eyes narrowed. “I’m not so certain that Sam would take your leaving without some sort of uncertainty but why would you not want her to freak out.”

“She has a knife, Cas.” Dean reiterated. “Sam can handle her all on his own, and besides, I’m sure he knows that if Gwen isn’t in there, that I’m not there… he might have a few clues as to where we were.”

“In the backseat of a car?” Cas asked and this made Dean sit up straight.

“I...ah… why would you say that?” Dean seemed flabbergasted at his remark but I only smiled.

“The last time we left without telling Sam, he assumed…” Cas stopped and his eyes went right to mine, which Dean slowly followed and I saw the blush run up on him. “My apologies, I didn’t realize.”

“I was pissed, I went outside,” Dean tried to explain away. “I didn’t know Cas wasn’t going to stay and I just fell asleep in Baby.”

“Dean,” I raised my hand to stop him, saw the fear in his eyes, the way his hand shook, “there is no judgement here, and in fact, I’m a little intrigued.”

“What?” Dean snapped, apparently unable to believe what I had just said. He smiled, but it wasn’t real, it was forced, as if he were about to deny anything, everything and he looked at Cas, the way the angel stared at him and his words faltered, in fact, that smile fell and he licked his lips before suddenly turning back to me. “Why are we here?  Again?”

“Angel radio, I believe,” Cas spoke up and Dean’s eyes were right back on him. “I was telling Gwen that I’ve been hearing a few things, the angels have been talking.”

“Wait, before we get down to it,” Dean pushed his mug away, “what do you mean you were telling Gwen, how do you know Gwen?”

Cas shifted in his seat, turned slowly and looked directly at me. The cat, it seemed, was about to be out of the bag.

“Bobby sent Cas to me.” I stated pointedly, and watched as Dean’s lips seemed to mimic a fish before he finally spoke.

“Why? When?”

“I was in South Carolina hunting with a man named Elias, Jai was… she wasn’t with me.” I admitted and watched Dean shift, bringing up the fact that we were separated always seemed to irritate him, but I continued. “I contacted Bobby because things weren’t going as planned.”

“What do you mean “as planned”?” Dean growled, and I involuntarily shivered.

“Elias wasn’t exactly who he said he was.” I took a breath and placed my hands around the hot mug of cocoa in front of me, thinking back to that hunt. “He wasn’t a hunter, he was a ghoul. We had managed to hunt down most of his pack, take out a lot of them but when it came down to the last, Elias showed his true form. It didn’t look like it was going to end well for me.”

“Not end well?” Dean snapped, “you mean you were about to be dinner?”

“Ghouls feed on dead things, Dean.” I reiterated and watched him roll his eyes. “But, yes, that was what it looked like. I was injured, gravely injured and the only person I was able to get in touch with was Jai, which apparently wasn’t the best time for her. She and Bobby were working on something in Sioux Falls and there was no way to get to me. Bobby sent Cas.”

Dean turned his eyes to the angel beside him and Cas clenched his jaw. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t realize it would be a big deal, Dean.” Cas whispered and I reached out and took Dean’s hand, a gesture that caught Cas’ eyes.

“He saved my life.” I added. “It’s not the first time we met, but it was the longest we spent together.”

“You knew him before that?”

“I’m sorry, have you met Bobby?” I questioned and seriously cocked my head at him. “Do you not see a pattern with him and throwing people at me? He knows what I do, hell, he knows everything that Jai does so I would assume he would know when I sneezed wrong, so, yes, he sent Cas to me on several occasions just to offer help with healing. Jai isn’t the only one who gets her hands dirty, she’s just the one who prefers to do it.”

“Okay, okay…” he rubbed the bridge of his nose, before he glanced back and forth between the two of us. “So, Cas, you stayed and healed her, right, but… ah…” his finger went back and forth, “explain this.”

“She’s… my friend.” Cas said softly.

“She’s more than your friend, Cas, I can see it in your eyes.” Dean... jealous, irritated Dean was searching for something.

“You’re right, she’s more than a friend.” Cas admitted and reached out to take my other hand before he landed those blue eyes back on Dean, “just like she’s more than a friend to you, and I’m okay with that. Are you?”

Dean seemed stunned, like he had nowhere to go, not sure what he should be okay with but he let those green eyes fall from one to the other before he nodded.

“Yeah, I’m okay with that.” I watched as he licked his lips, turned his head and stared at Cas. Really stared as if they were getting lost in each other’s eyes. “Cas, I…”

“It’s okay, Dean.” The angel whispered, and the waitress stepped up to the table, clearing her throat.

“More coffee?” She questioned and Dean passed her the cup, barely breaking eye contact with the man beside him, until she turned and walked away and then both were looking right at me.

“So, Cas spent time with you in South Carolina, why did it take so long?” Dean was curious now.

“He helped me finish the case, which inevitably meant hunting down Elias and taking care of that loose end.” I sighed and released Dean so that he could make his coffee the way he wanted. Cas refused to let go, which was fine with me. “It was nearly five days before the hunt was over, case closed, and he’s been helping me ever since, when Jai wasn’t around, of course. She knew about him way before anyone else did.”

“That’s because of Bobby.” Dean spoke up and gave a little grin. Jai never did tell me how she met the angel. It seemed to always be “a story for another day,” but I was curious. Dean glanced at Cas, as if asking but the only thing Castiel did was nod. “So, about eight years ago, give or take, after, you know… when Sam got back, Jai stopped at home. She knew about Cas, Cas knew about her, but they had never actually met. She dealt with some of her own angels, I mean, she mentioned Eneb and Sabathiel, or En and Sabbie… Weird names, and I don’t know why but I kept thinking “oh great, she’s back on the imaginary friends kick,” but she really wasn’t, she was battling her own apocalypse right here under our noses.”

“Sabathiel was a good guardian for her. He spoke about her many times.” Cas smiled, but slowly the smile faded. “Eneb betrayed her.” And my eyes locked on his, even as he tried to avoid it. “He was...corrupted,” finally Cas looked up. “I killed him.”

“Oh, Angel,” I whispered and tightened my grip.

“When the angels fell, Eneb retaliated. He blamed Sam and Dean and demanded retribution. Jai was the first one he went after, but she, strangely enough, was relaying information to me at the time he appeared.” Cas turned back to Dean and continued the story. “Gwen and I were meeting one evening, it was just to exchange information but Jai ended up walking through the door. She stopped, looked at the two of us and, for a moment, reminded me of you, Dean.”

“Yeah? How?”

“She rolled her eyes and promptly exclaimed: It’s about damned time! Before she went into the bathroom and slammed the door shut.” I added and watched Dean smile.

“Yeah, sounds like her.” And the affection was there, and then gone. “So, what do you got now? Angel Radio, gotta be something good if the winged asshats are chatting it up.”

“It’s very confusing.” Cas sighed and seemed to fade off as he thought of the conversation in his head. “The influx is not a new thing, we know this, but they were mentioning something about Portland, Oregon.”

“What the hell is in Oregon?” Dean asked, just as confused as the rest of us.

“Wait, the pattern that Ash tracked, it stopped at the Canyon, right?” I sat forward and placed both of my lower arms on the table, letting my mind wander back. “The issue was that it never went anywhere else. It just dissipated.”

“How can that be?”

“What else is there west besides California?” Dean put in and I took a breath before shaking my head.

“You’re right, this is a little bothersome.” I shook my head, feeling the phone in my pocket vibrate and slowly retrieved it, only to see Jai’s name on the screen. I sat back, accessed the phone and watched the text pop up.

Jai: Where the hell did you go at two in the morning, and did you take pictures?

I shook my head, knowing she must still be asleep if she was sending that, maybe.

Gwen: Coffee, want one? And NO pictures.

Jai: No thanks, got a Sammich, going back to sleep. Have fun, wear protection, make bad choices. And no, jelly is not a suitable substitute.

Okay, one: gross! Two: definitely still asleep. I tucked the phone away and looked up to see Dean’s eyes drooping shut as he looked off into the darkness outside the diner. Maybe sleeping wasn’t such a bad idea.

~~~~~

Breakfast was by far my least favorite part of the day. I was never hungry enough to eat anything but with the four of us awake and two major players in pretty good moods, a trip to the diner for at least coffee and hot chocolate was in the cards.

If you were looking at it from the outside, it would look like two ordinary couples sitting down to what would equal a good time and good conversation. What it really was, well, it was something else entirely. I sat next to Dean on the outside of the booth, Jai sat across from him, not usually one for being trapped, but Sam was taking her protection pretty seriously this morning and even had her with her back to the window.

While things seemed ordinary, smiles on everyone’s face, the tension in the air was palpable. I watched the way that the three of them moved around each other to prepare their plates. Salt, pepper, ketchup, sugar and creamer all seemed to be grabbed in a whirlwind of arms and hands, but no one bumped or even touched and I wondered how many of these they had done. I knew the boys had but Jai had said they avoided each other at Bobby’s like the plague.

As the conversations between us grew, discussion about everything from car parts to cases, I watched the growing unease in Jai, but she only glanced up at me a few times, catching my eyes. What had happened over night that she would give that sign of we need to talk and alone at that.

The two of us kept it going as the boys talked. I would what about them, she would shrug not about them. I would sigh, that’s not true, she would just shake her head it’s not like lying. I would clear my throat totally is, she would scratch her plate with her knife, what would you like me to say. I would raise a brow how about the truth, she would put it down a little hard now’s not the time. All this before Sam even caught onto it and put his hand on her wrist.

“You guys okay?” Sam’s voice was low, cutting off the conversation that he and Dean were in the middle of. That got Dean to look up from his eggs and eye us both.

“We’re fine.” Jai answered, going back and forth between the two of them.

“Everyone’s always fine, until the other shoe drops and we’re screwed.” Dean mumbled but suddenly jumped, his eyes on Jai and a scowl on his face. “OW! Are you two?”

“Sometimes.” She grinned and replied. Dean turned his gaze on me and shook his head. I assumed she kicked him under the table.

“So, are we going into the French Quarter or just generally hanging out in New Orleans?” Jai changed the subject pretty fast, and Sam got the clue.

“Dean and I were talking about a safe house that Bobby has up on Dumaine.” Sam added and went back to his breakfast. Jai snickered but her eyes never left her food until she went to take a bite of her pancakes and found us all staring.

“What?” She shrugged, “so, I’m morbid and thought that it would be cool to stay at Madame John’s. That place is supposed to be super haunted.”

“You really are two,” Dean sighed and rubbed his brow. “We’re going there to have a good time, forget all this hunting stuff and you want to stay in a place where we might actually have to work.”

“We’re about to set foot in one of the most haunted cities in America and you think we’re not going to end up doing some sort of business there,” Jai replied with a snide attitude, “way to be delusional, Winchester. The place is crawling with everything from ghosts to vamps and weres. Good luck not picking up a stake.”

“I’m leaving my shit at home.” He bounced back and I smiled. Ah, wasn’t family breakfasts great? “In fact, we’re even leaving Baby at a safe house outside the city and taking your car in.”

Jai sat back. “I didn’t agree to that,” her eyes suddenly filled with panic before they set on me. “G, I didn’t agree to that.”

“Relax, Free Bird, you’ll be fine. Sam can drive.” I whispered and watched the near stroke leave her body. Sam brought his hand up and gently messaged her neck.

“I got it, Jai, you don’t have to drive.” Sam whispered, moving closer to kiss her head before she went back to her food with shaky hands. She hated city driving, the traffic, the roads, not sure on where to turn, and since we usually took NOLA by foot, this was something she wasn’t prepared for.

“Alright, crisis averted,” Dean stated, a bit of bite in his voice, and I wasn’t sure where it came from. “Anyone talk to Bobby yet?” There was silence at the table, but his eyes landed on Jai. “Seriously?”

“He didn’t answer.” Jai replied and grabbed her mug.

“So, what, you dropped it?” Dean’s voice dropped a notch, going from irritated to just plain mad. “What if he’s hurt? What if something got him?”

“Then Cas could bring him right back to life, or better yet, not let him get either.” She whispered softly, trying to defuse the man and Dean sat back a little confused. “Cas was with him on whatever little hunt he had and I talked to Cas this morning, so it’s all good.”

“Why didn’t you just say so?”

Sam rolled his eyes, looked at me as if to say here we go but I just shook my head and reached under the table, gripping Dean’s leg. I felt the tension go out of him and Jai slid her plate away before wiping her hands on the napkin.

“You asked if anyone talked to Bobby.” She answered, gave Sam a bit of a nudge and he let her out of the seat. She moved away, taking off to the bathroom with Sam’s eyes on her all the way before he sat back down and locked eyes with his brother.

“What the hell was that?” The younger one questioned.

“Oh, come on, you can’t blame that on me.” Dean grouched. “She’s been a little off all morning.”

“You know how she is with crowds, maybe the prospect of the French Quarter at this time of year is getting to her.” I spoke up, but raised my mug to my lips to end my thoughts.

“Gwen’s right,” Sam sighed and looked down the row towards the bathroom.

“Yeah,” Dean whispered, placed his lower arms on the table before reaching across from him to steal the bacon from Jai’s plate. “Maybe.”

~~~~~

Just outside the city, we followed Dean down a dirt road to an old farmhouse. He pulled Baby into the barn and strolled out, bag on his shoulder before he dropped it and slammed the door shut.

He seemed full of trepidation as he strolled towards the car, slid into the backseat with me and quickly tossed the bag over the back. Sam gave him a knowing smile and slowly turned around, heading back out the way we came.

With a sigh, and the fact that Dean never rode in the backseat in ANYONE’S car, I reached over and took his hand. Three days in the French Quarter, how bad could it get?

Chapter Text

Chapter Fifteen

Jai

It was still dark outside when Dean, Cas, and Gwen snuck out, and I only know this because my eyes were wide open. They had shocked me out of a dead sleep, something that always happened when the angel was around, but he usually didn’t affect me the way he did this time.

Of course, the fact that as soon as my eyes were open, as soon as I had been ripped from the nightmare I was having, reality had set in, I knew there was no going back. Vision of everything I had ever done, monsters I had faced, people that I had lost to them plagued my mind. It was as if the last few decades were on a constant loop and I had no way of changing the channel or pressing pause.

I managed to tuck into Sam, let his arms wrap around me and ease my breathing so that they felt safe enough to leave. It’s not like I hadn’t used the trick before. I managed to fake sleep until Dean was comfortable enough to fall asleep himself on one of the few and far between hunts we had worked together.

I always used it to get past Bobby, who had a keen sense of when I wasn’t dreaming of rainbows and lollipops and I had most certainly used it on Gwen over the years, more often than not after a case because my body was too wired to stay put. She would fall asleep, a sense of security in the air, and I would slip out, to take care of the ever growing itch beneath my skin.

But tonight, they needed time, the boys and her, to figure out the dynamics of whatever relationship the three of them were just about to jump into and let me tell you, they were doing it with eyes closed and feet first, cannonballing right into it. And thank Gods they were, because they needed each other.

I tried to close my eyes, thinking back on that few hours that I had with George of Hell before I finally released him from the life of a demon but the information that I had just didn’t settle well in my gut which meant I was staring at the ceiling, that was until Sam started twitching.

His nightmares, ones that had followed him through life, were stalking his dreams tonight. His fingers, the ones that held my hand tapped against my skin, twitched to life. His breathing picked up pace, the muscles beneath my touch seemed to shiver as they grew tight, ready to spring and before I knew what was going on, he was towering over me, his hand against my throat, fingers drumming over my pulse and I gently wrapped my fingers around his wrists.

His eyes were dark, clouded by fear and anger as he stared down at me, probably not really seeing me at all, his lips parted as his chest expanded and as much as I should be terrified, all I could do was smile. I felt his hips move, his legs slipped between mine and his body settled between my knees, connecting us at the hip.

I heard him groan, something deep in his throat as his fingers released my throat and dipped behind my head, slipping into my hair before his lips came down and his mouth took possession. I closed my eyes, let him have control because I know how hard it is to push back the darkness. Those talented lips moved across my skin down over my ear, to the way that I exposed my neck.

“It’s okay,” I whispered, because that was all I could do, tell him that this was him, this was his deal and he pressed down on me, shifting his hips so that I could feel the glide of him on the light cotton the separated us. His moan damn near killed me, I could feel my heart race and as much as he needed this, so did I. “It’s okay, Sam.”

And that was all the permission he needed.

~~~~~

He was in the bathroom, the shower running, door opened so that the steam filled the rest of the motel room with moist heat and I shivered, my body cooling from the acrobatic high I was coming down from. But the itch under my skin wasn’t sated.

I picked up my phone, looked at the note beside it and shook my head. Wonder how much Dean bothered her into leaving the damn thing, but I crumpled it up and opened a text message.

Jai: Where the hell did you go at two in the morning, and did you take pictures?

Okay, that probably wasn’t nice because I really, REALLY didn’t want to see nude pictures of Dean, though the angel kind of piqued my interest, I mean who doesn’t want to know what’s under those layers, but at the same time... I shook my head, no, definitely no. I knew Castiel too long to look at him like that, and he had this huge habit of creeping me out.

“Any word?” The rough tone of Sam’s voice made me turn just a little to see him standing in the doorway to the bathroom in just a tiny towel, drying his hair.

“I’m waiting on it. The note said they didn’t go far.” I shrugged and watched as he grabbed his bag, shuffled through it and grabbed some briefs, before heading back to the bathroom. The phone in my hand pinged.

Gwen: Coffee, want one? And NO pictures.

Ugh, at two in the morning? As much as I would love to have said yes, the bed dipping down behind me and the gentle tugs at the end of my hair had me thinking that I was definitely in need of something to take the edge off more, not make it worse.

Jai: No thanks, got a Sammich, going back to sleep. Have fun, wear protection, make bad choices. And no, jelly is not a suitable substitute.

I placed the phone down, not expecting a response to that, besides, I knew she prefered jam to jelly, that was just to get her going. I didn’t want to see the sun rise, I just wanted to be wrapped up in the man that shared my bed and I turned over, placed my head against his chest and breathed in the fresh smell of his body wash.

“You alright?” He questioned softly, but all I did was shrug. “You seem, I don’t know, on edge.”

“Hunts always do that, it takes a bit to come down after you think about everything that could have gone wrong.” I whispered my reply but his hand rested on my shoulder and he pulled me in closer. “Not something I want to talk about, Sam, to be honest.”

“Yeah, I get that, Dean does the same thing,” he kissed my head and took in a deep breath. “When you’re ready…”

“Thanks,” I sighed and kissed the skin under my cheek, where his heart thumped loudly in his chest and dared to close my eyes.

Sleep, again, hadn’t come easy.

~~~~~

When I pushed Sam out of the seat, I really didn’t know what I was doing. I wanted to run, to get into my car and drive, but the fact that we were headed right where I needed to be had me moving into the bathroom instead.

I pulled my phone out of my pocket, locked the door behind me and quickly sent out a text to Gwen.

Jai: I’m not okay. Just give me a few, don’t come looking, there’s something I gotta do.

It only took mere seconds for a response to come back and I knew exactly what to expect.

Gwen: You say you’re not okay, and seriously think I’m going to let you be?

Jai: If you don’t want that boy of yours to come running in here, you’ll give me the time I need. He’s got this thing lately of being annoyingly clingy and I don’t understand it. So, yeah, just a few.

Gwen: He has been rather strange, hasn’t he? There is something we need to talk about from last night as well. So, once we’re settled, I’m going to suggest beignets.

Jai: Perfect. Give me five.

I flipped through my contacts and slipped in my earpiece before hitting the phone number on the screen. It rang three times before the gruff old man picked up and I could almost hear the irritation before he even spoke.

“Do you know what time it is?” Bobby scolded and I couldn’t help but smile.

“You’re an hour behind, Old Man, this isn’t even early for you. You’ve been up for what? Three hours now?” I found a dry spot on the counter by the sink and climbed upon it, putting my head back against the cold, tile wall. “Listen, I got an issue.”

“And you’re just figurin’ this out now? How long have you lived with yourself?” Bobby cracked and I sighed, quiet. “No smartass remark, must be serious. What’s going on?”

“You remember Austin, right? Dripping Springs?” I ran my hand over my face trying to erase the anxiety in my heart, but hearing the “uh-huh” from him on the other end made me rethink my approach. “The demons are part of it.”

“Part of what?” I closed my eyes, thought of how to explain it and then shook my head, not that he could see. “The influx? You’re saying that demons are behind it?”

“No, just part of it and I don’t think…” this was the part I was dreading, “I think they’re doing it without Crowley knowing.”

“O-kay… how do you figure that?”

“George.” I let the breath out. He knew I had stayed behind to get rid of the demon, he didn’t know we had a tea party where I made him spill all his guts, quite literally.

“I told you not to play with those things!” He snapped and I could hear the pacing begin. “How many times have we been over this, Jai, the more you take them apart, the easier it is for them to get inside your head. That tattoo ain’t gonna do shit if you keep going down this path.”

“Bobby,” I paused, “I know, just listen. George has been the only one… for a while, just… we need to get in touch with Crowley and straighten a few things out.”

“Where are you now?”

“In a bathroom.”

“No, WHERE are you, as in where are the boys? Where’s Gwen?”

“We’re in a diner, about to head to New Orleans.” Probably shouldn’t have told him that, maybe. “The boys said you knew that.”

“I didn’t know they were taking your sorry ass along. You stay safe, you call me everyday and you stay the HELL away from Crowley. Let me deal with him and see what we can come up with for now, you just follow them along like a little lost puppy! You understand me?”

“Bobby…” I sighed, jumping when he suddenly snapped.

“I’m not fucking around, little girl, you keep your nose clean until I can get back to you on this.” Yeah, he was slightly pissed. I sighed, nodded, as if he could see me. “Answer.”

“Yeah… Yes, Sir, I get it.” I growled and listened to him mumble before the line went dead.

Well that went better than I expected… kinda. I hopped down from the counter, tucked the phone away and washed my hands before walking out to the table. Sam stood so I could sit down and I glanced over Dean’s plate. He hadn’t finished?

And then I realized… “What if I wasn’t done yet?”

“You looked done to me,” he sniped but his eyes landed on mine, trying to read me, but I couldn’t hold his stare, not after that phone call and I looked away. Dean did the weirdest thing, he reached out and touched my fingers, just lightly, which got me to look up at him.

“I can order more,” his voice was a whisper, not even loud enough to interrupt the conversation Gwen and Sam were having and I let the small half-smile go up on my lips.

“Nah, but thanks,” I grinned, glancing over at him, “I really was done, just yanking your chain.”

“You sure?” Now I was rolling my eyes.

“It’s all good.” I moved my hand out of his reach and looked out the window.

~~~~~

Gwen stood beside me against the Jeep as Dean pulled the Impala into the barn, and closed the doors on her, locking it tight. Sam was inside the Jeep on a call, probably sorting out some hunter’s trouble but it was Gwen’s eyes that burrowed into me.

“What did he say?” She questioned, knowing that I had called Bobby.

“I should stop torturing animals.” I replied and looked out at the hay field. “And, basically made me feel like I was 12-years-old again, when he caught me trying to take that ghost apart instead of salt and burning. I swear men are so not adventurous.”

“You really shouldn’t be playing with demons.” She agreed and I scoffed. “How many times have you done it?”

“You know how many, G, it’s not like I fell off the wagon, this was an interrogation, not a just-for-fun thing.” I growled and stepped away, feeling her follow me. I stopped far enough away so that anything I said wouldn’t be overheard. “He had info that I needed… we… needed and I got it. Crowley is not behind the influx, neither are the demons but what is coming is so much worse.”

“And you know this because a lower-level parrot decided to squak? What makes you think he was telling the truth?”

“Trust me, he had nothing left to lie about.” I begged her to leave it at that before I crossed my arms and shifted my weight. “These cryptos are not doing this for fun, they aren’t even doing it on their own. Something is pushing them to move, and it’s all headed one way. Northwest.”

“To Portland.” Gwen spoke up and I did nothing but narrow my eyes at her.

“Yeah, let me guess, Feather’s knows something about it.” I shook my head, sticking my hands in my pockets. “Listen, G, whatever the short waves are telling him isn’t the whole picture. This is going to get big and bad and really damn ugly.”

“Agreed.” She sighed.

“Hey, you two about done with the hair and make-up secrets?” Dean yelled from across the field, “we gotta get going if we’re going to avoid traffic.”

I did my best to ignore him as I turned back to Gwen, “when we get there, we play it off, we get some beignets and then we summon ourselves a demon.”

“You got one in mind?” Gwen and I turned, moving back to the car as Dean stopped to pick something off the ground.

“Yeah, and I brought a bottle of the good stuff just for the occasion.” I slipped around the back of the Jeep and hopped in the passenger’s side. Sam slipped his fingers around mine as I buckled and gave me a wink.

Dean moved into the backseat and the noise of the door slamming shut made me physically jump, not something that usually happens, but Sam saw it, and if he did… I looked in my mirror at Dean, who was staring at the back of my head like he was completely confused, but I shook it off, gave Sam a smile and he put it in drive.

~~~~~

The three-story French Quarter mansion that was 730 Dumaine Street was even more stunning than the grand one we had just left in Alabama. How Bobby managed to keep this place a hunter’s halfway house without it getting trashed was beyond me, but once the jeep was pulled through the maze of tight spaces into the hidden garage, it was definitely a sight to see.

The courtyard was beautiful, palm trees climbing up one-side with a small fountain in the corner, the small iron patio set seemed to blend right in, but I couldn’t help but notice the remnants of what looked like a devil’s trap on the granite slabs that made up the flooring of the yard. All in all, it was…

“Wow,” Sam whispered as he stepped up beside me, looking over everything that I was taking in. The brick masonwork on the outer walls told a story that I couldn’t wait to hear but as I stared, the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end. It was the pressure of a hand sliding lower to let gentle fingers brush my ass that had me snapped out of the daze that I was in. Sam looked down on me. “Come on, our place is on the second floor.”

Outside, from the street, the Biscuit Palace was bricks, long windows with blue shutters and accents and two balconies overlooking Dumaine, not only that but there was quick access to Bourbon Street, two houses down as a matter of fact.

“It’s haunted,” I whispered as we stepped into the small apartment looking accommodations. Gwen managed to snort. Dean rolled his eyes and Sam just cracked a smile but no one verbally replied, which was fine with me because I could deal with the chill in the air that wasn’t from the AC units that sat quietly in the windows. “Okay, first dibs!”

I made a left and headed towards the bedrooms as the other three checked out the small kitchenette, the living room, and the huge bathroom that sat to the right.

The first bedroom was more gothic than I liked, which was saying something. The walls were some sort of black and white granite, almost like someone had forgotten that countertops were just that and decorated the walls with the stuff, but it was one way to keep it cool. The slightly red/orange accents set it off as well as the pseudo-iron, four-poster bed which was adorned with the most gaudy looking duvet that I had ever seen, worse than the no-tell-motels we always stayed in and I opted that this would be Gwen and Dean’s room, because seriously, it just couldn’t get worse.

The second bedroom was nearly pristine, white everything except for the wood accents. I liked it, still not my style but I wasn’t going to scoff at it… I mean, at least it wasn’t so dark.

I set my bag down on the bed and made my way toward the window, pushing back the light, sheer curtains to watch the traffic go by. I got lost in the quietness of the house, wanting nothing more than to lose myself in the odd serenity of it but that was until I heard the tap of a boot against the woodwork and turned to see Dean standing in the doorway.

“Hey,” he greeted and I looked him over, standing there casually with his hands in his pockets, trying to look at ease.

“Hey,” I parroted and turned back to the window.

“Nice place, I mean for what it’s worth.” He was definitely getting closer and I shrugged, still trying to concentrate on the traffic, but I could smell his cologne, just the subtle hints of it, as he came to stand by me and push the other half of the curtain aside. “You good?”

“Peachy.” I answered and watched him nod.

“Good, that’s good,” he answered and his green eyes were on me. I could feel them. “I’m not.”

This got me to look at him a little confused. “I’m… sorry?”

“No, it’s not me, it’s you,” he replied and that made me drop the curtain back. “You say you’re good, you’re fine, but you’re not and it’s pissing me off.”

“You’re an asshole.” I stated smoothly and went to walk away but he gently reached out and took my arm. “Let go, Dean.”

“Bobby told me to look after you.” I blinked, took a breath and slowly let it out before I turned to him,

“If Bobby told you to jump off a bridge because it would save me from a puppy, would you do it?” I shook my head. “I’m fine, really. I don’t need you up my ass this weekend.”

“I’m not up your…” Dean caught his words and shook his head. “Look, Bobby is the closest thing I have to a father in, hell, forever, and I’m going to keep him around. You giving him a coronary because you can’t keep your knife locked down isn’t how I intend to lose him so yeah, if it were to save you from a damn puppy, I would.”

“You have a hero complex.” I snapped, pulling my arm away. I took two steps before the shift in his voice stopped me.

“Please, talk to me.” He sighed, and I shook my head, trying my best to steel myself and slowly I turned. He had one hand on his hips, the other rubbing his brow and he looked utterly defeated. “I just… we used to communicate, Jai, even if it were just being at each other’s throat but lately… you don’t talk to me anymore.”

“What do you want from me?”

He suddenly approached, his hands fisted and he invaded my space as he looked down, right into my eyes.

“I want you to admit that Woodstock scared the shit out of you. I want you to show some sort of emotions that you’re not going off the deep end, something I have to pull you back from… again. I want to know what the hell is going on in that head of yours.”

“And I want you to fuck off!” I growled and stepped back. “Yeah it’s been six months, and shit has hit the fan, hell, it’s hit multiple times but that doesn’t mean my life has changed. You are not the same little shit you used to be, and neither am I. We’re not friends, Dean, we never were.”

I turned to walk away from him and his words stopped me again, “you’re right, we’re not friends, we’re family and no matter how much shit you put me through, and let me tell you, it’s been a lot, I will never stop caring about you, or making sure that Bobby doesn’t have to put you down.”

“Yeah, thanks for that.” I whispered and walked out of the room.

Sam was standing in the kitchen, his phone to his ear as I walked by and grabbed Gwen’s hand. He looked at me curiously and I gave him the biggest fake smile I could.

“Gwen and I are going to get beignets, she’s been talking about them all night. Want some?” Sam thought for a moment but shook his head and before he could protest the two of us walking out, we did just that.

Once outside the door, we hooked a right and started walking. The Cafe was at the end of the street and to the right, not more than a block down. It was only a five minute walk, but the two of us took our time, enjoying the city.

“What was that?” Gwen questioned and I hmmed as I looked up at her. “The thing with Dean, what was that?”

“Big brother talk about the usual. You know, are you okay? What kind of hair-brained scheme are you crackpots coming up with next? Bullshit stuff like that.” I shrugged and smiled at her. “Dean’s semi-annual treat me like a human charity run. It’s over, it will be fine.”

“It won’t,” she answered and I looked at her. “He almost lost you in those caves, he won’t admit it but it scared the shit out of him, hell, it scared the shit out of all of us, so if he’s clingy, that would be why.” I shook my head, smiling because she was probably right. “And the wolves, when Sam went down and you went in after him, that scared him too.”

“And this is why I hunt like I do, G, you know that.” I pulled my phone out and took a few pictures of the buildings we past.

“Seriously?” She smiled.

“Hey, we’re here to enjoy the Quarter, might as well act touristy, besides there’s only one reason we’re really going to the cafe and that’s because the powdered sugar reminds you of Cas.” I teased and put the phone away. The look on her face was totally worth it and we rounded the corner onto Decatur.

Jackson Square was filled with people, the church loomed high above as we sat down at one of the less coated tables and settled for a moment before a nice young woman came over. She took our order, two plates of beignets and two coffees, probably the only time I would ever see Gwen drink one and waited patiently.

I don’t think my silence was her favorite thing in the world because she stared me down like I was the last person on earth to keep something in and finally I looked up at her.

“You want to talk about George, don’t you?” I could only let out a sigh. “What do you want to know?”

“What I’m more curious about is Jensen, and how exactly did that demon end up in the spouse of your ex-girlfriend?”

Okay, that took forever to come up. “I don’t know, honestly, and can we not bring Dee into this, I mean, seriously, we are not far enough away to deter me from making a detour just to get a beer.”

“You hate beer.” She snickered.

“But I love the owner.” I winked and watched her shake her head. “It doesn’t really matter how it got in him, but I think the reason was pretty simple. It knew she would call Bobby, and it knew that involving Dee and him would bring me to it. Dean was off somewhere and Sam was with you hunting goblins. It seemed to be a bit staged.”

“What did you do to it?” She whispered softly as the order arrived and we dug in, continuing our conversation, which was generally just a shrug before I looked up at her staring eyes.

“You don’t wanna know, can we drop it?” I asked before placing the mug to my lips. Gwen was reluctant, I could see it in her eyes but she nodded.

“Sure, right after you tell me what’s up with you and Dean.”

“Nope, dropping that too.” I reached out and grabbed one of the hot pastries. “How about we talk about the big man and figure out our game plan. The boys are not going to be happy with us doing a summoning, at least not without them there, and I, for one, don’t feel like explaining it to them, so… where’s the nearest crossroads?”

“You have this bad habit of deflecting.”

“What can I say, I’m good at what I do.” I smiled and wiped the sugar from my hands. Looking up I watched her take a bite, roll her eyes and make the lewdest noise.

“Mmm, Cas.” Which nearly had me choking.

“Not that I want to know, but is that what the angel tastes like?” I grinned and watched her look a little shocked. “You know, powdered sugar?”

“I guess I could say I imagine it is, but I’m not even going to say that because what goes on behind closed doors…”

“Stays behind closed doors,” I ended and shook my head, “whatever sprinkles your donut, or in this case, powders it.”

Her grin widened and we finished our treat in relative silence, which meant, I people-watched, waiting on the other shoe to drop.

~~~~~

The two of us stood at the small, dirt crossroad just outside the city. The Uber driver that had dropped us off only looked at us cross-eyed for a moment or two before he sped away and I was finally able to laugh. He knew exactly what was going on.

“I probably should have asked this sooner,” I whispered as the car disappeared from sight and Gwen turned to me. “You did bring the box, right?”

“Of course, do I look like an amateur?” She snorted and I shook my head.

“You don’t look like a Boy Scout either, but hey, I could be wrong.” I fished through the grass for a stick and moved to the center of the road making sure that I checked every direction before laying the devil’s trap. Gwen took out the box and filled it with the necessary items before she took out her wallet. I pulled my phone out and slide out the license, handing it to her as I rolled my eyes.

She placed them all in the box, dug a hole deep enough to bury it in and stepped back. “Would you like to do the honors.”

“Honors, you realize who we’re summoning here right?” I smiled and she just brushed it off. “Alright, but if he hits on you again, don’t blame me for it.” I tossed the stick outside the circle, both of us stepped back and I looked around before I whispered. “Conjuro te daemonium, venit ad me.”

“Very nice,” Gwen whispered.

“Thank you, I’ve been practicing.” The banter was just that, our normal talk but it was the smell of brimstone that brought our eyes to the middle of the circle.

“Bloody hell, a damn devil’s trap,” the man in the designer suit, with the not-too-thick accent looked down at his shoes as if he had stepped in something rancid and slowly he brought his dancing brown eyes up to meet ours. “Well, hello, girls.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Sixteen

Gwen

Hands stuck inside the pockets of the black overcoat he wore, Crowley, the demon King of Hell, previously of the crossroads nature, rocked back on his heels, as if bored out of his mind. He looked us each over for no less than two minutes before he took a breath and cleared his throat.

“Now that the ogling is done, if you two ladies would be darlings and tell me just what the hell you summoned me for, that would be marvelous.” Crowley whispered, his tone even and sweet, something he really wasn’t.

I looked down at Jai, who had just the right kind of grin on her face before she glanced up at me and offered me the floor. Figures. I was never sure if her hesitation to speak to Crowley was because of a past encounter or the fact that the King and Bobby were as thick as thieves and word of this would probably get back to him.

“We need information.” I finally coughed up and watched him smile, but it quickly faded.

“Information?” He sighed, “you are not only the two brightest hunters out there, but you are also paired with a few of the very best, yet here you are bothering me for information.” His voice suddenly gained volume. “I’m the bloody King of Hell! That’s what I have minions for!”

Jai had mimicked the King of Hell part and rolled her eyes before she pulled the blade that she usually carried out of the sheath at her side and held it up, stepping closer to the circle.

“What’s this, a toy?” Crowley smiled as he made his way towards her. Jai just shook her head, switched hands with the blade and held out her right, just over the line, giving him access to her palm. “Has Singer ever told you how much trouble you could get in offering a demon your pulse points? Especially on your wrists?”

“You’re not going to bite me, Crowley,” she finally spoke, but it was a whisper and full of sarcasm, “and you’re not going to hurt me, so… just look, will ya?”

Crowley slipped his hand out of his pocket, grabbed her wrist rather roughly and I watched her stiffen under his touch. The demon locked eyes with her, and I saw hers darken just as he ran his thumb over the soft skin. Her lips parted, her breathing picked up and her eyes drifted closed. The hand that held the knife shook as the curve of his lips rolled up and just as quickly as it began, he was letting her go, rather roughly.

Both seemed to step back at the same time. Jai, clearly shaken by the interaction and Crowley a bit confused as he walked the circumference of the circle, his finger against his lips. I watched as the knife disappeared and Jai stretched as if releasing the tension in her muscles before she came back to stand beside me.

“You okay?” I whispered and slowly she looked up at me, the blue in her eyes still dark.

“I wish people would stop asking me that,” she growled, paused and cleared her throat, as if it hadn’t meant to come out. “Yeah, I’m good. Thanks.”

“You!” He pointed at her and I watched as she shifted a little, every muscle in her stiffened but it was such a small thing that those who didn’t know her would never have seen it. “I told you to stop that!”

“It was necessary.” Her voice was definitely monotoned as she answered.

“But still dangerous, Bird.” He stopped in front of her and narrowed his eyes.

“Don’t call me that.” Great, no wonder her and Sam got along so well.

“So, you managed to get out of one of my demons information that even I wasn’t aware of… at the time.” Crowley raised a brow, but shook his head. “Are you sure you don’t want to go to Singer for this? It might be better if you hear it from him.”

“Are you trying to get out of telling us?” So, maybe I should have kept my mouth shut because those eyes were suddenly on me. “You know damn well that Robert Singer would not tell any of us the truth if it meant putting us in dangers, now I know things…”

“Yes, I’m sure your pet angel told you everything you needed to know about everything,” Crowley rolled his eyes, shifted his body away from Jai and moved to stand in front of me. “The very real truth of the matter, Love, is that you two know nothing ! What’s coming is bigger, older, and a hell of a lot more powerful than any of us, so do your best to stay away !” He glanced back at Jai, whose eyes were cast to the ground. “And stop fucking around with my demons!”

“No one was fucking around,” Jai finally spoke up, her eyes going straight to him and she stepped up to the line again. “What do you know?” Crowley moved back and looked down at her with a grin on his face.

“I know three things, my lovely little Bird,” his voice lowered. “The cryptos are not just moving through. The end game is worse than the biblical apocalypse the devil himself was involved in, and the five of you pesky, little shits are involved in more prophetic ways than you can imagine. So, STAY THE HELL AWAY!”

“Give me a name!” I snapped at him, drawing his attention from Jai as she stood there shaking, her hands clenched as she dared stare at him. Crowley sighed, as if he were irritated at a child but he cleared his throat.

“Would it make you go home if I gave up what I knew?” He asked softly, “no, it would only spur on that genius brain of yours to solve whatever little mystery was out there, so tell me, Pet, why would I give you that?”

“Because,” I steadied myself, “you wouldn’t have stuck around here this long if you weren’t curious on what we would do with the information.” He smiled, as if he had been caught and jammed his hands in his pockets. “Now, give it up, Crowley.”

“Fine!” he snapped, “it’s your funeral after all and I, for one, have been looking forward to getting you down south for sometime.” He glanced back at Jai, who was once again eyes to the ground. “You can tell her all the fun we had together, Bird,” his voice was like a sultry whisper.

“Fuck off, Crowley.” She growled, her hands clenching to white knuckles.  

“I love it when you get all Dom like that,” Crowley teases, “goes straight to my nethers.”

“Gross.” I snapped before I could stop it.

“It’s name is Mynoghra, and you will find her, it, steadily collecting cryptos in Portland.” He seemed irritated and defeated as he addressed me but stared at her for a moment more before he turned his sights my way. “Now, do you mind,” gesturing to the trap, “I have hell to raise and paperwork to get through before I come looking for you at the end of the world party.”

Jai scratched the sigil with the tip of her toes before I had a chance to stop her and quickly she turned and walked away. I stepped into the middle, dug up the little box, and followed after her, as she brought up the Uber app on her phone.

“Wanna tell me what that was all about?” I stepped up beside her and watched her focus on calling the car.

“It’s a little thing called “drop it,” she grinned and continued but I knew she couldn’t keep quiet. “Crowley and I had a run in a while back, and I mean a while.” She paused and looked up at me. “It wasn’t my finest hour.”

“Clearly.” It took ten minutes for the car to arrive, and funny enough, it was the same man that had dropped us off. We supplied the address and before we knew it, we were standing in front of the the Biscuit Palace again. “Not a word?”

“You’re kidding, right?” She smiled, “one word and YOUR Winchester won’t let me out of his sight for at least a month. No, thank you! I’d like some privacy while I take Sammy apart and put him back together… slowly.”

“I doubt Dean would keep watch while you do kinky shit to his brother.” I couldn’t help but smile.

“Doesn’t mean he wouldn’t listen at the door.” She shivered, but smiled up at me. “Speaking of doors, you do realize you two finally have a room with one, so you can help him with his…” she moved her hands in some random fashion but they were in the general location of her crotch, “problem.”

“You’re disturbing,” which was plainly obvious to all of us but she just cracked a smile and raised a brow.

“Naturally.” The door opened and we found ourselves face to face with two Winchesters, both sitting at the table with coffees in hand and a bag of beignets between them. “Oh, crap.”

“Yeah,” Dean narrowed his eyes at her and I just sighed.

“Okay,” I shook my head, “the shit between the two of you has to stop.” Sam’s smile behind his coffee mug told me that he completely agreed. “Dean, she is a grown woman and you need to stop smothering her.” Dean looked up at me as the tone of my voice became quiet demanding and while the smile crept up on her face, it faded as soon as I turned to her. “I understand this is how the two of you operate, but it’s exhausting and I’m pretty much sick of it. So, do us all a favor and get the hell over it.”

“Wow, that was…” Dean didn’t finish his reply, his eyes became lust-blown and he shifted in his seat, which got an eye-roll from Jai, who headed straight for the kitchen and the coffee pot.

“It’s not a joke.” I sat down next to him and looked him dead in the eye. “If you two can’t communicate, how are we supposed to make it through this?”

“I have idea,” Jai spoke up, leaning against the counter with the white mug in hand and the three of us turned. “Food.”

“There’s fried dough right here,” Dean snapped but looked between us. “But you two already had yours, didn’t you?”

“Yep,” she said without missing a beat, “all sorts of powdery-sugared goodness.”

“Except,” he continued, “you weren’t there when Sam and I walked down.”

“Gasp, you left the building,” she snarked, “did you have protection?”

“Yeah, I brought my…” he stopped, rolled his eyes at her and shook his head. “Where did you go?”

“For a walk,” I interjected, “along the waterfront and then down Decatur.” Sam seemed to accept the response but Dean just wouldn’t let it go, until I suggested, “there’s a brewery there, Crescent City, the menu looks phenomenal, and I agree with the food idea.”

Dean paused in his attempt to start a fight, or get something out of Jai that just wasn’t about to come out and with a glance at Sam, who raised a brow, Dean nodded. “Fine.”

“Quick shower first,” Jai piped up and placed the cup down before she walked by, her hand going over Sam’s shoulder. Once the door closed, Sam cleared his throat, got up and walked away, following behind her without a word.

“So, where did you go?” Dean asked as he turned to me and I smiled.

“What makes you think we went anywhere than where we said we were going?” I licked my lips, looked him over and took a breath. “You know, Jai reminded me of something on the way here.”

“Oh, yeah?” The smile crept up on his lips. “What’s that?”

“We have a bedroom, and a door,” I watched as he contemplated this for a moment before his eyes shot wide open.

“Oh,” he replied just a little more breathless than I expected and, mmm, that was… I reached out and took his hand, pulling him to his feet as the two of us marched off, closing the door behind us, and flicking the lock.

There was no way that this was getting interrupted again.

~~~~~

The sounds of an impatient woman sitting somewhere in the living room crept through the walls, rousing me from my lazy post-coitus haze as I lay tucked up against Dean. He let a low rumble out as he sighed, apparently awoken by the same tune that was now going to be stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

“Day after day I'm more confused, yet I look for the light in the pouring rain.You know that's a game that I hate to lose, I'm feelin' the strain, ain't it a shame.”   Breaking out into song wasn’t one of her more annoying traits, it just seemed to happen at the most inopportune times.

“I’m buying Sammy some duct tape for his birthday so that he can use it on her,” Dean mumbled as he pulled me tighter.

“Duct tape doesn’t sound like the most effective approach to stop her from singing,” Cas’ voice filled the room and I felt the bed dip behind me. I rolled a bit, and Dean sat up as the angel got comfortable and his hand gently ran up the length of my bare arm. “It’s rather soothing.”

“Only you would find her at all relaxing,” Dean whispered but there was no guts behind it and I smiled as the two of them flirted with just their eyes, which were, at the moment, locked onto one another. It didn’t seem to bother Dean that he was completely naked and Cas was in the room, but at the same time, I didn’t really think it would. “What’s up, Cas?”

“Hello, Dean,” and the secret smile grew between them before those blue eyes fell to mine, “you look comfortable.”

“Take off that jacket and come lay down, I assure you, I can always be more so.” I flirted which had the angel blushing.

“As much as I would like to, I can’t stay very long.” Cas let out a sigh, but let his fingers continue their trail over my shoulders as he shifted closer. “I wanted to make sure you arrived safely and that you were properly protected,” his eyes went quickly to Dean, then roamed the span of his chest before connecting with those green eyes again, “all of you.”

“Sam took care of the wards,” Dean reassured him, but reached out and placed his hand on top of Cas’, worry filling his gaze. “You could stay.”

“Unfortunately, I cannot.” the angel’s eyes went to their hands and he licked his lips, “but you need to, for at least a few days.”

“Stay in Nola?” I smiled and watched him nod. “Why? This place is a haven for things that go bump in the night.”

“And probably the safest place in the world because of it.” Cas added. “Demons and cryptos are on the move, which means that the other creatures are hiding, staying put, and you are safer among them right now.”

“Okay, so extended vacation,” Dean smiled, “fantastic.”

There was a light knock on the door and all three of us looked over when Sam’s voice came through.

“Dean, I’m starving,” and I watched the smile creep up on his face, like it took the older one back to a time when he had to make Sam mac and cheese.

“Yeah, we’ll be right out.” He answered and looked at Cas. “Listen, later tonight, you better get your feathered ass back here. I think we need to talk.”

“I will,” he gave a quick smirk and then was gone.

Dean kissed my forehead, slipped from the bed and handed me my shirt, which apparently he found on his side of the bed. “I thought I threw this over there, but I guess not.”

“Well,” I laughed as I pulled it on, “Jai did say this place was haunted.”

“Jai says a lot of things,” Dean whispered, but didn’t add to it and rummaged around to find his jeans, giving a brief, “Ah,” when he found them behind the corner chair and grinned at me like he had won a prize. “Now, where did my socks go?”

~~~~~

Crescent City Brewery was packed, and since we had plans to go to Bourbon street that night, we settled on the balcony of Bubba Gumps. Jai was furthest from the iron bars that separated us from the drop to the sidewalk, Dean to her right, Sam to her left and me between them on the opposite side of the table.

She seemed out in her own little world, but that didn’t stop her from participating in the conversation as we discussed our weirdest cases. Sam brought his beer to his lips, a move that I saw Jai follow with a bit of hunger in her eyes before she reached for her own concoction, and I mean that literally. She had asked the waiter for a mix of different things that didn’t sound at all enjoyable but she was very much into it.

Sam laughed. “Fairies,” he whispered, “God, that was how many years ago? Glitter and goo everywhere and seriously, pretty simple to distract them.”

“Dump salt, sugar… rice is the best.” Jai replied looking off down the road at an oncoming float.

“I could have used that information when I was getting my ass handed to me before I broke the shell open.” Sam grinned and reached over touching her cheek and down her neck. I watched Jai shiver and turn her eyes at him. “Doing okay?”

“Yeah, it’s just a lot of noise.” She shrugged and went back to watching the road. Sam looked at me and I gave him a slight shake of my head.

“Uh... Leviathan Us,” Dean whispered, and the three of us looked at him. He was staring down at the foam in his cup. “How weird is it when you have to chase down things that look just like you?”

“You do it all the time,” Jai smiled, and Dean looked at her confused. “Oh, come on, you can’t tell me you haven’t sat there and talked to yourself in the mirror, chasing down the demons inside.” She meant it as a joke but I watched the way Dean’s face paled and suddenly she was reaching for him, a hand going right to his lower arm as his fist clenched. “Not those demons, Winchester, take a breath, and look at me.”

His eyes landed on hers and the two of them stared for a little bit. I watched the silent interaction, the “Winchester” nonverbal that they were doing and you could see him relax. It was amazing how two people who claimed to hate each other could defuse the situation so fast, but they had practically grown up in each other’s shadow so there would be intimate things that they shared that even Sam might not know about, and not at all sexual.

“Leviathan are creepy fucking things.” She finally stated and sat back but her hand remained on his arm. Dean cleared his throat, grabbed the mug and downed half his beer.

“You’re telling me,” he stated plainly and his eyes flickered over to me, taking in everything as I sat back, relaxing in the warm sun. “How about you, Beautiful, oddest thing you ever hunted?”

Jai giggled because she knew what I was going to say and since I didn’t hunt it alone, she knew the whole story. I shook my head at the woman across from me, who was rubbing her palm up and down the soft hair on Dean’s arm, almost as if she were keeping him grounded but all eyes were on me.

“It was a polliwog.” I sighed.

“Like a tadpole?” Sam questioned, confused and Jai burst out laughing.

“Unfortunately.” I replied and Jai turned red with laughter. “Do you mind?”

“Who me?” she giggled, “not at all, continue.”

“You know how much I hate the woods,” I started and Sam hiked a brow, before Dean nodded. “We were in northern Vermont, close to the New Hampshire border. In a place that was already known to be inhabited by spirits, apparently something had been eating hunters.”

“Eating hunters?” Dean questioned and that protective face came up on him faster than I could blink. “And you thought going there was the best thing in the world why?”

“I had Jai, I was very well protected.” I reassured him and Dean looked at Jai, who just shrugged like it made total sense. “Besides unless you went into the water, you weren’t in danger of getting eaten, they have no legs.”

“She has a point, Dean,” Sam added but Dean just rolled his eyes. Sam looked me over, then glanced at Jai’s grinning face and sighed, “you went in, didn’t you.”

“I didn’t really have a choice,” I sighed, deeply, “It seemed to have developed a rather strong tail and was able to jump out of the water, trip me, and send me sailing down a muddy incline right into the water.”

“How is this odd or funny?” Dean questioned.

“You said weird, you said nothing about funny.” I corrected and watched as he agreed before settling down. Jai smiled at him and Dean frowned back. Sam reached out, running his hand up the side of her arm, anything for contact and I watched as she kicked back in the chair and put her feet up on his legs under the table. “So I was in, trying to grab the nearest thing to pull myself out and suddenly Jai splashed down in the water beside me, her gun up on the shore but she had this stick in her hand, like a spear and she stayed still, hushed me into sitting right there on the muddle bank and I watched as she eyed the water.”

“Spearfishing?” Sam laughed.

“Ever done it?” She grinned and Sam shook his head, “dude, I’ll take you, it’s funny as fuck.”

“Finished?” I watched the two of them nod before I turned back to Dean, “She missed, by the way.”

“And tripped!” She added, still smiling.

“Fantastic,” Dean groaned.

“But I picked up the spear and got pissed,” I couldn’t help but smile now. “Needless to say, they offered to cook it for us when we brought it back to down.”

“Gross!” Sam seemed to turn a little green but Jai just shook her head.

“Why?” Dean was probably just as nauseous.

“It’s form was the size and width of your entire torso, they weren’t going to let that go to waste.” I smiled, but that was just a little twist I had put on the end. There was no way they were cooking and eating something that ate fellow townies.

“Okay, you win.” Dean sighed, just as the food came out and he looked down at the soft shell crab po boy in front of him. “I think I lost my appetite.”

“You didn’t even hear Jai’s yet,” I snickered and Dean shook his head.

“I know most of Jai’s and trust me, you still win.” Dean groaned and I looked over at Jai, who just shrugged.

“Wait a minute,” Sam laughed, “I thought you two hated each other?”

“Hate is such a strong word.” She replied, dipping her fry into a small cup of ketchup. Something about it touching her plate always set her off so she tended to get it seperate. “I violently,” she paused and looked at Dean who only smirked, thought about it and nodded, “violently dislike him.”

“Now hold on,” Dean grinned, “dislike isn’t quite the expression I would use either.” He raised a brow at her as Jai smiled, like it was some sort of inside joke. “You know, for all the shit she’s pulled and the crap that I have to deal with, I wouldn’t ever abandon her,” he reached out and took my hand, “or you, which means, and I hate to admit this, we do check up on each other, and I have heard about nearly every hunt she’s ever been on, except, maybe, that one.”

“Wait, so you’re not like villains and heroes?” Sam seemed a little disappointed, but he jumped and looked quickly at Jai, “okay, maybe one of you is a villian.” He leaned in close, his eyes drooping shut, and he whispered. “You can’t do that in public.”

“Oh she can,” Dean sighed, “and she does, so, you have fun with that, Sammy.” I couldn’t help but laugh at the genuine smiles they held for each other before those green eyes fell on me and he winked. “Let’s eat.”

The conversations seem to flow without pause after that with Sam and I discussing the lore on many cases and Dean and Jai goofing around like two little kids, until they weren’t goofing but talking silently with their heads together as if something were a great big secret.

“Think we’re over the need to carry a taser with us to get them to behave,” Sam laughed bumping into me as he watched his brother. “I have to say it’s good to see them actually getting along, it’s been a very, very long time.”

“I thought you and she never met.” I spoke up and Sam stuffed his hands in his pockets.

“Didn’t mean I didn’t see what they did to each other. Dean was always just a little bit different when it came to her.” I went to say oh but looked up to see him grinning at me, “he’s a lot different when he’s around you, it’s like he’s happy.”

“You say that like it never happens.”

Dean pulled out his phone, put it to his ear and stopped on the stairs that lead into Jackson Square, Jai moved through, following the concrete path around the statues and artwork that filled the fenced-in space.

“Wonder who that is?” I whispered and Sam leaned in close to my ear.

“By the look in his eyes, I’d say Cas,” he shrugged and walked by me, heading up the steps to follow the imp of a hunter.

Slowly, I stepped over and sat down beside Dean, his hand going to my thigh as he smiled and nodded, but that was about the extent of his actual answers, apart from the if ya gotta lines he kept spouting.

“Well, don’t knock, just come in.” He suggested and my eyes widened as he winked. “No, no, Sammy and Jai will be pretty well tucked away.” I tilted my head just a little to see if I could catch more of his expression. “I told you, we’ll talk about that when you get here.” He sighed, but the smile still graced his lips. “Yeah, okay…. Bye.”

He looked at his phone a moment before putting it away and taking my hand.

“Should I be worried?” but if anything, the look on his face told me what I needed to hear.

“Nah, Cas is just going to stop by so we can, you know, talk about… stuff.” The last word was a little unsure but he didn’t elaborate as he stood and pulled me up a little. I let him pull me close, wrap his arm around my waist and the two of us headed away from the Square, down past the Cafe and multiple praline stores.

“What about the terrible twosome?” I questioned, knowing that Dean rarely let Sam out of his sight.

“Cas said we were in the safest place we could be, and if he really needs help handling her, I don’t think their relationship is gonna last.” He smiled. “She’s a handful, but I know she’ll take care of him.”

“And if he doesn’t, do I really need to pull the “if he hurts her” card?” I laughed and Dean shook his head, licking his tongue across his lips.

“No need, I’ll kick his ass myself.” He brought my fingers up to his lips and kissed them as we entered the French Market.

Rows and rows of different vendors kept us occupied for what felt like hours before we turned back and headed towards the square. Sam had texted, telling us that they were headed for a cemetery tour of St. Louis #1 and I was curious on how long it might take her to convince him to skip it and try to sneak into St. Louis #2.

“Should we check in and make sure they didn’t get arrested?” I laughed.

“They didn’t,” Dean said confidently.

“You think your brother is just that good?” I giggled.

“He learned from the best, besides I would have heard from him by now. I am, after all, his lawyer.” Dean grinned like a man possessed but that only had me rolling my eyes.

“Oh, brother.”

“Speaking of,” he whispered and stopped me, wrapping his arms around my waist as he placed his chin on my shoulder and pointed up at the balcony on the other side of the street where the strobe lights were going and music played loudly.

There was Sam, tongue deep between Jai’s lips as he braced her against one of the iron rails of the balcony. She hated heights so this must have been a dare. The sounds of hollers coming from behind them when Sam backed away grinning was laughable even as he raised his hand in triumph and Jai slipped by him, all smiles, tugging on his hand to go back inside.

“Ah, my brother, ever the college dork!” Dean kissed my cheek and waited only a moment more before the door across from us burst open and Sam, laughing loudly, stumbled through with Jai not far behind. He gave a high-five to the guy that let him out and Jai waved softly, like an actual girl before they came across the street towards us. “You look like you’re 22 again”

“That was amazing,” Sam laughed, and the four of us started walking.

“You okay?” I asked Jai, who looked a little dazed.

“Just trying to catch my heart.” She smiled but to me she looked....

“Are you high?”

She paused, glanced around and nodded, “generally, yeah, but that’s usually only on caffeine.” I stepped away from Dean, pushed my way over to and separate her from Sam as the boys walked ahead chatting.

“What was it?” I whispered and watched as focused on me.

“Brownies,” she confessed and shrugged, “look, I only had a little, and yes, I know I’m stupid, but I need to get the edge off.”

“You know what that shit does to you.” I sighed but narrowed my eyes to look at her. She didn’t look bad, just a little… relaxed. “Heart rate?”

“Fine.”

“Auditory sensitivity?”

“Surprisingly tolerable.”

“Vertigo?”

“Nope.”

I stepped back, watched her stand straight and shook my head. “Huh?”

“Now you sound like Sam,” she giggled and we both turned to look at the boys.

“Well, you usually don’t handle your recreational drugs this well, I’m just a little confused.”

“Like I said, I only had a little.” Sam burst out laughing suddenly and the two of us stared at him as Dean looked completely bewildered. “Apparently, he had a lot.”

“Must be Thursday,” I sighed.

“How do you figure?” She questioned as we moved on and Dean listened to his brother chat.

“Strange events like this only ever seem to happen on a Thursday.”

“You never know, it could still be Wednesday and you just don’t remember or you’re stuck in one of those groundhog day thingies and since yesterday was Wednesday, then today could be Wednesday too.” She giggled and I shook my head. Maybe she wasn’t handling it as well as I thought.

“Dean, I think we would probably head back.” I pushed Jai up towards Sam and he reached out, pulled her in and kissed her deeply, with Dean not more than a foot away.

“You’re probably right.” He sighed, grabbed the shoulder of Sam’s shirt and tugged at him. “Come on, Casanova, let’s get you two somewhere more private.”

~~~~~

Dean came into the room and shut the door behind him as I finally kicked off the last of the layers I had been wearing in order to grab a shower.

“Okay, I think the teenagers are finally settled.” He shook his head. “Man, I haven’t had to take care of him like that in a while, it’s actually kind of funny.”

“To see your brother stoned?” I laughed as he pulled off his shirt, grabbed the tee and yanked it over his head.

“To see him stoned enough that I literally had to help him figure out the belt buckle, yeah.” Dean rolled his eyes.

“Where was Jai?” I walked up to him and grabbed the end of his belt.

“She was sitting on the floor singing, though I’m not sure if it was Africa or Wake Me Up, it was a little broken.”

“Was she okay?” I slid it slowly from the belt loops and watched the jeans drop around his hips.

“You want me to talk about her now, with you doing that?”

“No,” I sighed as his hand came up and slipped into my hair and down my neck, “I guess not.” His lips brushed against mine as he smiled and he pulled me into a breathless kiss. “Shower. Now.”

“Yes , ma'am,” he grinned, took my hand and tugged me into the room.

Chapter Text

Chapter Seventeen

Jai

The clock read 4:37 am and I rolled my eyes. I couldn’t believe I was wide awake, Sam snoring softly beside me, his hand over my waist, but I couldn’t seem to close my eyes again. After staring at the ceiling for what felt like forever, I glanced at the clock again. 4:39 am. With a huff, I thought about tossing the covers off but changed my mind and slowly slipped out from under Sam.

Having grabbed a light blue flannel, I was just finishing up buttoning the last two at the top when I stepped out into the kitchen, the smell of freshly brewed coffee filling my nose and I paused to take in the aroma, but as I made my way towards the coffee maker, I saw a figure on the couch.

I took in the back of his head, how it rested on the back of the couch, and then glanced at the door to his room, saw how it was stuck slightly open and there was something caught between the door and the jamb, and ooh, that was an interesting twist.

Pouring my cup, I purposely knocked the glass carafe against the table while putting it away and watched him jump. Dean turned to look as I rounded the corner of the couch. He looked from my feet up, sighed and turned back to the lights of the street outside the window.

“Hey, Sparky, why are you awake?” I questioned and sat down across from him. Dean just shook his head.

“Don’t know,” he sighed and I stood, moved to the couch next to him and curled up against his side, pulling my legs up as I got comfortable. He stiffened at the closeness and I smiled. Yes, I was doing it on purpose, the mug of coffee in my hand seemed to stop him from trying to move me and his arm came to rest on the back of the couch.

“Why are you out here?” I asked again. Dean rolled his eyes, without even looking I knew it, because his whole head seemed to move with him.

“Because I’m awake and I don’t want to wake up Gwen and…” he paused, shifted in that tee and sleep pants and I watched the blush run up on his face.

“So, the tie on the door,” I smiled.

“There’s no tie on the door…” he stated quickly and I sat back, taking the mug with me so that he didn’t feel so trapped. “It’s mine from my suit.”

“I thought yours was blue striped, not a solid blue that matched the eyes of an angel.” I shrugged and got up, rounded the couch as he sat still, a little embarrassed and a lot afraid. Holding my coffee out, I walked up behind him, slipped my hand down over his collar bone and let it find its way across his chest, circling his neck as I hugged him from behind. His hands came up to touch my arm softly and I heard the sigh slip out. He needed this. I put my lips right to his ear and whispered. “Did you think I didn’t know?” He shook his head. “Dean, I know so much more than I let on but here’s the thing, it’s amazing.” His body seemed to deflate and his fingers tighten. “You should keep them, Winchester, happy looks good on you.”

I kissed his cheek softly, let my arm slip away and took my coffee cup into my bedroom, where I curled up in the corner chair by the window, watching the sunrise. A short time later, I heard the bedroom door next to mine close tightly and I couldn’t help but smile. Sam stretched on the bed, I heard his hand moving down the empty side of it and he slowly sat up, looking me over with confused eyes.

“Why are you way over there?” He whispered, as if he were still sharing the room with his brother, and was trying not to wake him.  I shifted in my seat, watched his eyes go to my bare legs and a small smile came up his lips. “You’re wearing my shirt.”

“I couldn’t go out and get coffee naked, your brother was sitting out there on the couch.” I laughed as I stood and made my way towards the bed. I placed the cup down on the end table and crawled up to him, pushing him back against the pillows with my hands on his chest as I straddled his waist above the thin sheet that separated us. “I didn’t want to wake you up, you looked so peaceful.”

His hands came down on my hips and he ran them down my bare thigh, gently digging in as he rubbed them. He arched up towards me as I held myself not even a foot from him trying to close the distance.

“I could get used to waking up with you.” He smiled, his voice deep from sleep and I shook.

“You’re such a smooth talker.” I grinned and kissed him softly. “It’s only five-thirty.”

“So, we have a few hours to kill before the rest of the house wakes up,” he winked, returned the kiss and moved his hands around me to tug me down. “What do you want to do?”

“Any activity with you would wake them up, so, wanna play a game?” I laughed and watched as that mischievous little grin came up on his lips.

“You’ll lose, you sure you wanna play?”

“Oh, Sam, I don’t think you know the limits of my restraint.” I laughed as I ran my hands through his hair, before I gripped them tight and ran my nose over his cheek, kissing down his jaw.

“Testing them would definitely be my pleasure,” he moaned and suddenly flipped me so that I was underneath him. “First, we have to get rid of this shirt.”

~~~~~

Gwen stepped out of the bedroom, hair a mess, the narrowed-eyed look of someone was about to be murdered in her eyes, and rumpled clothing and the only thing I could do was smile. Sam and I sat at the table, fully clothed and sipping away on coffee from the Cafe that we managed to get to and make it back from a while ago. It was now close to nine, but it hadn’t been long enough for the Cafe Au Lait to go cold at all and the bag of beignets were still collecting grease.

She paused at the table, looked over the cup that we had waiting for her and the stack of plates to use to grab one of the pastries and her eyes narrowed a little more.

“I hate you a little less for bringing breakfast, but I still hate you both for looking so awake this early in the morning.” She sighed and grabbed the cup before moving over to the chair. I grinned as she dove into the coffee and my eyes went to Sam as I slid the bag closer to her.

“So, plans today…?” I started and she raised a hand, just like Dean, no discussion until the coffee was good and gone. “Okay, fine,” I turned to Sam, “are we still doing the plantation tour that we were talking about?”

“Oak Alley,” Sam whispered, but it seemed more of a question to himself as if he weren’t sure that he remembered right.

“Yeah, that’s it. We have to leave about eleven to make sure we get out there. It only takes an hour.” I shrugged and watched her look me over. She knew I was still talking about plans even if I were avoiding looking at her. It was the best way to do it. Until, I did look at her, right in the eyes, “so, if you would be so kind as to tell your Winchester and your angel to get dressed so we can make it on time, that would be awesome. I am so not walking into that room.”

Sam sat back, his eyes going over my face before he glanced at Gwen. “Cas is here?”

“I...ah, I…” she fumbled but Sam just smiled, like it was something he was completely over the moon about.

“If I had known that, I would have gotten him a coffee.” Sam shrugged and I watched the shock spread on Gwen’s face, like she hadn’t expected Sam to be supporting.

“If he really needs it, he can have my second one.” I laughed, got up and and refilled my cup with the coffee from the regular pot. This had Sam thinking, I could see it all over his face.

“Is that why you got two?” He grinned. Now he was catching on. I shrugged, trying to look innocent, blinking my eyes as if he would believe me but all he did was shake his head and wink when I sat down. “Sneaky.”

“What can I say? I’m a Lancing.” I replied and grabbed a beignet from the bag. The door opened and Dean walked out, eyes puffy with sleep and a scowl on his face. Sam grabbed a coffee from the table, and held it out as Dean walked by and took it with a groan, which I think was a thank you. “Well, good morning, Winchester.”

Dean flipped me off as he sat on the couch, coffee in hand and I smiled. Sam shook his head and Gwen scowled at me, but we all looked up when the angel walked out of the room, hair sticking up everywhere, in Dean’s extra set of sweats and a tee. He actually looked pretty refreshed but that might have just been the angel in him.

“Good morning.” He mumbled as he sat down at the table. I popped the last coffee from the holder and slid it over to him. “If this belongs to someone, I don’t want to take it.”

“It’s yours, Cas.” I smiled and watched as he nodded, gave a quick smile and took the cup, pulling it close with both hands. “Well, now that we’re all awake…” I looked around and watched at the three of them turned to me, all tired and droopy eyed and i raised my hand. “Never mind, it can wait.”

“If it’s important, maybe you should tell us,” Cas whispered as I stared across the table at him.

“No, Angel, it’s not important enough to incite a grumpy bear riot this early in the morning.” I laughed and looked over at the two of them. Gwen had gotten up to sit with Dean on the couch and currently they were cuddled close together. “I’m gonna go make a phone call, you three wake up a little bit more and then get ready.”

“Huh?” Dean said, his head turning enough to see me. “Where are we going?”

“Touristy stuff,” I laughed, stood and grabbed my coffee before stepping past him to head out to the balcony.

I closed the door behind me, moved to the edge of the iron railing and sighed. I hated heights, even if it was only one story but it wasn’t the fall or the landing, it was just the vertigo that went with it. Letting out a breath, I grabbed the phone, dialed a number and moved to the chair that was back against the wall.

It had to be about 65 degrees outside, which meant that it was going to be a hot one, but that was okay, I never minded the heat so I kicked my feet up on the second chair and brought the gphone to my ear as I pressed send on the phone.

“Well, good morning, Sunshine.” Bobby’s voice echoed over the line. “You doing okay?”

“Peaches and cream, Pops,” I laughed. Hey, if he could call me that, well, I could use the nickname he hated too. “Just calling to check in.”

“I’m glad to hear that, would hate to have to get ahold of someone else to get a fire lit under your ass.” He was smiling, I could hear it in his voice, but he didn’t know he couldn’t use Dean against me anymore. We had… sort of… moved past that. “Are you laying low?”

“As low as hunters can get in a city filled with monsters.” I sighed and shook my head. “Yeah, we’re doing what you asked, and what Cas warned, we’re flying under the radar, going on tours and stuff.”

“Ah-huh, that sounds like code for something other than laying low, Jai.”  Damn, this man knew me too well. “You better not go off picking a fight.”

“I’m trying, Bobby, really hard, and I got four anchors, so, that helps.” I rubbed my forehead and watched as the door opened. Sam popped his head out, narrowed his eyes and tilted his head a little, asking if I was alright. “Listen, B, looks like the gang's all alive after the caffeine boost, so, we’re going to get ready to go. I’ll call you tonight.”

“You better.” He snapped, but that was just his regular tone. “Don’t be an idjit and get yourself into something you can’t get out of.”

“Which means?” I laughed.

“Make sure whatever you take on isn’t bigger than you.”

“Right, cause that will be an easy thing to accomplish, B, they’re all bigger than me.” I watched Sam grin at this and the line went dead and I took it from my ear, looked at it as if it offended me and then stood, stuffing it away. “We good to go?”

“Just waiting on Gwen,” he reached out a hand, palm up, which I took and let him pull me inside, but not without planting a kiss on my temple. “Come on, let’s go sight-see.”

~~~~~

Oak Alley Plantation was a beautiful work of architecture… the one subject in school that I skipped out on, because most hunters had to know where the entrances were, not who made it, but as I stood before it, I had my head tilted back looking up the columns.

“What are you doing?” Gwen asked as Sam and Dean stepped past me, but she stopped and tried to see where I was focusing on. I glanced at her, tilted my head to the side and looked back at the second-floor window that I had zoomed in on.

“What?” I asked again, saw her tilt her head in the same direction as mine as if she were really focusing and moved my head just a little to the other side, a gesture she mimicked and I smiled. “Oh, you mean, this?” I pointed up towards the floor and she narrowed her eyes trying to see what I was pointing at. “Nothing.”

I smiled as I walked away, leaving her a bit confused. I really hadn’t been looking at anything, I just wanted to see if I could catch her or the angel, which always made my day when I did. I heard her huff when she caught on and suddenly she was walking behind me as I caught up with the boys.

“Bobby texted me,” Gwen stated as she stepped up beside me once again. The boys walked ahead, Sam only glancing back occasionally to see if we were following and I shook my head.

“I don’t need a babysitter, and I don’t need to be constantly reminded…” I caught sight of a boy in one of the small sitting rooms just to the right of the door and something told me that he wasn’t an actor. Could have been the color of his skin, or the blood that dried against it, giving him a nearly black line from his forehead straight down his face. Gwen looked at me as I shook and growled, focusing on the tour again. “That I need to keep my ass out of trouble. It’s becoming irritating, and seriously, all three of you are younger than me. It’s pathetic.”

“He talked to Crowley.” She answered and I looked up at her, my brows going up.

“Oh, what did our lovely King have to say?” My tone changing as soon as it was out of my mouth.

“Apparently, he and Bobby had a rather extensive conversation about the fact that we’re all in some serious shit if we let this issue get any bigger.” Gwen sighed.

“Oh, yeah, right, like it’s just like us to NOT do our jobs and let the damn cryptos go.” I huffed but stopped at the doorway to a small office, one that was corded off so no one could step in. There he was again, the boy, but this time he was waving at me, asking me to come closer. “Do you see him?”

“What?” She snapped and looked in the room, “him who?”

“The kid?” I whispered and looked ahead at Sam and Dean.

“Jai, there is no…” she stopped and looked in the room again, her face filling with confusion. “Who dresses their son is something like that?”

“Right? Looks like an old schoolboy uniform. God-awful gray too, wonder what he wants.” I heard Sam’s throat clear and the two of us looked at him standing at the bottom of the stairway. Gwen grabbed my arm, started pulling me towards him but I looked at the boy, gave a short gesture of pointing up and watched him nod.

“You promised you would stay out of trouble.” Gwen snapped right in my ear and I looked at her.

“Some ghost kid starts following me around and this is my fault?” I sighed, and both of us smiled our best innocent grin at the boys as we met them at the bottom of the stairs. On the way up, we were silent, but as soon as we breached the top, Gwen and I were behind again. “Seriously, G, it’s not like I asked him to tag along.” Just out of the corner of my eye, I caught him in one of the corners of the room. “Come on, it won’t hurt to figure out what he needs. The poor kid looks like  he’s been here since the 1800’s.”

She sighed… loudly, and rolled her eyes before she looked down at me. “There are apparently three reasons why we keep ending up tracking down cryptos. We’re part of it.”

“I got that from Crowley’s riveting little speech.”

“No, Jai, you don’t understand, we’re part of it, like an essential part of it. He didn’t mean that he was going to be coming to help out at the end of the world, more like he was going to come to collect.” I stopped dead and took a breath before glancing at the boys.

“Then we stay away from Portland.” I shrugged and followed the boy’s movements down the hall, which lead us away from the boys, who were completely under the spell of the tour guide.

“You know how that works for us. No matter what decisions we make, or paths we alter, we always end up…”

“Here.” I said stopping as I looked down at my feet.

“Exactly.” She replied.

“No, I mean, here. Look at the floor.” I mumbled and the two of us scanned over the discolored wood that ducked under the edge of the bed.

“Yeah, that’s not ominous at all.” Gwen looked around as I got down on my knees and lifted the skirt of the bed. There, underneath was a hatbox, a small, wooden, round box and gently, I pulled it out before sitting back on my heels. I looked up at the boy and popped the lid. “What are you doing? Those are historical artifacts.”

“And human remains,” I shivered as I looked down at the strange accumulation of small ribbons tied around the locks of hair. So many different shades, so many different colored ribbons. “What the hell is this?”

“I’d say it’s a collection.” She moved to crouch down beside me. Reaching in, something I couldn’t do because… eww, hair… she pushed the ribbons side to show the little keepsake frames below it. “Of children.” Looking at me, quite pissed off, she shook her head. “I told you no more ghost children.”

“Hey, G, I get it.” I closed the lid and turned to face her. “I got this, really, if you wanna go with the boys, I’ll take care of it.”

“I don’t know,” her eyes moved over to the kid. “He’s not doing anything wrong. He’s just staring at me like a creeper!”

“Gwen,” this caught her attention and I put my hand on her shoulder. “Go, I’ll...” I took a deep breath, narrowed my eyes on the strap to her bag and prepared myself. “Can I have your bag?”

“What? You want my… what?”

“Your bag, can I have your messenger bag?”

“My purse is in there, my tablet.” She pouted.

“All of which can fit in your hoodie pockets, now seriously, I can’t walk out of here with the hatbox and the tour is coming around so… can I have your bag?”

With a huff, she pulled it from her shoulders. “FINE.”

“Thank you.” I watched those eyes as they bore into me until everything she carried in there was stuffed into her pockets. “Okay, keep an eye out.” She stood, huffed again, and put her back to me as I managed to dump the contents of the box into the bag before I stuffed the box under the bed again. The house groaned , like all the wood inside was shifting. “Oh, shit.”

She turned to me. “You need to go.”

“Yeah, right,” I agreed and looked at the boy, who was looking pretty damned scared for a ghost. “Cover me.”

“With what?” She snarked and I shrugged.

“Ah… um, my stomach… too much coffee.” I stated, patted her on the arm and hauled ass away from her and down the stairs.

The house seemed to move, groan, and I could feel eyes on me as I made for the open door. That suddenly slammed shut. GREAT!

I turned, moved away from the crowd and headed to the other end of the house, meeting with the same fate as the other side. The door slammed closed right in my face.

“OH, COME ON!” I growled through clenched teeth and my phone pinged. I quickly reached into my pocket, shifting the bag and saw the text from Gwen.

Gwen: Great, you pissed it off.

Jai: Not helping! I can’t get out.

Gwen: Not that I’m encouraging your deviant behavior, but old plantation houses like this usually had a dirt basement or at least a root cellar without a concrete floor. IF you get my meaning.

I didn’t bother replying because Thank you, Gwen was just not enough. Now to find the door. Easy enough when our ghost boy was right there and it suddenly creaked open. Taking a deep breath, the small flashlight from my own bag, and the door handle, I pulled it wide and made my way down into the basement.

She was right, as usual, but I wasn’t going to tell her that because egos ran big in our crowd already. Just past the newer boiler, which was really odd to find in a place like this, was a darker area that grew even blacker when the flashlight landed on the brick outline of the root cellar door.

I took a deep breath, was just about to step beyond the light and a hand landed squarely on my shoulder. I whipped around, flashlight going up to the face of my assalent and I gave Gwen the meanest scowl I could, which wasn’t much of one because I was actually glad she was there. Not telling her that either.

“WHAT are you doing down here?” I snapped, but it was quiet, almost a whisper.

“You think I’m gonna let you go into the scary basement, alone, in a plantation… ANYWHERE near New Orleans. Bobby said lay low, he didn’t say get killed by a ghost.”

“He also said to make sure they weren’t bigger than me, so at least I’m doing something right.” I rolled my eyes. “Come on,” I turned back and flashed the light on the door, “I found the cellar.”

“Wonderful.” That was total sarcasm but she was right behind me. The house now creaked so badly that whatever was on the ceiling was falling down like a dust cloud. “Remind me to never let you out of my sight again.”

“Why? You don’t think I can find a hunt with you standing right beside me?” I asked, glanced up at her and smiled. “Surprise!”

“Child!” She grouched and the two of us pushed open the door. The smell of mold and mildew hit us, but there was scent under it that was not unknown in our line of business. “Perfect, do we have to burn the whole place down?”

“Not doing it, not my job, not my area. I’m just gonna let the kid go and, poof, be gone.” I stated as I walked into the middle of the room. Gwen held my flashlight as I dumped the bag in the middle of the floor, pulled my own bag around and pulled out the needed supplies. A small canister of salt, a bottle of lighter fluid, Butane for lighters, and a zippo (never leave home without one).

“The fact that you are even carrying that disturbs me.” She reached for the iron spike that I carried in the bag as well and took it without issue. We had two of them, having needed to defend ourselves quickly, we had picked up a set at an old antique shop in a small town we were working a case in. They made perfect travel-sized ghost deterrents.

“I could show you some pictures that might get you off the subject of what’s in my bag.” I grinned up at her and she rolled her eyes. “Okay,” I poured the salt and lighter fluid on the pile. “On three?”

“One,” she said softly. The lights flickered in her hand.

“Two,” I flicked open the top just as the room was pitched into darkness.

“Three.” A deep raspy voice answered and I flicked the wheel on the lighter, watching the sparks fly.

Gwen was already swinging as the figure of an older woman, probably a nanny, appeared before her. With each flick of my thumb, I could see the thing moving, getting closer to me and I started to swear.

“You good?” I yelled.

“Be… better… if you…” I heard her let out, each word coming with the sound of a swing, “would just fry the bitch!”

Just then the lighter sparked to life, the flame lit up the room and the ghostie had her hand wrapped around Gwen’s throat.

“Hey, ugly nag,” I taunted and watched her turn her eyes on me, or what was left of them. “Bye.” Was all I said as I dropped the lighter and watched the hair and frames go up in flames. As always, the skank went up in a ball of fire. Not really, she just kind of disappeared. “You okay?”

“This,” she rubbed her throat, sounding a little scratchy, “this is why I hate hunting.”

“Amen, sister.” I sighed and watched the fire burn everything to ashes. Her phone vibrated in her pocket and I watched as she pulled it out, made a face and replied.

“They want to know where we are.” Gwen looked down at me, expecting an answer. “How bad is your stomach?”

“Bad enough that I ran over to the woods to barf.” I answered, waving a hand at her. “I don’t know, please tell me they aren’t sitting outside the damn bathrooms?”

“They’re by the car, apparently.” She shrugged and crouched down beside the pile. “Your boy is gone.”

“Yeah, must have released him when it caught fire.” I whispered, reached my hands out over the flames and let it warm them.

“You’re disturbing.” She scowled. “Wanna wait until it dies out?”

“And push our luck with Winchesters?” I scoffed, getting to my feet. “Come on, let’s get a move on.”

~~~~~

We managed to make it around the house, which had allowed us out the doors without an issue, and down past the bathrooms without the brothers noticing. It was a daring feat to sneak in, wash our hands, remove the dirt from our faces before actually walking out and to the cars.

Sam stood up straight as he saw us coming, opened his arms and wrapped them around me when I got to him and I held on tight. Dean had been leaning back against the hood looking us over before he pulled Gwen in close.

“Why do you two smell like a wood fire?” Dean questioned and looked between us.

“The blacksmith shop,” Gwen whispered quickly, “it’s right near the bathrooms, they were a little heavy handed with the wood and it soaked into everything.”

“Hmm,” Dean shrugged and turned her so that she was moving toward the passenger's side.

I felt Sam’s lips against my forehead as I leaned on him, still wrapped in his arms and it was about that time that I felt him smile.

“Did you do it?” he whispered, and everything stopped, pretty sure my heart did too, “the boy, did you help him?”

I backed away, looked him straight in the eye and wanted to lie, but it was right there. He knew the whole time and I licked my lips.

“I…” I stuttered and shook my head, “I can explain.”

“You don’t need too,” he rubbed his hand over his mouth, “you’re a hunter, it’s what you do, it’s what we do.” I nodded, trying to come up with a reason to be even a little bit sorry. “Just next time, tell us.”

“Okay,” I nodded, because what the hell else was I going to say to that.

~~~~~

It was an hour ride back, and it felt like FOREVER! The silence in my head was deafening. The little part that I got from Gwen about what was going on wouldn’t let me be and I couldn’t be stuck in my head anymore.

I started to hum, then the words came out, and the cruel smile rose on my lips. “Blinded by the light, revved up like a douche, another roamer in the night, blinded by the light.”

“What?” Dean questioned from behind the wheel. I continued to look out the window.

“Blinded by the light, revved up like a douche, another roamer in that night, blinded by the light,” flowed from my lips again, a little lower so he still couldn’t make out the words.

“Deuce!” He snapped, “it’s DEUCE, not douche!”

I looked over at him. “So.”

“So?” I watched his ears turn red. “If you’re going to sing it, at least sing it right, and it’s runner in the night, not roamer.”

“Clearly, you have not seen the Walking Dead.” I replied, letting him continue to get irritated. “Revved up like a douche, another roamer in the night.”

“IS that all you know?” He interrupted again and I looked at him, shrugged and looked out the window.

The radio clicked on, he fumbled through the stations and suddenly Africa blared over the speakers and strangely enough, he turned it up.

Ah, this was going to be a great day.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eighteen

Gwen

It had been hours since we got back to the hotel. Jai was quiet, which was unusual for her. She had been out on the balcony for what seemed like forever. Sam had disappeared out there with her several times but had always returned with a small look of defeat in his eyes.

Dean even got up once to head out that way but Sam just shook his head. Better to leave her be and let her work out her problems. Besides, she was always like that after a hunt, drained and quiet, like it took something out of her.

You could hear the music start up as the sun began to drop and slowly the door opened and Jai stepped in. Sitting at the table, typing away on research that a hunter had called about, I looked up and narrowed my eyes as she sat down across from me. I wasn’t going to ask, there was no need to, she wasn’t going to spill on her emotions and we had been around this block too many times to count to even bother trying.

I poured the small amount of whiskey that was left in the bottle to my right into a small rocks glass and slid it over to her. Jai picked it up, grabbed my journal from beside the laptop, tipped the glass in my direction before taking a swallow and flipped through the pages of the well-worn book.

“Wanna…” I started and watched her hold up a finger, finish what was in the glass and slowly set it down, finger still raised. She shook from the burn and her eyes met mine as it came down with a small clank against the table.

“No, I don’t.” She replied.

“I was going to ask if you wanted another. Pretty sure Bobby had this place stocked because he knew we were coming.”

“Oh,” she sighed, and went back to the book, “nah, I’m good, you know I like mine fruity and mixed. Where did the boys go?”

It was amazing that she had just noticed their absence but never bothered to raise her head from where she was looking at the pages.

“Burgers and beer, apparently,” I replied, typing away on the keyboard.  She looked up at me confused and I found her staring. “Sam said he talked to you, asked you what you wanted and you answered.”

“Huh,” she shrugged, “probably did, I was pretty well out of it.”

“You usually are.” Going back to my work, we sat in silence for the most part until she stopped flipping through the book and sighed… loudly, trying to get my attention. I rolled my eyes, pushed the keyboard aside and looked at her. “Yes?”

“We’re part of it, like how big of a part?” Jai folded her hands on the table and I did the same, mimicking her position.

“Like I said, there are three big reasons they want the five of us there. Crowley told Bobby that two of us were for sacrifices, two for possession and the fifth…”

“A vessel,” she whispered, which got me to sit back.

“How exactly would you come to that conclusion?”

“George of Hell,” she offered the name pretty quickly but it only made me more curious. “During our… tea party, he mentioned something about preparing to become a vessel for something bigger than him, bigger than Crowley, but I didn’t understand it. I didn’t think he was talking about me because screw that, no one’s wearing me as a witch condom, but he… he said something about an angel. Thought he was just bringing Cas into it to piss me off.”

“Did it work? Pissing you off, I mean.”

“Of course, it worked,” she rolled her eyes as if that was a dumb question. “He was talking about people I cared about, and he possessed Dee’s husband, that, in itself, set me off the wrong way.”

“Did he say anything else? Anything that would point us in the right direction?” She shifted uneasily at the question and I shook my head. “Okay, change in the line of questioning. Crowley…”

“Same line of questioning,” she got off the chair and began looking through the cabinets before she found what she was looking for, a new bottle of the whiskey bourbon. Sitting down with me, she opened it and poured another drink for both of us. “What about him?”

“It’s dangerous, what you do with demons, why?” I waited for her to explode, but she just sighed, took the cup and downed the drink before pouring another. “I mean, I have seen you go to town on them, I’ve even stopped you from going to far but he’s talking about you being in hell.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” She downed the drink in her hand again, but when she went for another shot, I took the bottle away. “Later, okay, just not now.”

“It’s never now with you, and there is never a later, so I don’t expect an answer, just… be careful.” I was about to continue when the door opened and the boys came in. Jai and I exchanged glances. This was going to stay between us.

“Hey,” Sam greeted as Dean put the bags on the table. Jai actually started smiling as the taller man walked over and kissed her gently on the forehead, a little bit more affection than she was used to, but it made me smile to watch her blush. “Are we late to the party?”

“Wait,” Dean joked, “you broke out a new bottle without me?” He cozied up in the chair beside me and elbowed me gently. “Thought we were playing a game.”

“We are,” I shrugged and closed the laptop, clearing off the books and the machine so we could eat. “Jai isn’t though,” I pointed out and watched her eyes go to mine. I raised my brow in a right? look and she nodded. One of us had to stay focused. “Let’s eat and then we can think about all the fun we’re going to have.”

Dean licked his lips, looked me over and winked before diving into his cheeseburger, but it was the eyeroll from Jai that had me laughing. There were laughs around the table, a few small conversations, a debate between Jai and Dean.

When the food was put away, and the table was cleared, Jai moved to the couch, grabbed the remote and put on an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, to which she promptly started laughing, which only annoyed Dean. Sam brought out the glasses and sat down at the table with me as Dean grabbed the remote and shut it off.

“Asshole!” Jai snapped.

“You doing this or what?” Dean nudged at her shoulder.

“Or what, I want to be sober while tramping through Bourbon street. Someone has to watch your ass.” She smiled and all he did was shake his head.

“You shouldn’t be watching my ass at all.” He sat down at the table beside me and pulled the glass closer. “So, what? Shot for Shot?”

“Or Truth or Dare,” Jai offered but Dean shook his head, I gave a resounding no and Sam just lifted a brow. “You all are damn chickens.”

Dean turned to me, “think you could take me?”

“Without a doubt.” And Sam slid the glass across the table.

“I’m out if that’s what you two are playing.” Which got Dean to smile.

“She’s right, you’re a damn chicken,” but his eyes landed on mine, “ready?”

“Are you?”

“Dean, you’re asking for trouble,” Jai whispered and I leaned back in the chair to shush her. “Okay, but it’s your funeral.”

And that began the night. By the time we were done, Dean and I had polished off not only that bottle of whiskey but half the next before Sam called time and took the glasses away.

“We weren’t done,” Dean sighed and Sam shook his head.

“You are if you wanna make it down the road.” Jai hopped over the couch, grabbed her jacket and slipped it on. “Do you want to meet us downstairs?”

“Do I look like I need five minutes to fix my makeup?” Jai stopped, looked him over, but wisely didn’t say a word while he stared at her. She smiled, grabbed her phone and slipped it in her pocket as Sam found his jacket. “She’s an ass,” he whispered, kissing me softly as I grabbed my bag. “How are you feeling? Didn’t kick your ass, did I?”

“Hardly.” I sighed, placing my arms on his shoulders as I stared into his eyes, a little glassy from the amount of alcohol he had consumed. “Part of me is willing to forfeit our trip tonight and call Cas.”

“Cas?” Dean whispered, but it was loud enough to catch Sam’s attention and Dean cleared his throat. “Maybe later, let’s go have some fun.”

Jai giggled, Sam moved towards the door and Dean pivoted before taking my hand and pulling me with him out into the hallway.

It was only two houses down before we were able to take a quick turn onto Bourbon street. We didn’t wind up in the middle of anything but a crowd and the hold on my hand grew tighter. Sam and Jai moved up beside us as we surveyed the area.

“Well, the angel did say to blend in, that we were the safest we would ever be, so…” Jai cleared her throat, “I think I want a Zombie.”

“A what?” Dean questioned but Sam laughed.

“Frozen Daiquiri kind of drink. She told me about it the other day.” Sam shrugged. “You said it was grape flavored, right?”

“Did it come with one of those umbrellas?” Dean quipped and I knew it was coming.

“No,” she sighed, turned and looked at him, “But it comes with one of these.”

She flipped him right off as she walked by, laughing. Dean turned to me and shook his head. “I’m thinking we should have gone with your idea.”

“Still time.” I smiled but that was when Sam yelled out from the crowd and we decided to follow. Not more than a block down was Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop and Jai had already dipped into the crowded bar. “Wait, she went in alone?”

“Yeah, guess she’s feeling a little brave,” Sam smiled, but he was right by that door, watching over the crowd as she grabbed four of the white styrofoam cups before making her way out. “Hey,” he smiled as she stepped through the crowd and took two of the cups, passing them on to Dean and I, “you doing okay?”

“Right as rain, my tall protector, I even managed to scare off some little imp all by myself.” She laughed as she took a sip of the drink and I waited for it… in three… two… one. “AGH! Holy hell!” A hand went to her forehead and she groaned through the brainfreeze, “fucking hell, that hurts.”

“Dumbass!” Dean mumbled, rolling his eyes as he took a sip and automatically placed the ball of his hand against the side of his head. “Nope, sorry, you’re right. God damn!”

“Jerk!” Jai snarked before walking by and the three of us followed.

The trip down Bourbon, or the three passes we made up one side of the street and down the other turned quickly into a challenge for Dean and Jai and I wish I had brought earplugs with me as she grabbed his arm, passed her hurricane, the current drink in her hand, to Sam and yanked Dean into the open bars.

“Oh, Gods!” I groaned as the two of them made their way up onto the stage.

“Really?” Sam grinned, “they’re doing that?”

“I blame you,” I poked him in the arm, “you gave her the last drink she had, not to mention the two shots of Jager before that.”

“What the hell?” Sam whispered and stepped closer as the music started up. “Oh, no, not again.”

Dean grabbed the microphone out of Jai’s hand and started singing .

“I’m too sexy for my shirt, to sexy for my shirt, so sexy it hurts…” I was in shock. Not that he was singing but that he was dancing along with it, and Sam was nearly bent over with laughter. “Think you could do better than that?” He challenged Jai and I rolled my eyes. She never stopped singing and he was asking her that. Jai snagged the mic, “Okay, what do you got?”

“I want your ugly, I want your disease. I want your everything as long as it's free.” Sam literally was on the ground at this point and all I could do was shake my head, and hide my face. This was the worst horrible karaoke I had ever heard, but they went back and forth for three… count them, three songs.   

The next up was Bohemian Rhapsody and then suddenly we had a duo. Paradise by the Dashboard Light and now Sam was shaking his head, even more embarrassed when the two of them were talking during it, actually going through the words, and I’m pretty sure I heard Dean make a few of those sounds the night before. My eyes were wide, couldn’t believe what was going on right on stage and finally, the torture ended.

Until they came outside.

Jai was laughing hysterically and Dean was all smiles but they were either both more drunk than when they went in or on such a high from the competition that they were buzzed with adrenaline. Either way it was weird to see them getting along so well. It didn’t, however, last as long as I hoped.

One wrong thing and they were nagging each other again. The crowd picked up, just as they were in the middle of arguing over the best way to dispose of a vampire, and suddenly he was turning in a circle. I moved up to him, took him by the arm and righted him until he was looking right at me.

“Dean?”

The panic that filled his features was clearly evident but it got much worse when he looked around once more.

“Jai? Where did she go?” His voice was full of anger but his body shook. Not good, not good at all.

“Calm down, she’s fine, she was holding Sam’s hand, remember?” I watched his eyes get bigger.

“Sam,” like the revelation hit him. He turned again. “SAM!” his hand took mine and we moved through the crowd. “SAM!!!”

“Dean, stop, I’m sure their fine.” I pushed up behind him, hoping that the contact would calm him down but he turned and grabbed me by the shoulders. “Dean?”

“You don’t understand…” he whispered, “I have to find my brother.”

“Okay, well, we need to get you to a spot outside this crowd and then we can call. They both have phones on them.” I whispered, placing my hands on his cheeks, locking his eyes on me and he nodded but he didn’t stop shaking. “They can protect each other, you know that.”

“I gotta…” he said softly, “gotta find Sam.” He was drifting into a full panic and I really needed to get him away.

“No,” I stopped him and backed him up against the wall, probably the wrong thing to do but having nothing at his back seemed to be sending him into a spiral. I watched him focus as soon as he hit the bricks and his hands came up to my waist. “Dean, listen to me, Sam is fine. Jai is fine, they are together and they are safe. Do you understand me?”

“Sam,” he whispered, but that was the moment before his eyes seemed to clear and he nodded. “Yeah, I get it.”

“I’m going to take you out of the crowd and then I’m going to call them. It’s too noisy to get a line out and be able to hear them.” I waited for it to sink in and for him to acknowledge me before I took his hand and we moved back out into the street.

The backside of the St. Louis Cathedral was quiet and I was able to get Dean relatively stable before I stepped back and looked him over. He was sitting on the rock wall, his elbows on his knees, one leg jumping in a nervous twitch, as he ran his hands over his face, looking both ways constantly before I grabbed the phone from my pocket and dialed out.

It rang two times, just long enough for me to find a spot beside Dean and click the speaker button before it connected.

“Where are you?” Jai’s panicked voice seemed to mirror the man beside me and I sighed.

“We got separated,” I spoke softly, trying to keep Dean calm. “Where are you?”

“Some bar on the corner of Bourbon and somewhere.”

“Jai?” Dean whispered, grabbing my wrist to pull the phone closer, “Jai, where’s Sam?”

“Right here, Dean, we’re safe.” The younger brother’s voice seemed to deflate some of the anxiety that was pouring off Dean like a bad cologne. “There was a wave of people and I didn’t want to lose her. I’m sorry, Man, I should have yelled for you.”

“No, it’s okay,” Dean replied, letting out a breath before he nodded, “as long as the two of you are good.”

“Yeah, we’re good.” Sam tried to put a little smile in his voice to ease his brother and surprisingly it worked. “Do you want us to come get you?”

“No,” the older one snapped, but he cleared his throat, “no, why don’t you go back to the hotel, we can meet you there. I, ah… I need a few.”

“Gotcha,” and you could almost see Sam nod, “I’ll keep an eye on the short one, you just take your time.”

“Screw you, Winchester!” Jai laughed in the background but didn’t add anything to the conversation. She knew they were treading on dangerous grounds.

“Yeah, good.” Dean nodded, ran his hand down his face and sighed. “See ya.”

“Definitely.” The line disconnected and Dean sat back, put his head against the rails and closed his eyes.

“Wanna talk about it?” Dean turned and looked at me, like a deer in the headlights of a car, his lips moving like he was trying to find the words but I stopped him, running my fingers over his cheek. “You don’t have to.”

“No,” he whispered, looking up at the lights before back at me, “no, Cas…” he paused, “Cas said I probably should tell someone and hey, we’re on vacation, right, nothing to do but tell stories.” He tried to smile but I could see right through it. After a moment of silence, he cleared his throat, rubbed his hands on his legs and looked up at the lights. “About three months ago, Sam and I got into a big one, took separate cases, and I went up to Colorado with Jody.”

“The case you were sitting out on?” I questioned and his eyes went right to mine.

“Yeah,” he said quietly, “that one.” After a moment of relative stillness, he continued.  

“We were up in the Rockies, following a crypto lead that Bobby sent us on. Jody was pretty sure she knew where it was going and what it was, so, I just went with as backup.” He seemed to fade off into memories as he stared out at the road, ignoring the people passing by. “It was sometime in the afternoon, Jody had headed out on a supply run and the only way to get anywhere was on ATV, so I figured I would keep myself busy and run a perimeter check.” I reached out and took his hand, giving it a gentle squeeze as he continued. “Caught something out of the corner of my eye and just went with it. I was reckless, stupid, but you know, hindsight and all that. I went down a path I didn’t know, chasing something through the woods, misstepped, rolled down an incline, my leg got caught.”

“Oh, no, Dean.” it was genuine horror, a hunter alone and hurt, but he gave me his best bullshit smile as his eyes glistened with tears.

“Hey,” he smiled, brought my hand to his lips and kissed my fingers softly, “It’s okay, not my first rodeo.”

“Don’t do that,” I growled, “don’t play it off as if this was something you just brush off your shoulders and put it aside, Dean.”

“I know,” he sighed, “I know, I’m sorry. It’s just… look, I’m not really good at this, okay.”

“None of us are.”

After a few moments of needed silence, Dean continued. “I broke my leg, when it got caught and it was about five hours before Jody found me. The sun was starting to set, the chill was coming in. I couldn’t find my phone.” He took a deep breath. “I was in pain, and it was quiet… so damn quiet that I started to see things, pain-induced hallucinations. Jai was just down the hill from me. She had appeared out of nowhere, but she had broken her neck. Her eyes…” Dean paused as the tear slid down his cheek, “her eyes were dead, there was no life in them but they just kept staring at me. I talked to her, tried to get her to wake up. Tried to get her to move, but she…” his body started to shake with the onset of anxiety. “She was dead and I couldn’t get to her.” He smiled, a fake one to try and build up his walls but there was no way that he could do that while he was speaking, and his lips trembled as he continued. “Sam was caught in a bear trap, just out of reach, he was moaning, so damn pale it scared the hell out of me. I couldn’t get him out because I was trapped by the branch.”

He released my hand and stood suddenly, pacing back and forth in front of me, trying hard to ignore the people passing by. “Sam was dying. There was so much blood, and his lips were moving, but there was no sound, nothing. He was saying my name, trying to call out but I… I couldn’t… and you!” he knelt down in front of me and grabbed my waist as he moved as close to me as he could. “You were freezing to death. You’re lips were blue, your face…” he reached up and ran his hand over my cheek, “you were so cold. Your eyes were locked on mine and I watched it, Gwen, I watched the life go out out of them. I’ve never been so helpless, never felt so lost. I couldn’t do a damn thing.”

“You’re here now,” I pulled him closer. “Listen to me, Dean Winchester, you are here now and we’re all okay, all alive and in one piece.”

“I know, but when Sam disappeared…” he paused, caught his breath and moved his arms to wrap around me. “It just brought it all back, just that feeling of helplessness that I… I couldn’t save Sammy, I couldn’t find Jai.”

“Well, I can help you with that,” I smiled and pushed back, my nose touching his. “I know exactly where they are.”

“You do?” He grinned, “if it’s a compromising position, I just don’t wanna know.”

“Ah, there you are,” I laughed, “come on, let me take you home.”

“Thought that was my line.” Dean tilted his head, just a little and let his lips brush against mine, like a heated kiss just on the edge of a flame and I swallowed the words I was about to say. “Might even have time to make a call before we get there.”

“Oh, really,” I grinned and leaned in for the kiss, “a special phone call?”

“A special something.” He replied and closed the distance, creating another round of heat to spark the flames.

~~~~~

Dean rolled his eyes as he looked back at me as soon as we entered the hotel room and Sam was walking towards him. The younger brother embraced him like they hadn’t seen each other in five hours, but I knew it was just the way they were and that Sam needed to make sure that his brother was okay.

I walked past them, heading towards the kitchen as the boys sat down on the couch. They got right into it, needing to know what happened, how they got separated, how to not let it happen again, and as I grabbed the glasses from the counter, the door to the bedroom opened. Jai walked out, dressed in oversized sleep pants that clearly belonged to Sam and his gray flannel which again, made her look like a small fairy.

She stepped up behind the couch, wrapped her arms around Dean’s neck, and kissed him on the cheek before she walked away, without a word. Sam’s eyes followed her, with a soft smile on his face as she grabbed a seat at the kitchen table across from me. The soft mumble of the boys private conversation filled the room until she put her chin on her fist and sighed.

I looked up at her, the bored expression on her face. “Spit it out.”

“What do you wanna do?”  Jai whispered.

Looking around there was only one thing I could think of, I picked up a bottle of whiskey. Jai shrugged a general Okay to which my only reply back was a grin, and to pour a few shots.

~~~~~

Hangover breakfast at WOW Cafe and Wingery, with two very hungover boys was quite an event. A seventeen minute walk to Canal Street for a buffet had Dean groaning the whole way, until he found out there was unlimited bacon. Our waiter was nice enough to offer a complementary Bloody Mary hangover remedy that both Jai and I passed on, since the two of us seemed to be right as rain, as Sam put it.

Keeping the conversations mostly between us, Jai and I sat opposite each other as the boys worked on their meals.

“So, Cas winging in anytime soon?” Jai questioned as she took a sip of her coffee. “He kind of winged out pretty quick this morning, not even a goodbye, felt kind of hurt.”

“Really?” I replied, working on the pancakes in front of me.

“Left me with less than a wing and a prayer,” she rolled her eyes, still going, not even looking up at the faces Dean was making. “Prayers,” she shook her head at that, “Ever thought of what you actually say during them? Definitely winging that whole deal.”

“Stop, just stop.” I groaned but Sam laughed.

“Hey we should wing on over the border and go visit Dee.” She finally finished and changed the subject. “Maybe Cas could just, I don’t know, wing us over there?”

“You done?” Dean growled and she finally looked up, a fork full of scrambled eggs just far enough from her lips that she could smile.

“Not a chance in hell, playboy.” She grinned, and took a bite before looking at the three of us, “oh come on, you can’t expect to take me to a place called the wingery and not let me go on with some sort of Cas-centric jokes. What’s the fun in that? Besides, we all can’t just float through life on the back of an angel’s… wing …” she paused, inwardly critiquing her own words and shook her head, “nope, not nearly perverted enough that way.”

“You were going for perverted with that one?” Dean asked confused.

“Spend a lot of time on the back of an angel, do ya?” She grinned, and I watched Dean turn red. Her eyes narrowed. “OH, I get it, you’re on your….”

“Stop!” Sam laughed so hard he raised his hand, “please, stop, I don’t need visuals this early in the morning.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll let this go, for now.” She winked at Dean and all I could do was sit back and watch because… what do you say to that? “So, Austin?”

“You really wanna go to Austin?” I questioned.

“It’s a seven hour drive,” she begged. Well, she hadn’t been looking that up, had she? “That’s like a freaking trip to the grocery store for us.”

“Wait, why are we going to Austin?” Dean asked, putting his fork down.

“Dee.” I replied, assuming he would catch on, and he did. His eyes were a little confused at first, then suddenly they popped wide and his mouth went into that “oh” face.

“You mean Dee-Dee, like…?” He looked at her, stared at her actually and it was Jai’s turn to turn red. “That Dee… your....” he cleared his throat, “I’m game.”

“Wait?” Sam spoke up, “who’s Dee?”

“Danneel Harris,” I spoke up, still watching the way that Dean and Jai stared at each other, not longingly but like there was some sort of secret there, a pretty funny one that we weren’t privy to. “She’s an ex-hunter that Jai used to work with.”

“Harris?” Sam whispered and looked at his brother, “no, not…” he looked at Dean then at Jai, “really?”

“It was years ago,” Jai admitted in her defense, raising her hands but she elbowed Dean and his smile only grew.

“It was hot.” Dean grinned looking back at his brother, and Sam was either shocked or intrigued.

“Okay, forget I said anything of it.” New turn of events which got me to smile, because nothing throws her off her game like that. “Can we not?”

“Wait, now, I think I have a right to hear about this.” Sam laughed but Jai just turned a little bit more red. “Is this the one you went to Austin to see when you were with Bobby? The demon hunt?”

She went pale. “Ah, yeah.”

“Isn’t she married?” Dean piped up.

“Yeah, actually, to a guy named Jensen.”

“Jensen?” Dean looked absolutely confused. “What the hell kind of name is Jensen?”

“If it makes you feel any better, he looks like you.” She answered and went back to her coffee.

“It doesn’t,” Dean answered and shook his head, “not with a froo-froo name like that.”

“So,” Sam changed the subject, “besides Austin, where do we head to next?”

“How’s your head?” I asked, and watched as he shrugged. Dean rolled his eyes, getting more coffee from the carafe but only a half a cup came out and he scowled at Jai, who just shrugged. “How about the aquarium?”

“Water?” Jai spoke up, “you want to go to a place with water? And animals? Are you looking for a case?”

“No, I’m looking for a baby shark.” I replied.

“Don’t start!” She pointed her finger at me and shook her head, but I could already hear the humming under her breath as she went back to her breakfast.

“The aquarium sounds like a good idea,” Sam agreed and looked down at his phone. Apparently, he had been looking up attractions in the area. “They even have a zoo.”

“Ah, no!” Dean put a stop to that pretty quick. “I think we have enough animals to deal without actually finding real ones.”

“You just don’t want a monkey to pee on you.” Jai mumbled as she worked her way through the fruit that she had left on her plate.

“Damn right.” He held up his hand as the waitress walked by and handed her the coffee carafe. She disappeared for what felt like a second before returning with a full one. As soon as Dean put it down, Jai had it in her hands. “Bitch.”

“Duh,” she replied.

“So the aquarium opens in about an hour if you want to go,” Sam spoke up, ignoring the two that were acting like children. “We could go from here, or go back, change and then head there later.”

“I’m sure from here would be fine.” I agreed and the two of us made the plans for the afternoon, ignoring the ongoing jabs the two of them were taking at each other.

~~~~~

Jackson Square was just as busy on a Sunday afternoon as it was in the middle of the week, so it came as no surprise that no one seemed to notice the angel’s arrival as we made our way through the crowd. Jai had bounced on ahead, not far enough out of Dean’s sight to cause an issue, but far enough away that Sam had to straighten to full height to see which direction she had taken. Dean was checking over the tables of the “psychics” as we passed them by my hand held gently in his as he strolled along, that was until Cas came up on my other side and did the same thing.

Sam chuckled and moved on ahead, trying to lock down Jai before the crowd really picked up just before Chartres, and Dean stopped the three of us to move off to the side of the road, out of the way of the flow of people.

“Cas, you can’t just pop in like that, what if people see you?” Dean had a small amount of worry in his voice but Cas only gave a small grin.

“Trust me, no one saw me.” He winked and Dean blushed. Either Jai was corrupting the angel or he was picking up on some of Dean’s small tells in order to get a reaction on him. I was hoping for the latter. “It seems the threat has passed, and Bobby believes you are all safe.”

“Have you seen our traveling companion? No one is safe with her around, she took out a ghost on a plantation tour.” Dean rolled his eyes.

“Not exactly what I meant, Dean.” Cas raised a brow. “The reason I came now was to warn you that Bobby has a mission for you and Sam, Dean. I don’t believe that you’ll be in the city much longer.”

“That’s perfect, actually,” Dean moaned, and I could tell by the sound of his voice that he wasn’t enthused nor was he actually happy to leave. “It was getting to be a bit much, you know, this whole laying low thing.”

“Right,” Cas looked him over, took a step closer and invaded Dean’s personal space. “Are you feeling well?”

“Peachy,” Dean mumbled, but there wasn’t any guts behind it.

“You had another one, didn’t you?” The concern rolled off the angel like heat but I just let my hand wander over his back. “Why didn’t you call me?”

“Because it wasn’t anything you could fix.” Dean wanted to step back, you could see it, but he didn’t move, even when Cas’ hand came between us and his fingers brushed over Dean’s. The green-eyed man held his breath, looked down as Cas’ fingertips moved over the back of Dean’s before wrapping around them, essentially knotting us together. “Cas, don’t.”

“You can’t do this alone.” Breathing the same air seemed to make even the angel blush and as I stood there, so close, the only thing I wanted to see was that space vanish.

“You fixed it, Cas,” Dean whispered, the shaky inner voice of the man from last night poured through, “when you came to the cabin, and fixed it, you fixed me.”

“It was a broken leg, Dean,” his blue eyes moving from those green ones to the man’s lips and back, “I did nothing for your anxiety.”

“You did,” Dean nodded, “you… you did.”

That was all we were going to get out of this conversation because the world seemed to invade at that moment. We were not alone, not in a city this big and Dean took a step back, his fingers not only leaving mine, but also dropping Cas’ in the process.

The phone in Dean’s pocket rambled off the lyrics to an old Loretta Lynn song, I’m a Honky Tonk Girl, and Dean fought to get it to stop making that noise. He had picked the song on purpose, both to annoy him and make sure that he answered it in a quick enough fashion that he knew Bobby was okay.

“Yeah,” he spoke into the phone. “Ah, hang on, we’re not all here.” Dean winced at the answer to that and I could only imagine what the old man had said, but he rolled his eyes and we backed further into a doorway to block the sound. Dean put it on speaker. “Go ahead, Bobby.”

“Where the hell are the other two idjits? You might be safer in the city but you can’t just let your brother and Jai go wandering around unsupervised.”

“They’re not children.” Dean argued.

“Didn’t say they were, just that they shouldn’t be left without supervision, you know how they can get.” Bobby tried to hide the grin, but you could almost hear it in his voice. “So, here’s what I got. Dean, I need you and Sam to head over towards Salt Lake, something about a winged snake.”

“Seriously?” Dean asked in disbelief.

“Two people have gone missing since this thing showed its face.”

Dean sighed. “Let me get Sam and we’ll head out.”

“Gwen, I got something for you girls too.” He paused as if I was going to give him a reply. “Apparently there’s been some issues with a spectral moose up near Medford, Maine.”

“Do I have to bring a satellite phone?” I questioned, and it was a perfectly legitimate question. I had heard of this moose before but never in a way that would constitute actually hunting it down.

“I have a contact up there that can help you with whatever you need.”

Oh, Jai is not going to like this. Another hunter, someone she doesn’t know, in the woods… not sure which was worse. I took a breath and collected myself.

“Send me the information.” And that was the only thing he was getting.

“Good, now you find those two damn fools and get yourselves out of New Orleans before the relative peace we’ve been having wears off.” He ordered but there was one more warning before he hung up. “And Gwen, no more crossroads. Understand?”

Dean looked up at me quickly, and I played the innocent one quite well when I shook my head at him.

“I’ll let her know.” I answered and the line went dead.

“Crossroads?” Dean questioned, I had nothing, “something we need to talk about?”

“Not something that needs immediate attention, no.” I replied and looked up just as Sam stepped into our line of sight, Jai walking a few steps behind him with her eyes to her phone and a scowl on her face. She looked up, cocked her head and narrowed her eyes.

“Maine? Really?” She sighed as Dean grinned and Cas stepped forward, putting his hand on her shoulder.

“We need to talk.” He mumbled, but it was loud enough so the three of us heard, and with a look of uncertainty in Sam’s eyes, the two of them walked away.

~~~~~

We had been on the road for about eight hours before Jai had decided to quit. We had gotten on the road shortly after talking with Bobby. There was barely any time for goodbyes to the boys and Jai wasn’t happy with that at all. Neither was I to say the least, but at least one of mine could pop in at any given moment.

The old motel wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it wasn’t long after we had gotten settled that Jai started pacing. She wasn’t her normal anxious self, she just couldn’t sit still.

“Why don’t you sleep?” I asked and watched as she whipped around and faced me. “You’re exhausted. I’ll check in with Bobby and the boys, grab a shower and relax.”

“Yeah,” she whispered, “maybe.”

She grabbed her bag, not taking a moment to think of anything else and suddenly she was in the bathroom.

I took out my laptop and set it up on the table. It was time to do some research into whatever it was that Bobby was sending us after, before we walked in there blind.

Chapter Text

Chapter Nineteen

 

Dean

The bunker was too quiet, even with the vents going, the radio on low, the way I could hear Sam sneaking through the halls, it was just too damn quiet. Even the tapping of the phone on the table, something I was doing as I flipped it end to end in my hand, still didn’t make enough noise to get rid of the feeling that it was too quiet.

Sam came up, two cups of coffee in hand and cleared his throat. I looked up as he handed the mug to me and sighed, put down the phone and took the cup, but I really didn’t want it, hell, I didn’t really want anything, my stomach was tied in knots and the fear of everything I ate coming back up put the kibosh on food.

“Dean, what’s going on?” Sam questioned, sitting down across from me. I pulled my feet down from the table and planted them before I turned in the seat, crossed my arms on the table and rolled my eyes.

“I got a text,” I waited for him to respond, wanted to see his face, if he was shocked, worried, wondering, but he just sat back and raised a brow.

“Yeah,” he shrugged, “from who?”

“Jai,” I replied and that got his attention. He quickly picked up his phone and looked at the screen. I assume there was nothing on it because he put it back down with a huff. “You two still arguing?”

“Yes,” he paused, “no,” and he sighed, “I don’t know, sometimes she hard to read.”

“Well, that would explain why she’s bothering the crap out of me.” I sat back in the chair and took the phone up again, tipping it from end to end as I rotated it. “Got a few from Gwen too.”

“So, what’s going on?”

“They’re in Canada.” Sam blinked at me, as if the neighboring country was the strangest thing he’s ever heard of. “I don’t know what their chasing but…” I took a breath, “this is getting a little ridiculous, dontcha think? It’s been two months since New Orleans and I’m going out of my damned mind.”

“We’ve been busy, Dean, they’ve been busy.” Sam mumbled but that didn’t take the grouchy as hell edge off his voice. He dragged in air, shook his head and rubbed a hand across the lines that seemed permanently etched on his forehead. “Yeah, you’re right, it’s been too long, and I’m worried too.”  

“As you should be,” I snapped and stood, grabbing the cup of coffee as I made my way to the steps.

“Hey, Dean,” I stopped with my back to him and slowly turned, “why do you think they haven’t called.”

SHE hasn’t called because the last thing you said to her was you thought she was being childish,” I answered and watched Sam look down. “Why Gwen hasn’t called either one of us… I have no idea, but I do know Cas is watching out for them.”

“I’ve tried to call, you know,” Sam sighed, “it goes straight to voicemail.”

“They’ve been in Canada a week, this was the first time I even got a text, maybe they have crap for signal.”

“Maybe.” Sam took a sip of the coffee, and started flipping through the pages of the book.

I nodded, turned to the right and headed off towards the garage. We were coming up on hunts left and right but for the last two days, things had been suddenly silent and I wasn’t taking that for granted, I needed to get stuff done.

The hood to Baby was wide open, the rag I had used to clean a couple of the engine parts with was just where I left it, but I couldn’t get myself to pick it up and start again on the tune-up. I closed my eyes, leaned back against the tool box and drew my phone from my pocket. Yep, this was about to suck.

The ring on the line went three times before it hit voicemail.

You’ve reached Gwen, if I don’t know you, leave the password and your number. If we’ve spoken, leave the password and your case. If we know each other personally, this isn’t a blow off, I’m busy. Send a text.

I rubbed the bridge of my nose and braced myself as I finally decided I had had enough. “Gwen, you know I’ve tried the text, to both of you, I’ve given you the space you asked for to finish this hunt and now I’m done with it. Done with giving you time, done with waiting this out, done with Jai and her cryptic son of a bitch messages. Call me back. Now!”

I hung up and closed my eyes. God, I’m such a douche! Why did I leave it like that? Why did I sound so…

The phone vibrated in my hand, the screen lit up with Gwen’s name and my hand shook. I hit the accept and put it to my ear.

“You’re worried, aren’t you?” Her voice was like magic, everything in me stopped. I stopped shaking, stopped obsessively worrying about whether or not she was alive, or dead, or hurt, but now I was something else. “And if you say you’re sorry, or try to explain in anyway, I’m going to hang up.”

“It’s been a week,” and that came out like I was some kind of dick, but she just chuckled. “Listen, I know I’m an overbearing son of a bitch, but you gotta understand....”

“Hey, come on, I need a drink and this town shuts down at nine.” Jai’s voice in the background seemed to lift me even higher.

“Go inside, I’ll be right in.” Gwen’s reply was flat, like she really didn’t want to go in but she wasn’t leaving Jai alone. “Listen, Dean, you know I do understand, I really, truly do, same as Sam. We’re okay, this one’s done and in the bag, as Jai would say, so we’re finishing up and disappearing.”

“She still pissed at Sam?” I smiled, but there wasn’t any type of reply from the other end. “Gwen, what’s wrong?”

“It screws with your thoughts, almost like a Djinn but…” I closed my eyes, this wasn’t going to be good. “She was first in, as always, it got to her and it used you and Sam in a very bad way, so tell him…” she stopped for a moment, as if she were searching for something, “tell him to give her time. She’s not pissed at him, she’s just… honestly, I don’t know what she is, but she’ll be fine.”

“Yeah,” I sighed, because when did that ever happen in our favor. “Should I have Cas wing you two here?”

“No, there are things we have to finish up and then we’ll be heading south.” She was straight and to the point, but sometimes I just wish she would cave and let me take care of her. “There’s a possibility that we might be heading out towards Bobby’s, but you didn’t hear it from me and if you happen to be there when we arrive, you and I never had this conversation.”

“Gotcha.” I knew when the silence came over the end of the line that she had said her piece. “Gwen,” and she hummed as if she were working on something and barely paying attention, “go home.”

“All in due time, Dean.” She answered and then the line went dead. It was the same response she had given me the last time we talked and I told her I wanted her here at the bunker. It wasn’t a way to throw me off, it was an answer, just a cryptic one.

I looked down at the phone, didn’t know if I wanted to throw it or not, and slipped it in my pocket. Knowing they were okay seemed to help as I stepped up to the car, stripped off the flannel I was wearing and looked down at the engine. Now, where the hell did I stop?

~~~~~

I could hear the two of them jabbering away. Okay, so Sam and Cas becoming Chatty Cathys, not a usual thing, and with the cryptos out in full force, I couldn’t really blame them for talking it up, but as I walked into the library, the topic of the conversation wasn’t… didn’t have anything to do with the cryptos and more to do with...

“Gwen is fine, Cas. Dean talked to her the other day.” Sam’s voice was soft, reassuring, and I shook my head, turned and went into the kitchen, because this was going to require beer. Bringing two out besides the one I was drinking from, I stepped up and handed one to each of them as Cas nearly tossed himself back in the chair. “Dean, please tell him that the girls are fine.”

“Hiya, Cas,” I smiled the best I could because seriously, I was this close to sending Cas to go get them. How was I supposed to reassure him when I was fighting with my own demons?

“Hello, Dean.” Cas’ voice was low, like he was a little depressed and I patted him on the shoulder before I took the seat beside him.  

“The girls are fine,” I repeated Sam’s statement and watched as his blue eyes focused on a spot on the floor. “They’re headed back south soon. Whatever they were hunting, they got the best of, so no worries there.”

I reached out, put my hand on his lower arm and gave him a gentle squeeze. I could almost feel him start to relax. Who would have thought a celestial being would relax at the touch of a human? I tried to hide the grin as Sam cleared his throat, taking my eyes from the profile of the man beside me.

“I think we need to talk about this whole influx,” I moved my hand, caught the shift of Cas in the seat beside me and tried to focus on Sam and the worry in his voice. “The girls have been working their asses off.”

“I’m not sure that’s accurate, Gwen seems physically fine in that aspect.” I whipped my head back in his direction. Cas talking about her ass wasn’t what threw me off, it was the blush that seemed to turn his neck red that got me. Had he seen her lately, had he… I tried to stop the pounding in my chest as his eyes met mine. “My apologies.”

“No, no,” I grinned, “but you’re gonna have to tell me all about it later.”

Cas flushed more and turned his head away, embarrassed, which only got a smile from Sam. It took all I had to take my eyes off the angel, but when I finally did, Sam’s grin had gone as he held his phone up. His brow was furrowed, his hand shook and he slowly looked up at me, his lips kinda parted as his breathing grew heavy.

“Sam?” His face paled and those hazel eyes clouded over. “Sammy?” I got up from the chair and walked over beside him, reached out and grabbed his shoulder. “Sam, talk to me.”

“They caught a case in Vermont,” he mumbled, but there seemed to be something else that he wasn’t saying. “I don’t get it, why don’t they take a break?”

“I’m sorry,” I patted him on the back and rounded the table, holding out a hand for the phone, “have you met them?”

“Yeah, but,” Sam shook his head and gave me the device, “they haven’t even stopped to take a breather, Dean. Think about it. Two months since Nola and not only have they not stopped but they’ve taken on things we haven’t even heard of. I mean, what the hell is a Ahool?”

“Some jerk that needs his nose broken?” I replied without thinking. Sam scoffed and I looked up from the coffee that I had picked up.

“Okay, so how about a hodag, goatman, Michigan dogman, and a shunka warakin?” Sam named off, looking down at the journal in front of him.

“Are those Pokemon?” I smiled and watched him tilt his head, glaring angrily at me.

“I don’t believe there are any kind cryptos classified as a Pokemon.” Cas spoke up and that glare shifted to the man beside me, who was staring down at his fingers. In the silence that followed, Cas lifted his head and looked between the two of us completely confused. “Did I say something wrong?”

“No, Cas,” I grinned, because what’s more adorable than a clueless angel. I turned the phone towards me, looked at the text and felt the color drain from my face. “What the hell!”

“Something wrong?” I heard Cas question as I stood from the table, pressed the call button and listened to it ring. Setting it down on the table, I pressed the speaker button and let my head drop when I heard the sound of a giggle on the line.

“Hello, Sam.”  Gwen’s voice came over the line and I smiled.

“Hey, Gwen, it’s Dean.” I tried to hold back just how much hearing her voice had me grinning but the singing in the background almost had me rolling my eyes. Sam, through, Sam was sitting with his eyes closed as if the sound was hypnotic. “What’s she on this time?”

“I believe it’s Ballroom Blitz, but she’s played it about a half dozen times now and I am not positive anymore. The words are all blending together.”

“So, you took a case in Vermont? What are you after? Bigfoot?” I slowly sat down, pulling the chair up to the table. Cas has moved closer, as if he didn’t want to be too far away, like he just wanted to hear her voice.

“It’s called the Awful.” Gwen replied but she must have left the room because the singing in the background grew quiet.

“That sounds terrible.” Sam smiled, but it was a low response as if he didn’t mean for anyone to hear.

“No, it’s Awful,” Gwen replied and Sam grinned again. “A griffin-ish creature.”

“Is that a technical term?” Sam laughed.

“Actually, it’s quite accurate.”

“So, another hunt?” I broke in and I heard the door behind her open, the sound of music grew louder, then slowly got quiet as Gwen mumbled something away from the phone. “You okay?”

“Jai was asking me a question.” Gwen sighed. Sam’s face suddenly dropped, like frustration and anger had ripped threw him. “I’m sorry, was there something you called for?”

I raised a brow, looked at Sam as if to ask him what had gotten him so upset, but he just shook his head. “Ah, nah, we’re good, just wanted to confirm what you were hunting.”

“That’s fine.” God, could I just take that woman into my room and shut the door. Didn’t know what it was with her voice, but it was all I had not to shiver at it. Another interruption of the door opening and a voice mumbling in the background before Gwen sighed. “Dean, I’m sorry, I have to go.”

“Be safe, check in.” I scolded. Maybe it wasn’t a scold but it definitely sounded like one.

“Yeah, bye.” And the call disconnected.

“That was helpful,” Sam sighed. “Why didn’t Jai answer?”

“Did you hear that music, I’m pretty sure the volume of it alone made her deaf.” I sat down in the chair and pushed the phone back over to him. “She’ll call when she’s ready.” I turned back to Cas and nudged him with my elbow. “You ready to talk about it?”

“Are we still referring to Gwen’s backside?” Cas questioned and I bit my lower lip, the thought of it alone was too tempting.

“Gross,” Sam mumbled, stood and walked out of the library and towards the kitchen with his coffee cup.

I smiled at Sam and watched as he left before the smile faded and I turned to Cas. “Okay, give me the low-down.”

“What makes you think my motives are anything but coming home?”

“Because that look, Cas, I know that look. You’re just as worried as we are, so spill.”

“The influx is bigger than we thought, and the girls seem to be in the middle of it.” Cas sighed, sat forward to brace his elbows on the armrests, and folded his fingers together. I reached out, placed my hand on over his knitted fingers, and gave a gentle squeeze. I would never do this while Sam was in the room, it just felt private. “I’m not one to admit this, but I’m afraid of leaving them alone.”

“The east coast has always been a beacon for the unusual, Cas, you told me that. It’s why there’s so many witches there.” I shivered at the thought of covens, all the damn bodily fluids they seem to like to spew everywhere and I breathed through the bile that threatened to come out.

“Witches are one things, as are ghosts, but these. They’re not moving with the flow of the others. It as if there’s a line holding back, keeping them there.” Okay, never really thought of that. I narrowed my eyes at Cas, getting locked into his blue ones. “Dean,” he leaned closer, close enough that I could feel his breath, “how are you feeling?”

“Let’s not go all Doctor Phil on me now, Cas, I’m fine.” I tried to sit back but there was just a pull towards him and personal space seemed to disappear. “I’m…” I swallowed, hard, and it almost hurt, “I’m fine.”

“You’re not, I can see it in your eyes.”

It was hard to breathe with him so close and my fingers clenched on his just a little bit more as the anxiety seemed to flare up. Cas moved his hand, sliding mine between the warmth of his and my jaw tightened as crazy images of the past flew at me and my heart seemed to skip. He was right, I wasn’t fine, not at all, but I had been doing a great job of hiding it before this point.

“Jai doesn’t need me anymore.” I whispered, and it wasn’t something I meant to have sneak out, but those eyes, how could I deny them.

“She’s always going to need you, she always has.” The only response was that I shook my head. How did he know our relationship, as screwed up as it had been from the beginning, how did he know it would continue? “And Gwen?”

“She’s…” I paused, because the next few words were anything but easy to get out. “She’s what I need, Cas, you and her, Sammy and Jai, you’re my life, but she’s…”

“And she always will be, just like I will, like Sam and Jai, but why would that cause you such turmoil?”

I moved to get away from him, but his grip only tightened, the racing of my heart accelerated and I found it hard to take a breath. “What if she... what if she doesn’t need me?”

“I find that hard to imagine.” Cas smiled… the bastard smiled, and I sat up straight. “It’s been a year, do you think she needs you less?”

“I,” what was I going to say, no? Yes? Maybe, what the fuck? “I have no idea.”

“Dean,” Cas sighed, and my name was just like a whisper on his lips, one that melted everything in me, made me need and want and, oh crap, I was so far gone. “There isn’t a moment that goes by that she doesn’t wish she was here with you, with us, but she’s much like you in the aspect that there are things that need to be done before she can make that kind of commitment.”

“Is that what she meant?” I posed the question out loud? “All in due time? Is that what it meant?”

“I have no doubts that’s what she means when she tells you that.”

I inhaled as much as I could, even with the fact that my ribs seemed to be clenching around my lungs, making it hard to do so, but with Cas so close things seemed to lighten. Sam walked back in just at that moment and cleared his throat. Those angel eyes turned abruptly to him and I let out a breath that I didn’t know I was holding.

“So, what do we do now?” Sam asked, but I didn’t have an answer for that, hell, I barely had an answer for what I wanted for lunch.  Sam sat down, books in front of him and looked at the two of us before that frown came up on his lips. “Right.”

“I’m going to head to the garage,” I spoke up, knowing I could always find something in there to work on. The bike, Gwen really loved motorcycles so maybe… “I’ll be up in the garage.”

“Dean,” Sam’s voice stopped me on the stairway. I glanced back at him, at the worry that was in his eyes and I wanted to reassure him,  but even that part of me wasn’t up for it. “They’re going to be okay.”

“I know.” I nodded and left the room, left Cas sitting there, left Sam to think this whole thing over himself. Great, what good was I when I couldn’t even get my own head straight?

~~~~~

I was stuck. Pinned against the wall, the pain was blinding, and I fought with everything to stay awake. There was a numbing heat in my arms, like they were on fire but I could barely feel the way my fingers moved, if I was moving them at all being tied above my head.

The rake of a knife across my stomach sent waves of nausea though me and it took everything not to puke, but the pain was brief and I fought to open my eyes. What I saw before me was something I never thought I would, her blue eyes stared into mine, that cruel smile that she reserved for demons and monsters was aimed at me. The bloody knife, her knife, one that was edged with the design of a feather, black as coal, just like the eyes that now focused on me, twirled in her fingers.

“No,” I knew I whispered it, but my bloody, sticky lips barely moved. “Jai.”

“Not anymore,” her voice was almost sultry but that smile, it wasn’t hers.

She took a step back, licked the edge of the blade down her tongue, collecting the blood that pooled there on her lips and smacked them, like she had been eating strawberry syrup. The heat blazed against my ribs where she had sliced some sort of sigil into my skin and I felt another body close to me.

I whipped my head in that direction, away from the petite demon that was walking around in Jai’s skin and met the darkened eyes of Gwen. They flashed with pools of murky black as her fingers came up and caressed my cheek, fingernails drawing blood as they left trails in their wake.

“Gwen?” This name clearer than the last.

“Poor Dean,” she pouted at me, and I could feel the pain of broken ribs as I tried hard to control my breathing. “Poor, poor Dean. You know, this is how it’s going to end, with you as a sacrifice and the two people you love gone forever.”

“Cas?” One more name to slip from my lips.

“Oh, don’t worry about the angel,” Gwen winked, and pressed her body against mine, causing the wounds to bleed, the heat to flare and I closed my eyes, trying hard to hold it back. “He’s in such a better place.”

Gwen turned her head, grasping my chin as she turned and I watched as Cas walked into whatever God-forsaken room we were in. He was different too, head held high, none of his doubts showing in the way he walked. Like he was the Grand Poobah of the whole world and Gwen let me go. She strolled right over and into the Angel’s waiting arms. The kiss they shared was deep, lustful, and whoa, but it was the giggle from Jai that got me to look at the little hunter.

She was sitting back on a chair, one leg over the arm and her fingertip playing with the edge of the knife as she watched on with just as much lust as they were showing.

“What the fuck is going on?” I snapped and Cas looked up. “Where am I?”

“Hell,” Cas stated pointedly and with one hand slipping from Gwen’s waist he moved closer. “A hell of your own design.” He stopped right in front of me, placed a hand on my chest and ran it up until he could grasp my throat, holding just under my chin so I couldn’t move. His breath was warm against my lips, his eyes locked on mine and I could feel him, all of him. “Where no one needs you, and all you are is a prize.”

“Cas, please, make this stop.” I pleaded but the man before me only smiled, tipped his head just a little, before his free hand ran up the underside of my arm. Whatever hell this was, personal space was still not something he understood because his whole body was pressed against me. “Please, I’m beggin' you. Let me go.”

“Mmm, I like it when you beg,” he moved from my line of sight, holding my neck as he squeezed just a little bit more but he was still huffing against my skin, until he was just beside my ear, close enough to whisper. “But Cas can’t come out and play right now, he’s in a little hell of his own.”

Cas, or the body of Cas backed away, smiling at me and ran his hand up my cheek to press his palm against my sticky skin and patted me softly.

“Sam,” I knew it came out needy but I hadn’t heard from him, hadn’t seen him but as Cas, or the body of Cas, stepped up to Jai. He casually looked back at me, held out a hand for her and I watched as she took is, kissing him lightly on the cheek.

“Sam!” He mimicked, as if he knew I was going to start yelling for him. Jai stood and I watched as he looked down at her, cupped her chin with his hand and kissed her tenderly on the forehead. What the actual fuck! This had to be hell, Jai would never let him do that.  “Baby, tell him what happened to his precious little brother.”

“Don’t call her that,” I snapped, because I was so used to the reply but Jai just let her finger run up the length of his blue tie. Gwen came over, placed her hands on Cas’ shoulders and turned the man away from the shorter hunter, distracting him with her lips, and as much as it was a turn-on any other day of the week, this was too much. Jai let him go, let him sit in the chair she had occupied and sauntered over to me, a little too much sway of her hip. “Jai, please…”

“Ah, honey, you really don’t have to beg,” she whispered as she twirled that knife in her hand. I felt it slice my skin like a paper cut as she moved up close enough that she could whisper, just like Cas did. “It’s really not my thing.”

“Where’s Sam?” I snapped and watched those blue eyes turn black.

“Where all the good little boys go,” She slipped her hand over my cheek and turned my head to the left, snapping her fingers as the firelight roared to life.

“No!” I snapped, looking at the man who hung just like I did not more than fifteen feet away, but his head was down against this chest, his hair caked with blood. His body was limp, there was no way he was breathing right if he was just hanging there and my eyes scanned down the length of him. Why was he so red? Was it just the way the light was reflecting off his clothes. “No,” I breathed, or stopped breathing because he wasn’t wearing clothes, nothing… nothing at all. Sam was naked, and that red wasn’t just his blood, wasn’t just on his skin, it was him, all of him, all of his insides on the outside. “NOOOO!!!!”

~~~~~

I sat up, took in a big gulp of air and fought against the hands that held me down, the ones that tried to grab my face. I reached for my blade, the one under the mattress, but there was a body on top of me suddenly and I was pressed against the bed again.

“Sam!” I screamed, or I thought I screamed, maybe it was a muted moan.

“Dean, open your eyes,” Cas’ voice filled me with fear, as I fought against him. “Dean, listen to me, open your eyes.”

“NO!” I thrashed, tried to strike him but he held to tightly. “Get the hell away from me!”

“Dean, I need you to open your eyes.” The growl in his voice instantly made me freeze and slowly I blinked them open, afraid of what I might see, that this wasn’t Cas, but the face in front of me wasn’t that demon. “Breathe, Dean, please.”

“Cas,” it came as the air rushed from my lungs, was that close enough? My body shook from the rush of adrenaline and he back away slowly, pulling me with him until we were sitting eye to eye.

The door opened with a bang, slamming against the concrete wall and Sam’s figure took up most of the doorway.

“Dean!” His voice was like music, the most perfect sound I had ever heard and he approached the bed, my eyes locked on his. “Cas, what happened?”

“A nightmare, it seems.” Cas sighed, back away, but didn’t release his hold on my left hand as Sam crowded in. The bed dipped with my brother’s weight and Sam looked over my face.

“Heya Sammy,” I choked through a sob as he placed a hand on my shoulder.

“Hey, Dean.” He whispered his replied, patted me softly on the cheek and inhaled as deep as he could get. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” I sighed, ran a hand down my face and nodded, “just a bad dream, I guess.” I wasn’t offering any more and he knew it. After a minute or two, he nodded back his reply and stood.

“If you need anything, just yell.” Sam eyed me over, then narrowed his glare at me. “Anything.”

“Yeah, yeah, I got it.” I snapped but there wasn’t any heat behind it and Sam grabbed the door knob, pulling it shut behind him. That was when I was done, I couldn’t hold it in, especially with the blue eyes that were staring me down. The cries came out as quiet huffs and suddenly Cas’ arms were locked tightly around me and my hands were around his neck, up in his hair, and I couldn’t let go. “Don’t leave.”

“Dean, I…” I knew what he was going to say, but he stopped himself and nodded, “I won’t go anywhere.”

It took a long time to get the image of Sam out of my head, even staring at him through breakfast and part of the day wouldn’t scrub the scene from my mind. Jai and Gwen called, both of which I ignored, and that got a strange look from Sam, but I couldn’t hear their voices, didn’t want to hear poor Dean if I told them I was just checking in, or Jai’s snarky attitude, it reminded me too much of… of them.

In the end, it was midnight before I even attempted to fall asleep again, but that plan was almost crushed when a text message came through from Gwen.

Gwen: Got a minute, I need your advice about a car.

I took a deep breath, stared at the message before setting it face down. What if it wasn’t her? What if it was the demon? What if I was being lured into a trap?

And then my brain switched tracks. What if they were stuck somewhere? What if it was the middle of some damn road and they were on some fucking hunt that was going to get them killed and I didn’t answer one fucking question about a car?

I snatched the phone up and took a breath before I replied.

Dean: Might have an answer for ya.

My whole body shook as I waited for the reply.

Gwen: Oh, good.

Gwen: What does it mean when the little teapot comes on? Jai is sleeping and I don’t want to wake her.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty

Sam

It was probably ten in the morning when I decided that sitting in the library alone wasn’t the best thing in the world for me, that and I might have needed some coffee, but just on a gut feeling, I took the long way around, passing by Dean’s bedroom on my way through. He hadn’t been right, not in a few days, since the nightmares, but I swear I heard a giggle, chuckle… something that made me stop and knock on the door.

“Yeah,” he barked, but went right back to whatever was getting him to make that noise. I opened the door and looked in. What faced me was Dean’s ass in black boxers and white cotton socked feet as he lay on his stomach watching the television. Ren and Stimpy was on. “Morning.”

“You feeling alright?” I had to ask. This was Dean and he was watching cartoons. He turned over, looked at me and shrugged. The phone was beside him on the bed with an obvious text conversation going on but I couldn’t make out who. “Talking to Jai?”

“No,” he growled, because God forbid he admit to that, “talking to Gwen.” He rolled back over and continued with his show.

“Okay, I’m gonna go make coffee if you want some.” He waved at me, not bothering to look back and I shook my head, leaving him to his solitude, or as much as he can have it texting with someone on the east coast. The phone dinged as soon as I closed the door and he chuckled again.

Just as I started the pot of coffee, listened to it begin to gurgle, the phone in my pocket vibrated. Setting the newspaper down that I had found on the table, I dug the damn thing out of my pocket and gave it a grin.

Placing it to my ear, I could almost hear the attitude flowing over the line. “Morning.”

“If you say Sunshine, I seriously will pop through the line and de…” Jai paused, then let out a sigh, “nope, no more threats, right? I said that, remind me why I said that?”

“Because decking people can get your arrested… again,” I smiled cutely and hoped she heard it in my tone, but what I got back was a growl. “Thought we were doing this non-calling thing?”

“Yeah but have you heard your brother? He giggles like a girl and, geez, Sam, if I have to hear the two of them playing cutsie, lovey-dovey, kissy-face stuff over the speaker anymore I think I might puke. PLEASE, SAVE ME!” She didn’t realize that her whole big, bad hunter persona went out the door as soon as she said anything like geez, Sam , because if that wasn’t the cutest thing I had ever heard, but then again, the image of plaid skirts and pigtails might have come into play with that voice too.

“Dean’s been having a rough time so,” I poured a cup of coffee and sat down at the table in order to hold the phone a little better, “maybe letting her be that way with him for a little while would do him some good.”

“So would climbing onto his lap and giving him a little one on one time, but I don’t see the angel popping up here to be a taxi.” She huffed and I knew what she meant. It wasn’t easy being apart when there was a way we could be together, but we had all agreed that Cas wasn’t going to be popping in and flying us all over creation. “Sorry, that sounded childish too. I get that the three of them have… well, whatever they have, but…”

“I know, I want to see you too.” I smiled and looked up as Dean came in, carrying an empty mug. “So, where are you girls? Did you close up the Vermont thing?”

“Yep, and now we’re onto something called a Snallygaster.”

Dean, who decided at that moment to sit down beside me, heard and nearly spit his coffee everywhere.

“Okay, that’s a new one,” he grinned, “what the hell is a Snallygaster?”

I put the phone on speaker and cleared my throat. “Play nice.” I warned Dean, who only looked like he was about to have fun with this. “So, wanna give us the details.”

“Son of a bitch, if I thought you were going to share me, Sam, I would have lubed up more.” And Dean’s face dropped, which means she beat him to the punch. “Hey, Dean.”

“Hey, kid.” He monotoned. “Whatcha got?”

“Thought Gwen gave you everything in that moan session you had earlier.”

“Nope,” he grinned, “only the juicy bits, which were live and in stereo.”

“I don’t wanna know.” She cleared her throat and Dean swung his arm as if he had just scored. I rolled my eyes at him and watched as he sat down with a grin on his face. “Okay, so… get this…” And I smiled because she paused, “oh god, I really said that, didn’t I? Well, forget that ever came out of my mouth. Now, this is what I got from Gwen, it’s a half-bird, half-reptile, with a metallic beak. Jiminy Crickets, were these people on drugs? No wonder she likes to study this stuff. They’re all on crack.”

“Come on, Funny Stuff, just give us what you got,” Dean tried to sound annoyed but I was figuring he was actually getting into it since he leaned closer to the phone as I got up to refill my mug. Sitting back down, he had pulled out his own phone and started to look stuff up. “Okay, so no need for details on description, I pulled up the site that Gwen keeps sending me to. That thing is fugly. So what’s it been doing?”

“Taking off with little kids, mostly from the playground in the middle of town.” She sighed and I could hear the chair move, the sound of a pot against a mug and then she was back. “Six so far, the last one was just before we got here. We’re adapting the seal of Babylon in order to capture it, once we find out where it is. A heptagram is one of the known ways to keep it away, the seal should, in theory, lock it down and we can get rid of it.”

“Good that you have a plan.” Dean nodded, but I couldn’t help the gnawing at my gut.

“You’re using the key of Solomon from Bobby’s?” I questioned and watched as Dean looked up.

“Hey, I’m just going by what the bosses tell me, Sammy, but yeah, looks like it. I know I’ve seen it in his books a couple times. You two doing okay? No freaky-deaky stuff happening in your neck of the woods?”

“No, we’re,” I stopped for a moment, making eye contact with Dean and watched as he shrugged, “we’re good, what’s going on, Jai?”

“Listen, do me a huge favor, take the two hour ride to Bobby’s and check on the old man for me. I just can’t shake this feeling, you know?”

She never asked us to go anywhere, but if that’s what she wanted, and it was Bobby. “Sure,” I answered and listened to her relax a little.

“Okay, G is out of the shower, we’re getting ready to head to the FCPD to see what we can get for witness statements.” You could hear her scooping up the phone and the sound changed, as she took it off speaker. “Thanks, Sam.”

“Hey, what about me?” Dean asked truly offended.

“Douche.” She laughed, and blew kisses into the phone, her taunting way of saying goodbye before the line went dead.

“So,” Dean shrugged. “Looks like we’re going to Sioux Falls.”

“Looks like it,” I mimicked his shrug. “I’ll go get dressed.”

“I’ll go pack the car.”

And with that, we both went our separate ways, at least for the next fifteen minutes until I met him in the garage. Everything but a few books and my messenger bag was still packed in the car, so it was just a matter of getting in and getting on the road.

~~~~~

It was only two hours but leave it to Dean to make it a little bit of a road trip. He stopped at the only gas station in Lebanon and piled the junk food in, grabbed two cups of coffee, some beef jerky and cranked the music for the first half. It was good to see him smiling, but as soon as we crossed that hour mark, the music went low and I kept getting the feeling he wanted to talk.

“What is it?” I questioned, still looking at the laptop in front of me, still decoding the spell that Cas had dropped off months ago. He didn’t seem to be in any rush, so I was taking my time just to make sure I got it right.

“Why do you think Jai wanted us to come up?” He blurted it out like it had been hanging there since we hung up and I glanced up at the road before looking at him, and shrugging. “I mean, it’s Bobby, she could have easily just called him.”

“Maybe she misses him, maybe this is her way of making sure that we’re all safe, you know, face to face.” I looked down at the screen and slowly closed the laptop. “Hey, Dean, your dream the other night, what happened?”

“I don’t wanna talk about it.” Dean sighed, and I knew it was going to ruin his mood if I pushed so I just nodded and stared out toward the road. Nothing but the sound of the tires on the asphalt filled the air for a few minutes and then he sighed. “Jai was a demon, Gwen was something else, demon too, I think. Cas… Cas was a monster and you,” he cleared his throat and gripped the wheel, “you were dead, and I don’t mean Cas or Crowley can rip you back from hell dead, I mean really, really dead.”

“It was just a dream, right?” I couldn’t believe he was sharing, so I took it easy on him.

“I don’t know, not anymore. It felt so real.” I watched as his hand began to shake as he ran it down his face. “Anyway, it’s okay because you’re fine, Cas is fine… the girls, they’re okay. No demons here.” He glanced at me, fake smile on his face, “right?”

“Definitely,” I agreed, what more could I do? He reached over and turned the music up just as his phone pinged.

“Here, can’t look while I’m driving.” he handed me the phone and I opened it. Should have looked first, because what I got made me close my eyes. His face paled as he stared at me. “What? Sammy, what’s wrong?”

“You should probably pull over and take this yourself.” I sighed and he quickly steered the car off to the shoulder before he snatched the phone away and a grin lit up his face.

“Sam,” his face was serious again before he broke out into a smile, “you’ve seen naked women before, why are you acting so damn prudish?”

“I’d rather not see Gwen naked, Dean, so next time, answer your own text.” I shook my head and watched that smile on his face light up his eyes before he started texting her back, a sort of winning grin on his face before he put it down and pulled back out on the road. “Hey, when did you two start doing that?”

“You’d rather not see her naked, but you wanna know when we started sending nude pics?” Dean looked over at me a little confused, “you hit your head somewhere between dinner and breakfast?” When I raised a brow, he just looked at the road and shrugged, “I don’t know, in between the Stonecoats and Nola, it just kinda started happening, why?”

“You realize this is the longest relationship you’ve been in, that I’ve been in, in… forever.” I shrugged, but then again, I wasn’t sure if I classified Jai and I in a relationship. “It’s just good to see you smile.”

“I wouldn’t classify it as a relationship.” But he couldn’t hide the smile, “would you?”

“Have you been with anyone else?” I wanted to laugh when he adamantly shook his head but I kept it down when he turned to look at me.

“Have you?”

“No, I…” I cleared my throat and tucked the laptop in the bag.

“We’re so screwed,” Dean mumbled as his expression dropped while he stared out at the road. I smiled as the two of us dropped the conversation and got back to watching the road go by.

~~~~~

Standing on the steps to Bobby’s house was one thing, hearing Jai’s voice from inside, no matter how muffled it was was something completely different and I opened the door before I knew what I was doing.

“You really should have it looked at,” Bobby scolded, that was definitely his scolding voice.

“It’s a scratch, look, I even stitched it up myself.” Jai’s voice came back at me and both Dean and I moved through the kitchen and into the living room, avoiding the piles of books on the floor. Bobby was sitting at the desk, laptop open, staring at the screen. “Besides, if I had Cas heal me every single time I got a boo-boo, I wouldn’t have any scars to tell my kids about.”

Kids? I blinked, she wanted kids?

“That’s if they lived, or you lived, to tell them any stories.” Bobby snarked, his eyes drawn up to us standing in the doorway. “The boys are here.”

“Oh, good, that’s my cue to exit. Gwen and I have some digging around to do. Tell them I said hi and don’t worry, we got this covered.” She seemed… happy, of course anything to do with killing monsters made her happy. “Later, Pops.”

The line when dead, Bobby shut the computer and rolled his eyes. “One of these days I’m going to sit her down and give her that lecture of why nicknames are off limits.” He stood and walked over to us, giving Dean a hug first before he put a hand on my shoulder. “Good luck with that one, she’s going to need a good hogtying before you get anywhere with her, not to mention getting her to settle down.”

I couldn’t help the snarky laugh, “right.”

“Anyway, why are you here?” Bobby walked by to grab another cup of coffee.

“Actually, she sent us.” Dean spoked up which not only got the old man to look at him but me as well, because Dean admitting that he was doing anything Jai suggested was just not natural.

She sent you ?” Bobby glared at him and all Dean did was raise his hands. “Does she think I’m some kind of helpless old man?”

“She loves you, Bobby, so does Gwen, and if she hadn’t asked,” I stopped and watched the anger on the man’s face lessen, “we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think it was important, that the girls didn’t think it was important to ask.”

“Fine, rooms are upstairs.” He let out a breath and looked around. “Looks like I’m taking a trip to the store. You two stay out of the den, got somethin’ cooking.” Dean smiled, which only got me to grin. “And stay out of the girls’ room, they have this uncanny knack of knowing when stuffs been touched. I don’t need to put out any fires before they get here.”

And with that he grabbed the keys and headed towards the door, not without adding an “idjits” under his breath as he slammed it shut.

“Wait a minute,” Dean paused in his thoughts, “did he just say they were coming here?”

“I don’t know,” I shrugged, “maybe?”

The rooms at the top of the stairs were divided, the rooms to the right were a guest room and the one that Dean and I always shared. It had always been ours. But, the one to the left, the one we weren’t supposed to go in had always been labeled the girls’ room. Even before it belonged to Jai and Gwen, it was the master bedroom and Karen and Bobby had called it their own.

I stopped before the door, listened to Dean turn the edge of the banister and unlock the door to our room, but I didn’t move.

“Hey,” his voice brought me out of the trance I was in, “you’re not seriously thinking of going in there, are you?”

“Have you?” I asked him, glancing over, watching has he looked down at his hand and shrugged. “Wait, you’ve been in the girls’ room?”

“Yeah, a few times, I guess.” His face was just a little red but I waited a minute, tried to hide the smile and suddenly Dean was pushing me out of the way. I heard the keys jingle in his hand and then he pushed the door open. He turned and looked up at me with fire in his eyes. “You tell her I went anywhere near this room and I swear, Sammy, I will shove you under the bus.”

“Scout’s honor.” I laughed as the two of us stepped into the room. The pitched roof gave the look of more space, more light and I realized that this room took up half of the upstairs. In it was two full sized beds, separated by a low standing table with two lamps, one for each bed. Two dressers took up opposite walls, complete with wardrobes right out of something from the Narnia books. “Wow.”

“Yeah, spoiled brats.” Dean shook his head and I slowly closed the door behind me.

It was like looking at one of those freaky doll houses, where each room may not have a wall but there were definitely dividing lines.

What was obviously Gwen’s side of the room was colored with different shades of purple, but also it seemed to be on the darker side, especially the curtain over the window. The wardrobe, which was cracked open, wasn’t one that you would hang clothes in but there were shelves filled with extra-large bath towels, sweat clothes and blankets. I smiled as I pulled the door opened more and saw the amount of pillows stuffed in the other side. She definitely liked nesting.

Her dresser was covered with different sized sword racks, some were even lining the walls but on each and everyone of them was a beautifully polished blade. I reached out and touched the edge of one, drawing my fingers back as soon as I touched it.

“Wouldn’t play with those,” Dean mocked, laughing as he stood by Jai’s dresser, with that looked like an old music box in his hand. “She keeps those thing razor sharp and lethal.”

“Okay,” I raised my hands and turned to look at him, my eyes scanning over the room, “I have what might be the most obvious question.”

“Nothing obvious when it comes to them, Sammy,” he answered as he wound the box and listened to the chime of the music, “but go ahead and fire away.”

“They’re not here often, at least we know Gwen isn’t, so why is it so clean?” Dean set the box down and closed the cover before he turned to me and kicked the basket of dirty laundry.

“You call that clean?” He gestured down, but it wasn’t like they were really dirty, and it had two or three pieces of something in it. “Bobby comes in and cleans about once a week, when they’re not here, or more to the point, when Jai’s not here. Gwen seems to keep her shit pretty tidy.”

“Bobby cleans up after them?”

“Not really,” Dean grabbed some small rabbit from Jai’s dresser and sat down on the edge of the red knitted blanket that covered Jai’s bed. I leaned back against the dresser and crossed my arms. “He never could leave it alone, like our room, you know change the sheets, vacuum the rug but with this one, he actually will do other stuff.”

“Why? I mean, Jai’s here more than we are, there shouldn’t be any reason for him to do that.” Dean looked down at the face of the bunny in his hand and shrugged.

“Maybe it’s because it’s Karen’s room? Maybe because it’s the girls, not sure but that’s what I caught him doing a few months ago.” Dean looked up at me just as I was about to ask and he stood, putting the bunny back. “The… when I got back from Colorado, I stopped in just to check on him, and I found him up here. He had just left Jai. She was headed home after a demon case and he was stripping the beds.”

“Did she stay here?” So, I was a little confused.

“No,” Dean shook his head, “no, she headed back as soon as they parted ways. Her and Gwen caught some other case in Rhode Island. He was just… I don’t know, acting weird, like doing this was something that kept us all together.” Dean moved towards the bed again but before he sat down, his eyes locked on the door. “Bobby?”

“Thought I told you two idjits to stay out of here.” He snapped and turned his eyes on me. “Well, now that you got a good look at where your girlfriends’ sleep, get the hell out, so I don’t have to hear the wrath of Kahn when they show up.” He looked at Dean and pointed a finger at the music box. “I told you not to touch anything.”

“Sorry,” and suddenly Dean sounded like he was five and John had scolded him. Sorry, Dad had scolded him, but the old man just shook his head.

“She loves that thing, you know,” Bobby whispered. “Dinner’s on the stove, go get unpacked and meet me down there.”

“Yes, Sir,” both of us echoed and Bobby took one last look around the room before he left the doorway.

“What’s with the box?”

Dean opened the door wide and waved at me to leave, following me out to close the door as we stepped into the hallway.

“Was her mother’s,” Dean mumbled and made his way toward our room. Trailing him in, I watched him grab his bag and dump it on his bed, which was the closest to the door as always. “Bobby found it in a box of her dad’s old stuff in the basement one year.”

“Hey, Dean, how do you know all this stuff?” Which wasn’t a weird question since I thought they hated each other.

“Like I said, just because we don’t get along doesn’t mean that I don’t care. And she annoys the crap out of me, so she tells me stuff.” Dean grabbed his clothes and put them in the drawers that had always been designated his before he turned to me. “Besides you know stuff about Gwen that I don’t, even after all this time.”

“Yeah, but you would think I would at least know more about the person we shared a house with.”

“Sometimes…”

“What?” I watched him pause, stare at the wall and then go back to the drawer.

“Sometimes shared a house with,” he turned to look at me. “Look, you tell me a random fact about Gwen that you think I might not know, and I’ll tell you one about Jai, deal?”

“You really think I know stuff about Gwen that she hasn’t told you?” Dean shrugged but I was curious now. “Okay, um, she says pie is her favorite but it’s really creme brulee.”

“Really?” Dean looked surprised, raised a brow and nodded. “Sweet tooth, nice.” I sat down on the bed, sorting through my bag as Dean seemed to look off into nothingness before he spoke again. “When Jai was 16, she snuck out and found me practicing with Bobby’s shotgun, out by the old Fords.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, I bet her that she couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn and when she fired off the gun, the kickback sent it off her shoulder and nearly broke her nose.”

“Ouch, really?”

“Bobby was pissed but she told him that she had run into one of the sideviews when she was running towards the gunfire.”

“Why would she do that?”

“Don’t know.” Dean sat down on his bed and leaned his lower arm on his knees. “Your turn.”

“Dad went to Gwen in ‘94, she was his go-to when Bobby couldn’t help.”

“So Dad knew Gwen before any of us?” Dean looked a little lost. “How come he never said anything, we could have partnered up years ago?”

“Because she was fourteen when they met, Dean, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t thinking ‘hey let me recruit this kid,’ she was barely a year younger than you.” I wanted to roll my eyes but I could see Dean’s brain working it out already. I knew where he would go with it and I shook my head. “Dude, there is no way her Dad would have let her hunt.”

“We could have…”

“Stop, Dean, there’s a lot of things we could have been doing this whole time, but we didn’t, so we have to concentrate on now and the fact that they’re with us now. ” He closed his eyes, nodded and began to ring his fingers together. “So, Jai?”

“The… uh, the first case we worked together wasn’t Baraboo, it was Saratoga Springs.”

“You never told me about that.”

Dean looked at me, “never told you a lot of things about me and her, but you wanted to play this game so…”

“You and her? Like you and her?”

God, no!” Dean snapped, as if it were the worst idea in the world. “Never!” I smiled at the shade of red he was becoming and he sprang off the bed. “Never once, Sam, because, you know, it’s Jai and God, now I’m going to have to bleach that image out of my head. Why would you say something like that?”

“It’s a logical question,” I shrugged and watched the bitchface he swore he didn’t have focus right on me.

“Sammy, I swear on Mom and Dad, there has never been a time that Jai and I…” he paused and swallowed, “forget it, I’m changing the subject.”

“To what?” I laughed.

“You and Gwen.” And the smile faded from my face. “Ever, you know?”

“Are you three?” I was serious now. “Dean, she’s my friend.”

“You started this.”

“Yeah, because it gets you so worked up and did I ever really think you and Jai were like that? No, but…” I rubbed my hand over my face. “Okay, look, let’s just drop this. You were saying something about Saratoga…”

“Dean!” Bobby’s voice echoed up the stairway. “Sam? You two coming down to eat? Dinner’s waiting.”

“Yeah,” I hollered back, “be right down.”

Dean met me at the door. “We’ll finish this later.”

“Right, because I want you to continue asking me uncomfortable questions about Gwen.”

“Now who’s three?” Dean snickered and bolted out the door, that little kid smile on his face knowing he had gotten under my skin.

I pulled the cell from my pocket, pulled up the text screen and typed.

Sam: Hey, Gwen, you and Jai headed up this way?

It took only a moment for the message to ping through.

Gwen: Are you currently at Bobby’s? We’re on route.

Bobby was telling the truth, so now my next question was going to be: why?

“SAM!” Dean yelled, like I was deaf or something… maybe he thought I died… again.

“Yeah, I’m coming.” I took a breath and looked down at the phone, debating on whether to send her another text but I just stuck it in my pocket, before shutting off the light and heading down stairs.

All five of us in the same house, never thought I would see that day.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-one

Bobby

I looked up from my desk as the third stair from the top creaked under the weight of a person, a small person, someone who knew how to get by it with the least amount of noise. I slid the chair back, got up and moved out into the kitchen just in time to see Jai, complete with bedhead come around the corner.

She looked beat, waved at me, and headed straight for the coffee cup.

“It’s seven,” I snapped and watched as she waved it off, poured a mug and went about preparing it. “In the morning, Jai, it’s seven in the morning.”

“Great, thank you for the lesson on how to tell time,” she grumbled and sat at the table, lovingly worshipping the mug as she breathed it in. I could see the bandage under the cuff of her heavy flannel and I sighed, stepping up to take the seat beside her. “Why are you yelling at me?”

“You got in three hours ago,” I mumbled, took ahold of her sleeve and gently rolled it up as she surrendered her arm. Taking the bandage, I slowly unwrapped it, being as soft as possible. “You should still be out cold and I wasn’t yelling, you just have a headache.”

“Always have a headache,” she grouched and took a long time to come back from that blink. “Couldn’t sleep.”

“Hunt go bad?” I was trying to keep the questions light, knowing she was just on the edge of irritated and watched her shrug. “Dreams again?”

“For the most part,” the small sips of the coffee seemed to help her relax as her eyes took in every movement I made. “It’s good to be home.”

“Good to have you home,” I whispered a reply and looked at the near perfect stitch job she had done on her arm. Humming my satisfaction, I slowly wrapped it back up and lowered her sleeve before she placed her hand back on the mug. “Wanna tell me about it?”

“Nothing to tell, just a really long few weeks.” She sighed and looked up as the floor above us groaned under the weight of a body rising from the bed.

“You gonna be okay if that’s Dean?”

“We’re good, Pops, I swear,” she mumbled and reached out, taking my hand, “we’re way passed, you know, that.”

“Ah-huh, I’ve known you two since you were old enough to cuss, there’s never been a day that you’ve been passed that, but you keep telling yourself that and don’t go around firing off rounds in the house.”

Dean moved through the kitchen, stopped to look at the back of Jai’s head before he grabbed a mug and poured himself a cup of black coffee. Blinking at me, his short hair up in every direction, he sat down across from her and narrowed his eyes.

“When’d you get here?” Dean’s voice was worse than her grumpy one. Jai sat up, finished the first cup and quickly went to get more. I looked at the man beside me, saw him follow her every movement looking for some sort of injury, and then he glanced at me just as she turned to come back. “Jai?”

She sat down across from him again and focused right on his green eyes. “You touched my music box.”

Well, there went the relatively peaceful morning. I stood up to get around the fighting but Dean’s next words had me glued to my spot.

“Yeah, sorry,” he only whispered them but found myself sitting back down in the middle of a staring contest, until she looked down at her cup and took a sip before answering.

“Thank you for winding it,” her voice was barely audible but the smile at the edge of Dean’s lips shocked me more. “It was great to hear it when I came home.”

Maybe they really were past that whole thing but I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the rest of the next half hour both sat in silence drinking their coffee and slowly waking up, or on Jai’s part, almost falling back to sleep.

I carried her up to the room, remembering the times from her youth when I would have to drag her kicking and screaming back to her room, but I gently knocked, glanced in at Gwen, who was sitting up and typing away on her computer, and slowly brought her over to the bed.

Gwen sighed as I put her down, tugged the covers up and let Jai get comfortable before Gwen stood and followed me out of the room with her laptop.

“She’ll do that three more times, at least.” Gwen informed me before the two of us made it down to the bottom of the stairs.

“Is it really that bad?” I couldn’t hold back the concern but she slowly turned to look at me and shook her head. “Just a habit, huh?”

“It’s like an auto-response to get up, check the house, secure the locks and then when she knows it’s safe she goes back to bed. Four times at least, every night we’re home, six if we’re at the hotel long enough. It is just habit.” Gwen turned and made for the kitchen, setting her laptop on the table as she grabbed the teapot and started to prepare the water. Dean had moved to the living room but was now making his way out when he heard us stop. I looked at him, the way he looked at her and shook my head. “Play nice.”

And then I left the room. No need to watch the two of them pining over each other from across the table and it had been a while since they were together, if Sam’s calls and Jai’s texts were anything to go by.

It was almost lunch before I saw Sam, but I had heard him upstairs, moving around. The sounds of his steps were different than Dean’s, longer strides but lighter falls and the fact that he had come in and out of the girls’ room several times didn’t shock me at all, but when he stopped in the den, he all but fell down into the chair, looking almost as tired as I was sure Jai was.

“You should stop babying her, she’s an adult.” I scolded him, but he only grinned and ran a hand through his hair, a normal nervous trait. “She’s gonna grow on ya, boy, and then you won’t ever be able to get rid of her.”

“I’m kinda liking that idea.” And the smile on his face was real, genuine affection, which had me sitting back and shaking my head. All these years the four of them had never connected, except for Dean and Jai and that was not a thing I’d want to repeat, but the way they were now, it all just seemed to fit. “Where’s Dean?”

“Said he was going to tune up the Impala but had to run into town to get oil. He took Gwen, which only makes me think they’re stopping by Jody’s.” I shrugged and looked up at the ceiling. “She okay?”

“Yeah, was having a nightmare, just took a bit to get her settled.” Sam shrugged, like it was the most normal thing that his girl was shaking all over. I knew how her nightmares went, I knew what she did when she woke from them.

“Coffee’s ready on the counter. I made some pancakes a little while ago, meat’s in there too if you want a sandwich, help yourself.” I pulled the book from the desk and dropped it in my lap. It was still too early and I was three players short to get a rousing game of twenty-questions going.

“Thanks, Bobby.” Sam sighed and got up, moving out of the den towards the kitchen.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want them all home, it was that I didn’t understand why they were all home.

~~~~~

It was almost dinner when I made my way out towards the garage. Dean was showing Gwen around the back of the salvage yard, Sam was stuck on a phone call with Garth and I found Jai bent over the engine of a 2006 Dodge Charger.

“What happened to the Jeep?” I questioned, stepping up beside it as she backed away with a spark plug in her hand.

“Engine overheated near Cleveland, so we picked up this little beauty from a local bar, switched out the plates and Gwen hijacked the registration. Figured it would be good for the trip this way. Not too fond of it, kinda gives me issues when it hits fourth, so I thought I’d tune it up.” She answered and went back to her work.

“Ever thought of getting a reliable car?” I crossed my arms and watched as she shrugged.

“Why, I’m an equal opportunity, shitbox kicker. Not everyone can have a 67’ Impala to play with. Besides, as long as the gas mileage is good, a once and done is never a bad thing.” I watched as she got everything adjusted, set the engine straight and finally stood, wiping her hand. “You okay, B?”

“Just wonderin’ why the four of you are here, can’t quite put my finger on it.” I didn’t really care, I had four of my kids in my house, all under the same roof and none of them were trying to kill each other. The only one missing was Cas and I knew sooner or later that backwards angel was going to come flying home as well, but for now. “Everything alright?”

“Define alright?”

“Well, you and Dean aren’t taking each other’s heads off. You and Sam seem so sickly sweet on each other that I think I have a cavity. Gwen and Dean have been off “sightseeing” more than actually in the house and you two girls have been hunting non-stop for nearly two months. Somethin’s up.” I watched the smile rise on her lips and she crossed her arms as she leaned back on the grill. “So, is everything alright?”

“Maybe it would be best to talk about it when everyone’s in the same room.” She shrugged and I nodded. The door opened, Sam stepped out and her eyes brightened, probably the most I had ever seen them and when he stopped beside her, there as an instant need to touch.

Dean rounded the corner like a bat out of hell and came sliding to a stop, grin wide on his face, completely out of breath and just a bit rumpled. He looked like a nervous little school girl as he wiped his hands on his jeans, fought to find the words and then suddenly was gone. Not sure what the hell was happening but he came bolting out just as fast as he came in and then he was gone again.

“Damn idjit.” I shook my head, turned and walked away, leaving Sam and Jai at the front of the Charger.

I think they all lost their damn minds.

~~~~~

Nightfall finally had them all inside again and there was chaos in the kitchen. Dean was cooking, Jai was working on sides, Sam was setting out the condiments and Gwen seemed to be barking orders, but the conversation between them was easy as I stood in the doorway and watched. It was as if they had done this before, the four of them in a tight space, and I wondered how they got along in New Orleans.

Sam looked up, caught me watching and smiled. “Hey, Bobby, Dean’s making burgers.”

“Yeah, I got that.” I stepped closer and watched as Jai tossed in the croutons for a Caesar salad before she mixed the contents. “And when did you start eating green? I could barely ever get you to eat your vegetables.”

“It’s his fault,” was her only reply as she pointed to Sam before setting it down on the table. There were no other words from her as she moved back to making something else before she hip checked Dean to get him to move away from the stove. She ducked under and between his arms, reaching for something on the stove.

“Hey, hey, hot grease here, Monkey.” His tone was affectionate and he swatted at her with a towel before she ducked out the other side towards the fridge. To see him so relaxed was strange and I almost wanted to hug him for it, but that was about the time that Gwen walked over to him and the two of them started their own conversation. “What do you think? Cody or Casper?”

“Mmm, Casper, makes more sense.” They must have discussing cases because I was pretty positive they weren’t naming their dog. “Casper’s east, pretty far away from the mountains and what we’ve got isn’t known to stick around in the woods.”

“Casper it is.” Dean agreed and flipped the burgers. “Need me to send a message out to Caleb.”

“No,” she just about moved her whole body with that sigh, “I’ll do it just incase he needs more information and I don’t have the patience to stand around and wait for him to get it together.”

“You workin’ a case?” I asked, grabbing a seat at the table, which caught Gwen’s attention and had her taking the chair beside me.

“Pedro,” Dean spoke up which only got me to look at him like he were crazy. Jai ducked around me, huddled up to Sam, though he didn’t need to move his arm far to have her right against his side since she was small enough to tuck in around him, but that one action had Dean looking and a smile plastered on his face.

“What Dean meant is that the history of the mummy that was bought by a man in Casper in the 1950’s has resurfaced and from what we understand about the case, is creating some… distress.” Gwen looked all but unimpressed with the whole thing, which made sense since she was knee-deep in cryptozoology at the moment. “Caleb was trying to figure out where to start the research into its backstory. I believe that Casper would be the best place since that was one of the few first owners of the mummy.”

“And I think it’s a bunch of bullshit.” Jai added, grabbing a seat at the table as Dean put down the finished burgers. It was great to sit back and watch as the boys joined us and the massive amount of arms and hands that maneuvered the room worked like a well-oiled machine. They were amazing together. Jai glanced up at me once more when she was finished putting the burger together. “The history alone says that it was bought again and moved to New York where it disappeared. It doesn’t take a sudden up-crop in cryptos to make an old legend come back to life, besides it’s just a ploy to get it back into the hands of the people in Casper.”

Damn, I knew hunters were intelligent but I think I had the motherload of geniuses here.

“Well, aren’t you just snarky tonight?” Dean grinned and Jai looked up, narrowing her eyes at him.

“Give me proof that this is even a case,” she shrugged, but there was no real guts behind her words, she wasn’t really challenging him and I couldn’t help but shake my head. Decades of arguments, of anger and hostility between them was gone, as if it never existed.

“How about the people turned into salt statues?” Dean shrugged.

“Biblical Sodom and Gomorrah stuff?” Jai questioned, thought for a moment and shook her head. “Nah, too “end of times.” She looked over at Gwen. “How did they go missing, how long were they gone? Did they have enemies, contracts that they needed to get rid of? We sure as hell aren’t dealing with demons or ghosts if there’s that much salt involved.”

“Pipe down and eat.” Sam damn near ordered but the woman beside him huffed and gave in, a little too easily for my taste before she grabbed a bowl for her salad. “It’s not our case, why are we going so far into it?”

“It’s a mystery.” Dean shrugged.

“Yeah, that Caleb isn’t demon chow yet,” Jai mumbled, but it wasn’t anger, it was concern and I wondered when the little wayward hunter started to care.

I finally got over the shock and started pulling my own plate together as the conversation was kept at an easy pace, light subjects and full of laughs, something that I just wanted to sit back and remember because they had never caught a break, none of them but here they were, acting like real family and I couldn’t have been happier.

~~~~~

I joined Dean and Gwen on the porch later that night, the sounds of the critters outside was the only noise that I could hear. I handed Dean a beer and offered Gwen a few nips of her favorite whiskey before I settled down into a chair. Jai and Sam had disappeared shortly after dinner in one hurricane of madness. Jabbering a mile a minute about something that just couldn’t wait and out the door they went.

“It’s good to be home,” Dean whispered, taking a swig of the beer before he looked at me, reached down and ran his hand over Gwen’s hair, gently, as if she might run away at the touch.

“It’s good to have you all home, but still, you got me wondering why.”

“Jai wanted to come back.” Gwen sighed, her eyes on the skies as she watched the stars.

“And that gets the three of you hauling ass my to my house?” I narrowed my eyes at her, before I turned to Dean, “since when do you and Jai have an understanding, let alone follow something she asks.”

Dean sighed, I could see the frustration in his expression and I watched as he just shook his head. “It’s not like that.”

“Oh, than please, tell me how it is, because something’s going on with the four of you.” I knew I shouldn’t snap but I just needed answers. Dean leaned forward, elbows to the knees and his eyes dropped to the floor. “Jesus, she’s dying, isn’t she?”

“What?” His head snapped up and Gwen turned in my direction as my heart raced. “No!” Dean was moving but Gwen got to me faster, putting a hand on my chest as I nearly lost my balance in the seat. “No, Bobby, she’s not dying, she’s too stubborn for that. She wanted us all here for a reason.”

“Well, it would be great if you told me what it was instead of making me try to guess like a damned fool!” It came out like an angry bark, and I was angry because I didn’t have answers.

“The angels are joining the fight.” Her voice spoke up from the darkness and all three of us turned and watched Jai and Sam walk out into the light. Sam looked a little shocked but Jai’s expression told us everything. “Well, what’s left of them anyway.”

“Angels?” Dean snapped, standing up, “you brought us all the way here to tell us that those winged pricks were going to join us against the cryptos?  You thought that was so important that you needed to get us all together?”

And, there went the peace and quiet.

“Actually, yes, you douche, I did!” She crossed her arms and stood by the steps, not moving forward towards us. “Cas was supposed to be here by now, to help explain it but I haven’t… he’s been radio silent since this morning.”

“So, Cas knew, this whole time?” It was clear that Gwen and Sam were staying out of this one as Dean moved down the steps to face her. “How? How do you know?”

“What I do on my watch isn’t any of your business, Winchester,” she stepped up to him, the foot height difference not even a care, and she stared. It was like a flashback to their childhood. The two of them squaring off, the world about to collapse as she clenched her fists, ready to strike, to bring down the threat no matter the size. “Angels are coming, some you never wanted to see again, some that you’ve never met because we can’t do this alone.”

Those words leaving her mouth, her admitting defeat, needing help, that was something that never happened. Ever and Gwen finally stood.

“You’re right, we can’t, but that doesn’t mean you go out and you call on the angels without talking to the rest of us involved.” She said, pretty forcefully and Jai looked past Dean to her.

“I wasn’t alone in this decision.” she all but whispered, “it doesn’t all fall on my shoulders but you know what? It doesn’t matter because it’s done, whether the three of you like it or not.”

She turned to walk away and I stood because I saw it moments before it happened. Dean reached out for her arm, fingers wrapped around her bicep and she turned swinging, connecting with his throat. Dean went down, trying his hardest to catch his breath as Jai stepped back and Sam came over to support his brother.

She didn’t swing again, just put some distance between them as I moved to stand by her, my hands on her shoulders, but the expression on her face never changed, the strange dilation in her eyes never wavered and suddenly she began to shake.

“Dean?” her voice trembled and that was when Gwen came down, the younger of the two women stared her straight in the eyes even as Jai blinked away the confusion. “Dean?” this time is was just a whisper, a breath and Gwen took her arm, yanked her into the darkness and disappeared.

“What the holy fuck?!” Dean growled the best he could through the pain. “Where did that come from?”

“Man, I don’t know,” Sam sighed as he helped Dean straighten, the older brother trying his damnedest to catch his breath and the two of them stared after the girls. “She’s never done that before.”

“She has,” I added, without thinking and they stared me down. “Look, don’t go asking me questions, just know that she’s done it before.”

“Bobby,” Sam started and I raised a hand.

“She had a good reason for calling the angels, we just have to wait for Cas to find out.” I was defending her, trying to disarm the situation but the gleam in Dean’s eyes told me this wasn’t easily forgotten. I stepped up to him, put a hand on his shoulder and caught his eyes. “I’m not saying what she did was right, or even called for, but there has to be some explanation. I’m asking you to give her space because I know you boy, you’re going to run headlong into a fight that is going to leave the four of you vulnerable. Now think before you act.”

I turned and walked into the darkness, following the whispers that carried through the maze of cars, until I found the girls by the garage towards the middle of the salvage yard, where most of the Buicks were stacked.

Jai paced as Gwen leaned against a hunk of metal. The smaller hunter had her fist clenched, the younger one, her arms were crossed but there wasn’t much in the way of any other body language.

“Cas said that?” Gwen was a bit taken aback, like she was confused about why the angel had kept things from her.

“Cas said a lot of things, G, but nothing as serious as this.” Jai’s voice was strong, determined not to give into anything. “I don’t know what happened with Dean.”

“He blindsided you,” Gwen defended but Jai just shook her head.

“That’s no reason to throat punch him.” She stopped dead and looked up at the sky. “That was no reason to hurt him.”

“Then be the bigger person and apologize.” Gwen huffed.

“I’m 5’1”, Gwen!” Jai snapped, started pacing again, “I am never the bigger person!”

“You know what I meant.” But there was nothing but frustration in her voice.

“I know.” Jai nodded. “So, what, another two decades, if we live that long, to get back into his circle of trust?”

“It won’t take him that long this time. But, what exactly were you thinking about when it happened?”

This was what I needed to know. Her eyes told the story of her not being all there, not completely present and she shook her head. Shit, I knew that look.

“You…” she started and stopped, stopped everything, stopped pacing, stopped clenching her fists, stopped looking at her friend and focused on the ground. “It happened again.”

No!   My thoughts screamed and my reply was parroted by Gwen.

“No,” the taller one stood and moved towards her. “When?”

“Brighton,” Jai replied softly, “You were at the hotel in Bloomfield… the, ah… Bernard case.”

“I know what case we were on in Bloomfield, Lancing, just spit it out.” I had never seen Gwen cross with her before but this bordered on just about to swing.

“There was…” Jai paused. “An old friend needed help.”

“So, you decided to go demon hunting without back-up?” She growled, like a deep, trembling inside and she started to shake. “Do you want to get better?”

“I want a lot of things, Gwen, I want so many things that my heart can’t take it,” Jai snapped back, “I want Sam, I want Dean, I want you and Cas, and I want you all to be happy, but that isn’t how this works, not for me!” She was yelling now, and I could see that anger clouding her vision. “It was one damned demon, one lost soul and I sent it straight back to hell, I didn’t play with it, didn’t use my knife in anyway. It was as whole when I left it as it was when it arrived, but something happened, G,” her voice lowered, “something in the pit of my gut. The darkness…” she drew in a deep breath, “when I woke up, there wasn’t anything left.”

“Of you?”

“Of the…” Jai paused, looked down at her hands and shook her head, “demons aren’t the only thing that possess people.” And with that she headed off into the maze of cars.

I stepped out into the light, watched the tear slide down Gwen’s face and opened my arms to her, neither of us knew what she was talking about but I knew one thing, this wasn’t good, wasn’t good at all.

Gwen folded her arms around me, and I held her tightly before closing my eyes. This was Crowley’s doing and the interference he played years ago, and I was going to get to the bottom of it.

~~~~~

Jai hadn’t returned and I watched Sam stare up at the clock, the minute hand ticking by. Dean’s knee bounced and Gwen twirled the whiskey in her glass. I sat behind the desk, reclining in my chair, but it had been silent for nearly an hour before the sound of wings fluttering filled the room and Cas stood at the entrance.

“She’s fine.” Cas announced and moved to sit on the arm of the chair next to Dean. He casually reached back, touched the hunter’s forehead and you could see the relief from the pain in his eyes. “Though I wouldn’t expect her to come into the house anytime soon.”

“Gee, I wonder why,” Dean mumbled and stood, headed towards the kitchen.

“Tell us about the angels, Cas.” Gwen whispered.

“It’s simple,” Cas sighed, “Jai approached me with information that she deemed important.”

“And where did she get this information?” Dean snapped, coming back in the room as he eyed me, waiting for me to interject, but I didn’t have anything. This was Jai, just like if it were Gwen, there was always a motive behind it.

“A demon,” Cas shook, like he was ashamed that he even went on the asshole’s word, but it had come from Jai, so he didn’t question. The angel’s eyes went right to Gwen, “the same one she told you about.”

“Jai told you about a demon?” Sam questioned and all Gwen did was frown, her eyes on Cas.

“We’ll discuss it later.”

“I believe she called it a “tea party”,” Cas finished and Dean rolled his eyes. We all knew what happened at Jai’s tea parties. “It doesn’t matter either way, the information the demon gave was accurate.”

“So, a demon that doesn’t lie?” Dean shook his head. “Yeah, right.”

“Jai has a way of making that happen.” I spoke up and watched Sam sigh.

“Not a good way.” He whispered and stood. “So, what was this information?”

Cas moved, started making his way to the middle of the room to pace. “Several months ago, the girls were plagued by strange happenings, mostly phone calls at first.”

“I remember that.” Dean whispered, as if no one was paying attention, but I was. I sat forward so fast in my seat that it should have given me whiplash.

“Now, wait a damned minute, what are you talking about?” And four pairs of eyes were on me.

“We were meeting them in Woodstock, Virginia, on a case about a Stonecoat.” Sam started, my eyes locked on his. “Jai was getting text messages from Dean, Gwen from me.”

“So?” I was completely confused.

“We weren’t sending them.” Dean huffed, crossing his arms. “I remember the conversation, the messages, they were… private.” Dean paused, “personal things that only her and I knew about.”

“Same here, stuff only Gwen and I had talked about and kept between us.” Sam added.

“They came from the boys phones, sounded just like the way they texted but, it didn’t stop there.” Gwen looked down, before her eyes quickly went to Castiel. “What about them, Cas?”

“What do you mean it didn’t stop there?” Dean’s voice went deep, he was angry that he had been kept in the dark, not that I blamed him because I knew nothing of it.

“There were other things that happened.” Gwen whispered, clearing her throat. I watched as she looked around the room, a little lost, looking for back-up, for her partner. She was quiet for a little bit, as if she had come to the conclusion that she wasn’t getting the hunter that stood beside her on the field, and she opened her mouth, her voice was soft. “The days before we called, there were… things that happened. It was what sent us out on that call. I was home, going through the lore, reading over something that had come in across the wire, Jai was out on another hunt.”

“Alone?” Dean scowled, and Gwen narrowed her eyes at him.

“Yes, she was alone, she is usually always alone.” Gwen stood, angry and defiant. “You know, before Baraboo, this never happened! We knew where we stood with each other, we knew how we worked, but then you come along and she’s all over the place. I’m all over the place.”

“If you felt that way, why didn’t you stay so? We could just not do this,” he gestured in a circle to the four of them, “anymore.”

“Wait a Goddamn minute!” Jai’s voice echoed through the room and Dean slowly turned, stepping out of the way so that we could all see her standing in the kitchen. She held her wrist, the spot where she had stitched was now opened and bleeding and her hand shook, but her eyes went right to mine. “Save it, Pops, it’s just a scratch.”

“You bleed on my rug and I’ll tan your hide.” I snapped back but that got her to look at the dirty rug beneath our feet, before she grabbed a towel and wrapped her arm with it, making her way into the living room. She placed herself between Dean and Gwen and sighed. “You got something to add to this clusterfuck?”

“Yeah, actually.” She turned and looked at Dean. “I’m sorry, about…” She made a gesture with her hand, which was actually pretty comical to see her pretend to punch herself but she shrugged. “I don’t know where I went when you touched me, but I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Dean opened his mouth to speak but I had never seen him shut up so fast when she raised a hand to pause him. “But, she’s right, we changed our way of hunting after you and Sam came into our lives, we tried to work a different way, to keep each other safe.” Again, Dean opened his mouth and her hand silenced him. Oh, this was classic, and odd. “That being said, sometimes it just didn’t work out that way, and I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”

She turned to Gwen, swayed on her feet, but shook her head when I moved to stand, telling me that she had it controlled. Bunch of bullshit if you asked me but I let her have her way.

“Now, G, you know them being with us is the best thing that’s ever happened,” and suddenly the hunter’s eyes were back on Dean’s, “and you know that there is never going to be a time that this,” she motioned like he did, “doesn’t need to happen anymore, so put a fucking cork in it right now!”

“Good.” Dean mumbled, either defeated or silenced, not sure which but I was surprised that the argument hadn’t started back up again.

“Good,” Jai parrotted and stepped aside, eyes locked on Gwen’s, “savvy?”

“You’re not a damned pirate.” Gwen narrowed her eyes, looking down at the girl and I watched Jai’s lips turn up in a grin. Yeah, they were going to be just fine. “But, yes.” Gwen stepped around her and moved up to Dean. “I’m sorry.”

“Heat of the moment.” Dean shrugged and leaned into her touch when Gwen rested a hand on his cheek.

“As touching as this Hallmark moment is, maybe we should get back on the subject.” I couldn’t help but feel a little put out as Jai found her way to the couch and plunked down. Cas stepped over, took her arm and healed it, which only got a scowl from Jai, but the bleeding stopped. Gwen moved to sit down again, this time under the weight of Dean’s hand on her shoulder and Sam moved closer to Jai. “Now, you were saying.”

“Jai was on a case, and I got a message from Sam.”

“We never communicate by messenger.” Sam spoke up, having nothing else to say this whole time.

“I know, which was why I thought it was odd.” Gwen shrugged, “anyway, I was curious where it would go and suddenly, I was having this conversation about witchcraft and what I knew. Of course, knowing that it wasn’t him at all, I acted as if the only thing I knew lore on was cryptos.”

“Not entirely true,” Jai spoke softly, as if she were stating her own opinion on the woman’s intelligence, not that she had to defend her.

“The messages stopped but then it turned its sights on Jai.”

“What did it do to you?” I snapped and watched her sit up on the couch.

“Me?” She pretended to brush it off. “Nothing a little magic didn’t fix.” But I could see the lies on her face. “It doesn't matter now. What does is that the demon knew.” She looked at Cas, “I assume that’s what we’re talking about, the little squeaker that had me going to you?”

“Yes, we were discussing the reasons you came to me.” Cas nodded and Jai sat forward.

“Guys, listen, demons I get, weres, vamps, all pretty commonplace, but this thing… whatever was dicking around with us knows something.” She looked each one of us in the eye as she stood. “I know, okay, I get it, going above the group was stupid, it was a risk and could have had all of the garrison, what’s left of it, coming down on my head, but they can help. We need the help.”

“The fact that you’re admitting that is scary enough,” I spoke my mind, and all eyes were on me, “so, I think… reasons for and against aside, we should listen to what Castiel needs to say. We need to know what the angels do.”

That was probably the longest night of my life. The air between them seemed to settle, they all seemed to find some sort of peace and by the time Cas was done, we at least had a game plan. It was the next morning that really sucked.

~~~~~

Jai tossed several bags into the trunk of the Charger. She was driven and focused, never once looked up to see me standing there, not until Gwen stepped out and then instantly her eyes looked over her partner, just like Dean, looking for injuries or something that wasn’t there before, before going back to her job of rearranging the trunk.

“Morning, Bobby,” Gwen whispered, handing me a fresh mug of coffee.

“Morning, Lass,” I sighed, warming my hands with the ceramic mug, “you’re a saint.”

“Been out here long?”

“Been watching your partner shuffle around that trunk for almost an hour.”

She laughed, or more hmmphed , before she took a drink of the tea she was holding. “Keep watching and you’ll be out here all day, she does this when she’s thinking.”

“Thought she sang when she was thinking.” I raised a brow, maybe Dee was wrong.

“No, she does that too, but usually that is a different kind of thinking.”

“You girls headed east?” I turned, taking my eyes off Jai so that I could sit and focus on Gwen, who nodded and sat in the chair across from me.

“I think it’s best, so does she. You know how little she sits put.”

“What about you? She may need to leave, got that gypsy blood in her, but do you need to?” I wanted to make sure she was okay. Jai had always been a pig-headed girl, always on her own, always on the go, but Gwen was a researcher, a hunter in her own right but definitely not a roamer.

“To be honest, I kind of miss home right now. My home, my bed, my cats.” She shrugged.

“How about you and Dean, got that all situated?” She looked away, back at the car before her eyes landed on me. “He’s a stubborn jackass, but I’m pretty sure he loves you, Gwen, don’t let this get in the way of you.”

“It’s not in the way,” she shook her head and looked out into the yard. “Dean and I have a very unique relationship.” As if by magic, the door opened and out walked the topic of conversation himself. Dean had mug in his hand, his eyes went over the woman at the back of the Charger before he turned and looked at both of us, and I watched his jaw clench. “Maybe now would be a good time to talk it over.”

“Good a time as any.” I agreed and took the tea cup that she handed me as she stood and moved towards Dean.

Only on rare occasions had I ever seen Dean light up at the sight of a single person, and no, Sam didn’t count, but the light in his eyes when Gwen reached down a hand only made me grin, even more so when the two of them moved from the porch to walk the salvage yard again.

Jai clearing her throat brought me back to the present. “Never pegged you as a matchmaker, Pops.”

“Didn’t need a match to keep that one going, just a little bit of a push to stoke the fire.” I shrugged and continued with my coffee, watching her wrestle with whatever thoughts were in her head. “Penny?”

“A whole dollar if you got one.” She sat down on the old wood beneath my feet and leaned back on the rail, her lips fighting to find the words before her eyes latched onto the rag in her hand. “I didn’t do anything to the demon, Bobby, and according to Cas, I didn’t do anything to the ghost either, but something was in that house, pushing the darkness.”

“You didn’t tear into it?”

“No, but…” She paused. “I think the witch had something to do with it, the blackout, the weird feeling. It’s why I went to Cas, why I went to…” She shook her head, like the name wouldn’t come out. I wanted to know who else was involved. Cas would only say the angels, he didn’t specify who, and we hadn’t seen Sabathiel in years. “Listen, Bobby, when this goes down, when this comes to a head, there’s gonna be some loss. I want you to do one thing for me.”

I leaned forward in the chair as she stood and sat in Gwen’s where she could meet me eye to eye.

“I’m not going to kill you, not gonna put you down, so don’t even bother asking.” I was firm on this one. I had seen John do it to his boy before, ask him to be the one to take out Sam but I wasn’t going to be the one to do away with a girl that was like my daughter.

“You save the boys, you save Gwen, first.” She closed her eyes. “Whatever is coming is dark, it’s evil and it’s the same damn thing I’ve been fighting all my life, but the three of them. If it gets them, it will tear them apart, so you get them out first and then come back for me.”

“And if it gets you?” My hands shook as I reached out for her, looked deep into her eyes as the tears streamed down her face, but she smiled, swallowed back the emotions and just grinned.

“I got a plan for that too.” Just as quickly as she spoke, she released my hand and went back to the trunk of the car.

I needed to catch my heart, to get it to stop racing, and I did so just as Gwen and Dean walked out of the rows of cars, a smile on both their faces. I nodded at this, as the two of them walked by and into the house, but I couldn’t stop the fear that rose once the door was shut and my eyes trailed back to Jai.

I didn’t like this. I didn’t like this at all.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-two

Jai

“Dragons, Sam, Dragons.” I sighed in frustration as I leaned against the side of the red CRV and looked over the large, and by large I mean half-acre at least, of bright, yellow ragwort weeds.

“And, you’re positive?” Sam’s voice deepened over the line, the sound of Dean’s bitching in the background was loud and clear.

“As an unwanted pregnancy test!” I snapped. “Yes, I’m sure, Sam, do you think I’m an amatuer? Besides, Gwen is ass deep in these things, there’s no way she would mistake this for anything different. This is definitely a crypto.”

“We’ve dealt with dragons before, Jai,” Sam was either being stared down by Dean’s “what the actual fuck” eyes or he just wasn’t in the mood.

“Just come up here,” I rubbed my forehead, having had enough and felt the vibration of the other small phone in my pocket. “I have to go, and I know you’re only five hours away, so haul ass, Winchester.”

“Alright, alright,” he laughed, “we’ll be up.”

I ended the call abruptly and brought the second phone to my ear. “WHAT?”

“Whoa-ho, Cupcake, did someone lick your lollipop wrong?” His sickly sweet voice sung over the line and I paused, rolled my eyes and sighed.

“GWEN! It’s for you!”

Gwen stood up in the field as I walked over and handed her the phone. “Who is it?” I shook my head, placed the phone in her hand and walked away. “Hello?” I heard with my back to her. “Jai!” She hollered after, but I totally ignored her. “BITCH!”

I smiled as I flipped her off and continued to the car. It wasn’t as if I was trying to start anything but that man on the line was not my friend at the moment. In fact, since Cas brought the angels down, he had been nothing but an annoying buzz in my ear, or by my side, or up my… but he meant well, I guess. Gwen had her angel, looks like I snagged one of my own.

After about fifteen minutes, Gwen approached the car and handed me the phone as I jumped down from the hood.

“He’s a fucking asshole.” She growled at me and I smiled, putting the phone away.

“Hey, we can’t all have beautiful blue-eyed hotties for guardian angels, can we?” I moved to get behind the wheel as she buckled her belt.

“Then you need to start talking to your own set of wings instead of passing him off to me.”

“But, Gwen…” I whined, batting my eyes at her as she slowly turned her head to look at me, “he’s giving me a cavity.”

Gwen cracked a smile, shook her head and rolled her eyes, which is when I grinned back and put the CRV in gear, taking off down the dirt road from the field.

Opening the door to the motel, I flipped on the light, dropped my knife on the table and proceeded to fall face-first into the first bed I found. Gwen was a little more eloquent when it came to setting her stuff down and gently closing the door, but my eyes were yelling at me to close.

“Still not sleeping?” She asked and I sighed. “I’ll take that as a no. Nightmares?” But the only thing I could manage was a shrug of my shoulders. “I know someone who can knock you out cold, it might help.” I rolled over on that one and propped myself up by my elbows to look at her questioningly. “What?”

I took in a breath, thought about how to phrase the question and just blurted it out. “Does it hurt when he does that…” I pointed to my forehead and watched her narrow her eyes, “thing? The mind-meld stuff?”

“When we talk mentally?” She clarified.

“Yeah, that.” Her face told me everything, if the slight curling of her lips and the far away look in her eyes was any indication about it not hurting one bit. “Hmm.”

Her eyes snapped up and I watched her blush. “No,” she responded quickly, “no, it doesn’t hurt, it kind of tingles.”

“Yeah, I have a KY that does that too,” I scooted back on the bed, ignoring the look of irritation on her face, “even have a warming one in the truck,” I fluffed the pillow, which wasn’t even needed because these things were so bad, but the look on her face was classic. “He puts it on and then blows on it and it…” she wasn’t a prude so why was she turning red? “Ah-ha, you know, and now that I know that you know, then I know who keeps using my stuff.”

“No one is using your lube.” She huffed and opened her computer.

“Sure, keep telling yourself that.” I grouched but then got an idea. “Hey, G,” and that got her to look up, “it works really well when you put it on your…” I pretended to rub my nipples, and she growled, grabbed the closed box of gas station donuts and flung it at me, which intentionally missed. “Sorry,” I laughed, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it.”

“How much?” She never bothered to look away from the computer again as she typed. I lay back on the pillow and finally got comfortable, but the darkness was evading me.

“How much what?” I mumbled.

“How much of those edibles did you eat? The ones that Jess and Caesar gave us?”

With the fact that my body still hummed with the need to run but my eyes wanted to close, plus the silly thoughts that ran through my head, but the exhausted cloud filled my mind, I sighed. “Not nearly enough. I didn’t want to set my anxiety off again, but the brownies were good.”

“You and Sam okay?” That question came out of nowhere and my eyes opened wide as I looked at her, her phone in her hand.

“As far as I know. I mean it was a little rocky for a week or so after Bobby’s but we’re good.” I was completely awake now and sat up against the headboard. “Why?”

“He just texted me and ask if there was something he was missing.”

I reached for my phone on the nightstand. It wasn’t there. Patted down my pockets, nothing. Got up and checked my coat, empty and sighed. “How many texts have I missed?”

“Since you hung up with him? All of them.” She sighed, which in turn got me to grab my keys. “Maybe you left it in the car?”

“No, the last time I remember having it was the field.” I closed my eyes and wished I could just sleep, but that phone had way too many things on it to just leave it out there. I slipped my jacket on, a light canvas one that held all sorts of hidden pockets and slipped my knife inside one of them.

“Want me to go with?” She went to stand but I just raised my hand.

“No, stay and relax, I’m pretty sure I know exactly where it is, and there isn’t a need for the two of us to be standing in the middle of nowhere.” I pulled my hair back in a ponytail and pointed to her phone. “Could you let him know what’s going on? I’d hate for him and Dean to really get up in arms over it.”

“You think Dean would get upset?” and that eyebrow pitched. “You two actually talking?”

“Mumbling and grunting mostly, but you know how he is, as soon as you say hunt and alone in the same sentence, he becomes less of a douche and more of an overbearing brother. I don’t need to hear it, at least not until we can straighten stuff out face to face.” I pulled open the door to the room and gave her a slight wave before I stepped out into the setting light.

The sun was still high enough that a quick run-through of my car told me that the phone wasn’t in there either. It took me all of about fifteen minutes to get back to the road, move up to where my tire tracks stopped and get out of the car to begin my search. Using the small pre-paid that the pain in the ass had called on before, I started to enter my number, and then realized it was on silent.

Okay, so maybe those brownies were still fogging my brain but I knew it had to be around here somewhere. The GPS tracking was off, there was no way “track my iPhone” was going to work because Sam and his genius noggin had disabled it for me when I made the request, and basically bitched because any enemy of mine could easily find me.

I squatted down in the grass, let the feeling of the blades run through my fingers as I stared into the field, which at this vantage point looked as if it were ten-feet tall. My mind wandered to everything and nothing all at once. There wasn’t any sounds, just the wind blowing through the weeds and for once it was peaceful.

“You’re not going to find it like that.” His sing-songy voice came from behind me, the rush of wings accompanying his entrance.

“No, but at least I had two minutes of silence,” I replied and stood turning to look into those grass and honey eyes. The crooked smile came up on his lips and he opened his arms as if to say help has arrived , which only made me roll my eyes. “What are you doing here?”

“I was put in charge of watching over you, why wouldn’t I be here?” He shifted as I did, kicking off from the car to step closer when I squatted down to look at the ground around the tire tracks. “What’s so important about a phone anyway?”

“Not much, just my life and all my contacts.” I mumbled, not really interested in explaining everything to him.

“Contacts, like that big moose that you’re stringing along?” I could hear the unhappy tone in his voice, and I glanced up at him, the sunlight haloing around his head, making him look very much like the angel he was and I shrugged. “You seriously don’t know his number by heart? Why not just get another phone?”

“It’s not just the numbers, asshole,” I stood too quickly and felt the world tilt a little before his hands were on my arms, stabilizing me. When it finally stopped going black, I shrugged him off. “It’s text messages and research, notes and other… shit. Why am I telling you this anyway, either help me find it or bugger off.”

“Oh, my Sweet Tart, you know I can’t do that.” He crossed his arms and stepped back, looking over me like I was a piece of the candy he was always sucking on, or chewing, or basically unwrapping.

“Than make yourself useful and find my damn phone.” I snapped but stepped up to meet him eye to… well, he wasn’t that much taller but breast bone would be about the right height. When I did finally connect, I saw the look of defeat in his eyes as he raised two fingers and snapped them together. At the front of the car, a small patch of grass began to glow and I shook my head. Hadn’t looked there yet. Snapping up the phone, I turned to him. “Thank you.”

“Oh,” he quipped and put his hand to his heart, “I think I nearly died.” His voice was full of honey and lust and I shook off the effects of it. “The great Jai Lancing thanking me. If angels could go to heaven…” he paused, thought for a moment and then shook his head, “nah, I’d probably just stay here and bother the hell out of you.”

“It’s working.” I sighed and moved to the driver’s side door, nudging him out of the way, but as I opened it and moved to step in, I felt his hand on my elbow, fingers gently caressing there as he held me loosely. I looked down at his fingers, kneading the muscle there and felt his grace flow through me, taking away the haze of the pot, and the anxiety of needing sleep but not being able to relax. “What are you doing?”

“Cas isn’t the only one that can help you,” he whispered, closing the space between us, his body brushing against mine as I fought to not move away, because to tell the truth, since his arrival, any contact seemed to ease some of the darkness in me, which is what he was doing now. “I can sneak in, wait for Gwen to be asleep. You don’t need to fight this alone.”

“She’ll pull out every one of your flight feathers if she catches you in our room like that.” I swallowed. He always made it hard to breathe, hard to think, but at the same time, it was as if he were part of me and he knew it. I watched him breathe in deeply, not that angels needed to and he stepped back, putting space between us, but his grace only fought harder to bring us closer. “Not that I don’t appreciate it, but…”

“You can’t, I understand.” Did he really, because that look of defeat in his eyes… and suddenly my hand was on his cheek, staying his movements.

“I’m sorry.” I whispered, let him go and got into the CRV. The sound of wings taking flight was the only response I got before I closed the door and started the engine. I took a moment to gather my thoughts before I looked down at the seventeen text messages I had missed from Sam and Dean and replied to only one.

Jai: Found it.

Sam: Oh, good, I was starting to worry. Left it on site, huh?

Jai: Must have dropped it when we said goodbye. All good now.

Sam: Hey, call me back. We need to talk.

Oh, that couldn’t be good. Not good at all.

~~~~~

When I got back to the hotel, I walked in, held up the phone, tossed it on the nightstand and again, fell face-first into bed. I could feel Gwen’s eyes on me as I sat up, shucked off the coat, because… ow, the damn knife was still in it, and tossed it to the foot of the bed before gathering up the pillow and face planting.

“Sam call?”  

“Don’t wanna talk about it,” was my muffled reply.

“Maybe you should.”

“NOT gonna talk about it.” I repeated and let my eyes closed. “Just wanna sleep. They’ll be here soon enough anyway and we can talk to our eyes bleed.”

“Fine,” was the reply I got back just before my brain sunk into the weightlessness of sleep. Maybe I’ll thank the angel later, a little bit of grace went a long way.

~~~~~

The gruff, rumbling voice of Dean Winchester brought me back to the present, but it was the large, warm fingers that trailed down my neck and over my shoulders that really pulled me out of sleep. I arched against them, hoping for the contact to continue, rolling my body back towards the way the bed dipped under his weight and if felt his breath against my cheek, his lips caressing the skin there. I tried so very hard not to make noise but it had been two months since Bobby’s, two months since I felt him and… nope, there it went.

“Jesus, Sam, could you wait until we’re out of the room?” Dean snapped and that had my eyes open.

Sam’s body shook with laughter as his lips moved across landing softly on my own before I fully turned in his direction and got wrapped up in his arms. His hair fell over us, like a curtain, blocking out some of the lewd comments that Dean was making as I got lost in him. It was amazing how it had grown in just the few months we were apart, but I managed to shift so that I could run my fingers through it without releasing him.

Breathless, finally, after untold minutes of his body against mine, his lips commanding me, I rested my forehead against his, kneeling in front of him, acutely aware that we were alone in the room because Dean had gotten irritated and taken Gwen with him outside, probably to say a proper hello.

“Hey,” I whispered, my eyes opening to lock on his hazel ones, the corners of his lips twitched up in a smile.

“Hi,” his soft response was full of want as his hand moved from my hip to the small of my back, pulling me flush against him. “I’m sorry…”

“Stop, right there, just stop.” I sighed, the phone call could wait.

“It’s just…”

“Sam,” I gave his hair a gentle yank and sat back a bit, “it’s all good, we’re allowed to freak out, to get angry, to need to vent. I get it, I do.”

“Okay,” he relinquished that way too easy and I knew that we weren’t quite past this yet.  He glanced around the room at the lack of my usual cluster of information that usually graced the walls and turned back to me a little confused. “I thought you said you had this one figured out, but how?”

“That would probably be a thing we need to sit down and go over together. Gwen’s been housekeeping with the notes, so yeah,” I swept my hand around the empty room, “she took over my coloring station, and all my show-and-tell has been put away. Trust me, this is actually a good thing.”

“Good, how?”

The door opened a bit as he spoke and Gwen stepped in, Dean right behind her. “It would probably be better to show you.”

Sam slipped off the bed, holding my hand as he moved and I stood. There was a strange look on Gwen’s face that made me wonder just what was going on. Her eyes were telling me one thing, but the expression on her face was something completely different.

Sam and Dean headed for the door but I watched her hold back for just a moment until I caught up. She was grabbing her journal, and her tablet, but I leaned in close as I grabbed the keys.

“What’s going on?” I mumbled, but she understood. I watched her eyes go from her bag to the boys who stood not three feet from the open door. Those eyes landed on mine and she stared me down.

“Keep your mouth shut about your little feathered friend.” She warned and I stood up straight. “Listen, I’m not telling you not to tell Sam, at some point, but right now isn’t the greatest time. Something came up, something that involved a few other hunters out towards Utah and apparently there were a few angels involved. Dean’s not exactly in the trusting mood and every angel except for Cas is on his list.”

“You think telling the boys about that one is going to ever change that man’s opinion on anything?” I grinned. “Dean has never changed his mind, like ever. Once you’re on his bad side, good luck getting off and I know that things between them and the candy fiend were rocky enough at the beginning, there is no way his protecting me is even going to scratch the surface of making it better. Hell, I would wager everything I own that it just makes it worse.” I rolled my eyes, “besides, Dean and I would have to be talking in order to tell him anything.”

I grabbed the keys, my jacket and headed out the door, pushing between them as I glanced back at Dean and winked. At some point, I might have to fix this thing between us.

~~~~

The diner wasn’t overly crowded so when the four of made our way to the back corner table the heads that would inevitably turn in our direction didn’t. Usually we would have looks and people eyeing us over because who didn’t find it odd that we had three, sometimes four, people nearly or over six feet and one little short woman.

It was like bodyguards for a celebrity, but the spotlight sucked and I would rather avoid it all cost.

As I was saying, we made our way to the back corner booth and Sam slid in, taking my hand to give me a small tug to join him. Gwen pushed in towards the window and Dean took the outside across from me.

My eyes locked on his as he bumped my knee with his. I rolled my eyes just as the waitress set the mugs down in front of each of us and the boy was all smile.

“Afternoon, all,” she smiled and her sights were locked on the stunning grin of one Dean Winchester as he laid on the charm. I watched Gwen roll her eyes, but there wasn’t any jealousy there, and I smiled when he jumped a bit.

“Afternoon… Mandy,” he paused to look at her name tag, “, what are your specials today.”

And it was my turn to roll my eyes because no one cared. I kicked him under the table and he gave me an icy glare as I curled up against Sam while she spouted off the specials.

“Burger,” I announced when it came to my turn, “with fries please.”

“Sure thing, sweetheart.” She winked before she took off to send it to the grill.

I met the glares of the two that sat across from me. “What?”

“Really?” Gwen grinned and Sam suppressed a laugh.

“I can’t help if I’m adorable.” I shrugged, “so, start talking or wait until after food?”

“After.” All three chimed, and I couldn’t help but grin.

The food came pretty quickly and Mandy took turns between flirting with Dean and me, though I tried to discourage it by folding more and more against Sam, who was as attentive as ever, his fingers finding any flesh that he could.

When we were all full and sitting comfortably in our own little world, the sounds of the rest of the diner drowned out by the small, light conversation that was going on between us, that was when the case came up.

“Jess and Caesar,” Dean questioned, “like the Chitters Jess and Caesar?”

“The same,” Gwen confirmed and Sam laughed, looking down at me. “Before you ask, yes she did partake.”

“Really?” Dean seemed shocked and I shook my head.

“I’m not an angel, Winchester,” I huffed and looked from him to Sam, “it was just a small amount.”

“Sinful,” his lips brushed mine as his fingers held me gently under my chin… just in time for Mandy to come by and for Sam to make the most pornographic sound. She filled the mugs and took off like a bat out of hell. His hazel eyes met mine and he smiled, breathing in deeply. “Mmm.”

“Now that you laid claim, Tarzan, can we get to this case before you start beating your chest?” Dean’s voice was annoyed but Sam nodded and sat up. “You were saying?”

“Their friend went missing, the two of them called us up to help out, we took over.” I looked up at Gwen to see if she wanted to add anything, but her face had paled as she looked past Sam and out the window. I turned to see what she was looking at and my world nearly fell out from under me. “Son of a Bitch!”

“What?” Sam turned curiously but I stood and moved out to the end of the table.

“Just a contact,” I signed and caught Gwen in a stare. “Fill them in, would ya?”

“What are you going to do?” Dean moved to follow me but I put my hand on his shoulder, keeping him in his seat and I moved my gaze to his.

“Just sit still and listen, Dean, that’s all I’m asking.”

He looked me over for a moment, as if trying to determine the level of protection I needed but I watched the fight go out of him.

“Fine.”

“Good,” I patted him on the shoulder and gave Gwen a raised brow before escaping out the door and around the building. He stepped out from behind the small loading dock wall and smiled at me, hands in his pockets, smooth smile on his face as his candy apple eyes gleamed with mischief. I walked up, no intention on being polite and shoved him hard, back against the wall. “Are you out of your fucking mind? Sam Winchester is sitting right fucking there, do you like your grace inside you, cause I would prefer not to see it blown out into the universe!”

“Whoa, whoa, Sugar Baby, no need to get all worked up, only you and Gwen can see me and that’s if I want her too.” His cocky attitude was going to get him slugged but I could feel his grace calming me down. I dropped one hand from his chest but gripped his jacket tight with the other, digging my knuckles into his ribs. I watched the pain roll over his lips as he flinched but his hands came up in surrender. “Listen, Wilding, I didn’t come here to start trouble.”

“Then what the hell?” I growled, actually growled because he only brought out the irritated side of me.

“You’re gonna get a call, or at least Agent Collins is, and they’re gonna tell you there’s another body,” he paused to stare me down, those eyes turning to honey gold as his mood shifted to ultra protective, one of his more annoying traits. “You stay far away, you hear me? You and Gwen and those damn Winchesters, you stay away until Cas or I give you the okay?”

“Why?” I shifted in my spot, my hand relaxing, the grip on his coat letting go and if he wasn’t a breath away from me, I wouldn’t have believed he was real with the power that came off him as he squared his shoulders.

“Because this ain’t no dragon.” His voice was low, full of warning and that was all he said before I found myself holding tightly to air.

“Asshole!” I mumbled under my breath as Sam rounded the corner.

“Hey,” his body language full of worry and confusion, “Jai, you okay?”

“Dandy.”

I stepped passed him and made my way to the front of the diner, Sam suddenly right beside me as Dean and Gwen stepped out.

“We gotta go.” She stated but watched me stop.

“No, we really don’t.”

“They found another one,” Dean added. I glared at him before turning back to Gwen.

“We need to hold back, just for a bit.” I reiterated and saw her eyes narrow as I begged her with just a look to trust me. She nodded.

“We’ll stop at the room first, there’s something we need before going to the scene anyway.”

~~~~~

That shouldn’t have worked, well, none of it should have worked. There was no way telling them to hang back should have gotten an okay, no way telling them that we had it covered should have gotten anything but a hassle, but as Gwen and I stepped into the room shortly after coming back from the crime scene without the Winchesters in tow, that whole it shouldn’t have worked made perfect sense.

Dean was on the phone with Bobby, I could hear the cussing over the line, and Sam was typing away on the computer, trying to come up with some leads of his own and there was one more reason that it made perfect sense. Because Cas was standing there with his arms crossed and a guilty as hell look on his face.

“He’s all yours, G,” I mumbled with as much anger as I could staring down the angel before I turned on my heels and left the room, left all four of them there.

I don’t know why I was angry, not sure why it was following me around like a bad chip on my shoulder but something about the crime scene was way off, even for a Dragon- not- dragon that he insisted it wasn’t. Leaning back on the side of the car, out of the way of the other’s point of view and just behind the CRV, I closed my eyes and let the smell of candy and ozone fill my nose.

“You were right,” I whispered and heard him chuckle.

“Wanna say that a little louder, I’m trying to record.” That throaty voice with a few higher notes sung in the wind and I peeked open an eye to shake my head.

“It wasn’t a dragon.” I pushed off the car and watched that smile come up on his lips. “Something far, far more dangerous, but I got to say, it’s just edging me the wrong way, so, why don’t you tell me what you know about it that Gwen and I don’t.”

“I don’t…” He started, using that sickly sweet voice on me and I raised my hands.

“Cut the crap,” I snapped and watched him stand tall, the grin fading from his lips. “Just stop with the sugar-coating, bubblegum bitch facade and be your damn self. I know you, I know you’re not like this, you never have been and seriously, if you keep it up, I might just shank you on principle alone.”

“Fine,” he shook his head, his demeanor changed in that instance and I watched the seriousness fill his eyes. This was the one that fought alongside his brothers and father to put the darkness away, this one wasn’t fooling around. “You want me to get with the program, I got that, and I can, but so do you. I’m not here on a milk run, Jai, I’m here to protect you, to help Cas protect Gwen because you’re needed, your fate is sealed when it comes to the whole crypto-pocolypse, but that doesn’t mean you have to die, and neither does she.”

“Save it, just tell me what I need to know to stop this monster. Gwen’s a genius and she’ll figure it out on her own before we can all blink but how many more are going to die before we can get our hands on enough information to put an end to it. I’m begging you, stow the guardian angel crap and give me what I need.” I took a deep breath, put myself in front of him, giving him no way out but to vanish, something he might have done if he had thought quick enough, but his eyes burned with his grace.

“It’s a Sirrush,” his words were steady but I shook my head.

“Still a dragon,” I replied, shaking my head.

“Think about it, Jai, what kind of dragon eats hearts and sets bodies on fire, and we all know the whole deal with spontaneous combustion.” He was calm, reasonable and I crossed my arms over my chest. He had a point, nothing could make a person combust, it just didn’t happen, there was laws of physics that made it impossible, unless you were an angel and just felt like snapping people out of oblivion, and that image made me shiver. “It’s not a crypto, you know it, I know it. Hell, I’m pretty sure Gwen knows it but the two of you are playing a damn dangerous game.”

“Okay,” I nodded and looked up at him, not really noticing that he had come closer, that the space I had blocked him in was now non-existent and his back was to the building instead of the car. “I’ll let Gwen know we need to start looking in a different direction, something closer to us, not so across the sea.”

“That’s my girl.”

“No, Gabe,” Sam’s voice boomed through the air around us and I looked past the man in front of me to the giant that seemed to tower over him. “That’s MY girl.”

The only thing I saw next was the way Sam’s arm swung, seconds before my world lit up in a blinding light.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Three

Gwen

The flash of light from the parking lot and the power that emanated with it shattered every light in the room, and also had Cas and Dean flying out the door before I could turn in that direction. With a roll of my eyes, because this couldn’t be good at all, I followed slowly, only to come up on Sam and Jai by the end of the building, just on the other side of the CRV.

Sam’s head was down, his fists clenched and Jai stood there silent, her arms crossed as they both stared at the one smoldering spot in the middle of them. Gabriel. Gabriel had been there when Sam came outside and it didn’t go over very well from the looks of it.

“Sam,” Cas spoke up, “did you smite my brother?”

Dean turned quickly and looked at him in shock before turning back to Sam, whose chest was heaving as he tried to control himself. “Brother? Which brother? You mean there was another angel here the whole time?”

“Not just an angel,” Sam started and his eyes connected with Dean’s before looking over at Jai, narrowing at her. “Gabe was here, and no.”

“Gabe, like Trickster Douchebag number one? That Gabe?” Dean was just firing off the questions but Jai never moved, she didn’t look up, she just stared at the spot on the ground, her expression blank. Dean walked up to her, moving passed Sam, which was odd because I knew how Gabe’s presence affected him. Dean raised his hands, resting them on her shoulders, blocking her from the view of the burnt spot on the ground and slowly she looked up. “Did he hurt you?”

“No,” she stated with a monotone voice, staring him right in the eyes.

“What was he doing here?”

I stepped closer, about to interject when Cas placed a hand on my arm and gave me a small shake of his head. Guess I wasn’t getting into the middle of it.

“Listen, I don’t really want to talk about it.” She tried to step back, but his fingers held firm, and her eyes grew wide.

“Dean, that’s not…” I tried to warn him but her eyes just closed. Not good.

“Let me go,” it was quiet, low and full of warning, but she visibly began to shake. “Please, Dean, I don’t want to hurt you again. Please, let me go.”

“Not until you tell me what the hell is going on!” He snapped and Sam stepped forward, placing himself beside the two of them.

“It’s okay, Dean, just do it.” Sam’s voice was surprisingly steady and slowly Dean’s fingers uncurled from her arms. Jai stepped back, looked up at Sam, gave a small smile and she turned and then was gone. Dean looked up as Sam ran a hand through his hair and shrugged, but Dean was waiting on an explanation. “I think I can explain.”

“Sam,” Cas finally spoke up and the boys turned to him, but those looks had me pulling at his coat. “What happened to my brother?”

“I don’t know,” he whispered, and there was perfect honesty in his voice. “I found the two of them out here talking and I went to swing. Gabe just disappeared, blazing ball of light and gone, the only thing left was the spot.”

“What color was the light?” Cas moved from my grip and over to the charred ground.

“Ah,” Sam paused, confused, “orange, I think. I wasn’t really… Cas, why was he here?”

Cas took my hand, giving both the boys frustrated glances before he turned and walked me into the room again, waiting for Dean and Sam to follow before he closed the door.

“Jai’s still out there,” Sam whispered, the worry in his voice made it completely clear that whatever happened to Gabriel was definitely not something he had expected.

“Jai will be fine.” Cas reprimanded them and I couldn’t help but smile because that voice was a pay attention to what I’m telling you tone that made me shiver. Dean leaned against the dresser and Sam slowly sank to the bed, his elbows to his knees. “Gabriel was in charge of looking after Jai, much like I keep Gwen safe.”

“What?” Dean seemed surprised, and Sam just gave one of his huffed laughs as the corner of his lips twitched up. “Tell me you’re joking.”

“This isn’t a laughing matter. Gabriel was appointed her guardian for reasons that I’m not at liberty to discuss, but you have to know, he would never let anything happen to her.” Cas was looking straight at Sam for this one. “I understand the relationship between you and Gabriel is rocky, but this isn’t about the three of you. This is about Gwen and Jai and their protection. I can’t be there all the time, neither can you two, so Gabe is the best choice.”

“What about Sabathiel?” Dean spoke up, which brought Cas to him. “What about that angel? Or Alfie or Hannah, anyone but Gabriel?”

“My brothers and sisters are spread far and wide, Dean, and like I said, for reasons, Gabriel is the right choice.” Cas seemed to end the argument right there because he twirled in that spot and looked right at me. “What do you know about your dragon?”

“Gabe said it wasn’t,” I replied and suddenly had two sets of eyes locked on me, as I sat down at the table and grabbed the opened laptop. “It was the reason that Jai and I went to the scene alone, there were just things that didn’t match, that didn’t make sense. The spontaneous combustion for one, what does that? Also, the hearts were missing.”

“Dragons collect things.” Dean shrugged.

“Collects, not eats,” I pointed out as he thought it over before his face contorted and he shook his head at what I could only assume was the image. “Whatever it is takes a vital organ and consumes it for a purpose. The fact that the body then combusts says it’s something different than a dragon.”

“Like what?” Sam questioned and I slowly turned the screen so he could see. “A changeling?”

“In different parts of the world, the lore behind the changelings had the fairy folk involved, but our changeling is more like a shifter, with some fae powers.” I started to explain and watched Dean shake his head.

“Perfect, and this is what Gabe gave you? A line on what the monster was?” Dean’s voice was grouchy and I shook my head.

“Actually, the fact that he disappeared when he was out there in the parking lot did.” I countered. Sam’s brows shot up like he wasn’t expecting that one. “I was trying to figure out how to connect everything we saw, the few scenes that Jai and I had gone to had something missing, a witness.”

“Okay, what does one have to do with the other?” Sam shrugged. “You said the other victims were alone when they went up in smoke but from what I saw, Gabe just disappeared.”

“In a blast of orange light.” Cas added. “It must be their magic.”

“Changeling magic is different than others, colors represent the intent of the spell. But…”

“You can’t fry an angel,” Dean whispered and moved towards the door, suddenly disappearing outside.

“Where’s he going?” Sam stood to follow but he paused at the door, hand out to grab it and he turned to me. “He’s looking for Jai, isn’t he?”

“That would be my assumption,” I mumbled and looked up at him. “Tell me exactly what happened outside, step by step, I think it might help me locate exactly where this changeling is hiding.”

“I, ah, I came around the corner, heard her talking to someone so I followed it.” Sam paused, looked down at his hand as he sat down once more. “He called her “my girl.”

He stopped again and I sighed. “So, you decided to go all neanderthal on him?”

I smirked and just for a second would have paid to see that, but I cleared my throat and Sam nodded.

“Yeah, I pulled back like I was going to hit him,” the moments of quiet reflection told me enough about the situation that the thought of them going at it wasn’t funny anymore. “The way he looked, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so… he said: Sam, wait, and I wasn’t going to, I was going to just clock him, but he looked at her and he was,” the expression on Sam’s face seemed to echo the confusion of earlier, but those hazel eyes came up to lock on mine. “He said he was sorry, and then it hit, bright orange, like a flame, like some bomb went off, and he was gone.”

“He knew,” Cas whispered, “he could feel it approaching.”

“Sense its presence,” I agreed and went back to the laptop, “which means, in theory, so can you, Cas.”

“But we don’t know what led up to him disappearing, did he have some sort of interaction?” Cas had a good point, but that was when the door opened and Dean walked in alone. Sam slowly stood but Dean put his hand up, a scowl on his face and he shook his head. “Where is she?”

“If I knew, I wouldn’t have come in without her.” He stepped closer to me and squatted down, placing a hand on my knee. “I can’t even start to guess what possessed Gabe to get involved with the two of you,” his voice was soft, “but if this is what I’m thinking, which is usually is, then the two of you are in more danger than we understand because of it.”

“Gabe was protecting her.” I narrowed my eyes at him, then up at Sam, “you two don’t seem to get exactly what we’ve been dealing with the last two months. The five of us were separated, you boys and Cas, you had an arsonal in your pocket, Jai and I had Gabe and every time we got into it with something way out of our league, and let me tell you there’s a lot out there at that level, he was there.” I stood, shook my head and made for the door. “You don’t understand him, and I get that, but have you thought about taking a minute and really getting to know what we’ve been through.”

“Why didn’t you tell us?” Sam questioned, and I couldn’t help but smile, “I’m not joking, Gwen. We’re always on the phone, texting or calling, but not once did you let in on the issues. If it was too much, we could have helped.”

“Have you met the other half of this partnership? Ever try to keep up with her?” I laughed, because who wouldn’t, “there has been a driving force in her for decades and it doesn’t stop, and if she doesn’t stop, neither do I. You are only as good as the partner by your side.”

“Where could she have gone?” Cas asked, his voice soft enough to grab my attention and when I looked at him, he was staring down into his open palms as if he had a book sitting in his hands, just before his eyes snapped up to look straight into mine. “Gabriel.”

“Come again?” Dean was baffled as Cas rattled on.

“She would have gone after him, correct?” He ignored Dean’s question and moved to stand beside me, before he reached down to grab the laptop. I watched those fingers fly over the keys and my hand gently rested on his lower back, getting a glance in my direction. “According to your case files, since you’ve arrived, the victims have followed a strange pattern. First there was Jesse’s friend that started it.”

“And we had no reason to assume anything when that began, but why are you thinking there’s a pattern?”

“The victims follow a line,” Cas started when the door banged open. Jai stood there, clenching her arm to her chest, a giant smile on her face as she caught her breath.

“Well, that was dramatic.” I snarked and she nodded, the grin not leaving.

“Yeah, I know, right,” she was laughing and that couldn’t be a good sign.

“You’re hurt,” Cas scooted by me but I noticed that Sam had stood but neither Winchester said a word. Cas took her wrist gently and rolled up the charred fabric to inspect the second-degree burns on her arms.

“What the hell, Jai?” Dean snapped, coming closer, but Jai took back her hand, moved around the boys and stood in front of me, that grin plastered to her face.

“I know where he is,” she breathed, and I gestured to the computer. I watched her pause, look at the screen and then up at me. “Looks like you already knew.”

“What?” Sam moved this time, coming up behind her as he looked down at the screen. “Cas was about to tell us…”

“Yeah, it’s following the river,” she finished and moved passed him, around me and to the bed where she pulled out a bag. “And it’s…”

“A changeling, we know.” I cut her off and watched as she looked me over, gave me a really? Cool, kind of face and went back to rummaging through the bag. “How did you get burnt?”

She stopped again, stood up straight and looked around the room, “we’ll talk about that later,” was all she said before she went back to the bag. Cas grabbed her arm, forcing her to be still once more and I smiled as she looked at him rebelliously, before petting a hand down his chest. “It’s okay, Angel.”

“How is that okay?” Dean growled and moved to stand beside her. “Wait, it’s healing.”

“At an alarming rate,” Cas observed and I smiled at his confusion. Jai reached in and pulled a chain from inside her shirt, showing them the orange stone. Orange, like the color of the fire. Cas’ touched it gently with just the tip of his finger. “It’s charged.”

“Yep, Gabe gave it to me,” she looked down at it for just a second before tucking it away. She glanced over at Sam, and I don’t ever remember seeing that defeated look in her eyes before even just for a second and then it disappeared and she went right back to digging things out of the bag. She cleared her throat for a moment before she stopped, holding a wrapped item. Turning slowly, she held it out for Cas. “Um,” she started but paused, and I knew that look. Oh, shit. “When my dad was still alive, way before Bobby’s, he was working this case. Gabe was there, he was helping out but he wasn’t an angel then, he was Loki, a trickster. Dad said that Gabe approached him about it, not sure why a trickster would need help but, anyway, the two of them were gone for a while. Dad came back, Gabe…” she held out the item to Cas, who took it with a gentleness that I had only witnessed behind closed doors. “Anyway, this should help. Excuse me.”

With that she turned and headed into the bathroom, closing the door tightly behind her before we all heard the lock click and the water start to run. Cas turned, moving towards me before he stopped and held out the small package that she had given him.

“What do you want me to do with it?” I questioned and Cas rolled his eyes, such a Dean trait. “She gave it to you.”

“I’m not sure I understand why,” he answered and placed it on the table before unwrapping the worn cloth that protected it. It felt almost like burlap, but it was finer and not as rough. What it held inside was a weapon, one with a bone handle and a blade made out of stone, a marbleized, multi-colored stone. “Amazing.”

“Yeah,” Dean stepped up beside me. “What is it?”

“A mixture of volcanic rock from the area.” Cas picked it up gently, running his fingers along the edge of the stone. “If my assumption is accurate, it’s from the very location that they’re keeping Gabriel.”

“You think they’re keeping him and haven’t eaten him yet?” Dean smiled, “that’s cute, since they char-broiled every other victim that they’ve come in contact with. You really think the angel survived?”

“I do,” Cas nodded, wrapping the blade back up.

“By what reasoning?” Sam crossed his arms as he fought the urge to run for the bathroom door, I watched him dance back and forth, trying to keep from doing it, but Cas nodded in that direction which got Sam to shake his head. “Because of his connection to her?”

“Only an archangel can charge a stone like that, Sam, leave part of his grace in the confines of something so delicate,” Cas whispered, “the only other one that dared attempt it was Michael, and even then it had catastrophic repercussions.”

“How so?” I wondered because seriously, a juiced up stone was not something we needed to play with and as Cas caught my eye, I knew it wasn’t good.

“There wasn’t a human left alive in a two-mile radius after the blast.” Cas replied, and it was very nonchalant. “Still, in his defense, Michael was very young when he attempted it.”

“Young?” Dean laughed, “how young?”

“Only a couple millenia.” Cas answered and tucked the blade into his coat. “We should probably scout the area soon, find a way in and make sure we have a plan.”

The bathroom door unlocked, the water shut off and Jai stepped out, her eyes on Cas as she did so, before she turned to Sam and Dean and sighed. I raised a brow in her direction and she gave me a little smile before she stretched out her arm and looked down at it, good as new before she winked at me and grabbed a gun from the bed.

“Okay, so what’s the plan?” She looked at each one of them before landing on me again, “I gave you all that time and you didn’t come up with anything?”

“Apparently, we were just about to scout the area,” I offered and watched her nod.

“Ah,” she nodded, paused like it was the most awkward thing in the world and then headed for the door. “I call driver.”

I rolled my eyes, scooped up the laptop and my coat before I followed her, leaving the boys to catch up. “You always call driver.”

“You never call shotgun, it’s always assumed, so I thought I would just throw that call out there and see what we could come up with.” She shrugged as she rounded the front of the car and stopped before getting in. “There’s no need to scout, G.”

“I know, I realize this, but you called them here to help, let them help.” She looked passed me at the approaching men and nodded. “So, show me where you got barbequed.”

“It was horrible,” she went on as she got into the driver’s side, slipped behind the wheel and my eyes went to the Winchesters, all three at a loss, while she rambled. “They didn’t even have any sweet honey sauce, let alone Jim Beam or JD.”

“You poor thing.” I closed the door behind me and buckled because you only have to see the death glare she gives you once in order to remember to always buckle your seatbelt. We drove in silence for at least the first two minutes before I couldn’t take the lack of noise. “You haven’t been singing.”

“No cause to,” she whispered.

“But you always sing, and at the most inopportune times.” I turned just a bit in my seat. Jai just shrugged and watched the road, a really odd thing for her to do. “Okay, spill it, you’re driving me crazy with this whole you not being yourself. And Sam, you barely spoke to him, or looked at him… and don’t get me started with Dean.”

“Gwen,” she snapped at me, looking in my direction, there was no humor in her voice as she clenched her teeth. “I’m trying,” the tone dropped and that was barely a whisper, “I’m trying.”

“Nightmares?” I sat back in my seat and watched her stare out into the road for just a second before she nodded. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Not an easy thing admitting that you rip your boyfriend apart in your dreams every night,” she cleared her throat and pulled to the stop sign before looking over at me, “or that you go demon darkside on your oldest friend.”

“You torture Dean?” It really wasn’t a question that I wanted her to answer. I had seen some of her handiwork with demons and I couldn’t ever imagine if there was a human involved in her tea parties, but her explanation got the point across. “At some point, you’re going to have to tell them.”

“Yeah, let me get right on that,” she mumbled and slowed as we moved through town, the rumble of the Impala close behind, but my eyes never left her face. “Gabe said he could help.” The admission of that didn’t shock me, in fact, I had been waiting for her to admit it, but it also brought a different emotion to her eyes. “What if I,” she bit her lip, “what if I let him?”

“What are you afraid of?” I smiled and she whipped around to look at me.

“I’m sorry, have you met him? He’s Gabriel, what is there to not be afraid of?”

“Ah, I see,” letting out a laugh.

“No, no you don’t. There isn’t an I see here, G, not with him.”

“You’re afraid of your reaction to him,” I shrugged.

“Yeah, only a lot.”

I tried to hide the grin but shook my head. Maybe I had teased her enough. “Listen, you lo…”

“Don’t.” she snapped.

“Okay, you care for Sam, a lot, having Gabe there on the nights he’s not, just to help you sleep isn’t going to put you in any position to screw that up.” I could see that she wasn’t so sure, but I wasn’t going to press, but there was one thing I was going to make a point on. “You need to talk to Sam.”

“I know,” she replied, but if it wasn’t for her lips moving, I wouldn’t have heard it at all. She pulled into a parking spot along the edge of the river, a small paved lot that overlooked the swiftly flowing stream of water. I took a breath, hopped out and both of us stood at the front of the CRV, watching the rapids move through the concrete flood walls. “We’re here.”

“Jesus, that thing could kill you,” I whispered, eyes locked on the swirls of white caps that made me shake. Water... I was good with, I could watch it all day, but being in it. No, thank you.

“Yeah, I think that’s the point.” Jai looked over at Sam, who moved to stand to her right as Dean and Cas moved up on my left. She took a deep breath, reached out and laced her fingers with Sam’s, something that made Dean nudge me and gesture to it. Sam looked down, tightened his grip on her but didn’t say anything. “Come on, grab your stuff, it’s still a ways down.”

“Ooh, hiking,” Dean snickered and rolled his eyes. “Wonderful.”

~~~~~

It didn’t take as long as she predicted, of course, she already knew the path, had cleared it and it was now just a matter of leading us there, but as she moved along in front, Sam right behind her, and Dean in the middle, Cas and I hung back.

“She’s different,” he whispered, and I nodded. “Why?”

“She says it’s the nightmares,” I reached over and took his hand. “Their past, her’s and Gabe’s, it puts her in a different frame of mind.”

“Do you think my brother is a distraction?” Cas seemed a little bit concerned but the question was more towards curiosity.

“We don’t know what happened the last time they met, or why he didn’t come back from the case her father was working, Cas. There are somethings that her and I haven’t talked about yet.” I felt his fingers tighten before he tugged me closer.

“Bobby was the one that suggested him,” Cas brought his voice down just a bit lower. “I have a feeling there was a reason behind it besides their past, but without knowing everything, there is nothing but speculations.”

I watched as Jai stopped, and the boys followed like train cars slowly breaking on the tracks. Dean had his gun in his hand as soon as his feet stilled, Sam held a machete, but Jai just stared. When Cas and I reached her, I could see the color drain from her face. Across the shallow river, where the flow had become no more than a babbling brook, was an entrance to what looked like a cave in the rock face.

“Why does it always have to be underground?” I asked, but Jai turned, a smile turning up on her lips as she made a noise, as if she were sucking through her teeth.

“No one like a clown,” she answered, which made no sense and I looked down at her, annoyed. “Cas,” he stepped up beside her and she turned back to stare at the cave. In a whispered voice, she asked him, “can you feel him?”

Cas was silent for a moment before he narrowed his eyes in concentration. I watched as he tensed, then slowly relaxed, nodding. “He’s in there.”

“Good, let’s go.” Dean wanted to move on, to jump right in but it was Jai that grabbed his arm. Dean looked down at her hand before they connected and she shook her head, “why not? Cas said he was in there, how much longer is he going to last?”

“Just… stay here.” She let him go, handed her pack to Cas and made her way across the water. Sam moved to follow but she paused and held up a hand, “Sam, please.”

“What are you doing?” I could hear the full on protective mode in his voice and watched as she reached out into the doorway. Her face contorted in pain as the skin on her arms began to grow red and bubble. “Enough!” He shouted, bound across the river and snatched her away from the entrance, carrying her bridal style back to us. “This isn’t show and tell, you could have skipped the show part.”

“You wouldn’t have believed me.” Jai blinked as Sam put her down on a nearby stump, to look over her hand. Jai reached out and ran her free hand through his hair. “I get the orange fire now.”

“What do you mean, you get the orange fire?” Dean crouched down in front of her. He always needed clarification, but then again, Jai was always pulling the cryptic statements, and I was wondering that myself.

“It’s like Floo Powder,” she shrugged and Dean blinked. “Harry Potter?”

“I know what Floo Powder is,” Dean growled and this got a raised brow from me and the question died on my lips when his eyes snapped up to mine. “But, you’re saying…”

“A transportation spell.” Cas whispered, and Jai nodded.

“If the entrance is warded, maybe it’s not just us that can’t get in, maybe whatever changeling this is can’t get in either, at least not by regular methods.” She watched as her fingers flexed, the redness disappearing, and suddenly her head snapped up. “I have an idea.”

Oh, this is not good, not good at all.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Four

Gwen

I walked through the door of the hotel, placed my bags down and turned on a few of the lights. Cas followed me in rather quickly, pacing as he began to form some sort of conclusion. You could always tell when Cas was putting something together. That stoic look became like stone, and his eyes lost his normal fire. Yes, Cas was deep in thought on this one.

Dean came next, dumping his bag on Jai’s bed as he plunked down and started to take off his boots. Something about the mud from the river banks had been bothering him since we left, but he hadn’t said a word, just kept looking at it as if it truly offended him.

Jai walked in next, the smug smile she had worn on her face all day was now gone and she sat down beside Dean, as much as she could press against him, she had, connecting them from thigh to shoulder before she laid back and stared at the ceiling, arms stretched above her head.

Sam brought up the rear, glanced over his brother and Jai before placing the bags slowly on the second bed. I found my spot in the chair by the table and an awkward silence filled the room. Finally, Jai sighed, rather loudly, which caught my attention and I watched as she brought her hand down, fingers stretched like a cat and began to run the tips of them across Dean’s back.

He visibly relaxed and rested his elbows on his knees, pressing that small part of him back into her touch. I tried not to smile because this was their communication, as weird as it was.

“We know nothing,” Cas whispered, coming to sit with me at the table.

“We know where he is,” she added softly.

“That’s a start,” Sam put in and sat down on the bed, his knees turned towards Jai.

“But we don’t exactly know the power behind it or how many Changelings there are.” Had to put my two sense in.

“We have a plan,” Jai whispered, sitting up. “We save Gabe, that’s the plan, and it’s a good one.”

“That’s not a plan,” Dean turned his head, locking eyes with her, “that’s suicide.”

“Okay,” she nodded, giving in too easily but her eyes floated towards mine and she smile. Oh, no. “We do have something though,” she shifted, standing, letting her hand drop from Dean as she stood in front of Cas and held out her hand. Cas sighed, took the blade from his coat and handed it to her gently. “So, we have a stone blade will kill them but there is only one… how do we get it from one group to the other?”

“How do we know it will kill it?” Sam asked and Jai just smiled.

“The lore behind the blade is simple enough and straightforward.” Cas was the one that answered and we all turned to look at him, his eyes though were right on Jai, “you knew I would recognize it as soon as you handed it to me, didn’t you?”

“I assumed.” She shrugged and walked back towards the beds, sitting this time on the inside beside Sam.  “This one blade can take care of every single one of them, whether there is multiples or just one, the problem is…”

“How does one person take care of them all?” I interrupted, moving my eyes from where they had focused on the blade up her eyes. She was staring at me, unwavering and I watched as not only did she blink, but she smiled. “No.” That was the only response I gave her. “No, a million times over, Jai, absolutely not.”

“She hates me, there’s no way she’s going to come here if I ask.” She had a point but still.

“No, Jai, seriously.” I stood, wanting to go outside but I stopped, looked down at Cas and sighed. This shouldn’t have swayed me, this really shouldn’t have been the reason that I agreed to any of this, but the look in his eyes. This was his brother, no matter how much he meant to Jai or just how fucking annoying he was, this was Cas’ brother we were debating over. I closed my eyes, breathed for a second and turned to her, just her, locking stares. “Fine, I’ll call her, you make yourself scarce.”

“No way,” she whined, like she was about to start a fight. “It’s my blade, so I’m staying, she can kiss my wee arse, if she thinks she can intimidate me into hiding in the bathroom.”

“Wait,” Sam spoke up, looking between us, “you’re not talking about calling Rowena, are you?”

“Know of any other Scottish witch that might steal your lucky charms?” Jai snickered. I narrowed my eyes at her and shook my head. “What?”

“Keep it in check,” I scolded and she shrugged, scooting over as Dean stood from the bed. “I know... I know what you’re going to say, Dean, but we need her.”

“No,” he stated softly, “I agree, and Rowena has come through for us more than once, but what I need to know is how you know her.”

Jai giggled, and I shook my head, “can we save that for another time?”

~~~~~

There was a knock at the door a few hours later, and Jai, who had been sitting on the floor rearranging the knives in her possession, looked up at me from where she sat besides the dresser. Sam slowly sat up on the bed, having laid down to stare up at the ceiling and Dean stopped in his pacing, beer in his hand.

Cas stood, looked at me for confirmation that this was indeed the right course of action and got up to answer the door.

Pulling it open wide, we all stared at the petite red-head that stood on the other side, suitcase in hand as she smiled up at Cas.

“Well, are you just going to stand there, Angel, or are you going to invite me in?”

“Hello, Rowena,” Cas’ usual greeting was more on the lack of emotion side this time and he stepped aside, gesturing the woman to step in. Dean put his back to the wall, standing as close to me as he could, just to make sure I was safe as I slowly got to my feet.

“Ah, Dean, my... you haven’t changed a bit, still as handsome as ever.”

Dean had a reply all set but the softness of her voice seemed to throw him off, like he had expected some sort of snarky remark. He looked at me as if he were searching for help but I just shrugged.

“Samuel, I see your choice in company hasn’t gotten any better since we last met.” And Rowena’s eyes went from him to Jai, who slowly looked up, gave her one quick quirk of her brow before she went back to the blades. “Lancing.”

“Rowena,” Jai replied without even looking up again.

Rowena turned to me then, her eyes drifting over me and a smile grinned across her red lips. She stepped closer, not in anyway like she was going to strike but slowly she placed the suitcase on the bed and opened her arms. I knew what she was expecting and I moved into her embrace like we weren’t surrounded by hunters with open-mouthed confusion written all over their faces.

“It’s so good to see you, Gwen,” she stepped back, letting me look down at her, “but I have to say, the lack of communication is bothersome. Is it because of that one?” Her eyes went to Jai, “because I could certainly turn her into a toad and be done with it.”

“Hey!” Sam snapped but all Jai did was snicker in the corner, still not having gotten up.

“No, that’s not necessary,” I smiled and looked up at Sam, hoping to diffuse the situation. “It’s not her fault, we’ve been busy.”

“Yes, with this bothersome influx, I’m aware,” she sighed but that didn’t stop the smile, “just once, though, it could be fun.” I shook my head and watched as her eyes went steadily back to Jai and there was something in them that I just couldn’t place, until I looked over at the hunter on the floor and saw that, without even missing a beat with the blades, she was flipping Rowena off. “Even if it’s not fun, it might teach her some manners.”

“I have manners,” Jai deadpanned, “I just don’t see the point in wasting unnecessary energy on you.” Suddenly, Jai was on her feet, twirling her favorite blade with her fingers. In my peripheral, I saw the boys stiffen at her advances but I never moved. Jai stopped, looked her over and tucked the blade in her belt. “So, are you going to do your hocus pocus on my blade so we can save Gabe or are you just going to stand there eyeing me up,” she leaned in slowly, “because as much as I love the fact that you can’t get enough of eye-fucking me, I’m not into redheads.”

“I’m pretty sure that was a fib, Jai Lancing,” Rowena smiled as Jai walked around her, headed straight for Castiel. Jai paused, and I rolled my eyes. This was their normal pissing match before we got down to business but I could see where this was going. “I’m positive there’s a hunter in Texas that would be the poster child for disagreement.”

Jai swung around and I stepped between them, blocking her advancement as I stared down at Rowena. “Uncalled for.”

“Stating a fact, my dear.” Rowena shrugged and turned away from me. I slowly pivoted, looking down at the burning eyes of the blue-eyed woman before me and watched as Sam stepped closer.

“Walk it off.” I whispered, but it was definitely an order.

“No,” she hissed.

“We’re not going to get anything done if the two of you keep going at it,” I growled, okay, it was more like spitting through clenched teeth, “so go walk it off.”

“Don’t let her touch my blade until I get back.” I watched the anger slowly fade, like she was locking it away and she reached back for Sam’s hand. “And I’m taking him with me.”

“Good, go get coffees.” I suggested.

“Oh, I could go for a lovely Earl Grey.” Rowena pitched in.

“And I could go for…” but I put a hand up before she could finish the sentence, her glare back on me before Jai huffed, turned and walked out of the building with Sam behind her.

“You think that was a good idea, sending them both?” Dean questioned, worry evident in his tone and I watched as their silhouettes walked past the window before turning to him.

“Trust me, this is better if she’s not here.” I answered and Dean nodded, but his eyes were locked on that door. “And with Sam by her side, nothing’s going to happen.”

“Right,” he sighed, crossed his arms and the two of us turned back to the petite witch who had removed everything from the dresser and was unloading the stuff in her bag.  

“So,” Rowena straightened and turned to me, her eyes going over Dean before she focused. “Show me this wee blade.”

Castiel walked over, drawing in the blade from his coat and the look in her eyes was pure fascination. She held out her hands, taking it gently as he set it down in her palms and she took a deep breath.

“Oh, my,” she whispered in admiration before she brought it up to eye level. “Where did you get such a precious thing?”

“Jai,” Dean replied and I glanced at him, that was definitely a warning.

“I see,” Rowena’s face changed and she turned towards the dresser, towards the herbs and oil she had set up, and placed the blade down on the altar cloth. “And where would one such as Jai Lancing get the Blade of Icarus?”

“I’m sorry, the blade of what?” Dean snapped, as if he had no idea what it was, either that or he knew it and couldn’t believe it.

“It was fashioned with the stones in the prison that held Icarus and his father, meant to be used on the monsters within the labyrinth.” Cas added as Rowena started placing ingredients in the bowls before her. Both Dean and I turned to him as Cas found his seat by the door, his eyes lost with a far away look. “And, she got it from my brother.”

“Gabriel gave the wee nymph a blade,” Rowena asked in disbelief, “as important as this?”

“They have... history,” and it seemed that was all he was going to say about it.

“The blade is made up of the same stones that are in and around the cave that the changelings are holding Gabe in,” I stepped in and she nodded.

“Yes, they have the same magical properties.” Rowena pulled a book from her bag and began to flip through it, humming a tune that I had sworn I had heard before. “Ah, here we are.” She smiled, pointing to a page as she began to read it over. “It seems we need the wandering twosome after all.”

“Why?” Dean, always so full of questions.

“It’s blood magic, my darling,” Rowena replied, heavy on the sweetness and I wondered how well her and Gabe actually got along. “So, while we wait, I can see the wheels turning in your precious head, Dean Winchester. Why don’t you ask what’s on your mind?”

Dean stepped forward, putting himself between Rowena and I as he sat on the bed, definitely a defensive move. “Alright, how exactly do you two know each other?”

“Now that’s a funny story.”

“Yeah, not really.” I sighed and sat down beside him. “My father wasn’t exactly the best judge of character when it came to saving people in distress.”

“Your dad saved Rowena?” Dean narrowed his eyes in suspicion.

“Oh yes, from a God-awful bridge troll in the mountains of Western Massachusetts.” Rowena’s quiet voice was slightly exaggerated as she continued the story. “I was searching for a few small children, they belonged to some of the ladies of the coven I was partaking in, you see.”

“I see perfectly,” Dean grumbled and Cas sat quiet.

“Yes, well,” Rowena seemed a little put out by his comment but she continued. “The wee ones were trapped, no way out, and I went in to rescue them, but fell into a trap myself. Her father, may he rest in peace, swooped in and saved my life, and the lives of the little lasses that would have surely been its dinner.”

“Riveting,” Dean’s lack of enthusiasm had me rolling my eyes, but Rowena didn’t seem deterred from her storytelling at all.

“I gave my word that I would return the favor whenever he needed it, but I was too late to check in on him.” Her eyes went to the floor, the look of actual guilt and loss on her face made me question just what went on between them. “By the time I got in contact with Gwen, he was already gone, but it seemed like father, like daughter because I was able to trust Gwen with the task I had needed help with.”

“Which was?” Cas questioned, finally speaking up from his quiet spot in the corner.

“I gave her the Codex to keep safe.”

Both men turned quickly in my direction as I stared at her, unable to believe that she had even opened her mouth about that.

“Wait, you mean the codex, as in the Book of the Damned codex?” Dean questioned and I sighed, nodding. “What the hell, Gwen?”

“In her defense, she didn’t really know what the codex was for, just that it was what I said.” Rowena’s eyes landed on mine, apologetically. “She kept it safe while I hid the book, so that it can’t be used again.”

“Except by you.” Dean snapped and stood. “If Sam finds out…”

“He won’t unless you open your mouth!” Rowena replied and stood up as straight as her five-foot-four body would allow.

“Enough,” I yelled and both looked at me, “what’s done is done. The codex was a long time ago, before the Stynes.” I shook my head because I knew exactly what had happened then. “Can we just get on with this.”

“What about you and Jai?” Cas questioned. “I noticed the two of you seemed a little tense.”

“Fergus,” Rowena rolled her eyes, the word drawn out with disdain, and she turned back to the book and that was all she said on that.

“Ah,” Cas acknowledged but didn’t let Dean or I in on the intel.

Just then the lock click and the door opened. Jai entered empty-handed while Sam carried the tray of coffees. At least there was a semi-smile on her face.

“I thought you’d be done by now.” She looked at each one of us before setting her sights on Rowena, and the blade on the dresser. “Cas!” She grouched, because it came out like the whine of a small child. “I told you not to let her touch it.”

“She merely placed it on the altar.” Cas sighed, and Jai stepped up snatching it from the cloth before she turned to him, a look of hurt on her face and slowly he rose. I watched him clench his jaw as he stepped closer, held out his hand and both of them looked down at the blade. Jai audibly swallowed, like something had gotten stuck in her throat, and a second later, the handle of the blade was in his hand and she was headed for the door. “Jai,” he whispered, not even loud enough to catch anyone else attention, but he turned to her as she stopped. “Just wait.”

She rubbed the side of her face with her fingertips, as if she were itching at the skin there before she looked at me. Me and no one else. I saw it there for a half of a second, the emotion that came with him asking, that came with knowing she would have to face Rowena, and then it was gone before the stone cold blue tint of her eyes was back.

She turned and nodded before finding a spot on the bed beside me. She shook with a hidden emotion, even if it wasn’t visible to everyone else, she had sat beside me for a reason. She didn’t want anyone else to be aware of it. Her eyes were locked on Cas, as he moved towards the dresser with the blade, and then that stare was focused in on the way he set it down gently.

Rowena moved about the room, putting herbs in the bowl, followed by oils and lighting incense. Dean sat forward to watch her work, Sam stood close to the dresser to see what she was doing but Cas’ eyes were focused on the two of us, a look of uncertainty in his eyes and suddenly he turned and left the room.

“Wonderful, now we’re missing an angel.” Rowena huffed, but I stood and headed out after him. “Oh, not you too.”

“I’ll be right back,” I replied, looking back and forth from Rowena to Jai, who was narrowing her eyes at the witch. “Behave or I’ll have Dean lock you in the bathroom.”

“I might like that.” She snarked but Rowena just rolled her eyes.

With a huff, I turned and left the room, following Cas out to the end of the cars. “Cas, what’s wrong?”

“My brother,” Cas whispered and suddenly, it was if he lost all use of his legs. He was leaning against the trunk of the car, supporting himself on a shaky arm and when I wrapped mine around him, it was as if the rest of the fight went out of him. “My brother is lost in a cave and I can’t…” I rested my hand in his hair, turning his face so that he was breathing against my neck, his fingers tightening on any part of me that he could find. “I can’t feel him anymore.”

“He’s not dead,” I spoke softly, trying to be reassuring, trying to not let out the tears that wanted to flow. I placed my hand on his cheek and pushed him away, just enough so that I could see his eyes. “Gabe is alive, if he wasn’t…”

“I wouldn’t feel it,” Cas shook his head.

“No, but that stone on Jai’s neck would have stopped glowing, and she would have said something, you know she would have.” I tried, and it was definitely reaching but he nodded. “We’re going to get him back, Cas.”

“I know,” he sighed, his body relaxing against me, his hot breath on my neck, “I know.”

~~~~~

“Take a time for a wee quicky?” Jai mimicked Rowena’s accent, very badly I might add, as Cas and I stepped in a few minutes later. Cas stopped dead, looked at me strangely before he focused his eyes on her, narrowing them on her. She stood and stepped up to him, her own eyes narrowing at his and I shook my head. “You’re just in time, Rowena was about to be a prick.”

Looking up from the mini-fridge at her, I saw that Jai was all smiles but they were aimed at Rowena and the red-head was fuming. Dean stood up and moved over to the hunter, taking her by the shoulders, and walked her back over to the bed to sit her down, his hands never leaving her shoulders until Sam scooted over, the boys bookended her.

Cas was just a little too quiet, but as Rowena approached with a small knife, I watched him stiffen and moved to be by his side. He held out his hand. She gently laid the blade against his finger and held the bowl beneath it all while looking up into his eyes.

“You’re not the only one who needs him back.” She whispered, and while I’m sure that she meant it for his ears only, her gaze shot to Jai and back. Weird, I thought she was the one with the archangel obsession, especially since I had heard about the little romp they had in the bunker. “The world could use every angel we have.”

With that, she sliced the tip of his thumb, grabbed just below the cut with her fingers and milked the blood from the wound. Three or four drops and she took a step back before gesturing to me to hold mine out. This went the same way for each of us, until she stopped at Jai and they both seemed to hesitate. Rowena wasn’t going to touch her, and while she offered, Jai wasn’t about to let the witch cut her. Finally, annoyed, Jai grabbed the knife, sliced her own thumb and let a few drops fall into the bowl.

Handing Rowena back the knife, Jai sat back down and let her eyes focus on the blood that pooled on her finger before Sam wrapped it with a napkin, focusing her attention on him.

“Finally,” Rowena huffed and moved back to the dresser.

Jai’s eyes were on me as Rowena mumbled low in Latin, or whatever language she was using for the spell and I watched her expression closely. I knew every outer tell of what she was trying to communicate. Her brow furrowed I’m not so sure of this.  I gave her back a slight shrug me either but what are you going to do? She shook her head, it’s just a bad feeling. I drew in a breath, it’s our only option. Her eyes went to Cas then back on me and she raised one brow, how’s he? I directed my gaze to the stone on her necklace, then up to meet her eyes worried about Gabe. Her hand went right to it and she gave a curt nod, me too.

“There!” Rowena turned towards us, grabbing our attention as she looked over the group, the blade in her hand. Jai stood, stepped closer and held a hand out for it. I could tell by her face that the witch had held it long enough, too long for Jai’s patience. “The words are Et beatos vos ad me .” She gently placed the blade in Jai’s waiting palm. “I call you to me.”

“Really, all that for five words?” Dean snarked and Rowena rolled her eyes.

“It’s not the words, it’s the fact that only those with a blood tie can call the blade.” She released it as Jai’s fingers closed around it. “Now, unless you need anything else, I’m going to take myself out of this equation.”

“Thank you,” Sam spoke up for the first time in a while and all eyes were on him. “You didn’t have to help, and we…”

“I didn’t do it for you,” Rowena was just as snippy as Jai when it came to making sure that people knew where she stood, and she looked at me. “I did it for her.”

And with that the woman left, taking her bowl with her but leaving the mess of clean up to us. Jai sat down with the blade in her hand, twisting it by the tip and the handle as she looked it over.

“Something wrong?” Cas questioned, moving to crouch down in front of her. Jai looked up, turned it in her hand and held the handle out to him. I watched as he took it gently, wrapping his fingers around it before she let go. The look on his face was complete confusion before he turned it and handed it back to her the same way. “Interesting.”

“What?” Sam came around the bed from trashing the stuff left on the altar. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s different.” He spoke softly, as if he were unsure about what was different about it, just that it was.

Et beatos vos ad me.” Jai whisper and the blade disappeared from Castiel’s hand and manifested in the palm of her’s. “Hmm, neat party trick.” She stood, stowed the blade where her usual favorite would be, and looked around the room. “Let’s get this train wreck moving. We have an angel to save.”

And, she was out the door.

Dean sighed, looked at me and raised an eyebrow, but I couldn’t actually say I disagreed with her. We needed to get to Gabriel and we needed to do it fast. I could see the toll it was taking on Cas and I didn’t like it, not at all.

Packing up what we could, different weapons, and a medical bag, the four of us followed Jai out the door not five minutes later. The problem was, she was pacing the parking lot, tossing the blade up and catching it over and over, but there was a look on her face, one that told me something was up. Something not quite right.

I stopped in front of her, blocking her path just as that blade came down into her hand again. She looked up at me, anger in her eyes but it slowly faded the longer she stood.

“What?” Her voice snapped but there wasn’t any heat, not aimed at me anyway. I only stared. There wasn’t anything to say but she began to fidget, unable to stay in one spot and suddenly she rolled her eyes. “This is taking too long.”

“I’m surprised you’re not singing.” I watched her lip turn up and she looked away.

“Nothing to sing about.” Her blade went into her belt and her hands went into her pockets just as she shrugged. “I don’t know, G, something about this is just not right.”

“Changelings who can trap an archangel in an underground tunnel system that runs under the falls, nothing about this is right.” She stopped moving and stared up at me, and that’s when it flashed through her, actual fear, just for a second and and then it was gone.

“Yeah, well, way to bring up all the bad points.” I smiled at the small growl in her voice and she shook her head.

“Maybe, at some point, you and Sam should talk about Gabe.” Her eyes went past me to the men standing by the Impala and I turned as well, following her lead before catching her eyes again.

“Ut-uh, not happening. That one and the angel, not a good thing, G, not at all.” She started fidgeting again, her eyes going wide in a well? kind of expression.

“Alright, let’s go.” I turned towards the CRV and opened the passenger side door. Jai paused by the front front and looked at the three boys before getting in behind the wheel and started the engine. With a sigh and a glance at me, she put it in drive and we headed out. There was a oddness to the quiet in the car, which made me turn and look at her. Jai sat with her elbow up on the door, finger running over her lips, staring out at the road. “Wanna talk about it.”

“No,” she whispered, “no I don’t.” Silence again before she huffed. “Why the hell would Bobby send Gabe my way in the first place? He knew about Dad, he knew that Gabe was…” she stopped, huffed again and shook her head. “I swear if I have to save his ass one more time, I’m just gonna…” her eyes turned to me and she adjusted in her seat. “I hate him.”

“You don’t.” I smiled.

“Yep, I hate him more than I hate Dean, and he’s a douche, so that should tell you something.” She was deflecting. “I hate him so much,” her voice went soft, “and you know what really gets me,” with a deep breath she glanced over at me, tears in her eyes as she took the momentary stop at the light to collect her thoughts and emotions. “If he dies, I don’t think I could live with that, G, not at all.”

“Hey, we haven’t lost one yet,” I watched her open her eyes, the hardness slipped back into them and she nodded. “I mean, yeah, we only have one but hey, I call that a win.”

She scoffed, “you sound like Dean.”

“Could be worse,” I smiled, couldn’t help it, “could sound like Ferrr-gus.”

“Jesus,” she snapped, laughing, “please don’t ever do that again.”

We pulled into the parking spot we had occupied earlier and waited for the rumble of the Impala to join the sound of the CRV before we cut it and jumped out. There were no words exchanged as we headed down towards the entrance of the tunnels, everyone hiked in silence with their packs and I watched as Jai took the lead.

Once there, we all stood across the river. Sam moved up behind Jai, Dean beside her, with me beside him and Cas just on the other side. I guess it was the one thing we hadn’t thought about, how to get in, but I knew what was coming as Jai stepped forward, pulling the chain from around her neck.

The glow of the stone grew in strength and as she set it down on the ground just outside the barrier, I heard Sam draw in a deep breath. He was thinking the same thing we all were, was she going to be self-destructive and reach in, burning her hand but she just stood and cocked her head a little to the side.

Moving back towards us, she stepped up, looking between me and Cas and she shrugged.

“How do you release it?” She questioned and I turned to Cas as well because that was a very good question. Cas narrowed his eyes, not in irritation but in concentration and there was just a slight tilt of his head.

“There is an old Enochian prayer, but I’m a little rusty on the verbiage. I would hate to screw it up.” Jai smiled and looked up at me trying to see if I caught it, but I had started smiling as soon as he said it. Cas looked from one of us to the other before Dean snickered behind us and Cas seemed utterly confused. “What did I say?”

“Cas,” Sam spoke up, “everything in Enochian is old.”

Castiel, angel of the lord, who usually didn’t get that reference, frowned because this time he did and he wasn’t amused.

“Ha-ha,” he rolled his eyes. “Give me about five minutes to see what I can come up with.”

“We don’t have that kind of time.” Jai sighed and I watched it all in slow motion, the way she drew her gun, turning just her upper body as she aimed for the stone.

Cas grabbed me, pulling me down, Dean and Sam ducked behind trees and rocks but Jai pulled that trigger without a second thought.

The blast was a wave of power, sending her straight back and to the ground. All of us, even hunched down and protected by something solid, landed on our asses and when the proverbial smoke cleared, Jai let out a moan, then a laugh before I could find her.

I crouched beside her, as she coughed, shook the cobwebs from her mind and looked up at me.

“You ASSHOLE!” I snapped and reached down, grabbing her hand to yank her up. No one else seemed the worse for wear but she was in the direct path of the blast. Jai stood, a little unsteady at first while she grabbed my arm, but there was a smile on her face. “A little warning would have been nice.”

“Since when did I ever give you warning?” Her face was lit up, but I could see the pain in her eyes, “I mean for anything?”

“Jesus Christ!” Sam groaned, coming out from behind the tree he had ducked behind. He moved fast enough so that all I had time to do was step once to the left, before he swept her up into his arms, lips on her face. “That was stupid, Jai.”

“My middle name,” she countered and waited for him to put her down before she looked past me at Dean, waiting for the inevitable scolding but Dean just sat down on the rock behind him and rubbed his head. “Hey,” she whispered, concern in her voice, “you okay?”

“That was...” he started softly, shaking his head as his eyes went up to look at her, before turning to Cas, “did it work?” Cas, who had been standing there silent, was staring into the cave, the look of concern and terror on his face was disheartening to say the least. “Cas?”

“Yes,” he stuttered, finally looking back, his eyes going from Jai and Sam to me and Dean, before focusing directly on those green eyes. “Yes, he’s alive, but…” he paused, “barely.”

“That’s all I need to know.” Jai holstered the gun in the back of her jeans and grabbed her bag. She was across the water before any of us could stop her and Sam raised a hand and his voice as she made a beeline for the entrance with no indication of stopping.

“NO!” He yelled as she moved with purpose, hitting the opening with all the speed she could muster.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Five

Jai

The darkness of the cave surrounded me as I stepped over that line. I could hear Sam yell, knew that he was out there somewhere, but I could also almost feel Gabe. It took me a moment to figure out that I couldn’t go this alone, as much as I wanted to and I stepped back into the light, looking at the four of them across the way.

“I’m fine.” I announced, probably too casually because within seconds I was wrapped up in big moose arms. I moved my arms around his neck and kissed his cheek softly, feeling the tension in the muscles of his shoulders. “Okay, Sammy, I’m okay.”

“Jesus, do you have some sort of death wish?” Dean snapped as he approached and I looked up from his brother’s shoulder to smile. Same old Dean. Sam slowly put me down and Dean stepped up, reached around to grab the back of my head and pulled me into a hug. I snorted into his chest and shook my head. “You scared the crap out of all of us, Lancing, what the hell?”

I pushed back away from him and looked up at them, all of them before I stepped away. “It’s open, and Gabe’s inside.”

“That doesn’t mean run headlong into a place that just had a spell on it that could have burned you to death.” Cas snapped and I turned my sights on Gwen, who had yet to say a thing. I opened my arms in a some back up here gesture and she raised her hands to tell me she wasn’t getting into it.  “It was a stupid move.”

“Cas?” because, what the hell? I shook my head, grabbed the pack that was now on the ground thanks to the Sam hug I had gotten and hiked it over my shoulder. “Fine, bitch at me all you want, but I’m going back in.” Cas didn’t move. “Come on, man, it’s your brother.”

“It’s your life that I’m worried about,” the angel whispered softly, catching everyone’s attention. “They’re going to see that you’re connected to him, they’ll know.”

“Why?” The anger began to grow, to fester and I narrowed my eyes at him. “Why are they going to know?”

“Because, I believe these are the things that were in the labyrinth. The very creatures that held Icarus captive.” He stepped forward, his hands on my shoulders. “They will know who he is to you, who you are to him.”

“They’re dragons, Cas, dragons!” I snapped, turned and walked into the cave again, because no one was going to convince me otherwise.  Stopping at the mouth of two tunnels, the four of them not far behind, I sighed and turned, looking from Sam to Dean and Gwen and finally I set my sights on Cas. “You can feel him, right?”

“Yes, but the energy in the caves is strange.”

“Strange how, Cas?” Gwen stepped up beside him and the two of us locked eyes. She was just as concerned as I was especially if Cas couldn’t pinpoint the angel.

“It’s distracting.” Cas shook his head, like he was getting mixed signals and I nodded. “Can you…” I looked into his blue eyes, “can you feel him?”

“I,” I glanced at Sam, stared at Dean and moved back to looking closely at Gwen before I nodded. “Yeah.”

“What?” Sam barked, “how?”

“Sam, please?” Gwen begged for him to quickly drop it but I raised a hand and shook my head.

“It’s a long story.” I answered and closed my eyes, before turning to Cas, “but you’re right, it’s wonky in here, like a pull from different directions. I think they have to meet, the tunnels I mean, to have it so strong in both of them.”

“You wanna split up, don’t you?” Dean asked and all I did was nod. “Great, just fucking great, because that plan always worked so well for us in the past.”

“Dean!” I snapped at him and watched the anger in his eyes. “It’s the only way.”

“It’s not and you know it.” He stepped forward, crowding my space but I didn’t back up, didn’t have time for this.

“It is if you think about it.” I didn’t know where his emotions were coming from but I knew it had to be somewhere private because as much as we snapped at each other, he had never been this angry. “Look, we all go down one and he’s not there, then we have to backtrack, or we split and take it on both at one time. One of us gets there, one of us saves him, and we all get the hell out.”

“Or we all get dead.” He growled and I shook my head.

“Why? Why are you thinking like that?” Stepping closer, I stared up into those green orbs, just stared and that was when I saw it, the acknowledgement, the memories, and I backed down, reaching out a hand to touch his cheek. “No, listen, don’t think about it.”

“What’s going on, Dean?” Sam questioned from behind me and I could feel him against my shoulder but that stare never wavered.

“Don’t,” I whispered, waited, and felt Dean’s hand come up, take hold of my wrist and pull it away from his face before he stepped back, expression unchanged. “We good?”

“Yeah,” Dean whispered, looked up at Sam and dropped my hand. “Okay, let’s split up.”

Dean grabbed Gwen’s hand, which got me an odd look from my partner and Cas stepped passed me, but not without a glance in my direction. I turned and looked up at Sam, smiling the best I could.

“Looks like it’s you and me, Stud.” I nodded and moved towards the left cavern. Sam moved up behind me, the small light in his hand as the five of us broke. One last look at Gwen, the concern in her eyes and Sam and I were off into the darkness. Sam was sighing, loudly, and often as we moved, which finally got me to stop, turn and look up at him. “What?”

“Wanna explain to me what the hell just happened?” Sam was intimidating to most people but as I looked up at him, I saw through that tactic and watched the concern in his eyes for Dean.

“Not really,” I shrugged and watched the irritation build. “Look, Sam, there are things that have happened between Dean and I that I don’t really want to talk about and if Dean hasn’t opened his stupid trap and confessed anything to you on the subject, neither am I. Obviously, he wants to keep it to himself, so I’m not going to break that trust and spill anything he doesn’t want out.”

I turned and walked only a few steps before I noticed he wasn’t following.

“Why?” came from behind me. “Why now, why all of a sudden are you protecting him? You two have been at each other’s throats since the moment we met, but now, both of you clam up over… over Gabriel? There’s only one time in our lives that Dean hasn’t gone into detail about something, except to tell me about Cas, so, I just want to know, why now and why with you?”

“It doesn’t matter,” I whispered, didn’t bother to turn around and look, “it doesn’t change anything.”

Stepping forward, I moved on, and after a moment of silence, I heard Sam starting to follow.

Not more than fifteen minutes into the walk, I noticed that we were going further underground, but the rush of the rapid above echoed through the tunnels. Sam crowded up against me and I reached back for his hand, something he took willingly, giving my fingers just the slightest squeeze.

The silence was deafening, at least until Sam’s phone rang. It sounded like an old wall phone, or something out of some scary movie, but Sam moved quickly to dig it out of his pocket and place it on speaker.

“Dean?” And as much as I found it funny that he seemed genuinely confused as to why his brother was calling him, I kept the laughter to myself and my eyes locked on the way ahead.

“Sammy, listen, I think we hit a dead end.”

“A dead… how?”

“Not really a dead end, per se… the tunnel splits again.” Cas’ voice spoke up and this made me turn. Two more tunnels.

“Don’t separate.” I snapped and stepped closer to Sam. “It’s a trap.”

“We figured.” Gwen answered this time and my heart started to pound in my chest.

What the hell way would they go? Which way were we going? I closed my eyes, thought about the way the river curved above me, how the tunnels had split to begin with. I drove for a damn living, I had so many stupid maps in my head that I could find my way to the nearest town by the direction of the sun, for Gods’ sake. I could get them out of a damn maze.

“Go left.” I whispered and Sam cocked his head just a bit. “Ah, take the left tunnel.”

“Why left?” Dean questioned and I couldn’t help but smile, left himself wide open for that one.

“That’s how it hangs, doesn’t it?” And Sam rolled his eyes. “Seriously, just trust me on this one.”

“I don’t know why I would, but okay, left it is.” Dean gave in way too easy but then again, there was a lot of that going around today. “Keep me posted.”

“Will do,” Sam whispered and hung up the phone.

I was about to step away, to keep moving when his hands were suddenly on my cheek and his lips locked on mine. I either let out a moan or lost my breath, but the feeling of him pressing me against the cold, damp wall was invigorating to say the least.

When he backed away, when he finally let me up for air, he rested his forehead against mine and let me relax in his hold. My fingers unclenched from his shirt, but roamed until they were flush against his warm skin, something he jumped from because my fingers were freezing.

“What was that for?” I smiled, felt his lips replace his forehead and he breathed in deeply, taking the scent of my skin and shampoo deep into his lungs.

“I just,” he started, but huffed, pulled me in and wrapped his arms around me, “I just needed it.”

“If you’re going to keep kissing me like that, please, need away.” I laughed, but his arms fell away. “I’m sorry, Sam.” I was able to look him in the face this time and it sucked. “I’m sorry that I never told you about Gabe and his fly-bys. I’m sorry that we argued, that things have been rocky and I’m sorry that I keep stuff from you.”

“But, you’re not going to spill it, are you?” He gave me a half-smile and nodded as I shook my head, just a bit. “I know,” he sighed, “I know what it’s like to be a hunter and keep things in, not tell anyone because you don’t want to burden them, or even hint at something that makes you scared, believe me, I get it, but,” he switched his footing, hiking his bag up, “whatever the hell is between you and Gabe, or you and Dean, that’s not what bothers me.”

“You have a funny way of showing how much it doesn’t.” I sighed.

“It’s hard,” he whispered, “it’s hard to see how much you keep to yourself, that you keep from me. It’s like,” he looked around, gathering his thoughts, “it’s like you don’t really trust me enough to let it out. I mean, you’ll tell Dean, or Gwen, but you won’t share stuff with me that is important.”

“Gabe,” I snapped, putting my hands on my hips.

“Please, don’t say he’s not,” Sam huffed, “you don’t run into a burning building for someone that’s not important, that doesn’t mean something.” I turned my eyes down, because, dammit, he was right. “Maybe one day, you’ll tell me everything. Maybe… maybe something will make you trust me with this and you’ll figure out that I’m not going to hurt you.”

“It’s not you,” I rubbed my hands against my forehead and tried to not smile away the emotions but I couldn’t, it was too much of a coping mechanism.

“You’re going to say it’s you, right?” He shook his head. “I know it is.”

“Good, then we’re square.” I nodded, turned and took two steps before stopping to stare at him. “And for all that it’s worth, Winchester, besides Bobby, the four of you… I’ve never trusted anyone more. Someday, everything will be out in the open, someday, this God forsaken wall that closes me off will breakdown and let me out, but until that time comes, just know that there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you.”

I moved quickly, keeping him to my back as I felt the tremble of my lips. God, I hated emotions, and right now they were at an all-time high as we raced to save the one angel that had always guarded over me.

~~~~~

The tunnel opened up to a cavern. Large stones hung from the ceiling, making it look as if we were about to step into the world of Indiana Jones, but Sam and I stayed still, pressed against the wall, waiting.

His phone lit up, a text from Dean. They were right across from us, doing the same thing, and peering through the darkness, I could make out the small blue light of his phone. Sam didn’t say a thing, neither did I as we both moved at the same time, making our way through the shadows, keeping our backs to the wall.

I stopped, mid-way there, the movement in the center of the cavern catching my eyes, and I gasped loud enough that Sam put on the breaks and looked back at me.

The light shone down from an overhead vent, just a small hole in the roof of the room, natural light at seemed to expand until it formed some sort of spotlight. On the ground, in the dust that the air movement kicked up, was Gabriel.

From where I stood, I could see the bloody mess of his face, knew that he wasn’t tied up, but was still unable to move. He moaned, and I stepped forward, but Sam’s arm caught me, yanked me back against him as I tried to control the breathing that had my heart racing. I had to get to him, had to get him out of here. The angel was dying, I could feel it.

“No! Cas!” Dean’s low voice growled and I saw that tan trench coat, the one that I had long ago planned to steal, burn, and bury, move out of the shadows. Sam’s arm came around my waist as my efforts increased and I watched as Cas knelt by his brother.

He’s gravely injured. Cas’ thoughts flowed through me and I jerked at the intrusion. I don’t know what the hell Gwen was talking about, this wasn’t pleasant at all. We need to get him out of here.

Cas!  Dean’s growl again and suddenly, his confusion filled me, touching every part, as Sam’s curiosity and Gwen’s concern also flowed along the line. What the hell is this?

I don’t… Cas looked up at the four of us but reached out along the tether. I don’t understand.

Neither do I, Angel Face, but let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth and get the hell out of here. I pressed the thought along to him, shifted out of Sam’s hold and made for the angels in the middle. Stepping up beside Cas, I knelt down and gingerly rolled Gabe so that I could look over his injuries. “Can you heal him?”

“No,” his voice was stone cold, but he wasn’t looking at Gabe anymore, he was looking around the cabin. “I can’t seem to summon my powers, but I think that might be the last of our concerns right now. Your dragons,” he whispered, looking down at me, “they’re coming.

“Sweet,” I smiled up at him but slowly stood, feeling Dean, Gwen, and Sam step out of the shadows.

To say it was strange to go from the sudden quiet to the noise of the fight would be an understatement because for one brief second there was nothing, and then it erupted. Five of them to the five of us.

The changelings appeared as if out of thin air, which made both Cas and I back away from Gabriel, his angel blade in his hands, and the Blade of Icarus in mine. I watched this thing come closer, the long claws of its hands as it held its arms out away from its sides, the dual layers of its lids flashed as it blinked, and the hollow sound of its breath as it came closer was all I took in before the sounds of the battles being fought behind and around me flowed in.

Sam was somewhere to my left, by the sounds of his grunts, he was taking as good as he got. Dean, ever the silent hunter, was to the right, and only the sounds of his steps were what gave it away. Dean… well, if you ever watched Dean fight, he was like a dancer, light on his toes, fast with his swings, but it was Gwen that had me smiling, because the sound of her precious blade cutting through the air was what filled my ears, that and the soft sounds of it sliding through skin and muscle.

I ducked as Cas swung, his fight so much closer than the others, but that little move is what brought my monster to me. The thing lunged, claws swinging and all I could do was try to get out of its away. They were top heavy with those massive arms, thin tapered waists and what amounted to chicken legs complete with the same type of feet, with only the skin as webbing between.

Kind of made me hungry actually.

My stomach growled in agreement and I sighed, because now was not the time to think of Buffalo Wings and beer.

I twirled the handle to Icarus, because that was what I was going to call it, in my hand before tightening my grip and swinging. The blade sliced through the abdomen of the dragon before me and I smiled. It howled in pain, knowing that I could hurt it and that brought a smile to my face.

Things moved in a blur of motion after that, swings, ducks, weaves, and jump-backs as I tried to avoid those claws, and managed to before I was caught in the arm by one, slicing down the back of my upper left, but that was okay, because my right was stronger with the blade.

It stepped closer again, this time both arms swinging but it was a predictable pattern that let me move without issue. Dragons sucked at fighting, or at least these ones did, since they weren’t dragons at all. With just the right amount of distance between us, and how it was turned, I brought the blade up, twisted it in my hand and brought it down through the visible ribs of its back. I wasn’t aiming for the heart, I was gunning for the spine.

With one quick slip to the left, I felt the blade slide through nerves, tendons, muscles and vertebrae. I watched as it fought against the sudden inability to turn and like the life had gone out of the rest of its body, it crumpled to the ground. My eyes focused on Gabe, on the way he lay there moaning but not moving and I was pissed.

I stepped over the creature, raised the blade with both hands and brought down straight into its skull. The Gods awful sound of it going through bone and brain before I yanked it back out was the only thing I heard, right before…

Et beatos vos ad me! ” Gwen’s voice shouted and the blade was gone. Turning, I watched as she adjusted her hold, took the tip and jammed it up between two ribs, right into the heart of the thing, her hand on its shoulder before ripping it out and doing it again.

“Gwen!” Dean’s voice screamed over the wailing noises that were suddenly filling the hall and I watched as she tossed it. Dean stepped back, caught it with ease and swung, slicing off the dragon’s head with one smooth motion.

Et beatos vos ad me .” Sam whispered, close enough to me that I twirled and watched the blade enter the dragon’s mouth before its wide eyes went still and it fell backwards, with Sam still holding Icarus like a broadsword.

“Sam,” Cas’ voice was even, no emotion in it whatsoever but the next words were said with venom. “ Et beatos vos ad me .”

Cas’ movement were fluid, a swipe up, one down, one across and it looked as if his creature was about to fall apart. I didn’t think the blade was that long, in fact, I was pretty positive a body shouldn’t split into three like that but the angel’s wrath was not one I wanted to incur. He lowered his arm to his side, and the cavern fell silent.

I moved, when all movement stopped, to Gabriel’s side and I placed my head on his chest, longing to hear the sound of the heart that beat in it. He was an angel, and had this vessel for so long that I was sure it had stopped ticking so long ago, but there it was, faint and against my ear.

“Jai,” Cas whispered, and I turned tearful eyes up to him, “we should move him.” I nodded but didn’t back away as Cas looked at the others. I watched Dean take Gwen’s hand and Sam step up to his brother. “We’ll meet you outside.”

And with that, I found myself sitting on the other side of the water, Gabe’s head in my lap. Cas was trying to heal him, as I ran my hands through his light brown hair. It curled against my fingers in places, like it had a mind of its own, but mostly it fell as I combed over it. The paleness of his skin had turned to a healthier pink, his chest rose and fell as if mentally going back to the basic functions, but he didn’t stir.

I hunched over him, letting my lips fall on warmer flesh, closed my eyes and started to hum, not bothering to move as the sounds of three bodies splashed across the river.

“Heya, Cas,” Dean’s voice was barely a whisper, but he hadn’t done it to say hello, he was announcing their presence as Cas continued to concentrate on his brother. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched Dean squat beside Gabe’s legs, hand going to the angel’s knee before moving up to rest on Castiel’s shoulders. “How’s he doing?”

“His wounds,” Cas paused and my eyes fluttered up to his, “I have to take him back.”

“What?” Gwen stepped closer, “take him back to where?”

“Heaven, only in the arms of Heaven could I possibly even phantom repairing this much damage.” Cas barked, but it wasn’t angry, or mean, it was just emotional. “He’s stable, but I don’t know for how long.” Cas’ fingers traced over my head before his palm rested there. “I’m sorry to take him from you.”

“No,” I whispered, looking up, my face hot with tears, my lips trembling from the fear of losing him. “You take him, Cas, and you fix him.”

“I can’t…” he took in a deep breath, “I can’t promise a time, I don’t know how long he’ll need.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I swallowed, felt Sam behind me as the man reached around and brushed a tear from my cheek. “However long it takes, Cas, I know he’s safe.” I sniffled, righted myself and looked at the four of them. “But, can I… can I have a minute? Alone?”

Cas nodded, wary to leave the man but he stood slowly, reaching back to take Dean’s hand as it fell from his shoulder and the two of them stepped away. Gwen leaned down, placed a hand on Gabe’s chest, locking eyes with me for only a moment before she stood and followed the pair. Sam came around, eyes falling to Gabe as they began to water before looking at me. He reached out, as the pain hit me as I took in a ragged breath, and wiped the tears from my cheek.

“I’ll be right over there.” Sam whispered, not that he needed to say anything at all but I knew, for him, this was something he had to get out and I nodded. He reached out and took my hand, uncurled my fingers and placed a crystal in the middle of it, a small white quartz, before he stood up and moved away.

I held the stone gently as I moved, rearranging Gabe so that his head rested on one of the softer packs, and I scooted down alongside of him, placing my head on his chest. I took the stone, laid it at the top of his sternum and held his hand in mine.

“Gabe.” It was the only word I could get out as the tears ran once more, the light thump of his heart just below my ear was what kept me from really letting go, but I couldn’t get out anything else, couldn’t express what I wanted to say, so… I sang. “This little light of mine,” voice cracking and all, but it wasn’t supposed to be for anyone else’s ears. “I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

Just those simple words had me holding in the sobs but the twitch of his fingers, the light glow of the crystal made my heart skip.

“I taught your mother that,” his voice was broken, and light, almost a whisper, but it had me backing away, going up on my elbow as I moved up to fit his head in the crook of my arm, holding him close.

I smiled, but it was half-hearted, I knew what kind of pain he was in. “You taught me that, my mother couldn’t carry a tune to save her life.”

“I know, I was there.” His honey-gold eyes looked up to me and he sighed, like he was finally home. “You saved me.”

“No, we did, all of us, and you owe me.” I rested my forehead to his temple, feeling his body shiver, but the crystal on his chest still continued to glow. “Please, don’t leave me.”

“Never,” he sighed, and I knew how much this was taking out of him.

“Cas is going to bring you home, get you fixed up, and then you come back to me. Straight back.” I whispered and though it was just a quick tilt, he nodded.

“I’ve never been completely straight,” was his comeback and I laughed, because, yeah, we knew that.

“It doesn’t matter, Gabe, it’s what I want.”

“No, Sugar Plum, he’s what you want,” and Gabe’s eyes, what I could see of them, went straight to Sam, “so go to him and let my baby brother take care of me.” I sat up more, looked down at the angel and sighed, placing a hand on his cheek. He reached up and took the stone from his chest, the two of us watching it continue to pulse with his grace. “You take this, and you give it back when I see you again.” I nodded, took it in my hand and kissed him softly. “You’re going to make a moose jealous.”

“He’ll survive.” Gabe’s hand took mine in a hold that I knew he didn’t have the energy for.

“Tell him,” he ordered, quietly as he stared me down, “you tell that boy anything he wants to know about me, and you don’t hold anything back. He’s it, you know, because I can feel it. He’s it for you.”

“Shh,” I smiled, “I haven’t told him that yet.”

Cas moved to squat beside us and, slowly, we both looked over.

“Ready to go, little bro?” Gabe snarked and Cas smiled, nodding. I took a deep breath, moved back from the pair and watched as Cas reached out, stopping just before he put his hand down on Gabe’s shoulder. The honey-eyed angel looked right at me. “Soon, Cupcake, soon.”

I nodded and watched as the two of them disappeared and then I fell apart.

~~~~~

The door opened to the room and I glanced up to see Gwen walk in as I stuffed pretty much everything I owned in a few bags. It was time to jump ship, but there was a look in her eyes, one I knew oh so well.

“Oh, Gods,” I sighed, tossing the last pair of jeans on top of the rest in the bag, “what now?”

“Very perceptive,” she said sourly but grabbed the last of her stuff off the table.

“It’s one of my finer qualities.” I grinned but it didn’t even get so much as an eye roll from her. “So, what’s going on?”

“We’re not going home.” Straight to the facts, I liked it, but I knew there was something else. “We’re going to Nebraska.”

“Nebraska.” I whispered, paused and shook my head. “Have we actually ever been to Nebraska? What the hell’s in Nebraska anyway?”

“Seven Sisters Road.” Gwen stated dryly, which brought back a flood of memories.

“Oh, right.” I nodded, stuffing the clothing deep into the bag before zippering it up. “Besides a haunted road stalked by seven hung sisters, wanna really tell me why we’re going to Nebraska?”

“Ash called.”

I turned and sat on the bed, thought about the mullet-haired man and smiled. He was a fun time, not that we ever… he had some interesting theories. The smile fell from my face as I looked up at her.

“Well, that can’t be good,” I sighed and shrugged, “any specific reason the Doctor would reach out and touch someone, or was it just a courtesy call?”

“Apparently, there’s something we just gotta see.” Gwen shrugged.

“Okay, well, I say we go west.” I smiled and watched the grin go up on her lips. It’s been a while since we visited the Roadhouse, a long while. “But first, I want fried chicken.”

“You’re gross, absolutely gross.” She shook her head, but grabbed her bags as I took mine and we headed out the door, leaving the hotel room in darkness.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Six

Sam

The drive to the Roadhouse was… odd. After everything that happened in Shelburne Falls, how could it not. When we packed it in, it was decided that Gwen would travel with Dean, and I would ride with Jai, which would, you know, give us time, but it was quiet. She was quiet.

For a long while, she just stared out the windshield, her elbow on the door and her head resting on her fist, the emotions in her eyes were on the edge of crying, or revenge, or just… nothing, sometimes they were completely blank.

I worked on anything I could find, my laptop out and opened as I scrolled through all of the news from towns we passed through. The hotspot that I carried on me was nothing more than magical since it seemed to always have me connected but at some point, I gave up. It wasn’t giving me anymore information than what Ash had given and that was not only baffling but completely irritating.

Rest stops seemed to be the worst. She would pull in, either following or being followed by Dean, park it, set the gas pump up and disappear. About six hours in she did this for the second time and left me holding the nozzle.

Gwen looked at me oddly from her side of the Impala but quietly got out and followed Jai into the store. No words were said, but Dean started filling the tank in front of me, his eyes going to the girls, then back to me.

“Still nothing?” He spoke softly, enough for me to hear but all I did was shake my head. “She’ll come around.”

“I wish I knew more, maybe I could help her.” I shrugged, because it was true. I didn’t know much, hell, I knew next to nothing about her and Gabe but I didn’t want her to shut me out because she thought I would be pissed, and that was it, exactly, she thought I was going to be a dick about it. “I mean, you heard her right? He taught her a song, she loves to sing, and her mother, he knew her mother?”

“Hey, don’t think to much into it, Sammy, we know that Gabe and her dad worked together when she was young. She lost mom at eight, but she never said when they did the job.” Dean looked at me with this glare, like he wanted me to drop it but how could I? Then he repeated, as if he were trying to make sure he got it himself. “She’ll come around.”

“Yeah,” I sighed, but I couldn’t help but think she was pulling away, “I miss her, ya know, like the way we were in New Orleans.”

“So, bring her back.” The expression on Dean’s face was simple. It was a fuck it look that made me nod. He didn’t care how far and how hard he pushed Jai, that was their relationship, but he never let her get too far, even as much as they wanted to kick each other’s asses. “Sometimes, she’s out there, like she just fades into her own world, Sam, you just have to grab her by her hair and pull her back in, ground her.”

“Hey, you know, we always talk about it, but, why?” It had been bugging me for, well, forever, this relationship they had. “She pisses you off so much and the two of you are ready to throttle each other but then stuff like this happens and…”

“She saved my life.” Dean sighed cutting me off, and I turned as the pump kicked off. Taking it from the car, I put it back on the hook and watched Dean staring at the number for a little while. “When we were kids, after the whole shotgun thing, she started to follow me.”

“Like because she liked you?”

“What?” Dean seemed either annoyed with that thought, or totally grossed out, “no! I told you we were never like that, but she was curious, I guess. I had just come back from… It was the summer I had gone to Sonny’s. I guess she missed me but things kinda got wiley and something happened.”

“Dean?” I watched my brother’s face go just a shade paler than it had been and his eyes faded off, but the pump clicked and he cleared his throat. I watched him move around, capping the tank, putting the nozzle back but he paused, like he was debating on whether to go on or not before he looked at me. “Dean, you don’t have to if it’s too much.”

“No,” he sighed, “it’s just a memory, right?” Wow, it must have been pretty bad. He looked up at the store and stepped over to me. “You know the old mines up just past the town line?”

“The one that Bobby swears he’s going to kill us for if we ever step foot in them?” I laughed because the lecture we got every time was almost comical, but Dean nodded. “Oh, Jesus, you went in them?”

“I followed something, not even sure what it was, but yeah, I was stupid and needed to get away, so I went in, blind and unarmed.” Dean put his arms on the top of the CRV and kept an eye on the store, watching the girls roam about inside. “I didn’t know she followed, not even sure how she got there, but I had a concussion or so I gathered and was so disoriented that I would have never found my way out. She did, and she dragged my ass right out along with her.”

“Wow,” I took a breath in and shook my head. The things you learn about people. “Why did you never tell me this story?”

“Because it went south.” He stood up suddenly as the door chimed behind me. “After that, we were just at it all the time. No matter how much or how little we were together, we couldn’t keep it straight, we were always at each other’s throats, but, I think I know what it was now, that kept us that way.”

“What?” I knew it was a whisper and I watched the twitch of Dean’s lips curl up as he huffed a little bit of a laugh.

“We both had lost so many already, we were terrified of losing each other.” He looked down at his hand, curling it into a fist, before he looked up at me. “We cared about each other and it scared the shit out of us, so this was the only way.”

“Yeah, I get that.” I nodded and thought back about all that I had learned about them over the year.

Pushing away but telling each other everything, keeping the other at arm’s length with anger and hostility but being there at the drop of a hat. They were scared, they still are because as Dean watched them approach, I saw that thin wall build up in his eyes before he turned back to the Impala and walked away. Jai stepped up beside me, a questioning look on her face, and she reached out to grab the door but I took her hand instead.

“Sam?” Her voice was almost a whisper, a plea to let go but I turned her and tugged her closer. We hadn’t really talked, not about anything important, in fact, uncomfortable silences had been her way of dealing with it for a while but I was done. So done.

I took a deep breath, let the palm of my hand rest on her cheek before I slid it down to the side of her neck, wrapped my fingers around the back, tangling in her hair, and I pulled her in. Her lips were soft, warm and just a little wet. She tasted like coffee and peppermint gum and as I tilted her head just a little to let the kiss deepen, she made a little sound, just a quiet moan as she sighed, her hands suddenly gripping my shirt, fisting the material.

Her lips parted, then closed, sucking on mine and I wrapped my arm around her to pull her even closer. The sound of Dean clearing his throat was what broke us apart just before I was able to slip in and chase the taste of her. When her lips left mine, she let her forehead fall against my chest to catch her breath but I could feel the tremble under my hand.

“You don’t have to be strong all the time.” I managed to whisper as I leaned down and kissed the back of her head. “I’m not going to ask you about anything you don’t want to tell me, Jai, but you don’t have to do this alone.”

She nodded, no words spoken, and backed away. When her eyes came up to mine, they were wet with tears, but she licked her lips, like she was tasting me, and that set a fire deep down that I fought to control, before she gave a little smirk and turned back to the door, letting me go. With a small sigh, she gestured to the other side of the car and waited until I moved.

The sound of the Impala cranking over and Dean revving the engine was faded as I slipped in and closed the door. Our eyes were on each other until she pulled away from the pumps, heading out to once again follow Dean.

~~~~~

The soft notes of a piano started playing over the radio, which had been the only constant noise besides the sound of the Impala and the wheels on the road. She reached over, which is the only reason it caught my attention at all, and slowly turned it up. I watched the corner of her lips turn up as her fingers tapped on the steering wheel and I couldn’t help but smile.

Her eyes were bright, like it triggered a memory but with the beginning of the vocals, she made the first sound I had heard in hours.

“Blue jean baby, L.A. lady, seamstress for the band. Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you'll marry a music man. Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand.” If she wasn’t driving her eyes would have shifted closed, but as it was, her head swayed with the tune as her voice picked up every word perfectly. Her fingers went with the beat as if she were the one playing the piano. “Hold me closer, tiny dancer. Count the headlights on the highway. Lay me down in sheets of linen. You had a busy day today.”

As the song faded into the next one, I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. She was at ease, nothing but a smile on her face and that tongue came out, licking the dryness of her lips and all I wanted to do was kiss her. Kiss her and never let her go, but when the tempo of whatever was on picked up, the smile faded and she blinked as she looked up at me, as if she had forgotten that she had an audience, and a blush rushed up straight to her ears.

“Sorry,” she whispered, and I reached over, taking her hand from the wheel. Whatever way she sang with Gwen, off key and loud, that wasn’t what I had just heard.

“That was,” I shook my head, “it was fantastic.”

She smiled, which only made me smile and gave my fingers a gentle squeeze. “My mom used to sing it to me.”

“Wait, that tune,” something about it had me scratching my head until it all clicked. “The music box in your room.”

I would have sworn she had gotten whiplash with the way her head turned and she looked at me. “You went in my room?”

“Yeah, um, when we got to Bobby’s… Dean, he, ah, kinda let us in.” I didn’t know why telling her that made me so nervous but she blushed a little more, which, in a way, was damn cute. “But, after you got there, when you were having nightmares…”

“I know, it’s fine, Sam,” she whispered, but looked up at me. “It’s just weird.”

“That I went in your room before you got there?”

“Yeah, I guess.” She let me go and reached over, flashing her lights to the car in front of her and then bit down on her lip. Looked like we were stopping again. “Sam,” she paused, “I didn’t mean that it was…” she struggled with the words and as endearing as it was to watch her squirm, it was completely unlike her. “Okay, so, you’re the only guy who has ever been in my room besides Bobby, and he’s like my dad, and Dean, but he doesn’t count because, well, he’s Dean, so it just kinda threw me for a minute. You know what I mean?”

“So, no other guy?” I smiled, getting her meaning and why she was suddenly so nervous. She slowly gave a shake of her head and cleared her throat.

“No, I mean who the hell would I bring home, and,” she smiled, “you’ve meet him, right, I mean, Bobby would take his head clean off, whoever he turned out to be, like right off his shoulders.”

I nodded, because I sure as hell did. “But, Dean doesn’t count?”

“Ew, no, Dean’s not a guy,” she stopped and rolled her eyes, getting her composure, “I mean, he is a guy, but not someone…” she stopped again, shook her head, “not the same.”

“Okay,” I smiled and reached out, brushed my fingers against her cheek and heard her finally take a slow breath. “The music box plays Tiny Dancer though, or am I hearing things wrong?”

“No, it does.” She gave a genuine smile as she flipped on her blinker, following the lead of Dean and the Impala. “Dad gave it to her when I was a baby, or at least that’s what the note said. She would sing it to me when she was pregnant and anytime that I was fussy. I had eight years with her and I swear that was the only song she ever sang.”

“What about the one that you sang to…” Shit! I wasn’t going to ask about him, and I paused but watched her, the way she blinked slowly as if holding back tears and I cleared my throat, tried to make my voice light. “The one you sang to Gabe.”

“He,” she rubbed her forehead, looked at me, scanned over my face as if she were looking for something, maybe to see how at ease I was or if I was going to start a fight, but I watched her shoulders relax, the way her lips trembled a bit before she gave me a fake smile. “He taught me that one when I was four. Didn’t realize it was him, you know, thought that he and dad only hooked up to hunt that one time, but he’s pretty much always been there. Not sure why though.” Her eyes suddenly took on a hard look as she stared at me, unwavering. “Not gonna give him up, Sam, not for you, not for anyone.”

“I would…” I reached out and took her hand gently, noting that she had clenched it into a fist, white knuckling it, “I would never ask you to give up someone you love.”

“I don’t love him,” she quickly snatched her hand away and put the already still car into park. “He’s just… he’s family.”

“I know,” I took hold of her hand again, brought it to my lips and kissed those tense knuckles. Dean rapped on the driver’s side window and Jai whipped around, flipping him off in one swift and seamless motion that had Dean smiling and wagging his eyebrows before he pointed to the store and disappeared. “He’s worried about you.”

“Yeah,” she whispered and smiled at me, “I’m sorry.”

“For?” She scooted as close at the bucket seats would let her and leaned over towards me.

“It’s just been hard.” Her hand shook in mine, but she suddenly slipped it away, “I gotta call Bobby and check in.”

“Yeah, okay.”

And with that, she grabbed her cell, the keys, and hopped out of the car. Dialing quickly, she pulled the phone to her ear, stepped over to the picnic tables and sat down on the table top, feet on the bench, chatting away.

I got out, gave her one last look and headed into the store to hear Dean and Gwen in the back towards the coffee. They were cute too, heads together, smiling about something, and Gwen looked up, the question of are you alright written plainly on her face and I gave her a grin before she went back to whatever Dean was saying.

I grabbed a few things while I was in there, water and powerade mostly, but Jai had been on a soda-free kick so there was the flavored water that I couldn’t decide on, so I grabbed three.

When I checked out, grabbed the bag and stepped outside, Dean was leaning against the Impala, eyes locked on that table where Gwen and Jai sat, side by side, in oddly the same position staring out at what might have been the same spot somewhere in the distance. Their conversation was just a whisper because you could barely see their lips moving.

“She sang,” I smile and placed the bags down on the hood of the CRV, stepped up close to Dean and watched him watch them.

“Yeah, what was it?” Part of that question sounded worried.

“Elton John,” I grinned because that had him turning right towards me.

“Tiny Dancer?” More worried as I nodded, but his body relaxed.

“Good.” I narrowed my eyes at his worry. “That’s good.” He glanced back at them but then he turned completely to me. “Sam, what are we doing?”

“What?”

He shifted in his spot and crossed his arms. “The girls, the trip, what are we doing? Why are we headed out to the Roadhouse? We’re so close… so close to the bunker, we could just take them home.”

“We can’t, Dean, as much as I want to agree with you, and I do, okay, I really do, but we have to end this.” Dean ran a hand down his face and I could see the build up in his eyes. “It’s going to be okay, this is why we’re headed to Ash, so we can figure out how to stop this and keep them safe.”

“I know how to do that, Sam, you lock down the damn bunker and never let them out.” Dean snapped and his hands clenched, like he was really going to fight me on this.

“Yeah,” I smiled, “you’re going to lock yourself in a concrete building with Jai?” He clenched his teeth, ready to swing but I didn’t take a step back. “Think about it, the two of you are volatile out here in the real world, what makes you think you’ll both be standing two minutes after a lock-down, Dean? And Gwen, she might be happy with the amount of lore in that building, bury herself for days but there is no way she’s choosing you over Jai, you know that. She will protect her partner to the end if the two of you go at it.”

Dean huffed, relaxed his stance and slowly turned to look at the two women, who had, if I wasn’t mistaken, moved closer and lowered their heads so that not only could you not tell they were talking but you couldn’t even see their faces.

“You’re right,” he sighed. “No matter how much I would tie her to the bed, Gwen is not going to let me get away with that. Though, she did mention something about wings and ties, not sure what that meant, but…”

“Hey,” I snapped, because the visuals were not something I needed. “Really?”

Dean grinned, looking just about as fucking smug as ever. “Dude, not my fault if Jai isn’t that adventurous, and if she is… well, keep it to yourself.”

“Ha,” I laughed and it was loud enough that both girls seemed to have synchronized reaction, looking over at us as if we were crazy before going back to whatever it was they were talking about. “I could tell you some of the things that Jai gets up to, and I would, just to watch you squirm.”

“Two could play at that game, Sammy, and trust me, I’d win.” Dean grinned. The younger brother in me wanted to take him up on the challenge but just thinking of some of the things Jai and I had done together was already getting me hard and talking about them out loud would put this trip about a day behind. I straightened, took a deep breath, because looking at her was doing all sorts of things and shook my head. “Chicken shit.”

“No, that’s not it,” I whispered, but I could feel the need for something other than her being so far away growing, and I turned towards the truck, leaning on the hood to hide the hard-on I was sporting. Christ, what the fuck?

“Are you…?” Dean narrowed his eyes at me, then suddenly he had a face on that looked as if he had smelled a gym bag full of old socks. “Dude, gross.”

“Yeah, so not.” I closed my eyes, suddenly the heat from the engine reminded me of the hot, sweaty feel of her body draped over mine, and I breathed in, trying to get control. I had no idea where this was coming from.

“You need it so bad.” Dean laughed, but he was slowly moving away.

I could hear that laugh disappearing, just before I felt the hand that slid from the outside of my thigh to the inner seam and suddenly up over me to the zipper of my jeans. I swallowed hard, closed my eyes as tightly as I could and tried to breathe through the need to push into that feeling.

“Think they’d miss us?” Her breath was against my ear, those words were so full of want that it was hard not to shake and I nodded, because as much as I wanted her alone, we had to get this show on the road. “Too bad, I could really use some time alone with you.” I clenched my fists, my control slipping. “I wanna take you apart, watch that wall fall, and then put you back together so slowly that you’re begging for more.”

“Stop,” so begging wasn’t off the table, and that was turned quickly into “no, no, no,” when her hand moved to pull away, “it’s just…” Her lips brushed my cheek and I managed to huff out a breath before I let my head fall to the car, placing my forehead against the hot metal. “I shouldn’t be feeling this. Not here.”

Her hand slowly slipped back and forth across the front of my jeans, applying just the right amount of pressure to make me hold back a moan. I felt her mouth against my earlobe.

“So, get back in the car, Sam, there’s a lot of things people don’t see at sixty-five.” Her hand fell away and her lips left me with a chill as I slowly straightened and watched her slide in behind the wheel.

Dean beeped the horn, bringing me back to the fact that I was standing in a parking lot. Gwen cocked a brow, looking at me like I had twelve heads as Dean barked out a laugh while I snatched the bags off the hood and made my way around to my side of the car. It didn’t take long before the familiar vibration of the wheels on the asphalt sent my mind running off onto another course of thought, that was until the gentle pressure of a hand on my thigh brought my eyes right to Jai.

“The seat reclines.” She whispered, and that threw me. Was I falling asleep? Did she think I was tired? I was confused, until that had moved over me again, this time popping the button on my jeans. “Unless you don’t want to.”

“No,” I swallowed, hard, thought for sure it was going to get stuck with how fast I lost my breath at the same time, and my head swam with the sudden drop in blood pressure as everything moved south. “I mean, yes, I want to, but…”

“Just tug them down and recline the seat, Sam.” She smiled, and it was more playful than anything. I unzipped, tugged them down under my ass and felt the cold breeze against my skin, how painful it was getting to not to touch myself and wait for her. The air was knocked out of me when the seat reclined faster than I thought it was going to and she let out a giggle. “Damn, I always forget that one’s broken.”

“You broke the seat?” I questioned and my thoughts went to who and when.

“Not my car, remember, it’s a loaner, but a nap is always good now and then, that’s when I figured out it was just a bit loose. Should get it fixed soon though.” As she was talking, her hand wrapped around me, giving gentle strokes that had my eyes rolling back in my head. I let them close, let the feeling take over and concentrated on only that.

It was like a wave of heat, hot and rough, scorching and slow, building up over and over, until I couldn’t hold back, until the stars started to explode. It was as if I had been underwater, holding my breath, waiting to crash through the surface and suddenly, I let it go. Everything was numb. My nose, my fingers… my toes, and my body didn’t want to move, my eyes, didn’t want to open.

A little giggle, like she had heard a joke, filled my ears and soft, dry cloths ran over my body before I felt the rough texture of a blanket cover me from chest to knees.

“Keep your eyes closed, Sammy,” her voice was light, “don’t fight it, just relax.”

That voice, this feeling, the sudden exhaustion, it was all that helped lure me down into the darkness and I felt the world fade away.

~~~~~

Blood, red, hot, sticky blood, ran down over my lips. I could taste it in my mouth, feel the power of it humming in my veins and I slowly opened my eyes. Dean stood before me… no, he wasn’t standing, he was chained upright, arms bound above his head, eyes half-closed on the brink of unconsciousness.

It covered him, small cuts, deep gashes, bite marks, all of them covered his skin, marking it, painting it crimson and I stepped back, blade in my hand, before wiping my chin. He tried to bring his head up, eyes blinking as he forced himself to hold onto that last bit of life.

“Sammy,” he whimpered and I stumbled, watched the small arm come around from the side and the sharp end of a blade pressed again his throat, right along his jugular. I heard him take a deep breath in, watched the blade slice quickly, so much so that I wasn’t sure I had seen it at all, but the line of blood bubbled and then poured.

“Dean,” it was just a whisper, something that kicked me into action and I stepped up, pressing my hand against the wound, trying everything to stop it, but it just kept coming. His green eyes locked on mine, he fought for breath, mouth moved as if he were forming words but nothing came out, not until he took that one last ragged breath. “No! Dean.”

The chuckle behind me had me spinning around even as the light went out in my brother’s eyes. Jai stood there, twirling the handle of her blade, licking her blood-coated lips and she smiled. It was lustful, haunting, and sated, but her eyes were on Dean, on the blood that coated his skin and she stepped forward, hand on his chest, tongue stretching out to lick him, before she turned to me.

“You can’t save him,” she whispered, stepping up to me, and the height difference didn’t seem to matter anymore. It’s like she grew, or I crouched, either way, she was staring me in the eyes, her fingers on my face. “You can’t save anyone, Sam, you just have to give into the power. Become the king, take what’s yours.”

Her hands moved over my abs, the blade was gone, but those fingers seemed to burn into my skin as she ran them over me. I fought not to close my eyes but the closer she got, the more I wanted to give in and when her lips pressed against mine, the smell and the taste of blood made me moan. It was off, it was different. It was…

“Demon blood,” I groaned out, reached up swiftly, and plunged my hand in her hair, dragging her closer, letting the sticky, copper taste fill my mouth. I wanted it, craved it, needed it… needed her, all of her, and I lifted her up, let her legs wrap around my waist as I turned and pressed her hard against the wall.  

The feel of the swift turn had me disoriented and the world began to fade.

~~~~~

The first thing I remember was the way the car jerked. The next thing was the sound of rain coming down and the mechanical swipe of the windshield wipers. Sitting up, I felt the belt tighten against my chest and I panicked at first until I looked over an noticed the way Jai was fighting to keep her head up.

Night had fallen somewhere in the few hours that I had drifted off but I wasn’t sure what time it was or how long we had actually been on the road. I noticed the brake lights of the Impala and the red flash lit up her tired eyes.

“Hey,” I whispered, reaching out to grab her arm. Jai jumped a little and cleared her throat. “Let’s stop.”

“What?” She snapped and the tone was almost exactly like Dean when he was irritated, “no, no, I’m fine, Sam.”

“You’re exhausted, let’s stop.” I repeated and pulled my phone from my pocket. I was groggy and a little disorientated, but still managing to find Gwen’s contact number before I hit send and placed it to my ear. “Gwen.”

“Yeah ,” not harshly, just her usually way of answering, “ why are you calling?

“I think we should pull over, find a place to crash for the night.” I smiled in reply, which got a roll of Jai’s eyes, or what I could see of it from the dashboard light.

I agree, Dean’s not as alert as he should be and we were just discussing the same thing. ” I could almost hear Dean bitching in the background of how fine he was too. “ There’a a place called the Redwood Inn just up the road. I found the accommodations to be fitting, and the price isn’t too bad.”

“You looked it up?” I grinned.

I always make sure I know where the hotels on our route is after the tenth hour of driving, since Jai has this annoying habit of pushing herself behind the wheel. At a moments notice, such as this, she’ll bark out that we’re stopping. This isn’t an unusual thing. ” Gwen’s explanation had me staring at the woman beside me and how she rolled down the window, just a little and let the rain hit her. Definitely needed to stop.

“Okay, how long?”

“Five minutes. ” It wasn’t an exaggeration. Gwen seemed absolutely positive that we would arrive when she said we would.

“See you then.” I sighed, disconnected the call and smiled at the way she mouthed the words to whatever song was going on in her head. “The Redwood Inn, just up the road.” Jai nodded, didn’t really acknowledge me but kept singing. “Just a little bit louder.”

“What?” That got her to stop.

“Sing just a little louder, I can’t hear you.”

She looked at me as if I had three heads, but drew in a breath and swallowed. “I close my eyes… only for a moment, and the moment's gone. All my dreams... pass before my eyes, a curiosity.”

“Dust in the wind,” I whispered as I sang, completely off-key and nowhere near the same tempo, but the corners of her lips twitched up in a small smile. “Been into Dean’s vinyls haven’t you?”

She cleared her throat, and nodded. “When you boys left, after John passed, I snuck into your room…”

“You’ve been in my room?” I questioned with mock shock mirroring her from earlier but the grin on her face widened.

“I used to sneak a few down while Bobby was out doing stuff in the scrapyard and listen to them. Made me think of you guys.” She reached a hand down and took mine. “You know, I saw you so many times, but I just couldn’t… Dean was… I was scared, Sam, scared to let anyone else in.”

“You don’t need to tell me, Jai. We’re all here now, we’re good.” I brought her hand up and kissed the back of it as the blinker on the Impala turned on and we headed into the parking lot of a small motel. “Where are we?”

“Fremont, Indiana.” Jai smiled, putting the car in park as Dean got out and headed towards the main office. “Is it bad to say I hope that he only gets one.”

“One room?” Okay, that was a bit of an odd request, we usually always had two, not that we used both. Jai nodded. I took out my phone and shot Dean a message.

Sam: One room, queen beds, per request .

Dean: Okay, do I even wanna know why?

Sam: Not sure, didn’t ask, but… indulge

Dean: She just gets weirder the older we get.

I didn’t reply, just watched her as she watched the rain.

Dean: Done. Pull down to 12, meet you there.

Sam: Got it.

“Dean said room twelve.”

Jai moved the CRV down the length of the L-shaped white and red building until she reached number twelve, three doors from the end. She parked the car and managed to get her duffle out of the backseat just as the rain started to taper off.

When Dean pulled up, I stood back and watched the girls in their natural habitat, the way they worked around each other. Jai had this thing with organizing and reorganizing the cars to get things perfectly set so there was a way to grab everything with an efficiency that was almost scary, but it worked.

Dean tossed me my bag, then my backpack all in the time it took the two women to have two bags of clothing, a bag of weapons and Gwen’s research all up by the door. The car was locked and Jai was waiting impatiently as Dean strolled up, looked down at her with a teasing smile and slipped the key in.

With the door open and the light flipped on, he stopped dead in his tracks. “How many stars did you say this was?”

“I didn’t,” Gwen chuckled as she slipped by, each girl with a bag in their hands. Jai ducked under his arm, giving him a bit of a hip check before she made it to the bed closest to the bathroom. There was something about having the wall there that made it her spot. I stepped in behind him and finally Dean let go of the door. “I picked it for the decor.”

“Two rules, Deanie,” Jai mumbled with a smile. “Second motel on Google or the one with the crappiest bedspreads. The more cringe-worthy, the better.”

“How is that even a thing?” Dean was completely dumbfounded as he dropped his bag on the table, sat down on the bed and untied his boots, slipping them off. “And if you’re separated, who’s to say you picked the right hotel?”

“You don’t think I know her taste in gaudy bedspreads?” Gwen laughed.

“You don’t think I can sniff out her perfect room? She likes them likes she likes her movies, one-star or less.” Jai looked up at Gwen and I watched the exchange of looks between them before both went back to unpacking.

Jai kicked off her shoes, stripped off her solid blue flannel, then shimmied out of the jeans she was wearing, all without a second glance at anyone else. It turned out I was the only one that was watching, and then she slipped into the bathroom with her travel bag.

Five minutes later, she was laying on her stomach, pillow under her head, arm under the pillow and deep asleep. Dean seemed to have followed suit, everything still on except his over shirt, socks and boots. And they almost mirrored each other. Gwen was sitting at the table, computer open and she was clicking through emails as I lay on the bed next to Jai.

The room was set up just a little weird, the table wasn’t in front of the windows, but down towards the end of my bed. The bathroom door was against one wall, not where it usually was in the back of the room, but that made it easier for Gwen and I to talk without me moving.

“Any word from Ash?” I questioned, but all she did was shake her head. When she thought I wasn’t paying attention, since there wasn’t a follow up, she turned towards me.

“No, nothing since he asked us to come.” She seemed irritated by that but went back to the computer. “If there’s nothing new going on, I wish he hadn’t sent us on this wild goose chase.”

“You think it’s a dead end?”

“I think a lot of things are dead ends, Sam, but the influx and the pattern are still there, I just don’t believe the change, whatever it might be, is significant enough for us to pack up and head west,” her eyes narrowed on the screen, “still…”

“What?” I couldn’t keep my curiosity down but I wasn’t leaving the warm body beside me.

“Incoming data tells me that the shift has happened again.” She sighed. “We thought it had disappeared to run the fault lines but recently things have started popping up in Sequoia National Forest, heading north.”

“We knew it would hit California.” I laid back on the bed, staring at the ceiling.

“You know, I keep asking, but why are we doing this?” Dean mumbled, his words half muffled into the pillow. “I mean why have we not gotten more intel?”

“Maybe Ash needs to show us it instead of telling.” I shrugged.

“That’s entirely possible.” Gwen turned in the seat and rested her elbow on the seat back. “What I’m not sure I understand, is why the sudden silence.”

“You think something happened?” Dean rolled over so that his words were clearer but the worried tone seemed to echo Gwen’s.

“I think something came up, yes, whether it’s something we should be on guard about is something entirely different.” She turned the computer so that we could look at her screen. It was a map of Nebraska from the National Weather Center. “Strange weather patterns have popped up all over the state, but most of them are centered right where the Roadhouse sits.”

“Demonic omens?” I questioned and watched her sigh, turn the screen back towards her and shrug.

“It’s unclear but it might be the reason for the silence. IF this is something natural, the cell towers may have gone down, if it’s… unnatural, it may be interference of a different kind.”

“Call the CB,” Jai’s voice huffed out, deep with sleep, but her body didn’t move, there was no indication of her waking up, everything was still so relaxed but her voice was full of irritation.

“What?” Dean snapped. And there is was again, the way they sounded almost exactly alike when they asked that one simple word.

“The CB under the bar, call the CB,” she mumbled out again, as if being dragged back down. “Big Daddy Three.”

“Ash’s handle?” I whispered.

“Don’t ask,” she giggled and let out a breath.

Dean had been staring down at the bed, the way her arm lay over the side of it, and when I stretched over her, I realized why. Her hand had grabbed the handle of the blade that she had somehow slipped between the mattresses but those fingers relaxed and slipped away, hanging by the bed.

“You should take that damn thing away,” Dean snapped, eyeing me. “She’s fucking scary enough awake, I don’t need her chasing me down half-asleep.”

“Do we have access to a CB?” Gwen questioned, taking Dean’s thoughts from the ramblings of Jai and blades.

“In the trunk,” he replied and slowly moved to get out of bed. Gwen stood, held a hand out, effectively stopping Dean, and she searched his coat, finding the Impala keys with ease. I smiled at the shock on his face when she slipped out of the room. “How does she…? You know what, I don’t even wanna know.”

Dean took his pillow, fluffed it up and planted his head on it again, letting his eyes close for a moment before he peeked one open and looked down at Jai’s hand again. With a huff, he reached across the space, removed the blade and put it in the nightstand drawer.

“She’s going to freak out,” I whispered the warning with a smile but Dean rolled his eyes and got comfortable again.

“Good, maybe she’ll smother you with a pillow in her sleep for letting her keep that damn thing there.” He growled back and the door to the room opened. He sighed, loudly, turned and sat up on the bed. Gwen sat the CB down on the table and flipped it on. “Do you even know how to use that?”

“I’m well aware, Midnight Rider.” She replied and I laughed at the shock that spread over Dean’s face. “Jai, channel?”

“Why are you asking her? She’s dead….”

“Twenty-four.” Jai huffed out, barely audible but enough to have Gwen nod and start speaking into the mic as Dean stared in complete confusion.

He rubbed a hand down his face and shook his head before laying back down. I closed my eyes, let my head fall against the pillow and wrapped my arm around Jai’s waist, pulling her closer. It had been a couple days since I had really gotten some good sleep and apparently it was catching up on me.

I leaned my forehead against her shoulder, breathed in the smell of her skin and relaxed, letting the sound of Gwen and Dean, and a voice that sounded just like Ash, fade into mumbled noises as sleep finally took over. One of the last things I heard was Dean reminding Ash that Ellen owed him a burger, which brought on some very strange food dreams.

~~~~~

The vibration of the phone in the dead silence of the room jolted me awake. I blinked back the panic as my heart rate skyrocketed before I felt Jai shift and reach for the phone. Squeezing my eyes tight against the bright blue light, she sighed and sat up.

“Yeah?” It was barely a whisper. “You sure?” She sighed as the voice mumbled over the line. “Yeah, I was… No, no, it’s okay… yeah, I’ll be there in about thirty tops…. Right around the corner from you.” I heard her fingers scratch against the back of the phone.  “No!” That sounded irritated, “because you don’t need to know why I’m in Indiana, Dick. Yes…” she growled again, “thirty. Okay, bye.”

She had slipped out of bed as she talked and I watched her pull on her jeans, grab the flannel, then her jacket and come back to get the knife out of the drawer before she sat down on the end of the bed that Dean and Gwen shared and tapped her on the leg.

“Hmm?” Gwen mumbled.

“C.C. called. I’ll be back.” Jai replied and tugged on her boots, zipped them up and with the least amount of noise I had ever heard from anyone, she managed to make it out the door with only the bolt clicking in place.

“I know you’re awake, Sam.” Gwen said softly a moment later, and my eyes turned to her. She had taken the spot closest to our bed and was now looking at me. “Don’t worry, he’s an old hunting buddy. She’ll be safe.”

“Who’s C.C.?” That’s all I wanted to know, well, not all. I was kicking my own ass for not moving fast enough to get her to stop and explain where she was going, what she was doing, and who she was doing it with, but it was like watching a ghost flit through the room. “I’ve never seen her do that before.”

“Christian Campbell.” She replied as if she were holding her breath and I blinked. My cousin? Jai was helping my cousin, who was an old hunting buddy?

“Is there anyone she doesn’t know?” I huffed and ran my hand down my face.

“Not likely.” Gwen smiled and turned over onto her back. “Give her a few hours. If he’s thirty minutes away, she’ll most likely be there in twenty and be back in two or three hours.”

I tossed and turned, plagued by nightmarish images of demons, blood, and death, and there I was reigning hell right in the center of it. The more I tried to fight the images, the bloodier they became, the more tormented the voices, and as I looked down from the tower of bodies, of broken, bloodied souls, the one person wielding the knife was Jai.

She was like the angel of death, blood painted on her skin, slicking down her dark hair, sticky and glistening as it mixed with her sweat. She brandished a silver blade in one hand, much like the one she always kept at her side, and in the other was Dean’s 1911. It was heavy, that I knew from experience, but she handled it as if it were always hers.

My heart thumped, wondering just where she would have gotten it, but as I scanned the bodies around me, I couldn’t find Dean, or Gwen.

“So, you finally give in,” a seductive voice whispered close to my ear, the warmth of a body pressed against my back, and I closed my eyes. I knew that voice, remember it in every nightmare, heard it every time I fucked up, but as I turned, coming face to face with the person who owned it wasn’t what I expected. She stood on the stack of bodies behind me, her brown eyes locked on mine. “Finally gave into the power, became the King of Hell, and brought your little slut along with you.”

“Ruby.” It was the only thing I could reply and she took a deep breath in, like the word triggered something in here. Her hands came up, she placed them on my shoulder and ran one down over my chest.

“I’ve missed you, Sam.” Her lips turned up, those red, luscious lips that I remembered so clearly, and then she winked. “What a stud. What do you say we get rid of your slayer and find a quiet corner to hide out in?”

“What do you say I put a bullet between those shit-colored eyes of yours and call it a day?” Jai growled from behind me. “Then, maybe, you and I could have some fun, leave Sammy out of this.”

“We could always take him on together.” Ruby winked, looking her over like she was a plaything too and I turned my head quickly in Jai’s direction.

She stood there, hand twirling the blade gently by the handle, no indication that she was going to fire the gun that she held loosely by her side, but I had seen her work, I knew how fast things could go from zero to dead. I raised my hand, wanting to tell her to wait, but as soon as my arm was in motion, so was that gun, and the blast that ran out had me sitting up in bed.

The room was quiet, Dean and Gwen slept peacefully, even as I gasped to catch my breath. My hands touched my chest quickly, searching for a bullet hole, because Ruby was behind me and Jai would have had to shoot…

She shot me.

She had to have shot me.

There was no way to get to Ruby, not unless…

I closed my eyes, counted back from ten and opened them again. The clock on the wall read well past the two hour mark of Jai having gone out and I slowly moved, deciding what to do with myself, go back to sleep or stay awake, but in the end, as I adjusted the pillows and put my head down, I didn’t really have a say in the matter.

The next time I opened my eyes it was more towards the three hour mark and the door opened slowly, Jai placed things down softly as she made her way across to the bathroom and closed the door. The shower sprayed on and not ten minutes later, she was slipping into bed with damp hair pulled back in a ponytail.

I curled up against her, let the feel of any bare skin I could find press against me, and softly kissed her neck. I knew it was coming, or thought it was anyway, the post-hunt adrenalin but she only turned her head to find my lips and the kisses she gave weren’t heated, they were cautious, she shook and as she rolled into me, the only thing I could do was hold her.

~~~~~

The dull light of the sun seemed to be peeking through the curtains and right into my eyes, like a laser beam that just refused to let me sleep. Again, the body that I fell asleep next to was gone and I sat up quickly. Grabbing the jeans from the floor beside the bed, I jumped into them, well aware of the two sleeping in the bed beside me and slipped a shirt over my head as I moved towards the door.

It was cracked just a little bit, and her voice was coming in through the seams. As I stepped out into the bright morning light, I watched her pace with her phone in her hand, a finger against her lip, chewing at her nail, something she did when she was nervous or thinking and when singing wasn’t an option, but I felt my whole body relax.

She looked up at me, rolled her eyes and continued talking. By the tone of her voice, the brief answers she gave, it was definitely Bobby. I snuck back inside only for a moment to grab my boots and slipped them on in order to move out further. I leaned on the back of the Impala, crossed my arms and just watched her.

There was a small purple bruise just under her jaw and her knuckles were red and scrapped, but otherwise there was no other physical signs that she had even left last night.

“Yeah, right back at’cha, Pops,” she smiled and pulled the phone from her ear before taking a breath and hanging up. Turning to me, she put the phone in her front and both of her hands in her back pockets and licked her lips, the sexiest damn thing I had ever seen, before she sighed. “I can explain.”

I smiled, not that I wanted an explanation. She was a hunter, and when another one called, it’s what we did, we helped if we could but… “Christian?”

“Yeah, about that,” she rubbed the back of her head, nervously.

“What was it, and how come it got a hit in?” I stepped away from the car, a motion she jumped at before steeling herself as I approached, reaching a hand out to gently brush against the bruise, and it got a slight moan from her, which had my blood pressure rising. She shook under my hand, stepping closer to grab my shirt as I brought my fingers back along her jaw.

“Sam,” I wasn’t sure if she were begging for more or wanting me to stop, but she tilted her head up and I took that invitation without a second thought.

The need in the kiss, the hot, aching want was there, something that wasn’t when she crawled into bed. She had been holding back last night but now… her hands fought with my shirt, searching for skin as my hand wrapped in her hair, pulling her closer. God, I just wish…

“Car,” she mumbled, and I understood that one word more than she realized. Turning, I backed her right up against the side of the Impala, and there was no way that I was letting her go to fumble for keys, but it seemed she had been thinking ahead because Dean never would have left that door unlocked.

The sun faded behind thick clouds and the rain began to pour down in sheets as she finally got the door open and the two of us scrambled onto the backseat refusing to let the other go. I slipped in, managed to not suffocate her beneath me as I pressed her into the seat but she wasn’t having any of it as her hand reached for my button.

The best thing about getting dressed and rushing outside, I was only wearing jeans, nothing underneath, so when she pushed them down around my ass and took ahold of my cock, I nearly died. Her hands were warm from being tucked in her pockets and I groaned into the feel of her stroking. The hand job in the car was one thing, but being able to push into the feeling of those fingers...

“Jai,” I whispered, taking my lips from hers as she leaned her head back, letting my mouth travel. “We gotta get your jeans…” that was all I got out before I felt her shimmying underneath me, moving the material with one hand as she managed to slip her leg out of one. I could feel her hot skin against me. Her hands trembled as she stroked a long, slow glide over me, catching the head before her thumb flicked, and I bit down on my lip. “I need you.”

She smiled up at me, those blue eyes locking on mine before she lined me up and raised her hips, pulling me in without any prep. I heard her hiss, and I stopped her movements with a hand on her hip.

“It’s fine,” she breathed and arched her back, pulling back on me, the slide of her warmth made my breath hitch and suddenly she thrust up again. “Christ.” Her hand reached up and she tugged on my hair, the pain that ripped through me had me thrust forward, bury deep in her and she clenched her teeth. “Sit up.”

“Pushy this morning,” I laughed but wrapped my arms around her waist and sat back the best I could on the seat, waited for her knees to adjust beside my thighs and I let both hands fall to hips. “What do you need?”

“You,” she whispered as her lips came down along my jaw, “just you.”

“You have me,” I whispered as I pressed my cheek against hers when she bit down.

It took everything I had not to thrust up into her, not to let that primal need take over. If she needed me, than she could have me, all of me and anyway she wanted. I moved my hands to her cheeks, tangled most of them in her hair as I brought her mouth back to mine. If she needed my body, I wanted her kiss.

The noises she made were more than I could handle as she speared herself down on me. Her hips circled, then dragged up. I was having flashbacks to the night we met, to that powerful feeling of being all consumed and before I knew it, I had to break away. I leaned my head back against the deck, closed my eyes tightly and rode the wave of the feeling of just her .

Those blunt nails ran down my chest, before sliding up to the back of my head. Her fingers fisted in my hair, tugging my head back up to meet her lips and suddenly I could feel her tighten around me. I wrapped my arms around her waist, held her exactly where I wanted her and started to pump up into her. I knew where to hit and that was exactly what was going on, as her voice went higher.

She broke way, hand slamming against the ceiling of the car and I smiled as I watched her eyes open slowly, her lips part as her hand eased its hold. She licked her lips, brought her head up so that we locked stares and she smiled.

“That was…” she tried to catch her breath...  “jesus, I think we need a car more often.”

“Dean’s gonna be pissed.” I laughed and felt her shift up to ease me out and I shivered, the cool air of the morning hitting sweaty skin.

“Don’t care,” she huffed, putting her cheek against my chest, I wrapped my arms around her, not caring of the state of undress either of us were in and held her tightly.

“Yeah, me either.”  I closed my eyes, felt her relax against me, her breathing become even and for the first time in days, I didn’t feel like she was going to bolt.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Dean

It was too quiet. I jolted awake, eyes automatically on the empty bed next to me, and caught my breath. Where the hell did they go? I rubbed my fingers across my eyes, trying to get rid of the crud, but with that, I took a deep breath and laid back on the pillow. Too early, way too early. Gwen shifted beside me, rolling her body against mine and I hated the fact that we were sharing a room at the moment.

I was hard and she was half-naked, the warmth of her legs settled against mine and I rolled over to wrap my arm around her waist, pushing my morning wood against her ass. Finally, at least two minutes alone without the pain in the ass and my little brother interrupting. Gwen let out a content sigh, rubbed back against me and turned slightly on the bed.

“Hey,” I whispered against her ear, kissing down the slope of her neck.

“Mmm, hey,” she said softly and gave me a chaste kiss, before narrowing her eyes at the other bed. “Where’s the twosome?”

“Don’t care,” I mumbled, feeling her flesh beneath my lips. “Just want to taste you.”

“Hmm, feel free.” There was a smile in her voice as she tipped her head forward giving me access to the back of her neck. My hand moved from her waist, coming up to grab the hem of her shirt and, slowly, I brought it up over her breasts, before cupping her left, giving the nipple a little tug before flicking over it with my thumb. “We should lock the door.”

“I don’t give a shit if they walk in and see my ass, I miss you.” Hey, I’m all for honest confessions before coffee if it has me rocking against her.

Gwen turned against me, pressed her chest against mine and rolled me onto my back, pinning me down on the bed. Small chicks just couldn’t do that and it made me breathless. She was just an inch or two shorter than me, and strong. She knew how to manhandle, and holy shit, I loved it.  

Her hands ran down my arms, wrapped around my wrist and pulled them up above my head as she smiled. The only one who ever gave me that Dom look was Cas and it did exactly the same thing, went straight to my dick. She avoided my lips, pure fucking torture, and nipped along my jaw, I closed my eyes, tried to relax my body, but my hips just did what they wanted as I rolled up against her.

“Fuck,” I growled, pressing my cheek against her hair as that mouth moved to my throat. “Gwen… we should stop.”

“You just said they could look at your ass,” she laughed, and moved to straddle my lap. Not helping, so not helping.

“I…” Why was I shy all of a sudden? Why did I care if they walked in? I shook my head, I knew why. “Not this way, I need it…”

“Oh, I see.” She cracked a smile, slipped back from the bed, not taking her hands off my wrists. “Come with me, Dean.”

I moved as much as I could in her hold, making my way across the bed on unsteady knees, my cock trapped against me only by the briefs I wore. Her shirt was still tucked up over her breasts and I watched as they bounced when she moved.

She pulled me off the bed, letting my feet hit the floor in order to steady myself before we moved towards the bathroom. It wasn’t the tiniest that I had ever seen, in fact it ran most of the length of the room, which was totally odd for hotels, but she let me go, leaving me at the sink, as she moved down to the shower and turned on the spray, shedding not only that shirt, but the panties she wore too.

I backed up against the counter as she stepped forward and was suddenly on her knees, the door slamming shut beside me. The only thing I could do was hold on as her thumbs hooked over the waist of my boxers and suddenly, they were on the floor. What the hell! This chick was amazing.

Her hand wrapped around me, giving a tentative pull, stroking up with just the right pressure, and I closed my eyes, really I rolled them shut. The hot, wet feel of her mouth around me, the hard, sucking, pressure of her tongue had me on my toes as I tried not to come as soon as it started, but she was good. Man, she was good.

I was able to let go of the counter with one hand, reach down and grab a fist full of her hair, guiding her, hoping she got the hint that she needed to slow down as my balls pulled up against me, one wrong stroke and this was going to be over. It had been too long, way too long.

I felt the tell-tale tingle and yanked her head away, her eyes locking on mine as I tried to apologize for the rough treatment, but her pupils were blown wide, and there was just a small smirk at the edge of her lips. Yep, no need to apologize there.

I growled, from somewhere deep in my chest and tugged on her hair again, bringing her to stand before me as the steam filled the room. Leaning forward, I held her right where I wanted to kiss her, and it had her moaning, deep, needy… holy fuck. I wasn’t waiting anymore.

I turned her towards the counter, put her back to me as I guided her hands to hold the edge of the sink and stepped up against her. I couldn’t breath, and maybe that was the purpose of the steam, to give it just that little bit of an edge, but as I nudged between her cheeks, spreading her with one hand to rub between her legs, I didn’t care.

She was slick, so, so slick, like she had… The small bottle of lube was sitting on the toilet and I moaned as I rolled my eyes. Clever little girl. My free hand smoothed up her back, tangled into her hair as I pushed her body forward, bending her over the sink, just enough so that I could slip in without fumbling to find her and the sound that came from her was pornographic.

“Gwen,” I groaned, thrusting in sharply.

“Do it,” she snapped. Oh, God, she knew what I wanted. Sliding out, slowly, I grabbed ahold of her hips tightly, twisted the hand in her hair and plunge back in again, closing my eyes. Waves of heat, friction and the sound of flesh slapping against flesh filled the room along with her breathy moans. It was hard, rough, and divine. “Gods.” That was my only warning before she tightened around me, waves going through her, the pressure on my dick, nearly strangled the damn thing, but I pushed through it, pulled back and did it again. “Dean, harder.”

Didn’t know that was a thing, but holy shit, yes! It became a race to see who would hit the next mark, who could get there faster, who could get off, but at the same time, there was no way I was going first without making sure that she… The screams she let out, more of a high-pitched oh told me exactly what I needed to know, and I fought to keep that angle until she reached back, turned her head, and clenched her teeth.

“If you don’t come soon, I’m going to turn around and suck you off.” She ordered, and well, then .

“Almost,” I whispered, not stopping, not slowing down because I was right there, but the thought of her lips, that mouth, that tongue on me after being inside her was just a bit too much. “Now,” I whispered, “on you?”

“No, Dean , just… dammit,” she clenched again, and that was that. I snapped into her one last time, pressing against her, buried deep. Waves pulsed through me, I felt like my heart was going to stop and it was so hard to catch my breath. The only thing I could do was rest my forehead against her back, move my hips just a bit to ease the pressure as I came inside her. “I could go back to bed.”

“Me too,” I sighed, letting the feeling of my now jellied legs remind me that we were both standing. Slipping out was the worst feeling in the world, but I stepped back and let her turn, watching her shake. With a smile, she reached out and pulled me back in. I kissed her softly, wanting nothing more than to hold her, fall into her and stay there, but… “come on, let’s shower and then go find the kids.”

“They’re fine.” she mumbled, her face against my throat. “I heard Jai take the Impala keys when she went out to call Bobby.”

“She what?” I stepped back and looked at her confused.

“Your dad’s journal.” Gwen narrowed her eyes at me, “something about the hunt with Christian was in your dad’s journal.”

I nodded, not wanting to talk about any of them, before I took her hand and lead her back to the shower curtain. There was a small smile on her face, like I had done something she was surprised about. Kissing her softly, I adjusted the temperature in the shower, and helped her in on shaky legs before pulling the curtain closed.

~~~~~

I rolled my eyes at the rain... fucking rain, it was practically coming down in sheets but the silhouette that I could see in the backseat of the car just made me want to go out in it and cause a little hell. I could see Sam’s big moose of a body, but I didn’t see Jai anywhere, so I assumed he was holding her.

Grabbing my jacket, I held it over my head and jogged the five feet to the driver’s side door. Yanking it open, I slipped in on my knees, looking over at the bodies in the back. Yep, Jai was on his lap and Sam was passed out cold. That was when it hit me. The smell of her body wash, and… sex.

Motherfuc…

I grabbed the nearest thing, a tub of Armor-all leather cleaning wipes and tossed it in the back. The plastic container was almost empty so when it bounced off Sam’s head, it probably was more of a jolt back to reality than pain.

He growled, like he was angry and opened his eyes to look at me, raising his head from the back deck. He sighed, raising a brow like what the hell, Dean , which I totally heard in his voice even if it was just an expression. I cocked a brow, looked down at the fact that you could plainly see Jai was half-dressed, since her ass was planted on his lap and his hand rested on her tattoo.

He shook his head, gestured with just his eyes to get out and brought that hand up, gently rubbing over her back, slowly bringing her out of the sleep she needed. I scowled, rolled my eyes again and backed out of the car.

Once inside, I shook off the rain and paced. Gwen only smiled, and it wasn’t just a smile, it was the kind that said they had sex.

“Yes,” I snapped and she only grinned more. “In… my… car. They had sex in my car and now it smells like Jai and Sam and sex. So gross.”

“You’re not twelve, Dean, getting offended at the smell of sex is not something a forty-year-old should be doing,” she replied as if it weren’t anything spectacular, or profound, but it was IN my car.

“Have you ever walked into an enclosed space after someone had sex, it lingers.” I answered and watched her eyes go straight to the bathroom. “That’s different, there’s an exhaust fan.”

“A closet,” she shrugged and went back to the computer, taking down notes and typing away. I looked at her, just stared, because…

“Do I really wanna know?”

Her eyes glanced up at me, that was the only part of her that moved, and she grinned. “Probably not.”

A closet? Really?

The door opened quickly and Jai made a mad dash for the bathroom, but it was Sam that came in a little bit slower, shucked off his coat and tugged off the unlaced boots. Yeah, I’m thinking their little tryst was planned. I narrowed my eyes at him but the corner of his lips just turned up a bit, like he thought he was sly.

“As soon as this rain stops, man, before we even get back on the road… you’re doing it.” I pointed at him and he knew just what I meant.

“Give me a break, we were out there for at least two hours.” Sam sighed, moving over to his bag. He pulled off his shirt, balled it up and dropped it on the floor before going for a new one.

“Is that…?” I stared at his skin, still pointing but my aim changed, “is that a hickey?”

“Come on, Dean, we’re not teenagers,” he groaned like one before he turned and looked in the mirror, a little confused as he pulled the skin down and inspected it a little bit more. “Huh.”

“What, you didn’t know she was sucking on you that hard?” I smiled and watched his eyes come up, shocked. I banged on the door, “nice work on the vacuum practice.”

“Fuck off!” I heard through the door and smiled. “It’s too early for your shit, Winchester!” The door opened with a yank and I looked down at the tiny hunter wrapped in a towel. “I need coffee, and food.”

“Say no more.” Gwen chimed in and all three of us looked at her. “There’s an Iron Skillet not far up the road.”

Jai sat on the bed, jeans already pulled on under her towel and I watched as she shook her head, pulling socks on before her shirt. “The irony of that statement’s just…”

“No!” Gwen snapped, “we are not hunting while we eat breakfast.” Jai raised her hands, like it was some sort of private thing between them. “I’d like to enjoy my greasy breakfast buffet without you trying to salt and burn the old fry cook in the basement.”

I turned to the little blue-eyed hunter, “you did what now?”

“Hey, not my fault, the thing was messing with my coffee, and that is just not tolerated.” She grabbed her bra from the bed beside her and I turned away, watched the small grin on Gwen’s face and she shook her head. “Besides, we were doing them a service. The scrambled eggs there were just disgusting.”

“Touche.” Gwen replied as I heard movement behind me. Turning around, I found Jai standing at the foot of the bed, packing stuff in her duffle as Sam sat beside her. “You ready?”

She looked up at Gwen, “I thought you hated breakfast.”

“But,” Gwen sighed, “carbs.”

Jai rolled her eyes and that had me narrowing mine, why did it look so familiar? She clapped her hands together and grabbed her coat.

“Come on, Gates, let’s get going before the boys have a meltdown.” Jai walked over and grabbed Gwen’s arm, handed her a coat and pushed her out the door before turning back to us. “Meet you there.”

And with that, they were gone.

I don’t know if I was in shock, or just confused because it all happened so fast. Sam chuckled at me, finally getting me to turn in his direction.

“What the hell was that?” I asked, watching Sam shift through his bag for a moment before stuffing something in his pocket. He raised a brow to me and shrugged.

“Morning with the girls?” He answered, unsure himself, “you know how they are, they don’t wait for much.”

“Yeah, but that was just a little more…” the only thing I could think of doing was the “oooh” hand gestures that came to mind, “spooky than usual.”

“Spooky?” He grinned, the little shit, but it faded. I could almost see the thought before he voiced it. “Christian?”

I was waiting for that to hit him. “Yeah, I don’t know either, man, kinda weird.”

“Weirder still, the fact that not just Jai but Gwen too.” Sam sat down on the bed, letting the whole thing sink in before he looked up at me. “I mean, Jai I get, she’s a hunter, but Gwen isn’t as hands on. What do you think is going on there?”

“Not a clue,” I reached into my bag, grabbed my wallet and stuffed it in my back pocket, “can’t hurt to ask, right?”

“I guess.” Sam stood, handed me the keys to the Impala and the two of us headed out the door, turning off the lights as we went. Everything should be safe until we got back.

~~~~~

I entered the restaurant first, Sam behind me looking around, but I didn’t need to search to find the girls, I just had to follow the sound of those voices. It was like everything in me was locked onto them. I knew where they were, what mood they were in, if they were in danger, and I knew every exit in order to get them out, but as we approached the booth in the back, I could hear Jai whispering.

“I don’t know,” it was said with a sigh that had my lips curling up. “I don’t want to explain myself again, and seriously, if I explained every freaking hunter I knew, Dean would just be a douche and lock me up somewhere.”

“I know most of your contacts are not the greatest but you should at least give him a little credit on judging people.” Gwen replied and I held my hand up, silently stopping Sam in his tracks as I watched. Gwen was too busy stirring the honey into her tea and Jai had her back to us, so neither had noticed our presence. “It’s Christian, he’s their cousin, it’s not going to ruin anything that you aren’t capable of doing yourself.”

“He’ll just be a douche about it.” Jai was pretty adamant that I was in no way going to like it, and from the tone of her voice, I was thinking I might agree without knowing the whole story.

“I wish you would stop calling him that.” I looked back at Sam and grinned, you could feel her irritation from here.

“What? It’s not like he’s a disposable douche.” Jai laughed, put a hand on the back of the seat and stretched out, bringing the white coffee cup up from the table. “I mean, I kinda like him, I don’t mind keeping him,” and that confession wiped the smile right off my face, “but sometimes he’s just a…”

Gwen looked up, eyes going over me and Sam and she sat up straighter, “Dean.”

“No, douche.” Jai stated, pretty bluntly.

“No… Dean.” Gwen gestured towards us and Jai turned in her seat just enough to go wide-eyed with understanding.

“Oh,” she whispered, or more her mouth mimicked it and suddenly I was sliding in next to her. What better way to make her uncomfortable than to sit beside her at breakfast? Gwen gave me a narrowed-eyed expression, one that I smiled at as Sam sat next to her and the waitress came over, setting coffee mugs down. “It’s a buffet, so, serve yourself.”

“I got that from walking in, thanks.” I snarked back at her and Jai tucked herself over into the corner, hands wrapped around her coffee now, not as relaxed as before. “What’s up?”

“Nothing.” She snapped, a little too fast.

“Okay, then, let’s eat.” I moved out of the booth, letting her have some breathing room before the three of them followed me up to the counter.  

I watched Gwen pick at the sausages, like there was some profound meaning in the ones she chose, and Sam was asking at the request bar for some sort of egg-white omelet, but Jai had rushed to fill her plate, mainly with eggs, bacon, and a few pancakes, before she slid into the booth. I followed her back, not even sure what I had taken and made my way in across from her.

She didn’t look up, just went about doing her stuff, as if ignoring the fact that I was there would change anything. She did a good job until I reached out and brushed my fingers along the bruise that darkened her jaw. That got her to stop, like mid-pour of the syrup, she just froze. Taking my fingers from her, the container finally came down on the table, her hands clenched into fists and her eyes came up to meet mine.

“Do I need to kick his ass?” I whispered, well aware of the millions of other people in the building. She slowly shook her head, eyes lowering to the plate in front of her as her hands began to tremble. “How did it get past you?”

“I’m not a ninja, Winchester, sometimes they get one by, that’s all.” Her voice was softer than mine, barely audible and not at all steady.

“Oh, yeah?” I questioned, completely unconvinced and picked up the fork and knife, digging into my breakfast. I shoved a forkful of eggs in my mouth, paused because they really weren’t that bad, and looked up at her. She hadn’t moved at all. “So, what was it?”

“What?” Her eyes snapped up to mine, her body moved as her hands unclenched and she started cutting her food. Gwen slipped in beside me and Sam beside Jai. I scrunched my nose up at the food on Sam’s plate because whatever the hell that was, it wasn’t an omelet, before I went back to her.

“The thing that you and Chris were after, what was it?” I continued, not giving her a moment to think about it.

“It doesn’t matter,” she whispered, “it’s dead, won’t be hurting anything else.”

“Ah-huh,” I nodded and dropped the subject as she looked up at me again. I recognized that look in her eyes, and it wasn’t a good thing, but even as I mumbled it, I knew she heard me. “Whatever you say.”

I heard her fork clank down and when I looked up she was staring at me, the thin line of her mouth told me that she was pissed and holding it in but I just gave a little shake of my head and went back to eating.

“So, another eleven before we make it there,” Sam said lowly, clearing his throat. “What did Ash tell you last night? I might have fallen asleep during it.”

“You’re not a very good hunter, are you?” Gwen said sarcastically, and without even looking I could hear the smile in her voice.

My eyes went back to Jai’s, who had lowered hers to concentrate on the food, picking at it like she wasn’t hungry anymore. I kicked her under the table, and those blue eyes were on me again.

“Eat,” I ordered, watched her blink back the argument as we continued the staring contest. “It’s a long drive and we haven’t got all day.”

“Fucking jerk,” she mumbled under her breath but went back to eating. Hmm, I wonder if she told Bobby any of what happened because she was playing this one close to the chest. I heard her mumble as she picked at the bacon. “I wish they had fried chicken.”

What the hell?

“And the powers been out for a few days, at least, everyone else’s power, the Roadhouse is running on generators.” Gwen shrugged just as I focused back on the conversation between her and my brother.

“And we’re sure it’s demonic?” Sam questioned, still digging into that funky thing he called food. I watched him glance over Jai, at the way she ate while staring out the window beside us. He looked at me, confused, but I just shook it off and he drew in a deep breath.

“They’re not sure of anything.” Gwen replied. “We did, however, manage to get more information on Mynoghra, our crypto-witch.”

“Succubus,” Jai mumbled, looking down at her food as she pushed around the home fries. The silence had her looking up. “What? I read.”

“Wait, like Lovecraft’s Mynoghra?” Sam joined in.

“Yes, but no.” Gwen replied and I put down my fork, because this was going to be good.

Their conversation faded off again and I knew I should have been paying attention but my curiosity wasn’t there, it went to something that Gwen had said earlier. I kicked Jai under the table again, and her eyes slowly settled on mine.

“Why were you looking at Dad’s journal?” It was quiet, didn’t seem to interrupt the conversation between the two computer geeks but I watched her take in a deep breath before resting her fork on her nearly full plate.

“Turned out to be nothing,” she said it with complete honesty and that had me wondering.

“If it was nothing, why look?”

“Because I was curious, Dean.” Now that was a snap and it got the other two to look over. “You don’t need to know every little detail of everything that I do, okay, somethings are just that… things and most don’t need explaining or dissection. I went on a hunt last night with Christian, I killed it, yeah, it got a hit in, but I killed it. It’s not coming back anymore, that’s a pretty good guarantee for me to drop it, why can’t you?”

“I’m concerned.” The tone was light, but I could feel my body bracing for an argument.

“That’s great,” she just smiled at me a little, but it watched it fade. “I’m not anymore. What’s done is done, Dean, please,” she leaned towards me over the table, close enough so I could see the silver lines in her eyes, “just drop it.”

“Fine,” I nodded, sitting back as I picked up a coffee cup, “for now.”

She nodded, took another deep breath, and sat back in the seat, closer to the side of Sam and looked out the window again.

“She is a witch but she’s also not, does that make any sense?” Gwen questioned, and the conversation seemed to pick right back up.

“No clarification there at all.” Jai rolled her eyes. Okay, so we got the bitchiness out of the way. Sam shook his head and I watched his hand go to the back of her neck. His thumb moved over the skin there as I turned to Gwen.

“So, we got this,” I cleared my throat and leaned forward. “We can recap by saying, once in Portland, the five of us are targets. Two sacrifices, two possession and one vessel…”

“One Crowley,” Jai piped in, stirring sugar into her coffee.

“Right, and one King of the Asshats.” I added and rubbed the bridge of my nose. “So, the only thing we don’t have is more information on the witch herself. What kind of Deity is she? Is there anything else beside Lovecraft that we can get on her? And exactly what do we need to put an end to it?”

“Therein lies the problem,” Gwen sighed, crossing her arm on the table as the waitress collected empty plates from Sam, me, and Gwen but the plate across from me was still full. I stopped her from taking it and tapped on it, making Jai slide it closer. “There isn’t much information on her outside of Lovecraft.”

“Fucking great.” That pressure between my eyes was growing.

“I didn’t say there wasn’t any , I just said there wasn’t a lot.” Gwen nudged me, and I looked at the way she smirked, which made me smile against my will. “Ash is gathering up that information right now. It was what I was sending him this morning. All of our,” she pointed between her and Jai before settling her eyes back on mine, “research.”

“You research?” Sam grinned and looked at the woman beside him. She rolled her eyes, going back to the strip of bacon in her hand.

“You know, I don’t understand why the two of you are so shocked when I do this stuff, you kinda have to know what the hell you’re doing when your partner is on the other end of a phone.” She growled, like she was really offended but Sam just leaned down and kissed her temple. “I read and I know things, the fact that most of the stuff I know is at the end of a blade, or behind a bullet has nothing to do with my level of intelligence.”

“I’ve just,” I started to smile, wanting to pick on her so badly, “I’ve never seen you pick up a book that doesn’t have pictures in it.” She leaned towards me again, elbows on the table, and I waited for it.

“That was a biology and anatomy book, Dean, of course it had pictures.” She rolled her eyes and I watched the smile come up. That's what I wanted to see. I sat back, put my arm around Gwen’s shoulders, and saw the acknowledgement in her eyes before she shook her head and turned back to Gwen. “What we got was several things. While Mynoghra is mostly Lovecraft lore, her roots, at least in this case stem from Greek mythology.”

“She’s not a crypto herself, per se, but there is definitely the element of it in her being.”

“She’s also not an animal, so how does that work?” Sam spoke up. He had been quiet for a while so the fact that he was chiming in meant that his thought process had stumbled on something.

“While that is technically the definition of cryptozoology, Sam, there is a little more to it.” Gwen answered.

“Originally, Mynoghra is defined as a ‘succubus-like monster with tentacles’.” Why was she looking at me like that? Jai smiled as I shifted in my seat, “hence, making it some sort of animal, but since she, or it, was worshipped by witch cults in Salem, Oregon, it also gives us our supernatural side of the coin.”

The more she talked, the more the burning in my chest started to grow. Trapped between the window and Gwen, I had nowhere to go, which might have been a good thing in other situations but right now, the elephant on my lungs was growing heavy.

“Okay, I say we get on the road so we can get more information on this from Ash, figure out the best way to gank the bitch and get it done so maybe we can get on with shit.” I snapped. It was Jai’s turn to kick me and I looked up at her, watched her head cock to the side and her eyes narrow. “I’m fine.”

“Right,” she paused, finished off her coffee, blinked suspiciously slowly, and eyed me over just a little uncomfortably for my tastes. “You know I’m not allowed to believe that.”

She pushed on Sam, getting him to look at me with worry and the four of us scooted out of the seats. Gwen took my hand, leading me out of the building as Jai and Sam paid the bill. I took a deep breath, finally some air, and leaned back on the Impala as I watch the two love birds through the window.

“Ramping up again?” Gwen asked softly. I pressed a hand to my chest and sighed.

“Just a little, not sure why it keeps doing that. I swear that the Roadhouse has started to become some sort of trigger for it,” Gwen smiled, which she usually didn’t do without cause so why was she… “I said that out loud, didn’t I?”

“Imagine that, Dean Winchester talking about his feelings.” She winked, fucking winked, which had me grabbing her hands to pull her closer. “Maybe Cas and his late night visits have been a good influence on you.”

“Any visits from the two of you are good influences on me.” I smiled and kissed her softly, but the smile faded. “Maybe it wasn’t the bar that triggered it.” I looked up at the cloudy sky, almost wishing to see something, but her hand on my cheek brought me back to earth. “Anything, from him to either of you?”

“No,” she whispered and I could almost feel the loneliness, the ache for him flowing off her body. “I don’t suspect we’ll hear anything for a few days at least. Gabe was pretty bad.”

“Yeah, I just wish he was here.” I ran my hand down my face, trying to brush off the strange tingles at the tip of my nose that seemed to come with every attack just as Jai and Sam came out of the diner. She looked beat, and without a word, she handed him the keys. “Looks like we’re rolling.”

“I’ll be right back.” Gwen slipped from my arms, headed around the car and I watched the two of them talk. Sam stepped up beside me and leaned on the car, eyes narrowed on Jai.

“You good?” He spoke softly, as if it was a secret.

“Aces.” I sighed and watched Gwen slip her something, which Jai took with a roll of her head and a give me a break expression. “You gonna last all eleven hours in the car with her?”

“We’re good, Dean.” He smiled, and with that look on his face, I knew he really was. “Gonna convince her to try and get some sleep.”

“Yeah, don’t think that’s going to take a lot of twisting her arm.” I grinned as Gwen handed her a bottle of water from her bag and Jai tossed back whatever was in her hand. “Thirty bucks says she’s out before the first hour is up.”

“What?” Sam looked from me to the girls and shook his head, “what is she giving her?”

“Some much needed sleep, if I’m not mistaken.” I patted him on the shoulder and stood up as Gwen came back around the car again. “Call if you need to, we can keep an open line, I know how exhausting it can be when your shotgun is silent.”

“I’m not silent.” Sam snarked, “I’m always trying to keep you awake, Dean.”

“Except when you’re going on like a chainsaw.” I grinned and Sam shook his head, moving over to the CRV. “The random snorts are exactly what I need to be scared awake too.”

“Screw you!” Sam barked, which had me laughing and Gwen and I slipped into Baby.

Ah, the smell of leather and Gwen, two of my favorite things. That and after about two more hours of airing out from Sam and Jai being locked in here, you would have never known that they had… oh, God, I can’t even think it.

I groaned as I rolled down the window five minutes after leaving the diner. Gwen looked completely confused.

“You’re not going to get sick, are you?” The worry was in her voice and I felt like a complete dick.

“No, no, it’s just the whole thing with Sammy this morning,” I reached over and took her hand. “I thought I had gotten used to finding my thirty-something brother in those kinds of situations. I guess it never gets easier.”

“It’s sex, Dean.” She smiled before suddenly taking her phone from her pocket. The smile faded from her face quickly as she read over the text and sighed.

“You know, I don’t know how half of you are still alive with some of the idiotic questions that come across the line.” She grumbled under her breath and that had me grinning. “Seriously, Bobby’s lucky he doesn’t have to schedule more hunter gatherings with the lack of intelligence that I run into on a daily basis.”

“Who is it this time?” I adjusted the mirror, watched Sam reach over across the seat of the CRV and do something before he straightened back up. Jai had pretty much disappeared. “Hey, what did you give her?”

“Who?” She continued typing as she questioned without even looking up.

“Jai, what did you give her?” She raised a hand, waved it at me as if to say it didn’t matter and grumbled down at the phone again.  “Okay, so who’s texting?”

“Garth,” Gwen sighed, like an all out exhausted ugh which came out as his name.

“Garth is one of the smartest guys we know, what’s going on with him?” I had never asked her about what she does on a daily basis with other hunters because I honestly didn’t care, I usually had her all to myself and I got to call, to hell with the text messages.

“He’s chasing something in Arizona, a shifter of some sort, but he didn’t bring the right weapon,” she paused, huffed again and tossed her hand up like she gave up, before going back to the typing. “Dumbass, seriously, stupid, stupid.”

I couldn’t help but laugh because I could almost see the offense on Garth’s face if she had said that straight to him. The poor, skinny guy would be floored and inconsolable. Finally, she put it away and adjusted herself on the seat to look right at me.

“I gave her diphenhydramine,” she just came out with it as if she had finally caught up with my question.

“Benadryl?” I wasn’t sure if I had heard her correctly.

“Yes, she has a very low tolerance for it and it makes her extremely sleepy. It works faster than melatonin, and she needs the sleep before she goes off the rails. There’s only one draw back.”

I closed my eyes for a second, hoping to God that it wasn’t what I thought it was. “Which is?”

“It makes her irritable.” And… there it was.

“Bitchy? She’s going to be more bitchy?” I sighed and almost heard her laugh. “And you thought it was a good idea to give her something that makes her more than her usual self?”

“It’s better for her to be a bitch then mistake you for a monster and gank you, as you so eloquently put it, when you walk out of the bathroom.” She reached out, the tips of her fingers touched my cheek and suddenly her fingers were running through my hair. I felt the goosebumps rise on my skin and all thoughts of Jai vanished. “Now, what can I do for you to make you relax for the next five hours.”

“Five?”

“That’s how long before it wears off.” Glancing over at her, the look in her eyes was pure hunger but as much as I wanted to take her up on any offer she might be throwing my way, there was no chance in hell I was going to survive her touching me with either hand, or mouth, without driving off the road. “Hmm, thought that might distract you.”

“Got what you wanted?” I grinned, because, dammit, she was the devil. With just a little shrug of her shoulder, she backed away. “Sinner.”

Three hours into the drive, and we had to pull over already. Damn Sammy and his small bladder, but Jai was still out cold, which I only know because I was the one who chose to check on her, so Gwen could grab another Coke, and brought me a coffee. At this point, we were knee-deep in a conversation on the pros and cons of knives versus guns.

“You know, you never told me why you like knives better,” I shrugged as we got to the end of it and figured out that neither of us were going to budge on our choices.

“I like the feel of them,” she whispered, but I had a feeling that wasn’t the whole extent of it. “There’s just something comforting about the feel of it sliding through meat.”

“Are we talking a nice, medium-rare steak, or the heart of a werewolf?” I grinned as we switched lanes.

“Neck of a vampire, thank you.” The smile on her face nearly lit up the car and I could see that I was in some major trouble. I should not be talking about this in a moving car with a hot-as-fuck woman that I couldn’t just pull into my lap. “I prefer hand-to-hand and very up-close and personal.”

“Oh, yeah?” God, I needed to stop. Her hands, up-close… where the hell was Cas? He could drive, right, I mean I would so let him drive the Impala for this.

“Do we need to pull over again?” Her voice snapped me out of the visual of her laid across the backseat and I cleared my throat.

“No, no, I’m just… it’s been a long few months, and that whole dragons case in Massachusetts didn’t help. “ I put both hands on the wheel in order to not put them on her and shifted to get more comfortable. “So, who started you with knives?”

“Besides the boy scouts?” She grinned.

“The who?” I snapped to look at her and she laughed

“Sorry, it’s something that Jai insists on, that I learned from the scouts. I’m pretty sure it’s a petty attempt at lewd humor and holds some sort of innuendos, but to be honest, my father taught me.” She reached into her boot and pulled out a knife that was five inches and blackened blade with a well-worn, scratched and dented black, three inch handle.  “This was his.”

I ran my fingers gently along the edge of the blade and winced, sharp as hell, and I didn’t expect any less. She stared at it a little bit longer and then slipped it back into her boot. “So, Dad taught you to weld it, but that’s not how you got so good at it, wanna share?”

Gwen turned to the window and ran her finger along her lip, it was probably the most seductive thing I had ever seen, well, at that moment, and it took a lot not to just gawk, but I know she was thinking and I wasn’t going to interrupt to satisfy my own needs.

“I was nine,” her voice was low, thoughtful and lost in memories, “my mother was sick, she had always been sick as far as I knew but this was the year that…” Gwen cleared her throat. “Dad took me out in the backyard, put up a target and handed me a dark, leather, knife roll. He held me by the shoulders and looked me in the eyes. Dad was a hunter, always had been one, always would be, so, I recognized the look when he narrowed them at me.”

My heart began to thump in my chest, I knew it too, the same one that Dad had when he handed me a gun and taught me how to shoot. It was a do-or-die lesson, something that changed the way you looked at the world. This was going to be how I protected myself, and I knew it was just the same for Gwen.

“He said; ‘you keep throwing, and you make sure you hit that target, and when you’re done, you go over there and you take them out and you start again.’” Gwen whispered, her jaw clenched and I knew what was coming. “That day everything but the sound of the knife splitting the wood as the tip punctured the target fell away. I was focused, centered, like a zen, and I drowned out the screams that came from the house.”

“Oh, Jesus.” I breathed in, put my hand over my lips and shook my head, wanting nothing more than to reach for her but she was set back against the door, as far away from me as she could get and I knew she needed space. “Gwen…”

“He never did tell me what she was, or what she had become, but when I was done, when my arm felt like I couldn’t pick it up even one more time,” she paused, turned her eyes to me and softly mumbled, “I never saw my mother again.”

“I’m sorry,” I reached out for her, and she took it, letting her fingers slide along the inside of my hand, her fingertips ghosting over my skin.

“No need,” she shrugged, “you asked how I got good, well, that was it… that day I found my place in the world. I wouldn’t ever need another weapon. The blades became an extension of myself,” she slipped the knife out once again, “the rest of the set gone, this is the only one left.”

“So why carry it?”

“Why not?” She questioned back, and while it made sense to say so you don’t lose it, that wasn’t the way her brain worked. “They’re tools, Dean, nothing more. The only thing that this gives me is memories that sometimes… most of the time, I don’t need. They’re a hinderance.”

“Okay, so, again, why carry it?”

She smiled slyly, put it away and replied matter-of-factly, “I told Jai I would.”

And that was that. She turned back to the window, her fingers interlacing with mine, and she faded off into whatever thoughts she had, that was, of course, until the cell vibrated on the seat.

~~~~~

The drive was quiet. The occasional text from hunters to Gwen about some idiotic thing, but she answered with a grin, shot off the text and put the phone away before it became more than annoying. There was a phone call or two from Sammy, with updates on Jai, who had come out of the drug-induced sleep not two hours after the knife conversation, or how he was doing as far as the drive was concerned but we made good time.

At the six hour mark, an unexpected stop had Gwen meeting Jai between the cars on the side of the road with another dose of the Benadryl because of a massive migraine. It was weird to see her actually in some sort of strange agreeable mood when the two of them talked calmly for a moment before she accepted the two orange pills once again.

With Gwen back in the car with me, and Jai safely with Sam, we were out on the road again. She must have known I was looking at her because all she did was smile, just a little tilt of her lips and slowly her eyes moved to mine.

“Trust me, you’ll thank me for giving her another dose,” and I’m not sure if she was being sarcastic or serious.

“Do I even want to know why?”

“According to her, she was getting to the bottom of an internal question she had been trying to answer for a while, but my assumption is the real reason was a sex dream.”

“Really?” I wanted to smack myself for even asking that in the tone, because I wasn’t disgusted, I was interested. NOT in the sex part, in the reason why she was going back into it. “So, what was it?”

“You know about her tea parties?”

I rolled my eyes because oh, come on ! Every hunter out there knows about her little soirees with the demons, why would she even ask if I knew, of course, I knew. “And?”

“Apparently, there was something a demon said to her years ago that she can’t put together.”

“Like a broken memory?” I blinked, tried to focus on the road and cleared my throat. I knew about those types of memories, the kind you only get when you go through something that is so traumatic the only way to block them out was to lock them away, wall them up, and throw away the key.

I took my hand from the steering wheel, reached over, and placed my palm over the skin just below my left shoulder. The heat of the memory, the strange feeling that always came when I thought of that mark, the feeling of being safe, that was what Cas gave to me ten years ago, but it always made me wonder… who kept her safe?

“Very much like a broken memory,” Gwen picked up the phone from her lap and glanced over the text message before she chose to ignore it and gave a deep sigh as she always did, before dropping it to her lap and she looked over at me. “Her memories are jaded, ripped or shredded, especially from that time in her life.”

“Were you there? When it happened?” I knew I thought it, not really sure that it had come out, but I watched her nod before I took a breath. “Me too.”

“I know, it’s the one memory she does have.” Gwen turned away again, but snatched the damn thing up again. “Can these dumb assholes honestly tell me they have no common sense, even enough to pick up a damn phone and call the real FBI? Jesus Christ, one must know when one is completely up shit’s creek!”

I laughed at that one, laughed so hard I nearly swerved the car into the other lane but, my God, who says up shit’s creek like that? You would think she was some sort of college professor with that crap. It helped though, took the impending blackness of the conversation and tossed it right out the window, and I spent the next five minutes trying not to burst out again as she swore up one side and down the other of whoever was suddenly at the other end of the phone call she made, because damn, she had enough.

~~~~~

Finally… about nine p.m., we pulled into the dirt parking lot of Harvelle’s Roadhouse to a full house. Sam pulled the CRV up beside me as I finally stood and stretched my arms above my head. Fuck, it was so good. Gwen slipped out, rolled her shoulders and stood, winking at me before she reached down and grabbed her bag.

The door opened and Sam got out. He had a half-smile on his face, mildly amused at something, before he rounded the hood and helped Jai from her seat. The little pain in the ass seemed off kilter and when she finally shook Sam’s hand off her arm, she was frowning, damn near growling and insisting that she was fine, just before she stumbled into the grill and grabbed onto the front of the car.

“Screw you, Winchester,” she grumbled at me as she made eye contact and reached for Sam’s hand again. He gladly pulled her to his side, and you could tell he was just a little worried as she tipped her head back, eyes half closed. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” he was gentle, which wasn’t surprising, but the love-sick way she looked up at him was… weird, it was really weird. “Just hang on.”

“I’m starving,” Gwen announced and closed her door, looking at the three of us. She wasn’t sure if she should move towards the run-down bar.

“Well, hell, let’s go say hello.” I smiled, reached out for her hand and led the way into the circus.

And a circus it was.

It was packed, every corner of the bar was covered with not only hunters but civilians as well. Sam moved Jai to one of the empty seats on the end of the bar, Gwen headed towards the back, probably off to find Ash but I knew she was safe, and I moved up to stand watch over them.

“Dean,” Sam whispered, standing close behind me, Jai to his side, “do you see Ellen?”

“Must be in the back,” I shrugged, crossing my arms over my chest. “Don’t see Jo either.”

“Think I’m gonna go check, she really needs to eat,” I turned, as Sam looked down at Jai. He was right, she looked a little green. “Watch her, will ya?”

“Sure.” Sam patted me on the shoulder and slipped by, which gave me just enough room to back up against the bar and protect her from the creepy looks of three burley bikers that had just come in. “Hey, Princess, if you had to swing, think you could?”

I felt her shift, her cheek rested against my arm as she turned and looked at the new arrivals. “Shit, could floor them before you even blinked.”

“Yeah, you keep dreamin’.” I smiled and slipped the arm she leaned against around her, pulling her closer even as she went back to slouching against the bar. “should have stopped when you were ahead, huh?”

“Needed to get something straightened,” she shrugged.

“Did you?”

“Doesn’t matter, what’s done is done,” she sighed and pushed me away weakly before she gripped my hip and pulled me closer. “Don’t move.”

“Gonna be sick?”

“Not a lightweight, Dean, just not exactly steady.”

“You never were, Brat.”

“Douche,” she shivered, but it was the sound of a heavy glass hitting the counter that had her sitting up straight and me turning to face the smile of the dirty-blonde that stood on the other side with her arms crossed and eyes narrowed, going between the two of us. “Hey, Sexy.”

“How you doin’, Darlin?” Jo’s voice was breathy, like she really was flirting with her but as Jo leaned down, crossed her arms on the bar and studied Jai’s face, I could see the worry there. “Rough night?”

“Rough…” Jai stopped and looked up at me, which was the oddest thing, “rough everything.”

“Want me to help you out with that?” I rolled my eyes because now she really was flirting and with the history between us, I knew exactly what she was talking about. Jo had magic hands.

“Not this time, Sugar,” Jai’s face blushed a bright red, and… that was new. “I’m kind of tied up with someone.” Both looked back as Sam moved around the bar, two plates in his hand and the little smile lifted her lips. Jo gave her this look, like she totally understood, but just when I thought it couldn’t get any more strange, Jo turned those doe eyes on me and winked before walking away. Jai pulled the rocks glass closer and took a sip of the amber liquid. “What’s on your mind, Dean?”

I shook my head and leaned in closer. “You and Jo?”

“Hey, I stand by my “every hunter is bi” statement.” she coughed out as the whiskey hit her throat and I smiled at her pain.

“Yeah, well.” I turned back to the crowd and let the cacophony of noise take over, run into a single melody and hoped to hold back the growing pressure in my chest.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Ash

The knock on the door was barely audible above the sound of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, but it was there, plainly there. I was expecting Gwen, Jai and the boys, but not this soon. Taking the earphones off, I killed the power on Google Home and picked up the roach and took a long drag before making it to the door.

Releasing the smoke just as I opened the door, Gwen stared down at me with a frown. I don’t know what it was about my old friend but she could always sober me up in two seconds with that look of abject disgust at my habits. I waved my hand in front of my face, trying to disperse the puff and pulled the door open wider.

“Hello, Queen Bee, please, enter my domain.” I bowed slightly, not being offensive but considering the amount of pure shit the two of us had been through since we met at school, the pet names were appropriate.

“No, thank you, I’ll pass.” She folded her fingers in front of her and rocked back on her heels. “Do you have what we need?”

“Straight to the point then?” I nodded, she never was much for formalities. “You bring the nutcase?”

“Currently, she’s sitting at the bar recovering from a Benadryl hangover. It might be prudent to move this along.”

“I see,” I nodded, stepped back into the room and grabbed laptop and thick folder that sat next to it before we moved out into the hallway. I wanted to hug her, to say hello but it needed to wait. Having known her since MIT, well, technically since she was in Harvard, it was difficult to not greet her in the way we had always done. Things had changed for both of us in the years we had been apart and I was pretty sure our significant others would not be exactly pleased to find us cuddling on the crappy futon in my smoked out room. “If you want to get the others, I’ll show you where the boardroom is and we can talk in there.”

“You have a boardroom? In a bar?” Deadpanned as ever, she could always make me smile.

“No, it’s just what we call it.” I stepped by her, headed over to the door that was sealed with a combination lock, I punched in the numbers and yanked it open. She followed close behind as we made our way upstairs to the large room. In one corner was a projector, a whole wall that we had painted to create a whiteboard, and in the middle sat a large oval table. “We figured out there wasn’t really a great place for hunters to go to work on cases, so we set up this beauty.”

“It looks like a room.” Gwen stepped up to the notes that lined one side of the whiteboard, cocked her head to the side as she read it over and sighed, “how long ago was this?”

I stopped, counted back in my head and dropped the folder on the table as I hooked the laptop up to the computer, and shrugged. “About a week.”

“Did they survive?”

God, I loved this Amazon woman! “Debatably. Why?”

“This plan is all wrong.” Gwen reached down to grab the purple marker, something that only she would go for and suddenly she was drawing all over the wall. “For one, this isn’t the correct weapon for this type of hunt, and who the hell even goes into the woods with something like this? It can easily be drawn out with some scrap meat from the local butcher shop, in fact it prefers cold meat to fresh off the bone.”

The scribbles and changes she made to the board was fascinating, and I found myself standing back, arms crossed, just watching. When we met at Harvard, I wasn’t sure she was the one that had broken into the MIT satellite facility to mess with the algorithms of incoming transmission, but after meeting her and dealing with a rather nasty poltergeist, which was really what was going on in the old building, I knew there was no way I was letting her go. Combine that with the fact that when I arrived home to the Roadhouse, I was met with the fucking nut of a hunter that she called a partner, I knew my life was never going to be the same.

Jai and Gwen had been hunting “together” for a while when Jai stumbled into the bar one night, bleeding from a gash across her stomach, mumbling about how she had to warn Bancroft that there was just something wrong with her intel. Of course, telling that to one of the most intelligent hunters I had ever met was nothing short of asking for a painful death, but I picked up the phone and reached out.

Needless to say, getting her to actually answer was another issue all together, until I called from Jai’s phone. The instant that first ring went through, the rough “ What?” on the other end told me that this was some serious shit. Jai had been a regular, one of Bobby’s kids, just like Sam and Dean, but to find out that Gwen was in on this, I wasn’t sure if my heart could take that kind of pain if something happened. And now, she was sitting here correcting something that I didn’t have the balls to tell her had gone terribly wrong.

“I hope someone at least lost a damn eye for all this trouble, who even thinks they can hold this kind of thing with a sigil, and this right here…” she put a big X through something and started writing equations. “This is completely out of context.” Frustration bloomed on her brow, and that smile on my lips only grew because this was a typical thing for her in three… two… one. “HOLY CHRIST!” The marker went flying. “Did you salt and burn their bodies, because stupidity like this should be made to rot on earth as a vengeful spirit. Just dumb… dumb assholes.”

“You finished?” I laughed, watched her clench her fists a couple times before she turned in her spot and took a deep breath. “They all died, by the way.”

“Serves them right.” She grouched and moved over towards me.

Maybe it was the fact that I finally had empty hands, or the way that I stood, letting her make the first move without the smoke and smell of the weed from my nearly windowless room, but she wrapped her arms around me and pulled me in tight before I let myself relax. Uncrossing my arms, I slid them around her waist, leaned my head on her shoulder and buried my face in her neck.

“I’ve missed you.” I sighed, right against her skin and she shivered.

“A twenty-four hour drive isn’t the only thing that separates us.” She mumbled back, her fingers running up my spine.

“I know, Love, it’s life.” I didn’t want to let her go, but at the same time, this case was a bitch and she needed to know what they were up against, which meant getting the Scooby Gang together and getting this settled. I pulled back, let her reach up and card her hand through my now bleached-blonde hair, cut short instead of in the typical mullet that I had been sporting for years. Hey, changing of the times, and needed for an actual hands-on case. “You ready for what I need to throw at you?”

“Not nearly.” She sighed and took my hand in hers. I brought her fingers to my lips and kissed them softly.

“Let’s go find your boyfriend then.”

She nodded, letting me stand there just to look at her for a moment more, before she dropped my hand and moved out of the room.

“Well, yee-haw.” I mumbled and followed her out.

~~~~~

The bar was quiet, even for the sheer amount of people in it, but I was used to the noise. Scanning the crowd, I could see Jai at the end of the bar, milking the two-fingers worth of a whiskey, Dean in a spot that gave him the best perspective for protection against unwanted incoming danger, and Sam, who was eyeing over the second half of the room, having set down two plates before the hunters in the corner.

Gwen stepped up beside me and crossed her arms, danced back and forth on her feet, doing the same as me, as probably every hunter in this room. They were a paranoid bunch, always on their toes, most pretty jumpy and not nearly sociable enough to be in company much like themselves but it was also the safest place to be on the planet, until…

“Oh, no.” Gwen whispered, and my eyes followed her line of sight. There, at the bar, sat a woman that I had come to know well, an empath, not necessarily a hunter but someone who was just as good, but her head of short-cropped, blonde hair was turned and she was looking right at Sam. “This isn’t going to be good at all.”

“What’s going on?” Sam turned about that time and spotted her. “Oh, no.”

“Yeah,” Gwen sighted and ran her hand down her face. “Excuse me.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have smiled, maybe I should have kept it to myself, but the fact that Gwen made a bee-line straight for Jai was just comical. I watched her whisper to Dean, and the man turned and looked to his brother as Smiling Sam stepped up beside the woman, striking up a conversation. Dean turned towards Jai, leaned down and I watched the hunter at the bar narrow her eyes at him, glance up at Gwen, and then lean forward, side-eyeing Briley. It’s possible that it was time to intervene.

Stepping past Sam and the chatty blonde, I made my way through the crowd to where the other three were huddled. Sliding in on the other side of Jai, which was just enough room to stand, I leaned down and listened to the two of them try to diffuse the situation.

“That doesn’t explain who she is,” Jai snapped and that got my eyes to go right to Gwen’s.

“You can’t just go around killing people, Jai,” Dean sighed, but slid onto the empty stool and went straight to the burger.

“Says who?” She mumbled and those small fingers wrapped around her own. “I’m not even sure I want to attempt to eat this.”

“Eat!” Dean snapped. I looked over her shoulder at Gwen, who just seemed mildly annoyed at the banter between them.

“If I do as you ask, will you tell me who she is?” The quiet voice was full of pain, so I slipped behind the counter and grabbed the bottle from the cluttered shelf. She turned her blue eyes up at me as I leaned on the counter, cracked open the bottle and dumped three white pills out on the table. “I’m not taking anything you give me, Doc, last time you gave me something it made the whole bar look like it was undulating.”

“Big word for such a little hunter.” Dean snarked and I watched the interaction, which was oddly different than the last time the two were in any kind of contact here. It was calmer.

“Fuck off.” She moaned and concentrated on me.

“They’re just aspirins, Sweetheart.” I grinned and she took them, still narrowing those eyes, before popping them in her mouth. She chased them with the whiskey before she moaned and pushed the plate forward. “So, what are we doing?”

“Drinking,” Jai sighed, picked up the glass and clanked the ice around without looking up.

I leaned in close, right next to her ear, and mumbled the same statement that Dean had already made. “Eat.”

Gwen grinned as Jai rolled her eyes, and dug into the fries. There was a few moments of conversation between Dean and Jai that both confused me and amazed me since the whole thing consisted of mms and mmhmms , weirdest thing ever.

“If you’re going to be civil, I’m going to play a round of pool.” Gwen sighed, and it was a deep sigh that seemed to relax her whole body. Dean leaned his head back, let Gwen give him a small kiss, which was both the cutest and most disgusting thing I had ever seen, while Jai waved her off. She looked up at me, gestured to the table and walked away.

“Well, if you two can behave and not get blood everywhere, I think I might join her.” The two of them never even batted an eye, which was completely weird. Shaking my head, I walked away, following my friend to the back of bar. I picked up my favorite cue and stepped up to her as she racked the balls. “We gonna talk about it?”

“You,” she glanced up under her lashes at me, halting her motions, “want to talk about my relationship with Dean Winchester?”

“You know me, I need to know all the information,” I moved closer, pressing against her shoulder as I leaned down and whispered in her ear. “If he hurts you, I’ll kill him.”

Gwen stood, belted out a laugh that drew the attention of several people that looked just a little annoyed, but she didn’t care.

“You realize you just threatened to off one of the best hunters in the country,” she moved in, stared me in the eyes and grinned like the little she-devil she had always been. “I’d like to say my money is on you, but no.”

“Your words are so encouraging.” I stepped back, lined up a shot as she moved the rack, and let it fly. The crack echoed off the small space we were in. “Looks like I’m stripes.”

“Looks like you’re something,” she mumbled and I know I cocked my head in her direction, “what?”

“It’s new,” I shrugged, “and not entirely unpleasing.”

“New? There’s nothing new.” She snapped, glowering at me from across the table. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“The witty little remarks.” She humphed at me and then flipped me off, “and then there’s that. You are definitely spending too much time with Lancing if you’re flipping me the bird. What happened to my dry-humored, hit-them-where-it-hurts hunter?”

“She decided to stop being reluctant and started hanging out with…” Gwen stopped for a moment. “Oh, Christ! Son of a bitch.”

“Yeah, totally not a bad influence on you at all.” In classic Gwen style, she rolled her eyes, came at me and knocked me back with her hips just a bit to take the shot. “You could have done that from over there.”

“Yes, but that would have taken the gratuitous ass shot out of the equation and I love to tease you.” She winked. Where was my precious hunter, and who replaced her with this minx? God bless Dean Winchester, he was gonna need it, though, as I leaned back on my heels, I also thanked him for her, because, damn that ass. “This is your one freebie, take a good long look.”

“I’m pretty sure if I get caught looking any longer, someone is going to have an issue with it.” When she turned to me, I moved just my gaze to focus on Jo, who was standing straight behind the counter, violently drying a pint glass.

“Wait, you and Jo Harvelle?” Those eyes narrowed slightly and she tilted her head, looking just like a certain angel that I had only met a couple times, but the inquisitiveness was right there in her expression. “And, Ellen let you keep your balls?”

“Wouldn’t you like to see,” I winked and listened to her sigh. We had never done anything, well, not more than kissing and heavy petting but that was in those college days and might have had something to do with the amount of alcohol involved. “It’s been ongoing for years.”

“Years? And I’m just getting the threatening glare now?” She shook her head, “how is it that I don’t believe you?”

“It’s gotten more serious over the last few months, hence the eye daggers.”

“Ah, that makes sense. She does know that Dean and I…”

“Apparently not, and since there used to be a thing between them, that might be incorporated into that death stare.” She shook her head, stepped back and let me take my shot, but the need to know seemed to take over and I turned, leaned against the table. “Tell me the truth, how are the two of you? Is she getting worse? Do we need to jump on it now?”

“We’re fine, she’s… well, she’s Jai, and actually, I think having her concentration on the issues in her head helps keep her distracted from the entire fuckery that is our life at the moment.” Gwen sat down on one of the stools, placed the cue between her legs to lean on it and paused. “She almost lost Gabe.”

My heart nearly sank. We had set hunters up with angels, most hunters anyway, to keep them safe, but to know that an archangel fell, “Well, fuck.” I looked down at the bar, at Dean who had taken her plate to finish the rest and at Jai who was using her arm as a pillow while watching Sam. “I’m sorry.” It took me a moment of staring at Jai to catch on, “wait, you said almost , where is he? What about Cas?”

“Cas is fine, he took Gabe back to the host.” I closed my eyes, that couldn’t be good. “It wasn’t something that Cas had the power to take care of himself.”

“How is she holding up?”

“It’s Gabe, and just like the rest of it, she’s keeping it pretty close, and keeping it in.”

“That’s not going to end well.”

Gwen leaned over, lined up a shot, and took a deep breath, “never does.”

The crack of the balls against one another seemed to echo through the whole bar as she seemed to grow quiet.

It was another hour of conversations, of checking in on Jai and Dean, of watching Sam and Briley chat before I slipped away to the back room. The noise seemed to always get too much after a while, but a quick toke and some good music always seemed to ease it. I was part way through the joint that I had rolled, took another long draw from it and closed my eyes, letting the sound of the symphony fill me when I felt the draft of the door open and close slowly.

I slowly released my breath, let my eyes flutter open and the jean-clad legs of Jai Lancing stood over my knees as I sat back in the old bean-bag chair. She had a small smirk on her face, her hands tucked in her back pockets and she was just watching.

“Need somethin’?” I whispered and that smile grew. She stepped over my leg and flopped down beside me on the bean-bag, snuggling close to my side. Her hand reached out, she slipped two fingers around the small roach and plucked it from my fingers. I watched her bring it to her lips, suck in gently and close her eyes. “Gwen is going to kill me if you take more than a hit, Smallish Hunter, so stop while you’re ahead.”

“It’s fine,” she whispered, taking another one, “it’s fine.”

“It’s not,”I snapped it back and held it away from her. She didn’t really put up a fight, mostly curled up against me. “This is what you get for taking that chemical shit, a drug hangover.”

“It’s not the drugs,” she smiled and turned her head up so that I was looking down into her eyes. “It’s the booze.”

“And that’s any better?”

“I’m not irritated anymore,” she shrugged, and she wasn’t. Her whole body was relaxed, which was totally unusual for her since she was always ready to fight on a dime. “Can you tell me about her?”

“Who?” I snuggled deeper into the bag, put my head back and settled my fingers on her thighs as I finished what was in my other hand.

“The chick that Sam is so caught up in reminiscing with.” I squeezed the leg beneath my hand, testing to see just how ready she was to start a fight but there was nothing there. “I’m not gonna kill her, I promise. I’m saving my energy for more important things, but everyone is walking on eggshells because of Gabe, so,” she put a hand on my cheek and shifted up to hover over me, looking me dead in the eyes, “I just need someone to be straight and believe me when I say I got this.”

“Jai,” I wanted to go on about how much I knew she didn’t have it under control, not with the reports I had been getting about her little knife play episodes, but Briley wasn’t a demon or a threat.

“Please, Ash.” It was light, full of hope that someone wouldn’t dance around and protect her

I took a deep breath of the muggy, pot-filled scented air, and let it go slowly.  “About six-seven years ago, Sam went out on a hunt, well, not so much a hunt but a clean-up mission. There were still leviathan out there. Sam couldn’t find the entrance to get Dean out, whatever was going on with that Amelia chick was over, for the most part, and he ended up in Nashville. Things went south on a case, he was hurt.”

“Hurt how?”

“Not sure, this was all I got.” I shrugged because I really didn’t have anymore information on that, just on Briley. “She’s not a hunter, she’s an empath, which puts her in her own danger, but she’s not completely unarmed. She has this…” I fought to find the words as I sat up more and turned towards her. Jai was still less than convinced. “She has a natural ability to help people, and animals, heal, like a touch of grace, just not that fast.”

“She’s not Cas,” she stated sarcastically and shifted down further into the bag, “so what? She found Sam, healed him and…”

“Yep, one night and it was done.” I watched her ponder this information before she reached over onto the table and grabbed the flask, taking a swig before she handed it to me. I took it, held it but didn’t partake and she cleared her throat. “He was with her for about a week, called me to check in, let me know what had happened in the case, but the only reason I know what went on between them was that she approached me when she came back north. She wanted to tell me about Sam’s aura, that he wasn’t dealing with his loss as well as he let off.”

“Yeah, Dean was gone, Bobby was…” she shook her head, “he wasn’t doing good either. I couldn’t find Sam.” She sounded conflicted but suddenly sat up and took my hand. “I tried, Ash. I tried to find Dean, to find Sam, but I couldn’t either. Gwen… she kept me afloat.”

“I know that too,” I moved her hair out of her face and kissed her forehead. “Listen, Briley was long ago. Sam, he cares about you, so let him catch up with an old friend and try not to stab her in the back.”

“Seriously, I’m not that off,” she smiled, “I would never stab someone in the back. I’d do it face to face, it’s so much more fun.”

“You’re not nuts at all, are you?” She stood just as fast as she had sat down and yanked on my hand as she moved towards the door. “Where are you going?”

“Jo said she would give me a massage.” She winked, and I just stared because she knew, she knew about me and Jo and she was still doing that. “You can watch if you want.”

“Sam’s going to kill me.” I sighed, steadied myself and moved out of the room with her.

~~~~~

The bar had quieted down, it was close to midnight. Dean now stood with Briley and Sam, deep in some sort of conversation. Gwen and Jo were leaning across the counter, eye to eye, smiling, which really had my heart pumping as I stepped up beside them but Ellen’s eyes were on Jai as she moved towards the jukebox.

“What did you do?” Ellen questioned, eyes right on me as I shrugged, innocently. The overhead speakers stopped, there was the sound of an old record player, like the needle against the vinyl and suddenly the sound of a piano keyboard filled the room.

Dean stood up straight, turned and looked at the woman with her back to him. Gwen rolled her eyes and rubbed her hand down her face. Ellen huffed and threw her hands in the air as Jo just lowered her head.

You walked into... the party, like you were walking on a yacht. Your hat strategically dipped below one eye …” Carly Simon’s voice echoed through the bar and all eyes turned on me.

“ASH!” They all barked and I just smiled as Jai ignored them all and sang along.

“You're so vain… you probably think this song is about you…” Jai’s voice was on key, but she was mumbling the words to herself.

“What am I missing?” Sam questioned as Briley took her cue and slipped from her seat, disappearing out the door before she could be stopped.

“There’s a reason why we monitor her recreational drugs.” Ellen growled like a protective Mama Bear. “She seems to have a thing.”

“‘ You’re So Vain’ is a thing?” Sam laughed and Dean just turned to stare at his brother.

“Oh, yeah,” Dean’s voice lacked the humor that the words would have implied as he moved away from the counter and towards Jai. Sam just sat there pretty damn confused. Gwen shook her head, stepped up to the younger Winchester and put her hand on his shoulder.

“It was nice knowing you.” Gwen patted him twice before following the counter around to grab a bottle of Tennessee Honey Whiskey that we kept for rare occasions such as this, before she went back to Jo.

“Can someone tell me what’s going on?” Sam was truly confused. I took a breath, looked at Ellen, who slid down the bar, poured him a drink and handed it to him.

“Drink it,” she basically ordered as I took a seat and watched him down the equivalent of three shots in one gulp. Ellen always had a heavy hand with family. I grabbed the barstool next to him and turned, leaned back with my elbows on the bar as she handed me a beer and watched Dean stand there under the light, next to Jai, making her smile as they rummaged through the old songs. “Sam, let me tell you something about our girl.”

“Christ, what did I do now?” I think he knew he was in trouble.

“Your girl, our girl, has been through hell, and while we see a lot of people we know, Jai and Gwen over there tend to have limited contact with those that hunt on this side of the river. That little walk down memory lane with Briley might need to be explained to her.” Ellen got as close to us as she could so that no one else overheard. “She’s not like the rest, neither of them are.”

“I told her about Briley.” I admitted and Sam locked eyes on me. Putting both hands up in surrender, I went back to what I was doing, which was basically being a buffer between them. Sam tapped his glass on the counter, which had Ellen refilling.

“I feel like there’s so much I don’t know about her.” He was really torn up about it, but his eyes went over to the duo, then to Gwen. “About either one of them, but at the same time, I know everything.”

“There’s a few things that you just need to remember about them both.” Ellen put her hand on Sam’s lower arm and gave him that look, you know the mom look. “One, that one there is volatile.” She nodded at Jai, then gestured to Gwen, “that one there could put you on your ass before you can blink, but they have something in common that most hunters here don’t, most… except for you and Dean. They’ve been through hell, literal hell, and they are still standing.”

“I know that.”

“You don’t know the half of it, Sam, but that’s okay.” I hated to hear her talk to him in that kind of voice, like she felt the need to protect the girls even from the men who loved them most, and they really did love them. “You already have everything you need to support them, just remember not to get between them.”

Sam laughed, “ever tried to get between Jai and Gwen, even on the phone hundreds of miles apart, the two of them know just about everything.”

“That’s what makes them some of the best.” She patted Sam on the arm. “Now, take my advice, walk your happy ass over there and tell her anything she wants to know about you, your past, and anyone she might run into here.”

“Think she’ll forgive me?” The corner of his mouth ticked up in a smile and I shook my head.

“If she doesn’t kill you first.” I replied, because he was in way over his head.

“I’ll remember that,” Sam laughed, stood and headed out on the floor. He stepped up behind Jai, put his arms around her and the three of them talked softly.

“And you!” That, and the damn near bruising slap across the side of my head had me turning to Ellen.

“Ow!” I groaned, rubbing my head.

“I told you to stop giving her that shit.” guess I couldn’t argue with her since I was dating her daughter. “You know how she gets on it, so it’s on you to make sure she doesn’t…” Ellen’s arms waved wildly, “do something stupid.”

“I got it.” I put my hands up to protect my face as she snapped out with the bar rag. “I swear.”

Ellen grumbled as she moved away, slapping the rag on the bar, mumbling about being too old for keeping track of kids our age, but her leaving got Jo to come over. The blonde woman smiled at me, ran her hands through my hair and gripped it tight, tugging me forward to kiss me gently.

“Dean’s got her,” she said softly.

“Dean shouldn’t need to,” I replied quietly, “she has Sam. Dean’s free of the responsibility.”

“Ever seen Dean free of anything?” Jo smiled, turning her eyes towards Gwen, who was watching the exchange with some thinning patience as she danced in her spot for two seconds before she moved towards the floor with the other three. “Well, damn, if that isn’t one powerful team.”

“Two of the best hunters in the world paired with the two of them?” I drew in a deep breath. “I just hope they know what they're getting into.”

~~~~~

It was dark in the bar, but there was an eerie quiet that seemed to stir me from the drunken sleep that I had fallen into on the green. I had yet to open my eyes, but a quick survey of the room would have told me if I were alone or not. My instincts lied.

There was a soft, warm breath against my ear, nothing else touched me, and my fingers curled around the cue ball, as I steadied my breathing, trying not to let whoever it was beside me know that I was awake, until the whisper of a song started.

I see a bad moon a-rising, I see trouble on the way…”

I growled at Jai’s voice when the tune turned into a giggle and suddenly the speakers blasted the rest of the song. I sat up quickly, the beer bottle falling from my lap and I looked around the empty bar.

Either she was the only one up, or I was seriously missing something. That was when I smelled the scent of bacon. I wiped the crap from my eyes, turned and sat with my legs dangling off the table. She was making her rounds of the pool table, running her fingers along the dark cherry head rail. “What time is it?”

“Tis noon, my good sir,” she winked, a softly accent in her voice, rounding the corner near where my feet had been, and slipped up to me, standing between my thighs as she pressed herself to my chest. I rolled my eyes as she pressed her hands to my face, the accent and the softness gone from her face. “And you are in some serious shit, so get up, brush your teeth and meet us in the boardroom.”

She patted my cheeks roughly, turned, with a sadistic smile, and sashayed away. I definitely  needed to talk to Bobby on how he had presented the lesson of being gentle with someone when she was younger.

I rubbed my face, did just what she said, and made my way up to the room I had showed to Gwen the night before. Sitting around the oval table was Jai, who was nearly bouncing in her seat, trying every which position to get comfortable. Gwen sat on one side of her, annoyed, slapping her gently to try and make her sit still as Gwen stirred what might have been tea.

Sam sat on the other side of Jai, milking a coffee, looking a little worse for wear this morning and Dean sat slouched beside Gwen, his eyes closed, his head back and his fingers barely holding onto the empty mug that rested at the edge of the table. Gwen reached over, pushed Dean’s coffee further up onto the table as she pulled her phone from her pocket, before bringing the mug of tea to her lips. The table had plates, silverware, and the beginning of breakfast.

The door opened and Jo scooted past me with a plate of pancakes. She stepped up, kissed me on the cheek and set the plate down on the table. Jai stood on the chair, reached over, because the plate was in front of Dean, and stole three of them before she made herself comfortable.

There were no words as Gwen started handing her things that she would need to prepare them they way she liked before Jai took one off her’s and placed it down on the empty china that sat in front of Gwen, all this was done without Gwen even looking up from the phone, until Jai finally sat put and glanced at the text message.

They started in on a quiet conversation, heads together as they spoke, and I sat down slowly at the table beside Sam, who was just smiling at the interaction.

“First time seeing it?” He questioned and I looked at him, confused. “The two of them working, first time?”

“Yeah, it’s…”

“Annoying,” Dean groaned and sat up, reaching over to grab the carafe. Both girls seemed to have either not heard him or was ignoring him. “They do it all the time, and I’m pretty sure they figured out how to share each other’s kidneys because neither of them ever wake up with a hangover.”

“It’s just a high metabolism, Dean.” Jai replied, without even making eye contact just before she scanned over Gwen’s phone and pointed at something to make her stop. “That’s it.”

“Hmm, definitely a possibility.” Gwen replied, took a screenshot and sent it off before looking up at me. “Dean hasn’t quite realized that taking me on shot for shot isn’t the best idea.”

“Like ever.” Jai added, rolling her eyes as she took a bite. Jo walked in with a plate full of bacon and Ellen behind her with eggs, but she quickly disappeared once more. Sam only grinned at this whole exchange as Dean groaned again and rested his head on the table. “Grumpy Bear over there seems to think just because he’s a Winchester and has an angel up his ass....”

“He’s not up my ass!” Dean snapped and I watched as Jai went to open her mouth but Gwen’s hand slapped down over it. Jai giggled underneath it and slowly Gwen shook her head, making me question just what was going on. Dean scowled at Jai, who only blew him a kiss, reached over the table and got him a few strips of bacon on a plate. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it,” Jai giggled, which was odd for this early in the day, “seriously, forget it ever happened.”

I leaned towards Sam. “She feeling alright?”

“You got me, she’s been up since eight,” he shrugged and I watched the concern fill his eyes, “she’s just been out on the phone most of the morning, I think with Bobby.”

“Good,” I nodded, which got him to look at me, “she needs him to keep her grounded.” Apparently, he didn’t see it that way. “Look, Sam, as much as we can hope to hold on, Bobby has always been the one that set her straight.”

“I know, I just wish I knew what was going on.” Jai jumped in her seat, looked down into her lap and pulled out the cell. She patted Gwen on the shoulder, hopped out of the chair and took off out of the room. “What the hell?”

“She’s fine,” Gwen pitched in as she stole Jai’s plate and moved the pancakes to her own. I snorted at the sly move and Gwen looked up to catch my eye, “trust me, she’s not going to eat them now.”

“They’re cold.” Dean finished her thought, reaching across the table for eggs and more bacon.

“So, she prepared them and suddenly, she’s not going to eat them because they’re cold?” I blinked, knowing my confusion was written clearly on my face and suddenly I was looking at two sets of eyes, Gwen and Dean’s as they both replied: yeah before going back to their meals.

Jai walked back in, her phone not in her hand and made her way towards her seat. Quietly, and with a stillness that seemed… off, she sat down and reached for the plate of pancakes once again. Sam handed them to her, she took two and made her preparations. By the time she was cutting into them, Jo and Ellen had joined us at the table, fruit and sausage added to the assortment of food.

We all ate in relative silence before Jai jumped again and looked down at her phone. She was about to get up, about to excuse herself but Dean reached over, snatched it from her hand and placed it to his ear, each of them glaring at each other.

“Hey, Bobby,” Dean smiled loosely, his eyes still on Jai, “nah, she’s good, we’re just sitting down to breakfast.” There was a pause as Dean listened to the man on the other end. “Yeah, of course… you know she’s not gonna like it.” He took a deep breath, listened again and nodded, his eyes now turning to the coffee on the table. “Yep, got it. See ya.” Dean ended the call and handed the phone back, but didn’t let go when she reached over and grabbed it. “He said, and I quote, ‘fucking eat’.”

Jai snapped the phone away, put it face down on the table and didn’t bother to argue with him, which got a smirk from Sam, who only eyed the pair, on occasion resting on Gwen, who seemed completely oblivious in the middle.

“They do this all the time?” I leaned into Sam to ask as quietly as possible.

“All the time,” Sam sighed and glanced at me. “Briley said there was something strange going on in Fort Collins, which is why she was here, do you know anything about it?”

“We got enough on our plate, Sammy,” Dean spoke up between bites of scrambled eyes, “don’t think hopping the border for an old fling is a good idea right now.”

“Right,” Sam sighed and I could see it in his eyes as they flickered to Jai. While they looked good, something was strained between them, “I just thought…”

“Taking on case might put us in a serious tight spot.” Dean continued.

“But it would bring us closer to that side of the county.” Gwen argued.

“What did she say was happening?” Jo questioned. Sam was ready to open his mouth when Ellen joined in.

“Gotta say, the four of you have been nonstop for a while, another case might wear you out before you have a chance to recuperate.” She sat back, eyeing over them before those eyes landed on me.

“Why don’t you give me the information and I can see what I can do.” I shrugged. I guess I could help.

“Yeah, but… I don’t think…” The scratching of the chair across the wood stopped Sam mid-sentence and all eyes were on Jai as she stood, put the napkin down on the table and looked at him with a neutral expression.

“We’re not going,” was all she said as she went to move around him, but that was when Sam reached out and snagged her arm. Slowly, he got to his feet, not letting her go and blocked her way out. Jai slowly raised her free hand, let her eyes close and she relaxed. “Look, Sam, I’m not arguing with you, I’m using the bathroom.”

“Why are you set that we’re not going then?” His voice was calm, quiet, like he was trying to set her off.

Jai took a deep breath, one that she was using to help her relax and I only know because I watched the tension leave her body. That hand came down on his chest, the arm he held slipped up until she was holding his fingers and her eyes slowly opened.

“Because, I already took care of it.” She whispered, eyes going to everyone in the room. Sam switched feet, I sat forward, and Dean nearly dropped his fork. Gwen let out a very loud sigh and Jai just shook her head. “Oh, Gods, seriously, before you all,” she snatched her hands away from Sam and made a wild gesture, “go off the rails, I didn’t take it out myself, Jesus, I think I have more common sense then that, and not nearly enough time.”

“Okay,” Sam cleared his throat, “explain, please.”

“I went out for a drink this morning,” she shrugged and rolled her eyes, “coffee, I went out for coffee,” she added that important detail as her eyes stopped on Gwen, “okay, just coffee.”

“Fine,” Gwen huffed, “go on.”

There was a story there, and, damn, was I curious now.

“At the diner across from the motel,” Jai stepped back, found a spot between the chairs and grabbed her mug, filling it, holding it, like she needed it to keep the story going, but she never drank it. “Anyway, at the diner, Briley was sitting in a booth, I thought… I was thinking…”

“That you should take her out?” Dean’s voice was low but Jai just shook her head.

“That maybe I should get to know a little bit about Sam’s time without you,” she snapped back and the two of them stared for a moment. “Listen, Dean, it wasn’t easy for me, but I knew for damn sure it was Hell for Sam, so yeah, I wanted to know.” Her eyes went back to Sam, “I wanted to know you… then, how you were. The only way to see you through other people’s eyes was to ask.”

“You are not a sociable person,” Gwen pointed out and that had me laughing.

“Shuddup.” Jai growled but then the sides of her lips turned up in a smile. She focused on the coffee. “Anyway, we got to talking and she told me about the case. I made a few phone calls and there’s a few hunters on their way there now.”

She put the cup down and swiftly left the room. Sam stood there a little dazed before he whipped his phone of out his pocket and shot out a text.

I smiled and shook my head. “She’s not dead, Sam.”

“What?” He seemed shocked that I would have known what he was thinking. “She could’a, I don’t know, slipped poison into her coffee or something.”

“You’re dating a sociopath, not a psychopath.” Dean laughed and Sam whipped around to stare at his brother. “Besides, Ash’s right.”

“How do you know?”

“She would have led with it,” Gwen added and I watched the humor in her eyes as Sam stared at her in disbelief.

With a sigh, Sam resigned to accept the others explanation and slowly he sat down. Jai came back in, stepped up behind him, put one hand loosely on his throat, grabbed a handful of his hair and tugged him back before kissing him like she was breathing life into him and I had to look away because that was way too intimate for the breakfast table.

“Alright, lock it down,” Ellen snapped and Jai pulled away. “We got shit to do, so, finish eating so we can get on with it.”

Everything after that was our version of normal.

~~~~~

The table was cleared, save for the coffee. I was standing at the board, the four of them sat exactly like they had at breakfast but on the long side of the table, looking at me. Gwen had her laptop out, Jai twirled her pen in her hand, Dean leaned back in the seat with his arms crossed and Sam had a book out in front of them. They looked like a classic picture of The Breakfast Club, and I was Brian Johnson.

“What do you know?” I asked, trying to gauge where to start.

“She’s some sort of witch-ish thing .” Jai sighed, waving me off. “We got shit going down in Portland.”

“Ah, five of us are needed, and she’s calling both the cryptos and the demons.” Sam added.

“Mynoghra, from what I believe, is an assumed name. Lovecraft hasn’t been around long enough for something as powerful as this to actually be it’s real identity.” Gwen sighed.

“What we don’t know is basically everything else.” Dean kicked his foot up on the table and leaned back in the chair. “So, what do you go?”

“It’s name isn’t Mynoghra, you’re right about that.” I started, pulled the whiteboard aside that Gwen had been drawing on and showed them the research I had. “It’s an entity, of sorts, but there’s no written history about when it might have actually arrived. Local lore, both native and current, have it dated back about five hundred years, but that doesn’t mean it’s not older.

“Changes in soil composition about a thousand years back shows some sort of change in the area, like an alien element was introduced.”

“Aliens?” Dean snarked, raised a brow in disbelief, “really?”

“More like alien to us, not actual extraterrestrial. The soil was like ours but tainted.”

“A portal,” Sam whispered, “like a rift.”

“That was my assumption too.” I grabbed a marker and crossed off different things on the board. “The biggest kicker, is that the brunt of this activity started just over ten years ago.”

“Oh, give me a break.” Dean growled but it was Jai who paled and shivered. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

“You had to know that pulling you from hell, introducing angels back into our world would stir something besides Lilith.” I shrugged, no sense in sugar coating it. “The thing is, it wasn’t just you.” I watched as Jai paled just a little more and my eyes narrowed on her, just as Dean reached around behind Gwen and ran his fingers down her shoulder. “Listen, Cas pulled you out, that had to take some serious juice.”

“The angels came to Earth too,” Sam whispered, “and there was a lot of things going on at that time, like the Devil’s Gate . It wasn’t just Dean.”

“No,” I sighed, “it wasn’t.” Scratching off just a bit more on the board, I grabbed a seat and slid up to the table. “About that time, I started trolling the internet, looking for signs of just about anything out of the ordinary. I got caught on this random witchcraft sight. A girl, at the time, named Madison Thompson,” and with the name Gwen’s expression changed, “DMed me. A friend of hers was involved in a cult in Portland, said it was all fun and games up until a point where suddenly, it wasn’t a game anymore. They were kidnapping people, sacrificing them, all after a new member arrived. This person, we’ll call her, Desiree, seemed to take over as priestess and after that, people started disappearing. Madison left before it got bad, but what she described was omens, demonic signs.”

“So, great,” Jai cleared her throat, trying not to look like she had been punched in the gut. “We have shit to go on, a place to start, I say we grab some books and do what we do.”

“Fan-fucking-tastic,” Dean moaned, eyes closed, sarcastic look on his face, “I love books.”

“Why?” Gwen whispered and looked at Jai.

“Because, Dude,” Jai smiled, reached out and patted her on the shoulder. “We’re gonna need to know how to kill the bitch.”

Jai stood and moved out of the room, and Sam sighed, following her.  Gwen rubbed her eyes in frustration. Dean stood, grabbed the empty mug and gave it a little shake in my direction before he headed out of the room.

“What’s going on?” I asked, softly, catching Gwen’s attention.

“A thousand-plus-year-old deity, cryptos and demons, hell, and the sixty-six seals, and Cas, gone in the wind.” Gwen shrugged. “Just about sums up a bad day, doesn’t it?” I nodded, giving her a small smile. “On the plus side, we know where and when it kicked into gear, which means a point of origin and a way to go, something we didn’t have before.”

Jai stepped back into the room, Sam right behind her with a stack of books in each of their arms, before she set them on the table. Glancing at them, confused, I turned and looked at the smile on Gwen’s face.

“She can be rather overly prepared at times.” Gwen smiled, but went back to her laptop as Dean came in with a carafe and refilled Sam and Jai’s cup on the way by.

I watched in awe as the four of them worked together, despite the strange relationship between them, and I knew in my heart, this beast never stood a chance.

~~~~~

I stepped back out of the kitchen, a tray of burgers in my hand, and turned just in time to see Gwen standing there. She took a deep breath, held out her arms and let me transfer the tray to her, just long enough to straighten the soda bottles that were tucked under my arms before I took it back.

Rolling her eyes, Gwen took the bottles and helped me carry them upstairs. “We might have found something.”

“Wonderful.” I sighed, not exactly thrilled that they would be out and into this again so soon. When I moved past her into the room, Jai looked up from the four books open in front of her, Sam stopped scribbling on the board and Dean threw the pen down.

“OH, thank God.” He groaned out and stood, reaching for the plates. He took two, one he set down in front of Jai before tucking her pen in the pages of the book and shutting it, and the other he set down and dug right in. “Reading makes me famished.” Jai rolled her eyes, scooted the plate aside and opened the book again. “Ut-uh!” Dean slammed it shut. “Eat now.”

“I’m still full from breakfast!” Jai shook her head, opening the book again. Dean reached for it and Jai slapped her fingers against his arm.

“Ow!” He yanked his hand back. “Bitch.”

“Douche,” she mumbled, grabbed a fry and stuffed it in her mouth.

I sat down at the table and watched Sam finally come over and start eating. Jai danced in her spot, burger in her hand, and Gwen just watched her as she ate.

“So, what did you find?” I finally broke the relative silence. Dean looked at me offended.

“Not during lunch, dude.”

“We found out that you can’t kill an elder being.” Sam smiled, but it was full of sarcasm.

“We found that there was no weapon on Earth that could touch it either,” Gwen added and Dean shook his head.

“But,” Jai grinned, “we did find a way to banish it.”

“And that does what?” I shrugged.

“Open a rift, push it through.” Dean raised a brow.

“So, what does it take to get this done?”

Jai moved from the books, grabbed a sheet of paper and set it down in front of me. I read over the ingredients, placed the paper down and rubbed my face, before looking up at her again. “Really?”

“Yep,” she answered, popping her lips on the p . “Looks like we’re going on a field trip.

Two days later, I watched the CRV and Dean’s black Impala pull out into the road, one going one way, the other going, well, the other. All I could do was close my eyes… and pray.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-nine

Castiel

The sound came through like a bad connection, filled with static interference, enough that it had me sit up in my spot. I was slumped on the bench, my wandering to the girls, to Sam… and to Dean. It had been two weeks since I had brought Gabe home, and while he was improving, I still didn’t feel safe leaving him, but, the noise caught my attention.

The eternal Tuesday afternoon continued on, even as I stood from the bench and made my way around the garden, but the voices inside my own mind wouldn’t quiet. It hadn’t in days. Prayers hummed inside my head, mostly turned into the four back on Earth, but specifically, I could hear the words that Gabe and Jai had whispered to each other in those final moments before I took him home.

The love and devotion in their eyes was incredible to watch, and if I didn’t know what love was, I would have missed the heartbreak as I separated them, and that guilt seemed to eat me up inside. Gabe reminded me on an unnecessary loop that it could have been worse, that he could have ended up in the empty, a place where angels go when they had lost their grace, when they weren’t allowed back into the arms of Heaven, but that, in of itself, was not any more comforting.

The sound came through once more, with less static, almost as if it were speaking through some sort of pipe, distorted and muffled.

Cas.” I stopped, spinning quickly to see if I could spot the direction that the voice traveled in. Sometimes, depending on the connection, angels were able to zone in on those in their charge, and right now, I was trying to pin down where Gwen’s stressed voice was coming from. “Castiel, if you can hear me, we’re in trouble.”

“Gwen?” I whispered back, not sure that she could pick up my reply, since most of the time “angel radio” as Dean was so fond of calling it, didn’t work both ways. Her signal was choppy, there was no way to pinpoint exactly where she was and I felt completely disorientated. “Gwen, where are you?”

“Cas, if you’re listening, just pay attention.” Yes, she was definitely freaking out, that tone of voice was nothing but anger and anxiety. “Jai and I are trapped. I don’t know exactly where, but if I had to guess, it would be Portland. The boys don’t know, Cas, they have no clue. Please, Cas, come find us.”

And with that, there was silence.

Trapped without Sam and Dean knowing the extent of it? Lost somewhere in a part of the country that they didn’t know? I clenched my fists, closed my eyes, and concentrated on locating the Winchesters, but even they were slightly distorted, which meant I wasn’t up to power. Healing Gabriel, using as much of my grace as possible to help seal his wounds had drained me more than I realized and there was only one other course of action that I could take.

I opened my eyes to find myself in the hall of doors. A long, white corridor with unmarked wooden doors that seemed to go on forever. Behind each door, sometime in the future, would be someone’s heaven, these just hadn’t been filled yet.

With determination, I took to the left, heading down towards what could have been the end of the hall if it was viewed right, but it only turned at that junction, going both directions, however, it was the door straight in front of me that I needed to enter.

The large room was filled with several things. A long white table, chairs, and two angels that stood towards the end of it. Anael and Duma. Anael looked up from the papers in front of her, the other angel couldn’t have cared less and didn’t bother to even acknowledge my presence as I came to a stop in front of them.

“Castiel, to what do we owe this pleasure?” Anael questioned as Duma grabbed a stack of papers and disappeared from the room. I waited until she had gone before turning back.

“I need your help.”

“That seems to be your running theme the last few weeks.”

“Gwen and Jai have been taken and I can’t seem to get a location on them. I’m not strong enough, in my current state, to break through. It’s as if something is blocking me from making contact.” I explained but watched as she rolled her eyes.

“So, you want more angels to assist you in this,” she moved her hands around as if to say something but the only word she added was: “endeavor?” I knew it was coming. She was in charge of Gabe’s recovery, and being a total bitch about it. “I already have three on Gabe, with the extent of his injuries, it’s taken more resources to heal him than we thought would be necessary at first, Castiel, that means three of your precious hunters without their guardians and now you want more?”

“Just one or two more, just enough power to narrow down their location,” I pleaded, of course, it came out more of a monotone reply than anything else and she shook her head.

When I had arrived with Gabriel, we weren’t sure that we could even heal what was done to him. Whatever tool the Dragons had used, because Jai refused to call them what they were, had drained Gabe’s grace. His internal injuries weren’t life-threatening but were covered in a magic that I had never seen.

Angels older than I, not that there were many left, said it was some sort of binding spell, one that lasted as long as Gabe was tied to a person. However, we still hadn’t found out who. They were able to close off most of what was draining him, but his grace was only trickling in, the wounds wouldn’t seem to heal.  

“I’m sorry, Castiel, I can’t give you anymore.” Anael was stoic as she answered, and as much as it angered me, I knew, deep down, that would be the answer. I nodded at her, trying to quiet my mind incase she picked up on the wild thought I had, and turned, moving out to leave the room, but as I placed a hand on the door, her voice stopped me. “This… war, or whatever your humans are fighting, Castiel, this might need to happen the way it is written. There may be no way to stop it this time.”

“You’re wrong,” I replied, just loud enough for her to hear me, “there is nothing written in any book, ours or Death’s, that say this ends here.” I took a breath, turned and looked at her, narrowing my eyes, keeping my view on her, “I know, I’ve looked.”

“You can’t save everyone, Castiel.” Her words were meant to slice, to bring me down, to take that fight out of me, but it did just the opposite and I yanked the door open.

“I sure as hell can try!” I stated and moved out into the hallway.

White, nothing but white, and I reached out a hand to brace myself against the wall. Couldn’t they pick another color, liven it up, not make it so uninformed? But, that was reason, wasn’t it? To keep the souls confused, anyone that happened to find their door out. If everything was one color, they wouldn’t venture out for fear of escape, of not being able to find their way back.

The heat that boiled in my veins was overwhelming. I just needed to get away from her, needed to find someway to get to them, and I moved, with no specific direction, until I found myself in front of the “throne room,” a place that has never been used, at least, not in my existence, but I needed a moment. I needed a space to breath and if that had to be it.

I yanked the door opened and stepped inside. The silence was deafening but welcomed, it didn’t, however, last as long as I hoped. Hannah walked in behind me,  not moments after I had closed my eyes and tried to reign in the fury that was taking over every muscle in my body. I turned to look at her, but only received a raised brow in return. She said nothing, just stood there as if she were waiting on a command.

The slight noise of wings, a light change in the atmosphere and I turned to look at the trio of unused thrones, one specifically made for Father, Michael, and Lucifer, but only in their childhood, as short as that was, to see Balthazar sitting there. He had a leg across the arm and was basically lying across the other, eyes to the ceiling, seemingly bored with life.

The carefree angel looked over at Hannah and I, after a few moments and grinned. “Cassie.”

I rolled my eyes at the nickname and watched him sit up. “Balthazar.”

“I wanted to check in with you on your little pets,” Balthazar smiled.

“Sam and Dean are not my pets , I wish you would stop referring to them like that.” I rolled my eyes as I moved around and sat down on one of the couches in the room. Hannah, who had yet to say a word, sat down beside me as I leaned forward and rested my elbows on my knees. “Jai and Gwen are missing.”

“Gabe’s little girl?” Hannah said quickly, looking pretty confused.

“Yes, though she’s not a little girl anymore.” I answered, and watched as she stood, disappearing behind me. “I received a message from Gwen but the signal was corrupted. There was no way to get a reading on where they might be. She assumed they were somewhere in Portland, Oregon, but without more information, it would take a significant amount of time to narrow it down.”

The door opened and Samandriel walked in slowly. He looked a little threatened by Balthazar, who had sat up on the throne, as he made his way to the couch across from me, not saying a word.

“I can assure you that the Winchester boys know nothing of this, which is quite surprising considering how far up each others’ asses they are.” Balthazar grumbled, which had me looking at him. “The amount of time those boys spend fawning over them is nauseating. Really, Castiel, would you just please take five minutes and go down there, if not to check in, then to at least satisfy the older one. He’s really starting to grate on my nerves.”

“Dean is…” I started to object, but doing so would only add to the suspicion that I harbored more human feelings towards them than I should. “Are they safe?”

“You assigned their health and safety to me,” Balthazar smiled, “and as much as I would like to say that it’s been an inconvenience and complete waste of my time, I’m finding the fact that I can openly watch them undress… relaxing.”

“You’re not there to admire.” Hannah spoke up, coming back to the couch with a map in her hand.

“On the contrary, the human body is meant to be admired and you’ve seen the Winchesters, correct?” I watched Hannah flush as she nodded, something I didn’t realize she was capable of since there had never been an inclination that she had looked at a man, or woman, that way before. “Then there is always time.”

“Castiel,” Samandriel finally spoke up, as he watched with trepidation while Balthazar eyed him over. The older angel had no filter when it came to human emotions, even if it was mostly carnal need that he seemed to want to satisfy. “I’ve just come from the infirmary. Gabriel was asking for you, with persistence.”

“Thank you, Alfie,” I sighed, using the human name he seemed to have obtained while on Earth. Habit was hard to break, but he smiled at the use of it and nodded, standing. “Wait,” the young angel paused, “how are you on grace?”

“I don’t…” he paused and looked down at the map that Hannah had spread out on the paper. “Do you need help?”

“I need to locate Jai and Gwen, but there’s a wall, some sort of magic blocking me. I thought, with help, that I might be able to break through and narrow down a location.” I sighed, because it was probably my last hope. Samandriel had dealt with the girls before, in fact, they helped save his life, so he nodded and came back to the couch, being joined, quite closely, by Balthazar and I held back the grin on how uncomfortable it seemed to make him. “You could all get in trouble for this.”

“The hunters we were assigned are dead, Castiel.” Hannah spoke up, very too the point. “There isn’t anything else left for us to do in this fight, so, helping those who might be able to stop it is worth the possibility that Naomi or Anael might get upset about it.”

“Yes, their wrath isn’t nearly as harmful as you might think.” Balth smiled one of those stupid grins that made me think that he might actually like it a little too much and I nodded. “Shall we get on with this, Cassie, I hear the boys might be in need of a shower soon, and I’m quite taken with the tall one’s need for hair products.”

I rolled my eyes at this and sighed, “Let’s get on with this before we’re all missed.”

With a small slice on each inner arm, a tiny bit of grace escaped, combining above the paper map. It swirled together, like four little, cloudy wisps, and we watched as they moved with the intent we had pushed behind them until they settled over Oregon.

“You knew they would be there.” Samandriel whispered looking up at me.

“Yes, but I need more of a precise location.” Hannah moved as I spoke, returning with a map specifically of the area and I nodded, “thank you.” Laying it on top of the larger paper, slipping it beneath the twirling balls of light, we watched as it landed, charring the paper. I looked up at Balthazar, who was staring me directly in the eyes. “Forest Park, Portland.”

“Witch’s Castle, quite appropriate.” Balthazar laughed and I shook my head. Hannah quickly excused herself. Samandriel took one more look at Balthazar, blushed fiercely and vacated the room in a rather haste fashion. “Well, now.”

“Tell me,” I whispered, and watched as Balth moved back towards the throne, sat down daintily and smile, hands on each of the arms. “You’re keeping something from me.”

“I wouldn’t dream of keeping anything from you, Cassie, but Dean might be.” I rolled my eyes again, because there wasn’t a thing I didn’t know about Dean Winchester. “His nightmares have been getting worse.”

“I know that.”

“No,” he sat forward, “I don’t think you know the extent of it. They’re prophetic, Cas, possible futures, event, or… deaths, in a nutshell.”

“Don’t you think,” I snapped and paused to collect myself, “don’t you think I know that? I have been running interference between Dean and those left over parts of hell for ten years, Balthazar, please do not assume that I don’t know what is going on with Dean, or Sam. I know full well what is at stake and what the cause is.”

“Fine,” Balthazar sighed, adjusted the scarf around his neck, some fashion accessory that just seemed so like him that I scoffed at it. “The boys are in Nevada, looking for a Simson’s Hedgehog Cactus, not that I need to know, nor want to care what it’s for, but the prospect of the two of you trying to to fit it into your playtime intrigues me, so, Cassie, brother of mine, what exactly are those boys looking for?”

“Have you see anything else that they’ve collected?” I whispered, so out of the loop that I felt myself dizzy with worry.

“Several things, actually, mostly strange plants and stones.” I nodded as I listened to his answer, which meant the girls were on the hunt for other objects, things that Jai would be an expert at stealing and Gwen would be a master at finding.

“Thank you,” I said softly and nodded, but I turned and made my way to the door just as Balthazar cleared his throat, stopping me.

“You might want to tell them one of these days, both of them,” his voice was gentle, something I hadn’t really counted on from him. He was, after all, one of the most human of us, other than Gabe, but his tendencies never really leaned towards feelings. I slowly turned, looked him in the eyes as he raised a brow and shrugged. “Before this is all over, Castiel, before the end comes too near, you should confess to Dean and Gwen, confess everything.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” was all I answered and grabbed the handle, moving out into the hallway once more.

This God forsaken color! I never wanted to see white again, no matter how long my existence was.

~~~~~

I entered Gabe’s room quietly, the door slightly ajar, and saw him sitting on the edge of the bed. His face was still pale, as it had been for the last two weeks, but his eyes, the bright honey-gold and green that seemed to glow with his inner grace looked alive and well. He shifted, moving to stand, but I raised my hand, which stilled him.

“Hello, Gabriel.” I spoke quietly, watched his eye twitch at that noise and he raised a brow. “How are you feeling?”

“Where’s Jai?” He asked, his voice low, still sugar-coated, which was something that he had always projected, a way to coerce people into giving him the information that he wanted. “I was tracking her, could feel her, and she suddenly disappeared.”

“They’re trapped in Portland.” I answered honestly, moving closer as he spoke, resting my hands on his shoulders as he tried to stand. He would have run headlong into battle if I hadn’t stilled his movements. “You need to rest, you’re still not well.”

“To hell with that,” he snapped, “she needs me.”

“We all need you, Gabe.” I sighed, releasing him. I turned, grabbed the chair in the corner and pulled it to the bed. “Now, how are you feeling?”

“Useless.” He ran a hand down his face and sighed. “I should be down there with her, with them, fighting this thing, but I’m up here, sitting around in my…” He looked down at his clothing and shrugged, “I don’t know what to do.”

“Heal,” I said softly, “it’s all you can do.”

“What’s going on?” He narrowed his eyes at me. “You said they were trapped but there’s something in your eyes, Cas, something else, what is it?”

I came to the conclusion that I might as well confess to whatever was going on and I took a deep breath, centering myself. “Whatever has them is blocking magic, even angel grace. It took some help from Balthazar, Hannah, and Samandriel to get the location down enough that I could pinpoint exactly where they were.”

“And, you’re going in alone.” I could see the emotions that cascaded over his features, like he went from one side of the spectrum to the other. “You’re an asshole.” Leave it to Gabe to not care whether he was sitting in the middle of the Host of Heaven or in a bar somewhere. He would never change, and for some odd reason, I couldn’t help but smile. “Those girls need you, all of you, and you’re going to go in there, guns blazing, not waiting on backup because you’re too pig-headed to try and see the bigger picture. That and you’ve been so far up Dean’s backside for ten years that you don’t see the difference between being a hero and being stupid.”

“I don’t understand why you’re getting upset,” and I really didn’t but he rolled his eyes.

“You’re going to walk right into it,” he whispered and shook his head. “Cas, you’re giving them what they want, a vessel. By not waiting for Sam and Dean, you are handing them the most powerful thing they can use against those girls. You.”

“I have no intention of giving them anything.” I stood suddenly and paced the room, needing to move because I knew he was right, but there was just one thought stopping me from listening. Gwen. I had to get to Gwen. “We have a plan.”

“And we all know what happens to plans, even the best laid ones.” Gabriel scoffed and stood from the bed. He moved weakly, hand on his side like something inside pulled and I eyed him over. He should have been healed by now. It shouldn’t have taken him this long, and I suspect that it wasn’t a physical thing holding back his recovery. “They need you to be smart about this, Little Bro.” Gabriel reached out and placed a hand on my arm. “I need you to be safe. Promise me that you’ll wait for the boys to get there.”

“I can only promise if the girls are not in immediate danger.” It was the best reassurance that I could give him.

“Ha!” he bellowed, “have you met Jai Lancing? The possibility of Immediate danger seems to be her middle name, along with headstrong, psychotic, and irrational.” Gabe rolled his eyes, moved back to the bed, like something had been sucked out of him, and slowly he sat down. “I can’t get her out of my head.”

“You shouldn’t worry about it,” I replied, knowing what he was going through. He hadn’t ever stopped thinking about her, not since she was a child. “Gabe,” I paused as the thought went through my head several times. “is she yours?”

“What?” His eyes snapped to mine and it took a moment to register the question. “God, Father, whatever, but no! She’s just… there.”

“Like Gwen?”

“And Dean.” I nodded because there was no denying that Dean and I shared something profound. “Just ingrained into my memories, my heart.” Gabe shook his head and looked at the ceiling. “Just go, so, that you can get back.”

“I’ll keep them safe,” I swore, and it wasn’t just words, I wanted to get down on my knees and promise him, but the look in his eyes told me that he trusted me completely.

“I know,” he bowed his head, closed his eyes, and nodded. “Cas,” his voice stopped me as I went to leave the room. Looking over my shoulder at him, I saw the pain in his eyes. “Stay safe, little brother.”

“I will.”

And with that, I was standing in front of The Vagabond Inn, in Bishop, California. Narrowing my eyes as the sun beat down, I let out my “feelers” as Dean called them, to locate the room that Sam and Dean occupied. Without preamble, I found myself standing in the middle of the brightly colored, beige-painted room.

It was empty, for the most part, with only two duffles on the beds, clothing piled on the floor. The unmade beds told me that at least they got some sleep but the paperwork on the table informed me that they might have caught a case in addition to the ingredient they were searching for.

The door to the bathroom opened quickly, bringing me straight back to the sight of Dean walking out, toweling his hair as he stepped forward, the only thing on was his jeans and those were unbuttoned and unzipped. He was shirtless, sockless, and damp, and I swallowed as hard as I could to get past the lump in my throat.

Dean stopped, slowly lowered the towel, eyes wide as if seeing me was a shock, but he dropped the cloth in his hand and took two steps forward, closing the distance between us, only to fist his fingers at his side and take in a deep breath.

“Heya, Cas,” he whispered, dryly licking his lips, a motion that drew my eyes to the fact that they were red and chapped.

After watching the motion, biting back the flare of heat that passed through me, I looked up to meet his eyes. Sam was obviously not in the room, which made it difficult to decide on whether or not to lay all the information on Dean or not, but time seemed to be of the essence now and I took a deep breath, stilled my clenching hands and took a step towards him, closing that space.

“Hello, Dean,” I couldn’t get my voice above a whisper, trying to keep the want and need low and hidden, “we have a situation.”

~~~~~

Witch’s Castle - Forest Park, Portland, Oregon

Where I arrived was on a dirt path that led past an old stone house. The building itself was dilapidated and held very little of its wooden structure, but the stones held up nicely, giving it the appearance of being haunted. I rolled my eyes because after so long of working with the Winchesters, I found the appeal of haunted anything a little mundane.

Turning in a circle, I narrowed my eyes at the area, waiting until something pointed me in the right direction and it worked. Something, as it turned out, was nothing at all. While I could see the woods before me, the small path that lead towards the water, I couldn’t feel anything, or more to the point, there was a void.

I followed the pine needle covered trail, avoiding the branches until I hit the small creek below. Crouching down beside it, observing up and down the flow of it, I tried to detect which way the magic was coming from, but again, there was nothing. Most magic seemed to flow with the lines of the Earth, following a pattern, but as I stood, started to turn right and move upstream, something tugged me back.

Trusting my instincts, I headed down river and within fifteen minutes, found myself standing in front of an old water wheel, something that once helped the now dammed up water flow but a concrete overflow was the only thing needed to hold the water back. I pulled my phone from my pocket, checked that the GPS was still on, but the signal was only one bar, nothing that would help me even if I tried to send a text out.

Approaching the building, I stepped to the left, just under the wheel and set the phone down behind a rock. At least now I knew that no matter what, Sam and Dean could at least track me here, even if they couldn’t use a spell to find me.

I stepped into the darkness, overwhelmed by the smell of moldy wood beams and stale water, and took a moment to get my bearings. A flashlight wasn’t necessary to find the entrance to whatever tunnels were under the house. In the far right corner, through some shifted concrete blocks, was the flicker of light, probably torches, but it also illuminated the way.

I reached out with my thoughts, hoping to connect with Gwen once again, but there was nothing, no static feedback, just silence and it was very disconcerting. Letting my grace flow, the angel blade that I always carried on me dropped from my sleeve, right into the palm of my hand and I shifted the weight of it until I had a grip on the handle. No sense going in unarmed.

Slowly, I climbed past the pile of blocks, moving in silently to the arch of the underground system. It was definitely torches that filled the otherwise dark space with light, but it was only enough to give a sense of direction. The fact that there was nothing in my head, no voices to distract me was in a way distracting of itself, and I found that I was growing more and more irritated with it.

I came to an intersection, stopped against the wall and waited, wanting something to tell me which direction I should go, because not being able to feel my way towards them only upped my lack of self-confidence. I held the blade to my chest, closed my eyes, and placed my head back against the wall. I just needed a minute to… My eyes opened quickly, and I glanced around the corner. There was a faint noise, something coming from the right, was that…? Jai was singing, probably just to annoy her captors but it was exactly what I needed.

Moving out into the open space, I prepared myself for the battle ahead, but what I didn’t hear was what was coming up behind me, not until it was too late. A tap on the shoulder had me spinning around and, suddenly, my nose and eyes were filled with the sting of a putrid yellow powder.

My world slowly closed in, the edges of my sight began to blacken and I felt myself falling, landing on the cold dirt floor before someone in a plague doctor’s mask leaned over into my line of vision moments before it went dark.

Blinking aware wasn’t like anything I had ever felt. It seemed to start at my feet, the tingles of consciousness made the feeling of pins and needles so much more irritating and I shifted, or at least tried to, but I found that everything else was paralyzed. It felt like eons before it the feeling came back to my face, and I was able to open my eyes, hence blinking aware and I looked around the room I was in.

No, not a room, more like a cage. There were four of them, the only solid wall was the one at the back of all. Jai was in the one across from me, lying on a bench of sorts, her knees pulled up and her arm swung where her knuckles brushed the ground. Shifting, I could see the one beside her was empty, but Gwen was pacing the cell attached to mine.

The deep tone of Louis Armstrong’s Nobody Knows flowed from Jai as she repeated the same line over and over in a mocking voice, but that never seemed to bother Gwen, in fact, she seemed very relaxed as her fingers tapped out the same rhythm that Jai was swinging her arm to.

I moaned unintentionally as I finally got enough movement back to sit up and instantly both sets of eyes were on me. Jai swung around, sitting up straight and I looked her over, the swollen, purple and red marks on her face said that she put up a hell of a fight, but there was a light in her eyes that only meant mischief. Standing, I stumbled towards the bars and leaned on them to get a better look at her.

“Hey, Cas,” she whispered, and the tone reminded me of Dean, echoing almost exactly the heya he seemed so fond of saying.

“Hello, Jai,” I whispered back and just like that, I wanted to tell her everything, but my eyes went to the light orange pulse beneath her shirt. Gabriel’s grace. “Are you hurt?”

“Not in anyway that might concern me greatly,” she said confidently and sat up straight, cocking a brow, before she smiled. That was a little strange. A simple no would have worked.

“She might have hit her head,” Gwen’s voice interrupted my thoughts, and I turned quickly to look at her. It’s not that I hadn’t seen her before but I was focused on her now.

Two steps was all it took, and I was reaching through the bars, grasping at her shirt. I yanked her close, watched the smile go up on her lips, sinful lips that were just as quickly on mine. I could breathe her in, taste her, feel the wetness as I kissed her thoroughly and the noise she made when she reached up to grab my hair made me shake.

“Ew, gross!” Jai snapped and, while that wouldn’t usually be a thing to distract, it did give me a moment to process the fact that we were all in cages.

Panting as she backed away, Gwen locked eyes with me. They went through a series of emotions, all depicting what they had gone through up to this point and the blood started to rise. I wanted to scream out, but my powers were cut off, wanted to rip down the walls but it seemed that any strength I had associated with my nature was gone, and I found that all I could do was look her over for injuries. There was nothing outwardly wrong with her and my eyes went to Jai.

“Like I said, she might have hit her head.” Gwen wrapped her fingers around the bars as we stood, silently for a moment. “She took on the bulk of them, as always, but they managed to get by us both with magic.”

“I experienced that myself.” I reached out, running my fingers down her cheek. “I’m sorry I didn’t find you sooner. How long have you been down here?”

“Forever!” Jai whined, which had Gwen and I looking at her. She was back to lying on the bench in the same position she had been in when I woke up, but this time, she was just staring at the ceiling. “Seriously, can we start with the breaking out, already? This place is getting on my nerves.”

“To answer your question,” Gwen sighed, taking my attention back and ignoring the whining, “maybe twenty-four hours. Not long enough to miss the check in with the boys, but I assume you told them where to find us.”

“Yes, I stopped and spoke to Sam and Dean, they should be on their way shortly,” I looked around the cell, stepped back away from her and proceeded to investigate my surroundings, shaking the bars, watching the way the rock around them moved, but it was going to take longer than we had to get out at that rate. “This isn’t good.”

“Tell us something we don’t know, Angel,” Jai whispered but I could tell she was fading. Her hand stopped swinging, the one on her stomach allowed me to see the way her breath evened out and I glanced at Gwen.

“Hmm,” was what I got from her as I moved to stand beside her. She was watching Jai cautiously. “She hasn’t really slept in a few days, been on edge too much to close her eyes. Either exhaustion got the best of her, or you being here did.”

“Why hasn’t she slept?”

“Nightmares,” Gwen slid down to the floor, something that I mimicked and we sat with our back to each other, fingers interlaced as I took in the space again. “We need something.”

“We need a plan.” I replied and let the sound of silence fill the room again.

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirty

Dean

The undignified howl of pain that echoed through the desert didn’t come from me, and I would stick to the story until the end of my days, but the shooting sting that zipped up my left hand had me stumbling back, and the Colt in my hand fired off twice as I squeezed the trigger on reflex.

Catching my breath, I lowered the weapon, stared down at the thing with a look of absolute disgust, and then turned to Sam, who had ducked and covered his face by blocking it with both arms.

“Dude,” he growled, all amusement gone in his voice, “did you just shoot the cactus?”

“It got me right under the nail, Sam!” I snapped back, probably not exactly the best argument but that fucker hurt. “Just… grab the damn shovel and dig it up, will ya?”

“Fine,” he snapped and went back to getting the plant out of the ground as I stuck the end of my finger into my mouth, sucking hard to stop the blood. “Big baby!”

I rolled my eyes at him, pulled my cell out of my pocket and glanced at the time. We had fifteen minutes to get it and get out, but that was when I noticed something else.

“Hey, Sam,” I mumbled, listened to him bitch and moan a what now in response, “you heard from the girls? I mean, I don’t usually hear from Jai lately, but Gwen’s been radio silent.”

“You know how they get, Dean, once they get wrapped up in stuff, they kinda go dark.” He huffed, grabbing the bucket beside me as he dumped the cactus in before loading in the dirt. I watched him stop, get this far away look in his eyes, like he usually does when he starts thinking and smoke comes out of his ears but his head cocked a little and he looked up at me. “Now that you mentioned it, Jai would have sent something by now,” he shrugged, “a picture or something.”

“Don’t wanna know what kind of pics she’s sending, Sammy, that’s all you.” I shook my head, put the phone away and grabbed the shovel, while Sam stood with the bucket. “Let’s get out of here before someone calls the cops.”

“Right,” Sam trudged down the small hill before me as I turned and looked over the place. Nevada wasn’t too bad, but I was ready to get out of this sand. I was pretty sure I was

taking about a pound of it home in the boots that I wore, not that I usually complained but I just bought these cowboy boots, just wanted to break them in, not ruin them. “You coming?”

“Yeah,” I sighed and moved after him.

With the cactus locked safely in the room, which, by the way was at a classier place than we usually went to, thanks to Jai and Gwen and their really odd way of picking out rooms, I sent Sam out for food while I showered off the day, and the dirt. Sand just seemed to get everywhere no matter how many ways you try to keep it out.

The girls were bugging me, not them personally, but the fact that we hadn’t heard from either one of them, it was starting to freak me out. I stood in the shower, having done the best I could with the first round of wash, rinse, repeat, and just stared at the wall. The last conversation I had with Gwen played through my head.

“We’re fine, Dean,” Gwen had whispered after the fourteenth time that I asked her if she was really alright. The break-in at the Tellus Science Museum in Carterville, Georgia was supposed to be simple, but… “She’s just a little banged up.”

“It’s a fossil, Gwen, how can she get banged up over a fossil?” I had scolded, laying back on the bed as I stared at the ceiling, but Sam’s laughing, or his chuckling got me to look over at the cheesy-ass grin on his face. Apparently, he had heard this story. “Well, is she okay?”

“Peachy,” Gwen had replied, and I could tell she was smiling. “We found the Orthoceras fossil, just like the research said. Unfortunately, it was still locked up in the back lab.”

“Yeah, the reason for the break-in, got it.”

“She managed to climb in through a series of vents but when it came to the one in the lab, she miscalculated.”  And, I wasn’t smiling anymore, neither was the voice on the line. “Never seen a hunter move so fast, but we’re not in the state anymore and they didn’t get a good look at the car, which we ditched about thirty miles south before picking up a new one and heading west.”

“Okay, but you’re good, right?” I just didn’t trust it. Why were we stuck on rock and plant duty while they did all the ancient artifact searches? I didn’t think it was fair, didn’t really like that we were separated to begin with but this one, I think Bobby really dropped the ball.

“Yes, Dean, and on our way to Hattiesburg, Mississippi.” She sounded tired, and I could hear the hum of the car in the background. “We’re stopping soon, Jai needs her rest, I need to catch up with Ash, and you and I need to video… alone.”

Finally, something I could get behind, but as it happened, that didn’t. They stopped for the night, shot out a text to say they were exhausted, even after Gwen had gotten in touch with Ash and before I knew what was going on, Jai had sent Sam something about locating a Natchez artifact that was on the list. After that, nothing.

Stepping back beneath the stream, I closed my eyes, pressed my fist to my chest and tried to breath out the oncoming fire. I knew what was happening, fucking panic attack, but Sam was gone, Cas was in the wind and the girls… that only made the pain flare up and the elephant on my ribs grew heavier.

“Ten, nine, eight…” I whispered to myself, trying to breathe in between the numbers, “seven, six…” The ring of the phone interrupted my rhythm and I felt my whole body flinch. I leaned out, dried my hand off and snatched up the phone. “Yeah.”

“Dean,” Sam’s worried voice came over the line, “you okay?”

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” I probably shouldn’t have snapped at him, but really, what the hell? “What’s up?”

“Stopped to get beer, need anything else?”

I ran my hand over my face and sighed, “nah, man, I’m good, just the burgers.”

“Okay, be there soon.”

“Sam!” I snapped, which I probably shouldn’t have done because the reply was filled with more worry than it should have been.

“What? What happened?”

“Get me some pie.” I replied.

“What?”

“Pie, get me some pie. Pecan if they have it.”

“Yeah, whatever.” He sounded just a little irritated and that made my day.

Setting the phone down, I reached out for a towel. I didn’t feel like doing the whole three part process again and I was pretty sure I had gotten all of the sand out of my crack that I could manage without starting to scrub my skin off, so, I was done.

After drying, somewhat, I yanked on a pair of clean jeans and nothing else. It wasn’t as if Sam hadn’t seen me full-frontal before, so when I whipped open the door, rubbing the towel over my hair, I was confident that he wasn’t going to tuck tail and run, but when I pulled the towel away, Sam was not the body in the room.

I stared at Cas in shock, eyes going over every part of him, mentally making a checklist that he was intact and then I moved, dropped the towel, took two steps and covered the distance between us before I stopped myself. I could… right? I mean, it had been two-ish weeks, I could reach out and grab him, pull him in, hold him… right? I was allowed that, but I didn’t know, not with how he left and I rolled my fingers up, clenching my fists, stopping myself.

He was so far away… and Sam… Sam was coming back, but if I sent him a text to wait just a bit… that would be alright, he’d understand because this was Cas. I mean, I wanted to… but it didn’t need to go that far, right? Goddamn, why was this so hard?

I took a deep breath, licked at my lips, felt my heart pounding in my chest and I tried to just make some sort of noise that wasn’t a moan. “Heya, Cas.”

And that fucker took a step closer. Personal space, not a concept, and the way he smelled, like earth and ozone, had me trying my best to swallow.

“Hello, Dean,” his deep voice sent shivers through me, straight down. My eyes widened. Seriously, could he just not… but, then the world came crashing down, “we have a situation.”

“What?” I barked, because I wasn’t exactly expecting that. Hell, I wasn’t expecting any of this. Cas was gone, up at the pearly gates, looking over his brother, I didn’t expect him to be standing in the room with me, not now, certainly not half-naked, but this. “What are you talking about?”

“Maybe it would be best to wait until Sam arrives,” Cas sighed, stepping back. No, no, don’t… I reached out and grabbed that stupid coat and pulled him closer, enough to feel his body heat.

“No,” I sighed, his lips just inches from mine and I could feel his breath, “no, you don’t just come out with that and then say wait, Cas, it’s not how it works.” I just needed to ignore the want, right, just put it out of my head and get on with it, because obviously, Cas didn’t come here for me. “Now, start talking.”

“Dean,” that voice… My knees shook, all the muscles in my body tensed as I stared into those blue eyes. I had seen every emotion, and lack of, in them for the last ten years but what was going on now was utter chaos.

“Cas,” I whispered back, tightening the hold on his jacket. His eyes closed slowly, his head dropped, just as his hands came up and rested on my face. I was confused, just a little worried, especially when he put his forehead against mine. Dropping the facade, I moved to wrap my arms around him, hugging him close as I pressed my cheek against the stubble on his face. “Cas, what’s wrong?”

“The girls,” his muffled voice sighed, “I need to tell you about the girls.”

And he did, he laid out everything, every action right up to the point where we stood, and in that time, I never moved. I was shocked still, my eyes wide, my breathing trying to control my heart, and what as worse was that Sam had walked in just as Cas was telling me about the fact that Balthazar was involved and how Gabe was not doing well.

So, he stood there fuming until Cas was done speaking before he opened that door again and marched right back out. I pushed Cas back, still keeping him in my hold and ran a hand through his hair, down over his cheek. God, the shit he’s been through.

“Hey,” I tried to catch his eyes, and it took a minute, but I had that stare on me in no time. “It’s okay.”

“It’s not, Dean.” His tone was low, full of hate and I shook my head.

“No,” I said through clenched teeth, “no, you are not doing that, Cas, you aren’t taking the blame for this.”

“I failed them,” his eyes closed.

“Look at me,” I ordered, ordered , “Castiel, you look at me!” His lids slowly opened and I was caught in his stare. “We’re going to fix this, Cas, you… me… Sam, together, okay. We’re gonna fix this by getting our girls back.”

“Dean,” the pause in his voice, the way it went right back to that deep commanding tone made me shiver, but I knew what was coming.

“Oh, come on, man, don’t do this to me.”

“I have to go up there alone, you and Sam,” he paused, took my hands from him and stepped back, “you need to get the rest of the ingredients. We can’t complete this without it.”

“You’re telling me that you’re going to pop into an unknown situation, alone, and leave us on the road for what, twenty-four hours?” I put more distance between us as I reached down into the bag on the dresser and grabbed a shirt. “Not cool, Cas.”

“But you know that it needs to be done.”

The door opened, Sam walked in quietly, taking a deep breath as he stared at Cas. The two of them exchanged looks like the whole world was about to fall down, and I had had just about enough of everything. I wanted Cas alone, without the worry of the damn crypto-pocolypse looming over our heads but that wasn’t going to happen.

“I’m gonna get changed,” I announced and pointed a finger at Cas before waving it at Sam, going between them for a moment, “don’t kill each other.”

Behind the closed door of the bathroom, I could hear them talking it out, something I figured would happen because Sam was such a mushy, let’s talk about it sap. It was good though, keeping each other on level ground, but I knew the one thing that I really wasn’t looking forward to, and that was calling Bobby to let him know just what happened to the girls.

When I stepped out, the two of them were sitting at the table, being brainiacs. Sam on the computer, Cas giving him all the information he had, with his cell sitting beside Sam’s hand, probably turning on the GPS locator so that Sam could pinpoint where he dropped, because if he couldn’t get it from way up high, who was to say we could find him again on the ground.

As soon as he was done, Sam looked up, took in the way that I stared, because I was staring, at Cas and cleared his throat.

“I need to grab something out of the Impala,” he announced, which was totally not necessary, but he grabbed the keys and hiked it out the door, letting it close softly after him.

Cas stood, moved towards me and all I remember is the way he felt, everything after that first touch was heat, and need, and greedy, unsated want. So, when the knock came, and I knew there was no avoiding it, Cas was sitting at the end of the bed, fingers playing with the comforter, and I was leaning back against the dresser, arms crossed, trying to get my heart under control.

Sam smiled, that cocky half grin that only showed one side of his teeth, before he looked away, blushing. He rubbed his hand over his face and sat down again, trying not to stare at Cas, which made me curious. Shit, my eyes dropped to his neck, to the faint bruise there from where I might have sucked too hard and I cleared my throat.

“I’m not sure if they got it, but they were in Mississippi.” Sam announced, changing the subject from the hickey on Cas’ neck to something relevant. “If not, it’s something we might need to check in on.”

“I’ll put Balthazar on it,” Cas replied, his voice a bit rougher than usual and that made me smile. “I’m sure he’ll find it fun .”

“Yeah, unlike being a peeping Tom.” Sam growled out and I watched every emotion fade from Cas’ face. Sam turned and shook his head, “sorry.”

“No, you’re right, I should have asked, but there wasn’t time.” Cas moved to stand between us, took a deep breath and narrowed his eyes at me. “I’ll see you soon.”

“Be careful, Cas.” My voice broke. I shook my head, steeled my emotions and watched as he nodded, eyes still locked on me before he disappeared, popped right out of the room. I shook off the strange feeling of impending doom, and I say that strictly because all I could think of was the blank expression on Sam’s face. He was looking at another loss, and I couldn’t let that happen. “So, are we packing it in or what? Our next stop is in Idaho.”

“You’re just gonna do that?” He spoke softly, but I could see the anger building. “Just gonna say fuck it, let’s go hunting , when Jai and Gwen are trapped somewhere, in whatever state, maybe dying.”

“Sam,” I closed my eyes, because I knew the total freak out was going to happen, before making my way towards him. “Sam, you know that’s not what’s going on here.”

“I can’t, Dean.” He got up, grabbed his jacket and his gun and tucked it in his belt. Not good, dammit, not good at all. “I can’t just keep going and not go right to them.”

“Listen,” I placed my hand on his shoulder. How the hell was I going to calm Sam down when I could feel the heat building up in me. “Sam, listen to me, they’re gonna be okay, Cas is going to get to them.”

“He can’t even feel them, Dean!”

Okay, maybe a little bit of a freak out was understandable. I backed off, thoughts running everywhere in my head.

“So, what do ya wanna do? Run up there unarmed, not have everything we need to take care of this bitch? Risk them further?” Wait, why was I talking him down? “Sam, we gotta think smart on this one, okay, have some sort of plan. Cas,” I stopped, because that was just a bad example, “Cas has this, he’s gonna go in and keep them safe until we get there, and we will get there.” I could still see that fury brewing in his eyes, that hazel color turning dark and I placed my hand on his neck, letting the contact sooth him. “Work with me here, Sammy, you’re not the only one about to lose it.”

After a moment, the tension in him relaxed. “Okay.”

~~~~~

Two hours, that’s how long I had on the road, with him concentrating on anything else but the shit that was going on in his head. We had stopped for gas, junk, coffee, you know, the normal stuff and we were off. Emerald Creek was almost fifteen hours north and the two of us were doing our best to hold it together… It didn’t last as long as I hoped.

“Dean,” and I knew he was fighting with himself, just by that tone of voice.

“Yeah, Sammy.” Looking over at him, you could just see it in his eyes, so many questions, probably none that I had the answers to. “S’up?

“What’s going on between you and Jai?” And there it was. I sucked my lower lip through my teeth, making a noise that I was sure as shit irritated the hell out of him before I sighed. Not bad, we had gone a week without the question. “I mean, that night, she seemed… but then the next…”

I raised a hand, letting out a sigh, “okay, don’t hurt yourself.” I waited until I was set in the flow of traffic on a smooth, straight stretch of road before I glanced over at him. That war was tearing him apart. “Man, you gotta say something if you have questions, not sit there for a week holding it in. This is Jai we’re talking about, she does some crazy shit all the time, and I know we don’t do the whole let’s share our feelings, but…”

“So, tell me now.” His head snapped in my direction and he shifted in the seat. “Tell me why she called you, instead of me, why she always calls you when things like this go down.”

“Don’t tell her I told you this,” I laughed a little because the feelings were deep. “Dude, she loves you, even if she’s never going to say those words out loud, and she’s just gonna piss you off everyday that you’re together, and do stupid things to try and push you away, she loves you. And again, don’t tell her I told you that because I don’t want to have to smother you in your sleep.”

“That doesn’t explain why she did what she did.” Sam huffed.

“Because, she was scared,” I ran my hand down my face. Being one of the ones in the middle of those two was exhausting but I couldn’t leave either on their own. “What she did, she was terrified that if you found out, you’d judge her and she’d lose you. Trust me when I say, you are probably the best thing to ever happen to her and she doesn’t know how to deal, especially with her inner demons.”

“We all have inner demons, Dean.”

“That come out to play? That have tea parties that rip demons and spirits apart, and it’s not like she can stop, not really. I’ve watched her try. She gets better, and then something happens and it gets worse again.” I stopped, thought back and sighed, “that night, it just took over.”

“I know, I was listening.” This didn’t shock me, but it did quiet my argument.

It was the middle of the night. Sam and I were somewhere near Poplar Bluff, Missouri picking up some random shit that was on the list when the phone rang, well, more like started playing. Jai’s ringtone was the opening piano for Tiny Dancer , for obvious reasons, but it was my phone and not Sam’s, which had red flag written all over it.

Sam turned over, half-dazed but curious as I stared at it, glancing up at him and he nodded. I pulled the phone towards me, hit the accept and instantly heard the fear.

“Dean?” I sat up in bed, hit the speaker button and waited, trying to figure out what to say. Her voice was shaky, word slurred just a bit, and I knew she was drunk as fuck.

“Hey, Jai, it’s the middle of the night here, what are you doing up?” I tried to sound irritated, maybe throw her off to how worried I was but I couldn’t. “Where’s Gwen?”

“Hotel.” She hiccuped, and then moaned, like it hurt. “She’s gonna hate me. Sam… Sam’s going to hate me. Don’t… don’t tell him I called.”

I looked up at Sam, watched him shift, ready to say something, but I reached over and put my hand over his mouth, just enough to get him to keep it shut before he slapped it away.