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The moon slides behind dark clouds, casting the night into pitch black. He can barely see what’s in front of him as his feet pound against the asphalt beneath him; they’re cracked, bleeding, and pain shoots up his legs with each step. It’s the least of his worries as he runs up the long winding mountain. As he cuts left at a fork in the road, the realization that he’s trespassing on someone’s property dawns on him. Out of his peripheral vision, he sees a massive house as he slips through an open space behind it. The pain in his legs intensifies with every move; his mind is screaming at him to stop and tend to his wounds. That’s not an option he has at the moment. He has to keep moving.

He reaches a wooded area; the foliage is slippery beneath his feet and he has to jump over fallen tree limbs. Unfortunately, a branch from one snags on one of his pajama legs and he trips, falling face down in the dirt. He inhales a lung full of moist, damp earth before violently coughing as he scrambles to get back on his feet. He looks around quickly to map his surroundings. The place is unfamiliar, he doesn’t know where he is. Even worse, he doesn’t know who is chasing him.

A voice behind him calls his name, sending chills down his spine. “Dean.”

The hair on the back of his neck stands as the energy of danger starts coursing through his veins.

“You can’t run forever, Dean,” the voice mocking calls again.

That’s their first mistake, thinking Dean can’t outrun them. He’ll run forever to keep himself safe if he has to. Wasting very little time, he starts running again. Veering right, he comes out of the trees. A peach orchard stands up ahead of him and without much thought, he heads for it. Hoping it will provide him with the camouflage he desperately needs, he runs towards the middle of it.

The soil is soft here. His feet seem to sink in with each step, coating the cuts on his feet to make them burn, and it slows him down a bit.

He makes it halfway there before he skids to a stop and turns around slowly in a circle. He’s surrounded on all sides by faceless apparitions. Escape isn’t possible and he doesn’t understand what they want of him.

“Dean.” A soft, feminine voice calls his name this time; definitely not the same one as before. He can’t tell which one which one of them is speaking to him, though. They’re all dressed in the same flowing white nightgowns, stained with dirt and blood. “Help us, please.”

Their energy buzzes around Dean, almost like it’s caressing him; it makes his skin itch. His instinct is to claw at his arms to make it stop and he has to keep himself from doing so.

Dean’s eyes track them one by one as they move in closer to him. Their voices are growing louder, making his ears ring. His hands fly up to cover his ears, hoping to block out the sound. It’s making him dizzy and he starts to shake. He needs to get the hell out of here, but he doesn’t know how. Dean drops to his knees, the soft soil underneath them gives away a bit. He folds his body into a ball and counts to himself, keeping his breathing even in an attempt to stave off a full-blown panic attack.

Then there’s nothing but silence.

Dean lifts his head to find that all of the apparitions have disappeared, but he’s definitely not alone. There’s a woman standing before him, one that he recognizes. He’s sure he’s seen her before in his dreams. Her dark curls tumble off her shoulder as she turns her head to look at him. The pain in her eyes is so strong that Dean feels it deep within his bones. He can feel her energy easily, but he doesn’t know who she is or why she keeps coming to him.

“Who are you?” His voice sounds raspy and his throat hurts from coughing, but he manages to get that much out.

“Dean, help me, please.” Her request is the same. She never asks anything more of him than his help. The only difference is this time he will ask the questions he needs to be answered.

“I can’t help you if I don’t know how,” Dean replies as he picks himself up slowly from the ground. There’s soil clinging to the knees of his pants, but he doesn’t bother wiping it away. “Why do you keep showing up in my dreams?

“You’re the only one who can help me.” She moves in closer, causing Dean to take a step back.

“How do you know me?”

Frustration flashes over her face. “There’s no time to explain!”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

Her mouth opens, but nothing comes out, and frustration flashes through her eyes. Her hands clench at her sides and she closes them into fists. “Help me!” This time the request doesn’t come out as a plea. Her voice shakes with thinly concealed anger. “Please, help me.”

He isn’t sure who she’s angry with, but he doesn’t want to stick around and find out. “I don’t know how to help you.”

She reaches out for him, but she doesn’t make contact. “Help me,” she screams. The sheer volume is piercing, and she moves her hand up to the sky and lets out a screech.

 

 

 

The peach tree nearest to Dean engulfs in flames, quickly spreading to the next one. He spins on his heel and takes off running. As he tries to escape, the entire orchard catches fire. It’s getting harder to see with the smoke and his lungs are screaming for clean air. He’s not paying attention to where he’s going, so it’s not surprising when he trips over a rock, hitting the ground with a hard thud. When he pulls himself back up, his eye catches the woman. She’s beside him and this time when she reaches out, she grabs a hold of his arm.

The world turns white as excruciating pain shoots through his entire body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s nothing more nerve-wracking to Dean than driving up the side of a mountain. Sure, there’s more than enough room for two cars, but there’s also a damn cliff on the right side that Dean can just see himself plummeting off. To say he’s on edge would be an understatement. Heights is something he’s never been okay with, and while he can’t really see how far from the ground he is, it’s the fact that he knows he’s up high.

When he talked to his client, the man failed to mention that there would be a mountain involved. Had he known, he would’ve thought twice before agreeing to the case. Or he would have at least looked into a rental car. Dean chews on his bottom lip as another car passes. The older gentleman in a beat-up Ford waves at him as he passes.

His GPS shows he doesn’t have too far to go. Technology is something Dean’s still trying to get used to. He prefers good ole fashion maps, but Sam bought Dean one of those newfangled phones with the Bluetooth and the GPS and enough space to hold every song known to man. Sam showed Dean how to work the music player, but in Dean’s opinion, MP3s or 4s or whatever-the-hell they are now, just don’t sound as good as his cassettes. Sure, they may hiss at him from time to time when he puts one in, and sometimes the tape comes out and has to be wound back in with a pencil, but it’s the principle of the matter.

Turn right in half a mile, his phone squawks at him in its faux British voice. With the money Sam dropped on the phone, one would think the voice would be a little more pleasing to the ear. When his turn comes into view, relief washes over him. He takes it and sighs as the drop off disappears and the road becomes wider.

He wastes no time in turning on the radio and raising the volume; music has always relaxed him. Though it’s the middle of summer, the temperature seems to drop the higher he climbs. It’s been a long time since Dean’s lived anywhere other than the city, but he can appreciate the country. Taking in his surroundings, the trees on each side of the road look as if they’re touching the heavens. He can’t see the top of them, they just fade into the blue of the sky. The wildflowers that grow here are beautiful, the various shades add a pop of color to the landscape.

The tiny GPS voice commands him to keep right at the fork and after a few miles, Novak Estates comes into view. The asphalt ends and a dirt path leads up to the front of the house. About halfway down the driveway, a metal gate stands and it starts opening before he approaches it. The hair on the back of his neck stands. He’s being watched. It makes sense that a sprawling estate such as this would have some sort of security, and he’s perfectly fine with that. However, what doesn’t sit well with him is the fact he knows that whatever is watching him is not human. He can feel them already.

Entering through the gate, Dean flicks his eyes to the rearview mirror, watching as the metal shuts behind him. The time seems to halt as he drives up to the home. The sky darkens and he can taste electricity on the back of his tongue. With it, a wake of goosebumps forms and race across his arms, almost as in warning. He ignores it as he puts the Impala in park and makes a mental note to search for car rentals. There’s no way he’ll drive his baby back down the mountain until the day he leaves.

He inhales and releases the breath a couple of times before reaching over to grab his backpack. It holds the essentials for his job: a mini digital recorder, a tablet, an EMF detector, a couple of notepads, and a few pens. The rest of his stuff will remain in the trunk until he gets settled.

Opening the door, he barely has enough time to plant his feet firmly on the ground and pull himself out of the car before a flood of emotions cascade like a tidal wave over him. A disembodied voice comes through muffled, reaching out to him. Dean has to close his eyes to try and center himself. The wind picks up at just the right time to bring the smell of leather to his nose. It’s from his car and the gloves on his hands, they both ground him.

One by one, he picks through the energy dancing around him. It sparks, winding its way up his body. He has to sort through the emotions that are undeniably his and what definitely isn’t. Rarely is it ever easy to categorize and place what he’s feeling in the correct box. Then again, nothing is ever easy being an empath. The ability to feel what others are feeling can be downright difficult. The fact that he’s also a medium, having the ability to see and speak with the dead? Well, that makes things a bit harder. It’s a blessing that feels more like a curse. He can’t change what he is, though, and he’s come to terms with that over the years.

Dean counts down from ten slowly as he opens and closes his hands. He feels himself align once more. Once he can breathe steady, Dean opens his eyes and turns them towards the house. There’s a figure in the window. He can’t make it out too clearly, but it’s definitely a woman that calls out to him. He isn’t able to make out what she’s saying… the voice is coming through like one would if you hold a glass up to a door to listen. He glances away just for a moment and when he’s eyes return, the apparition is gone.

He scans the layout of the property. There’s so much doubt, fear, and distrust built up around this place that it practically bleeds, oozing from every nook and cranny around him. Dean can feel it wrapping itself around him, cutting through his body and settling in bone deep. This won’t be an easy investigation. In his line of work, he comes across people who don’t believe in the supernatural and he doesn’t try to convince them otherwise, he just presents his evidence and helps his clients get in contact with people that can set spirits free if needed.

It’s the sound of a door opening that pulls Dean’s attention back to the house and he watches as someone steps out onto the porch. The man is tall, a head of dark hair messily arranged on his head. He’s lean from what Dean can tell, though he would have to be closer to get a better look, dressed in a button-down with a crisp pair of jeans on.

Dean pushes off the car and makes his way over to the steps. An aura of blue surrounds the man with shades of pink and green intertwined in there as well creating a stunning mix. Peace radiates from the other man and it catches Dean off guard so much that he pauses in his steps. He’s beautiful, body and soul, Dean’s brain supplies. Which doesn’t help him to stop staring. He can’t help himself, though, a warm tingling starts at his toes and works its way up. Something settles deep in his chest, a sense of belonging, of coming home after being gone too long.

 

 

 

 

 

“Mr. Winchester,” the man greets as he walks down to steps.

“In the flesh. But please, call me Dean,” he replies as he shakes the hand that’s extended in greeting. He doesn’t miss the way blue eyes flick down to his leather gloves, but the man doesn’t mention them.

“Castiel Novak.”

Introductions are almost always awkward, so Dean relies on a trusty icebreaker. “It’s a nice place you have here, Mr. Novak.” It works.

A beautiful smile forms on the man’s face. “Thank you, it’s been in my family for generations.” The man turns in the directions of the house. “And there’s no need for formality, it’s just Castiel. If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your room and then give you a tour.”

“Lead the way.” Dean slings the bag over his shoulder, the familiar weight like a security blanket. He follows Castiel up and then into the home. Dean tries to take in as much as he can, as quickly as possible. The foyer is simple, yet elegantly done in white, and exactly what Dean would think a house like this would look like. Tasteful paintings are hung with care on the walls, a couple of darkly stained end tables with flower arrangements sit on either side of the area. A stunning rug in browns, golds, and whites, lies perfectly in the middle.

Castiel heads up a staircase on the right and Dean quickly follows behind him.

“The Anael Room is yours for as long as you’re here,” Castiel says, pausing on the top step before continuing down the hall.

Dean’s right on the man’s heels and almost runs into the back of him when he stops in front of the door. Dean peers inside the opening, eyes widening slightly, before walking in.

“The house was a functional Bed and Breakfast for several years before I took over ownership. We’ve had a couple B and Bs pop up since then, so I decided to close down. From time to time, I do take in guests, but they’re well-known friends of the family. Sometimes they’re celebrities or people in high powered positions looking to get away for awhile.”

Dean nods along to the information. Castiel’s voice is soothing and it’s relaxing his nerves a bit.

“All the rooms were named after different angels, I haven’t bothered to rename them. Mother ran this place like a well-oiled machine. She passed three years ago and I inherited the home and land. I’ve kept up with the maintenance since then. Being one of the many historical homes in Georgia, there are a few tours that come through at least once a month.”

Natural light comes in through the French doors that open to a balcony. There’s a warm energy to the room, but Dean can feel an underlying current that has nothing to do with sunlight. He feels like he’s being watched and he’s not sure if he should be on guard. Time will tell, he guesses. The bed is huge, at least king-sized, and it takes up the middle of the room. Two brown bedside tables sit on each side, adorned with simple white laps. There are a few paintings on the walls that match the ones in the foyer. A white rug lies under the bed, at least two inches sticking out on either side. A wardrobe sits against one wall, stained a gorgeous cherry shade.

“I’ll leave you to put your things away. If you’ll meet me in the sitting room after, we’ll discuss why I sought after your services. When you get downstairs, take a left and the room is the last one on the right.” Without waiting for a response, Castiel turns around and leaves the room.

Wasting little time, Dean puts his backpack on the bed. His clothes are still in Baby’s trunk; he’ll get those out later. He walks over to the French doors and pulls them open, fresh air drifting in softly, whispering across his face. The scent of fresh soil, flowers, and pine trees greet him when he inhales. Closing his eyes, Dean clears his mind and just quietly waits. The energy that was present only a few moments ago can no longer be felt. Still, he’s not sure he’s alone.

“If someone is listening,” he begins, “I’m here to help. If that’s okay with you.”

Talking to what one would see as an empty room is no easier now than when he first realized he could speak and see the dead. To this day, he still feels a bit silly in doing so. But, he does what he needs to do to get his point across. Hopefully, it will help the spirits to trust him so he can help them move on.

Chapter Text

Dean follows the directions Castiel gave him when he gets downstairs. He finds the man in the sitting room, relaxed in a white chair. There’s a silver platter with assorted baked goodies and a teapot; it looks like it’s authentic china, though Dean wouldn’t know for sure as he’s never seen a set in person. A bar sits in the corner of the room with various bottles of liquor; shot glasses and tumblers are lined up in a neat row. The craving for a shot of whiskey takes hold and his throat burns for just a taste of the amber liquid. Two years of sobriety isn’t worth throwing away, the mantra repeats in his head.

Castiel watches him stand in the middle of the room and he offers a warm smile as he gestures for him to take a seat. A safe, calm energy emits from the man and wraps around Dean, soothing his nerves. It’s hard not to feel a little off kilter, though. Dean’s never been almost immediately comfortable around someone he’s not familiar with.

However, beneath that safe energy, Dean can feel Castiel’s discomfort. It’s not at all that uncommon in Dean’s field and, as he settles in the chair offered, he tries to send out calming energy into the space around him. He knows he won’t have the man’s trust at first. That has to be earned. Dean’s worked with several skeptics in his time, though, Castiel isn’t one; he is just one for proof rather than blindly believing something he can’t see. Patience is key here.

Castiel grabs a glass pitcher and fills two glasses almost to the brim. “Would you care for some sweet tea?”

Dean’s not one for tea, not really, but on occasion, he can enjoy a glass. He’s also thirsty, so he accepts and murmurs thanks before taking a large sip.

The man eases back into his chair and crosses his legs. “First, I would like to thank you for coming on such short notice, Mr. Winchester.” There’s a pink tinge to his cheeks. Embarrassment? Maybe, but Dean’s not quite sure.

“Dean,” he corrects with a smile, giving a comforting nod.

“This is difficult for me to explain,” Castiel says. “It’s not that I don’t believe in-” he pauses, searching for the right word, “-spirits... I’m sure there’s more than one thing out there we don’t know about. But, most of the things that have happened around here are easy to just brush off as nothing. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not too certain my mind isn’t playing tricks on me.”

“That’s what I’m here for.” Dean adjusts himself to mirror the way Castiel is sitting. “The things you’ve said that are easily explained, can you describe them to me?”

He’s prodding for information, but not so much that it might taint his investigation. One thing Dean prides himself on most is not researching a location before he arrives. It can wait until he’s on site and speaks with his clients; there’s really no need to do it prior. Having the history on a home won’t make it any more or less haunted. With this being a historical house, chances of there being hundreds of forums with ghost stories are pretty spectacular.

“Back when I was still in business, staff members and a few guests had complained about cold spots. I believed it could be due to the age of the home and recently made sure the insulation was up to snuff.” Castiel pauses, his eyebrows coming together in thought as if he was remembering what he’d been told. “I suppose things could’ve shifted. Occasionally we’ll have someone stay at the house, but that’s not usual. Mostly, it’s just me and my Chef, Benny, that are in the house. Benny hasn’t told me of feeling any cold spots, but…”

“He’s in the kitchen a lot?” Dean suggests, cocking his head.

“Exactly,” Castiel nods, giving a small smile. “Things have also been coming up missing or replaced around here. Small items have fallen off the shelves and bookcases. Though, one of us could’ve easily bumped into them and forgotten to pick things up.”

Dean’s keeping mental notes to write down later. Castiel’s not wrong; none of those are hard evidence of a spiritual encounter. He’ll have to break out the equipment later, test a few theories and debunk anything that he’s able to.

Castiel chews on his bottom lip before his tongue darts out to wet the abused flesh. “A few nights ago, I was in bed resting. As I was just about to nod off, I heard a scream. That was followed by what sounded like footsteps running down the hallway. I was the only one here. Benny had taken off the night before for vacation. He’s in Louisiana as we speak, though he’s due to return soon.”

That piques Dean’s interest. “A scream?”

“Yes, it was bloodcurdling.” Castiel stops for a moment, fiddling with his hands.

Dean notices the slight tremble in the man’s shoulders, though he’s otherwise composed.

“It sounded female. I thought I was dreaming at first, but then I heard it again. The footsteps followed shortly after.” Castiel looks down at the tea set up between them, shaking his head. “There was no mistaking it. I don’t have an explanation for it either. As you’ve seen, this place isn’t easy to stumble upon. The nearest neighbor is a mile away.”

Dean can’t help but wonder if the scream was from the woman he’d seen in the window when he first arrived. It could’ve been someone else for all he knows. He feels more than Castiel’s energy in the room, they’re not alone.

Excitement thrums through him because this is something he loves. He may not have wanted the gift of being an empath or a medium, but he can’t deny the fact he loves a good investigation. He wants to dive right in, but rest is needed before doing so. Exhaustion could lead to mistakes and he’s not one for being sloppy when it comes to his job.

They continuing talking into the evening. Dean goes over what he’ll do, his process and explains that even though he brought equipment with him, he rarely uses it unless it’s needed. After that, Castiel gives him the tour and then they each retire to their bedrooms after dinner.

After a fitful night of sleep, Dean wakes up feeling like death warmed over. While it’s normal for him not to rest well when he’s not home, the fatigue he’s greeted with isn’t par for the course. He feels like a Mack truck plowed into him, dragging him a few miles down a gravel road, and left his body to bake in the hot sun.

A massive headache knots at the base of his skull. The only time this happens is when he’s drained of energy. Something, or someone, during the night, must have used his energy without his knowledge. It isn’t unheard of, and apparently, this occurs often in the empath world. It’s referred to as being consumed by an energy vampire. The ‘vampires’ can be spirits or other human beings, he’s researched it, but he’s never experienced it himself. He’s not too pleased with it.

He peels the covers from his sweaty body and sits up, blinking a few times to get his eyes adjusted to the light that cascades through the windows. The bedside clock reads six-thirty in the morning and he hears the song of birds chirping outside.

Thankfully, he remembered to bring the rest of his bags in before he’d gone to bed and set them in the corner of the room to be unpacked later. He pushes himself out of bed, walking over to his duffle bag and starts rummaging around in it. He pops two Tylenol without water, then picks clothes at random without care. A shower is greatly needed, so he throws his clothes over his shoulder and walks to the bathroom that’s attached to his room. He’s grateful for it because he doesn’t have to worry about waking up anyone.

The walls of the spacious bathroom are painted brown and Dean chuckles to himself because the color reminds him of syrup. Though he has to admit, it’s pleasing to the eye and gives the room an inviting feel to it. He lays his clothes on the counter of the double sink and looks around. His eyes are drawn to the claw foot tub; he would love to fill it with water and sink down into its depths, but that will have to wait for another day. He pulls his pajama top off and lets it hit the floor, his bottoms and boxers follow quickly after, before he steps into the walk-in shower. Dean adjusts the dials to the right temperature -- just between hot and scalding.

His head falls back as the water hits his body. The pressure is amazing and it takes no time before his muscles are loose and his body is relaxed. He only hopes that lasts for a few hours... It’s when he’s reaching for the shampoo that he feels a presence in the room and the bottle almost slips from his hand. The energy feels similar to the one he felt yesterday; it doesn’t feel threatening, so he lets his guard down just a bit. Dean takes a few cleansing breaths, in through his nose and out through his mouth, to align himself before speaking.

“I know I said I’m here to help, but privacy while I’m in the bathroom would be nice.” His tone is gentle, but firm. He learned years ago that he has to set the rules or spirits will walk all over him, figuratively speaking of course.

There’s no response, of course, and soon enough the room is empty again except for him. He continues his shower, wasting little time washing the grime from his skin. Once he’s finished, he turns off the water and steps out, grabbing a towel from the rack. He’s almost clinical in the way he dries himself off and then grabs his clothes, pulling them on quickly as possible.

Dean walks back into his room and the first thing he notices is his phone now on the floor. It was sitting on the table before he went to shower and he’s sure he didn’t knock it off. Someone is trying to get his attention, though the presence he felt in the bathroom isn’t in the room with him now. He figures he can try reaching out later. Right now he’s hungry and coffee would be amazing.

He picks up his phone and shoves it in his pocket before making his way to the door and opening it. Classical music fills the hallway as Dean steps out. Either Castiel is awake or they have a talented ghost on their hands. Dean follows the sound downstairs and finds his way to the kitchen with little problem.

Castiel’s standing by the stove, his back to the entrance to the room.

Dean watches the man move around, Castiel’s hips swaying along to what sounds like Tchaikovsky. He’s not much on classical, but he can appreciate some of the composers.

Dean doesn’t want to startle the man and he certainly can’t stand there being a creeper, though watching Castiel move is captivating. He’s just about to clear his throat when Castiel turns around. The man beams at him, his smile sends a tingle down Dean’s body.

“Good morning, Dean,” he greets and then points over to a breakfast nook. “Breakfast is almost ready. Would you like some coffee?”

“Black, please,” he answers and does as he’s told. Above the small table, there’s a large picture window. His attention is drawn to the small garden that lies beyond the glass. Large, green hedges enclose the space and in the center is a small girl. Her hair’s in pigtails with bright ribbons and she’s wearing a pale yellow dress and she’s kicking around a red ball, smiling as it bounces off one of the bushes. After a few moments of playing she stops and looks directly at Dean. Another smile appears on her face as she waves at him and then she simply fades away. The spirits here seem to be more than willing to show themselves to Dean and he’s a little surprised at it.

“Dean?” Castiel’s voice sounds concerned. “Are you okay?”

He pulls his eyes away from the garden and takes note of his coffee along with a plate full of eggs, bacon, and potatoes. “I’m fine, thank you.”

Castiel eyes the window. “Something sure had your attention.”

“It’s a beautiful space out there,” Dean deflects. “Did you plant the flowers yourself?”

The man’s laughter is soft as he sits down across from Dean. “I did, though I doubt that is what you were staring at.”

Chewing a mouth full of food, Dean gently shakes his head and continues eating. This is his client, so he has an obligation to provide him with what he sees, it’s just never easy to discuss.

Dean wipes his face with a linen napkin and puts his fork down. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to keep things from you.”

His client looks up and offers an encouraging smile.

“A little girl was playing with a ball out in your garden.”

“A little girl?”

“Yes,” Dean nods, “I would say she’s around six or seven. Blonde hair in pigtails and she was in a yellow dress with lace around the hem.”

“I don’t see her,” Castiel says as he looks out the window.

“She’s not there now.” Dean’s hand rubs at the back of his neck.

“You can see the dead?” The man’s tone is slightly incredulous as he asks the question.

“I know this is a lot to take in,” Dean confirms. “I’m a medium, seeing and speaking with the dead is a normal occurrence for me. I’ve been able to since I was young.”

“How young?”

Dean pushes his plate away and looks out the window again. This story is never easy for him to tell. Opening himself to someone he doesn’t know is hard and there’s always a chance they’ll judge him, but he’s always honest with his clients.

“I was four when I saw my mother after our house caught fire.” Dean swallows hard. “She didn’t make it out alive, but I remember her coming to me that night. She told me she would always watch over us. I didn’t understand death at the time, but I knew something wasn’t right.”

The smell of smoke and the flashing lights from emergency vehicles are burned into the deepest recesses of his memory. His dad woke him up, placed a six-month-old Sammy in his arms, and told him to run as fast as he could out of the house. He’d done as he was told, holding his brother tightly against him while he ran. He remembers a firefighter scooping him up and sitting them in the back of the police car as the others ran to control the fire. It seemed like an eternity before Dean watched his father stumble out of the smoke with the aid of another fireman. He blinks back the images in his head and catches a whiff of his mother’s perfume.

“That was just the beginning.” Dean chews on his bottom lip for a moment. “As I got older, people would come up to me and we’d talk like we were old friends. But... I didn’t know them. Later, I would see their obituaries in the newspaper and their date of death was always before I’d run into them.” He pauses and takes a few clarifying breaths. Then, softly, he admits, “I watched my dad’s soul leave his body the day Sam and I decided to take him off life support.”

“Oh, Dean.” The man reaches out, placing his hand on Dean’s arm. It’s at that moment his eyes flick down and notices Dean’s gloves. “I’m so sorry.”

Again, Castiel doesn’t comment on them, so Dean doesn’t offer an explanation. The warmth from Castiel’s hand seeps through Dean’s flannel and he pulls back slightly. He immediately misses the comfort the man offered when Castiel withdraws his hand.

 

Dean senses there’s an apology on the tip of the man’s tongue, so he waves him off before he can speak. “It’s been twenty-four years. I’ve made peace with it.” He takes a drink of his coffee, frowning when he finds it’s gone a bit cold. Castiel must notice because he takes Dean’s cup and refreshes it without question.

“Thank you,” Dean says softly, “for the food and coffee.”

“I’m just glad it was edible,” Castiel replies with a grin. “Cooking is not my forte.”

“Oh?” Dean picks up his cup and lets the heat from it warm his hands through his gloves. “Coulda fooled me.”

Castiel shrugs a shoulder. “I’ve picked up a few things from, Benny. He’s not only my Chef, he’s also my best friend. And he’s well aware I would live off microwavable meals without a second thought to how healthy they are. Normally, though, I don’t go near the kitchen.”

Dean smiles at the idea of Castiel and a nightly Lean Cuisine and shakes his head gently. “So what do you do around here?” Dean asks. “Other than taking care of this place?”

They didn’t discuss Castiel’s profession on the phone before Dean arrived and it hasn’t been mentioned since then. It’s not important, not really. Dean honestly doesn’t have to know much about his client. Still, though, he’s curious.

Curiosity killed the cat.

The man busies himself with clearing away their dishes. “I’m usually locked away in my office most days.”

“I guess that makes sense. This place does seem to take a lot of work.” Again, Dean’s eyes are drawn to Castiel. He’s graceful in his movements as he putters around the kitchen.

“It does, but I also dabble in writing. That's what I spend most of the time in my office working on.”

“A writer?” Dean clicks his tongue.

“Yes,” Castiel pauses for a beat, “C.J. Novak.”

CJ Novak. The name sounds all too familiar and for a good reason. He’s one of Dean’s favorite authors. “But C.J. Novak writes paranormal mysteries.”

A blush creeps across the man’s face. “You’ve read my stories?”

Dean just nods his head in response. “What are the odds? A man who happens to write paranormal mysteries hires me to investigate his home?” He stands up and walks over to Castiel, propping his hip against the counter. “How does that work, though? You don’t exactly have a firm belief in the supernatural.”

The man arches an eyebrow. “What I write is all fantasy. Faith in the unseen isn't needed.”

“Touché,” Dean replies with a lopsided grin. He’s perfectly okay with the fact Castiel thinks the paranormal is a fantasy; it doesn’t change the fact that he’s wrong. But without proof, there isn’t much Dean can do to change the man’s mind. He would be lying if he said he isn’t disappointed to find out his favorite writer doesn’t exactly believe in his work, but Castiel is correct -- one doesn’t have to believe in what they write, they just have to make their audience think they do. Castiel is a master of that. Maybe there’s more to this man than meets the eye. Dean has an odd feeling that he’ll find out soon enough.

“More coffee?”

Chapter Text

Dean sets himself up in the sitting room with his digital recorder and the EMF detector. It’s late in the evening and Castiel is across the hall in his office. The sound of the man’s fingers on the keyboard is faint, but Dean makes a mental note of it in case it shows up on the recording. A quick sweep of the room with the EMF detector confirms what Dean already knows: he’s alone in the room. But, that can change at any time.

The lush carpet beneath his feet muffles his footsteps as he makes his way to the chair Castiel sat in the first night he was in this room. Dean lays the digital recorder on the coffee table before sitting down. It takes a few minutes before Dean gets comfortable and he leans his head back, closes his eyes, and takes deep breaths. In and out. It helps center himself so he can focus on the task at hand.

His energy flows around him and out into the room, it’s calming. Slowly, Dean’s mind opens and he feels a shift in the room. It’s minute at first, just small sparks of energy that raises the hairs on his arms. He’s almost certain he’s no longer alone.

Without opening his eyes, Dean speaks quietly, “Hello?”

The energy, whatever it is, is weak but it’s there.

“My name is Dean,” he speaks again. “What is yours?”

He doesn’t hear anything in response with his own ears, but he hopes that the recorder will pick something up.

“This is a beautiful home.” He pauses. “Did you live here?”

There’s another spark in the energy field, almost like static electricity.

“I’m here to help, if I’m able to.”

Laughter. It’s faint, but he heard it.

Dean opens his eyes and it takes a minute to adjust to the light in the room. “I can hear you.”

From the corner of his eye, he sees a gray figure form. “Tell me how I can help.”

“Help.”

Dean sits up and focuses his attention on where the gray figure is. He’s just about to say something else when it begins to fade away, and with it the energy. There’s no mistaking that he heard the voice with own ears, hopefully, the recorder picked it up as well. He grabs the device from the table, presses the stop button before hitting play. He stands there listening to the playback; it’s nothing but his voice until he hears the sound of a disembodied voice saying ‘help’.

He leaves the room without much thought and finds Castiel’s office. The door is open, but still, he raps his knuckles against the door.

His client looks up from his computer a smile quickly forms on his mouth. “Hello, Dean.”

“Hey, Cas.” He shifts his weight from one leg to the other and then back again. “Uh. You got a quick second?”

Castiel takes his glasses off, leans back in his chair and motions for Dean to do the same. “For you, yes.”

Taking a seat, Dean lays the recorder on Castiel’s desk. “I was in the sitting room earlier doing an EMF sweep.”

“EMF?” The man questions, confusion on his face.

Dean gives him a small grin before saying, “Electromagnetic field-”

“Oh, yes,” Castiel interrupts, “I remember you explaining it the other night.”

“Right.” Dean nods his head. “I set up my digital recorder to see if I could catch EVPs.” He looks at the man’s face to make sure he’s following along.

“Did you catch anything?”

“I think I did.” He presses play and sits back. Dean’s voice comes through loud and clear. He allows the entire tape to play instead of just the part where he caught the voice, his eyes locked on Castiel’s face throughout.

“Tell me how I can help.”

“Help.”

Castiel looks up at Dean, his eyebrows raised. “Can I hear that again?”

“Of course.”

Dean plays the last minute on the recorder again, the disembodied voice coming through loud and clear.

“Who is she?” the man asks as he reaches for the recorder.

“I’m not sure,” Dean answers. “It’s definitely not the little girl I saw in the garden.”

“Can we do another session together?”

“Of course,” Dean smiles, “you’re always welcome.”

 

Shroud in darkness, Dean rises from the ground. He’s in a forest surrounded by trees that seem to reach the highest corners of Heaven. The place is unfamiliar and how he came to be here confuses him. He draws on his other senses, but no movement can be heard or felt through vibrations on the ground, no lingering scents reach his nose. There’s an odd stillness in the air around him and his link to energy in the atmosphere is quiet.

Frankly, that concerns him more than anything. He knows he’s not alone, he never truly is.

Where is he?
Why is he here?
Why is it dark?

Those are million dollar questions that Dean wants to be answered, but there’s no one to ask.

The ground starts to shake, just slightly, as if that were answer enough. It’s a dream. It has to be.

Dean’s hesitant to move, but the need to explore the place gets the better of him. He ignores his intuition to stay put and takes a step forward. In response, the ground quakes harder, increases in intensity until Dean’s knocked onto his ass. The impact jars every bone in his body and he’s left dazed for what he hopes is only a few seconds. He can still feel the movement underneath him, but what does it mean? It’s the feeling of long, cold fingers wrapping around his wrist that finally snaps him out of his trance.

Dean rips his arm free, scrambling into a sitting position. Above him, the trees are swaying violently into each other and then one by one, they start to crumble. There’s so many of them it stirs up a black cloud of debris and Dean has to cover his nose and mouth with his shirt to keep from inhaling it. He squints, attempting to keep his eyes open as long as possible, and he manages to do so until he’s engulfed in the stuff.

Dean’s body starts to shake and fear creeps ice cold through his veins. Sweat breaks out above his brow, his heart beating rapidly in his chest, its own mantra of we’re still alive, we’re still alive, we’re still alive. He can’t breathe. Terror wraps itself around his heart and squeezes tight.

This is it. This is how Dean’s going to die. He’s going to be taken out in the stupidest way he can think of: a heart attack from a dream - of all fucking things. This is not how he’s supposed to leave this God-forsaken earth; he deserves a better send off than croaking in his sleep. Anger overpowers the fear and he tries to scream, but when he opens his mouth, nothing comes out.

His ears start ringing, his head is on the verge of bursting, when the ground settles once more. Is it safe to open his eyes? He’s not sure… He takes a few deep breaths, counting to ten, before he blinks them open. The trees are gone and the land is void of anything, leaving behind an inky stretch of dead land. That’s when a piercing sound starts; a roar of sorts, but higher pitched. His hands fly up to protect his ears. It does very little to block the sound and he half expects the wet heat of blood to start seeping through his fingers.

What the hell is going on? If this is a dream, it’s definitely one of the weirdest he’s ever had.

His stomach rolls, acid burning his throat. He’s going to puke, and soon. Attempting to stave off tossing his cookies, Dean inhales deeply and releases the breath slowly. Just when he thinks he can’t take any more, a blinding light appears before his eyes. He shuts them and hisses when his irises start to burn. He balls himself into a fetal position and awaits his death.

But the sweet release of death never comes.

Instead, the air grows warmer around him, heat kissing his skin like it would on a hot summer’s day. Light peaks through the crevices of his position and Dean takes a chance and unfolds himself. When his eyes are open, he blinks hard, twice.

Day has replaced the night and he’s sitting on a lush green lawn, in someone’s backyard he assumes. Reaching out, Dean picks at a blade of grass. It’s soft, sticky, and feels real.

 

He has to get the fuck out of here. Dean picks himself up. His legs feel like jelly, but he ignores them and begins to walk. A house sits in the distance and against better judgment, he heads in that direction.

Halfway there, a voice stops him in his tracks. A young woman stands near a garden in a flowing violet dress. Her dark hair is up, piled on top of her head, with ringlets of curls framing her face. She’s beautiful. A longing pulls at him, tugging at his energy field, and he walks slowly towards her. As he gets closer and can make out more of her face, he instantly recognizes her from a previous dream. She’s the one who needed help, but was unable to elaborate.

“Hello?” Dean says as he comes to a stop, standing in front of her.

The woman dips her head, looking up at him through her lashes. Her brown eyes are bloodshot as if she’s been crying, but there are no tear trails marking down her cheeks.

“Are you okay?”

Her head shakes in response to his question.

“Can I help?” Dean offers with a smile. “I’m a pretty good listener.”

This time, he gets a nod in response, but the lady still remains silent.

“Okay,” he says slowly. He doesn’t want to spook her. “You’ll have to talk. I need to know how to help you. Can you do that for me?”

Again she nods and then opens her mouth to speak. Before she’s able to utter a word, a man’s voice interrupts.

“Meg, where are you, woman? Get back here right now.”

Fear flashes in her eyes and he’s about to turn around to see who the voice belongs to, but he’s startled when the woman finally speaks.

“You must go. Now,” she says. The desperation in her voice is gutting.

Dean doesn’t even have time to blink before the woman, Meg he’s assuming, takes off running. He tries to follow her, but she disappears into thin air. He hears footsteps behind him as a man comes around the corner from the hedges. He can’t make out the man’s face, but from the build and the color of the man’s hair, he reminds Dean so much of Castiel.

A feeling of being watched makes Dean turn around. He sees another man standing in the distance looking directly at him. Even from this far away Dean can see the resemblance. The man looks like Dean, only younger. He takes off running towards him, but Meg’s voice stops him.

“Go, please! Go now.”

He feels pulled in different directions. He wants to follow Meg, blindly into the garden. He wants to find out who the man is that’s after her. And he wants to know who the man is that wears his face.

Before he’s able to do anything, he hears another voice, a familiar one. It starts pulling him out of the world that he’s in. He tries to grab at anything that will keep him here, however, everything slips through his fingers as his conscience wakes him.

 

“Dean.”

He hears a distant voice calling for him, but he struggles to wake.

“Deeaaan.”

The voice grows louder and more annoying this time. Whoever it is better duck, ‘cause he’s going to come up swinging from his sleep. Dean shifts around, pulling his pillow over his head to block out the noise. Sleep. He just wants to remain unconscious for five more fucking minutes. Is that too much to ask for? Why is it such a hard concept for people to understand?

“Dean, wake up.”

A cold hand shoves at his shoulder, pulling him completely from his blessed slumber. There’s a figure so close to his face that his eyes cross trying to look at them, and he startles back, hitting his head on the headboard. A litany of curses fall from his mouth. He grabs his head, rubbing the sore spot and mumbling death threats at anyone who can hear him. When his sleep addled brain finally kicks back in gear, Dean blinks a few times, trying to get his eyes to focus. Dean recognizes his brother just a second before all six feet of limbs and hair jumps in bed beside him.

“What the hell, Sammy?” His voice is high pitched and incredulous. He flips on the lamp and looks at the clock on the nightstand. “It’s not even six in the fucking morning. What the fuck are you doing here?”

His brother smiles so big his dimples show. “Good morning to you, too, sleepy head.”

He’s too tired to return the greeting without snapping, so he just grunts in response. His brother was supposed to come with him, but Sam decided to stay behind to ‘finish up a few things’. And now he shows up at the asscrack of dawn, expecting Dean to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed? Does Sam know nothing about him? Fuck that. When Dean finally speaks, his voice is rough with sleep. “Did you wake up the whole house?”

“The whole house?” He huffs out a laugh. “Dean, it’s only Castiel.”

“It’s ‘only Castiel’?” Dean shifts to sit up in bed, pushing his brother near the edge. If he falls off, that will teach the asshole not to mess with him again. “He’s our client, not one of your besties.”

“No shit, Sherlock,” Sam answers. “Besides, I didn’t wake up anyone. Castiel said he was already awake well before I got here.”

“It’s too early in the morning for this shit.” Dean half walks, half stumbles to the bathroom to relieve his bladder. It’s one of the many bodily functions that he could do without, but he does his business quickly and washes his hands.

Once he’s back in the room, Dean asks, “How did you get here?”

“I hitchhiked.”

“Sammy,” he warns, notices the smile on his brother’s face fall quickly.

“You know there are other methods of transportation besides the Impala, right, Dean?”

“You shut your face, heathen.”

Sam stretches himself across the bed with a smug look on his face.

“Don’t get too comfortable,” Dean says. “There’s no way in hell you’re going to sleep. Not after waking my ass up.”

“But I’m tired,” his brother whines.

“Nu-uh. If you so much as close your eyes,” Dean pauses for effect, “I’ll give you an atomic wedgie.”

“You’ll have to catch me first.”

“Just try me, bitch.”

Grabbing a change of clothes, Dean returns to the bathroom. There’s no point in attempting to go back to sleep. Once he’s up, he’s awake for the day. His pajamas hit in the floor and are kicked to the side, then he pulls on a clean t-shirt and pair of jeans. He picks up his toothbrush and paste from the ceramic holder and attempts to scrub the fuzzy feeling from his mouth. He glances in the mirror and he’s not surprised at the image staring back at him.

His hair is sticking up seven ways from Sunday, though it's’ nothing a little hair gel can’t fix. His eyes, though, are another issue altogether. They’re bloodshot and the bags beneath them look like he’s going on a two-week cruise. If he could get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, it would probably do wonders for him.

Calgon, take me away. He snorts as he remembers the old commercials advertising the product.

As he reaches to turn on the faucet, there’s a noticeable change in the air, almost like a strong static charge in the energy of the room. The hair on the back of his neck rises as the temperature drops significantly. He exhales and is able to see his own breath. He doesn’t move as he tries to get a read on any emotions or other energy the spirit may give off, but there’s something blocking him from it. He can’t get clear read on it. Whatever it is, it’s the strong entity Dean’s encountered since arriving. Dean drops his toothbrush on the counter as he turns around and heads back into his room.

“Did it get cold in here to you?” His voice is shaky and he hopes his brother doesn’t pick up on it. If he does, he doesn’t mention it.

“No,” Sam answers as he shakes his head, “maybe you’re getting old.”

He doesn’t dignify that with a response. After a few minutes of silence, he changes the subject, “Did Castiel give you a room?”

Sam grins mischievously. “I told him we could bunk together.”

“The fuck you say?”

“Yup.” The ‘p’ pops loudly, slightly echoing in the room. Sam smirks before shifting down more on the bed. He crosses his arms over his chest and closes his eyes.

“Oh, you’re dead,” Dean says before launching himself at his brother. They wrestle each other quickly, Sam barking out a laugh, until they roll too far to the side and both end up on the floor with a loud ‘plunk’.

Dean winces, pulling away from Sam to listen. Surely if Castiel would be in his own bed by now. Castiel’s room is far enough away from his own that Dean usually didn’t worry about disturbing the other man, but...

“We probably shouldn’t throw your lanky, fat ass on the ground anymore. Don’t want to wake anyone up.”

Sam huffs a laugh as he picks himself off the ground. “I’m not fat.”

“Sure you are,” Dean replies as he ruffles his brother’s hair. “Come on, let’s find you a room. And maybe find something to eat after. I’m starving.”

 

They catch up for a few minutes as Dean tidies the room, then head downstairs together. Dean hears music playing softly from the direction of the kitchen. It relaxes him. Music has always provided a safe space for Dean when he needed to recharge from a long day at work. It warms him to know that Castiel seems to be a kindred spirit in that respect.

As they get closer to the kitchen, Dean stops short when a deep voice is heard. It’s definitely not Castiel’s. Dean looks over his shoulder at his brother. “Did Castiel mention someone else being here this morning?”

Sam shakes his head. “No, he just showed me to your room and said breakfast would be ready soon.”

“Boss, you know I worry about you,” the voice says.

“I know and I appreciate it.” There’s a pause and then, “But I’m thirty-seven years old. I think I know what I’m doing.”

“Castiel, I’m not sayin’ you don’t.” A sigh is heard from one of the two men. “I’m sayin’ be careful.”

Dean feels like a creeper for eavesdropping on their conversation so he steps foot in the kitchen. Castiel’s leaning against the counters facing a man that Dean doesn’t recognize. The guy is tall, his broad chest and shoulders are intimidating in size, and he looks like he could knock someone flat on their ass with one punch. Whoever this guy is, Castiel trusts him one hundred percent; Dean can feel it in the energy they both emit.

But what holds Dean’s attention is his client. Castiel’s aura is glowing, bright colors that radiate happiness, and he’s surprised to feel a stab of jealousy in his gut.

“There you two are,” Castiel says when finally notices them. “Sit. Breakfast is almost ready.”

The brothers make their way over to the small table and sit down.

“This is Benny, my trusted chef and a dear friend of mine,” Castiel says as he takes a seat. “I couldn't keep subjecting you to subpar meals.”

“Your food was great,” Dean replies without a second thought as he watches Benny plate the food.

“Like you’d ever complain about food,” Sam mumbles beside him.

“Castiel doesn’t like cookin’, but he does just fine without me,” Benny adds as he sets a plate in front of Dean. “I spoil him.”

“He does,” Castiel agrees. “Benny, this is Dean and Sam Winchester. They’re here to investigate the ‘haunting’, as you call it.” He uses air quotes while saying the word and Dean would laugh, but he doesn’t want to insult the man.

“I just do most of the research,” Sam says. “Dean’s the one with the gift.”

“It’s nice to meet y’all.” Benny joins them at the table with a plate of his own. “And pay no mind to his skepticism. I’ve been tellin’ him for years this house is haunted. He just doesn’t want to admit it. He’s got too much of his mama in him. He’ll come ‘round, though.”

Castiel rolls his eyes. “I’m not a skeptic.”

“Whatever,” Benny says with a wave of his hand.

“I’ll have you know I’ve helped Dean with some of his investigation. My eyes have opened more to the supernatural realm.”

Dean looks over at his brother who hasn’t touched his food. “You good, Sam?”

His brother nods. “I’m fine. I’m not hungry right now.”

“Suit yourself,” Dean shovels eggs and bacon into his mouth, forgetting his manners, “more for me.”

“I like this one, boss,” Benny says, not taking his eyes off Dean.

Castiel shakes his head. “That’s what you say about all the beautiful ones.”

Dean looks back and forth between the two men warily. “Why do I get the feeling I need to start rubbing lotion on my skin?”

“It puts the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again,” Sam replies with a barely controlled laugh.

The whole table erupts into laughter, food forgotten for a few moments. And then between bites, the four men get to know each other better.

Chapter Text

After breakfast, Dean and Sam wander around the house. Castiel’s hidden away in his office for a couple of hours and Benny said he would steer clear of the downstairs area so Dean could do a little investigating. It probably would be wise for Dean to do an EVP session with his digital recorder, but he didn’t think about it and left his recorder upstairs.

Plus, they’re never one hundred percent reliable. He has no problem hearing spirits with his own ears, if they want to be heard, and he doesn’t need a recording to prove to his client that something is there.

Dean’s watched one too many ghost hunting shows where their evidence was obviously doctored. It’s not hard to hear something that isn’t there when the word is printed on the screen. The looping of the audio only helps make people believe they hear what the creators want them to, and of course, they always wait until nightfall to start their investigations.

It doesn’t make much sense to him... ghosts have no concept of time. He’s had visits from spirits at all hours. Maybe he’s just lucky? Nah. If he were lucky, he’d be able to get more than three uninterrupted hours of sleep.

When he steps foot back into the sitting room, he feels a presence. It’s energy isn’t strong, but he knows whoever is with him, he hasn’t come across them before. Granted, he’s hasn’t been here long so he’s not familiar with every spirit that may lurk in these rooms.

“Hello?” Dean speaks into the empty room. “I'm Dean.”

Hear hears nothing in response other than his brother’s breathing. There’s not even a twinge in the energy's field. He waits a moment more, then decides to leave it be for now. Spirits will talk if and when they want to, if they're able to. Some don’t have the ability to speak, so they communicate in other ways.

He moves back out into the hallway and walks down to the library, Sam following along behind him. There’s floor to ceiling bookshelves, shelves filled to the brim with books covering each wall. The smell of dust, leather, and old paper makes his nose itch and his eyes water. He'll definitely need to take an allergy pill before stepping foot in this room again.

They continue walking around until they’re standing in front of the back door that leads to the garden. Dean opens it and steps out into the heat; sunshine beams down on him and he almost wants to shed off his flannel. Almost.

There’s a shaded area in a corner by a small water fountain. Next to it sits a white marble bench just underneath a tall tree. Dean walks over to it and sits down. The space is breathtaking and it fits so perfectly with the rest of the house; it’s quiet, inviting, and he finds it easy to relax. One could get used to a place like this, where there seems to be no interruptions from the outside world.

The tranquility is shattered when he hears laughter from behind him. It’s definitely not from the little girl he saw earlier. No, this laugh came from a woman, but Dean looks around him and can’t place where it’s coming from.

“Did you hear that, Sammy?”

His brother scrunches up his face for a moment before answering with a simple, “Hear what?”

He rises to his feet and turns around; the garden is empty other than him and Sam. “Hello?”

Wind whips up through the trees, but there’s no answer.

Dean walks around the bench and tries to peek through the hedges, but they’re so thick it’s hard to get his hand through the first layer, let alone to the other side.

“Is anyone there?” Again, all he can hear is leaving rustling in the trees. “Cat got your tongue?”

This time the laughter comes from the right side of the garden near the house. “Show yourself.”

Time drifts by slowly as he stands there waiting for so sort of response, but he gets none. Frustration gets the better of him and he looks around to see if there’s a place to get out of the garden without going inside. He walks the entire line of the hedges and isn’t able to find so much as a hole big enough for an animal to get through.

“When you’re done playing games, you know where to find me,” he says at last. He guesses that the spirit doesn’t want to be seen and he can’t do much without their cooperation.

“Let’s go back inside, Dean, and regroup,” Sam suggests.

Dean nods and follows his brother back to the house, slipping inside and shutting the door behind him.

 

 

 

 

In the week and a half that Dean’s been at Castiel’s home, several things have happened.

Sam and Castiel have formed a bond over all things nerdy. More often than not, the two are holed up in Castiel’s office discussing different documentaries, movies, and novels they enjoy. Sam even hangs out in there when Castiel is writing or editing his current story. As weird as it is, Dean’s actually okay with it. Sam needs other people to talk to besides him, and he found a kindred spirit in their client. It’s not unheard of; the two have been known to create their family out of people they meet on investigations.

Benny and Dean get along pretty well. If Dean continues to eat the man’s cooking, however, he’s going to be at least fifty pounds heavier by the time he leaves. Dean has no will power when Benny cooks; his food rivals Ellen’s but is not quite enough to knock her out of first place. That’s not all that he enjoys about Benny, though. The guy has a knack of making Dean double over in laughter. Plus, they pretty much have the same taste in music which makes him awesome in Dean’s book.

Dean and Castiel, well, they’re a different story all together. They get along just fine and have found enjoyment in each other’s company. When Dean began actively researching the home, Castiel had to fill in the gaps with stories that have been passed down for generations.

“The records left are few and far between,” Castiel says, stretching his body as he stands up from his chair. “Most were lost in a fire.”

They’re in the library, Dean attempting to do research on the history of his client’s home. Sam has several books in front of him and he looks as if he’s reading the words on the pages intently. Benny left after breakfast to get groceries.

Castiel places a plain white box in front of Dean on the table. Taking the lid off, he sifts through the contents held inside.

“I ran across this while cleaning out the attic...” Castiel removes a few items and lays them on the table in a pile. “There are some family photos, and the original blueprint for this house is in here somewhere.”

“The original blueprint?” Dean questions, interest evident in his tone.

“How many times has your home been rebuilt?” Sam asks. Clearly this is worth his attention.

“Twice,” Castiel answers simply. “It burned to the ground over one hundred years ago. When my grandfather was young there was another fire, but it was contained. Since then, it’s been rebuilt and then expanded.”

Dean releases a breath as Castiel hands him the paper and he scans them carefully. According to the layout, the formal dining room, a bigger kitchen, and a living room were added around sixty years ago. Castiel’s office was once the library and was converted when the new one was built. Dean reaches in the box and comes out with a handful of papers that he realizes are deeds to land when he studies them closely.

“You own Eternal Springs?” Dean can’t hide the incredulity in his tone.

Sam snorts. “Dean, that’s not possible.”

Castiel takes the chair next to Dean and scoots it closer to him. “I just own the land.”

“The deeds-” A few papers fall from Dean’s hands as he places them in front of Castiel.

“The land is a part of my family’s estate which I inherited,” Castiel interrupts.

His brother perks up. “Do you know how your family acquired it?”

Castiel shrugs. “I’m sure most of it was bought legally. Though, I’m also sure a great deal of it was stolen.”

“Oh,” Dean says at a loss for words.

“There were a lot of good people in my family,” Castiel adds. “Unfortunately, my great-great-great grandfather Emmanuel wasn’t one of them.

“I’m sorry,” Dean replies. The downfall of research is rehashing old stories that can be painful for people to talk about.

“It is what it is.” Castiel leans back in his chair. “I can’t change the past.”

“So you still own all of it?” Sam asks.

“Yes. The people of this town paid Emmanuel an obscene amount of money to stay on the land. That changed when my grandfather James took over and it continued with my mother. She was content with running the home as a B and B.”

“And you?” Dean questions.

“I only care about this mountain,” Castiel answers.

“Is there really a peach orchard around here?” Sam asks, looking up from a map of the town.

“Yes, it’s just about half a mile from here. It’s just north of the woods out back.”

Dean swallows thickly, remembering the dream he had. It confirms he knew of this place before coming here.

His brother smiles brightly. “I would love to see it sometime.”

“That can be arranged, Sam,” Castiel says with a smile. “My cousin Eve and her husband own it.”

Sam nods and returns to his work. Silence falls between the three of them and Dean tries to focus on the task at hand; sorting through the rest of the box.

 

 

After hours of staring at books, various papers, and old pictures, Castiel decides it’s time for lunch. His client makes double-decker sandwiches and brings them back to the library. They’re silent as they eat, Sam’s eyes still trained on the text before him.

“I think I’m going for a walk,” Castiel says as finishes, throwing his paper napkin on his plate, pushing it away. “Would either of you care to join me?”

“Nah. I’m going to keep reading,” Sam answers with a shake of his head. He nods over to his untouched plate and adds, “Should probably eat something too…”

“Dean?” Castiel questions.

Fresh air would do wonders for his soul, but he’s not sure if he wants to endure the heat. Dean eyes his client for a moment and then gives him a small smile. He’s never been afraid of a little sweat, so he agrees. “Yeah, sure, sounds good.”

Dean starts picking up the papers and placing them back in the box. He’s not done with his research, not by a long shot, but a little time away won’t do any harm. All work and no play makes Dean a very boring boy.

As he goes to the shelf to return one of the books, something slips out of it and flutters to the floor by his boot. Dean bends over to pick it up, flipping it over in his hand as he straightens back out. As his eyes scan the picture, a chill runs down his spine. It’s a picture of a woman with a gorgeous smile on her face; it’s so familiar it makes the blood running through his veins go cold. He knows who she is. She’s the one from his dreams.

 

 

“Dean,” Sam’s voice pulls him back, “are you okay?”

He looks over his shoulder and nods his head. “Um, yeah, I’m good,” he fibs.

His brother knows him better and the look on Sam’s face confirms it, but thankfully he doesn’t say anything else.

There’s plenty of time to explain to Castiel that he’s been dreaming of someone that was possibly a part of his family. Right now, though? Right now he definitely needs some air to clear his thoughts. Dean shoves the picture back in the book and places it on the shelf, then turning back around, he gestures to his client that he’s ready to go.

As they walk out of the house, Dean realizes how late it is. When his feet hit the gravel driveway, he decides to mention it. “Does it usually take this long to get groceries?”

Castiel narrows his eyes slightly before he answers. “It depends on where Benny decided to go.” He says nothing more as he starts walking to the left away from the house. “Benny’s picky when it comes to food. He’ll drive more than an hour away to get quality ingredients.”

Dean follows beside Castiel, not really paying attention to where they’re going. “That’s determination.”

The man hums in response before saying, “He once drove three hours for imported liquor. I can’t remember the name for the life of me now, or even what he made with it, but that’s Benny for you.”

They fall into silence as they reach the hedges that enclose the garden area. It’s Dean who breaks it. “How long have you known him?”

“I was seventeen, I believe, when we met.” Castiel stops for a moment, his face scrunched as if he’s thinking. “Yes, seventeen. It was right before my eighteenth birthday. I hadn’t found out Kelly was pregnant just yet.”

Dean chokes on his spit. He coughs several times before he gains composure and then worries he may have offended his client. One look at Castiel, though, dashes the thoughts away. He’s smiling, the corner of his eyes crinkled. His aura is so bright. The man’s energy wraps itself around Dean, instantly filling him with warmth and happiness.

“That was similar to my reaction when she told me,” Castiel says through laughter. “Though I believe there were more ‘fucks’ involved.”

The response wasn’t what Dean expected and he throws his head back, laughing deep from his belly. Tears form and roll down his cheeks. If he doesn’t stop and breathe properly he may pass out. He struggles to catch his breath, his face more than likely turning red. Dean feels a warm hand on his skin as Castiel touches his wrist and the bare skin there. It’s like a jolt of electricity through his body, fire coursing through his veins. He’s never felt energy so powerful; it’s feels like it could knock him flat on his ass. Dean’s knees go weak and the world spins.

“Dean!” Castiel yells, his tone filled with concern.

The next thing Dean knows, he’s sitting on a bench. Castiel moves his hand from his wrist to his back. The contact broken, Dean can finally attempt to focus once more.

“What the hell was that?” His own voice startles him, sounding distant to his ears.

Castiel crouches down in front of Dean to make eye contact with him. “I was wondering the same thing.” The man brushes the hair back from Dean’s forehead and he wants to lean into the touch, but he refrains at the last moment.

“Are you okay?”

He’s only able to nod his head. If he speaks, Dean’s afraid of what he might say. His thoughts are jumbled, flying through his mind at a rapid speed.

“Is…” Castiel pauses for a moment, then continues, “is this why you wear the gloves?” As he asks the question, Castiel’s hand lightly touches the leather on Dean’s hands. Even through the barrier, he can feel the warmth from the man, and a soft buzzing of Castiel’s energy.

“Yes,” Dean’s answer is soft, almost questioning in its tone.

“Had I known-” his client starts, but never finishes his own sentence. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have touched you without consent.”

“It’s okay.” There’s no way Castiel could have known. Dean hadn’t warned him and it was an honest mistake. “You didn’t know.”

Castiel huffs out a breath and he hasn’t taken his eyes off Dean’s face the entire time. There’s so much regret swimming in the blue depths that it’s breaking Dean’s heart. He wants to replace it with happiness again, but he’s not sure if he can do that right now. There’s just too much going on at once and without a second though, Dean slips one of his gloves off and touches the man’s face.

This time, the jolt isn’t as intense because he prepared himself for it.

“Dean.”

Shushing noises are the only thing Dean responds with. His fingertips graze lightly from Castiel’s jaw to his brow bone. The self-doubt that is radiating from the man isn’t surprising; most writers doubt themselves in everything they do. The intensity of it, however, is.

There is a loneliness just underneath. It’s not strong, but it’s there. He wishes he could smooth it away with his touch. Closing his eyes, Dean tries to emit comfort into their energy link, though he’s not sure how well it will work under the circumstances. He’s not focused enough to do any good, but he tries and that’s what matters.

Dean opens his palm and covers the right side of his client’s face. A sense of longing and attraction presents itself. It’s strong and almost takes Dean’s breath away. He opens his eyes and stares into Castiel’s, his hand remaining where it is. “You’re beautiful, too,” he says reverently.

Castiel chews on his bottom lip for a moment, the movement catching Dean’s attention. “You can read minds?”

“No,” he says with a shake of his head, “just emotions.” Dean pauses for a moment trying to think of a way to explain it. “I can’t read minds. I can read emotions, and sometimes through those emotions I can tell what someone is thinking. If that makes sense.”

The man clears his throat and then carefully removes Dean’s hand. “Let’s get back to the house, shall we?”

Chapter Text

The next few days are just, for lack of a better term, awkward. Dean and Castiel dance around each other when they’re in the same room to the point where it’s getting ridiculous. Dean’s chewed on his bottom lip to keep from saying something so much that it’s cracked and bleeding from the abuse. He’s on edge and on his last nerve, but he ignores it and attempts to keep his mind on his job. What he really wants to do is kick his own ass for opening up as much as he did... he’s not sure what compelled him to do so with Castiel.

Granted, he hasn’t told the man much about himself, but he’s never showed anyone just how strong his empath side is. He’s always kept that locked away deep inside, ever since he found out that touch can transmit emotions so powerfully that it has the ability to create a bond with anyone he touches. It’s the reason he started wearing the gloves, to keep him from creating that link with random strangers. Though he firmly believes that it’s only possible with certain people, he just never wanted to take the risk. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

He’s in the library, going through the box of stuff that he’s already sifted through a million times. The spirits have been eerily quiet the past few days. There hasn’t been so much as a shimmer of paranormal activity in the energy field surrounding the house and that’s just odd. Dean’s used to going days without any disturbance from the undead, but this is different. The ghosts had been so active before he stepped foot on the doorstep, the lack of it now concerns him. He doesn’t know what they’re waiting for, or if there is something keeping them from reaching out, but he needs to get as much evidence as he can so he can close this chapter and move on.

Dean misses his crappy apartment and his own bed - his safe space. He can’t wait to get back to it and just breathe. He plans to take a break from work for about a month or so to clear his mind. He’s exhausted, and it has nothing to do with the spirits.

He’s almost certain it has everything to do with Castiel.

He’s so conflicted when it comes to the man. When he felt how much the man wanted him, he wanted to do nothing more than wrap himself around Castiel and see where it would lead them... but he can’t do that. Castiel is his client; he’s supposed to be professional. Dean snorts to himself. When has he ever been professional?

He thinks back on other jobs he’s had the past few years. God, he used to get so wasted just to deal with his abilities that it was insane. Never while he was actually working, but Dean would drink himself into a stupor damn near every night. It took him passing out and hitting a ditch one night while driving drunk to sober him up. He hasn’t touched a bottle in two years, and for that he’s proud. It’s the only thing about himself that he prides himself in.

Alcoholism runs in his family; his father drank until the day he died. Dean didn’t realize how big of a problem with alcohol his dad had until it was too late. He had been headed down that very same path, but thankfully he pulled his head out of his ass before he met his father’s fate.

Dean tosses the papers back onto the table as his stomach growls loudly at him. He didn’t realize how hungry he was until this very minute. He didn’t touch breakfast, which isn’t like him, but he couldn’t stomach it at the time. He gets up from the table and makes his way to the kitchen. Dean’s the only one in the house; Sam, Benny, and Castiel took off for a hike around two hours ago and he was fine to pass up the offer to join.

He roots around in the fridge looking for something that’s even remotely appetizing. Benny made gumbo last night, but he barely touched his bowl, and it doesn’t look any more pleasing today than it did yesterday. Nothing irritates him more than his loss of appetite when someone is upset at him. It's times like this he wishes he could just shut off the empath side and not give a fuck for a few hours. Long enough for him to eat at least. He knows there are ways to block it, but a block won’t work right now. His link with Castiel is too strong since Dean willingly touched him.

Dean frowns at the food and decides a snack might suit him better. He shuts the refrigerator and grabs an apple out of the bowl, propping his hip against the counter. The mindless task of taking a bite, chewing, and swallowing actually helps center him. It relaxes his body and the edginess he’s been feeling uncoils itself and starts drifting away.

 If only everything in his life could be so simple. Ha! He’s not that lucky, never has been. He used to think it was unfair, but now he’s just simply numb to it in a way.

 When he gets to the core, Dean tosses it into the trash and then walks to the small bathroom off of the sitting room. A nap may be in his future. The stress of the past few days has really caught up with him; his tiredness is bone-deep and sleep is the only thing to remedy that.

Dean uses the restroom and washes his hands, taking the time to dry them so he can put his gloves back on. When he turns to open the door, a thumping noise is heard from out in the hallway. It’s muffled at first, but seems to get louder by the minute.

Well, that’s odd. 

He pulls on the knob but it doesn’t budge. Dean rattles it a few times. Since the house is older, he thinks nothing of it. The door could have gotten jammed. No big deal, right? Oh how wrong he is.

Everything goes pitch black and not a sound can be heard over the pounding of his heart. The temperature drops in the room and Dean actually shivers he’s so cold.

 

 

“Hello?” he calls out, not really expecting to get an answer in return. No sooner do the words leave his mouth that he hears laughter. It’s a deep sound that’s he’s never heard before.

He jiggles the handle again, this time putting his weight into the door with still no results. He’s trapped. Taking a deep breath, Dean tries to calm his racing heart. The energy he feels is dark, muddy, and so thick it’s hard to read. This presence means him harm, there’s no doubt about that.

The thumping grows in intensity that it rattles not only the door but also the shelves on the wall. Items on said selves start to fall one by one and shatter on the floor. Dean backs up as much as he can, but mid-step something comes crashing down and hits his head. He staggers in a daze and when his back hits the wall he slides down. The pain from his head makes him dizzy and bile rises up, he feels like he’s going to be sick as waves of nausea roll through him.

“Leave!” a voice booms. It’s so loud that Dean swears the spirit is right next to him.

With his head in his hands, Dean inhales deeply through his nose and then exhales slowly. He has to get out of here, he has to warn the others, but his world is still spinning. Dean doesn’t know how long he sits there, trying with all that is in him to stand. After a few more breaths, he’s finally able to focus. Dean starts chanting in Latin, his voice rising with each word.

There’s a roar on the other side of the door and the thumping stops. The lights start flickering off and on. He stands up and without a second thought, he runs as fast as he can and hits it with his shoulder. Pain shoots through his body and he bites back a scream.

“Dean?” He hears a voice call out in the hallway. It’s Castiel.

“Cas!” As soon as he says the man’s name, the lights stop flickering, the temperature returns to normal. “I can’t open the door.”

The energy is still there, buzzing around him and his stomach twists. Fear for Castiel’s safety knots deep in his stomach and acid burns the back of his throat. “Cas,” he tries again, “it’s not safe. You have to get out of the house.”

His client doesn’t respond at first. And then, “What the hell is going on? The knob is hot. I can’t touch it!” the man yells.

“Move away from the door, Cas,” Dean says loudly, hoping the man does as he’s told. This time he moves to the other wall and then takes off running at full speed. He doesn’t have time to stop when he sees the door open, and the next thing he knows he’s plowing right into Castiel and knocking the man down.

Castiel hits the floor with a grunt, Dean landing on top of him. They both stare at the other in a daze. One heartbeat and then another, neither man moves. Then Dean watches Castiel’s eyes go wide and finds himself flipped on his back with his client straddling his hips. He can’t lie and say he’s never imagined this, Castiel above him, but this certainly isn’t how he pictured it.

“What the hell happened?” Castiel’s voice is laced with worry, his face scrunched as his hands tenderly touch Dean’s head.

He almost forgot about the gash and now that attention has been called to it, his head starts throbbing and he’s dizzy. Dean bats Castiel’s hands away, trying to wiggle out from under the man. “I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine, you’re fucking bleeding.”

“It’s a scratch,” he protests, but he can already tell it won’t do any good.

Castiel pushes himself up, reaching out a hand to help Dean to his feet. “Go to the living room while I find the first aid kit.”

There’s no room in the command for argument, so Dean turns on his heels to go. He’s barely two steps away when he hears Castiel’s voice. “When I get back we’re going to discuss what happened.” There’s a pause. “No more hiding shit from me.” And then footsteps fall in the opposite direction.

Dean moves slowly, walking closer to the wall in case he needs to brace himself against it. He’s at a loss of what went wrong. Never in his career has a spirit harmed him; there was threat of it, sure, but never actual damage done.

The room is quiet when he walks in, the energy field calm once again. He makes it to the couch and sits down, sinking into its cushions and leans his head back. Dean attempts to close his eyes, but once he does his head swims again, so he stares up at the ceiling instead.

“I should have Benny take us in town to the clinic,” Castiel’s says when he enters the room. Dean doesn’t try to move and instead just sits there listening. “It’s small, but they can take a look at your wound.” The man comes into view.

Castiel looks exhausted. His hair is sticking up in every direction, his eyes don’t have that spark that Dean’s become accustomed to, and there appears to be bags under them. Dean doesn’t like it, not one bit.

“I’ll be okay,” he says softly as his client starts dabbing a cotton ball against his head. “I’ve lived through worse.”

“I don’t doubt that,” his client says in response. “But you’re on my watch now. Your safety is my highest priority.”

“I shouldn’t be.” He didn’t mean to say that out loud, but now that it’s out there, he can’t take it back.

The man just shakes his head and finishes his task. Once a bandage is firmly in place, Castiel sits down on the couch close to Dean. There’s barely an inch between them; Dean can feel the warmth from Castiel and he has the urge to lean into it, but he doesn’t.

“You shouldn’t say such things.”

Dean turns his head to look at the man. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Dean.” Castile’s smile is tired, but the brightness is still there, just slightly dimmer than normal. “Now, tell me everything.”

A deep inhale to clear the fog in his mind and then Dean obeys the man’s request. He doesn’t stop until he’s recounted everything from that day, even eating the apple before going to the bathroom. When he’s finished, silence hangs in the air for quite some time.

“Do you think it’s demonic?”

The question startles Dean because he hadn’t thought of that, but he’s sure it was nothing of the sort.

“It wasn’t a demon.”

“What makes you so certain?”

“I didn’t smell sulfur.” Dean shrugs his shoulder as he answers. “Plus, the exorcism didn’t work, which I should probably teach you. Just in case.”

“Okay,” Castiel agrees as he stands up and offers his hand. “Tomorrow, though. Right now you need some food and then rest.”

Dean can’t argue with that so he doesn’t try. His hand slips into Castiel’s and the hum of energy from the man surrounds Dean in comfort, heat sinking through Dean’s gloves and warming every inch of him. He safe for now and he wants to hold onto that feeling for as long as he can.

 

 

Early morning in Georgia is breathtaking with its’ pink and purple hues streaking across the sky. Dean woke up around five and decided to sit on the front porch to watch the sunrise. With a mug of coffee warming his hands, nothing could make this better. Well, that’s not exactly true. If he had someone to share this with… then it would be perfect.

As if on cue, the door opens. Dean expects to see his brother, but it’s not Sam that steps foot onto the porch. It’s Castiel with hair in a mess and his bright smile that instantly appears when he sees Dean.

“Good morning, Dean,” his client says as he takes the rocking chair next to him. “I didn’t know you were awake.”

Dean smiles a barely there smile, but it’s a genuine one nonetheless. “Morning, Cas.”

Castiel sits his cup on the small table between the chairs and leans back, tucking his feet under his body. He learned the first day that the man isn’t a coffee drinker, so hot tea is what is steaming from the mug. It makes Dean cringe at the thought. Tea should be cold and sweet, any southerner knows that. Apparently, Castiel didn’t get that memo.

“Did you sleep well?”

Dean nods, turning his body just slightly towards his client so he can see the man. “Yeah, like a baby.”

“I never really understood that saying,” Castiel says as he picks up his cup, blowing to cool its contents. “Babies rarely sleep well.”

“I don’t understand a lot of the things we say.”

“My son was an angel for the first month.” Castiel smiles as he pauses for a moment. “Then I could have sworn, and probably did several times, that he was the son of Lucifer for the next year.”

Dean can’t hold in the chuckle at the comparison.

“Colic. I walked these grounds at all hours of the night in attempt to calm him.”

“Where is he now? Your son.”

“Jack’s attending Stanford.”

There’s a small twinge in the pit of his stomach because that had been Sam’s dream school that he never went to. Dean would’ve moved Heaven and Earth to make sure his brother had everything he needed, but in the end, Sam decided to go with a local community college. “You must be proud.”

“I am,” Castiel confirms with a nod of his head, “Kelly and I both are.”

“Kelly...” Dean pauses because he’s not sure how much he’s allowed to pry into Castiel’s life. The man has been open with him since he came here, but he knows there’s always a line with people. The man picks up on the hesitation and fills the gaps in for him.

“I guess you could say she was my high school sweetheart.” His client takes a sip of his tea and then leans back in his chair. “We had Jack and were together until he was five. Never married, it wasn’t something either of us was ready for at the time. I was willing, but Kelly knew me better than I knew my own self back then. She went to college to study law and then, when she was offered a job in the mayor’s office, we parted ways amicably. Jack moved with her and I traveled to see him on the weekends. We’re still good friends.”

Dean doesn’t have to look at the man’s face to know there’s sadness in his eyes. He feels it in the energy.

“More coffee?” Castiel asks as he stands up. “You haven’t touched yours since I sat down. I’m sure it’s cold by now.”

All Dean can do is nod in response. As he hands the cup over, Castiel’s fingers brush against his and the sadness he felt is also accompanied with hope and the longing he felt before. Dean’s not sure what to do, but he smiles, murmurs a thanks, before he’s left to himself outside once more.

The sun is starting to rise now and from the sounds of it, animals are waking up to start another day. Dean rubs his chin. He needs to figure out what happened yesterday: who was the spirit was that locked him in the bathroom and why is he just now starting to manifest? That means more research is on his to-do list, but it has to be done. He’s never spent this much time on a job... he’s getting too comfortable here.

And as Castiel steps back onto the porch with a fresh cup of coffee, Dean realizes he’s getting too comfortable in the company of his client. Once his job is finished, this will be one of his hardest goodbyes.

Chapter Text

Dean rubs his eyes, they’re starting to blur from looking at the paper in front of him for too long. Written on his notebook is a list of the spirits he’s encountered so far. He has the descriptions of the little girl in the garden and the woman he’s seen in his dreams. She has to be tied to this house somehow, but so far he hasn’t seen her with his own eyes. Then he has the incident with being trapped in full detail.

Castiel walks into the library and looks over Dean’s shoulders. “You’ve never told me about her,” he says as he points to the middle column.

“I don’t know much about her.” Dean leans back in his chair and runs a hand over his face. “Plus, I haven’t actually seen her here. She’s only come to me in dreams.”

“Then why is she on your list?”

He chews on his bottom lip for a few seconds before releasing a heavy sigh. “I found a picture of her in that box you gave me.”

“And you’re just now mentioning this?”

“I was going to tell you the day I found it,” Dean says, his voice has a defensive edge to it. “But-”

Castiel moves to the shelf and grabs the box from the top. He places it on the table in front of him and flips the lid off. Picking up a stack of pictures, he hands them to Dean to go through. “Which one is she?”

Dean sifts through them one by one, pausing here and there just to look at the faces of people that were once full of life. The picture is still where he left it in the book, but maybe there’s another one. He comes across a few pictures of a man that looks so much like Castiel he would swear they were twins. He also recognizes the man from his dream.

“Who is this?” Dean asks as he places one of them in front of his client.

“Emmanuel James Novak.” Castiel picks the picture up and studies it for a moment before tossing it back in the pile. “He’s my great-great-great grandfather.”

Dean remembers what little Castiel told him about the man. He picks up on a hint of disgust in the Castiel’s tone, so he decides it would be best not to ask more about him. Finally, he finds a familiar face among the others. “Here she is.”

Castiel picks up the picture and sits down in a chair beside Dean. “Her name was Megan Masters, Emmanuel's most prized possession.”

“His wife?”

The man laughs. It’s not his usual, it’s full of hatred. It makes Dean curious about Castiel’s family, but he won’t pry.

“Not even a little bit close. She was one of his mistresses.”

“One?” Dean raises an eyebrow. “How many did he have?”

Castiel shrugs his shoulder. “Three were confirmed. He didn’t try to hide them, though there were at least two more that were rumored.”

“Shit,” Dean says, “how did he get away with that?”

“He was a very rich man.” Castiel places the picture on the table. “No one told him no. Even if they had, he wouldn’t have listened.”

“And his wife?”

“Daphne looked the other way.”

Dean starts putting everything back in the box. He needs to step away and just breathe. “He sounds like a prick.” Dean flinches when he realizes what he said. “I-”

“He was a prick,” Castiel agrees. “If I was alive back then, I would’ve taken him out myself.”

“How did he die, Cas?”

His client stands up and puts the box back in its place. “He was murdered. Burned alive in the first house fire.”

 

 

Dean’s absolutely miserable. He had two plates of Benny’s lasagna and a piece of pie for desert. He’s too stuffed to move or he’d walk up to his room and fall face down in his pillows. The couch will have to do for now, he thinks as he wiggles around, trying to find a comfortable spot. Once he’s settled, he unbuttons his jeans to relieve some of the pressure on his stomach. He licks his lips to wet them; they still have the sickly sweet taste of the pie filling, making him groan. Dean shouldn’t have allowed himself to indulge, but the food was good and he didn’t think about the consequences after. Maybe if he just lies still for a while, his stomach will settle and he’ll be back to his old self in no time.

The house is blessedly quiet. Castiel retired to his office to write after dinner, while Sam and Benny probably went to their own rooms. Who knows with those two... Dean doesn’t keep tabs on them because, quite frankly, it’s exhausting. They’re always doing something that requires an insane amount of energy that Dean doesn’t possess right now.

All four of them have a date with a fishing hole in the morning, though, and Dean’s excited. He’s spent hardly any time with Sam since his brother arrived, and though that’s to be expected when he’s working, Dean still misses him. It will be good to catch up. The investigation has slowed since he was locked in the bathroom; he’s done a few EVP and EMF sessions that yielded no results. So, all he can do is sit and wait. This is nothing new, but the downtime is starting to get to him.

He shifts on the couch once more and closes his eyes. From the hallway, he hears light footsteps. They’re not heavy enough to be one of the other men so he cracks his eyes open just a bit to peer at the entrance way. A shadow crosses over the threshold and he watches as it drifts into the living room. The energy in the room barely buzzes with the newcomer, and because of that he’s almost certain he doesn’t have to be on high alert for his own safety.

The shadow stops just within inches of Dean and begins to materialize in front of him. He opens his eyes fully and frowns when he recognizes the spirit.

“I’m dreaming, aren’t I?” Dean asks as he sits up. “I never see you outside of my dreams.”

“Yes,” she says simply.

Curiosity gets the better of him. “Why is that?”

“I’m too weak.” She moves to sit down beside him. “This is the only way I have.”

“Do you know you’re dead?” He usually isn’t so direct, but if she knows she weak and can only appear in his dreams, maybe it won’t be such a shock.

“Yes.”

“Megan, can you tell me why you need my help?”

Her brown eyes widen. “You know my name?”

“In my last dream, the man chasing after you called you Meg.” He shrugs his shoulder. “Castiel said your name is Megan.”

“He looks so much like Emmanuel.” She pauses for a moment and Dean takes advantage of the silence.

“Castiel is nothing like that bastard,” Dean says, tone a little icy at the comparison.

“Yes,” Meg agrees.

“Why are you here?”

“I need your help, Dean.”

“We’ve covered that,” he replies. “How can I help you?”

Meg reaches forward and places her hand over Dean’s. Her skin is soft and pulses with so much energy that it’s almost easy to assume she’s still alive. This wouldn’t be possible outside of his dream, so he doesn’t pull his hand away.

“It’s been so long since I’ve felt the warmth of the living,” Meg says softly. “It’s so cold here.”

Dean’s heart breaks for her.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for someone like you to come around,” she continues. “You can set us free.”

“How many others are here?”

Meg shakes her head, sadness welling up in her eyes. “I’ve lost count.”

Dean nods his head and releases a deep breath. It would be better to know how many spirits need to cross over, but he’ll have to work with what he has. “Okay, I’ll call in a priest. Power in numbers and all of that.”

“They’ve tried and failed.” Meg stands up and starts pacing in front of him. “Several so-called men of God have come here and left with their tails between their legs.”

“We’re going round and round here, Meg.” Dean’s patience is starting to wear thin.

“You have to find-”

A loud boom rattles the room, interrupting them. Megan is thrown backward by an unseen force and lands in a crumpled mess a few feet away, Dean stumbles to his knees.

“What the -” He gets to his feet but he’s stopped short when a man appears in front of him. Dean doesn’t recognize him, but the eyes, they’re a deep blue.

“Emmanuel!” Meg yells.

“Leave,” the man bellows and with a wave of his head, Dean is thrown across the room, his back hitting the wall.

All the air is knocked from his lungs and Dean’s vision goes hazy around the edges. He struggles to breathe and attempts to move, but he’s held firmly in place. The man laughs, his eyes never leaving Dean as he walks over to pick up Meg. He crouches down, brushing the hair off her face. “Stupid woman. You’ll be punished for this.”

Dean watches as he picks Meg up and throws her over his shoulder. Then the man turns to him. “I’ll warn you once more. Leave. You’re unwelcome here.”

The man snaps his fingers and the dream world Dean was in falls away. He shoots up on the couch gasping for air.

“Dean,” Sam says, “oh thank God!”

Dean’s eyes flick from Sam to Castiel, and then to Benny. Well, isn’t this embarrassing...

“Mind telling us what the heck happened, brother?” Benny asks, taking the spot next to Dean.

“We heard you yelling and rushed in here,” Castiel says. “You stopped breathing, Dean. We couldn’t find a pulse... your eyes rolled to the back of your head and your lips were blue.”

Sam nods his head, his hair falling into his face. “We were about to call an ambulance.”

“Need air,” Dean manages to get out before he’s hoisted to his feet with the help of the other men. They walk him out of the living room in the direction of the front door. Once outside, they sit him in one of the rocking chairs.

“Tea,” Castiel says to Benny once Dean’s settled in, “with honey, please.”

Benny nods and disappears back in the house.

“Are you okay?” Sam asks.

Dean looks at his brother and tries to smile. It fails. There’s so much in his brother’s eyes that Dean feels guilty for making him worry. “I’m fine, Sammy. Really.”

“You could have died, Dean,” Castiel says softly, clearing his throat once. “This is getting out of hand. There’s no way I can allow this investigation to continue if it’s a risk to your safety. Or to Sam’s.”

“Our safety?” Dean turns to his client. “What about your safety? You think he won’t come after you?”

“Dean this is not negotiable-”

Dean holds up his hand. “You called me here to do a job and now you expect me to leave when I know there’s a possibility you or Benny will get hurt?”

“I’m only looking out for you and Sam.”

“And I’m looking out for all of us!” Dean snaps, his voice rises a bit but he tries to keep it in check. He swallows hard and looks up, meeting Castiel’s gaze. “I’m not leaving until this job is finished.”

“Boss,” Benny interrupts as he hands Dean his tea, “Dean’s right. You can’t expect him to pack up when we have a dangerous entity on our hands.”

“Yeah, Castiel,” Sam agrees, “we’re not leaving until this thing is gone and we know everyone is safe.”

Castiel runs a hand down his face and sits back in his chair. “Fine. New rule, then. No one is left alone in this house at any time.”

“That goes for you, too, boss,” Benny says with a smile. “No late nights in your office without someone with you.”

Dean takes a sip of his tea. The warmth from the liquid stings his raw throat a bit going down, but he ignores it. Revels in the sharp bite of pain; it means he’s alive. “Deal.”

“Deal,” Sam agrees, smiling wide.

His client stands up and looks around for a few moments. “Benny, we’ll move Sam and Dean to the two rooms in between ours.” Castiel looks at Dean and then to Sam. “Sam, stay with your brother until he finishes his drink.”

“Yes, sir,” Sam replies with a salute.

When the two other men walk inside, Dean releases a breath he wasn’t aware he was holding.

“He’s bossy,” his brother says after a few moments.

Dean snorts a laugh. “Yeah, well, what can ya do?”

Sam’s face breaks with a smirk. “I know what you can do.”

Dean sighs softly and answers, “I don’t think I’m going to like this.”

“Sure you will.” Sam leans in just a bit, almost like when he was sharing a secret when they were kids. “I think he could use a stress reliever.”

“Dude!” Dean says when he catches his brother’s drift. “That’s not happening. If he needs to blow off steam he has hands.”

“So do you.”

“Sammy, that’s not happening.” Dean downs the rest of his tea, the taste now bitter on his tongue from it going cold. “You know why I’m hesitant.”

“It could be different this time, Dean.”

“Maybe... I don’t know, man.” Dean stands up from his chair, smiles at his brother and changes the subject. “Let’s see if they need help.”

 

 

That night, Dean wakes to the sound of footsteps in the hallway. He glances at the clock; it’s just barely four-thirty in the morning. He groans softly. He didn’t fall asleep until after midnight and he had a hard time doing that. Dean throws back his blanket and sits on the edge of his bed. They made an agreement to stick together and someone isn’t following that plan which irritates the hell out of him. He already knows who it is; he doesn’t even have to question it. Sam isn’t stupid enough to go against the safety precautions. Sam knows they’re dealing with what seems to be a powerful entity. His brother wouldn’t risk his own safety just to get a glass of water.

Dean pushes off the bed, padding over to open the door. The hallway is empty so he steps out and looks at the room to his left. Castiel’s door is open and the room is dark. Dean shakes his head, running a hand down his face in frustration. He pads over to knock twice on Sam’s door and then continues down the hall. It’s not long before he hears footsteps fall behind him and Dean makes his way down the stairs.

He pauses at the foot of the stairs to wait on his brother.

“What’s going on?” Sam whispers when he meets up with Dean.

“Castiel is down here alone,” Dean answers. “If he gets hurt, I’m going to throttle him.”

“Idiot.”

“I can’t believe he made the fucking rule and then breaks it,” Dean hisses, his voice only loud enough for his brother to hear.

“It’s not surprising really.”

Castiel isn’t as stealthy as he thinks he is, or he doesn’t care about hiding, because they find him standing in the middle of the sitting room.

Dean notices something’s off almost immediately; the temperature in the room is significantly colder than the rest of the house. There’s a dull spark in the energy of the room and it heightens his awareness. He pads over to the man, trying not to startle Castiel.

“Everything okay?” Dean asks, his voice soft, calm.

Castiel looks over his shoulder at Dean. He can see the confusion in his client’s eyes. “I heard a little girl giggling. It sounded like it was coming from the hallway so I followed the sound and it lead me here.”

“Did you see anything?”

“No,” Castiel says and then pauses, “at least I don’t think so.”

Dean nods his head and then turns to his brother. “Sammy, I’ll take care of Cas. You go back to sleep.”

Sam doesn’t argue, he tells them goodnight before he turns around to walk out of the room.

“Coffee?” Dean asks as he turns his attention back to the man.

“Yes,” Castiel says softly, “I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep for a while.”

“Me either. Let’s go.”

Once they’re in the kitchen, Dean grabs the carafe and fills it with water while Castiel grabs the coffee grounds from the cabinet above his head. Silences falls around them while they wait for the coffee to start brewing. Dean’s upset, but he doesn’t know how to broach the subject without sounding like an overprotective jerk.

“I’m sorry,” Castiel whispers in the space between them, “I went against our rule.”

“Yeah,” Dean agrees, “you did. What were you thinking?”

The man shrugs his shoulder. “I’m not sure. I was reading a book and heard the giggle. I didn’t think twice before getting up to see what it was.”

Dean can understand that, he’s done it several times himself, but never in a dangerous situation. Castiel needs to realize they’re not dealing with a normal spirit. Dean has to find a way to make him see that. Even though he doesn’t have his gloves on, he reaches out to the other man and wraps his hand around Castiel’s wrist. The warm energy coming from the man calms him and he can focus once more.

“Cas, you can’t just go off on your own. Whatever we’re dealing with is powerful. You said I stopped breathing in my dream. This isn’t a normal ghost and you have to remember that to keep yourself safe.”

Castiel looks down at his wrist, his mouth opens only to quickly close. The man runs his other hand over his mouth and takes a deep breath before releasing it. “I’m scared, Dean.”

“I am, too.” Dean hates to admit it, but he’s terrified. “But we can handle this, together, that’s the only way we can.”

Grabbing two cups from another cabinet, Dean pours the hot liquid in both of them. He doctors his with a little more sugar than normal and watches while Castiel pours milk in his own. “I put a list of items we’ll need for a cleansing. It won’t do much, if anything, but I’m willing to try.”

Castiel nods his head as he walks over to the breakfast nook and takes a seat. “I’ll have Benny pick them up later.”

Sitting down beside the man, Dean smiles softly. “Thank you.”

“What are you thanking me for, Dean?” Castiel tilts his head to one side as he asks the question. “I’ve put you in a dangerous situation.”

“You haven’t,” Dean argues without a second thought.

“Haven’t I?” The man shakes his head. “I’m the reason you’re here. And it’s all because I couldn’t handle one ghost.”

“Castiel, there’s more than one spirit here.” Dean leans forward; getting closer to his client and looks him in the eyes. “This is my job. This is what I do on a daily basis. I’d rather be put in a dangerous situation to help people who can’t do it themselves and this is something you can’t do alone. I’d rather be here with you than in my own bed at home.”

“Dean, I-”

Dean takes one of Castiel’s hands in his own. The energy he feels when their skin meets is strong; unyielding. Fear, doubt, and confusion races through the link at such a fast pace it makes Dean’s head spin, but he keeps holding on. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”

Chapter Text

Dean sits in the breakfast nook observing butterflies in the garden while sipping on his third cup of coffee. Castiel fell asleep about an hour ago, but there was no use in trying to go back to sleep for Dean. He only needs a solid four hours and he’s good. Tired, but good.

Benny walks into the kitchen whistling a cheery tune. Sam is trailing behind the man and takes a seat near Dean.

As soon as the man’s eyes land on Dean, Benny smiles brightly. “Good mornin’, Dean.”

A snarky comeback about how being too perky in the morning should be a jailable offense is on the tip of his tongue, but Dean bites it back in time. Instead he nods before taking another drink from his mug.

“Where’s boss man?”

“He’s passed out on the couch in his office.”

Benny stops in his tracks and raises an eyebrow at him.

“The door is open. I can hear if he needs me.”

“Good.” The other man begins moving around the kitchen, grabbing a skillet from one of the cabinets and sets it on the stove. “Are you hungry?”

“I could eat, but you don’t have to-”

“Cooking is kinda my thing, lil boss man.”

“There’s nothing little about me,” Dean quips.

“Gross, Dean, TMI,” his brother says, shooting Dean a withering look.

“Yeah?” The man laughs as he starts retrieving items from the refrigerator. “I’ll take your word for it.”

Dean rolls his eyes, and silently sips on his coffee. “I have a list of cleansing stuff that I need picked up. Cas said to give it to you.”

“You got it.” He starts frying up bacon in one skillet and reaches for bread. “I’ll head out after you eat.”

“Don’t rush on my account, Benny.”

“Any excuse getting me out of the house I’ll take.”

“I hear ya, man. This place will get to anyone.”

Paranormal activity can take a toll on a person, especially if they’re not used to it. Dean’s been around it almost his whole life and he still has to take a step back and recharge once in a while.

Benny leaves the food on the counter and takes a seat across from Dean. The man eyes him for a few minutes before asking, “Have you ever seen a spirit and not known it was a spirit?”

“Um, not that I know of.” Dean chews on his bottom lip. He’s never been asked that before so he doesn’t know how to answer right off. “I mean, there were times I would run into spirits who didn’t know they had passed, but that was within a few days of them dying. Then I never saw them again. Spirits usually don’t show themselves unless they want to be seen, and even then it’s kind of sketchy.”

“What about a spirit that continued to not know they were dead?” Benny shrugs. “Like they thought they were still alive. Walking around talking and acting as they if they still were?”

Dean blows a breath out and thinks about his answer. “Some don’t know they’ve passed. They usually require more help to cross over to the other side. Something or someone keeps them on this plane and I have to find out who or what is holding them here. Those spirits normally haven’t been dead long, maybe a week or two after the fact at the most. Why do you ask?”

“Just curious, brother,” Benny smoothly replies.

Something in Benny’s tone doesn’t sit well with Dean. A part of being an empath is having the ability to know when someone isn’t being one hundred percent truthful, and the man is definitely lying to him. He’d call Benny out on it, but he’s too tired push the issue. Instead, he bites his tongue. Eventually, he’ll find out why. It will come out on it’s own, it always does.

 

 

When Benny returns with the cleansing items later that evening, he places the bag on the table in the library. It couldn’t have come at a better time; the negative energy is seeping through every nook and cranny of the house and it’s starting to affect everyone, not just Dean.

Earlier, Castiel cleaned the entire house with a mixture of water, lemons, salt, and white vinegar. Dean swept all the floors, opened every blind and window. The summer air is refreshing even if it’s hot as sin outside.

Grabbing a container of salt, Dean hands it to Castiel and instructs the man to pour it in the four corners of every room, explaining how it will help draw unwanted energy out of the house. Dean pulls frankincense resin and sage from the bag, explaining what each item does when they’re burned. Castiel nods along with the information.

His client tilts his head to one side. “Do we need both of them?”

“No, not really,” Dean answers. “They’re powerful on their own, but together they’re amazing. Plus, I don’t like the smell of sage. Frankincense has a sweet scent to it, like honey.”

Dean hands the resin to Benny. “I’ll start on the second floor and work my way back here. You can either follow directly behind me or do it at your own pace.”

With that, the men split up in different directions. Sam goes with Castiel to help lay down the salt as Dean heads for the staircase. He waits until he’s at the top to pull out his Zippo and lights the stick of sage on fire. When it catches, Dean blows on it until the smoke billows before heading to Castiel’s room. In his other hand is a heat resistant container to catch any embers that may fall during the smudging. He rotates the sage counterclockwise in each corner as well as the closet. As he goes along, he tries to keep his thoughts positive. As soon as he’s done, Dean heads for the next room.

Time seems to drift by slowly; the earthy, woodsy scent of the sage relaxes Dean and at the same time it makes his nose itch. He ignores the irritation and focuses back on the cleaning. He hopes with everything in him that this will work, or at least give them a couple days’ reprieve so they can formulate a plan to get rid of the spirits that linger around the house.

Dean and Benny meet in the middle after about an hour. They nod their heads as they switch floors of the house. Dean heads to the kitchen, opens the pantry door, and walks inside. A box of noodles falls from the shelf when he turns around in the small space. As he crouches down to retrieve it from the floor, his eye catch what looks like a door further back in the closet. It looks big enough for someone his size to crawl through. It makes him pause for a few moments, then he reaches out to see if it will budge.

The wall feels solid and doesn’t move when he pushes against it. But as soon as he pulls back his hand, he hears a knock coming from the other side of the door. Well, that’s not ominous at all.

“Hey, Dean.”

His brother’s voice startles him and he jolts up, his head smacking on one of the shelves. “What the hell, Sammy?”

Sam does his best to hide his laughter, but fails miserably. “Sorry,” he says when he manages to get himself under control. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“You didn’t scare me.”

“Yeah, sure I didn’t.” His brother’s smile shows his dimples. “Cas and I are done.”

“‘Kay, well, make yourself useful and see if Benny needs any help.” Dean rubs his head where it hit the shelf. There’s no blood, but a nice knot will be there no doubt. “I’ll be finished soon.”

“Okay.” Sam salutes Dean and then walks off.

Dean makes a mental note to ask Castiel about the door before cleansing the rest of the kitchen. He needs to make holy water to have on hand just in case; they’re not dealing with a demonic spirit, but it never hurts to be prepared. He prays they won’t need it. He’s never dealt with a demon and he doesn’t want to add that to his list of “been there, done that” any time soon. He should talk to Castiel and see if there are any priests in the area as well.

Once he’s finished, Dean walks to the sitting room. Benny and Sam are sitting on the couch, Castiel in his chair across from them.

“I don't know about you three, but I’m tired as hell. I’m gonna go shower.” Dean pauses for a moment. “What’s the plan for tonight?”

“I need to work,” Castiel replies. “I have to get this draft finished so I can submit it to my publisher.”

“I have no plans other than dinner,” Benny answers. “Will probably turn in early tonight.”

“I’ll stay with Cas tonight while he works, then.” Dean turns to his brother. “You good, Sammy?”

“Yeah, Dean, I’m good.” Sam flashes him a bright smile. “I’ll hang out with Benny while he cooks.”

Dean nods before turning around and heading out of the room. It’s been a long day and he has a feeling it will turn into an even longer night. His stomach growls as he heads up the stairs, he hasn’t eaten since breakfast.

“Dean,” Castiel voice stops him in his tracks, “is it safe for you to be alone?”

He doesn’t turn around, just says over his shoulder, “I’ll be fine, but if it will make you feel better, send Sam up to wait in my room.”

He doesn’t wait for a reply as he continues upstairs.

 

 

The shower does wonders for Dean; he stands in the stall for a minute longer just watching the water drip from his skin. His muscles are loose from the heat, his body relaxed, and it feels like it can breathe easier. The sage and frankincense resin had a hand in that, but he feels lighter than he has since coming here. Finally, Dean steps out onto the tiny bathroom rugby the shower and reaches for his towel, wrapping it around his waist.

The mirror is the first place he stops to look at his reflection. Even his skin is looking a little better, though he needs to shave. He has a weeks worth of growth and it’s starting to irritate him, so he grabs his bag, pulls his razor and shaving cream out. Shaving only relaxes him more, he’s not sure what it is about the task that makes his mind almost float; it requires focus. It soothes Dean, though. Once he’s finished, he rises off the remaining bits of cream and wipes his face on a clean towel before walking back into his room.

He stops short when he notices someone lying on his bed that’s definitely not his brother. Even though the man’s back is to him, Dean knows its Castiel. Quietly, Dean tiptoes over to the bed, and for a moment he just listens to the rhythmic breathing he hears from Castiel. The last thing he wants to do is wake Cas up, but Castiel mentioned he needed to work and Dean’s not sure how long he’s been sleeping. Dean did take a longer shower than normal, allowed himself to linger long under the water, so maybe his nap has been refreshing enough. Dean leans in and gently taps on the man’s shoulder, but the only response he gets is Castiel turning on his other side. He tries again. This time he does more of a nudge and blue eyes blink open.

“Dean,” Cas says softly. The man’s eyes aren’t focused; Dean knows he’s not fully awake yet. A small smile crosses his face and then a release of breath, “Dean.”

“Hi, Cas,” Dean can’t help saying in response.

Castiel reaches out and his hand grasps Dean’s forearm, pulling Dean closer. He’s thrown off balance for a moment and then Dean’s face to face with his client. It’s a breath or two before Castiel’s lips are on his. It’s a soft, chase kiss, but Dean can feel it all through his body. He should pull back, he really should, but his brain isn’t listening and instead, he turns his face to get a better angle. Dean feels Castiel’s other hand thread through his hair, pulling Dean impossibly closer and holds him in place.

Castiel catches Dean’s bottom lip between his, nipping at it for a moment before moving slightly and running his tongue across it. Dean’s mouth opens, accepting everything the man wants to give him. Dean’s been kissed many times in his life, but never like this. Castiel kisses him like he’s the most precious thing on earth. It feels like Castiel is breathing his own soul into him and Dean’s getting drunk on it. Their energy intertwines, creating a powerful field around them. And when their tongues meet, Dean’s completely lost to the feeling. Everything else fades away and all that matters is the two of them, in his room, kissing as if their lives depended on it.

All too soon, Castiel’s coming up for air and Dean’s watches the man’s pupils adjust to the light.

“Dean,” Castiel says again. Dean freezes, waiting for the regret to flash in the man’s eyes, but it never comes. “Am I dreaming?”

“No,” Dean answers; they’re still close enough that Dean can feel Castiel’s warm breath wisp across his face.

“Good,” Castiel pulls back, “I would be pissed off if I was.”

Dean can’t help the laugh that escapes him.

“Is this okay, Dean?”

“Yes,” Dean answers honestly. Nothing has ever been more okay with him in his life.

“Good,” the man says again.

Dean bites his bottom lip. It’s tender, and the pain grounds him. “I didn’t want to wake you, but you said you need to work tonight.”

“I do.”

Dean finally pulls out of the man’s personal space. “I’m gonna get dressed and then we can go to your office.”

“Okay.”

He pulls out of Castiel’s embrace, walking backward a few steps before turning around and walking over to the closet to pull out a change of clothes. Maybe he should be weirded out that he kissed a man who’s basically his temporary boss, but he’s not. The attraction has been there since day one, since he first laid eyes on Castiel and his beautiful aura. He’s felt the faint buzz of Castiel’s energy beneath his skin before they touched, and it’s only grown stronger since that day. What happens when he leaves this home, well, Dean will cross that bridge when he comes to it. But he’s not going to deny himself of this, whatever it is, if it grows into something more.

Chapter Text

Almost a week after they cleansed the house from top to bottom, a blood curdling scream coming from the hallway wakes him from his sleep. Dean’s brain doesn’t have time to process whom it may be before he’s out of bed, moving across his room quickly, and throwing open the door.

The scene playing out before him stops Dean in his tracks. Castiel is standing the top of the stairs, shirtless, hair wild. Sam is standing just outside of his door, eyes wide and he’s frozen in place. Benny is closer to Castiel, but there’s plenty of distance between the two men.

“Meg,” Castiel damn near yells at the top of his lungs, “you stupid woman!”

Dean doesn’t have to be fully awake to realize that’s not Castiel’s voice coming from the man. It’s similar, but it’s not as deep, and it’s definitely not soothing to hear as the man’s voice normally is.

“You betrayed my trust, Megan.” The words are said with such hatred it makes Dean’s skin crawl. “You’ll pay for it dearly.”

With those words said, Castiel takes off down the stairs at a breakneck speed. Dean takes off after him yelling over his shoulder, “Sammy, possession spell, now!” He knows his brother will know what to do so he doesn’t stop to give further instructions.

Taking the stairs two at a time, Dean hits the bottom in time to see Castiel run out the front door. He’s barefoot, but he doesn’t care. He follows the man outside and jumps over the banister off the front porch. Castiel rounds the corner of the house and Dean chases after him. He’s only a few feet away when Meg finally comes into view. She’s wearing the same white nightgown she was in Dean’s dream he had before coming here. He doesn’t have time to waste as he cuts across the field into the back of Castiel’s house. Dean knows without a doubt where they’re heading: the peach orchard.

Ahead of him, Castiel is laughing maniacally and it sends chills down Dean’s spine.

“Stop this nonsense,” he yells. “You can’t outrun me.”

“Emmanuel,” Meg cries, “stop, please.”

He loses sight of them as he cuts across the backyard, heading towards the woods. As he jumps over fallen trees he’s mindful of where he fell in his dream. It doesn’t keep him from face planting, but at least he was prepared for it and he’s back on his feet within seconds.

It takes him longer than he expected to reach the orchard and, as in his dream, he runs into the center of it. It’s empty. Dean comes to a stop and turns around, looking everywhere to see if he can catch sight of Emmanuel-Cas. How does a whole man just disappear into thin air? As he comes full circle, he’s tackled to the ground, face planting in the soil. Just like his dream, Dean inhales the dirt before he’s able to turn his face to the side. He coughs violently, trying to clear his lungs, but a weight settles on his back and he’s unable to breathe properly.

“Get off me,” Dean manages to say through his teeth. He knows who it is, doesn’t even have to see the man’s face.

Hot breath ghosts across the back of Dean’s neck, raising goosebumps in grim anticipation.

“You’re quite beautiful, Dean,” Emmanuel-Cas says before dry lips caress the shell of Dean’s ear, eliciting a shiver to run through him. “I no longer want you to leave.” A wet tongue replaces the dryness of lips. “I want to keep you.”

“Over my dead body,” Dean replies and digs his palm down into the soil as leverage to flip his body over.

Emmanuel-Cas is faster, though, and he’s straddling Dean again before he can get away.

“Don’t tease me, Dean.” Emmanuel-Cas grabs a handful of Dean’s hair and pulls it, forcing Dean to bare his neck. “You remind me of one of my first lovers. He had green eyes like yours, such a handsome man he was.”

Emmanuel-Cas licks from Dean’s collar bone to under his ear. “He was so much fun to break.”

“Get the fuck off me, you bastard,” Dean growls.

Clucking his tongue, Emmanuel-Cas grips Dean’s hair tighter. “I don’t follow orders. I’m to be obeyed.”

Dean grits his teeth while his hands clutch at the man’s wrist in a feeble attempt to pull him off. A sudden wave of helplessness steals over him as he pleads, “Cas, fight this.”

Something discernibly Cas filters into the blue eyes, chasing away the hunger within them for a mere second and causing the grip in Dean’s hair to loosen. It’s enough to allow Dean to throw his weight, causing Emmanuel-Cas’ balance to waver. Gaining the advantage, he tips the other man to the dirt before scrambling to his feet, fleeing in the direction of the woods without hesitation.

“Dean,” Emmanuel-Cas’ voice roars behind him, “you can’t escape me!”

That may be true, but Dean isn’t going to roll, belly up, and surrender. He fights through the pain shooting up his legs, his feet undoubtedly bleeding after running barefoot through these woods. As he makes it out of the trees and cuts through the yard of Castiel’s home, he can hear the footsteps of the other man behind him.

The house comes into view and Dean puts his all into running, his breathing labored and the edges of his vision going fuzzy. He’s almost there. Just a few more feet and he’ll be… what? Safe? He won’t be safe until Emmanuel is out of Cas and banished to where he belongs: Hell.

Dean stumbles onto the porch, toes scraping the wood as he scrambles for the door. He grasps the handle, only to be slammed hard against the wooden surface before he could open the door. A firm body pinned him in place, making it hard to move more than a fraction of an inch. A grunt escapes him with the impact, instinct causing him to throw his head back. The back of his head connects with Emmanuel-Cas’ face, eliciting a cry of pain from the man.

He will have to apologize profusely to Castiel when they get him free of this spirit, but in the meantime, Dean will fight dirty if he has to. Unfortunately, the pain doesn’t seem to discourage Emmanuel-Cas. In no time he’s pressed up against Dean’s back, breath hot on Dean’s ear.

“I understand why my grandson likes you,” he sneers. “You fight so beautifully. What a delight it will be to break you.”

Dean’s stomach churns as fear courses through his veins. “Shut up.”

“Oh, Dean, if only you knew what thoughts go through Castiel’s mind when you’re in the room.”

“Isn’t that invading Castiel’s privacy, Emmanuel?” Dean huffs a laugh. “Oh, wait, I forgot. You have no fucking morals.”

Fingernails dig into Dean’s ribs through his shirt and he hisses in response. “Don’t speak to me in that tone, boy. I demand respect.”

“You may have gotten respect out of fear when you were alive, but I see you for the piece of shit you really are.”

Emmanuel-Cas yanks Dean’s head back by his hair. “I should defile you right here against this door with my grandson’s body. He wouldn’t be able to look you in the eye after I’m done with you.” Emmanuel-Cas pauses long enough to scrap his teeth across Dean’s neck. “Or I could have my fun, then kill you -- breaking both you and Castiel at the same time. You’ll be mine forever, Dean. Mine to do as I please, for eternity.”

“Fuck you, you sadistic son of a bitch.”

Emmanuel-Cas’ hands enclose around Dean’s throat, cutting off his air supply. Dean struggles, but it’s of no use, Emmanuel-Cas is remarkably stronger than he is right now. The edges of his vision go fuzzy and then red, there’s a thrumming in his ears and Dean’s head feels like it’s going to explode. He keeps trying, though, with everything in him to fight Emmanuel-Cas off of him, if only enough to get another breath in his lungs.

Dean swears he feels his soul fading, drifting in and out of consciousness, and then he hears someone yelling at him to close his eyes. So he obeys the command, as his body starts to sag. In one fluid motion, the weight is lifted off of his back and he falls into Benny’s arms.

“Hang on, brother,” is the last thing Dean hears before everything goes black.

 

 

In the darkest recess of his mind, Dean’s fully aware of what just happened, and the fact that he’s not conscious. He doesn’t want to think on it too much, though. Everything hurts. His mind and body feel like they’ve been ripped apart and the shredded pieces tossed aside.

His energy swirls around; he assumes it’s repairing him from the battle he just endured. Wouldn’t that be freaking cool if it were true? Dean’s heard that empaths are healers, and he’s sure he’s seeing proof of that. As his energy buzzes around his body, the pain recedes, but Dean doesn’t want to wake up. Maybe he’s being a bit selfish, but after what he’s been through, he feels he’s entitled to be. Just a bit. Just for a little while longer.

Dean loses time. He’s not sure how long he’s just been inside his mind, floating in darkness, when he feels another energy join him. It’s familiar and he doesn’t have to ask who it is. Meg.

He wants to be angry and lash out at the spirit, but it’s not her fault. None of what has happened can be blamed on her. All she’s asked for is help, and for some reason, he’s the one she reached.

“Dean,” Meg says, her tone timid, “are you okay?”

He’s never heard her sound this way and it hits him somewhere deep. He musters up all the strength he has left in him to make sure his tone is even and calm. Dean still can’t see Meg, and as odd as it is, he’s actually kind of glad he can’t.

“Yes?” At least Dean thinks he’s okay. He knows he’s not dead and that’s a definite plus.

“I apologize for this,” Meg begins to say and whatever else she had on her mind doesn’t come out. She’s silent for a few moments. “I never meant to cause you harm.”

His response is quick, he doesn’t even have to think about it before speaking. “It’s not your fault.”

“I’m the reason you’re here,” she argues.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Dean says in response. He’s never really believed it before now, but once the words are out, they’re solid in sincerity. “Something Emmanuel said to me...” he pauses, rethinking what he’s trying ask. “He basically said if he killed me, I would be his forever. Why did he say that?”

A humming comes from the woman and Dean almost thinks she isn’t going to answer him. “Everyone who has died in this house is trapped here, Dean.”

“No bright light to bring you to the other side?”

“No,” Meg softly confirms.

Dean feels like shit because he was joking, but now that he knows the truth, he could slap himself. Well, if he weren’t unconscious that is.

“Few people knew Emmanuel the way I did,” Meg says. “He practiced the black arts. I wasn’t supposed to find out and it’s one of the ways I sealed my fate.”

“He killed you because you found out that he was using black magic?”

Her laughter is soft, though there’s an underlying hatred that bleeds through. “No. He killed me because I found him in bed with another man.”

“Oh.” From his experience with Emmanuel and what little that Castiel has told him, it doesn’t surprise him that the man would commit murder to keep his secret hidden.

“There were rumors about Emmanuel’s ways before I became his mistress.” Meg pauses for a beat. “I didn’t believe them. Rumors were common back then and Emmanuel showered me with affection when we were courting. It was easy to turn a blind eye to what was going on right in front of me.”

“Courting? How can a married man court another woman?”

“No one questions a man with power and more money than God.”

A strange feeling overcomes Dean, his energy ramps up, zipping around him unlike he’s ever felt before.

“Dean,” Meg’s tone is urgent, “you must listen to me. We don’t have much time.”

He tries to hold on just for a few minutes longer, but he can feel himself being pulled back to consciousness.

“Emmanuel cursed this house.” Her voice is fading and Dean has to strain to hear her words. “The only way to break it is to find the item he cursed and destroy it.”

“What is it?”

Dean can hear Meg talking but it sounds like static. Damn it, he was so close, whoever is waking him up will get the wrong end of his temper.

“Meg,” Dean yells and then his eyes are open. He immediately closes them against the harsh light.

Blue eyes are all he can see when Dean comes to, Castiel is hovering over him with a worried expression on his face and Dean forget his anger and instead, wants to do nothing more than kiss a smile onto his face. He doesn’t however, because as everything comes into focus he notices the bruise across the bridge of Castiel’s nose. Dean reaches up to touch it with his fingertips and the other man flinches. It hurts more than Dean wants to admit, but he can’t blame Castiel.

“‘M sorry,” Dean says, his throat parched and sore from yelling. He’s not expecting Castiel to forgive him, but it’s important for him to say the words. “Didn’t mean to.” The ‘hurt you’ is implied because Dean can’t force the words out of his mouth. It makes him sick to his stomach that Castiel is in pain because of him.

Castiel shushes him with soothing noises and Dean finally looks around him. He’s lying on the couch in the living room and he has to wonder how he got there. Sam and Benny are off in one corner talking quietly to themselves.

Dean attempts to sit up, but a strong hand from Castiel keeps him from doing so. Frustrated, Dean settles back against the cushion with a grumble. He doesn’t ask what happened, he doesn’t have to, but he does ask, “How long have I been out?”

“Two hours,” Castiel answers him, a frown on his face.

“Oh,” Dean says quietly. It only felt like he was out for minutes.

“Benny thinks the magic he used to expel Emmanuel might have affected you when it shouldn’t have.”

“You’ll be okay, Brother,” Benny comments, looking over from his conversation with Sam. His brother’s eyes are wide as he stares. Benny puts a hand on Sam’s arm and then walks over, standing close to the end of the couch.“You’ll have a hell of a headache in the morning, but you’ll be as right as rain around lunch time.”

“You know magic?”

Benny shrugs his shoulder. “Born and raised most of my life in Louisiana,” he answers like that explains everything. Which it does, in a way.

“Dean,” Sam speaks, and in his brother’s voice the fear bleeds through loud and clear. “Don’t ever do that to me again.”

“I don’t plan on it, Sammy.”

“I can’t lose you, Dean.” Sam walks over to the side of the couch and crouches down, getting right in Dean’s face. “Maybe,” he pauses, “maybe it’s time to call in a priest and let them handle this.”

“No.”

“I think Sam’s right,” Benny says. “This is getting outta control. This isn’t a simple haunt, you could’ve died.”

This time Dean gives no fucks about Castiel wanting him to lie there. He sits up fast, barely misses hitting Sam’s face, his head spinning a bit as he does so. “The fuck do you expect me to do?” Dean’s voice rises as he asks the question. “Walk the fuck away while knowing that bastard could hurt Castiel? Could hurt either of you?”

“Dean,” Castiel’s voice is calm, but pleading, “this is our only option.”

“The hell it is,” Dean spits out. Anger is seeping through, making his body shake. Getting to his feet, proud of himself for keeping his balance, he walks away from the other men for a few minutes. Dean turns around on his heel, his palms closing into fists at his side.

Castiel walks over to him, squaring his shoulders as he rises to his full height which is just an inch or so shorter than Dean. “You’re fucking stubborn.”

“Guilty as charged, sweetheart.”

“Dean, I can’t put you in danger any longer.”

He raises his hand to stop Castiel from speaking. “I hear what you’re saying, Cas, and fine, we can call a priest. But hell will freeze over before I walk away from you.” And as the words tumble from his mouth, Dean realizes the double meaning that could be read in them. He doesn’t take them back, though. There’s no reason to.

Castiel’s stance holds firm, but something flashes in his eyes. It’s minute, but Dean knows he’s won the argument.

“I tell you what we’re going to do,” Dean says, and even though he’s staring directly at Castiel, he’s speaking to everyone in the room. “We’re going the fuck to sleep. We’re waking up at the ass crack of dawn and calling for backup. After we eat some grub, we’re going to find a way to send your great-great-great granddaddy straight to hell.”

“Fine,” Castiel says with a wave of his hand.

Dean can tell from the man’s tone it’s anything but fine. He’s happy, though, because the thought of leaving is just too much right now.

“One condition, though.” Castiel arches an eyebrow and levels Dean with his gaze. “We’re modifying the no one is alone rule.”

Dean swallows thickly, his mouth suddenly dry and he’s unable to form words so he nods instead.

“Sam, you’re bunking with Benny,” Castiel orders. There’s definitely no room for argument. “Dean, you’re sleeping with me.”

Finally Dean’s mind is back on track. He cracks a smile and inches closer. “I may be easy, but I aint cheap. You’ll have to buy me dinner before I give away the goodies.”

Sam snorts and Dean looks over at his brother. “No comments from the peanut gallery.”

“For fucks sake,” Benny interrupts. “I’ll be in the kitchen making sandwiches.” He turns around on his heel and walks out of the room, mutter something that sounds that sounds like ‘sexual tension’ and ‘eye fucking’.

Sam sighs and looks between them. “Castiel,” he says softly, catching the man’s attention. “Do you trust Benny’s skills? I mean,” he glances at his brother, then back again, “the spell will work?”

Castiel nods, looks down at the bandage over his right palm. Dean’s about to ask where the fuck he got that from, when he notices a similar bandage on Sam’s hand, then his own. He’s about to ask, but Castiel’s response to Sam answers his question.

“Blood magic is the strongest there is, Sam. Benny’s been doing this a long time…” he trails, swallowing hard before standing straight. “I would not put your brother in danger, Sam. I believe in Benny, the spell will work.”

Sam stares, his eyes narrowing only slightly, before he finally nods. “Bedrooms are next to one another?” Sam asks, and Cas nods. “You okay with the arrangement, Dean?”

“Honestly, I could sleep anywhere, Sammy.” He gives his brother a wink, then reaches for Sam’s arm. “I’ll be good, Sam.”

Sam nods again then twists out of Dean’s touch. “I’m going to help, Benny.” He walks out of the room, leaving Castiel and Dean standing in the middle of the room, face to face. It should be awkward, but its not.

Dean has to laugh, if he doesn’t he may explode. He’s exhausted and could probably sleep for the better part of a week, but his body is too in tune with the energy around him. It’s quiet, for now. Though, he knows this battle is far from over and he has to be on high alert. Sleep will be little if any, he may as well find something for him to do in the meantime.
“Sleeping arrangements-”

“I can sleep on the floor. I just need a pillow, a sheet, and I’m good.”

The other man shakes his head. “Don’t be daft, Dean. I’m not allowing you to sleep on the floor.”

“Allowing me?”

Castiel doesn’t even dignify Dean’s question with a response. Instead, the man crosses his arms over his chest. “You’re testing my patience and it’s wearing thin.”

Something in Castiel’s voice tells Dean to knock his shit off or he won’t like the out come. It also sends a thrill down his spine; he’s human, after all.

“As I was saying. You’ll sleep in my bed, not the floor.” Castiel pauses for a moment. “I like the left side, so you’ll sleep on the right.”

“I snore,” Dean interjects.

“That’s not true.”

Dean bites his bottom lip for a moment before asking, “Have you watched me while I slept?”

“Dean,” Castiel rolls his eyes, “ you’ve fallen asleep in the living room too many times to count. You don’t snore.”

“Fine.”

“I know this may be awkward because this is crossing the line from professional to personal, but I’m at a loss of what else to do.”

Dean finally concedes with a nod of his head. Castiel has a point, safety is better in numbers. He shifts his weight from one leg to the other. Plus, they would both be lying if they didn’t believe their relationship hadn’t already crossed that line. “I’ll be on my best behavior.”

Castiel’s adam’s apples bobs in his throat. “That’s what I’m afraid of,” he replies, his voice noticeably deeper.

“Dean,” Sam calls from the hallway, “sandwiches are waiting. Let’s eat.”

“Coming, Sammy,” Dean answers his brother. He gives Castiel one last look, the man’s eyes hold so much in them, but right now Dean can’t get a read on him. Even his energy is just a faint buzz in the room. It would concern Dean if he wasn’t sure the man is exhausted.

“Let’s go,” Castiel says softly before sidestepping Dean to head to the kitchen.

Chapter Text

Dean opens his eyes, their heaviness leading into a headache that only coffee can cure. He didn’t sleep well the night before; he isn’t used to be in bed with someone. And that someone being his client really threw him through a loop. He found himself reaching out to draw the warm body near and then he would remember who it was and stop himself at the last second.

To say it was frustrating would be an understatement. It drove him mad. And it pissed him off that Castiel managed to sleep through the night when Dean did nothing but toss and turn. When he finally managed to fall to sleep, his body betrayed him. He woke to Castiel stirring, Dean’s arm across his chest, holding him close. He was too damn comfortable, too damn tired, to pull back.

Castiel’s hand trails over Dean’s arm, a gentle caress that stopped short of Dean’s wrist, avoiding his hand. The small gesture makes Dean’s heart skip, and then Castiel’s lips press against his forehead before the man slips free of the bed. He listens to Castiel getting dressed, his eyes remaining closed, arm stretched to where Cas was.

He listens to the man leave, hears a soft conversation from the hall, but he stops caring. He doesn’t know how long he dozes for, but something is dumped on his feet and he cracks an eye to see Sam standing at the end of the bed.

“Come on,” Sam says, giving him a sympathetic smile. “Up and at ‘em.”

Dean looks at the pile of clothes Sam brought him and sighs as he forces himself out from beneath the covers. He dresses quickly, not saying a word to Sam -- but his brother understands. Together, they make their way down the stairs and into the kitchen. He’s reminded of his need of coffee and the smell of it lingering in the air calls to him. He should’ve assumed this is where the rest of the household would be, and it doesn’t miss his notice that Benny and Castiel look around as if they weren't just talking about him. Dean knows better.

He doesn’t ask what they’re up to, though, because he honestly doesn’t care right now. Coffee is what matters. Sam meets him at the counter, two mugs already laid out, Dean pours them both a cup and barely blows on it before taking a drink. It burns his tongue and if he didn’t need the caffeine badly, he would wait until it cools before taking another mouthful.

“How did you sleep, Dean?” Sam asks.

“Swell,” he grumbles his answer, hissing as another sip burns down his throat. He doesn’t bother sitting down, he just props his hips against the counter as he makes his way through his first cup and then his second. Dean just can’t seem to get his brain to function, it’s barely processing the conversation going on in the room, so the extra caffeine is needed.

“I need to contact the church today and see when Father Crowley is available,” Castiel says.

Father Crowley?” Benny questions. “That man is a con artist.”

“He’s our only option.”

“What about Father Shirley?” Benny asks, his voice quieter than normal.

“No,” Castiel replies.

“Who’s Father Shirley?” Dean interjects, finally making his way over to the table and taking a seat. Sam pushes a muffin and apple towards him.

“No one,” Castiel answers him as he ducks his head to keep from making eye contact with Dean who is sitting across from him. Anger radiates off the man in waves and it startles Dean for a moment when he feels anxiety bleed into the mix. Castiel isn’t being forthcoming with him.

Benny leans forward, “Castiel.”

“Fine,” his client runs a hand over his face. “He’s the other half of my DNA.”

“Oh,” Dean manages in response.

That explains the emotions coming from the man. He wouldn’t have pushed the matter, but Benny knows Castiel more than he does, so maybe there’s an understanding between the two men. Dean knows when to press his brother for more information and when to back off, but with Sam there’s not much the two hide from each other.

“I know you’re not Chuck’s biggest fan, but he’s more reliable than Crowley.”

Castiel pushes back from the table. “He left my mom pregnant at eighteen. He abandoned his family! I didn’t even meet the man until my mother was on her deathbed, so don’t give me that ‘he’s more reliable’ crap.”

“Considering he didn’t know you existed until that day it’s pretty unfair to say he abandoned you.”

“My mother had no reason to hide the fact she was pregnant with me.” Castiel’s tone increases and so does the energy coming from him. It’s beginning to make Dean dizzy and nausea makes his stomach roll. Dean lowers his head, breathing in and out deeply to stave off getting sick.

The sound of a chair scraping across the floor is the only thing that alerts Dean to the fact that Benny has stood up as well.

“He was a married man, Cas.” Benny’s voice is more gentle this time.

“And shortly after my mother found out she was pregnant, he joined the seminary.” Castiel sighs. “According to him, she never told him. I don’t believe it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some phone calls to make.”

It’s only when Castiel leaves the room that Dean realizes his brother’s hand in on his arm. A comforting weight that grounds him.

“Are you okay?”

“No, Sammy,” Dean answers, “I will be, though. Don’t worry.”

“I’m sorry,” Benny’s voice soft and Dean knows the man is genuine in his apology.

“It’s fine,” Dean replies as stands up, he wants to go after Castiel and make sure the man is alright, but his head spins from the movement. His hands go to grip the table so he doesn’t fall.

“Dean, are you okay?” Sam asks him.

“I’m fine.”

“You sure about that, brother?” Benny moves closer to him, his eyes scanning Dean’s face. “You look pale.”

“Yeah, maybe not.”

A strong arm steadies Dean, and he has no choice but to lean into Benny when the man starts to move him away from the table.

“Let’s get you to the living room. You need to rest.”

Dean knows Benny is right, rest would be the best thing for him right now. It irritates him, though. He’s never needed a break, he’s never experienced such a surge of energy that it’s left him weak before. Then again, he’s never had a empath bond with another person other than his brother before. So this is all new territory for him.

Benny deposits Dean on the couch and tells him to stay put. Dean does as he’s told and leans back on the cushions, allowing his eyes to close. His mind starts to drift as his body relaxes, the weakness he felt earlier starts to dissipate and he’s able to regain some of his strength.

“Dean?”

Dean cracks open an eye and sees Castiel hovering nearby. He smile softly at the other man. “Hey, Cas.”

“My temper got the best of me earlier. I apologize.” He looks guilty and Dean shifts on the couch, making more room.

“It’s okay,” Dean pats the spot beside him on the couch and Castiel sits down with him, “you were angry.”

Castiel nods his head. “I was. I still am. I should’ve controlled it better, though.”

“You’re human, I think you get a pass for expressing how you feel.” He places a hand on his client’s shoulder and squeezes. Dean can feel the moment Castiel lets go of everything, he starts to calm down and so do his emotions. He waits a moment, taking advantage of the quiet, then says, “How about the four of us sit down and come up with a plan to get rid of these spirits.”

“I’ll call the church.”

Dean holds up a hand to stop Castiel from moving. “Any ordained minister should do, but let’s hold off on that.”

“Dean, I don’t think that’s wise.”

“I’m not saying don’t call them,” Dean smiles softly, “but there’s plenty of time to do that later.”

Castiel shakes his head. “I don’t like this.”

“Neither do I, Cas.” Dean’s reply is honest. He doesn’t like what’s going on, more so he doesn’t like the fact that he doesn’t know what the outcome will be. “While I was unconscious, Meg said something to be about a cursed object being hidden in the house. I think we should start there.”

“A cursed object?”

“Those were her words.”

Castiel chews on his bottom lip for a moment before speaking. “I don’t know about this.”

Dean takes off one of his gloves and rests his hand over Castiel’s. When their skin meets, Castiel gasps. The energy flowing through their bond starts off mild and grows stronger with each passing second. The hair on Dean’s arm stands and he feels - the only word that seems to describe it is tingly - all over.

“I trust you, Dean,” Castiel says finally, his voice deeper than normal. Dean feels it, a surge of warmth and faith and love. He swallows hard.

“That’s all I ask for.”

“Emmanuel practicing black magic doesn’t surprise me,” Benny says. He’s sitting in a chair to Dean’s left. Sam is seated opposite of him and Castiel is on the couch next to Dean.

“Nothing surprises me when it comes him,” Castiel replies.

“So he killed Meg?” Sam questions.

“That’s what she said,” Dean replies, playing with the edge of his glove.

“Him sleeping with men had to be kept a secret at all costs. It was illegal then, and he had everything to lose, even his own life,” Castiel says, the disgust in his voice is clear. “So, he took Meg’s instead. He killed for less. Rumors, of course, but I believe them.”

“So there’s more than one murder he got away with?” Dean asks.

“Emmanuel got away with everything, Dean,” his client answers. “People who upheld the law back then were easily paid off.”

Dean thinks about what Castiel said for a moment. The same thing could be said about today. People in high power positions pay off law officials all the time. It’s sad, really, when one thinks about it long enough.

“So we find this cured object and then what?” Sam asks. His brother pulls at his bottom lip for a moment, shaking his head. “The ghosts just disappear after we destroy it?”

“I don’t think it’s that simple,” Dean says solemnly. “It’s possible the bastard might infect another object in desperate attempt to keep power over them, or…” he looks to Castiel, concerned, “he’ll take possession of… someone, then kill us all to prevent us from destroying it.”

“We are protected.” Castiel shakes his head, holding up his right hand. “The four of us can not be -- you’re worried about bringing in a priest.”

Dean nods, glancing around the room. “Holy men are usually protected, simply by what they stand for. However, it’s not a guarantee. Bringing another human into this house is bringing a potential body for Emmanuel to possess.”

“We’re not sure what spell is binding these souls to this house,” Benny says. “And we don’t know what it will take to break it. Destroying the object might just be step one. We don’t know what else it will require.”

Dean stands up and moves over to the window, looking out at the land. “What’s the worst case scenario here, Sammy?”

“It depends. Blood may be needed. Or...” Sam looks down at the floor before finishing. “Or it may require a sacrifice.”

Swallowing thickly, Dean repeats the word. “Sacrifice?”

“Yes,” his brother answers quietly.

Dean nods, he doesn’t really have to think about it. The words slip out so easily. “If that’s the case, I’ll be the one to finish the job-”

“No!” Castiel cuts him off sharply. “There’ll be no sacrifices. Especially, not from you.”

“This is my job, Cas, this is what I do.”

“I won’t let him have you!”

Dean startles at the sudden outburst. His brother and Benny fall silent, out of his awareness, as he absorbs the sincerity of it.

Does he remember? The thought crosses Dean’s mind as he thinks back on Castiel’s possession. There are victims that can remember details after the fact...

Castiel’s gaze on him doesn’t waver. It conveys a myriad of emotion without another word, and the intensity of it steals the breath from Dean’s lungs. They lock eyes for a few moments before Dean nods. “Sam and I will poke around and see what we can find.”

“We take him on together or not at all,” Cas says with a note of finality. Dean catches Sam’s look of protest out of the corner of his eye before he concedes.

“Fine.” He disregards Sam’s widening eyes as he storms from the room, desperately attempting to dismiss the fluttering in his stomach.

“Dean, it’s been hours,” Sam says. “Let’s call it a night.”

A roll of thunder accompanies a flash of lightning, rain pelting the windows with impressive force. The weather channel predicted heavy rains over the next several days. Flooding was a definite possibility, and thankfully, Benny stocked the kitchen right before the first drops of rain hit the ground.

“We can’t wait on this,” he argues, gliding his fingers across the shelved items in the library.

Sam sighs. “Look. The priest isn’t able to make it until the storms clear,” he tries to reason, “which isn’t going to be for a few days.”

“Sammy, we might not have a few days.” Dean moves his hands to the next shelf. “We have to find it now.”

“And then what?”

“Then, I get rid of the son of a bitch!”

The objects around them contain nothing more than Castiel’s energy. No hint or trace of anything dark or sinister. He huffs a frustrated breath and turns around. They’ve searched most of the house and so far haven’t come across the cursed object, not even a clue of where it may be.

“Dean, you’re wearing yourself out,” his brother says. “You haven’t slept more than a couple hours in two days.

“I’m fine,” Dean snaps.

“You’re not,” comes a voice from the doorway causing Dean to whirl around. “It’s late. You need sleep.” Castiel leans against the door jamb, his arms crossed over his chest.

“What I need is for everyone to fuck off.” They’re right, he knows that, but he doesn’t want to admit it. He’s needs to find what they’re looking for and put an end to Emmanuel before he can attack again.

Castiel blinks, no emotion showing on his face, but Dean feels the man’s patience thinning.

"Don't force me to drag you to bed, Dean."

The tone startles him, and he feels an interested twitch down south at the heated look he receives as well. It leaves no room for any misinterpretation that Castiel's threat is anything but sincere.

Swallowing thickly, Dean replies, somewhat hoarsely, "Well, Cas, not for nothing, but the last person who looked at me like that, I got laid."

“Hello,” Sam’s voice shrieks, “still in the room, guys.”

Dean glances in his brother’s directions and then rolls his eyes. “We can’t sit here with our thumb up our asses. Paranormal activity has the potential to increase during storms. For all you know, Emmanuel could be lying in wait, using the energy to power up before he strikes again.”

“I get that,” Sam replies, “but what good are you when you’re exhausted? Right now, we’re protected as we can be. And I know you have doubts, that Emmanuel was well versed in dark magic, but Dean!”

Dean doesn’t respond, instead he brushes past Castiel and walks out of the room. The irritation he felt earlier increases and anxiety joins in as he walks toward the kitchen. The stretch of the hall alights a silhouette previously lurking in the dark, stopping Dean up short. It points at a spot on the floor before it vanishes into the darkness. Dean should call out to the others. Sam is still with Castiel, Benny is in the kitchen, so they’re all within earshot.

Yet, he finds himself creeping cautiously toward the spot indicated. Dean crouches, pulling off his gloves and setting hand down upon the floor with trepidation. He gasps softly when his palm meets the icy surface. Far too cold. Dean sits down on his ass, completely focused where his hand is. This close, he notices this part of the floor is slightly discolored, almost as if it’s been replaced more recently than the rest of the tiles. His fingers slide along the grout to see if it will budge, it doesn’t. He’s going to need something to pry it up.

“Cas,” he calls out, not moving from where he’s seated.

Something must have been in his tone when he called out because not only does Cas appear, but Sam and Benny as well. He looks up at the other men.

“Dean, are you okay?”

Dean nods at his brother’s question before looking at Castiel. “Has this floor been replaced recently? Or this particular tile?”

The man shakes his head. “Not to my knowledge.”

“We need a pry bar,” Dean says, scratching at the neat edge of grout.

“On it,” he hears Sam reply.

“I’ll show you where it’s at,” Benny calls out, following Sam.

"Dean."

With a sigh, Dean acknowledges him. "Yeah, Cas?"

"Whatever you're doing, this isn't wise. Not without a priest."

Dean looks over his shoulder. "I can do this myself."

“I'm not saying that you're not capable,” Castiel assures him as he moves to sit near Dean, “what I'm saying-”

“It's dangerous,” Dean finishes for him. “I get that.”

“Do you?”

“Yeah, I do.” Dean scoots his way backwards till his back is against the wall and stretches his legs out. “I've never dealt with an entity this strong, or a curse for that matter. But I know the danger is real and I have to stop Emmanuel before he hurts someone.”

“He could hurt you.”

Dean shrugs. “I'm willing to take that risk, Cas.”

“I’m not!” Castiel hisses, a flare of emotion nearly sucker punching Dean. “Why?” Castiel's tone increases in volume. “Why are you so inclined to risking it all? You could easily walk away.”

Dean runs a hand over his face, not sure what it is they’re actually talking about anymore. He swallows back the swell of emotion, too exhausted to sort his from Castiel’s. “I don't expect you to understand why. Hell I don't have an explanation. All I know is I can't walk away. Not from this.” The not from you is implied but goes unvoiced. “I have this feeling, bone deep, that once we remove this tile and find whatever it hides... all hell will break loose. We have to be prepared for what happens next.”

“If what you say is true,” Castiel pauses for a moment before continuing, “wouldn’t waiting for backup make more sense?”

“We don’t have that kind of time, Cas.” Dean sighs. “Emmanuel may attack before we pry this tile up. He may wait days to show up! But it will be before this storm is over. I bet my life on it.”

Castiel nods and scoots closer to Dean, placing a hand on his forearm. "Alright, we do this together.” Castiel looks up, meets Dean’s eyes. “When this is over,” he whispered, glancing down at Dean’s mouth. He leaves the rest of his thought hanging.

Dean swears he feels the heat of Castiel's hand, a slight shiver racing up his spine. "Together," he replies with a smile.

“We found a crowbar, boss,” Benny announces as he walks back in with Sam. Handing it to Dean, the man crouches down to join them.

“This is gonna ruin the floor, Cas,” Dean says, looking at the man to his right.

“It can be replaced. Let’s get this over with.” Castiel replies as he makes room for Sam to join them in their little circle.

Dean taps the end of the bar against the grout, powder bouncing free as he makes a hole. Then he wedges the hook of the bar into a small, broken part of the grout, and with one swift motion, pops the tile free. A wave of dark energy escapes from the hole, hitting him squarely in the solar plexus, causing his vision to blur.

Reaching down, he begins blindly feeling for what contents lie within. When his vision clears, Dean sees a perfectly cut hole in the foundation of the home. Inside is a brass skeleton key that’s simplistic in design.

A key? It’s heavy in the palm of Dean’s hand and cold just like the tile was.

“There isn’t a door that key would fit,” Castiel speaks after a few moments.

The pantry.

The image of the small door fills Dean’s mind and he shoots up to his feet and runs toward the kitchen without waiting on the others.

Dean hasn’t given a second thought to the door since the day he found it, had even forgotten to tell Castiel, but he knows he’ll find what he’s looking for behind it. Once inside the panty, Dean gets on his hand and knees, hears the other men coming up short behind him. He feels an energy thrumming behind the wall. It’s not from a spirit, but he’s unsure of what’s causing it.

"It's in here," he mutters, and feels a sudden drop in temperature.

Cas hover close to him, expelling warmth and comfort. "Are you certain?"

"I can feel it calling me," Dean replies as he places the key in the hole, glancing once at Castiel before twisting it.

Dean doesn't know what he expected to happen when the door unlocked. Lightning to strike, thunder booming, or the ground to shake... but none of it happens. He pushes the door open, hinges squeaking in protest. They’re definitely in need of some WD-40, but that can wait. It’s dark so he looks over his shoulder to ask for a flashlight, but one is already being shoved in his direction.

“Thanks, Benny.”

“No problems, lil boss man.”

He manages an eye roll before switching the light on and turning his attention back to the task at hand. The opening seems big enough for him to crawl through with about half an inch to spare on each side. Good thing he isn’t claustrophobic. At least, he doesn’t think he is. Dean sticks his head inside, there’s a brick wall to his left and four feet in from of him is another wall. When he turns his head to the right, he notices the passage stretches about six or seven feet away. A few shelves hang on the wall there. Bingo.

“I’m going in,” Dean says as he starts crawling inside without waiting for a response.

A hand wraps around his ankle, halting his movement. “Are you insane?” It’s Castiel’s voice so Dean assumes it’s his hand as well.

“Probably,” he replies, “this opening isn’t huge. It’s probably big enough for one person and it goes as far as the kitchen then it’s nothing but a wall. You’ll be able to hear me if shit goes sideways.”

"No. I don't like this," Cas protests. "What if this is a trap?"

Dean’s not surprised, but he considers that for a moment. "Guess we'll find out."

Chapter Text

Dean manages to wiggle his ankle loose and starts to crawl inside the passage. It’s dusty as hell and anytime Dean’s body scrapes against the wall, the stuff clouds his vision. He sneezes not once, not twice, but… he’s already lost count. His allergies will make him pay for this later, he has no doubt. Still, he presses on and crawls to the point where he can stand up, though he has to duck his head a bit to keep from hitting it on something. Dean walks towards the shelves cautiously, keeping an eye out for anything that may set off a trap.

Surprisingly, there’s none to be found. On the first two shelves are jars filled to the brim with various items. Some look like they hold oils, others have herbs in them, and a few have assorted screws and nails. A spider scurries from behind one of them and Dean shudders. He’s never been a fan of creepy-crawlies.

The third shelf holds a large book in it’s center with nothing else on it. Dean doesn’t think before he opens the cover and starts scanning the pages. No dice. The hand-written words are in another language so he’s unable to read them. Unless Benny or Castiel are able to decipher it, he won’t find the answer to breaking the spell... if it holds the secret at all. Still, he continues to flip through, each page seems to beg for his attention. He’s able to feel the dark energy from them through his fingers and if he was wise, he would stop touching it.

He’s just about to close it when he hears whispering in his ear. The voice sounds almost like Meg urging him to continue, so against his better judgement, he does. Though, this time instead of flipping page by page, Dean opens right up to the middle of the book.

The passageway becomes extremely cold, so cold that he’s able to see his breath cloud out in front of his face. The thought of calling out for one of the others to join him flitters across his mind, but he’s unable to speak. He’s words are not working when he opens his mouth. Dean should turn around, walk away from the book, and not return until they have back up. That doesn’t happen, though. He can’t move away from where he’s standing, his hand frozen in place over the page, the rest of his body stone cold. It’s almost as if he’s entranced.

“Oh, Dean,” he hears Meg’s voice before she appears. “I’m so sorry.”

He shivers as he feels phantom fingers trace along his hand. “Why are you sorry? What have you done?”

She stands beside him, tendrils of dark hair framing her face. Her eyes hold such sadness, regret.

“I promised him you,” she explains. “It’s the only way he’d let me go.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Dean replies. “I’m not yours to give.”

“I don’t think you understand.”

“Then start explaining,” Dean’s tone rises a bit in volume, but he keeps it under control. He doesn’t sense danger with Meg, so he doesn’t want to alarm the others just yet.

Meg points at the book, turning Dean’s attention back to it. There’s a picture lying there in the middle. His eyes land on a picture of two men. One he recognizes instantly as Emmanuel and his blood boils. He would love nothing more than to be able to knock the hell out of the guy, but Emmanuel is dead ,and you can’t hit dead people. Dean focuses on the other man in the photo and a gasp escapes his lungs. It’s Dean’s face, right down to the very scar above his eyebrow.

“This is a joke.”

Meg shakes her head. “I’m afraid it’s not.”

“Who is he? How does he have my face?”

“He’s you,” she answers softly, “your former life.”

Dean feels the blood drain from his face. His throat is suddenly dry as he attempts to swallow. The passageway feels like it’s closing in on him. This can’t be true, can it? Reincarnation? “No.”

“Yes, Dean.” A familiar, oily voice whispers in his ear. Hot breath on his neck sends a shiver raking up his spine. “I knew you would return to me one day. Such a good boy. My boy.”

Dean steps back, the wall behind him biting into his back when he stumbles and slams against it. “I’m not yours.”

Emmanuel stands before him, a cold smile on his face. “Oh but you are. Why don’t we have a little chat?”

“Castiel,” Dean yells. He should’ve listened to his client when the man said this may be a trap.

“Castiel,” Emmanuel mocks before laughing. “He can’t hear you. They can’t hear you.”

“What did you do?”

“Don’t worry, pet. They’re fine.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

Emmanuel paces the small space. “No, I suppose it doesn’t.” The spirit waves at hand in Dean’s direction. “That will keep you from moving before storytime is over.

“Tell me, you son of a bitch,” Dean snaps. Despite knowing what he would find, he tries to move his body anyways. Each of his limbs feel like they’re being held down, pressure on every inch of skin wherever he tries to move. Dean tries not to panic; it would do no good in this situation.

A smile crosses Emmanuel’s face. “So good to see that fiery spirit is still alive.” Stepping closer to Dean, he finishes, “Breaking you again and moulding you will be just a pleasure.”

“Not in this lifetime.”

“That remains to be seen,” Emmanuel replies. “Now where were we? Ah, yes, storytime.”

“As much fun as that sounds, how about we skip the bullshit and get to the part where I kick your ass?”

“I can bind your mouth if you keep sassing me.” Emmanuel crouches down by Dean’s side and sighs.

Dean rolls his eyes, thankful that he can do that much. “Spill it, Emmanuel, I don’t have all day.”

“Time is of the essence.” Emmanuel pauses. “You were born the first son to John and Mary Winchester, the twenty fourth of January -”

“No shit. You don’t say.”

“- in the year of our Lord 1864.” Emmanuel stands again. “Samuel was to be born four years later. We met when you were the age of twenty. I was taken with you, but my lust for you was not allowed then.” He smirked, the expression sending a shiver up Dean’s spine. “That didn’t stop us, no.”

“Please spare me the details of your and my former life,” Dean says. “I really don’t give a shit about that. Back to my family.”

“Right. Your family was a small, but powerful coven then.”

“Coven? As in witches?” Dean hates the surprise in his voice. Emmanuel, at least, has his attention.

“Yes,” Emmanuel confirms. “I was welcome into the fold with open arms, until I started practicing the darker arts. I was tossed out on my ear.”

“Imagine that.”

Emmanuel laughs darkly. "Oh, how I've missed you."

With a disgusted huff, Dean glances away, then jerks away once more as Emmanuel reaches for him. "Don't touch me."

The bastard doesn't listen and grabs a hold of his chin. His touch strangely tangible, forces him to look directly into Emmanuel's manic gaze.

"It's rude to turn away from me," Emmanuel warns. "You will give me your undivided attention."

“Fine,” Dean growls, grateful when Emmanuel’s hand slips free, though the spirit remains crouching and close. “How did I die?”

“Ah, your death. I guess we can save the rest for a later date and skip to the good stuff.” Emmanuel taps his finger against his chin. “I killed you.”

“Why am I not surprised?”

“You and your brother thought you were sneaky, thought you could take me out. Though you didn’t count on Meg seeing you in town and warning me of your arrival.” Emmanuel stands, walking over to the shelves, his back turned to Dean. “I was waiting for you in my bedroom. I knew you would come to me there.”

At the explanation, Dean has a vague sense of recollection. A blurry, not quite clear picture of entering a bedroom, the weight of a knife in his coat pocket. “My knife,” Dean closes his eyes, hoping it will help. “It was in my right pocket.”

“Yes,” Emmanuel answers. “It was your favorite. A gift from me.”

“Your back was turned to me as it is now. I tried to sneak up on you, but-”

“The floorboard creaking under your weight gave you away.”

Dean clenches his eyes closed at the flashes of memory. The struggle which ensued -- Emmanuel ripping the knife from his grasp. Sam's voice calling out and the blur of a figure who steps in-between. The flash of the knife plunging into his brother's body.

Dean comes back to himself with a gasp. "Sam?"

“He died,” Emmanuel answers casually. “In fact he’s still dead.”

“Bullshit,” Dean growls. “Sam’s on the other side of this wall.

Emmanuel turns and nods his head. “Yes, Sam’s soul is. But he is not among the living. Before I killed you, my hands still on your neck and watching the life drain from your eyes… while you were struggling, beautiful, and gasping for air, you spoke a protection spell.”

“Then explain how Castiel can see him.”

“You mispronounced a few words,” Emmanuel continued as if Dean hadn’t spoke, “and instead you bound him to your soul.”

Dean releases a breathy chuckle. "I'm not falling for this damn lie."

Emmanuel's eyes flicker red. "I assure you, it is not." Another slimy smile creeps across his face. "It weakens you, even now. So, I suppose I have him to thank."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" A flood of energy erupts in the room, and Dean sinks against the wall, unable to breath or move.

"It means, my precious boy," Emmanuel says, walking back towards him, "you will be much easier to take."

“You don’t own me,” Dean manages between sparse breaths. “I’m not your boy.”

Emmanuel laughs, “You’ll always be mine. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

“He may not be able to, but I can.” Meg's voice startles Dean, having completely forgotten about her. She starts chanting in Latin, her words rapid and strong. Dean stared at her, shocked at the strength he saw in his wavering spirit, so unlike the timid woman he’d encountered in his dreams. Emmanuel growls and moves, reaching for her.

The room fills with a static energy. It's painful, stabbing his body. Though, he knows, the effect is nowhere near as painful as it is for Emmanuel, who screams in agony.

The hold on his body releases and Dean turns to crawl back through the small space. He’s close, halfway down the space, when a hand latches onto his ankle, tugging him back.

"Cas!"

Hands scrape against the ground as his fingernails dig into the compact dirt below. A sense of foreboding overcomes him, recalling the disappearances of people who come in contact with darker spirits.

Emmanuel is being sent to the other realm, and he's dragging him along with him.

"Cas!" he calls again, scrabbling for purchase.

"He can't hear you, Dean," Emmanuel's voice is deeper, raspy -- far less human. "You're coming with me."

A sudden flash, blinding and white, permeates the darkness. It eliminates the pain and envelopes Dean in warmth. Allowing him to breathe.

"Dean." A hand grips his wrist, and instantly Dean senses the power wrapped around it, the feed of emotions informing him of whom it belongs.

There's another scream before a loud pop sounds: the breaking of a energy force field as Dean is pulled free. He falls straight into strong arms which instantly encircle him. Castiel's glow dissipates as the chaos fades.

"Dean," Castiel repeats, his voice muffled by the ringing in Dean's ears. "Speak to me."

"What did you do?" Dean rasps, unable to move just yet. "How did--"

"The spell we found, brother," Benny rushes to explain, "it wards off dark spirits for a short amount of time, by the use of one person's aura."

"Dean, what happened in there?" Sam asks from somewhere out of his line of vision.

His stomach drops at the lack of visual confirmation -- at what was seemingly divulged.

"We need to end this, now," he says with a gasp. "The object… is in there."

"No," Cas says into the shell of his ear, "you're barely conscious. We need to wait for the pr--"

"There's no time." Dean sinks heavier against Cas, his body contradicting his determination. He’s fucking sick of having to repeat himself. He feels like a broken record skipping on the turntable.

Fingers skate through his hair in an attempt to soothe. "How long will it take to set up?" Castiel asks, and it takes a moment for Dean to realize it's not directed at him.

"An hour," Benny replies. "It'll be tricky with such a small space."

"All right. Come get us when you've finished."

Castiel maneuvers Dean, swinging his arm around his shoulders. Dean releasing a small grunt in protest, but otherwise allows Castiel to half drag him from the kitchen towards the guest room where he previously stayed.

Collapsing onto the bed, Dean glances tiredly up as Castiel sits beside him. The face suddenly eerily too familiar, so close to Emmanuel's. Dean feels sick.

"It was too quiet," Cas says, his throat working as he swallows, "until I heard you cry out for me."

"The son of a bitch blocked the sound." Dean takes a steadying breath. "This was… planned."

Castiel's brows furrow. "What do you mean?"

With a defeated huff, Dean wrenches his gaze away. "It was me, Cas." His lips begin to tremble. "I was the first."

"The first?"

"His..." Dean's voice cracks, "lover.” The word is said with disgust and feels heavy on his tongue. "He wanted me here," he explains.

“You were,” Castiel pauses for a moment. With a heavy sigh he continues, “reincarnated?”

“Apparently.” Dean runs a hand over his face. “I can’t wrap my head around it. Too much information in a short amount of time, I guess.”

“Rest,” Castiel urges as he pushes on Dean’s shoulder to get him to lie back. “I’ll watch over you.”

Dean wants to protest, he really does. They need to get this over with so Dean can move on, but how can he? In a short amount of time he’s grown fond of both Benny and Castiel. Sam. Dean’s heart wrenches. Sam is dead. How? Why? It can’t be true can it? Dean’s never thought much on reincarnation, so he’s not sure how it works. He doesn’t necessarily not believe in it, but … well, he doesn’t know how he feels on the subject. Once his eyes drift closed, his exhaustion overtakes him and he drifts off to sleep.

It’s a loud crack of thunder booming outside that wakes Dean. His eyes blink in the darkness, confusion holding him tightly for a few moments. Then everything from the passageway crashes back on him and his heart drops. Sam.

He’s out of the bed, throwing the door open and stepping into the hallway before he can think. He has to find his brother, has to see his face. “Sam,” he yells as he takes the stairs down two steps at a time. “Sammy!”

As his feet hit the floor at the bottom his brother in there at his side. Dean pulls his brother in and hugs him tightly. “Sam,” he breathes a sigh, “you’re safe.”

“You okay, Dean?”

Dean laughs, too many emotions running through him to control his response and he gives a watery, “yeah,” as he bites his bottom lip to stave of any tears that threaten to fall. “He told me you were dead,” Dean says as a way to explain. “I almost believed him, too.”

Sam’s body stiffens in Dean’s hold and he pulls back from his brother. Sam’s hazel eyes says it all. His brother knows. For how long, though?

“You know?” Dean asks in disbelief. “Tell me you didn’t know this the whole time?”

“Dean,” Sam begins. “It’s not easy-”

Dean nods his head as betrayal floods into him, overpowering everything else. “Save it, Sam.”

“No, Dean,” Sam insists. “You don’t understand.”

“I understand all too fucking well,” Dean snaps. “You’ve known this entire time and let me walk into this trap. You could’ve stopped me from coming here! You couldn’t made it so I never -” He snaps his mouth shut and glares.

“Dean-”

“Save the fucking lies, Sam, I can’t deal with this right now.” Anger boils just underneath the surface. He sidesteps his brother and walks down the hall to the kitchen. He nearly runs into Cas in the hall, who carries a mug of something steamy in his hand.

"Oh, you're awake."

"Yeah," Dean says. "Is it set up?"

"Just about," Cas returns, offering him the mug. "You'll need to drink this."

"What is it?"

"A special blend," Cas says unhelpfully as Dean chokes on a swallow. "It'll help with the spell."

"Who found the spell?" Dean asks.

"Benny and Sam have been doing research apparently."

"Well, at least Sam's made himself useful."

There must be something in Dean's tone because Castiel raises an eyebrow at him. "Is everything okay?"

"Nope," Dean answers. "One thing at a time though.

Dean turns around and sees his brother leaning against the wall. His eyes are downcast and he's standing somewhat folded into himself. If Dean wasn't so angry he would try to comfort his brother, but he is. So he turns his attention to Benny.

"So how does the spell work?"

The man clears his throat. "It requires a little piece of each of us. Once set afire, we toss the ashes into the area of the cursed item to destroy it."

Dean nods. "Seems simple enough."

"Seems," Benny repeats. "But we're vulnerable as we burn the objects. Possession is at its peak in that process." He picks up a twin mug, tipping his head at it before taking a sip. "This will help a little, but not entirely."

"Awesome," Dean says with a sigh. "Anything else I need to know?"

Benny nods after downing the rest of his mug. "This spell removes all spells within a specific mileage, anything evil or good. It... could cause more problems."

Dean swallows thickly, thinking of the protection spell placed upon Sam.

"Sam." His brother's name is barely a whisper, but hazel eyes meets with his. "We can't-"

"We can and we will," Sam interrupts. "I've already discussed this with Benny. I know the risks and I'm willing to chance it."

"You've discussed this without me?" Dean snaps. "You didn't think to include me? ‘Fuck Dean, he only fucking raised me since I was a kid’."

"I'm dead, Dean," Sam fires back, fists clenching at his side. "All that will happen to me is I'll go to Heaven. Or Hell. Wherever my soul is destined."

"Wait,” Castiel coughs in his mug, looking between the brothers. “You're dead?"

"Not now, Cas," Dean says, shaking his head. He pleads with Sam, "There has to be another way."

"We've searched everything we could. This is the only answer we found," Benny interjects.

"We'll keep looking," Dean says quickly. Dread, fear, and grief floods through him all at once making his head spin. "There has to be another way."

"There isn't," Sam replies sadly. "I'm okay with this. And I need you to be okay, Dean. You have to let me go. I've lived long enough. Well, technically."

"But--"

"It's time to start," Benny cuts him off. "The previous spell is fading. Emmanuel will return soon."

Dean glances between the three of them, stopping only when he meets Cas' concerned gaze. Dean can't do this. He can't lose his brother and he starts to say as much but all that comes out is a broken, "Cas." His heart fills with sorrow because this will be the one job he won't finish. The sacrifice is too great. "I can't-"

"Please, Dean," Sam pleas. "I remember most of our former life now. I wasn't a great person then. The things I did... This will be my atonement."

Sam steps closer to Dean and grabs his hand, slipping Dean's glove off. When it's bare, Sam joins their hands together. The energy is fuzzy, the pulse from it weaker than a living soul's would be. Sam's love flows through their connection and Dean can feel his brother is ready. He's ready to move on.

A single tear slips down Dean's cheek and he searches his brother’s eyes, looking for anything that will tell him otherwise. Sam shakes his head slowly, gives a small smile. Dean closes his eyes and nods. He doesn't want to let his brother go, but he will for Sam.

Sam gives a reassuring squeeze and moves away from them to the far wall, allowing them the room to maneuver on the drawn pattern of the floor. Dean watches as Cas steps to occupy Sam's spot. The back of Cas' hand reaches out, brushing away the tear. Dean leans into it, seeking the support the man is offering.

"I'm here," Cas says quietly as Benny places a small cauldron in the center of the diagram.

"Place an item belonging to you inside," Benny instructs. "Then, we can begin."

Dean takes a breath, looking to Sam once more. Then, walks to the cauldron, taking off his other glove, and tossing it within.

"That'll do," Benny says, adding his hat.

Cas approaches, removing his tie, and dropping it inside.

"Remember," Benny continues, alighting a match, "possession is possible. We need to keep an eye on each other."

As Benny begins speaking, the items inside the cauldron start smoking before bursting into flames. It catches Dean by surprise for a moment, but he quickly recovers, and squeezes Castiel’s hand in his tightly.

Chapter Text

Loud cracks of thunder start booming outside, rain pelting hard against the windows, and flashes of lightning strike one right after the other. A familiar deep laughter is heard before Emmanuel appears in the center of the diagram. Smoke from the fire rings around him as if it’s keeping him trapped in place.

“Please tell me you all don’t expect this to hold me for long,” the spirit says.

“Only long enough to send you packing, grandpappy Novak,” Benny answers.

Emmanuel turns around to face Benny. “You’re not any kin of mine.”

“No,” Castiel says, “but I am.”

“Ah, Castiel,” Emmanuel says as he faces Castiel and Dean. “I’ve been waiting a long time to meet you, grandson.”

“Don’t use that word in relation to me,” Castiel responds. The hatred in his tone is undeniable.

“Oh, you have spunk. I like you." Emmanuel laughs. "Too bad things didn't go accordingly, or I'd have use of that body you inhabit."

“What the hell are you talking about?” Dean demands.

“Reincarnation was one of my studies while I was alive,” Emmanuel begins. “I was fascinated by the subject. When a soul dies, it’s reincarnated after some time into another body.”

“Your soul is still here, Emmanuel,” Castiel says.

“Yes,” the spirit agrees, “you were my next incarnation, but since I’m trapped here, my body was given a new soul.”

“This isn’t your body-”

“It was designed to be,” Emmanuel interrupts.

Dean shakes his head. "That's impossible. You can't choose who you reincarnate as. And even if you could, why him?"

"For you, of course," Emmanuel nearly purrs.

“Bullshit,” Dean fires back. “I’m not buying it.”

“Not every soul is reincarnated,” Castiel speaks before anyone else can. “And when one is, they’re not immediately destined to be with whom they were in their previous life.”

“So you’ve studied as well,” Emmanuel replies, sounding pleased.

Cas disregards the reply. "That still doesn't answer Dean's question. Why me? You knew the chances of being with Dean were slim. What did you plan to do?"

"I bound my boy to my bloodline," Emmanuel explains casually. "Given my child was already of this Earth, the next generation would be a better fit."

“Regardless of if he’s bound to the bloodline, no one owns Dean. Dean’s his own person,” Castiel argues. “He makes his own choices.”

“And I choose to send you straight to Hell,” Dean adds.

Benny begins chanting. The lights flicker as the cauldron alights with a purple flame. Something stabs at Dean's chest, in time with Emmanuel's own visual distress. "Shit," Dean hisses, doubling over.

"That's right, Dean," comes Emmanuel's voice, "if I am to be expelled from this world, you will die with me. You are only alive now, because of me."

“That’s not true, Emmanuel, and you know it!” Castiel counters. “Dean don’t listen to him. He can’t harm you.”

“Cas,” Dean pants between flashes of pain, “my chest begs to differ.”

“Boss!” Benny shouts above the noise. “Tell Dean he’s released from the bond.”

“Will that work?” Castiel questions.

“I don’t know, but it’s worth a try,” Benny replies. “We’re kind of flying by the seat of our pants here.”

Castiel nods, turning to Dean who’s still hunched over. “Dean Winchester, I release you from the bond my bloodline has on you and for the generations that may come.” He pulls Dean’s body upright and cover’s Dean’s lips with his own. Sealed with a kiss.

Dean breaks away when a loud hiss fills the room. Benny moves quick, flinging fiery ashes into the crawl space, smoke rushing from it.

Then all Dean can see is a bright light engulfing the kitchen, blinding him as it once did from Castiel’s aura. Arms fly around Dean, shielding him as the angry roar of Emmanuel ratchets in volume.

The voice of Sam calling out for him is louder than the rest. His brother is in pain and he has to get to him, but he’s rooted to the floor.

“Sammy!”

The ground shakes, the sound of dishes hitting the floor and shattering follow closely after. And then... nothing. An eerie silence falls around them and at first, Dean can’t even hear the anything, not even his own breathing. His head spins, but he has to get to Sam.

Peeking out from Castiel's embrace, Dean finds the room’s light back to normal. Pots, pans, and dishes are strewn across the floor, everything in disarray.

And it hits Dean, Sam is missing.

"Sam?" Dean asks, brokenly. "Sammy?"

Benny drops his head in sympathy. "He crossed, Dean."

Vision blurring and knees weakening, Dean collapses. Castiel catches him easily, easing him to the floor.

He’s dead, Dean thinks as he clutches at Castiel’s coat. God, he’s dead.

“Thanks… for your help,” Dean says, clapping Benny on the shoulder.

“Don’t mention it, brother,” Benny replies when Dean returns to the kitchen hours later, finding it’s been cleaned spotless. “Thanks for sticking around to finish this.”

“Yeah,” Dean huffs miserably. “No problem.”

“It’ll get better with time,” Benny tries, his voice low, sympathetic.

“Maybe.”

Collecting mugs for coffee, Dean fiddles about the kitchen.

“Not leaving?” Benny asks.

“Not yet.” Dean gestures to the window. “Storm.”

Benny smirks knowingly. “Right, the storm.” He collects his own mug and makes for the exit. “Storms have a way of doing that.”

Dean smiles, despite himself. Despite the exhaustion and aches. “Yeah, it does.”

Carrying the mugs to Castiel’s bedroom, Dean enters wearily and sits on the bed beside Castiel. Graciously offering him a mug, he begins to indulge in his own.

“We need to talk about all that’s happened,” Castiel says softly, clearing his throat as he looks down at his drink.

Dean nods, understanding. “We do,” he agrees, then slips a hand to rest atop Castiel’s knee. A sense of relief hits him hard and he glances at the man beside him. A warm hand settles on his own.

“Are you okay?” Castiel’s voice is soft as he asks the question.

“No,” Dean takes a deep breath and holds it for a few seconds before releasing it. “I’m not.”

“That was a stupid question,” Castiel says. “I’m so sorry, Dean.”

“It’s okay.”

“But it’s not-”

Dean fiddles with his cup. “It will never be okay. Not for me.” His brother was his best friend, the reason he faced the world every day. Now that Sam is no longer on Earth, Dean is lost. A lump forms in his throat and it’s hard to swallow. “I uh. I’m gonna go-”

“You can’t go out in this storm, Dean.”

“To my room,” he finishes. “I’m tired, I need rest before I head out.”

“You’re welcome to stay as long as you need.”

One day turns into two, and then four. The next thing Dean realizes is it’s been a month since they expelled Emmanuel, since the ghosts inhabiting the house went to, well, wherever their souls were destined. One month since… since he lost his brother. It’s no easier now than it was the day Sam crossed over. The loss is indescribable. Dean lost someone irreplaceable and he doesn’t know how to handle that.

He’s on the floor of his room staring at a bottle of booze sitting a few feet in front of him. One twist of the lid, a crack of the seal, and a few big drinks of the liquid inside… all the pain he’s feeling will numb. At least for a few hours. At least until he passes out and wakes back up.

His head falls back against the door and he closes his eyes. He can't do this.

“Dean.” It’s Castiel’s voice on the other side. This is the routine that’s been going on for a few nights now. “It’s not worth it.”

And the man is not wrong. His sobriety isn’t worth throwing out the window over a death... The back of his mind reminds him this isn’t just any death.

“Please, let me help.” The same request every time and as always it falls on deaf ears.

Dean doesn’t answer Castiel. It’s really not fair to the man, but he just can’t deal with anything right now.

“At least knock once on the door so I know you haven’t opened that bottle.” Castiel’s voice sounds desperate. “Please, Dean.”

Just like every time, Dean raises his hand and raps on the door with his middle knuckle just once. Dean counts to five and then he can hear Castiel’s steps as the man walks down the hallway.

And as always, a tear trails down his face.

One month turns into two and Dean has finally managed to make it out of his room most days. He’s still not one hundred percent, though, and can only tolerate the company of Castiel and Benny. His voice mail is so full it’s long since stopped accepting new messages. His email has an automatic response set up to let potential clients know he’s indisposed for an undetermined amount of time. At the bottom includes a couple of mediums Dean’s met along the way, all of whom have his stamp of approval.

Maybe one day he’ll start working again, today is not that day.

Though, he does need to get back home to his apartment. Thankfully, he won’t come back to a pile of bills: he set those up to draft from his account years ago and hasn’t had to worry about that since.

Dean stares down at the suitcase. His equipment is packed, has been sitting by the door, untouched, for weeks and his clothes are laid over the bed. He looks over them, feeling like he should have more. Slowly, he picks up his jeans, folding them again before placing them in the suitcase.

He isn’t sure why it matters, he’ll wash them all at the apartment anyway. But he takes his time, folding each pair of clothing again, focusing on the feeling of fabric between his fingers and nothing else.

He’s packed everything and is staring at the bottle of whiskey he hasn’t been able to put back in the pantry, sitting in the center of the bed. A knock on the door makes him flinch, but he doesn’t look up. He knows who it is.

“Dean, I was wondering if --” Castiel stops, Dean can feel him taking in the scene before him. “I didn’t realize you were leaving.”

Dean nods his head, fingers reaching to trail over the bottle before he turns and starts zipping the suitcase. “Figured I’d overstayed my welcome. Case is closed,” he says and shrugs.

Castiel is silent for a moment, then a short, sharp laugh erupts from his mouth. Dean glances over, surprised at the emotion in Castiel’s eyes, wondering why he hadn’t felt it. He rubs his fingers, looking down at them and wonders when was the last time he’d felt anything.

Dean looks up again from his fingers, jumping slightly when he realizes Cas has moved and is now standing inches before him. Something in his chest twinges as he sees the other man’s blue eyes shining.

“I sincerely hope you weren’t planning on just packing up and leaving,” he whispers. Dean feels the guilt eat away at him, squeezing his stomach like a vice.

“Cas,” he starts, snapping his mouth shut at the wave of Castiel’s hand.

“I know how you must feel about this, about me. How things changed after that night,” Castiel says and Dean shakes his head. No, actually, he has no idea where Castiel is going with this. “If I had known the truth, I never…”

Dean watches the man shut down, right before his eyes. Castiel’s shoulders slump, his head falls, and he shakes his head in defeat. Dean waits, stares, and then says, “I don’t… understand.”

Castiel looks up, licks his lower lip. “It's because of Emmanuel that you’re here, that we’re attracted to one another. I’m just…. I’m so sorry, Dean. I never would’ve called you if I’d known, never would’ve… And then I started to fall and it was…” He shakes his head once more. “I don’t blame you for not wanting to stay.”

Dean stares, dumbfounded. Although most of Dean’s waking moments had been on his brother, their past and the future Sam was unable to have, he had to know that the reason Dean had lingered so long was because of the man himself. This house, despite everything that happened, feels like more of a home than Dean ever had. He enjoys Benny, the laughter and music that always come from his kitchen, his food. He enjoys Castiel, his calculating looks and quick wit. The idea of not having either of them in his life, especially now that Sam…

“Cas,” Dean whispers, “it isn’t that I don’t want to stay…”

Cas looks up, searches Dean’s eyes. He must find what he’s looking for, because slowly a smile spreads across his lips, even as a tear slips free. “Then stay, Dean.”

Dean opens his mouth, ready to argue. He can’t stay, he shouldn’t. He’s saved them and the house, sure, but he’s brought along pain, too. He’s overstayed his welcome, become a miserable slug who barely leaves his room, and what could he possibly offer Castiel in the long run?

Castiel shakes his head as if can read Dean’s thoughts and reaches for him, hesitating only a moment before reaching for Dean’s bare hands. Dean gasps at the contact, Castiel squeezing in reassurance and forcing Dean to meet his eyes.

Still, Dean stares. Its as if his hands were frozen and Cas’ are a flame, slowly warming him from the inside out. He knows, without speaking, everything Castiel is feeling. There’s sadness and loss, from the circumstances of late or the idea of Dean leaving, he’s not sure. But mostly, Dean feels the overwhelming sense of trust, understanding, and hope. He swallows thickly, squeezing Castiel back just as hard. There’s only one word that encompasses what Castiel is putting out, and it makes his heart thud wildly in his chest, his palms sweat.

“Cas, I-”

“Stay.”

With the one word, the rest of Dean’s walls break down, plunging him into a sea of emotions. He gasps, struggling to sort through everything he’s repressed over the last few weeks, clinging to Castiel like his lifeline. He’s crying, he thinks, as Castiel releases one of his hands to wipe his cheeks, then he’s being pulled into Cas’ arms.

“It’s okay,” Cas is whispering, hands smoothing over Dean’s back. “I’ve got you, you’re okay. It’s going to be okay.”

And Dean wants to believe him, he wants it so badly. He nods and grips the back of Cas’ shirt, pulling him closer. He’s gasping, trying to catch his breath, as Castiel maneuvers them to the edge of the bed, Dean collapsing into him. Sam’s gone and Dean is alone -- no, Dean almost made himself alone. He thinks about leaving, how he’d been moments from picking up his bag and walking out the door, and it makes his stomach clench.

Be it a curse that got him here, it didn’t matter. He never felt like he was being led or forced into his feelings for the man before him. Castiel had released the bond, broken whatever spell Emmanuel had placed, and Dean still felt exactly the same. He needed him, wanted him, and had to let Castiel know.

Pulling back, Dean takes a few calming breaths, allowing Castiel to wipe the tears from his face. He knows he looks like a mess, probably red-cheeked and puffy, but Castiel’s eyes hold the same affection they always did. Dean reaches up, cupping Castiel’s cheek and pulling him in for a kiss. It’s a soft, at first, but with each passing second, the intensity increases. Dean moves his face just right to where he can deepen the kiss and his tongue slides over Castiel’s. Their energy shifts, becomes more desperate. There’s no stopping this, not for anything. Except... Castiel pulls back after a few moments and looks around the room. At Dean’s clothes lying on the bed.

“This won’t do at all,” he says. “Come with me, Dean.”

And without question, Dean takes the man’s hand, follows him out of the room and across the hall to Castiel’s room.

Inside, there’s is just a slight hesitation from Castiel, and Dean’s sure that the man is about to ask if this is what Dean really wants. So Dean doesn’t give him a chance. He takes the lead, walking over to Castiel’s bed and lies down, pulling the man with him. It takes just a few seconds to get situated to where they’re lying side by side, but once they are, Dean’s lips find Castiel’s again.

They fall together, a strange push and pull that simply works. Dean doesn’t know how they held off this long, how he was ever going to walk away without having this. Everything about Castiel from the first day felt right, felt like home. Their clothes fall away, piece by piece, and hands and mouths seek out skin.

Dean’s body is on fire, every inch of him surrounded by Castiel. They move like a dance, Dean gasps his pleasure and takes everything Castiel has to give. The rest of the world has fallen away, leaving only this. And Dean forgets everything.

Exhausted and content, Dean reaches down for the comforter, lifting his legs to get beneath it while Castiel disposes of the washcloth they’d cleaned up with. He lifts the corner as Cas pads back to the bedside, climbing in and immediately wrapping himself around Dean.

They lay in silence, the sun setting outside.

“Dean,” Cas whispers, lips finding the corner of Dean’s mouth, “please, stay.”

Dean swallows, turns his head to find Cas’ eyes in the evening light.

“As long as you’ll have me.”

Chapter Text

Dean wrinkles his nose and leans back on his work boots, staring down at his hands. He preferred having paint covering his skin versus the heavy soil caked under his fingernails. Beside him, Cas grunts and leans back, a large knot of thistle breaking free. He tosses it into the weed pile and smiles triumphantly.

When he sees Dean looking at his hands, he rolls his eyes affectionately. “I offered you gardening gloves,” he says, reaching to the side to pick up the pair.

Dean shakes his head, wiping his hands on his jeans, for all the good it does. “No,” he shakes his head, “I like being able to touch.” For effect, he reaches over, pulling one of Cas’ hands free from his glove, and lacing their hands together. The rush of emotion always gives Dean pause, and he inhales sharply before leaning forward to give Cas a soft kiss.

It was something he was still not used to. At the end of last Summer, Dean had expected an in and out case, a few weeks at the most. Now, nine months later and coming into Spring, he was the happiest he had been in a while. After deciding to stay, something Benny was overjoyed about, Dean found that for once in his life he was content. He looked around the area for jobs, but when the emails started drying up, customers both old and new seeking the suggestions that were still posted at the bottom of his automated response, Dean let them go.

Castiel had worried, at first. He made it clear that by staying, he didn’t want Dean to give up his life or his job. But Dean knew that wasn’t it.

“It's not for me anymore, Cas,” he whispers one night, laying his head on the other man’s chest. “I’m just… not interested anymore. I’ve been on the road working these cases my entire life, and I just…” He stops, thinks about what he wants to say. “I’ve never had a home, never had something to come back to.”

He feels Castiel smile, then feels his hand, warm as it trails over his shoulder and down his arm. The contact sends heat through Dean’s body, he smiles in return. Never before has he felt this safe. His heart aches, still, for his brother, and he feels guilty every time he allows himself to laugh and feel happy. But, he also knows Sammy would want this for him.

He kisses Castiel, unable to say the words he feels. But Cas understand.

Weeks passed as they found their new routine, and then one morning, Dean wakes alone. The table has coffee waiting, papers spread on every surface. Both Castiel and Benny are leaning over the pages, smiling when he comes in.

“Dean!” Castiel greets, gives him a kiss, then pushes out a chair with his foot. “Benny’s making fresh muffins.”

Dean smiles as he sits and looks down at the papers. “What’s this for?”

Castiel glances between Dean and Benny, clears his throat. Then, “I… have been looking into getting this place back up and running as a B and B… I was hoping,” he glances at Dean again, a flush on his cheeks, “that you would want to be my partner.”

Dean stares, shocked, and pulls the paper Cas’ hand is on towards him. It's all drafted up, ready to be signed, and beside him, Benny chuckles. He claps Dean on the shoulder as he pushes up from the table.

“Will you just sign the damn papers, Dean?”

The rest of Winter was spent planning, painting, and rebuilding. Most of the rooms were still modeled from before, only needing a fresh coat of paint. The kitchen had needed the most work, but now they were weeks from opening. Somehow, Castiel convinced Dean to help him build a vegetable garden, because ‘fresh produce’ makes it easier for Benny and the customers would love it.

How Dean was roped into actually planting and weeding instead of just building the raised boxes, he didn’t know, but this was the third day spent out in the increasing heat, hands full of dirt.

“Stop complaining,” Castiel nudges him, “you’re going to be so proud when we harvest our first tomatoes.”

Dean rolls his eyes, but finds himself smiling. There are twelve tomato sprouts, looking tiny in the center of their wire cages. There was a row of green beans, a lattice already in place, and a full bed of potatoes, Idaho and sweet. Carrots, cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash, were in the North box while beets, romaine, cabbage, and onions lined the South. There will be a good haul, if everything grows, and as Dean finishes planting the last seed, his excitement grows.

Sammy’s Place is ready, the outside in top shape to match the interior. Benny’s planned menus, shopping lists, and filled the cellar with perishables and wine. Castiel already put out ads for employees, clerks, a gardener, housekeeper. Luckily, most of the spots were filled, and Dean is willing to pick up the slack for as long as he needs to.

A car door slams and Dean looks at Castiel, narrowing his brows. “Do we have an interview today?” he asks, clapping the dirt from his hands on his thighs.

Cas shakes his head, pulling off the glove he still wore and tossing them beside the hand rake. “Some people just drive up,” he answers.

Dean nods and pushes up from the ground, reaches for Castiel’s hand to pull him up. The garden is towards the side of the house, Dean steps forward, looking around the side of the house into the driveway. The car he doesn’t recognize, the man, however…

He stares. Beside him, he feels Castiel stop, hears his boots nearly trip him up as comes up short.

The back door opens and he hears Benny talking, asking them what they want for lunch, “I got a fresh baked ham and some cheddar, not sure what I have for rolls though, and--”

He stops, too, but lets out a loud whoop, clapping his hands and making Dean and Castiel jump.

“Well, I’ll be!” Benny says loudly, taking a few steps forward. “It worked! I was getting worried, brother.”

Beside the car, Sam smiles wide. He spreads his arms out wide and laughs, then turns his gaze to Dean. “Are you going to come and hug me, jerk?” he calls and suddenly, Dean’s moving.

He crashes into Sam, the car keeps them from toppling to the ground. His brother is solid and warm and here. “Sammy,” Dean whispers, not sure if he’s laughing or crying, but unable to let go. “How? Are you really here?”

“Yeah, Dean, I’m here,” Sam answers, clapping his back.

“How?” Dean hears Castiel ask, but the answer doesn’t matter. Dean doesn’t care. Sam’s here.

“When I was makin’ that special coffee we all drank, Sam and I found a spell. We knew getting rid of Emmanuel had the possibility of getting rid of Sam, too, so…” Benny shrugs, meeting Sam’s eyes over Dean’s shoulder. “We didn’t know if it was going to work, Sam wanted to take the risk regardless. It's been so long, I didn’t think it had but…”

“It did.” Sam shakes his head, pulling back from Dean, though Dean stays against his side. “I, uh, can sense auras, now. It's something I had to figure out how to manage, and even longer to figure out how to find a specific one. It’s stronger than just reading if someone is good or not, though it's hard to explain.” Sam pauses and looks at Dean, bumps his shoulder gently.

“When people are grieving, their auras become muddied, unrecognizable. Before, I was only corporeal when I was near Dean, within his radius. When I came back, I was all the way in California. I assume that Dean wasn’t doing very well… Not until a few months ago?”

Dean looks away, meets Cas’ eyes. “I’ve been okay, Sammy. Better the last few months.”

Sam nods and smiles. “Well, your aura needed to heal. I wasn’t able to figure out it was you or where you were until a few weeks ago. Then, I had to get here.”

“You forgot where we lived, brother?” Benny asks.

“Yes and no,” Sam replies. “Last time, I just appeared because Dean was here. I knew what the town looked like, I knew we were on the East Coast, but that was it. I didn’t know the state, or the town. But then,” Sam steps away from the car, pulling open the door. He reaches in and pulls out a newspaper, smoothing it down and holding it out. “I saw the ad.”

Dean looks down, recognizing the employment advertisement Castiel had written up. He cracks a smile and glances at his brother, still not believing Sam is actually standing beside him.

“I don’t know, Sammy,” he clears his throat, giving a shrug, “you’re a terrible cook, even worse of a maid. Not sure what job we’d really give you.”

“You’re such a jerk, Dean,” Sam punches his arm, pulling the paper from his hands.

“Bitch,” Dean replies, smiling wide as Sam pulls him into a hug. “Welcome home, Sammy.”