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Castiel was a fallen angel. He had fallen in every way he possibly could have, and still he was standing here, alive and, well… with both feet on the ground, if you could say so. He had a family, a home, but he couldn’t maintain that it had always been like this.

 

The first time he fell, he literally fell down to earth. Still as an angel though, even if you’d expect a more graceful landing from a celestial being than crashing on the tin roof of an old barn somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Despite his rather uncomfortable arrival, Castiel was sure of his mission, full of pride and joy to live up to his father’s expectations, determined to make his dad proud. A brave little soldier of heaven, a true angel of the Lord, was standing there with his head held up high as lightning cast a faint shadow of his wings upon the wooden walls.

He had been a good person, a pure soul full of good intentions, without a doubt. He had fallen down to earth, and still he was so full of hope.

 

The second time he fell, he fell in an entirely different way than he ever thought was possible for him to fall in. Cas fell for Dean Winchester. It wasn’t love at first sight, or rather at first stab (or shot, or denial, or sceptical staring contest), but Dean was the man who helped him to find his way in the strange new world he started to love and hate at the same time. Humanity and its strange concept were hard to understand at first, but the hunter was there to help him through his first insecurities, although he was too afraid to show them openly back then. His superiors started to question his choices, a clear sign of their disapproval of his actions. Cas started to question himself and came to the conclusion that he simply was too lost to follow anyone’s orders at the moment.

He still had been a good person, a lost soul that tried to find a home, which it did eventually. He had fallen for Dean, and he didn’t regret this decision.

 

The third time he fell, he fell at the hand of an archangel, while elsewhere, his brothers Lucifer and Michael were locked up in the cage by the Winchesters. Cas agreed to fight, even though he knew he couldn’t make it out alive. Archangels were far more powerful than he was, not to mention that this meant he was disobeying the orders he was given by his superiors. Castiel rebelled, and therefore, he paid with his life. It had been a good one, he knew it, in the past few months he had gained more experience in life than he had ever gained in the decades before. He was doing the right thing by making his own choices.

He believed he had been a good person, a loyal soul and an independent mind, choosing his own path. He had fallen at the hand of an archangel, and soon after, he was given a new life.

 

The fourth time he fell, Castiel fell into pieces when he realized God had abandoned him. Abandoned everyone and everything, turned away and left without a warning. The world he knew as an angel broke apart, his title lost its meaning as he realized he could no longer see what was right and what was wrong. Who was he without his purpose and his affiliation to God, to the rest of his family? The answer was simple. He belonged to Sam and Dean, as well as their friends. It took some time to figure that out, but this was the answer Cas found all by himself, a choice he made with his heart.

He accepted himself as a good person, a strong soul with own ideals, slowly finding himself and his place in this mess. He had fallen into pieces, and he had put himself back together.

 

The fifth time he fell, he fell as deep as he had never fallen before. This didn’t have to do with heaven or God, it was something far more important. Castiel betrayed his family, the only thing he had, the only thing that mattered to him all along. He did it for them, he did it because of them, he did it and believed it was the best thing to do, but in the end, it wasn’t. Cas was blinded by his desire for power, caught up in the need for control and success, ignoring the warning signs the world was practically throwing at him.

He desperately made himself believe he was a good person, a single soul who was able to see what others couldn’t, slowly distancing himself from what he used to keep close at all costs. He had fallen as deep as he had never fallen before, and there was nobody to catch him.

 

The sixth time he fell, it wasn’t him anymore who was falling. Cas couldn’t even keep track of what happened to his vessel, if it was occupied by himself, by the new god he believed to be, or by the Leviathans. All he knew was that it was over, that this might have been his last chance and he messed it up. He messed it up big time. He had been down on his knees before, but there had always been a light at the end of the tunnel, however, this time, all he could see was a dark, threatening abyss in front of him. He wanted to let go, disappear in the depth of it and never come back.

He knew he wasn’t a good person anymore, he was a corrupted soul within a body he couldn’t identify as his own. He had fallen, but it hadn’t been him who had fallen. Honestly, what was that even supposed to mean?

 

The seventh time he fell, Cas fell from grace. Literally. Once he lost his angelic powers and was forced to live a human life as a homeless man, he suddenly understood how fragile humanity really was. There were so many dangers and risks, so many things he never thought of before. Money, food, water. The most basic things seemed impossible to obtain at first and it took a long time to adjust to that lifestyle. To be honest, he didn’t even adjust. Cas didn’t fit in at all and had great respect for Sam and Dean and how they managed to survive. Then again… nothing could truly kill them. And if something could, they’d just be brought back to life anyway.

Castiel wasn’t a good person, an impure soul and a mere shadow of his former glory. He had fallen from grace, stripped of the last thing that reminded him of who he really was. The last thing he could hold on to.

 

Identity had always been a strange concept to the ex-angel, ex-god, ex-Leviathan, and finally ex-human. He had lost himself so many times along the way that he himself though his mind, body and personality were long gone, but that was, surprisingly, not the case. He was still Castiel, although he had certainly changed over time.

Could he be the same again? The good person he used to be?

Probably not.

Too much had happened, to many mistakes had been made. Looking back at it, Cas felt pride and happiness, but also shame and regret. These past experiences made him who he was now, they were a part of him and would always be.

 

Could he be the same again? The good person he used to be?

No. But if Cas could turn back time, he would do it all again. Maybe… no, definitely with a few changes here and there, but still.

 

He would do it all again.

Chapter Text

Dean was sitting in the war room of the bunker with his feet propped up on the table and a gun in his hand, that he was currently cleaning. There were no cases at the moment, Sam had gone out with Jack some time ago, and Dean hadn't even bothered to look for Castiel in the first place as the angel was probably doing something Dean didn't exactly want to know about. He'd stopped trying to figure out what his friend was up to when they had free time rather soon, when things had gotten a little too questionable after he'd found Jack and Cas in the kitchen shoving a whole spoon of cinnamon into their mouth.

And so he was leaning back, taking care of his personal favorite weapons and not thinking about anything except his task, because for once there was nothing to worry about.

However, just when he'd finished cleaning the revolver and was about to get up to saunter over to his room, Castiel came striding towards him, chin jutted forwards, a smile on his lips, and some object in his hands that the hunter couldn't exactly identify from so far away, with the angel's hands clasping it almost violently. Suspicious of what was going to come, Dean spoke his greetings, carefully avoiding the question about Castiel's previous whereabouts. But of course, Cas just had to inform him unasked.

- "Hello, Dean", he greeted, gaze unwavering but soft - which was kind of unsettling if Dean was being honest - before his eyes darted down to the object in his hands for a split second. "I discovered this movie in the library and was wondering if you would like to watch it with me tomorrow evening?"

He held out the DVD case for Dean to grab, and the hunter hesitated for a moment, scared that he might just discover another piece of porn, before he decided to just play along for the time being. He reached out and took the case from Cas, turning it in his hands and looking at pictures and the way-too-long summary with narrowed eyes, until he finally found the title.

- "A...Cas, where the hell did you find a documentation about friggin' bees?", he demanded to know, staring at his friend with his brows furrowed and a slightly distrusting expression on his face; and Cas tilted his head to the side in response.

- "As I said; I found it in the library in the nearest town."

There were too many questions in Dean's head at that moment, reaching from 'When did you even leave?' over 'What were you doing in a library?' to 'What the fuck?' but he decided to push them to the back of his mind, not really sure if he really wanted the answers to his questions.

- "And lemme guess, you took it without asking."

- "I bought it."

- "You...you what?" Groaning, he ruffled his own hair with his free hand. "Cas, you don't buy from the library, you borrow stuff!"

- "Oh", the angel hummed, looking down at his own shoes for a second before he set eyes on Dean again. "So? What do you think?"

The hunter had still been examining the case when Cas posed that question - the DVD was actually in there, so at least his friend hadn't been scammed -, but now he raised his eyes from the movie summary to meet Castiel's.

- "Sure, Cas, it's not like I got a thousand better things to do", he huffed, sarcasm clear in his voice but he couldn't help but add another snarky comment, accompanied by an exaggerated wink. "Get me french fries, a drink, and some snacks and I'll be there. And y'know, maybe some gas while you're at it, Baby's almost out of juice." And with that, he patted Castiel's shoulder while passing him, making his way to his own room.


__


The next day, he spent almost entirely in his room - or bed, to be exact -, listening to music, eating some pie from a few days ago that he'd found, and skimming through a bunch of magazines he'd dug up from his drawers. He'd only left his room early for breakfast and a coffee, when Sam had called for lunch, and one time in the afternoon because Jack had been overly eager to show him a disgustingly golden lucky cat that Castiel had scraped up somewhere.

Now, though, he was back on his comfortable mattress, leaning against the headboard while absent-mindedly flipping through his phone in search of an album he'd only recently added to his playlist. He'd just found it in the endless ocean of songs and was about to close his eyes and lean back when there was a knock on the door, and for a second he contemplated turning up the volume and blocking everything else out. However, when a second knock sounded on the wooden door, the hunter swung his legs over the edge of the bed and got to his feet with an annoyed groan.

Sighing, Dean unlocked the door - and idly wondered why he had even locked it in the first place, considering that he opened up to literally anyone who knocked anyway... But then again, every single occupant of the bunker tended to burst in without a warning, and announcements were an actual rarity; and also, he'd rather be on the safe side before things got out of hand. Which they definitely would at some point.

Letting the door swing open, he sighed to make clear just how much the disturbance bugged him, but the look of annoyance vanished from his face when he found himself standing a little too close to piercing blue eyes.

- "Hello, Dean", Castiel greeted with a smile and a small nod. Only when the angel raised both his hands, and Dean laid eyes on the way-too-familiar dark brown paper bag in his friend's right, and the full canister in his left hand, did the hunter begin to understand why Cas had knocked at his door.

- "I was waiting for you", the angel informed, holding both things out for Dean to accept, and when the taller man didn't move, a frown began to form on Castiel's face. "Are you alright, Dean?", he asked, worriedly tilting his head to the side while looking Dean up and down, scanning his body for any visible injuries or other noticeable problems.

- "Yeah, no, I...I'm good, Cas, I'm just..."

Thinking about it now, he was quite sure that he should've expected this outcome.

- "Good. So, are you coming?"

Dean turned to glance back at his bed over his shoulder before he faced Castiel again, about to tell him that no, he wasn't coming, because everything he'd said the day before had been one big joke to mess with Cas, and because he couldn't imagine anything worse right now than watching a three hour documentation on bees with this angel-of-the-Lord of a best friend.

However, when he locked eyes with said angel who was still holding the canister and freshly bought food out for him to take, with the most hopeful unintentional puppy eyes that Dean had ever seen plastered on his smiling face, the hunter found himself unable to hold back the "Sure, Cas" that left his mouth.

Chapter Text

Crowley had put his head down on the edge of the table with his eyes set on his own black shoes. His back hurt, and his head ached, mostly from the uncomfortable headset he'd worn for the past three hours without a single break. When the annoying ringing reached his ears, he was close to declining the call. And he would have, really, if he hadn't known that, without a comprehensible reason, he wasn't allowed to do decline calls. Not a single one. It might seem like he'd already reached the lowest point he could've possibly reached, but he knew from some of his co-workers that there were jobs and tasks even worse than this one, and so he decided not to tempt his boss, and accepted the call with a tap of his finger, and a held-back groan.

- "Demonic Callcenter, Client Support, how may I help you?", he uttered, lifting his head from the tabletop to rest his chin on his own hand instead so he was able to speak more clearly. The person on the other side of the line started talking, and Crowley found himself rolling his eyes multiple times, all while forcing himself to bite back the harsh comments that floated around in his head.

After everything that had happened - the demons claiming the throne to live in a democracy, his own degradation, and the digitalization of both earth and hell -, the latter had changed. Drastically. Crowley had to admit that things worked out as they were, and he was kind of mad that he hadn't come up with the idea himself, but his biggest wish was to finally get back on top again.

At first, he'd laughed at the demons for demoting him instead of killing him but that had been back when he hadn't known how much of a torture this terrible work actually was.

Since some of his demons had discovered phones, and tablets, and computers, there had been rumors revolving around digital deals, but no one had thought that these plans were ever going to be realized - but here they were, with Crowley sitting in front of a small PC in his own little cabin in a demonic call center specialized on simple demon deals. People only had to download the app, or access the website on a crossroad, and the program would show them the ingredients, the summoning spell, the needed pentagram so that they wouldn't have to draw it themselves, and everything else that they needed to summon a yellow-eyed demon to sell their soul.

And although Crowley hated to admit it, the whole principle was, in fact, not only effective and timesaving, but also basically flawless. He couldn't remember the last time they'd collected so many souls in such a short time.

However, he still failed to understand why the police hadn't shut the website down yet, it wasn't even hidden deep in the web but could be found by one simple search on google.

Just when he was about to speak up to help his customer - a man in his fifties, if he'd had to guess - one of his co-workers smashed his fist down on his own table so loudly that the whole room went quiet for a second. "What do you mean there's no bone in there?! You--... No! A bone from a black cat, yes... No, it does not work without---.....You'll have to...Yes, I know,...No, there's no-- Listen, Ma'am, the ritual won't work if you-- Yes, I know that cats are-... Yes. Yes, there's-- Yes, one thing--- Milk from a black cow... I don't know, how am I supposed to..I can't. I'm sorry, I have to--...Yes, I know, I'm an idiot. I-- Yes. Black cat-- Alright yes, have a good day."

Curiously, Crowley sat up straight to sneak a peek at his co-worker - he didn't know his name; he didn't know anyone's name which had been one of the reasons why some demons hadn't been fond of him being their king; and Crowley could kind of get behind that, but he refused to agree with, or even apologize to them, nonetheless. Because why would he?

Nervousness settled low in his guts when he saw the look on his co-worker's face.

The blond guy was looking up at their grumpy-looking boss with a contrite, apologetic expression. Their employer was somewhat generous and charitable most of the time, and he cut all his employees a break more often than any of them would admit, but unfriendliness and impoliteness were where he drew the line. And everyone knew that, including the co-worker that was currently wearing the most pained expression on his scrunched-up face, that Crowley had ever seen. And holy hell, he'd tortured and killed people! And their families! In front of their eyes!

When their boss cast a quick look around to catch possible gawkers, the ex-king ducked down as fast as he could. Once the warden was in a bad mood, he took his anger out on anyone who made a wrong move; and Crowley wasn't exactly eager to be the anyone in this specific scenario.

Clearing his throat, he returned to his own call.

- "Excuse me, sir. What was your question again?", he forced out, trying his best to put as much cheer and friendliness into his voice as he possibly could, with his boss standing basically five feet away from him, threateningly growling at his co-worker.

When the man posed his question again, unexpectedly calm, Crowley had to fight the urge to let his head drop to the table once more.

- "Sir-- Yes, I get what the problem is, have you-- Have you tried turning the pentagram off and on again?"

There was some sort of rustling and cracking sound, and Crowley guessed that the client was currently restarting the app. A second later, the man shouted "Yes, thank you!" so loud that the demon actually flinched, once again hating the company for using these stupid headsets instead of providing actual phones, because he couldn't just rip off his headset whenever some demented woman hysterically screamed into her phone.

- "There you go. If you need help or have any other ques-"

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Oh great, another one of those.

Crowley couldn't help but bury his face in his hands, almost knocking the headset off his head in the process.

When a client hung up the phone - no matter the person, no matter the problem, no matter the outcome, no matter what or when or how or why-, Crowley didn't feel the happiness, contentment, and pride that some of his co-workers felt after helping a client - and after smoothing the way for another potential deal, therefore. He'd never felt it, not even once. Hell, he hadn't felt anything even close to joy ever since his demotion.

Leaning back and exhaling audibly, noticing that both his boss and his co-worker had left the room while he'd been busy supporting his customer, he reached out with his right hand to grab his black coffee mug. He'd been working for multiple hours, he'd filled his cup multiple times, and still, he hadn't even finished a half mug before it had gone disgustingly cold. Breathing in the scent, and feeling the warmth creep up his nose, he raised the coffee to his lips when the next call came in.

Smashing his cup down on the table again, the hot liquid sloshing dangerously until it slopped out of the cup, and right onto Crowley's hand.

That was when he finally made his decision - he had to get out of there. And he had to reclaim the throne. As soon as possible. And, fuck his pride, and fuck his honor - he needed the goddamn Winchesters for that.

 

-


So, during his next - first - break of the day, he walked to the backmost corner he could find, leaned against the wall, and pulled out his own phone to dial a number he hadn't dialed in a really long time.

- "Oh, hey there. Nice to hear from you again, douchebag!", was the first thing he heard, and he tilted the phone away from his ear for a split second so that Dean's overdriving voice wouldn't make his ears bleed.

- "Yes, I know, I'm a bad friend, blah blah. Listen, squirrel - I need you" He paused, waiting for a response along the lines of 'Help with what?' but the expected words never came. Blinking awkwardly, Crowley raised his voice again. "After I was brought down, the demons turned hell into some kind of ugly company building. I've been working in a call center for the past--"

- "Wait, wait, wait, what do you mean, 'brought down'?!"

- "They wanted democracy, can you believe that?!"

- "You...-", Dean broke out in laughter after that, and Crowley gnashed his teeth with an annoyed roll of his eyes. Maybe he should've called Moose instead - Sam would've at least taken him seriously and rejected him without spending ten minutes on making fun of him first. "A call center?! Man, that's like...lower than low." The demon could imagine the expression on Dean's face, and the mental image didn't exactly help to diminish the growing desire to rip the Winchester's throat out.

Just when he'd been about to drop a snarky remark that would hopefully shut Dean up already, the supervisor informed them about the end of their break  - fifteen minutes his ass, he hadn't even had five, for fuck's sake -, and Crowley swiftly moved back to his working space, hiding the phone below his coat until he'd sat down in front of his computer again. The usage of headsets, computers or own phones for amuse- or entertainment was strictly forbidden in the place, although many demons liked to take that risk, either because of boredom or simple despair; and honestly, Crowley couldn't really blame them.

- "-u still there, man?", Dean's voice came through to him as soon as he raised his phone to his own ear again, and he quickly turned down the volume a little.

- "Of course, you moron!", he huffed softly, phone dangerously close to his mouth. "As I said, Dean: I need to get out of here or else I'll--", he roared, voice growing louder with each word, drawing some co-workers' attention - and so he wasn't even sure if he was mad or somewhat relieved that Dean, as always, didn't even attempt to fight the urge to cut him off again.

- "Wait a second, wait! Dude, what...what's with the accent?"

Crowley blinked, confused, before he realized that, apparently, he'd done it again. Accidentally. He rubbed a hand over his tired face and breathed in deeply to compose himself.

They - five other employees and him - had jokingly started to fake heavy accents a few months ago to spice up their boring work day but their boss had quickly put an end to their fun due to 'unprofessional behavior'. They'd kept doing it whenever he hadn't been around, and Crowley was one of the few who'd partly gotten used to it. Luckily, that hadn't gotten him into any trouble yet. 'Yet' being the operative word.

- "I don't know! See, that's what I'm talking about!", he hissed, as quietly as he possibly could in order not to attract any other demon's, or worse, the warden's attention. "You have to get me out of here, Dean!"

- "Was that...Indian? Dude, you spoke with a--"

- "I know how I spoke! So? Are you in? Or are you out?", he growled, desperation clear in his voice as he completely ignored the ringing of the cheap headset he still hadn't put on again.

- "If you do the accent again."

- "I won't--", he tried to object but before he even had the chance to get louder, Dean started talking again, and Crowley could basically hear the smug grin in the hunter's voice.

- "Accent or no rescue."

- "Oh, come on! This is blackmailing!"

- "Says the king--, excuse me, ex-king of hell."

He hesitated for a few seconds, to see if Dean was going to say anything else, or, best case scenario, give in all by himself, but when his headset rang again, and worry took him over, he resigned.

- "Fine!", he snarled, trying to keep his voice down before he cleared his throat and put on his idiotic accent again. "But don't think I won't pay you back.", and although he'd tried to spit the words as threateningly and coldly as possible, they still managed to send Dean into a fit of laughter.

- "Now what, you...--", he hissed, ducking his head and pretending to talk to a client when their boss walked past with a carnivorous gleam in his eyes. Okay. Red alert. Fuck. "Listen", he spoke up again before Dean even had the chance to respond. "I need to get back to work. I'll give you my email address, just send me your plan. And don't call on my phone. Use the app and maybe your call gets forwarded to me. If not...try again."

He heard Dean protest before his finger could hit the red receiver at the bottom of his phone, but with the warden nearby, he was honestly too scared to take that risk, and so he hung up, and got back to work.


-


It was two and a half hours later when his phone rang in his pocket right after he'd ended another call, and he cursed under his breath as he tried to ignore the annoying, way-too-loud sound. He'd forgotten to mute his phone. Great, just great. He knew that if he didn't pick up, he wouldn't get into trouble - but the ringing didn't stop. When it did, it just started again barely ten seconds later. With a sigh, he cast a careful glance to every side before he fetched it from his pocket to decline the call and silence the sound. He wanted to get out, yes, but that was no reason to take more risks than necessary.

Thirty more minutes passed before another seemingly unimportant call was forwarded to him, and he picked up, mentally already too done to even care anymore.

- "Hey, listen, if this isn't Crowley--"

- "Squirrel", he greeted coolly, hoping that he wasn't going to get any other calls in the next five to ten minutes; and he was met with a relieved "Finally! Dude, I talked to ten different douchebags, and they placed me on hold for even longer! Who the fuck chose the music of this crap?!" that had him rolling his eyes with an exaggerated sigh.

- "I told you to mail, you numbskull", he huffed, turning a ballpoint pen between his fingers.

- "I did. Just wanted to make sure that you got it because, in case you didn't notice, you didn't write back. Did you get it, Crowley?"

- "I don't know. I have to turn the computer on first." Exhaling audibly, he bent over to press the button that made the PC whir softly as it booted up.

- "You're waiting for a mail with your computer turned off, and call me a numbskull. Good fucking job, jackass."

- "Oh, I'm sorry, your Highness", he spat, "that I had to work unlike you."

- "Hey, I was busy all day! You totally messed up our case by calling."

- "Oh, stop whining, Squirrel!" He clicked around a little, opening and refreshing his email inbox while generously ignoring Dean's lousy comeback, before he scrolled around for a second until he saw a mail sent from an address that could only be the hunter's.

- "'hot.impala@gmail.com'? Really, Dean?"

- "I was in a rush, okay!"

- "Oh, of course. Okay, yes, I got it. I'll send you the data as soon as I can."

- "Great", Dean said, but something was off about his voice, and so Crowley warily furrowed his eyebrows, and frowned at his screen. "Thank you for calling hell's demonic call center", the hunter continued, feigned cheerfulness more than just present in his disgustingly sweet voice. "If you have any questions please feel free to contact me or one of my co-worke--"

Crowley had never hung up faster in his whole life.

Chapter Text

You see, things got different for every one of them when Dick exploded and consequently transported Dean and Cas to purgatory.

Things changed for Dean and Castiel, of course, since they were in permanent danger from this point on, separated and forced to fight for their lives every single day. Dean met the vampire Benny who later helped him to find a portal to get out of that disgusting place, they fought side by side and became something you could describe as friends. Castiel, on the other hand, spent most of his time hiding and keeping his distance from Dean, knowing that everybody- everything- in here would be more than happy to kill an angel.

 

But these two weren’t the only ones who had to live with the consequences. Sam was devastated, he was the only one left of team free will. Dean was gone, Cas had disappeared as well, and he had no clue what to do with his life.

Keep hunting for monsters? No, it wouldn’t be the same without his brother, not to mention even more dangerous, now that he was on his own. He was tired of it, tired of the job, tired of losing his family. The life as a hunter had brought him nothing but misery and blood and death. He never got anything positive in return.

But then, all of a sudden, he found purpose again. Or, to be more precise, purpose found him as he hit an Australian Shepherd. It was the start of what Sam had never thought was possible for him: a normal life. He had a girlfriend. He was happy, as happy as he hadn’t been in a very long time. If it wasn’t for these annoying calls that came in now and then. Whenever his phone started ringing in the pocket of his jeans, he rolled his eyes, exactly knowing who tried to contact him.

Again.

 

It was true, things had changed for everyone. Even for the king of hell himself. Crowley should have been happy about how things had turned out with the Leviathans. He got everything he wanted… right? He had Dick gone, he captured the prophet Kevin and as a side effect, he didn’t have to deal with Squirrel and his guardian angel anymore. Even Moose suddenly lost interest in him! He was free, nobody would try to stop him. That was like… the best thing that could happen to the demon. But something wasn’t right. It was too easy, too quiet, too… boring.

If he had to be honest, the Winchesters were always a good source of entertainment. Sure, they tried to kill him a few times, but he couldn’t exactly blame them for that- it’s not like they hadn’t had their reasons. Nobody was there to ruin his plans, nobody tried to catch, stab, shoot or exorcise him. It was like everyone forgot that he even existed. Crowley hated the Winchesters. But what he hated even more was being ignored. He was the king of hell, not someone you can forget and abandon!

He missed Dean, messing with him had always been an amusing hobby of his, and his sceptical behaviour had just been adorable.

He missed that strange angel with the weird trenchcoat and no visible sense of humour.

He missed Sam, his flawless hair, the face he made when his plans were destroyed by the one and only king of hell …

 

After a few weeks of overthinking and procrastinating, he decided to call Sam, only to see how he was doing. Maybe to threaten him a little, remind him of Kevin who was still his pet and obediently translating tablets for him at the moment. After one final deep breath and a sip of his whiskey, he skimmed through his contact list and pressed on the number with the description ‘Moose’ above it.

For a few seconds he thought about hanging up again, because this was stupid and senseless and not to mention embarrassing because the king of hell was acting like a clingy boyfriend, however, as Sam picked up and introduced himself, there was no going back.

 

“Hello boys” he managed to say with as much dignity as he could put in his voice, instantly rolling his eyes at himself for his stupidity. “Oh, I forgot, Dean isn’t home right now.”

There was silence, Sam swallowed and clenched his fist, glad that this was a phone call and he wouldn’t get into trouble for beating up the demon right then and there. Because it was the only thing he wanted to do right now. “Crowley. If you are just calling to piss me off, I swear I’m going to find a way to murder you. I might have stopped hunting, but that doesn’t mean I forgot how to exorcise, not to mention kill, a demon. Do not test me.”

“Oh, how frightening. Really, it’s been a while, I’m happy to hear that lovely tone of voice again.” Sarcasm had always been Crowley’s favorite language, he smiled to himself as he heard the annoyed growl coming from Sam and imagined the perfect bitch face that usually accompanied this sound. Anyway, he should get to the point before the Winchester would actually hang up on him, after all, there was a reason behind this call.

“In case you forgot, I still have your little prophet here with me. I have to say, he’s doing a great job at translating the tablets for me, but tell me: aren’t you interested in rescuing him? I mean, not that I am asking for it, but… wasn’t he a part of your precious family or something?”

 

Did that sound like pleading to be attacked? No, it didn’t. It certainly didn’t, and if it did, he was forever in denial. Luckily, Moose was too occupied with scolding him about not knowing anything about their family to ask for the reason behind his question.

Winchesters. If you mess with one of them, you mess with the whole pack. Sam wouldn’t give up on the cute prophet, wouldn’t abandon him, knowing he was in the hands of a demon, right? It turned out that he was wrong.

“Look, I quit. I’m not a hunter anymore, Crowley.” His voice lost its angry tone, instead, the younger Winchester suddenly sounded tired. “I gave up that job when Dean and Cas disappeared, and I’m not planning to do anything about the prophet. Heaven, hell, whatever, just do with it what you want to, it’s none of my business.” It probably should have sounded cold and distant, but behind the monotone speech were more emotions than Crowley suspected the human to show.

His voice was gone, there was only a faint beeping sound. No goodbye? Okay, fine. It was only his first try, and to be honest, Crowley didn’t expect the hunter- no, ex-hunter- to react this way, but he was certain that he’d break him sooner or later. All it took was a little bit of time, a few manipulating words here and there. Sam felt guilty about leaving Kevin alone, he was sure of that, and at some point, the brothers would always either give up or give in when it came to guilt, doubts and regrets.

 

With a sigh, Sam put away his phone and turned around to face Amelia who gave him a questioning look. “Just an old…” he stopped, wondering what exactly his relationship to the king of hell could be described as, before he continued, “...acquaintance of mine.” As Riot, his loyal dog, curled up in front of his feet and looked up at him with his big round eyes, expecting a belly rub, the call was almost forgotten. Almost.

 

Crowley’s second try didn’t turn out to be more successful than the first one. Sam hung up as soon as he recognized the accent he had learned to hate, leaving a furious demon behind. For the third and fourth call, the Winchester didn’t even bother to pick up when he saw the number 666 flash up on the screen. As much as the constant reminder of Kevin got to him, as much as he started to hate himself for it, he decided not to give in to the temptation to get into a fight with Crowley. After all, that was what the demon wanted, and he didn’t even think of giving it to him.

This might be some kind of trap, who knew if the prophet was with him at all, maybe he had escaped, maybe he was already… no, Sam wouldn’t think of that possibility. He didn’t allow himself to do so. He had a normal life, a girlfriend, a dog. He was determined to become a new person, to leave his old life behind, so he would have to stop acting like the hunter Sam Winchester he used to be. It was hard, sure, but not impossible.

 

At this point, Crowley was sure he had tried every single thing to get attention. He had his demons observe Sam, he left countless voice messages, he even wrote a damn letter by hand. He knew it was childish, but he had stopped caring long ago. These were desperate times, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

He could as well confront the ex-hunter in person, but after all he did, he couldn’t afford to lose the last bit of his good reputation that was left, eventually causing him to lose his pride and his throne. Everyone in hell knew fairly well about his boredom, they only feared to address the topic because there was at least a fraction of respect for him left.

 

The calls got less frequent and there were only a few voice mails a month, but they never really stopped. Sam forced himself to ignore them completely, to abandon his phone and get a new number, but Crowley’s stalkers, as he had named the demons who were observing his very move, somehow managed to figure out his new number as well. There was no escape. Who knew their enemy could be so affectionate?

Not a single day passed without any form of note from the demon, and it was exhausting, to say the least, to endure these circumstances, as well as hiding the evidence from Amelia. “He never gives up” Sam realized, rolling his eyes. “Just like we never gave up” said a small voice in his head before he cut it off. Dean was gone, Cas was gone, it would never be the same again.

 

Things got different for everyone when Dean and Cas were sucked into purgatory, thus it was only logical that they would change again when Dean suddenly appeared out of nowhere. However, after short peaceful moment, it was time to discuss the problems that had occurred. Dean started by complaining that half of Sam’s phone numbers weren’t working, which he only answered with an exhausted sigh and a weak smile.

“I ditched the phones” he admitted after an awkward instant of silence. “I guess something happened to me this year too.” He didn’t plan to mention it, didn’t really want to talk about the whole situation, but the “I don’t hunt anymore” he had on the tip of his tongue unexpectedly came out as “Crowley happened.” Dean stared at him in confusion, a frown he only knew from Cas plastered on his face. Even the head tilt looked familiar, painfully reminding Sam that Cas didn’t make it. But now was not the time to talk about that, as much as he grieved for his angel friend.

“Apparently our favorite demon got bored after nobody tried to kill him anymore, so he tried to provoke me. Via phone, mail, stalking me, annoying the hell out of me in every way possible.” The device in his pocket made a high-pitched sound as if to approve of Sam’s statement. “He still does.”

 

And no matter how much they had to discuss, no matter how angry Dean was that Sam abandoned his job, gave up on the family business and also on the poor prophet Kevin whom they tried to protect, he let out a quiet chuckle.

“I guess he missed us, huh? Well, if that’s the case, I’ll go and pay him a visit to reassure him I’m alright and still able to exorcise his Scottish ass at any time.”

Chapter Text

A peaceful Tuesday morning. Everything was quiet in the bunker… except for an innocent nephilim called Jack who tried (and failed) to plug in a CD player next to Sam’s bed as quietly as possible. Although he had dropped the entire thing multiple times by now, the poor hunter was still asleep. Still. He wouldn’t be much longer. Once Jack managed to set everything up, he snuck out of the room, standing in the doorway with a mischievous grin on his lips as he pressed “play” on the small remote in his hand, turning the volume all the way up. He stayed to watch for a few seconds before leaving completely, discreetly making his way to the kitchen to get some cornflakes.

“HEEEEEEEEAT OF THE MOMENT!”

In the blink of an eye, Sam sat up, wide awake and with an expression of pure shock written all over his face. His hands instinctively searched for the gun underneath his pillow, ready to shoot anybody who’d try to kill him, or rather his brother Dean, or himself in the head. It took him a full minute to realize that Dean wasn’t sitting next to him on another motel room bed and cheerfully singing along, that he was alone in his room, protected by the strong walls of the bunker they made their home.

Finally, he spotted the still loudly blasting device next to him. An audible sigh escaped Sam’s lips as he turned it off, letting himself fall back on his bed, nearly hitting his head on the headboard. Wow. What a way to start the day. He was full of motivation and positive energy… besides killing the one who played this prank on him, he knew the only thing that could cheer him up now was breakfast.

 

When the younger Winchester arrived at the kitchen table, Castiel, Dean and Jack were already there, lively debating whether cake was similar to pie or not. Well, Dean and his “adopted son” were throwing comments at each other while Cas frowned at the peanut butter and jelly sandwich on his plate, poking it with a butter knife in what could only be described as concentrated confusion. Sam announced himself by clearing his throat as he sat down and ignored the chattering at the other end of the table whilst pouring himself a cup of coffee.

He let his eyes wander from one “family member” to another- one of them must have been the person behind his unpleasant wake-up call. The most suspicious one had to be Cas, he didn’t say a word except for wishing him a good morning, constantly staring at his sandwich as if it was going to explode.

“Cas?” He raised an eyebrow at the angel and pointed at the food. “Are you going to… eat that?”

Castiel snapped out of his trance and shook his head. “You can have it, Sam. Jack was so kind to make it for me, even though I told him multiple times that I neither require nor enjoy food. He just… doesn’t seem to listen. Still, I appreciate his efforts.” With a proud smile, Cas handed Sam his plate and the hunter couldn’t help but return the grin, Jack was indeed a caring person.

 

Upon hearing his name, the nephilim stopped his argument with Dean and turned his head towards Sam. “What is it, Samshine?”

“What did you just call me?”

“Forget about it. Anyway, what’s the plan for today? Going hunting?” Jack looked at Sam with big puppy eyes, already expecting what the hunter would say next: that he wasn’t allowed to come along and would stay behind with Cas until he had full control over his powers. It was true, the young half-angel was a useful member of Team Free Will, but at the same time, he was still too inexperienced to go hunting. Castiel usually didn’t mind watching over “his son” while the Winchesters were away, teaching him about the supernatural creatures out there or answering his countless questions about heaven, hell, angels and demons.

“I don’t get it. Castiel and I always have to stay at the bunker and personally, I hate learning stuff while you two have all the fun.” Sam wanted to mention that risking his life wasn’t exactly what he’d call having fun, but the nephilim wasn’t done talking yet.  “And shouldn’t Dean keep his guardian angel by his side from time to time? I mean, the two of them don’t really get to spend a lot of time together lately.”

Dean choked on his coffee, almost spitting it out before he managed to swallow and, judging by his pained expression, burned his throat in the process. He started coughing and as Cas immediately leaned over to ensure he was fine, Jack shrugged his shoulders. “See? Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed it as well. You do know about all the Destiel stuff that’s going on on the internet, right?”

“Who showed you how to use the internet” the younger hunter managed to ask before there was another loud coughing noise from Dean, this time a more violent and definitely fake one.

“Dean, what is this “Destiel” Jack is talking about? Is it another reference I don’t understand?” The angel looked genuinely interested in the topic, still hovering above Dean, one hand on his back, and Sam couldn’t help but laugh at the hilarious situation. His brother would hate him for bringing up that subject, but he was curious about how the maybe-not-so-straight Winchester would get out of this.

“Whatever, if you need me, Sammoose, I’ll be in the library. Good luck with your hunt!” Jack declared joyfully, walking out of the room as if he hadn’t just started a tiny apocalypse.

“Sammoose… where have I heard that word before” Sam wondered, emptying his cup and swallowing the last bite of his, well, originally Cas’, sandwich while Dean did the same, mostly to postpone the embarrassing explanation he would have to give his best friend at some point. “Not now” Dean decided on the way towards his precious car, “next time the kid comes up with that issue I’ll seal his mouth shut with duct tape.”

 

The older hunter was the first one to sit down in the comfy leather seat of Baby, fingers impatiently drumming on the steering wheel, waiting for his brother. A strange scent mingled with the smell of leather and motor oil, turning the Impala into a flowery meadow that made Dean sneeze. Something pink on the backseat caught his eye, which, after further investigation, turned out to be an air freshener. He simply reached out, sniffed, sneezed again and threw it out of the window- maybe Sam had started one of their famous prank wars again.

After a few minutes he decided to turn on the music, immediately greeted with an unfamiliar guitar intro instead of his usual rock music. What the hell? Sam opened the door and let himself fall down in the passenger seat as he gave Dean an irritated glance while the voice in the background happily sang “Moose, moose, I like a moose…”.

Clearly in a better mood than before, Dean made no attempt to turn it off, quite the contrary: he insisted on listening to the tune on repeat until they arrived at their destination.

 

Meanwhile, Jack was sitting in the library, a book about werewolves in one hand and a pen in the other one, scribbling down some notes onto a piece of paper. Cas was right next to him, reading something on the bight computer screen in front of him. From time to time, he caught a glimpse of the angel’s face, his emotions went from happy to confused to disgusted to completely horrified. To be honest, it was an entertaining sight. “That’s inappropriate” he breathed out in… disappointment? Embarrassment?

“What are you doing?” the nephilim questioned, trying to spy over his shoulder, whereupon Cas quickly closed the website and then shut off the computer completely.

“Nothing.”

The answer came out a little too quickly. “Okay, fine” Cas admitted, “I was looking up that Destiel thing Dean didn’t want to explain to me and… I certainly understand why he seems to be uncomfortable about the topic ever since I came across a few works which humans describe as “slash fiction”.” A moment of silence. Jack hadn’t been on earth long enough to precisely recognize human emotions from the look on somebody’s face, but he was almost sure that his foster father was flustered.

“Castiel?”

“What is it?” Cas prayed to his dad that the question wouldn’t have to do with anything related to what he had read about mere seconds ago, although Jack’s mental age was rather advanced, the kid was practically still a toddler after all.

“Have you ever been in a relationship before?”

“As far as I understand it, I have quite a few relationships with multiple people, you, Sam and Dean included.”

“I mean, a romantic relationship.”

“Oh.” Another awkward pause, a nervous scratch at his neck, a forced smile. This wasn’t how he expected the quiet day in the library to turn out, not at all, however, he couldn’t just avoid Jack’s questions, or he would stop asking him altogether or start searching for answers elsewhere. He certainly didn’t want the nephilim to bother Dean with such personal questions... He took a deep breath, opening his mouth to begin. “April and I- “

“That doesn’t count” came the prompt interruption, followed by a more serious “I mean, a real long-term relationship.  Cas knew the look in his eyes. It was the same look he gave him when he asked about human behaviour (not that he was an expert when it came to this topic) or when he asked about God and why he invented the troublesome concept of free will (he wasn’t an expert at that either).

Castiel only remembered too well how it felt to question every little thing around him, when he questioned himself and his place in this world. He could relate to the nephilim- what kind of feeling must it be to lose your mother and then figure out that your dad is Lucifer?

“So that’s a no” said nephilim concluded from the silence, put his book down and switched back to his playful attitude as he suggested “You’re single. So is Dean. Think about it.” Without looking back, he got up, leaving a confused and slightly annoyed Cas behind. Mission accomplished.

 

A few hours later and some miles away, Sam and Dean had finished their job and were on the way back. Nothing special, just the usual unusual salting and burning of bones to get rid of a ghost. They both were exhausted, covered in blood and dirt, but except for a few cuts and bruises, they were unharmed as they drove back to the bunker. Sam was even too tired to complain about the moose song quietly filling the silence in the Impala, he only closed his eyes and laid back in the seat, ready to take a nap until they were home. Dean gave him an amused smirk, the younger hunter immediately defended himself with a weak “Thanks to your special wake-up method this morning, I had less than six hours of sleep!”

“What are you talking about?” Dean looked genuinely confused, yet Sam was sure he was just feigning innocence.

“Waking me up with Heat of the Moment on a Tuesday? Seriously?”

“What the hell? I wasn’t even near your room! But tell me, was it you who put the damn air freshener in the backseat and turned Baby into a perfume store?”

They looked at each other for a few seconds, either deciding whether to start a serious fight or waiting for the other one to admit their prank and break out into hysterical laughter. Nothing happened. “You… really didn’t?” Sam was the first one to break the awkwardness, now fully awake again, and when Dean swore that he didn’t do a damn thing, there was another pause.

“But I never had anything quite like a-“ before the word “moose” could leave the singer’s mouth for the umpteenth time, Sam reached out and turned off the music in one swift but forceful move.

“Dean… don’t you think Jack seemed kind of… weird today?”

“Define weird” the older one snorted, looking out of the window where the bunker appeared in the distance, “that kid is anything but normal, regarding he’s a nephilim and his dad is frickin' Lucifer, but… you’re not wrong.”

 

Back inside, they were greeted by an annoyed Castiel, sitting in front of a bowl of popcorn. They knew something was wrong, because their friend was actually eating the “little chewy pieces of heaven”, as Dean called them, and he did so with the most serious frown he had ever had on his face. As soon as he saw the question mark on the Winchesters’ faces, he swallowed the snack and replied with a voice which had a faint tone of screw-it-I-give-up in it.

“Jack insisted I should try this. He still doesn’t seem to get that I don’t require food, but… he convinced me by promising not to ask any more questions about…”

He trailed off, despite the fact that the brothers were dying to know what the angel meant to say, they started searching for the nephilim. After Dean got himself a handful of popcorn, of course.

“Hello Samsquatch! Dean!” an excited voice welcomed them from the library, accompanied by loud chewing noises coming from the boy who was holding a significantly large piece of nougat in his hands as if it was a treasure he had to protect at all costs.

“I… think we need to talk” Sam began carefully, listing up the pranks he and Dean experienced throughout the day, and somewhere along the way a popcorn eating Cas appeared behind them and added the weird “romantic relationships” talk from earlier as well as the constant discussion about angels and food.

 

Jack looked a bit sad, but there wasn’t a trace of regret in his face as he justified himself. “It’s true, it was me, but I didn’t mean to make you angry. You see, the archangel said it would be fun and he’d give me this in return if I…”

“The archangel you’re talking about- was his name Gabriel, by any chance?”

Sam didn’t need for the half-angel to nod in order to know that he was right. The nicknames, the jokes, the songs the trickster chose… it all made sense to him now. He couldn’t hold back the annoyed groan as he tried to get rid of the headache by rubbing his temples. He should have known it from the start.

“Got’cha, Moose~”

With a flapping sound, the archangel manifested in front of them, patting Jack’s back approvingly and winking at Sam before he snapped his fingers. “Want some candy? Oh, come on, you can’t be mad at me, it was kinda fun, right?” He raised an eyebrow at the brothers.

Jack was chewing on his nougat. Sam had his bitch face mode activated. Cas was as frowny as ever. Dean rolled his eyes, raised his hands in a surrendering gesture and started to hum the melody of the moose song. Everyone turned towards him with expressions ranging from amused to terrified.

What? It’s catchy. And I think I won’t get that out of my head for weeks.”

When he continued and Gabriel started to sing, Sam couldn’t suppress his laughter. Jack joined in, even Cas’ frown looked a lot happier than before.

 

Maybe Jack would do it again, maybe Heat of the Moment was a pretty good song, maybe angels could enjoy some popcorn from time to time, maybe Destiel was really not so far-fetched, maybe the Impala could use a touch of spring atmosphere.

And maybe, yeah, maybe Gabriel did like a Moose.

Chapter Text

"Jack and I will get the reports from the station tomorrow. We will be back."

That was the message he'd sent Dean yesterday, shortly before he'd let his phone slip back into the pocket of his pants and booked a room with two single beds for the night. There had been a possible case one state over and since him and Jack had been on the road and a few hundred miles away from the bunker anyway, Cas had offered to look into the violent killings, and Sam and Dean had gratefully accepted.

They'd spent the night in some semi-quality motel, the first one that Castiel had laid eyes on once they'd entered the town where the three boys had been found in a basement with their wrists slit. Normally, he would've looked for a nicer place to stay, if not for his own but for Jack's sake, but one look at his half-asleep son in the passenger seat had told him that the nephilim didn't need a clean and modern motel room right now but just a mattress of any sort. It had been late after all, almost three in the morning, when they'd arrived in town. And honestly, Cas had been tired of driving as well. And so he'd pulled into a parking spot next to the first accommodation he'd seen.

While Jack had slept, the angel had informed the Winchesters about the situation and maybe, just maybe, he'd kept Dean awake for another three hours before he'd finally let him have his well-deserved sleep when Jack had woken up at seven and they'd decided to go for breakfast because neither of them had been in the mood to hang around in this motel for longer than necessary.

Now, a few hours and a simple meal later, they were walking past some shops, on their way to the local police station to gather some information on the current case. The suit that Cas had scraped up for Jack somewhere along the way was a few numbers too big for the nephilim but he seemed to like it anyway if the beaming smile that had been on his face when he'd put it on was anything to go by, and so Castiel had kept the thought that the sleeves were a little too long for the blond's arms, to himself.

- "We're here", he informed once they'd reached the station, and the angel looked up at the impressive, advanced-looking building. This town really seemed to place value on modernity, he realized, as he cast a look around, noticing that most of the houses had rather unusual shapes and more windows that he could possibly count. Focusing back on the task at hand, he turned to meet Jack's attentive yet somewhat excited gaze.

Sure, their kid had accompanied them during investigations and interrogations, and he'd been with them when they'd posed as FBI agents before but this was going to be his first time undertaking that part of the job. He'd always watched and observed, but never really done anything except for smiling, nodding, and asking his dads questions afterward. Castiel had to admit that Jack was way better at the whole staying-in-role thing than he had been when he'd started working with the Winchesters, and therefore he was having no doubts that his son was going to be just as great at the actual playing-the-role part. And any mistakes he might make could easily be blamed on his inexperience - Jack looked rather young, after all, so a quick "I'm sorry, this is his first case" would probably work perfectly if an excuse was required.

- "I assume you have your badge?"

- "Of course!", Jack gave back, eyes lighting up with anticipation, and Cas smiled softly.

- "Let's go then."

He ran a hand through his dark hair before he ascended the stairs that led up to the main entrance. Jack's questioning gaze lingered on the revolving door for a few seconds as he hesitated, but he followed quickly once he'd apparently grasped and understood the unfamiliar concept.

Upon entering, they made a beeline for the front desk immediately, swiftly moving past all the people in their way until Castiel could make eye contact with the secretary. And that was when things started to become a little more serious.

However, when his son introduced them to the woman behind the front desk in a quick and professional manner, the seraph felt all the worries and fears he'd had fall off of him within split seconds. He couldn't deny that he basically burst with pride, seeing Jack talk to the woman with surprising ease; and his devotion to his fosterling only grew when he cast a glance at Jack as he spoke, and saw the same expression on the blond's face that Dean always wore when he explained the reasons for their unannounced interferences with cases that weren't meant for the FBI. It made him happy too see how hard Jack tried to be just like his dads, and it made him even happier to see how well the nephilim was doing so far - although admittedly, he hadn't really expected anything else.

Being proud of your son because he was able to lie and deceive policemen was probably also a thing that could only happen to either a hunter, or a cold-hearted psychotic criminal. He was glad that he could consider himself and the Winchesters the former, although some past acquaintances would most likely disagree with him there.

He didn't even notice the way Jack looked over at the silver service bell on the desk now and then when it tinged, with an irritated expression on his face that vanished as soon as it had appeared when the woman raised her voice again and directed the nephilim's attention back at her. But, to be fair, Castiel definitely had better things to do in this situation than staring at his son's face all the time, right? Although he might've pridefully smiled at him one or two times more than a normal FBI agent should actually look at his partner; but the secretary wasn't paying him a lot of - any - attention anyway.

Having quickly flashed their badges, and having been told where they could find the officer that led the investigation on this specific case, they began to make their way to the room at the end of the corridor to their right. While they were walking past a few vending machines, some open doors, and many, many people, Castiel made sure that Jack still remembered all the important things about how to lead a successful investigation by asking a whole bunch of - admittedly unnecessary and excessive - questions, although he knew exactly that Jack probably wasn't even listening. He'd been explaining what to do in case of sudden symptoms of demonic possession for the probably fifth time that day when he noticed that the nephilim wasn't even next to him anymore.

He felt a jolt of panic as his heartbeat sped up, and he turned around quickly, already expecting the worst - therefore, it wasn't exactly surprising that he couldn't help the relieved sigh that escaped his lips when he saw that Jack hadn't gotten lost or into an uncomfortable situation somewhere along the way, but had simply crouched down next to a fish tank. Softly huffing to himself, he walked back the few feet that separated him from his son who spoke up as soon as Castiel had come to a stop next to him.

- "Why did they cage the fish?", Jack asked, looking up at his father with an almost painfully sad and confused expression on his face before he focused back on the small animals swimming around in the aquarium.

- "You know", Cas smiled, putting a calming hand down on his son's shoulder, "Some animals are meant to be reared by humans. These fish wouldn't survive outside this tank. They're supposed to live in containers like this one so people can take care of them."

Maybe he shouldn't have told Jack about the whole matter in such detail. He knew exactly how easily excited the nephilim was, after all, so he really shouldn't have been so surprised when the boy turned to look at him with wide, rapturously glowing eyes.

- "Really?", he asked, noticeably stoked; intently observing the way the fish hurried to the opposite side of the tank in panic when he placed his hand flat against the glass. "Can we get some?"

Castiel smiled gently at Jack's childlike enthusiasm, but shook his head nonetheless. He wasn't so sure about Sam's opinion on fish but he could imagine that Dean would be less than thrilled if they returned home with a fish tank and a dozen goldfish instead of a solved case and multiple six-packs of beer.

- "No, Jack, I'm sorry."

- "Why not? Just look at them! Aren't they amazing?"

- "We've talked about pets in the bunker before. We'd have to ask Dean and Sam first, and they will probably not approve."

- "Can't you call them? Or text them?"

Castiel rolled his eyes with a soft sigh - the smile on his lips betrayed his apparent annoyance, though - and turned to continue his way, looking back at Jack over his shoulder.

- "Maybe later. Come on now, you have a job to do!"

The nephilim cast another hopeful glance at the gaping goldfish before he got up from the floor to follow Cas, jogging a little to catch up with his foster-father.

Once or twice during their walk, the angel noticed Jack slowing down for a second, widened eyes fixating on something that Castiel couldn't see - or maybe he could, and his son was actually fascinated by the copying machine that had been spitting out a bunch of colorfully imprinted sheet when they'd passed by; or by a red flashing thing attached to the ceiling that Cas quickly introduced to him as a common fire alert.

At first, he was a little confused by Jack's sudden inattentiveness towards their case; but then he remembered his own first few years on earth, and the way he'd questioned the existence and respectability of miniature fridges, and he found that he shouldn't be as surprised about his son's excitement as he currently was. Ever since they'd known him, Jack had been a curious and attentive boy, and so being in a place this advanced and therefore unfamiliar and new to the nephilim, would, of course, spark his untamable curiosity. And yes, they did, in fact, not have a printer in the bunker yet, so there was that.

As soon as they reached the door at the end of the corridor, Jack knocked - his father had insisted that he did it in order to "fully do the job" -, and a stern, yet friendly voice sounded up from behind it, inviting them inside, so Jack pushed the door open without hesitation. Castiel shut it carefully behind him once he'd entered, eyes swiftly scanning the whole office that seemed more like a living room than anything else.

- "Good morning, gentlemen. How can I help you?", a tall, brown-haired man - presumably the officer they'd been looking for - asked, getting up from his chair to walk around the desk and hold out his hand for the two of them to shake. Castiel took hold of it with a firm grip while politely greeting the guy, but when the officer put out his hand in Jack's general direction, the nephilim didn't even make a move to accept. For a second, Castiel feared that Jack might be having some kind of panic or anxiety attack, or a stroke, or anything, but when he looked over, he noticed that his son was, in fact, moving - he was glancing around with wide eyes and an open mouth, eyes darting everywhere and anywhere as he took in the room, noticeably overwhelmed.

The seraph tried to follow the movement of Jack's pupils for a short time, taking notice of yet another copying machine, an electric pencil sharpener, multiple picture frames, an iPad, model cars, and a few other random things that seemed to make the boy practically die with excitement.

He cleared his throat awkwardly, successfully drawing Jack's attention back to the current situation, and the nephilim immediately grabbed the hand that the man had been about to withdraw, to shake it with a broad smile and a little too much force. Castiel could basically feel the energy radiating from his son, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't tell if it was just his excitement, or his actual powers that were causing it.

- "Sorry!", Jack started while the man leaned back against his desk, "It's just...your office is really impressive, sir!"

He sounded more like an actual kid than an FBI agent but the policeman didn't seem to mind too much.

- "Huh, you think so? I don't think it's all that special but...well, thank you, I guess! Now, though - what can I help you guys with?"

Castiel could tell the exact second when Jack realized that they hadn't shown their badges to the officer, and he grinned slightly at the way the nephilim began to clumsily search the pockets of his suit for the card. When he'd finally gotten a hold of the badge, and proceeded to awkwardly present it to the man, Cas had almost finished putting his own away again already. However, that didn't throw Jack off track, as he was quick to raise his voice again.

- "I'm special agent Halpert, and this is my partner, special agent Scott. We're here to investigate the unusual deaths? You know, the three boys?"

- "Ah, yeah...horrible, the way those kids died. But...we got that one under control, actually - got the killer yesterday, some mass murderer we've been after for quite some time now. Didn't you get informed?", the officer asked while he was filling a black mug with steaming, light brown coffee.

Jack cast Castiel a nervous glance, and the seraph gave him an encouraging nod to make him speak up again.

- "So, uh...nothing unusual about it? At all?"

The man returned to his former spot, frowning instead of smiling this time.

- "Except for the open wrists and the fact that they were found in a basement of someone who's never seen even one of them in their whole life? No", he huffed coldly, and when Castiel looked over at his son, he could see a flash of surprise on the nephilim's face for a second so that he quickly decided to take over but just as he'd been about to raise his voice, Jack did so again instead.

- "Excuse us, sir", he began, seeming somewhat distracted as he talked but Cas chose to nevermind that. "We just...wanna make sure nothing's been missed during the investigation."

The officer was fast to reply, reassuring once more that they'd apparently checked all the pieces of evidence, security camera footage, and potential witnesses before he asked if there was anything else they'd like to know. Castiel nudged Jack's shoulder when the boy didn't respond at all, and it took him another two seconds or so until he shook his head and looked back and forth between the two other men.

- "Uh, what?"

Castiel sighed softly.

- "He asked if there's anything else we need to know", he repeated for his son with an eye roll that was betrayed by the smile he was trying to hold back.

Silence filled the room for a short time.

- "How does this mug change its color?", Jack asked all of a sudden, pointing at the cup that had gone from black to vibrant and colorful within a few minutes with wide, curious eyes.

They got thrown out shortly after.

When they returned to the bunker that day, it was without a case, and without any new info - but fortunately enough, Castiel could be sure that at least Jack was happy with how things had turned out in the end, judging by the way he was carefully holding the goldfish bag in both of his hands in the passenger seat.

Chapter Text

He was a monster. A vampire. One of these things people have been telling horror stories about for centuries. Blood-thirsty, wild, brutal creatures lurking in the shadows, hunting down innocent humans at night. Benny couldn’t deny that these facts weren’t true, that he wasn’t a monster, but he also believed in second chances ever since he got one himself. Not a chance to be human, but a chance to do better, and he intended to make it right, even though old habits die hard.

 

It had been ironic, really. Dean Winchester, the one hunter every creature feared, landed in Purgatory and he was lucky enough to meet him there. It hadn’t been a very nice encounter at first, considering that the hunter tried to kill anyone and anything before his eyes. Then again, he couldn’t be blamed for his defensive behaviour, they were in Purgatory. He didn’t belong there though, and Benny himself had gotten tired of the place years ago, so they made an agreement that would allow him to see earth once again.

Did Dean want to kill him?

What they had couldn’t be called trust or even friendship in the beginning, but at least Benny’s life wasn’t in danger since the hunter had no intention of killing him back then, although he knew very well who he was. What he was. He had done a few things in his life he wasn’t proud of, but once Dean freed him on the other side of the portal, he felt more human than he had ever felt before. That was when he decided it was time to change something, to try harder this time.

 

Benny and the hunter had gotten closer after the battles they fought side by side down there, Dean saw him as his brother, but he decided he should become more independent, fulfil the goal he’d had ever since he had been killed in the first place: to bring down his maker, the one he had considered his God at some point, who ruined his life back then. He had to promise his new friend to stay out of trouble, but the hunter also assured he’d help him if he had problems.

It felt good, having someone who got his back, having someone he could believe in, but it was also another reason why he didn’t want to make use of this offer.

Did Dean want to kill him?

No, instead, he gave him a hug and told him to take care of himself. Dean Winchester, the well-known hunter, let Benjamin, a vampire, get away unscathed. He would never forget how the person who should have judged and hated him the most accepted him and his inhuman nature.

 

Although Dean didn’t appreciate it when Benny called him for no apparent reason, the vampire wasn’t hurt or angry. He knew about the current situation, he felt it himself, the unfamiliarity from being thrown into a peaceful world where he didn’t have to defend himself anymore. They were both broken from their time in Purgatory, but it also felt… exciting, pure, and he wished for Dean to keep the memory of that feeling rather than throwing it away. Without a doubt, it was something that connected them, even though they agreed to stay away from each other for a while.

Dean’s brother Sam wasn’t as convinced about Benny’s good intentions as the older Winchester, he saw him as the vampire who brainwashed the hunter and only took advantage of him to get through the portal. He had to call Dean after all, hesitantly, but it wasn’t like he had to confess doing something wrong. Damn, he didn’t do anything, he didn’t hurt a single human, he tried and succeeded. It wasn’t his fault that innocent people were found dead. Was it that hard to believe that he actually changed, that he wasn’t the monster he used to be?

Did Dean want to kill him?

Sam definitely did, but rather because he was searching for a reason to do so. Benny didn’t want to get into trouble, and he didn’t want to be the reason for the Winchesters to argue either, but what was he supposed to do at this point. Dean might have slightly doubted him for a short time, Benny understood that the hunter was more likely to trust his family than his vampire friend, but in the end, it surprised him even more that he picked his side, defended him, again.

 

Dean was the one who killed Benny’s old friends, the people he used to call his family, as well as his maker and last but not least the love of his life he reunited with for a few minutes. It was heart-breaking at first, sure, but there had been no other choice, he knew that, so he didn’t blame it on Dean. Things change, he told himself, and when he left his old life behind in Purgatory, he also said goodbye to the people who were in it.

Despite the brutal events, their bond only seemed to get stronger. Upon the sudden question why Dean hadn’t just taken advantage of him instead of resurrecting the vampire as promised, the hunter replied he wouldn’t even have thought of that since he considered Benjamin a close friend. It came out so quickly, without hesitation, hearing those words made Benny smile once again, still surprised but grateful for the acceptance. The feeling of belonging somewhere, yet alone being treated like a human, was something he hadn’t even dared to dream about ever since he died.

Did Dean want to kill him?

Looking at the lifeless bodies of his former family members whose souls were now in Purgatory, he shook his head and reminded himself that this was were they belonged. They weren’t like him, they killed innocent people, they were monsters. He wasn’t, he had left that life behind, and he wouldn’t be hunted down for breaking the promise he made. Dean killed vampires, so he was safe if he stopped behaving like one.

 

It felt good to see his hometown again, even if a lot had changed during the time he was gone. The diner he used to work at brought back long forgotten memories and Benny got the opportunity to start a peaceful life again, opening the doors in the morning, serving customers throughout the day and finally being the last one to close when everyone had left. Serving food, cleaning dirty plates and chatting with a few guests, tasks other people described as boring or annoying, were the things he looked forward to every day.

Benny was proud, he was happy, he didn’t pose a threat to anyone, and still people tried to take his new life away from him. Well, not exactly people, but vampires. Again, he was framed for killing innocents, and again, the younger Winchester was determined to convict him this time.

No matter what life threw in his face, Benny decided to fight it, prove that he was not a bad guy.

Did Dean want to kill him?

Sam did. Dean seemed to want that to, at least it was the first impression the vampire had. In the end, he almost ended up murdering the hunter because of one tiny cut and a few drops of blood, for God’s sake! He had really messed it up this time, even though the only person who ended up dead after another battle wasn’t the hunter but his opponent who hurt his great granddaughter. He had snapped, his bloodlust taking over, and killed the human in front of the Winchester brothers. Not a very trustworthy thing to do when trying to prove that he had his hunger under control. Benny thought he could fight it, the overwhelming desire to give in to his natural instincts. Turned out he couldn’t. He had become what he hated the most.

In the end, he was nothing but a monster they told horror stories about.

 

Things only went downhill from that point onwards, Benny was left alone with one bag of blood and the guilt of failing. Dean told him he was forgiven, appreciated everything the vampire had done, but decided to break their connection once and for all. Benny, on the other hand, couldn’t forgive himself that easily.

Who was he without his friend, family and the ambition to keep up his human lifestyle? Everything he had done since he had come back from Purgatory felt like one big lie, a fake-and-pretend-story he made up that collapsed like a house of cards now that he had lost his faith.

 

“One last time” Benny told himself, “one last time I’ll try to do the right thing.” Sam hadn’t exactly been nice to him, but he’d do it for Dean. The vampire knew how it felt to lose his family, and to know that someone important to him was in Purgatory, living the nightmare he once escaped from, was even worse.

One last time he’d help his friend, ironically the only one he’d die for, he realized with a little smirk. It wasn’t only for Dean, though. The thought had occurred to Benny before, in countless lonely nights when he had nothing to do but to sit in a bar until the sun rose up again, getting drunk and wishing it was alcohol and not blood he was thirsting for. In moments like these, he felt it the most: he didn’t belong in this world. Not because the bartender had to throw him out at some point because it was morning again, not because it was hard to pay for the shabby motel room he stayed in, but because he was a monster.

He went to Purgatory to send Sam back to Dean, voluntarily staying behind as he had planned it from the start.

It was Dean who killed him. There was no point in asking himself the question that kept him alive for so long anymore -because he was where he belonged now- but in the end, the answer would always be the same.

 

Dean didn’t want to kill Benny.

And it is the thought that counts, after all.

Chapter Text

- "Wait a second, did you see that?!", Dean shouted all of a sudden, leaning forward to reach for the computer mouse, pushing Sam away in the process.

- "Dude!", the taller hunter complained, proceeding to softly grumble to himself when his brother responded with a simple "Stop bitching". However, as Dean rewound the security camera footage, curiosity got the better of Sam, and he dropped his annoyed attitude to inspect the events caught on camera more closely.

- "There!", the older man exclaimed, pressing pause and immediately moving closer to the screen so that Sam had to push him away to see anything because Dean was completely blocking the view.

- "I... don't see anything", he admitted after a short pause, tilting his head to the side a little. The suspect - who was clearly innocent in his opinion - was simply crossing a street, with normal clothes, a normal pace, a normal posture, a normal bag, a normal expression on his face. A normal man. Nothing special about him, or at least nothing Sam could perceive, and so he raised an eyebrow at his brother, waiting for an explanation.

- "Dude! That's Benny, man!"

He furrowed his brows, almost sure that Dean must've messed something up; because Benny was in Purgatory and there was no way he could've possibly gotten away from his attackers, let alone out on his own. But narrowing his eyes and leaning forward, he, too, spotted the familiar face in the top right corner of the screen, and raised his eyebrows out of sheer respect for the vampire.

When he noticed that Dean had gotten up from his seat next to him, he turned around in his chair just to see his brother awkwardly try to hastily put on his coat.

- "Dean, the case--"

- "Fuck the case, Sammy, we gotta find him!"

With these words - and without waiting for a response -, the older hunter was out of the room, his quick steps echoing back from the walls as he strode down the hallway. Resigning, Sam didn't even attempt to hold back the annoyed sigh that escaped his lips, and simply deleted the whole footage before he got up to go after his brother.

Freaking vampires.

--

They'd managed to locate Benny who luckily hadn't left the town in the few days they'd spent there - quite the opposite, actually. It seemed like he'd picked up some parts of his old life again, and was currently working in some kind of bar near the main street. And the best thing? He hadn't sucked on anyone, either. Although, of course, Dean had never even considered the option, seeing as, apparently, he was still more loyal to Benny than to his own brother.

Sam had decided not to make any more comments about that, though. Since he'd definitely regretted last time.

Right now, they were on their way to visit the vampire at his current home, a small apartment close to his place of work; and honestly, Sam really didn't have a problem with the idea itself - Benny had sacrificed himself so they could get out of Purgatory back when he'd gone to get Bobby out of hell after all, and he was the whole opposite of a bad guy. Hell, he was probably one of the nicest men, let alone vampires, Sam had ever run into. The only thing he didn't quite get, though, was why Dean had told Jack that it was okay for him to come along when he'd asked - without even mentioning that the "old friend" they were going to meet was a monster.

Looking back at it now, he should've maybe acted on his own instincts and explained the whole situation to his son rather than let Dean have his - admittedly careless and fucked-up - way. He didn't even know if he'd trusted his brother's decisions or if he'd simply hoped that the shorter hunter had told Jack about it when he hadn't been around, but it had probably been a mixture of both.

Now it was too late to warn the nephilim. Or Cas. He didn't even know if Cas knew what the hell they were doing. Oh God, what had he gotten himself into again.

Just when he'd been about to speak up to get his questions answered, the door in front of them opened, and they found themselves face to face with Benjamin Lafitte; complete with shirt, coat, the familiar hat and all. Understandable. They'd arrived here only a few minutes after he'd gotten home from work.

The exhausted expression was replaced by one of the happiest and most genuine and surprised smiles Sam had ever seen in his whole life when Benny realized just who was standing right on his doorstep at this moment. Dean appeared to have been in some kind of stasis for a few seconds, judging by the way he staggered when the vampire pulled him closer and into a bone-crushingly tight, brotherly hug without saying a single word.

However, the reunion was interrupted quite violently; and way too early for all persons involved. Sam should've expected it.

- "Dean!"

Jack's worried voice startled them, and even without looking, the taller hunter knew what was going to come - and that he had to act fast now.

- "Jack, no!", he shouted, quickly getting in front of his son to keep him from basically ripping Benny to pieces while Castiel wrapped his arms around the nephilim from behind to hold him, and especially his hands, down as best as he could.

- "But he's--"

- "A friend, Jack! He's a vampire, yes. We know that", he spoke, putting his hands up in a calming gesture, and intensely gazing at their son to make clear that everything was okay and that there was no need to worry about any of them. "But he's a friend."

Turning to cast Dean an angry glance - and planning to give him a good telling-off later because he'd just almost killed Benny again - he noticed the slight smirk on the vampire's face.

- "Ya got a kid, Dean?", he asked, grinning at the hunter who hesitated for a second, apparently trying to figure out how to respond to that; and Sam immediately took the chance to speak up and pay his brother back a little.

- "Yeah. Benny, meet Jack, my nephew. He's a nephilim, kinda. Jack, this is Benny, an old friend of ours, and...well, a vamp", he explained, vaguely gesturing around and flashing Dean a smug grin somewhere in-between.

Benny had invited them inside for about an hour; they had shared stories and talked about how they'd been doing over the past few years - or, well, him and Dean had, as Cas and Sam had mostly kept quiet and listened while Jack still hadn't seemed too fond of the whole sitting-in-a-vampire's-living-room idea - until the older hunter had finally posed the one question that had been on everyone's mind ever since they'd discovered that Benny was back on earth. Namely why and especially how he'd gotten out of Purgatory a second time; how he'd achieved something twice that he hadn't been supposed to achieve even once.

The vampire had swiftly told them that he hadn't wanted to get out, not at first, but apparently, one thing had led to another and he'd ended up going anyway - although he hadn't said a single thing about how he'd managed to pass through the portal. He'd blocked every single one of Dean's attempts at asking about the matter, and at some point, the hunter had given up on trying to find out about it, partly because it had been getting him nowhere, and partly because it had seemed to really make Benny uncomfortable.

Once they'd passed an hour and a half, the vampire had announced that he needed some sleep and a drink - don't think about his wording too much, it's alcohol, not blood, no need to worry, not at all - so he could get up early tomorrow; and had therefore politely asked them to leave. Not wanting to disturb the vampire any longer, they'd gotten up immediately.

Right now they were standing in front of the door in the hallway, having already exchanged phone numbers so they could stay in touch even if one of them moved out, or, well, on. Sam had given Benny the coordinates of the Bunker in case he ever needed help, or shelter, and at the moment, the vampire was giving Castiel a clap on the back with a soft laugh, after he'd already given both Dean and Sam a short fraternal hug.

When even Jack politely said goodbye to the man before they turned to leave, Sam figured that maybe, Benny was more of a friend and family member that he'd always thought.

- "Wait!"

Confused, the four men turned around to look back at the vampire standing in the doorway.

- "If he's your kid, Dean", Benny started and paused for a second, but before the hunter could interrupt, he raised his voice again. "Then who's the mother, though?"

- "The mother? Oh, that's Cas", Sam said as seriously as he could, drawing a soft laugh from their son.

When Castiel screwed up his face in confusion and Dean reached inside his pocket to fetch his penknife with a deadly expression on his reddened face; Sam and Jack spun around and bolted, rushing down the stairs while laughing from the top of their lungs.


- "Glad you finally found your family, Dean."

Chapter Text

Chuck said he’d never do this again. The first convention had been nerve-wracking enough, way too loud and busy and screwthisshitIwanttogohome. But here he was, at an even bigger event, sitting backstage in an uncomfortable plastic chair, regretting the decision to agree to this session already.

Flashing lights. Hundreds of cameras following every move he made ever since he stepped into the building, no, ever since he got out of the house that morning. He was self-conscious, damn it, and checked his slightly reddened face every five minutes, nervously opening his phone, using the selfie mode as a digital mirror. Widened eyes, a look of suppressed fear visible on his face, a few minimal drops of sweat forming on his forehead.

A voice next to him almost scared Chuck to death, reminding him of his performance that would start in a few minutes. With trembling hands, he wiped away the sweat with the sleeve of his shirt, which seemed way too hot at the moment, and put away the phone.  It wasn’t just the shirt though, even the air he was breathing seemed to be hot and heavy, filled with the smell of excitement and power and the dust of the old curtain which separated him from his audience.

That thin piece of fabric was the only thing protecting him from the public. And he was about to abandon this protection, get out there and make a fool of himself.

 

“No” he reminded himself, “stay positive. You are God, the Winchesters still believe you are a prophet, and for the people waiting for you, you are an amazing author known as Carver Edlund. You will go out there and let them celebrate you, you will stay calm and you will make this stage yours.” He felt confident. For about… five seconds. It was no use, he had to go out there anyway, so he abandoned his crouching position on the chair, stood up and tightened the grip on the water bottle in his hand.

Okay, fine. Everything was fine.

A final deep breath, a final push from behind, and Chuck almost fell. He stumbled forward, grabbing onto the first thing in front of him, which, sadly, was the curtain. The fabric swung to the side, finally revealing the man to the people in front of him, and that was when the cheering started. Loud, high-pitched fangirl noises that made the author flinch instantly.

He let go of the material and slowly made his way towards the microphone, his body telling him to turn around and run away, abandon this place and get as much distance between him and these people as possible. But somehow, he didn’t. Or maybe he just knew he wouldn’t get far on these jelly-like things that were his legs.

 

“Hello, ladies and gentlemen, thanks for… being here today.” Oh great. The screeching had stopped, but was now replaced by an uncomfortable silence, all eyes on him, waiting for him to say something. But… what? What were they waiting for, what was he supposed to say? Another “Thank you”? An apology? That he wanted to go home, crawl in his bed and hide under the blanket?

Chuck went for the first option, he managed to put together a few coherent statements about his work and about how grateful he was. After a few sentences, he spotted Sam and Dean in the back, nodding towards him with encouraging smiles on their faces, so he continued, giving what, judging by the applause at the end, turned out to be an acceptable speech. He blinked in confusion, this was easier than expected, and he was doing… a good job. Wow.

Maybe coming here today hadn’t been such a bad idea after all.

 

Flashing a grin as wide as the ones he received from the fans, he decided to start the second phase. “So, have you got any questions for me?” At least fifty hands shot up instantly and the author was rather curious about what his admirers wanted to know.

Chuck picked the first person, a young man in the first row, cosplaying a member of the Ghostfacers, who promptly blurted out a hopeful “Will you marry me?” before apologizing and hiding his blushing face in his hands. Now that was adorable. God hadn’t exactly come here to hook up with someone, but he couldn’t deny it, the guy was his type. “Maybe we could start with a hug”, he suggested warmly, kneeling at the edge of the stage to embrace the overjoyed man.  

“Okay, next one. Yes, you, the one in the trenchcoat.” About fifteen Castiels frowned at him simultaneously, Chuck had to admit that it made him feel slightly uncomfortable, so he hastily clarified “Fifth row, the girl who’s holding cowboy-Dean’s hand.”

There was stifled laughter and whispering. A woman spoke up, a mischievous tone in her voice. “What do you think about the much-discussed topic fans call Destiel?”

Chuck almost broke character for a second, confessing his son was allowed to date whoever he wanted, and yes, that included Dean, because they were a match made in heaven, so to speak, but he caught himself in time. “I believe … it’s not far-fetched to… consider them to be in a romantic relationship. I want to leave it to the reader’s imagination to decide whether their bond is platonic or not, but I have to admit… writing them is one of my guilty pleasures.”

Pleased with his choice of words, his eyes searched for Dean in the back of the room, amused to see the hunter discuss something with his chuckling younger brother quite… aggressively.

 

Okay. Okay, he could do this. This was more fun than he had imagined, the atmosphere was great, and his fans were happy, so why shouldn’t he relax and enjoy himself a bit too? “Heaven can wait” he thought, “heaven can wait forever, actually. I’m not really planning to take responsibility for things up there anymore, so why bother? The whole God thing… I’ve gotten tired of it anyway.” Chuck ended his tiny inner monologue with a sip from his bottle before turning his attention towards the audience again.

“Who’s next?”

 

Especially answering questions with the topic of religion was kind of ironic from the position as God himself. Some of them made him laugh as if it was an inside joke he had with himself- still funny, but bittersweet since he had nobody to share it with-, while others made him think.

“Is Lucifer a typical villain to you?”

No. His son wasn’t pure evil, at least he hadn’t always been, but things change, so it was only natural for them to… think differently at some point. The fallen angel was still family, but hey, it was a common issue. Nowadays, fights between father and son weren’t unusual. He’d get over it at some point, at least Chuck hoped so.

“You introduced the archangel Gabriel. Will there be more of him? What is his goal and how is his relationship with God?”

Oh, he hoped that Gabriel wouldn’t show up again and make a mess of the situation, but he probably would, he was the trickster, after all. Wait… why did he even care? Okay, Gabriel was his son, but hadn’t he just decided to abandon his job as the holy father? Did that also mean he would abandon his job as a father in general? That he would abandon his sons as well?

 

On second thought, the idea of not wanting to be God anymore had more consequences than he’d imagined at first. There was a brief moment of hesitation, his composed expression faded just for a millisecond, as it was replaced by a more confident one right away.

Yes. Yes, he would abandon all these things, for better or for worse. If he disappeared, his angels would be grateful- they were already furious enough about his absence, so there was no point in facing them now and being greeted by hatred and accusations. He’d kill two birds with one stone. The hilarious image of a pigeon-sized Gabriel blocked out the negative thoughts in his mind.

 A few questions later, the panel was almost over, Chuck saw how a rather shy-looking fan in the back row raised her hand. She seemed to be nervous, without a doubt, but the fact that she had the courage to ask impressed him, even reminded Chuck of himself a little, when he remembered what a wreck he was before entering the stage. “Yes, dear, what is your question?”

With an unexpectedly clear and loud voice, the girl asked the one question he couldn’t answer.

“Is Chuck God?”

 

“W-what?” How. How the hell did she figure it out? Upon his question, a detailed elaboration of all the hints and what-if’s followed. Chuck didn’t even hear all of it, his mind was too busy processing the information he just received, suddenly anxious again. The problem wasn’t that he didn’t want to answer. He could say it was only an interpretation based on randomly accurate research, a fan theory without any solid proof. Hell, he could even say that it was the truth, it was a character she was talking about, not the author Carver Edlund.

The real issue was that it was his book. Not only his book, it was his story. It wasn’t fictional, none of it was made up, he was Chuck, he chose to be Chuck. So, he had to ask himself: was he God? What was the right answer, not based on where he came from, but what he himself chose to be the truth? Who was he? He didn’t want to be God anymore.

But if he wasn’t God, who, or what, was he? Prophet? Author?

He suddenly realized that it had gotten suspiciously quiet, everyone held their breath, expecting him to answer. He didn’t feel confident anymore, he felt lost, and small, and totally not like God.

 

Today was the day he would accept the role he came up with when he first inserted himself into the story. It was the day God became a human, the day the almighty father denied his true identity, his powers and his family. The day God turned into Chuck Shurley, and Chuck accepted his life as a writer under the pen name Carver Edlund.

It was complicated, like a beautiful, dramatic story full of mystery and unanswered questions, but this is how he liked it. No every question would be answered at the end of the book, and he wasn’t even sorry. This was the ending, the last page of the final chapter of his life as God, and endings are hard.

Any chapped-ass monkey with a keyboard could poop out a beginning, but endings are impossible. Even if he tried to tie up every loose end, he wouldn’t be able to. Some people, in this case the angels, would always bitch. There would always be holes in his story, “so screw it” he thought, “endings are a raging pain in the ass”.

Up against good, evil, his sons, his creation, destiny, and himself, Chuck had made his own choice. He hadn’t chosen family. And, well...wasn’t that kinda the opposite of what he had in mind for his main characters? No doubt- endings are hard.

But then again...nothing ever really ends, does it?

 

Wiping away a tear from his eye that -hopefully- nobody had seen, he opened his mouth to answer.

“Don’t use the G-word. Just call him Chuck.”

Chapter Text

Chuck had only just sat down at the table and poured himself a glass of whiskey when his phone binged once. Why did all the people always have to annoy him when he needed it the least? Huffing softly, he checked the message he'd received and ran a hand through his curls.

"Hey, Chuck? Do ya have time today? It's pretty important, I'd like to meet as soon as possible if it's okay. Thanks!"

He quickly texted back, informing the person that he was quite busy at the moment but saying that they could meet up in the afternoon or tomorrow; before he put the phone down with the screen facing the table without waiting for a response. Stretching and adjusting his loose gray t-shirt, he opened the book he'd placed on the table in front of him. It was one of these times again. Shaking his head with a tired sigh, he began to read, eyes flying over the printed letters.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"

He laughed, somewhat bitterly, as he flipped the pages of the Bible. This had always been one of the phrases he'd hated most in this book.

- "In the beginning there was me", he softly said to himself, raising the glass of whiskey to his lips. "Me and nothing else."

One could definitely see that he wasn't the one who'd written this book. The mere way these texts were written; with the horrible speech, and the confusing sentence structure that even he had to mull over for a few seconds to understand; was nothing but uncomfortable to read. He'd be lying if he said that he hadn't been hoping for something a little more spectacular and honoring - and less pseudo-intelligent - when the humans had started to write down their and his stories. Maybe he should really write that autobiography one day, and publish the whole thing... Then again, the people probably wouldn't believe a single word and would call it blasphemy, blaming it on either some unknown wannabe author or a weird cult. Hm.

Maybe publishing an autobiography wasn't the best idea he'd ever had.

Dismissing the train of thought, he decided to read on instead; and skimmed the thin pages until two rather familiar names caught his eye.

Adam and Eve, his first attempt at humanity. And he hadn't exactly succeeded, judging by what they'd done; seeing as they'd been flawed already. They'd been seduced by evil, and so he'd punished them.

...

Why had he even put the tree there in the first place? He'd thought about this question for a long time, had tried to find his own unknown intentions, until he'd finally found a reason - or an excuse? - for what had happened back in Eden. It had been a test, of course; and they'd stood it, at first; until the serpent had tricked them into eating one of the fruits. And for the serpent... well, he couldn't deny that, from the very beginning, he'd had some kind of hope that Adam and Eve would eat from it, would discover what they called free will. That was why he'd planted the serpent, the incarnation of evil, in the garden in the first place. To make them discover the greatness of free will. Looking down at the printed letters, he wondered why no one had ever considered adding this small, yet important, detail to the book. That he'd wanted them to eat from the tree. That he'd wanted them to set against his orders.

...And yet, when they'd done just that, when they'd done what he'd wanted them to do, he'd cursed them, had sent them away. He'd tricked them into opposing him just so he could abandon them. Maybe that was why some people called him cruel, and heartless. He'd known for quite a while now that he'd been a horrible God back then; inexperienced and lost, a spoiled child who'd been given too much power.

The only question was if he was a better God now.

He hadn't done anything wrong. Even back then, he hadn't. Sending Adam and Eve away had been cruel, but it had been just. He had been just. He still was. Of course he was. He was the Creator. He would always be.

A bunch of minutes later, he'd finished reading through the whole creation; and couldn't help but think about what had happened to the first two human beings that had ever existed.

Eve... Well, although it had never been mentioned in the Bible, what had happened to her after she'd been expelled from the garden should be somewhat obvious - having been locked away in Purgatory, she'd become the Mother of All; until Sam and Dean Winchester had killed her. Kill her... The one thing he hadn't been able to do; too astonished and proud of his first human creations, despite their flaws and issues. And Adam... he didn't even really know what had happened to him, to be honest. Although he was sure that the first man he'd created probably wasn't doing a lot better than the boy his son had possessed, the one who had fallen into the pit with Lucifer back then.

With his thoughts still revolving around Adam and Eve - and trying not to think about Lucifer and his horrible fate too much - he continued skipping through the book while taking another swig of the amber liquid. He was just reaching out to grab the bottle to refill his empty glass when suddenly, his eyes found another name that made memories spark up in the back of his mind. 8:18. Shrugging, and with the exact numbers still memorized, he flipped back a few pages to find the ninth verse of the sixth chapter. He'd almost forgotten about the flood.

Stifling a bitter chuckle, he watched the whiskey slowly pour into the glass, filling it inch by inch, before he went back to reading.

He didn't really like remembering this part of his story if he was being honest. He would never admit it out loud; but the fact that he'd had to cleanse the earth from all evil because he himself had messed up his own creation so quickly after bringing everything into being, ashamed him somehow. But well, the people who really cared about him only believed what they wanted to believe. They were loyal, and their faith was almost unbelievably strong, and so instead of being angry at him for extinguishing every creature he'd created, only saving two of each and 8 human beings, humanity had found their weird cryptic ways to make his actions seem fair and just - as if the flood hadn't been nothing but a sad, pathetic attempt at starting all over again.

Now, many centuries later, he wasn't even sure what the hell he'd been thinking when he'd told Noah to waste so much time of his life on building a ship and catching wild animals that could've as well torn him to shreds within split seconds.

Thinking back to that time now, Chuck had to admit that Noah hadn't exactly been the best righteous man he'd ever created. But at least he'd followed through with the whole ark thing, despite the rather detailed, and kind of unnecessary, instructions he'd been given. Chuck had never even thought about what might've happened if Noah had given up and branded him or his directives complete bullshit after some time. He would've honestly understood. Maybe it would've even been better that way - he would've watched all the people, animals, and plants perish and would've proceeded to create some kind of cat imperium once the flood had ended. He should've done that, probably, instead of making some guy build a huge ark - and instead of forcing him, his whole family and multiple kinds of animals to boat around on an endless ocean for over a month after seeing everyone and everything they'd ever loved die. Especially if one kept the fact in mind that it all had basically been for nothing and that the following generations had only been even more fucked up than the people who'd lived before the flood.

...Yeah, he really should've built up that cat empire back then. They wouldn't have caused him so much trouble. And they were super cute.

But he hadn't; and then his creation had gone to hell again; and there'd been slavery, and pain, and violence; and the whole Moses and plague thing had gone down because there just hadn't been a single way to free all the innocent people and pay the evil in the world a lesson without fighting violence with violence. Quite frankly, the staff of Moses had been one of his more creative ways of dealing with trouble, and he was kind of proud of himself for coming up with something this unusual and classy. But well, that had probably only been the case because he'd had so much freaking time to think about and come up with ideas - let's just say the ten plagues wouldn't have happened the way they had if he hadn't been so bored the few months before.

But who would've thought, the world had gotten worse after that again!

At one point, he'd realized - or, well, accepted, rather; as he'd known about it for quite a while but had always tried to push it to the back of his mind, because if he didn't think about it, there was no reason to take care of it after all - that always, anytime, humans would only listen and conform themselves to violence, and punishment. And so he'd locked the staff away once the people had been freed, so that no one - and, most importantly, no human - could possibly misuse it.

Until Balthazar had stolen it, at least. But well, that wasn't his problem anymore. None of this was. He'd stepped back. Humans, and angels, and demons were free. It was what they'd always wanted.

Ignoring the nagging doubts he could feel in his guts and chest, he picked up the book again and turned a few pages, to find some other interesting scenes that were worth remembering now and then.

He reached the Ten Commandments. His attempt at setting some kind of rules, to ensure unison and harmony on earth; but they hadn't exactly reached many people.

Wasn't it ironic? He, the Lord, the Father; hadn't been able to reach his own creation. He'd lost it. It had gotten out of hand. Out of his hand. Even then. But he'd still had hope. He'd still had so much hope in humanity.

And then, sometime later, there'd been Jesus. He remembered even without reading more, even without looking down at the pages; of course he did, because how could he possibly not? It had been different from everything he'd ever tried or done before after all. A last resort.

With a sad smile on his face and the glass of whiskey in his right hand, he looked up and out of the small window; already wallowing in memories, and remembering everything from that time so horribly clearly it almost hurt.

It had been his first attempt at taking a human form, his first attempt at communicating with the people and lead them on directly, from up close. Or well, that had been his plan. He'd hoped that maybe, they would listen, not to him but at least to the stories, to the Ten Commandments, if they saw God himself standing in front of them with their own eyes. But once again, he'd underestimated his creation and the lane they'd chosen to walk down. Of course, there had been people who had been with him, who had believed him and believed in him, and yes, he'd sparked off, and strengthened, and set alight so many people's faith.

But with things having gone the way they had gone, at one point he had decided to go back to watching them from afar, hoping that, with a little time, the humans would change. He didn't even need to retell the story to make clear that his plans hadn't worked out, not at all - one look at today's world was more than enough. Even now, there was still violence, and pain, and injustice. Even more than before. Even more than before he'd descended to earth.

And more and more people had stopped believing.

All that had been back when he'd still tried to fix things. When he'd still believed in his creation, in himself. Before he'd perceived and accepted the hopeless state the world had been, and still was, in; before he'd stepped back to leave his creation free to do whatever they wanted. He'd thought that, maybe, all they needed to live happily and in unison was free will, without guidance from the Lord, be it directly or through angels or prophets. Oh, how wrong he'd been.

Maybe he'd just been looking for excuses to stop caring, to stop trying to save his creation. Maybe he'd just been lost, hopeless, running on empty. Maybe he still was.

He kept telling himself that it wasn't his fault, that he was flawless, that he'd created perfection.

Deep inside he knew that he was nothing but a failure.

When he'd left and become Chuck to give the humans space while still watching and observing it all, while being a part of it; after time, apocalypse after apocalypse had broken loose, both humans and angels had lost faith in him. He had lost faith in him. He really hadn't expected the wars that had erupted in heaven and on earth after he'd hidden away from everyone's eyes to become a simple man, somewhat apart from society. But he'd been, still was, sure that he'd done the right thing. He'd always done the right thing. Even with all the shit going down around him, even with all the desperate calls and prayers that reached him from time to time, even with the simple carefree life he lived.

Sitting at home, sipping whiskey, writing, keeping his cat blog going. It was who he was now.

He'd stopped feeling bad for the humans and trying to fix things such a long time ago. The only people he still kind of cared about were Sam and Dean Winchester, probably. When he'd met them for the first time, when he'd seen their misery up close, he just hadn't been able to help it - he'd apologized and apologized, again and again; had put his hand down on Castiel's shoulder; in an attempt to show them just how terribly sorry he was, and how much he appreciated their fruitless efforts, how proud he was of Castiel for still believing in his creation. Although they hadn't understood his intentions, and although they had probably thought that he was just some lonely, overly emotional, pathetic alcoholic writer during his midlife crisis.

Maybe that was what he was.

...

Maybe one day, he would return to heaven. If they even still wanted him up there, that was. They didn't believe in him anymore. He didn't. Not really.

He laughed bitterly. God himself didn't believe in God anymore. What had this world even come to? This was worse than hell, so much worse than Purgatory. And somehow, he was still hoping that things would sort themselves out at some point. Somehow, he still had hope in this messed-up world. He was too proud of his creation. He loved it too much. It had been perfect. When he'd created earth, it had been perfect.

But it had flawed itself. Humanity had flawed itself.

Despite telling himself he didn't even care that much anymore, he knew that he did. But he forced himself to believe his own lies.

He didn't care. He'd gotten used to this life. Sitting at home, sipping whiskey, writing, keeping his cat blog going. It was who he was.

It was so much more relaxing than struggling with earth, and heaven, and hell. So much easier than desperately trying to fix things that couldn't be fixed.

Because earth could not be fixed. Humanity could not be fixed.

Nothing could be fixed.

Not by him, not by anyone.

He closed the book, got up, and grabbed his jacket. He already knew what the important thing was that his friend had told him about, of course he did. But well - maybe, just maybe, he was even going to accept the proposal.

He sighed, one hand on the door handle.

Maybe, after all, Sam and Dean Winchester weren't the only people that he still kind of cared about.

Maybe, after all, humanity wasn't as much of a lost cause as he'd always thought.

Maybe he was the lost cause.

Maybe he had always been.

He downed the last drop of whiskey, and walked out the door.

Chapter Text

Dean had been practically climbing the walls, so endlessly bored and jumpy, when Sam and Castiel finally returned from their grocery run - the older hunter had declined with a roll of his eyes and a vague wave of his hand when his brother had asked if he wanted to come along, but two hours later he'd started to regret his decision, wondering what the two of them could possibly be doing for so long.

Now, though, they had finally returned, judging by the loud thump of the door opening and shutting, followed by familiar steps descending the staircase while their soft laughter and chatter echoed back from the walls. It put a small smile on his face, hearing his brother and his best friend - his family - be happy for once. They hadn't had a lot of that, lately.

Putting down the knife he'd absent-mindedly been playing with, Dean raised his eyes to expectedly look up at Sam, and immediately laid eyes on the two bags the taller man was carefully carrying down the stairs, Castiel close behind him, basically hugging another bag to his chest as he peered past it in order not to trip. When they'd finally reached the safe ground, they walked over to the table without even casting a single glance at Dean who still sat silently and with his eyes skeptically narrowed at all the stuff his family had apparently bought during their 3-hour shopping trip. Cautiously placing the bags down, careful so they wouldn't just topple over, Sam flexed his hands and stretched, finally beginning to talk after huffing a soft sigh.

- "We're back", he grinned, and Dean looked up at him, still a little stunned.

- "You don't say", the older brother deadpanned, curiously leaning over the table to catch a glimpse at the contents of the bags but all he could see was... actual food. "How much fucking money did you spend, exactly?"

Before Sam could respond, Castiel did so instead, informing Dean about the rough 500 dollars they'd spent on their purchases; and while the younger man simply gave the angel his bitchface number one, Dean's eyeballs seemed to be about to fall out of his head as his blood began to boil.

- "Wait, no!", Sam cut in, putting his hands up in a calming gesture before the shorter hunter could snap, and pulled one of the bags closer to shuffle around in it, spreading multiple packages and kinds of food out on the table in his nearly frantic search that Dean eyed warily. To his surprise, it wasn't only cheap canned or frozen food but a whole lot of actual fresh ingredients too; a bunch of red tomatoes, freshly packed meat, a loaf of bread, butter, cheese,... He could definitely whip up one or two great meals with this stuff, maybe even more, depending on how much they ate after having lived on cheap low-quality food for a week now. They'd been extremely busy working a case, with practically no time left for grocery shopping, let alone cooking.

- "We didn't spend all of it on freaking food", Sam continued after a short while, finally pulling out a package that... didn't at all look like anything even resembling food, so he at least knew that his brother obviously hadn't been lying. Sitting down on the chair opposite from Dean, he handed him the box that was a little heavier than the hunter had expected. He found himself looking down at a small-printed text covering at least five languages, but decided not to care, and turned the thing in his hands instead, looking for a good spot to start ripping off the tape sealing it shut.

That was when he laid eyes on the front of the package.

- "Dude", he spoke, glaring at Sam who was looking at him with such a radiant, excited expression on his face that Dean almost felt bad about his tone when he continued talking.

- "Are you fucking serious? Like, for real now? You wasted, what, 400 dollars, on a friggin' phone? Just in case you didn't know, I got one", he drawled, pulling his cell out from his pocket and practically smashing it down on the table, eyes still sternly set on Sam's with a serious expression in them. "I don't need this", he kept going just when his brother had opened his mouth to protest, "And man, we'll have to get new ones in a month again anyway!"

The complacent smirk on Sam's lips didn't falter for a single second, not even when Dean cut him off.

- "Open it", he simply urged, smile widening as the older hunter rolled his eyes and grabbed his knife to cut through the tape on the sides of the package before he carelessly ripped it open.

- "So what now? I still don't need this crap", Dean huffed with a shrug; and Sam groaned in annoyance, got up from his seat to lean over the table and pull the box out of his brother's hands, turning it around so the brand new phone was facing him. Carefully, he lifted the device out of its compartment and pressed a button on the right side. It took a few seconds until a white light lit up Sam's facial features, and again, his smile grew impossibly wider as he started to wildly tap around on the screen.

The older man cast his best friend a short questioning glance, hoping to find some sort of agreement in Castiel's eyes, but the angel was busy gathering up the spilled contents of the bags to get them into the kitchen to even notice Dean's gaze on him. Sighing, the hunter focused back on his nerd bro who had apparently finished whatever things he'd been doing with the phone, seeing as he'd placed it down on the table and was now silently staring at it, seemingly waiting for something to happen.

- "Dude, the hell are you doing?", Dean dared to speak up, and Sam's happily gleaming eyes immediately darted up to meet his.

- "Setting some stuff up for you."

The hunter sighed heavily, running a hand through his hair.

- "What stuff? Man, I don't-"

- "Installing some apps, adding some numbers. What else would I do with a phone?"

Watching Castiel move off to the kitchen with a shake of his head, Dean surrendered to his fate and picked his knife back up. Sam was presumably going to hold him captive here for a lot longer, and he had literally nothing to do - and he definitely needed something to do. Soon. While the past week had been unnaturally exhausting and tiring, the last two days had been more than a little boring. For some reason, Gabriel had been hanging around more often and for way longer than usual lately, and whenever he was even near the bunker, it became almost impossible to find Sam, let alone talk to him. Dean really didn't want to know what they were doing. Probably bro stuff. Hopefully bro stuff.

Talking about bros - in his boredom he'd tried to seek out Castiel, because honestly, even watching terrible movies or doing anything Cas wanted, really, was better than nothing, but the angel had always either been gone or busy, leaving Dean practically alone in the bunker.

Alone in the bunker was equal to alone in a ghost town, mind you. A ghost town without ghosts, though. Damn, he would've appreciated a damn ghost in the bunker!

At least now, Sam was paying attention to him again - hopefully Gabriel wouldn't pop in within the next few minutes -, and maybe he could convince Cas to go for a short ride in Baby before snuggling together on the couch, watching... God, he still didn't even care what they watched; he was sure that there was nothing more boring than... well, nothing!

- "There you go!", his younger brother suddenly exclaimed, startling Dean who almost sliced his own hand with the knife as he jumped before he cleared his throat awkwardly. With a sigh, he reached out to accept the phone back from Sam, and looked down at the screen plastered with tiny icons of applications he'd never seen before.

- "The hell is this crap?"

Sighing like it was the most obvious thing in the world and Dean was being the densest douchebag in the whole freaking world, Sam once again pushed himself up from his seat and rounded the war table to pull up a chair and sit down right next to his brother again, carelessly leaning over and into his personal space.

- "Folders and apps. See, the one in the top left corner there...-"

Dean interrupted him with a snort.

- ""Dating"?"

- "Tap on it", Sam urged but at the same time reached out to do it instead, not even giving Dean a chance to lift his hand. "See. This one", he pointed to the first icon in the folder "is for actual dating, the second is...I think it's mostly One-Night Stands? Not sure, though. Didn't pay that much attention to it. But, now get this! This one's for gays only so that--"

- "Wait, wait, wait, what?!"

Sam blinked at him, confused, while Dean was having a minor breakdown over the fact that his younger brother had installed a gay dating app on his 400 dollar smartphone that he still did not need.

- "Dude", he huffed, still staring at the taller hunter in disbelief. Honestly, he felt somewhat attacked in his whole being. "Dude. I'm not... into dudes!"

Wordlessly, the expression on his face practically screaming "Oh really, you dumb fucking douche?", Sam cast a long obvious glance in the direction of the kitchen where Cas was still busy unpacking the groceries before he turned back to face Dean with an A-grade bitch face that had the older man spluttering.

- "I'm not--!"

- "Yeah, save it, Dean", Sam brushed off with a smug grin on his lips, focusing back on the phone on the table and ignoring the way Dean was staring at him, almost offended. His brother was attacking his heterosexual pride, what the actual-- "There's your contacts list. Cas' and my numbers are already in there, some other hunters' too. That thing there is...wait, what is this?"

Puzzled, Dean watched how Sam picked up the smartphone with his brows furrowed, seeming genuinely bothered by the unknown icon. He pressed on the tiny purple-and-blue square and an equally obtrusive page popped up that seemed not only unnaturally bright but also weirdly alive. Things were moving at both bottom and top of the screen but Dean had troubles figuring out what exactly they were from where he was sitting.

- "It's... okay, it's a horoscope, okay. Cool. I guess you have that too now."

The app was closed with a tap of Sam's finger, and he moved on, still paying no direct attention to his brother.

- "Text messages, calls, one or two games, notes, a gallery, a clock,-- Hey, maybe you could use a dictionary for when we-"

- "Dude."

- "What?", he asked, slightly taken aback and his voice somewhat defensive, as he raised his eyes to look at Dean who was staring at hime like a wolf gone wild if he was being completely honest.

- "Gimme that thing", the shorter man demanded, leaning over to wrench the phone from Sam's hands but the younger brother simply stretched out his long arm, holding the device as far away from Dean as possible so he couldn't possibly get in reach without getting to his feet. Huffing and weighing his options, the hunter closed his eyes, breathed in deeply to prepare himself, and then practically launched himself on his brother, gaze still fixed on the smartphone.

- "What the hell, Dean--!"

The addressed man simply growled something along the lines of "Give it to me, you nerd" while still mercilessly trying to wrestle the thing from Sam's hands - maybe his younger brother had surrendered already and was simply keeping the phone out of his reach so it wouldn't get damaged but Dean didn't even consider this option when he tried to yank the taller man's hand closer by his sleeve, without much success.

- "Dude, get off me!", Sam complained loudly, attempting to push his brother away, but the shorter man kept tightly holding on to him; the chair almost toppling over in their small brawl.

- "Give me the damn..--- Thank you!"

Huffing in annoyance, Dean - finally clasping the phone, although neither knew how exactly he'd achieved that - got up and retreated to his own seat, casting Sam a threatening glance.

- "That was so unnecessary, Dean", the younger brother complained, tugging at his clothes and running a hand through his hair as he wrinkled his nose.

- "That whole thing is unnecessary, Sam."

- "So that's why you almost killed me to get it?"

Dean rolled his eyes, breathing out audibly as if Sam's words were the stupidest thing he'd ever heard in his life, before he began to wipe the screen with his sleeve, raising his voice without even looking over at the other hunter.

- "I wanna throw it away. Can't stand seeing this crap around."

The confused frown vanished from Sam's face, now replaced by a suggestive smirk.

- "Right. Just like you are definitely not going to set up profiles on all the-"

- "Shut up", he growled defensively, glaring at his brother.

Sam raised his hands in surrender but his grin betrayed him. Softly grumbling to himself, Dean pocketed his new smartphone and turned around. Castiel had just returned from the kitchen and was now watching him leave through the door, noticeably confused - the hunter didn't notice, though, having left without another glance back, and simply made his way to his own room.

Kicking the door shut, walking over to his bed, and flopping down, he pulled out the phone and got to work.

Pie didn't just order itself after all.

Chapter Text

It was what could be called the natural habitat of Dean Winchester: he was driving the Impala with his brother Sam next to him, rock music blasting from the radio and the faint smell of pie coming from the backseat.  It was Friday, they had successfully killed a few ghosts earlier that day and were now on their way to the nearest town, ready to visit a bar and get drunk, maybe flirt with some girls and enjoy the evening.

Surprisingly Sam didn’t complain about their destination- for once, he had kept quiet about everything that usually annoyed him. Pie, Women, Alcohol, Baby, Metallica playing at full volume… Dean loved these things, so for the time being, everything that made the older hunter happy was acceptable for Sam as well.

It wasn’t because the other one had saved his life again today, no, of course not, and he would never admit that he felt like he owed him at least a bit of fun for this. The paralyzing fear he had felt mere hours ago that was threatening to take control of him again now was forcefully pushed to the back of his mind, he didn’t have to think about it now and ruin the good mood. Everything went well in the end, no need to worry, no need to talk about it, right?

He turned his head, smiling at the satisfied look on Dean’s face as he sped up and started to sing, something that usually pissed Sam off because his brother had the voice of an angel -bless Chuck for the phrase because it was the best description for the horribly dissonant sounds he was making right now. And so he closed his eyes, hoping that this would last for a little longer, because right now, he wanted nothing more than to get lost in the familiar ritual, feeling safe and relaxed.

 

It happened in the blink of an eye, so fast that the younger Winchester didn’t even have the opportunity to let out an alarmed shout. Dean cursed loudly, followed by a screeching noise which sounded as if someone was scratching their nails over a chalkboard. A loud crash, feathers were flying around. Suddenly all Sam could see were white, fluffy feathers, and they were everywhere, in his face, his hair, even in his mouth that was opened in a silent scream.

The airbag must have ripped open due to the impact, whatever they just hit probably crushed the complete hood of the Impala and oh shit Dean would be so angry about- wait. Dean. Was he okay, was he hurt? Sam looked to his side where the older hunter sat behind the steering wheel, also covered in feathers but thankfully unharmed and conscious, with an expression on his face that made Sam wish he was somewhere else.

Even though they just had a car crash, the situation seemed kind of hilarious to him, or maybe it was just the adrenaline pumping through his veins that made it impossible for him to stay serious. Dean reminded him of an angry chicken and if the older one wouldn’t have looked at him as if he was going to smite him with his bare hands every second, those would have been the words that left his mouth.

Instead, he cleared his throat, spat out a few plumes and reached out to the backseat before presenting the package in his hand with a small smile and a quiet: “Want some pie?”

“Shut your mouth, bitch.” That was definitely a growl, and it was definitely meant to intimidate him, still Sam couldn’t hold back.

“Jerk.”

 

The scene resembled of a funeral: as the sun was about to set, painting everything in soft orange-reddish colors, two men were standing by the side of the highway, hands in the pockets of their jeans, silently mourning while multiple workers in bright neon yellow vests pulled and pushed at the beautiful wrack, maneuvering it away from the concrete bollard it had collided with.

They didn’t say a word, although Dean looked as if he was about to cry when they managed to get Baby on the tow truck. Upon the offer of a ride into town, they shook their heads; it wasn’t far away so they could walk, besides, they were clearly not considering entering another car apart from their precious Impala right now.

The truck disappeared in the distance, heading for the closest mechanic, so Sam and Dean set off as well, each of them with a heavy bag full of weapons and supplies hanging over his shoulder and the plastic plate of pie in Dean’s hand, what Sam secretly referred to as “the Dean Winchester version of a crying teenager eating tons of ice cream after a break-up”.

“But seriously, don’t tell me you’re going to-”

“You bet. Of course I’ll fix her up again, she’s my everything, I won’t let some second-tier mechanic lay his hands on my Baby!”

“You do realize it will take forever to restore her this time, right, jerk?”

“I know, and that’s why it’s even better… it’s cheaper than therapy and healthier for my liver than drinking, so stop bitching, bitch.”

 

Indeed, it did take forever to restore the Impala, and Sam got impatient as the days went by. He didn’t say anything when they rented a shabby motel room, probably one of the worst ones they had seen so far, so they had a place to stay for a few nights.  He didn’t complain when Dean began to search for replacement parts on the internet, obviously using Sam’s laptop, got lost and accidentally downloaded half a dozen viruses by visiting rather… inappropriate websites.

He didn’t complain about the fact that he had to go grocery shopping by foot, constantly being yelled at for bringing only healthy food and smoothies, forgetting about the pie and the beer. How the hell was he supposed to carry all the stuff Dean asked him for if he couldn’t throw them in the trunk, or, regarding that it was usually filled with guns, knives and other supplies, on the backseat that was only rarely occupied?

Not having a car also meant no hunting, no progress, and for him, a lot of free time. Sam endured a week of boredom, but when the silence got so unbearable that he caught himself wishing Lucifer would be there to entertain him throughout the day, he decided he had to do something, anything, or he would actually go insane.

 

Long story short: the younger Winchester decided that they needed a car, so he got one. Needless to say, Dean wasn’t exactly happy as he spotted Sam next to the “ugly cancerous toxic green” Mazda 2 he had rented. With its flashy color, it looked oddly out of place in the parking lot, the small car had undoubtedly seen better days, plus there were a few scratches here and there, but for Sam, it was heaven on four wheels.

“Dude” was all the older brother managed to say, “what in God’s name is this?”

“A car” Sam stated matter-of-factly with a proud grin on his face, gesturing towards the passenger seat as a sign for the older Winchester to get in.

“First of all… that’s not a car. This is a joke. And there’s no way I’m driving in that thing, especially not riding shotgun. Really? Are you really replacing Baby with this… monster? Nobody puts Baby in a corner!" The look on his face was one of disgust and disappointment, he seemed almost insulted by the thought that Sam just abandoned their family car for a little green subcompact.

“Dean, I’m not replacing it. I’m just… making the best of the situation. Look, I even bought pie for you- “

“Stop it, Sammy. I’m not five years old, you can’t bribe me with pie …bitch.”

His loudly protesting stomach told him otherwise, but the hunter refused to accept the gift anyway- his pride and his car were more important than his favorite food at the moment. This wasn’t about driving a stupid minivan, it was about proving a point, so he wouldn’t give in until that vehicle was back at the place where his brother had rented it from.

“Whatever you say, jerk.”

Sam slammed the car door shut, turned up the volume on his Bluetooth-connected phone with his head held up high and demonstratively took a sip from his awfully healthy-looking smoothie which was carefully stored in the cup holder.

Yep, these modern, functional features were something he was genuinely grateful for. Not that he hated their classy, badass looking vintage vehicle, hell no, he had learned to love their car as it had gone through thick and thin with them ever since they started hunting together, but a little luxury was nice from time to time, soon Dean would learn to appreciate this too. He only needed some time to adjust, that was all.

 

In the end, Dean had to sit in the car seat, whether he liked it or not. There was a case nearby no other hunter could take care of, a few people had been killed already, so the desire to save people was bigger than the aversion to the Mazda Sam had decided to lovingly refer to as “his small limousine”. For Dean, it was more of a “salad bowl” than a “limousine”, and so he proceeded to call it that from now on, happy he had found a way to annoy his little brother.

The first ride in the salad bowl turned out to be even less comfortable for both than they had imagined. Dean constantly criticized every little aspect of the subcompact: the unfamiliar sound of the engine, the smell of leather and polish he missed, the lack of space… it just wasn’t his car. Sam had to deal with the continuous whining next to him until they finally arrived at their destination where Dean practically jumped out, dramatically gasping for air like a fish out of water.

“Oh, come on, it wasn’t that bad!”

“Yes it was.”

The smile on Dean’s lips, however, gave away that he was kidding. Together, the brothers set off to kill whatever they were dealing with, leaving their new car behind.

 

It wasn’t long before they returned though, running away from the demon they were supposed to exorcise but who had abruptly managed to turn the tables, steal the colt and come after them instead. Without their weapon, the hunters had no choice but to run for their lives, nothing they hadn’t done before, but still. It was a beginner’s mistake, they had averted the apocalypse, fought against Lucifer himself before and even managed to stand up against God’s sister, yet here they were, running from a regular crossroad’s demon who had overpowered them in a simple fist fight.

The last few days he had spent watching Dean fix the Impala he could have used for training, Sam noticed, his lungs burning, almost out of breath when he took another turn, hearing footsteps and gunshots close behind him, ringing in his ears and making him deaf for a few seconds. The younger Winchester wanted to look back, to see if Dean was still behind him, to make sure that the shot had missed, but he didn’t dare to, afraid that just a second of hesitation would cost his him his life. Instead, he forced his legs to move faster, he could already see the flashy color of their subcompact in the distance- or rather a lemon-green dab of paint in front of a greyish background since his vision started to get blurry. 

A hundred meters left. There was some holy water in the trunk, as well as a gun loaded with devil’s trap bullets, ready to be used.

Fifty meters. They were vulnerable now, easy targets in the middle of a deserted parking lot, but as Sam saw Dean sprinting beside him out of the corner of his eye, he couldn’t help but let out a relieved sigh. His brother was still there, also struggling to breathe, but he was alive.

Ten meters. Another shot, another bullet missed his head only by a few inches.

Five meters. Sam lost his balance and nearly stumbled over his own two legs, but a supporting arm from behind stopped him from falling to the ground.

To his surprise, Dean was much faster than him now, yanking the trunk open and grabbing a handful of weapons until he hid behind the vehicle. Sam himself followed, seeking shelter next to him. Both ducked away as bullets shattered the windows, shards falling down on them like sharp, pointy raindrops.

The older brother caught the attackers by surprise as he quickly sent a few bullets back into the direction, rewarded with a pained groan from the other side of the car. It was quiet, and after a few seconds of holding breaths and counting to ten, they dared to look at the injured body on the concrete. Without a second of hesitation, Dean picked up the colt laying next to the demon, ending his life with a final shot.

“I think this good old salad bowl here just saved our lives” Dean huffed out, patting on the roof of the now significantly ruined car with a crooked smile.

“Really? That’s the first thing you say, jerk?”

“I’m driving. Come on, get in… bitch.”

 

It was an unusual sight: Dean was driving an ugly cancerous toxic green Mazda 2 with his brother Sam next to him, pop music playing via Bluetooth from the younger one’s playlist and the faint smell of blood, sweat and dirt was filling the small space. It was Friday, exactly two weeks after their car accident, they had successfully killed a demon earlier that day and were now on their way back to the motel, ready to take a shower and a well-deserved nap.

Surprisingly, Sam didn’t make fun of Dean for driving the small, now windowless car with pride, for once, he had decided to keep quiet and let his older brother enjoy this moment.

It wasn’t because the other one had saved his life again today, no, of course not, and he still refused to admit that he felt like he owed him at least a bit of fun for this, but he closed his eyes, hoping that this would last for a little longer, because right now, he wanted nothing more than to get lost in the familiar ritual, feeling safe and relaxed.

After a few minutes of silence, Dean spoke up, turning to face him. “Man, even though I have to admit that this thing saved us, I can’t wait to get back and fix up my Baby. Hey, Sammy…”

“What?”

Bitch.”

Jerk.”

Chapter Text

Despite everything that had happened, with Kevin, and his girlfriend, and the demons - and, eventually, his death -, Linda had still been standing upright after saying goodbye to her son. Both Winchesters knew that Kevin had been the most important thing in her life, and that losing him had shaken her up to her bones - but still, she hadn't blamed the brothers. Or, well, at least she hadn't shown it too much, since her son had asked her not to. She knew that Kevin had cared about them a lot, and hell, if it was his last wish, she would do anything to make that come true.

They'd left the bunker together back then, as mother and son, and they'd gone home together too; finally reunited but knowing it wouldn't last for long. The first days had been more than alright. They'd talked about what had happened during the time they hadn't seen each other, had exchanged stories, and had just sat side by side, crying silent tears of both sadness and joy. But at some point, things had started to become more difficult. Of course, they had. And although Linda had expected it, it had hurt like hell. Sam and Dean had told her she'd have to let go one way or another, be it sooner or later; and she'd always known that after some time, the vengeful part of Kevin's spirit would begin to grow uncontrollable. It was just that she'd had so much hope. He hadn't seemed to be getting worse, it had been like he'd been staying entirely the same - until one day, he'd snapped.

Linda had made it through another week until she hadn't been able to stand it anymore. When she'd attempted to light the ring on fire, he'd tried to keep her from doing so, and that had been the exact moment when she'd eventually been sure that the time had come for him to leave. His ghost had gone up in flames; and even now the agonizing screams of pain still wouldn't let her sleep at night.

Only when she'd been alone in their house, she'd realized just how lonely she was; without family, without friends, without people to turn to.

Four months later, once she'd finally gotten over all the events of the past - which didn't mean they didn't still affect her, though -, and she'd finally tried to return to an at least partly normal life, someone had knocked. Annoyed, she'd pushed the stacks of paper away from her, gotten up, and stomped over to the door to yank it open and skeptically stare at the person on the other side of the threshold, not even caring that it could've as well been a demon.

- "Hey there! Sheriff Jody Mills. Sam and Dean told me to check on you - you remember the boys, right?"

And this was basically the story of how Linda Tran had ended up in front of the movie theater with Claire and Alex. Well, not all of it, naturally - she'd let Jody in after the sheriff had explained herself, and they'd talked a little, carefully tip-toeing around the topics monsters, Kevin, and loss, in order not to make any unwanted memories well up. Jody had invited her over to her place, and after some discussing and thinking on both women's behalf, Linda had reluctantly agreed.

If people thought that Jody Mills and Linda Tran wouldn't get along, they were more than wrong. Because, yeah, at the beginning, there had been a whole lot of bumps on the road they'd taken but once Linda had discovered that she wasn't the only one who'd lost her family, and once the two girls had grown used to their adoptive mother's friend - who had become something like their aunt by now, honestly -, things had gotten way easier for all of them, although Alex and Claire still weren't too fond of her (but for real, who were they fond of?). Whenever Jody had to go out for a longer time, Linda would be there to take care of the girls, no matter how much they protested, being "old enough to spend a few days home alone" as they often complained.

It was good, feeling like she had a family again, something to distract her from the past few years, although the memories still hurt and kept her awake at night, and although the girls were more rebellious than Kevin had ever been.

At the moment, Jody was out of town, attending some gathering or whatever, and Linda had offered to take care of Alex and Claire - so now they were stood outside the movie theater, taking in the posters plastered on the wall and trying to decide on a movie to watch. The woman honestly couldn't care less about the result of the discussion but after ten minutes of excessive arguing between the two sisters, Linda cut in, picking a movie at random, purposely one that hadn't even been considered before.

And so they got in line and bought three tickets for Venom before the next argument started - nachos or popcorn? They wasted another five minutes standing next to the booth, and none of the girls even noticed when Linda lined up for both, too absorbed in their discussion if the nacho vendor was a shapeshifter or not. Only when she returned, holding a bag and a plate, did they seem to snap out of their bickering, staring dumbfoundedly at the woman.

Although they probably thought she couldn't hear them when they whispered to each other, commenting on how Jody never would've done that for them, Linda kept quiet, leading the way to the hall where their film would be shown. The three of them sat down without saying anything else with Mrs. Tran between the girls, holding both the plate and the bag for them to eat from. She was willing to put up with them. Even if it was only because it was a challenge, a distraction from her thoughts.

Despite their initial complaints about Linda's choice of movie, they enjoyed it more than any of them would ever admit, but the Asian woman could see the delight and happiness in their eyes. And it was enough for her, even though they didn't voice their thoughts, didn't even thank her for her efforts. She knew how teenagers could be after all, and so she accepted the wordless thank you she could see in their faces.

Upon leaving, both girls turned to the right, about to walk back to their home, when Linda called after them, nodding towards the restaurant on the other side of the street, and their eyes widened in surprise. She knew that Jody didn't often eat out or undertake stuff with them, mostly because she didn't have the money, with her taking care of two teenage girls on her own, but Linda? She had enough - more than enough, actually, seeing as she'd been living on her own for a few months; and now she was willing to spend it in favor of the girls and Jody, if only to support the latter. What else was she supposed to do with the money, right?

They sat, ordered drinks and food, and had some light conversation, although the girls didn't talk a lot during most of the dinner.

Linda was okay with it, really. In her eyes, the silence just showed how unexpected this all was to Claire and Alex and she loved the feeling if she was being honest - there was something resembling pride welling up in her chest when she looked at the girls who were quietly, contentedly chewing on their food.

The dinner was paid for by her too. Of course, it was. It would've been an actual asshole move to make them pay for it.

They walked home together in comfortable silence after sitting there for another thirty minutes, the confusion still present on the teenagers' slightly frowning faces. When they arrived, they could already see Jody's car approaching from the opposite direction, and Linda intently praised herself for the great timing as she escorted the girls to the door before turning around to leave and return to her own place for the night.

- "Hey, Linda?", Alex asked once they were standing inside on the threshold and Linda had already said goodbye to the two of them, with Jody coming their way from the car, visibly exhausted. She turned around, raising a questioning eyebrow at the girl.

- "Can you come over more often, maybe?"

- "Yeah, it was... pretty okay, I guess", Claire added, avoiding her eyes.

Smiling softly, Linda put her arms around the girls.

- "Of course."

Jody watched the three of them from afar, a smile tugging at her lips as she realized.

This was her family. Her small, broken, messed-up, beautiful family.

Chapter Text

Sam and Dean had come across many unusual personalities in the past: monsters that weren’t so evil once they got to know them, so-called friends who became enemies, victims who turned out to be villains and villains who, on second glance, were just victims.  They had been through hell, literally, were capable to deal with creatures of any kind, had come back from the dead a few times…

but they couldn’t stop a mother from protecting her only child.

At first, Linda Tran had just gotten in the way of their work by being somewhat overprotective in the brothers’ eyes, annoyingly stubborn and yet nothing but a weak human woman. That impression, however, had changed drastically over the following days when she’d accompanied them, proving to be not a hindrance but a real enrichment for the Winchesters by helping wherever she could. More than once her downright badass behaviour had surprised and amazed the boys on multiple levels so even though neither of them would admit it, Linda was someone they had begun to look up to for her mental strength, something Sam and Dean were lacking themselves sometimes.

“She would be a great hunter.” The thought had crossed their minds quite often, but they both knew Mrs. Tran wasn’t the type to violently hunt and kill monsters. Her only reason to put up with this mess had been that her son was in the middle of it, as soon as this was over, they would go back to their normal lives, that had been the plan all along.

Too bad it hadn’t worked out in the end.

 

Blaming themselves was one of the brothers’ special talents, along with not talking about problems and bottling up whatever emotions they had. It was only natural for Kevin to lose trust in them after Dean had tried to kill his mom in front of the poor boy’s eyes, hell, letting her get possessed in the first place had already been a miserable failure.  They should have taken better care of her, the independent mother was still an innocent civilian who had done nothing wrong, just like the people they usually protected. She had done nothing wrong, except for getting involved with the Winchesters, which, apparently, was a sure way to end up in trouble.

Talking about failure, there was another incident that Dean and especially Sam had nightmares about, the incident in which Kevin Tran, an innocent young man, got violently killed by the younger Winchester’s hand. It hadn’t been Sam, it hadn’t been his fault, but in the end, Sam’s face was the last thing the kid had seen before his eyes got burned out in a flash of bright light.

Although Sam himself knew that it had been Gadreel, he felt somewhat responsible; if Kevin hadn’t trusted him so much, he’d have been more careful around him. This was also the reason why, after everything that happened, it was for the younger brother to look Linda in the eyes when she had found out about her son’s death, the loss he was the cause of.

She never got to know the details, oh thank God she never found out about the exact circumstances, but Sam had felt horrible in her presence. Over time, the embarrassing guilt had gotten less and less unbearable, but the dull ache he felt in his heart whenever he saw the Asian woman, even when she had taken Kevin’s ghost home with her, had never disappeared completely. Knowing that the boy’s soul was safe and he had forgiven Sam was a small relief, but he would never forget that he had taken the most important thing from Mrs. Tran’s life, a mistake he couldn’t atone for, no matter how desperately he wanted to turn back the clock to save a live and make the woman happy again.

 

There are stories that turn into tragedies, and one of them is the the tragedy of Kevin’s short life. Of course, there’s no story without main characters, and although they get most of the attention and admiration, it’s not always them who get to play superheroes. They’re not always the strongest or the most courageous ones, they have flaws too- because they are human. To Kevin, the reason to keep going hadn’t been Sam and Dean who wanted to seal the gates of hell forever with his help. They became close friends, sure, and after some misunderstandings, they got along just fine, but they would never be his heroes.

His idol was the bravest yet kindest person he knew, the person who had been determined to stay by his side ever since he became a prophet, fully aware of all the dangers this profession entails. And she was a woman.

Whether it was getting a tattoo or blackmailing someone to obtain a tablet, she had been by his side, holding his hand with a sincere smile. At first, Kevin had expected her to be furious, after all, his future goals he had worked so hard for to achieve didn’t include becoming a prophet of the Lord burdened with the task to be in constant danger. Well, maybe that had been exactly her reason for staying with him, her strong will to protect her son from angels, demons and everyone else who wanted to take advantage of him, despite being just a human who had lived a peaceful life before.

Linda had gotten kidnapped, possessed and hurt for him, because of him- something Kevin wasn’t very proud of- yet she’d never complained, had never broken down, had never given up on what was more important to her than her own life: Her family’s safety.

She knew he wasn’t a little boy anymore, Kevin had probably been physically stronger than she was herself, but to her, Kevin had been a kid who hadn’t deserved to die young only because destiny had decided to make him a target for heaven and hell, so she’d given everything to keep him alive.

For all this and even more, Kevin was grateful. He hadn’t had the chance to say it in the end, not before he had died at least, but his mom was his hero, and nothing would ever change that.

 

Now it was time for her to move on, not to forget, but move on. Linda was indeed a strong woman, carrying the ring that had once belonged to her husband and which Kevin was now tied to in her small hands with mixed feelings, leaving the bunker and never coming back. She had to deal with this, get used to the new situation and find a way to live her life again, but she would, the Winchesters were sure of that, as she had changed their lives and values as well, even if just a tiny bit.

They were sad to see her go, but grateful for her to be a part of their journey.

Chapter Text

How he'd ended up in the middle of a huge hall with probably a hundred strangers around him was a funny story, actually. One he didn't quite understand, but a funny one nonetheless. He'd gotten the invitation about a week ago, from an unknown sender, and had decided to ignore it. A few days later, he'd received a call from a just-as-unknown phone number, and he'd picked up - or well, not him, but Dean, actually, who'd mistaken Kevin's phone for his own when it had rung, quote Dean Winchester. The only thing he'd actually caught during the short conversation had been a loud, clipped, and very sarcastic "Yeah, I don't think so. Sorry but Kevin's gonna be a little late for the party. Meaning he won't come at all". After he'd asked, the older Winchester had explained to him that it had been some weirdo asking if Kevin had noticed the invitation to the party.

They'd shrugged it off, and the prophet had continued to live his own life - until someone had broken the door to his room in the bunker open in the middle of the night, walked over, grabbed him by the arm and zapped him to the ass end of nowhere, that was. He'd stood in an unfamiliar, bright room then. Alone.

At first, he'd thought that he'd maybe been kidnapped by a bunch of demons again, and that idea had only been supported when he'd tried to walk through the nearest door and had gotten stuck in the frame because of the damn fake wings plastered on his back. That had been when the confusion had given way for pure annoyance. Who else could it have been, if not Crowley, trying to mess with the poor kid? But oh, how wrong he'd been. How very very wrong.

Because when he'd finally managed to get through the door and a long vacant corridor, he'd stepped into a room - and that was the story behind his current, admittedly uncomfortable, situation. But that surely didn't mean that he knew what the hell he was doing here. Or why he was here. Or who all those people were.

The party had been going for a few hours already, judging by the state of the hall and the half-empty bowls and bottles placed on a long counter near the wall. Seemed like they had taken Dean's call - "He's going to be late" - to heart. Whoever had brought them here couldn't be too intelligent or socially capable then.

He wasn't even freaking scared. Wow. The Winchesters and all this bullshit had officially broken him.

He could only hope that nobody was going to kill him.

Carefully looking around, he attempted to slowly push the door back open, but when it wouldn't budge, he gave up, sighing in annoyance at the whole situation and pushing himself off from the wall to walk around the little, since nobody even seemed to pay attention to him. However, as soon as he'd walked a few feet, taking in all the costumes of the people around him - and noticing, much to his own confusion, that most of them weren't even that bad, although he had troubles trying to figure out who they were trying to represent -, some of the strangers turned to stare at him, gaze stern. Kevin stopped dead in his tracks, locking eyes with the first person he saw and relentlessly glaring right back at them.

Shortly after, the whole room had gone silence.

- "Kevin Tran has arrived!", a man announced and the prophet couldn't help but narrow his eyes at him. Yeah, everyone probably knew that already, thank you very much. But still, a few single cheers broke loose in the masses, and some of them even clapped for him.

- "What is this poor attempt at cultural assimilation supposed to be?"

A lot of people, including Kevin, whipped around to cast questioning glances at the woman who had spoken up and was now standing there with her arms crossed and her cold gaze set on the Asian boy. At first, he was simply irritated. Then, when he looked over his shoulder and at the fluffy white wings, it finally dawned on him.

Yes, this was worse than demons. Because demons at least had a clue how to be human. They at least knew how to pretend. But angels? Angels didn't. Judging by the horrible music that he only noticed now, and the awkward way they had moved in an attempt at dancing when he'd entered, he was right. By now, he was quite sure that this had to be either some kind of prank or a really fucked-up dream. Because why the hell would a mass of angels zap him to some weird party in wherever-they-were? Then again, he'd gotten the invitation over a week ago... was he in a coma? Or simply going delirious?

God, this didn't make any sense at all!

The volume of the music was turned up again, and all the people sheered out, whether it was to get to the food distribution or the dancefloor if one could even call it that, and Kevin found himself standing completely alone again. He decided to look around a little, to try and figure out what the hell was going on here (and why he wasn't dead yet) when a woman - female vessel? - dressed in a brown rag practically leaped right into his way, making him jump.

- "Hey there", she drawled and Kevin raised a single eyebrow at her, noticeably unimpressed. "You're Kevin, aren't you? Tell me about yourself,  I only know the stuff our leader told us about you."

- "Eh, no thank you", he huffed, trying to turn away but she grabbed his shoulder, keeping him from walking off.

- "Come on, Kevin, we're all friends here!"

Was it just his imagination or did she actually seem drunk? ...Now that he thought about it, quite a few of the angels appeared to be more than a little tipsy around him. How many liquor stores had they had to rob for this...?!

- "Let me be the judge of that", was the only thing he gave back in response while he yanked his arm free from her grip, and just when she opened her mouth to give some kind of retort, a scream echoed back from the walls, giving Kevin a two second frame to disappear into the crowd. Judging by the unsure mumbling that seemed to grow louder with every step, he was walking right into the direction of the scene of event. "You're a lucky kid, Kevin", his teacher had said, "truly blessed if you ask me". Fuck you, Mrs. Lewis. And fuck you, Sam and Dean, for getting him into this mess.

He kept pushing through the crowd until he finally reached the first row. And that was exactly when a guy started shouting from the top of his lungs.

- "What do you mean, they're just wings?! What the fuck is wrong with you?!"

The guy on the other side of the counter sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose with two fingers before he looked back up, hands clenched to fists by his sides.

- "For Dad's sake, Radueriel, they are not angel wings, you can eat them, okay?! It's no fucking cannibalism, what do you even take me for?!"

A murmur went through the crowd at the words, and Kevin looked from one man to the other, basically feeling the tension sizzle between them.

- "Then why do you call them wings?! Honestly, you're the greatest idiot I have ever encountered! How dense can you possibly be to--"

- "Brothers!", a third man suddenly interrupted, and a face Kevin actually knew jumped in, voice calm, yet stern. "Cease your fight! We are here to celebrate and welcome the prophet, are we not? Stop arguing over vanities!"

Kevin couldn't hold back the puzzled "Metatron?" that escaped his lips, and all three men turned to look at him, the third and shortest of all frowning.

- "My name is Sandalphon, prophet, but I understand your confusion. Metatron was my twin brother. Until he abandoned us, that is."

Oh God.

- "Now let us all take some more of the food and drink and sit down. I am under the impression that it is almost time for the games, is it not?" And with that, the Metatron clone walked away without another glance back, leaving a bunch of confused angels, and Kevin, behind. The tallest angel - Radueriel, was it? - reached out to grab one of the chicken wings and a cup filled with liquid Kevin couldn't identify, before he turned on his heels to dramatically stride away, the masses shifting a little in order to form a lane for him. Another arrogant dickhead, great, just great. Not that the prophet had expected anything else from the angels, really.

When most of the angels had gotten their food and whatnot and the crowd had mostly dissolved, a stranger put his arms around Kevin's shoulders, startling him out of his thoughts.

- "Hello. My name is Jophiel. I would ask you to tell me yours but I'm afraid I already know", he laughed, and Kevin cast him a single distraught glance before motionlessly looking at the wall in front of him again, not really wanting to show his discomfort and confusion. "I just want you to follow me, the games are about to begin." And with that, Kevin was dragged away, through a door and into a different room that wasn't any smaller but lavishly decorated. About twenty angels had already taken a seat on the floor and a few seconds later, he was pushed down on a pillow as well.

While the other people chatted and laughed openly, Kevin could only stare, still trying to figure out the reason behind both the costumes and the whole damn party. And why he hadn't protested against all this even once. Fucking angels and their damn manipulation and mojo.

- "I'm dressed up as Nebukadnezar the Second!", someone suddenly spoke up, looking at him, and Kevin internally groaned when he realized that every single person here was able to read his goddamn thoughts. "The king? You know, the son of the Nabopolassar?"

- "Is that some guy from the Bible?", he couldn't help but ask, jokingly - and the eyes of the seemingly young angel lit up as he nodded wildly.

Bible cosplays. A thousand Bible cosplays. On a costume party. Hosted by angels. Oh God. Oh fucking God.

- "Alright everyone!", the angel who'd stood behind the counter before declared as he walked in and closed - locked? - the door behind himself. "It seems like everyone's here, so let's start with the games! I propose we begin with the obligatory sack race!"

Some angels huffed, annoyed. Some exchanged confused looks. Others cheered and awkwardly punched the air. Kevin's hand hit his face. He didn't know if the angel simply tried to seem more human because he was here or if this was their normal behavior. He was really, really hoping for the former, though.

They actually went through with the sack race, and although Kevin had wanted to refuse, he hadn't. And he swore to God, if he ever found out who was controlling his freaking mind like that, he would kill them with his own two hands. The fact that he won didn't exactly make the whole situation any better - and it wasn't even something to be proud of either, seeing as the angels were officially worse at this game than his friend Tommy. Tommy was confined to a wheelchair, mind you.

Then came Twister - which he also won despite his 5'7" frame -, and then some giant of a man hung up a pinata on the ceiling. And Kevin was the one who was supposed to hit it. And so he did as he was told, picked up the baseball bat, tied a cloth around his head as a blindfold, and let an angel position him in front of the colorful cardboard angel, if only to finally get this over with already.

Some angels complained about the fact that the pinata was the form of a seraph but when one of them joked about it being "the traitor Gabriel", the comments turned into laughter and cheers. Right, so angels did have some kind of humor after all. Maybe it was because of the alcohol, though.

Kevin hit a few times, hearing the sweets spill on the floor until he was sure that nothing was left of the pinata, but when he'd tried to take off his blindfold, he hadn't been able to.

- "Was that it?", an unfamiliar voice spoke.

- "No, it can't be."

- "That was unspectacular."

- "We let a prophet destroy the depiction of an angel just like that?"

- "As I said, he's not done yet, look. It's still fully intact."

- "No it isn-- Oooh, I see! You are smart!"

- "Hit again, prophet, you haven't even done it any harm!"

And Kevin did. For probably a half hour. And even then, there was still more candy falling out of the pinata, telling him that the angels had definitely messed with the thing. But well, it had some perks too - while he could hear countless bottles clink, and the people around him seemed to get more wasted with each passing second, he at least had an excuse not to drink. Because once he was done here, they would most likely force him to do so. Although he still couldn't figure out why.

- "Brothers and sisters, we need to stop this game now!", a voice he'd already heard a few times today perked up, and shouts of "Why?" and "Finally!" rang out around him.

- "The costume contest is about to begin!"

And so all the angels got up and shuffled out of the room and back into the apparent main hall, dragging Kevin along. Where there had been empty littered space before, was now a whole lot of chairs, many of them already occupied by angels, though the prophet couldn't see nearly as many soldiers of God as before - however, that mystery was, too, soon to be solved as a man grabbed his wrist and pulled him through a door into another room where about a hundred angels sat and stood, some chatting while others were simply glaring at everyone, distinctly pissed-off. Kevin could definitely relate to those guys.

- "Just go out there", the man who'd guided him here said, pointing at the small gap between wall and curtain that probably led out onto a stage, "when your name is called. Do what the others do and you will be alright!" A friendly clap on the shoulder, and the angel had vanished.

Angel after angel was asked to step through the curtain and to say both their own name and the one of the character they had dressed up as. Some names Kevin had actually heard before, be it in religion class or during his time with the Winchesters, but what interested him most were the characters they apparently depicted - they ranged from Michael, Crowley, and Charlie Bradbury to Noah, Eve, and Jesus himself. Okay, ranged was probably not the best word. Everyone was either cosplaying an acquaintance of the Winchester brothers or some biblical figure. That was Kevin's guess at least, seeing as he was highly unfamiliar with most of the names. Wasn't this some kind of blasphemy, though...?

He dismissed the thought with a shake of his head and focused back on the situation.

Before his name was shouted over the noise, the guy from before had to step out. Nebuka-something. He still had no clue who the hell that was supposed to be but he decided not to think about it too much when the male voice yelled "Kevin Tran", and two angels grabbed him by the shoulder and pushed him towards the stage until he stumbled out and into dazzling light. Without saying a word, he stared down at the three people sitting behind a desk - presumably the jury -, and the audience.

- "C'mon, Kevin!", a female voice cried from the back, drawing multiple angels' attention, "Tell them who you are!"

How was he supposed to do that if he didn't even know who the fuck he was?!

- "I'm Kevin Tran", he started, more annoyed than actually shy or confused, "and I'm an angel, I guess."

The crowd began to cheer and shout at his words, even the jury gave him a few approving nods as he turned to leave the stage again, not exactly eager to spend more time than necessary in front of all the strange angels who'd kidnapped him in the middle of the night to bring him to some cringe-worthy, awkward angel party.

Once everyone had presented their costume, they were forced to sit back and wait as the jury discussed their opinions. It didn't take long for them to choose a winner. Surprise, surprise! It was Kevin. Again. And his price was a cheap paper crown, a chocolate bar, and some candy. As if he didn't have enough of that already from the damn pinata. Which they had, in fact, healed multiple times as he'd noticed when he'd taken off the blindfold and seen the floor covered in sweets while the thing itself had looked exactly the same as before.

Somehow, he'd hoped that the whole party would be over now, as it was already five in the morning and he was sure that Sam and Dean had probably taken note of his absence by now. But even when he eventually deigned to put on the crown after refusing to do so for a good ten minutes, the angels still made no move to return him to the bunker - or to tell him what the hell was going on. He was offered a drink then which he was, unexpectedly, able to decline. So thank you for that at least.

Then, though, he was forced to sit down on a chair on the unoccupied stage while all the other angels had pushed the jury desk aside and taken a seat instead, looking up at him like they were expecting him to do something. Rolling his eyes, Kevin cast a glance around, not sure what to do - he had no microphone, nothing! And his chair wasn't even in the center of the stage but somewhere off to the right which normally meant he wasn't the most important person on the--

- "Welcome, brothers and sisters!" The voice seemed unnaturally high-pitched and loud, and Kevin flinched noticeably. "We have gathered to play the last game of the night!" Dramatically, he pulled on some kind of rope hanging from the ceiling, causing a huge piece of fabric to roll out that showed...a map of the whole USA. Cheers broke loose and the man on stage had to wait for a few seconds before the crowd had calmed down again. "Do you know what it is called?", he urged pointing at the angels, and Kevin started to think that they must've practiced this a million times before.

- "Where are the Winchesters!", the throng called, and honestly, their perfectly in-synch shouts only cemented his guess.

- "Correct! Now, let me explain the rules again! We have a few chosen angels backstage who will take their guesses on the map! Once everyone has marked their spot, Special Guest Kevin Tran over there is going to tell us whose guess was closest, and the winner will get the chance to lead the patrol that will be sent to capture the Winchesters! Are you ready?"

Kevin wasn't exactly sure what to think of this. Sure, it was kind of annoying, and if no miracle got him out within the next half hour, the position of the bunker would probably be leaked, causing the whole family to get caught and probably killed but hey, at least he knew why he was here now, right...? Oh, who was he kidding, this sucked. This sucked a whole lot. And because of the damn mind control, there was no way out, either. The only upside was that he at least wasn't going to die. Yet.

Like in all those cheap TV shows, angel after angel climbed the stage, accompanied by ear-deafening yells, cheers, and applause, to make their cross on the map. The red marks ranged from Florida to North Washington and from Texas up to Maine. They really didn't have a single clue where the brothers had settled down then, huh? Okay. If there was any way for him not to give out their position, he needed to find it, soon, because there were only three people still in line and one cross had been made right in the center of freaking Kansas.

But when the last X had finally been drawn, he was still without a plan. Goddammit, how had he even made it to advanced placement back in high school?!

- "Alright then! The marks have been made, let us hear what Kevin Tran has to say! Kevin, please rise!" He did without hesitation. Not voluntarily, of course, but he did. "Now, tell us which guess is closest to the Winchesters' current location!"

His feet carried him over to the fabric and he stood still for a few heartbeats as he studied the map, although he already knew that the one on Kansas was, by far, closer than all the others. Kevin desperately wanted to speak up, to say "The mark on California" but he couldn't. Instead, he lifted his hand, about to point at the right answer when--

- "You're all wrong. They're right here."

--a door was kicked open, causing the crowd to whip around and lay eyes on the three men standing near the wall, each of them carrying an angel blade. Castiel's eyes began to glow as he took in the room, and Kevin chose this split second to bolt, jumping off the stage and dashing past the angels until he'd safely gotten behind Sam and Dean.

- "Thanks, guys", he whispered and the older hunter cast him a glance over his shoulder, shaking his head.

- "No need to thank us yet, we gotta get out of here first."

- "How did you even get in?"

- "Past a whole lot of feathery assholes."

And so they turned and ran. From some furious angels, right into some furious angels. All four of them got wounded in the cruel fight but in the end, they somehow made it out alive and - thanks to Castiel - back to the bunker where the seraph broke down. While Dean took care of his not-boyfriend-I'm-not-gay-for-fuck's-sake, quote Dean Winchester, Kevin told Sam everything about what had happened back at that party while ripping off the wings on his back.

- "You should feel honored, though. They whipped up a party only for you."

Kevin grinned slightly. It was true, kind of. They'd bought (or stolen. Probably stolen.) a bunch of different drinks and foods, had dressed up and actually prepared some human games, hoping the prophet would feel comfortable enough to spill the beans about the Winchesters' location. Hm.

- "I guess. It was freaking boring though. I knew angels were total stiffs, but this?"

- "Yeah, true. Most of them are awfully stuffy."

Five minutes later in heaven, Candy Shop started blasting at full volume as Gabriel crashed the party in drag, a kazoo dangling from his cherry-colored lips.

Chapter Text

Voices. All Kevin could hear were voices, next to his head, from above, from behind, shouting and discussing loudly with each other, obviously it was about him because he could hear his name being said in between incomprehensible words. He wanted to tell them to shut the hell up because he was tired and something in his head felt like it was about to burst any second, but he couldn’t speak, couldn’t bring himself to open his mouth our make a noise or even move. He couldn’t even see, for God’s sake! He just had to stay where he was, he had to endure this and… wait. Why was someone grabbing his arm and why was he tied onto something and…

The mixture between confusion and panic made it possible for the prophet to open his eyes for a brief moment, expecting an enemy, an angel maybe, or a demon who tried to steal the tablet,  but there was just a young female paramedic smiling down at him, comforting him with words he still couldn’t understand, as he slipped back into a coma. The last thing he could perceive was the noise of an engine being started, accompanied by squealing tires. “I’m fine” he would have said in a situation like this, or at least “I’ll be fine”, but still he couldn’t speak.

 

About half an hour earlier, the unsuspecting boy sat in the room Sam and Dean had prepared for him, the tablet in his hands and his eyes fixed on the words carved inside the stone.

He had done nothing beside this for the past… how late was it again? Kevin couldn’t even tell if it was night or day, partly because there were no windows to let in any daylight, but also because he had long abandoned any sense of fatigue. He rarely took a break, and if he did so, it was usually only to eat, drink or inform the hunters about his progress. The situation was important, even he could understand that closing hell was quite a big deal, so he had decided to work until every last word had been translated, no matter how long it took.

It had been fun at first, being a prophet and realizing that he, a normal kid from advanced placement, could help to save the world. Reading the encrypted information was a challenge, to be honest, it had been a good way to pass the time since he had always been talented at solving riddles, whether it was during complicated math lessons or in his free time.

“Turns out there are benefits to being the uncool one at school” he had thought multiple times as he’d translated word by word, proud of every letter he managed to decipher. Most students would have given up long ago, but not him. He wasn’t someone who quit once they faced difficulties, and all his life, he had been praised for this by his teachers, his parents, even Sam and Dean once they had noticed how much effort he had put in his task when he’d started.

But now? It wasn’t fun at all, it was pure torture, yet he still refused to back down. The Winchesters had asked him to take a break multiple times by now, obviously concerned about the fact that he hadn’t left his room for days. Kevin didn’t listen. The sooner he finished this, the sooner it would be over, right? Oh, he hoped it would be over soon, because he was tired. Not just tired, he was exhausted, mentally and physically, nobody could describe what he was doing to himself as healthy.

“I’m fine” Kevin said, again and again and again, noticing he had quickly gotten used to telling that lie whenever he was asked about his well-being. It was easy, quick, and made it possible to avoid the unnecessary discussion which always made him feel like a misbehaving child being asked to put his video game away.

“I’m fine” was what they wanted to hear anyway, wasn’t it? People were happy when they got what they wanted, it was an effective way to make them shut up and leave him alone so he could keep working on the translation. It wasn’t the truth, but it was the best he could do… only that acting as if he was fine and being fine were two entirely different things.

He wasn’t dumb, he knew about the effects this had on his body and also his mental health, yet he just couldn’t help it- it was an addiction, the only thing on his mind right now, and Kevin was sure that if he tried to sleep, he’d dream of translating the stone tablet.

The real problem wasn’t not sleeping though, it was not falling asleep. The evidence of his efforts to keep himself awake could be seen all over the room: there was a pile of empty cans on the floor, some were scattered all over the place. More of them were- easy for him to reach- right underneath the table, unpacked and ready to be opened. In addition to that, there was a half-empty pot of coffee in front of the boy, already disgustingly cold. He drank it anyway- there was no time to make more, besides, he had lost the ability to taste what he was gulping down long ago.

The caffeine made it bearable to keep his eyes opened, but it had a few rather… irritating side effects, for example the trembling hands, an almost breath-taking tightness in his chest or random hallucinations that came and disappeared. The worst part, however, was the constant feeling he’d throw up any second, making the young man regret to have eaten that sandwich Sam had offered him before.

Honestly, Sam and Dean were amazing. They cared for him a lot, and, even though it might seem different to people who were told that he was “kept hostage” in a cold, trashy room littered with empty cans and no source of daylight, they were surprisingly appreciative -another reason for him to give his best to help them out. Things could be worse, a lot worse if the Winchesters hadn’t found and taken him in, so he would keep saying he was fine until the world was saved, until hell was closed, until this obvious lie would become truth eventually.

His dry throat demanded for coffee, therefore Kevin brought the mug to his lips and forced himself to swallow instead of spitting it out again, choking on the cold liquid and gasping for air in between coughs. Suddenly his chair was spinning- or was it the room around him that had decided to shake and turn upside-down when he felt a dull pain in his back? Something next to him shattered, he realized it had been the mug which had fallen from his hand.

Apparently, he was on the ground, he concluded by the way the ceiling lamp was blinding him from above now, but the boy had no idea what he was doing there or how he had gotten into this position in the first place. To be honest, he didn’t even want to get up though. It was… oddly comfortable down here, with the cold stone floor beneath cooling his back.

The coughing slowly subsided, instead, that tight feeling in his chest returned, only stronger than before. It was almost impossible to breathe, Kevin thought he’d die there, on the floor of this windowless room, surrounded by shards, puddles of cold coffee and empty cans, and the worst thing about it was that he couldn’t care less about it right now. Others in his position would have called for help, would have given anything to get up. Instead, he only wanted silence, he finally wanted to sleep.

Alarmed by the ruckus, footsteps came hurrying closer, and only a few seconds later, someone kicked in the door so forcefully it slammed against the wall and almost got ripped off its hinges. “Must be Dean” the prophet guessed, followed by the clicking noise of a gun being loaded. “I’m here” he wanted to say, but all that came out was a muffled “M’ere.”

“Kevin?”

That was definitely Sam’s voice, the prophet recognized the hunter by his hair and the plaid shirt as he knelt don next to his body, his brother right behind him with the same worried expression on his face.

“I’m fine” Kevin managed to mumble before his eyelids closed and everything around him faded into darkness. He could hear someone shouting his name from far, far away, blocked out by the wish to sleep, which seemed to become fulfilled sooner than expected. He didn’t realize he was picked up and carried through the bunker while Sam reached for his phone to make the call that would save his life. Minutes later, the unconscious prophet was carefully placed on a stretcher and on his way to the hospital, where he was now, laying in one of these uncomfortable beds, attached to half a dozen machines in an otherwise empty room.

 

The next time Kevin regained consciousness, it was quiet- except for the annoying beeping noises right next to his ear. The smell of disinfectants made him open his eyes in confusion, looking around and trying to solve the puzzle of memories in his head. He had been in the bunker… trying to translate the tablet… and then there was the floor. And the Winchesters kneeling above him. And the nurse from earlier. Oh.

Finally realizing what had happened to him, Kevin decided to take a closer look at the source of the machines around him. Although the boy knew next to nothing about medicine, it didn’t take him long to figure out that his heart rate, indicated by the red line on the monitor next to his bed, differed a lot from the average zigzag lines he knew from this cheesy TV show Dean liked so much.

“Speaking of the devil…” Kevin thought to himself when the hunter entered the room, immediately looking relieved upon seeing him awake. Sam followed, with a more serious, but not less caring look in his eyes.

“How are you?” he asked, to which the automatic mechanism in the prophet’s brain responded with the usual “I’m fine” before he could think about it properly. The headache was gone, his chest didn’t hurt anymore, there was only a slight feeling of nausea at the thought of eating something, but otherwise, he was okay. Maybe still a bit tired though. The brothers, however, weren’t pleased with this statement.

“Stop stealing my lines, kid.” Dean shook his head like a disapproving parent. “Only I’m allowed to use this lie, you’re still too young for this crap. Do you realize that you could have died?”

“Dean…” Sam interrupted with a hand on the older hunter’s shoulder, obviously he had wanted to confront the patient with this information in a more careful manner, so he quickly explained what they had been told by the nurses. Getting access to the diagnosis hadn’t been exactly legal, but luckily, they had experience with… finding ways to make people talk. That also included, as much as Sam hated to admit it, Dean’s flirtatious behaviour towards young women in white uniforms, who would have thought.

“You’re stable for now” Sam reported with a half-smile “but he also said you could have died from heart failure if we hadn’t called an ambulance soon enough.”

“Yeah, you almost gave us a heart attack” Dean joked, grinning at his own choice of words what made his younger brother roll his eyes dramatically.

“Anyway, I did some research, and…” Sam tried to continue, interrupted again by the older one.

“You don’t say.”

“Shut up, Dr. Sexy. So, get this. Apparently one cause of heart problems is high blood pressure, sometimes provoked by consuming too much caffeine. Judging by the amount of energy drinks and coffee in your room, you practically had an overdose. Symptoms, such as feeling sick and having trouble breathing, show up hours before the attack though, what makes me wonder why you didn’t say a thing when we were asking you to take a break.”

“Well, maybe it’s because I wanted to help you two to close the gates of hell, genius!”

Raising his arms in a soothing stance, Sam sat down at the edge of the bed, careful not to crush the boy’s legs under his weight.

“It’s okay Kevin, and we appreciate that. We do. But even though Dean and I probably aren’t the best role models when it comes to this, we want you to be honest with us. So, tell me, honestly, how are you feeling?”

For a moment Kevin had the urge to get up and hug the hunters for their consideration for his well-being, though that would probably make things kind of awkward, besides, he didn’t trust his legs to carry him yet, so he stayed where he was and only showed them a weak, but still genuine smile.

“I’m tired” Kevin admitted, rolled over and closed his eyes.

He heard Dean laugh behind him, saying “I should start doing that too.”

“What? Being honest about how you feel?” came the hopeful yet amused question from Sam, because there was just no way for Dean to stop hiding his anger and pain, it was basically a trait of his personality.

“Of course not. I mean saying I’m tired and going to sleep. Sounds like a good excuse to get away from you and your boring research.”

Almost half asleep, the prophet couldn’t help but smile at their exchange of words. Despite being far from the place he lived in, he knew he was at home, protected by the ones who cared about him and whom he considered his family.

“I’ll be fine” he thought, and this time, Kevin really meant it.

Chapter Text

„Dean, are you sure you want to do this?”

Dean took a shaky breath and stared down at the container of pills he held in his shaking hands. “You’re doing this for the job”, he reminded himself, “nothing could go wrong, Sam is right there and if something should go wrong, he’ll get you out of trouble.” Still, he was nervous, obviously, because the plan was that he’d commit suicide by overdosing on the questionable-looking medicaments.

The job that the Winchesters had first considered to be a usual salt-and-burn had turned out to be a bigger problem than expected, so currently they were trying to kill a rogue Reaper who took souls for no apparent reason, causing more vengeful spirits to show up in the little town than the brothers could handle. Ramming an angel blade in said Reaper’s chest would be the most efficient way to finish the matter, but therefore, someone had to die first.

Since Dean had sworn he would never let his younger brother sacrifice himself as a test subject for any risky ideas, it was self-explanatory that, after countless discussions and fights with Sam, the older hunter himself would have to swallow the bitter pill- literally.

He had done this before; he could do it again. Memories from his previous attempts to meet a Reaper briefly appeared before his eyes. Summoning, suicide… whatever he had done had almost ended in him dying for real, and Dean was not so eager to take the risk again, but… he had to.

“I’ll be back” he promised with a fake smile before he opened the container and shoved a generous number of pills into his mouth before he laid down on the cheap motel bed, already starting to feel somewhat dizzy. Those were simple sedative pills so at least it wouldn’t be as painful as that one time when he had swallowed half of the hospital’s medicine reserves and died almost immediately, but slowly fading away in his sleep seemed just as horrifying to the hunter.

“You better don’t think about it too much” Sam advised as he sat on the edge of the bed to cast him a worried glance. Watching his older brother die, no matter how often, was a picture he’d never get used to. So many things could go wrong, so many things could happen, and he didn’t have the slightest bit of control over the situation- that’s what he hated the most about these moments.

Sam could only watch while the older Winchester’s eyes closed and his body went limp. He was sleeping, for now at least, until he’d stop breathing and… nope. Dean was sleeping. That image was a lot less unsettling and stopped the younger one from having a panic attack and calling an ambulance right now.

As soon as he couldn’t feel Dean’s pulse anymore, Sam started the timer. He had to tear his eyes from the screen though, watching the numbers switch every second was driving him insane. Dean was dead, so his ghost or soul or whatever it was probably stood right next to him or something, in the middle of a discussion with the Reaper they were trying to kill.  Dean was bargaining with an employee of death, so to speak, while Sam wanted to sway his arms through the air like a kid, trying to feel something, but he resisted his curiosity, knowing that Dean would probably tease him about being unprofessional for months.

Damn, what was taking him so long? Two and a half minutes had already passed, and Sam was fidgeting around, staring at the floor, back at Dean’s lifeless body, back at the phone in his hands.

What if Dean was dead now? For real? What if the Reaper had taken him?

Hazel eyes met floorboards of a similar color. Wow, what an interesting crack in the wooden floor. What a beautiful texture. How many people must have stared at this floor before like he was right now?

What if Dean had failed to meet the Reaper? What if the wrong Reaper had shown up?

Back to Dean, or rather his body on the bed, lifeless and completely still. Really? Did Dean really have to pick that flannel shirt with those jeans? He should pay more attention to fashion trends. And oh, he could use a haircut sometime soon.

What if the older one had decided to listen to the Reaper instead and accepted the offer to be guided to heaven where his soul could rest in peace, far, far away from the mess they were trying to clean up down here? What if Dean had decided to abandon his younger brother for his personal happiness upstairs, for his heaven filled with never-ending supplies of pie, beer and probably a very confused but also very happy Cas watching over him?

Eyes back on the timer and- shit. Five minutes now. It was about time that his brother got back if he wouldn’t want to die permanently and, in the end, really see that heaven Sam had imagined a few seconds ago…

Why hadn’t they planned this out before. Why, for God’s sake, hadn’t they brought some kind of emergency kit, why hadn’t they come up with a backup plan? There wasn’t even enough time to call an ambulance, once they’d arrive, he’d only have to answer a bunch of stupid questions, and he was obviously not in the mood for that right now.

 

“I should have known this wouldn’t end well.”

Spoken out loud, the words were unpleasantly loud in the otherwise quiet motel room. He repeated them anyway, again and again and again, eventually standing up from the bed and throwing his phone- which still showed the dangerously increasing amount of time on its screen- against the wall, followed by his fist that hit the ugly wallpaper only milliseconds after. There was a crackling noise, the screen was probably broken, but Sam couldn’t care less, not even as he noticed the bruises on his knuckles.

“No reason to be worried, dear!”

The familiar voice startled Sam and he turned around, where Rowena took a seat right next to Dean’s corpse, seeming unimpressed. She raised an eyebrow upon seeing the shattered phone on the floor before she spotted the empty container on the nightstand.

“Oh Sammy, let me guess, you boys were in trouble and did something reckless again… right?”

What gave her the right to sound so happy, so carefree, talking about their situation as if this was small talk to her. The witch was totally mocking Sam, and in any other situation he wouldn’t even listen, but right now, he had to hold back from launching forward and strangling her with his bare hands.

“What. Do. You. Want?” he hissed, ready to start a fight if it only meant that the redhead would shut her mouth or say something helpful for once. There had to be a reason for her sudden appearance, Sam knew that much, he simply didn’t have the patience to find out what it was, and the cheerful sing-song voice with that accent distracted him from thinking properly.

Well, giant, I always thought you were the smart one… to be completely honest with you, I’m a little disappointed that you haven’t figured it out yet. I must admit that I’ve been following the two of you for quite some time now, and I was sure that you’d do something stupid again, so here I am, offering to help you out with that-” she cast a glance at Dean’s motionless body “… little issue you have here. For a small price, of course.”

Sam practically growled at her. He knew this was a trap, Rowena only helped them for her own benefit after all, although this time, he couldn’t deny that he depended on her. If he wanted to have Dean back, he’d have to ask for the annoying redhead’s help, there was no other way to save his brother, and she knew that.

“What will it be, Samuel?”

The hunter rolled his eyes, raising his hands in defeat. “Fine. Do it. Bring him back, and make sure that we’ll be able to kill that Reaper. Then you can have… whatever it is that you want from us.”

Her eyes lit up in approval as she got up and prepared some kind of ritual under Sam’s strict surveillance. All of a sudden, there were four people in the room, well, technically, there was one hunter, one witch, an angry and confused Reaper, a hunter-turned-ghost and one corpse on the bed.

“Sam? Can you… can you see her?” Dean asked hopefully, pointing at the female Reaper who looked like she was about to rip him to shreds any second. Without hesitation, the tall Winchester grabbed the angel blade from the nightstand, stabbing the young woman with a relieved “I could” as she faded away.

“Congratulations, you killed her!” Rowena commented in an exaggerated tone, then turned away and started to assemble her supplies.

“Wait, you haven’t revived Dean yet. And don’t tell me you’re not capable of doing so, because you promised you’d get him back!”

In the background, Dean- or his ghost? - face-palmed. “Seriously, why did you make a deal with her, of all people? You know that she’ll trick us again, don’t you?”

Sam, on the other hand, now turned to the shorter one with his best bitchface. “You don’t get to talk, you’re dead. I’m trying to save your life here, so shut up and let her bring you back, then we can argue about this, alright?”

“Whatever you say, bitch.”

Meanwhile, Rowena had set up yet another bowl with unidentifiable objects, and Sam was sure that, given the fact that this spell was probably from the Book of the Damned, it required more than the regular ingredients.

“Why does she have all that weird stuff with her, Sam? I’m no expert, but this is a complicated spell, so whatever the price is, I hope it’s worth it” Dean said, his arms crossed, while he inspected his physical form. “And dude, why didn’t you tell me that I should get a haircut? I look ridiculous.”

For once, Rowena and Sam were in complete agreement about ignoring the older Winchester for now. However, Sam knew his big brother had a point when he said that the price would be high, and to be honest, he was already afraid of the consequences. Whatever, if it brought Dean back, he was willing to give what was necessary. He just hoped that Rowena wouldn’t force him to cut his hair or something like that.

 

A minute later, there was only one Dean in the room again, gasping for air and cringing at the aftertaste of the pills he had taken earlier. Of course, Sam rushed to his side, and, even if Dean had practically never been gone completely, crushed the older one in a hug. “It’s good to have you back.”

Rowena, still kneeling in front of them, audibly cleared her throat to interrupt their emotional reunion.

Thank you, oh mighty Rowena, for using your power and all those super-rare-and-super-hard-to-find ingredients to bring back my precious brother! You saved us once again!” she mocked, dramatically pressing her hands to her chest.

Sam opened his mouth to at least give her a short “thanks”, but Dean vehemently shook his head. “Are you crazy? You won’t thank her after you know what she wants from us. I tell you, accepting her help was a bad idea.”

“Oh Dean, how right you are.” The witch gave him her best smile before she finished packing her supplies. Halfway through the door, she turned her head to face them one more time. “The spell will only last for a few hours, but it’s worth it.” And with that, she vanished.

A minute passed, nothing happened. Sam looked at Dean. Dean looked at Sam, before they simultaneously knelt down to check every possible place to hide a hex bag in. Too late, the spell had already been cast… and when Sam stumbled over two pairs of hooves while a hand-sized Dean was inspecting the bushy tail on his back, they finally realized what had happened.

Son of a bitch! Sammy… next time Rowena offers to help… just let me die.”

Chapter Text

Rowena MacLeod was annoyed. She was really, insanely, incredibly annoyed. Because not only was she forced to use the public transport of this cramped city, but the weird creepy guy that had just gotten on the train had, of course, sat down right beside her. It was one of the more luxury trains, yes, but even that couldn't really lift her mood right now because it meant that her seat was facing the passageway. Which, in turn, meant that all the people walked right past her and kicked her bag now and then. And as if that wasn't enough already, the man next to her took out a sausage sandwich of some sort and started chewing, smacking disgustingly loudly. But all the other seats were either occupied or next to even weirder people, and placing a hex bag in everyone's pocket really wasn't an option, seeing as she didn't have that many with her right now - and she needed those few bags for actual emergencies.

However, just when the man finally finished his meal and wiped his hands on his pants, just when Rowena felt like she could ultimately enjoy at least some kind of peace and quiet, she saw another man approach out of the corner of her eye. He was carrying a clipboard with a ballpoint attached to it, and there was some kind of ID card dangling from his neck. Casting a last glance back at some woman he'd just finished talking to and laughing heartily, he made his way over.

The witch was silently hoping that it was really only some kind of businessman or reporter taking the train to his place of work, but when he set eyes on her and walked over with a broad smile, she already knew that luck really wasn't on her side today.

- "Good afternoon, Madam!", he said happily, and Rowena looked up into the man's eyes with a sickly sweet smile and more or less politely greeted back. "I'm doing a survey on train passengers and their journeys, may I ask you one or two questions about your trip?", he continued, taking out his phone while flipping through the papers attached to his clipboard, and before she even had the chance to respond, he'd already started talking again.

- "So, first of all, what's your occupation and age?"

- "I, darling, am a naturally gifted witch, born over three hundred years ago in wonderful Scotland", she gave back with a smile, letting no trace of her amusement betray her serious voice. The man stared for a second before noting something down, muttering a few incomprehensible words to himself, but he nodded without asking further nonetheless.

- "Okay, so, uh... I get that sharing personal information is kinda... not everyone's thing but I really am a trustworthy guy, look!", he spoke up again, basically shoving his card into Rowena's face who simply pushed his hand away again. She was about to speak up and reassure that she was, in fact, being serious with him, but he'd already focused back on his notes. "It's okay, though! I'd just like you to be real with me this time, none of this is gonna be shared! So, where did you get on the train and how did you get to the station...", he proceeded, still somewhat thrown off track and a little uncertain about what he was doing, "and where are you going and why?"

- "I spent an hour waiting at the station in Portland after walking there all the way from the whole other end of the city... Now, I'm going to Sweet Home to collect some ingredients for a few spells. I've run out of hex bags, you can't believe how stressful it is, having to live with people instead of being able to kill 'em", she sighed, shaking her head in annoyance, and the man swallowed visibly.

She noticed with a smirk that the guy next to her had shifted away and was currently packing up his things, casting a careful glance at her now and then, presumably scared that she was going to actually kill him.

- "Right, okay, I, uh...by foot then, okay. And, your "Sweet Home", that's-...that's where exactly?", he continued, sweat forming on his forehead while Rowena felt oddly comfortable with the whole situation, completely being in her element and all.

- "Oh no, sweetheart, Sweet Home, that's a city, not my home - if you care about a latter, I assume that would be hell at the moment, although I'm rarely around... my son is in charge down there, you know?" The look on his face was simply indescribable, and the witch had to bite back a laugh. "Anything else you'd like to know?"

The man swallowed thickly, he was awkwardly fiddling with his pen and shook his head.

- "I-... I'm quite sure you're traveling alone, so, that's about it. Thank you for your time, Madam, have a- good day in...Sweet Home", he breathed with a forced smile and turned to leave hastily. His move gave Rowena a chance to get a glimpse of the notes on the clipboard - and wait, what had he said just now? "Quite sure you're traveling alone"? Ouch! Huffing sulkily, she grabbed her bag and got up, reaching into the pocket of her coat. He'd definitely chosen the wrong woman to mess with. Passing the man, she flashed him an obviously staged smile and whispered a swift "I said I'm almost out of hex bags, bampot" before quickly leaving the compartment.

Behind her, she could hear violent coughing and panicked screams. The train stopped only a minute later, and as she stepped out into the cool winter breeze, watching the people carry the slowly dying, blood-coughing man out of the wagon, she cursed under her breath. Just like that, because some numbskull who hadn't had the brains to at least try to respect a powerful witch, she'd successfully thrown another hex bag out the window, great, just great.

But well, even standing in the cold for another three hours waiting for the next train was more pleasant than having a peasant label her as "mentally unstable" and even get away with it - if only he'd talked to the man next to her instead, then he would probably still be alive...but well, what can you do, right? Maybe she would at least have a little mercy on him and therefore wouldn't make him or his family pay for the wasted hex bag, she really was in a generous mood today, despite last hour's events.

Rowena met the man's glassy, widened eyes one last time and waved him goodbye with a broad smile before she turned on her heels and left. Sirens of both police and ambulance sounded up from somewhere as she sat down in a café and gave up an order.

- "Au revoir, bon voyage, not my problem", she muttered to herself, hiding her grin behind the cup of tea she was holding.

And well, as a wise woman had once said: Here's to evil skanks. And she would be following that guideline for the rest of her endless goddamn life.

Chapter Text

Right, so...she was at the gym. Because she liked the gym. Doing some sport for an hour or two, keeping your body fit and healthy in a calm, relaxed environment, while listening to music. Well, that was what she kept telling herself anyway. Jody was here because of the training after all, and definitely not because she'd seen something about a gruesome murder in this fitness studio. Totally not.

When she'd read about the killing - and about the way the victim's heart had been ripped out and removed from the corpse -, she simply hadn't been able to ignore it, no matter how many times she'd promised the Winchesters that she'd leave it be, that she'd focus on taking care of her girls and that she would call in if she noticed anything unusual - she'd been on quite a few hunts alone without getting severely hurt, and the brothers had never noticed a single thing. Therefore, she'd been sure that this case wouldn't be any different.

And so she'd decided to drive the few hundred miles down to the scene of event and check out the gym once or twice in order to see if she could find something that would lead her to the whereabouts of the werewolf - that was, according to the info she'd gathered, a pure-blood. Jody had told Claire and Alex that she would be gone for a few days, a week at most, and had left them alone, but not without asking the neighbors and a few friends to keep an eye on the girls and check in on them now and then, because despite their age, she felt like they really couldn't be left alone. Maybe it was just her mother instincts kicking in, but her daughters were, by far, not old enough to stay home alone for a whole week, not with a past like theirs.

As she worked out, she let her thoughts wander, eventually forgetting about her task and thinking about this and that instead, and against what she'd originally thought, she actually managed to relax despite the comparatively hard training - until there was a deep growl some feet away from her and she sat up in surprise, narrowing her eyes at the man who'd just snapped at a woman for whatever reason. The girl backed off immediately, holding her hands up in a calming gesture before she turned and left, muttering under her breath. In the crowds and with all the noises around them, normal people definitely wouldn't have noticed the way he stared at her back before moving to slowly follow her.

Jody was on her feet within seconds, one hand carefully placed on the silver knife she was carrying on her waist, politely flashing all the people she walked past a quick forced smile as she hurried after the man while still trying not to draw too much attention to herself. Taking quick, wide steps and with her eyes set on the suspect, she pushed past the people and crossed a few rooms, not knowing where exactly the man was leading her. When she saw him leave the building through one of the side entrances, though, her grip on the small weapon tightened, anticipation boiling up inside her. If she was lucky, the woman would now walk over to her car parked in the middle of the parking lot in plain sight and drive off - but, of course, she wasn't lucky. She never was.

Because the girl walked right into the direction of a small walkway encompassed by the gym wall on one and some higher hedges on the other side, and the sheriff couldn't help but roll her eyes at the cliché - at least it wasn't some disgusting dark alleyway, and at least it wasn't night but only late afternoon. Otherwise, she would've honestly questioned the seriousness of this whole shit she was currently going through. It was weird enough that the woman hadn't noticed the suspicious man that she'd bumped into five minutes before following her. And that said suspicious man hadn't noticed the huntress yet.

Well, when she suddenly realized that the girl had vanished from her sight but the man was still walking, she started to doubt her plan. She'd heard enough stories, seen enough movies, and been on enough hunts to understand where this was going - so when the female wolf charged at her from behind - how the hell she'd gotten there so quickly would never be clear to Jody -, she'd been prepared already; whipping around and ramming the knife into the woman's shoulder before pulling it out again to drive it through her chest. Her scream was agonizing but she still wouldn't back off, claws scraping at the sheriff's arms and flanks as the male werewolf joined the fight, but Jody managed to keep him at bay for the time being by delivering a precise kick to his guts.

They punched and stabbed and hurt each other for a good ten minutes before a pedestrian showed up, face pale and gaping like a traumatized goldfish. By that time, the man was already on the ground, bleeding and...well, dead, while the female was still trying to wrestle the knife from Jody's hands. Both women froze when they noticed the stranger still staring at them with wide eyes and the sheriff used the moment of distraction to thrust the blade into the wolf's chest and twist it sharply, making her collapse on the pavement. Covered in blood, standing next to two human-animal hybrids and holding a knife in one hand, she looked back up at the guy who was frozen in shock, casting a weak, apologizing smile as she held up her badge in a desperate attempt to...she didn't even know what she was trying to do if she was being honest.

The second two panicked staff people rounded the corner, Jody awkwardly cleared her throat, about to look for some excuse or explanation for what was going on but when one of the persons pulled out their phone to - probably - dial 911 with shaking hands, she realized that she should definitely get out of there without trying to explain anything at all.

And so she shouted a pained "Sorry!" at the three people before she turned, and ran.

Somehow, she'd made it back to her car without getting arrested or killed, or seen even - at least she hadn't noticed anyone looking her way when she'd sneaked past some cars trying to get back to the lot where she'd parked her own. She'd climbed into the front seat, and had pressed down on the gas pedal as quickly as possible, continuing to drive so fast that she grazed the speed limit almost constantly, not wanting to go slow enough for anyone on the street to see her blood-covered face, but also not daring to speed up enough to draw some speed camera's attention.

Stopping in the middle of nowhere, she'd gotten out, changed into new clothes and burned her old, noticing with an annoyed sigh that she'd have to clean off the car, especially the driver seat, later on. After getting rid of the evidence, she'd made it home without any other incidents or mishaps. But really, she'd had enough of those that day already anyway.

Having managed to get into the house and into the shower without drawing even one of her girls out of their respective rooms, she'd changed, again, before greeting her daughters, thanking her neighbors and friends for watching over the two of them, and avoiding any questions that revolved around what the hell she'd been doing all this time. When the sun had already set, Jody had gone outside to clean the car before going to bed. Sam and Dean had texted her a few hours ago, asking if they could swing by the next evening.

And that was how she'd ended up in the living room with two brothers and two sisters sitting in awkward silence.

- "So, uh, Jody, what have you been up to?", Sam finally asked, and the sheriff thought for a second before responding.

- "Ah, nothing, just the usual, you know? Taking care of the girls, working at the station, going to the gym,..."

- "You go to the gym?"

- "Eh... Actually, I think it was a one-time thing", she admitted slowly, and Sam cast her a confused glance.

Subtly and coughing quietly, she reached for the television remote to silently turn off the news about yesterday's vicious gym murderer.

Chapter Text

Gunshots echoed through the parking lot as the confident woman pointed her gun at the vamps in front of her. There were only two of them, a couple hunting without the rest of the nest. As soon as she had managed to get close enough, she quickly decapitated both with a sharp blade, wiping the blood stains off her face. Jody would probably have to come back another time to kill the others, but for today, she was satisfied with two bodies she could set on fire a couple minutes later, walking away while the flames died down.

Vampires were probably her speciality. Not that she couldn’t fight any other monsters, hell no, she was good at killing everything that had to be killed, but vampires had learned to fear sheriff Jody Mills, even though she didn’t really consider herself a hunter.

It was more of a hobby -no, necessity- for her to kill monsters, although they seemed to avoid her recently. For that reason, it had been a long time since one of them had gotten close to her, so usually the woman could concentrate on her real occupation and capture comparatively harmless criminals. A thief here, a smuggler there, in rare cases there were even murderers, but Jody had learned that there were things out there which were far more dangerous than serial killers, and, although it was a big no in her line of work, she had forgotten how to be scared of cases.

As a newbie she had been more careful, a trait that had saved her life a few times before, but now? When Sam and Dean had taught her about the supernatural creatures which lived among humans, creatures she had thought only existed in horror stories and movies, her world view had changed drastically. At once, real criminals, humans, didn’t seem as intimidating as before, and that realization still scared her now.

When she was with her adopted daughters, she often reminded herself that every day could cost her life, that her work- no matter if hunting monsters or arresting humans- required concentration and caution. She had to stay alive; for Alex, for Claire, for Donna who came by to check in on the little family from time to time. She had promised all of them she’d be back before going to work countless times, and she’d never broken that promise.

Jody had to admit she was a bit late sometimes, when she had to work a night shift or a hunt took longer than she had expected, but usually she could make it up to the girls with a milkshake and a plate of junk food at the nearest diner. Still, she couldn’t help but notice the slightly swollen eyes and the dishevelled hair that looked like someone ran their hands through it for hours when she opened the door and hugged her girls. They knew exactly what could happen, they knew that she could die out there, and it always took her a ten-minute discussion to make them stay at home and wait for her return instead of following her.

Jody didn’t leaven them behind because they were weak or vulnerable, because they were too inexperienced. She didn’t want to bring them along because she couldn’t risk for them to be killed under her surveillance, it would break her heart to see one of them die in her arms, knowing it was her fault for bringing them out to hunt.

Although the two of them, especially Claire, were always rebellious and ha a habit of doing the opposite of what she demanded, they were old enough to understand and obey. Luckily. Otherwise she would threaten them with calling the Winchesters to babysit. Well… they’d probably put them in even greater danger, if she had to be honest. So no, she was glad to have two (relatively) mature girls waiting for her to come back. And she couldn’t disappoint them because she wasn’t careful enough.

 

Moments like these, moments where she came home, greeted Alex and Claire and then settled down with them on the couch to watch a movie together, reminded Jody of how important it was to be happy, to be alive. Although the girls’ constant fighting about which movie to pick and which package of unhealthy snacks should be opened first annoyed her, she loved these evenings where she could forget about her job and enjoy the feeling of just being home, just like that particular evening.

The movie had already begun when her phone rang. Usually she would have muted it, because her shift was over and nobody should even dare to distract her from their family ritual, but the unpleasant feeling in her gut told her to pick up anyway, much to her adopted daughters’ dismay. With a mixture of anger and curiosity, she reluctantly left her cozy place on the couch to answer.

“Jody?” Dean’s slightly muffled voice surprised and scared her at the same time. Usually she was happy to hear from the boys, but not on a Friday evening when she was in the middle of watching one of her favorite romcom movies.

“It’s me. Please tell me this is important.” Honestly, Jody hoped it wasn’t important, because there were three reasons for the hunters to call her. Option one: they were calling to check in, which they did… maybe once every three months. Option two: they had work for her. And if that was the case, she could as well start packing her bags right now because it had to be an emergency. Even before the older Winchester had given out any information, she was on the way to her car, desperately hoping this wasn’t an option three call and nobody had died.

“We could use a little help here, and since we’re nearby, we thought you might know something about this. A group of vamps, maybe a few minutes away from your house? They keep saying something about a woman who ganked two of their family members…”

“Oh…right. I’m on my way.”

One strict look at the teenagers was enough to tell them what to do: they’d stay at home to finish the movie without her while Jody would go back and finish what she had started. The “I’ll be back, I promise” left her mouth almost automatically.

Dean tried to give her some details about their situation, but as soon as the sheriff had started the engine of her car, the connection broke off after a crashing noise on the other end. Not that Jody was feeling stressed or anything, but if she didn’t want this to develop into an option three incident, she’d have to drive faster. “Thank God I can decide not to arrest myself for this” she thought as she accidentally overlooked a red traffic light.

It only took a few minutes to arrive at the abandoned factory building, but to Jody, it felt like she’d been driving for hours. It was suspiciously quiet, but the woman was too smart to fall for this trap like the stupid people on TV did. Clutching the machete with her left hand, the right one reached out to open the front door. A big room, no lights, no people, moonlight shining through the windows-the perfect setting for a dramatic scene. A voice at the end of the room caught Jody’s attention and she started to walk until she stood in front of yet another door. The voices were gone, so the woman concluded she was alone and unobserved…for now.

Behind the door was, who would have guessed it, another room. This time, it was illuminated by bright ceiling lamps though. And in the center of it were two chairs, occupied by the Winchesters who were both gagged and tied to the seats. Judging by the cuts and bruises on their faces, the vampires had taken out their anger on them, something that immediately made her feel guilty. It was her fault they were so angry, it was her fault it had gotten this far, but she wouldn’t be Jody if she couldn’t rescue them now.

Practically running towards the Winchesters, she knelt down in front of Dean first and began to cut the restraining ropes, but when she saw how the hunter violently shook his head, eyes wide in what she could only interpret as fear, she knew that she had screwed up. Before she could turn around to face the creature, something hit her head. Hard. And then everything went black. 

 

Jody awoke with a painful headache and the awareness that she had failed miserably. While her memory of what had happened returned, she mentally scolded herself for being so stupid, so careless, so… impulsive. As soon as she’d seen the Winchesters, she had stopped thinking about her own safety, and now, the woman was captured as well, tied to a chair next to the brothers who gave her worried looks as soon as she opened her eyes.

“Sorry” was all Jody could manage to get out, feeling both ashamed and helpless. She’d been their only hope, and all she did was get herself trapped too. Nobody would rescue them. They would probably die here… or worse, get turned into vampires as well, damned to fight against their bloodlust until some hunter would end their suffering. She wouldn’t be able to keep the promise she made.

“Shhhh!”

The quiet noise behind her almost scared her to death, but she could suppress the scream that was stuck in her throat. Something tickled her neck and Jody froze in shock, unable to move. This was it. This was the end of her human life and the beginning of an endless circle of pain and blood and violence and everything she’s ever fought against and-

“Calm down, it’s just me!”

The voice seemed familiar, although Jody was sure it didn’t belong here at all, so when blonde curls fell over her shoulder and face as Claire bent down to free her from the ropes, her mother instincts kicked in before she could even thank the teenager.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing here?” Jody shouted, immediately getting her mouth covered by a perfectly manicured hand.

“Saving your lives. Can you please wait with the speech until we’re not in danger anymore?”

At that moment, they could hear pained screams from behind the door. Panic was written all over the three prisoners’ faces, but Claire, completely unimpressed, proceeded to untie them from the chairs one after another with a proud smirk. Only seconds later another person entered the room, a blood-covered blade in her hand, slightly out of breath but greeting them with a nervous expression.

“Alex? You too?”

“I’m not exactly a fan of vampires, you know…”

Jody couldn’t help it, the feeling of relief paired with the fear of death she’d felt earlier were fighting against one another in her head. She was angry, she couldn’t help it; her girls were in danger and it was all because of her.

“What did I tell you about waiting at home? Do you realize what could have happened to you? I’m doing my best to protect you, and you follow me on a case.”

Sam and Dean, on the other hand, immediately got up from their seats to welcome them, a bit embarrassed about the fact that they had just been rescued by two teenage girls, but happy about the reunion.

“Don’t encourage them” The sheriff warned, but it didn’t sound strict anymore, so after Claire rolled her eyes for the third time, the three women were cuddled up in a group hug. Raising an eyebrow, Jody invited the boys to join them, but Dean refused, trying to hide his more than obvious smile though.

“Thanks, girls” the woman finally whispered, pulling Claire and Alex even closer, “I’m proud of you.”

 

And while Sam and Dean were awkwardly third -or, in this case, fourth wheeling in the background, Jody suddenly let go of the teens with a serious frown.

“Screw you, now I missed the end of the movie.”

Chapter Text

Charlie was running. No, sprinting. Actually, she was sure she was going to stumble over her own two legs any second now, but somehow, she managed to keep her balance, even when she accidentally bumped into an elderly couple that -thank God- didn’t seem too mad about the collision. “Sorry!” the young woman shouted over her shoulder, already running again, the yellow-and-red scarf around her neck happily flapping in the wind. She’d be late, she knew it. She would miss her train and then she could forget about her dream of going to that convention.

If only she hadn’t been so lazy this morning, if she’d have gotten up as soon as her alarm clock had told her to, the redhead wouldn’t be running like a maniac now. Oh great, more people in the way. Despite already being completely out of breath, the smile never seemed to fade from the girl’s face though, apart from the fear of missing her train, she was in a really good mood. Maybe it was the music blasting from her headphones that managed to keep her happy while she jogged through the streets to the joyful melody of “walking on sunshine”, careful not to run into anyone else.

A dog barked at her, barely loud enough to drown out the song, and Charlie contemplated stopping to pet the cute corgi, but she was immediately reminded of her situation by its impatient owner, a mother with two little children, who practically dragged the poor animal along. She was in a hurry too, however, she couldn’t refrain from giving the kids an apologetic shrug as their annoyed mother urged them to keep walking.

Forcing her eyes back on the street, she turned left and then right, the train station should be right behind the corner… but she suddenly found herself in front of a huge office building instead. Okay, now she was officially screwed. The architectural complex was huge and also oddly intimidating with its many windows and the businessmen in black suits in front of it, making her feel small and out of place.

Right, while she was standing there, panting and gaping at the skyscraper-like building, she was losing precious time. Time she did not have, because in… exactly thirty minutes, as her watch told her, she’d have to sit in a train to California.

The comic con in San Diego was one of the big events she couldn’t afford to miss, Charlie had been looking forward to that convention ever since she had spent most of her monthly income on the tickets and had forced herself to save the rest of it for merchandise. She’d be broke after the con anyway, but it was totally worth it. Or would be. If she would just manage to find the damn train station and get there on time.

“You got this” she told herself repetitively, “You got this, you got this, you got this.”

The redhead must have looked like a kicked puppy, because after a few minutes, she could feel someone tapping on her shoulder from behind. “Please don’t be a security guard” the girl muttered quietly, but the person heard her anyway. He must have tried talking to her first, but with her headphones still on, there was no chance she could have noticed. Still, the look on his face wasn’t one of annoyance or anger when she turned around to lock eyes with the boy.

“Don’t worry, I don’t bite” he reassured, now facing her completely. He was also wearing one of these dark suits, but it didn’t look very formal on him, in fact, it only made him seem smaller and kind of adorable because the jacket was at least two sizes too big. Upon noticing her questioning expression, the Asian kid explained that he was simply doing an internship, and Charlie concluded that he must have been feeling just as lost as she was now.

“Gryffindor?” He tugged at the end of the scarf with an approving nod. “Good choice. By the way, my name is Kevin.”

“Charlie” she replied, the stress and tension leaving her body as soon as the boy had mentioned her fandom. What would she give to stop time to have a nice, long discussion about Harry Potter with the kind stranger… but she still wanted to get her train.

“Do you, by any chance, know how I can get to the station? I’m on my way to comic con and… somehow I got lost.”

“Sure.”

Charlie’s face immediately lit up and Kevin had to suppress a giggle about how much she actually resembled an energetic puppy with her red curls bouncing up and down, it was almost as if her red hair was mirroring her current emotions.

Finally Charlie felt like she had a realistic chance to make it there. Even better, Kevin proposed to accompany her as he had half an hour left of his lunch break and was just looking for an excuse to get away from the grown-ups who threw all sorts of unnecessary exercises at the exhausted kid.

All the way to the train station, he talked about the internship, how his superiors were constantly asking him to get coffee and how he hadn’t learned a single thing during the time he had spent there except for how to use the coffee machine.

Charlie told him about her plans to apply for a job as an IT expert, about her favorite experiences at conventions and, of course, about every single one of her favorite books and movies. Most people were annoyed by her obsession, but in Kevin, she had found someone who genuinely enjoyed listening to her stories. And when Charlie sat down in the seat next to the window and waved at the boy standing on the platform as the train slowly started to move, she was quite happy that she’d gotten lost before.

If only she’d had more time to talk to him… she was sure they could have been close friends.

Chapter Text

The last time the Winchesters had called Charlie had been at least seven months ago. Ever since the thing with the Book Of The Damned had happened, back when she'd barely made it out of this motel room alive after decrypting the code, she'd quit the hunting business once and for all as the brothers had told her to get out of the state and hide until all the turmoil had calmed down again. Dean had made clear that he expected some sign of life, be it letter, mail, text, call, postcard, or 'anything else, really', at least once a month, and Charlie had agreed after hugging him to death once more; but otherwise, they were almost completely out of touch. The boys only called in once or twice a year, if faced with things or cases that only the redhead could help out with, but those were rare, to say the least - most hunts didn't exactly require a hacking genius to be done.

Therefore, it was more than surprising that she got a call from an unknown number on a Friday afternoon, shortly after she'd booted up her computer to join a voice call with her online friends. A little on edge - the events that had taken place a few years ago had shaken her up pretty good, although she knew that the family that had hunted her down back then had long been extinguished -, she reached out to her phone to accept the call.

- "Hello?", she asked with a soft, yet confident voice, shaking off her worries. There was no need to be nervous at all. It was probably a friend who'd gotten a new phone, an old classmate, hell, it could even be AT&T or some--

- "Charlie? Hey there!"

Her jaw dropped as her eyes widened and a smile started to grow on her face, so wide that it almost hurt.

- "Wait...Sam? The hell? Dude, it's been, what, like, a year or something? How are you guys?"

The man on the other side laughed softly, heartily, and Charlie still couldn't hold back her smile. Quickly, he informed her friends that she was gonna be a little late for their gaming session before focusing back on her friend.

- "Not completely, no, but you're right, it's been...way too long. We're good so far, how are you?"

- "I'm great! Got a job, a new guild, things are awesome!" She hesitated then, when she realized that there had to be a reason for the call. The brothers had clearly stated that they wouldn't just check in now and then, in order not to put her in danger. "What's up, though? Do you need me?"

- "What? Oh, no. I mean...not really. Dean and I thought, since it's been so long, that you should be out of danger by now. I told him so two months ago already but he wanted to wait a little longer", he breathed, and in the background, there was a dismissive grunt that put the grin back on Charlie's face. "The Steins aren't a threat anymore, there's no apocalypse coming our way at the moment - not yet, at least. So we thought, maybe it's time you finally meet our kid"

Before the girl could respond - or ask a million questions, rather -, an unfamiliar voice cut in, yelling "Kids, Sammy! Plural!" from afar, followed by a pissed-off "Shut the fuck up, dumbass!" shouted by someone that could only be Dean. Sadly, Charlie couldn't possibly catch the response, seeing as Sam had already started talking again with a sigh, apologizing for the people messing around in the background before he asked if the hacker was okay with coming by the next day.

- "We could also easily buy your train ticket or whatever you need if--"

- "Sam, wait!" He shut up immediately, so Charlie continued. "Of course I wanna swing by, dude! What the hell even happened in all that time, you guys got kids? I mean, how awesome is that?! So hells yeah, I'm in! But I'm not a little girl, Sam, I got a license and a car so don't worry about me!"

She could basically hear the smile in his voice when he spoke up again, agreeing swiftly before informing Dean and the stranger about the fact that she'd agreed to get back in touch again.

- "Awesome! Take care and don't speed, kiddo!", Dean huffed with noticeable amusement and genuine fondness resonating in his words, suddenly way closer to the telephone than before, before they hung up, leaving Charlie sitting in her spinning chair with a huge smile on her lips. Putting on her headset, she finally joined the voice chat, practically vibrating with excitement.

- "Guys, you won't believe what just happened...!"

---

Although she had a license and a car, she didn't exactly drive very often. It had been quite some time since she'd last sat in the small, yellow vehicle, and so the long trip to Kansas was more terrifying than actually exciting, seeing as her phone kept leading her down the wrong roads and the weather wasn't exactly playing along. For a few hours, heavy rain was making it hard for her to even see, but she made it through the storm and back into the sunlight without any accidents or mental breakdowns.

But now, now she'd finally arrived at the bunker, was currently fetching her bag from the passenger seat, and then got up to close the door behind her, lock the car, and walk over to the entrance. Knocking, she started to practically bounce with excitement as she waited for one of the inhabitants to finally let her in - the one who did, eventually, open the door for her, was wearing the happiest and most genuine smile on his lips that Charlie had ever seen on his face.

Grinning from one ear to the other, she launched herself at Dean, letting him wrap his arms around her to lift her from the floor in a bone-crushing hug as he greeted her, his words muffled by the fabric of her shirt.

- "C'mon, let's meet the family", he breathed softly after playfully ruffling her hair which she commented with a staged huff but she followed nonetheless, a spring in her step as she bounded down the stairs, screaming "What's up bitches!" before flinging herself at Sam and then at Castiel who awkwardly hugged her back with a fond smile.

Only when she backed off and the adrenaline had died down a little did she notice the two people standing a little in the back, eyeing her. The taller man was blond, with curious blue eyes that seemed to stare right into her soul when she looked back while the second seemed to be the complete opposite. Wearing a wide grin, he was leaning against what the Winchesters had introduced to her as the war table, nodding swiftly when their eyes met.

- "Charlie, meet Jack, our kid", Sam interrupted her thoughts, gesturing towards the blond man who waved with a smile, and Charlie frowned slightly, looking from Sam to Jack and back, trying to find the words.

- "Right, so, when you said you had a kid, I was kinda thinking of a...child, not a twenty-something."

- "He's not even three years old", the other stranger cut in, shrugging as he clapped Jack on the shoulder, gently; and Charlie immediately recognized the voice she'd heard in the background during that phone call before.

- "And that douchebag over there's Gabriel", Dean sighed, "Don't mind him, he's just a pain in the ass."

A smirk appeared on the archangel's face as he waggled his eyebrows.

- "I'm only a pain in Sam's--"

- "TMI! T-M-fucking-I!", was the quick retort, and Charlie couldn't help but giggle. God, how she'd missed these boys.

That was when Castiel raised his voice for the first time.

- "My apologies, Charlie. The Winchesters should've warned you before dragging you in here", he growled, casting the brothers a deadly glare before he sighed and turned back to face Charlie. "Gabriel is my brother. And Jack, our son, is a nephilim. The son of Lucifer and a human to be exact. I know this might sound--"

He couldn't even finish his speech because Charlie had already run up to each of the mentioned men to embrace them in a tight hug, punching Jack's shoulder lightly after pulling back, a beaming smile on her face.

- "Lucifer? And you're one of the good guys?! That's so cool, dude! I gotta know everything!", she grinned, and a shy smile appeared on Jack's face as he tilted his head to the side a little.

- "Nice to meet you too", he gave back, happily.

However, when Sam tried to speak up again to say some more things about Jack, Gabriel suddenly raised his voice, yelling an offended "Hey!" at all the people present in the room to draw their attention, faking a pout while crossing his arms in front of his chest.

- "I get that he's cool and all but can you guys stop acting like our baby doesn't exist?", he huffed, staring especially at Sam who rolled his eyes, though in a tender way.

- "There's only one baby in this family and it's definitely not yours--", Dean protested but Gabriel interrupted him again, jabbing a finger into his chest.

- "It is mine because my baby isn't a pile of crap! Cars are not part of a family, Dean-o! Right, Sam?"

- "Uh, guys, what...what's going on?", Charlie dared to ask, slowly raising a hand, and the archangel turned to look at her with a proud smile.

- "Let me introduce you to the most important member of our family!"

Dean groaned, rubbing a hand over his face; Castiel sighed; Jack's smile widened impossibly; Sam shook his head with a grin he was trying to hold back.

Gabriel snapped his fingers.

- "Meet Winston!"

---

After Charlie had met Gabriel's (and Sam's) adorable corgi pup, she'd been offered to stay for a night or two, or even longer, and she'd gratefully accepted, wanting to learn more about all the new amazing people she'd gotten to know this day. She stayed in one of the empty rooms, spent most of the time playing with Winston, talking to the men that she soon began to consider her own family too, fixing things in the bunker, and trying to come up with a way to effortlessly send encrypted messages back and forth so that they could safely stay in touch from now on.

It was on the third day, a sunny afternoon while she was coding, that she came up with a spontaneous idea. After finishing what she'd been doing, she went to look for Gabriel in every room until she finally ran into him in the kitchen where he sat with his feet propped up on the table, typing on his phone. It was kind of surprising, actually. He was, by far, the one who was around the least, although he often took Sam with him when he snapped himself elsewhere, as the tall hunter had informed her shortly after she'd asked where the hell the archangel spent all his time if it wasn't at the bunker. She'd gathered that the two of them were a couple - which Dean still kind of disapproved of but he'd stopped protesting once Sam and Gabriel had started to actively make jokes about his obvious crush on Cas - and that Dean had only agreed to get a dog because it wasn't even a real one. Winston simply looked, and felt, and sounded, and acted just like a real dog, with the slight difference that he wasn't as difficult to handle, and that Gabriel could easily make him disappear without having to worry, should something come up.

That, however, didn't keep Charlie from quickly sitting down across from him at the table to ask for his permission to go for a walk with their dog to explore the nearest town or city, ideally together with Jack with whom she got along incredibly well. She'd told him a lot about technology, hacking, computer games, roleplaying, clothes, and fandoms and everything around it, and he'd listened intently and attentively, with honest excitement and interest shining in his eyes. The kid was fairly easy to amaze, that she had to admit. Not that she was complaining or anything, though, oh hell no! It was great, having someone to talk to about all the weird stuff she could normally only talk about with her guild members, really.

Gabriel pressed Winston's leash into her hand, telling her to "take good care of his baby" before he disappeared with a flap of his wings. Surprised by how easy it had been to convince him, Charlie went to tell the others about her plan for the day, with Winston happily trotting behind; and when Dean proposed coming along, the girl's excitement only increased. And so they - Charlie, Jack, Castiel, Sam, and Dean (Gabriel still hadn't reappeared) - were sitting in the Impala an hour later, with Winston letting his tongue flap in the wind. It was like one weird family trip; three dads with their daughter, son, and dog, on a trip to the nearest town simply to enjoy themselves. There was no hunt, no apocalypse, no duties, no monsters, at least not at that moment. Not on this day. The sun was shining bright in the spotless blue sky, the air smelled like spring as they sped down the roads with Dean's rock music blasting at maximum volume. It was a break from reality.

The family stuck together at all times. They walked, laughed, checked out some shops; Charlie got to look for a whole outfit for Jack in one of the stores, and they actually ended up buying the blue jacket she'd chosen for him, which he was now wearing proudly with a smile on his face. They'd made it to some kind of public green space with a small pond in the middle about ten minutes ago, chewing on the hot dogs they'd bought. While Castiel, Sam, and Dean had taken a seat on one of the benches, Charlie and Jack had flopped down on the soft grass to play fetch with the corgi that still had a ridiculous amount of energy left, even after their long walk. A half hour later and Sam's phone rang. One more minute and Gabriel had joined them on the green.

It was the best day they'd had in years. And there was absolutely no denying that.

So when they'd returned to the bunker - with six people stuffed into the car, mind you -, everyone had retreated to their respective rooms to do whatever they did in there, and Sam had sat down in the library to do some research for a nasty case he'd accidentally stumbled upon earlier that day. About a half hour in, Dean joined him, startling the taller hunter out of his thoughts.

- "What's up?"

- "I missed her, y'know", Dean huffed, sprawling out on one of the chairs, tipping his head back to stare at the ceiling while exhaling audibly. He seemed close to drunk. "Felt like family today, didn't it? Like something, I don't know... normal", he continued, still not meeting Sam's eyes, and the younger man put his book aside to shift a little, seriously looking at his brother.

- "Dean, we are family", he argued, a little confused.

- "I know but today just... ugh, you know what, nevermind. I'm too tired for this. Just...forget what I said."

Sam watched Dean as he got up again, way less energetic than he'd been only hours before, eyes tired, hair a mess, movements slow.

- "I get you", he said when the blond had almost stepped over the threshold, and he froze instead, waiting for Sam to keep talking. "I really do, Dean. But this...this isn't our life. This isn't us. We can't have this, and you know that. We tried so many times to have something like this. It doesn't work, Dean, never. It's not us."

Dean clenched his hands by his sides before he left without another glance back. Sam pulled the book closer again with a tired sigh but he couldn't focus, no matter how often he reread the words right in front of him.

Charlie would be leaving tomorrow. They all knew that reality was going to catch up then. The weight had been lifted for a few days, but it would crash down on them again, it always did. The next apocalypse was coming. The next loss. The next fight, the next struggle, the next problem. The next betrayal, the next blatant lie, the next pang of regret. The next doubts, the next mistakes, the next wounds that couldn't be mended.

It was okay now. But it wouldn't be forever. Everything would go back to normal once Charlie was gone. It wasn't bad, their life. Normality wasn't bad. But normality always turned into something worse. Into the worst.

Nothing good could last after all.

But Charlie, Charlie had brought them something good. And they would try to hold on to it, for as long as they goddamn could.

Chapter Text

Metatron had known it ever since he became human. He had known it; he was sure of it -somewhere in the back of his mind. Humans were fragile. Humanity was strong, but humans were terribly fragile. They died easily and, except for the Winchesters, his father’s favorite little hunters, they stayed dead. Forever.

Ever since the former angel was able to see people’s faces instead of their souls, since he experienced human emotions, since he knew what it was like to be hungry or feel cold when there was no place to go, he knew that one day, he would die, just like them. Metatron couldn’t help it, he was scared of dying, so he desperately tried to survive on badly paid jobs and wasted food from garbage containers. Earth wasn’t exactly the most comfortable place for him, it wasn’t a place he’d dare to call his home, but a place worth to be called that had never really existed in the first place.

Some time ago, he had planned to become God, and now, he was lower than most humans. He didn’t have any power, neither his grace nor money, but he fought, knowing that he would die, just like the ones he intended to rule over.

He had been certain that he’d have to leave this world sooner or later, but he’d never imagined it to be like this. After all he’d been through, he never predicted that he would die for a greater good. It hadn’t been planned, not at all, and Metatron himself didn’t know why he chose the Winchesters’ side. Not to mention that it was his father’s side as well.

He had always been a fan of good stories though, maybe this could become an interesting book, a book about humanity, about adventure and drama… and how the villain wasn’t always evil in the end. Could he even be called a villain at this point? It didn’t matter anymore, because he would never be able to write that book, he would never be able to tell that story. Because he was dead.

 

The first seconds after Amara basically imploded him, nothing happened. When the adrenaline left his body or soul or whatever was left of him at this point, he started to wonder. As an angel, he never really thought about what came after death. Being the scribe of God himself, he had heard stories about what the afterlife looked like for angels: they would sleep in the empty, a place that existed before God himself came into existence. Endless sleep didn’t sound all that exciting, but it was acceptable. It could be worse.

For example in hell, where a soul would be tortured until every last bit of it was torn apart, it would eventually become tainted and walk the earth again as a demon. Now that sounded like action, but Metatron wasn’t sure if he would like to end up there and maybe bump into a few old enemies someday.

A solution he could only hope for was to go to heaven. He knew that it wasn’t home either, he didn’t even have the right to show his face up there after he had closed the whole place down, but… there was hope. Hope was the thing that drove humanity forward, hope made humans act and try and gave them the strength to get up once they had fallen. Maybe that could work for him too. He was human now. God had refused to make him an angel again, but he had forgiven him, right?

Usually humans went to heaven. That was all he knew. Existing, or rather not existing wherever he was finally made Metatron understand that even though he was the scribe, even though he wrote the tablets, even though God entrusted him with the masterplan of how humans, angels and demons function, he didn’t know a thing. The biggest secrets about life and death were things God had never revealed.

Who would be the judge? Who would decide where he would go now, or would he just float there in this weird place he could only describe as nothing? It wouldn’t be God himself, right? He was too busy to send an unimportant human to the afterlife he deserved. Whoever as in charge of him now, they should hurry up, because apparently, they had trouble making a choice.

Metatron looked around once more, but he couldn’t’ see a thing. This place, this something around him, was neither black nor white; it was colorless. There was no up and down, no left or right, no gravity… but there was time, he concluded, by the way he got bored waiting for his judgment. Would someone appear? A reaper maybe, or some kind of voice from the non-existent background?

“Hello?” he tried communicating with whoever was listening, his voice unsure, but still expressing the annoyance he felt. Why should he care to show respect now? He was dead, for God’s sake, and he was getting impatient.

A book would be nice, he thought, or at least a drink… although he shook his head about that only a second later. Dead people didn’t need to drink to survive. They didn’t even have to sleep. Maybe being dead was closer to being an angel than he had imagined. He still wanted a book though. He’d even read those horrible Supernatural books now, if only there was any way to escape this boredom.

He shouldn’t have thought that. In the blink of an eye, the man held a copy in his hands. Metatron lazily opened a random page, not intending to actually read it. Bugs. Oh. Awesome. The last thing he needed right now was bad writing, thank you very much.

 

When he lifted his eyes from the letters with a dramatic sigh, he was surprised to find himself in the middle of a beautiful garden, surrounded by neatly trimmed hedges and flowers he had never seen before. If this was his heaven, he was genuinely surprised: wasn’t this supposed to look like the place he liked most? Surely something must have gone wrong.

Metatron wanted a library. With good books, he thought, staring down at the piece of literature in his hand with narrowed eyes. His ideal heaven… it would be a huge library, filled with the best pieces humanity had to offer, stacked in high shelves that never seemed to end. An infinite supply of books, that’s what the former angel wanted to spend eternity with, not some garden where the sunlight was almost bright enough to burn out his eyes. This had to be a mistake, but he could live with it. At least this wasn’t hell or purgatory, so who was he to complain about the details.

He sat down, resting his back against the trunk of a tree. Maybe he should take a nap. Despite the fact that dead people didn’t sleep, he felt the exhaustion of the earlier events coming back. Who knew dying would be so troublesome? The Winchesters always made it seem so easy…

Just when he had closed his eyes to protect them from the bright sunlight, someone approached him. A suspiciously familiar voice made him look up again, and suddenly, he knew where he was. The man had a soothing aura, but behind his gentle voice, there was wisdom and power, power only an angel could possess.

Joshua wasn’t just any angel though. For centuries, he had been the only one God had spoken to from time to time. Remembering that, Metatron couldn’t help but start to feel jealous- why hadn’t it been him, the Lord’s best friend…kind of…, but some random angel who deserved God’s company? Maybe he shouldn’t have criticized his father’s books that much.

If the angel in front of him was Joshua, it wasn’t hard to guess for Metatron where he was now. The place had many names and looked different for every visitor, but he should have recognized it the second he had arrived: he was in Heaven’s Garden.

 

“Welcome, Metatron” Joshua greeted him, holding out a hand to help him up. At least he was friendly, the human thought, every other angel would have thrown him downstairs face first immediately.

“Why am I here?” he asked, eyes darting around to search for an answer. His attention got caught by the gardening tool in the other one’s hand, an old, rusty rake, and for a moment, he feared to be beaten to death by the thing. Upon noticing Metatron’s terrified expression, the angel only laughed at him before he passed him the tool.

“God wasn’t sure about your afterlife, so he decided to send you here. Consider this your punishment for what you did to heaven and for how much chaos you caused down on earth.”

The rake felt heavy in Metatron’s hands. He squinted at it, trying to figure out what to do, but he couldn’t get behind his father’s message. This was supposed to be a punishment, he got that much, but why did he need that rake for it? Joshua gestured towards the bed of flowers next to him and It slowly dawned on him that the rake wasn’t meant to be used as a weapon.

“God wants me to take care of his garden, pull out the weeds and sweat in the sun for all eternity?”

Metatron took back what he had thought earlier: this wasn’t peaceful, this was torture. His father was a clever man, making him the gardener of Eden so he could always keep an eye on him. Joshua approved of God’s decision, that much was clear once the angel set up a deck chair and poured himself a glass of lemonade while he watched over him. Here and there he reminded the man of a few spots he had forgotten to take care of, but mostly, he just relaxed in the sun.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but God didn’t fire you. A little help would be appreciated!” His voice was full of sarcasm, but beneath that, there was both anger and exhaustion.

Again, Joshua laughed. “You gave an emotional speech about how strong humanity is. Now prove it.”

With beads of sweat on his forehead and blisters starting to form on his fingers, Metatron tightened his grip on the gardening tool.

He’d never imagined it to be like this. After all he’d been through, he never predicted that he would be God’s gardener, but if this was his last purpose, he’d fulfil it the best way he could. Humanity was weak and fragile, so was he, but he wouldn’t give up. He would prove his point and show his father what humans were capable of. Quietly muttering to himself, he continued his work, Joshua behind him shaking his head with an amused smile. At least he had stopped whining about the task, the angel thought, and took another sip from his cold lemonade.

All of a sudden, another person appeared next to him with a snap. Metatron was far too busy to notice the golden-haired archangel wo asked a surprised Joshua to pour him a glass as well before they proceeded to watch the human together, laughing about the curses and insults he occasionally whisper-shouted at the colorful flowers.

Chapter Text

All his life, Metatron had climbed out the back door. Both literally and metaphorically, both in Heaven and on Earth, both as a human and as an angel, though not always with bad intentions - and never in the coward kind of way. No, he preferred the word clever. He'd always had a bias towards the sneaky, unobtrusive roads he could go down; especially ever since their father had left Heaven and them alone. Back then, most of the angels had been lost, and he hadn't been an exception either; and so he'd gone low and snuck out through the back door, leaving Heaven just like his father had, without anyone noticing, in order to keep God's Word safe from the conspiring archangels.

Even down on Earth, he hadn't exactly played fair. Having convinced a tribe to hand him countless books and stories in exchange for immortality, he'd hidden away from both Heaven and Hell, just reading on and on and on, until Castiel and the Winchesters had found him and he'd sworn to help them with the trials and problems to seal the gates of Hell. What had seemed like a lost angel taking the high ground to save humanity, had turned out to be a lost cause sneaking in through the rear door to hit his new companions straight in the face with a goddamn brick, just to get his revenge on the family that had run him from home. Or well, hit them straight in the throat with an angel blade, rather. So yeah, he was a backstabber. So what? Almost everyone was nowadays, even what had once been loyal warriors of God. And he hadn't exactly felt bad for it, either. There hadn't been a single reason for him not to kick open the back door and run, and so he'd done just that without even thinking it over.

But, well, before he'd stabbed Castiel, he'd made him stab a harmless, peaceful Nephilim to seal the gates of Heaven, swiftly followed by a stab to his own head by Naomi - and then, after he'd escaped, and taken Castiel's grace from him, and after the angels had fallen, he'd fled through the rear door once more, had vanished like all the many times before, like he'd had nothing to do with all this, nothing at all; leaving Earth and Heaven, humans and angels and restless souls, to their own misery.

And only shortly after, he'd snuck back in through the very same door, had lied to and perceived Gadreel to follow him, murdering countless angels and humans in the process, but he hadn't cared. He'd always stayed hidden, had taken no risk, and even when the Winchesters had captured his right hand, he'd played along, had pretended to care, had continued to betray and to play and to lie and to manipulate. And it had worked, all the time, it had worked. Fleeing through the back door, leaving others to take the blame and the hits, had always worked.

Gadreel had left him at some point, but even then, he'd still had some aces up his sleeve.

Even after killing Dean and being captured by the angels, he'd still had some aces up his sleeve.

Because instead of letting him find his own way to the back door, Castiel had opened it for him this time, had led him out into freedom, out into the open. Sure, he hadn't had any grace left, and Castiel had been one hell of a pain in the ass, but still. He'd found his way to freedom, and he'd followed this road until he'd gotten away from the angel that had been keeping his eyes glued to him for days. He'd spun around, had stumbled out through the door and had run, miserable and lonely and desperate, but free.

Well, except for the fact that he'd had neither money nor food nor home. Fleeing through the back door had left him helpless, for the first time, ever.

But he'd survived, somehow he'd survived, until Chuck had taken him to that bar, and he'd had to pick up his job as the Scribe again - or editor, rather. Although his Father's work had been terrible at first, painful and slow to read, and not amusing or compelling in any way, he hadn't dared to walk out the door. There had been no back door, no secret way to get out. And so he hadn't risked it, had read and corrected and listened and obeyed, until he'd had enough, until he'd called his father out on all his flaws, all his mistakes, all his faults, because he hadn't been able to take it anymore.

He'd flown through the front door then, for the first time, ever. Involuntarily, and quite literally too, but at least he'd gone through it.

- "You were the closest to the door", Chuck had said, making clear that he'd picked Metatron as his Scribe for no accountable reason at all - and Metatron had had to admit that yes, Chuck had been right. He'd always been close to the door. He'd always had to run before getting caught. He'd always been the one to pick the lock and silently escape into safety.

And so he'd convinced Chuck to leave instead, and from then on, everything had gone downhill for him. For them all, kind of. He'd offered the Winchesters his help, had freed Lucifer from his confinements, had rescued the devil. There hadn't been a single door, no way to escape, no way to get out. It had been either hiding or standing. Backing down or facing fate. But he'd felt it in his veins. In his weak, petty, miserable veins.

And so he'd stood. Had reached for the handle, and had stepped through the front door, for the first time in his whole damn life. Had stood up for what he'd done, had accepted his fate and the punishment. He hadn't liked it, not at all - and if he'd said that he hadn't tried to go through the back door, he would've lied. Because he had, he really had, but there had been no way past all the doubts and the guilt and the sudden feeling of hope; no way past his own conscience blocking the path. And so he'd taken the high road.

For the first time in his whole damn life, he'd walked out through the front door, had stood on the porch, had faced all the people he'd let down, had taken the blame, had admitted to his own faults.

He'd realized just why he'd always gone low, had always snuck in and out. If he hadn't, he'd have been dead for long. But back then? Back there? He'd had no regrets. He'd opened the door, he'd stepped outside. The front door, the door to both honesty and closure.

He'd walked right into the end, directly into its arms. But it hadn't been too bad. Because, after all, no matter where, no matter when; the front door always led to the city, the sidewalks, the streets.

And the streets always took you ahead.

Chapter Text

It had been multiple weeks since they'd last seen Cas, or Gabriel, or Bobby, or anyone at all, really, and they'd been totally fine on their own (except for the occasional whining from either of them when they complained about their angel not being there with them again). There had been no dawning apocalypse, no difficult cases, not too many arguments in the bunker since Sam and Dean didn't exactly spend a lot of time together outside cases, with the latter mostly trying out recipes and searching for new weapons and interesting things they'd overlooked, while Sam spent most of his time reading and researching. They ate and worked together, but during their free time, they rarely talked - they didn't have a lot of that, though, so one could still say they were basically linked together.

By now, they were used to being on their own after most of their friends and family members had already died a gruesome death at some point, and considering the fact that the current members of Team Free Will were - probably - still alive and just doing God-knows-what out in the world, it really wasn't too bad. Yeah, the two of them worried about their friends more often than not, and they were missing them like hell, but it was better than knowing that they'd lost them for good.

And so they hadn't bothered too much, had called and prayed now and then, getting a response about thirty percent of the time, and while it still drove Dean crazy when Cas didn't answer six times in a row, he knew that it had been worse before. After everything that had happened, the seraph had finally understood that calling back was important, and so the older hunter mostly ended up talking to the angel by the end of the day, which was definitely a good thing.

As for Gabriel, he rarely ever reported back; sometimes swinging by or leaving some hints to make sure that the boys still knew that he was alive and kicking, but answering calls simply wasn't his style - he preferred getting his message across using weird pranks or hidden messages spread around the bunker, but Sam was okay with it. Or, well, okay-ish. And Dean was just plain annoyed but it wasn't like Gabriel actually cared about that.

The one thing that really worried the brothers the most was the fact that Bobby hadn't called in even once since he'd left the bunker two weeks ago, saying that he'd be gone for some time and that they should neither worry nor go after him because it was a personal thing that he had to take care of alone. They'd asked for details but had gotten nothing out of their basically-foster father, and since Bobby was...well, Bobby, they'd had no choice but to let him go and hope he'd return soon and keep them updated. The latter apparently hadn't worked out. And although both hunters were more troubled than they'd like to admit, they'd somehow made it their tradition to keep each other - and themselves - grounded by telling each other to finally stop worrying, and stating multiple times a day that Bobby was alright and simply too busy to check his phone; or that he'd lost it or exchanged it for another one somewhere along the road. The hunter life forced you to throw your personal belongings and devices into the trash bin sometimes after all.

They didn't quite believe their own words but they refrained from going after him nonetheless, distracting themselves with mundane cases, random trips around the USA (that definitely didn't have the sole purpose of finally having an excuse to look for Bobby), and their respective hobbies. And drinking, for Dean's part. But it was bearable, mostly.

Because, as mentioned, they'd had worse. Way worse.

However, only a week later, twenty-three days after the oldest hunter's depart from the bunker, the brothers, too busy worrying and thinking about their missing friends, stumbled into something that was too much of a mess for two hunters to detangle on their own, no matter their past, no matter their experience.

For once, Dean had been the one to discover the potential case two states away, a bunch of ghouls somewhere on the east side of South Dakota, and when Sam had asked how the hell he had ended up finding a case for the two of them, Dean had shrugged it off, saying that he'd just been in the mood for something interesting and that his brother only chose the boring cases all the time. It was clear that he'd been hoping to run into Bobby somewhere along the way, seeing as many of his personal contacts had settled down in the state, but figuring that the case had been viable, and unable to push his own worries away, Sam had agreed eventually - not seeing that what they'd been going to get into was more than just some normal everyday hunt.

Looking back at it, now that they'd found themselves tied to chairs in some vacant shack with multiple kinds of ropes and chains keeping them from moving even a single inch, both brothers realized that  they should've paid more intention to the details of the case instead of going after it like puppies chasing after a ball. But even accepting that couldn't help them out of there now. Fuck.

Yanking at the chains holding his wrists together once more, Sam huffed, shaking his head to get the streaks of dirty hair out of his face as he looked over at Dean once more, who, too, was still struggling to get free - obviously, but to no avail.

- "What about Cas?", he asked, slightly out of breath from how hard he'd been fighting against both the ghouls and the constraints, but resumed his desperate shifting nonetheless, hoping one of the rope was going to snap or loosen if he only moved enough. At some point, they always got out on their own after all. Or they died. But he really didn't want to think about that now, thank you very much.

- "What about him?", Dean snarled in response, noticeably pissed off, and Sam tipped his head back to stare at the high ceiling, a sigh escaping his lips, as his brother spoke up again. "He hasn't called in in a week, no idea what he's up to!"

- "Same goes for Gabriel."

The ghouls - a group of eight monsters that they really hadn't expected to find themselves face to face with when they'd agreed on going after the creatures - had left them alone about an hour ago, promising to be back by morning to have their well-deserved breakfast, and at first, the hunters had thought that their opponents had made a terrible mistake by just leaving them here, but already thirty minutes later, they'd realized that the ghouls definitely weren't as stupid as the others they'd encountered so far. The knots had been tied skillfully, the different types of cord, cable, and chain neatly wrapped around their whole bodies, making it impossible for them to even try to reach for their knives - and somehow, they felt like even their blades wouldn't be of much use in this situation.

Multiple hours later. Multiple hours and hours of struggling and plotting and cursing. Both Dean and Sam were praying; to whom, they didn't know; with the dawning sun's orange-golden rays beginning to dance around their feet.

- "So, what now?", Dean growled two minutes later, the chains clinking loudly as he attempted to kick his leg. He couldn't even feel his own hands anymore, while the burning ache in his upper body was still painfully present.

Sam's only response was a weak shrug, followed by a shallow breath of "I don't know" before silence settled down around them again. Neither Cas nor Gabe had shown up to get them out of there, no one had shown up to get them out of there, now matter how much and how long they'd prayed, to every angel whose name they'd ever known, dead and alive - to Cas, and to Gabe, and to Balthazar; to Samandriel, to Hannah, to Gadreel. To Chuck, and to Crowley, and to heaven itself.

While Dean had thrown some witty comments or jokes at his brother at first, he now seemed even more distraught than Sam, with the way he was shifting and frantically looking around, not sitting still for a second, wrists and ankles sore.

It was a few minutes later, as the sun had finally risen and was illuminating the whole concrete floor stretched out in front of them, when there were steps to be heard. Muffled and distant did they sound up behind them, but still, they were audible, clearly. Exchanging quick looks, the brothers began to brace themselves, willing and ready to pour every last drop of determination and energy into what was hopefully turn out to be some kind of fight with their opponents - because if it didn't, they'd have no chance at all. The echoing sounds of shoes on the floor moved closer and closer with each passing seconds, heavy and slow. Sam and Dean were twitching in anticipation. They needed something, anything, a plan, a tool, an opportunity to get the hell out of there, but the ghouls weren't stupid, weren't easily provoked. They were calm and sadistic and smart and quick. And above all - they were way too many.

- "Any ideas?", Sam huffed when a key sunk into the lock of the door and turned with a click; and Dean shook his head, exhaling loudly.

They were done for.

- "Can you distract them?", the younger hunter continued, looking right into his brother's face, but Dean simply turned away with a snarl to stare in the opposite direction, eyes set on the bare wall.

- "Dude, for what reason?! We've been trying to get out of here for hours, Sam, this is getting embarrassing."

The heavy door creaked as it was pushed open, and the taller man tried to turn his head to get a look at the monsters that were going to bleed them out and tear them to shreds to dry their meat on the ceiling within the next few minutes; but the pain in his neck and the confinements were keeping him from moving. Nervously drumming his fingers - as far as that was possible -, he went back to staring straight ahead, adrenaline pumping through his veins as his heart thumped violently in his chest, almost drowning out the shuffling movements behind him.

They'd died so many times before. In the dumbest, most pathetic and idiotic ways possible. They'd always come back before. But what if they didn't now? What if they stayed dead? Back in that hospital, he'd told Death that he didn't want to go back. That he wanted to stay dead. But now? Now that they had their home, and their family? Now that they had Castiel, and Bobby, and Gabriel? He didn't want to go. And he found himself wishing they would come back. Come back to their family still intact. Like they'd never been gone.

They were going to die because they'd been blind, he realized as the scuffling steps got closer. So many years of training and experience, and they'd run into some dumb case just like that. Without looking at the details, without checking twice. It had been so obvious. If only he'd spent two more seconds looking at the article. If only he hadn't agreed. If only Dean hadn't found it. If only Bobby hadn't left. But he had. And Sam hated it, but he couldn't help but blame him.

Cool fingers grazed his and he jumped, clenching his jaw, attempting to whip around - but the expected pain, the cold, teasing touch never came. Rustling, a gasp, clinking of chains, blood flowing back into his numb fingertips.

- "Can't you idjits take care of yourselves even once?", a gruff voice said, at the exact same time that Dean forced out a shocked call of "Bobby!"; but Sam knew that tone, he knew it so well that he soon felt tears of relief burn in his eyes as the chains finally fell to his feet with a loud sound, and he jumped up to pull his foster-father into a bonecrushing hug; not caring in the slightest about the blood soaking Bobby's vest and shirt, about the ache in his limbs and muscles.

- "Thank God", he sighed as the older hunter returned the embrace.

- "You're actually trying to get yourselves killed, aren't you?", he huffed in response after he'd backed off, and Sam gave a low chuckle, shrugging, while Bobby knelt down next to Dean to cut him free from his constraints.

- "And again, Bobby saves the day!", the shorter hunter exclaimed with a grin, "So, where are those bastards?"

- "Got 'em all eight."

The brothers exchanged meaningful looks for a split second, something between amazed and embarrassed by the fact that Bobby had managed to take care of all the creatures alone while they hadn't even gotten a single one down, but the sinking feeling didn't last too long.

They were alive. And so was their dad. They were gonna be okay. At least for now, they were.

- "So, how did that thing go?", Sam asked, curiously, and Bobby scrunched up his nose as he untied the last knot; Dean immediately jumping to his feet to stretch his muscles, spine popping loudly.

- "Not too well, but it could've been worse."

- "Lost another hunter?"

- "Yeah, damn demons. But we managed to save most of them at least."

- "Sorry to hear that. But I'm glad you're okay."

A half-smile flashed over Bobby's face at that, while Sam ran a hand through his messy hair.

- "Sorry to interrupt, but can we, like, postpone that chick-flick moment and get the fuck out of here, maybe? I really need a damn shower."

Right when Sam had been about to speak up to respond, the door burst open with a loud crack, whirling up countless particles of dust that looked almost majestic in the golden sunlight as a short figure stepped over the threshold with a proud, cheeky smile - that was wiped from his face as soon as he laid eyes on the three men standing unscathed in the middle of the empty room.

- "Oh, come on! I was gonna be the hero in shining armor that saves your asses in the last second! Thanks for stealing the damn show, grandpa!"

Said figure then spent six days trapped in a circle of holy oil.

Chapter Text

Dean Winchester could do many things. He could eat a whole pie in record time, he could shamelessly flirt with every woman and get away with it, he could keep drinking while others had already passed out. The hunter was amazing at taking care of his car, killing monsters and protecting his brother Sam.

Sam Winchester, the slightly healthier living counterpart, had just as many talents. It was a mystery to Dean how he could live on smoothies and salads, how he actually had the stamina to go jogging or how he managed to get all the research done without complaining or getting bored. Sam was also good at using his puppy eyes on his older brother, a method that always seemed to work out somehow.

They still had many differences though, mostly when it came to their personality and character (or hair length), but there were a few things the brothers had in common.

Yes, they were excellent hunters, they had been to hell and back, died multiple times and faced evil together, but they had also had a common weakness when they had started hunting years ago. Their non-existent drawing skills.

At first, it wasn’t all that important for hunters to be good at drawing, and neither Dean nor Sam identified themselves as aspiring artists. But at some point, when they had been told to paint their first devil’s trap on the ground, under the strict surveillance of their father John of course, the brothers had noticed how complicated it was to draw a perfect circle. With paint on an old paintbrush. With no helping tools whatsoever. Plus a few straight lines to form a pentagram and, oh, a few mysterious symbols that had to be drawn in detail, facing the right direction, in the right order.

It had been a disaster. The result had resembled nothing but a smeared egg-shaped puddle of white paint on dark floorboards, not to mention the amateurishly sketched runes on the inside.

There had never been much time for school work for the boys when they had been young, constantly moving from place to place and switching between schools every few weeks, but if Dean remembered correctly, he hadn’t had as single lesson in art. Probably because he used to skip class a few times… but according to him, it wouldn’t have helped a lot anyway. Surely, they didn’t teach kids how to draw ancient symbols to protect themselves from evil creatures.

To his frustration, Dean had noticed how skilled Sam was at memorizing the patterns and symbols for these sigils, but he was just as bad at painting them nonetheless. John had given up on it eventually, not without a few angry remarks, but he had done the warding himself whenever something had to be drawn or painted. Learning Latin seemed to be more time-consuming and important for the boys at that point anyway.

It was when their father left them alone to deal with minor cases from time to time that they quickly noticed how important it was for every hunter to know the basic symbols. Their father hadn’t scribbled them into his journal without a reason. Sure, Sam and Dean knew how to set up a simple salt circle by then and were able to paint a few easy shapes, but that was it. And it was by far not enough to work on bigger jobs.

When John had disappeared and died later, the Winchesters started to spend more time with the only person they had left to call family: Bobby Singer. Although the man had always tried to raise them to have a normal life, far away from monsters and disaster, he had immediately agreed to help them out when they were in trouble… and he was also the first one to properly teach them to draw more complicated sigils.

Sam and Dean had John’s journal, but Bobby could also teach them a thing or two. He never scolded them when something didn’t look perfect at the first try, even if he couldn’t hold back an amused laugh here and there when they chased each other through the house, trying to get revenge for ruining each other’s clothes with paint. It took some time, but they got better, and when they finally had enough knowledge and skill to hunt down and trap a variety of supernatural creatures, he didn’t regret teaching them.

He knew that one day, these boys would be well-known hunters. Saving people, hunting things, the family business. They were already heroes to him, he didn’t need any proof for that, but it was nice to see their success, knowing that he was a small influence in their lives.

 

Much later, when Bobby and Dean reunited after the man had expected for his foster son to be in hell forever, he couldn’t believe his eyes. It really was Dean Winchester, the one who had survived being ripped to sheds by hellhounds and tortured in hell, brought back by an unknown creature.

Of course he was just as interested as Dean, maybe even more, when they tried to summon the saviour himself. Accompanied by Sam and with the help of Pamela Barnes, they didn’t achieve a lot though: the session ended with the poor woman’s screams as her eyes were burned out as a result of connecting with “Castiel”.  At least they had a name though.

Bobby felt guilty for getting his old friend into this mess in the first place, but there was no going back now. Castiel apparently didn’t want to be seen, but there had to be a reason why Dean had been resurrected, so they decided to try it again.

This time, Bobby and Dean were alone. It had been Bobby’s idea to perform the ritual in an abandoned barn, although he was more than a little nervous about their plan and wasn’t eager to get his eyes burned out as well. Dean, on the other hand, was determined- and what kind of father would he be if he left his son alone now.

What followed immediately reminded Bobby of the time he had helped Sam and Dean many years ago: the two men organized a few buckets of paint and started drawing. It was just like back when Bobby had taught the Winchesters how to draw sigils, only that this time, he noticed that the younger hunter was just as skilled as he was.

They didn’t talk much during their work, but they didn’t have to: Bobby knew exactly what Dean was trying to say when he painted the various symbols on the walls, every single one he knew by heart. He could see it in the hunter’s eyes: Dean was silently thanking him for what he had taught him back then. Bobby replied by passing him the container of paint while he held onto the ladder so that the Winchester wouldn’t fall down.

“Too bad I can’t do more for you” the older one mumbled quietly, wiping the sweat off his forehead. There was nothing left he could teach his boys, except for a few old stories from his many years on the road. He was too old for this job, but one look at Dean told him that he would follow in his footsteps and keep saving people in his place. It wasn’t the life he had wished for the Winchesters to live, but after all, he was a proud father of two excellent hunters.

Lost in the familiar atmosphere, they both didn’t know how much time had passed. When they finished their work, the two men were exhausted, but happy as they looked at the walls covered in different letters, spells, sigils and symbols.

It didn’t really matter that Bobby’s shoes were ruined because he had stepped into fresh paint by accident.

It didn’t really matter that Dean’s arm hurt from drawing for such a long time and he would complain about the pain in his back tomorrow.

In Bobby’s eyes, it didn’t even matter that the warding failed, that their effort had been unnecessary because Castiel, self-proclaimed angel of the Lord, walked right through the door. It hadn’t been useless. He had spent time with his son and enjoyed old memories he had already forgotten about. If only Sam could have been there to join them…

 

Dean’s younger brother didn’t have the opportunity to impress Bobby with his painting skills anymore. Although they had met multiple times to help each other, their time together had been way too short. Bobby passed away, and for the boys, it really felt like losing their father. He hadn’t only helped them with hunting, he had been a family member. They had laughed and cried together, they had shared more than words could say, even if none of them ever really talked about their feelings. They had been a family, and they would always be, even if Bobby was in heaven now.

It was funny how the small details of their daily life reminded the Winchesters of Bobby after his death. Whenever Sam had questions he couldn’t answer with a simple research, he was tempted to call him, only to let go of the phone when he remembered that he couldn’t.  Dean missed patching up Baby in Bobby’s backyard while the man would watch him and occasionally share a beer with the hunter.

They still had many differences. Sam was the nerdy, healthier living brother who enjoyed fresh food and running. Dean was obsessed with pie, his car, and recently also with an angel in a trenchcoat, although he tried his best to hide it.

Despite that, they also had one thing in common. The way they remembered their teacher.

Years later, the brothers were about to capture a demon on a simple hunt. Sam opened the container of black paint, scrunching up his nose at the unpleasant yet familiar smell.  Dean knelt down on the floorboards next to him, dipped his paintbrush into the substance and carefully transferred the image from his head onto the wooden planks. They had done this a thousand times before, but sometimes, it still felt like somebody was standing right behind them, watching every brushstroke.

“What do you think, Sammy?” Dean asked when he stood up to admire his work. The younger hunter knew exactly what to do, he could almost hear Bobby’s scolding voice ringing in his head again. In the blink of an eye, he reached for the paintbrush and drew a stripe of black across his older brother’s shirt with a mischievous grin on his lips.

“I think ya missed a spot there, idjit.”

Dean just grabbed the leftover paint and chased after him, cursing over the younger one’s stamina. Sam collided with the doorframe and stumbled to the ground. Dean followed with a shout, the bucket falling from his hands and emptying itself all over the two of them. They were silent for a few seconds, lying on the floor, completely covered in black paint and breathing heavily, until Sam took a deep breath.

“BALLS!”

 

Chapter Text

Sam could feel the cheap bedframe painfully digging into his back through the thin mattress. His eyes stared up to the ceiling fan, the rotating motion accompanied by a quiet but steady buzzing noise that sounded like an entire swarm of bees in his head. It should have made him sleepy, that monotone noise, only interrupted by Dean’s occasional snoring from the other end of the motel room, but for some reason, it did quite the opposite.

Despite working his ass off like he always did, Sam couldn’t fall asleep that night. Something kept him on the brink of consciousness, just to the point where he would feel exhausted but still aware of his surroundings, as if someone had decided to torture him by denying him the rest he wanted -and needed- after a tough day.

Sam stretched for the millionth time, a failed attempt at telling his brain to shut the hell up and let him relax, before he buried his head in the pillow to muffle his frustrated huff. A look at the digital clock on the bedside table told him it was almost two am in the morning. Too late to be awake, he decided, but still too early to get up. he usually loved starting his day with a workout, also because he could tease his brother who would only wake up while he’d claim the first shower, but two am was definitely too early to go for a run.

After another five minutes of buzzing and snoring and flapping and stretching, Sam realized he would have to find something to distract himself, otherwise he would rip that ceiling fan off within a couple of seconds. The hunter’s first idea was to reach for his laptop. Spending the time on doing something useful appeared to be the most reasonable thing to do, however, one look at the bright screen made him shut the device immediately. If he wanted to get his eyes burned out, he could as well ask for an angel to do that for him.

 

As if his thoughts had been a prayer, an archangel appeared on the edge of the bed which creaked in protest under the extra weight. Upon seeing his favorite hunter awake, Gabriel showed him his broadest smile while a wide-eyed Sam was struggling to catch his breath, a gun pointed at the intruder. It was like this every damn time, but no matter how often the Winchester complained about it, Gabriel either didn’t listen or simply didn’t care. Knowing the angel, Sam would say that it was most likely a combination of both.

They stared at each other without saying a word, eying each other like a wild animal and its prey- although Sam couldn’t decide which one he was right now, still holding the weapon in his right hand as he came down from the unexpected adrenaline kick. Dean was still snoring softly in the background and got a disapproving eyeroll from the archangel.

“Let me guess: he’s the reason you’re not getting your beauty sleep? What are you doing awake, Sammy?”

“What are you doing in my room?” Sam countered, trying to sound accusing or at least annoyed and failing miserably. He had asked for distraction; he had gotten distraction… in its purest and most persistent form. Who was he to complain about that?

Gabriel seemed to genuinely think about an answer for a second, but all that left his mouth was a casual “Couldn’t sleep. Just like you I guess.”

“Don’t screw around with me. Angels don’t need sleep.”

Perfect. This was already heading towards the next unnecessary argument, and Sam definitely wasn’t in the mood for one of those right now, considering that neither of them would back down until they had silently exchanged half-apologetic shrugs, signalling the other one they couldn’t even remember who had won. No, the hunter didn’t need that right now, and apparently his headache had the same opinion, suddenly kicking in with full force again.

“I’m bored” the archangel announced soon after and drowned out the Winchester’s own thoughts, “wanna get something to eat?”

Food didn’t sound too bad. There had been no dinner today, thanks to a couple of werewolves who had made him lose his appetite earlier by ripping an innocent girl to shreds right in front of his eyes instead of just taking her heart for some sick reason, but now… Sam had to admit he was kind of hungry. And with Gabriel staring at him with pleading eyes, he didn’t dare to refuse the offer.

 

When Sam had agreed to eat dinner with Gabriel, he had expected to get in the car and drive to the nearest 24-hours-takeaway restaurant. It would have still been acceptable if that little shit had used his grace instead to snap them a delicious meal to save time.

But he hadn’t expected this.

In the blink of an eye, he could feel a comfortable chair underneath him. As he looked up, he saw a table, decorated with a tablecloth and spices and flowers and even a small candle- the whole nine yards. All of it looked high-quality, but not too showy. It was actually quite nice in contrast to the tin food and cheap diners the brothers usually chose. It was also nice that Gabriel had changed from a plain t-shirt into a white shirt and black dress pants, although he still wore the same smug expression on his face.

Sam looked down at himself and snorted in amusement: of course the angel hadn’t bothered to change his clothes as well and now he was sitting in a fine restaurant in baggy trousers and a wrinkled shirt with a few holes at the seams that were luckily hidden by the back of the chair.

 “Gabe?” he warned him, and the angel didn’t need to be asked twice. All it took was a snap and he was dressed in a fancy suit, now mirroring Gabriel’s proud raising of eyebrows. Only his slightly dishevelled hair gave away that he had been in bed seconds ago, so the hunter meagerly straightened it with his hands.

A waiter brought their food on a tray, nodding politely and filling their glasses before he left again. Sam nearly salivated at the huge plate of salad in front of him, now aware that he wasn’t just hungry but nearly starving. Gabriel poured a generous amount of maple syrup over the tower of pancakes on his own plate- of course the trickster would go for something sweet- before he silently mentioned for his partner to start eating.

Sam obeyed, he finished his meal long before Gabriel did, and even agreed to get dessert, something he usually never allowed himself because he tried to prove to Dean that this obsession with pie was the reason for him being out of shape. He didn’t ask where they were, not once he asked why Gabe had chosen this place, he just ate his food and smiled up at the other man, trying to convey his gratitude through eye contact.

It was downright cute, the archangel had to admit, seeing Sam enjoying something as simple as a good meal. Maybe he should take his moose out like this more often… he could get used to the way multi-colored eyes locked with his whiskey orbs.

It was perfect, too good to be true. Their small talk slowly turned into storytelling and after an hour, they were sharing secrets and memories. Good ones, bad ones, really bad ones. They opened up to one another for the first time after their last reunion, and Sam noticed it was long overdue. A lot had happened, at least for the hunter, so the discussion mostly focussed on the Winchester’s cases and their adventures on the road, but Gabriel didn’t mind. He loved listening to the taller man’s stories, and despite his energetic personality, he was a good listener.

Both of them lost track of time at some point, and somewhere between the third and fourth drink, their arms were next to each other on the table. They weren’t holding hands, but they also weren’t not holding hands, unconsciously leaning forward, only interrupted when one of them threw their head back in joyful laughter.

 

Sam could have sworn it all had been a dream when he woke up the next day, his brother towering over him and pulling at his blanket. Daylight was flooding the room, blinding him for a moment before he finally dared to open his eyes completely. He didn’t know how he had gotten back; he couldn’t exactly remember what had happened after their conversation, but he was almost sure there had been a kiss at the end of the evening. It was only when Dean had left him alone to brush his teeth that Sam spotted the single red rose on his bedside table. Sure, it was cliché and made the hunter giggle quietly, but it was proof enough that last night had really happened.

Now Sam just had to figure out how he could wash off that suggestive drawing on the back of his hand before Dean would notice it. The ceiling fan buzzed even louder in malicious glee.

Chapter Text

- "Don't give me that look, this is your fault", Sam growled when Gabriel crossed his arms, an adorable pout on his face - and maybe the hunter would've fallen for it if he hadn't been so endlessly pissed off. Rolling his eyes as the angel threw an attempted soothing comment at him, he turned on his heels and smashed the door shut with more force than necessary; leaving Gabriel standing in the burning circle of holy oil.

This was ridiculous.

How the hell had things gotten so far?

It was stupid, and pathetic, and nothing Sam was proud of. But to get to know the story behind this unusual situation, one had to look back to a rainy day multiple weeks before.

-

Kansas, a Thursday, 4:29 PM. They were working a nearby case that wasn't exactly grave or of great importance, but since the location had only been a one hour drive away, they'd gone for it anyway, demon knife, holy water, shotguns loaded with salt and countless pistols and bullets stored away safely in the trunk of the Impala. The trip had been quiet, seeing as Castiel and Gabriel had stayed behind and the brothers really hadn't had anything to talk about. But it wasn't like it would've made a difference anyway, since it hadn't taken them long to finally get to the scene of events, and Dean's loud rock music hadn't left any room for conversations anyway.

They'd gotten out of the car, grabbed their stuff, and started to look around for traces of the creature they were hunting, EMF silently blinking away; and were now examining some kind of trapdoor leading into a basement. Long story short, the lock was broken open by Dean, they descended the creaking wooden stairs, ran into some kind of altar, smashed the thing in a matter of seconds, and encountered a furious witch on the way out which they shot dead relatively quickly.

Burning the body took a few minutes but once they were done and all the tracks were covered up well enough, they could finally climb back into the car, clothes covered in dust and dirt but they were too tired to care. Despite the simplicity and easiness of the case, it had worn them out nonetheless, and so the drive back to the bunker was even quieter than the first one.

If only the bunker had been as quiet as the drive, though.

As soon as the heavy door swung open, loud familiar voices reached the hunters' ears - or, well, one loud voice at least.

- "I'm just saying, trees carry more than one fruit most of the time!"

- "Gabriel, this wasn't just some normal tree and you as an archangel should know that."

Rubbing a hand over his face and already expecting the worst, Sam shuffled down the stairs with Dean close behind, and as soon as they only set foot in the war room, Gabriel and Cas whipped around to look at them, an incredibly annoyed and exhausted expression on the latter's face.

- "Dean", he greeted but before any of them could respond, he'd already spoken up again. "Would you please prove my point, that we extinguished the last parts of the forbidden fruit and there is nothing left of it."

The older hunter's eyes darted from seraph to archangel for a second as if he was trying to figure out the reason behind this question just by looking at their faces, before he shrugged.

- "I guess" was the only thing he said before he left the room, going straight for his room, stating that he needed a shower - and leaving Sam alone with the two celestial beings. Why was he always the one who ended up being left with these stupid discussions and arguments, exactly?

- "I know that that damn tree had more than one freaking fruit, they're just not in Eden anymore! These things gotta be somewhere, someone must've taken them! Right, Sammich?"

Deciding that it was too late and that he was too done to keep up with Gabriel's shittery right now, Sam walked past them without a single word, not even deigning to look at the angels. A mistake, as he later noticed. And a terrible one at that.

He'd thought that they were just going to sort this out by themselves. That Gabriel would let it slide. But he'd been wrong. Of course he had been. He rarely ever got lucky after all.

It was two days later, in the middle of the night, when Gabriel suddenly popped up in his room, startling him out of his uneasy sleep.

- "Sam."

The seriousness in his voice made the hunter sit up straight immediately despite his confusion, one hand firmly placed on the gun below his pillow as Gabriel dashed to his side and grabbed him by the shoulders, whiskey eyes gleaming bright. Sam blinked, a little taken aback by the sudden physical contact, but kept quiet otherwise, waiting for the archangel to go on and explain, an irritated expression on his face.

- "I found them, Sam."

- "Found what?"

- "The damn fruits! Ha, I told Cassie they're still somewhere!"

The room was quiet for a second or two in which Sam tried to catch up with the words Gabriel had just thrown at him.

Groaning, he rolled over to bury his face in the mattress.

But Gabriel kept talking. Of fucking course he did.

- "There are some dumbass collectors down in hell, they smuggled the fruits somehow, no clue how they managed that, though. Anyway, I can't just go down there so we'll have to--"

Suppressing the urge to deliver a punch to the archangel's face, Sam whirled around and sat up again, with enough force to knock Gabriel back and send him straight to the floor.

- "What the fuck do you even need these things for?", he groaned, too tired to keep fighting. Fine, if the angel wanted to have a conversation about the fruit, he should get it! Deep inside, Sam was just hoping that Gabriel was going to shut up about it once he'd shared his thoughts with the hunter. God, please.

The angel, not bothering to get up and making himself comfortable on the floor instead, cast him a cheeky smirk.

- "What would you rather eat than the forbidden fruit itself?"

He'd tried to have this conversation. He'd really tried. But it had turned out to be impossible.

Sam threw the angel out without another word, threatening that if he showed up again that night, he was going to regret it, and, to the hunter's surprise, Gabriel actually stayed away. That didn't mean that he didn't try again, though. The first person Sam ran into the next morning was none other than the golden-haired man who'd apparently spent the night in front of the door in order to catch Sam as soon as he even made a move to do...anything at all.

Figuring that he couldn't hide away in his room all day, the hunter took a deep breath and made his way to the kitchen, listening to Gabriel's rambling about the demons who'd dragged all the fruits to hell to keep them there for future use - and not even questioning just how the hell the angel had found out about all that -, but without paying his boyfriend a massive lot of attention.

He really needed to replace that goddamn garbage coffee machine soon.

However, only a few seconds later, he couldn't help but consider himself lucky that their machine was the slowest he'd ever seen in his whole life, seeing as he would've presumably spat it all out upon hearing the words that Gabriel casually chucked at him, sitting on the countertop and gesturing around wildly.

- "...and then you sell your soul - but no worries, I can get it back within days -, give me the fruit and I'll ask Dean-o to make a pie that---"

- "What? Gabriel, what?! Are you...are you serious? This...this is an apple you're talking about."

- "Well, technically, it's not really an apple, it's-"

- "It's nothing we need, like, ever, that's what it is. If you wanna get that thing, get it on your own, why would I... Dude, the hell?"

- "Like I said, getting your soul back wouldn't be a problem for me."

- "Losing my soul would be a problem for me, though. Find someone else who's willing to go to hell for your shit."

- "You wouldn't have to go to-"

- "No."

For some reason, Gabriel didn't follow when Sam grabbed his cup of coffee and left the kitchen to escape back to his own room, no matter how much he'd liked to go out for a walk at that moment. Being out in the open without an escape from the archangel was too much of a risk - he loved Gabriel, he really did, but it wasn't exactly a secret that the short man tended to get on everyone's nerves from time to time, and despite the fact that they were a thing and Sam spent a lot of time with his boyfriend, even he'd had quite a few of these moments when he'd just wanted to hide away from the angel. Or to choke him to death. And right now was definitely one of these moments. And so he closed the door, sat down at his desk, pulled his laptop close, and started to browse.

The few days after that went okay...-ish. Gabriel wasn't around anymore, or not as often at least. It seemed like he'd learned his lesson and was now being a sulky toddler again, but Sam was used to that already, and so it really wasn't any kind of issue for any of them.

Normal cases were worked, casual conversations were had, mundane things were done, time passed. Until the archangel returned. And left. And came back again. Over and over and over again. Not just for fun, though, no. But to be a selfish, annoying, childish little piece of shit. He came and went as he wanted, popped in at the most inconvenient moments, trying to bribe Sam, to blackmail, to seduce him, suggesting countless deals and arrangements, attempting everything he could come up with to get this stupid fruit. And while Gabriel wasn't bad at this game, he wasn't exactly good at it either - although even he himself would have to admit at some point that his attempts were rather weak, considering that he was trying to get Sam to sell his soul for an apple pie. But the hunter didn't dare to tell him that, too scared of the big guns Gabriel might bring out upon being taunted like that.

Being used to all this bullshittery, it wasn't exactly hard for the hunter to ignore or somehow drown out Gabriel's constant nagging and bickering, though it definitely was exhausting. It wasn't hard - at least to some extent, and for some freaking time. But at some point, even a man like him couldn't take any more. At some point, even Sam Winchester reached his goddamn limits when it came to this freaking angel.

It had been three weeks of almost daily harassment, and he was losing his freaking mind.

And so he did the only thing he could think of - he began to plot. Even asked Cas and Dean for advice on the matter, because, for real, he'd tried it all, everything he'd been able to come up with. And Gabriel wasn't only a regular angel, he was an archangel, an ex-trickster, one of the mightiest creatures in the universe, that you couldn't just lock in a room for a day or two to teach him his lesson. Much to Sam's disappointment - and insanity -, neither of the men was actually of use in the discussion, seeing as Dean didn't even seem to care all that much, and Cas wasn't really one to participate in things like these - things like these meaning paying Gabriel back for some bullshit he'd pulled. He was more of the I will kill you to get my revenge but am unaware of the existence of pranks, jokes, sarcasm, and suchlike type, really.

Which meant that Sam was on his own again. Four weeks, and he didn't know how long he was still going to keep up with this before he lost it and stabbed his boyfriend with his own two hands to send him straight into the silence of the Empty.

It was another bunch of days later when Gabriel was molesting him once more, when he was only seconds away from grabbing the angel by his collar and ramming his own knee into the trickster's beautiful front side, that a thought came to him. And so he pushed past Gabriel and stormed out through the door to have another word with Cas.

-

And this was the story of how Gabriel, the archangel himself, had ended up in a circle of burning holy oil in one of the few rooms in the bunker that no one used, like, ever, alone, and left to his own petty misery, with only Sam or Cas checking in once an hour. If they felt like it. And he'd been standing there for almost a day. Or, well, for a bunch of minutes, before he'd decided that sitting down appeared to be a better way of dealing with this. So the next time the younger hunter had walked into the room, he'd found the archangel on the floor, legs crossed, and trying to lay out his shoelaces in some artistic manner.

At least he'd accepted his fate. It had taken him long enough, though, considering the volume he'd shouted at after they'd first lured him into the center of the circle, until Cas had finally soundproofed the whole room.

Right now, it was Tuesday. It had been a day and a half since Gabriel's detention had begun, and Sam had made some arrangements in order to finally get the angel to entirely shut up about that goddamn fruit.

- "I called Crowley", he started after the door had fallen into the lock behind him, and took a seat across from Gabriel who still seemed to be rather occupied with his own sneakers, "and told him about the fruit."

At that, the angel finally raised his gaze, whiskey eyes flashing with something resembling both glee and excitement, but as soon as Sam spoke up again, the light vanished from the honey orbs, immediately replaced by another one of his infamous glares, though there was a little more disbelief in this one than usual.

- "He didn't know about that thing, apparently, so he looked for the guy who kept it, and made sure to properly dispose of it. Both the guy and the fruit, probably, but...whatever."

Seeing the disappointment in the angel's expression - and the slight anger that was clearly visible on his face -, Sam took a few steps forward to quench the flames under the sole of his own shoes.

- "I am undoubtedly utterly, insanely, incredibly disappointed of you, Sam Winchester", Gabriel simply declared as he rose from the floor, dusted off his pants, and strode past the contentedly smirking hunter, inelegantly tripping over his untied shoestrings in the process.

He proceeded to stay away from the bunker and sulk for a total of nine days after this. Sam couldn't help but appreciate it. Somewhere on the other side of the country, a 5-year-old was heartily biting into an unusually colored apple slice at the dinner table.

Chapter Text

Samandriel had been good. A younger angel; trusting and loyal to his father and Heaven. He'd been friendly and kind, had respected humanity, had followed orders while still somehow managing not to hurt many people or fellow angels. One could say that he'd resembled a kid in many ways, though definitely not in his understanding and empathy. He'd stood up for Kevin Tran, had tried to secure the tablets in order to save Heaven and Earth, but had still respected Linda's wishes not to let angels take care of her son again, like any polite man would've done.

His vessel had fit him a lot, really. The smiling, naive face of a young and shy teenager without many friends or relationships, who was working a job in a fast food restaurant to at least make some kind of money; the kind of person you would never expect to be chosen by an angel; that one quiet nerdy boy in school that was so ordinary and unobtrusive that even the bullies didn't notice him. Someone one simply couldn't imagine having huge stunning wings and a brightly gleaming halo.

And that was exactly why Samandriel had chosen Alfie as his vessel after descending upon the Earth. The young boy had been eager to let him in, despite all the warnings the angel had sent him. Knowing that he could get hurt, or do things he wouldn't otherwise do, or even die, Alfie had welcomed him in his body, and he had made his way to the auction to try everything that he'd been able to do to obtain the demon tablet, and although his attempts had been of no use per se, he'd still considered that day a victory over Hell.

He should've known that standing up for Heaven and Team Free Will like this, out in the open, in front of so many demons, would turn out to be a terrible mistake. Maybe he had known. But even sitting in that chair in that dark, vacant building, with a screw bored into his forehead, he hadn't regretted his decision, hadn't regretted choosing to go down this road, to do everything for his family and home. It had been for the better after all. He'd had to see the bigger picture.

From the very beginning, from the very first second he'd realized he'd been captured, he'd known he hadn't been going to make it. He'd been going to die.

Staring at the cold gray concrete floor, pangs of pain shooting through his body - that had been when the regrets had made their way right into his brain. They'd been nagging and clawing at him, had hurt him more than all the screws puncturing his skin and bones, they'd been the only thing on his mind.

He'd thought back. Back to when Naomi had been controlling him. Back to when he hadn't had a mind on his own, when he hadn't had any chance to decide what to do and not to do. He'd regretted it. Not that he'd run after the Winchesters, not that he'd tried to get his hands on the tablet, not that he'd fought for Heaven and against Hell, not that he'd descended, not that he'd followed his orders.

He'd regretted not telling Castiel. Because he'd known. He'd known what Naomi had been doing to the seraph, he'd known it all, everything, all along. And he hadn't told him. Not him, not anyone.

Back then, he'd suffered. He'd killed, but it hadn't been him. His hands, his motions, but not his decision. Not his will. Not his mind. It had hurt, so deeply. Seeing people and angels in pain, hearing the lies and excuses spill from his mouth, feeling his head hurt and spin, smelling the blood on his own hands as he'd tried to understand. Never had he felt worse. He'd promised and sworn not to hurt anyone anymore, not if it could be prevented. It had made him who he'd been. He'd been proud of who he'd been.

He'd been proud of what Castiel had been. Not under Naomi's control, but before. An angel with a will, an angel taking chances, an angel choosing humans over his own race. An angel who'd seen through Heaven's tricks and wrongdoings.

He hadn't been that anymore. Nothing like it.

He'd been an angel whose strings had been pulled the wrong way.

An angel who'd been controlled, who'd been losing his mind, who'd betrayed and hurt his family, who'd done worse and worse and worse. While Samandriel had run to comply with commands like a brainless dog.

He'd regretted not warning any of them. He'd regretted not spilling the truth, although he'd known that it would've killed him. He would've died one way or another. But like this? Tied to some chair with demons trying to disable his angelic link, about to betray Heaven? Having already betrayed Heaven?

He'd wanted to rebel. He should've rebelled when he'd still had the chance. He should've gone for Naomi back then. He'd wanted to stand up for himself, for his friends, for justice. But at the same time, he'd known he wouldn't make it through the day. He wouldn't see the sun rise again. But Castiel would. He'd always believed in Castiel. He would always believe in Castiel.

That had been when the seraph had burst in through the door, had freed him, and saved him from the demons, and rescued him. But Samandriel hadn't had any hope left. None. He hadn't been able to warn him. He'd made a mistake. He'd spilled secrets, he'd betrayed his home and family and everything he'd had. He'd been down on the floor, he'd been so close to making it. But he'd known he wouldn't make it.

He'd known her too well.

He should've gone for her.

He should have.

But he hadn't.

He'd felt the blade pierce his chest.

He'd had no chance to say sorry, to apologize, to make up for it all.

And worst of all? He'd never had a chance to realize

just how good he'd actually been.

Chapter Text

To angels, celestial beings that were practically immortal and existed since the creation of earth, time usually didn’t matter a lot. A human year was not much longer than a few seconds compared to the timespan they had spent watching humanity. Like perfect soldiers, they were created as loyal and obedient messengers, fulfilling their orders without a second thought, not supposed to have emotions or a real personality. Unnoticed by humans, they were forced to hide their true forms in vessels if they had to set foot on the planet their father had created. It had been like that for years, decades, centuries even, and nothing had changed that.

It had always been relatively quiet upstairs, apart from the usual family tragedy involving God himself and his archangels who were soon known as a bunch of troublemakers and rowdies among the lower ranks. They seemed to be the only ones who had the privilege to make their own decisions, or they were simply the only ones who dared to.

Samandriel didn’t care a lot about the dysfunctional family, being one of the younger angels he simply accepted the matters the way they were. He looked up to his more powerful brothers and sisters, admired their strength and determination and did exactly as he was told to.

Of course he had heard the rumours as well, the news about Lucifer’s rebellion followed by God’s anger. The former archangel was expelled and locked up in the cage to have an angelic time-out, being the first angel to fall from heaven, so of course it was a big fat warning sign for all other angels as well. God didn’t only get rid of a rebellious son, but he had shown that he was the one to make the rules the angels had to follow. Samandriel, always being kind-hearted and pure, believed it had been as reasonable punishment after all. If father considered someone to be a threat to the relatively peaceful world order, it was a good thing that he would take action. There was peace, and that was what he had wanted as well.

Only when God had left and the situation in heaven- as well as on earth- got out of hand, Samandriel started to question things. There was no longer a guideline to follow, no longer an authority he trusted enough, and the one angel he had decided to follow and admire was treated like an outcast. He felt himself being drawn closer to the so-called rebel Castiel than to his opponents, mostly because Samandriel seemed to understand that all his mistakes had come from the desire to do the right thing.

Now that he had gotten a taste of what free will could be like, he was determined to quit sitting around and waiting for orders like it used to be. Before there could be peace again, there would be war, and who knew what came after that newly found peace if they’d ever achieve it?  Those were questions the angel stored away in the back of his head, together with the fear to be cast out like Lucifer. He wasn’t alone. He’d travel to earth on his own, yes, but he had backup. If anything went wrong, they would help him out.

Or so he had thought. Everything had been so easy: finding a vessel that was unobtrusive enough to hide in plain sight, meeting the Winchesters at the auction and talking to them, asking for Cas, the angel he intended to follow. He had hoped that nobody would care much about an innocent guy named Alfie who had ditched his shift at Wiener Hut to attend some dubious event where a tablet and a prophet would be sold.

Tied to a chair, a screw painfully digging into his forehead, he knew he had lost. It had been easy at first, but now it would be over. His ambitions, his wish for free will, would be crushed by the mistake he would be forced to make: he would betray heaven. After that, nobody would believe him again when he said that he was doing the right thing, when he tried to make a difference. Samandriel wasn’t afraid of dying at this point, if that would have been the goal all along, he would already have been welcomed by the empty. No, they wanted to torture him, drown him in physical pain until he would spill heaven’s secrets, ruin his entire existence and everything he had ever fought for.

Where was his backup now, the so-called others who believed that Castiel could rule heaven? He realized that they had left him when he had come down to earth, probably not even aware of the fact that he was held captive and brought to the limits of his powers. Alfie wouldn’t make it, that much was certain when the angel looked at how much his vessel had been injured, how much blood he had lost, not to mention the strange device currently drilling holes into his skull.

Samandriel would have said sorry at this point if he’d had the strength to, hoping the boy was happy in heaven. All he could do was scream, babble in Enochian and set bushes on fire, a last desperate attempt to call for help that he feared would never come. For him, it would be too late, no matter if he would survive or not. His angelic ambitions would forever be tainted by the knowledge of- involuntarily, but still- having given away the secrets he had sworn to protect.

Even angels could only withstand so much torture until they would break.  They had cracked him, it was over. Samandriel had revealed the existence of the angel tablet, just before Sam and Dean burst in through the door, followed by Castiel. A fight broke out, demons immediately attacked the intruders, but for Samandriel, it was pointless.

Cas was the one who untied him and got rid of the screws in his head, proposing to send him to heaven where he was safe, but Samandriel knew that he couldn’t return. That he could never return to the place he had called his home for such a long time.

His hopes, his free will, his peace? Samandriel wouldn’t see what would become of that. He would never see how the story would end, who would rule heaven, what would happen to Castiel. Because Cas was the one who stabbed him with an angel blade, killing him before he could tell him that he was controlled, just like he was once controlled by Naomi’s commands. The angel wasn’t mad at Castiel, he had accepted his destiny the second he had spoken out the words “angel tablet” in front of Crowley.

Angels were wrong about time. Centuries could be boring, but within a few minutes, so many events could happen that would decide over the fate of many. One thing was clear though: heaven- as Samandriel had known it -would never be the same again.

Samandriel would find his peace in the empty, and his last thought, his last hope, was for the one angel he still admired to achieve peace for heaven as well. He could see the sudden flash of confusion in Castiel’s eyes, a small, but persistent proof that not everything was lost yet.

There was still hope for heaven.

Chapter Text

Tuesday, Kansas, a supermarket. An exhausted customer was standing in line at checkout, about to pay for his - or well, his brother's - two boxes of pie, a six-pack of beer, a bottle of water, and a salad while the cashier seemed to be working slower than anyone else he'd ever encountered in his whole life. One glance ahead told him that the golden-haired shorty wasn't in fact, working slowly, but just having apparent one-hour conversations with each customer, who, in turn, didn't seem to feel all that comfortable talking to the guy sucking on a bright red lollipop.

The customer, of course, was Sam Winchester. And the cashier, who would've thought, a cheeky and kind-of arrogant man named Gabriel.

The latter was incredibly enthusiastic when it came to his job, and although getting up at seven in the morning each day except Sunday was getting on his nerves - and his sleeping pattern - a little, there were only a few occupations he would clearly choose over this one. Working in a coffee shop, for example. Or, better, owning a whole bakery, seeing as he basically lived for sweet stuff and pastries. But well, he could do with this job, really. Talking to, mocking, and hitting on all the customers was probably the best thing about working in the supermarket, and when he'd applied for this position, he would've never guessed that sitting at the checkout counter and scanning countless items (of which he knew the prices by heart by now but most people insisted on having the products pulled over the scanner) could be so much fun. And so far, no one had even issued a formal complaint about him, no matter how much he'd gotten on some people's nerves.

Giving out change to the woman in front of him, he gave her one last wink that had her blush before she packed her few things and hurried out, almost tripping over her own two feet in the process. Gabriel rolled his eyes, reaching for the next item - one of a million, as it seemed; another one of those weird people who went to the supermarket in the middle of the week to buy supplies for a whole fucking lifetime - on the conveyor belt, and quickly looked over to his right to check both the length and the status of the current line.

What happened next should be rather obvious.

Gabriel laid eyes on a moose turned man.

And he was pretty sure he'd never gotten a bulk purchase scanned and paid for this freaking fast.

As soon as the other guy had left - the first person he'd let go of without any attempts at mocking or otherwise harassing them -, and the unnaturally tall dude with majestic hair and a beautiful red jacket had stepped forward and met his eyes, the cashier knew that he had to bring out the big guns on this one. He just had to. Metaphorically speaking, of course. And no, not in the sexual kind of way. Although that wouldn't have surprised anyone either if he was being honest.

So, tall guy stepped closer, already fetching his wallet to pay for the few items as Gabriel pulled them over the scanner one by one, slowly and carefully while trying to come up with a safe plan to get a conversation going. The man, however, judging by the way he was tapping his foot, appeared to be in some kind of rush, and since the cashier was a cheeky bastard but definitely not an asshole who purposely fucked up hot stranger's appointments or whatever, he had no choice but to let moose go, whether he liked it or not.

Sighing, more than a little disappointed, he hurried up a little, though not without casting the tall customer a few smirks, and throwing a bunch of subtle comments and casual questions at him that he answered... well, one could say his responses were okay. Gabriel had definitely gotten better reactions during his time here, but then again, the people on whose nerves he could get were the most fun anyway.

When Gabriel raised his eyes again and told the stranger how much he had to pay after adding a second pie to the list on his small screen, he found himself face to face with a new-looking twenty-dollar bill, and as he reached out to grab it, a smirk flashed over his face. The register popped open with a clink and he put the money inside before he took out a few coins and held them out for moose man to take. Looking at the cents in his palm, tall guy looked up, brows slightly furrowed.

- "Excuse me, that's not--"

- "I know, I know", Gabriel cut in, casually crossing his hands behind his head and leaning back against the uncomfortable chair. "Don't have the exact change, sorry, kid."

When the stranger shook his head, looking like he was genuinely having struggles understanding what the cashier was saying, about to open his mouth; the shorter man immediately continued talking, now leaning forward on the counter.

- "Don't have a car either. Buuuuut I'll get the money to you tomorrow morning at the latest, I promise! Don't worry, I'm a reliable guy, ask my regulars!" Gesturing towards the line, a woman gave a slight shrug while smiling apologetically, while all the other people seemed to have paid not a lot to no attention at all to the conversation, already too used to Gabriel's constant shenanigans. The only other person who showed any interest in their talk was an older man that the cashier had only seen a few times before - but he remembered his face nonetheless, seeing as he was the only person he'd ever encountered during his time here who'd simply been way too nice and kind to mess with. Even now. Yep, even now.

- "Excuse me, sir?"

Biting his lip, Gabriel pondered. He couldn't let that old way-too polite and kind-hearted guy mess up this A+ masterpiece of a plan!

- "I have some loose change left, maybe if you handed me a bill, we could--"

- "No, no, no, no, no, mister, I really appreciate that but weeee...uh... I think we can do like this, it's not like he wouldn't know where to find me if I messed this up now, and it seems like this really attractive, really tall man over here is in quite a rush and should get going right about now; receipt yes or no?"

Apparently fighting an inner war for about a second, the stranger clenched his fists by his sides, anxiously looking around, before he quickly snatched the piece of paper from the shorter man's hand and started to gather the bought items. Still softly grumbling to himself - and trying to somehow stack and balance the boxes on top of each other, the water bottle pushed into the pocket of his flannel -, he turned around to make his way to the exit when the cashier called after him, a mocking tone in his voice.

- "Heya, handsome, can't find ya if I don't know your address, right?"

Glaring, moose man growled the name of some street Gabriel had never heard before, plus a more quiet, but not any less annoyed, "Sam Winchester", before he finally stepped through the automized doors and out into the supermarket's parking lot.

Gabriel's eyes were glued to the back of Sam until he vanished from his sight, a content grin playing on his lips. Today really had been one hell of a success. He couldn't wait to swing by his new acquaintance's place tomorrow morning - and who knew, maybe he could even find some time to turn that tomorrow morning into a tonight if he got the cleaning done fast enough after close-up today. Smirking, he turned the twenty-dollar bill in his hands. He'd once again come up with an honest-to-God masterplan.

It took him another minute to realize that meanwhile, the old man had quietly started to pull his own items over the scanner one by one, silently shaking his head.

Chapter Text

„I told you countless times now, I won’t turn it off!” Gabriel was nearly shouting at Sam, something he absolutely hated doing, but it was the only choice he had at the moment, considering how the hunter blocked the hallway with his height, stopping the smaller one from passing through.

It was about angel radio. Again. The topic was brought up at least once a day, if not more often, and it was one of the reasons why Gabriel tried to avoid the Winchesters lately. Since he had moved into the bunker, Sam had made it his personal challenge to research that topic, with the help of Castiel of course, since the old dusty books stored in their library didn’t contain a lot of information on a mysterious, wireless communication system between the angels.

At first, the hunter had acted out of pure curiosity, but as time went on and he had learned that Gabriel never shut his radar off, the trouble had begun. Trouble mostly for the angel because Sam tried to pursue him again and again to mute his angelic mobile phone, and sadly the moose had prepared a million valuable reasons he liked to throw at him.

“But why won’t you listen? You’re just getting yourself in danger. You’re risking your life. Hell, you’re risking our lives!”

Sam was persistent. And when the hunter had made up his mind about something, he wasn’t easily convinced, not even by a powerful archangel who was half-heartedly punching his stomach. The problem was: Gabriel knew that Sam wasn’t even all that wrong. If the angel could pick up bits and pieces of what was going on upstairs, other angels could also try to spy on him, and therefore on the whole house-sharing community they called Team Free Will.  And that would, indeed, be a bit inconvenient.

Sam was being mature, he was being reasonable, he was being a good brother by protecting Dean as well, blah blah blah. But Gabriel was sure that this was his choice to make, not the Winchester’s. What he was supposed to get rid of here was the last connection to his family that the angel had left, and he wouldn’t give it up just because Sam told him to. Gabriel had to bring out the big guns then.

“I will deep-fry you with my powers if you don’t stop this daily interrogation. And if you like it that much, maybe you should quit being a hunter and become a lawyer. You know, a lot of learning, a lot of debating…” caught up in his sarcasm, Gabriel added “cutting ties with your family” which he immediately felt bad for. Sam didn’t like talking about the time he had spent far from his family; the boy was always hesitant when it came to the whole Stanford issue or the times he had been hunting solo after an argument with Dean.

But, to be honest… what part of their lives did the Winchesters even want to talk about? Right. They didn’t talk about their feelings at all. So why should Gabriel feel guilty when Sam gave him his best bitchface? The hunter wanted him to do the same: abandon his family, or at least what was still connecting him to it.

 

Alright. The big guns didn’t work. Fine. Gabriel would get his freaking bazooka then. Morally of course, not that he would mind stealing Dean’s favorite grenade launcher and put it to good use someday. He couldn’t understand why Sam didn’t exactly approve of such a nice weapon.

“Please?” the archangel tried with an apologetic half-smile, but to no avail: this time, Gabriel wasn’t getting away with the excuse of having better things to do than arguing with Sam in an empty hallway of the bunker. Strictly, that wasn’t even an excuse. Everyone here had better things to do than that, and Gabe was sure that Dean also had better things to do than standing behind the closed door right next to them to listen to their conversation, probably with Cas right by his side. Still, there was no way of getting out unharmed this time unless he wanted the hunter to bitchface him for the next few years.

“Listen” he began, his voice softer this time, “they may be the biggest dickheads I know, but they are still my family. It doesn’t change a thing that I am no longer a part of heaven. I love them, no matter how much they mess up, no matter how often they are trying to destroy the world.”

“But-“ Sam tried to interrupt, immediately silenced as the archangel snapped his fingers, sealing the hunter’s lips with a piece of duct tape which would probably hurt a bit when he would try to get rid of it.

“Trust me mister tall and handsome, you would do the same thing in my position. If you truly want me to shut my radar off, try asking me nicely. I don’t know, maybe bribing me with sweets would help. Or letting me use Dean’s grenade launcher.”

“Not gonna happen” shouted a furious voice from behind the wooden door, followed by a very loud, very obvious “Shhhh, he is not supposed to hear us!”

Gabriel snickered, and Sam probably would have laughed too if his mouth hadn’t been duct-taped together.

Trying to get back into a serious mood, Gabriel ignored the mumbling from Dean and Cas who had gotten into a fight about the moral justifiability of eavesdropping in the next room. He had gotten his point across -hopefully- so Sam would finally stop bothering him about cutting his connection to heaven.

“I will think about it, Sammy.”

Gabriel spun around, quickly making his way towards what he called his own bedroom he rarely used. The angel intended to keep his promise, he was actually going to think about Sam’s words and reasons, but he needed to do that alone, in silence, without constantly being pressured by a good-looking moose, his pie-eating brother or said brother’s personal guardian angel.

Behind him, he heard the sound of tape being removed from skin, accompanied by a quiet yet audible yelp and a weak “sometimes it’s better to burn some bridges, you know?”

 

And that was how Gabriel ended up here, in this room he called his own. There wasn’t much to see, the bed he was currently relaxing on was way too uncomfortable and he could have turned it into a better one with just a snap of his fingers, but he didn’t. It was better this way; no fancy pillows, no exciting wallpaper, no expensive furniture around which could distract him. He had to make an important choice here, something he definitely wasn’t good at, something he was almost sure he’d mess up in the end because there was no right or wrong here.

It was either his family- heaven- or his other family- the Winchesters. If he put it like that… the whole thing didn’t sound too complicated anymore. What still connected him to heaven was nothing more than some stupid idea his father had come up with when they had still been the kind of family that ate dinner together. Things had changed, drastically, and now it rather seemed like the angels were trying to eat each other for dinner.  

What the archangel had with the Winchesters was different, although Dean sometimes threatened to “roast his feathery ass” if he wouldn’t stop messing around with them. Did he want to keep them safe? Yes. At all costs? Probably yes too. Well then, Sam was probably right when he had said that it was better to burn some bridges, no matter how big they were or how much Gabriel would miss walking across them. An idea came to him, one that immediately made his eyes light up and formed his lips into a mischievous grin.

Nobody noticed how he opened the trunk of the Impala a few seconds later before he disappeared completely.

 

Sam hadn’t expected to see the archangel again today, not after what had happened in the hallway, but as soon as the hunter had made himself comfortable on the couch in front of the TV, someone appeared next to him, taking up most of the space and stealing the pillows. Deciding not to complain about it this once, Sam at least tried to claim the blanket, but the attempt failed as well.

“Have you made your decision?” he asked as he tried to focus on the woman on the screen. He wasn’t really interested in what had happened around the world, but he tried to prepare himself for what was about to come. The hunter was almost sure that Gabriel would declare he would never tune out angel radio and therefore call himself the winner of their debate.

“I did. And I just wanted to tell you that I’m off the radar now. No angelic eavesdropping possible anymore, what also means that from now on, we have no clue what is going on upstairs, but hey, at least you’re proud of me now, right?”

“Right.” Sam swallowed, looked at the screen, then back at the angel. “Wait, what?”

“You won, Sammoose. Congrats!”

Gabriel got up, finally making space for Sam to stretch his legs and take back the blanket. Halfway out of the room, the hunter could hear him mumble something about burning bridges. Shaking his head, the Winchester paid no attention to it, leaning back into the pillows and watching the events on TV with a small smile.

 

On the screen, the news reporter talked about a fire which threatened to destroy a famous bridge by the name of Ponte Sant'Angelo. Behind her, bright flames rose up into the night sky, casting shadows on the various angel statues which were barely recognizable anymore.

“What a coincidence” Sam thought, rolling his eyes, “Gabe, I don’t think you got the whole ‘burning bridges’ thing right, but… that’s one way to show you’re no longer a part of heaven I guess.”

The hunter just hoped that little shit would return Dean’s flamethrower before his brother would notice its absence and actually roast his feathery ass with it.