Actions

Work Header

Your Own Personal Landfill

Chapter Text

~5/23/18~

Life’s breakneck pace never failed to catch me off guard. One second, I was fleeing across North America with my favorite fictional characters in tow, and the next I was spending every waking hour filling out college applications.

There was no escaping it: now that I was an adult, I’d have to do adult things like go into higher education, seek a career, and live on my own. To say it was daunting to be flung into all of this without warning was the understatement of my entire life. If nothing else, at least I would be able to leave home.

Right, that was supposed to be one of the most difficult hurdles for people my age, wasn’t it? Well, just because I’d outsmarted a crazy genie and survived over a week with the Winchesters, that didn’t mean every one of my life’s problems dissolved into rainbows and puppy dogs.

My family was still…on thin ice, to say the least. After reappearing in my own world on my sailboat, the first thing I did was lift anchor and cruise the craft back to the marina. Then, though I dreaded what may await me, I walked home.

I was greeted with equal parts relief and anger from my family. Local police had been searching for me for about as long as I’d been gone to no avail. When questioned, I just told everyone I’d taken the sailboat out on the river and gone cruising for a week. Of course, they thought I meant cruising on the sailboat, not on a massive ship in Alaska, but no one had the mind to consider that.

The one bit of total truth I did share was the reason I’d left: the turmoil at home was too much for me to bear anymore. That didn’t surprise anyone, but it did earn me a promise from my parents that they would make an effort to take their conflict outside of the house if and when it did erupt.

Conflict didn’t erupt for a long time after that. I think they were just so relieved to have me back that it was hard to focus on anything else. Yet that proved to only be a temporary fix; a missing child in a family may take precedence over marital problems, but my return meant there was nothing to distract my parents from their differences anymore.

Luckily, I still had my ability to escape. I used it often, visiting Sam, Dean, and Castiel whenever things got rough or just because I felt like it. My wish was still serving me well, providing me a second family to turn to when my real one couldn’t offer much beyond heartbreak and stress.

Speaking of stress…about those college applications. Of course my parents expected me to attend a university now that I’d graduated high school. I’d always assumed I would, but it snuck up on me out of nowhere. My family was more than a little caught up in itself, so that left me alone to navigate the research and online paperwork portion of the process all on my own.

Or at least I would have been on my own if I hadn’t known a certain moose who’d gone through the exact same thing.

Sam was the biggest help I could have possibly asked for. The first time I brought up to him that I was working on applying to schools, his face lit up and he immediately volunteered to help me with anything I needed. He knew fully well what it was like to seek higher education without support or direct help from one’s family, and though he’d failed to complete his education, I think that only spurred him on further to ensure the same didn’t happen to me.

It became a routine to visit him whenever I could with my laptop so we could browse schools from my world and pick out those that looked most promising for my interests. He taught me how to fill out applications, what to look for, and most importantly of all encouraged me to seek out scholarships. It was only thanks to scholarship money that Sam had been able to go to school at all, and though I doubted my own ability to earn much of anything, he insisted that I could get some of my own if I really tried.

And boy oh boy, did I ever try. And boy oh boy, did it ever pay off.

One of the schools I applied to happened to offer a full ride to anyone who met certain qualifications and could manage an interview on its campus. Had I been on my own, I would have only taken one look at the requirements and not even considered it. With Sam peering over my shoulder at my laptop, however, I had all the encouragement I needed to at least attempt.

That ended up paying off more handsomely than I could have ever imagined. I met every qualification, some just barely, and that only left the interview. That was the part I really wanted nothing to do with, but if I’d gotten this far…

Anxiety hadn’t magically stopped being a thing in my life, particularly when it came to socializing, so an interview was a nightmare scenario for me. Sam decided to help me practice by hosting a couple of mock interviews for me in the bunker. He enlisted Dean and Castiel’s help for one of them, casting them as the interviewers. He’d called it somewhat of a disaster, but I’d considered it a success; if I could manage to improvise responses to the out-of-left-field questions those two threw at me, surely I could handle an actual structured interview.

And miraculously, I did. I don’t know if it was just my survival instincts kicking in or what, but I passed the college’s screening and was granted the scholarship.

My first semester started that fall, and Sam did what he could to prepare me for what awaited me. Yet no amount of preparation could have fully acclimated me to the sweeping changes my life underwent once I arrived on campus.

Most everyone knows that college is hard, but no matter how many times someone thinks or hears that, they don’t really understand just how hard it really is until they get there. I took as light a semester as I could and still felt drained by the time winter break arrived. It wasn’t just the schoolwork; the college social scene was, to put it bluntly, a socially anxious introvert’s worst nightmare come alive.

Crowds everywhere you went. Countless class presentations. Mandatory group projects with total strangers. And dear god, the parties. I never attended any of them, but just the sounds emanating from them alone were enough to make me anxious.

Living in a dorm room was nice, at least. I had my own space to retreat to, and I could slip away to visit Team Free Will easily without anyone batting an eye. I did have a roommate, but she was more socially active than I. Unlike me, she actually did attend the parties with their ear-wrenchingly loud music and clustered people. On a few occasions she even attempted to convince me to go with her, but I adamantly refused.

Come to think of it, she was the closest thing to a college friend I had. We got along well, had some of the same interests, and although our personalities differed by a lot, we came to trust each other. She noticed I wasn’t in our dorm often, but she assumed I was out at the library or walking one of the trails down a quieter part of campus. She had no clue I was escaping into a fictional world to do my homework and study in the quiet of an underground bunker.

If I thought my first semester was a challenge, I should’ve braced myself for my second one.

Word to the wise: do not take eighteen hours of college classes if you can help it. Unless you’re looking for next to no free time, stress-induced illness, and nightly migraines, just don’t do it.

All of those things and more attacked me throughout the winter and spring months of that year. I suppose I should have thought myself lucky that I didn’t have much in the way of social obligations to distract me from my all-consuming studies. Regardless, it was a drain on my psyche that caused more than a few anxious breakdowns.

The only solace I had was being away from home. But was it better to be living in a house where fighting between loved ones was the norm, or to be hours away from all that dealing with a hellish load of social isolation and the workload of six classes?

My trips to the bunker were probably the only thing that held me together. Sam helped me practice for tests when he could, Dean cooked small but sufficient meals for me when I didn’t have the time or will to pick up something from the school cafeteria, and Castiel tried to cheer me up with cute animal videos on his phone. That was all phenomenal help and all; the only obstacle was that usually most or all of them were busy dealing with some supernatural threat, so there was no telling if they’d be available to help me when I needed it.

Finals week was the worst. It had just barely started and I already wanted to drop out more than I ever had before.

Not that dropping out was an option. I’d worked hard for my scholarship and I could not afford to squander that, and I couldn’t bear to return home; spending a month back there for winter break was hard enough.

It was one night in particular where things flew completely and utterly off the rails in a way I could have never predicted. It was a Monday that I’d spent entirely within the confines of the library, living off vending machine snacks and frequent trips to the water fountain. I had two exams the next day, one of which was at eight AM, and a paper that had to be submitted before midnight. The entire library was crawling with other students cramming for their own finals, but I was lucky enough to snatch an isolated corner with a table all to myself.

The time was nearly midnight. I’d already visited the bunker once and found neither hide nor tail of any of its inhabitants inside. I considered staying there to work anyways, but I really did like my corner in the library, so I left.

My laptop’s clock read 11:59 when I submitted my essay. The stress from trying to finish it in time literally left my fingers shaking; I’d been tapping and tapping and tapping on that keyboard nonstop for hours. That was to say nothing of my exams, which although I’d been studying for, I still didn’t feel confident enough to do especially well on.

Trite as it might seem to more causal students, I didn’t have a choice but do well on my work. Should my GPA drop below an A average, my scholarship would be revoked.

I stumbled back to my dorm late that night. The campus was ominous and cast with shadows as I walked and nearly tripped over the sidewalk back to my residence hall. No one was out at that hour that I could see, but that didn’t stop my paranoia from creeping in.

It turned out that paranoia was well-justified, because a figure did appear in my line of sight. It was standing off in the middle of the grassy quad in front of my hall, and alarmingly, it was making a beeline towards me.

Gasping as my heart kicked into overdrive, I broke into a sprint. Through a combination of clumsy footing, exhaustion, and the weight of my backpack, I tripped and fell sideways onto the grass almost immediately.

My shin throbbed in pain from where it collided with the sidewalk, but it didn’t hurt bad enough to keep me off my feet. Scrambling over the dewy grass, I struggled to pull myself up under the crushing weight of the textbooks and laptop strapped to my back. The instant I did heave myself to my feet, I was ready to run, but a face right in front of mine stopped me. Even months later, I still recognized the features as quickly as their image reached my brain.

Oh, for goodness sake. After what happened last time we met, I thought he said he never wanted to see me again.

Standing in all his pinstriped glory was none other than my genie, staring down at me with his mouth drawn into a thin, unamused line. I stumbled back under the gaze of his sunglasses, nearly falling again but managing to just barely keep my footing this time. If he was here, it couldn’t mean anything good.

“Genie,” I choked out a greeting. “Wha–, what’re you– I swear, I haven’t–”

“You haven’t violated your contract, if you think that’s why I’m here,” he interrupted. “You’ve done surprisingly well at keeping up your end of the bargain and keeping your mouth shut.”

My heart slowed down a little upon hearing that. “Oh…right, okay. I thought you didn’t ever want to see me–”

“I’m not here because I want to be,” he growled out. “I’m here only as a courtesy to you and your friends, and also to chew you out for your sheer idiocy!”

I flinched. “What…are you talking about?”

“You know what I’m talking about!” He pointed a finger trembling with anger right at my face. “The stunt you pulled in Atlanta!”

Atlanta…I hadn’t been there since we’d flown in from Seattle during the Alaska incident. I tried to think back to what could’ve happened while we were there that would upset my genie, but nothing immediately came to mind.

“I…I really don’t know what you’re talking about,” I meekly admitted.

“You…!” He looked about ready to get to that chewing out he’d mentioned, but stopped, face twisting in bewilderment. “You…really don’t know?”

Weakly shaking my head, I confirmed, “No, I don’t.”

Huffing a broken laugh, my genie shook his head and let his gaze wander around the quad. “Unbelievable. Absolutely…unbelievable.”

“…Should I know what you’re talking about?”

He spun back around to face me, holding out his hands emphatically. “If you’re at all active in that Supernatural fandom of yours, yes, you should!”

With the sheer truckloads of work I’d been assigned this semester, I’d barely had time to do much of anything that wasn’t school-related. That included keeping up with any of the shows I watched, even my favorite among them.

“I’ve been…busy,” I explained. “It’s hard to keep up with things in college.”

“Right,” the genie huffed, not satisfied by that excuse in the least. “In that case, you listen here: go to your little dorm, open your laptop, and find out for yourself just how big of a mess you’ve made.”

Curious fear struck me. “Where do I need to look?”

“Go to any Supernatural site and I guarantee you’ll find out,” the genie whispered menacingly. “It’s a pretty. Big. Deal. You don’t know it yet, but you are in grave amounts of trouble. Not only that, but you’ve also managed to get me in grave amounts of trouble, too. My business might even go belly-up if this keeps up!”

My insides knotted painfully. What on earth could’ve possibly happened that would get both of us in such hot water?

“I’ll look into it,” I managed in a shaky voice.

“You better. And you’d also better prepare yourself for the repercussions of this, because they will not be pretty for any of us.” He lowered the brim of his shades to pin me under his cobalt stare. “Just thought I’d give you a fair warning.”

Then, he was gone. One second he was there, and the next he wasn’t. He was even worse than Castiel when it came to untimely teleporting…

Shaking myself, I sped back to my residence hall. My hands were trembling so badly that I could barely slide my ID card through the reader at the front door, but I made it inside and climbed the staircase to my dorm as quickly as I could manage.

My roommate was strikingly absent from the tiny room when I arrived. She wasn’t in her bed, at her desk, or in our bathroom, which meant she must be out and about like usual. Now that I thought about it, I did remember her telling me earlier that day she was planning to help a friend study for their biology final…

Satisfied that I was alone, I opened my backpack and pulled my laptop from its sleeve within. I rushed to set it up on the surface of my desk and pull up the internet. The wait for my browser to load was agonizing; why did the campus wi-fi have to suck?

Once it did load, I typed in “Supernatural TV show news” to see what I’d find, both dreading and anticipating the results. One more long loading time later, I was met with a baffling mix of pages.

“The Great Supernatural Shapeshifter Mystery,” read one link. Another said, “J2M Just as Confused as the Rest of Us.”

The stars of the show were tangled up in this somehow? This was big.

One link to a Tumblr page caught my eye. It read: “SPN Shapeshifter Mystery Masterpost; Come Here if You’re Confused.”

I certainly was confused, so I followed the link. It brought me to a blog with a mosaic background of anti-possession tattoos, devil’s traps, and angel banishing sigils. Contained within it was a lengthy post with the same title as the link that had taken me to it. If I wanted answers, this was probably the best place to find them.

Welcome to my masterpost of the mystery currently sweeping the SPN fandom, read the page. If you’ve been browsing any SPN pages recently, you’ve probably heard a thing or about this “Shapeshifter Mystery.” A lot of people have been expressing confusion about the whole thing, and I hope to remedy that here by compiling all the information we currently have.

I scrolled down a bit, revealing a video embedded in the post. If you want the gist of it, this video is a good place to start. It’s a news story I found from a local station that I think sums it all up pretty well.

Though scared of what it would hold, I started the video and brought it up to full screen. The quality wasn’t that great, like it had been ripped from a cheap television, but it was good enough. A woman sat behind a table in what looked like a newsroom. The video started just as she was on the tail end of talking about something else, but as the camera changed perspectives to show a close-up, the story I was waiting for began.

The reporter glanced down at a packet of papers on her desk, addressing the camera professionally. “In other local news, a mystery baffles investigators, but they end up finding support from an unlikely source: the avid fandom of a cult TV show called Supernatural.”

Leaning towards my laptop and turning up my volume, I gave the screen my full attention. The video faded to show footage of police officers huddled over a table, quietly discussing something.

“It should have been a routine, open and shut case,” said the reporter’s voiceover. “But what started as a simple investigation of a minor misdemeanor has spiraled into a conundrum the likes of which the Atlanta police department has never seen. The question they’re facing should have an easy answer: Is it possible for someone to be in two places at once? You’d think the answer would be no, but investigators have found evidence to the contrary.

“It all started with a car abandoned on the roadside.” The video faded to an image of a familiar blue Prius covered in leaves and dirt.

I inhaled as the car came into focus. “Oh god…” I breathed out. That was our rental car from way back when we left the Atlanta airport. I’d been so busy getting the boat back where it needed to be that I’d completely forgotten about it…

“This Prius was rented from a service at the Atlanta airport last July,” the voiceover continued. “According to records, it was never returned and the company has been trying to track it down ever since. It was marked as missing until it was found and reported by a couple hiking through the woods nearby, who called in local authorities when they noticed the car’s rundown condition. From there, it was tracked back to the rental company, and that’s where the real mystery begins.”

The video shifted again, this time to show the exterior of the exact rental place we’d gone to in the Atlanta airport. My heart thudded a little louder in my chest.

“The car was reportedly rented by four people, three men and a teenage girl. An ID provided by one of the men labelled him as Mr. Steve Rogers, but scouring records revealed that no such man matching his credentials exists. More bafflingly than that was the story provided by the man who reportedly rented the car to them in the first place.”

The video feed changed to an interviewing segment inside the rental store. The interviewee was…the rental guy. He looked the same as the last time I’d seen him, still clad in professional dress and waiting behind his counter.

“Yeah, they were a weird bunch,” he spoke into the microphone in front of him. “I didn’t realize who they were at first. They were fumbling around with their money a lot, had to pull together all the cash they had and still couldn’t afford to rent the car.”

The microphone was angled towards offscreen, where a reporter then spoke into it. “If they couldn’t afford the car, why did you let them have it?”

Laughing to himself, the rental guy spoke into the mic again when it was pointed back towards him. “I recognized who they were eventually, those guys from the monster show on TV.”

“Supernatural?” the reported asked for clarification.

“That’s the one! Can never remember that name…anyways, I made them a deal. I’d pay the extra for their car if they’d take a picture with me for my cousin; she loves their show. I had no idea they’d just abandon the car like that…the police took the picture as evidence and I don’t really know what’s been happening since then.”

The longer I watched, the harder my breathing got. I definitely knew where this was going, and I did not like it one bit.

Sure enough, the photo in question appeared on the screen next. The rental guy stood in one corner, and huddled against the counter beside him were Sam, Dean, and Castiel, all wearing weak smiles.

“The photo in question was proof of who these men were,” the reporter’s voice explained. “Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, and Misha Collins, the three main stars of the TV show Supernatural all dressed in the garb of their characters. Although the fourth person was not in the photo, security camera footage shows that she was indeed present as claimed."

A brief clip of black-and-white, jittery security footage played then, showing the interior of the rental store. Standing near the edge of the frame were Sam, Dean, Castiel…and me, fidgeting behind them.

This was really not what I pictured when I hoped to be on TV one day.

“The poor quality of the footage has made it impossible to determine for certain who this girl is,” said the reporter. “Airport records have proved inconclusive for determining this as well. Police were greatly troubled by her involvement, and allegations of potential kidnapping were thrown into the mix.”

The video returned to the interview of the rental guy. “The girl was there with them, yeah. She didn’t look or sound like she was in any trouble, though; did a lot of the talking, actually. She told me she’d won a contest to get to take a trip with the actors.”

The feed returned to the photo. “No record of such a contest exists,” said the reporter. “But even if one person couldn’t be identified, three of the four suspects had confirmed identities and photographic proof of being present at the scene. It should have been an easy matter of tracking them down and presenting them with the evidence, except when they were found, all three of them had an airtight alibi.”

I jumped a little as a scene from Supernatural suddenly flashed on the screen. Sam and Dean were being flung back into a wall by a monster, thumping about loudly as they collided with the wooden frame of a building.

“On TV, they play fearless monster hunters,” the audio quieted so the voiceover could be heard once more. “But in real life, they’re actors with a huge, devoted fanbase and golden reputation. As unlikely culprits as they seemed, the police went ahead with their investigation. When presented with the evidence, all three of them were, in the investigators’ own words, ‘completely, genuinely baffled.’”

Reels of the three at various conventions alongside fans played then. “As it would turn out, they had evidence of their own proving they weren’t anywhere near the rental company; rather, they were all the way in Vancouver filming their show. Timestamps on that day’s footage proved that they had been on set at the exact time recorded by the security cameras, thousands of miles away from the incident. Eyewitness accounts from countless people on the show’s set confirmed that they were present for a full day of filming, and that they’d in fact been working on set for days prior and afterwards. While cases with conflicting evidence have cropped up in the past, this may be one of the most extreme.

“Fans of Supernatural have leaped to the defense of the actors since this went public, as have the actors’ friends and families. The actors themselves have cooperated in full with authorities while they struggle to figure out how to explain this apparent phenomenon, lightheartedly commenting that they’d each ‘always wanted to have a doppelganger.’”

The video faded back to the reporter behind her desk, staring right into the camera. “While investigators have been left utterly stumped, Supernatural fans have been tossing about their own theories as they’ve attempted to wedge themselves into the investigation. Some claim that it was the work of shapeshifters, a type of creature from the show that is able to take on the appearance of another person and pretend to be them. Others claim that the three men present at the rental store were not the actors, but rather the actual characters they play, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester and their angel friend, Castiel.

“Though outlandish, these explanations have been seriously considered and debated among the fandom. Atlanta investigators have been receiving calls on the daily from these avid fans, each one of them toting more unbelievable explanations than the last. In all fairness, the official investigation’s best explanation isn’t much better: the current working theory is that the real suspects are three superfans of the show who decided to receive intensive plastic surgery to appear just like Padalecki, Ackles, and Collins, and as improbable as that may seem, it’s all they have to work on currently. The photo has been reviewed by experts and determined to be authentic, which shattered the previous theory that the image was doctored.”

The rental guy reappeared on the screen then, looking off camera at an interviewer. “Do you think there’s any possibility that the three men you saw were not the stars of Supernatural?” she asked.

He thought about it for a moment as the microphone turned towards him. “I mean, they sure looked like them. I’ve never actually watched the show, so I wasn’t completely sure at the time. If it wasn’t for the picture, I still wouldn’t be sure! But I will say, at first they insisted they were not the actors, even when I asked them directly. Only time they admitted it was when I told them I’d pay for the rest of the rental. They started acting real weird around then too, so…” He shrugged. “I’d believe it. This whole thing is weird, I’ll give you that.”

The reporter behind the table then came back into view. “Until any further developments occur in this case, it remains in stasis. If anyone has any information about who the girl accompanying these three men might be, they’re encouraged to contact the Atlanta Police Department.”

The video abruptly ended then, leaving me staring at my wide-eyed reflection in my laptop’s black screen.

Holy crap. I never would have thought something this massive could come from the Alaska incident. It took several minutes of me just sitting there and silently processing it all to even grasp that it was real.

I numbly scrolled through the rest of the masterpost, which basically summarized everything the video had alongside the various theories proposed by fans. I checked for myself on a few fansites and confirmed that it was one of the number one topics of discussion, with fans calling out things about real-life shapeshifters or Sam, Dean, and Castiel being real. I couldn’t tell entirely how serious these discussions were, but some of them were so close to the truth that I was terrified.

Some amount of time passed; I’m not sure exactly how much, I suspect I was dissociating. The only thing that snapped me back to awareness was my roommate reentering the dorm. She froze when she saw me hunched over at my desk.

“[Y/N]?” she asked, sounding shocked. “It’s past one AM! Don’t you have an eight AM exam tomorrow?”

Shaking myself back to reality, I mumbled, “Y-yeah…”

“Get to bed!” she insisted, rushing over to my side. She paused when she got a better look at my face. “…Are you alright, girlie?”

Since I couldn’t tell her the truth, I just said one word that summed up my current situation: “Stressed.”

“Jeez, finals really are taking a toll on you…” Trailing off, she began pacing the room. She snapped back to face me as something evidently brilliant occurred to her. “You know what you need?”

“Sleep?” I groggily guessed.

“Right now, yes, but I’m thinking about long-term.”

I thought again. “A therapist?”

“Possibly, but I was thinking what you need is a vacation.”

Turning back around to raise an eyebrow at her, I waited for her to elaborate.

“With all the crap you’ve got on your plate right now, you need to get away from it all,” she airily continued. “Have you ever heard of a place called Dominica?”

It sounded vaguely familiar. “You mean the Dominican Republic? Yeah, I went there when I lived on a sailboat.”

“No, just Dominica!” she corrected. “You’re thinking too far north. Dominica is a little island in the Caribbean down by Guadalupe. I know you lived on the ocean; I think it’d be the perfect place for you to visit!”

That certainly sounded appealing, but the logistics simply wouldn’t work. “I don’t have the money for that. Where would I even stay?”

My roommate grinned. “My grandmother has a second home on the island. Usually she rents it out while she’s not there, but I know for a fact she doesn’t have any renters right now. If I asked her, I bet I could pull some strings and get you a stay there free of charge.”

A quick note about my roommate: she has a large, pretty well-off family. Half of them lived in England and had vacation homes across the world; it was no surprise to me that one of her relatives had one in the Caribbean.

The idea was really starting to appeal to me but my brain kept conjuring more reasons it wouldn’t work. “That sounds great, but…I dunno. I’ve never travelled that far alone before.” “Then take some friends!” she cheerily suggested. “My grandmother wouldn’t mind, as long as you don’t break anything!"

Friends…as soon as she said that, three particular people came to mind. With the rental car debacle, I was hesitant to bring them to my world anytime in the foreseeable future, but a tiny tropical island would be pretty far away from that hubbub.

“I…I’ll think about it,” I relented, exhaustion weighing me down. “But right now, I just…need to get through finals.”

“Gotcha. Get to bed, girlie.”

Although I crawled into my bunk immediately after that, I don’t think I fell asleep for another hour at least. How could I when I just found out I’d inadvertently caused such a mishap? There was no easy way to explain this away, and although I doubted the investigators would seriously consider any suggestions about the culprits being the real characters, it still pointed to a multiversal anomaly out in plain sight.

The genie’s parting words echoed in my head. “And you’d also better prepare yourself for the repercussions of this, because they will not be pretty for any of us.”

Whatever repercussions he was talking about, I didn’t want to find out what they were.

In short, despite the complications, I survived finals week. I took my eight AM exam and suffered immensely, but I passed with a higher grade than I’d expected. My other exams passed without a hitch only because I buckled down and refused to let anything distract me, even my stresses and worries. Though I nearly collapsed under the weight of it all, I scraped by.

Wednesday was the day of my final exam, and it was over with by noon. I returned to my dorm not feeling anywhere near as relieved as a student done with finals should; there was still so much to linger on, so many things to stress about.

Against my better judgement, I pulled up that blog’s masterpost on the Shapeshifter Mystery. I thought that maybe, just maybe, if I read over it again, I might be able to rationalize the ridiculous situation and stop worrying about it so much.

Predictably, the exact opposite happened.

The post was just the same as I’d left it before, with the news video, the typed summary, and the overview of the fandom’s theories and topics of discussion. But when I reached the very bottom…the bolded word “UPDATE” was typed in large capital letters. Beneath that was a brief message from the original poster.

There’s been a small update on the case as of this Wednesday. After going through the airport records more thoroughly, the investigators have reported that they’ve most likely figured out where the “doppelgangers” came from: Seattle, Washington.

A steward and stewardess came forward and reported that they had seen the group on a flight from Seattle to Atlanta earlier that day. Their claims were verified upon checking passenger records and finding that the four suspects were indeed on the plane. It’s suspected that they forged the information they provided to purchase their tickets, because none of it matched existing records.

Right then, I thanked my lucky stars that we’d used the Winchesters’ information rather than mine, or else I’d be directly linked to the investigation. I really did not know how to explain myself in this situation without breaking my contract and also the laws of the universe.

This development has served to further the case in two ways: 1) It has further distanced J2M from the incident, and 2) It will likely make way for more investigation into what path the suspects travelled.

I’ll post more updates as they come. In the meantime, keep speculating, SPN fandom!

Welp. They’d officially figured out part of our route. If they tracked us back far enough to when I’d used my passport, they’d know who I was for sure and then I’d be dead meat. That made me want to panic.

Instead of panicking, however, I could think of multiple far more productive things I could partake in. Like getting far, far away from this mess, or maybe alerting the Winchesters of what was happening and asking for their advice/assistance?

Right then, my roommate’s invitation to go to Dominica was starting to sound really tempting. Provided the Winchesters were up for it, I could invite them along as my friends and distance myself from all the goings-on in the investigation. I’d feel infinitely more secure that way, and a vacation really was what I needed. I suspected the Winchesters would be thankful for another break as well. And…I really did not want to return home for the summer. As far as I knew, my family was still in shambles, and I couldn’t bear to be around that.

That settled it. I pulled my phone from my pocket and loaded my bookmarked Netflix tab. As soon as it appeared on the screen, I reached towards the image of the Men of Letters bunker I kept on hand. I hadn’t visited them at all since I devoted myself to finals; cutting out every distraction meant cutting out my few social ties for a while, too. All I had to do was show up in the bunker, fill them in on the situation, and make a plan.

The angels threw a wrench in that series of events as soon as I appeared.

Ordinarily I would appear in the bunker and find one or all of Team Free Will’s members quietly attending to some task. This time, all three of them were there alongside four other people I didn’t recognize. Everyone appeared to be in the middle of a scuffle in the war room, Castiel going hand-to-hand with two of the people at once and slashing at them with his angel blade. Sam and Dean were each fighting one of the two remaining people, and they didn’t appear to be faring quite as well against their attackers.

I probably would have bolted and hidden somewhere further into the bunker if not for one detail: I could see wings on each of the four attackers. The diminutive guy fighting Sam had dark fuchsia wings, the short-haired girl backing Dean into a corner had green wings covered in black speckles, and of the two foes Castiel faced, one had faded peach wings and the other had his goldenrod wings spread wide and high above the fray.

Against my better instincts, I impulsively slipped my phone into my pocket but otherwise stayed put. I’d seen Castiel’s wings a million times by this point, but never had the opportunity to see the wings of others angels. It didn’t look like anyone had even noticed I’d arrived, so I just took a few quiet steps backwards further into the library.

That was when someone noticed. Goldenrod-wings happened to turn his head my way, and he subtly nodded to his companion. Peach-wings, an older woman with braided blonde hair, pulled away from Castiel and turned her full attention to me.

Frozen, I stared back at her. Just as my limbs thawed enough to swing me around and carry me away, I was face-to-face with her. How could I have forgotten that angels teleport?

Before I could make another move, Peach-wings grabbed me with inhuman strength and held me against her vessel. Something cold pressed against my throat, and when I peeked down, I saw it was her angel blade. I don’t think there’s any shame in saying I openly whimpered when I realized just how screwed I was.

“Got her,” Peach-wings called, and right then the other angels stopped their attack.

Goldenrod-wings, a young black man in a light suit with a stitched golden tie, took a step away from the range of Castiel’s blade and nodded at us. “Very good, Annaron,” he said in a deep, accented voice.

When Castiel saw I’d gotten caught up in commotion, I send him a pleading look. His expression dampened.

“Raziel, let her go,” Castiel demanded of Goldenrod-wings. “She has nothing to do with this.”

"She has everything to do with this, Castiel,” Raziel calmly countered. “She is the little pet of yours who takes you travelling between worlds, isn’t she?"

Although Castiel didn’t answer, his silence was a definite affirmative.

I struggled in Annaron’s grasp, but she swiftly halted me by digging her blade just a bit further into my neck. She glared down at me and I whimpered again.

“Quite curious, isn’t she?” Raziel mused. “As far as I can tell, she’s a completely normal human…except somehow, she walks freely between worlds without the use of a spell. How exactly is that?”

I realized he was talking to me. All I could choke out was, “I can’t tell you.”

Though Raziel was vaguely disappointed, he waved a hand dismissively. “No matter. That’s not what we’re here for, I was merely curious.”

“Then what are you here for?” Dean demanded, daring to take a step forward. Speckle-wings held up her blade menacingly and he halted, but he still glared razor-edged daggers at Raziel and Annaron.

“You know what we’re here for by now,” Raziel cryptically replied. “This is only, what, the third time in two days that we’ve ambushed you?”

I can’t even leave you guys alone for two days, I lamented to myself.

“You don’t have to do this,” Castiel interrupted, backing away from Raziel.

“You know that we do,” Raziel replied, sounding slightly apologetic. “You’ve dug yourself into this hole, Castiel. Abiding by the rules of heaven, we must put a stop to this now.”

“We have done nothing wrong," Castiel insisted.

“Those two and the girl didn’t know of any wrongdoing,” Raziel agreed. “But you, Castiel, knew the dangers posed by your actions from the very beginning, and you still allowed this to happen.”

Shame flickered over Castiel’s face, but he kept a hard line of sight with Raziel as he slowly backed further away from the fray.

Out of nowhere, Dean started chuckling. Speckle-wings bristled with anger and raised her blade, but Raziel stopped her.

“Viviel, let him laugh,” Raziel soothed. “I have heard it is a natural fear response in some humans.”

"Oh, I’m not laughing ‘cause I’m afraid,” Dean corrected. “I’m laughing because you idiots let Cas get away long enough to do this.”

Dean and Castiel glanced at each other in the space of a millisecond, and before any of the angels could question what was going on, Castiel slammed his palm against a hidden corner of the wall.

The angels’ eyes widened as a flash spread outwards across the room. I shielded my eyes, hearing each of the angels howling in pained anger. Annaron’s grip on me lessened and then disappeared entirely, as did the threatening edge of her blade.

Once the flash subsided and I was free, I stumbled forward into the war room. Peering down towards the corner where Castiel was huddled, I found exactly what I expected: a hidden angel banishing sigil painted on the wall.

“Good job, Cas,” Sam praised as he pushed away from the wall. “I’m glad you thought to put that there in case they found us.”

“They will find us again,” Castiel warned. “That sigil will only keep them disoriented for a short time, and if I know Raziel, he won’t give up until he’s finished his mission.”

“That son of a bitch does not know when to quit,” Dean quipped as he stepped forward to join the group. “You think he bought it when I pretended I didn’t know what we did wrong?” He nudged Castiel with his elbow.

“I doubt it,” Castiel said uncertainly.

“Does anyone wanna tell me what’s going on?” I cut in.

The three of them paused and turned to face me, having momentarily forgotten I was even there.

“Right, um…” Castiel’s wings ruffled nervously. “Hello, [Y/N].”

Stepping forward to join in the discussion, I asked, “What were angels doing here?”

“We committed an act against heaven,” Castiel solemnly explained.

“And a bunch of angels have been looking for an excuse to wipe us out for a long time now,” Sam supplemented. “This was a golden opportunity for them.”

“…What did you guys do?” I asked, dreading the answer.

The response I got wasn’t really what I’d expected. Everyone turned quiet and looked away from me. Sam coughed uncomfortably.

“What?” I asked, unable to bear the tension.

“You see…” Castiel hesitated. “Recently, Dean and I…finally consummated our relationship.”

Well that definitely explained the awkwardness. At first, I really wasn’t sure what to say, but something occurred to me then and I reflexively spoke.

“Wait, just now?” I asked, incredulous. “I thought, like…it’s been almost a year, surely you would’ve already–”

“We were taking it at our own pace!” Dean defended, red faintly staining his cheeks. “I told you, Cas is…Cas is different, it took us time to–”

“Spare us the details, please,” Sam pleaded.

Shaking my head, I tried to wrap my mind around all of this. “What does that have to do with the angels?”

Castiel sighed. “Heaven is particularly wary of human-angel relationships because of their potential to produce Nephilim. As such, they have forbidden them.”

“But…you’re both guys!” I objected. “You can’t–”

“Raziel insists that if I wanted to, I could take a female vessel and conceive,” Castiel explained. “Although I certainly do not want to take a different vessel, he says that the risk is still too great to allow.”

“Really, he just wants an excuse to get rid of you two,” Sam added. “And he roped me into it, too. Since I apparently encouraged their relationship, he considers me guilty by extension.”

That spurred a frightening thought in me. “Wait, and since I was the one who got you two together, does that mean I’m also…?”

“He considers you a target, yes,” Castiel confirmed my fears. “I’m sorry to get you caught up in all of this, but…” He turned downtrodden. “If I had taken the time to fully consider the risks before acting, none of us would be in this mess.”

“Hey, hey, we’ve been over this,” Dean gently interjected. “You told me the risks, and I still said screw the risks and went ahead anyways. If we’re gonna play the blame game, I’m just as much to blame as you are.”

That got a smile out of Castiel, however small.

“’Sides, I don’t regret it! Soon as we can get those flying ass-monkeys off our backs, we are going right back to–”

Details!” Sam loudly interrupted, and Dean shut up on the matter.

“Ah, anyways…” Dean refocused. “We were wondering if maybe we could pop over to your world and hide out for a while? The angels probably wouldn’t know where we were, and even if they did, it’d take ‘em a while to get the magic together to follow us, if they even can.”

“Yeah, um…” I sighed. “About that. We’ve got a bit of a situation going on in my world currently.”

“What kinda situation?” Dean asked suspiciously.

“Remember that rental car from Atlanta?”

Dean had to think for a moment, but he did recall it. “Yeah, I nearly forgot about that.”

“…So did I,” I admitted. “It got found, and…they traced it back to the picture you all took with the rental guy. And now…you’re wanted by the police for car theft, violation of a rental contract, and possibly suspected kidnapping. There’s all this conflicting evidence and people don’t know what to make of it…it’s kind of a mess.”

“…Great,” Dean sighed with the utmost sarcasm. “So even if we do go to your world, we’re still gonna have to lay low.”

“I may actually have a solution for that. That’s why I was coming here in the first place…” Placing my palms together in front of me, I formally proposed, “How would you guys like to go on a vacation to Dominica with me?”

“To Domi-what now?” Dean asked.

“Dominica,” Castiel clarified. “A small island in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s incredibly remote and would serve as an excellent place to ‘lay low.’”

“I’ve heard of Dominica before,” Sam chimed in. “But…isn’t it basically a developing country? Where would we stay?”

“My roommate’s grandmother has a second home there,” I answered. “She said she’d let me stay there with some friends for free since they’re not renting it currently.”

Now that that had been put out there, the three of them quietly contemplated. It was easily the best option for all of us, but I understood their need to think about unexpected travel plans.

“Yeah, that seems like the best option on the table right now,” Sam decided. “At least we have enough warning to pack this time.”

Plans in place, the three of them dispersed to their rooms to begin the packing process. I waited in the war room, swiveling around in one of the rolling chairs. Now that this was settling into place, I was starting to feel way more excited than stressed. I had another vacation with my friends to look forward to, and we were spending it in the tropical Caribbean no less!

Back when I lived on a sailboat, my family had spent a lot of time in the northern Caribbean and I came to adore the environment there. People were friendly, fruit was tasty and plentiful, the climate was pleasantly warm, and the ocean was a constant presence wherever you went. I’d wanted to return there ever since I’d left, and this would be the perfect chance to do so.

Just a few minutes later, my friends returned. Sam and Dean each carried a large duffel while Castiel held two smaller bags; I assumed they were for the Winchesters since he didn’t require much in the way of physical goods.

Are we all set to go?” Dean asked.

“Yeah, I just have to pack my stuff and get things set up with my roommate,” I confirmed. “If you guys are ready to make the jump, we should go on ahead. Aren’t those angels supposed to be back anytime now?”

“Yes,” Castiel hurriedly affirmed. “We ought to leave as soon as possible.”

"Alright then, let’s head out."

Retrieving my phone from my pocket, I closed my apps and brought up the background I always used to get back home. It no longer showed an image of the outside of my house, but rather a picture I’d taken of the interior of my dorm room.

“Grab on, guys,” I instructed, and all three slung their bags over their shoulders and put a hand on me.

I reached a finger towards the image, focused on going home, and was instantly whooshed away from the bunker.

When I opened my eyes, we indeed weren’t in the bunker anymore. But…we certainly weren’t in my dorm room either.

“…What the hell?” Dean hissed out somewhere beside me.

That just about summed it up. Rather than appearing in my dorm, we were in some kind of empty, black space. There was nothing to see in any direction, just an endless black abyss. I could see Sam, Dean, and Castiel still standing around me clear as day even without any lights around to illuminate them, and just trying to figure out how that worked was giving me a headache.

My heartbeat went into overdrive as the surreality of the situation set in. Something went horribly wrong here; nothing even close to this had ever happened in all the time I’d been using my power.

I tried pushing my finger back onto the picture on my screen, but nothing happened. Wherever we were, we were stuck there.

“…Where are we?” Sam broke the tense, uncertain silence.

“I…don’t know,” Castiel replied.

If even Castiel didn’t know where we were, we were in big trouble.

“Congratulations,” said a dry voice behind us. “You’re in the center of your corner of the multiverse.”

All four of us spun around to see who it was. I wasn’t all that surprised to see my genie standing there, his arms crossed as he stared at us. My companions, on the other hand, bristled when he entered their line of sight. Castiel’s wings automatically rose into a defensive stance, blending with the darkness.

“Just when I thought we’d seen the last of you,” Dean gathered his confidence. “Good ol’ pinstripe McDouchey…face…” He trailed off, confident tone all but evaporating.

My genie raised an unamused eyebrow. “Good to see you’re just as terrible at on-the-spot insults as ever.”

“Yeah well, you’re terrible at…on-the-spot…insults…” Dean weakly countered, shrinking away somewhat.

“What did you do?” Sam leaped in, getting straight to the point.

“Hmm?” My genie hummed, distracted.

“Why did you bring us here?” Sam specified.

“Oh, that wasn’t me,” he innocently replied. “I’m just as stuck here as the rest of you.”

“Then who did?” Sam demanded.

Eyes lazily trailing to stare above us, my genie smacked his lips and replied, “They did.”

When I turned away to see who “they” were, I was met with one of the single most bewildering sights of my entire life. Hovering behind us up in the air were…two massive cats. As in, sleek, furry, giant housecats that towered above us and stared downwards through slitted pupils.

The one on the left was mostly transparent and filled with what I could only call stardust. It was predominantly purple in color with swaths of other pigments blended in, little glittering sparks and swirls moving under its skin. A thin, seemly tail protruded from its back, held high and proud as the creature silently judged us.

The cat on the right was made of two differing halves. Its upper half was covered in long, white fur, while its bottom half was covered in what looked stained glass. Thousands of random fragments of every imaginable color shone along its belly and back legs, all the way to the tip of its large, fluffy tail that was playfully flitting about.

All of us could only stare, utterly dumbfounded. We’d somehow just gone from fighting off a brigade of angels to being face-to-face with two giant, magical space cats.

Sure, why not?

“Client and her insane friends, meet my bosses,” my genie introduced. “Bosses, meet my client and her insane friends.”

The cat on the right let out a squeaky “mew,” that echoed louder than any cat sound I’d ever heard.

“Right, have to introduce you ladies by name,” my genie reminded himself. He gestured towards the galaxy-filled cat on the left. “This is Elle.” He then gestured towards the stained-glass cat on the right. “And this is Prism.”

Prism grinned, clearly pleased.

“Am I high?” Dean whispered, glancing frantically between us and the cats. “Are those two giant rainbow cats?”

I was just about ready to ask the same questions, but my genie strode towards us before I could.

“You all let me do the talking,” he muttered. “We’re all in trouble here, but I know how to speak to them better than any of you reckless knuckleheads. You let me do that, and I might just get them to let us off easy.”

He stepped in front of our group without waiting for a response. Team Free Will looked at me as though I might have answers as to what was going on, but I didn’t. Did this have something to do with those “repercussions” my genie had mentioned?

“So, Elle, Prism,” my genie greeted in an overly-sweet voice. “To what do we owe the pleasure of you summoning us here today?"

Elle squinted down at him and growled a low note in her throat.

“Right, I…I do already know exactly why you summoned us here,” my genie conceded. “Just trying to make friendly conversation.”

“Mrowl,” Elle’s voice menacingly boomed around the black space.

“Get to the point? Yes, well, I actually think there’s quite a lot of discussion to be had about this before we reach a verdict–”

“Mrow,” Elle interrupted.

“No, really, I have some great points that you should hear out before you go tossing around punishments will-nilly–”

“Hey, giant cats,” Dean called out, disrupting the discussion. “Care to tell us what the hell is going on here?"

Both of the felines’ eyes turned towards Dean then, more curious than threatening. My genie looked back at us, anger and desperation twisting his face as he helplessly watched us get involved.

"Mew mew,” Prism chirped, almost appearing to laugh.

“What’d she say?” Sam whispered to Castiel.

“I can’t understand them,” Castiel replied, befuddled. “This is not just the language of cats, it’s…something otherworldly; even I don’t speak it.”

“Oh, for god’s sake,” the genie angrily muttered to himself. “She said, ‘I like this one, he has spunk.’”

Dean looked oddly flattered to have been complimented by a cat, but he refocused. “You didn’t answer my question,” he said in the toughest voice he could muster.

The two cats looked at each other briefly. Elle turned her starry gaze back to Dean and vocalized, “Mrow rowl.

“Translation?” Dean immediately turned to the genie.

“She said, ‘You should already know what’s going on.’”

“Well, I don’t!” Dean countered, growing frustrated.

“Mew?” Prism said, question evident in her voice.

By then, the genie had taken to automatically acting as translator. “’Didn’t your genie tell you?” He faltered then, hurriedly turning back to his bosses to explain himself. “I-I did tell them! Er, I told my client, at least. I assumed she would spread the word to the rest.”

“Mrowl?” Elle challenged.

“I may have been somewhat nonspecific and cryptic like I sometimes can be, yes,” the genie admitted. “But I told her where to go to find out about the situation! You did do that, didn’t you?” He glanced hopefully at me.

Swallowing down my fear, I stuttered, “Y-yeah, I did. This is about how we got caught on camera and…and how people are freaking out over the conflicting evidence, right?”

Elle nodded her head once, sending the galaxies under her skin swirling about. “Mrow row, rowl owl.”

My genie translated again. “She says, ‘Your actions have threatened the sanctity of the multiverse, and that cannot be allowed.’ See, I told you,” he added smugly.

“We haven’t threatened anything,” Dean insisted

“Mewl mew,” Prism calmly countered.

“’People in your friend’s world already suspect a multiversal anomaly,’” translated the genie.

“But…but those are just people on internet forums,” I worked up the courage to defend myself. “No one really thinks that’s what happened, they’re just messing around.”

“Mrowl mrow,” Elle meowed firmly.

“’It’s still a risk we can’t take. Multiversal security has been breached by less in the past.’”

“Alright, so maybe we messed up,” Sam joined the conversation, stepping forward to stand beside his brother. “What are you planning to do about it?"

“Row, rowl mrow,” Elle rumbled.

My genie seemed hesitant to translate this one, but he did anyways. “’Punishment…for everyone involved.’”

“Mewl,” Prism said, looking straight at the genie.

“Yes, I know that means me too,” the genie replied, looking utterly defeated.

“What kind of punishment?” Sam dared to ask, apparently unintimidated by the creatures before him.

“Mrow row, row owl,” Elle said.

“She’s going to nullify [Y/N]’s wish to confine her and you three to your own worlds,” the genie explained.

“What?” I exclaimed on impulse.

“And as for me, they’re going to shut down the business I’ve built my life around,” he added bitterly. “You may have no sympathy for me, but if that happens, every last wish I’ve ever granted for someone will come undone. Surely that prods something in your human morality."

It really did. Though some part of me would undoubtedly enjoy seeing my genie get his just desserts, I certainly didn’t want that if it meant all the people who’d actually been helped by his business would lose what they most needed.

Unsure what to do, I desperately cried out to the cats, “You can’t do that!”

Both otherworldly felines turned their gazes towards me. They didn’t make a peep, and I assumed they were waiting for me to elaborate.

“Listen, my–my wish,” I faltered somewhat under their watchful eyes, but forced myself to keep going. “It’s done nothing but good, I promise. This is the one consistently good thing in my life right now, you can’t take that away. I…I need this.”

Considering this for a moment, Prism meowed, “Mewl mew ew.”

My genie smirked. “She says, ‘That sounds kind of selfish to me. Not a good reason to let you keep your wish intact.’”

Quaking internally, I raised a shaky hand towards Sam, Dean, and Castiel. “It’s helped them too. It’s not just about me.”

“Rowl owl,” Elle commented.

“’If it is something that’s good only for the four of you, that just makes it a sensible punishment.’”

I knew she was right, but I couldn’t give up. After everything we’d been through, we couldn’t possibly give this up now, not in front of two massive space cats.

Gah, when did my life get so weird?

“What if…” my brain pieced together something vague but promising. “What if we could prove to you that taking away my wish would do more harm than good? That it can help people outside of just us?”

The cats tilted their heads inquisitively at me, silently urging me to elaborate.

“I know we got a bit careless and messed up,” I admitted. “But it’s not as bad as it could have been, and…I think we deserve a chance to show that we don’t deserve that punishment. Please…”

Elle and Prism seemed to be seriously considering this. I was counting on them being more reasonable than my genie had been, and judging by what I’d gathered of their characters thus far, I was certain we’d have a shot at pulling this off.

“Mrowl,” Elle finally broke the tense, pondering silence. “Mrow rowl row.”

Though his face twisted in genuine surprise, my genie translated, “She…said…’Very well, we’ll give you an opportunity. Prove your wish can make a positive difference of a large enough scale and your punishment will be erased.’” He paused, turning back to his bosses and venturing, “Could I perchance get a shot at redemption as well?”

The felines’ unrelenting glares said everything, and he sheepishly turned away without another word.

“Thank you so much,” I gushed at the cats. “You won’t regret this, w-we’ll find a way to show you how much of a difference this wish can make, I promise.”

“Mrowl,” Elle said.

“She’s giving you one day to prove your case,” explained the genie.

“One day?” Dean repeated in disbelief. “I’m sorry, that’s not enough. Give us…a month, maybe?”

“Mrow,” Elle countered.

“She says, ‘Three days.’”

“Two weeks,” Dean retorted.

“Row.”

“’One week.’”

A week and a half!” Dean insisted.

Elle squinted at Dean for several long moments. “Rowl,” she finally said in a low voice.

Though somewhat surprised by the turn of events, the genie supplied, “She says that’s okay. A week a half.”

Thank goodness for Dean’s excellent bargaining skills.

“Ewl ew,” Prism mewed.

“She wants you to know that if you cause any more multiversal anomalies, the deal’s off,” the genie helpfully explained.

Nodding my head, I mumbled, “That’s fair…”

“Mrooowl,” Elle drawled.

“’And until you prove it’s worthy of keeping intact, your wish will be suspended.’”

My voice turned even quieter when I repeated, “Yeah, that’s fair too…”

“Mew!” Prism chirped, smiling and baring little fangs.

Eyes widening, my genie spun around to face his bosses in disbelief. “That’s it? You’re just…letting them go on their merry little way?”

Both felines nodded, Elle calmly bowing her head and Prism energetically bobbing hers.

“But…but…surely that goes against some aspect of protocol.”

“Mewl,” Prism sharply replied.

"Yes, I know that you’re the ones who decide what protocol is in the first place, but you’re seriously giving them a free pass?”

Neither of them dignified him with an answer, leaving him to flounder as he helplessly looked between us and his bosses.

Gathering himself somewhat, my genie steadied his voice. “So…since they’re being given the oh-so-gracious chance to go free until they prove they don’t deserve punishment, shouldn’t I also-”

Elle’s tail gave an audible flick, and in an instant, a cage ensnared the genie out of thin air. Made of thick bars on all sides, it looked like it was formed of the same sort of space material that swirled about freely in Elle’s body.

Once he’d recovered from the shock, my genie pressed on the space bars to no avail. He clenched his fists as he tried to concentrate on something- magic, I assumed -but nothing happened. Finally, he tore off his shades and threw them to the bottom of his cage in a rage.

Prism turned back to our group. “Mew mewl, mew.”

Silence hung in the air as we wondered what the heck she was saying. Elle broke through that with a throaty growl in the direction of the genie’s cage.

“Alright, I’ll translate!” he conceded, refusing to meet anyone’s eyes. “She said, ‘Good luck. I have high hopes for you four.’” He barked a cruel laugh and brought his piercing eyes up towards us. “I for one don’t have any hopes for you. Don’t know how you’re going to prove that wish is worthy. It’s a selfish one if I’ve ever heard of it.”

He narrowed his eyes specifically to me. “And when you leave me here to rot in this cage, after every risk and exception I’ve made for you, I want you to think of how you ruined all the lives I’ve worked tirelessly to better in my career. You are so far out of your element that it’s actually making me pity you. So yeah…good. Luck.

Caught under his sneering gaze, I almost didn’t notice Prism swish her large tail. The sound of tinkling glass filled my ears as her colorful facets moved through the air, and in less time than it took to blink, we were back in my dorm room.

The shock of being surrounded by a physical space with shape and color sent me stumbling backwards, thankfully into the cheap but sufficient mattress of my dorm’s bed. Sam, Dean, and Castiel were all with me, looking just as shaken. Even Castiel’s feathers, which had blended so well with the blackness of where we’d just been that I could barely see them, were standing on end after the encounter.

Unsure what else to do or say, I shakily slipped my phone out of my pocket and dialed my roommate. “Hey roomie, uh…I…I’d like to take you up on that Dominica offer now.”
She was thrilled that I’d decided to go through with it after all. She’d already told her grandmother about the offer, and of course the older woman had agreed that it was all fine and dandy; as long as we didn’t break anything, that is.

There were very specific instructions included in our brief phone call. The house we would be staying at was called Villa Florapassa, located on the north end of the little island. A caretaker would be present to look after the house, as one always was whenever her grandmother wasn’t around. The caretaker would be the one to pick us up from the airport and would also look after us as typical villa guests. He’d be expecting us by tomorrow afternoon, which only gave us a short window to get over there, but it should be enough.

Dean happened to overhear the single word “airport” over my phone’s speaker, and he took his first chance to comment as soon as the phone fell from my ear.

“Okay listen, you already dragged us on a crazy series of flights before,” he rushed to get out his grievances, “and I am not going through all that again. Four airplane trips in the span of a year is already too much, and if I have to go on any more than that–”

“I should just be able to teleport us this time,” Castiel interrupted. “Seeing as there’s no magic-tracking genie involved. I sincerely doubt the angels would be able to sense my grace between worlds.”

“Oh…” I absorbed this new information. “So, no flying for us. That’ll make traveling way easier.”

“I don’t think we can just…appear in Dominica, though,” Sam pointed out. “She said the caretaker would be expecting us tomorrow afternoon, probably whenever a flight comes in."

“We’ll just have to plan our teleporting, then,” Dean countered. “Think you can handle that, Cas?”

Castiel squinted. “You know that I can, Dean.”

“Yeah, I do, I’m just messin’ with ya.” The hunter slung an arm around Castiel’s shoulders to pull him towards his side, and though the angel kept up a grumpy pretense over his abilities being doubted, he let Dean maneuver him freely.

Sam and I huddled around my desk to look at flight times on our laptop. If we were going to make it seem like we’d come in on a plane, we’d have to research the flight paths people typically took to Dominica. We found that from where my college was located, we could take a plane to San Juan, Puerto Rico before the day was out. Although we would have to spend a night on the island, at noon the next day we could take a small plane into Dominica that would arrive around 2:00.

“Is that the fake travel path we’re going with?” I asked Sam as he gave the information a once-over.

“It’s probably the best one for getting there by tomorrow afternoon,” Sam confirmed.

“So we just have to pretend that we’ve been in Puerto Rico when we arrive?”

“Or we could actually go to Puerto Rico. Nothing’s stopping us from teleporting there and spending the night if we wanted. It’d give us a head start on laying low.”

Sam was completely right. Even with all the other responsibilities on our shoulders right then, this was still a vacation, right? Why shouldn’t we drop in on another island to get in the Caribbean spirit?

“Everyone cool with going to Puerto Rico tonight?” I asked the room.

Dean and Castiel had been passing the time by looking through the contents on my half of the dorm. The former was presently flipping through one of my textbooks, scrunching up his face at its contents.

"They really make you read this crap?” Dean mumbled. He glanced up when he realized I’d asked him something and offhandedly replied, “Oh yeah, sure.”

Castiel joined us at the desk. “Teleporting directly into Puerto Rico should be no problem. When would you like to depart?”

“I gotta pack first!” I said, leaping up from my chair and opening my closet. I glanced back at my companions while I pulled down my travel bag from its shelf. “You guys brought money, right?”

Everyone proceeded to pat their pockets to check, and they nodded affirmatively.

“Good,” I breathed a sigh of relief. “’Cause, uh…I have some money I’ve been saving up over the semesters, but it’s not gonna be enough for all of us. I’m only a college student, heh…”

While everyone continued snooping through my belongings, I packed up as many clothes as I thought I’d need, including a bathing suit, as well as toiletries and basic supplies. My bag was barely even full by the time I was done…maybe I had learned a thing or two about packing light since our last trip.

Sliding my packed bag up and over my shoulder, I checked, “Are we ready to go, then?”

Everyone turned away from what they’d been doing. Dean dropped the book he was squinting at, Castiel returned from rifling through the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, and Sam closed my laptop. Each of them gathered their belongings and looked ready to go.

Steadying my bag over my shoulder, I joined them in the center of the dorm. “To Puerto Rico we go.”

Placing an arm around the Winchesters and a hand on top of my head like he always did, Castiel teleported us out of my room. Swaying under the whooshing sensation, I found my footing again just a moment later when we reappeared in totally different surroundings.

The first thing I noticed was the salty taste in the air. The next thing I noticed was how incredibly warm and humid everything felt, followed by catching the sound of a distant rumble that could only be the ocean.

Castiel had touched down in the middle of a sidewalk in a quiet urban setting. Restaurants and small, touristy shops were lined up along the street, and every few buildings there was one labelled “Condado” this or “Condado” that. I wasn’t fluent in Spanish, but I’d taken some last semester and I suspected the word referred to the neighborhood we were in.

Come to think of it, most of the buildings in sight were labelled in Spanish.

Something else occurred to me then that probably would have been good to ask earlier. “Um…do any of you guys speak Spanish?”

“I understand all languages,” Castiel reminded me.

“That’s right…good. I took a Spanish class last semester, but I am by no means fluent.”

It was already dark in San Juan when we arrived. Practically no one was out at that time save for a handful of tourists, and as the quiet darkness washed over me, all my exhaustion came crashing down at once. Between completing finals, being held hostage by angels, and meeting my genie’s feline bosses, I think I was due for some sleep.

“We should probably look for a hotel,” Sam voiced my exact thoughts.

“I’ll read the signs and find one for us,” Castiel volunteered, setting off down the sidewalk and surveying the signs on each establishment.

The rest of us followed after him, taking in the sights. We were in a tucked-away corner of San Juan practically made for tourists. As we walked, I caught glimpses of the beach between the hotel towers and clustered stores. Though I longed to gravitate towards the ocean, I forced myself to walk straight ahead.

Castiel turned down a darkened side street at some point, and though wary, we followed him since he seemed to know where he was going. The angel guided us down a narrow, one-way street towards a quaint apartment-like structure on the roadside.

“This should suffice,” Castiel intoned as we caught up to him. “The rates they’ve posted in their window are the most reasonable, and I sense no negative energies emanating from it.”

“You heard the angel,” Dean said as he climbed the steps to the building’s open front door. “Let’s go.”

He seemed just as eager to get some rest as I was. I followed him into the building and was hit with a blast of air conditioning upon stepping through the doorway. Dean was waiting for us by the check-in counter, where a woman was typing away at a computer.

Smirking confidently, Dean held up a finger towards us and mouthed, “I got this.”

Somewhere off to my left, Sam breathed the sigh of a long-suffering younger brother and settled in to watch whatever unfolded.

“Perdon,” Dean greeted as he leaned across the counter.

The woman abandoned her computer to look up at Dean, waiting to see what he wanted.

“Yo quiero…” Dean trailed off, visibly struggling to think of the words. “Tres…camas!” He snapped his fingers as he recalled the word for bed. “Por uno…noche. Por favor.”

“I speak English,” the woman patiently informed him. “Most people here are bilingual.”

Immediately flushing from shame, Dean hid part of his face under his hand and muttered, “Right, uh…three beds for one night, please.”

I held back my laughter up until Dean rejoined our group with a room key in hand. We piled into the cramped, old elevator, and the second its doors slid shut, I burst into giggles.

Glaring disapprovingly at me, Dean just crossed his arms. “Just wanted to practice my Spanish.”

“No, you were just trying to show off,” Sam corrected him. “You took like, a week of Spanish in tenth grade.”

“But I still remembered the word for bed!” he triumphantly retorted as the elevator opened to our floor.

Striding ahead before anyone else could question his linguistic prowess, Dean located our room and fit the key in the lock. The door swung open to reveal a decently-sized hotel room, with two single beds in the middle and a doorway leading to a room with a double bed.

“I’m beat,” Dean announced, heading for the separate room. “Cas, you comin’?”

“Of course,” Castiel replied, trailing after Dean towards the double bed.

After all this time, the casual air of Dean and Castiel’s relationship was a little surreal. For all the awkward fumblings and unspoken routines that had been present during the entirety of our Alaska trip, now everything about the two of them being together just…was. The pair shared a room and bed every night, and that was that.

“Hey guys,” Sam called after them. “Don’t, uh…you know.”

“We’re not gonna,” Dean defiantly assured. “We’re not stupid, that could bring the angels right to us, other world or not.”

“That didn’t stop you the first time,” Sam muttered.

If Dean heard him, he ignored it as he closed the door behind him and his boyfriend.

Sighing as he dropped his bag beside one of the remaining beds, Sam told me, “I think I’m gonna go to bed too. It’s been a hell of a day.”

“Same,” I agreed as I crawled into the last bed. “Maybe…maybe if we have enough time, we can look around San Juan tomorrow.”

“We don’t have to be in Dominica until 2:00, so we probably will.” Sam flipped a switch on the lamp beside his bed, cloaking the room in shadows. “G’night.”

“Yeah…good night.”

As tired as I was, I didn’t expect to get good sleep that night. How could I with everything that had just happened?

We were far away from the ruckus caused by the investigation in Atlanta, but that was only one unsteady comfort surrounded by a storm of discomforts. Not only were we a target for angelic wrath, but now we were also tasked by two multiversal beings with proving that my wish, the one thing keeping me afloat, was worth keeping. How was I supposed to make a wish that had initially only been made for my benefit into something that could leave a large, positive impact? Especially when my power had been stripped from me in the meantime?

As my mind procured and discarded idea after idea long into the night, all the while staving off surging paranoia, I drifted off. I really did need a vacation. And who knows? Maybe going to another country would provide just the combination of inspiration and resources we needed to solve this conundrum.