Dean Winchester woke up and knew something was wrong.
Of course, that was kind of like saying that Dean Winchester woke up and the sky was blue. It wasn’t that every single morning ever meant another danger to himself, his family, or mankind in general, but it was close enough that having his first thought upon gaining consciousness be, “What’s wrong?” was almost comforting.
He even had a routine. He checked the bed and then the room. Since he had slept in his jeans and t-shirt, he just had to shove his feet into his boots and grab his gun to be ready to check the hallway (clear), the kitchen (clear), the library (clear), and the war room (Castiel sitting at the table, head titled back, surrounded by a golden light).
Golden light trumped gun, so Dean tucked it into the back of his pants before walking forward.
Slowly, the angel the angel raised his left hand, index finger extended. Dean shifted with a scowl, but waited until the light faded and Castiel’s blue eyes, looking oddly happy, were looking at him.
“Good news on Angel Radio for a change?”
“Sort of.” Cass almost smiled. “That was Ezekiel.”
Dean’s body clenched down so hard he almost broke a tooth. Cass sensed it, of course, and shook his head.
“No, the real Ezekiel.”
“You said he was dead.”
“By all accounts, he was. He fell, his wings burned off.” Cass’ eyes only slightly betrayed his memories of that night. “He went into the ocean and didn’t return.”
“But evidently he was only gravely injured and managed to heal himself.” Cass stood up, an unusual sign of his excitement. “He also saw no reason to reveal himself before now, considering the turmoil in Heaven. Had other angels known he was alive, every side would have tried to recruit him.” Cass nodded to himself. “He’s reached out to me, and I believe we are in a position to help him.”
Dean held up his hands. “Now, hold on a moment. Not that I’m not happy you’ve heard from an old friend, but, uh, the last time I heard that name—”
“It’s hardly Ezekiel’s fault Gadreel used him as an alias, Dean.”
“Hey, look, no offense, but when was the last time we heard from your old feathered bunch and it was good news?”
To Dean’s surprise, Castiel’s eyes narrowed. “Ezekiel has fought beside me in many battles, and saved my life on several occasions. No angel in Heaven holds him in anything but the highest respect.”
Dean stepped back slightly. “All right, then. What does he want?”
“He wants to return to Heaven.”
“And the reason he can’t just point his tail upward is?”
Cass scowled. “It’s been several weeks now, Dean. When are you going to stop mentioning angel tails every ten minutes?”
“I’m not sure even you are going to live that long, Cass,” Sam said, stepping into the room in a white tee, slippers, and plaid pajama bottoms. Dean looked at the coffee mug in his hand and reached for it. Sam brought it quickly to his lips and blew on it. With a face at the ungrateful bitch, he went to the kitchen, nodding when Cass and Sam followed him and unsurprised when he found Jack in the kitchen eating a bowl of something with milk.
Sam muttered something about teeth. Dean didn’t really tune back in until he was halfway down a cup of coffee.
“Ezekiel wants to return to Heaven to help defend it against Michael,” Cass was saying. “But he’s concerned that Naomi’s only interest is in watching over Heaven’s souls, not in preparing for the battle.”
“Battle?” Sam asked.
“Does Ezekiel think Michael’s taking his army to Heaven?” Jack asked, a drop of milk on his chin.
“Ezekiel’s not talking about Michael.”
Oh, great. “Who then?” Dean asked.
“Evidently, there was one group even Michael didn’t want to recruit, and the ghouls have decided to take what Michael didn’t want to give them.”
“Which is?” Sam asked.
After a shower and breakfast and several more cups of coffee, Dean met with the others in the war room. Jack was on his laptop, Castiel was reading a book, and Sam was on the phone.
“You’re sure it wasn’t any of them?” Sam, wearing jeans and a plaid shirt now, asked someone on the phone. He nodded as Dean took a chair. “All right. Can you get back to me about Roy?”
Dean looked over Jack’s shoulder. The kid was doing the usual sort of search for odd crimes, particularly missing persons.
Sam hung up. “All right, that makes two of Michael’s vampires who’ve gone missing, and no one’s taking the credit.”
Jack nodded. “We can add that to a missing confirmed Michael werewolf and two witches.”
“OK, so we’re going with the idea that ghouls are eating monsters and gaining their powers,” Dean said. “But if they’ve had that ability all along, why are they only using it now?”
“A ghoul can take on the shape and the memories of what it eats,” Jack recited. “But there’s been nothing in the lore about taking on another monster’s powers.”
“Ezekiel assumes that Michael did experiment on some ghouls before deciding not to include them in his army,” Castiel said. “But it may also be the case that some vampires or werewolves out there began as ghouls, and we were unaware of it before.”
“Why would they keep that sort of power to themselves?” Dean demanded. “This has got to be something new.”
“But why would Michael go to the trouble of making super-ghouls, and then just abandon them?” Sam asked.
“Because he doesn’t care,” Castiel said. “When he realized they weren’t going to serve his purpose, he probably didn’t give them a second thought.”
Whatever answer Dean was going to give was lost as his phone rang.
Frowning at the name on the screen, he put the phone to his ear.
“Dean,” the woman’s voice said. “There’s a giant guy with wings standing outside my hotel. He told me to call you.”