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mistakes aren't always regrets

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The door swung closed behind them, blocking out the fresh air and in a lot of fresh noise. Gabe practically bounced on his toes, taking everything in with bright eyes. Dean was less impressed. It was just a bar. Not a dive, but nothing to write home about, full of the usual assortment of people trying to forget their week with alcohol and maybe the chance of a hook-up. Dean steered Gabe toward a back table where he could rubberneck to his heart's content.

Dean kept Gabe more or less in sight as he went to grab them some beers. Not that Gabe ever seemed inclined to do anything in a bar but watch everything. His eyes flitted from person to person: watching the bartender pouring another shot for a man more than half-slumped against the bar, glancing at the knots of people gathered over by the pool table and dart boards, lingering over the guy hitting on a girl miles out of his league. Dean just hoped no one would decide Gabe was trying to start something this time. He had enough bruises from taking out that ghost; a fight was not on his agenda for the evening.

At this bar, the game of choice seemed to be darts, judging by the number gathered in that corner. Dean watched a fold of money changing hands and fidgeted with his beer. They were getting low on ready funds, so he'd been relying more heavily on cards than he should. If he'd been alone, he'd already be over there. But he was sharing the table with Gabe,who was watching the bar patrons with a bright intensity that Dean felt was just asking for trouble. His attention slid back to the corner.

"Are you going to play?" Gabe's voice hummed in his ear, just louder than the ambient bar-noise of jukebox and drink-fueled conversations.

Dean considered saying no, then just shrugged. "Thinking about it."

Gabe bounced to his feet, out of Dean's personal space. "Bet you're good."

"About that..." Dean pushed back in his chair. Their eyes met, and Gabe grinned.

"Get better after you've been playing awhile?" Dean didn't smile so much as smirk. "Well, my lips are sealed." He actually followed that declaration with the whole little kid's zip-lock-and-toss pantomime.

Dean rolled his eyes and stood. He could keep an eye on Gabe and play darts, too. Not winning too much too fast didn't take that much concentration. "Come on, let's go 'lose' some money."


After two nights outside Mankato, Gabe announced, "You are not leaving me here even one more day."

Dean let the room's interesting decorating scheme consciously register again and admitted to himself that he could hardly blame him. The taxidermy alone was off-putting. Still, he had things to do -- specifically, people to see -- and could hardly take time out in the middle of this hunt to play babysitter. He raised his eyebrows. "Or what?"

Gabe scowled ferociously, a look that had been significantly more intimidating when the Trickster-Angel had been flashing his powers around. "Or -- or I'll think of something, and whatever it is, you won't like it."

Something about the declaration -- the words or tone -- set off echoes of prank-wars past. Dean was tempted to call Gabe on his bluff and see if he had any follow through... and then he let himself really think about potentially starting a prank war with Gabriel and what the escalation curve from short-sheets to, say, brand-new Armageddon might be.

Giving into vague threats set a bad precedent, but Dean had long been an adherent to the theory that not admitting he'd given in meant not really losing. And anyway, Dean knew he'd been sliding down slippery slopes with Gabe for awhile. "Fine," he said and kept talking right over Gabe's yes!, "you do exactly what I say, you don't talk unless asked, and if you screw up, you're never going to even ask to come with me again. Deal?"

"Ok, yes, deal." Gabe's eyes were bright, and his smile wide. Dean almost felt guilty -- everyone screwed up interviewing civilians, especially at first. Leading people to give up the right kind of information, when they didn't believe their own senses and too direct questions might cause them to balk... it was an art, as much as a science. He just hoped Gabe wouldn't screw things up too badly before Dean figured out what he was dealing with.

Dean put Gabe in a hastily picked-out suit, but he didn't have time to knock together an id for him, even if he'd felt inclined to waste time making one that would only get used once. Dean knocked on the door of the latest victim's sister's house, Gabe at his elbow.

Miss Maggie Klammer opened the door, took in the suits and Dean's open wallet, and shifted to block the door. "Yes?"

"Agents Michaels and Dall," Dean said, snapping the id closed and tucking it in his jacket. "We're looking into the death of Joseph Collins."

She frowned. "J.J. didn't call to tell me anyone would be coming by."

J.J.... J.J.... Detective James Callahan, lead investigator. Damn, a personal relationship between the survivors and local law enforcement could throw a wrench in the works. "We've asked local law enforcement not to announce federal interest."

She raised an eyebrow, crossed her arms, and leaned her hip against the doorjamb, as good as saying they were getting no further than the porch. "Even to family?"

"You caught us," Gabe cut in. Dean tried to keep his reaction from showing. "We didn't stop in at the station first. I know, I know, procedure, but what's the point of getting fresh eyes on someone else's old impressions? We've found it's better to talk to the witnesses first, without any preconceptions, even if the locals don't like it." He leaned in and dropped his voice. "Look, I'm sure Detective Callahan is doing the best he can, but how many homicides does he see in a year? How many like this? This is what we do. Let us help."

As he spoke, Maggie began unconsciously echoing his body language, leaning forward and let her arms go slack. She searched Gabe's face for a long moment, while Dean held his breath, then she nodded and opened the door wide enough to admit them. "What do you need to know?"

Dean reluctantly admitted that Gabe was good at this and shoved down all the reasons it should bother him that Gabe could be a good liar.


The crack of her palm against his cheek carried clearly over jukebox and bar chatter. Her chest heaved with an angry breath -- he tried not to watch, not wanting a second slap -- before she wheeled and stalked away.

"I can't believe you asked that. Who cares if they're real?" Gabe sounded more than a little peeved.

Dean rubbed his jaw; the girl had a decent arm. That hadn't been what he'd asked, he'd asked if she were real; though he probably should have guessed how it was likely to be misheard. In his defense, she was exactly Gabriel's type -- a little too perfect and just a touch fake, like she'd stepped off the cover of a motorcycle magazine.

Gabe flopped dramatically into a chair. "I was so in."

Dean shook his head. Weird though it seemed, she really had seemed into Gabe. As if he hadn't already known that hitting bars with Gabe was a bad idea. "I know you weren't thinking you were going to take her back to the room."

"Why'd you think I invited her over? She'd have gone for you, too. If you weren't such an ass."

Dean gave him a look. "Life doesn't actually work like porn."

"I don't see why not." Gabe swept his gaze over Dean, with an expression barely shy of leering.

Dean rolled his eyes and looked away, watching a couple of girls who were trying with limited success to turn the small open area in front of the jukebox into a dance floor. It was far from the first time Gabe had given him that look, and he'd have thought Gabe would be tired of that joke by now, but no.

"You know, technically, I'm a virgin."

That yanked Dean's attention back. He snorted. "'Technically,' you're really not."

Gabe tipped his head and drawled, "Oh, really." Dean shot him a glare to shut him up, because seriously, that was getting old. "Fine, kidding. But does it count if it happened before the hospital?"


"You are no fun."

"Nope," he agreed and hid his smile.


One of the problems with surviving an apocalypse was the way it dicked with Dean's sense of scale. After fighting demons and angels and the Horsemen and, oh, the devil himself, everything else seemed petty. Easy. It was easy to forget that shapeshifters were once the toughest things he'd ever gone after -- which led to underestimating this one, because after all, it wasn't like he was taking on Heaven's armies or anything.

Freaking stupid way to die, with a copy of his own hand wrapped around his throat and a replica of his face sneering at him. He scrabbled unsuccessfully at the hand, kicked out to no real effect. He needed to fight dirtier, but the creature knew his tricks like its own skin. He couldn't bring himself to claw at a face that looked so much like his own, even as he realized he actually wanted to live, even as his vision darkened around the edges --

The monster's copycat green eyes widened, its hand convulsed then fell away. Unsupported, Dean slid down the wall.

Gabe was there, kneeling and wide-eyed himself. "Are you okay? Dean?" Dean's eyes drifted to 'his' corpse lying just behind him. Gabe snapped his fingers in his face, and he blinked and refocused.

"How'd you--" he croaked.

"I went for the pretty one." Dean attempted to glare the real answer out of him. "You would've been trying to stab it, not choke it: therefore, not you." His hand smudged at something on Dean's face. Dean suspected it made little difference to his overall appearance. "I was ready to apologize if I was wrong."

Dean glanced towards the shifter which was most definitely dead. His throat felt like he'd been swallowing gravel. Still. "I'm sure I would've appreciated it."

Gabe tipped his face up until the corpse was out of his sight, replaced by Gabe's frown. "You should shut up now." He shifted closer, pulled Dean's arm across his shoulders, and hauled him up. While Dean was finding his feet, Gabe slung his arm around Dean's back.

The dizziness passed, and he tried to pull away. Rather than releasing him, Gabe tightened the arm around his waist. Dean tugged pointedly. "I'm fine. Weren't you at the motel?"

"Great, did you hit your head, too?" Gabe blatantly ignored Dean's attempts to stand on his own. "Now, which way's out?"

Dean tried to ignore the niggling voice that said he knew damn well he'd left Gabe behind; questioning the timely rescue seemed downright ungrateful.


Dean had parked Gabe in a motel near the highway with a not-entirely-bogus research assignment and continued on to Bobby's himself. He'd been surprised the man wasn't home -- judging by the mail he'd been gone a couple days -- but it meant he could 'borrow' some of the remaining holy oil no questions asked. He set up the circle inside an old factory on his way back to the motel, wanting to get this over with, worried he might talk himself back out of finding out.

It didn't take much to get Gabe to come 'investigate' the abandoned factory. Dean felt a twinge of guilt over the subterfuge before suppressing it ruthlessly. He knew 'Gabe' had to be a lie -- if Gabriel really didn't see this coming, then Dean should feel more surprised than guilty.

Dean let Gabe get a little ahead of him as they entered the echoing space that had once been a production line, before everything useful had been stripped out and shipped away. He flicked his lighter and let it drop. The oil caught; the flames, as always, spread to form a preternaturally perfect circle. Gabe cursed and jumped back towards the center of the circle. Dean's mouth tightened. "What the hell, Dean!"

He crossed his arms, leaned back against the dingy wall. "Pop quiz time. To pass, all you have to do is step out of the circle."

"The circle made of fire." Gabe crossed his arms right back at him and looked deeply unimpressed. Dean's fingers tightened on his sleeve, and he remained silent. After a moment, Gabe let his arms drop to his sides. "Fine," he said flatly, resigned, and damn but Dean had known, he'd always known, and he'd had no excuse -- "You better have an extinguisher handy."

Gabe stepped backwards to the edge of the space, swung his arms back like a little kid gearing up for a jump, then took a running leap out of the ring. He landed and immediately spun around to face the circle. His shoulders heaved like he'd run a lot further than two steps, but his voice seemed steady enough as he demanded, "Am I on fire?"

An indefinable knot in his chest formed in Dean's chest: relief and guilt and loss and other nameless things. "No." It came out hoarse, so he swallowed, tried again. "No, you're fine."


The nightmare struck again that night, fire and blood, things done to him and the things he'd done, and, Christ, Sam mixed up in all of it. Dean gasped himself awake in the dark motel room. He sat up and scrubbed his hands over his face, rubbing his eyes as though that ever did anything to chase away the images or the remembered smell of brimstone.

"You okay?"

"Fine," he snapped, because his heart was still racing and that was a freaking stupid question. Of course he was, it was just a dream -- and of course he wasn't, not after waking from a nightmare like that and knowing that Sam- He took a breath. None of it was Gabe's fault, and he was the last person Dean should be taking anything out on. Dean could hardly have made it more obvious that he hadn't trusted him, in the process of putting his doubts to rest. Though he was sure, now: there was no Gabriel, waiting to pull the rug out from under him. Just this guy, some random human unlucky enough to have the right blood to host an archangel, and Dean didn't even know his real name or how long he'd been a vessel.

If a small part of Dean had hoped he really was Gabriel, had hoped there was something that he could convince -- beg -- to help Sam, that was on Dean, not Gabe.

Maybe Dean shouldn't have taken him from that hospital. He lay back down, though he knew sleep wouldn't be returning tonight. "Sorry. Didn't mean to wake you."

He heard the rustling of stiff sheets and a noncommittal hum. He'd been quiet since the afternoon, not that Dean could blame him.

The mattress dipped, and an arm flopped across his chest and over his shoulder. "Go back to sleep."

"What are --"

"Keeping the nightmares away," Gabe said around a yawn.

The idea that sleeping close to someone could keep the nightmares away was patently untrue, or he wouldn't have drunk as much while at Lisa's. But Gabe had already settled warm and heavy against him, and he'd done enough to push Gabe away for one day.

"Go t' sleep," Gabe muttered.

Dean awoke to morning light and some seriously off-tune singing rising above the sound of the shower. The nightmares hadn't come back. But sometimes, they didn't.


The monster he'd had Gabe looking into had turned out to be bullshit, as Dean had suspected. Sometimes bad things just happened, and there was nothing unnatural about it. They had breakfast at bakery full of old men drinking coffee from crackled mugs and creepy cakes baked around Barbie dolls to form frosted dresses. The doughnuts were good, though.

"So where to?" Gabe asked, leaning back with mug in hand and powdered sugar on his chin.

Dean had a moment while he swallowed the last bite of his second doughnut to consider... but there was only one right choice here. He flicked a glance around, but no one was paying them any mind. "We're about a day's drive from Dallas. I know a guy there who sells ids. We can get you set up."

Gabe put on that puzzled, you-aren't-making-any-sense look again. "What's wrong with the ones you made?"

"They're temporaries. None of them are going to stand up to any real scrutiny; not enough to start a life on. You'll need something that links to a real soc and has some sort of history attached to it."

Gabe's eyes went wide, then his whole expression turned hurt. "You're trying to get rid of me."

"Look, if you'd still been... what you were, you couldn't have jumped out of that fire. You're not a monster; you're just a guy. You could go back to -- well, I guess not your life, since the hospital couldn't id you, but a normal life anyway."

"Don't I get a say in this?"

Dean rolled his eyes. "Because normal is so horrible."

"Maybe you didn't notice, but I like what I've got fine. I'm not exactly pining to go back to the hospital. And what about you? After you ditch me, do you find yourself a normal life, or will you be out looking for the next monster?"

Dean flinched, slightly, and hoped Gabe hadn't caught it. The truth was, he'd been avoiding thinking about what he'd do once he got Gabe settled somewhere. He didn't know if Lisa would take him back after taking off on her like this, and for her sake and Ben's, maybe he shouldn't even try. He'd been a wreck when he'd shown up -- was still a mess, if he was honest -- and she'd been good to him, all patience until she decided he needed a good kick in the ass. He didn't know if he'd have survived those first days after without her. Disappearing for weeks without even a phone call, though, that had to be too much. And even if it wasn't, even if she did let him back through that door, how long would it be before something else caught his attention that he couldn't ignore?

Lisa and Ben were better off clear of him. Gabe would be, too. "We're going to Dallas."


"Want another?" Gabe asked.

Dean turned his head where he'd put it down on the table and glowered at his bottle. Not that the bottle had done anything in particular; he'd been frowning at everything and everyone since the third half-marked detour sent them to the middle of nowhere. "Yeah, why not." He downed the slightly warm dregs as Gabe pushed away from the table.

Keeping an eye on Gabe was habit now, even if he wasn't worried about what an unsupervised Gabriel might get up to anymore. It would be just Winchester luck if something happened to Gabe this close to getting him settled, safe. Someone should watch out for him, and at least for the moment Dean was the only man for the job. So when Gabe made a pass at some brown-haired girl at the bar while he was getting their next round of beers, Dean saw. And when the girl turned towards Gabe and leaned in instead of away, Dean tried to feel glad about that. No reason Gabe couldn't pick up a girl. Though he could have waited until he had a place of his own to take her back to. Dean picked up his bottle, remembered it was empty, and set it back down.

The prospect of getting sexiled was annoying, was all. There was an easy enough fix, though -- he could rent another room. It wasn't likely that the motel had filled up since, well, ever, and he didn't really need to room with Gabe any more anyway.

Dean glanced back at the bar, just to see if those beers were ever coming or if he needed to get his own. The girl was heading towards their table with Gabe in tow, wearing a slightly surprised look. Considering the quality of Gabe's lines, Dean was always surprised that his flirting seemed to work, but usually Gabe took his successes as a given. Maybe he'd just figured out that Dean had no reason to cock-block him.

Dean put on a smile to greet them. "Hi, I'm-- mph." The girl planted herself on his lap and laid one on him, forthright and demanding, and Gabe was officially the best wingman ever.

She ended the kiss with a smile, eyes laughing. "Ellie. Nice to meet you." She looked up at Gabe, and he realized she still had hold of Gabe's hand. "Let's get out of here."

He looked up at Gabe to see if she was seriously asking what he thought, to find he was working his version of puppydog eyes so hard that Dean could practically hear the please please please. This was a bad idea in so many ways; they were already too tangled up with each other, and Gabe already too hung up on the life, Dean, whatever, to go easily when they got to Dallas. "Yeah, let's."

The bar was stumble-distance from the motel, so he'd left his baby behind when they'd gone out. Though he'd expected any stumbling to be drinking related, not from some girl pushing him against a wall to kiss him or the abrupt tug at his hand when she did the same to Gabe a few steps later. The room door hadn't even shut behind them before she was pressed up against him again. Ellie wriggled her chest a little more firmly into his hands and giggled against his lips when Gabe made a fake growling noise against her neck.

One beer wasn't enough to explain or excuse this, not nearly. Yet here he was with some laughing local girl caught between himself and Gabe, the weight of her breasts shifting as Gabe unfastened her bra.

She pulled away, skimmed out of shirt and bra, and raised her eyebrow like a dare at Dean. He started yanking his own shirt off before he could think about it, hitching only slightly at Gabe's low almost-purr of "Aren't you gorgeous?" because he meant the girl, obviously.

The shirt landed somewhere on the floor, the girl's hands landed on his chest, traced downward over muscle, ribs, scars, ink. "Nice." She kicked out of her shoes, then turned and leaned back on him, trusting him to hold her up, and gestured to Gabe. "Kiss me."

Gabe grinned and did as ordered, his hands framing her face as he leaned in, and Dean realized Gabe and the girl were almost exactly the same height. Dean's hands wandered up back up to her breasts, two perfect handfuls now bare to his touch. She made a soft noise against Gabe's lips when his thumb brushed her nipple. Gabe made that weird growling noise again and stepped closer, and the backs of Dean's hands were brushing Gabe's skin, warm and unmarred by scars.

He slid his hands back down to her hips, out of the way. They were so close, he felt her ribcage expand and contract in a sigh more than he heard the breath itself. She turned her head towards him. "It's going to be kind of weird if you guys aren't going to touch." Dean glanced at Gabe, who was watching his reaction intensely. His hands flexed on her hips, and she smiled. "Why don't you boys get the awkward part out of the way -- kiss him."

Dean knew he moved first, but Gabe met him well before the midpoint, kissing him almost fiercely. Dean let him. It's not like it meant anything when it was for a girl.


"Would you just look?" Gabe demanded, and Dean rolled his eyes and turned the laptop around. They were going to Dallas, regardless of detours, roadblocks, and whatever Gabe had found, as soon as Dean finished packing up the car.

After a minute, he pulled over the chair and sat down to read the next newspaper article.

Demonic activity. The angels had left, but demons remained, and Dean was positive this was the work of one -- little else could shift so easily between subtle and horrific and back, leaving the only faintest trace between the splashy (he glanced at the next tab and swallowed hard -- wrong term, too accurate) events. Gabe looked at him with big, serious eyes, and he sighed and nodded. Much as he wanted to get Gabe safe and out of the line of fire, he couldn't just ignore a trail like this. "We better check it out."

They didn't hit any detours heading away from Dallas.

The trail weaved across the plains. Dean angled to intercept it in Indiana. He noticed signs pointing toward the larger towns near Cicero and ignored them. The stalks of corn whipped by at the side of the state road; the fields stretched for long miles between towns. Indianapolis came as a relief to the eyes, though hunting anything not tied to a specific location in a city had never been Dean's idea of a good time.

They stopped to eat at the edge of the city. Dean had a cheeseburger while Gabe ate chili covered spaghetti noodles. "Here, right?" he said around a bite, pointing at a map he'd grabbed at a rest stop.

"Gross," Dean commented, and Gabe opened his mouth wider, but Dean was expecting it and looking away at the map. Gabe's finger lay east of the city. The thing with demons, unlike ghosts, was they could change their pattern. But Dean knew habits were comforting, even -- maybe especially -- where demons were forged. "Yeah. Probably tomorrow night." They could be wrong. But Dean was pretty sure they weren't.

They weren't. But they were too late, Dean knew as soon as he pushed open the door to the house. On the outside, pastel siding and tidy yard tinted orange by the sunset, just like its neighbors. Inside, the smell of sulfur and blood, smoke and fouler things. He grimaced and slipped inside, Gabe following like his shadow. Maybe they'd find something that would let them track this son of a bitch down, before it took out another family.

"Don't touch anything," he warned.

The lights snapped on before Gabe could reply. A dark-haired woman was perched on a chair across the room, long legs elegantly crossed. The house's residents were sprawled across the floor, piles of clothing and pieces that Dean's mind tried not to interpret correctly, focusing instead on inconsequentials -- the color of the rug between the spreading stains, an abstract wall hanging which had barely been splashed, the fleeting thought that demons always possessed the hot chicks. The demon looked right past him and smiled, a small, contained upturn of lips. "Loki."

Dean stepped to the side, keeping the demon in view, but needing eyes on Gabe. Demons didn't get confused by physical appearances. Did they? "Loki? What do you mean, Loki?"

Gabe's eyes were wide, surprise and revelation written across his features. "Oh. I --" The demon arched an eyebrow, and he dropped the expression. "Well, crap. What are you doing here?"

The bottom fell out from under Dean. "You can't-- how--?"

"I was called," she said, gesturing at one of the bodies, ignoring Dean. "She cried out to me for vengeance, and I granted it." She smiled again, softly. Dean had been about to demand one of them answer his damn questions but was struck silent by the disconcerting impression of both rows of pointed, predatory teeth and simultaneously a model's perfect, even smile. Dean's mouth snapped shut, because that was not a typical demon tell. She waved a hand languidly. "Besides, I am the destroyer of illusions. You really should have been expecting our paths to cross again."

"Not really, since I'd thought the dying so you could escape might buy a little time, distance, and non-interference."

"Mm. I'm sure the experience was very traumatic for you," Kali -- son of a bitch, she had to be Kali -- replied, rolling her eyes.

For a bare instant, Dean could see the truth of that statement, written across Gabe's familiar face -- anger, grief, a present pain -- all hidden back behind flippancy when Kali turned her attention back to him. Or maybe the flippancy was the truth, and everything else the lie. Dean had no way of knowing. "Let's just say I'm not looking forward to Odin's Ragnarok." He paused, mouth open. "Odin. Is he-- ?"

"Those of us from living religions were merely inconvenienced. The Norse and Roman gods, however..." She shrugged. "Odin's predictions aside, you can be killed without the coming of Ragnarok. Odin himself is recovering, albeit slowly. Baldur, it would seem, is truly dead. A bit too close to his own story, to have been betrayed by you."

"Tricked. And the motel was hardly my fault."

She waved off the difference. "No one has seen Mercury since that night. But then, no one had seen you either, and you seem to have recovered more thoroughly than the Aesir. I find I'm glad of that." She rose, smoothing a nonexistent wrinkle from her skirt. Despite the changes in her outward appearance, she moved with the same grace. She'd killed this family with that same grace. His hand closed around Ruby's knife, and he shifted his weight.

"Dean." Gabe's voice was tight, a warning Dean ignored. He sprang into motion, only to be caught by invisible hands. He wished he hadn't been expecting it, but it wasn't like he'd had a better plan. Kali wore a slightly annoyed expression. She flicked her fingers at him, like someone might do at a buzzing insect, and Dean braced for -- something that didn't happen, as Gabe stepped in between, hand up to catch something unseen. "Kali," he said, and the warning was not any better hidden for all that he smirked as he said it.

"Interesting. What could you want with Michael's vessel now?"

"He's not Michael's anything. He's mine." His voice dropped low and threatening at the end.

Her eyes widened briefly, and she turned a considering gaze on Dean. "That would explain your recovery," she said as though to herself. She took a step closer. "But what does he --?"

"That's personal."

She shot Gabe a grin -- a sudden, bright expression Dean would never have expected. "Don't tease. Sex has never been one of your attributes."

"And now, you're just prying." He snapped his fingers, and Dean staggered as he found his feet.

"Fine," she said, her tone clearly implying that Gabe was being unreasonable. "Another time." She tipped her head and vanished.

Dean wheeled on Gabe. "You let that murderous bitch get away!"

"She killed the demon that killed the family which is what you wanted anyway. Besides, no one lets her do anything. Kali's powerful, up there with my... huh, weird. With Michael's Dad."

Dean stared at him. A hundred questions vied to escape first, but a single word summed them up. "Loki?" He hoped that sounded more pissed, less stupidly hurt from where Gabe was standing than it did to his own ears.

He didn't answer, and Dean told himself he hadn't really expected him to.

He was still closer to the door than Dean, not blocking it but there. Dean cautiously backed away, holding the knife like it might do some good, and careful of his feet as he made his way past the remains left behind by the demon and Kali, then made his through the house and found the back door. He knew it was pointless gesture; they'd never had to be within arms' reach for angels to dick with them. He slipped out, careful not to leave fingerprints. No one followed.

When he hit the highway, he turned the Impala south, away from Cicero. He caught himself rubbing at his chest and snatched the hand away, smacking his palm against the steering wheel. The second time he noticed, he wondered if Cas's old angel-proofing was still in place or if he'd healed it with everything else, after. He'd never thought to check. He drove through anger and adrenaline; once he hit exhaustion, he found somewhere to pull off.

He woke up in the morning, crawled out of the backseat, and stumbled blearily into the rest stop to use the facilities. He stared at the highways poster as he drank vending machine coffee, tracing lines between towns. His eyes caught on a half-familiar name, and he paused and frowned. There'd been a possible case, hadn't there, in a town with a similar name, but not here, in ... Ohio. He tossed the cup. It wasn't like he had something better to do.