“Dean!” Jo said, jumping up and wrapping her arms and legs around him as he entered the Roadhouse.
“Dammit, Jo, I ain’t dead and you ain’t an octopus,” Dean said, staggering back slightly as he shifted his balance to keep them both upright. “Let go, I need a beer.”
Jo reluctantly slid down and off of him, though not before copping a quick feel of his ass. Still perky.
“Why haven’t you called in, boy? We were worried!” Ellen said, slapping the side of his head.
“Turns out it was a whole damn nest of vamps. I was a little busy,” Dean said.
Ash came over to offer him a high five, which Dean reluctantly returned, and a cold bottle that he took with a smile. “Everett didn’t say anything about a nest.”
Dean used his ring to pop the beer cap off and drink. “Yeah, well, he didn’t really stick around to find out, did he?”
Ellen crossed her arms. “No, he came back a week ago saying you kept going off without him, refused to tell him what you’d found out, and that he didn’t care how great a hunter you were, he wasn’t gonna trust you to guard his back in a fight.”
Dean snorted. “Dude was an amateur.”
“He’s a hunter with years of experience, Dean! And about the only person I’d found that was still willing to hunt with you.”
Dean crossed his arms, mirroring Ellen. “Yeah, well, maybe I don’t wanna hunt with him.”
“You’ve made it abundantly clear you don’t want to hunt with anyone, Dean.”
Dean crossed his arms harder. Which was not actually possible, but he gave it a valiant try. “Not true.”
“Name three people you’d trust in a hunt,” Ellen said, refusing to back down.
Dean took a longer than usual swig from his bottle. “Sam…”
“Who’s at college right now, and swore he’d quit hunting.”
Dean’s face went dark at the reminder, but he continued. “Bobby.”
“Who doesn’t actively hunt anymore if he can avoid it. Come on, boy, ain’t you got anyone else you trust?”
Dean mumbled something, lips wrapped around the neck of the bottle.
“That better have not been Joanna’s name you were saying,” Ellen told him.
“Mom!” Jo said.
Ellen turned to her daughter. “You ain’t hunting, and that’s final.”
Dean, in one of the bravest acts in a lifetime of brave acts, stepped in before they could restart that particular fight. “Wasn’t Jo’s name, Ellen, I’m crazy but I’m not that crazy.”
“So who was it?” Ellen asked.
“Cas, okay? I said ‘Cas’.”
“Yeah, he, uh… he actually helped me with the nest.”
“Don’t know of any hunters named Cas,” Ash said.
“Short for Castiel,” Dean snapped. “An, he, uh, he ain’t exactly a hunter.”
“You trusting civilians now?” Jo asked, glaring at her mother as if to add, ‘See? This is what it’s come to.’
“He ain’t exactly a civilian, either,” Dean said.
“Then just what in the hell is he?” Ellen asked.
“He’s a weird, dorky little guy. But one hell of a fighter. I got in touch with him after Everett bailed and he helped me gank the vamps.”
“Uh huh. And where’s he now?”
Dean looked distinctly shifty as he answered. “He had to head home.”
Before Ellen could continue the interrogation, a family of four on a roadtrip to Mt. Rushmore wandered in looking for burgers and restrooms, and everyone present were all immediately forced to pretend they didn’t spend their time hunting down That Which Man Was Probably Not Meant to Know About But Which Is Hopefully Vulnerable to Silver.
That was the first time the name Cas was heard at the Roadhouse. It wouldn’t be the last.
“Can you make some more fake IDs?” Dean asked Ash a month or two later.
“Sure can do, my man,” Ash said. “Any problems with the last batch?”
“Nah, they’re not for me. Figured it’d be easier if Cas had some too.”
“All in a day’s work for Dr. Bad-Ass. You got names you wanted to use, or should I just pull some?”
“Oh, yeah,” Dean said, smirking. “Hand me a piece of paper, I’ll write ‘em down.”
“So you still hunting with this Cas?” Ellen asked.
Dean shrugged. “Yeah, he’s pretty useful.”
“He’s now lasted longer than all of your relationships,” Jo teased. She walked down to their end of the bar and snatched up the list. “Ben Dover? Ford Harrison? Kilgore Trout? What are you, twelve? And… Huh.” She pointed to one of the names. “Isn’t that the name of the main character on Dr. Sexy, MD?”
“...yeah?” Dean said, wary. “So?” He turned back to Ash, “How long’ll it take you?”
“Genius takes time…” Ash began. Dean placed an unopened bottle of Bulleit in front of him. “Tomorrow sound good?”
“Sounds great,” Dean said, clapping Ash on the back before sauntering off in search of a pool game. Ellen didn’t allow him to hustle at the Roadhouse, but he still liked to keep in practice.
Jo sidled up to Ash as soon as Dean was out of range. “You ever tried to look up that Cas guy?”
Ash shook his head. “I’m good, hell, I’m better ‘n good, but even I need something more to go on than a first name. All I kept getting was them asking me if I meant ‘Cassiel’.”
“The hell is a Cassiel?”
“The Angel of solitude and Thursdays.”
“That is one weird-ass alias.”
“Well, he did say he was an odd dude. Best part?” Ash smirked. “He’s sometimes considered the Angel of Temperance.”
They both looked over at Dean, currently sinking one of his stripes into the corner pocket.
Jo giggled. “Man, did he pick the wrong angel…”
Another Thursday night at the Roadhouse, a few weeks later, saw Dean relaxing near enough to the bar that Jo could hear most of what he was talking about if she tried to listen. Not that she was a gossip or anything, but it was just busy enough that she needed something to not be completely bored while she waited for yet another side of fries to come out of the kitchen.
Right now Dean’s conversation was with some lady with more hair than sense, in Jo’s humble opinion. Not that her lack of a PhD seemed to be counting against her in Dean’s eyes.
The woman, at least, seemed to know her music, which had Dean all bright eyed and bushy tailed while they argued over best Zep concerts. Her cleavage didn’t seem to hurt anything either.
“Nope, nuh-uh, I still say that Tampa in ‘73 is the best. Page was so on top of it that night, he was smokin’. And Plant’s voice was gorgeous back then; not that it got bad, but he just nailed every note like it was easy, y’know?” The girl — well, all right, woman, Jo would give her that — sighed dreamily and took a sip of her beer, throwing her head back to show her long, long neck, and bouncing her blonde curls.
And Jo could already see how the rest of his (and the lady’s) evening was going to go, if the way they were leaning into each other was any indication. And, okay, she was absolutely, definitely over her stupid crush on him, but she still didn’t really need to watch him charming his way into yet another one night stand. She was just about to head back down to the other end of the bar and leave them in peace when she heard tinny strains of music coming from Dean’s pocket.
“Oh, wow, is that Houses of the Holy?” the woman asked. Dean ignored her, too busy getting the phone out and up to his ear with a speed he usually reserved for knife throwing. He turned away slightly, inadvertently giving Jo a better view of the expression on his face as he answered it. “Hey Cas.”
The woman was all but forgotten as Dean continued his conversation, which Jo could unfortunately still only hear bits of.
“Yeah, no, the Roadhouse… No, it’s fine. You’re still… yeah, no, I get you’ve got duties. Dude, no, it’s fine, it’s always good to hear… oh no, you are not getting a burger without me. No. Seriously, not happening. I told you… Right now?”
Dean glanced around, but Jo could tell whatever he was seeing wasn’t the Roadhouse. “Yeah, no, now is good. ‘m not busy.” Dean hopped off his chair, throwing some bills in the general direction of the counter. He grabbed his coat off the back of the chair and headed for the door, still holding the phone to his ear.
The blonde’s smile faded into a pout as she watched Dean leave. Jo just smirked at her as she wiped down the bar.
“You could have told me he was taken!” the woman hissed. Jo just shrugged. Shooting Dean’s back a dirty look, the woman spun off her barstool and headed toward the group she’d broken from earlier.
Jo crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes as Dean’s back disappeared through the exit. “What the hell are you up to, Winchester?” She whirled and headed back toward the kitchen.
Jo had to wait a few days to find enough time by herself to make a phone call. “Hey, Sam?”
“Oh, hey, Jo. You get that email I sent with the scholarship info?”
“Yeah, Sam, thanks.”
“No problem. You actually have a lot of options, depending on whether you want to go someplace local or further. There are even online courses you could take.”
“You went pretty far away,” Jo pointed out.
“Yeah, well, I, uh, needed some distance. But you need to figure out what’s best for you, and University of Nebraska has some good programs too. Do you know what you want to study?”
“Not yet. Part of me wants to do something like restaurant management to help with the Roadhouse, but…”
“I kinda want to do something crazy too,” she confessed.
“Well, if you do Mythology you’ll have a leg up already,” Sam said. “My Latin teachers keep asking if I grew up Catholic.”
“How’re your classes going, anyway?”
“Good, actually. It’s weird, y’know? Being settled in one place. But good. You seen Dean lately?”
“Yeah, he was in last week, poltergeist. I think he’s somewhere in Ohio right now. Actually… uh, I feel really weird asking you this but… you ever think Dean might be into guys?”
Sam laughed. “Dean stole me my first Playboy. He’s like… the poster child for heteronormative masculinity.”
Jo bit her lip. “Yeah, I know, I know, I’ve watched him pick up enough girls. It’s just… He’s been hunting with this guy, and… the way he talks about Cas is different.”
“Just different. And he’s gone on multiple hunts with him, even asked Ash to make him a fake ID. And one of the names was Doctor Sexy’s name.”
“Doctor Sexy, MD? That show Dean’s secretly into? Huh. Yeah, that’s… weird. There’s, uh, one other possibility, though.”
“You sure the guy’s human?”
“Hey, Dean?” Jo asked, having successfully lured her prey away from the pool table with a basket of fried goods.
“Dammit, I knew there’s no such thing as free tater tots,” Dean grumbled. “Out with it, Jo.”
“You still hunting with Cas?”
“...yeah?” Dean said, before shoving more tots in his mouth in a transparent effort to prevent further questioning.
“You... checked him out?” she asked hesitantly.
At Dean’s glare, Ellen stepped in. “You been acting weird lately, boy, we’re just worried.”
“You think I didn’t check Cas out?” Dean said, spitting some of the food out of his mouth in his rush to speak. Of the many sins Ellen would like to lay at John Winchester’s door, his son’s nonexistent table manners were one of the more minor yet persistent ones. “Just let him pop in one day and start huntin’ with me? Been hunting since I was six, I think I know the damn drill,” Dean said, and began counting on his grease-stained fingers, “Salt, iron, holy water, silver…”
“So he’s clean?”
Dean nodded. “Cas is one hundred percent not a monster.”
“So why don’t you ever bring Cas back with you to meet us?”
“His people skills are rusty.”
"Well then he needs some damned practice."
Dean rubbed his hand over his face. "Look, Ellen, Cas is...well, he's...uh, antisocial. His family’s real religious, and he’s got a lot of that baggage. He tends to rub people the wrong way, so he just stays out of it for the most part."
Ellen just looked at him and raised an eloquent eyebrow.
Dean gave her a reluctant grin. "Yeah, I know, just like the rest of us, huh?"
"Speak for yourself, Winchester!" Jo yelled from where she was restocking sodas in the cooler.
Dean waved a dismissive hand at her and took a swig of his beer. He sighed as he put it carefully down on the ring of condensation left on the counter, fiddled with it a little, and took a few more seconds to pick halfheartedly at the corner of the peeling label. Ellen waited.
"Can you just trust me on this one? Cas'll come around when I — when he's ready, and I ain't gonna push him before then."
Ellen raised the other eyebrow, then gave Dean a short nod. "All right, boy, but you tell him we're used to all kinds here, and if we're not all friends, then at least we ain't enemies, and to come by anytime."
"Will do, Ellen. Thanks."
“So…” Sam said, once the usual phone call pleasantries were out of the way. “Cas check out?”
Jo nodded even though she knew he couldn’t see it. “Dean says he’s run all the tests, and Cas is clean.”
She could hear Sam thinking on the other end. “So I was thinking,” Sam said. “About what you were saying about Dean.”
“Yeah?” Jo asked. “And?”
“Dean definitely likes girls. All that time living on the road with him means I have seen… things I cannot unsee. But… maybe he’s bisexual? I mean, I was thinking back, and there were a couple times when we were growing up…”
“Look, you have to understand… our dad would not have been happy about anything like that. And you know how Dean is about everything to do with Dad.” Sam continued before either of them could think about the late John Winchester any more than they had to. “So maybe he likes guys too, but he’s been hiding it? Only now he’s met a guy he’s really into and he’s probably afraid to come out to us.”
“That explains why he won’t bring him around to the Roadhouse.”
“So we just need to be supportive until Dean feels comfortable being honest with us.”
Jo should have known Dean’s recent good mood couldn’t last forever, but by the way he was knocking back that whiskey, he was trying to make up for the lost time he’d accidentally not been miserable. She tried to be unobtrusive as she sidled toward him down the counter, wiping down the spotless surface again. Was he really mumbling to himself? Or was he trying to talk to her? Hell, maybe he was trying to develop gills for breathing booze.
“You ok, Dean, or you want a bathtub and a straw with that?” Jo kept her tone snarky but her voice soft. She didn’t want her mom coming over poking her nose in.
Dean looked at her, a bit bleary eyed, as though he’d forgotten where he was. “Just a bad night, Jo. Don’t wanna talk ‘bout it.”
Jo widened her eyes in fake surprise. “Really?! I thought we were gonna paint our nails and talk about boys while we braided each others’ hair.”
Dean grimaced. “Wrong Winchester.”
“Well, I doubt Johnny, Jack, and Jose are as good company as I am, and I’m bored stiff. What’s new?” She leaned her elbows on the bar, not quite meeting Dean’s eye.
“They’re quieter ‘n you are,” Dean said, but he didn’t immediately return to his drink. Jo took that as as much of an invitation she was gonna get.
“Seen your buddy Cas lately?” she asked, trying to be casual. “Or you been huntin’ by yourself again?”
“Cas didn’t come. I called, but…”
“He didn’t pick up, or he said no?” Jo asked bluntly. No point being subtle.
Dean’s eyes widened as another thought occurred to him. “Don’t tell your ma, I know she’ll be ridin’ m’ ass ‘bout goin’ solo.”
Jo bristled. “You know I don’t tell tales, Dean.”
“I don’t wanna hunt with anyone else, y’know? I like Cas.”
“I can tell you two are good together. You mention him a lot.” Jo softened at the look of abject misery Dean was trying to hide behind his whiskey glass. “Is this the first time he hasn’t, you know, helped when you asked?”
“‘s got these eyes, y’know? See right through you,” Dean said, making a V with his fingers and pointing at his own green eyes. “Fuck knows what he sees when he looks at me, I’m a fuckin’ mess.”
“No more than the rest of us,” said Jo stoutly.
“He was supposed to come when I asked him to. Said he would. Told me… fuck, doesn’t matter what he said.”
“Well, yeah, it does. If you’re gonna be...partners with someone, you gotta talk, right? And you gotta mean what you say, or it all goes to shit.”
“He’s busy, y’know? Got family shit. Got duties. Got better things to do than babysitting me on a fucking salt and burn.”
Jo snorted. “Not like you need babysitting, or like that’s what he’s doing, anyway. If he cares about you, he’ll show eventually and tell you what’s up.”
“Hell’s he doin’ with me anyway? I’m just… me. And he’s him,” Dean said, gesturing with his hands around his head in a way that was probably meant to make more sense than it did. “There’s a million other people he could be hangin’ around.”
“Dean, don’t knock yourself. You’re one of the best hunters around, if not the best. You’re loyal and faithful and straightforward, and anyone would be lucky to be with you.” Jo winked and grinned when Dean looked up, scowling. “Also got the best ass this side of the Mississippi. Even if you are all bow-legged.”
Dean snorted but didn’t argue the point.
“So...what’s Cas like, anyway? You talk about him, but only about hunting, not about, like, his personality. I know he’s deadly with a blade and strong as fuck, but not what he looks like or what beer he drinks.”
“He’s…” Dean got quiet, the reflective kind. “I dunno. He’s different. He’s smart, obviously. Like, super smart. Sam smart. He’s been everywhere, seen all sorts of shit… but he’s still like a little kid half the time. You should’ve seen his face the first time I took him out for a burger.”
Jo made an encouraging noise.
“He likes strawberry milkshakes too. And I’m teaching him about good music, ‘cause ain’t no way I’m hunting with someone that doesn’t appreciate classic rock.
“He asks the weirdest shit. Hell, he says the weirdest shit. Like, how can you be his age and not have seen Star Wars? But he’s… he’s interesting. And he could drink this whole damn bar under the table. Could probably drink this whole damn bar.”
Dean pushed his stool back from the bar and stood up.
“I gotta go get some air.”
“Don’t you even think about driving anywhere, the state you’re in, Dean Winchester.”
“Not gonna, Jo, scout’s honor.”
“All right, then,” she said, mollified for the moment. “See you in a few.”
“Sure, Jo.” He put his hand on her shoulder and gave it a brief squeeze. “Thanks.”
She waited exactly five minutes before her path took her wandering past the front windows. Dean sat outside on the back of the Impala, staring up at the sky.
He looked a bit like he was praying.
Jo’s phone vibrated in her pocket, making her jump and nearly drop the case of beer she was maneuvering through the back entrance to the bar. She hefted the box onto her hip and dug the phone out of her pocket, smiling as she noted the caller ID.
“Hey, Sam, how's it going?" Jo tucked the phone under her chin.
"I just...had the weirdest conversation with Dean."
Jo waited a minute, setting the case down on the counter with a gentle rattle of glass.
"And?" she prompted.
"Yeah. It was...weird. Okay, so remember we talked the other day about being supportive and letting Dean know we were on his side no matter what?"
"Well, I tried to kind of talk to him about it, but it was like— like, he didn't get it. Seriously. It was as if we were having two completely different conversations. I have no idea what to think now."
"Ohhh...kay. So what did he say?" Jo stopped working and propped a hip against the bar. This was bound to be entertaining, if not informative. These two knuckleheads were a delight.
"Uh, I told him I supported whatever lifestyle choices he made, and he just...got quiet, then said something about hunting?"
"Alright, stop right there, Dr. Phil. This isn't helping. Tell me the conversation word for word, as close as you can get it." Jo rolled her eyes at the ceiling.
"Okay. Um, we said hello and stuff...and we talked about my classes a little bit, and, uh, oh right, he gave the Impala a tune-up, and --"
"Sam, just get to the good stuff."
"Uh, sorry, right. Lemme think...oh yeah. Dean ended up mentioning Cas and the hunt they went on last week for that 'shifter in New Orleans. He said something about staying at a B&B—"
Jo gave an incredulous snort.
Sam continued—"I know, right? And then he said something like 'most comfortable bed I've been in in years, Cas almost let me oversleep' and then tried to cover by saying something about diner food? So, god, Jo, you know how subtle I'm not, I just said something about it being nice he had someone to share it with, and he was all yeah, Cas is a great guy, good in a fight, always has my back. And then I said well, you're my brother and I love you and I respect your life choices. And he said Huh? What the hell kind of psychomotivational bullcrap they teaching you out there? Then when I didn't say anything, he finally said yeah, okay, Sammy, let's hope the monsters respect my 1911."
Sam had stopped for breath, and Jo just stood, leaning on the counter, one hand over her face, shoulders shaking as she tried not to let Sam know she was cracking up.
“And then he was all like hey, good catching up, gotta go, Cas is here, and we hung up.” Jo heard the sound that meant Sam was blowing his stupidly-long bangs out of his face. “I swear I sat here looking at my phone for a full minute trying to wrap my head around it. And then I called you.”
Jo coughed a little, getting her voice under control, then sighed. “God, you two are the worst. You can’t even be supportive without one of you getting all defensive.” She frowned a little. “But...it seems like Dean was okay with it anyway? I mean, he didn’t just yell and hang up.”
“True,” said Sam hopefully. “Maybe he just needed to think about it and — and it’ll help him, I dunno, open up a little if he knows I’m okay with whatever.”
“Yeah, don’t get your hopes up for caring and sharing, Sammy,” Jo said drily. “It’s still Dean, after all.”
She could hear the pouting. “I know. I just wanna be a good brother, you know? I don’t want it to get all weird — okay, weirder — because he thinks he can’t tell me stuff. Not like he’s a font of information anyway, but at least we talk sometimes.”
“It’s good, Sam,” Jo reassured him. “He loves you and he’s proud of you, even if he doesn’t always tell you, and he knows you love him right back.”
Sam cleared his throat. “Yeah,” he said tightly. “I know. Thanks, Jo. I’m gonna go now, talk to you soon, okay?”
“Yeah, I’ll keep you posted. ‘Bye, Sam.”
It was Bobby, oddly enough, who shed further light on things.
“Federal Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent King speaking,” he growled into the phone.
Ellen sighed into the receiver. “You can drop the act, Bobby, it’s Ellen Harvelle. Got some questions for you about a nest of pixies over near Alliance.”
“Hey, Ellen. What’ve you got?”
“Well, couple of hunters came in the other day with a story…” and she continued to tell him how two middle-aged men had ended up in the town square at noontime in nothing but thong underwear and pink glitter.
Once they’d finished laughing and Bobby had given her the counterspell, the two settled in for a comfortable chat.
“Been seein’ Dean Winchester more often; it’s been good to keep tabs on that boy. He seems more settled nowadays than he’s been since Sam went off to college,” Ellen said. “He been around your place lately?”
“Yeah, him and that boyfriend of his stopped by ‘bout a month ago to pick up some more silver ammo.”
“Wait just a damn minute, boyfriend?”
Bobby huffed. “What, they callin’ it some other damn thing now? Took me long enough to learn that one.”
“No, I just…. Dean? You sure we got the same Dean?”
“Drives a ‘67 Impala, fights like a demon, drinks like a fish, self esteem of one too. That Dean?”
Ellen sighed. “Yeah, that’s our boy.”
Bobby continued, “Castiel… something. Didn’t catch a last name. Little odd, but hell, ain’t we all? First time I’ve had a decent conversation in Japanese since I took out that nuke-nuke-kubi.”
“And they were dating?”
“They didn’t say anything ‘bout it, but idjits couldn’t quit looking at each other, barely more than a few feet apart the whole time. I’m old but I ain’t senile. And then I offered Castiel the pullout and he said he wouldn’t need it. You do the damn math.”
“You okay with this?” Ellen asked.
“He can hold his own in a fight and other than bein’ fool enough to be involved with a Winchester he seems smart enough. Frankly I doubt Dean’s gonna do better.”
Dean showed at the Roadhouse the following week, with an easy smile and a set to his shoulders that had Ellen on the alert. Jo watched her mother with wary eyes as she motioned Ash over with a barely-noticeable tilt of her head.
“Hey, Dean-o, how’s it hangin’?” Ash swung an arm around Dean’s neck in a headlock-slash-manly hug.
Dean winced slightly, the sort of expression that in someone else would have meant they’d slept on a crap mattress, but in Winchester terms was more likely to mean three cracked ribs and an emergency appendectomy performed with a broken beer bottle.
“Alright, shirt off,” Ellen said.
“Aren’t you even gonna buy me a drink first?” Dean said jokingly, but he made no move to comply.
“Now, Dean. You’re hurt, and I need to see how bad.”
Dean scowled, but they both knew she’d win. “Fine, fine, but in the back, everyone in the bar doesn’t get a free show.”
Ellen followed him into the back room, which boasted (among other things) a first aid setup that some MASH units would have been proud of. And if she hadn’t already known something was up, she’d have known from how gingerly he removed his button down and black t-shirt.
“Bobby didn’t say anything about you bein’ hurt.”
“Happened after we left,” Dean said. “Nothing serious.”
“Oh yeah?” Ellen said. Aside from whatever internal stuff that was making him sore, he didn’t seem to have any fresh injuries. She circled him slowly.
“Ran into some of Cas’ family,” Dean said, with such a studied air of indifference that she knew it must’ve been a hell of a reunion.
Ellen waited a beat, but it was clear that no further information was forthcoming. “And?”
“They ain’t too keen on all the time he’s been spending with me.”
“They don’t approve of you?”
Dean snorted. “You can say that again. Buncha holier-than-thou assclowns. Cas is the only good one in the bunch.”
Ellen’s heart went out to him. “I’m sure you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to Cas, and if his family’s too stupid to see that, it’s on them.” Then she saw red. “Dean, did they rough you up?”
Dean began a shrug that was aborted halfway through. “Tried to, Cas stepped in. Fixed me up, told ‘em I was off limits, but ribs ended up a bit sore, I guess.”
“Well, it ain’t bruised on the outside, so small mercies. Honestly, aside from that you’re looking better than usual.” He was, too; aside from his usual assortment of pre-existing scars he didn’t seem to have acquired any new ones, and none of his skin bore the usual marks of new or half-healed bruises.
“What can I say,” Dean grinned, “I’m just that good. Can I put my shirt back on yet? It’s cold enough in here my nipples are feeling even perkier than usual.”
“Shit, no, wait… the hell is this, Dean?” Ellen said, stopping in front of his shoulder. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t seen it earlier, but she’d been distracted checking for damage on his lower abdomen.
Dean instinctively slapped his hand over his shoulder, but there was no way he could hide such a large burn. “It’s healed.”
Ellen glared at him and pried his fingers away for a closer look. Sure enough, the burn was healed, but the scar it had left was large and oddly shaped, looking for all the world like a palm and fingertips. “What the hell did this? It looks third degree.”
“Could’ve been anything. Anyway, I told you, it’s healed.”
This time, she could tell by the set of his jaw that she wasn’t going to get anywhere. Damn stubborn Winchesters. She grabbed his clothes and tossed them back towards him. “Fine. But those ribs ain’t. Let’s go get you a shot of eighty-proof painkiller.”
The next Sunday night saw a bar fight of epic proportions. Ellen had hurled out the last offender and locked the door with a sigh, and Ash just rolled over on the pool table and snored. Jo swept up the broken glass as Ellen squinted out the window.
“Gotta be a full moon coming.” Ellen shook her head. “Damn fools.”
The next night Jo dodged gropes and pinches like a barrel racer, and Ellen finally resorted to laying her shotgun on the bar as Jo fumed and Ash tried not to laugh.
“I’m gonna start carrying a boot knife,” Jo hissed, glaring at a grinning hunter who dared to tip his hat at her. Ellen just glanced resignedly at the sliver of moonlight showing through the bar window.
“What the hell is going on this week?” Jo yelled on Tuesday, trying to make herself heard over the improbable choice of “Party in the USA” playing on the jukebox. Men and women mobbed the floor, boots stomping and beer flying. People were stacked up three deep at the bar, and Jo and Ellen were getting run off their feet. Ash kept them supplied from the storeroom, but by the time the last revelers disappeared down the road with a whoop and a final revving of an engine, both women sank onto the nearest barstools with a united groan of relief.
“Fucking full moon,” said Jo fervently.
“Joanna Beth, you watch that mouth.”
On Wednesday night, Ramble On started playing on the jukebox and Jo stopped in the middle of mopping the floor. “Either of you heard from Dean this week?”
“No… come to that, I don’t think we’ve heard from him for a few weeks now, think he was after a werewolf in Wisconsin?” Ellen said. “Ash, can you…”
“Doctor Badass is all over it,” Ash said, typing away. “Just gimme a few.”
“Well, it is Dean,” Ellen said, slowly. “Maybe he’s just busy.”
“Yeah, but he’s been really good about keepin’ in touch lately, y’know? I think it’s Cas’ influence.”
“No point worrying just yet. But maybe I’ll call Bobby, ask if he’s been around.”
“None of his recent aliases are showing up as recent arrests, no John Does matching his description in hospitals or morgues,” Ash said. “Got the equivalent of Google Alerts for Hunters up and running.”
“Well, I mean, that’s good, at least?” Jo said, looking at her mother and Ash for reassurance. “It’s probably just…. Dean being Dean.”
“I’ll definitely bust his ass ‘bout calling more when he finally rolls back in here,” Ellen said, but there was an edge to her voice.
Jo made a mental note to call Sam next chance she got.
On Thursday, a man stalked into the Roadhouse like a force of nature, shoving the door open hard enough to slam it against the wall loudly and causing everyone to look up.
“What’s the hurry, stranger?” Ellen said, already reaching surreptitiously for the shotgun under the bar. Around her, a couple of other hunters shifted into position, just in case he was aiming to start something. The man had already passed without pause over the devil’s trap and salt barrier at the entrance, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t some other flavor of dangerous.
He stopped directly in front of her, staring at her, hell, staring through her, with some of the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. “Ellen Harvelle.”
She thumbed the safety off. “That’s right.”
The man cocked his head to the side slightly and kept staring, the intensity of his gaze an almost palpable force. Ellen broke eye contact first, flicking her eyes up and down to try and get his measure. He looked clean but rumpled, as though he regularly washed his suit, trench coat, and himself simultaneously at the laundromat. His hands were empty at his sides and he didn’t seem to be packing.
“Dean Winchester is in danger. I require your assistance.”
Ellen jerked her head towards the door behind the bar. “We’ll talk in the back.”
He nodded and moved towards the doorway, turning his back on her as he did so. He was too goddamn trusting for a hunter, so either he was just a damn fool, or he wasn’t afraid of her. Which still made him a damn fool.
She made quick eye contact with Jo, who bit her lip but nodded in acceptance of Ellen’s unspoken orders, then followed the man into the back room. Before he had a chance to turn around, her gun was against his back, level with his heart. “Tell me what’s going on. Now.”
“Dean told me if I ever needed assistance and he was… unavailable, I was to come to the Roadhouse and ask for Ellen Harvelle. I was to mention his name and the word ‘Poughkeepsie’.”
Ellen exhaled sharply. The codeword meant the man was legit, but that meant whatever he was saying about Dean was likely true as well. She lowered the gun. “Fair enough. You’re in the right place.”
“May I turn around?”
“Go ahead. But don’t try anything.”
“I'm no threat to you,” he said, turning to face her.
“Yeah, well, trust is earned, boy.”
He smiled, a small, tight twist of his lips. “You are exactly as he has described.”
“What’s the fool boy gotten into now?”
“Demon,” he said, growling the word as though vocally mangling it was a poor substitute for physically doing so. “Disguising their murders as the work of other monsters. We failed to realize the true threat until Dean had been captured.”
They both turned their heads at the gasp from the other side of the door.
Ellen sighed. “Get in here, Joanna. And tell me there’s still someone tending the bar.”
“I left Ash in charge,” Jo said as she entered the room, closing the door behind her. “But you can’t expect me to stay out of this, Mom. It’s Dean.”
“Joanna Beth…” Ellen began.
“No, Mom. You don’t want me hunting, fine. But this ain’t a hunt, it’s a rescue. And Dean is family. You taught me there ain’t nothing more important than family.”
They stared at each other, and Ellen allowed herself to look, really look, at her daughter. Her expression softened. “Yeah, you’re coming.”
“Joanna Beth Harvelle,” the man said in greeting. “Dean speaks of you with great fondness.”
“Yeah, well, who’re you?”
Might’ve just been her eyes being tired, but Ellen could almost swear the room got darker, like the light was being pulled towards the center where the man stood. “My name is Castiel. I am…”
“Shit, you’re Cas?” Jo said, almost squeaking in her surprise. “Dean’s Cas?” Ellen echoed. She blinked a couple of times, but her vision seemed back to normal.
Cas looked confused. “Dean…” he began, but before he could get out the rest of the sentence Jo was hugging him tightly.
“Good to finally meet you, boy.” Ellen said, clapping him on the shoulder as Jo continued to hug him. “Been telling Dean to bring you around.”
“He’s spoken of me?”
“Course he has, hell, by Dean standards he’s practically been gushing ‘bout you.” Ellen took pity on him, standing still as a statue like he wasn’t sure if it was safe to move. “Let go of him, girl, he can’t breathe.”
Jo reluctantly released him, but continued staring. “He got a handsome one, no surprise there.”
Ellen snorted. “Never could resist a pretty face, our Dean. Course he ain’t half bad either, right, Cas?” She elbowed him gently.
“His physical form is very appealing,” Cas admitted, then added matter of fact, “And of course his soul is the brightest and most glorious I’ve ever encountered.”
“Well, aren’t you just the sweetest thing,” Jo said, smiling. “How did you two meet? Dean hasn’t said.”
“He tried to kill me.”
“That’s Dean for you.”
“Apparently it runs in the family,” Cas said dryly. “We need to leave.”
“Ten minutes to get supplies,” Ellen said, “and we’ll be ready.”
Some hasty grabbing of weaponry and first aid supplies and giving of various last-minute instructions to Ash saw them heading out of the Roadhouse. “You brought wheels?” Jo asked.
Cas pointed to the mint condition black 1967 Chevy Impala that sat, gleaming, in front of the building.
“You brought the Impala?”
“I knew he wouldn’t want me to leave it there.”
“You drove Dean’s Impala?”
“Dean has been teaching me to drive it.”
Ellen looked at Jo. Jo looked at Ellen. Wordlessly, they climbed into the car, with Ellen taking shotgun and Jo sitting in the back.
“So how serious are you?”
“Dean says I’m ‘too serious,’ and ‘need to learn to frickin’ lighten up already, Cas’.” Cas said in a passable imitation of Dean’s voice.
“I meant you and Dean. How serious is your relationship?”
“We share a profound bond.”
“Has he said ‘I love you’ yet?” Jo asked.
“Jo!” Ellen said, sharply. “That’s private.” She turned back to Cas. “So has he?”
“No?” Cas said, sounding hesitant for the first time.
“Dean’s about as good with talking about his feelings as the stuffed deer head across from the dart board. My Bill was the same way. If you’re lucky he’ll say it before the wedding day.”
“He totally does, though,” Jo hastened to reassure Cas. “I mean, you can see it in his face when he talks about you. You make him happier.”
“And I never thought I’d see the day he let anyone other than Sam touch his baby, let alone teach ‘em to drive it. That’s practically a Winchester proposal. Anyway, we think you’re good for him, and we’re one hundred percent behind you two bein’ together. Course you break his heart and you’re gonna have worse than demons to face,” Ellen said, and her smile was all teeth.
“I would never do anything to harm Dean Winchester,” Castiel said. His words had the weight of a vow behind them.
Ellen nodded. “Now that’s settled, why don’t you tell us about this hunt?”
“The killer we were tracking showed all the signs of being a werewolf-- the hearts of the victims were missing, presumed eaten, and the killings themselves correlated with the nights of the full moon. Dean was determined to stop it, especially after his recent difficulties in concluding what appeared to be a string of vampire killings in a nearby town. He suggested we take a break from that case for a few days to take advantage of the full moon and hunt the lycanthrope instead.”
“And?” Jo asked.
“We split up to track the persons deemed most likely to be the werewolf. It was only afterwards that I discovered that it wasn’t a werewolf, but a demon or demons hiding its kills under the guise of another creature’s modus operandi. I suspect the vampire case was the same, meant to draw us in and similarly underestimate it. It likely captured Dean by taking advantage of his misdirected preparation.”
“Yeah, silver bullets or dead man’s blood wouldn’t do shit against a demon.”
“Were they specifically targeting Dean?”
“It’s possible,” Cas said. “Even the supernatural world knows of the Winchesters.”
Ellen used the rearview mirror to make eye contact with her daughter, both of them thinking the same thing. “Cas, sweetie, I hate to ask this, but are you sure he’s still alive?”
“Rationally, if it just wanted him dead it could have simply killed him and left him. Taking him suggests there is some further plan. On a less rational and more intuitive and emotional level, I'm certain I would know if Dean were dead.”
“So you’ve got faith. Good enough for us.”
Cas’s expression lightened. He gestured toward the dashboard.
“There are pendants in the glove compartment,” Cas said. “From Bobby Singer. Put them on, please. They’ll prevent possession.”
Ellen rifled around in the space until she found two silver charms, each of a pentagram wreathed in sun rays, dangling from leather cords. She handed one to Jo before placing the other around her neck. “Speaking of… Dean wearing one of these, or are we gonna want to squirt him with holy water when we see him too?”
“Dean bears his more permanently,” Cas said. “He should be safe from demonic possession.”
“He has a tattoo of this?” Jo asked, fingering her pendant thoughtfully.
“He didn’t have it a few weeks ago,” Ellen said, thinking back to the last time she’d seen Dean, “Leastaways, not unless it was someplace real private.”
Jo let out a wolf whistle.
“It is on his chest above his heart,” Cas said stiffly, “and it was done recently.”
“Get Dean’s shirt off, check,” Jo said.
The light in the glove compartment sparked and went out with an abrupt pop.
Cas kept his eyes very deliberately on the road ahead. “Dean will be annoyed about the bulb.”
Jo snorted. “Good thing he likes you, then.”
Cas drove them to what must have been the small town’s outskirts: an area filled with half-collapsed warehouses and disused factories testifying to a boom that had long since gone bust.
“I am unsure of Dean’s exact location, but have narrowed it down to a few warehouses locally. I believe we should split up,” Ellen was about to object, when Cas continued, “you two staying together, and you will contact me if you find anything. Please refrain from engaging any hostile elements until I arrive.
“It may know about me, and may be prepared for me,” he added solemnly. “It will not be prepared for all of us.”
Ellen narrowed her eyes at him, then shook her head in acquiescence. "All right, but you'd better have a phone on you so we can keep in touch." Jo looked mutinous until Ellen shot her a warning look, taking Cas' phone when it was offered and sending herself a text. "There, now we're all connected. Where to first?"
“Here,” he said, parking the Impala. “Somewhere nearby.”
"What, that's it?" Jo said in disbelief. "You're just gonna drop us off in the middle of Dark City and drive away?"
"Joanna Beth, be polite. But she's got a point. You got any better directions than that, Cas? It's not a lot for us to go on, 'specially with demons involved." Ellen's brow creased with a hint of worry.
"I have only a...lead on where he is, not a definite location. We will have to search the buildings along these streets for only approximately a block in each direction, however. I will begin with the north side," Cas gestured to a particularly run-down warehouse opposite them, "and you may choose which building you enter first."
"That's a little better," Jo said sulkily, checking the safety on her handgun and opening her door. She reached back into the car and grabbed the three holy-water-filled Super Soakers from the back seat. "Here, Mom, Cas. Cas, can you open the trunk? I know this car's got more supplies in there."
"Of course, Jo." Cas moved toward the back of the car, and Ellen loaded herself up from the supplies of salt and goofer dust they'd scrambled together back at the Roadhouse.
"Aha! Perfect!" Jo held up a sparkly silver and pink Hula Hoop and shook it, making it rattle. "Salt-filled! I suggested this to Dean a while back, didn't know if he'd get his head out of his ass about it." She rummaged a bit more. "There's another one, Mom, if you want."
“Sure, hon, if you carry ‘em. I want my hands free for the water gun. Cas?”
“I am already equipped for dealing with demons,” Cas said, and in his hand was a long silver blade that Ellen could have sworn hadn’t been there a moment ago.
Ellen was beginning to think maybe Dean’s tales about Cas’ abilities weren’t necessarily exaggerated.
“Alright, let’s go rescue us a Winchester.”
The first few buildings were clear.
“So what do you think of Cas?” Jo whispered to Ellen.
“Now is really not the time,” Ellen whispered back.
“Aww, come on Mom, we finally got to meet him!”
“Jo, honey, I—”
“No, seriously! He’s adorable, right?” Jo was talking so fast her whisper sounded like one long hiss. “And he gets the same look when he talks about Dean that Dean does when he talks about Cas. If they’re not together it’s a fucking crime. Think of what adorable babies-”
“Joanna Beth Harvelle, be quiet this instant!” Ellen hissed.
Jo shut her mouth with a snap, her petulant look turning alert when the noise her mother had heard came again. A faint banging, metallic and irregular, as if someone was knocking on empty pipes or ductwork.
“We looked all over this place already, it’s just one big empty room!” Jo shone her light into all the corners again, discovering nothing new.
“Hm. Think this place might have a sub-basement?”
Ellen and Jo exchanged a look, and each moved off in a different direction to look intently at the wooden floor beneath their feet. A moment later, Jo heard her mother’s soft hiss, and turned to see Ellen flipping back a dust-covered tarp they’d overlooked earlier.
Ellen motioned for Jo, who approached cautiously, even more alert now that they’d discovered something.
“Trap door,” Ellen whispered, gesturing with her maglite. They could see it plainly now that the covering had been removed: a large plywood panel, obviously new, with gleaming steel hardware. The tarp was older, clearly used simply for effective camouflage, hiding both the door and the bare spot next to it where dust had been cleared away by the passage of feet.
“This is it for sure. Shit, I hate going in blind, but Cas said there weren’t more than a few demons — at least we could clear a few out.” Ellen frowned in concentration. “Okay, Jo, we’re just gonna lift this the tiniest bit to see what’s up. I’ll lift, you look. Count of three. One, two—”
The panel rose soundlessly just an inch or two, and Jo shone her own maglite into the dark space. “Stairs, and another door. No critters in sight, door’s shut.” Ellen let the panel down again.
“All right, let’s head down there and see what’s what. Ready?”
Jo nodded once, her face tense in the cold beam of the flashlight.
“On three again. Once we’re past the door, on silent, hand signals only. All right, sweetie?”
Jo took a deep breath and nodded again, lips in a firm line. Her mother gave her a tight smile and lifted.
The trap door rose again, so easily and silently that Ellen was nearly caught off guard. Jo motioned with her light to the counterweight hidden by the inner door, and Ellen nodded in understanding.
The inner door was a plain steel one, obviously original to the building, as it had several chipping coats of paint and was covered in scratches and dents. Jo tried the aluminum knob and found it locked; she looked at Ellen, who nodded and knelt, setting down her flashlight to pull a lockpick kit out of her boot. She laid it out on the dusty floor as Jo held her own light steady.
Ellen gestured to the knob, and Jo immediately shone the light there. Ellen examined it for a moment, then bent to her tools again, selecting two. She made quick work of the lock, and Jo marvelled again at her mother’s dexterity; it took her at least five minutes on a good day, after practice, and her mom did it in about forty-five seconds.
Ellen looked up and grinned at her daughter, then stowed her kit back in her boot and rose. The two women readied their makeshift and deadly weapons, exchanged another glance, then Ellen reached for the knob. This door, too, opened silently, revealing a dimly-lit corridor.
It also revealed a large, badly dressed, and angry demon.
Ellen brought her water gun to bear, hitting the demon square in the face and provoking a hiss of rage. As the demon struggled to clear its eyes, Jo flung the hula hoop like a ring-toss, catching the evil thing just as it raised its hands to ward off another stream of holy water from Ellen’s weapon. The hoop sailed neatly over the demon’s head, spiralling down its body to clatter onto the floor. The demon snarled and tried to lunge, but it hit the salt barrier like a wall and fell back. Ellen quickly and quietly recited the words to Sam’s favorite exorcism, memorized at his insistence before he left for California, and the demon fled in a cloud of sulphurous smoke.
The whole confrontation had taken less than a minute.
Jo knelt beside the body of the man who the demon had possessed, checking for a pulse. Her face was grim as she looked back at her mother and shook her head. Ellen’s eyes were sad, but her expression was determined as she nodded for her daughter to fall in behind her.
The shadowy hallway stretched before them, ominous in its emptiness. Ellen shone her light cautiously ahead, and the women could see that the corridor ended in a T about ten yards further up. She shut her light off and motioned for Jo to do the same; they waited for a moment for their eyes to adjust to the dimness, then moved as silently as possible toward the intersection.
“Looking for me?” A tall, lithe figure stepped around the corner, heels crunching delicately on the dusty floor. Taken off guard, Ellen and Jo tensed, watching as the demon crossed her leather-clad arms and leaned casually against the corridor wall. “Oooh, sweeties, looks like the game stops here. For you, anyway. For me?” Her red lips curved in a smirk. “Looks like it’s just beginning. Should have run while you had the chance.”
“Yeah, fat chance, bitch,” Jo muttered, swinging her Super Soaker up and taking a step to the left, while her mother did the same on the right.
“Tsk tsk. Naughty naughty, Joanna Beth. That’s a dollar in the curse jar.” The demon wearing the female meatsuit uncrossed her arms and stepped forward, moving like a cross between a supermodel and a jaguar.
“On three, Jo,” Ellen said quietly, never taking her eyes off the demon moving toward them. “One.”
Jo yanked a canister from her belt and flung it, then yelled “NOW!” Both humans turned and covered their eyes as the flashbang went off. Jo could see the flare behind her eyelids, and heard the demon screaming as the holy water capsule enclosed in the incendiary hissed into steam.
Both women turned back to the demon, weapons already streaming water, and began to advance steadily down the hallway as Ellen recited the exorcism. The demon twisted in the onslaught, unable to escape the triangulation that trapped it. Jo dropped her empty water gun and hurled the second hula hoop, wincing as it bounced off the ceiling and fell to the ground beside the demon.
“Dammit. Plan B,” muttered Jo, reaching into the satchel at her side and pulling out a length of cloth. She spun it deftly between her hands, then flung it upwards at the demon. It flew outwards into a circle, then landed over the screaming creature.
Ellen watched the figure convulse as she spit out the last few words of the exorcism. “...libertate servire te rogamus, audi nos.” She lowered her water gun and watched as the demon’s essence smoked away. Then she turned to her daughter, raising an eyebrow.
“The hell was that?”
Jo shrugged, hiding a smirk. “Just a little invention. Weighted infinity scarf with a devil’s trap. Based on the Inuit kiipooyaq and the throw net.”
Ellen pulled out her phone, glancing anxiously up and down the corridor. “I’m gonna call Cas; we can’t go any further alone. You’re out of water and I’m low. Let’s reload while we wait for him.”
Jo nodded and pulled a second water cartridge out of her satchel, setting the bag down next to her mother. She unscrewed the original cartridge and loaded the spare; her back to the wall, she eased down to the intersection, pulling the weapon forward as she peered cautiously around the edge of the wall. She bent to take the possessed woman’s pulse, but sighed and stood almost immediately. Straightening, she stepped forward into the second hallway. Ellen watched as she disappeared down the right-hand branch.
A few seconds later, Jo reappeared. Walking carefully, she skirted the corpse of the possessed human, then grabbed the cloth and her hula hoop and returned to her mother’s side. She spoke almost directly into her mother’s ear.
“Clear both ways. Right hallway has three locked doors but it’s a dead end. Left corridor ends in a door; sounds like that’s where the banging is coming from.”
Castiel picked up almost immediately. Ellen skipped the pleasantries. “Cas, we think we found him. We’re in the middle one on the right, there’s a…”
“I’ll be right there,” Cas said, and hung up.
Ellen hadn’t even finished putting the phone back in her pocket when Cas appeared, jumping down the last few steps to the sub-basement level.
“How the hell’d you get here so fast, boy?” she exclaimed.
“I was nearby. I told you to wait,” he growled, glancing around at the former demons.
Ellen shrugged. “They were here. We were ready. We didn’t get far, anyway; just a little reconnaissance.”
“Hunters,” Cas said, then began striding down the left corridor. “Incapable of following instructions.”
Jo looked indignant, then pissed. “The fuck?! Where’s he get off—”
“C’mon, Jo, save it for later. We’ve got a princess to rescue.” Ellen jerked her head in Cas’ direction.
Cas pushed the door, which must’ve been unlocked, open with enough force that if anything had missed that they were here, they definitely knew now.
“Ah, Castiel, so glad that you could make it,” said the oily voice of yet another demon appearing directly in front of him. “I was afraid you’d…” Cas didn’t bother responding, instead choosing to shove his silver blade through the thing’s chest, lighting it up like a Christmas tree before the glow faded and the demon was gone.
“Holy crap!” blurted Jo before she could stop herself. “I want one of those!”
“Hey Cas,” a familiar voice called out from somewhere in front of them.
Despite a mouth full of bloody teeth, a busted lip, a black eye, a bare chest covered with all colors of cuts and bruises, whatever the hell internal injuries he was currently suffering from, and the fact that he was still tied to a chair in the middle of a burning circle in the basement of an abandoned warehouse, Dean was grinning.
“Dean,” Cas replied.
They stared at each other across the room, and this, this was it, this was what musicians wrote songs about, this was what poets tried so damn hard to describe, this was two people looking at each other across a few yards of basement and a circle of fire and it still felt like Ellen and Jo were intruding on something more private than if they’d walked in on ‘em both naked and screwing like rabbits. This was two people connecting across time and space and she knew, right then, that there was nothing for Dean like there was Cas, and that Dean occupied the right exact dead center of Cas’ universe.
“Fancy running into you here.”
Dean tried to shrug before settling for nonchalance. “Demons. This is why no one comes to their parties.”
“They hurt you,” Cas said, and from his tone it was probably just as well for the demons that they’d already been killed or exorcised.
“Yeah, they…. uh… they were looking for information.”
Cas took a step towards Dean.
“It’s holy oil!” Dean said, looking suddenly alarmed. “They… they knew stuff.”
“Ellen, Joanna, please use your water guns to douse the flames,” Cas said, still not breaking eye contact.
“Oh, hey, Ellen, Jo,” Dean said, seeming to notice them for the first time. Ellen would’ve been annoyed if the whole thing hadn’t been so adorable, and if she wasn’t currently just so damn glad her boy was alright. “What’re you doing here?”
“Rescuing your sorry ass, boy, what’s it look like?” Ellen’s impeccable aim made the flames sizzle. “Glad you’re okay, Dean.”
“Their assistance was invaluable in retrieving you,” Cas added.
“Yeah, we kicked demon ass!” Jo chimed in. “You should’ve seen Mom.”
As soon as there was a break in the flames Cas was across the gap and next to Dean’s chair. He did something to the ropes to make them fall to the ground and stood, raking over Dean’s body with his eyes. “Bruised ribs, again, broken collarbone, again, blood loss, again…”
“Personal space, Cas,” Dean said, eyes flicking worriedly over to Ellen and Jo. “And that was the other collarbone.”
“You are… maddening at times,” Cas said, reaching out towards Dean’s face before stopping himself, his hand hovering an inch away.
“Give it up, you two,” Jo said. “We know what’s going on.”
They turned towards the women and Ellen could have laughed at their identical stunned expressions.
“We ain’t stupid, you know. We’ve known for ages. Your brother, too.”
“We keep in touch,” Jo said defensively. She crossed her arms and glared for a moment, then relaxed.
“And Bobby,” added Ellen, trying to hide her smile.
Dean and Cas looked back at each other, some silent communication clearly taking place. Dean broke the silence first.
“Well, cat’s outta that bag,” Dean said. “So in that case, mind doin’ the finger…”
Cas smiled gently and lifted his hand again. Two fingers touched Dean’s forehead and he and Cas were gone.
“Wait, what? DEAN!”
“But he said he wasn’t—”
In another blink, Cas was before them, smiling, and his hands were reaching out. Before Jo could scream, he touched her.
And the world spun.
They stood in the middle of the Roadhouse.
Dean stood in front of them, fully dressed, healed, and grinning like the idiot he was. “Pretty badass, right?” He turned to Castiel, standing next to him. “Baby?”
“In the parking lot outside.”
“Fuckin’ A, man, I ever told you you’re perfect?” Dean said, slapping Cas on the back. “Drinks on me.” He looked over at Ellen and Jo, who stood like statues. “Yeah, no, first time on Angel Air’s always a bit rough. Sorry. Head between your knees, deep breaths, I’ll get the bourbon.”
“Dean.” Jo gulped, looking a little green. “What. The fuck. Is going on.” She staggered a little, and Ellen moved to take her arm.
“Mind tellin’ me just what the hell that was?” Ellen snarled, stepping between Dean and Cas and where Jo stood. “If you think I’m gonna let him do anything to my daughter—”
Dean stepped protectively in front of Castiel, his hands up in the universal gesture for ‘don’t shoot. “Cas transported us all back with his angel-of-the-lord mojo, ‘cause he’s awesome like that. And healed me, because, again, awesome. Don’t get your panties in a knot.”
“Wait, your boyfriend’s an angel?” Ellen said.
“Wait, boyfriend?” Dean said.
“Wait, what?” Jo said.
Cas tilted his head to the side in confusion, but said nothing.
“Shit, I definitely need that drink now,” Dean said. He shook his head in disbelief before making his way to the bar to pour out two fingers of bourbon each into four glasses.
“Cas is harmless,” he said, shoving a glass into Ellen’s hand. “Well, okay, not harmless,” he added, handing another to Jo, “Mostly harmless? In the sense that he’s actually really damn dangerous but he’s on our side.” He finished by giving one of the two remaining glasses to Castiel and knocking back the other.
“Dean is correct,” Cas added helpfully. At another glance from Dean, he threw back his glass of whiskey with the nonchalance of someone taught to drink by a Winchester.
“I’m still stuck on ‘angel’,” said Ellen skeptically.
“Hey, you should do the wing thing,” Dean said, nudging Cas slightly with his elbow.
“Wing thing,” Cas said, as they did that silent all-eye communication thing again.
“Wing thing,” echoed Jo faintly.
This time the room definitely darkened, seeming to grow larger as it did so. And Castiel… Castiel grew, somehow, even as he stayed the same size, his presence filling the space. Behind him, shadows formed, coalescing into two giant black...
Of an Angel of the Lord.
Ellen’s jaw dropped. “I’ll be damned.” Besides her, Jo made a similar noise of wonderment.
The wings vanished. The room brightened.
“Actually,” Cas replied, again looking for all the world as though he was a slightly confused CPA and not some kind of badass divine warrior, “while it is presumptuous to predict a soul’s…”
“Figure of speech, Cas,” Dean interrupted. “Means she was surprised, that’s all.” He crossed his arms. “So you really didn’t know.”
“We just thought you were, y’know, secretly dating and you didn’t know how to tell us you were bisexual or introduce us to your boyfriend,” Jo said.
“Bisexual?” Dean sputtered.
“Boyfriend?” Cas asked, tilting his head slightly to the side. Whereas Dean has sounded defensive and indignant, Castiel sounded curious.
“We’re not dating!” Dean said. “I’m not dating anyone!”
“What would dating someone entail, Dean?” Cas asked.
“You, uhh… you spend time together….”
Cas took a step closer, stopping a few scant inches away from Dean. “We do that.”
“Go out for food…” Dean said, staring intently into Cas’ eyes, and it was clear that both of them had completely forgotten anyone else was present.
“We have broken bread together on many occasions. You've been kind enough to introduce me to many fascinating foodstuffs.”
“And you, y’know, you care about each other.”
“Do you not care for me?”
“I mean, yeah, of course I do, you’re like…” Dean licked his lips. “You’re family, Cas. You matter to me.” He paused. “You, uh, you feel the same way?”
“I have loved you from the moment I first saw you, Dean. Your soul is the brightest I have ever encountered,” Cas said.
“But, I mean, there’s the love like… Sammy and me, we’re brothers, and there’s the kinda love where you, uh, you kiss and stuff,” Dean added, voice starting to sound a little strangled. “Show physical affection.”
“Eros,” Cas nodded. “In addition to philia and agape. So we should be doing this?” He grabbed Dean by the lapels of the leather coat he was once again wearing and pulled them together, kissing him as though he were underwater and Dean was made of oxygen.
At first, it was sweet, an old fashioned Hollywood movie ending, especially once Dean got past his initial shock and started giving back as good as he got, hands moving over Cas’ body like he wasn’t sure where they were supposed to go before settling for one wrapped around his back and one buried in the short, messy strands of the angel’s hair.
Jo coughed. Politely.
But it just kept going, becoming clearer and clearer that at least one of them didn’t actually have to breathe.
Ellen coughed. Louder. And then she kicked over a bar stool. She contemplated picking it back up and hitting one of them over the head with it, but Dean was too hardheaded and Cas would probably just break the stool.
Jo walked up and slapped the back of Dean’s head, causing the men to finally break apart.
“Ow! Son of a bitch,” Dean swore, hand going to the back of his head to check for damage. He glared at Jo for a moment, but then his eyes once again turned towards Castiel. “Where the hell did you…”
Cas’ expression was as stoic as ever, but his clothes and hair looked like they’d gotten caught in Hurricane Dean. “The pizza man.”
They started doing that eye thing again, and Ellen swore she could feel the room temperature rising, and there was an odd, staticky feel to the air. She wondered if she was going to have to hose them down with the fire extinguisher.
“Can we, uh, can we get back to you on that boyfriend thing?” Dean asked, still a bit dazed. He still didn’t take his eyes off Cas. “I think Cas and I need to discuss it further.”
Cas reached out towards Dean, gently placing a hand on the side of his face.
They vanished with a flutter of wings.
“Idiots,” Ellen said. Jo nodded.
“We’d better be invited to the wedding.”