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The first thing Dean was aware of was warmth, comforting and all encompassing. It wrapped around his body, spreading out from his lower back. It felt familiar, in a strange way. Safe .

He was tempted to bury himself deeper in it, to go back to sleep, but there was light hitting his eyelids now, blinding him even with his eyes closed, and the surface he was laying on was, he was suddenly very aware of, hard and extremely uncomfortable. With a groan, Dean attempted to raise himself to his elbow, and suddenly he became aware of several things at once.

He was half-hanging off a jailhouse bed, a stetson hat brushing against his dangling fingertips on the floor, a solid body against his back with an arm holding his middle in a vice grip, and one Bobby Singer, a sheriff’s badge pinned to his leather vest, was giving him a look that was equal parts amused and annoyed through the jail bars.

“Ya finally ready to rejoin us in the land of the livin’, boys?”

And in an instant, it all came to Dean so hard he jerked himself from the bed and his bedmate’s arms, landing sprawled across the ground, crushing his hat in the process — he, Deputy Winchester, must have passed out in his own damn jailhouse’s cell. Judging from the light coming through the barred window, it was mid-morning, and knowing how fast talk spreads around their little town, everyone knew it.

He’d be hearing about this until the end of his days.

Dean covered his face with his hands and groaned.

“...Dean?” A hesitant voice said from above him.

Peeking through his fingers, Dean watched an upside down face appear over the edge of the bed, looking down at him with narrowed blue eyes. He blinked up at wind-tangled hair, a stubbled chin, furrowed brow, and — even though the angle looked kinda weird from where Dean was laying — an endearing head tilt. The man above him was staring at him with a mixture of confusion and concern. “Dean, are you alright?”

Are you? Dean almost asked back. He blinked away a vision of the man with tears streaming down his face, unsure where the mental image even came from. The man now looked a little harried, but his eyes were completely dry, not even red rimmed. They were clear, bright, and something about them made something in Dean’s chest both ache and ease.

Then a name came to him: Castiel.

Cas .

A grin broke out over Dean’s face. “Why, I’m in apple pie order, Cas.”

From the other side of the bars, Sheriff Singer snorted loudly, reminding them both of his presence. It was odd, the sound almost made Dean feel nostalgic.

Dean scrambled to his feet and Cas sat up. “Sorry, Sheriff,” Dean muttered.

“Uh-huh.” Sheriff Singer gave Cas a long look before nodding his head at Dean, saying, “My deputy here bring you in, boy? I need to know if I gotta keep you locked in there with someone who ain’t coffee boiler watchin’.”

“Hey,” Dean protested, “this is a one time thing, Sheriff, I swear. I ain’t getting slow and lazy on you yet. And Cas here is good people.” Dean looked over his shoulder, watching Cas stand, his long, dust colored coat rustling around his legs as he walked to stand by Dean’s side. Dean caught sight of a holster at his hip, hidden by the ragged coat, but couldn’t tell if there was a gun in it. He doubted it — Cas, Dean just knew, didn’t favor firearms. Clapping a hand on Cas’s back and letting it linger there, Dean said, “I think his happy little face’ll be known around town soon enough.”

“So he’ll be sticking around, then?” Sheriff Singer asked.

“Sure he will. Right, Cas?”

Cas was squinting, looking between the two men. He seemed dazed, confused, and Dean felt a tension in his shoulders beneath his hand. He had a sudden mental image of Cas just… disappearing, vanishing on the wind more or less. Leaving him behind.

Again.

Cas’s eyes trained on Dean’s face, unblinking.

“...Cas?”

Then, suddenly, the tension was gone, Cas’s shoulders lowering, and he met Dean’s waning grin with a small one of his own. “Of course, Dean. As long as you’ll have me, I will call this town home.”

There’s a stack of freshly printed wanted posters waiting on the sheriff’s desk for the Scape-Grace Gang, a gang of outlaws that have been causing trouble throughout towns in the area. They haven’t shown their faces around Dean’s town yet (or any town, for that matter, since they all wore bandanas high on their faces and hats low on their heads), but they recently made a nasty show of things at a bar the next town over. Sheriff Singer wanted all eyes open and guns at the ready to bring them in.

“Dead or alive,” Dean finishes explaining. For some reason, he feels almost giddy saying it — maybe because it's been a while since their little town has had any trouble at all. The last thing he wanted was a shootout, but he can’t say no to a little excitement.

Sheriff Singer unceremoniously drops the stack in his hands. “Since you and your friend here slept through mornin’ patrol, I expect the botha’ ya to go out and hang these around town, make sure the word actually gets spread.”

“It doesn’t take much to spread words,” Dean mutters to Cas. Cas, for his part, accepts his stack silently. His only reaction thus far are his eyebrows, which are raised high enough that they disappear beneath his hat. Sheriff Singer only snorts at them and tells them to “‘Git.”

So with a hammer and a pocket full of nails each, they set out, starting at Harvelle’s Roadhouse, the epicentre of gossip in town if there ever was one. Pushing open the doors, Dean automatically made sure to step over the creaky floorboard Ellen used to single out unfamiliar strangers, so she’d have an easy time knowing who to keep an eye on. Honestly, it was more of a formality than anything else — Ellen knew just about everyone in town on sight and always kept one eye on anyone entering and exiting her saloon.

Standing behind the counter, cleaning out a glass with an old cloth, stood Ellen herself. The amused grin she was wearing told Dean his earlier fears about being the latest piece of gossip were true. “Deputy, there you are! I was half-waiting for Sheriff Singer to call for a search party.”

“Hardy-har, ma’am.” Dean rolled his eyes, mainly for show, before elbowing Cas, who had been looking around the saloon with a wide eyed look. It brought to mind a hazy-half memory of a younger Dean dragging Cas to a saloon with ladies of the line . “My friend here and I are just doing a quick round, raising awareness for some outlaws that’ve been causing trouble lately. Mind if we put a poster by your door.”

“Not at all, Deputy. If you can drag my daughter away from her pistols for a moment, I’m sure she’d be glad to volunteer her assistance with that.” Ellen’s eyes crinkled in amusement again, “‘Course, goodness knows a little leg stretching’d do you boys good, so you’re fit to handle them if those outlaws do decide to show their faces.”

“And keep all the fun to ourselves? Jo’d be heartbroken if she didn’t get the chance to play Sheriff herself.”

Ellen shook her head in good nature. Leaning against the bar, Dean felt a pair of eyes on the back of his skull. Turning to the side, he saw a short man with sandy-brown hair playing a piano he hadn’t noticed when they came in. The man was eyeing him and Cas heavily, looking somewhere between intrigued and confused. When he caught Dean’s eye, his face split into a shit-eating grin and he winked before turning his focus back to the piano.

A sense of unease settled in Dean’s chest at the sight of him, but before he could ask about him, Ellen interrupted his train of thought. “Can I offer either of y’all a drink before you head out? Cas, any friend of Deputy Winchester’s a friend of this bar, so don’t be shy now.”

“...Maybe later,” Cas said.

Dean declined as well, but stuck around for a few more minutes to chat with Ellen. He honestly felt no rush at the moment.

He felt content.

He handed her a couple wanted posters to keep inside before heading out. Cas, following behind him, stepped on the creaky floorboard on his way out.

Cas hadn’t stepped on the floorboard on the way in, Dean realized. Newcomer’s luck, he supposed.

It wasn’t that hard to find Jo. They just had to follow the sound of gunshots followed either by a bluestreak of curses or a cry of triumph. They found her not far from Sheriff Singer’s farm, near the edge of town, shooting at old bottles and cans, hitting them two-thirds of the time.

“Wasting bullets?” Dean asked.

“Wasting precious daylight with your partner here?” she fires back. 

Dean rolls his eyes. Jo has always been like a baby sister to him, and with that familial loyalty came this brattiness that only younger siblings could get away with. It was more annoying than when Ellen or Sheriff Singer teased him, but he knew he’d let her get away with more.

Behind them, Cas cleared his throat. “Should I… say something here?”

“If you want,” Jo said, “though I got news first: I already got word of that gang you’re after before you got here. Heard at least three of them were seen heading this way and they’re getting close.” She gestured with the pistol in her hand. “It's why I’m out here working on my shot. I figure you and the Sheriff could at the very least use a little back up.”

Dean clapped Cas’s shoulder. “We got back up right here. ‘Sides, between me, Sheriff Singer, and Sammy-”

“Still, can’t hurt to be prepared,” Jo cuts him off. Normally, he’d point out that she still had years of work to go before he considered her ready to play law enforcement, but he was struck by the realization that this was the first time he thought of Sam all day.

Shit, where was Sam? Dean honestly had no clue, and the unease from earlier hit him again, harder this time, making him feel off center. For a moment, he thought he felt a twinge in his lower back again. Something must have shown on his face, because Cas was looking at him with concern now. “Dean?”

“I- I, uh….” Dean rubbed the back of his neck, his hand brushing against the underside of his stenson. His eyes flickered from Cas’s concerned ones to the stack of posters still in his hands. Blinking, Dean shook his head and turned back to Jo. “You said the Scape-Grace Gang was on their way here? You know which direction they’re coming from?”

Listening to Jo’s answer, Dean turned his eyes back to the posters in his own hands, refocusing on the task at hand. 

“You go let the Sheriff know what you told me, and tell him Cas and I are gonna scout it out, see if we can cut them off before they hit here. If something happens, one or both of us’ll ride back. And for goodness sake, don’t waste any more bullets on your practicing.”

Jo seemed almost surprised by his clipped tone, but quickly nodded. Holstering the pistol, she took off.

“Dean?” Cas asked again. “Is something….” His voice trailed off, and Dean could see he was debating internally on whether to finish his sentence.

Shaking his head again, Dean gave him a half-smile, the gravity from moments ago gone again. They could handle a few outlaws, there’s no need for him to be so on edge. Why had he even been so worried earlier in the first place?

Dean took the posters from Cas’s hand and tucked them all beneath a couple of cans with holes shot clean through him. He made a mental note to compliment Jo on her shooting later — she’s really been improving over the years.

“C’mon,” he says. “Let's get you a pony or something, we gotta ride.”

Dean leans his forehead against his steed before mounting her. Settling on her saddle, Dean is hit by another strange wave of something — confusion, maybe, disorientation — it’s almost like deja vu, but instead of feeling like he’s done this before, he’s hit by the strange sense that he hasn’t . He shakes the thought away — he knows this horse, practically raised her while still living on Sheriff Singer’s ranch, back when he was just Uncle Bobby and before Dean became his Deputy.

Dean shuts his eyes tight, forces the confusing wave out of him. This is familiar to him, he tells himself.

He opens his eyes and turns to Cas to help distract himself.

“Listen, the Sheriff’s always got a spare horse or two on his ranch on his ranch. We can probably-”

Dean swallows the rest of his words as he watches Cas mount a mule.

A cranky, tired looking, close to scowling if animals could scowl, mule.

“That won’t be necessary, but thank you, Dean,” Cas said casually, like he hadn’t, again, decided to throw a leg over a mule of all things and settle on its back. 

“...or you could ride the half-assed horse.”

Watching him, Dean honestly isn’t that surprised to see Cas’s choice in steed. A mule, he thought with no small amount of fondness for his friend, was exactly up Cas’s alley.

They ride mostly in silence for a few hours, following the directions Jo gave, until the sun goes from baking them alive overhead to setting slighting.

“Ain’t it a little early to be riding off into the sunset together?” Dean chuckles.

Cas shot him a long unreadable look, and the prickle of unease that he felt earlier settled into him again. Dean holds his stare, and they both unconsciously bring their steeds to a much more leisurely trot. Finally, Cas brakes the stare off, and they ride in silence for another several moments.

Shaking his head, Dean lets his eyes drift shut, trusting his horse to keep steady. 

He felt good, yeah, but something was definitely going on. Damnit…. He just got Cas back — from where, he couldn’t even remember — he had his horse, his town, his family — most of it, at least, he shouted in his mind, but not all of it.

Dean let out a sigh. He’d figure out why he kept feeling like someone was walking over his grave later, once they took care of this job.

The heat was fading, the wind was brushing against his face, and the sound of his steed’s hooves on the sand was matched by the sound of Cas on his mule.

Opening his eyes again, Dean turned his head to the side and took in the sight of Cas painted in the reds and oranges of the sky. He really did look good in that hat, Dean thought with no small amount of fondness, though he had to admit he kinda missed sight of the messy hair under it.

Not looking up, Cas said, “It might be.”

“Hm?”

“The sunset. Typically…” He hesitated for a moment, a look of- not quite fear, but close enough to make something in Dean clench for a completely different reason. “Typically, in these types of stories, the… the hero doesn’t ‘ride off into the sunset’ until the day is saved.”

Dean blinked at that. Finally, he said, “You ever wonder if our sunset is overdue?”

Cas let out a short sardonic laugh at that.

“But, I’d say you’re right, Cas.” Shooting him a grin, hoping to erase whatever made Cas feel nearly afraid earlier (maybe it's the same thing throwing him off, he wonders), Dean grips the reins tighter and says boisterously, “We still got one more set of baddies to catch.”

Dean, intending to start speeding off again with a “ Yeehaw !,” nearly missed the half-laugh, half-sigh Cas gave. He would have missed it, if it weren’t for the fact that, at that moment, Dean’s usually trusty steed decided to call it quits on him. She stopped dead in her tracks and completely ignored every attempt of his to get her going again.

“Wha- oh, come on!”

Well, at least Dean succeeded in one thing — even if the guy wasn’t laughing or anything, Dean could tell from the crinkle around his eye and the half-smirk on his face that Cas found his sudden problem amusing.

Better than afraid or that almost stunned look he had been wearing all day, but still.

Cas brought his mule to a stop and hopped off of the saddle. “We have been riding for a while, Dean. It might be worth it for us to walk for a bit. Give them a rest.”

Muttering about lazy horses and undermined authority in front of said horses, Dean followed suit. He had made sure she had water before heading out, but he figured if she was going to quit on him, she must have a good reason.

They shouldn't be too far from where he guessed the Scape-Grace Gang would be setting up camp for the night, maybe an hour or so of walking until they hit a ravine that was good for camping.

“When we find them, you should be prepared to head back. It seems your guy has more stamina than mine at the moment. I’ll keep watch on them,” Dean says.

“No.”

Dean almost stops dead in his tracks at that. “Excuse me?”

“If you get caught, you could end up hurt or worse by them. If either of us stays to keep an eye on them, it should be me.”

“Where the hell is the logic in that?”

“You’re the town’s Deputy. You have a role here, Dean- you have a life to live. I won’t see it cut short.”

Dean does stop at that. Keeping on hand on his horse’s reins, he grabs Cas’s shoulder with the other. The peace he felt earlier is gone and he honestly can’t say he misses it, even as it's replaced with an anger and sorrow that almost chokes him. “Again, where the hell is the logic in that?”

Finally meeting his eye, Cas says unblinkingly, “Of the two of us, your life has always been more important.”

“Cas-!”

“If you do not wish to leave me behind, I suppose we could work out a plan to ambush them together, but I still believe if either of us were to get away, it should be-”

“Don’t.” Dean says through his teeth. A wave of grief, both achingly fresh and strangely familiar, hits him. “Don’t you goddamn dare -”

Dean shook him slightly, and saw a drop of something hit the ground between their boots, disappearing into the sand. 

Blood.

Looking down, Dean saw Cas’s hand, hanging limply by his side, was bleeding. Grabbing it, he saw it was a straight cut across the palm of his hand, fresh looking. More blood welled in Cas’s palm, painting the entire hand red.

The sight of it made Dean nauseous suddenly. “How- When-”

Cas seemed equally surprised, staring down at his hand, cradled in Dean’s, in confusion.

Then a look of comprehension dawns upon his face, and he tries to take the hand back. Dean doesn’t let him, now gripping the lapel of his coat. He’s suddenly afraid that if he lets go, if he even looks away for a moment, Cas will disappear. Again, his mind says unhelpfully.

“What the hell is going on,” he whispers.

Cas just looks at him with achingly soft eyes before looking down. After a moment, he shrugs, but doesn’t offer an answer beyond that. Dean wants to shake him. He wants to find whatever the hell is doing this to them and take it out — gank it, his mind says — and wants to wrap himself around Cas, never letting him go again.

Instead, he sucks in a breath through his clenched teeth, holds it, then lets it out. Reaching under his shirt, he pulls out a blue bandana with a pattern of feathers he knew he would find there. He washes out Cas’s palm with water from his canteen and wraps the bandana around it, tying it tight.

The fight and mock-anger in him drains away and he’s suddenly tired. Just so damn tired. “...Damnit, Cas.” He’s not even sure what the damnation is for, just that he’s heartsick and afraid for Cas and just wants his friend to be okay.

Cas suddenly leans into him, shaking slightly, Dean realizes. “...Sorry.”

Dean leans back against him, Cas’s hand now cradled in both of his, pressed between their bodies. They aren’t hugging, it's more like they’re holding each other up. He’s hit by the impulse to hold Cas, to kiss him, and almost laughs at the familiarity of the feeling — it's an old one, one he’s been carrying around for years but has never let himself give into.

He doesn’t know if its the fresh grief, the confused relief, or the fear he’s feeling right now (or the strange notion that he knows, now, that Cas probably would welcome such advances, though he can’t quite remember why he knows this), but he gives in now, brushing his lips against Cas’s temple. Cas stiffens against him, and Dean is suddenly afraid that he was wrong, that Cas doesn’t want this.

Then Cas pulls back just enough to turn his head, and presses his lips against Dean’s.

As far as first kisses go, it's gentle, almost shy, and Dean can’t bring himself to change that. Still, it feels almost too much like a goodbye as is, so he tilts his head to the side and presses back against Cas, parting his lips slightly and feeling Cas do the same. Otherwise, he lets Cas set the pace, simply feeling him — his lips are chapped, their stubble is scratching against each other in a way that isn’t unpleasant, but is still strange, and the brims of their stupid hats are knock against each other.

Cas is here, he tells himself. Cas is here .

Finally Cas pulls back. “Sorry,” he says again.

“What for?” Dean asks, slightly dazed.

Cas just takes in a shaky breath and his face goes blank.

“No, don’t do this, Cas.” The words taste familiar on Dean’s tongue. “Look, just- talk to me. Tell me- anything. What’s happening? What- what’s going through your mind? Don’t-” his voice cracks “-Don’t shut me out, man.”

“Honestly?” Cas says after a moment. “I’m just going over the continuity errors.”

Dean feels like ice has just been thrown down the back of his shirt. “What?”

“With Ellen already knowing my name and Jo knowing about the Scape-Grace gang without explanation, for a start.”

Dean drops Cas’s hand like it's burning his. “What?!”

“I suppose it doesn’t matter. Not to you, at least. None of this… none if this is real, is it?”

Cas-

Suddenly, something knocks against Dean’s back. Turning around he sees his horse standing there looking suddenly anxious. The horse whinnies and stomps her hooves impatiently, nodding her head impatiently to get them to follow. Some distant part of Dean wonders if, maybe, this horse has secretly been Sam the entire time. The mane and interrupting tendencies certainly match.

Cas walks past him, following the horse to where the mule has apparently also been waiting impatiently. Reluctantly, Dean follows, though he feels a headache forming.

Following them, they make their way over a hill and see a ravine where the remains of a campfire are. Walking close, Dean sees a page from a newspaper, half crumpled and sitting by the fire, as if someone threw it over their shoulder without really looking to see if it landed in the fire or not. Uncrumpling it, he sees the familiar picture of four figures with bandanas on their faces that adorns the wanted poster from earlier. One of the figures — the second tallest one of the four — has their face completely burned away, as if by a cigarette. 

“We must have missed them,” Cas says emotionlessly. “We might even be a day behind them.” Straightening up, he turns to his mule and starts to mount it. “If we hurry-”

“Cas, you can’t be serious.”

If we hurry, we might be able to reach town by daybreak.”

“You- you seriously wanna keep playing cowboys at a time like this?!”

Cas doesn’t look at him. “Do you?”

Dean honestly has no idea how to answer that. When Cas starts riding off, he has no choice but to mount his horse and follow.

He just hopes that Jo, Ellen, and the rest are okay.

They ride in silence the rest of the night, racing back to town, reaching it by sunrise.

Sure enough, three figures are waiting for them.

Dismounting their steeds, Dean and Cas stand at the edge of town, watching the three figures line up against them.

“Well, well, well,” a familiar raspy, accented voice says from the middle. “Isn’t this a delightful reunion?”

Crowley. Dean blinks in surprise, recognizing the man — the demon .

Right. God, he can’t believe he forgot this — standing on either side of the demon, Dean recognizes Metatron and Lucifer, the heavenly scribe and the fallen archangel.

Turning to Cas, he quips, “So we’ve been playing cowboys and angels this entire time?”

Cas ignores him. Dean grits his teeth, patience at this mind-screw of a day wearing thinner and thinner by the minute.

“We missed you, Cas,” Metatron says. “Shame you had to turn face and-”

“Turning face ain’t even western slang,” Dean mutters. Cas shoots him an exasperated look that tells him the angel’s patience was also thinning a bit. 

“Tired of the plot already?” Cas asks. They both ignore the outlaws, who are now muttering among themselves about “disrespecting their criminal presence” or something.

“The plot- you mean how you’re apparently the fourth ranger here?”

Cas throws his hands in the air and snaps, “You complain about the language not being historically accurate and yet you make references to franchises completely unrelated to the western genre?” A thoughtful look crosses Cas’s face as he turns away, muttering, “That is a very Dean Winchester thing to do, I suppose.”

“What does that mean?!”

They hear someone clear their throat loudly. “If you gentlemen don’t mind…,” Metatron, apparently the spokesperson of the trio, is tapping his foot impatiently. Dean wishes his mind was unscrambled enough to know whether he should be happy or disappointed that the role didn’t fall to Crowley, who’s looking equally annoyed with them.

Lucifer has, apparently, wandered off while Dean and Cas were talking. Dean doesn’t need his memories intact to get the feeling this was a very Lucifer thing to do.

Cas waves a hand at the two remaining outlaws to continue with their apparent revenge filled monologue.

Metatron opens his mouth to continue, but before the words leave his mouth, screaming cuts through the morning air. 

Dean startles, and his eyes widen when he sees the sky is being overtaken with black smoke. The sight of it, warping and growing in the air, is enough to make him feel suffocated.

“Bleeding hell,” he hears Crowley say, and the next minute a bullet is flying by his face.

“Dean!” Cas cries.

“That’ll be your only warning, for the record.”

Dean’s pulling his own gun from his holster as Cas tackles him out of the way, a few more bullets flying through the air. They land on the ground with a thud, the wind knocked from Dean’s chest. Dean has a moment to wonder what happened to their steeds. They scramble towards the pillar of a building, and Dean takes a few shots before getting behind it.

“Shit- Cas, the fire-” He’s cut off by a bullet piercing through the pillar at about eye level, thankfully missing them both. Dean only half registers the fact that the bullet went through one of the wanted posters from earlier, taking out the face of the tallest of the four — Cas, Dean now realizes. “C’mon, wasn’t Crowley on our side?!” 

Cas grabs the gun from his hand and leans over the side of the pillar, firing two shots. The pained shout they hear — Metatron, Dean guesses — tells him at least one landed. “Nice shot.”

“You should go,” Cas said. “I’ll hold them off, they’re clearly after me-”

“Do not start with the self-sacrif- Jesus !” Dean is jerked back by his collar and is now staring down the barrel of a gun in the hands of a very pissed off looking Metatron, bleeding heavily from his leg.

“Wrong guy, though I’m almost flattered by the comparison. Almost — I always thought his story dragged on a bit, if I’m being honi- gah !”

Cas tackled Metatron mid-sentence, knocking the gun from his hand. Dean quickly grabs it, jumping to his feet in time to shoot at Crowley. He doesn't stick around to see if it hits, gunning it towards Cas and shoving one of the guns at his hands, grabbing his free one — the one with the bandana still tied around it — and dragging him away again.

They crouch behind a barrel this time. “Okay, new plan, no arguments — we grab Jo and the Sheriff to help us take care of these rodeo clowns.”

“Fine, but-”

“I said, no-”

“But one of us should investigate that fire, Dean! And I would really prefer it not be you, especially if you insist on taking the others on in a fight.”

“Like hell I’m letting you run into fire blindly.”

Why do you- ?!” Cas cuts himself off, and Dean can see he’s biting the inside of his cheek. The sight of it is enough to bring his concerns back to the forefront again — since when has Cas been known to bite his own tongue? Especially when it comes to questioning and making sarcastic, sass-filled remarks. Taking a deep breath, Cas says, “I can’t let that fire burn this time.” And with that, he’s sprinting away, running towards where the growing smoke is coming from.

“Are you freaking kidding me?!” Dean doesn’t even think, he just starts running. Thankfully, small favor as it is, it's easy to lose Crowley in the winding streets (Metatron, Dean wagers, is probably currently hobbled by the gunshot wound).

He collides into someone in his sprint, knocking them both over and winding him again. Rising to his elbows, he sees the piano player from earlier — Gabriel .

“Dean-o, buddy, good to see ya,” he says. “Uh, quick question — you wouldn’t happen to know what the actual fuck is going on here, would you?”

“I-” More screams fill the air, echoing almost, coming from the direction of the fire.

Ellen’s Saloon. The Roadhouse. “Shit!” Dean scrambles to his feet and takes off again, running faster this time. Behind him, Gabriel calls, “You sure you wanna do that, buddy?”

Jo. Ellen. The Sheriff — Bobby ! Shit, shit, shit-

Dean nearly trips over Cas, who’s on his knees, watching the burning Roadhouse in horror. He’s shaking his head, his hands over his ears as if trying to block out the periodic screams, but he doesn’t turn his head away, doesn’t shut his eyes. “Not again,” he’s whispering. “Don’t- don’t make me watch this again. Please.

Images rise into Dean’s mind unbidden, nearly knocking him to his knees as well — the fire, hellhounds, reapers — Jo and Ellen’s spirits being lead away — the shock and horror at the sight as Dean realizes they’re dead, oh god, Jo and Ellen are dead -

The only thing that keeps him from hurling on the side of the road is the sight of Lucifer emerging from the flames, a gun in hand. With a half-smirk at them, Dean watches him aim it at them — at Cas.

Cas just continues to stare unblinking.

Dean watches Lucifer finger the trigger, the black smoke behind him growing larger and larger, darker and darker until it doesn’t resemble smoke at all, but rising, living ink. 

Dean throws himself at Cas, wrapping his body around the angel’s, thinking, no, no, you can’t have him, you can’t take him, not now, not again, no-

“Wait, Dean, no!”

The sound of a gun pierces the air, and then-

Nothing.

Sam barely feels Eileen’s hand on his shoulder, staring numbly down at the now black screen of his laptop. A moment later, credits start rolling.

A knock echoes through the Bunker.

Only half-aware of what he’s doing, Sam rises and walks to the front door, Eileen on his heels. In her hand is a gun, an angel blade at her belt. He’s opening the door before it completely registers that that’s probably a stupid thing to do, and he’s, for about the millionth time this past week, eternally grateful for her.

Standing on the other side of the door, no longer dressed in his saloon outfit and very much not dead, stands the archangel Gabriel.

“Hey, Samsquatch, glad I was able to catch you. You’re probably as confused as I am.”