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Cas stays.

He sets himself up in a room at the far end of the dormitory wing. It's smaller than Dean or Sam's, and the bed is a narrow, lumpy twin, but a cushy armchair is tucked into one corner, and an extra bookshelf is lining the wall behind it. He takes his coats and tie off and leaves them off. He helps Dean and Sam with their pointless research about the Darkness.

He watches Dean with wide, sad eyes and a question waiting at the corner of his mouth.

Dean knows he's being a stubborn sonofabitch about letting Cas heal him, but it wouldn't feel right. Not after -- well. After everything. Sam can tell him the Mark had been running the show all he wants; Cas' blood had been on Dean's hands. Whenever he looks at Cas, guilt squirms like a living thing in his gut.

"You're punishing him too, you know," Sam points out one night. "I mean, I get what you're trying to do, but --"

"But what?"

"How do you think he feels?"

"This ain't about him."

Shaking his head, Sam says, "Yeah, okay, but you don't have to look at your busted face. He does."

Later, Dean grabs two six-packs and a box of crackers and sneaks back into his room. He figures he can just hide in there until the swelling starts to go down.




Four days later, Sam says, "So get this," while Dean is making breakfast.

Dean sighs, but he doesn't stop whisking the pancake batter. It's a little after eight; if they eat fast they can still be on the road by ten.




"C'mon, Cas," Dean calls, his voice dull as it echos off the wood paneling lining the hall. "Get the lead out."

A minute or two later, Cas shuffles into the library shoeless. His dress socks are blue-on-blue argyle; on his left foot, the seam is crooked over his toes. His coat and suit jacket are off, and his shirt is unbuttoned at the neck.

Dean blinks at his throat for a second, then says, "You're not coming." It isn't a question.

"It would be safer for you if I remained here."

"What --? Why?"

"I'm rather unpopular in heaven at the moment."

Dean snorts. "And? You've been on their shitlist for years."

"I killed two angels this week," Cas points out.

"Self-defense," Sam counters, hoisting the cooler onto the table.

"The other angels don't see it that way. Hannah --"

"You didn't kill her," Dean says, adjusting his bag. His gear thumps and clanks as it bounces against his hip. "Besides, she set you up."

A sad look crosses Cas' face. "Again, the other angels don't see it that way. They assume Hannah ordered Jonah and Ephram to punish me for my recent disobedience. They believe I allowed Metatron to escape as repayment for returning my grace."

"That's bullshit," Dean snaps. "You --"

"Dean," Cas says, although he splits a tired glance between both brothers. "Stop trying to rationalize this in human terms. Heaven deals in absolutes. They blame me for Metatron. They blame me for Hannah and Jonah and Ephram. To some degree, they blame me for the Darkness." He shrugs; it's a little too stiff to be human. "That's more than enough to put me on their... shitlist."

"Cas," Dean starts, but Cas just shakes his head and walks into the kitchen. Dean watches him go, then rubs his hand over his face and turns to Sam. "He sounds kinda down. Maybe we should sit this one out."

"What about that sheriff?" Sam asks, stuffing four bottles of water into the cooler. The ice snaps and crackles as it shifts and settles around them. "Something turned him into meatloaf, and --"

"Someone else can take it."

"Who? I can't get ahold of Tracey --"

Dean huffs. "She just ain't answering. She doesn't like you."

"She isn't screening me," Sam says peevishly. "Her number is disconnected." He loads the last of the water into the cooler, then starts on the beer. Dean frowns at the yellow sun on the label; he picked up El Sol on his last store run because it's the brand Cas says tastes less like molecules. "And Krissy -- they're down in Corpus Christi, working some chupacabra thing. Have you talked to Jody?"

"Yeah, last night. She took the girls to Minnesota to track down some critter that's munching on people at a lake."

Sam snorts out a laugh. "A lake monster? Jody knows better than that."

"That's what I said, but she swears it's the real deal. Claire --"


"Yeah, Claire," Dean says sourly. He'd really hoped she'd just stay at Jody's long enough to regroup before going off and making a life for herself -- a real life -- but. No such luck. "She put the whole thing together -- wound patterns, kill schedule, possible sightings, everything. She thinks it's a kitsune that's using the local Nessie legend to snack on tourists."

"So... it looks like this sheriff's on us."

"Yeah," Dean says, sighing. "Looks like."

Sam closes the cooler, then fiddles with the latch for a second before saying, "Listen, if you want to hang back here with Cas, I can go check this out and see if it really is anything. I mean, one weird death isn't --"

"No," Dean cuts in, something tight and uncomfortable digging under his ribs. He's too chicken to stay here with Cas alone, not when things are still so -- so. "That newspaper article said his heart was missing. That's gotta be something. Cas -- he'll be all right. He --"

"I'll be fine," Cas says, coming back into the library. He has a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and a two books in the other. His hair looks like birds have been nesting in it. When Dean and Sam just stare at him, he adds, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt you while you were talking about me."

Heat burns along Dean's jaw. He opens his mouth but nothing comes out.

"You should get going," Cas says, sipping his coffee. "You wanted to be on the road by ten."




Spencer is a flyspeck in northern Nebraska, just a few miles shy of the South Dakota line. It's only about four hours from the bunker, but Dean lead-foots the first leg. Guilt and anxiety churn in his gut. He grumbles when an Old Dominion semi cuts him off with just a handful of feet to spare, and he grinds his teeth through a construction zone at the US 20 junction that narrows US 281 down to one, slow-moving lane.

"He'll be fine," Sam says mildly, once Dean starts drumming his fingers on the steering wheel.

Dean grunts under his breath.

"Cas," Sam clarifies, like Dean doesn't fucking know. "I mean, the bunker's probably the safest place he could be right now."

"Yeah, I know," Dean says, rolling his window down to let some air into the car. "He -- it's better that he didn't come. If the angels are hot to drag him back upstairs -- hell. That's the last thing we need."

The highway widens again outside O'Neil, and Dean hits the gas. Nebraska farmland blurs around them, all shades of green and gold.

"You -- you really wanted him to come with us."

Dean shrugs. "Yeah." He had wanted Cas to come with them. He just hadn't realized how badly he wanted it until Cas decided to stay behind. "Yeah, I -- I guess."

"He would've, if -- you know. If he wasn't heaven's most wanted. You shouldn't --"

"Hey," Dean says, flicking the laptop with his fingers to redirect Sam's attention. The last thing he needs is Sam trying to shrink his head, not when he's got to get his game-face on so he can question some yokels about stuff going bump in the night. "You just concentrate on finding me another body. If this is a monster, some podunk sheriff wasn't its first meal."




Cas calls as they're shrugging into their monkey suits in a shabby motor court on the outskirts of town. It smells like cigarette smoke and stale, pine-scented air freshener. The carpet hasn't been cleaned since the Clinton administration.

Dean sneezes a couple of times, then thumbs his phone unlocked and grunts, "Yeah?"

"Dean, are you at the sheriff's office?"

"Not yet," Dean says, toeing into his loafers. He really needs to spring for a pair that doesn't pinch his heels. "We grabbed a room so we could get our fed groove on. Are you -- is everything okay?"

"I'm fine," Cas insists, irritation crisping his voice. "I called because I found another suspicious death in the area."

"Yeah?" Dean asks. Sam comes out of the bathroom, knotting his tie, and Dean turns away from him and inches toward the door. He usually puts it on speaker when they're talking shop, but he suddenly feels greedy. He wants Cas all to himself, wants Cas' voice close to his ear. "Tell me."

"Molly Duncan, age forty-three. She lived in Butte, which is ten miles from Spencer. Her body was found off Route 12 last month. According to the local newspaper, she was mauled."

"Mauled," Dean repeats slowly. Maulings do happen from time to time, but two in a month in the middle of nowhere is definitely strange. Their kind of strange. "Thanks, Cas."

"You're welcome."

Before Cas can hang up, Dean blurts, "Hey, um -- you. You --"

"Yes, Dean," Cas says quietly. "If I need anything, I'll call you."




Dean's phone buzzes as he's leaving the coroner's office, and again as he's waiting at one of Spencer's three stoplights. It turned red so an old woman could coax an older schnauzer across Hillcrest Boulevard. He figures the texts are just Sam saying he's done with the sheriff's widow and son, but Sam isn't outside when he pulls up in front of the house. Both messages are from Cas.

Cas sends another before Dean can reply.

Shaking his head, Dean snorts out a laugh. Metatron is missing, the angels want to kill him, and there's a crazy, zombie-making dust cloud on the loose -- all of that, and Cas is worried about his piece-of-shit car.

Dean peers at the sheriff's house. Sam's sasquatch shadow moves behind the sheer curtains in the front window. His phone buzzes again.

Dean huffs out another laugh. He doesn't get it -- the Continental smells like old leather and a sunbaked peach air freshener and it knocks like it's about to throw a rod -- but he gets it. If the Impala got lifted, he would need a whole package of paper bags to breathe into.

The sheriff's front door opens. Dean overhears Sam telling the sheriff's widow he's sorry for her loss in his federal agent voice.

"Hey," Sam says, climbing into the car.

Dean's phone buzzes again. He doesn't check it, but he smiles a little before he looks at Sam and says, "Well, the coroner showed me the sheriff's body. He was mauled, all right. And get this -- heart missing, body completely drained of blood."

"So... what?" Sam pulls a face. "We're looking at, uh -- at a werewolf-vampire hybrid?"

"Say it with me," Dean wheedles. "A werepire."

Sam huffs out a laugh. "No."


"I'm not saying it."

Dean rolls his eyes. "You're no fun. You know that, right?"

"Yeah, you've told me."

"You should see someone about that," Dean says, fitting his key into the ignition. The Impala purrs to life. "Get yourself a fun transplant." His stomach growls; he hopes the steakhouse up the road is serving dinner this early. "You get anything from the family?"

"Nope. He was a regular, average guy with a regular, average life. Lots a friends, no enemies."


"Yeah. He helped out with the Boy Scout troop, and he coached the peewee football team."

Dean blinks; this is one of the smallest towns they've ever worked. "Peewee football? They got enough kids for that?"


"So, riddle me this," Dean says, throwing the Impala into drive and pulling away from the curb. "Why was Mr. Regular, Average Family-Man in his backyard at two-thirty in the morning?"

Sam flips through a couple screens on his phone, then flashes Dean a picture of a lopsided shed. The scrubby patch of grass in front of it is rust-stained with old blood. "They have chickens. Evidently, he heard a noise that night, and went to check it out. He thought an animal was breaking into the coop."

"An animal," Dean says, shaking his head. "More like a wolf. A wolf... vamp. Wolfvamp."

"Werepire was better."

"Yeah, it was," Dean says, swinging back onto Hillcrest Boulevard. "Let's eat."




Cas calls again just after dinner. Dean answers as he's walking back to the car.

"Hey, Cas. What's up? Are you --"

"Dean, I'm fine," Cas snaps, his voice brittle around the edges. "I swear, if you ask me that one more time, I'll --"

"Sorry, man. I'm sorry. I just --"

"Yes, I know. You always just." Cas falls silent after that, long enough that the cowardly part of Dean's brain is tempted to hang up and pretend the call was dropped, but then a sigh rattles in his ear, and Cas says, "I found a box of books in one of the storage basements. They're fiction novels, nothing to do with hunting. Would you mind if I moved them into my room?"

Dean freezes for a second. My room. Cas staking out a place to hide when Sam is blasting his weird folk music or when Dean is being an ass is one thing, but this -- fuck. This sounds like Cas wants to stay. Something warm and bright blooms in Dean's chest. Clearing his throat, he says, "You -- yeah. That's fine."

"Thank you, Dean."

"Hey, there's, uh -- there's a lamp." Christ, he feels like an idiot. He probably sounds like one too. "There's an old floor lamp down there. A big, brass thing. You might -- you could put it next to your chair. Give yourself some reading light."

"That would be nice," Cas says, a smile in his voice. "I also found an old quilt in one of the linen cupboards. Could I --"

"Yeah, anything." A gust of wind whips through the steakhouse's parking lot, rustling the trees; Dean tucks his phone closer to his ear. "You -- you get yourself fixed up however you want."

"Thank you, Dean," Cas says again. The warmth wrapped around the words makes Dean's heart beat in his throat. "I appreciate it."

"You stay as long as you want." Please just stay. Even for a fucking week. "You -- as long as you want, all right?"

"Yes, Dean," Cas says. After a pause, he adds, "I'm sorry I can't help you with your case."

"Don't worry about it. You -- hey, hold on." Looking up, Dean realizes he's walked about twenty feet away from the car. Sam is waiting beside it, his laptop open on the roof. His collar is flapping in the wind. "You can help us."

"I already told you, it wouldn't be safe."

"No, not like that. We need some brain work." Dean heads back toward the car, his shoes crunching on the pavement. "Whatever killed the sheriff stuck a straw in him and chomped on his heart. You ever hear of anything like that? Something that drinks blood and eats organs?"

"Nothing currently walking the earth."

"Well, hit the books. See what you can dig up."

"Okay," Cas says. "I'll start right now."




When they get back to the motor court, they find a police cruiser waiting in the parking lot. It's idling right outside their sagging bungalow, its flashing lights painting the peeling whitewash red and blue. Dean kills the Impala's headlights, then eases off the gas and coasts past the driveway.

"I wasn't expecting the welcome wagon."

"Your credit card," Sam ventures, ducking down in his seat. He closes his laptop to cut its bright-white glare. "It must've been flagged."

"Christ. We only had it two weeks." At the end of the block, Dean flips the headlights back on. He eases toward the highway, no sudden moves. "You leave anything in the room?"

"No. It was pretty gross. I was worried about bedbugs."

"Yeah, me too."

US 281 is a surface street through Spencer; Dean obeys the speed limit and every other traffic law he can remember. He keeps both hands on the wheel, and he tries not to crawl out of his skin at every light that flickers across the rear-view mirror. Cas could probably bust them out if they got pinched and couldn't swing a Dillinger, but getting mugshotted and fingerprinted and booked would bring them back from the dead.

At the north end of town, Dean turns left onto Route 12 and picks up a little more speed. They were headed to Butte in the morning anyway. Halfway there, Dean pulls onto a gravel road. About two hundred yards from the highway, he tucks the Impala under the sweep of drooping tree.

"Car nap?" Sam asks.

"Probably safest." The motor court was the only flop in Spencer, and rolling into Butte this late might attract attention. "You want front or back?"

Sam sighs quietly. "Back."




"You government boys," the Butte sheriff barks, filling his stuffy office with his bad breath and his two-pack-a-day voice. "You think you're so slick, with your shiny car and your shiny suits and your shiny badges. Your city trouble ain't welcome here."

"There's no trouble, sir," Dean says calmly. He offers the sheriff his best smile. "We just have some questions."

The sheriff points at him with a sausage-like finger. "You remind me of my son-in-law."

"Thank you, sir."

"He's dumber than dirt."

"Sheriff," Sam cuts in, holding up his hands. "We just have a few questions about Molly Duncan's death. Five minutes, and we'll be out of your hair."

"My hair ain't the problem here," the sheriff snaps, tipping his hat up enough to flash the bald top of his head. "A small town exposure death ain't a federal concern."

"That's what I said," Dean says, trying a different tack. "But you know how it is. We just go where the boss tells us."

"Well, he's dumber than dirt too, if he thinks I'm gonna bend over and kiss your government asses."

"Exposure?" Sam asks. Sweat is beading along his hairline. "According to the Gazette, Molly Duncan was mauled."

The sheriff snorts like a chainsaw starting up. "Bull. Marlon Ledbetter will print anything to make a quarter. There are only three hundred people in this town, and most of them don't care enough about a newspaper to line a birdcage with it."

"So she wasn't mauled," Sam presses.

"Her body was out there for three days before we found it. Ain't no surprise that she mighta fed a critter or two in that time."

Dean smiles again; his collar is sticking to the back of his neck. "Sheriff --"

"Listen here," the sheriff grunts, his hand twitching for the pack of non-filters bulging in his uniform pocket. He'd probably chainsmoked at his desk until state law made him quit. "Mols Duncan had a drinking problem. Now and again, she fill herself to the brim and get a hair up her backside to go for a walk in the middle of the night. Last month she wandered too far afield. We didn't find her in time, and that's all there is to it."

"Sir," Dean starts, but the sheriff just waves him off.

"I got nothing more to say. Not until you show me some paperwork telling me where you get off sticking your federal noses in it."

"Of course," Sam says, sounding a little strangled. "I'll have Omaha fax you a warrant."

"Fax machine's broke."

Sam barely hesitates, then says, "How about a phone call? I'm sure our boss can explain everything to you."

"Sure, get him on the horn," the sheriff says, leaning back in his chair. It creaks like it's dying. "If it'll get you government boys outta my office, I can listen to him yammer for a minute."

Slowly, Sam dials one of the bunker's war room hotlines. Dean bites the inside of his cheek while they wait; putting Cas on the phone with this joker is a big risk. He picks up on the third ring, his voice a sandpaper buzz, rough enough to rattle the line.

"Hello, Director Steele?" Sam says smoothly. "This is Agent Bonham. We're in Butte, following up on the Duncan case like you asked, but the sheriff has a few jurisdictional concerns." He pauses for a second, then says, "Of course," and hands the sheriff his phone.

"Yeah?" the sheriff grouses. "Uh-huh. Uh-huh." He drums his fingers on his desk. "Aw, hell. That's all they want? Yeah, that can be arranged." He leans back in his chair and slides the phone across the desk. "Your boss says you wanna see Mols' body."

Dean blinks. Molly Duncan has been dead a month; seeing her body is the last thing they want. They need the coroner's report. But they can't back out now, so Dean stands and asks, "Is she buried locally?"

The sheriff smiles like a knife. "Mols Duncan was cremated. Folks 'round here don't usually go for that sorta thing, but the critters really did a number on her. They gnawed straight through her chest and halfway through her neck. If you really want a look-see, you can find her on her grandmama's fireplace. But you'd best be careful how you ask. Old Lady Dunks keeps a three-aught-six by her front door, and she ain't quite as friendly as me."




As they're driving away from the sheriff's office, Sam loosens his tie and asks, "Well, what do you think?"

"I think that's an hour of my life I'm never getting back."

"Besides that."

"I think Molly Duncan was monster chow," Dean says, heading east on Route 12. He isn't thrilled about doubling back toward Spencer, but the only motel in Butte is across the street from the sheriff's office. "The sheriff said her chest and neck were chewed."

"Yeah." Sam shifts sideways a little, tipping his head back against the window. "She probably did get wasted that night, and she probably did take a hike in a cornfield, but while she was out there, she bumped into the --" he sighs and waves his hand.

"The werepire," Dean prompts, smiling. "Say it, Sammy. Werepire."

Sam rolls his eyes. "Nope. I'm still not saying it."




They grab a room for the night in Lynch, which is close enough to Spencer and Butte that they can still work the case, but far enough from Spencer and Butte that they won't run into the sheriff, or anyone looking for last night's credit card thieves. Like Spencer, the only flop in town is a motor court hugging the highway. Unlike Spencer, it's been cleaned in recent memory. That almost makes up for the bungalow being smaller than a matchbox.

They roshambo for the first shower, and Sam wins because he always fucking wins. After he ducks into the bathroom, Dean changes into jeans and a flannel and calls Cas.

Cas picks up on the second ring, and he says, "Dean, I'm fine," instead of "Hello."

"I wasn't going to ask," Dean lies, his voice sticking in his throat. "I just wanted to know how the research was going."

"Slowly," Cas says, sounding irritable. "I have found two creatures that drink human blood and eat human flesh, but I doubt either are the creature you're hunting."

"Whatever you got, I'll take it. We got nothing else to work with."

Cas pauses. Dean hears papers shuffling on the other end of the line, then Cas says, "The kappa is a Japanese goblin. It primarily drinks blood, although it will eat flesh if it's hungry enough or angry enough."

"Japanese?" Dean asks, stretching out on the bed. The mattress creaks and the headboard thumps against the wall. Above his head, a crack is spidering across the popcorn ceiling. "Anyone ever seen one here?"

"In the two hundred years the Men of Letters have kept records? Only three."

Dean sighs and rubs his hand over his face. "Yeah, that sounds like a long shot. What else?"

"Did the attacks take place near water?"


"Yes, water," Cas repeats, shuffling more papers around. "A river, or a lake, or --"

"Yeah, there's a creek about a mile south of Spencer. But that's not -- the sheriff was mauled in his backyard."

"Kappas are water creatures. They feed on people who venture too close to their lairs."

Dean sighs again, then rolls onto his side and tucks the phone close to his ear. "What about the other thing?"

"The other thing is a waste of your time. It's even more far-fetched than a kappa."

"Tell me anyway," Dean says. He just wants Cas to keep talking. "We're really in the weeds."

"Some versions of Greek foklore mention the empusa. They present themselves as beautiful women, but their true forms have bat-like wings and spiked fangs three inches long. They drink human blood and eat human organs, most often the liver and heart. They are sometimes associated with crossroads."

"That might work. Spencer and Butte are both crossroads towns. What else?"

Cas makes a soft, frustrated noise in the back of his throat. "That's just it -- there isn't anything else. This library has numerous volumes on Greek mythology, and in all of that, the empusa is only mentioned twice."

"Twice?" Dean asks. The plumbing clanks behind the walls as Sam shuts off the water. "They found two of these things?"

"No. They discussed the empusa twice. In 1912, a Man of Letters names John Wilson argued that the empusa was a demigoddess bound to Hectate. He never really explained why, beyond Hectate also being associated with crossroads. Several years later, another Man of Letters named Michael Harrison argued that the empusa didn't truly exist. He believed they were a Greek retelling of traditional vampire myths that somehow became confused with a crossroads demon."

Dean closes his eyes, rubbing them with the heel of his hand as he tries to make sense of what Cas just said. He's too tired for this. He has a dull ache in the small of his back from sleeping in the car last night.

"I'm sorry, Dean," Cas says quietly. He sounds defeated, and it makes Dean's chest feel empty and raw.

"Hey -- no. You did good."

"Who did good?" Sam asks, coming out of the bathroom. His jeans are sitting crookedly on his hips and he has a towel draped over his head like the Virgin Mary. "Is that Cas?"

"Yeah." Sitting up, Dean puts the phone on speaker and tosses it in the middle of the bed. "He was just telling me that our monster is a werepire."

Sam snorts and starts digging a shirt out of his bag, but Cas asks, "What?"

"Just ignore him," Sam says, his wet hair dripping in his face. "He thinks we're hunting a freaky werewolf-vampire hybrid."

There's a short, staticky pause. Then Cas says, "That's... not wholly unreasonable."

Dean darts a glance at Sam, the frowns at the phone. He's mostly been kidding about this werepire shit. "What?"

"The Darkness," Cas says, the speaker making his voice tinny and thin. "The humans it touched mutated into creatures. It's possible that monster would be affected in the same way."

"Great," Dean mutters, a phantom itch flaring on the inside of his arm. "Fucking great."




As Sam is heading out for the dive across the street from the motor court, Dean smirks and says, "Have fun. Don't pick any fights you can't win by yourself."

Sam stares at him for a second, dead-eyed, then says, "You're a dick."

"No, Sammy. I'm a winner." They're low on cash, which means someone needs to go hustle some pool. Since scissors beats paper, that someone isn't Dean. "Good night," he says, waving. "I won't wait up."

Sam flips him the bird on the way out. He also shuts the door harder than necessary. Once he's gone, Dean strips down to his t-shirt and boxer-briefs and sprawls out on the bed. His excitement is short-lived; the TV only has two channels, but one is off the air for the night and the other is showing local news. The wifi is too spotty to stream anything. Dean stares at the crack in the ceiling for a few minutes, then grabs his phone off the nightstand and calls Cas.

It rings six times and goes to voicemail. There's a pause, and then Cas' voice tells him to leave a message. He sounds a little dubious, like he can't believe he's talking to a machine. Chuckling under his breath, Dean drops his phone on the bed and walks over to the cooler. It opens with a tired squeak. As Dean digs around for a beer, he tries to picture the sort of stuff Cas would be doing while he knocks around the bunker by himself.

He could still be researching, washed yellow by the library's lights and surrounded by a hundred old books. He could be making a pot of coffee, spilling grounds on the counter as he spoons them into the filter and sighing impatiently as he waits for the water to steam and drip. He could be watching TV; he always sits on the couch kind of stiffly, his shoulders straight and his hands in his lap. He could still be nosing around the storage basement, looking for more ancient, forgotten furniture to drag into his room.

Dean drains his beer and chucks the bottle in the trash, then pokes through the cooler for another one. Just as he gives in and sticks his hand in the ice water, his phone rings. Grumbling, he wipes it on his t-shirt and walks back over to the bed.

"Hey, Cas."

"Hello, Dean," Cas says, his voice weirdly soft and slow. "Is everything all right?"

"Yeah, we're good. We don't need anything. I just --" I just wanted to hear your voice. I miss you. "-- I was just calling."

"I'm sorry I didn't answer. I was in the shower."

Dean blinks at the room's tired, floral wallpaper. "You don't shower."

"I don't need to shower. That doesn't mean I can't. Showering was one of the few things I enjoyed about being human."

"Yeah, showering is pretty great," Dean agrees. In fact, a shower sounds great right now, but he's already sprawled on the bed again, and exhausting is slowly creeping through his neck and shoulders and back. Without Cas' voice buzzing in his ear, he'd be ready to conk out.

"It's astonishing how quickly steam and hot water can relax sore muscles," Cas continues, humming a little. "I was probably in there longer than necessary."

Dean huffs under his breath, trying to redirect that train of thought before it even leaves the station. "Well, it ain't like we're paying a water bill." He tries not to think about Cas like that -- flushed and naked and wet, using his huge hands to lather himself up -- because he always ends up beating off like a furtive teenager, and that makes him feel like a creeper. "Knock yourself out."

"I lost track of time. I started thinking about you, and --"

"Cas," Dean blurts. He doesn't mean to say anything; it just wells up out of his throat. Heat spikes in his gut, low and deep. "Cas, you -- you --"

"I've made you uncomfortable. I'm sorry."

Dean rubs his eyes with the heels of his hands. "No, it's cool. I just -- you --"

"Dean, I can hear your heart beating."

"My -- you can hear it?"

"Faintly, but yes. I can hear it. I heard it speed up. You're either angry, or anxious, or -- oh." There's a horrible pause; Dean rubs his face again and listens to the clock ticking on the nightstand. Finally, Cas hums again and says, "You're aroused."

Dean doesn't bother denying it. His dick is a slow ache between his legs, and the heat curling at the base of his spine is blazing-bright, too much. Cas can probably hear the blood rushing in Dean's ears. "Cas, I'm -- I'm gonna --"

"No, don't hang up. Please don't hang up." There's another pause; Dean hears Cas hesitate, his mouth forming and swallowing a handful of words. Then he takes a breath and burrs, "Tell me."

"Tell you what?"

"Tell me what you're doing. Are you touching yourself? Are you --"

"Cas," Dean groans, palming himself through his boxer-briefs. He tells himself that he isn't trying to get off, that he's just trying to calm himself down. "Cas, don't. We --"

"You're voice, it's -- you're embarrassed. You shouldn't be. Do you know how often I've thought of this? How badly I want it?"

"You -- you never said anything."

Cas sighs into the phone, the sound whipping in Dean's ear like the wind. "I never knew how. I never knew when. There's never been a good time."

There hasn't been a good time; there's always been something bigger and badder and darker on the horizon, the apocalypse or the leviathan or the angel tablet or the Mark of Cain. Now there's the Darkness. A cold, empty feeling hollows into Dean's chest.

"We ain't doing this," he says, even though he's already stroking himself, slow and soft, even though his hips are already twitching off the bed. "We -- if you -- Cas, I'm --"

"I won't leave this time, I promise. I never wanted to leave before."

Dean fucks up into his fist and chokes out a thick, desperate noise. "Cas, you -- don't say shit you don't mean."

"I mean it, Dean. I want to stay. I want -- I want to be here, with you. I have to find Metatron. I believe I owe my brothers and sisters that much. But I -- heaven isn't the life I want. You are."

"Cas, fuck." Dean rolls onto his side, pressing the phone against his ear and clawing his fingers into the bedspread. Heat shivers under his skin, slow and deep and bright. "You -- are you touching yourself?"

"No. I'm content to wait until you come home. Unless... would you like that? Do you want me to touch myself?"

"God, yeah. Do it," Dean says, moaning into the pillow. "Do it. I want -- I wanna hear you."

"Dean," Cas starts, his voice curling into bright, beautiful noise. Dean wants to hear it forever. "Dean, I wish you were here."

"Me too. I wish I could see you." Dean tightens his hand and teases his thumb over the slick head of his dick. "You -- I bet you look -- fuck."

They don't say much after that. Dean is too close to get any words out; all he can do is gasp and swear and shake, his fingers white-knuckled as he scrabbles and clutches at the bedspread. Cas moans again, the sound choppy through the phone but still gorgeous. After that, he just says Dean's name over and over, murmuring it like a prayer.




Dean only spends ten minutes in the shower, but that's apparently long enough for Sam to leave him five voicemails.

The first one is hurried. The next three are impatient and irritated. The last one is flat-out rude.




"I can't believe this," Dean says, his voice too bright for the bar's empty parking lot. He taps his fingers on the Impala's hood, smearing the midnight dew before it can settle. "I can't believe you hustled the werepire at pool."

Sam snorts out an incredulous noise. "I know."

"How'd it go down?"

"He was a big better and a sore loser. He didn't want to pay up after our last game. When I pushed it, he got angry and showed he his teeth."

"Werewolf teeth or vampire teeth?"

"Both," Sam says, waving his hand at his own mouth. "Vampire fangs just kind of descended over the werewolf fangs."

Dean shivers. "I still can't believe it. Of all the hicks in this town, you --"

"Well, this place is pretty small."




Lynch is only about a half mile square, and it only has three or four main roads. It doesn't take Dean and Sam long to track the werepire's rust-spotted shitkicker of a pick-up back to his house. It's a shabby little place just a few blocks from the bar; the porch is sagging and the gravel driveway is lined with dying tufts of grass. The pick-up is parked right out front. They find him sitting in his living room, drinking a beer and flipping through the handful of local TV channels.

They don't take any chances. Dean cuts off his head, and Sam puts three silver bullets into his heart.

Then they load him into the car, drive a couple of miles down 4th Street, and light him up on a flat patch of land across from the cemetery.







Dean makes it back to the bunker in a little over three hours. Cas is waiting for them in the library, piles of research books around him and a cup of coffee steaming at his elbow. He's wearing his suit slacks and one of Dean's old t-shirts. His hair is shower damp.

"Hey," Dean says, setting his bag on the table.

"Hello, Dean."

Dean takes Cas' face in both hands and kisses him. Finally.