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A Canticle for Dr. Sexy

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Title: A Canticle for Dr. Sexy (Chapter 1 of 6)
Fandom: Supernatural
Author: tikific
Rating: NC-17
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Castiel, Sam, Benny, Chuck, Bobby, Missouri, Pamela, Lenore, Michael, Gabriel, Lucifer, Balthazar, Garth
Warnings: Cursing. Suicidal ideation.
Word Count: ~50,000
Summary: The Croatoan virus has brought down civilization as we know it. Dean Winchester, leader of a motley set of survivors, is searching for volume 25 the Video Safari limited edition box set of Dr. Sexy MD when he stumbles into Cas, an amnesiac grubbing for a can of beans at an abandoned Piggly Wiggly. Together with his brother, Sam, who may be a prophet of the Lord, and some friends they meet along the way, they embark on a cross-country road trip to find a cure for the virus and save humanity. But the journey takes our heroes straight into the middle of an angelic feud.
Notes: The compound is based on the Greenbrier, a real resort. This one owes a debt to Zombieland, Vertigo comics and Spirited Away.

 

Some years ago….

The rambling old house stood dark and quiet. The sole resident padded downstairs in stocking-clad feet and sat down, cross-legged, beside a large coffee table. It was a glass-topped table with a large square tray in the bottom. There were keepsakes spread around the tray, visible through the glass: photographs, certificates, awards.

She pressed down and untwisted the cap of the prescription bottle she was holding, spilling the contents on the smooth surface of the table before her. She carefully counted out each red capsule, filing them all into neat lines, and then went through and recounted them again. Apparently satisfied, she gathered them up and inserted them back into the bottle.

The telephone rang. It rang, and rang again until finally the answering machine clicked on and the greeting ran through. She placed the lid on the bottle and carried it back upstairs.

“Sylvia?” came the voice on the answering machine. “Sylvia! It’s Mac. If you’re there, pick up.”

Somewhere on the second floor, a door shut with a click.

 

The present day….

It all started because of Cas’s hungry belly.

He had spent a good twenty minutes inside the abandoned Piggly Wiggly, carefully picking through the pile of battered, rusty cans and had finally managed to extract a single sealed, undented, unexpired container of Bush's Maple Cured Bacon Baked Beans.

And that's when he made his mistake. He knew the rules by now, one of which, hard and fast, was “grab it and run.” But his stomach was aching from a long stretch of missed meals. The neighborhood surrounding his good cache had gotten infested, and he had been forced to abandon it. Lesson learned: distribute your stores more evenly. But it may have turned out to be a fatal lesson if he didn't get something to eat. And soon.

He cocked his head, senses attuned, sniffing the air. It would be good to have something in his stomach, he reasoned, so he wouldn't grow faint again. Casting yet another glance up and down, he sat down right in the middle of the smooth linoleum floor, pulled out his trusty pocket knife and started to work on the can, slowly prying up the lid. He was drooling before he even dipped his hand in. They tasted awful, just awful, but he had never eaten so fast in his life, quickly getting down to where he risked cutting his tongue for a few final licks of the can, and then sucking on his fingers until all the taste had gone.

Cas sighed and set down the empty can, rubbing his stomach.

And then emitted a small burp.

He froze, slapping his hand over his mouth, casting sharp eyes around the ruined grocery store.

His heart stopped.

One of them. No, maybe two.

His hand went to his waist, fingers clasping the crowbar slung in his belt.

Wait for it.

The hit came from the side. Whoever it was, he was big. And quick as hell. Cas was slammed to the floor. The guy was on top of him, and about to clobber him with some kind of club, but Cas got up his crowbar just in time to block it. And they lay there like that for a moment, struggling.

“Benny!” came a yell.

His antagonist froze. “Dean?” he asked, not moving, sharp blue eyes circling around towards the other man. Cas couldn't see the other man well, as he was pinned down under the big guy.

“Dude, he's human,” said Dean, kicking the empty can. Cas heard it rolling. “Look. Croats don't sit around snarfing beans.”

“Boy!” Benny snarled, eyes now trained at Cas. “Speak the fuck up, are you human?”

“I am not a Croat,” Cas told him definitively.

“Well why the hell didn't you say somethin'?” Benny groused, standing up and wrenching Cas to his feet with a yank of one big paw.

“Perhaps because you tackled me,” grumbled Cas, dusting off, flicking his eyes from one to the other. The big guy, Benny, was built like a linebacker. He had an unfriendly expression and a pretty lush southern accent. There was also something else a little off about him. The other guy, Dean, looked like he'd just stepped out of an army recruiting commercial, young and handsome as hell, though with a hard look to his eyes. He spoke with a light drawl. Cas considered fleeing, but both of them were armed, and he didn't want to risk showing his back to them. Besides, they were both bigger than he.

“You’re a mouthy little fuck, Baby Blue,” grinned Benny, giving Cas a clap on the back that may or may not have been intended as friendly. It nearly sent him reeling into the shelves.

“Look, this place has already been ransacked,” said Dean, wiping a hand across a dusty shelf and regarding the grit on his fingers. “We got what we came out for. Let's head back.”

“Wait,” said Cas, eyes widening, gripping his crowbar.

“Why so damn jumpy?” asked Benny. As if in answer, there was a soft rustle from the front of the store, like a curtain billowing in the wind.

Dean and Benny formed up, side by side. The move looked practiced. “Stay behind us,” Dean whispered back to Cas. For two large men, Cas thought, they moved silent as ghosts. He also noticed they left their rifles hanging on the slings. The one called Dean had some kind of fancy hand axe, and the big guy was gripping a Louisville slugger. That was good: Croats were attracted to noise, so gunshots would often make your situation worse. They exchanged hand signals. It looked like they meant to move towards the back of the store. He stayed close, as it looked like the best strategy for now.

“They’re here,” Cas said quietly. Benny tensed, but Dean glanced back at Cas, puzzled look on his face.

And then she screamed, a gargling kind of scream, as her throat had been cut some time back, and lunged for Dean. He swung the axe, and finished beheading her. Benny swung left and then right, smoothly bashing Croat heads. Cas was impressed: a switch hitter. They efficiently dropped the small pack, maybe half a dozen Croats, and then paused for breath.

“Is that it?” Dean whispered.

Benny paused, nodding. “Think so.”

“No,” said Cas.

Both of them turned to glare back at Cas, but he simply pointed back the way they had been heading. Dean swiveled around.

“Shit,” said Dean, now viewing the approaching herd. “OK, plan B, run!”

Cas was already on his way, breaking for the front door. The old automatic doors had been long jammed with shopping baskets and debris, so he smashed a window with his crowbar and hopped through. Yeah, it was noisy, but they were already pretty much up shit creek. The others made it through more slowly, Dean now up behind him, grabbing him by the shoulder.

“Vehicle?” Cas asked, praying these idiots had driven here and he wouldn’t have to run for his life again on a nearly empty stomach. Dean pointed. They’d evidently parked around in back of the supermarket, which was probably smart, but now it meant they had to fight their way across an obstacle course of beached shopping baskets and abandoned cars to make whatever the hell crap transportation these dudes had brought along.

He felt his shoulder gripped hard as Dean shoved Cas in back of him so he and Benny could take point again. Dean seemed to be in his element swinging the axe, and Benny was almost as good with the bat, brawny arms tensing as he swung. That is, until a Croat jumped too close to a light fixture, and Benny’s bat cracked on the pole, shattering in two.

“Benny!” called Dean as the Croat ducked and lunged.

Benny growled, literally growled, unhinging a set of pointed teeth, and summarily ripped the Croat’s neck to pieces. As Cas watched, utterly fascinated, Benny grinned a bloody grin, jamming the rest of the splintered bat into the Croat’s face as it went down.

“Benny!” called Dean again. But this wasn’t a warning, it was a cry for help. Through intent or happenstance, a Croat had launched a shopping basket down the low incline towards him while Dean was distracted. Dean had tried to duck, but his ankle caught on a wheel. It knocked him over, and the axe went skidding out of his hand. Benny grabbed for his gun, but had to stop to punch out a Croat who had strayed too close.

Cas leapt over the overturned shopping cart and stooped over, Dean’s axe finding his hand. It was too heavy and too long, but he gripped it two-handed and neatly beheaded the Croat hovering over Dean. He spun around, correcting his grip, and another head went flying. He ducked, still concentrating on finding the balance of the axe, and struck again, and again, considering the sweet spot on the blade, the delicate design of the human cervical vertebrae, air resistance, tracking tension on his shoulder muscles. He sliced open a belly, and, as the Croat doubled over, dislodged the head in a neat 1-2 sweep.

“Dude!”

Cas jerked up at the sound of Dean's voice. Dean and Benny were staring at him. Cas paused, breathing hard.

A twisted pile of dead Croats lay at his feet. Maybe ten. Maybe more.

“Holy mother of fuck,” said Benny, wiping Croat blood on the back of his sleeve, and still clutching his splintered bat over one shoulder.

“Run,” ordered Dean, and everybody obeyed this time, Cas trailing. He skidded to a halt in the back parking lot. This wasn’t what he was expecting: not a jeep nor an SUV, but an old battleship of a Chevy muscle car outfitted with a cop grille guard and some high beams on the front.

“What the hell-?” he asked.

“Benny! Get the kid!” shouted Dean as he jumped into the driver's seat.

Benny grabbed Cas by the belt and collar and tossed him in the back seat like a sack of potatoes and then the car was squealing off, bashing right over a couple of slower Croats, and then out on the highway.

They drove for a moment in silence, the only sound rough adrenaline-fueled breathing. “I didn’t catch your name,” said Dean, who glanced into the rearview mirror.

“That’s because I didn’t give it,” grumbled Cas.

“We could still toss your ass out on the roadside, Baby Blue,” grumbled Benny.

“Benny!”

“Ain’t in a good mood, Dean. I just cracked my lucky goddam bat!” he said, holding up the splintered, gore-coverd bat ill-naturedly.

“We’ll get you another bat.”

“But this one was autographed by Kirby Puckett!”

Dean shook his head and glanced in the mirror again. “I just wanted to say thanks,” he told Cas. “Whoever the hell you are.”

“Cas,” he replied, slumping back in the seat. “Name’s Cas.” He looked at the big pile of bundles beside him in the back seat. He pulled an item out of the bag. “Are these DVDs?” he asked, tilting his head to examine them.

“Hey, be careful with those!” scolded Dean.

“What is … Dr. Sexy, M.D.?” asked Cas, reading the label. There were a lot of impossibly pretty people in the cover photograph.

Benny snorted. “Had to raid three Video Safari stores for that.”

“Just put it back,” Dean told Cas. “Put them back.”

Cas tossed them back into the sack. “You guys got anything to eat?” he asked, rubbing his still raging stomach.

“The scrounging lifestyle not paying off for y'all?” asked Benny.

Dean reached down and grabbed something off the floor, tossing it back at Cas. Cas nearly fainted when he unwrapped it: it was a sandwich. A genuine peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with grape jam.

“You giving him your lunch?” asked Benny.

“Saved my life. I think that’s worth a PB and J,” said Dean. “Hey, don’t eat so fast, you’ll give yourself a stomach ache,” he scolded in the mirror as the sandwich disappeared into Cas’s gullet.

Cas said something indistinct, as his mouth was now glued halfway shut with glorious salty, tangy peanut butter.

“He ain’t gettin’ my lunch,” declared Benny.

“Who would want your lunch,” laughed Dean, tossing Cas back a plastic water bottle. Cas took a long swig, and then leaned forward, curious, as he wasn’t sure entirely what kind of lunch a vampire packed.

Benny pulled open a plastic container. “Pig’s blood soup! Mm mm! Just like Mamma used to make,” he said, holding it under Dean’s nose.

“Gross!” said Dean. “I bet even garbage gut back there wouldn’t eat that,” he told Benny.

“Bet he would,” grinned the vampire. He had retracted the fangs, but his smile was still chilling.

Cas held out eager hands. Food was food, he decided. Benny handed him the container and a spoon, and Cas slurped down a mouthful, although, once in his mouth, the slimy liquid wasn’t the easiest thing to swallow.

“Told ya!” said Benny.

“Well, look at him. He probably hasn’t eaten in a week,” reasoned Dean.

“Nor showered in a month,” grumbled Benny, wrinkling his nose and grabbing back the soup and spoon. Cas picked up the water bottle and took a very long drink. “Course, now that we fed it, it’s bound to follow us home,” Benny added.

“Where are we going?” asked Cas, who suddenly realized he had no idea.

“We’re taking you back to the camp,” Dean announced, as if it had already been decided.

“Uh, I don’t know…” said Cas.

“Say the word, and we’ll kick you to the curb, hotshot,” promised Benny.

“Peanut butter,” purred Dean. “Vats of it. We roll in it every night.”

Cas blinked. And then sat back, and promptly fell asleep against the packages.

 

The van backed up at the sound of the Impala's horn, and they were ushered through the inner fence, into the compound. Yawning, Cas swiveled to look through the back window as the van slotted right back into the space for the gate, while several armed men and women paced nervously.

He turned back and peered through the windshield. “Is this … a hotel?”

“It was a hotel,” said Dean. “Check it out. They built this during the cold war, so if we got nuked, all the dudes in Congress and all the special people could shack up here.”

Dean parked the car, and they all got out. Cas gaped up at the white marble columns and felt something he had rarely before felt in his life: underdressed.

“Dean! You're back,” said a worried looking little bearded man.

“You noticed, Chuck,” sighed Dean. Benny, big as he was, had somehow managed to disappear without a sound.

“We have several issues that have come up in your absence,” said Chuck, tapping a ball point pen on his clip board. “The Evangelicals are unhappy with being housed so close to a werewolf pack. Our Wiccans say they're out of myrrh and toilet paper. There was also-”

“Chuck, can ya give me a second,” said Dean. “We got a new person I wanna get squared away,” he told him, clamping Cas on the shoulder.

“Oh,” said Chuck, who couldn't have looked less impressed. “New scrounger?”

“New soldier,” said Dean. “Oh, hey! Sammy! You feeling OK?”

“I'm fine Dean,” said the tall man, smiling lopsidedly. Cas thought he looked pale, as if he had been ill. “Those dreams just take a little bit out of me. That's all.” He turned to Cas, sizing him up. “You pick up a stray again?”

“New recruit!” said Dean. “This is Cas.”

“Hey, Cas,” smiled Sam, sticking out a hand. “I'm-”

“Sam Winchester,” said Cas quietly, shaking Sam's hand.

“Well, yeah,” said Sam, who looked quizzically at Dean.

Dean frowned, but let it go. “Look, Sammy, sounds like I got a stack of bullshit waiting for me,” he explained, hooking a thumb at Chuck, who was beginning to fume.

“I didn't vote for you, jerk,” said Sam.

“Yeah, fuck you, bitch. Could you get Cas settled in while I hash out a couple things?”

“Hey, sure,” smiled Sam, brushing hair out of his face.

“If you have time, take him by the kitsune and his crew,” Dean told him. “I got a hunch they could use them.”

“I don't trust foxes,” grumbled Chuck, who was now waiting nervously beside Dean.

“But you trust wolves,” laughed Dean. “Yeah, great thinking.” And then they were off, Chuck nattering at ninety miles a minute, like a small bearded whirlwind.

“Looks like I need to take you by the welcome wagon ladies,” Sam told Cas. “But it's nice out, we could walk the long way around if you wanna see the grounds.” Without waiting for a reply, he strode off, putting a hand up and rubbing his forehead. Cas was still in shock. When Dean had mentioned camp, he had pictured tents and sleeping bags, not some kind of high class resort bounded by concrete and razor wire.

You could tell, even from the outside, that it was no longer being used as a hotel: much of the ornamental garden had been torn up and was being used for cultivation. Cas recognized corn and soybeans, so it looked like they were intending to say a while.

“Does your brother often go on foraging expeditions with … a vampire?” asked Cas.

“A lot of our residents are supes. You know, supernaturals: vampires, werewolves and the like. Turns out they’re immune to the Croatoan virus, so we’re all in the same boat.”

“Oh.”

“But if you’re asking about Dean specifically, I usually go out with him,” said Sam. “I just felt like shit this morning.”

“Are you ill, Sam?” asked Cas, who had more than a little trouble keeping up with Sam's long strides.

“Oh, this is gonna sound weird, and I probably wouldn't have believed me, if I'd been you. But I get these dreams sometimes. And they, sort of, come true?” He phrased it like a question, as if he himself couldn’t quite believe it.

“You have prophetic visions,” said Cas.

“Yeah, something like that. Only then I get the worst fucking migraine the next day. But I wouldn't call me a prophet or anything,” he added, rubbing his chin. “I think I'd need to grow a beard, for one.”

“Daniel was clean-shaven, as was Isaiah, before he began to believe his own publicity.”

Sam stopped for a moment and regarded Cas. “Hey! How the heck would you know something like that?”

Cas blinked in confusion. “Uh. I must have read it somewhere....”

“You sounded like you knew them!” laughed Sam, although he also winced at the sound of his own voice. “I mean, you can't be that old, right?”

“I'm not certain about my age. I have … some gaps in my memory, unfortunately.”

“Aw, hey, I'm sorry,” said Sam. “That's not uncommon here, you know. What we've all been through it. PTSD and all. We could have one of the psychics take a look at you, if you want? They know stuff, you know. They’re psychic!”

Cas rather determinedly shook his head. “No. That's fine. These grounds are, uh, rather extensive?” The pathway Sam had taken now threaded between tennis courts and an Olympic-sized pool. There were also numerous outbuildings, and something that looked like a golf course off in the distance.

“Hey, yeah. Did Dean tell you the story? Congress evidently built this place in secret during the cold war so when the nuclear holocaust went down, they could all still have spa treatments.” They had come up the grand marble front steps of the main building. Sam pushed open the heavy sliding glass front door for Cas, who reluctantly entered. He walked a few steps and then stopped, turning around to take in the huge chandeliers that hung in the great yawing entryway.

“We don't actually light 'em up,” Sam explained. “Drain on energy. But this place has generators, and stockpiles of water and stuff. The tricky thing right now is fuel, that's part of the reason why Dean and Benny were out foraging. Though if the corn comes up we could have biofuel....”

“Is Dean a leader here?” asked Cas.

Sam laughed. “You're asking why the hell he's out on a road trip? Probably so he won't strangle Chuck. We love the hell out of Chuck, but damn.... Oh, hey, Lenore!” Sam hailed.

“Is this one new?” asked a sweet-faced young woman, raising an eyebrow and giving Cas the once over. He forced himself not to squirm behind Sam.

“Yeah, this is Cas. Could you give him the treatment, find him some quarters?”

“The, uh, treatment?” asked Cas. He found he wasn't as much afraid of Croats as he was this girl. And now there were a couple other women hanging around as well.

“We’ll take care of him,” said Lenore, stepping forward and gripping Cas by the shoulders. Cas cringed.

“I'll see you later,” said Sam.

“Sam?” asked Cas as Sam turned to go.

“Yeah?” asked Sam.

“Uh, your dream? If you don’t mind my asking, what did you see?”

Sam rolled his eyes and looked annoyed. “That’s the worst part! I can’t remember.”

“It’s all a blank?” asked Cas.

“Happens sometimes,” said Sam. “I might go see Pamela later – she’s one of our psychics – but it’s probably just gone. Anyway, I’ll catch up with you later.”

 

It had taken Dean longer than usual to extricate himself from Chuck and Chuck’s administrative bullshit this evening. Here they were, while the world went up in flames, living the life in a sweet luxury compound, and all any of them could do was bitch, bitch, bitch.

At some point during the discussion, Dean had a vague inkling that he would like to check in on the new guy. But the inkling somehow got loose in his mind, invading like a weed, and now what he had was an absolute certainty that talking to Cas was the single overarching goal of his evening. Funny, he didn’t even have a good picture in his mind of what the guy looked like, just the impression of a huge pair of sky blue eyes, swaddled up in many layers of dirt and grimy clothing. But when the kid had jumped in to slay those Croats, he’d moved like nothing Dean had ever seen before. It sounded crazy. Dean knew a lot of supernatural beings. He had fought side by side with them since this Croatoan thing had gone down. But Cas moved like someone – or something – not of this world.

Dean finally spotted Cas more or less where Lenore told him he’d be, standing alone on one of the many terraces out in the back of the main building. Dean was pleased to see there had been a person in there somewhere under all the many layers of caked dirt. They'd even given him new clothes, including an overcoat that had frankly seen better days.

Cas was hunched over, trying to light up a cigarette in the wind. He glanced over at Dean and nodded, blowing out smoke with a seeming gratitude.

“Nice coat,” said Dean.

Cas glared at him, and tapped ashes off his cigarette, coat blowing in the wind like a pair of khaki wings. “Your welcome wagon girls burned my clothes, Dean.”

“Yeah, sorry about that,” said Dean, going to lean against the wall beside him. “Camp politics. We got a lice problem.”

“You know, I don’t recall telling anybody I intended to remain here,” Cas told him.

“You’re not a hostage, you know. You wanna go back out and grub for a can of beans, there’s the door,” said Dean.

Cas radiated annoyance, but didn’t say anything, sending a nervous hand through his hair. It looked like Lenore and her crew might have cut it: unruly black tufts stuck out everywhere.

Dean gestured for the cigarette. Cas squinted uncertainly at it, and then handed it to Dean, who grinned and blew smoke rings.

“Fancy,” said Cas, reaching for the smoke back.

“Hey, I went to college,” said Dean. He smiled at Cas. “What about you?”

“What about me?”

“Where did you pick up the nicotine addiction? You look pretty hungry for it.”

Cas looked pained. “I don't remember.”

“You get clobbered in the head or something?” asked Dean, pointing to his own noggin. “That’s what happened to my brother. He fell. As a kid. That’s when he started having his dreams.”

Cas took a long drag, waited, and then exhaled, looking far off. “I honestly don't remember much. Sorry.”

“No need to apologize.” Mysterious past, Dean thought. Intriguing. He waved for the cigarette again. Might as well be companionable. “What do you remember?”

“I awoke, and the world was in great tribulation: hellfire, mingled with blood. And I beheld a pale horse, and death followed upon him.”

Dean stopped in mid-puff. He didn't reply. There really wasn't much replying to that. “Uh. You from a religious family?” he asked as he handed back the cigarette.

“I really don't know.”

“So how did you survive?”

Cas shook his head, and finally looked at Dean. “I think I was with a group. For a time. But the leader had gone. And then they started fighting amongst themselves.” He looked down, a great sadness in his wide-set eyes. “I didn't wish to choose sides, so I left.”

“How long you been on your own?”

“I don’t know. Months?” He peered at Dean as if searching for the answer.

“That's a long time to survive in this world.”

“I'm not much of a people person.”

Dean grinned.

“So, what about you?” Cas asked.

“What about me,” said Dean, reaching over for the cigarette again. He leaned back against the wall. “So, understand this. These bozos picked me as their fearless leader when we were like six people. And a dog. And it was cool. I don’t mind telling people what to do. People are idiots. But it just sort of … escalated.”

“You are unhappy, Dean?” asked Cas.

“Sometimes,” admitted Dean, who wasn’t at all sure why he was making his confession to a newbie. Dean was not exactly the trusting sort. “Seriously, I sometimes think about throwing a couple of shotguns and packs in the back of the Impala, grabbing Sammy, and just, you know, driving off.”

Cas nodded and stared at him, seeming to take in everything. Dean shifted uncomfortably. “So, one thing I wanted to know,” said Dean. “About today? When the Croats came, you picked up on it, even before Benny. And Benny? He has a sixth sense about this stuff. How did you know they were coming, anyway?”

“The smell. Carrion.”

“You could smell 'em from that far away?”

Cas didn’t reply, but his expression seemed to say, “Sure, can’t you?”

“Did Sam introduce you to the kitsune yet?” asked Dean.

“He mentioned it. Lenore insisted that I required a haircut first. Who is Kitsune?”

“It's not his name, actually. Well, you gotta know, he’s some kind of Japanese god or demon or spirit or something,” said Dean. “But he’s handy with a sword. You seem to have a knack for hand to hand fighting.”

Cas nodded, once again neither agreeing nor disagreeing. He held up the remains of the cigarette. “Last one,” he noted.

“Can’t take your last smoke,” said Dean, but Cas pressed it on him.

“We’ll share,” Cas muttered. Dean frowned but took a grateful drag, and then Cas’s lips were on his lips, one cool hand on the back of his neck, and it was all coarse smoke and a raw electric charge.

Cas stepped back and exhaled smoke. Dean felt an ache in his lungs, and the intensity of Cas’s gaze. He coughed.

“Unfiltered,” said Cas, lips tracing a smile. “A little harsh.”

Dean tossed away the butt and ground it out with a heel. “Yeah,” he said. It came out choked. Cas nodded, and appeared to be about to leave. “Uh, your quarters,” rasped Dean. “Did Lenore and those guys set you up with a room?”

“They mentioned a couple of possibilities,” said Cas. He tilted his head. “Where are you?”

“East wing. I’m in the east wing. Ask anybody,” Dean told him, feeling a little foolish.

Cas nodded. And then he was gone, coat flapping in the wind.

Dean leaned back against the building again. “I’m an idiot,” he told himself.

 

Cas tread warily across the compound, cigarette smoke and trench coat billowing in his wake.

Wasn't there an expression, out of the frying pan, into the fire?

It had been strange, these past few days, having enough food to eat. And it was very strange indeed having a bed. Two beds, actually. The room Lenore and the “welcome wagon” had assigned him had two beds.

Lenore was a vampire. They were all vampires. And, as Sam had told him, vampires were immune. Well, they were immune to the virus, but not the madness created by all the infected humans.

She had told him there were plenty of rooms available given that he didn't mind the sun. A lot of the … residents here tended to shy away from sunshine. The vampires evidently had a nest in the basement, tucked in where there was only artificial light.

The sun wasn't what Cas minded.

Not that he'd actually slept much in either of his beds. The very first night he had in fact gone to sleep out on the room's little balcony, crowbar clutched in his hand. They had given him a suite – an entire suite – despite his protestations. Besides the beds, it had a desk and a small, refrigerator, so he'd pushed the desk and fridge up against the front door to blockade it and then slid open the glass door that opened to the balcony and spread one of the blankets down on the floor there and then also grabbed a pillow (because why not) and slept there, out in the open, down under the stars and up above what used to be a pool before they'd drained it and filled it in with sod and used it to grow tomatoes.

Dean had seemed annoyed the next morning when first of all Cas hadn't heard Dean knocking (he wasn’t exactly sure how that had even been possible, as Cas never really slept) and then had to scramble to dislodge the furniture blockade before Dean could enter the suite. Sam, who was there too, had just flashed one of those big charming grins and said it was all cool, but Dean barked at him impatiently. Cas got the sense that Dean had been trying to duck out early to evade some of his leadership responsibilities. He had given Cas two tasks then: they weren't really orders, but it was heavily implied that he must fulfill them if he was to remain in good standing with the group.

The first task had turned out to be pleasurable. He was to receive training from the old kitsune, the camp's sword master. It had seemed weird and archaic, but it made sense for this world: blades were a silent weapon (and as everyone learned very quickly, nothing attracted Croats more than noise). In addition, swords did not require frequent foraging trips for scarce ammunition.

Cas had taken to it like a fish slipping into the water.

Oddly, he had an instinct for making stabbing motions, not slicing, so they were working on correcting this. The kitsune had entrusted him with a fine katana, with strict instructions to keep it oiled. The promise was easily kept, and running a soft cloth over the graceful sword had easily become a calming routine. He wore it on his back, in a scabbard, although he quite admired the kitsune's lovely obi.

Dean had given him one more assignment, and that was the one that ended up shunted aside and put off and ignored. There were so many things he didn't remember, and so many things he should have known, like why the fuck a kid scrounging for beans in an abandoned Piggly Wiggly could heft a masterwork sword like it was and had always been part of his arm.

Deep in thought, he arrived at the correct building. It was located near an empty pool, so Cas surmised it had been a spa at one point. He stamped out his cigarette and entered. The door was open, and there were two women sitting there around a long conference table, looking like they were passing the time. The older one had something in her hands: a colorful ball of yarn spilled out and onto the table and she was holding something that looked like large metal chopsticks. Knitting needles? Yes, she was knitting. She turned dark, knowing eyes to him as he entered. The other one, who was doing nothing at all, kicking back, turned to him as well. She was wearing a pair of very dark sunglasses, so it was impossible to read her expression, but her head tilted at a jaunty angle.

“Come on in, sugar! We won't bite!” said the one with the yarn.

“Sure we will,” snapped the other, “if you look tasty.” She got to her feet and apprised Cas. “Huh. You're the new guy. No wonder the fearless leader got his panties in a twist. I would kill for lips like that.”

Cas unconsciously licked his lips and took a cautious step forward.

“I'm Missouri, hon,” said the older woman, who was arranging yarn so she too could stand up. “And the rude one is Pammy.”

“Pamela,” she corrected, not apparently taking her eyes from Cas.

Cas stood frozen. “Dean asked that I come here.”

“You're Cas?” asked Missouri.

“Yes.”

“Just ... Cas?” asked Pamela. Cas could imagine, behind the Ray Bans, her eyes squeezing into a suspicious frown.

“Just Cas.”

Pamela or Pammy threw a glance at Missouri, and Cas could see from her profile that Pamela was wearing a patch over one eye.

“You want a reading?” asked Missouri.

“Dean asked that I come here,” Cas repeated.

“And you'll do anything when Freckles crinkles his nose, huh?” asked Pamela, resting a hip on the table.

“Why do you think Dean sent you here?” asked Missouri, and Cas thought he saw a shrewdness behind the smile.

“I have some gaps. In my memory.”

“And you want us to fill them in?” Missouri asked.

“Not particularly. No.”

The women now quite frankly looked at each other.

“And why is that, sweetcheeks?” asked Pamela. “You don't wanna know what you were up to?”

“I doubt you would want to know.”

The look again, and then Missouri said, “You know, doll, maybe you're right. Maybe you should just turn around and take that sweet ass back to Dean. You tell him we were having an off day.”

“What? Missy, you're out of your fucking mind,” said Pamela. She came up off the table and grabbed Cas by the arm.

“Pammy?” warned Missouri, and then a real look of fear crossed her face.

“I can't turn down a challenge,” grinned Pamela, tugging Cas forward. “Come on. Leave the tin out here. You'll come back to my place and we'll get acquainted.”

Cas reluctantly removed his scabbard and left the katana sitting on the table in the entryway. And then Pamela led him off to a smaller, curtained off area. There was a massage table pushed off against one wall.

Pamela pulled two chairs so they were facing each other, and then they sat down, Cas uncomfortably close, as she scooted up so their knees were touching. “Not gonna molest ya now, hon. We’ll save that for later. Now just relax.” Pamela held out her hands.

“I would be more comfortable if you had let me keep my blade,” said Cas.

“Relax, Cas,” Pamela repeated, grabbing his hands, which had begun to sweat. “Now, you just sit there, and clear your mind.”

“What are you looking for?”

“Well, I thought maybe we'd get your name, for starters. You need another name, unless you think you're Madonna,” she smirked.

“You seek my true name?” asked Cas, his voice taking up a great darkness.

“Uh,” said Pamela. She looked around, and realized she had dropped Cas’s hands. “Damn, your hands are too fucking sweaty. Like holding a greased pig. Come on, gimme!” Cas held out his hands and, after a moment's hesitation, Pamela took them again, and resumed acting her cocky self.

Cas watched Pamela warily for a moment, and then closed his own eyes. After a long moment, he could actually feel her probing at the edges of his mind, wandering around his defenses, looking for a way in. It was a funny feeling, like he'd been administered a mild psychoactive drug.

“You're resisting. Stop.”

His mind had started to unwind, thoughts and memories stirring softly. Boxes, long sealed, were being prodded. A sea unsettled.

Pamela had found something. The attention switched to one small area, something neglected and old. Off on an old path, seldom trodden now. There was something dark here.

Something very dark. Pamela had found the darkness, and now unwound it, searching, probing. It rolled and spun in her hands, like a dark skein of yarn unfolding. Dark upon dark, until she could no longer see, no longer sense. Darkness was all around her. Dark and cold. She opened her mouth to scream, but there was no breath here, no nothing here, a deep dark.

“PAMELA!”

Cas opened his eyes. He hadn't noticed Pamela dropping his hands. Nor had he felt her collapsing. She was lying on the floor, sunglasses askew, body in spasms. Missouri was there, on her knees, hovering over her.

Pamela blinked her one good eye and suddenly clung to Missouri. “It was all dark. I couldn't see. I couldn't breathe,” she whispered.

“Girl, I think you had enough excitement for one week,” Missouri told her, patting her hand. She turned towards Cas, giving him an apprising look. “Why don't you get on back home? You can tell Dean we're a little … overwhelmed this week.”

Cas silently stood and nodded. Pamela was staring at him, wide-eyed. A single tear dripped down her cheek. It was bloody.

 

Sam was walking through a very familiar wasteland.

Great, another migraine, he thought. Well, at least he'd had a couple weeks respite this time.

“Hey, Max,” he told the dog. He actually had no idea if Max was really its name. Sam hadn’t had a dog, growing up, so this was probably remembered from a movie or TV show or something.

He grabbed the drool-covered stick and gave it a good toss, and the mutt went giddily romping out after it, disappearing into some scrub.

Thunder sounded off in the distance, and the sky darkened. It was always on the verge of a rainstorm here, but, as far as he could remember, it never actually rained. Maybe whoever was sending this stuff to Sam wanted it to seem gloomy and portentous? “It was a dark and stormy night….” He grinned. Or rather, dream!Sam grinned.

The dog came back. A person was walking with it now: a slight figure in a trench coat, trailing a cloud of cigarette smoke.

“Cas?” asked Sam. “Is that you?”

“Yes.”

“Why am I dreaming you? We just met. And, no offense, you’re not the kind of person I usually dream about.”

“You are correct in that I’m not an attractive female, Sam. However, you said you were having trouble remembering your dreams,” Cas told him, taking a drag on a cigarette. “I thought I could help.”

“You wander around in people’s dreams?” asked Sam.

“It’s just something I can do.”

“Dean is right: there is something seriously weird about you.”

“Has your brother talked about me?” Cas sounded hopeful. It made Sam smile.

“Yeah, actually,” said Sam. “You made quite an impression.” He glared at the cigarette. “OK. First off, this is a no smoking dream!”

Cas raised an eyebrow, but tossed down the cigarette and ground it out with his toe. “Have it your way,” he said. “Where are we headed?”

“Well, the usual scenario is I walk around playing with the dog and they come to me.”

Cas was looking around, scanning the horizon. “There’s a light off over there. Suppose we head that way?”

“I guess so. You don’t think it’ll throw off the mystical mojo?” asked Sam.

“I’m afraid I have no idea what a ‘mojo’ is, Sam.”

“What planet are you from, anyway?” asked Sam. He shrugged, and he and Cas followed a galumphing Max towards the light. “Oh, what the hell?” he asked, as they approached what looked like a building now on the horizon. It was a café.

“I wonder what this portends?” mused Cas.

“I dunno, but I think I need a beer. C’mon, dude,” said Sam, entering the gate. “Inside or outside?”

“I usually prefer outside, so I can smoke,” said Cas. “But this is a no smoking dream….”

“You can have one,” declared Sam, sitting down at a little table just outside the window. Max ran around the table once, and then curled up at Sam's feet. “Oh, here we go! Now this is more like it.”

A waitress had appeared from somewhere. She was dressed all in black, like they do at some trendy restaurants. She had black hair and dark eyes, which added nicely to the effect.

She also had an intriguing tattoo under one eye.

“Hey, nice ink,” said Sam.

“We’re still waiting,” she told him, handing him a menu. “My father is growing impatient.”

“Oh, well, I’m sorry,” Sam apologized. “Why don’t you send him on out?”

“That’s not how it works. He doesn’t come to you. You go to him.” She sounded rather determined about this.

“Well, uh, OK,” said Sam. “So, where is that?”

“Do you really have the best pizza in Manhattan?” inquired Cas, pointing to where this statement was printed on the menu.

“And the worst,” she told him. “We currently have the only pizza in Manhattan.”

“Well, then I guess I need to try the pizza,” said Sam.

“You can’t,” she told him.

“What? Is this like the cheese shop with no cheese?” laughed Sam.

“Of course not,” said the waitress. “I mean, other than the bouzouki players of course,” she added, pointing to the two musicians dressed in colorful Greek folk costumes that Sam somehow hadn’t noticed before. They danced in step and played a rhythmic folk tune.

“Then, uh, why no pizza?” Sam persisted. “And don’t tell me the cat ate it.”

“First, like I told you, you gotta go to him, he won’t go to you. Second…” she said, pointing up to the sky. There was an ominous funnel cloud now on the horizon.

“Shit!” said Sam, eyeing the approaching twister. “You guys got a root cellar or something?” But when he looked back, the waitress was gone. And, more worryingly to Sam, so was Max the dog. He turned. Cas was still there. “Cas, what do we do?”

But then Cas came at him and Sam felt himself being tackled, and they both went down, he and Cas, huddled in the shadow of the café’s front wall. Sam had the breath knocked out of him: for a little guy, Cas was heavy as hell.

“Keep still,” came a harsh whisper in his ear. And then Sam cringed as the pressure in his ears suddenly increased. The wind roared, and he felt Cas’s trench coat flutter up like wings. He heard the bouzouki music grow softer and softer, and turned his head to see the musicians both sucked up in the funnel, but both still calmly playing.

And Cas, huddling over him was … no longer Cas. He was something very dark. A shadow, a black hole, something not light could penetrate.

And then … silence.

Sam shot up in bed, bathed in a cold sweat.

 

“I don’t like it,” said Dean.

“Well, it’s not about liking or not liking, it just kind of … is,” said Sam, keeping pace with his brother as Dean stalked downstairs and turned into the corridor.

“This guy shows up outta nowhere, scares the fucking shit out of our best psychic, and now he’s suddenly copiloting your dream?”

“I thought you said you and Benny pretty much kidnapped the guy?”

“Yeah, but think! Maybe he wanted to be kidnapped, Sammy!”

“So he also magically brought on the gang of Croats?”

“I don’t know any more. That’s why we’re gonna go have a talk.” They had just arrived downstairs at a rather bland looking meeting room. It looked more or less like every other conference room in the building. “We wanna talk, Ash,” Dean told the guy sitting at the desk with his feet up, reading a paperback book.

“You sure, dude? He’s not in a great mood,” Ash, the mullet-coiffed attendant, told them. He didn’t budge.

“Is he ever in a good mood?” asked Dean.

“Point taken,” drawled Ash. He swung his legs down and ambled over to one wall. He hit a concealed switch, and most of the wall swung out to reveal a huge vault. “After you, gentlemen,” he smiled.

“Are you sure you need me?” Sam asked Dean. “My head still hurts.”

“I’m sure, crybaby. Anyway, I never remember the incantation for the inner door. Come on.”

They both went inside, and then the heavy outer door swung shut, and they two were alone. Sam huffed air, and noticed he could see his breath. “Jesus, he must be in a terrible mood.”

“Just get on with it,” said Dean. Sam held out his hand and muttered in Latin at the smaller inner door. It creaked, and then slowly opened.

“What do you idjits want now?” came a voice from inside.

“We need to talk to a vengeful spirit,” said Dean.

“You come to the right place,” said Bobby. He was a little shaky and indistinct, a bit like a TV picture when it’s tuned between channels.

Dean carefully entered the inner vault, being careful not to step on any of the confining sigils painted around the entrance. Someone had let Bobby’s spirit escape before. It was not a pleasant memory.

“Sammy had one of his dreams,” said Dean, pointing up at his apologetic looking younger brother.

“Oh, what is it this time, kid? Fire, flood, rain of tarantulas?”

“Pizza,” said Sam.

“Well, that don’t sound too apocalyptic. Unless you get it with anchovies.”

“Seriously, Bobby,” said Sam, who sat down on the bare floor. They had brought in chairs, once. Bad idea. And then they’d tried cushions. Another bad idea.

“He’d been having trouble remembering,” Dean prompted.

“Yeah,” said Sam, rubbing his eyes. “So, last night, I’m in the same place I always go when I have these dreams, and Cas shows up.”

“What the hell’s a Cas?”

Dean leaned back against the far wall and had a sudden urge for a cigarette. “Benny and I picked up a kid when we were out scrounging the other day. We were surrounded, and he grabbed my axe and wasted a dozen Croats all by himself.”

“What the hell kind of name is Cas? Is he a girl or a boy?”

“A boy,” said Dean.

“First name, last name, or nickname?”

“What the heck does that even matter, Bobby?”

“Because names are important, boy. Names are one of the most important things. Especially if he’s some kinda malevolent critter.”

“I don’t think he’s malevolent,” said Dean.

“You don’t?” asked Sam, peering up at Dean.

“What do you know about that could hop a ride on a dream, Bobby?” asked Dean, ignoring Sam.

Bobby’s spirit glared at Dean. “Let’s have the rest of the dream, first, Sam.”

“Like I said, we sat down at a café and tried to order pizza. But the waitress told us-“

“There was a waitress?”

“Yeah! Some goth girl waitress. She had a weird little tatt under an eye.” Sam traced his finger under his own eye.

“Can you show me?” asked Bobby. “Just draw it on the floor. Nobody will give me a damn pencil.”

“Around you, pencils get shoved in eyes,” Dean warned him.

“I didn’t mean nothing.”

“You scratched Pamela’s cornea, Bobby.”

“Pamela gets too damn nosy sometimes,” Bobby grumbled, flickering dangerously.

“Here, Bobby,” said Sam, reaching over and tracing a symbol on the floor. “It was just like a curlicue.”

Bobby’s spirit hunkered down next to Sam. “Damn my knees,” he said. He squinted down, as if Sam had actually written something on the floor, ghostly fingers tracing over the patch of floor Sam had used. “That’s the Eye of Horus.”

“So, what does that mean, does Horus want his eye back?” asked Dean.

Bobby straightened up. “Means the gal’s a reaper.”

“Uh, as in grim, Bobby?” asked Sam.

“That’s the one. What did she want, Sam?”

“She kept saying he – her father – wouldn’t come to us, we had to go to him.”

“Well, boys, sounds like you best saddle up. You got an appointment.”

Sam and Dean looked at each other, Sam nervous, Dean determined. “Yeah? With who?” asked Dean.

 

He had chosen the blade partially for the graceful beauty of the maker’s mark. It seemed to fit gloriously in his hand, as if he had been bidden to it.

The kitsune spirit, who went by Toshiro, seemed old beyond belief, but Cas realized this was just the manifestation of its human form. Ancient spirits can attain a human form, though why they would want to do that, no one knows.

As Toshiro watched, Cas went through the forms, patiently executing each one, striking out with the sharp yakiba side. It all seemed so familiar, the heft in his hands, the arc of the flashing blade. Like a dance he had been taught, and then forgotten.

He was wrested from his reverie by the door banging open. He halted to look at Dean, who was glaring at him. Dean Winchester, human weather system. At first, Dean had been fairly indifferent to Cas, but then he had warmed up after Cas dispatched a few Croats. But the affection (if that is what it was) had morphed into anger after the encounter with Pamela, and then a sort of stony betrayal after Cas had guided Sam though his dream. Usually, this would have mattered, but for some reason, Dean’s opinion of Cas mattered very, very much to him.

And so Cas had come down to dwell for a time in the tranquility of the kitsune’s dojo.

“Pack your bags. We’re leaving,” barked Dean.

“Where are we going?” asked Cas.

“We’re going out for pizza.” Which prompted even the kitsune to raise a bushy eyebrow.

“Where?”

“Manhattan.”

Cas blinked. “And you want me to come along?” he asked, tilting his head to better read Dean’s mood.

Dean paused at the doorway and turned around with seeming impatience. “That would be why I told you to come along.”

Cas carefully replaced his sword in the scabbard, and then, with a polite bow to Toshiro and a whispered, “Sensei,” headed toward the door, where Dean was making a show of silently fuming.

“I was under the impression that you did not trust me,” said Cas, falling in step with Dean.

“I don’t. I don’t even know what the fuck you are. But you got Sam through his dream, and I know you can off Croats. So, get your ass in gear.”

Cas pulled a somewhat crushed pack of cigarettes from a coat pocket.

“Where the hell do you still find those things?”

“Good at scounging,” said Cas. “I don’t have anything to pack. Your vampires burned almost everything I had.”

“Yeah, our vampires are pyros,” said Dean. A small smile crossed his face, and the agitation seemed to abruptly ratchet down, like a summer storm blowing away. “You shouldn’t smoke,” he told Cas as he ignited the cigarette.

“Why not?”

“You’ll stunt your growth.”

Cas glared at him.

They had both stopped walking. The corridor was dim and deserted. Cas leaned back against the wall and, jutting his chin defiantly, smoked his cigarette. Dean placed one hand flat on the wall over Cas’s shoulder and leaned in, and they locked eyes for a long moment. “The vamps put your room way over in the west wing,” said Dean.

“I asked them to.”

“Why?”

“You said you were in the east wing.”

Dean traced his hand along Cas’s jawline, and then pressed in for a kiss, keeping the rest of his body a tantalizing inch or so away. Cas, one hand still holding the cigarette, reached his other hand around Dean’s waist, trying to pull him in closer as the kiss deepened. Dean pulled back, and Cas opened his eyes.

Dean grabbed away the cigarette, and was already sauntering down the hallway. “Be ready at dawn,” he said, sticking the cigarette in his mouth. He left a trail of triumphant smoke in his wake.

 

xxxxxxx

Chapter Text

Title: A Canticle for Dr. Sexy (Chapter 2 of 6)
Fandom: Supernatural
Author: tikific
Rating: NC-17
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Castiel, Sam, Benny, Chuck, Bobby, Missouri, Pamela, Lenore, Michael, Gabriel, Lucifer, Balthazar, Garth
Warnings: Cursing. Suicidal ideation.
Word Count: ~50,000
Summary: The Croatoan virus has brought down civilization as we know it. Dean Winchester, leader of a motley band of survivors, is searching for volume 25 the Video Safari limited edition box set of Dr. Sexy MD when he stumbles into Cas, an amnesiac grubbing for a can of beans at an abandoned Piggly Wiggly. Together with his brother, Sam, who may be a prophet of the Lord, and some friends they meet along the way, they embark on a cross-country road trip to find a cure for the virus and save humanity. But the journey takes our heroes straight into the middle of an angelic feud.
Notes: Set Post-Croatoan outbreak. The compound is based on the Greenbrier, a real resort. This one owes a huge debt to Zombieland, and also a to Vertigo comics.

 

Some years ago….

The doorbell rang once, twice, three times. Before the echo had died away, the insistent knocking began. “Sylvia! Are you in there, dammit? It’s Mac. Come on! I'm getting soaked!”

A woman padded downstairs and, after peering through the peep hole, threw open the door. It was an old house, so the glass in the window panel had taken on a melted look.

“Mac? What the fuck?” she said by way of greeting.

Mac pushed past Sylvia and stepped into the entryway, irritably shaking rainwater off his coat. “You haven’t answered my calls.”

“They’re on the machine,” Sylvia told him, pointing to the blinking red numbers on her answering machine. “What do you want?”

Mac removed his sodden raincoat and tossed it over the arm of one of the couches. “Pack your bags. You’re coming with me.”

Sylvia, who was small-ish, red-haired, and bespectacled, crossed her arms and planted her feet. Somehow, this made her look positively immovable. “Why?”

Mac huffed. He was tall and, now that he had shed his raincoat, appeared as if he had never outgrown a kind of adolescent gangliness. He frowned sternly at Sylvia. “There’s a problem with Madison’s scripts.”

Sylvia rolled her eyes. “Yeah?”

Mac looked back and forth, as if fearing he would be overheard in the deserted house. He leaned forward towards Sylvia. “Plagiarism,” he whispered.

“Really? You guys didn’t know?”

Mac straightened, his face a mask of wounded betrayal. “Why should we know?”

“Everybody knew,” Sylvia told him, shaking her head.

Mac looked shamefaced. “Anyway. She’s gone, and we can’t talk about her, and we can’t use any of her stuff. So, I’ve come to get you.”

“You plan to kidnap me and force me to write for television? Isn’t that illegal in most states and principalities?”

Mac’s face relaxed into a wide smile. “We’re going to Canada. Nobody gives a shit. Unless you’re a moose. Or a hockey player.”

“Well, I’m busy,” said Sylvia, pushing her eyeglasses up her nose.

“Doing what? Counting sleeping pills?”

Sylvia glared.

Mac plopped down on the couch beside his coat. “Sylvia, you’re not gonna OD. Not this week, anyway. What you’re gonna do, you’re gonna pack your shit, and we’re gonna head up to the production offices-“

“Why can’t I just write from here and fax you?”

“Not possible. Syl, we were already down a writer, we are up shit creek. I am up shit creek. This is my first gig as showrunner. If I don’t pull it out, it’s my ass in the fire.” He sat forward, pressing his hands together. “Syl, I’m asking you. I’m begging you.”

“You want me to write for Dr. Sexy, MD?”

“Come on! It’ll be just like when we were doing Mercy Hospital together. You and me.”

Sylvia stared at the floor.

“It’ll be fun,” Mac urged.

“No it won’t,” said Sylvia, who turned and began to march back upstairs.

“And bring your old manual typewriter! It’s cool!” Mac yelled after her.

Somewhere, a door slammed shut with a bang.

 

The present day….

Cas yawned and then took a big drag from his cigarette. He carried only a small pack and his sword. The Impala was parked in the middle of the resort’s front parking lot, along with an old beater of a pickup truck. He wondered how many people Dean was taking along on this expedition, realizing he hadn’t bothered to ask.

Dean and Sam emerged from the building, deep in conversation. As Sam headed to the pickup truck, Dean told Cas, “Let’s get going.”

Cas turned to the Impala. Benny, whom he hadn’t noticed before, had materialized, standing in front of the passenger side door, grinning down at him.

“Shotgun,” he drawled.

“You’re with Sam, Cas,” said Dean gruffly, as he climbed into the driver’s seat of the Impala and fired up the engine.

“Hey Cas,” called Sam, who had pushed out the old truck’s passenger side door for him. Cas shrugged and stubbed out his cigarette. Then, tossing his pack in the pickup bed, climbed in. “We got better music in here,” Sam assured him. “Oh, don’t do that!” he yelled at the Impala, which was already roaring off. “My brother is a douche.”

“I noticed,” muttered Cas.

“Fuck you, bitches!” came a fuzzy voice over the two-way radio.

“Dean, you know I gotta get Bobby’s truck warmed up,” said Sam, hitting the radio’s switch.

“Keep up!” yelled Dean. And then the Impala was out of sight.

“So much for a convoy,” said Sam, making sure the radio mike was switched off. He shifted into gear, and the truck was off with a rumble and a lurch.

“Who is Bobby, Sam?” asked Cas, curious as to why the owner hadn’t been invited along.

“Oh, he’s a good friend. Was a good friend. Now he’s….” Sam trailed off.

“Croat?” asked Cas.

“No, no, it’s kind of a long story,” said Sam, fumbling for a cassette in the glove compartment. “But I guess we got time, huh?” He smiled. Sam’s smile was warm and easy. They had come upon the first gate, and pulled up in back of the Impala. Dean was bleating the horn at what he apparently thought were slow moving guards backing the van that served as a gate out of the way.

“Dean and I, there was a lot of stuff with our dad, growing up. But that’s another long story. So Bobby was the one who raised us. I mean, in a lot of ways. Anyway, just before the Croat outbreak, he had a stroke, and was still in a chair, recovering. Left brain, so he didn’t have much movement in his contralateral side, and aphasia. He’d been independent all his life, so it frustrated the hell out of him.

“That’s too bad.”

“Well, his timing sucked, because by the time we got to him, his neighborhood had been overrun. And, guy in a wheelchair, you can imagine…”

Cas nodded.

“But then it gets worse. When we started living at the compound, Pamela, who was Bobby’s old friend (I think maybe they were an item, though I don’t know)…. Anyway, Dean was convinced that Bobby was still hanging around, I mean, somehow. Like, we got his truck and his flask and some other stuff of his, and weird, Twilight Zone-y stuff would happen. So Pamela convinced us to do a séance and talk to him. I don’t know what the hell he was supposed to tell us. Like, ‘Get a new Ouija board, dumbasses.’ That would be Bobby.” Sam grinned. They had passed the last barrier, and were out on the highway, Sam trying to keep up with the speeding Impala.

“And you managed to contact his spirit?” Cas prodded, as Sam now seemed lost in thought.

“Oh, yeah, better than that. We got a manifestation, which I understand is rare. So, he even looks corporeal. It’s pretty amazing, in a way.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“Well, the problem is that nobody asked Bobby if he wanted to be a spirit, and he’s mad as hell at being dead, and being kept around as ectoplasm. But the problem is, Pamela had no frickin’ idea how to send him back. So, he’s just rattling around, getting more and more pissed off. Dean and Missouri finally managed to get him confined downstairs. And, he’s still a help to us on his good days.”

“But on his bad days…?”

Sam shivered. “Oh, hey Cas, I didn’t ask, but can you drive a stick?”

“Yes.”

“Good, then you wouldn’t mind trading off? It gets tiring as hell eating my brother’s dust all day,” said Sam, waving at the Impala up ahead.

“Why don’t you lead for a time?” asked Cas.

Sam burst out laughing. “Go in the lead? You don’t know my brother!”

 

Good as his word, after they stopped a few hours later, Sam tossed the keys to Cas and hopped in the passenger seat.

“Wait! You gonna let him drive the pickup?” Dean yelled at Sam.

“Try and keep up,” Cas told Dean. Cas tossed out his smoke, hopped up in the pickup’s driver’s seat, and peeled out.

“Shit, Benny!” hollered Dean. “Get your ass in my car.”

“I’m takin’ a leak!”

Sam soon dropped off to sleep, and, after he figured he'd gotten Dean sufficiently annoyed, Cas slowed and pulled over towards the side of the road to let the Impala once again take the lead.

He noticed the sky darkening. Sam roused at the sound of thunder. Sam stretched, blinking the sleep from his eyes. “Electrical storm?” he asked.

“I don’t think so,” said Cas. “Can you work this thing?” he asked, pointing to the radio.

“Yeah.”

“Tell your brother to slow down.”

Sam hesitated, as if he were about to argue, but something in Cas’s tone made him switch on the radio. “Dean?”

“What?” came a shout over a blast of classic rock. “We’re listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd!” In the background, someone who sounded a lot like Benny was singing, “And this biiiiird you cannot chaaaange!”

“Slow down,” said Sam. “There’s something … not right about this storm.”

“WHAT?” came the voice on the radio.

“Dean,” said Cas softly. “Look up ahead.”

Sam’s head snapped up as they came over the crest of a small hill. As Cas eased the throttle back in the pickup, the Impala suddenly slalomed and squealed tires to avoid hitting the roadblock dead ahead.

Two cars were blocking the roadway. One of them was an old cop car. Three men were gathered there, two leaning against the cars, and a third, shorter man sitting up on the hood of the police car. They looked to be unarmed, though when Dean hopped out of the Impala, he was carrying a shotgun, as was Benny.

“What the hell?” demanded Dean as Sam hurried up to stand beside him.

“You’re under arrest,” chuckled the dark-skinned man, who pushed away from the car and came to stand across from Dean. “I’m certain this wouldn’t be the first time, would it, Dean?”

“How do you know my name?”

“That isn’t important.”

“Then get the fuck out of our way,” growled Dean.

“Certainly. You simply give over Sam, and you can be on your way.”

“What the hell?” asked Dean.

“Yes, pretty much,” grinned the man.

“Should I grab him, Raphael?” asked the tall man now standing next to him. He looked like an albino, with pale white hair and pinkish eyes.

“One moment, Chazaquiel,” said Raphael. “Let’s see if they’ll listen to reason.” The man sitting on the roof of the car remained silent.

“Whoever the hell you are, you’re not grabbing my brother,” said Dean.

“I was afraid of that,” sighed Raphael, who really didn’t seem terribly sorry at all. “Chazaquiel?”

The pale man strode forward, and was met by Benny, who cocked his gun to fire. Chazaquiel chuckled and, grabbing Benny’s gun, broke it in half and tossed it away.

Benny growled and seized the man, teeth at his throat. And then emitted a bloodcurdling scream, as suddenly steam roiled off his body, his skin turning an angry, boiled red. Benny collapsed, writhing, to the ground.

“Sam, get back!” shouted Dean, and Sam was running back towards the truck.

Raphael held his arms straight out to the side and then flicked his hands. What looked like a bolts of lightning flashed out from somewhere on his back: the effect was like two giant wings made of electricity. Two bolts arced towards the pickup truck. As Sam dove for cover by the roadside, the pickup was struck. It hopped up at least a foot in the air, and crashed down, its tires melted.

Dean dropped his rifle and swung his axe at Raphael, who cast out a hand. Dean’s axe handle suddenly glowed red, and he dropped it.

Chazaquiel grabbed Sam by the scruff of the neck, but was pushed away by Cas.

“What?” said Chazaquiel to Cas. “How the hell are you still alive?”

“What?” asked Cas.

Chazaquiel raised a hand towards Cas, as Raphael had done, but Cas had grabbed his sword and suddenly swept it through the air. As it swung, it created a shadow which hit Chazaquiel right in his midsection, driving him back. Raphael threw another lightning bold at Cas, but Cas somehow caught it on the blade and then whipped it back at Raphael, who dove out of the way.

Cas gripped the katana tightly and closed his eyes, and then sliced the air once again, this time casting a terrific shadow which hurtled towards the roadblock. The heavy cars toppled as if they were no more than a couple of children’s toys.

“Get in!” Dean yelled. He had grabbed a semi-conscious Benny and was pushing him into the back seat of his car. Cas hopped in alongside Benny, Sam leapt into the passenger seat, and then Dean floored the Impala, and they were off.

 

“How is he?” Dean asked some miles later.

In the back seat, Benny moaned. “I been better.”

“You think it’s OK to stop?” Dean asked, looking at Cas in the rear view mirror.

“I…. I don’t know,” said Cas, who sounded stunned.

Dean pulled off, and they helped Benny stumble out of the back seat. The vampire slumped down to sit on the ground, his back against the big black car. He looked like he had been electrocuted, with angry burns all over his body.

“You gonna be OK, man?” asked Dean.

“Man, talk about deep fried,” sighed Benny, looking sadly down. “Last time I try spicy food.”

“Cas, what the hell was that?” asked Dean.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know,” said Cas, who was looking at the ground.

“But you fought them!”

“I know.”

Dean was going to yell again, but Cas looked up, and genuinely looked stricken.

“So, what do we do about Benny?” asked Sam.

“Boys, I think I need to go to ground for a spell,” said Benny. “Repair myself.”

“You want us to leave you here?” asked Dean.

“Long as you don’t forget me again.”

“It was just that once!” protested Dean.

Cas heard the trunk opening and then felt a pickaxe being pressed into his hands. “Come on,” said Sam, who had slung a shovel over his own shoulder.

“Pick a nice shady spot!” said Benny.

“I’ll pick a spot where the ground isn’t hard,” Sam called back to him.

They eventually situated Benny in a grave site to his liking, Dean bitching at him the entire time he and Sam lowered him in that he’d gained too much weight and needed to lay off the pig’s blood. Cas leaned on his pick. The physical labor had kept his mind off what had happened, but now he found himself wondering again.

“So what are we doing?” asked Sam as Dean tamped down the soft earth to his satisfaction.

“We’re heading back to camp. Fast as we can.”

“You think that’s a good idea?”

“Well, let’s see, Sammy. You had a trippy Wizard of Oz meets Monty Python dream about a goth chick, versus some real guys who almost killed us, if only Cas hadn’t done something he has no idea how he did.”

“I don’t know, Dean,” muttered Sam.

“What don’t you know?” asked Dean as they headed back toward the car.

“You really think we’ll be safe if those guys show up at camp?”

“Yes. Next question.”

“Dean,” said Sam. “We gotta go do this. We gotta get to New York. Come on, man.”

“We're down to three men, one of whom I don't much trust,” said Dean, suddenly turning on Cas.

“He just saved our butts. Why wouldn't you trust him?” asked Sam.

“Because I don't think he trusts himself. Do you Cas?” Cas didn't reply, but fumbled for a cigarette.

“Hey, look,” said Sam. “Like you said, there's three of us. And you wanna go home, and I wanna go ahead....”

“So?” asked Dean.

Sam grinned and pointed to Cas. “What does Cas wanna do? He's the deciding vote.”

“What? Since when is this a democracy?” fumed Dean.

Cas stuffed the cigarette pack back in his coat, and took a long drag of his cigarette. He looked to Sam and to Dean, and then back to Sam.

 

 

Dean was just in a bitchy mood. Really, there was no other word for it.

He had the music cranked up too high, but neither Sam, who gazed out the window, nor Cas, who dozed in the back clutching his scabbard, said anything about it.

Cas scrambled up as the car abruptly turned off the road. “Where are we?” he said.

“Video Safari,” muttered Dean.

“Huh?” said Cas.

“We're making a stop,” said Dean. “I still need volume 17, 18, 20 and 25!” Cas shot a confused glance at Sam as they pulled into the ruined mall parking lot. Sam gestured for Cas to keep a lid on it.

The car screeched to a halt in the parking lot near the store. “I'm goin' in,” announced Dean, grabbing his weapons from the floor.

“We'll, uh, keep watch,” said Sam. But Dean was already out of the car and stalking towards a Video Safari store.

Cas looked questioningly at Sam, who leaned against the Impala. “Smoke 'em if you've got 'em,” Sam jokingly told Cas.

Cas reached a hand in his jacket pocket, fumbling for his cigarette pack. “I don't understand,” he said.

Sam grinned and tightened his grip on his shovel. “Dean is totally obsessed with this really bad TV show, Dr. Sexy, MD. I mean, he won't actually admit he's obsessed with it, but he is. And Video Safari had this limited edition set of all the DVDs. But what with the Croatoan thing and being broke all the time, Dean never got them all, so he's still missing a few. Including the last one, number 25.”

“So, he doesn't know how it ends?”

“Yeah, he never even found out how it ends! Bummer, huh?”

“Yes,” said Cas, pulling out his crumpled cigarette packet. “That would be frustrating.”

“So now every time we pass a Video Safari, we gotta pull in and toss it for Dr. Sexy videos. It's like a tradition. Or something.”

“So Dean has a way of viewing these DVDs?”

Sam rolled his eyes and looked long-suffering. “Yeah. What he's started doing recently is every time he gets a new volume, we crank up the generator and have a viewing party. Where we have to watch every single episode. In order.”

Sam and Cas stared at each other for a moment. Cas was digging for a book of matches, but then he froze.

“Get your brother,” said Cas.

“What?” asked Sam.

“Now.”

It may have been the look on Cas's face, but Sam bolted for the store.

Placing the unlit cigarette carefully behind an ear, Cas strode a few feet after him, drawing his sword. Keep a path clear to the car, he told himself. And then there it was, shuffling around the corner of the store. How had they known? Maybe they had heard the car come up, and were attracted by the engine noise. He hoped the group wasn't too big, and wondered why they always seemed to flock into groups.

He was lost in thought as he beheaded the first one with a clean, swift stroke. The katana's edge was deadly. He tamped down his fear, thinking only of form. Take this one down. Disable that one and then turn to strike another. Feel the blade as it slices. Become one with it.

Meanwhile, a small part of his brain had begun whispering, too many. Too many!

The sound of two sets of running footsteps, and then Dean had mowed down two with his axe. Sam had grabbed a shovel from the trunk and was using it to smash skulls. But it was still too many. Where the hell had they all come from?

“Cas, why don't you do your thing?” Dean hollered.

“What thing?”

“The shadow thing! Like you did at the roadblock.”

“I.... I don't know how I did that.”

“So, remember!” shouted Dean, swinging his axe.

Suddenly, Sam hit the ground, covering his ears. “Sam!” Dean yelled, but then he too was cowering on the ground. Cas leapt over him, covering him as best he could with his long overcoat.

And then there was quiet.

The three men scrambled to their feet. The Croats, not so much: the entire pack was down, and all of them remained motionless.

“Are they.... Are they dead?” asked Sam.

“Your question presupposes they were alive to begin with,” said Cas, toeing at a motionless Croat. He hunkered down beside it. It was staring blankly at the sky. It had blood, already crusting, coming out of its ears.

“Who the hell is that?” asked Sam, pointing to the man who was now sitting on top of the Impala.

“Oh for- Get your ass off my car!” shouted Dean.

“Not gonna say thanks?” laughed the man, swinging his legs.

“Dean,” said Sam, who had grabbed his brother, holding him back. “I think that’s one of the guys from the roadblock.”

But the short man wasn’t looking at Sam or Dean. Instead, his eyes were fixed on Cas.

“Castiel? Is that you?”

Cas had his sword out again. “Stay back,” he said.

“Hey! It’s me! What’s the deal?” asked the short man, who hopped off the car and approached Cas.

“Get outta here, or we’ll have Cas gank you like he did your buddies!” warned Dean.

“Castiel? Come on, bro. It’s me, Gabriel,” said the short man, ignoring Cas’s sword.

“Cas, who is this?” asked Sam.

“I don’t know. I don’t know you,” said Cas, staring at Gabriel.

Gabriel emitted a long sigh. “You were with us, kid. And then I guess you didn’t wanna choose sides, so you skedaddled. Did you lose some of your marbles along the way?” He reached out two fingers towards Cas. Cas first shied away, but then, after staring intently at Gabriel, lowered his sword, and allowed the other man to touch his forehead.

Cas shuddered and blinked. “Gabriel?” he asked.

“Duuuuh!” said Gabriel. “Well, we got that taken care of. Did you do this to yourself? I can't see all the way into your soul.”

“So, Cas, you wanna share with the rest of the class?” asked Dean.

“This is my brother, Gabriel,” said Cas, who still looked very confused.

“Uh-huh,” said Dean. “And your family goes around kidnapping people? What the hell are you, Tiny Tony Soprano?”

“No no no no no,” said Gabriel. “I didn't want any part in that stuff. It's just.... How much has Castiel told you about us?”

“Absolutely nothing.”

“Oh, well that's flattering,” huffed Gabriel, glaring at Cas.

“Uh, I don't think he remembers, Gabriel,” said Sam.

“Whoa, how's the weather up there?” asked Gabriel, who seemed to have suddenly become aware of Sam.

Sam groaned. “Yeah, I've never heard that one before.”

“To take it from the top, when we first came here, we were in one big group. We all scattered, and Cas came to hang with me. Because I’m awesome. Then later Lucifer and Michael made us choose sides, so I ended up following Lucifer because Michael is such a douche. But the trouble is, Lucifer is a douche too.” Gabriel was ticking off douches on his fingers.

“Lucifer,” said Cas, as if he were remembering something. “You stayed with Lucifer.”

“But not anymore!” Gabriel sidled up to Cas and placed an arm around his shoulders. Cas tensed. “I didn't wanna choose sides either! So, from now on I'm hanging with you guys.”

“Can we trust this guy, Cas?” asked Dean.

“Hey, I helped you with the anger management cases, didn't I?” asked Gabe, pointing around to the dead Croats.

“Wait,” said Sam. “You said when you came here? From where?” Gabriel pointed up. Sam and Dean looked confused. “Canada?” asked Dean.

Gabe turned to Cas again. “You really don't remember anything, do you, kid? We came from heaven.” Sam and Dean remained silent. “We're angels! Or, we were at least.” He shrugged.

“No,” said Cas, wrenching himself away from Gabriel.

“No, what?” asked Dean. “No, you're not an angel?”

“You me asked whether you could trust Gabriel,” said Cas, staring at his brother. “No. You can't.”

“Uh, why not?” asked Sam.

“He's an angel,” said Cas, as if that settled it.

“See? That's why I'm perfectly trustworthy,” said Gabe. “You know you can't trust me. QED.”

Dean waved his hands. “No. Wait. Look. So, these guys we met back there, the ones at the roadblock, they were angels?”

“Yes,” said Gabriel. “They're angels, I'm an angel, he's an angel,” he said, trying and failing to hug Cas once again. “All angels.”

“Do you to the electrocution thing?” asked Dean, wiggling his hands in what must have been an imitation of electrical flow.

“No, my power is sonic. And Cas does the creepy shadow thing.” He frowned at Cas. “Hey, don't look at me like that. Your power is creepy.”

“What do they want with my brother?” asked Dean.

Gabriel rolled his eyes and held out his hands. “Oh, what does Lucifer ever want? He needs to stop and smell the roses, you ask me.”

“Focus, Gabriel,” said Dean, who was now looming over him. “Why my brother?”

“Well, for one thing, Sam's a prophet. Always good to have one on your side. In case you need to know, you know, the future. Are you guys living sheltered lives or something? I feel like I should have made an instructional video.”

“Great. Just great,” sighed Dean.

“And another reason to take me along. If they fuck with you again, you got the two of us to hold 'em off.”

“How do I know you won't just fly off with him? You're a frickin' angel,” said Dean, flapping his hands in an imitation of angel flight.

“Well, Cas and I, we're sort of grounded.”

“How so?” asked Sam.

“We had our wings clipped. I guess Daddy was pissed at us or something. I never know what’s up with the old man. Anyway, we can fight, but we can’t fly.”

Sam and Dean shared a glance. Sam pointed upwards and addressed Gabriel. “Why was he pissed?”

“Oh, you know how he is,” sighed Gabriel.

“Uh, no. We don’t,” Dean told him.

Gabriel studied his fingernails. “Well, Luci and Mike can never get along.”

“But you said they’re still fighting,” said Sam.

“Well, yeah….”

“I think I know why I left,” said Cas.

“You remembered?” Dean asked him.

“No. But it sounds like we’re … a bunch of dicks.”

“Hey, yeah, pretty much,” grinned Gabriel brightly.

Sam frowned at Dean. “So what do we do?”

“Why does everybody always assume I have the answers?” raved Dean, throwing his hands in the air. He sighed and glared at Gabriel. “All right, all right. We’re just outside New York City limits, and no doubt we’re safer with four than with three. You can hop a ride.” Gabriel grinned. “But the usual rules! Driver picks the music, passengers shut their cake holes.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” said Gabriel, slapping an unappreciative Cas on the back.

“It is,” said Sam, who was hopping into the passenger seat.

 

Unsurprisingly, New York City was a wasteland. Thankfully, though, they had encountered few Croats once they crossed the bridge across the Hudson.

“You got the address?” asked Dean as Sam laid a map out on his knees.

Cas repeated it. “It was on the menu,” he added.

“Lucky someone was paying attention,” said Dean.

“Oh yeah? So how much were the pepperoni pizzas?” asked Sam.

“Regular or extra large?” asked Cas, which earned a smirk from Dean.

The car slowed near a cafe. Although the power had been out throughout the city, big blinking neon lights read, Mia Bella Morte.

“Is this it?” asked Dean.

Sam shook his head. “Well, given that it's the only place open in all of Manhattan, Dean? I'd say that's a good guess.”

“Yes, this is it,” said Cas definitively. He was out of the car almost before it had come to a halt, but then stood waiting outside the low iron fence that bordered the sidewalk, looking up.

“Well, at least we don't need to worry about parking,” said Dean, cranking the emergency brake and stepping out of the car. “Whoa! Hello!” he added, as a cute, dark-haired girl dressed all in black emerged from the entrance and stood before them, menus in hand.

“Uh, Winchester, table for four?” Sam asked her.

“Four?” she asked, casting a skeptical glance at Cas and Gabriel. “I have only two down on the reservation.”

“Tessa! What is it?” came a dark, cultured voice from inside the restaurant.

“They brought along some extras, Father,” said Tessa, gesturing to the angels.

“Well, let me see them,” said the pale, gaunt man who had just come to the door. “Ah, the Winchesters,” he said, brightening (if such a man could be said to brighten) at the sight of Sam and Dean. “I am Death.” He extended a graceful hand and shook with both the brother in turn. Dean noticed that Death had a firm handshake, although he did check his own hand for injury afterwards, carefully counting the fingers.

“We have been expecting you. But not so much those two,” Death added, pointing with his sliver-tipped cane. “Do I know you, gentlemen?”

“I'm Gabriel, and this is my brother, Castiel,” blustered Gabriel. “And you damn well should know us. You and my Dad were besties.”

“Is that so?” said Death. “Gabriel. Hmmm. You will excuse me, for I am very old, so I have a lot of memories to search. He turned to Cas. “And you were....”

“Castiel,” said Cas quietly.

“Hmm. Ah, yes, Castiel. The dark one.” He looked back at Gabriel. “And, Gabriel, I do remember Him speaking of you.”

“Oh, what did he say?”

“You were loud.”

“Oh. Well, that's something,” grinned Gabriel.

Death gave them one last apprising look. “Tessa,” he said, “please bring four menus.” And then he gestured, and Sam, Dean, Cas and Gabriel proceeded inside.

“I hope you understand this is a no smoking environment,” Death told Cas, who actually had not brought up the subject. “I realize the attraction of a cigarette following a fine meal, but I have fire codes, and city regulations. Everyone is so health conscious these days.”

“I understand,” said Cas, who was looking nervously around the restaurant. It appeared to be just what it seemed, a small Italian cafe. They seated themselves around a table draped with a red checked tablecloth (the pattern looked very like the shirt Sam was wearing that day) and with a little vase of flowers in the middle. Tessa distributed menus.

“How's the pizza?” asked Dean while Death was busily sniffing at the wine Tessa had just poured him.

“We have the best pizza in Manhattan,” Death assured him.

“And the worst,” put in Sam. He looked up, “Uh, no offense.”

“No, that joke is never tiresome,” smiled Death. He nodded at the wine, and Tessa filled all their glasses. Dean winked at her, but she rolled her eyes and left.

Dean ended up ordering a meat lover's special, and Sam a vegetarian pizza with goat cheese. Gabriel asked for a custom garlic and spicy sausage combo, and Sam said he'd refuse to share the car with him, though Gabriel reasoned it would keep vampires away from them.

“What about you, Cas?” Dean asked when the angel was not taking Tessa's hints to place an order.

“I do not find that I am hungry, Dean,” said Cas, sipping nervously at his wine.

“Aw, come on! You've been eating us out of house and home.”

“I shouldn't think it wise to drink wine on an empty stomach,” counseled Death. “Shall I order for you?”

“Uh, yes. Please,” said Cas.

“He shall have the traditional,” Death told Tessa. “It is an especial favorite of mine, nothing but mozzarella and our special marinara. Utter simplicity.” He put his fingers to his lips and kissed them. Tessa gathered the menus and disappeared, and Dean suddenly wondered who was back there cooking. There were obviously no other customers in the restaurant. “Now, how was your journey here?” Death inquired, raising his glass.

While Cas moodily sipped his wine, Sam, Dean and Gabriel thereupon took up the time waiting for the pizzas in a gripping narrative of their adventures on the road. “So the angels want Sam for their own,” Death commented as Tessa at long last distributed their orders.

“I don't get it though,” said Sam. “I mean, I really can't control it. I can't tell when I'm gonna have one of my dreams, and then half the time I don't remember what it was about.”

“They'd probably just use a charm and stick you in some kind of permanent sleep state,” Gabriel explained as he sprinkled altogether too much parmesan and red pepper on his slice.

“Dude! Don't bogart the pepper,” Dean scolded.

Sam looked at Gabriel, concern spreading on his face. “Well, that's … reassuring.”

“We won't let them do that, Sam,” Cas assured him.

“Are angels just generally dicks?” asked Sam, looking dubious.

“Yeah, pretty much,” said Gabriel, cramming what looked like an entire slice into his mouth.

“Now, I insist you try some of that delicious pizza, Castiel,” said Death. “Shan't let it go to waste, not with people out there fighting over a dented can of Bush's Baked Beans.”

Cas stared wide-eyed at Death, and then obediently picked up a knife and fork and delicately sawed off the very tip of his pizza, ignoring Dean's taunts of eating it “wrong.” He chewed, and then his expression changed to thoughtfulness. “This is quite good,” he said.

“Traditional!” said Death approvingly.

“Uh, Death, I don't wanna be rude...” said Sam.

“But you would like to know why I have called you here,” smiled Death. He leaned back in his chair, steepling his hands. “You might say that this universe has gone a bit off the deep end. At least as far as I'm concerned. Now, your world has always had more than its share of abominations, the undead and the like. But nothing we could not cope with on a strictly cas-by-case basis. However, this Croatoan virus situation has made everything deteriorate, and with a rapidity I myself find surprising. And unacceptable. My children can no longer keep the books in order, so to speak: who is alive, and who is not? Those creatures, they are neither truly dead, nor can they be said to number amongst the living. They are between worlds. It has taken its toll on my dear ones, and I am afraid it will take its toll on this creation as well.”

“Whoa, that's pretty heavy, Death,” said Sam.

“You're telling me the Croats are not only annoying motherfuckers, that they're also threatening....” Dean, having no words, simply swept his arm around.

“What lives must die. That is the essence of life,” said Cas around a mouthful traditional pizza. He must have decided that he liked it, as he was reaching for another slice.

“The imbalance is cracking the fabric of reality,” said Death, Tessa now standing beside him with dessert menus. “My reapers cannot take their souls, but neither are the poor wretches fully alive.”

“So, uh, why'd you call on us, exactly?” asked Dean. “I mean, Gabe says you know his Dad, I understand He's pretty high up.”

“Uhhhh,” said Gabe, stifling a very garlicky burp as Sam cringed out of the way. “Daddy hasn't been around much lately. He sort of ducked out for a pack of smokes a few millennia ago....”

“What?” said both Sam and Dean. Cas didn’t say anything, but his eyes focused intently on Gabriel.

“Unfortunately, He does not currently factor into the equation,” said Death. “It is fortunate, therefore, that we have you two, and that you seem to have a knack for improvisation.”

“Wait, the fate of the universe is up to … us?” asked Sam.

“We’re fucked,” said Dean.

Gabriel made a sputtering and crashing noise, like an airplane going down and Dean glared at him.

“Look, Death,” said Dean, waving a fork at Gabriel. “Not that I’m shirking, but you got a pack of angels around, and they’ve obviously got nothing better to do.” Gabriel returned the glare. “Why don’t you call on them instead?”

“You know little of angels,” said Death, his lips tracing a grim smile. “They tend to have their own agenda. Now, would you like to hear what would be required of you?”

“Oh, gelato!” Gabriel told Tessa. “And the tiramisu. And the spumoni.”

“Gabe, don’t be a pig,” scolded Dean.

Cas was finishing another slice of pizza. “He always had a sweet tooth.” Then he started, realizing what he had said. “You have a sweet tooth,” he told Gabriel.

Gabriel halted his perusal of the dessert menu. “Yeah? You remembered? And what else?”

“And … your humor annoys Raphael. And you’re generally an ass.”

“You remember!” yelped Gabriel, who sprang over to embrace Cas with sufficient force that he knocked his chair backwards onto the floor with a slam. Sam sprang up to help untangle the angelic mess.

“Angels are fucking weird,” Dean grumped.

“You are beginning to comprehend the essence of angels,” Death told him. “Now, on to my request to you. As you probably know, or have guessed, the Croatoan virus is not natural, but was manufactured.”

“I knew it!” said Sam. In his excitement, he nearly dropped Gabriel, whom he had been helping up.

“And I thought Sammy was just paranoid,” said Dean.

“Was it the government? It was the government, right?” Sam persisted.

“It doesn’t matter,” Death told him. “What is important for your purposes is that there was also an antidote.”

Dean put his hands through his hair. “Please don’t tell me you want us to go around and immunize every single Croat.”

“No, this was a biological agent. It has only to be released into the environment, and the rest will happen automatically. It was in the process of being manufactured by a small biotech company in Seattle.”

“Seattle?” said Cas, almost as if he were talking to himself.

Dean leaned over towards him. “What’s the matter, dude? Don’t like grunge?”

“I need to remember something about Seattle….”

“So, let’s say we agree to this,” Dean told Death. “There is something you can do for us.”

“A bargain?” said Death, who appeared offended. “Perhaps you have me mistaken for some shabby little crossroads demon.”

“I have a friend, Bobby….”

“Ah, yes.” Death folded his arms and scowled. “He gave my reaper a mild concussion.”

“Did he? Heh. Well, that’s Bobby. And I don’t think he’d be so resistant if you visited him nowadays.”

“You would like your friend escorted to the other side? I suppose this would be acceptable,” said Death. “Oh, look!” he said as Tessa brought in dessert plates. “You really must all try the tiramisu.”

 

Cas had excused himself to go out for a smoke rather than watch Gabriel stuff his face with sugary treats.

His brother, Gabriel.

The ragged ends of memories had started to return to him, stitching themselves back together. And with them came a rising sense of dread. Had he locked it all off himself? Perhaps it had been for the best.

Cas leaned against the corner and regarded the thin trail of smoke winding off his cigarette.

He heard Dean’s footsteps before he saw him, peeking around the corner, and then ambling over, arm outstretched, motioning for the cigarette.

“Are you planning to walk away with my smoke again?” asked Cas disagreeably.

“Come on, Cas. Don’t bogart. I shared my PB&J.”

“You are going to remind me of that for the rest of my life,” sighed Cas, handing over the smoke.

“Sounds like a plan. Whoa, dude, lucky you didn’t burn your fingers,” said Dean, regarding the long trail of ash. Dean leaned against the wall beside Cas, affectionately bumping his shoulder.

“You know I’m an angel.”

“Yeah. So?”

“Aren’t you … dubious?”

“You know, I would have been. Before all this. My dad was like that, and I think he wanted us to be the same way. But that was before I had a vampire save my life, before I had to get between a pack of werewolves and a witch’s coven over who gets the laundry room on a full moon.” Dean turned towards Cas, proffering the cigarette. “Aren’t you happier? Knowing what you are, I mean?”

“No.”

“No?”

“My brother is correct. Angels are malevolent entities.” He aimed his eyes up at Dean. “I think you should be terrified.”

“Maybe I am,” smiled Dean, leaning closer.

Cas stared at him in confusion. “Is it possible that you are confusing acceptance with simple lust?”

“I’d say it’s probable,” said Dean, and the smile widened to a grin. He reached a hand to touch Cas’s face.

“Maybe you were wise to be wary of me,” Cas muttered.

“I’ve never been accused of being wise.”

“Hey, Dean!” came Sam’s voice. Both of them looked over at Sam. “We got one last tip from Death.”

Dean reluctantly dropped his hand from Cas's face. “Yeah. What’s that?”

“Video Safari. The flagship. It’s thataway.”

Dean suddenly grabbed Cas by the upper arms. “Did you hear? Video Safari!” he said, giving him a shake. “Come on, everybody fall the fuck out!” he raved, striding back towards the car.

Cas started to follow Dean, but found himself blocked by Gabriel, who was spooning up a scoop of pistachio gelato out of a waffle cone. “What’s up with that?”

“Oh, I didn’t see you, Gabriel. Up with what?”

Gabriel inclined his head in the direction Dean had just disappeared to. “You and the human.”

“Nothing,” said Cas. “Yet,” he added. He moved to go around Gabriel. Gabriel sidestepped to block Cas again.

“What is it, Gabriel?”

“You shouldn’t smoke. It’ll stunt your growth.”

“Ice cream will clog your arteries,” Cas retorted, blowing smoke into Gabriel’s face. He darted around Gabriel to join the others.

 

“So, here's what we'll do,” said Dean, setting down a plastic Video Safari bag and unfolding the map on the Impala's hood. “I-85 up to Albany, and the I-90 is a straight shot to Seattle.”

“When are you gonna get Benny?” asked Sam.

“I'm not.”

“OK, he's not gonna be a happy bloodsucker if you leave him again.”

“It was just that once! And besides, you'll go get him.”

Sam looked insulted. “What, me?”

“Yeah. While we're here, we'll just jack a suitable vehicle, and then you and Cas head back for Benny.”

“And what do I do?” asked Gabriel, who had liberated a pack of only somewhat stale licorice whips from the Video Safari racks.

“I dunno. Die of sugar poisoning, probably,” grumbled Dean, watching the angel attempt to masticate the stiff candy.

“Dean, you are not going to Seattle alone,” said Sam.

“Well, I can't very well take you along. You're angel bait.”

Sam glared. “Dean, I am absolutely going with you.”

“I think Sam is right, Dean,” said Cas. “A single person would encounter many hazards.”

“See?” taunted Sam. “You're outvoted, dude. Again.”

“This is not a democracy!”

“Do I get a vote?” asked Gabriel.

“NO!” chorused Sam, Dean and Cas.

“Hey, just asking.”

After some arguments and a furious round of rock-paper-scissors, Dean found himself in the Impala beside his brother, Cas in the back.

They had jacked a truck after all, but this was gifted to Gabriel, with strict instructions to take it and go dig up Benny. They had actually jacked two trucks, after Gabriel finally admitted that he was not capable of driving a stick shift.

“Is the I-90 highway open all the way to the Pacific?” inquired Cas as he studied the map.

“Aren’t you supposed to know stuff like that?” snapped Dean.

“Up until a few days ago, I didn’t even know my true name,” Cas told him.

“He’s got a point,” said Sam.

“What are you idjits up to now?”

Dean nearly crashed the car when Bobby’s spirit suddenly appeared sitting in the back seat. “Bobby! Who the hell let you out?” Dean demanded.

“Hmpf,” said Bobby. “Pamela is getting too big for her own britches. Now what’s this I hear about you bartering away my damn soul?”

Dean threw his hands up. “I thought you wanted to be at peace?”

“You could have thought to ask me!”

“You are Bobby?” asked Castiel mildly, regarding the ghost sitting next to him with great curiosity.

Bobby’s spirit rounded on Cas. “Hey, don’t poke. Wait! You’re a damned angel? Dean, you got a damn angel in your car!”

Cas smiled serenely. “I am an angel, true. I am not certain about the first part.”

“Bobby, maybe you ought to get back to the camp,” Sam suggested.

“Fuck that noise,” the spirit grumbled.

“I could banish him, if you would like,” smiled Cas, holding a threatening hand towards Bobby’s forehead.

Bobby cringed back from Cas. “What? No! Dean!”

“Actually, wait up, Cas,” Dean told him. “I’ve got an assignment for you Bobby, since you’re roaming free. We don’t know about conditions on I-90. You wanna spook ahead and tell us what you see?”

“I-90?” huffed Bobby. “That’s three thousand miles.” Cas, grinning, stretched out a smiting hand towards Bobby again. “OK, I’ll go I’ll go I’ll go.” And with that, Bobby disappeared.

“Cas, could you really banish ghosts like that?” asked Sam.

“I have absolutely no idea, Dean,” said Cas, regarding his own fingers.

“Wait, you can’t-“ Dean began.

“But Bobby wasn’t likely to know that,” smiled Cas. Sam snickered.

“OK, we gotta think about foraging, since we didn’t bring along enough supplies,” Dean told them. “I figure with Sam and me switching off driving, it’ll take three days…”

“Wait, you mean, you, me and Cas switch off driving,” Sam interjected.

Dean narrowed his eyes and cast a glance into the rear view mirror. “You want an angel to drive Baby?” He sounded scandalized.

Cas looked scandalized. “That is just plain prejudiced.”

Sam crossed his arms. “He drove the truck, Dean.”

“Yeah. He drives way too fast.”

“Pot, kettle, black, Dean,” snarked Cas.

“Maybe we should stop for that, uh, foraging now,” Sam suggested.

“Yes. I need a smoke,” grumbled Cas.

 

 

An angel sat atop the Impala, seething and smoking a Marlboro Menthol.

Dean ambled over and, letting his axe drop to the ground, motioned for the cigarette.

“Perhaps I do not share with humans,” rumbled Cas.

“Aw, c’mon Cas. You know I was just joking around.”

“No you weren’t.”

“Yeah, I guess I wasn’t. But this is the car!” He leaned his body back against the side of the Impala. “Huh. Our first fight.”

“What do you mean by that?” demanded Cas, who was suddenly down on the ground next to Dean

“What do I mean by that?” Dean smiled down at Cas. He grabbed a belt loop on Cas’s jeans and tugged the angel a little nearer. Cas blew smoke in his face. Dean squinted and coughed. “Was that nice?”

“I was just joking,” muttered Cas.

“No you weren’t.”

“Dean! Cas!” came Sam’s cry. They were instantly off running in the direction of the commotion.

“Think it’s your angel buddies again?” asked Dean.

“I hope not.”

Dean and Cas screeched to a halt the instant they saw Sam. The parking lot in this section seemed to have melted, so he was standing shin-deep in a sticky black pool: it much resembled a tableau you might see at the La Brea Tar Pits, except featuring Sam Winchester instead of a mastodon.

"What the hell, Sammy?" asked Dean. "Maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but can you remember to not step in tar?"

"It's nor me! It's them!" said Sam, wildly gesturing at a couple of black, gooey creatures who Dean just noticed were cavorting at the edge of the pool of tar. One of them had a shovel sticking out of its back. "I tried clobbering them but it just got stuck."

"You need a better damn weapon," said Dean, hefting his axe. "Come on, Cas, let's slice and dice."

"Uh," said Cas, who was now holding his sword quite protectively against his body.

"Don't be a sword pansy! Come on!"

"A sword pansy?" asked Cas. By he nevertheless followed Dean who, being careful to step around the sludge, neatly hacked one of the creatures in half. Cas bisected the other, and the body parts sunk back down to become black limps on top of the goo.

"See?" said Dean while a fuming Sam continued to struggle against the goo.

"We still need to extricate Sam," Cas noted.

"So, just stand and pull." Dean demonstrated, and managed to get one of his own shoes stuck in the pool. "Dammit! Cas, help me out here."

"Dean!"

Dean somewhat laboriously rotated his body (it was awkward, as he could only move one foot) to see what the angel was caterwauling about now. The four half monsters had each now regenerated into a full tar monster. Cas, trying to sidestep the tar, was already slashing at them.

“Wait!” shouted Dean. “You can’t kill them that way.”

“Do you have a better suggestion, Dean?” asked Cas as one of the gooey creatures slid past Cas and bolted for Sam. Dean managed to lean over and hack it to pieces, but not without lodging his other foot in the black mire.

“Can’t you do your weird trick?” asked Dean.

“If I could, don’t you think I would?”

Dean gnashed his teeth. “Son of a bitch!” he muttered, which was not terribly helpful. Cas was still mobile, but had now been surrounded by tar, and was trying to fight from a small patch of ground.

“What do we do? We’re just making it worse,” said Sam.

“Cover your ears!” shouted Gabriel, who was now standing up on top of a nearby car.

“Gabriel, what the hell are you doing here?” asked Dean.

“Cover your ears, dumbass!” Gabriel repeated. Dean obeyed, and they all watched Gabriel, who had closed his eyes and extended his hands, a look of great concentration on his face. He flicked his hands, in a gesture that resembled what they had seen Raphael do. But instead of arcs of electrical current, Dean could suddenly sense a funny drop in air pressure, like a calm before a storm. There was a silence, and then a shattering, high-pitched howl came screaming through. Dean lost his footing and slammed down to his knees on the hard asphalt.

Dean opened his eyes and sent a hand down to the ground. The sticky tar was gone, and his feet were free. He jumped up and whirled around. The area around Sam, Dean and Cas had somehow been blasted clean, and nothing was left but a wide crescent of sticky, bubbling black residue in the parking lot around them.

“And that is how we do that,” grinned Gabriel, who gracefully leapt from the top of the car.

“I don’t know what you did, but that was awesome,” said Sam, who was still shaking.

“Gabriel!” shouted Cas. The semicircle of black goo had begun to resolve once again into tar creatures. Many, many, many tar creatures.

“Oh. Fuck,” said Gabriel.

“I don’t believe this! You made it worse you idiot!” yelled Dean, waving his axe at Gabriel.

“You don’t need to get shouty,” sniffed Gabriel, crossing his arms. “I mean, at least you’re not stuck any more.”

“Heads up!” shouted Benny, who ran in clutching a gas can and dumped the contents on the nearest tar creatures. “I need a light!”

Cas went into his coat and extracted a matchbook. He lit a match. Benny grabbed both from Cas and used the match to light up the entire matchbook, which he tossed on the gas-soaked tar creatures. It emitted a terrible scream as it lit up, and the fire soon spread to the next one, and then the next, and then the next, until the entire circle of monsters was aflame.

“Kill it with fire,” said Benny smugly.

“You took my matchbook,” grumbled Cas.

“You shouldn’t smoke so much,” said Benny. “Stunts your growth.” Cas glared at him.

“Benny, what the hell are you doing here?” asked Dean. “You two were supposed to head back to camp.”

“I save your bacon again and that’s the thanks I get?” said Benny.

“He insisted,” said Gabriel. “I was going to take him back but he said we needed to find you.”

“The little sonuvabitch nearly got us both killed on the way,” said Benny. “Where the hell did you learn to drive?”

“Heaven,” said Gabriel.

“The roadways up there are a lot like those found Southeast Asia, or so I’ve heard,” said Cas, a slight smile flicking at the edges of his mouth. “Everybody wishes for a Ferrari.”

“Yeah, sure. And they all wanna blow job while they’re driving,” grinned Gabriel.

Sam snorted with laughter, but Benny looked suspiciously from one angel to the other. “These guys shining me on?” he asked Dean.

Dean hiked his axe over his shoulder. “I thought you had amnesia, Cas.”

“I do,” Cas admitted, a smile flickering as Benny glared.

Dean frowned. “OK, well, as long as you guys are here, I guess we could use the assistance.”

“You suppose, huh?” said Benny. “Well, then, I suppose we'll come with.” His hand went to his stomach. “Though I could use a meal.”

“Oh, want me to blow up another deer for you, Ben?” asked Gabriel.

“Yeah, that would hit the spot.”

“We could grab one on the way....”

Dean looked as though he was going to vomit. “Good god! Just, the both of you, keep it to yourselves!” said Dean.

“They're fun when they blow up. You know we're all just basically bags of bodily fluid!” said Gabriel.

They walked back to the cars, Dean muttering and shaking his head as Sam laughingly patted him on the shoulder. "I think they're just yanking your chain about the deer, dude," said Sam. Benny started to reach for the back door of the Impala, but Dean stepped in the way. “Go! Go with the angel and get your meat bag. Or whatever.”

“Aw, but he drives too fast,” Benny grumbled as Cas seized the moment and ducked under his arm to claim the Impala's back seat. Benny stood, glowering, as the car roared off, Cas looking back, waggling his tongue at the vampire.

 

“Oh, what are they doing now?” Dean moaned as he watched Gabriel and Benny up ahead in the pickup suddenly careen across four lanes of traffic to veer off the deserted highway yet again. Unable to follow the crazy maneuver, Dean slowed the Impala and got ready to flip another U-turn to follow them down the off ramp. “No pulling off! That’s the rule. Unless it’s for biological needs, or Video Safari.”

“Is that a ferris wheel?” asked Sam, pointing out to the north. Cas pressed his face to the car window. He couldn't remember ever seeing such a thing before. It looked like an enchanted wonderland.

“Son of a bitch! Tell me they are not headed to that amusement park,” said Dean, cranking on the big steering wheel.

“They're headed to that amusement park,” laughed Sam.

“That is an … amusement park?” Cas asked.

Dean had threaded the car around the bend and onto the off ramp. “Yeah, you know, Cas, like a carnival? You'd stuff yourself full of cotton candy and deep fried hot dogs.”

“And then go on a roller coaster and barf,” said Sam.

“All over your brother,” groused Dean.

“This sounds like something Gabriel would appreciate,” Cas told them, all the while wondering how he knew this. Gabriel had an odd sense of humor. His brothers were often annoyed by it.

“I just wanna make good time,” said Dean. “We can't do that if these clowns are always taking off.”

“Benny's gotta eat,” reasoned Sam.

Dean only appeared more agitated. “I think they just like draining deer. And what the hell happened to Bobby? He should have reported back by now.”

“Maybe we could try to contact him while we're stopped?” reasoned Sam as Dean pulled the car up alongside the pickup truck in the vast, empty parking lot. Cas jumped out of the back seat just as an empty paper bag scudded across at his feet. There was a slight breeze, but no other movement apparent inside the extensive park grouds, which were visible over a brightly painted concrete wall. There was the slight sound of trickling water. Off in the distance, a winding river edged the parking lot, and then curved gently to circle around behind the wall, where it must have served as a wide moat around the back of the park

“Guys, what the hell?” demanded Dean.

“This is Walley World,” Gabriel announced, pointing to the giant plaster Moose mascot waving out front.

“I always wanted to go,” said Benny.

“So you need to let us,” said Gabriel.

“I thought you two didn't even like each other,” said Dean, pointing back and forth between Gabriel and Benny.

“We don't,” said Gabriel. “In fact, we loathe each other.”

“We just need to get our Walley on, man,” said Benny, draping an arm around Gabriel.

Dean looked as if he wanted to murder both of them.

Sam placed a calming hand on his seething brother's shoulder. “Look, Dean, we're about midway now. Let's let these guys look around, and maybe we can get something to eat and put a word out for Bobby. Check out what's happening between here and the coast.”

Dean cast a steely glance at Benny and Gabriel. “All right. All right. But stick together. And keep an eye out for Croats.” Angel and vampire were already striding off towards the main gate. “We'll get the ritual started. C'mon Cas.”

Cas, who had started to wander off behind his brother, paused and looked around. “Uh, sorry?”

“Summoning Bobby! Come on, chop chop!” said Dean, clapping his hands impatiently. Sam had already opened the Impala's large trunk and was rummaging around inside.

Cas took one last wistful look at the graceful spirals on the top of castle in the center of the park, and turned dutifully to help Sam and Dean. Appointing Cas as their sentry, they positioned themselves just outside the concrete wall, in the shelter from the wind. Dean chalked some markings into the parking lot while Sam fiddled with a number of bags, tossing various herbs into a bowl. Dean, finally satisfied that his markings were up to snuff, went and grabbed a set of candles from the trunk.

“What was that?” said Cas as all three men turned towards noises coming from the darkened amusement park. Like some great beast, it started to slowly awaken, with sounds, lights and motion. Cas gasped as cars on a roller coaster whizzed by almost directly overhead.

“What are those two empty heads doing?” raved Dean.

Sam shrugged his broad shoulders. “Must've found a backup generator.”

“Wasting fuel, and blasting a Croat beacon to the nearby counties.”

“We haven't seen a lot of Croats in the area, Dean.”

“This'll bring 'em out of the woodwork!”

“Could we go in?” asked Cas shyly. “I mean, after this is done?” he added, taking in a withering glance from Dean.

“Yeah, good idea, Cas,” said Sam diplomatically. “Let's finish this, and then you can go tear Benny a new one, Dean.”

Grumbling all the time, Dean arranged the candles and they managed to get all of them lit. And then as a last gesture, Dean tossed Bobby’s flask into the middle of the chalk circle.

"Amate spiritum obscure/ Te quaerimus/ Oramus nobiscum colloquere/ Apud nos circita,” Sam recited, walking around in a slow circle and pouring out a thin trail of salt as he walked.

The three waited. The candles flared as the roller coaster cars zipped by once again, and then, in the middle of the circle, faintly visible in the dim light of dusk, was the spirit of Bobby Singer.

“Bobby! Where the hell you been dude?” said Dean, who was careful to stay outside the circle.

But Bobby wasn't looking at him. He was staring back over his shoulder, talking to someone invisible to Sam and Dean. “Don't pull me back now, god dammit! I got business.”

“Bobby? What's going on?”

“Just hold your horses, I told you. Sam and Dean wanna talk.” Bobby whirled around. “Oh, no. Are you dimwits still consorting with that miserable angel fucker?” he demanded waving a ghostly hand at Cas.

“Would you like me to send him away,” Cas asked, narrowing his eyes at Bobby.

“Just...” said Dean, holding a restraining arm out in front of Cas. “Just be cool. Both of you.”

“Bobby,” said Sam. “Did you check the road ahead, man? We're kind of flying blind here.”

“I just- Will you lay off for one damn minute, Pamela?” said Bobby, who suddenly whirled around again to talk to an invisible companion.

Sam and Dean exchanged a glance. “OK. Bobby, why don't you tell Pamela you're talking to us now?” Sam suggested.

“Because I'm talking to the idjits now, woman! Lay off,” Bobby snapped. He turned back to face Sam and Dean. “Woman won't listen to a damn word I say.”

“Bobby! Focus! The road ahead, dude,” said Dean. “We need to know what's happening between here and Seattle.”

“Seattle?” barked Bobby. “You damn fools. It's not Seattle.”

“It's not?” asked Sam.

“It's Vancouver. Get your asses to Vancouver.” Bobby suddenly turned around yet again. “Missouri! I said not-” But the rest of his sentence was lost, as Bobby's spirit was suddenly gone, nothing lingering but a vague scent of ozone.

The three stared at the empty space where the spirit had just stood.

“Son of a bitch. What the hell did that mean?” asked Dean.

Sam frowned. “Huh. Well, Vancouver is just a few miles north of Seattle. I'm not sure-”

“Hey you guys! Aren't you coming in?” asked Gabriel, who had just ambled up along with Benny.

“What the hell do you think you're doing with this?” said Dean, rounding on them and pointing at the roller coaster whizzing by overhead. “You need to turn it off! Now!”

“Huh,” said Gabriel, winking at Benny. “Turn it all off?”

“Did I stutter? Yeah, turn it all off.”

“So, I guess that means you don't wanna ride the Dr. Sexy Experience?” asked Benny.

“The- What?” Dean's eyes had suddenly grown ten times larger.

“It's over in the Walley Studios part of the park,” said Gabriel, unfolding a pamphlet he'd been clutching. “According to this, it was their newest ride. I don't think it even opened before the park shut down for good.”

“Pretty sad to miss it,” tutted Benny as Dean snatched the pamphlet from Gabriel. “Big ol’ fan like you, Dean.”

Dean stared at the wrinkled sheet of paper and then crumpled it in his hand. “OK OK OK. We go, we take one ride, and then you guys shut this shit all down. I mean, I gotta go, right?” he added, looking mournfully at Sam.

Sam rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I guess one ride won't kill us.”

“Good,” said Dean, who was already stalking towards the entrance, Gabriel and Benny hastening after him.. “Sam, you two, stand guard. We won't be long.”

Castiel, who had also been following Dean, suddenly halted, his face falling. “St- stand guard?” he quavered. He turned his head to see Sam's big hand on his shoulder.

“My brother is a nut job sometimes. Come on, let's get something to eat. You hungry?”

Cas nodded, and they had soon taken out the little camp stove and a couple mason jars of stew. Cas was hungrier than he'd realized, so they'd just grabbed a couple of spoons and eaten the hearty concoction straight out of the pan.

“Glad I threw in some of this,” said Sam, licking the spoon and leaning over to grab another mason jar, one filled with a clear liquid. He grabbed a couple of small metal cups and filled them, handing one off to Cas.

“What is this, Sam?” asked Cas, who was in the middle of lighting the inevitable cigarette.

“Well, let's just say, before Bobby went to his reward, he had a hobby.”

Cas took a sip, and then immediately started choking. He sucked on his cigarette again. “What the fuck was that?” he rasped.

“Moonshine.”

“Can I have some more?”

Sam grinned and tipped over the mason jar. They settled back, backs against the car, watching the stars start to pop out in the evening sky. Cas grabbed up the park map that Dean had crumpled and tossed to the ground and gazed at it. Sam scooted over to look over Cas’s shoulder. “I'm looking for Walley Studios,” said Cas. “It looks like it's at the far end of the park, beyond Walleyland, beside Walley Sea.”

“Walley Sea?” asked Sam. He grabbed the map, and turned it over and then over again. “Hey, check it out, it looks like Walley Sea is a water park. It must be near the river.” He pointed off to where the meandering river wound around the back of the park.

Cas squinted, and then sat up. “Do you see the lights, Sam?” Sam tried to trace where Cas was pointing, although the gathering darkness made it difficult to see. Just visible upstream there was a line of little points of light skidding down the river. They seemed to be floating on top of the water, like fireflies.

“Is it the moonlight?” asked Sam.

“There is no moon tonight, Sam.”

Sam looked to Cas, who showed no emotion, and then back to the river, wondering why he was feeling a sense of dread. The floating lights reflected as ripples in the river. They grew bigger as they approached the park, seeming to stretch out until they were not just pinpricks, but appeared almost as small luminescent globes, bobbing on the current. As Sam continued to watch, the lights in the very front appeared to resolve, one by one, into actual bodies, though they were definitely not human.

“Cas,” said Sam.

The angel was already on his feet. “Something is not right, Sam.”

“Get Dean,” said Sam.

And they were both running.

Chapter Text

Title: A Canticle for Dr. Sexy (Chapter 3 of 6)
Fandom: Supernatural
Author: tikific
Rating: NC-17
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Castiel, Sam, Benny, Chuck, Bobby, Missouri, Pamela, Lenore, Michael, Gabriel, Lucifer, Balthazar, Garth
Warnings: Cursing. Suicidal ideation.
Word Count: ~50,000
Summary: The Croatoan virus has brought down civilization as we know it. Dean Winchester, leader of a motley band of survivors, is searching for volume 25 the Video Safari limited edition box set of Dr. Sexy MD when he stumbles into Cas, an amnesiac grubbing for a can of beans at an abandoned Piggly Wiggly. Together with his brother, Sam, who may be a prophet of the Lord, and some friends they meet along the way, they embark on a cross-country road trip to find a cure for the virus and save humanity. But the journey takes our heroes straight into the middle of an angelic feud.
Notes: Set Post-Croatoan outbreak. The compound is based on the Greenbrier, a real resort. This one owes a huge debt to Zombieland, to Vertigo comics, and to Spirited Away.

 

Some years ago….

Robert Phillips emerged from his trailer, stretching and yawning. An assistant, standing nearby, handed him a sheaf of paper.

“More new pages?” the actor sighed.

“Yes, Mr. Phillips.”

Robert muttered something under his breath and headed towards the set. He noticed that the morning cold still hadn't worn off. Vancouver winters seemed to last eleven months. He was thankful he didn’t have any exterior shots planned today, although who could tell, with scripts coming in bits and pieces like they had been the past month. He leafed through the new pages as he walked. Stupid demons again. Hadn’t anyone told these idiots they were doing a hospital drama? He really needed to call his agent again about breaking his contract. He was Robert Phillips, one of People Magazine’s Ten Hottest Hollywood Hunks, even though, given his present circumstances, he rarely ventured anywhere near Hollywood.

No, Robert was stuck in fucking Canada, where everybody was so fucking nice, doing a demon-infested hospital drama.

He paused outside Studio B, gazing instead across the lawn at the two lunatics set up at the picnic table. Mac and the redhead. What was her name? Vicky or something. Mac, a tall, rangy guy, was peering into a laptop, and she was pecking on a cool old fashioned manual typewriter. They were wrapped up under umpteen layers of clothing, and were drinking something from a thermos.

Robert looked towards the studio entrance, but for reasons that were vague even to himself, instead started across the lawn towards the two writers.

“Robert!” said Mac, looking up from his computer and smiling broadly.

“Hey Mac,” said Robert. “Hey….”

“Sylvia,” supplied the redhead, who did not pause from typing, her hands swaddled in big knit fingerless gloves.

“Want some tea?” asked Mac, holding up a plastic cup.

“Is it spiked?” asked Robert.

“Not this early in the afternoon,” laughed Mac.

“Whatcha doin’?” asked Robert.

“Writing,” said Mac.

“Duh,” added Sylvia.

Robert however wasn’t paying attention to the insult, as he was now reading his pages, and then scanning the screen on Mac’s laptop. He pulled the computer around to face him. “You just wrote this,” he said. “Just now.”

“Yeah,” sighed Sylvia, who had finally paused. “The Emmy-winning team of Wallace and MacArthur….”

“MacArthur and Wallace,” supplied Mac.

“…Writing about a bunch of scheming demons...”

“...On a TV hospital drama.” Mac was grinning in triumph.

Robert watched them exchange a glance, Mac smiling and Sylvia sadly shaking her head. “You’re still writing today’s script … today, aren’t you?”

Mac looked at him sadly. “Robert, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re all that's left of the writing team.” And now they were both looking at him, like he was some kind of poor bastard, and not Robert Phillips, Dr. Sexy, MD.

“I…. I gotta get to the studio,” said Robert, who turned and left without another word.

 

The present day, Walley World….

“Dammit. I wanna have at least one run without the damn ghost showing up.”

Gabriel patted Dean on the shoulder as he, Dean and Benny all stood outside the Dr. Sexy Experience in 3D’s exit, located on the main thoroughfare of Walley Studios, inside the world famous Walley World amusement park. “As I understand, the experience is generated randomly, so sometimes you get the ghost-“

“And sometimes you don’t! It stands to reason,” Dean told him. He looked between Gabriel and Benny. “No none likes the ghost. No one! Come on, guys, we gotta go back on the ride. Just one more time.”

“Dean. We been three times already. Sam might be wonderin’ where the hell we are by now,” said Benny. “If he ever gave a shit.”

“One of us could go talk to the guys in the parking lot I supposed,” said Gabriel.

“No, no splitting up,” said Dean.

“Hey, what’s happening down there?” asked Benny, pointing to flickering lights down at the far end of Walley Way, the main road running through the park.

“That’s weird. Did you guys turn on more lights?” asked Dean.

“I don’t think so,” said Gabriel. “Maybe it’s on a timer?”

“It sure smells good!” said Benny who, without waiting for the other two, began to stroll towards the light.

“Benny, what the hell!” said Dean, but it was no use, as Gabriel was already darting after the vampire as well. “Always leading with your stomach.”

They proceeded down the lane to an area of stalls intended for food vendors. Lights flickered everywhere, though the exact source was uncertain. What was evident was that the stalls had all, somehow, come alive. The deep fat fryers were bubbling, pans were sizzling, and pots were boiling.

“Must be on a timer,” Gabriel explained.

“All of this is on a timer?” asked Dean.

“Hey, Wil Walley was a genius! I bet he automated it all before he died,” said Gabriel.

“He’s not dead,” said Benny, tapping his own forehead. “They froze his head in carbonite!”

“That’s an urban legend. He died, and I know he died, because…” Gabriel leaned closer to Benny. “He died in the saddle.”

“No fucking way! Wil Walley?”

“Underaged boy,” said Gabriel.

“Well, that I can see,” said Benny.

Dean shook his head in despair over the truly stupid argument. Everyone knew, after all, that Wil Walley was a secret Nazi who was entombed in a vault hidden underneath Future Walleyland. Dean frowned and sniffed the air. He had rested his arm over on one of the counters, and noticed there was now a paper-wrapped, fragrant-smelling object right next to his elbow. “What the hell?” He unwrapped the waxed paper as Gabriel and Benny hovered over him, revealing a delicious treat.

“Is that a deep-fried Twinkie?” asked Gabriel, reaching out for it. Dean immediately slapped down his hand. “Hey! It’s nice to share.”

“Gabriel, doesn’t it occur to you guys that something is just not right here?” asked Dean.

“Yeah, sure, but the Twinkie looks pretty nummy.” Gabriel reached again and Dean blocked him again.

“Gabriel, stay away.” Dean looked up to a slurping sound. “Benny, what the hell?”

“Hog’s blood shake!” said Benny, shaking the plastic cup he was drinking from. “And it comes in a collectible cup!” he noted, tapping the plastic Moose on the lid.

“Benny! Gabriel!” shouted Dean as the angel finally snatched up the Twinkie. But Gabriel’s victory was short-lived, as the high calorie snack cake was immediately slapped out of his hand by none other than Castiel, who had just run up, panting for breath.

“Hey!” shouted Gabriel. “Jerk!”

“Don’t eat that!” Cas shouted. “Don’t eat anything!”

“What’s going on?” Dean asked.

“There’s spirits. Or something,” huffed Sam, who had arrived along with Cas. “We saw them arrive.”

“That’s what’s running the park?” asked Dean. “Son of a bitch! Let’s get the hell out of here. Benny! Drop that damned shake now!”

“But it’s good,” said the vampire, who only seemed to increase his slurping rate. Dean grabbed the cup out of his hand and hurled it away.

“Litterbug,” sniffed Gabriel.

“But that was collectible!” Benny told Dean.

They all paused to stare up at the light show: luminescent beings, like the ones Sam and Cas had seen over the river that wound behind the park, had begun to flit around and hover overhead.

“Haven’t any of you guys ever read a fairy tale?” asked Sam. “You never eat the food! We gotta get out of here. And we really gotta get Benny out of here.”

“Oh, what are a buncha lightning bugs gonna do to me?” asked Benny, indicating the roiling mass of lights. His question did not remain unanswered for long, for the glowing spirits were now darting towards him. He swatted his hand, as if batting away mosquitos. “Get outta here!”

And then one of the luminescent beings grew a glowing tentacle. And grabbed Benny by the wrist.

“Fuck!” said Benny. Cas was there, slicing through the tentacle with his sword. Dean grabbed Benny by the arm and began to run towards the main entrance.

The rest stampeded after them, save for Gabriel, who turned and seemed to be charging up his sonic attack. “I’ll hold them off,” he shouted.

“Yeah, it worked so well with the fucking tar monsters,” Dean grumbled.

"You're welcome," Gabriel retorted.

They ran along, past roller coasters, merry-go-rounds and the Manny Moose ferris wheel, cringing as they heard the now familiar high pitched sound. A few moments later Gabriel was barreling after them.

“Did it work?” asked Dean.

“Yeah. It made them mad!” said Gabriel, and suddenly there was a whole huge swarm of light beings chasing after them.

The agitated spirits were still swooping after Benny, so as Gabriel and Sam ran alongside him, Cas and Dean hung back, slicing with their weapons at the attacking spirits. It had about the same effect as it did on the tar monsters: the beings merely stitched themselves back together and flew onwards.

“Here’s the gate!” said Sam. The three men in the lead broke into a gallop, but suddenly one spirit broke away from the pack and dive-bombed Benny, sending him tripping headlong. And then several more of the flashing lights crashed into his back and head, creating electrical sparks.

Dean and Cas, running behind, each grabbed Benny under one of his thick arms and half dragged him through the park entrance, where both Dean and Cas collapsed in a heap just outside. The flashing lights hovered for a moment, swarming at the verge of the park entrance, and then, just as suddenly, scattered.

There was a soft click, and the park went silent and dark.

“Damn you and your hungry stomach!” Dean shouted at Benny. “Now I’ll never get to see the Dr. Sexy Experience without that stupid ghost.”

Sam had helped Cas, who was still breathing hard, to his feet. But Benny remained down on the ground, a large, bulky shadow.

“Benny?” asked Dean.

“Hey, Ben,” said Sam, who crouched down right next to him, hand on his shoulder.

Benny looked up.

“SHIT!” said Sam, falling on his ass.

“Benny, what the hell?” muttered Dean. He ran over to the car's trunk and fished out a flashlight, which he trained on his friend.

Benny looked up at Dean and snorted.

And then he oinked.

He threw his great head around, looking confused, sniffing through his large pink snout.

“Holy fuck. Benny?” asked Dean.

“Ha!” said Gabriel. “Looks like we got ourselves a vampire pig.”

Dean heard an odd noise and shone the flashlight over to Castiel, who was covering his mouth. “Were you laughing at Benny, Cas?”

“Uh. No,” snickered Cas.

“Look how you made him feel,” said Dean, shining the flashlight over to where Benny was hanging his piggy head in shame. Which in turn caused Cas to snort with laughter once again.

Benny suddenly lunged at Cas who, graceful as a bullfighter, stepped away, his overcoat trailing like a cape.

“Benny,” scolded Dean, who stood in front of him. “You stop that. Now, it was rude to laugh, but this is all your damn fault.”

“Should we all find somewhere to stay tonight?” asked Sam. “Hopefully far away from this place. It’s getting late.”

 

Between two angels and two humans, they had managed to wrangle the fat Benny hog into the pickup bed. And then, seeing no other options, they had taken off. They finally ended up camping by the roadside some miles up the road. It was a fair night, so they didn’t bother with tents, just grabbed sleeping bags and assigned sentry duty.

Sam had thought he was too wired to sleep, but he soon found himself walking through an unfamiliar dreamscape. It wasn’t what he thought of as “his” wasteland, it was an evergreen forest. He was making his way down a deserted pathway marked by paving stones. There was a concrete wall to his left. It was too high to see over, even for someone as tall as Sam.

“This isn’t your dreamscape, is it, Sam?” An angel sat up on top of the wall, smoking a cigarette.

“Hey, Humpty Dumpty. This isn’t your dream either,” Sam told Cas, who hopped down to walk beside him.

“Humpty … Dumpty?” asked Cas, tilting his head.

“It’s a nursery rhyme. Never mind. I thought we agreed this was a non-smoking dream?”

Your dreams are non-smoking,” said Cas, tapping out ashes. “However, I do not believe this is in fact your dream.”

“No? Then who the hell’s dream is it? Yours?”

“Angels do not dream. At least, not in any way that a human would be able to comprehend.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“But perhaps this is the purview of the dreamer?” asked Cas as they came upon a large metal gate. Sam peered inside, between the bars. He could see a big, rambling Victorian era house.

“Well, why not?” said Sam, opening the gate. “I don’t see any ‘Trespassers will be shot’ signs.” They passed through the gate and walked up the driveway towards the house, which looked deserted. The windows were curtained, so you couldn’t see inside. Sam rang the doorbell and, receiving no answer, tried the knob. It was unlocked. “I guess whoever lives here is the trusting sort,” he said, pushing his way inside.

A redheaded woman looked up at them as they entered. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of a big coffee table. Sam pegged her as the artsy type. She was wearing those cat’s eye glasses the hip girls thought were funky, and the hair was done up in a topknot that looked artfully careless.

“Sam,” she said, pausing in what she was doing. There was an opened prescription bottle on the table, and a lot of capsules spread out on the table’s surface, arranged in neat little rows. “And you must be the angel,” she added.

“I am an angel,” Cas told her. Sam noticed he must have tossed out his cigarette before he entered.

“No, you’re the angel,” she corrected. “The producers wouldn’t let me put you in. They said the Christians would object.”

“Put him into what?” asked Sam, inviting himself to sit down on the couch opposite of her.

She rolled her eyes. “The show of course. Anyway, you’re supposed to meet me in Vancouver. What’s keeping you?”

“We had a little trouble with some Walley World spirits, and our vampire is now livestock,” sighed Sam.

“What?” she asked.

“We are within a day’s travel of Vancouver,” Cas told her. He had remained standing and looked, if not nervous, then at least uncomfortable. Awkward, maybe. “Can you be more specific as to where we might find you?”

“Unfortunately, no,” she said, returning to sorting out her pills.

Sam reached over and grabbed the prescription bottle, eyeing the label. Seconol, it said, secobarbitol. He looked from the plastic bottle to the neat rows of red pills.

And then, with a cry of ”No!” he reached over with his arm and swept all the pills off the table, scattering them across the rug. The redhead stared at him, open-mouthed.

“No,” said Sam. “No, you won’t do it. We’re coming. We’ll be there soon. I’m coming. I’m Sam Winchester, and I’ll be here – or there, or whatever the hell – as soon as I can.” He had caught up her wrists and was staring at her.

She stared back for a while, and then looked up at Cas. “Is he always like this?”

“I have not made Sam’s acquaintance long enough to state his behavior patterns in a definitive manner such as that. However, I have noticed that he has an inclination towards saving people. Particularly attractive young women.”

She gawped at Cas, wresting herself out of Sam’s grip. “Haven’t been accused of that for a while.”

“I am afraid I am not adept at lying,” said Cas.

“OK, then,” she said, sitting back on a couch. “Would you be upset if I died?”

Cas tilted his head. “I’m not certain upset is the appropriate term. It would be unfortunate. You are important, or we would not be here. And you are powerful, as you have drawn Sam, another prophet, into your own dream.”

“Powerful? I don’t feel powerful. I didn’t see him die.”

“See who die?” asked Sam.

She pointed to the mantelpiece. Sam rose and walked over. There were framed photographs neatly arranged there. All of them pictured the redhead and a darker man. They were on a boat, on a mountain, by a lakeside, standing by a glacier, standing in a desert. And they were smiling, both smiling wide as the sky.

He turned back to her. She didn’t look as if she had smiled in a very long time.

Cas was crouching down next to her now, his eyes boring into her. “There is a reason you did not foresee that incident. There is nothing that you could have done. It would not have been prophecy, it would have been torture.”

She stared back at Cas, blinking back tears. Then she looked over at Sam. “I will wait for you, Sam Winchester. But hurry. Please hurry.”

Sam inhaled as he sat bolt upright in his sleeping bag. Cas was sitting cross-legged beside him, looking as if he might have been sitting that way all night, watching over. “Do you remember, Sam?”

“Yeah,” said Sam, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. “Yeah, I remember.”

“I believe it would be prudent at this juncture to head directly for Vancouver.”

“Yeah, Cas. I gotta agree with you.” Sam slumped forward, propping his elbows on his knees. “Not sure how Dean is gonna take it, hauling Porky to Canada,” he added, pointing to where Benny was happily rooting in the vegetation.

“It is good that he can survive like this. If he needed to be fed pig’s blood, it is possible, philosophically, that would be….”

“Cannibalism?” said Sam. “Ew, dude.”

“Then you will talk to your brother?” Cas asked.

“Yeah, sure,” Sam assured him. “Hey, but he’d listen to you too, you know.”

Cas stared intently at Sam for a moment. “Are you certain?”

“He’d listen. Believe me, he’d listen.” Cas dropped his eyes, seeming to study something on the ground in front of him, and it was Sam’s turn to stare. The realization took a small while to hit his still sleep-muddled brain, but hit it did. “Oh. Uh. You seem to be someone he, um, pays attention to?”

“You think so, Sam?” Cas’s eyes radiated hope.

“Yeah, I think so,” said Sam, scratching his head and yawning. And then Cas was on his feet and off, almost as if he had flown away.

Sam laid back. “So, I’m a suicide hotline for dream girls, and relationship counselor for angels. Great job, Sam.” Just then, he received a sloppy nuzzle from a rather large hog. “Oh gawd!” he groaned, sitting up again. “But I’m not pig food!” he yelled at Benny. “Get away, dammit!”

After they had relocated Benny from his favorite herb patch to the pickup bed, Sam volunteered to trade off driving the pickup truck with Gabriel, and was richly rewarded with a sleepy angel drooling on his shoulder as they made their way to the Canadian border. After giving Gabriel a shove, Sam checked the mirror once again to make sure Benny wasn’t stampeding or anything (what did Sam know, he had grown up in motels following his traveling salesman father, not on a damn farm). Then he trained his eyes up ahead once again. From what he could tell, Dean and Cas, up in the Impala, had spent the entire drive talking. Or at least Dean was talking and Cas was listening. He could see Dean gesticulating, reaching down to turn the stereo up or down, glancing over to see if his jokes had been appreciated. And then Dean reached out his right arm for something, and brought it down on the seat back, hand stretched out and almost but not quite touching Cas’s shoulder.

“OK, please don’t start making out,” Sam muttered.

“Say what?” muttered Gabriel.

“Uh, nothing-“

“What the fuck does my brother think he’s doing with that human?” barked Gabriel, who was staring ahead at Dean with his arm sort-of-but-not-really around Cas.

“Uh, hello. Human present,” said Sam. “Hey, look. The border.”

Sam's ruse worked, and Gabriel was distracted by the appearance of the international border crossing. “Wait, is there someone in that booth?” Sam peered ahead as well. The roadway split into several lanes at the crossing, however all but one lane had been blockaded by debris. There was a light in the booth by the open lane. To everybody's astonishment, a man dressed in a suit came out of the booth and stood by the roadside, hands on his hips.

Sam pulled up right behind the Impala and hopped out.

“Transporting livestock?” the border guard was saying, pointing to Benny. He tutted.

“Balthazar? What the hell are you doing here?” cried Gabriel, running up to tackle the man with a hug.

“Gabriel?” replied Balthazar, who did not hug back, and then pushed Gabriel away as if he were shooing a fly. “I thought you were with Lucifer.”

“I got bored. So I decided to hang with my brother,” said Gabriel, hiking a thumb at Castiel.

“CASTIEL!” gushed Balthazar, who now granted his own one-sided hug at the clearly confused Cas. “Darling! Are you all right? We were so worried.”

“He's all right,” said Gabriel. “Just sort of lost some marbles,” he added, making a circular motion with an index finger near his head.

“You don’t remember, do you, dear?” Balthazar asked Castiel.

“Remember … what?” Cas asked.

“OK, someone wanna tell me what’s going on here?” asked Dean. Benny had poked his hog’s head over the side of the pickup and was grunting inquisitively.

Balthazar now drew nearer to Benny, who snorted at him. “How did your vampire get turned into a pig?”

“Long story,” said Dean. “Look, you gonna let us through? We got business in Vancouver.”

“Well, the municipality of Vancouver is Michael’s domain now,” Balthazar explained.

Gabriel shook his head. “Michael took Canada? Oh, that is so typical him. He probably has everybody acting even more polite.”

“So will you let us through?” asked Dean impatiently.

“That’s problematic, I’m afraid,” sighed Balthazar. Dean noticed there were suddenly more guys standing around, though he hadn’t heard them come up. They wore black suits and dark sunglasses. “We love Cassie here, and it’s a shame what Lucifer did to you….”

“What did he do?” asked Cas.

“He broke your wings. Both of them. Don’t you remember? And as for Gabriel, you’ve really made some less than stellar life choices…” Balthazar continued, as his buddies began surrounding the Impala and the pickup.

One of Balthazar’s men popped the Impala’s trunk, leading Dean to say, “Hey!” But then another guy hopped up on the pickup bed and poked at Benny, who snorted and charged. “Hey, don’t molest the pig!” Dean yelled at them.

“Boss!” said one of them men, who’d been poking his head into the Impala. He flashed a bag of DVDs at Balthazar.

“Hey, do not touch those!” yelled Dean, now striding back to his car. “Nobody touches those,” he said, snatching at the Video Safari bag back, which got tossed over his head to Balthazar.

“You have Dr. Sexy, MD?” asked Balthazar, rifling through the plastic bag. “You have volumes 17 and 18?”

“Yeah, just got ‘em. In Manhattan. Why?” asked Dean.

Balthazar and one of his associates had a rapid, whispered conversation. “Er,” said Balthazar. “It is just possible that, at this particular juncture, we could make an exception to, uh, expedite the immigration process….”

Benny snorted.

 

“Michael is a Dr. Sexy fan?” asked Sam, who didn’t even believe his brother, Dean, was a Dr. Sexy fan. He had trouble believing that anyone, human or angelic, would waste even a second of their existence on that ridiculous piece of trash.

“I told you he’s a douche,” grinned Gabriel, who was sitting beside him in the pickup truck's cab. “Hey, what’s the big idea?” he asked, leaning forward to watch Dean and Cas in the Impala. Dean had done the arm-draping trick again, although Cas this this time sat stiffly, not turning or nodding. But then they were both looking out the window, pointing and craning their necks at something.

Sam stopped the truck behind the Impala and looked up himself. “What the hell?” he asked. He jumped out to join Dean and Cas, who were looking up and staring. Here, by the waterside, was the big, crazy salmon-tinted building that looked like the world's funkiest apartment complex.

And there were people out on the high balconies, sipping cocktails. Up where they could look down on the ruined city, all the barriers, the debris, the piles of rotting corpses. Sam shuddered.

“I am told the locals called it the Pink Palace,” said a dark-haired man who was one of a party coming out to greet them. “Hello. I am Michael,” he added, extending a hand towards Dean. He wore a sharp, dark, neatly pressed suit, as did his entourage, who were presumably all angelic. It was quite a contrast to the shabby party who had just pulled up in two mud-spattered vehicles, one of which was carrying a hog, who sniffed curiously at the sharply-dressed beings.

“Uh, I'm Dean, and this is my brother, Sam. I guess you know the rest?”

“Yes,” said Michael. “Brother Castiel, I hope you are well?” he asked, more or less sincerely. Cas nodded. “Gabriel,” he said, glaring.

“I love you too, Mikey.” snapped Gabriel. “So you set yourself up in the Gingerbread Man's doll house?”

“It's a local landmark, Gabriel,” said Michael.

“It’s totally pink, dude,” Dean pointed out.

“It’s salmon,” Michael snapped. He frowned and walked around the pickup truck. “How did you get yourself into this state?” he asked Benny.

“We, uh, had some dealings with these spirits who's taken up residence at Walley World,” Dean explained.

“Walley World? I have always wanted to go.”

Michael signaled to one of the angels who was standing nearby. The guy reached over and touched two fingers to Benny's brow. There was a pop, and suddenly, he was human again. Or at least back to being a vampire. “Whoa! Thanks, brother.”

“No feeding, vampire, or there will be words,” warned Michael.

“Celestial blood gives me a belly ache,” said Benny, hopping out of the pickup and looking himself up and down. “But don't worry, I don't suck on humans no more.”

Michael gave Benny a sour look and turned back to Dean. “And do you have … the items?”

Dean frowned for a moment, and then reached into the Impala and grabbed the Video Safari bag. One of Michael's assistants snatched it from him. Dean made to protest, but Cas shook his head. “We gonna get those back?” Dean groused.

“He has volumes 17 and 18,” whispered one of the aides, her voice awed.

“Yes, of course,” Michael told Dean. “After the viewing party. We will rip these to DVDs for you.”

“I want the originals back,” Dean growled. “They're mine.”

“If I were you, Michael,” said Sam, “I wouldn't keep my brother away from his Dr. Sexy.”

Michael and Dean had a glare-off for a few moments, with Michael finally backing down. “All right. After all, the Winchesters are our guests. Balthazar tells me you consider yourselves to be on some kind of, er, quest? You are roaming the country trying to complete your collectible set of Dr. Sexy?”

“That. And Death sent us to Vancouver,” said Dean.

“Death?” asked Michael. “He asked … you?” It was uncomfortably close to a sneer.

“Yeah, he appeared to me in a dream,” Sam explained. “Or rather, one of his reapers did.”

“Sam is a prophet of the Lord,” explained Cas.

“The prophet … Sam? I hadn't heard anything about this,” said Michael, officiously crossing his arms. One of his assistants brought up a clipboard and rifled through it, shaking her head at Michael.

“Has it occurred to you maybe Dad doesn't tell you everything, Mikey?” asked Gabriel. “You know, you did start a feud with Daddy's favorite.”

“May I remind you, you are on shaky ground, Gabriel?”

Gabriel grinned. “Mike, quit acting high and mighty. You're down here rooting in the mud with the rest of us.”

“Uhhhh, look, we might need your help,” said Sam, who was growing nervous about all the angel glaring going on. “I had another dream, and we're supposed to meet a girl here.”

“What girl?” asked Michael.

Sam shook his head, looking over at Cas, who sadly shook his head. “Unfortunately, we did not gather sufficient personal information,” Cas confessed.

“Look, this is important. She may be suicidal,” said Sam.

“She is most probably already dead,” sighed Michael dismissively. “If she is not a victim of the virus.”

“No! She was alive. I was in her dream!” said Sam.

“You were in her dream?” asked Michael, his eyes darting back and forth between Sam and Cas. “How is that possible? You are human.”

“I don't know. I don't know how it works,” Sam confessed.

“She is no doubt quite powerful, Michael, as she drew in both Sam and myself," Cas told him.

“Powerful?” asked Michael, raising an eyebrow. “For drawing in a false prophet and a broken angel? That does not bespeak power, don't you think.”

Cas didn't say anything, but lowered his eyes and seemed to wilt. Dean, without quite knowing why, put a steadying hand on Cas’s shoulder. “Cas isn't broken. And my brother is not a false prophet,” he told Michael.

“If he's not in the books, he is not a prophet.”

“Maybe the boys are writin' up a new book, Mikey,” said Benny.

Michael glowered. “We will chat more tonight, over dinner. For now, you look as if you need, er, freshening up after your journey. Ask at the desk inside and you will be escorted you to your quarters.” And with that, Michael turned on his heel, and stalked off, followed by a trail of suited up angels.

Benny looked at Gabriel. “Your brother is one twenty dollar asshole.” He stretched. “Even if he did get me back in my good body.”

“I might sleep out in the truck tonight,” grumbled Gabriel.

“Aw, c'mon, Shorty. I see angels with tiki drinks up there. There's gotta be a bar inside.”

“You got a point, Porky,” said Gabriel, as the two wandered towards the Pink Palace. Cas headed after them, head still down, a few paces behind.

Sam stared after them sadly. “I can't believe that douche is a fellow Dr. Sexy fan,” Dean complained.

“I wish I'd gotten her address. Her name. Something,” Sam told Dean.

“Come on, Sammy. Don't let the angel douche bag get you down. You haven't let us down before. You won't now.”

“I guess so.”

“Let's go see if angels have Canadian beer. And maybe there's a hockey game.”

 

Cas hadn't made it to dinner, nor to the Dr. Sexy viewing party that later that night. He was, instead, smoking out on a balcony in the late evening when Dean found him. Cas held out his cigarette, but instead found himself grabbed by the shoulders and hustled into the hallway.

“Hey, come see my view, dude,” said Dean, who paused at an apartment doorway. “I got a great room.”

“Aren't the views all similar?” asked Cas. Dean pushed the angel inside his room, slamming the door after him, and then pressed Cas up against the door for a rather long kiss.

“Damn I've been waiting for fucking ever,” said Dean as he finally broke the clench. “What?” he asked, seeing Cas's pained expression. “Why weren’t you at dinner? You must be hungry. You’re always hungry.”

“Dean, you don't want me.” His hands dug into Dean's shoulders.

“Oh, why the hell not? Wait, is this about what Michael said?”

“Dean. I'm broken,” Cas told him, pushing him away.

Dean frowned at him for a moment. “The wings? I don't care about that! Look, you were probably fighting, right?”

“I suppose so. I haven't asked Balthazar to tell me what happened I'm not sure I wanna know.”

“Well, then if you were fighting, wouldn't that be kind of cool?”

Cas shook his head and bit his lip.

“And hey, you figured out how to fight anyway, right?” urged Dean.

“That's true....”

“And besides, we got a room, dude. With a really … big … bed,” Dean concluded, punctuating the speech with kisses applied to Cas's neck. Cas looked over Dean's shoulder into the bedroom. He had indeed been given a king sized bed.

“A room … in Michael's building.” Cas let Dean kiss him. “He would probably be shitting himself. If he found out.”

“All the better,” grinned Dean. Cas pushed Dean back once again and stared at him, looking thoughtful. And then pulled Dean to him again. Somehow, through determined groping, Dean managed to steer the angel into the bedroom and over to the really big bed, stripping off the big coat on the way. Cas seemed reluctant to shed his shirt though, suddenly crossing his arms over his body. “My back. It looks pretty bad,” he whispered.

“What?” asked Dean, who was getting rather impatient with interruptions at this juncture. Cas reluctantly pulled his shirt up in back. Dean had to gasp. “God damn,” he muttered. There were two large, painful-looking purple contusions running up and down either side of Cas's backbone, going from the level of his shoulder blades to the bottom of his rib cage. Dean traced a careful finger down one side. “Oh, this doesn't hurt, does it?” he asked, withdrawing his fingers.

“No it feels.... It feels good when you do that.” Dean tugged at Cas's shirt, and Cas allowed him to pull it off over his head. He put a hand to Cas's back, at the bottom of one of the bruises, and gently rubbed upwards. Cas stretched and emitted a small moan.

“I dunno if these are really bruises. Seems like they’d be tender. You feel all knotted up,” said Dean, now spreading two hands over Cas's shoulders. “Come on, lie down a sec.” Cas batted those amazing eyes at him, causing Dean a small involuntary shiver, and then the angel plunged face down on the bed. Dean straddled him, and started to rub Cas's back, muscles tight as bowstrings slowly easing up under his gentle touch. It wasn't exactly what Dean had planned to be doing right now, but he liked the sound of the soft, small groans as the man underneath him slowly relaxed.

Dean bent over and kissed Cas's back. He smelled really nice up close like this, something like cinnamon and sea air, Dean thought, planting more kisses, up the back, and then on the neck. He rolled Cas over and then they were mouth to mouth again. Ah, this was more like it. It was like being drunk on a really sweet young wine.

“Wait, what?” asked Cas as Dean suddenly leapt up and ran across the room. He sat up. “Dean?”

Dean had grabbed a chair and was wedging it so the back was lodged under the doorknob. “Not gonna risk getting interrupted again!” said Dean. He hopped back on the bed. “Now, where were we?”

“You know if Michael wanted to interfere...” Cas started, but he was blocked by Dean's tongue in his mouth.

“Michael … is getting … nowhere … near,” Dean muttered, now kissing his way back down Cas's torso. He was so lean, you could stop and count the ribs. Down the stomach, down to the waistband of Cas's jeans, where you could just see a few soft, dark hairs. Dean had to pause another frustrating minute to deal with shoes, and then at last he could unzip the jeans – he had briefly considered using his mouth, but was growing awfully impatient to get down to business. He rubbed two hands up Cas's thighs, delighted that Cas was visibly aroused. Cas put a hand in his hair and whispered his name. He was going to be shouting it soon, if Dean had his way. Dean forced himself to take his time, nibbling his way up Cas's inner thigh for a while and getting some frustrated moans in response. He finally took the tip of Cas's dick in his mouth, enjoying feeling Cas's entire body clench under his hands. Gripping Cas's thighs, he set up an achingly slow rhythm. Cas was writhing now, one hand in Dean's hair, one pressed to the headboard, putty in his hands.

Dean moved his hands around to cup Cas's sweet little ass now. He sent two fingers to rub the sensitive asshole. “Oh God Dean!” Cas panted. Dean had ceased the blow job and was now forcing fingers inside him.

“You want me inside you?” Dean asked.

“Oh fuck yeah fuck yeah.”

Grinning madly, Dean withdrew his fingers and slid over to grab his bag.

“Oh what now?” grumbled Cas, who had now attached himself to Dean's back, sucking at his neck and fumbling to unzip Dean's pants.

“Lube.”

“Fuck the lube.”

“That's … really distracting. In a good way,” Dean gasped as Cas got the zipper open and stuck his hand down into Dean's underwear. Dean paused a moment to let himself be groped, but then willed some blood to come back to his brain, and found the tube.

“OK, OK, get over,” he said, trying to roll Cas onto his stomach.

“No. I wanna see you,” said Cas stubbornly rolling back. He was yanking off Dean's shirts while Dean was trying to fumble with the tube, which led to a few moments of sweaty, urgent fumbling. Then Dean wriggled the rest of the way out of his jeans, slung one of Cas's legs over a shoulder, and pressed some greasy fingers into him. Cas arched his back and groaned.

'You're so tight,” muttered Dean, rubbing his erection against Cas's groin while he worked his fingers.

“I want you inside me.”

“Gimme a minute,” said Dean. Cas had grabbed the opened tube and now put a lubed up hand around Dean's dick. Dean bucked and nearly lost it. “Careful careful careful,” he breathed.

Dean pulled out his fingers and lined himself up. “You've done this before?” he thought to ask.

“Not with you. I want you.”

That was all the urging he needed. Dean thrust inside, the sensation taking his breath away. Cas responded, and Dean idly wondered how good the soundproofing was in these rooms. He went slow for the first couple of strokes, but pretty soon Cas's other leg was up over his shoulder and he found himself pounding away with a sort of joyful desperation. Such a rare time, for Dean, nothing else to worry about, no one else to think about, just the world shrunk down to two people. He heard his name shouted out once, twice, three times, and then he was riding his orgasm, and everything was just sticky and sweaty and wonderful.

Cas moaned one last time as Dean pulled out. That voice alone could drive you mad. Dean rolled over on his back, pulling the angel on top of him, and, holding the panting, writhing being as tightly as he possibly could, rubbed him a few more strokes to put him over the edge, Cas coming all over that amazing flat stomach.

They stayed like this for a moment, before Dean kissed him and assured him, “You’re gonna kill me.” He finally, reluctantly, hopped off the bed one last time to go grab a towel, and they cleaned up as well as they could. Dean held Cas tightly, still lazily groping him.

“How was dinner?” Cas finally asked.

“Michael noticed you weren’t there,” said Dean.

“I vaguely remember those kinds of events. They were awful.”

“Yeah, it was awful. And the Dr. Sexy viewing party sort of sucked too. You’d think with so many people having sucked down so many bottles of wine it would have been a scream, but everyone was so….”

“Reverent?”

“Yeah!”

“You drink the wine in order to make it through dinner,” Cas sighed. “To induce numbness, not inebriation.”

Dean persisted. “I mean, during the showing, you’d yell at the stupid ghost, or whatever, and they’d all kind of look at you like you'd just farted. Nobody likes the ghost!”

“Well, if the show was truly being written by a prophet, as the evidence suggests to me, then perhaps they regard it as canonical.”

“What? You mean the show is gospel?”

Cas twisted around so he was looking at Dean. He had a sort of smug look on his face. Dean scowled. “You yourself have always been a devoted fan, Dean. And yet you also admit the show has weaknesses, some of them rather egregious.”

“It’s television. It’s supposed to be brainless.”

“Yet I’ll surmise there are a lot of stupid television programs for which you would not risk a zombie attack to forage for DVDs.”

“There’s a reason I like Dr. Sexy?” asked Dean. “That’s just fucking weird.” They were quiet for a moment. “You know, I could stay like this all night.”

“Dean?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m really hungry….”

Dean laughed. “You should have eaten your damn dinner!” He slid out of bed and tossed some clothes at Cas. “Get your damn pants on. We’ll scrounge you up a burger or something.”

Cas stared at him, two huge eyes pleading. “Do you think they have peanut butter?”

“Yeah, I suppose.”

“And jelly?”

Dean grinned. “Get your damn pants on....”

 

“So what we're doing is we're just basically driving around at random,” said Dean, who did not seem at all perturbed by the notion. He whistled as he made the turn through another picturesque Vancouver street.

“Well. Kind of,” Sam admitted from the passenger seat beside him. “I know she lived in a Victorian looking house, and there's supposed to be a section of town with Victorians out this way.” He peered at the map in his lap, and then rotated it 180 degrees.

“Sounds good,” said Dean.

Sam looked at his brother. “OK, what's going on?”

“Whaddya mean, what's going on? It's a beautiful day, I'm behind the wheel, hanging with my brother. You know, Sammy, I've been thinking....”

Sam regarded his brother with no little suspicion. “That's always dangerous.”

“Maybe we shouldn't go back to the camp? Maybe we should just hit the road, you and me, just us two.”

“Yeah?”

Dean grinned, obviously warming up to his own line of bullshit. “Yeah! Like the old days, just family. We'll grab Cas-”

Sam chuckled. “OK, OK, hold it a minute. How can it be just two if that includes Cas?”

“Well, OK, just us three,” agreed Dean, who seemed bound and determined not to be upset by anything.

“What about Benny?”

“He can come. If he wants. Or maybe he'll get a little farm and settle down with Gabriel!”

Sam was openly laughing now. “Uh, Dean, that's really fucking weird.”

Dean grinned. Sam checked through his own random access memory. Something didn't add up. No, it did actually: Cas never made it down to dinner, and then Dean ditched the boring Dr. Sexy viewing party and went up looking for him and never returned. Dean plus Cas equals....

Sam’s smile faded. “Oh, no, Dean! You and Cas?”

Dean shot his brother an irritated glance. “Me and Cas. So?”

“Dean. He's an angel. His brothers are all angels. They smite people. And he's got some kind of weird funky dark power that he can't control.”

“You've got a weird funky dark power, Sammy.”

Sam rolled his eyes heaven-ward. “I have migraine-inducing dreams, Dean. He can blow up cars!”

“Sam,” tutted Dean. “I guess you're just prejudiced against angels.”

Sam rounded on his brother, the stupidest man in the world. “Dean! You didn't even want him driving the damn Impala a couple days ago.”

“That's different. That's my car.”

“And now you're doing the nasty? Did you know, Gabriel told me, angels are not even male or female. Did you even know that?”

“He's definitely a male. I can tell you that.” Dean was smirking.

“Too much information!”

“Then why are you asking?” said Dean, a hint of irritation now creeping into his voice. “Look, Sammy. Come on. I'm happy. He sure as hell seemed happy. Just … be happy, right?”

“Yeah, I'll throw rice at your damn wedding.”

“I'm not the marrying type. Hey, we're just gonna have some raw, nasty sex.”

“TOO MUCH INFORMATION!” wailed Sam, throwing his hands over his eyes just as the car slammed to a halt. “What?”

“Did you see that?” asked Dean.

“I was trying to bleach my mind, Dean!”

“There's a guy,” said Dean, who was already hopping out of the car.

“Wait, Dean, are you sure it's not a Croat? Dammit!” Sam grabbed for the billy club under his seat and followed his brother.

“It’s not a Croat. It was definitely a guy.” Dean strode to the end of the block with a determined air about him. Sam moved more cautiously behind him, scanning the area for movement, all of which he assumed to be hostile. They hadn't encountered any Croats since they had crossed the border, but the devastation around him was enough to make him move carefully. He increased his pace until he was walking abreast with his brother. “Saw it go around that corner,” said Dean, casually pointing with his crazy axe thing. Just like Dean: the first Croat they had encountered in days, so he wanted to go poke it with a stick.

“Let's be chill, Dean. Where there's one, there's bound to be more.”

“Not sure it was a Croat. If it was, it wouldn't have run away,” said Dean, once again moving forward.

“Maybe it was a Scaredy Croat,” Sam suggested. “Anyway, aren't we supposed to be looking for the girl with the pills?”

“Hey, maybe if we got a local, and it can talk, it can tell us where she lives, right?”

Sam nodded grudgingly. “Or it could be running to tell its friends that there was fresh meat on the hoof.”

Dean snickered. “Wait. There!” He had already broken into a run, Sam hot on his heels, running towards the motion. “Head him off, Sam!” Dean called as they reached an alleyway. Sam reluctantly halted at the entrance to the alley while Dean hopped a fence to run through somebody's garbage-strewn yard, presumably intending to catch whatever or whoever it was around the back of the alley.

Sam stood there for a while, feeling a bit idiotic. He wasn't entirely convinced that whatever they had seen wasn't just a big dog or something. Or maybe a bear: this was Vancouver after all. He hefted the billy club in his hand, wishing he'd paused to grab a shotgun out of the trunk.

He heard a rattle. “Dean?” he asked quietly. His view of the other end of the alleyway was blocked by debris, so, after casting a glance back over his shoulders, gripping his billy club, Sam stepped into the narrow alleyway. There was junk everywhere: overturned trash cans, overfilled dumpsters, a rusty shopping cart, a moldy couch. The sun was not yet high enough overhead to shed much light in here. Sam cast his eyes back and forth, seeking any trace of movement in the shadowy doorways.

There was a broken garage door up ahead. He moved up towards it, now cursing himself that he didn't have a flashlight on hand. Why had Dean been so damned jumpy to pursue this guy? If it even was a guy. He walked until he was even with the big crack in the wooden door. The alley narrowed here, as something that looked like a roll of chain-link fence was blocking a good part of it. The hole in the garage door wasn't big, but it might have been big enough for a child. Or an animal. Or a small bear. After another look, and another soft call of, “Dean?” Sam leaned over to peek inside.

And was slammed to the ground, body checked by something or someone. He yelled and got up his billy club.

And then the weight was off him as Dean suddenly appeared and grabbed the guy by the scruff of the neck. “Ha! Gotcha!” he cried.

“Dean!” yelled Sam, scrambling to his feet. “Where the hell were you?”

“Stalking this dude,” said his brother, who had slammed the man – and indeed, it was a man – up against the alley wall, his blade now shining under the guy's chin. “OK, talk!” he ordered.

“I- I-” stammered the man. He was filthy as hell, with a scraggly beard, and bags under his eyes. “Thought you were Croats.”

Dean immediately loosened his grip and stepped back. “Oh my god! It's you! It's you, isn't it?” he asked, suddenly very excited.

“It's, uh, who?” asked Sam, utterly confused.

“It's you!” Dean repeated. “You're him!”

“I'm...” stammered the man. “I'm … Robert Phillips.”

“Sammy it's him!”

“Uh, yeah?” asked Sam.

“It's Robert Phillips! It's Dr. Sexy, MD!”

 

Some years ago....

While the city slept, angels were watching over.

This was not good news.

They all stood on top of an office tower in Seattle, about two dozen of them. In their heavenly forms, this kind of thing would have been impossible, as a mere one or two of them perching here would have surely crumbled the structure. But they all found themselves, quite to their surprise and dismay, in more or less human form right now. For some of the celestial beings, this was the object of some consternation, and, on the part of others, no little merriment.

“It is obvious that we have been placed down here for a reason,” stated Michael, who was presently tall and dark-haired and stern. He turned to scowl at Gabriel, who had snorted derisively. “Oh what is it Gabriel?”

“A reason? Our Dad? Seriously, are you kidding, Mike?”

“Oh? Then to what would you assign our present predicament?” asked Michael.

Gabriel hopped up to sit on the low wall that surrounded the roof. Had he been a human being, this may have caused a sensation of vertigo, as the building was high and the wind was kicking up.

The wind was in fact stirring because Balthazar was fanning it, although this would not become apparent to everyone until some time later.

“Maybe the Old Man’s just in a bitchy mood. I heard he lost his last chess match with Death.” Gabriel sat on the parapet and merrily kicked his short legs. Far, far below, a manmade river ran by the building. It split the city in two.

“Ouch,” grinned Raphael, who had been standing just off to the side, a wry smile on his face.

“That’s ridiculous, Gabriel,” said Michael.

“I don’t know, Michael,” Raphael told him. “I tend to agree with Gabriel. Our Father gets vain about that sort of thing.”

“I believe we are here to pass judgment,” said Michael.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Castiel.

“Of course it doesn’t make sense to you, dimwit,” said Gabriel, causing Raphael to chuckle cruelly.

Castiel ignored them. “We are messengers. Not judges. Your statement does not make any sense, Michael.”

“The time is nigh! It is clear as the nose on your face,” Michael told him. Castiel crossed his eyes, trying and failing to view his own nose. “It is time to separate the wheat from the chaff.”

“How do you know this, Michael?” asked Castiel, to general giggling.

Michael emitted a deep, infinitely patient sigh. “Haven’t you read the bible, young one?”

“Yes. It importunes to beware of false prophets.”

Despite his exalted status as a celestial being, Gabriel damn near fell off the building in his laughing fit. He held his stomach. Michael halted his speech to glower at Castiel.

“I know why we have been called,” said Lucifer.

“Oh, what now, Lucifer?” moaned Michael, putting an agitated hand through his hair.

“There is no reason for judgment,” said Lucifer. “Mankind is a flawed creation. We are here to extinguish them, once and for all.”

“Oh, poppycock,” sighed Michael. “Quit acting like a spoiled brat, Lucifer.” Lucifer smiled at Michael, though the smile did not reach his eyes.

“How is what Lucifer said different from judging everybody, Michael?” asked Raphael.

“Here is what I would propose,” said Michael, ignoring Raphael and the rest. “We shall go out unto the world, and walk among mankind. Let us say for the period of one human year. And then we will reassemble, on this very spot, and share what we have learned. And then we will decide how to proceed.”

“A year? That isn't much time,” said Castiel. Although he was youngest of the bunch, in comparison to his very long life, a year was barely an eye blink. Not that he was much used to having blinking eyes. It seemed, actually, rather awkward to blink them.

“I said one year,” said Michael, as if that settled it.

“Come on, Cas,” said Gabriel, before Castiel could speak again. He had grabbed the younger angel by the arm and started quick marching him towards the stairwell.

“Where am I going?” asked Castiel, as Balthazar joined up with them.

“You wanna hang with the cool people,” said Gabriel, patting his shoulder.

And then they were headed downwards, into the darkness.

Chapter Text

Title: A Canticle for Dr. Sexy (Chapter 4 of 6)
Fandom: Supernatural
Author: tikific
Rating: NC-17
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Castiel, Sam, Benny, Chuck, Bobby, Missouri, Pamela, Lenore, Michael, Gabriel, Lucifer, Balthazar, Garth
Warnings: Cursing. Suicidal ideation.
Word Count: ~50,000
Summary: The Croatoan virus has brought down civilization as we know it. Dean Winchester, leader of a motley band of survivors, is searching for volume 25 the Video Safari limited edition box set of Dr. Sexy MD when he stumbles into Cas, an amnesiac grubbing for a can of beans at an abandoned Piggly Wiggly. Together with his brother, Sam, who may be a prophet of the Lord, and some friends they meet along the way, they embark on a cross-country road trip to find a cure for the virus and save humanity. But the journey takes our heroes straight into the middle of an angelic feud.
Notes: Set Post-Croatoan outbreak. The compound is based on the Greenbrier, a real resort. This one owes a huge debt to Zombieland, Vertigo comics, and the work of Hayao Miyazaki.

 

Some years ago....

Castiel leaned against the building and lit a cigarette.

He had spent much of the last few months in the company of Gabriel and Balthazar. Occasionally other of the exiled angels would join them.

They had heard nothing from heaven in this time, nor from their other brothers and sisters, who must no doubt still be around.

He still didn't understand why Gabriel had chosen him to hang out with. Castiel had fought side by side with Balthazar for many years, so they were acquainted with each other, but Gabriel had always seemed to treat Castiel with ... well, if not contempt, then at least a certain lack of respect. Castiel was not a high-ranking angel. He was a soldier. And one who always seemed to ask too many questions.

As for Michael's instructions to walk among mankind, his friends seemed to take this as permission to experience the human world at its most dissolute. They were currently ensconced inside the local house of ill repute, drinking, gambling, and no doubt consorting with women (and quite possibly men). Castiel didn't necessarily rebuke them for this behavior. He was not entirely innocent of it himself. He simply found it somehow unsatisfying. Imbibing large quantities of alcohol without a specific cause for celebration? Garnering funds with no clear eye how to spend them? Sexual congress which lacked a concomitant affection for one's partner?

It was all a little boring.

He didn't fault them going through the motions, if that was what pleased them. But he found he felt only emptiness. And he was every bit as confused now as that evening not so long ago when they had found themselves assembled on top of a human office building somewhere in Seattle.

“Castiel!” He looked up at the sound of his elder brother's voice.

“They're inside, Lucifer,” Castiel told him. Gabriel hadn't told him Lucifer would be joining them. Lucifer was one of the most beautiful, courteous, and well-loved of all the angels.

And Castiel detested him.

“I thought I would stay outside. And talk to you,” said Lucifer.

Castiel brought out his crumpled cigarette pack and offered it to Lucifer, who waved it away. “Don't touch the stuff. Why is it you smoke?”

Castiel took a long puff. “To remind myself I'm human.”

Lucifer scowled, for just one moment. “So, Gabriel and Balthazar are inside.”

“That's what I said.”

“They have an … interesting conception of walking the earth.”

“If it makes them happy.” Castiel shrugged.

“You approve?”

“Why should I be in the position to approve or disapprove?” Castiel was beginning to wish Lucifer would go inside and confront his brothers directly. At least it would be amusing.

Lucifer tsked. “I always seem to upset you, Castiel. I really don't know why.”

“Because you never say what you think: you say what you believe I want to hear.” Castiel frowned at his cigarette, surprised at his own boldness. Lucifer was a much higher ranked angel – possibly the favorite, many said. It was ridiculous to oppose him.

“So, do you now agree with my position, that humanity is a flawed creation?”

“Yes. They are deeply flawed,” said Castiel.

“Ah.”

“And gloriously beautiful. My Father's greatest creation.”

Lucifer let his face sour once again, just for the briefest moment.

“Hey, Luci! Is our brother annoying you?” called Gabriel, who, along with Balthazar and a couple of female friends, had just stumbled out the back way.

“Balthazar,” said Lucifer quietly. And then he took Gabriel by the shoulder and steered him away from the rest to have a whispered conversation a few paces up the alley. Gabiel's friend, a busty blonde woman, attached herself quite happily to an obviously uncomfortable Castiel.

“You should be in, having fun,” said Balthazar, who had a friendly female companion under either arm.

“I am fine,” said Castiel, cringing as the blonde sent a hand through his hair. “Please don't do that,” he chastened her, pushing himself a hand's length away.

“Aw, was just bein' friendly,” she pouted.

“Yes, and we do appreciate it, Melody,” said Balthazar, stuffing a wad of cash in her cleavage. She grinned, and, blowing a kiss at Balthazar, headed back into the building. “And we appreciate you too,” he told the other girls, kissing them on their foreheads and sending them off with a pat to the ass and yet more cash.

“So if it's so great in there, why are you and Gabriel out here?” Castiel asked. Balthazar didn't answer, but nodded his head up towards where Gabriel and Lucifer were conferring. Lucifer nodded, and then walked off.

Gabriel came sauntering over, putting one hand on Castiel's shoulder, and another on Balthazar's. “Wanna push on to the next joint?”

“What was that about?” Castiel asked.

“Oh, Luci just wanted me to do a job for him. That's all.” Gabriel draped his full arm around Castiel's shoulders and attempted to march the younger angel up the alley.

Castiel stopped dead in the middle of the alley. “What kind of job?”

Gabriel and Balthazar exchanged a glance. “Now, nothing to get upset about, Cassie.”

“What kind of job?” Castiel persisted, jerking away from Gabriel's grasp. He glared down at Gabriel.

“There's some people doing some kind of wacky research with viruses and crap, and Luci just wants me to take a look. And maybe grab some samples.”

“And this is something you would do for him, Gabriel?”

“Hey, look,” said Gabriel, once again snaking his arm around his younger brother's shoulders. “We're supposed to see what humans are up to, right? So, we're poking around.”

“And then we'll report back to Michael,” said Balthazar.

“Sure. So it doesn't look like we spent the year drinking and fucking around. Which we kinda did,” laughed Gabriel.

“Nothing to worry about,” said Balthazar.

“No, nothing to worry that pretty head over,” said Gabriel. “So come on, Cassie. I know of a joint down the road. They got a few cute boys. Maybe that will be more your speed.”

“I will not be interested. As I have already told you,” Castiel said, flicking his cigarette to the ground and grinding it out.

“Sure you're interested,” said Gabriel.

Castiel scowled. “Gabriel, you are aware that Lucifer doesn't like humans?”

“Neither do you! At least you never like any of the humans we send your way,” pouted Gabriel.

“Perhaps he has unreasonably high standards,” sighed Balthazar.

“I'm hungry,” said Cas.

“OK, OK,” said Gabriel. “Let's see if we can find an ice cream parlor. I'm in the mood for gelato.”

 

The present day….

“So there's really no DVD set volume 25?” whined Dean as he, Sam and the actor, Robert Phillips drove back to the Pink Palace.

“It was never filmed,” Robert, sitting in the back seat, told him. “I'm pretty sure we had the scripts written. But it was getting too dangerous.”

After Dean had introduced himself as a devoted fan, Robert Phillips had changed almost instantly from a terrified survivor to rather calm and conversational. Shortest case of PTSD ever, Sam decided.

“Well, what happened?” asked Dean. “Or, what was gonna happen? Dude, you gotta tell me!”

“I don't know. I never saw them. I think the writer packed up and took the last scripts with her.”

“Damn!”

“So, why aren't you in Hollywood?” asked Sam

“Nobody films in Hollywood anymore,” scoffed Robert. “Too expensive. The unions, you know.”

“I don't suppose there's much left of Hollywood any more anyway,” said Sam.

“Maybe,” said Robert. “But I bet it gets back to speed pretty quick after all of this is over.” Sam sent a skeptical look to Dean, who blissfully ignored him.

“You think you'll get back to Dr. Sexy?” asked Dean.

“I don't know. I've been looking for other opportunities. A reason to stretch myself, you know?”

“So, the house I was talking about, you don't recognize it?” Sam prodded.

“It wouldn't be around here,” said Robert. “There's Victorians, but you'd have to go out of town to find a grandma's house out in the woods. Why are you guys so interested, anyway?”

“This is going to sound really weird...” Sam began.

“Weirder than real zombies overrunning my TV show?” asked Robert.

“Well. OK. I get dreams, and sometimes they come true.”

“Oh, you're like Sylvia!” said Robert.

“Uh, who?” asked Sam.

“Sylvia Wallace,” said Dean. “She was on one of the writing teams.”

“Yeah. She was the writer Mac brought in when we had to fire another writer. Old partner of his or something. Anyway, she had a real wacky process. She would dream the show, and then she'd write it down. She had this really cool old manual typewriter. And then she and Mac would work it into a script.”

“She was a prophet of TV shows?” asked Dean.

“Yeah, you could say that.”

“Sylvia Wallace?” muttered Dean.

“Yeah, that's her!”

Sam shot a questioning look at Dean, who supplied, “There was some kinda controversy the last season....”

“Madison was a plagiarist,” interjected Robert.

“What? I knew it!” said Dean. Sam frowned again, so Dean told him, “They had lost some of the writing staff to Croatoan, and so they brought on this hot writer, Madison Blair, to make it up. But then she left suddenly, and no one would say why.”

“Gag order,” supplied Robert. “So Mac brought on his old partner, Sylvia. The one with the dreams. So, you get dreams too? I always wondered what that was like.”

“It's fucking frustrating,” said Sam. “I can't choose what I dream about, or when I have a vision. Or I'll have a vision, like the girl in the house with the pills, and I won't get enough information to do anything about it. Or I'll just forget it.”

“The girl with the pills?” asked Robert.

“Yeah, the reason we're searching for this house is that there's a woman there who Sammy thinks is gonna OD,” said Dean. “And we're riding to the rescue.”

“She spent the dream counting out these red pills. I looked them up,” Sam told them. “Some kind of barbiturates.”

“Wait. A redheaded girl?” asked Robert.

“Yeah, a redhead.”

“Cat's eye glasses?”

“Yeah.”

“Whoa! Freaky!” said Robert.

Sam was turned all the way around, looking into the back seat. “Robert. What the hell.”

“That's Sylvia!”

And the car was stopped.

“You dreamed a Dr. Sexy writer?” Dean demanded of Sam, who was ignoring him. “And you didn't tell me?”

“Robert,” said Sam. “Where does she live? We gotta get to her!”

“She's down in Vancouver. At least, I think she went home.”

“Where in Vancouver?”

“No, no, not here.”

“There's another Vancouver?” asked Dean.

“Vancouver, Washington, guys. She's down in Vancouver. You know, it might be a house in the woods.”

“Son of a bitch!” shouted Dean. “Nobody told us there was another Vancouver.”

 

“You won't be able to get there, I am afraid. The road is impassable.”

“Did the I-5 highway not survive?” Dean asked Michael as he peered at the roadmap spread out over one of the antique tables in Michael's penthouse suite. These past couple of days, Sam and Dean had been treated with some amount of deference by the angels in Michael's retinue because, Dean suspected, he had brought in the missing volumes of Dr. Sexy DVDs. But they were hailed as no less than conquering heroes for dragging in the scraggly remains of Dr. Sexy himself, Robert Phillips, to the archangel's headquarters.

But he and Sam were getting stonewalled on his request to send a rescue mission down to Vancouver, WA. It didn't seem to matter that an actual Dr. Sexy writer was the party in question.

And the angels – his angels – were being no help at all: Cas standing in stony silence, Gabriel hopped up on the back of one of the couches, kicking his legs and rolling his eyes.

“The road's fine, kiddo,” Gabriel said now. “You just got Luci in your path.”

“Gabriel speaks the truth. For once,” said Michael, flashing Gabriel one of his customary dark looks.

“And, you won't try to get through?” asked Dean. “Even for a Dr. Sexy writer?”

“She won an Emmy,” Sam tried.

Michael shrugged. “My powers, unfortunately, are not complimentary to Lucifer's, so, while he cannot harm me, this situation is, er....” Michael looked around in embarrassment. “At an impasse.”

“Is that why you let Cassie go after him alone?” asked Gabriel.

“I never said that,” snapped Michael.

“But that's what happened, isn't it?” Gabriel's grin was genuinely nasty.

Michael glared at Gabriel, and for a moment, Dean worried there was going to be an angel duel right here, right now. Which might have been cool. Dean didn't care for Michael's taste in antiques, so he would have liked to see a few ugly statues broken in the melee.

Michael, however, appeared to deflate. “I don't know what happened to Castiel. You will have to ask your brother about that one,” he added, scowling at Gabriel.

“Oh, so now he's my brother?”

“Do you do the electricity thing, Mkie?” Dean interjected. He flapped his hands in a vaguely wing-like fashion.

“My power is water-based,” said Michael. He turned his back to Dean and walked out to stand on his grand balcony, the sea visible behind him. He turned around dramatically. Dean could almost hear the background music swell. “Most of your planet is water, and I am its master.” He raised his arms dramatically, and you could hear, as if in answer, the surf crashing below.

“Oh, so you're like that useless kid in the Wonder Twins,” mused Dean. Sam stared at him. “You know, Sammy, the one who'd turn into a bucket of water while the other guys were kicking ass?” Gabriel snickered, and Michael just looked pissed so Dean backpedaled. “Uh, I mean ... never mind.”

“If his power was fire...” Michael mused.

“What is it?” asked Sam.

“Light,” said Cas, who had been standing silent as a statue in the back. “Lucifer harnesses the power of light.”

“Ohhhhh!” said Dean, who felt he was finally starting to get it. He stared at Cas. “That's why you tried to take him out?”

“I.... I think so,” Cas told him, nodding. Dean was smiling proudly, and Cas colored slightly. “But I don't really remember.”

“It was an ill-advised move,” grumbled Michael. “You are of low rank, Castiel. You should never have challenged Lucifer. If … that is what happened.”

“Hey, Water Boy,” said Dean, rounding on Michael. “You're Cas's big brother, right? Then it was your job to look out for him. That's what brothers do for each other.”

Michael glared at Dean. Dean heard the waves crashing on the beach far below. He and Sam exchanged a quick glance, Sam silently shaking his head.

“I think this conversation is at an end,” said Michael. And suddenly several of his minions were there, ushering out Dean and his friends. “I am sorry about your little friend.”

“She's gonna die, Michael,” Dean shouted back at Michael. “And it'll be on your head.”

The party ended up gathering in their unofficial headquarters, the building's bar, along with Benny, who had been getting surprisingly friendly with Balthazar.

“They let you out of customs duty, Balthy?” Dean asked irritably. He needed a beer. He looked again at Sam's mournful expression, and decided he needed many beers.

“I was getting bored. It happens frequently, I'm afraid. You boys were the first excitement we've had in months.”

“Something doesn't add up, Cas,” said Dean, gesturing with his beer bottle. “You told me you were always scared you were too powerful? I mean, before you got hurt?”

Cas shrugged and nodded. “My brother is weird,” Gabriel supplied. “What?” he said to Cas's dark look. “You can never be too rich or too powerful.”

“Then why did Michael keep insisting he wasn't a match for Lucifer?” asked Dean.

“It's complicated,” said Gabriel. “Michael's always though that Lucifer was his to deal with. 'Cause he's the oldest.”

“But he will not risk directly confronting Lucifer,” said Balthazar, who was looking around suspiciously. He leaned forward and whispered, “As he was always Daddy's favorite.”

“You think Lucifer should be confronted, Balthazar?” asked Sam.

Balthazar looked around again. “My opinion doesn't matter.”

“Dammit!” said Dean. “We gotta move on this. I don't wanna get sidelined by fucking angel politics. Do you guys have any information about what's going on in Seattle? Or why Lucifer is camped out there?”

“We don't know,” Balthazar told them. “Therein lies the problem. The last few scouts we've sent down that way have not returned.”

“Well. That sucks.”

“Anyway, you gonna trust Mike's intelligence on this, Dean?” asked Gabriel. “I mean, guy didn't even know he had Dr. Sexy running around in his own city until you guys found him.”

Dean nodded, running a worried hand through his hair. “I just don't think we have the strength to take on Lucifer right now. We know he nearly killed Cas.”

“There's other ways, besides a head-on battle,” said Benny, sitting back in the booth.

“What do you mean by that, Fangs?” asked Gabriel

“So, this Luci character,” asked Benny, leaning forward to put a thick finger on the map. “He just squatting on the city, or does he have the whole state cornered? I mean, all the way out to the coastline?”

“I am fairly certain it's just the metropolitan area,” Balthazar told him. “But he's got control of the biggest, clearest roadway between here and there.”

“That is where you're wrong!” Benny declared, swirling his scotch.

“What are you talking about, Benny? What, you want us to fly there?” asked Dean.

“Look out the window, brother. What do you see out there?”

Dean turned around and looked out the Pink Palace's broad picture window. “The ocean. Duh.”

“And what am I?”

Dean grinned. “An asshole. A bloodsucker. And an ex-hog.”

Benny scowled. “Dude, I tol' you. I'm a vampirate! My nest, we sailed the high seas. Didn't you listen to none of my stories?”

“Yeah, but I thought you were bullshitting me,” said Dean.

“Unless I miss my guess,” said Benny, once again pointing a big finger on the map Dean had spread over the bar, “Your Vancouver way down in Washington is proximal to a body of water, namely, the Pacific Ocean, as well.”

The group was quiet for a moment.

“For what it's worth, I don't think Lucifer possesses the angel-power to watch the coastline,” said Balthazar.

“Son of a bitch!” said Dean. “So, we hot-wire a boat, and sail south. Benny, that's awesome.”

 

“Gabriel's going with us? We can't get rid of him?”

“Aw, c'mon Dean,” said Sam as they leaned back against the Impala in the dockside parking lot. “Dude's powerful.”

“He's just annoying. And I don't quite trust him. Cas says he was one of Lucifer's boys.”

“Dude. You trust Michael any more than you trust him?”

“Well, no, but at least Michael's a Dr. Sexy fan!” reasoned Dean. He looked towards the ocean. “The one thing I regret is leaving Baby here,” he sighed, patting the fender of his beloved Impala.

“Well, we're not very well gonna cram this thing on a sailboat,” laughed Sam.

“Baby is not a thing,” huffed Dean.

“Hey, boys!” came Balthazar's voice. “Are we too late for this mystery cruise?” He and Robert Phillips had come hastening up the parking lot towards the Winchesters. Now clean-shaven and wearing brand new clothes, Robert looked a lot more like his Dr. Sexy character, although he was still a bit pale and gaunt.

Dean turned to the actor. “You sure you wanna come along, dude?” he asked Robert. “We'd love to have you, but it's gonna be dangerous.”

“I survived on my own for months,” said Robert. “But there weren't any other people around. I don't know if I wanna be left … with the angels.” He finished in a whisper, as Balthazar was hovering nearby. “Uh, no offense?”

“None taken,” laughed Balthazar. “We are a bit ridiculous, aren't we?”

“And you wanna go too, Balthy?” asked Dean.

“Well, I have a little talent that might come in handy for the journey.” And so saying, Balthazar reached out his arms in a gesture Dean immediately recognized. Dean cringed, wondering if it was electroshock, noise, or maybe a rain of toads.

But instead, there was a howl of wind, and suddenly every banner on the dockside was flying.

“Hey, you got wind power?” asked Dean.

“Might come in handy, sailing and all,” grinned Balthazar.

“Or if we all wanna fly kites,” suggested Sam.

Suddenly there was a huge bleat from the direction of the water.

“What the hell?” asked Dean, instinctively clutching his weapon.

“Is that what I think it is?” asked Sam, witnessing the large craft now gliding into the harbor.

“It's a ferry!” yelled Dean. He turned around to look at his car, and then turned back. “Holy shit! Ha! Benny, Iove you, man!”

“How the blazes did he manage that?” asked Balthazar.

“HEY YOU GUYS! LOOK WHAT WE FOUND!” boomed Gabriel, who, alongside Cas, was waving at them from the upper deck.

After some shouted instructions from Gabriel, Sam, Dean and the rest hurried to the ferry dock. To Dean’s astonishment, the huge craft glided in and docked as if this were an everyday occurrence.

“I not only hot-wired a ship,” bragged Benny as he stomped down the gangplank once they had got her all tied up, “I got y’all a captain! This here is Captain Garth Fitzgerald IV,” he said, indicating the gangly guy walking beside him.

“Aw, I don’t stand on formalities! Y’all can call me Garth!” said Captain Fitzgerald. Dean held out a hand and, ignoring it, Garth pulled him into a big hug.

“Uh, what is this?” Dean whispered to Cas as Captain Fitzgerald then wrapped Sam in a warm embrace.

“That is the captain's chosen greeting method,” Cas told him.

“Oh. Uh. I don't like it.”

“I don't think anybody likes it,” Cas told him.

 

Cas was standing out on the upper deck smoking his inevitable cigarette. He was leaning his waist against the railing, looking out at the ocean. He felt arms wrap around him, and then Dean was kissing his neck.

“It's going to get rougher once we're out of the Puget Sound,” Cas told him.

“You always say such romantic things,” grinned Dean, who tugged Cas around to face him.

“You always appear to have one thing on your mind,” Cas scolded him. Dean had his arms inside Cas's coat and his hands were now wandering around in search of bare angel skin.

“Let's find some place private,” Dean whispered.

“This was just a commuter ferry, I believe, Dean. There are no, uh, private areas as such.”

“Dude,” said Dean, tugging Cas towards a stairwell. “We got the car, remember?”

 

Sam’s already unpleasant expression soured yet more as he watched as Dean and Cas closed the metal door and disappeared downstairs. He had grown frustrated with all the delays, and completely annoyed with the shenanigans of the angels. And all that compounded with the fact that his stupid prophetic dream had sent him to the wrong damn city. What use was it having prophetic dreams if all they gave you was incomplete information and a headache? And they still had no idea how they were going to fulfill their promise to Death to find the antidote, that is if Lucifer really did have a lock on Seattle.

Sam sighed. He had to admit, there was also a pang of jealousy that colored his rotten mood. Dean was happy, and Sam should rightfully be happy Dean was happy. But face it, his brother was sort of a doofus, and here he'd scored an angel? Sam was a prophet! OK, maybe an unauthorized one, but what was in it for him? Where was his damned dream being?

In the wrong fucking Vancouver.

“You know, they wanted to have angels on our show.”

Sam looked up at the actor, who had just drawn near. “Oh, hey Robert,” he sighed, wishing the guy would go bother Dean instead. “Who wanted angels on your show?”

“Mac and Sylvia. They were writing angels, but the network put a kibosh on it. Said it would be offensive. We even had a casting call. But they ended up rewriting it as demons instead. Isn't that weird? That evil would be less offensive than good?”

Sam stared at the doorway where Dean and Cas had disappeared. “I'm not convinced angels are all good. They're … complicated.”

“I guess you know more about it. Those guys … well, you don't wanna knock fans, but they gave me the heebie jeebies.”

“So the writer, Sylvia? She saw the stories in a dream?”

“I figured it was their process, you know? She said she dreamed it, but I didn't take it literally. I used the method myself, but it got difficult when I'm supposed to be playing a doctor dealing with restless spirits and demons.”

“I guess so.” Sam wandered over to the portion of the railing where Cas had been standing, and leaned his arms on it. “So, what do you think the show meant?”

“What do you mean?” laughed Robert.

Sam stared out at the deep ocean waters. “When I get a dream, like when I dreamed about Sylvia, it's a message. I need to do something. I need to go somewhere. It's like getting instructions. What do you think the show was saying?”

“Not a whole hell of a lot. It was on basic cable!”

“OK,” said Sam.

“What? Do you think it all had some kind of cosmic message?”

“I barely watch it. No offense. But Dean's the fan.”

Robert gazed out across the water. “Oh, an intellectual, huh? You probably didn't even have a TV, did you?”

“Well.... No,” Sam admitted.

“Maybe it was about love,” said Robert, now leaning over to stand beside Sam at the railing. “Love conquers all. Love fucks up everything.”

“Love and angels?” asked Sam.

“See? Now you regret you didn't watch it.”

“And what do you regret, Robert?” Sam wasn't 100% certain why he asked, but suddenly he needed to know.

“Sylvia.”

“What?”

“Is that dumb?” sighed Robert, his head sinking. “Here I am, I'm Dr. Sexy, MD. One of the Top Ten Hollywood Hotties, even though I wasn't really based in Hollywood. And she would barely talk to me. She wouldn't even meet my eyes. That had never been a problem for me. I mean, my whole life, since I was a teenager, if I wanted to talk to a girl, she would damn well listen. And then... I don't even know what would have become of it. I just wanted to talk, you know? To find out what she did when she wasn't spending 48 hours trying to crunch out a script for a stupid hospital drama.”

Sam blinked at Robert. “I'm not exactly a relationship coach. But, dude. Didn't you think about just going to talk with her?”

“You asked for my regrets,” sighed Robert.

Sam shrugged and looked back out over the water, silently cursing stupid hospital dramas and their stupid, stupid actors.

 

Dean sighed and shifted to stretch out somewhat more comfortably on the seat.

To be honest, the back seat of his car was large, but not quite large enough for someone of his size to genuinely stretch out. But he wriggled, and grabbed Cas and scooted him around so things were the most agreeable.

They had gotten more or less dressed, but then both had lacked the will to venture outside the car.

“So,” said Dean, as Cas looked up at his own hands. “You done it in the back seat of a car before?”

“Yes.”

Dean blinked. “What?” Even after spending a great deal of time rearranging Cas, he now pulled him around again so Dean could look in his eyes. “You don’t remember anything, but you remember that?”

Cas almost smirked. “Perhaps it was memorable? I think I used to hitchhike.”

“Really?”

Cas nodded. “I’m pretty sure-“ But then the car bucked, and he was nearly thrown from Dean’s lap.

“What the fuck?” asked Dean.

“I think we’ve reached open water,” said Cas, as the vehicle lurched again. Before Dean could grab on to him, Cas had slipped off and opened the door. There was another wave, and Dean bonked his head. “OW!”

“You might wanna get out of the car,” Cas laughed. “Could you toss me my shoes?” Dean did so, aiming for Cas’s head. The laughing angel easily ducked.

“Ah, I thought I might find you gentlemen somewhere in the vicinity,” smiled Balthazar as Cas rooted around for where his shoes had rolled to.

“Some powers of deduction. This is the only damn car on the boat!” sniffed Dean, who was trying to sit on the running board where the door was opened and pull his socks on, but having little luck with it.

“What did you want, Balthazar?” asked Castiel.

Balthazar put a hand on his shoulder. “I am afraid I may have told a teeny tiny lie. I came aboard partially to exercise my wind power, which is fabulous. But I also have some things I’d like to tell you, Cassie. And I wanted a bit of privacy, away from angelic ears, to do it.”

“Like what?”

Balthazar flicked his eyes over to Dean, and then looked back at Castiel.

“Anything you tell me, Dean can know as well,” Cas told Balthazar.

 

Some years ago….

Castiel stood alone on the rooftop in Seattle, smoking a cigarette.

It was one year, to the day, after they had all assembled here for the very first time.

He had lost track of Gabriel and Balthazar some months ago, around the time Gabriel had promised to do some mysterious “job” for Lucifer.

He hadn't bothered to reconnect with them. The feeling of emptiness had finally boiled up inside, overwhelming him. He needed something else. Perhaps it was just to go back to being an angel, although, to be frank, that fate didn't much appeal.

Nothing much appealed.

Or perhaps he had just picked up on the vague sense of anxiety that was now roiling through humanity. Nobody was certain how it originated. Nothing was going wrong. Or at least more wrong than usual. Yes, wars were fought, and there was injustice. But why were people stockpiling firearms, storing away canned goods, constructing new fallout shelters? It didn't make sense.

Cas hadn't quite followed Michael's entreaty to walk the earth, although he had seen a good portion of the United States now. A little while after separating from Gabriel and Balthazar, he had taken to hitchhiking. He wasn't certain why he found this appealing, but he did. The open road didn't fill the empty space in his heart, but perhaps it lessened the ache. He had come upon a cheap suit in a Good Will store, and now wore that when he thumbed a ride. Drivers often took him for some kind of missionary, and he did not disabuse them of the notion. Sometimes he would even get a home cooked meal out of the deal. A lot of humans were supportive of doing God's work, it appeared, even if they were a little fuzzy as to what precisely this entailed.

Purely by happenstance, he sometimes ran into his brethren on the road. These encounters had not all been happy ones. As Balthazar had figured out their very first day on earth, they were currently trapped in human bodies, and divested of most of the powers they had grown used to. However, all of them seemed to have been granted a new power, and each appeared to be unique.

And, being angels, once they had recognized and mastered these powers, they used them to settle petty quarrels amongst themselves.

And there were always petty quarrels.

Raphael, for example, was capable of an electrical attack that resembled a small lightning strike. Balthazar could cause a windstorm. Gabriel had some kind of deadly sonic blast, which was unfortunately difficult to aim, creating the potential of collateral damage. He didn’t appear to care. Michael could harness water. He was very powerful, but at a loss if his opponent was neither standing near a body of water, or there was a low humidity in the area that day.

As for Cas’s power, he didn’t like to use it, as it frankly scared the shit out of him. It was just as well. Despite being a soldier of the Lord, he had never cared much for fighting his own brothers. And so he had mostly avoided them.

“Hello, Castiel.”

Cas hadn’t heard Lucifer arrive, but here he was, along with Raphael and Chazaquiel, who stood back. Raphael was glaring, and the albino, Chazaquiel, was grinning. Lucifer, as he inevitably did, looked earnest.

Cas arched an eyebrow and offered the cigarette pack to Lucifer, who waved him off. “Tsk. Still on the cancer sticks I see. Why are you here so early?”

“I don’t mind waiting,” said Cas.

“Ah. You were one of the Grigori, weren’t you?” Cas nodded. “Yes, one of the watchers. A little on the boring side, I’d think? So, what have you been up to?”

Cas stared at Raphael and Chazaquiel in turn. “Following Michael’s directive. Walking the earth.”

“Oh? And what have you concluded?”

“I like Marlboros,” said Cas, flicking ashes and blowing smoke in Lucifer’s general direction.

“Well, I have come to my own conclusion. Did you wish me to share?”

“You have always had a contempt for humanity,” said Cas.

“Castiel, Castiel, Castiel,” cooed Lucifer, taking Cas by the shoulder. Cas squirmed, but failed to break Lucifer’s grip.

“Let go, Lucifer.”

“Our elder brother is correct, in a sense,” Lucifer whispered. “It is clear we were put here for a purpose. And I have divined just what that is.” And then he held up a small test tube.

“What’s in the shiny, shiny tube, Luci?” asked Chazaquiel, laughing.

“Our Father’s final judgment,” said Lucifer, holding it up. “Something your brother Gabriel fetched me. Though he really has no idea what it is. A virus. Cooked up in a lab so it’s perfect. There’s no resistance, nothing to stop it once it gets out.”

Castiel wrested himself free of Lucifer. “Lucifer, don’t.”

“Tsk, Castiel. You shouldn’t get distracted by trivialities.”

“Trivialities? You are speaking of genocide.”

“Well, I didn’t think you would be on board. You disappoint me. But then, you’ve always been a disappointment, to everyone, haven’t you?” said Lucifer, stepping back. He raised his hand.

“You can’t do this. Are you insane?”

“Oh, then this will be a bit of fun.” And then Lucifer waved a hand, and suddenly there was a light, brighter than any supernova.

Cas was already countering, conjuring a darkness every bit as deep and empty as Lucifer’s light was bright. “Lucifer! There are people in this building!” he called.

“Then they’ll get a show, won’t they?”

He was hit with a jolt as Raphael added to the attack with an electrical charge.

Cas powered up, bleeding it all away, the light and electricity, and desperately trying to keep the darkness harnessed.

It wasn’t the nature of his power that scared him the most. It was his lack of control. The very first time, Cas had knocked over a tractor-trailer. He hadn’t meant to. He had just been trying to hold off Raphael when he had run into him and Chazaquiel by chance in the middle of nowhere. The truck had gone rolling, over and over and over, groaning and buckling, the contents scattering by the roadside as it split open. There had been no one inside, but Cas vowed to himself then and there never to use his powers in a populated area.

The rooftop had started to tremble.

“He can’t hold off all of us,” Raphael barked. “Chazaquiel!”

“Raphael! No!” Cas shouted in vain. “Lucifer!” The building rocked.

And then Chazaquiel, lazy grin on his albino face, joined in too, with his weird star power, molten light and heat all slamming in to Cas. Cas stepped back, and once again stepped up the darkness, creating a hollow where nothing escaped.

“Fuck,” said Chazaqiel as the ground beneath them bucked and roiled.

“Keep going!” said Lucifer.

Cas felt it. It was too powerful for the building to support.

“The building is collapsing!” said Chazaquiel.

“Keep going!” screamed Lucifer.

Cas thought of the humans down below, working in the office building, walking in the street. He felt the foundations crack.

He cut it off.

Light and color returned.

The three powers all hit him full force. He sunk to his knees, expecting to die.

“Stop!” ordered Lucifer. He went over and grabbed the smaller angel by the shoulders. And then he twisted.

Castiel cried out, in the worst pain he’d ever felt, the breath crushed out of him.

“You like your humans?” asked Lucifer. “Then here. Go join them. Be my guest.” And then, as Raphael watching in fascination and Chazaquiel chuckled, Lucifer wrested Castiel from the ground and summarily tossed him over the side of the building. There was a distant splash.

And then Lucifer took the test tube, and flung it after him. “Enjoy watching the ruined world, Castiel. Enjoy watching them dying.”

“Lucifer! What the blazes is going on?” demanded Michael, who had just arrived on the rooftop along with Gabriel and several other angels. “We saw the light. Were you three fighting?”

“Of course not. We three are best friends.”

“Lucifer,” said Gabriel.

“We were just going,” said Lucifer, nodding to Raphael and Chazaquiel. “Coming, Gabriel?”

“What's going on?” Gabriel asked.

“We're going,” said Lucifer. It sounded like an order. Gabriel hastened after him.

“Gabriel!” said Michael. “You walk out now, you are not welcome to come back.”

Gabriel looked around uncertainly, and then fled after Lucifer and his cronies.

 

The present day....

Balthazar leaned forward and extended a graceful hand towards Castiel, who held out the cigarette packet. Balthazar took one cigarette, and then Cas tossed him a book of matches.

They were sitting inside the glassed in portion of the observation deck astern. It was growing dark, so it was a little too cold to stand outside.

“How did you find this out?” asked Cas.

“You mean the last bit?” asked Balthazar. “Chazaquiel. Always got chatty when you got him drinking. I worried about you when you didn’t show up in Michael’s group, because I couldn’t imagine you going off with Lucifer. Yes, I do worry about my baby brother, on occasion. I know as an angel I should be more of a prick. It’s a fault.”

“We are dark things,” said Castiel. Dean, sitting beside him, put a hand on his back, feeling the angel tremble beneath him. “Dark and terrible things.”

“Not so terrible as you suppose, little one,” said Balthazar.

Dean leaned forward. “So, Balthy, you’re saying Lucifer started the Croatoan outbreak.” Balthazar nodded. Dean flicked his eyes over to Gabriel, who was looking away.

“Yeah, but who made the virus? Not angels,” said Sam, who was perched uncomfortably next to the door. He looked pale and sweaty. He had been suffering intermittently from seasickness since they hit open water, and was ready to bolt outside when his stomach reeled.

“Sam is correct,” said Balthazar. “It was a project of the defense department.”

“I don’t understand,” Cas was saying, shaky hands on a cigarette now. “Why didn’t I die?”

“You must’ve gone into the river,” muttered Gabriel. He had been uncharacteristically quiet during Balthazar's story.

“But from that height…” Cas started. He shook his head. Dean grabbed the cigarette from him and lit it himself. “I should be dead.”

“No you shouldn’t,” said Dean, handing over the cigarette. “You should be alive. You should be here.”

“I’ve already heard this story,” said Robert, who was sitting in a corner, drink in his hand.

“How the hell did you do that, Robert?” asked Dean. “You’re not an angel, are you?”

“No. It was one of the last scripts,” said Robert. “We never filmed it, but we were all there, so they did a table read. It was unusual, because things were so bad we were just getting scripts on the day we filmed the show.”

“And there was a conclave about a killer virus?” asked Dean.

“It was a medical show, remember. And they made it demons, not angels. I told you about our sponsors freaking out, right? Mac and Sylvia really wanted to do it. It just never got finished. So I don’t know how it ended.”

Benny stormed into the room. “We’re landing!” he announced.

“Excellent!” said Dean, standing up.

“Do I have permission to bite Captain Fitzgerald in his idiot neck?” Benny grumbled.

“No,” said Dean dryly.

“Damn,”

“Not till we’ve landed.”

Benny grinned.

Cas rose to go outside on the deck. Gabriel stood up as well. “Cas…” he began.

Castiel glared at him and stormed out, slamming the door after him.

 

“Gabriel, for the last time, no, we cannot go by Kurt Cobain’s house,” grumbled Dean. He was puttering around his car, carefully checking for any damage she may have sustained during the part of the journey on the high seas.

“But we’re already in Aberdeen!” whined Gabriel.

“We gotta worry about Sam's suicidal writer asshole before we worry about a suicidal grunge musician asshole,” Dean reasoned.

“Aw, c'mon Dean! Grunge was an art form! Tell him, Cas,” said Gabriel. Castiel looked daggers at Gabriel, and then turned around and stormed off.

“C'mon, Cassie! We're immortal. You gotta talk to me sometime!” Gabriel shouted after him. “Will you reason with him, Dean?”

“Reason with him?” asked Dean. “You're lucky we didn't toss you off the fucking boat. Didn't you think of asking Lucifer what he wanted that virus for?”

Gabriel stared at the ground. “Lucifer wanted a lot of things. I also gave him vitamins! Maybe he wanted to improve the lot of mankind. Like make licorice whips more nutritious, so you could live off 'em!”

Dean didn't answer, he just stared.

“OK, so maybe it wasn't my best decision making. But, look. If your brother asked for something, wouldn't you give it to him?”

“My brother isn't Lucifer,” said Dean with a great scowl.

“So, OK. But I'm on your side now, right? I mean, I helped you with the zombies. And the tar monsters.”

“You know,” said Dean, letting the hood shut with a slam that made Gabriel jump. “Here's what I think. I think you knew damn well something bad was going down. I think you suspected it was Lucifer who hurt Cas. I think that's why you feel so fucking guilty, so you're trying to help.” Gabriel didn't reply. “Gabriel. Isn't it obvious? Lucifer knew the only one among you who had the balls and the power to oppose him was Cas. That's why he and his stooges took him out.”

“Yeah. Maybe,” Gabriel admitted.

“And now the bastard has the only antidote tied up.” Dean sighed. “Look, Gabe, why did Lucifer have you do his dirty work, anyway? Sounds like he's got other guys.”

“I'm best at being sneaky and underhanded,” Gabriel explained with an undeniable note of pride.

“Yeah. Great,” said Dean. He looked up to see Benny approaching.

“You sure I can’t come along, man?” sighed Benny.

“Benny! Dude, we talked about this.” Dean wiped a greasy hand across his forehead. Gabriel arched an eyebrow and handed over a towel. “If Lucifer’s guys find the ship in this harbor, she’s gonna be a sitting duck. Garth is gonna take the boat back out to wait for us, and he needs a crew. And you’re the only person, supernatural or not, who’s got his sea legs.”

“But there ain’t even any nice ground out there,” said Benny. “What if I get injured?”

“Look, you got a few minutes, why don’t you guys grab some shovels and go dig up a crate full of delicious topsoil for you to take along?” Dean asked with a shudder.

“So who’s going?” asked Gabriel.

“Sam and me. And Cas,” said Dean, as Cas had just come back over, along with Sam and Robert.

“Are you sure you want me, Dean?” asked Cas, who had been in a bit of an angel funk after hearing Balthazar's story.

Dean approached the Cas, placing his hands on his shoulders. “Of course we want you along. I want you along.”

“Oh, do we have to hear this? Just kiss already,” grumble Gabriel.

Dean cast an annoyed glance at Gabriel, and then, with a mischievous smile, turned back and landed a kiss on a very surprised Cas.

“OK, no more arguments, you’re going,” Dean told Cas, now winking triumphantly at a speechless Gabriel.

“Well, I should go too,” said Gabriel, recovering quickly.

“No,” said Cas.

“No, you’re not going,” said Dean.

“Cas! I didn’t know about the Lucifer stuff! I swear. I mean,” Gabriel added, looking at Dean. “Maybe I should have. But I didn't.”

“No,” said Cas stubbornly.

“I think I should go,” said Robert quietly.

“Yeah, Dean,” said Sam grudgingly. “I agree. I think Robert should come with us.” Robert smiled gratefully at Sam.

“Well, you’re the prophet,” said Dean, thumping Sam on the shoulder. “OK, you guys. We’re giving ourselves 72 hours. If we don’t make the rendezvous, you head back to the other Vancouver.”

And then, after an uncomfortable round of hugs from Captain Fitzgerald, they were off.

They ran into trouble sooner rather than later. Since Dean had wanted to check out his car before they set off, this meant it was getting dark by the time they got underway, and for whatever reason, the shuffling Croats seemed to prefer moving by night. They had all become accustomed to the relatively safe roadways they had experienced on the Canadian side of the border, so Dean wasn’t prepared to encounter their first crop of the undead less than 20 miles from port, on a section of road that had been, unluckily, blocked by debris.

On the other hand, he was truly impressed with his current team. Though he missed having Benny fighting at his side, but Sam turned out to be deadly with a pickaxe, and Robert seemed to have learned a little about hand to hand combat (and not the kind where you call a stunt man) during his time alone in Vancouver, as he was fearlessly clubbing zombies.

And Cas was of course amazing with the sword. Although, sadly, he couldn't seem to recall how to utilize his power once they had cleared the zombies and it was time to push away the wrecked cars blocking the roadway aside. For that they had ended up using the Impala's push-bar and old fashioned sweat.

Exhausted, Dean decided to pause for a brief rest a few miles up the road. Sam, who was getting mightily impatient, protested vigorously, even though he had been too seasick to sleep onboard the ferry. Dean insisted and, after Sam and Robert were settled down, asked that Cas take sentry duty with him. “Dude, you gotta remember how to use that funky black hole power,” he told Cas as soon as the others were squared away in sleeping bags.

“Dean, you heard Balthazar. And I am beginning to remember as well. My power is dangerous.”

“Well, first off, you don’t know that, because Lucifer hurt you,” said Dean, wincing as he remembered the terrible bruises on Cas’s back. “And secondly, look, it sounds like your brothers are all a bunch of loose nukes as well.”

“That is not a comforting way to express it.”

“I assume you’ve heard of mutually assured destruction?”

“Yes. From the Twentieth Century. The acronym, in case you do not remember, was M.A.D.” Cas shot Dean an accusing glance.

“You managed when you thought Sam was in danger,” Dean said quietly. Cas looked up at Dean in surprise, but then tried to cover it in a shrug. “We're gonna need you up and running before this is done. Remember, we still have to find a way to get to Seattle to grab the antidote. That means confronting your brother again.”

Cas nodded. He heard a loud sound and looked over. Sam was sawing wood.

“This might be good,” said Dean. “He snores when he's doing the vision thing.”

“So why is Robert snoring?” asked Cas with a slight smile.

 

“Why am I here? In a hospital? And why am I in a lab coat?”

“Uh. I think you’re in my show, dude,” laughed Robert, who looked very comfortable in his own lab coat and scrubs. One might even say, he looked sexy.

“And why am I having a dream here?” asked Sam as some gossiping nurses walked past him. “I hate this show! Uh, I mean, no offense.”

Robert looked around. “OK, I think I know what to do. Follow me.” He stormed off a few steps, and then turned and looked back at Sam. “Uh, the deal is, we gotta go together. We do a walk and talk.”

“A walk and talk?”

Robert tilted his head in a “come on” gesture, and Sam began to walk with him. “See,” said Robert, “when you’re doing an expository dialog scene, sometimes it can get really boring if you have two people just sit down and talk.”

“OK,” said Sam, dodging around a group of extras rushing a patient along on a stretcher.

“So to make it dynamic, you just have guys storm down a hallway, and also crank up the dialog speed. Get it?”

“Uh. Got it.”

“Good, now, here’s what I think we do. We negotiate this corridor, and then we can get to the end of this set and into the studio.”

“It’s not a hospital?” Sam fiddled with the stethoscope around his neck.

“I’ve never worked at a hospital, dude. I’m an actor, remember?”

A young woman wearing, inevitably, scrubs and a lab coat, approached Robert and Sam. “Oops,” Robert whispered to Sam. “I need to stop and confront this one. We were sort of having an affair.”

“What?” asked Sam, who didn’t recognize the actress, as she looked to him exactly like all the other actresses on the show, all collagen and Botox.

“Doctor!” she said.

“Doctor,” said Robert.

“Doctor,” she told Sam, although she kept her eyes fixed on Robert.

“Uh. Yeah. Doctor,” said Sam, who flipped off his stethoscope and tried to tuck it in a pants pocket, only to discover that scrub pants don’t have pockets.

“We need to talk, Doctor,” said the young woman.

“Yes we do. But I have a pressing concern right now.” Robert looked at Sam. “We have a potentially suicidal patient.”

The young actress threw back her head, tossing her long brown hair. “Ha. That’s a laugh.”

“Well, actually, no it isn’t. She wrote a bunch of your best lines, so you should probably show some respect.”

“What?”

“Come on,” Robert told Sam. “We don’t have much time.” He strode forward again, and Sam, unwilling to mess up the walk and talk, scurried after him, adding an, “Uh, bye, Doctor!” to the young lady.

“Such a scenery chewer,” muttered Robert. “OK, here we go, through this way.” Sam followed Robert into what looked like a broom closet, but instead, the door opened onto a huge room with prefab metal walls that looked like an aircraft hangar.

“The studio?” asked Sam. But Robert had broken out into a run. “Hey, I can’t talk and run!” Sam shouted after him. Though it was a large space, there were at least as many obstacles as had been in the hospital set, people pushing bits of scenery around on trolleys and hauling around props.

Sam, who was a little out of breath, ran to where Robert was now opening an external door. “Dude, I see where you honed your zombie dodging skills,” he breathed as Robert threw open a door. Sam expected to see sunlight, but it was somewhat darker outside.

“Vancouver, always gets so freaking cold this time of year,” Robert complained as he stormed outside.

Sam, who was used to being plagued by zombies more than being followed by television production people, peered carefully outside the door before following the actor. He wished he had grabbed something he could use as a weapon.

There was an expanse of well-trimmed lawn nearby, and a few picnic tables. A familiar redhead sat at a picnic table, bundled up under many layers of clothing, typing on a noisy old manual typewriter. Robert now stood beside her. Casting one more look around, Sam approached them.

“Sylvia. Where’s Mac?” Robert was asking.

“He went away,” said Sylvia sadly, not looking up from her typing.

“I’m sorry.”

“I wish he had made it. It was bad. Like losing Cam.”

“Hey, Sylvia,” said Sam. “We met before I guess.”

“Hello, Sam,” she said, still hunched over her typewriter.

“Look, we’re coming, like I promised,” Sam told her. “Can you, uh, tell us where you are?”

“I’m here,” she said. “Working. Like always.”

“OK, not helpful,” said Sam, sitting down opposite. He noticed the pill bottle, sitting next to the typewriter.

“Syl,” said Robert, now leaning over her. “Is that a script?”

“Don’t touch it!” she cried as Robert suddenly leaned over and ripped the sheet from the typewriter. He threw it on the table. Sam looked at it. It looked like a legal document.

“This is a will,” said Sam, who reached over and grabbed the pill bottle, snapping off the top and upturning it on the table.

It was empty.

“Syl,” said Robert, as she collapsed back into his arms. “How many did you take?”

“I had enough,” she told him. “I always had enough.”

Robert shook her. “FUCK! You’re not gonna die. Where are you?”

“I’ll already be dead.”

“No! Sylvia,” said Sam. “You don’t understand. We need help. We need your help. I’m like you, OK? I understand. I understand that it sucks. Help me. Even if it’s the last thing you do.” He reached over and gripped her hands, concentrating. “Where are you? Tell me where you are.”

Suddenly there was a huge boom, and the ground trembled. They were all thrown to the ground. Sam scrambled to his feet. The landscape had changed. It was a wasteland. His wasteland.

“What the hell,” said Robert, who was still on the ground, holding Sylvia.

“I pulled her into my dream. Look!” He pointed up to a low hill. There was a rambling Victorian mansion up at the top. “Where is this?” asked Sam. There was actually a whole neighborhood below the mansion, many older houses. “Where are we?” asked Sam. He looked around frantically for some landmarks. A dog had come galumphing up to them. “Hey, Max,” he muttered. The dog waddled over and gave Sylvia a great doggie kiss.

The girl, who had been silent for a while, seemed to roused. “Dog?” she asked.

“Where are you?” asked Sam, squatting down to be at eye level.

“Syl,” urged Robert.

“I liked dogs,” said Sylvia groggily.

“This is Max,” said Sam.

“Oh, I live right near the MAX station,” giggled Sylvia.

“The Max?” asked Sam.

“Light rail. She lives near a light rail station,” said Robert as Sylvia collapsed again.

Sam woke and untangled from his sleeping bag. “We gotta go!” he said, rousing Robert beside him. “Dean! Cas! We gotta go! Now!”

“It’s still dark, Sammy,” said Dean.

“We found her,” Sam told him as Robert came awake. “We gotta go. Now!”

Chapter Text

Title: A Canticle for Dr. Sexy (Chapter 5 of 6)
Fandom: Supernatural
Author: tikific
Rating: NC-17
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Castiel, Sam, Benny, Chuck, Bobby, Missouri, Pamela, Lenore, Michael, Gabriel, Lucifer, Balthazar, Garth
Warnings: Cursing. Suicidal ideation.
Word Count: ~50,000
Summary: The Croatoan virus has brought down civilization as we know it. Dean Winchester, leader of a motley band of survivors, is searching for volume 25 the Video Safari limited edition box set of Dr. Sexy MD when he stumbles into Cas, an amnesiac grubbing for a can of beans at an abandoned Piggly Wiggly. Together with his brother, Sam, who may be a prophet of the Lord, and some friends they meet along the way, they embark on a cross-country road trip to find a cure for the virus and save humanity. But the journey takes our heroes straight into the middle of an angelic feud.
Notes: Set Post-Croatoan outbreak. The compound is based on the Greenbrier, a real resort. This one owes a huge debt to Zombieland, and also a to Vertigo comics.

 

Sam peered nervously from the passenger seat. He occasionally closed his eyes and tried to fix in his brain the brief glimpse of Sylvia’s house in Vancouver he had received in his dream.

In the back seat, Robert, who had never quite woken up, leaned against a rather tolerant Cas’s shoulder and snored. “You can push him over,” Dean told him, addressing the rear view mirror.

Cas, who had been staring out the window, worried look affixed to his face, shrugged and continued regarding the passing scenery.

“We’re getting near Vancouver city limits,” Dean told Sam needlessly.

“Hey, is that rail tracks?” asked Sam, who nearly stood up to point.

“OK, so we’re looking for a station?” Dean asked, even though Sam had told him this a dozen times already. He had rarely seen his younger brother so intense.

“Yeah, follow the tracks.” Dean guided the car towards the light rail line, and they soon found themselves at a station with a big MAX sign overhead.

Sam hopped out before the car had even come to a halt.

“Careful! Watch for Croats!” Dean shouted.

Sam pointed up the hill. “There it is! That’s it.”

“Whoa, Addams Family,” snarked Dean.

Robert had also stumbled out of the car, rubbing his eyes. “Uhhh. Is that what I think it is?” he asked, also pointing up the hill.

“What?” asked Dean, who squinted. There were a lot of moving objects visible on the roadway below the mansion. “Shit! A nest of Croats? We don’t have time! Cas!” he barked, turning to the angel.

“Dean.”

“We need you to figure out your damn creepy dark smoke thing attack. Now!”

Cas looked like he was going to argue, but then dipped his head in agreement. “OK.”

They hopped back into the car and Dean peeled off towards the roadway leading up the hill. Dean skidded to a halt not far from where a group of Croats was milling around. Hearing the engine’s roar, they oriented towards the car and started to move towards it.

Cas grabbed the door handle. “Stay inside,” he muttered. And then he was outside, standing on the hood.

“Oh, don’t get footprints on baby,” sighed Dean, who nonetheless looked worried. Cas pulled his katana from its scabbard on his back, and then stood with it, eyes squeezed shut, apparently concentrating as the Croats stopped ambling and began to charge. And there were more of them on the way, coming out from behind houses and shrubbery.

“What is this, Croat Daytona Beach or something?” asked Sam as more and more emerged from the woodwork.

“There’s more behind us!” said Robert, who was now fully awake.

“Can’t back up,” said Dean. “Great. Cas, what are you waiting for?”

But the angel stood still as a statue up on the hood as the first of them approached. Sam jumped as one pounded on his window. Another was now leaning over the fender, trying to grasp at Cas.

“Cas, hurry it up!” shouted Dean. There was more pounding, and more of them were pouring out from somewhere. “Cas!”

The sword swept. There was a sudden change in air pressure, and Dean slammed his hands over his head as his ears popped.

The Impala lurched, surrounded on all sides by darkness. And then a slam, as if the entire thing had been dropped from a height.

“Cas!” yelled Dean, jumping out of the car.

“Dean, wait!” shouted Sam, grasping at his brother’s arm. Dean choked and was slammed back against the car. But then the darkness slowly evaporated, like a heavy fog slowly lifting. Dean pushed himself to his feet once again and turned to see Cas still standing on the hood, shaking like a leaf. They locked eyes for a moment, And then Dean looked around.

Every single Croat was down.

“Get in, we’re driving!” said Dean. Cas hopped down, and Dean shoved him into the front seat next to Sam, and then jumped into the driver’s seat and roared off once again.

They crested the hill, and squealed into the driveway behind a familiar concrete fence. Sam had the car door opened before they even came to a halt, but it was Robert who charged up to the front door first. “Sylvia! It’s Robert! Let me the fuck in!” he shouted, pounding his fists. He turned. “No answer.”

“Cas. Pop the door,” ordered Dean.

Cas looked at the door and then gave it a big kick, knocking it open.

“Hey,” said Dean, as Robert and Sam rushed inside. “I could have done that.” They shared a small smile, and then followed their friends inside.

Robert was on the floor, cradling a groggy Sylvia, while Sam was tearing around the house. “I need a medicine cabinet,” he said. He ran into a room and then ran back out. “Here. Ipecac. I’ve done this before. Come on!” he ordered Robert. Robert picked up Sylvia and hurried after Sam.

Dean and Cas looked at each other, and then Dean collapsed down on the couch. “Hope we got all the Croats, because that door ain’t fixing itself,” he said.

“You told me to pop it,” said Cas. There was a retching sound coming from the bathroom.

“I thought you had a secret angel mojo thing.”

“For breaking and entering?” asked Cas.

“Hey!” came a yell from Sam. “Can you two assholes make yourselves useful and find the coffee?”

Cas and Dean looked at one another. “Well, come on,” said Dean, heading for the kitchen, “you’re the scrounger.”

“I am an angel.”

“So you have coffee powers?”

“No.” Cas tilted his head. “Do you think she has peanut butter?” he asked.

“Come on. We'll look.”

 

Sylvia sat on a couch in the living room, wrapped up in a blanket. She had insisted, after downing the first few cups, that they make her tea instead of coffee, so she was sipping from a mug with a little tab sticking out of it.

“You had us worried, Syl,” said Robert, who hadn’t left her side.

“I don’t understand why you’re here,” said Sylvia, her voice harsh. She sipped at her tea. “I remember the weird dreams, but I don’t think I can do anything for you. I mean, angels, and Lucifer?”

“We think your dreams meant something.”

“They meant ratings,” sighed Sylvia, setting down the mug. “They meant some people got a paycheck.” She flicked her eyes at Robert, who fussed over the blanket.

“We think the dreams were prophetic,” Sam explained again. “Like mine.”

“It was just a stupid TV show. A really stupid TV show.”

“You have the scripts.”

“Sure.” Sylvia got up, and, adjusting her glasses, walked over to a bay window where an old roll-top desk was wedged. She rolled up the desk, and grabbed some sheafs of paper, which she brought back to the living room and thumped down on the coffee table. “The final scripts.”

Dean dove for them. “Hallelujah!” he yelped, greedily thumbing through them.

“No way,” said Sylvia, staring at Dean. “You’re a Dr. Sexy fan?”

“Um, a guilty pleasure,” said Dean, hugging the scripts to him. “I mean … sorry.”

“No, that show was a piece of shit,” said Sylvia. “Mac just dragged me into it because he was worried about me after Cam … passed away.”

“Cam was your husband?” asked Sam.

Sylvia smiled sadly and, gathing the blanket around her, walked to the hearth, where an array of photographs were scattered. She picked up one and stood, clutching it. Sam walked over to stand near her.

“This looks familiar,” Sam mused, taking the photo.

“We’re at South Lake Union,” she told him. “Up in Seattle. Used to be a factory, but they redid it for the office.”

Sam abruptly dropped the photo and grabbed her shoulders. “Sylvia, what did your husband do?”

Sylvia blinked up, over her eyeglasses at Sam. “Cam? He was CEO of a biotech. That’s how he died.”

“What?” asked Dean.

Sylvia was fighting back tears. “They did research. On the Croatoan virus. You know, for the Defense Department? I told him and told him not to do it. He seemed obsessed. It was supposed to be secret, he couldn’t even tell me what he was doing. But word got out. And one day, on the way to work they shot him. They shot him on the street. In cold blood. And he was gone. And he was the cause all of this. All of this.”

“No,” said Sam. “He didn’t cause any of it. He wasn’t working on the virus. He was working on the cure.”

Cas had wandered over and picked up the photo Sam had dropped. He was now staring at it. “What was your husband’s name?” he asked.

“Cam?” said Sylvia.

“Cameron, right?” said Dean.

“No. It was Camael actually. His parents were religious or something.”

“Were you aware your husband was an angel?” asked Cas. Sylvia’s jaw dropped. Cas held up the picture. “This is my older brother.”

Sylvia sunk back down on the couch next to Robert. “Cam was another angel?” Robert asked Cas. “Just how many of you guys are down here?”

“That is a good question,” Castiel agreed. “My memories are still incomplete, but I doubt they would be of much help. I was not very highly ranked up there, nor very powerful, so I was mostly ignored. I do recall Camael, however. He tried for a time to calm the feuding between Michael and Lucifer. Of course, he was spectacularly unsuccessful.”

Sylvia was staring off into the distance. “I never had any idea. But I didn’t begin dreaming of angel stories until after he died.”

“Sylvia, would Cam have kept anything here from his company: records, papers?” asked Sam.

She nodded. “We could look in his office. I haven't gone in there since he....” She trailed off.

Sam, Robert and Cas followed her upstairs to a locked room, while Dean went to fire up the generator. Sylvia took out a set of keys and opened the door. The smell was a little musty, as if it hadn't been opened for a while.

They heard a small hum, and then the overhead lights went on.

Sam ran over to the computer, plugged it into a power board, and clicked it on. “We’ll hope it didn’t get scrambled with all the power outages,” he said, staring at the screen. He looked up. “This might take a while. We’ve gotta root around to look for the right….”

“What?” asked Dean, who had just arrived in the doorway. Sam simply turned the screen around so they all could see.

There was one file on the desktop, marked, “SYL.”

“Uh, I guess that’s for me?” said Sylvia, who had been hovering in the doorway.

“Click on it,” Dean told Sam.

“It’s a dot-MOV. A video.”

Sam clicked on the mouse. The screen flipped over to a video of a dark-haired, dark-eyed man sitting behind the desk. Everyone, including Sylvia, huddled around.

“Cam,” said Sylvia, brushing her fingers across the screen. “That's him.”

“Syl,” said the man on camera. “If you’re seeing this, then I must be dead. I tried to protect you, my dear, from the moment a realized who you were. You might say, I had one job. And I blew it. I’m sorry. I am so sorry. But now there is something I need you to do.

“But first I need to explain: I’m not what I appear to be. I’ve lied to you all these years. You’d never believe me if I told you the whole story, but let me put it this way: I’m not entirely human. And the place I’m from, well, I heard about a terrible thing some people were meaning to do. So I gave up everything, absolutely everything, in order to be able to stop it. But it was all worth it. I met you. You are my heart, Syl. You are everything.”

Sylvia was now openly weeping. Robert moved over and put a tentative hand on her shoulder. She gripped it and sobbed.

“But now I have to ask you to do something for me. Something very important. As you know, we’ve been working for the Defense Department. Not many people know this, but they’ve been developing a lethal virus. If the virus gets out, it could potentially wipe out mankind. I’m not exaggerating. I’ve seen the effects.

“We’ve been working on the antidote here. It’s a biological agent. That’s good news. All we need to do is release it, and nature will do the rest. But I've heard word lately that there's a group of … being conspiring to destroy all our work.

“No one knows this Sylvia, no one but you: I have samples of the antidote in our SLU headquarters. But here's the catch: it's locked up, not just with human security systems, I've also used some magical tricks. No other being, human or supernatural, is going to be able to get in and touch it. It means it's safe for now.

“As for how to get in, if it's needed, Syl, that's all up to you. You already have the key, you and no one else. Use your gifts.

“Sorry this is so short. And I'm sorry, but after you see this, the file is gonna delete itself. Remember what I've said. I love you, Syl. Please, baby, be well.” And then the picture blinked out. Sam was already typing frantically at the computer, but he stopped and sighed.

“Damn, it self-destructed. I'm sorry!”

“Fucking Mission Impossible fan, now what are we gonna do?” asked Dean.

“Sylvia is a prophet of the Lord,” said Cas. “The secret has already been revealed to her.”

“My prophecies are all stupid stories for that stupid show,” snapped Sylvia.

“And we’ve all seen the shows a million times,” said Sam. “I can't think of anything relevant to breaking into a pharmaceutical company, can you?”

“But we haven’t seen the last episodes!” said Dean.

“So, we need to pore through those scripts?” asked Sam. He sighed. “I suppose that's a possibility.”

“Hey, I have a great idea,” said Robert. “What if we do a table read?”

“I’m sorry?” said Sam.

“You take the scripts and just sit around the table and read them,” sighed Sylvia, wiping tears from he eyes. “It’s like a very early rehearsal.”

“You would read Dr. Sexy?” Dean asked Robert. Dean looked as if he might faint from happiness.

“Yeah, I think I could manage,” Robert grinned.

“Look, won’t this take a lot of time?” asked Sam. “We gotta get back to Aberdeen, before our ride sails off again. Maybe it would be better if we split up and read through them?”

“It will be worth it!” Robert told them. “Believe me. These scripts, they’re nothing on the page. You need to hear them, in the voices. That’s when they come alive! If we’re looking for a message, that’s gonna be how it pops out at you.”

“Robert,” said Sylvia. “It will be nothing but a gigantic waste of time. These scripts are crap!”

“Sylvia, goddammit, stop it right now,” Robert snapped at her. “These shows were really fucking important for a lot of people. Dean told me they used to drive all over the place, through Croat infestations, just to look for missing volumes! And the angels up in Vancouver have weekly viewing parties!”

“The angels watch this stuff?” Sylvia asked.

Robert was still on a rant. “I’m sorry about Cam, Syl. I’m so sorry. But I’m sick and tired of your elitist attitude! You think Shakespeare was writing for a bunch of overprivileged damn college freshmen? No! He was writing for the people. And that’s what Dr. Sexy is meant for. I’ve never been so proud of any work I’ve ever done in my whole career!”

Sylvia laughed, looking at Robert like she was seeing him for the very first time. “You mean that, Robert? Even that tractor trailer safety training film?”

Robert cracked a smile. “Yeah, even that.”

She smiled. “OK. Let’s do it. We’ll use the dining room table.”

“Can I play Dr. Hunnicutt?” asked Dean as they made for the dining room.

Everyone assembled around a large, antique dining room table, Sam, Dean and Cas carefully setting their weapons down on the floor below. Sylvia walked around passing out script copies to everyone. “This first act is hospital personnel. Robert is Dr. Sexy of course, and you wanted Dr. Hunnicutt, Dean?”

“Yeah!” said Dean, grabbing a script and Sam fought down the urge to vomit. “He has a secret passion for Dr. Pierce!”

“I don’t even know who these people are,” sighed Sam.

“You can be Dr. Forester,” Sylvia told him, “the brash young physician with a secret passion for Dr. Gilmore.”

“Hey, do all these guys have secret passions for each other?” asked Sam.

“Yeah, they do. I can play the minor female roles, but my voice is kind of out of it after the coffee and the … purging.” Sylvia brought her hand up to her throat. “Cas, can you play Dr. Lindley, the doctor with the secret passion for Dr. Hunnicutt?”

Cas scowled at her. “You wish me to play a female role?” he growled.

Sam coughed to stifle a laugh. “Uh, yeah, Cas, I think you’d do a wonderful job.” Sylvia looked over at Sam and winked, and then sat down with her own script. She looked around. “So, you wanna give it a go?”

Robert cleared his throat and smiled around the table, causing everyone, including Sam, to smile back. “Doctor!” he barked.

“Doctor!” answered Dean.

“Uh, Doctor,” sighed Sam. There was a pause.

Sam elbowed Cas.

“Doctor?” growled Cas.

Sam and Sylvia both coughed very, very loudly.

 

After they had plowed through the first two scripts without any divine revelations, Sylvia pleaded for a break to fix more tea. While Sam and Dean were in the living room bickering about the most efficient way of fixing the front door, Sylvia placed a kettle on the small camp stove she was using in the kitchen. “Cas, would you mind?” she asked, pointing to a nearby window.

The angel went to the window and returned to his line of questioning. “I have not failed to notice the frequency of unrequited love situations amongst the characters on your show,” he said, pulling on the sash. The window creaked open a crack.

Sylvia cast a glance over at Robert, who had come to sit on the kitchen counter. “Love is very important,” she explained. “People find it intriguing.”

“This is what people care about?” asked Cas.

“Yeah. But unfortunately, you have to put obstacles in the way. Otherwise, you don’t have a story.”

“People do not wish to see a love that is mutual?” asked Cas.

“Well,” said Sylvia, leaning back against the counter. “People tend to think that’s the end of the story. Finding love. Now me,” she continued, looking over to Robert again, “I think it’s the beginning.” They smiled at each other, and Sylvia blushed.

“Humans think love is important?”

“Yeah, it’s the most important thing. You die without it. But, I think I’m supposed to be resting my voice,” she said, patting her throat.

“Sylvia always wrote from the heart. That’s why viewers responded,” said Robert. Sylvia shook her head and went into the pantry to retrieve a box of tea bags.

“You are very well provisioned,” said Cas, looking around the pantry and perhaps remembering his days scrounging.

“Cam insisted. I thought he was nuts, but I guess he knew. I have enough here to live for years.”

“But you did not wish to live because you had lost your love?” asked Cas.

“Cas!” scolded Robert.

“No, it’s OK,” Sylvia told Robert. “Cam – or Camael I guess – was like a soulmate. When he … died, I felt like part of me died too.”

“Don’t angels love?” asked Robert. “I know they can feud!”

“That is all based on love,” said Cas. “We all had a great abiding love of our Father. And Lucifer was always the best loved in return. They said he was the most beautiful of us all.” Cas frowned.

Robert and Sylvia looked at each other. “But you didn’t like him, did you?” asked Robert.

“No,” answered Cas. “Perhaps I am stupid. That is always what the others have said. Anyway, when our Father brought forth Mankind, and told us you were now his most beloved, that was when Lucifer and Michael’s disagreement became more vehement. He was-“

“A spoiled brat,” said Sylvia.

“It sounds like your monologue, Sylvia,” said Robert. “You know, from Episode 547?”

Sylvia smiled sadly. “We leaked that part, didn’t we?” She left the kitchen and came back holding a script. She flipped through the pages, pushing her glasses down her nose and squinting. “Here it is. You wanna say it, Robert? I need tea.” She handed the script off to Robert and turned to the wailing kettle to pour boiling water over her tea bag.

Robert cleared his throat. “That’s what you forget, Doctor. You have an abiding love-” he paused and cast a glance at Sylvia, who shook her head. “You have an abiding love for humanity. But what of the humans? What of us? Love isn’t a general principle. That’s not love. Until you’ve loved one person, one singular, particular person, with all their eccentricities and faults and shortcomings, you haven’t loved. You don’t know love. When you’re down in the trenches, when you’d risk everything for that one person, when you’d dare to be hurt, dare to have your heart cut out, that’s love. That’s what it is to love.”

Sam and Dean had wandered over from fixing the door and now stood in the kitchen doorway, Dean listening raptly to his idol. He offered some applause now. He elbowed Sam who applauded too. Sylvia laughed at them.

“I have just realized why we are here on earth!” said Cas.

“Why is that, honey?” asked Sylvia.

“Our Father put us here to know love!”

“Uh, really Cas?” asked Dean.

Cas's eyes were shining. “It is not enough to simply speak in abstract. I have found love! I love Dean! That was my mission. It was to change my heart.”

There was utter silence for a moment. “Well. Cool!” said Sylvia, noticing the sudden plethora of awkwad males standing around. “Wanna get back to reading?” she asked, grabbing Cas by the elbow and leading him back to the dining room.

Robert paused and patted Dean on his shoulder, and then followed her.

Dean looked as if he might vomit. Or faint. Or perhaps a bit of both.

“You doin’ OK, dude?” Sam asked him.

“Did…. Did I just hear that right?”

“I think the whole room heard it,” laughed Sam. “Look at it this way, though, there’s not that awkwardness where you have to say it back.”

Dean seized Sam by the collar. “What if I do love him back?” he whispered.

“Uh. That’s good?”

“Is it?” said Dean, tightening his grip.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure it is,” Sam choked.

Sylvia was already passing out scripts when Sam finally hauled a still somewhat shell-shocked Dean into the dining room. “We need someone to play the ghost,” she said.

“OK,” said Sam. “I gotta ask. And no offense to you guys. But … a ghost? I mean, seriously!”

“Aw, it’s just part of the show, Sammy,” said Dean.

“But I thought you hated the ghost too!” said Sam, looking accusingly at his brother.

Dean looked sheepish. “We have a ghost,” he told Sylvia.

“Well, yeah, a vengeful spirit,” said Sam.

“You actually know a real spirit?” Sylvia asked, sipping at her tea.

“Yeah, but he's not like this,” said Sam, flipping through the script.

Dean shook his head. “I guess the whole thing kinda sucks, and they tend to get pissy. Our guy mostly destroys stuff. We have to keep him under a whole bunch of different kinds of locks, real and magical, just to confine him.”

Sylvia was staring back and forth between Sam and Dean. “But otherwise he could get anywhere?”

“Pretty much. If Pam and Missiouri hadn't locked him up.”

“And there's no way to get a message to him?” asked Sylvia.

“Why you wanna call a ghost?” asked Dean. “He's mostly in a bad mood anyway.”

“Shit! Dean!” said Sam, tossing down his script. “Bobby can get anywhere! Anywhere anywhere.”

“He can.... Oh!” said Dean, finally getting it.

“You mean to send Bobby to the the pharmaceutical company?” asked Cas, who was also no slouch.

“Yeah! He could open it from the inside,” said Sylvia.

Dean dropped his script on the table. “But I don't know about you guys, they got him locked up tight, and he doesn't exactly have a cell phone.”

“Cas, you can walk in people's dreams, right?” asked Sam.

Cas nodded, thinking it over. “It should probably be Missiouri. I think Pamela is still upset with me.”

“Then we've just gotta get us to Seattle,” said Sam.

“Easier said than done,” said Robert. “Isn't Lucifer still in charge there?”

“Yeah, but I've got a plan,” said Dean, grinning and tapping his forehead.

“You got a plan?” asked Sam.

“Yeah, it's a great one!”

Sam narrowed his eyes. “You mean like Witchita?”

“That was a good plan too!”

The two brothers eyed each other as everyone else around the table looked baffled.

“Uh, anybody else want some tea?” asked Sylvia.

 

Robert and Sylvia waved from the front porch as Dean backed the Impala out of the driveway.

“You think those two crazy kids will make it?” said Sam after he'd closed the gate and hopped back in the passenger seat.

Dean flicked his eyes into the rear view mirror to watch Cas in the back seat. “Cas pretty much ganked every Croat in a 30 mile radius, so I think they'll be good for now. We'll come back for them after we finish in Seattle,” said Dean.

“If we finish Seattle,” said Sam.

“This is foolproof!” Dean glanced over his shoulder again. “You OK back there?”

“I am fine, thank you, Dean,” Cas quietly assured him.

Sam rolled his eyes, being careful that Dean wasn't watching him. After Cas had announced to the whole world he loved Dean, his brother had initially gotten freakish and awkward, as Sam would have expected. But then he had immediately followed up by growing weird and overprotective, at least to Sam's mind. This was a super-powered being who could create some kind of magical black hole, and now Dean wanted to play doting big brother every time he flashed those big blue eyes? He noticed that when they retired last night, Dean had immediately claimed the guest bedroom with the king sized bed for him and Cas, leaving Sam with his feet hanging off the couch in the upstairs sitting room. It was a comfortable couch, but still.

Sam stared out the window, enjoying a wallow in self-pity. His visions had brought them there, and for what? His dream girl – his literal dream girl, Sylvia – had ended up falling for the star of a ridiculous hospital drama (with ghosts!) and now his brother was besotted with some cigarette-voiced angel.

“So, we gotta play some road games or something to cheer you up?” Dean was asking.

“Huh?” said Sam.

“What is the matter, Dean?” asked Cas.

“He's pouting,” said Dean, pointing to Sam.

“I am not pouting!” said Sam.

Cas was now hunched over the front seat, staring curiously at Sam. “See?” said Dean. “That's his pouty face.”

“This is not my pouty face!” insisted Sam as Cas continued to stare.

“Sylvia was kind of cute. Not my type,” said Dean.

“Yes, I believe Sam had developed a crush,” agreed Cas.

“Guys! Don't be dicks!” said Sam. He glared over at Dean and Cas. “OK. OK. Yeah, I admit it. I'm kinda annoyed to end up the third wheel. Or the fifth wheel. Or whatever.”

Dean looked out the window. “We gotta cheer you up, like I said. Huh. Can't really play the license plate game 'cause no other cars. Or punch buggy!”

“I hate punch buggy,” muttered Sam.

“Hey, I know! We got a couple hours. Let's get off the main highway and see if there are any Video Safari's along the way.”

“Oh, god, Dean.”

“I still need volume 20! Come on!” And with that, Dean cranked the radio and they were off.

 

 

“They’re approaching,” said Chazaquiel, shielding his eyes to view the approaching ferry. Lucifer and his henchmen were arrayed along the narrow expanse of the Port of Seattle ferry dock. They had lined up to either side, swords at the ready, prepared to board.

“Yes. They’ve been approaching for the last 20 minutes,” sighed Lucifer. And then he thought, my brothers. Not the sharpest angel blades in the scabbard.

Oddly, the lumbering ship’s pace hadn’t diminished since it had chugged into the shelter of the harbor. Rather, it seemed to have picked steam.

“Who the hell is the captain?” asked Lucifer.

“According to our intelligence,” the pale angel told him, “their vampire worked as a ship’s captain.”

“What?”

“They used to prey on yachts.”

Lucifer was momentarily silenced. “A vampirate?”

“Their seafaring skills obviously leave much to be desired,” said Chazaquiel.

Lucifer continued staring out across the harbor. “Chazaquiel.”

“Yes?”

“That ship still isn’t slowing down.”

“Yes, it’ll probably hit the dock.”

“The dock we’re standing on?” asked Lucifer. “Right now?”

“Uh....” Chazaquiel looked up at Lucifer.

“Run, you idiots!”

The angels assembled on the dock turned and started to flee, just as the great ferry neared. The dock buckled as the ship reached the end without slowing, easily crushing the wooden structure beneath its weight. Two of the angels who had been on the outermost deck were thrown off into the water, screaming. The ferry did not slow, but kept plowing ahead, smashing wooden beams to toothpicks and scattering more of Lucifer’s angels as it went. The dock creaked as it buckled. Lucifer and Chazaquiel had just made the shore as the last shards went under. And still the ferry rumbled on, now pushing ashore as the mighty engines still roared at all ahead full, crushing its way up on shore.

It finally ground to a halt, rammed a good one third of the length up on the shore.

“What are you waiting for? Board her!” shouted Lucifer to the few angels remaining.

 

In another part of town, a sailboat was pulling up on the shores of South Lake Union.

“See? Told you I’m a sailor,” bragged Benny, tossing a line to the small dock.

“You win, Popeye,” said Dean. “Though I gotta say, you cheated,” he added, nodding his head at Balthazar.

“It’s been my pleasure!” grinned the angel. “When this is all over, I think I shall definitely buy a yacht.”

“Steal a yacht you mean,” groused Gabriel.

“Look,” said Dean, jumping up onto the dock, “does everybody have their assignments? Lucifer is gonna realize something is up pretty soon when they board that ferry and find no one aboard.”

“In approximately 15 mintues, give or take,” supplied Garth, consulting his oversized digital watch.

“You guys get the boat to the rendezvous point-” Dean began.

“Where have I heard that before?” said Benny. “You sure I can't come gank some angel bastards?”

“Hey,” said Gabriel.

“And, yeah, I meant the offense, asshole,” Benny told Gabriel. They both grinned.

“Cas and Gabriel will keep us all clear at Cam's headquarters. You protect our escape route. All clear?” asked Dean, who suddenly found himself engulfed in a Garth hug. After saying their goodbyes to Captain Fitzgerald's satisfaction, Dean, Sam, Cas and Gabriel took off up the hill while Garth, Benny and Balthazar once again set sail.

 

“I have the distinct feeling that we are being watched,” said Cas.

“You're just paranoid, kid,” said Gabriel, hiking a sword over his shoulder. Cas scowled at him.

“Keep a sharp eye out, everybody,” said Dean as he nervously watched Sam pick the lock on the back door. “Given that Bobby has managed to bust into the right vault-”

“I gave Missouri very specific instructions as to the time and place,” Cas assured him.

“Yeah, but it was a dream. How could she take notes?” asked Dean.

Cas smiled. “She is very clever! She incorporated it into her knitting,” he explained, miming a pair of knitting needles.

Dean just looked confused, but at that moment the door popped open, and Sam gestured for Dean to come along. Dean squeezed Cas's shoulder, and then disappeared inside after Sam.

Cas looked around. “I'll go over to that corner,” he told Gabriel. “It might give us a better view around.” He started to walk away.

“Castiel, you know, I didn't know what Lucifer did to you.”

Cas halted in his tracks. He turned back to face Gabriel, glowering and crossing his arms. “Do we need to go over this again?”

“Yeah, we gotta do this now! Castiel, you're my brother, and I love you.”

“Oh for fuck's sake,” said Cas, irritably grabbing his cigarette pack from his coat pocket.

Gabriel was staring at him. “Look, I am OK that you're playing grab-ass with the human boy.”

Cas had lit up. He turned to stand over Gabriel. “I am in love with the 'human boy.'”

“Remember where you came from.”

“Yeah. A bunch of dicks.”

“We're your family.”

Castiel sighed. “Gabriel-”

“I need to know we're OK. We're going against Lucifer, and you have to forgive me. I really need to know you forgive me!”

Cas exhaled and then took a deep breath. “All right. Gabriel. We're OK.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.” Cas groaned as Gabriel suddenly flung himself into a big hug. “I have been enduring far too many embraces for my comfort,” Cas grumbled, reluctantly patting Gabriel on the back.

Both brothers turned, startled, at the sound of someone golf clapping.

“Very touching, Castiel,” said Raphael.

“Oh. Shit,” said Gabriel. Raphael had already wound up and threw a small bolt of electrical charge at them. Cas and Gabriel dove out of the way, and then both were up in a flash, Cas with his sword unsheathed.

Raphael was running away.

“What the hell is he doing?” asked Gabriel as they hot-footed it after the fleeing angel. Raphael hopped into the passenger side door of a Porsche 911 that had been parked nearby. The tires squealed, and he was off.

“He's going to alert Lucifer!” panted Cas. “We need to stop them!”

“Goddammit,” grumbled Gabriel.

 

“Which way is it?” asked Dean. The building looked like it had been mostly spared from any looting. If Cas was right, and Camael had been an angel, it possibly had some strong protection spells in addition to locks and keys.

“We gotta get to the top floor,” said Sam. “So it means finding a stairwell since I assume the elevators don't-” He paused, and Dean stopped short as they rounded a corner and suddenly a bank of lights lit up the hallway.

“How the fuck would the generators still be running?” asked Dean.

Sam shrugged and, on a whim, punched a nearby elevator button. There was a “ping” sound, and the elevator doors whooshed open.

Both brothers cautiously poked heads inside, and then withdrew. The exchanged a glance.

“Well, given that he was an angel, and we're supposed to be here to save the world...” Sam mused.

Dean frowned and wedged his axe between the doors so they couldn't close, then entered and tried the buttons. “You got that keycard Sylvia gave us?”

Sam pulled a small credit-card sized piece of plastic from a pocket, and Dean held it up to the flashing red light at the bottom of the elevator buttons. The light flashed green. Then he began hitting buttons. “No. No. No,” he said as they light blinked on and then off. Finally a button lit up and stayed lit. “Yes. 8th floor. Wanna give it a try?”

Taking one last glance around, Sam jumped in the elevator and Dean grabbed the axe. They exchanged another nervous glance as the elevator rose. And then they both jumped at an unexpected sound: the elevator was playing Muzak.

“Holy shit,” said Dean. They listened for a moment.

Sam scowled. “Is that … Carry on Wayward Son?”

“Well, at least they got good taste,” laughed Dean as the elevator came to a stop and the doors whizzed open. They were both out before the doors had even opened all the way.

“Now we just gotta find which room,” said Sam

The brother winced at the sound of a terrific crash, clattering and banging and glass shattering as someone or something tossed a chair through one of the doorways and out into the hall. They heard the cry of “Stupid idjits!”

“I think that's the way,” smiled Dean. “Hey, Bobby, we're on our way!” he yelled as he sprinted down the hall, Sam hot on his heels. Dean skidded to a halt, Sam crashing into him, as he barely missed being beaned by a computer monitor being tossed.

“Bobby! Hey, buddy!” yelled Dean from the hallway. “It's us!”

“Us who?” came a very familiar, if somehow ghostly voice.

“Sam and Dean!” yelled Sam.

“Go fuck off,” screamed Bobby, punctuating it with an entire file cabinet smashing out into the hallway.

Sam and Dean, with some effort, pushed the file cabinet away from the door. “Bobby, goddammit, you did your work, now let us inside!” yelled Dean, who stood in front of the doorway. “Ow!” he yelled as he was suddenly struck by a barrage of flying pencils. “Watch it!” he said. And then he grunted as Sam caught in him a flying tackle, and the brothers now just missed being smashed by yet another hurtled object.

“What the fuck even was that?” asked Dean as he scrambled to his feet.

“Think it's a centrifuge,” said Sam. “Or at least it was a centrifuge.”

“What the hell do we do?” raved Dean. “The door's open, but we got a vengeful spirit, and we don't have time for a spell to confine him!”

“Bobby?” said a female voice from within the room. “It's time to go.”

 

The plan had been simple, as such things go: drop off Sam, Dean and Cas at South Lake Union, and then quietly slip away through the ship canal to find somewhere inconspicuous to dock in the connected body of water, the much larger Lake Washington, while they awaited the boys grabbing the antidote.

But here was the hitch: somehow groups of the roving undead had pretty much ringed the entire fucking body of water. Croats roamed the shore for miles and miles and miles. There was literally no place to dock.

“How many of those fucking things can there be?” Benny said at one point when they were, once again, reversing course to steer away from the shore.

“Maybe we should just lay anchor somewhere in the middle?” asked Garth.

“Yeah, I guess,” growled Benny, showing his teeth in his frustration. Garth cringed.

“That would suit me. I'm growing a bit weary from pushing us,” Balthazar admitted.

“Yeah, you're doin' good work, angel,” Benny admitted.

“I don't suppose either one of you packed a margarita?” laughed Balthazar.

“You go find a safe spot,” Benny told Garth.

“Uhhhh,” said Garth, who was suddenly pointing towards the port. Benny and Balthazar exchanged a puzzled glance, and then turned around themselves.

“Oh, crap!” snorted the vampire.

 

“Goddammit! We need to stop them before they get to Lucifer,” Castiel told Gabriel.

“I got it,” said Gabriel, running to hop on a motorcycle that was parked nearby.

“You can drive a motorcycle?” asked Cas as Gabriel reached pulled some wires to hotwire the bike. “But you can't even drive a stick shift!”

“You mean, you can't drive a motorcycle, Cas?” Gabriel retorted. “What the hell you been spending your time on earth doing?”

“I was hitchhiking, actually,” said Cas as the bike roared to life.

“Huh. That's actually sort of cool. OK, hop on.” Cas jumped in back of Gabriel and they took off like a shot. Gabriel hadn't been exaggerating: he could drive. Raphael's driver was fast, but the motorcycle was faster.

“Pull up alongside them,” Cas yelled at Gabriel.

“What are you gonna do?”

“Something crazy. You'll like it.”

Gabriel gunned it and roared up Fairview. He felt Cas shift in his seat. “Oh, shit, you weren't kidding,” he said as he realized Cas was standing up in the seat in back of him.

“Faster!” yelled Cas.

Gabriel gunned it and the bike came abreast of the car. Cas leapt and was clinging to the top of the car. And then, to Gabriel's utter astonishment, somehow, Gabriel would never know how, Cas was up on one knee on top of the speeding car, his sword poised. And then he struck, thrusting down with all his strength, the katana piercing the driver's side.

The car veered, and Gabriel gunned it, barely missing getting broadsided. The out of control Porsche ran up off the street, up the curb, over the sidewalk, and crashed onto a low concrete wall, spinning as Cas was thrown off and rolled onto the grass that grew in the yard beyond the wall. The concrete wall, which was a good three foot thick, cracked all the way through.

Gabriel turned the bike and sped over to the crash site. He hopped off and ran to where Cas was already sitting up.

“Whoa! Easy,” said Gabriel, putting a hand on Cas's shoulder. He looked the worse for wear, battered and bruised, but OK.

“The car! Did you check the car?” asked Cas.

Gabriel looked around. “Uh, looks like we've got more problems.” Cas blearily followed Gabriel's glance. It was true: all of the noise and commotion had started to attract a mob of Croats.

“Fuck me,” said Gabriel. “OK, you sit tight kid, and I'll blast 'em.” Gabriel hopped up and went to stand on top of the concrete wall, concentrating fiercely as the Croats approached. Cas looked around. There was a great crowd of the shuffling zombies gathering here, like the mob they'd run into near Sylvia's house. Cas flinched, closing his eyes as Gabriel flicked his hands to let out a sonic blast. He felt woozy as he watched the Croats go down.

And then leapt up as Gabriel screamed. “Gabriel!” he shouted. His brother was getting fried by an electrical blast. Gabriel collapsed. Leaning on his sword to help himself up, Cas stumbled over to where Gabriel was lying. Cas nervously checked his pulse. Gabriel's heart fluttered, his breathing ragged. He had been completely caught by surprise.

“Who's next?”

“Raphael,” said Cas. He pushed himself to his feet with some effort, bleeding and panting.

“Ah, Castiel. So here is what happens. You either need to stand down, or I will kill you,” grinned Raphael, who stood beside the ruined car. He had blood dripping down his face, and one of his arms was hanging uselessly at his side.

“Sorry, no.”

“Good. How’s the wings?”

“Still crushed.”

“Even better.” Raphael raised a hand. He looked at the blade Cas was holding. “You know, I noticed something. That’s not an angel blade.”

“Your powers of observation are undiminished.”

Raphael glowered. “Stand aside. Or die.”

“Sounds like a plan,” said Castiel.

Raphael flicked his hand and sent an arc of electricity whipping towards Cas, who calmly moved his blade and reflected it perfectly back at Raphael.

Raphael shrieked and jumped back.

“You see to have the same issue you did with me before,” said Cas. “Only worse.”

“I will end you.”

“You would kill a brother?” Cas asked.

“You're not my brother.”

The words chilled Cas to the bone. Casting a glance back at Gabriel, he told Raphael, “You are still my brother. And I still love you,” he added sadly. And then while Gabriel began to wave his hand, Cas refixed his grip on the hilt, and once again let the darkness sink into him. Electricity arced over, but it was all lost in a cold darkness.

Cas could feel it, Raphael pushing it, trying to overwhelm him, and then, quite suddenly, he felt his brother no more. He backed off, and light and color and warmth returned once again to the world. He blinked, lowering his sword. Raphael was now slumped over the car. Cas leapt down to check on him. He sighed. Raphael's body was already cold. Cas sighed, grieving. He hadn't wanted to do this.

“Gabriel!” he shouted as he turned back towards his brother. “Oh no,” he whispered, now rushing back to Gabriel, who was lying still on the ground. He gathered Gabriel into his lap. “Gabriel?”

“Cas,” breathed Gabriel, who grasped Cas's collar and pulled him down. “I gotta tell you something. It's about Lucifer....”

 

Sam and Dean peeked cautiously through the office doorway.

“Hey, it's that cute waitress chick!” whispered Dean.

“Tessa. She's a reaper,” Sam whispered back. Before Sam could grab him, Dean had slipped through the door and approached Tessa and Bobby's spirit.

“Who the hell are you?” Bobby’s spirit demanded of Tessa.

“I'm here to lead you to the other side,” she coolly informed him.

“You're a reaper?” he asked.

“Yes,” she told him.

“Well, the hell! Why didn't they just send someone like you the first damn time!” Bobby's spirit grinned and took Tessa's hand.

“Uh, Bobby,” said Dean. Sam had already begun to ransack the lab.

“Oh, the idjit probably wants to talk,” Bobby told Tessa, patting her arm. “You wait here, dear, and I'll be right with you.”

“Look, Bobby,” said Dean. “I know this hasn't been the easiest time for you...” Sam was now standing beside him, holding a metal box. “But I – we – owe you a lot. I mean, not just for this....”

“Holy shit, I thought you said not goddam chick flick moments?” demanded Bobby. “OK, now, listen up. I'm leaving for good now. I got a date with a real pretty gal. I think it's as good a way to go out as any. But I'll be listening. So you three keep your noses clean, else I'll be back. And more pissed off than ever.” And with that, Bobby turned and, courteously sticking out an elbow for Tessa, walked off to the other side.

“The three of us?” asked Dean, wiping something in his eye that was definitely not a tear. Sam, who was sniffling back his own chick flick reaction, unloaded the contents of the metal box all over one of the desks Bobby's hadn't managed to overturn. Dean looked around. It really appeared there had been some kind of riot in the office.

“Hello, Dean,” came a deep but strangely soft voice.

“Cas! Are you OK?” asked Dean. The angel was battered and bloodied, and when Dean put a hand on his face, he could see Cas was also teary-eyed. “You're not OK.”

“Gabriel didn't-” Cas stumbled. “I had to kill Raphael. And then Gabriel....”

“Your brother,” said Dean softly. “Oh, man. I'm sorry.” Dean shook his head, squeezing Cas's shoulders. “Look, can you get around OK? I know it sucks, but we're gonna have to get our asses in gear to get out of here.”

“I'll be OK,” said Cas.

“Good, 'cause we gotta hustle to make it to the damn Love Boat before the three hour tour.”

“What?” asked Cas, tilting his head in confusion.

“Not so fast,” said Sam. “Roll up your sleeves everybody. You're gonna get jabbed with the cure.” He held up a syringe.

“I'm not human, Sam,” said Cas.

“Doesn't matter. According to Camael's notes, as long as you're hauling around a human body, you can reproduce this stuff. We've all got to become antidote factories, and the more people get it, the better. In case.... Well, you know.”

“Coat,” Dean told Cas softly as he began to wrest out of his own jacket. After arms were bared, Sam gave them each a stick with a needle, causing Dean to yelp and Cas, surprisingly, to yelp even louder. “I'll give you guys lollipops,” Sam promised, handing a syringe to Dean.

“Awesome!” said Dean, who lost no time in sticking it to his brother. “How long before we start spreading anti-Croat bugs?”

“It's gonna take about a day for us to begin shedding virus,” said Sam, rubbing his arm and scowling at Dean. “So...”

“So we gotta stay alive for the next day?” said Dean. Sam nodded.

“There is one more thing,” Cas told them. “Gabriel told me this.... He told me this when he was dying. He thinks Lucifer can control the Croats.”

'You mean getting assaulted by packs of those undead bitches was not just random?” asked Dean.

“He meant to do that,” grumbled Sam, who was packing up a stash of syringes and the antidote. “Great.”

“We were surrounded by Croats when we were pursuing Raphael,” Cas explained. “That's how Gabriel was killed.”

“We better keep it tight when we go catch our ride,” sighed Dean.

 

And as for the little sailboat, it was under seige.

With Garth at the helm and with Balthazar summoning the winds, they had managed to evade their pursuers, a mob of angels manning a yacht. At least one of the pursuing angels had some kind of ice power, and it kept stinging Benny in his eyes.

“I've had just about enough of this angel bullshit!”

“Oh really?” sighed Balthazar, who was frankly growing tired and even a bit cranky.

“No offense, brother,” said Benny.

“Can you do something, friend vampire?” asked Balthazar, who cringed as another ice storm hit. “I'd really hate to be late for cocktail hour.”

Benny stood and scowled at the yacht, which was named “JUST 4 KIX.” “It's even got a damn funny name!” he raved. “Garth!” he barked. “You got yourself an anchor cable?”

Garth, who had been ducked behind the helm, pointed. Ignoring the ice storm, Benny stomped over to the anchor. He grabbed it and hauled it to the side, and then began swinging it around on the anchor chain like a cowboy spinning a lasso. “Get ready, pirates, we're gonna board.” He let loose with the anchor, and it flew off to the yacht, where, either by luck or uncanny accuracy, it struck the angel who had been conjuring ice storms. He yelped, and then howled when Benny tugged on the chain, pinning the anchor and the angel to the side of the yacht.

Benny began to pull on the anchor chain, hand over hand, and Balthazar jumped up behind to help him. The two crafts were side by side. Benny nodded to Balthazar as he fixed the chain, and then, grabbing weapons and hollering at the tops of their lungs, the two scrambled over the side.

Chapter Text

Title: A Canticle for Dr. Sexy (Chapter 6 of 6)
Fandom: Supernatural
Author: tikific
Rating: NC-17
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Castiel, Sam, Benny, Chuck, Bobby, Missouri, Pamela, Lenore, Michael, Gabriel, Lucifer, Balthazar, Garth
Warnings: Cursing. Suicidal ideation.
Word Count: ~50,000
Summary: The Croatoan virus has brought down civilization as we know it. Dean Winchester, leader of a motley band of survivors, is searching for volume 25 the Video Safari limited edition box set of Dr. Sexy MD when he stumbles into Cas, an amnesiac grubbing for a can of beans at an abandoned Piggly Wiggly. Together with his brother, Sam, who may be a prophet of the Lord, and some friends they meet along the way, they embark on a cross-country road trip to find a cure for the virus and save humanity. But the journey takes our heroes straight into the middle of an angelic feud.
Notes: Set Post-Croatoan outbreak. The compound is based on the Greenbrier, a real resort. This one owes a huge debt to Zombieland, and also a to Vertigo comics.

 

“We're screwed.”

Dean crawled back from the edge of the roof on his belly and, once he was far enough back, sat up. He held up a hand and Sam helped him to his feet.

“The whole lake?” asked Sam, who now assisted a sniffling Cas to his feet as well.

“You wanna go look?” asked Dean. “The whole shore of the lake – every single landing point – is crowded with fucking Croats. Cas wasn't kidding. Lucifer has it in for us.”

Cas sneezed. Dean blinked at him. “You OK, buddy?” The angel, who was already looking a bit the worse for wear, now sported a bright pink nose.

“I feel a little … under the weather?” said Cas.

“I think it's a rare side effect of the antidote?” Sam shrugged.

“Great, just our luck!” said Dean. Cas sneezed again, and wiped it on his trench coat sleeve. Sam handed over a tissue. “OK, look, Cas,” said Dean, taking Cas's shoulders in his two hands. “I know you're not feeling great, but we really gotta clear off at least an area so Benny can come save our asses. You think you can manage it? If Sammy and I keep the Croats away long enough for you to power up?”

“Dean, the problem with my power isn't too little, it's too much,” sniffled Cas. “I might have trouble keeping it to the shore. I might end up … hurting people in the boat!”

“Yeah, but we were all right sitting in the car, right by you,” said Dean.

“I know. But Dean...” Cas looked into his eyes. “I feel like crap right now.”

“Yeah, I know. It sucks. But if you can pull yourself together for this....” Dean scowled. “I tell you what, you pull yourself together, when we get the fuck outta Seattle, you stay in bed a week! And I'll bring you chicken soup and tea and porn movies and whatever the fuck you want!”

Cas's eyes strayed questioningly over to Sam, who was guffawing. “Cas, I know you're hurting man, but I'd take the offer. Dean never coddles sick people. Believe me.”

“Sammy's right. I don't. I'm an asshole. Ask him about the day I dropped him off at school with a 102 temperature.”

“It's true,” said Sam, nodding frantically at the charming Winchester family memory.

Cas got a dubious look on his face, but finally nodded. “All right, let's go,” said Dean.

They made their way downstairs, Cas sniffling all the way, and then proceeded down to where they were within sight of the shores of Lake Union.

“You need to be...?” Dean started.

“As close as possible, yes,” Cas nodded, wiping his nose.

“Yeah, I was afraid of that. Sammy, you good?”

Sam nodded, although he was anything but good with this.

“And I can’t fight while I’m … powering up,” Cas reminded them. He stopped and pulled his sword from the scabbard. Dean nodded to Sam, who noticed that the nearby Croats had picked up on their presence. A few went from milling around to wandering in their direction. He knew that once one or two attacked, it would just mean more. He glanced nervously back at Cas, who already seemed lost in his own world.

There was a howl and a thump, and Sam saw Dean had downed the first one. He whirled around, swinging the fire axe he’d grabbed at the pharmaceutical company, and connected with a Croat skull. He reversed, managing to jab another in the stomach, and then downed another with the blade. Cas was doing that thing where he looked like he was posing for Ninja Weekly. “Can we hurry it up?” Sam muttered, knowing it would do absolutely no good.

The thing with Croats was to keep moving, something that was impossible if you were defending a currently motionless angel. When you stayed put, you were just inviting them to crowd you. Sam struck out again, and again. More of them meant more of them, and they seemed attracted to commotions, which is exactly what you got, fighting Croats.

Sam hit, and hit, and hit, and then the fucking axe got caught in a skull and it was gory so it slipped from his hands just as another one came around and he stepped back and hit a muddy patch and fell on his ass and started to crawl away and then….

WHUMP! Benny’s club downed one, and then another, and then another.

“BENNY!” yelled Sam. He scrambled to his feet and grabbed his axe back, and looked down towards the water, where Balthazar was holding off a mob.

“What the fuck is that?” asked Dean, pointing to the ship that was waiting on the lake, a rope ladder hanging down to the beach.

“Wanna sail my new yacht, boys?” laughed Benny.

“JUST 4 KIX?” asked Sam.

“We gotta rename the sucker soon as I can get the paint. What the fuck is your angel up to?”

The answer came as Cas suddenly moved, quick as lightning.

“Hit the deck!” screamed Dean, but Benny and Sam were already down, and Balthazar suddenly turned and leapt back into the boat.

It was dark as dusk, and there was a sudden drop in air pressure, like before an oncoming storm.

And then a faint tremble, just for one, two, three, four seconds.

Sam stayed on the ground, but after hearing and feeling nothing for a few moments, risked poking his head up. He jumped to his feet, and was quick enough to grab Cas just before the angel crumpled to the ground.

“That was it?” asked Benny, who was also lumbering to his feet.

“Look,” said Dean, pointing with his axe.

Every single Croat was down, not just in the area, but as far as the eye could see, up and down the shoreline. And the ones on the far shore had stopped moving as well. Dean toed one nearby, and it emitted a soft sigh. “Watch it!” he said, now holding up his axe. “They’re still alive!”

Benny looked around. “Hey! Is that … sirens?” he asked.

Sam looked up towards the city, and saw flashing lights approaching.

“Boys! Let’s get out of here!” Balthazar called from the ship.

Benny and Sam broke for the ship, and Dean grabbed Cas and half carried him down towards the beach just as the first police car pulled up and stopped nearby.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Lucifer bellowed.

Dean hopped onto the rope ladder after Sam. “Cas hurry up!” he yelled down at Castiel.

Cas looked up, and then turned and stalked towards Lucifer. “I’ll hold him off,” he muttered.

“You’ll…. Cas! Oh, what the fuck,” said Dean, jumping off the ladder as well. “Benny,” he called up, giving the craft a push. “Take off! Now!” The engine roared to life, and the craft shuddered and started to pull out.

“Dean, no!” screamed Sam, but his brother ignored him, and the ship was already backing away. “Goddammit!”

“What do we do, Sammy?” asked Benny, who was staring at him sympathetically.

Sam looked frantically towards the retreating shore, but then appeared to form a plan. “OK, OK, wait, Garth?” Garth nodded at Sam. “Make for the opposite shore! Now!”

“You have an idea?” asked Balthazar.

Sam was fishing the metal box full of antidote out of his bag. He opened it and examined the contents. “Yeah. I got an idea. And I’ll need everybody’s help. Everybody, roll up your sleeves!”

“Uhhhhh, we ain’t gonna get poked, are we?” worried Benny.

“Yeah, that’s the first part,” said Sam, who pushing on a plunger and watching a bit of liquid squirt out of the hypodermic needle in his hand. “Now if you’ll-“

There was a crash, as Benny fainted dead away onto the deck.

“I guess our friend don’t like needles,” grinned Garth.

 

“Lucifer,” said Cas.

“Tut. You’ve looked better, Castiel,” said Lucifer, crossing his arms and grinning down at Cas. “Still enamored with your human friends? Because I can’t say the association has done you good.”

“Fuck off, Lucifer,” growled Dean, who grabbed a shaky Cas under his arm. Cas cast a panicked look at him.

“They are loyal little things, I’ll give them that,” laughed Lucifer, who had been joined by the angels who had made it off the ferry dock. “Will you be terribly upset when I snap his neck?”

“I wouldn’t do that,” Cas told Lucifer, a warning tone in his voice.

“And why not? You’ll see. It will be fun.”

“Boss?” said Chazaquiel. “The ship is getting away. The prophet!” But Lucifer waved him off.

“Gabriel told me you control the Croats,” said Cas.

Lucifer smiled and stared at his fingernails in a parody of modesty. “Oh, it’s just a little talent. Barely worth mentioning.”

“So do I,” stated Cas, raising his sword.

“Oh, you do not, you pathetic little prevaricator.”

“I put them in this sleep,” said Cas, nodding his head to indicate the unconscious Croats who were scattered up and down the beach. “I can wake them up.”

“You,” said Lucifer, pointing at him, “are and have always been a horrendous liar.”

“So you can see I must not be lying.”

Lucifer actually looked uncertain. He glanced over at Dean, and then back to Cas. “You can barely stand.”

“Lucifer,” said Chazaquiel.

“Shut up!” Lucifer told Chazaquiel. He turned back to Cas. “You’re bluffing. And making a poor job of it.”

“Lucifer the boat is getting away.”

“I know the boat is getting away!” yelled Lucifer, rounding on his henchman.

“It’s on the other shore!” yelled the albino, pointing out across the lake.

“What?” asked Lucifer. “What the hell are they doing?”

“Hold me steady, Dean,” Cas whispered.

“Cas….”

“Just do as I say,” Cas warned him. He quietly brought up the sword, and then flicked it slightly.

Lucifer was fuming. “Go after them!” he shouted. “See what they’re up to!” He turned at the sound of moans. Several Croats had woken up, and one of them was now shuffling towards him. “Wait! Fuck!”

“You can actually do that?” Dean whispered to Cas, who was now trembling.

“As long as I stay conscious.” Cas flicked the sword again, and more Croats rose. All of them seemed to be making a bee-line for Lucifer.

“Get them out of here!” yelled Lucifer as Chazaquiel punched out a woman who had strayed rather too close to him.

“Wait! You want us to go after the other guys or get these guys?” asked a confused minion who was standing up near the car.

“Get these guys first, then go after the other guys!” yelled Lucifer.

“Angels ain’t the sharpest tool. No offense,” Dean muttered to Cas, who chuckled, and then sneezed.

 

“Don’t be worried about air bubbles,” Sam told Garth. “These people are already dead anyway.”

“I wanna do it right,” said Garth, who was insistently flicking at his hypodermic needle. Benny, who remained a bit pale looking (if one may indeed say that of a vampire) remained aboard the JUST 4 KIX. As it turned out, he had always hated needles. Meanwhile, Sam, Balthazar and Garth ran around immunizing every Croat in sight.

“Lucifer can kill us,” Sam repeated, “but I bet he can’t kill every single one of these guys.”

“Sam! Your brother!” yelled Benny. He was up on deck, holding a pair of binoculars.

“Is he OK?”

“Those Croats over there are wakin’ up!” Benny yelled back.

Sam frowned and scaled the rope ladder to the JUST 4 KIX. Benny handed off the binoculars. “It appears that our undead friends wanna eat Luci for a meal.”

Sam shoved the binoculars back at Benny and ran to call Balthazar and Garth. “Get back here you guys! We gotta go pick up Dean and Cas now!”

“I’ve got an air bubble!” yelled Garth.

“Fuck your air bubble!” Sam yelled down.

“That ain’t polite! Had you looked in to meditation, my friend?”

“Just get back in the damn boat.” Balthazar grabbed Garth by the scruff of the neck and basically threw him at the rope ladder.

 

Cas was still waking Croats faster than Lucifer could deal with them. Dean was growing more and more worried, though, as Cas had gone from trembling to outright shaking in his grasp. Dean was the only thing holding him up.

Dean cast a look backwards, and then put his mouth on Cas’s ear. “Cas! Sam is coming! The boat turned around! Just hold on a minute. Hold on!”

Cas nodded but didn’t say anything. He sneezed.

“No you idiots!” Lucifer raved as the pile of Croat carcasses around him grew ever larger. “Get him! Go kill Castiel!” Several of the angel minions suddenly looked up from what they were doing to glare at Dean and Cas.

“Oh, shit,” said Dean. He turned back around. “Hurry up, Sammy. Goddammit.”

The angels were being delayed by Croats, but a couple of them had managed to break free and now approached Dean with murder in their eyes.

“OK, down you go,” said Dean, as gently as possible lowering Cas to the ground. He gripped his axe, idly wondering if it worked on angels, while Cas, with a moan, wilted down to collapse at his feet.

He cast his eyes back and forth between the angels, wondering which of them would strike out first. There was a slim, dark one, and a really big redheaded guy.

He fixed his grip on the axe.

Cas whimpered.

The redhead lunged. Dean pivoted and raised his axe….

And then it all went black.

 

“I hope this isn't a bad time?”

Dean was the first to recover, jumping up and looking around frantically. He had expected to be dead. Instead he seemed to be in some kind of....

“I trust you still fancy pizza?” Death inquired politely, waving a hand around the pizza parlor.

Sam was there as well, and he and Dean exchanged a confused glance.

“Uh, yeah, thanks, Death,” said Dean. “I could, uh, go for some pizza. And maybe a beer?”

“I always prefer wine, but I suppose we could scrape something up,” said Death, nodding at Tessa.

“May I politely inquire where the fuck are we?” growled Benny.

Dean helped a shaky Cas to his feet and looked around the room to make sure they were all present. He heaved a sigh to see they were. “Uh, Benny. Garth. Balthazar. This is....”

“Death,” said Balthazar, going to shake his hand. “You will forgive me if I did not wish to encounter you at this point in my existence.”

“I assure you, I only wish to discuss business with the Winchester brothers at this point.”

“Uh, hey Death,” said Garth. It came out as sort of a yelp, and Dean noticed with some little amusement that the ship's captain made no move to embrace Death.

“Hola,” said Benny. He stood still as a statue, his eyes dancing around the place, searching, Dean knew, for an escape route.

“You haven't any reason to fear either, my friend,” Death told the vampire. “Though I am not, as you might understand, favorably inclined towards those of your race, you have proved quite useful in this present venture. I believe, Tessa, that we may have some AB negative in the pantry?”

“I'll go check,” said Tessa agreeably, as she deposited a wine bottle on the table, and a few frosty bottles of beer. Dean strode to the table and took a grateful guzzle of the beer. Tessa uncorked the wine.

Cas sneezed and fell into a chair. Tessa handed him a box of Kleenex, and departed for the kitchen.

“Perhaps some nice chicken soup for Mr. Castiel?” Death told Tessa.

“T'ank you,” snorted Cas. Dean sat down beside him, resting his arm on the back of Cas's chair.

“Home style chicken soup,” said Death, taking a seat at the head of the table. “My new cook's specialty I have found it cures everything.”

Sam went to sit beside Death. “We think it's a reaction to the vaccine.” Bahthazar seated himself as well, and then Garth, and finally, with a last look around the restaurant, Benny.

“Yes,” said Death, helping himself to some red wine. “That was very good work on that matter. And even though the rest of you fellows were not involved in the negotiations, please be aware that you have earned my gratitude.” Death picked up the wine and swirled the glass, sniffing the bouquet.

Benny looked over his shoulder, where Tessa was pouring a thick red liquid into a wine glass for him. “Fresh AB negative,” she said.

“Uh, my thanks, darlin',” Benny told her. “Uh, cin cin,” he said, raising the glass to Death. The crowd raised glasses and beer bottles while Tessa handed out menus.

“I must warn you, I'm starting a new chef, so orders might sometimes be a little delayed,” warned Death.

Sam put down the menu and gave Death a sharp look. “Delayed? Like, exactly how long could they be delayed?”

“Oh,” sighed Death. “There's no telling. It could be hours.”

Sam and Dean exchanged a look.

“Uh, like 24 hours?” asked Dean, hopefully.

Death smiled and opened his menu. “Would anyone care for suggestions?” Cas sneezed. “Gesundheit,” Death told him. “Did we need more soup? I’ll call the chef.” Death signaled to Tessa.

“Oh, don’ bodder. Really,” said Cas as Tessa disappeared into the kitchen.

“WHICH OF YOU IDJITS IS SCARFING DOWN ALL MY SOUP?” yelled a very familiar voice. Dean and Sam exchanged an astonished glance.

Bobby’s ghost came storming out, soup tureen in his hand. “Oh, it’s an angel idjit! That figures. You bastards are garbage guts, all of you.”

“Uh, hey, Bobby,” said Dean cautiously, as Bobby’s agitated spirit ladled more soup into Cas’s bowl.

“Dank you, Bobby,” sniffled Cas.

“Hey, Bobby,” smiled Sam. “How you doin’, man?”

“I can’t complain!” said Bobby, waving the ladel. “The hours are good, and that waitress is a doll!” Tessa, who was standing just outside the kitchen, winked at Bobby.

“Dis is bery flaborful,” Cas agreed, taking another grateful spoonful.

“Least you ain’t got a sweet tooth. Not like your brother!”

Cas’s eyes widened. “Gabriel?” he whispered.

“If you mean the short loudmouth, yeah. Now, I gotta go make some pizzas for a bunch of dumbasses.” And with that, Bobby stormed back into the kitchen.

“Never trust a fair tempered chef, I always say,” grinned Death. “Their irritability is directly correlated, I’ve found, with their skill level.”

“Has he seen Gabriel?” Cas asked Death.

Death looked towards Cas, smiling. “Bobby is new here, so he spoke out of turn. I would never say such a thing of my kitchen staff.”

 

“I really feel fine.”

“The week isn’t up. You’re probably still shedding virus!”

“Isn’t that the point?” said Cas, who was buried under a million blankets and propped up on an equal number of pillows.

“I said you’d stay in bed a week, didn’t I?” asked Dean, who, even though fully clothed, cheerily invited himself to stretch out on the bed alongside Cas after placing the breakfast tray carefully on a bedside table. “Besides, isn’t this great? A house in the suburbs. It’s even got a fucking white picket fence.” Dean unscrewed the cap on one of the beers and handed another over to Cas.

Cas sat up. “Don’t you think all this is horrible?” he asked, waving the beer around.

“Hey, careful, don’t spill your beer. Oh, yeah, it’s pretty horrible,” Dean cheerily agreed.

“Dean, this has been very, very nice of you, finding this empty house out in Bellevue….”

“Wasn’t hard, they’re mostly empty.”

“Well, that brings up the issue: what if the owner wakes up and comes around wanting his house back?”

Dean lay back, balancing the beer bottle on his belly. It was true, the antidote was working, and Croats in the vicinity were slowly but surely waking up with, one presumed, massive hangovers.

It wasn’t all sunshine and unicorns shitting rainbows, of course. The Croatoan virus had made a lot of badly injured people functionally immortal, so the antidote actually came as a death sentence for some. There weren’t, after all, a whole lot of functioning hospitals right now. For every dozen that awakened, there was a body or two to account for.

And then there was the whole issue of the mess the apocalypse had made of the infrastructure. Beside the human toll, there was going to be a lot of cleaning up before things got back to any semblance of normal.

And added to the general chaos was the fact that no one knew what had become of Lucifer. Well, Dean admitted, Death probably knew, but they really owed the dude, so he wasn’t inclined to go hitting the guy up for any more favors. Though his pizza was fucking awesome.

But Dean found it difficult to worry about all this, especially since Cas seemed so eager to take on the role of Official Winchester Worrywart. Dean thought maybe later he’d have to duke it out with Sam over the role. But right now, his brother was safe, and he had an angel who smelled like spices lying in a big, warm bed.

“Dean?”

“Oh, uh, yeah,” said Dean. “Look,” he said, rolling over on his belly. “We’ll be outta here by then I’m sure.”

“It seems like we’ve been here forever already,” grumbled Cas. “Can I at least go out on the porch and have a smoke?"

“No! You got a respiratory illness, so no cigarettes. Besides, you shouldn’t smoke.”

“Why the hell not?”

“It’ll stunt your growth.”

Cas had murder in his eyes, but was distracted by an enthusiastic knocking on the door.

“Hey! You guys in there?” hollered Sam.

“We’re in bed! Doing really disgusting things!” Dean yelled back.

“Yeah,” said Sam, barging in regardless. “Fully clothed, huh?”

“Wanna see?” asked Dean.

“No. Why are you fully clothed?” asked Sam.

“I’m bringing Cas breakfast in bed.”

“Two beers?” asked Sam.

“When you get your dream girl, then you get to make her your version of breakfast in bed?”

“I’m your … dream girl?” sputtered a glowering Cas.

“What’s up?” Dean asked as Sam thumped down on the bed.

“Seriously. Benny has started acting agitated about getting back to his ‘home soil,’ and I was thinking now that Cas is better….”

“He’s got three more days!” stated Dean.

“I’m perfectly fine, Sam,” said Cas, who was still glaring over the “dream girl” comment.

“Maybe we could start heading back?” said Sam.

“I’m not going back, Sam,” Dean informed him.

“What?”

“It’s not for me, back there,” said Dean. Sam peered at Cas, who was shaking his head, as if he had heard this before. “I was born for-“

“The open road,” chorused Cas, in a not bad imitation of Dean’s voice.

Dean glared at Cas, and started, “They can’t-“

“Tie me down,” said Cas.

“That’s annoying,” said Dean, Cas echoing every cadence, and Sam desperately tried not to fall off the bed laughing. “Stop that!”

“OK, OK,” said Sam, waving for them to stop. “We can talk about it later. What I wanted to do was go out for a walk. I’m pretty sure I’ve spotted people in this neighborhood. I mean, people people. And I wanted to see if any of them are out.”

“The Croats are really moving back in?” asked Dean, giving a worried glance at Cas.

“I dunno if they’re Croats or just folks who stuck it out. But Balthazar and Benny are too fucking lazy to come along, and I didn’t wanna go alone.”

“We’ll come with you, Sam,” said Cas making to rise.

Dean pushed him back. “No we’re not.”

“You need to let me out of this bed!”

“Or what?”

“Or….” Cas cast around for a threat. He looked at Sam and grinned. “Or else I’ll make one of those faces Sam makes!”

Sam glared.

“Oh, there’s no way you could do wounded puppy dog,” laughed Dean.

“I bet I could,” glared Cas, who looked nothing like a puppy.

“No way,” said Dean as Cas suddenly contorted his features into something that resembled less and angel and more perhaps a bull moose in heat.

Dean fell off the bed.

“I so do not look like that,” pouted Sam.

“Are you kidding? That’s fucking perfect!” said Dean, who had just managed to raise himself up on two elbows.

Cas had already sprung off the bed. “So we’re going.”

“Yeah, I guess,” laughed Dean. “Sammy, you give us a minute to find the angel some pants?” he added, as Cas was currently wearing only badly torn sweatpants and an equally well-worn AC/DC T-shirt.

Sam nodded and left. Cas was already headed towards the bathroom, stripping off his T-shirt.

“Hey,” said Dean.

“What?” Cas called over his shoulder.

“The bruises! They’ve faded.”

Cas, who was in the bathroom by now, frowned at his own mirrored image, and then pivoted around to glimpse his back over his shoulder. Dean was right, the angry purple contusions had much faded and shrunk down.

“That’s strange. It’s been that way for a year.” He was distracted enough that he didn’t see Dean coming, only felt the hands on his waist, hoisting him up to the bathroom counter. Dean put a hand on each thigh and found Cas’s mouth with his own. “It’s strange,” Cas repeated as the clench broke.

“It’s good, right?” Dean muttered into his neck.

“Maybe. I don’t know.” Cas tried to look back in the mirror again, but was stopped by Dean pulling him back around for more open-mouthed kisses. “Your brother is waiting,” Cas murmured.

“Did I tell you you smell really good?” Dean whispered, pushing Cas’s legs farther apart.

“Yes. But you can tell me again.”

It didn’t take long to get the sweatpants off.

 

Sam waited a few minutes with increasing impatience, until he heard a rhythmic thumping emitting from the bedroom, and realized he’d be waiting for quite some time.

“Ah, to hell with it,” he grumbled. He grabbed his coat and headed for the door, remembering to also pick up a shotgun. Since the Croat menace was fading, they wouldn’t have to be as paranoid about making noise, although ammo remained scarce.

Sam made sure the door was closed behind him and then made for the front gate. Despite the house being in fact inside a gated community, the owners had been paranoid enough to erect yet another high fence around the premises. He wondered why the owners hadn’t remained here, as it also appeared to have a stocked up larder as well as backup generators. A rich but stupid person, he reckoned. Sam detested gated communities on principle, though he reflected that he had benefited from them during the Croat situation.

Although he was supposed to be on alert, Sam’s mind drifted as he walked. It was nice, walking. It was something he hadn’t been able to do since they left the camp so many miles ago. And even there, he was likely to run into someone who wanted something from him, or wanted him to squeal about where Dean had run off to. He had understood why Dean was now daydreaming about taking off. For his elder brother it must seem like a weight off his shoulders to be away from there, even if it meant sometimes literally fighting for his life.

Though Sam wasn’t at all certain he completely approved of Dean’s current choice in a partner in crime. An angel with death powers? Sam sure as hell didn’t want to be in the house when they had their first fight. And knowing his mercurial brother, it was bound to happen.

His mind had drifted to how to force pharmaceutical companies to employ angel-proofing for their dangerous materials when it happened. He never heard it coming, and didn’t realize he was in danger until he was sprawled on the sidewalk, a great weight on his back, panic rising.

He felt something wet drop on his neck, and with some effort, he rolled over and felt it bounce off. He reached out a hand.

It was a drool-covered tennis ball.

And then there was a muzzle in his face, nuzzling his nose.

“Get off!” howled Sam.

“Max!” came a female shout.

Sam sat up and looked around, gripping the dog by the collar. “Max?” he asked. The dog barked happily. It was weird, it looked just like the Max who liked to root around in his prophetic dreams.

“MAX!” came the voice again, and now she was standing not ten feet from Sam, a petite blonde, gripping a shotgun. She peered at Sam, keeping her distance.

The dog tore away from Sam’s grip and bounded up to the girl. “Uh, I’m sorry. He gets over-enthusiastic sometimes.”

“It’s OK,” Sam assured her. He stood. He felt a little banged up, but everything seemed to be in working order. He turned his attention to the girl, who was not half bad looking. In fact, now that he had time to assess the situation, she was quite cute.

“He’s never gotten off the leash before,” she was saying.

“It’s OK,” said Sam. “I like dogs!” He took a cautious step forward, extending a hand. “Sam.”

She gave him a critical once-over, and finally extended her own. “Jessica,” she said.

 

“You gave it a push!”

Two angels had settled on the hillside. As they were true formed angels, there wouldn’t have been room for many more than two. The first, who was larger and darker, fluffed his wings in irritation.

The second, smaller and fleeter, answered back, “What?”

“You gave it a push! It’s against the rules.” And the dark, angry wings got another flap.

“I pushed the dog. You can push the dog.”

“You are in violation, Gabriel!”

“Aw, don’t sweat it, Raph,” grinned Gabriel, settling back and watching Sam, Jessica and Max walk off.

“It’s Raphael, not Raph. And I will sweat it. Grigori are supposed to watch. You know, we are currently not on the best terms with our Father, else we would not have pulled the worst-"

“The best assignment!” grinned Gabriel, arching his great golden wings in sheer happiness. “Anyway, our work here is done.”

“Our work?”

“Wanna go hit up Death?” asked Gabriel, scrambling to his feet. There were many trees on earth that were not as tall as Gabriel in his true form.

“Oh not again. I think you irritate him.”

“Whaddya mean? Death loves me! We’ll go get some spumoni. And then maybe we can do some dream walking.”

"You two!" There was now quite suddenly a third true formed angel on the hill. He was sized midway between the two, and had six pairs of magnificent wings, all of which were arched up in irritation.

"Camael," said Raphael, guiltily.

"Hey, Cam!" Said Gabriel brightly.

"What are you two troublemakers up to now?" asked the Seraph sternly, although there was a note of affection in his voice.

"Gabriel pushed a dog!" tattled Raphael.

"Shaddap, Raphie."

The two angels pushed each other, as if getting prepared to grapple.

"Knock it off, boys," ordered Camael, his true voice stern. "You are Grigori. Not idiots." He frowned. "Come along now. We have some dream walking to do."

And then he was there no more.

"Yeah, c'mom, Raphy-boy," said Gabriel, disappearing after him.

"Raphael!" boomed Raphael. And then he too was there no longer.

 

Dean looked around in confusion at the tree-lined walk.

"Hello, Dean."

"Hey Humpty Dumpty," Dean told the angel sitting up on the concrete fence, smoking a cigarette.

"Did you know," asked Cas, gracefully hopping down, "that nowhere in the poem is Humpty Dumpty referred to as an egg?" Dean scowled, so Cas continued, "I looked up the nursery rhyme after your brother made the same reference when I encountered him in a dream."

"So this is my dream?" asked Dean.

Cas took a drag in his cigarette. "No."

"Then I'm in your dream?" Dean asked, gesturing for the cigarette.

"No," said Cas, handing off the cigarette. "We are evidently sharing a post-coital nap, and have both been pulled into someone else's dream. Hey!" he added as Dean stamped out the cigarette.

"No more smoking. Not even in dreamland," Dean said decisively. "Because-"

Cas stood erect. "I have already achieved my full height!"

"Because I love you," finished Dean.

Cas stared, whatever had been on the tip of his tongue now stifled. "Oh," was finally all he could muster. And then he frowned and studied the path beneath his feet. He looked back up at Dean, his cheeks flushed very pink. "Anyway, come along now." He turned and walked ahead, and Dean followed him.

"We're at Sylvia's house," said Dean, recognizing it instantly. But it was different. The curtains were all opened, and they could hear noises and laughing voices within. The door was thrown open before they had even reached the porch.

"Dean! Cas!" said Robert Phillips, holding out his arms for a large and very sincere hugs. He was barefoot, and grinning and looked quite the opposite of his Dr. Sexy character. "I was just meditating," he enthused.

Sylvia was sitting down on the floor in front of the coffee table, typing away on a large manual typewriter. "Hey boys!" she said, not pausing in her typing. "Cas, Dean. This is Mac." A tall man, nearly as tall as Sam but maybe half as wide, stood up from the couch opposite and extended a hand.

Dean was trembling as he shook Mac's hand. "Omigod. You're MacArthur Hecht?" he stammered. Cas frowned at him, puzzled.

Sylvia finally looked up, her eyes glowing. "Mac is my writing partner. He went missing and we all assumed…. Anyway, he came to me. In my dream. And now Robert and I, we’re heading up to Vancouver.”

Dean gasped, realizing the implications. “You’re gonna write Dr. Sexy again!”

“Volume 26,” laughed Robert, who had plopped down on the couch in back of Sylvia. He leaned over and kissed the top of her head.

“This is the greatest news ever!” Dean boomed. “Somebody find some champagne or something!”

“I was thinking maybe you’d wanna come up, Dean,” said Sylvia. “Film a cameo? I mean if you’re still in the neighborhood.”

“WHAT?” said Dean, who looked like he might fall over dead.

“Maybe we can have him play the brain damaged patient,” laughed Robert.

"You could help too, Cas," Sylvia told him, smiling.

"We're doing angels this time," said Mac. "Fuck the networks!"

"Fight the power," laughed Sylvia, raising a fist.

"This is great," said Dean. "We'll get Sammy...."

“I dunno about Sam," grinned Sylvia. "He’s found a girl.”

“What? When?" asked Dean.

"Five minutes ago," said Sylvia, checking her watch.

“You Winchesters are … impetuous," noted Cas.

“That’s us!” Dean admitted.

"You boys are gonna have a lot on your plates," said Sylvia. "A mission! But I'm not allowed to tell you. They said I could contact you about the guest star, though, since we still don't have cell phones back."

"I've already got a mission in mind!" said Dean. Cas looked up at him, puzzled.

 

Dean awoke with an angel drooling into his chest. He looked down, carding his fingers through the hopelessly messy black hair.

Cas stirred, and muttered something incomprehensible into Dean's sternum.

"C'mon Cas, wake up."

The angel blinked up at him, his eyes filled with sleep. "Dean."

“C'mon Cas. Get your pants. We got a mission."

"Mission?" slurred the angel.

"Dr. Sexy! We gotta go track down volume 20 before the new season starts. Come on. Let's go!"