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The Coven of Paimon

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P-R-O-M-I-S-E

Bear River, Wyoming. It was way out in the middle of freaking nowhere, which sucked, because it meant sleazy motels with worse beds than usual. Also pretty typical for his job. Well, at least it wasn’t that freaky hoodoo case he’d been tracking down in Louisiana. He’d had to sleep in the back of his baby, because with that witch doctor around, nowhere had been safe. Not even a motel.

Luckily the doctor hadn’t touched his baby, or Dean would’ve been toast.

This was his third hunt without any contact from Dad, which was a little weird. Last he’d heard, his Dad had gone out to check on somethin’ down in Texas. Supposedly he’d gotten a lead on the thing that’d killed Mom. He wasn’t too sure exactly what his dad was hunting, but he liked not having to check in every other day.

It was nice not having the man breathing down his neck for a change.

He would’ve loved having backup on a hunt like this, though. He could get it done alone, but he wished Sammy were here with him anyway. Not like he could trust any other hunter to have his back.

Dean was on his way to the house of the most recent victim, with a fake FBI badge. It was much easier to fake being FBI with a gun, since he didn’t have to dress up in a monkey suit. As he walked down the street, he considered what could be doing this. Ten deaths in a small town, all ruled as suicides, with each of them dying in ten different ways over the past three weeks, which made it a pattern.

The first guy had been found locked in his car with the engine running. It’d been wrapped around a tree, but the body was almost completely intact. The second, a woman about Dean’s age, had killed herself by jumping off an overhang at a local park. Body also nearly completely intact. The third was an old woman who looked like she’d overdosed on sleeping pills, while the fourth had hung himself in his room. Again, the bodies were completely intact.

Intact bodies from what seemed to be accidental or suicidal deaths. In a town as small as Bear River, nobody just dropped dead or committed suicide without being linked somehow, and the nearly-intact bodies just made things weirder.

After the fourth death, people started dying from freaky, screwed-up seemingly ‘natural’ causes. One guy in his 20s and in near-perfect shape had died of a heart attack. The newspapers described it as a ‘shocking’ death since the man was a star athlete and training to be an Olympic runner. It almost looked like poison, but there were no traces of it in the autopsy report Bobby’d put together.

Another had caught what had looked like the flu, and died from it, despite being about forty and in otherwise perfect health. One woman supposedly died of TB without ever getting it treated, but from what the obituary said, she’d only started coughing about a day before her death. Then some guy died of what looked like the Black Plague, according to his obituary, and a woman had died of ‘a botany accident’ of some kind. Then, the last one’s obituary hadn’t even said how she’d died-just estimated time of death and said she was found in her house.

Suspicious, ‘natural’ deaths were usually because of some creepy witch or something worse. God, Dean hoped it was just a crazy witch on a revenge kick. Otherwise he’d need backup, which he didn’t have right now.

He was on his way to the last victim’s house, to try and figure out how she’d died. And maybe, he hoped, to get more of a lead on the killer.

The deaths were all different. It was probably a witch, given the way most of them died was ‘natural’ but stuff like this was weird, even for a witch to pull off. It wasn’t at all like the normal, freaky deaths they caused from their rituals and spells-it was worse. But it sure as hell wasn’t a restless spirit, either, which meant it was something more dangerous.

There wasn’t a pattern to the killings, either. That was Dean’s only real clue right now. If there really were something funky about how the last vic died, it’d confirm that this was all connected somehow and give him more of an idea of what he was dealing with. Hopefully the witch wasn’t looking for ritual sacrifices for somethin’, which would be just his dumb luck.

Somehow he always ended up in the middle of those things when hunting witches, and it sure wasn’t like he asked for it. Hopefully this time he wouldn’t end up smack in the middle and in need of backup.

As Dean walked, he looked down at the paper again, frowning at the vague wording of the obituary. What the hell kind of obituary didn’t put in cause of death, anyway? Just seemed really weird.

He didn’t see the person coming his way until it was too late, and then they hit him hard in the side of his left arm with a meaty thud. It felt like being hit with a bar of solid metal right above his elbow joint, and fiery pain shot through his whole arm. Dean stumbled back a few steps with a curse as the other stumbled back too, dropping something to the ground.

Dean grimaced, clutching at his aching arm as he looked up and blinked back the tears of pain in his eyes, fully prepared to give the jackass that’d hit him a piece of his mind. Then he saw her, and his breath caught as he stared.

Because the jackass who’d hit him wasn’t a man, or an old lady intent on getting somewhere quick.

It was an attractive woman, about his age. She had long, wavy dark hair pulled back into a low ponytail, framing a face with high cheekbones, pale skin, and stark, piercing blue eyes. She was wincing, too, holding her left shoulder like it hurt-a lot, no doubt.

And she was wearing a tan trench coat over a slightly too-big men’s suit. Which was not normal, but hey, he’d seen weirder on humans.

She caught his eyes, and her own eyes widened “Oh,” she said, wincing as she rubbed at her shoulder where she’d hit him. “I’m sorry,” her voice was deep, almost throaty, like she’d just had sex. “I wasn’t watching. Are you alright?”

Dean shrugged, hiding the wince as he regretted the action “It’s not that bad,” he replied. He was pretty sure he’d have a bruise from it, but it wasn’t worth a hospital visit. “You?”

“I’m fine,” she said, all traces of the wince gone as she shook out her shoulder. That shoulder felt like it was made of steel. She bent down, picking up her purse and the leather-bound book that had fallen out of it, “I’m sorry I ran into you,” she said.

“Nah, don’t worry about it,” he said, giving her his best lady-killer smile. For some reason that made her expression darken a little. “What’s your name?”

The least he could do was get her name. Maybe more, if he was lucky.

Besides, who wore a trench coat and suit in the middle of July, even if it was Wyoming? It was nearly seventy degrees and she’d have been sweltering, but she looked fine. That was a little suspicious. Maybe he could get some information out of her, or maybe she was involved on the case.

And if not, well, he might get her number anyway.

She tilted her head slightly to the side, almost reminding Dean of a bird, and frowned slightly. “I thought it was common courtesy to give your name first.”

Dean chuckled “Yeah, sometimes it is,” he said, “I’m Dean.”

She didn’t smile, but he swore he saw her lips twitch a little, and her expression became much less serious. It made her look years younger. “I am Castiel,” she replied.

Castiel? Who named their daughter Castiel? Really odd name, especially for a girl.

She was probably from some uber-religious family. He was pretty sure there was a church of St. Castiel or some angel named Castiel, somewhere in all the reading Bobby had made him do last week. It sounded Biblical, at least. But the name seemed to fit.

Dean nodded “Interesting name.” Castiel shrugged slightly, as if she was used to hearing it. She probably was. “You from around here?”

“No,” said Castiel, “I am,” she paused, and tilted her head again “I am looking for someone.”

Family, friends, boyfriend…? It didn’t look like it to him, but he couldn’t tell. He wasn’t nearly as good at reading people as Sammy could.  

Dean smirked a little “You don’t look like the type.” Almost immediately Castiel’s expression blanked out, and Dean felt like he was staring at a blank wall.

Castiel nodded “I have to go. It was nice meeting you, Dean,” then she moved around him, and he watched her go.

Her clothes hid what they could, but they couldn’t hide her walk-graceful, but stiff, like a soldier’s. Maybe she was one of those Army brats who couldn’t fit back into normal life or a rich kid with weird tastes in clothing. He’d sure as hell run across those before-and he hated most of them. He might run into her again, if he stuck around, which would be awesome. She was awkward, but then awkward women were cute, and once he got them going they could be really good in bed. Beneath that suit, he was fairly sure there was a sexy woman, and her voice was really sexy.

Dean really hoped she was normal. He’d hate to have to hutn her, weird though she was. She was the first woman he’d met since Cassie who hadn’t looked twice at him to start with, or been drawn in by the smile. Some girls were good for a one-night stand or some fun, but Castiel…didn’t seem like the type.

Beneath that suit he was pretty sure there was some kind of catlike woman, given the way she walked with that deep-throated sex voice. He’d be disappointed if she had a boyfriend, even though she didn’t seem all that interested.

Tearing his eyes away from her, he turned toward the house of the latest victim, one Emily Smythe. Well, no time like the present to get to work on charming the locals. Even if what he really wanted to do was find out more about this mysterious Castiel chick.

He walked up the steps to the house, and knocked on the door without looking back.

“We don’t want any more visitors, well-wishers, or ex-friends!” came a gruff shout from inside the house. “Go away!” it sounded like an older man with a slight Western accent; probably Emily’s father or grandfather, given how old she’d been.

Dean just knocked again. Some people were rude, but this was his job, and Dean had dealt with worse on a bad day. “I’m not any of those,” he said, “FBI, sir; open up.”

He heard someone get up and start walking toward the door. FBI usually did the trick. Dean stepped back from the door, with his hand in his pocket on his false ID. His other hand was on the handle of his gun, because he didn’t know what kind of guy this was answering the door.

The old man who answered the door looked to be in his sixties or early seventies, with short, whitening hair, several wrinkles on his face, and reddened eyes from crying. He was a little shorter than Dean, wearing a short-sleeved plaid shirt and jeans.

Dean flipped out his FBI badge, professionally “Agent Dean Lannister,” it was time to shake things up a bit, since he’d started reading that Game of Thrones series, and he liked the house of Lannister.

Sexy, crude, power-hungry bastards the lot of them, but if the shoe fit… hell, he wouldn’t complain.

“You don’t look like FBI,” the man said suspiciously. “You look a little young.”

Dean glanced around and leant in slightly “I’m incognito right now,” he said, lowering his voice. “Trying to keep from raising a big fuss about this. The director wants this investigated, but without raising a big stink about it. Can I come in?”

The man nodded “Y-yeah, sure,” and stepped back from the door, sniffling as he let Dean in.

It was just like any other home that Dean had ever seen, and he’d seen quite a few, except here, there were Chinese paintings in the entryway. He’d seen a picture of Emily; she’d looked half-Chinese, which meant her mother was probably from Asia, since a picture of her dad had been in the newspaper. This guy didn’t look Asian, though, so he was probably her granddad on her dad’s side.

“This way,” said the man, leading him into a living room area that had an Asian rug on the floor, a low coffee table, and a couch as well as two leather chairs.

The room was elegantly furnished, had a fireplace, and on the mantel above it was several pictures of people, including Emily. Curiously, no one else was home, even though Emily was ‘survived’ by her whole family, including two brothers, a sister, a mother, and her grandparents, who were said to have found their granddaughter.

Dean was distracted by the old man, “Do you want a beer?” Dean turned to him in surprise, and the man offered him a small, sad smile, “I’m having one. Unless it’s against regulations, of course.”

Dean smirked “Yeah, well,” he shrugged “Not really big on the rules myself. One beer won’t hurt.” The elderly man smiled a little more.

“I knew a man like you, when I was in the Army,” he said, and Dean was left in the living room to look around a little. “Good man, he was. Great commander,” the ex-soldier added from the kitchen.

Dean paid very little attention, trying to take in the living room instead, but couldn’t stop the faint flush from rising to his cheeks at the praise.

There was a computer plugged into the wall, with its monitor resting on what looked like a serious gamer’s desk. Dean wasn’t going anywhere near that, not unless he found out something about the woman that meant she was a gamer. For all he knew, it belonged to a relative. Instead, he walked over to the mantel, to take a closer look at the pictures.

Emily’d been beautiful, not that the picture in the paper did her any justice, and was exactly Dean’s type. Asiatic features, dark hair, heavy-lidded warm hazel eyes, and a tendency to dress in really nice clothes. Almost like a super-hot nerd girl, kinda like the ones he’d seen at Stanford the last time he’d checked in with Sammy, at the sorority parties. She was standing arm-in-arm with a woman who didn’t look related to her at all, someone with strawberry-blonde hair, a heart-shaped face, and baby blue eyes, but they were both smiling in the picture he settled on. Now she was a possible suspect, since she didn’t match the looks of the obituaries that he’d seen.

Emily’s grandfather came back into the room, carrying two beers, and offered one to Dean after cracking it open. Dean accepted it, and the old man sat down in the bigger of the two leather chairs, looking wistfully at the picture of Emily on the mantel.

Dean sat down too, on the couch after making sure he didn’t squash a stuffed animal that looked like a bear. Kind of. It looked fairly old and ratty, but he was pretty sure that at some point it’d been someone’s teddy bear.

“I don’t understand,” said the old man. “Your partner was just here; why does the FBI need to talk to me about my granddaughter’s death,” his voice cracked “Twice?”

Partner? Who could he…wait, Castiel??

Dean frowned “I’m going to have to talk to my boss about that,” he said, taking a sip of his beer. “I wasn’t told there was another agent in town.”

Interesting.

Was Castiel the one he was talking about? She’d been coming toward him and he couldn’t see any other reason she’d have had for being in the neighborhood, since she’d been getting some strange looks. If she’d lived here, she’d have been ignored.   She dressed kinda like an agent, too.

“Really,” said the old man, with a frown “Hmm.” He took a sip of his beer, nodding to Dean “You just missed her.”

“Can I have a description of her, just so I know what to look for?” asked Dean. “There are so many of us,” he chuckled a little, “Well, I’m sure you get it. She might even be one of our Interpol contacts, since there are a few of them in the Midwest this time of yea.”

The old man snorted, “Didn’t sound British to me. She dressed kind of weird for a government agent, though she might’ve been undercover, I guess.” He sniffed “She had dark hair, bright blue eyes, and she was wearing a tan trench coat over a man’s suit.”

Castiel. Castiel had just been here. So he was right; there was something not quite normal about that woman.

Damn. If she was an FBI agent, he’d better hope she either didn’t check him out immediately or that she would believe him. He’d have to stick around to make sure she didn’t get herself killed, and working with law enforcement never ended well for hunters. Most of them were too stubborn to do anything except get their fool selves killed.

Dean nodded “Did she give you a name?”

The man smiled “Yeah, she was-she was really nice about it. She said her name was Cassidy MacGyver, and she’d heard the jokes before.”

So Castiel had been lying, either to this man or to Dean, about her name. Dean was willing to bet she was lying to the old man, since the name MacGyver was from the movies. That was a pretty obvious cover, too, but he was pretty sure MacGyver was also a real last name. Huh.

That meant the name Castiel was either another cover, or it was her real name. He had the strangest feeling that it was really her name, but couldn’t figure out why. It was sure weird for a cover name, if it was a cover name.

“Didn’t smile very much, though,” Dean returned his attention to the old man. “She said her family didn’t like showing emotion when I asked her about it.” Huh. That explained why she hadn’t smiled at him at all. “But she was very nice. Is she supposed to be here?”

Dean nodded. “Well, if you don’t mind, sir, I’d like to go over my set of questions again. I’ll check my information against hers,” he said, when the older man opened his mouth “But I probably won’t have quite the same questions as she did.”

The man snorted, looking away with a shake of the head.

Dean agreed with him completely “Yeah, I get it, but it’s my job,” he shrugged “And just between you and me, my boss will have my ass if I don’t ask you all of these.”

“Sure, sure,” said the old man. “You’re here about Emily.” Dean nodded. “I was the one who found her, lying on the bathroom floor. She’d just gone upstairs to brush her teeth-she had a date,” explained the man “And he was at the door.”

“And what was his name?” Dean would have to check him out, too.

The old man frowned “I think it was Zachary Quinn,” he said. “He lives in town. She asked us to stall for her for a minute, and I heard the sink go on. Then…” he swallowed “Then she didn’t come back out of the bathroom, so I asked my wife to go check on her, to see if she needed anything.”

Dean nodded “I’m sorry we have to ask this twice,” he said gently, as the grandfather blew his nose and wiped at his eyes with two sheets of Kleenex “But we have to be sure this was really an accident. How did you find her?”

“T-There was blood, on the bathroom floor-it was coming out of her mouth,” said the man with a quiet sob “I-I’ve never seen so much blood. S-she-she was choking on it, something i-in her throat. My wife called the ambulance but it was too late…she was gone before they got her to the hospital,” he whispered. “She was brilliant; she was going to be salutatorian of her class at Boulder.”

Dean let him grieve silently, taking another sip of his beer. Emily did sound brilliant. He knew Boulder was a good school, but to be salutatorian at any college was good, given how big college classes were.

“I know, and I’m sorry,” said Dean quietly, “It’s part of the investigation. I have just a few more questions for you.” He waited for the old man to nod, and compose himself again. “Did Emily have any enemies? People who might’ve wanted her gone, or hurt? A jealous ex, a friendship gone sour…”

Her grandfather frowned “No. No, everyone loved Emily,” he said, his voice breaking “She-she wasn’t always the best at talking to people, but she was really, genuinely kind. She,” he choked, and looked down. “She was a little-outspoken for our town, but we loved her.”

“Could anyone have disagreed with her?” asked Dean.

Emily’s grandfather scowled at him “You think someone who disagreed with her political views wanted her dead? Or her opinions? This was an accident, Agent Lannister, like I told your coworker.”

No way. Dean knew better than to think it was an accident; the whole thing stank of a witch. Not that he’d say anything.

Dean nodded “I understand that. I just have to be sure, because if this is related to the other deaths, then we might be dealing with a serial killer,” he explained.

The targets had to be linked for one reason or another. There was no reason for anyone except a serial killer to go after unrelated people and these deaths were too ‘natural’ looking to be a serial killer’s work. That probably meant demonic possession or demon-powered witches. Best cover for that was a nutty serial killer with an obsession with the occult, especially if he had to work this case with someone in law enforcement.

He was going to be busy for the next week or so. He slid the notepad he’d pulled from his jacket out and flipped to the list of names of the dead, before handing it over to Emily’s grandfather.

“Did she happen to know any of these people?” he asked.

Her grandfather’s eyes went down the list “No…well, yes,” he corrected himself, handing the notepad back to him. “Jenny Davies. She was Emily’s best friend.”

Jenny was the last person killed, about two and a half days before Emily. Dean would no doubt have to interview every one of the victim’s families or links in this area, just to be sure, but he could see the older man frowning, as he tried to come up with an explanation. How had Emily known Jennifer Davies?

“How?” he asked, knowing that was the best way to get what he needed.

Emily’s grandfather took a sip from his beer “They weren’t-friends, exactly. Jenny needed help with her grades, back in high school, and Emily tutored her. Emily was so smart…” Dean nodded, making a note of it. “They were friendly, but they weren’t friends. Emily didn’t even talk to her anymore. I don’t understand, what does this have to do with my granddaughter’s death?”

“These nine people were the others who died in the past month,” said Dean, and Emily’s grandfather gasped. “Emily sounds like she was a great person,” he said, taking another sip, “Wish I’d had someone like that to help me back in school.” He paused. “Say, did Agent MacGyver ask to see where it happened?”

How had the guy not known their names? Did he live somewhere else or something? Something wasn’t right here.

“Yeah, she did,” said the other, and Dean frowned “We-we haven’t been in there since…” he trailed off. “But she was.”

“If it’s not too much trouble,” said Dean “I’d like to see it, too. You said your wife found her?” he asked, as the older man slowly got to his feet.

“Y-yes,” he replied, as he led Dean up the stairs “There was so much blood…”

“Do you know if they figured out what happened?” Dean asked, keeping his tone gentle.

He could tell the guy was still in shock, even if the older man wasn’t going to admit to it. The signs were there, even if it was mild-if he was still okay and Castiel hadn’t done anything, the guy would probably live.

Mr. Smythe looked at him sharply “No. They just…they said she choked to death on her toothbrush,” Dean nodded as he was led to the bathroom. “I can’t…”

Toothbrush? Really? Witches were really getting creative these days. And nasty. Dean would never look at a toothbrush the same way again.

“It’s alright,” said Dean, “Thank you.” He walked into the room, skirting the edge of the doorway cautiously and putting a hand on his concealed gun.

“I’ll be downstairs,” said her grandfather, sounding like he was choking back tears.

The room was rank with the smell of old blood. Clearly it hadn’t been cleaned since Emily’s death. The white tile was stained with rusty red in the shape of a woman’s body, lying on her side, and the inside was dark. He flipped on the light, but nothing really changed about the room, except that now he could see the white sink was stained, too. It was mostly stained down the left side, showing a trail of blood that had obviously pooled on the floor before Emily had fallen over to begin with. Pulling on a pair of plastic gloves, Dean crouched down and took a sample of her blood from the tile, scraping it off with a penknife into a tiny plastic bag.  

Then Dean started looking around for the hex bag. The witches were always sloppy enough to leave one behind, no matter what they did.

He opened the blue shower curtains, checked the sides of the sink and behind the door. Then he poked around the bathroom shelving and under the sink, trying to avoid the toilet, because any witch who put one there was just freaking nasty. Nothing. Great, now he had to avoid making noise and check behind the sink. He barely managed it, hoisting himself up so he was half-lying over the blood-stained sink, and prayed the bag wasn’t about to hit him with its freaky mojo too.

Something small and black, like a triangle of black cloth, was poking out of the very back of the sink, between the sideboard and the backboard of the sink. It was barely visible, and almost impossible to see. He wouldn’t have found it if he hadn’t been looking for the hex bag in particular. He pulled out a pair of tweezers and another plastic bag so he didn’t have to touch it. Then he carefully tugged it out, surprised at how easy it was to pull it out.

If Castiel was a hunter, then she’d missed this bag. Then again, it also didn’t look like it was that powerful, so it was possible she’d de-powered it and forgotten about it. It didn’t look like it’d been de-powered, though, which meant she’d been distracted.

That was if she was a hunter at all. But even an FBI agent would pick up hex bags. Hell, he’d seen them do stupid shit like that several times over. What was going on here?

He took a closer look at it, and was surprised when he realized it wasn’t bulging like a normal hex bag. He prodded it with the tweezers, confused, before he realized the bag was empty. Completely empty.

Dean put the empty hex bag in his own warded cloth bag after putting it into the plastic one. He couldn’t afford to be careless, not with a witch in town. And it looked less professional not to use a plastic bag. What could do that to a hex bag? He’d never seen anything that could, not like this. Nothing he knew of, in any of his research and any of Bobby’s books, could empty a hex bag and leave it relatively harmless-looking. At least not without touching it.

But it hadn’t been untouched, had it? Castiel had been here. She could’ve emptied it and put it back. But why would she do that? Was she trying to keep him on the trail of whoever had done this?

Or had she touched it at all? That looked like it had needed magic to put it in that spot in the first place. He’d have to do some more research before writing off something Castiel did as the cause, though.

Dean checked the whole bathroom over, using his EMF meter. It only started beeping near the mirror. He swiped the underside of it using a cotton swab, and put that in a bag to analyze later. Just in case it was something weird. That wasn’t normal either, at least not for a witch killing. What the hell was that? Could it have been sulfur? He didn’t smell sulfur, but it was possible the smell had just aired out. He doubted it, though there was a little of the yellow stuff on the cotton swab.

Witches. Why the hell did it have to be witches? He headed back downstairs, knowing he might be missing something, but Emily was still a victim. Yeah, sure, she was connected to the first victim, but that didn’t automatically make her a target.

Unless Jenny was a witch too, but Dean seriously doubted that. What kind of witch killed herself though? The whole situation didn’t make any sense.

P-R-O-M-I-S-E

 

Chapter Text

Dean.

Even six months of being human and living in 2005 still hadn’t prepared her for the possibility of seeing him again.  By her Father, he was so young and bright compared to the man she once knew.  His soul was less worn, bearing no traces of her holding him together after the Pit, as he hadn’t yet gone to Hell.  And yet, there was still a bit of her Grace there, something her Father had no doubt tethered to him the second she came back for him.

For Dean.

She was on a job, now, and while she’d been looking for the Winchesters, she’d hoped to meet up with them after Dean met back up with Sam and they started hunting again.  Or better yet, when their father wasn’t in the picture at all, because John Winchester was a problem she wasn’t ready or equipped to solve yet.

Time was clearly intent on forcing her hand.  It had happened once before, so why she was surprised now, she didn’t know.  Time itself would fight back against any changes she made to the timeline.  It was going to fight her tooth and nail at every turn, to try and force the Winchesters back into their ‘roles’ that she had already seen them force themselves to play. 

Not this time.

Castiel had been given a gift.  This wasn’t a curse, or a punishment resurrection, to force her to learn a lesson.  Not this time.  Perhaps, her first hadn’t been either.  But this?

This was a second chance, one her Father had given her in an attempt to right what had gone so terribly, horribly wrong before.  It hadn’t felt like much of one until today, when she’d found Dean again, so young and so terribly whole.

Dean, before he knew what it felt like to be broken, was beautiful.  Before he had gone to Hell.  Before his soul bore scars, marks that her Grace had had to fill, and that had been torn to pieces when she’d died the first time.

Before he was broken and then remade, Castiel corrected herself.  Seeing him like this only made her more determined to keep that future from coming to pass, at all costs.  Even if that meant going to Hell herself in his place.  She would not let Sam Winchester die.

Castiel turned back to watch him go once she knew he wasn’t watching anymore.  Seeing the brilliant glow of his soul made her feel dangerously close to crying.  Again.  She had a second chance here.  A chance to save him from Hell, to stop things from going according to plan.  If she just did things right this time, she could stop it all from ever truly happening in the first place.

But the case came first, and now he didn’t know her anymore.  She was back in time, back years before Dean had ever met Castiel, and that was both a good and a bad thing for her. 

It was good, because it meant she might be able to help him avoid Hell.  She could interfere in his cases and actually make sure he succeeded where he wanted to, and for once, maybe keep some people alive.  But he didn’t know her, and now, he didn’t trust her—and that could very well get him killed.  That was the bad side of things; that, and the fact that her wings hadn’t started healing until she touched him today.

Cas was no stranger to his trust issues.  It had taken her nearly six months to earn his complete trust before, and she didn’t expect it to be any easier this time around.  She sighed, starting back off down the street, feeling his eyes on her back.  She didn’t let herself look back a second time, turning down another road toward the car she’d stolen.  She could feel her wings starting to knit themselves back together, finally—another gift her Father had left her with.

All confronting him right now would do was make him even more suspicious of her.  Dean had been a paranoid hunter long before she’d met him, and she didn’t want him to try and hunt her while they were working the same case.  He wasn’t quite as paranoid these days as he’d become, but that was because he hadn’t run afoul of Gordon yet. 

And once he did, and Azazel started playing his favorite mind games with the brothers, Dean’s trust issues would quickly run so deep she couldn’t get near him.

Why she’d given him her real name was beyond her.  It was stupid, foolish, considering that she had legal records made under that name in this life.  Kaelyn Castiel Novak was supposed to be in a mental hospital in Denver, Colorado.  Admitted for hearing voices. 

Father had helped her get away, get release papers and everything after she cleansed her vessel from its addictions, else she would’ve had a real problem.  Addiction to psychiatric medications would not have been fun to deal with.

Heaven would’ve found her immediately if she’d stayed.  She’d been on the run for at least six months, after recovering as best she could at Bobby’s, and tried to keep out of the public eye, working as a hunter.

And even with all that, she’d nearly given herself away the moment she walked into Dean. 

She still trusted him, which was dangerous.  He didn’t know her and she didn’t know him; he could use the information against her, but she knew him, better than anything.  And she knew he wouldn’t.  She would know him anywhere, and even now she was confident he wouldn’t. 

His father, though, was another matter.  Heaven could monitor them through John, because he’d said yes to Michael once before.  Sometimes, she knew, the archangel had checked in on the Winchesters to make sure destiny stayed on course.  It was possible for an angelic vessel to be re-possessed after they’d given consent once.  Castiel’s skill with wards was the only warning she would have about Michael’s sudden arrival

Provided the archangel didn’t get around them somehow, that is.  Which she wasn’t sure wouldn’t happen, given everything Raphael and Michael had shown themselves capable of, not to mention Lucifer.  Both had been and were geniuses in their own right; she had no way of knowing what they had discovered in the time they’d been alive before her. 

She did know that she had managed to trick them both with warding schemes last time, but only with access to her full power.  And right now, she wasn’t even close to that, even if an old legend had given her a way to start recovering properly.  All thanks to Bobby’s library, of course.

She didn’t know how closely Heaven was monitoring the Winchesters, or what strengths or weapons they had hidden in John Winchester’s soul to ensure the apocalypse would proceed as planned.  But it was something she would have to keep in mind, as her Father had warned before sending her to this time.  He had given her the knowledge personally. 

If her Father found it worth His time to warn her, it was a very serious concern.

This was also around the time several angels had been recalled for reeducation, away from their posts.  To prepare for battle and the coming war.  Castiel herself had almost been one on that list, but she hadn’t been recalled because she had been at her post, doing her duty.  She hadn’t known who was called; hadn’t really paid much attention, given that she had had to deal with a demonic uprising.  That was probably the reason she hadn’t been recalled.

In the intervening years, before Dean’s resurrection, she had had to deal with several.  Her garrison’s station was on the border between Heaven and Hell, one of the few that existed, a ‘back door’ of sorts into Heaven that was heavily guarded.

She did know the Host felt superior to their Father’s greatest creations.  So much so they arrogantly assumed the apocalypse would be easy to start, and keep ‘on track’ as it were.  It would be to her advantage if the angels had decided that the apocalypse was well underway, and thus had no reason to continue shadowing the Righteous Man. 

That would require a lot of work, though, and she wasn’t sure she could do it alone.  Proving she wasn’t a threat was probably the first thing she’d have to do.

Castiel could only assume Dean had taken this case in the previous timeline, given their situation.  She didn’t remember him actually talking about witch hunts, but on his hunt for the witches raising Samhain, he had expressed that they were ‘skeevy.’  It was a sentiment she didn’t quite understand, but shared all the same—they made her Grace cringe.

Witches made her very uncomfortable.  Something itched at her about that, something from one of the times—she knew it had to have happened multiple times—she had been reeducated.  It was impossible for her to remember, but…something was very wrong with her memories.

Shaking her head, Castiel turned her thoughts back to the matter at hand.  Her memories would return, eventually.  This was why angels that had been reeducated needed to be reeducated many times over.  Not interact with humans, as she was, and avoid the reeducation squad.

It was possible that without her here, the events leading up to this case might never have come up in the first place.  Time may have been attempting to compensate for her presence, and her divinity as well, as she’d already started making a name for herself in this time.  She slid into the front seat of her car, a frown on her face.

The deaths had all been within the past month.  Dangerously close to one another, even—a short span of time for a witch to work within, and definitely a sign of something demonic.

She looked at her current vessel’s eyes in the rearview mirror, reminded by their color of the first day she’d met Dean.  Back then she’d been a man, not a woman, and very set in her ways; very assured of her faith, and very assured of herself.  That the path she was on was righteous, and just, because Heaven had commanded it. 

Little had she known how much the Righteous Man would change her.  Or how many emotions he would introduce her to, in the matter of a few months.

She tried to smile at herself in the mirror, to practice more.  It still felt quite odd, to smile, but…not as much so as before.

Humans tended to stare at her if she didn’t show her emotions, and Cas didn’t want or need the extra attention that acting like an angel (or being too awkward around humans) would cause.  She was rewarded with a small smile, one that made her look similar to Dean’s current age.  It was a curious sensation to feel her cheeks moving, even after six months of practice, when she smiled.

No longer needing to repress and suppress her emotions, strong as they were, had made her life much easier, though she would never admit that to a fellow angel. 

She still had a job to do in this town.  Two, now that Dean had shown up.

First, she had to find the witch, or more likely, the coven behind all this and stop them from killing more innocent people.  Second, and more importantly, Dean had to stay alive.  Even if she didn’t feel ready for it, that was her primary duty—both to herself and to the promise she had made him. 

It was time to take up her duties again as his guardian.  Neither Winchester had been assigned a guardian angel, but perhaps that was for the best—it meant she could protect Dean up close, rather than trying to work around them.  She started her car, feeling a little warmth in her chest (and that was still odd, emotions appearing as part of her vessel—no, her body’s own functions) at the thought of working alongside him, and headed for the Davies’ house.

Their daughter, Jenny, had been the victim before Emily, and they were connected to each other.  In Emily’s house she’d seen faint traces of a lovers’ connection between them, in some of the corners of the living room, though the house itself hadn’t been able to give her many clues.  It was older than the deaths; it had stopped perhaps three months ago, and there were signs of a nasty end to the situation.

She’d been planning on heading to the Davies’ house anyway, since it looked like the previous victim, Jackson Lake, had been Jenny’s boyfriend during high school.  That was enough of a connection to make her suspicious.  Three connected victims meant there was a ritual or something very like it going on here.  Something tugged at her Grace, shattered and healing though it still was—and utterly her own, now, no longer restored or empowered by Heaven or Hell, but the remedies Bobby had set her up with—but she couldn’t make out what it was.

That was important.  Something in this town was calling her.  Dean, maybe?  The shattered Mark she still had half of connected to her Grace?  She wasn’t sure.

As she drove, she turned on the radio, which was tuned into the local classic rock station.  It was the closest she could get to the music she remembered from riding in the Impala, but it still wasn’t quite the same.  Her car didn’t smell right; the music wasn’t right either and there was no Dean singing along.  Unfortunately, she didn’t have the time or energy to go hunt down the songs that Dean had once played, and hearing them without him didn’t help. 

But his music was still pleasing to her ears.

Learning to drive a car at first had been quite an experience.  One involving many broken traffic poles and dented cars.  And much shouting and swearing from Bobby, which had been quite amusing.  She’d crashed four cars just by forgetting where the gas pedal was.  Though the last wreck, one of his old junkers, was intentional—she’d done it to make him laugh.

However, she had gotten the hang of it quickly, and now she drove the way Dean did.  Somewhat aggressively, to be sure, but not completely.  But this car was not home, not the way the Impala was.  It wasn’t alive the way the Impala was. 

She didn’t have much of a choice right now in terms of transport, but the second she did, she would switch.  She didn’t like this car.  But she couldn’t fly right now.

After being smote, she wasn’t sure she’d ever fly again.  Her wings and Grace had been shattered, completely destroyed by the smiting.  And public transport made her ill.  There were too many souls in one place, too many emotions crowding into her and her empathy hadn’t gone away.  Unlike before, though, she couldn’t use her Grace to shield herself. 

Sensing all those emotions at once was distinctly unpleasant.  At least Bobby had been willing to teach her how to drive.

She shook her head, bringing herself back to the present.  She had a witch to find.

The bathroom of the Smythes’ house had been filled with malevolence and hatred, and the aura around the sink also radiated disgust.  That meant jealousy or, more likely, homophobia was a motive for the killing.  That meant Cas was looking for someone with those qualities, and that didn’t narrow it down much; they were in a place where homophobia was unfortunately fairly common.  She’d asked around about the Davies family, and discovered they were very anti-homosexual, but the Smythe girl had had a set of framed pictures of Jenny Davies.

She remembered overhearing Dean and Sam discussing angels, when they had thought she wasn’t around.  She had been in the back seat of the Impala at the time, listening.  Dean had said there was nothing more dangerous than a man on a holy mission.  Humans used the Bible to justify persecuting each other for their own differences.

He was right, even then, when she hadn’t wanted to hear it.  Dean’s wisdom was rather…unconventional, but never once had it proven wrong, in her experience.  More often than not, he had been the reason they had narrowly avoided being killed.

She turned onto a small, lazy residential street, glancing at the numbers on the sides of the houses until she found the one she wanted.  Cas pulled into the driveway of the Davies’ house, parking exactly six inches from the other car, since the street was too narrow to keep her car from being caught in a collision otherwise.

There was also the fact that parallel parking, as humans called it, was almost impossible for her.  It usually ended in either serious property damage or Cas needing to steal a new car.  Often both, given that she’d never mastered that skill.  Dean had, though.

She walked up to the front door, and hoping she wasn’t turned away at the door for wearing a man’s suit, she knocked three times, fingering the fake FBI badge in her pocket.  No matter how many times she did this, she still felt uncomfortable lying to people to get onto the scene.  The discomfort had lessened as time went on but it hadn’t gone away.

Dean had helped her learn to lie in the months before the apocalypse, when Sam was taken over by Lucifer but before Michael took over Adam to walk the Earth.  Lying to anyone was a skill she hadn’t had before then.  But now she could lie, and even if lying to a direct question was still beyond her, it was the best skill she’d gained from him.

Oddly enough, every lie she told made the next one easier to tell, and the guilt lessen.

Cas wasn’t sure she liked that trend.

The woman who answered the door was in her mid-to-late forties, with graying strawberry-blonde hair pulled back in a low ponytail at the nape of her neck.  She was wearing a pink apron, a white shirt with sleeves that ended just below the elbow, and a pair of pleated gray pants.  Her soul was gentle, bearing the markings of motherhood, and it predicted that she would live another forty or fifty years.

“May I help you?” she asked, meeting Cas’ eyes with an expression of polite curiosity.

Cas pulled out her FBI badge, resisting the urge to shake herself. “Agent Cassandra MacGyver, FBI,” she said, and the woman looked surprised. “I’m here about Jennifer.”

The woman gasped “Oh, Lord,” she said, her voice shaking a little. “Please, come in, Agent MacGyver.” She stepped back from the door, and Cas walked in, just remembering to wipe her shoes off politely.  Another bit of human etiquette she didn’t quite understand, but mimicked all the same when not around hunters. “I’m her mother, Tracey.  Frank!” she turned and called into the house “Frank!  There’s an FBI agent here!”

“Be down in a minute!” called the preacher’s voice from upstairs.

He had a Utah accent.  Curious, given that that accent wasn’t too common around here, but they were Mormon.  Maybe the family had moved here from Utah or he’d spent a lot of time there.

Mrs. Davies looked back at her with a sad little smile on her face “How may I help you, Agent?”

The mew of a cat distracted her for a second, and Cas looked down to see a small white tomcat approaching, staring up at her with blue eyes.  The cat was ordinary, certainly, but like all cats it was somewhat aware of the supernatural goings-on of the world around it.  In truth, Cas preferred dogs, like her brother Gabriel, but cats always seemed to enjoy her presence and often demanded her attention. 

She never could figure out why they liked her, but she was warming to them more given how long she had been stuck in a human form.  Petting one was therapeutic, in a way, and they tended to remind her to do things she forgot.

Though this one was normal, it held some of the qualities of a familiar.  A witch’s familiar, at that.  Curious.  Could the witch she was looking for live here?  Even if they didn’t, the cat was close enough tot he witch that Cas thanked her Father for sending her back so weakened.  Right now, her divinity was so small so as to not be noticeable.

Tracey led her into the living room, which was sparsely furnished, but unlike at the Smythes’ house, it had no Chinese or other Asian touches.  Instead, the furniture was more of what Cas had seen while hunting with Dean, and almost immediately she spotted a few touches of malevolent spirits on what had to be antiques.  There weren’t nearly as many as she’d expected, though, and all of them were no longer able to affect the family.  So they were exorcised…

Or perhaps consumed.  Witches could consume the power of an old spirit if they discovered it was bound to a particular object, for a price, but the power was almost like that of a bought soul.  It was a small source of power, but useful for warding a household.  Sadly, doing that often sent the soul in question to Hell, no matter the intent of the witch involved.

The house still had the faintest touch of a ward like this.  So one of the occupants—or an occupant’s friend—was a witch, and possibly one of the coven.

She wouldn’t be able to tell without touching each of them, and that was not the kind of proof she could provide to Dean right now.  She could claim to be psychic all she wanted—she knew he wouldn’t listen to her.  He didn’t believe in psychics and those he did believe in, like Ms. Moseley, made him incredibly nervous.

Cas turned back to Tracey “I have a few questions about your daughter, Jenny,” she said, and Tracey nodded. “Would you be able to answer some of them?”

“Of course,” said Tracey, smiling sadly. “I never knew my daughter would…” of course she hadn’t; what mother would? “How could she…” she swallowed hard “I’m sorry.  I know…I know we will see her again, but…”

“It’s alright,” said Cas gently, “I understand, it’s difficult to speak of.  I’ll try to make this quick.”

“I thought it was a suicide,” said Tracey, her voice trembling. “An accident.  Th-they said she ate it—thought it was food.  Why…why…”

Cas had an explanation ready, but Tracey looked like she was going to fall over. This wasn’t a good discussion to have standing anyway.

“Why don’t we sit down, Mrs. Davies?” suggested Cas, guiding Tracey over to the couch and helping her to sit before joining her. “Jenny’s death is one of ten in the last month,” she said as gently as she could. “For a large city, ten deaths in a month might be normal.  For a small town, it isn’t. It caught our attention.”

“Y-Yes,” said Tracey, wiping at her eyes “Of course.  S-so of course the FBI finds…finds something strange ab-bout it?” she asked, hiccuping, and Cas nodded.

She chose her words cautiously, knowing the witch might be in this house and even listening to her right now. Better to be safe than sorry.

“The number of deaths in such a small town are out of the ordinary,” she said soothingly, as much as she was able. “And I’m afraid the latest victim was also connected to your daughter,” explained Cas “It’s the only lead we have.  I’m sorry that I have to ask you about this.”

Tracey nodded “I-I understand,” she said, “It’s—I’m sorry, it’s just hard, to think of her…” Cas nodded, resting her hand against Tracey’s arm, attempting to offer comfort. “What do you need to know?” she asked.

Cas took a deep breath, and pulled out her list of names from her pocket. “This is a list of the victims, including your daughter,” Tracey nodded “Do you know if your daughter was directly connected to any of them?” she asked, handing it over. 

She knew one of them had been Jenny’s high school English teacher, but she didn’t know anything else about a possible connection between the victims.  It almost appeared…no, she would have to thoroughly research the victims to be certain, but it looked like they were linked by the Mentor-Student bond.  And if Jenny was the lodestone for this whole mess, why her?  What was the point of sacrificing her and people around her?

Something about this situation seemed familiar, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.  She was going to have to go to the library and hope she found something, or, in the worst case, call Bobby.

Tracey read down the list, shaking her head at the first two but then stopped at the third. “Richard Maynard.  He was her teacher in high school for homeroom and history,” she said. Then she moved to the next name. “Benjamin Lewis is her ex-boyfriend,” she frowned “He was convinced she was crazy, s-something about—a-about our h-h-house being h-haunted.”

Cas just nodded.  Sometimes those with psychic talent were perceived as insane, or jealousy could also prompt some accusations of insanity.  So could a mental illness, a discordant mess of physical chemicals in the person’s brain, a reflection of their soul.  It was entirely possible that her ‘craziness’ was the reason she was targeted by the witches, too, not that Cas would mention it.  She had learned that lesson, thanks to a crash course in manners by Bobby Singer and Ellen Harvelle when she’d managed to make it to Singer’s house.

It had taken her about a month and a half, but those two had taught her more than her family ever had. Other than the Winchesters, who had taught her to live as a human.  And that humanity, as a whole, was good.

She heard footsteps on the stairs, and looked up to see a man with graying brown hair and brown eyes walking towards them.  He was a little taller than Cas but still shorter than Dean, built like a bodybuilder, though he’d softened around the middle some with age, wearing a red plaid shirt and jeans.  Behind him walked a pair of teenagers; the first was a girl, with long, dark brown hair, Asiatic features, and heavy-lidded hazel-brown eyes.  The second was another girl, who resembled Jenny, except she didn’t have red in her hair and she was shorter.  She also had the heavy-lidded hazel-brown eyes, which meant they were related.

The first girl didn’t look anything like Tracey.  That was odd, given that she had the man’s eyes…infidelity, perhaps?  From the way they looked at each other, the way Tracey averted her eyes from the seemingly-unrelated girl, it seemed likely. 

That was something.  A half-sister was involved in a ritual or two; that, she was certain of.  But what?  Why couldn’t she remember?

“Tracey,” said her husband (and, judging from the books on the mantlepiece, the town bishop) Frank Davies. “You must be the FBI agent Mr. Smythe spoke with,” he said, turning to Cas, who noticed Tracey’s body language shift slightly, relaxing a little as her husband entered the room.

But the skin around her eyes had tightened, and didn’t return to normal as the girls walked in.

Cas stood up so that she could speak to him properly “Yes, I am Agent Cassidy MacGyver,” she said, showing her badge again.

One of the girls snickered.  The one who looked somewhat unrelated to Tracey, but not quite to Frank.  Strange, Emily hadn’t had a sister, yet there were traces of this girl’s soul around Emily’s house.  An imprint of some kind.  And there was also something familiar about this one’s soul that was similar to Emily’s.  She couldn’t see anything without delving more deeply, however, and that would be dangerous, as it would alert anything supernatural in the area that there was a powerful psychic in town.  Curiously, Tracey’s expression became slightly more pinched when her eyes landed on the girl.

There was definitely a problem with the not-quite-related girl.  But what, exactly?  Infidelity?  Was she Emily’s half-sister?  Cousin, perhaps?  But there was no scarring on the girl’s soul that marked her as a witch, so she couldn’t be it.

The preacher smiled “Bishop Frank Davies; I’m glad you came by,” he said, shaking her hand, before he got a good look at her. “You are quite young, for an FBI agent.  Forgive me, I was—quite rude, last time we spoke.”

Cas smiled a little, attempting to follow one of Ellen’s rules. “I got an early promotion. For solving a difficult case.  And don’t worry about it, I’m used to it.”

She almost held her breath, hoping he believed her.

Six months, and she still couldn’t lie without expecting someone to see through it.  She knew tensing like that was the easiest way to see through a liar, especially with what Dean had taught her but Cas couldn’t help herself.

Frank chuckled, nodding to her and she relaxed.  He’d believed her.

Then he turned to look at the two girls, “These are my daughters,” he said, “This is my daughter Adrianna,” he said, gesturing to the heavy-lidded, dark-haired girl. “And her sister, Jessie,” the light-haired girl smiled at Cas. “How may we help you?”

Cas smiled at both of the girls for a moment, and then turned to Frank, letting her smile drop, “I’m here about your daughter, Jennifer,” Frank nodded. “Would you rather your daughters leave?” she asked quietly “I don’t want to disturb them.”

“They found her,” said Frank quietly, as he glanced at his children. “They were led right to her.”

This wouldn’t disturb them if that hadn’t, then, and clearly neither of them wanted to leave.  Not from the mulish set of Adrianna’s mouth, nor the spark of determination that had just flared in Jessie’s eyes.

Cas nodded, and sat back down next to Tracey, who asked her, “Do you have a pen?  I could draw out the connections I know already for you,” she offered.

“Connections?” Jessie asked, frowning, “What connections?”

Cas handed Tracey a pen, noting the slight Utah accent in Jessie’s voice, but not Adrianna’s. “That would be helpful.  Thank you.”

“Wait, isn’t that against regulations?” asked Adrianna before her mom started writing.  Tracey looked up at Cas with a raised eyebrow. “To let a witness write things for you?”

If she was really FBI, she’d be in trouble for it, but she wasn’t.  Her partner wouldn’t mind, if he really believed her—and Cas had to at least pretend he was her partner, so as to keep him from being found out.  He was even more unconventional than Cas, by FBI agent standards.  Besides, she knew he’d have to double-check her research until she showed him who she was.  Which, while annoying, was also understandable.

Cas shrugged “I’m not a strict rule-follower, and I’ve always found that regulation to be a little unhelpful on a case.  After all, it’s not like your mother is a suspect in your sister’s death.” The whole family gasped. “Presumably, the regulation is meant to prevent tampering with evidence by potential suspects.  If my partner takes offense, I’ll recopy the information myself.”

Not to mention she would notice if Tracey lied.  That was something else a ‘real’ FBI agent would have trouble telling.

Frank looked surprised “You have a partner?” might as well help him out, thought Cas, as she remembered Dean. “I thought you said you were here alone when you last visited.  Our offer of a casserole still stands.”

Ah.  She was still working on that.  Didn’t mean she wouldn’t make things easier for Dean, though.  The worst he could do would be to call Bobby to get to know who she was.  She wasn’t ready, but Cas wasn’t about to leave him out of this case, either.  Not when he could be walking into an ambush and not know, without her talking to him.

She replied “Yes, originally I was, but the case is too complex for me to solve completely on my own.  I called for backup when I realized that I couldn’t find anything new in the patterns.  Having a fresh pair of eyes might show me a set of links between the victims that I’m missing,” Frank nodded, and after a moment so did his daughters.

The least she could do was help with Dean’s cover story.  He might not thank her right now, but later, she knew he would.  Or maybe he wouldn’t—at least, not aloud, but her hunter’s soul showed his emotions all too well. 

She would need his help, too, if this was as complex as this looked to be, and caused by a witch.

“Please, sit,” said Frank, taking a seat in one of the armchairs in the room.  Jessie sat in the other one, while Adrianna perched on the arm of it, and Cas sat back down. “What can I do to help?  I thought my daughter’s death was ruled an accident, even though you looked into it.  And would you like something to drink?”

Cas nodded, “No, thank you, I am fine.  And yes, there have been ten such,” she paused, considering her words before settling on something relatively gentle, “Accidents, counting Jenny’s, in the past month.  Ten suicides or accidents is unusual for a town this size.  Did your daughter have any enemies, Bishop?  Anything that would make her a target?”

Frank said “Please, call me Frank,” and Cas nodded.  He frowned, “I would have said her ex, Ben Davis, but he’s one of the ones that died.  He even—he—passed away a week before she did.”

It was always possible for a witch to die from being unintentionally caught up in her own spell, but it was unlikely that was what was happening.  The ward on this house was too practiced, too powerful.  There were also too many dead people here and connected to each other. 

Still, she filed it away for later consideration.

“Not that I can think of, except…I would maybe have said Emily.  The two of them were always fighting,” said Frank, frowning. “Emily said something—insulting, though I don’t know what.  I tried speaking to Jenny about it, but she didn’t want to tell me anything.”

In public, maybe they had been.  In private, Cas could tell from the way their residual auras overlapped at Emily’s house, and here, that things were quite different.  They had been lovers, committed and together, but their families had never known the truth.  But maybe there had been difficulties between the two women, perhaps due to being in a secret relationship.  Or, as Zachary Quinn had expressed interest in Emily, it was possible Emily was cheating on Jenny and that was what resulted in her death if Jenny had been a witch.  But as far as she knew, none of Jenny’s close family was the witch in question. 

Unless there was someone she was missing from the equation. 

Perhaps the girl had a very good friend somewhere.  But if that was the case, why kill Jenny, too? 

Tracey held the notepad out to Cas, with the pen “Here,” she said, “I hope this helps.”

Cas looked down at the notepad.  Tracey had drawn links between different names, with short explanations of the links such as ‘teacher’ between them.  Curiously, all of them seemed to orbit around Jenny.  That bothered her, but she couldn’t place why.

“Thank you, it does,” she said, turning to the younger sisters “Do either you know if your sister had any enemies?  Someone who wanted her hurt or out of the picture?”

Adrianna looked at Jessie and for a moment, Cas could see something unspoken passing between the two of them.  They knew something; she didn’t know what, but they were involved.

Then Jessie shook her head “No…n-not that I can think of,” but the quaver in her voice told another story.

She looked to Adrianna, sensing something pressing up against the outskirts of her wards, but there was no demon behind the girl’s face.  That did not mean she was innocent, but Adrianna’s soul would’ve warned her if the girl was a real threat.  Adrianna’s soul was confused, as if she couldn’t quite decide who she wanted to be.  Given that she was about fourteen years old, that was normal.  But there was something else there.

The pressure was barely noticeable.  It was likely a sign of burgeoning psychic abilities, or sensitivity to Cas’ true nature.  Some people were capable of perceiving the presence of an angel even when they were as injured as she, and that might be dangerous for Cas.  At the end of the case, she’d have to look into this, but it wasn’t a pressing concern unless Adrianna was mixed up in this.

She didn’t appear to recognize that she was doing it, though.  That was good.  Still, Cas would have to be careful around the girl.

Adrianna shook her head “I don’t know that anyone would’ve wanted to hurt Jenny. She was one of the nicest people I knew, even if she was a little slow sometimes.”

Jessie glared at her and Adrianna held up her hands defensively.

“Girls,” said Tracey warningly, “Behave.” Both of them cooled down, and Tracey turned to Cas apologetically “I’m sorry.”

Cas smiled slightly, “It’s alright.  I have a pair of older brothers who used to act the same way.”

Frank chuckled “That sounds like brothers, alright.”

Yes, but that idiotic feud of theirs was going to lead to the apocalypse, if Castiel didn’t do something.  Honestly, Michael and Lucifer needed to grow up and just talk to each other.  Perhaps if her Father…but then…why would Lucifer be so evil if not for the… 

Something wasn’t right here.  The apocalypse, the whole story… Lucifer’s Fall, she knew that couldn’t have happened the way it was written.  Heaven had been wrong about so much.  Had miswritten things that the Prophet had spoken years and years ago, according to Gabriel.

Maybe there was more to Lucifer’s Fall than Castiel had originally believed.  If that was the case then she had to look into it because the Lucifer that had possessed Sam and the Michael that had taken over Adam and killed them both was—there was just something wrong with both of them. 

Castiel set that train of thought aside to focus about later, when she wasn’t on the case.  It wasn’t time for that right now.  She could ruminate on the approaching apocalypse when she didn’t have a friend to protect from a whole coven.

Cas paused “Is there a reason your sister would be targeted?  From what I understand, she died of,” she glanced at her notes “aconite poisoning, having thought it was food.”

The body at the morgue would tell her more.

Tracey shook her head “Who would target my daughter?” she asked helplessly. “How could they have done that to her?  That wasn’t poison, agent. That was…” she shook her head, lips tightening until they turned white.

Done what?  This was exactly why she needed to look at the body, so she could figure this out.  And right now, she only needed a list of suspects.  She looked at Frank, who was as bewildered as his wife, and then to the younger sisters.  Only Jessie seemed to know anything, but she was staying quiet.

“Jessie,” said Cas gently, and the girl looked up at her fearfully. “Is there something you know?”

Tracey and Frank looked at her “Honey?” asked Frank quietly.

“I didn’t—I didn’t think it was th-that important,” stuttered Jessie, looking at Adrianna, who was staring at her with a look that said ‘talk.’  Cas recognized it because Dean used to use it on her and Sam. “I-I,” Jessie swallowed “I heard Jenny arguing with someone the day before she was killed.  S-She was on the phone, but-but it was on speaker, or they were yelling, I don’t know.  A-And I remember at college, she was going to b-become a botanist.  S-she loved plants, kept them i-in her room all the time.  Why…”

Botany was the study of plants.  That could explain the monkshood poisoning, but Cas was fairly sure from the police report ruling that a ‘living plant’ was the cause of death meant something more was going on here.  The official interpretation had been that she’d eaten it, but Cas had the feeling the girl hadn’t.  If Jenny had studied botany with someone who was really good, someone who was upset that she was dating Emily…

Cas looked Jessie in the eye. “Was someone she was working with hurting or threatening to hurt her?” she asked, “Do you know anything about what was happening?”

Jessie bit her lip “I picked up the phone and listened in for the last part of the argument.  Whoever it was, she sounded angry, and—and—then her voice…i-it…” she shook her head “It doesn’t make sense.  Human voices can’t…can’t do that, not even with a voice-changer.”

Castiel had no idea what a voice-changer was, but she understood the basic information the girl was trying to give the ex-angel.  She was certain there was a witch in town, but a demon acting as a witch?  Unexpected, certainly but she couldn’t rule that out, and if the other’s voice had echoed down the line, it was a powerful one.

Gently, she asked “What did it do, Jessie?”

Father, let me be wrong, please.  Please.

“I-it got really deep—and kind of throaty, not like yours but like there were two people talking with one mouth, not one,” then they were definitely dealing with a demonic possession, on top of multiple witches.  Fucking great. “S-she said—it said—whoever it was said Jenny had failed,” Jessie said quietly. “Said—said they were…were coming to c-collect on h-her d-debt.”

Collect.  Cas could have smacked herself for missing the obvious. 

That meant Jenny was either a witch who’d stopped practicing, or she’d made a demon-deal.  She’d have to take a look at the body to know for sure, but she hadn’t seen any obvious markers, not even in Jenny’s aura around the house.  Then again, not all demon-deals went hand in hand with Hellhounds.  Those were usually for the particularly stubborn souls or those who sought to bring immediate, instant paint to their marks.  Some demons liked to play with their food for a long time first.

Outwardly, she remained calm, and said gently “Did she say what she was coming to collect?”

Jessie shook her head quickly “Th-they just s-said if Jenny d-didn’t do it, th-they’’d complete the—uh, the…” she frowned “Umm…it sounded kind of like…” she made a noise that sounded like very badly pronounced Enochian, mangled and broken, like scraping rocks. “B-but I don’t know what it meant.”

Castiel went rigid.  She knew exactly what that word meant.  It was a summoning sigil, a call sign for one of the warriors of old but for it to have gone deep and throaty and to be talking about debts—no.  No, she had to be wrong, Father, let her be wrong.

She turned to a fresh page in her notepad, wrote the sigil for fallen as well as adding the second part of it, traitor and potentially Hell gate.  She thought there was only one, but since this was fucking Bear River, she couldn’t take the chance.  They were too close to the Hell Gate for that to be a coincidence.

“Anything else?  Did whoever it was know you were listening in?” inquired Cas gently, keeping her tone level and even so as not to scare the girl.

“N-No, I don’t think so,” said Jessie, “I-I was really quiet, a-and the person was yelling, w-when it happened.  B-but-but—th-they were—the person, they were called P, P…Pai-something, I couldn’t make s-sense of it,” she frowned “I-I don’t…does that…” Jessie looked terrified “Who was that?  What did they want?  W-Was—was my sister on drugs?” She sniffled, looking almost like she was about to cry.

Pai-something could mean three different things were demanding Jenny’s payment that weren’t human, none of them good.  But she had to be certain of who they were dealing with, and that this wasn’t an impersonation.  If it was, it was a damn good one.  Only a few demons dared use Enochian these days, and fewer still could pronounce it without hurting themselves quite badly.  It was one reason Castiel liked Enochian so much.

Fallen angels, on the other hand, who’d followed Lucifer into Hell had a much easier time with the language.

Cas had a very hard time keeping her voice low and gentle as she replied “I’m sure it wasn’t drugs, Jessie,” she said, and then Adrianna jumped in, putting an arm around her sister’s shoulders.

“I knew something was wrong,” said Adrianna, scowling, “I just didn’t know what.”

Their parents were staring at them like they’d never seen their children before in their lives.  Cas imagined they hadn’t expected anything of the sort.

Tracey turned to Cas “You—do you…do you know…do you know who wanted…” She swallowed.

Frank finished “Who wanted to kill my daughter?”

Cas looked at the whole family gravely for a moment, debating with herself.  As devout Mormons, they were more likely to believe what she had to tell them if she did tell them the truth, especially as they thought she was a fellow Mormon.  She had done her best to pretend to be from a Mormon family, after all, in the hopes of getting more information on the other victims.  Word had spread already that she was raised Mormon, which was why the Davies had been so willing to answer her questions.  Last time they’d just answered a few of her questions; here, and now, they were answering many, many more of them. 

Originally, the killings had looked to be specifically targeted at Mormons.  A witch with a grudge, or a set of witches could have perpetuated that.  Cas would have believed it if not for Emily’s death, as the girl was nonreligious.  The clues now pointed to something, much, much worse.

Emily Smythe wasn’t a Mormon, but she was the lover of a witch.  Now, though, if Cas said anything she’d either be claimed crazy or be hailed as some sort of prophet.  She couldn’t afford either of those things right now.  And unless she was sure none of them was under the control of the demon—no, the Fallen, then she would have to be very, very careful.

Right now it was better to keep her suspicions to herself until she was sure of what was really going on.  Even if her instincts were usually right, she needed to double-check, first.

Taking a few deep breaths, Cas turned to Frank, picking her words very carefully, “I don’t yet, but this is more information than I’ve had since I arrived in town.  I know there was a similar case many years ago,” there had to be, “But I’m not sure it’s the same thing.  The pattern is familiar, and the…” she frowned, “Jessie,” the girl looked up, “Adrianna.  Did your sister come home different one week, from college?  It wouldn’t be obvious in public, but in private?  Was she maybe talking to a new girl or guy in town, someone who was about ten years older than her?  Did she speak of anyone with a name starting with Pai?”

Adrianna frowned “No…” shaking her head, and so did Jessie. 

Tracey, though, spoke up “She said one of her friends was really into this old occult series, and thought she’d try it.  She read it to laugh at, she said, but it should still be up in her room.  Just—for fun, she claimed, and I saw no reason to stop her.  Some authors like to write about the occult.”

Cas nodded.  More information was always good.  And weird old occult books usually had clues…and more than that, they were about magic, most of them.  Some of them were even true, planted by demons to try and gain a little more of a foothold in the upper world. 

“May I see her room, and where she was found?” Cas inquired politely, after finishing her note-taking.

The killings were definitely by a coven, and with the debt, possibly by a witch possessed by a demon.  An old and powerful demon, at that.  She didn’t like this one bit.  It was equally likely that the witch was only partially possessed, since the more powerful demons and Knights of Hell couldn’t leave Hell without a sacrificial ritual of some sort taking place.  But if a demon deal had led to Jenny’s death, it was because Jenny had failed in a task set by the demon…or by its servants.

Which confirmed the presence of a coven, either with a highly ranked demon in its midst or, one that was planning to summon a high-ranked demon to Earth and use the small gaps between the Gate and Earth to do it.

Neither of these options was particularly reassuring.  Especially since both weakened the Hell Gate.

Frank nodded “I’ll take you upstairs,” he started, but Adrianna and Jessie both jumped to their feet.

“Dad, I’d like to take her up,” said Adrianna, her eyes sharp and trained on Cas. 

Jessie nodded.

“I’m sorry, Agent MacGyver,” began Tracey, but Cas placated her with a raised hand and a small smile.

She replied “I don’t mind.  Besides, it smells as if you were cooking something,” she said, and Tracey jumped to her feet, a horrified look on her face.

Frank shouted “The bread!” and the two of them headed for the kitchen at almost a run. “Be good, and show her the room!” he called over his shoulder to the girls, who were left alone with Cas.

Being left with them was a good thing.  Children were often more truthful without adults around, and were in the perfect position to hear more, as they were often overlooked by the older members of the family.  Adrianna was older, and likely adopted (or half-sibling, though half-sibling was becoming more and more likely) whereas Jessie was a younger, and full, child of the family.  Not just related to the father.

“Come on,” said Jessie, tugging on her sleeve “We’ll show you.” With that, she led Cas up the long flight of stairs to the second floor of their house. 

Adrianna was watching Castiel like a hawk, her dark eyes fixed on every one of Cas’ movements.  Cas didn’t mind, as she could understand the obsessive need to protect your younger sibling.  She definitely looked like Emily.  Father knew she had felt that way much of the time with Sam, even though he wasn’t her sibling, given the trouble he got into without her or Dean around.  She had also sometimes felt that way around Dean, since he was as bad as Sam when it came to getting into situations that required angelic backup. 

Especially after the apocalypse had begun.  Those two were danger magnets of the highest caliber.

She was led through a hallway with portraits hanging on the wall, past a railing and to a white door with a single word hanging on the front.  The word was Jennifer, and it was on a name plaque in black lettering, the plaque itself being small and blue.  The door next to it, curiously, said Judith in white lettering on a green plaque on a light, pastel-yellow door, but there was nothing odd about that room.  Perhaps Judith just wasn’t home.

Either way, she needed to know more about Judith.  The presence of a fourth sibling wasn’t exactly something Cas had planned on (or even really known about, last time, and that smacked of a spell or two) and if they were twins or related in any way then that might just have been the opening the demon needed.  It would be doubly ironic if it were her sister doing the killing.

“This was her room,” said Adrianna quietly “We found her lying on her bed last week.  She wouldn’t get up to go with us to church, s-so I opened the door, and…there she was.”

The minute they were inside, Cas took a look around the room, which was rather innocuous.  The walls were painted a light shade of green with dark green, leafy vines patterned all across them, different flowers (she counted nasturtiums, lilies, multiple types of roses, and tulips, and there were likely more) sprouting from the vines where they wound around each other.  There was a massive mahogany bookshelf to her right with a similar sort of patterning, and with a closer look at the vines Cas saw stylized sigils written in Enochian.

Definitely a witch, then.

Her bed was made perfectly, with a lilac coverlet and white pillowcases, and it and the furniture around it ws white.  Jenny’s desk sat against the wall with a set of pictures on it, in which Cas recognized many of the former victims almost immediately, as well as Emily, with Jenny’s arm thrown around her, both of them beaming at the camera.

Then a wave of malevolent hate crashed over her and Cas wanted to be sick.  Her Grace immediately formed a shield, protecting her from it as she looked down, seeing it oozing from the walls, ceiling, and even the floorboards.  Her stomach roiled a little in protest as her shattered Grace ached.  Beneath the malevolence she could sense a powerful love between Emily and Jenny, but it was overshadowed by grief and hate, hate so strong Cas could barely think through it before the shock faded.

Both of them (Emily and Jenny) had spent a great deal of time in here, presumably when Jenny’s parents weren’t around, else they would have been more horrified.  Or would they?  The door shut behind them as Castiel turned to look around the room.

The massive mahogany bookshelf to Cas’ right attracted her attention almost immediately.  It spanned most of the wall, opposite the windows, and it reached the ceiling.  There were pictures, glass figurines, and a few other items Cas didn’t recognize on sight sitting on the top shelf.  There was also a small sprig of aconite with violet, blooming flowers in a small earthenware pot on the top shelf, next to a few other plants-rosemary, thyme, and hemlock.  Two poisons next to two normal plants wasn’t abnormal, but aconite was also easy to accidentally inhale.  Why would she keep those together? 

The bookshelf had several sigils carved into each shelf and its sides, obviously hiding something.

Judging by the sigils alone, which didn’t ooze malevolence but were indicative of the fact that Jenny had begun selling her soul, she’d been leading a double life that her family never knew about.  Her books ranged from fantastical romances in other worlds to the occult books Castiel expected to find on Bobby Singer’s bookshelf (or Dean’s, in some cases).  It was quite extensive, but most of the books were trashy or badly translated, unlike Bobby’s collection, which was full of quality, rare books.  However, there was a particular section that oozed malevolence, hatred, and began to flash demonic taint at Cas from the upper-left corner of the bookshelf.

It was likely to be authentic, too, or she’d never have sensed it to begin with.

Adrianna started after her but Cas said “Stay where you are, both of you.” The two of them glared at her, in stereo. “I mean it; this is very dangerous,” she said, noting the upper-left corner of the eight-foot-tall bookshelf, which was outfitted with a makeshift concealment ward to the side.

And one that had been broken recently.  Why would Jenny have broken the concealment ward?  It looked as if Jenny had been the one to do it, but the malevolence in the room was so tangible Cas couldn’t be certain she had.  It was just a feeling she had.

Her feelings hadn’t led her astray yet.  They were probably a remnant of her broken Grace—one she was very grateful for.

Jessie started “Why?” she asked as Castiel examined the bookshelf’s corner, seeing the tip of a hex bag poking out.

Another one, and it looked fresh.  Her day was just getting better and better.  Making the last one harmless had been an accident; at least this time, her Grace wasn’t sparking and pulling at its reins, no matter how broken and bruised it was. 

Cas snapped on a pair of gloves, and then pulled out a pair of tweezers and a cloth bag, which she had woven several purification and warding spells into.  Though hex bags couldn’t affect her directly, they might alert the witch to her presence, and this one she needed to examine more closely.  It wasn’t the same as the one in Emily’s house, which was easy to purify and render harmless. 

She pulled over Jenny’s footstool and climbed up on top of it, reaching up to tug out the hex bag.  She managed to pull it out after a few tugs, trying to identify the taint wafting off it as she lowered it into the cloth bag. 

It felt like a punch in the stomach when Castiel recognized it, and how it fought her warding, just as the last had only stronger.  Dear Father, what had the witch wrought?

“One of the First,” said Cas quietly, a sinking feeling in her stomach as she realized what she was dealing with. “Oh…” and she said something nasty in the first language to come to mind that wasn’t English, to keep the children from learning anything from her.

Swearing in another, old language was an old habit of hers, from dealing with Dean and Sam for so long.  English often didn’t have the right words for what she wanted to say.  These days, though, she had more trouble not speaking her mind.

She sealed the plastic bag off and dropped it in her pocket, well away from her Grace-filled body, feeling a little sick as her Grace roiled inside of her.

“Alright,” said Adrianna suspiciously “What’s going on?  You recognized that Pai-thing Jessie said downstairs, and now you’re using a cloth to hold that, and not touching some weird bag?” 

Cas glanced back her way “You’re too young to lose your innocence to a world like this,” she said quietly, looking around the rest of the room for another hex bag, but Adrianna’s eyes narrowed, her expression setting at the words.

Cas found none.  It was really quite a beautiful room, with the artistic designs on the walls, so clearly hand-painted.  And not by Jenny; she was a botanist.  The designs had been painted by someone else.  The desk and desk lamp also lit up a tray of plants that were set in small, square-shaped pots on the windowsill. 

Much better than her current motel room.  But then, she didn’t exactly need to sleep, before—and now she had a full appreciation for just how much Sam and Dean did for others, given just how hard hunting as a human was.

The spells on this room would take her some time to undo, but she felt she owed it to the family to ensure there were no lingering traces of dark magic in their home.  But it would take her more time than she had.  If one of the First were here, then it meant the spell’s residue might affect anyone in this room if they chose to clean it, and it was possible there were hex bag ingredients somewhere or other.  Clean-up was absolutely necessary in cases like this. 

Later, she would also have to remove the occult books from the shelf, just to ensure nobody decided to summon a demon with them or started ‘messing around,’ as Dean called it.  There had been some case he’d run into with Sam a few years before they met, one where a demon-possessed girl was acting as the ‘friend’ of a few housewives and tempting them into selling their souls for no reason—and convincing them it was a joke the whole time.  A practical joke at that.

Cas had no intention of letting this situation go that far.  If she found that demon the she would exorcise it on the spot.  Or kill it.  She wasn’t picky.

“What do you mean?” demanded Adrianna “You know something.  You know why our sister died.”

“Something that you’re both much better off not knowing,” said Cas shortly, looking back at the glaring girl. “Tell me, how would you like to know what I am up against, knowing that if I confront it, I am likely to die?” Adrianna gasped, and Jessie paled.

Jessie stuttered “Y-You’re not really FBI, are you?”

Cas sighed, “I’ve gotten better at lying, but no, I’m not actually FBI.  I know what I’m doing is illegal,” she said, forestalling the question “But this, figuring out what really killed your sister, is my job.  I won’t let her murderer walk away.”

She turned to the window nearest the bed, which had a single sigil carved into the lower-left-hand corner.  Kneeling next to it, Castiel squinted, shifting her position until she could see it.  It was Enochian for Revenge, carved on the inside of the room.  That was definitely one of the First.  And if they knew Enochian, chances were they could use it against her.

She hadn’t exactly had the chance to test how well it worked on her, given that she was even weaker than the lowest ranked servant of Heaven. 

“I really, really hoped I was wrong.  Why can’t I be wrong just once?” muttered the angel, earning curious looks from her companions. “One of these days I’m going to be wrong, and there will be one less problem to worry about,” she grumbled, getting to her feet.

“But—I-I mean—you know what’s going on, right?” Jessie asked, “You know what killed my sister.  And all those people.  A-and your partner—your partner knows too, right?  Did…were you sent by…did the Holy Ghost send you here?”

Cas turned to look at them, recalling that the family thought she was a Mormon as well, “In a sense, yes.  I do know what’s going on, but I have to cross-reference the information to be sure,” she put the cloth bag in her pocket. “But for now, I want you to stay out of your sister’s room.  Both of you.”

Adrianna scowled “Why should we listen to you?”

Cas, having dealt with several stubborn humans, just smiled a little. “Come over here, but don’t touch the window or the bookshelf.” They did as they were told, Adrianna with a huff and Jessie with a curious glance at the bookshelf. “You see this?” she pointed to the etched drawing.

“Yeah, it’s a drawing,” said Adrianna.

“It’s not just a drawing.  It’s Enochian,” said Cas, “A very old language.  For ‘revenge.’” Adrianna and Jessie both looked at her with incredulity in their eyes. “Enochian is a language no longer spoken by more than a few, and those that do speak it, do not speak it aloud.  It is also an old language, one of great power.” She took a breath “If you touch this, then you’re next.  I have no doubt that Emily Smythe touched this rune, and that is why she is dead.  The symbol is a warning, likely from someone your sister met outside of this town.  It is usually given, freely, should someone betray another.” Cas sighed “And it also means I’m dealing with something more powerful than I thought.”

And if it was a coven, like she thought it was, then it was likely that an arch-demon, one of the First Demons, was backing it.  Lilith hadn’t been released yet, and this was not Lilith’s type of work.  No, this was one of the pettier First Demons, or one of the more vindictive.  She couldn’t tell which, exactly, but to have that power, it had to be one of the Fallen.

All of them were supposed to be dead, but Cas knew, from the months leading up to the apocalypse, that a scant few of them remained alive, and in the Pit.  In fact, Azazel had been one of them.  Azriel had fallen with Lucifer, with his own nephilim children.

But it couldn’t be Azazel.  He was already active in the world.  It had to be someone else.

Jessie frowned “But,” she started “My sister…she—she wouldn’t…”

Adrianna, though, seemed to get it. “She loved her plants,” said the Asian girl quietly, “Said they were like her children.” She swallowed “Why…”

“It would mean the ultimate betrayal, for her own plants to kill her,” murmured Cas, already seeing where this was going.  Emily’s relationship with Jenny was part of this; she could feel it… “Whoever did this is very powerful.” She turned to the children. “Listen to me, both of you.  If you touch anything in this room, you might be next.  You or your parents, or anyone else in your family.  Tell your parents that the evidence can’t be touched, because the killer is keeping watch over this room.”

“W-watching…” started Jessie “Watching us?  Now?!” she looked about ready to cry, she was so panicked.

Cas’ lips twitched “Not right now, or I wouldn’t take the time to talk about it.” Actually, she’d probably be halfway to Heaven by now, banished, if she was recognized as an angel by the witch.  What little of her Grace seeped out wasn’t enough to force one to work, but it was noticeable, if she wasn’t shrouding it—which she was, but it was still an uncontrollable thing. “My partner and I—we aren’t FBI agents, but we are people who know how to deal with this kind of thing.  We know how to stop people who kill the way this one is.” She paused, “And if you ever find anything that you think might be the key to stopping this, here’s my number,” she held out a slip of paper and Adrianna took it with a nod.

“Thanks,” she said, though she was still looking at Cas with suspicion.

After double-checking that the girls weren’t going to give her secret away, Cas went back downstairs with them, and thanked the Davies for answering her questions.  She was offered the chance to stay for dinner, but she made up having to go compare notes with her ‘partner,’ intending to go to the morgue to double-check the magical residue on the corpses.  She needed to determine just what she was up against.

She didn’t quite make it out of the Davies’ house without a wrapped casserole for later, though Castiel appreciated the hospitality and told them as much.  It would keep well with the ice they’d provided for her, and having food on hand meant she didn’t have to go out and risk a witch poisoning her tea or food later that afternoon. 

Hopefully, while she was there, she would run into Dean again.  She needed help on this case, and she wasn’t above asking for it.  If he wasn’t too suspicious of her, he’d help her. 

She hoped.  Father, she hoped he would.  She needed Dean’s help.  She needed his trust.

Chapter Text

P-R-O-M-I-S-E

It hadn’t taken him long to get there.

Dean pulled up outside the morgue, smoothly pulling into a parking space.  He glanced over at the door, seeing a tan trench coat flapping behind the person heading inside.  So, Castiel was here, too, then.

Great, first she beat him to the recent victim’s house, and then she also beat him to the freaking morgue?  Brilliant work, Winchester, he told himself as he got out.  Just brilliant.

He’d been tempted to go interview Jenny’s close family before coming here, but Cas’d probably just come from there and he didn’t want to risk making them suspicious.  Once was coincidence, but twice was weird and three times was a pattern.  He didn’t need anyone else looking into his presence in town and if Cas was willing to work with him, or showed her notes by accident because he was pretty, he’d get them all the same.  Besides, interviewing the survivors was always the hardest part of this job for him, and right now, he wanted to see if he could confirm his hypothesis without having to do much more of it. 

That, and something told him Cas was here to help him.  Dean wasn’t sure he trusted that feeling, not really, but he was curious, and that meant he’d gamble on this.  He could always do that bit of the work later, if Bobby didn’t check her story and make sure she really was who she said she was.  If she wasn’t a hunter…

But Dean’s gut had never steered him wrong before.  His dad and brother didn’t get it, but Dean did, and he wasn’t about to distrust it this time.  Not when it kept saving his life.  He’d do his research, but he’d have to try and trust this feeling, too—because it was telling him that Cas was a friend.

Strange.  He’d never had that feeling about anyone before.  Much less a random FBI agent.

Walking in the door, Dean went up to the counter, only to see that it was empty.  Curiously, there was no hint of tan anywhere, nor was there any sign of Castiel inside.  The mortician must’ve already taken her back to the morgue.  Or, he allowed, he’d been seeing things earlier. 

It would’ve been better, and easier, if she wasn’t here, but given what he knew she probably was.  He’d have to be really, really careful about this.  The door opened, and a hulking man, about Dean’s height, bald, with a snake tattooed around his scalp—the World Serpent, eating its own tail—and brown eyes exited.  He was wearing a mortician’s uniform, and he walked up to the counter, eyeing Dean up and down.

“You here about the suicides?” he asked, his voice a rough, low drawl.  Dean nodded, flashing his FBI badge. “Your partner’s in there with my boss right about now.”

Partner?  He must’ve meant Castiel.

Wait, but why would she have said he was her partner?  Did she name him, or did they just assume?  He was hoping they’d just assumed, but if she’d introduced him as her partner, she had a bigger stake in this than he’d realized.

What kind of game was she playing?  He hadn’t managed to take a closer look at the hex bag he’d found just yet, but it wasn’t giving him the creeps right now.  Probably ‘cause it was de-powered and empty.  Who the hell just emptied a hex bag and left it there? 

Calling Bobby was looking more and more like a good idea.  Just to figure out what the hell was up with her.

It might’ve just been coincidence, but the day it was coincidence that he’d met Castiel here, he’d eat his leather jacket.

Dean flashed the guy a smile “Yeah, well, we’re supposed to meet here to compare notes.” The guy just waved him back behind the counter.

That was a lot easier than it usually was.  That alone made it doubly suspicious.  He wasn’t about to pass up the chance to find out more about Castiel, but why would she pretend he was her partner?  Maybe he looked like her partner, or she was really from the Bureau and had been told he was her partner? 

He didn’t buy that, not really, but anything was possible.  She’d shown up smack in the middle of a town with a witch infestation and was connected to a completely empty and de-powered hex bag.  It was pretty clearly a hex bag, so why had she removed the contents?  He had no idea just how involved she was, but he’d be better off treating her as an enemy.

Which was a pity, since she was hot. 

And a part of him wanted to curl into a ball and cry at the thought of losing—there was a faint bit of warmth in the corner of his mind, protesting and tugging at him to trust and Dean had to push it away.  Especially before he saw her and her damnably familiar face again.

Why was she so familiar?

“They’re unlocked,” the guy said as Dean passed behind him to the doors.

“Thanks,” said Dean, walking through the door, and into the morgue.

He closed it quietly behind him, rather than letting it flap; no sense in alerting her to the fact that he was here.  He wanted to find out more about her first, before he did that much. 

When he rounded the corner and found the bodies, he also found the doctor and her.  Just as he’d suspected, Castiel was standing by the side of the body of Emily Smythe, looking it over with a critical eye.  She was bent over the upper half of the girl’s body, clearly looking for something.  Whatever it was, he couldn’t quite see from here, but either she was a professional or a really good actress. 

And knowing his luck, it was the latter.  She wasn’t likely to actually be from the Bureau, not with their strict dress codes and the fact that he knew she didn’t have a weapon on her.  Not unless she was really damn good at hiding it.  Which was doubly weird, since while she was awkward, and walked weirdly, he had the feeling that she was also one of the last people he wanted to get into an argument with, much less a fight.

“Hey doc,” he said, nodding to Castiel “Agent,” she looked over at him, and if he wasn’t wrong, she was surprised to see him there.  Not like her face gave much away. “How’s it coming?”

The doctor looked up at Castiel “Ah, is this your partner, Agent MacGyver?”

Definitely a false name.  She’d looked a little confused at the name given; and seriously, who went around with a false ID with that name?  He had to admire it, because she’d picked a really badass guy to fake off, but still.  That was ridiculous!

“Yes,” said Castiel in that same deep, rich velvety voice that really didn’t match her body.  Then again, Dean couldn’t really say that, because he loved that voice (and why did it sound so familiar?). “Would you spare me a moment to confer with him?” she jerked her chin slightly toward the other section of the morgue, glancing at Dean.

Dean walked over to that section, eyeing her warily.  She had wide shoulders, but her suit and tan coat hid most if not all of her muscle mass so he had no idea how strong she could be underneath all that.  And she could lie, and lie well.  Whoever’d taught her how to lie did it very well. 

Or did they?  Because she looked fairly uncomfortable right now.

“Quit that,” hissed Castiel, “You’re going to blow my cover.” Cover?  What on Earth was she talking about? “I wasn’t told I was getting backup on this job, but since you’re here, I think we can help each other.”

Backup?  Shit, shit, shit… “Well,” Dean recovered quickly “You’re not exactly what I was expecting either.  Last I heard you were undercover.”

Point to him, he thought when she looked a little surprised.  And a little birdlike, tilting her head almost in confusion.  It was…oddly cute.  He had to focus, though; what was her excuse for that?

“Still am,” Castiel muttered back, “Not the point.  What are you doing here, Agent…” she trailed off, waiting for him to introduce himself.

Dean smiled long and slow at her “Lannister,” he said, happy that he’d been reading some fantasy novels with good, if weird names. “Dean Lannister.” She nodded, arching an eyebrow for a second at his name, but then dropping it. 

What could that mean?  And was she really with the FBI?  Dressed like that?  If she was, then she was doing a really good job of fooling him or a really crappy job of being undercover.  He really doubted the FBI had an agent called MacGyver on their records, official or not, and it didn’t work as an undercover name for shit, either. 

But Castiel didn’t seem like she minded him being here, so long as he didn’t blow her cover, which was what, exactly?  That her name was Castiel?  He could tell she hadn’t recognized his name, though, so on the off chance she was a civvie and he could trust her not to be a monster, he was in trouble the minute she reported in to the Bureau.

In the low light, it looked like her eyes were glowing, if faintly.  That was probably the sign of a supernatural creature of some kind.  Sammy seemed to attract those, and Dean’s luck hadn’t exactly been on his side with his last date, either, since she’d been a vampire.  He was keeping on his toes, no matter how hot this one was.  She could try to kill him in an instant and he’d be dead if his guard wasn’t up.

Most of the time he hunted ghosts, a few monsters, and the occasional witch.  Whatever was in this town, though, it was partly centered on her.  And that was giving him the creeps.

“Agent Cassidy MacGuyver,” said Castiel, holding out her hand.  Suddenly, she was all business, nothing like the clumsy woman who’d been so wrapped up in her thoughts that she’d nearly run over him earlier.  He shook her hand, noting a fleeting expression of sorrow cross her face. “This one’s bad.  It’s a shame,” she dropped his hand and turned toward the table “They had their whole lives ahead of them before death…”

Shame?  What kind of non-human thought it was just a—he countered himself with the memory of the kitsune he’d helped hunt. 

Dean huffed “What makes you think it was a suicide?” too late, he realized he’d slipped up, but Castiel didn’t seem to notice.

Thank God.  He wasn’t sure he could deal with that.

“I don’t,” said ‘Cassidy’ bluntly, “but I don’t have much else to go on, at least for her.” She nodded toward Emily “The one that was described as ‘death by plant,’ though, is much more interesting.”

Interesting.  Right.  He wasn’t sure he wanted to know what she meant by that, given how calm she was about this whole thing.  It was a little creepy; why anyone would call a murder interesting, after all?  Except maybe Sherlock Holmes, but that guy didn’t count.  He was fictional and Cassidy—or Cas—was real.

Dean grimaced “Do I want to know?” he muttered, too quietly for her to hear. 

Or so he thought; she’d just grimaced in response.  Great.  Supernatural hearing, check.  He’d said that under his breath. 

Cas shrugged “Probably not,” she said quietly “but it’s part of the job, and it’s a weird death.  I think she’s the link between them.” Dean’s mind went to the picture of Jenny Davies in the papers; she’d been smiling, and even without seeing her body, pretty darn attractive. “I was just at the Davies house.”

Great.  That just meant he’d have to go and double-check her information later.  Just in case she was leading him in the wrong direction.  She might’ve been hiding something or doing the job for show while leaving something important out, something that could get him killed. 

More research and talking to dead people’s families.  He hated that part.  There was a reason he usually left Sammy to do it; his brother was far better at this sort of thing than Dean was. 

Dean shrugged “Was Emily on anything when she died?” he asked, to distance the conversation from Jenny.

Better to stick with what he knew until he knew the truth about Castiel.  She might give something away if she lied to his face, or she might unintentionally talk about the hex bag.  He was in the middle of the morgue with her; if she’d wanted to kill him, by now she would have.  So what game was she playing, helping him?  If she was supernatural at all, that is.

“She came in clean,” said Castiel, turning to the mortician, and tilting her head slightly to the left. “He said so.  You just got to town, didn’t you?”

The mortician, meanwhile, nodded to him the second he glanced that way.  Hmm.  Why would Castiel be sharing this case with him?  It really didn’t make much sense.  Unless it was a trap; she could have been a witch.  Quietly, he murmured christo at the same volume as his mutter, but it had no effect on her. 

Okay, so not an obvious demon.  One monster down.  And he had a silver ring on, and her hands were clean.  He’d have to somehow find a way to test her with holy water, but that narrowed down the list by a lot. 

“How many have you interviewed?” countered Dean, because he needed to know how much of a cover story he was gonna have to come up with to keep from blowing this whole job sky high.  At least Castiel seemed to be willing to help him.  For now, he’d take it. “And how much of this is goin’ on the official report?”

Best to play along, really.  Just in case she really was FBI; just until he knew more about what was going on.  He’d been hoping she was caught off-guard, too. 

Castiel raised both eyebrows at him “I’m not technically supposed to be here, so, none of it.  I haven’t had the chance to look at the other bodies.  I interviewed the Davies family and the Olsen family today.” She sounded a little irritated “The Olsens didn’t help me much.”

“Good,” grumbled Dean. “I’m not supposed to be here, either.” Hopefully that would keep her from looking him up as a Fed for a little while, on the off chance she was one. “But I thought it looked weird, so I went ahead and decided to check it out anyway.”

Ten mysterious deaths in a small town in Wyoming?  That was way too much of a coincidence for him.  He wasn’t liking how lucky he’d been on this case so far, though.  His cover story’d always gotten him in before, but he’d never had someone help him with it before. 

He had to find the witches, get out of town, and ditch this identity before Castiel (or was it Cassidy) realized what he was up to and either arrested him or tried to kill him.  Jesus; that or he’d have to call Bobby, but the lady seemed supernatural enough to him.  He could probably make it two days, which meant he’d just have to call at the next opportunity.

Hell, for all he knew, she was the murderer, impersonating a Fed, but for now he’d give her a little doubt since she was clearly not a run of the mill demon or monster.  Especially since his gut was telling him, almost screaming at him that he knew her, that she was trustworthy and a friend.  Dean didn’t like it.  He didn’t trust so easily, especially not with someone who looked and felt so…off.  But he knew, at least part of him knew that she was a friend.

How did he know this?  Shit, but he must’ve been going crazy!

The second he got out of this morgue, he was calling Bobby.  No more waiting around.

She nodded to him, and led the way back over to the mortician. “You were saying?” she said, and Dean noticed how her voice changed a little, like she was trying not to sound like she’d just rolled out of bed after a night of wild sex. 

Huh.  So maybe she wasn’t supernatural after all, and was just an awkward, hot chick with a sexy voice.

Too bad he couldn’t leave anything to chance.

“Her body…I’ve never seen anything like it,” the mortician said, frowning down at the other body on the table, next to Emily.  Jenny Davies looked almost completely normal, for a corpse, except that black veins covered most of her face. “It’s like her body became soil for the plant, from the inside out.  Like it ate her blood.”

Soil.  As in, she decomposed from the inside out.  It used her blood as soil, which was pretty friggin’ dark for most things.  This was definitely some nasty spell or curse, since Jenny clearly hadn’t died peacefully.  The expression on her face was contorted in pain and she looked like she had died mid-scream.  HE snapped on a pair of examiner’s gloves and looked at the mortician.

“You mind if I look?” he asked, gesturing, and the man shook his head.

“Go ahead.  It’s not pretty,” the man said, shuddering.

A body becoming soil from the inside out all but screamed demon-powered witch to Dean, which meant he was probably dealing with a coven.

Friggin’ witches, man.  He hated these things.

Dean looked over at Cas, who was staring at the body as if she was seeing something else while he stepped forward to look at the girl.  Cas’ blue eyes were far away, and her brow was furrowed, like she was trying to make the world make sense again.  She had stopped just two steps away from Jenny’s body.  Dean continued those two steps forward and moved to open one of her eyelids, surprised to see that there were no blood vessels—only dark, almost inky-black soil lighting up the insides where red veins would have been.  Even her irises had turned a dark, soil-like shade.

Ugh.  Friggin’ witches. 

He was about to say something when she shook herself and stepped over to the body, turning over Jenny’s nearest wrist.  She winced, and when Dean looked down at the wrist he almost gagged at the smell that came up from it.  Now he knew why it was just ‘killed by aconite’ in her obituary, rather than…well, he could smell a mixture of sulfur, monkshood, and what looked like a freaking plant growing from her arm.  Of course, it looked like the blackness (soil) extended down to the arm, too, even if the plant was dying.  Blegh.

So, not just soil.  She’d had a friggin’ plant eat her alive.  From the inside out.  This was looking more and more like a curse to him.

“Have you ever seen anything like that before?” Castiel turned to Dean, who shook his head, thoroughly disgusted.

He couldn’t believe he was seeing this, but he was, and God, it was gross.  It looked one hell of a lot like a curse, but this was inventive; like revenge, only worse

“I’m-I’ll be outside,” the doctor said, looking pale as he left the room. 

Dean, though, was more interested in looking up whatever the hell it was she might’ve found.  The minute the morgue door was completely closed, Castiel turned over Jenny’s other wrist, revealing a bright green sigil written in what looked like some ancient language he couldn’t read almost growing out of it.  The skin was slightly raised, even as soil-black veins covered her skin—literally covered it—and obscured it a bit.  He bent down to take a closer look, trying to mentally flip it over in his head without touching it.  Better to be safe than sorry with this shit.

Cas was also avoiding touching it.  Which meant it was either some real bad mojo or she was just trying to avoid handling evidence, or something.  A glance at her told him that she was writing it down; he pulled out a notepad and did the same.

He knew he’d seen this somewhere before, on another hunt, back with Dad when he was sixteen.  It was the one thing he remembered clearly from that damn hunt, since he’d nearly died trying to keep his Dad alive.

He didn’t know what language it was, but it had to do with revenge.  He’d had to learn it pretty quick, since the coven doing it was trying to raise some kind of vengeance demon.  Hell, he better not’ve stumbled onto another one of these damn things.  Once had been bad enough.  He shook his head slightly and refocused on the sigil, which had been tattooed on the inside of her wrist in green ink.

Had a witch tattooed her dead corpse using a spell?  That was impossible though.

Castiel made a sound that was definitely not English and Dean looked up only to see that she’d gone a few shades whiter than before and was comparing the tattoo to something she’d written on a notepad.  She was nearly white-knuckling her pen, her grip was so tight.  He could’ve sworn he heard the plastic bending.

“Father, please, please, let me be wrong,” she breathed, so quietly he wouldn’t have heard it if he hadn’t been half-bent over the girl’s body. “Please.”

She sounded like she was about to break .  Her voice was bordering on desperate, prayer-like in a way Dean hadn’t ever heard before, but definitely inhuman.  That most definitely ruled out FBI, unless she was a pagan of some kind—which meant he was dealing with a trained hunter (if his luck held), or a supernatural creature.

Sadly, the latter was much more likely than the former.  No serious hunter dressed like Castiel and got out of anywhere alive.  Hell, that jacket could swallow her if she tried to shrink down into it and it would definitely get caught in doorways, or worse.  There was absolutely no way she could run fast in that getup, either.  That meant she had some way to move around it.

Which meant she was supernatural.  Damn, he’d really wanted to be wrong this time.  A part of him told him to take her shoulder and comfort her and he shut that part up quick.  If she was a siren, he was in big trouble because she’d already touched him.  But sirens reacted to silver.  She hadn’t.

Maybe she was only part-monster.

“Cassidy?” Dean asked, as he straightened and she looked up from her notepad. “There a microscope in here?” he wanted to look at some of the residue from Emily’s bathroom, and maybe some of the black gunk that seemed to be going right up the veins of Jenny’s arm.

Maybe without her freaking out on him, too.

Castiel waved a hand in the direction of the lab table, still staring.  A part of him didn’t like leaving her alone with it, but why

Whatever she was, she wasn’t human.  She shouldn’t have interested him.  She shouldn’t have made him want to hug her.  Until he knew what she was, he needed to keep the commentary (and the protectiveness) to a minimum.

Otherwise, she’d probably kill him.

Ah, what the hell.  He was a flirt by nature, and he could still flirt; besides he was starting to like her in spite of himself.  Besides, there was no harm in looking.

Castiel had a seriously intense gaze, and despite being short, she had this way of standing that reminded him of a soldier, constantly on alert.  He liked women in uniform.  And that suit of hers fit her like well-worn battle armor; she wore it proudly, like it was a second skin or more to her.  Like it was normal.  Plus it hugged her ass in all the right places when she walked, and the trench coat added a little character. 

Damn, he really hoped he wasn’t drooling right now.

“Stop staring and get to work, Lannister,” said Castiel from where she had picked up a scalpel and was holding out a small plastic bag underneath the girl’s arm.

Damn it.  Earlier she hadn’t been more than a passing thought, but now she was standing right in front of him.  And even knowing she was probably something they hunted, he needed her help, if in name only. He couldn’t ignore her.  Dean muttered a second quick ‘christo’ as he took the bag from her, but she didn’t react.  No black eyes and no sulfur smell; nothing.  He smirked; so she wasn’t a demon, then. 

Good, that meant she could be one of…about half a million different things, immune to silver.  Crap.

“Can’t appreciate it when I see a beautiful lady?” he teased, to cover up his wariness.

Castiel’s small smile was fleeting and sad, and the most emotion he’d ever seen from her. “I’m not beautiful,” he heard her say as he arrived at the microscope. “And I am far from a lady.”

Something bothered him about that.  He wasn’t sure what, so he decided to cover that up by trying to find out more about her, under the impression of flirting of course.  She couldn’t know he really did find her attractive. 

Could she?  Nah, he dismissed that immediately; she was probably used to being flirted at, not necessarily with.

“Really,” said Dean sarcastically “I thought beauty was supposed to be in the eye of the beholder,” he said, as he prepared two slides, using his voice to mask the fact that he was preparing two, and not one.

He could almost hear her eye roll “I have a brother who is worse than you are, Dean.  And I mean that literally.” She paused “I am not a lady.  Nor am I beautiful.” There was something dark in her words, but it wasn’t a warning.

Instead, it sounded sad, like she’d…lost something, something very important to her.  Dean had to fight down the impulse to at least touch her shoulder, to apologize; he didn’t like touching people until they made it clear it was okay, and supernatural creatures could be especially bad.  And she didn’t look like she would appreciate him doing anything of the sort.

Dean snorted “He’s your brother, and ‘scuse me, but if my little brother turned into a sexy lady, I’d be all for beating the guys off with the biggest stick I could find,” he said, glancing over his shoulder at her only to see her perusing the body again and ignoring him. “Wouldn’t say anything about how beautiful he was.”

Castiel tilted her head, reminding him almost of a bird, but then appeared to drop the subject.

“Why monkshood?  I understand the rune, but monkshood?  It’s…” she frowned, paging through the yellow notebook she’d had with her earlier. “But maybe it wasn’t…unless…”

Until she attacked him, he’d have to give her the benefit of the doubt.  Didn’t mean he couldn’t touch her with silver if she got close enough, though.  And the silver hadn’t made her yelp or look burned, though that didn’t mean much.  She could be tricking him, or she could just be almost immune to pain.  She didn’t seem very expressive; maybe it had to hit a certain point before she noticed it?  Like nerve damage in humans?

Dean commented “It doesn’t grow around here, does it?” glancing at Castiel, who shook her head; she seemed unsurprised that he’d heard her. “Then why would she have some?”

Was this a test of some kind, or was she manipulating him into getting closer to the answer?  And if so, why? 

Poisonous plants tended to be pulled up or destroyed in small towns except in parks, because if they weren’t, children would eat them.  Belladonna was fatal, so it wasn’t likely that it grew around here at all.  At least, not without being destroyed by some overly concerned parents.  Given that Jenny seemed to be a bit of a gardener, she might’ve kept it around, but only as a thing to look at since it was likely to be pretty.

He started getting a slide ready to take a look at the sample of blood he’d taken at Emily’s house.  May as well use the lab how it was supposed to be used.  He also did a quick, perfunctory check for hex bags; it was probably useless, but he didn’t want to end up dead or writhing on the floor from touching the microscope. 

As he’d expected, nothing.  Witches were smarter than that.  Morticians dropping dead for no good reason would have hunters on them in seconds.  And most of them were smart enough to know that.

“I talked to her sisters,” said Castiel, “They said she was working at a greenhouse and planning to major in botany.  There was a small pot holding aconite on her bookshelf, when I examined her room,” her slight frown became more than just a slight frown as she tilted her head to the side again. “But why would it be used to kill her?  It doesn’t make sense.” She let out a sigh, as if she’d just realized she was speaking aloud, and turned to him “Is that slide ready?”

“Uh, almost,” Dean had gotten distracted watching her pace, but he turned back to the slide and after fixing up the microscope, looked through at the sample of blood he’d gotten at Emily’s house. “Give me a second, the slide isn’t fitting right.”

Castiel didn’t appear to notice, he realized, as he glanced over his shoulder only to see her writing in her notepad again, still frowning slightly.  What the hell was she doing helping him?

He looked back through the microscope, trying to ignore the woman beside him.

There were sulfur crystals in her blood, like the ones you’d find in bodies of people possessed by demons.  He had smelled a faint bit of sulfur at the house, and the crystals from the underside of the mirror were sulfur, but why in would a witch make a demon possess Emily and then kill her?  What the hell had he stumbled onto; a demonic summons, or a sacrificial ritual, or neither?  Or both?  Dean switched the slides out and focused on the black stuff in Jenny’s arm, hoping for something less disgusting.  Then he wished he had a stronger stomach, because damn, this was nasty, and he wanted to throw up.  He nearly did, his stomach rebelling as he took it in.

He knew what healthy blood looked like, and had seen it enough times under the microscope.  He wasn’t stupid.  This was the opposite of healthy; there were fragments of bone and what looked like a squishy sponge-like substance scattered throughout her blood, and the black was from the reaction of a chemical in aconite and the sulfur, which floated in crystals on the slide.  It actually looked like her body was breaking down from the inside out as the aconite grew through it, decomposing into soil. 

He sure didn’t envy Jenny Davies; it’d be excruciatingly painful to live through that.  Poor girl was probably relieved to die at the end of it all.

“Shit,” breathed Dean, moving his slide with the sample of Emily’s blood into a bag and into his coat pocket. “Cassidy, you might want to look at this.”

If she was helping him, he could at least help her out, too.  At least until he got some answers from Bobby about who the fuck she was, if she was on his side at all.  Besides, if she had supernatural mojo, better to let her do what she wanted here.

He had the feeling this was for some kind of fucked up ritual.  He’d have to do more research to be sure, but he’d been on witch-hunts before and instinct had never steered him wrong.  It was the only way he’d survived this long, even though he was a fair hand at research.  Which he hated doing, because it was boring.  Research wasn’t good enough to save you if you couldn’t use it or work out patterns from it, and he wasn’t good at that.  At least, not nearly as good as Sammy, who’d had it down since he was fourteen.  Dean still had difficulty with the patterns.

Castiel looked up from her notepad, and as she passed him, she set it down on the tabletop, giving Dean a good look into what she’d figured out about the case.  He didn’t dare flip through the pages, but he could see a list of names and how they were connected to each other on the page.  Jenny Davies was the name connecting all of the others. 

Curiously, the line connecting her to Emily wasn’t ‘tutor and friend,’ but Secret Girlfriend.  Girlfriends?  Seriously?  How had Cas figured that part out?  Some of the writing also wasn’t hers; it was someone else’s, whom he didn’t recognize.  She’d probably gotten that info from whoever she interviewed, but in this town practically no one was out of the closet, seeing as it was Bear River, Wyoming, so how would Cas know about Jenny? 

He was pretty sure she hadn’t been in town long, judging from the patterns and notes she’d taken.  Probably two days, tops, before him.  This was pretty good work for someone (or something, his paranoid instinct screamed at him, something) that hadn’t been in town that long.  And if she’d been here when Emily died, he might have something to connect her to the kills. 

That shock, though…that had been real.  Even demons couldn’t fake shock that well, in his experience, or shifters.  No, she wasn’t acting that part out.  Which was one more point for her maybe—maybe—being what she seemed to be, and on his side.

“How long’ve you been in town?” he asked, as she pulled back from the microscope with a minute frown on her face. 

If it was actually a frown, it was very, very small.  He’d never have noticed it if he wasn’t paying attention to her eyebrows.  She must not’ve been kidding about the whole ‘no emotions’ thing her family did.  Well, that or her nature made it hard for her to feel like a human did.  Either way, she wasn’t doing a good job of acting normal right now.

Strangely, that made him more inclined to trust her, since most things trying to cozy up to him and pretend to be human did a pretty decent job of it.  Cas was…awkward, but it felt genuine.  Sure, she could’ve been a witch, but he was beginning to doubt that, since she seemed truly disgusted by what she saw in the microscope.

“Since Saturday evening,” said Castiel, picking up her notepad and flipping to a new page. He saw what looked like a sigil on it before her hand obscured the page.  The same sigil that had been on Jenny’s arm.  “Sulfur in her blood, too. Have you ever seen anything like this?”

Dean frowned, trying to ignore her voice deepening, “No,” he said.  Well, yes, but there was no way he was admitting that to her.  Castiel looked over at him with a raised eyebrow “No, seriously, it’s like Jenny’s blood is breaking down and I’m damn sure aconite poisoning doesn’t do that.”

“No, it doesn’t,” agreed Castiel, attention on her notepad.

Also weird.  She seemed to be tracking him, but only sometimes—when he moved.  Like a hunter tracked another hunter or an agent tracked someone.

One of the other bodies might have a clue, thought Dean as he turned toward the cases.  The doc hadn’t said where the other victims were while he was there, but Castiel might have gotten it out of the guy.  But had she touched them?  No, he’d gotten here too soon for that, and she hadn’t been in here before; she’d have seen the dead body if she had.  Jenny Davies had died over a week ago.  She could’ve seen the others some other time, though, so he wasn’t sure he should trust those, either.

Well, he’d never know if he didn’t look.  Besides, even if the evidence was altered he might get some evidence as to what she was, and why she was here.

“Which drawers are the others in?” Dean asked, “This might’ve been in them, too.”

Castiel blinked, tilting her head to the side slightly.  That reminded him of a bird, a little.  It also made her look like she was Dean’s age.  Too bad she was supernatural; he would’ve invited her out for the night if she wasn’t. 

She replied “201 to 209.  209 is Jenny’s drawer.”

That just sounded wrong, but Castiel didn’t even seem to notice.  Or maybe she had, and she was baiting him; that seemed less and less likely, though, the more he worked on this.  He turned and opened drawer 201, pulling out the body on the sheet and wrinkling his nose at the smell of death and decay, before he glanced back at his notes.  This guy, Ben something, had choked to death.  On what looked like hemlock.

How the hell was Castiel not so much as wrinkling her nose at this?  The FBI agent (or supernatural monster, he wasn’t sure which right now) seemed unperturbed, only walking over to take a sample of blood from the guy’s arm.

“It probably won’t do us much good,” she commented, and Dean took it, more than a little impressed with how well she was handling this.  Then, Dean was further surprised to see her tilting the man’s mouth open and looking inside. “Hand me a flashlight.”

It wasn’t a request.  Dean usually didn’t like following orders, but for some reason he found himself reaching for the pen-flashlight on the doc’s desk anyway.  Castiel—if that was her name—seemed to have an idea of what was going on, and he wasn’t being made to touch something that might’ve had a hex bag associated with it.  And he was right here, so what could it hurt to let her take a look around?  With him right here, she wouldn’t alter the evidence, not without magic, and that might actually get some evidence of foul play out of her.

He thought he heard Castiel mutter “That’s strange.  No hemlock whatsoever…” and paused to check out her ass. “Quit staring at me and get to work, Lannister.”

Alright, alright, sheesh.  “Well, maybe I can do both, since your outfit’s so sexy,” shot back Dean, as he prepared the slide, never taking his eyes off her.

Castiel rolled her eyes and said nothing.  As he prepared the slide, he felt her glancing at him, and caught her doing it periodically—as if she knew why he was watching her, or that he was, to begin with.  Strangely, though, it reminded him of a curious bird, peering at him as if she couldn’t quite figure out what about him was so interesting.

He wasn’t really sure what to make of that.  Hell if he knew what she was thinking, except that he was a dumbass.

Figuring her out was an interesting challenge, and it made him respect her more, especially since he didn’t think any witch would have the balls to work with an FBI agent.  She didn’t…seem like them, and usually Dean could pick up on any weirdness that might follow people around.  It was like a bad odor; the vaguest, barest sense that something was wrong-wrong-wrong about a person.  Cas didn’t have that.

She registered as faintly clueless, but…human.  Damn it, he needed to call Bobby.  Yesterday.

For now, he had a job to do.

P-R-O-M-I-S-E

Chapter Text

(Bear River Public Library Parking Lot, 3:05pm, same day)

Castiel had held her breath all throughout the questions they’d run through in the morgue, even after Dean had started inspecting the next victim’s body.  Seeing Dean again was one thing, but working alongside him again was nerve-wracking, especially since she could see his aura was so bright.  It was like a flame and she was the moth attracted to it, unable to look away for long, even though it hurt sometimes.  Yeah, he’d been an outrageous flirt after getting over his shock at seeing her there, and Cas…

It wasn’t the first time Dean had flirted with her, or at her, but it was the first time she’d been given firsthand experience of what it was like being a woman working with Dean Winchester instead of a man.  It was a little unsettling, having his full attention turned on her like that, and it had made her twice as jumpy and short with him as she would’ve been if she’d still been male.  At least as a man he’d looked at her personality first, and not her body. 

She’d just have to keep saying no, at least for the duration of the case.  She could tell he was suspicious of her, and that was really why she was being watched, but right now she couldn’t really do anything about that.  First came dealing with the witch coven, then came that other part.

All of their victims had been poisoned by some kind of plant, aside from Emily.  But not the same one every time; she’d seen that from the other victims.  Emily, though, had been killed by swallowing some kind of razor blade—a more typical style for witch killings.  Which begged the question of why the other nine victims hadn’t been killed that way, unless they were ritual sacrifices and Emily was just in their way.

Cas knew of only one ritual that required such a signature, and it was a summoning ritual. 

Thankfully, it wasn’t for Lilith.  She didn’t want to deal with that monster just yet.

She didn’t have that sort of firepower.

But it was for something just as bad, if not worse.  It summoned Paimon, Lucifer’s Second and the angel that fell because she/they loved the Morningstar so much as to follow Lucifer anywhere.  Even against God.  Paimon’s loyalty had always been to Lucifer first, and God second, and they would do absolutely anything for the Devil’s sake.  After the Fall, Paimon had become the Duchess of Hell and its ruler in all but name in Lucifer’s absence, due to imprisonment, though they couldn’t leave Hell without the ritual summoning. 

Not with their wings broken, shattered by Sandalphon’s Glaive during the Fall.

Which meant that Castiel would be dealing with Paimon—albeit a seriously underpowered Paimon—if they couldn’t stop the summoning in time.  Even armed with her knowledge of Enochian sigils, her power, and an angel-killing blade, that made Cas very nervous.  Castiel was all but human right now, with what had happened to her.  Her wings were a tattered mess; the less said about her Grace, the better.

Being smote by two archangels tended to do that.  God had done His best, yes, but to keep her separate from the Castiel of this time, her Grace needed significant time to recover, while the Castiel of her time would slowly fade as Cas grew stronger.  Until that point, though, she had a lot less firepower to work with than a typical angel and little to no connection to Heaven to restore her power.

Then again, Cas acknowledged, Paimon had no connection left, either.  And Paimon had retained most of their power.

Paimon was more powerful than Castiel had ever been in her prime, and older than Cas, too.  After spending so long in the Pit, with human souls, Paimon would be even more inventive than they’d been before.  They would understand the plotting side of humanity better than Cas (who still struggled to tell a lie from the truth), and would be able to ‘rule’ from the shadows and bring Lucifer out of his cage long before the Apocalypse was engineered to happen.  Cas’d have to pull out every trick in her book (and maybe Dean’s, too) if she had to fight the other angel, even with Paimon weakened.  Consuming souls would have given Paimon a twisted form of what Castiel used to have.  It wasn’t the first time Cas had gone up against something much stronger than she was, but it was the first time she’d had to since waking up in 2005.  She’d tried to stick to less flashy, dangerous hunts before this, and had mostly succeeded. 

Well.  There had been that priest who’d died and thought he was helping people by convincing them to enact vengeance on murderers, but that one had gone down pretty easily once he’d received proof of her divinity and moved on to Heaven.  She’d managed that one early, seeing as Sam and Dean had had to deal with him in the future (about a year from now).  Cas had had to lay low for half a month after that case at Bobby’s because of Heaven’s interest in the priest, though, which hadn’t been fun.

At least she had Bobby on her side now.

Castiel shook off her thoughts as she looked back down at her research, and the notes she’d written about what she remembered of the ritual.  Eidetic memory or not, it was always good to see these things written out.  At this point in the ritual, the coven couldn’t do more than bring forth an aspect of Paimon to work through their leader, if the leader chose to use themselves as the host body rather than one of the sacrifices.  She still had a chance at stopping them from summoning Paimon to this plane.  Tapping her pen against her lip, Cas glanced up, looking at the near-deserted library parking lot.  It wasn’t that unusual for it to be empty on a weekday, and seeing as the library closed in an hour she didn’t have a lot of time.

She had to figure out the links between the victims to work out who was needed for the next sacrifice.  If she could predict who would be sacrificed next, she could hopefully stop the coven in their tracks.  And if she could work out the leader’s motivation, she’d be one step closer to uncovering the coven.

If she found the coven doing this, she would find the one who’d brought forth Paimon’s power to kill the others, and forcibly possessed Emily for a brief moment to kill her.  And that would be enough to stop the ritual.  She could undo it from there, if she was careful.

So far, it looked like Dean hadn’t ruled out all of the other monsters that could’ve been causing the killings yet.  Given that he was jumping in on a job that she’d been working for a few days, he’d probably end up using her info to stop the witch.  And he’d probably be willing to help her, but he wouldn’t trust her, not like her Dean had.   

The thought was painful, but Castiel pushed it aside.  She didn’t have time to make him listen to her, or prove herself to him.  This wasn’t like before. 

She just had to hope he’d learn to trust her on his own this time, with nothing to back her up but her current ‘history,’ however false it was.  She could still see her Dean doing that in air quotes when she closed her eyes.  Ha.  It was all a lie, and it wasn’t a comfortable thing to do, but her Dean wouldn’t have given up.

And Bobby believed her.  He knew she was hiding something, but he still believed her.  That was something at least.

Turning back to her notes, Castiel began to draw conclusions from the information she had.

Jennifer Marianne Davies was definitely a witch—the aural poisoning of her room told Castiel that much—and with the requirements of the ritual, she was probably part of the coven.  For the ritual to be successful, at least one sacrifice had to be a member of the summoning coven, which would be a sign of the coven’s devotion to Lucifer and to Paimon.  The victim had to fit one of two sets of requirements; either the victim had to be a traitor, which signified Paimon’s defection from Heaven out of loyalty to Lucifer, or an extremely loyal (dare she say, devoutly so), signifying the extreme loyalty Paimon had toward the fallen angel.  Given the clues Castiel had access to, and the other victims killed off, it looked more like a betrayal killing.  That was good, because that would restrict the archdemon’s power to something more manageable—they might have a chance, if Heaven was watching, if the archdemon was raised to begin with.

She didn’t really want to think about that, though.  She’d rather it wasn’t raised at all given that Heaven might actually try to use Paimon to break the seals instead of Lilith if they were raised.

She could tell she was missing something, but she couldn’t figure out what, not without another victim on the list to prove just what type of summons (and where) was going on.  And Cas didn’t want anyone else to die.  Going back through Jenny’s records would probably prove her theory (especially since she’d done so twice already and hadn’t found anything new), so Cas had to get some more background research.  For now, though, until Dean got moving, Cas was sitting in her car trying to draw patterns from what she’d seen. 

Just like Sam had taught her to do before he went to try to take down Lucifer.

Jenny had probably joined the coven during or on a break.  Judging from her room’s contents, she hadn’t been a member for long.  Maybe she had been sent back early to scout out sacrifices?  That rang false to her, which meant she was maybe a walking recruitment poster? 

Without more resources, though, Cas couldn’t determine a motive for Emily’s killing.  It seemed happenstance, like maybe Jenny was the wrong one, but Emily’s aura hadn’t spoken of witchcraft.  Maybe Jenny had been killed too early, but maybe not.  The Smythe family looked like the main target of the ritual, or maybe Emily had been an unintended side kill.  That didn’t make much sense, though, unless Emily was a psychic.  Paimon would be nigh-uncontrollable if unleashed without a psychic for a host.

Which meant there were more psychics around.

She needed to do more background research, more information about the Smythe family in order to understand what was happening better.  What little she had gleaned from the previous days’ research of their history in the area wasn’t going to work.  Being so weakened when she first arrived, Cas had actually spent the first day struggling to get out of bed and take care of her injuries from her last case.  Dean would probably be faster at this than she was, if only because her wings hurt every time she tried to move.  Still, it was…a little bit interesting, looking a the facts like this.

Emily’s relationship with Jenny had clearly been begun awhile ago, but was it on the orders of the coven?  The rune for ‘betrayal’ had been carved into Jenny’s room which meant she’d betrayed the coven somehow.  In Emily’s bedroom, Cas had found a single half-carved rune, which was any number of harmful curses that could’ve been placed on Emily.  But it was more likely to be the other half of the ‘traitor’ symbol, and the Enochian, though half-formed, pointed to…fuck.  Too many possibilities. 

Castiel rubbed her temples; she needed a cup of tea, but she didn’t want to risk getting served tea or even hot water by one of the coven.  They knew her face, and she was investigating and that would be more than enough to get them interested in her, maybe enough to try and kill her.  She didn’t want to become a potential target, or ruin any of the restorative qualities of the tea.  And without knowing who was coven in town, she couldn’t really trust any tea she didn’t brew herself, at least not at night.  The Davies might have offered, if she went back, but the idea of going back was…uncomfortable, especially seeing as she wasn’t really Mormon.

Maybe Jenny was supposed to curse Emily, or plant the hex bags on her?  She certainly had the means and motive.  But why kill someone she loved?  Even witches tended to avoid those they dated, and Emily wasn’t a component in the ritual.

The information that Emily was dating someone else, though, threw her off.  Jenny could have planted that hex bag, but she was already dead at the time, and Emily had loved Jenny until the woman had died, hadn’t she?  Cas hadn’t seen any signs of an alternate relationship between Emily and another.  Only Jenny, in her aura. 

Though she did know jealousy was a likely motive for Emily’s death, or perhaps disgust?  The town was largely tolerant, though behind closed doors, the Davies family seemed disapproving of exploration.  Though that might have been more because of the father cheating on his wife than anything the rest of the girls had done.

One of Jenny’s still-living friends might be a witch, holding a grudge against someone, likely Emily, if she was able to manifest Paimon’s power.

Or, maybe Jenny had been meant to hurt Emily originally, by breaking her heart.  A broken heart was…would drive most people to suicide, and if Emily—if she really was the golden girl of the town, the witch coven or one of them—probably the leader, had a grudge against her.  Jenny had clearly not been meant to be the ‘traitor’ of the ritual; her death was riddled with violence, bruises and other psychic markings all over her like the angry witch had all but throttled her with that plant for daring to do—something. 

For moving without orders?

Something about that thought bothered Cas, because the problem was deeper than what she saw, but this was the right direction.  She hoped it was. 

She was beginning to appreciate Dean’s gut instinct, hard-won as it was, because she was pretty sure he’d have gotten to the answer in about 1/4 of the time she took to get there.

The Enochian sigil for REVENGE was written out quite plainly on Jenny’s wrist, signing her as one of the sacrifices.  Paimon had punished some disloyal followers that way and had had a love of signing their name like that on angelic corpses—she almost hissed, shuddering at the memory.  Ruby had nearly been branded like that; Castiel had overheard her arguing with Lilith that way.  Paimon, though, Paimon—why had they not been involved?  Or had they been working behind the scenes and running Hell? 

Had Ruby been Paimon?  She’d certainly been far more powerful than a normal demon.  Able to hide from angels and demons alike and so, so willing to sit down and do whatever it took—that devotion meant she was one of Paimon’s, or Paimon themselves.  Or herself, in that instance.

How far back had Hell been planning what they had?   

Knowing John Winchester was possessed so young, how much of what Dean and Sam had experienced, in the years leading to the apocalypse, had been their fault?  A quick surge of anger brought with it a twitch of her broken, shattered wings and her Grace—what was left, at least—hurt.

Cas winced as the car’s lights flickered and she quickly turned her thoughts away from such things, to the task at hand.  She could work out how far back Sam had been manipulated later, but she needed to know in order to stop it.  Because Dean was just as manipulated as Sam and she’d sworn to Dean, she’d promised him she would keep things from going to Hell again. 

Which, right now, meant figuring out what the hell was happening in this town.

Vengeance was Paimon’s sole purpose now, aside from their loyalty to Lucifer.  Anyone capable of manifesting the now-archdemon’s power had to either hold a serious grudge or have a similar mentality to Paimon.  That, or the leader of the coven somehow had a plan to bend Paimon to his/her will, which was like putting a leash on…well, an extremely destructive force.  Even fallen, Paimon was far too powerful to be matched by a simple human set of bindings.  It wouldn’t work, even using a twin bond, for very long. 

A twin bond.  Something about that tugged at her.  Castiel wrote that down, poring over her notes.  None of her victims had been twins, but…well.  Not together, at least.  She’d seen a photo or two of a second blonde, though she couldn't place where.

And if it was even tried, the whole state would be smote just to prove a point.  No angel, no matter how weak, would respond well to anything of the sort that Paimon was pulling.

The ways each of the victims had died bar Emily pointed to the witch that had killed them being a fellow botanist.  Or witches, technically, as the summoning ritual they were attempting could only be attempted by a full coven of five linked, and possibly more.  To kill using Paimon’s influence, or to manifest the demon even partially meant the archdemon had to have a plan for the rest of the coven as well.  They were likely whispering to the coven’s leader, or one of the coven who was manipulating things behind the scenes.

It was an unsettling thought, but Cas needed all angles on the problem, so she made a note of it in her notebook in code and moved on, bothered by the twin idea but not sure why.

The summoning ritual itself required the leader or the one performing it to have a serious grudge against someone, possibly a whole family of people.  Or serious loyalty to something powerful; likely, it was both.  Paimon was, after all, the archdemon of Revenge and Loyalty.  Thirteen sacrifices from the town the leader called home were required for the summoning to be successful, all of whom linked to a sacrifice from the coven, whose body would be used as Paimon’s vessel.  The Vengeance side of Paimon; the Loyalty side would manifest through the one casting the ritual, thus giving the summoner access to all of Paimon's knowledge and power.  The ritual also gave the leader of the coven access to the full powers of one of the Barons of Hell who served directly under Paimon.

Jenny had to be the Traitor then, which was another name for the one doing the job of the Vessel Paimon would use to manifest.  But the one casting the ritual had to be close.  Twins, twins; what about this was bothering her?

Cas marked it down, tapping her pen against her notepad. Paimon summons had to be done in either Latin, or Ancient Greek, and not many could speak the variety of Gaelic she chose to write in.  Celts had had more problems with monsters and pagan gods than demons.  It was known that the Isles attracted monsters, but as Stonehenge was a Stairway to Heaven, very few demons operated in the Isles.  It was a rare, stupid, or very brave demon that chose to enter the place.

And supposedly the isle of Great Britain was also a sinkhole for the power of Purgatory.  She wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, exactly, but she’d have to look into it later.  There might be a reason Balthazar had hidden there for so long.

But something about this ritual clearly hadn’t gone as planned.  If every victim died plant-related deaths or locked-room-suicide deaths, she would understand, but why make Emily die so-well, conspicuously as compared to the others?  The witches had gotten clumsy, and left behind hex bags for hunters to find.  Why would they kill them in different ways?  Was it part of the working or was the coven's leader simply vindictive?

Was the coven working separate spells?  That didn’t sound right either, but then why would Jenny have been close to Emily, if not for a job?  Unless…Jenny’s relationship with Emily had been unplanned; the betrayal had been unplanned for which meant they had been going for…Loyalty.  That was the more frightening option; if the coven leader was planning on manifesting Paimon as Loyalty-oriented, in the stronger form the archdemon could take, how far would they go?

There were too many questions and no answers.  The logical conclusion was that Jenny wasn’t supposed to get close to Emily, and Emily was collateral damage, but then that wouldn’t make sense with the betrayal rune she’d found tattooed onto Jenny’s wrist.  Why would Jenny need to be close to Emily if not for the curse leading to the ritual?  What plan required Jenny to be the sacrifice that would hold Paimon’s power?  Was this the original plan the witches were following, or a secondary plan that had been enacted when the first had fallen through, perhaps thanks to Emily?

Cas needed to do some research on the Smythe family to figure Emily’s part of this ritual out.  Getting up from her seat in the car, she got out, locked the car and walked up to the library, which was open until 10pm tonight, thankfully.  She walked up to the front desk, deciding it was time to do a little bit of book work to figure out the Smythes and whether or not there were any genealogies available for the Davies family.  Who had no reason to have a grudge against Emily, unless…jealousy was an option?

So why Jenny and Emily?  Why not someone else?  Why not two other someones?

Was it just a diversion?  Were they aware that there was a hunter in town?

“Agent McGuyver,” said the receptionist, a woman in her late teens with a warm, gentle soul.  She smiled at Cas “May I help you?”

Her name tag read LANA, and Cas realized with a jolt that she looked a lot like Emily.  Minus, of course, the Asiatic features, with dark hair and light eyes.  They were most likely cousins, first or second cousins, or maybe even niece and aunt.  Dean would be able to tell, but Cas had nothing.

“I need family records on the Smythe family,” said Cas.  “Dating back to as early as the time they moved to the town.” She paused “Does the library carry their public records?”

If it had to do with Emily’s family, Cas would find it in the old family records.  She couldn’t discount the possibility, and maybe she’d find a hint of why Emily was brought into this.

The receptionist winced sympathetically “I’m afraid they’re locked up at the mayor's office, ma’am.  For security reasons, you understand.” Cas nodded, though she hadn’t known that. It was just easier to pretend she did. “As for the Smythes, they’re one of the cornerstone families of the community, just like the Davies.  Come with me, we do have some records on hand but I’m afraid they’re duplicates,” she said, leading Cas away from the desk and into a part of the library with a locked door.

Cas waited as she unlocked the door, and walked inside.  She waited outside, because she was fairly sure she wasn’t supposed to follow, and was rewarded for her patience when the woman came back out with a thick wooden box.  She heaved it onto the table.

“Here you are,” she said “Smythe family records, jobs, and family tree.  I can’t guarantee it’s completely accurate but it dates back to the 1800s.” The box was as long as Cas’ arms plus some, and a foot and a half deep and it was overflowing with papers.

Castiel nodded “Thank you.” She picked up the box, staggering slightly under its weight, and carried it over to the table she’d been working at.  She slid it onto the table carefully and muttered “Oh, how I wish Sam was here to do this for me.”

He was very, very good at research.  And Castiel…wasn’t, not in the same way.  It was too easy to be distracted when she read, and she didn’t like it.

Patience had never been something Castiel was good at, even before becoming mostly human.  Research was interesting, but it was not easy for her to sit still for long periods of time unless she was doing something else as well.  However, her reading speed was about five times faster than a normal human’s, and she never had to read anything twice.  Having a virtually eidetic (or rather, angelic) memory made research go much faster.  She pulled out a sheaf of papers from the top, and started going through them, organizing them by year.

Then she picked up the oldest records she’d found and started from the back, the very top of the family tree, because this could be a recent thing…but as experience had taught her, it usually had very little to do with modern history.  Usually, if it involved vengeance demons, it had to do with ancient history or family feuds that had popped up over the years. 

Or it had in her experience as a soldier. 

Ugh, this was going to take her all night to get through, even with her enhanced reading speed.

Not for the first time, Castiel wished she were better at online research and using computers.  Sam had had it down to a near-exact science, but she had difficulty with it, mostly because her powers interfered with electromagnetic fields and thus computers’ interiors.  Even with practice she still had trouble with her laptop, and that was after managing to ward it against electromagnetic interference from her powers, as she had done with her cell phone and car.  Her car was still a work in progress, though, and she really hoped she hadn’t killed it by touching her Grace earlier while still inside of it.

Bobby had been irate when she broke her last one.  Breaking this one so soon after he gave it to her (although she’d paid him for it) was probably going to end with him getting very angry with her.

Taking a deep breath, and barely keeping herself from sneezing, she opened the records, carefully brushing dust off of the pages with her fingertips and a very light touch. She had to start somewhere, and here was as good a place as any—and better for her and the books than her attempting work on a computer and having it explode.  She didn't want to have to pay for another one, nor blow out the power in the library.

Chapter Text

Back in his motel room, Dean was staring at his laptop’s screen, trying to work out just what the hell was going on around here.  He’d gone over every last hunt he’d been on for witches and their covens, and scouted around for any rituals this might refer to on really old occult sites, but he hadn’t found much.  Only one ritual used those weird sigils, though the sacrifice pattern didn’t make much sense.

Even his old notes hadn’t been very helpful.  Though he wasn’t quite sure she’d meant for him to see the clue she’d picked up, Cas’ research had led him to the right answer, or the answer she wanted him to think was going on.  It was the only lead he really had, so he had to work with it.

The connections between the victims and the tattoo on Jenny’s wrist, which was Enochian, an archaic, dead language older than any others he’d seen, for ‘betrayal,’ pointed to a nasty demonic summoning ritual, done by a coven.  And not by a single witch; this was probably a coven killing.  He couldn’t find the exact ritual online, but he’d narrowed it down to a few seriously nasty sons of bitches because getting a demon out of the afterlife was apparently pretty difficult.  Bobby might have more info on it, but he needed to have enough for Bobby to work off of, first.

Castiel’s notes were detailed enough to convince Dean that she couldn’t possibly be a member of the coven, unless she was running from them.  Or maybe she was from a rival coven, and looking for him to take out her rivals, but somehow that seemed unlikely.  It was more likely she was either a real FBI agent, or something supernatural posing as one.  His cover had worked on her for now, but he’d had the feeling she wasn’t telling him everything.

Just one witch wouldn’t have enough power to pull this type of ritual off, even with selling her soul for power.  It revolved around the one doing it holding a grudge, too, which was just great.  And it was likely the whole coven had a grudge, from how nasty these deaths were.  Freakin’ awesome

Dean had been on three cases so far without his Dad checking in on him, and he really didn’t want to have to call for the old man’s help.  Not now.  His dad would just sweep in, take over and act like Dean had done nothing and Dean had done this—and besides, he didn’t want to see what might happen if his research turned out wrong.  Even the links through demonology hadn’t sent him very far, save through the Ars Goetia’s list of demons, which narrowed the list to about thirty-six demons, all of them nasty. 

And he’d found nothing on this shitty ritual. 

Since that turned into a dead end, Dean started checking for Jenny Davies’ files, trying to find her anywhere online.  She had a MySpace account, even though it looked like it hadn’t been updated in awhile, and had a few listed ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ but her bio was the most helpful.  Enrolled at the University of Colorado in Boulder, he noted, with her proudly displaying in her profile picture her colors—Go Buffalos!

She’d been a football fan, based on her photograph and the way she was grinning, holding up a football helmet in her profile picture.  It was pretty indicative of her; that, and the plant in one hand meant she was a fan of botany and football?  Hell, and she looked hot—really hot, football jersey off one shoulder and wide grin on her face.  Full of life.  Her MySpace also held a couple of other clues; her musical interests were…curious.  Her friends’ list was also public, including her sister Judith, who looked a lot like her, and the girls in the Davies’ family, as well as Emily.  Her music tastes were a lot closer to classic rock, too.

Damn.  He might’ve liked this chick if she didn’t turn out to be a witch.  She’d also quoted Einstein about ‘human stupidity’ in the inspirational quotes section, but there was something there in Latin, too.  He wrote it down, frowning at it.  It was archaic Latin, not the kind of stuff he was used to seeing, so it took him a while to translate it.

Something about loyalty being stronger than death, and going beyond the bounds of love and betrayal in an archaic dialect of Latin.  Maybe it was a ‘cool’ thing, but her major looked like it was botany, so why would she be interested in archaic Latin?  He opened her other interests, using one of his fake accounts, noting down the organizations she listed in her bio.  One of them, loosely translated from Greek, meant Gardeners of Eden.

That didn’t look good.  But why kill one of your own, if you’re a witch coven?  It didn’t make any sense.  Why kill off Jenny Davies if she was part of the coven? 

If he wanted to get any further, he had to get into her MySpace, not his fake account.  That meant guessing her password.  He tried a few variants, then remembered her profile picture was her laughing with her arm around Emily Smythe.  On a whim, he tried a variant on the girl’s name, and on his third try he got it.

Seriously, Em1lyI<3u1?  That was stupidly easy to guess, and apparently, meant she was in a relationship with the girl.  More of her private page was about the struggles of being not straight, of being a lesbian in the middle of Wyoming—hell, he didn’t want to be her, definitely not in that case!—and some angry poetry about a ‘dark mirror.’  Opening her friends list was a lot easier now that he was in her account.

Jenny was also pretty freakin’ popular.  Not a surprise, again, with how hot she was and how outgoing she looked, but it caught him by surprise because most witches he was aware of made pacts because they weren’t popular or friendly.  A few of the people didn’t really stand out to him, probably her RA or something at college, and then he started seeing the murder victims on her friends list…every single one, right down to Emily.  Flipping open his notebook to the page where Cas had marked out the relationships, from ex-boyfriend to childhood friend, he found to his amazement she was friends with all of them.

Digging further into the victims’ MySpace pages didn’t really reveal anything new.  The sacrifices were just that; sacrifices.  And there was absolutely nothing on Emily in her MySpace, and Emily had nothing to do with Judith in hers, though Judith’s MySpace was a network of information all by itself.  They shared the Einstein quote, but that was it.  Emily wasn’t even into biology!  She’d been majoring in chemical engineering, based on her interests list and the quotes she’d been posting.  A completely different field, of course, but there was also nothing on Emily’s MySpace to suggest anything untoward.  He went back to Jenny’s, clicking through her friends’ list past Tom, and onto the second page of her friends’ list, and then backed out—looking instead for the groups page, looking for the other members of the group, and someone he might recognize.

He didn’t really need to know her sign, but finding out it was Libra wasn’t—eh, it couldn’t hurt.  There weren’t many people outside of those connected on the friends list, aside from on the second page, and he was curious.  Several of them had been on the list of connections Cas had made.

There were some interesting faces there.  The first was a woman he didn’t recognize; at least, not at first.  Fayth Jameson was a pretty, dark-haired girl with tightly curled brown hair, ice-blue eyes and a sharp jaw line, and like Jenny, she was hot.  She looked very innocent in her profile picture, dressed in a fuzzy pink sweater and with her tongue between her teeth, smiling at the camera with a bit too much makeup applied, though there was…something off about her.  And she had a few pictures, but there wasn’t anything in particular useful on there—except that she was also part of Gardeners of Eden.

Interesting.  A common group like that, tying two of them together?  When Jenny might just be one of the coven he was looking for?  He looked through the members, noting down names; Felicity Black, Portia Stevens, Judith Davies, Danielle Stevenson, Fayth Jameson, Kristen Marks, and Lana Smythe.  No mention of Castiel.  In fact, when he did look her up, he found nothing on her; it was a dead end, which meant either supernatural, or…totally human. 

God, he had so many questions for Bobby.

Felicity Black didn’t have a profile picture.  Instead, there were a set of plants growing inside an upside-down pentagram; it turned Dean’s stomach to look at, especially with the other information her page.  He wrote down the Latin quotes again, noting the ritual-like chant they seemed to follow—it was like a follow-up to what Jenny had had on her page.  She also had a few similar bands to Jenny, but again, nothing remotely religious.  She also didn’t have any sexuality notes.

Portia didn’t have a photograph of herself, either.  Her listed likes and interests were similarly short, and her Zodiac Sign was “Take Your Best Guess,” which meant she wasn’t interested in sharing personal information.  Probably temperamental.  She, curiously, wasn’t friends with Jenny; she was friends with Judith, only.  Portia was also the only one so far with a blog; she’d been posting about plants, and plant growth, and what fertilizer worked best.  Most of her information was about different experiments she was doing and other nerdy stuff like that; but later, as he kept going through her pages, he found the more recent ones noting the expected addition of human bodies to soil and some arguments about no coffins allowing for natural decomposition.  And other nasty shit like that, as well as what molds grew fastest within the body. 

Frowning, Dean noted that down too.  Something like mold had been in Jenny’s blood, and it was something organic.  He’d done enough research to know it wasn’t supposed to be in human blood, even if he didn’t recognize it.  About a month ago, she’d posted a hypothesis about magic and how that could possibly relate to science.  Magic as a form of energy and how power could likely be neither created nor destroyed; it was a form of energy.  Cold, but not heartless observations.

Danielle also had a profile picture.  A woman with wavy dark hair, olive-toned skin and almond-shaped brilliant green eyes smiled flirtatiously at the camera in a skintight jersey.  Dean had to remind himself that she might be a witch, because she was exactly his type.  Her sign was Aries, and she’d said no smoking, and had her profile flagged as looking for a hot date.  Pity she was probably a witch; there was something cold in her eyes and her smile was razor-sharp, when he looked closer.  She played lacrosse, was a damn good shot on the field, and many of her pictures proved she was a bit of the partying type; low-cut halter tops and tight shorts.  Definitely his type…if he was looking to get his throat slit in the middle of the night, since she also had several photographs of ornate knives, more than one imbued with sigils.

Dean did his best to sketch a few of them and the visible sigils, knowing he’d have to get Bobby’s input, but Danielle looked dangerous, enough so that she was either a hunter or a witch.  Probably a witch, since Gardeners of Eden was a little on the nose as far as names went.  Maybe not, but it was looking more and more likely.

The fourth woman, Kristen Marks, was obsessed with chemistry.  So obsessed, in fact, that she’d put different research papers’ links and abstracts in what would have been a blog, as well as several posts about playing the violin.  Her linked chemical papers were all about the decomposition of the human body; how to use forensic science to catch a killer; and it looked, more and more, like she knew how to cover up DNA evidence at a crime scene.  That was a relatively recent thing, but it was enough to make him suspicious.  She also looked like a stone-cold bitch, from the way her interests leaned.  Obsessive enough to post photos of her violin, and none of herself; her photo for MySpace was actually a DNA helix, with a few…chemical compounds?  He wasn’t sure, not completely, but those looked like organic compounds from when he’d been doing chemical research.  Just to be sure of what he was up against on a hunt a few months back, of course.  He wasn’t a nerd like Sammy; he just needed to know how to recognize dangerous shit.

He did know how to recognize a witch, though, and the more he looked into these chicks the closer they seemed to get to being really…witchy.  Lana Smith was young; a recent person to join in the group, from what he could tell—added only three months back.  She was less…sharp somehow, and he recognized her as the town librarian.  Well; there went his idea to do research at the library.  He should probably warn Cas, come to think of it, if he didn’t want her to end up dead, or worse, because of him.  He wished he’d thought to give her his number, because if she wasn’t dead yet, she would be soon—if she didn’t do some serious watching her back, first.  Unless she was supernatural.

Lana was the only innocent one.

Judith Davies had no profile photograph; it was just a bunch of plants…all of them cleverly arranged in the form of an upside-down pentagram.  That was no coincidence.  She had several posts in Latin and Greek, including a few that praised the Paimon Dean had found by researching earlier, looking for the mysteries and how knowledge was important.  He couldn’t see any link, not a particularly strong link anyway, but there had to be one, right?  Why would she be in the group with her sister otherwise?  Based on her profile information, she was the person who’d started Gardeners of Eden, and from a bit more work, he deduced who she was.

She was Jenny’s twin sister, based on a few of the posts on her public profile.  She’d been teasing her twin, calling them ‘twin besties’ and ‘twinny friends’ a few times in her blog posts, and her interests were very different from Jenny’s—she was obsessed, or nearly, with politics and with gardening, and the natural world, and how they all intersected with each other.  Knowledge and arts, and how to figure out the mystery inherent in everything.  She tested her twin bond daily, and claimed to feel it when Jenny was hurt, and vice versa.  The thing that really tipped him off, though, was the anger threading through some of her blog posts, shared only with her friends.  All of whom were in the Gardeners group.

The posts where she waxed lyrical about the death penalty, and about how that was letting criminals off easily, and about Biblical punishments and plagues and wondering if they were heading toward an apocalypse.  The posts were darker than any of her other work.  He also came across a few posts about magic and using magic to improve one’s life, in genuine belief.  Like she really, truly believed that magic—borrowed magic, at that—would make her life better.  And there was also something else, posted in an archaic form of Latin in one of her inspirational quotes that he couldn’t really translate more than one word, king, from, but he copied it down anyway.

He’d need Bobby to translate that for him, but this was pretty damning evidence right here.  All of this was.

A little bit more snooping told him that Judith, Adrianna, and Jessie were all Jenny’s sisters.  It was odd that he’d not met the twin, the older twin if her posts weren’t lying, but maybe she spent a lot of time out of the house.  More so if she wasn’t supposed to be in town, or was trying to lay low.  She might even have just been out when her sister’s body was discovered, or sleeping with the other members of her coven.  Maybe she’d even killed Jenny.

God, he hated witches so much.  They were so freakin’ creepy.

After snooping around a bit more and finding nothing useful, other than the fact that Adrianna was actually their half-sister, Dean turned to his notebook.  The info on Frank and Tracey’s family wasn’t that helpful, but it might mean that Adrianna or Jessie might look up more to Judith or less, so they could be involved in the Gardeners, too.  Neither of them were publicly part of the group, though, so he wrote that off.

Flipping back to the page he’d written the snippets of Latin and Greek on, for the Gardeners of Eden, he started trying to translate them into some form of sense.

They seemed like nonsensical, jumbled words until he started shifting them around.  Puzzles had always come easily to him, as a kid—well, certain types of puzzles.  Sammy was better at wordplay, but he was better at rearranging the pieces until they made sense together.  Soon, he’d assembled something of a chant.  One that made his mouth go dry as he stared at it, because it wasn’t just a chant; it was a part of the directions for a ritual.  One that required fourteen sacrifices, an additional one of “your own” to give life, either a traitor or a loyalist—and the power (that was Latin for mysteries revealed) it would grant the summoner.

An old ritual and a witch coven?

Jesus, Dean hated witches.  That was it.  He was calling Bobby for information.

And maybe he’d get some answers.  He winced when he spotted what time it was; Bobby’d still be up for another hour, at least, but he didn’t relish the idea of bothering the older hunter.  Still, he dialed the number anyway—Bobby never turned him away, not when he needed help and he sure as hell needed it now.

Besides, if he learned Cas was on his side, that would make this whole thing a whole hell of a lot easier.

The phone rang several times, before an annoyed man answered “What the hell do ya want?”

He’d called the hunters’ number, one of the hotlines that Bobby had given him.  Not one of the FBI agents’ numbers or the other ones he’d give out during cases.  Dean cleared his throat, swallowing as he thought of what had to have been in the hex bags that killed these guys.

“Bobby, it’s Dean.  I got a problem,” he said, his voice rougher than usual as he got up, shutting the window and taking a quick look around. 

No hex bags so far as he could tell.  Still, it was better to be safe than sorry.

“Dean,” Bobby said, “Thought ya were goin’ on vacation.”

He had, in fact, been planning on taking a few weeks off and just taking a break.  Before he’d stumbled onto the headlines for the weird rash of deaths in Bear River and the shit going on here.  Dean couldn’t imagine leaving it alone after seeing it.  It was all too suspicious, too coincidental for it not to be the work of a witch or coven.

God, he needed a break.

“I was.  But now I’m workin’ a case in Bear River, Wyoming,” Dean said, and Bobby sucked in a breath, “You know it?”

“Yeah, I know the place,” Bobby said. “Weird rash of deaths, been showin’ up in the papers.  It’s one of—“ Bobby stopped “The hell’s happening’ down there?”

“I don’t know all of it,” Dean said, “But nothing good’s going on.  Ten deaths, all connected to plants except the last and the last looks like a sloppy death, meant to keep the chick from talking, instead of a sacrifice.  That death might be involved, or might not be; I really can’t tell.  Looks like a coven’s in operation here, Bobby, and they’re sacrificing people but it’s not random.”

“Balls,” Bobby replied with an audible grimace, and Dean bit his tongue, trying not to smile. “Right.  Can ya tell me anything—wait.  You run into a Castiel down there, by any chance?  She said she was gonna check the area out.”

Dean almost choked, flipping his pen around his fingers as he started trying to sit still “You know her?”

Bobby snorted “Oh yeah, I know her.  She called me two days ago asking if I’d seen anything weird around Bear River.” Dean breathed out a sigh of relief; Cas was a hunter.  Of course. “She’s a psychic, and a damn good hunter.  Tends to work alone; I got the feeling her power’s more of a curse than a gift, so she don’t like touching most people.  She’s whip-smart though and is better at lore ’n me,” that was not possible; Dean had never met another person as good at lore, but Bobby kept going before Dean could protest. “Ya ran into her, I take it.”

“She covered for me,” said Dean, surprised. “Calling herself Cassidy MacGuyver.  Something’ about stupid names—she outed herself to me when she ran into me on the street, though.” He frowned “And a psychic hunter?  How many of those are there?”

“She turned up on my doorstep six months ago with an anti-demon-possession ward on her chest and a helluva lot of scars,” said Bobby. “Got the feeling not all of ‘em were from hunting.  She don’t sleep much, and I’d not touch her back if’n ya want her not ta put ya down hard.  She nearly broke my arm for touchin’ her shoulder to get her attention.  I got the feelin’ somethin’ real bad happened ta her not all that long before she came ta find me.  I don’t know her family, but I do know they thought she was crazy, and she ain’t crazy.  At least, she’s no crazier than either of us.”

Dean swallowed “Jesus,” he whispered, trying to ignore the warm feeling low in his stomach. He loved badass chicks like that, but—that spoke of instinctive movement, and—most likely, getting hit.  Hard, and often. “She’s on the case?”

“Yeah, she is.  But if you two have run into a coven, ya might wanna warn her ‘fore she goes charging in like an idjit.  She’s more of an idjit than John is, tries to take on shit she can’t handle by herself,” that prompted a few sharp blinks from Dean, because he couldn’t imagine anyone else that headstrong. “She really don’t like casualties, either.  So, a coven, ya said?”

“Yeah,” and he was feeling a lot better than he had been about Cas.  A fellow hunter would make this case much easier. “Jesus, Bobby, I’m just glad I’m not doin’ this alone.  A coven might be the least of our worries.  What do ya know about Paimon?”

Bobby huffed “Not nearly enough.  Castiel would know more, she did a lotta demonology research as a kid, but basically, Paimon’s one of the seventy-two big archdemons.  Real big badass of Hell.” Dean’s insides went cold; that was not good. “Demon of vengeance, forbidden knowledge, mysteries, lore, and arts; very loyal to Satan, according to lore.  Some legends say it’s actually a fallen angel.  If the coven’s involved with Paimon, Dean, you two are in serious trouble.  You need ta find her, fast.”

Yeah, no shit.  They were in really, really deep shit if it had worked out that both of them were on the case, and why Cas was investigating, which he was willing to bet it had.  Jesus fucking christ, they were going to have one hard fight ahead of them if this was what they were summoning.

“Do you know how to disrupt a summoning ritual done by a coven?” he asked, and Bobby sighed.

“There’s more than one way ta do it, but mostly, ya need to break the circle—the physical one—and then use holy water to break the rest of it.  Dean, if you’re dealing’ with a coven, ya need to get help.  Break the ritual by stopping the sacrifices from happenin’,” said Bobby. “And remember, Castiel knows a lot more ‘bout the stuff than I do.  I’m not sure how, somethin’ about a family that insisted, but she sure as hell knows her lore.  Talk ta her, and ‘less you want her ta break your arm, don’t try and sleep with her.”

Dean had no intention of sleeping with anyone who didn’t want to, and bit back the angry retort when he thought that through.  Most hunters slept with chicks and occasionally hunting partners without thinking about it.  Castiel was different—she’d covered for him, helped him out, and even let him take the lead.  And if she wasn’t interested, he’d back off.  He wasn’t that kind of asshole.

“Can I have her burner phone number?” he asked, and Bobby rustled a few papers in hte background, as he waited.

“Yeah.  Listen up, here it is,” and then Bobby rattled off a quick string of ten numbers, “Don’t call her without warning.  Go find her in person,” cautioned the older hunter. “She tends ta break phones if she gets calls on a hunt.  ’S cost her three so far.  Don’ startle her, and ya won’t end up hurt.”

That, he could believe—even getting clipped by her was painful.  And she’d slammed into him full force.  Imagining that kind of force hitting him—

“Bobby, what can she do?” he asked, and Bobby paused.

“She can always tell if somethin’s possessed.  Or someone.  Usually pretty good at identifyin’ what it is, even if it’s a shapeshifter, which is pretty weird.  She’s got some sorta weird thing with ghosts—not sure what, exactly, but I know the few she’s dealt with tend ta move on without havin’ ta burn their bones.  She can make holy water, too, so I’d say she’s probably ordained, I dunno what doctrine though.  And demons have ta use a bit more effort ta toss her around, according to her.  She said something about opposing forces, whatever that meant.”

Dean wasn’t really sure he wanted to know.

He whistled “Damn.  Sounds like a good ally to have,” he said, “Thanks, Bobby.  I’ll check in at the front desk, see if I can find her.” He grimaced, cracking his shoulders. “It’s late, I should see if she wants dinner or something.  I’ll tell her you sent me to find her.” He sighed “Think ya can make sense of the pictures I send ya?”

“I can try, but you’re better off askin’ her,” Bobby said, and Dean made a sound of assent. “Night, boy.  Don’t get yourself killed out there.”

Dean chuckled “Thanks, Bobby.  Talk to you later,” he said, and hung up.

So, Castiel was a hunter.  That was a really good thing.  Except it probably also meant he’d be working with her.  And he’d have to do that while treating her as a hunter, not a civilian—and it wasn’t like girls couldn’t be good hunters; there were just fewer of them, because hunters tended to be a bit more macho, and less accepting.  He’d only run into two female hunters over the years, though he knew there were more.  Castiel was the third. 

He’d never met a hunter that dressed in suits, but he’d met weirder.  Maybe she had some kind of metal woven into the suits or something, making them more protective.  And she didn’t seem angry at life—maybe it was a holdover from her family.  Most hunters he knew dressed in jeans and some kind of leather, layers for protection, not suits and trench coats.

Could’ve been a cover, he supposed, as he changed out of his ‘feds’ suit and into something more comfortable.  Besides, he was officially off the clock.  Time to go hunt down a hunter, because what he’d discovered was pretty damning, and he didn’t want to risk it getting her killed, too.  He looked at his phone, remembering Bobby’s words, and took a deep breath.

It was time to ask for help, even if he didn’t want help.

He dialed her number and it rang three times before she picked up. “If you are another phone marketer,” the woman’s voice said, deep and throaty as he’d heard it earlier, but significantly more annoyed. “Hang up. I’m not buying your product.”

“Wait, I’m not—it’s Dean.  Dean Lancaster, from earlier,” he rushed out, looking around  “I’m callin’ you because Bobby put me onto it.  He said we’d need to work together.  You’re in town hunting a coven, right?”

There was a pause.

“Robert Singer?” inquired Cas, and Dean breathed a sigh of relief.

Come to think of it, the full name was a little weird.  Maybe she was in public and didn’t want to be overheard.

“Yeah, that’s him.  I called him because I found some weird shit on the newest victim’s MySpace, and I needed some help with translations.  He said you’re good at Latin,” Dean said, “And this is pretty archaic.  I can translate normal Latin, but I’ve never seen this before.”

“I do have some skill with languages.  We should compare notes,” was he wrong, or was that a note of relief in Castiel’s voice, too? “I would appreciate the help.  I thought I recognized you earlier, but I wasn’t sure.”

Her voice was low, and guarded somehow, like she was in public.  It didn’t sound like she was lying, exactly, but she was keeping something back, too.  It wasn’t really his business, whatever it was.  Seeing as he was alone, and she maybe wasn’t, that actually made sense.  His plan suddenly sounded pretty stupid, but what else could he do?

People had to eat and he was hungry, so he figured meeting for coffee at the diner down the road wasn’t that suspicious.  Still, he had to work pretty hard to keep his voice from cracking or going high because of nerves when he talked to her next.  She was listening to him, yeah, but who was to say she’d listen instead of muscling her way in and keeping him out of the hunt?

“There’s a small diner a block away from where I’m staying,” Dean gave the name of the diner, remembering the small mom-and-pop place. “Pretty sure it’s unconnected to all this.  You wanna meet there and get some coffee?  Most of these people seem the type to avoid a tiny little diner.”

He didn’t know why he tacked on the last sentence.  His hand was getting sweaty from where he was holding the phone, which didn’t make any sense; he was Dean Winchester, ladies’ man and hunter.  He shouldn’t have any trouble working with a girl, hunter or no hunter.  He shouldn’t be nervous asking another hunter to meet him for a cup of coffee to trade notes.

He heard Castiel closing what sounded like a thick, heavy book.  Maybe she was in the library?  That would explain why she was so quiet.  He was about to ask a different question when she responded.

“I am currently at the library doing research, and can be there in about fifteen minutes.  Though I…think it might be easier if we,” her voice lowered to a whisper, “Pretend we are colleagues and old friends meeting for coffee.  I don’t want our food to be targeted.”

Nor did he.  Damn, that was a good thought.

“Good point.  Fifteen minutes, diner, old friends, coffee,” he said, “I can do that.  I’ll see you then.”

“See you then.” She hung up the phone before he could say anything else, and Dean lowered the phone, breathing a little harder than he expected.

He’d never once considered that a witch or one of their friends might be working at the diner, but given how big the coven could be—and had to be, if he was right about who was being summoned—they were going to have to be really, really careful what they said and did in public.  He wasn’t that careful on most hunts, because no one really paid attention to him, or he could easily take the attention off him, but this was a whole new level of bad.  Compared to Castiel, he probably sounded like a rookie; an eager rookie, but a rookie nonetheless.  Or he was just being stupid.

He’d never once considered checking his food.  That a witch could be working there, and easily slip a hex bag under his table or something.  In comparison, Castiel thought of that instantly

He could see how she’d survived this long hunting on her own, if she was this paranoid.  And in this instance it was probably right for her to be paranoid.

“Damn,” whispered Dean, looking out at the seemingly-quiet town.

It had seemed so simple when he got here; investigate the weird deaths, kill whatever was responsible, and get out.  He’d be done in about three or four days, maximum, and could go back to his vacation.  This was a lot more complicated than he’d expected though.  He was gonna be watching his back for at least a month after this, just to be sure no one was trying to kill him. 

From here on out, Dean promised himself he would be more careful.  Sammy needed him alive, and so did Dad.  And if he was going to be any use on this hunt, he had to get his ass in gear, stop acting stupid, and think about who might be part of the coven.  He’d keep an eye out for any of the obvious members of the Gardeners, but if the Davies girl had been part of the coven, that meant her sister probably was, and the whole family might be suspects.  And that completely ignored the people who were part of the Gardeners who weren’t listed on MySpace.  Witches were never that stupid, at least not the crafty ones.

One thing was for sure.  He was never going to look at a witch hunt as a simple thing ever again.