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The Light of Lebanon

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The first thing he sees are stars.

 

When he sits up and manages to get past feeling he had been hit with the worst hangover of his life and a damn boulder all at once, he sees that he’s in a courtyard.

 

In a fucking hospital gown that exposes his ass to the wet grass, no less.

 

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, John Winchester.”

 

John jerks his head towards the voice and jumps to his feet in a defensive stance. A boy, who can’t be more than 16 and is completely naked, slowly approaches him with deliberate steps. John glares at him and steps back.

 

“Stay back,” he warns, instinctively reaching for a weapon that he doesn’t even have, “I’m warning you.”

 

The boy cocks his head, “Warning me of what?”

 

John sputters and tries to come up with an answer, but he doesn’t have one. What can he warn? That he’ll kill him, blind to knowing what he even is? And even so, he’d rather not threaten a fucking kid.

 

“You remind me of Dean,” the boy says, unimpressed and almost disappointed.

 

John’s blood runs cold at the words. Before he realizes it, he starts charging at the boy.

 

“Where’s my son?!” he growls, standing inches away from the boy’s face, “Where’s Dean? I made a deal!”

 

The corners of the boy’s mouth turn upwards into a small smile, but his eyes stay wide and still.

 

“I sometimes forget. I wasn’t around when that happened.”

 

John squints in frustration and grips his hair, “What are you talking about? Fuck my head…”

 

The boy’s expression grows more serious as he puts a hand on John’s shoulder.

 

“You’re blocking out Hell. I understand. Hell is not pleasant. I’m not looking forward to going there to get Eileen. But she went there without any just cause and I will bring her back. Sam loved her and I love Sam. Still, it would be nice if she had been tucked away in Heaven like you had been. Not that Heaven’s a barrel of laughs either.”

 

What??” John grits out.

 

“I must go,” the boy informs him, taking a step back, “When you find your sons, tell Sam I brought you back. As a gift. Because I love him.”

 

John stares him in complete confusion, but then the boy rolls his eyes with exasperation.

 

“You can tell Dean you’re a gift for him too...I guess.”

 

Before John can open his mouth, the boy disappears, nowhere to be seen.

 

“Can I at least have some clothes?” he calls out, looking around the grounds.

 

His request is met with silence.

 

John lets out an enraged growl as he stomps out of the courtyard, the back of his gown flapping in the wind. He’d need a car so that he could save his sons from that...that thing. A demon? That was the only possibility going through his head right now. Whatever it is, he doesn’t like it, whether it loves Sam and tolerates Dean or not.

 

He finds the parking lot on the other side of the building, a building that turns out to be a hospital or sorts. Glancing at it, he realizes it’s the hospital he and Dean are, or had been, admitted to. Where he had made a deal with Azazel. Would he and Sam still be there? The boy had made it sound like they aren’t, like John had been gone for a while. But how long?

 

What all did he miss?

 

John finds a car, tucked in the far back corner of the lot. Going by the models of some of them, he can tell he’s been gone for a while. So he sticks with a car he knows. It’s a beat up Grand Am and he wires it in no time and is on the road. Now if he only knew where to go. There’s change at the bottom of the cup holders and it’s still early enough for no one to be on the road. If he could just find a pay phone, he could call the boys or Bobby, hell, any of the contacts he had memorized. They might not believe him if they know he has been dead. Bobby might call him a lying shit and tell him to stay the hell away from the boys. But he has to try something.

 

As long as he doesn’t get himself killed first.

 

The sounds of vibrating take him by surprise and almost make him curb the car. Maybe it’s the pounding in his head or the anxiety that has him in his grip, but the possibility that it could be a phone doesn’t connect for a moment. He finds a rectangular device, squished into the passenger seat, lighting up despite its black screen. John picks up the device with weariness and watches as the phone stops buzzing and displays.

 

Angie
Missed Call

 

There’s nowhere to dial, just one singular round button. John presses it down and holds it and the phone lights up.

 

What can I help you with?

 

John stares at the phone in silence, feeling put on the spot by the blinking line. The question goes away after seemingly getting impatient waiting on him, so he holds down the button again.

 

What can I help you with?

 

“...Hello,” John answers.

 

John almost drops the phone when a woman answers, “Hi there.”

 

John tries to ask another question but is made to press the button again, which is frustrating, because it’s like having a conversation with someone who isn’t listening past each singular exchange.

 

“Call somebody,” John orders.

 

“Who would you like to call?” the voice asks, before the blinking line makes an appearance again.

 

John repeats this process several times. All of the numbers John remembers of Bobby’s are out of order, the last ones he remembers of Dean’s are too. He tries Sam and Rufus. Kate, who will probably give him hell for ducking out of Adam’s life without a word, but her number’s disconnected as well. He even calls Ellen, although if he’s being honest with himself, he’s sort of happy hers is out of service, despite the fact she knows every hunter in the Midwest. It’s not like they’re on good terms.

 

He has one more he can try, one that isn’t a hunter. One that he can trust and will know that he is who he says he is.

 

“Call 785-555-0182,” John orders the device.

 

Calling 785-555-0182,” the voice responds.

 

The phone rings and rings and, just when John thinks that he’s shit out of luck, a sleepy voice answers the phone.

 

“John Winchester,” the woman mumbles, exhausted, “Back from the dead or not, there’s no excuse to call at 4 o’clock in the morning. Do you realize how little sleep I’m getting these days? You try having premonitions regarding a well-meaning but powerful man baby, wanting to bring back what he thinks is his family.”

 

John freezes at the implications, but swallows down the stream of questions that flood his mind, “It’s good to hear your voice, Missouri.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

After he ditches the phone in the parking lot like Missouri told him to, John starts driving. He has two-thirds of a tank left but not enough to refill it once it gets low, so Missouri agreed him halfway at a McDonald’s at Fort Calhoun. When he gets there, he realizes he has enough change to get a coffee and a couple things off the dollar menu while he waits. Thank god for drive thrus. He has no desire to have a wellness check called him just because he is in a hospital gown and barefoot.

 

He had brought up going straight to Bobby’s, that it was pretty close to the hospital and more convenient. Missouri’s tone got softer when she told him Bobby died five years back.

 

It hurt to hear that. Bobby had been his friend, even though the bastard hated him half the time. He had been good to Sam and Dean, another father when John had stints where he couldn’t be. And the boys lost him too.

 

As for the year? 2017. 2017. That made Dean 38 years old. Sam was 34. They were men, through and through. And, although Missouri hadn’t told him much, she did match the boy’s confirmation and told him that, as far as she knew, they were currently alive.

 

A knock on the car window interrupts his thoughts, he quickly turns in his seat, the glare set on his face being his only defensive weapon to scare anyone off.

 

All Missouri does is raise an eyebrow and roll her eyes impatiently.

 

“Well? You just going to stay in that beat up junker or are you going to get out and give me a hug?”

 

John lets out a breath, before opening the door. He’s never been too much of a hugger, he liked to save those after long separations and close calls with death.

 

Learning you’ve been dead for 12 years probably fits in both of those categories.

 

He scoops up the older woman and holds her tight, probably holding onto her for longer than necessary, and it probably would have gone on even longer if she hadn’t started running the tests on him when he least expected it.

 

“Never can be too sure,” Missouri shrugs, putting away her knife and flask, before studying him.

 

“You’re shaking,” she notices, rubbing his back a little, “You getting soft on me or is that gown not doing you any favors?”

 

“It’s definitely not doing any favors,” John laughs, wiping his eyes quickly, “I need to-”

 

“You need to find your boys. I know,” Missouri tells him, “I’ll take you back to mine and give them a call.”

 

“You know where they are?”

 

“I know where they live,” Missouri corrects, “Have never been invited back for tea, but they keep in touch every so often, let me know where they call home. But they can be in Timbuktu at the moment for all I know. You know that life better than anyone.”

 

“They still after Azazel?” John asks, stomach churning.

 

“Aw, honey,” Missouri tsks, something akin to pity in her eyes, “Azazel’s dead and gone. Old news. He was a cakewalk compared to what has gone down since.”

 

And that statement doesn’t make John feel better at all.

 

“Go get in the car, I’m right over there,” Missouri tells him, motioning her head towards the other end of the parking lot.

 

The car...the car is strange, to say the least. He doesn’t like that it starts with the push of a button, rather than the turn of a key. It makes it seem like it would be easier to steal.

 

“Like you have any room to talk!” Missouri barks with a loud laugh, “If that is the case, you of all people should be thrilled!”

 

“Will you stop reading my thoughts?” John grumbles, “I hate when you do that.”

 

“Oh, shut up,” Missouri dismisses with a flick of her wrist.

 

Missouri doesn’t answer too many of his questions. When he starts asking about people, she starts to get quiet.

 

“I think we should wait until I get you with your boys,” she answers softly, “Let’s not talk about it right now, okay?”

 

“Why not? You going chicken shit on me? I can take it, Missouri. You know I can,” John mutters.

 

“Honey, you’ve...you’ve lost a lot of people. Your sons have lost even more but at least it’s happened over time, although a relatively short period of time. You’ll need all the support you can get, since you’ll probably be finding it all out at once.”

 

John opens his mouth to object, to demand she just tell him already and put him out of his misery. But he can’t bring himself to insist she say anymore. Some part of him knows she’s right, even if not knowing and just waiting to be told is almost as bad.

 

The drive to Lawrence feels longer than it should, despite Missouri’s speed demon habits still being in effect. John takes the time to absorb his surroundings, see what’s changed on the roads he used to frequent time and time again. There are some signs for new restaurants, new exits, intersections, and bridges, but he can still recognize where he is and knows he could still go from state to state on his own without issue.

 

He’s not sure why it takes him so long to notice the carseat in the back.

 

“That’s little Miss Lila’s,” Missouri answers fondly, without him saying a word, “She’s three now.”

 

John nods, “She a family member or somethin’?”

 

Missouri smiles a little, “Or somethin’. She’s Denise’s granddaughter.”

 

“Who’s Denise?” John asks, staring out the window once more.

 

“My wife.”

 

John does a double take at that, staring at Missouri in bafflement and confusion.

 

“It’s a different time, John,” Missouri says softly, “It’s allowed now. We met six years ago, it became legal a few years later and I thought, ‘Why the hell not?’ We gained custody of Lila two years ago. Sort of difficult, considering both Denise and I are psychics and the judge was a skeptic. But his tune changed once I read his thoughts. Her momma died from an overdose. Drug problem in this country’s real bad now. It’s a damn shame.”

 

John shakes himself out of his stupor, “I didn’t...I didn’t know you were…you know.”

 

“What? A lesbian? Me either. I don’t think I’m one completely,” Missouri laughs, “I have to say, I did admire your cute behind as you walked to the car. But Denise? She does something for me. She’s sexy-”

 

“Okay,” John interrupts, clearing his throat.

 

“Am I making John Winchester uncomfortable?” Missouri asks, faking a gasp, “I figured you’d be jaded by the way all you men talk in the Marines.”

 

John rolls his eyes at that and looks back out towards the scenery.

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They get to Missouri’s house around 9:30, where Missouri is greeted by a toddler running down the steps to greet her with open arms and a big smile.

 

“Hello, my sweet girl! Your Nana making breakfast?” Missouri asks.

 

“Yes, Meme. She’s making a big bweakfwas,” Lila confirms, nodding her head once.

 

“Good. Your Uncle John ate the worst first meal I’ve ever seen in my life,” Missouri answers, before putting the little girl down, “Go say hi to him.”

 

The little girl skips over to him, before taking his hand.

 

“Hello, Unca John! It’s nice to meet you!” she greets with a jump.

 

“...Hi,” John eventually tells her, patting her head awkwardly.

 

“Lila will show you inside,” Missouri tells him as she makes her way up the steps, “Keep you out of trouble while breakfast cooks and I get ahold of those boys of yours.”

 

“I’ll draw for you and make you pretty pictures, come on!” Lila insists, yanking on his hand.

 

Even without the years he missed out on, it’s been a long time since he’s been around a young child. He’d have to interview one for a case from time to time, but once Dean got old enough to play partner, they tended to respond better to him rather than John anyway. Dean always had a nurturing and loving spirit that came out when needed, putting everyone around him at ease. Making it easy for him to accept too much responsibility.

 

He hopes, after all these years, Dean still has that. That he’s taken care of Sam and himself. That he hasn’t lost it, despite what might have been thrown at him.

 

Dean would do much better with Lila than he is right now, not that Lila seems to particularly care. With her tongue sticking out of the side of her mouth in concentration, she creates some sort of scribble, blue crayon in her left hand as she clumsily moves it across the page.

 

“There,” she declares, holding it out for him to see, “It’s great, huh?”

 

“Sure,” John nods, gently taking the drawing from her hands and hesitantly accepting a side hug from the overly affectionate girl, “Thanks.”

 

“It’s an angel. A nice one, not a mean one like some. I made it so it will watch you and keep you safe forever,” Lila informs him.

 

John almost asks her to elaborate, not that it matters since there’s no such thing, but another voice jumps into the conversation.

 

“That’s not what angels look like.”

 

John jumps up and stands in front of Lila as soon as he sees the boy, Lila cries in fear and holds onto his leg as she lets out a wail.

 

“Who are you?” John bellows, “Tell me who you are!”

 

The boy doesn’t respond and picks the fallen picture up off the floor. John must be imagining it, but the boy almost looks at Lila with contempt before straightening his posture.

 

“I can do better,” the boy shrugs, before disappearing once more.

 

“It’s all right,” John murmurs leaning down to rub the little girl’s back, “He’s gone now.”

 

“Who the hell’s in my house?” Missouri yells, running out with a shotgun, with a woman John can only assume is Denise at her heels, “I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty!”

 

“It was that kid,” John sighs, sitting back down as he watched Lila run into Denise’s arms, “Came in, made a comment about Lila’s drawing, then left.”

 

“Oh,” Missouri sighs, putting down the gun, “I thought you guys were in trouble.”

 

“The boy’s obviously quite powerful, Missouri,” John snarls, “He needs to go.”

 

“He’s a baby,” Missouri dismisses, “He can cause harm, but has no desire to. Leave him be. He’s not even out of his naked phase yet.”

 

What?”

 

“Let your boys handle him,” Missouri keeps going, “They’ll explain it. You won’t like the explanation, but know that things aren’t as black and white as they used to be.”

 

And John tries to argue with her, he really and truly does. But it’s not easy to win an argument with Missouri Moseley and she says something that stops him in his tracks anyway.

 

“I talked to Sam.”

 

John lets out a breath, blinks, and nods his head.

 

“He alright?”

 

Missouri smiles sadly, “As alright as can be expected. Although, he might be panicking now. I accidentally hung up on him when I heard Lila screaming. I’ll call him back for you. You can talk to him yourself.”

 

Missouri presses call on Sam’s name and hands over the phone. With an unexpected tremble, John takes it and watches Missouri as she ushers Denise and Lila out of the room.

 

“Hello?” Sam answers on the first ring, “Missouri? What’s going on? Did something happen?”

 

“Hey, son,” John chokes out, covering his eyes, “It...It’s Dad.

 

The other end of the line is silent and part of John wonders if the call was dropped. But Sam lets out a shuddering breath and clears his throat.

 

“Oh. Hey.”

 

And that response? It makes John desperately want to know what his boys have been through since he died.

 

“‘Hey?’ That’s all you have to say?” John prompts, frowning.

 

Sam snorts at that, “Winchesters aren’t exactly known for their eloquence.”

 

John huffs out a breath at that, “No, I guess they’re not.”

 

There’s a beat of silence before John tells Sam what’s happened so far unprompted.

 

“And then the kid said he loves you,” John continues, disgusted, “I’m worried, Sam. If this kid has some sort of sick obsession-”

 

“Don’t worry about Jack,” Sam interrupts, “He’s not...He’s not obsessed with me, not like that, he’s a kid, come on. He...Shit, I don’t know, wants me to be his dad or something. It’s weird. I’m trying to talk him out of it but he has selective hearing, kind of like you.”

 

“You’re really going to start a fight now?” John sighs.

 

“Nah, I’m just stating facts.”

 

John grunts at that before letting his voice get soft, “Dean around? I’d...I’d like to talk to him too.”

 

It takes a moment for Sam to respond, which makes John more nervous.

 

“Dean...Dean’s not in a good place right now,” Sam tells him evasively, “I don’t know how he’d respond to a conversation with you.”

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” John demands to know, “What’s going on with Dean?”

 

Sam lets out a sigh, “Look, I’m not keeping you from talking to him. He’s at home anyway. I’m in the car outside of a Gas n’ Sip in town.”

 

“What’s. Going. On. With Dean,” John enunciates, hoping his younger son will take a hint.

 

“We had a rough battle a couple months back. Lost a few people. Dean lost someone he was extremely close with and is struggling with that,” Sam tells him sadly, “So, when I get you, I’ll be coming alone. He won’t know until I know you’re who you say you are. There’s no easy way to break news like this, but I’m not going to put him under even more stress if this is a sham.”

 

“It’s not a sham,” John breathes out, rubbing a hand over his face, “But okay. Do what you feel is best.”

 

“Alright. I’ll see you in a few hours.”

 

Before John can tell him the same, the line beeps, signaling the end of the call.

 

“I got you this.”

 

John stands to his feet, turns and throws out a punch, only to watch his fist go through a massive painting.

 

Jack looks down at the painting sadly, “I thought you might like it. It’s a Picasso. Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust. It sold for over 106 million dollars in 2010. But I feel that you are a much more worthy owner.

 

John watches Jack, dumbfounded, as the boy mends the painting with the touch of his hand.

 

“In case you change your mind,” Jack says hopefully, giving him a small smile, before gently pushing the painting towards him.

 

“I’m sure as hell not going to change my mind on sending you straight back to Hell-” John starts to rant but, once again, Jack is gone.

 

He’s tempted, he truly is tempted, to take the painting, put it out on the curb, and leave it at the mercy of the garbage men or a greedy neighbor. But when he moves the painting, he sees a piece of paper taped to the back, written on with childlike, boxy letters.

 

To: Grandpa

 

Love,

 

Jack

Chapter Text

There’s more extensive testing than John remembers there ever being.

 

As soon as Sam walked through the door, he didn’t get emotional, didn’t cry or hug him or scream at him for making a deal.

 

He just manhandled John into a chair and tied him up.

 

“Is this really necessary?” John asks, spitting holy water out of his mouth.

 

“I’m not bringing you back home until I’m absolutely positive I know you’re you,” Sam answers, straight faced and serious.

 

“You could just ask that kid,” John huffs, “Jack. What kind of demon is named Jack?”

 

And, maybe John is just imagining it, but Sam’s expression becomes guarded and defensive, almost indignant, as if John had insulted someone he actually cares about.

 

“He’s not a demon,” Sam grunts out, “He’s a kid and he brought you back without any nefarious intent. He’s made some mistakes but he’s still learning.”

 

John sputters at the words, “Do you even hear yourself? The kid’s got you wrapped around his finger, Sam! He’s tricking you! He’s manipulative.”

 

Sam actually has the gall to let out a humorless laugh at that, “Yeah. The boy who popped into the passenger seat of the Impala on the way here just to cry hysterically about how you don’t like him or the painting he got you is a real mastermind.”

 

“He stole a painting worth over a hundred million dollars,” John objects, pulling at the ropes, “Obviously he is more of a mastermind than he lets on.”

 

Sam purses his lips at that and lets out a breath through his nose, “Yeah. I’ll give him a talk. Make him understand that stealing isn’t okay. He doesn’t have a lot of insight when it comes to decision making as of yet.”

 

“Of course he doesn’t,” Missouri calls out, bringing a tray of sandwiches out, “He’s only a couple months old. Give him time and give him love. His heart is good. Sure his sperm donor isn’t too pleased about that.”

 

Sam nods as he takes a plate, before sitting down, “It’s just his tantrums that are the main problem. Blew out one of the Impala’s headlights when he had his breakdown, so I had to pull over and calm him down before he caused the tires to blow as well.”

 

Missouri puts the tray down and sits next to Sam, covering his hand with her own.

 

“You’re doing great with him, from what I’ve seen in my visions. You’ve gone through a lot in the last couple of months. To shoulder your grief as well as your brother’s, along with hunting and your research, and on top of all that, being a father figure to Jack? That takes a lot of patience, courage, and responsibility.”

 

“It’s not his responsibility!” John rages, trying and failing to get up out of the chair.

 

“Oh, shut up, John,” Missouri tsks, not even giving him a glance, “Eat a sandwich or somethin’.”

 

John scoffs, “Well, Missouri, I’d love to. But I’m a little tied up at the moment.”

 

Missouri smiles a little at that and keeps her eyes on Sam, “Go untie your father. And after you finish up your lunch? Run to Walmart and get him some clothes and boots. I’m a married woman now. Can’t let my eyes linger on that cute behind for too long.”

 

Missouri lets a belly laugh out at that, claps Sam on the shoulder, and goes to pour herself another glass of tea.

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After Sam comes back from Walmart and John gets dressed, they both say their goodbyes to Missouri, Denise, and Lila then get on the road. John’s not comfortable with Sam driving. He knows his boy knows how and that it’s his car as much as Dean’s, but the last time he was in the car with Sam at the wheel, he and Dean almost died.

 

Not that it had been Sam’s fault. It just doesn’t help matters.

 

“We live in Lebanon,” Sam informs him as he gets on the interstate, “It’s about three and a half hours away. I’m betting you didn’t get much rest. Missouri mentioned you called her a 4 am. You should get some rest, try to take a nap.”

 

“I’ve been dead for over a decade,” John glares, “Like hell I’m sleeping now.”

 

Sam lets out an audible sigh, before glancing over towards him, “Well, what do you want to do? Play ‘I Spy’ or ‘Punch Buggy’ or-”

 

“Cut the shit. I want to know everything I’ve missed. Everything that’s happened.”

 

Sam hesitates, before shaking his head, “I don’t think that’s a good idea-”

 

“Sam…” John warns, voice growing in volume.

 

“I’m serious, Dad,” Sam insists, “Look, I know you want to know. Hell, you deserve to know if you’ve been brought back into our messed up lives. But let me talk to Dean about it first. There’s some stuff that’s going to be really hard for you to hear. I really don’t want you losing your shit while I’m driving.”

 

John seethes in the front seat and clenches his fists.

 

“What happened that would make me lose my shit? Am I going to get angry?”

 

Sam swallows and keeps staring at the road, “Probably. And there are other things that will probably make you very sad and upset. Let’s...Let’s just hold off for a while longer, get to a more secure place.”

 

John thinks about rebutting further, but growls out “Fine.”

 

There’s a moment of silence in the car. If Sam’s uncomfortable by it, he’s not letting on. However, John is. He’s been dead for twelve years, god damn it, and he should be finding out everything he can about his kids. The kind of men they’ve grown into, their home, who they’ve met, if they’ve fallen in love. Jack, he said that Sam had loved a woman named Eileen. That she’s in Hell, but for no reason. But how does someone end up in Hell for no reason? She had to have done something, maybe had a deeply hidden secret that even a demon like Jack wouldn’t know, or made a deal out of desperation like John had.

 

I like to take my time, Johnny boy. First, I play with the peeled skin, then the muscle, before pulling on the tendons, and finally make my way to the bones. The hellhounds love femurs.

 

John lets out an involuntary gasp and quickly rubs at his face, before shaking himself out of his thoughts.

 

“You alright?” Sam asks, reaching over to touch John’s shoulder.

 

“Fine,” John answers gruffly, getting control of his breathing.

 

“You don’t look fine,” Sam says gently.

 

“You wouldn't know any different if you kept your eyes on the damn road,” John accuses defensively.

 

Sam shakes his head sadly, but takes the hint, “Can’t blame me for being worried.”

 

Eileen. Eileen might not be a safe topic to bring up with Sam, especially so soon and not when he had so much on his plate already. Was there ever a time that kid didn’t have too much on his plate? The boy already lost Jessica, and when John had found that out it had hurt something awful. But if he had fallen for someone new, someone special to him, maybe someone who understood the life, only to lose them too...

 

And Dean. Dean had lost someone and is apparently taking the loss hard enough that Sam refuses to put any extra stress on the boy. Had he lost someone he loved as well?

 

Fuck.

 

“Dean…” John starts, trying to aim for subtle, “You said Dean is in a bad place right now.”

 

A sad frown pulls on Sam’s mouth as he nods, “Yeah. Yeah, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen him like this. Claire was on a minor ghost hunt a state over and is staying with us for a few days. If there was no one at the bunker, I could honestly say I wouldn’t be comfortable leaving him alone to come get you.”

 

“He that bad?” John croaks out, “He...He knows the life. The risks. I know it’s hard to lose anyone, but-”

 

“It’s different with Cas,” Sam interrupts, “Cas...Dean’s relationship with Cas went deep.”

 

Cas. Probably short for Cassandra. Weird, considering the one other girl Dean ever had something promising with was with a girl by the same name. Cassie. They had been good together, short-term. John watched them interact from afar a few days before he told Dean it was time to pack up.

 

Then she broke his heart. He broke the number one rule, John knows he did, and she called him crazy before throwing him out in a heartbeat.

 

Dean tried to hide the fact, but didn’t hide crying himself to sleep too well. John had been tempted to tear him a new one for getting so attached, but saw Dean’s red rimmed eyes and the slouching of his shoulders the next morning and figured he had learned his lesson already.

 

“It’s not Cassie Robinson, is it?” John grumbles, feeling what is probably an unfair amount of disdain for the girl.

 

Sam pauses in confusion, then shakes his head, “No. No, Cas isn’t Cassie. Dean hasn’t spoken to Cassie since before you died.”

 

John hums, then clears his throat, “Well, who’s Cas then?”

 

Sam opens his mouth, only to close it, then opens his mouth again.

 

“Cas...Cas saved Dean. In so many ways. Time and time again. Dean wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Cas,” Sam finally says, a little choked, “And Dean always did the same. But Cas didn’t make it this time.”

 

John feels the grief coming off Sam in waves and he wants to comfort the boy, he does, but all he can ask is,

 

“Was Dean in love with this Cas?”

 

Sam swallows, before shrugging his shoulders.

 

“I don’t know. I got vibes from them over the years, sort of brushed them off. But it’s starting to look that way. Don’t...Don’t tell Dean I told you that.”

 

John can’t bring himself to answer Sam’s response, too lost in his own thoughts to respond.

 

Dean lost someone, a woman he may have loved deeply. Sam has lost two women in his relatively short life.

 

It isn’t fair. His boys deserve better. What had any of them done to deserve this?

 

“Who’s Claire?” John forces himself to ask, pushing away the painful thoughts.

 

“Uh...Claire. That’s a complicated story,” Sam murmurs, “Claire’s turning 19 in a couple weeks, lives with Jody, our friend, and hunts on her own. She’s...sort of Cas’s daughter. Biologically. I guess. Dean cares a lot for her. She’s been stopping by more and he goes out of his way to see her. Mainly to research or hunt. I think he sees it as bonding. But he did take Claire, Cas, and Alex, Jody’s other foster daughter, to a concert a while back. That was before everything went down.”

 

“Why didn’t Cas have Claire-”

 

Sam’s groan cuts him off.

 

“Dad, I promise that you will get your answers eventually and I do appreciate you sticking with relatively safe topics. But Cas? Not an easy topic, and it’s not a safe topic when it comes to Dean’s mood. It’s up to him when it comes to what he wants to share with you regarding their relationship or Cas’s family. I’m not going to make that choice for him. I’ve said too much already. But I had to tell you a little bit, since Dean’s emotional state is fucked right now. The rest can wait until he’s ready to talk to you about it.”

 

The rest of the ride is filled with long stretches of road and even longer stretches of unbearable silence, unbearable enough that he has to reach for the tapes in the glove compartment and go through them.

 

He’s surprised some of them are still in tact. A couple of them are from back when Dean was a kid. The labels are worn and yellowed, but most of the cassettes themselves are still in decent shape. It doesn’t look like Dean’s added any new tapes in the last several years, although that’s understandable. Tapes had already been phased out for the most part and replaced with CDs and iPods back in 2006. John could only imagine how things were now.

 

But he does come across one. Brand new, the label stark white against the dark cassette.

 

Dean’s Top 13 Zepp Traxx

 

“Don’t play that one,” Sam interrupts, surprisingly stern, “He made that for Cas.”

 

John feels a twinge in his chest as he gently puts the cassette back without comment, before finding a mixtape he made Mary years and years ago, tucked in the very back of the box.

 

It still plays.

---------------------------------------------------

“Stay behind me when we go in. Dean’s a shoot first, ask questions later kind of guy.”

 

John glares at Sam, “I know my own son, Sam. Who do you think taught him that?”

 

Sam rolls his eyes at that, before turning the lock on the door.

 

“You live here?” John asks, a little confused, “Do you wear asbestos masks?”

 

“It’s a lot nicer inside,” Sam grumbles defensively, opening the door, “I think you’ll be impressed.”

 

“Dean?” Sam calls out, “Claire?”

 

John and Sam make their way down the stairs and John has to admit Sam was right. The place is impressive.

 

“How the hell did you find this place?” John asks, looking around.

 

Sam lets out a breath and looks around the common room, “That’s also part of the long story. Have a seat.”

 

“No.”

 

Sam looks at John in pure exasperation, then calls out for Dean and Claire once more.

 

“I’m making dinner!” a girl’s voice yells.

 

“Come on,” Sam motions, grabbing onto his father’s wrist.

 

Sam leads him to the kitchen, a nice, large kitchen at that, where a young, blonde teenager is tossing chicken in a bowl of flour and blasting some emo rock shit on a stereo in the corner. It’s a wonder she even heard Sam at all.

 

“Where have you been?” Claire asks, not even looking up, “You said that you were taking an overnight trip to talk about colleges with Alex, but I know that’s a lie because you didn’t even come back to pack a bag and I called Jody and she had no idea what I was talking about.”

 

“Yeah,” Sam answers, “I lied.”

 

“No shit.”

 

“Dean know?”

 

Claire scoffs humorlessly, “No. He’d steal my car just to find you. Passed out a couple of hours ago anyway. I figured you had a good reason to fib.”

 

Sam swallows, “I did.”

 

Claire finally looks up at that point, “Then what was it-”

 

Claire’s words come to a halt as she stares at John in curiosity and confusion, before her eyes widen.

 

“Is that...Is that your Dad?”

 

Sam lets out a breath, “Yeah. Yeah, it is. Claire, this is my father, John. Jack...Jack brought him back.”

 

John watches her closely, watches as her jaw clenches and tears form in her eyes, before she looks away.

 

“You Winchesters,” she scoffs, throwing the chicken in the bowl, before washing her hands, “You go through Hell but you’re special enough to get everyone back.”

 

Claire pushes past Sam and John and goes into the common room without another word.

 

“God damn it,” Sam mutters under his breath, “Claire, wait.”

 

Sam rushes after Claire and John trails behind. He’s never enjoyed teenagers. They’re emotional and rebellious, don’t think before they speak. Even Dean had his issues with suspensions and hooking up with girls and getting money in ways John had always been afraid to find out about. Sam always challenged him head on, bullheaded as his old man, and took off before cutting them off for years.

 

Not that John helped rectify that.

 

But Claire? He doesn’t know her. Doesn’t know how to approach her, can’t apologize for being back with his boys because he’s not sorry, nor will he pretend to be. He lets Sam handle it and doesn’t say a word. But John knows the look in her eyes, the anger and bitterness and sadness and hurt. They’re the eyes of a kid who has lost time and time again.

 

“What, Sam? What do you want me to say? I’m glad you got your Dad back when I never get shit?” Claire yells, throwing her hands out.

 

“No,” Sam tells her placatingly, “I don’t want you to say anything you don’t mean. Just because he’s back, doesn’t mean there’s anyone out there purposely slighting you, but I know it's still unfair. I know you’re going through a lot, I do.”

 

Claire lets out a panicked whine as she puts a hand to her forehead, tears falling down her cheeks as she looks off to the side.

 

“Why does he get to come back?” she chokes out, gesturing towards John.

 

Sam sighs, “I don’t know. Jack...Jack wanted me to have him, I guess.”

 

Claire snorts, “Yeah, because Jack loves you so much. Everyone knows. He doesn’t give two shits about me or Dean. If he did, maybe we’d have Cas back, you know, someone who just died. Or maybe I’d have my parents back. But he can just pick and choose because he has the power to do that. He adores Alex. Maybe his priorities are fucked up enough that he’ll want to bring her rapey vampire family back from the dead.”

 

“I would never put Alex in harm’s way,” a voice booms, as Jack appears in the common room, charging towards Claire, “Alex is light and stars and happiness and hope. I would never bring back the monsters who tried to rip that away from her.”

 

“Alright, alright,” Sam interrupts, arms spread out between Jack and Claire, a hand on each of their collarbones, “We’re just going to wake Dean up, sit down, and talk. And I expect you two to get along.”

 

Jack nods, before throwing his arms around Sam’s torso for a tight hug.

 

Claire isn’t so loving. She screams in pure rage, reaches over to throw a book, then storms off down a hall.

 

Sam tries to go after her, but it takes him longer than it should since Jack won’t let go of him.

 

“Claire? Hey, hey, what’s the matter?! Why are you crying?”

 

John freezes as he hears the question and his breath hitches because, even though the past twelve years are a blank, he has been waiting to hear that voice since he woke up in the middle of a hospital courtyard.

 

“Leave me alone, Dean!” Claire demands through heaving sobs, “Pl-Please! Leave me a-alone…”

 

Claire’s wails echo from the hall and John can hear Dean trying to comfort her as both their voices get farther away. Sam lets out a heavy sigh before putting an arm around Jack to lead him towards the couch.

 

“Dean, Jody, and I...we’ve been waiting for something like that to happen,” Sam tells him, gesturing in Claire’s general direction, Jack still firmly squished against his side, “She’s been bottling everything up. She was already a pretty angry kid. Cas dying made everything ten times worse.”

 

John clears his throat, “She’s lost a lot of people, huh?”

 

Sam stares at him sadly, “Yeah. No kid deserves the things she’s been through.”

 

Sam lets out a breath before turning to look at Jack, “Why don’t you go put some clothes on, buddy? There’s a whole closet in your room with your name on it.”

 

“It doesn’t have my name on it,” Jack answers, confused.

 

“You know what I mean,” Sam sighs, “Come on, Jack. You picked them out yourself.”

 

Jack hums, “I did. I did pick them out myself. But I’ve decided I don’t like them.”

 

Sam pinches the bridge of his nose, “But Jack, you picked them out. You must like them a little.”

 

“...No,” Jack decides, sitting up straight as folds his hands in his lap, “I’ve decided I don’t like clothes at all. I won’t wear them, I just won’t.”

 

“Jack, we’ve talked about this,” Sam strains, “People...People wear clothes. That’s just what they do. Even though you have a lot of special abilities, it’s important that you fit in so that you don’t draw too much attention.”

 

Jack stays silent for for a moment, before letting out a soft growl, “I’ll think about it. But I probably won’t do it.”

 

Sam looks at him for help, as if he wants John to play the stern authoritative figure. Tough shit. He’s not touching any issues regarding that evil son of a bitch with a ten foot pole, unless it deals with getting rid of the bastard.

 

Sam opens his mouth once he takes the hint that John’s not getting involved, but before anything can come out, Dean comes into the room.

 

John finds his eyes locked with Dean’s, taking in the sight of his boy. His breath hitches when he sees how dull and lifeless Dean’s eyes are, the eyes that Mary boasted about, calling them a brilliant, vibrant, forest green. Only now they seem to look faded, but glossy, as if he’d been drinking or crying, maybe both. He couldn’t blame the kid for getting upset over Claire, but this went deeper than that. His boy is well and truly heartbroken and, even though it’s been a long time, John can see that plain as day.

 

“Dean,” he rasps out, standing to his feet to take a step towards his son, but Dean automatically takes a step back and looks at him wearily.

 

“Dean, it’s alright,” Sam tells him, looking up at his brother from the couch, “I did the tests on him at Missouri’s. Jack confirmed he brought him back himself.”

 

Dean stares at him, but John can’t decipher his expression. It isn’t happy, but John supposes that’s understandable. Getting someone back doesn't automatically mean it's going to fix the grief you have over someone else. At least, that's what John can only assume. All of this is completely foreign to him.

 

“Why don't you sit down?" Sam suggests softly to his brother, patting the spot next to him on the couch, “We’ll try to make sense-”

 

“I'm good.”

 

Dean’s expression doesn't change, he's at guard and he's hurting so it makes him even more ready to lash out. John wants to shake him, get him to snap out of it, help in whatever way he can to make him less depressed or anguished.

 

But, in times where it is the least convenient, Dean could be the most stubborn Winchester of them all.

 

“I brought John back for Sam,” Jack pipes up, rubbing his head on Sam’s arm.

 

“Did you,” Dean mutters, not one ounce of feeling in his voice.

 

“It's because I want Sam to be my dad,” Jack insists, gesturing wildly, “And what better gift to get your dad than his dad? I want to be the best son I can be.”

 

Dean turns his head and cocks it, nothing but disdain in his eyes, “Do you? What about your mom, Jack? She's still dead and gone, isn't she? I don't see you granting her with the gift of life out of the goodness of your heart.”

 

Jack’s lower lip trembles as he clutches Sam’s arm and sinks into his seat.

 

“And what about Cas? Cas kept you safe, planned to help your mom raise you,” Dean continues, voice shaking, “Where’s Cas, Jack? He went and bought you a crib, one that you fucking broke after you killed your mom. And what does Cas get in return, other than a blade in his back, nestled in there by your real dad?”

 

His?

 

“Stop, stop it, please,” Jack whimpers, clutching onto Sam for dear life.

 

“Dean, stop it right now,” Sam warns, glaring at his older brother, “I know you're hurting, that you're angry, but you're drunk and you're being awful.”

 

“And then there’s our mom,” Dean continues, ignoring Sam’s warning, “Our mom, who we just got back not even a year ago. And she's gone, and that's because of you too. Don't see you trying too hard to get her back either.”

 

“I DID TRY!” Jack roars, standing to his feet with tears streaming down his face, “I DID I DID I DID DID!”

 

Sam stands up and holds onto Jack, “Jack, deep breaths now, come on.”

 

But Jack ignores him, “I tried to bring Cas back but I don't know how and I tried to bring Mommy back but I can't! She wouldn't come and I don't know why! And I've opened portal after portal but I can't find the right one! I'm sorry! I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry!”

 

A light blows overhead and Jack collapses in a heap, sobbing his heart out.

 

“Damn it, Dean,” Sam seethes as he bends down to rub Jack’s back, “Why? Why did you have to say that stuff to him?”

 

Dean stays silent and John can see the guilt in his eyes, the regret over what came out of his mouth.

 

But he can't focus on it. Not one bit. Not when he feels as if there’s a fist clutching his heart, threatening to squeeze it until it stops beating altogether.

 

He looks for something to ground him, something to keep him calm, until his eyes land on a framed picture of his wife, standing next to his two adult sons and a man in a trench coat.

 

Mary.

 

Mary.

Chapter Text

“He h-hates me,” Jack hiccups, wiping his red nose on his sleeve, “He hates me because I'm bad and because I don't wear clothes.”

 

Sam lets out a sigh and strokes Jack’s back, “You're not bad. You're not. And you're wearing pajamas right now. I call that progress.”

 

Jack sniffles and nods, but then his face crumples, “I don't like them. I can feel every molecule rubbing against my skin. I'm sorry.”

 

“Alright,” Sam murmurs, trying not to get too exasperated when Jack takes his clothes off once more. They could have that battle another day, a day when Jack hasn't been put through an emotional wringer and verbally abused by Dean Winchester.

 

“Read me a story. Please,” Jack insists, propping his head up on the pillow, “It calms me to hear your voice. I promise to go to sleep right after, even though it isn't an absolute necessity.”

 

Sam nods before going over to Jack’s bookshelf, “Which book would you like?”

 

“...The Odyssey,” Jack decides, starting to sit up in his bed with anticipation.

 

“Lie back down,” Sam warns, picking up the book, “Or I won't read at all.”

 

Jack gasps and dashes back under the covers, “Sorry, I’m sorry.”

 

“It's okay,” Sam tells him, a bit more softly, patting the boy’s leg as he sits at the foot of the bed, “Where we left off?”

 

Jack nods with a smile, “Where we left off.”

 

Sam clears his throat dramatically, invoking a giggle out of Jack, “With that the powerful giant-killer sped away. The queenly nymph sought out the great Odysseus— the commands of Zeus still ringing in her ears— and found him there on the headland, sitting, still, weeping, his eyes never dry, his sweet life flowing away with the tears he wept for his foiled journey home…”

----------------------------

John watches Dean closely as he sits across from him, studying his son pull the robe more tightly around his body as he sinks back into the armchair.

 

“Dean. Talk,” John orders, leaving no room for argument. It’s a tone Dean rarely went against, knowing better than to defy it.

 

Apparently the years that passed have knocked sense out of the boy, because all Dean does is sit there and stare at him.

 

“Dean, please,” John pleads with him, above it until this very moment, “You mentioned your mother. You mentioned my wife. That she was brought back. I see her picture. It wasn't taken that long ago, was it?”

 

Dean’s dull eyes follow John as he gets up to take the framed picture in his grasp. Holding it tightly, he takes it back to his seat to study it. He touches her face, still as beautiful as he remembers it.

 

“Five months ago, maybe a little more,” Dean tells him, finally talking, “Cas had almost died a few days before. And before that, Sam and I had a run in that got us arrested and held in isolation cells for six weeks because the secret service thought we tried to assassinate the president. Mom figured we should take a group picture on a happy day.

 

John gapes at Dean’s explanation, but no words come out of his mouth, even though he needs to know, needs to ask questions.

 

But how the hell do you approach a topic like trying to assassinate the president?

 

“Where’s your mother?” John asks instead, looking back down at the picture.

 

Dean eyes actually become soft, as if he feels sorry for John.

 

“Another universe. Literally. Sounds crazy, I know. Take your time.”

 

“Time isn't something we have,” John growls, “If that's what you’ve been doing, taking time -”

 

“All I do is research and hunt, day and night, and all I am getting are dead ends,” Dean snarls, interrupting him, “You caught me on an off day, I'll give you that. But you try losing everyone you’ve ever cared about. Try wondering whether or not you should cling onto the few people who are left or if you should just push them as far away as you can because you're poison and cause everyone you let in - love, whatever - to die. You try that, see whether or not you want to crawl into the bottom of a bottle and stay there, then get back to me.”

 

John lets out a shaky breath at Dean’s bitter, self-loathing words and has to keep himself from reaching out to touch Dean, to hold him, try to make him feel safer, something. He has never seen Dean like this, so bitter, sad, and despondent. Even when he stopped talking for months after Mary died, he was more animated than he is now.

 

John doesn't even realize he's crying until Dean looks away in discomfort. John quickly wipes his cheek to get rid of the evidence.

 

“Well, I'm here now. I’ll help you, Sam, Claire, whoever. I'll research and do what needs to be done to get your Mom back. We can do this, son. We can. And if you need a day here and there to get back on your feet, we’ll deal.”

 

Dean doesn't answer at first, but his chin wobbles and he blinks a few times, trying to get the moisture out of his eyes, before nodding once.

 

“You good?” John asks. It's a stupid question and he knows it as soon as it comes out of his mouth.

 

Dean swallows and shakes his head, “No. Not really.”

 

John...John is at a loss. He wants to ask more questions about Mary, about what led up to her slipping through some rift in the space time continuum or whatever the hell it had been. All he knows is that the kid had been responsible in some way.

 

Which is all the more reason Jack needs to go.

 

But John had seen the guilt in Dean’s eyes, after he tore into the boy mercilessly, making him dissolve into absolute hysterics. Is the kid just that great of an actor, or does he genuinely have no control over the damage he causes?

 

“I know what you’re thinking,” Dean barks out, “You can stop right there. You're not killing Jack. Sam would never forgive you, even if he downplays how much he loves the kid, and he's probably our only chance at making this right, despite what I said.”

 

“Dean-” John starts but Dean holds up a hand.

 

“I mean it. I'm not up for talking about much else, so you better be hearin’ me loud and clear.”

 

John grits his teeth and forces himself to stare at the picture in order to calm down.

 

“Can I have this?” He asks unexpectedly, holding the picture a little closer.

 

John watches Dean as the younger man closes his eyes and shakes his head.

 

“No. You can't have it. Sam can have copies made, but I...I want that in my room tonight.”

 

And although John can point out that this is the only new picture John has seen of his wife since before she died, that he wants to study her face and remember the scent of her shampoo, he stops himself when he looks past her and her beauty and focuses on the other people in the picture. At Sam, who looks mildly amused and exasperated over his mother wanting him to stand still for a photo, an image that should have been commonplace in a perfect world. At Dean, not even looking at the camera, opting to stare off to the side to laugh about something with the man in the trench coat.

 

And the man? The one dressed so seriously and seems like he should have an expression to match? He’s looking at Dean with such tenderness. As if Dean’s the only thing worth looking at.

 

He doesn't know how he feels about that. He might be reading too much into it. Sam could be off the mark too. Dean likes women, that had always been clear up until now.

 

But John doesn't ever remember Dean making a girl a mixtape, even back when his boy was in high school.

 

“Tell Sam I’d like a copy,” John tells Dean softly standing up to put the frame on Dean’s lap, “It's a really nice picture. Of all of you. That man next to you, that’s...Cas? That’s his name, right?”

 

Dean nods and stares at the picture for a moment, his fingers lingering on Cas’s face for a moment too long to be a coincidence.

 

John doesn't know why he feels the need to test the matter, he just does. He wants to understand, even though he already knows he won't achieve that overnight.

 

“I'm sorry that you lost him,” John adds after an awkward pause, “I really, truly am. It seems like you two were close. I'm sorry I never got to meet him.”

 

Dean’s fingers still on the glass of the frame and his breath hitches, right before his mouth twists into a grimace and his eyes fill up with tears.

 

John feels the pit in his stomach widen at the reaction, but he moves past it by focusing on Dean. He puts his hand on his shoulder, rubbing a pattern back and forth over the fabric with his thumb. He may be confused and taken aback regarding this Cas guy; he doesn't even know whether or not he fully accepts Dean having romantic or sexual feelings for a man.

 

But his reservations aren't important right now. Not when his son is in this much pain.

 

“I need to go check on Claire,” Dean chokes out, standing up and releasing himself from John’s grasp.

 

“Dean,” John calls out, but Dean is already rushing out of the room.

-------------------------------------

Morning comes slowly.

 

John knows he should sleep. And he tries for a little bit, but every time he closes his eyes, he sees Mary and wonders what she's doing, if she's hurt or still alive, if they’ll ever find her or will she be stuck in a universe she was never supposed to be in for the remainder of her life.

 

It makes him feel sick, knowing she's out there, that she’s alive after all this time, but completely out of his reach. It’s the cruelest punishment he can imagine.

 

An hour after perseverating on the matter, he ends up making himself so sick that he vomits in the bathroom down the hall.

 

It's almost a relief when his mind starts to ponder the possibility of Dean being gay.

 

Not that it’s any less of a mind fuck. But it’s one John can handle, even if he doesn't understand it, doesn't understand why Dean might fall for a man, doesn’t get the appeal. He honestly doesn’t know how he’d react if this had happened back when he was alive the first time around, or even if he had come back from the dead and Dean had a husband, like Missouri has a wife. He probably wouldn’t be thrilled. However, seeing Dean like this, along with close to twelve years of catching up to do...maybe that helps him put things in perspective. When it comes down to it, he wants Dean to be himself. He wants him to be happy.

 

But Dean’s not happy. He's the most miserable John has ever seen him.

 

He goes back to the library around midnight, giving up on sleep completely. He cleans up the kitchen and throws away the forgotten raw chicken and flour, washing the few dishes that Claire used, before going over to the library. He knows the boys must have searched high and low throughout the books, scrolls, and various texts in here, but he hasn’t. Maybe a new set of eyes will catch something new, something the boys looked over or haven’t found yet.

 

So he reads. For hours. About remedies and spells he’s never heard of and little known monsters that have to be bullshit.

 

He doesn’t know how his searching leads him to an American Men of Letters Census, a rather large book bound in rich leather, filled with names over the course of centuries, accompanied with occupation titles, birth dates, and death dates. He skims through it, at most, making a note to ask about The Men of Letters and their connection to this place. Going by some photos stashed between the pages, it looks like the bunker belonged to them at one point. Were they a hunter network? Back when people were less skeptic and actually believed in witches and demons and-

 

John pauses when a photo slips out from between the pages. Bending down, he picks it up and feels a tension course through his body.

 

Josie Sands; Henry Winchester - Remaining Pledges, 1958.

-------------------------------------------------

John stares at the photo until his eyes hurt. He doesn’t notice or acknowledge Claire when she comes down before it’s even light out, doesn’t move as she puts on a pot of coffee and thoughtfully pours him a mug. The first time he even looks up isn’t until after she sits across from him to eat a particularly crunchy cereal.

 

“Did you actually take a picture so it would last longer?” is all she says, nodding at the photo in his hand.

 

John keeps his eye contact with her, feeling a sense of emptiness and confusion. On a regular morning, or a morning where he hasn’t had to reevaluate his entire childhood, John may have wondered how he got here, sitting across from a teenage girl with a high messy bun, wearing a shirt that says, “Zombies Eat Brains (Don’t worry, you’re safe)” and the remnants of black eyeliner stained around her eyes. He might have thought, despite her attire, that she and Dean have a lot of similarities.

 

But it isn’t a regular morning, not that it would have been anyway had he not found a picture of his father.

 

“You’re quiet,” Claire decides, studying him a little more, “It’s weird. Your sons are nothing like you. Dean, up until a couple months ago, called just to talk about goofy stuff, as if he never heard of texting. Wanted to teach me about music and movies and defending myself against drunk handsy assholes so I wouldn’t be further traumatized, but also because he wanted me to be ‘strong, independent woman’ or some shit, only to threaten guys and push them against the wall if they made a grab for me in front of him, as if I can’t take care of myself. Then there’s Sam, who wants to talk about feelings and how I am coping with loss, because he knows I’ve been through a lot. He’d make a good therapist. Except all therapists suck. I would know, I’ve had several.”

 

John doesn’t even try to answer her.

 

“Want a bite?” Claire asks, holding out a spoon of Lucky Charms.

 

“No, thank you,” John grunts out, before making himself take a sip of coffee.

 

Claire watches him for a few moments, as if she’s closely monitoring his movements.

 

“What, Claire? What?” John finally asks, aggravated.

 

“You sleep last night?” Claire asks him.

 

“Did you?” John retorts,

 

“Not well,” Claire answers, “Dean sat in my room, going through some texts we found in Baton Rouge a couple weeks ago. I think he thought his presence might make me feel safe enough to fall asleep or something. It might have if the angst hadn’t been rolling off him in waves. What did you guys talk about last night?”

 

John lets out a sigh and stares down into his mug, “We didn’t talk about as much as we should have. I probably pushed him on the wrong topic too hard.”

 

The table falls silent for a moment, but it’s the most comfortable silence John has had since waking up 24 hours ago.

 

“How did you all...What is your deal with…” John starts, not knowing how to continue.

 

“...With Sam and Dean?” Claire finishes, “It’s a long story.”

 

John lets out a frustrated breath, “That’s all I’m hearing lately.”

 

He can feel Claire’s eyes on him as he grips the table, trying to will himself not to get upset with the girl. But everyone is practically tiptoeing around him, as if they’re this secret club that he hasn’t earned a membership to and it’s maddening because he should know, know what’s gone on his sons’ lives, know the relationships they’ve formed.

 

Maybe Claire can sense that longing, because she actually throws him a bone.

 

“Jody, Dean, Sam, Alex, and Cas,” Claire starts, her voice breaking on the last name, “They’re my family. Jody, she’s the best mom anyone could ever ask for. Like, she took in these two fucked up teenage girls no one would ever want and opened her home to us, keeps it as stable as possible but still makes sure we’re prepared for the worst. She’s probably the best person I’ve ever met. Alex and I fight like crazy. She’s always taking my shirts and has become this goody goody, but she’s my sister and my best friend. And Sam, he’s like the supportive and loving uncle and knows how to give me my space, but is there when I need help figuring out what something is while I’m on a hunt and doesn’t lose his shit if I fuck up, in one way or another. He just lets me know that it’s okay and that he cares.”

 

Claire chews her lip before her next words, her breath hitching, “And Dean, I...I really didn’t like Dean at first. He...He kind of was in a bad place then too, for completely different reasons. I guess I was as well. I was in a bunch of group homes and kept running away, did a stint in juvie. Dean and Cas helped me get out of there, I think they wanted to take me in or something, but I ran off, made my way back to a man who I thought loved me like a daughter, but then he sold me to a loan shark, who tried to force himself on me. Cas saved me and Dean flipped his shit on everybody involved.”

 

Claire closes her eyes, purses her lips, and takes a breath.

 

“That was a few years ago. Both he and Cas made an effort to form a relationship with me. I pushed against it at first, then slowly let them in, and then they started taking me places, buying me gifts, being there when I needed them to be, going out of their way to protect me, and making sure I knew they cared. I...I hated them at first, but grew to love them. And now, I just want to be around Dean because he’s the closest thing to a dad I have and I’m worried out of my mind about him. I didn’t even have a hunt nearby. I made it up because I didn’t like the way he sounded on the phone the other day and I know how he feels to an extent because I miss Cas too and I would give anything to get another stupid emoji text-”

 

Claire breaks off her confusing and emotional ramble and covers her face with her hands.

 

John appreciates what she’s told him so far. It’s the most he’s heard about anything as of yet. But he isn’t good with emotional teenage girls. He’s not sure he’s even been around an emotional teenage girl since he was a teenager himself and broke Becca Harding’s heart the last day of his junior year.

 

“What’s an emoji?” John asks instead.

 

Claire removes her hands from her face and stares at him with a strange mixture of disgusted and amused bafflement.

 

“An emoji,” Jack starts as he magically appears at the kitchen table with a board game in his hands, “ is a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication, typically via texting or various social messaging systems, such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Tinder, or Whisper.”

 

“Oh my god, Jack,” Claire grouses, rolling her eyes in exasperation, “No one who has a life even uses Whisper anymore. And you don’t have any business being on any of them, especially Tinder.”

 

Jack’s lips curl into a small, touched smile, before he looks away bashfully.

 

“Claire,” he murmurs softly, touching her hand, “If I didn’t know better, I would think that you wanted to protect my innocence and reputation.”

 

Claire opens and closes her mouth several times but no words come.

 

“I brought down Chutes & Ladders,” Jack continues, setting up the board game with a snap of his fingers, “I’ve decided that I will be descending down into Hell today to save Eileen. I would love it if Sam could be awake and down here with us so that I could say goodbye to him before I go. He is my dad and I love him. But I’m afraid he is starting to love me too and might try to stop me in order to save me from the pain I will inevitably go through during my journey. So, if you both don’t mind, I’d...I’d like to spend my morning with the two of you, playing a game that might help us get our minds off of our troubles for a short while.”

 

The last thing John wants to be doing is playing a children’s board game with a demon who has inserted itself into his sons’ lives and tricked them while at their most vulnerable.

 

But if the demon is willing to go back to hell willingly, then John’s more than willing to play as a small Asian girl when Jack hands him that particular game piece to play a few rounds.

 

He feels an odd surge of protectiveness when Jack launches himself at Claire to hug her. Claire looks like she’d rather be elsewhere, but eventually puts her arms around the boy as well and holds him tight.

 

“Be careful, freak,” Claire mutters, before sitting back down, “You’re no use to anyone dead.”

 

Jack beams at Claire, “That might be the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”

 

Jack pauses for a moment and studies Claire closely.

 

“I think I might like you Claire. You’re my cousin, after all. In all the ways it counts. But I still like Alex so much more.”

 

Claire looks as if she’s asking some unknown higher being for patience, “Well, Alex is like my sister, which sort of makes her your cousin too. So it’s sort of inappropriate for you to have a crush on her.”

 

“No,” is all Jack answers with and Claire leaves it at that.

 

Jack turns to face John.

 

“And Grandpa-”

 

“Don’t touch me.”

 

Jack looks dejected for moment, before nodding his head.

 

“Very well. Maybe we can hug when I return.”

 

And just like that, Jack’s gone, only the board game on the table indicating he had been in the room to begin with.

 

“Sam is going to be so worried,” Claire comments, looking at the space where Jack was standing moments before, “Maybe we shouldn’t tell him.”

 

“Probably a good idea,” John agrees, glancing at the picture of his father once more.

 

Talking to his sons about Jack’s departure is far from the first conversation he plans on having with them when they wake up anyway.

Chapter Text

The nightmares change but they still end the same.

 

Sometimes he dreams it just as it happened. He feels the panic and desperation as Cas walks towards Lucifer, the arms circling around him as Sam pulls him back with strength that Dean can’t manage to break free from, the short-lived relief as Cas walks back through.

 

The terror that stabs through his chest as he watches the knife stab through his best friend’s.

 

The numbness as his knees sink into the muddy ground, blood staining his fingers as he clutches onto Cas’s bloody shirt.

 

Then there are times when he dreams of Cas lying next to him in a plushy, white bed, arms circling around him as the angel pulls him closer, arms Dean has no intention of pulling away from. He dreams of resting his cheek against Cas’s bare chest, smiling as he feels the vibrations of his deep voice, before tracing a finger from Cas’s sternum down to the bottom of his waist. Then, Dean turns his head up expecting, for some unknown reason, to catch Cas staring down at him, his eyes crinkling with tenderness and, fuck, love. He could only guess at this point.

 

But every time he gets to that part of the dream, that’s not what happens. Instead, Cas is staring at the ceiling, dead. And Dean only wakes up after he realizes his face is covered in Cas’s blood.

 

That dream is the worst, maybe because none of it, absolutely none of it, happened anyway, yet his brain still tortures him with the images. The first time he had it, Sam rushed to his room because Dean had been sobbing and dry heaving all at once, loud enough to wake his little brother up.

 

But he’s had it every night for the past week.

 

He’s a little more used to it now. He makes sure to muffle his screams into his pillow, takes an hour or two to get himself together, and pretends he decided to sleep in once he goes downstairs.

 

That’s what he’s preparing to do now, letting himself take a little longer so that his eyes don’t look so goddamn red, puffy, and dead. He doesn’t want to scare Claire. She’s going through shit too. And he’s trying, he really is, to be there for her. He doesn’t know when he started loving that kid. It might have began to start when Cas told him what he felt for her.

 

When Jimmy said yes, I gained use of his body and access to every memory he had. And when Jimmy left, and this body became my own, his memories became mine as well. I remember her first steps, first words, her first day at school, her first crush...It kills me that someone tried to hurt her like that, Dean. I can’t explain the rage I feel every time I think about it. I’m glad they’re dead.

 

Dean closes his eyes at the memory of Cas’s words, his voice. Sometimes he wishes he couldn’t remember Cas at all, and then there are times when he’s terrified he’ll forget something about him.

 

“Dean?”

 

Dean keeps his back turned as Sam opens the door and walks in.

 

“Dean,” Sam says again, closer now, “It’s almost 11. Dad hasn’t eaten yet and Claire wants to go out to Jiffy Burger for lunch. Jack’s run off somewhere. Kind of a shame. He actually puts clothes on for Jiffy Burger.”

 

Sam’s tone tries to be light, as if he’s trying to get a smile out of Dean, but that’s impossible to do these days.

 

“I still need to get ready,” Dean ends up answering gruffly, “You guys go on without me.”

 

“We can wait for you to get ready,” Sam answers, “We’re not in a huge rush.”

 

“That’s okay. You guys just go.”

 

He doesn’t know why he expects Sam to leave it at that.

 

“...Dean,” Sam breathes out, as if he’s wanting to start talking about feelings or whatever the fuck, “It might help a little to get out of the bunker. Get some fresh air and an actual meal in your stomach.”

 

“I’m fine, Sam,” Dean growls, “Just-”

 

“You’re not fine,” Sam interrupts, “You’re depressed, grieving, and having a hard time dealing with everything. I get that. But Claire’s here and I know you want to spend time with her before she goes back to Jody’s. And Dad’s back. I know it’s weird and overwhelming that he is, but you’ve barely spoken to him, hugged him, anything. He’s really worried about you. He wanted to come talk to you and see how you were a couple of hours ago, but I told him to wait. He’s researching in the library to distract himself and keeps asking questions. He knows about his dad. Figured part of it out himself, and I had to break the news that his dad got killed by a demon, just like his wife. He’s going to figure out more and I can’t be the only one telling him all of the messed up stuff we’ve done and gone through-”

 

“Just shut up,” Dean grits out, “Get out of my room and fuck off so I can get ready.”

 

Dean doesn’t mean to come off as so rude. No, that’s actually a lie. Right now, he hopes every bit of contempt comes out through his words because that’s the mood he’s in at the moment. But Sam doesn’t seem to take offense to it, doesn’t try to make Dean face him so that he can see how fucked up and broken his big brother truly is.

 

All he says is, “Alright. Take an hour. I did your laundry the other day. You should have plenty to choose from.”

 

Sam gently claps his back and leaves.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

“Dean...Dean!”

 

Dean lets out a breath, slightly clouding the window, before turning his head to meet his dad’s eyes.

 

“Do you know what you want?” John asks, “You didn’t even pick up your menu.”

 

“I’m not hungry.”

 

He feels four sets of eyes on him. He knows Sam and Claire are concerned, that they want him to eat and have been prodding him. Debbie, she’s seen him here enough to know how how he loved big portions, sweet waitresses, and a slice of her best pie to finish off with. He can feel her studying him closely as she cracks her gum.

 

And his dad. Dean doesn’t remember him ever looking this worried about him.

 

“Dean…” John strains, “Son, you gotta eat. Claire said you didn’t eat anything yesterday.”

 

Dean glances at the man and shrugs, “I wasn’t hungry then either.”

 

“We can’t have that,” Debbie insists with a loud pop, “I don’t know what’s goin’ on, but you’re a tall, strapping guy and usually have an appetite to match that. Whether you choose the meal or I pick one out myself, there’s gonna be a plate in front of you.”

 

And he can feel the anger bubbling, over something stupid, but over just one more thing he apparently has no control of-

 

“He’ll have the bacon cheeseburger, a side of tater tots, and a coke,” Claire answers for him.

 

Debbie looks at him, as if he might have a different meal preference in mind, but Dean doesn’t say anything.

 

“Where’s your cute friend?” she suddenly asks, “The one with the blue eyes and the trench coat. I haven’t seen him around for a while.”

 

Dean doesn’t say anything to that either.

------------------------------------------------------------

“I’ll make him something. Maybe he’s finally sick of diner food. I can run to the store. Do something like seafood night, crab legs, salmon, the works. He might enjoy that.”

 

Sam shakes his head at Claire, “He’s researching. You know how he gets. We won’t be able to pull him away for hours.”

 

“He won’t be able to research for much longer if he keels over from starving himself!” John snaps.

 

Sam sighs and tries not to react to his father’s tone negatively.

 

“I get you’re worried, Dad. I do. This can’t be what you were thinking you would come back to. But this isn’t the first time Dean has lost his appetite or become apathetic when he’s mourning. He cycles for months and I have to keep an eye on him, make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid, but he does end up healing eventually.”

 

“Has he ever been this bad though?” Claire mutters.

 

Sam chews his lip at the inquiry. He could tell her no. That he has never seen Dean this lost and broken. That, even when they were going through hell, Dean was able to crack a joke or have a brighter day here and there, but hasn’t managed to this time around.

 

“He needs to talk to someone about how he feels, about what’s going through his head,” John croaks, “Why won’t he talk to anyone?”

 

Sam wants to tell his dad that Dean learned from the best, but manages to keep his mouth shut.

 

“I’m going to go research more,” John suddenly says, standing up, “Help him out. Maybe I can get him to open up a little. If not, at least we’ll both be doing something other than sitting around, twiddling our thumbs.”

 

John leaves the kitchen after that, leaving Sam and Claire alone.

 

“I still want crab legs,” Claire finally says, breaking the silence.

 

Sam lets out a sigh as Claire holds out her hand, before giving in, getting out his wallet, and handing her a credit card.

 

“Get enough for Jack,” he calls out as she turns to leave, “He’s usually back by dinner.”

 

Claire stills for a moment, but then turns her head and nods before taking off.

----------------------------------------------

“Find any leads?” John asks as soon as he sits across from Dean.

 

Dean glances up from a book and shakes his head, then looks back down to flip the page.

 

“Maybe...Maybe you and I can take a trip. Back where it happened,” John suggests, “Try to see if we can find any clues or something left behind.”

 

Dean’s hands shake at the words, only slightly, but John sees it before reaching over to cover them with his own.

 

“Or Sam and I can go,” John offers, “But I do think that would be a good place to start.”

 

“...Sam and I...We went back there already,” Dean informs him, swallowing, “A week after it happened. Tried some spells and rituals. Jack tried to reopen the portal but instead opened a universe where everything was almost the same except Sam and I were women.”

 

Dean huffs out a laugh, before pulling his hands away from John’s to flip the page, “I also had a toddler. Kind of grateful I’m in this universe. Hunting while pregnant or with a little girl on my hip sounds like a bitch. Kid was cute though.”

 

“Dean,” John prompts, trying to get his son back on track, “Okay, so the wrong...portal, or whatever, was opened. Maybe it’s a hotspot for that kind of thing. If we keep trying, we might get the right place.”

 

Dean shakes his head, “Jack said the number of universes are infinite, created by something as simple as a change in action or decision. It won’t be that easy. We tried it, god, twenty more times at least. Without knowing what we were jumping into. Some of the places look exactly the same, while others look like they are out of a horror or science fiction movie.”

 

“You shouldn’t…” John starts, before letting out a growl, “You shouldn’t believe every single thing this Jack says. He can’t be trusted.”

 

Dean just rolls his eyes at him. Rolls his eyes.

 

“What are you reading?” John forces himself to ask, instead of berating the boy for being so careless.

 

Dean picks the large book up, keeping it open but upright so that John can see the title.

 

The Book of Angels

 

“Son,” John sighs, putting his head in his hands, “You’re just practicing wishful thinking now. Angels...Angels aren’t real, Dean. If you think we’re going to pray your mother or...or Cas back, then-”

 

“Only some of angels actually give a shit about prayers,” Dean laughs without a trace of humor, “Most of them are selfish dicks. But Mom did end up going through the portal with one of them, so if there’s a way to summon him from an alternate universe, then I’m going to try it.”

 

John stares at his son with wide eyes and feels his heart hammering in his chest. This is it. His son has gone mad. Mad with grief and heartbreak. Mad from suffering one to many times, making him snap. He can’t judge his son for it. John sometimes thought he was going to go crazy himself, after no one believed him when he said he saw his wife burn on the ceiling, after searching for Azazel for decades and never really getting the satisfaction of seeing the yellow burn out of his eyes.

 

He gets it. Loving someone could be aggravating enough. Losing the person you love, especially if you had never experienced it until they came into your life...

 

But just because he understands why Dean is going insane, doesn’t mean it shatters John’s heart any less.

 

John makes himself rise to his feet on shaky legs, before coming around the table to stand next to his son. Before he knows it, he’s putting his arms around Dean fiercely, holding his boy’s head against him so that Dean’s cheek collides with his rib cage.

 

“You’re going to be okay, Dean,” John sniffles, stroking his son’s hair, “I’m...I’m going to make sure of it. Whatever it takes.”

 

Dean tenses up in his arms but slowly returns the hug.

 

“Dad...don’t worry, I’m fine.”

 

The words don’t match the wetness John feels forming on his shirt and the way he feels and hears Dean’s breath hitch. Maybe they can find a psychologist or therapist, one aware of the hunting community, maybe one who is also friendly to gay people or something. That seems unlikely and awfully specific, but there has to be one out there somewhere. John wants to get his wife back, he does, but this can’t go on. He can’t neglect Dean right off the bat and let the boy’s mental state deteriorate while he searches for her. He has to figure out a way to balance things out. He and Sam could take shifts monitoring and caring for Dean, switch off while the other one worked on getting Mary back. Maybe Claire, Missouri, and Jody could pitch in too. It sounds like the boys are close with this Jody woman, Sam said Bobby had been close with her too.

 

He puts his hands on Dean’s face and has the boy look at him. Dean doesn’t want to and looks ashamed about crying.

 

“Sorry,” Dean rasps out, “I don’t know why I reacted like that. Sorry.”

 

John can’t answer immediately, needs a moment to talk around the lump in his throat, so he just shakes his head and wipes Dean’s tears with the pads of his thumbs.

 

“I need to go talk to your brother about something. Stay here, alright? Don’t work yourself into the ground. I’ll be right back.”

 

Impulsively, John kisses the top of Dean’s head, something he hasn’t done since the boy was probably seven or so, before stepping away to go find Sam.

 

It takes a little bit, but he finds Sam outside, fine tuning the Impala with less finesse than John would like to see but he’ll give Sam credit for trying. Not that the car is John’s concern right now. Sam could be beating up the car with a tire iron and he probably wouldn’t give two shits.

 

“Sam,” John speaks up, walking towards his younger son, “I need to talk to you about somethin’.”

 

Sam ducks his head back out from under the hood, “Okay. Let me wipe my hands off.”

 

John tries to think about approaching the topic as Sam wipes the oil off his hands with a rag. Tries to think how he can be sensitive and stern about Dean at the same time.

 

“It’s Dean...I’m very worried about him. I don’t think he’s well.”

 

Sam looks away, tossing the rag to the side, “Of course he isn’t, Dad. He’s dealing with a lot.”

 

John shakes his head, “It’s more than that. I think...I think the kid might be going crazy. His moods-”

 

“Dean’s always had mood swings, probably should have been put on mood stabilizers for them a long time ago,” Sam mutters, defending his brother, “But they don’t make him crazy. That’s an insensitive term anyway.”

 

“Sam,” John raises his voice, “It’s more than mood swings. He told me...He basically told me he believes in angels. That he was going to summon one to find your mother.”

 

Sam stays quiet for a moment. And for that moment, John thinks that he’s actually gotten Dean’s state through Sam’s stubborn head.

 

“He said that?” Sam asks quietly, “He said he was going to summon an angel?”

 

“Yes,” John confirms, “He needs help. I don’t know what to do about it, but it sounds like there might be more people aware of what’s going on nowadays. Maybe if we can find a therapist who can comprehend what he’s been through and the type of grief he’s feeling-”

 

“Did he say which angel he wanted to try to summon?” Sam interrupts, “Did he give you a name?”

 

John growls, “You aren’t taking this seriously! It doesn’t matter if Dean’s made up a name or not-”

 

“Come with me,” Sam interrupts, opening the driver’s side door to get in.

 

“Why the hell aren’t you worried about this?” John yells, forcing the door open before Sam can close it, “He’s your brother! He always took care of you, I made sure of that! He needs you, us, to take care of him now! And you just want to take a drive?”

 

“I’m not saying I’m not going to take care of him,” Sam says, too placating for John’s liking, “I know he’s not handling things well and is starting to spiral, but he’s not as bad as you’re thinking.”

 

“You didn’t hear him-”

 

“Get in the car,” Sam insists again, “I’ll explain everything about angels.”

 

John stills, giving Sam the opportunity to close the car door. That, along with his son’s offer, gives John no choice but to circle around the car, get into the passenger seat, and watch the bunker shrink in the mirror as they drive away.

Chapter Text

Sam drives while he talks, telling his father more than he had since he went to get the man at Missouri’s the day before. John stays mostly quiet as he hears the details. Sam can't look at him when he tells his dad about Dean selling his soul to bring him back from the dead. It had been hard enough on Sam to find out about his brother’s time in Hell, but now that he has been taking care of Jack, he knows how painful it must be to hear that your son went to hell and suffered from every type of torture.

 

Even though Jack could probably obliterate them if he needed to, despite his sweet innocence.

 

Sam doesn't tell him about Dean breaking, nor does he mention the demon blood. It's Dean’s decision on whether or not for their dad to know about what happened once Dean agreed to torture in order to get off the rack.

 

As for the demon blood, Sam imagines John Winchester would rather hear that his youngest son used to shoot up heroin.

 

But even though Sam keeps those aspects out of the story, it doesn't keep his father from going pale or keep the ragged breaths from escaping the older man.

 

When he gets to the part about Dean getting pulled out of Hell, he can't gather up enough courage to say it had been Cas who saved him. He's not sure why. Maybe because John had taken the fact that Cas was a man much better than Sam expected, and has continually acted accepting and gravely concerned about Dean.

 

So yeah, Sam’s proud of the surprisingly caring response the man has given so far. If Dean had known that Sam admitted to their father that he thought Dean had been in love with Cas and didn't go straight into denial mode, then Sam would like to think his brother would be touched and might possibly open up to them once he knew that his family didn't judge him.

 

But realistically, if Dean does find out, Sam already knows he won't take it well at all.

 

And besides, John might start judging if he found out Cas hadn't been human, might even come to the conclusion that Dean was put under some type of manipulative spell, just like he thinks Sam is manipulated by Jack.

 

He'd leave it up to Dean to decide whether or not to talk about Cas with their dad, whatever those conversation topics may be.

 

But that resolve doesn't last long. His father knows how to ask the right questions. It's after explaining vessels and how some angels were team Lucifer, while others had been team Michael, how a handful hadn't chosen a side at all, but only a very select few, mainly one, had aligned with them. That's when John asks:

 

“The angels who stood by you, any of them alive?”

 

“No,” Sam mutters, picking at a loose thread in his jeans, “They’re all dead.”

 

John nods, “Well, it seems like what’s supposed to be dead doesn't stay dead that often anymore. Angels are powerful, maybe we can find something. What were their names?”

 

Sam lets out a breath, “Dad, it doesn't matter. They’re gone.”

 

“I’d like to know,” John glares.

 

Whatever.

 

“Gabriel,” Sam starts, “He stayed on the sidelines for a while, pretended to be a trickster because he hated that his brothers literally wanted to kill each other, but he eventually sided with us. Died pretty quickly after that.”

 

Sam lets out a shaky breath, “The other one...the one who rebelled against Heaven because Dean convinced him to, who aligned himself with us during that time and years after, who kept Dean from saying yes to Michael near the end...His name was Castiel.”

 

He watches his father’s face closely and sees that is doesn't click at first, and Sam wonders if it's going to go over John’s head all together.

 

But John Winchester has never been an idiot.

 

“Cas...Castiel,” John swallows, testing the name, “Cas is short for that, isn't it?”

 

Sam nods, then looks away, “It is.”

 

“So your brother...he fell for an angel who was possessing some poor bastard?”

 

“It wasn't like that,” Sam objects, “Cas was the one who pulled Dean out of Hell, Dad. From the beginning, he cared so much about Dean that the angels regularly tried to...I don't know, pull him away and reprogram him or something, just because he cared about too much humanity. They said Dean was his weakness and, fuck, he probably was. But Jimmy was a devout man who gave his consent and Cas’s body has solely been his since Raphael killed him the first time around several years ago-”

 

“Oh, so what number is this most recent death?” John asks sarcastically.

 

Sam shrugs, “I’ve lost count.”

 

John huffs, “You've lost count. I don't know why you're so upset if he could just come waltzing back in.”

 

Sam grits his teeth, “It was different this time. We never had a body, never saw what was left of his wings burned into the ground and his grace burned out. We had all of that this time around and buried him not too far from the bunker.”

 

John shakes his head, “You buried him. Why the hell would you do that, Sam? I thought you better than that.”

 

Sam opens his mouth, then closes it. Truth is, Sam had wanted to burn Cas’s body. He didn't bring it up as he drove back to the bunker, with Jack sitting in the passenger seat, apologizing profusely over not knowing how to bring Cas back, while Dean sat in the back with Cas’s body half way in his lap, stroking the angel’s hair as silent tears dropped off his jaw.

 

He gave Dean three days once they got back, tried to give Dean the option of taking the lead when it came to a funeral of some sort. But he had done nothing, just carried Cas’s body to his old room and sat there, waiting.

 

During that time, Cas’s body grew rigidly stiff in its rigor mortis and a faint smell of decay started to emit from it. And Sam really had wanted to give Dean the chance to do something, anything, to take care of things. But he hadn't. Dean didn't speak more than a few words during that time, except to Cas, and he didn't seem bothered by the way he could no longer properly hold Cas’s hand the way he had been since Dean carried his body to the car.

 

Sam could have handled it better. He had started out with gently coaxing him the first two days, only to skip gradual escalation when he heard Dean tell Cas he could lie there, on that damn bed, for as long as he needed. The mere notion made Sam snap, not that it would have taken much anyway. He had been taking care of a nephilim who felt guilty, miserable, and agitated because he could “hear Dean’s soul weeping and screaming in pain.” So that, along with being worried out of his goddamn mind, led him to the decision to march right in and roll Cas’s body in up in the sheet so that he could carry him out to the pyre he built that afternoon himself.

 

Dean had yelled himself hoarse, pushed and punched at him, eyes completely wild and bloodshot from lack of sleep and stress. It took a while to talk him down, make him see reason. And Dean eventually said he'd bury him, but that he refused to see Cas burn.

 

Sam had been so relieved by the compromise that he didn't try to logically explain that the vessel of an angel, one rebuilt multiple times by God himself, might be seen as valuable. At that point, he had been willing to deal with the potential consequences if it meant that Dean could start processing what happened.

 

Dean built a makeshift coffin and dug the grave himself, despite being dead on his feet from hunger and exhaustion. They managed to finish burying Cas early the next morning, then drove the truck back to the bunker in silence. He watched as Dean grabbed a bottle of whiskey and a few glasses, sat down when Dean poured one for Sam, one for himself, and one for

 

”Cas,” Dean choked out, pouring the brown liquid into the glass as his hand shook, “Here's to you, buddy.”

 

And then Dean had dropped the bottle and sobbed. Cried in a way Sam had never witnessed from anyone. High pitched, hysterical, inconsolable, heartbreaking wails that forced their way up from his chest and through his lips.

 

Sam didn't hesitate bringing his chair closer to Dean to hold him through it, nor did he hesitate crying with him and for him or breathing with him when Dean started having trouble.

 

I c-can't do this anymore. I can't I can't I can't…

 

Sam hadn't asked what he meant by that. Whether it was not being able to lose or bury someone else they love or not wanting to live such a cruel life anymore or both, he wasn't sure he was ready to hear it.

 

You probably think I'm cr-crazy. I feel like I went crazy, like I still am.

 

Sam didn't know how to answer. “Crazy” was never a word that entered Sam’s mind as he watched Dean sit at Cas’s bedside for three days straight. He never liked the word anyway, and liked it even less when his wall broke. However, terms like “Crisis” and “Nervous Breakdown” and “Denial” and “Dissociation” went through his mind frequently, to the point where his search history on his phone was littered with mental health and grief websites.

 

“You're not crazy. You...You just hit your limit, Dean.”

 

“Sam. Are you even listening? Why the hell did you bury him? And pay attention to the damn road!”

 

Sam’s snapped out of his thoughts and swerved back to his side of the road.

 

“It was better for Dean,” Sam finally decides to answer, “If I had taken that decision away from him after it took him three days to get the body out of the bunker in the first place, I don't know how it would have affected him.”

 

John grumbles but lets the subject matter drop.

 

“So you, Dean, and...and Castiel...you killed both Lucifer and Michael and saved the world.”

 

Sam shrugs, “Not really. We knew we had to make some sacrifices. I said yes to Lucifer and Michael got another vessel-”

 

“You WHAT?!” John roars, hitting his fist against the dashboard.

 

Oh. There's the John Winchester he knows and loves.

 

“We opened the cage,” Sam continues, “And I was able to regain control over my body, threw myself in the pit, and took Michael with me. I was in there for...a long time. Cas brought me back too, but it's harder to retrieve someone from the cage, so there were some issues and my soul was in the cage a lot longer than my body was.”

 

He can see that his father is seething with anger, terror, and frustration. Sam can feel it in his bones, the anticipation of his father tearing him a new one for being 'so damn stupid.' It's been a while since he's prepared himself for a fight with his dad.

 

“Who was Michael’s vessel?” John asks suddenly.

 

...Shit.

 

Shit.

------------------------------

When Claire comes back to the bunker, the Impala is nowhere in sight. It’s possible Sam parked it in the car park after working on it, but he’s bad about that. The door is unlocked though, so at least one person must be home.

 

It turns out to be Dean, who still has his nose in a book, but his eyes look glazed over with lack of focus, as if his mind is elsewhere.

 

“Dean?” She calls out, as the plastic bags start to cut into the circulation of her fingers, “Will you give me a hand?”

 

It takes a moment, but Dean does look up to glance at her, eyeing the bags in her hands, before standing up to help her. He takes over half the bags out of her hands and brings them to the kitchen without a word.

 

“I got stuff to make dinner,” she tries to mention casually, “On Sam’s dollar, of course. I went all out. Got crab legs, which was a little high, price wise, so I got whiting fish instead of salmon. I will coat and deep fry that. We can do roasted baby potatoes and corn on the cob, top everything off with a buttery lemon zest.”

 

“Okay, Red Lobster,” Dean snorts, putting the last of the groceries on the counter, “Knock yourself out.”

 

“Actually I was thinking,” Claire blurts out quickly, grabbing onto Dean’s wrist to gently pull him back, “I thought that we could maybe cook together. It could be like bonding or whatever the fuck.”

 

Dean actually cracks a small smile at her words, which is almost jarring since she hasn't seen the man give anyone a genuine one since Sam called to break the news about Cas dying.

 

“C’mon, please? We can watch a movie after. I’ll probably be heading back to Jody’s in the next day or two, hopefully find another hunt after that.”

 

It's a play on Dean’s emotions, just a little, and she does feel bad when his eyes get a little sad at the information. Maybe it's because Sam has been preoccupied with raising Jack or because she's sort of a link to Cas. But she sometimes imagines Dean thinks of her as family, the same way she’s grown to think of him. She knows thinking that is dumb, knows that she gets too attached to people. She needs to stop with that. She knows she’s alone when it comes down to it. Keeping people too close makes it harder to lose them when they leave her altogether. Being on the road alone is becoming increasingly and sometimes crushingly lonely, but at least she isn’t deluding herself into thinking the people she loves are safe and will want to stay in her life for good.

 

Still, it does mean something to her when Dean nods his head.

 

“Alright,” Dean answers softly, looking down, “I think I can handle that.”

 

Their time making dinner isn't filled with playful jabs and eye rolls like the other times they had done something together, but it's not filled with dragging Dean to his room because he's too drunk and sad to walk a straight line and it's not Dean holding her tight in the hallway as she breaks down, as if he’s trying to hold her together and prevent her becoming as broken as he is. It's quiet, but nice and it's good to see Dean feeling something other than depressed or obsessed.

 

It's when dinner is close to being done and Dean sets the table, setting it for five people, when Sam and John come in. She can hear heavy, quick footsteps as John passes the kitchen completely, which are followed by Sam’s calls after him.

 

“Dad. Dad! Damn it, I'm sorry. I didn't want you to find out that way. I'm so sorry that you...Fuck it. Why, Dad? Why didn't you ever tell us?”

 

But, whatever John should have revealed and why isn't said.

 

Everything falls silent for a moment, then Dean lets out a sigh.

 

“Surprised it took them this long to have an actual fight,” Dean mutters, “Home sweet home.”

 

But Dean does start to walk towards the common room. He doesn’t even make it out of the kitchen when Sam walks smack dab into him.

 

“Hey,” Sam greets, more softly, “Wait, you’re cooking. You’re...You’re going to eat, right?”

 

Claire has to wonder how stupid she looks waving her hands in the air, mouthing at Sam not to jinx it.

 

“What happened between you and Dad?” Dean asks bluntly, ignoring Sam’s inquiry completely, “You get to talkin’ about the good old days?”

 

“No,” Sam sighs, running a hand through his hair, “I was telling him about angels.”

 

Dean doesn’t have an immediate reaction, but Claire braces herself for it regardless.

 

“...Oh,” Dean ends up saying, almost guarded, “How did he take that?”

 

“Well, he doesn’t think you need a psychiatrist anymore,” Sam mutters, “Came outside worried sick about you, saying he thought you were going cr-”

 

Sam breaks off and Dean body tenses, only slightly, but enough for Claire to see a difference in posture.

 

“He said he thought you were unwell. Mentally. Thought you might be, I don’t know, suffering from delusions.”

 

Dean lets out a huff, “Well, neither of you have to worry. I haven’t had one in a couple months.”

 

And Claire thinks it is a joke, in bad taste, but a joke, nonetheless. But Sam’s mouth turns downwards into a concerned and almost guilty frown, and the implications of his reaction and the timeframe make her stomach churn.

 

“So Dad’s pissed that there are angels, huh?” Dean asks, “Probably pissed as hell they didn’t help out sooner. You tell him about God?”

 

“Not the specifics,” Sam sighs, “Just implied that there was one. But I did tell him about Adam.”

 

“...Shit, Sam,” Dean murmurs, “That...Fuck, I don’t know how he could have taken that. I never saw him with Adam a day in my life.”

 

Sam sits down at the table, “He’s crushed, Dean. He feels guilty. I guess he tried to get a hold of Adam and Kate when he woke up after he couldn’t get a hold of us and a few other hunters and figured they both hated him for disappearing. But the thing is, we could have told them. If Dad would have told us we had a brother, they could have known, maybe even prepared themselves for what came later on.”

 

“Wait, what?” Claire butts in, “You have another brother?”

 

Dean turns a little to face her and nods, “Yeah. Half.”

 

Claire nods, “And he’s…?”

 

Sam lets out a shuddering breath, “He’s been in the cage. Since 2009. He was innocent and got sucked in because he was John Winchester’s son.”

 

“Barely,” Dean says quietly, “Adam didn’t think much of him at all. Can’t really blame him.”

 

“He’s trying, Dean,” Sam stresses, leaning over to grip his hair, “Before I told him, he got so pissed off at me because he felt that we needed to slow down and care for you.”

 

“Ah, yes,” Dean sneers, “My delusions. Can’t forget about those.”

 

Sam lets out a growl, “You know, if I had been talking shit about him like you are now back when we were kids, you would have defended him to the grave. Hell, you would have done the same at 30.”

 

Dean shrugs his shoulders apathetically, “What do you want me to say?”

 

“I don't know,” Sam groans, “Just let him prove himself. I think this whole thing has changed him a lot. He’s always been a good hunter, but I think he’s trying to improve in other ways now.”

 

Sometimes Claire really hates Sam. Okay, not really, since telling Dean that their father now knew about his other son being in Hell is important. But at the same time, Dean was sort of happy. Not completely, but enough to make a relatively time consuming meal with her and agree to watch a movie after. Not now though, not after Sam had to come in and talk about serious subject matters. Now Dean’s got that mask back on, the one that he must think makes it look like he doesn’t care but it’s so obvious that he does.

 

“Listen, I want food,” Claire interrupts the serious family moment, theatrically gripping her stomach, “Let’s eat.”

 

Sam stares at his brother, as if he’s waiting for Dean to agree to a heart to heart. Dean holds his gaze for a long moment, but then turns to sit at the table.

 

“Come on, Sam. Help yourself. Claire even made salad and everything.”

 

When their plates are filled, Claire asks if they should go let John know that dinner’s ready.

 

Both brothers shake their head.

 

“I don't think he's up to being around anyone right now,” Sam answers softly, “Besides, I'm pretty sure he hasn't slept at all and needs to crash. I can let him know there's leftovers in the fridge later.”

 

All three of them eat, even Dean. The man doesn't eat much, but it's more than he's eaten in the last couple of days, so Claire kind of mentally pats herself on the back for that. Despite Sam feeling guilty about breaking bad news to his father, he does look cautiously optimistic about Dean’s slight increase in appetite.

 

But they don't really talk. Dean doesn't engage in much conversation throughout dinner, his head seemingly elsewhere, so that just leaves Sam and Claire. And Claire would talk to him, but Sam periodically keeps checking his phone.

 

“It's rude to check your phone at the table,” Claire tsks sarcastically.

 

Sam raises an eyebrow, “Jody’s rule finally starting to rub off on you, huh?”

 

“Who’s the lucky lady?” Claire teases with a straight face, ignoring the jab.

 

Sam rolls his eyes, but then frowns a little, “I'm trying to get a hold of Jack. He hasn't checked in all day.”

 

Claire’s stomach turns at the words. She knows she should tell him. Tell him that his pseudo-son took off for Hell in order to save the woman Sam had most recently lost, probably so Jack could inform her that she would be his new mother or something, since he apparently has the ability to just choose who his parents and family will be.

 

But Sam would freak out and he seems to have more than enough on his plate already.

 

So instead, she tilts her head and asks, “Where the hell does Jack carry a phone?”

 

Sam goes into an explanation about hidden parts of angels (and apparently Nephilim) that exist on different planes of existence and blahdy blah blah. Not once during dinner do they talk about the real issues any of them are facing. They just bottle up everything they should talk about and focus on other things instead. Bottling things up seems to come naturally to all of them, sort of like a fucked up family unit who can’t properly communicate. It doesn’t help Claire’s resolve to stay logical and nomadic at all, just like Jody’s hugs and Alex’s listening ear don’t help matters either.

 

But she knows it’s for the best, which is why she packs her bag as soon as Dean and Sam go to bed.

Chapter Text

Hooks.

 

Hooks. That’s the first thing he sees. Jutting out through his shoulder blades and calves, as if he’s the first slab of meat to be chopped up for distribution. The pain is like nothing he’s ever felt, but John’s never been stupid. He’s knows it’s just the beginning. But even though he knows that, what seals that particular deal is the sight of a tall figure making its way through the thick, humid green smog. Its pale, waxy gray skin droops from the bone, causing the cheekbones to jut out and the empty black eye sockets to reach the surface. Its fingers are elongated, yellowed and chipped nails right at the tip. Its teeth, as it shows John when it smiles inches away from his face, are stained in blood.

 

But John knows, knows with everything within him, that as much as the demon carves and prods and fucks and eats into him, he won’t give in and beg for mercy. He tries to keep that resolve when Fyodor is replaced after forty years with a demon who stares at him with endless pools of white.

 

When John forces himself not to get lost in its gaze, his eyes fall on the young man behind the demon.

 

”Adam?” John chokes out.

 

”Not anymore.”

 

John wakes up with a scream on his lips, his breath heaving as he grips at his sweat soaked hair.

 

“It was just a dream,” John mutters to himself, his heart pounding in his chest, “It was just a dream it was just a dream it was just a dream.”

 

It takes him a moment to snap out of it completely. He grounds himself by quickly turning on the bedside lamp and looking at the clock. 3:32 am, it reads. Early, or late, depending on how you look at it, but he had finally fallen asleep around 9 so he had gotten a little rest. He had fallen asleep in a bed, in the bunker, with his boys and Claire only a hallway away from him. He isn’t in Hell. He’s with his family again, they’re going to find Mary, and they’ll be happy. As much as he hates Jack, he could deal with him a little longer if he brought Sam’s girl back. And Dean? Cas might be dead and gone, but maybe that’s for the best. There are probably other men, actual men, out there for Dean to meet and fall for once the boy starts feeling better.

 

Things would be good. They are going to get through this.

 

All while your forgotten son rots in the cage.

 

John knows the voice, but can’t place it. All he knows is that it sends a chill down his spine and almost makes him sick.

 

“Adam,” he whispers out, gasping out the name, “Adam, I’m sorry.”

 

Sorry doesn’t even begin to cover it, John knows that. He never met the kid till he was 12 and he died by the time he was 16. John tried to make up for it, for lost time, for being such a shit dad to Dean and Sam, but he had been a drop in dad to Adam at best. He never deserved any of them.

 

“I’ll get you out,” John whispers in the dimly lit room, as if Adam can actually hear him, “I’m gonna do my best to get you out of there.”

 

As soon as the words come out of his mouth, they feel like a lie.

 

He knows he won’t get back to sleep tonight, so he gathers some fresh clothes and makes his way to the bathroom to take a shower. He keeps the water scalding hot and forces his eyes open once he realizes that every time he closes them, he’s assaulted with images of horror, violation, and pain.

 

He stands in the shower until the water is cold enough to make him shiver.

 

When John enters the kitchen, he finds Dean. The boy had always been an early riser and, even though he knows Dean should be getting as much rest as he can get, it’s almost a comfort to see him up, rather than staying in his room until 11.

 

“What are you doing up?” John mumbles as he sits down at the table.

 

Dean gives him a glance, before doing a subtle double take, “I can ask you the same. You look like shit.”

 

“Yeah well, we can’t all have our morning skin care rituals down to an art,” John grumbles.

 

Dean actually huffs out a small laugh at that, a sound that makes John’s heart feel an ounce or two lighter, “Yeah, Sammy’s new thing is all about organic and natural home remedies last I checked.”

 

John shakes his head, then shrugs, “Well, the boy doesn’t look half bad, so maybe he’s doing something right.”

 

A silence falls over the table after that. Dean wordlessly hands John a cup of coffee before focusing on his own and it gives John a moment to take a closer look at his son. Dean’s not as bad off as he when he first saw him, but his eyes look haunted, as if something recently brought a bunch of bad shit up to the surface.

 

“You sure you don’t want to go back to bed?” John asks him, “It’s still early.”

 

Dean shakes his head, “Won’t be able to, not for a good long while.”

 

John takes a breath, “Bad dream?”

 

Dean hesitates for a moment, then nods, “Don’t wanna talk about it.”

 

John lets out a sigh, “It...It might help to talk about it, son. I...Fuck, Dean. I won’t judge you or nothin’.”

 

Dean studies him and purses his lips, “You’re one to talk. Actually, no. You’ve never been one to talk. So why should two tigers change their stripes this far into the game?”

 

The words sting, even though they ring true. Because Dean has a point. They never did talk things out when things got rough, they just swept it under the rug and moved on. Sometimes John would drink like a fish and verbally lash out until Dean was shaking and close to tears as he tried to clean up the trashed room and put his fucked up old man to bed.

 

He had screwed up so much. He has to make sure he never became that man again.

 

“If the game was never played right, then that could be a good reason,” John says, clearing his throat.

 

Dean doesn’t have anything to say to that though. His just taps his fingers on the table in beat with the ticking clock on the wall. It’s then that John has to make himself accept that he’ll be the one to share and care first.

 

“I had a dream about Hell,” John forces himself to say, swallowing the lump in his throat, “A-Adam was in it. But I don’t think…I don’t think I saw him while I was in Hell. I think he just showed up because I was thinking about him.”

 

Dean’s breath hitches, but he doesn’t say a word. All he does is wait for John to continue.

 

“It was so bad down there,” John chokes out, “I know I’m just brushing at the surface so far, that there are so many worse things I’m not remembering, but I don’t know how it can get much worse than what I saw in my dream. The ways they tore into me and...and violated me...it shook me up, and I needed time once I woke up. But what’s killing me, what’s absolutely killing me, is that you and Sam had to go through that, that Adam is still going through it. You’re my boys and it enrages me that you were put through something so unfathomably awful.”

 

John lets out a breath. The first instinct he has is to run away. Lock himself in his room for a day or two with a bottle of whiskey in order to avoid talking about Hell anymore or being subjected to the pity Dean probably feels for him.

 

But when he finally faces Dean, yes, the boy looks sad, but his expression is also a strange combination of shocked and understanding.

 

“I uh…” Dean starts, before swallowing, “I had nightmares about Hell for years. It messed me up pretty bad. I don’t have flashbacks anymore, but when I did early on, they’d make me freeze up or have a panic attack, a couple of times on a hunt. I was still having nightmares about it every once in a while until a couple months ago.”

 

Dean’s eyes become vacant after the last sentence and his fingers clench into a fist on the table. John crosses his arms and takes a couple of breaths before answering.

 

“The nightmares you have now...they’re about Cas?”

 

Dean looks away, “...Yeah. They’re about him. Mom and Lucifer sometimes make an appearance too.”

 

The mention of his wife and the devil in the same sentence brings the feeling of nausea back, but if he looks green, Dean doesn’t say anything.

 

“Mom,” Dean continues, “She’s tough as nails. Probably a better hunter than me and Sam combined. Did you...Did you know about that? About her?”

 

John lets out a humorless laugh, “Not for a long time. Took me years to connect the dots. But you don’t go back and forth cross country countless times and never run into someone who knows a Campbell.”

 

Dean frowns at the words, “Why the hell did you never say anything?”

 

John lets out a sigh as he focuses on picking at the skin around his fingernails, “...I was hurt. My heart broke when I figured out she may have made a deal of some sort. Can’t say for sure whether she did or not, but last I had checked, it looked as if that could have been the case. When I figured out she was a hunter, I didn’t want to believe it...I don’t know why. I guess because it didn’t fit the vision I remembered. Because she didn’t trust me enough to tell me. I felt betrayed and I didn’t want you boys to feel the same.”

 

“So even though she’s completely different than the woman you thought you knew, you’re still set on saving her.”

 

Yes,” John hisses harshly, fist pounding the table, “Of course I am. She’s still your mother and my wife. All it means is that I’m going to have to get to know her. She might be different than the woman I thought I knew, but I know I’ll love her just as much.”

 

Dean doesn't say anything else about Mary, opting to remain silent and pour himself another cup of coffee.

 

“Sam and I are heading out to Eureka Springs, Arkansas in a couple of days,” Dean mentions suddenly, “Last full moon, tourists kept reporting a bright opening, like a rip emitting light out of thin air. Nothing happened the last time we headed out, but we’re hoping that since the full moon is coming up again-”

 

“It might trigger it to open up again,” John finishes.

 

Dean nods, “I gotta be honest, I’m sick of looking at books. At least I can do something, maybe find mom or at least the dumb, drunk kids who decided to step through the portal in the first place.”

 

“It’s the best lead we have right now. We’ll take it easy today and head out tomorrow at dawn,” John states, getting up from his seat.

 

We?” Dean asks, a little incredulously.

 

John turns his head to stare down his son, “Yes, Dean. We. You got a problem with me coming along?”

 

Dean runs a hand through his hair, “Actually, yeah. I do. You haven’t hunted in years. There are still things you don’t know about or are completely new to you. You’re a liability.”

 

“Excuse me? You want to say that again, boy?” John snarls, standing over Dean.

 

But Dean doesn’t look intimidated. Part of John is glad about that, because he doesn’t want to scare the kid, but Jesus Christ. Who the hell does Dean think he is?

 

Dean lets out a breath, “All I am saying is that you could get hurt. Believe it or not, that is the last thing we want. I’m not going to lose you too.”

 

John softens his approach at the words and the way Dean looks away from him as he says them. While he understands Dean’s point, and logically knows the boy might be onto something by asking John to stay behind, he knows he can’t back down from this.

 

“I understand being worried about it, son, I do. But if I don’t go and something happens to you and Sam? What’s the point of me sticking around anyway?”

 

Dean doesn’t answer the question, so John knows he’s hit a nerve.

 

“You’ll follow our lead,” Dean finally says quietly, “And you won’t question us if we give you an order. Wherever this place is could be sunshine and daisies or it could be Hell on Earth. We’ve seen both. And if we do end up finding the place Mom is at? It’s more the ladder.”

 

It takes everything within him not to object at the thought of not being in charge, it really does. But Dean’s right. He and Sam know more about these places than John does.

 

“Fine,” John grunts out, “As long as you don’t do anything stupid.”

 

Dean wryly grins at the words, “Oh, Dad. Have you even met us?”

-------------------------------------------------------

Dean’s version of taking it easy doesn’t fit most. John had been hoping that his son would catch up on some rest, even though Dean’s trepidation regarding sleep was more than reasonable. But instead, John finds himself following Dean through the maze-like halls of the bunker into a large car lot. He’s actually glad he did. The lot is filled with gorgeous cars and bikes, all pre 1960.

 

“These were all here when you found the place?” John asks, whistling as he runs a hand over a 1953 Kaiser.

 

“Yep. Geeked out pretty hard over it,” Dean snorts, going over to open a cabinet filled with tools, “Sam doesn’t appreciate art like we do but even he thought this was pretty awesome.”

 

“You restoring them?”

 

Dean nods, “I’ve finished a few of the bikes. I can’t ride worth shit, but they’re a little easier. Thought about selling a couple of them since they were just sitting here but Mom knows how to ride. You know about Mitch Scofield?”

 

John glares at Dean and growls, “We don’t talk about Mitch.”

 

And, to John’s surprise, Dean laughs. A real laugh, not one that’s forced or sad and ironic.

 

“She said that you two had some sort of rivalry.”

 

“Mitch was a prick and only wanted to get in your mom’s pants,” John answers begrudgingly, coming over to look at the tools, “She dated him for a summer while we were on a break and he taught her how to ride, all while he fucked everything that moved behind her back. I won her back and she broke up with his sorry ass.”

 

Dean tries to nod his head seriously, but only laughs again, much to John’s annoyance.

 

“So what are you working on down here now?” John asks, desperate to change the subject.

 

Dean gestures over to the other side of the lot, “The Chrysler 300 and the Porsche 356 Speedster, both 1955. I’m modernizing them and making them more safe and reliable.”

 

Dean must see John’s scandalized expression, because the man rolls his eyes.

 

“The Chrysler is for Claire and the Porsche is for Alex. Claire’s birthday is in a few weeks and Alex just graduated high school and is going to college for nursing in the fall. Figured they’d appreciate good looking cars. Jody would kill me if she even thought they could be death traps though. So I put in new engines, basically gutted inside, as much as it killed me to do it. I installed air conditioners, tire pressure monitors, new brakes, insulated the floor, and added seat belts. Mainly I’m at the point where I’m making sure everything is where it’s supposed to be, tightening a few things up. They were supposed to be be done by the time Alex graduated. Cas and I planned to drive them to Sioux Falls to surprise both of the girls with them. But stuff went down and then…”

 

Dean closes his mouth and shrugs, then looks down at the tools.

 

“You really love those girls, don’t you?”

 

Dean hesitates to answer, then nods, “They’re family. Probably will never have kids of my own. Thought I had the chance, sort of, a couple of times, but it...it never panned out. I’m closer with Claire, but Alex tends to give me less of a heart attack. Alex has her shit together, while Jody’s calling about Claire every week, letting me know what monster she’s run off by herself to gank, or that she came home high, or that she broke the local drunk’s nose and a few of his ribs for getting handsy. Don’t really see a problem with that last one.”

 

“She did sort of come off as a loose canon,” John replies.

 

“Yeah, can’t blame her though. She’s had it rough,” Dean sighs, “Sort of a drifter and afraid to get close to people. Left a goddamn note on the fridge saying that she took off, instead of at least waking me up to say goodbye. Whatever.”

 

John feels a bit of pity for his son, but drops the matter by eyeing the tools again, “Which car do you want me to work on?”

 

“Huh?” Dean asks, a bit thrown off.

 

“We’ll get them finished more quickly if we each work on one,” John reasons, grabbing a tool box, “Give me a run down on the Chrysler and what still needs to be done.”

 

Dean seems surprised by the offer John’s giving him, but also relieved as he lists what he wants checked and done on the car. And after that, John gets to work. Part of him feels guilt over not burying himself in research, but he knows the boys have pretty done nothing but and they’d hopefully have a breakthrough when they went to Arkansas. Another part of him felt the tension in his body lessen as he worked on the vehicle. She’s a beauty, shiny black paint and a plushy, tan leather interior. Even though he wants to shudder at the air conditioner installed into the dash, he can admit Dean had done a impeccable job with it and made sure it didn’t stand out.

 

He checks on Dean every once in awhile, chuckling as his son grumbles about European cars.

 

By the time 10 am rolls around, they’re done. Dean seems shocked that his long projects are finished and John has to remind him how much he had finished on the cars already. Sam finds them just minutes after, dressed in running gear and seems genuinely happy that they spent the morning getting the cars ready for the girls.

 

“I tried helping Dean awhile back but he kicked me out and told me not to touch them,” Sam mentions, smiling a little.

 

“You kept dropping stuff,” Dean scoffs, “Do you know how much Hector Gutierrez spent to make this happen?”

 

It’s a lighter moment with his boys and John embraces it, but when Sam inquires about Jack, asking them both if they had seen him around, John manages to subtly excuse himself from the conversation after saying that he hadn’t.

 

And yeah, he really hadn’t for over a day. But he knows he should say something to Sam. Prepare Sam for whatever happens. But he won’t get the boy’s hopes up over Eileen on the chance she never comes back and he sees no need to put Sam in a panic over Jack going to Hell, especially if that’s where the kid belongs anyway.

 

He wanders around the garage and realizes it has three levels of classic beauties. If things weren’t so shot to shit, he could spend days down here, working with Dean to restore every single one. The models span from the late 1800s to the late 1950s, all different colors and brands. John can’t remember Heaven, hasn’t even the faintest memory of it, but he feels like his heaven would include Mary, his boys, and something like this.

 

It isn’t until he gets to the very back of the lot that he sees it.

 

At first, he thinks it could be a coincidence. Nash Ambassadors were popular when he was a baby, red ones especially. His father bought one new two years before he was born. By the time he was four, John remembers his old man sitting him in his lap as he drove down a back street, letting him think he was the one driving.

 

But even though there had been a lot of cars that looked like his father’s, not all of them had a scratch on the bumper where Mrs. Nicholson had bumped her car into theirs at 2 miles an hour, nor did they have rosary beads hanging from the rear-view mirror.

 

They especially all didn’t have John’s stuffed bunny in the back seat, one that he had given to his dad on his business trips so Henry would think of him.

 

“Dad?”

 

John turns and sees Sam coming down to the bottom level, Dean following behind. Letting out a breath, John turns to look at his boys and tries to give them a smile. It must not be convincing, because Sam’s brow furrows as he tilts his head.

 

“Everything alright?” Sam asks, coming a little closer.

 

John shrugs and gestures to towards the car, “You, uh...You have a set of keys for this one?”

 

Sam looks at Dean for an answer and Dean clears his throat, “Yeah, probably. There’s a safe with a bunch of sets hanging up. I’ve only tried some of them, but there might be a set for a Nash Ambassador. What, you want to see if it runs?”

 

John shakes his head, “It was my dad’s.”

 

Neither of his sons ask any more questions after that, nor do they offer awkward words of comfort, which John is grateful for. Dean just immediately goes to get the keys while Sam stands close to him in solidarity. The solidarity and silence last long after John opens the car door, gets some pictures hidden in the glove compartment, and retrieves the bunny to take up to his room without a second thought.

 

John’s grateful for that too.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Despite the tension they all feel for tomorrow, when it comes to their moods, it’s the best day they’ve had. Dean does hit a rough spot around lunchtime, although John’s not sure what exactly triggers it. Dean had seemed open to eating when Sam prodded him, but then ends up denying something as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a sandwich Dean violently throws in the trash before storming up to his room.

 

“What the hell set him off?” John ends up barking as soon as Dean’s door slams shut.

 

It seems to take Sam a moment to even figure it out, but realization, frustration, and guilt visibly hit the boy once he does.

 

“Don’t worry about it,” Sam sighs, “I’m stupid. Although, he’s acting stupid too. For god’s sake…”

 

Sam ends up making Dean something else to take to him, but it sits outside of his door for two hours until Dean comes out of his room, a bit embarrassed, and throws it away too. Dean joins them in the library, grabs a book, and sits next to his brother.

 

“Sorry,” he mumbles under his breath to Sam.

 

Sam just nudges him with his shoulder and the matter is dropped.

---------------------------------------------------

Things don’t come to a head until a couple hours after dinner. John should have expected it. Expected that Sam wouldn’t just casually ask about either of them hearing from Jack all while periodically checking his phone. Sam had disappeared for a bit, leaving John and Dean to watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on their own, before storming back in an hour later to turn off the television.

 

“Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?” Sam grits out, voice shaking with pure rage as he points a finger at John.

 

At first, John doesn’t even know what Sam is asking about, whether it’s a delayed reaction about Adam or something else. But while John sits there, looking at Sam in confusion, Dean stands up to join his brother and puts a steadying hand on his younger brother’s arm.

 

“Sam, what’s going on?” Dean murmurs, pushing him away from John slightly.

 

Sam lets out a growl and gestures towards John, “I asked him! I fucking asked him if he had seen or had heard from Jack and he lied to my damn face! Claire did too, like they’re in cahoots together to make sure he goes down-”

 

“Woah woah woah,” Dean interrupts, “Come on, Claire doesn’t want anything to happen to Jack. She might find him incredibly annoying and is sort of pissed at him, but she doesn’t want something bad to happen to the kid-”

 

“He went to Hell, Dean!” Sam bellows, gripping his hair, “He’s a baby and he went to Hell by himself! I called Alex to see if she heard anything because I knew she would let me know if she had and she just called me back and told me what she got out of Claire! Dad and Claire knew because Jack told them right before he left and he’s been gone for almost two days. You know how long that is in Hell!”

 

Sam takes a deep breath, but then doubles over. Dean holds onto one side of Sam while John jumps up and holds onto the other as they force him to sit down.

 

“Don’t touch me,” Sam gasps out, ripping his arm out of John’s grip yet leans into Dean’s touch.

 

“Sam, Claire didn’t want to mention it because she thought you would worry about him,” John informs him, “As for me, I didn’t want to get your hopes up on what he was trying to do, if he was telling the truth to begin with. Not like we could have stopped him going to Hell anyway.”

 

“Well, you wouldn’t want to, would you?” Sam spits out, “You’ve just written him off as evil and won’t give him a chance, even though he’s tried so much to prove that he cares and wants to be good.”

 

“He’s not, Sam!” John bursts, feeling his fists shake, “No one with that kind of power can be up to anything good!”

 

“You don’t know that!” Sam yells, “There’s a lot you don’t know! We’ve had people on our side with extraordinary powers. Cas! He was like a brother to me and knew Dean better than Dean knows himself and we’d be dead if it weren’t for the things he could do. But you’ve probably written him off too, fucking figures.”

 

“Sam,” Dean butts in before John can say another word, “Go take a breather. Calm yourself down. Dad might not be right on what kind of person Jack is, but he’s right about not being able to stop him, even if he had wanted to. I think you of all people know it’s hard to stop that kid if he feels he’s doing something good.”

 

“What good is he doing in Hell?” Sam chokes out, pressing his palms against his eyes, “He’s a baby, Dean. He doesn’t look like one and sometimes doesn’t act like one but he is and the thought of him down there makes me sick.”

 

Dean sighs and puts an arm around Sam.

 

“Wanna take a walk?” Dean asks, pulling his brother closer, “Let’s go take a walk. Just the two of us.”

 

The words hurt, but John knows it’s for the best that he keeps his distance until Sam cools down a little. So he steps back and lets Dean pull Sam to his feet on his own and watches his boys walk up the stairs and out the exit.

 

He sits there in silence, lost in his thoughts and concerns, for a solid half hour. They are conflicting at best. Self-righteous, yet guilt ridden. Worried, yet justified in his reasoning. He doesn’t enjoy the process and the silence doesn’t help matters at all.

 

But, just as John is thinking of turning the television back on so that he won’t lose his mind, two people appear out of mid-air and drop right in front of him.

 

He’s got a gun on them before he can even process who they are.

 

“I saved Eileen from the rack,” Jack whispers on his knees, a strange combination of proud and subdued as he cradles an unconscious woman in his arms, “I’d...I’d really like to see my dad now.”

 

John finds himself lowering the gun as the boy silently starts to cry, lower lip trembling and eyes wide with trauma.

 

And god knows why he’s feeling a twinge in his chest over Jack now, but he gets out his phone, figures out how to dial as quickly as he can, and calls Sam’s number.

Chapter Text

The first fifteen minutes of the walk are silent. Sam just stares ahead as he strolls on the broken, pothole ridden road, but Dean can only look at Sam. He’s not completely stuck on his own grief. There have been more than a few moments where Dean realized how much his younger brother had on his plate. He’s not ignorant to the worried glances Sam has been sending him over the last couple of months and the way Sam has taken it upon himself to make sure Dean doesn’t waste away in bed on the bad days, all while doing Dean’s laundry, cooking most of their meals, and raising a nephilim on his own.

 

He’s done all that, all while grieving for their mother, Cas, and Eileen. Sam had always been so much stronger than him, but that doesn’t excuse Dean for not paying more attention to him. Dean hit his limit when he lost Cas, he knows that and he’s aware that it hasn’t been pretty. Maybe dealing with Dean’s shit, losing so many people, getting Dad back, and finding out his pseudo-son went to Hell is causing Sam to hit his breaking point as well.

 

“Talk to me,” Dean eventually orders, brushing his shoulder against Sam’s as soon as he takes a few quick steps to catch up with his younger brother.

 

Sam doesn’t say anything at first. He just clenches his jaw and blinks moisture out of his eyes.

 

“Sam-”

 

“I wanted to give him a chance,” Sam whispers, “How could he not tell me something like that? After seeing what Jack thinks of me as, how could he?”

 

Dean lets out a sigh, “You’re going to have to give him some time. I’m not taking his side here, I’m not. He should have said something as soon as he knew that Jack planned on going down there. But he...he’s not used to the gray areas like we are. Hell, we wanted Jack dead for a while before he was born, you were going to try to kill him once you saw his footprints burned into the floor. There have been times we didn’t try harder to be more understanding when it came to other cases as well.”

 

“He should take our word for it,” Sam grits out, “I told him that Jack was on our side. That should have been enough.”

 

“Like how it was enough for you when I told you Benny was like a brother to me?” Dean grunts, feeling a slight ache at the thought of his long dead friend, “Or how you told me to leave Amy alone because she was one of the good ones?”

 

Sam doesn’t have an answer for that. All he does is look out towards the empty field.

 

“We’ve been in the same boat, Sam,” Dean points out, “All we can do is make sure Dad knows the deal and that Jack’s with you, with us, for good. Maybe he’ll come around.”

 

Sam pinches the bridge of his nose and nods, “...If he doesn’t, then I don’t want him around.”

 

Dean’s a little taken aback by the words, since Sam and John have mostly been getting along up until this point, “Shit, Sam. We just got him back.”

 

Sam shakes his head, “I don’t mean cutting him out for good. But I can’t risk him hurting Jack. I can’t lose anyone else, I can’t. I feel like I’ve barely had my head above water for months.”

 

The guilt Dean feels at his brother’s words is crushing, a reminder that he’s barely done anything to comfort the person he swore to protect. He knows Sam has been hurting, anyone with a heart would be. But he hasn’t been the strong older brother he’s supposed to be. He should have done more when Eileen died. He has eyes. He had seen their chemistry and walked in on the late night Skype chats. There’s still an ASL textbook on the end table by the couch. He should have gotten Sam to open up more about losing the girl whom he almost had something special with, only to lose Cas and their mother right after.

 

The realization should make him want to change, get over himself and the most debilitating grief he has ever experienced, tying for first with the times he had lost Sam.

 

But he can’t. He doesn’t have the strength to be a full person anymore.

 

“...I’m sorry, Sam,” he chokes out, looking away, “I’m really sorry for not being able to do more. I’m fucked up.”

 

Dean tries to keep walking, a few steps ahead of Sam so that his little brother can’t see his face. But Sam’s stronger than him these days, so he has no issue grabbing onto Dean’s bicep to turn him around.

 

“Hey, look at me,” Sam demands, keeping his grip firm, “Dean, I’m serious.”

 

Dean can’t manage to bring himself to do it though. Sam’s already seen him weep like a fucking baby a few times since everything went down, and that’s a few times too many. It probably won’t happen this time around, but the lump in his throat is too noticeable to risk staring into Sam’s puppy dog eyes to have a damn heart to heart.

 

But even though Dean’s can’t bring himself to look at him, Sam still talks.

 

“You shouldn’t have to take care of me every time something terrible goes down,” Sam says to him, sniffling a little, “I hate that you’re going through such a rough time, that we both are, but I don’t mind being the one to take care of you this time around. I want to. I mean that.”

 

“I don’t need anyone taking care of me,” Dean mutters, wiping away the betraying tear that falls down his face.

 

Sam shakes his head, “Bullshit.”

 

Dean doesn’t offer a counter dispute.

 

“Dean…” Sam starts, still holding onto Dean’s arm, “You...You can talk to me about Cas. About anything that might be on your mind when it comes to him. You know I’m gonna love you no matter what, right?”

 

Maybe it’s the way Sam says the words or the way he’s looking at Dean knowingly and pleadingly once Dean gathers enough courage to meet his brother’s eyes, but it’s enough to make it feel like his heart is seizing in his chest.

 

“There’s not much else to say, Sammy,” Dean answers, voice shaking slightly, “He was my best friend and now he’s gone for good.”

 

Sam’s gaze becomes soft with sadness and pity, “...Dean, come on-”

 

But whatever Sam is going to say gets cut off by the sound of a cell phone ringing. Dean takes the opportunity to pull away from Sam’s grip. All Sam can do is give him one last look before getting the phone out of his pocket.

 

“It’s Dad,” Sam groans, declining the call, “Can’t even give me an hour to myself.”

 

Before Dean can comment on it, Sam’s phone rings again. And again. And another time.

 

“Maybe you should answer it,” Dean advises, “Something else could be going down.”

 

Sam glares at the phone and purses his lips, but ends up answering the fifth call.

 

“What do you wan-...What?...He’s home?...Thank God...Tell him I’m coming, alright?”

 

Dean watches Sam hang up the phone without so much as a goodbye.

 

“Jack’s back,” Sam informs him, already running down the road, “Come on!”

 

Dean stares after his brother retreating form. He definitely hadn’t suggested going for a run.

------------------------------------------------

Sam wants to get to the bunker as quickly as possible, but he’s not a completely shitty brother. He’s not going to take off and leave Dean to walk alone, especially when he tried to hint that he has eyes and isn’t dense when it comes to Dean’s feelings towards Cas. Part of him wishes that his father had waited a few minutes to call, so that maybe they could get everything out in the open. Even before Cas came along, Sam had given thought to the possibility his brother might not be completely straight. Dean just got so much worse about hiding it after, even when it came to other men besides Cas. Before, Sam thought he was being respectful of his brother’s privacy. It wasn’t like they had much of it at this point, so if Dean wanted to keep his attractions to himself, then Sam had wanted to honor that and not push the matter. But now he’s been questioning whether if that’s been the right way to go about it at all, especially if Dean has been struggling with his sexuality for years and might worry about acceptance. The thought of Dean thinking Sam might feel differently about him hurts and is completely baffling to him.

 

But another part of him is grateful for the interruption. One, Jack’s home. He needs to make sure he’s okay, while making it clear that Jack never takes off for Hell without telling him again. Two, while he knows that conversation with Dean is much needed, it’s also important that they have ample time and no pressure when it does occur. Maybe it’s best that he just hinted to knowing now, so that Dean isn’t blindsided later.

 

“After you,” Dean mutters, gesturing towards the door.

 

Sam only makes it through the entrance and halfway down the steps before his arms are filled with Jack.

 

“D-Dad,” Jack gasps out, clinging onto him tight, “Dad…”

 

“Jack?” Sam frowns, rubbing the boy’s back as the resolve to give Jack a lecture starts to disappear, “Jack, buddy, I’m here. It’s alright.”

 

Jack sobs into Sam’s shirt as Dean squeezes his way past them to stand near their father.

 

“What did you do, huh?” Sam asks softly, “Why did you go there without telling me?”

 

“I d-didn’t want you to w-worry!” Jack cries out, “I did it for you, Dad. I promise! I swear I sw-swear…”

 

“You going to Hell is the last thing I want,” Sam states firmly, putting his hands on the boy’s face to make eye contact, “I know how bad it is down there and never wanted you to see any of that. You should have talked to me.”

 

“It was bad down there, no place like that should exist,” Jack tells him, voice still strangled, “But it was worth it. Her soul is one of the purest I have seen yet, almost as pure as Alex’s. I couldn’t let her stay down there, not when I know you love her.”

 

Sam squints at him, “Jack, what are you talking about?”

 

“Uh, Sam?”

 

Sam turns at the sound of Dean’s voice, “What?”

 

Dean swallows and clears his throat, “You...You may want to come down here.”

 

Sam stares at Dean’s expression for a moment, trying to pinpoint the emotion connected to it but can’t, before turning to look at Jack.

 

“Come on,” Jack whispers, taking Sam’s hand to lead him down the steps.

 

Sam feels his heart beating rapidly in his chest as he’s pulled closer towards his brother and father, whether it is due to fear or hope or a little bit of both, he isn’t sure until he looks down and sees her.

 

“I fixed her clothes and everything, made sure they were clean,” Jack frets, squatting down to straighten her shirt and brush a strand of hair out of her face, “I wanted her to sleep and get some rest. I thought maybe if she woke up to you, she wouldn’t be as scared. She doesn’t know me yet and I know that sometimes people don’t like me. Do you think she’ll like me?”

 

Sam falls to his knees and stares down at Eileen, the girl he had been so close to having something real with, something significant and important, only to lose her altogether. The fact that she’s been in Hell for what? Thirty years? All because she had been killed by a hellhound? That kills him. It makes him want to ask Jack to bring Ketch back, just so he can torture him slowly.

 

But if anyone deserves to be in hell, it’s Ketch. Sam would never ask Jack to go back down there.

 

“You did good, kid.”

 

The words surprisingly come from Dean, and when Sam looks up at him, the same conflicted expression is on Dean’s face and his eyes are shining with tears, but Sam knows his brother is genuine with the words, even if there are other emotions the older man is feeling in the process.

 

“...I’m sure she’ll love you, Jack,” Sam chokes out, “She’s a very open-minded person.”

 

He gets a watery smile out of Jack with the words, but Sam can tell that Jack’s still feeling a lot of fear, because the boy crawls over quickly to nestle against Sam’s side and hug him around the waist.

 

Sam puts an arm around his shoulders and feels a wave of sadness wash over him when Jack starts shaking.

 

“You should get some rest too,” Sam murmurs, “Let me carry Eileen up to a room and I’ll go tuck you in, alright?”

 

Jack nods, wiping his nose, “Okay.”

 

Jack detangles himself and watches Sam gently pick Eileen up. Jack is following him silently, keeping his distance until Sam tucks her in and he insists on helping.

 

Sam reads more of The Odyssey to Jack, and it breaks his heart to see that Jack’s not as into it as he usually is, not that Sam can blame him for being afraid and distracted. He sticks around longer than he usually does during Jack’s bedtime routine, waiting to see if Jack needs to talk. He’s a lot quieter than usual, and it worries Sam immensely when Jack just shrugs his shoulders to simple questions as he holds onto his hand, stroking Sam’s knuckles with his thumb.

 

He tucks him in after a while, bringing the blanket all the way up to Jack’s chin, before kissing him on the forehead, something he has never done up until that point.

 

“I love you,” he tells him gruffly, because Jack deserves to hear it.

 

Jack nods as fresh tears spring to his eyes, “You too.”

 

Sam runs his fingers through Jack’s hair briefly, gives him a small smile, then crosses the room to turn out the light.

 

“Dad?”

 

He turns around at the title, “Yeah?”

 

“I…” Jack starts, trying to find the words to say, “What I saw down there...my…Lucifer. He made all of that happen didn’t he? He corrupted the first souls, created the first demons. He was in pain and wanted to make others suffer as much as he did.”

 

Sam lets out a breath, “He did.”

 

Jack lets out a whimper, “But he created me too. I...I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him. I could become just like him.”

 

“You won’t,” Sam tells him, a little harshly, “Jack, I won’t let that happen. You’re good. Kelly? She was good. You didn’t come from just Lucifer.”

 

“I don’t want to be like him,” Jack chokes out, “If I start to become bad, I promise I will fix it before I get out of control. I don’t want to hurt anybody, especially my family, especially you. I’ll kill myself before that happens, okay?”

 

Sam’s breath hitches at the words, “Don’t talk like that. And you don’t know how to kill yourself anyway, thank god.”

 

Jack just shrugs at the words and looks at the wall.

 

“I’m going to make sure you’re the best person you can be,” Sam tells him softly, coming closer, “I thought...I thought that I was going to go darkside at one point too. Because of the demon blood. Came close at one point because I thought I was doing the right thing. But I didn’t. My brother was there to ground me. Cas became an anchor for me too. I got through it and I learned to fear what I was capable of, learned how to do things the hard way in order to achieve something good. I know it’s tough being so afraid and caring so much, but it’s a good thing too, Jack. You hated Hell, what the demons did down there, right?”

 

Jack nods his head forcefully, “They do so many terrible things down there. I hate demons, even though I feel sorry for them.”

 

“Then that should be more than enough to tell you that your soul is pure and good,” Sam finishes, running a hand over his face, “Get some rest. I’ll come in and check on you, okay?”

 

“Okay,” Jack agrees, settling back into the pillows, “Tell Eileen I say hi when she wakes up.”

 

“I will, buddy. I’m sure she’ll be excited to meet you.”

 

“And...And tell Dean that I’m sorry I can’t bring Cas back,” Jack sniffles, “He’s really sad about it. He loves him like you love Eileen, more even. I think that’s why he doesn’t like me. Tell him I’m really sorry.”

 

Sam lets out a shuddering breath, “...I don’t think I’m the best person to tell him that. Maybe you can talk with him in a few days and make him understand. Get some sleep now, okay? Don’t worry about it right now.”

 

He’s actually able to leave Jack’s room after that, then gathers up the courage to go sit next to Eileen.

 

He tries to be as quiet as possible as he settles into the chair and holds onto her hand, all while not letting the overwhelming emotions he’s feeling get the best of him. He’s not sure how he’s going to explain all of this to Eileen. He’s glad she’s back, she deserves to be. He’s missed her and has found himself logging into Skype, hoping she was on, only a few days ago. As for their relationship? They had been friends, but more than that. He had been aware she was attracted to him, that she cared for him, and she had been aware that the feelings were mutual, although they hadn’t spoken about the potential for more much. The late night texting and video chatting had done that for them.

 

They had kissed the night before she left. It had gotten pretty heated and god, Sam had wanted more. She had too, but she was traumatized and guilt ridden and Sam wasn’t about to take advantage of that.

 

When this is over and you come back home, I promise this can be more.

 

Well, she’s home now. Whether home means topside or the bunker, Sam’s not sure. He needs to be clear that she’s not obligated to stay, just because Jack brought her back for him. But he also wants to make sure that she can call the bunker home, if she wants to.

 

He hopes she wants to.

 

After spending over an hour just staring at her face, Sam ends up dozing off. He wakes up a few hours later and finds Jack slumped on the floor, hugging his leg with his cheek resting against Sam’s knee, fast asleep.

 

Sam rolls his eyes and smiles fondly as he reaches over to pet Jack’s hair. The situation is far from ideal and he has no idea what the future holds, but all of them, every single member of his odd, eclectic family, would figure out a way to get through it.

 

He has faith in that.

Chapter Text

The first thing she sees when she opens her eyes is a ceiling.

 

Not smog or hooks or demons carving into her or her own severed limb being waved back and forth in front of her with glee. That’s what she had been seeing for the last thirty years.

 

Just to make sure, she holds up her hand and wiggles her fingers above her face. That’s the second thing she sees.

 

And the third?

 

”Hey.”

 

Sam signs the word as he says it, and Eileen feels crushing relief when all she hears is silence.

 

Being able to hear had been something she wondered about her whole life.

 

If she never heard another sound again, it would still be too soon.

 

“Is this a dream?” she says aloud, glancing around the room, “A trick?”

 

Sam shakes his head sadly, “No. No, Eileen. It isn’t. This is real.”

 

Eileen blinks several times, wondering if Sam will turn into Balban. He had been her torturer for the last ten years. His mind games were worse than his more physical methods of torture. He’d get into her head, make her think she was safe. Sometimes it lasted for days, right until she felt comfortable.

 

Then he’d pull the rug out from under her and she’d be back on the rack.

 

“It’s a trick,” she decides sadly, “You’ve used him several times before, Balban. It’s getting old.”

 

Sam lets out a sob, one she can’t hear but she can see due to the way his face twists and his eyes water as his mouth opens. He grips her hand tightly, “I promise you, it’s me. Jack brought you back.”

 

Eileen gives him a blank stare. Jack. Jack…

 

“The Nephilim,” Eileen confirms slowly.

 

Sam’s expression gets hopeful as he eagerly nods and signs, “Yes. Yes, that’s him. He’s with us.”

 

Sometimes Balban treats her as if she’s his lover. Every so often, he takes her off the rack, heals her wounds, and creates a beautiful room, one reminiscent to something you’d find at a five star Hawaiian hotel, except there are no ocean views. Eileen assumes the smog blocks those out, since that’s all she sees through the windows. Rose petals are scattered on the California King, candles are lit on the end tables and dresser. He always tries to be gentle with her during these moments. She closes her eyes so that she doesn’t have to stare at his revolting face. When she refuses his slithery and raspy requests, he switches it up and morphs into Sam, as if he’s doing her a favor.

 

Usually she just takes it. Sometimes she stays grounded enough to know it’s not real and refuses the fantasy, and sometimes she lets herself get lost in the moment because it’s easier.

 

But now she’s tired. She’s tired of going through the motions. So, when Sam looks down at her with his soft, dewy eyes, stroking her cheek as he enters her and leans down for a passionate kiss, she bites down on his tongue until a chunk of it rips off and the blood gushes in her mouth.

 

She spits it in his face and grins at him with stained teeth as he cries out in pain. It’s the first sound she has ever heard that she’s embraced and it’s the first time she has ever felt like she deserves to be here.

 

”Eileen.”

 

The way it’s said is soft and kind, hopeful and afraid. She turns her head and sees no one. When she turns back towards Balban, he’s still Sam but he’s all fists and fury, pummeling into her as the walls disintegrate, revealing the green smog in its entirety. The candles burn into the tables, catching them on fire, and the petals shrivel into ash. The flames spread to the sheets and the flames lick her naked skin but she’s felt worse pain. If Balban feels pain from the burns, he doesn’t show it as he turns her face into a bloody, swollen pulp.

 

And then he’s gone.

 

”You won’t harm her. She is not yours anymore. She never was.”

 

It’s the voice again, but she sees where it’s coming from this time. A boy, not very old at all - maybe 15 or 16, stands in front of Balban. Balban’s back is pressed against the last sliver of the wall, suspended a few feet above the ground, and the drywall turns into a rack. Hooks shoot up from the abyss and impale the demon through his shoulders, calves, and ribs. Eileen covers her ears as Balban screams in agony, something she has given thought to when she’s feeling bitter and vindictive, but he still looks like Sam, so it’s Sam’s scream she’s hearing, or Balban’s version of Sam’s scream. She’s never heard the real Sam.

 

She’s not the only one affected. The boy in front of him shakes as he holds out his hand and starts to clench it into a fist.

 

“You’re not him,” he mutters, Balban’s eyes growing bright as his veins are illuminated with an electric charge, “You’re not my dad.”

 

But then the boy stops. He lets out a sob and puts his hands on his knees, then stands up straight.

 

“This is where you’ll stay,” he whispers to Balban, “On the rack, like you deserve. You don’t deserve rank or power.

 

As soon as the words are said, the rack shoots into the smog and out of sight. The boy turns to her, smiles sadly, and the fire stops. Her wounds heal and the bed is restored. Eileen quickly pulls the sheet around her and holds her knees against her chest, shivering. She’s suddenly colder than she has ever been in the last thirty years.

 

“I’m taking you home now,” the boy says kindly, putting a hand on her forehead, “Your soul is pure, Eileen Leahy, even if you can’t see that right now. Hell is the last place you belong. I can understand why Sam Winchester, the real Sam Winchester, thinks so highly of you. Close your eyes. This trip will be over before you know it. My name’s Jack, by the way.”

 

Hell disappears from her vision and all she sees is white.

 

She feels large hands on her shoulders, gently moving up and down over her sleeves to get her attention. Eileen looks up and sees Sam, the real Sam, staring down at her with tenderness, devastation, and concern, and feels her breath hitch.

 

“Sam?” she mouths, not able to get a sound out.

 

Sam bites his lip and nods, pulling her in for a hug.

 

She lets him and she feels safe.

----------------------------------------------------------------

As soon as John enters the common room, he smells waffles.

 

He can’t remember the last time he smelled those. His mother used to make them on Saturday mornings, a routine she had clung onto for years once his father turned their lives upside down and disappeared. His stepfather Roger, a man who had entered their lives years later with charisma, a delinquent son, and a few belts used for other purposes than what they were meant for, hadn’t liked them and said that his mother spoiled two boys who didn’t need spoiling.

 

Mary made them a few times, although they usually came out misshapen and slightly burnt. John just stuck with buying the boys Eggos after she was gone.

 

He hasn’t had homemade waffles for years, and he’s definitely never, ever had waffles made by a powerful, weird, and naked teenage boy.

 

“Why are you making waffles at 5 o’clock in the morning?” John grunts out, going over to pull the coffee cannister out of the cabinet.

 

Jack smiles at him briefly, before returning to his task, “Eileen just woke up. I thought she’d like breakfast. I was going to make bacon, but both Eileen’s paternal and maternal grandmothers immigrated to Ireland from Poland to escape persecution during the Holocaust. She might not eat pork.”

 

“She just woke up and you’ve already talked about her family history and religion?” John asks, raising a brow.

 

“No.”

 

He’s not even going to try to figure out why Jack knows the shit he does. Kid’s weird.

 

“So waffles, eggs, and what else?” Jack frets, pacing the kitchen as soon as he adds another waffle to the already tall stack.

 

John tries to ignore him but the kid keeps pacing right next to him and bits are swinging in directions they shouldn’t be so it’s getting on his nerves. Clenching his jaw, he puts his cup of coffee down a bit too roughly, causing some of it to splash on the table, and gets up from his seat.

 

“Sam still buys healthy shit, right?” John asks, pulling open the fridge.

 

“Yes,” Jack answers, coming to stand right behind him, “My dad is an excellent eater.”

 

“If you say so,” John sighs, bending down to pick up an orange and hand to Jack, “Here. Peel this, separate it into sections, and put it on her plate. Maybe cut up a banana to go with it. Pour her a cup of coffee and ask if she wants anything in it. Don’t assume and put cream and sugar in it yourself. A cup of coffee is personal.”

 

“A cup of coffee is personal,” Jack repeats, as if John has given him a treasured secret to the universe, “A cup of coffee is personal, a cup of coffee is personal…”

 

John tunes out the boy’s chatter and pulls out his phone. Dean had downloaded something called an app on there yesterday, Google Maps. Once he had figured out how the damn app worked, John was able to see how incredibly useful it would be on the road. Not that he really needed a map to go many places, even though he’s been gone for a while. The trip to Eureka Springs takes seven hours and thirty-nine minutes without traffic, but John thinks they can make it under seven if they stay a few miles above the speed limit. He would like to get an earlier start, but he doubts Sam slept much at all and understands his son might need to spend some time with Eileen. The full moon isn’t for two more days anyway, but John would like to keep an eye on the hotspot and search for any clues in regards to what they might be dealing with.

 

“Do you think she wants food now?” Jack asks, interrupting John’s thought process, “I think she wants food now. Breakfast in bed. That’s something you do for people you like, right? That’s what you do for someone you want as your new mom?”

 

Jack looks nervous, hopeful, and hesitant as he holds a filled tray donning a small vase of wildflowers. John feels that goddamn twinge in his chest again, one that makes no fucking sense.

 

“Sure, whatever,” he barks, “Now leave me alone.”

 

Jack smiles kindly, “I can feel your warmth. I like you like this, Grandpa.”

 

Yeah, the twinge is gone.

 

But as soon as John stands up in a huff, Jack disappears, tray and all.

------------------------------------------------------------

Sam doesn’t ask for details about Hell. He’s experienced it himself and dealt with enough of Dean’s more intense flashbacks to know what goes on down there. But the demon she mentioned, Balban, he sounds like a crafty and horrific piece of work. He’s never encountered him, but knows he’s read the name. He better never run into him. Sam doesn’t know what he would do if he came face to face with a demon who pretended to be him to...to-

 

“Hi,” Jack says softly from the door, cracking it open slightly, “I made Eileen breakfast in bed.”

 

Sam hesitates for a moment and turns to look at Eileen, “I can tell him to come back later. He means well, but he’s...he’s a bit...well, for one, he refuses to wear any clothes-”

 

“He can come in,” Eileen interrupts, taking his hand, “I’ve met him already. He’s cool.”

 

Sam smiles a little at the words and shyly laces his fingers with hers, looking away and clearing his throat as he does so.

 

“Sam,” she murmurs, “Never pegged you as bashful.”

 

Sam sends her a playful glare and calls out, “Come in, Jack!”

 

Jack comes bounding in with a bright smile on his face, “Hello, Eileen. I made this breakfast for you because you’ve had a long journey and haven’t eaten in a long time. It will keep you strong both in mind and body because that’s what food does. Not that you need that. You are an excellent fighter and your mind is resilient and doesn’t block out horrific events. You deal with it head on and I find that awe inspiring.”

 

Sam doesn’t know how to translate the words into the way a normal, level-headed, socially apt human being would talk, but Eileen doesn’t seem bothered by it. She just smiles and says,

 

“Good morning to you too, Jack.”

 

Jack beams, “Good morning. Would you like cream and sugar in your coffee? A wise man once told me that a cup of coffee is personal.”

 

Eileen holds back a laugh at the serious words, “Sure. Who is this wise man?”

 

“My grandfather,” Jack informs her, before pouring cream into her mug.

 

Eileen squints in confusion, “God said that?”

 

Jack glares at the insinuation, “Not him. I don’t know him. John Winchester is much wiser than God. But I understand the misunderstanding. Now, go on! Eat! It’s the first meal I’ve ever made. I want to watch you.”

 

Jack proceeds to squat down, chin on top of his folded arms that are resting on the bed, and watch her with adoration and intensity.

 

Sam stares down at the boy in exasperation and he can feel Eileen’s intrigued and confused eyes on him. Sighing, he turns to her and signs.

 

”It’s a long story.”

-------------------------------------------------------------

Jack stays by Eileen’s side pretty consistently, despite Sam subtly urging him to find something to do. It’s not that he doesn’t want Jack there, but he knows that not everyone has the patience for Jack. She seems to find him endearing though, and it fills his heart with more warmth and hope than what should be allowed.

 

Dean stops in around 7 am, giving her a hug and a kiss on the top of her head as he looks down at her with affection and concern while he asks how she is doing, one arm still around her. The moment between them makes his heart swell even more.

 

His dad comes in an hour later, introducing himself stoically. If it were just the words, Sam wouldn’t think much of it. He wouldn’t get all happy and hopeful like he had with Jack and Dean.

 

But his dad fucking signs out his introduction. In perfect ASL.

 

Damn it.

 

“I learned in the army. Brother of mine had a deaf kid and was practicing. I practiced with him. I know more Vietnamese,” John shrugs, still fucking signing as he talks, “Anyway, it’s very nice to meet you. I look forward to getting to know you better.”

 

With that, his father excuses himself, leaving Sam gaping after him.

 

“I like him,” Eileen grins.

 

“He…” Sam sputters, “I didn’t know that he…”

 

“I can’t understand you while you’re stumbling over your words like a fool,” Eileen points out, tsking.

 

“Sorry,” Sam says more clearly, facing her, “I’m sorry.”

 

Eileen sends him a kind smile, then clears her throat, “Sam, I know you’re trying to get me to take it easy, but I think I can get out of bed now.”

 

Sam looks down and puts his hands on his hips, before gesturing at Eileen, “I just don’t want you overdoing yourself, especially after…”

 

Sam trails off and looks away.

 

“...I was confused this morning,” Eileen says softly, “Scared. I was...Balban put me through a lot. And...and he used your face sometimes. It was hard for me to believe it was really you at first, it still kind of is.”

 

Sam nods, accepting that his face is part of what caused her such terror, and blinks the tears out of his eyes.

 

“But Sam? Sam, look at me.”

 

It takes Sam a second, but he does manage to look at Eileen. Eileen, who still looks so kind and fierce and loving despite what she literally just went through.

 

“I don’t think,” Eileen starts, before cutting herself off with a laugh, “I don’t think Balban would even think of incorporating a lovely breakfast made by Jack and your long dead father signing to me into one of his mind games. This morning has been much too strange, unique, and wonderful for me to even consider it.”

 

“You really think my breakfast was wonderful?” Jack squeals, bouncing from his seat on the floor.

 

Sam looks down and feels himself smiling, before he lets out an unexpected laugh. He keeps laughing until he can’t stop and has to cover his face because the laughter is turning into sobs.

 

“Dad?” Jack whispers, fearful, as he crawls closer to Sam’s legs.

 

“He’s alright, he’s alright,” Sam hears Eileen comfort, “Sam, come here.”

 

Sam shakes his head at first, but allows Eileen to lead him to the bed. She pulls him into her embrace, lets him hide his face into the crook of her elbow, and pets his hair while he cries.

---------------------------------------------------------

“Give them a few more hours.”

 

John hears Dean’s voice from the other side of the library and lets out an impatient growl.

 

“We have two more days,” Dean reasons, coming over to stand across the table, “We don’t have to be there right this second. I know you want to find Mom, I do too, but I know you’ll want more than a few hours with her once we do find her. Put yourself in Sam’s place for a second.”

 

John breathes in through his nose, “I get that, I do. But this is important, Dean.”

 

“I know it is,” Dean agrees, “Believe me, I know. But it’s also reckless. Sam and I have jumped into some of these places and have almost gotten ourselves killed. Another person is ideal. We can wait few more hours, maybe a day-”

 

“A day?!” John yells, hitting the table.

 

“You guys can head out without me.”

 

Both John and Dean turn at the sound of Sam’s voice. John can see Eileen and Jack settling on the couch in the common room, but Sam’s approaching them with purpose.

 

“We’re not leaving without you,” Dean tells him sternly, looking back towards John.

 

“It’s okay. Really,” Sam answers, sitting down across from John, “You can do the initial groundwork and question the witnesses, look around and do some tests in the radius of where the portal opened up, and Eileen, Jack and I will be here in case you need one of us to research anything. You can’t take the whole Men of Letters Library with you. I’ll drive Cas’s truck out tomorrow morning and be there by the afternoon.”

 

“Dad!” Jack whines, standing up to stomp his foot.

 

“Hey,” Sam warns, tilting his head up to get a look at Jack, “Don’t start.”

 

“I want you here with us though!” Jack stresses, gripping his hair as Eileen puts a hand on Jack’s elbow.

 

“It will only be for a few days, bud,” Sam answers, putting his head back down, “And I need you here with Eileen.”

 

“Eileen’s a hunter-” John starts but closes his mouth as soon as Sam glares at him.

 

“I know!” Jack says excitedly, running over to the library to jump beside Sam, “I can fly you out to Eureka Springs. That way, you can spend extra time with us and I can make sure it’s safe before you all do something monumentally stupid.”

 

Sam shakes his head, “Jack, like I said, I’d rather have you here-”

 

“It would take me less than a second to fly you there and not more than an hour to make sure there’s nothing too sinister at work,” Jack interrupts with resolve, “That’s just the way we’re doing it.”

 

John watches Sam close his eyes and ask for patience before letting out a sigh, “Fine, Jack. We’ll do it your way.”

 

“Because it’s better,” Jack insists, “And you get to spend more time with Eileen.”

 

With that, Jack skips back over to Eileen to explain his master plan to her, which he has to repeat because the damn kid talks too fast when he gets excited.

 

“Alright, well you heard him,” Dean announces, gathering up a few books, “Ready to hit the road?”

 

John stands up quickly and gathers his own things even faster, “Let’s go.”

 

They don’t make it too far. How could they, with Sam’s long legs catching up to them without a problem?

 

“Be careful,” Sam tells his brother fiercely as he pulls him into a hug, “Don’t do anything stupid without me.”

 

Dean smiles a little at that and puts his hands on Sam’s shoulders, “I would never.”

 

“That goes for you too,” Sam continues more gruffly, facing John, before pulling him into a hug as well.

 

Sam has only hugged him once since John woke up, so the feeling is still foreign, but more than welcome, especially with how angry Sam was at him last night. John wraps his arms around his son’s shoulders and holds his youngest son tight.

 

“Take care of your girl,” John rasps out, “I like her.”

 

“Don’t let her find out you said that. She’s kick ass and can take care of herself,” Sam snorts, pulling away a little, “Seriously, be careful. You need to practice ASL with me once this is all over.”

 

“Like Dean said,” John answers, glancing at his oldest, “You’ll be there for the full moon. We won’t be doing anything stupid without you.”

 

With that, Sam lets them go and Eileen and Jack wave goodbye to them from the couch.

 

John manages to convince Dean to let him drive. Dean looks as if he’s completely out of his element in the passenger seat and doesn’t go by his own rule of the driver picking the music, but Dean’s tastes are about the same as his, so John doesn’t mind.

 

But John does glance over when it seems to be taking Dean a while to choose a tape and finds his son thumbing the cassette Sam had told him Dean made for Cas. John gives him a few seconds, then clears his throat.

 

“You going to put that tape in, son?”

 

Dean doesn’t answer, still staring at the tape, then silently takes it out of its case and puts it in the player.

 

Neither of them say a word while the tape plays in its entirety.

Chapter Text

It’s a few minutes after 3 when John drives past a sign that says,


WELCOME
TO EUREKA SPRINGS
Recalling the elegance and pace of an earlier era

 

“Sounds like a load of shit,” John huffs, making a right turn to head towards Main Street, “Let’s find a motel and drop our stuff off.”



“You don’t want to stay in a luxury tree house or a hobbit house?” Dean smirks, flipping through pamphlets he picked up at a rest stop, “We’d be a lot closer to where the portal opened up.”



John rolls his eyes, “This is why I never let you pick up pamphlets when we were on a hunt, no matter how bored you were. Always with the sightseeing and tourists traps. I bet those are expensive as hell anyway.”



“One hundred and forty dollars a night,” Dean answers, grumbling.



“Can get just as good of a place for a hundred dollars less,” John counters, pulling into the parking lot at a questionable and, frankly, somewhat seedy motel.



Dean glances up at the sign and sighs, “And they even have an hourly rate option. How accommodating.”



John studies his son’s put off expression, “I can’t tell whether living in that fancy bunker has turned you into a snob or if you’re that disappointed over not staying in a hobbit house. You always did like those books. You even dragged me to the movies since Sammy was at Stanford, I remember.”



The left side of Dean’s mouth turns up, only slightly, before reaching in the backseat to grab his duffle bag.



“Well, they do have a pool,” Dean answers, “I suppose it’s good enough. I’ll go pay. The clerk may start assuming things if you do it.”



John’s not really sure what the clerk could possibly assume, but doesn’t argue the issue. He’s only been back for a couple days, so it isn’t like he has much cash or fake credit cards of his own anyway. It doesn’t take Dean long to come out with two sets of keys. Together, they take in their needed belongings and the necessities to protect their room. Dean automatically takes the bed closest to the door, which is baffling, because that’s always been John’s bed, so he throws Dean’s bag onto the other one when his son goes to the bathroom.



“It wouldn’t make sense to ask about what happened as feds,” Dean mentions, coming back out into the room, only giving his moved bag a mere glance, “Sam questioned witnesses when it happened the first time around while I explored the area and researched. Planned on switching off if we came back to any strange activity, but it’s been quiet as far as we know. Our best bet is to do the reporter or blogger the truth is out there spiel. So put your tinfoil hat on and we’ll head out.”



John scowls at the order. He knows his son is right, that feds wouldn’t have any reason to come back and investigate with no activity, but he hates playing the believer crap. Dean knows that and smirks a little at him.



“Oh, you should see. My friend, Charlie? Crazy smart computer hacker. She set us up with a fake blog and everything. It’s ridiculous, yet still informative.”



Dean comes over to pull something up on his phone and hands it over to John. John scrolls down and lets out a grunt when he sees a more nonsensical story.



Imaginary Friends ?” John scoffs, tossing the phone back to Dean.



Dean smiles a little at the phone, “That post is actually true. Zanna are cool though.”



John shakes his head and grabs the car keys from the nightstand, “Go get in the car.”

 

------------------------------------------------------

 

The people they interview range from grateful to paranoid to emotional to pissed off. Rachel Bennington, Cole Haynes, and Thomas Meager still haven’t been seen since the last full moon and those who saw them disappear through the rip of light are now under the impression they had been too high and drunk to function or that they are certifiable.



“Because how can that even happen?” Justin answers, voice strangled, “There has to be something wrong with me. I keep waiting for Cole to come through our apartment door and tell me about his day, but he’s been gone for a month. I never even told him...fuck!”



There’s not much more they can ask, especially to someone who is emotionally escalated. They take their leave when Justin throws a vase at the wall.



“Well, that got us nowhere,” John scoffs, not bothering to argue with Dean when his son grabs the car keys from his hands.



“Ah, give him a break,” Dean answers, voice casual but soft, “Kid sounds like he had the hots for him. Probably broken hearted or whatever.”



“Well, that much was obvious. I’m not complete crap at reading people, give me a little credit,” John grumbles, pulling out a map of the city, “So you said that the part of the woods where the rip occurred is a little past Sherwood Court?”



Dean nods, “A little north from here. And it’s also past, get this, the Enchanted Forest. Could be a coincidence, could be a witch garnering power in a place he or she sees as ironic, anything really.”



“Anything actually enchanting about it or is it just a tourist ruse?” John asks.



Dean shrugs, “There are hobbit houses in the Enchanted Forest-”



“Shut up, Dean.”

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------

 

The three of them take it easy for the afternoon. Eileen doesn’t really mind, even though she’s always been one to stay busy, if not looking for new hunts, then researching or training, usually by herself. She hadn’t been lying to Sam when she said she had trust issues. Losing both of her parents before she could even remember them is one thing and being trained by her maternal figure, rather than properly raised, had helped those issues come about too, as much as she loved Lillian. Entering an abusive relationship with an alcoholic hunter, only to be stalked and more or less hunted by the man for two years after she ended it, sort of sealed the deal.



Although she had stabbed him in the cheek with a broken bottle to get away from him. She can understand why Brady might have been upset.



She hasn’t had a relationship since, not a proper one (not that anything about her short relationship with Brady was proper to begin with.) There have been hookups, even casual repeats if she was passing through, but she never felt the need to connect with any of them.



But now there’s Sam.



Sam, who is making her lunch with a boy who calls him Dad by his side. Sam, who had tried his hardest to learn her language, despite being overwhelmed by The Darkness and Lucifer. Sam, who had talked to her late into the night on Skype and through text. Sam, who had comforted her when she killed a man and held her while she fell asleep instead of taking advantage.



Sam, the man she found herself falling for, even though she thought that she and anything akin to love had been finished for good. Balban had known her feelings for Sam, even though she never mentioned them to him. He knew about Brady too and had very occasionally combined Brady’s actions and Sam’s appearance to torment her.



But she knows it wasn’t real. Well, it was real, but it wasn’t really Sam. Yet a couple times today, she’s found herself forgetting that if she’s not interacting with him or Jack and left to her own devices. She knows Sam can tell when she drifts away. He’ll get this pinched and sad look on his face as he holds onto both of her hands, but tries not to make a big deal about it.



And if it’s Jack who sees she might be flashing back? Well...he means well.



“Eileen, it’s alright, you are here with us now,” he’ll say seriously, holding onto her shoulders as he stares at her closely, “You are family to us and Winchesters are strong. Balban is in Hell on the rack and you are in the bunker with us. Brady is all the way in Wyoming, drunk as usual. If you’d like, I can transport him elsewhere, like Cape Town or Caracas. I won’t even give him any money to get home-”



“That’s alright, Jack,” Eileen interrupts quickly, patting the boy’s arm, “Not sure how you know about that, but I’m not worried about him and haven’t been for years.”



Jack squints at her in confusion, “I know a lot of things. Too many things, Dean says. I sometimes get things wrong, but I could have sworn I heard his name pass through your aura and thoughts with disdain, while Balban’s passed through with hate and fear. I heard Sam’s several times, but it was happy and loving unless it was regarding-”



“Jack,” Eileen prompts, feeling a little exposed because Sam’s right there and she’d rather not make the man more concerned.



“Jack, give her a little space,” Sam insists, facing her.



Eileen shrugs when Sam signs, ‘I’m sorry.’ She doesn’t blame Jack and knows that he’s younger than he appears. If anything, she finds him endearing and sweet, even though he needs a few lessons in tact.



It’s okay,’ she signs back.



Sam nods, looks away for a moment, then faces her again.



“If you need to talk...about what happened with Balban or...or whoever this Brady guy is-”



“I’m not big on talking,” Eileen answers, probably too quickly, because Sam’s face falls with the words, which is upsetting to see because it’s not like she wants to hurt his feelings.



“I meant,” Eileen corrects, “I’m just the type that holds it in and silently gets over it. But...But if I do need to talk, you’ll be the first person I come to. I promise.”



Sam still looks sad, but he does smile a little at the words, before changing the subject.



“Jack was supposed to come in and tell you lunch is ready.”



In the kitchen, they are talking and interacting and Eileen smiles at Jack’s enthusiasm and gesturing hands while trying not to laugh at Sam’s blushing cheeks when Jack tries to imply that she and Sam should be together officially.



“Forever and ever,” Jack finishes, grinning at them both, “He feels his heart grow every time you both are in the same room.”



“Sorry,” Sam tells her, face red, as Eileen fails at her attempt to not laugh at his reaction, “He’s not subtle. At all.”



Jack frowns and pouts at the words, hiding his face into Eileen’s shoulder, before looking up at her.



“I was being subtle,” he tells her, his expression pleading, “I really was.”



“Of course you were,” she murmurs kindly, returning Jack’s hug as he throws his arms around her waist.

 

---------------------------------------------------

 

They have to walk part way on foot to get to the right area. John only indulges Dean once when his son starts seeing hobbit houses. He might be more lenient to wait around if this weren’t a huge mission, but he also knows he has barely seen a smile on his son’s face since they reunited and he can tell that Dean is even holding back when it comes to enthusiasm. So he’s not as stern as he should be when Dean wanders off their trail slightly to look, pointing and smiling and making some reference that John doesn’t really get and John lets him have a moment before barking an order to get Dean back on track.



“I can’t see how you can be thinking of anything else, with what’s going on here,” John has to mutter as they walk through the woods.



Dean glances at him and just shrugs, “Don’t really have my hopes up, to be honest. Figure there’s a solid ninety-five percent chance that it’s a bust anyway.”



John glares at that, “It’s the strongest lead we have. Don’t be so negative about it, Dean.”



Dean scoffs and puts his hands in his pockets, “I’ve gone through god knows how many portals and, believe me, none of them have been promising .”



John can understand Dean’s pessimism, but that doesn’t mean he can get behind it, not when this is a chance he never thought he’d have. A chance to get his wife back. He keeps thinking of scenarios in his head, of reuniting with her and building a life with her. Neither of them are the same people they once were, at least John sure isn’t. Mary might be the woman John never got the chance to know, the woman hidden carefully by his loving wife. It’s a thought that has deeply bothered him since he found out about the Campbells, at first immensely so. Now, it mainly worries him. He worries that they wouldn’t be compatible due to her hidden past and all of the changes within him that came due to living without her for so long. There’s a part of him that worries she might not want to build anything with him because of the way he raised the boys. Hell, he even thought she might be put off because of their larger age difference. In the picture, she looked a little older than what he remembers but she still definitely looks younger than him, although he should be even older than he actually is as well. He stayed up for hours last night just thinking of all these potential negative outcomes.



He’s been trying not to focus on it today. They’d have to have a talk, several of them, all of them long and detailed. It would take a lot of work, but he knows he’s more than willing to try and hopes she’ll be willing as well.



The EMF meter starts peak when they approach a shaded clearing.



“Apparently this little guy is good for everything,” Dean comments, a little triumphantly.



“Is that the one you built out of a Walkman?” John shakes his head.



“And it’s the only one that’s lasted me for fifteen years,” Dean tells him, “The fancier ones never last when a ghost throws you against the wall. This one barely has a scratch on it.”



Dean hands John the meter as he starts digging through his bag. While John watches as the meter starts to go off the charts once he reaches the center, Dean is circling the clearing and snapping photos.



“This is it,” Dean calls out, gesturing him to come over, “Take a look.”



John goes over his son to look over his shoulder. Dean skips through the pictures and a short video. In all of them, a thick, jagged vertical line, around six feet long, hovers in midair, radiating red and blue with presence and power.



Dean has to put a hand on his shoulder so that John doesn’t try to go and stand directly where the rip is.



“Thursday night,” Dean tells him, “We’ll go during the full moon. It probably isn’t open yet anyway. If it was, then we would be able to see it with our own eyes and you probably would have zapped through when you went over there the first time. Until then, we’ll gather some things for an anchoring spell so that we go through the right portal when we need to get home.”



John forces himself to nod but keeps staring at the center of the clearing until Dean turns him around with an empathetic look on his face.



“Let’s put a few markers down and get out of here,” Dean suggests, patting him on the shoulder, “You hungry? I’m hungry.”



John lets out a breath at that, “You would be, wouldn’t you? You’ve barely eaten since I’ve gotten back.”



John winces as soon as he says it, since Dean’s eyes flicker with pain, showing John just enough to tell him that Dean’s improved mood today is at least partially a mask. But then Dean smiles ruefully and shrugs.



“Yeah, well, in one of those pamphlets, there was an ad for a place called The Rockin’ Pig Saloon. If a man can’t get his appetite up at the sound of that…”



Dean doesn’t finish the sentence, opting to put down some markers and protection spells around the clearing instead. John focuses on the other side and they’re on their way back to the Impala within ten minutes.

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------

 

It’s concerning to see Dean not flirting with their waitress. It would be one thing if she had shown no signs of interest straight off the bat and Dean didn’t bother, but the girl was laying it on pretty thick.



She’s a lot younger than Dean, maybe 25 or so, and it takes John a bit to realize that, considering the last time he was alive, Dean was only 27. And Dean’s 38 now, so that could be part of it. She might be too young for his son or it’s possible Dean has just grown up a lot and isn’t promiscuous like he used to be.



Or it could be that Dean isn’t interested in women at all anymore, or maybe his son had somehow feigned interest in the opposite sex as a front the whole time.



But Dean also doesn’t really flirt back when he’s hit on by a man either. That ends up happening too.



Although he does seem a little more intrigued by the man who flirts with him. The man is a bartender, maybe a couple years older than Dean, and John can admit he’s handsome. The bartender comes over to give John’s son a drink personally, on the house, standing a bit too close to Dean as he slides a napkin with a number on it next to Dean’s plate.



It’s not the first time he has seen his son get hit on by a man. God, it was so far from it. When Dean had been a teenager, barely past 18, John had heard men in bars say the most fucked up shit about his son and occasionally threw a few punches on Dean’s behalf when he could tell the boy felt cornered by a few men at once. Usually, his son took care of it himself. John had seen Dean let the well-meaning ones down gently with a simple, “I don’t swing that way, but good luck, man.” He had never seen Dean become violent or insulting, unless he absolutely had to. The more aggressive propositions had always been what had worried John. For a while, they had happened so often right in front of him that he made sure Dean knew how to tell when a drink had been roofied.



So yeah, he’s really not fazed that Dean’s getting hit on by a man. It’s far from the first time.



But it’s the first time that he’s seen Dean almost look bashful and possibly curious about it.



And, when John is walking back from the bathroom and Dean hasn’t spotted him yet, he sees his son fold up the napkin and stick it in his wallet.



It’s definitely the first time John’s seen that reaction out of his son too.



Both of them decide to turn in a bit early, and John’s out like a light by 10. He wakes up from a nightmare a little past midnight, his breath coming out in short gasps as he runs to the bathroom to splash cold water on his face. It’s not until he comes out that he realizes Dean isn’t there, which makes him panic even more until he sees the note on the nightstand.



Couldn’t sleep so I went to get a few drinks and let off steam. Don’t worry. Shouldn’t be gone too long.


-Dean



Oh.



Oh .

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Eileen and Sam stay up until almost 3 am, sitting close to each other on the couch as they talk well into the night. It actually feels like how they used to be before she died, except without screens and distance separating them. She talks to Sam about Hell, just a little, and he barely touches upon his time in the cage. He’d been with Lucifer for over 100 years. Fuck. How? How could someone come back from that? She knows it’s only been a day, she knows that, but she already has so much shit to work through.



Sam mentions the wall and the wall breaking, the hallucinations and the fear that the visions of Lucifer had been the only thing real in his world, that he’d snap out of it and be back in the cage, suffering all over again.



Sam’s eyes become vacant when he tells her that. Maybe he hadn’t come back completely the same after all.



She makes a point of changing the subject after that, but also makes a point of settling into his arms when he seems to want to pull her closer.



He walks her to her room when they become too tired to keep a conversation going and they stand awkwardly outside her door.



“Well...Goodnight,” Sam finally says, clearing his throat as he shuffles his feet.



“Goodnight, Sam,” she offers in return. She thinks about kissing him, about making the first move, but she still has these stupid thoughts in her head, ones that are telling her it might be Balban after all, or that it’s not Balban but that she’ll flash back and think that he is mid-kiss and bite his tongue off.



Plus, she thinks he might be too tall for her to kiss him without him at least bending down to meet her part way.



They settle for a hug, one that is warm and soft. Sam does bend down and he kisses her on the cheek. The opportunity is right there and she lets it go.



She dreams of Hell. The dream doesn’t make much sense, flashing from one scenario to the next, although that’s what Hell was like from time to time. She feels fear and nausea when Balban cuts and mutilates her, doing unspeakable things in the process. But then they switch places. Eileen severs each of Balban’s fingers and rips off his dick with malice and satisfaction.



When she looks up, he’s Sam. Balban always knew how to get under her skin. So, to make a point, she gouges out Sam’s eyes.



She wakes up with a scream, even though she doesn’t know how loud she cries out, but it’s loud enough to have Jack running into her room.



“Eileen, Eileen!” Jack comforts, running to her bed to sit down next to her as he puts his hands on her shoulders, “You’re safe and you are here with us. I promise.”



Eileen breathes in and out through her mouth heavily a few times and wipes her eyes, “Sorry, Jack. Just a nightmare. Go back to sleep.”



Jack waits for her to look at him, “I wasn’t asleep, I was away. I flew to Ladurée Paris Bonaparte to buy some pastries so that the three of us could have a nice breakfast later. I was just taking off my clothes in my room when I sensed your fear, so I entered your thoughts. I hope you don’t mind.”



“I…” Eileen starts, swallowing down the lump in your throat, “I really wish you hadn’t seen that, Jack. I’m...I’m really messed up now, I think.”



But Jack shakes his head, “Eileen, you never said yes to Balban’s offers to take you off the rack. He told you he wanted you as his consort and you spit in his face. You never once tortured him or any other soul.”



“Then why would I dream something like that?” she stresses, starting to panic, “It would be understandable if I had said yes, but I didn’t! Why would I dream it?”



Jack seems to be pondering the question before he settles on an answer, “The human mind seems to have strange ways of dealing with trauma. Sometimes those ways don’t always make sense to us, but it’s a sign that you are still healing. I wish I had the abilities to heal you of this immediately but the brain is too complicated. Putting a wall up would be more harmful, I think. I’m sorry.”



Eileen tries to give him a comforting smile as she takes his hand, “It’s alright, Jack. You’ve done more than enough.”



“I...I can heal you of your deafness, if you’d like,” Jack offers, holding out a hand, “When we flew through Hell, you were bothered by the screams of the tortured souls and begged for your hearing to be gone again, so I granted your wish. But, now that we’re not in Hell, maybe you’ve changed your-”



“I haven’t,” Eileen interrupts quickly, “I...I’ll let you know if my answer ever changes but this? Me not being able to hear? It’s always been a part of me. Some might see it as a flaw, but I see it as a...as a sign of character.”



Jack studies her before smiling at her words, “Like me being a Nephilim.”



“...Absolutely,” is all Eileen can say to that.



Jack beams at the confirmation, “Well, people with character have to stick together. Go back to sleep, Eileen. I will watch over you.”



Jack stares at her expectantly, waiting for her to lie back down. She eventually accepts the fact that Jack is going to sit there, so lets herself lie down and try to rest.

 

-------------------------------------------------------

 

Dean ends up staying out longer than he means to.



He meets Brian at The Rockin’ Pig Saloon, gets a few drinks in, then agrees to follow the bartender back to his place.



Brian’s lips are on him as soon as they get through the door of the small house, bruising and claiming as they suck on his bottom lip and nip at his neck.



“You’re a bottom, right?” Brian groans once Dean falls to his knees to suck the man’s dick.



There’s a small, defiant part of Dean wants to balk at that and tell Brian, ‘ No, absolutely not. Now drop your pants and bend over. ’ But who the hell is he kidding? When he hooks up with women, he pretty much always lets them take the lead, gets off on it as they push down on his shoulders and ride him. Lisa had a fucking riding crop she loved to use on him.



And, granted, the number of men he’s had sex with is significantly smaller than the number of women, but it has been growing a little more steadily in the past four years. A solid eighty percent of the time he bottomed, even when he had the mark of Cain and was a demon. He had developed a taste for it as a teen, at truck stops when his dad and brother were fast asleep at the motel and he was trying to make some cash on the down low. But then he got roughed up when he was 23 and he stopped hooking up with men for a while. It hadn’t been too hard. It’s not like anyone of importance actually knew about it.



He didn’t try it out again until he was about to go to Hell and it didn’t become a thing until after he came back from Purgatory. Somehow, it’s become an itch he needs to scratch now and again but, instead of just solely needing the feeling of being filled and controlled, he’s been needing the pain that comes along with it. And hell, all of it is long overdue. He hasn’t hooked up with anyone, man or woman, for several months.



Maybe it’s what he needs to get his mind off things, even if it is just for a little bit.



“Yeah,” Dean grunts out, licking Brian’s cock from the base to the tip, “You better give it to me hard.”



Brian smirks down at him and runs a hand through Dean’s short hair, “You bet, sweetheart. Open your pretty mouth.”



Dean sucks on Brian’s cock, before letting the man fuck his mouth. It doesn’t last long. Before Dean can really show off his skills, Brian takes him under the arms and lifts him up to his feet, ushering him to the bedroom and ripping off all of his clothes in the process.



Brian’s good with him being on his hands and knees and he seems to have a kink for prepping. Dean shudders as Brian rubs the small of his back, almost soothingly, and works his lubed fingers in and out of him before adding his tongue. Dean’s not used to rimming. He’s had it done to him by a couple men and a few more women, but it’s too intimate for a one night stand. He only truly enjoyed it and got turned on when Lisa did it. It isn’t like he never fantasized about it. He used to have this one fantasy where Cas bent his legs back until they touched his shoulders and-



Dean squeezes his eyes shut and ruts back onto Brian’s tongue, “Come on, man. Fuck me.”



Brian huffs out a soft laugh, “Impatient much?”



But Dean sighs when he hears the telltale ripping of a condom wrapper. He braces himself when he feels Brian teasing his entrance with his cock. Dean can play that game too. He lets the side of his face fall against the bedspread as he reaches back to pull his cheeks apart. Brian groans at the action, running a hand up Dean’s back to grab his right shoulder, and thrusts in with one fluid motion.



Dean lets out a cry at the intrusion, letting go of his cheeks to grip the bedspread as he gets fucked. Brian is going at a steady pace, hitting his prostate dead on as the thrusts increase in force.



“Harder,” Dean moans out, writhing his ass against the man’s hips.



Brian obliges and Dean bites his lip as his eyes widen at the sting but breathes through it. Brian must take that as a sign to slow down because he reaches over to stroke Dean’s ribs and make comforting noises.



As if Dean asked to be comforted.



“Harder,” Dean tells him in a low voice, ramming himself back on Brian’s cock.



Dean loses himself in the sounds of flesh slapping against flesh and the white hot pleasurable pain of a big dick hammering his ass. His own cock is dripping, but he won’t touch it and slaps Brian’s hand away when he tries to give him a reach around. Apparently, the forceful thrusts against his prostate are enough to make him cum against the sheets and collapse in a heap. Brian follows a second after, shouting out his release as he spills into the condom, still buried in Dean.



But, although Brian is breathing heavily and still in a haze, his slick chest against Dean’s sweaty back, he seems to catch onto the fact that Dean’s fucking crying before Dean even realizes it himself.



“Shit,” Brian murmurs, gently pulling out of Dean’s hole, “Are you hurt? Do you want me to check? Hey, give me something here…”



And yeah, his asshole stings and throbs, but even Dean’s not emotionally stunted enough to chalk it down to that. He knows that this guy’s concerned, so he tries to nod and say he’s fine, but he can’t even get a word out before a few sobs come out first. It’s embarrassing and it’s so fucked up and all Dean can do is cover his whole face to try to keep the sounds and tears in.



“God damn it,” Brian sighs, rolling off of him to grab a pack of cigarettes off the nightstand, “I always pick the fucked up ones.”



Dean hightails it out of there pretty quickly once he gets himself together a little more, barely saying a word to Brian other than a muttered apology as he pulls his clothes back on with a wince before he limps back to the Impala.



He drives around for longer than he should. His dad is liable to wake up, see the note, and wonder how long he has been out. It’s not like the bars stayed open until 4 am in the middle of the week in Arkansas. But he can’t bring himself to go park in the parking lot of a cheap motel, only to go to his room and be left alone with his thoughts and his dad’s snores. He’s so far from okay right now. All he wants to do is drink until he passes out.



No, that’s a lie. All he really wants to do is to be at home, with Sam and Eileen cuddling in bed together, Jack reading The Odyssey in his own room or doing whatever the fuck Jack likes to do in the middle of the night, his mother and father together after decades of separation, Alex and Claire talking about boys while they snack in the kitchen during a visit, and Cas flush against his side on the couch, ignoring personal space like the angel usually does, while Dean teaches him of the differences of having pop culture downloaded into your brain versus actually experiencing it for yourself.



He wants that more than anything in the entire world. And he won’t have that, definitely not all of it anyway.



He ends up having to pull over because the road is too blurry. He can’t see and his face is hot and wet and he can’t catch his breath and it fucking hurts . It hurts a lot more than a rough fuck, that’s for sure.



He misses Cas. He wonders if Cas knew that Dean would miss him this much once the angel was gone for good.



He deserved to know that. Cas deserved to know everything. If telling him everything would bring Cas back, then Dean would do it as bluntly and obviously as he could, since Cas hadn’t taken a hint with the mixtape. Even if Cas rejected him and laughed in his face, he’d still do it.



Cas wouldn’t laugh. Dean’s aware of that. He’d be kind and worry and let him down easy. It’d probably be just as awful.



He’d probably try to hug Dean too, something the angel seemed to grow to like. Dean got more hugs from Cas than he had from anyone else in the past couple years. They were loving and careful and warm and grateful and all-encompassing. He’s never been a hugger, but he enjoyed those.



Dean lets out a keening cry and presses his fist against his mouth. He tries to fight down the rising emotions. He’s been alright the last couple of days - better, surprisingly - so this shouldn’t be happening, not now. He can fight this, he can .



But within a few minutes, he loses the battle and lets his forehead rest against the steering wheel as he weeps.

 

----------------------------------------------------------------

 

John’s pacing a hole in the floor when 6 am rolls around.



Dean has answered none of his calls. He hadn’t even tried to call until he woke up around 4:30 from another nightmare and realized that Dean still wasn’t back. He did a quick search on the bars in the area and none of them stayed open past 1 am, so Dean probably left around 11 or so. Maybe he slept over at the bartender’s place, got too tired or drank too much and couldn’t drive.



But Dean would have texted or called him to let him know, he thinks, although the boy might lie about who he hooked up with. He would at least let John know that he wouldn’t be back until later in the morning.



Terrible thoughts start to plague him, thoughts of Dean letting his guard down and getting really hurt by this man, if he is a man. With their luck, he could be possessed or a shifter or who knows what else.



John’s in the process of getting dressed to go down to the bar in order to investigate the area, break in if he has to, when Dean comes through the door.



“Where the HELL have you been?” John demands to know, loudly and probably too aggressively, “I’ve called you several times and you couldn’t pick up at least once? God damn it, Dean!”



He says the words before he actually looks at the kid, his kid who is limping to his bed with hickeys on his neck and swollen, bloodshot eyes, as if he’s been crying for hours.



“Dean,” John prompts, softly this time because he doesn’t think he has it in him to talk any louder, “Dean, what happened? Why are you limping?”



Dean freezes for a moment, standing with the duvet in his hands. It’s enough to get John to freeze too.



“It’s nothing,” Dean finally mumbles, throwing the duvet to the ground, “Don’t worry about it.”



John’s shaking his head before Dean can finish his sentence, “I don’t believe you. Now tell me what happened. Why are you limping?”



Dean glances at him and lets out a scoff, “I tripped and fell. Twisted my ankle. There, you happy?”



It’s an obvious lie, one that John doesn’t believe from the get go, but it still kills him a little when Dean winces as he sits down. John’s never dabbled or had any curiosities in that type of stuff, but he knows what that means.



“Land on your ass too?” John accuses.



Dean’s eyes widen for a moment, whether it’s in fear or shock John’s not sure, but Dean’s expression quickly returns to neutral as he shrugs.



“Yeah, now that you mention it. Hurts like a bitch. Who knew concrete could be so hard?”



There’s a tense silence between them as they stare at each other. Dean looks away first, obviously uncomfortable about something.



“Well, g’night,” Dean mumbles, reaching over to turn off the lamp before rolling onto his side.



But John’s stubborn. He’s not letting this go. So he turns to the light back on and stares at his son’s back.



“Did someone hurt you?” John chokes out, having to take a breath, “Dean, I need you to tell me if someone did something to hurt you.”



John’s not sure what he was expecting as an answer to the question. Maybe for Dean to insist that he was fine and relieve John’s worries. Or tell him what happened, that he had been attacked. Then John would at least know whether or not he needs to prepare to murder someone. 



But all Dean does is roll over and give him a strange look, “You should probably know that it’s really hard to get the drop on me. If someone tried anything, they’d be beggin’ for mercy in a heartbeat. Everything that happened tonight is exactly what I wanted.”



Dean says the last sentence with such bitterness and contempt and it makes John feel ill, not because he thinks his son his lying - no, that’s not the issue anymore - but because he knows that what Dean is now telling him is the absolute truth.



“Then why have you been crying?” John asks him sadly.



Dean’s expression becomes guarded before he rolls back over on his side.



“Like I said. Concrete.”

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------

 

John has never felt so grateful for two people to appear out of thin air than he does on Thursday morning.



Jack’s company is short lived, since he finds it of great importance to make sure everything is in place for the anchoring spell, as well as checking for any malevolent vibes in the clearing. Dean’s mood is still shit. He’s researched and done what needs to be done, but he’s clearly in a very depressive state and John feels like he’s pushing him away every time he tries to get him to talk. He knows Dean’s closer to Sam. And, while it hurts that Dean won’t open up to him, he’s glad that there’s a possibility that Dean might open up to someone .



So he had messaged Sam in the middle of the night while Dean slept and told him everything about their first night here. Everything - not flirting with the waitress, taking the bartender’s number, disappearing for several hours, coming back with a limp and hickeys and swollen, bloodshot eyes. It made John seriously uncomfortable, like he had invaded Dean’s privacy. Hell, he probably had. But he had sent Sam all of that information and demanded that he talk to him about it soon. It must have woken Sam up because all Sam texted in return was,



Okay. I’ll try to talk to him about it
when we all get back. Worried about
him too. Thanks for letting me know.



While John is still worried about Dean and hadn’t wanted to pass the burden onto Sam, he feels better because he can focus more on what they’re about to do tonight. Go through the portal, get Mary back, and go home together. And when they got back? They’d be a family and could put their focus on helping Dean get past this.



At sunset, they head out to the clearing. Jack zaps back in with some extra ingredients for the anchoring spell. They spilled their blood into the basin, burned personal items that belonged to the three missing people, then added cypress and wormwood. They watched the markers around the clearing flare up in success and then waited for the portal to make its appearance.



It’s the waiting that gets to John the most.



After four hours of silence, John growls, “Why the hell hasn’t it shown up yet?”



“Gotta be patient, Dad. You know that,” is all Sam says, keeping his eyes straight ahead.



“It’s like waiting for your mother get ready for a date-”



“Grandpa,” Jack interrupts pointing at the center of the clearing, “Watch. It’s coming. I feel it.”



And sure enough, within minutes, it comes. With the rumble of the ground, the air feels as if it’s filled with electricity. The hair on John’s arms stands straight up and Sam’s hair is filled with static. If this weren’t so monumental, John would laugh. But he can’t, not with what’s about to come and not while the portal makes itself visible.



“Well, looks like it’s showtime,” Dean shrugs, standing up to walk closer to the center with nonchalance.



“Dean!” Sam scolds, shooting a hand out to pull back on his brother, “Just wait a minute.”



Sam keeps a hand on Dean’s arm until he seems sure enough that his brother won’t walk through without them before turning to Jack.



“Stay with Eileen,” he tells him, bringing the boy in for a hug, “Make sure she’s alright. We shouldn’t be gone long. If it’s the wrong portal, we’ll just see if we can find the missing people and come back.”



“And if it’s the right one, you might die,” Jack whimpers, “I should go with you.”



“We’ll be fine,” Sam tells him firmly, shaking his head, “We’ve made it this far.”



“And died COUNTLESS times,” Jack counters.



“But we’re still here,” Sam finishes, “Now go keep Eileen company.”



Jack hesitates, but nods his head, “If you don’t come back, I’ll just go through next full moon on my own and find all of you. If you’re dead, maybe I can bring you back from there.”



Sam blinks, “Just try to stay positive, Jack. For me, okay?”



“Okay.”



It takes a few seconds for Sam to even detangle himself from the boy, but as soon as he does Jack stands off to the side and watches the three of them with worry and anticipation.



John glances down in surprise as Sam takes his hand as well as his brother’s and grips onto both of them tight.



“Don’t let go,” Sam warns, taking a step forward, “Dean and I were dropped in completely different states once. Couldn’t find each other for a week.”



John grips Sam’s hand back until his knuckles go white.



“On the count of three,” Dean announces, leading them closer, “One, two…”

Chapter Text

The boys don’t even have to tell John it’s not the right place.

 

As soon as he gets one good look around, he knows. He knows and it causes his heart to stutter in his chest and his breath to hitch. Sam and Dean don’t look surprised. They had the sense to not get their hopes up, unlike John who had been so sure. So sure that he’d find his wife tonight and get to hold her for the first time since 1983.

 

He can’t even describe the pain and disappointment he feels.

 

“It’s not…” he starts, then swallows around the lump, “This was supposed to be it-”

 

John quickly looks away from his sons when his voice cracks. He covers his mouth as his eyes become damp and clenches his fist until he feels his short, blunt nails dig into his palm.

 

“I’m sorry, Dad,” Sam tells him sadly, putting a hand on his shoulder, “We can go back.”

 

John doesn’t say anything, doesn’t trust himself to yet. He already knows his answer, knows that this just isn’t about them, but Dean manages to say it for him.

 

“Our work’s not done here,” his oldest son speaks up, reaching for his pistol to cock it, “Saving people, hunting things, the family business. That’s our motto and there are three people who need to get home. Although, can’t blame them if they want to keep hanging out with the Jetsons.”

 

A flying car passes over their heads and lands in the parking lot of a skyscraper with a revolving sign branding it The Joy Motel. Huh. That’s the name of their motel too. Sure as hell doesn’t look like that in their universe.

 

Sam and Dean don’t seem surprised by that either.

 

“I am not hotwiring that car,” Dean refuses, already walking away, “I’m staying on land where it’s nice and safe and not hundreds of feet in the air…”

 

The rest of Dean’s words are lost in the sounds of jets as the boy walks away. Sam turns to give John one last look.

 

“You sure you don’t want to head back through?” he asks, “I would understand if you wanted to.”

 

All John honestly wants to do is buy a bottle, drink it, then cry in the damn shower. But he can’t really tell his son that so he shakes his head.

 

“No. Dean’s right. Let’s go.”

------------------------------------------------------------

John thought that 2017 was too technology focused.

 

He supposes that this place is 2017 too, that they didn’t jump timelines, just universes. But maybe time moves differently here or something MONUMENTAL happened because there are not flying cars or places you need to check into by having your eye scanned or humanoid droids who act as police officers and “eliminate” people on sight. And, while John hasn’t really had time to look into the politics of 2017, he’s pretty sure their area of the universe isn’t a complete dictatorial environment.

 

It’s dangerous for them to be here. If they bring attention to themselves, they can be turned into dust, literal dust.

 

Maybe John should have agreed to cut their losses and go back through the portal.

 

However, Sam and Dean don’t seem too nervous, although he’s been getting the vibe that his boys are known for going on stupid suicide missions more often than not. John supposes he only has himself to blame for that by getting them started in hunting in the first place.

 

“Name?” a droid demands, robotic eyes studying each of them.

 

The three of them freeze for a moment, not knowing what their status is here or what to say. John is about to reach for his gun in order to shut the droid down so that they can make a run for it, but Dean stops him.

 

“This here is my dad, John Smith,” Dean tells it, holding onto his arm, “I’m also John Smith and this is my brother, James Smith.”

 

The droid’s eyes go blank as it seems to compute the information before static fills its eyes.

 

“Common. Too many matches,” the droid says robotically before jets shoot out from under its feet and it levitates away.

 

“Come on,” Dean mutters, “Let’s find a map or something.”

 

The don’t find a map, but it seems like there aren’t states in this universe anyway. They find that out due to being only a mile from the border of Area 22 and 23, not that they understand what that even means.

 

“That’s it,” Dean says, walking back towards the city, “I’m swiping a phone off of someone. I’m already sick of this place. Flying cars, robots, all overrated bullshit if you ask me.”

 

And that’s what they plan on doing. Robbing someone seems to be the most sensible plan in this absolutely insensible quest, so John’s ready to agree with Dean. He really is.

 

But having a whole squad of of flying cars filled with droids land all around them sort of puts a dent in their plan.

 

The droids have them cornered but they sure as hell aren’t going down without a fight, so they come at the robots, guns ablazin’. But as much as they shoot, it doesn’t do much good. John even gets a headshot in, but all it does is ricochet off the droid’s forehead and only barely misses Sam’s arm.

 

“We have been tracking you with our cameras,” one of the droids states, shooting wire out of its palm to tie Dean up from his chest down to his knees, “Dean Winchester and John Winchester are deceased. You are imposters.”

 

“Sam, run!” Dean shouts out, trying to roll away from one of the droids.

 

But Sam doesn’t run because as educated as that boy is, he sure as hell can be dumb when it comes to his brother. So while John is trying and failing to fight off two droids, he sees Sam sprint over to tackle the one about to pick up Dean. It does absolutely no good. The physics make no sense. Anyone Sam’s height and weight should be able to knock someone over but the droid is absolutely unaffected. All it does is turn to hold Sam in place before scanning him.

 

“You are not General Winchester,” the droid states, before blowing lightly in Sam’s face. Sam’s head lolls back and his body goes limp while still in the droid’s grasp.

 

“What did you do to him?” John yells out, struggling as he is taken to the ground, “WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY SON?! SAM!”

 

But the droid ignores him completely. John grunts as he fruitlessly tries to escape the strong wire hold. John turns his head to check on Dean and honestly? Dean looks like he would chew off his own limbs if that meant escaping in order to tend to his brother. Neither he or Dean can do much though. The wires are thick and tight and dig into their skin without any mercy. And the droids? All they do is stand there as if they are waiting for someone. If they are such imposters, then why the hell don’t they just kill them on the spot? It’s not like John wants to die, and he sure as hell doesn’t want his sons to, but not knowing what’s going to happen next is more terrifying than he’d like to admit.

 

But within ten minutes, another car flies over and makes its landing down the road. John braces himself as the sound of boots crunching against gravel grow louder in volume.

 

“At ease,” he hears Sam’s voice order.

 

John freezes at the words, but forces himself to turn his head. At first, he just sees combat boots and legs. But as his eyes travel up, he sees a man who undeniably looks like his son, although there are some differences. Even through the darkness, he can see that this Sam’s hair is a little shorter, although not much. He’s also sporting a short beard, about the same length as John’s. But the real difference between his Sam and this universe’s Sam is that this Sam has a long jagged scar that trails down from his left eyebrow and disappears into the lining of his beard. He finds himself so thrown off yet so immersed in watching the other Sam that he almost doesn’t realize another person is standing right next to him.

 

“John.”

 

When John looks up at the sound of his name, he finds himself staring at a woman who is probably in her 60s. Her thick, blonde hair is streaked with white and pulled back into a neat bun. There are soft, subtle wrinkles at her temples and although the woman carries the aura of a stern and intimidating soldier, John looks into her eyes and realizes that doesn’t take away from her sheer beauty whatsoever.

 

Because even after almost 34 years? He’d know those eyes anywhere.

 

“Mary?” he whispers, staring at her in awe.

 

The two of them remain in a locked stare. John can tell she doesn’t know what to make of him. Hell, he can’t blame her. But knows she feels something. He feels it too. If he could just get the words out and talk to her so that he could explain the situation, he knows she would understand. His Mary had always been loving, open-minded, and understanding. Even though he hadn’t known everything about her, he feels like those qualities are genuine, true, and would go across the board when it comes to every single version of his wife.

 

“Lieutenant Winchester,” Sam prompts, “Do not let your emotions get the best of you.”

 

“Don’t talk to your mother that way,” John growls out, which is a fucking ridiculous thing for him to say in a time and place like this.

 

But Sam and Mary don't pay any mind to his words. All Sam does hold his rifle in his strong grip and knock Dean out with the butt of it. John calls out for his oldest, even though he knows that the boy is out for the count right now, before turning to Mary pleadingly.

 

“Mary,” he says quickly, “Mary, it’s me. I might not be the John you know, but I am who I say I am. You can keep me tied up, but just give me the chance to explain-”

 

John doesn’t get the chance to finish his sentence. Before he can get another word out, Mary’s hesitantly hopeful expression turns hard and she copies Sam’s movements with a swift blow to the head. The last things John sees in his failed attempt to maintain consciousness are black dots and Mary’s face floating around in his vision.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

“You sure you are able to question him?

 

Mary clenches her jaw at the question, before looking away from her son.

 

“Of course I can question him,” she grits out, “It's my job, isn't it?”

 

Sam nods tersely, “It is. Sometimes I just wonder if you forget what we are expected to do here.”

 

Mary huffs and turns back towards her son, “And sometimes I wonder if you forget why we’re really here.”

 

Sam’s stare is hard and unwavering, his scar isn't the only thing that marred her son’s once youthful and innocent features. Years of surviving heartache and working as a cog in the machine have started to add lines to his face and have taken away the love and hope that used to make his eyes shine. More often than not these days, she looks at Sam and feels like she barely recognizes him at all.

 

Occasionally she feels like she's gazing right into a mirror.

 

“He’ll respond better to me,” she decides, “He's not your father and not a droid, we don't know what he is. But he recognized me, become more...more emotional when I said his name. You and your father always bickered anyway.”

 

Sam stares through the one-way window at the tied up man, “I don't see how that matters. Dad’s been dead for ten years. No one comes back from a dismissal.”

 

Now isn't the time to remember John’s choked out declarations of love for his family, his pleas to the Parliament that they be left alone since he had rebelled on his own and without their knowledge.

 

He hadn't. Mary had known and hid refugees under her kitchen floorboards personally. But she had a duty to protect her sons and their loved ones, to keep them from harm. So she had stayed silent, pretended to be horrified and disgusted, and hoped that John could see the love and agony in her eyes with that one last look. She likes to think he had since he had looked back at her with what looked like relief and encouragement.

 

She failed John; she failed her boys. She feels that failure when she looks at Sam and sees the hardened and broken man he's become. She can't look at Dean anymore. Dean’s been dead for three years now.

 

“I'm speaking to him,” Mary answers, stepping towards the door, “You may outrank me now, but I am still one of your advisors. You’ll give me this courtesy and respect.”

 

Those words seem to ignite something within Sam. Old Sam, her baby, he never cared about rank or titles, only family, justice, and peace. This Sam doesn’t have much else but his title to care about, except maybe revenge. And Mary isn't sure where Sam stands on revenge anymore. She just knows he's resentful and bitter and infuriated at the world and takes it out on the people he's expected to target.

 

John...or whoever this man is, he's a target. She won't risk Sam jumping the gun and taking care of the problem before they get all the facts. The men who look like her sons are as well, but there are two of them and the man who looks like Dean may cause Sam to waver just enough to listen.

 

“Talk to the other two,” Mary answers, “Don't make too rash of a decision. Use your brain and not your heart.”

 

Sam smirks at that. It's the ugly smirk that she hates, one that seems to have permanently replaced his bright smile in the last few years.

 

“You should take your own advice, Lieutenant,” Sam whispers, leaning in.

 

Mary closes her eyes and bites the inside of her cheek. It isn't the first time she’s wanted to knock Sam on his ass. There’s no time for it though. Not when John...or “John” is starting to wake up.

 

“Go,” she insists, moving towards the door, “I’ll handle it from here.”

 

Once she walks into the white interrogation room, she stares into the mirror, wondering if Sam actually listened to her request or if he refused to do so in order to watch them silently.

 

It doesn't matter.

 

“Where did you take me?” John moans, his head swaying.

 

“That doesn’t matter,” Mary answers, patiently waiting for him to fully come to.

 

John blinks a few times before tilting his head up to look at her. His eyes widen, as if he can’t believe what he is seeing, but he reins in any emotion he might be feeling and doesn’t say a word.

 

“Who are you?” she asks him.

 

John shakes his head and lets out a huff, “Honey, you and I both know you won’t believe a word that comes out of my mouth. So what’s the point of even telling you?”

 

“Who are you?” she asks again, folding her hands in her lap.

 

John narrows his eyes and pulls at the iron wire restraints, “Take these off of me and then we’ll talk. You’re cutting off my circulation here.”

 

Mary tilts her head and keeps her eyes on the man, “Who. Are. You?”

 

John breathes out through his nose, “My name is John Winchester. I was born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas. My father disappeared when I was 4, turns out he died, and I was raised by my mother. I was in the Vietnam war, got married to Mary Campbell, and we had two sons, Dean and Sam. Mary was killed in 1983.”

 

Mary smirks, ignoring her supposed death, “For such a good physical imitation, you sure as hell don’t put any effort into actual research, do you? If you were John, you would know that Henry lived until he was 90 and that Millie died from alcohol poisoning when she was 45. But what really takes the cake is the fact you think I somehow don’t know there haven’t been states since 1927 and that Vietnam hasn’t been a country since 1842. Do you really take me for that much of a fool?”

 

John stares at her, then shakes his head, “I’ve never taken you for a fool, Mary. Not even for a second.”

 

Mary keeps her eyes on him and feels her hands shaking in her lap, thankful that this man can’t see them in the position he’s in, “Why are you doing this?”

 

John’s expression is sad as he studies her, “Why am I doing what?”

 

Mary forces the anger down at his words, “Pretending to be him. My husband died ten years ago. You’re not him.”

 

John swallows and looks away, “You’re right. I’m not your husband. But I am who I say I am.”

 

“Liar!” Mary seethes.

 

Before she even knows what she’s doing, she’s raising her fist and punching him square in the nose. She hears the satisfying crack of bones and watches the blood pour from his nostrils. John looks disoriented for a moment and lets out a pained groan.

 

“You having a stellar right hook is probably across the board as well,” he grunts out, “Damn it, Mary.”

 

“Tell me who you are!”

 

John sniffles, then winces when he spits out the blood that dripped from the back of his throat, “My name is John Winchester-”

 

“Tell me who you are!”

 

“I was born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas-”

 

“TELL ME WHO YOU ARE!”

 

“I AM TELLING YOU WHO I AM!” John roars, breathing heavily, blood covering his mouth and chin.

 

Mary stands up at full height and charges towards the door, leaving the room without a word.

 

“Great job in there,” Sam tells her sarcastically, with that same damn smirk, “No emotion shown on your part at all.”

 

“Shut your mouth,” she orders.

 

Sam goes off on a short tangent about how she needs to learn her place regarding her rank, but Mary tunes her son out, opting to turn on the audio system instead.

 

“What are you planning?” Sam asks, watching her hands move across the touch screen.

 

“Your father never could stand William Hung,” she informs him, clicking on the musician’s face.

 

Sam stares at her in bewilderment, “No one can stand William Hung.”

 

“Exactly,” she answers, before selecting Hung’s Inspiration album and turning the volume all the way up.

 

Both Mary and Sam watch through the window silently as John looks around the room in disgust and bafflement. As Hung starts to sing, John begins to cringe and yell out in outrage.

 

“Turn it off, Mary!” he yells, trying and failing to free himself from his restraints, “This is cruel and unnecessary! MARY!”

--------------------------------------------------

“How long do you think they’re going to leave us in here?”

 

Sam glances at his brother and sighs. It had been at least an hour since Sam woke up, strapped to a chair next to his brother. When he had opened his eyes, he could see how panicked Dean had been over him. His brother brushed it off with a joke, something about Disney Princesses. Sam can’t really remember, his head had still been a bit fuzzy. But Dean’s getting nervous again and has asked that question a few times now.

 

“I don’t know, Dean,” Sam mutters, looking around the room for something that could help them out.

 

“Well, it’s you who’s doing this to us,” Dean spits out.

 

Sam turns to glare at his brother, “It’s not me. Not me me, anyway. I can’t get into this guy’s head and figure out what makes him tick.”

 

“Sure you can,” Dean insists, “You’ve always been good at the touchy feely shit.”

 

“From what you told me, this guy is anything buy touchy feely,” Sam snorts.

 

Dean shrugs and nods, giving him that, then clears his throat, “The anchoring spell only keeps the portal open for three nights. We need to figure out a way out of here or we could get stuck for at least a month, if we’re still alive by then. I didn’t even tell Jody and the girls we were doing this. I can’t just up and disappear on Claire.”

 

Sam feels a twinge in his chest at his brother’s concern over the girl, “And you don’t think I’m worried about the same with Jack and Eileen back home?”

 

Dean bites his lip and looks down before pulling at the restraints with all of his strength once more.

 

“Stop fighting it. It’s titanium.”

 

Sam looks up, only to find himself staring at his own face. He feels frustration, distrust, and aggravation when he meets the man’s eyes and already knows that he’s going to hate this guy. Not surprising. In all the other universes they’ve been to thus far, both he and Dean have always conflicted with their other selves in some way, as if the feeling to dislike yourself is innate. Some just caused them to feel mildly annoyed. In one of the few universes they have come across where they were women, Sam had appreciated Deanna’s sarcasm and wit yet couldn’t stand Samantha, even though she never really did anything to him. Meanwhile with Dean, he had bickered with Deanna until he was blue in the face yet had taken to Samantha and Deanna’s two-year-old daughter, Mary.

 

That might have been because Mary had Cas’s eyes. And that hadn’t been a coincidence at all whatsoever, nor could Dean claim it was. Deanna had been openly mourning the death of her partner and the father of her child and she and Samantha both confirmed who that had been.

 

Sam had tried to bring it up once they got back, even gave Dean an opening to come out or admit his feelings, whatever, but Dean had changed the subject by talking about how insufferable he would be if he were a woman. And when Sam tried to bring it up again, he immediately got shut down.

 

But as insufferable as Deanna or Samantha might have been to them, Sam can already tell that this version of himself is a fucking dick.

 

Sam keeps a close eye on him as he circles them. The man circles the chairs and the table with purpose and malice and Sam knows they’ve been left with the bad cop.

 

“So how did you two achieve this?” the other Sam asks, gesturing to their faces, “I’ve called the best plastic surgeons in the country, even Dr. Schulze. He assured me that he would never allow an imposter to ask for my likeness.”

 

“That’s nice. I like a doctor who looks out for his patients’ best interests,” Dean comments, giving this Sam a once-over, “‘Cause I gotta say, you definitely aren’t the prettiest.”

 

Sam almost laughs at the words before realizing how insulting they are.

 

But this version of Sam doesn’t seem to take offense to them. He actually smiles a little at Dean and tilts his head.

 

“You do a good impression of my brother,” Sam tells Dean softly, “If I hadn’t had to identify his broken, bloody pulp of a body three years ago, I might actually think you were him.”

 

Sam doesn’t have the words to answer that and feels what might be empathy for the man. Dean, however, can’t keep his damn mouth shut.

 

“So what did I die from this time?” his brother asks, feigning a yawn.

 

It’s almost fascinating to watch his other self become wrathful. That fascination quickly dissipates when this Sam punches Dean so hard that the heavy metal chair holding his brother falls over. Dean lets out a moan as the other Sam stands over him, one foot next to each of Dean’s shoulders. Sam manages to raise his voice when the other Sam reaches down to grab ahold of Dean’s collar.

 

“Stop it!” he demands, pulling at the restraints, “I’ll talk, alright? I have no problems telling you the full story.”

 

The other Sam’s fist freezes mid-swing and he turns his head to look at Sam before dropping Dean to the ground with a thud.

 

“Sammy, don’t tell him,” Dean groans out from the floor.

 

“We don’t have anything to hide, Dean,” Sam snaps.

 

“I don’t like him,” Dean insists.

 

“And you think I do?” Sam asks before turning to look at the other Sam, who just stares at him with narrowed eyes as he holds a gun to his head.

 

“Talk,” the other Sam orders.

 

“We’re not from here,” Sam answers quickly, “Something...something big happened back where we’re from. You and I...we’re the same, but we’re not.”

 

The other Sam cocks his gun, “That’s the worst explanation I’ve ever heard.”

 

“Wait, wait!” Sam insists, letting out a breath, “What I mean is that my brother and I are from an alternate universe. One that’s really different from yours, it seems. We didn’t mean to come here. Mary, our mom, she went through a portal that opened up and is stuck in a universe we have yet been able to find again. She got pulled in with Lucifer. Do you know Lucifer?”

 

The other Sam scoffs, “Everyone knows the Supreme Leader.”

 

Sam feels his eyes widen, “What are you talking about?”

 

The other Sam taps the barrel of the gun against Sam’s forehead, “I’m asking the questions here. And with your answers? I have to say that I’m having a hard time believing you.”

 

“I’m telling you the absolute truth here,” Sam tells him, “You have my phone? I’ll give you the passcode to it. There are pictures and videos in it that can prove what I’m saying is true. If you still don’t believe me, then you can shoot me.”

 

“Sam, shut the fuck up,” Dean hisses.

 

But Sam doesn’t answer his brother, deciding to keep his eyes on the door the other Sam just walked out of instead. When the other Sam comes back, phone in hand, Sam tells the man the passcode unprompted.

 

“You may have to scroll up a little,” Sam says, “Jack, my...uh, son...he likes to swipe my phone to take photos of random things in our home. You don’t have a Jack, do you?”

 

The other Sam raises an eyebrow in confusion and what looks like might be a little sadness, but Sam can’t be sure. It’s enough of an answer for him though.

 

Sam watches his doppelganger carefully, waiting for some type of reaction. It takes a minute, but the other Sam’s finger freezes on the screen and suddenly the gun’s back out.

 

“It’s doctored!” the other Sam growls, “You ran it through a fucking program, stole my wife’s face-”

 

“I didn’t,” Sam interrupts, “I swear to you, I did no such thing.”

 

“Eileen’s dead!” the doppelganger yells, face contorted by rage and grief, “We were about to have a baby and she died along with my brother! I don’t think I will shoot you. I want to make your death slow and painful-”

 

“Watch one of the videos!” Sam insists, ignoring the fact that hearing Eileen is his dead wife in this universe makes his chest hurt, “Go back to May 2nd, 2017. I saved a video message from her.”

 

The other Sam is breathing heavily and staring at Sam with disbelief. But with shaky hands, he takes Sam’s advice and the sound of Eileen’s voice fills the room.

 

“Happy Birthday, Sam! I know things have been hectic and stressful to the point where you might not even remember that you’re an old man now, but I do hope you at least get a drink on your special day. You deserve it. If not, I’ll see you in a couple days and bring a six pack along with me. See you soon.”

 

Even though Sam can’t see the video, he’s watched it so many times over the past couple of months. He knows it by heart now and remembers how when he first saw that she blew a kiss at him at the end, it made him grin all day. The other Sam isn’t grinning happily though. He’s smiling a little, but it’s sort of ruined by his pained expression and the tears pooling at his eyelids.

 

“Why does she sound like that?” the other Sam chokes out, playing the video again, “My Eileen doesn’t sound like that.”

 

My Eileen has been deaf since she was a baby,” Sam informs him, clearing his throat, “Do you believe me?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Because we don’t really plan on sticking around here,” Sam continues, “Our mom is who knows where, there are a few college kids that came through from our universe who should really be getting back home, and we need to get back home. We have obligations and people we love back where we’re from. We don’t want to interfere here at all. We just need to be back at the portal by the time our three days are up and there’s only a short timeframe where it will definitely lead to our universe each night.”

 

The other Sam stares at him, pondering his words, before turning on his heel.

 

“I’ll be back.”

 

“Okay,” Dean calls out as the door closes, “I’ll just stay here then, staring at the ceiling and imagining the luxury of twiddling my thumbs.”

 

“You alright down there?” Sam asks, turning his head to get a glance at his brother.

 

“Well, I don’t think I have a broken eye socket,” Dean scoffs, “I’m sorry, but this version of you? Huge bag of dicks.”

 

Sam is inclined to agree with Dean, yet when he even thinks about being in this man’s position, he has a feeling he wouldn’t be much better off.

----------------------------------------------------------------

“Go turn off William Hung.”

 

Mary gapes at her son as he walks back to the control room, “You’re not telling me you believe this alternate universe story? I know I said hear them out, but-”

 

Sam holds up a hand, “Look, I don’t know if I believe it or not. But it explains why their guns, phones, and clothes look different. It explains why they look the way they do.”

 

Mary watches her son closely when his Adam's apple bobs his throat as his eyes fill with tears, “It explains the pictures and video of Eileen. Mom…”

 

She hasn’t seen her son cry in three years. Until this very second, she thought he may have lost the ability. And he certainly hasn’t called her anything other than Mary or Lieutenant for at least two years. She had figured he had forgotten how to do that too.

 

Sam had been so in love with Eileen. She remembers the day they announced that Eileen was pregnant, how excited and joyful he had been. She always worried about her youngest after his first serious girlfriend had died in an accident. Dean had always been his protector and best friend and it was his brother who had truly made sure Sam kept going when he lost her. They had always had each other’s backs. Dean let Sam move in with him and Cas after that tragedy and Sam helped with Claire in return, who had been such a rambunctious child. Dean kept Sam whole, introduced him to Eileen five years later, and was his best man when Sam and Eileen got married.

 

But when Sam lost Dean, Eileen, and the baby all at once? There was no one able to hold him together. Cas had been drowning in his own grief and had so much on his plate with the girls. Mary had been in absolute agony over losing her first born, daughter-in-law, and unborn grandson. They had been so distracted by their own pain that they forgot to support and care for each other.

 

She wants to support him now. She wants to hold him. Comfort him and lie by telling him that everything is going to be alright.

 

But she can’t even bring herself to put her arms around him.

 

Maybe she's gotten forgetful as well.

 

Sam pulls himself together as he turns away from Mary, seemingly embarrassed by his moment of vulnerability, then turns back to face her with his normal scowl.

 

“All I know is that we need to get them out of here,” Sam breathes out, “If...If I were in his...in Sam’s position, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to stick around if Eileen was back home. He has a son. He told me.”

 

“I heard,” Mary answers, glancing at the surveillance screen, “You’re doing a horrible job at keeping emotion out of this, I hope you know.”

 

Sam shakes his head, “...It’s not about that-”

 

“Don’t try to lie to my face.”

 

Sam doesn’t comment any further on it and Mary knows that she’s driven the point home.

 

“Go get John,” he tells her, reaching over to turn the music off. The relief that John shows at the gesture is visible through the feed.

 

“Where are we taking them?” Mary asks, grabbing her gun.

 

“...Somewhere safe,” Sam answers evasively.

 

It takes Mary a second to get what he means by that. But when she does understand, her eyes widen.

 

“We haven’t spoken to Cas in over a year,” she stresses, “He hates us.”

 

Sam gives her that, shrugging a little, “But he doesn’t hate Dean. In fact, it’s always been the opposite.”

 

Mary lets out a breath, “So, what? You want to make him so emotionally vulnerable to the point where he’ll agree to hide them for us short term?”

 

“...If he doesn’t shoot us first,” Sam gives her.

 

“If he doesn’t do the shooting, then it will be Bobby or Jody,” Mary mutters, “Alright, go. If the droids start suspecting any irregular activity, I will not hesitate using you as a human shield.”

 

Sam actually snorts at that, “You always say that, but I remember the bullet you took for me a few months ago.”

 

“You must inherit your stupidity from me,” she grumbles, preparing herself to face John once more.

 

When Mary walks into the interrogation room, John is breathing heavily as if he had been waterboarded. This John is just as dramatic as hers was.

 

“How long has it been?” John rasps out, finally meeting her eyes, “Days?”

 

“Two hours,” Mary corrects, raising a brow.

 

“If you were so set on blowing out my damn hearing, you could have at least chosen a decent singer to do it!” John snaps, trying to lunge forward in his seat.

 

“Maybe next time,” Mary offers, pressing a button to release the restraints with one hand and pointing her gun at him with the other.

 

John studies her and glares, “What’s the catch?”

 

Mary shakes her head, “No catch. Your sons told us where you all are from and showed my son some proof. He believes them and wants to get you to a safe house until you can go home. I still have my doubts, but I will say that Sam isn’t usually too easy to fool, so I guess I’ll go along with his plan."

 

“Where’s the safe house?” John asks.

 

“If you are from where you say you are, would you really know the locations of our areas anyway?”

 

John says nothing to that, opting to slowly stand up with his hands where she can see them.

 

“I want to see my boys.”

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sneaking out of the government building is almost uneventful. Sam has to give it to his other self: the man is intimidating and seems to hold a fair amount of power.

 

But the flight? He almost wishes they’d knock Dean out for it. If flying weren’t enough, the fact that it’s a ridiculously fast flying car does his brother in. While Sam can appreciate the gadgets and the view from up above, he is too worried that his brother is going to cut off the circulation to his and his father’s fingers during a full fledged panic attack.

 

“Even breaths, son,” John tells Dean, “You’re alright.”

 

“I’m not. None of us are. This doesn’t make sense. The physics of this are absolute shit. We’re going to crash and die,” Dean insists through gritted teeth.

 

Sam watches his brother closely as they land, seeing how the man’s tension seems to slowly leave his body once they’re on the ground.

 

It’s probably a good thing that none of them, especially Dean, knew where they were staying until after they had landed.

 

Because Dean’s face when Cas is the one to answer the door? It’s devastating. Sam can only imagine how the knowledge would have affected his brother if he had known where they were going during his time of panic. But as devastating as Dean’s expression is, the way he immediately moves closer to the man with a hand reaching out, as if he wants to hold him, makes all of this even more heartbreaking.

 

“Cas?”

Chapter Text

Contrary to one might believe regarding Dean’s reaction to seeing Cas again, they’ve skipped from universe to universe dozens of times. It’s not the first time they have run into the angel.

 

And sometimes Cas isn’t an angel. In four universes Sam and Dean have been to, Cas has fallen and joined ranks with humanity. That had also been the case when Cas and Deanna had Mary, even though he was dead by the time Sam and Dean stopped in. Cas had fallen with the angels after the trials and became human, produced a human child with the woman he fell in love with and stayed human until he was killed in battle. In two other universes, Cas had been human all his life. Those universes had been quite different than their own.

 

But even though Dean has seen Cas in these universes before, he always seems to react with this longing sense of shock, awe, grief, and love, as if he can’t help himself.

 

Sam’s gotten a little better about reining his brother in, as much as it pains him to do it. They don’t know this Cas and definitely don’t know what he’s capable of. He looks human. He has a gun and there’s a fading bruise right above his eye. But they’ve run into humans more ruthless than many monsters. Hell, the Sam that’s standing right next to them easily looks like he could be one of them.

 

But this Cas doesn’t look like a monster, not one bit. Cas’s wet, weary eyes are glued to Sam’s heartbroken brother and his lower lip is trembling as Dean starts to walk closer to him.

 

“Cas,” Dean chokes out again, almost touching the other man.

 

Sam’s about to pull him away gently, even manages to grab onto his brother’s arm and prompt him. It ends up not being the best move on Sam’s part. If anything, it gives Dean the initiative to shake Sam off, take the few final steps towards Cas, and cradle the man’s face.

 

If the circumstances were different and watching this all unfold didn’t hurt so goddamn much, then he would probably think that this is the gayest thing he has ever seen his brother do.

 

The moment doesn’t last for long though.

 

“What is this?” Cas rasps out, yanking away from Dean’s touch before pulling a gun on them, “What the hell is this, Sam?!”

 

Both Sam and John take the opportunity to yank Dean back to stand with them again, John taking the initiative to stand in front of both of them in a protective stance with a glare. Dean looks fucking crushed, although Sam’s not completely sure what Dean had been expecting.

 

But Sam himself is caught off guard as well when the other Sam starts walking towards Cas in a peaceful manner, hands in the air right after he puts his gun on the ground and kicks it over towards the door.

 

“These are the people I was talking about,” the other Sam informs the distraught man, coming a little closer.

 

“We don’t talk,” Cas starts, biting out his words, “We don’t talk for a year and you reach out and pretend like you want to make peace, only to spring whatever sick, fucked up joke this is on me? You expect me to just go with the flow regarding...whatever this is?!”

 

Sam lets out a sigh, “To be honest, I’m surprised you picked up to begin with. I figured you would ignore me until I showed up with them unannounced.”

 

“Well, it wouldn’t be the first time you disregarded what anyone else may feel by doing whatever you want,” Cas sneers, before picking up the gun, “Leave.”

 

“It’s not a joke,” the other Sam speaks up, “It’s not. You won’t have them for more than two days. They’re just here to find a few people and then they’ll go home.”

 

“Who are they, Sam?! Why do they look like that?!” Cas yells before his voice becomes choked when he glances at Dean, “Why does he-”

 

Sam feels tension course through his body when Castiel can’t even finish his sentence. It had always been rare to see their Cas truly emotional. There had been times when the angel had felt helpless when it came to his purpose or faith, opting to numb the pain with liquor like he had seen Dean do. The only times he had seen Cas come close to crying were when someone was about to die or had done so already. And usually, if that person wasn’t Dean, it was someone whose death would strongly affect Dean. That included Cas himself. Sam had never even questioned who that first tearful ‘I love you’ had been for.

 

“It’s…” the other Sam starts helplessly, before shrugging his shoulders, “It’s a long story.”

 

Cas clenches his jaw at the words, “Well, you better start telling it then.”

 

“My brother, father, and I aren’t from here. From whatever universe this is.”

 

It’s Dean who surprisingly says the words. His voice is rough and slightly choked but he sidesteps their father and walks over to Cas in a similar manner the other Sam had.

 

“Our mother,” Dean starts, “Not this Mary. Ours fell through a portal and ended up in a universe filled with death and destruction caused by an Apocalyptic battle between Heaven and Hell. We’ve been trying to get her back, but we’ve ended up what seems like everywhere but the universe she’s in.”

 

Cas squints at Dean in disbelief and doesn’t say a word. Sam has to force himself not to wince with sympathy when Dean’s shoulders slouch at the lack of response.

 

“You’ll have to forgive Castiel,” the other Sam mentions, daring to stand next to the man, “He’s a radical atheist. Didn’t exactly have a good experience with the Christian Cult Movement as a child.”

 

As Sam is recovering over the fact that Cas is an atheist in this world, Cas glares at the other Sam, “No one has a good experience with a cult that convinces their followers that they can pray away all of their problems and be lifted into a fantasy land when they die, usually by suicide pacts.”

 

“Agreed,” Dean pipes in. Of course he does.

 

Cas lets out a breath, “You’re responsible for them. If they’re staying here and they hurt anyone, and I mean anyone, Sam...I’ll make sure you pay for it. Because I’m not buying this alternate universe shit.”

 

“I said that too,” the other Sam answers, “But they have proof. And you know I wouldn’t risk getting you hurt, Cas, despite everything.”

 

Cas shakes his head as he gives the other Sam a small, bitter smile, “That’s the thing, Sam. I don’t know that at all.”

 

The other Sam doesn’t object to the words but instead says, “I get that. But you should at least know that I wouldn’t risk the lives of my nieces.”

 

‘Nieces,’ Sam thinks. That can only mean-

 

“...No, I suppose you wouldn’t,” Cas answers, stepping aside, “Come in, but don’t...don’t settle in yet. I need to let the girls know what’s going on.”

 

They are left in an awkward silence when Cas leaves them. The other Sam looks impatient while Mary looks nervous and hopeful. Sam doesn’t know what happened between Cas and Sam and Mary, but if they haven’t spoken for a year, he can only assume Mary hasn’t seen her, what? Granddaughters? For that amount of time.

 

“What are their names?” he hears Dean ask quietly.

 

When Sam turns to look at his brother, he can see his brother looking down and away from all of them, as if he’s almost too shy to ask the question.

 

Sam feels a ball of worry start to form in his stomach. He knows Dean’s tone. Knows, despite this world being so different from their own and not knowing much about it, that his brother is starting to become emotionally invested. Sam’s tempted to pull Dean to the side and remind him that getting invested in these places only ends up hurting them.

 

But he can’t really do that here, not with their father still on edge and most likely set on keeping them within his line of sight. Not with the other Sam and Mary still being a little too new and unpredictable for Sam’s comfort.

 

He’s still trying to figure out a way to convey what he needs to say to Dean without drawing too much attention when his thoughts are interrupted.

 

“...Claire,” Mary ends up answering, “Who is biologically Cas’s niece. Then there’s Magda, Lina, and Nora. All of them were adopted out of horrific and extremely abusive living situations.”

 

Sam keeps his eyes on his brother as he watches the man take in a shaky breath.

 

“And who adopt-”

 

“Daddy?”

 

All of them turn their heads only to find a tearful and emotional young girl, no older than 10, staring right at Dean.

----------------------------------------------------

Arms are around the bottom of his ribs before he can even make sense of what the little girl said.

 

He feels hot tears soak into his shirt as the little girl sobs and fuck, what is he supposed to do? He finds his body reacting faster than his mind when he puts his hand on her head and strokes her dark hair. He shouldn’t encourage this, her perception of him being her father or his own long held desire to be one.

 

“You came back,” she chokes out, turning her head upwards to display her wet, almond shaped eyes.

 

“...I,” Dean starts helplessly before the girl is ripped out of his grasp.

 

Claire.

 

With Sam and his scar, Mary having the privilege to make it to her 60s, and Cas being atheist and human, he hadn’t known what to expect when he heard Claire’s name. But besides her clothes, a dark gray uniform with combat boots, she looks the exact same as his Claire does. Same hair, same makeup, same aura of anger, feistiness, angst, and general distrust. It’s the closest he’s felt to home since they got here.

 

“Stand back,” she warns, before taking a few steps back with the girl herself.

 

“Cl-Claire!” the girl sobs, pointing at Dean as she tries to break out of Claire’s grasp, “That’s Daddy! He’s back!”

 

“Lina, if you would have listened to what Papa was telling you then you would know that it’s not Dad,” Claire tells her sternly, “Not really.”

 

“It is though!” Lina weeps, “It is him! I know it is so you can stop lying to me!”

 

He doesn’t even know the kid, so he doesn’t know why he chest aches so bad as Lina tries to fight against Claire, arms reaching out for him in desperation. When he sees Claire trying and failing to hold back tears herself, it makes Dean’s eyes water as well.

 

Before it can get much worse, Cas rushes in and squats in front of Lina.

 

“Lina,” the man murmurs touching her face lightly to get her attention, “Lina, look at me.”

 

Lina keeps her eyes on Dean, ignoring Cas’s request at first. But when Cas prompts her a few more times, she calms down just enough to turn her head to face her father.

 

“It’s not him,” Cas tells her, voice still soft, “I know you want it to be him...I want it to be too. But it’s not, sweetheart. I’m sorry this is happening right now and getting you so upset. I’m so sorry.”

 

The determination and emotion slowly leave Lina’s expression and is replaced with a blank and depressed gaze. Claire gently lets go of the girl when Lina grits out, “Don’t touch me.” All eyes follow her when she silently goes over to the wall and every person in the room darts forward when she violently begins to bang her head against it.

 

Cas gets to her first, while Dean and Claire tie for second. Dean steps away from them when Cas picks the girl up and holds her against him as he takes her downstairs.

 

“Get off of me!” she screams, banging her fists against Cas’s shoulders, “I want to bang my head! I WANT TO BANG MY HEAD!”

 

“You know it doesn’t solve anything, Lina!” he hears Cas tell her.

 

Lina’s screams and cries echo until they fade away.

 

Dean feels sick. He feels truly sick right now. He needs something or someone to distract him but everyone is too upset by what just happened to talk and Claire is glaring at him like he’s the fucking devil.

 

“She hasn’t done that in three months,” she tells him, holding back her fury and sadness, “Three months she’s been an almost normal 10-year-old kid but one look at you and she’s batshit again. Thanks.”

 

“Claire,” Mary speaks up, stepping forward, “Sweetie-”

 

“You don’t get to talk,” Claire scoffs, “You haven’t been around for a year.”

 

Mary closes her eyes and swallows, “Your uncle and I disagreed with your father on some things-”

 

“Yeah,” Claire agrees, nodding disbelievingly, “You two had some disagreements with Pa so you cut each other off. But you didn’t have to cut off Magda, Lina, Nora, or me. Nora is six. Six. You guys were the only people connected to Dad that she knew. And Sam, you were Magda’s go to and now the only time she sees you is on the news. And Lina, you guys ditching us completely really went over well in her therapeutic progress.”

 

“Honey, the last thing we wanted was to hurt you,” Mary sniffles, “I’m so sorry.”

 

“Sorry doesn’t do anything!” Claire sobs, strangled.

 

He can’t stand here and watch this anymore. He can’t. The room feels too small and his heart is jumping out of his chest and he can’t be in a place where his presence causes people he cares about such pain.

 

He doesn’t even say a word, just goes out the front door and walks into the yard. He hears Sam call his name and he knows it’s his brother, not douche Sam, but he can’t bring himself to wait or acknowledge him. It’s too much. All of this is too much, seeing essentially everything he wanted, a family, Cas, twisted and broken by trauma, despair, and destruction.

 

And that’s all because of him. This universe’s version of himself started it and he’s just twisting the knife in further.

 

“Dean. Dean!”

 

Sam’s catching up to him. Not surprising with his freakishly long legs. Part of him wants to give the guy a run for his money and sprint as fast as he can, but where the hell could he even run to? It would be a stupid thing to do, considering the fact he has no idea what’s in the woods surrounding the house. He’s not thinking clearly, he knows that, but his mindset isn’t that clouded over.

 

“Hey!” Sam calls out, grabbing a hold of Dean’s shoulder, “Just wait, okay?”

 

Dean stops in his tracks but stares straight ahead, not trusting himself to be able to look at his brother without getting emotional. Because that never gets him anywhere. All that gets him is Sam begging for him to talk and Dean either starts throwing punches, or worse, actually sits down and does what his brother wants him to do. And if he talks that usually ends up with one or both of them bawling and it definitely ends up with Dean trying to get drunk afterwards.

 

He’s trying to prepare himself for one or the other, because something is going to go down if Sam even tries to turn him around. But while Sam does keep a hand on him, he doesn’t make Dean face him.

 

“Look, I know this has to be really overwhelming, awkward, and upsetting for you,” Sam starts, “I know it was hard for me to hear that Eileen was my wife and pregnant when she died, but this...man, I don’t blame you for wanting to take a breather. I would too.”

 

Dean lets out a huff, “So let me breathe, Sam. Jesus Christ.”

 

His voice cracks on the last word and he feels his face crumple, but Sam can’t see that from behind so Dean’s thankful for small mercies.

 

Until Sam quietly comes around to face him.

 

Never mind.

 

“I just need to make sure you aren’t going to let yourself get too emotionally involved and attached here,” Sam says gently, trying to catch Dean’s eyes as he puts each hand on Dean’s shoulders.

 

“Why the hell do you think I would get involved?” Dean mutters, making a point to look at a dandelion on the ground.

 

Even out of the corner of Dean’s eye, he can see Sam’s expression become sorrowful.

 

“Because of all that’s going on with Cas and these girls. Because helping people, helping kids...it’s second nature to you.”

 

Sam takes a shuddering breath.

 

“Because of what happened a few weeks ago...Dean, you didn’t want to leave. You didn’t even try to find me and it took me and Jack a week to find you. You...fuck, you tried to hide it from me when I tracked you down but you had Claire and a son there who were both ecstatic that they had their dad back...Cas was your hus-”

 

“Shut up,” Dean hisses, shoving Sam’s hands off of him, “I was just staying with Cas, so you’ve got it all wrong.”

 

Sam shakes his head, “I talked to a couple of your neighbors. One was a cop and the other was a reporter. Both of them nosy beyond belief. They both told me the same thing.”

 

Dean can feel his lip quivering and the tears are starting to leak over and he tries to come up with a way to deny Sam’s words, he does. But every time he tries, the words get caught in his throat and he can’t get a sound out.

 

“Hey,” Sam rasps out, reaching back out to pull him closer, “Okay, I wasn’t going to try to broach this topic until we got home, but fuck it. I don’t know why you felt like you had to hide your feelings for Cas or men from me. But I’m so, so sorry you felt like you had to. You’re my brother, Dean. Seeing you so lost and devastated is killing me. I want to be here for you throughout all of this, alright? You can talk to me. I said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m gonna love you no matter what. ”

 

Dean has been shaking his head in denial from the moment the words ‘feelings for Cas’ came out of Sam’s mouth. But as soon as Sam’s done with his damn speech, he’s hiding his face in his hands and bawling, just as he fucking predicted. He tries to pull himself together when the first sound escapes through his lips, but that ends up making things worse. Sam may think he’s helping by pulling Dean in for a hug but he’s not, because Sam’s crying too and Dean can’t say shit to set his brother's mind at ease. He tries to tell him he’s alright but all that comes out is, ‘C-Cas...I w-want Ca-...Don’t tell Dad, don’t tell him. And Sam says something about how he won’t but that Dean may be surprised with how accepting Dad might be. Dean’s not sure if he heard that right, but it doesn’t matter because he needs get his shit together.

 

“F-Fuck,” Dean hiccups, pulling away from Sam to walk a few feet away, “I’m a fucking mess.”

 

“It’s alright,” Sam croaks, sniffling a little, “You needed to get it out.”

 

“What I didn’t need was to come out to my brother as bi in some universe with flying cars and r-robots, all while crying until my balls shriveled up and fell off. Did I come out? Is that what I just did?”

 

He can hear Sam let out a soft laugh from behind him, “If you didn’t before, then you did just now.”

 

“Shit,” Dean whispers, breath hitching.

 

“Stop,” Sam warns, “Hey, I wasn’t going to share this, but I once made out with a guy my freshman year of college. If that makes you feel better.”

 

“Was he your best friend and the only person you ever felt like you could be yourself around?” Dean mumbles, staring at the sky.

 

He hears Sam’s sharp intake of breath as soon as he says the words.

 

“No,” Sam answers, recovering, “Just some rich kid from Massachusetts. There was a group of us playing Spin the Bottle. Jess thought it was hot.”

 

Dean actually manages to let out a laugh at that, one that he somehow manages to control before he becomes fucked up and emotional again.

 

“Maybe we should get some rest,” Sam tells him, “It’s 5 AM and we’ve both had a rough night. Sam, fuck that’s weird to say, he mentioned on the way here that this place basically has this huge underground tunnel under the house that has tons of bedrooms and everything you can think of. I’ll make sure no one starts zeroing in on you on the way there.”

 

“And if they do, they’ll have to get through you first?” Dean snorts.

 

Sam puts an arm around him and starts walking them back towards the house.

 

“Hell yeah, they will.”

Chapter Text

He dreams of Cas. More than one version of him.

 

He has the dream in the white bed with his Cas. That’s the first dream and it ends like it always does, Cas dead and staring up at the ceiling. The following dreams aren't as horrific but they weren’t joy inducing, by any means. He has a dream about the Cas who had lived in Indiana with Claire and Ethan, the Cas who had run tests on him for almost an hour before believing him. He dreams of their first kiss and his last night there, when Cas had led him up to his bed for the first time, only for their time to be cut short.

 

The third dream is about the Cas he just met. It’s a dream completely made from his own imagination, just them making dinner for the girls and Cas coming up behind him to press soft kisses against his neck. It’s calm and easy and when Dean wakes up from it, it fucking hurts.

 

The sound of a radio goes off before he even sits up, the sounds of a news report filling the room. Dean opens his eyes and sees the time on one of the digital walls. 9:15 AM. He lets out a groan and runs a hand down his face. He feels like he got no sleep at all. If they didn’t have such a time limit, then he might try to sleep longer. Not that it would do any good, considering his subconscious keeps working against him.

 

Dean gets up to figure out how to turn the radio off, but freezes when a familiar face pops up on the screen

 

“I strongly suggest to the citizens of our wonderful country to turn in anyone they may suspect being a part of the rebellion movement. This includes criminals on the run, refugees, those against our way of life, and those who wish harm upon government officials. We want our land to be filled with honorable men and women, free from those set on poisoning the minds of future generations. If you are conflicted about a decision to turn someone you know into the authorities, ask yourself this: Do I want my country to be torn apart by tension and conflict or do I want it to prevail?”

 

“Lovely, isn’t he?”

 

Dean quickly turns around and is greeted by the sight of Cas standing in his doorway. He’s dressed the most normally he’s ever seen anyone in this place yet. While he was wearing the typical gray uniform last night, Cas now has on a pair of thin sweatpants and a t-shirt. This Cas has let his stubble become scruff, scruff that Dean had felt last night when he touched his face. He still has the tousled hair, what had Charlie called it? Sex hair?

 

He isn’t going to let his mind go there with Cas standing right in front of him.

 

“He’s as big of a dick in my universe,” Dean answers, “Although he’s not there right now. Fell through the portal with my mom.”

 

Cas lets out a breath, “I don’t envy her.”

 

“So you’re believing me now?” Dean asks cautiously.

 

Cas shrugs, “Sam, your Sam, he showed me some pictures and videos. We talked.”

 

“Sam’s already up?”

 

“Couldn’t sleep, I guess. He helped with breakfast,” Cas tells him, “...That’s actually why I came down. To get the last few people up. If you want to join us, you can.”

 

Dean hesitates at the invitation, “You sure that’s a good idea? ...Your kid. Lina. I didn’t do her any favors last night by showing my face here. I’m feeling pretty goddamn awful about that.”

 

"Lina..." Cas starts, "Lina was very close with my husband. She and her younger sister were very hard to place due to the extreme and sensitive nature of the abuse and trauma they suffered. Nora was just a baby so she doesn’t remember it now but Lina found it difficult to trust men yet she ended up with two of them raising her. Dean did absolutely everything to earn her trust and his death affected her greatly. Seeing you was incredibly confusing and upsetting for her.”

 

Dean swallows and looks away, “I’m really sorry, man. I didn’t mean to cause that. Look, I’ll stay down here, alright? Wait until I get the go ahead before heading out-”

 

“I spoke with her,” Cas interrupts, “She was able to hear the situation out better and I told her I could make you leave if she didn’t want you here. She declined my offer, as did Magda and Nora. Although Nora doesn’t really remember a lot about Dean, so she doesn’t face as much of a dilemma.”

 

“...And Claire?”

 

Cas gives him a rueful smile, “Claire’s working. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I put some of Dean’s old clothes in the top drawer last night, if you’d like to get changed...I’ll see you upstairs.”

 

Cas gently shuts the door, giving Dean some privacy. Quickly, he puts on the gray uniform and checks himself in the mirror. He’s looked better. He needs to shave, but that’s been the case for a few days now. His eyes have dark circles under them and are a little bloodshot, the skin around his left eye is bruised from Sam’s right hook. Oh well. There’s not much he can do about it except go to the bathroom to splash his face with some water.

 

It takes a moment to gather the courage to go upstairs - to face Cas and the kids. He’s preparing himself for that. He knows he’ll have Sam in his corner and that his brother will probably be watching him like a hawk after last night. His dad will be up there too.

 

Shit. His dad has to know now. About this universe’s version of him being with Cas. How the hell is he supposed to explain that? Is he supposed to? He could pretend that he didn’t know what had been going on through this version of Dean’s head when he married a guy. It’s technically not a lie. He doesn’t know how this Dean and Cas met or fell in love. He doesn’t know how they told his family or came to the conclusion that adopting four daughters was a great idea.

 

He should bring up Jensen Ackles. That guy had been nothing like him and hadn’t even shared his name.

 

But his plans on how to throw his dad off of his trail are all but forgotten when he follows the noise of conversation into the dining room and forgets how to breathe.

 

Everyone’s there. Bobby, Jody, Alex, Ellen, Jo, Kevin, Linda, Max, Alicia, Garth, Bess, Ash, Rufus, Missouri, Denise-

 

“Hey, bitch.”

 

Dean feels a fist punch his shoulder and he turns his head.

 

“Charlie,” he breathes out, eyes wide.

 

Charlie stares at him with a strange mixture of joy and pain, her eyes shiny with tears.

 

“Hey, I know you’re not my Dean, but can you do me a solid and call me-”

 

“Jerk,” Dean finishes.

 

Charlie bites her lip and impulsively throws her arms around Dean’s neck, “Thanks.”

 

“Don’t be gettin’ all attached, kid. Or I’ll give you the same speech I gave Cas,” Bobby grumbles, taking a bite out of his stack of pancakes before turning to Dean, “You neither.”

 

“Come on,” Charlie insists, ignoring Bobby and pulling on Dean’s arm, “I saved you a spot and even nabbed nice Sam. The girls are over there. They adore me, of course. But if you feel overwhelmed, just let me know and I’ll cover for you so you can make a run for it.”

 

Dean lets himself be led to a seat between Charlie and Sam and takes comfort in their company. He doesn’t have to worry about facing his dad right now. He’s near the other end of the table in a deep discussion with Mary. The older man does send a kind smile to him and seems to look over to check on him every once in awhile but other than that, neither of them feel the need to go towards the other for immediate conversation.

 

The girls are a different story.

 

It takes him a moment to recognize Magda. Her hair is cut and styled into a short, chin length bob and she’s more well-kept. She still seems quiet but at least she’s happier. She looks nervous around him yet hopeful. It makes him wonder how the Magda in his universe is doing. He hopes she’s being loved and cared for.

 

“What do you do for a job?” Lina asks, wiggling in her seat as she tucks her hair behind her ears, seemingly over the crisis she had just hours before, “My daddy worked on cars. Made sure they flew right and stuff.”

 

Yeah, this version of Dean was obviously out of his mind.

 

“Well, I don’t do that,” Dean answers before leaning in, “We don’t even have flying cars.”

 

Lina lets out a shocked laugh, “Then how do you get around?”

 

Dean clears his throat and puts his napkin down, “You see, there are these things called wheels. They roll around on roads and get you from one place to the next.”

 

Lina has a dumbfounded look on her face, “That’s like the olden days. It must take you forever to get anywhere. You probably spend lots of time drivin’ around.”

 

Dean snorts at that, “Sweetheart, you have no idea.”

 

“I want to be a princess!” Nora exclaims, grinning wide only to show two spaces where her two front teeth should be, “I bet Dean’s a princess!”

 

Dean ignores Sam’s belly laugh at the words and gasps playfully, “How did you guess? Sam, she guessed my job right.”

 

Lina giggles at that, shaking her head, “Boys can’t be princesses. That’s against the law.”

 

“Not from where I’m from,” Dean shrugs, “Ask Sam. He’ll tell you.”

 

Sam wipes the smile off his face and nods seriously, “It’s true, he is.”

 

“And he’s jealous,” Dean continues.

 

“It’s true,” Sam adds dramatically, staring off into the distance, “I am.”

 

Dean actually lets himself smile while the two girls laugh way too hard for the moment to call for, only to catch a glimpse of Cas out of the corner of his eye.

 

He’s smiling too. And when Dean faces Cas fully to get a better look at the man, he wishes that the smile didn’t look so damn sad.

------------------------------------------------------------

“What do you mean we are supposed to sit here and wait?”

 

Dean watches the other Sam closely as the man presses a few squares on a hologram screen.

 

“I’ve sent the pictures out to all of the areas in my district and ordered for their capture alive,” the other Sam answers, “The droids and cameras will find them faster than either of you will be able to. And no offense, but I don’t need the two people I captured to be caught running around just hours later. The fact that you don’t know the first thing about the transportation here isn’t exactly going to help you.”

 

“So what the hell are we supposed to do?” Dean asks.

 

The other Sam shrugs, then stands up, “Sit here and wait. Like I said. Watch a damn movie. I’m not really concerned unless you’re defying orders or causing people to get hurt, whichever way you want to take that.”

 

He doesn’t even know what fake Sam means by that, at least not until an hour later when his father excuses himself from the rec room and he watches Mary’s expression fall into a subtle form of devastation. The meaning of the warning really starts to make sense when he finds himself staring at Cas, whether they’re a few feet away from each other or on opposite sides of the room. When Claire comes back from work early that afternoon, she gives both of them a look of trepidation before greeting Kevin with a chaste kiss.

 

How is that even a thing? And why does he feel relieved, agitated, protective, happy, and sad about it all at once?

 

He spends about an hour focusing on the girls, feeling way too much affection for them than he should. And he can tell it is worrying Sam, with the way his brother is sending him concerned glances every so often whenever Nora asks to be turned upside down or Lina starts asking him endless questions that he answers with more patience than he ever knew he had.

 

He needs to pull away. For his own sake. For theirs. Maybe within a week they won’t think of the guy who stopped in who looked exactly like their Dad. Or maybe Nora will cry and Lina will hurt herself because they feel abandoned. It’s the first time in a while he’s genuinely and truly hoped that he’s forgettable and not worth missing.

 

When he sees faded scars that look like bite marks on Lina’s wrist when her sleeve rides up, he gently directs them over to Mary, who has had her eyes on them as much as she’s had them on his dad. He doesn’t know how Cas knows that his mood has changed. But he never really knew how his Cas had known that either. Still, it makes less sense that this Cas knows. Yet for only the third time that day, he quietly approaches him to say something.

 

“Want to help me with dinner?” Cas asks him, standing behind Dean’s spot on the couch.

 

Even though Cas is subtle in his approach, Dean feels multiple sets of eyes land on them as the room starts to gradually quiet down. It had happened the last time he and Cas had briefly spoken as well. And while he wants to be around every single one of these people, he wants to be around Cas more.

 

“Yeah, that sounds good,” he ends up answering, his voice rough.

 

He keeps his eyes on the back of Cas’s head and ignores all of the eyes following them as they leave the room.

 

They stand at the counter, side by side, and work together seamlessly. They don’t need to use many words at first, opting to focus on getting dinner in the oven. Dean doesn’t know how the silence can make him anxious and put him at ease all at once, but it does. Maybe because it’s Cas. Things tended to not make sense yet make perfect sense around him, all at once.

 

“Tell me about yourself.”

 

Dean turns his head at the words in surprise and finds Cas at the fridge grabbing two beers, taking the caps off the bottles with a bottle opener built into the door. Cas walks over to him, hands him one of the beers, sits down at the kitchen table, and nudges the chair next to him out with his foot in invitation.

 

“I don’t even know where to start,” Dean admits, accepting the seat before taking a swig of beer. He glances at the label. Velocity Ale.

 

“It was your…” Cas stops, before holding up a hand, “It was his favorite. There’s never been a beer with higher alcohol content.”

 

Dean smirks, “No wonder he liked it so much.”

 

Cas looks down at the label and bites his lip, “You’re so much like him.”

 

Dean doesn’t know what to say to that, not really. It’s not the first time he’s heard it from one of the versions of Cas, so you’d think he’d come up with a response by now.

 

“You’re…” Dean starts, then clears his throat, “There’s some pretty big differences between you and the Cas I knew.”

 

Cas smirks a little, “Yeah, I could tell by the clothes he was wearing in the pictures your brother showed me.”

 

Dean shakes his head, “Don’t knock the trench coat.”

 

“If it makes you feel better,” Cas answers, setting the bottle on the table, “I think you, your brother, and father all look ridiculous in the clothes you wear.”

 

“Well…” Dean huffs, a little defensive, “I think you look even more ridiculous. So there.”

 

“I’m hurt,” Cas murmurs, the corner of his mouth turned upwards.

 

A moment of comfortable silence passes between them. A smarter, more introspective man might not even break it until he had to.

 

“How long were you with him?” Dean blurts out, slightly strangled.

 

“...Thirteen years,” Cas answers, “He was 22, just finishing up his Bachelor’s in Aero and Automotive Engineering. I was 26, three years into getting my PhD in Anthropology and teaching a couple of courses on the side.”

 

Dean smirks, “So, what? I went and took one of your classes, then hooked up with the professor to up my grades?”

 

Cas rolls his eyes, “No. We didn’t even meet on campus. You got a job under Bobby’s repair and restoration company at the beginning of your last semester. Bobby raised me from fourteen onwards, so I tend to give him my business when I need it. You fixed my car and hit on me pretty blatantly. You were too gorgeous to say no.”

 

Dean feels himself blush at the words, like a damn school girl, before he clears his throat, “Gotta say, making a move on a customer while on the job sounds a lot more like me than getting a degree. In fact, it’s probably the only thing I can truly relate to when it comes to what I’ve seen so far.”

 

“...Can’t relate to being a dad?” Cas asks hesitantly.

 

Dean shrugs and looks away, “Nah. I don’t have kids. Not really, anyway.”

 

“Huh.”

 

“What? You not surprised?” Dean asks.

 

“It’s actually the opposite,” Cas counters, “You’re a natural.”

 

Dean shifts in his seat at that, “What made you want to adopt four girls anyway? Sounds exhausting.”

 

Cas laughs at that, “Oh, trust me. It is. We didn’t plan it at all. The girls entered our lives due to tragedy, horror, and circumstance. But the love I have for them is all encompassing.”

 

Dean clears his throat, “There’s not a Lina or Nora in my world. Or there might be, but I don’t know them. I’m close with Claire. Met Magda. My brother and I rescued her this past year. She was being held and abused in a basement by her mother because the bitch thought her kid was the devil.”

 

Cas sighs sadly, “I was hoping her story would be different. The same thing happened to her here. She came to live with us seven years ago. She ended up in a youth crisis shelter and was just seen as another traumatized cult kid. I have a friend who is a social worker for the district. He called and asked if we might be interested in taking her due to my own experience and because we took in Claire.”

 

“...What happened to Claire?” Dean asks, stomach sinking.

 

Cas gets a pained look on his face, “My old commune, the one my brother and his wife lived on long after I left it, was under investigation. The head of that commune smooth talked the residents into killing themselves after poisoning their children. James and Amelia had enough sense to run and hide Claire before they were killed for abandoning their ‘moral duties and obligations.’ But Claire - god, she wasn’t even five yet - managed to stay hidden for three days. She was dehydrated and malnourished by the time she was found by the authorities. I was called due to being her next of kin, hadn’t known she existed until then. I hadn’t seen or spoken with my brother in over fifteen years at that point. He was my identical twin. When Claire saw me, she kept reaching out to me, calling for her papa. Couldn’t really turn her away at that point. You…Dean was so supportive. Took right to her. We had been together going on two years. John thought Dean was rushing into things, but…”

 

Cas trails off and shrugs.

 

“How did John take,” Dean starts before gesturing back and forth between the two of them, “You know…”

 

Cas squints in confusion and tilts his head, “What do you mean?”

 

“The whole guy thing,” Dean elaborates.

 

“Oh,” Cas answers, “He didn’t mind.”

 

Dean’s eyes widen, “He didn’t try to talk me…Dean out of it? Didn’t think it was gross or fucked up?”

 

“...No?” Cas answers, still confused, “The only thing he worried about was you wanting a family someday. He figured you could get that easier with someone who possessed a womb. Other than that, it was fine. He came to our wedding. He loved our daughter and would have loved Magda, Lina, and Nora if he had lived to meet them. What’s the issue? Does this John not approve of you being attracted to men?”

 

“He’d have to know in order to not approve,” Dean snorts.

 

Cas looks taken aback by the words, “What’s there to know? Some men like women, some like men, and some like both.”

 

As Dean gauges Cas’s reaction, he has to wonder by the genuine confusion on the man’s face if homophobia is even a thing here.

 

“I’m sorry if this comes off as rude, but it seems a little disturbing that you’d keep your significant other a secret from him for so long,” Cas bites out, sounding offended.

 

“Uh,” Dean starts, before letting out a short, but uncontrolled laugh and looking away, “Until a few days ago, my dad had been dead for close to 12 years. Can’t really tell a dead guy much of anything. Not that there was much to tell. Cas and I weren’t a couple.”

 

When Dean turns his head to look back at Cas, he could swear the man looks almost sick.

 

“You alrigh-”

 

“I told you so much about myself,” Cas interrupts, “And you’re lying to do what, exactly? Hurt me?”

 

“No,” Dean insists, a little too forcefully, “No, Cas. When you asked me to tell you about myself earlier? I wasn’t lying when I told you I wouldn’t know where to start. My life’s fucked up, man. The people I care about drop like flies left and right but sometimes they come back. It’s not normal for everyone, but it is for me and Sam, especially this past year.”

 

“And who’s bringing them back?” Cas scoffs disbelievingly, “God?”

 

“Once in awhile,” Dean admits, “God’s a thing in my world. Not just in the Bible or alive in peoples’ hearts or whatever shit pastors spew, but he’s real. He’s sort of a deadbeat. And maybe an alcoholic. He won’t do shit now. Tried getting him to bring back Cas again. Tried praying to his damn sister to see if she could do me a solid. Nothing.”

 

Cas shakes his head and stands up from the table, “I’m not listening to this nonsense.”

 

Dean jumps up and grabs onto Cas’s arm, “Do you think I don’t know how insane and unbelievable my own life is? I’m the first one who realizes that! My life has fucked me over in more ways than I can even begin to count and every time I come close to achieving something like peace or love, I start losing people all over again or I’m fuckin’ sabotaging it myself. My life is a shitshow, Cas, and I suck at living it. I could do without the flying cars and robots, which are pretty nonsensical too, by the way. I definitely could do without the devil himself as the Supreme Leader or whatever you called him. But what you have here? A family and almost every person I ever gave a damn about under one roof? To have...fuck, to have you and not be afraid to go after you and what I want? I’m-”

 

“I don’t have Dean,” Cas stops him, staring at the hand on his arm, “Not anymore.”

 

“...I know you don’t,” Dean answers softly, “And I know that’s painful. I lost Cas not even three months ago. There are still days where I can’t get out of bed or I drink until I black out. There are still days where I shut myself up in my room or drive out to the middle of nowhere because I don’t want to worry Sam with how much I can’t handle everything. I feel like I’m going to fall off a damn cliff, like I'm lost without him.”

 

Dean ends his unplanned admission on an urgent note before running his palm over his face. He shouldn’t put this on Cas. He knows it’s affecting this man; he can see that effect plainly written on the other man’s face. But Cas’s expression starts to twist with frustration and anger before Dean can even try to comfort him.

 

“But you weren’t with him,” Cas hisses, pulling his arm away only to grip onto Dean’s shirt, “You didn’t build a life and family with him. You didn’t make love to him or slow dance with him in the middle of the night after the girls went to bed. You didn’t vow to love him for the rest of your life. And when his father was executed? Did you hold him while he cried? How about when his five-year-old daughter had finally, after living with us for several months, wanted to confide in us about being beaten, molested, and raped by several men for as long as she could remember and felt so guilty because someone had hurt her one-year-old sister? Were you there to try to soothe his rage and devastation following Lina’s words when you were barely holding it together yourself? Did you experience the indescribable pain that they caused, even though you both already knew about her history and the physical and psychological consequences that stemmed from it? Did you create safety plans and take your children to therapy together and try to provide a safe environment for them in a cruel world? Did you-”

 

Castiel stops to suck in a shaky breath and wipes at his eyes, “Because I did those things. For him and with him. And he provided the same support, commitment, and love. We knew each other inside out. And now he’s gone. So what about you, Dean? Did you make sacrifices and show him how much you were willing to give and love your Cas while he was around?”

 

“No,” Dean chokes out, trying to step away as he grips his short hair in his hands, sick to his stomach, “I...Our relationship was a lot different. Other than Sam, I didn’t know anyone better and fuck, he knew me better than I did most of the time. He built me from the ground up when he first came into my life. He deserved better than what I gave him. I tried to give him a fucking mixtape to tell him how I felt. Don’t know what was going through my head but it went right over his. I...I shouldn’t have tried to compare my pain to yours. I guess I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I’m sorry.”

 

Cas stays silent and it takes Dean a couple minutes to gather the nerve to look him in the eye again. When he does, he sees that Cas’s glare has softened into a gaze filled with tenderness and pity. Gently, Cas moves his hands from Dean’s chest to cradle his face. Dean lets him.

 

“You misunderstand me,” Cas murmurs, “Although, I can understand why.”

 

Dean waits as Cas takes a steadying breath.

 

“I don’t think your pain is lesser than mine. It’s a lot fresher, it’s so potent that it radiates off of you, and it sounds like it’s filled with a lot of what ifs and regrets. I would never dismiss your pain.”

 

Cas pauses to ponder his next words, “But I envy you. I envy that you don’t have to experience losing your husband and the father of your children. Because while I cherish every single moment I spent with Dean, there are times that I wish I never met him at all. Not knowing him may deprive me of the best moments of my life, but it would also take away the worst ones as well. It’s a conflicting desire but it has the power to consume me. Sort of like…”

 

Cas trails off but continues to stare right into Dean’s eyes, his line of vision only flickering once towards Dean’s lips.

 

“Sort of like what?” Dean presses, his voice strained.

 

“Sort of like my desire to either throw you out of my house or into my bed,” Cas confides, almost guiltily, “Fucked up, isn’t it?”

 

“No. But I’m not the best judge of fuck ups,” Dean murmurs, unconsciously moving closer until they can feel each other’s breath. Cas is the one who ends up closing the distance, capturing Dean’s lips in a kiss. Dean’s breath hitches in need at the contact before letting out a soft moan once Cas backs him up a few steps until his lower back hits the counter. He follows Cas’s lead but kisses him back with just as much passion because he doesn’t want this to stop. Ever. And he knows it’s not his Cas. He does. This Cas is much easier to separate from his Cas than the one he spent a week with. But that doesn’t make this Cas less desirable. It doesn’t keep him from possessing the same strength and innate sense of doing what’s right that made Dean fall for his Cas to begin with. It doesn’t keep him from gasping out once Cas starts pressing kisses along his jaw and it certainly doesn’t stop him from starting to get hard when Cas’s hand moves down to palm his cock through his pants.

 

What does snap him out of it is the sound of a man clearing his throat.

 

They both have to force themselves to break away from each other at that point. Dean prepares himself to find his father there. It would be one hell of a way to come out. And if it’s his brother, it might not be quite as bad. But Sam would be awkward as hell and then would proceed to watch him with concerned puppy dog eyes for approximately three years.

 

“I’m...I’m sorry if I interrupted something. This. Whatever this is,” Kevin stammers, taking a step back in surprise.

 

“Don’t tell Claire,” they both say in unison, before giving each other confused glances.

 

“Or anyone else,” Dean adds after a moment.

 

“Uh...Yeah, okay. It’s your guys’ business, I guess,” Kevin answers, somewhat doubtfully, “I just came in to get Claire a drink.”

 

“A non-alcoholic drink,” Dean grunts out, watching Kevin’s hand reach for the fridge door.

 

“Yeah, sure,” Kevin answers, bewildered and not threatened whatsoever, yet reaches for what Dean thinks is a soda anyway.

 

Both Cas and Dean watch Kevin make his way out of the kitchen and don’t respond when the younger man’s eyes flicker back towards them before he leaves the room.

 

“He’s a wonderful young man. Dean would have loved him,” Cas says suddenly, making a point to step a few feet away from Dean as he stares out the window, “Even if he would have pretended not to at first. They’re great together. Kevin makes her very happy.”

 

“My Kevin is dead,” Dean tells him, feeling an old ache in his chest at the thought of the boy, “He was family to me.”

 

Cas looks almost heartbroken at the news before putting on a more stoic expression, “Then you should spend some time with him. And the other people that you’ve lost. It’s not the same, I can tell you that firsthand, but it’s…”

 

Cas trails off, then meets Dean’s eyes.

 

“Go on. I’ll handle the rest of dinner. It’s probably better that we were interrupted anyway.”

-------------------------------------------------------------------

John feels like he hasn’t spoken to his sons all day. Actually, that’s not far off the mark. He spoke with Sam a little. Both Sams, in fact. Mainly about this mission and a little bit about Eileen, but not about much else. As for Dean, he’s been under the impression that his oldest has been avoiding him. And by impression, John means that he and Dean bumped into each other in the hall outside of their rooms and before John could check to see how his son was doing, Dean mumbled out some half assed excuse that he had something to do before he pretty much ran up the stairs.

 

Dean has to know he’s aware of what this Cas’s relationship with the other Dean was. His conversations with his sons have been limited, but John’s been talking to Mary all day. There’s a chance he knows more about this Dean and Cas than Dean does himself, even though John hadn’t missed Dean going to the kitchen with Cas at all. John had felt strange about it at first, knowing that his son in this universe had been happily married to a man. But Mary had spoken about their relationship with a reminiscent and sad fondness, telling him that Cas had been like a third son to her.

 

Mary has shared a lot with him today. Maybe more than his Mary shared about her own life before John entered it. But while she had even told him the heartbreaking details of her Dean’s death, how he had taken Eileen to an ultrasound appointment at the hospital while Sam was out of the area on business, only to fall victim to one of a few political bombings in the district that day, he was met with silence when he asked why she and Cas had a falling out.

 

He has spent a little time with some of the other people in the safe house. Nora has taken a liking to him. It’s surprising to see a child so joyful and hyper despite being a part of a world that can be so cruel. Although John even questioned the cruelty of this world in comparison to theirs. The fact that he, Dean, and Eileen are all dead in this world is upsetting. But according to Sam, many of the people in this house are dead back in their world. In this world, at least Mary gets to live a full life, albeit a tragic one.

 

He can’t stop looking at her. Just seeing her makes him wonder how they would look together if Azazel had never come in and torn apart their lives. He wonders if he would have more streaks of gray and if Mary would have teased him if he got pissed about it. He wonders if they would have grandchildren. Maybe Sam and Eileen would have had a son like he should have in this universe, one that John could teach how to play baseball and take to the movies. He doesn’t know how Dean would meet Cas in a made up world in John’s head that’s untouched by the supernatural, he’s not sure he would want Dean to meet him in that case anyway, but it’s him sitting next to Dean regardless when John wonders how family dinners would go. It’s the girls helping Mary, not when it comes to cooking the food but when it comes to getting the guys to do it instead.

 

It’s stupid and it’s probably harmful to fantasize about it, especially when his badass of a wife is probably fighting for her life in a horrific alternate reality. This Mary understands that she’s his main concern, even if he is curious and upset by what has happened here. Her presence is comforting and will suddenly become overwhelming, making it so John has to leave the room and take some time away from her every so often.

 

That’s what he’s doing when he walks into the kitchen and finds Cas sitting there in the dark.

 

He doesn’t think he has exchanged a word with Cas once, not even before Dean woke up this morning.

 

But Castiel just raises an eyebrow at him, gives him a salute with his beer, and asks, “You want one?”

 

And yeah. After the day he’s had, he sort of does.

 

They don’t say anything at first as they sit together and it isn’t a comfortable silence, for John at least. It’s strange at best. He’s sitting with a man who meant the world to the Dean in this universe and mirrors someone who meant probably just as much to his son as well. And it’s bizarre. It’s bizarre that he probably knows more about this Cas than the one who was so close to his Dean, even though he’s never really spoken to either of them. An opportunity like this should give John the chance to figure out who the Cas in his universe truly was, but he can never be that lucky. He can’t interrogate this man’s true intentions with Dean and figure out why an angel would pal around with a couple of humans when this Cas is so obviously different than the Cas his sons knew.

 

“Nora likes you,” Cas murmurs after taking a swig of beer, “You…John has always fascinated her when she looks at old pictures. Gives Dean a run for his money. Not sure why. When I asked her a while back, she claimed it was because you both had the same colored hair.”

 

“She’s sweet,” John admits, “I think she likes Dean more though. He’s better with kids than I ever was.”

 

Cas smiles softly at that, “Our John wasn’t so bad with them. He adored Claire. Dean was shocked. Wondered if you would have been so easy to manipulate if he and Sam had been girls.”

 

John shrugs and thinks on it, “...No. It would have been the same, maybe worse considering how my wife died. But...I went hard enough on my boys. Too hard on them a lot of the time. Probably made them feel like they had to hide things from me they thought I might not like.”

 

Cas studies him, “Sounds like you’ve been given a second chance, in some unbelievable way I might add. You may want to consider thinking about how you’ll go about it.”

 

John nods and looks out the window by the sink, “How did I...How did John take the news that Dean...that Dean was-”

 

“Into men?” Cas finishes, “Is that what you’re trying to ask? Because it seems to be something that your Dean is worried about you knowing.”

 

John feels his heart lurch at that and says nothing.

 

“He was okay with it,” Cas tells him gently, “I’m sure Mary took it a bit better, but John wasn’t upset with him. Most of us...we don’t get upset about sexuality. I wasn’t the first man Dean had a relationship with. He had a boyfriend in high school and one for a year in college. I think John worried more about Dean being able to have a family. He knew it was important to him and wanted Dean to have that. Why? Do you have a problem with it?”

 

John shrugs and swallows, “Fuck, I don’t know. I never expected it out of him. Wonder how long he’s been hiding it. Things are different back where we’re from. When I was a kid, I had a neighbor who got killed by his classmates for being gay. Another guy I was in the marines with got beat up so bad that they had to send him and the guy he was screwing around with home. I don’t approve of someone getting hurt because of who they love. Never have, never will. But that doesn’t mean I get it.”

 

Cas gives him a sad smile, “No offense, but it’s not really your place to get it, not when you know for sure you’re straight. From one dad to another, it’s your place to be there for him and make sure he’s comfortable with who he is, even if you don’t understand every decision and feeling he has. Besides, there are a lot worse scenarios than Dean being attracted to guys, worse than him having sex with men. Those things won’t hurt him and him finding love with a man isn’t a bad thing. It just is. You could have a son who is so traumatized that he hurts himself on purpose. I can’t begin to get into my daughter’s head sometimes. But I force myself to accept that it’s how she feels she has to handle things and try my best to help her find other ways to cope.”

 

John shakes his head and runs a hand over his face, “That’s where I think you might be wrong. From where I’m standing, he fell for a guy, lost him, and is in so much pain that he is hurting himself. He’s not eating much, he drinks like a fish. He went out the other night and hooked up with a man who was too rough with him, said everything that happened that night is what he wanted. He doesn’t know I know that but I saw him take the guy’s number, saw the damn limp and hickeys on his neck. So in a way, because he loved a man, he is now set on self-destruction. I’m worried about him. Damn it, I don’t know why I’m telling you this.”

 

Cas says nothing as John takes a breath and closes his eyes, “Actually, I do. I’m worried that seeing you again is going to hurt him. That you’re going to send him on a fucking spiral and I won’t be able to get my son back.”

 

Cas purses his lips and lets out an amused huff, “So, what? You came in here to warn me to stay away from your son?”

 

“Can’t see anything forming between you two,” John answers, “And if it does, it lasts till when? Tomorrow night? Maybe the night after if we’re cutting it close? It’s not just him that’s gonna suffer the consequences.”

 

Cas stares at him before tilting his head, “I could say the same thing about you and my mother-in-law.”

 

John shakes his head as a small, sardonic smile forms on his lips, “That’s not even close to what could potentially happen between you and my son. I feel a connection with this Mary, I’ll give you that. But my Mary is out there somewhere. I’m going to get her back. Dean’s lost Cas for good.”

 

“And Mary has lost John for good,” Cas glares, causing John to hold back a wince, “Just because I haven’t spoken to her for a year doesn’t mean I’ve lost even an ounce of love I have for her. If you hurt her, we’ll have an issue.”

 

“The same goes if you hurt my son,” John retorts, standing up to glower down at Cas.

 

Cas crosses his arms and raises his eyes to look up at John, “You know, I never argued this much with John back when he was alive. In fact, I actually rather liked him.”

 

“I don’t care if you like me,” John huffs out.

 

The side of Cas’s mouth turns upwards, “I never said I didn’t like you.”

 

John keeps his eyes on Cas as the man stands at full height. Cas picks up the empty beer bottles, takes them across the room, and sends them up a tube.

 

“Although you are incredibly trying. More so than he was. Maybe if you didn’t come off as so demanding and hardened, Dean might feel more comfortable talking to you about what he’s going through.”

 

Oh, Cas is lucky. All John would need would be a few more beers before he would feel a comment like that might warrant a punch. Hell, he’s tempted to at least shove the other man. But for some reason, he doesn’t. He keeps his hands to himself, bites his tongue, and lets Cas clap him on the shoulder as he tells John to have a good night.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Cas finds himself lying awake in bed that night, so awake to the point where he can’t even keep his eyes shut more than a few seconds.

 

“Bedside table lamp on,” he commands, embracing the soft warm light that fills the corner of the room.

 

It doesn’t make him more tired by any means, but it does make his thoughts a little less stifling. It lets the picture of him and Dean come into view, framed and propped up on the table in its usual position.

 

There’s always a constant ache in Cas’s chest, one that he has frighteningly started to get used to after three years. But on some nights, the ache becomes sharp and painful, making it so he feels like he would do almost anything to have Dean back again.

 

Tonight is one of those nights. And the fucked up part of it all is that Dean’s right downstairs.

 

Castiel lets out a breath before turning onto his side in order to look at the photo. It had been taken a week before Dean died, candidly by Eileen on an old film camera she picked up at an antique shop two areas over. It was a playful moment. Dean stood by his side, arms around him as they both laughed so hard that Cas was almost doubling over because of it.

 

Cas wishes he could remember what had been so funny. He used to remember. He supposes time does that.

 

“I miss you,” he rasps out, still staring at the picture.

 

He doesn’t know why he says it. Dean can’t hear it. Once in awhile, he wishes he still believed in God. In Heaven and being reunited with your loved ones in paradise. He knows better now, has since he was twelve and planned his escape. But when Dean had died, when he went to the morgue to see his husband’s body, he collapsed against the table and prayed, even though he hadn't prayed for a couple decades. Regardless, God never answered because he never existed, not in this world.

 

He stopped praying to God after the funeral - after it sunk in that Dean was really dead. Instead, he prayed to Dean. He still does sometimes. But Dean doesn’t exist either.

 

Or Cas thought he hadn’t.

 

He knows the thoughts he’s having are the signs signaling the start of a long night, filled with grief and longing. It’s nights like these that he usually brings a bottle of liquor back to his room, even though he knows he shouldn’t because he’s a father and he can’t let himself be so selfish.

 

But before he can ponder it, before he can get out of bed, he hears a soft knock on his door. It’s late. 1:15 AM. The time alone causes a ball of anxiety to form in his chest. Other than Lina’s nightmares, the only times he tends to be disturbed in the middle of the night are when they have a new refugee or runner group seeking safety and shelter or, very occasionally, when the authorities stop to do a check. Cas knows the only reason they don’t stop by more often and search more thoroughly is because of Sam and Mary. If he wasn’t their family, he and the family he’s formed here would be dead.

 

The soft knock starts up again and Cas lets out a sigh. Throwing the sheet off of him, he gets up to his feet and crosses the room to open the door, only to find Dean standing there.

 

Dean doesn’t say anything at first, only sucks in and releases a breath when their eyes meet.

 

“Couldn’t sleep,” Dean explains, shrugging helplessly.

 

“Me either,” Cas murmurs.

 

And maybe it’s the way the ache hurts more tonight or because Dean is right there and he wants him so badly, but Dean barely steps into the room before Cas pulls the man in for a kiss, one filled with desire and need. It doesn’t take long to escalate. In between kisses, they quickly help each other out of their clothes and fall into bed. Cas presses kisses down Dean’s body, moving from his lips to his cheek, only to travel down from his jaw to his collarbone to his chest and stomach. He takes Dean’s cock in his mouth, using the same tricks with his tongue that his Dean had loved. This Dean responds in the same manner. Another way they are alike.

 

He doesn’t let Dean come, not when he has lube and condoms in his drawer that haven’t been touched since his brief relationship with Elijah over a year ago. Reaching over, he grabs what he needs and coats his fingers with the lube.

 

“What are we doing?” Dean gasps out, back arching upwards when Cas presses a finger into him.

 

“You do have sex ed in your world, don’t you?” Cas mutters, adding a second finger, “Or porn?”

 

“You know what I mean,” Dean huffs, before letting out a moan when Cas brushes his fingers against his prostate.

 

“I don’t know what we’re doing,” Cas answers, kissing the inside of Dean’s thigh as he slowly thrusts his fingers in and out of the other man, “Probably shattering our own hearts in the scheme of things.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Want to stop?” Cas forces himself to ask.

 

“No,” Dean shakes his head, “No. Just...Just go slow, alright?”

 

“You sore?” Cas asks, concerned, remembering what John told him.

 

Dean shrugs and closes his eyes before answering Cas’s inquiry with a choked voice.

 

“I just want it to last.”

 

Cas bites his lip and nods before pressing his forehead against the man’s leg, “I want that too.”

 

When Cas aligns himself with Dean’s hole and slowly sinks in, they don’t break eye contact once. They rock together in sync, breathing into each other’s mouths as they take their time increasing their speed. Dean looks away first as he grips onto Cas’s shoulders once Cas starts to thrust into him in earnest. Dean lets out a whimper, his arms linking around Cas to hold him tight. He knows Dean’s close; he is too. Despite not wanting this to come to an end, Cas finds himself wrapping a hand around Dean’s cock, stroking it until Dean cries out his release. Cas quickens his pace while Dean runs his hands up and down his back and kisses him until he’s spilling into the condom.

 

“Don’t,” Dean chokes out when Cas is ready to pull out, “Just wait.”

 

Cas lifts his head to stare down at Dean’s emotional expression, then nods before resting his head where Dean’s neck meets his collarbone.

 

They both ignore the other’s tears.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

“Your company go back to his room or did he fall asleep in your bed? Dean always slept like a starfish. Can’t blame you for deciding you were better off trying to sleep on the porch swing.”

 

Cas closes his eyes, trying to gather patience, before letting himself look up at Sam.

 

“What do you want?” Cas asks, “If it is only to scold or mock me, then you can just go back inside. I don’t want to hear it.”

 

Sam shakes his head, “I never pegged you as stupid. Not once, until now.”

 

Cas smiles ruefully, “And in all of the years I knew you and considered you my brother, I never once pegged you as cruel. Guess we were both wrong.”

 

Sam frowns, “Believe it or not, I actually give a shit about you, Castiel. This...you sleeping with him...It’s only going to hurt you.”

 

“I know.”

 

“And it’s going to hurt him.”

 

“I know.”

 

Sam lets out a sigh and runs a hand through his hair, “Why don’t you...you know, date or something? And not sleep with an alternate version of my brother. What happened with Elijah? You were with him when we last spoke. He loved the girls. Why did you screw that up?”

 

Cas shakes his head, “Elijah is a good man. Better than a broken man like me deserves.”

 

“Come on,” Sam says, in a surprisingly soft tone, “Don’t talk like that. You deserve to move on with a good person. Dean would want you to find someone and be happy.”

 

“And Eileen would want you to be happy,” Cas counters, “She would want you to find love and peace. Tell me, Sam. Have you found either? Because it certainly looks like you haven’t.”

 

Cas watches Sam closely as the man clenches his jaw at the sound of his wife’s name. He braces himself for Sam to lose his temper, to punch him or throw something or attempt to drink his pain away.

 

But instead, Sam just gives him a sad smile.

 

“I don’t think I’m going to live long enough to see love or peace.”

 

Cas hasn’t seen or spoken to his brother-in-law for a year. He couldn’t stand the thought of him or of Mary by proxy for months after their big fight. But that never made Cas hate them. He could never hate two people he had loved for so long and that love never went away. Sam had lived with him and Dean the two years following Jess’s death, had encouraged him to ask Dean to marry him. Sam had been his brother, his friend. Having a fight that severed their relationship had caused him a great amount of pain.

 

So hearing those words with a tone of such finality knocks the breath out of him.

 

“Sam, what are you saying?” Cas asks, trying to force himself to stay calm.

 

Sam looks down at the floor of the porch, as if he can’t bring himself to meet Cas’s eyes, and quietly says:

 

“Lucifer accepted a meeting with me. I’m flying out to the Capital to see him on Monday.”

 

Cas feels his hands shake at the words, “...No. I won’t let you.”

 

Sam shrugs, “This was the plan ever since the bombing, Cas. Work my way up the ranks until I was worthy enough to meet with him privately. You knew that.”

 

“I thought you had forgotten,” Cas rasps out, “You became so cruel and cold.”

 

Sam nods, “It helped move things along.”

 

“Sam,” Cas starts, swallowing around the lump in his throat, “Sam, even if you manage to kill Lucifer, you won’t make it far. His droids or men will kill you before we’re left in a state of anarchy.”

 

“I know they will,” Sam agrees, sitting down next to Cas, “The chances of me escaping are slim to none. It’s not something I’m optimistic about or planning. Take care of Mom, alright? Make sure she’s safe.”

 

Cas can’t answer Sam, doesn’t trust his voice yet. All he can do is bite his lip and try not to scream over the inevitability of losing the man who has been more of a brother to him than Jimmy had been.

 

“Cas…” Sam begins, leaning his head down to prop his chin up, “I’m sorry I asked you to do it. That I asked you to sacrifice yourself like that. I don’t know what I was thinking. I know that Lucifer was your childhood friend.”

 

Cas shakes his head, “My refusal to seek out a meeting with him wasn’t because he and I used to be friends or because we shared a past. I want him dead as much as you do.”

 

Cas sucks in a breath that sounds more like a sob, “It’s because I’m a father. I can’t abandon my children, not with Dean gone, even if it’s for the greater good. It would destroy them. You have to understand.”

 

Sam squeezes his eyes shut, “Do I? I was never a father, Cas. I never got the chance to be one.”

 

Cas lifts his hand to rub Sam’s back, “I know, Sam. It still breaks my heart that you never got to meet your son.”

 

Sam lets out a sound, possibly one of the saddest sounds Cas has ever heard.

 

“That cult stuff, the shit you had to grow up hearing...some of it isn’t so bad,” Sam chokes out, wringing his hands, “The whole being reunited with the people you love after you die spiel sounds pretty nice. Most of the communes may be delusional, but Cas...do you think there’s a chance they might be onto something there? That they might have gotten one little part right?”

 

“I don’t know,” Cas whispers, “I know I act so sure that nothing happens after we die...but I really don’t know.”

 

“I don’t believe in it,” Sam admits, sniffling, “But I like the sound of it. I like that there’s a possibility I’ll get to hold and kiss Eileen again. That I’ll get to meet our baby. I’ll see my dad too. And Dean. I’ll definitely see Dean if it’s real. If it is, I’ll tell him you and the girls said hi, alright?”

 

Cas’s face crumples as he lets his forehead fall against Sam’s shoulder.

 

“Yeah, Sam. Tell him I said hi.”

Chapter Text

It’s a little after breakfast, while they’re cleaning off plates and Alex is teaching him how to load the futuristic dishwasher, when Sam sees his doppelganger come into the kitchen.

 

“We’ve tracked them down,” the other Sam announces, setting a hologram map device down on the table, “Rachel Bennington and Thomas Meager were found squatting in an abandoned post office about 20 miles away from where the portal dropped you. I’ve procured them and they are being held in an underground holding cell in Area 22. Cole Haynes was found only five miles away from the portal but is refusing to go back home.”

 

“Why the hell does he want to stay here?” Sam asks him, “Hasn’t he witnessed enough of your world in the past month?”

 

Sam really tries to ignore how Dean and Cas stare at each other sadly as the words are said. Tries to tell himself that it’s a coincidence and that Dean has been looking at Cas with longing and desperation ever since they got here. But while that’s true, Sam’s made a point of keeping a close eye on his brother since the older man came out to him and got so emotional early yesterday morning. He knows Dean and Cas have at least spoken alone, if not more.

 

And it’s highly likely they have done more. Sam would think that due to both of their histories and feelings for each other alone. But when Sam’s set on keeping tabs on someone, he can do it, especially when it’s Dean. He had checked on Dean a couple of times last night. Once a little after 11 and Dean had been reading a book neither of them had heard of in their world. Sam had made up an excuse for peeking his head in, said he had a nightmare and just wanted to check on him. That softened Dean just enough so that he didn’t get pissy about him not knocking. The next time Sam checked in on him had been a little after 1 AM. When he opened Dean’s door, he was nowhere to be found. And when he went up to the first floor, he saw his brother walking up the stairs to the second. Sam checked his room a few hours later and Dean still hadn’t come back. He had only seen him again when he went up to the kitchen for breakfast.

 

“Apparently the man Cole is staying with is someone he’s in love with back where you’re from,” the other Sam shrugs, “He told us this version of Justin Marcus is ‘confident in himself and his sexual and romantic preferences.’ Quote, unquote.”

 

“So, what?” Sam glares, “You just accepted that and let him stay? What if he runs into this universe’s version of himself?”

 

“Our version of Cole Haynes is dead,” the other Sam answers, “I checked. It’s probably why Justin is so set on him staying.”

 

“Did you tell him he has a family who is worried about him?” Dean speaks up quietly, “That his Justin back home is fucked up over his disappearance?”

 

“My job isn’t to process or help people empathize with their loved ones,” the other Sam sneers, “Frankly, I don’t care if Cole stays or leaves. He’s holed up with the assistant manager of a department store playing house. He’s not a threat and I really couldn’t care less about him or the family he left behind.”

 

Sam scoffs and shakes his head, “Man, you really are an asshole. Running into you makes me want to get back home as soon as possible.”

 

The other Sam gives him a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes, “Then you talk to him. You, your brother, and John. Remind them of the happiness that your world brings with your shining personalities.”

 

Sam finds himself glaring at the other man but is interrupted by his father, who is just walking back into the kitchen.

 

“We’ll talk to the kid,” John grunts out, “Convince him that he doesn’t belong here and bring him back home. Ready when you are. I sure as hell don’t know how to fly that car. Sam, Dean?”

 

Sam stands at his father’s prompt to follow him out of the room. It’s only when he reaches the doorway that he realizes Dean isn’t behind him.

 

“Dean?” Sam asks cautiously, “You coming?”

 

Dean hesitates at Cas’s side, his mouth in a grim line.

 

“You of all people might be able to get through to him,” Sam continues softly.

 

Dean gives him a strange look at that but unclenches his fists.

 

“Guess we’ll be back later,” Dean mutters.

 

Sam doesn’t miss the way Dean’s hand purposely brushes against Cas’s as Dean follows him out.

 

He keeps an eye on Dean during the ride. Dean’s nervous - Sam’s sure his brother’s phobia of flying will never be resolved, no matter what might be on the man’s mind - but the man’s head does seem to be elsewhere at the same time, leaving Sam at a loss on whether to soothe him or try to get him to open up again. He doubts he’d get much out of Dean though, especially with their father in the front seat of the car.

 

They land outside of a three-floor apartment building. The other Sam reaches into his pocket, Sam had been assuming he was reaching for a lock pick, but no. Not in this universe. The other Sam has a device that melts the lock into a droopy mess.

 

“Justin lives on the second floor,” the other Sam informs them, leading them into the building and up the stairs.

 

The other Sam’s knock is unrelenting, forceful, and demanding. It reminds Sam of John back when he or Dean would take too long in the shower or when Sam would have stand-offs and refuse to leave their temporary residence once it was time to pick up their things and go. It had been one of the smaller qualities that irked Sam when it came to John Winchester, but it had been enough to make it so he tried to be more considerate when requesting to be in someone else’s space.

 

“Oh my god, I heard...” a young man answers as he opens the door before his eyes widen, “What the hell are you doing here? We TOLD you our answer. Cole isn’t hurting anyone by staying here.”

 

The other Sam doesn’t answer Justin, but opts to force the door completely open before making his way inside.

 

“I’ll call the authorities!” Justin threatens, reaching for his pocket, “I swear I will!”

 

“You’re talking to someone who is ranks upon ranks over them,” Sam smirks. “Call them and you’ll be immediately taken into custody. And once they figure out the truth about Cole, I can’t promise he won’t face dismissal.”

 

Justin’s eyes widen as he pales at the threat. Sam’s about to play good cop since he’s relatively sure his doppelganger has no soul, but Dean steps in and beats him to it.

 

“Alright, Harvey Keitel,” Dean grumbles to the other Sam, stepping in front of him to face Justin, “Where’s Cole?”

 

Justin shakes his head as he starts to get frantic, “Like hell I’m letting you have him. Fuck no. Not gonna happen. You authority bitches are what got Cole and his parents killed in the first place and now that I have him back? No. Go fuck yourselves.”

 

Dean holds his hands up, “Alright, I can see why you wouldn’t trust this guy. He’s a messed up and probably crooked asshole. But me, my dad, and the guy that looks almost exactly like him? We’re not involved with this authority crap. We’re not even involved in your universe. We’re here because a portal opened up and the guy you’re now shacking up with stepped through it. His parents are devastated, another version of you is heartbroken and probably trashing their apartment as we speak, and he needs to go back to where he belongs.”

 

Justin’s hands shake, “He’s happy here. He is.”

 

“I’m sure he is,” Dean shrugs, “But there are a lot of people he cares about who are never gonna be the same if he doesn’t come back.”

 

“I don’t-”

 

“Justin?”

 

Their heads turn at the voice. Cole looks at them with trepidation as he walks over to stand beside Justin before placing an arm around the other man’s waist. Making it obvious where he stands, he glares at the other Sam.

 

“I gave you my answer,” Cole tells him firmly, “I’m staying here. I’m not going to cause any harm. I got a job down the street at a convenience store, you can keep tabs on me-”

 

“Let me talk to Cole. Alone.”

 

Sam eyes Dean at the words and he’s not the only one. The way Dean says the words demand respect and acceptance and no one in the room, not even Justin, argues with them.

 

They all wait out in the hall while Dean and Cole talk. Twenty minutes. That’s all it takes for Cole to come out with red rimmed eyes and tell Justin:

 

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. But I have to go home.”

 

Justin tries to convince him for five minutes. When that doesn’t work, they let him and Cole say their goodbyes. That takes close to an hour. None of them are curious as to what’s taking so long. They know.

 

“What did you say to him?” Sam asks quietly while they wait, pulling Dean out of John’s and the other Sam’s earshot.

 

It looks like Dean is trying to smile, but it doesn’t quite work.

 

“Some of the same stuff you’ve told me. About me and Cas. But from a different viewpoint, I guess. Might work for him, even I didn’t take the advice myself.”

 

Sam frowns and puts his hand on Dean’s shoulder in a sympathetic gesture, “You going to be alright after we leave?”

 

Dean swallows, “Probably not.”

 

Sam tightens his grip, “Okay. That’s okay. Thanks for letting me know.”

 

Dean actually huffs out a laugh at that, “No problem?”

 

“Good,” Sam answers, “I’m glad it isn’t a problem. I hope it means that you’re going to actually talk to me when we get back and not hold things in until you give yourself alcohol poisoning or have some sort of meltdown.”

 

Dean looks away from Sam and shuffles his feet.

 

“I don’t know if I can promise that. It… all of this has been really hard on me, Sam. You can’t expect me to change my ways when it comes to dealing with things on top of that.”

 

Sam lets out a sigh, “I know, Dean. I know.”

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Every seat at the table is filled at dinner time. The forced conversation doesn’t do much to fill the wistful and melancholy atmosphere. Everyone knows they’re leaving tonight; even Nora who had run up to him and thrown her arms around his waist as soon as they came back with Cole, crying about how she didn’t want him to leave and that he should stay because he would make her papa happy again.

 

That had hurt.

 

The girl he is truly worried about is Lina. He has caught her digging her nails into her arm multiple times in the past couple hours and now she was picking up her fork to-

 

“Lina,” he says softly from across the table, “Honey, stop.”

 

“Don’t call me that,” she mutters under her breath, but tosses her fork against her plate, causing a loud clatter.

 

“Lina!” Nora whispers to her sister frantically, shrinking down in her seat as she grips onto the table, “Papa will be sad with you if you keep doing stuff like that. You know it.”

 

“I don’t care!” Lina yells, “I don’t care! I don’t care!”

 

The clattering of the fork is nothing compared to the shattering of the plate as it’s thrown to the ground. Several of the adults are up at once. The other Sam rushes to grab onto Lina once the girl starts to bend over to pick up a jagged piece of glass and Dean goes across the table to kick the broken pieces out of her reach, his heart thumping in his chest as he watches Cas run in from the kitchen to take Lina from the other Sam’s grasp.

 

Once Lina and Cas leave the room and Nora stops wailing into Dean’s shirt, the commotion dies down; the one he knows he’s at fault for even though Charlie, Mary, Bobby, and Magda all try to tell him it’s not the first time Lina has tried to take her self-harm a step further.

 

“I just don’t want her to go to the hopsickal again,” Nora confides in him, following him out onto the porch when he needs to take a breather, her small hand gripping his, “Maybe if you stay, if we stay a family, she will be happier and she won’t want to hurt herself no more. That’s a good idea, don’t you think?”

 

Her innocent sense of hope makes him want to cry.

 

“I’m sorry, Nora,” Dean swallows looking down at her, “I...I can’t stay.”

 

Nora juts her lip out, “Why can’t you stay? You like us, don’t you?”

 

Dean sucks in a breath, “I do. I really, really do. Dean...your dad, he was a very lucky guy. I would love to have you as a kid. Your sisters too.”

 

“But you can be our dad,” Nora stresses, jumping once in insistence, “Papa does a really good job. He’s the best papa I know. But sometimes I think he needs help because he’s really sad some of the time. Lots of people are here and they help kind of. Grandpa Bobby, Grandma Ellen, Jo, Uncle Garth, my big sisters, Aunt Jody, Alex. They all are here and I love that, but it’s not the same. I thought that Elijah was gonna be my new daddy. He was very handsome and Papa really liked him and he really liked Papa-”

 

“Woah, stop right there,” Dean interrupts her, holding up a hand, “Who the hell is Elijah?”

 

“Papa’s boyfriend,” Nora shrugs simply, “But not anymore. Papa said he wasn’t ready and that made me really sad. But if you stay, then Papa might be more ready.”

 

Dean lets out a sigh and runs a hand over his face before crouching down to meet her at eye level, “If I didn’t have people back in my world who would be very sad if I never came home, I would stay. If I could bring them all here or take you all with me, I would. But I can’t, Nora. If there was anything I could do to make it work, I would do it. But there’s not. I’m sorry.”

 

Nora’s eyes fill with tears.

 

“But why?” she chokes out, “Why can’t Papa being happy work?”

 

He doesn’t know how to answer Nora, whose heart he’s now shattered. All he can do is give her a hug, pick her up, and carry her back into the house.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“You...You could stay, you know.”

 

Dean breathes out through his nose as he reaches over to grab his shirt and throw it back on. Cas is still naked beside him on the bed, his elbow propped on his pillow to support his head. The sex had been hurried and desperate, neither of them wasting time with foreplay or a slow build up like the night before. Cas has a daughter more or less on suicide watch and Dean’s heading out in less than an hour. It’s stressful and upsetting and both of them needed a quick release.

 

“We could…” Cas starts helplessly, “We could be…”

 

Dean has his back to him, keeping his eyes on the framed picture Cas has on his nightstand. Dean’s not sure he’s ever looked so genuinely and breathlessly happy as this Dean looks here.

 

“Happy?” Dean finishes, scrutinizing the crinkling of his doppelganger’s eyes.

 

“I was going to say a family,” Cas murmurs, tracing a finger down Dean’s spine, “But yes. I think we could be happy too.”

 

“And make breakfast together,” Dean adds, “And watch Claire and Kevin fall even more in love with each other, if that’s possible. Go to Magda’s orchestra recitals and see her get a music scholarship. Enroll Nora in dance classes and Lina in-”

 

“Art classes,” Cas finishes, “She’s a talented artist, a complete natural. I did actually enroll her in an advanced children’s course last year. But she had a setback and art classes have sharp pencils...she had to be admitted to the Children’s Psychiatric Hospital for two weeks.”

 

“Fuck,” Dean rasps out, “Fuck, Cas. I’m sorry for setting her off at dinner.”

 

Dean feels the bed shift behind him as Cas sits up to lay his forehead against Dean’s back and wrap his arms around his middle. Dean lets out a shuddering breath and closes his eyes as he wraps his arms around Cas’s.

 

“It’s not your fault,” Cas tells him, pressing a few kisses against Dean’s shoulder, “She may be upset because you’re leaving, but you also made sure she couldn’t hurt herself tonight. And for that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

 

Dean nods and pats Cas’s hand, both of them breathing deeply together.

 

“I wish I didn’t have to go,” Dean tells him after a moment, “I really wish I didn’t. But Sam, my dad, Claire, Eileen, Alex, Jody, and Jack are there. I still have to find my mom…”

 

Dean trails off, holding onto Cas’s arms tighter.

 

“...I could go with you.”

 

Dean’s breath hitches at the words and he turns in Cas’s embrace to meet his eyes.

 

“You and the girls?”

 

Cas nods but bites his lip in hesitance. Dean’s gaze softens before he brings Cas in for a gentle kiss.

 

“I want that. Fuck, more than anything,” Dean admits, his hand cupping Cas’s neck, “But I can’t ask you to leave everyone behind. I don’t want even want to leave them. I can only imagine how it would be for you. And my Claire might go on a rampage if there was another version of her walking around the bunker.”

 

“And my Claire would probably see your Claire as a threat and become possessive over Kevin,” Cas snorts.

 

“Yeah. They both can be sort of volatile,” Dean agrees, “Fucking Claire. It’s all her fault.”

 

Cas’s eyes become teary but he smiles and shakes his head.

 

“Yep. It all comes down to her. Not the fact that we might possibly cause a universe to implode or something.”

 

Dean closes his eyes before impulsively throwing his arms around Cas’s shoulders, burying his nose into the crook of the other man’s neck to breathe in his scent. Cas lets out a sigh and holds Dean until it’s time for them to go downstairs.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

“You can always come back, you know. Stay with us for good.”

 

John overhears the words from down the hall. At first, he thinks Cas’s words are aimed at Dean and is surprised to see that they’re not. Dean had come down the stairs with Cas just ten minutes ago. His son probably thinks he’s being subtle, and he probably has good reason to think it if he managed to make John think he was straight up until recently. But now that John’s gained some insight, he knows what to look for and can see how Dean’s dynamic and interactions with Cas have shifted in the last day. He kind of wants to punch Cas for getting to his son, probably doing things with him that John really doesn’t want to think about.

 

And if those words had been directed towards Dean, he knows he’d lose his cool with Cas. But they turn out not to be. They’re directed towards the other Sam.

 

“You…” Cas starts, “I know you want revenge. That you want to make things right. But we’re happy here. For the most part. You and Mary can be too.”

 

John watches as the other Sam tries to smile, “I think you should give your pitch to Mom.”

 

“Magda has missed you greatly,” Cas continues, emotion filling his tone, “While Lina connected the most with Dean, Nora with me, and Claire with both of us pretty equally, Magda...Magda always gravitated towards her uncle.”

 

Sam appears saddened by Cas’s words, guilty, and it’s the most genuine John’s seen this Sam look since the boy knocked Dean out with the butt of his rifle.

 

“I spoke with her,” Sam tells him, “Told her how much she meant to me. I think it gave her closure.”

 

“There doesn’t need to be closure,” Cas counters.

 

“Yes, there does,” Sam answers softly.

 

“If...If you do make it out after all of this,” Cas begins, “Know that you have a place here. That you have something other than revenge and justice to live for.”

 

Sam studies Cas for a moment before nodding, “Sure, Cas. I’ll try to remember that.”

 

The overheard conversation leaves a pit in John’s stomach, like how this Mary’s guarded yet pained goodbyes had. He shouldn’t care as much as he does, shouldn’t focus on whatever this Sam has planned that he has to make his way out of. It’s not his Sam and that’s what matters to him.

 

When he goes back to the foyer, he walks in on Dean folding up a piece of paper and putting it in his pocket as Charlie leads Lina back downstairs. If it’s possible to come off as miserable and touched all at once, that’s what his son looks like. Sam’s there and asks Dean what Lina gave him, but he just shakes his head.

 

“Can we go?” Dean prompts, interrupting whatever Sam had been about to say, “Where’s Tony Montana when you need him?”

 

The other Sam, or Tony Montana, makes his presence known then, his expression unreadable as he heads for the door.

 

“You going to let your mother know you’re leaving or are you coming back here after you drop us off?” John has to ask.

 

The other Sam shrugs and looks away.

 

“I have an important meeting to head to in two days. Have to prepare for it elsewhere. She could do with a break by spending time with Cas and the girls.”

 

John nods, “And then you’ll come back?”

 

The only answer he gets from the other Sam is a sad smile.

 

They follow the other Sam out onto the front yard, walking down to the end of the driveway towards the car. Cole and Sam are the most eager to leave. John can only assume Dean talked to Cole about the state Justin is in. As for Sam, he’s sure being away from Eileen when she just came back isn’t easy. And as much as he hates to admit it, his son probably misses Jack as well. But Dean lags behind John, silent with his arms crossed all while he almost drags his feet as if they are weights.

 

“Dean.”

 

The voice comes from the porch and it causes them to stop and turn around. Cas’s silhouette is illuminated by the moonlight and, although it’s too dark to make heads or tails of the man’s expression, John knows he only has eyes for Dean.

 

Dean stands there for a long moment, staring at Cas silently.

 

“Have a safe trip.”

 

Dean nods, letting out a pained gasp that he quickly stifles.

 

“Bye, Cas.”

 

He makes a point of not looking at Dean as he sits next to him on the ride to pick up Rachel and Thomas. His boy seems to have all but forgotten his fear of flying. When he does risk a glance, he sees a couple of tears escape Dean’s eyes, quickly swept away by the heel of a hand, but John seriously doubts it’s from being afraid.

 

The girl is practically hysterical when she’s released from captivity and has most likely been fearing for her life all day, if not all month. She’s relieved to see that Cole is alive, as is Thomas. None of them argue about going back to the portal so that they can go home. The ride to the portal is extremely short, two minutes max. It almost seems like a waste of fuel to fly to a location so close. It’s definitely impractical, in John’s opinion. But he’s not going to voice that. It’s not his world and he’s looking forward to getting back to his own. The sooner they’re home, the sooner they’ll be able to continue their search for their Mary.

 

“That’s it, right?” the other Sam asks, stepping out of the car, “A rip of light hovering in midair?”

 

“Unless you have a lot of those here for show,” John mutters, boots crunching against the gravel.

 

“Well, it’s the first one I’ve seen,” the other Sam drawls, “I’ll leave you to it then.”

 

The other Sam starts to head back to the car alone, shoulders stiff and squared.

 

“Uh, Sam?” Sam speaks up before his lookalike reaches for the driver’s side door.

 

The other Sam pauses, hand frozen on the handle, before turning his head slightly in acknowledgment, “What?”

 

“Thanks for all your help,” Sam answers, “You’re not as big of an asshole as you seem to want to be.”

 

The other Sam shakes his head and seems to see a little humor in Sam’s words before clearing his throat, “You...You take care of Eileen, alright? Watch out for her. Jack too. Don’t lose them.”

 

Sam swallows as he nods, “I’ll protect them with my life.”

 

“Good. That’s good.”

 

With that, the other Sam steps into the car, gives them a quick wave, and starts the engine. They watch the car rise into the air and take off before turning back towards the portal.

 

“Grab onto our hands,” Sam warns, “Usually we end up in the same place, but there have been exceptions. On the count of three.”

 

The journey back through the portal is uneventful. It seems that they’ve arrived in the right place. They’re in the same clearing, their markers for the anchoring spell are there, and-

 

“DAD!”

 

Jack comes running forth from behind a tree and more or less tackles Sam with a bear hug. Sam claps his back and kisses the boy’s hair before putting his hands on Jack’s shoulders to get a look at him.

 

“I hope you didn’t stay here the whole time,” Sam frowns.

 

“I didn’t,” Jack insists, “I mean, yes, I have been here all evening, in case you still didn’t come back by the time the portal was about to close. Other than that, I just came back and checked in every hour except for when I went on a hunt with Eileen yesterday.”

 

“You...you and Eileen-you what?” Sam sputters.

 

“I wore clothes, Dad!” Jack grins, jumping as he holds Sam’s hands, “I did a great job and helped Mrs. Morrison find peace. Eileen even said so.”

 

Sam sighs, “Eileen literally just got back from Hell-”

 

“She needed this, Dad,” Jack interrupts firmly, “She needed to have control and feel victorious. I helped. We had so much fun together. We hunted and searched for portal lore. I zapped us to Lovewell State Park this morning so that we could swim and eat lunch and then we came back to the bunker to play Skip-Bo-”

 

“Jack.”

 

The raspy voice comes from Dean. Dean approaches Jack, face drawn with grief, and lets out a breath.

 

“As much as I’m sure Sam wants to hear about your time with Eileen, he and Dad have to get three people back home before getting on the road.”

 

Jack squints, “What about you, Dean?”

 

“Yeah, Dean,” John growls, “What about you? You better not be thinking about jumping back through that thing tonight. I know there were a lot of people you cared about there, but it’s not your place-”

 

“I’m not going back through the damn portal!” Dean yells out, “I just want to go home! So work your fucking magic, kid. Because if I have to be stuck in the car for nine hours I’m gonna lose it.”

 

Jack pouts, “But I thought the four of us could have a road trip. The Winchester men, bonding on a manly trip across the Midwest.”

 

“Jack, I swear to God-” Dean starts to rage but gets cut off by Sam.

 

“Jack, it’s alright,” Sam tells the kid, “Take him back to the bunker. He needs to be at home right now. You can always pop into the car on our drive back.”

 

Jack nods sadly, “Alright.”

 

Jack walks over to Dean and presses two fingers against his forehead. John can’t help but feel a little disoriented when they both disappear from view.

 

“Why the hell couldn’t he have done that when he brought me back from the dead?” John scoffs.

 

“He lacks insight at times,” Sam shrugs, “He’s young.”

 

It’s then they remember that there are three other people standing in the clearing. When they turn to face them, it’s rather obvious that they don’t know what to make of all this and are more or less in shock. You’d think living in an alternate universe for a month would make it so they wouldn’t bat an eye at teleportation or resurrection. But going by their expressions, that isn’t the case.

 

Dumbasses.

Chapter Text

Eileen turns off the ignition to the pickup truck and hops down from the driver’s seat. After Jack left to wait for Sam, Dean, and John, she lasted less than an hour before the large and endless bunker began to feel small, yet vast; open, but suffocating. Besides going to the lake with Jack and the ghost hunt - which had just consisted of the spirit of an older woman throwing her china to scare her estranged daughter, she had barely been out of the bunker since being resurrected. While she had gotten a small apartment to return to as a home base, she never spent much time in it. She always tended to stay on the move whenever possible. So taking a break for a few days, while probably needed, has been jarring for her. Coming back from the dead can really throw off your week. She's never felt so out of her element and off her game. The hunt had given her a bit of much needed routine and normalcy.

 

The differences in her life so far pre and post death have taken her for a loop. The nightmares, flashbacks, and compulsive and unwanted thoughts of torture and violence are something she will never get used to. The fact that she has spent most of her time with Sam and Jack instead of by herself is a huge difference she would never have expected, but it’s a good difference. They had the power to distract her, make her smile, and bring her comfort.

 

The reason Sam is able to do that is obvious. He’s intelligent and caring. Kind and compassionate.

 

The fact that he’s drop dead gorgeous doesn’t hurt either.

 

And Jack...She can’t lie and say she hadn’t been a bit nervous to be left alone with him when Sam got zapped to Arkansas, knowing it would most likely be a couple days of the two of them alone. It hadn’t been because Jack’s a Nephilim or even the son of Satan. Jack’s powers were actually a reassurance, a reassurance that they’d both most likely be safe. As for his paternal line, that will never be his fault. Jack has made it quite clear who he considers his father anyway. So no, it hadn’t been because of his species or lineage.

 

It had been because he’s a child, for all intents and purposes.

 

And she had never, ever been around a child unless she had to question or rescue one for a case. She hadn’t particularly been treated like a child growing up either. In a way, watching over Jack, if she had actually done that, had been easier than what she imagines watching over the average kid would be like. Jack may be hyper and rambunctious, not to mention occasionally petulant, but he also knows how to take care of himself for the most part. He’s fascinated with cooking, reading, and using his powers to do things like obtain card and board games, heal a nest of baby birds that had fallen from the oak tree down the road, and time travel while she slept in order to get Dean the autographs of famous musicians.

 

“I keep trying to travel back to right before I was born. To save Cas and my mom and grandma. But I can’t. Something’s not letting me. So I went back and got this. A guitar signed by all of the original members of Led Zeppelin. I want to give it to Dean. Do you think he’ll like it? He doesn’t like me much, but I think he might like this.”

 

Hearing those words, words from the most powerful child in existence who desperately wants to do good but can’t quite manage to fix everything he wants to...it had been a little heartbreaking. He doesn’t deserve to feel like he has to carry the whole world on his shoulders, despite his abilities or potential destiny. He deserves to have days that are completely carefree, just like every child should be entitled to.

 

It had been a worry that scraped at her psyche, and she went against that worry when she let him come on the hunt a town over that she found out about. Although, it hadn’t been much of a hunt. She only had to shoot rock salt at the angry spirit once before Jack brought the departed woman comfort, letting her know it was okay to let go and forgive, that it would bring her and the rest of her family peace.

 

And it had.

 

The least Eileen could do was give him the relaxing day he deserved.

 

When Jack started going on about planning to look for ancient relics at the breakfast table, hoping to find something before his dad, grandpa, and Dean came home, she had interrupted him and mentioned she thought they might go to a state park less than an hour away to swim instead. Jack had been confused, said he never had gone swimming before but that Sam had bought him trunks when they went to Walmart a couple months back. She planned on just watching him. Sam had bought her some outfits, ones that would get her by until she could see what happened to her belongings at her old apartment. A bathing suit hadn’t been at the top of the list when it came to necessities.

 

But Jack, once he became almost unbearably excited over the prospect of getting in the water and insisted she would swim as well once they got there, snapped his fingers and made her pajamas turn into a lovely, form fitting one piece.

 

She had packed sandwiches, bottled water, and chips and they surprisingly found beach towels, a couple of rafts, and some lounge chairs to put in the back of Cas’s truck. She hadn’t been expecting that. After her limited interactions with the British Men of Letters, she kind of figured that none of the chapters would know how to relax or have fun. They probably hadn’t even been used, let alone enjoyed. But using their supplies had been fine by her. It made it so they only needed to buy sunscreen at the nearest Family Dollar before making the rest of the drive to the lake.

 

Jack had held onto her at first, nervous as they made their way into the water. But soon, he had splashed and laughed, dunking his head under the water only to not come up for air for several minutes. That had terrified her the first time it happened, even though she should have known better. When he finally came up and she scolded him for scaring her, he apologized profusely and said he got caught up in a deep conversation with a large, 19-year-old Blue Catfish.

 

“He’s seen some things.”

 

They spent the day there - swimming, wading, and floating at the lake before eating their lunch on a large blanket spread out on the grass.

 

“I’ve never had this much fun! The only thing that would make this even better is if my dad was here too.

 

By the time 4 pm rolled around, they were both exhausted. Jack had even slept in the passenger seat while she drove them both back to the bunker. It made her wonder when the last time he slept was. She had rarely seen him rest up until that point. When she asked about it before, he mentioned that he only needed to sleep once in awhile. It still worried her that he wasn’t getting enough. That he may be too stressed or going too hard on himself. So she even sat in the truck for an extra 20 minutes after they arrived, smiling fondly whenever she glanced at the sight of Jack using his towel as a pillow all while wrapping a blanket around his torso. She hated waking him up. He deserved to sleep. Plus, she also knew he would be on his way once he woke up in order to wait for everyone at the portal.

 

She had been almost right about that. Jack had wanted to play Skip-Bo first.

 

But once she was alone? Yes, there had been a brief sigh of relief, a sense of normalcy returning with the solitude. But the feelings of loneliness, claustrophobia, and fear were almost crushing. So she drove.

 

And now she’s back and there’s no sign of them. Not that there would be. Jack had even told her he would probably ride back with them and wouldn’t be home till morning. She feels like she should be grateful to be alone and knows that it's pretty much inevitable that the sense of friends, love, and family won't last for long. She has a tendency to push people - good people - away, knowing that she’ll lose them or get hurt because they end up not being as good as she thought they were.

 

But Jack and Sam are good. Dean and John seem to be as well. So where will that leave them once she hits the point where she wants to break free? Cast to the side and hurt because she can't handle anyone caring about her? She doesn't feel like that now. She wants to embrace the fact that they want to welcome her into their lives. Yet she knows herself well enough to realize that sooner or later, that embrace will turn into the need to run.

 

She can recognize there are some aspects of her that have changed, although she isn't sure if any of it is good. She sleeps less now, either because she is worried about Jack and Sam or because the nightmares don't let her shut her eyes for more than a few hours at a time. And the nightmares...the flashbacks. The thoughts that go through her head that end up making her sick. There has to be something wrong with her, something dark and dreadful lurking inside her head that must appeal to her in some way. It doesn't matter if she had never tortured anyone in Hell, nor does it matter that the thoughts of torturing a Sam shaped Balban make her either throw up or cry. They're still there.

 

And then there are the times she thinks she sees Balban. It’s usually fleeting, out of the corner of her eye late into the night. Tonight's no different. It's just this time, she knows she's the only one in the bunker. So when she sits down on the couch to try to watch something light (Modern Family is the first sitcom that pops up on Netflix, so she settles on that,) she isn’t surprised that she sees him standing in the corner, his face, his true face, obscured by the shadows.

 

“Eileen.”

 

Eileen closes her eyes when she hears the deep, distorted voice. It should be a telling sign that this is all in her head. If Balban were actually here, she wouldn’t be able to hear his voice. Would she? She’s sure she wouldn’t. Even in her head, she has always thought in lip movements, signs, and images, but with Balban it’s different. He’s the only voice she has ever heard past infancy. So if he were here right now, she wouldn’t hear a thing. But Balban was a demon of delusion. He could be tricking her if he actually is here. The bunker’s protected. But from her conversations with Sam, it sounds as though those protections have been compromised several times in the past. When he’s in her head, he usually disappears by this point. Unless he’s never really been in her head. Maybe he has been inching his way into her life topside, bit by bit.

 

“Come with me.”

 

That seems like something he would do.

 

She could go to the weapon room. Get something to kill him for good. He may not have stayed in Hell like Jack intended, but he certainly can’t stay here. Not with other people living here he can hurt.

 

But as soon as she gets up, backing away from him without taking her eyes off of the corner he is standing in, Dean and Jack teleport right in front of her.

 

And Balban is gone.

 

Dean is distraught. Not crying, but frustrated, angry, and genuinely hurting over something. Jack stares after him with worried eyes as Dean storms to the kitchen, comes back with a bottle, then heads towards his room.

 

Jack turns to her with big eyes, “Do you think if I give him the guitar now, it will make him feel better?”

 

Eileen gives Jack a sad look, shakes her head, and wraps her arm around his shoulders.

 

She sits Jack down and gets a quick rundown regarding what’s going on. He doesn’t seem to know too much about it, just that Dean came back upset, despite bringing back the three missing college kids from the alternate universe. As soon as they came back through, he barely got to hug Sam and tell him about their time at the lake before Dean was demanding to be taken home.

 

“Grandpa thought that Dean wanted to go back to the alternate universe,” Jack confides in her, “I felt his fear over it. So Dean must have seen something or someone that made him want to stay like last time. Last time it was Castiel. They were married, but Sam said we aren’t supposed to talk about it unless Dean brings it up. You think that Dean saw him this time too?”

 

“Maybe,” she answers slowly, “I don’t know. I never met Cas, let alone ever saw them interact with each other.”

 

While that’s true, she had seen Dean leave worried voicemails for the angel when she was here before. Most of her focus had been on Sam, but Dean’s consistent and one track worry when it came to Castiel had been rather telling. And it hadn’t been surprising. Dean’s relationship with him had been a topic Sam brought up from time to time when they texted back and forth. When Sam told her how Dean had acted around another angel, possessive and jealous, she even asked if Cas and Dean were together.

 

No. They act like an old married couple
though. And the thought’s crossed my mind
that my brother might not be completely
straight. Don’t tell him I told you that.

 

You would be okay with it if he wasn’t,
right?

 

Of course I would be. Not that he’d
tell me. If he isn’t straight, I wish he would. I
want him to be happy. Maybe I’m wrong. Hell,
if he can face monsters and demons, he
should be able to come to terms with this
without issue.

 

I don’t know. It would be nice if he could,
if that’s the case. Everyone’s different, Sam.

 

“Someone should check on him,” Jack frets, holding onto her arms, “He’s in pain. I can feel it.”

 

“Do you have ways to tune that out?” Eileen asks, concerned, “You shouldn’t have to worry about this.”

 

“Someone has to!” Jack exclaims, pulling at his hair, “If it’s about Cas, then it’s my fault.”

 

“It’s not your fault-”

 

“It is!” Jack interrupts insistently, “I didn’t know what I was doing before I was born. I remember some of it, just enough to know it was about me me me! My mom only thought about me, so I mainly thought about me too! And I tried to think about my mom and Cas, I did! Cas was supposed to be my dad. Even though Sam is my dad and I don’t want anyone else. He loves me and is the best dad in the world. But what Cas tried to do for me counts for something. But I still opened the rift. I think I wanted Lucifer to go through and go away, but I don’t know! I messed everything up! Two people, maybe three or even four, are dead because of me! It’s all because I didn’t worry about other people and because I didn’t know! I-”

 

“Sweetie, you’re rambling,” Eileen soothes as she rubs Jack’s arms, “Here, come here. Shhh…”

 

Jack resists Eileen’s embrace for a moment. But then soon enough, he collapses onto her shoulder. Eileen can feel the boy’s hot tears against her neck, all while his lips move and his voice vibrates against her skin, but she can’t hear what he’s saying. She can guess. The words are probably self-loathing, apologetic. While she can’t imagine exactly how Jack’s mind works, nor can she imagine his circumstances, she can understand gnawing guilt and grief when you feel responsible for taking someone’s life. Hell, she would argue that she’s more responsible for taking a life than Jack is. It’s possible Jack had mainly his own best interests in mind. But he had been a fetus. A literal fetus. How capable is a fetus when it comes to caring for another person? And even if he hadn’t cared before he was born, he cares now, deeply so.

 

“Hey, look at me,” she orders softly, trying to pull away from the embrace, “Jack.”

 

Jack reluctantly takes a step back and wipes at his eyes, sniffling as he pouts like a sad, broken hearted child.

 

But essentially, that’s just what Jack is.

 

“Want to have some ice cream?” she asks, knowing it’s not much, “Ask anyone who is sad. Ice cream helps just a little.”

 

“I f-fail to see why a sweet and frozen dairy product would help with h-human or Nephilim emotions,” Jack gasps out.

 

“Listen, I didn’t make the rules,” Eileen shrugs, before leading him to the kitchen, “And maybe it won’t help much. But it doesn’t hurt to try. Besides, you haven’t eaten since lunch, I bet. So come on.”

 

She doesn’t know whether or not Jack is being genuine or not when he tells her the ice cream helps after all. So she sits in the rocking chair next to his bed and reads to him until he falls asleep. She knows she will have to talk to Sam about this, make sure the man knew how much guilt and responsibility Jack’s been feeling.

 

But first? She should probably check on Dean.

 

As she approaches Dean’s room, she feels a bit weary. Her interactions with the older Winchester brother have been limited. He has always been kind to her, said hi to her if he passed through when Sam would Skype with her. But they never really sat down and exchanged more than a few words without Sam being present. But she figures she should at least offer the man company, let him know she would be willing to talk to him if he needed a listening ear. Okay, maybe not a listening ear. But a decent grasp on the ability to lip read.

 

She knocks on his door softly. For all she knows, he could be telling her to go away. But if that’s the case, he will have to open the door and say it.

 

“Dean?” she calls out, “It’s Eileen. I just wanted to check and see if you’re alright.”

 

Eileen’s not sure if he’s going to open the door at first. She certainly waits longer than it should take for him to do so, to the point where she wonders if she should open the door herself. She doesn’t want to invade his space like that, but it’s been a while and he carried a full bottle of hard liquor up to his room with him. The implications of that worry her. She gets to the point where she has her hand on the doorknob when the door swings open.

 

Dean looks down at her, eyes glazed over and already intoxicated. She sees the words on his lips, the “I’m fine” that’s directed towards her. But he’s so obviously not.

 

“You want to talk about it?”

 

Dean shakes his head and focuses on the wall behind her, not saying a word. Eileen lets out a breath.

 

“Would you like someone to sit with you?” Eileen offers, “To be honest, my night’s been sort of strange. Jack’s asleep and I could do with the company.”

 

Dean hesitates on answering, but she takes it as a yes when he walks back to sit on his bed and keeps his door open. Eileen slowly walks into the room and sits at the desk. Dean isn’t saying a word, just keeping his eyes directed at the floor, his mind a million miles away. She has to wonder if that’s how she looks when she starts getting sucked into her memories of Hell. It’s disconcerting, if so. It forces her to think back to how Sam and Jack pull her out of that mindset.

 

Jack’s method probably wouldn’t be the best when it comes to Dean. It’s direct and frantic and insistent. Dean doesn’t need that right now. Sam tends to be more gentle with his prompts, patient. Not right to the point until she’s feeling more herself.

 

“Jack’s very worried about you,” she tells him softly, “Devastated. He blames himself for all of this.”

 

Dean blinks in response, before letting out a sigh, “It’s not his fault. Even though I feel like it is sometimes.”

 

Eileen breathes in, “He...He wanted to come and be here for you. Said that someone needed to be here for you because he felt your pain. Sometimes it does help to talk about it a bit.”

 

Dean shrugs his shoulders, “Not much to say.”

 

Eileen bites her lip, “Liar.”

 

Dean looks almost surprised at her response, “Excuse me?”

 

Eileen scoots the chair a little closer and gives him a soft smile, “Believe me, I know when someone is holding back. I’m not the most sharing and caring person either. It’s easier to pry teeth out of my mouth than any meaningful or vulnerable emotions.”

 

Dean forces a smirk at that and takes a swig from his bottle, “A girl after my own heart.”

 

She thinks about easing him into that topic, asking him whether or not he’s ever had someone he could open up around who could see past his bullshit.

 

But like she said, she’s not a fan of the sharing and caring either, even when she wants to try.

 

So all she does is pluck the bottle from Dean’s hands, toss back a drink, and hand it back to him.

 

“I feel like our union would be emotionally counterproductive.”

 

Dean snorts at that, “Yeah. You seem like you’re into giants anyway.”

 

She thinks about saying something about how she’s not angelic enough for Dean to handle, but she doesn’t. All she does is smile and say, “Yeah. I don’t date anyone under 6’4’’. It’s nothing personal.”

----------------------------------------------------------------

Sam yawns as they drive away from Eureka Springs and get on the main road. His dad’s driving, insistent on doing so. He could see the way the older man’s skin pulled tight across his knuckles wrapped around the wheel. John Winchester is nervous and upset. Everyone got dropped off uneventfully enough. Well, Cole and Justin had a huge romantic reunion where Justin pretty much proclaimed his love to him on the spot and told him he didn’t care who knew. But that was about it.

 

So his dad is probably worried about Mom. Not surprising, considering how he got his hopes up before jumping through the portal. And Sam knows he’s worried about Dean too. Hell, Sam is. Dad hadn’t even been here when Sam dragged Dean back a few weeks ago, when the grieving process basically reset and made Dean go back to square one for a bit. He imagines it won’t be all that different this time.

 

Shit.

 

Before he can think about it too much, his phone dings in his pocket. Shifting in the seat, he digs it out and dims the light on the screen before opening the text from Eileen.

 

Hey. Just wanted to tell you to have
a safe trip and that Jack’s asleep for now.
I’m worried about both him and Dean.
I don’t mean to stress you out about it,
but I figured you should know they’re both
upset. :(

 

Sam frowns and breathes out through his nose, then starts typing.

 

I know why Dean’s upset. He saw Cas
and got close to him. He’s not going to
be pleasant to be around for a while. You
should probably know that.

 

Yeah, kind of got that. I sat and talked
with him for awhile. We kept it light and
he was acting as okay as he could be
until he couldn’t keep up the act anymore
and gently kicked me out of his room.

 

Sam doesn’t even know he’s glaring at the phone screen until his father clears his throat.

 

“What are you glaring about? What did that phone ever do to you?”

 

Sam rolls his eyes, “Nothing.”

 

His dad huffs, “Yeah, right. Tell Eileen I said hi.”

 

Sam gives him a look, “What makes you think I’m even talking to her?”

 

John shakes his head, “Because you smiled when you took your phone out of your pocket and you look jealous over something that’s probably absolutely nothing.”

 

Sam grumbles at that, “Well, maybe if you kept your eyes on the road, you wouldn’t focus on every single expression my face makes.”

 

John grins at that, even though it doesn’t quite meet his eyes, “It’s all about being aware of your surroundings, Sammy. Don’t have to look at you much at all.”

 

“Whatever,” Sam huffs, before typing out his next message.

 

Best thing is to just keep an eye on
him. I hate that you’re having to deal
with this right now. You shouldn’t have
to. If it becomes too much, wake up Jack
and you and I can switch places or
something.

 

Eileen responds to his message almost immediately.

 

I want Jack to sleep. He doesn’t
need to be rushing back and forth.
He needs a break.

 

Sam is taken by surprise when he reads the commanding text as a ball of nerves start to form in his stomach.

 

What’s going on with Jack? Is he
picking up on Dean’s grief and stress?
He doesn’t handle strong emotions
that well and becomes overwhelmed.

 

He has to wait longer for Eileen’s next response, which doesn’t help the nerves subside whatsoever, but it does eventually come.

 

It’s partly that and I think that’s mainly
what caused him to have his breakdown
earlier. But it’s been building up. He
feels so responsible over everything.
He thinks everything is his fault. Things
that happened before he was even born.
I bet he could find a way to pin the Lindbergh
baby on himself. I don’t think he’s as happy
go lucky as he comes off a lot of the time.

 

The nerves he felt waiting for Eileen’s response are nothing compared to what he feels now. He’s biting on his cheek and trying to keep his breathing steady. Damn it, all he wants is to be back at the bunker with Jack. He wants to ask Eileen to wake his kid up so that Jack can zap him back, but Eileen’s putting Jack first. Knowing that she’s doing that makes him feel immense relief, affection, and guilt all at once.

 

Shit. Okay. I know he puts a lot of
responsibility on himself. I just figured
that was him. His angel side focusing
on the job. I’ve never really taken care
of someone before. I’m not off to a good
start, am I?

 

Sam doesn’t even want to look at the next text. He leans his head back and blinks his eyes a few times because they’re starting to feel wet. He’s a shitty dad. Hell, he’s not even a dad at all. He’s a subpar stand-in, and that’s saying something since he’s standing in for the fucking devil. The thing is, he knows that Jack’s been putting too much pressure on himself. That he feels responsible to make everything right, even when it comes to the things he can’t. Sam tried to talk to him about it, but he never pushed Jack hard enough to really get to the bottom of everything, never tried to change his approach of being occasionally stern, but mostly supportive.

 

He doesn’t deserve Jack. If Jack was just a regular kid, Sam would like to think he’d try to get him to a regular family, one that would be able to properly raise him.

 

“What’s wrong now?”

 

Sam closes his eyes at his father’s words, “Nothing.”

 

“Is it Dean?” his dad asks, anxiety lacing his tone.

 

“No,” Sam informs him, “It’s not Dean. He’s...well, he’s not fine. But hopefully he’ll get there eventually.”

 

“Then what the hell’s bothering you?”

 

Sam lets out a groan, wishing he wasn’t stuck in the Impala with his father, “It’s Jack. I’m worried that he’s stressing out and pushing himself too hard. Eileen is too, told me he was a mess because he felt responsible over Dean losing Cas.”

 

Sam glances out from the corner of his eye and sees his father clench his jaw, “I’m sure he’s fine.”

 

“He’s only a few months old and he has to deal with all of...this,” Sam finally settles on, “I’m 34 and I know I’m not fine. How the hell could he be?”

 

Before his father can answer, his phone pings again and Sam actually has to find the courage to look at the text.

 

You’re wonderful with him. You give
him a lot more affection and love than
a lot of kids who grow up in the life get.
I’m sorry. I’m just worried about him and
how he reacted. I didn’t mean to come off
as critical. There’s nothing to be critical
about. I know it’s not actually my place to
make decisions on how to raise Jack.

 

It could be.

 

Sam’s finger hovers over Send but he erases the message before it goes through.

 

You’re right though. And I thank you
so much for being there for him.
Really. Thank you.

 

It could be. What the hell had he been thinking by almost sending that? She literally came back from the dead not even a week ago. There’s no way he's going to put that kind of decision on her. He’s not even sure she feels anything past friendship for him anymore. They had talked a lot after she got back, held each other on the couch. But she probably had a lot on her mind after literally going through Hell. And he fucking left her for a few days. He should have sat this one out, stayed at the bunker so that he could hunt with her or go with her and Jack to the lake.

 

While the thought of staying with her, hunting with her, and spending time with her and Jack brings him hope, he knows that not coming along to Eureka Springs to go through the portal wouldn’t have been an option. When it came to their part in getting those kids home, it had been pretty easy and uneventful. But he had been the most level headed, had been able to talk sense into the other Sam. Got Dean to actually admit that he had feelings for Cas and come out to him as bisexual.

 

Even though he had figured as much, since he has eyes and all, he never truly expected for Dean to admit that he was into men, let alone put a label on his sexuality. That has to mean that Dean has known for a while and has most likely analyzed himself enough to come to that conclusion. And Sam knows that leaving can’t have been easy for Dean, leaving a Cas whom a deceased version of Dean had been married to. Leaving a family and a society that was pretty shitty in some ways but didn’t seem to judge same sex couples whatsoever. If Sam had been in Dean’s position, if he was attracted to men and struggled to be open about it in this universe only to visit a place where another version of himself had been confident and happy, he’d probably want to stick around too.

 

But that hadn’t been the case for Sam. The Sam in that universe was miserable. There was no Jack, no Eileen, no baby, no Dad, and no Dean. Sam had wanted to leave the first day, but stuck around to do what needed to be done: get those kids back.

 

And, probably just as importantly, keep his brother in check.

 

You having trouble sleeping? It’s the
middle of the night.

 

He sends the message to Eileen as soon as he sees she’s read his last one. The ellipsis bubble pops up soon after it’s delivered.

 

That’s pretty much the norm now.

 

Sam bites his lip and thinks about asking about the nightmares. But Eileen’s not really a talker when it comes to feeling vulnerable. She kind of reminds him of Dean when it comes to that. Whenever he tries to get past general information, she usually reflects the focus onto him or Jack.

 

I feel you there. Dad’s driving, but
I can’t get a wink in. Time’s going
so slowly. Wish there was a way to
pass the time.

 

Sam grabs his bottle of water and takes a drink as he’s waiting for her answer. He should have swallowed before opening her text.

 

Sam, are you propositioning me? ;)

 

He bursts out in shocked laughter, which causes the water to spill from his mouth and into his lap.

 

“Hey, watch it!” his dad orders, slapping him on the shoulder, “You damn goof! Worse than your brother…”

 

“Sorry,” Sam chokes out, covering his eyes in embarrassment, trying not to laugh.

 

“What’s got you so giggly? Your moods are all over the place, boy.”

 

“...Nothing,” Sam decides to answer. Explaining to his dad that Eileen had just jokingly insinuated that they sext to pass the time isn’t something he wants to try.

 

“Nothing,” the older man scoffs, “Third time you said that. Makes you sound like a teenager.”

 

Sam just shrugs and sends Eileen the kissing emoji before wiping off his chin.

 

-------------------------------------------------------------

They get back by 8 am, pulling into the car park in Dean’s usual spot for the Impala. Sam grabs their bags and leads the way to the main part of the bunker. They find Eileen and Jack in the kitchen and John quietly tells Sam he is going to go find Dean before heading down the hall.

 

If Jack’s still upset, he’s not showing it as he chatters away while he cooks, surprisingly wearing boxers.

 

“Dad!” he exclaims, running over to give Sam a hug, “You’re back and I’m so happy.”

 

“Are you?” Sam has to ask, “You’re definitely happy?”

 

Jack nods, eyes bright, “Yes, Dad. I’m always happy when we get to spend time together. And you’re here just in time. I’m making omelets. What would you like on yours?”

 

“I don’t know, Jack,” Sam sighs, letting go of the kid to make his way towards Eileen, “I’m awfully tired. Didn’t sleep much on the way back.”

 

“Eileen didn’t sleep much either,” Jack tells him, “She was going back and forth throughout the night, checking on me and Dean, all maternal and whatnot. I was asleep but I could still sense her. It was quite comforting.”

 

“Yeah?” Sam asks, knowing how fond he must look when he looks down at her.

 

“Only because someone can’t take a hint,” she smirks, taking a sip of juice.

 

Jesus Christ, she’s trying to kill him.

 

“Uh, I’m uh-” Sam starts but breaks off laughing, “Well, for one, my dad was sitting right there.”

 

“He would have heard nothing,” Eileen winks.

 

“No, but he might have seen something,” Sam mutters.

 

“You’re probably right,” Eileen sighs theatrically, “It would have made a horrible impression.”

 

He’s missed this Eileen. The playful and snarky Eileen that always made him smile from ear to ear late into the night. He understood why she had mostly disappeared, but it’s great to see her back. So he bends down to give her a hug and a kiss against her cheekbone, one that lasts just a little longer than the two pecks he has given her since she came back, one that he hopes tells her there’s no pressure but that he’s interested.

 

“Dad, I would like for you to eat before you go rest,” Jack tells him firmly, “Breakfast is the most important part of the day, even if this might be more like dinner for you. So I’m thinking spinach, diced tomatoes, mushrooms and a sprinkle of mozzarella on our omelets. When Dean wakes up and Grandpa comes down, they can choose for themselves.”

 

Sam smiles a little at Jack, then shrugs before sitting down next to Eileen, “Alright, Jack. You’ve convinced me. I’ll eat.”

 

Jack beams and continues to mix the eggs.

 

How’s he been?” Sam mouths, touching Eileen’s shoulder so she’ll look at him.

 

Eileen signs the word ‘Fine’ then elaborates by muttering under her breath, “No issues since last night.”

 

“Good. If he’s not burying everything and putting on a façade,” Sam whispers back.

 

“I can hear everything you’re saying, you know.”

 

It’s Jack’s voice that says the words. His back is still turned to them, so he knows Eileen hadn’t heard the words, but Sam winces at Jack’s acknowledgment and that gives Eileen a hint.

 

“We’re just worried about you, buddy,” Sam says to him as Jack loads their breakfasts onto three colorful plates.

 

“I’m fine,” Jack insists, suddenly zapping himself into the seat across from them, “I know I was upset last night. It was a moment of weakness and I apologize for piling that onto you, Eileen. It was shameful of me to make you listen to my guilty conscience.”

 

“Jack…” Eileen starts, brow furrowed as she reaches across the table, “Jack, no. You’re...You’re a kid, sweetheart. I wasn’t upset that you told me those things. I’m glad you trusted me enough to tell me what was going on in that head of yours. I’m just upset that you’re so stressed out and sad. I hate that you’re feeling that way. You’re a good person and don’t deserve to feel the weight of the whole world on your shoulders.”

 

“But...But that’s what’s expected of me,” Jack confides, “My mom, she kept me because I was her son, but she loved me because she had faith I would save the world and make it a better place. How can I do that if I can’t even make the people in my own family happy?”

 

“...You make me happy,” Sam answers, clearing the lump in his throat, “You do. You’ve kept me smiling even when it felt like so many other things were falling apart.”

 

“Falling apart because of me,” Jack stresses, “You wouldn’t have lost so many people if it weren’t for me.”

 

“Cas dying wasn’t because of you,” Sam shakes his head, “You aren’t responsible for Lucifer’s actions. Mom deciding to push him through the portal and fall through with him isn’t on you either. As for your mom, she made the decision to give birth to you. Dean even told me that Cas said you saved her life when she tried to hurt herself and you weren’t even born yet.”

 

“I was probably only thinking about myself,” Jack grits out.

 

“Well, you do anything but that now,” Sam answers, “And what you do now counts for a whole lot more than what you did before you were even born. We can play the blame game until we’re blue in the face. I’ve done it too many times to count over the years. But I know you. You’re good and you don’t need to be hard on yourself. I care about you too much to see you take the responsibility for things that aren’t your fault.”

 

Jack’s lower lip quivers as he looks down at his omelet, “You might care, but no one else does. Most people would think I’m better off dead.”

 

Sam’s heart lurches at that and he opens his mouth to deny the claim, but Eileen speaks up before he gets the chance to.

 

“I care too,” Eileen tells him softly, holding onto Jack’s hand tighter, “I care a lot about you. You rescued me from a really horrible place and felt pity for the demons down there, when all I could feel was hate. You brought me here, made me laugh, cooked me meals, checked on me when I had nightmares, spent the day with me yesterday and made it wonderful. I think you’re one of the best people I’ve ever met.”

 

Sam swallows and reaches for Eileen’s other hand underneath the table, lacing his fingers with hers as soon as she says the words. He doesn’t think he’s ever felt as much tenderness for a woman than he does right here in this moment.

 

Jack shoots her a watery smile and sniffles once, “...You really mean that?”

 

Eileen smiles in return, “I do. I really do.”

 

They sit there together, eat, keep their focus on Jack, and it makes Sam wonder if this is what he wanted for so long growing up.

 

He can’t blame his younger self, if so. It feels pretty nice, like they’re a family.

----------------------------------------------------

Eileen bites her cheek when she still feels Sam’s fingers interlaced with hers as he walks her to her room. He hasn’t let go since she spoke to Jack. Usually, she would shake a guy off by this point, once she sensed they were developing feelings past lust for her. But Sam’s different, different from every man she has ever hooked up with. She finds herself enjoying the feel of his fingers against hers, the warmth and comfort it brings. She risks a glance up at him in order to figure out how he’s feeling about everything.

 

He looks content, almost hopeful.

 

He definitely looks a lot better than John Winchester does when he comes out of Dean’s room.

 

”How is Dean?”

 

Sam signs the words and Eileen appreciates it, since they are side by side and it’s not easy to read lips unless you are facing the person.

 

John doesn’t have to sign, not really, since he’s in front of them, but he does as he speaks to Sam anyway. She appreciates that too.

 

“Not well. Wasted and hungover all at once. I asked him if this was about Cas, told him that I knew and that it was okay,” John breaks off with a breath, “He was slurring at me so bad that I doubt he’ll even remember I was in there. He just told me to fuck off. Asshole…”

 

“Do you want to take shifts checking on him?” she asks him, “You didn’t sleep much either, did you?”

 

John opens his mouth to speak, but suddenly his gaze travels down to her and Sam’s linked hands.

 

“...Nah. I got it. He’s my boy. I’ll take care of him,” John shrugs, forcing a smile, “You kids go get some rest...or whatever.”

 

“Whatever?” Eileen repeats as soon as John is out of sight, “What is he, a teenager?”

 

Sam smiles at that but leads her down the hall without a word.

 

“So…” Sam starts in front of her door, “Goodnight. Or morning.”

 

“Or whatever,” Eileen adds, smirking.

 

“I should head to my room.”

 

“You could. It’s pretty far though. Three whole rooms over.”

 

Sam grins and she takes pride in the blush that forms on his cheeks, “Who knows if I’ll make it?”

 

“Exhaustion can be a bitch. You probably won’t. You’re practically dead on your feet. Guess you’ll have to sleep outside of my door.”

 

“Yea-wait, what?”

 

Eileen lets out a laugh, “Come in, Sam.”

 

Eileen is already in her pajamas but Sam isn’t, so he undresses down to his boxers and t-shirt and settles in next to her. They don’t touch each other at first, their arms barely brushing as they lie side by side. She wonders how loudly she’s breathing, if it’s giving away her nerves or if her banter and snark from before still have Sam under the assumption that she’s fine. He’s not trying anything, not hinting that he’s wanting to get intimate. But she feels like a tease anyway, like she’s deceiving him.

 

“Sam?” she whispers out, turning onto her side to face him.

 

Sam rolls over to meet her eyes. They’re close, their faces only half a foot apart at best. The bed isn’t a California King, but considering her more recent memories of them, she’s grateful for that.

 

“I’m not handling things that well. I know you’ve noticed some things, but it’s...Sam, it’s bad.”

 

Sam eyes become tender as he nods, reaching over to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, “I know.”

 

“I’m trying,” she answers, “Trying to get over everything. But it’s hard.”

 

Sam lets out a breath, “Eileen, it’s only been a few days. And Hell...it isn’t something you just get over. You’ll see things and hear things and dream things that you’ll never want to see again and it sucks-”

 

“Really great at the comforting there, Sam,” Eileen snorts.

 

“Listen to me,” he insists, cupping her cheek, “It sucks, but then you start coping. You start to overcome it and realize that surviving something so awful without your soul coming out twisted and tainted makes you stronger, not weak and damaged. So take your time, Eileen. Do what you need to do, yell when you need to yell, and tell us to fuck off when you want us to fuck off.”

 

Eileen tries to smile at that, but her eyes are wet - Sam’s thumb is too when he reaches over to catch a tear that barely falls from her eye. It probably comes off as more of a grimace than anything.

 

“And I won’t scare you away?” she chokes out.

 

Sam shakes his head and gives her a sad smile, “Never.”

 

Before she knows it, she’s leaning over and kissing him, holding onto his face as she tries to put every ounce of gratefulness and affection into it. But Sam might have her beat. He pulls her closer into the kiss, cradling her head with his hands as they both melt into each other.

 

Even though they have a multitude of stressors occurring in both of their lives, they don’t feel them in that moment.

Chapter Text

John only makes it to the entrance of the kitchen before immediately turning around to head to Dean’s room. He figures Sam will want to talk to Eileen anyway, considering he stayed up over half the night texting her, going back and forth from concern to grinning like a fool. He’s glad Sam has her, someone his youngest son can turn to, love, and find comfort in. Dean probably feels he doesn't have that at all. And yeah, maybe he doesn't have a boyfriend or a partner or whatever Dean would call a significant other, but he has a family and it's important he remembers that.

 

He wanders through the halls before arriving at his son’s bedroom door. He raises his fist, knocking three times, only to get no answer out of the man. He gives Dean one more chance and knocks again.

 

“Dean, are you in there? Open the damn door!”

 

John pounds on the motel room door, not caring if he wakes anyone up. The curtains to the room are closed, so John can't see into it, but there's a light on - which means Dean’s in there and not asleep. He tries the knob one more time but nothing. He thinks about picking the lock but he knows his son, taught him himself. Dean will have the chain latched and it will just take up more time that John would rather not spend.

 

If only the clerk hadn't been a complete dick and had just given him the spare key.

 

Dean could have left the light on, could have spent the night with a woman a few rooms over, but something in John’s gut tells him that's not the case. The way Dean sounded on the voicemail -a voicemail John stupidly hadn't opened until three days later - had been too sad, lonely, and desperate for his liking.

 

Hey...Hey, Dad. I, um...I really need someone to t-talk to right now. D-Don’t have anybody else. I know you are going through some stuff because of Sam and all and we haven't seen much of each other for a while...but I really need you. Uh, I'm not doing so well. I mean, I'm fine. But if you aren't too far a-away and could take some time to meet up with me, it would mean a lot. I'm at 5124 Rider Avenue in Linthicum Heights, Maryland. It’s a Motel 6. Number’s 410-557-9076. Dad, please. I can’t be alo-”

 

John ended up kicking the door down that night. God, had it been fifteen years since that happened? If he had found Dean any later…

 

He had been almost cruel to Dean when he had found him in the bathroom, mainly out of his own fear. He definitely didn't handle any of it the right way. By the time he had been ready to be caring and listen to his son, Dean wouldn't even talk to him about why he had been drunk, high, bruised up, and clutching onto a gun all while staring at it with a terrifying amount of intensity on the bathroom floor. Dean had just told him the bruises were from a someone he beat in too many games of pool and chalked up what happened in the bathroom to being fucked up on pills that he never had and never would take again. So John had too. Dean had gotten back to his old self within a couple of days, despite being a little subdued. John still kept a closer eye on him, made Dean stick by his side for several months, but it was never brought up after that. And there had been no need.

 

He has to put his kid first now. No matter how ugly things might get.

 

But John would still kick down this damn door if it ends up being locked.

 

Luckily, it's not. He probably has Eileen to thank for that. The knob turns easily and there are no obstructions that keep the door from opening all the way.

 

He sees Dean huddled in a ball on the bed, one hand off the side with a near empty bottle of rum dangling from his fingers. John lets out a sad sigh and steps into the room. He plucks the bottle from Dean’s fingertips and sets it on the bedside table. He wants to let the boy sleep, would have ended up letting him, actually.

 

But then he sees the vomit on the pillow. It's not much, but it's there.

 

“Dean!” He prompts urgently, shaking his son’s shoulder, “Dean, wake up!”

 

It takes a couple of tries to get Dean to stir, John even manages to turn Dean’s head, pry open his jaw with his fingers, and check Dean’s airways, which seem clear. It's only a few seconds after he pulls his fingers out of the kid’s mouth before Dean starts swinging out of nowhere.

 

“Dean,” John growls, catching Dean’s fists, “Jesus Christ, would you stop it?”

 

“Gin ount of my ‘oom,” Dean slurs out, “Sh...fter.”

 

“You’re drunk out of your goddamn mind!” John groans, pushing his son back onto the bed. It ends up not being the greatest idea since Dean has a knife under his pillow, but John wrestles it out of Dean’s grasp before it does any damage to either of them.

 

“It's Dad! Now stand down!” John orders.

 

Dean stares in John’s general direction with glassy, unfocused, yet defiant eyes. John lets out a breath when he feels Dean’s body relax a little. He keeps his grip on Dean’s wrists but lightens up on the pressure.

 

“How much did you drink?”

 

Dean shrugs his shoulders, “Not ‘nuff.”

 

John scoffs, “I beg to fucking differ.”

 

Dean looks away, eyes heavy. John slowly lets go of Dean’s arms to run a hand through his son’s short hair.

 

“Is this about Cas?” John forces himself to ask.

 

Dean doesn't answer, doesn't even flinch or change his expression. John isn't sure Dean even took in and comprehended what he just asked. Biting his cheek, he sits on the edge of the bed, still keeping a hand on Dean.

 

“Look…” John starts, “I know about the two of you. How you feel about him. And...son, it's okay with me. That you’re gay. I’m not upset or nothin’. I'm worried about you though. How you’re handling his death. Feels like I'm looking into a mirror, but it's worse because it's you having to go through all of this. Dean? You listening to me?”

 

“...Ungh,” Dean groans, running a hand over his face, “Doonde, fuck off.”

 

Dean slaps John’s hand away, turns on his side, and is snoring within seconds.

------------------------------------------------------------

“...Nah. I got it. He’s my boy. I’ll take care of him,” John shrugs, forcing a smile, “You kids go get some rest...or whatever.”

 

It kind of kills him to say it. The prospect of taking care of Dean when he’s like this is so out of his element. Don’t get him wrong, he had cared for Dean while the boy was drunk in the past, picked him up from a few bars, even one or two high school parties when they stuck around a place long enough to feign some normalcy, dealt with him after finding him fifteen years ago. But this is different. Dean’s heavy drinking seems too repetitive at this point. Dean’s never been a lightweight, so John’s never seen him this incoherent. Yet it’s definitely not something Sam seems surprised by.

 

All the more reason his younger son shouldn’t deal with it this time around. He probably has been dealing with Dean’s drinking for years and has seen it worsen from social drinking to alcoholism to this. Sam deserves a break from dealing with the fallout of Cas’s death. John’s resolve on that had strengthened when he saw Sam’s hands entwined with Eileen’s. He could tell that his son’s falling hard and fast for the girl. Good for him. Maybe at least one of the Winchester men could be happy in this mess of a situation.

 

After parting ways with Sam and Eileen, he goes down and gets the laptop from the library as well as a few books to take up to Dean’s room. If Dean’s going to be out for the count most of the day, if not longer, then he may as well multitask in a way that lets him keep a constant watch on his son as well as get some research in. So he sets up the desk beside Dean’s bed, giving his sleeping son a few glances before beginning to search.

 

Alternate Universes

 

Portals to other worlds

 

Mirror worlds

 

Angel Mythology

 

Alternate Universe theories

 

Quilted Multiverse

 

Quantum Multiverse

 

Cyclic Multiverse

 

My dead wife fell through a portal with the devil and I don’t know how to get her back.

 

How to travel to the darkest corner of Hell

 

My son has been in a cage in Hell for years and I don’t know how to get him back either.

 

His last three searches strangely get him nowhere.

 

John lets out a groan and presses the heels of his hands against his eyes. He takes a look at the alarm clock. Two hours. That’s how long he’s been doing research that is starting to feel more and more pointless.

 

He hears a whine from the lump on the bed before he can feel sorrier for himself. Turning his head, he sees Dean shift in his spot, trying to get up, only to lie back down again.

 

“Dean?” he softly calls out, standing up to walk to the other side of the room, “What’s the matter?”

 

His son’s looking around blearily, still out of it and John’s not sure if that’s because of the alcohol or because he's half asleep. John lets out a sigh and puts a hand on the boy’s cheek in an attempt to ground or at least comfort him.

 

Either way, it doesn’t seem to work. Dean’s eyes fill with tears right before they spill over.

 

“Alright,” John murmurs, sitting next to the younger man to rub his back, “You’re going to get through this, okay?”

 

Dean jaggedly breathes in a few times but doesn’t answer him, opting to wipe his face on his sleeve before reaching for the bottle on the nightstand.

 

“No,” John commands sternly, beating him to the bottle in order to place it further out of Dean’s reach, “We’re not doing this, Dean. You’re just gonna make yourself sick. If you’re so damn thirsty, I’ll get you some water.”

 

Dean doesn’t answer him, so John’s not sure if his son heard what the deal is going to be. But Dean is glaring at the bottle, as if he’s mad at it for moving - or maybe because it can’t fix all of Dean’s problems. Whatever the case may be, John picks it up before heading to the kitchen sink to pour some water into a cup.

 

He pours the rest of the bottle down the drain right after.

 

When he’s back at Dean’s side, he props his son’s head up to get him to take a few sips and receives a shake of the head when he asks Dean if he needs to use the bathroom. John hopes that means Dean is starting to become a little more aware and a little less drunk. The kid’s still sniffling though. It breaks John’s heart. So instead of sitting at the desk, he sits on the other side of the bed, propping up his back with the pillows and headboard, then begins researching once more.

 

Parallel Dimensions

 

Quantum Physics and dimensions

 

Higher states of consciousness ‘dimensions’

 

Gay son is depressed

 

homosexuality and depression

 

homosexuality and alcoholism

 

bereavement and alcoholism

 

What is GaL-AA?

 

Grief therapy for gay men

 

‘Gay men’ ‘families’ ‘support’ ‘Lebanon, KS’

 

He doesn’t mean for the focus of his research to shift, but it does. At least these answers provide him with more solid resources, except for that last one. There’s nothing near them, which is disappointing. Even as he’s nodding off and his eyes are trying to close, he’s still typing.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Dean feels like his brain is about to burst through his skull.

 

He doesn’t want to open his eyes and is afraid that even a sliver of light will cause him immense pain. But he feels someone in bed with him, someone’s arm around his shoulder, which is not normal, so he forces himself to turn his head up and look.

 

At first it’s jarring, seeing his father snoozing in the bed next to him. It takes him a second to remember that his dad isn’t dead anymore, sure. But even after overcoming that fact, he hasn’t shared a bed with his dad since he had night terrors after Mom died. He would insistently crawl into his old man’s bed, shaking and clinging onto him as the man tried to convince him that he needed to learn how to sleep on his own. His father would eventually give in, probably because he felt sorry for his fucked up kid, and would cradle him against his chest, practically like a damn baby.

 

And while that’s not exactly what is happening now, it’s not that far from the mark. Dean’s cheek is pressed against the man’s stomach and his arm is thrown over his thighs, which means Dean probably initiated this touchy feely crap and isn’t that fucking embarrassing? He wonders if he can detangle himself from his dad without waking him up. He starts to shift, ducking his head and gently lifting the older man’s arm to shimmy down the bed. Something hard hits his legs and it turns out to be Sam’s old laptop, open and had probably been propped on his father’s knees. He sits up and immediately has to fight swirling nausea, breathing in and out through his nose while he does so as he puts his thumb and forefinger on the bridge of his nose. As soon as that dies down and he can focus, he feels his heart stutter when his eyes land on the screen.

 

Yeah, maybe he has to vomit after all.

 

He scrambles out of the bed, but not before closing the laptop lid in the process.

 

He coughs up the liquor that had been sloshing around in his belly, shuddering at the retching and awful taste the action leaves him with. He reaches up to flush and rests his head on the seat of the commode. He doesn’t even have it in him to be disgusted - exhaustion and feeling so sick beats that out. He just takes a little bit of toilet paper, wipes his mouth, and crumples it up before throwing it into the pot.

 

“Here.”

 

His father’s voice precedes the hand that comes in front of him, holding out a cup for him to drink out of.

 

“Take small sips. I can run down to the kitchen to get you some ginger ale and saltines, but it’s important you stay hydrated.”

 

Dean can’t look at his dad, not yet, but with his mouth feeling fuzzy and parched, he is able to take the cup from him and take small sips like his father asks.

 

“You good to stand up or do you need another minute?”

 

Dean doesn’t say anything, but figures standing up on his shaky legs is enough of an answer. He feels his father’s hand on his elbow, as if Dean’s a geriatric man who needs assistance to get back and forth. Hell, maybe he is. He doesn’t have it in him to try to break free and get back to bed himself so he just puts up with it.

 

His dad disappears for a moment, giving Dean time to get situated and figure out how he was going to not think about the shit his father had been looking up or what had happened to make Dean want or at least accept a hug during his blackout.

 

Trying not to think about it only makes it worse, but luckily that process is interrupted by his door opening. His dad lets himself in and sets the ginger ale and saltines on the bedside table. Despite the fact that Dean’s stomach is still churning and he knows that the soda and crackers will probably help, he doesn’t touch them. He doesn’t want to put anything in his mouth right now.

 

“Thanks,” Dean mutters anyway, then turns over to face the other wall so that he doesn’t have to look at his dad and figure out what he knows.

 

He’s expecting the man to just leave, to see that Dean can manage now and he doesn’t have to babysit him anymore. But that doesn’t happen. John comes over and sits back on the bed. Dean’s bed. Where no one should fucking be but him.

 

“Now that you’re a little bit more yourself, I thought you might want to talk.”

 

Dean doesn’t meet John’s eyes, closes his own in order to truly avoid it, “I don’t. I’m fine, Dad. Really.”

 

John lets out a breath, “Son, you’re not. I’ve never seen you like this. Not even...Not even when I found you in Maryland fifteen years ago.”

 

Dean feels his mind halt at the words. His body tenses up and he almost feels like he’s not allowed to breathe. He doesn’t like to think of that night, that whole month, in fact. Hasn’t let himself for more than a fleeting second in a long time.

 

He’s surprised his father still remembers it. He knows the old man hadn’t been happy finding him like that.

 

“You don’t have to talk about it, not if you don’t want to,” John tells him, surprisingly understanding, “I dropped the ball by not handling that situation right. I’d like to know what really happened back then, but I’m not going to dredge up the past and make you feel worse when your plate’s full already. But I just gotta know...is it that bad? Do I have to worry about you thinking that way again?”

 

Dean is silent at first, focusing on his breathing rather than the past or Cas or his father or mother or his whole damn life.

 

“You asking me if I want to kill myself again?”

 

He hears his father’s breath hitch. When Dean dares to open his eyes, he sees that his dad has his head turned away and his fists are clenched against the sheets, bundling them into a wrinkled mess that will bug Dean until he’s feeling up to changing them. He figures that his dad will drop the subject, considering how much one question is affecting him. But he doesn’t. Dean watches him swipe a hand across his eyes and sniffle.

 

“Yeah, son. That’s what I’m asking you. Because you’re scaring the hell out of me.”

 

Dean clenches his jaw but clears his throat, “Look, things are bad for me right now. More than you know. But I felt like...I felt like I had no one back then, and a couple of horrible things went down. Stuff I’m never gonna talk about with anyone, not when so much time has passed. I called Sam and he had disconnected his phone, called you and you didn’t call back. So I got fucked up on alcohol and some pills, kept that up for a few days, then got it into my head that I should just end it because what was the point of living after the fucking month I just had? I-”

 

“Jesus Christ, Dean. I’m so sorry,” his father moans, “What happened to you back then? Why-”

 

“It was a long time ago,” Dean interrupts, closing up again. There was no point in upsetting either of them further, not with shit so far in the past.

 

“It doesn’t matter when it was,” John insists, “You...You have a problem, Dean. A real one that’s being fueled by all the crap you are bottling up. I’m at a loss on how to make it better-”

 

“Just don’t go disappearing on me.”

 

The words come out of Dean’s mouth unbidden, but they’re enough to silence his father’s prodding long enough for Dean to continue.

 

“Like I said, I felt like I had no one back then. I was young and stupid. And yeah, I’ve lost a lot of people, and those losses are worse than what I went through fifteen years ago. But I still have Sam, Jody, the girls, Jack, Eileen, and you. No matter how fucked up I may get, I’m not gonna think about ditching everyone just to get a shot at Heaven. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Besides, I’m not sure I’d get in anyway.”

 

“If they think you’re not good enough for them, then fuck ‘em.”

 

Dean lets out a snort, “You act like they’re a high school clique or something. Tell me, Dad. On Wednesdays, do they wear pink?”

 

His father turns around at that, brow furrowed and head tilted in confusion.

 

Dean laughs, laughs until he fucking cries, because he must live in the most fucked up universe out there if John Winchester reminds him of his dead best friend.

 

Dean pushes his father’s hands away when the man reaches for him, but his movements are sloppy and he’s not successful in his attempts. His dad’s getting him up to sitting position and pulling him into his chest before he can do much else about it, before he starts practically rocking him and rubbing his back in an attempt to calm him down. Dean can’t hear what the older man is saying, can’t focus for long enough to do so. He finds himself leaning into the comfort, which he hates himself for, and clutching onto his father’s arm for dear life.

--------------------------------------------------------

Sam and Eileen don’t come downstairs until around 6, despite waking up at 4. They had taken their time with each other, never moving past kissing and touching, but it had been the most intimacy Sam had felt in a long time. He hasn’t felt this rested in a while either. The presence of Eileen beside him had been comforting, to say the least. He couldn’t remember the last time he shared his bed with a woman he truly cared about. Amelia? That had been almost five years ago.

 

His damn life.

 

But this time feels different. Eileen’s a hunter, someone who knows the life. Someone who knows Hell, as much as Sam hates that she does. He’s trying not to be too optimistic and hopeful. He knows she’s been on her own for a while, has some issues with letting people get too close, and has barely begun to come to terms with everything that happened to her in Hell.

 

But he has realized that he’s willing to wait for her, for however long it takes. She’s worth that.

 

Jack greets them enthusiastically, eyes shining with excitement as he hugs them both twice each. It’s a little extra, but it’s adorable and he knows that Jack is probably excited because he senses certain feelings or pheromones or whatever the kid’s able to detect. The enthusiasm is relatively short lived. The boy grows a little more serious as he sits Eileen down and stares up at Sam.

 

“Grandpa’s very worried and upset about Dean,” Jack whispers, “He’s in the kitchen making dinner now, but I have studied his posture and his thoughts. He’s scared and tired. I tried to get him to confide in me, I feel like I could be an excellent confidante, but he said he wanted to talk to you alone when you came down.”

 

“Alright,” Sam sighs, patting the boy’s shoulder, “Thanks, Jack.”

 

Eileen entices Jack with cards so that Sam can head to the kitchen alone. Apparently, she’s been teaching Jack how to play Poker. He feels like if Dean were in a better place, he might have beat her to it.

 

He walks into the kitchen and finds his father struggling over the oven. The food doesn’t smell bad, but it does smell like it’s burning and the older man isn’t exactly saving the meal with the grace and skill he could save a human being. Sam’s almost amused by the scene, kind of wants to watch it play out. But the way his dad is standing, shoulder hunched over as his hands fumble over everything, keep him from doing that. Sam frowns at the sight, then clears his throat to let the man know he’s there.

 

“Need a little help there?”

 

His father gives him a glance over his shoulder, then shakes his head.

 

“It’s fine, I got it.”

 

Sam lets out a huff, then walks over to stand beside the man to turn off the stove.

 

“We’ll order Chinese. There’s a place that’s not even 15 minutes away. I’ll go pick it up as soon as we put in the order.”

 

“About the only damn thing useful that’s close to here,” his dad mutters. Whatever that means.

 

“It’s what we get for living a secluded life out in the middle of nowhere,” Sam shrugs, “Look, just sit down. You look like you’ve barely slept at all. I’m guessing Dean wasn’t the easiest to handle?”

 

His dad lets himself be led to a kitchen chair before falling into it heavily and rubbing his eyes, “He’s a fucking mess, Sam.”

 

“Yeah. That’s Dean for you. When he’s on a high, he’s on a high. But when he lets everything build up to the point where it’s too much, he-”

 

“Gives himself alcohol poisoning, throws up in his sleep, blacks out, and cries because I don’t get a fucking movie reference?” the older man interrupts.

 

“What?” Sam prompts. But when he thinks about it, the movie reference thing makes sense.

 

“I need you,” his dad starts, pulling out his phone in the process, “to call around and find out if any hunters know of someone in the psych field who knows about the life. Or about the gay community. Preferably both. I looked to see if there was someone near Lebanon but I found nothing on the web. Not even a damn PFLAG chapter in a fifty-mile radius. So give me some numbers. I’ll make calls too.”

 

Sam’s jaw drops in shock, “Who are you?”

 

His father sends him a glare, “I’m your father, that’s who! Don’t give me lip, boy. You didn’t see your brother today. He’s falling apart.”

 

“Yeah,” Sam answers, hardening, “I know he is. He’s been falling apart for months and I’ve witnessed all of it. I’ve been there to hear his nightmares and prayers and breakdowns. But he’s progressing. I know he’s backsliding right now, but he...he told me some things while we were in the other universe. Stuff I suspected, but thought I’d never hear him say.”

 

“What did he tell you?”

 

Sam shrugs, “I’m not supposed to say.”

 

“Sam-”

 

“He told me not to tell you,” Sam finishes softly, wincing when he sees his father’s face fall.

 

“Shit,” he mutters, “What the hell does he think I’m going to do?”

 

“I don’t know,” Sam sighs, sitting down next to his dad, “If it means anything, I told him that you’re more understanding than he thinks, that he should give you a chance.”

 

“And he didn’t take your word for it?” his dad rasps out, “I tried to tell him that the gay thing didn’t matter to me. He was so out of it though, didn’t understand a word I was saying.”

 

Sam feels pity for the man and claps him on the back, “Just give him some time. You’ve seen how he is first hand. He’s not thinking clearly. He’s grieving and going through a really hard loss. It’s probably best that he brings it up on his own anyway, if he can ever fully come to terms with it.”

 

“If he had a therapist who really understood that part of him-”

 

“He’s not going to see a therapist,” Sam insists, “He doesn’t trust people and hates shrinks, which, by the way, you do too.”

 

“So what?” his dad scoffs, “Just because I’ll die before I see one, doesn’t mean he should follow suit.”

 

Sam looks at the man, the man who subconsciously tried to mold them in his image, in disbelief. But he’s going to hold back that argument for now. He can tell that his father doesn’t need it.

 

“If Dean did go see a shrink,” Sam starts, entertaining the notion, “It would have to be something he decided upon completely on his own. We can’t force him into a session. It would be a disaster.”

 

His dad closes his eyes and props his head against his hands, “We need to do something. He can’t just keep wallowing like this.”

 

Sam thinks on it, then gives an answer, “We’ll give him a few days, make sure the worst of it is out of his system, then take him to Jody’s for a few days so that he can see the girls. We can drive the cars out there. I’m sure seeing their faces light up when they get them will cheer him up for a while. Besides, Jody’s good at figuring out what Dean needs to talk about. She has that supermom thing going for her.”

 

His father nods, the tension easing from his body slightly, “Alright. That might help. And I wouldn’t mind meeting Jody and Alex.”

 

“They’re great,” Sam smiles, “You’ve already met Claire. She’s the hardest one to impress. Meeting Jody and Alex will be a breeze in comparison.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

The few days that they wait for Dean to get “the worst of it” out of his system, aren’t the easiest ones. Two days in, the day he puts a hole in the wall with his fist in a drunken rage, he and Sam end up restraining him. Dean’s rage turns wrathful to bitter to embarrassed to ashamed, all within an hour. John ends up hiding the liquor after Dean falls asleep. He had seriously considered throwing all of it out, but honestly? John knows he might hit his limit soon and need to reach for a drink as well. He’s been abstaining and hasn’t drunk more than beer since coming back to life. Alcohol never brought out the best side of him when he was stressed out the first time around and that’s the man John’s trying to avoid becoming again.

 

But it’s hard. Runs in the family. Dean got it from him, John got it from his mother, and his mother got it from both her parents. After his mother married Roger, she never stood a chance, despite never taking a sip until after his dad disappeared.

 

He wonders if Millie’s still around. She’d be old now, almost 90. He only saw her once after coming back from the war. There had been no big Campbell-Winchester wedding to invite her to. He and Mary had driven to Virginia on a whim and eloped there. But he had taken Dean to see her when he was born. Her words had been slurred as she stroked his baby’s face and told him:

 

”He’s beautiful, but I can see Henry in him.”

 

“He looks more like his mother.”

 

“Oh, but he has a little bit of you in him too, Johnny. And that means he has a little bit of me in him too.”

 

He never went to go see her again after that.

 

The day after is a little easier. Dean seems to snap out of it some, even comes down to make a filling lunch for them, like he’s apologizing. Things get a little tense when Dean goes to open the liquor cabinet, only to find nothing there. John could swear he sees Dean twitch at the sight.

 

“There’s some beer in the fridge, Dean,” he calls out to him, trying to keep a casual tone.

 

Dean hesitates on moving his feet, but eventually goes to grab a beer and says nothing.

 

Sam mentions going to Jody’s the next day, says that he’s called to make arrangements and the girls would like to see Dean.

 

“You can give them the cars,” Sam suggests, “I’m sure they’ll freak out over them. I’ll drive the Porsche, you can drive the Chrysler, and Dad will drive the Impala. We’ll camp out for a few days, eat Jody’s cooking. It’ll be great.”

 

“...Alright,” Dean answers, letting out a breath, “Yeah, alright.”

 

Sam claps him on the shoulder and gives his older brother a grin, “Awesome. Go pack your stuff. I’ll let Eileen and Jack know to get ready. Jack wants to ride with you. He would ride with me and Eileen but the Porsche is just a two seater and he wants us to ‘have time to ourselves.’”

 

“Oh,” Dean snorts, “That’s what he wants. Got it.”

 

“Shut up,” Sam mutters, although John can see that the boy is hiding back a smile.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

“What does this button do?”

 

“Stop touching crap,” Dean barks out, slapping Jack’s hand away from the dial, “And zap some clothes on. If I’m pulled over with an undocumented teenage boy in my car-”

 

“Dean, I would erase the cop’s memory before he could even get the handcuffs on you,” Jack dismisses kindly.

 

Dean lets out a sigh, “Just do me a solid, Jack. Please.”

 

Dean’s surprised when Jack (begrudgingly) makes jeans and a t-shirt appear on his body. It might be the one good thing that has happened this whole entire week. Jack feels differently.

 

“I hate them,” Jack pouts, shifting in his seat, “I don’t wish you any discomfort. Why do you feel the need to inflict such pain upon me?”

 

“Beauty is pain, man,” Dean shrugs, “Besides, Alex is not even going to consider you as a potential boyfriend unless you grow up a little and start wearing some clothes.”

 

Jack opens and closes his mouth and Dean lets himself smirk.

 

“Yeah, I know that you dig her. You sly dog, you. But everyone likes a well-dressed man. It leaves a bit to the imagination.”

 

Dean looks at Jack out of the corner of his eye. Jack absorbs the information, nodding seriously as he does so.

 

“I am not quite ready for a girlfriend yet,” Jack confides, “I still have many things to learn about women and life in general. As much as it pains me to say it, I feel Alex would appreciate someone more experienced and mature than I am.”

 

Dean shrugs, “You’ll get there, man. I mean, you’ll never not be weird. That’s just an angel thing. But you’re a good enough looking kid, smart too. You’ll figure it out and be happy, I guess.”

 

Dean’s surprised when he feels Jack’s hand on his shoulder, patting it comfortingly.

 

“So will you, Dean. I just know it.”

 

It takes Dean a second to remember how to breathe as the pain starts to seep its way back in.

 

“Can you change the subject and stop touching me,” Dean mutters, shifting his shoulder away from Jack’s hand.

 

“Of course.”

 

The rest of the ride is mostly filled with classic rock stations through the speakers and Jack’s chatter. Even though it’s fucking Jack, the fact that he won’t shut up helps keep his mind from wandering too much or going back to the dark place it has been for the last few days.

 

He’s been getting better, but mainly that’s because it's what Sam and his dad want. They hate seeing him so weak and fucked up, he knows that. So he’s been trying, hadn’t even thrown a fit when he realized all of his liquor was gone. He could probably keep it up for a few more days, especially with Claire, Alex, and Jody there to keep him in check.

 

But he knows himself well enough to realize it’s not going to keep getting better. It’s just not.

 

Still, seeing the girls’ shocked and excited faces when he tells them the cars are theirs does make things seem like they’re going to be okay.

 

“Holy shit!” Claire exclaims, before punching Dean in the arm, “Dude.”

 

“Thank you,” Alex smiles, giving her gratitude in a more socially acceptable manner, “You really didn’t have to. It’s too much.”

 

“Of course I did,” Dean answers, trying to smile back.

 

“Of COURSE he did,” Jack reiterates, stepping in, “You only deserve the best in life.”

 

Alex smiles and shakes her head, “Thanks, Jack.”

 

“Dean, seriously though,” Jody approaches him, coming in for a hug, “You’re making me look like the bad parent.”

 

Dean rolls his eyes at that but doesn’t have it in him to come up with a comeback. Jody studies him with concern and puts her hands on his cheeks.

 

“You alright?” she asks, “Sam said you needed the trip. What’s going on in that head of yours?”

 

Dean shrugs, looking away to blink any moisture that might be gathering in his eyes, “It’s just been a really long couple of weeks.”

 

Jody gives him a sympathetic look, “I know, honey. But it hasn’t all been bad, has it? Where’s your dad? I can’t wait to meet him.”

 

“He got stuck behind a tractor trailer. He should be here any second.”

 

As if on cue, the Impala turns the corner and appears into view. His dad parks the car on the street and gets out to nod a hello to the girls, smiling and rolling his eyes over their poses as they take each other’s picture with their respective vehicles. His eyes eventually fall on Dean and Jody up on the porch and he makes his way up the stairs.

 

“Dad, this is-”

 

“You must be Jody,” he says to her, holding out his hand with a smile, “Dean and Sam have both told me a lot about you. It’s great to meet you.”

 

“And...And they’ve told me a bit about you,” Jody answers, smiling, albeit slightly flustered, “It’s great to meet you too.”

 

Dean stares at Jody suspiciously as their hands lower and she lets his dad, Eileen, and Sam into the house. Dean opts not to follow them in immediately, staying behind to give Jody a look.

 

“Oh, Dean. He is good looking,” Jody sighs, “It’s not a surprise but oh my g-”

 

Dean points a finger at her, “He’s a married man. A married man who has a single track mind and tends to be obsessive.”

 

“You’re ruining the fantasy-”

 

“You can do better,” Dean whispers to her, picking up his bag to head into the house, only to give her a warning look.

 

Jody holds up her hands, “Hey, hands and feet to myself at all times. I never planned on anything else.”

 

“Good.”

 

“He’s just nice to look at.”

 

Dean snorts, “You’re trying to fuck with me, aren’t you?”

 

“Only a little,” Jody winks, “But for real. You’re dad’s a-”

 

“Okay, enough.”

 

Jody shoots him a smile, then puts her hands on the back of his shoulders to march him into the house.

 

“Go get washed up. Dinner’s in less than an hour. If you’re going to spoil my girls, then I might as well give you a halfway decent meal.”

Chapter Text

Jody hadn’t known exactly what to expect when Sam called her, asking if they could visit for a few days to get Dean’s mind off of things. It’s not the first time Sam and Dean had stayed over by far. Last time, about a month ago, Dean had been pretty quiet and barely left the guest room until taking off on a case with Claire, leaving her with Sam and Jack. Sam had been worried and stressed out over his brother, sad over losing so many people in such a short period of time. And Jack had been...well, Jack.

 

Jack. That kid. While he has come over with Sam and Dean every time they stopped over after he was born, he also likes to pop in on his own at least three times a week. Usually to check on Alex, but also to bring them dinner from foreign countries, all with a bright smile on his face. It’s very hard not to like Jack. At first, she hadn’t known how Claire managed it. But Jody’s come to the conclusion that her volatile reactions towards Jack stemmed more from grief, rather than dislike.

 

It also might have been the fact that Jack had a tendency to walk around naked.

 

Yet he’s wearing clothes now and had gotten out of the car looking appropriate, like the teenage boy he...well...wasn’t exactly.

 

But close enough.

 

He certainly crushes on girls as much as a teenage boy would.

 

“Alex, I think the way you are chasing after your dreams is awe-inspiring,” Jack says to her foster daughter as soon as they sit down at the dining room table, “Planning on going to school so that you can help people, give your time selflessly to those who need it-”

 

“Careful,” Claire sasses, taking a sip of water, “Didn’t Sam ever teach you that if you hang your tongue out of your mouth for too long it’ll fall off?”

 

“I’m not hanging my tongue out!” Jack fumes, banging his palm on the table, “And that’s not how the human body works!”

 

“Yeah, but you’re only half,” Claire shrugs, reaching her fork over to take a bite of Jack’s food.

 

Jody holds back a groan at Claire’s behavior as she puts a napkin in her lap, “Claire, would you cool it? He did nothing to deserve your mouth.”

 

Claire smirks, “Oh, it’s not my mouth he wants-”

 

“Hey,” Sam warns, giving Claire a look.

 

“Yeah, Claire. Seriously,” Dean chides, slightly disturbed, “Come on. My dad’s here. Innocent ears at the table.”

 

“What the hell are you on?” John mutters to his son.

 

“And no ears,” Eileen adds, across the table from Sam and Dean.

 

“Oh,” Jody sighs, guiltily, tapping Eileen on the arm to get her attention, “My daughter, Claire, she’s being quite rude. Teasing Jack, throwing out inappropriate innuendos-

 

“She’s talking about fellatio, Mo-...Eileen,” Jack informs her after he takes her hand.

 

Sam chokes on his food, Alex covers her eyes, and Claire snickers as she looks down at her plate. Eileen stares at the boy for a moment, then shrugs her shoulders.

 

“I’m sure people have talked about worse around a dinner table.”

 

“Thank you!” Claire says as she signs.

 

“Alright!” Jody stands up, silencing the table and getting everyone’s attention, “Let’s just...Let’s just have a do over. Not another word about-”

 

“Fellatio?” Claire mutters from her seat, holding back a laugh.

 

“Claire, for fuck’s sake,” Jody turns to her bluntly, “I know that when you get in whatever kind of a mood this is it’s hard for you to reel it in, but reel it in.”

 

Jody is expecting the glare Claire sends her. It’s not a rarity in this house. But she is a little surprised when Alex scoffs at the girl.

 

“Don’t mind Claire. She’s just in a pissy mood over her boy-”

 

Claire redirects her glare towards Alex, “Shut your mouth.”

 

Although Jody’s used to the girls being joined at the hip one second and fighting the next, she is not used to Claire involved with any boys.

 

“Boy what?” she asks, intrigued.

 

“Yeah,” Dean grunts out, studying her closely, “Boy what?”

 

“Nothing,” Claire mutters, keeping her eyes on Alex.

 

“...Yeah,” Alex finally chimes in, turning to meet Jody’s eyes, “Nothing. I was just teasing Claire. Putting her on the spot.”

 

“Oh, you got me,” Claire answers without emotion.

 

“...Okay,” Jody breathes out, closing her eyes, “The do over starts now.”

 

Considering everything - Claire and whatever’s going on with her at the moment, Dean and the way he seems to be retreating into his own mind while everyone else is making conversation, John and the way he’s incredibly attractive despite being dead for twelve years - dinner goes alright.

 

The happiest person at the table has to be Sam. He keeps sneaking fond and loving glances at Eileen and signs to her when multiple people start talking at once, as if he’s been practicing. It’s actually pretty adorable. She’s pretty sure Eileen thinks so as well, since Jody catches a few fond looks she throws Sam’s way when he’s not looking. But she can also see that Eileen is fiery, passionate, and a bit ornery. She’ll be good for Sam and keep him on his toes.

 

John looks to be a bit out of his element. She can’t blame him there. He has been dead for twelve years and probably didn’t have many decent sized makeshift family dinners preceding his death. Or any. He doesn’t say much, just some polite exchanges with her and signs silently with Eileen, as if he’s been fluent for years.

 

And of course that makes him more attractive.

 

But for the majority of dinner, he’s subtly prodding Dean to eat and engage in the conversation, since Dean’s quieter than John is. That hadn’t been normal until a few months ago.

 

She would make a point of talking to Dean one to one later, see if she could get into his head a bit. As for right now, the only person who is getting a reaction out of him is Claire. But it’s hard not to react to the things that come out of Claire’s mouth, even after she settles down due to Alex threatening to spill whatever is going on in Claire’s personal life.

 

Yeah. She’d have to talk Claire one to one too.

 

Jody doesn’t know which conversation will be more grueling.

------------------------------------------------

Light. Stars. Hope. Wonder. Love.

 

When Alex grins, wide without reservation, Jack feels like he can barely breathe.

 

Which is strange. Jack can go a very long time without breathing. He can speak to fish in their natural habitat and he’s timed himself by holding his breath underwater in the bathtub. It had been a strange decision to time himself, even he knows that. His dad had run over to him, lifting him up by the shoulders to ask if he was alright. He had been. It had been slightly uncomfortable to hold his breath for over an hour, but he could do it.

 

But Alex...Alex knocks the breath out of him when she smiles and even more so when she laughs. And when she gives him a hug? He feels like he might melt into a puddle on the floor. And that’s not possible. The human anatomy does not allow that unless there are dark forces at work. Jack knows that too. But that’s what he feels. Sometimes he thinks his brain and his emotions don’t line up, as if something might be wrong with him. Although, there are many things wrong with him. He’s an abomination. A few of the angels he has come into contact with during his travels have even told him so. So maybe feeling like melting when his brain knows it isn’t possible has something to do with that.

 

It isn’t the worst feeling though, and his brain doesn’t seem to mind it that much. His brain is much more upset with him when he gets angry and throws what Sam calls a tantrum. It’s worse than a tantrum a child would throw though. Children tend to not cause power outages when they’re devastated. They don’t scare their dads with them either.

 

That had been just a couple of weeks after he was born, but he still feels bad about it. He had caused a blackout in the tri state area, just because Dean sent him to his room so that he ‘didn’t have to look at him.’

 

So yes. Feeling love is much better. Even if it makes him feel like melting.

 

She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and Jack desperately wants to reach across the table to do it for her, even though he knows that Alex is a strong and independent young woman who is more than capable than doing it for herself. He stops himself, for that reason and because Dean and his dad have both told him he needs to start working on personal boundaries. And he has to respect Alex’s boundaries. She deserves that, especially after the life she’s had.

 

“You alright, Jack?” Alex asks softly, catching him staring.

 

Jack’s eyes widen and he forces himself to nod.

 

Alex gives him a kind smile, then a wink, before asking John to pass the pepper.

 

Jack honestly thinks he might hyperventilate.

 

“I need to be excused,” Jack squeaks out.

 

His dad squints at him, “You okay, bud-”

 

Jack zaps himself to the upstairs bathroom before his dad can finish his sentence.

 

Jack makes sure the door is locked before ripping off his shirt and bracing himself against the sink, his hands gripping the cool marble until it cracks.

 

He’ll have to fix that. Or maybe upgrade Jody’s bathroom altogether. That could be a good gift.

 

“Just breathe, Jack,” he tells himself, “She’s just a girl.”

 

As soon as the words leave his mouth, he knows the statement is a lie. Alex is probably just as important as the sun.

 

He still can’t breathe right. And his pants feel too tight. It’s probably because of that, even though they fit perfectly when he created them. Maybe he ate more food than he should have or…

 

Oh. Oh.

 

Jack unzips his jeans and lowers them past his hips.

 

Is it really necessary for it to stick out that much? Maybe he could ask his dad later; but the thought of asking him makes Jack uncomfortable, although he’s not quite sure why. Maybe asking Dean would be easier, if the man is in an okay mood.

 

Jack closes his eyes, concentrates as hard as he can, forces his erection to become flaccid again, and pulls his pants back up.

 

That’s better.

 

Jack makes sure he looks presentable from head to toe, then fixes the counter before deciding to just redo the whole room. Jody will probably think the golden toilet and large, round stone tub are a bit much, but she deserves to be treated like a queen.

 

Jack decides to walk back downstairs, so that he can get some steps in to keep his human side healthy and active, then sits down at the table just in time for dessert. And although the beauty of Alex’s soul and hair and smile and eyes all make him feel weak at the knees, he manages to not pass out from the intensity of it throughout the rest of the evening.

 

They’re just about to walk into the living room, to sit together as a family and talk, but Jack feels a hand clap his right shoulder to stop him.

 

“Hey, freak. Come upstairs with us,” Claire whispers, grabbing a fistful of his shirt to pull him towards the stairs, “Leave the old people to talk amongst themselves and crochet or whatever the fuck it is that they do.”

 

Jack glances towards the living room nervously, “But they want to visit with-”

 

“Jack,” Alex murmurs, holding out her hand, “Come on. Hang out with us.”

 

“...O-Okay,” Jack stammers, trying to keep his palms from sweating once he takes Alex’s hand.

 

As Jack walks up the stairs, following Alex’s and Claire’s lead, he wonders if he should tell them he genuinely believes he might be having a heart attack, especially when they go to Alex’s room and he sits on her bed. It gets even worse when Alex sits right next to him. Their hands are almost touching, which Jack doesn’t know why that’s so exhilarating, since Alex held his hand to lead him upstairs, but it is.

 

“Dude,” Claire prompts, giving him a strange look, “Why do you look so terrified right now? I’m sort of offended. Alex, do you think we’re terrifying?”

 

“I don’t think we’re terrifying,” Alex responds, but her voice is a lot softer than Claire’s.

 

Claire thinks on it, “...I mean, we CAN be terrifying. I think I’ve lost count of how many vamps I’ve beheaded.”

 

“Claire,” Alex sighs.

 

“Oh, right. Sorry for triggering you,” Claire dismisses, then turns back to Jack, “So Jack. What kind of music do you like? I’ll put Spotify on.”

 

Jack shrugs, “I don’t know. Dean listens to classic rock. Led Zeppelin and bands like that. I went to one of their concerts when I time traveled.”

 

Alex gapes at him, “You traveled back in time just to go see a concert?”

 

Jack blushes at the attention, “Yes. It was a good concert and I met some interesting and drunk people there. But it was loud. I had the band sign a guitar to take back. I could show it to you later, if you’d like.”

 

Alex grins and nudges his shoulder with hers, “Hell yeah, I’d like to see it! That’s so cool, Jack-”

 

“Well, I think it’s a snooze fest,” Claire fakes snores before sitting up straight, “Because the best band to ever exist hands down is The Pretty Reckless. They played in Minneapolis last year and Dean and Cas surprised us with tickets. Dean acted as if we were dragging him to his death even though he’s the one that bought the tickets in the first place. He paid more attention to Cas anyway, saying shit like, ‘I’ll take you to hear some real music, Cas, promise.’ Whatever kind of euphemism that is.”

 

“What she’s saying is that both she and Dean have narrow tastes in music and feel that everyone should conform to their preferences,” Alex adds.

 

“Let him decide for himself,” Claire butts in, opening her laptop.

 

Claire plays a few songs and Jack thinks they sound pleasant enough, although some of the themes the lyrics touch upon are quite dark.

 

Jack isn’t very good at small talk though, or girl talk, so it’s hard for him to contribute to the chatter and banter between Alex and Claire. He’s better with deep and meaningful conversations and playing board games.

 

“So there’s a party I know about going on tonight,” Claire brings up nonchalantly as she spins around in the desk chair, “Apparently it’s going to be pretty big.”

 

Alex gives her a look, “Oh. Does this party have to do with the guy you hooked up with a few weeks ago? Is he the one throwing it?”

 

Claire glares at her, “No. And don’t think I’m not going to get you back for the shit you tried to pull at dinner. Because I will and I will leave you humiliated.”

 

“Claire,” Alex answers with what Jack thinks might be fake sincerity, “I just think it’s great that you are coming out of your shell and dating, even if the date was in the back of his Mercedes-Benz.”

 

Claire fakes sincerity right back, although it is much easier to tell with her, “Oh, Alex. I’m so glad you approve. That’s all I’ve ever looked for in life.”

 

Jack stops the shoe that Claire aims at Alex’s head with a mere thought and gently lowers it to the ground.

 

“Thanks, Jack,” Alex whispers.

 

Claire stares at him and shakes his head, “Why do you hate me so much?”

 

“I don’t hate you,” Jack insists, before lowering his voice, “I just like Alex better.”

 

“Don’t we all know!” Claire answers loudly.

 

“Alright, Claire,” Alex intervenes, changing the subject, “How did you find out about the party?”

 

Claire shrugs, “I got invited.”

 

“You’re not even home all that much,” Alex points out.

 

“Guess I’m just that popular.”

 

“You tried to behead a guy,” Alex retorts, “Believe me, you really aren’t popular.”

 

Claire smirks at Alex, “Maybe that tidbit just makes me edgy.”

 

“Come on, spit it out.”

 

Claire spins in her chair a few more times before placing both of her feet on the ground once she’s facing Alex and Jack.

 

“Well, it wasn’t Noah who invited me to the party, as much as you seem to be shipping us,” Claire snorts, “It’s just another country club douche I hooked up with a few times. Pure coincidence, driven by libido and inebriation, I promise. So not my usual type.”

 

Alex scoffs, shaking her head, “Is ‘country club douche’ a euphemism for weed dealer?”

 

Claire only shrugs and starts spinning in her chair once more.

 

“It is,” Alex mutters under her breath, “It’s a euphemism for weed dealer.”

 

“Okay, stop being judgy,” Claire orders, “He’s not terrible. No romance there at all, but I’m not repulsed by him as a general human being and I’ve yet to go to an actual college party.”

 

“Maybe if you would actually go to college-”

 

“Like I said,” Claire interrupts, “Stop being judgy. I’ll take you and Jack with me if you do.”

 

Jack freezes at the offer, unsure what to make of it. He’s never been to a party, but he knows that parties have people. He hasn’t gone and talked to many people outside of his dad’s circle that often. He had at the concert, but he’s not sure they’d remember him anyway. He often talks to the manager at Ladurée Paris Bonaparte. After popping in without clothes on the first time he stopped at the bakery, she had been kind to him but said he needed to leave the premises and come back with clothes on, then became concerned and asked if he had been assaulted.

 

He’s visited with clothes since, as a courtesy. Amelie has always been so kind to him and tends to give him free pastries.

 

But he doesn’t talk to people outside of those circumstances, not really. Dad doesn’t feel he’s old enough or ready to go on a regular hunt yet. There had been sacrifices going on at a high school in Montana and Dean mentioned enrolling Jack in the school so they could figure it out and take care of it. Jack had been excited at the idea, although he doesn’t really know why. He’s watched a couple of movies that take place in high schools and there are usually bullies who are terrible to people who did nothing to deserve it. But maybe, just maybe, he could have protected those people too, along with the people being sacrificed, and he could make friends outside of Alex, Claire, Jody, Dad, Mom, Grandpa, and Dean. Dad said that he wasn’t emotionally ready for high school yet. That’s okay though. The people he does have in his life are more than enough for him and he doesn’t need anyone else.

 

But he wouldn’t be against it.

 

He just doesn’t know how to go about it. And the thought of engaging in small talk and pretending to be something he’s not for more than twenty minutes terrifies him.

 

“Claire,” Alex murmurs, glancing at Jack as she does, “I don’t think Jack wants to go to a college party.”

 

Claire rolls her eyes, hops to her feet, and walks over to stand in front of Jack.

 

“Of course he does,” she decides, studying him, “Understandably, he has lived a sheltered life under worrywart Sam-”

 

“Don’t talk about him like that,” Jack fumes, “Sam is a good father to me and lets me go places on my own, so-”

 

“Yeah, I know,” Claire interrupts, groaning, “But you are on your own, doing weird shit that no one your physical age should be doing or would want to do. So come out with us, rebel a little, and have some actual fun.”

 

“Jack,” Alex prompts, “You don’t have to go. Look, I’ll even stay here and hang out with you.”

 

Jack stays quiet for a moment, staring at his shoes, before meeting Alex’s eyes, “Do you want to go?”

 

Alex hesitates with her answer, “...I don’t have to go. And I won’t if you’d like to stay and visit with Jody.”

 

His heart is pounding again. He knows this feeling though: nervousness. It’s a frustrating emotion that he doesn’t like at all, but he does know that when someone tackles their fears head on, they can be easier to overcome when they pop up again. That’s what his dad told him, at least. And his dad is almost always right.

 

“I’ll go,” Jack tries to answer confidently, although his voice cracks when he says the words.

 

Claire gets a big grin on her face and jumps, before putting him in a playful headlock and messing up his hair.

 

“Look at Jack, going to his first party!” Claire exclaims, letting him go, “I knew you could do it.”

 

Alex takes a breath, “Jack, are you sure you want to go-”

 

“Of course he wants to go,” Claire interrupts, shooting Alex a pointed look, “Jack can make decisions for himself. We’re not pressuring him.”

 

Jack nods, “You’re right. I can make my own choices.”

 

“And you can also keep a secret,” Claire continues, studying him closely, “And sneak both out of the house and into the house, all without the adults knowing. Including your dad.”

 

Jack gulps at that. He’s left the bunker without telling anyone before, lots of times, but he knows it worries Dad when he does it. And all of those times, except for when he went to Hell to get Mom, he hadn’t meant to keep it a secret. He had just done it because he could. But sneaking out with the intent to trick or keep something from Dad? It doesn’t feel right.

 

“Listen,” Claire says softly, putting her hands on his shoulders, “It’s what teenagers do. They sneak out and they mess around and they don’t tell their parents. I promise you Sam did all of that stuff to John. I bet Dean did too. If he does find out, which he won’t, then I promise you that he’s not going to stay mad at you. It would be hypocritical if he did. Hell, this is a rite of passage for a young man, such as yourself.”

 

“A human experience,” Jack confirms, intrigued.

 

“Absolutely,” Claire agrees.

 

“You might meet some people,” Alex adds in, “Have some fun. Not worry about the whole world so much.”

 

“Just no funny business,” Claire tells him, “Don’t make your powers obvious and freak people out.”

 

“A lot of people think powers aren’t even a thing,” Alex consoles, “Proving them wrong will only scare them because people are afraid of what they don’t know.”

 

“No powers,” Jack tells them, “Got it.”

 

“Alright,” Claire hums, looking at Jack with an emotion akin to pride, “I think he’s ready. What else did you bring to wear?”

 

“Oh,” Jack murmurs, looking down at his t-shirt and jeans, “I just made this in my head and made it appear on my body. As a courtesy.”

 

Both of the girls stare at him in fascination.

 

“So wait,” Alex says, gesturing at his outfit, “You can just think of or see any outfit, duplicate it, and make it fit perfectly?”

 

“Yes,” Jack answers, smiling when Alex looks impressed, “It’s quite easy.”

 

Claire grins at him, then pulls him up by the hand and drags him to the computer, “Come on, Jack. We’re going online shopping.”

------------------------------------------------------------

Jack has never looked at so many clothes in his life.

 

It’s not a bad thing though. Jack is amazed by the variety of styles young women seem to have when it comes to wardrobe choices.

 

“Claire, you have never looked more girly in your life,” Alex snorts.

 

“That’s because I’m practical and wear leather and plaid,” Claire hums, turning to look in the mirror, “But you’re right. Way too girly. Jack, type in “sexy college women outfits.”

 

Jack does what he’s told and his eyes widen at the results.

 

“Claire,” Alex calls out, peeking over Jack’s shoulder, “You’ll look like a stripper if you wear any of these. Please don’t.”

 

“They can’t be that-...okay they’re a bit much,” Claire gives in, “Type in flirty club dresses black.”

 

“You’re going to wear a dress?” Alex smirks, disbelievingly.

 

“Yeah. What of it?” Claire shoots back.

 

Alex holds up her hands and shakes her head in amusement while Jack scrolls through the results.

 

“Claire, I think this one would look nice on you,” Jack says, pointing at the screen.

 

“Too lacy,” Claire dismisses, reaching over to scroll down, “There. I like that one.”

 

“There’ll be mesh stripes over your stomach and boobs. Not leaving much to the imagination, are you?”

 

“Stop being a sexist prude,” Claire rolls her eyes as the dress appears on the bed, “You hang out with Jack and he doesn’t even like to wear clothes. So I can wear this.”

 

Claire approaches the dress, then shrugs as she removes the previous dress in front of them, mumbling, “If Jack can walk around naked, then I can get undressed right here and wear this damn dress.”

 

Alex shakes her head, then turns to Jack, “Sorry that she’s making you her fashion designer. We tend to just stick to jeans, so I’m kind of surprised she’s doing this. You’ve brought out a side to her that I didn’t know existed.”

 

Jack shrugs and smiles at Alex, “It’s fine. It’s very easy and takes very little of my energy. You can pick out a dress too, if you want.”

 

“Perfect,” they hear Claire say to herself, “Now all I need are shoes…”

 

“Uh, I don’t know,” Alex chuckles, running her fingers through her hair, “I guess I like dark red. I feel like it’s a good color on me, maybe.”

 

“Any color would be a good color on you,” Jack blurts out, then blushes before clearing his throat, “But I’ll search dark red dresses.”

 

It doesn’t take nearly as long for Alex to pick her clothes out. When she gets a small, but hopeful smile on her face and says “I like that one” so quietly that Jack almost misses it, he knows that he would make that dress by hand if he had to, just so she could have it.

 

She takes it to the bathroom and tries it on, showing more modesty than he and Claire most likely possessed. She is taking longer than one would think someone would take while getting dressed, but when Claire tells her to hurry up, she tells them she’s curling her hair and putting makeup on, so that must mean she is happy with the dress and that makes Jack happy because one of the things he wants most in the entire world is for Alex to be happy.

 

When she comes out, Jack feels like he can’t breathe. Again.

 

Alex is always beautiful. Absolutely always. She could have no makeup on and be wearing sweatpants and Jack would think she’s the most beautiful being on this planet. She could be heavily scarred or have pimples covering every inch of her body and he would still think she beat out every other person ever. But that’s understandable. He is attracted to her looks, he is, but that’s not what made him enamored with her. It’s her soul. Out of all the souls he’s come across, hers has always shone the brightest. He doesn’t know if other angels would say the same or not if they met her. They may think differently or not be able to see it. But he can.

 

She is radiant. And with the twinkle in her eyes and her aura that glows with excitement, femininity, and confidence, she has never been more beautiful.

 

Jack wants to say that much but the words are caught in his throat, as if they are too heavy to move up through his mouth. He smiles at her though, and hopefully it is a smile filled with encouragement.

 

When she smiles right back, he’s glad he’s already sitting down.

 

“Now it’s your turn,” Claire says suddenly, coming over to put her hands on the back of the chair and wheel him back to the desk.

 

“I’m thinking...designer,” Claire decides, using his shoulder to prop up her head, “Prada? I don’t know that many labels.”

 

“Why can’t I just stick with what I have on?” Jack tries not to whine.

 

“Because that’s boring, Jack,” Claire groans, “Come on, live a little.”

 

“She’s right,” Alex speaks up, coming over to crouch down next to his chair, “You have the whole world at your fingertips and you rarely do anything for yourself. You’re allowed to treat yourself once in awhile, Jack. I know that’s hard to believe, with everything that’s happened in the last few months, but it’s true.”

 

“Yeah,” Claire answers, growing more serious, “You’ve had to put up with a lot due to everything that went down. You keep trying to fix things and you don’t do anything for yourself. And me, Dean, and I’m guessing John? We’re not the most grateful. So...yeah. Treat yourself. You deserve it. Freak.”

 

Alex lets out a sigh, “Claire, you were doing so well-”

 

“I don’t hold anything against you, Claire,” Jack tells the blonde, turning his head to glance behind him, “I know you’ve had a tough life. And I’m glad to do something like give you a dress to make you happy.”

 

“Jack, I didn’t say what I did to get you all sappy,” Claire mutters, “Now, come on. Let’s do this.”

 

It only takes a couple of minutes of searching the most ridiculous clothing before Jack starts shaking his head.

 

“I’d rather stick with what I know,” he pouts, crossing his arms.

 

“Jack, all you know is nakedness, jeans, and plaid.”

 

“Plaid looks nice,” he objects, “My dad is courted by waitresses on a regular basis.”

 

“Jack, our whole family always wears plaid-”

 

“Let him wear plaid,” Alex interrupts, “Come on.”

 

Claire looks at the two of them and lets out a huff, “Fine. Designer plaid. You know, for a nephilim, you’re kind of boring.”

 

Jack’s a bit hurt by the the insult, but he keeps himself from expressing how being called boring makes him feel and turns back to the laptop.

 

“Fine,” he answers, scrolling through before deciding on an outfit and making it appear on the bed. He gets up, grabs the clothes, walks into the bathroom, and closes the door.

 

“Oh, now he’s being modest,” he hears Claire say to Alex.

 

Jack gets dressed in the clothes he created, tucking the thin cord necklace the man had been wearing in the picture under the buttoned flannel, then studies himself in the mirror. He supposes he looks okay.

 

He comes back out, holds out his arms, and braces himself for the girls’ opinions. Alex’s eyes widen in surprise and Claire gives a nod of approval.

 

“Not bad.”

 

“...But just a couple of things,” Alex adds, coming to stand right in front of him, only inches away.

 

Jack gulps when Alex’s fingers reach for his collar, but he has to clench his hand when she starts to unbutton the top three buttons on the flannel.

 

“There,” she says, adjusting the necklace, “You should show off a little bit. You’re toned.”

 

“I am?” Jack squeaks out.

 

“Duh,” Claire rolls her eyes, then logs onto Facebook, “In a lean, teenage muscle sort of way though. Don’t get too big of a head.”

 

“Come on,” Alex says, ushering him back to the bathroom connected to her room, “Sit on the edge of the tub and I’ll do your hair.”

 

And as Alex gently runs her fingers through his hair, sculpting it with just enough gel to get it to stay in place, he closes his eyes at the feeling of euphoria it brings him.

----------------------------------------------

Jody really isn’t expecting to find a toilet made of gold when she goes upstairs to pee. Nor is she expecting to find a stone tub. Or a fountain in the corner.

 

“Uh…” she starts, looking around, “What…”

 

Jody lets out a breath and rolls her eyes, “Kids!”

 

She hears shuffling immediately, hushed whispers that she can’t make out and isn’t THAT a great sign? The three of them come tumbling in before she can go over and eavesdrop. But the bathroom renovations go on the back burner once she sees how they’re dressed.

 

“...Well, don’t you all look nice?” Jody comments, confused by the outfits, “Going somewhere?”

 

“No,” they all say in unison. Bullshit.

 

“Spit it out,” Jody orders, crossing her arms.

 

“Jody, come on,” Claire scoffs, “Do you really think we would risk sneaking out when you and four other hunters are in the house?”

 

“She does have a point,” Alex adds, shrugging her shoulders.

 

“We’re just showing Jack the encouragement he so desperately needs for his passions,” Claire informs her.

 

“Oh? And what passions are those?” She asks, directing the question to Jack.

 

“Um…” Jack starts, before seeming to get startled, “Fashion Design.”

 

Jody nods slowly, “You want to be a fashion designer.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And what? Make your own women’s clothing line?” Jody asks, a little disbelievingly.

 

“...Yes?” Jack answers, a little more unsure.

 

“See?” Claire scoffs, pain lacing her expression, “This is why Jack was afraid to tell anyone. He was afraid of being judged. Yeah, he’s probably the most powerful thing on the planet and yes, he is the biological son of the devil. But he has feelings, Jody. And he can fall victim to gender stereotyping just as much as the rest of us. He hasn’t told anyone of what he wants his career path to be until tonight. This is a huge step for him and if all of us aren’t supportive then it could be ninety-six steps back.”

 

Jody Mills is not an idiot. Let’s get that out of the way. Claire and Alex may get one over on her every so often, but she knows when the girls are laying it on thick.

 

And Claire? Telling her that a boy who doesn’t even like to wear clothes wants to design dresses, all while guilting her for not being supportive?

 

Yeah. Okay.

 

“Well, I think that’s just incredible,” Jody smiles at Jack widely, “You made these dresses, sweetheart?”

 

To her surprise, Jack nods eagerly and gestures towards the dresses, “I did, actually. I borrowed from other designs but I hope that if I expose myself more to current trends, I can soon learn to come up with more original designs that I can make a reality.”

 

Alright, that throws her off. Because Jack actually looks sincere.

 

“I made this too,” Jack informs her, pointing at his flannel and jeans, “I like this much better for myself. Although I wouldn’t personally wear women’s clothes, I do think the variety females have is impressive and I could see there being more freedom for someone who designs them.”

 

“Oh, um...yeah, okay,” Jody sputters out, confused, “I can see where you’re coming from. Are you...Are you afraid of telling your dad? Honey, I don’t think he’d judge you. He might be very confused about how you formed your, um, passions. But Sam’s a supportive person.”

 

“Yes, my father is wonderful,” Jack agrees, “But family business and all, you understand.”

 

“I can talk-” Jody starts but is cut off by Claire.

 

“Look, Mom,” Claire interrupts with a sigh, “Jack is practicing and we are his models. It’s what friends are for and he’s on a roll right now. So can we go?”

 

“...Sure. I guess so,” Jody answers in a daze, “Have fun.”

 

“Thanks! Love you!” Claire shouts out, running back to Alex’s room, the other two following close behind.

 

Jody bites her lip and feels her eyes water.

 

Claire called her ‘Mom.’ She’s never done that before.

-------------------------------------------------------

“Oh my god, Jack,” Claire snorts, throwing herself back on the bed, “I thought you were going to spill the beans when we went in there but holy shit. You had her hook, line, and sinker.”

 

“I feel bad for lying,” Jack frets, starting to pace, “She was very supportive of my dreams but they aren’t really my dreams and I let her believe in them when I don’t particularly care about fashion, unless it’s making the people I do care about happy-”

 

“Blah blah blah,” Claire yawns, “It was a white lie, no big deal. She might talk to your dad about how he needs to support your goal of being the next Versace or something, but this too shall pass."

 

“How long do you think it’s going to take them to go to bed?” Alex asks, staring at the clock on her wall.

 

Claire shrugs, “Give them till 10 or so. Even if they aren’t in bed, Jack can teleport us down to the car.”

 

Alex turns to him expectantly, “Jack, are you sure you’re okay with this?”

 

Jack breathes in and the nervousness is back. But along with the nerves, he feels fear, anxiety, and exhilaration.

 

“Yes,” he answers, nodding his head, “I’m completely okay with it.”

Chapter Text

Dean’s trying. He really is.

 

Before everything, before the damn rift, he would have loved this. Embraced it with everything he had. To the average person, sitting in the living room visiting with your family isn’t some miraculous event. Some might even find it a chore. But moments like this have never been a chore to him, except when he was living with Lisa and Ben and her parents or sister came and he had to pretend he was normal - happy. But here? People know who he is, for the most part. They are people who love him and want him to engage and joke around like he used to. He catches the concerned looks they’re all sending him when he takes a while to answer a question or doesn’t talk at all. He wants to do those things. Hell, he had just last week, to an extent. But Mom had been there. Cas had been there. Being in that universe, as strange and tragic as it was, made things almost complete for a short amount of time. They’d just have to get Jack and Eileen and they would have had everyone, or at least versions of them. And Cas would be by his side, sitting flush against him.

 

Instead, the space next to him on the couch is empty. He kind of wishes the kids hadn’t gone upstairs. They would have filled up the room a little more and Claire’s snark would have him either laughing or feeling scandalized like an old woman. But instead, he gets to watch Sam switch back and forth from two different emotions. Whenever Sam glances in Dean’s direction, his brow furrows and he starts to frown, all sad and concerned, as if he’s worried Dean will break any second. And when he looks at Eileen, he’s a puppy in love. Dean’s glad Eileen’s back, he is. She’s awesome and if he were in a better mood, he’d probably fantasize about Sam and Eileen getting hitched and having a bunch of beautiful dark haired, brown eyed badass nerd babies that he could spoil. But it’s sort of hard to be happy for someone being with the girl of their dreams when your chest is aching for something like that too.

 

Dad probably would understand more due to losing Mom so many years ago, only to lose her again before even getting her back. He might have figured out enough for himself already. And he’ll give his father this: If he has figured out what Cas really meant to him, then he’s still showing his concern and his support despite that by taking care of him earlier in the week when he was too drunk or hungover to function. The man had even slept in the same bed as him for two nights so that Dean wouldn’t wake up from a nightmare completely alone.

 

And then there’s the PFLAG website Dean had seen on the laptop. But he figures that had just been a typo. Dad probably meant to search for Pagans, Fairies, Leprechauns, Aliens, and Gnomes to cover all of the bases on how to get Mom back. Because while he doesn’t remember his father being actively hateful of same-sex couples, he doesn’t remember him supporting them either. He does distinctly remember his father looking uncomfortable when their very gay neighbors they had for a month in Ypsilanti tried to invite them over for dinner. Whether it had been his father’s general distrust of pretty much anyone or the fact that one of the men had been wearing a feather boa when the invitation was offered, Dean’s not 100% sure. And even if it was just his father not trusting them, Dean had met enough of his father’s acquaintances and buddies throughout the years to know how often the word “fag” was thrown around at card games, even if he never heard his dad say it himself. Daryl Ross, a guy Dad left them with once when he and Sam were kids, tended to say it while he leered at Dean and licked his lips, as if he knew.

 

So no. Even if his dad had meant to look up that damn site, he’s never finding out from Dean himself. Cas is dead anyway. And if any other guys came into play in the future, John Winchester wouldn’t know about them. No point for him to know, since they would probably end up being one night stands.

 

And on the very off chance that he would form a relationship with a guy? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time he hid a boyfriend from his dad either. Not that he wants to think of Luke or a relationship or anything at all. Ever. He isn’t built for a relationship. Luke, Cassie, Lisa? They all ended in heartbreak and pain. And even then, all of those endings hadn’t broken him like seeing Cas get stabbed through the heart had.

 

But he doesn’t want to think of Cas either.

 

He just wants his mind to be fucking blank, even when he’s in a room with some of the most important people in his life.

 

“Dean?”

 

It’s Sam’s voice. His brother’s next to him now and Dean’s not sure how the hell he had missed the giant moving across one side of the room to the other, but he had. Eileen and Jody must have gotten up too since Dean can hear their voices carrying from the kitchen. Dean runs a hand down his face and turns to look at Sam, who is all eyes and worry. That’s apparently all Dean’s able to pull out of his little brother nowadays.

 

“Had to say your name three times,” Sam murmurs, “You were off in your head. Want to take a walk or something?”

 

Dean hesitates with the answer. His conversations with Sam have been limited since he, fuck, came out to him a week ago. He still can’t believe he did that. Knowing that he had kind of makes him want to keep the distance going for a while longer.

 

“Come on, man,” Sam says softly, standing up and holding out a hand, “Fresh air might do both of us some good.”

 

Dean lets out a breath and doesn’t take Sam’s hand, but walks towards the front door.

 

“We’ll be back in a while,” he hears Sam say to their father.

 

Dean goes down the porch steps and waits for Sam at the bottom, crossing his arms over his chest as a gust of brisk air blows.

 

“Where to?” Dean asks, not meeting Sam’s eyes.

 

Sam hums, “Want to walk to Falls Park? It’s not even a mile from here. I loved it as a kid when Bobby took us.”

 

“...Yeah. Okay. That works,” Dean answers, before walking ahead. Sam doesn’t have a hard time keeping up with him.

 

The first few minutes of the walk are silent, with the exception of the chirping of crickets and the ribbits of toads from the pond down the street. Dean embraces silence, even though the silence leaves him to his own thoughts, because he knows Sam is going to break it any second now.

 

“You’ve been quiet,” Sam comments, walking by his side as they turn the corner, “We haven’t had the opportunity to talk since we came back, not really.”

 

“We were both sort of preoccupied,” Dean answers, eyes straight ahead.

 

“Yeah,” Sam murmurs, “I guess.”

 

“How’re things with Eileen?” Dean has to ask, since he is actually curious.

 

He sees Sam smile out of the corner of his eye, “They’re...they’re good. We’re taking things slow, but they’re good, I think.”

 

“So you guys haven’t…”

 

Sam turns his head to look at him, “No. No, we haven’t had sex. Fuck, Dean. The demon that tortured her used my face down there half the time, would get into her head. I have to let her take the lead when it comes to that. But she’s kissed me. She’s invited me to sleep in her bed, even though she has god awful nightmares and I know at least some of them have Balban pretending to be me in them. I don’t know whether to comfort her or leave her room half the time. But...she’s moving forward. She’s one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. I just wish she would talk to me about it more.”

 

Dean waits for a beat, mulls over the words, then nods.

 

“You and I both know how hard it is to talk about Hell. You haven’t told me what you went through, not really. And the things I went through are a lot worse than what I’ll ever be able to say.”

 

Sam lets out a shaky breath, “I know we know what goes on down there, every ugly, terrifying, and despicable bit of it, but I don’t know. I’m just worried.”

 

“Well, you wouldn’t be you if you weren’t,” Dean mutters.

 

Sam doesn’t get offended though. He just smiles a little and says, “Yeah. Guess you’re right.”

 

They walk a little while longer, and can see the falls reflecting the light of the moon from a distance. It’s a peaceful sight, but it doesn’t bring Dean that much comfort. He would love to have that kind of moment, just a few seconds of feeling content, but he can’t. Not when he’s suddenly dying to know something once and for all from Sam, even though he doesn’t know how to say-

 

“Did you tell Dad about what I told you?” he blurts out, the words unbidden. He closes his eyes and swallows once he says them, wanting to hit himself for bringing the damn subject up.

 

Sam looks confused, then his eyes widen in realization.

 

“You mean about you coming out to me?” Sam asks.

 

Dean looks around and grunts, “Keep your damn voice down, man.”

 

Sam bites his cheek, “No, Dean. I didn’t tell him.”

 

But the longer Dean looks at Sam, the more he realizes there’s something off about his expression, the way he doesn't exactly meet his eyes when he says the words.

 

“You didn't?” Dean asks, “Because he was looking up some stuff that made me think that he might know.”

 

Sam looks at him then, “What kind of stuff?”

 

Dean feels his face heat up, “Doesn’t matter. But the only reason he would look up something like that is if someone told him. And Sam? You’re the only person who could have told him. So why do I think you said something?”

 

Sam looks away and closes his eyes, “Alright, look. He does know-”

 

Dean lets out a noise, “Damn it, Sam! I trusted you! I trusted you and you fucked me over!

 

He's storming away before Sam can continue, ignoring his younger brother’s desperate calls. He thinks about running, but the idea that it might come off as pathetic bothers him too much. But it fucking hurts. He feels violated, betrayed, embarrassed. This is why he never really told anyone, not until Sam went off to Stanford and Dad kept his distance for a while. And even then, he never kept in touch with the few who did know. They hadn’t known his real name anyway, and he didn’t come out to them. They had just known he was with their friend. And even that had made him uncomfortable.

 

But it’s different with Sam. It had taken a lot out of him to actually tell his brother about that. He’s never been sure why. Maybe because he found women attractive as well, so Sam never needed to know about the thing he had for men. Or maybe he wanted to avoid the chick flick moment.

 

Or maybe he had feared rejection. Abandonment. Like the shit on the news and in movies. That’s what he used to be afraid of as a kid. Getting kicked out of the home he never really had and cut off from the only two family members he had in his life. He knows better now, knows that Sam wouldn’t fucking disown his dick loving brother. Dean’s done a lot worse than fuck or get fucked by a guy and Sam’s still around.

 

But he’s never been sure about their dad. And Sam had told him.

 

“Dean!” Sam shouts, grabbing onto his shoulders and roughly turning him around.

 

“Don’t FUCKING touch me, Sam!” Dean snaps, shoving against Sam’s chest, hard enough to make him stumble, “You don’t get to say shit right now!”

 

“Would you just let me talk for a second?” Sam stresses, grabbing onto Dean’s wrists.

 

“What did I just say? You don’t get to-”

 

“I didn’t tell him what you told me, Dean! I wouldn’t do that to you.”

 

Dean takes a deep breath, trying to calm himself down, before taking a step back, “Then why does he know?”

 

Sam frowns and stares at Dean, “You...Dean, you didn’t make it hard to figure out. You’ve been in agony.”

 

Dean doesn’t answer, just clenches his jaw and closes his eyes. Sam gently lets go of Dean’s wrists.

 

“Look, can we just walk to the park? Sit on a bench and talk about this?” Sam asks in a pleading voice, “I will answer anything you have to ask, about me or Dad or anything else.”

 

Dean doesn’t answer that either. But he does open his eyes, meeting Sam’s puppy dog stare, and turns around to start walking again.

 

When they get to the park and walk until they get to the falls, Dean throws himself down on the nearest bench and frowns at the sight.

 

“You look like a Grinch, Dean. You used to love this view,” Sam snorts, yet still sounding nervous as he sits down next to him.

 

Dean says nothing to that, but shifts in his seat in agitation.

 

Sam sighs and Dean can feel his brother staring at the side of his face. He can’t meet his eyes right now, he can’t. Not when they’re about to talk about this in detail.

 

“I…” Sam starts, as if he’s trying to find words that won’t upset Dean, “I didn’t tell Dad about you coming out to me. You asked me not to tell him. But I did talk to him about what you were going through before you told me.”

 

Dean feels his lungs constrict at the thought. He swallows around the lump stuck in his throat, risking a glance at Sam, “What did you say?”

 

Sam purses his lips, “It was on the drive back from Missouri’s. I didn’t want to bring you in case it ended up being some kind of trick. You were going through too much already and Claire was there so I didn’t worry about leaving you alone. When Dad proved himself and we were on the road, he asked about you being in a really bad place. I told him you and Cas were close and that your relationship went deep. He asked if you were in love with Cas and…”

 

Sam takes a breath and Dean tenses at the pause.

 

“And I said that after everything, it really looked like you were,” Sam finishes, “But I told him I didn’t know for sure.”

 

“Well, now you do,” Dean grits out, gripping onto his knees.

 

Sam nods, looking away at the falls. An uncomfortable silence passes between them, one that Dean wants to get away from, but then Sam says his name barely audible over the sound of falling water.

 

“Dean?”

 

Dean bites his cheek and doesn’t answer.

 

“I...I lied to Dad. When I told him I didn’t know for sure. Truth is, I’ve been pretty sure of it for a few years now.”

 

A noise escapes Dean’s throat and he feels Sam’s hand on his shoulder, but he shrugs it off.

 

“How long?” he chokes out, feeling shaky.

 

Sam clears his throat, “Thought there might have been something going on after we thought Cas died in - god - 2011? With those damn leviathan? You kept his coat clean and in the back of the Impala, drank more than I had ever seen you drink. Bobby and I were scared for you. It was just a thought in the back of my mind then, a ‘what if’ I guess. But I sort of brushed the thought away, thought it might be because Cas was the first best friend you had. You never got close to people like you did to him, not really, and I thought that maybe your reaction was because you never had someone like that in your life before. But it wasn’t until after you came back from Purgatory that I knew. You...You kept seeing him everywhere. And when you told me that, I just remembered how I used to see Jess after she died. I thought about asking you about it, getting you to talk, but you were keeping Benny a secret and you were pissed at me for not looking for you. I didn’t know how to bring it up.”

 

Surprisingly, Sam snorts out a laugh and Dean looks at him in surprise.

 

“The last couple of years though?” Sam shakes his head, “The amount of times I felt like I was a third wheel with you guys. It was too much. I would sit there and watch you both flirt with each other or stare at each other all while you forgot I was in the room. And then when you were pissy about Benjamin and Cas actively tried to make you jealous, only for you to storm into the diner later to protect his honor from that creep, Ishim-”

 

“And you just didn’t say anything?” Dean scoffs.

 

Sam shrugs, “You called him ‘devastatingly handsome’ after a waitress hit on him. He told you he loved you. I figured it didn’t need to be said. And what if I did say something? Would you have spilled and told me everything?”

 

“No.”

 

“Exactly,” Sam confirms, “And I’ve expected that you might be struggling with your sexuality for a while. Thought it in passing before we met Cas. But it became more obvious once he came along, with him and other guys we met, like he awakened something in you-”

 

“Alright, just stop,” Dean interrupts, because he really can’t stomach much more of his brother’s interpretations.

 

Sam looks a bit guilty, “I’m sorry if I overloaded you, Dean-”

 

Dean shakes his head, “No. Well, you did. I feel sick right now. But you’re wrong.”

 

Sam gives him an almost incredulous look, “No, I’m not.”

 

Dean laughs at that but has to sniffle at the same time, because this is really all too much for him. He gave up on wondering how this conversation would go years ago.

 

“Sam, I had a boyfriend back when you were at Stanford. So that shit has been awakened for years now.”

 

Dean risks looking at Sam then and almost wants to laugh when Sam’s eyes widen and his jaw drops in shock.

 

“I didn’t...How did you...When did…” Sam stutters, “Who was he?”

 

Dean shrugs and turns to focus on the ground as he spreads the dirt around with his shoe, “A hunter. Just a couple of years older than me. He didn’t hunt all the time. He had a 9 to 5 as a junior executive in Chicago, tended to hunt at night or on the weekends. A lot more adjusted and less obsessed than most hunters are. I’d shack up with him when I wasn’t hunting with Dad. Dad kept his distance after you left, think he might have been worried I’d leave too. Whether he left so I wouldn’t leave first or because he was afraid I would feel suffocated like you did, I don’t know. But in person, I wouldn’t see him for sometimes a month or more at a time. He’d call every couple of days or I’d call him. He was relieved I had someone to hunt with.”

 

Dean snorts at the thought and shakes his head, “Man, if he only knew what I was really doing with Luke. But we hunted together too, so it wasn’t a complete farce. Hell, we met up with Dad a couple of times for bigger jobs. He liked Luke. Probably would have felt differently if he had known. I palled around with Luke’s friends. I met Luke’s sister. Couldn’t bring myself to even hold his damn hand in public most of the time, let alone kiss him. Shit, I don’t know why I’m telling you this.”

 

“Dean,” Sam starts, trying to catch his brother’s eyes, “I want you to tell me about this. I’m suddenly learning something completely new about you, stuff I never thought to think of.”

 

Dean shrugs and lets out a breath, “It was a long time ago. We were together less than a year. He was getting fed up with me keeping him a secret. I could feel I was losing him, it made me feel sick, but I couldn’t tell Dad. I just couldn’t. I told him I’d call you to see if you’d be up for meeting him, but you never picked up. I couldn’t bring myself to show up just to spring something like that on you. Didn’t want to upset or embarrass you-”

 

“You wouldn’t have!” Sam insists loudly, “Dean, I might not have suspected it back then but I would have accepted you and would have wanted to meet him. Shit, I’m sorry for being such an angry, scared, selfish dick-”

 

“You weren’t a selfish dick,” Dean sighs, “You knew what you wanted and went for it. I admired you for that.”

 

Sam runs a hand over his face, “Still doesn’t mean I couldn’t have called you back. Still doesn’t mean I couldn’t have kept my number the same.”

 

“Yeah, well...shit happens,” Dean shrugs, “We didn’t last much longer anyway. Stuff went down and I didn’t hook up with guys for years after that.”

 

“It’s my fault,” Sam whispers, “If I would have answered-”

 

“Then Luke and I would have stayed together, adopted 2.5 kids from China, and built a white picket fence?” Dean huffs, “Yeah, Sam. You dropped the ball there. Shut up, it wasn’t your fault. I fucked up royally without you, went through a hard time right after...whatever. I’m over it. I don’t know why I told you all of that. It’s not even what’s bothering me.”

 

“Yeah, but Cas is what’s bothering you,” Sam answers sadly, “And maybe you would have felt more comfortable starting something with him, or at least being more open with me about what you’re going through now, if I had answered back then.”

 

“If you’re going to bring The Butterfly Effect into play, then I swear to God-” Dean starts, silently cursing his life that had led him up to this point.

 

“I’m not trying to,” Sam interrupts, “I’m just...I’m really sorry, Dean. I’m sorry that you felt like you couldn’t tell me.

 

Dean hums in response then gets up to pace, trying to get the nervous energy to settle down. Sam just watches him from his seat, probably keeping an eye on potential erratic behavior, like Sam tends to do when he is fucked up over something.

 

“You never said…” Dean starts, trying to bring himself to say the words, “You never said how Dad reacted to you thinking...thinking I was in love with-”

 

Dean’s sentence breaks off and he runs his hand over his mouth, but Sam seems to take the hint.

 

“He was sad about it,” Sam tells him, with an understanding tenderness, “Not about Cas being a guy, I’m not completely sure I told him he was. Actually, I think he might have thought Cas was a girl at first, since he asked if it was Cassie. He figured out who Cas was more or less on his own. But he...he’s really worried about you, Dean. He hates that you lost someone you loved. I don’t think he really knows how to take the angel thing, but I do think being dead for so long and coming back to find you so distraught has put things in perspective enough that he doesn’t care you are into guys. He just wants you to feel better and be happy. He was even looking up grief therapists friendly to the LGBTQ community, which is baffling because you know how he feels about shrinks. I told him you wouldn’t be up for that, because on the off chance you would see a shrink-”

 

“There’s no chance I’m going to a damn shrink,” Dean mutters.

 

“-it would have to be your choice,” Sam finishes, “He wants you to talk to him about it though. He wants to understand and be there for you. He was so hurt by the idea you might be afraid to tell him. I’m actually pretty proud of him for the way he’s handling it.”

 

Dean nods at that and blinks few times, biting his lip until he’s sure he’s not going to have some type of emotional outburst. Truth is, if Sam’s being honest, he is touched if his dad is accepting this and trying to find ways to make him feel better. But-

 

“I can’t,” Dean rasps out, rubbing at his eyes, “I can’t talk to him about it, Sam.”

 

Sam lets out a sad sigh and stands to his feet, “Dean-”

 

“Look, I talked enough,” Dean interrupts, turning to face his brother, “I talked to you about this more than I ever planned to. But I can’t...fuck it, I can’t come out to him. Even if he already knows. It’s not happening.”

 

Sam stares at him with those sad eyes again, the kind that make Dean want to look away because of the heaviness they make him feel, but Sam doesn’t argue the point further. He just nods his head and whispers, “Okay.”

 

Dean thinks that might be it, that he might have survived this whole ordeal without breaking down or storming off. That’s progress, right? He even makes it through the tight hug Sam surprisingly pulls him into right before they get back to the house.

 

“Alright,” Dean forces out a chuckle, clapping Sam’s back as he bites his lip, “I’m alright.”

 

He forgot how long Sam could cling when you didn’t put an end to the touchy-feely shit. His brother sniffles once when Dean detangles himself from the embrace. What Sam’s so upset about, Dean doesn’t really know. He doesn’t try to find out. He ends up just hanging back when Sam makes his way to the front door. He’s not ready to go inside yet.

 

“You coming in?” Sam asks, holding the door open.

 

Dean hesitates, then shakes his head, “I’m going to sit in Baby for a while.”

 

Sam doesn’t question it. He actually looks like he understands.

 

“Okay,” Sam nods, “You have your phone? You can text me if you want some company.”

 

Dean smirks, “I’m not that clingy. Go in the house, bitch.”

 

Sam smiles at Dean, teeth and all, “Jerk.”

 


 

 

Jody has come to the conclusion that Eileen is one of the coolest people she’s ever met. Funny, smart, feisty, and has a way with Jack that leaves her in awe. She can also get John Winchester belly laughing, which has to be a hard and daunting task - at least from what she’s heard. Sam’s a wonderful person and Jody firmly believes he deserves the best partner in the world. Yet Eileen still might be out of his league.

 

“Hey, I know you haven’t been back long,” Jody starts when John gets up to use the bathroom, “But you know anything about Jack wanting to design women’s clothing? He seems to adore you. Thought he might mention something like that.”

 

Eileen tilts her head her head in confusion and thinks on it, “He did create a beautiful one piece for me when we went swimming last week. I don’t see him wanting to take on fashion design full-time. But if he does, he has an eye for proper sizing and styles.”

 

“...Huh,” Jody finally answers, nodding, “The girls are playing dress up with him. Claire told me that’s what he dreams of doing but he’s afraid to tell Sam because of the family business.”

 

Eileen snorts and takes a sip of beer, “I’ll talk to Sam about it.”

 

“I still think they’re up to something,” Jody informs her, “Jack’s sincerity threw me off, but something’s telling me-”

 

“That they’re bullshitting?” Eileen finishes, “Good for them. Jack needs to have those moments of being a carefree, sneaky kid. I would love to see him rebel against us in the most typical teenage way, even if it pisses us off.”

 

Jody smiles at that and lets out a laugh, “Eileen, take it from someone who took in two teenage girls: You will be eating your words as soon as he starts.”

 

Before Eileen can answer, Jody hears the front door open and stands up out of habit.

 

“I think your boyfriend and his brother are back,” she tells her before making her way to the foyer, Eileen following close behind.

 

Sam looks emotionally drained when they see him, the kind of drained you feel when you’ve talked about some seriously tough topics that take a lot out of anyone who is a part of the conversation. But the smile that forms on his face when he sees Eileen, so relieved that she’s there, almost makes Jody feel like she should leave the room.

 

“You okay?” she hears Eileen ask softly, coming up to Sam to put her arms around him.

 

Sam shrugs, but returns the embrace, kissing the top of Eileen’s head before resting his cheek upon it.

 

“Where’s Dean?” Jody has to ask, looking towards the living room to see if she missed him.

 

“Outside in the car,” Sam answers, his voice slightly hoarse, “He just needs some time alone.”

 

Jody hums, walking over to peek through the windows built into the door. Sure enough, the Impala is right outside and a familiar figure is in the driver’s seat.

 

“He alright?” Jody asks, her eyes still on the car.

 

“He’s…” Sam’s starts, gently pulling away from Eileen to turn around, “He’s going to be. I hope. I think. Damn it, I don’t know. But we talked a lot, more than we have in a while. So that’s a good sign, right?”

 

Jody gives him a small smile, “I think that’s a good sign.”

 

Sam nods and tries to smile back, “Good. I trust your judgment.”

 

“You should,” Jody murmurs, before glancing between Sam and Eileen, “I’ll leave you two kids alone.”

 

And she does leave them alone, smiling when she passes the living room every so often, catching Eileen gently work Sam’s hands into certain signs as she lays her head in his lap or Sam’s confusion and baffled guilt when she tells him about Jack’s claim of wanting to be a fashion designer. Sometimes she can’t hear or see what’s being said at all but can hear their laughter echoing down the hall.

 

And while seeing their love and affection makes her smile, it makes her desperately miss Sean. Although the worst of the ache is gone when it comes to her husband, not a day goes by where she doesn’t think about him. Sometimes she wonders what life would be like if he came back, how he’d take to the girls.

 

But she mostly wonders whether or not her dead husband would fit into the life she’s built for herself at all.

 

As she sits there with John, watching him go over old books and type away on the laptop, she also has to ponder whether he ever wonders if he and Mary would fit into each other’s lives now. But going by the intensity of his research, he doesn’t even seem to question it.

 

“Want more coffee?” she asks him, standing up, “I can make you a pot.”

 

John grunts what sounds like an affirmative, before seeming to remember his manners and looking up at her.

 

“Yeah,” he answers more properly, “That sounds good. I’ll probably be up for a while. Dean back inside yet?”

 

Jody shakes her head, giving him a sad smile as she goes to fill the coffee machine with water, “Still out in the car. You waiting up for him?”

 

“I think he’s a bit sick of me,” John grumbles, rubbing his eyes, “Being on Dean duty when he’s…”

 

“Hurting?” Jody guesses.

 

“That’s a huge understatement, but yeah,” John answers, “It’s rough. seeing him like this and not being able to get through to him.”

 

Jody nods and gives John a sympathetic glance before pouring the man a cup of coffee and sitting down across from him.

 

“I can go talk to him,” she offers, “If you want. Planned to anyway. He’s been worrying all of us and hasn’t been himself since...you know.”

 

John shrugs and takes a sip from the mug, “Go for it. Not sure if you’ll have better luck with him being sober or not. He’s rarely been since I got back and when he is and I want to try to talk to him about Cas? He finds a way to escape before I can sit him down. And when he’s drunk, he still finds a way to change the subject - even if he’s a mess while doing so.”

 

“I’ll let you know if I get anything out of him,” Jody promises, crossing her arms over her chest as she leans back in her seat, “Although I can’t promise to tell you what he says. That’s up to him.”

 

“Yeah…” John sighs sadly, “I know.”

 


 

 

His dad might have managed to hide the liquor in the bunker, but he of all people should know that they built a special spot in the Impala’s trunk to hold a bottle of something in case they need a spontaneous molotov cocktail or a quick antiseptic.

 

In Dean’s case, he needs a fucking drink.

 

He’s not drunk and doesn’t really plan to go past a strong buzz. Hell, he had forgotten about the bottle too. He’s only gotten a couple of shots worth into his system. It’s not his choice liquor by any means but it’ll do in a pinch, just like it was meant to.

 

But things don’t always go how they’re meant to - he of all people should know that. He was supposed to sit out here and have some time to himself, clear his head, get over the conversation he had with Sam. Jody isn’t supposed to be tapping on the passenger window.

 

Dean closes his eyes and leans his head backwards before reaching over to roll down the window part way.

 

“Mind if I join you?” Jody asks.

 

“What’s the problem, Sheriff?” Dean snorts, unlocking the passenger door, “You gonna write me up? I wasn’t going over the speed limit, I promise.”

 

Jody smirks before settling into the car, “Nah, I’ll let you off with a warning on that. Although I might have to take you in for having an open bottle in a vehicle.”

 

Dean tsks, shaking his head, “See, you can’t get me on that. Have to be on a public road in order for this to be considered a misdemeanor, at least in South Dakota.”

 

Jody looks impressed, “Your daddy taught you well.”

 

Dean shrugs, then takes a drink from the bottle, “Bobby taught me that one.”

 

“He would know,” Jody smiles fondly, “I picked him up enough for stuff like that, way back when...I miss him.”

 

“Yeah,” Dean murmurs, the bottle pressed against his bottom lip, “Me too.”

 

They sit there in the quiet for a few moments and Dean finds himself smiling just slightly when he passes Jody the bottle and she accepts the gesture, tossing a swig of the liquor back.

 

“Never took you as a brandy man,” Jody comments, shuddering slightly at the taste.

 

Dean shrugs, “We keep some in the back of the trunk. Read that it’s one of the best liquors to clean a wound. Content’s high enough to kill the bacteria but not high enough to kill the healthy skin around it.”

 

“Is that so?” Jody asks, intrigued, studying the bottle.

 

“I dunno,” Dean mumbles, taking the bottle back for another drink.

 

“Well, you’re still alive and kicking,” Jody answers, patting him on the knee, “I say it’s been working pretty well so far.”

 

“Yeah,” Dean scoffs, taking a sharp breath in, “If you say so.”

 

He can feel Jody’s eyes on him and he immediately feels exposed. If it were anyone else he’d kick them out of the car or get out himself, but he can’t. Not with her. There’s too much respect and love between them and he can’t force himself to push her away.

 

“It doesn’t work on every wound, does it?” Jody murmurs sadly.

 

Dean swallows the lump and runs a hand over his face, “No, it doesn’t.”

 

“Then why are you drinking so much, Dean? Why are you drinking so much if it doesn’t help?”

 

Dean can’t answer at first and Jody doesn’t push him to. Instead, she grabs a hold of his hand firmly, holds it in hers, and waits.

 

“Keeps me from dreaming,” Dean rasps out, “Helped with Hell, with Sam when he was in the pit, with Cas when he died the first time, and now...”

 

“And now he’s gone again,” Jody finishes, giving his hand a squeeze.

 

Dean shakes his head and forces his eyes shut before they can start watering, “He’s gone for good, Jody. I can’t get him out of my head. I see him dying all the time, see my mom falling through the portal with Lucifer. I’m looking for her, I am, but mainly because I don’t have it in me to tell my dad she’s probably dead by now. And I’m not ready to mourn her too. Cas has me screwed up already and I can’t move on from him, not when I have to run into him in every other universe we go to. Not when…”

 

Dean trails off, feeling shaky as he stops for air. Jody’s eyes are still on him, probably because she’s wondering what he was going to say. But there’s no way he can say the words now that he’s stopped.

 

“Not when you’re in love with him?”

 

The words hit Dean like a punch to the stomach and he feels like he can barely breathe. Jody is still holding his hand, but she places her other hand on the back of his neck and massages it gently until his breathing is completely normal.

 

“Sam talk to you about that too?” Dean croaks out, feeling the betrayal from before seep back in.

 

“No, honey,” Jody denies softly, “He never had to say a word. If anyone made me see it, it was Claire.”

 

“So everyone pretty much knows,” Dean mutters, huffing out a breath as he shakes his head.

 

“I don’t know about everyone,” Jody answers, thinking on it, “Maybe just the people you’re close with.”

 

And Dean doesn’t know what makes him say it, whether it’s the small amount of brandy he’s consumed or a brief moment of insanity, but as soon as he opens his mouth, the first thing out of his mouth is, “Last universe I went to and saw Cas? I let him fuck me. You guys know that too?”

 

It’s crude and it’s fucked up and he said it to Jody of all people, someone who doesn’t deserve to be spoken to like that. But when he forces himself to look at her, she doesn’t look surprised. Curious, if anything, maybe a bit sad for him. That might be worse.

 

“Yeah?” she asks, open-minded and genuine, “I wasn’t aware of that. Was it the first time you’ve had sex with a man?”

 

Dean chugs his next much needed swig, shuddering at the slight burn before he answers.

 

“Far from it.”

 

Jody gives him a sad smile when he says the words, then gently takes the bottle from his grasp before pulling his head in to press a kiss against his temple.

 

“I lost the man I loved too,” she tells him, whispering into his ear as she wraps her arms around his shoulders, pulling him into her embrace, “And it hurts like hell, every fucking day, especially in that first year. But after a while? The pain dulls a bit. It’s still there and sometimes the thought of it coming back full force terrifies you, but you learn to keep moving. You find reasons to. For me it was keeping my town safe, making sure no one suffered the kind of loss I did. And then I learned to start thriving when I got my girls. I have you to thank for them. Never would have met them if it weren’t for you, so I keep going and smiling for you and Sam too. You’re all not the family I imagined for myself, but you’re the family I got and I wouldn’t trade any of you in for anything. And I know right now it is really hard for you to see what you do have because of everyone you’ve lost, but you’ve got some wonderful people who love you and are here for you. You’ve got your brother, you’ve got his girl, you’ve got your dad, you’ve got our crazy and infuriating teenagers doing god knows what upstairs, and you’ve got me. So you take your time, mourn him for however long it takes, but remember that you don’t have to hold everything in and do this alone.”

 

Dean’s face crumples when he nods into Jody’s shoulder, his breath hitching as Jody picks his head up and wipes his face with her thumbs. It doesn’t do much good. More tears just replace them and Dean has to shift in his seat to look out the window and collect himself, but Jody rubs his back while he does, reminding him that she’s there.

 

“Fuck, sorry about that,” he croaks, scrubbing at his face, “Not exactly the epitome of emotional stability right now.”

 

Jody tilts her head, “Have you ever been?”

 

Dean actually lets out a watery laugh at that, “Shut up.”

 

They sit there for a moment, not saying a word as they stare at the moon, before Jody shivers.

 

“It’s getting colder sooner,” she comments, rubbing her shoulders, “I feel like summer barely happened.”

 

“I didn’t have much time for lazy days at the beach either,” Dean murmurs.

 

“No,” Jody answers gently, “I suppose you didn’t. I’m going to head inside. Warm up some. You going to come in with me or stay out here for a bit?”

 

Dean pauses then turns to look at Jody, “Just give me a minute. I’ll be in soon.”

 

Jody nods then opens the car door to stand up. Dean watches her turn around and lean her head back into the car to look at the bottle.

 

“Is that going to come in with me or is it going to stay out here for a bit too?”

 

Dean struggles with that decision for a little longer. But slowly, he picks the bottle up, makes sure the cap is tight, and gives it to Jody.

 

Jody looks proud of him then, giving him a relieved and hopeful look, before closing the car door and heading back into the house, bottle and all.

 

He feels a bit better, even though his conversation with Jody has left him feeling raw. But he’s calmer than he was before, not as stressed. Even when Claire’s car pulls out haphazardly onto the street, with Jack in the backseat cheering out the window, all he can do is close his eyes, shake his head, and mutter, “Crazy and infuriating teenagers” before heading back into the house.

Chapter Text

“Jack, would you stop sticking your head out the window? You’re not a freaking dog!”

 

Claire keeps both hands on the wheel as she calls out the words, risking a glance at the boy in the backseat through her rearview mirror.

 

“I feel like I’m on top of the world, Claire!” Jack calls out, propping himself up to his knees to stretch his arms out the window, eyes closed in bliss.

 

“If you only knew the irony of this situation,” Claire sighs, “Alex, didn’t we say he looks like Leo in Titanic? Same hair, even the same name?”

 

“We did say that,” Alex agrees, turning partway in her seat in time to see the boy cheer.

 

Claire shakes her head, “Why are you acting so strange right now? Stick your head back in the car! If we flip over and you get beheaded, I’m not the one telling Sam.”

 

Jack reluctantly tucks his body into the car and sits a bit more properly in his seat, “Claire, I would just reattach my head and heal myself. I assure you an accident like that would be a minor hiccup.”

 

It’s not funny. It’s not. So why Alex is stifling laughter in the passenger seat is beyond Claire.

 

“Why are you so excited, Jack?” Alex asks, tossing the boy a smile over her shoulder, “We’re not even at the party yet.”

 

Jack ponders the reasons for a moment, then frowns, “I’m not sure I can explain it. It’s like the exhilaration of sneaking out, breaking the rules - it’s ignited my body and I feel like I can do anything. Maybe I should be scared by it. Oh...Oh. What if this is how Lucifer felt when he went against God? What if I am displaying similarities to his behavior-”

 

Claire waves her hand and yells out to shush Jack, “Dude. Just because you’re excited over breaking out of the house for some fun with your peers doesn’t mean you’re the devil incarnate. It means you’re a teenager. Teenagers are excitable, rebellious bitches. It’s our nature.”

 

Claire thinks she’s gotten through to Jack, judging by his silence, until Jack clears his throat and says, “Technically, I’m not the devil incarnate. I’m the son of the devil incarnate, since incarnate implies-”

 

“Jack,” Alex interrupts more kindly, and thank god because Claire is sick of Jack’s soul searching already, “Tonight is about not worrying about our problems. I’m not going to think about vampires or going to college in a couple of weeks. Claire’s not going to think of Cas or hunting or the boy that has her heart thumping. And you’re not going to think of being Lucifer’s biological son and everything you’ve put on your own shoulders. We’re going to be stress-free tonight. And responsible.”

 

“Fuck responsible,” Claire snorts, “I’m getting Jack drunk. It’ll be awesome.”

 

“I’m not even sure if I can get drunk,” Jack points out reasonably.

 

Claire smirks at him through the rearview mirror and floors the pedal once they hit a straight stretch of road.

 

“Doesn’t mean we can’t try.”

 

The house is gigantic once they pull in. Not that Claire expected any less from a silver spoon fed weed dealing frat boy. She’s pretty sure he has mommy and daddy issues since his parents have been in Cabo for two months and they’ve left him in his big old house all to his lonesome, so now he has to have extravagant parties to fill the void, cry her a fucking river.

 

“Young people can have lasting psychological effects from parental neglect regardless of class, Claire,” Jack scolds her from the backseat.

 

“Jack,” Claire huffs, turning around after she puts the car in park, “What did I tell you about reading my mind?”

 

Jack shrugs, faking innocence, “You were projecting. You think loud.”

 

“What did I tell you?”

 

Jack gives her an exasperated look, “That you’d rip my ears off. Which is pointless because even though it hasn’t happened yet, I’m pretty sure I could grow new ones back.”

 

“I don’t know how Sam and Eileen put up with you,” Claire mutters, stepping out of the car.

 

Alex and Jack get out as well and of course Miss Perfect is glaring at her, all high and mighty, as she says, “Be nice, Claire. We brought him so that he could have some fun. He made our outfits, shit we wouldn’t even be able to afford. Maybe show him a little bit of kindness and respect. And he’s right. You do think loud.”

 

Claire watches Alex put an arm around Jack’s waist as the two walk around the vehicle, directing her stony gaze more towards Jack as he passes her.

 

“See?” he whispers, “If you just quiet your thoughts a bit and would think more visually rather than verbally-”

 

“Keep walkin’,” Claire orders, stepping on the back of Jack’s heel as they make their way up the winding driveway.

 

The bass from the music playing inside can be heard from several yards away and there’s a line at the front door.

 

“It looks like they’re doing a cover charge. Did you bring any cash?” Alex asks, checking her purse, “I think I have ten bucks.”

 

Claire shrugs, “I’m going to smooth talk my way in.”

 

Jack pulls a wallet out of his pocket and opens it, “I have five hundred dollars. Is that enough?”

 

“What the fuck?” Claire blurts out, before glancing around to push Jack’s wallet down, lowering her voice to a whisper, “Jack, where did you get that kind of money?”

 

Jack shrugs, “When Alex started looking, I thought some up.”

 

“You thought...You just conjured up a bunch of cash,” Claire nods, disbelieving.

 

Jack gives her a smile, before pulling two one hundred dollar bills out, giving one to Alex and the other to Claire, “Here. Take it. I can always make more if need be.”

 

“...Jack,” Alex chokes out strangled as she looks at the money incredulously.

 

“Thanks for the handout, Warren Buffet,” Claire rolls her eyes as she sticks the bill in her bra, “Now if you could just make some tens and twenties, that would work better here.”

 

Jack hands the bouncer thirty dollars to pay their cover and they make their way inside. Even though she can’t stand the kid part of the time, Claire grips onto the hand Alex isn’t holding so that he doesn’t wander off and do something dumb. The house is ridiculous. There’s a bar in it. An honest to god fully stocked circular bar. It’s so extra that it makes her want to vomit, but she goes towards it anyway and asks for three shots of rum.

 

“Alright, Jack,” she begins, handing him a shot glass and picking another one up for herself, “Alcohol 101: Shots taste the worst but they get you drunk the fastest. Don’t even stop to taste and swish. Just down it. Alex, pick yours up. We’ll drink on the count of three.”

 

“I’m not going to have more than two or three drinks tonight,” Alex answers, stepping back, “Someone has to be at least somewhat sober if you do succeed in getting him wasted.”

 

“Loser,” Claire scoffs, before turning back to Jack, “Alright, Jack. Count of three. One, two, three.”

 

Claire downs her shot, tossing her head back and exposing her neck. The burn of the liquor travels down her throat but she hides the wince and lets the beginnings of a buzz hit her, only taking in Jack’s coughing right after.

 

“Shake it off, Jack,” Claire tells him, clapping Jack on the back, “You know, for someone so potentially badass, you’re so...not.”

 

“Claire,” Jack chokes out, wiping his mouth, “I know my life has only just begun, but that was the worst thing I’ve ever tasted in my life. I don’t think I want to drink again. Ever.”

 

Claire sighs, “Jack, you’re not supposed to say that until you’re hungover.”

 

“It tasted horrible,” Jack insists, standing back up straight, “Unless there is something that tastes better, I plan on being sober for the rest of my life.”

 

Claire studies Jack for a moment, tilting her head before smiling as she thinks of something genius.

 

“Alex, we should give him a blowjob.”

 

“I…”Jack starts, looking quite confused and flustered, “I don’t think this is the appropriate time or place, at the party or in my life-”

 

“It’s another type of shot, Jack,” Alex interrupts quickly, giving Claire a look, “What are you doing?”

 

Claire gives her a mischievous smile and knocks Alex’s shoulder with hers, “Oh, come on. Remember that time we made them at Jody’s when she was working an overnight and we sent snaps of us downing them?”

 

Alex frowns, “I don’t like to. Wouldn’t think you would either, considering you accidentally snapped that whole night to Dean.”

 

Claire groans, “Don’t ruin my night with bad memories. Now, come on. Bartender, lend me your ears! Three blowjobs, please!”

 

“Is she already drunk?” she hears Jack ask Alex from behind her, “Do people start quoting Shakespeare when they’re drunk?”

 

“Claire isn’t drunk,” Alex informs him kindly, “She just puts her former education to use in unconventional ways.”

 

For some reason, that makes Claire smile, “Damn right, I do.”

 

Her smile grows wider as the three shots are put in front of them, perfectly topped off with whipped cream. Claire brushes her hair behind her shoulders and glances at Jack.

 

“Alright, Jack. You’ll like this drink. It tastes like chocolate, so you’ll be fine. But the trick is that you have to drink it with no hands. And no weird levitating tricks, that’s cheating. First, you bend down and suck off the whipped cream, then you put your lips around the shot glass, make sure you have the top part of the glass firmly in your mouth, and then you stand up straight, toss your head back and down it.”

 

Claire turns to her sister and gestures towards her, “Alex, you’re better at it than I am. You should show Jack how it’s done.”

 

Alex rolls her eyes and, for a second, Claire thinks Alex is going to decline the drink. But with grace, Alex bends down sucks the whipped cream into her mouth, then carries the shot glass upwards between her lips and downs it flawlessly. Claire gives a glance to Jack and she’s never seen the kid more captivated in his life. Alex bends back down to put the shot glass onto the bar and garners an unexpected applause. Claire wolf whistles and claps Alex on the back and Jack only joins in when he brings himself out of his daze.

 

Claire follows suit after Alex’s turn in the spotlight, downing the shot in the accepted fashion, mostly without issue until some fucker cops a feel and grabs her ass.

 

“Who the hell do you think you are, asshole?” she rages, charging at the man to meet him eye to eye.

 

The man smirks at Claire disbelievingly and gives her a once over, “Oh, sweetheart. Please. Girls who drink like that and are dressed like you? They’re all gagging for it. You’re no exception.”

 

Anger courses through Claire’s body and she has her fist clenched, ready to lift up and pull back any second now. But the guy actually has the audacity to make another grab for her, pulling her close to cup her breast in his hand, his mouth close enough that she could smell the liquor on his breath.

 

“What are you doing?” Alex cries out, shoving the guy off of Claire just enough so that Claire has some wiggle room to kick his legs out from under him so that he lands on his ass. The room quiets down a little as the scene unfolds, but the man only laughs.

 

“You’re both fei...feisty,” the man slurs, bending his head back to look up at the girls, “Blondie, you can invite your friend with us too. As soon as I get up, we’ll be on our way.”

 

The man puts his arms down to lift himself up, then pauses and tries again. And again. And one more time.

 

“What’s goin’...”

 

The man lifts his arms up and lets out a yell when he looks at where his hands used to be. Instead, there are two stumps, perfectly rounded without any blood or scarring. Claire steps back at the sight, her back hitting the bar once more, and Alex immediately holds onto her forearm.

 

And Jack? He just stares at the man, almost bored, as he sips on his blowjob with an eyebrow raised.

 

Which is completely the wrong way to drink it, but Claire doesn’t feel like it’s an appropriate time to bring that up right now. She’d get him another one. She’d give him all the blowjobs. Because she’s pretty sure there’s only one person at this party who could do something as badass as this.

 

“Jack,” Alex whispers to their friend as the man stumbles away and cries, “You can’t just remove someone’s hands from their body because they’re an asshole.”

 

“It’s because of the corruption of the justice system in America,” Claire adds, “Fucked up, I know.”

 

“I know that,” Jack mutters under his breath, drinking the rest of the shot, “I’ll give them back to him in a minute. But he deserved it.”

 

Claire shakes her head and snorts when she hears the man’s cries of relief a minute later. Sighing, she straightens up, waves the bartender down, and orders one more blowjob.

 

“You did it the wrong way last time,” she scolds Jack, putting the shot in front of him, “Probably did that hand trick as a way to divert our attention. But my mind is sharp so come on, chop chop, suck it up.”

 

And Jack surprises her when he does it without fail. And when Claire looks back at Alex? She isn’t expecting her sister to be studying Jack’s neck so closely. Although, it wouldn’t be that surprising if she had some sort of weird fetish like that.

 

But Claire does have to admit - he does have a nice neck.

 

God, she feels gross now.

 

Jack gets the same applause as she and Alex had, plus the cute bartender’s phone number. He’s too old for Jack and Jack doesn’t seem to really get the gesture nor does he show any interest in the man, but the kid pockets it regardless and says, “Thanks, Mike. I’m always up for making new friends. The last friend I made was a catfish and he was quite interesting.”

 

Claire slaps her hand to her forehead and Alex holds back giggles as she hides her face into Claire’s shoulder. Mike gives Jack a strange look, shrugs, then sends over a dreamy smile.

 

“Catfish. Like the show. Man, the internet allows for so much deception to happen these days,” Mike drawls, “I know all about that road. Last guy I hooked up with on Grindr? Complete farce. Put himself in the twink category. But you can’t be a twink at 40, that’s just how it is.”

 

Jack doesn’t seem like he knows what to say to that. Instead, Claire watches him go the socially safe route for once by putting an understanding mask on and nodding his head empathetically.

 

“You into those girly drinks, kid?” Mike asks, nodding at the empty shot glass.

 

“I wasn’t aware that drinks had genders,” Jack comments, intrigued.

 

Claire leans over, “He means frilly, sweet, weak drinks that men won’t put up with because they’re big and strong.”

 

Jack squints, “That sounds insulting towards women.”

 

“Don’t worry about it,” Claire snorts, “Sometimes we have to let shit go, focus on the real battles. Not take people’s hands off, as tempting as it might be.”

 

Jack nods, but meets Mike’s gaze with a hard glare, “I’d like the strongest girl drink you have.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jack...Jack feels good.

 

It’s sort of how he feels when he’s underwater. His arms feel light and so does his head, like he’s weightless, but in a good way. After seven mango daiquiris and barely being able to feel a thing, Jack realized that if he just told his body not to heal itself of the effects of alcohol, he could start feeling what Claire and Alex called a buzz.

 

So when he’s on his tenth? He’s past that.

 

“Claire, Alex - I feel great,” Jack tells them, slinging his arms around the both of them, “You two are my best friends. This is the best night. In all my life, maybe.”

 

“Aw, Jack. You’re our best friend too,” Alex smiles, tilting her head so that her temple meets his shoulder.

 

“Yeah, you’re not so bad. I guess,” Claire answers fondly, “You did protect our honor and all.”

 

“I had to,” Jack insists, sitting back down at the bar between the girls, “He was sexually harassing you both and deserves to be in jail. In fact, maybe we should call Jody to fill out a report-”

 

“We’re not calling Jody,” Claire stops him, grabbing onto him, “The night’s only begun. We’ve still got to dance and meet people and play games like beer pong and spin the bottle.”

 

“Exactly,” Alex agrees, “What’s done is done.”

 

“Fuck men though,” Claire scoffs, before giving Jack a glance, “No offense.”

 

“I can understand why you might have issues if you face that sort of abuse on a regular basis,” Jack answers, understanding where Claire is coming from.

 

“Another daiquiri?” Mike asks, coming over to check on them.

 

Jack looks down at his empty glass and nods, handing it over, “You know, Mike. For someone as sexist as yourself, you sure know how to make a good girl drink.”

 

Mike looks around bewildered, “Thanks?”

 

“No problem,” Jack smiles kindly.

 

It’s a nice feeling, being drunk. He likes it a lot. The stress he’s been feeling for a while now? Gone. Or if it’s there, it’s tucked back in a corner of his mind that he can’t quite reach. Jack twirls the umbrella around in the glass before tucking it in his pocket to join the others he’s received. Claire had scoffed and told him to stop after the eighth umbrella and had even reached into his pocket to pull them out. Of course she found nothing. He made the pocket infinite in size because he wanted it to be. He watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with Dad a while back and was inspired by Newt’s bag.

 

But back to being drunk. Do you know what the other nice thing about being drunk is? If anything, Alex is even more beautiful. It’s like the alcohol in his system heightens her beauty. Jack doesn’t know how that scientifically works but he’ll find out once he’s sober.

 

“Tell me everything about yourself,” Jack insists suddenly, propping his head up on the bar to gaze at her.

 

Alex gets a confused smile on her face and looks around, “...What do you want to know?”

 

“Everything.”

 

“Uh...well...my favorite show when I was a toddler was Dora the Explorer,” Alex starts as Jack makes a mental note to ask Sam to look up Dora the Explorer episodes on his laptop for him, “...I like the color blue? I don’t know, Jack. Up until recently, I didn’t have very many good memories.”

 

Jack almost wants to hit himself for reminding her of her past, “I am so sorry, Alex. Forgive me for asking such a question.”

 

“It’s okay,” Alex tells him, putting her hand on top of his, “Fact is, it might be nice to talk about it sometime. I haven’t really yet. Can’t exactly tell a shrink everything, considering the circumstances. Maybe one day, if you’re still willing to listen, I’ll talk about it with you.”

 

Jack gives her a small smile, “I’ll always listen to you, Alex.”

 

Alex smiles back at him and leans in, “But we’re not going to talk about the heavy stuff tonight, huh? That girl over there? With the curly red hair and green eyes? She’s been staring at you for an hour. You should go and ask her to dance.”

 

Jack’s smile falters as he feels his heart fall into his stomach. He can admit the girl looking at him is attractive. Her soul is relatively bright and she has a sweet and bashful smile when Jack meets her eyes. But she isn’t Alex. She doesn’t make Jack feel like he’s soaring in the clouds. He doesn’t even know how to dance.

 

“Are you panicking because you don’t know how to dance?” Alex asks him softly.

 

“...Partly,” Jack ends up answering, turning his neck to look at Alex once more. It’s not a lie. He is upset about that too.

 

“...Alright,” Alex decides, taking a sip of water, “Next slower song they play, I’ll show you.”

 

Waiting for a slow song takes a while. Claire accepts a dance from a young man before he and Alex get to go, which surprises Jack because Claire has never come off as a dancer to him. Not that Jack ever thought about it before she said yes, but his point still stands. He’s pretty sure his point is correct though, since she and the man don’t even bother dancing. They just go straight to the nearest corner and make out.

 

“Is that the boyfriend you were talking about?” Jack asks Alex, taking another sip of his daiquiri.

 

“No,” Alex sighs, rolling her eyes, “And he’s not country club douche either. I don’t know who that guy is. I don’t think Claire does either.”

 

Jack nods, “Do you think she might regret this? I’ve read that sometimes you do things while drunk that often cause you to feel regret.”

 

Alex stares at her sister sadly, “I think Claire tries not to feel much of anything these days.”

 

Before Jack can ask more about that, because he finds it hard to believe someone can’t feel anything unless they are missing a soul, a new song starts playing from the speakers, slower than the ones that preceded it, and she holds out her hand.

 

“Come on,” she insists, leading him over to an empty space on the floor before putting her other hand on Jack’s shoulder.

 

“Take your hand and put it on my waist,” Alex guides as Jack follows the instructions, “One way to slow dance, like they’re doing? Where the girl puts her arms around the guy’s neck and the guy holds the girl around the waist with both hands? We’re not going to do it that way. This is classier. Makes you more interesting.”

 

“It also makes us stand out,” Jack counters, glancing around.

 

Alex shrugs as they sway to the music, “Sometimes standing out isn’t a bad thing. And besides, no matter how hard we try, I don’t think anyone in our family is going to fit in. Might as well embrace it once in awhile.”

 

Even when the song finishes, Jack doesn’t want to pull away but he forces himself to. It’s probably a good thing since Alex nods over to the girl who had been staring at him before and smiles.

 

“Redhead’s still staring at you,” she points out, “Go say hi. If she asks, just tell her I’m a friend so she doesn’t think you’re a player.”

 

Jack watches Alex as she walks away, his heart aching as she disappears into the crowd, before turning around to make his way to the girl with the red hair.

 

“Hi,” Jack greets, holding out a hand, “My name’s Jack.”

 

The girl grins and her green eyes twinkle beneath the light, “Hi, Jack. I’m Meredith. Want to go get a drink with me?”

 

He had been about to ask her to dance, even though he doesn’t know how he would dance to the song that’s playing now. But instead, he finds himself agreeing before turning back to go towards the bar.

 

“My friends and I...we have drinks in the back,” Meredith tells him, “Some other stuff too. You should come hang with us.”

 

Jack hesitates for a moment. However, Meredith seems nice and her soul is good - excited even.

 

“Okay,” Jack answers, letting her lead the way.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Claire gets bored easily.

 

She spent a solid twenty minutes making out with Dude Bro Numero Uno of the night. She teased him a bit, let him get her a drink and spread her legs just enough so he could put his wandering hand up her dress, before pulling away as soon as his fingertips reached her underwear by telling him she was going to get another drink.

 

She meets Dude Bro Numero Dos at the bar, only to be sabotaged by Alex when she starts to head up the stairs with him.

 

“Did you even get his name?” Alex scoffs as the guy backs off, hands up in surrender, yet still sends Claire a wink.

 

Claire shrugs, giving Alex a dazed smile, “Didn’t seem important at the time.”

 

Claire has to resist rolling her eyes when Alex steps closer to her, studying her intently.

 

“What are you on?”

 

Despite the haze filling Claire’s mind, she does feel a stab of guilt when Alex asks her that.

 

“Relax,” Claire tells her, pushing Alex’s hands away from her face when the other girl tries to look at her pupils, “It was THC. A few drops in my drink. Not a big deal.”

 

“And you just accepted that from a stranger,” Alex nods, her expression hardening.

 

“You only live once,” Claire hums, “In most cases.”

 

Alex shakes her head and lets out a scoff, “You know, Claire. I know you’ve had the whole reckless, devil may care attitude down for a while. But I never pegged you as stupid.”

 

“Don’t give me this after school lecture bullshit,” Claire orders, getting into Alex’s space, “I dropped classes for a reason so obviously I didn’t want to hear it.”

 

“Yeah?” Alex asks, biting her lip, “Well, maybe you should have stayed and learned something. Because this shit right now? It’s a recipe for disaster. You’re hooking up with guys you don’t know, but accepting what they’re putting into your drink at face value. I used to think if you were - god forbid - going to go out, it would be in a blaze of glory. But now? I’m scared that Jody’s going to get a call because you were found dumped by some frat boys or truckers behind a dumpster.”

 

Claire lets out a humorless laugh and starts to walk away, but Alex grabs a hold of her arm.

 

“It’s not like you,” Alex answers, gesturing around, “Whether it’s getting injured on routine hunts or all of this? Or...or the wad of cash I found in your bag? It’s not you. At all. I know you’re hurting, more than you are letting on to anyone, but you’re going to-.”

 

“Would you just stop?” Claire asks, yanking her arm away, “I’m careful, alright? Mind your own business, Alex. Don’t worry about me. Worry about Jack. Where’s he by the way?”

 

Alex turns and looks around, “He’s...damn it, he was…”

 

Claire smirks and gives Alex a once over, “Can’t even keep it together enough to watch the kid. Maybe you should work on yourself and leave me alone.”

 

Claire walks away then and yeah, she feels guilty even though the alcohol and the THC has kept her from feeling the full effect of that guilt. It definitely doesn’t keep her from catching up with Aaron, who is stoned, nursing a gin and tonic, and watching his party from a distance, like some slacker version of Jay Gatsby.

 

Alex isn’t there to stop her from hooking up with him. But that’s okay. Aaron’s gentle, even during a quicky, and isn’t the clingy type once she pulls her dress back down and they head out of the bathroom. It makes her feel a little queasy, how easy this is for her now - how easy she probably is nowadays. But her drunken hookup could have happened with someone much worse.

 

And if she feels like crying due to feeling so damn empty when she’s alone in a sea of people? Well, at least she doesn’t act on it.

------------------------------------------------------------

“Jack, has anyone ever told you that your eyes are as blue as the waters of the Caribbean?”

 

Jack tilts his head in confusion, “No. I have yet to travel to the Caribbean. But I will make a point of doing so that I can properly assess that comparison in the near future.”

 

Meredith giggles with her friend, Tanesha, at his answer. Jack doesn’t know if they’re making fun of him at first but both of the girls turn to him and grin.

 

“For someone who has drunk as much as you have, you still sound awfully smart and uptight. You sure you’re still drunk?” Tanesha asks as Meredith topples into her lap, laughing once more.

 

“...I believe so,” Jack answers, “My hands are still tingly and my arms and head are light. I feel happy, although I would be happier if Alex and Claire were here.”

 

Tanesha and Meredith look at each other, “We’re not good enough for you, Jack?”

 

Jack shakes his head, putting a hand on Meredith’s arm, “No no no. I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant that they’re my close friends. Simply the best, in fact.”

 

Meredith nods, understanding, then crawls closer to him, “If they’re the best, then I suppose they’ve done this?”

 

Before Jack can ask what Meredith means, she closes the distance between them and her lips press against his. His eyes widen at the contact at first. But it’s soft and it feels nice and he’s pretty sure you’re supposed to close your eyes when someone kisses you so he does just that, along with parting his lips slightly when she starts sucking on his lip. After several seconds, she pulls away and Jack gulps.

 

“Um...thank you,” he tells her as sincerely as he can.

 

“Aw,” Tanesha coos, “He said thank you!”

 

“He’s so sweet,” Meredith replies, running her fingers through Jack’s hair.

 

Meredith and Tanesha have a silent exchange. Jack is tempted to read their thoughts, he is. But he knows it’s rude to do so when there’s no reason to sense imminent danger. That’s why he only does it with Claire. She worries him and he wants to make sure she’s not doing stupid things. And when he does? Her thoughts are not often reassuring.

 

But maybe, just maybe, Jack would have been able to see another kiss coming from Tanesha. Tanesha is more forward with her kissing. Her plump lips move against his skillfully, or at least Jack imagines that’s the case, since he finds his hands making their way to her hair to pull her closer.

 

Jack feels a spark. Not like the ones mentioned on Dr. Sexy, because Jack had asked Dean about that and Dean had gotten exasperated and said it’s just a saying, meaning the people kissing have a connection.

 

No, this is an actual spark.

 

“Woah,” Meredith comments as the dim lamp in the corner flickers in the room.

 

“What are you?” Tanesha whispers, staring at him intensely.

 

Jack swallows and stares into Tanesha’s eyes. There is something off. Something not human. Not completely human, anyway.

 

Jack glares at her and holds her at an arm’s length, “What are you?”

 

Tanesha opens her mouth to answer, but they’re interrupted by a, “Hey, ladies.”

 

Jack turns his head to stare at the man. His black hair is tousled and his shirt is unbuttoned, as if he hadn’t bothered getting ready to come to a party. His dark eyes meet Jack’s blue ones and he raises his eyebrows in recognition.

 

“And gentleman,” the man winks, before giving him a shit eating grin, “Were you three having a good time without me?”

 

Meredith rolls her eyes, “Don’t feel left out, Raj. I thought these two were going to have fun without me too.”

 

Raj bends down and kisses Meredith obscenely, “I’d never leave you out, babe.”

 

Raj moves onto Tanesha, “Or you.”

 

The kiss with Tanesha isn’t quite as reciprocated, due to Tanesha seeming distracted throughout the whole ordeal.

 

And then? Raj turns his attention to him, “And you’re too cute to leave out.”

 

Raj’s lips are on his and it does take Jack by surprise, but he feels like he is getting the hang of kissing now so returns the gesture despite the fact he hadn’t been expecting to be kissed by three people in one night.

 

“Oh,” Jack lets out once Raj pulls away, “Um...Thank you.”

 

“Anytime, man,” Raj smiles, biting his lip, “I mean that.”

 

“Raj, you’re corrupting Jack,” Meredith sighs, as if this is normal behavior from her friend.

 

“Oh, like you two weren’t doing that already,” Raj answers before kissing Jack again.

 

And that kiss? It goes on for a while. And while he doesn’t want to kiss Raj to the extent he wants to kiss Alex or even Tanesha, who may or may not be a significant threat, he does act on impulse when Raj pushes him onto his back by flipping the man over and meeting his lips again.

 

“Shit,” Raj says breathlessly, while Jack stares down at him.

 

“While I will take your state of arousal and attempts to seduce me as a compliment, I am not ready to partake in sexual activities at this point in time,” Jack informs Raj, releasing the man before sitting back up to stare at Tanesha intently.

 

”Who are you?” Jack transmits into her brain, not taking his eyes off of her once.

 

Tanesha’s breath hitches in shock as she starts to get up. It’s cruel, since she’s done nothing horrible that he knows of, but he can’t risk letting her leave without having more information. Despite letting his inebriation continue, it does not take much effort to make her have a seat on the floor once more.

 

”Who are you.”

 

“You can’t have me,” she whispers, low enough for only him to hear, “I am my mother’s daughter. I am not yours. Let me go.”

 

Jack squints in confusion and tilts his head.

 

“I don’t understand a word you’re saying.”

 

Tanesha gives him a sharp and scrutinizing look, but all Jack can do is stare at her in hesitant curiosity. He doesn’t think she’s going to tell him, whether that be because she doesn’t trust him or because her friends are in the room, he’s not sure. But he can’t blame her either way. He’s been told not to reveal himself either, especially since the most notorious archangel happens to be his biological father.

 

He also doesn’t trust anyone who isn’t fully human. He had trusted Cas, he remembers that much, but Cas is dead.

 

“Cambion,” she whispers.

 

“Gazoontight,” Meredith answers as she passes Raj an odd shaped tube.

 

“You are not,” Jack tells her, “I would have sensed that from miles away.”

 

He accidentally says the words out loud but other than Meredith giving him a strange glance, it doesn’t garner much attention.

 

“You can read my mind?”

 

Jack turns back towards Tanesha and nods once, giving her the go-ahead to continue.

 

“I am the daughter of a human mother and a siren father. A siren is a demon. The spawn of a demon and a human is called a cambion.”

 

Jack lets out a sigh and gives her a pitying glance, shaking his head. Sometimes he forgets that most people don’t have Sam Winchester as a parent. He feels sorry for people like that.

 

“A siren is a supernatural creature that feeds on desire, almost always sexual desire. They aren’t demons. Sometimes books lie. Like Harry Potter. But I like Harry Potter. A lot. Almost as much as The Odyssey. What’s your favorite book?”

 

Tanesha stares at him bewildered, but it isn’t wrathful or menacing. He’s decided that she’s not a potential enemy after all. In fact, maybe they could be friends. Not best friends like he is with Alex and Claire, but good friends.

 

“Dude, take a hit,” Raj coughs, handing him the long tube-shaped glass.

 

“No, thank you,” Jack declines politely, “I don’t smoke.”

 

Raj shrugs, “I can respect that. Oh, wait!”

 

Raj crosses the room and reaches into his backpack, grabbing several baggies out of it.

 

“Brownies for everyone!” Raj announces, tossing the packs around.

 

Jack catches his brownie and feels his stomach rumble at the sight of it. He loves sweets and he LOVES chocolate.

 

So really, it’s to be expected that he eats the whole thing within a couple of minutes. He washes the last bite down with a drink Meredith mixed for him called a Malibu Bay Breeze. It’s not quite up there with mango daiquiris, but it’s not bad at all.

 

“Uh...Jack?”

 

Jack turns at the sound of Raj’s nervous voice, “Yes?”

 

“You know there was ecstasy in that brownie, right?”

 

Jack shakes his head, “What’s that?”

 

“Shit,” Raj whispers at Meredith, “I thought he heard us talking.”

 

“He was too busy staring at Tanesha,” she whispers back. And Jack might be imagining things, but he detects a note of jealousy.

 

Regardless, Jack is still confused, especially when Raj rubs his hands together and walks towards Jack with a forced smile on his face.

 

“Okay, it wasn’t that much,” the dark haired man placates, putting his hands on Jack’s shoulders, “It was a bigger dose than one should take, but you’re not going to overdose. And the guy who deals it to me gives me good shit, no duds or anything dangerous. You might have a bad trip. If you do, I’m here for you, man, and I won’t take advantage of you, cross my heart.”

 

Jack nods slowly, mulling over the words, “And if I have a good trip?”

 

Raj grins and grabs his face, “Then you enjoy the ride.”

 

For several minutes, Jack feels nothing. He’s aware that he should probably heal himself of any effects and prevent any “bad trip” from happening. But he’s curious. He always has been, for as long as he’s been alive. Dean has always said he asks too many questions. So wanting to know what he might feel like on a good trip keeps him from starting his healing process. While he waits for any changes, he asks Tanesha several questions about her heritage via telepathy. However, she seems distracted and says she isn’t in the sharing or caring mood.

 

She also hasn’t eaten her brownie. Jack really wants it, but he’s worried he may be annoying her.

 

He needs to distract himself. That shouldn’t be too hard. He’s just met another hybrid being, just like himself! One that’s a fantastic kisser and smells nice too. Once he could prove to Sam and Dean that she is trustworthy, maybe they could let her use the library at the bunker so that she could learn about her roots. Because honestly? Jack’s not exactly sure a siren/human hybrid has an official name either. It’s understandable she thought she was a cambion. Siren lore is often quite inaccurate. That seems to be the case on several species. Angel lore varies in accuracy and Nephilim lore is a whole other matter. He and Tanesha are two lost souls, trapped in between their humanity and their otherworldly counterparts, just trying to navigate day to day life. He hopes her mom is as nice as his mom and dad. It seems like she might be afraid of her father. But how one could let fear get in the way in a beautiful, pulsing room such as this is beyond him. He feels every bit of static and vibration at his fingertips and he’s never felt more alive. He’s…

 

Oh. Oh.

 

“It’s hitting you, isn’t it?” Raj asks, before turning to the girls, “Hey, I think he’s feeling something!”

 

“That would be an understatement,” Jack murmurs, watching his fingers create a blue electric charge.

 

“Damn,” Raj says in awe, staring at Jack’s hands while Meredith comes over to take a closer look, “I think it’s hitting me too.”

 

“I need to go get something,” Tanesha mumbles, standing up to leave the room. He doesn’t stop her. She means no harm. He knows that now.

 

Jack implants his number in her brain first, as well as Jody’s. He wants her to know she can call if she needs a friend.

 

“Thanks?”

 

“No problem,” Jack says aloud, as he makes the strings of light dance in the air, “It’s no problem at all.”

------------------------------------------------------

Claire’s feeling fine. She’s awesome. So what if her buzz is starting to leave? The abundance of liquor at this party seems to be infinite. She’d drink some water, then just start again.

 

And that’s what she does. She hydrates herself, gets herself back to an almost acceptable state, and starts to drink again. When she is starting to feel numb once more, she breathes a sigh of relief and just takes a moment to enjoy feeling alright without having to distract herself - too much, at least.

 

“Claire.”

 

And of course that’s ruined.

 

“What are you doing here, Noah?” she mutters, not even meeting the man’s eyes.

 

Noah bumps her shoulder and lets out a breath, “Just stopping by to make sure that Aaron doesn’t completely destroy his parents’ house while they’re away. Thought he would have grown out of that back when we were in high school but at 22, he’s still going strong.”

 

“Yeah, well,” Claire snorts, turning in her seat to face the man, “We all have our hobbies, including rich, spoon fed fuckers like you two.”

 

Noah gives her a once over, almost wistfully, “Yeah, I guess we do.”

 

But before Claire can mind her own business and not get sucked into Noah being him again, her boyfriend or ex or fuck buddy - whoever he is - raises his eyebrows at her and holds back a grin, “Rich, spoon fed fucker? Is that how you see me?”

 

Claire shrugs and smirks, “Just call it like I see it.”

 

Noah laughs at that, genuinely so, like the fact that he’s so rich is so fucking funny.

 

“It’s not that funny,” Claire mutters, turning back to her drink.

 

“No,” Noah agrees, “But it wasn’t that long ago I would have thought you were insane for even thinking that.”

 

Claire nods and spins around on the stool, staring at the drunken crowd, “What? Are you and your mom new money?”

 

Noah seems to almost hesitate with his answer, then nods, “Yeah. She had me young, about the same age as you are right now. Didn’t have any family, you know that, so all we had was each other. She kept at it though, became a doctor despite the odds. I’m proud of her.”

 

Claire doesn’t really know what to say to that. It’s not the first time Noah had opened up to her - she had shared a little to him about herself as well. A couple of months ago, days before everything went down, she would lie in bed with Noah in a hotel room on the edge of town. When they were too tired to go another round, but too loose with their words to go to sleep, they would talk. The hotel room visits continued after everything, but she always left before sunrise. He had somehow known something was wrong, urged her to talk to him. But she couldn’t. She wouldn’t pull him in and a couple of weeks ago she ghosted him. No use seeing him get hurt too.

 

But when his calls and texts had stopped? Even though she knew why, it had still hurt her.

 

“I keep forgetting you and Aaron are friends,” she admits, changing the subject, “You’re both so...different.”

 

The corner of Noah’s mouth turns upwards at that and he lets out a breath, “So that’s why you thought it was okay to sleep with him, right? Because you forgot?”

 

Claire doesn’t really know what to say to that, so she doesn’t say anything at all, opting to run her finger around the rim of her glass.

 

“Aaron...we’re not as good of friends as we used to be. But there’s more to him than that rich kid spoiled stoner persona he puts on. He’s had it rough, believe it or not. His mom and stepdad don’t give a shit about him, think they can just throw money his way and he’ll be alright. And his real dad? Extremely abusive. Spent time in jail for some stuff he did to Aaron. Can’t find it in me to cut him off for good, even if he acts like he’s only half here.”

 

“Well…” Claire answers, taken off guard by the honest answer, “If it means anything at all, he’s lucky to have a friend like you.”

 

“Yeah. I guess that’s one way to put it,” Noah scoffs, shaking his head.

 

Claire gives him a strange look, “What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”

 

“What’s what supposed to mean?”

 

“Yeah. I guess that’s one way to put it,” Claire imitates, before rolling her eyes, “Shut up, you’re perfect.”

 

Noah studies her for a few moments, “Claire, I’m really not perfect.”

 

“Okay,” Claire answers.

 

“And if I were, would you have just cut me off like you did?” Noah asks.

 

Claire pretends to think on it, “Probably would have done it sooner.”

 

“That’s pretty fucked up,” Noah admits, watching her.

 

“Yeah,” Claire laughs, but her eyes are wet and the pain is starting to come back despite the drink in her hand, “But look who you’re talking to. Would you expect anything less?”

 

Claire looks away embarrassed, wiping at her eyes and sniffling once, then feels a hand on her arm.

 

“You gonna tell me what’s going on with you?” Noah asks, his voice softer.

 

“Probably not.”

 

Several seconds of silence pass between them before Noah clears his throat, “You know, I’ve been here for a little while. I spotted you almost an hour ago, letting someone drop something into your drink. You’ve been making out with random guys, letting them feel you up. Snuck off with Aaron. It’s not like you, Claire. Tell me what’s going on in your head.”

 

Claire closes her eyes and her face crumples for a second. She tries to get it under control before Noah notices; she does, but it doesn’t work. His hand is on her back, rubbing soothing circles, and it feels nice and causes her even more pain all at once.

 

“Why do you even care?” Claire chokes out, “I pushed you away. I hurt you.”

 

“Yeah, you did,” Noah agrees, “But that doesn’t mean I want to see you hurting too.”

 

Claire lets out a breath and nods, “Can we at least go upstairs first? Away from all of this?”

 

Noah doesn’t answer immediately, an action that gains a questioning look from Claire, but the man ends up standing up and taking her hand.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sometimes? Jack really appreciates being one of the most powerful beings in the universe. Along with being able to bring people from his family back to life, he can create beautiful clothes for Alex, Claire, and Eileen. Maybe he’d make some for Sam and Dean too, give them more selection. He can create money when they need it, which could ease the financial burdens for the people he loves. He can also travel the world just by deciding on a place and willing himself to be there. That’s nice too.

 

But throughout his travels, he hasn’t yet been to a place where it was snowing.

 

“I’ve never felt more alive,” Meredith smiles as she stares up at the ceiling. The flakes of snow cling to her eyelashes as she stretches out her arms. It makes Jack smile too.

 

“I don’t know what they added to make us feel this but I fucking LOVE IT!” Raj yells out, getting to his feet to slowly spin around.

 

Jack catches the flakes on his fingertips, feeling a sense of calm as it melts when it touches his skin. It’s a beautiful sight. Not as beautiful as Alex, but it’s a different kind of beauty anyway - one that Jack can still appreciate.

 

“I think it’s this room,” Meredith murmurs, looking to be at peace, “No wonder Aaron cut this part of the house off. It’s magic. He just wanted to keep it all for himself.”

 

Raj shakes his head, then goes to sit on his knees in front of Jack.

 

“I think it’s Jack. There’s just something special about him.”

 

Raj strokes Jack’s face then, which feels so nice, like every nerve that Raj brushes against is soothed by the touch.

 

“Yes,” Meredith gasps suddenly, sitting next to Jack to press kisses from his neck all the way to his ear before whispering, “You’re the best, Jack.”

 

“And you’re beautiful,” Raj adds, moving his hand from Jack’s cheek down to his chest, unbuttoning the rest of the buttons on his flannel.

 

They’re both kissing him then and it feels incredible, so Jack closes his eyes and lets himself enjoy it - even if he doesn’t have strong feelings for either of them. He likes them enough and they are making him feel like this, so that’s what matters.

 

“Jack?”

 

Jack opens his eyes at the sound of Alex’s voice and looks up at her with hooded eyes, “Oh. Hi, Alex.”

 

Alex stares at him with shocked, wide eyes, then shakes herself out of it.

 

“Get off of him,” she snarls, pushing Meredith and Raj away before taking Jack’s hands and pulling him up to his feet, “What did you give him?”

 

“They gave me a brownie, Alex,” Jack murmurs, picking up Alex’s hand to run his fingers over the lines in her palm, “Chocolate has always made me feel nice, but not this nice. We should get their recipe before we leave. That way, we can make some for Jody, John, Sam, Eileen, and Dean when we get home.”

 

“Yeah, no,” Alex declines, then turns to Raj and Meredith, “What were in the brownies?”

 

“Uh…” Raj starts, then giggles when the snow starts to fall down harder, “X.”

 

“Fuck,” Alex groans, running a hand through her hair, “Jack, I can’t find Claire so I need some help.”

 

Jack nods agreeably, waving at Raj and Meredith as Alex pulls him out of the room, “It was nice meeting you both. Really nice. When you see Tanesha, tell her to CALL me-”

 

“Jack, come on!”

 

Jack lets out an exasperated breath before giggling at Alex’s insistence, “Alright, alright.”

 

Alex pulls him through the house until they’re in the kitchen. There are several people in there: a girl sitting on the counter making out with her boyfriend, a few guys eating pizza rolls, and another girl blending drinks. Jack greets all of them, even though Alex doesn’t. Which honestly? He is a little surprised by that because Alex is usually quite friendly and kind, but she’s too focused on getting him a glass of water.

 

“Jack, you said that you started to feel the effects of the alcohol when you told your body to stop healing itself, right?” she asks in a low voice as he starts to sip, “Think you can do that and sober up from this quickly?”

 

“Uh…” Jack thinks on it, before wincing, “No. I’d rather not.”

 

Alex groans and puts her hands on his face, forcing him to look at her (and it feels amazing).

 

“Jack, please don’t tell me you’re the stubborn and giggly friend when you’re high and drunk.”

 

Jack sends her a dreamy smile and gently bops his forehead against hers, “That sounds like it might be extremely accurate. I like how I feel, Alex. I feel like I’m about to float. Even the colors are brighter. And honestly? Your eyes are more beautiful than they’ve ever been before, and they were already the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen. I’m not going to end this unless I absolutely have to.”

 

“Okay, Romeo,” she sighs, “Why don’t you at least sit down and take a breather? Stay in the kitchen. I mean it. I’m going to go look around for Claire.”

 

“Alright,” he agrees, going over to sit at the kitchen table, “If that’s what makes you happy, Alex. That’s one of the only things I want - for you to be happy.”

 

“I know, Jack,” Alex answers, rubbing his shoulders for a second, “I’ll be back soon. Just...stay.”

 

Jack watches Alex leave the kitchen, then laces his fingers together on the table. It only takes a few minutes to come up with the great idea of changing the color of the lights to a soft blue and letting it snow in the kitchen as well. The other people in the room aren’t quite as in awe, but they don’t leave or get scared. He likes them already.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

It’s Claire who is the one that chooses one of the guest bedrooms to talk to Noah in. It’s Claire who kisses him first, pushing past Noah’s gentleness by becoming more passionate and forceful. And guess what? It’s also Claire who removes her dress.

 

“Claire,” Noah groans out as soon as Claire has Noah’s shirt open, “Claire, you’re drunk. I don’t know if you want this.”

 

“I’m not that drunk. You interrupted me when I was trying to fix that. I want this,” Claire murmurs, kissing down to his waistband before unbuttoning his jeans, pulling them down his hips along with boxer briefs in one go. She strokes Noah’s cock a few times, then takes it into her mouth and begins to suck.

 

Noah gasps out and when Claire glances up at him, he has his head pressed against the pillow.

 

“At least...fuck! At least let me make you feel good if you won’t talk to me. Shit, Claire. You drive me insane,” Noah moans, reaching down to run his fingers through her hair. Claire pulls off of his dick and Noah sits up, pulling her into a heated kiss. Claire lets him turn her over, falling onto the bed right before he pulls her legs apart to go down on her. Claire doesn’t manage to hold back her whimper as she reaches down to push his head towards her even closer. The ministrations he makes with his tongue are enough to get her to come within a few minutes, but she still wants more.

 

“You have a condom?” Claire asks when Noah comes back up, raising herself up just enough so that he can remove her bra.

 

Noah nods, pressing a kiss against her jaw, “Aaron makes sure there are some in every guest room. Figures he should prevent his party from becoming a breeding ground for unwanted babies and disease.”

 

“Huh. Good call,” Claire laughs, before letting out a moan when Noah dips his head down to swirl his tongue around her nipple.

 

When he’s finally inside of her, taking a little bit of room in the emptiness that she feels, Claire lets out a sigh of relief. He’s usually good about letting her set the pace - so she can decide whether they’ll go fast or slow, gentle or hard. But this time? That isn’t the case. She tries to get him to go harder, but he won’t. Instead, he shakes his head and cradles her face with his hands as he softly kisses her lips. When she comes again, she feels as if she might cry. Noah doesn’t say a word, but lets her press her cheek against his chest until she gets herself under control.

 

It’s when Claire is slowly running her hand down his chest when she sees it. It’s small, barely noticeable at all - but even though she’s still drunk, she still sees the tattoo.

 

“I need to go to the bathroom,” Claire tells him casually, sitting up to put her bra and underwear back on, “I’ll be right back.”

 

“Okay,” Noah mumbles, his eyes half open.

 

Claire tries not to run for the adjoining bathroom, but it’s very hard not to. And as soon as the door is closed, she’s bracing herself on the sink, wondering whether or not she’ll be sick.

 

“Fuck fuck fuck fuck,” she chokes out, taking in shaky breaths. She has nothing - absolutely nothing - on her. Sioux Falls has been mostly dry after The British Men of Letters took out so many monsters at once. She was stupid and let her guard down. So fucking stupid. Because how could she think a guy like Noah would be interested in a girl like her? How could she think that a guy like Noah existed in the first place?

 

How could she not notice the tiny binding link tattoo after sleeping with him so many times?

 

There’s not much she can do to create a devil’s trap. She briefly thinks about doing it with the tube of toothpaste but it won’t pour out and cooperate like she wants it to. So she really only has two options: Run and either get caught by it or get away and risk it hurting someone else. Or…

 

Claire grabs a straight razor from the pack in the medicine cabinet, lifts up the mat on the floor, and slices her wrist. She’s sure she’s cut too deep, but it’s not going to kill her. She’s dumb, but not dumb enough to accidentally kill herself. The way it runs down her arm makes her queasy, although she’s sure the alcohol and the fact she’s been fucking a demon isn’t helping much with that. She swallows down the urge to vomit, draws out a devil’s trap, and throws the mat back down on top of it.

 

“Claire?” Noah calls out from the other side of the door, “You’ve been in there for a while. You okay?”

 

Claire takes a few steadying breaths and clears her throat, “Yeah. Can you come in for a second?”

 

The door creaks open immediately and Noah steps in - boxer briefs back on, thank god - shutting the door behind him. It’s only after that he takes a look at her and his eyes widen.

 

“Claire,” he says urgently as he stares at her wrist, stepping forward, “Claire, what did you do?!”

 

Claire says nothing as Noah comes closer, but a small part of her is impressed at how well he fakes his panic and concern. She doesn’t let herself be swayed by it. She just watches him walk until he can’t move any further.

 

“Claire-” Noah starts, trying to step forward once more, only to be stopped by the invisible force.

 

“Saw the binding link tattoo on your chest,” she rasps out, “So I made a devil’s trap under that mat you’re standing on. My supplies were limited. Work with what you have, right?”

 

Noah opens his mouth to speak but then closes it, as if he doesn’t know what to say.

 

“Have you,” Claire starts, blinking back the moisture in her eyes, “Have you been a demon the whole time I’ve known you or are you just possessing Noah and doing a really good impersonation of him?”

 

Noah swallows and looks down, “It’s been me the whole time. But Claire, I can explain.”

 

Claire lets out an incredulous, heartbroken laugh, “What the fuck is there to explain? And it’s not like you’ll have much time anyway. One call and I can have you obliterated.”

 

“Will you at least apply pressure to your cut first?” Noah stresses, pointing down at her wound, “You’re going to pass out if you don’t take care of it.”

 

“Like you care!” Claire shoots back, clenching her fists.

 

“You don’t even have to step around me,” Noah tells her, “Even if you did, I would never hurt you-”

 

“Liar.”

 

“And there’s a towel behind you on the rack,” Noah finishes, “Wrap it. Please.”

 

Claire keeps her eyes on him, scrutinizing any move he might possibly make, then reaches for the towel and wraps it around her arm.

 

“Talk.”

 

Noah nods and purses his lips, “It’s a long story.”

 

Claire scoffs, “Better talk fast then. I need to kill you and get stitches before Jody wakes up.”

 

Noah gives her a strange look, one that’s strangely exasperated, fearful, and fond all at once. Fucker.

 

“Alright, never told anyone the story but here it goes,” Noah tells her, holding his hands up, “It was 1983. I was eighteen and had custody of my seven year old sister since our parents passed away in an accident. Felt like I was practically drowning with the stress. Then my sister got sick. Cancer, stage four. I was going to lose her and realized I would lose my mind if I lost the only family member I had left. A woman with red eyes found me outside of the hospital. Said she could make it so my sister lived a long and healthy life if-”

 

“You sold your soul,” Claire finishes, because she’s heard the same damn story more than once.

 

Noah nods and continues, “She told me I’d have ten years, get to watch her grow up some. So I said yes. Kissed her. And within a day, my sister was completely healthy. No signs of the cancer at all. I watched her grow until she was 17. When my time was up, I made sure I was nowhere she could find me when the hellhounds came. I was in Hell for over two centuries, broke twenty years into it - give or take - and did what I needed to do. I met another demon who went topside on a regular basis. He told me that only two years had passed since I died. I had figured my sister was long dead for over a century but it had just been two years. I remembered her. I wanted to see her again. So I followed the demon out, went off on my own, and tracked her down. I found her in the hospital, the same damn hospital she had been in when she was sick as a kid. At first I thought the demon hadn’t held up his end of the deal, thought she was sick again. I possessed a doctor in the building. I wanted to say my goodbyes and tell her that I still loved her. But she wasn’t sick. She was in the NICU. She had a son. He was a few days old and on life support. His vessel was empty. The soul had already gone to Heaven, I’m guessing. My sister was a mess. I don’t know if she would have kept going after losing everyone. She had gone through too much already. So I…”

 

Noah stops talking and Claire watches him intently, “So you…?”

 

“I left the doctor and entered her baby’s body. It’s funny how much you start to forget when you allow yourself to grow with a body that’s so young. I could barely even remember what I had done or who I had been until I was almost a teenager. The very few tricks I did gain from what I am just made people think I was a psychic. Or a freak.

 

Claire stares at him in shock, “So your mother is your-”

 

“She’s my younger sister,” Noah confirms, clearing his throat.

 

“That’s confusing,” Claire tells him, before glaring at him, “And fucked up.”

 

Noah lets out a huff and looks down again, “To be honest, sometimes I still get confused about who she is to me too.”

 

“You…” Claire starts, then swallows, “You lied to me. You betrayed me. I slept with you. I cared about you.”

 

“Yeah,” Noah mutters, “Not exactly something you can bring up to someone out of the blue. Especially a hunter.”

 

“So you knew?” Claire grits out, shaking.

 

Noah meets her eyes then, “Yeah, Claire. I knew. Figured out who you were. Worried about my and my mother’s...my sister’s safety. Decided to feel you out and figure out what kind of hunter you are. I could deal with Bobby Singer. He didn’t know what to make of me, kept tabs on me but left me alone since I wasn’t hurting anyone. But I didn’t know about you. So I introduced myself, bought you a drink, asked you out, then fell for you. Then I got my heart broken, even though I tried to tell myself it was the best thing for both of us that you were pulling away, only to become worried out of my mind over your behavior-”

 

“I’m not going to listen this,” Claire slurs out, her legs shaky as she presses against the wound harder and steps around the trap, “I can’t. I never want to see you again.”

 

“Claire-” Noah starts, closing his eyes.

 

“Don’t talk to me,” Claire chokes out, reaching for the doorknob, “And I haven’t decided if I’m going to come back and exorcise you yet. So you should probably figure a way out of the trap before that.”

 

Claire is able to hold it in until she gets out into the hall. But as soon as she does, she screams and kicks the wall, then hides her face into her hands and cries. A couple passes her on their way to the guest room across the hall. They jump a little at the sight and whisper quietly enough so that Claire can’t hear, but they don’t ask her once if she or her arm are okay.

 

The blood is soaked through the towel now and Claire knows she should get Alex so that they can leave or at least find Jack. Her pride is fucking dangerous though. She doesn’t want to face the pity and sadness Alex will feel once she sees her and she doesn’t want Jack to have to heal her. Again. She’s still shocked he never told Dean or Sam about her brush with death. Might as well not give him another secret to keep. That would be pushing it.

 

“Claire?”

 

Seems like she doesn’t have a choice but to tell Alex now, considering her sister is standing at the bottom of the stairs. When Alex is in front of her, crouching down to lift the towel off her arm and look at it, Claire begins to sob.

 

“Claire, what happened?” Alex asks in a concerned yet still urgent tone, applying harder pressure to the wound, “Who did this? Where’s your dress? Talk to me.”

 

Claire wipes her face with her free hand and looks down at her body. Shit. She had forgotten all about her dress.

 

“Did someone do something to you?” Alex gasps out, holding back tears, “Claire, were you...I’m calling Jody.”

 

“No,” Claire interrupts, stopping Alex’s train of thought, “Alex, no. I wasn’t...I was a willing and enthusiastic participant in safe sex. With a demon. I figured it out after, cut myself open, then drew a devil’s trap on the bathroom floor with my blood and trapped him in it.”

 

Alex’s eyes widen before she looks past Claire, up the stairs, “Is he still in there?”

 

“As far as I know,” Claire whispers, letting out a shaky breath before leaning forward to put her head on her sister’s shoulder, “I’m tired, Alex. I’m really tired.”

 

“Probably because you’re still losing blood and you drank all night,” Alex mutters, but brings Claire in for a gentle hug, “Alright. I left Jack in the kitchen. I’m going to have him come heal you. And then I’ll ask if he can exorcise the demon. Or kill it.”

 

“Alex, no,” Claire moans.

 

Alex pulls away and makes Claire meet her eyes, “Look, it’s Jack or it’s Dean. Because if you don’t think I will call him, you’re wrong.”

 

“I don’t mean that,” Claire sniffles, “I mean that I don’t know what I want to do.”

 

“What is that supposed to mean?” Alex asks, her brow furrowing.

 

Claire opens her mouth to try to explain, but she doesn’t even know where to start. Really, it’s a good thing that Jack decided to teleport.

 

“Alex!” Jack exclaims, clumsily kneeling down to give her a hug, “I felt your fear. What’s the matter? I will protect you.”

 

Alex gestures her head towards Claire’s arm, “Can you heal her, please? She’s hurt.”

 

Jack nods and gently takes Claire’s arm, healing it and only leaving the stains on her arm behind, “Claire, what happened to you? What caused…”

 

Jack trails off and looks above Claire’s head.

 

“Demon,” he whispers, before getting off his knees and charging up the stairs.

 

“Jack!” Claire scrambles, trying to catch up with the kid. She doesn’t know why she’s even bothering, why she should tell him to not do a damn thing. Usually her gut would tell her otherwise, especially if it were personal. But she goes, yelling for him to hold on, Alex right at her heels, despite the fact that she doesn’t even want to be involved in all of this shit.

 

“WHAT DID YOU DO TO CLAIRE?”

 

Claire hears the bellow from the bathroom she left Noah in and quickens her speed to turn into the bedroom. As soon as she’s in the doorway of the bathroom, she sees Jack standing there garnering power as Noah is lifted off his feet, pressed against the invisible barrier.

 

The room vibrates with a charge, indicating a darker power that Claire has known deep down Jack is capable of, but tries not to think of it when they’re in the same vicinity.

 

“Jack,” Claire starts before having to raise her voice, “Jack! Put him down. He’s not going to hurt anyone when he’s in the trap.”

 

Jack growls. Honest to god growls. Claire’s not comfortable with pulling him away. She doubts Alex is either. And when Claire glances at her sister, she can see that pulling Jack away isn’t at the top of Alex’s priorities anyway.

 

“I would never hurt Claire, not intentionally,” Noah gasps out, “I doubt I would be able to anyway.”

 

“Of course you wouldn’t,” Jack tells him, “You’re at the bottom of the chain. Young, barely a demon to begin with.”

 

“And I’ve hurt no one,” Noah adds, “I’ve even exorcised a few of my own kind to keep things calm if I thought no hunters were after them. So please, put me down!”

 

Noah is still hovering in the air but Jack is hesitating, trying to read him carefully.

 

“He’s not lying,” Jack informs them slowly, “There’s nothing but truth there. I’m confused.”

 

“You can put him down, Jack,” Claire tells him more softly, taking the chance to put a hand on the back of his shoulder.

 

With her permission, Jack seems comfortable enough to lower Noah back down to the floor.

 

Noah takes a few deep breaths in, putting his hands on his knees, then looks up at Jack, “You’re no siren. What are you?”

 

“You must be really low in rank if you haven’t heard of me,” Jack returns, still fuming.

 

“I tend to stay extremely out of the loop,” Noah answers.

 

Jack growls about that too, “Then why are you looking for a siren? What use could she be to you?”

 

Noah tilts his head, “He. And he is no use to me. I’m trying to protect an acquaintance. She’s his child and was told by her mother that he might come for her around her eighteenth birthday to take her away. She’s dodged him twice. When she told me she was going to ‘live her life’ and go to Aaron’s party, I figured he might come here, take her off guard, and add a couple of vics to his numbers in the process.”

 

Claire watches Jack closely and becomes confused when his body stills, “Tanesha.”

 

Noah steps back, “You know her.”

 

Jack nods once, seriously so, then announces, “We made out.”

 

Claire sputters at the admission before going over to stand in front of Jack, “You made out with a siren? Like an actual siren. And she didn’t try to make you murder someone in the name of love?”

 

Jack looks at Claire strangely, “She’s only half. And her soul is good. Why would she try?”

 

“What do you want with Claire?” Alex interrupts, stepping forward to the edge of the trap. Jack whines at the sight, timidly reaching out as if he wants to pull her back but not offend Alex by undermining her abilities at the same time. But Noah doesn’t move closer to her. He doesn’t even move into a more threatening stance. All he does is stand there sadly.

 

“I don’t want anything with Claire,” Noah tells her, “Not in the way that you think. I was curious about her, asked her out to see how much of a threat she might be so that I could prepare myself, then I fell for her after a couple of dates and let things go further. It was inconsiderate and stupid.”

 

“I don’t believe you,” Alex snarls.

 

“Alex?”

 

Both girls turn at Jack’s prompt and Jack shakes his head.

 

“He’s not lying. I would know it.”

 

Alex scoffs and looks at Noah once more, “You are drunk and high. Your senses are off.”

 

“Not anymore,” Jack says morosely, “My body healed itself of the outward effects when I hunted him down. I hope that I may be able to retrieve the feelings the daiquiris and brownie brought me since they’re still technically in my system, but I won’t be able to test that until after we get to the bottom of this.”

 

Claire lets out a sigh and sits down on the floor, “You think you’re suffering a buzzkill? Think of how I feel. I just found out I’ve been fucking a demon on and off for months. And guess what? I can’t even kill him because he’s noble and lame. It’s great. Fan-fucking-tastic.”

 

“Claire, I am sorry I was dishonest with you-” Noah starts, only for her to shush him. She needs to think.

 

But she doesn’t get the silence she needs, because almost immediately after? A blood curdling scream echoes from down the hall. Jack takes off first, dashing towards the noise. When Claire is about to follow, Noah calls out her name and she turns around.

 

“Check my jacket. There’s a bronze dagger in the inside pocket. If this is what I am thinking, then coat it in its victim's blood.”

 

Claire gives him one last glare but runs for the jacket hanging on the chair in the corner of the room. Sure enough, it’s where Noah said it would be. Then, still in her underwear, she runs to find Jack while Alex stays behind to keep an eye on Noah.

 

She’s just glad she wore one of the very few cute matching bra and underwear sets she owns tonight. If she hadn’t, then she doesn’t want to think about how embarrassing this might be.

 

When she gets to the other guest room, the one the inconsiderate fucktard of a couple went into, the only way she can describe it is sickening. Blood is covering the sheets and the man lying on them is without a doubt dead. The girl is screaming and thrashing in Jack’s arms, reaching out to her boyfriend with blood covered hands.

 

“I killed him, I killed him!” She wails hysterically, “Dev! DEV!”

 

“Hold her still,” Claire orders right before she cuts the girl’s shoulder to coat the blade, “I’m going to end this fucked up night on a positive note-”

 

“But you won’t.”

 

The voice is deep and Claire quickly turns around, holding the blade in a protective stance. A man over twice Claire’s age steps forward with a subtle smirk on his face, before looking down at himself.

 

“I’m sorry. Is this not your type?” he asks her softly, the corner of his mouth still upturned, “What would you prefer? Channing Tatum? A member of One Direction? Black eyes, like your nuisance of a boyfriend in the other room?”

 

Claire takes a step back as the siren comes closer, “How about a middle aged trucker with a beer gut and some extra cash in his pocket? Would you like that, Claire? It seems like you might, since you keep-“

 

“Shut your mouth,” Claire snarls, her fist swinging forward with the dagger. It forms a rip in the siren’s shirt as he jumps back.

 

“Close call,” he laughs before morphing to look like Noah, “This is good enough, isn’t it? At least you know who I am, Claire, deep down. The real Noah didn’t even have the courtesy to tell you himself. But I can make you happy. Don’t you want that? To be happy? It’s been such a long time since you’ve felt anything close to comfort and peace. And I understand that notion. I let my daughter be raised in a proper environment, willing to be parted from her until she was of age. She feels nothing for me and wants nothing to do with me. It was my mistake. But there are always routes that lead to second chances. So here’s my proposition-”

 

Whatever the siren’s proposition was going to be, Claire couldn’t tell you. There’s no way of knowing since Jack lets the sobbing girl behind her drop, teleports behind the siren, and grabs him by his hair to force his head back with one hand and locks his other arm around him.

 

“What are you?” the siren says in awe.

 

Claire makes sure the siren doesn’t find out the answer to his question by stabbing him in the heart.

 

Jack lets the body hit the floor with a thud and Claire winces at Jack’s miserable expression. As much as she picks on him and, at times, feels resentment over some of his shortcomings, she really hadn’t brought him to the party so that he would become her murder accomplice.

 

“D-Dev…”

 

The girl behind Claire sobs on her knees and Claire lets out a sigh before kneeling down.

 

“Listen, it wasn’t your fault,” she tells her, “You were mind fucked via saliva. It happens to the best of us.”

 

Claire’s soothing words don’t comfort the girl at all. If anything, she cries harder. Soothing has never been Claire’s strong suit anyway.

 

“Mariam?”

 

Claire turns her head in time to see Jack pulling his hand away from Dev’s head, while Dev focuses on his girlfriend with bleary eyes.

 

“Dev!” Mariam exclaims tearfully, “Dev, you’re alive!”

 

Dev seems quite confused about why he’s lying in bloody sheets and how his girlfriend is absolutely hysterical, but he hugs her back when she throws herself at him regardless.

 

“What are we going to do with the body?” Claire asks, standing back up to go over to Jack.

 

Jack looks down at the dead siren and purses his lips but doesn’t get to answer before someone comes into the doorway.

 

“Shit,” Claire mutters, staring at the girl like a deer caught in the headlights, “Jack, can you go and take care of her?”

 

Jack turns and his gaze softens once he sees the girl, “Tanesha. Hi. I’m sorry you have to see this. But I was under the impression he was a threat to your safety, like he has been to so many other people at this party. So we killed him. Unfortunately, it had to be done. Here - I know just what to do.”

 

Jack bends down and touches the siren’s body, letting a light emit from his hand. Within seconds, the body is turned to ash - only to be magically sealed in a damn Tupperware container that appears out of nowhere.

 

“Here,” Jack offers, putting the container in Tanesha’s hands, “What kind of service would you like to have for him?”

 

Tanesha looks as if she doesn’t know what to say at first, but then gives Jack a curt nod, “I’m pretty sure I’m just going to dump him down the toilet.”

 

Jack seems to accept that answer before grabbing Claire’s hand and leading Tanesha out of the room, “Let’s leave these two alone and go to the other bathroom then. They won’t remember any of this once we’re out of their sight. The sight of all of the blood is also stressing me out. I don’t like it - blood or stress.”

 

While they are walking with a somewhat dazed Tanesha, Jack’s eyes become hooded and he begins to get a goofy smile on his face. Claire stares at him in confusion, then narrows her eyes.

 

“Did you bring your high and drunkenness back?” she accuses.

 

Jack nods and lets out a giggle, “Yes, yes I did. Aren’t you glad to know it works? I am. The room’s all bright and colorful and pulsing-”

 

“Oh my god,” Claire groans, shaking her head, “Your body is so weird. And you better not become some type of addict or alcoholic. Sam will kill me.”

 

Jack shakes his head, “No, he wouldn’t. Sam is much too fond of you and Dean wouldn’t let him anyway. Don’t be ignorant.”

 

“Don’t be-” Claire starts, but cuts herself off with a scoff, “Are you...Jack, you just brought back your inebriation right before we’re about to attend some fucked up funeral. How about you don’t be ignorant?”

 

Jack ponders that, then shrugs, “It helps with the grief.”

 

“You didn’t even know him!”

 

Before Jack can continue on, they make their way back to Alex and Noah. Alex is watching Noah intently, as if one wrong move from him will set her off, and Noah looks like a nervous wreck. Lamest. Demon. Ever.

 

“Claire, Tanesha,” he prompts urgently, “Are you both alright?”

 

“Like you care,” Claire mutters, not able to meet Noah’s eyes.

 

But Tanesha is more genuine with her answer and shakes the Tupperware container a couple of times, “Dad’s taken care of. I’m about to give him the proper send off. Where have you been?”

 

Noah gestures at the floor and shrugs, “Just in...here.”

 

Tanesha studies him, before taking a real look at Claire, “Wait, were you two-”

 

“None of your damn business,” Claire growls, lifting up the lid to the toilet seat.

 

“So, wait. Let me get this straight,” Tanesha answers, ignoring Claire, “You came here to try to protect me from my creepy and monstrous sperm donor, only to forget all about that when you see Buffy over here.”

 

All Noah can answer that with is a wince and a shrug.

 

“Hey,” Tanesha says suddenly, “Did you know I wasn’t a Cambion?”

 

Noah gives her a strange look, “Yeah. What made you think you were?”

 

“The lore I’ve read?” Tanesha tells him, as if it’s obvious, “The fact that a demon was willing to help me out?”

 

“Well, as the demon who was willing to help you out, I assure you that I would have nipped that assumption in the bud if you had actually told me about your speculations.” Noah answers her bluntly, “I don’t even know what to call you.”

 

“I know what I am,” Jack informs them, grinning as he looks around the room, “But I’m called an abomination on a semi-regular basis anyway. Maybe you’re one too.”

 

“Look,” Claire says, taking over the conversation, “Let’s get this over with. I’m pissed off and want to get out of here.”

 

Tanesha purses her lips and answers with a short, “Fine.”

 

And then? She lifts the mat and breaks the devil’s trap that Claire literally put her blood into.

 

The two of them step behind Jack while Jack just looks onwards, almost bored.

 

“I’m not going to hurt any of you,” Noah tells the room while keeping his eyes on Claire, “You have my word.”

 

“Whatever,” Claire mumbles, pointedly making sure she’s on the other side of the half circle they form around the toilet seat.

 

“Okay,” Jack starts, “My dad and I watched a movie with a funeral in it once. I’ll begin. We are gathered here today to honor the life of...Tanesha, what was your father’s name?”

 

“I don’t fucking know.”

 

“I don’t fucking know,” Jack finishes, “While the life he lived was not admirable or selfless by any means, we wish him peace on his way to Purgatory. Not that you can really find peace there. Mainly just blood and death. Tanesha, it’s your turn.”

 

Tanesha takes a step forward, opens the lid to the container, and dumps it in the toilet water.

 

“Bye, motherfucker.”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

This has, without a doubt, been one of the most stressful nights of her life. And Alex has had some stressful nights. She used to be vampire food.

 

And maybe it’s because of all the stress that she doesn’t stop Claire from stealing a bottle of tequila on their way out or from opening it and getting several shots worth into her system before they’re even outside, nor does she tell Jack to sober up again - even when he’s singing Stairway to Heaven in what she’s pretty sure is Enochian. She gets it. It’s Jack’s first party and it got out of hand and Claire is facing several demons, one of them being literal.

 

But it really sucks being the designated driver and having to deal with them both.

 

“Well,” Claire hiccups, practically chugging the bottle of hard liquor, “Bye forever, Noah! Ta-ta, bitch!”

 

“Claire, he parked out back,” Alex sighs, automatically reaching out for her arm as she stumbles to the side, “Jesus, how fast did that hit you?”

 

“Alex,” Jack tsks, looking at her almost disturbed, “Jesus is not Claire’s name.”

 

Alex doesn’t even know how to answer something like that, so she just doesn’t. She doesn’t even think Jack’s waiting for one, considering he immediately waxes poetic on the planets and stars right after, boasting about how much more they are twinkling than usual.

 

“You know…” Claire slurs, “I thought I had mommy and daddy issues. But Noah’s mom is really his sister, Alex. His younger sister. And Tanesha? She dumbed her dad down a toilet. I never dumbed my d...dad down a toilet.”

 

“Dumped,” Alex enunciates, pushing Claire into the backseat, “It’s dumped.”

 

“Thas what I said…”

 

“Jack, sit up front,” Alex orders, opening his car door so that he doesn’t waste time feeling up the handle in wonder, “We’re going home.”

 

Jack nods sadly, then climbs into the car, “I had a wonderful night, Alex. With the exception of helping Claire murder a siren, most of what I experienced was quite lovely.”

 

“That’s nice,” Alex mutters, starting the car and putting it in reverse, rolling her eyes when Jack rubs his forehead against her shoulder.

 

“Thank you for taking care of me tonight by making sure I stayed safe and had a good time. You are my best friend.”

 

“I don’t see how you had a good time with what all went on, but I’m glad at least one of us enjoyed themselves.”

 

Jack nods pleasantly, then sits back up to look out the window. For a moment, Alex thinks he might actually be calm. But no. Of course he isn’t. Gasping and rolling down his window, he positions his body halfway out of the car as it is moving backwards and waves enthusiastically.

 

“Bye, Raj! Bye, Meredith! Bye, Tanesha!” he yells out, letting out a breathless laugh, “Tanesha, call me-”

 

“Jack, get back in the car,” Alex grits out. Claire is too busy nursing the tequila bottle to butt in.

 

The drive back to the house is annoying at best and anxiety inducing at worst. She is ready to pull over to wrestle the tequila away from her sister. She gets that Claire’s hurting. Claire’s been hurting for months. Finding out that your boyfriend isn’t human can be jarring, sickening, and extremely upsetting. Alex would know personally. But unlike her experience with Henry, at least Claire knows that Noah was with her because he fell for her. Not that it excuses him. Besides, they could have ended up killing two supernatural creatures tonight if things had been different.

 

But while she really does want to pull over, Jack is asking her to do it so that he can run through the fields and be one with nature. So hell no.

 

As for the anxiety, she already knows she’s not going to be able to hide this from Jody - or anyone staying at their house, for that matter. She only took one glance at her phone to see how many missed texts and calls she had. Most were from Jody and Dean, being all authoritative and worried. There were two from Sam, concerned and asking if she and Jack were okay. There were even two from two numbers she didn’t have stored in her phone. One from Eileen explaining that they had been gone for a long time and while she hoped they were all enjoying themselves, the rest of them were worried. And then there was one from John, sent to both her and Claire, demanding they get back because Dean ‘is losing his damn mind and no one can get to bed because of it.’

 

And really, who the hell does John Winchester think he is?

 

So yeah, she’s expecting to have to deal with the immediate fallout, being the only one sober and in the right state of mind and all. She’s prepared for it...or as prepared for it as she’s going to get. But when she pulls into the driveway at 4:30 in the fucking morning, she really doesn’t expect ALL of them to be sitting on the porch.

 

Jack lets out a gasp and grins out the passenger window, waving almost maniacally.

 

“Dad!” he yells out as he opens the car door and jumps out of the vehicle before it comes to a complete stop.

 

And once she is parked? She has to take a second. Because she is so not ready to face them.

 

“Think you can sober up before Jody gets to the car?” she pointlessly asks Claire.

 

Claire lets out a grunt and looks angry over whatever the hell she’s thinking about, before hiccuping. Alex takes it as a no, then closes her eyes when Jody taps on the driver’s side window.

 

“Alex, ignoring me is NOT going to get you out of telling me where the hell you girls were tonight,” she hears Jody say, muffled through the barrier of the window.

 

“Can’t we talk about it after I get some sleep?” Alex tries, eyes still closed, “I’ll just sleep in the car. It’s fine, really.”

 

“Out. NOW. You too, Claire,” Jody snaps, before taking a step back.

 

Alex lets out a breath, briefly toys with putting the car back in drive in order to escape everyone’s wrath, then lets out a groan as she turns off the engine. When she steps out next to Jody, all they can do is watch as Dean tries to get Claire out of the backseat.

 

“Yeah, I didn’t remodel this car so you could drink yourself into a coma in the back of it,” Dean grumbles, putting Claire’s arm around his shoulders to get her onto her feet.

 

“You didn’t?” Claire answers, laughing as if Dean’s hilarious.

 

“Give me that,” Dean orders, taking the bottle of Tequila from Claire’s hand to pour it onto the ground, “You won’t be needing it.”

 

“What gives YOU the right,” Claire slurs, her arm still over Dean’s shoulder and her feet sloppy as she walks, “You aren’t my fuckin’ dad. My dad’s dead. My dad’s dead and my mom’s dead and my FWB of a boyfrien’sss a demon so I guess he’s dead too...what the fuck?”

 

Jody turns to look at Alex and tilts her head, “Claire’s FWB of a DEMON boyfriend? Care to elaborate on that before I start panicking?”

 

“Heh,” is all Alex can say, “I don’t...it’s...it’s a long story.”

 

“Then start telling it so we can go to bed!” Jody orders, before taking a calming breath, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Are you all alright? Did you drink at all?”

 

“I just had one drink at the very beginning of the night,” Alex tells her, “I stayed sober to keep an eye on these two. They’re just really hard to keep up with.”

 

“And we dumped one girl’s siren dad down the toilet so he’s dead too!” Claire announces, holding her other arm out, “Jack turned him to ash and set him to rest with a speech all because he made out with his kid!”

 

“You what?” Sam asks incredulously, making Jack meet his eyes.

 

Jack grins even wider, “Oh, yes. I made out with Tanesha. She was my favorite out of the three. But I think it was because I connected with her since we are both hybrid species born out of abomination. Meredith kissed me first. She was nice and pretty. And then there was Raj. He was handsome and very forward...Mom!”

 

Jack runs across the porch to hug Eileen enthusiastically before facing her, “Mom, I want to call you Mom. Is that alright, Mom?”

 

“...Let’s talk about it when you are feeling more like yourself,” Eileen answers slowly, then sits him on one of the chairs underneath the porch light, “Your pupils are blown. Do you know if you took something, Jack?”

 

“I drank so many daiquiris. So many,” Jack sighs happily, “They’re my favorite. And I ate best brownie I’ve ever had, and I’ve had three before this so that’s saying something. It made everything so much better.”

 

Jack reaches up to touch Eileen’s hair, then whispers, “It makes your hair so soft.”

 

“Let’s get him inside,” Eileen murmurs, standing Jack back up with Sam’s help, ushering him into the house with Dean and a drunk, angry, rambling Claire close behind.

 

“And brownies?” Jody adds, giving Alex a strange look.

 

“That was completely out of my control,” Alex defends herself, “They just snuck Jack off.”

 

“You should have been watching him!” Jody scolds, “You shouldn’t have gone and brought him in the first place!”

 

“I had to go because Claire was going to go regardless. And I wasn’t going to just ditch Jack,” Alex argues, “You KNOW how Claire’s been. She was reckless in front of me. Just think of how she would have been if she went alone!”

 

“You could have let me know what was going on,” Jody counters as they make their way into the house, John behind them, “I’ll admit, I figured you three were up to something, going to some kind of get together, but if things were getting that out of control? If Claire had a demon boyfriend show up there? If there was a siren and Claire was this drunk and you didn’t call Dean, Sam, or me-”

 

“We should have called,” Alex sighs, giving in a little, “You’re right, okay? It got really out of control. But we’re all fine. Or at least Jack and I are. I don’t know about Claire. But she’s alive. Jack only had to heal her once.”

 

“What?” Jody prompts forcefully, then leads Alex to the kitchen. Biting her lip, Alex sits down at the table and holds her head in her hands.

 

“The whole story,” Jody demands, sitting across from her, “Now.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Eileen is getting dizzy just from watching Jack spin around the room.

 

Sam’s trying to get the kid to get dressed into pajamas so that he can go to bed. Going by the man’s expression, he’s barely holding back agitation while doing so.

 

She’s catching some of the words Jack says here and there, something about feeling so alive and possibly the stars and the planets and feeling his skin tingle. It’s either ecstasy or acid. She’d done the former once at a party back when she was 20. It had been an experience, but Jack’s experience seems to be larger than life. And the fact that he’s becoming loose with his powers due to it isn’t helping matters much. Flower petals have been falling from the ceiling for the last ten minutes. They’re sticking in Sam’s hair and covering the bed. If Eileen didn’t know any better, she would think that she’s tripping too.

 

After an hour of just tiring themselves out watching him, he suddenly decides that he’s exhausted and has to go to bed. Just like that. Levitating one second and asking to be tucked in the next. They don’t even try to talk to him about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and strangers, because trying to get him to perk up for a conversation would be a stupid move on their part. They have given Jack the bed though, which is disappointing since it’s the only guest room and they had won it in a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with John and Dean. They make it work. Sam gets the plushy comforter that had been set aside and spreads it out on the floor at the foot of the bed, grabbing the two unused pillows by Jack’s head and setting them side by side on the edge of the blanket.

 

“Look, uh,” Sam starts as they lie there facing each other, “About what Jack said he wanted to call you...You can tell him no, if you want. You’re not under any obligation to take on that kind of role just because he brought you back-”

 

“I know,” Eileen tells him, smiling slightly.

 

“-and you just got back,” Sam continues, clearing his throat, “We’re still...We're still taking things slow. I don’t want to scare you off.”

 

“You’re not,” Eileen answers calmly, “I’ll talk about it with Jack when he’s sobered up. See where he’s coming from. We’ll take it from there.”

 

“Alright,” Sam answers, touching her face to press a sweet kiss against her lips, “Alright.”

----------------------------------------------------------

“I’m damn sick of everyone dyin’ or fucking me over,” Claire answers, pacing around her room as Dean watches closely, “Really sick of it.”

 

Dean’s stationed himself in her doorway and will probably end up taking the air mattress up to sleep on her floor for the rest of the night. He’d rather not worry about her getting sick in her sleep with how drunk she is.

 

“Want to talk about it?” Dean asks slowly, eyes on Claire’s hands as she opens the drawer and gets out a photo.

 

“No,” Claire mutters, ripping it up into pieces, “I’m great.”

 

“...Yeah,” Dean answers, making his way to stand next to her in order to pick up the largest piece. Half of Claire’s face is in on the remnant, but all of the other guy’s face there in clear view. Cute enough, he guesses, but Dean fucking hates him already.

 

“Tell me about this guy,” Dean prompts, catching Claire’s arm automatically when she sways, “You’ve been with him for a few months?”

 

Claire looks at the piece, unfocused, and sniffles, “Doesn’t matter.”

 

Dean shakes his head, before pocketing the picture and leading Claire to the bed so that she can sit down, “Talk to me. What happened tonight?”

 

“Nothing-”

 

“Don’t give me that,” Dean interrupts as Claire’s eyes fill with tears, “You’re upset about something, probably a lot of things. You wouldn’t be this wasted if you weren’t. This guy hurt you?”

 

Claire lets out a growl and presses the heels of her hands against her eyes, “Why are people asking me that? Why are you all acting like I can’t take care of myself?”

 

“Because you basically announced to the whole family you’ve been sleeping with a demon, Claire!” Dean raises his voice, “What the hell else am I supposed to think if you were doing something like that?”

 

Claire lets out a sob, “It was more than that. I liked him and I was too stupid to figure it out. I didn’t know what he was until t-tonight. And he still isn’t a dick so I cou...could...couldn’t even exorcise him. Why couldn’t he just be a fuckin’ asshole?”

 

Claire falls back against the pillows and cries into them. Dean’s not equipped for this. He’s not equipped to handle teenage girls and he’s not equipped for Claire to act like one all of the sudden.

 

“Claire…” Dean tries, putting a hand on her back.

 

“I-I drew a devil’s trap with my own blood. Trapped him in it. He came towards me because h-he was worried that I hurt myself since I was bl-bleeding a lot,” Claire cries, her voice hitching, “I don’t kn-know what I thought. That he was a good act-actor or somethin’. He’s so gentle and loving and caring when we have sex. Like tonight-”

 

“Let’s just gloss over that,” Dean interrupts, wincing, “I don’t want the details unless something happened that wasn’t consensual or you weren’t safe. I don’t need to hear it. Really.”

 

“Oh. It was consensual,” Claire slurs, still sniffling, “Very consensual. Safe too, condom and all.”

 

“...Great.”

 

Dean’s still planning on murdering him though. No one, especially a demon who is trying to get with Claire for kicks or whatever reason, is going to get her this worked up when she’s gone through so much already and get away with it. It just isn’t happening.

 

“I don’t know how I thought someone as nice and caring as he is would be into me without a catch,” Claire mutters, “It’s pretty fucked up that I did, huh?”

 

“No, it’s not,” Dean tries to soothe.

 

“Not like I’m some faith...faithful Miss Perfect,” Claire yawns, her eyes starting to close, “Thought he deserved a lot better…”

 

“Claire-” Dean starts but watches Claire fall asleep within seconds.

 

He sits on the edge of her bed for a few moments, watching this messed up, broken, awesome kid he has come to care so much for snooze away. He hopes the alcohol keeps her from dreaming tonight. It might be the only good it does her, since it sounds like she didn’t get to have the carefree night of fun so many kids her age have on a regular basis.

 

God, she looks like Cas from this angle. It makes his chest hurt. The grumpy cat stuffed animal sitting at the corner of her bed doesn’t help matters much either. Reaching over, he picks up the toy and lies it down next to her, bringing the blankets up over Claire’s shoulders right after.

 

“Dean?”

 

Dean turns his head to look at Jody, his sad eyes meeting her concerned ones.

 

“She asleep?” Jody asks in a soft voice.

 

Dean nods, gently brushing the hair away from Claire’s face before standing up, “I’ll bring the air mattress up here, make sure she doesn’t throw up or anything.”

 

“Okay,” Jody agrees, “But I was hoping I could talk to you first. It’s about Claire. Can you come downstairs for a few minutes?”

 

Dean follows Jody down the stairs. They pass his dad on the couch, finally asleep after researching all night and witnessing the commotion that filled the last couple of hours, before going to stand outside on the porch. Neither of them sit. Dean leans against the railing and Jody paces, her nervous energy hitting Dean in waves.

 

“What do you need to tell me about Cl-”

 

“I think Claire should stay with you for a little while.”

 

The words take Dean by surprise and he doesn’t know how to take them, “Why?”

 

Jody lets out a breath and blinks her eyes, “This isn’t the first time she’s come back like this, Dean. Far from it. I’ve told you about some of the instances, but she’s starting to drink and do god knows what else while she’s on hunts. She’s getting more injuries. I don’t know how many scars she would have if Jack didn’t stop by so often. She’s apparently sleeping with a demon-”

 

“She didn’t know what he really was,” Dean stops her, holding up a hand, “But yeah, I know. I’ll track him down.”

 

“That’s the thing, Dean. I know the kid. I didn’t know Claire was seeing him, but I know him,” Jody shrugs, “Alex told me this long and complicated story about how he possessed his younger sister’s baby while he was on life support and as good as dead, then just grew up in it. Told me he’s not evil at all. She also told me that he’s the one who gave Claire the bronze dagger and that Claire killed a siren in her underwear-”

 

“It doesn’t matter if he hasn’t hurt anyone,” Dean tells her, ignoring that last part, “He hurt Claire - maybe not physically, maybe not even intentionally, but in ways that count. I don’t care if he volunteers at the soup kitchen. I’ll take him out. But you can’t give up on Claire just because she’s hitting a rough patch right now, especially not now.”

 

Jody shakes her head and moves closer to Dean, “Don’t you once assume I’m going to give up on either of these girls. You know me better than that. But she’s hell bent on hunting, Dean. I can’t stop her, can’t follow her around either. I have a job to do here, Alex is about to go to college in two weeks. She’s alone. She needs someone to watch her back and make sure she’s staying sharp. I can’t do that from here when she’s bopping around place to place. I can’t make sure she’s safe. And from what I’m hearing -”

 

Jody breaks off and shakes her head, taking in a shaky breath.

 

“What are you hearing?” Dean asks slowly, taking a step closer.

 

“Alex…” Jody rasps out, “Alex told me she thinks Claire is prostituting herself for money when she’s running low on the road.”

 

Dean feels his heart drop down to his stomach but shakes his head in denial, “Mm-mmm. No. Claire wouldn’t do that. You know what almost happened to her a couple of years ago. She avoided boys up until recently. You know that.”

 

“Do I?” Jody chokes out, trying to smile, “Do you? She’s off by herself too much for me to keep track. She...She doesn’t have a job, Dean. The credit cards she does manage to acquire barely let her spend more than a couple hundred dollars. And she sucks at pool. Played with her at the diner down on Main Street and she hit the ball right off the table. Yet she still has a nice sized wad of tens, twenties, and fifties in her bag, all crumpled up.”

 

“Maybe...maybe she’s playing cards or something,” Dean counters, strangled and feeling sick.

 

Jody shrugs, shaking her head, “Alex asked her about it and Claire didn’t deny it.”

 

Dean clenches his jaw and bends over, “Shit, Jody. Fuck. How could she be so damn-”

 

“Reckless? Naive?” Jody finishes, “I don’t know. I don’t think she cares.”

 

“God damn it,” Dean chokes out, pressing a fist against his mouth.

 

Jody isn’t much better off and Dean can hear her sniffles despite the fucking despair that he’s feeling right now. Out of all the things Claire could possibly do, why did it have to be this?

 

“Listen,” Jody starts, putting her hands on Dean’s shoulders, “She likes you guys. Respects you as hunters. There’s you, your dad, Eileen, Sam, and Jack. She’ll be safer there than she will be alone and will always have someone to hunt with. And Jack’s always back and forth because of Alex anyway. She can come and have dinner here whenever she wants. But I need her to be safe, Dean. I can’t keep worrying about getting a call from a morgue three states over because my kid’s been killed by a wild animal or by some truck driver who got too rough with her. I can’t do it. I need her to get it through her head that it’s better to have someone watch your back. I need her to realize that she can depend on people and ask for help when she needs it. I need her to stop being such a dumbass.”

 

Dean forces out a watery laugh at that, but shakes his head, “I’m in no condition to help a hurt and angry 19-year-old kid get back on their feet, Jody. You saw me last night. I ain’t exactly a role model.”

 

Jody gives him a kind smile, “That’s not true.”

 

They’re both feeling raw and tired when they get back into the house and Dean knows he should get some rest before trying to sit Claire down later on today. But as hard as that is already going to be, it doesn’t help matters when he goes to get the air mattress from the living room and sees his dad sitting up on the couch.

 

“Up already?” Dean asks, trying to take his mind off of how terrified he’s feeling.

 

His father nods slowly while he stares at his phone, “Missouri texted me. She’s driving in from Lawrence and wants me to meet her for breakfast. She thinks she might know a way to try to get Mary back.”

Chapter Text

John parks the car in the lot next to the diner and rubs his eyes. Damn teenagers. He had forgotten how much trouble they could get into. Although he doesn’t remember either Sam or Dean getting into the mess Claire had apparently gotten herself into last night. He had tried to sleep through Dean’s pacing and Jody’s worried calls, but that hadn’t worked. At all.

 

And once things did settle down? He had gotten a text from Missouri that had woken him right up.

 

On my way to Sioux Falls.
Meet me at Phillips Ave Diner
at 7 am. I think I might know
something on how to get your
wife back.

 

John’s body had become tense once he read the text - and for a second he thought it might be a trap of some sort. But then he received a call from her right after when she then proceeded to tell him to get his head out of his paranoid ass and save room for breakfast because she was going out of her way to help him and she needed a little support from him too.

 

“Got some personal stuff I’ll have to face. Might help if I had my friend with me. Would have brought Denise but Lila’s got swim practice. Last few practices of the season. You’ll just have to do.”

 

He thought about bringing Dean. The kid had still been up and he knows getting Mary back is important to all of them. But Dean...there’s no other way to put it - the boy looked almost petrified and sick to his stomach. John had figured that would have passed once the girls and Jack got back. But considering Claire’s state and what she had been up to, he could see why Dean might still be worried about the girl, especially since he seems to think of her as a daughter figure of some sort. And John’s not heartless. He’s not going to get in the way of Dean putting her first right now. Hell, maybe it would give Dean a little perspective, make him see how upsetting and draining it is to take care of your drunk and emotionally distraught kid.

 

And Sam had already been asleep, tuckered out on the floor with Eileen. The thought of accidentally waking Jack up while trying to wake up Sam had been more than enough to make John decide to meet Missouri on his own. Not that he minds. If it were under other circumstances, he’d practically jump at the chance to take a break with his friend on his own anyway - grab a meal and just chat. She’s one of the few people in his life who could always see past his shit, get him to open up and not be such an ass. The only other people who have come close were Caleb and Bobby, not that he has them to keep him in check anymore.

 

John pushes down the emotions that thought brings. He had thought he and the boys lost too much before. After coming back? Hearing what his sons have had to endure? Learning about the people in their lives dropping like flies?

 

Feeling like he lost Mary all over again?

 

He has to get her back, and not just because he needs her home. His sons do too. They deserve to have at least one thing in their lives go right.

 

“You gonna stay in that car until they start serving lunch or are you gonna come in so we can be fatasses together?” Missouri’s muffled voice says, accompanied by her tapping against the driver’s side window. Missouri really knows how to get John to snap out of it, even if it is temporary, and that’s apparent by the sudden desire to flip her off. He successfully represses that desire. He doesn’t have a death wish.

 

Huh. It may be the first time he’s ever thought that and meant it.

 

“Well, you better not have a goddamn death wish!” Missouri sasses as he steps out of the car and gently pushes past her, rolling his eyes, “Oh, you get to pay for my meal because of that.”

 

John gives her a slightly incredulous look and strums up his more gentleman-like qualities by taking her arm, “Sorry. Have a lot of stuff on my mind. What do you have for me?”

 

Missouri gives him a look and shakes her head, “We’re gonna sit down first. It’s a long story, one that I need a decent cup of coffee and a hearty breakfast in my system for. And I can walk my own damn self. I missed you and you know that I like you but get your hand off my arm or I swear to the absent and neglectful Lord up above…”

 

John studies Missouri as she rambles on. Their friendship may have been specific, driven by his need for answers, guidance, and comfort - but he had usually been able to sense whether something was going on with her, making her nervous. This is one of those times. He doesn’t say anything though. He just stays quiet and lets her talk while they go into the restaurant, get seated, and look at their menus. Because if this is making Missouri nervous? John’s not sure if he wants the answers she has to give him.

 

That doesn’t last long though. Curiosity and his always driving force regarding Mary win out after their orders are given to the waitress.

 

“What is going on?” he whispers, leaning in so the few other people in the diner can’t hear, “You wanted me to meet you because you might have information on how to get Mary back and you haven’t said a word about that, opting to yammer on about everything else.”

 

Missouri sits back in her chair, crosses her arms, and huffs, “I’m sorry. Was I getting on your nerves?”

 

“No,” John sighs, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyelids, “It’s just not you.”

 

“Yeah, well…” Missouri trails off before finally admitting, “I’m nervous.”

 

John nods, “Could have fooled me.”

 

“Shut up.”

 

John opens his mouth to speak but is interrupted by the waitress approaching with their meals.

 

“The biscuits and gravy for you,” the woman says as she puts one of the plates down for Missouri, “And the Bronco Omelet for you, sir.”

 

“Thank you, Sheila,” Missouri tells her kindly, “It looks fantastic. My husband and I are going to enjoy this meal, yes we are.”

 

John startles at Missouri’s claim as Sheila gives her a smile, “How long have you been together?”

 

“Oh god,” Missouri wonders her lie aloud, reaching over to take John’s hand, “How long has it been, muffin? Twenty-eight years next month?”

 

John stares at her, not amused at all, and shakes his head, “Twenty-nine.”

 

Missouri tsks and points at her temple, “Twenty-nine. Obviously, the years are gettin’ to me. You married, doll?”

 

Sheila’s smile falters at that, “No. No, I’m not. I don’t know if my man has even gotten the hint I want him to propose. And we got in a big fight last night. I doubt I’ll be walking down the aisle anytime soon.”

 

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Missouri counters, “I see a wedding, smack dab in the middle of July. You’re gonna have a beautiful ring on your finger sooner than you can ask ‘Can I get you anything else?’”

 

Sheila gives Missouri an exasperated look, then lets out a chuckle, “Can I get you anyth-”

 

“Sheila!”

 

Everyone turns at the sound of the call as a man starts to approach their table.

 

“Gary?” Sheila asks, looking around, “Gary, what are you doing here? You’re supposed to be at work!”

 

Gary shakes his head before taking Sheila’s face into his hands, “This couldn’t wait.”

 

As Gary drops down to one knee right in front of their table and pulls out a box, John lets out a groan.

 

“Can’t you all do this somewhere else?” John mutters right before Missouri kicks him in the shin. He can’t help it. He has more to worry about than someone else’s future marriage, like his (sort of) existing marriage to a woman stuck worlds away from him. He didn’t come here to coo over some couple who don’t know shit.

 

It’s inconsiderate what they’re doing, that’s what it is.

 

“I’ve been waitin’ on this ring for months, designed it myself. Planned on taking you to a nice place, maybe a weekend getaway. But I looked in the mail today and it was here. Couldn’t wait. So I thought to myself: What better place to propose to you than the place I met you?”

 

“Gary…” Sheila sniffles, wiping at her eyes.

 

Gary smiles up at her and kisses her hand, “Sheila, I love you. I love you more than I ever loved anyone. Will you make me the happiest man in the world and do me the honor of being my wife?”

 

Sheila nods and lets out a sob, “Yes, Gary. One hundred times yes.”

 

Gary stands to full height and picks Sheila up, spinning her around and meeting her lips for a kiss. Everyone in the diner breaks out into applause, except for John. Because really. He already hates it when waitresses linger at the table on days where he isn’t waiting on potentially groundbreaking information.

 

But Sheila and Gary do end up leaving. Her boss gives him the go-ahead to carry her out of the damn restaurant as if they’re honeymooning already. Missouri watches the scene with amused eyes all while John watches her with impatient ones.

 

“Get that sour look off your face, John,” Missouri murmurs, still facing the door.

 

“They were getting on my nerves,” John growls.

 

“Yeah, and they’re the reason you hunted everything bad and ugly, rather than just the evil son of a bitch who ruined your life,” Missouri answers, turning her head to face him again, “To let people be happy, carefree, and have moments just like that one.”

 

There’s nothing John can say to that. He doesn’t know how to tell Missouri that he hunted every monster out there so he wouldn’t take out the rage on someone who didn’t deserve it.

 

“I’m only focused on one hunt right now,” John says instead, leaning in closer, “Tell me what you know.”

 

Missouri lets out a breath and purses her lips, “It’s not what I know. I didn’t see a damn thing.”

 

John clenches his fists, “Then what-”

 

“It’s my granddaughter,” Missouri murmurs, “She called me up. Haven’t spoken to her since she was a little girl. Rufus and I never could do quite right by her daddy. We were too young, too obsessed with our callings, didn’t try hard enough to stay together. James never did get over our mistakes, I don’t think.”

 

John lets out a grunt, “I forgot your son had a child.”

 

Missouri smiles at him but it doesn’t quite meet her eyes, “Never brought her up much, but yeah. Just the one. Patience. She’s...she’s a good girl. She called me in the middle of the night and after she said her piece, she told me she’s getting straight A’s in school, that she’s about to be a senior, that Princeton’s looking at her. James did right by her. Raised her up good. Won’t listen to a word she says about her nightmares revolving around a world that looks like it was ripped right out of Mad Max, whatever that is. Probably a movie or somethin’.”

 

John lets out a breath, “She have anything else to go on other than Mad Max?”

 

Missouri pauses, then nods her head, “She said she saw a woman with blonde hair fall into the world with the devil himself. And that woman? She has big plans to deceive him and their common enemies in order to gain the upperhand.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sam opens his eyes and stretches his arms, smiling a little when he feels Eileen’s weight against his shoulder and bicep. He wraps his right arm around her, then tilts his chin down to kiss the top of her head until she wakes up.

 

“Mmmm,” Eileen hums against his skin, pressing her face further into his neck before reaching up to lazily sign what Sam thinks might be, “Fuck off.”

 

Sam laughs at that and brings his left hand over to brush back her hair. The movement causes Eileen to sleepily squint up at him.

 

“I’m going to take a quick run,” he tells her, signing what he can, “You’re free to stay on the floor or take the other side of the bed with Jack. I just wanted you to know so that you could snore into someone else’s clavicle.”

 

Sam isn’t really expecting the scathing and shocked glare that he gets from Eileen when he says that, but it makes him laugh harder. And he definitely isn’t expecting her to straddle him and tickle his sides. Through hysterical laughs and deep breaths, he’s sure that Dean had to have told her something about his ticklish spots. Asshole.

 

“Take it back,” she demands, tickling him harder, “I DON’T snore.”

 

“How...would you...know?” Sam chokes out in between his laughter and squirming.

 

He’s not sure Eileen understands it, but it’s probably for the best. Knowing what he said might make her show him even less mercy.

 

“Okay, okay!” Sam heaves, hands up, “You don’t snore! I made it up.”

 

Eileen studies his expression for a moment, then seems satisfied by his answer, “That’s what I thought. And even if I did, I’m not sure how you would be able to hear it over your-”

 

Sam cuts her off by reaching up for her face and bringing her down for an impulsive, smiley, and breathless kiss. And god, there’s something different about it. It’s as if he wants to breathe her in, like he can survive off of her, because she makes him so damn elated that he doesn’t even know what to do with himself. They’re both so sucked into it that it takes them a second to realize they’re reaching up each other’s shirts to take them off with Jack still in the room.

 

“Shhh,” Eileen demands as she sits back up straight and Sam props himself up. Both of them look at Jack - bracing themselves for embarrassment - but there’s no need. Jack is still dead to the world. Sam feels like he should be concerned, surely a Nephilim wouldn’t sleep that soundly, but Eileen beats him to the worry. Brow furrowed, she gets off of Sam (he tries his best not to pout about that) and walks over to the right side of the bed, putting a hand above Jack’s mouth and nose.

 

“Still breathing,” Eileen informs him, running a quick hand through Jack’s hair before bringing the blanket further up the boy’s body, “Last night must have worn him out.”

 

“Yeah,” Sam scoffs, shaking his head as he stands up, “I bet. I can’t believe the girls took him to that damn party. Well, Claire I can believe. But Alex?”

 

“They corrupted our baby,” Eileen murmurs, a smile playing on her lips, before she looks back at Jack with such fondness. It’s subtle and he shouldn’t get too excited about it, but it makes Sam’s heart skip a whole beat. He wonders if she realizes what she said, if she realizes the implications of our or if it has gone over her head completely. Maybe she meant it in a more universal way, since Jack’s the baby of the family. Maybe she hadn’t meant it in the way Sam is trying not to interpret it, even though he wants to interpret it that way. But it feels right - the three of them being leaves on their own little branch of his confusing family tree. Because settling down with a hunter, someone who knows the life, and someone who understands, supports, and loves Jack? That’s something he could never pass up, even if it is too good to be true.

 

Don’t scare her off,’ Sam thinks to himself, ‘Don’t say a word about it.

 

“Want some company for your run?” Eileen asks, passing him to grab some clothes from her bag, “Jack looks like he’ll be out for a while.”

 

It takes Sam a moment to pull himself out of his own head, long enough to get Eileen to stare at him expectantly.

 

“Unless you don’t want me to come,” she counters, giving him an out as if he wants one.

 

Sam shakes himself out of it, “Of course I want you to come.”

 

For someone who had been bleary-eyed not even a half hour before, Eileen is playful once they’re outside, challenging him to a race when they’re not even a block into their run. Sam is surprised at the proposition, surprised at how fast she is too. She’d outrun him if his legs weren’t so long - she’d probably outrun almost anyone.

 

Almost. Hellhounds are rarely ever outrun.

 

“Getting slow now that you’re a dad, Sam?” she calls out, turning around to run backwards in order to meet his eyes with a smile.

 

Sam shakes himself out of the intrusive dark thought and feels the corners of his eyes crinkle - before charging at her before she can process it, picking her up, and spinning her around. The emotions that flood him conflict with pretty much everything he’s ever known. He feels breathless. He feels something that he knows is love, even if he isn’t ready to voice it yet.

 

He feels happiness - a happiness that’s so potent that it makes him feel young and naive.

 

And he feels goddamn terrified. Terrified of losing her, terrified of messing everything up, terrified that his shitshow of a life will inevitably ruin this in some way.

 

He pushes that to the back of his mind and focuses on her.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Eileen lets herself get picked up and spun around by Sam, smiling and laughing as he does so. If someone else had tried, they might end up on the floor in seconds. But this is Sam. Sam’s different. In the short but significant time she’s known him, he’s always been different.

 

He kisses her again, soft and sweet, and Eileen wraps her arms around his neck more firmly, pressing her lips against his once the kiss is over as he slowly lets her slide back down his body.

 

“Young love. Oh, how I wish I could experience such a beautiful thing.”

 

Eileen freezes at the words, the sound of a voice still almost foreign to her. Slowly, she turns to the side and sees an old woman and her small dog - an innocent scene at first glance, but there’s a touch of something in her eyes - an emotion and presence that is more ancient and sinister than any human has the capability of being.

 

The corners of the old woman’s mouth turn upwards, but her eyes stay the same.

 

“What’s the matter, dear? Does my dog scare you? She’s a harmless old girl, really,” the old woman claims, her smile forming into a full fledged grin as she bares her yellowed, sharp, crooked teeth, blood bubbling between the spaces before her eyes roll back into her skull and she opens her mouth, letting a stream of red pour onto the pavement. Eileen’s breath hitches and she blinks. It’s in that split second that she sees the old woman and the Jack Russell Terrier transform into Balban and a hellhound.

 

Someone’s grabbing onto her face, trying to make her turn her head and take her eyes off of them. Another demon - one of Balban’s right hand men, perhaps. But she won’t go down without a fight. She absolutely won’t.

 

“GET OFF OF ME!” she screams, laying her hands flat against the demon’s chest and ramming into him with every ounce of adrenaline she has until he falls down. She shoves the demon flat on his back by kicking his shoulder with the sole of her sneaker, before planting each foot on either side of him. She reaches for the knife in her pocket and flips it open before a hand clutches onto her wrist and she actually gets a look at who she’s attacking.

 

“Eileen,” she sees Sam’s lips move, “It’s me. I don’t know what you’re seeing right now, but It’s me, alright? Take a few deep breaths. It’s going to be okay.”

 

Eileen feels her chest heave and her eyes fill up with tears. She wants to trust him, she does. But how can she be sure Balban’s not going to hurt them? How can she be sure this is Sam?

 

How can she be sure that she’s even left Hell and that this isn’t Balban’s greatest work of delusion yet?

 

“Cut my hand,” Sam orders, holding it out willingly, “Use your holy water on me. Do what you need to do to make sure. I trust you.”

 

Eileen lets out a sob at that and doesn’t do either. Instead, she steps back as she covers her face with her hands so that she can pull herself together.

 

And then? She runs.

 

She’s always been good at running except for the times she wasn’t. But Sam doesn’t catch up to her. Eileen will count that as a win.

 

And when she passes the old woman once more and Eileen sees her cheeks hollow out as her eyes turn white? She just runs faster. She knows deep down that Balban could probably catch up to Usain Bolt. But after about a mile, Balban is nowhere in sight and neither is Sam.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Sam sits up, grunting in pain, before scrambling to his feet. Eileen is already just a speck and Sam desperately tries to catch up with her, he does. He runs even when his breath is coming out in puffs and he’s lost any sight of her at all.

 

“Shit,” Sam gasps out, putting his hands on his knees, “Damn it, Eileen…”

 

He pulls his phone out of his pocket and finds his brother’s name in his contacts with shaky hands. It rings five times before going to voicemail, so Sam just keeps redialing until Dean picks up two calls later.

 

“Hello?” Dean grumbles, sounding sad, annoyed, and exhausted. Sam worries about how frequent that tone has been, but he can’t focus on it right now.

 

“Why did it take you so long to pick up?” Sam demands to know, leaning forward a bit in order to calm himself.

 

“I’m sorry,” Dean tells him without emotion, “Would you like to come take care of Claire and hold her hair back while she vomits over and over again? By all means-”

 

“Eileen’s gone,” Sam cuts him off, his voice cracking, “I’m sorry Claire feels like shit but I need your help finding her.”

 

Dean lets out a sigh, “How did you screw things up with her?”

 

“I didn’t!” Sam stresses, sniffling, “We had a great morning and we went out for a run and we were talking and laughing and all of the sudden she had a flashback or something and shoved me to the ground and pulled a knife out. I told her to cut me and pour holy water on me, but she just ran off.”

 

There’s a pause on Dean’s end and Sam thinks he can hear the sound of retching and comforting shushing noises in response before Dean even answers.

 

“Let me get Jody or Alex up, see if they can keep an eye on Claire and her porcelain throne here.”

 

“Fuck you,” Sam hears Claire mutter in the background.

 

“And then I’ll take Claire’s car and meet you. Where are you at?” Dean asks.

 

“On the corner of Benson and 11th Street,” Sam tells him, feeling impatient as he looks around, “Make it quick. I don’t know where her head is at right now at all.”

 

Dean clears his throat, “If we can’t find her, then Jack should be able to track her down. We’ll find her, Sammy. Don’t wor…”

 

Sam waits for Dean to finish his sentence but nothing comes, “What, Dean?”

 

“Eileen just came through the door,” Dean tells him, “Abort the mission?”

 

Sam lets out a breath, “How does she look?”

 

“I don’t know. I can’t see her face from upstairs. Want me to still come get you or stick around?”

 

“Just…” Sam begins as he starts walking, “Just stick around. Give her some space. Or talk to her if she wants to talk, at least until I get back. Dad up? Maybe she would be more comfortable talking by signing.”

 

“Dad went to go meet Missouri for breakfast,” Dean tells him, “Apparently she might have a lead on how to get to the right universe.”

 

Sam is still coming down from the rush of running frantically before stopping in his tracks, “What? Why don’t I know about this?”

 

“Dad wanted you to sleep, I guess,” Dean yawns, “He wanted to go alone. If you ask me, he wanted to get away from all of the drama.”

 

“It-But this is…” Sam starts, but shakes himself out of that mindset. His father is focusing on getting Mom back, which means someone’s working on it. Sam has someone else to worry about right now.

 

“I’ll be back soon,” Sam tells him, “Just keep an eye on her. Please.”

 

Sam hangs up the phone and begins to walk back towards the house, heart beating loudly in his chest. When he realizes that the trip is taking too long, he begins to run until he’s through the front door.

 

“Eileen?” he calls out, kicking off his shoes in the foyer.

 

“She’s in the shower, man,” Dean answers, peeking his head into the hall with a towel slung over his shoulder, “I’m making breakfast. Pancakes, bacon, eggs, the works. You have any boring low-calorie requests?”

 

“That’s fine, I don’t care what you’re making,” Sam dismisses, looking upstairs worriedly.

 

Dean comes over, sighs, then hits him with the towel, “Dude. You’re all sweaty. Go use the other shower so that you don’t gross her out.”

 

Sam shoots him a glare but Dean stays firm, “Seriously. Go. Now.”

 

Sam usually takes his time with showers, especially after a hunt or a run. It usually serves as a small part of a day to focus on himself - to relax, to take a break, to jerk off, to break down where no one else can hear him. He’s too anxious for any of that. So he scrubs himself down quick, washes his hair, and changes into a set of clean clothes. When he goes back into the bedroom, Jack’s still asleep and the shower connected to the bedroom is still running.

 

Sam thinks about knocking to check on her, then suddenly feels insensitive and stupid for having that thought ever cross his mind.

 

“Hey, Jack?” He calls out instead, walking over to the bed to put a hand on his shoulder, “Rise and shine, buddy. Can’t stay in bed all day.”

 

Jack lets out a groan, then covers his head with the blankets and ignores Sam completely.

 

“Jack, don’t think I won’t rip these blankets off of you,” Sam answers, “After what you kids pulled last night-”

 

“Leave me alone,” Jack moans, “Get out.”

 

Sam raises his eyebrows but shrugs it off, “I warned you.”

 

Sam takes a hold of the blankets and yanks them off of Jack. Of course, Jack is a lot stronger than he is. So the blankets and sheets end up ripping, leaving Jack with just a fistful of torn fabric.

 

“I hate you!” Jack scowls, his eyes still half closed.

 

Sam freezes at that and damn it if it doesn’t hurt to hear Jack direct that towards him. It’s hypocritical of Sam, he knows that. God knows how many times he told his own father the same exact thing. But his father tended to roll his eyes and scoff, which ended up making Sam more upset.

 

But as hurt as Sam feels, Jack seems to realize what he’s said as his eyes widen and fill up with tears.

 

“I’m sorry, Dad,” Jack chokes out, crawling towards the end of the bed, “I didn’t mean to say that. I don’t hate you, I don’t! I love you! I’m so sorry!”

 

Sam stares at the boy in confusion. There’s something off about him, something he can’t put his finger on.

 

“...It’s alright,” Sam tells him slowly, holding out a hand to help Jack up to his feet, “We all say things we don’t mean sometimes.”

 

“But why?” Jack asks as he puts his arms around Sam’s middle, his eyes bloodshot and his face pale, but there’s something else. His jawline is a little more pronounced and - close up - Sam can see the slightest hint of stubble.

 

And he could swear Jack is a little taller.

 

“Go down and get some breakfast,” Sam answers distractedly. Jack even looks a little more muscular.

 

“I don’t know if I ever want to eat again,” Jack confesses, “My stomach hurts. It has never hurt until this day. It might be the most pain I’ve ever been in, other than when I walked through the flames of Hell to save Eileen. And the times I’ve gotten stabbed. And when I stabbed myself in the chest over and over and over aga-.”

 

Sam - preferring not to think about Jack’s first couple of weeks on Earth - clears his throat and interrupts the boy, “Some food in your system may help a little. Go on. I need to talk to Eileen.”

 

“Is she alright?” Jack asks, still holding onto Sam as he risks a glance at the bathroom door worriedly, “I sense something...fear. Embarrassment. Avoidance.”

 

“She…” Sam starts, letting out a sigh, “She is going through some things. You know that. Now, come on. Go downstairs.”

 

Jack nods hesitantly before tears leak onto his cheeks and his face crumples, “Are you m-mad at me?”

 

Sam lets out a groan, “No, Jack. I’m not mad at you. At least not about what just happened. Going off to a party and getting drunk and high? Maybe just a little.”

 

Jack stares into Sam’s eyes and shakes his head, “I don’t regret any of that. I don’t regret making out with three people either. Wait. Do you think that I could lead Dean to self-acceptance because I am confident in my attractions toward people regardless of gender and he’s attracted to both men and women but is struggling to fully embrace who he truly is?”

 

“Yes, absolutely,” Sam says quickly, leading Jack towards the hall by the shoulders, “Your grandfather isn’t here so I think you should go work on that.”

 

Jack looks excited by the prospect, then reaches for his belly, “Dad, my stomach hurts.”

 

Sam had been so close to getting him out of the room. So close. But Jack throws himself at Sam again, letting out a whine as he clings onto his dad’s shirt.

 

“Jack-” Sam starts to groan but immediately stops when he hears the bathroom door open.

 

Jack peeks over Sam’s shoulder to get a glimpse of Eileen as Sam turns his neck to meet her eyes.

 

“Hey,” Sam says softly, as if he speaks louder, he’ll scare her off.

 

Eileen purses her lips and nods before looking away, opting to dry her hair with a towel instead. It’s a small gesture, but it pretty much guts Sam. Sam wants to go over and hold her, tell her that this will all eventually pass. But last time he touched her, she shoved him so hard that he fell and she kicked him until he was flat on his back. She probably needs some space.

 

“Mom,” Jack whines, walking over to her clutching onto his middle, “Mom, my stomach hurts.”

 

“What was that, Jack?” Eileen asks, not catching what the boy said.

 

“Mom, my stomach hurts,” Jack pouts, before leaning over to put his forehead on Eileen’s shoulder.

 

Sam feels a little more at ease when Eileen shoots him a sad but amused look, before putting a hand on Jack’s back to rub it.

 

“It’ll be alright,” she tells him kindly, “We’ve all been there. Eating something might help.”

 

“That’s what my dad said,” Jack tells her, standing up back straight, “He said that and I know he wouldn’t lie to me, but my stomach tells me he’s lying.”

 

“You’ll never know until you try,” Eileen counters, leading him to the door, “Go on.”

 

“Okay,” Jack agrees before studying the two of them, “You both will come down too, right?”

 

“Yeah, just give us a little bit,” Sam answers, clearing his throat. Eileen doesn’t answer immediately and that doesn’t help Sam’s nerves at all, but she eventually nods and forces a smile.

 

“Sure, Jack. In a little bit,” Eileen tells him. Jack seems satisfied with the answer and it gives him enough initiative to make his way down the steps.

 

A beat of silence passes between them and Sam’s surprised when Eileen breaks it first.

 

“He seem taller to you?” she asks, turning to him.

 

Sam’s glad he’s not the only one who noticed and he nods his head, “Yeah, you noticed too?”

 

Eileen nods, “And he looks older. Not much, but a little. About Alex’s age, maybe.”

 

“I…” Sam starts, swallowing, “I have no idea. I am new to all of this.”

 

Eileen snorts, “I can’t imagine many people wouldn’t be new to this.”

 

“Yeah,” Sam agrees, “...He told me he hated me when I woke him up.”

 

Eileen gives him a pitying look, but it turns into a smile - a genuine one, “Yeah, well...I don’t like being woken up to a nauseating hangover either. Can’t blame him for the attitude. He seems to have changed his mind though. What happened?”

 

“It didn’t last long,” Sam continues, smiling back at her, “But I can’t say that it didn’t hurt. He was practically a mess when he realized what he said, started crying and asked me if I was mad at him. When I told him I was mad about the party and the drinking and getting high, he told me he didn’t regret any of that, nor did he regret making out with three people. I thought I was going to get him downstairs when he decided to take it upon himself to talk to Dean about his confidence in his sexuality, but then he started clinging onto me because he wanted me to comfort him through his pain.”

 

“That…” Eileen starts, shaking her head, “That sounds like Jack.”

 

“Yeah,” Sam agrees, taking a step forward, “That’s Jack for you. Eileen…”

 

Sam trails off and he lets out a breath, running a hand through his damp hair, as Eileen turns away to pick up her bag and put it on the bed.

 

“Sam, do we have to do this now?” she asks, her voice straining.

 

Sam walks over and sits on the mattress and gently takes a hold of her hand, which makes her pause and look at him, “I just need to know what’s going on with you. Look, I know I can’t promise that I can make everything better - or even be much help - but I want to be there for you and listen. If anyone knows what this is like, it’s me. And Dean. And my dad. And god, even Jack - to an extent.”

 

“I doubt you all saw the things I am seeing, the things I’m hearing,” Eileen hisses, throwing her comb into her bag with force, “Do you know what it’s like to not be able to hear for your whole life only for the first sounds you do hear to be the sounds of souls screaming in agony? Do you know what it’s like to come back and welcome not being able to hear again, only for your brain to decide, ‘Well hey, I’m not going to let you hear this really great kid who for some reason adores you and saved your life or the guy that you’re falling for, but here. Here’s the demon who tortured you for decades pretending to be an old woman on the sidewalk. Fair trade.”

 

Sam swallows the lump in his throat, “Eileen-”

 

“Just…” Eileen sighs, blinking the moisture out of her eyes, “Just forget it, Sam. Let it go.”

 

Sam bites his lip, “I can’t, honey.”

 

Eileen raises an eyebrow at him, “Honey?”

 

Sam lets out a shaky breath, “Sort of just slipped out. Not a fan?”

 

Eileen shrugs but says nothing, not giving him a hint one way or the other.

 

“Isn’t that what couples do?” Sam mutters, “Call each other pet names? Take care of each other? Talk about the horrific trauma they’ve gone through that barely anyone else in the world is going to understand?”

 

Eileen lets out a breath, “I don’t know, Sam. It’s been a long time since I was in a relationship - and it wasn’t a good one...damn it.”

 

Sam puts a hand on her arm again as she looks away to prompt her, “What is it?”

 

“I don’t…” Eileen starts, “I’m not...Sam, I don’t know if I’m built for this. I don’t think I can give you what you want and deserve, especially when I’m like this now.”

 

Sam shakes his head, trying to ignore the way his heart is pounding, “Eileen, you’re going to heal. You’ll get through this. But it’s going to take a lot longer if you take off and do this on your own without any support.”

 

“I don’t know, Sam,” Eileen chokes out, turning around to sit down on the bed and lean her face into her hands, “I feel like this is going to end up just stressing you out more and holding you guys back.”

 

Sam stares at Eileen sadly, wanting to reach out and hold her. Instead, he reaches up and takes her hands, waiting patiently until she’s looking at him again.

 

“You’re kidding, right?” Sam asks, huffing out a teary laugh, “I’ve been stressed out for years, especially these last few months. But when you came back and thought I was worth sticking around for, even though I live underground with a grieving alcoholic brother, a powerful handful of a son, and an obsessed father who isn’t that much older than I am, all while we look for my mom who fell through an alternate universe? You might be the only person in my life who makes me feel calm.”

 

Eileen snorts, “I don’t see how. I was about to stab you.”

 

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Sam tries to joke.

 

“Yeah,” Eileen murmurs, “But twice is overdoing it.”

 

And while Sam could say he and Dean have tried to kill each other in multiple ways under various states of consciousness, but he’s relatively sure that’s not comforting at all.

 

So he sits there. He sits there and says nothing.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Claire stares at Jack across the table. While he doesn’t look quite as miserable as she feels, she can tell he’s hungover. She might feel solidarity with him if it weren’t for one little thing.

 

“Can’t you just heal your hangover?” she grumbles, only letting out a grunt when Dean puts a full plate in front of her.

 

“No,” Jack tells her petulantly, squinting at the food Dean Homemaker Winchester is forcing upon them, “I told my dad I hated him this morning. This is my penance and I accept that.”

 

“Penance,” Claire scoffs, “How about at least healing me of mine then?”

 

Jack glares at her, lets out a huff, and shakes his head.

 

“No.”

 

Claire growls, “Excuse me?”

 

“If I have to suffer, then you have to suffer too.”

 

Claire bangs her fist on the table as she feels the rage bubble up within her, “You’re a sadistic bastard. I hope you fucking know that, you turd.”

 

“I am not!” Jack shoots back, “I can choose when to use my powers without being guilted by the likes of you! Now stop yelling. You’re making my head hurt.”

 

“I’m not even the one yelling,” Claire denies, “You are.”

 

“Am not.”

 

“Are too.”

 

“Am no-”

 

“If neither of you shut up, you’re going to wake up Jody and Alex,” Dean scowls, sitting at the head of the table, “Eat your damn food.”

 

Everyone at the table becomes quiet in response to Dean’s words, but not particularly because they’re threatened in any way. Claire’s humoring him if anything, and she’s pretty sure Jack is still trying to get in his good graces. But after a solid two minutes of silence, Jack ruins that by opening his mouth.

 

“Dean, I would like to talk to you about my sexual and romantic orientation,” Jack begins, wiping the corner of his mouth with a napkin before folding his hands in his lap.

 

Claire chokes back a laugh as Dean chokes on his food. If Jack had cured her hangover, she may be more inclined to redirect his conversation in order for him to avoid Dean’s rage or grief or whatever is going to pour out from the man once this gets going.

 

But he didn’t. So Claire just sits back.

 

“I feel like…” Jack starts, pondering his words, “I feel like I am attracted to people, not specific genders or genitalia. I connect with their souls. Their beauty mainly shines from it, after all. But I also like dark hair. Like Alex and Tanesha and Raj. They all have dark hair and I have liked them the best so far, especially Alex. What does that make me? What label should I claim? What flag should I wave with pride?”

 

And even though Claire is kind of finding this hilarious, she does feel that Dean could handle it better by not glaring at the kid, first and foremost.

 

“You…” Dean starts, before letting out a sigh, “You just do you. Have fun, wrap it if you tap it. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, it doesn’t matter what I think. You don’t...You don’t have to label yourself, alright? Not if you don’t want to. Or you can. Whatever. There. Conversation over.”

 

He also doesn’t have to leave the room right after, rushing to dump the rest of his food in the trash before he does so. Claire waits until Dean’s safely out of earshot before leaning across the table.

 

“Smooth, Jack. Real smooth.”

 

Jack smiles a little, “I think so. At least now Dean knows he isn’t the only non-heterosexual in the family.”

 

Claire puts a finger over her lips, “Shhh. You aren’t supposed to out people, even if their closets are made of shattered glass glued together with Elmer’s.”

 

Jack studies her closely and shakes his head, “I have no idea what you’re saying to me. Sometimes you talk strange, Claire. It’s confusing for the people who have to listen.”

 

She’s gonna let that go, even though the insults are dancing on the tip of her tongue.

 

“Here,” she tells him, pulling out her phone, “Google ‘pansexual’.” And no, that does not mean you have sex with pans. If that’s a kink of yours, then I don’t want to know about it. But its actual meaning might fit you.”

 

Claire doesn’t stick around for Jack’s sexual awakening, opting to run to the bathroom to throw up her breakfast. But by the time she’s back, Jack’s wearing a black t-shirt with the pansexual pride flag on it and he asks her how it looks on him.

 

“It accentuates your biceps,” is all Claire says, giving Jack’s upper arm a squeeze, “Nice choice.”

-----------------------------------------------------------

Dean manages to intercept and grab his brother at the top of the stairs. Eileen almost looks thankful. Dean hadn’t heard much of the conversation, but he figures Sam had been trying to push therapeutic shit on her. He knows how stressful that shit is, so they share a look of understanding before he pulls Sam away with, “I need to talk to you. Now.”

 

And Sam - who always is trying to get him to fucking talk - is resistant as hell, staring at Eileen with longing, worried puppy dog eyes as she continues to walk down the stairs. His brother has it bad. It’s cute, but Dean will have to talk to him about reading body language and knowing when to back off of the touchy-feely bullshit. It could wait though.

 

“You really don’t have to shove me down the hall,” Sam grumbles as Dean leads him back to the guest room.

 

Dean doesn’t answer until the door is firmly closed shut, “Did you get Jack to put me on the spot downstairs?”

 

Sam looks at him, almost put upon, then lets out a sigh, “On the spot about what, Dean?”

 

Dean lets out a growl, “About...About-”

 

Why he suddenly cares about Jack’s privacy, he’s not sure. Jack’s a lot different than Dean is, that much is true, but Dean can’t help but think that he never wanted anyone to out him to his father. And although Sam is different than John in most ways and won’t give a shit about who and what Jack is into, Dean still feels some sort of forced upon camaraderie with the kid now - which makes no sense at all.

 

“If this is all over Jack’s decision to talk to you about his sexual orientation, that was his decision,” Sam tells him flatly, “And I hope you handled it well.”

 

“Of course I didn’t handle it well,” Dean shoots back, “When do I handle anything with that kid well?”

 

Sam nods once, giving him that, “Well, I hope you didn’t blow up at him or dismiss him. He wanted to bond with you. I think it’s sweet.”

 

“You think it’s sweet. Of course you think it’s sweet,” Dean mutters, starting to pace, “Well, tell him to talk to you about that stuff from now on. I’m no good at it and there’s no need for a bond.”

 

Sam lets out a huff, “Dean, you do realize that before he chose me to be his dad, he wanted to choose you? He did. He said he could sense his father’s - Cas’s - connection with you from the womb. He thought that you were going to be the one to take care of him since Cas loved you so much. He’s felt a connection with me for most of his life, but with you since before he even came into the world, only to be scared of upsetting you or pissing you off by saying the wrong thing. So yeah. There’s a need for a bond...God, Dean. With who he is to me and who he would have been to Cas, don’t you care about him enough to at least try?”

 

Dean closes his eyes and rubs at his face, “Fuck, Sam. Forget I said anything. Jack’s sudden sexual crisis never happened, alright?”

 

He’s not having a crisis-”

 

“And he’s your kid to worry about and talk to,” Dean continues, starting to pace, “I already have to worry about Claire and get things sorted with her so that she doesn’t fight me kicking and screaming all the way back to the bunker when we leave.”

 

Sam holds up a hand, slowly coming closer to Dean, “Wait, hold on a second. What are you talking about? Why would Claire throw a fit all the way back to the bunker when she lives here?”

 

Dean lets out a breath and meets Sam’s eyes, “...Jody wants her to live with me for a while.”

 

Sam blinks, wondering if he heard that right, “Why?”

 

Dean tosses up a hand, “She’s going through a lot of shit, Sam. Getting herself into real trouble - getting herself hurt. Now that she’s found out about that guy she’s been seeing, it’ll probably only get worse. I know that the closer people get to us, the more fucked over they get but you know who else gets fucked over? Hunters who hunt alone, especially stubborn, cocky, reckless, stupid teenagers who don’t care enough about themselves-”

 

“There’s something you’re not telling me,” Sam murmurs, concerned, studying Dean closely.

 

“That’s because it’s none of your goddamn business,” Dean bites out harshly.

 

Sam’s eyes widen disbelievingly, “You sure? Because if Claire is going to be living with you, then that means she’s going to be living with me too. So don’t you think I should know if there’s something serious going on with her?”

 

Dean feels the anxiety over Claire’s potential side job bubble up within him again as he lets out a frustrated groan, “I haven’t even talked to her about anything yet, just Jody. I’m waiting until she’s fully functioning to bring everything up with her. If Claire or Jody want to talk to you about it, then that’s on them. It’s not my shit to bring up with anyone else other than her. I’m more focused on us being on the same page when it comes to keeping her with us and keeping her safe.”

 

Dean’s not sure what he had been expecting. Probably agreement or maybe pity if Sam was in the mood to feel sorry for him. But as he waits for an answer from his brother, he sure as hell doesn’t expect hesitation.

 

“What, Sam?” Dean prompts irritably.

 

“...Dean-” Sam starts, then cuts himself off, “I just...I don’t think we’re in good enough form to take in another teenager right now.”

 

Dean gives Sam a humorless smirk, “You mean you think I’m not in good enough form to take in a teenager right now.”

 

“No, Dean,” Sam objects, “I actually don’t mean that. If it was just the two of us, I wouldn’t be so hesitant to say yes on this. But we just got Dad back and he’s obsessing over getting Mom back home. We need to help him with that so that we can help her. Eileen’s going through a ton. She shoved me to the ground and almost stabbed me today because she hallucinated. Then there’s Jack. He’s still growing and trying to figure out who he is and Claire was a bad influence on him last night-”

 

“Claire was a bad influence on Jack,” Dean has to laugh, “So that’s what this is about? You wanting to protect your kid from the big bad blonde? If that’s the case, then you need to get your priorities straight. Besides, Jack is more than capable of making his own mistakes.”

 

“She got him drunk, Dean,” Sam complains, “She lost sight of him and he got high off of ecstasy. You saw him last night. What if he would have had a bad reaction or if someone made him angry or upset? Who knows what he might have done with his powers in that state? We have too much on our plates already.”

 

Dean straightens his posture as his resolve strengthens, scowling in the process, “Well, I’m adding one more thing to mine. She doesn’t have to be your problem. As soon as we tie things up here, I’m bringing her home whether you like it or not. I’ll deal with Claire, just like you deal with Jack. Our paths don’t have to cross. The bunker should be big enough for that. And if it’s not, Claire and I can just rent out some crappy apartment and work with you and Dad from a distance.”

 

Sam gives him a desperate, disbelieving look, “Dean, you’re being dramatic-”

 

Dean cuts Sam off by slamming the door behind him. He doesn’t need to hear his little brother’s shit. He’s negative enough about all of this without it.

-----------------------------------------------------------

John puts the car in park outside of a middle-class suburban home in St. Cloud, Minnesota and turns to look at Missouri in the passenger seat.

 

“As good as you remember?” he asks as she pats the dashboard of the Impala.

 

“She’s still beautiful,” Missouri admits, “But man, if cars had minds...I bet this old girl has seen some things - good, bad, and ugly. I would read everything I could in a heartbeat. Might get a glimpse of somethin’ of yours, if you know what I’m sayin’.”

 

John snorts at that, checking the messages on his phone to make sure that nothing else has gone to complete shit since he left, “I’m sure your wife would love that. Perv.”

 

“Oh, now you just sound like Dean,” Missouri tsks, shaking her head in amusement.

 

John shrugs and opens the car door, “Like father, like son. You ready?”

 

Missouri doesn’t answer right away. When John looks down at her hands, he sees them shaking.

 

“Hey,” he murmurs softly, putting a hand on top of hers, “You alright?”

 

“Fine,” Missouri rasps out, sending John a slightly watery smile, “It’s just...it’s been a long time. Both of them are going to look so different. It’ll remind me of how much I’ve missed. Trying to prepare myself, I suppose.”

 

John nods his head, “Yeah...Yeah, I can relate.”

 

He keeps a hand on her arm as they walk up to the front door. She doesn’t pull away from him like she had outside the restaurant, nor does she insist she can walk herself. Instead, she leans into the what John hopes comes off as support and comfort. If anyone deserves it, it’s Missouri. She had provided a listening ear for decades, only to drive for hours to pick him up after he was resurrected. He still has a long way to go in order to make things even and still does when he knocks on the door for her when she doesn’t seem to be able to bring herself to do it.

 

A man in his mid-forties answers, looking taken aback before straightening his shoulders and clearing the emotion off his face.

 

“What are you doing here?” he asks, his body and voice tense as he gauges Missouri.

 

Missouri lets out a shuddering breath and tries to smile, “Can’t your momma come see you every once in awhile, James?”

 

“Momma,” James scoffs, “You really think you can earn that nickname back after all this time?”

 

“‘James…” Missouri starts, closing her eyes, “I know things have been rocky between us - they were between you and your daddy too before he passed - and that we haven’t seen much of each other over the years, our lives have always been too different. I might not ever be able to do right by you. I was shocked when Patience reached out, but now that she has? I’m going to do right by her. So where is she?”

 

James stays guarded, but his eyes become worried, “Why did Patience call you? What’s going on with my daughter?”

 

Missouri holds up her hands, “I’m not one hundred percent sure yet. Let me talk to her so that I can figure out what’s going on, and then the three of us will sit down and talk all you want, I promise.”

 

James hesitates, then turns to John, “Who are you?”

 

“That’s John Winchester,” Missouri tells him, “Used to come by the house from time to time, you don’t remember?”

 

“I thought you were dead,” James frowns, looking suspicious.

 

“Looks good for a dead man, doesn’t he?” Missouri comments.

 

“What’s he doing here?”

 

John glances at Missouri and clears his throat, “Moral support. For your mother.”

 

James sneers, gently shoving John a step backward, “Well, you can offer your moral support from your car.”

 

John shakes his head, “I don’t think so. I get being protective of your kid, I do. I respect it. But if your kid is having visions about my missing wife? Then I’m going to need to talk to her.”

 

James stays silent at that, his eyes widening in shock and possibly fear, as John holds his ground.

 

“Goddamn it, John,” Missouri mutters, glaring at him like she wants his head to explode.

 

“Patience!” James yells out, leaving the doorway to storm over to the stairs, “Patience, get down here right now!”

 

“Not the way he needed to find out about this,” Missouri hisses, “At all. You know what happened when he was a kid, why he wanted nothing to do with any part of the life - of my life. You, Rufus, and Bobby saved him yourselves.”

 

As John watches Patience come down the steps, only to be bombarded by questions from her father, he becomes more confident when it comes to James being let in on this, “His kid’s been thrown into the mix, Missouri. Whether he wants to be in the life or not, he’s come back into it sprinting.”

 

Despite not receiving an official invitation to come in and make themselves comfortable, they walk through the doorway right before Patience and Missouri lock eyes.

 

“Hi, sweetheart,” Missouri greets softly, coming closer towards her granddaughter, “Came because you seemed pretty scared on the phone. This here’s John Winchester. He’s-”

 

“Mary Winchester’s husband,” Patience finishes, “She’s thought about you. But she thinks you’re dead.”

 

“He has been dead, up until a couple of weeks ago,” Missouri confirms, “It’s the Winchester way.”

 

“What do you mean, she’s thought about me?” John asks, feeling shaky.

 

Patience shrugs and tries to smile, “Just in passing. Usually at night when she finds shelter to sleep, she thinks of you and her sons. Mostly, she’s planning on betraying Lucifer and Michael and gathering an army. It’s hard since Michael has her in his sight most of the time, but she’s managing more than you’d think.”

 

“What is she doing?” John asks desperately, “How are you see-”

 

“Patience, what is this about?” James demands to know, “Why are you seeing this? It doesn’t pertain to you, baby. And it’s not normal for psychics to become hyperfocused on someone’s life. Is it, Ma?”

 

Missouri shrugs, “She’s shown signs since she was a toddler, James. You know that. I will agree that this is odd. But I find myself seeing a lot of Jack Kline’s life recently. She may be tuning into Mary’s. Although, being able to see into another universe? That has to take some serious power. You meet anyone peculiar recently? Visit any shops revolving around magic?”

 

Patience gives her a strange look, “No?”

 

“Well, it was worth a shot,” Missouri sighs, “Let’s sit down and you can tell me and John here all about these visions.”

 

“Just wait a second,” James starts, holding up his hands, “You can’t just come in here and-”

 

“I’ve written all of them down,” Patience interrupts, “Drawn a few things. Helps my head. I’ll go get everything.”

 

“Patience!” James prompts as the teenager runs back up the stairs, “Damn it.”

 

John and Missouri stand there silently and watch James pace back and forth. It’s almost maddening to witness.

 

“Why did you have to come?” James asks, stopping in his tracks.

 

Missouri purses her lips, “She was going to experience visions whether I came by or not. At least now she has someone who understands her.”

 

James shakes his head, “I don’t want her involved in this. She has goals, a lot of promise. She doesn’t need to be sucked into your life and she doesn’t need to end up dead like Dad.”

 

“James, she doesn’t have to become fully sucked into the life. But when visions become focused onto one event or person, it usually means you have to step in and do something or they’ll keep coming. That’s why John and I want to know everything she does - so that she doesn’t have to get too involved. We don’t want her in danger.”

 

James stares at his mother for a moment and shakes his head, then goes over to the couch and puts his head in his hands.

 

“He’s a bit dramatic,” Missouri whispers to John, letting out a sigh before she goes to sit next to her son, “It’s going to be alright. We’ll handle everything. I’ll make sure no one touches a hair on her head.”

 

“Yeah,” John hears James murmur, “You’re real great at that.”

 

Missouri shakes her head but says nothing, deciding to rub her son’s back instead. So it’s John who Patience approaches after she comes down the stairs with several notebooks and folders.

 

“Here,” she tells him, “Here’s just about everything I’ve seen.”

 

John looks at her incredulously, “How long have you been having visions about my wife? Why did you just tell your grandmother last night?”

 

“It’s only been two weeks,” Patience mutters, “I’ve been analyzing every single thing I see in that place - every person, angel, or demon; every old sign or store front or land mass. I’ve gotten obsessive. It made me get a B on my first Calculus test. My head hasn’t exactly been on straight. I didn’t even think of calling her until last night.”

 

John nods, not really knowing what to say, before taking one of the notebooks from her, “This is going to take a while to get through. Do you mind if we take it with us after we sit down and talk?”

 

Patience looks hesitant, as if he’s asking her for her damn diary, but then lets out a breath and nods, “...Okay. Fine. Just be careful with them. Give them back after you make copies of everything you need. And if you figure out why I keep seeing the same symbol before and after every dream and vision starts, tell me. Because I don’t know what this world and the Japanese Enso symbol have to do with each other at all.”

 

Patience hands some of the notebooks and folders to John and opens a green folder, digging until she pulls out a piece of paper.

 

“I know what the symbol means, but I don’t know what it can do or if it can do anything at all,” Patience tells him, holding out a printed photo of an almost closed circle, “All I know is that it basically warns me when I’m about to start seeing something and that it means letting the mind and body create and being enlightened enough to know everything is a part of something greater.”

 

John takes the paper from her and studies it. It’s simple in its design and he’s already familiar with it, since Bobby had known a good bit about Japanese mythology, language, and culture. Probably one of many reasons the grumbling man should have stuck around.

 

“Let’s go sit down,” John gestures, “Sit down so that you can explain what’s been going on to your dad. You owe him that.”

------------------------------------------------

After Claire vomits her guts up until 11, she goes upstairs to go back to sleep - just as Jody and Alex are starting to get up for the day. But God must come back for a second and declare, ‘And on the 6930th day of Claire Novak’s peculiar and fucked up life, Alex and Jody did NOT get all up in her grill’ because she manages to dodge them and pass out for a few hours without being disturbed.

 

That is, until Dean wakes her up at 6 by hitting her with a pillow. And really, considering how much of a mess he has been the last couple of months, she figured he would be the one to take it easy on her.

 

“Come on,” he prompts, becoming more caring as he opts to pat her back and shoulder until she groans and opens her eyes, “Time to wake up.”

 

“Go pull a Mufasa and jump off a cliff,” she mumbles, covering her head with her covers.

 

Dean lets out a laugh at that, “Are you going to pull a Simba and seclude yourself away from your kingdom or are you pulling a Scar and prying my paws off the rock yourself?”

 

“What do you think?”

 

“I’m serious, Claire. I need to talk to you about something important,” Dean sighs, keeping a hand on her as he sits on the side of her bed to make himself comfortable.

 

Damn it.

 

“What?” Claire asks, looking at Dean through bleary eyes.

 

Dean doesn’t say anything at first, waiting several seconds - several seconds Claire could have spent sleeping - then begins to speak.

 

“You have anything you need to tell me about how you’re getting money while you’re on the road?” Dean chokes out, a sharp intake of breath intercepting his last word.

 

Claire tenses at the question and feels her heart pound in her chest, but stays nonchalant, “Not really. Credit card scams. Hustling pool. The usual.”

 

“I heard you suck at pool and that your credit limits are low,” Dean sniffles, “So why is there a big wad of cash in your bag that Alex is so concerned about?”

 

Claire clenches her fist and bites her lip, “What did she tell you?”

 

Dean rubs her shoulder, “She didn’t tell me anything. It’s what she told Jody and what Jody told me that has me worried. Are you…”

 

Dean stops and Claire tries not to cry when she realizes he’s trying to compose himself before he can continue, “Are you selling yourself?”

 

Claire feels like she can’t breathe but she can’t let Dean know that, can’t let him know that people knowing upsets her this much - makes her feel this amount of shame. She could keep lying and say no, that they’ve gotten it all wrong. But even though she’s not looking at Dean’s face, she knows he knows - that he’s only asking the question as a courtesy. So she makes sure she can stomach talking, manages to push down the need to cry into his arms or beg for him to get Jody, and shrugs her shoulders as she sits up.

 

“Look, it’s not a big deal, alright?” Claire starts, her voice muted, “I’m safe, make sure they know the deal, don’t have some abusive pimp or a pimp at all, and make sure I’m carrying a knife on me. The rare time a john has tried to do more than I was willing, I’ve gotten my point across with it and they’ve backed off. No harm, no foul.”

 

Dean’s shaking. She figures he’s angry. Hell, she knows he is. But when she risks a glance at him, her heart drops into her stomach and her throat feels strangled when she sees his face is wet.

 

“Dean,” she chokes out, “Dean, really. I’m fine. I’ve never gotten hurt. You don’t have to worry about me, okay? I’m not your problem. Just let it go.”

 

Dean lets out a humorless laugh that sounds more like a sob, “I can’t do that, Claire. I care about you way too much, if you haven’t noticed. Fuck. Why? Why didn’t you just ask me or Jody for money if you needed it?”

 

Claire stares at him, “Because I’m doing this on my own. I can’t be independent and beg for handouts. It’s not happening.”

 

“Claire…” Dean starts, “If that’s what you need to resort to in order to be independent, then you shouldn’t be on your own, especially with what you’ve gone through in the last few months. Not if it’s making you this reckless, reckless enough do this, for Jack to come heal you regularly from hunts, to end up in the hospital-”

 

Claire feels a surge of anger at the words as she hits her hands against her knees, “I’m fine, Dean. I can take care of myself. So back off and mind your own business!”

 

“You’re going to give Jody a heart attack,” Dean accuses, “She’s worried sick about you, and Alex’s concerns have made that worse. She’s afraid you’re going to get yourself killed.”

 

“Well, maybe that would be better for everyone!” Claire blurts out, before letting out a sob and covering her face with her hands, failing to hold it in anymore. Which is just great. Because that’s just what she needs - Dean and Jody admitting her to the psych ward.

 

She hears Dean’s breath hitch right before his arms come around her shoulders and he pulls her to his chest.

 

“It wouldn’t,” he tells her softly, “It wouldn’t be better for Jody. That would destroy her Claire. It would destroy Alex. You’re her sister, in every way it counts. It would destroy me. If something happened to you and you were alone? I don’t want to think about what I would do. Hunting alone’s one thing. I’ve done it, a lot more while Sam was at Stanford. Got myself into tight spots, could have gotten seriously hurt. Hunting alone while I’m upset? I’ve done that too. It might make you more hell-bent on killing more sons of bitches, but it also makes you care less about your own safety. But selling yourself on the street and at truck stops-”

 

“Let me guess,” Claire gasps into his chest, “I have you beat on that one, don’t I? Hand over your ‘Most Fucked Up Hunter’ trophy, bitch.”

 

Dean doesn’t seem amused by that, and okay, she can see why he would feel like this is a serious situation. But then Dean lets out a wheeze and begins to speak.

 

“...You don’t have me beat on that one, Claire. Not at all. And I’ve experienced how truly horrible getting money like that can get first hand. I wouldn’t be as sick and upset about you resorting to it if I didn’t know.”

 

All Claire can feel is shock as her heart stutters in her chest at what she’s pretty sure is a clear admission from Dean. She almost wants to question him. Ask him what happened, ask him how badly he was hurt, ask him why? But she doesn’t. She can’t. All she feels like she can do is throw her arms around his torso and return the hug he’s giving her, all while her ear is pressed to his chest as she listens to his heart pound loudly and quickly - as if he’s terrified.

 

“Don’t get upset about it,” Dean murmurs, “This conversation is about you, alright?”

 

“There’s not much left to say,” Claire gasps out.

 

Dean doesn’t speak for a moment, then clears his throat, “Jody and I...We’re worried about you. About what you’ve been going through and how it’s affecting you. She...We both think that if you’re going to keep hunting, you need someone watching your back, someone to be on the road with in order to help out-”

 

“She wants me to live with you,” Claire answers flatly against his chest, “Thinks that I’m not capable.”

 

“Don’t put words into my mouth,” Dean tells her, adjusting his grip on her, “We’re worried sick, alright? And I think it could be beneficial for you to hunt with hunters who hunt regularly.”

 

“Do you realize how many times you said 'hunt' in that sentence?” Claire snorts.

 

“Focus,” Dean tells her, “And look, I get that you’re turning 19 in a few days and want to be off on your own. This doesn’t have to be forever, you know that. But you’re still hurting. You lost Cas, just like I did. You’ve gone through more than I had when I was your age. This is just about you staying safe, learning what you can, and having people who care about you around to have your back, on hunts and at home when things get rough.”

 

“...I don’t know,” Claire mutters, “I will probably bite your head off within a week and kick Jack in the balls.”

 

Dean lets out a laugh at that and sits her back up, “Well, no one’s perfect.”

 

Claire already knows how this is going to go, even though she can’t bring herself to agree to the move. She doesn’t have it in her to fight it nor the energy to run off. So she says nothing and they just sit there until Jody comes up with a sad smile, telling them dinner is ready, that John is back, and that he brought a guest.

 

She doesn’t particularly love the fact that her last dinner living with Jody is spent looking through a high schooler’s notebook but she doesn’t know what to say to Jody really anyway. That she’s sorry? Sorry that she’s an ungrateful fuck up, sorry that she doesn’t care if she lives or dies sometimes? Should she thank her for everything she’s done for her? Thank her for being her mother? Apologize again because she sucks so much that Jody doesn’t want to be her mom now?

 

All of those topics seem pretty awkward for dinner conversation.

 

“Why do you look like you’re about to cry?” Alex asks, her fork in one hand and a notebook in another.

 

Claire sniffles and quickly rubs her eyes, “It’s nothing. Pay attention to your food and obsessive psychic scribble.”

 

Claire lies awake in bed for hours that night. She packs her clothes in her suitcases, gets some boxes from the garage to pack away some of the other belongings - pictures of her parents and of Alex and Jody, stuff that Jody had bought her to make her room feel more like home - stuff that won’t fit in her filled bags. If Dean wasn’t so sad about everything, he’d probably tease her for not packing light.

 

It’s 3 am when she gets back up. Her stuff’s been packed for hours and everyone in the house is asleep. It’s not until she knocks on Jody’ bedroom door that she realizes she’s disrupting the woman’s sleep for the second night in a row.

 

“Claire?” Jody asks as she opens the door, her voice laced with sleep, “Honey, what’s wrong?”

 

Claire bites her lip, trying to figure out what to say, then bursts into heavy, painful sobs.

 

“I’m s-sorry I disappointed you, Mom. I’m sorry I’m sorry, I’m so sorry-”

 

Jody shakes her head frantically, “No. Oh no, sweetie. You didn’t. Shhh, it’s alright. Everything’s going to be okay. You know I love you, don’t you? That you can come back and stay over as much as you want, that you can move back once you’re feeling better. You know that this isn’t about me, right? Oh, honey…”

 

Jody puts her arms around Claire and Claire can’t help but collapse into Jody, wailing into her neck before Jody leads her into her room, tucks her in, and holds her until she falls asleep.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Dean sets the alarm on his phone for 6 am the next morning, sitting up on the air mattress and glancing over at the pullout couch. His father’s still asleep but Missouri isn’t there and he smells the scent of coffee coming from the kitchen. Deciding to wait to deflate the air mattress so that he doesn’t wake up his dad, he gets up and heads straight for the kitchen.

 

“Look who decided to greet the day,” Missouri comments from the table, Eileen sitting across from her - her face strangely blank, “The two of us were just having a girl talk. Want to grab a cup of coffee and join?”

 

Dean grunts and reaches for a mug in the cabinet, then fills it with black coffee and starts drinking it immediately.

 

“What are you two doing up?” Dean asks, making sure to face Eileen as he goes over to sit down with them.

 

“Sam went for a run with Jack,” Eileen informs him, “Missouri was already up and I decided to stay back so that we could get to know each other.”

 

“And we did get to know each other,” Missouri confirms, putting a hand over Eileen’s, “I thought I was good at getting information out of people. But this one’s a piece of work. Tried to read her mind and she thinks in signs and lip movements. Makes me nervous. Yet I was just chatting away, as if she could pull any old thing out of me. She’s special. Sam better know that.”

 

Dean snorts right before he takes a sip of coffee, then puts his mug down, “Yeah, Sam’s obsessed with her. It’s adorable. He has three ASL apps on his phone. Bought a few textbooks. Got all pouty when he realized he was too late to sign up for a community college ASL course at Cloud County. She has him wrapped around her finger like it’s nothin’.”

 

“Dean, you have an ASL app on your phone too,” Missouri tells him, “Boy, you can’t lie to me.”

 

Dean sends a smile to Eileen and signs to her as his father walks in, which has Eileen signing something back to him that he sure as hell can’t understand but her eyes shining and she’s smiling with amusement so Dean assumes it isn’t, ‘Die, asshole.’

 

“What did he say?” Missouri asks John, “I wasn’t focusing in on him and he pulled one over on me.”

 

John looks tired but rolls his eyes and signs something to Eileen then turns to Missouri, “He said he’s a wonderful brother-in-law and Eileen said that she’s lucky.”

 

Missouri smiles at that, “Aw. That’s sweet, them bonding. Dean, what’s that app you got? If John and I keep hanging out and Eileen’s part of your family now, then her ways of thinking might rub off on you and I need to be on the up and up.”

 

The four of them sit down and talk about plans for the morning. Missouri wants to be out the door in the next hour so that she can make it back for the last church service (“I know God’s a dick, but they’re good people, Dean. Shut up and mind your own business!”) Dean himself wants to get Claire’s things loaded into the car and back on the road by 9. He glances at his father and Eileen when he mentions that.

 

“Jody and I decided it would be best if she lives at the bunker for a while,” Dean informs them, feeling the tension in his shoulders again, “She’s going through a lot. That and hunting alone don't mix. She’ll be an extra set of hands when it comes to finding out how to get mom back and Jody and I won’t have to wonder where she is and what she’s doing day in and day out.”

 

His father studies Dean and lets out a sigh, “You sure you can handle that, Dean? An angry and reckless teenager full time? It’s not easy, you need to know that.”

 

“I can handle her,” Dean answers defensively.

 

His father nods his head slowly, “Things will have to change. You know that. You’re going to have to handle your own shit differently than you have been by focusing more on her, less on the drinking, and not making the same mistakes I made with you boys.”

 

“I know that,” Dean mutters under his breath, looking away from his dad to stare at his coffee instead.

 

Eileen, however, is a little more positive.

 

“Sam told me about it last night,” Eileen tells him, “He was worried it might be too much. I talked to him and he’s more understanding and for it now. If it means anything, I think it will be good for both of you.”

 

Dean nods, sending her a small smile at that, then signs, ‘Thank you.’

 

‘You’re welcome. I’m a wonderful sister-in-law.’

 

Dean snorts at that, “Yeah, I guess you are.”

 

Sam and Jack are still gone when Missouri is about to leave and Jody and the girls are still in bed, so the three of them see her out and walk her to her car.

 

“Dean, tell Jody I said thank you for having me and that the chicken was delicious. Good luck with being a full-time dad,” Missouri tells him, opening the car door, “John, I’ll talk to you soon. We better be seeing more of each other now that you’re back. And...And thank you. For being there yesterday. I mean that.”

 

Missouri turns to Eileen then, holding out her hand to offer a handshake, “And Eileen, it was wonderful to meet you. Talk to Sam. Or one of these two. They understand where you’re coming from, alright?”

 

Dean watches Eileen as she tries to smile at Missouri as she holds her hand up to take Missouri’s, “I’ll think about it.”

 

Missouri is smiling back genuinely, but it falters. Instead of letting go of Eileen’s hand, she holds it between both of hers and frowns.

 

“What is it?” Eileen asks slowly as John and Dean both stare at Missouri with concern.

 

“...I don’t know,” Missouri answers, before gently letting go of Eileen’s hand, “I just got a feeling of...I’ll be in touch. Have John send me your number. Don’t...Don’t worry yourself. You should be safe for a while. I should figure out what’s going on before that. But it’ll be okay, Eileen. I’ll make sure of it.”

 

“Missouri, what are you talking about?” John asks urgently, putting a hand on Missouri’s shoulder to keep her from getting into the car.

 

“It could be nothing, it could be something,” Missouri tells him, “You’ll know when I do, I promise.”

 

“Really nice note to leave on,” Dean scoffs, watching her get in.

 

“Yeah,” Missouri admits, “I need to learn how to keep my big mouth shut until I see more. Don’t worry though, Eileen. Sometimes I’m completely wrong. I once thought that John was going to get hitched to a stripper in Vegas and that my ex was going to be his flower girl. I called him up all pissed off, told him how dare he marry a woman the boys didn’t even know. Turned out to be a weird fever dream, all caused by a bad bout of pneumonia. But I am a woman of my word. You’re family to John, which means you’re family to me. You’re going to be okay.”

 

“...Okay,” Eileen answers, nodding her head, “I trust you to text me.”

 

“Will do.”

 

With that, Missouri drives off as the three of them try to get her parting words off of their minds.

 

“Let’s not tell Sam or Jack,” is all Eileen says as she heads back to the house, “Not until she reaches out about me - or about whatever that just was. They’ll worry over next to nothing.”

 

Although Dean knows keeping something like that from Sam can backfire completely - and his dad obviously knows too - they don’t argue with Eileen on the matter and let her make the call.

 

Sam and Jack come back and get showered not long after Missouri’s departure, while Jody and the girls are up in time for breakfast - Claire being the only one dressed for the day. The three of them look sad and sniffly and fuck if that doesn’t tear at Dean’s heart, but Jody sends him a tearful smile and offers to set the table.

 

“This is nice,” Jack decides, wearing the shirt he made from thin air yesterday, “Sitting around with the people I love for breakfast. I like this."

 

“I’m glad you like it, sweetheart,” Jody tells him, reaching for the orange juice, “And you know you’re all welcome at any time.”

 

“Good,” Jack answers, “Because I believe it’s the human experiences that help me grow and figure out who I am supposed to be. I need as many of them as possible.”

 

Sam pauses at that and puts down his fork, “...You think it is experiencing the things a human would that help you grow.”

 

Jack nods, tilting his head, “Don’t life experiences factor into who you become?”

 

Sam and Eileen just look at each other, instead of answering Jack. And hell if Dean knows what Sam’s and Eileen’s staring contest is about. But it’s kind of inconsiderate to have silent eye conversations around other people, if you ask him.

 

“Jack,” Eileen starts, “We noticed that the morning after the party you looked a little older - a little taller too. Just a tad, but Sam and I noticed. Do you think having different experiences at the party might have helped you grow a little more?”

 

Jack thinks on it and squints, “Maybe. I don’t know. There’s still so much I don’t know.”

 

The table stays quiet in pondering thought as Dean rolls his eyes.

 

“Well, only one way to find out,” Dean drawls, taking the Impala keys out of his pocket to toss them across the table at Jack, “Claire and I will ride back to the bunker in the Impala and teach Jack here how to drive.”

 

Sam’s eyes widen as he grips the table and purses his lips, “Dean-”

 

“Aw, you worried your wittle boy’s gonna grow up too fast?” Dean mocks, pinching Sam’s cheek, “It’s just one experiment. Let’s see how it goes.”

 

Sam breathes out through his nose and begins to pout like a broken-hearted mother, “But I thought I would teach him how to drive.”

 

Dean feels a little empathy at that but shakes his head.

 

“You go too hard on the brakes. Can’t have Jack starting off on the wrong foot. And besides, you wanted us to bond, didn’t you? Can’t imagine there’s more of a typical bonding experience than an uncle teaching his nephew how to drive. Right, Jack?”

 

Dean’s not sure how he expected Jack to react to this proposition, but he hadn’t been expecting for Jack to squeal and stomp his feet at his seat before teleporting right next to Dean to hug the damn life out of him.

 

Although he probably should have been, knowing Jack.

 

“Thank you, Uncle Dean!” Jack cries happily, hugging Dean’s head against his diaphragm, “I will cherish this moment forever as the moment we-”

 

“Jack!” Dean tries to bark out through his wheezing, “Personal space! We’ve talked about this.”

 

“Right. I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Jack tells him, letting go quickly only to jump up and down in front of Dean - over and over and over.

 

“Are you sure he got more mature?” Dean mutters, taking the last bite out of his breakfast as he tries to ignore the kid.

 

Dean tries to not feel too nervous with Jack in the driver’s seat as the two of them wait in the car for Claire to say her goodbyes to Alex and Jody. He’s nervous about Claire, he’s nervous about whatever Missouri saw regarding Eileen, he’s nervous about whether or not this will be his car’s last day on the road.

 

What the hell had he been thinking? Why didn’t he let Sam, Eileen, and John take Baby while Dean and Claire let Jack drive her car instead? Dean may have put his sweat into that damn thing for months, but if Jack wrecked it then he could deal.

 

“I promise, Uncle Dean,” Jack starts, saying the name in an almost testing manner, “I promise I will be as careful as I can. I promise that if I hit an animal, I will immediately get out of the car to resurrect them and reunite them with their family so that they can have emotional support. And I promise that if I damage the car in any way, I will fix it myself.”

 

“Jack?” Dean prompts, his eyes closed with his head leaning against the passenger window.

 

“Yes?”

 

“Shhh.”

 

“Okay,” Jack whispers, getting the hint, “I love you.”

 

Dean sits up straight to glare at the look of pure innocence and adoration on the kid’s face. But before he can say anything he might regret, Claire gets into the back, eyes bloodshot, and situates her pillow so that it’s resting against the seat as she lies down upon it.

 

“You gonna be alright?” Dean asks, reaching back to pat her knee.

 

Claire just shrugs in response and Dean gets that she’s not in the mood to talk, so he lets it go.

 

“Well, brace yourself, Claire,” Dean says instead to brighten the mood, starting a drum roll against the dash to make Jack grin with excitement (why he is compelled to do that, he has no idea), “There’s a new Nephilim on the road.”

 

“Yes, and that Nephilim is me,” Jack exclaims, both hands on the wheel, “But neither of you should worry one bit. I’m a very fast learner when I put my mind to it.”

 

Driving, however, seems like it might be one of Jack’s exceptions.

Chapter Text

As Jack pulls the Impala into the car park, Dean lets himself bend over in the passenger seat to let out a long, shuddering breath. As shitty as life has been for him, it’s moments like these that make him appreciate the fact he’s still alive.

 

“Hey!” Sam calls out, muffled through the passenger window he’s tapping on as he smiles through at Jack.

 

Dean tries not to poke fun at Sam’s proud papa BS and opens the car door to knock him out of the way. Sam sends Dean a quick glare but doesn’t retaliate any further, deciding to bombard Jack with questions about the trip instead.

 

“How was it?” Sam asks with a nervous smile, coming around the car to meet the boy, “Did you have a good time? Did your Uncle Dean give you any tips?”

 

Jack shrugs apathetically and looks at Sam with bored eyes, “It was okay. I guess.”

 

Sam opens his mouth before closing it in confusion, then speaks, “But you were so excited-”

 

“Driving is driving. Pretty much everyone does it. I’m going to my room,” Jack interrupts dismissively before walking away, “Later.”

 

Sam and Dean stare after Jack until the door closes, causing the sound to echo through the lot.

 

“Later?” Sam asks, giving Dean a distressed look, “Later?”

 

“Later,” Dean confirms, then lets a smirk form on his face right before he lets out a laugh.

 

“Do you see what I mean?” Sam starts to stress, walking closer to Dean, “He’s different. I don’t think he looks any older this time, but what the hell was that tone about and why did he direct it towards me-”

 

“It’s probably because you’re an old dweeby skeezer,” Claire yawns, poking her head through the rolled down car window, “That’s why I would talk down to you.”

 

“Hey,” Dean warns, pointing a finger at her, “Be nice. Sam’s sensitive. We have to ease him into accepting his role, not just say it straight out.”

 

Sam doesn’t really have anything to say to that, so he keeps his focus on Jack, “How did he do on the drive?”

 

“Ran six stop signs, then went too hard on the breaks when he decided pay attention to them,” Dean informs him, “Like father, like son.”

 

Sam scoffs, “I don’t go too hard on the brakes. And it was his first time driving. Ever. Plus, he’s still only a few months old. Sometimes his motor skills aren’t always-”

 

“Oh, I’m glad Baby still has a motor after that nightmare,” Dean answers, patting the Impala’s hood before stretching his neck out to meet Claire’s eyes, “Get your stuff. Sam, you unpack the rest of Princess’s luggage from the Chrysler?”

 

“Yeah, Dad and I took everything to her room. Didn’t unload anything, except for the bedspread,” Sam confirms, then turns to Claire, “And Eileen made your bed for you. Figured you’d want to arrange everything else on your own.”

 

“...Thanks,” is all Claire mutters, before grabbing the two duffel bags in the backseat, “I’ll be in my room too. Later.”

 

Both of the men watch Claire leave the lot. Sam turns to Dean and puts his hands on his hips.

 

“Later.”

 

“Shut up,” Dean grumbles.

 

“She alright on the ride back?” Sam asks as Dean grabs his own bag from the trunk.

 

Dean takes a breath, “She slept the whole time. Only woke up to bitch at Jack.”

 

Sam nods, “Maybe her sleep schedule’s off from the party.”

 

“Maybe.”

 

“She’ll be fine, Dean,” Sam sighs, “She may be having a rough time, but she’s tough. She’ll get through this.”

 

Dean doesn’t want to get in her space too quickly. He knows she’s vulnerable, with what he knows and with living in yet another new place. But he still wants to make sure she has a good first day, even if most of it is spent in her room. So after he gets his stuff back to his own room, he goes back out and heads to Ladow’s Supermarket. He could stick with something safe - burgers, pizza, the usual. But he sort of wants to try something different. He likes cooking and has a fully equipped kitchen, yet he only cooks sporadically. Not that he doesn’t have an excuse for that, with a Nephilim just plopping himself down into the family and getting his heart ripped out over and over again. Not getting to cook as much as he’d like has been the least of his problems.

 

But Claire could get the crap he tends to make at any cheap diner across the US. There’s a reason why he and Sam love to go to Jody’s so much. Other than to see the girls and the sheriff herself, they visit for the food.

 

So yeah. He may call Jody once he gets to the International foods aisle.

 

“Need parenting advice already?” is what Jody answers with, the sound of what Dean can only describe as deputy chatter in the background.

 

“Hello to you too,” Dean drawls, trying to read the Spanish labels on the cans before giving in and turning them over.

 

“...How is she?” Jody asks more softly, her voice becoming more tender.

 

Dean shrugs his shoulders, even though Jody’s not there to see him, “Spent most of the ride asleep, didn’t want anything when we went through Wendy’s drive-thru and went straight to her room when we got back. I’m giving her a little space before I go check on her.”

 

“Well, if there’s anything Claire loves, it’s space,” Jody sighs, “So did you just call to let me know you got back alright?”

 

“That’s part of it,” Dean answers slowly, “But there’s also the fact I’m in a grocery store and I have no idea what she’ll want for dinner.”

 

Jody snorts, “You’ve cooked for her before, Dean. I’m sure if she’s hungry, she’ll eat whatever you’ll put in front of her.”

 

“Yeah, but I make the shit I grew up on. I’ve perfected maybe five meals tops and I can trace each one of them to specific diners along Route 50,” Dean counters, tossing some tortilla chips and salsa into the cart.

 

“Claire likes diner food-”

 

“Yeah. But you, Jody Mills, broadened her horizons,” Dean interrupts.

 

Jody lets out a put upon sigh, “I’m not a walking cookbook, Dean. And I’m on the clock.”

 

Dean lets out a grunt, “I’ve seen you on Pinterest. You probably have, what are they called? Pins? Yeah, pins. Just send me a couple of your recipe pins.”

 

“...I do have a few recipes saved that I know Claire really likes. I’ll find one that will go over really well with her and text the link to you.”

 

“That’s all I ask,” Dean replies, “But think about what her absolute favorite meal is and save it for her birthday. Friday. We’ll set something nice up. Jack will zap you and Alex over here so that you don’t even have to worry about the drive.”

 

Jody hums but doesn’t say anything and Dean stops walking, “You and Alex are coming, aren’t you?”

 

“...Of course we’re coming,” Jody answers, “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

 

“Then what’s with going all mum?”

 

“It’s just…” Jody starts, “It’s just nice to hear you feeling invested in something. That you’re already planning something for her. It’s been awhile since you’ve been this positively driven.”

 

Dean clears his throat at that, unsure of what to say, “Yeah, well...text me that recipe.”

 

“You mean that pin?”

 

“Whatever.”

 

“They may make you download the app to see the whole thing.”

 

“I have unlimited data,” Dean grunts.

 

“Please don’t tell me how and incriminate yourself,” Jody warns.

 

“Talk to you soon, Jody,” Dean tells her, smiling a little.

 

“Yeah, Dean. Talk to you soon.”

 

Jody comes through as she pretty much always does and sends him a link within minutes. Dean taps it with his thumb and squints in confusion when the title of it comes up.

 

“Vegan West African Peanut Soup?” Dean mumbles, holding the phone back in repulsion.

 

Vegan?

 

His phone dings before he can question life any further.

 

It’s not a joke. And it’s delicious
A Kenyan restaurant opened
downtown. Claire ordered something
to shock me and loved it. That recipe
was as close as I could get to theirs.

 

Vegan? VEGAN?

 

Just make it, Dean. She’ll
appreciate it. Sam will too, now
that I think of it.

 

“Vegan,” Dean mutters, still feeling put off, “Okay, then. Fine.”

 

When he collects enough groceries to give them some options for the next few days, he heads back to the bunker. When he gets inside, his father is (predictably) researching at the table and doesn’t give Dean more than a “Hey” when he passes through. Dean gives him a light pat on the shoulder in response, then heads to the kitchen to put the groceries away. It’s about 3 pm now, so he’ll probably start dinner around 5:30, which gives him enough time to help his father with researching.

 

He sits down across from the man, silently reaching over to get one of the notebooks. She may be a psychic, but the almost manic notes remind him of Kevin’s when he was trying to translate the tablet - filled with symbols, questions, and theories, some of them not making complete sense to Dean. He hoped now that they’d be working on her stuff, the visions might calm down just enough for Patience to get a damn nap. Or study for her next Calculus test. Either or.

 

“Find anything yet?” Dean asks his dad, peering up from the notes to glance at his face, “You’re still researching that Ensō symbol, right?”

 

John nods, meeting Dean’s eyes over the laptop, “Everything I am reading indicates that, historically, it’s a mostly good sign. It represents the universe and how everything is a part of something much larger, no matter how large and significant something is. It also represents creativity, imperfection, and strength. So I don’t know why she keeps seeing this symbol. I emailed the Kansas Zen Center and the Nebraska Zen Center to see if anyone could give me more history on its usage. Figured I could drive to either one tomorrow.”

 

Dean shakes his head, “You could always ask Jack if he can zap you straight to Japan. Or The Kwan Um School of Zen in South Korea. Zen Buddhism started in Korea and spread from there.”

 

His father gives him a strange look, “You research on your phone last night or something?”

 

Dean runs a hand down his face, “Or something. Cas told me that before he got his wings clipped, he would fly over there and meditate with the students; said that he found the religion more comforting than the one he was a part of.”

 

John nods slowly, watching Dean closely, “And what brought that up?”

 

“I don’t know,” Dean shrugs, “We were just talking over drinks or something, got honest with some stuff. Scared me a little when he told me that. But he wasn’t having orgies or knocking back pills, so I could deal with it if he got a Buddha statue.”

 

John squints, “I have no idea what you’re saying to me.”

 

Dean shakes his head, looking down as a small, sad smile formed on his lips, “It’s nothing. But we might figure this out if he were here. He knew a lot about...well, almost everything.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Yeah,” Dean confirms, only to become uncomfortable with the conversation, “Like the rest of these symbols she has drawn here. He’d probably be able to name most of them if they have any roots in our universe. Have you looked into any of them yet?”

 

“A couple,” John answers, “The Reiki Power Symbol, which is also a Buddhist symbol originating in Japan. It basically translates to ‘place all of the powers of the universe here.’”

 

“That sounds...promising?” Dean decides upon, then frowns, “But all of the powers of the universe sounds like the last thing we should have.”

 

“Couldn’t hurt,” John responds.

 

“Believe me, we would find a way to mess things up even further,” Dean snorts, “But if it’s needed for a ritual, then we’ll check it out and see if it is as monumental as it sounds and go from there. And what’s with all the Buddhist symbology? Out of all of the religions and variations of them we’ve come across, that’s the one that’s caused us no grief so far.”

 

“Maybe it’s just one of a few options on how to get to the right place,” John theorizes, “I know probably less than you do, Dean. But they aren’t all Buddhist symbols or even Asian symbols. This one is known more as a symbol with Celtic origins, but versions of it can be found in almost every religion.”

 

“The Tree of Life.” Dean responds, getting a closer look, “In Christianity, there are arguments on whether it represents the connection between Heaven and Earth or the Tree of Knowledge in the garden. With the Celtic Druids, it represents a new start on life and protection of all living things. But they actually got it from Norse Mythology and the Norse got it from either the Mayans or the ancient Egyptians, I don’t think even Cas knew which-”

 

“Cas told you all of this?” John interrupts, “What brought it up? Why would you even want to talk about it?”

 

Dean gives his father a scowl, “I read. And when I had questions, thought something sounded inaccurate, I’d send a text to Cas, call him, ask him in person if he was here. Like I said, he knew a lot.”

 

“...Okay,” John answers, clearing his throat, “And I never said you didn’t read.”

 

“Right.”

 

John lets out a groan, but Dean doesn’t show him much mercy by changing the subject. He waits for his father to do it himself. “Anyway, the Norse version represents the connection of nine different worlds. I guess the number nine had a lot of significance in Norse Mythology and Druidism, and it has significance in Buddhism.”

 

“So what, are we looking for nine symbols?” Dean asks.

 

“Maybe,” John answers, looking down at the scrap paper, “I’ve found more than that through her notes so far. The other four are Native American symbols for the elements.”

 

Dean takes the paper from his father’s hands, leans back in his chair as he stares at it, then hands it back over.

 

“I’ve got nothin’.”

 

“Yeah,” John sighs, leaning forward to put his head in his hands, “Me neither.”

----------------------------------------------------

Even though Dean isn’t going to admit it to Jody, the vegan stuff smells pretty good. He hates himself for even thinking it, but self-hatred isn’t new for him so he can deal with that. Hesitantly, he lifts the lid on the pot, sticks a spoon in, and gives it a taste.

 

Damn it, it even tastes good too. There has to be something off with him. Maybe it was all that Buddhist talk. It made him take on some of their values. Maybe it starts here and soon he’ll be throwing away his guns and joining Sam for early morning meditation-

 

“Hey,” Sam says as he comes into the kitchen, causing Dean to quickly put a lid over the soup, “I think Dad, Eileen, and I made some minor cracks on the research. We’re going to make some visits to a couple of universities in the morning. Dad’s going to check out at least one of those centers too.”

 

“Sounds good,” Dean answers casually, keeping himself in front of the pot.

 

“Dad said you helped him a lot a while ago,” Sam mentions, then lets out a laugh, “Bitched at me and Eileen for taking time getting lunch and seeing that French movie at Soloman. He threw subtle shade by saying you knew enough for the four of us anyway.”

 

“I doubt that,” Dean says, shaking his head as he turns back around to turn the fire on under the other pan.

 

“What are you making?” Sam asks, peering over his shoulder, “Smells good.”

 

Dean swats Sam’s arm away when he tries to lift the lid, “Mind your own business.”

 

Sam frowns, “But you’re feeding us. It is my business.”

 

Dean gives him a glare as he turns back around, “It’s buffalo wings, alright? One of America’s best traditional cuisines.”

 

“No, it’s not!” Sam scoffs, then rolls his eyes when he spots the soup toppings on the counter, “Yeah. Buffalo wings with rice. And cilantro. And chopped peanuts? Wait, why do you have a jar of peanut butter on the counter-”

 

“It’s already in the pot,” Dean interrupts, tossing the jar in a random cabinet, “Nothing you can do about it. What’s done is done.”

 

Sam watches him closely, “You’re being weird.”

 

“Yeah, well,” Dean starts as he pushes Sam out of his kitchen, “I’m questioning the one thing I’ve always been sure about when it comes to my ingrained constitution. I’m allowed to be weird.”

 

Sam tries to turn around in Dean’s grasp, “Dean, do you need to talk or something-”

 

“Out!” Dean orders, pointing at the exit.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Even though he has to witness Sam’s suspicious yet amused gaze and his father’s trepidation when it comes to trying the soup in the first place, Dean can deal with it when he manages to get Claire to come out of her room for dinner in order to see her pleased surprise.

 

“You made this,” Claire says slowly, before meeting Dean’s eyes across the table, “You follow Jody on Pinterest or something?”

 

“I don’t have a damn Pinterest,” Dean snarls before sticking his spoon into the bowl for the first bite.

 

“My dad and I have a Pinterest,” Jack confides to the whole table, which is probably the best blackmail material Dean’s heard all week, “And we follow Jody. There’s a lot of neat stuff on there. It’s how we made the galaxy jars, the book paper flowers, my reading nook in my room, and the bath bombs.”

 

“I don’t have a Pinterest,” Sam suddenly objects, getting red under Dean’s judgmental scrutiny, “Jack’s just confused.”

 

Jack squints at his father accusingly, “Why are you lying?”

 

The cat’s totally out of the bag though. Dean can see Eileen is trying not to laugh and his father seems to be signing to her in confusion. Dean doesn’t know much, but he does know the alphabet and his father has fingerspelled Pinterest twice now in a questioning manner.

 

“Anyway, our Pinterest handle is NougatCreations,” Jack tells Dean offhandedly, “So if you do have a Pinterest, like my dad and I do, then you should follow us. We might follow you back if your boards and pins are good.”

 

“Jack, just eat the Pinterest inspired vegan soup that Dean made,” Sam orders, digging into his own.

 

“I don’t see why you’re so embarrassed by our crafts,” Jack pouts, but eats his soup regardless.

 

Claire seems to be in slightly better spirits when everyone is done with their dinners. Instead of heading back to her room, she helps with the cleanup and plays a couple of board games with Jack while the adults research. They make some possible leeway in the case and find some rituals that might be promising. But after every universe he and Sam have been to, Dean can’t find it in him to become too hopeful. And he knows that the grief and depression and stress are playing a part in that lack of hope too. But even though he can bring himself to silently label his general emotional state, he’s not going to admit that to the table - not even when he keeps glancing at the empty chair next to him and can’t help but imagine Cas sitting in it. That had been his usual spot.

 

“I’m going to head to bed,” Dean ends up saying when the research becomes too monotonous to keep him distracted, “I’ll take some notebooks to take to my room to read through. Goodnight.”

 

And Dean sticks to his word on that. He reads through them until dozing off with one notebook open over his chest. He ends up waking up at 4 am, the bedside table lamp still on. When he tries turning it off to try to go right back to sleep, he can’t. After an hour, he gives up and heads down the hall to the common room. It’s dark and he assumes he is on his own until he hears someone shuffle on the couch.

 

“Why are you up?”

 

Claire’s voice cuts through the silence of the bunker. Dean turns to face her, or where she roughly is, before making his way over to sit down next to her on the couch.

 

“Why are you sitting in the dark?” Dean counters, knocking her feet to the side a bit to put his own up.

 

“I just am. Figured I should put Jack’s magical couches to good use,” Claire answers, before pulling out her phone when it vibrates to type something out.

 

“Who you textin’ at 4 am?” he asks her.

 

If the phone screen hadn’t been lighting up her face, Dean wouldn’t be able to see the look of hesitation flit across her face. But he catches it, and the way she shifts in her seat.

 

“Is it Noah?”

 

He tries to keep the worry and anger out of his voice, tries not to make a big deal out of the possibility of Claire possibly texting her ex…whatever in the middle of the goddamn night.

 

“Claire…” Dean starts, only to stop in order to not say anything stupid or cruel.

 

“He texted me first,” Claire mutters, not meeting Dean’s eyes.

 

“So you block his number,” Dean tells her, feeling agitated and protective and fucking pissed off because he should have ganked the guy before they left South Dakota, “You block his number, throw out your phone, get a new one, and change your number. You don’t answer and have a chat with him.”

 

“It’s not like I’m getting back with the guy,” Claire growls, “I’m not forgiving him. He lied to me. He may have had good reasons and he may not be a terrible person, but he still lied.”

 

“Pretty damn big lie,” Dean mutters, “He doesn’t deserve shit from you, Claire. Not forgiveness and definitely not your attention. He deserves to be-”

 

“If you’re going to say ganked, then just stop,” Claire sighs, making a point to turn off her phone and put her hands up in surrender, “He may have fucked up and he may be a demon. But I say he lives. And if I change my mind? The only person ganking him will be me.”

 

Dean isn’t up to argue about it right now, especially when Claire just got here yesterday and isn’t exactly feeling like the bunker is home sweet home yet. The last thing he needs is a big blow out over some kid he wants to kill because he broke her heart. As much as he doesn’t want to let Noah’s wrongs go, Dean knows he’ll get nowhere with Claire if he doesn’t respect what she wants.

 

“Fine. But if he shows up here, all bets are off,” Dean tells her quietly.

 

Claire shakes her head and looks away, “He won’t. He doesn’t even know that I left Sioux Falls.”

 

“Good.”

 

Several moments of silence pass between them, long enough to the point where Dean excuses himself to make coffee for the both of them. When he comes back, he passes a mug to Claire.

 

“Want me to make breakfast or do you want to go out to the diner or what?”

 

Claire shrugs, taking a sip of her coffee, “I’m not really that hungry.”

 

Dean nods, “Yeah, me neither.”

 

“You still full from your vegan cuisine last night?” Claire smirks, suppressing a laugh.

 

“Shut up.”

 

“No, but that was cute. A little desperate to make me feel at home, but still,” Claire answers.

 

Dean shakes his head as he bites his cheek, “Desperate? See if I go out of my way to make you anything again.”

 

Dean ends up letting Claire have control over the Roku remote. She puts on some Syfy show called Channel Zero. In Dean’s opinion, it’s a bit too creepy and unsettling this early in the morning and he says as much.

 

“You kill monsters and you’re creeped out by a television show,” She says slowly, staring at him with unimpressed disbelief.

 

“I’m not creeped out,” Dean objects, grumbling into his second cup of coffee, “But why the hell would I want to watch horror on one of my very few days off from it?”

 

Claire shrugs, as if she accepts his answer, “Well, it was this or Shadowhunters. And Jack would be pissed if I watched ahead without him. He’s a Malec, Clizzy, and Sizzy shipper.”

 

“Don’t talk about ships in my presence,” Dean groans, pressing the palms of his hands into his eyes.

 

“What do you even know about ships?” Claire scoffs, “You’re old as hell.”

 

Dean bites his tongue to keep himself from responding to the insult and lets out a humorless laugh, “You do know God himself wrote a book series based on us, right? Which is messed up all on its own, but throw in what some of the fans have come up with-”

 

“Oh yeah,” Claire answers, not too bothered, “Sam slash Dean. Gross. But I think there are more Destiel shippers anyway.”

 

Dean chokes on his last sip of coffee and puts his mug down, “Stop googling me. I mean it. There are stories floating around that are explicit and have me doing god knows what-”

 

“Um, I was actually googling myself. All the cool kids do it,” Claire tells him, flipping her hair nonchalantly yet a sniffle gives her away, “So don’t give yourself all the credit. I’m in one of the unpublished books online. Where my dad came back and I said yes to Castiel.”

 

Dean opens his mouth but no words come out. Because what the hell can he even say to that? Sorry? Sorry that Jimmy is gone and Cas is responsible for that? Sorry that he’s not sorry Jimmy had to be sacrificed so that Cas could stay in Dean’s life? Sorry that she finally forgave Cas, only for him to die not that long after? There’s nothing he can say.

 

“Dean?”

 

Dean looks up and meets her eyes. She gives him a small, watery smile as she sits up straight.

 

“Where did you bury him? I never got to say goodbye.”

 

Dean swallows around the sudden lump that forms in his throat and bites his lower lip to keep it from trembling, before allowing himself to speak, “Where did I bury Cas?”

 

“Yeah. I want to see him.”

 

Dean lets out a shaky breath, “Not really much to see, Claire. He’s six feet under and his only marker is a cross made from cheap wood.”

 

“I don’t mind that it’s not rich mahogany,” Claire answers, “Or whatever another expensive wood is. I’m not a carpenter, so I don’t really care to educate myself.”

 

“That’s not the point,” Dean rasps out, rubbing his face, “The point is that there is no point in seeing him.”

 

Claire stares at him. Long enough that it makes Dean uncomfortable and antsy, almost to the point where he wants to throw out an excuse to leave the room. But he doesn’t. He’s not that much of a dick and he can’t do that to her, not when she’s lost so much.

 

“Have you gone to visit his grave since he died?” Claire asks quietly, “Even just once?”

 

Dean calms himself by breathing in and out a few times, closing his eyes as he does so, before answering, “Twice. First time I chickened out and turned back around as soon as the cross came into view. The second time, I stuck around. Sam found me hours later, drunk off my ass.”

 

Claire nods, looking sad about his answer, then stands up to walk a few steps only to turn around and face him.

 

“I want to see him. I’ve been thinking about asking for a while but never figured out how to do it. But if you don’t want to come, I would understand. Just point me in the right direction and I’ll figure it out.”

 

It’s tempting to do just that - point her towards the woods and let her go on her own. It’s even more tempting to try to convince her not to go at all. But he can’t do either. Not when Cas’s grave is hidden away, not when it’s still dark out.

 

“You can’t wait to do this till later?” Dean asks her, almost pleading.

 

“I have the guts to do it now, so I’m going to do it before it wears off,” Claire answers.

 

She’s stubborn and determined and fucking brave and so like Claire that it makes him feel pride and a punch to the gut all at once. Who is he to argue with her? And more importantly, what kind of guardian would he be if he made her face that kind of pain alone?

 

“I need to get dressed. You do too. Wear boots. It’s a bit of a walk and it might be muddy.”

-------------------------------------------------------------

Dean hadn’t been wrong when he told her it was a bit of a walk. Despite most of Kansas being flat, as soon as they hit the woods, there are small hills to run and slide down, a creek she almost falls into, and a small ditch that Dean almost twists his ankle in. All in all, it takes close to an hour to get there on foot. Why they didn’t drive to the woods to take a solid 40 minutes off the trip, Claire isn’t sure. Maybe it’s to put off the heartache or the fact that at least one of them will end up crying, which will be awkward at best and upsetting as fuck at worst. Dean’s been witnessing her hot mess of a life and subsequent breakdowns on and off for a couple of years now though. She’s only witnessed Dean cry once, twice tops. She’s already hit her quota when it comes to that.

 

She can see why Dean might have turned around the first time he tried to visit Cas’s grave. Even though it’s still pretty dark, she can still see the cross, standing in a small, petal covered clearing surrounded by pink magnolia trees. It’s striking and it’s beautiful, and if Claire didn’t know that it was a site that represented such loss to all of them, then she might appreciate it more.

 

Claire glances up at Dean and holds back a wince when she sees the fear and grief etched into his face. Hesitantly but surely, she reaches out and takes his hand, waiting until he looks down at her before clasping it tightly in her grip. And then they walk forward.

 

“You planted flowers?” she asks, falling to her knees to touch the dying petals.

 

“...No,” Dean answers, his voice coming out choked and hoarse, “No, I didn’t. Jack bought some that looked like this, planted them near the bunker. Maybe he asked Sam where Cas’s grave was and planted some here too.”

 

Claire smiles through the tears starting to form in her eyes, “Good for Jack. We should thank him.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Claire sniffles and pats the ground, pulling at the short grass growing beneath her fingers, “I’m sorry I didn’t get to see you more, Cas. And I’m sorry I ignored some of your texts. Some of them just sounded like Snapple Facts and I didn’t always know what to say. But it wasn’t because I didn’t like you. Because I really, really did. I still do. And I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you more when you were around to hear it.”

 

She hears Dean’s breath hitch behind her, something that almost sounds like a stifled sob, but she doesn’t dare turn around. Whether it’s because she wants to afford him the privacy or because she’s afraid she’ll completely break down, she’s not sure. It’s probably both. But even though she won’t face him or hug him or tell him they can leave, she does speak to him, almost involuntarily, as six words pour out of her mouth.

 

“Were you in love with him?”

 

The question lingers in the air and she’s only met with the sounds of Dean’s breathing and the earliest rising birds chirping in the distance. She manages to keep her eyes on the cross out of respect, give him some time to process what she had just asked or to come up with a lie. But he doesn’t need as much time as she expected. If it weren’t so quiet, she might have missed it.

 

“Yes.”

 

The word is barely more than a croak, muted under the weight of Dean’s grief and suppression. But the admission feels loud, loud enough to make the earth’s crust crack beneath her knees. Not because he loved Cas. That’s been obvious to her since the concert. But the fact that he told her. That’s something she hadn’t been expecting.

 

“You…” Claire starts before trailing off to wipe the tear from her cheek and to catch her breath, suddenly feeling so much pain for the man behind her, “You should talk to him about it. He deserves to know.”

 

She prepares for him to say Cas can’t hear him anymore. That could be right. Claire has been wondering the same since she sunk down onto the dew-soaked ground.

 

“I...Claire, I wouldn’t even know where to start,” Dean chokes out.

 

Claire shakes her head and stands up, whispering “Bye, Cas” before brushing at her wet knees and turning around.

 

“I’ll take a walk,” Claire answers, holding up a hand before Dean can object, “I’ll stay where you can see me. Just talk to him.”

 

She brushes against Dean’s shoulder before walking until she finds a spot on the hillside. She sits there and watches as the sky slowly grows lighter, only glancing at Dean once in awhile to make sure he’s still standing. She can’t see his face and she can’t hear what he’s saying. For all she knows, he may just be standing there until he feels she’ll believe him. But when he finally makes his way towards her, his eyes are bloodshot and he looks like his heart got ripped out, so she assumes he got a little bit of what needed to be said out in the open.

 

She doesn’t ask though and doesn’t say a word about anything else. Instead, she pats the ground beside her, prompting him to sit down. He slowly comes over to where she is and sits down on the top of the hill next to her. After a moment, she wraps her arms around his bicep and leans down to press her cheek against his shoulder. Dean reaches over to briefly pet her hair, before letting out a sniffle and tilting his head to rest it on top of hers.

 

They stay there until the sun has completely risen.

 

Maybe Cas can’t hear them. Whether he’s been completely erased from existence or is in a deep eternal slumber or has found a permanent sense of peace, Claire doesn’t know. As for her and Dean, they’re still fucked up, still grieving, and still completely lost on where life is going to take either of them next. But it was worth it, seeing him - even if the only good thing that comes from it in the long run ends up being the way Dean brings Jack in for a hug, gentle and thankful for reasons Jack himself doesn’t seem to understand but is grateful for anyway.

 

It’s still something.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jack adores parties. Okay, so he’s only been to just the one and he was an accomplice in a murder but it was a siren who was killing people and they gave him a proper send off. Other than that and Claire almost passing out from blood loss, it was fantastic. Besides, his dad assures him there are going to be no murders or hunts today. They’re just going to focus on good food, family, cake, and Claire. Not even research. And they’re always researching. Jack has gotten quite good at it. Not that he wants to research when Alex is coming over. He already knows he’d barely be able to concentrate.

 

He pops over to Paris to get a cake for Claire. It’s absolutely beautiful because Delphine always knows what she’s doing. He even gets a good price for it. For some reason, she likes him that much - and he likes her enough to give her a tip covering the full price.

 

He had popped over to get Jody and Alex earlier in the morning so that they’d be in attendance for the big birthday breakfast Uncle Dean had made. Claire had been thrilled to see them, even if she downplayed it. Jack could sense it though, her relief and love and excitement. Claire is very easy to read since she’s such a wordy thinker. Sometimes Jack could swear he could see thought bubbles over her head with sentences typed right in. Since he’s known her, he worried about the things he had read from her - her experiences and ways of making money, the way she put has been putting herself in danger when it came to the monsters she hunted and the men who wanted things no one should have to give.

 

But today, her thoughts are different. Nicer, more innocent, less concerning. They’re pleasant and that makes Jack happy.

 

She is even in a good enough mood to invite him to go swimming at the lake with her, Jody, and Alex. And although Jack would love to go, he has taken it upon himself to decorate the bunker by the time they get back. It’s going to be beautiful - fairy lights, balloons, candles, a disco ball. Everything someone could ever want. And it’s going to look just as nice as the posts on Pinterest, Jack just knows it.

 

Uncle Dean’s in charge of cooking. He seems to really enjoy it and Jack tries to help out when he can since he’s the second best cook currently in the bunker, according to Uncle Dean himself. It’s an honor to be called the second best cook, even though (if Jack’s going to be honest) it’s not a hard title to achieve. Dad is better with smoothies and healthy lunches, while Mom tends to keep it rather simple. Both of Grandpa’s attempts have ended in disaster, not that Jack has said it to his face. He doesn’t want to hurt the man’s feelings.

 

But Uncle Dean is going all out. He’s making more than one dinner to choose from, which Jack personally thinks is a bit much but he can’t complain when he sees everything. There’s Crispy Cajun Shrimp Fettuccine, pulled pork sliders, a burrito casserole, and buffalo wings on one side of the kitchen table and garlic parmesan potato wedges, orzo salad, roasted brussels sprouts wrapped in bacon, and homemade salsa and guacamole along with a bowl of tortilla chips on the other side.

 

He doesn’t know why the Winchester brothers lie so much when it comes to whether or not they have Pinterest accounts. It’s so obvious that Dean has one too.

 

There’s no way they can eat all of it. But Uncle Dean’s enjoying himself and just might be enjoying bossing everyone around regarding food and plate placements even more.

 

Everything is done by the time Claire, Jody, and Alex get back. Claire looks around the bunker in what looks to be dumbfounded shock. Jack takes it as a compliment, meeting the women at the top of the stairs to lead them down.

 

“I decorated absolutely everything,” Jack brags throwing confetti from his pocket up into the air, “I tried to get Grandpa to help. But once he tried, I realized he just isn’t as good at it as I am. Uncle Dean’s been cooking all day. You must be hungry from swimming. Mom and Dad have been helping him with the meal prep and setting everything up, so there’s plenty of food ready to go around. Come on!”

 

Jack takes Claire’s hand and rushes her over to the head of the table. He urges her to sit before putting a party hat on her head, taking a picture on his phone of her right after.

 

“Warn a girl, would you?” Claire mentions, exasperated but holding back a smile.

 

The food ends up being fantastic. It’s possibly the most delicious and eccentric meal he’s ever eaten in his life and he tells his uncle just as much. They’re all too full to dig into the cake just yet, so Jack keeps it hidden while they bring out their presents for Claire instead. Dad gets her a bunch of books while Eileen gets her a Bluetooth stereo. Alex and Jody get her concert tickets and gift cards. Despite giving Claire a car and making her dinner, Dean gets her several of what he calls ‘essential movies.’ Even Grandpa gets her something.

 

“Here,” John grunts out as he lugs something huge into the room, “If you’re going to be hunting, you have enough space in that trunk to keep your weapons hidden. Your trunk has a lot of depth so we can slide this right in and not worry about you getting arrested.”

 

“Dad, what kind of gift is that?” Dean glares.

 

But Claire gets a mischievous grin on her face, “Awesome. More room for more weapons. Just a hint for when my twentieth rolls around.”

 

“Jesus Christ, Claire,” Jody sighs.

 

“Who wants cake?” Dean asks, changing the subject.

 

“I’ll go get it,” Jack tells him, excited to finally bring it out.

 

“You don’t know where I have it,” Dean counters, “So I’ll go get it.”

 

Jack tilts his head, “I’m the one who got the cake. Of course I know where it is.”

 

“Jack, what are you talking about? I made a damn cake-”

 

“Okay, so there are two cakes,” Sam interrupts, “I’m sure they’re both great. Just go get them both. Problem solved.”

 

Jack truly can’t help it that the cake Delphine made is much more beautiful than Uncle Dean’s lopsided one. Baking just isn’t Uncle Dean’s forté like it is hers. But Claire surprises them all. After she blows out the candles on both cakes, she tries the inferior one first.

 

“It has more character,” she tells Jack apologetically once his uncle walks away satisfied, “It’s so droopy and sad.”

 

Despite the droopy and sad cake, Jack has never seen the people he considers his family smile more. Everyone seems happy - or if not happy, then better than they have been - and it lasts throughout the entire evening. They play games and watch a movie and even sit out and look at the stars before setting off the fireworks that his dad had bought. Jack’s pretty sure it’s one of the happiest nights of his life so far. Even though there are no daiquiris or brownies, being here with every single living person he loves beats that.

 

So when he goes to bed that night, ready to fall asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow, he expects to have good dreams inspired by the happiness the day has brought him.

 

Instead, he’s greeted to the sight of a war-torn world dimmed under the night sky and a pair of glowing red eyes staring at him from a distance. Jack feels his breath catch in his throat as the person starts walking closer to him, not able to say a word when the man is close enough for Jack to see the worry, hope, determination, and affection etched into his face.

 

“My son. My boy,” the man whispers, reaching his hand out to touch Jack’s cheek, “It’s so good to finally meet you.”

Chapter Text

Jack doesn’t even let himself breathe as Lucifer’s fingers caress his cheek. Somehow, he keeps eye contact. He doesn’t run or cry or spit in his face as he denounces him as his father. He just stands there and waits for this all to be over.

 

“I…” Lucifer starts, slowly lowering his hand before giving Jack a small smile, “Son, the effort it took to just get a few minutes inside of your head from here. With the moon cycles and the spell ingredients and my brother and the bitch who could have been my vessel...Torture, I’m telling you.”

 

Jack doesn’t answer, opting to watch the fallen angel start to pace back and forth, “I kept trying and trying but I had to get the ritual just right. This communicating between worlds stuff isn’t easy, even for me. And once I did figure it out? You weren’t sleeping or you weren’t at the exact right moment of your sleep cycle. How much do you sleep? You shouldn’t sleep more than you absolutely have to. It gives you a weakness that my brothers and sisters don’t have.”

 

Jack bites his cheek before forcing himself to speak up, “I can see that. If angels can get into my head as soon as I shut my eyes, maybe I do need to work on not sleeping.”

 

Lucifer stops pacing and meets his eyes, looking slightly hurt and amused all at once, “Don’t give me that. Do you see me digging around in your innermost thoughts and desires? Do you see me even questioning why you aren’t the baby I was expecting? I’m not in your head to hurt you, son. I’m here because I’m your father and I want us to be together. I want us to be a team.”

 

And how can Jack even answer that? How can he talk to this person he’s never actually met and never wanted to see? He can’t. He never prepared himself for this. As much as he has wanted to get his grandmother back from the other world so that she could be reunited with his father, grandfather, and uncle, he had no plans on making small talk with the angel who is responsible for his existence. The angel responsible for demons. The angel responsible for the death of his mom, the mom who carried him and loved him until her last breath.

 

“You’re nervous around me,” Lucifer realizes, studying him more closely, “I sense...resentment.”

 

Jack stays silent as Lucifer begins walking closer once more, continuing until their faces are inches from each other.

 

“I’ll make up for it,” Lucifer decides, nodding once, “It was never my intention to abandon you. I am not my father, although I can unfortunately see why you might think I have played the same game. I promise you that I haven’t and I will prove that. But to make it up to you, I need you to meet me part way. Work with me here.”

 

Jack clenches his jaw, his gaze never leaving Lucifer’s even once, “What do you need me to do?”

 

Lucifer lets out a sigh, clapping his hands together, “What do I need you to do, what do I need you to do...Well, the first thing you can tell me is if Sam and Dean Winchester have had their grubby hands on you. Where do they have you? Are you strapped down in a dungeon surrounded by sigils and holy oil? Are they stifling your power and your potential to be who you were meant to be?”

 

Jack keeps his calm and tilts his head in confusion, “I haven’t run into anyone with those names. Wait...are those the men who were in Washington when I was born?”

 

Lucifer squints, “...Yes. You mean they don’t have you?”

 

“Of course they don’t,” Jack answers, “I left as soon as they came into the room and haven’t seen either of them since.”

 

“So you’ve been alone,” Lucifer states, as if he’s asking for confirmation, “You’ve been alone and you haven’t been searching for me.”

 

“I’m four months, eight days, twenty-two hours, and six minutes old,” Jack deadpans, “I have just gotten the hang of object permanence.”

 

“...Touché,” Lucifer answers, before frowning, “It’s strange. It...It hurts me that you’ve been alone. That I haven’t been there for you to help you along-”

 

“If you wanted a heart to heart, then you should have hijacked someone else’s dream,” Jack glares.

 

Lucifer steps back, as if he’s been slapped. For a moment, Jack feels guilty - a reaction that’s almost like a reflex to him. But he forces himself not to apologize, to not change tactics.

 

“I have to say, father,” Jack begins, the title tasting like acid as he stands to his full height, “From what I’ve seen so far, I’m not impressed. The stories I’ve read and heard? I expected more than a sentimental angel.”

 

As soon as the words are out of his mouth, Jack knows he has taken the unyielding and unforgiving estranged son facade a bit too far. Lucifer’s eyes glow and Jack finds a hand around his throat and his back against a lone, barely standing brick wall. Jack lets out a grunt at the impact but he doesn’t fight back and he won’t, not while he’s asleep in the bunker with Dad, Mom, Uncle Dean, Grandpa, Claire, Jody, and Alex all in close proximity. He wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he woke up to a sight more horrific to the one he’s seeing right now.

 

“You might not care for me and you might feel justified about that, but I will tell you one thing, boy,” Lucifer snarls, tightening his already painful and unrelenting grip around Jack’s neck, “You will treat me with respect. I brought you into this world and I can take you back out.”

 

“You’ve done no such thing,” Jack rasps out, “Your new world is completely separate than the one I am in. You’ve brought me nowhere.”

 

Lucifer’s arms shake before he lets out a shout, dropping Jack as he lets go. Jack’s feet hit the ground and he lets out a cough, then takes a few deep breaths to make sure he stays under control.

 

“You know what I meant,” Lucifer snarls.

 

“But I don’t know what you want,” Jack counters, “I don’t know why you’re in my dream.”

 

Lucifer rolls his shoulders and gives him a grin.

 

“Because you’re going to get your ass over here and get me the hell out of Dodge.”

 

Jack narrows his eyes, “And why would I want to do that?”

 

Lucifer shakes his head, “Because you can’t reach your full potential without me, kid. Right now, you barely know a thing. I’ve been around for a very long time. We’re connected by grace and by blood. You are a part of me. I’m the only one anywhere who can help you. And I meant what I said. I will be making it up to you. Now sit down. Watch what I am about to show you carefully. You get this right, and you break me out, I promise we’ll stick together for all of eternity.”

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Jack wakes with a heaving breath and a scream lodged in his throat as he rolls out of bed and stumbles over towards his desk. Somehow, despite his disorientation and shaky hands, he writes down the sigils shown to him by Lucifer in the same order he had been given them, along with a few notes, before tossing the pencil back down on the desk and quickly walking to his dad’s room.

 

He’s barely holding it together when he knocks on the door, so really, he can’t be completely blamed for bursting through when his Dad doesn’t immediately answer, but he apologizes anyway.

 

“I’m sorry, Dad!” Jack chokes out, glancing away as a courtesy when his mom scrambles off of his dad and underneath the covers, taking the nightgown his dad grabs from on top of the lampshade. His dad’s cheeks turn pink and he grabs his boxers from the floor to put them on, doing the same with the shirt near the end of the bed, then clears his throat awkwardly before actually looking at Jack.

 

“Jack…” Sam murmurs, his expression becoming concerned, “Hey, what’s wrong?”

 

As soon as Jack lets out a cry, it opens the floodgates. Dashing forward, he runs over to his dad’s bed and crawls in between his parents. Yes, it’s a tight fit, but he needs the closeness right now so Jack honestly doesn’t mind.

 

“Hey hey hey,” Sam says softly when Jack throws his arms around the man’s neck, “What’s going on? What happened?”

 

“I don’t want him to be my dad!” Jack wails, heaving through his words, “I want you to stay my dad! I don’t want to help him but I want to help your mom!-”

 

“Jack, you’re not making sense,” Sam tells him, detangling himself from Jack’s grasp just enough to take a hold of Jack’s face, “Take a few deep breaths. In and out. That’s it, buddy. Now again…”

 

Jack does what his dad says and even though everything is so messed up, he does feel a little better. He sniffles as his dad wipes the fallen tears with his thumbs, then nods his head.

 

“Okay, I feel calmer,” Jack croaks out, “I promise.”

 

“Tell me what happened,” Sam gently orders, cutting to the chase.

 

“Lu-Lucifer,” Jack begins, “He came into my dream. It wasn’t just me dreaming about him. It was him. He said he’s been trying to get into my dreams for a while now, but it’s hard from the other world he’s in.”

 

His dad’s grip tightens on him slightly, “What do you mean, he got into your dream?”

 

“H-He wants me to help him get back here!” Jack sniffles, “He said he wants me to be with him for all of eternity but I don’t want to! I was so scared, Dad! But I didn’t show it. I stayed strong, unrelenting, and indifferent to the stuff he was telling me. He asked about you but I claimed I didn’t know you or Uncle Dean and that I was alone because he can’t have you, Dad! He just can’t-”

 

“Alright...You stay here, okay?” Sam interrupts softly, sounding slightly choked but still starts to sign as he speaks to Eileen, “Eileen? Can you get my laptop? Pick something on Netflix that Jack likes and sit here with him while I get Dean?”

 

Jack watches as his mom nods and signs something to his dad and suddenly Jack feels so guilty because he hasn’t been trying to learn sign language as much as he should.

 

“Mom?” Jack asks, scooting closer until she takes the hint and puts an arm around his shoulders, “Let’s watch a movie that has ASL in it. I want to learn, I do. I just keep forgetting to work on it and there’s been a lot of stuff going on. But that’s not an excuse. I’m a fast learner so I should be able to-”

 

“Jack, sweetheart, it’s alright,” Eileen interrupts before putting her thumb to her chest, her fingers up and out, “It’s fine. That’s what that means. You try.”

 

Jack repeats the hand movement with ease, but then shakes his head, “But I’m not fine. How do you sign that?”

 

His mom lets out a sad sigh, shows him the signs, then pulls him in for a hug. She even holds him and lets him lay his head on her collarbone as they lie down to watch Children of a Lesser God.

 

“Don’t let me fall asleep,” Jack requests as he sits up to look at her. He’s sure he won’t anytime soon. But having someone watch over him somehow makes him feel better.

 

“I won't,” she answers as he lies back down, “Have to make sure you see the movie and learn ASL, right?”

 

Jack nods, his cheek brushing against her skin, then focuses on the movie.

-----------------------------------------------------

Sam finds Dean in the study with Jody. He assumes the girls are in Claire’s room and Dean and Jody are catching each other up on everything. Considering Dean’s commitment to this role he’s taken on, Sam really hates interrupting them.

 

But it’s Jack.

 

“Dean, I need to talk to you,” Sam says as soon as he enters the room, foregoing small talk.

 

It only takes Dean one look for him to realize how worried Sam is, frowning as soon as he sees Sam’s demeanor.

 

“Sammy?” Dean asks, concerned, “What’s going on?”

 

“You alright?” Jody asks once Sam starts to pace.

 

“It’s Jack,” Sam mutters, running a nervous hand through his hair, “He barged in on me and Eileen-”

 

“Doing what?” Dean begins to smirk, only to be quickly hushed by Jody.

 

Sam only lets himself glare for a second, then shakes his head, “Anyway, he barged in, practically hysterical, and told me Lucifer entered his dream. He got into his head and told him he wanted Jack to get him back to our world, told him he wanted them to spend an eternity together-”

 

“Did he tell him how to do it?” Dean interrupts, sitting up straight, “Did Lucifer say anything about Mom?”

 

“I don’t know,” Sam groans, letting himself fall into a seat, “He was so upset and freaked out. I haven’t talked to him much about it yet because I wanted him to calm down some first. I figured I should get you so that you, me, and Eileen can be there to listen to him.

 

Dean nods his head, then lets out a breath, “What about Dad?”

 

Sam squints, “What about Dad?”

 

Dean gives him a look, “Dude’s been obsessing over how to get Mom back. We might have a huge lead-”

 

“A dangerous lead.”

 

“I’m just saying that he’ll lose his shit if he finds out we kept him out of this particular conversation,” Dean finishes.

 

“Dean…” Sam begins, closing his eyes and shaking his head, “Dad and I...We really haven’t had the conversation about Jack. About who he is.”

 

Dean runs a hand over his face, “Well, we told Dad he isn’t a demon. He’s probably heard the word nephilim thrown around at least once and has put that together. He seems to realize the kid’s good. He might-”

 

“Lucifer is the reason Mom’s in that other universe. Jack’s the one who accidentally created the rift to begin with,” Sam tells him, shaking his head, “Believe me, if Dad knew everything, he would have started shooting.”

 

“Yeah,” Dean murmurs, “Yeah, okay. Jody, you mind-”

 

“Go,” Jody tells him, understanding, “Go talk to Jack.”

 

Dean pats Jody’s hand and stands up, making Sam quick to his feet. But when they start to head to his room, Jody speaks up again, “And Dean?”

 

Dean turns his head to meet Jody’s eyes and Jody forces a smile, “If this whole thing does lead to universe hopping, I would really appreciate it if you didn’t bring Claire. Not when Lucifer is involved.”

 

Dean nods, his face grave, “Yes, ma’am. No need to tell me twice.”

 

Despite the severity of the situation, Sam can’t help but feel a tender pang in his chest when he sees Eileen and Jack cuddled up on the bed watching a movie together, Jack every so often glancing up at Eileen for approval as he signs words with unsure hands. The sight is so damn precious that he wishes it was an appropriate time for him to pull his phone out and take a picture of the moment so that he can remember it forever. It’s almost precious enough for him to forget about the fact Eileen had breathlessly pounced on him practically out of nowhere and told him she wanted everything. It’s almost precious enough to make him forget the serotonin and pheromone fueled intoxication he felt when he went down on her. It even almost makes him forget that he had been mere seconds away from being inside her not even twenty minutes ago.

 

Like Sam said: Almost.

 

But despite wanting to watch his girlfriend and his son cuddle and look fucking adorable, there is a much more pressing matter at hand.

 

“Jack, want to pause the movie so we can talk?” Sam speaks up, before sitting at the foot of the bed. Jack nods and presses the spacebar, then crawls over to sit next to Sam. Eileen stands to get a better look and Dean grabs the desk chair for her to sit it right across from them, while Dean himself opts to stand behind her. Jack has pout #4 on his face, the one that has always screamed to Sam, ‘I’m scared and uncomfortable with everything that’s going on and want a hug.’ So that’s what Sam does, wrapping one arm around his shoulders to pull him in as he brushes Jack’s hair out of his face with his other hand. Jack lets out a whimper and hides his face into Sam’s neck, before Sam gives his shoulders a squeeze.

 

“Can you walk us through the dream step by step?” Sam asks, “Tell us what Lucifer said he wanted you to do?”

 

Jack lets out a shaky nod, then sits up straight and nods as he reaches into his pocket to take out a folded piece of paper.

 

“I wrote down everything he told me about the ritual he wants me to try,” Jack mutters, “I’m not sure if I got the last step or not. I woke up on what might have been his last word, but it might not have been. I don’t know. I’m sorry, I’m just not sure-”

 

“It’s alright,” Sam interrupts, “We’ll look over it and see what it is.”

 

“What exactly did he say to you?” Dean asks him, “Before he gave you the play by play?”

 

“He said...He said that he’s been trying to enter my dreams for a while, but he never did it at the right time or that the moon cycle wasn’t right or that his brother or someone he called ‘the bitch who could have been my vessel’ got in the-”

 

“The woman who could have been his vessel?” Sam stops him, feeling what might be a semblance of hope for his mother in who knows how long.

 

“Well…” Jack starts out gently and consolingly, “Lucifer said bitch.”

 

“Did he say anything about her being alive?” Dean asks. Sam notices his brother’s knuckles turning white as he grips the top of Eileen’s chair.

 

“That’s all he said about her,” Jack sighs, “I wanted to ask, I did, but I don’t want him to know I’m with you. I’m afraid he’ll hurt you. So that’s why I told him I left as soon as I was born and that I’ve been on my own. He felt guilty about that.”

 

“Lucifer doesn’t feel guilt, Jack,” Dean snarls, “The things he’s done to us? To humanity? To Cas? The things he did to Sam down in the cage-”

 

“Dean,” Sam stops his brother, holding his hand up to silence the man. Even though Jack needs to know and deserves to know what kind of being his biological father is, he doesn’t need to carry the weight of what Sam went through and feel guilty over something that isn’t his fault.

 

“I know he’s bad,” Jack whispers, “I do. He isn’t nice. To be fair, I wasn’t nice to him. I hurt his feelings until he held me against a brick wall by my throat. But even though he’s despicable, he still cares about me. The way he sees it, I think he feels I’m his only family he has any shot with.”

 

Jack meets each of the adults’ eyes and lifts his chin, “And if it comes down to it, that can be something we use against him to take him off guard and defeat him.”

-----------------------------------------------------------

It only takes a day to gather what they need for the ritual. Things in the bunker are tense at best. Of course they are. Claire’s pissed at him for telling her she’s staying behind. Eileen’s more understanding but is acting slightly distant towards Sam. Dean thinks Eileen might be under the impression Sam assumes she can’t handle herself, although she takes one of the replicas of Ruby’s knife without complaint while Claire takes the other - two of the very few things Sam had been able to make and gain by cooperating with the British Men of Letters, instead of devastatingly lose.

 

And then there’s their father - who thinks that Lucifer entered Sam’s dream to give him this mission and directions on how to do it.

 

“Why?” John had growled as he studied the rewritten instructions closely, “Why does he want us to do this? Why can’t he do it himself? Why did he come to you?”

 

“Guess he doesn’t have access to what he would need to open the portal there. And it wouldn’t be the first time he’s gotten into my head,” Sam had answered, not quite meeting their father’s eyes, “I was his true vessel and he had my body for a while. There’s always going to be a connection he can abuse there, whether I like it or not. He wants to come back here and he knows we’ll risk it to get Mom back.”

 

Dean had told him lying about it was stupid.

 

But Sam seemed to lose logic when it came to a potential threat to Jack. The thing is, John Winchester couldn’t do shit to the kid, even if he wanted to. And yeah, maybe their father is just suspicious of Lucifer’s motives, rather than Jack’s and Lucifer’s motives. But if this does end up working and they cross paths with Lucifer for more than just a few seconds, then the guy’s gonna know that Jack’s the devil’s son.

 

“Okay, so it looks like we might hop around for a bit,” Sam starts, comparing Patience’s notes to Lucifer’s instructions, “But if we apply these symbols that Patience wrote down here, then we should be able to narrow it down to some of the more relevant universes and end up near our other selves in the universes where there’s at least one of us. Since none of us exist in the universe Mom’s in, we’ll probably end up close to her or someone really significant in our lives, like Bobby or-”

 

“Lucifer?” Jack asks, looking resigned.

 

Sam stays quiet at that, as if he’s searching for the correct words to say, only to give up after his moment of brain wracking.

 

“Or Lucifer.”

 

They are unprepared for this. Despite the new info, they’re still doing a lot of guesswork. For instance, it looks like having four of them will give them the best chances at success - each of them standing for one of the elements for harmony and balance or some shit. And they’re supposed to be responsible about opening portals. Them. Responsible. And that meant opening the portal in a secure place where nothing else could go back and forth, so they’re opening it in the interrogation room with every single protective spell and warding in place they can think of.

 

There’s not much else they can do otherwise.

 

“Don’t go near the portal,” he tells Eileen and Claire, adjusting the strap from the shotgun across his chest, “Sam connected a security camera to the laptop. So if you hear anything, look at it. If it looks like us, then still be careful.”

 

“And if it doesn’t?” Claire asks, crossing her arms.

 

Dean purses his lips and nods once, “Run.”

 

Claire rolls her eyes, “Whatever. But I’m gonna start shooting if they break past the warding and follow us.”

 

Dean has to smile at that, “That’s my girl.”

 

Sam kisses Eileen before they go downstairs, a goodbye or see you later, one of the two depending on how catastrophically this goes down. Despite the wistfulness of it, he can’t help but feel jealous. Can’t help but almost resign himself to the fact that while he will be happy if they get Mom back, it’ll mean he’ll still have no one while Sam and Dad…

 

Dean pushes past the bitter selfishness and heads down to the interrogation room to stand in position.

 

“Grab onto my hand. Keep the circle formed,” Dean tells them as he grabs Jack’s hand with his left and his father’s hand with his right, “We’re about to channel Charmed up in here. I think Dad’s a Prue while I’m probably more of a Piper-”

 

“Dean,” John prompts, shaking his head.

 

“Right,” Dean says quietly, “No sticking around in universes that we know aren’t the one we’re looking for, no matter who or what we see. We’ll just jump in and out of the portal until we hit the right one. If we hit the right one.”

 

Dean pauses, takes a breath, and begins the incantation, Dad, Sam, and Jack joining right after. The rip slowly forms, making its way to the floor. The electric charge fills the air and they step forward, a bright flash of light filling their visions until they’re sucked through.

------------------------------------------------

Claire glances over Eileen’s shoulder, the security footage in the corner of the laptop screen.

 

“Anything?” she asks after tapping Eileen’s shoulder to get her attention

 

“Not with the portal,” Eileen mutters, turning back around to make the Safari window a little larger.

 

Claire starts reading from behind Eileen, “Sounds like ritual sacrifices.”

 

It falls onto deaf ears. Literally. Sometimes Claire hates herself. Okay, more than sometimes.

 

“Demons or witches?” Claire asks after she gets Eileen’s attention again.

 

“Demons,” Eileen answers, turning back around, “Or demon.”

 

“So…” Claire starts once she sits across the table, hitting it lightly to get Eileen’s focus on her again, “When did you have time to find a case? The guys just left fifteen minutes ago.”

 

Eileen bites her cheek, “I have alerts sent to my email. Keywords. Added some more a few days ago and voila.”

 

“Why would you add…” Claire starts as Eileen keeps her eyes on her, “Oh. Do you think...is this about the demon who had you in Hell?”

 

Eileen takes a breath, “I don’t know. Jack seems to have knocked him down the ladder. Buried him pretty deeply in Hell. Restricted him somehow. But Balban is powerful. This probably isn’t him, but it could be one of his lackeys. He had demons he would sometimes invite who would…”

 

Eileen closes her eyes and stops, “Anyway, Ala had this thing about snakes. Balban is a master of delusion so they could make them manifest in Hell quite easily. I think Ala appreciated Balban for that. They spent a fair amount of time together.”

 

“Okay, so you think whoever is doing...this,” Claire winces once Eileen turns the laptop around to show her the pictures of women with snakes wrapped around their necks so tight that their dead eyes are practically bulged out, “You think it’s Ala.”

 

“I know it is,” Eileen answers, turning the laptop back around to click a few more times.

 

“Eileen…” Claire starts, waiting for the woman’s attention again, “You...You’ve been having hallucinations. Ones that have made you paranoid. I’m not saying this isn’t our kind of thing. It definitely is. But is it possible you are looking into this with a bias of some sort?”

 

Eileen gives Claire a humorless smirk, “Nope. Because there is one survivor and she brought up Ala’s name.”

 

Claire leans across the table, “Did you break into police records?”

 

“Didn’t have to.”

 

“Then how do you know?” Claire asks, tilting her head.

 

Eileen turns the laptop back around and slides it over to Claire, “She typed out an emotional, detailed account of the whole ordeal on Facebook.”

 

“...Huh,” Claire comments, scrolling down before peering over the laptop, “Alright, then. I’ll get my stuff.”

 

“Claire, you’re not going,” Eileen objects, standing up, “Dean would kill me if I dragged you into this. This demon is at least mid-level, if not higher. I don’t think it even remembers being human.”

 

“Yeah, great argument on why you should go by yourself,” Claire scoffs, “And besides, Sam would kill me if I let you take off all on your lonesome and then Dean would kill you and Sam because I died.”

 

“Claire-”

 

“We’ll take my car,” Claire offers, “Since you still don’t have one yet. Another reason to add to the list on why I should come.”

-----------------------------------------------------

“Who the ‘ell d’you think you are, comin’ in my ‘ouse?”

 

Drunken other John staggers over with his fists out, before stumbling into Dean.

 

“Hey,” Dean starts, pushing the man back a little before, “Easy there, pops.”

 

John glares at the sight but is taken aback by the clarity that seems to fill the other John’s eyes.

 

“D...Dean?” the other John whispers with awe, “Dean, you...you’re dead. I saw you die. Both of my boys...You’re not real, you’re not real, you’re not real-”

 

“Boys, let’s go,” John mutters, becoming uncomfortable.

 

“Maybe we should put him to bed,” Jack frets, wringing his hands, “And call someone to come sit with him. He’s so sad, Grandpa. He’s sad and scared and alone and wants to die-”

 

“Let’s go!” John barks out, walking over to shove his other self to the ground before pushing at Sam, Jack, and Dean to make them go back through the portal.

 

Where they end up in space. Fucking outer space.

 

“Well, this isn’t it,” Dean hums looking down at the space shuttle floor below them as they hover.

 

“I wish it was,” Jack pouts, before giggling as he does a somersault in midair.

 

“Guys, we need to get moving,” Sam mutters, nodding at the approaching figures. John turns his head and and sees versions of his sons approaching towards them, grabbing onto the handles built into the walls to make their way more quickly down the corridor. The other Sam looks concerned, confused, and exasperated. And the other Dean? Enraged.

 

“I’m not having these duplicates at my wedding, Sam!” John hears Dean snarl as he kicks off the wall, “Hey! You! Who the hell do you think you are?”

 

“Dean, they’re probably just spares,” Sam consoles, but keeps sneaking glances, “But I don’t know why Commander Singer wouldn’t let us know beforehand. Is that who sent you?”

 

“Uh…” Dean starts, scratching the back of his scalp.

 

“I mean, probably,” Sam adds hesitantly.

 

The other Dean sends Dean a mean smirk and floats in front of him, “You better be making yourself scarce, you hear me? This is MY big day. Mine and Cas’s. You sure as hell better not steal the damn spotlight by waltzing in during our vows-”

 

“No need to tell me twice,” Dean mutters, grabbing onto John’s hand, as well as Sam’s, to start pulling them towards the portal, “Bridezilla.”

 

If they were going straight back to the bunker, John might have taken that opportunity to talk to Dean about Cas. A simple, “So Cas, huh?” would do the trick, wouldn’t it? It might be neutral enough to not scare Dean off. But they aren’t going straight back to the bunker. John had known that, they all had.

 

But he sure as hell hadn’t thought they were going to end up in some hippie commune.

 

“Sam!” a very pregnant Eileen greets breathlessly, her eyes out of focus as she feels around for Sam to pull him down for a kiss, “Where are the fruits and vegetables? You went out to gather them, didn’t you?”

 

“Uh...I um,” Sam stutters as Eileen turns around.

 

“Because I need them to make lunch for our side of the commune,” Eileen sighs, “You know this. Your father is new to a raw vegan diet and I want him to like me. Last time he saw me, I was stealing you away and ‘inducting you into my cult’ according to him. And now? Now he is willing to get to know us and our kids. I’m sure meeting six more grandchildren all at once was a shock to him, with your brother and Lisa just having the two, but he’s joined us, Sam. That in itself is even more shocking-”

 

“Yeah, sure. A complete shock,” Sam says, the four of them backing away slowly but stop in their tracks as Eileen turns around.

 

“We should invite your brother over this weekend,” Eileen suggests, sitting at the table, “Look, I know I was team Lisa because she’s my friend. But I do feel sorry for Dean. I hate that he felt like he had to live a non-authentic life and deny who he truly was. If this thing with...Cas? That’s his name, right? Well, if it’s serious, then we should let him know we accept them both...Sam? What do you think? I know I am talking up a storm because of my nerves, but I hate when you’re quiet. You know I can’t see.”

 

Let’s go,” Sam mouths to them, pushing them towards the portal in silence. The last thing they hear is Eileen calling out for Sam.

 

When they fall through the portal again, John thinks they may be back at the bunker. No, he knows they are. The camera is in place and the wardings look just about the same as theirs. But the people barging into the interrogation room have faces that look the same as theirs too.

 

“Go back through, now!” Dean orders as the four of them run through the portal, but not before a bullet hits Jack.

 

“It’s just a flesh wound,” Jack insists as it immediately heals up anyway, “Oh, this is nice.”

 

John turns to a beautiful field filled with flowers. It’s peaceful and filled with butterflies and, although he won’t say it out loud, he wouldn’t mind spending some time here.

 

That is, until he sees other versions of Sam and Jack come over the hill with dragons.

 

“You’re doing great, son!” Sam encourages as Jack and his dragon bow to each other, “You’ll have her trained in no time!”

 

“I thought that this ritual was supposed to narrow our destinations down to the closer universes,” John mutters as the dragon breathes fire into the air.

 

“It makes you wonder how different the universes further out are,” Jack adds, watching the dragons in awe. John honestly can’t imagine it can get much more different than this.

 

They don’t stick around, but Jack begs for Sam to get him a dragon all the way through the portal and into the next universe anyway.

---------------------------------------------------------

The case is almost eight hours away in Collinsville, Illinois. Sometimes the luxury of Jack is nice to have around, but he’s probably ultimately needed by Dean, Sam, and John more. Eileen’s quiet on the trip, set on driving. Claire had started to complain that she’s barely gotten to drive her car since getting it, but honestly? Eileen is sort of scary when she’s in case mode. Claire knows when to pick her battles.

 

By the time they get there, neither of them have received calls from Sam or Dean, nor does Jack show up unannounced, so Claire assumes they are still universe hopping or in the right universe trying to find Mary.

 

Or in Lucifer’s clutches. She pushes that last thought away.

 

It’s almost 7 pm and they don’t have much sunlight left in the day. Claire has suggested to Eileen twice that they go get something to eat and rest up but it doesn’t really take with the woman.

 

“A fourth body was found a few hours ago,” Eileen tells Claire, scanning through her phone, “And get this, they’re all appearing at bridges that are only connected by a local legend calling them the seven gates of Hell.”

 

“Great,” Claire mutters, then snorts, “‘Get this.’ You sound like your boyfriend. Cute.”

 

Eileen rolls her eyes but doesn’t feed into the teasing comment, digging for one of Claire’s IDs, “You’re a reporter, got it? You just graduated from Saint Louis University and work for the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch. I’m a professor who is an expert in mythology and local lore. You contacted me so that I could offer another pair of eyes, since they aren’t connecting the dots on the urban legend as far as we can tell.”

 

“You think that’s going to actually work?” Claire asks, “They would let us in more easily if we pretend to be FBI.”

 

Eileen gives her a disbelieving look, “Claire, you are practically an infant.”

 

“Hey!-”

 

“And as for me?” Eileen continues, “Sometimes I don’t get questioned when I carry an FBI badge, but some cops? Especially men in smaller towns who see a deaf woman higher up than they are? They take a closer look into me and want to talk to my superiors. It’s easier to play them when I am kind and innocently curious so they can flirt and mansplain until I take them off guard and they realize I am an expert in something they know nothing about and that I’m generally more intelligent than they are.”

 

“Fine,” Claire sighs, “We’ll do it your way, even though what you said pisses me off.”

 

“Always use how people perceive you to your advantage, Claire,” Eileen advises, “You can prove them wrong after you’ve won.”

 

“...I like that,” Claire decides, “It’s badass, even though it’s deceptive and underhanded as hell. Didn’t expect that out of you.”

 

Eileen gives her a wink as she opens the car door, “Maybe I’ve been playing you too.”

 

Claire watches Eileen get out of the car and confidently walk towards the crime scene with awe.

--------------------------------------------

Since things haven’t been going as expected, with all of the diverse universes they’ve shown up in, they really don’t need another obstacle to overcome when it comes to this mission. Of course, Sam had been expecting one. It’s their lives, after all. But he hadn’t been expecting that obstacle to be Dean’s cowboy obsession.

 

And when it’s Cas who ends up being the fastest draw in Arizona? That obsession seems to form into a straight up kink for Dean.

 

“Can’t shoot anyone who resembles my father-in-law,” Cas shrugs as he flips the gun back into his holster.

 

“So you believe the alternate universe story we just told you?” Sam asks slowly.

 

Cas looks out towards the setting sun, “Stranger things have happened in Tombstone. Come on, now. Have a drink on me before you’re on your way. My partner makes the meanest whiskey sour. Owns the most popular saloon in the tristate area.”

 

John clears his throat, “Thanks, but no thanks. We’re on a schedule and need to g-”

 

“But we can stay for one drink. Can’t we, Dad?” Dean hastily interrupts, “Yeah, one drink. Lead the way, Cas.”

 

“Sheriff,” Cas corrects, but turns his horse around to lead them, all while Sam tries not to hit his head against something when he sees his brother watch the sight with pained and intrigued lust.

 

Even though they don’t stay long, they do get to meet Deanna. And she does make a mean whiskey sour. She also kicks the ass of a drunk who tries to get too handsy with Claire and literally throws him out the door - all while in a saloon dress and heels and without breaking a sweat.

 

“And thank you for not stepping in,” Deanna purrs into Cas’s ear, then picks the cowboy hat off his head to ruffle his hair with a wink, “Those men need to know who’s in charge of this saloon and that they can’t start making grabs for our kid.”

 

“Yeah, maybe next time you can try to not step in and let me handle it myself,” Claire glares, sitting on the stool and crossing her legs with a ‘hmph’, her dress swaying to the side as she does so, “Eileen and Samantha don’t see me as some little girl who needs protecting.”

 

Deanna gives her a look, “Eileen and Samantha didn’t raise you, Claire. They love you but they don’t have that instinct with you, like your mama has. But now that we’ve gotten those laws changed and they’re able to adopt little Jack? I bet you they’ll come out guns a blazin if someone tries to hurt him. And you know I would go about it the same way when it comes to your little brother and sister. I’m all about equal opportunity.”

 

Sam downs the rest of his drink and decides that it’s best for them to step away before he gets too strong of an urge to start asking questions about the lesbian version of him and her relationship with Eileen.

 

“We better get going,” Sam says with a smile, standing up, John and Jack following suit, “Thank you all for the drink. Dean?”

 

Dean straight up glares at him for making him leave and sulks all the way back to the portal. The next universe isn’t as exciting for Dean - or for any of them, for that matter. Charlie freezes in shock when four men appear in her living room, the cat food pouring out of the bag in her hands forgotten as felines swarm at her feet.

 

“John, Mary, Sam, Dean, Castiel, Jack, Eileen, Claire, Kevin, Jody, Alex, Crowley, and Bobby! Up the stairs now! Intruders! I have pepper spray, you know!”

 

The four of them watch dumbfounded as Charlie tries to herd the cats in the right direction. “Castiel! Stop trying to mate with Dean! How many times do I have to tell you that you can’t get him pregnant? Oh my god, Bobby! Now is not time for a nap! Ugh Kevin, remind me to never give you catnip again. John and Mary, stop fighting! You love each other and I know you do because you’re responsible for ALL of this! Oh, Jack, sweetie. Come here…”

 

“Jack,” Sam hisses as his Jack sneaks over to cuddle Crowley, “Get back over here. Now!”

 

“But he’s so cute!” Jack insists as Crowley growls.

 

When the four of them jump back through the portal, they look back at least three times to make sure no cats followed them.

----------------------------------------------------

There are dead snakes coming out of every orifice. It’s absolutely disgusting and terrifying and wrong. The fact that Eileen only freezes up for a second, then proceeds with observing the body under the lieutenant’s watchful eye like it’s nothing, not only tells Claire a lot about Eileen as a person - badass, calm, resilient, jaded, and possibly a little terrifying - but also a lot about her time in Hell and what she saw there since this isn’t making her green in the face.

 

“This better be off the record,” Lieutenant Harold warns her, “I’m only letting you in since you brought someone who knows about this stuff on board.”

 

“Completely off the record,” Claire tells him, “Not gonna write it until I get the say so from you and the families. I’m not like other reporters.”

 

“That’s what they all say,” he scoffs, before raising his voice, “Hey! You! DID. YOU. FIND. ANYTHING. YET?”

 

Eileen is probably glad she can’t hear this idiot. Claire wishes she couldn’t.

 

Claire taps Eileen on the shoulder to get her attention and repeats the question. Claire may be imagining it, but she could swear Eileen smirks a little when Claire reenacts how the lieutenant had been speaking to her.

 

“You should check the snake’s mouths,” Eileen answers, giving the body a glance, “Pull them out and cut them open to see if they have consumed anything as well. This is a ritualistic killing. It probably has roots in dark witchcraft, satanism, or a more obscure or dead religion. Figuring out what is in their bodies as well as the girl’s would help narrow down what you’re dealing with.”

 

“We don’t have cults in Collinsville,” the lieutenant tells them authoritatively, “We’re a town of good people.”

 

“You’re also a town with a local legend stating you have seven gates to Hell,” Eileen counters, “It doesn’t matter if you’re a town of good people - which, let’s face it, the towns who make that claim usually end up being the ones with the most to hide. But let’s say your town is as good as you believe it is. With a legend like that, no matter how false it might be, it’s going to attract curious teenagers at best and someone nefarious and immoral at worst. You’ve seemed to have attracted the latter.”

 

The lieutenant stands there silently and Claire bites back the satisfied smile when he turns to the medical examiner.

 

“Start pulling them out.”

------------------------------------------------

John’s not sure he’s fully stepped out of the portal when Sam and Dean are pushing him and Jack back through.

 

“We saved you both from being smited,” Dean insists when John falls on his ass in the next universe, “Do you want to meet Deandriel and Samariah? No, I don’t think you do.”

 

“Angels?” John grunts, getting himself back up to his feet, “Did you ask if they could help?”

 

“They weren’t up for talking,” Sam answers, shaking his head, “We asked if we could see Cas and they asked us what we wanted with the Righteous Man. Deandriel started charging so we started running. Things there are all twisted around.”

 

John opens his mouth to speak but is interrupted by a cheerful voice.

 

“Oh, look!” a version of Cas says with a smile on his face, “Sam! Sweetheart! We have guests!”

 

“Dude,” the other Dean grunts as he comes into the living room, “You know it takes your husband forever to get down the steps in his condition.”

 

All John can feel is confusion when a playfully pissed and pregnant Eileen comes into the room.

 

“Hey!” she says to him, smacking the other Dean’s arm before pulling him close, “You know I hate when you call it that.”

 

“Aw. But it looks good on you, baby,” the other Dean murmurs, pulling her in for a kiss.

 

“This is wrong,” Sam mutters, shaking his head frantically, “This is wrong and we need to leave.”

 

But none of them make a move towards the portal when the other Sam comes into view.

 

“Honey?” Sam asks, waddling to Cas’s side, his wedding ring flashing under the overhead light, “Who are these people?”

 

Cas shrugs his shoulders, picks at a loose thread in his dorky sweater, and sends the other Sam a smile, “I don’t know. But they sure do have friendly faces. How’s our little bun in the oven?”

 

Cas puts a loving hand over the other Sam’s swollen womb and bends over to kiss it while the other Sam looks down at the sight with pride.

 

“So that’s…” Dean starts, looking completely nauseated, “That isn’t a basketball under your shirt? You...You and him...

 

The other Sam lets out a sweet laugh and glances at the other Dean, “Dude, he even sounds like you. Where did you guys find these people?”

 

“Hey!” the other Dean warns, “I’m the one who got you and Cas to hook up in the first place. I have always been completely supportive of your relationship.”

 

“I’m gonna be sick,” Dean gasps out, bending over, “I’m going to be fucking sick.”

 

“So you’re…” Sam starts, looking between the other Sam and Cas, “Pregnant? And with Cas?”

 

The other Sam gets a dreamy look in his eyes, yet sounds slightly choked as he says, “Of course I’m with Cas. I can’t imagine a universe where we aren’t together. And yes, we are expecting. It’s our first. We’ve been trying so hard for years. Day and night, in bed, on the couch, in the shower, at the table, in Cas’s office-”

 

“Stop!” Dean shouts out, covering his ears, “Stop stop stop stop stop! We need to leave! Now!”

 

But you just got here!” Cas insists, stepping closer.

 

John can only watch with slack-faced shock as Jack clutches onto his arm with fear and confusion, while Dean roughly shoves against his brother to storm back towards the portal. At least Sam feigns politeness as he gives the group a nervous smile, “It was, uh...nice meeting you. Good luck with everything. Bye.”

 

Sam grabs both John and Jack by the collars of their shirts and pulls them towards the portal without any extra warning.

---------------------------------------------------

“So we’re just going to wait here until what? The demon comes back with another helpless victim?” Claire sighs as she looks at Eileen. Eileen stays patient with her though and bites her lip.

 

“I’d like to think they’re not completely helpless if we’re here to help them out,” Eileen points out, “Besides, they’ll be taken more off guard if we’re here. We track them and they get away, they’ll try to move forward with their plan more quickly. At least for now they probably don’t know we’re onto them and we’ll be able to see how many of them are involved from the car.”

 

“Oh, so if there are what you think are too many, you’ll just put the car in drive?” Claire scoffs, “Because I wouldn’t be able to handle it?”

 

“Because it would be a suicide mission if there were more than what we could handle. We,” Eileen reiterates, “And I hate bailing on a case, but we’re no use to anyone dead. We’d just need to call for backup and try again, and that’s only if it comes down to it.”

 

“So how many is too many?” Claire asks.

 

“I don’t know,” Eileen sighs, “Ala’s pretty strong. I’m guessing she’ll be the strongest out of anyone she brings and the rest will be foot soldiers. Maybe four or so? Any more around is too much of a risk.”

 

They only have to wait for two more hours. There end up being five demons, not the max amount of four that Eileen set. But when Claire sees a screaming girl who can’t be older than 15, she makes the call, reaches into the back seat of her car, reaches for the Larami water gun she bought off of Ebay, and charges forth to begin hosing them down.

 

Four of the demons hiss and scream with pain as they start to smoke and Eileen begins to chant an exorcism.

 

"Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas, omnis incursio infernalis adversarii, omnis congregatio et secta diabolica, ergo draco maledicte, ut ecclesiam tuam secura, tibi facias libertate servire, te rogamus, audi nos!"

 

Black smoke pours from their mouths as they let out their last scream before sinking back into Hell.

 

“Four demons,” Claire says breathlessly, “That was nothing-”

 

She’s on her back before she can finish her sentence.

 

“Think again,” Ala whispers as Eileen is thrown into a tree. Claire whimpers as she feels snakes begin to slither next to her arms and legs, curling around her wrists. Ala looks over her shoulder, tsking as soon as she does.

 

“My sacrifice ran off because of you,” Ala tells her, “I don’t like being interrupted, especially by annoying nineteen year old blonde girls who think they can take me down. So you’re going to fix that for me and open wide.”

 

Ala’s eyes turn black as she opens her mouth until it is gaping at an unnatural width. And although Claire wants to do anything but obey this bitch, she can’t help but scream when a black snake slithers through Ala’s lips.

 

But when the snake’s head is just inches away from Claire’s mouth, a hand shoots out from over Ala’s head and takes the reptile in its grasp, yanking it out of Ala’s mouth and making her cough up the rest. Eileen takes the large snake in her hands and pulls it tight around Ala’s throat, the demon’s eyes bulging as she chokes. Claire rips the snakes off her arms and scrambles to her feet, stomping on the ones that try to slither up her legs. Eileen ties the snake around Ala’s neck and throws her to the ground, stomping on the demon’s back as soon as she tries to get up.

 

“Eileen Leahy,” Ala rasps out a laugh when she turns over, “Is that you?”

 

“Like you don’t know,” Eileen snarls, placing a foot on her chest and pressing down.

 

“Deaf again, I see,” Ala hums, sending Eileen a crooked smile, “If you stayed with Balban, he would have let you hear everything. He misses you, you know. And he’s definitely not finished with you. Far from it, actually.”

 

“Too bad he’s stuck in Hell and not getting out anytime soon,” Eileen answers, her voice carefully devoid of emotion.

 

Claire feels herself shudder as Ala’s smile turns into a wide grin, the tongue licking her teeth resembling one of a serpent’s.

 

“What do you think I’m trying to achieve here?” Ala laughs, the snake around her neck starting to uncurl, “As fun as it’s been, all this sacrificing hasn’t been just for giggles. And as soon as you take that foot off my chest, I will get sacrifices five, six, and seven in and Balban will rise. Oh, sweetie. He’s going to be so happy to see you. You’re one of the main reasons he wants to come topside - so he can see you for real. Face to face. None of that smoke and mirrors he’s become infamous for. So what do you say? Don’t you miss him too?”

 

Eileen’s chest is heaving at Ala’s words and Claire tentatively steps forward to put a hand on Eileen’s shoulder.

 

“Eileen-” Claire starts when Eileen meets her eyes, “I can handle this. You have her down. Just step away and I’ll take care of it quick.”

 

Eileen turns back and stares down at Ala with vacant eyes, “Yeah.”

 

And Claire is ready when Eileen removes her foot from Ala’s chest. She has the blade out and knows she can do this, even if the person Ala’s possessing is alive. She hates that she might be, but Claire would like to think she’d understand if a demon locked itself into her body and was killing and taunting people.

 

But even though she’s ready, Eileen’s faster. Within an instant, Eileen is down on her knees and pressing one hand on Ala’s shoulders while her other hand is wrapped around the blade sinking into Ala’s chest.

 

“If Balban does crawl his way out of Hell, you’re not the one who is going to make it happen,” Eileen whispers, then twists the blade to watch the light leave Ala’s eyes and the orange electric flicker.

 

Claire stays silent and steps back when Eileen gets to her feet, brushing herself off as she does so. The snakes start slithering towards Ala’s mouth and eyes and Eileen’s breath hitches.

 

“Come on,” Eileen tells her, walking towards the car, “Let’s go.”

----------------------------------------

Dean’s shoving him as soon as he comes through the portal.

 

“Are you seriously mad at me right now?” Sam shouts out, bracing himself against his brother as he feels his own surge of anger, “What about you? Baby? You’re going to get pissed at me when you called Eileen baby?”

 

“Dad, Uncle Dean, stop!” Jack frets, putting himself between the two, “It wasn’t our world. They aren’t all going to resemble ours. Think of the good worlds we’ve seen, like the Wild West world or the one where our family owned a restaurant chain. And the one where we owned a funeral home? That one didn’t seem so bad. But my personal favorite was the one where we were all cats.”

 

Sam tries to calm himself at Jack’s words. He knows the kid’s right and that they, but mainly Dean, are both being stupid. But Dean’s face is still contorted in an ugly snarl as he reaches around Jack to pull up Sam’s shirt.

 

“Are you kidding me?!” Sam yells stepping back and slapping Dean’s hand away, “What do you even think is under there, Dean?”

 

“You tell me,” is all Dean says, standing at full height as he stares at his brother challengingly.

 

“Boys,” John butts in, annoyed, “Would both of you just cut out the bullshit to look and see where we are so that we don’t waste any more time?”

 

Sam nods, a little embarrassed, as Dean lets out a huff and turns around. Although they didn’t see much of the world their mother fell into, it looks enough like it to make them both freeze.

 

“Shit,” Dean breathes out.

 

“This...This might be it, Dad,” Sam tells their father, voice slightly strangled.

 

When Sam turns his head to look at his father, he sees that the man’s eyes are wide and his hands are shaking, but the man starts walking regardless.

 

“Well, what are you waiting for?” John demands to know, not even stopping, “Let’s go.”

----------------------------------------------

They hadn’t had to walk far in any of the other universes in order to run into someone they know. To be fair, some of the universes were so obviously not the one they had been looking for that they only spent mere seconds there before running into anyone. But they haven’t run into anyone. Angel, demon, hunter. Except for the sounds of what Sam can only assume are angels falling from the sky in the distance, there’s nothing.

 

“It’s been over an hour,” John mutters, “How have we not run into anyone? We’re going to lose track of the portal.”

 

“Jack can sense it,” Sam tells him, “But it isn’t safe to go too far, I agree. If anything, we’ll have to find some type of shelter to rest up if this goes on for too long.”

 

John scoffs, “There’s nothing here that looks like shelt…”

 

John’s voice trails off as he spots what looks like a chapel in the distance.

 

“What do you know?” Dean says, nodding towards the building.

 

“We’re not stopping for a break this soon,” John argues, staring at his son in disgust.

 

Dean rolls his eyes, “I’m not saying that we’re going to lie back and rest our feet on the pews. I’m just saying that it would be Lucifer’s MO to hide out in a place that’s supposed to represent his father as soon as everything turns to shit. Guy has daddy issues. And if Michael has them? Well, he probably has daddy issues too.”

 

“And he might have Mom,” Sam answers, “This is the closest thing we’ve seen to anything resembling civilization and the ritual is supposed to release us to the people we’re closest to in our own world-”

 

“Let’s go,” John interrupts, walking towards the church with purpose, “Now.”

 

When they make their way to the church, they sneak in through the back. At first it’s silent. John wants to recommend they split up so that they can cover more ground. But this is the last place to do something like that, Jack or no Jack. So John grits and bears it as they make their way through the building as quietly as possible, angel blades out. The first floor is empty, the same goes for the balconies. So all that leaves is the basement, which is fitting, since everything terrible happens in a fucking basement.

 

But seeing Mary there, even in chains, is the opposite of terrible.

 

“Mary?” John chokes out, approaching her carefully. His wife’s hair is dirty and falls over her face, cuts and bruises cover her hands. Slowly, Mary raises her head at her name and squints.

 

“John?” she asks, confused, “No. No, you’re not John. You’re dead there and you’re dead in this universe too.”

 

“Mom,” Sam says urgently, “It’s us. We’ve been looking for you for months. Dad...Jack brought Dad back. We’ll explain everything when we’re back home, but we need to get there first.”

 

Dean runs over to Mary and starts to work at the locks on the chains.

 

“Dean,” Mary sighs, touching Dean’s face as he focuses on his task, before becoming more alert, “Dean, is Cas…”

 

Dean shakes his head and bites his lip, his voice breaking as he refuses to meet Mary’s eyes, “He didn’t make it, Mom.”

 

Mary doesn’t know what to say to that. John understands that, since he has been struggling with communicating with Dean for weeks. It’s hard to focus on that right now though, with his wife right there glancing at him in shocked disbelief. He had imagined this before, being reunited with her, even when it wasn’t a possibility. He had always imagined it to be tender or passionate or emotional. And yeah, he feels emotional but his palms are sweating and he feel like he can’t move and like his tongue is too big for his mouth-

 

He feels a hand slip in his and he realizes it’s Jack. John looks down at the boy and Jack gives him a small smile and his hand a light squeeze. For some reason, John turns back to Mary but squeezes his hand back.

 

“We’ve got to go,” Dean mutters under his breath as he finishes picking the last lock. John lets go of Jack’s hand and rushes over to help his wife to her feet. Their hands linger, interlaced with each other and they stare in each other’s eyes.

 

“...Mary-” he starts.

 

“Dad, seriously,” Dean tells him, “Come on.”

 

The five of them make it up the stairs without issue and John feels exhilarated because something is finally going right for them. They’re going to be a family and he’s going to do good by his sons this time. He’s going to-

 

“Mary Winchester. Where on Earth do you think you’re going? You do plan on staying on Earth, don’t you?”

 

“Michael,” Mary whispers, before turning around to step in front of her family.

 

“Mary, get back!” John orders, pulling back on his wife. Michael smirks at the sight.

 

“Is that your husband?” Michael asks, nodding over as two angels come into the church with a man in chains, “I thought he was dead. That’s what dear old brother here told me.”

 

John glances at Dean and he instantly knows that his oldest son’s head isn’t in the right place. The way his son is staring at Lucifer with blank murderous intent is both expected and frightening, and it makes John instantly worry that his son is going to do something reckless and stupid.

 

“Jack, hold onto Dean,” John whispers, “Do it.”

 

“Grandpa, we need to leave and I can’t reach Mary!” Jack hisses, which makes John turn back towards his wife, who is walking towards Michael.

 

“You take me, but you let them go,” Mary says to him, her voice trembling, “What did you call me? Your little mud monkey pet?”

 

John starts charging after Mary, “Mary, get back here. Now!”

 

“They’re nothing to you, Michael. So don’t you think about touching them.”

 

Michael smiles and John suddenly can’t walk forward anymore, as if an invisible barrier is keeping him from reaching his wife.

 

“Oh, Mary. Sweet, feisty Mary. Even though you’re all from a different world, I can still smell it when two true vessels are close. I could always use spares. And a Nephilim? One that belongs to my dearest brother, Lucifer, nonetheless. No offense, but I won’t let you get in my way.”

 

“NO!” Jack runs forward, a little past John as he tries to push against the barrier, but it’s too late. Michael’s hand is on Mary’s head and her body is consumed with flames.

 

The sight makes John fall to his knees.

 

“Hmm,” Michael hums, running his boot through the ash, “Alright then. That show’s over. Time for a new one. Nephew? Why don’t you come over here and introduce yourself properly.”

 

John knows when Michael drops the barrier, he doesn’t know how he knows but he does.

 

“Bring her back,” John chokes out, his nails digging into his thighs, “My sons burned my corpse when I died and you brought me back over a decade later, so you can bring her back too.”

 

Michael gives them that smile again, the one that makes John want to punch him in the face over and over until there’s nothing left but pulp.

 

Michael tsks with fake pity, “You know, that might be possible if I didn’t burn out her soul. Mary Winchester no longer exists, at least not here. And I guess, by extension, she doesn’t exist where you’re from either. Shame. I liked her. But go on, nephew. Try.”

 

Jack glances at John before slowly walking forward to squat over Mary’s ashes. Light shines from his hand and some of the ashes start to float and hover, only for them fall back down to the floor.

 

“I can’t,” Jack grits out, not able to look at John, “I can’t bring her back.”

 

John’s hands turn into fists as he gets to his feet, “I’ll fucking kill you, you son of a bitch. I’ll fucking kill you!”

 

John charges at Michael but is blocked by Jack and dragged back towards Sam and Dean.

 

“Get the hell off of me!” John screams out as his sons grab onto him and Sam tries to soothe him through his own pain, “GET OFF OF ME!”

 

Even though he feels like he can only see red, he is able to see Jack walking back over to Michael. He sees him shake the angel’s hand to introduce himself properly, just as Michael wanted. And then he sees Jack force his palm against Michael’s head as light shines out of his eyes, right before John’s own eyes are covered by the palm of one of his son’s hands. After it’s over, Angels begin to surround them. Storming in through the entrances, flying in through windows, busting through the ceiling.

 

“We need to go!” Jack yells out, running over to the three of them, splaying his arms out to wrap them around the three of them, “We need to-”

 

“-go home.”

 

They’re back at the portal, nothing but desert and long abandoned destruction surrounding them once more.

 

But John can’t feel relief. He can’t go through the portal and go home. Not without her.

 

“Sam, he’s going to run,” he hears Dean say as he starts to run back towards where he last saw his wife, only to be pulled back by three sets of hands. He struggles. He kicks and hits and fights dirtier than he ever has in his life, despite the pained grunts and pleas coming from his sons.

 

“MARY!” he wails as he is dragged back towards the portal, “MARY, PLEASE! NO! NO!”

------------------------------------

“Would you stop?!” Dean shouts as his dad kicks and throws every single thing in the room. He looks to Sam for some type of idea on what to do, but his brother’s devastated. His eyes are filling with tears and he’s holding onto Jack as tightly as Jack is holding onto him. Dean’s upset that their mother is gone too, but grief and devastation has been his baseline state the last few months, so maybe the change and the finality of it all isn’t clicking yet. Maybe that’s why he’s the only one capable of trying to snap out of it.

 

“Look,” Dean starts, “I get that you’re pissed and you’re hurting something awful right now. But you can’t do this. Not to yourself, not to us. Talk to us. We’re hurting too. She was our mom, Dad. Don’t trash the place and destroy yourself all over again. Because we need you too! You’re better than this.”

 

His father’s back to him as the man reaches an almost deadly calm, one that comes too quick to be real.

 

“And who are you to tell me how to deal with grief and pain, Dean?”

 

Dean shakes his head and swallows as he looks away from his dad, refusing to meet the older man’s eyes as he slowly turns around.

 

“With how you’ve been. After your brother and I have nursed you back to health from blackouts. After we’ve held you while you cried, yet you refused to actually talk about a fucking thing.”

 

“Dad, cut it out,” Sam bites out, letting go of Jack, “You don’t mean a word you’re saying. Think of what’s coming out of your mouth.”

 

“You know,” John huffs out a sound that sounds more like a sob, “I think you are worse off than I am. At least I had the guts to tell Mary I loved her.”

 

His fist is colliding with his father’s face before Dean actually knows what’s happening. And it’s not just the once. It’s again and again as he takes him to the ground. Sam’s arms are wrapping around him before he makes his father’s face unrecognizable because he can’t stop.

 

“He doesn’t mean it,” he hears Sam whisper in his ear as he struggles, “He’s lashing out. Look at him.”

 

“DON’T FUCKING TOUCH ME!” John shouts out as Jack touches his forehead to heal him, “You evil son of a bitch! This is all your fault! You did this to her! You probably planned it! You’re the reason she’s d-dead!”

 

The fight starts to deflate from Dean as he watches his father unravel into a sobbing mess. His father’s hands cover his face and he brings his knees up to his chest as he completely loses it. Despite hating him in this moment - and that’s what he feels right now, hate - part of him wants to go over and comfort him. The thing is, he can’t bring himself to try. Whether it be pride or the need to see his father in pain after the things he said or sheer hopelessness, he doesn’t know.

 

All he can do is walk away.

--------------------------------------

Eileen keeps herself focused by making herself and Claire lunch. Despite what happened last night, she feels...she feels good. She feels strong. Like she’s capable of practically anything to the point where it’s probably dangerous. So she keeps herself calm. She sits at the library table and watches the security camera while Claire sits across from her in solidarity. It’s nice and it’s quiet until it’s not. Eileen sees when it all changes at the same time Claire hears it.

 

“It’s them,” Eileen says, standing up from her seat, watching John struggle against his sons with a pit forming in her stomach until the portal closes. She can’t bear to watch the older man search around in stress and confusion once it does.

 

Eileen silently beckons Claire to follow her as they make their way to the interrogation room. The time it takes to grab a few weapons and walk there isn’t terribly long, a couple minutes max, but something huge had to have gone down during that time. They’re not even in the room when Dean storms past them, which causes Claire to switch directions and follow him. Eileen keeps going and approaches Sam and Jack.

 

“Sam, what happened?” she whispers, having to tear her eyes away from John’s figure curled in figure on the floor.

 

“We…” Sam starts, only to stop and swallow, “We found the right place. Mom didn’t make it. Dad...Dad said some pretty cruel things to Jack and Dean. He’s not himself. We saw her...He...He’s taking it really hard.”

 

Eileen nods and watches John again, “Go take Jack to his room. Talk to him. I’ll stay down here with John.”

 

Sam touches her arm and comes around to face her, “Eileen, you don’t-”

 

“Go,” she tells him gently, “We’ll be fine. Focus on your son. I’ll see you soon.”

 

Sam nods and meets her for a kiss before ushering Jack out of the room, only taking one last look at his father. Eileen lets out a sigh and slowly approaches John. She’s not sure if he even hears her. If he’s said a word, he hasn’t lifted his face or signed anything so that she would be aware.

 

“Hey,” she rasps out, sitting next to him as she wraps her arms around his shaking shoulders to pull him closer, “Shhh…”

 

John picks his head up and covers his crumpled, wet face with one hand as he rubs his chest with his fist with the other.

 

Sorry.

 

“Don’t be sorry,” she tries to smile, her own eyes feeling damp, before patting his back, “I’m not mad at you. You’re in pain. I understand.”

 

John nods, then takes a wheezing, pained breath before curling in on himself once more.

 

An hour or so later, Eileen goes to Sam’s room and knocks on the door. After making sure John went to lie down, she had checked on Jack - who had been quiet and just wanted to be alone. It had hurt to hear that, but she just made sure he knew he could come get her to talk whenever he was ready.

 

“Hey,” Sam greets. His eyes are red-rimmed and dull and it hurts to see him in such pain. Eileen takes a step closer to rub his arms and Sam sniffles at the gesture, his eyes leaving Eileen’s. Eileen silently leads him to the bed and sits next to him, placing her hands on his face before running her fingers through his hair.

 

“What…” Sam start, his hands trembling as he tries to sign, “What did you and Claire get up to while we were gone?”

 

She knows she should tell him. She had fully planned on telling him before they came back through the portal completely devastated. But she can’t put that worry on him right now, not with him worrying about his brother, father, and son. Not when he’s grieving for his mother.

 

“Netflix,” she ends up answering, “Claire got me into Making a Murderer.”

 

Sam huffs out a watery laugh, “I wanted to show you that.”

 

“Sorry, not sorry,” Eileen shrugs, “We’ll watch The Keepers together. Cross my heart.”

 

Sam nods, “That makes me feel a little better then.”

 

Eileen softly smiles, then gently brings Sam’s head down to kiss his forehead. She feels Sam’s breath against her collarbone before he lifts his head to stare at her before pressing his lips against hers. The kissing becomes more insistent and he gently pulls at her shirt before she puts her hands against his chest.

 

“Sam,” she says, making sure he’s paying attention before going further, “I know I’ve been back and forth, close and then distant, about sex and our relationship since I came back. I know I practically pounced on you a couple of nights ago, horny out of my damn mind-”

 

“But you don’t want this,” Sam answers, nodding in acceptance.

 

“Actually, I do want this,” Eileen bites her lip, “All I’ve been able to think about today is you coming back so I could show you how much I want you.”

 

Sam waits for her to continue and Eileen looks down, “But I don’t know if you want this. At least not right now. With what happened to your mom and what’s going on with your dad-”

 

His hands are on her face, forcing her gaze back on him again.

 

“Eileen,” Sam starts, biting his lip, “I...I feel like a lot of my life is up in the air right now, especially after seeing my mom die and how my dad’s handling it. But…”

 

Sam trails off, searching for the right words, then gives her a sad but genuine smile, “But I want to focus on the one aspect in my life that is good and gives me some hope.”

 

Eileen nods then closes her eyes, pressing her forehead against Sam’s.

 

“Okay,” she whispers, meeting his lips for another kiss, “Okay.”

 

And when they move together, their fingers intertwined as they touch, breathe, and kiss blissfully as one, it feels like everything might actually be okay.

Chapter Text

1 day, 14 hours, and 52 minutes

 

She can barely tell what the color of her boots are anymore. Stained with dust and mud along with the rest of her attire, she supposes she’s lucky it isn’t covered in her own blood.

 

But as Mary gets to her feet to follow Lucifer, she wonders if physical torture would be preferable.

 

“You don’t even know where to begin,” Mary calls out as Lucifer stalks over towards a corpse, “We have nothing. No one.”

 

Lucifer shakes his head in denial, pressing his shoe gently against the decaying skull, “We have my son.”

 

Mary shakes her head in disbelief, “And how will an infant get you out of here?”

 

Lucifer scowls and turns to face her, “I’m working on that.”

 

“You and what army?” Mary mutters to herself, before letting out a sigh as she turns to look around. When she faces forward once more, she takes a startled step back.

 

“I have you, Mary,” Lucifer says in a soft tone, “All we got is each other at this point. I figure you’d like to go back home as much as I would. We’re on the same team here. I proved that when I tore that man’s heart out. You really should be thanking me.”

 

Mary leans in, not breaking eye contact with Lucifer once, “I’d rather not.”

 

Mary steps aside and brushes against Lucifer’s shoulder as she walks ahead. Behind her, she hears Lucifer scoff.

 

“You’d rather not what?” Lucifer asks, “Thank me or go back home?”

 

“How about both?” Mary answers over her shoulder as she climbs the hill, only to run into the angel head on.

 

“You make no sense,” Lucifer shakes his head, crossing his arms with what looks like might be a pout, “Okay, so don’t thank me for being your knight in shining armor. But don’t you want to get home to be with your sons? Your conniving, barbaric, annoying, hairless apes?”

 

“So you can what?” Mary sneers, “Kill them as soon as I see them again?”

 

Lucifer’s eyes narrow, “That’s not my plan at all.”

 

“Bullshit.”

 

“My plan,” Lucifer starts, “Is to make a trade. Sounds fair, don’t you think?”

 

“A trade?” Mary asks, eyebrow raised.

 

“Sam and Dean get their mommy when they hand over my son. No harm, no foul. Children belong with their parents,” Lucifer shrugs.

 

“You know nothing about being a parent,” Mary seethes, “Why would you even want to be one?”

 

The way Lucifer looks at her catches her off-guard. She can’t place what he’s feeling. Sadness, hurt, wistfulness, rage, general pissiness. Maybe all of the above. But the angel turns and starts to walk away from her before she can decide for sure.

 

“You know nothing about what I want,” she hears him mutter, his shoulders in a slouch.

 

She needs to ditch him and his teenage angst - for good.

 


 

7 days, 3 hours, and 12 minutes

It’s hard to ditch someone when they never sleep. It’s even harder when you run into an alternate version of their brother.

 

But she’s pretty sure it’s the cage she’s in that keeps her from making a run for it.

 

“What’s your relationship with my brother?”

 

Mary watches Michael as he circles her cage for the second time that day. His tone is curious and inquisitive, as if he’s wanting to start a discussion on philosophical concerns rather than interrogate her while blades are held mere inches away from her stomach.

 

“I met him a week ago. We didn’t exactly start off on the greatest of terms,” Mary mutters before she winces, sucking in as she tries to keep the blade from grazing her skin.

 

“So you just travel with archangels you’ve known for a week, ones that you didn’t start out on the right foot with?” Michael hums, “Strange human you are.”

 

The days and nights start to blend together, but Mary is pretty sure the days are off here anyway. Sometimes the sun shines through the stained glass window for what has to be over 24 hours. Sometimes it’s dark for even longer. She’s brought food and water what might be once a day. Rats and snakes cooked over an open flame have never once appealed to her but her daily meal ends up being the one thing she starts looking forward to. Dealing with a grunt angel playing keep away for several minutes with her isn’t pleasant but the good news is she deals.

 

Grunt angel, Kushiel - as she now knows him, stops appearing after two weeks. Michael stops his visits. For days she thinks they’ve left her to rot and that this is how she’s going to go out. It’s funny, the things you think about when you’re sure you’re going to die. Instead of fear or regret, she wonders if she’ll end up in the right Heaven if she dies in this universe. Will she get back to the boys she used to dote and care for when she was none the wiser or will she be bunking with the Mary who had existed in this universe - the one who had been strong enough to let John and her parents die?

 

“Figured you might be hungry.”

 

Mary turns her head at the sound of the voice. A young man - short, dark hair, dark almond shaped eyes, and at least a week’s worth of scruff approaches her cage with his hands up and a sandwich in one of them.

 

“Rat sandwich?” she rasps out.

 

“PB & J,” the man corrects, before gently putting it into her hands through the cage. She makes a grab for it - and for him - hoping she can scare him into letting her out.

 

“Mary, Mary,” the man grunts out, twisting himself out of her grasp, “That cage is locked by more than just a key. I don’t have a way to get you out. Michael changes up the spell for each prisoner he keeps. I should know. I used to be one of them.”

 

Mary lets out a tired, humorless laugh, “And now you’re on his side.”

 

The man says nothing. Instead, he gets up on the ladder, goes up a few steps, opens a canteen, and presses it to her lips. Mary drinks the water gratefully, as metallic as it tastes. She stops to take a breath and the man stays up there, waiting.

 

“I’m not on his side,” he tells her softly, “I don’t hate him like I once did, but I am not on his side.”

 

“Could have fooled me,” she huffs, meeting his eyes, “I have eyes. I don’t remember your name, but I remember you. Working on translating texts and spells. High out of your mind to stay awake just to help him.”

 

The man smiles at her words, but he doesn’t seem to find them funny or true. It’s almost as if it’s not the first time he’s heard them.

 

“My name’s Kevin Tran,” he says, “So now you know that too.”

 

The name sounds familiar. It could be one she heard from her sons. Maybe one from the British Men of Letters. It doesn’t matter.

 

“Well, Kevin Tran, unless you plan on at least trying to get me out, we don’t have much else to say to each other.”

 

Kevin’s eyes become sad at that. Pitying and hurt enough to make Mary want to look away from him, as if she hurt his feelings. And it’s stupid. Hurting someone who is helping Michael should not bother her.

 

He just looks so damn young.

 

“Earn his trust. Make him care about you.”

 

Mary turns her head back to meet Kevin’s gaze, “Michael doesn’t care about anyone but himself.”

 

Kevin hesitates, “...He comes off that way. But you’d be surprised. I’m alive and walking around, aren’t I? He even promised me that when we figure out how to open a portal, then he’s taking me with him.”

 

Mary shakes her head, “Well, aren’t you two close?”

 

“He thinks so.”

 

Mary studies Kevin closely through the bars, “What does that mean?”

 

Kevin shrugs, “It means I know more about him than he does about me.”

 

Kevin puts the cap back onto the canteen, manages to shove it in between the bars, and climbs back down the ladder before starting to walk back out of the room.

 

“If you want my advice,” Kevin suddenly says, turning back around, “You’d figure out a way to do the same. Win him over. Get him to like you. Make him think that you give a shit about him.”

 

“Why the hell would I do that?” Mary asks, looking down at the man.

 

Kevin smiles, “Remember what I just told you? About me knowing more about him than he does about me? There’s a lot he doesn’t know. And if you get out of there and become someone he trusts, I’ll let you in on it.”

 


 

2 Weeks, 10 hours, 3 minutes

Mary isn’t sure why she’s giving Kevin’s method a shot. Maybe it is because he’s the one who makes sure she doesn’t die of thirst if the angels forget to come check on her. But the last thing she wants to do is be nice to Michael, to treat him with respect. She supposes a part of her is desperate. To get out of the cage, to escape this awful place. Her desperation makes her feel sick. A few pokes and prods, sleeping while standing up, and a couple of days without food and water here and there shouldn’t have her caving. And if Kevin hadn’t told her what he had, if he hadn’t hinted towards something bigger, maybe Mary would just deal.

 

But he had. And Mary has never not been curious.

 

“Thank you,” she says quietly, as the Kushiel finally hands her the cooked rat.

 

He studies her, tilting his head as he does so, taking the sight of her nibble on the poor excuse for a meal in, “What? No yelling or sour looks? No trying to dig your fingernails into my hand until I bleed?”

 

Mary forces herself to give him a blank stare, “Why would I do that? You’re the one who feeds me.”

 

Kushiel glares, then spits at her as if he’s testing her, “Eat your food, primate.”

 

It takes a few days of docile behavior. Please. Thank you. Yes, sir. I’m sorry. It feels longer than it actually is, although most days here feel that way. She starts to lose hope. She becomes worried that she’ll be stuck in this damn cage, stuck being sweet and quiet, but then? Then Michael comes back.

 

“Heard you’ve been less hostile,” he says as a greeting, “Kushiel is frustrated by your lack of spark.”

 

Mary blinks and stares Michael in the eye, “What spark?”

 

Michael climbs up the ladder, reaches through the bars, and presses his fingers against her forehead. She stills at the touch as his eyes become unfocused and she tries to think of nothing.

 

“I can’t read your thoughts,” he says suddenly, the tips of his fingers still against her skin, “Why?”

 

How in the hell is she supposed to know the answer to that?

 

“Because I’m one of Lucifer’s vessels?” she shrugs dully.

 

“Hm,” Michael hums, stepping down, “Not a prophet in your world, are you?”

 

“Not that I know of.”

 

Michael keeps his eyes on her, then climbs down the ladder and begins to circle her cage, “Lucifer’s vessel. Haven’t run across one since the apocalypse. And that one was occupied.”

 

Michael stops in front of the cage and stares at her again, “You wouldn’t be lying to me. Right, Mary?”

 

Mary lets out a sigh, “I don’t know enough to even attempt a lie. There would be no point anyway.”

 

Michael keeps staring at her and it’s unnerving, to say the least. She’s telling the truth. She’s not lying because how is she supposed to know why Michael can’t read her mind? But if he could? If he knew Kevin may or may not be double crossing him?

 

She’s gotten enough people hurt. She doesn’t need some kid’s death on her conscience.

 

“Well,” Michael says, grabbing a bag off the desk on the other side of the room, “I brought you some food.”

 

“More rats? Or is it snakes this time?” Mary can’t help but cringe.

 

“Neither,” Michael answers, pulling out a bag of…

 

“Is that Popeyes?” Mary asks, squinting at the fast food bag.

 

Michael smirks and glances down at the sack, then opens it to pull out a box, “What? You figured we didn’t have anything of the sort here?”

 

Mary really doesn’t know how to answer that.

 

“We don’t,” Michael offers as an answer, opening the box to hand her a drumstick, “The United States didn’t fare well during the battle between my brother and I. The midwest was ground zero. But there are some places that are doing alright, along the coasts. New York City’s getting back on its feet, despite the snow. Los Angeles is a bit shaky, literally. But there are rumors that Hollywood producers are trying to raise funds for an Apocalyptic Trilogy: Before, During, and After. Disney World has a couple of rides running again, from what I hear. And New Orleans - despite the hurricanes, is doing well for itself. Although, considering it is a city rooted in sin and has a high demon population, that doesn’t surprise me. But they like the city so much that they stay there to rebuild its wickedness, rather than trying to spread it like a disease.”

 

“So...you went to New Orleans. To get me Popeyes,” Mary says dubiously after swallowing her mouthful of food, “Made by demons.”

 

Michael grins at her words, “Oh, Mary. You haven’t lost that spark after all, have you? But no. I didn’t go there to fetch you food from a fast food chain. I got that as an afterthought.”

 

“Why did you go?” she asks, focusing on the biscuit he gets up to hand her.

 

Michael gives her a strange look, then sits down on the desk chair, “Why do you care?”

 

Mary shrugs, “Went there with my dad as a teenager. We were on a hunt. Witches, black magic. The case itself was easier to solve than we expected so we finished up in less than a week. Usually, my dad was always about finding the next hunt, especially in the summertime. But I begged for us to stay another week. We never got to go on any real vacations. Our money always got spent traveling around to help other people. I wanted to be normal; I wanted to go back to school in the fall to tell my friends I went on a really ‘groovy’ vacation. And I had one. Nothing went wrong. I ate great food, went on historical and cemetery tours, had a fling with a college student, got drunk for the first time in my life, listened to the best music. My dad was pissed when I came back to the motel. But I didn’t regret any of it.”

 

Mary can’t help but watch Michael carefully after she tells her story. It’s rooted in truth so it should come off as authentic enough.

 

“I like the music there,” Michael says quietly, “It’s strange how a series of sounds can bring people together and cause them to feel such joy.”

 

Mary doesn’t trust herself to answer that, doesn’t trust that she won’t spit out how his battle destroyed so many people and that he’s a hypocrite. Instead, she just says, “You should try the food down there. It’s delicious.”

 

Michael scoffs, “I don’t need to eat.”

 

“You’re missing out.”

 

“I would have to find a restaurant that doesn’t have demons serving the food.”

 

“I’m sure you’d find one eventually.”

 

Michael stands up, “I don’t make leisure trips, Mary. My trip to New Orleans was to make a treaty with one demon and murder several others. I doubt I will be welcome there for quite some time, nor will I blend in easily with the locals.”

 

Mary nods, “I understand. Although, if you do change your mind, I can give you some recommendations. And you should consider changing your mind. You’re an archangel. Who cares whether or not you blend in?”

 

The look of pure bewilderment Michael gives her as he leaves almost cheers her up enough to stop moping about still being stuck in a cage.

 


 

2 weeks, 3 days, 6 hours, and 42 minutes

“Do you know what it’s like to kill your brother?”

 

Mary glances over at Michael’s form, “I was an only child. So no, I don’t know.”

 

“It was less satisfying than I thought it was going to be,” Michael answers, his boots propped up on the desk as he’s lost in thought.

 

“Maybe you loved him more than you thought you did.”

 

Michael turns his head to meet her eyes, “Most would assume I’m incapable of love. Considering my actions and my species. One demon I held prisoner called me a heartless winged bastard. She went by the name Meg. I gutted her like a fish from her throat down to her navel.”

 

Mary tries not to flinch at the words, “Well, I’m sure she had it coming.”

 

Michael hums, then digs into his bag, “I almost forgot your meal.”

 

He approaches her with a large cup and a plastic fork, then slides it through the bars, “Had them put the salad into a cup. Easier to get it into your cage. I’m going to need the fork back.”

 

“You think I can pick a lock with plastic cutlery? Or maybe stab an angel in the throat?” Mary asks, digging into the salad.

 

“Mary, I think you are capable of doing a lot more than even I realize,” Michael murmurs, “Eat your food. I chose something healthy for you this time. I don’t need you getting sick.”

 

“Suppose I’d be a goner then,” Mary says, taking a bite, “It would start out with a cough and then suddenly I’d be keeling over. The flies would get me before Kushiel could stick me with a fire poker one last time.”

 

Michael shakes his head, “You shouldn’t be so morbid.”

 

“What’s the alternative? Crying about it?”

 

Michael lets out a breath, then settles back into the chair, “I’ll talk to Kushiel. Tell him that it’s no longer acceptable to use you as a playtoy.”

 

“That’s sweet,” Mary says, forcing out a watery laugh, “But there’s no point. Most of my wounds are infected by now. I’m filthy and have to shimmy down my cage to use the bathroom. He says that he could let me out and chain me up so that I could go down the hall but he won’t do it. He lets me stand in my own urine and-”

 

“Alright, that’s enough,” Michael says holding up a hand, “You’ve made yourself clear. A salad isn’t going to make you healthy.”

 

Before Mary can come up with an answer to that, Michael stands up to approach the cage once more. He climbs up the ladder, reaches through the cage, and presses his palm against her cheek. The pain, the pain she’s been in for weeks, starts to lessen into nothingness and the sweat evaporates from her skin. Michael tucks a strand of her hair behind her ear, then pulls his hand out of the cage, “Is that any better?”

 

Mary nods hesitantly and looks down at her clothes, almost pristine in their cleanliness. Michael stares at her for a few more seconds, then clears his throat.

 

“Finish your meal and I will let you out to use the toilet. I’ll make sure Kushiel doesn’t hurt you again.”

 

And Michael keeps to his word. He takes her hand when she steps out of the cage on shaky legs, guides her to the restroom, and waits for her outside the door until she’s finished. There’s a small window by the sink. She’s tempted to try to make a run for it by breaking the glass and climbing her way out. She seriously ponders taking the risk for a few minutes as the water runs.

 

But she has no weapons, no food or water on her on the slight chance that she’ll actually make it far. She has no way to make it home. She’s alone. So she really has no other choice than to step back into the suddenly clean cage.

 

But even though she really does feel like crying about it once she’s left alone, the sounds of Kushiel’s screams almost bring her comfort.

 


 

3 weeks, 4 days, 7 hours, and 19 minutes

It’s over halfway through her third week in this universe when Michael lets her out of the cage for lunch.

 

“I went with one of the suggestions you gave me,” he tells her, his tone not giving a hint of emotion away as he unloads containers onto the dining table and chairs he magically made appear, “None of the food was poisoned or tampered with. I had the cook test it in front of me.”

 

Mary nods slowly, then makes herself sit down on the chair Michael pulls out for her. She looks down at her choices with wide eyes. Étouffée, Jambalaya, Gumbo, Okra, Beignets, Bananas Foster. She’s almost overwhelmed by the intoxicating aroma and the fact that she’s getting a meal most people can only dream of - while she’s a prisoner nonetheless.

 

“What’s the catch?” her mouth asks without her permission. She had been good about thinking before she speaks, but this? A feast? Yeah, she has the right to be confused by it.

 

“Why do you believe there’s a catch?” Michael asks, almost ignoring her as he makes the napkin fold in her lap.

 

“Because you got me enough food to feed at least five people.”

 

Michael nods, “Figured you might be hungry.”

 

“No one is hungry enough to eat enough food for five people,” Mary counters, “So why don’t I take what I can manage and you can drop off the food for some hunters?”

 

“Is that what you see me as? A delivery boy?” Michael questions in a tone that makes Mary tense up.

 

“No. I figured you’d have Kushiel do it,” she answers.

 

“Kushiel’s dead.”

 

The words hit her harder than they should. She hasn’t seen him for a week. She should have known something happened, something bad.

 

“Demons?”

 

Michael raises an eyebrow and nods towards her plate, filling it with several of the options, “Eat your lunch.”

 

She tries to force herself to forget about Kushiel, about how she might be the reason why he’s dead. She should be happy about the damn bastard croaking for good.

 

“You shouldn’t feel grief for my younger brother, Mary,” Michael says to her, “In all honesty, we were never very close. Kushiel was one of the few angels who regularly went to Hell. He loved to torture, not to interrogate or for some greater purpose, although his purpose was originally to properly punish the damned. I think he took it seriously at first. But for the last several centuries? He did it for fun. In many ways, he was no better than our enemies. We’re better off without him, you included. No moment of silence needed.”

 

Mary snorts at that, “You’re a gentle and caring soul, aren’t you?”

 

Michael looks disgusted, “I certainly hope not. If I’ve gained a soul, then there’s a problem.”

 

Mary shakes her head, then looks down at the plate before taking a bite of the jambalaya. She would go as far to say it tasted heavenly but that feels too ironic for her liking. She can’t hide how much she loves it though, even though she wishes she could so Michael would stop smirking.

 

“Do you watch everyone eat? It’s creepy,” Mary mutters.

 

Michael bites back a smirk, “Is it? What would make it less creepy?”

 

“Maybe if you actually ate something,” Mary says, “Instead of just sitting there.”

 

Michael scowls at the suggestion, “I don’t eat. It’s-”

 

“Beneath you,” Mary finishes, “I’m so shocked.”

 

Michael rolls his eyes but then, to Mary’s surprise, he reaches over to grab a beignet from the plate and takes a hesitant bite.

 

“This is…” he starts, gazing down at the beignet in wonder, “This is quite good.”

 

“Huh,” Mary comments, then looks back down at her plate, “Food might not be so beneath you after all.”

 


 

Mary starts to realize how lonely Michael really is after four weeks.

 

Despite leading an army mercilessly, he visits her everyday. He makes sure she eats and has water. He makes sure she can go to the bathroom and shower. And finally? After listening to him speak about the brothers he had lost and how, in this world, he is the only archangel left, he gives her a room.

 

About damn time.

 

“You have a bed,” he says as he points to the corner of the room, “Some books I found on a raid are on the shelf over there. There are also a few outfits in the closet. They belonged to my old vessel - my temporary vessel - before this vessel said yes to me. I believe she was about your size.”

 

Mary looks around the room and takes a few steps in before turning around, “No more cage?”

 

Michael shrugs, “As long as you don’t give me a reason to imprison you, then you should be fine.”

 

Mary nods, then goes to sit on the bed, “Okay then. Thank you for your generosity.”

 


 

Seven weeks after Mary fell through the portal, she sits in on her very first meeting by Michael’s side as the lower ranking angels alternate between looks of contempt and sheer confusion while Kevin gapes at her in shock.

 

“Is something wrong, Tran?” Michael asks, his head turning sharply to stare at the boy.

 

“Uh...nope,” Kevin answers, “Just...Just glad there’s another human at the table. Feels a little more even. You know, primate solidarity and whatnot.”

 

“You baffle me,” Michael sighs, then gestures across the table, “What were you wanting to say, Lailah?”

 

Lailah glances around at the other angels before standing up to her feet, “As you know, the human population in the midwest has been quite low-”

 

Michael cuts her off, “Your title as the angel of conception has been obsolete for centuries. Stop this constant worrying about the existence of infants and move on.”

 

“Michael, with all due respect, please let me finish,” Lailah interrupts nervously.

 

Michael keeps his gaze on her for a moment, then shakes his head, “Okay, Lailah. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.”

 

“The...The human population is quite low at the moment. Evolution tried to do its job by letting males and females develop at a younger age but it never did quite fix things. Most of us know that this comes down to a few causes. First of all raping and pillaging went up during the apocalypse and along with that, so did abortion rates and suicide statistics. Also lack of adequate medical care during pregnancies caused more miscarriages, stillborns, and the death of the mothers during childbirth. Take that into account along with the number of women who are vessels or are possessed, the male to female ratio in the midwest is extremely lopsided. But due to the care we take in our own vessels, these instances of women dying, and our limited human connections, we could have possibly made assumptions on how many women are actually dead and how many women are being kept in hiding. Not in hiding willingly, but held against their will."

 

Michael waits for Lailah to continue, “Go on, Lailah. I’m listening.”

 

Lailah lets out a breath, “Word has it that there may be some human women being kept and guarded by the Tempter Demons. There may have been more, but the...the horns would have caused too much damage to the uterus and would have resulted in the death of both the mothers and the children relatively early on in the pregnancy. But one pregnancy seems to be progressing, with both the mother still alive and the...the abomination still thriving in her womb. The demons may soon have a cambion. A cambion with a tempter demon as a parent. And they may be trying to make more. This could become an issue if we don’t take care of the problem.”

 

“I see,” Michael mutters, standing up, “Any idea on how you all missed this?”

 

The angels look anywhere but at Michael as the archangel starts to circle the table, “Paschar, what about you? You’re the Angel of Vision. And you regularly travel through even our most wartorn zones without gaining a scratch. So what would distract you enough to make it so you wouldn’t see this coming?”

 

“Michael, I-” Paschar stammers but is quickly cut off.

 

“Don’t feed me excuses!” Michael orders, grabbing Paschar by the hair and yanking his head back, “Kill the cambion, kill the tempter demons guarding it, and kill the women they have in captivity. Do you understand me?”

 

“It will take time for me to find out where they are located,” Paschar says, his voice barely above a rasp.

 

Michael looks down at Paschar and gives him a bone chilling smile, “Paschar, who is downstairs?”

 

“Lu...Lucifer, sir.”

 

“I’m not above locking you up with him if you don’t fix the problem,” Michael hisses, letting go of Paschar before violently shoving his head forward, “We’ll start investigating this issue tonight.”

 

A few hours later, when Michael gives her food and sits with her at the table, her decreased appetite does not go unnoticed. Michael eyes her critically as she moves the food around on her plate. “You aren’t eating. Do you feel ill?”

 

Mary shakes her head, then gently pushes the plate away, “Not like that.”

 

“Then why don’t you want your dinner?”

 

Mary lets out a sigh and decides to go with the absolute truth, “I’m thinking about the mother. I can’t picture her, have no idea what she’s like, but I feel for her. She’s probably terrified.”

 

Michael grunts and pushes the plate back towards Mary, “As she should be. She’s carrying a monster.”

 

Mary lets out a humorless laugh and nods, “You know, not that long ago I would have assumed the same. There was a period where my decision making and opinions were very black and white. I guess they always were, even before I died. Back when I was alive the first time around, I wanted to get out of hunting so I could marry John, have a family. And I did that, but didn’t breathe a word about my family’s business to my husband. I still hunted occasionally, treated it like an affair - a dirty secret. Something to be ashamed of. So even though I was doing that, it wasn’t balancing out my life. It was all in or all out, but I was hypocritical and arrogant. When I was brought back, instead of spending time with my sons, I threw myself into hunting. It killed me that their lives had been ruled by the existence of monsters and demons. I was presented with the opportunity to help eliminate them. I thought that was a great idea. There was no other way because, at the time, I thought it was the best way. But I started to meet people. And they were people, not monsters - despite their abilities or species or situation. I met a very human mother carrying a very powerful being. And she was filled with love and hope and conviction that the baby she was bringing into the world was good. He was born. I delivered him myself. The mother died but he made it out okay. Before I went out to protect my sons, I held him in my arms, looked into his eyes, and I saw…”

 

Mary trails off and looks at the stained glass window, lost in thought, and is only pulled away when Michael touches her hand, “You saw what?”

 

Mary shrugs and tries to smile, “I saw a baby. A baby who obviously had a lot of power, but a baby. He had ten fingers and ten toes. Completely bald except for a few hairs on the back of his head. After he stopped crying, he looked up at me in wonder. I know that he will grow up to be different. That his birth is unprecedented. But I can’t help but think that if the right people raise him, if my sons raise him, that he can grow up and be someone good, despite what he is.”

 

Michael pulls his hand back and looks away, “What are you saying, Mary?”

 

Mary shakes her head, “I don’t know about these...these Tempter Demons. I don’t know much about cambions either. But I do know about children. And when it comes down to nature versus nurture, there’s no clear winner. But we’re all too complicated to just be products of our genetics and nurture means a hell of a lot. There are too many grey areas all around. All I’m saying is that you might want to consider other ways of going about this child, and its mother. They don’t necessarily have to die.”

 


 

Mary is reading something called ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ - a book meant for children but it’s well-written regardless - when Kevin Tran comes into her room.

 

“What are you doing?” Mary demands to know, quickly sitting up on her bed.

 

Kevin holds up his hands as a peaceful gesture then takes a few steps closer, “The angels - all of them, except for the ones guarding Lucifer - are gone for at least the rest of the night. They’re off looking for the information regarding the cambion, if the demons are building a hybrid army. You know, just another evening.”

 

Mary lets out a breath and opens her book again, “And?”

 

Kevin gives her a look, “And you should get dressed. It’s a nice night. I thought maybe I’d take you on a ride on my motorcycle. Show you around. You gained Michael’s trust. I’m a man of my word.”

 

Mary puts the book on the nightstand, stands up to walk over to the closet door, then turns around, “I’d appreciate it if you’d wait outside while I changed.”

 

Kevin nods, accepting the request, then starts to back out of the room.

 

“And Kevin?” Mary calls out, gaining the boy’s attention once more, “If we’re taking a motorcycle, I’m driving.”

 

When they make their way outside, she can’t help but be surprised when Kevin steps aside and lets her get on the bike first. She had figured that he might argue the issue more. But Kevin seems like the nervous, jittery type - one that would avoid confrontation if at all possible. But there’s more to Kevin than the wired, paranoid persona he puts on. That’s proven when he shoots two demons dead with steady hands as she speeds up.

 

“We’ll be where we need to be in about two miles if you keep going straight,” Kevin tells her over her shoulder after an hour. Mary drives along the path until Kevin’s tapping her to let her know when to bring the motorcycle to a stop.

 

“I don’t see anything,” Mary says, looking around. But Kevin has already started walking off the path and up a hill.

 

“It’s about a twenty minute walk. The ground is too uneven for the bike,” Kevin tells her, reaching out for her hand, “But it’s worth it, I promise. Come on.”

 

The walk is strangely uneventful. No demons, no angels, no rogue hunters. But when they get there? All Mary can see is a pile of dead logs, piled high on top of each other. What makes them interesting is that there is signs of life on the logs, moss and vines grow from the bark, binding the wood together. Grass, plants, bushes, and trees spread out into the otherwise infertile dirt that covers the land and keeps spreading, so quickly under Mary’s gaze that the only explanation can be magic. Her expression must give her confusion away because Kevin glances at her and says, “Good. Rowena’s potion must have worked.”

 

“Kevin, what is this?” she asks, beginning to take a few steps forward as she looks around in wonder.

 

Kevin guides her to the logs and ducks beneath one, “This is our safe place, protected with some of the most powerful magic you can think of. The only way you can see anything on the land is if you’ve been let in on the secret and invited in.”

 

Mary crouches down to duck through the open space, before standing up straight and staring up between the cracks between the logs at the night sky. “Then why can I see all of this?”

 

Even in the dark, Kevin puffs out his chest proudly, “Because you’re with me and I’m escorting you in...and I’ve been putting stuff in your canteen. But don’t look at me like that because it was necessary! Just a simple potion to guard your thoughts from Michael and the others, created from the nature you see around you.”

 

Mary waits for further explanation, then sighs, “What’s here, Kevin?”

 

Kevin gestures over his shoulder and walks forward, “Come on. I’ll show you.”

 

Mary follows Kevin beneath the shelter until he comes to a stop and drops on his knees next to a wooden door embedded into the ground. Reaching into his pocket, Kevin pricks his skin just enough to draw blood, then presses it against the symbol right in the middle of it before swinging it open.

 

“Follow me,” he tells her as he starts to make his way down the ladder. Mary lets out a breath, then steps over to go down the ladder herself. She skips the last two steps, her boots solidly colliding with the concrete landing below her, and looks down from the balcony.

 

It looks way too much like the bunker to be a coincidence.

 

Kevin begins walking down the steps as he gives her a rundown, “Apparently this place used to belong to an organization called-”

 

“The men of letters,” Mary answers, staring at the table in the common room with an ache in her chest, missing her sons more than ever.

 

Kevin gives her a strange look but nods, “Yeah. How did you know?”

 

“Lucky guess,” Mary tells him, beginning to walk around the common room.

 

“...Right,” Kevin says dubiously, but lets it go, “Anyway, they had a bunch of resources and left a lot of stuff here, even after becoming defunct. It had a lot of wardings in place so it was pretty safe to begin with, but we wanted it hidden from view completely, at least when it came to the people not living here. Rowena can be a little bit of a self-serving drama queen sometimes, but she’s the one who really hid this place. And then when we finally decided to trust Gabriel...well, nothing’s gonna touch us here.”

 

Mary is nodding along absent-mindedly before doing a double take, “Gabriel? Do you...Do you mean Gabriel the-”

 

“Archangel? Michael’s brother?” Kevin sighs, “Yeah, I do.”

 

“Michael seems to think Gabriel’s dead,” Mary confides in almost a whisper, “If he weren’t...well, Michael...he would have sounded broken up about it.”

 

“Well, if Mikey can get his head out of his ass and admit that things aren’t all hunky dory, then maybe I’d come out and give my big bro a hug. But as of right now? No can do.”

 

Mary turns around at the sound of the voice only to come face to face with the source. The man studies her with narrow eyes, before relaxing his face, wiggling his eyebrows, and throwing his arms out.

 

“Archangel Gabriel, at your service,” Gabriel smirks, “But you can call me Gabe. Or Loki. I get prick a lot too. Except it’s usually said in a Scottish accent.”

 

Mary opens her mouth in an attempt to answer any of that response but over Gabriel’s shoulder, she sees Kevin roll his eyes in exasperation and shake his head.

 

“You must be Mary Winchester,” Gabriel continues, taking her hand to kiss the back of it, “Kevin has told me so much about you.”

 

“Has he?” Mary questions.

 

“Of course!” Gabriel insists, as he keeps a hold of her hand to lead her down the hall, “Kevin tells me that we can trust you because my brother does. And see, as much as I adore Tran, that doesn’t fully fly with me. Because Michael and Lucifer are the reason why things are the way they are and from what I’ve heard, you have connections with both of them.”

 

“Gabriel, come on,” Kevin calls out, rushing over to lead Mary away, “She’s not even from here. She fell through and took Lucifer with her in an attempt to defeat him.”

 

“Well, that’s good for her universe. But it’s sort of shit for ours, isn’t it? Michael may have that Lucifer now but if they figure out a common goal, or worse, go full on Apocalypse Part Deux, then I guess we can just say bye-bye to the-”

 

“I won’t let it happen,” Kevin tells Gabriel with conviction, “I’m the inside guy, right? Now we have a second one. And I’m telling you, Michael has been confiding in Mary more than he ever confided in me. He even goes out of his way to bring her food. Real food. She’s been a hunter her whole life and she’ll be a good ally.”

 

“Sounds like she’ll also be a good lay for my brother, if he ever gets that stick out of his ass,” Gabriel checks his watch and hums, “Speaking of getting laid, I’m about due for my nightly threesome with a fiery witch and a goddess. Lucky me. Mary, would you like to make it a foursome? I feel like I’d be a terrible host if I didn’t ask.”

 

“No, thank you,” Mary glares, taking an involuntary step back.

 

“Suit yourself,” Gabriel shrugs, “Help yourself to anything in the kitchen.”

 

With a snap of his fingers, Gabriel is gone. Mary hears Kevin let out a sigh behind her as she walks over to the table to lean against it and cross her arms, “I’m still not sure why you brought me here.”

 

“He…” Kevin starts, searching for the right words, “He’s not usually like that. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a total dick. But he’s been different since Raphael died. That was about almost a year ago, I think?”

 

Mary squints, “I thought Raphael was killed by Lucifer during the battle. That’s what Michael told me.”

 

Kevin smiles helplessly, “That’s probably what he wishes would have happened. Raphael took Michael’s side. Worked as his second-in-command. But then he wanted to see more destruction, wipe out larger areas of the human population, create a paradise for the angels that they can no longer have in Heaven. Raphael was planning on overtaking the throne, so to speak. Michael put an end to all of his plans by putting an end to him.”

 

“What does Michael even want?” Mary asks, “He doesn’t seem to like humans, but doesn’t want them dead. He seems lonely but has killed his closest brothers-”

 

“I don’t think Michael even knows what he wants at this point,” Kevin shrugs, pulling out a chair to sit down, “From what I understand, he wanted victory when he and Lucifer had their battle. He got it. But with that victorious battle, he had to kill Lucifer. And before that, he watched Lucifer kill Gabriel. Obviously that turned out to be a bust, but Michael doesn’t know that. He’s got no one that he can really talk to about it with except for a drugged up prophet of the Lord and some lady who fell through a portal with another version of his brother.”

 

“You sound like you feel sorry for him.”

 

Kevin rolls his eyes but shrugs, giving in, “I might. He’s not...He’s not evil. He’s capable of caring for people and protecting them with everything he has, which is hell of a lot. If he somehow died, I wouldn’t be happy about it. It’s not what I want and I think there are other ways to make things better than his demise, because I do see that he might be willing to try and change things if he knew that he could in the long run. At this point, I might actually mourn him if he kicked it, which believe me, is fucked up since he kept me in a prison cell the first three months I was with him.”

 

Mary lets out a breath before pulling out the chair next to Kevin and sitting down, “If you think there’s a chance that Michael may want to make things better and help people, then why keep this place a secret? Why not try to work with him?”

 

Kevin lets out a snort, “Because I’m the only one here with direct access to Michael. I’m the only one who sees the guy practically every day. Everyone else thinks he’d be better off dead, except for maybe Gabriel. But even Gabriel doesn’t want him around. The rest of them though? Angels are a big no for them, at least for the most part. And if it’s between Michael and them, I’m going to choose them every time.”

 

“Who are the rest of them?”

 

“We’re a bit of an eclectic group,” Kevin says with an amused look on his face, “You’ve met me. You’ve met Gabriel. We also have Kali, a Hindu Goddess. We have Rowena, a three hundred year old witch. Crowley, an ex-demon who, at one point, was the King of Hell. There’s Garth, who is the goofiest and strangest guy you could meet. But he’s the one who almost sacrificed himself to limit the angels’ connection to the Host by completing some trials and turning Crowley human. You’d think that would make for an awkward living situation but Garth is so damn likeable. I think that he and Crowley may be dating. Don’t quote me on that though. We also have two ex-sheriffs, a friendly vampire who has been with one of those sheriffs for ten years now, and then there’s their adopted daughter. The other sheriff has a girlfriend who is a master computer hacker. She lives here too. We have two connections who mainly stay in the city. One is a rogue angel. Kind of the silent and serious type but seems nice enough when he stops by, I guess. The other is a hunter. She’s a badass and sort of freaks me out. And then there’s Mildred and Bobby. Bobby kills angels and demons, treats it like a hobby. And Mildred used to be in a Patsy Cline Cover Band.”

 

Mary pauses to take that all in then has to agree with Kevin, “You do sound like an eclectic bunch.”

 

Kevin lets out a soft laugh at that, then stands up, “Guess you should meet them then...except for Kali and Rowena. Once Gabriel gets started...you know what? No. I’m not even letting my mind go there.”

 

She doesn’t know how much her short amount of time spent in the 21st century has influenced her, but it’s certainly enough to make her automatically assume that Kevin will send out a mass text to the people she’s supposed to meet. But he doesn’t do that, and Mary can only assume service in this world is shaky at best. Instead, Kevin goes over to ring a bell, an honest to god bell, before going back to the table to wait.

 

“So once I meet these people,” Mary starts, watching down the hall as people start coming out of their rooms, “Once I meet them, what’s the plan? You wouldn’t keep this place so hidden if it weren’t for a good reason.”

 

Kevin meets her eyes and tries to smile. It doesn’t quite work, but he answers her anyway, “Getting the angels in line once and for all, maybe the demons too if we can find some of the more reasonable ones. It’ll probably have to be done through dark magic, deception, and violence. And hopefully, after that, we’ll have some harmony. So if you have any ideas to bring to the table, say them as soon as they all sit down. It’ll prove your worth.”

 


 

Three Months Later

It’s hard to stay genuinely nice to someone when you’re plotting their possible demise.

 

“Michael?” she calls out, walking through the halls of the church, finding the archangel once she reaches the back room, “I’m about to go out to search for some supplies with Kevin. I wanted to see if you needed anything before I le...Michael, are you alright?”

 

Michael sits in the chair, back rigid and straight as he stares straight ahead. Mary starts to hesitantly walk closer before crouching down at Michael’s side.

 

“Did something happen?” she asks, taking one of his hands in hers as she looks up at him.

 

Michael clenches his jaw, “I sent a full garrison of angels out to the city. There were whisperings about a cambion about to be born there. Somehow, the garrison, one of my most unrelenting, wrathful, and unyielding garrisons, was wiped out. Every single angel. The demons seem to have a powerful coven on their payroll.”

 

“Oh my g…” Mary starts to murmur before trailing off at Michael’s sharp look, effectively stopping herself, “Michael, I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine how painful this is for-”

 

“I’m not in pain!” Michael snaps, yanking his hand away from her touch, “I’m enraged. I’m enraged at them, enraged that I failed and underestimated the situation-”

 

“You feel guilt,” Mary interrupts, “Sadness.”

 

Michael looks away and breathes in, “Go. Just go, Mary. If I haven’t headed out, I’ll see you when you get back.”

 

Mary bites her lip, then rubs Michael’s shoulder before standing up and kissing his temple.

 

“What are you doing?” he mutters, almost sounding disturbed as he stills.

 

“Returning the favor and showing you some kindness,” Mary sighs, “You looked like you needed it. I will see you later, okay? Don’t do anything stupid.”

 

Once Mary takes her gaze off of Michael’s form, she sees Kevin in the doorway with a disbelieving look on his face.

 

“Kevin,” she greets him, walking over to take his arm, “I’m ready when you are.”

 

“...Y-Yeah,” Kevin stutters, turning to face her, “I just came back to find you. Let’s go.”

 

The ride to the bunker is spent in complete silence. Conversation isn’t best had on a motorcycle, but Kevin usually isn’t this quiet. He’s usually fidgeting or shooting demons or rambling on about comic books or math or the pains of being a prophet. But this time? Nothing.

 

“What?” she has to ask as soon as they get off the bike to walk.

 

Kevin shrugs, then trails behind her as they begin their hike, “Nothing. Just...You were awfully convincing back there with Michael. It seemed like you cared for him.”

 

Mary takes a swig from her canteen, then turns around, “That’s part of my role, isn’t it? To keep him fond of me? To listen to him and get information?”

 

“Well, yeah,” Kevin agrees, “But you also helped Rowena design the spell that killed that garrison, and later on the demons they were battling, in the first place. It was just...It was an Oscar worthy performance, alright?”

 

Mary gives him a rueful smile, “Do they even hold the Oscars anymore? It seems sort of...pointless. At least when it comes to the scheme of things here.”

 

“They tried to broadcast them last year to honor the three movies that were made. Turned into bloodshed. Apparently, demons can get extremely touchy about whether your dress looks decent.”

 

“Good to know,” Mary answers, “Can you walk faster? We’ve got work to do.”

 

Mary settles in at the table and starts right into what their next possible steps could be. Garth, who is at her right, nods along with a stoned look in his eyes and agrees they should save the mother and the unborn cambion.

 

“It’d be nice to have a little one running around,” Garth tells Crowley, “Horns or no horns. Don’t you think, man? I can get Mr. Fizzles out.”

 

“There were no kids around last night and that didn’t stop you from getting him out,” Crowley points out, “It was by far the strangest handjob I’ve ever had in my life.”

 

Mary closes her eyes to ask a negligent higher being for patience as Garth lets out a hysterical giggle, “Dude! Come on, that was between us. Mr. Fizzles doesn’t like it when you kiss and tell-”

 

“We’re not having a cambion in the bunker,” Kali interrupts, leaving room for little argument, “We might be hidden but a power like that could be detected if we aren’t careful. And even if it's not, what are we going to do when it grows up and becomes more powerful than all of us combined?”

 

“I can handle a cambion-” Gabriel starts, before being shushed by Kali.

 

“And so can I!” Rowena exclaims before glaring at Kali, “You aren’t the only one in this relationship, you know. A power like that can be of great use to us!”

 

“You mean to you,” Kali shoots back.

 

“It doesn’t feel right,” Benny drawls, a hand on the back of Jody’s chair, “Killin’ a baby. I don’t care what species it is. It’s still a damn baby when it comes down to it. I had babies way back when and I have Alex now-”

 

“I’m eighteen, Dad.” Alex interrupts, sighing, as Jody glances at both of them fondly.

 

“Benny’s right,” Donna agrees, “I mean, Charlie and I aren’t really planning on children. Not the best place for it, ya know. World out there is too rough to be forcing a new generation into it. But we’ve all seen too much to immediately dismiss something as good or evil.”

 

“And I’ve seen it firsthand. It’s not always black and white. This kid could grow up to be just fine,” Mary tells them.

 

“Oh, please,” Kali sneers, “You only want that baby to see if it can open up a rift like the last hybrid baby you encountered did. There’s no place like home. Is there, Wendy?”

 

Mary grits her teeth as she glares across the table at Kali, “You know that’s not the only reason. I’m too involved at this point. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be helping you gain so much intel.”

 

“But sweetheart, won’t your boyfriend be a wee bit vengeful if you steal the cambion out from under his nose and go into hiding with it?” Rowena asks slowly, “If he finds out, it might not fare well for you.”

 

“He’s not my boyfriend. But yes, I’ll take the risk of him finding out. Because the way I see it? If you raise that child right, then you may start getting things back to the way they were, hopefully without any more bloodshed.”

 

“And you’ll get to go home,” Kali tacks on.

 

“I’d like to think I will be able to one day,” Mary says, “But for now, I’m here. And there are no guarantees a cambion is going to be able to do anything about my situation. It might not be able to fix things here. So while I’m set on saving it and raising it to be good, I’m sure as hell not going to wait around for the baby to grow up. We need to take more initiative and start progressing away from being a hell hole.”

 

“We have been taking initiative,” Rowena tells her, standing up, “These sad lads and lassies would be dead if it weren’t for me, Gabriel, and Kali. Because of us they have shelter and warmth and food, a home to call their own.”

 

“I gave it my all too,” Garth adds in, smiling, “Not only did I limit the connection the angels had to the host but, more importantly, I cleansed Crowley’s soul and taught him how to love.”

 

“Don’t make me gag,” Rowena groans as she tosses her head back, “I still haven’t gotten over the disappointment.”

 

“Aw,” Garth coos, before putting an arm around the witch, “It’s always so funny when you joke, Rowena. You got a real good sense of humor.”

 

“Shut up, you buffoon!”

 

Mary watches in silence as the people around the table argue. Part of her wants to scream, demand to know how they’ve gotten this far with the way they bicker.

 

And then there’s a small part of her that’s almost grateful for this moment. It almost makes her feel like she’s part of a family.

 

Almost.

 


 

Only a few days pass when she realizes things aren’t going to go according to plan when it comes to the cambion.

 

“I’m going to be gone for a few days,” Michael informs her after letting himself into her room, “We know where the cambion is. I’m seeing to it myself that this situation is handled.”

 

Mary feels her heart drop to her stomach as she jumps to her feet, “Where is it? Has it been born yet?”

 

Michael holds her at arm’s length and leads her back to the bed to sit her back down, “It hasn’t been born. It can’t be born and if it is before we get there? It can’t live, Mary. Please understand that.”

 

“Why?” she demands to know, “Why can’t you let it live? It’s a baby, Michael. What can it do to you?”

 

Michael walks away as she asks her questions and for a moment, Mary believes he won’t even bother answering them.

 

“A baby can’t do anything to me,” Michael tells her, “But as it grows physically, it will grow in power. It won’t be just me I’m worried about.”

 

“But you can gain the upper hand against the demons if you raise it,” Mary insists, “Just don’t do anything yet. I had babies. I just helped deliver one not that long ago. I can help you and its mother. Bring her back here and don’t make any rash decisions yet. Please.”

 

Michael stays still in her doorway and she is almost hopeful that she’s broken through to him. She’s not blind. She knows he has a soft spot for her. So if she could play on that hard enough-

 

“I’m sorry, Mary.”

 

Before Mary can move, Michael’s out of the room and swinging her door closed with a slam. Mary runs over to try the doorknob but it doesn’t budge. Picking the lock proves to be futile as well. Helplessness washes over her as she begins to back away from the door. It’s selfish, she knows it’s fucking selfish and if Kali were here, she would berate Mary for her first thoughts being about any potential chance out of here and back to her sons and not about the mother and the baby. Mary cares about what happens to them too, she does. She doesn’t know them but it might do some good for the demons, humans, and angels of this world to work together and make unlikely alliances, at least the ones who aren’t all that bad and are willing to. It would be good for them to see the shades of grey. It would be good for them to see that death and destruction isn’t a long-term solution.

 

It had been good for her. It might be good for Michael too.

 

If anything, a baby may have given Michael someone to care for and call family, at least until she inevitably betrayed him and went on the run with it.

 

At least she won’t have to worry about that.

 

But once she stops worrying about her own problems, thinking of how scared that mother must be for herself and her child makes her want to weep.

 

She lies on her bed but sleep doesn’t come. All she can do is stare up at the ceiling in the dim light. That’s what she does for five hours until Michael comes through her door with someone cradled in his arms.

 

“She needs a bed,” Michael says, causing Mary to jump up. Michael lays the whimpering girl out on the comforter, letting out what sounds like a sad sigh as he brushes the tears from her face as she cries.

 

She’s a child. She’s no older than 10 or 11. Mary feels sick. She clutches her chest and gasps out as she sits next to the girl’s side. Mary removes her own hairband then gathers the child’s thick, dark hair into a ponytail and makes soft shushing noises as she puts her hand on her forehead.

 

“Michael. Michael, she’s a b-baby-” Mary starts before her voice cracks, taking her other hand to cover her eyes.

 

“I know.”

 

“How could someone do this?” she gasps out, “How could someone make a child go through this?”

 

Michael looks down at her, “They’re demons.”

 

Michael says it as if it’s enough of an answer, almost as though being a demon justifies impregnating a child and making them go through such pain.

 

“She’s very confused and frightened. In shock. She doesn’t remember much of the pregnancy,” Michael says, “She’s strong though. She’s still here, even after I exorcised the demon from her body. She still has to give birth. But she’s made it this far.”

 

With that, Michael walks out of the room and shuts the door behind him, gently this time. Mary directs her attention back to the girl and tries to smile.

 

“Hey,” she says softly, “Hey, my name is Mary. I’m going to take care of you, okay? What’s your name?”

 

The girl looks at Mary with wide eyes and sniffles, “Lina.”

 

“Hi, Lina. Do you have anyone we can try to find or reach out to? Family?”

 

Lina shakes her head, “My mom died a long time ago. My little sister died when the demons took me. They killed her. Her name was Nora. I miss her. Am I going to die too?”

 

Mary shakes her head as she feels her own hands tremble, “No. No, you’re not going to die. You’re not. I’ll help you get through this, okay?”

 

Lina’s face crumples as she lets out a choked wail, “But it hurts!”

 

“I know, sweetie.” Mary rasps out, “I know it hurts.”

 

It’s hard to tell a girl who isn’t 11 yet to push and have her fully understand what to do. Lina is barely developed and probably barely reached puberty before this happened. Mary’s terrified for her. She has every right to be when the bleeding starts and Lina’s breathing becomes shallow. Mary feels like she is almost outside herself as the baby makes its way into the world, two little horns protruding from her otherwise perfect and beautiful head. She had been doubting Lina would want to hold her. No child should have a child and Lina was forced into motherhood in the worst possible way. But the girl holds a weak hand out as Mary comes over with her, strokes the baby’s face, then breathes out,

 

Nora.”

 

It ends up being the last thing Lina will ever get to say. And that mere thought, as it forces its way into Mary’s mind like a virus, makes her sob. It makes her put the baby down and gather Lina’s body up in her arms to cradle her instead. Her breathing has ceased and when Mary shuts her eyes, she almost looks at peace.

 

“I’m so sorry!” Mary chokes out, tears blinding her vision, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry-”

 

“Mary.”

 

Mary feels Michael’s hand on her back but Mary can’t pull herself together, not when it comes to something like this.

 

“Michael, p-please!” she heaves out, “Bring her back. She didn’t deserve to die. She didn’t deserve th-this!”

 

“She didn’t,” he agrees, “But she’s gone now, Mary. You can’t hold onto her tragedy. She let go of it and has passed over. She will be at peace now.”

 

“It’s not fair,” Mary gasps out, “She was a child.”

 

“And she left behind a baby. A...a daughter. So honor Lina’s memory by caring for this- this-”

 

“Nora,” Mary tells him in a soft, but steady voice, “Lina called her Nora, so that will be her name.”

 

Michael lets out a grunt, then gently lifts Lina’s body into his arms.

 

“Where are you taking her?” Mary asks frantically, trying to pull her back towards her.

 

Michael lets out a sigh, “I’m giving her a proper burial. Showing her some respect due to the pain she faced.”

 

Mary sits back, “I didn’t expect that out of you. Figured you’d just throw her to the side or turn her into dust.”

 

Michael stills and purses his lips, “Maybe you should consider that I’ve had a few changes in opinion since you got here then.”

 

Mary can’t bring herself to answer that. Instead, she just turns her attention to Nora, picks her up, and begins to wipe her off. Michael doesn’t say a word when he brings by formula. For all she knows, he could have gone to Timbuktu to get it. It’s a nice gesture and a needed one, but it doesn’t matter. He’s not going to make things better with the company he keeps.

 

Maybe this child will one day. Maybe she will grow up and turn this world around enough to help it get its act together. But Mary can’t wait for that. She can’t let what happened to Lina happen to anyone else. She can’t watch as this world keeps on destroying itself from the inside out. She can’t continue to live in it if she can’t make real change for the people she has begun to care about here.

 

She can’t continue to live here.

 

But Mary can push those thoughts away to focus on the baby. She tries not to pay much attention to the horns.

 


 

“I hear you’re a mother again.”

 

As soon as the words are said, Sam and Dean freeze mid-sentence. Her two boys had been bickering back and forth, Sam sitting next to her as Dean on the other side of the booth next to Castiel. Mary reaches her foot out to nudge Castiel’s leg, but gets no response.

 

“Oh, come on,” Lucifer says in the booth behind them, “I got rid of him months ago. This is just some poor product replacement your mind is feeding you. But hey, if it helps you cope, I can just conjure up an imaginary sword and-”

 

“What do you want?” Mary grits out, “And why are you in my head?”

 

Lucifer leans back, looking mockingly taken aback, “Mary, I just wanted to say hi. You haven’t come to see me since we got here. Michael picked you as his favorite, water’s more tasty than blood and all that jazz. But you know what? I’ve really missed you anyway. Wanted to see how you were doing.”

 

“Just peachy,” Mary snarls, “Now get out of my brain.”

 

Lucifer stares at her and the way he does it immediately puts her on edge. There’s no reason she should be afraid of him. He’s locked away, weak-

 

“What are you afraid I’ll find in this juicy little noggin of yours?” Lucifer hums, tapping his own temple, “Maybe I’ll figure out what you and meth head Tran have been doing on your adventures. Betraying my brother, perhaps? He might like you - on a level I’ve never seen from him, I’ll admit. But you know what? I don’t think he’ll like his two favorite humans keeping secrets from him.”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mary says.

 

“I think you do,” Lucifer counters, “And if you don’t want me to tell Michael my suspicions, you’re going to help me.”

 

“I’m not going to free you, Lucifer,” Mary tells him, shaking his head, “You can tell Michael what you want.”

 

“I’m not asking you to free me,” Lucifer shrugs, before getting out of the booth to come over, tip a frozen Dean out of his seat, and take it for himself.

 

“Then what are you asking?”

 

Lucifer lets out a put upon sigh, grabs a napkin from the end of the table and a pen from the waitress, then begins to write.

 

“I need these ingredients,” he tells her, “I’m going to try and contact my son. It should sort of be like the way I contacted you, but much more difficult and iffy.”

 

Mary takes the napkin from Lucifer’s hands and glances over the list, “I don’t know if I can find all of these things, let alone find all these things in a place like this. Especially when I have had an archangel watching me like a hawk recently.”

 

Lucifer smiles in a way that makes Mary want to punch him, “He’s worried about adoptive postpartum. It’s sort of cute.”

 

“Yeah? Oh that reminds me, I’m taking care of a child who isn’t even a week old. I don’t have time to go on a scavenger hunt for you.”

 

Lucifer snarls, lunges forward, and takes Mary by the collar of her shirt, “Then you’ll MAKE time. I’m doing this for me, but I’m going to make sure you benefit from it too. Because as much as I can’t stand you, there’s something I can stand even less and that’s my brother having friends and feeling happy. If I just get out and kill you here, he may or may not be able to bring you back somehow. But if I take you back into our world, then I can either A. Kill you there if you don’t help me. Or B. Let you go because you were of such great assistance. So I’ll help you if you help me contact Jack so that he can help us. Is that clear, Mary?”

 

Mary doesn’t break eye contact with Lucifer and she seriously contemplates spitting in the man’s face. But instead, she reaches up, takes Lucifer’s hand to detangle it from her blouse, and sits back onto the seat of the booth.

 

“On one condition,” Mary answers, “If you do manage to contact your son, and you should prepare yourself for that being a big if, and he is actually able to make his way here? He’s going to help us straighten things out in this world. I don’t care if it is by talking sense into the angels and the demons or by letting out a magical gurgle and making everything right with the world. But things need to at least start changing for the better before we go back through that portal.”

 

“It’s not our world!” Lucifer insists, his words bursting out of him, “It’s not our responsibility.”

 

“I don’t care.”

 

Lucifer glares at her, but then shrugs, tossing the pen down in a silent fit, “Fine. But I’m not overwhelming my son with it during our conversation. I’ll see what he can do when he gets here.”

 

Mary folds the napkin, puts it in her pocket, then stares at Sam sadly before forcing him to disappear, “If he gets here.”

 

By the time she walks out of the diner, she’s woken up by the baby’s cries. Nora is in a bassinet on the right side of her bed and when she gets out on the left she finds the written on napkin lying on the floor.

 

Two days later, she gets a nerve-wracked Kevin to watch Nora so that she can make her way to the bunker and talk to Rowena and Gabriel. The ingredients are already there. It pays to have connections to a powerful witch. Although, she had known that when she and her boys were allies with their own version of Rowena.

 

However, the ingredients to track and trap a nephilim will take a bit longer to gather.

 

“It can be done,” Gabriel says, propping his feet up on the table as he glances at Rowena, “But I don’t know if we should want something like that done. He’s the son of Lucifer. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean what the movies tell you, but it means that he’s powerful. And someone as powerful as he is isn’t someone you want to piss off.”

 

Mary clears her throat and nods, “His mother was good. Her name was Kelly. She was kind and believed that her son could be the best person he could be. And if he is being raised by my boys? Then I know he’s good, that he’s capable. I know he can help us all.”

 

“You really believe that?” Rowena asks.

 

Mary can’t help but think of Nora. Her horns are sharp and sometimes her eyes turn black, but she likes it when Mary sings Hey Jude. And when Mary’s feeling scared or upset? Nora seems to want to comfort her by grabbing onto Mary’s fingers and gurgling up at her, sometimes smiling as she does so, despite being so young.

 

“I have to believe that,” she says.

 

And it’s true. She does. It’s the only thing that gives her any kind of hope.

Chapter Text

Jack hasn’t slept in two weeks.

 

It’s not really an issue. He doesn’t need to sleep that much. He can still function when he’s not zoning out in his room, locking himself away from the rest of his family. When he does that, his dad or mom will come in and tell him that Mary dying isn’t his fault. That there hadn’t been anything he could have done. That he’s just a kid and that he can’t blame himself for things every time things go south.

 

But he’s not ‘just a kid’. They know he’s more capable than that. They know he’s the strongest out of all of them. And because of that, Jack can’t do anything but blame himself and feel a gnawing guilt eat at his insides. He deserves it. Uncle Dean will barely talk to anyone. Jack doesn’t think Dean’s even seen Grandpa since he punched him.

 

Not that Jack’s really seen Grandpa. Dad has gone in his room at least a few times to try to talk to him. Mom goes in once a day to check on him and makes sure he showers, has food, and see if he wants to talk. Jack thinks Grandpa listens to Mom the most when it comes to doing what he’s told and is more willing to talk to her, probably because she’s not one of his sons or a child in his eyes and feels more like an equal. He definitely would never want to see Jack though and Jack can’t blame him. Grandpa hates him. He can see that Jack should have tried harder, should have saved who should have been his grandma. Grandpa might know him better than Dad does. Jack had wanted to apologize anyway, despite knowing that Grandpa will probably hate him forever. But when Jack approached his room last week, the stench of liquor, self-hatred, guilt, rage, tears, and grief made him turn in the other direction before he could even open the door.

 

It’s not fair. Jack hadn’t brought John back to make him go through such suffering. He brought him back so he could be a part of their family and make it a little more complete. Now it’s more torn apart than ever and it’s all Jack’s fault.

 

That’s why he stays in his room a lot. Grandpa does it because he’s in pain, Dean often holes himself away because he doesn’t want to see his father, and Jack does it because he shouldn’t be around his family when he’s failed them so miserably.

 

“Jack?”

 

Jack turns his head towards the door as he hears Claire’s voice. She hasn’t been quite as neutral as his mom has when it comes to how their family is right now. Last week, she said to him, ‘Look. As much as you annoy me, I’m Team Jack and Team Dean until John gets his shit together and apologizes. I get that he was messed up over Mary, but damn. You can only be so brutal without turning into a complete and utter asshole.’

 

Jack doesn’t think that’s quite fair though. She didn’t see Grandpa break down and sob the way he had. Cry like his whole world and every single hope he had ever had shattered. But he also understands that she had been trying to be supportive and Jack appreciates that, so he lets her in.

 

“Hey, freak,” she says to him as soon as he opens the door, pushing past to make her way inside, “God, don’t you ever clean? You have clothes everywhere. Where are you even wearing them?”

 

“I’m not my negligent grandfather,” Jack mutters under his breath before sitting back down on his bed, “And I trashed my room. On purpose. I saw it on TV. It’s what people do when they’re upset.”

 

Claire nods slowly and takes a breath, “Riiight. You do know it’s not actually supposed to be planned, don’t you? Trashing your room, I mean. It’s supposed to be very heat of the moment, out of control and completely spontaneous-”

 

“If you came in here to tell me how I’m supposed to mess up my room, then I don’t want you in here!” Jack tells her, standing up to kick a pair of jeans, “So if that’s all you have to say, then leave.”

 

Claire watches him for several seconds, and honestly? It just makes him more upset.

 

“Stop looking at me like I’m some kind of freak,” he hisses at her, gritting his teeth until he’s almost sure they’ll crack, “I know that’s what I am, how could I not with you pointing it out every time we talk, but it’s rude to stare, Claire! So please-”

 

“Pack some of your stuff,” she interrupts, standing up to guide him to his closet, “You are literally making me want to bang my head against a wall. We’re going on a trip.”

 

“I’m not going anywhere-”

 

“We’re just going to go crash in Alex’s dorm room,” she reasons, “Come on. Her roommate is secretly living with her older and mysterious boyfriend and Alex has an air mattress. There will be room for all three of us.”

 

“I’m not leaving when everyone is so-”

 

“Sad? Morose? Pissed off at the world? Dying a little on the inside? Dude, you literally absorb other people’s emotions and feel what they’re feeling. You can hear damn souls crying in pain. You need to get away from them for a few days. What happened to Mary sucks. But it wasn’t your fault and you don’t need to punish yourself by feeling every negative emotion that the Winchesters feel. Do you know what they’ve been through? You’re in for a lifetime of depression if you dedicate yourself to that. You have every right to take little breaks here and there away from them.”

 

As he chews at his lip and refuses to meet Claire’s eyes, he knows that his stance on the subject is wavering. It shouldn’t be. He should have the strength and desire to be a good son, grandson, and nephew by staying close and not going on some type of vacation when is family is grieving.

 

“I want to be back by Sunday,” he tells her anyway, grabbing his duffle bag, then looks at it strangely, “I don’t know why I’m packing clothes.”

 

Claire lets out a sigh and throws the pair of jeans he kicked into the open bag, “Because you’ve made too many during your very short and recent journey to a fashion sense. I’m going to let Dean know where we’re going. Tell your parents you’ll see them on Sunday. And Jack? Remember to knock.”

 

They get out the door faster than Jack had been expecting. Dad had been worried about him going off to a college for a weekend. Jack has a theory that his Dad thinks he parties too hard. But that had been once. As fun as that had been, he isn’t in the mood for partying. Drinking when he’s so worried and unhappy would be irresponsible for a regular human. Who knows what Jack would do if he got it into his head that he had to get drunk? He obviously doesn’t have much control over his powers. Not enough to save Mary, not enough to heal his family’s pain. Being even more out of control is the last thing he wants.

 

Mom thinks he should get away and take a break with his friends. It’s almost as if she thinks he shouldn’t shoulder at least some of the burden. It’s nice of her, but incredibly inaccurate.

 

“Plug in your phone,” Claire says to him as she accelerates down the highway, “Pick out some music. You still have Pandora and Spotify on your phone? I downloaded the apps for you.”

 

“Yes,” Jack answers, yet makes no move to pull out his phone. Instead, he watches the scenery. Fields. The occasional tree. A cat sitting in one of those trees, free from worry. Jack should have been born a cat, not a nephilim. He had been a cat in one universe. Why had this universe been so cruel to him?

 

“Come on,” Claire urges, nodding her head towards the car radio, “Put on some Zeppelin. The Beatles. The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, AC/DC, or some other band you absorbed from Dean’s music taste.”

 

Jack frowns, “I have a mind of my own, you know. I can like things on my own. Feel things on my own. Mess up on my own.”

 

Claire lets out a frustrated breath, “I know you can. I didn’t mean anything by it. You’re being so fucking touchy. Just put something on, alright? You can get on my nerves without any input too, Jesus Christ.”

 

Jack doesn’t answer to that. He doesn’t put any music on either. It ends up being a long drive.

-------------------------------------------------------

Alex had gotten the text at 8 am in the morning. When Claire’s name had popped up on her screen, her first assumption was that something had happened. Claire rarely gets up early. Alex had lived with her long enough to know that. But it hadn’t been an emergency, at least not one that involved hospitals, blood, monsters, or dying.

 

Gonna spend the weekend with you, sis.
About to flip my shit if I don’t get out of
this damn bunker. Bringing Jack with
me. He’s not the most annoying person
here for once.

 

Before she had gotten the text, Alex had been planning on driving home for the weekend to spend time with Jody. She likes the people on her floor at the dorms, she does. But she’s not exactly flawless when it comes to fitting in. She’s gone to a couple of parties. She’s even been texting a guy who she has a class with. He’s sweet, kind, smart, and cute. And he can never know anything about her. After what happened with her last and only boyfriend, she doubts she’ll ever be able to fully trust him if things would go further. He texted last night, asking if she wanted to grab dinner and a movie Saturday. She texted back and said she wouldn’t be on campus.

 

She just needs to breathe. She had wanted to be normal, but pretending to be normal is exhausting. She wants her mom. But Claire, apparently, wants Alex. Needs her enough to reach out and ask to stay for the weekend. With what Claire’s been going through these last few months, Alex can’t deny her that. Having them over might be nice. Holly, one of the other freshmen down the hall, had her sister stay the night a few days ago. They had a nice time. Maybe Alex could distract Claire and Jack enough from everything going on at the bunker by taking them around, showing them some hangout spots. And maybe they could get her to feel more normal.

 

Her version of normal.

 

That’s fine. The other bed and the
air mattress are both here. See you
guys in a bit. <3

 

A few minutes after she sends that, she sends a text to Jody.

 

I miss you. Wanna binge watch
season 2 of Veronica Mars next
Saturday?

 

There’s nothing else I’d rather do.
I miss you too. Call me and let
me know how your week went
later.

 

After getting a shower and making herself look somewhat presentable, she goes down to the cafeteria on the first floor to grab breakfast in the cafeteria. She opts to head for the omelet bar to put in an order for a croissant breakfast sandwich with bacon, egg, cheese, green peppers, and hot sauce before grabbing an orange juice, swiping her meal plan card, and claiming one of the many empty tables. The only people up and somewhat awake are the ones who have Friday morning classes. They’re the ones who spread out their class schedule as much as possible, making it so they only have a little bit to do each day. For her, she finds that scheduling her classes between 8 am and 2 pm Monday through Thursday works better with her CNA shifts in the evening. It also leaves her with long weekends to try and make friends at the dorms and to turn down invites to keggers. She doesn’t think the people giving her invites particularly feel one way or another about her. All they seem to notice is that she has a cool car and that her mother is the sheriff, something she thought might deter people from wanting to associate too closely with her but, it turns out, most of them feel that if they befriend her, they’ll have a get out of jail free card in case they get busted for underage drinking.

 

So yeah. It’s going to be nice to spend time with people whose first thought isn’t, ‘What can I gain from this friendship?’

 

“This seat taken?”

 

Alex looks up and sees Joseph standing there, a small smile complimenting his soft, gentle blue eyes. Even though she can’t bring herself to trust Joseph enough to accept an actual date with him, let alone let her guard down around him, she can admit that he doesn’t rub her as the type looking for any favors. Although she hadn’t been planning to run into him, especially after turning down his offer to take her out on Saturday, she can’t bring herself to say no.

 

“Grabbing breakfast before you head back home?” he asks, sitting down across from her as he puts his coffee and bagel on the table.

 

“Actually, there was a change of plans,” she says reluctantly, taking a sip from her juice, “My sister and my...friend are coming in. They don’t live too close and she literally told me she was on her way here this morning. Guess I will be doing stuff with them. But we might stop at our mom’s. I don’t know. It depends on what they want and what’s going on with them.”

 

Joseph nods then shoots her a hopeful smile, “Well, if you guys are around tomorrow and you’re bored, feel free to send me a text. Maybe we can meet up, your sister and your friend too.”

 

“Yeah, maybe,” Alex agrees, even though she doesn’t feel all that agreeable, doesn’t feel ready to attempt to mix her college life and her family together when she has no idea how to make them blend.

 

“And if not,” Joseph continues, “Maybe on a night where you’re free.”

 

She feels a little more confident when she agrees to that.

---------------------------------------------------------

When Claire texts her to say they’re outside, she meets them downstairs only to feel a stab of guilt at their dull and lifeless features. She had talked to both of them after she found out what happened to Mary, but she should have done more to see if they were really alright. Alex had mixed feelings about Mary since the woman did try to kill Jody, but she was pretty brainwashed. So while Alex had been justified in knocking her out, she could get over that incident. And Claire barely knew Mary. Jack even said he only remembers getting a glimpse of her when he was born and still an infant. But they have been around Mary’s grieving family. That probably sucks.

 

It’s good that they’re here. Maybe getting away from the Winchesters for a couple of days will let them breathe. Alex even manages to hide her wince when they both pull out their fake IDs as they’re checked in.

 

“So, any parties happening tonight?” Claire asks as they get out of the elevator to head towards her hall.

 

Alex snorts as they approach her door and she unlocks it, “Claire, please don’t take offense by this. But I’m never going to another party with either of you again.”

 

“Rude,” Claire tsks, making her way in. Jack says nothing. And honestly? A quiet Jack worries her.

 

“Well, maybe I’ll go to one with Jack again someday. If he can keep himself from developing an ecstacy wielding fanclub the next time around,” she says, studying him closely as he sits down at her desk. No response. Alex gives Claire a concerned glance and Claire shrugs sadly.

 

“So…” Alex starts, trying to find a starting point for a safe conversation, “You guys have anything in mind when it comes to what you want to do this weekend?”

 

Claire throws her bag on the other bed and bounces a little as she sits down, “Eh, I don’t know. Hang out. Listen to music. Meet some people. Find another weed dealer. What about you, Jack? Any ideas?”

 

Jack’s response is delayed, but it does come after an awkward beat of silence, “It was your idea to come here. Why would I have anything planned?”

 

Alex turns to Claire and watches her sister clench her jaw and force a smile, “Just figured you might. It’s been a few weeks since we’ve seen Alex. Thought you might have missed her enough to want to plan a few things with her.”

 

Jack nods slowly, his blank expression barely changing as he finally meets Alex’s eyes, “I have missed you.”

 

Alex tries to smile as she walks over to stand behind Jack’s chair and wraps her arms around his shoulders, “I’ve missed you too. I’ve missed you both. You doing okay?”

 

“No.”

 

“Right,” Alex murmurs, then takes a step back, “Dumb question.”

 

They end up hanging out in the lounge watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns until lunch, silent and sullen. They must not look too desirable to be around. A few of her classmates come out in an attempt to introduce themselves and chat but Claire isn’t the warm and welcoming type and Jack isn’t feeling himself right now. Their silent rigidness even puts Alex on edge. So when lunch rolls around, they go out to a hole in the wall a few streets over that sells pizza and pasta, one that takes her meal plan card and makes it so she can treat Jack and Claire. Not that it does much good. Claire’s eating her meal fine, rambling on about how Dean hasn’t gone into manic cooking mode in weeks and that she still hasn’t gotten the hang of finding her way around it, with the way he has it organized.

 

“Last he ate a decent meal was when he couldn’t suppress the munchies after we smoked the last of what I bought at that party,” Claire sighs, then takes a big bite of chicken marsala, “We went and got cheeseburgers at 2 am at Jiffy Burger. That was a few days ago though. I’m pretty sure he’s just been eating whatever Sam forces down his throat. I think he’s lost a little weight. I’ve seen John like once. Sam is doing sort of okay. But he has Eileen and I’m pretty sure she’s putting out and sexing his mood up-”

 

“Don’t talk about her like that,” Jack growls, his food barely eaten.

 

Claire scoffs, looks at Alex with exasperation, and turns back to Jack, “I meant that in a nice way. She’s taking care of your father. How is that offensive?”

 

Jack glares, “It’s not what she’s doing, it’s the way you said it-”

 

“Okay,” Alex says, interrupting the argument before it can go further, “Maybe let’s not talk about this-...Wait, did you say that you smoked with Dean?”

 

Claire nods, “Why not? Not like I forced him to smoke with me. He didn’t even ream me out for having it. I know a secretive pothead when I see one.”

 

“...Right,” Alex says slowly. It’s not like she disapproves. She’s smoked in the past, both before and after Claire moved in, with and without her. But she can’t imagine doing it with Dean. She sees him pretty much like a dorky uncle. Less than a year ago, Claire told Alex that she saw Jody as a mom and Dean and Cas sort of like her gay dads. Claire had been loopy on painkillers from a hunt and in the hospital, but if anything, that had given her statement more truth and validity in regards to her feelings. Alex is different from Claire, but she can’t imagine toking up with Jody so she’s not sure why Claire would offer to smoke with Dean.

 

“How’d that go?” she asks instead, trying to come off as neutral and not weirded out.

 

Claire shrugs, stabbing at a particularly large mushroom with her fork, “He was chill the whole time. I don’t know what I was expecting. You know Dean. He can be super goofy or dead inside and go back and forth between the two like it’s nothing unless something serious is going on. Think he might be bipolar-”

 

“You probably shouldn’t say that to Dean,” Jack surprisingly cuts her off, “His self-esteem is very low, he is more aware of the severity of his mood swings than he lets on, and he does sometimes wonder if there’s more wrong with him than the ADHD he was diagnosed with as a child or his self-diagnosed PTSD and depression.”

 

Jack’s statement causes an ache to blossom in Alex’s chest. She knows Dean has been having a rough time, even though she hasn’t witnessed much of it. She knows how worried Claire has been, how often Jody calls him to check up on him. His life has been far from easy, but he seems to have been struggling a lot more than Sam emotionally. But then again, Dean lost Cas so that makes sense.

 

“And you probably shouldn’t tell Dean that you’ve been reading his innermost thoughts,” Claire counters, even if she sounds a little raspy while doing so, “He hates that mindreading shit as much as I do and you just sort of outed concerns he has he might not want known to the whole world.”

 

“I didn’t tell the whole world,” Jack insists, crossing his arms, “I told you and Alex to help you gain a better understanding on why it might be insensitive to slap a label on him without a deeper understanding of what’s going on within his mind -”

 

“Anyway, his moods are fucked and back and forth generally,” Claire interrupts, “So I feel like if he had been in a good mood, he would have gotten giggly and fanboyish and might have started hugging people. But since he has been upset, he was chill and quiet, but seemed calmer. So it went fine. Win-Win. I should offer some to John next.”

 

“Marijuana isn’t going to help Grandpa’s devastation,” Jack says, staring down at his meal, “I don’t think anything will.”

 

The table falls silent after that statement. And since they are the only ones there, the only sounds that fill the tiny restaurant are pots and pans banging in the kitchen. Any more attempts to change the subject would probably be futile. The only thing Claire and Jack have been around the last couple of weeks is the Winchesters’ agony so what else can they really talk about?

 

“...Maybe we should take the rest of our pasta to go. I have a mini fridge and a microwave so we can eat the rest for dinner,” she tells them, already putting the lid on her container and watching them follow suit.

----------------------------------------------------

Watching movies is something that doesn’t require a lot of talking and, as far as she knows, Jack has never been to a movie theater. So after they make the walk back to the dorms and drop off their leftovers in the room, they drive to the nearest Cinemark and get tickets for the next movie playing, without looking anything up about it. Jack goes to stand in the concession line to buy drinks and a large popcorn to share between them, even though Alex is pretty sure none of them are all that hungry. But if it is his first movie at a theater, who is she to begrudge him of popcorn and soda? It’s a rite of passage, when she thinks about it.

 

But the subtle gleam of brief excitement quickly fades from Jack’s eyes as the movie’s storyline starts to unfold. Alex really should have looked up spoilers, since Mother! goes from uncomfortable to tense to cannibalistic.

 

“They butchered our son!”

 

Jack has had his face hidden in her shoulder since the baby’s neck cracked as the mob picked it up and passed it along crowd surfing style. Alex winces as the film depicts the crowd eating the child and wants to hit herself for not paying heed to the rating and scarring Jack forever.

 

“I’m taking Jack out into the lobby. I don’t know if I can stomach much more of this either,” Alex whispers to Claire, who is sitting on her right. Claire nods, eyes glued to the screen in horror, yet waves them off anyway.

 

Guiding Jack out of his seat, she leads him out into the hallway before linking arms with him and taking him to a bench, “Sorry about that, Jack. I didn’t realize how messed up the movie was going to be. I should have paid more attention.”

 

Jack lets out a breath and shakes his head, “I could have handled it. I mean, a real baby wasn’t killed and butchered for consumption...right?”

 

Alex stares down at Jack. It’s times like this that she realizes how young he actually is, how innocent and naive he can be about some things, “No. It was all fake. They made a doll. If they used a real baby, they’d all be in prison, I promise.”

 

Jack nods, understanding, then tries to shrug it off, “We can go back in. Taking me out of the theater was unnecessary, especially if it was a doll-”

 

“I’m good,” Alex interrupts, sitting down next to him before leaning in, “Between you and me, I was freaked out the whole time. Couldn’t wait until it was over.”

 

“Guess Claire is the brave one between the three of us,” Jack answers, nudging her shoulder slightly with his own, then turns in his seat to point at a booth across from the bathrooms, “What’s that?”

 

Alex looks at the booth and snorts, “A photobooth. It’s basically for high school couples who want to waste their money on a strip of pictures that are taken with a crappy camera.”

 

“That sounds amazing!” Jack exclaims, almost breathlessly, before taking her hand to drag her over to the booth. Alex is taken aback by Jack’s sudden enthusiasm, but she’s not going to question or object to it when he’s been so lifeless up until this point. Besides, he is paying for it. His powers basically allow for unlimited pocket change. He can waste it on this if he wants to.

 

So she plays along. Does silly poses as the camera clicks away. When the two strips print out, she has to stifle her laughter at the sight of Jack’s confused squint in the first two photos before he gets the hint for the rest.

 

“There,” Jack says to her, handing her a strip, “One for each of us. To keep forever.”

 

Alex nods, holds the strip up in solidarity, then slips it into a pocket in her purse, “To keep forever.”

 

Jack clears his throat, almost flustered, then scrambles out of the booth. Alex only makes it a few steps out before they almost collide with Claire.

 

“Well, that was depressing as hell,” Claire sighs, “Everyone died except Bardem. He was basically God and it was implied he wanted everyone to worship him to the point where they lost themselves and everything they loved. But his wife and his worshippers died in a fiery explosion and the cycle started all over again with some new chick. Like, shake things up if you’re going to ruin people’s lives, you know?”

 

“That’s strange,” Jack says slowly, “I read him more as Lucifer, or at least the popular beliefs I’ve read about him. People worship him, bafflingly so, and fire, sacrifice, and sin are often associated with his image.”

 

“Well, whoever Bardem was supposed to be, he was a major douche,” Claire yawns, “Shit, I’m tired. That movie was draining as hell. I didn’t come here to think, Alex. I came here to have fun.”

 

Alex rolls her eyes, “Sioux Falls isn’t exactly bursting with recreation. And it’s not like you gave me much of a notice to plan out the whole weekend. I would say let’s go see Jody, but I think she’s working overnight tonight.”

 

Claire nods, then begins to lead the way through the lobby and out into the parking lot, “Maybe tomorrow afternoon then. Until then, we can just go waste time with the losers on your floor.”

----------------------------------------------

Long after Clair